Eric 382 Part 2

Chapter 8

Near the end of Chapter 7 ...

As Brent took a few steps back, he turned to look toward Farthing, "Glenda Farthing? Do you have any final words before sentence is carried out?"

"I was right... I had to be right," The woman muttered weakly.

With a final nod, Brent raised the phaser rifle, and as JJ had instructed him prior to the trial, made sure all the settings were correct to ensure a clean, single shot disintegration. With everything appearing to be in order, he aimed the rifle toward the woman.

Nearly everyone in the room held their breath for the several moments between the point that Brent aimed the rifle until the point that a yellow beam of energy shot out from it, striking the woman. After a brief flash of light, the woman that had been standing there only moments before, was gone. The only thing left to suggest that someone might have been there was a small pile of dust.

Handing the weapon back to the person he took it from, Brent turned back toward the room. "Court adjured," Brent stated with a clearly pained expression on his face, before he turned and quietly walked down the back ramp.

 


 

Chapter 8

7:45pm PST - Monday, November 1st, 2004

As members of the audience slowly began to stand up to leave, Heather Klein and the rest of the panelists came into view. "Well," Heather began, "If we've learned anything tonight, I think that it is just how quickly Vulcan law and justice can be carried out, with judgement and the carrying out of the sentence happening just minutes after each other."

"Panelists?" Heather turned her attention to the 10 people that were still sitting in their chairs. "I would like to thank all of you for being willing to spend time with us this evening. It has certainly made for some interesting conversation."

As all the panelists nodded, Heather continued. "As a final programming note, please join us tomorrow night at 8pm when KTNV will present a special called 'The Telepaths of the Federation', and will look at earths involvement with them over the last 50 years. And with that, we shall end our coverage of the trial, and return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress."

 


 

As soon as Brent stepped into the back room, S'pilash was already standing not far from the door, waiting for him. Immediately, the two walked off to the side so that S'pilash could begin the meld to remove a lot of the filth from Farthing's telepathic scan, and to help Brent deal with what he had just done.

"Will he be okay?" Lance asked as he stood next to Emily.

Emily looked toward Brent and the Vulcan. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure he will be. S'pilash is really good at mind healing."

"Good," Lance nodded, "And speaking of healing, I need to go take care of some other healing."

Emily looked at Lance curiously as he walked over to where a man and woman were comforting a small 8 year old boy.

"Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Grimes?" Lance asked between hugs.

"Yes?" Mr. Grimes replied as he looked up toward the 12 year old.

"My name is Lance Philips, I'm one of the Assistant Directors for Family Clan Short's North American West Division, here in Las Vegas. I was wondering if I could talk to Sidney?"

Mr. Grimes nodded as the small boy looked up toward Lance from his mother's chest. "Why do you want to talk to me?" the boy asked slightly surprised.

"Well," Lance began, "The first thing that I wanted to say is that I think you did a really good job tonight. Not many kids your age would have been able to do that."

The boy nodded.

Lance smiled a little. "The other thing is. I know this isn't going to make up for not having William anymore, but if it's okay with you and with your parents, I would like to invite you to become a part of Clan Short. There are a lot of older kids in the Clan who would love to have someone that they could treat as their little brother, and do things like go fishing and camping and stuff."

"They would want to do things with me?" Sidney's voice was full of doubt, "Even if I wasn't really their little brother?"

"Excuse me," The mother interrupted, "But I've heard a little about Clan Short. Isn't that something for kids who have been abandoned, or have bad parents? Your not trying to say that we are..."

Lance quickly jumped in to stop her line of thought. "Oh, no. Not at all. Sidney is proof enough that you are both very loving parents. He's fortunate to have parents like you. And actually, you're a little wrong in your thinking. Clan Short is not just for abandoned kids, or kids from broken homes. The majority of kids in the Clan may seem that way, because it's one of our primary focuses, but there are also a bunch of kids that are part of the Clan that also have very loving parents like the two of you."

Mr. Grimes nodded. "That's very kind of you to offer. I take it, you need an answer to this now?"

Lance shook his head as he handed the man a business card. "Oh no, not at all. Especially not after something like this. Here is my card. Go ahead and think about it for a few days, and if it's something you feel Sidney would be interested in, and you two are alright with it, give me a call, and I'll arrange for you guys to come out and check out our facilities and maybe meet some of the other guys."

"That's very kind of you, thank you." The father stated as the mother nodded in agreement.

"You're welcome, have a good night," Lance stated as he left to allow the two parents to get back to comforting a slightly more up-beat child.

Steve Meyers was talking to one of the Vulcans as his parents and younger brother, Kenny, waited a short distance away.

"Kenny Meyers?" a young voice called out which caused Kenny and his parents to look behind them, where they saw two 8 year olds looking back at them. One of them had shoulder length dark brown hair with matching dark brown eyes. The boy next to him had collar length silver blond hair with steel grey eyes.

"My name is Kyle Richardson," the boy with dark brown hair began. "and this is my boyfriend, Tyler Short."

"Your boyfriend?" Kenny asked with surprise.

Both of the younger boys nodded. After giving Kenny a few moments to recover, Tyler extended his hand, "It's nice to meet you, Kenny."

"Um, thanks," Kenny answered. "Steve is over there, if you're looking for my older brother."

"Actually," Kyle grinned. "We were wanting to talk to you."

"Me? Why?" Kenny asked.

Tyler looked at Kenny seriously, "Have you ever thought that you seemed to be able to tell how someone was feeling at lot easier than others, or wanted someone to feel happy when they were sad, and it happened?"

Kenny gasped. "How... how did you know?"

Both of Kenny's parents looked at Kenny and Tyler in confusion.

Tyler smiled. "I could tell because I think you're an empath, like I am."

"An empath?" Kenny asked with surprise. "Like you?"

"You catch on pretty quick," Tyler grinned. "If you want, I could tell you a little about what it means to be an Empath, and maybe teach you a few things about using your gifts more?"

Kenny looked up to his parents.

"It's up to you, son," Desmond answered Kenny's unasked question. "Your mother and I will support you either way."

Kenny thought for a few moments and nodded. "I think I would like to learn more."

"Kewl," Tyler replied as he took Kenny over to a quiet corner to talk to him.

"They are similar, but there are still a bunch of differences between them." Kyle stated which caused both adults to look down toward him.

"Excuse me?" Mr. Meyers asked.

"That's what you were thinking, wasn't it?" Kyle smiled innocently. "If there was a difference between telepaths and empaths."

"Well, yes." Desmond replied.

Kyle nodded. "That's also part of the difference between telepaths and empaths. Telepaths deal with thoughts, while Empaths deal with feelings and emotions."

"That makes sense," Desmond thought.

"By the way," Kyle stated as his smile changed to a mischievous grin. "As far as worrying about the layoffs you have heard about at work, I wouldn't worry about it. When things calm down later on, Brent will be contacting you about working for the Clan, and you will be getting paid a lot more than you are now."

"What? How did you know about..." Desmond tried to ask as Kyle walked off.

"Desmond?" Samantha asked dangerously, "You didn't tell me anything at all about layoffs?"

Desmond blinked, and looked back at his wife.

 


 

By the time S'pilash finished the meld with Brent, only a small handful of people remained in the back room area. Out of all of those people, Brent was really only interested in finding one: Lance. Unfortunately, as he allowed his eyes to scan across the room, he had no luck.

"He's not back here," a young, cheerful voice announced from behind Brent. "He's with Tristen saying good-bye to that news reporters you met before the trial."

"Kyle!" Brent said with surprise as he spun himself around to see the 8-year-old grinning back up at him. "You were here at the trial?"

"You kidding? Something this important, we wouldn't miss it," Kyle grinned impishly.

"We? So does that mean?" Brent began to ask before Kyle interrupted him. "Uh-huh! Tyler's over there talking to your new empath."

"New empath?" Brent asked questionably in a mix of confusion and excitement.

Somehow, Kyle's grin grew larger. "Yup. His name is Kenny, he's Steve's 12-year-old brother. Despite what Farthing did to their family, and the fact that he had no training at all, he managed to hold his family together for the last three years."

Brent was shocked. "Wow, that is impressive... and Farthing... damn, she tried pretty hard to..."

The grin on Kyle's face faded as he nodded. "Try not to think about that much. It's over now. Besides, don't forget the very first lesson that you learned as part of the clan. Sometimes bad things have to happen so that the good things can happen."

Brent finished the last part of the sentence along with Kyle, which caused a slight smile to reappear on the small boy's face again. "Yeah, that one. Farthing did a lot of bad, but now that's over and it's time for some of the good to start. Even Sidney, the little guy who lost his older brother? Thanks to your boyfriend, he's now going to have a lot more brothers than he'll know what to do with."

"Thanks, Kyle," Brent sighed. "How do you do that? Always know the right things to say?"

Kyle tilted his head, and looked past Brent, toward the direction that Tyler and Kenny were at. "Tyler's almost done, which means we need to leave soon, So to speed things up a bit, here's the answers to your questions in the order that you're thinking of them..."

Brent blinked and nodded, as he swore that telepaths, especially this one, would never cease to amaze him.

Kyle took a deep breath before he began to speak. "You're right, being a telepath helps, but it also comes with practice. The more you talk with people, the better you will get at knowing the right things to say. Cory and the others are doing great... Tyler's doing great too... And yes, being a Mykivis is really cool, but with great power also comes greater responsibility... And as much as I would love to tell you what the future will brings for your Western division, I can't... right now, none of us can... it's all blackness... something about the future being in flux or something weird like that... Galli could probably explain it better if you ever bump into him... And no, no one expects you to be like Cory or Sean or any of the other clan leadership. Using them as examples is fine, but you, Lance, and Maurice are here because Cory wants you to be you, not someone else. Everyone in the clan has their own unique way of doing things, you guys are no different."

Kyle took another deep breath before continuing. "Oh yeah, I think Kenny and Steve would really work out great for your division. I already mentioned Kenny will be a great empath for you, while his older brother Steve would be really great at helping to teach the younger kids mechanical things, and well... maybe something else, but that will be up for Steve to decide when he's ready.... both of their parents, and their newest grandfather check out as well. Desmond is going to get laid off from his job in a few days, so he could use the work. I think he would do great as one of your accountants, both on the clan side, and the Cynthitech side of things. Samantha is an outstanding cook, far better than she gives herself credit for, I bet she could even teach the UNIT chefs a thing or two. However, she's even better with plants. And Herman... well, it might be best to let him find his place on his own. The last two years haven't been kind to him, so he's going to need some time to heal. Did you get all that?"

Brent slowly nodded his head, just barely keeping up with the 8-year old.

Looking back toward Tyler and Kenny again, Kyle grinned. "Great, in that case, I need to go grab my other half so we can get back before anyone realizes that we've gone. Oh! Yeah, I almost forgot... yes, it's okay to send him, Daileass will make sure someone is there to show him around... the common room on the first floor will probably work great, security is really good at keeping people out that don't need to be there.... it isn't an issue for you to go, just don't forget to put someone else in charge, you would be surprised what can happen in three hours and 10 minutes."

With that, Kyle began to walk away.

"Whoa, wait... umm.... Kyle? What was all that last stuff, I wasn't thinking about any questions that those answers would even come close to fitting."

Kyle grinned and snapped his fingers. "Darn, I really hate when I do that. I keep forgetting I'm not just a normal telepath anymore. Those are answers to your questions, you just haven't thought them yet."

"What?" Brent asked both astonished and lost.

Kyle waved toward Brent before giving him a final smile and heading off toward Tyler.

Brent was just about to follow him when he heard another voice behind him. "Excuse me, are you Brent?"

Brent turned around to see 16-year-old Steve cautiously looking down at him. "Um, yes."

"Cool, that kid over there said I needed to talk to you about getting over to the UNIT base?" Steve asked.

"Just a moment," Brent answered as he turned back around in the Direction that Kyle had gone. Unfortunately, both Kyle and Tyler were no where to be seen, and Kenny was walking his way. Sighing, Brent turned back toward Steve.

"Are you okay?" Steve asked with concern.

"Just when I think I have the little guy figured out, he finds something else to blow me away with," Brent said softly as he slowly shook his head. A few moments later, he turned his attention back toward the older boy. "Sorry about that Steve. By the way, you spoke really well in the trial tonight."

Steve lowered his head. "Thanks, but from the way she messed up so many other lives, what she did to us seems pale in comparison. I just hope it helped."

Brent reached up and touched Steve's shoulder, causing the older boy to look toward him. "You can't sell yourself short Steve, The last three years have not exactly been pleasant for you, Herman, or the rest of your family. And what you said tonight definitely had an impact."

Steve nodded. "About that. Before we came here, we found Herman and he was taken to some UNIT hospital or something like that. I was told I could visit him later, but the guys that brought us here had to leave before the trial was over."

Brent nodded as Kenny walked up and joined them.

"Don't you mean that 'we' could visit him later?" Kenny asked with a grin that looked surprisingly similar to the grin of another empath he knew.

Steve looked at his younger brother with surprise. "With everything that everyone else has been saying about him over the last three years, I didn't think you would want to be anywhere near him?"

Kenny tapped the side of his head. "Did you already forget? I have all of your memories from the last three years, so I'm kinda interested in making sure he's alright as well. Not to mention, you have my memories, so you shouldn't have to ask if I would want to go or not."

Steve nodded. It seemed so long ago that General Jack had visited them, and he not only got his parents and brother back, but had also been given all the memories that his brother had over the last three years. With as stressful as the trial was, he had almost forgotten. "Okay, I guess you're right."

"Besides," Kenny continued, "this is probably going to be a pretty emotional reunion, so your going to need a good empath there to help out."

Steve reached out and hugged his little brother. "Thanks bro." Steve was not just proud that Kenny had offered to go with him, but also from how much pride was in his voice when he referred to himself as an empath. Now having his memories, Steve knew how much of a freak Kenny privately saw himself as in the past, when he could so easily pick up on the feelings and emotions of others.

"Trying to get rid of us, already?" Desmond asked as he and Samantha walked up to join the group. This caused both boys to adamantly shake their heads. "Perhaps this is a trip that we can all take? There are certainly a few things that I need to talk to Herman about."

Both boys nodded in agreement.

Brent continued to stand there, unable to get a word in edgewise as Emily walked up holding a small box in her hands, accompanied by Sylok close to her side. "Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Myers, I'm glad we found you before you left."

Desmond looked toward the girl who was just a hair shorter than his oldest son. "Is there a problem?"

Emily shook her head. "Not really, mainly I wanted to make sure each of you got one of these."

"Wow, what are they?" Kenny asked as he took the small round object that Emily handed to him.

"They are clan communicator badges," Emily replied. "You just stick it on your shirt like you see the rest of us doing, and tap it and say who you want to talk to. Daileass will do the rest."

"This looks really awesome," Steve commented as he looked closer at the one he was given. "But why are you giving them to us? We're not part of the clan."

"Sure you are," Brent replied. "From what I heard, you became clan as soon as you guys put the last three years behind you, and decided to heal and move forward as a family. You guys became clan when you all tried to reach out to Herman to help him heal as well. You became clan when Steve stood up in front of 8,000 people to tell them some very personal stuff about yourself, and when Kenny reached out to support you. Because, all of that stuff is what it means to be clan. The only question that really remains is how active you will be in the clan, and that will be something each of you will need to decide for yourself."

"From just the little bit that Tyler shared with me, I already know I want to be really active." Kenny nearly shouted out which not only caused everyone else to look at him, but also caused him to begin to blush.

"It's not a decision any of you need to make now, especially not after a day like today," Brent stated. "However, it's something to think about."

Nods were received from Steve and both adults.

"There is one other thing," Emily continued. "Mr. and Mrs. Myers? If you two have a few moments, Sylok needs you to accompany him so that you can fill out a few pieces of paperwork."

Both adults nodded understandingly, while both Steve and Kenny sighed knowing that they would now be stuck here even longer.

Seeing the looks on their faces, Brent looked toward Emily, "Do you think it would be alright to...." He then trailed off.

"Sir?" Emily asked.

Brent shook his head. "Never mind, Kyle already answered the question that I had just thought of."

"Huh?" Emily replied as she tilted her head.

"I think it's a Mikyvis thing. I still have answers to two or three other questions that I haven't asked yet," Brent stated with a grin as he tapped his own comm badge. "Hey Daileass, could you teleport Steve and Kenny over to the UNIT base so they can check on Herman?"

"Absolutely," Daileass replied. "In fact, I already have someone on their way to meet them. Just have Steve and Kenny let me know when their ready."

"I figured you might," Brent grinned. "Thanks Daileass." Seeing the confused looks on both boy's, Brent turned toward them next. "It's okay guys, Daileass will take good care of you. Then, as soon as your parents are done, they will be able to join you."

Steve nodded although Kenny looked toward his mother with a questioning expression.

Samantha nodded. "If Brent says it will be okay, and you two will be safe, then I think we can take him at his word. Going into today, I already had heard a little about Clan Short. Everything that I've seen today just further reinforces that."

Kenny nodded and gave his mom a hug. Steve awkwardly and hesitantly gave his mom a quick hug as well. It had been almost three years since the last time he had done that. It was still going to take him a little while to get used to it again.

"You boys be good," Desmond called out causing both boys to nod in understanding.

"Um, Daileass?" Steve asked before remembering to tap his comm badge. "Daileass? Kenny and I are ready."

"Then off you go!" Daileass cheerfully replied moments before both boys vanished causing Samantha to gasp.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing that," Samantha commented causing both Brent and Emily to grin.

"Mr. and Mrs. Myers? If you will both accompany me, we can completely this task expediently so that you may reunite with your children as rapidly as possible," Sylok stated as he drew the attention of both adults.

"Of course," Desmond replied as he and his wife followed Sylok off to the side.

With just himself and Emily remaining, Brent sighed.

"How are you holding up, Sir?" Emily asked with concern.

"Alright," Brent replied. "But I'll be doing a lot better when I find Lance."

Emily grinned and nodded as she motioned toward the door of the room and began walking next to Brent.

"You're coming with me?" Brent asked curiously.

Emily nodded. "Someone needs to keep the division director safe from those vicious news reporters."

Brent only smiled as the two walked out of the room.

 


 

Steve and Kenny appeared in what was the hugest indoor hanger that either boy had ever seen. It was so huge, many planes could have easily fit in it. As the two boys looked around, they realized that off to one side of the massive room, there were indeed several helicopters. The rest of the room, however, was bustling with activity, and filled with kids.

As soon as they appeared, Kenny almost instantly felt the twisting of his stomach as floods of various type of emotions hit him, but by using the techniques that Tyler had taught him literally minutes earlier, he was able to block out nearly all of them so he wasn't as affected.

"Welcome to the UNIT intake area, guys," A voice behind Steve and Kenny called out.

Turning around, both boys saw a kid who couldn't have been more than a year older than Kenny standing there wearing a white lab coat over a set of medical scrubs.

"I'm Gil," the boy continued. "I'm guessing that you two are Steve and Kenny?"

"How did you know? Are you a telepath as well?" Kenny asked as both boys nodded.

Gil grinned and shook his head. "Nah, I'm just your average typical normal clan kid. Bah, who am I fooling? Their ain't nothing normal about us clan kids." Seeing that Both Steve and Kenny were still completely lost, he continued. "Actually, I was on a break from my last surgery, and Daileass asked me if he would meet you two, and take you down to the med bays."

"Your a doctor?" Steve asked with surprise.

Gil smiled as he motioned for the two boys to follow him. "Yes, I am. Well, actually, I'm still in training. So I'm simply assisting with some of the surgeries at this point."

"That's still pretty amazing," Steve commented. "You can't be older than what? 12 or 13?"

Gil nodded. "I turned 13 a few weeks ago. I've always wanted to study in the medical field, and well... One of the things you guys will find out pretty quickly working with this clan is that pretty any dream you have, they will help you reach for."

"Nice," Steve commented.

"So, what all is going on in this place?" Kenny asked as he looked around the room.

"This?" Gil asked. "Oh, this is the intake center. Most of the kids from all around the country that are being rescued by UNIT or the clan get processed through here. They get medical checkups, clothes, food, anything that they might need."

"Cool," Kenny replied. "This is a really awesome base you have here."

"This?" Gil giggled. "This is just the hanger bay, you haven't seen anything yet!"

With that, Gil entered one of the elevators. Before joining him, Steve and Kenny shared a glance with each other. At that moment, both brothers were thinking the same thing. They were each a bit concerned about what they were getting themselves into, while at the same time, excited about learning just what that might be.

 


 

Lance and Tristen had just walked out of the small party room after saying their good-bye's to Heather Klein and the rest of her news crew as Brent and Emily came out from the back.

As soon as he spotted him, Lance ran up and gave Brent a passionate hug. "You did great, love."

Brent nodded and returned the hug. "Thanks. But for now on, let's not do public trials anymore."

Lance blushed slightly as he broke the hug. He had not really planned on things exploding as much as they had. But then again, that seems to have been the theme for the day. "Did you get everything squared away?"

"I think so?" Brent sent a slightly tired, questioning look toward Emily.

Emily immediately nodded, "We've gotten all the information we need. Other than Strike Team Eagle spinning up to go extract Heath, given that none of the other kids in question are in any immediate danger, and given how late it is, we will be waiting until tomorrow before we actually start mobilizing the strike teams to get them."

"Great," Lance replied, "I'm really sorry that..."

Lance didn't get to finish his statement before Brent interrupted him with a kiss, "Lance, everything worked out in the end, so don't stress over it. Between the station and here, just think of how many kids are going to be living in a much better place now."

Lance nodded.

Brent was about to wrap his arm around Lance to walk out when both he and Emily were surprised to see Haden, Evan, and Gyro appear a few feet behind Lance.

"Haden, Evan?" Brent asked causing Lance to spin around. "What are you guys doing here?"

Haden immediately saw all the people that were still lingering around, and squished himself into Evan's side. "Daileass got a message that you needed me here?" He stated, a strong degree of concern in his voice.

Lance and Brent looked at each other. "We didn't call for you," Lance stated.

"Daileass?" Brent asked as he tapped his comm badge.

Before Daileass had a chance to answer, a scruff voice of an older man interrupted them. "Excuse me," the man stated as he approached the group while looking at Brent. "Are you Brent of Family Clan Short?"

Emily immediately looked at the man with concern. At the same time, from out of the shadows, Ryan and Lincoln from Brent's personal security, and Ken from Lance's security stepped up a few feet behind their charges.

"Yes?" Brent answered cautiously as he too was not sure what to make of the man.

"Good," the man's scruff voice stated as he reached an arm into his coat. "I have something for you."

The moment the man's hand went into his coat, all 3 personal security had their Glock 9mm's drawn and aimed toward the man, as Emily had her gold plated desert eagle .50 cal also drawn and aimed. At the same time, Four inch 'claws' extended from Gyro's hands as the bear went into alert mode, ready to take action if this man attempted to harm the friends of his charge.

The man pulled out a small envelope and handed it to Brent. "A message from The Don."

Brent hesitantly took the envelope and was not sure what to think about it. On the front was 'Brent' written in some type of thick golden glittering ink. On the back, the envelop was sealed with a blotch of silver wax. Opening the envelop, he took out the small piece of paper and read it, and then showed it to Lance.

Brent,

I would like to congratulate you on a well executed

trial. I must admit that even I was impressed.

I believe that the situation now dictates that we

should meet directly. As such, I would like to

invite you, Lance, Haden, Eric, and one security

team member of your choice to come meet me.

I will be in my Karnak suite. Turgus will escort

you.

I look forward to meeting the five of you soon.

The Don

"What is it?" Haden asked.

"The Don wants to meet us," Lance answered after reading the letter.

"All of us?" Evan asked with surprise.

Brent shook his head. "No, not all of us. Just me, Lance, Haden, Evan, and one personal security."

"He wants to meet me?" Haden squeaked. "Why?"

"I don't know," Brent answered honestly.

"It doesn't really matter," Tristen stated as a matter of fact. "If the Don wants to meet with you, you have to meet with him."

"Lieutenant Morroquin to Colonel West," Emily said with her voice full of concern as she tapped her comm badge.

"West here," Justin replied.

"Sir, we have a problem," Emily continued. "It would seem that The Don has requested a meeting with Brent, Lance, Haden, and Evan."

There was dead silence.

"Is that a problem?" Brent asked after a few moments.

"Put it this way," Brent heard Maurice say in the background. "Word on the street is that no one has ever been able to see The Don before, at least not lived to tell about it."

"I've heard something similar," Tristen added from this side of the connection. "And those people who have been asked to meet with him, have never been seen again."

Although it would not seem possible, Haden somehow managed to push himself even further into Evan's side.

"I don't like the sound of this, guys," Justin stated flatly from Emily's comm badge.

Turgus, the large man who delivered the letter, began to look a bit impatient, as Haden's eyes went distant for a few moments before he spoke softly, "Okay, I promise."

"Promise what?" Evan asked as he looked down toward his little brother.

"Colonel West, Sir?" Daileass's voice came over the comm badge. "Although I can't get into details now, especially over open channels, but due to some highly classified information that I have, I believe that I can safely say meeting with The Don will not create any security concerns. Due to our link, Haden has some of this information as well, but I need to ask that you not question him about it."

"Thanks Daileass," Justin replied, clearly not pleased with being left in the dark. "It's your call Brent."

Brent nodded. "Haden?"

Haden nodded, as he began to peel himself off of his older brother.

Getting a nod from Lance as well, Brent agreed. "Okay I think we would like to do this. And, unless there are any objections, I would like Lincoln to be the personal security we are allowed to take. Just on the off chance that there are any issues, I think it would be good to have a Genesis kid with us."

"Okay," Justin stated through Emily's comm badge. "Emily, go ahead and bring everyone else that is not going with their group back, and we will track things from here."

"Fine, but for the record, I still don't like this," Emily sighed.

"Would you like me to take Gyro back for you, Haden?" Tristen asked.

Before Haden had a chance to answer, the bear took a step closer toward his charge, and then looked up toward Tristen and growled letting him know that he did not plan on going anywhere.

Knowing the type of damage the teddy bears were capable of when pissed off, Tristen backed down. "On second thought, I'm sure there won't be a problem with him going with you guys."

With everything seeming to be in order, and after getting a final reassuring nod from Brent, Emily called for Daileass to teleport the rest of them back to the Core C.I.C. room.

With everyone else gone, Brent, with Lance close to his side, walked closer to Turgus. "Sorry for the delay, but I think we are ready now, if you would lead the way?"

With a grunt and a nod, the older man took them past the stage and across the large conference room to one of the main halls. Brent and Lance followed closely behind the man, with Haden and Evan behind them, and Gyro and Lincoln taking up the rear.

Instead of heading down the main hall and into the large group of people that were still leaving from the trial, Turgus went across the hall and through a small 'employee's only' door that took them into a long, narrow hall.

"This is the way to the Karnak?" Lance asked with concern.

"One of the ways, yes," The scruff voice of the man replied. "It was either that, or walk through the crowd of people in the center of the Hotel, which I didn't think you would want to do."

"Thanks," Haden offered meekly as they made their way down the employee hall, and then turned down another.

When they finally exited the hall, they came out very close to one of the exits. It didn't take long to realize it was the northern exit that was right next to the monorail station. Walking them up the ramp to the main monorail platform, Turgus showed his white ID badge to the attendant, and then led the group to the front of the line.

While they were waiting, Haden's eyes were drawn toward the large digital display map. The map showed the Camelot, Karnak, and Malaya hotels as well as Malaya's large convention center and shopping center, the giant water park in the middle, and the large ring that went around the entire property which the Monorail followed. It also showed the exact location of both monorails.

When the monorail finally arrived, the attendant ushered them to the front cabin where the driver was at, which they didn't normally allow people to sit. For the rest of there trip, Haden continued to steal glances toward the high tech monorail driving station.

In less than 5 minutes, they had gone the two stops that were needed to get around to the giant black pyramid, which was the hallmark of the Karnak.

As they stepped onto the moving sidewalk that took them toward the entrance of the large pyramid, Evan couldn't help but gasp. "Okay, that's big."

Haden nodded. "It's over 365 feet high, with 30 floors, that contain over 2,526 rooms, and a 29 million cubic foot atrium."

Brent, Lance and Eric all glanced at Haden in surprise. "How do you know all that?" Evan asked.

Haden thought for a moment and shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know, I just do."

Once they were inside the Hotel, Turgus lead them down the side of one of the casino's gaming areas, and into a room that stood out from the rest of the areas they had seen so far in how decorated and ornate it was. One of the first things they noticed was that, although not many patrons were in the room, standing next to each of the gaming tables was an attendant that was either dressed in a tuxedo, or a very fancy dress.

Near the back of the room, there was a small podium setup on the side of the isle, next to one of the game tables. Standing behind the podium was a young woman in a beautiful black evening dress, and next to her was a rather plump looking man in his early 20's who was dressed in a white suit. He didn't seem overly fat, but he was certainly well rounded. What really set him off, however, was his black spiked haircut. On the wall behind both individuals was a golden elevator door.

As they walked further into the room, the large man in the white suit walked to intercept them. "Oh good, good, you've made it," his slightly higher pitched scruff voice rang out, "My name is Weer."

As the group stopped next to him, Brent nodded. "It's nice to meet you Weer, when we talked a few hours ago, I didn't realize we would get to meet you so soon."

Weer vigorously shook Brent's hand. "Yes, yes we did indeed Mr. Knocks. It's a pleasure to meet you in person."

Brent nodded and smiled.

Weer smiled back as he looked over Brent's head toward Turgus. "Thank you Turgus, I'll take them from here."

A momentary look of intense fear crossed the man's face before he nodded, and with a grunt, turned and left the room.

As the larger man left, Weer turned toward the elevator. "Now if you will all follow me, this will take us to The Don's suite." As he said this, he took a shiny golden card from his coat pocket, and slid it into a small slot in the wall next to the elevator. A few moments later, the doors opened, and Weer hopped in.

Shrugging his shoulders, Brent and Lance entered the elevator, followed by Haden, Evan, Lincoln, and Gyro.

Brent looked a bit concerned as the elevator began to move at an odd angle. "Okay, this feels weird."

"That's because the elevator is traveling up the side of the pyramid at a 39 degree angle," Haden offered.

"Did you do research on this place or something?" Evan asked surprised at how much his little brother seemed to know about the Karnak.

Haden shrugged his shoulders. "I don't think so. It just seems to make sense."

When the elevator came to a stop, and the door opened, Weer was the first to exit as he quickly walked into the room. Brent and the others quickly followed into what seemed to be a room full of mirrors and lights.

"This is The Don's suite?" Brent asked as he saw many different Brent's looking back at him from all the mirrors.

"Oh no," Weer answered as he scribbled a few notes on some papers that were laying on a desk not far from the elevator entrance. "This is my office."

"Ah," Brent replied.

Once he finished, Weer looked around at the rest of the group. "Good, good, we are just about ready. Now, before you meet The Don, there are a few things that will need to happen. First, you should not stare at The Don's necklace. He does not like it when people stare at it."

Brent and Lance glanced at each other, and Brent nodded. "Okay, sounds easy enough."

"Second," Weer continued, "Under no circumstances should you ever mention anything about salad."

"Salad?" Lance asked.

Weer nodded seriously. "Right. No mention of salad at all, including Chef Salad, Caesar Salad, Greek Salad, Tossed Salad, or any other kind of salad salad."

"Um," Brent said hesitantly, "Okay, I think we can agree to that."

Weer nodded looking very pleased with himself as he walked over to a small silver table, and picked up a round metal tray. "Finally, No weapons are allowed when you see The Don, so I will need to ask those of you with weapons to place them on the tray, and they will be returned to you after your visit."

Lincoln glared at Weer for several seconds before he sighed heavily and reluctantly removed the clip, and placed his Glock 9mm on the tray. Moments later, Evan unstrapped his GEAR arm band, and placed that on the tray as well.

"And yours, young sir?" Weer asked as he lowered the tray down toward Haden.

Instantly, a look of sheer terror came across Haden's face as he put his GEAR arm behind his back and started to back up against the elevator door.

"Come now, little one," Weer urged. "You can't go seeing The Don unless you take off that arm thingy of yours."

Haden started shaking his head as he tried to push himself more urgently on the elevator door.

Weer looked like he was about to say something else, but instead stood back up to his full height, and touched his finger to his ear piece. "Yes sir?" The man said to an invisible voice. "Right, I just wanted to... I see sir... Right away sir."

Once Weer finished his conversation, he took a few steps back. "The Don says that the little one may keep his arm band. So you are all ready to see The Don now."

Haden shivered momentarily as he sighed with relief.

"Thank you," Lance stated. "He's been through a lot, and he sees that as his only source of protection."

Weer shook his head. "It was not my decision, it was The Don's decision. Now, if you will all please step onto this platform," The man took them to the center of the room, and motioned toward a large golden platform that was raised about two inches above the ground. Standing in the middle of the platform, he waited for the others to join him.

As soon as the five boys, and one bear were all on the platform along with Weer, it slowly began to raise up. As soon as they were about two feet off the ground, a square in the ceiling opened up, which was the same size as the platform. The only thing they could see through the now opened ceiling hole was darkness.

As the platform raised higher, the boys noticed that it wasn't an issue of the room above being dark, but more an issue of the room below being a lot brighter than the room above. As they came to a stop, their eyes quickly adjusted to the dimmer light.

Immediately, they noticed that there was a dull golden glimmer to nearly everything in the room, as almost everything was in one form or another, shiny and golden. Even the lights in the room, instead of being what one would normal expect, were long lines of small golden, sparkles which reminded everyone of Christmas lights.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the room was that they were close enough to the top of the pyramid that no matter which direction they looked, they could see windows.

"Oh wow," Lance exclaimed as he stepped off the platform and walked toward one of the windows.

"It's beautiful," Evan agreed as he joined Lance. They were high enough off the ground that they had a remarkable view of the strip, and all the little blinking lights from all of the other hotels that were running up and down it.

"Look at that," Haden, who was standing next to Evan, pointed out. "There is a perfect view of the water park. From this high, all the colored lights they have in the different pools and slides make really cool patterns."

Brent shook his head slowly while he held onto Lance. "The city is so peaceful from this high, I could sit here and watch it for hours."

"Sometimes we do just that," a high pitched squeaky voice said from behind them.

All five boys turned around, but didn't see anyone.

"Who said that?" Brent asked as he scanned the room.

"We did," The squeaky voice answered, as a large ornate golden chair to the left of the platform they arrived on, began to swivel around. As the chair came to a stop, sitting proudly in the center of it was an odd looking creature that was nearly completely covered in white fur. The only parts of his body that were not furry were his dull pinkish hands and feet, along with slightly pinker ears, and a short nose.

As best as anyone could describe it, the creature looked like a cross between a human child and a ferret. Even his sparkly bright pink eyes seemed surprisingly ferret like. The only pieces of clothing that the creature was wearing was a large silver looking top hat that was at least twice as tall as his face, and an extremely shiny and ornate looking golden necklace.

"Hello there," Lance said cautiously. "Do you live here?"

"You could say that," the ferret looking creature said as he twisted and crossed his arms in a way that did not seem physically possible.

"Who are you?" Brent finally asked.

At his question, the creature immediately got a large toothy grin. "We are The Don, of course."

"You're The Don?" Evan said with surprise.

"At your service, we are," The ferret said as he made a clicking sound with his teeth.

"Oh hell," Lincoln sighed slapping his head. "more of those insane little fuckers."

Brent and Lance both glanced toward Lincoln.

"More of us?" The Don asked inquisitively. "You have seen others?"

"Unfortunately, yes," Lincoln nodded as he got down on one knee and looked toward the others. "Okay everyone, drop to your knee and repeat after me. I pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation."

The rest of group looked around confused at each other. When Brent knelt down the same way that Lincoln had, the rest of the guys, including Gyro, followed. "We pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation."

Lincoln nodded and continued. "And to the Gleam for which it stands, one Nation under Shiny, sparkling, with incandescence and radiance for all."

When the rest of the kids finished repeating what Lincoln said, The Don's eyes went wide. "Where... Where did you hear that?" the ferret squeaked out in surprise.

As Lincoln stood back up, he looked seriously at The Don. "Well, you're one of High Priest Dave's lot, aren't you?"

The Don's eyes went in shock, and spoke in awe. "You know His Holiness, The Supreme Pontiff? The Vicar of the Shiny?!"

"Unfortunately yes, I've had the pleasure of personally meeting that raving insane lunatic," Lincoln sighed as a glanced toward Brent who was also standing back up. "Sir, if you want my opinion, I would suggest we leave now."

"NO! NO! You can not leave now. You are one of the Shiny Lovers! One of those even blessed to have been in 'His Holiness' presence." The Don rushed behind his desk, threw open a drawer, and pulled something out that was wrapped in black crushed velvet. Running back over to the group, The Don dropped to his knees and reverently offered the item to Lincoln. "When you see 'The Great One' next, will you please give him this. It is our most prized Shiny... One that must reside within the Great One's personal Vault. Please, fellow Shiny Lover, please extend to us this honor!"

Lincoln looked toward Brent, who only shrugged. "Um, okay I guess," he replied as he carefully took the object from The Don.

"Oh Thank You, most incandescent one." The Don cried in joy as he jumped back to his feet and kissed Lincoln on both cheeks. The Don then spun towards Weer and spoke in a high pitched rush. "These are Shiny Lovers... We must assist them in every way possible. The Great Shiny would not have it any other way!" He then turned back towards Brent and Lance, and the rest of the group. "May we ask you one more question?"

Still somewhat shocked from The Don's behavior, Brent shrugged. "Sure."

"Since you have been shown the light of the One Shiny, and know of the Great One, do you... have you met the Shiny Warrior?" The Don asked.

"The Shiny Warrior?" Lance asked.

The Don's voice changed timber slightly, sounding almost mystical. "Yes, the Bringer, the Finder, the Seeker, the Savior, the Destroyer, the Shiny Warrior."

"Wait a minute," Lincoln spoke up, "You wouldn't be talking about our little elf, would you? I think I heard a few of the guys referring to him as the Shiny Warrior, especially after his little trip to visit High Priest Dave."

"Oh! Joel?" Lance asked, his eyebrow raised. "The boy who likes cookies?"

"Likes?!" Brent giggled. "Has an insane fetish about, I'd say! Yeah, we've met him... briefly... and got cookies shoved into our mouths last Thursday!"

The ferret smiled. "I feel doubly blessed to know you, for you have an experience that I, as yet, have not had..."

"Why do you call Joel 'the Shiny Warrior'?" Haden asked, his voice small and curious.

"Have you not met him to know his Shininess?" the Don asked in amazement.

Haden shook his head. "I didn't go to the party..." he answered in a small voice.

"I didn't either. If my bro doesn't go somewhere, then I won't either," Evan said seriously as he reached to rest his arm around his little brother's shoulders.

The Don nodded before jumping up from his seat and pressing a button on the desk by the chair. A screen came to life on the wall and a video feed started. "Watch, and learn of the Shiny Warrior!"

The gang turned and watched. It was obviously a video feed from Daileass, and it showed Joel walking with a large, bear-like creature and two really small ferrets into a room filled with many other ferrets. Then Joel started to butcher the words from a famous cartoon, which seemed to make him explode in light to be covered in armor, wielding a shattered sword. The bear-thing enlarged and became armored also.

"The Shiny Warrior!" the Don murmured in awe.

Everyone, other than Lincoln who had seen this video several times already, watched in awe.

"Ya know," Haden said lost in thought, "That almost sounds familiar from somewhere."

"It should," Evan sighed. "You only made me watch that twice a day for about a year when you were younger."

Haden's face immediately turned into a grin. "Oh yeah. Now I remember. That's some pretty awesome special effects. Almost better than the cartoon."

"That wasn't effects," Daileass said, his voice coming from a speaker high above them. "That happened, Haden."

Haden looked up toward the ceiling for a few moments. "Right... um, okay. I guess that qualifies as a Shiny Warrior, then?"

The Don nodded enthusiastically in front of Brent. "So, shiny ones, what may we do to serve fellow devotees of the Shiny?"

Brent looked slightly surprised. "Um, well, actually, I thought we came here because you wanted to see us."

"Oh yes yes... so we did.. so we did... wait.. we did?" The Don then reached into his fur and pulled out a very ornate mirror. He held it in front of himself so he was looking back into his own face. "What was it that we wanted to see them about?"

Everyone realized quickly that The Don must have learned ventriloquism, as he started to talk, yet his mouth never moved. "Yes, we did ask to see them. They are members of that Clan which we said was as good as the Shiny moon casting her full Shiny gaze down upon us."

"Oh yes... yes, we did. Now what were we going to do for them?" The don now asked his mirrored self.

Again his mouth did not move as he answered himself. "Well finding out that they are true Shiny Lovers changes things, does it not?"

"Yes... that it most certainly does." The Don spoke softly in deep thought. Yet even though he was in deep thought, he still answered himself.

"This is the time that we have seen in the Shiny visions. Now the time is at hand! The Great Shiny has called us to war, and the Shiny's vanguard is standing before us, showing their gleam for all to see. YEAH! The time is nigh! Gather our empire and stand them behind the Shiny banner that these young bright ones fight for!"

Brent blinked and looked toward Lance. "Babe, did you understand any of that?"

Lance shook his head and looked toward Evan. "Do you have a translation for that?"

Evan shrugged and looked down toward his little brother. Before he could say anything, Haden beat him to the punch. "Don't even look at me, I don't know."

Brent sighed and looked back toward the white ferret. "Um, could you explain that again, perhaps in English? What is this shiny banner, and what war?"

"What war, they ask," The Don stated with surprise as he leaped back into his chair, and spun himself around. "What war!?" The tall lanky ferret then pointed toward the ceiling with his one of his long arms, "The great war of course. The never ending war. The war to protect all the small shiny lovers from the dull ones. The ones who would try to snuff out their shine, before they have a chance to reach their full shiny potential."

Haden took a few steps toward the chair that The Don was standing on. "You're talking about kids, aren't you? The war against kids?"

"Yes, yes! Shiny Heart understands us!" The Don jumped up and down, and then fell to his knees so that his face was at the same level as Haden's. "The war to save the younglings, the ones who have not yet had the chance to appreciate shininess. The ones like yourselves."

Haden thought to himself for a few moments before answering. "But, we don't have any shiny banners. Actually, I don't think we have any banners at all. Maybe you have the wrong people?"

"No, no, no! You do have a very shiny banner!" As he stood back up to his full height, The Don shook his head so hard that it seemed to rotate in ways that should not have been possible. "Your shiny banner, the banner your shiny leader came to our home tonight, and served justice to the evil dull lover who hurt the other younglings."

"I think he means our Clan," Lance offered as he looked toward Brent. "Our banner, our shiny banner, would be what we all stand under, which would be Clan Short."

"Yes, yes, yes," The Don said excitedly as he changed his head shaking to head nodding, "He understands us, he does."

"Okay, I think I understand what you are saying," Brent replied carefully. "But how exactly do you feel you can help us?"

The Don grinned and jumped back off the chair and ran toward one of the windows. "Come."

Brent and the others followed the excited ferret to the window.

Once the boys were there and watching, The Don began to wave one of his hands toward the ground below. "What do you see?"

Brent bent over slightly to look in the direction that the ferret was waving toward. "The water park?"

"Yes, yes, what else?" The ferret's waving started to encircle a larger area.

"Um, Camelot?" Brent asked as he tried to angle himself better to see the area The Don was circling. "And over there is Malaya, and the shopping centers for it."

The Don nodded, and then looked seriously at Brent. "All of that we own, we built it to prepare for the great war. The shiny visions told us of the coming war, so we built it for the champions of shininess to use."

"So, you want us to use your hotels for the war against kids?" Brent tried to piece together what was being said as best as he could.

"Not just hotels," The ferret shook his head. "Lots of sparkling, shiny resources, shiny fun, and shiny warriors."

"I think I get it," Evan said more as an after thought, which caused the others to look toward him. When he realized he spoke out loud and had everyone's attention, he continued. "Well, think about it. These just aren't hotels. I mean, right down there in plain sight is probably one of the largest water parks in the country. These aren't just hotels, I mean, especially when you think about the Camelot, the King Arthur's Dinner show that they have, along with all the other shows and games they have, the museums and exhibits they have here in Karnak. These are a lot more than just hotels and casinos."

The Don nodded gravely. "Yes. Things for the youngling shiny lovers as well as their shiny protectors. Things to bring them shiny laughter, and add to the shininess that is growing inside of them. This is what we have built, and this is what we offer to you."

"You want to give all of this to us?" Brent asked with surprise.

The ferret let out a shrill giggle. "Not give. Use. It is for you to use however your shininess would desire, as long as it helps spread shininess to the younglings, we gladly offer it to you."

"Wow," Brent said as the extent of what was being offered became clear. "I don't really know what to say, but thanks."

The Don nodded and then held up a finger. "And don't forget, the shiny soldiers."

"Shiny soldiers?" Lance asked.

The Don looked in both directions, and then nodded and spoke in a more subdued tone. "The shiny soldiers, the others like us who walk without being seen, the ones that you can only see if your heart is pure and shiny, the ones that strike fear into the hearts of dull lovers. The shiny soldiers."

"Oh god," Lincoln gasped. "You mean there are more of you?"

"Oh yes," The Don nodded with a toothy grin. "Many more."

"How many more?" Brent asked, not really sure if he wanted to know the answer.

"Enough," The Don replied. "You will never see them all, but they are there. Many were there watching over you when you vanquished the dull lover earlier."

"No they weren't," Haden stated flatly, drawing everyone's attention to him. "I was watching all the video feeds, and I didn't see anyone that looked like you did."

"Shiny Heart," The Don said as he took a few steps toward Haden. "You did not see us because we placed the cameras, and we know where the cameras don't see. Just like two of my shiny soldiers are here in the room with us now."

Haden, along with everyone else, quickly glanced around the room looking for other ferrets. The only thing they saw was the glass looking out across the city on all sides of them, and various pieces of office furniture.

"I don't see anyone else here," Haden said carefully.

Almost on cue, from each side of them, two brown furred ferret hybrids stepped out of the shadows from what otherwise would have appeared to be impossible locations to hide in. as soon as they knew they were seen, each ferret waved, before stepping back into the shadows.

Surprised that he had been so unobservant, Haden carefully watched one of them step back into the shadow that was being cast by the desk. As long as he concentrated on keeping a careful lock on his position, he could still make out his outline, but the moment his eyes started to wonder slightly, it was nearly impossible to see the concealed ferret.

"Wow, that's so cool," Haden stated as he realized he had been proven wrong. "I wish I could learn to do that."

"If you believe in yourself, you can do almost anything you want, Shiny Heart," The Don stated. "The strength is within you."

Haden sighed and looked toward the floor. "I'm not strong, I can't even do a single push-up."

The Don walked directly in front of Haden, and used his hand to gently lift Haden's chin. "There is more to strength than muscles, Shiny Heart. The strength we speak of is the strength that allowed you to face your father last night. The strength we speak of is the strength that allowed you to save your friends last week. The strength we speak of is the strength that comes from here," The Don pointed toward Haden's heart.

Haden nodded.

The Don glanced around the room at the others, and then without question, quickly leaped back to his chair, and sat down in it. "We are done now. May the Great Shiny guide you in it's infinite shininess."

Brent glanced toward Lance, then back toward The Don as he gave a bow. "Thank you. I'm not really sure what all these means yet, or how exactly we will use what you have offered, but I'm sure we will come up with a way to put it to good use."

The Don nodded, and then swiveled has chair around so that none of the boys could see him anymore.

"Come," Weer called out from the platform. "The Don shall say no more."

Looking toward the others, Brent shrugged, and all the boys walked back toward the slightly raised platform to join Weer. Once they were all on, it lowered them back down to the brightly lit, mirror filled room below. Once they reached the bottom, Weer quickly fetched the tray that had Evan's GEAR and Lincoln's Glock 9mm.

"You have a rather... interesting boss there," Lincoln commented as he put the clip back into his Glock before putting it back in it's holster.

"Indeed," Weer agreed as he lead them back to the elevator, and took them back down to the ground level. Once they reached the bottom and walked out into the high stakes room, they noticed that the room had a considerably larger number of patrons in it now, many of whom cast occasional, curious glances toward them.

"I hope that you will all come and visit again," Weer stated as they reached the podium.

"Thanks, I have a feeling we will," Brent agreed.

Weer smiled and shook Brent's hand. "I believe this is where we..." The man stopped in mid-sentence as he placed a finger on his ear piece. "No sir, I was just about to... yes, we do... sir, are you sure you want to... I see... Very well, sir."

Brent and the others watched Weer closely as he finished his conversation, and then walked to the podium, and knelt down to the ground. What the man did at that point, none could really see because the podium obstructed the view. After several moments, the man stood back up, and walked back to the group.

"Before you leave, The Don asked that I give you these," Weer stated as he handed shiny golden cards to Brent, Lance, Haden, and Evan.

Brent, along with the others, looked over the curious looking cards, from the best that he could tell, they were gold credit card sized cards, with a series of numbers and symbols on one side that didn't make much sense. "Thanks," Brent stated as he continued to look the card over. "What exactly is it?"

Haden looked up from observing his own card. "It looks like an identification card of some type with a self identifying electronic modulation circuit embedded into it. The small groves on the back act as lead connectors for a standard card reader."

"Don't ask me about how they work, the little one could be right for all I know," Weer stated as he saw Brent look toward him next. "But what I can tell you, is that these cards are like my card. You are now a part of a very small group of people who may access the elevator that leads to The Don's suite whenever you would like."

"Wow," Lance's voice fully expressed his surprised. "I'm not sure what to say, but thanks."

"I will pass on your appreciation to The Don," Weer stated. "He also wished for me to inform you that when visiting him, none of you will need to leave your weapons in the lower room anymore."

All the boys nodded.

"Now, unless there is anything else that any of you need, I have a lot of work that I must attend to," Weer stated politely.

"I think we are good, thanks Weer," Brent stated as everyone gave their final good-bye's, and the group made their way out of the room, and back through the casino toward the exit.

"Did you see how everyone in the room kept looking at us?" Evan ask the others as they walked.

Brent nodded, "Yeah, I noticed that too. It was kind of freaky."

Lance shook his head, "What was really freaky was how they gave us these cards. If I didn't know any better, I would say they were made of gold."

"For the most part, they are," Daileass's voice came through Lance's comm badge. "and when you guys get back, I'll tell you a bit more about them."

"Thanks Daileass," Brent answered as they passed several rows of slot machines. "I want to get outside before you teleport us back, I think it's more respectful that way."

"Not a problem, Brent. I like that line of reasoning," Daileass replied.

"Do you really think we will be coming to visit him so often that we all need access cards?" Evan asked as they approached one of the doors leading out of the hotel.

Brent shrugged, "Who knows. You saw what he was wanting to offer us. If we are going to be working closely together as it sounds, we might."

As they got closer to the door, Lincoln jogged ahead of them so he could arrive at and go through the door first.

"Isn't that just supposed to be for when we go in buildings, and not out of buildings?" Lance asked with a grin on his face to make sure Lincoln knew he was just giving him a hard time.

Once everyone was outside, Lincoln shrugged. "Habit I guess."

Brent lead the group off the main sidewalk and away from the crowd of people making their way in and out of the Karnak, to a set of shrubs and small trees off to the side where they would be less noticed.

"This looks like as good of a place as any, Daileass," Brent said. Instead of getting a reply, all five boys, and Gyro disappeared.

 


 

As Herman awoke, he felt safe and warm as his eyes were filled with a blinding white light. 'It's finally over,' he thought to himself, 'I've arrived at the pearly gates.' As the seconds ticked by, and his eyes slowly struggled to adjust and refocus themselves, he realized that the blinding white light was nothing more than a florescent light in the ceiling above him.

"What?" Herman gasped as he realized he was not dead at all. Moments after he did this, a face appeared partially blocking out the light. It was a face that was slightly older than he had remembered, but a face he would never forget none-the-less.

"Stevie?" Herman whispered as the face smiled back at him. "No, no. You can't be here. This can't be right."

"It's okay Herman, you're safe now," Steve softly reassured him. "No one is going to try to hurt you, everyone believes us now."

Seeing him struggling to sit up, Steve reached over and helped the 62-year-old man to sit up, and pressed a button on the side of his bed that caused the back to move up to make it easier to sit. As he did this, it really began to hit Steve as to just how hard life had been on the man over the last few years. Nearly all of his soft black hair was now a dark shade of grey, and the man's face had far more wrinkles than he had remembered. But all-in-all, it was still the same Herman that he remembered.

"Where.... where am I?" The man asked as he became more aware of his surroundings.

"You're in the UNIT's main medical bay, in Utah." Gil stated from where he was standing near the entrance of the room, next to Kenny.

"Utah? Medical Bay?" Herman began to panic. "No, no, no. This isn't right. I have no money. I can not pay for this."

Gil pulled out a small PADD and pressed the buttons needed to have it grab the latest data from the bio-bed that Herman was laying on, as he walked toward the foot of the bed. "It's okay sir, there are no fees involved. Everything is being provided free of charge. By the UNIT and Clan Short."

"Free?" Herman repeated in disbelief.

Gil nodded as he read the information on his PADD, "That's right. Free."

Herman's mind raced as he struggled to not only comprehend what the young teen had said, but why he might have said it. As he did so, he looked at his arms. "My clothes?"

"I don't think you're going to want the clothes you were wearing anymore," Gil replied. "In addition to being bathed and shaved we've also given you some clothes that you can wear until you can get some better ones."

"Why?" That was the only question that Herman could think of.

Gil put the PADD back into his pocket. "There are two main reasons. First, society has done you a great injustice, we are simply doing what we can to try to make that right. Second, there are two kids whose lives you made a big impact on and are important to."

It was at that moment that Herman realized the third person that was in the room, Steve's younger brother Kenny.

Seeing that the older man appeared to be satisfied for now, Gil made his way toward the door. "Unless you need anything else, I think I'll give you guys some time alone."

"Thanks, Gil." Steve replied.

Gil smiled, nodded, and walked out the door, closing it behind him.

"Little Kenny!" Herman stated with surprise.

Kenny blushed as he approached the foot of the bed. "I'm not so little anymore."

"I remember the first few times your older brother came to trim my grass. You followed him around from house to house carrying the gas can in your little wagon to make sure Stevie never ran out."

Kenny nodded. "That was a long time ago, back when I was 8."

"So it was, so it was," Herman agreed. "Now look at you. You've grown up to be a fine young lad... just like... just like Stevie was when I had first met him."

"Herman?" Steve said seriously, pulling the man's attention toward him. "About everything that happened... I don't really know how to say this... but... I'm... I'm sorry."

Herman reached up and wiped a tear off of Steve's cheek. "Now stop that right now, young man," Herman began. "What happened had nothing to do with you."

"But it's my fault that..." Steve began to say before Herman placed a finger next to the older teen's mouth, causing him to stop.

"A misguided woman misinterpreted something that she thought she saw, and blew things out of proportion. You had no control over her actions, now did you?" Herman asked seriously.

Steve shook his head.

"I've learned to put that past me many years ago, it was the only way that I could survive," Herman continued. "My only regret is that I did not stay to fight longer."

"She would have destroyed you if had." Steve countered.

Herman slowly shook his head. "Look at me, Stevie. She already has."

"That's not true!" Steve cried out as he grabbed one of the man's hands. "There is so much you still have to offer."

Herman chuckled softly. "What does a washed up, drunk, retired pilot like me have to offer anyone?"

"Think of all the knowledge you have and things you could share with other kids," Steve argued. "I still remember some of the stories that you told me."

"Steve, Steve, that's very sweet of you to say, but I fear very few kids would be interested in hearing stories of the past," Herman sighed.

"You might be surprised about that," Gil stated as he walked in the room with Mr. and Mrs. Myers behind him, "Especially with some of the kids that we have around here."

As soon as Herman saw Desmond and Samantha entering the room, he began to panic.

"It's okay," Steve replied quickly, still holding onto the man's hand, "They aren't mad at you any more, they know the truth now."

Herman looked at the other two adults with suspicion.

Immediately, Desmond walked to Herman's side, and looked directly into the older man's eyes. "Mr. Kemp," he began with as much sincerely and compassion in his voice that he could muster, "My wife and I... we owe you a huge apology. The things that we said, the actions that we took against not only you, but our son as well. They were completely unfounded and unwarranted. Could you ever find it within your heart to forgive us?"

"Yes, yes I can." Herman replied softly almost immediately.

Desmond tilted his head in surprise.

Seeing the surprise in his face, Herman continued. "I had forgiven both you and your wife a long time ago. Even when you had directly confronted me, I did not see the same hate and anger in your eyes that I saw in Farthings. Instead, the only thing I saw was an intense desire to do what you thought was right in order to keep your son safe, exactly what any parent should do. How can I fault anyone for that?"

"You are truly wise beyond your years," Desmond replied. "Thank you."

Samantha walked up and stood next to her husband, wrapping her arm around him, making it clear that he spoke for her as well. "Sadly, I do not feel that a simple apology and forgiveness is enough in this situation."

Herman looked at Desmond with curiosity, trying to ponder what the man might be implying.

"You have lost your business, your home, everything," Desmond continued, "That is not something that I can see resolved with a simple apology, even though you have been beyond generous to willingly offer it."

Seeing the difficulty that her husband was having in speaking, Samantha took over. "What my husband is trying to say is, we would be honored if you would be willing to live with us, and help look after the boys."

Herman's mouth fell open in astonishment. "What?"

Desmond nodded. "Both my parents and Sam's parents are gone, so the boys don't have any type of grandfather figure in their life. We would both be honored if you would fill that role for them."

"I... I don't know what to say," Herman replied, still completely shocked.

"Hopefully, you will say yes," Samantha answered. "But think about it, and let us know."

Herman nodded.

Desmond then looked toward his two boys. "Your mother and I are going to go down the hall and talk with the doctors some more. You boys take all the time you need."

Steve and Kenny, who were just as shocked as Herman with the offer their parents made him, simply nodded before they watched both adults walk out of the room.

 


 

Herbert was in a daze as he stood next to Leroy's biobed. He was thinking about everything that had gone on so far that day, when an odd beeping sound brought him out of his thoughts. Taking a few moments to look around, he quickly found the source of the sound, which was from the foot of the biobed.

"Doctor?" Herbert began to get nervous since he did not see any of the doctors around.

"Beep.. Beep.. Beep..," The sound went again.

Herbert looked back toward Leroy, who still seemed to be fine. "Some help here, please?" He called out again.

One of the passing medics stopped and walked over. "Is there a problem here?"

Herbert looked toward the medic, and then toward the biobed. "This started making some weird beeping sounds."

"Beep.. Beep.. Beep..," The bed went again.

"Ah," The medic smiled as he walked to the base of the bed and pressed a few buttons. "That means that the biobed is finished doing everything it can find to do, and has switched over to stand-by mode."

"Really?" Herbert's concern quickly changed to excitement. "When can he wake up?"

The medic pressed a few more buttons. "You can wake him up now. Just don't go too far, as I think Dr. Linda will want to do another quick check on him before you leave."

Herbert nodded. "Okay, we won't."

As the medic walked away, Herbert quickly returned to his boyfriend's side and lightly shook his shoulder. "Leroy?"

Leroy moaned as his eyes fluttered then opened up. "Herbert?"

Herbert smiled. "How ya feeling?"

Leroy thought for a few moments and then smiled back. "Actually, really good," he sat up and quickly checked himself over before he sent Herbert a puzzled expression.

"Don't look at me," Herbert grinned. "This is some kind of special medical thing they had you on, I think they called it a biobed or something."

"That's exactly what it's called," Dr. Linda said as she walked up toward the two boys.

Leroy looked toward the doctor. "You did this for me?"

The doctor nodded. "And if you will lay back down for a few moments, I have a few more quick tests to run, and then you'll be able to catch up on those hugs and kisses."

Both boys gasped in fear and shock.

Chuckling for a few moments as she pressed a few buttons on the bed, the doctor looked back toward the boys. "Don't worry boys, A good number of the kids that come through here are gay, lesbian, or bi. No one will bother you about that here."

Again, the boys shared a glance with each other, not really sure if they could trust what they were being told or not.

"Well Leroy, It seems that because your body was in such remarkable shape, the biobed was able to heal 100% of your injuries. Some of your ribs might feel a bit soft for the next few days given that most of that is new tissue, but beyond that you're good to go." Dr. Linda smiled as she shut down the panel.

Leroy jumped down off the bed. "Is Dwight okay too?"

"He should be," Dr. Linda replied after thinking for a few moments. "In fact, it's just about time for me to check on him. Would you two care to join me?"

Both boys nodded, and then followed the doctor into the other room.

The doctor pressed a few buttons on the bed that Dwight was laying on, and started to review the information. "I'm guessing neither of you are related to Dwight?"

Both boys shook their heads as Herbert answered. "His dad locked him up with the older teens, and Leroy and I tried our best to look out for him."

Dr. Linda shook her head slowly as she continued to look over the information. "Well, from what I can tell, the little you two have done for him in the short time that you've known him has probably been more than his father has done since he was born."

Leroy sighed. "I'll never understand people sometimes."

The woman nodded in agreement. "On the other hand, the two of you would probably make fine parents for him."

Leroy, "Us?"

"How's that?" Herbert asked.

"Oh yes, I think it's very obvious," She continued as she pressed another button that caused the panel to go blank. "Dwight is clearly near the top of both of your thoughts, since he was one of the first thing both of you were asking about when you first arrived. Herbert tried to check on him a few times, and Leroy, as soon as you woke up, you too were worried about him."

"I guess you have a point there, doctor," Leroy agreed. "But isn't it pretty much a moot point? I know I've only been in the states for the last year or so, but don't you have to be an adult to adopt a child here?"

Linda smiled. "Normally, you would be right. However, there is very little about this clan that is normal. Let me ask both of you this, if age were not an issue, would the two of you be interested in adopting him?"

Herbert instantly nodded, surprising not only the doctor but Leroy as well. "I would, in a heart beat. This little guy kind of grows on you after a while. I can't see how anyone could do to him what his father has done. And if I had my say, no one would ever be able to do it again."

Leroy gave his boyfriend a hug. "I think that's the first time I heard you talk out so strongly about something."

Herbert blinked. "Oh crap, I'm sorry."

"No, that's a good thing," Leroy sent Herbert a look that told him that he was serious. "And to answer your question, doctor. I grew up in Brazil, and I've known a few older kids that took in some of the younger kids off the streets, so I kinda have a good idea of what is involved. But Herbert is right, this little guy grows on you, at least on us. So yea, I think I would adopt him if I could. Especially with seeing how interested Herbert was."

Linda gave both boys a warm smile. "In that case, I'll see if I can make that happen for you. In the mean time, Dwight is all good to go. He's just sleeping normally right now, so you should be able to wake him up pretty easily. He's probably a bit skittish about adults after what he went through, so unless you two would like me here, I'll be over in the other room."

"Thanks Doctor Linda," Herbert nearly bounced. "If that could actually happen, that would be really cool."

The doctor gave the boys another nod and left the room. As soon as she did, the boys turned their attention to the small 5-year-old boy sleeping on the biobed.

Leroy looked toward Herbert and nodded.

Taking the cue with a smile, Herbert bent over the bed and very gently shook the small boy's shoulder. "Dwight? Come on, buddy, it's time to wake up."

Dwight remained completely motionless for several long moments. Finally, he let out a soft sigh, and his eyes began to flutter.

"That's right big guy, open those cute blue eyes of yours."

Dwight's eyes opened, and the boy tilted his head as he tried to focus them. "Herbie?" He ask softly. "Where are we? I'm scared."

"It's okay, we are safe now. No one is going to try to hurt us anymore." Seeing the boy struggling to sit himself up, Herbert gently wrapped his arms around him, and pulled him up into a hug.

"Hey, munchkin," Leroy said with a smile as he sat down on the bed next.

"Leroy?" Dwight asked with surprise. "You're here too? I saw them make you all bloody when they... they dragged me away and... I'm not hurt anymore?"

Both older boys couldn't stop themselves from smiling at the rapidly changing flood of emotions that were quickly going across Dwight's face. Herbert did his best to give Dwight the answers he was looking for. "That's because the nice people here have very special machines that made both you and Leroy all better."

"Are they wizards?" The small boy asked seriously, causing both older boys to smile again.

"No, munchkin," Leroy answered. "They are just really good doctors, with apparently really good equipment.

"Oh," Dwight replied fully accepting the answer as he gently pushed himself back from Herbert, breaking their hug.

After taking a few moments to look himself over, he looked back up toward the two older boys. "Um, how come I don't have a shirt on? And how come Leroy doesn't have a shirt on either?" This, of course, caused both older boys to once again smile, as well as bringing forth the first of many three-way hugs.

 


 

Brent, Hania and Joshua were walking with Dominic toward the main medical bay at the Utah UNIT base when they spotting Mr. and Mrs. Meyers talking to a younger teen wearing a white lab coat over his medical scrubs.

"Hey guys," Brent said as cheerfully as he could before he noticed that they might have already been in the middle of a conversation. "Oh, sorry if I interrupted anything."

Desmond looked over toward Brent with a smile. "You weren't interrupting anything at all, Brent. Gil was just telling us a bit more about Herman's status, and what we should expect over the next few weeks."

Gil nodded in agreement.

"Oh my," Samantha cried out as she noticed Dominic. "You're Ronnie's... friend? I was really impressed with how well you did at the trial this evening."

Dominic nodded and shook Mrs. Meyer's hand. "I'm his unofficial guardian. It would be official except for neither his mother or myself have had the money to file the proper paperwork. And as far as the trial goes, I think your son was exceptionally brave for what he said as well."

Brent made a mental note to look further into this later, and see what he could do to make things work out better between Dominic, Ronnie, and Ronnie's mother. Before he had a chance to think too much, he heard Joshua's voice in his head. 'What he is saying is true. Ronnie's mom has not had a lot of time to spend with him, and the time that she has had she has not shown a lot of interest in him. The two have talked several times about Dominic assuming the role of Ronnie's legal guardian since they get along so well.'

'Okay, if that is the desire of all parties involved, let's see what we can do to make that happen. However, I would also like to see if we could get mom in to see one of the shrinks to see if there is some type of psychological reason she has for not being able to spend time with her own son, or if she truly just doesn't care about him,' Brent thought back.

'Dominic's memories show mixed behaviors in that regard. So I agree, that sounds like the best course of action for now,' Joshua replied back.

"It's been a hard last 3 years," Samantha admitted, "but hopefully now we will be able to pick up the pieces and move forward."

"If that is what each of your hearts truly seek, then I have no doubt the great spirits will aid you in that endeavor," Hania offered which caused both Mr. and Mrs. Meyers to nod acceptingly.

"So, would I be right in guessing that Steve and Kenny are in with Mr. Kemp?" Brent asked to no one in particular.

Before anyone else could answer, Kenny spoke up from behind them as he and Steve walked down the hall toward them. "Nope, we're right here."

"I think Herman fell asleep while we were talking to him," Steve offered. "He seemed pretty tired."

Gil nodded. "With the detox treatment he has been receiving, and everything else he's been through, that's probably to be expected."

"Will Herman be able to leave tonight?" Desmond asked.

Gil shook his head. "I think it would be better for him to at least spend the night here for observation. The first night is usually the roughest. But if you guys want to swing by tomorrow morning or afternoon, he should be good to go."

All four Meyers nodded.

Brent then turned toward Steve and Kenny's parents. "Mr. and Mrs. Kemp, At some point I think it would be best if all of us sat down to discuss a bunch of things. Although, with everything that has already gone on today, and as late as it is, I'm guessing that tonight would probably not be the best time."

The two adults nodded in agreement.

"Perhaps we could talk tomorrow after you pick up Herman?" Brent asked.

"That sounds like a great idea," Desmond agreed.

"What's the best way to get a hold of you?" Samantha asked, "And for that matter, if we are in Utah, how will we go about getting home?"

"The answer to both of those questions lays in these," Brent grinned as he took out two small comm badges and handed them toward Steve and Kenny. "Since you two are under clan protection, and as such, members of the clan, these comm badges are for you. They will allow you to instantly communicate with Daileass, as well as anyone else. Just tap it, and speak the person's name you want to talk to."

"Seriously, these are for us?" Steve asked with surprise.

"Wow, these are so tiny, how far of a range do they have?" Kenny asked as he looked over his.

"We think they should reach to the moon, we just haven't had a chance to test that yet," Daileass stated through Kenny's comm badge, causing the 12-year-old to jump slightly. "Either way, they should work almost anywhere on earth."

Brent turned his attention back to the two parents, "So the answer to your second question is, just ask one of your boys to contact us."

Samantha nodded, while Desmond seemed a bit concerned. "Those seem rather high tech. How much do we owe you?"

"Huh?" Brent replied, not sure what Mr. Meyers meant.

"For those comm badge things," Desmond replied. "How much will they cost us?"

Brent shook his head as he grinned. "There is no fee. Those are the boys to keep for as long as they are associated with the clan."

"Thanks Brent, for everything," Samantha smiled as a tear began to form in her eye. "I can't begin to explain how much this means to us."

"You're welcome," Brent smiled. "As soon as you guys are ready, Daileass can teleport you back to your house."

Without a word being spoken, both boys walked over to stand next to their parents. Although they were both clearly excited, just by looking in their eyes, you could see how exhausted they were from the emotional roller coaster they had been through.

"I think we are ready to go now," Samantha offered with an agreeing nod from Desmond.

After a quick round of good-bye's and good-night's, Daileass teleported the group away.

"Okay," Brent clapped his hands together. "Now on to our next stop."

 


 

Just as Dr. Linda began to look at the information on another bed, Brent, Hania, Joshua, and Dominic walked in.

"Ah, you guys have good timing," The doctor called out as soon as she recognized who had arrived.

"Is Ronnie okay?" Dominic asked at once.

Linda shook her head. "As I said earlier, it will not be possible to tell until we wake him up. However, as much of the swelling that is going to go down has, so I think it would now be safe to do that."

"That sounds great," Dominic stated as he quickly made his way toward the biobed on the far right wall, and the shirtless 12 year old that was sleeping on it."

"Ronnie?" Dominic asked as he lightly shook the boy's shoulder, and then looked toward the doctor. "He's not waking up."

The doctor nodded as she pressed a few buttons on the bed. "That's because he's still in the artificial coma. But I just now turned that off, so you should be able to wake him up now. Please remember what I said earlier though, as we do not know just how much damage might have been done."

Brent, Hania, and Joshua made it to the foot of the bed just as Dominic started his second attempt to wake the 12-year-old up. "Ronnie, it's time to wake up bud," The man said softly as he gently shook the boy's shoulder.

Again, nothing happened. Dominic looked back toward the doctor and was just about to say something when Ronnie coughed.

"Dom?" the boy whispered as his eyes cracked open. "Am I dead?"

"No buddy, your not," Dominic replied with concern.

"Oh, You have a fuzzy halo around your head, and the room looks weird," the boy replied.

"It's okay Ronnie, your safe now," Dominic reached down and wrapped his arms around the boy, lifting him up slightly, as the boy did the same, squeezing his arms hard around him.

Tears began to form in the boy's eyes. "I was so scared Dom, they said you left me, and didn't want me anymore."

"I know, I know," Dominic replied as he rocked the boy gently, "It's all over now. You don't know this yet, but you have a lot of people who care a lot about you now."

"Huh?" Ronnie asked curiously, "Me?"

"That's right," Dominic smiled as he turned Ronnie toward the boys that were standing at the foot of the bed. "The boy in the middle is Brent, he's the head of the Clan Short division in Las Vegas. They took over a police station when they found out you were being hurt."

"Clan Short? The... police...," Before he could finish, a worried look came over the boy's face, as he looked down at his stomach, and tried to twist his head around to look at his sides. "Was I dreaming?"

Dominic shook his head. "No, you weren't. They really hurt you that bad. But they have some really amazing medical equipment here, and they were able to heal you."

"Oh," Ronnie replied, still sounding really confused.

"It's okay," Dominic hugged the boy again. "I'll tell you all about it later. For now, I'm just glad your okay."

Without saying a word, Ronnie reached his arms up and wrapped them around Dominic's neck and then proceeded to give him a sloppy kiss right on the lips.

"What was that for?" Dominic asked with surprise as the kiss broke.

"I don't know," Ronnie replied. "It just felt right. And, I guess I'm glad that I didn't really lose you like those guys were trying to make me think."

"Well?" Brent quietly asked Joshua while Ronnie and Dominic continued to talk to each other.

Joshua nodded and grinned. "After a smooch like that, I'm pretty sure you don't need a telepath on this one. But yeah, I've been keeping a close eye on Ronnie's surface thoughts, and he really does love and care about Dominic."

"Is your vision still cloudy, Ronnie?" Dr. Linda asked as she continued to monitor information on the biobed.

Ronnie thought for a moment and then shook his head. "No. Stuff is starting to get a lot clearer now."

Linda nodded. "That's good. I am not seeing anything major that is jumping out at me, so Ronnie might have been lucky. However, I would still keep a close eye on him over the next few days to see if anything little pops up."

"What does she mean?" Ronnie looked toward Dominic with concern.

Dominic tried to figure out how he wanted to answer him. Finally, he decided to do what he always has done, tell the boy the truth. "The biobed was able to repair most of the physical injuries those monsters did to you. However, there was some swelling in the back of your brain, and there was some concern that there might have been some mild brain damage."

"What kind?" Ronnie asked.

Before Dominic could answer, Dr. Linda jumped in. "It was impossible for us to tell exactly. We needed to wait until you woke up. Right now, it's looking like there was nothing significant that was damaged. However, it's still possible that something else might have been affected, some past memories, knowledge of a specific skill, or something else along those lines."

Dominic nodded in understanding. "Not to be rude or anything, but what happens to us now?"

Brent walked a step closer to the bed, since this was more his department. "That depends on the two of you. You actually have several options that you can consider."

Brent waited until he was sure he had the attention of both Dominic and Ronnie. "The first option you have, is that we can simply drop you guys back off at your house and wish you well. Of course, you would always have the option of calling us if any more problems developed. The second option is that Ronnie could move over to our compound, and even possibly start going to Clan School. Of course, that all depends on what options you make for yourself as well, Dominic."

"Move to your compound? Clan School?" Ronnie asked in confusion.

"My options?" Dominic asked nearly as confused as Ronnie.

Brent smiled. "I know that Lance mentioned earlier that we might be able to find a job at our division if you were interested. I would like to take that a step further, and offer you a job as one of our child care givers."

"What all would that involve?" Dominic asked.

"To start with, you would be responsible for helping to take care of a number of kids ranging in ages from 6 to 16 that are staying at our compound. Beyond that, well that's up to you really, it will depend on what you feel comfortable doing, and what you are able to prove that you can do. Either way, I can guarantee you a starting salary that is at least 3 times more than what you are getting from the auto part store you're at now," Brent answered.

Dominic sighed, "That's a generous offer Brent. However, because of somewhere I've worked in the past, I've been blacklisted from the entire child care industry."

"So?" Brent shrugged, "Clan Short does not recognize industry blacklists or anything like that. We look at far more important things. First, you've demonstrated just how important kids can be to you, and how much you care about them. More importantly, we've seen first hand just how much trust and respect Ronnie has built up toward you. It takes a very special adult to be able to build up that type of respect with a kid. Basically, your exactly the type of person we're looking for."

Dominic sat there stunned, not really sure how to reply.

"Dom?" Ronnie asked, pulling the man's attention. "These guys sound pretty cool. And with all the shit Farthing has been spreading around school about me, I really don't want to go back there if I don't have to."

Dominic looked at Ronnie, and then back toward Brent, "I'm not really sure what to say."

Brent grinned. "You could say you will take it."

Dominic shook his head, "I would be a fool not to accept it. Especially with as much help as you and the rest of the Clan has given both myself and Ronnie. I would love more than anything to help repay you for your kindness. And from the sounds of it, this is something Ronnie is interested in as well."

Brent nodded. "Great. When we jump back to the C.I.C., Daileass should have your contract printed up and ready for you to review."

"You guys move fast, don't you?" Dominic asked seriously.

"Do you really have to ask that, after everything you've seen so far today?" Brent replied with an evil grin. "Seriously though, the only other thing you will need to decide is if you would like to continue to stay at your house, or if you would like to stay on the compound."

"That's an easy one," Dominic quickly answered, "If I'm going to jump into this, it might as well be with both feet, so I'll stay at the compound. Also, at least for a little while, I think Ronnie would be a lot safer if he could stay at the compound as well?"

Brent nodded. "After what happened today? Yeah, I would completely agree with you. As long as Ronnie is okay with that. Of course, that would mean that Ronnie would probably end up meeting a lot of new friends, and seeing and doing things he never thought possible before."

Ronnie sighed. "Even before Farthing started spreading all that crap about me, no one really liked me much at school, so I doubt it. But if Dom is going to be staying with you guys, I guess I would like to as well."

"I thought the same thing as you once," Hania commented. "Before I met Brent, very few kids at my school were interested in being friends with me because of my traditions and beliefs. However, I quickly figured out that the kids that are associated with the Clan are not like your every day kid. Here, people seem to appreciate you more for being different, as it is our differences and diversity that we play off of each other to make our group even stronger."

Ronnie nodded as he thought about what the Native American boy said, "Okay."

Brent slapped his hands together. "Great. Now with that settled, there are only 3 more kids we need to pick up."

As everyone looked at Brent curiously, Ronnie jumped down from the bed and they both followed the older boy as he made his way to another room.

When they entered, everyone could see two older boys cuddling a much younger boy at the back of the room.

"Hey guys, how ya doing?" Brent asked as he and the rest of his group approached them.

Herbert looked up from Dwight and smiled. "Hi Brent. Leroy and Dwight are both doing great. Thanks a ton for helping them." Herbert then looked toward the confused Leroy. "Oh yeah, This is the guy I was telling you about, Leroy. He's the director of the division in Vegas, and the guy that was heading up everything that happened today."

Leroy nodded as he extended his hand toward Brent. "Thanks man. It's way cool of you to help us out like you have."

Brent shook Leroy's hand and was surprised how strong of a grip he had. Actually, after seeing how well built the slightly smaller boy was, he decided he was not as surprised as he thought he was. "Actually, it's more of a team thing. Everyone in the Clan helps out where they can. I just happen to have the fancy label and everyone seems to want to look up toward me."

Leroy smiled as he went back to hugging the small 5-year-old that was still snuggled between him and Herbert. "Don't sell yourself short. Even if you're not doing everything yourself, it's still an important job to have. And as far as that goes, from everything that Herbert has told me about you guys so far, it sounds like something I wouldn't mind being involved with."

Brent nodded. "Cool. You guys are both under the protection of Clan Short now, so, at least for the next day or two until we can get a better idea of everyone's situation, you'll be staying at our compound. If you see things you want to get involved with, that's cool. But just don't think you 'have' to do anything special."

"Sounds fair to me," Leroy agreed.

"Are you guys hungry?" Brent asked as he took a quick look at his watch and then looked back toward Leroy and Herbert. "With everything being so crazy today, most of us haven't had anything to eat since lunch. What do you say about joining us for a late dinner in Las Vegas, and then we can work things out from there?"

Leroy seemed confused. "You mean we're not in Vegas now?"

Herbert giggled. "You're not going to believe this, but we are in Utah."

"Huh?" Leroy was even more confused. "How long was I asleep?"

This time, all the kids giggled.

"Actually, Daileass is able to almost instantly teleport us anywhere we need to go," Brent replied after he recovered from his own giggles.

"What's a Daileass? You mentioned that name earlier." Ronnie asked from Dominic's side.

Immediately, a 12 year old voice answered them from several of the overhead speakers. "That would be me. I'm one of those really cool Clan things that you would otherwise have thought impossible."

Ronnie, still very much confused, looked up toward Dominic for answers.

Brent shook his head and sighed as he motioned for the three boys on the bed to join them before he looked back toward Doctor Linda, who was standing behind the rest of the group.

As the woman took a few steps backward, further separating herself from the group, she answered Brent's unasked question. "Go on you guys, I have all the information I need."

Brent nodded and looked up toward the ceiling. "Okay Daileass, take us to where we need to go."

"Don't blink!" the voice in the ceiling giggled. Moments later, the world around them briefly faded into darkness, as if someone flipped a switch and all the lights were turned off. A fraction of a second later, the world came back to life again. Only this time, they were standing outside on a small hill with trees all around them and the sun shining down brightly from above.

"I thought the clock on the wall said it was 9pm?" Herbert asked as he took a step forward to look down into the beautiful flower filled valley below them, and the small oriental styled buildings that were in it.

"I don't think we are in Utah anymore," Dominic offered.

Brent tapped his comm badge, "Um, Daileass? This doesn't look like home."

"Wait a minute," Ronnie said with surprise as a took a step away from Dominic. "I know this place. We were just watching a video about famous Japanese gardens in school today. Isn't this the TenryÅ-ji temple in Japan?"

"Of course it's not home," Daileass replied through Brent's comm badge, "You didn't say to take you home, you just said to take you where you needed to go. And I figured a quick little side trip wouldn't hurt. Oh, and very good Ronnie, you're exactly correct. Also known as TenryÅ Shiseizen-ji, it's the head temple of the TenryÅ branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, in Kyoto, Japan."

"It's very beautiful," Hania commented.

Herbert gasped. "You can teleport people to anywhere in the world?"

"Pretty much," Daileass replied. "There are a few minor limitations I have, such as needing a good satellite fix, or video image. In this case, there is a small remote weather station behind you guys, and it has a web cam attached."

Everyone looked behind them to see a small box about three feet high with small devices sticking out from it.

"Daileass, if that's a web cam, won't people see us?" Joshua asked.

"If I were not blocking the images from going out, they would," Daileass answered.

Brent shook his head. He would have to remember to be more specific with his orders to Daileass in the future. "Okay Daileass, Thanks for the little side trip. But, could you take us back to the Las Vegas compound now so we can get some dinner?"

"No problem, Brent." Daileass cheerfully replied as the group once again vanished.

 


 

Brent and the others appeared on the well-lit sidewalk that went between the admin building and the event center / cafeteria building. There, for the second time that day, he found himself welcoming a new group of kids to their compound. "Welcome to the Vegas Clan Short compound, guys."

Although it was dark, there were enough lights around that it was very easy to see where the different buildings were at.

"Okay, this place is cool," Ronnie immediately commented.

Dominic gave Ronnie a gentle squeeze on his shoulder. "That's exactly what I said when I first saw this place earlier."

"And you didn't even get to see the cool stuff yet," Brent grinned.

Hearing footsteps approaching them from behind, everyone in the group turned around to see who it was. "It's okay," Brent began as the two young teens dressed in full UNIT uniforms approached them. "Guys, I would like to introduce you to Base Commander Colonel Justin West, he's the guy in charge of the military side of things here, and is the one who really executed today's rescue. The blond haired guy next to him is his first officer, umm... Lieutenant Colonel Chase Longing."

Chase gave Brent a quick nod, indicating that he had gotten his title correct.

"They's not Colonels, They's just kids like us!" Dwight challenged.

Justin knelt down so that he was at Dwight's level. "That's right, we are just kids just like you. But that doesn't mean that we can't follow our dreams and not be Colonels."

Dwight just grinned and smiled as he pulled himself closer to Leroy's leg.

"And you, sir, have perfect timing," Justin stated as he stood back up and looked toward Brent. "Chase and I were just on our way over to the cafeteria, everyone else should already be there now."

"Great, I'm starving," Brent replied as Lance nodded in agreement.

"Oh, by the way, a Doctor Lenard McCoy called about 15 minutes ago," Chase added. "He demanded that we not interrupt you, but wanted to let you know that he was going to be a little late and said he would meet you at 9pm instead."

Brent nodded, "I think that will work out great. I was getting a little worried about that, since we were originally going to meet him at 8pm."

"Excuse me," Ronnie said gently as he got Justin's attention. "You're the person who rescued me?"

Justin thought for a few moments how he wanted to answer as he looked down at the 12-year-old. "I'm the one that put together and commanded the operation that secured the police sub-station. However, the person that rescued you was Daileass."

"Really? YOU rescued me Daileass?" Ronnie spoke into the air. "But... How...?"

Daileass replied through Justin's comm badge, since he was closest to Ronnie. "I was able to teleport you out, the same way that I teleported you to Japan and back to here. However, because of how brave you were, you were actually the one who made it possible for you to be saved."

Ronnie tilted his head in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Do you remember how I said I need a good satellite fix or video feed in order to teleport people?" Daileass asked, and waited until one of the bases security cameras saw Ronnie nod. "Well, in the room you were at, there were no video feeds that I had access to, until the video feed that was going to tape your confession was activated. When you surprised them by saying you were in danger, that set a flag up for me which caught my attention really fast, which made it so I could get you out of there."

"Wow, thank you Daileass. I was sure that I was going to be killed in there. To be honest, the only reason I said what I did was because I had already given up." Ronnie stated sadly.

"From what I heard, If Daileass had been a few seconds slower then you might have," Dominic stated as he wrapped his arms around the 12-year-old. "But that's all over now. And yes, Daileass, I too will be eternally grateful for what you did today. From what I gather, this is probably an everyday event for you guys, but what you did really does make a difference. Thanks."

"Thanks, guys," Daileass replied, with a strong hint of emotion in his voice. "This isn't something we try to make a habit of doing every day, but still. Not many people have ever actually taken the time to sincerely thank me like you to have. That means a lot to me."

Brent couldn't help being touched along with the others that had just witnessed the exchange of words with Daileass. He also mentally filed away Daileass's last comment, and promised himself that he would personally make sure that the work and effort that Daileass did for them would never go unnoticed.

Feeling an awkward silence beginning, Brent figured now was as good of a time as any to switch gears. "I hate to break this up guys, but if we don't get a move on, I don't think there is going to be much food left for us."

This, of course, got everyone's attention, and the group moved on toward the entrance of the event center.

As soon as Brent walked through the second set of doors to enter the cafeteria area, Lance was nearly on top of him, with Haden at his side.

"We were starting to get worried that you wouldn't make it," Lance commented as he kissed Brent on the cheek.

"I thought you guys would already be done eating by now," Brent replied as he gave Haden a hug. Haden, for his part, looked cautiously behind Brent at the new kids.

"We were going to, but Haden and Evan wanted to wait until you got back," Lance replied.

"Well, I'm going to go check on the troops, you guys have a good dinner." Justin stated as he and Chase walked off.

"You said get everyone gathered for dinner, you didn't say we had to start eating." Haden protested.

Brent grinned. "Fair enough. How about we go grab something now?"

Haden quickly agreed.

As they walked, Brent gave a quick introduction of the new kids that Lance and Haden had not met yet. The only kid that Haden seemed that interested in shaking hands with was Dwight, who immediately beamed at the extra attention he was getting as he curiously eyed up Haden's GEAR.

"With as huge as this place is, there don't seem to be many people here," Ronnie commented.

Brent agreed. "Yeah, it's pretty huge, but something makes me think that we will fill it up soon enough. When we woke up this morning, we only had about 50 kids, not counting the UNIT guys. Now, we are up to about 75."

"Hum, if you keep up your 50% growth per day, then yeah. Tomorrow you will be up to 112, Wednesday you will be at 168, and by Friday you will be at 380," Herbert commented.

Seeing everyone looking at him, Herbert blushed slightly. "Okay, so maybe I like math a little."

Immediately, Haden smiled up at Lance. "I think I'm going to like Herbert." This, of course, caused everyone that knew Haden to laugh.

"Seriously though," Brent continued, "although I don't think we will be growing that fast, we are setup to handle a lot of kids. That should be even more apparent when you guys see the quads after dinner."

After getting nods from all the new kids, the group went back to working on the more important task at hand, getting their plates filled up with food. Dinner tonight was spaghetti and meatballs with garlic sticks and fresh garden salad.

About half way through dinner, Lance looked over toward Haden to see him trembling slightly with an expression of fear and hurt on his face. He was just opening his mouth to say something when Haden's expression turned to one of shock, as he dropped both his fork and knife. Although his knife fell onto his plate, the fork bounced off the table and made a clanging sound as it hit the ground.

"Haden, you okay bro?" Evan asked with concern as he looked at his younger brother.

"Something's not right," Haden whispered to himself just barely loud enough for Evan and Lance to hear it. 'Daileass?' Haden called out in his head, 'Daileass? Something feels wrong, can you hear me?'

For several moments, Haden received no reply, but then Daileass's somewhat shaky voice answered him. 'Stand by Haden, reallocating resources.'

"Haden, what's wrong?" Evan asked, his voice now filled with alarm.

Haden shook his head. "Donno, just something is really wrong. I think I feel sick."

"Do we need to take you to the med bay?" Lance asked with concern as he walked around the table to be closer to Haden and Evan.

Haden shook his head just as Daileass's unusually panicked voice came over Haden's comm badge, "Protocol 3 Alert! Fracture imminent. Anyone receiving this alert, prepare for emergency teleport to Logan's location."

Evan and Lance shared a confused look with each other before looking at Haden. "What's that mean?" Lance asked.

"I don't know," was Haden's worried panicked response as he shook his head.

"Sorry for not answering you, Haden. I was in the middle of bringing all of the most powerful, experimental new servers online to account for the massive resource pull," Daileass's voice stated.

"I don't understand, Daileass," Haden replied. "What's going on? Things don't feel right in my head, and I'm starting to get scared."

"Please don't get scared Haden, I need you to be strong. We all need you to be strong," Daileass pleaded. "Logan is... well, he's having some issues, and I need you... well, I would like you... well, I would like to ask you if you...".

Haden cut Daileass off before he had a chance to finish speaking. "Logan is in trouble? What can I do to help?"

"Thanks Haden," Daileass replied, "I'm glad you asked, with my low resources, I was having trouble calculating the best way to ask you. Anyway, I need to teleport you to Russia as quickly as possible."

"Russia?" Haden replied in unison with Evan, Lance and now Brent.

"Is Logan hurt?" Haden asked.

"Not physically," Daileass replied. "But in a way, he is. We'll explain more when you get here. A lot of it, well, it's classified. But if he would like to come as well, I can bring Evan with you."

Haden looked toward Evan questionably.

Without having to think, Evan nodded his head. "You aren't taking Haden anywhere without me without a fight. I'll go."

"Great, thanks Evan," Daileass replied. "How quickly can you two be ready to go."

After getting a nod from Evan, Haden answered. "We're ready to go n...."

Haden didn't get a chance to finish his sentence before both he and his brother were gone, leaving several pairs of eyes now looking at two empty chairs.

"Everyone might as well get back to eating," Brent stated as he saw the large number of kids that were looking in his direction. "We don't have any more information on what's going on than you guys. But as soon as we hear anything, we will let everyone else know."

Slowly, kids began to go back to eating. However, for the rest of the meal, the entire atmosphere in the room was somehow different. Neither Brent nor Lance could help but think that Haden and Evan had now become the main topic of discussion for most of the kids that were there.

TO BE CONTINUED...