As Tracy led Adrian and Cody out of the convenience store that shared the building with the ice cream parlor, he asked "Do either of you know how Shadow’s able to smell this air freshener?"
Cody giggled as he replied. "Yeah, it’s one of the upgrades that Noah and Caleb added to Ray. They added some environmental sensors in case someone tries to use chemicals against Cory, and tied them into the 'smell' logic. It’s the same thing Emmy has to detect attacks against the compound."
"How’d it get installed in Shadow if it’s a Clan setup?" Tracy wondered aloud.
"Probably Haden from Vegas," Cody responded with a shrug. "He’s the gadget geek of the AI rollout team; him and his twin Barrett coulda knocked it out in an hour or two while the dealership was closed."
"If it was those two, I’ll bet Shadow’s got a few surprises that Ray ain’t got!" Adrian giggled.
Tracy was distracted from digging deeper into Adrian’s comment by a mud-covered dune buggy bouncing over the curb then swinging around to park next to Shadow.
"AWESOME!" Kyle’s voice exclaimed from the driver’s seat as he turned it off. "I WANT ONE!"
"Where’d y’all find all that mud?" Tracy giggled as he went over to Jorge and Kyle, who were both grinning from ear-to-ear.
"Onea the farmers I met when we was on vacation has some property along the way here, and he let us play in his field!" Kyle replied, bouncing with excitement. "It ain’t fast, but it’s FUN!"
"RAWWW!" Jorge added in agreement.
Grinning, Tracy asked "You guys want one of us to run in and get ya some ice cream? That way you don’t track mud into the shop."
Surprisingly, both Kyle and Jorge shook their heads. "We gotta get back so I can ask Mom if I can have one then if she says yes Jorge and me gotta figure out where all we can play with it!" Kyle rapid-replied.
Giggling, Tracy replied "You think that you can stay on the road long enough for me to travel back with you, lil bro?"
"I'll try!" Kyle responded with a grin.
All three of Shadow's occupants couldn't help giggling as Kyle's enthusiasm got the best of him finally when he reached the off-ramp. Instead of following the ramp, he cut across the field directly towards Karl's lot. The dune buggy seemed to flicker as it reached the fence, appearing on the other side without any fence damage. Tracy decided to take the more conventional route, chuckling as he spotted Kyle trying to find a gap to get from the grass into the lot.
A minute later, Tracy pulled into the lot, joining an obviously frustrated Kyle, who ended up driving almost half of the perimeter of the lot before finally finding a place to get on the pavement. Both of them pulled up to the entrance of the showroom at the same time, being met by Karl, a dealership employee that Tracy had not met yet, and a lady who he recognized from pictures he'd seen as being Teri Short.
By the time Tracy came to a stop, Teri had moved to be in position by the passenger door of Shadow. Picking up on her intentions, Adrian sat back in the back seat with a grin as Cody climbed out.
"Way to go, Son!" Teri stated as she pulled Cody into a hug within seconds of his feet hitting the ground.
"Thanks Mom!" Cody giggled. "They're weird, they give awards for being hungry!"
Teri stepped back a step, then knelt down while keeping her hands on Cody's shoulders. "Cody, both you and your big brother inherited the love of tackling the impossible from your father," she stated seriously. "Due to everything that's happened, Cory's got a pretty huge shadow built up that you're stuck standing in. Being seven years younger than any other winner of the challenge IS quite an accomplishment. I'd be disappointed in you if you tried to be another Cory; anytime that you do something unique to you that stands out, I'm going to congratulate you. If you do something Cory'd do just because you think it's right, I'll be there as well. That's why I support you and Ezra being boyfriends, even though most of the rest of your brothers think you're insane."
"Umm, on that point Mom," Cody muttered, "Ezzy and me added Adrian."
"Poor Ezzy!" Teri chuckled. "Adrian, get your little butt out of the car so I can congratulate both of you."
"Hi Teri," Adrian said meekly as he slowly climbed out of the back seat.
"That will be enough of that, young man!" Teri playfully scolded as she reached out with one hand and pulled Adrian into a cuddle alongside Cody. "I'm still Mom no matter who you call boyfriends. I heard about your response in Alligator Alley; I think you two paired with Ezzy are going to make a great team. Speaking of which, why don't the two of you work on dragging your big brother out of the drivers seat of his new car while I see whats got Kyle all excited?"
"Okay, Mom!" Cody and Adrian chorused as they quickly developed scheming grins.
Teri turned around, and laughed as she saw the two mud-covered boys waiting not-so-patiently for her. Jorge had his helmet hanging from his mouth, swinging it back-and-forth by the strap. Kyle, on the other hand, was dancing from one foot to the other, looking like he was about to do an imitation of a Vulcan on Pixie Styx.
Seeing they now had Teri's attention, Kyle spouted "Can I have one, please, pretty please Mommy? I promise to be good and only drive it where you tell me I can and not scare the little guys or any of Timmy's friends or anyone else, it's really kewl and Jorge and I have a lotta fun when we're playing and Mike over there says that he put stuff on it that makes it so we can't get hurt if we mess up so can we have one PLEASE?"
Smiling, Teri replied "Slow down a little, honey. Have one what?"
"A DUNE BUGGY!" Kyle replied in exasperation.
"That's better, my little shoulder pirate." Teri said calmly. "That must be what Mark was talking to me about. Why don't you and Jorge go over and tell him what you thought was scary, and anything you noticed that made it less fun. If all three of you can agree about any changes, along with the limits I've already told him, then I'll let you have one."
"Thanks, Mommy!" Kyle exclaimed gleefully as he slammed into Teri to give her a muddy hug. Not to be left out, Jorge joined the hug, adding a lick to Teri's cheek to show his thanks.
Once the hug broke, both Jorge and Kyle ran off to torture ... I mean collaborate ... with Mark. As Teri watched them sprint off, she tapped her subvocal. "George, a change of clothes, please."
'Here you go, Ma.' George replied. 'I've got the blackmail footage of our favorite leech being a normal eight-year-old stored in a few places even he can't get to!'
"I expected no less," Teri chuckled as she flickered and reappeared in clean clothes. "Make sure his worry-wart brothers see it. With everything thats happened, seeing Kyle being himself will do them some good."
'Aye, Aye, El Capitan!' George giggled.
"Smart-ass!" Teri chuckled as she walked around the car. Once on the other side, she stopped and shook her head in wonder, as it appeared Cody and Adrian had taken her literally. Tracy was laying face-down on the ground, both grinning boys sitting on his back, with his feet still hanging on the doorsill. "You can let your big brother up now, boys." Teri stated as she went over to help Tracy to his feet.
"We did JUST what you told us to do!" Adrian giggled as they got up, both turning on their full 'I'm as innocent as a newborn baby' act as they stood.
"Just remember that as a big brother, Tracy has payback rights." Teri commented. "If you run now, you might be safe for a little while until he finds you."
"LATER!" Adrian giggled as he sprinted off, Cody hot on his heels.
As Teri helped Tracy brush off, she told him "Don't be too hard on them, Tracy. The part of the reason that Steve had for Adrian joining up with the Clan that's not well know is the fact Steve thought Adrian was missing out on his childhood. Steve didn't grow up as the son of a mega-rich company CEO, and he had noticed Adrian not doing things he expected out of a kid his age."
"I know what he means, I've had to order him to take kid-time mo... err Teri." Tracy replied.
Teri put an arm around Tracy's shoulders as she guided him to a nearby bench. Once they both were seated, Teri began with a smile. "You had it right the first time, Tracy, you were declared one of my sons before I first spoke to you. You've gained a second family by just being yourself. First off, you need to know Galli has arranged some twists of time so some of us can handle everything we need to do, so if something doesn't add up blame your little brother."
"That's not a problem; after meeting him I feel pretty sure I could blame him for a sunspot and be right!" Tracy snickered.
"Too true!" Teri laughed. "After Cory met you, he spent an hour just telling me about you and all the things he wanted to share with you. Just so you have an idea, some of the things he listed he'll only share with his sons and grandsons, Sean, or ten other people he calls close brothers. That sounds like a large group until you consider the population of just Headquarters. When he told me that he trusted you with his newfound little brother, Cody, and left him in your care, that sealed it, since he hasn't trusted anyone but Sean, Kyle, Tyler, Joel, Jace, or Ezra with him since they met. When Kyle popped back to talk to Cory after you guys talked with him, he asked my permission to add you as a brother too. Just like any large family, there are brothers and then subgroups within those brothers. Cory and Kyle trust their Clan brothers with their lives; the group that you've been added to they trust to defend their hearts and their sanity."
"But why me? What makes me so special?" Tracy asked.
"Even they can't answer that." Teri admitted. "I think it's instinct, something so deep that they just know. Just like I'd be willing to bet that you and the rest of the inside group find that you're instantly getting along with each other as soon as you meet. I can't explain it, but I've seen it in action."
"Momma Teri?" Shadow interrupted over a loudspeaker behind his grille. "Ray says I should introduce myself, I'm Shadow. Could you and Tracy come over here, please?"
"Another point," Teri said as she stood up, "Cory's very picky about who Ray calls friends!"
"After meeting some of the AIs, I don't blame him!" Tracy giggled as he joined her. Once they reached Shadow's still-open door, Tracy asked "Wazzup, Shadow?"
"I was watching Cody and Adrian while Ray and I design a new racetrack to play on." Shadow replied. "Adrian just bought a new Duisenberg for his Dad, and the nice man over there wants to know if it should be updated to Clan standards before delivery. I told him and Adrian that I would ask you for them."
"Steve's gonna strangle that boy one of these days!" Teri sniggered. "Please tell him I send my regards and would be honored if they would give it the full treatment. Any additional charges over the initial price are to be billed to my personal account. If you can slip it in where Adrian and Cody don't pick it up, let him know that Steve just adopted one of the new Clan Divisions, so anything he feels appropriate is appreciated."
"Also, tell the Rat Pack I said get their skinny butts back here once they're done!" Tracy interjected. Turning to Teri, he added "You can't leave little brothers alone for five seconds without them getting into something, can you?"
"You learn quick!" Teri laughed. "Should we rescue Mark from Kyle and Jorge yet?"
"Naw, they're having fun." Tracy giggled as he spotted something out of the corner of his eyes. "I think I just had an idea... we need to find Karl."
"I know that look. At least one of your brothers is about to get the shock of their lives." Teri stated knowingly.
"They had that earlier, this is a bonus if I can pull it off!" Tracy smirked as he finally spotted Karl. "Hey Karl, I gotta question!"
Despite his playful complaining about Kyle decimating his profit margins, Karl realized that his largest client deserved personal service whenever possible. Despite the discounts being given by GM and himself, the dealership's gross profit had tripled since the day Cory accepted his offer to become the Clan's dealership. Not only were Clan members, parents and adults placing orders, but the general public was making an obvious decision to frequent businesses which publicly supported Clan Short. It was that business side that made him turn his head when Tracy yelled. The father side of him took over quickly though, since even from a distance you could tell Tracy was feeling mischievous. "One second, Tracy!" he yelled back before turning back to his salesman, who was trying to figure out how to get the family of six that had stopped by out of the deathtrap they were driving and into something more fitting and safe. "Sam, give them the full Clan discount on the best we've got, then send them to talk to Teri since I'm passing it to Federation Youth Services. You did good, you got all the qualifying info the first round. Excuse me, I've got to help one of the Clan's new Directors get revenge on somebody."
"Thanks, Karl." Sam replied. "You might as well send Teri over; I'm going to need some help convincing them this is for real!"
Karl nodded as he turned and jogged over to Tracy and Teri. "Teri, Sam's going to need some help with a FYS vehicle upgrade," Karl stated as he got close enough to be heard.
Tapping her commbadge, Teri quickly asked "George, is Crystal available for some field work?"
'Shadow's practicing his sneakiness, Aunt Teri.' George replied. 'He overheard Uncle Karl telling Sam the sale was FYS, and let me know. Crystal and Aunt Kayla were helping Helen with some stuff, they'll both be right over.'
"Thanks, George!" Teri chuckled. After stealing a glance at Shadow, who blinked his parking lights trying to appear innocent, she turned back to Karl and Tracy. "There's no way I'm missing out on whatever Tracy's up to!"
Putting on his Oscar-winning innocent act, Tracy asked "Do you know who is selling the Chevelle over there, Karl?"
Karl's eyebrows shot up at someone Tracy's age noticing the Chevelle. "Actually, that's one of mine. I just got a deal on a numbers-matching one just like it, so I decided to sell this one."
"What's not matching on this one?" Tracy asked, his mind already in bargaining mode.
"The engine, while being the right size, is the lower horsepower version than what came originally and has been modified," Karl replied. "Also, it was upgraded to a six-speed manual transmission before I gained possession of it."
"Emmy, look up the Hagerty prices on a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS-396 L-78, then give me the spread on a 'Condition 2' to 'Condition 3' class restoration." Tracy said aloud, keeping things above the table.
Almost immediately, Emmy replied over Tracy's commbadge. 'Current going valuation for those ranges is $48,000 to $66,000. I did not apply the fifteen percent bonus for a four-speed since one is not present.'
"Thanks, Emmy!" Tracy replied with a grin at Karl's look of shock. Feeling a little pity, he explained "You learn a few things when you're helping investigate a group who were creating clones of the real thing."
"Okay, but you do realize that car is only a condition 4, don't you?" Karl replied.
"We'll see about that." Tracy grinned as he tapped his commbadge. "Director Butler to Shiney Daddy!"
Intimately involved with Derrick, Prez and Keith at the beach house, but very curious who the voice was that was calling him 'Shiny Daddy', Mike bitched, "I'm going to flatten Daileass to microchip size. Who's this and what couldn't wait ten more minutes?"
Playing it up, Tracy replied "Oh most Shiney One of the Most Gleamy Jeweled Islands, I am in need of the assistance of you and your flock to judge the worth of a possible present to Cameron of the Sun-Shiney State!"
As she watched, Teri muttered "Definitely Cory's twin, I just want to know how?"
Hysterical laughter erupted from Derrick and Prez. Keith howled, "Oh most Shiny One! I'm gonna be violently ill, if I can stop laughing long enough to barf!"
Mike smirked, "The shiny rack is for you, dull one." He then more loudly called, "Alden, warn the Scooby Gang and then send them to inspect the gift to Cameron, of the Sun-Shiny State."
"Before Shiny Daddy gets shiny-blue-balls," Derrick softly chortled.
"Thank you, and may all of your glorious activities have Shiney results!" Tracy replied. Muting the mic on his commbadge, he warned Karl "Whatever you do, take the Pledge when it's offered! This is serious!"
The laughter from the beach house master room almost drowned out Mike's response, "May your Shiny gift brightly gleam forevermore. Now, if you'll pardon me, there are shiny matters to attend to here. Out."
Barely two seconds later, Spike, Xander, Faith and Willow arrived, donning their Shiny Derbies and Shiny belts, adorned with Shiny Daddy's guitar picks. The sparkling transparent aluminum of the dealership's walls caught the ferrets eyes and had their undivided attention. None of the four even realized the people standing beside and behind them; they only reverently mooed and wondered how they might manage to squeeze the building into their Shiny Vault.
Cody and Adrian had wandered back by this time, and stood off to the side to watch with grins on their faces. To get the attention of the Scooby Gang, Tracy said "Most Glorious Shiney Warriors, would you honor us with the Shiney Pledge?"
"Boys, the owner of everything you see is standing here waiting for you to offer him a chance to express his love of Shiney." Teri added.
Their trance shattered, the Scoobies spun around. Spike grinned at Tracy. Xander squinted suspiciously at Karl. Widely smiling, Willow and Faith giggled, "Hi Mamma Teri!"
Xander asked Karl, "Yous wants to take The Shiny Pledge?"
Having been previously warned by Kyle that if he ever saw a ferret hybrid on his lot he would lose everything if he didn't do it, Karl replied quickly "I have been awaiting your arrival to have the honor."
The four ferret-hybrids nodded at each other, and then scattered to check the condition of several nearby shiny cars on the lot. It took them only about two minutes to return, cheerfully chattering that their inspections were satisfactory. Spike faced Karl and prompted, "Repeats after mes."
Nodding once and putting his hand over his heart, Karl repeated, "I pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation, and to the Gleam for which it stands; one Nation under Shiny – sparkling, with incandescence and radiance for all!" Cody, Adrian and Tracy also repeated the Shiny Pledge.
Still somewhat suspicious, Xander ordered Karl, "Yous must always bes on the lookout for Dull Lovers and Shiny Haters. Theys are tricky, sometimes acting likes lovers of the Great Shiny, but if theys gots dirty cars and trucks, yous knows what to do?"
Karl nodded and grimly assured, "I would refuse service, in a second."
Willow smiled, "And lets us knows, so we can tell Shiny Daddy and High Priest Dave. Wes'll get them damned Shiny Haters!"
"That we will." Karl replied. "Tracy wants to look at that Chevelle over there as a gift. Do you think you could determine if it will be suitable?"
Four ferret kids bolted for the Chevelle. Two went to the front, and two went to the rear. No door, hood or trunk was opened, but once in a while, a furry face appeared in a window. A squeaky voice hollered, "Leaks from the radiator hose! Replaces this, it makes messies!" One by one, Faith, Spike, Willow and Xander returned to Tracy. "Just that one hose," Xander reported.
"How?" Karl wondered.
Spike grinned, "Vents"
Xander nodded and giggled, "Sends it to us for detailing," and passed Tracy a business card.
"If you want, you can start now." Tracy grinned back. "I'm getting it, Karl and I just have to agree on a price. Your Uncle Kyle is in the shop over there, I bet if you ask him he'll help you by fixing that naughty hose."
Willow scowled, "Wes cleans 'em, wes don't fix 'em."
"Unless yous wants weapons installed?" Spike checked.
Tracy nodded. "Kyle's friends with a mechanic here, so he'll handle the hose. If you think weapons will increase the gleam, I trust your judgement."
Sparkles filled eight little ferret eyes. Xander prompted, "Send it to Utah, UNIT HQ. Wes'll be waiting with shiny guns."
"Alden!" Spike hollered, "Transports us to UNIT HQ!" In a blink all four ferrets disappeared.
"Kyle, get your cute little butt up here please!"
"Why's everyone call my butt little?" Kyle asked as he appeared next to Tracy, craning his neck to look at his own butt.
"Goof!" Tracy giggled as he pulled Kyle into a hug. "The Scoobys say that one of the radiator hoses on that Chevelle is leaking, could you ask your friend Mark to look at it?"
"Naw," Kyle replied as he returned the snuggle. "I'm learnin' lots of stuff about cars, and one thing I learned is factory parts fit better. Since this is for Cam, I'm gonna revert it back to the factory hoses, and if it's the connection fittings I'll revert them too. I'm only doing this THIS TIME, 'cuz you and Cam are both special."
"Puts a whole different spin on 'good as new'!" Adrian grinned.
Tracy tilted Kyle's head up to kiss his forehead. "Little bro, the only reason I'm not going to argue with you about doing that is I can tell it's something you want to do. You've had a great time since we got here, lets keep it that way."
"Thanks, Trace!" Kyle replied. After one more squeeze, he broke away from Tracy and sprinted towards the car, excitedly asking George how to open the hood.
"You're doing great with him," Teri whispered to Tracy. "Don't change a thing."
"Thanks!" Tracy beamed as he turned to Karl. "Now, to settle on a price. Your move, Sir."
"For you, I'll go twelve-five." Karl replied.
To Karl's surprise, fire rose in Tracy's eyes. "I like you, and there's no way in Hell I'm gonna let you take a loss no matter what reason you may have. If you don't give me a reasonable price, I'll value it myself and you'll be stuck with what I decide. Based on what the Scoobies told me, you're about one-quarter of what it's worth."
Finding himself in unexpected territory, Karl sputtered "It's listed at twenty-nine-seven."
"Forty," Tracy shot back, almost giving Karl a heart attack.
"This is wrong!" Karl muttered before countering "Thirty."
"Forty-two. I keep going up until you are serious." Tracy replied seriously.
Karl looked over at Teri for help, only to find her smirking at him. Realizing he was on his own, he tried "Thirty-six."
Tracy nodded. "Forty-one five."
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but thirty-nine." Karl said in exasperation.
With a smile forming, Tracy replied "Forty and a half."
Shaking his head in wonder, Karl tried "Thirty-nine nine?"
Tracy's smile grew. "Forty."
"I give up!" Karl exclaimed as he threw his hands in the air. "You win; Forty it is!"
"I thought you'd see it my way!" Tracy giggled as he held out his hand. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you."
As Karl sealed the deal, shaking Tracy's hand, he commented "You, sir, are going to give me nightmares for the next year."
Watching them, Teri subvocally asked "Ark, could you please tie in with Cammy on Archnania and do a cross-dimensional genetic trace on Tracy? Compare it with Cory; something tells me there's more to those two than it appears."
<I have begun the trace, Teri. Due to the necessity of the Tardis assisting with the dimensional trace, there will be a delay in having accurate results. For the sake of Humanity, I hope your hunch is correct, however.>
"Me too, Ark. Thanks." Teri replied silently.
Cody and Adrian were still watching, somehow having acquired a tub of popcorn to munch while watching the show. Adrian looked over at Teri and commented "You're evil, Mom!"
"Someone's got to be an example for your big brothers!" Teri shot back.
"Guys, you've GOTTA hear this!" Alden announced as the occupants of the bedroom sat back to relax.
Still naked on the bed and intertwined, Prez, Keith, Derrick and Mike looked over at the large television monitor on the wall. A middle-aged man in a suit and sport shirt began haggling with a much younger blond boy, apparently between twelve and thirteen-years-old. The salesman mentioned a price that the blond boy took as an insult. The salesman raised his price, and in fact, more than doubled the cost. The blond boy, obviously wanting to buy something stated his price - more than ten thousand credits higher. Keith, Derrick and Mike smirked, but Prez softly wondered, "Are my pain pills messin' with me again? Did that kid just go higher?"
"It's not your pills," Derrick sniggered.
Keith grinned, "The kid missed the basic lesson in haggling, I think."
"Must be a future Clan Director," Mike teased.
Prez smirked, "Pissed Off Chickens, tonight at ten."
Mike giggled, "You're on."
Seeing a familiar woman walk by, Keith said, "That's Teri Short. And she seems really pleased that the blond kid is haggling up in price."
"Told ya," Mike grinned, "that's a Clan Director, or he will be soon."
Waiting until the end of the lesson in poor economics, Prez shouted, "Round three, and it's three on one!" He, Keith and Derrick dove across the bed and onto Mike.
As Karl headed to his office to get the title, Tracy went to find out why Kyle was still hanging halfway into the engine compartment, laughing gleefully. Teri had other plans however, as she put a hand on Tracy's shoulder. "Would you like to explain just what happened here, Angel?"
Tracy winced, the tone in the word 'Angel' telling him this wasn't a yes or no question. As if making the point, both Cody and Adrian yelled for chairs and more popcorn, earning them a death-glare from Tracy.
"They'll get their turn, sooner or later." Teri stated. "Now, tell me about this new bargaining scheme you just showed us."
Rolling his eyes, Tracy gave in. "Dad taught me that whenever you're doing business with someone, you need to know as much as you can about them. Between Kyle and Emmy, I know a lot about Karl. Things like every single bonus he's got from the Clan or the Federation, he's spread his personal portion of it around to his employees, keeping none for himself."
Teri tilted her head. "Interesting, in fact I might just have to get sneaky, but how does that fit in here?"
'I'm stalling Karl until you're done, big bro!' Kyle giggled in Tracy's head. 'He can't find any pens, just colored pencils for some reason!'
'Thanks, lil' bro!' Tracy sent back before continuing. "His first offer was what he paid for the car, not including what he put into it. Emmy was able to give me a rough figure of how much Karl has put in the car from his bank transactions. Dad always says don't cheat a fool, and don't let someone take a loss to give you charity you don't deserve. I know from the case that we did that a musclecar in that condition goes for a minimum of midrange condition 3 despite the engine and transmission. The Scooby's giving it a clean bill of health set that bar. Karl's got about twenty-five in it, not counting labor. I split the difference between that and what the last SS went for at auction minus drivetrain, then set the minimum I would give him."
"I'm going to have a LONG talk with your father..." Teri threatened with a smile.
"Just wait!" Tracy replied as he saw Karl heading out of the building, carrying an oversized pen bearing a huge artificial flower on one end.
As Karl came closer, he commented "SOMEHOW the dealership now has a year's supply of colored pencils for the kids zone!" After a pointed look at the two legs hanging out of the engine compartment of the Chevelle, he continued "Here's the title; it's always a good idea to look it over to make sure it looks valid when buying a car on private sale before any money changes hands."
"Thanks, Karl, I'll remember that," Tracy replied honestly. After looking it over himself, he commented "It looks good to me, is it okay if I have it double-checked real fast to cover both of us?"
"That is a smart move with the resources you have, Tracy. Go ahead." Karl answered with a smile.
Turning to his little brothers, Tracy grinned. "Hey Rat Pack, see if your cousin Emmy will loan you some field cams and then get over here!"
Adrian and Cody exchanged curious glances. "That's twice he's call us that." Cody stated.
"Yeah," Adrian replied, "I noticed all his friends with little brothers have nicknames for them. Does that mean..?"
Cody nodded. "Yeah, he's decided we're blood. Emmy, get us some cameras while we go cuddle our big brother."
As both boys got up and uncertainly made their way over to Tracy, Teri tripped her subvocal. "Ark, can you please record this and place it in your Short Family Archive?"
<I anticipated your request, Teri. I have been actively logging audio and video since the moment Tracy verified their group designation.>
"I should have known!" Teri smiled. "Thank-you."
As both boys reached Tracy, he handed the title back to Karl so that he could gather the pair into his arms. "I love you, little brothers." Tracy whispered, sensing their need.
"Love you too." the newly-designated Rat Pack said in unison as they both pulled themselves into a bone-crushing three-way-hug.
Tracy spent the next ten minutes quietly reassuring his little brothers this was for real. For Adrian and Cody, the decision to adopt them as little brothers tightened their bond even more, a bond forged initially by their shared experience of just recently finding their blood brothers. They had quickly found they had a lot in common, the infatuation with a certain rainbow-haired Mikyvis being the most obvious. With Tracy's acceptance, the unwarranted feeling that each of them was still an 'outsider' within the Clan finally melted away from their subconscious minds.
As they finally decided to break the cuddle, Tracy took the opportunity to give each of them an individual hug as well, quickly cementing the fact they were accepted as individuals.
Once Cody was finished with his turn, Adrian turned to Karl as camera headgear appeared on both his and Cody's heads. "Could we please see the title, Karl?" he asked politely.
Nodding, Karl replied "Here you go, guys" as he passed the title to Adrian.
"Thank-you." Adrian replied as he turned and held the title between him and Cody at camera-level.
"Rat Pack to Emmy!" Cody said, a touch of pride evident in his voice, "Commence thermal and wide-spectrum scans."
"Scan complete, comparing results." Emmy replied seconds later. As Cody took sole possession of the title, Tracy put his arms over the shoulders of his newest official little brothers. They waited three minutes for Emmy to get back to them, Karl actually starting to wonder if there was a problem he wasn't aware of.
"You can sign it, Uncle Tracy!" Emmy announced suddenly, making them all jump. "It matches the titles issued that year for composition with the exception of three I found, and the vehicle history has been verified by Daivik as accurate. Kerry is going to work with the Iowa D.O.T. to find out what happened with the mismatches I found."
With his eyebrows now raised so high they constituted a new hairline, Karl asked "How'd you do that?"
"Sorry, that's classified higher than even Mom has clearance for!" Tracy giggled, earning him a playful swat from Teri.
"What my mischievous son is trying to say is," Teri interjected, "while the technology required is not available to most of the Federation at the moment, Alligator Alley would be more than willing to assist your dealership with setting up an interface to help catch title fraud at the easiest point."
"We can do that?" Tracy asked.
"Yes, it's no different than some of the less-obvious tricks Cory's doing in a few problem CPS offices." Teri explained. "He's already modified scanner firmware to do the hard part."
"Nice!" Tracy grinned. "Karl, are we ready to make this official?"
Deciding that after the recent colored pencil issue, asking questions was a bad idea, Karl nodded. "Let's go find a desk."
Suddenly a desk appeared behind Karl, causing him to stumble as he almost ran into it. "Okay, maybe I should have said as soon as a desk finds us." he quipped.
"Emmy's efficient!" Tracy giggled as he watched Karl fill out the seller's section on the back of the title.
Karl passed the title to Tracy, who filled it out as being transferred to Butler Investigations, then signed his name and position as co-owner.
"Just out of curiosity, why..." Karl began to ask before being interrupted by a chime from his cell phone. After pulling it out and looking at the notification in shock, he had a much more pressing question. "HOW did you just deposit FORTY THOUSAND in my PERSONAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT?"
"Told ya Emmy's efficient!" Tracy giggled.
Before Karl could reply, Tracy's commbadge interrupted them. "Tracy, would you be interested in telling me why the company just bought a 1969 Chevelle?"
"Hi Dad!" Tracy replied, still giggling. "I'll explain when I get home! I learned a lot watchin' you have fun with Uncle Clyde."
"Oh shit!" Bryant exclaimed. "He always told me I'd regret it sooner or later. Don't take too long; your son is about to send out a search party."
"Okay, I'll see ya soon, Dad. Love ya!"
"Love you too, brat!" Bryant replied before ending the conversation.
Looking back at Karl, Tracy asked "Didn't you have another question, Karl?"
"Not anymore, I think I just got the answer to any question I'll ever have about what you do." Karl replied with a shake of his head. "If you want to check on what Kyle's up to, I'll go get your keys!"
Tracy's comm-badge chirped. Spike's higher, squeaky voice asked, "Does you wants grenade launchers too, or just shiny machine guns, Tracy?"
"You guys know what'll fit better than I do, so I trust you to do your Shiney best." Tracy replied.
"YIPPEE!" four squeaky voices chorused.
Before anyone could say anything, Mike from PRD chimed in. "I just was told by Alden that you set the Scooby's loose to do whatever they wanted. The entire Rimmer command team has one question; ARE YOU FRIGGIN' INSANE!"
Laughing, Tracy replied "No, I just have a little brown-haired angel in my head teaching me the ropes."
Across the comm-badge, there was laughter, and then, in four part harmony, singing;
"I was walkin' home from school
On a cold winter day,
Took a short cut through the woods
And I lost my way.
It was gettin' late, and I was scared and alone.
Then a kind old man took my hand, and led me home.
Mama couldn't see him,
But he was standing there,
And I knew in my heart
He was the answer to my prayer."
Tapping Tracy's badge, Teri interjected "You boys keep that up and you're going to have Tommy over there fixing you a country breakfast! Alabama's one of his favorite bands!"
Prez giggled, "How about we visit Orlando? We'll stay awake late and be there for breakfast some day soon."
"I'll have a talk with Ezzy, I think he can schedule it for last week sometime later this month, probably a late afternoon early morning week-long stay for five minutes or so." Tracy spouted with an evil grin.
The foursome coughed and gagged at the spaghetti time loop, and then suddenly Tracy's comm-badge fell silent.
Shaking her head at Tracy's antics, Teri guided the group over to see what was keeping Kyle so entertained. Tracy and Teri came to a stop as they reached the Chevelle, both grinning at Kyle's latest fun. Adrian and Cody quickly found prime spots where they could watch as well, for Kyle was giving time-shifting a whole new twist. Almost all of the engine looked like it had just rolled off the truck, including the aluminum heads and the chrome open-element air cleaner which proudly proclaimed the engine was a L-78 396. There was no accessory drive belt, mainly because of Kyle's current focus. As they all watched, the alternator was assembling itself in-place, screws appearing and screwing themselves in at double-speed as Kyle learned how it went together by example.
Once it finished, pulleys appeared and installed themselves, then brand-new belts landed in the still-painted grooves. Once everything shifted around so they were tensioned correctly, Kyle sat back with a smile of accomplishment. He shifted around so that he was sitting on the radiator support, then began manually checking fluid levels. He was satisfied with everything until his final check, which was the lubricant level in the engine. "Oooops! That woulda been bad!" he groaned after slapping his forehead. Tapping his commbadge, he asked "Jorge? Could you ask Mark what he recommends for lubrication in a fresh Chevelle big-block 396, and let him know I've got one that's completely empty out here?"
"Wrurp!" Jorge replied.
A few seconds later, a different voice came across the badge. "Kyle? This is Mark. Do you know how many miles are on the engine? If not, how many are on the car? Also, are there any identifiers you can see to tell me which engine it is?"
Beaming at being trusted to answer what seemed like really important questions, Kyle replied "It say 396, 375 HP. The three top parts on the engine ain't painted, they look like aluminum; I think they're what you called a intake and heads. It's got a stick-shift if that matters, and I know it ain't never been ran before!"
"Holy Mother of Jesus!" Mark exclaimed in shock. "Where are you? We'll be right out!"
"Out by the showroom, Jorge knows!" Kyle replied with a grin.
Tracy decided that now was a good time to give the proud little Mikyvis a cuddle, so he moved to where Kyle could climb directly onto his hip. "That looks like a little more than a hose, bro! It looks like you're having fun though."
Kyle nodded rapidly. "That was AWESOME! When I was doin' the hose, the pump thingie looked nasty, so I thought I'd do it too. I kinda went too far, and it fell apart, so I slowed down and watched it go back together. That was so kewl to watch that I decided to see how the entire engine goes together, and I backed it up all the way 'cuz some of the stuff on the one in it was already used before it was put in here. This engine uses some weird boxes the other one didn't, so I made sure all that missing stuff was put back too. You ain't mad, are you?"
"Nope!" Tracy replied as he gave Kyle a squeeze. "It sounds like you got a chance to learn a buncha kewl stuff! You didn't play Superman, you did what any other kid your age would do if they could. Thanks, lil' bro; I'm gonna make SURE Cam knows what you gave him as part of his present."
Kyle smiled as he leaned into Tracy, his body language saying more than any words. Cody and Adrian decided to add their support, turning it into a quadruple-cuddle.
Noticing Karl coming out of the showroom, Teri quickly went to intercept him. The last thing she wanted to see was the progress that Tracy had just made towards helping Kyle find his place in humanity being undone by a mis-phrased exclamation of shock.
Also at that point, one of the yard carts headed their way, being piloted by a familiar furry form with an adult holding on for dear life. The cart arrived first, Jorge in the driver's seat and Mark in the passenger. The bed of the cart contained various jugs and tools; obviously Mark was trying to be prepared for anything.
As they stopped, Mark was saying "Don't worry about that used car salesman needing to change his shorts, Jorge. He's great with customers, but thinks he's above us guys in the service side. Serves him right for ignoring the horn!"
Jorge nodded his understanding as he turned the cart off. As he went to check on Tracy and Kyle, Mark walked over and stood staring at the contents of the engine bay. After a full minute, he gave a low whistle before turning and asking "Did you do this, Kyle? I've helped Karl with this car; I know for a fact it wasn't this way this morning."
Suddenly nervous, Kyle replied "Did I mess something up?"
Mark shook his head. "No, you did great, little buddy. Do you mind if I check a few things, though? These old Holley Stage Three factory extractor systems had some hidden connections that are easy to miss. I've heard the old-timers saying that a lot of the time even the factory missed a hookup."
"Oh!" Kyle replied in relief. "Sure, go for it!"
Teri returned with Karl, and the entire group watched as Mark quickly inspected the setup. When he stepped back, he noticed Karl standing there and motioned him over. "Hey Karl, there's one plug here that's stuffed inside the factory harness. I think your other car has another module around that area that this one is missing. You don't happen to have the service manual here, do you? I'd like to know for sure."
"No, it's on the front seat of the other ... car." Karl replied, jumping as said other car appeared next to them.
"Thanks Kyle, that'll help a lot!" Mark said as he ran over to pop the hood on the second Chevelle. As soon as he verified his memory was correct, he grabbed the worn manual and cross-referenced the location. "Shit!" he cursed. "That's the high-RPM enrichment module. It'll run great without it, but the engine slowly works towards self-destructing under extended high-speed use. Problem is, they were the weak point in the entire system and never indicated if they failed. Finding a good one is impossible."
"What's this 'impossible'?" Adrian giggled as he was triggering his subvocal. Quietly mouthing his words, he asked "Ark, are you aware of the module he's talking about?"
<'Yes I am Adrian. Would you like me to help you find one?'>
"Actually, could you find out what breaks? If you can, is it possible for you to build a better one that looks like the original from the outside?"
Instead of answering, two small boxes appeared at Adrian's feet. <'Look down, Adrian. Klaus had some interesting adaptation ideas, so the cases are sealed. The source unit on Karl's vehicle is failed as well.'>
"Thanks, Ark, you're awesome!" Adrian replied as he picked up the two modules. Looking back up at the rest of the group, who had heard neither side of the conversation, he explained "Two of the Clan AIs got together and made an updated version that won't fail. Karl, yours is bad too, so they provided a replacement. The units are sealed, since the changes are kinda secret."
Both Karl and Mark took one of the units, examining it closely. Flipping it over repeatedly, Karl commented "This looks like it came straight from GM in 1969, right down to the date code! Let's get these installed; I'm curious how Kyle's engine build sounds."
"One sec, I'll start with Kyle's masterpiece." Mark said before turning to Kyle. "Kyle? Was that the original interconnect harness from this car?"
"Yeah." Kyle replied, feeling a little down at missing something that important.
Mark nodded. "Cheer up little buddy. You didn't goof, the factory did. That module was never installed; the plug was hidden in the harness, and I think the mounting hole is still un-drilled. Come on, we'll check for sure."
Kyle got down, and with the rest of the boys following he watched as Mark first showed them on Karl's car where the module was supposed to be. The group then went to Tracy's purchase, where Mark pointed out the locating crater for the mounting screw, which plainly never had been penetrated. "I never messed with this area!" Kyle stated after using three rooms in his head to check his actions while playing.
"I can tell." Mark said with a smile. "I left fingerprints in the normal dust. Never blame yourself for the inattention or stupidity of others, Kyle; you'll never feel good about yourself doing that. I'll bet that's why this engine failed the first time around."
Kyle nodded, his smile returning as he accepted that he wasn't to blame. "Is it hard to fix?"
As Mark started to turn around, he replied "Not really, let me get a few ... OH! That's classic!"
Jorge had retrieved the toolbox from the cart, as was standing there on four paws with the handle in his mouth. Somehow he'd also managed to grab the fender cover, having it draped over his back.
Grinning, Tracy went over and helped with the fender cover while Mark retrieved the toolbox.
"Thanks, Jorge!" Mark said as he grabbed his cordless impact driver and a socket. After a few tries, he found a self-drilling bolt in his miscellaneous junk jar, then went to work once the fender cover was in place. He ran the bolt partially into its destination then removed it, explaining to the group that he wasn't going to take the chance of damaging the new part if he slipped. Once that was done, he plugged in the interconnect harness and quickly mounted the module, taking care that it was in the same orientation as the one on Karl's car.
Done with that, Mark asked "Kyle, do you know if the engine has assembly lube on its internals?"
"Is that the stuff that looks like boogers without the lumps?" Kyle asked. "If so, it's all over the place in there!"
"That's the stuff," Mark replied with a chuckle. "What that means is that we need to break in the cam, change the oil, then a standard break-in routine with another oil change after five hundred miles."
"I can walk Cam through what he needs to do for the break-in; my Dad was a mechanic." Teri stated. "I used to enjoy his break-in runs."
"Would you feel comfortable taking a run to seat the rings before we do the first change?" Mark asked.
"Try to stop me!" Teri chuckled. "I'm the one who taught Cory to drive a stick; it's been a while since I've piloted one of the classics."
"Urr Urr!" Jorge said as he started crossing himself and shaking his head.
"Chicken!" Tracy giggled. "You just took a ride through a cornfield with Kyle driving, yet Mom driving scares you?"
"RAWR! Wrr rerwa wwewar rrr erww! Rwaee awer rrewererr rrerwr warerrew raww wra wawr wrweawr!"
Chuckling, Teri responded "Cory is NOT that bad, kiddo! Sean just likes to think so. I'll take the blame for his driving style though, since he actually knows his limits. If you really want to stay and help Mark, though, you can."
With a grizzly-giggle, Jorge made a show of wiping his brow in relief, causing all the boys to collapse in laughter. Mark decided it would be best to stay out of this, so he finished topping off the oil, then began removing the drive gear access cover.
"Why you doin' that?" Kyle asked curiously.
"You don't want to start an engine dry," Mark explained as he replaced the cover with an adapter. "Right now, the only oil is in the pan. Doing this, we can fill all the little passages with oil, plus this adapter has an option to rotate the engine once it detects a minimum pressure is present after I close the bypass port."
"Oh, that makes sense," Kyle replied as him, Cody, and Adrian watched closely.
Once the adapter was mounted, Mark uncoiled the attached harness and plugged it into an access port on the firewall. A display lit up on the adapter, showing the current status.
Smiling, Mark asked "Did you leave the same six-speed in it, Kyle?"
"Yep!" Kyle replied. "You're smilin', is that good?"
"Look at the display," Mark said. "The powertrain control is recognizing that it is in-gear, the type, and the ratio. If it can recognize all of them, somebody upgraded the firmware to a version that doesn't exist. They didn't start reporting ratios and ID until the late eighties, long after this engine was out of production. That firmware could never run on this hardware; the car is missing major obvious components that are required."
Immediately, every commbadge present came to life with an AI quickly denying having anything to do with it. When even Ark and Klaus chimed in, it became obvious to anyone who knew the AIs that Kyle wasn't the only one doing modifications without asking.
Deciding now wasn't the time to call them on it, Teri asked "Would you like me to run the gears so you can check?"
"Yes, please," Mark replied. "Wait until I call out a reading before you go to the next one; I have to reset it each time since it went into safety lockout. Leave it in neutral when you're done."
"Okay," Teri said as she climbed into the car. After a few seconds, she indicated she was ready.
As she cycled through, Mark called out the results. "First:2.66; Second: 1.78; Third: 1.30; Fourth: 1.00; Fifth: 0.74; Sixth: 0.50; Neutral!" Shaking his head, Mark commented "How this is doing this now after it didn't when we primed it last week, I have no clue!"
Now that he had a green status on the transmission, the mode indication had changed from a red 'Safety Lockout' to a yellow 'Lockout'. Mark crossed his fingers, and selected the 'Put in Service Mode' function. He was immediately greeted by the welcome sound of the engine control system running its built-in self-checks and then placing all controls in their default position. "Guys, what just happened was the system made sure everything it is supposed to move can move, and it verified the range of movement. Then it set all of it to a default position that is usually determined by the factory. In this case, we have no idea who determined what, so let's hope they got it right."
Mark glanced down, and breathed a sigh of relief. "You can manually start this process, or the powertrain module can automatically trigger it if any number of certain flags are set. This time, the module started it, so take a look."
"Why is the input so fast?" Cody asked after he got a look.
Mark smiled. "Good question. They use a small motor to draw less power, and then a few worm gears to actually do the work of spinning the pump and the engine. This module also does its own power check, and if it thinks the power is getting too low it'll abort the cycle itself and give us a warning."
"Why do I hear stuff moving over here?" Adrian asked.
Mark turned to see what Adrian was pointing to. "That means there were more firmware changes we don't know about. Newer cars will make adjustments and test anything they can during the spin using the data generated by the spinning engine. This car isn't supposed to do much more than an alternator check."
While all of this was going on, Tracy had received the keys from Karl, and was mischievously plotting quietly with Teri. With Tyler's help to keep Kyle in the dark, Tracy hoped to add to the surprises Kyle was getting. Once Tracy saw that Mark was stepping away with the adapter in his hand, Tracy asked "Is it ready, Mark?"
"Yep, I just need someone in the driver's seat for the next thirty minutes." Mark replied.
"Great job, Kyle!" Tracy acknowledged, then tossed the keys in the air. "CATCH, bro!"
"Wha... Why you giving them to me?" Kyle exclaimed with wide eyes.
"Because I think the person who built the engine should have the honor of being the first to start it." Tracy responded with a grin. "Just do what Mark tells you; Mom's gonna sit in the passenger seat in case you need help."
"But what if I screw it up?" Kyle pleaded.
"Then you get to do what I have to do; start over and fix it." Mark interjected. "Don't worry, little buddy; you'll do fine."
Kyle tilted his head for a second, then smiled. "Okay, but if it breaks I'm blamin' Tracy!"
"I'll back you up, munchkin!" Teri chuckled as she headed over to the passenger side. Between her and Mark, Kyle's nervousness was replaced with excitement as they explained what he needed to do. Once Mark was satisfied Kyle understood, he made sure that everyone was standing out of harms way, then gave Kyle a thumbs-up.
Wrrr...Wrrr...Wr...thump... thump Thump... ThumpThumpTHUMP RRRRRR WWWAAAWWWWW
With the roar of the exhaust, a cheer arose from the watching group as they watched Kyle, his grin a mile wide, varying the engine speed between 2000 and 2500 RPM to break-in the camshaft and lifters.
Teri pulled into the oil-change bay carefully, the carfull of excited boys making her grin. As she shut it down, Mark came to the window to ask how it ran. He got his answer before he could ask the question, due to the ongoing conversation between the boys.
"... DUDE! Did you SEE the face on that guy in the Mustang when Mom popped a wheelie then passed him like he was standing still?" Tracy gushed.
"I think the guy with the loud stereo was more funner!" Kyle giggled. "Mom goosed it and he couldn't hear his music!"
"Could someone help here?" Adrian and Cody giggled in unison. "Mom took off so fast our butts are stuck in the seat cushions!"
"I take it there were no problems?" Mark chuckled as he helped everyone out.
"I think this thing would be an even match in a tug-of-war with the Iowa!" Tracy snickered. "Talk about a torque monster! Mom put it on its rear wheels in THIRD gear!"
"I think that's taking 'loading the engine' a little far, Teri!" Mark laughed.
Teri grinned. "Actually, the gearing on it is unreal. You need the double overdrive; otherwise it would redline at seventy. That other engine must have either been really been de-tuned or it was cammed to kill the low-end torque if Karl never noticed it before."
"I put it in Karl's garage," Kyle offered before Mark could respond. "I thought he might want it for somethin'."
Mark shook his head with a grin as he engaged the lift. "Thanks, Kyle; I think I'm going to be doing some digging inside it." He then started changing the oil and filter, answering questions the boys had about various parts under the car while he was at it. He also did a quick underside lube, as well as checking the transmission and rear end oil levels. After ensuring everyone was clear, he brought the car down, refilled the engine oil and topped off the rest of the underhood fluids. "Okay, it's ready to go."
"Thanks, Mark!" Tracy said with a smile. Tapping his commbadge, he added "Emmy, could you please deliver this to the Scooby Gang's shop?"
"Sure, Uncle Tracy!" Emmy replied as the car vanished. "They're gonna let me watch!"
"Awesome, kiddo," Tracy giggled. "Could you..."
Teri interrupted him. "Emmy, could you send Shadow to meet Ray, then take all of us, Tracy's husband, and their son to the Headquarters Rec Room?"
"Okay Grandma Teri." Emmy replied. "Sorry Uncle Tracy, but Grandma Teri has a hard-coded over-ride on all Directors."
"CHEATER!" all the boys exclaimed in unison seconds before vanishing.
Giggling at the shocked look on his victim's face, Kyle said "Welcome to Orlando, Mark!"
"How and why am I here?" Mark asked, his confusion written on his face.
"I gotta get you entered into the system," Kyle explained with a grin. "Somea our cars are really special so we need a special mechanic to take care of them and Karl said that you're the best he has so I'm makin' it so that you can come and go from here whenever you need to and you can also go to the other bases when you need to that way our cars that we can't let normal mechanics touch you can take care of."
His ears smoking from the effort of trying to keep up, Mark replied "What I was able to get from that is I've been drafted, it's Karl's fault, and you need to enter me into a system. What do you say to going and handling the third part, and you can try explaining it to these old ears in smaller sentences while we're doing it?"
"Okay!" Kyle giggled as he took Mark's hand and started dragging him through the building.
Having been warned they were coming, Cory came over and made his rounds, giving all of the remaining boys a hug. "Welcome to Headquarters, guys. make yourselves at home, since this IS one of your homes now! Jorge, Timmy's about to start a quick Tribe meeting before we officially start the birthday party; he said to tell you to hurry up and get over there so that he can get you set up. Allie's on her way to escort you."
"Wree?" Jorge asked with a tilt of his furry head.
"Yeah, you, lil' bro!" Tracy giggled. "We're just as safe here as we are at home; you're off-duty, so go make some new friends."
Jorge stood up and gave both Tracy and Cory sloppy kisses of thanks, then once he spotted Allie he followed her as they took off towards the far side of the room.
As Jorge was leaving, Tracy's husband Karl and their son Wayne appeared. "Daddy T cuddles!" Wayne exclaimed as he quickly scrambled up Tracy's side.
"I missed you too, Munchkin!" Tracy giggled. "You think you can share me with Daddy K for a little bit?"
"Yep!" Wayne replied as Karl slipped up to Tracy's free side.
Feeling better now that he had his two favorite people making contact with him, Tracy did introductions. "This is my husband Karl, and the ball of energy here is our son Wayne. The nice lady there is your Grandma Teri, Wayne. Hon, just call her Mom and get it over with, trust me!"
"Hi, Mom and get it over with!" Karl said with a smirk as he held out his free hand. "Can I just call you Mom for short?"
Ignoring the extended hand, Teri pulled Karl away from Tracy long enough to give him a welcome hug. "You're just as bad as your brothers!" she commented. As she let Karl return to Tracy, she reached up and gave Wayne a quick rub on his back. "After you catch up on your Daddy cuddles, schedule some time for Grandma cuddles, angel." she told Wayne with a smile.
"Okay, Grandma!" Wayne giggled.
Deciding it was best to continue while things were still sane, Tracy said "The imp hanging on Adrian is his new boyfriend Cody Short, and the big version of Cody is our Patriarch and brother, Cory Short. I'm guessing the guy who just came up and grabbed Cory's butt before giving him a kiss must be his husband Sean; if not I want popcorn before the fun starts!"
"Good guess, bro!" Cory giggled. He caught Sean up on the introductions, then said "Let's go grab some couches, I wanna hear the latest!"
"You boys have fun," Teri said with a smile. "I need to go see how some research is doing. Wayne, when you're ready for your turn at cuddles, just ask George, he's our local AI troublemaker, and he'll help you find me."
"Okay Grandma!" Wayne replied with a grin.
As they were taking their seats, Tracy grinned at Cory. "Patriarch, you DO realize that war has been declared with your method of giving Directors transportation, don't you?"
"Told ya that you shoulda warned him!" Sean snickered.
Karl got an evil glint in his eyes as he contributed "Thing is, you're fair game as well for not keeping your husband under control."
"HEY! No fair!" Sean protested. "It was all his idea!"
"Keep it up, Hon," Cory stated. "I've already got the pixie styx to feed to Timmy before he sleeps on YOUR side of the bed."
"Don't even THINK of it!" Karl exclaimed as he saw the look crossing Tracy's face. "You do, and I sic Emmy on ya!"
Cory laughed as Tracy tried to look innocent. "Trace, Ray filled me in on Shadow. Did everything go okay?"
Tracy nodded. "Yeah, after I got over the shock of him adopting me, it all went pretty kewl. I gotta watch him though, he was perving on a Chrysler product when we stopped for ice cream."
Cory tilted his head. "That's something new! Ray's never done anything like that, so I'm guessing one of the upgrades Fife came up with has tripped a new feature."
"Is that a feature as in enhancement, or feature as in Microsoft's blue screen of death?" Karl giggled.
"GEORGE!" Adrian playfully whined, "Karl used the 'M' word in my presence again!"
"Gotcha, Rat." George replied as Karl vanished, only to appear seconds later soaking wet and holding a polar bear cub.
Before another word could be said, the cub wiggled out of Karl's arms and quickly made it's way to Wayne, immediately going for Wayne's face and washing it thoroughly.
"Dry him off, George." Sean ordered with a sigh. "Karl, welcome to the club; it looks like you're gonna join me as the go-to prank victim whenever the kids need an animal rescued. The only good part is you get to see a lot of the world."
"One rescue tells you that?" Tracy asked with a tilt of his head.
"Look behind you." Sean motioned.
Tracy turned, and began giggling at what he saw. Heading towards them was Jorge, now wearing an indian headband with a single feather in it. On Jorge's back sat a solemn six-year-old redhead, in what looked like ceremonial Indian dress. On the right, a nine-year-old dressed as a medicine man was riding on the back of an alligator, said alligator wearing what looked like a British Guardsman's furry hat. On the left, a six-year-old blond boy, dressed similar to the boy on Jorge, escorted a pair of deer.
"Bros, the fireball who conned Jorge into a piggy-back ride is our first son, Timmy." Cory explained. "The blond with the deer is his bonded, Ricky, and the older one riding Allie is Antonio's son Yist. If my guess is right, Wayne is about to be invited to join the Tribe."
"You're pretty smart for an old guy, Daddy!" Timmy stated, trying very hard to keep his expression serious.
"I'm gonna dunk your Uncle JJ for corrupting you, Gizmo!" Cory replied with a grin. "Wayne, Timmy's in charge of a really important part of the Clan. His group helps the kids who are afraid of people older than them, and I'm guessing that he wants you to be the head of the Alligator Alley branch of the Tribe."
Wayne giggled. "Kewl! Me and Snowy getta have some fun!"
Grinning, Tracy said "Since your new friend is distant relation to your Uncle Jorge, I think you two going with them would be great. You need to make some Clan friends too, munchkin."
"Just try to keep new brothers down to single digits, okay squirt?" Karl added.
"Okay Daddy K; I'll only pick nine!" Wayne smirked as he climbed down to join Timmy.
"If he does, you're sleeping with Dad." Tracy threatened Karl with a pointed look.
"I'll have to remember that one...." Sean muttered, earning him a matching glare from Cory.
"That's spooky," Adrian commented to Cody, "our brothers even glare the same."
"Yeah," Cody replied, "if I didn't know better, I'd say Mom had triplets."
"Hey Rat Pack, you DO realize we can hear you, don't you?" Tracy asked with a giggle. "It's gonna be hard for you two to get to know each other better if you get stuck babysitting your nephews for a week... ALL of them!"
"Did I miss something?" Sean asked with a tilt of his head.
"Kinda," Tracy explained. "My two favorite rats are sharing custody of Ezra's heart now. Obviously, that means they've hooked up themselves, which has made Adrian smile more than any time since I first met him. Ezra, on the other hand, was asking if I knew a good company to get life insurance from."
Cody suddenly got a nervous look on his face as he watched Cory and Sean for their reactions. Cory immediately got up, came over, and pulled both boys to their feet. After pulling them into a hug, he stated "Congratulations, guys. All three of you have something that complements the other two; I think you're going to make a great family once you sort things out."
"I'm not doubting them," Karl said, "but as young as they are, how sure are you that they'll make it long-term?"
Cory smiled. "It's an empath thing. I'm getting so that I can tell puppy love from infatuation from real love that lasts. They feel like Mom and Dad already, which is weird. Since Cody's my little bro by blood, weird is normal; so him falling in love with Adrian and Ezzy fits."
Giggling, Cody stated "I don't know why everyone complains when they're compared with their big brothers; I think it feels pretty kewl!"
"I love you too, little bro," Cory stated as he gave Cody an extra squeeze. "Don't worry, if anyone has anything to say about you and Rat, I'll take care of them personally. Both of you have earned the right to experience the love of a partner or two."
"That goes for me, too, Adrian. We gotta take care of our little brothers," Tracy stated.
"I gotta tell Dad to raise my allowance to make up for not giving me a big brother!" Adrain giggled. "I like this, I'm learning all kinds of new stuff!"
"Not that anyone would ever say anything bad to you about having two partners, Cory," a voice giggled from behind the two brothers. "Especially as the second hubby you have has a wife and two other husbands too!"
"Is that my bratty little brother?" Cory giggled.
".... nope!... wait.... one second, I have to check tomorrow for the memo I sent three weeks from now routed through the third Tuesday from a century ago.... yep ! I'm your bratty little brother!" the timeless Time Lord giggled as he made himself visible to everyone.
"You know, Cory NEVER calls me a brat!" Cody giggled.
"Well, Codester, you need another six billion, nine hundred and ninety nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and eight eight years before you can be as bratty as me!" Galli giggled.
"Okay, we'll compare notes last week." Cody shot back with a grin.
"Oooooh... nice one. Practice a bit more and you'll be awesome at that," Galli giggled as he pushed Cory out of the way, pushed the Mini-Cory down, with Adrian, and sat on Cody's lap. "This is cool! Two big, blond brothers for me to get cuddles from!" he chortled, before starting to tickle Adrian.
"Hey!" Adrian laughed. "You only get to cuddle MY Cody on the second alternate Thursday of each week starting the previous decade of the next quantum numbered millennium!"
"Mmm.... no, how about the third derivative of the alternate Wednesday, squared with last Thursdays' tea-time, starting from a million years ago tomorrow?"
Cody's pride was obvious as Adrian replied "Actually, I think the square root of the Guardian's age multiplied by the cubed square of the third age of the Gamma timeline converted into the Aztec calendar then from that starting point the repetitions should be equal to the number of feathers on Mikey's wings raised to the power of the times Cory and Sean make whoopee over their full lives divided by the amount of kids Kyle has this millennium should work."
"Mmmm... that wouldn't give you enough time with Cody and Ezzy for your own escapades into the wonders of whoopee if I did that one... How about: when I cuddle my littler than Cory Big Bro, you get to cuddle with Jay?" the Doctor offered, just as Jay folded in and plonked himself on Adrian's lap.
"That works!" Adrian giggled, getting a nod of approval from Cody.
"Thank GOD!" Ezzy stated as he popped in and gave both his boyfriends a quick kiss. "Y'all were giving ME a headache!"
"You're young. You'll manage," Jay giggled, before being promptly pounced by Ezra... meaning that poor Adrian was dragged kicking and giggling into a tickle-fight.
As Tracy watched with amusement, out of the corner of his eye he noticed a pair of blond twins wander over to join them. By the looks they were giving Cody, Tracy decided they deserved his full attention, since neither looked happy to see him.
Noticing Tracy's attention shift, Cory turned his head to see the new arrivals. "Hey guys! Get your little butts over here, I've got a few people that you need to meet."
The twins complied, pouncing Cory and taking Cody and Galli down with them. Once they were both perched on Cory's chest, they looked around and said in unison "You can innerduce them now."
"Not until you let me up, twerps." Cory giggled in reply.
Meanwhile, Cody was now cuddled with Tracy, his back pressed into Tracy's chest. Almost as soon as the pounce was completed, he had found himself excluded from the following tickle war. Tracy's smile was absent due to the hurt he swore he could feel radiating from Cody, and he was quickly ramping up to give the group in front of him a major butt-chewing, no matter who they might be in the Clan hierarchy.
As the three boys started to get up, Tracy growled "All three of y'all park your asses on the couch, NOW."
Having a pretty good idea of what Tracy was about to go off about, since he'd noticed it too, Sean interrupted to say "Tracy, hold that thought. There are two others that need to be here, I'll explain why once you've calmed down."
"Oh, I'm calm... temporarily." Tracy replied. "Kyle's on his way over with JJ. Thats the only reason I didn't wade in and break it up."
As they waited for Kyle and JJ, Karl moved over by Sean. "Is it safe over here?" he asked with a small grin.
"As long as Kyle don't blow his top." Sean replied. On the chance it might work, he also tried sending telepathically 'Don't worry about Cory. He's already told me that he realized he screwed up as soon as he saw Cody's face.'
Surprisingly for both parties, the message went through, and even more surprisingly Karl's thoughts came back to Sean. 'How in the heck? Whatever, maybe Kyle'll explain it. Anyway, thanks; there's really no stopping Tracy if he gets pissed.'
"He fits right in with the rest of us." Sean said just loud enough for Karl to hear, thereby acknowledging that he'd heard Karl's reply.
Amazingly, Galli, Jay, and Adrian were the calmest of the lot. In one way or another, they had all three determined that this little bump had a chance of sorting itself out without their interference, so all three sat back to watch. Jay even went so far as to help his 'chair' keep up on a few things Adrian normally couldn't have discovered himself. Since Cody was suddenly not in a cuddle mood, Galli took up position next to Adrian to watch the fun.
Kyle, Tyler, JJ, and Adam appeared next to Tracy, with both Tyler and Adam quickly breaking off to join the audience on the couch. "I already showed them what you saw." Kyle stated.
Tracy nodded before redirecting his gaze back at Cory and the twins. "You two shrimps, I don't know who the hell you think y'all are, but I saw the looks y'all gave Cody. That shit don't go around me, and if I EVER see either of y'all pull a stunt like that again I'm gonna personally kick your little asses. Y'all just treated TWO of Cory's brothers like they didn't exist, one of which I know for a fact is his blood brother that he just found out he had."
"I'm Martin," one of the twins interrupted, "he's Walter and our cousin Cory's a Patriarch so we ain't gott..."
Martin never had a chance to finish, as JJ strode over and picked him up by his belt buckle. "Let me introduce myself, brat. I'm your worst nightmare, and Cory could be God himself and you'd still not be safe from me OR Tracy. Get your head outta your ass, clean the shit outta your ears, and listen up before you really piss one of us off." With that, JJ dropped Martin back to the ground, gave Walter a glance that dared him to try the same thing, then returned to Tracy's side.
Satisfied that JJ had solved that, Tracy kept going. "The ONLY person here that has any claim to special treatment due to relation to Cory besides the boy in my arms right now is Sean, and that's because he's Cory's husband. You need to chill out and get to know everyone before you go pulling crap like this."
"Mmm... attachment issues, with a dependency bent, and some vast uncertainty about this large group of admittedly strange children and teens all usurping their beloved cousin. Also a lack of confidence when with strangers adds to it..." came a thoughtful murmur that was clearly heard by all there. "JJ, my big little brother, would you mind if I took over? You're admittedly wonderfully colorful language is going to reinforce something that shouldn't be. You too, Tracy. That didn't help a lot, Dragon-Rider."
At that last statement, both Martin and Walter blinked and clung onto Cory even tighter, and they were already doing that from the moment the disembodied voice had started talking. "Wh... what's that? Dragons..." Martin squeaked.
Walter added with growing panic, "... it said dragons?"
"And you think Tracy and me going off on them will hurt them, Elf? You're scaring the shit out of them!" JJ grunted, now getting angry at Sa'ren.
With a liquid sounding pop, Sa'ren appeared before him. "I scared them, you were reinforcing something that shouldn't be, and fear broke them out of making the thoughts there were having becoming fixed. Look at them now, bro. There's no stubbornness there, just curious fright." Sa'ren then winked at Tracy and smirked, "Just mentioning dragons accounts for the curious part."
Tracy grinned back, but then blinked when Sa'ren added, "Oh, and Cody gets third dibs on Cory. Sean gets first, and ME second! So neerrrr!..."
"Good, that means you get to help with a certain brother of ours who is giving blonds a bad name by ignoring something that is hurting other people that love him." Tracy replied. "He saw that they were forcing Cody and Galli out, and let it happen."
"That's simple," Sa'ren said seriously. So seriously that Cory knew it would happen, and this was only reinforced when Sean nodded his head. "It'll just be me and Sean having whoopee tonight. Cory has to sleep in Timmy's Pet Room... with Humprey, Geofrey and Nelly... and the rest..."
"Christ, Joel! Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!" Galli, Jay, Cody, Kyle and Mikey's voice exclaimed together.
Waving his hand dismissively to them all, the invisible Mikey included, Sa'ren turned to look at a completely put out Cory, and two rather nervous and frightened twin seven year olds. "Actually I have yet to check my Cory's reasons for being silent. So that punishment is on pending..." he said softly. "So we can all stand in Tribal judgement on the Family Patriarch last. Now then, you two little munchkins," he said more softly as he came and knelt down before Cory and the twins. Looking up at each of them he smiled and brushed out his hands at something only he could see. The fear in both faces melted away, but the nervousness and curiosity remained. "You're not going to be shouted at for answering my questions, and you should never be shouted at for answering something honestly, so long as it is done politely. Do you understand that first?"
Both boys nodded, curious about this boy who seemed to override even their beloved Cory.
"I can read minds too... thanks to a few interfering little high powered brothers I have," Sa'ren grinned. "I don't overrule your cousin in most things... not many things, in fact. But he IS my Rider. I am his Dragon, or his Vol'Kier. And in that, and only that, do I currently overrule him. And it is in that mode that I am dealing with all this. Now... I want you to think very carefully, and answer this. The moment you entered the room and saw Cory playing and messing around with Cody and Galli, what did you feel? Remember, it is not wrong to be honest - even if you are honestly mistaken. What did you feel at that very moment?"
"They were taking Cory from spending time with us after we ain't seen him in forever." Martin said softly.
Sa'ren nodded, then looked at Walter. He waited. "I, uh... what Martin said..." Walter whispered.
"I know you're usually thinking the same as your bro, but there was something you both left out," Sa'ren said simply. "Can you tell me, please?"
Walter looked down at his hands, sniffed for a bit, then answered, "Whenever we all came to visit we'd... Martin and me... we'd be the first that Cory'd run to and hug and say hi too... and we just came in and he didn't see us and didn't run to us and..."
"... and you both felt a little jealous?"
Walter nodded at the Vulcan.
Sa'ren smiled, "That part is fairly normal in most normal kids your age. You won't find it much in the Clan, thought, but as I said before - we're not normal..."
"HEY!" everyone exclaimed.
Sa'ren continued as if he hadn't heard them, causing both twins to start grinning at him, "There's something behind that jealousy though... can you both think on it carefully? What's reinforcing the feelings you're having?"
"Cory's the only one who really loves us." Martin stated.
"I told Dad not to meld with Elf, now we've got a Vulcan shrink as a brother!" JJ whispered to Kyle.
Kyle grinned at him, "Just be glad our dad isn't acting like a Vulcan!"
JJ rolled his eyes as Sa'ren concentrated on the twins, "I think you'd be surprised about who actually loves you or not, kiddos. I know that your big brother and little brother loves you a lot, and so do your parents too."
They were both shaking their heads at that, but Sa'ren raised an eyebrow and they both stopped and looked apprehensive. "They... "
"Shhh, let me explain what I think is the big issue here..." Sa'ren grinned as he relaxed his expression. "You're middle brothers. Your big bro is the leader of the gang, and gets a lot of attention from your Mom and Dad. Your little bro gets babied by everyone, and therefore a lot of attention... and therefore you are not getting the same attention, or at least you don't think you are. Right?"
"They don't even know if we're there." Martin stated assuredly.
"And why do you think that?"
Martin looked at Walter, and he looked right back. Then together they both said, "'Cos we know what we're thinking and feeling, and we know we love each other, but we don't feel that from anyone except from Cory..."
At that, the penny dropped for all there - save for the Doctor who was simply watching. (I guess when you know something is going to happen from way back at the time of the dinosaurs it is a bit anticlimactic when it actually takes place)
Sa'ren smiled. "You're feeling each others feelings as you're identical twins. But you're not telepathic or empathic like regular telepaths or empaths, so it only seems to work with the two of you. You're that much alike, and have a very special link between you. As for your blond chair, he IS empathic, and has been since he was an itch in his father's pants. You were picking up the feelings that he was projecting... but since you're not able to do that with other people yourself, you don't feel that love from your mom or dad or brothers."
"So we're broke?" Martin asked.
Everyone started chuckling, and Sa'ren grinned. "No, you're not broke," he said. "You're both just perfect. It's just that you are not empaths. You've both got skills and talents all your own, and are utterly unique in all creation. You're certainly not broke."
The Vulcan stood up and looked around at everyone there before putting his attention back on the two small boys. "The misunderstanding of your feelings accounts for how your uncertainty and even jealousy started, but you both need to understand something: Cory loves you, you know that. But Cory loves others too. Some are his husbands and lovers," he said, pointing to Sean and himself, "others are his kids, others are his brothers, and others his friends. Just because he loves others or is dealing with something and doesn't see you straight away doesn't mean that you are losing him nor that he doesn't love you anymore. Understand?"
They both nodded solemnly.
"Next, part of your jealousy is larger right at this moment, and I think I understand why. Your kid bro just made a friend. A very special friend. A golden foal with a unicorn horn and wings. Right?"
They nodded again, this time looking a little annoyed briefly.
"Don't feel like that, you two. The Alanakon don't like those feelings, and therefore will take longer to find you if you feed that emotion. They are pure creatures and are attracted to pure feelings. Once joined they will never part from you unless you become evil, and the odd impure thought or feeling will only upset them a little. But before you join those feelings kinda push them away."
Again, they nodded with understanding.
"Now for the hard part. Come here," Sa'ren ordered gently as he held open his arms. They both got up and moved into them, and were turned around to have their backs to his chest. "Now that you understand that you acted a little badly when you acted in jealousy, do you have something to say to everyone here?"
"We're sorry that we're such big brats." Martin and Walter said in unison.
"Bring them over here, please, Joel." Tracy said softly.
After being transferred by the Vulcan into Tracy's arms, Sa'ren casually walked over and sat himself comfortably onto Cory's lap, totally blanking the hard look he was getting from the blond in question. Obviously his earlier statement regarding no nookie and a bunch of weird furry sleeping companions wasn't going down well. But he managed to ignore all that and get comfy anyway.
Cody slipped behind the twins, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. Tracy gave a knowing smile as both boys suddenly relaxed. "Guys, you see the little angel off to my left trying to look innocent? He's Kyle, and he's one of our special brothers that understands some of what you're feeling. He recognized what was happening when I thought about it, and the two of us plotted this out so that y'all could be helped before it was too late. Cory means just as much to him as he means to y'all, and Kyle's had to learn how to share him with others. I've got a weird kind of head, and if you want Kyle can make it so a little part of both y'all hangs out in there so him and me can help when y'all get confused by y'alls own heads."
"Interesting... what did you do, Lil'Bear? You looked at the random acts done by the 'nothing' in your future sight and betted on me doing what you'd know I would do?"
"You mean betted on you interfering and helping others not get hurt like we'd all done, and still do, for you, O Great and Most Powerful Dragon God of the Voth?" Kyle giggled cutely. "Yup, that would be it."
"Figures... you guys know me too well even if you cannot see me anymore..."
"Besides, there's about to be a birthday party with cookies, and even the Guardian can't keep you away from a warm cookie." Tracy prodded.
"ALL YOUR COOKIES BELONG TO ME!"
"Like I said," Tracy giggled.
From behind the now-giggling twins, Cody said "Guys, I'm Cody, Cory's blood brother. That means the next time you call yourselves brats, I get to tickle you until you pee. I was hurt by what you did, but I understand now and I'm gonna help you learn not to do that anymore. That's what big cousins are for."
"Should we do what Tracy was askin' us to do?" Martin asked, feeling that he could trust Cody without knowing exactly why.
Cody smiled. "Yeah; Tracy's my big brother now too, and he's just like Cory. He's even just as sneaky when he needs to do something."
"Mmm... well, I've still gotta get a Vulcan bond-link going with Blondie and Big Ted, so I might as well help out here..." Sa'ren grinned. He got up, turned and said to Cory, "Come with me, you big bad yet highly nibbleable hunk of a man, and we'll sort out your little cousins properly." Then, with a now furiously blushing Cory (Sean was breathing into a paper bag that Tyler had helpfully created for him), the imperious Little Elf went over to the twins. He smiled at them, "If you want, and if Mini-Me-Codester and Tracy and Blondie want, I can put a link between you all - a light link that will have some interesting results..."
"What results?" all in question asked at once.
Giggling now, Sa'ren answered, "It will allow the latent empathic abilities that exists in all identical twins at the least to become fully empathic. It will let you all know what you're all feeling. It will help you two little ones to not feel so overwhelmed by all the changes going on around you."
"Don't you mean triplets in one case, my little cookie monster?" Teri asked as she rejoined them. Looking at Galli with a smile, she added "And as for you, my ancient son, I'm tempted to have you stand in a corner for what you're going to do next week."
"JAY!!!! What have you been telling Mum now?!"
"Well I gotta throw her off my trail somehow, haven't I?"
"Corners.. both of you," Teri said, a small smile threatening to ruin the serious face she was attempting.
Turning back to the rest of the boys, she added "Sweetie, the Tardis says to tell you to hurry up and link them already, the uncertainty loops are giving him a headache."
Then she noticed the small grin that was on Sa'ren's face. "What are you grinning about? It wasn't what I just said..."
The grin grew wider, "It's a grin to show you how much I love you, Mama!"
Returning the grin, she stated "Martin, Walter? I think you're about to learn just how crazy it is around here. You see, I just spent the last ten minutes having a nice week-long chat in another dimension. The chat was with the twin versions of me that live there, and I learned some VERY interesting things about Tracy and his husband Karl over there. The most interesting is that, after being triple-checked by multiple AIs in three different time planes, it is certain that Tracy and Karl are actually genetic twins of Cory. How their fathers managed that, we don't know. Tracy and Karl are really your cousins, in a dimensional sense, since they came from my twins who somehow had Cory's mom's genetic signature while they were here. I'm betting you can blame your two cousins counting paint splatters in the corner."
"Actually, Mother dearest," Galli said as he saw a horsey shape eat an elephant shape on the patterns on the wall, "you can blame Vae'Runam. It is exactly like his sense of humor."
"That's funny; he tried to blame Mikey. Since Mikey is a Saint, there's no way he'd EVER pull a prank." Teri replied sweetly. She somehow managed to ignore the sudden fit of gagging that hit the rest of the group.
Galli turned around and looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "There's many things the Guardian is, but a liar is not one of them. Try again, little lady!" he grinned. Then he poked his tongue out at her.
Finally wrapping his head around what was revealed, Cory stared at Teri in shock. "Mom? Did you just say Karl and Trace are my brothers by blood?"
"I'll second the question!" Tracy added, immediately followed by Karl yelling "So moved!"
"Incest is best," Sa'ren giggled, eyeing both Tracy and Karl with wiggling eyebrows.
"MOM!" both Tracy and Karl whined, their eyes wide in horror.
Without asking, Galli left the corner and approached the group. "While I still blame Vae'Runam for the weird genetic thingie with your Moms, I can tell you something." he stated. "When I come over to stabilize you, which I think was a few days ago for you, I'm going to have to use something special to stabilize you. That is where the father's input comes in; the only way to make you safe was to tie you to the Heart of the Nexus."
"But," Sa'ren added, "something else was needed to make that work. Just as I did for my littlest brother, Joseph, I had to change destiny for you... Doc? You were operating on the Possibility of my doing so, weren't you?"
"Yup... so please do before we all dissolve into chocolate pudding!"
"Okay, okay..." the Elf sighed as he looked at the two boys in question. For their part, Karl and Tracy were beginning to look a little nervous. "Oh, stop that... I just need to... and there... and....... DONE!" he giggled as a shimmering echo raced up everyone's spines. "Good thing I can change past destinies too, isn't it?" he grinned at them all impishly.
"At least there weren't any fuzzy suction cups this time." Karl muttered in relief.
"Hey Trace?" Kyle giggled, "This means next time someone asks you if you're Cory's twin, you can say YES!"
JJ looked down at Martin and Walter, and was surprised to see neither was confused in the least bit. "Guys, I'm sorry for being a prick earlier, but Kyle said I needed to for things to work out right for you."
"It's okay." Martin replied. "Kyle's explaining stuff to us in Tracy's head while we munch on some cookies. This stuff ain't much weirder than the noises Hal makes in the shower when he's washin' his thingie!"
"Here we go," Sa'ren sighed. "Come here you lot. Let's get these links done." And so saying, he got them all to touch his arms or his hands as he melded with Cory. The reason for Cory being the focus was due to his position as part of the Heart of the Nexus. After a few short moments it was all done. "There.... and now! We have to deal with Cory? or was that part of the plan that Ted and I weren't let in on?"
"It was, and sorry, Elf. I didn't know that YOU were part of the plan or I'd have told you before," Cory whispered. Then added plaintively to both his husbands, "Do I gotta sleep in Timmy's zoo tonight?"
"Yes, for not warning me!" Sean replied with an evil grin.
Sa'ren stared at Sean, then turned to Cory, "For being mean to Cory, I will sleep with him in the zoo... so no woopie for YOU, Ted!"
With a curious expression, JJ asked, "Elf... how to you get the time for all your... partners? I mean, you only just got married to Tera this morning... well, bonded as you have to wait to be twenty-one for a Vulcan marriage... but come ON, Elf! What's your secret?"
"And why do you want to know that, LOVER?" Adam asked dangerously.
"Simple," Sa'ren answered, stopping the oncoming violence, "I'll have my wedding night with Tera, then Levi will take me back to be with Cory and Sean - after a shower as I don't think they want a bad case of Girl-Germ-Infection," he giggled with a side-long glance at Teri, "and then after, Levi will take me back into a third loop to spend time with him and Kev... I was going to ask Kyle help out, but since he'd be the one managing time he'd end up seeing me have TONS of sex and with his own son to boot. I wasn't going to be that mean to my kid bro..."
"THANK F... I mean, THANK GOD!!" Kyle exclaimed in horror as his face turned crimson. Then he giggled, "I'm spending to much time with my big brother! Sorry, Momma Teri!"
Without Teri even glancing at him, JJ started to head to the nearest unoccupied corner. Teri stopped him, however, and guided him back to Adam. "I don't have enough corners for all of the big brothers he picked that up from." Teri whispered to JJ, causing him to grin in relief.
With a sideways glance at Sa'ren, Sean was scratching his head, "Ummm... but that means that Levi will be watching all this??"
"Kinda. He'll be aware of it all, but since Kev, he and I have all melded and he knows everything... and the fact that he's a Born-Mikyvis and therefore not gay nor straight nor nothing... he likes what he likes and loves whom he loves and so... he said it would be interesting to see a boy and a girl make love. Tera giggled at that, and I don't care a bit. I remember with Juan... that..." his face fell briefly. Pain was there and gone in a second, and he continued, "Kev watched one time with me and Juan. As long as it's people I love and who love me I don't mind."
Tracy noted the look of pain and said, "Joel, you've all only just lost Juan. Don't keep those feelings locked up, bro. You're not a fully trained Vulcan and it could hurt you."
Smiling wistfully, Sa'ren responded, "But I am in full control of my emotions now, Tracy. I have achieved what none before ever could, not even my mother. I live with the emotions yet not be controlled by them. I control them instead. As for the pain, I have already wept with others, and will likely do so again, but as a Vulcan I process trauma quicker than a human. Emotions will be rapidly accepted, dealt with, and gently put aside. I will let myself feel more of them later, but what you saw just now would be akin to you having a thirty minute cry with Karl."
"Kyle, call me in when you explain that!" Tracy giggled.
Rolling his eyes, and still fighting with his blush, Kyle said, "A Vulcan's mind works a lot faster than a human's, Tracy. He will feel or see something and deal with it while a human would still be trying to grasp what it was they felt or saw. If you've ever seen Joel reading you'd begin to understand it. What Joel meant was the pain and hurt you would feel during a 30 minute cry as you dealt with grief he just did in that brief second. For our sakes he does extend that when we are all grieving for the losses we suffered yesterday, so that he can share in our pain and in our healing, but if he were to deal with all we would have to in a few weeks, it would only take a day or so for him." Kyle then looked at Sa'ren, "Can I?"
"About my rape?" Sa'ren asked curiously. "Sure, Lil'bear. I'm not broken anymore, bro. It doesn't even make me slightly nervous or even ashamed to talk about any more."
With a sad smile, Kyle turned back to Tracy. "You heard that Joel was raped last Saturday. Due to his unique mindset it shattered his personality into a human side and a Vulcan side. Both living together in one body. Yet we all saw that after a day or two he was acting a lot like he had before, both the Sa'ren side and the Joel side. I, too, know what it was like to go through what Joel did, yet it took me years to work through... and in fact I'm still doing so. Being a Mikyvis hasn't changed my human nature in that regard. I could go off and spend a few years with Tyler hopping universes and fully deal with it, and pop back to this second, but still, it would take ME time. In a week, Joel has dealt with and been healed of what he went through. The repair of his mind was in the final acceptance of who and what he is and that the rape and attack didn't change that."
With fire in his eyes, Tracy asked "Was the trash that did that dealt with?"
"The one who did what he did to me, and no I'm not telling you," Kyle said seriously, "was fed upon by Brant and I killed him at the end. The ones who hurt Joel, one is utterly no more, as if he had never been, after Cory trashed him with the Sword of Sa'ren; his two older brothers were castrated and sent to a penal world, and the eldest has been torn apart by the people living there. They found out. The other one had his legs, arms and eyes ripped out by them before the guards could put him into medical solitary. He probably won't live out the day. And the final two were also victims that Joel had been trying to help."
"Brad and Stewie," Sa'ren smiled fondly. "They were abused and raped by those three, and were both forced to rape me. They are still hurting over it. I'll be going over to them later with a couple of Alanakon to help them heal. They are my brothers, now. And once better I'm betting Mama will adopt them. Right Mama?"
"Right," Teri said firmly.
"So yes," Kyle finished to Tracy., "the 'trash' has been dealt with."
"Speaking of trash..." Sean commented, trying to change the subject, "JJ, you and Adam really need to empty yours, the lube bottles are overflowing it."
As everyone started giggling, Martin and Walter looked up at Sa'ren. "Um, sir?"
"Sa'ren. Or Joel. I prefer that. I'm to young to be a Sir," the Vulcan giggled.
"Uncle Joel?" Martin asked with a wide grin. "You said something about dragons... those from the TV yesterday?!"
"Yup... want to see some?"
"KEWL!" both exclaimed as they jumped up and pounced the Elf. "DRAGONS!"
"Sweet, we get to have some fun!" Tracy giggled, earning him a curious look from Karl. Noticing, he added "Wait until you see this, Hun, it's awesome!"
The twins were, however, ignoring Tracy. They were looking instead into Sa'ren's blue eyes as they started changing to more cat-like in appearance. Blinding blue, with a black slit down the middle. "You're one TOO?"
"No," Sa'ren smiled. "I am their Seventh god. I'm Vulcan, but there's something... different about me. It's my Armour and Sword that form my Dragon-like body around me. Now your blond Cuz, there, has Armour that actually makes him able to grow massive..."
"CORY IS THE GOLDEN KING?!"
"Didn't you know?!" Cory exclaimed in shock.
"Nope!" they crowed as they bounced from Sa'ren over to Cory in a Justy-approved-level-pounce.
"Mikyvis-level healing in Aisle Three!" Tyler giggled as he joined the pile on Cory.
Tracy and Adrian exchanged glances, then with huge grins they decided to move over near the Cory-pile.
Huff huff HUUUUFFFF I-Cheya bellowed as he charged through the door and pounced into the air toward the mound over Cory. The kids all screamed and scattered (wise) leaving Sa'ren to tug his lover (who was helpless on the floor) with his telekinesis out of the large Sehlat pup's way.
"'Cheya. please round them all up and lead them outside. We're going to need room if some of the others are going to land. Most of them are still forgetting to reduce to a more manageable size," Sa'ren giggled as he helped Cory to his feet, stopping him half way long enough for a nice french-kiss.
"Forgetting or just showing off?" Cory giggled as the kiss broke.
"Probably the latter," was the response. "Did I give you leave to stop that kiss, Blondie?"
And that was why those two were five minutes late getting outside, leaving the rest to laugh themselves silly on the grass of the playing fields...