Sonny stood around in the police station trying his best to ignore the stares he was getting from everyone in the room. He paced impatiently as he waited for Donald to talk to the boys in their cell about the case against them. Donald had been back there about an hour when an announcement came over the police radio that made Sonny's blood run cold.
"All stations, cars, and officers, attention. Stand by for an emergency bulletin from the governor's office in Little Rock." Everyone in the room stood perfectly still, including Sonny. "Greetings to all law enforcement in the state of Arkansas. This is the governor speaking. Moments ago, my office was made aware of the fact that a militant faction of religious fanatics known as the Fundamentalist Church of Christ launched a full scale attack on Clan Short of Vulcan. This has been taken as an act of war by the Vulcan government. In order to avoid worsening an already tense interplanetary incident, all civilian law enforcement in the United States has been requested to assist Clan Short, Starfleet, and Federation agencies in any way possible and necessary. A number of states have taken more drastic measures. South Carolina, where some of the attacks have turned deadly, has declared allegiance to the planet Vulcan, and instituted martial law. We here in the capital of Arkansas see no need to go to such dire extremes, but we have pledged support to any Federation, or Starfleet forces within our borders. Furthermore, it has been ordered that any known members of the Fundamentalist Church of Christ be investigated as suspected terrorists. Regrettably, this would include our lieutenant governor and a number of our state senators and representatives. I feel certain that they will be cleared of all charges brought on by the actions of radical subversive sub-sects of their church. At this time there are no plans to send troops or law enforcement officials from this state to any of the areas where there have been reported attacks. Should this situation change, you will be notified. Thank you for your time."
Once the governor's voice faded, the room remained silent for only a few seconds. Then just as suddenly as it had fallen silent, the station erupted in noise. There were murmurs of shock, shouts of anger, and protests of denial. Sonny was frightened to notice that the last category was the most populous. He hadn't realized how many people in town were members of the local FCC congregation. Then the true weight of the governor's words struck him. This Clan Short that had been attacked was the same group that Donald and Margie said had helped Dixon and Jesse. The Legette's son JR was a member of the Clan.
"Excuse me, officer," Sonny spoke to the closest policeman to him. "Could you tell Donald Legette that he is needed out here immediately? He is speaking to clients in the cells back there."
"Well, if he's talking to his clients, we can't interrupt," the lawyer was told.
"His son is in danger, and may be hurt or worse," Sonny snapped. "I think he would want to know."
Donald came out of the back a few minutes later. He walked up to Sonny with a smile on his face. Instantly Sonny knew that his message had not been delivered.
"Your boys are as good as home," Donald told him. "I'll get in contact with Cory Short of Clan Vulcan and have one of his telepaths come out to testify at the trial. It won't matter how crooked the system in this town is, a Vulcan telepath's word is unbreakable in court."
"Speaking of Clan Short," Sonny said gently. "There's something you should know about." He proceeded to tell Donald what he had heard. "Let's hurry home and hope that the girls haven't had the television or radio on while we've been here. I think this news would be best delivered in person by us."
"You're right," Donald agreed. "Margie and I were worried sick over JR when his friend Jeremy disappeared. JR took his disappearance badly enough, but when his body was found two months later, it nearly destroyed JR. He would take off at night and wander the streets, usually ending up at the Battery. We were so frightened for him, but I knew he needed time to sort out his feelings. I made arrangements for him to be watched over by a friend on the police force, but we were still very concerned that he might do something drastic. The thought of losing him was more than we could bear. Fortunately, that's when Cory and Sean stepped in with Clan Short. There has been such a turn around in JR in the last month. If we've gone through all of that only to lose him now…."
"Positive thoughts, my friend, positive thoughts," Sonny advised. "Don't assume the worst until you have to do so. In the meantime, let's get back to the house."
Of course there was no such luck as the girls not already knowing about the situation. The television had been on and the show preempted by the governor's announcements. When Sonny and Donald walked through the kitchen door, they could hear Margie yelling.
"Don't tell me the freaking lines are busy! What is this, the 1920's with party lines?"
"I'm sure your son is just fine, Margie," Libby was trying to console her.
"Get me a phone line to Charleston, operator," Margie barked. "No, I don't mean West Virginia. Charleston, South Carolina! I have to talk to my son, now!"
"I'm sure he's fine, Margie," Donald soothed as he walked up to his wife. "The Clan would have gotten in touch with us if something had happened to him."
"They would if they have the time and aren't still fighting off the attack," Margie retorted. "I need to hear his voice, Don. That's the only way I'll know that he's okay."
"Give me the phone, dear," Donald told her. "I'm going to try another tactic. Operator, I need to make a call to the USS Lafayette in orbit." He looked back to Sonny as he waited for the connection. "I'll pay you back for any charges."
"Don't worry about the stupid phone bill," Sonny told him. "Just get in touch with your son."
"Yes, this is Judge Donald Legette," Donald spoke into the phone. "My son is a member of Clan Short of Vulcan. I need to get in contact with him as soon as possible. Yes, I understand that there is a situation in Charleston. That's why I'm trying to get in touch with him. If you could get word to him to call his parents if you can't connect me that would be greatly appreciated, Ensign. Thank you so much."
He hung up the phone and looked at his wife with a grave expression. "Margie, they're not sure if they will be able to get through to him for a while. It seems that shots have been fired at the Clan Hospital on the old naval base."
"Oh my god," Margie whispered. She slumped into a kitchen chair and Libby sat next to her quickly putting her arm around this new friend. "JR baby."
"Now Margie, don't get more upset than there's reason to be," Donald told her. "The hospital at the old naval base is where the victims of the shootings up in Montana were brought. There were shots fired in the hospital at one point, but the Lafayette says there were no additional injuries to the Clan. All the Clan members that have been hurt were in Montana. There's no reason to think that JR isn't perfectly fine and just busy helping out the way he's been taught by you, me, and the Clan."
"I know that in my head, Don," Margie wept. "I just hate to think what he may be seeing as those victims from Montana show up in Charleston. He's just a boy. He shouldn't be facing life and death like this."
"Margie, you know that he's already faced death in a way that no boy his age should when he lost Jeremy," Donald pointed out. "All we can do is hope that he stays as strong as we both know he is. He can be a boy again when this is over, I hope. For now, our son, like many other boys in the Clan needs to be a man."
"But I don't want him to grow up yet," Margie wailed. "I want my little boy." She wiped the tears from her eyes as Donald knelt beside her and wrapped his arms around her.
"I know, my love, so do I," he whispered.
"Donald, if you need to go back to Charleston," Libby began.
"JR can take care of himself, and if he can't, the Clan will," Donald assured her. "Right now your boys need me more than mine does. I'm staying, but if Margie wants to go back…."
"Let me hear JR's voice and then I'll decide," Margie supplied.
The friends that were fast becoming family gathered around the television for the next hour or so watching the news coverage of the multiple tragedies involving Clan Short and the FCC. The more Donald and Sonny saw of the footage from Montana, Maine, and South Carolina, the more upset they became. Each man had been invited to join the FCC, and both had rejected the group for its radical extremism. Neither had foreseen anything of this nature coming though.
"When will people realize that God creates people the way He wants them to be?" Libby asked no one in particular. "None of our boys asked to be the way they are. I remember Philip trying to be straight as a younger teenager. He was miserable and it showed. Once he found Jason and they got together, it was as if I suddenly had the happy boy I gave birth returned to me. I could see they were meant to be together long before they admitted to us that they were a couple."
"It's people like this that convince bright young people with a great future that they are evil," Margie added. "Those hateful monsters should be tried for murder every time an innocent young person takes their own life because they think they're worthless."
"How much good has been lost from our world because of these idiots pushing our children into suicide?" Sonny wondered aloud. "How many presidents, or doctors, or attorneys won't be here to lead the nation and save lives and win cases?"
"Only a lawyer would rank his own profession with president and doctor," Libby giggled. Margie laughed along with her as their husbands gave them dignified looks of scorn.
"I fail to see the humor in that comparison," Donald said sternly. Naturally this made the women and even Priscilla laugh that much harder.
"I can see when we're not appreciated," Sonny huffed. "Come on Donald; let's watch the news on the set in my office."
"See there, Priscilla," Margie snickered. "Even when they're supposedly grown up, boys still pout if you point out how silly they are."
"I will not stand here and be maligned in this fashion," Donald grumped. "Sonny, I believe you're right. There is a decided lack of love in this room."
"Don't worry, Uncle Don," Priscilla told him. "I still love you. I know Philip and Jason need you both right now. That means that I need you too. You have to get them out so I can tell them I'm sorry for getting them into so much trouble."
"Darling, none of this was your fault," Donald told her seriously. "The boys know that. They told me so when I talked with them. Right now they are more concerned that you would blame them for not being able to protect you."
"They couldn't do anything," Priscilla blurted. "He had a gun. He handcuffed them to the car. It's not their fault." She wept as she added, "This is all so unfair."
"You're right, sweetie, it is unfair," Libby told her daughter. "We have to be strong and fight it, though. If we can put a stop to this now, that means it can't happen to anyone else."
"Nobody should ever feel as dirty as I did," Priscilla mumbled. "I still do some," she added under her breath.
"There is no reason for you to feel that way," Margie told her. "I understand why you do, and you can't help it right now. It's a natural part of the process of getting over something like this. You just have to make sure you don't stall in this part. You have to accept that just because someone did something dirty to you, that doesn't mean that you are dirty as well."
"I'm trying," Priscilla told the woman. "I know I need to be strong and fight this, but I feel so little and weak."
"It's ok to feel that way, too, Princess," Libby told her. "When you feel that way, that's when you can lean on your father and I and your Aunt Margie and Uncle Don. We're here for you whenever you need us."
"Thanks, Mom," the girl sniffled as she hugged her adopted mother tightly. "You guys make me feel so special. My old mom didn't want me before this happened. I know she wouldn't have wanted me now. You still love me, though. I'm kind of glad this happened in a way. This proves that you're my real mom, not just an adopted one."
Just at that moment, Margie's cell phone rang. She snatched it up and happily cried out. JR was calling her. He had to be all right if he was using his phone.
"JR, baby, are you hurt?" she blurted in place of hello. "Do you want me to come home? Are your friends all right?"
"Mom… Mom… MOM!" the boy tried to stop her so he could answer her questions. "I'm all right, Mom. It's been hell here, though. Oops, sorry Mom," he added.
"I'm sure it has been, son," she told him, ignoring his language. "I would give anything if you hadn't been forced to go through this, any of you."
"It wasn't up to any of us," the boy answered. "These idiots can't see past their own hate and fear. They're the ones responsible for this and Cory will make sure they pay for it."
"Do you need me to come home, son?" Margie asked him. "I will if you want me to. I can be on the next plane or I can get transported."
"It's all right, Mom," JR told her. "The worst of it seems to be over. Things are settling down now. That's why I was able to get away and call you. I knew if you guys had seen or heard the news you and Dad would be worried sick."
"Well, of course we were," Margie confirmed. She looked up to see Donald standing in the doorway. To the casual observer he might have been completely disinterested, but Margie knew her husband well. "JR, your father's right here with me. I'm going to put him on for just a minute so you can tell him all the details that you think you're sparing me."
"Mom, it's not like that," the boy whined, but she could tell he was both serious and playful, lying and honest.
"JR, son, it's good to hear your voice," Donald said as his emotions cracked a bit. "Your mother was frightened half to death."
"Of course you weren't worried for a minute, were you, Dad?" JR countered.
"Certainly not," the man denied quickly. "I know you're a strong young man. You're more than capable of handling yourself maturely in a crisis." His voice broke and a tear rolled down his cheek as he confessed, "Thank God you're alright, son. We didn't know what we would do without you."
"You really think I'm that grown up, Dad?" JR questioned.
"No son, I know you are," Donald informed him. "That doesn't mean that I will always admit it. There are times when I want you to still be that little boy that runs to daddy to solve your problems for you."
"Well, I don't know about solving my problems for me, but there is one thing you and Mom can do when you get home," JR told his father.
"What's that, my boy?"
"Hold me for about two days," the young man who is still part child said quietly. "I've seen families torn apart today that will never be together again. I've seen little kids much younger than me with their faces blown off and burned beyond recognition. I've seen parents ignoring their own family's pain just to spout more hate at the people who are trying to help them. I just want to feel you guys holding me for a while. I'm sorry if that disappoints you. I know you just bragged about how grownup I am."
"Son, wanting reassurance that your family loves you after what you've seen and experienced today is not a sign of immaturity at all," Donald assured his son. "Just the contrary, in fact. It shows me that you are adult enough to recognize that you can't handle everything on your own just yet, and that you can admit that you need some support sometimes. You can count on that cuddle son," he promised. "Your mother's going to hyperventilate if I don't hand the phone back to her now though. I love you very much JR, and I am very proud of you and your Clan today."
"I was not hyperventilating," Margie said as she snatched her phone away from her husband. Even JR could tell over the phone that she had been crying though. "You can have all the cuddles you want from me too, JR. I think I need them as badly as you do."
"Thanks Mom," JR told her. "I need to get back to work around here now, Mom. There are a lot of people still hurting here."
"Go take care of them, son, but you remember to take care of yourself, too," she cautioned. "Make sure you get something to eat, and get a little rest. That goes for all of your friends too. None of you can help anyone else if you're all exhausted."
"We will, Mom," JR said. Margie could hear him rolling his eyes at his mother's overprotection, but she didn't care. "I've got to go now. I love you, Mom."
"I love you too, JR," she answered. "I'm proud of you and the other boys as well. Don't let anyone in the Clan start blaming themselves for this. That church group must have been planning this for a long time. You boys are not responsible for what's happened today."
"Yes, Mom. Bye, Mom."
The line had been dead for several seconds before Margie put her phone away. She looked into her husband's eyes as he knelt beside her. They wrapped their arms around each other in silence for a minute or two before they both stood up.
"Libby, let's start dinner," Margie said with a determined voice.
"Sonny, let's go over what I learned from the boys today," Donald announced. "The more brainstorming we can do to help them, the easier it will be to get them back home where they belong." When his hosts hesitated, he added, "No matter what is going on anywhere else in the world, life goes on. We've got work to do, so let's do it."
"JR is lucky to have parents like you to prepare him for a day like today," Sonny told his guests. "It's no wonder he's coping so well with this trauma."
"Clan Short has some amazing kids in it," Margie announced. "Some of those boys are nothing less than miracles walking. Their strength and courage are phenomenal, but from what I've seen, there are some pretty terrific parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents backing them up. I feel pretty honored to be part of that support group."