"What did he mean by 'Special Clan Short Facility'?" the remaining Krane asked.
Rex grinned. "Between Jerry's twin-by-a-different-mother blowing up police stations and the Director of our Pacific Rim Division arresting entire global corporations, Federation Security decided we needed a place to put the detainees who required incarceration, but did not pose a physical hazard to society. As a comparison, the witch almost ended up in maximum security. If she hadn't started the process of having your Dad knocked off, she wouldn't have been terminated."
"Is Dad safe?" Krane asked.
"Oh yeah, the people she hired are taking her place!" Rex laughed.
"Good," Krane replied as he stood up from Gary's lap. "Be right back; I have to finish this," he told Gary as he motioned to Jerry and Liam. "We need to say goodbye to the witch," he added, venom in his voice.
Before Gary could reply, he heard Rex in his head. 'Let them do this. It's been done before, and every time it has helped the healing start, as well as bonding the victims together.'
Gary nodded that he'd heard, and watched as Krane gathered Jerry and Liam. Krane made sure Jerry was up to speed, saying, "Jerry, see that pile of crap in the corner that looks like ashes? It is ashes, that is all that remains of the witch. Just do what I do, guys; I'll take the rap, I won't let either of you get in trouble."
"Okay," Jerry agreed, Liam nodding his assent.
Krane began putting things in motion. "We better strip down to our underwear; I'd hate to lose these clothes because some of her got on them and I had to burn them."
"Ummm... I'm not wearing any." Jerry said softly, starting to blush.
Krane put an arm over Jerry's shoulder. "Then I'll go nude too, bro. You're not gonna stand out."
Liam didn't state his intentions, but they became obvious when he hitched his thumbs in his waistband and dropped everything at once. Exchanging quick glances, the two oldest boys quickly caught up with their little brother.
As Krane escorted his brothers to the ashes, Kirk loudly informed the room "If anyone interferes, you'll find out just how much damage a pissed off eleven-year-old who is armed to the teeth and his grizzly bear hybrid husband can cause."
Now in front of the ashes, and emboldened by Kirk's threat, Krane verbalized his thoughts as he reached down, aimed, and let lose a stream of urine. "I've waited three years to do this, you fucking whore! Goodbye, you WON'T be missed."
Following Krane's example, Liam let loose as well, both physically and verbally. "You hurt both of my families. Goodbye and enjoy Hell, BITCH."
As Jerry released his bladder as well, it finally hit him that the two boys next to him were suffering just as much as he was, and it was the fault of one person. As tears rolled down his face, he growled "You never were a mommy, and you stopped being my mother the second you stole my little brother. Goodbye; you no longer exist to EITHER of my families, you worthless cunt." Just barely finished, Jerry spun and latched tightly onto Krane, visibly shaking from the suppressed rage and hurt that he'd held in. He barely registered Doug coming over and talking to Krane and Liam, passively moving along with Krane as Doug and Gary helped them across the room. When he finally began interacting with the world again, it was to the sound of two brother's voices reassuring him, themselves, and each other that it was over as all four hands of his brother's slowly washed his hair.
Out in the room, as Gary watched the bathroom door with obvious concern, Tracy sidelined Doug. "I'm kinda new at this, Doug. What did you just do, and how's it gonna help?"
"You're new at this? Remind me to never cross you when you get some experience! You handled today like a pro, all of you." The sound of giggles scattered through the room told Doug that Tracy wasn't the only one interested in his answer, quite a few of the team were suddenly paying attention. "Let me grab a chair, and you guys can all gather around while I explain. Gary, you should join them; I'm almost positive at least one of the telepaths are monitoring for problems."
Jorge suddenly trying to whistle innocently, which ended up turning into an off-key extended strawberry, set off a round of laughter. "Correction, verified!" Doug sputtered.
Once everyone was gathered, Doug began. "I took Child Psychology as a major in college for something to fall back on if football didn't work out. I ended up doing neither, instead I found myself on the professional wrestling circuit, being paid major money to not be a household name. I was able to retire last year at the age of thirty-five, and I work occasional security jobs to keep from driving my wife and kids insane. Or is it to keep them from driving me insane? Ehh, it's one of the two. Now that you guys know I've actually got a basis for what I'm going to tell you, I'll fill you in. I'm going to repeat things you already know; if I misunderstood something, stop me and point it out."
Doug looked around the group, receiving smiles and nods in return. "When dealing with a youth in duress, either a single youth or multiple youth, you always have to verify the root cause of the duress, then work out from there. Young minds have the ability to tie things together in ways that make them more resilient; a trait that seems to be lost in most cases upon reaching maturity. The best example of that process was Krane today; he disowned his father within ten seconds of entering the room, yet once he heard the facts, he was able to agree to a truce and make a big start towards reconciliation."
After a pause to make sure everyone was still awake, Doug continued. "With that in mind, let's look at the situation with each of those three. On the surface, while their experiences are seemingly similar, their root reactions are almost exactly the same. If they are looking at the abduction of Liam and the criminalization of Krane Senior from their unique viewpoints, their reactions should be different. I'll be the first to admit that I was still working on theories in my head until they said their goodbyes. By paying attention to not only words, but the tone, I caught the key to the initial cause of all the feelings their minds bundled together. Krane's instant acceptance and protection of Jerry tells me that the waiting three years wasn't just for himself, or even himself and Liam. Not only did he spend three years watching the father he loved turn into someone he loathed, he spent three years longing for the middle brother. A middle brother he had never met, yet still his brother through Liam being his brother. In addition, he couldn't share this new little brother, or even talk about him, which had to have affected his normal activities. Does that make sense so far?"
Tracy nodded. "Yeah, that's the kind of bond that makes the Clan work. We're all brothers and sisters in more than words."
Doug smiled. "That should make this easy, then. Look at Liam next, and suddenly there's a possibility of a pattern. For five years, he had Jerry, then for the next three he had Krane. That entire three years, he was unable to share the great new brother he'd been given with the great brother he'd grown up with. From comments I heard, he identified the person responsible amazingly accurately. A dislike from before the abduction became loathing, and the loss of contact with Jerry was amplified by not being able to share Krane with Jerry. His life was changed as well, as the freedom he used to enjoy was severely limited. We now have it down to two of our three subjects having two base emotional disturbances, along with one social upset, in common."
Doug paused, looking over at Gary. "Gary, due to you and Jerry arriving late, some of what I'm going to say next about your family situation is based on common responses to abductions that I was taught in school, since I don't have details from conversation."
"Understood," Gary replied. "I'm curious just how average I've been."
"Me too," Doug admitted. "On to Jerry, where you see how this becomes difficult. Liam and Krane helped each other deal with their situation, so their reactions are similar. Jerry was isolated from both of them, and it shows in the analysis. One thing I assumed by what I'd seen of Jerry's personality is that he internalized his loss of Liam, completely burying it in the conviction that the separation was only temporary. I really think even he didn't know the loss was there anymore. The normal reaction of the remaining parent after a spousal abduction of a child is a lockdown on any remaining children. That would qualify as a social upset, meaning we've matched two of the three flags. The last flag is a puzzle; or it was until he lost control saying goodbye. He loves his father so much that he piled his anger at the changes to his life his father invoked on top of the anger at his mother for stealing his brother and leaving them. I would venture to guess that he's been putting anything that makes him angry in that pile, placing all blame on her and using it to give him more reason to loathe her. If that's the case, he was a walking time-bomb, waiting for the slightest reason to explode and destroy anything that got in his way."
"Tracy," Gary stated, suddenly very pale, "if you don't hire him and move his family down to the base, you're a fool."
"We'll discuss that after we're done here." Doug quipped with a knowing grin. "Okay, we've got three flags, all of which can cause the observed behaviors. We are now in a situation where one of our three subjects has become unstable. Earlier, Krane was in that situation, and the proper therapy was to talk it out with his genetic father, as his breakdown was connected to the loathing and social upset. For Jerry, that demon is still waiting in the shadows."
"How can you tell that?" Kirk asked.
"At his age, he should have ran to his father for comfort, since he's preserved that emotional tie fiercely," Doug explained. "Instead, he blindly reached out to the one person who had stood by Liam, the teenager who declared brotherhood with him before even meeting him. Jerry lost the walls around the loss he had never acknowledged; three years of a missing brotherly bond hit him all at once."
"Oh, shit," Tracy muttered.
"Exactly, Tracy," Doug replied seriously. "At that point I threw out the book. I have three sons, and if you didn't know them you'd think they were out to kill each other with the stunts they pull. Even before any of them were old enough to bathe by themselves, they had decided that if one of them had a bad day or was feeling down, he got washed by the other two. They do that to this day, sometimes just because they feel like it. It's a private, personal, caring thing that reminds each of them that their brothers love them and will do anything to make sure they're happy."
Just to make sure he understood, Killian gave a quick summary. "So, since Jerry needed to know he still has brothers, you told them to wash him?"
"You're on the right track, Killian. Look at your flag list, then tell me what you'd do."
Killian thought about what had been said. "All three of them need it, Jerry just needs to be first. They need to take turns, two washing one."
Doug smiled. "Very good, you're exactly right. To add to the healing, I told them to concentrate on washing the last three years off of each other and replace it with the love of brothers. While it's not physically possible, the brain can translate it into a mental cleaning of the wounds, which begins the mental healing."
Killian tilted his head. "I've had millions of mind games played with me, and they all were bad. I didn't know there were good mind games, but that sounds like one."
Doug nodded. "I think you've seen too much of the bad. A mind game by definition is tricking or forcing the brain or person to do something they would not normally consider, usually by deception or misdirection. Therapy is by definition assisting the mind in accelerating something it would naturally do by reinforcing information it already has available to it. There is a very thin line there, and you are correct in your assumption that there is a large amount of 'therapy' out there which is, in fact, mind games."
"Thanks, that helps me understand some other stuff." Killian said with a toothy smile. He looked around, and spotted Jorge laying on the floor, his paws over his eyes, repeatedly shaking his head. "Hey Jorge, what you doing, bro?"
Rex answered for Jorge, trying not to giggle. "They're taking turns by body section. At a point I'm sure you can all guess, Liam started with questions, then Jerry joined in with his own after he saw Krane was answering honestly and giving facts. I'll just say that there is a lot of trust being built right now, and all three are mentally recovering faster because of it; I can see it in the organization of their thoughts."
Quite a few of the group got his meaning, as blushes spread like wildfire. Doug just shook his head, mumbling "My three would definitely fit in here."
Tracy overheard, and had a sudden evil idea. "Oh, Emmmmmyyyyyy!" he voiced over his subvocal.
"I know that tone, Uncle Tracy! You're gonna let me have some fun, ain't ya?" Emmy replied hopefully in his ear.
"Yep!" Tracy replied, Rex, Jorge and Adrian's giggles telling him they were tuned in. "Have your Grandpas prep Doug's wife to transport to join him. Nobody's to tell his kids though, just get the information you need to grab them as long as they're at home."
"I LIKE!" Emmy giggled. "What do you want me to do with these wet ashes? I cleaned up for you after the guys were done, but don't know what should be done with the ashes."
"I don't care. Use you imagination, kiddo." Tracy stated.
After almost a minute pause, Emmy came back and excitedly announced "I did it, Uncle Tracy! Ark showed me how to use the long-range cameras on Terra Main, and I teleported them into the Sun!"
"Awesome job, Emmy! I'll be sure to pass on your great idea for disposal." Tracy replied, his pride obvious.
"Thanks, Uncle Tracy. Grandpa Clyde says give them five minutes and you'll have guests."
"Okay, just do it when you're ready." Tracy replied, getting back to paying attention to the group.
Gary was now talking with Doug, obviously preparing himself for helping his family heal. Most of the rest of the group had formed a huddle, discussing what they had just learned and how they might be able to use it. Adrian was waiting patiently, aware of what Tracy was up to.
Reading Adrian's expression like a book, Tracy grabbed a nearby chair, motioning for Adrian to join him as he sat. "What's wrong, bro?" Tracy asked asked softly as Adrian snuggled under his arm.
"How can one person hurt so many people, and not feel anything?" Adrian whispered. "The only time her surface thoughts weren't cold and calculating was when Jorge scared the living crap outta her. She made Steve and I's blood father look like a nice guy."
After some thought, Tracy replied. "I don't know, little brother. Maybe there was something wrong with her brain, or maybe something in the way she grew up triggered a bad reaction in her personality. Or maybe she was needed to make something good happen after she was gone."
"Timmy's Law," Adrian whispered.
"If what Doug just taught us doesn't work, then that's what is left." Tracy agreed.
Adrian wiggled until he was completely comfortable. "I hope it's Timmy's Law; I want them to have some good," he stated before yawning. He leaned his head into Tracy's shoulder, and seconds later was fast asleep.
"One of these days, I'm gonna ask you to teach me how you do that." Tracy whispered with a smile as he made sure he was holding Adrian securely.
After a warning from Emrys, a strawberry blond woman in her mid-thirties appeared next to Doug. She immediately turned to him, saying "I just met the most wonderful group of young men." She paused for a second, then said aloud "I agree, in fact one of the young men told me you were thinking of just that. You can stop trying to find ways to leave the boys behind, you supplied the super-sperm-cell that made them, so you're stuck with them too. By the way, one of the young men who is helping move our things said to give you this." With that, she handed Doug a small purple hard hat.
Doug looked around the room, searching for help. "Okay, it was the second of the two!" he quipped. "A word of advice; if you marry a telepath, NEVER have kids! One extra person in your head is crazy enough! Everyone, this is my wife, Jessica."
"Speaking of which, where are the terrors?" Jessica asked. "Never mind, I found them... things are about to get really interesting!"
Barely keeping his giggles in check, Tracy asked "Where did you put them, Emmy?"
"In the shower. They were already taking one, so I added them in with Krane, Jerry, and Liam." Emmy replied with a giggle. "This is fun!"
As the room fell apart in laughter, the bathroom door flew open. Liam and Krane came out first, soaking wet and giggling. Seconds later, Jerry was carried out by three eleven-year-old identical strawberry blond boys. It was hard to tell where Jerry ended and their hair began, Jerry was blushing that bad.
"Look what we found, we got an early Christmas present!" the triplets exclaimed in unison. "His brothers say we can keep him, but we gotta move in with them to do it."
"Don't worry, Uncle Dan has group rates for counseling sessions!" Kirk quipped as Gary and Doug both turned pale.
"Daddy, they're fun! Can we keep them, PLEASE?" Liam added.
Krane added his two cents. "Some kids named Kerry and Alden said Tracy can even marry the four of them while he's taking care of my adoption."
"It was only ONE mind blowing, wild, triple kiss that made me... Okay! Okay! Okay! I accept! Who has the rings, before these three make me do it again just by hearing what they think of me!"
"Emrys, Emergency Transport to Krane and Liam's old residence!" Tracy barely managed to exclaim.
"Acknowledged, Director." Emmy said as the entire group vanished from the room.
The first thing anyone heard as they arrived was Krane's voice. "Dad, seriously, they are good for all three of us. They've raided everything their Dad knows, and are helping all of us in our heads while we're having fun. They told us about what their Dad took in college, so we're listening."
"Where are we, and why am I so underdressed suddenly?" Doug asked as he looked around. "Last time I saw this much wood, I was a teenager on a Scout campout!"
Gary's eyebrows raised, but he figured it best to stay quiet. The triple giggles he heard were enough to warn him that it was best to not even think of going there. "I had a house the size of this room once, while I was in college," he quipped as he looked around.
The walls of the room were wood planks, three feet wide and reaching to the nineteen-foot ceiling. There was a dividing wall splitting the room into a conference area and common area, the entire wall covered in a blue wallpaper. The group had appeared in the common area, between the two large blue leather couches and the regulation billiards table. Through a double three-foot thick archway, he spotted the formal dining table, which easily sat eighteen people.
"It's just the great room." Krane said as he watched the triplets put their prize back on his feet. Seconds later, Jerry and the triplets vanished around the wall.
"Holy CRAP! That thing's HUGE!" three voices exclaimed in perfect unison.
Jessica shook her head with a grin. "They are talking about a TELEVISION! I swear, is that ALL that men and boys think about? Get your minds out of the gutter!"
Doug led the group around the wall, to find the four boys drooling over a sixty-inch television and a sound system with speakers which reached up to their chins. There was also a segmented 'U' shaped conference table that sat ten, which had a guitar laying on the center segment.
"Tommy Shaw must want some work done on the Rickenbacker 360 he bought." Krane commented as him and Liam headed towards the guitar. "He showed me pictures of it when he stopped by last week, that's definitely the same guitar. Looks like we're gonna have to call him, bro, to see what he wants done."
"I was gonna ask if we could keep the company. When the witch wanted me out of the house, Dad took me with him and I got to meet a couple of the workers at the factory. They were nice, I wonder why Dad was able to let me meet them but not anyone else?"
"They were part of the IT team that was watching you." Rex commented as he joined them. "There is a lot I have to let you guys find out for yourselves that I learned when I scanned him. On a forced scan, I grab everything, then sort out the data I need. Usually I throw it all away after I'm done; this time I'm keeping certain parts in storage to help you guys out if I need to. There is a lot that Tracy didn't say aloud that was figured into the sentence. Tracy has me monitoring how your Dad is doing, and we have reserved the right to modify the sentence based on his actions. Vulcan law states that in situations like his, the sentence is dependent on his recovery progress."
"Whadda you mean?" Liam asked with a tilt of his head.
Rex sat down in a chair. "Both of you blocked her getting close to you. Your hate of her actually protected you, something your Dad didn't have. Part of the reason she was going to kill him was that she was losing her grip on him slowly; you two holding out for three years was gnawing at the back of his mind. She was playing a very dangerous type of mind game, using blackmail and other tricks to control everything he was doing. My furry brother-in-law over there could probably explain it better, since he was subjected to the same mind-games she was using on your Dad. It's so dangerous because if the victim breaks free, they will usually do anything, including murder, to get revenge for what was done to them."
"So Dad could become himself again for good?" Krane asked as he watched Killian in front of the TV, Kirk standing on his shoulders trying to touch the top of it with Tracy bracing him.
"It's possible." Rex admitted. "I have no idea how long it'll take though. Killian and the rest of the genetically modified guys help each other through it, and they have major military training to help them with control. Adults don't bounce back like we do, and he doesn't have hundreds of people he calls brothers to help him through the recovery. It is probably going to take longer to undo than it took to do the damage. If he is able to reach emotional stability, at that time we'll arrange for you two and the rest of your family to personally visit him. Right now, there are too many small things that can trigger him to act like he has for the last couple of years; something as simple as Liam getting a hug from you, Krane. He can't control it, the shock of what happened in the hospital was all that allowed him to be honest with the two of you."
Overhearing Rex's explanation, Jerry came over, one boyfriend riding on his shoulders and the other two under his arms. "That's why he wanted me to be a watchdog, ain't it?"
"Exactly," Rex replied. "You don't have the bond your brothers have with him, so you won't be hurt and turn away. Speaking of which, we've got an adoption to do, as well as a wedding once you find out the grooms names."
"I knew that before we left the shower!" Jerry giggled. "Heath is on my right, Sawyer is on my left, and Linos is poking me in the neck."
"How can you tell them apart?" Liam asked.
"I dunno, I just can, little brother." Jerry answered honestly.
"I think I do, we'll have to check later," Rex mused. "If I'm right, it's not unheard of when a telepath is attracted to someone in distress. Usually when things like this happen, the person in distress is a telepath too; Jerry's not one, but that don't mean anything."
"Mom!" Linos whined, "Rex is cheating! He won't let us see what he's thinking happened!"
"Really?" Jessica asked. "Rex, you really need to teach Doug and I your secret. If you know a way to keep us from receiving their dreams at night, that would be a bonus!"
"Tell me about it!" Doug moaned. "Try sleeping when all three are dreaming about their classmates and what they'd like to do with them. It's going to be even worse now that all three have a common dream come true!"
"Yes I did!" Doug sniggered at his three now-beet-red sons. "I've been waiting YEARS for the perfect time to tell you that was happening!"
Gary leaned over to Doug. "I accept the offer of y'all moving in with us. I'll be damned if I'm going to try to deal with those three without backup!"
"You've got a point," Jessica said with an evil smile. "You can't do this when they start acting up."
Gary laughed as he got the same transmission that Jessica sent to Jerry - the mental version of 'embarrassing baby pictures', only this time with sound.
"That looks like fun... so does that.... wow, that's actually possible?" Jerry narrated as his partners turned an even deeper red. "Our honeymoon's gonna be fun!"
"Just a warning; don't embarrass Jerry, he pays back with interest." Gary warned. "By the way, is there some way to tell the triple terrors apart?"
Doug grinned. "Physically, they are identical. No birth marks, and the difference in body mass is so slight most people can't see it. Their personalities, on the other hand, are a dead giveaway once you know them. Linos was the first born, and he's the leader of the group. He's more outgoing, and generally acts as the 'big brother', since he's legally a day older than the other two."
"Yeah," Heath whined, "he blocked the exit until almost midnight, then pushed against us so that he got out and we were stuck in the back."
"Stop complaining!" Linos replied. "You two wanted to hang out for two more weeks!"
"Dude!" Sawyer interjected. "We had free food, central heating, and didn't have to wear diapers! We had it made!"
"DAVID!" Jessica exclaimed in a warning tone that only a mother can get away with.
"Sorry, Mom," all three boys replied meekly.
"Who's David?" Liam asked, obviously confused.
"David is the middle name of all three of them;" Doug explained. "If they start going too far with their triplet antics, we use that to warn all three at once that they are about to get in trouble if they continue. We also use it if all three are in trouble already for the same thing."
"What were they getting in trouble for?" Liam asked.
Jessica took a turn at answering. "All three of them were mentally active before birth, and had learned basic communication with mental pictures of simple feelings. Since they 'learned' very basic things about the outside world before they were born, their brains were processing things earlier and they actually have better memory of their baby years than most people. When they start showing off, that's when they are breaking a standing rule about not doing things in public that others can't do unless it's needed to help someone. Most people have trouble remembering things that happened when they were five, so this time they were showing off, even though I'm pretty positive they were being accurate."
"Okay, thanks," Liam replied, "I understand now."
While the discussion was happening, Linos had climbed down, replacing Heath under Jerry's arm. Heath came over, and was now standing on the other side of Krane and Liam. "Jerry's got a problem," Heath stated softly. "He needs some time with Liam, but he can't figure out how to ask without hurting your feelings, Krane. Would it be okay if I hung out with our new brother-in-law while Liam and Jerry have some time together with my brothers helping them?"
Krane looked at Liam, who smiled his response at the idea. "I think that'll be great; I gotta make sure that I approve of you guys before my little brother marries you."
As Liam shifted to be with Jerry, Doug explained "That is Heath; out of the three of them he seems to be the best at understanding the feelings of others. He'll be the first to give you a hug, and the most likely to suggest a way to make someone feel better. He's also the most diplomatic of the three. Considering what we just saw, Sawyer was involved in this little mission as well; he's the thinker of the group. He'll analyze situations from behind his brothers, mentally feeding them his conclusions so they can act on what he's found. He's the quietest, but also the most dangerous of the three if one of their friends gets hurt. When he does act, he doesn't waste effort. I witnessed the three of them catching a group of older kids ganging up on one of their friends. They were eight, and the older kids were about twelve or thirteen. I was about fifty feet away, and ran to help break it up. Linos and Heath took two down by tackling their legs; Sawyer got up full speed and head-butted the third right in the family jewels. After the ambulance left, I asked him why he did that, and his response was 'He was hurting Tony, I made him stop. Next time he won't hurt Tony.' Ironically, I met the boy's parents a few months later. Fortunately, there was no permanent damage done, but they said their son had a major attitude shift after that incident. He learned a very painful lesson, and became one of the most outspoken kids against bullying in his school."
Gary glanced at Sawyer, and could almost feel the eleven-year-old waiting for his response. "That sounds like an interesting group forming," he commented. "Jerry's creative, but insecure about showing it; even though I'll probably have my 'Parent's Club' card revoked for saying it, the four of them together sound like a perfect match."
"At least you got the card," Doug chortled, "all we got were five hundred pages of laughter!"
The gathered boys rolled their eyes in unison as the adults exchanged knowing grins. In the relative silence, they all heard Adrian state, "Eight ball, two banks, left side pocket."
After the click of a cue tapping a cue ball, they next heard Tracy exclaim "Nice shot, bro! We need to check on the guys, but after we're done with stuff do you wanna play another round before we go home?"
"Sure! We gotta get one of these for the game room, it's sweet that you like pool too." Adrian replied. "Now I've got someone besides Dad that I can play an even game with."
Krane got a sad look as he softly stated "Dad and I used to play pool on that table all the time, at least until the witch screwed things up. I never even got to have the fun of sharing it with Liam and him. I haven't played in three years thanks to that bitch."
Gary moved quick, making his way to the side not occupied by Heath to put an arm over Krane's shoulder and pull him into his side. "It's not too late, son." Gary assured Krane softly. "I'm a little out of practice too, so we can both get back up to speed while you teach both of your brothers. When your Dad has recovered enough to get visits, you get the honor of showing him what you taught both of his younger sons. I think that will be something that will help him, finding out that you shared something that he loved sharing with you."
"What if they don't like it?" Krane whispered.
"Trust me, son," Gary said with a grin, "I don't think a boy exists who doesn't like playing with a stick and balls, especially if pockets are involved."
Gary's humorous double-meaning had its intended effect, causing Krane to smile as the younger boys began giggling. Krane shook his head, stating "You're a nut, Dad."
"That was proven thirteen years ago," Gary chuckled, "when I married the Witch. Three good things came from that; Jerry, Liam, and my newest son. As far as I'm concerned, all three of you have two Dads; my job is to help you three help your other Dad recover so that he can someday be as active as possible in your lives."
Heath interjected a comment in an attempt to help. "Krane, Gary doesn't want to replace your Dad, he wants to share being a Dad equally with your birth Dad as soon as he's recovered from the Witch. Anything he can do to make that happen sooner he's gonna do."
Gary smiled. "Thank you Heath. Could you and your brothers do me a favor? Tell me mentally when you're raiding my head. From what I was told earlier, the brain can't lie without you seeing that it is telling the lie. If I know you guys are getting information to help out, then maybe I can point you to things you might miss."
"That's fair," Heath acknowledged. "Why ain't you freaked out by us poking around?"
Gary smiled. "It took a telepath poking around in my head and Jerry's head to give the clues needed to find Liam, and in the process bring along Krane to safety. That same telepath saved Krane Senior's life by putting him where the Witch's hired killers couldn't touch him. One telepath made today the happiest day of my life; I'd be an idiot if I didn't learn the lessons from today."
Krane pondered what he'd just heard. He'd already liked Gary before meeting him, the many times he'd had a particularly bad day with his own father were made better by sneaking in and having Liam tell him about his memories of Gary. As scared as he was to open up again, everything he was hearing was telling him it was okay. The people who ended the Witch's reign of terror, his real father in a moment of sanity, his littlest brother, his new middle brother, and now one of the boys who had came in and helped Jerry come out of his meltdown; all were sending him the message that he was getting the chance to have a normal life again. As he leaned in tighter to Gary and pulled Heath closer, he realized that he'd finally got what he'd been praying for since his Dad fell under the spell of Gary's now-former wife; he once again had a real family that actually cared for all of the members.
As Krane started to come to terms with the major changes to his life, Jerry took a seat on the ground, pulling Liam into a chest-to-chest cuddle. As three years of repressed tears rolled down Jerry's cheeks, he held Liam tightly; occasionally repeating the phrase "I missed you, Shadow" softly.
Liam soaked up the attention, replying "Missed you too, Brudder" to each of Jerry's statements. His tears were for a different reason, though. As soon as Krane had learned of Jerry from Liam, he'd made it a point of actively reassuring Liam that his 'brudder' wouldn't forget him. Part of what had kept Liam going was Krane repeatedly asking him what Jerry would do; now Liam was crying tears of relief that Krane had been right.
Krane turned to watch his brothers, and couldn't help but smile as he heard them. He knew that Jerry had just done the one thing Liam needed to hear the most; he'd called him 'Shadow'; the nickname that had probably started out of annoyance, but was now a bridge over the last three years. Liam's reply told him what he'd hoped for was happening. Since they had returned, Liam had called Jerry his 'Brother'; Krane knew that wasn't good, since from day one Liam had told Krane that he might be a brother, but only Jerry was his 'Brudder'.
"Jerry needs to know that." Heath whispered, interrupting Krane's thoughts. "Can we tell him in his head?"
Krane twisted his head to look at the eleven-year-old under his arm. One look at his eyes told Krane that these three boys, none of which knew much of anything about his family except what they skimmed off of thoughts, had taken it upon themselves to do whatever it took to make this reunion absolutely successful. Also whispering, he replied "Go ahead; tell your brothers to watch for things Jerry did too; Liam needs to hear that he wasn't forgotten."
Heath nodded. "I passed all of that on; Sawyer says thanks for the tip."
"Tell him you're welcome. Thanks to all three of you for helping our family." Krane replied.
Deciding that the triplets had Gary's family reunion under control, everyone not involved directly moved to the other half of the room to give them privacy. They all fell silent as they spotted the group on the other side. Tracy was sitting on one of the leather couches with Adrian asleep on one of his shoulders and Jorge napping with his head on Tracy's lap. Killian and Kirk immediately made there way over to sit with Jorge as their backrest while they cuddled. Rex, Doug, and Jessica took the other couch, all smiling at the family they saw sharing the first couch.
"Can you talk without waking them?" Jessica asked Tracy softly.
"Yeah," Tracy replied. "They're power-napping; both of them are mentally listening to me, and won't wake up unless they pick up a signal from me."
Jessica smiled. "I think that's amazing that they trust you that much. You must be an awesome big brother."
"He is!" Killian interrupted. "Him and Karl gave me, Jorge, and Andreas the dads that used to belong to just them, and made us real boys instead of freaks."
"You three were never freaks." Tracy replied lovingly, earning him a huge smile in return. "Now cuddle your husband before I find a porcupine who needs daddies."
"Yes, SIR!" Killian and Kirk giggled as they willingly complied.
"Is Karl your brother?" Jessica asked.
"He's my husband," Tracy explained. "We've got a six-year-old son, Wayne, and I'm going to be performing the ceremony to get our dads married later today."
"How is that possible?" Jessica asked, her eyebrows near the top of her forehead.
Tracy grinned, the experience of blowing an adult's mind once again making him giggle. "Karl and me are both Starfleet and Clan Short Fleet officers, not to mention me being the Director of the Alligator Alley Division."
"That's a lot of responsibility; you can't be any older than thirteen." Jessica noted.
"Twelve and three-fourths," Tracy laughed. "Karl and I both earned our commissions in Starfleet before we even thought about the Clan. Dad made me half-owner of our private investigative service a while back. Rex, Kirk, and the rest of their brothers, along with the crew that came with Adrian, make things really easy. Once you add in the adults who joined in to help us, things usually seem to work themselves out."
"So, is Director just a title, or do you really have authority?" Jessica pondered.
"That's the funny part," Tracy explained, "Pretty much everyone in the Clan can do most things; it doesn't matter if they are adults, teens, tweens, youth, or kids. Any of these guys couldhave held that trial; I did it because I care about them and don't want the end result weighing on their consciences. There are other things that a Director, the Patriarch, or a select few guys designated by him are needed to do. We have the job of overseeing large operations, looking at all the input and deciding what has priority. Things like treaties, dealing with heads-of-state on matters that affect the entire Clan, and requesting the Federation allocating large resources are either done by the Director or a member of his staff specifically designated by him to do those things. In the last day, I've requested and received two former US Navy ships from Colin Powell as well as demanding from Admiral Morrow that the Federation provide the same benefits to Earth Armed Services personnel who were injured or killed in the attack as would be provided to Starfleet personnel. As a Director, anything I say or do officially is just like the Patriarch did or said it himself, and I have to answer to him directly if I screw up."
"What if an adult who is part of the Clan wants to do something that you don't agree with?" Doug asked.
Tracy shrugged his unoccupied shoulder. "I find out his or her reasons, try to work out any issues, and if I still don't see a logical reason to do it I say no. If I say no, that is final unless the adult can convince someone above me to overturn it."
Rex giggled. "The chances of that happening are about the same as your wife getting you pregnant, Doug. Somehow all of the Directors in the Clan tend to think like the Patriarch, Tracy even more than most of the rest except for Prez in Hawaii and Danny in Charleston."
"So the directors are hand-picked?" Jessica asked.
"No, they pick themselves," Rex explained. "You become a Director by action, not appointment. Every Director had the position before they knew it themselves, Cory's done it that way since he declared Danny the first Division Director."
Doug and Jessica exchanged glances. Doug tried to summarize what he thought he heard. "Basically, you've got a chain-of-command, yet you also have a common consensus when there is a chance to discuss things before acting. It sounds like a democracy with a built-in method to cut red tape when needed, yet with protections in place to prevent abuse of the bypass methods."
Tracy rolled his eyes. "Why do adults have to make things complicated? We're a bunch of brothers working together to help others!"
Suddenly, there was a sniffing from behind Tracy, and a feel of warm breath on his neck.
"Okay, who popped in THIS time!" Tracy giggled.
Doug squinted his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Someone or something is breathing on my neck," Tracy explained. "If you can't see it, don't worry; it'll show itself soon enough. I'm starting to get used to this kinda stuff happening."
"Yeah," Rex giggled, "unfortunately his Dad isn't adapting as fast! We all carry smelling salts with us now!"
Adrian mumbled as he came awake. "Who's sniffin' me!"
Everyone was looking around, now, slightly concerned to say the least. Fresh in their minds were the memories suddenly revealed from yesterday of the powers that now walked the Earth, and the evil that was only just defeated.
"Do not be afraid," said a crystal clear voice from a seemingly preteen figure that appeared in their midst. "You've not met me yet. I'm Sa'ren," the eleven year old looking Vulcan smiled in greeting. His eyes, clear and fresh as two pools of still water, sparkled in the light of the room. "Cory will be here shortly... pun intended. But first, three of your number have been chosen and need to choose themselves..."
"I-Cheya told me about you," Tracy stated. "Nice to meet you, bro!"
"Yeah, he's a big, be-toothed blabber mouth," the Elf giggled as he pulled Tracy up, with Adrian still in his arms, to hug them both. "Woohoo, that was AWESOMELY quick... thanks, just-little-bro-who-is-twelve-years-and-nine-months-and..."
"Oh, hush," Tracy giggled as he enjoyed the hug.
"So, you're 'Blondie-Mark-2'?" Sa'ren giggled as he pulled back and looked into Tracy's eyes. "Yeah, you're like Blondie alright... wow, you feel the same to a point... son of kings and empires, the Blood of the Celoi is strong in you."
"Blondie?" Tracy asked as Rex, Kirk, and Adrian broke into giggles.
"Oh, sorry... I know you already, have known and will know. Sorry, there's so much I am, now, that I forget that you've never met me before now. Cory. Blondie is my pet name for him, and anyone else calling him that gets dunked in a methane sea on Io," the Elf giggled. Then he smiled as he looked Adrian in the eyes, "Hi there! Saw you a few times in Orlando, but we haven't talked yet."
"Yeah, you were usually kinda busy snake-hunting with Kevin!" Adrian giggled.
After giving his best innocent-little-me smile, Sa'ren backed up a bit from the hug. "Well, I think you lot are taking things better than most others have."
"There's a few things I want to ask but you've not given me chance to!" Doug laughed.
"Go for it... I have Time," Sa'ren grinned.
"What's this about you knowing, have known, will know, stuff? And this king business...?"
The young Vulcan smiled softly. "Well, you saw the battle in London, right?"
"Then you've seen the Celoi Vanguard, the five hundred warriors that appeared. And you know that Cory has been acclaimed as King of the Celoi. What I meant by blood of kings is that there are strong bloodlines from the First Tribe, the Celoi of the Celoi, that appear around the world. Tracy is one, hence why he is so like Cory. As for the knowing part... I'm a god," Sa''ren said simply, without conceit. "Not GOD God. A god. I have been before I was born as I am, and came into my own yesterday. I birthed the Vol'Kier - the Dragons - before I was."
"So Kev was right when he screamed 'Oh God' all night, every night?" Rex asked with an evil grin.
A sweet grin from the Vulcan was returned, but other than that, Sa'ren waited for what he knew would be coming.
Tracy saw Doug and Jessica's expressions, and shrugged. "Don't look at me; I've learned that if something in the Clan seems weird all I have to do is wait. It'll explain itself soon enough."
Doug's eyebrows rose. "Yes, but even being the father of telepathic eleven-year-old triplets doesn't qualify me to call myself a god. Insane, yes, but not a god."
Sa'ren smiled. "I'm Kal'Ras - Broken Soul - The Seventh, who Was Not and Now Is. The Silver Dragon you saw yesterday. Cory is Jak'Laran, the Golden King, the Dragon Son, you saw with me... Arturus Pendragon, the King Returned."
Jessica smiled. "That matches the legends I've studied for King Arthur, but can you expand on the other names you mentioned?"
Sa'ren smiled, "Kal'Ras is a Voth word, from the dawn of the Voth people, over sixty five million years ago. The Voth were the first race to be born on Earth. It means Broken Soul, for I am, in the words of the Guardian of Forever, the Broken Son of Spock." He saw the nods of understanding and continued. "Jak'Laran means Dragon Son. Laran is Dragon in the Celoi language, from over two hundred and fifty thousand years ago. The Celoi are you, humans. It was the name of the first tribe of man, therefore became the name of the entire race of man. The name Golden King refers to the First of the Name, the leader of the Five Hundred Vanguard you saw in London yesterday. His grandson was Uthur Pendragon, and from him came Arthur, the Second Golden King. Down the generations, from an unknown, secret son of Arthur, comes Cory. The Third, Last and Greatest Golden King, Lord of Avalon - Britannia - and King over all Celoi... and if you've listened that means all mankind. Everywhere. We're just being real quiet with that tidbit of information as a few governments will shit themselves... your Federal one as well!" Sa'ren ended with a whisper.
Jessica nodded. "Hon, you can forget what they taught you in school, he's hitting all the points. There are ancient runes that have been partially decoded that tell of legends which are not public knowledge unless you really know where to look and have the right credentials. He just covered those, as well as filling in a lot of blanks that confuse the researchers to this day." Jessica paused. "I mean no disrespect, but there is no way, not even with an adult helping, that a Vulcan-Human hybrid child could have that knowledge without experiencing it. Even telepathy wouldn't explain it, since I can easily confuse our sons with what I do know."
Doug nodded. "You're the expert, hon. I'll stick with helping parents deal with gifted kids driving them insane."
"And what you knew was all that was allowed to you to know within the Denial. The truth could have been in plain sight and you wouldn't have known," Sa'ren grinned. "I'm impressed, Auntie Jessica. Now," he said, turning to Tracy, "I've got... pardon? Oh, okay... sorry, one of my friends just told me that a herd is coming here... so, more than three? That many? Okay, you guys know best... sorry... where was I?"
"Talking to thin air... again," Rex giggled. "You're acting more like Cory every day."
Sa'ren sighed and rolled his eyes. "I think I need your attention... and the attention of the group in the other room. This is going to be helpful to you all," he said as the wall between the two groups vanished and the group beyond found themselves floating over. "Tracy, you'd best let them know who I am first, then I'll make your day more fun!"
"Already handled, Your Highness!" the triplets exclaimed in perfect unison. "Talking is sooooo outdated!"
"Could we please have that wall back? Dad let me pick the wallpaper on it when we designed the house." Krane asked seriously.
Sa'ren winked at the three mind-leeches. "Diolch, cariads," he smiled, then he waved his hand and the wall reappeared, "and your wish is granted, Krane... Krane. Come here, please," Sa'ren added seriously, holding out his hand to the older teen.
"You three got my little brothers updated with what Rex told you?" Krane asked the triplets. After getting nods of assent, he headed over to Sa'ren.
The young Vulcan led the boy into a clearer area of the room, then looked into his eyes for a long moment. In a voice that brooked no objection he called, "Arturus. I need thee here, King of Ha'Thries..."
A swirling in the air, as if it had become water, revealed non other than the Clan Patriarch, Cory.
"Sean says next time you call mid-kiss he's tossing you in every ocean on Earth, Elf!" Cory giggled. "Sweet, I like the room!"
"I'll make it up to you both later... save your energies for then, lover-mine..." Sa'ren half smirked, still holding Krane's hand and looking at his eyes constant. "Go meet your adoring fans, then I need you here... be calm, Krane. This is good. I promise."
Rex did his duty as eldest member who knew everyone. "Everyone, this is Cory Short, Patriarch of Family Clan Short, Fleet Admiral of the Clan Short Fleet, and textbook blond. Cory, open your brain cell and I'll give you a name dump."
"George, Rex needs a tour of the Arctic and Antarctic oceans..." Cory giggled as he received the names. "Give me a second, I need to do something official before I greet everyone. Come here, Tracy."
Tracy came over, hoping he hadn't just screwed up. "How can I help you, Patriarch?" he asked nervously.
"Call me Cory, bro," Cory replied. "This is good, so relax. All AIs, this is Patriarch Short. Open channel to all Divisions."
"Channel Open, Uncle Cory." Emrys replied for the group.
Cory smiled. "We'll get to know each other better later, little Emmy. All Divisions, this is Cory. Just to make it official, Danny's action of stepping in as Interim Patriarch was exactly what I hoped would happen. Great job, Danny. As of this instant I am seconding Danny's decision; retroactive to Gabe's proclamation, Tracy Butler is confirmed as Director of the Alligator Alley Division of Family Clan Short. All actions he has performed in my absence are hereby validated."
"He loves doing that," Sa'ren told Krane seriously as they both watched the Patriarch get pounced from all sides. "That too... he's strange."
"Good," Krane nodded. "Tracy isn't sane either, so..."
"What makes you say that?" Tracy asked.
Krane grinned. "Expert opinion from my three future in-laws. Telepaths with a psychiatrist-trained father are amusing!"
Cory got back up, and put his hands on Tracy's shoulders. "Bro, I know what you're thinking; I thought the same things my first time. Rex gave me the trial transcript. You did the right thing with terminating that piece of trash, and the special notes and procedures for Krane Senior are a great idea. You did great, and I'm proud of how you thought ahead before things started turning out for the better."
Tracy relaxed slightly. "I thought we had to follow the punishments exactly, but I didn't see why if things got better it couldn't be revisited."
Cory nodded. "Actually, as long as there is a logical reason to modify the punishment, that is preferred to following the book. Make it fit the crime, and if there is a logical chance of rehabilitation or healing from external influences then take it into account. We are adapting Vulcan rules to Human actions; there are situations where the human part has to be taken into account. You just had one of them, and you set things up in a way that will account for what happened and what can happen."
"It isn't the first time that a Clan judgement has been modified," Sa'ren said seriously. "In one case there was no foreknowledge of a possible change. One happened due to the event of my being... assaulted," he finished softly, his eyes far away but not pain filled as they had been for the past week.
After a brief silence, which lay heavy on all there, Sa'ren pulled himself back to the present and said, "Cory, can you take a look at Krane, here? I think we have a third for the Rangers."
"Really? Okay," Cory grinned as he trotted over. After a long look into the questioning eyes of the teen he nodded. "I'll let Nathu know. You get the others over here."
"Roger roger, mon capitan!" the Elf giggled as Tracy and Adrian found themselves floating over to join them.
"And done," Cory giggled. "She'll be here in a sec. Okay, my friends. You can show yourselves!" he called out.
Those in the room gasped. On either side of the group with Cory appeared two large, seven foot tall dragon-like humanoids. Their large wings were hanging loose as a cape behind them, their scales red, with one having a golden chest and throat and the other a sapphire. The scales on each shot light everywhere. A third appeared, a foot or so taller than the other two. Then, where Sa'ren had been was now a twelve foot tall one. One they all recognized.
"As in the Age of Gold, so too is it now. The bonding of Jak'Laran to myself reopened the order of the Oath Rangers, those the Celoi called 'Dragon Riders'; the Larani'im. The bondings are by courage and heart and the willingness to sacrifice all that you are to preserve all that is. As it has been spoken from the beginning..."
Each of the large Vol'Kier held forth their right clawed arms and spoke together, "I accept your Oath!"
Without knowing what they were doing, why or even the words, Krane, Tracy and Adrian moved to stand before these great beings, one before each. And in one voice, they proclaimed:
"We stand as the fire against the shadow of night. We walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge, and no-one may pass. We are the Larani'im; of honor within and of fear without..."
A scale from each of the Vol'Kier fell away from them and landed on the three boys before them. One for One. Those scale landed on their foreheads and burned their way into the skin, yet without pain. With a flash of fire, each were encased in armor that made them look like little Vol'Kier, dragon-shaped helms covering their faces, red scale-mail armor gleaming in the light of the room.
"Remember us," the three new Riders completed, "when in hope you doubt."
"I wonder if this would seem more sane if I took up drinking?" Doug pondered.
"You want some help testing that theory?" Gary asked. "One of those three is my son, officially soon I hope."
The Vol'Kier before Tracy smiled down at him. "A boy of my own. I will love you and pet you and feed you and..."
"Rima, behave yourself," the newest arrival, the one before Krane, admonished. "You're embarrassing the boy."
"Sorry, sister," Rima smiled over. She looked down at Tracy, who had removed his armor with but a thought and was now standing with his face flaming before her. "I am Da'Rima, daughter of Da'Kanu. I'm eight years old and a victor of the Battle for Earth. I am honored to meet you, my Ranger."
"I'm honored as well," Tracy replied, "but Wayne is going to go nuts when he finds out one of his daddies has a dragon!"
"I have you," Rima winked at him and grinned toothily.
With a roll of his eyes at the by-play, the Vol'Kier before Adrian smiled down at the tiny boy. "My name is Ga'Koru, son of Ga'Ranaku, son of the King, Ga'Nathu. I am also eight years old... and delighted to meet so worthy a boy of my own... do you like to fly? I hope so!"
Adrian nodded his head and bowed slightly. "I'm Sub-Commander Adrian Jobs, Clan Short Intel Special Forces, son of Steven. I've never tried flying without a vehicle, but it sounds fun!"
Laughing, the obviously older sister of Rima sat down on her hunches and looked Krane in the eye, having waited for him to also remove his armor. "I am Da'Ruana, Daughter of Da'Kanu. I am near your age, fourteen. It will be an honor to defend our Oath, our World and your great Federation together."
Krane smiled. "I guess all the practice I had defending Liam is going to come in handy. I'm Krane... at least until I can do what my Dad suggested and change my name to Glenn."
"Glenn? Really? The Lonely One will like you!" Koru grinned.
Ruana sighed, "You had to mention her name. She will no doubt turn up wanting nibbles, now..."
"Oh dear Lord," Cory rubbed his eyes.
"Shit," Cory sighed. "Okay, everyone outside and meet her. She likes cookies... tons of them... Heaven help me..."
"Got it Uncle Cory!" Emmy announced as the group found themselves out in the huge back yard.
It was a good thing it was huge, for what was currently IN it was huge. Very huge. Titanic, in fact.
A large plesiosaur. With bat-jointed wings which were folding into flaps at the side of her body.
"Guys," Sa'ren said as he returned to his normal Vulcan form, "meet Nessy. Nessy; meet the guys!"
"Liquor. Hard liquor." Doug muttered.
"Screw that! Moonshine!" Gary exclaimed.
Tracy shook his head. "Adults. Weird." Numb to the shocks of Clan life, he calmly asked "Anyone know where I can find a hundred-foot welcome cookie?"
"You had to friggin' ask," Cory groaned as Sa'ren yelled happily and started to pull said cookie out of his bottomless bag of cookie-goodness.
"Daddy!" the triplets exclaimed in unison, "I want one of those bags!"
"I'll ask the Doctor for you," Sa'ren said seriously as he had two of the Vol'Kier help him with the savagely big cookie. "Pekh! It went in easy enough!"
The last Vol'Kier rolled her eyes at the Winglord. "She likes her belly rubbed, and don't worry. She doesn't like the taste of people. She did get used to Romulan yesterday, but that was a special occasion," Rima grinned to the rest as she walked over to Nessy. As she did so she enlarged her humanoid form until she was about thirty feet tall and head hight to the large, timorous beastie. Then she started scratching Nessy's chin.
Elf incredulously hollered, "WHO PUT A FUDGIE FINGER IN MY COOKIE BAG?"
Kerry giggled, "It wasn't me or any of my brothers!"
Alden mused, "That's a cookie? Really? It sort o' looks like Kaleo's weenie. Just my opinion, but it does."
"I have no idea!" the AI Cameron stated a little too innocently.
"I wasn't even looking at you guys! Your transporter thingumabobs can't get inside this!" Sa'ren responded moodily as he looked around for 1) the guilty party and 2) to find someone who liked fudge fingers. Settling to do both at the same time, he force fed Cory the item, while lightly smacking his behind. "... and next time you do this there'll be no snuggling!"
Frantically shaking his head while chewing the cookie, Cory tried mumbling a response.
George giggled, "Cory says, he didn't put it in your cookie bag, and that Kaleo's bigger, and probably sweeter."
Again, Cory frantically shook his head and emphasized it with a squint and a smirk, signaling that the last part was completely made up by perv AIs.
Tracy shook his head with a grin. "Cameron! 'Fess up bro, or I send Cammy up with High Priest Dave!"
"You're a mean big brother!" Cameron pouted. "I had help though; Jay helped me so you gotta blame him too!"
"Humph," Sa'ren pouted before giving Cory the most seriously passionate kiss he could by way of apology. When they broke apart - to a chorus of 'Awws' and 'OOOPs' from the rest - the Elf giggled, "Mmm, chocolate kisses are good!"
"See!" Cory giggled after he managed to swallow the cookie, "I'm innocent!"
"That's a first!" Sa'ren, Adrian, Rex, Kirk, and Killian said in unison.
"Y'all can bite me." Cory pouted. "Tracy, grab your cuddle-rat and come with me. Elf's got introductions with our oversized cookie-monster handled, I think we need to have a little chat."
"What is it Elf?"
"Where do you want me to bite you?"
Tracy nodded at Cory, figuring it best to ignore the banter, and unsure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. He held out his arm, and found Adrian slipping back under it almost instantly. They followed Cory to an old oak tree, and all three sat down against the trunk; Adrian once again cuddled against Tracy's side.
As they were getting comfortable, Ezra popped in with a younger version of Cory under his arm. "Here ya' go, Uncle Cory! I want him back, without adopting any kids, in an hour!" Ezra giggled.
"You're worse than your Pop, Ezzy." Cory giggled. "Get over here, little brother." he added, motioning to the giggling blond with Ezra.
Ezzy popped out as the twelve-year-old jogged over and slipped under Cory's outstretched arm.
"Tracy, Adrian, this is my little brother Cody." Cory said with a smile.
"Where you been hiding him all this time?" Adrian asked in wonder.
Cody answered the question. "Our Mum had a breakdown in a way after Dad died. She left me with family, but died before she could get me back with my brother. One of the Guardian Angels had some fun, had Jason spot me, then I got to finally meet my real brother."
Adrian smiled. "Feels awesome, don't it? I kinda had the same thing happen; I've got a big brother that I didn't know was my brother too. His name's Steve, he's over at Charleston with an android who is gonna be Gary's son once he's been checked out."
"Didn't Jason rescue you from being wedgied by some bullies?" Cory asked with a big-brother mischievous grin.
Cody stuck out his tongue. "They wanted to do more than that. Jason's got a weird sense of humor though; he put me with a big brother who dunks me in a pool at least once an hour. I'm turning into a fish!"
"Hey, I've got a few years of dunkings to catch up on!" Cory giggled as he gave Cody a squeeze.
Four buckets of water appeared over each of the boys and dumped their load of ice-cube cold water over them all. A note fluttered down and, shivering, Cory read it out loud, "With love, Jace... PS, love my new powers... don't you?"
"What the hell!" Tracy exclaimed.
"You just got welcomed by the head of the Dragon Division." Cody explained. "He's totally nutters. Ezzy! we need a cleanup!"
Ezra popped back in, took one look, then dried all four. "I'm on the revenge already, Cody." he giggled before vanishing once again.
'If he does, I'll shave his mane...'
'Oh reeeeaaallly.... EEEEPPP!'
"LEAVE HIS MANE ALONE!" Cody yelled, giggling madly
Fully realizing that Tracy was reaching his edge, Cory began the conversation. "Tracy, I've already checked in with the older divisions. Every one of them had two things to say; you saved their butts and allowed them to do what they do best, and when did I clone a twin."
"Yeah, I'm about to start setting Jorge loose on people for telling me that." Tracy groaned. "I hate being told I'm someone I ain't met yet."
"I know what you mean," Cory replied. "We'll have to get together to do a mass dunking soon. Thing is, I actually really want to get to know you and become friends as well as being Clan brothers. I've been looking at how you did stuff, and I really like the way you do things. Besides, it's not everyday that I meet a hacker that'll give me a challenge!"
Sensing Tracy's reply by the look on his face, Cody interjected more information. "Tracy, Cory doesn't just ask that of anyone, even Clan officers. My bro has a really small list of close friends, and a bigger list of people he's friendly with but wouldn't be comfortable sharing his quiet personal time with. He's just asked you into that close circle, which takes a lot. I think you both might really be a lot like each other, so try to think of how you'd feel if you were Cory."
Tracy thought for a second, then replied with a grin. "I'll accept, but only if it comes with dunking rights on little brothers who are right when they shouldn't be."
"Deal!" Cory giggled, ignoring the glare from Cody. "I need all the help I can get!"
Cody's pout would have been much more convincing if he wasn't actively cuddling in tighter to Cory. Tracy smiled at the obviously-still-bonding brothers, then gave Adrian a squeeze as he glanced down to make sure he wasn't sneaking in another power-nap.
Noticing Tracy's concern, Cory asked "What happened to Adrian?"
"This rescue hit him hard," Tracy explained. "His sperm-donor was the former Mayor of Naples; Steve Jobs actually probably saved his life by helping Steve and Adrian's mom falsify the birth documents to make Adrian Steve Job's son. They had just finished ... I guess you could use the word 'terminating' in a way ... the asswipe before they came over to Ft. Lauderdale. The witch I just sentenced was a lot like his sperm donor, only worse. He saw what his life could have turned into, if he survived, and he's needing lots of cuddles while he deals with it."
"Thanks, Trace." Adrian muttered, obviously not up to explaining it himself.
"Crap." Cory stated with concern. "That would be easy to miss post-trial meld too; it's not directly related to the trial. How bad is it hurting, Adrian?"
"I can handle it." Adrian replied.
"Is that why you're 'power-napping' so much?" Tracy asked, the pieces starting to fall into place in his brain.
"Yeah." Adrian nodded.
All three heads spun as Cody suddenly exclaimed "Ezzy, get your cute multi-colored butt over here!"
"What you doing?" Cory managed to ask before said Mikyvis appeared next to Cody.
"I heard all about how I almost lost you before I met you!" Cody stated, fire in his eyes. "I ain't letting someone lose a little brother they just found all because the little brother is as hard-headed as a certain Patriarch we all know. This mind-crap ain't no game, and I'm not gonna let someone destroy themselves because they think they can handle it."
"I wonder if being hard-headed is genetic?" Tracy observed as Adrian began to stand up.
"I think so." Cory muttered. "You okay with this, Adrian?"
"Yeah, it can't hurt." Adrian replied. "Cody's definitely your brother though; I hope the world can survive him joining forces with you!"
It only took a few seconds, then Ezra asked "That better, Rat?"
"Yeah, thanks Ezzy. I'll watch for that now." Adrian replied as he gave Ezra a quick hug then headed back to his cuddle-spot.
Cory and Tracy were both wordlessly waiting for an explanation, their eyes locked on Ezra.
Ezra grinned. "It was only a little problem. a couple of his thought strings got caught in an endless 'what-if' loop. I showed him how to spot it when that happens, and how to break the loop without losing valid conclusions. The cuddles will work now, and he can sort everything else out without my help."
"Thanks, Ezzy." Cory said with a smile of relief. "What you guys up to?"
"We're all looping to catch up on what each other's learned." Ezra replied. "That way we don't repeat mistakes."
"Sweet. Have fun with your brothers, kiddo." Cory giggled.
"Thanks, Uncle Cory. See ya sometime this morning!" Ezzy laughed as he vanished.
"So," Cory said, switching gears to the main reason they were sitting under the tree, "What games you like playing when you're not trying to crack AIs?"
"Hey, they faked being VI really good." Tracy giggled. "I played Space Sim a lot, until that stupid patch hit. I actually earned an Ensign commission out of the deal though."
"Sorry, that patch is my fault!" Cory grinned. "I just authorized your upgrade to our version of it this morning, you're set to go. Me, Noah, and Caleb patched a bunch of holes and back doors in the retail version, and broke the Starfleet code into an add-on module that only Starfleet and us have access to."
"You work for Microsoft?" Tracy asked.
"No; but I hacked some changes into the program that got noticed, then was caught making myself Chief Engineer on the Enterprise." Cory explained. "I was given the approval to decompile it, whether Microsoft liked it or not, then told to fix it once I located the security holes."
"Nice!" Tracy replied. "I've messed around in it, but Dad said I needed to be careful. Being a private investigator and decompiling code that you ain't supposed to isn't a good thing."
"Yeah, that's true. You ain't limited as much now; if it's used by Starfleet and also has a public version, we've got standing orders to check it and fix it if we suspect anything weird."
Tracy grinned. "Ohhhh, that's gonna be fun! I've got a whole list to set the Geek Squad loose on!"
They were interrupted by Cody leaning forward and getting Adrian's attention. "Hey Adrian! We've lost them, they're geeking! Is that power-nap thing something you can teach me?"
"Sure, it'll take longer talking, but I can do it. Other side of the tree?" Adrian replied with a giggle.
"See you there in about five seconds!" Cody laughed as he slipped from under Cory's arm.
Cory shook his head with a grin. "Little brothers, gotta love them! Hey, there's a new Naval sim out, have you checked it out yet? I think it's called..."