Memories Part 3: And A Child Shall Lead Them

Chapter 17: Cross-country Crazy 2

"Okay.... STOP LAUGHING, MAMA!... adults! Sheesh, you'd swear she wasn't caught trying to find Dad's tonsils this morning!" Sa'ren giggled as he made the group stand just so to ensure that no-one would get squished by a careless Vol'Kier... at least that was his words, and the only Vol'Kier present, Ga'Roshu, was protesting this vehemently. "Oh, you can hush too, Rosh! Go pet your Ranger and leave me to have some fun, isn't that right, Martin?"


"I'm going to have some words with you soon, young man," Teri put in, blushing at the laughter at her expense. "Your father too!"

"Here's some words! So. Love. Much. I. You!"

"Nice try, Elf," Cory whispered as the exuberant Vulcan bounced past him to arrange Timmy and the Tribe. "Don't think that'll work, though!"

Teri just smiled, her eyes promising revenge when least expected.

Whatever that vengeance would entail was not explored, however, for at that moment, about a mile or so from the ground, fire raced back and forth. Forming a doorway in the sky, through which could be seen a gleaming golden city surrounded by a red-orange magma moat, flew a group of large, mostly human-shaped beings with large wings. They were led by one that was most certainly not human-shaped, but rather in what humanity recognized as draconic form. With grace and poise, they circled above the Clan Compound, roaring their defiance of all who would dare threaten the Earth to the heavens, before landing, one by one, in the playing fields. As they did so they shrank down to about seven or eight feet tall, from their usual twelve or so. The last to land was the one in full dragon form, who had a crown of gold and precious gems around his head. As he touched down he reared up and changed shape, also shrinking to match the others. "Kal'Ras," he intoned, "I have arrived as requested. It is pleasing to once more set foot on the Americas. Long has it been since I ventured here. You Celoi," he said, turning to look at the Americans in the group, "are to be commended for this place. Encouraged to change that which is unjust, which you are already doing, but still... commended."

He glanced around at them all, picking out easily those already claimed as Rangers of the Oath. Most he had met the day before, at the fateful Battle of Earth. Some he had seen through his power, and one he had reached out to touch and teach. "Glenn, child of Celoi power and might. Step forward so that I might behold you better."

Glenn grinned as he headed forward, the difference in his gait obvious to Tracy. "You promise not to face-plant me again?" Glenn asked as he approached.

Ga'Nathu grinned at him. At least, Glenn HOPED it was a grin. "I will not face-plant you at present, but it might amuse me to do so later."

"Fair enough - the Elf gets cookies tonight!" Glenn giggled. "It is an honor to actually meet you, Ga'Nathu."

"The honor is mine, Celoi," the great creature said as he came down on one knee to look the teen in the eyes. "I see in you the hope I saw when I first met Tanaris, my old Ranger, before the Sundering; before the War of Pawns. In you, and those with you, can Mankind once more harness the powers of this World." He reached out and grasped Glenn's shoulders in his huge clawed hands. As he did so, sparks seemed to leap from both, and the King blinked. Then he spoke in reverent awe, "As the Memories foretold: In grace he shall come, named not by his Name; in might he shall protect, through love of his heart; by blood shall be sworn, the Rising of Man - The First of The Seven Lords - Master of Tribe-Celoi!"

He then looked away from the shocked Glenn to Cory. "Arturus - High King of Avalon, Golden King of the Celoi, six have already been chosen over the other tribes, but the last was to be Called. Such is Glenn. It must be by the word of three that Tanaris may at last give up his Spear to the one ordained for it. I shall speak for my Kin. You for Yours. And Kal'Ras over both."

Cory, his own Crown melting out of his head to shine from his brow, nodded. He knew what he must say. As the Crown appeared, as always happened, all there who were human fell to their knees.

Sa'ren smiled and then his Armor melted out from his being, to expand and swell and become the great and terrible form of Kal'Ras.

The Golden Armor of Arturus also enveloped Cory, and he took on his prophesied form of the Last Jak'Laran.

"Stand between the three of us, Glenn," Ga'Nathu ordered as he, Sa'ren and Cory formed a triangle shape around the shaking teen. "TANARIS! Come hither, my old Ranger!" the King of the Vol'Kier bellowed, and a new gateway, smaller and at ground level, opened. Through stepped a nine-foot tall man in Silver/gold armor. "Stand ready to surrender your ancient burden, my friend," Ga'Nathu smiled.

As Tanaris appeared, the compulsion to kneel lifted and all humans there, Teri and Sean included, were able to retake their feet. As they did so they started laughing, for Galli and Kyle started dancing around the teen and three legendary beings in the playing fields. Suddenly with them were Chance and Q, also dancing. Then two beings of pure white light, with silken wings, joined. THEN a being of solid white matter, came: the Guardian. Finally, and most mysteriously, Joshua and Rua joined in.

In one voice, that reached to the depths of the Earth and to the heights of the Stars, Ga'Nathu, Kal'Ras and Jak'Laran spoke:

"Long has the Storm Spear languished with no worthy hand to fit within. By our breath we bestow it now to you in the name of Arturus, in the name of Arthur, and in the name of Tanaris of old. You are Zeus, now, Lord of the Celoi Tribe, Master of Lightning. Hearken to it!"

Tanaris raised the lightning shaped spear he held and it crackled with energy. Storm clouds appeared and touched the tip of the spear with their own lightning, and the ground shook as the air thundered. The Spear, the Sigel of Tribe-Celoi and, known throughout the world as the weapon of Jupiter or Zeus, flew from Tanaris' hand and into the shocked hand of Glenn. A circlet of Ruby-Red Gold appeared on his brow, and a singing crescendo of power seemed to reverberate from it.

From the crowd of the Clan watching, six small boys ran forward. Circlets of the same Gold upon their brows, and each carried the weapons of the specific Tribe they represented as Lords and Kings: Kurt, Kent, Riley, Reece, Bobby and Bruce (Almighty).

"Now are the Seven Assembled. They are the Kings of Celoi, and Serve and Aid the Golden King, the High King. May they be blessed for as long as the Throne of the Power endures!"

"If this is what Tracy calls fun lately, I'm really gonna have to have a talk with with my husband." Karl whispered to Teri.

"If he has any answers, it'll be a first." Teri whispered back. "Tracy's personality seems to be a cross between Cory and JJ; I think that you'd feel better if you sit down with Sean and Adam to get an idea what to expect."

"Thanks, Mom; I'll do that." Karl replied as he scanned the group to spot the next bout of weirdness.

Walter snuck over to one of the smaller 'dragons' and shyly asked "Can I get a ride like we saw on TV? Martin wants one too, but he's scared to ask."

The 'dragon' in question sat down on the ground and held out her claw to the boy, and the other to his twin. "Come, children," came a soft, soothing, feminine voice. "I can not hurt a child of the Earth if they are good, and you both are. Come to me, little one," she called softly to Martin.

Awestruck by how gentle the 'dragon' sounded, Martin and Walter both slowly made there way to the massive (to them) claws being extended their way.

"Do you feel afraid, little ones?" she asked.

They both nodded as they took her claws.

"Yet you are both brave. Do you know what bravery truly is?"

"No..." Martin trembled, "not really."

"It is to feel fear, to recognize it, yet to still do that which you are afraid of. You both just did that, children. You are both afraid of me, yet came when I called." She smiled at them, "Shall we see how brave you both truly are?"

Both boys' eyes widened considerably. "What will happen?" they asked with a squeak.

"If you have the bravery of giants, the hearts of love for all, then you shall become an Oath Ranger, what your kind call Wing Riders, or Dragon Riders. If not, we shall still see that your hearts are good and pure, and that you are brave to be counted as brothers and friends to the Vol'Kier," she answered.

Silence reigned at that moment as all there started to pay attention to what the female Vol'Kier was saying to the two boys. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?" Tyler nudged Sean looking pointedly at Timmy and Ricky, who were now standing by their Vol'Kier, the Queen of the Vol'Kier.

"Yes," was the only answer he had.

"Do you wish to try?" the Vol'Kier asked the twins.

With shy nods she received her answer. She looked over her shoulder to see if any other of her kin felt the calling to come forward, or if it were just her.

It was just her, she found as they all shrugged at her. She turned back to look at the boys, and deep down feared what would happen if only one could say the Oath. How would that affect them? It was highly unlikely that what had happened with Queen Ga'Kira would happen again.

"I accept your Oath!" she said firmly, looking between the two boys.

"We stand as the fire against the shadow of night," both boys cried out together. "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 single scale fell from the Vol'Kier's chest. It hovered between the boys before splitting apart with a crack of near thunder and both pieces landed, one to each boys' forehead.

As they completed the Oath, the scale melted into their skin and armor of scale-mail burst into fiery brilliance around each.

"Remember us when in hope you doubt!" they finished.

"I am Ta'Mirra," Ta'Mirra said softly as she embraced her two Rangers. "And you are both special. Two warriors of the same spirit. I am honored to be your Vol'Kier!"

"I hereby declare the legal drinking age for Clan members to be ten!" Cory quipped with a grin.

"And I veto the order." Teri stated quickly.

"Not much fun being the High King, is it, my Ranger?"

"Nope, not at all," Cory groused as his Armor and Crown vanished.

Kal'Ras morphed and soon it was just Sa'ren standing there, "Well, I wonder who else might get chosen?"

"My lord," a soft call from one of the older Vol'Kier at the back of the group. "My lord Kal'Ras? Winglord?"

"Yes, Fa'Marau?"

"I feel one close, yet the sense is shaky. As if he is hurt or ill. He should stand tall, yet cannot. The Memories told of my name, linked to one called after the third son of Adam. Is there such a one here? Will he swear it, and can I then heal him?" Fa'Marau asked softly.

"If it is whom I think it is, then he will only walk when Armored and fighting to defend the Oath. There is a Destiny at work around Seth that will prevent his full healing. If one be forced then his Destiny will fail," Sa'ren said seriously. "I can bring him here, if he so choses to try... but I cannot guarantee that he will."

"That is acceptable," Marau said softly as Sa'ren snapped his fingers and Seth appeared through liquid air.

"GIVE A BOY SOME FUCKING WARNING!" Seth bellowed at Bryce, only to see the Mikyvis look honesty innocent (for the first time ever! Who said the age of miracles was past?)

"Sorry, Seth," Sa'ren smiled as he came over to take the teen's hand. "There is something that needs asking, but only your heart can answer."

Seth bit back a retort. He was just about to get some more kisses from a horny Prince of the Empire when he had been dragged through GOD-knows where to the playing fields, and now a bunch of insanely big Vol'Kier were looking at him curiously.

Picking up on Seth's thoughts, Kyle decided to be helpful and restored said Prince to his previous position.

Now Seth was being looked at by highly amused, laughing, curious Vol'Kier. Prince Harry included as he sat on Seth's lap, kissing the boy. The kiss broke, "What the bloody hell?! Oh! More Rangers?... wait.... SETH?" Harry yelled as he jumped off Seth's lap and looked around. Seeing De'Isu nearby, he ran over to asked what was happening excitedly.

"... twenty years old and acting like Joel," Teri sighed.

"Let him. What's the point being all grown up if you cannot be childish at times?" both Galli and Kyle giggled together, looked at each other, giggled some more and then smiled sweetly at their Mama Teri.

Rolling her eyes, Teri turned to see what insanity was next on the menu. "You two are incorrigible!" she snickered.

"Did she call us names? I'm sure she called us names. What are we to do with people who call us names?" the Doctor and the Prince of the Mikyvis said in unison to each other.

Over by Cory and Ga'Nathu, poor, befuddled Glenn was still trying to get his head around what had just happened, as well as to find a place he could put the crackling Spear of Zeus without it setting the grass on fire. This was much to the amusement of the three sets of twins with him.

Seth, however, was neither befuddled nor overly excited. "What do you mean, Joel?" he asked after Sa'ren had just finished explaining what the drawbacks were should he become a Ranger. "That I would only be able to walk if I were wearing the armor?"

"That's about it, yes. You have a Destiny that, at least for now, requires you to be in that chair. Just as for a time I was to bear the memories of scars on me, but they have now vanished. Somehow it helps others to see you and take heart by you."

"I'm pretty sure I know what it is, too." Seth commented. "Seeing me running CIC proves to the new guys that there really are no limits in the Clan. Now if we could just do something with insane ferrets who own casinos I'd be happy."

"Oh, my Shiny Little Munchkins are good fun," Sa'ren grinned at Seth. "If you want to blame someone then first ask High Priest Dave to send you the recording if me going to see them a week last Friday: then you'll understand why they are so fervent with their faith... I've not met the Don yet, though, but I know he's a bit more sane than Dave!"

"Seth," Marau said as he came forward to stand before the teen in the wheelchair. "Are you ready to see if you be a Ranger?"

"I guess," came the murmured response.

"I Accept your Oath!"

As with the twins, Seth automatically Swore himself to an Oath unbreakable, and a scale fell from Marau to alight on his forehead. As his body burst forth into its armor clad state, Seth found himself standing to his feet for the first time in a long time. From within the Dragon-faced helm came muffled weeping. "I... I had forgotten..." he cried as he moved slowly around before Marau, the Clan watching quietly. "Oh, how I had forgotten..."

Marau picked him up and sat him on his shoulder as he enlarged to twelve and a half feet tall. "Do you wish to fly with me, my Ranger?" he asked, his soft voice soothing.

"Yes." Seth whispered.

As Marau morphed into Dragon Form, with Timmy screaming with joy as he watched, Seth clambered around to sit on the now huge Drake's neck. Then the Vol'Kier lept to the sky faster than eyes could see.

Ta'Mirra smiled down at the now excited seven year olds she had inherited as her Rangers and changed form. Their armor already glimmering, they climbed to sit on her neck, one behind the other, and she leapt for the sky to join Fa'Marau.

Not to be left out, Tracy and Adrian joined the rapidly-growing group, with Glenn and Cory with Saren not far behind.

"This is always fun," Kal'Ras grinned as Cory made himself comfortable at a mile above ground.

"Yeah, I bet Air Traffic Control is freaking!" Cory giggled.

"They cannot see us on your scanners," Ta'Mirra giggled as the twins were going hyper on her neck. "Unless you want us to withdraw our power... it might be fun!"

"Might as well," Cory sighed as he spotted Timmy and Ricky waving at the pilot of a small plane.

"I know!" Kal'Ras giggled, "Let's go see if Prez's bum has healed yet!"

"I don't know... we could do a fly by and see if some poi is available for take-out!" JJ called from his Vol'Kier.

"Has anyone seen Adrian... wait, nevermind." Tracy said as he spotted the Iowa below them, with a Dragon perched on Turret One.

"Adrian! Stop teasing the squids and get back up here!" Cory yelled, trying his hardest to sound serious.

"Leave MY squids alone and ride your mount!" Adrian yelled back as he took to the air. "I was just making sure Leon got the memo not to shoot at dragons!"

"I'd like to see them try," Ga'Nathu grumbled. "They would only do so once... save the planet and what do we get? Promises to make sure that people don't shoot us... bloody humans..."

"They're still kinda touchy after the last couple of days." Glenn offered. "The guys on that ship are Clan, so they're taking protecting humanity very seriously right now."

"Mmm... okay.... not-so-bloody humans, then," the King grumbled. "So... poi? Or New York Pizza? I've not tried that...."

"PIZZA! PIZZA!" Seth, Martin and Walter yelled.

"New York it is, then," Cory and Kal'Ras said as one. "I hope they don't mind Dragons flying up Wall Street!" Cory finished with a giggle as they all took off northward...

Later (In a Mikyvis-kinda-way):

Cory led the group back into CIC, giggling as he saw the knot of parents that his mom was unsuccessfully trying to warn about the mental dangers of being present at a Clan-sponsored birthday party.

Another meter tall bottle of Valium appeared beside Teri, causing her to pause and rapidly blink. "Kerry!" Alden giggled from the speakers, "I told you, that stays at Ewa Beach!" and the bottle vanished. In it's place, two dozen tiny pharmaceutical bottles appeared on the floor.

"I know what's needed here!" Ty giggled as halos appeared above the heads of every person under eighteen in the room. The sight of parents diving for the bottles like their lives depended on it caused all of the kids in CIC to break into much-needed laughter.

"That's perfect, bro!" Sean giggled as he pulled Ty into a hug. "Keep them guessing; we can have more fun that way!"

Cory turned to make sure everyone was there, and smiled as he spotted Martin on Tracy's shoulders and Walter on Karl's. Adam and JJ were playfully poking at the sides of the nearest twin, causing fits of giggles. Behind them, Kyle was filling the triple-twins from Des Moines in on proper conduct during a Clan party, with Glenn listening in and trying not to laugh. Adrian, Cody, Galli, and Jay brought up the rear, with Timmy and Ricky jumping up from Seth's lap and trying to swat the halos from the four older boy's heads.

"We're here, you can have the party now!" Cory yelled, ducking quickly behind Sean to avoid the expected objects being thrown his way.

He was not disappointed, as the word about a party had got around, and none of the additional guests had any issue with throwing the nearest object at their Patriarch. "You're soooo dead!" Sean yelled as he tried to not get hit by anything that might cause injury or leave a mark.

"You're actin' like a baby, Sean!" Martin giggled as him and Tracy walked around Sean. 

At that point, Sean noticed that all of the thrown objects were bouncing off about six inches away from everyone but him and Cory. He easily determined who was responsible, announcing "Adam, you're next for pool duty!"

"You gotta catch me first!" Adam giggled as both him and JJ took off across the room. Cory and Sean took off after them, leaving the rest of the group laughing.

Across the room, Teri and Mitch turned to see the group who just arrived. "Now that's something new," Mitch commented. "Martin and Walter aren't chasing after your animals for once."

Teri swatted the back of Mitch's head as she replied "Watch it, little brother. Remember the fact that YOU were the one who got their first child as a graduation gift - in the middle of the ceremony. Martin and Walter had a little talk with their cousins, and sorted out a few things nobody noticed."

"Right, right.... sheesh, old people!" Mitch giggled as he tried to move away from her.

"Not so fast, Uncle Mitch!" George announced as Mitch seemed to flicker. Suddenly he was standing there covered in stickers and glitter, a shocked look on his face. "Never mess with an AI that knows Javyk!" George giggled. "I love beta-testing his ideas!"

"So you're..." Sa'ren started to say as he rounded to door to see Mitch in this state, "... ummm... Mama? Are you sure he's related to you?" the young Vulcan completed as he managed to make his voice work again.

"The doctors say he is." Teri chuckled. "Come here, sweetie."

Keeping his eyes on the still shocked looking Mitch, Sa'ren ran over. As he got to his mother he reached out and touched Mitch's arm. With a brief flicker he was clean again... and very very wet. "Oops! Sorry, I'm still practicing this... hold on!" he apologized. He touched Mitch again. Now he was dry, but very, very naked. "This isn't working! LEVI! Can you dress Uncle Mitch?"

"I gotcha, Joel!" Levi giggled as he blinked at Mitch, who was now clothed in a pink, frilly dress.

"He hasn't done that in a few years!" Teri sputtered.

Mitch looked at himself, then down at Sa'ren, then off at Levi. He saw two matching, innocent expressions that purposely failed to hide the mischief in their eyes. "You planned this with that George, didn't you?" he said softly.

"Yup!" Levi giggled.

Sa'ren added, "No picking on Mama! Hi, by the way. I'm Sa'ren Joel, but you can call me Lil'Elf, if you wanna!"

"Does that make you the head of her Elven defensive Force?" Mitch asked with a grin. "It's nice to meet you, lil'Elf; could you and your angelic cohort possible dress me in something more appropriate for a Clan Short birthday party?"

Levi laughed and said, "You shouldn't have said that!"

He was right, for Timmy, Ricky and the rest of the Tribe had also heard this and promptly helped their Uncle Mitch to 'dress' the part. As in, be in his birthday suit.

"Are you SURE he's your brother, Mama? 'Cos you'd never put your foot in it like that... at least, not THAT badly..." Sa'ren murmured to Teri quietly and thoughtfully.

Just then, Sean led the chase group past them. "Uncle Mitch? I though you outgrew stealing Mom's clothes!" he yelled in passing.

As Cory passed, he commented "Cover him in feathers or something, that's gross!"

JJ and Adam, obviously bent on revenge on Sean and Cory for the recent dunking they received, yelled in unison as they passed "We liked the glitter better!"

"Sorry, Mama! Got to go help my insane hubbies! Can't let JJ and Adam get to them... just yet, anyway!" Sa'ren giggled as he tore out after JJ and Adam, with Kevin and Levi in hot pursuit. Teri watched them go, then looked up to see Tera sitting on a chair near the door. "You're not going to help them?"

"No. I am currently planning for this evening's... entertainment," she said with a wicked look in her eyes.

Teri blushed and quickly looked down at Mitch, who had graciously been given a bath-robe by Helen to cover his modesty. He was looking confused, however. "You? Blushing? What is it I'm missing?"

"Joel and Tera became bonded this morning, whilst we were still in Wales..." Teri murmured as she brought her blush under control.

"Oh.... OH, I see!" Mitch laughed, his own cheeks beginning to color. Then he blinked again. "Wait a mo! Didn't you tell me Joel is married to someone called Kevin and to Levi? And didn't I hear a reference to Cory and Sean being his 'hubbies'?! What the hell, Ter!"

"He's Vulcan. He has a lot of energy," was Teri's only response to that as she turned to head for the kitchen.

"They like playin' horsey all night. Wait until you hear Poppa whinny!" Timmy stated factually as he turned to lead his tribe in search of their next victim.

Shaking his head, Mitch commented, "And why wasn't I born a Vulcan, then..."

Then he yelled as a swish and smack was heard. Rubbing his head he looked up to see his wife, Harriet.

"And just what are you thinking, Mitch? I'm not enough for you?"

Thinking fast, Mitch got up and said, "I meant to have his energy... you and me... a bed... a few days..."

Now with a slight blush herself, Harriet smacked his arm, "You're terrible... good idea, though!"

"Uncle Mitch?" George interrupted, "Momma Teri said to ask you if you learned anything from when you got Aunt Harriet pregnant during swimming practice in high school."

Harriet simply smiled knowingly and walked off. Mitch laughed and followed, saying "I will never tell!"

A few minutes later:

Despite the best attempts of the gathered kids, the adults managed to get everyone in a semblance of order to officially begin the party. As Helen dimmed the lights, the kids became amazingly quiet considering the gathered group. Once the rec room was dark, George counted down and the group began singing 'Happy Birthday' to the twins. As they wrapped up, Helen and Teri wheeled out a huge cake with a group of seven candles on each end.

With their eyes wide at seeing a cake larger than both of them put together, Martin and Walter were guided by Cory and Sean to be in position to make their wishes and blow out their candles.

"Make a wish, cuz!" Cory prodded Martin.

"I ain't got none left; all the ones I didn't know I had were already answered today!" Martin whispered.

"Time to come up with some new ones then." Cory replied as he gave Martin a hug from behind.

As the twins blew out their candles, they both felt soft lips nibbling at their elbows. On turning they each found themselves looking at two small silver colts. Made of Mist. With wings. And a horn. Which the two Alanakon pushed into their respective twin's heart.

"Well," Cory grinned as the twins got their own flying unicorn, remembering that this was one of the reasons for them being upset earlier, "that was fast, even for the Clan!"

Smiling from the additional unexpected present they had just received, Martin and Walter accepted the first pieces of cake. As they sat down, they began giggling as they watched Jorge leading the way with the furry kid brigade to get their share of the cake. Within a few minutes, over half of the cake was gone as everyone got their first piece.

Helen came over and whispered to Cory "Don't worry Cory; Bones assured me that this icing is one-hundred-percent Dmitry safe. No sugar rushes this time."

"You take all the fun out of it!" Cory giggled. "I bet it makes Dom relax knowing that, though."


Cory sighed. "I suppose there's not something available to help Dave?"



"... nor for the Don..." Helen sighed as she left the room fast.

Giggling, Cory turned back to find a new face standing next to Martin. He was just in time to hear the new boy ask "Who are all these people? Why are some of them furry?"

Pretty sure that Martin would have trouble with the second half of the question, Cory spoke up. "Hey twerp, you want me to explain it?"

Martin nodded with obvious relief. "Yeah, thanks Cor! This is my best friend Maverick Mays. Mav, this is the best cousin in all the universes, my cousin Cory Short."

Maverick half-smiled as he held out his hand. "Umm, nice to meet you."

Cory took the hand to shake it, and had to mentally control himself at the pain he felt from the boy. "Relax dude, you're safe here." Cory stated in a tone that made Martin's eyebrows shoot up. "I know just the guys to explain the fuzzy kids running around. Everyone here is family, and none of us will let someone be hurt."

"Yeah, right." Mav muttered as he brushed his long brown hair out of his eyes. Cory caught a glance at them, and set his subconscious security level to red as he saw the dull green eyes that had been hidden by the hair.

Not bothering with the subvocal, Cory tapped his commbadge. "Mont and Bast, you're at Condition Yellow. Grab the Triple Prince and get your tails over here ASAP."

Seconds later, the sound of three voices yelling "PUT US DOWN, YOU OVERGROWN FURBALLS!" told Cory his message was received and being acted on. Sure enough, the crowd parted to reveal Mont, Bast, and Jeremy running toward Cory, each with one of the Triple Threat unwillingly being carried in their arms.

As soon as they arrived, the giggling lions (and boyfriend) placed Jamie, Jacob, and Beau on their feet. After glares at their 'taxi', all three turned to give Cory a matching glare that told him sooner or later he'd pay for ordering their 'kidnapping'. The glares quickly vanished as they first picked up on Cory's thoughts, then tuned into the 'public' surface thoughts of Maverick. Beau quickly stepped forward and put his hand on Mav's shoulder. 

"Welcome to Clan Short, dude. I'm Beau, and these are my boyfriends Jamie and Jacob. We're kinda in charge of thought security here at headquarters, and you're transmitting enough for me to tell you that you ain't goin' back to your old home. Actually, we think Aunt Helen needs another son, so we'll introduce you to her once we take care of your brother and parents."

As Beau was speaking, Jamie was on his commbadge. "Prince to Venus Flytrap. Lunch is served, grab Brant and a sehlat just in case."

Mark came running, with Brant and Mar'jur hot on his heels. "You know, I'm not sure this will qualify as a stealth mission." Mark giggled.

"Wear nose plugs then, we want you to scare the crap outta them." Jamie stated. "Parents prodding older brother to abuse younger brother to 'toughen him up'. We're not going deeper, you can figure it out on-site."

Suddenly serious, Mark nodded. "We're on it. George, get your finger outta the Macbook and get us onsite."

"I wasn't... get outta here!" George shot back before the away team suddenly vanished.

Mav had missed most of this, as both him and Martin were busy checking out the two lion hybrids that were standing there. Once Mont had given the quick explanation of how they came to be, Mav seemed to relax. "You mean nobody punches you around here just because you're there?" he asked.

Mont gave him a very toothy grin in reply. "Nope, all of us have been on that side of abuse or helped someone else who was, so nobody even considers it. Some of us have a bit of fun with people we're really close to, but that's usually tickling, wrestling, or tongue baths."

"That's not so bad." Mav commented. "Where'd the two kids and the funny lookin bear go?"

"They went to visit your former family," Cory explained. "We've been given responsibility for making sure things like what you were living through don't happen. I'll make things official once Mark comes back and gives me a report. Mattering on what's going on, you might find out that your brother is just as bad off as you, in which case he'll be brought back and he'll have a chance to explain why he did all that."

"He used to be nice," Mav admitted. "Could he be nice again?"

"If the right people are helping him, I think it could happen." Cory replied. "Mark and Brant are good; we'll know pretty soon."

As if he'd ordered it, the group returned with a thirteen-year-old version of Mav. "Ready to report, Sir." Mark stated as he faced Cory and came to attention.

"Go ahead." Cory replied, the uncomfortable look on Brant's face telling him more than he wanted to know.

"Upon arrival, both adults soiled their couch as expected. Fangs detected this young man suffering in a nearby room, which was determined to be sufficient evidence to instigate a full investigation. Based upon mental testimony of this youth as retrieved voluntarily by Fangs combined with my own research, despite the protests of the researchees, the Safe Haven Act was invoked on-site."

"Articles?" Cory prodded.

"Section 11, 11.1 through 11.4 inclusive, two counts." Mark stated. "Sections 12.2 and 12.3 inclusive, two counts. 16.1(a) and 16.2, two counts. 17.4, 17.6, 17.7 excessive counts. Verification in accordance with sections 67 and 68 was performed and both adult subjects were found guilty. The youth with us was found to be violating the Safe Haven Act under duress, and has been granted clemency on the condition he ceases the activities he was forced to engage in for his own safety. Both adults were found to have conspired to either directly or indirectly action violations of the Act, and were sentenced on-site. Both were sentenced to..."

"BURP!" Mar'jur interrupted loudly, huffing an 'excuse me' quickly.

"They're gone, little bro." the boy stated. "I hadda do it, or they woulda killed me then you." With tears falling down his cheeks, he added "I'm sorry."

Picking up on Mav's distrust, Jamie stated "He means it, Mav. You can't lie inside your head, and inside his head he's really sorry for what he had to do to keep your former parents from beating both of you to death."

"He's going to need you to help him heal." Bast added seriously. "I know a few guys who've had to do stuff that they didn't want to do to survive. It messes up your head if it can't be resolved."

"You promise not to hit me again, Chase?" Mav asked warily.

"Yes." Chase sobbed, now openly crying.

Deciding to take a chance, since there were a lot of people there who seemed to want to protect him, Mav slowly walked over and wrapped his arms around Chase. Returning the hug carefully, Chase began blubbering.

Cory glanced at Brant. "Hey Brant, you mind taking your brothers over to talk with Ty before you introduce them to your Mom?"

"Got it, Cor." Brant replied as he gently coaxed both boys under his arms and guided them to the conference room for some privacy.

As Brant led them away, Martin looked up at Cory. "You just gave me my best friend living here for my birthday?"

"Yep, he's gonna be living in Aunt Helen's suite." Cory replied.

"I told him you was the best cousin ever!" Martin replied with a grin.

"You're still a twerp, though," Cory giggled as he wrapped his arms around his cousin. "Happy birthday, cuz!"

"Luv ya." Martin stated softly as he returned the hug.

"Love you too, Cuz," Cory replied with a smile, the reunion with his favorite cousins buoying his spirits. He couldn't help but to giggle as Helen's yell interrupted the celebration.


Chase, Mav, and Brant ran by, all three giggling. "You didn't tell us our new Mom was crazy!" Chase commented as the three of them tried to avoid joining Kelly in the pool.

The sound of dozens of kids 'helping' by yelling 'Over here!' quickly lightened the mood, especially since successive directions were being yelled from opposite sides of the room. The guests quickly joined the fun, which just increased the confusion. 

Cory caught a glimpse of Helen's face as she chased the false trails, and immediately realized that she was playing the game just to lighten the mood, her smile giving away the fact nobody was in trouble. He remembered all the times she'd chewed them out for being too serious at the table, and as he looked around he found that the party was really too serious. Knowing that either him or Sean would have to break the ice, Cory decided it was time to liven things up. "Hey Martin, you're eatin' too slow! Let me help!" Cory stated loudly as he picked up Martin's cake and squished it into Martin's face.

"Now you're gonna get it!" Martin giggled as he swiped cake off his face with one hand and dropped Cory's helping of ice cream down the front of Cory's shirt with the other. He tried to take off running, but suddenly found that his friends and family picked up on Cory's hint, and were all more than happy to help the twins have a party they wouldn't forget - ever.

The partygoers quickly found that having an AI monitoring the party allowed for some memorable fun. Even Teri found herself a target as cans of spray whipped cream began appearing to use as 'weapons'. Getting in on the fun, George was dropping clouds of edible glitter, chocolate sprinkles, and coconut flakes on victims of the whipped cream once they were covered enough for it to stick.

Cory giggled as he quickly managed to avoid being ran over by Dominic, who was barely keeping out of range of Dmitry and the two cans of whipped cream he was armed with. "Now THIS is a party!" Cory laughed.

"I'll get you later for getting DT started, Cory!" Dom warned as he tried taking a shortcut under the table.

"You love it, Dom!" Cory shouted back, laughing even harder as he saw Dmitry nodding rapidly with a mischievous smile.

"C'mon Dom, George has the cherries all ready!" Dmitry announced as he ducked under the table to chase his boyfriend.

Cory's response was cut off by a glass of ice water being dumped down the back of his pants. He spun around just in time to see Walter scampering away. "That's for the cake in my bro's face!" Walter giggled as he tried to make his way to safety.

"George! I think Walter needs dipped in icing!" Cory giggled as he tried to fish the ice out of his pants.

"Ohh! I never thought of that!" George replied before giving an evil giggle over the room's speakers. A few seconds later, most the room found themselves covered in icing that appeared above their heads. "I LOVE replicators!" George giggled.

It took every ounce of training that Cory had to keep his feet when he noticed Spock walking towards him, one hand behind his back and spotless with the exception of a whipped-cream smiley face drawn on his chest. 

"Son, as Timothy is responsible for the artwork on my chest, it is only logical that I return the gesture." Spock stated as he put one hand on Cory's shoulder and planted a cream pie in his face with the previously-hidden other hand. "We will discuss the logic of this party's events later." Spock added as he turned around to return to Teri's side.

After a few more minutes of fun, the partygoers started to work their way back to the table, now in various states of dress and all looking like walking cakes. Cory grinned as Martin rejoined him with one of his friends, said friend wearing nothing but globs of icing and whipped cream to hide his modesty. "Cor, this is my boyfriend Heath Goldberg. His Mom and Dad are talkin' with Aunt Teri about movin' here too! Ain't that kewl! He's got a twin sister, Shelby, that Walter's datin', so his parents think they'll fit in good. I dunno why Walt likes his sis though, she ain't got kewl stuff to play with!"

"Walter's always been weird!" Cory quipped, causing both younger boys to giggle and nod rapidly. "It's great to meet you Heath! Why don't you two share a chair before Heath's underwear melts?"

"Told ya' boyfriends are kewl here!" Martin giggled as he took a seat and pulled Heath onto his lap.

Cory smiled as he took a seat next to the pair. Somehow, the group kept the mischief to a minimum as they finished their cake and ice cream. As they finished, quite a few giggling kids decided to follow Dmitry's lead as he began licking Dom's face clean. The fact that quite a few kids barely knew the names of who they were licking clean didn't matter; the insanity of doing something they were sure their parents would never allow made it even more fun.

After about ten minutes of the silliness, Teri interrupted the group. "Okay, before any of you decide to start cleaning areas that should be cleaned in private, listen up!"

The groans of 'Aww mannnn!' from a few couples caused a flurry of giggles. After the giggles subsided, Teri continued. "There are two Starfleet decontamination units being set up outside. The first one is for those of you who just want to clean up and get back in here; it has private stalls. The one behind it is for the ones of you who plan on 'helping' someone else get clean; it is a group unit so you have the security of knowing the rest of the group is there to answer questions about reactions to the cleaning and keep first-timers from hurting each other accidentally. Established couples who want privacy talk to Dominic and Dmitry, I'm sure Dominic has already made arrangements for those situations."

"Yep!" Dmitry interrupted with a grin "Then we'll...."

"We'll be glad to help, Aunt Teri." Dominic finished as he muted Dmitry with a whole slice of cake.

"Thanks, guys!" Teri replied. "Those of you visiting from up north, I have been talking with your parents while you were busy trashing the room and each other. My family could fill a small city, and a couple of your parents think it's time that Headquarters gets its own retail district. We've made a few calls, and those of you here today are the first wave of people moving from the areas that were destroyed to Orlando so that your families can support Clan Short directly."

Teri was interrupted as the visitors and their new friends cheered. "Okay, go get cleaned up while I have George straighten up the room before someone falls and gets hurt."

"But I'm having fun!" Seth laughed as he power-slid his wheelchair half the length of the table on the icing-covered floor, coming to a stop next to Cory. "Cor, the Rigel guys should be here tomorrow night with a cleanup team. They hitchhiked and got a ride on a Vulcan cruiser that was coming in from a charting mission."

"Thanks; make sure they're in appropriate accommodations." Cory replied. "You gonna take a break? Let George handle stuff for a while; you've got a Prince to give a Royal tonguing to!"

"Sir, yes SIR!" Seth laughed as he did an awe-inspiring burnout on the slick floor before taking off yelling for his favorite Prince to follow him to the nearest shower.

While Cory was talking to Seth, Sean, Walter, and Shelby were distracted by the little furry boys who had decided to join them.

With most of his ferret nose covered in white cake icing, High Priest Dave bounced and frolicked across the room. Amazingly, he never bounced into anyone. He wasn't watching where he was going, so it was sheer luck that he only knocked into a cleaning cart. Two feather dusters fell, but were caught by Dave.

Watching High Priest Dave wielding feather dusters like weapons, The Don went to Weer, sadly shaking his head and complaining, "Insane and on a sugar high." Bouncing and ferret-frolicking, High Priest Dave tickled some human younglings with the feather dusters, causing peels of laughter. 

Weer nodded and reminded, "Those shiny red balls on the cake are maraschino cherries, Sir. I strongly advise you to not sample them."

Shivering briefly, The Don recalled how horribly he had reacted to the delightful fruits, and grinned, "We thank you, Weer. We are embarrassed enough."

"You must admit," Weer prompted, "he is good with kids."

Nodding, The Don grimaced, "So are clowns, but they're scary too."

Weer softly recalled, "Cirque du Soleil?"

The fur on The Don seemed to fluff up. The Don groused, "We take their Shinies, but the show is never delayed. An explanation is what we need."

"There's no explanation." Sean leaned over and advised the pair seriously. "The evil of clowns is unstoppable; the only recourse is to be truly funny as a group instead of their fake funny."

Almost turning Mikyvis purple in fear and disgust, The Don ordered, "Gather our masses, Weer. We will win them over, by the hundreds."

"Yes, Sir," Weer reluctantly sighed.

"Signs will be posted for Abbott and Costello," The Don warned, "and Groucho, and Martin and Lewis!"

Forty-five minutes later:

Cory and Sean escorted Martin and Heath back into CIC, having agreed to their request to clean up semi-privately with just their cousins present. From the looks on the younger pair's faces and the way they were holding each other, it was clear that part of the reason they wanted privacy was Heath's present to his boyfriend.

Sean leaned over as they stopped inside the doorway to whisper to the pair "Remember guys, if you have any more questions you can ask either one of us." Sean gave both boys a quick hug, then headed off to see what kind of trouble Timmy, Ricky, and Wayne had caused in the group shower.

As Sean vanished, Clint and Crystal came in, Walter and a girl that Cory assumed was Shelby sandwiched between them. Both youngsters had goofy grins, and were holding hands in a way that said neither planned to let go any time soon.

"How'd it go?" Cory asked.

"We had a good talk about what to expect living here." Clint replied with a smile.

"Both of them are really smart." Crystal added. "They asked questions about what we told them they'd probably see, and understand the limits we've placed on them along with why the limits are there. Knowing that they're going to be active anyway just from the environment, we gave them tips on things that are appropriate for their age to 'interact' with each other safely."

"Thanks for helping, I woulda been totally lost!" Cory said with a smile as he knelt down. He got his first good look at Shelby, and immediately could see she was a female duplicate of Heath. Both had reddish-black hair, green eyes, and a smattering of pale freckles on their cheeks. They were thin, but it was an athletic, healthy thin. "It's great to meet you, Shelby, I'm Cory. I'm one of Walter's cousins. Are you okay with asking Crystal any questions you don't feel comfortable asking your parents?"

"Yeah, she's nice and don't treat me like a baby." Shelby replied with a smile. "She says I get to help her after she has her babies!"

"Me too!" Walter added with excitement.

"Awesome; I'm glad you two will be helping, babies are a lot of work sometimes." Cory replied. "Stick with it and when you get old enough to have babies you'll know a lot of stuff most parents have to learn the hard way."

"That's what we told them!" Clint chuckled. "I think they're wanting the babies born more than me!"

Cory stood back up and gave both Clint and Crystal hugs. "Thanks for takin' care of them; Sean and I couldn't think of anyone else we'd trust with our little cousin to learn about Clan life. In case you ain't noticed, the straight couples here all look up to you two as role models. I know you've felt like you're not helping enough sometimes; remember that even when you think you're doing nothing, you're actually helping a lot of kids learn normal just by your example. You two are just as important to the Clan as any of the other core members, and you're being protected just like the rest of us."

"Don't you mean annoyed to death?" Clint chuckled. "Gabe and I compare notes; the only way either of us gets to do anything is if we stumble into it. Calling the new guys protective is like saying Tommy helps in the kitchen!"

"HEY! Leave us new guys outta this!" Tracy giggled as him and Karl joined the group.

Grinning, Cory introduced everyone. "Guys, the outspoken one is Tracy and his twin is actually his husband Karl. They run the Alligator Alley Division, as well as being my newest brothers. You know my cousins, the cute boy with Martin is his boyfriend Heath, while the cute girl with Walter is his girlfriend and Heath's twin Shelby. Their escorts are our bro Clint and our sis, who is also his wife, Crystal."

"Umm, Cory, just WHEN did we get married?" Clint asked.

"Five minutes after Mom filed your paperwork and gave you a new family." Cory replied with a giggle. "We've just been waiting for the actual ceremony."

"I think it's time someone sent Aunt Teri swimming!" Clint groaned. Turning to Crystal, he took her hands into his before stating "I love you and promise to support and care for you for as long as we live. I hereby take your hand in marriage."

"I promise to love you and care for you until death do us part. I hereby take your hand in marriage." Crystal replied seriously.

Stepping forward quickly, Tracy stated "By the power vested in me by the State of Florida and the United Federation of Planets, I hereby pronounce you Man and Wife. You may kiss the bride."

"Log it, George!" Cory ordered. "Congrats, you two are an awesome couple."

"I'm startin' to enjoy this!" Tracy giggled. "It's fun bein' able to create families!"

Cory grinned. "You just got lucky that you beat me to it!"

"That's 'cuz you old people move slow!" Tracy giggled as he ducked behind Karl.

"Karl, take care of your husband!" Cory giggled.

"I already did," Karl grinned, "Adam says we're worse than you and Sean!"

"We'll have to have a sleepover to determine that!" Cory said with a wag of his eyebrows.

Shaking his head with a grin, Karl replied "Anyway... we came over to let y'all know the presents are all ready for the birthday boys. Unlike y'all, the rest of us only took thirty minutes to clean each other up."

"Its called stamina, you two might get it one day." Clint prodded as he broke the kiss with Crystal. "C'mon, I'm curious to see what new and strange things were chosen as gifts this time!"

The twins had finished with their gifts from the adults, which consisted of the expected clothing and age-appropriate games. Now ready to start on the rest of the pile, they were bouncing with excitement.

Before they started, however, Cory got their attention. "Guys, we had all of your friends pick extra gifts for you from the Clan's gift catalog. They were limited when they picked out your first gifts, so we thought it would only be fair if they could pick your gifts from the same list Sean and I use."

"Thanks, Cor!" Martin and Walter chorused.

Off to the side, watching with Teri, Mitch muttered "He still spoils them rotten, don't he?"

"Just because they get toys you wanted doesn't mean he's spoiling them." Harriet prodded.

Teri grinned. "Just wait; knowing this crew, the twins are about to have a birthday they'll never forget. When it comes to gifts, these boys use every resource at their disposal."

As they watched, Teri's prediction was proved true. Within the first five minutes, both boys had their own personal copies of the latest version of every game console available, as well as all the controllers they might ever need. Both sported promise bracelets AND necklaces from their boy/girlfriend, and had just finished another 'thank you hug' for the iPads that Mav had picked out for both of them. Having made it through the gifts from their friends, they reached the section that was from various Clan family.

The first two boxes were identical. After reading the label, Martin looked around. "I've met so many new people I'm forgettin' which faces go with which name," he muttered.

"That's okay, just ask. We all understand, we've been there." Adrian stated as him and Cody joined the twins. "Nobody'll hold it against you, guys. That one's from me and this cutie next to me, Cody."

"Thanks!" both Martin and Walter replied as they hugged the nearest of the pair.

After releasing the hug, both boys opened the large presents. "HOLY CRAP!" they exclaimed as they spotted what was inside. Being very careful, they unpacked their latest addition to their 'toy' collections.

"Those Mac Pros are maxed out, and Cody insisted you'd both need dual 12K displays." Adrian explained.

"We'll help you guys get set up and show ya' some tricks." Cody added. "I got some catching up to do with Cory to help make sure my cousins are taken care of!"

As the boys fell into a four-way hug, Mitch commented "I was worried about Cory? SHIT!"

"It would be illogical to provide my nephews with inferior tools to further their education." Spock observed.

As if proving the point Spock made, the next gift set was from Adam and JJ. This package contained a pair of Macbook Pros, a portable network interface to give them access to the Clan network wherever they were, and the full set of Clan communications gear that every Clan security operative was issued as standard gear.

"We're not security though." Walter observed.

"We'll discuss that little issue tomorrow." JJ stated with a grin as he collected his hugs. "I know a few things you guys ain't told Cory... yet."

Giggling, both boys returned to the presents. The next one was just a card for each of them, which read "Meet us at the little pool over near the kitchen door. Dominic, Dmitry, and Nyo"

Curious, both boys went over to the little pool they had noticed earlier. "Why'd we have to come over here?" Walter asked curiously.

Nyo smiled. "Because if you accept this gift and the responsibility that goes with it, you're going to be using this pool a lot. Jamie, Jacob, and Beau do a lot more than just scan bad guys. They also help JJ and Dominic with deciding who is ready for what training, and point out people who might be interested in helping out. Due to how close you are to Cory, you have been declared high priority for protection."

Pausing to bare his arm, Nyo pointed out the Phasenmorph which became visible to the twins. "This is a Phasenmorph. He is a living weapon and shield from a long time ago. Based on JJ's review of your profile and the Double D's observance of you during the party, I'm in agreement that you are qualified to be issued one each. My question to you is can you promise to be responsible? That means no pranks, and only using it to protect yourself or those around you from harm until such time as JJ and Dom can train you on when it is okay to use offensively."

Realizing how serious Nyo was about his question, both boys thought it over. After a minute of thought, Martin replied first. "I can do that."

It took Walter another minute before he answered. "Yeah, I'd be able to do it."

Nyo nodded. "You're taking this seriously, that's good. The Phasenmorphs you'll be getting are a new type; they've been upgraded. Usually the guys name theirs, this one is Phil, Dom's is Eyes, and Dmitry named his Giggle. Yours will be more vocal than ours, but not as vocal as the one Timmy's got if I'm right about their capabilities. One thing that's different is their shielding; an armor mode has been added that is effective against short-range attacks like knives, bats, and explosives. It doesn't make you invincible, but it should prevent fatal injury in a fight or surprise attack."

"It's designed to give you a chance to get away." Dmitry added. "It takes a lot of energy to block that kind of attack, so you've basically got to get the heck out of there immediately. They are tied into our main AI, Ark, and the first attack will send a 'Code Red' to Ark. A second attack will trigger Ark to automatically intervene as she sees fit."

<How many times do I need to remind you I have no gender, Dmitry?> Ark's voice asked as Dmitry vanished and re-appeared soaking wet, with a lobster hanging from his belt loop.

"Thanks Unca DT!" Timmy giggled as he ran over and retrieved the lobster.

"You're welcome, Timmy." Dmitry replied as he glared in the general direction of the Ark base.

Ezra popped in behind the twins, waved at Dmitry, then vanished as Dmitry's uniform was suddenly dry.

"Wow! How'd you do that?" Martin asked in amazement, having not seen Ezra.

"A nephew who understands the word 'fair' a lot better than a certain AI that I know." Dominic replied for Dmitry. "I'm sure you'll find out soon enough." 

"If my PARENT is done interrupting, we'll continue." Nyo stated firmly. "Javyk, please connect pool t-6 to the Clan Headquarters resting pool."

"Don't pass any out until Kendall and I get there." Javyk replied sternly as a gate opened at the back of the pool.

Seconds later, Javyk and Kendall appeared, both holding devices which looked like a cross between a tricorder, a metal detector, and the arming board for one of Jory's staged bombings. "Now you may proceed." Javyk stated.

"Okay," Nyo began, "In a minute, I'm going to ask you guys to put one of your arms into the pool. Since I'm still getting updated on the new modifications, I'll let Javyk and Kendall handle it from here."

"Thanks Nyo." Kendall replied as Javyk scanned the phasenmorphs entering the pool. "We adjusted the numbing agent, so when the phasenmorph attaches only the general region of attachment numbs; the previous version numbed the entire arm. When you put your arm into the pool, they will decide which one is most suited to each of you. Once that is decided, the one chosen will climb on your arm. Some of this batch have a test version of touch telepathy; if you get picked by one of them, he will do a test communication with you before starting. All you need to do is think back your answer to him. I understand that you're aware that we have access to a location outside time. Once they have attached to you, Javyk and I will escort you to that location to check the integration, then supervise as Dmitry and Dominic ensure that you're fully trained. Any questions?"

"Do you have one?" Heath asked as he cuddled into Martin's side.

"Yes, mine is one of our more recent test subjects." Kendall replied. "Are you Martin's boyfriend?"

"Yeah, I'm Heath. My sister is Walter's girlfriend, she's the one holding his hand." Heath replied.

"Have they been evaluated?" Javyk asked with a pointed glare at Nyo.

"No, we just found out about their relationship." Nyo replied, fully aware Javyk was about to step in.

"That's how people get killed." Javyk stated before tripping his subvocal. "Council Nitor, you're needed at the Headquarters phasenmorph pool."

Having seen Javyk's expression, Kyle was already halfway there. "What's up, Javyk?" he asked as he skidded to a stop.

"Since neither of the partners of Martin and Walter have been evaluated for phasenmorphs despite standard procedure for core Clan staff and their families, it appears that you need to do other people's job for them." Javyk stated.

"Actually, I just need to help Dom and JJ make the opportunity to do it. I agree about the urgency, but there are better ways to do this." Kyle stated firmly. "Dom, you up to taking a cookie break in the Phasenmorph room in Ark? Once I explain what's gonna happen to Heath and Shelby, I'll bring them in too."

"That should be quiet enough," Dominic replied. "I'm ready when you are."

Ark Compound:

Kyle popped into the room that JJ and Dominic were now standing in. "Hey guys, just a little delay before we start. I'm gonna find Tyne then have a talk with him, I'm not gonna put up with Javyk trying to override any of the three of us on our jobs."

Without waiting for an answer, Kyle turned and headed back out. Once he was gone, JJ turned to Dominic. "Dang, he's pissed!"

"Yeah, Javyk was even more inconsiderate than normal." Dominic replied. "I think Nyo would have nailed him to the wall if the kids weren't there watching."

"I wonder if he's stressing after what happened in London?" JJ mused out loud.

Dominic thought about it, then replied. "After what he was like when Levis seemed to have died, you might have a point. He takes it personally when things go wrong, and that was a really big going wrong. Do you think asking him to just let us know if he spots something we've missed would work?"

"It couldn't hurt." JJ replied. "If he knows we're trying, he'll accept it more than if he thinks we're ignoring an issue."

"Now how do we get the King Brain Leech to pay attention and pass our plan through Tyne?" Dominic asked.

"Knowing him, if he ain't listening in some way I'm gonna become a monk." JJ giggled.

They had their answer almost instantly, as JJ suddenly found himself in a purple monks robe. "As I said..." he giggled.

About a minute later, Kyle wandered back in. "Tyne says fill him in on the results of your talk before he talks with Javyk." he stated as he took a seat. After looking around, he added "Today's specialty, for everyone except Javyk, is Keebler Fudge Stripes."

As the words left his mouth, a plate heaped with cookies appeared on the table in front of the couch. As he took a seat and grabbed a handful, he stated "I'm getting ready to bring them in now."

Back in the room:

Dominic, Heath, and Shelby seemed to vanish for a second, then appeared again. "That was fun!" Heath giggled.

Dominic looked over at Nyo. "We approved both of them, and have already asked them your normal pre-issue responsibility questions, Nyo. All that's left is for you to verify they're ready yourself."

Nyo smiled. "Thanks, Dom. You just saved me a bunch of time." He then turned to Heath and Shelby. "Do both of you understand the seriousness of having a phasenmorph?"

"Yes, sir." both of them responded.

"Are you willing to follow the same rules I set for your boyfriends?" Nyo continued.

"Yes sir." they answered.

"Are you aware that you'll go swimming if you keep calling Nyo sir?" Dmitry giggled.

"Yes, Master!" both answered in unison, their mischievous grins giving away the fact Kyle had coached them on how to address everyone for maximum fun.

"I have cuteness minions!" Dmitry exclaimed in glee as Dominic tried vainly to keep a straight face.

"God help us!" Nyo muttered. "Javyk, issue the new phasenmorphs while there's still a universe left!"

Javyk nodded at Kendall, who began the issuing. "Okay, all four of you can put whichever arm you want the phasenmorph on into the pool. I'd suggest the arm that you usually use to write, since that side usually has more fine control."

Walter and Shelby both got down and put their right arms into the pool, while Martin and Heath put their left arms in. After a few trips to check out the kids, the four smallest phasenmorphs of the group each selected their partner and climbed on their arm.

"Are those the beta-sevens?" Kendall asked Javyk.

"Yes." Javyk replied. "They shouldn't be in this pool. Martin, let Kendall put his arm next to yours in the water. Nobody lift their arm until either Kendall or me tells you to."

Kendall hurried over, and quickly began talking to Martin's phasenmorph with his own. As Nyo watched, he noticed that Kendall's 'morph had more red in it than any he'd ever seen before. "Javyk, out of curiosity, just how interactive is Kendall's 'morph?"

"Fully sentient." Javyk replied as he studied his display.

Kendall cut short the discussion. "Javyk, it looks like we've got a stamp of approval on this beta. They were moved into this pool by an angel matching the description of Pablito."

Javyk nodded. "I'll accept that as QC. Okay, lift your arms from the water."

"Umm, what's special about the beta-sevens?" Nyo asked nervously.

"We'll find out." Javyk replied. "Their capabilities have not been tested yet."

"I was afraid you'd say that." Nyo muttered.

"You're just still mad about the new catwalks," Kendall snickered. "We were still fine-tuning the biometric sensors. They worked just fine, you just couldn't see them sometimes once you passed the genetic checks."

"They only went invisible with you on them a dozen or two times!" Dmitry added helpfully.

More to expedite the training of the four newly-armed kids than to save Nyo's sanity, Javyk stated "We need to start training if you are quite done complaining."

"I agree," Dominic stated with a grin. "Ark, please take us to the Archnania Training Range."

A few minutes later

Sa'ren walked over to Cory as his brother was chatting with Uncle Mick, placed an mixing bowl filled with Vulcan-friendly chocolate angel delight into his hands.

"Uh, thanks Elf, but this is a bit much for me!"

Then he and Mick laughed as Sa'ren squirreled his way half on Cory's lap side ways, with his butt on the edge of the chair Cory was seated on. "It's for us both... aaaaah!" he said, opening his mouth wide for the first spoon full.

Mick was on the floor holding his ribs as he watched Cory, a loving grin on his face, alternate between spooning the gooey mixture evenly between his own mouth and Sa'ren's.

Kevin came running over, a slight blush on his face. "Sorry I'm late, Leev was helping me with some icing you missed!" he explained as he plopped down on Cory's other side and began doing a very impressive imitation of a baby bird waiting for food.

The contents of the bowl quickly vanished, the last spoonful entering Sa'ren's mouth just as the Ark crew returned with the twins and their significant others.

"Hey Cory!" Walter yelled. "Dmitry says we did lots better than you, we actually hit the targets we were aimin' for instead of targets on the other side of the galaxy!"

"Hey, I MEANT to do that!" Cory responded as he watched Dmitry try to hide behind Dominic.

"BULLCRAP!" everyone who had been there yelled in unison, causing the room to break into giggles.

"BUSTEEEED!" Kyle added with a giggle, figuring he was safe since he was cuddle-testing Karl.

"I get no respect!" Cory giggled as he gave his two lap-mates a hug. "C'mon, let's see what else the twerps got for their birthday."

Sa'ren grinned. "This was fun to watch!"

"Whatever." Cory stated with a roll of his eyes at the two giggling munchkins. They headed over to what was left of the pile, finding themselves next to Justy, Jamie, Jacob, and Beau once they found a place to stand.

"How ya doin', bros?" Cory asked the four.

"Better than when we got here." Justy replied quietly. "Liam's off with Timmy, something about getting his access to the zoo upgraded. Dean's been hijacked by Ty to help him deal with this crap, and I'm just hanging with my bros."

Cory seriously pulled Justy into a hug. "Y'all four ain't been left alone, bro," Cory explained. "We made a promise that y'all were family forever when we met ya' back in Des Moines. Nothin's changed; y'all are our brothers, and right now ALL of your brothers are makin' sure they're here for you however you need them."

Overhearing Cory, Tracy and Karl moved closer, Cody and Adrian on their shoulders. "Guys?" Tracy interrupted, "Between Kyle bouncing around in my head, and the Rat Pack doing their normal sneaky stuff, I've learned a lot of stuff today that you can't get from a computer. Things like there are Clan brothers, and there are family brothers. Before there was a headquarters in Orlando, you four were blood to Cory and Sean. The only thing that's changed is that you're blood to a lot more people now, the four of us included. Y'all ain't alone; some of us have been where you are now, and we're here for y'all whenever you're ready. Nothin' hurts like losing a parent you love; Karl and me's been through it, and we learned how to deal by helping each other. We got your back, all you gotta do is let us in, bros."

"Damn, you Cory's twin or something?" Justy asked. "You're as bad as him tryin' to help somebody who's hurtin'."

"Yep, and thanks!" Tracy grinned. "You're the reason Jamie and Jacob opened up; you better start using your head or all four of you are gonna be in the same shape they were in when the guys found them."

"Don't mind Tracy, Justy, he learned diplomacy from JJ!" Adrian giggled from Tracy's shoulders.

"No shit!" Justy replied with a small grin. "Someone get him a cushion for that sledgehammer he calls a tongue."

"Tracy's the quiet one; you should see Karl when he gets wound up!" Cody added. "He's like a cross between Cory and Timmy, with 'Tonio thrown in for fun! We got some awesome brothers!"









"stubborn?" Jamie, Jacob, and Beau asked in round-robin fashion.

"Hey, that's what got the four of y'all as my brothers, don't knock it!" Cory giggled.

Justy looked around at the group. He seemed to consider what he'd seen and heard, then stated "Thanks, bros. I ain't never had to count on someone else to help me; y'all needta' give me some proddin' I guess to remind me that I'm the one needin' help instead of givin' it."

"Dean can prod you, we'll just remind you!" Cody giggled.

"Hold his legs, Karl." Justy stated as he quickly reached over and caught Cody's hands. Seconds later, after a complex maneuver that baffled those watching, Cody was hanging between Justy and Karl, on his way to the Compound pool.

Once Justy was out of earshot, Jamie spoke up seriously. "Thanks, Tracy. He needed to hear that from somebody that wasn't there. Momma Teri's been explainin' to us that her promise from when we were found still applies, but Justy's havin' trouble thinkin' it applies to him too, no matter what Poppa Spock tells him."

"You're welcome," Tracy replied. "Y'all need to remember he's not gonna learn to deal with it until you three do too. Kyle says his feelings of responsibility towards y'all is even stronger now than it was before the battle. Kyle told me the pride of his life was how good his little twin brothers had recovered from their past lives; until you get back to where you were he's gonna feel like he failed you, even if he don't think it out loud."

Jamie, Jacob, and Beau exchanged glances, their link almost overflowing as they compared thoughts and observations. All three had raised eyebrows as Jamie replied "We missed that; so if we don't start mourning like normal people, we could lose Justy too?"

Tracy nodded. "Right now, I think if anything happened to you three, a whole bunch of your brothers would be hurt really bad. You're part of the core of the Clan, a big part, which means that y'all mean more to a lot of people than you realize."

"We know it, we just didn't think about it until you brought it up." Jacob explained. "Now that you said something, we kinda see that even though we just lost family, we ain't alone. Thanks Tracy; you just helped us figure a bunch of stuff out that we couldn't understand why it was happenin'."

"Mom would kick my butt if I didn't watch out for my little brothers." Tracy explained with a grin. "I really don't want to find out if she can catch me!"

"She can, trust me!" Cory added. "Jamie? Jacob? Beau? Does what Sean and I have been telling you make sense now?"

"Yeah," Jacob replied. "I guess we needed someone who we don't know as well to point it out."

"Don't worry," Cory responded, "I've done the same thing recently; I kinda started doubting stuff when I found out some of you guys were hiding things from me to keep me from losing my mind a while back, and now it just bit me in the ass. All of us do it, just learn from it."

"There is also another reason," Sa'ren said softly from where he stood, his arms loosely around Kevin and Levi's waists.

The three looked at him quickly, and Jamie and Jacob's eyes hardened ever so briefly. Beau cleared his throat and answered for them instead, "And that would be?"

With a small sigh, Sa'ren said, "We're all grieving the losses we suffered, some of us because of a deep pain and others because we're all close and seeing those in pain hurts us too. When you don't accept help from us then the pain we feel gets worse. We can't comfort you if you don't allow it, and it builds up worse in us all. I let others help me over losing Juan, just as Koth does. Telez accepts it over Antony's death. You three need to over your fathers..."

"Not from you," Jacob said softly, a deep pain in his eyes, a pain enhanced due to still loving his Vulcan cousin yet not being able to forgive him. At this moment Justy and Karl came back in, and Justy immediately went to his brothers at feeling the tension in the room. His eyes went a little narrow at seeing Sa'ren speaking to them.

"No... maybe not from me..." Sa'ren nodded sadly, keeping his eyes away from theirs, "but you need to, not just for yourselves but for the sake of the Clan. I'm not really Clan so you can hate me if you want. It was my order that sent Uncle Chip to his death... I have to live with that... and so will you all... but you need to let the rest help you, and..."

A hand on his shoulder made Sa'ren stop talking. From around the Vulcan and his husbands came Joshua and Rua, riding on his shoulder.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," Joshua said. Cory at first thought he was was simply quoting the Bible, but the way in which this strange Jewish boy was speaking was pointing to something far more. "The Silver Warrior did what was needed. Your father did what was needed. Now, too, you need to do what is needed."

"What? What is needed?" Justy asked, his voice soft and almost dangerous. 


Justy stiffened and Jacob was about to spit a retort, but something in the eyes of the boy before him stopped him. Instead he blurted, "How? How can we even... he killed our DAD!" he finished with a broken wail.

"No," Joshua shook his head, "he did not. Your father laid down his life for others. It was his choice."




"To every thing there is a season," Joshua broke in again, "and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak..." He trailed off, seeing the three brothers, and Beau, slowly crumple at his words, their hearts breaking into pieces. He then finished, "A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

Cory was really trying to hold back his temper. How dare this boy say this to... Joshua turned gravely to look at him, and his anger vanished as if it had never been there. Joshua turned back to regard the four on the floor, crying. "Only that which is broken can be mended. Only that which is humbled can be exaulted. Only that which forgives can receive grace. Take your cousin into your arms. Forgive him and let him love you back to the Heart of the Nexus."

Then the strange boy turned and walked from their midst, with Rua leaving a final 'cooo' that turned the simple crying into outright sobs.

With a broken hearted wail, Sa'ren flung himself from the embrace of his lovers and into the suddenly reaching arms of the terrible trio and Justy.

"You know," Tracy commented softly to Adrian, "Kyle and me make a great team making things happen with most of the puzzle pieces telling us how to do it missing."

"You've got to be the weirdest big brother anywhere!" Adrian replied seriously. "I'm glad you're mine!"

"Speaking of which, we've got a cuddle pile to join." Tracy stated as he lifted his arms to help Adrian down.

"Agreed, Wise One!" Adrian giggled.

Somehow, the rest of the room had managed to not notice the happenings around Cory and the rest of the Nexus. It wasn't that they didn't see it, it was more that it didn't even register in their brains. The only one watching was Quint, his expression not giving anything away. By the time the group recovered and rejoined the ranks of the 'noticed', the present pile was down to presents from Cory and Sean, and an odd box which defied any description of its shape from Quint.

Not really sure about the moving package, Martin and Walter attacked the two huge packages from Cory and Sean. After ripping a small hole in one of the packages and spotting the contents, they ripped the paper off in record time, exposing two gleaming purple four-wheel ATVs.

"AWESOME!" both boys screamed. "Shelby, Heath! Look, the seats are big enough to share!"

Cory and Sean suddenly found themselves pounced by not only their cousins, but also by the significant others of both boys. After a couple of minutes of thank-you torture, Martin and Walter returned to the last present, both eyeing it curiously.

The most unnerving thing about Quint's present was that it was moving. And squeaking.

Then a furry hand poked it's way out of the wrapping for a moment. It was blue, with three chubby fingers and a thumb. Another hand popped out somewhere else from the 'parcel' and it was pink. More squeaking as the hands disappeared. Then an eye appeared at each hole in the parcel. One was purple tinged while the other was green. Some dual squeaks.

"Would you care to explain this one, oh Quint?" Cory asked sweetly as his hand sought and found the Q-boy's neck.

"Hitchhikers." Quint replied, not phased by Cory's playful choke hold.

The blue hand reached out further, this time, and clearly it belonged to some furry creature. From the wrist up to the elbow, which was as far as it had reached, was thick blue fur.

"Fenlings," Quint giggled. "From a distant universe... I had to alter them a bit to get them through to here... there's no magic - loose energy, if you will - in this place..."

"SQEEEEEEE!" said the pink head of the adorable creature that burst through the top of the parcel. It was about the size of a three foot teddy-bear's head, with huge eyes with purple tints. Bright pink fur covered the head and stubby ears, but the face was smooth, short hair with a pale pink hue. The mouth was tucked neatly under the pudgy nose, much like a cats. "Squeee?"

"Squee!" said the other head, the blue one, that popped out next to the pink. "SQUEEEEE!"

Martin and Walter exchanged huge grins. "Sweeet!" both boys exclaimed as they slid across the floor to end up next to the box, their hands extended to help the little creatures out.

"The pink one is Teli, the blue is Turi. They're a mated pair, just at the top end of adolescence," Quint explained quickly. "That's what their names translate to, in any case. They love water, marshlands mostly, and eat fish, fruit, nuts and berries."

As Martin started cuddling the blue one,  Turi, the Fenling started purring into his neck.

Cory and Quint joined the pair, Cory smiling at how the twins were accepting their new friends. Quint tilted his head, then snapped his fingers. "There, now all four will understand each other, even though they can't speak each other's language. Martin, Walter? The rest of your present is still in the box."

"If it's an Eldrak," Sa'ren put in seriously, having recognized the Fenlings from some stories he had read in the Hell-Earth he had grown up on, "then I'm sending it right back... or 'unmaking it', because the rule against unmaking doesn't apply here... got it, Quint?"

Quint sighed and rolled his eyes, "No, no Eldrakyn here, bro... there are two Q games in there for them to play. Something like your Sims... only with proto-miniature-universes. And don't worry!" he added quickly, "I checked with the Doc and he's cool with these. There's no 'real' life inside, so.... here."

He went over to the now busted open box and lifted out two glowing orbs, about the size of a soccer ball each. He handed one to Martin and the other to Walter. "Part of the game is working out how to play it, so..."

"Why?" Sa'ren asked curiously.

"Why what?"

"Why are you giving... don't you dare, Quint! You will not..."

"I have no intention of..."

"Don't give me that, you'd only..."

"But I really want to find out..."

"No, tell me the..."

"Okay, okay, it's because I..."

"Then just tell them that you..."

"No! Why? I want to do it this..."

"You're a..."

"What the FUCK are you two on about?!" JJ exploded as the entire group were following this broken conversation like a game of tennis.

"This sounds fun!" Martin commented. "Look, this ones got twin suns and twelve planets already!"

"See? That's why I'm..."

"I don't care, you're not going to..."

"If I want to what can you do..."

"Don't test me, Q-boy, or..."

"IF YOU TWO FUCKING FUCKS DON'T STOP FUCKING THE FUCK AROUND I'M GONNA FUCKING SLAP YOUR FUCKING HEADS TOGETHER!" JJ raged, now pissed beyond all measure as the next game of 'verbal tennis' had made him lose his balance and fall to his ass on the floor.

"I think JJ might be getting a little bit irritated." Kyle giggled.

After a pause Kyle giggled again, "At that rant, Prez just tried seducing KC off the side of a cliff. It worked too!"

Cory was ignoring the comments by JJ and the others and was instead looking with concern at his two arguing brothers. "Are you two okay?" he asked cautiously.

Quint giggled, "Sure we are, we're...."

"... just putting on a show as..."

"... we both LOVE to hear..."

"... JJ lose his shit!" Sa'ren completed.


"See?" both now grinning boys giggled as they hugged each other in congratulation over a cunning plan well executed.

"Quint?" Martin asked as he brought his globe over, Turi riding on his shoulders, "Are the suns supposed to spin one way while the planets orbit the other?"

"It's unusual, but does happen, just look at your own solar system and you'll see odd things about.... wait... where are you?" Quint asked with surprise as he took the globe and peered into it. "Wow! Nice one! Keep it up..."

Martin blinked happily but didn't move back to his seat yet. "What do you mean about our solar system?" he asked.

"There's a few planets and moons that spin the wrong way, one planet is practically on it's side, and your sun has the least angular momentum of all the bodies in the Sol System. All it can mean is that none of the planets or moons came from the sun's accretion disc..." he stopped as he saw the lost look on Martin's face. "Your solar system was created," he finished simply.

"Oh... okay!" Martin giggled before moving back to his seat next to his twin. Turi was still on his back and now singing a song in his squeaky language.

"Hey, I've got a double one, one system on top of the other!" Walter exclaimed in glee. "It looks like a Solar System sandwich!"

Quint looked at Sa'ren was a forlorn gleam in his eyes.

"No. You. Will. Not. Make. Them. Q!" Sa'ren giggled. "I don't care if they did in minutes what took you five attempts to do!"


"He said you couldn't; he didn't say I couldn't ask a favor or two!" Mikey giggled from above their heads. "Let's see where they go with it, my Q-ish little brother, then the three of us will discuss it."

"Do I have to kick both your butts at the same time?" Sa'ren asked, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

"Oooooh! A dare!" Quint giggled, winking at Mikey.

None of the three noticed the Mikyvis contingent sitting off to the side, cookies in hand and golden halos over their heads.

"FIGHT TIME!" the Doctor yelled as he appeared behind the Mikyvis with Jay, and together they pulled the whole lot of them over and onto Mikey, Quint and Sa'ren.

To Be Continued...