Eric 382 Part 2

Chapter 12

8:30am PST - Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004 (7:30pm RST)

Colonel Justin West, with his two large gray binders in hand, along with Roberto, Brent, and the State District Attorney, Steven Wolfson, made it to the entrance of conference room one just as a huge 6'8" tall robed figure arrived from the opposite direction.

"Sir?" the low voice of the robed figure rumbled as it looked toward Brent. "I know you weren't planning on entering that room without me, right?"

"Um," Brent stalled, not really sure how to reply.

"Relax big buy, your charge will be fine," Justin reassured. "The situation is under control. Daileass has the entire room covered."

"Good, he better." The large figure rumbled back as he lowered his hood to reveal a grinning tiger-like face. "Because if it's not, I won't be happy."

Steven Wolfson couldn't stop himself from gasping as he took a step back.

Moments later, a small clanking sound could be heard from under the large tiger's robe, as the side of it jutted out a few inches near the cat's waist.

"Their you go, Jolin. A present from me to you." Daileass's voice stated from the tall cat's comm badge.

A low rumbling sound came from within Jolin's throat. "Fine, I shall be content to wait out here then, I suppose."

"At least to start with," Justin smiled. "Depending on how things go in there, Roberto might be asking you to step in."

Jolin nodded.

With that out of the way, Justin nodded toward Roberto, who then opened the conference room door and stepped inside.

"Gentlemen," Roberto called out getting everyone's attention. "Unit Special Forces Base Commander Colonel Justin West." As soon as he had finished what he had to say, Justin walked through the door followed by Brent and finally Mr. Wolfson.

"It's about time," Agent Addison began to say before he noticed the D.A. walking in. "What are you doing here, Steven? This is out of your jurisdiction."

"Good morning to you too, Alex," Mr. Wolfson replied. "As far as what I'm doing here... I'm trying to prevent you from making an ass out of yourself and causing an interstellar incident."

"Thanks, but the situation is under control, your presence is not needed." Addison replied.

"Gentlemen," Justin called out getting the adults attention as he set his binders on the table. "Mr. Wolfson is here at my invitation. I thought you guys were interested in talking with me. However, if you wish to continue to bicker like children, I have a lot of other things I can be doing."

Agent Addison glanced toward Justin. "Actually, you can run along and play, son. The adults will handle things from here. Besides, you've already delivered Brent Knocks to us. That's all we really needed you to do."

The room went quiet as everyone waited to see how Justin would respond.

Justin for his part tilted his head slightly, smiled, and spoke in a gentle, polite voice. "Agent Addison, I appreciate the offer, but please understand that as the base commander of this installation, Director Knocks, along with all the other kids here, are under my protection, so if I leave, he leaves with me. Any business you might have with him will need to go through me first."

Justin let is words linker for a few moments as he opened up one of the binders he brought in, flipped through a few pages, and then removed 4 of them. He then stepped around the table toward Agent Addison and continued to speak in a polite tone. "Secondly, the papers I'm giving you are signed statements and orders from the joint chiefs of staff of the United States Military granting me the rank of Colonel within the National Reserve Forces. As such, when addressing me, you will address me by my proper title."

Agent Addison looked at the paperwork for a few moments and shook his head as he offered it to Corporal Curry, one of the two National Guard representatives. "What do you think of this crap, Arron?"

The Corporal studied the documents intensely for several seconds before he handed them back to Addison. "Sir, I don't know how, but those all appear to be authentic."

Just as the agent appeared to be ready to protest, Justin continued. "If that's not good enough for you, I'll be happy to wait while you call the Pentagon and ask them yourself. I'm sure the Vice General wouldn't mind hearing what one of his field agents is up to."

The rise in the agent's anger level was clearly visible as he thought for a few more moments before tossing the papers in the floor. "Fine, whatever kid, then Colonel it is."

"Colonel West," Justin corrected softly.

"Colonel West," the man barked out angrily.

Justin nodded and returned to his chair. "Now that we have that dealt with, how may Clan Short be of service to you today, Agent Addison?"

As Justin waited patiently for someone to speak, Agent Bouchard leaned over to whisper into his partner's ear. "Sir, we did come here for a reason, I say we just get it dealt with, and get out of here."

"Fine, Colonel West," Addison began as he put as much contempt in Justin's name as he could muster. "We are here to take Brent Knocks into custody for questioning."

"I see," Justin replied calmly, keeping his gentle tone. "Could you tell me what crime Director Knocks has been accused of, and might I see the official paperwork for those accusations?"

Addison's eyes narrowed as he glared at Justin. "Brent Knocks has not been officially charged as of yet. However, he is a lead person-of-interest in the murder of Glenda Farthing. So just give us the kid, we'll be on our way and out of your hair, and everyone can continue their day happy."

Justin nodded and appeared to be deep in thought for a few moments. "I'm sorry Agent Addison, but I have to deny your request at this time."

"This isn't a request, and this isn't something open for debate," the agent replied.

Justin sat back in his chair and grinned. "Is that a threat Agent Addison?"

"Don't toy with me," the Agent almost shouted as he slammed his hands on the table.

"I'm in no way toying with you, sir," Justin calmly replied. "For starters, I don't see how this could possibly be considered ATF jurisdiction."

Now it was time for Agent Addison to smile. "The ATF is here at the request of the Las Vegas Police Department. Isn't that right Captain?"

Captain Rojas nodded. "The incident in question clearly occurred within the city limits of Las Vegas, and was carried on live T.V."

"Sir?" Sal Lowery whispered quietly toward his Captain. "Given their diplomatic status, this doesn't fall under our jurisdiction either."

"Shut it, Lowery," Captain Rojas shot a stern look back toward Sal. "We'll have a long talk about your insubordination when we get back to the station."

"Guys, none of this matters," Steven Wolfson jumped in. "Clan Short as a Vulcan clan has Vulcan diplomatic status, as such none of us here have any jurisdiction over them."

"No one asked for your opinion, Steven," Agent Addison shot back. "If you raise a finger to try to stop me or anyone else here, I promise you that you will never practice in the country again."

Justin looked toward the D.A. "Thanks Mr. Wolfson, I appreciate your help, but I think it would be best if I handled it from here."

Steven nodded as he leaned back in his chair, fearful as to what was about to happen.

"Agent Addison," Justin spoke drawing the attention back to him. "I can't allow you to take someone under my protection off the base. However, if you have questions for Brent, I will allow you to ask them here."

"I don't think so," Addison nearly laughed. "For starters, we would have no way to confirm that we will have the privacy we need in whatever room you were to give us."

"I didn't say anything about privacy, Agent Addison," Justin replied. "If you have questions for Brent, you can ask them right here, in front of all of us."

"Unacceptable," the agent replied. "The kid goes with us. As I said Colonel, this is not something that is open for debate. I don't know if you looked out your window or not, but we have enough firepower sitting outside your gate to take down your entire compound if necessary."

Justin sighed. "Since it seems that we have progressed from a discussion to throwing around ultimatums, I believe this meeting is over, Gentlemen," Justin said calmly from his chair. "You are all free to go now, thanks for stopping by."

Agent Addison stood up. "Yes, we will be leaving now, but Knocks comes with us. Take any action you take to try to stop us will be considered a threat, and will be dealt with accordingly."

Instead of replying back to the agent, Justin nodded toward Roberto. A moment later the door to the conference room opened, and a huge 6'8" robed figure calmly stepped in and stood behind Justin, immediately causing all eyes in the room to focus on him. Once the figure took off his hood, revealing his tiger-like features immediately all ten men stood up, nine of which drew their weapons and pointed them in the direction of Justin and the huge tiger person.

"Brent Knocks," Agent Addison called out. "Stand up and slowly walk to this side of the room, now. The rest of you, remain where you are."

Captain Rojas looked toward his Lieutenant and saw that he was the only one among them who was not armed. "Pull out your damned gun, Lowery."

"No Sir," Sal Lowery replied. "This is wrong." With that, he sat back down in his chair.

Captain Rojas shook his head and decided that he would properly deal with his Lieutenant later, but for now refocused himself on the task at hand.

Justin, for his part, remained perfectly calm in his chair as he looked out toward the adults, as did Brent and Roberto.

D.A. Wolfson was not as calm as some of the guns could easily have been said to be pointed in his direction as well. "Sir, aren't you going to pull your guns in defense?"

Justin gave a curious look toward the man. "Why? We only draw our side arms when we are threatened."

"You don't consider a group of trained men pointing guns at you, threatening?" Steven replied in disbelief.

"Not when they are missing these," Jolin's low calm voice answered as he pulled out a clear container from under his robes containing a large number of small bullets.

"Their bluffing," State Police Chief Munoz called out. "There is no way they could have gotten the bullets of all our weapons without us knowing it."

"I don't bluff," Justin replied calmly.

"You know, I think I had enough of this," Agent Addison coldly stated. "It's a real shame that you tried to resist while we were taking Knocks into custody. With that, Addison drew a bead on Justin, and squeezed the trigger.


It only took a few moments for Addison's mind to register the fact that something was not right as the hammer of his gun hit and the expected result did not occur. A moment after that, an expression of shock and surprise came across the man's face as he fully realized that his bullets really had been removed. A few moments after that, his expression changed to one of fear and concern as he tried to figure out what type of person would have the power to pull something like that off."

"Well, I think this has been a productive meeting," Justin stated cheerfully as he stood up from his desk. "Unfortunately, I now have the duty of informing all of you that you are each under arrest. Normally, this is the part where I would start listing off the numerous national and federation laws that you have each violated. However, given your positions in law enforcement, I'm pretty sure you guys already know what those are."

"You won't get away with this," Addison stated defiantly.

"I already have," Justin replied as he pressed a button on the conference table. "Daileass, please teleport the 9 men that had pulled their guns on us to holding cells, and contact Startfleet to arrange for a trash pickup."

"You can't..." Agent Addison began to shout just as he and the other eight men with him disappeared leaving only two adults remaining in the room, D.A. Steven Wolfson and Lieutenant Sal Lowery.

Sal watched with concern as Justin walked over and sat in a chair next to him.

"Mr. Lowery," Justin began. "You haven't been arrested with the others because you refused to pull your gun, even when your superior ordered you to." Justin waited a few moments until he saw the man relax a bit. "However, through what I've observed from you since you've been here, I get the feeling you haven't been completely honest with me either."

"I guess that's fair," Sal agreed as he lowered his head slightly. "It all happened so fast. The Raid last night, learning about the operation this morning, then being selected to replace Hinez, It was too good of a chance."

"A chance for what?" Justin asked. "You're not really making much sense."

Sal nodded, "You're right. I guess I should back up a little. Yesterday, you guys took a number of kids that were being held at the district four sub-station. And well, one of the twelve-year-olds you took, Eric Nash, is actually my nephew. So this was the best way I could think of to try to check in on him. Thinking about it now, it probably wasn't the best option."

Justin nodded in agreement. "You're right, it probably wasn't. Because if you would have drawn your weapon along with the others, we wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation right now."

Sal agreed.

"Well, I for one have heard enough," a familiar sounding voice stated over the conference room speakers. "I think Captain Lowery has demonstrated that he would make a great replacement for Rojas."

"Chief Young?" Sal asked with surprise as he looked around the room for the source of the voice.

Justin shot Sal a sly grin as he stood up and walked back over to his own chair. "Oh yeah, I think I might have forgotten to mention a few minor details."

"Oh hell," D.A. Wolfson replied in surprise. "You didn't do what I think you did."

Justin nodded. While our former guests were waiting, Roberto took the liberty of contacting some of the higher-ups for the LV PD, ATF, State Police, and the National Guard to arrange to allow them to listen in on our meeting as well, if they wanted to."

"So you knew the entire time what was going to happen?" Sal asked curiously.

Justin shook his head. "Not really. I had my suspicions, since all five groups involved indicated they had no active operations targeting us. However, I didn't know how things would actually play out until they did."

"I'll say this much, Colonel West," another voice stated from the speakers. "The behavior of those that were representing the Nevada State Police in no way reflected our intents or views of Clan Short. I can assure you that we will be working very closely with Starfleet to ensure those men are dealt with appropriately."

"That goes the same for the National Guard, Colonel," yet another voice replied. "In fact, I've already issued orders half way through the conference to temporarily transfer control of the troops there to you until we can sufficiently resolve this matter."

"Thanks, gentlemen, Clan Short greatly appreciates your willingness to work with us." Justin replied.

Before anyone else could say anything, several low thuds could be heard coming from outside followed by a loud explosion. Almost instantly, Daileass's voice came across the speakers. "Code red, man down. Repeat, code red, man down."

Moments after that, alert klaxons began to sound from out in the hallway.

To say that the situation outside the main compound gates was tense would be an understatement. From the moment that the group of ten individuals that represented the five different agencies were escorted into the base, the tension continued to escalate.

One event that did not go unnoticed by the ATF agents and SWAT members that were closest to the gate was how soon after the group had gone threw the gate, those kids that were initially watching the gate one by one disappeared into the small gatehouse, and walked back out a minute or two later dressed in the same full body armor that the five security members that arrived as backup were wearing.

As time went on and the preparations of those that remained outside were complete, the situation became more of a standoff.

"Sir," one of the SWAT officers called out as he approached the only SWAT Captain that had remained outside. "Snipers are all in position and waiting for the green light," he said with his back turned to the gate.

Captain Jasper nodded and whispered his response. "Tell the rest of our guys to stand ready. I've had just about all I can take of this."

As soon as the man left the captain walked over to one of the trucks and stuck his head instead to speak to two men that were sitting next to some rather sophisticated looking equipment. "Anything yet?"

One of the men shook his head. "Still nothing, Captain. Everything remains dark since they went through the gate."

"Right then, we'll use the direct approach," Captain Jasper stated as he took out his hand-held and changed it's channel. "607 to 604."

Several moments went by with no response. "607 to 604... condition 3... respond please."

After several more moments of silence, Jasper through the radio into the van and stormed toward the main gate where twelve-year-old Captain Tucker and four of the other UNIT security team members were at.

"What did you do to our guys?" Captain Jasper demanded.

Captain Tucker took a few steps toward the gate. "Excuse me?"

"Don't fuck with me kid, we've lost all contact with our guys," Captain Jasper replied.

"Oh," Captain Tucker gave a knowing smile. "You must be referring to all the listening devices and other surveillance equipment that they were wearing. Well, you see, if you look at that little sign over there that's right next to the gate they entered, you will see that one of the rules is no unregistered surveillance equipment is allowed on property, so any non-clan registered equipment any of them might have been wearing was deactivated and disabled as soon as they stepped onto property."

Captain Jasper glanced over toward the sign in question. "Who the fuck reads signs? Besides, in case you haven't noticed, we are all law enforcement agencies and those rules do not apply to us."

The boy shrugged and turned around to walk back with the rest of the security team.

"Hold it," Captain Jasper called out. "How do we contact our guys to make sure they are alright."

Tucker turned back around. "Ah, that. Well, any messages that you have for them, I will be happy to forward on to them for you."

"That's unacceptable," Jasper replied.

"Suit yourself," Tucker answered before disappearing back into the gate house causing Captain Jasper to storm back over to his men.

Once Jasper was back to the closest SWAT van, one of the ATF agents walked over. "Captain Jasper?" the man asked. "Agent Vesper."

Captain Jasper turned around and shook the man's offered hand. "Agent Vesper?"

"I'm guessing the kids gave you the same run around?" the agent asked.

Captain Jasper grimly nodded. "The little pricks think they can dick around with us."

Agent Vesper nodded. "We have some pretty strong fire power with us. My men are getting ready to storm the place if needed. I'm assuming I can count on SWAT?"

"I could easily see one of those punks panicking under pressure and going for their gun, will be a damn tragedy," the captain stated with a sly grin. "We'll be right behind you. I also have a few surprises of my own in position, if you catch my meaning."

The agent smiled and nodded as he casually walked away back to his men.

A few minutes later, Corporal Jarod Huntsman of the National Guard was making a few last minute checks of their equipment when one of his men walked up to him with a radio phone. "Sir, Sergeant Conners."

"Yes sir?" Corporal Huntsman began as he listened into the phone. "Yes sir, we're hear now... right... yes sir, Corporal Curry went in about 25 minutes ago... correct.... yes sir... I understand.... that's not a problem sir, I'll get it done.... thank you sir."

The corporal sighed once he had ended the call.

"Problems, sir?" the man who handed the corporal the radio asked.

"This whole thing is one huge problem, private," he stated as he glanced around at his men. "Specialist Green, Specialist Galloway, you two are with me."

Immediately two men in full combat gear jogged over to the corporal. Immediately, the three began walking toward the front gate. By the time the group reached it, Captain Tucker had come back outside and was standing not far behind it.

"Captain Tucker?" the corporal asked, getting the boy's attention.

"Yes? Is there something I can help you with?" the boy asked as he walked closer to the gate.

"Corporal Huntsman, National Guard. Sir, I've just been given new orders," the man began. "I've been ordered to inform you that at this time, myself and all the National Guard assets that are here under my command surrender to Clan Short and UNIT special forces. Further, I'm authorized to turn operational control of all said assets over to you until such time as a resolution to the current situation can be obtained."

Captain Tucker studied the face of Corporal Huntsman for several seconds before he nodded. "Very well Corporal. Unfortunately, on behalf of UNIT special forces, I can not accept your surrender. However, I would welcome the support and assistance of you and your assets."

Immediately, the corporal's face lit up in response to the way that Captain Tucker handled the situation. "Very good, sir."

"If would like, corporal, you can start stationing your men behind the gate and barricades. Our top priority will be to defend the entrance and ensure the safety of the kids that are here on base." Captain tucker replied.

"Right away, sir," the corporal replied. He and the two specialists with him began jogging toward the back of the motorcade where the rest of the National Guard troops were at.

As the three men jogged by, Agent Vesper and Captain Jasper shot each other cold glances.

Deputy Buckley along with several of his troopers from the state police watched as something was clearly going on with the National Guard men as they seemed to be grabbing gear and moving up to the gate.

"Private?" Buckley called out getting the attention of one of the guardsmen. He waited for him to jog over before continuing. "I don't suppose you could tell me what's going on?"

"Sir, we have new orders to help augment the UNIT special forces position," the private replied.

"Seriously?" Deputy Buckley asked as one of his troopers handed him a slip of paper. "Well, I'll be damned. We just got similar orders."

Captain Jasper of SWAT stood behind one of their vans with three other of his men as he watched a number of the National Guard troops being allowed into the gate, and then taking up defensive positions behind it.

"Damn traders," the Captain said to himself. "There is still four groups to two. They'll regret turning sides like that."

A few moments later, he literally growled as he saw one of the State Police deputies walking up toward the gate as well. "Now this has gone too far."

"Sir," one of the guys from inside the van called out. "We just got orders from Chief Young to stand down and return to the station."

"The hell we did," Captain Jasper replied as he grabbed his radio. "This is Captain Jasper to all 700s', you have the green light. I repeat, 700's are green."

A few seconds later two back to back shots were heard followed by one of the two kids in the closest tower falling thirty feet toward the ground.

In that moment, for many of the people in the area, as well as a few beyond, time seemed to flow in slow motion as several different things all happened at once.

As the sound of the first shot was heard, Captain Tucker was behind the main gate in the process of coordinating joint operational plans with Corporal Huntsman of the National Guard. Without thinking, the genetically enhanced twelve-year-old lunged forward tackling Corporal Huntsman and sending both of them to the ground as another sniper shot flew by, grazing and tearing into the back of Captain Tucker's uniform.

In tower two, eleven-year-old Gregorio Cano was in the gunnery position as twelve-year-old Micah Harvey stood a few steps away and was serving as his spotter. Both boys dropped to the floor as soon as they heard the first shot. Unfortunately, Micah was just slow enough that a bullet hit him in the arm.

In tower one, ten-year-old Jarvis Alston was still stunned from his failed attempt at grabbing for eleven-year-old Carmine Hayes, who moments earlier he had seen get hit hard in the shoulder and knocked backward out of the tower. Unlike his genetically enhanced friend, Jarvis's reflexes and reaction time was simply too slow for him to have had any chance of grabbing him.

On the ground amidst the confusion of the shots being fired, many men were ducking behind things looking for cover or dropping to the ground. A few, mainly among the members of the ATF and Vegas SWAT teams, began grabbing for their weapons.

In the air, fourteen-year-old Ned Casey was in the pilot seat of HIND Bravo, which at the time was flying in a wide patrol pattern around the front area of the Cynthitech grounds while HIND Alpha ran close patrol. Given that out of the two HIND pilots, Ned was genetically enhanced, one of the thoughts that always had been in the back of his head is that, if something went down fast, it would be him over Collin, the other pilot, that Daileass would turn to for instant reaction.

Sure enough, as soon as Ned saw the faint flash down range, and then saw one of the gunnery tower kids fly out of the tower, he could feel himself tensing up inside, knowing that something was going to happen fast. Out of instinct, he pulled the rudder hard to the left to get his HIND pointing in the general direction of the flash. His co-pilot barely had enough time to call out "Fuck!" before the lights on his lower panel began to blink, showing data was being received by the on-board computers.

Moments later, Daileass's voice came over his headset. "HIND Bravo, three sniper positions, targeting solutions on-board to missiles one, two and three, fire at your current rotation on my mark... mark, mark, mark." Without saying a word, Ned put into action an emergency contingency that had been practiced many times in the past, as he trusted in the massively huge amount of processing power the A.I. had, and in its ability to get the needed data into the targeting system fast enough that the only thing he needed to do was to make sure his reflexes were fast enough so the designated missiles were fired on mark.

Captain Jasper still held the radio in his hand as he heard and saw the initial results of his order: one of the kids fell out of a tower. His heart swelled at the chaos that quickly ensued. He would be damned if he was going to let something like this turn against them in the manner that it appeared to be going. Now, he had ensured that the situation would be dealt with one way or the other.

The Captain allowed his instincts to take hold, and ducked for cover along with everyone else around him after the first shots were heard, but already his adrenaline was pumping in anticipation. To his shock and horror, however, only moments after each of the three sniper posts had gotten their first rounds off, three swishing sounds could be heard behind him, which from his experience, he knew as the sounds of missiles being launched.

Moments later, three loud explosions could be heard, which were close enough together that they merged into one. "Impossible," he thought to himself a few seconds later as he tried to comprehend how all three of his posts could have been simultaneously identified, targeted, and taken out so quickly.

By the time the missiles went off, in addition to all the normal Vegas Police Department officers having dropped to the ground for cover, about half of the SWAT and a small handful of the ATF officers were also on the ground. Those that were still standing never noticed that several of those that were on the ground slowly began to vanish.

Before the remaining set of ATF and SWAT officers could aim and start firing at the UNIT security and National Guard men that were behind the gate, the 50 caliber on the second tower blazed to life and began laying down heavy cover fire. A few seconds later, the gun on tower one also began firing. Finally, about three seconds later, the closest HIND fired another missile which slammed directly into the SWAT van that was furthest back in line, causing it to explode in a massive ball of flames.

As if this weren't enough, as soon as they had recovered enough, the majority of the State Police that were already preparing to head toward the gate managed to get behind ATF and SWAT that were still foolish enough to have their weapons out and aimed at the gate.

In the end, less than a minute had gone by between the first sound of sniper fire and when the last ATF agent threw down his weapon and hit the ground, but the damage had already been done. In addition to Carmine having taken the first hit, and Micah having been hit in the arm, two other UNIT security kids took minor injuries.

As the dust settled, and alert klaxons could be heard going off in the background, seven men from the ATF and four from SWAT had taken their final breaths and would be leaving in body bags. Within moments of the final shot having been fired, twenty kids from the security team, and another twenty kids from two of the strike teams appeared at various positions outside the main gate and began to secure all the vehicles, equipment, and people that were still outside and alive. Agent Vesper of the ATF, Captain Jasper of SWAT, along with five other ATF and SWAT officers ended up joining the nine men who were already sitting in UNIT holding cells waiting to be transferred to Starfleet security.

Doctor Linda Green was inside the Las Vegas Division's small medical center, unpacking the last box of supplies she had brought from the Utah UNIT base when alert klaxons began to sound. 'They don't waste any time, now do they?' she remembered thinking to herself as she quickly made her way to her office that was set up across the hall.

"Code red, man down," Daileass's voice called out from one of the speakers after the loud sound of an explosion coming from outside the building could be heard.

As soon as Linda recovered from the surprise of the sound, she literally ran to her terminal. "Daileass, what's the status? How bad is it?" she asked, fearing the worst in that several of the kids had been injured somehow.

"Stand by, doctor," Daileass replied. A few seconds later, he continued. "Eleven-year-old Genesis Carmine Hayes took a deep hit to his left shoulder and was knocked out of a thirty-foot high tower. I managed to grab him in mid-fall. He's currently being held in stasis in the teleport buffer. I can send him to the surgery bed as soon as you're ready. I also have some preliminary medical scan data that I grabbed as part of the teleport process, if you would like to see it."

Linda nodded. "Yes please, Daileass. Show me the data." Another window opened up on the doctor's terminal as she began to review the information Daileass was providing her.

After spending several seconds looking at it, she began to slowly shake her head. "Daileass, this damage is too severe. We do not have the facilities or staff here to properly deal with this. Are you able to safely teleport him to Utah?"

"Of course, doctor," Daileass replied.

"Good, then that will be the plan. Inform the medical center at the Utah base of our status, and that I will need a full surgical team brought in for this."

"In work, doctor," Daileass stated.

"Are their any other injuries?" Doctor Linda asked as she got up and began to collect some supplies.

"Another boy took a hit to the arm, but it is not as severe," Daileass answered. "Hold on a moment... We have a total of three minor injuries including him."

Linda nodded. "Are any of them serious enough that the team medics would not be able to properly deal with them?"

"No, they should all be easily treatable," Daileass replied.

"Okay good, then get me to the Utah medical center," Linda stated as she grabbed one last item and then stood patiently waiting for Daileass to teleport her.

By the time Lance and Lee made it to the common room, they found most of the other kids were already there, finding places to sit on all the various couches and chairs. Among those noticeably not present were Maurice and the rest of his gang.

An unexpected visitor to the meeting was Neal, who stood patiently by one of the hallway entrances. Immediately, Lance walked over and gave him a hug. "I missed you, dad," he said lovingly.

Neal smiled warmly as he returned the smaller boy's hug. "So, how did your trip go?"

Lance pulled back and thought for a few moments. "It went well I think. We certainly learned a lot."

Neal nodded. "Good, then it sounds like it was worth it."

"Yeah, I definitely think it was worth it," Lance replied as the two then stood there for a few moments in awkward silence before Lance continued. "So, um, did you and the other adults have that meeting this morning?"

Neal replied with a grin. "We did, and you guys should be good to go with your side of things."

"Thanks," Lance replied as he looked into the room.

"You best get things started," Neal suggested.

Lance nodded and walked back toward the front of the room. He was just about to get things started when he saw two more boys walk in. "Oh great, Steve and Kenny, glad you two could make it," Lance called out, getting their attention. "Go ahead and find seats anywhere you want; we're just about to get started."

The two boys smiled and nodded as they looked for a place to sit down.

While Lance was waiting for Steve and Kenny to get seated, Forth decided to jump in. "Where's Maurice, and the other gang guys?"

"Did they come back with you?" Stan jumped in. "We miss 'em."

Although this wasn't the order he had planned on covering things in, Lance figured now was as good of a time as any to address it. "Maurice and the rest of his guys are part of a UNIT strike team now, so they are going to be hanging out over at Utah for a few days. They might stop by for a visit later this week."

Both boys nodded.

Thankful that was sufficient to satisfy the hyperactive eight-year-old, Lance decided to move forward with what he had planned. "Okay guys, I think everyone is here, so let's get this meeting started," he stated and then waited a few moments for everyone to settle down. "First off, since I'm sure a lot of you are going to be asking, the trip that myself, Brent, Eric, and Art took, went very well. We learned a whole lot of cool things, some of which we might try to teach the rest of you, if anyone is interested."

Their were a few 'cools' that murmured through the room, but for the most part, he only got head nods in response.

"Okay, first let's get the new guys out of the way," Lance began as he glanced around the room and was slightly surprised to see Ronnie there without Dominic. "Leroy, Herbert, and the rest of you guys that have joined us from the station yesterday..."

This immediately got the attention of all the new guys, which caused them to intently listen to what Lance was going to say next.

"As you guys have probably noticed, one of the nine-year-olds, Osvaldo, is not here right now. Earlier this morning, we managed to get a hold of his family, and they are willing and interested in taking him back. After two of our telepaths met with their parents, it's our opinion that they are both loving and caring parents, so he's back with them now." Lance stated as he saw a few of the kids smile.

"As for the rest of you, we are continuing to work on trying to contact your parents. Although, as I'm sure most of you already know, those that we have been able to track down really haven't been that interested in taking any of you back. That leaves us to the promise that Brent and I made each of you last night," Lance paused for a few moments to make sure he hadn't lost anyone. "You guys have had some time last night, and this morning to hang out with the rest of our group here. When we told you that we were willing to take you somewhere else if you didn't think life here would be right for you, we were not joking. So, as of this point in time, have any of you decided that you want to leave?"

Immediately, 24 heads began to shake back and forth.

"Are you kidding?" One boy called out who seemed to reflect the beliefs of the others. "This place is virtually a dream come true. No adults bossing us around and trying to abuse us, clean clothes, warm meals, soft beds, just about every opportunity we could ever hope for? There ain't no way I plan on leaving unless you guys throw me out."

Lance smiled as several of the kids nodded and voiced their agreement.

"Cool," Lance replied. "If any of you do decide you want to leave, and just don't feel comfortable saying so in front of everyone else, you can come up to Brent or myself privately and tell us. On the same note, there is also the matter of Clan membership. Since each of you have been rescued and fall under the protection of Clan Short, you also have the option of becoming full members. However, that's something you need to decide and agree to on your own. Choosing to become full members will not have any impact on your current immediate status. No matter what you choose, we will always continue to protect you, and you will be able to continue to live here for as long as you choose."

"If you guys have any specific questions about what it means to be a member of the Clan, or if you decide that's what you want to do, just let myself or Brent know, and we will make the proper arrangements."

"Do we get anything special for joining?" Neil Salas, one of the twelve-year-olds asked.

"There might be a few extra opportunities that might open up to you, but for the most part, no. For the most part, becoming a full member of the Clan is more symbolic than anything. It's basically a way for you to say you strongly agree in what the Clan is doing, how it might have helped you, and that you are interested in helping out others in a similar way."

After getting a nod from Neil, and seeing no one else with a question, Lance continued. "Okay, on to the next thing. This is more for the guys that have been around here for awhile... As you guys have seen, Clan life can move pretty quickly sometimes, and our family will probably end up growing pretty fast from time to time. As such, we are going to need to start focusing on getting some adults to help out with things around here. Now, Brent and I have already been given permission from General Casey to hire people as we saw fit. However, we both felt that the best place to start would be with our own parents."

Lance waited a few moments before he continued. "Steve and Kenny, Brent and I will be talking with you two and your parents later this morning. Matt? I know a long time ago you and your other eight brothers came to us about being able to offer your parents a job. Back then, it wasn't something we could pull off. However... do you think they would still be interested?"

Matt, Luke, and Carol, the oldest of the triple triplets, glanced toward each other.

"Probably," Matt began with a smile.

"We'll call them..." Carol continued.

"...after the meeting." Luke finished in typical triplet style.

Lance slowly shook his head at the antics of the three twelve-year-olds. "I thought you guys were suppose to be setting the example for your younger brothers?"

"What" "makes" "you" "think" "they're" "not?" the six younger brothers spoke out one after the other.

"Okay, you guys are too much," Lance said as giggles could be heard from around the room.

"Ah, Hania, perfect timing," Lance said as he saw the twelve-year-old Native American boy enter the room. "Hania, do you think you could contact your grandfather later? I think you already know that Clan Short has a pretty good working relationship with the Seminole Indians in Florida. Perhaps it's time to do the same with the Hopi."

"I shall, Lance," Hania said as he found himself a seat. "I know that Clan Short is held in a very high light by the Hopi, as the Clan's ideals very closely match ours, so I'm sure there will be a good deal of interest."

"Great," Lance replied. "If any of the rest of you have parents that you feel would work well with kids, and might be able to help out the Clan, please let me know and we can see about contacting them as well."

Several of the kids nodded in understanding.

"Okay, next on the list," Brent continued. "Eric? How's 413 doing? Any updates on him?"

"Actually yes. Avery and I were planning on grabbing one of the triple-t’s to check on him this morning, but we are pretty sure that he's going to be ready to stay awake, and start hanging out with the rest of us today."

"That's great news," Lance replied.

"What's a 413?" One of the new kids asked.

Lance slapped his forehead as he realized none of the new kids probably had a clue as to the real reason they were there in the first place. So, for the next five minutes, he gave everyone the short version of the Cynthitech history. How they were doing genetic experiments on the kids, selling them for spare parts or just for sport, and how they first met Eric and the chain of events that led to them eventually taking over the entire complex which put them in the position they were in now. He ended by explaining how the newest clone, 413, was just born three days ago as a fully grown 8-year-old, and how their were still twenty-nine other clones still in the process of being grown which they had made the commitment of watching over them until they were all able to be born, which would take about six months.

If any of the new kids weren't ready to sign aboard already, they would have after Lance had finished his quick history lesson.

"Okay guys, I think I we only have a few things left to cover, and then we can get out of here," Lance continued. "One of those would be the topic of school."

Many of the new kids deflated but then became mildly confused as they saw the apparent excitement of the rest of the kids.

Seeing their confusion, Lance smiled. "Some of you newer guys might not know this, so I'll just say that Clan school is nothing at all like the crappy public schools you might be use to. For the most part, Clan school is hands on, meaning you are actually doing the things you are interested in studying and learning about. Different parts of the school are spread out across the country.... actually, I think it's closer to being spread out around the world now."

Seeing that he had their attention, Lance continued. "For example, if any of you guys are interested in any of the musical fields, you'll probably be hanging out a lot with the Rimmers over in Hawaii, or with Russ down at headquarters."

As Lance mentioned 'rimmers', sniggers could be heard coming from around the room. "If any of you are interested in computers or electronics, you will probably be taking classes over in South Carolina at our A.I. division. Those of you are are interested in nature based areas will probably be spending time at Camp Little Eagle in Florida. The point is, as a clan, we have a lot of resources, and we are using a lot of those resources to make sure that learning is actually fun and worthwhile."

Many of the new kids were now beginning to hesitantly nod.

"I know the plan was to try to get things started yesterday, but with the way yesterday went," Lance stated as several of the kids grinned. "Anyway, I think our new plan is to try to get things rolling tomorrow. So it would be real helpful if anyone who has not taken the placement tests yet, log into your account today, and do that. That will help us best determine what levels of classes you should start at."

"Does anyone have any questions so far?" Lance asked and waited a few moments. Seeing none, he continued. "Okay, the last thing on my list deals with today. I think by now, all of you have gotten to see and meet some of the bears we have. One of the next things we will be doing is taking anyone who wants one to the Utah UNIT base to get their own bear."

"Who's allowed to get them?" Dante Davis, one of the thirteen-year-olds asked.

"The bears primarily function as protectors and companions. Although anyone who would like one is allowed to have one, generally it's the little guys that get them," Lance answered.

"Okay," Dante replied hesitantly.

Lance waited to see if the boy would say anything else. When it was clear that he wouldn't, he continued. "Okay, once we get back from the bear cave, I think we are going to need to take a field trip to the strip to do a little shopping."

"Why?" one of the kids asked.

"Are you serious?" another asked.

Lance nodded. "We have some general clothes and supplies for you guys here; however, from what we can tell, most of the new guys we picked up yesterday have basically nothing, and really haven't had anything nice to call their own in a while. So Brent and I figured it would be a cool idea to take you guys out on the town, and let you pick a few things up. Of course, the Clan will be paying for all of it, as long as it's within reason."

"What's within reason?" someone called out.

"Well," Lance thought for a few moments. "Just to give you an idea, one of the stops we will be making is to the apple store."

"Damn," "Wow," "Cool," "Awesome," were several of the comments that could be heard coming from around the room.

Lance couldn't stop himself from smiling at the truly excited looks he was seeing in the faces of a number of the new kids. For the first time, some of them were just starting to think that they might have truly found a place they could really belong to.

Before anything else could be said, a large explosion could be heard from outside which caused several of the kids to cringe. Moments later, alert klaxons started going off.

"Base wide alert," Daileass's voice came out of the speakers in the ceiling. "Base lockdown is in effect."

"What's that?" one of the younger kids asked in a worried voice.

"Base lockdown," Lance repeated as some of what he had learned on the training planet began to kick in. "That means everyone gets to somewhere safe. For us, that would be one of the common rooms of the quads, like the one we are in now."

"But why?" Another kid asked. "What was that noise?"

"Now that's a good question," Lance replied. "Daileass? Can you fill us in on what's going on?"

A few moments later, Daileass replied. "Their is a minor altercation that is going on at the front gate, but it's being dealt with pretty quickly. You guys are perfectly safe where you are at."

"Thanks, Daileass," Lance replied.

"Any time, guys," Daileass answered.

"I'm scared," one of the younger boys commented.

"Me too," another added.

"Don't worry, guys," Lance did his best to reassure. "These buildings are pretty strong. Yesterday a rocket slammed into one and it didn't leave a scratch."

Although several of the newer kids seemed to buy this, what Lance failed to mention was that the explosion he had heard a few minutes ago was a lot louder and more powerful than what had happened yesterday.

During the three years he had spent on the training planet, Haden had seen many relationships form and grow. In fact, he vividly remembered a few slightly comical times when people had gone to him thinking that because he was the recruit commander, that somehow made him an expert on relationships. But then again, people had gone to him for a lot of things that at first he never thought he would be able to handle.

Right now, however, as he held Daileass tight in his arms, things seemed to be different. He felt both weak and strong at the same time. What was that piece of advise he had given out to others? Love can sometimes do strange things to people? Well, this certainly seemed to qualify as strange he thought to himself as he continued to look out at the vest city-scape.

As Haden watched the little lights of the virtual traffic moving around, something caught his eye. If he had been the Haden that had not spent the last three years on the training planet, he might have ignored it. However, one thing that he had proven to himself time and time again is to never ignore the little things, as they usually turn out to be important. As such, he set his mind to work, trying to figure out what exactly it was that was catching his attention.

It started out subtle and difficult to see at first; but as the seconds past, it quickly became more obvious. The entire city-scape was shifting. The color of the sky, even the color of some of the tiny lights going back and forth were all starting to change in different degrees.

"Daileass?" Haden finally asked as he looked up toward the taller boy only to find that he too seemed to be distracted.

"Something's not right," Daileass replied calmly, still holding onto Haden.

"What is it? What's wrong?" Haden asked with concern.

"A small flash of light recorded in two frames of video feed 81028, and another in three frames of 81031, a sound spike being registered in two audio feeds, no... make that five, make that twelve feeds." Daileass began saying as he looked like he was seeing something far away.

"I don't understand," Haden said as he pulled away from the taller boy to get a better look at his face. "What does all that mean? What are you seeing?"

"I'm just trying to look at some real time information as it's coming in," Daileass replied. "Something is wrong, very wrong."

"Daileass, you're starting to scare me," Haden replied as he took a step back.

Daileass was torn as he looked down toward Haden. In a way, he was trying to protect him from what he was starting to piece together, because he didn't want to hurt him. However, by trying to be vague in his replies, he was still starting to hurt and scare him. He knew that Haden's mind was definitely picking up on some of the information that was flowing through the link. Even if he couldn't yet make sense of it, it was still enough to put him on edge, and Daileass wasn't helping.

It was at that point that Daileass was forced with a decision, to remain silent on everything that was starting to happen, or to tell him everything. And to that, there was only one possible answer. "Haden, I'm sorry, I did not mean to try scare you," Daileass began. "At first, I didn't want to say much because I thought that might hurt you, but I keep forgetting how much you've grown, and well. I think you deserve to know."

"Know what?" Haden asked, still with a tone of concern in his voice.

"It's the Las Vegas base," Daileass began. "Even before you guys returned back from the training planet, a situation has been developing there."

Haden nodded. "I know, Chronos told Brent and Lance about the police being at Cynthitech to arrest Brent at the beginning of our last week."

"Right," Daileass continued. "Since you guys returned, the situation has continued to escalate. About a minute before you entered my mind-scape, Colonel West had just taken nine men into custody of a group of ten men that he allowed inside to talk with him. It looked like the situation was beginning to defuse, but now... now something is wrong."

"What's wrong?" Haden asked again. "And how can things be happening while I'm in here, I thought time went super slow?"

"It does go super slow," Daileass agreed. "However, it's still moving. Call it perfect timing, or fate, I don't know, but the timing was near perfect. About 30 milliseconds after you entered, the first set of video and audio feeds started recording the first hints of what might be going wrong. Although I have everything from Vegas on high priority, there is still a time delay for the signal to be decoded, converted, and transported across the fiber channels to get them to a place that I can process and interpret them."

Had Daileass tried to explain that to anyone else besides his brothers, he would probably have lost them. With Haden having as strong of a background in electronics as he did, however, he had a very good idea as to what Daileass was trying to describe. "It sounds like you're trying to explain electron flow bottlenecks, and electronic cycle time latencies on a hardware level."

Daileass nodded. "No matter how fast my processors are, they are still restricted to the speed at which electrons and photons can move at."

"So what do you have so far?" Haden asked curiously.

Before Daileass could answer, the entire sky of the city-scape that could be seen outside the window quickly shifted to a deep red color. "Gun fire," Daileass replied. "Sniper fire."

"How? Where? Can you stop the bullet?" Haden called out.

"Haden," Daileass replied softly. "The 50 caliber bullets that are most likely being used can travel at speeds beyond 3,000 feet per second, given the lag time in the cameras transmitting to their receivers, the receivers converting, encoding, and transmitting to the on-site servers, and those servers sending the data here..."

Haden lowered his head, "He's probably already..."

Daileass walked a few steps forward to Haden and wrapped his arms around him. "Yes."

"The change in your city-scape, that's not just you, is it?" Haden asked. "That also reflects the link?"

Daileass nodded slowly. "Yes, we were seeing the first indications of the hit through the link before the first set of images that could have indicated a problem made it far enough down the pipeline for me to really analyze. I'm sorry, Haden."

Haden stood their for several long moments holding onto Daileass, feeling completely powerless. For the first time ever, he hated knowing as much as he did about electronics and the physical limitations of electronics based devices. No matter how powerful of processors you used, no matter the size of the memory you use, there are still some things that you can not get around, electrons can only travel so far in any given millisecond.

What this translated down to was that for the next several minutes in mind-scape time, all the data and information that Daileass will be getting access to will only be showing what has already happened several hundred milliseconds ago. And what was worse was that this cycle could continue, unless...

"Daileass?" Haden asked as he looked up toward his face. "Remember before I left to go to the training planet, you were able to create that 3D map in my head?"

"I remember you telling me about that, but that wasn't me that created it. That was your head that created it," Daileass replied.

"Can that happen in here, too? Can we create a 3-D map of Cynthitech?" Haden asked curiously.

Daileass shrugged. "I don't see why not. But why? What are you thinking?"

Haden once again pushed away from Daileass before he looked toward the center of the room. "There's a war going on right now, and I want to see the battlefield," he replied seriously.

"Haden, this isn't the training planet, this isn't a simulation, people can and most likely will get hurt or killed," Daileass tried to explain without sounding to harsh.

"I know," Haden answered solemnly, "We have already had one casualty."

"Haden..." Daileass continued before Haden cut him off.

"I need to do something, Daileass," Haden nearly shouted before his words turned more into pleads. "I can't just sit here while my friends get hurt."

Daileass nodded in understanding. Not only had he heard Haden's words, but he could also feel both the frustration and the helplessness inside of him. Although he wasn't sure what, if anything, Haden would be able to pull off that he wouldn't be able to do himself, he couldn't come up with any valid reasons to not let him try.

"Okay, Haden," Daileass replied with as much compassion as he could. "Let's see what we can come up with."

The next thing that Haden knew, the center of the room became a large circular holographic display showing a 3-D representation of the Las Vegas base. It looked vary similar to the holo-tables that Haden had used a few times on the training planet, only the size was two to three times larger, and the base of the image came out from the floor instead of from a table.

"Wicked," Haden commented as he walked over toward the image. One of the first things he noticed was that in addition to the area being larger, the resolution was considerably higher as could see small details right down to individual shrubs.

"Oh yea," Daileass smiled as he watched to look on Haden's face. "I think that's one of the things about the mind-scape that I might have forgot to mention. We can pretty much build or create anything you want here. It's literally only restricted to your imagination."

"Really? I think I'm starting to like this place even more than I already did," Haden stated as he began to look at the display. Near the main entrance leading into the Cynthitech parking lots, he could see a line of parked vehicles that extended off of the map.

"Back in the early days of the link, my brothers and I would use this a lot when we were helping with planning out operations or solving other issues," Daileass commented.

"In the early days?" Haden asked looking up from the display. "You don't anymore?"

Daileass shook his head. "Not really, we've found that taking the time to create physical constructs actually began to slow us down. Well, maybe not slow us down as much as we found more efficient ways of doing things."

"Oh," Haden replied absently as he continued to look at the map. "You mentioned video feeds earlier, can you show on here where the camera points are at?"

"Sure," Daileass replied as several small green circles appeared at different locations on the map.

"Okay," Haden continued to talk as he walked through things in his head at the same time. "We know sniper shots are being fired, but I'm guessing you were not able to track any sniper nests being setup ahead of time?"

"Actually, we found two," Daileass corrected as two red sniper nest icons appeared on the map. "One that was about 2,000 feet from the gate over here, and another about 3,000 feet over there. However, the shot was not fired from either of those two locations."

Haden nodded. "So, there has to be a third location that got missed."

"Oh fuck," Daileass stated as his eyes went distant for a few moments. After that, one of the two marked sniper nests began to blink. "Initial data that I'm getting in suggests that a shot is also being fired from that nest as well."

"Crap," Haden replied in frustration. "Their has to be something we can do here."

Daileass shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry Haden, I don't think there is anything we can do to prevent them from getting first shots out. The delay time is too long."

"Perhaps not first shots, but maybe second shots," Haden replied.

Daileass nodded as he thought about how parents and teachers would often talk about wanting to pass on knowledge to their kids by simply telling them, but how more often than not, they would usually have to go through the actions themselves to really learn. In this situation, although he was well aware of the limits and restrictions of his response times, and the relationship between mental-scape time and real-time, and although he tried to explain that to Haden, this was probably going to be one of those times that Haden would have to learn that lesson himself.

Even as he thought this, however, a small part of him still held on to the optimism that Haden had. What if Haden could somehow come up with something that he had missed? What if he could think of a new solution. How many times in the past had he and his brothers done the same thing? How many times have they come up with solutions to problems that most others would have called impossible?

"Is there a way to super-impose the video feed frames that showed the flashpoints onto the map?" Haden asked, pulling Daileass out of his thoughts.

Daileass nodded as three video images appeared. "The angle and zoom of the camera is encoded in each frame, so that shouldn't be an issue. Oh, nice. I see what you're trying to do. You're taking a similar approach that my triangulation routines would normally take, but with the real time data instead."

Haden looked up and grinned. For the next several minutes he and Daileass working on manipulating image positions as Daileass walked Haden through the many ways that he could interact and manipulate the 3-D interface. By the time the two had finished, they had the exact muzzle exit point of the third sniper nailed down to a few inches.

Haden stood back and looked at the results of their work with a smile. Daileass, on the other hand, still shook his head. "We did good with the triangulation, the problem is we still don't have the positioning close enough for me to do a teleport, and it would take a few hundred milliseconds for me to get a camera shot in place to do that."

"Maybe that's a good thing?" Haden asked.

Daileass looked toward Haden curiously. "Why do you say that?"

Haden shrugged. "One of the things that we learned during training is that sometimes a message needs to be sent."

Daileass hated to admit it, but it was possible that Haden was onto something with his more simplistic point of view. Lately, he had been trying to focus on safety and being as pro-active as possible, even going to the point of teleporting bullets out of guns as he had done a short while earlier. But perhaps Haden was right, perhaps always being pro-active on something can lead to people continuing to make the same mistakes as they are always stopped from seeing just how bad things can turn out if they were allowed to make them.

Just as Daileass was thinking through this, he gained access to a newly arrived piece of data. The speed and impact location that the first sniper bullet had hit its target in one of the towers in such a way that the kid was going to be knocked completely out of the tower. 'Damn it,' Daileass thought to himself as he sent commands to three of the front gate cameras so that with any luck, they will be able to focus on a position that the kid will fall past so he could teleport him out before he hit the ground.

"I think I agree with you, Haden." Daileass replied. "I think this is one of those times that we do need to let a message get sent."

Brent stood in shocked silence as he, Justin, and Roberto watched the main monitor in the conference room showing the aftermath of what was happening out front. Lieutenant Sal Lowery of the Vegas P.D. along with D.A. Steven Wolfson were standing a few steps behind them. Jolin was quietly standing near the door of the room, behind all of them.

Justin was in the process of receiving a report from Captain Tucker. "Beyond that," the captain continued, "I think things are pretty much contained."

Justin stood silent for several moments after the Captain finished. "Very good, Captain Tucker," he said finally. "Although you told me there were five injuries and so far you've only told me about four."

"Well, sir," Captain Tucker's voice came over the speakers somewhat hesitantly. "It's nothing big, but I got grazed by one of the sniper rounds as well on my back armor plating while I was taking Corporal Huntsman to the ground."

Justin tilted his head slightly. "Copy that, Captain. You're saying they took a shot at the senior National Guard officer that was out there as well?"

"That's how it looked, sir," Captain Tucker confirmed. "It's possible that I was targeted and he missed terribly, but it's also possible that it was not appreciated that he had turned operational control of his troops over to us."

Justin sighed. "Okay, thanks Captain. Now, with that out of the way, I assume you will be turning things over to your XO and heading to medical as well to get that looked at, even if you feel it's only a graze, it's best to be safe than sorry."

"Aye, sir," Captain Tucker replied with a small degree of disappointment in his voice. "Will do that now. Tucker out."

The room remained silent for a few minutes after the comm channel had closed as the group continued to look at the various video feeds that were coming in from the front. Finally, it was D.A. Wolfson who broke the silence.

"Colonel West? Director Knocks?" the man began. "I know this probably goes without saying, but I would just like you to know that the state will be launching a full investigation into what happened this morning. I assure you that those responsible will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Justin turned his head slowly to glare at the D.A. for a few moments before turning back toward the screen. "I appreciate the sentiment, Mr. Wolfson," Justin began with as calm of a voice as he could pull off. "However, those directly responsible will be turned over to Starfleet once UNIT intelligence is done with them. You will have to forgive me, but after this morning and yesterday afternoon, my faith in planet-side law enforcement is not that high right now."

"I can understand your doubts, but I wouldn't let a few bad apples cloud your view of the system. When you get down to it, it's still a good system." The D.A. replied.

Justin had tried to remain calm since he knew that Mr. Wolfson himself was not at fault for what happened. However, the way the D.A. was looking at things had rubbed him the wrong way, so he spun around and replied a little harsher than he otherwise might have liked. "A good system? How can you stand there and say that with a straight face?" Justin asked. "How is it that not one or two but five different agencies show up at the doorstep of a Vulcan embassy this morning fully geared and armed without you or anyone else in the state knowing about it until they had already left?"

Steven looked like he was about to answer, but Justin continued before he had a chance. "How is it, that places like the District 4 sub-station could go unnoticed so long by the state that kids rot away, or worse, get killed, in the care of that station just because of their sexual orientation? It's not because you didn't know, because we've found numerous reports that have been sent to the D.A. over the last two years about that station, which had been placed as 'low priority'. And I'm sure that if we looked good and hard, that wouldn't be the only place this has been happening."

At this point, the D.A.'s expression went from a defensive to a shocked look, yet Justin continued. "Now, maybe it's just budget and funding issues, maybe you really don't have the man power to accomplish what the D.A.'s office exists for, I don't know. But you will need to forgive me I've my view of local, state, and national law enforcement is not as rosy as yours. Especially when this is the second major run in we have had with those who are supposedly meant to protect kids, and enforce the law over the last two days."

The D.A. remained silent for several seconds before he replied. "When you put it that way, I guess I don't really have any room to talk."

Justin sighed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wolfson. I know you personally have nothing to do with this, and that you came here this morning wanting to help. It's just a little frustrating at times to see who is on the other side of the fence. I hope now, you can see why Clan Short has to take as strong of measures as we do to keep those under our protection safe."

Steven Wolfson nodded. "Actually, I do understand. I know there is no reason for you to believe me when I say this, but I plan on personally making sure something like this never happens again."

Justin turned around to face the D.A. "I believe that you would like to do that. But to be honest, I'm not sure what you will be able to accomplish from working within the system that you are bound under. However, I wish you the best of luck at it."

"Thanks," Wolfson replied. "Now, not to cut short our meeting. But from the looks of things, you are going to have your hands full for awhile, and I think I'm going to have a lot to do as well today. So, if it's already, I believe I will take my leave now."

Justin nodded. "Roberto, would you see Mr. Wolfson out, and then meet me back at C.I.C.?"

Roberto nodded and motioned toward the door. Moments later the two had left leaving only Justin, Brent, Sal, and Jolin.

"So, what happens now?" Sal asked after several more moments of silence.

Before he replied, Justin spent several more long moments watching the monitor. Finally, he pressed a button on the table that turned the monitor off before he turned to Sal. "Now? Well, I guess you are probably interested in getting to meet you nephew, right?"

Sal agreed. "That would be nice, but given the current situation, I would easily understand if now was not the best time."

"I should probably get over to the quads before Lance get's too worried about me," Brent offered.

Justin quickly glanced toward Brent. "That works. Actually, if you are going over there, could you have someone bring Eric Nash over? We will probably move over to conference room 5."

Brent nodded as both he and Justin saw Sal's eye's light up at the mention of the boy's name. "Will do."

As soon as Brent and Jolin left, Justin turned his full attention to the only other person left in the room. "Before he get's over here, I think there are a few things you and I should probably talk about."

"Okay," Sal replied as he followed Justin out of the room. A few seconds after everyone was gone, the lights in the room automatically turned off.

"Are you sure it's over?" Dwight asked no one in particular as he cuddled close into the arms of Leroy.

Lance looked around the common room at the rest of the still mostly-scared kids. "Guys, Daileass has already given the all clear about 5 minutes ago, and we haven't heard a sound since. I think it's safe to say it's over."

"If Daileass says it's over, you can bet it's over," Glen, one of the eight-year-old clone kids said with self-assurance as he hugged on his bear.

"Relax, guys. It's over," Brent stated with certainty as he entered the room. Lance's eyes immediately lit up as he all but rushed toward the door to embrace his boyfriend in a warm loving hug.

"Is everything alright? We got a bit worried when the alarms started to go off," Lance asked in Brent's ear.

"It's alright now," Brent replied as he gave Lance a loving kiss on the lips which caused several of the younger kids to start oooo'ing.

When the kiss broke, Brent turned around to face the rest of the room. "What are you guys all still doing in here?" Brent asked jokingly. "It's a beautiful day outside."

"We were having a meeting," one of the kids answered seriously.

"Then we heard the loud crashing noise," another added.

"It wasn't crashing, it was explosions," a third kid corrected.

Brent grinned at all the kids enthusiasm. "Okay, first off. Is there an Eric Nash here?"

A few moments later, a light ash-brown haired twelve-year-old with indigo blue eyes hesitantly raised his hand. "Here, I'm Eric Nash."

"Do you know someone named Sal Lowery?" Brent asked.

Eric nodded, "He's my uncle."

"Okay," Brent continued. "Well, he's here at the compound. If you're interested, you can go see him."

Eric hesitated for a few moments. "Is he mad at me?"

Brent shook his head. "I don't think so. He seemed more worried than anything." As soon as Brent saw the boy was interested he looked toward one of the older triplets. "Matt, would you mind taking Eric to conference room five in the admin building?"

Scanning Brent's surface thoughts, and thus getting a better idea of what Brent was looking for, Matt nodded. "I can do that. Come'on Eric."

Brent waited for a few moments until the two boys had a chance to start walking down the hallway toward the exit. "Okay, here's where we are at. I think Lance already mentioned what we were wanting to do this morning, right?" Brent waited a few moments until he saw several of the kids nodding their heads. "Great, so first off, any of you guys that joined us yesterday that would like to get bears, come on up to the front of the room and we'll head over to the UNIT base. Those that are staying behind, if you haven't started your placement tests, this would be a good time to do it, otherwise you can just hang out around the quad."

As a few of the younger kids began to stand up and walk to the front, Brent continued. "As soon as we get back, then anyone who is interested in doing a little shopping we will head over to the strip."

"What will we do after shopping?" One of the boys asked.

Brent looked toward Lance and saw that he was just as clueless. "We'll come up with something when we get back. Maybe we can hit the pool, and get some of your swim tests out of the way or something."

Several of the kids seemed to be in strong agreement with the pool idea, as six of the younger kids were now standing up front.

Leroy handed Dwight off to Herbert, who then made his way up front as well. As they did this, Leroy walked over to Brent. "Um, what's the procedure for making suggestions around here?"

"Huh?" Brent asked slightly off guard. "There are no procedures. Anyone who wants to can always make a suggestion."

Leroy smiled as he liked the sound of that. "Okay, in that case, I know I'm new and all, but since there are so many other new kids here, one of the things I've seen work pretty good is having a picnic or cook-out or something so everyone could get to know each other better. Maybe like a fish fry or something."

"A fish fry sounds yummy, I like that idea," Lance commented as he walked closer to Brent. "Oh, and Leroy was also helping Lee out a bunch this morning with keeping things organized before we got back."

"Nice job on that, Leroy," Brent replied. "And I also think a fish fry picnic sounds like a great idea." He then raised his voice a little so the entire room could here. "Hey guys, would any of you be interested if we were to have a fish-fry picnic for lunch today?"

The response was immediate. All around the room, kids began to cheer.

"Okay, then a fish fry after shopping it is," Brent grinned.

Leroy smiled as well. "Oh, and about earlier, it was really nothing. I just saw something that needed to be done, so I offered to help out."

"It wasn't nothing," Brent replied seriously. "There are not a lot of guys that would do that."

Leroy nodded and smiled. Noticing another boy walking up to talk to Brent, he made his way over to where Herbert was standing with Dwight.

"Excuse me," an ash-blond haired thirteen-year-old boy asked, catching Brent's attention as well. "Lance said earlier that you didn't have to be a little kid to be able to get a bear?"

Brent looked deep into the boy's hard hazel eyes. He could not only see the seriousness of the boy's question, but also the intense fear of rejection that Brent was only too familiar with. After a few moments, Brent nodded. "Yeah. Anyone who is willing to take proper care and watch out for them can get one. Would you like to come with us... Jackson?"

Slightly surprised that Brent knew his name, Jackson Pham's eyes lit up. "Yes, please," he replied hesitantly.

"Okay, then just wait over there with the others, and we will leave in a few minutes," Brent replied. As he watched the boy make his way over to the others, he spotted Steve and Kenny looking a little lost as they stood in the back of the room. "Hey Lance, would you like to go with Steve and Kenny to talk with Herman and their parents while I take this guys to Utah?"

Lance looked toward the two brothers, then to the group excited younger kids waiting to get bears before he turned back to Brent. "I don't know, you sure you can control that group?"

"I think I'll manage," Brent grinned back.

"Okay, if you're sure," Lance teased as he walked away and motioned for Steve and Kenny to join him.

'Hey Brent?' Daileass sent to him mentally. 'If you could also bring Cooper and Ben along I think Dwight and Aron would appreciate their company. Also it will allow a minor issue with their bears to be addressed while they are there.'

'Sure thing,' Brent mentally sent back as he spotted the two boys in question huddled together with a bunch of the other cyclones. "Hey, Cooper and Ben?" Brent called out getting their attention.

Immediately both boys rushed up to Brent. "Yes?"

"Would either of you be interested in coming along with the rest of us to get bears?" Brent asked already knowing what the answer would be.

As expected, both boys began bobbing their heads up and down before they quickly called for their bears to join them in the group.

Almost immediately, Dwight began squirming in Herbert's arms to be let down so that he could go stand next to Cooper and Ben along with Aron. All four boys, along with Brownie and Fozzy, were quickly becoming the center of attention among all the younger kids.

"Okay, is everyone ready?" Brent asked, getting the younger kids attention. Seeing their eager nods, Brent tapped his comm badge. "Hey Daileass? I think we have a group of guys here who are interested in meeting some new friends."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Daileass replied back. "Off we go!" Within a blink of an eye, the entire group at the front of the room was gone.

Although sixteen-year-old Steve and twelve-year-old Kenny Myers remained silent through most of the meeting, they did so for completely different reasons.

In Steve's case, he was still very much lost in his thoughts in regards to the events over the last day. Before last night, it had been Steve vs. the world. And now, it seemed that the world had turned upside down, and suddenly everyone was ready to believe him. Although he was glad to see things turn in this direction, in some ways he was afraid that this might all be a dream from which he would wake up at any moment. The saying 'all that glitters is not gold' kept playing through his head.

Kenny, on the other hand, had remained quiet because he had been busy observing and feeling. For awhile now, he had been partially aware that he was able to easily relate to, and even sometimes help shape the feelings and emotions of others. After having his chat with Tyler last night, a lot of things had set in place for him. As such, most of the meeting he had spent just sitting there letting the feelings and emotions of all the other kids in the room flow through him. Some of the feelings he got made little sense to him, as some of the kids in the room seemed to be a lot younger than they actually were, while other kids appeared to be a lot older. But for the most part, the emotions he picked up were much... brighter... than how he would feel in places such as at his school.

Both boys were slightly surprised when, after the meeting had been over for a few minutes, they saw Lance motioning to them.

"Hey guys," Lance began when the Steve and Kenny approached him. "How did the meeting go for you two? Either of you have any questions?"

Steve shook his head. "Nah, I'm cool."

Kenny shook his head as well. "Yeah, I'm good too... although..."

"Although what?" Lance asked edging Kenny on.

Kenny shrugged. "Everyone here feels... interesting."

"Interesting, how?" Lance replied.

"I don't really know how to explain it. Tyler helped me understand a few things about myself last night, and I'm still trying to make sense of some of it," Kenny replied. "But I think I like it here."

"Oh, trust me. I know how anything that Kyle or Tyler might tell you can take a few days to really make sense," Lance grinned as he thoughtfully nodded his head. "Anyway, if you two are up to it, I figured we could run by your house to pick up your parents, and then see how Herman is doing."

Steve enthusiastically bobbed his head, perhaps a bit more energetically than he would have preferred.

"That sounds good," Kenny agreed.

"Hey Daileass?" Lance politely called out.

"Yes?" Daileass replied. "No, wait... don't tell me... let me guess..." Before Lance had a chance to reply, he along with Steve and Kenny, were teleported out of the quad's common room.

When Evan walked back into the dorm room that had been assigned to Haden and himself, he was completely nude other than the towel that was draped around his neck.

"Wow, the showers here are unreal. Nothing at all like the ones at Camp Casey," Evan commented before he saw Haden sitting on one of the beds with his lap-top on. Although Haden's face was partially hidden as the younger boy looked down at the screen, from the parts that he could see, something was definitely wrong.

"Hade? Everything okay?" Evan asked more seriously as he walked closer to him.

"There was an attack... back home... in Vegas," Haden replied as he looked up at his brother. "A few kids got hurt... one got hurt really bad."

"Didn't we get attacked yesterday, I think it was?" Evan asked after taking a few moments to think back to the events that, from his perspective, happened three years ago. "Were they by the same people again?"

Haden shook his head. "A bunch of police officers, and legal agencies."

"The people that Chronos warned Brent and Lance about during the last week of training?" Evan asked as he sat down next to his brother to see the video playback he was watching on his screen.

Haden nodded. "Yeah, I think so. And now... well, we don't know if Carmine is going to survive or not. Daileass is holding him in his buffers and they are getting ready for an emergency surgery."

"That sounds pretty bad," Evan agreed. "But you know it's not going to help anything by stewing over it."

Haden shrugged.

"He's right, you know, Haden?" Daileass jumped in. "Actually, I think I know just what you need right now."

"What?" Haden asked as he looked toward the camera on the computer terminal.

"Well, I don't think I can really describe it for you," Daileass replied. "However, if you would be willing to meet Will and Billy over on the South side of the Palace, I'm sure they would be more than happy to show you."

"What do you say?" Evan asked. "Wanna check it out?"

Haden shrugged as he logged off the Laptop. "Sure."

Once he had the laptop off and back on in it's docking station, Haden and Evan made their way to the door.

"Um, Evan?" Daileass called out before they left the room.

"Yes?" Evan asked as he looked back toward the computer.

"Um, I know you look cute and all, but given how cold it is outside, you might want to get dressed first."

"Oh," Evan replied when he glanced down as both he and Haden both began to blush bright red.

Captain Corey Tucker sat in the waiting room along with Chief Warrant Officer Micah Harvey, not far from the entrance to operating room 4-C, where preparations to receive and begin operating on Carmine Hayes were nearly complete. Both boys sat there waiting patiently for any news of how things were progressing.

As Doctor Linda Green made her way down the hall from one of the consultation rooms toward operating room 4-C, she immediately spotted both boys. "Captain Tucker, Officer Harvey," She began as she made eye contact with each boy. "Is there another problem I wasn't aware of?"

Corey shook his head. "No ma'ma. Colonel West ordered us to get Micah's hand looked at, as well as my back."

"Neither of those were that serious. You could have had one of the aids check them out in Vegas," Dr. Green replied before she saw the looks on both of the boy's faces. "I get it, you're worried about Carmine, aren't you?"

Captain Tucker gave a slight nod. "I've never lost anyone, or had someone hurt this badly under my command before."

Linda gave a small, compassionate smile. "Well, he's not gone yet. However, I won't lie to you. Even though Carmine is Genesis, according to Daileass's data, the shot he took completely shattered his shoulder blade. We won't know how extensive the damage really is until we can get a closer look at him, but it's not going to be pretty."

Both boys nodded.

"As long as Colonel West knows you two are here, I don't mind you waiting, but it may take awhile," Dr. Green continued.

"Thanks," Captain Tucker replied.

Giving the two boys a final understanding nod, the doctor continued to make her way toward the operating room. As she walked in, and quickly scrubbed up, she could see the 5 person surgery team already assembled and making the final preparations to support what was undoubtedly going to be a long next several hours.

"Is everything ready?" She asked as she took her place on the side of the currently empty operating table. Seeing nods from the others she turned her attention to a large flat-screen monitor a few feet away from the foot of the bed that had a rough outline of Carmine's skeleton along with red highlighted areas showing possible points of concern. The largest of which, engulfed nearly all of the left shoulder and upper arm.

"Daileass, stand by to teleport on my mark," the doctor stated. "Also, keep in mind people, Carmine was caught by Daileass in mid-fall. So, expect an appropriate autonomic reaction."

"Ready, Doctor." Daileass's voice replied.

After getting a final set of nods from her team, Dr. Linda nodded as well. "Daileass? Now."

Moments later, Carmine's eleven-year-old body appeared perfectly positioned in the center of the operating table. Almost instantly, blood splattered and his body violently jerked up as his muscles registered the fact that they were no longer falling. Moments after that, Doctor Linda and the rest of the assembled team went to work.

Justin opened the door to Conference Room 5 for Sal Lowery to step in. This room was considerably smaller than the last conference room. There was a small round table, but only enough space for five chairs to sit around it. Other than a small view screen mounted on the opposite wall, the room was empty.

"Thank you," Sal stated at the courtesy of the sixteen-year-old.

"It's my pleasure," Justin replied as he walked over to the table and took a seat behind it, motioning to a chair on the other side of it for Sal to sit in. Once the man did, Justin began. "First off, as I said, there are a few things that I think you should be aware of before Eric arrives. I'm guessing you already have some general knowledge of our Clan, so please don't feel that I'm trying to insult your intelligence or anything by what I'm about to say, it's more standard material we need to make sure gets covered."

Sal nodded understandingly. "Actually, I would be a little concerned if you didn't."

Justin gave a small smile before he continued. "First off, although he may be your nephew, he is currently considered a Ward of the Clan. As such, we place his rights and desires first above all else. That means that if at any point during this visit, he begins to feel uncomfortable around you, or in any other way indicates he wants the visit to be over, that is the point in which it will end."

Sal agreed. "I can't think of any reason he would feel that way, but that's a perfectly understandable approach to take."

"I'm not saying we are aware of any particular reasons this will occur, I'm just covering..." Justin's statement was cut off before he could finish by the door to the room flying open, and a small three foot tall, white furry child-like creature standing there.

"Hi Justin!" The high-pitched voice of the creature excitedly called out as he waved. At the same time, Sal sat there in shock. He could have swore he noticed several ferret-like characteristics to the child.

"Oh hell!" Justin called out as he instinctively began to grab for his sidearm. "How did you get in here, and what do you want?"

The creature looked down at the gun, grinned, and said "Silly Justin! Maybe we can play later, but right now we need to get intromaducicated! They call me the Shiner! But since you're not them, you can call me Alex. I am here to help spread word of the shiny, and to enlighten everyone here about the glories of the Shiny. I am also here to cordially invite you to that wonderfully wet adventure known as Paradise Landing, and to humbly request your permission to maintain a presence here in order to better connect with those of the Clan of the Short, and to establish better relations."

Justin tilted his head as he looked intensely at the small creature, as if trying to determine if he should take him seriously or not. "Um, Alex?" Justin began. "Thanks for the offer, but I think we're fine."

Alex looked up at Justin, a little confused. "Do you not like water parks? Does it get your fur all soaked so you can not be all sneaky like and everyone can hear you and you can no longer properly serve the will of the Shiny?"

"What?" Justin asked as he scrunched his face up. "Daileass! How in the world did one of these insane ferret hybrids get past security?"

"Sorry Justin, but if I have to deal with them, that means you get to deal with them as well," Daileass's childish voice giggled from the speakers in the ceiling.

Justin slapped his forehead and sighed. Moments later, he looked back toward the white-furred ferret. "First of all, just in case you haven't been paying attention, I don't have fur, I have skin," Justin continued. "Second of all, I have no issues with water parks. I just have an issues with going to any water park that has insane ferrets running around it."

Alex pouted a bit, then pointed to Justin's arm. "Just because you do not have as much fur as me does not give me the right to discriminate against you. And wouldn't a water park run by ferrets be the bestest, because you know they would not cut in line or steal your spot because they would not want to get wet, and instead while you get to enjoy your time they get to focus on making sure everything runs smoothly? And how do you even know the ferrets there will be insane! Have you checked them out yourself? I think you are letting yourself be ruled by your preconceptions!"

Sal looked toward Justin in disbelief as Justin slowly shook his head muttering, "this is not happening, this is not happening." A few moments later he looked up to see Alex still smiling at him. "Daileass, can't you teleport him to... I don't know, the middle of the ocean or something?"

"Justin, I'm shocked!" Daileass replied through the speakers. "That would be beyond mean. I think I'll just pretend I didn't hear you just say that."

Justin sighed. "Okay look, Alex, I don't know if you've been paying attention or not, but we've had a lot of stuff happen this morning, and I'm really busy right now. I don't have time to go to your water park. However, there are a bunch of quads not far from here with a bunch of other kids in them. I think they might even be having a meeting right now. Maybe you can get some of the to want to go to your water park."

"YAY! Thanks for all your help Justin! I understand your busiosity and forgive you for your preconceptions. I will try to bring you back some water." Alex nodded enthusiastically, then dashed off towards the quads with Justin calling behind him

"That's...." Justin began to say before he realized that the ferret was already gone.

"That looks like a..." Sal slowly began to say.

"Welcome to the Clan," Justin nodded understandably before he became more serious. "Daileass, I think it's time to initiate protection level ferret for the base."

"Sorry Justin," Daileass replied immediately. "But this base is no where close to being secure enough to initiate that protection level."

Justin sighed. "Was worth a try."

Moments after Brent and the rest of his group appeared in the hallway in the Utah UNIT base, Cooper and Ben seemed to immediately recognize where they were at. A few feet away were two large arch-shaped brown doors.

"Oh wow!" Ben cheered. "Those are the doors that lead into the den!"

"Yeah, we were just here two days ago," Cooper jumped in. "This is where all the bears who haven't found kids of their own yet, live and wait for a kid to come and adopt them."

"Really?" one of the other kids asked.

"Are they friendly Bears?" Dwight asked.

Suddenly, Ben and Cooper became the center of attention among all the younger kids as they quickly began to relate everything they could remember about their prior trip. They included all the most exciting details of their visit, including those about Jory and his cool bear Kaboom.

Just as they were finishing, a twelve-year-old boy with dark blond hair came down the hall toward the group. The boy was wearing one of the standard UNIT military uniforms. "Sorry I'm late guys," he said as he made his way through the group and toward the door. "My name is First Lieutenant Dennis Hayes, I'll be guiding you guys into the cave today."

"Where's Jory?" Ben called out.

"And Kaboom?" Cooper added.

Dennis looked toward the two boys and the two bears standing next to them. "I guess you two have been hear before, haven't you?"

"Yup! We were here two days ago," Ben stated.

"That's what I thought," Dennis smiled. "Well, Jory is off on an important mission right now, and couldn't make it. However, Kaboom is waiting for us inside."

"Cool," Both younger boys chimed.

With that issue being resolved, Dennis began to get into the same introduction speech that Jory had given when Cooper and Ben where here. Shortly after that, he lead them into the cave where everyone gasped at all the different bears that were sitting on the sides of the room.

It didn't take long for Dennis to gather all the kids around the small stage in the center of the room where he and Kaboom did their little demonstration to show just how protective the bears could be. As far as Cooper and Ben were concerned, however, Jory did a much better job at it.

After the demonstration was over, all the kids were set loose to start visiting the various stations around the room where they could find which bears they liked best.

As this was going on, Cooper and Ben were walking around the room looking at the different stations when both of their bears took off running to the other side of the room.

"Brownie! Come back," Cooper called out as he tried to run after his bear, only to get caught up in a second group of kids who were also here to look for bears.

"Fozzy, where'd ya go?" Ben cried as he followed Cooper.

Once they finally made it to the other side of the room, they were both shocked and disappointed to discover no sign of either bear anywhere.

"Hello Cooper. Hello Ben," a voice called out from behind the two boys.

"Kaboom!" Cooper called out with surprise as he and Ben turned around to face the voice. Standing on each side of the bear were both Fozzy and Brownie.

"You found our bears?" Ben asked hopefully.

"Actually, they found me," Kaboom replied. "I think there are a few things that we need to talk about."

"Like what?" Cooper asked as both he and Ben got concerned looks on their faces.

Kaboom looked at both boys with a serious expression, or at least as serious of an expression that a bear could have. "Do you remember when you were here two days ago, how it was explained to you that all of us bears are special bears. And how you need to treat us the same as any other real person?"

Both boys nodded.

"And how the bear that you bond with will need you to look after it, just as much as it will be able to look after you?" Kaboom continued.

Again, both boys nodded.

"Okay, now do you remember earlier this morning, when there were some strangers at your base, and you were told that you needed to stay away from them?" Kaboom asked.

This time, the boys nodded a little more slowly, as they were each starting to see where this was going.

"And then you tried to have your bears go to them instead?" Kaboom questioned.

"But they wouldn't tell us what was going on," Cooper protested.

Kaboom shook his head. "That doesn't matter. You wouldn't go off on your own to the men, would you?"

"No," Ben replied, "We would get in trouble."

"Exactly," Kaboom agreed. "So why would you try to send your bears? Were you trying to get them in trouble?"

Cooper and Ben looked at each other, neither boy seeming to have an answer. "I guess that was a bad idea," Cooper finally admitted.

"Don't feel that down on yourself, Cooper. You are learning just like every other little boy, and sometimes you will make mistakes," Kaboom stated in a reassuring tone. "But when we make mistakes, it's important that we are able to understand why they were mistakes, so that we can learn from them."

"Do they..." Ben began. "Does Fozzy hate me now?"

As if to answer his question, Fozzy quickly walked over and did his best to wrap his paws around Ben as Brownie did the same to Cooper.

"They both still love you," Kaboom replied. "They just wanted to make sure that you knew that how you treated them earlier was wrong."

"Cool," Cooper replied as he hugged his bear.

"I'm sorry for trying to get you in trouble earlier," Ben told Fozzy.

"It's okay, Ben," Fozzy replied. "We can learn what's right and wrong together."

With the situation resolved, and seeing that Cooper and Ben were totally focused on their bears, Kaboom turned and walked away to look for the next kid that needed help.

Lance, Kenny, and Steve appeared in the Meyers living room. Unfortunately, there was no sign of their mother or father anywhere.

"Mom? Dad? We're home," Kenny called out.

"In here," Samantha's voice called out from the kitchen.

As soon as the boys stepped through the kitchen door, Mr. Meyers gasped. "I'm pretty sure that when you left earlier, there were only two of you. Now I see three?"

"Desmond?" Samantha scolded. "That's the fine young lad we met last night. Lance, is it?"

"Yes, Mrs. Meyers," Lance replied politely.

"Oh, please. Call me Samantha," Steven and Kenny's mother replied as she put a freshly brewed pitcher of tea into the fridge.

"Is there anything wrong?" Desmond asked.

Lance shook his head. "Nope. I just figured we could go pick up Herman if you are all still up to it, and then have that talk that was mentioned last night."

"Absolutely," Samantha commented. "We are both still interested in having Herman stay with us."

"Great," Lance smiled. "We can either talk about stuff now, or after we pick up Herman."

Desmond got up from the kitchen table and walked over to his wife. "Herman will be a part of our family now, so I think it would only be right to have it after we pick him up."

"I was hoping you would say that," Lance grinned. "Okay guys, everyone gather around and we'll be off."

Once everyone was ready, Lance asked Daileass to teleport them. Within moments the Meyer's kitchen was replaced with the insides of a small office. Sitting behind the desk was a thirteen-year-old boy wearing a white lab coat who was in the process of spilling hot chocolate over himself.

"Daileass!" Gil called out.

"Sorry Doc," Daileass replied. "I was just trying to save time in the Meyers having to track you down. Here, let me help you with that."

Gill's cocoa stained lab coat shimmered for a few moments, and the stain vanished.

"Wow, I need whatever stain remover can do that to a coat," Samantha gasped. "It would be every mother's dream."

Gill patted his coat down. "Actually, Daileass didn't clean it, he just swapped it with another one, because he forgot my pen."

"Oops," Daileass replied as a pen appeared in Gil's front pocket.

Lance was doing his best to not burst out laughing. "I hope you don't plan on doing this to us as well, Daileass."

"Nah," Daileass quickly replied. "I usually wait a few days for new divisions to settle in first."

"Oh great," Lance sighed. This time it was Steve and Kenny's turn to giggle.

"Actually, I just do this type of stuff to people that I know deserve it," Daileass added.

"We'll talk about that later," Doctor Gil replied as he got up from his desk to shake Mr. and Mrs. Meyers hands. "Anyway, I bet you guys are interested in picking up one of my patients."

"If he's ready to go," Samantha commented.

"I think he is," Gil replied as he led the group out of his office and down the hall. "I ran another full scan on him earlier this morning, and I think he's good to go. You'll just need to keep an eye on him for a few days."

"Why's that?" Desmond asked.

Gil looked toward Mr. Meyers as the group turned a corner. "Well, the detox got all the alcohol out of his system, and should take care of any chemical dependencies. But there is still going to be that physical and psychological habit."

To Gil's relief, both Desmond and Samantha nodded in understanding. This turned out good, as he was not looking forward to having to say what he was about to in front of Kenny and Steve.

As the group walked into Herman's room, they found the sixty-two-year-old man already dressed and out of bed, crouched down, looking behind one of the tables.

"Herman!" Both Kenny and Steve called out, only to be silenced by the man putting a finger to his month.

"Gremlins," the man whispered as he went back to looking.

"Gremlins?" the others asked.

Herman nodded as he looked behind a chair. "Back during the war, the little buggers would get in the engines of our planes and do all kinds of nasty stuff to them."

"And you think they were here?" Kenny asked.

"I know it," Herman informed. "Just this morning before that kind young lad brought me some biscuits and gravy, I heard this voice in the air talking to him."

Immediately, Gil slapped his head. "Daileass, did you let this poor guy think you were gremlins."

"Maybe," Daileass replied.

"There it is!" Herman gasped as he spun around.

"That's not a Gremlin," Kenny smiled, "That's just Daileass. He's a nice computer... well... most of the time he's nice. Although after seeing what he did to you and Doctor Gil, I'm not so sure now."

"Hey," Daileass replied with a tone of hurt.

"We do joke around sometimes," Gil replied in Daileass's defense. "But it's all in good fun. In my case, I might have deserved that from a prank I pulled on Daileass yesterday."

Kenny nodded in understanding.

"Well, It looks like Herman is all dressed and ready to go. So you guys are free to leave as soon as you are ready," Gil added.

"Thanks," Lance replied. "Do you mind if we stay for a few more minutes? We have a few things we need to talk about before we leave."

"Sure, Take your time. I need to do my rounds, but you can call me if you need anything," Gil stated. After getting nods from Lance and the others, he left the room and closed the door behind him.

After a few moments of silence and all eyes turning toward Lance, he began his speech. "Okay guys, first thing first... Steve... Kenny... Before I ask this, please remember that it's alright to not have an answer yet, as it's not my intention to try to rush you." Once he got nods from both boys he continued. "Have either of you decided yet if you would like to become official members of Clan Short?"

Immediately both boys nodded. "Yes," Kenny replied with his older brother replying right after him. "Definitely."

"I have one question though," Kenny hesitantly spoke. "I noticed most of the kids live right there on the compound. Will we need to live there too, or will we stay at our house?"

Lance smiled as he could not have hoped for a better question. "That will be up what you and your parents decide. It will also probably depend on the answers that your parents give to my next questions."

"How so?" Mr. Meyers asked curiously.

"Well," Lance began. "I know you were planning on trying to re-model your garage as a guest room for Herman to stay in. If that remains your plans, I think I know a few people who might be able to help you out with that. However, I also have another offer I would like both of you to consider. Before yesterday, we had a group of around 30... well... rather unique kids that we have been looking after. Given what happened yesterday, that is now up to about 60. So right now, the kid to adult ratio is pretty low."

After making sure the two adults were following him, he continued. "A lot of what it means to be Clan Short is about kids being independent, and being able to do things on our own. However, there are still some really important elements that are essential to kids growing up that only kind, caring adults can provide. I think each of you have more than demonstrated that you fit the bill for that. So, I would like each of you to consider also becoming part of Clan Short, as a clan parent."

Both Desmond and Samantha looked shocked.

"After what we put our kids through the last three years?" Samantha replied.

Lance shook his head. "No, after you were able to recognize and learn from your mistake after it was pointed out to you. And after you were still willing to demonstrate how much love you still have to give to both of your sons. Not many adults are willing to admit their mistakes, let alone, go out of their way to make things right, as you have."

"That's a very nice thought," Samantha replied. "But with... with how the economy is right now and all."

"Desmond, you are a certified bus and tractor trailer mechanic, right?" Lance asked.

"Yes," Desmond hesitantly replied.

"And during your military service, you worked on tanks, right?" Lance continued.

Desmond nodded. "Tanks and heavy transports."

"Perfect," Lance smiled. "If it's something you are interested, the UNIT is always looking for skilled mechanics. I can pretty much assure you that you would be paid at least two times more than you were getting paid now, and it would be a lot better work environment."

"You might be good, but I would find it hard to believe that you are 'that' good," Desmond replied skeptically.

"Everything that Lance has told you so far is true," Daileass replied. A moment after that, a small stack of papers appeared in Desmond's hands. "This is a copy of the employment contract. All you need to do is read and sign it, and the job is yours."

"I... I don't know what to say," Desmond replied in disbelief.

"Keep in mind, that's only if you want to continue in that line of work. As a clan parent, you can also get paid for helping with any number of other things, including just being a care giver, and offering your love to the kids." Lance stated before he turned toward Desmond's wife. "And for you Mrs. Meyers... erm... Samantha... We could also use a good Florist, which I've heard you are one of the best, or you could choose to just focus as a mom."

Samantha looked at her husband, and they both nodded. "I don't really know what to say," She replied.

"You could start by saying yes, mom," Kenny said as he looked up toward his parents.

Samantha nodded. "Yes, definitely."

"Yes," both boys cheered.

"I understand," Herman stated sadly, "I'll be on my way then."

"I think you might have misunderstood me, Mr. Kemp," Lance stated, catching Herman's attention. "The offer to become a clan parent is to you as well."

"Me?" Herman asked with surprise.

"Yup," Lance answered. "Just because you are older does not mean you don't have a lot to offer to the younger generation. I know a lot of kids who would soak up some of your stories and experiences like a sponge. And if you ever get tired sharing your experiences, we have a really nice garden that could always use some extra hands."

"I love gardening," Herman replied softly. "I use to have one before... before... a long time ago."

Lance nodded and smiled. "So can I assume that's a yes?"

"Please say yes," Kenny stated as he looked into the eyes of the older man. Although he didn't say anything, Steve was pleading with his eyes as well.

"Well, damn. If you are serious about wanting an old man like me around, then sure," Herman replied.

Again, both boys cheered.

"Great, now with that out of the way, we can get to the part about housing," Lance continued. "If you would like to continue to live in your current house, that is fine, and the clan will help with the remodeling. Another option that you can consider is to live on our compound, in a town house that we will build for you."

"That's a very kind offer," Samantha replied. "However, the house we are in now was Desmond's parents, and we have a lot of history there, so I think we would like to continue to stay there."

Lance nodded understandably, "I don't think there will be a problem with that at all. You're just a teleport away. Speaking of that, I have one final thing. First, Mr. Meyers could you give Steve his comm badge back?"

Desmond has a slight look of surprise on his face as he took out the small round comm badge and handed it to his older son.

"Thanks," Lance continued as he pulled three more comm badges out of his pocket. "The reason I asked you to give that one back is that each of you now have your own comm badges. This will always keep you in constant contact with your sons, or anyone else in the clan."

"Thank you," Desmond replied.

"You don't know how much we appreciate this," Samantha added.

"Actually, it's us that need to be thanking you," Lance smiled back. "But enough of this. That's about all I had to cover. So if you are up for it, I would like to take you, your Husband, and Herman to meet Neal, Rick, and some of our other adults. Then I need to get Kenny and Steve back for a clan shopping trip."

All three adults nodded in agreement.

"Oh yeah, any questions before we leave?" Lance grinned. Seeing that no one had any questions, he smiled and tapped his comm badge. Before he had a chance to say anything, the group was gone, leaving behind an empty hospital room.

As Haden and Evan made their way across the courtyard to get to the south side of the palace, they were surprised at just how many people were still out and about. Even though it was pitch dark out, between the normal lights of the palace, and the flood lights that had been erected by the UNIT, the palace grounds were almost as light as they would have been during the day.

"I wonder why Daileass was being so secretive?" Haden thought out loud as they reached the corner of the palace. As they got closer, Haden could hear a strange whirling whining sound which reminded him of an airplane engine, only a lot lower. When he finally made it around the corner, Haden stopped dead in his tracks.

Haden's first thought was that they might have been Starfleet shuttles. But he quickly realized that the eleven or twelve small oddly shaped vessels looked nothing like any shuttle design he had even seen before. To start with, they had long cylinder-like fuselage running down the center which fanned out slightly near the back which lead into some type of powerful looking engines, while the front ended in a semi-transparent dome-shaped area. The entire cylinder was then seated in a tear-shaped set of wings which started out wide near the back of the ship, but ended in sharp points near the front.

As he walked closer to the nearest one, he could see what looked like several panels through the semi-transparent glass. From the layout, it almost looked like the pilot would have to be laying on his stomach to access them all. Also near the front of the ship, sticking out from triangular-like housings were several long cylinder barrels which he could also imagine were some type of gun. Two of them were on the top of the wings, and two more were set further back on the underside. Given the housing of the guns, Haden assumed they must have been some type of energy based weapons since there didn't seem to be any easy way to load or store ammunition.

As Haden was inspecting the smaller ship, Evan's eyes were caught on the three larger ships that loomed in the background. Two of them had to at least be the size of a C-130 cargo plane while the third was even larger. All three of them were of odd designs which again looked nothing at all any Starfleet design he had ever seen. They might have been Vulcan ships, but again, the design did not really match.

"They're called Humming Birds," a young teen's voice called out from behind them, causing both Haden and Evan to quickly spin around. Standing a few feet away from them, they saw a platinum blond haired boy wearing a UNIT flight suit who was perhaps an inch or two taller than Evan.

"I'm Will, by the way. Will Casey," the boy said warmly as he held out a hand toward Haden. "And I'm guessing you must be Haden and Evan."

Haden looked at Will and was just about to shake his hand when the two golden star's on the boy's collar caught his eye which caused Haden and then Evan to immediately snap to attention and salute. Not only was the boy in front of them a General, but the two stars made him a Two-Star General.

"Aw, damn guys," Will said as he quickly returned the salute to get the two to stop. "I'm off duty right now, so we don't need to do all that saluting crap. Besides, you guys are family."

"Huh?" Haden replied curiously as he sized up the boy in front of him, trying to place him. He did seem to look familiar somehow, but he wasn't sure from where.

"Adam and Daileass are both my brothers. And, from what I've heard, you and Daileass seem to be taking a liking to each other, so that makes you a part of the family as well," Will replied toward Haden, which caused the smaller boy to start to blush.

Will's comment hit Haden hard. He knew he cared a lot about Daileass, more so than he seemed to really be able to care about others. He also knew that Daileass was somehow related to Adam. However, before now, it never really hit him that this would make him part of their family.

Will stood there with a shit-eating grin on his face. 'That's what ya get for doing the whole saluting thing,' he thought to himself. However, when he saw just how lost in thought Haden was, he decided to not make him suffer any more than needed. "Hey, if you guys want to follow me for a bit, I'll get you a real close up view of these babies."

"Sure," Haden and Evan both replied as they followed Will along the side of the palace to where a large make-shift hanger had been setup. As they walked inside, they saw another one of the Humming Bird ships, only this one had a number of panels and other parts of it removed, showing a much better view of some of it's internal components.

"Hard to believe that these babies can go faster than Mach 4, isn't it?" Will said as he took a moment to admire the partially disassembled craft.

"Wow, that's amazing," Evan commented.

Will looked toward Evan and shook his head. "Nah, the real amazing part is that the Eyryadain pilots hardly ever took them past Mach 2. Just think of it... all that power just going to waste."

"That's because we never had those fancy dampener thingies you guys are installing," a tall black haired teen replied. Although the boy looked human, Haden couldn't place his ethnics.

"You guys would have eventually got it," Will smiled toward the taller teen. "By the way, Haden, Evan, I'd like you to meet Bragstine, he's one of the main tech guys in the Eyryadain Navy who's been helping us out with the retrofits."

"You're not Human?" Haden asked as he shook the teens hand.

"No, but it would seem our races share an exterior resemblance," Bragstine replied.

"Haden is that electronics engineer I told you about," Will stated. "If you thought I was good, just wait till you see some of the stuff this little guy can do."

"Me?" Haden squeaked. "But... but... I'm not really that good... I don't know anything at all about Eyryadain technology... unless... it happens to be the same as our tech?"

"Don't even try it, kido. I've already heard about all the stuff you've done, especially some of those stunts you pulled at Camp Casey," Will grinned as he walked over and wrapped an arm around Haden, causing the smaller boy to tense up. "As far as the tech goes, it's a bio-chemical neuroptical based system, but I'm sure you'll pick it up pretty quickly."

"Bio-chemical neuroptics?" Haden asked in a mix of emotions between apprehension and intrigue.

"Yup," Will replied as he let go of Haden and walked over to one of the work benches. "The fundamentals are very similar. Instead of working with electron cycle times traveling down conductive metallic channels, you're working with charged ions and neural pulses shooting down bio-chemical based spindle chains and semi-organic pathways."

Everyone around, including Evan, couldn't stop themselves from sniggering at the look that came across Haden's face as he somehow managed to perfectly reflect pure terror and extreme excitement at the same exact time.

"Well good, maybe one of you two could help figure out what's wrong with this cross-link panel," another boy said as he walked over holding a one foot by two foot panel that had a faint yellow glow to it along with several fiber-optic looking strands dangling down from one side. "I connected the interface couplings just like all the others, but the feed forward process won't re-initialize."

Haden watched the green-eyed, sandy-blond haired twelve-year-old walk over to Will and hand him the panel. Will, for his part, spent a few moments looking at it from a few different angles.

"Looks like you have all the connections correct, Bill," Will commented as he stretched his neck and gave the boy a quick kiss. "However, I think this will be a great first task to help Haden get his feet wet in Eyryadain tech. That is... if you're interested?"

"Sure!" Haden replied excitedly before he realized just what he was agreeing to. "But, I still don't know anything about this bio-chemical stuff."

"No problem," Will replied with a grin as he picked up a flexible piece of plastic off the table and handed it to Haden. "Just use this. I'm sure you'll catch on fast."

Haden took the flexible piece of plastic and looked at it curiously. It was about the size of half sheet of paper, roughly 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches. It's thickness was about half that of a credit card as it felt very much like a slightly less flexible piece of plastic transparency. The plastic was completely black, other than a red ornately decorated symbol in the center which resembled a triangle inside of a square. "What do I do with this?" Haden finally asked, as he couldn't figure out what Will was looking for.

Bill and Bragstine sniggered as Will did his best to not start laughing. "Well, you could start by turning it over."

Haden's eyes went wide as he turned the piece of plastic over, as what he saw shocked him. The entire surface of the plastic had some type of very elaborate computer user interface printed on it which resembled something like one might see on a PDA device, only better. The pictured interface was split into four different areas. The largest of the areas contained written text, the area directly under it had several small circles which could easily be seen as a type of keyboard. The other two smaller areas each had different bars and graphs in them with unknown meanings. Although this all looked cool, what really surprised Haden was the fact that it wasn't a picture at all, but that some of the bars and symbols on it were occasionally changing and shifting. "How..." was the only word Haden managed to get out.

"The Eyryadain word for it roughly translates as 'thin-sheet'," Will began. "It's their version of a lap-top computer. It's based on the same bio-chemical neuroptical technology as the hardware in their ships, only on a sub-atomic level and making use of genetic memory storage allowing them to hold massive amounts of data."

Haden was still unable to say anything as Haden continued to stand there, staring at the Thin-Sheet in awe while Will continued. Usually, they are slaved to a hub-system, like this one is slaved to a hub point in one of the carriers, but they can also function in isolated, stand-alone mode, and can usually run for weeks without needing to be recharged."

"The other cool thing about them is that you don't have to worry about bending them, or spilling anything on them," Bill added which caused Will to slowly shake his head.

Haden continued to be spell-bound to what he was looking at. "Just how much storage do these things have?"

Will shrugged. "Genetic Random Access Memory, or GRAM, works a bit differently than the way our computer memory works, or even the isolinear chips Starfleet uses. It has a lot of redundancies and RAID-like behaviors built into it at a hardware level. But my best guess is that each Thin-Sheet can probably hold a few thousand terabytes of unique data."

"Wow," Haden replied as the fear slowly slipped away from his expression, leaving only the excitement and curiosity of a child on Christmas morning.

"You should be able to use that for any reference materials you might need on the Humming Birds or Robins. Most of it is already translated to English. If you find anything that's not translated yet, just let me or one of the other guys around here know, and we can show you how to use the real-time translator function to convert it," Will continued.

As much as Will enjoyed flying his planes and helicopters, or keeping his electrical engineering skills sharp, what he and the rest of his brothers enjoyed doing the most of all was being able to make the lives of others a little brighter. Daileass had shared some of what Haden had been through both this evening and over the last three years, with him. So now, it pleased Will to no end that he was able to help Haden find something to take his mind off the rest of the stresses around him, even if it was only for a little while.

Will could see in Haden's eyes that he was wanting to start playing with the Thin-Sheet, but was still trying to figure out how to use it. "It works just like a touch screen. You can interact with the main area directly, or as you will see when you navigate around, the input area is a smart area that will re-configure it's buttons to best fit the functionality of what your using. If you press that simple in the corner twice, it will always take you back to the main entry point."

Haden nodded as he let his fingers get to work. The text in the main area looked interesting, but what he needed to do first was get himself familiar with the interface. "A few thousand terabytes?" Haden thought to himself as he entered full 'geek-mode' and the rest of the world slowly disappeared from around him.

Just under an hour after they started, Doctor Linda Green was making the final seal to Carmine's shoulder. Whether it was the fact that the eleven-year-old was a genetically enhanced genesis kid, or out of sheer luck, the damage was not as extensive as it could have been.

Most of the shoulder had to be rebuild and replaced, but the actual fracture points were clean enough that with the help of Star-Fleet's rapid prototyping modeling, they were able to craft a replacement for the missing sections.

"Alright, I believe that does it," Doctor Green smiled as she looked over Carmine's vitals one final time. "Good job everyone."

The other doctors and nurses around the table nodded as they all walked away to start getting cleaned up while other nurses came in to take Carmine to a room where he could rest.

As soon as Linda was cleaned up, she made her way out to the waiting room where two very nervous boys were patiently sitting and waiting. As soon as the saw her, they both stood up with hope filled eyes.

"Any news?" Corey Tucker asked.

"Yes," the doctor smiled. "It seems that you have one stubborn eleven-year-old under your command, Captain. He had to have a portion of his left shoulder replaced, as we feared. Beyond that, things went far better than expected. He's in a recovery room in stable condition."

"Oh, thank god," The older boy sighed with relief.

"His body has been through a pretty big shock, so I don't want to risk putting him on a bio-bed just yet. But in a few hours when he's able to wake up on his own, We'll get him on a bio-bed to finish repairing any small issues that may still be lingering.

"That sounds good to me. May we see him?" The Captain asked.

"As long as you promise to be quiet, and let him wake up on his own, you may see him and stay with him as long as you would like," the doctor replied.

With both boys quickly nodding in agreement, Doctor Green motioned for them to follow her down the hall, toward the room that Carmine was staying in.

Matt walked next to Eric Nash as they entered the administration building and walked down the hall toward conference room five. It didn't take an empath to tell that Eric was getting more nervous with each step.

"You know, Eric, you don't have to meet with him if you don't want to," Matt offered as they walked.

"Yeah," Eric nodded. "But he's been nice to me in the past. It's just..."

"You're worried he won't accept you?" Matt asked as they stopped walking.

"It's that obvious, huh?" Eric asked, feeling slightly embarrassed.

"A little," Matt agreed. "But it also helps that I'm a telepath."

Immediately Eric became concerned.

"Whoa, it's cool dude," Matt replied quickly. "If you haven't figured it out yet, having feelings like you do is normal around here."

Eric nodded.

"I can't tell you if your uncle is going to accept you or not," Matt continued. "But I think that's one of the reasons that Brent wanted me to come with you. I'll be able to tell pretty quickly if he'll really accept you for who you are or not."

"If he can't?" Eric asked.

"Then you won't have to see him again, and he won't be able to have any contact with you," Matt stated.

Eric nodded in understanding. "And if he can?"

"I'm pretty sure Justin will cover this, but if he can, then more options open up for both of you," Magg replied. Seeing Eric nodding again, he continued. "You ready for this?"

"I think so," Eric said as he straightened himself up.

As the door to the conference room opened, Justin was just finishing his chat with Captain Sal Lowery as they both turned to look toward the door.

Matt walked in first and stood behind Justin. When Eric walked in, there were a few moments when Sal and Eric stared at each other.

Finally, Sal began to stand up. "Eric, are you alright?" Seeing an immediate reaction from the twelve-year-old, he stopped. "What's wrong?"

Eric shook his head.

"Eric has some concerns," Matt began, pulling both Sal's and Justin's attention. "Would you like to tell him, Eric, or should I?"

Eric thought for a few moments before he looked toward the ground, speaking softly. "You can."

Looking first toward his nephew and then back toward the boy who was standing behind Colonel West, Sal waited patiently for an explanation.

"As you know," Matt began. "Eric was one of the kids that were rescued by the clan from the police sub-station yesterday following a telepathic scan to confirm that they did not deserve to be there."

"Right," Sal nodded.

With another quick glance toward Eric to make sure he was still okay with what he was about to say, Matt continued. "What you might not know is the reason he was there in the first place. In short, his former father had him arrested with the false accusation that Eric was violently acting out and that he feared for his safety. This was done as a direct response to Eric coming out to him that he felt he might be bi."

Seeing that Sal didn't seem to catch the reference, Matt made things a bit clearer for him. "That he felt he might like guys in addition to girls."

Sal looked at Eric in disbelief. "Gordon did that?"

Eric gave a slight nod.

"Oh god, Eric. I'm so sorry," Sal replied, still slightly shocked. "Why didn't you call me?"

"He said everyone in my family choose to disown me, and that you hated me, and would make sure my time in juvie was hell.

"That's not true!" Sal angrily protested, causing Eric to back up. "I'm sorry Eric, I'm not mad at you, I'm just outraged at your father for having said that."

"So... You're not mad at me?" Eric asked hesitantly.

Sal shook his head. "Oh god, Eric. No I'm not. I would never be mad at you for how you feel. Only you can decide what your true feelings are."

Colonel West glanced behind him at Matt, who smiled and nodded in response. By the time he turned back around, Eric and Sal were embraced in a loving hug. Sitting back in his chair, he smiled peacefully as he loved it when things worked out like this.

After a few minutes had gone by, the hug finally broke. "Can I assume that Gordon will no longer have any custody over Eric?" Sal asked.

Justin pulled out a small hand-held PADD and typed in a few commands. Moments later, he nodded. "Given that Gordon Nash is currently sitting in a federation holding cell, I think that's a fairly safe assumption."

"Good," Sal nodded. "This is probably an unusual request, but what would the chances be of me being able to assume legal custody of Eric?"

"You would do that?" Eric asked with surprise.

"If it's allowed," Sal replied. "Absolutely."

"Well, the final decision would be Brent's, since he is the division director. Believe it or not, I'm just responsible for the Military side of things here. But knowing what I know about him and the rest of the clan, and since it seems that it is what Eric wants as well, I would guess there is a pretty high chance of that being able to happen."

"That's great," Sal smiled.

"There are, however, a few other possibilities that you two might want to consider," Justin continued.

"Like what?" Both Eric and Sal asked.

"It's funny you should ask," Justin smiled.

Fourteen-year-old Miles Fuller appeared several yards away from the entrance of Las Vegas Police Sub-Station 4's main entrance. As he walked up to the building, he could see several construction workers working on replacing the entire front door frame of the building. Stepping inside the building, he saw even more workers who were busy repairing other parts of the large entrance room.

"Daileass?" the boy asked as he tapped his comm badge. "Are you sure this is the right place?"

"Sure am," Daileass replied.

"Can I help you, sir?" A man wearing a Star-Fleet security uniform asked from behind what use to be the front desk.

Miles nodded as he walked up toward the man. "My name is Lieutenant Miles Fuller. I was asked to report here by Fredrick White."

The man looked down at one of his several sheets of paper and nodded. "Yes sir, if you'll walk down that hall over there and take your first left, you should find him in the large room at the end."

"Thanks," Miles replied as he followed the man's instructions. As he walked, he looked around and tried to guess at what could have caused so much damage.

"Hey, Miles!" A voice called out from behind Miles, causing him to turn and see Fredrick White's son, Ryan calling to him."

"Ryan, what are you doing here?" Miles asked curiously, "Don't tell me that JJ got bored and decided to pay this place a visit?"

"Nah, It looks like the guys from the Vegas division of the clan are aspiring to follow in JJ's footsteps," Twelve-year-old Ryan giggled as he looked up toward the taller boy. "Dad and pop have been asked to help get things back on track here."

"Damn, what did they do, take out all the officers here?" Miles asked.

Ryan shook his head. "Nah, only about two-thirds."

"Ouch," Miles replied. "There is no way they can man the station with only 1/3 staff. Guess that's why Star-Fleet is here?"

"Yeah, partly," Ryan admitted. "That's also why you're here."

"Me?" Miles asked curiously.

Ryan nodded. You have the police rank of Lieutenant, right?"

"Yeah, but that's just in junior corps," Miles replied.

"But you've been helping my dad and pop out with the station, you know how to do all the various kinds of paperwork, and you have several hundred hours of patrol time in, right?" Ryan asked.

Miles nodded.

"And you have already taken all the police training courses that the clan has to offer, right?"

"I guess," Miles agreed.

"Ryan?" A man called out from behind them. "Are you trying to take my job over again?"

"Sorry dad," Ryan smiled as Fredrick White walked over and shook Miles hand. "Thanks for coming out here, Miles."

"It's not a problem, sir," Miles replied politely.

"Well, to pick up where my son left off. Not only have you taken all the basic and advance courses on police work and criminal justice that the clan has to offer, but you've also aced them all." Fredrick stated as Ryan nodded in agreement.

Moments later, the sound of glass breaking could be heard coming from somewhere down the hall. "I got it, dad," Ryan called out as he ran out of the room. Before he left, he quickly looked back in toward Miles, "Catch ya later, man."

"Yeah, I guess," Miles replied, as he shook his head in regards to Ryan's antics.

"Well, I would say that more than qualifies you for the job, wouldn't you say?" Fredrick grinned.

"What job?" Miles asked.

"The job of full Lieutenant in the Las Vegas police force, to be assigned to Sub-Station Four," Fredrick replied.

Miles swallowed hard. "I know the clan has no problems with us kids being equals to adults. But a civilian police force?"

"Why not?" Fredrick replied with a grin. "Besides, this is a juvenile transfer station. I think it would be appropriate to have a few juveniles on the force, don't you?"

"Yeah," Miles agreed.

"Great, then you start right away," Fredrick grinned.

"Huh, what? I didn't say yes yet." Miles gawked.

"You just did," Fredrick grinned as he made his way out of the room. "Consider yourself hired and transferred."

Miles sighed as he watched Fredrick leave the room. He wasn't sure if he would ever get use to how fast this clan moved. But one thing was for sure, taking this new position was going to be a huge up-hill challenge. It was a good thing that he really liked challenges.