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Fourteen-year-old Kary Kincaid scowled his best menacing look at his stepfather Grissom. Instead of going home, they were heading back to their hotel, since the attacks on Earth had grounded all commercial flights. So, now their 'vacation' was extended indefinitely, or at least it seemed that way. Spotting the movement of Grissom's hands, for the millionth time on this trip Kary growled "You touch Alfie and I swear you'll never touch anyone ever again!"
"I'm really tired of your shit!" Grissom spat as the taxi stopped once again for traffic. "In fact, I think I'm done with you! Enjoy Chicago, brat; I was getting tired of you anyway." With that, Grissom reached over Kary, popped open the door, and shoved him out into the stopped traffic.
The next thing Kary knew, he was bouncing off the fender of the car next to them, with the sound of Alfie tearfully screaming his name being drowned out by Grissom yelling at the taxi driver to get moving. As the taxi pulled away, Kary staggered to his feet; blindly weaving towards the nearby fountain that he could barely make out through the tears in his eyes. Ignoring the blaring horns of the impatient drivers, he finally reached the curb and limped to the fountain.
Kary curled into a ball on the nearest bench, sobbing loudly as he realized that not only was he hurt, but he was now alone. On top of everything, he had a good idea of what his little brother was about to go through, and he knew there was nothing that he could do to stop it. As Chicago's nighttime routine wound up, very few noticed the teen boy whose life was crashing down around him. The ones who noticed the most, however, acted even when it appeared they didn't care. The grapevine of Chicago's streetlife went into high gear, as plans were changed and word went out to find the one person who held claim to the spot that Kary had ended up sitting in.
"Come here, honey chile," a high male voice stated as that same person sat next to him, his own plans changed as soon as he'd picked up on the grapevine what happened. "Divinity knows everything, and you have nothing to worry that pretty lil' head of yours about."
Kary found that he had no choice, as a pair of strong arms lifted him to sit on a lap. In a corner of his mind, Kary realized there were lumps where no man should have lumps, and he managed to open his eyes enough to discover that his rescuer was definitely not dressed like any guy he'd ever met. "Who...?" he managed to whisper.
"Divinity James, and you just relax sweetie. You ain't needing to worry about your precious little brother, I have friends in places you've never heard of that don't like people like your former stepfather."
"How...?" Kary started to ask in shock.
"Not all legends are fantasy, and I'm a legend if I do say so myself!" Divinity stated with assurance. "I feel like a snack, hold on while we take a walk."
Kary found he didn't have much of a choice, as Divinity shifted him around and carried him like he was five years old. As they weaved through the crowded sidewalks, Kary occasionally spotted various people that seemed to be there one minute and gone the next. The next thing Kary knew, they were outside the very same hotel that he had been heading to before being thrown out of the taxi. As they stopped, a kid about the same age as Alfie joined them from inside, and the nine-year-old didn't look happy.
"Hey Div', you wanna take the driver on a dinner date?" the boy scowled. "He's just as bad as his passenger. Guess what? That trash ya' had me followin' was the one that left me layin' a while back, and now I'm gonna gett'a show my sperm donor how the Windy City rolls when you cross us."
"He's your father?" Kary asked in surprise. "The only kid he ever said he had was his son Chris, and he said that he'd died in an accident ten years ago!"
"Accident, huh? Yeah, kinda like you fallin' outta the cab. The only accident in that asshole's life was when the rubber broke and he was spawned. I'm Chris, and I guess I'm your brother now, I'll explain it once dipshit meets his maker." Chris stated. "Oh, you can thank Div' for keepin' me around to meet ya'."
Kary was about to reply, when out of the corner of his eye he spotted something that drew his full attention. The taxi he had been kicked out of was sitting unattended in the taxi stand, which wasn't that unusual. What was unusual were the furry creatures scrambling over it, disassembling it in place. Kary tried to clear his eyes, but even with a second glance his mind told him they were oversized ferrets! When one of them turned and waved at him, Kary weakly waved back before turning his head. "Okay, that's it. I hit my head and all of this is a dream," he muttered, "a really twisted dream!"
Kary then felt something tugging on his shirt. He peered down and saw one of the big ferrets. Looking closer, Kary realized he appeared to be a mix between a ferret and an 8 or 9 year old boy. The ferret reached up to hand him something and said, "The Don told us to give you this shiny. He said it is specials an' it was just for yous. He said yous are one of the bestest 'Shiny Soldiers' or at least yous will be."
Kary reached out, took the gift, and stared at it in shock. The 'gift' was a gold herringbone necklace, with an emerald and diamond encrusted round gold pendant attached that looked amazingly like the Clan Short crest he'd been seeing recently on the news.
Seeing Kary was speechless as he numbly accepted the gift, Chris asked "Why're you guys tearing apart the taxi?"
"The dull-loving driver was stealing the Shine froms future Shiny Lovers. He was leaving thems in Wrigley alleys." the ferret replied. "We's taking his car, you's are gonna fix him, Ezzy says sos."
Divinity interrupted in a very un-ladylike growl. "So he's the one? Thank you, I believe he's going to feel very 'drained' after our date."
The ferret looked up with a toothy grin. "Yous come with mes later, and we's get you new Shiny jewels for hunting Dull-lovers."
Divinity cracked a small smile. "You know just how to sweet talk a lady, young man. I look forward to our trip!"
"Mooom!" Chris groaned while rolling his eyes. "C'mon, I'm getting hungry! If you're gonna talk jewelry again, put my little brother down and we'll go up without ya'. I promise, we'll leave leftovers."
"Little brother?" Kary muttered, still dazed by the ferret visitation.
Taking Kary's hand as soon as Divinity set him down, Cris giggled, "Okay, YOUNGER brother! C'mon, I wanna see his face when I walk in!"
Deciding he might as well see where this dream was going next, Kary limped along behind Chris, who surprisingly wasn't pulling to make Kary walk faster. The elevator had just arrived as they reached the lobby; when the older gentleman that was getting off of it saw Kary limping toward it, he held the door for the boys.
"Thank you, Sir!" Kary and Chris chorused as they entered the elevator car.
"You're welcome, boys," the man replied, still holding the door. "It's refreshing to see brothers as close as you two; not many younger brothers would survive trying to hold their older brother's hand in public anymore."
"He's the most protective brother ever," Chris replied truthfully. "I gotta hold on so he don't escape!"
With a smile, the man stated "Never let go; you'll both go far if you keep that bond between you. Have a great evening, boys." With that, he let the door close.
"Listen to him, bro!" Chris giggled as he pressed the button for the fourteenth floor. "That guy is a partner in the biggest electronics firm in the Tri-State area with his little brother."
"You're pretty pushy for a shrimp," Kary commented, wincing when he tried to grin.
"You think I'm pushy now?" Chris threatened with a grin, "Try to argue with me about seeing a doctor when this is over!"
"Why can't I have a normal hallucination where I'm in control?" Kary pondered out loud.
"That'll have to wait," Chris giggled as the elevator door opened, "We're here, looks like room 1420 is just down the hall a couple of doors!"
"You know, hotel doors are usually locked..." Kary commented, trying to inject some reality.
"Only if you didn't swipe a keycard from the staff!" Chris giggled as he pulled a card from his pocket and they reached the door.
His expression changed, however, as both heard an adult voice yell "Unlock that bathroom door RIGHT NOW Alfred Charles Kincaid!"
Kary's eyes grew wide as, before he could blink, Chris kicked out and totally destroyed the door. Chris grabbed Kary's hand and pulled him through the doorway, yelling "Daddy, we're HERE!" in the most Satanic voice that Kary had ever heard.
Grissom and the man who was driving the taxi were both nude, and Grissom had just turned to the nightstand to try to find something to unlock the bathroom door. Unfortunately for him, there was an alarm clock on the stand. The sight of the boy he had left for dead ten years ago standing inside the doorway, appearing the same age as he was when Grissom had last seen him, caused Grissom's bladder to release as he turned white with shock. His attention was suddenly diverted as he realized he was the subject of a weenie roast, complete with sparks from the alarm clock that he was washing down.
"Hell no! You ain't gettin' outta this THAT easy!" Chris growled as he tackled Grissom.
Kary was still in the doorway when he heard the telltale click of rounds being chambered behind him. He slowly turned around, only to find a Chicago Police Lieutenant and twin redhead teens who were obviously members of some gang pointing their weapons into the room.
"Don't mind us, Divinity invited us to the party," the officer said with a grin. "Go get your brother, we'll tenderize these two assholes while we're waiting for Divinity to join us."
"Uhh... okay?" Kary stuttered before following the man's orders.
As Kary reached the bathroom door, the two teens took up positions giving them clean shots at both naked men. One of the teen boys stated "You're both under arrest; you move and we shoot, starting with your nuts."
As Chris re-joined Kary, Grissom stated "That's not legal, I want my lawyer!"
"Your loss, asswipe!" the other teen stated, "We're deputized by Clan Short, and the two of you already failed your scans." Unseen by Kary, but clearly seen by the two men, both teens and the officer opened their mouths and allowed their fangs to drop. Unbeknownst to the two men, they had just been sentenced to death no matter what, as with the exception of Clan Short members any person not "marked" as safe who witnessed the display was to be terminated by Vampire law.
"Damn, I musta hit my head hard!" Kary mumbled before knocking on the door. "Alfie, c'mon out bro; they're both lookin' down gun barrels."
"Kar?" a tearful voice asked from the other side of the door.
"Yeah, it's me bro. There's a policeman here, we're safe."
After a few seconds, the door cracked open slightly. As soon as Alfie saw that it was really Kary, the door flew open and he jumped out to latch onto Kary's stomach. Kary's stomach turned when he noticed that Alfie's clothes were barely still attached; more skin was visible than covered due to the ripped clothes. When Chris joined the hug from behind Alfie, Kary noticed the tears running down Chris' face and an unnatural yellow glow to his eyes.
"Who's that?" Alfie whimpered as he felt Chris join the hug.
"That's our brother Chris," Kary answered, "he was left here by the buttwipe, but he's staying with us now."
"I hope you still want that after tonight..." Chris whispered.
Ignoring the pain he was feeling, Kary shifted his arms so they were around both boys. "Just try to stop me, bro."
As the three boys comforted each other, Divinity joined them, eyes rolling at the damage done to the door. "Chrissy, Chrissy, Chrissy... what am I going to do with you!" Divinity giggled. Turning to the policeman, Divinity added "Frankie, be a dear and escort the younger of those two scumbags to the bedroom and help him get warmed up. I'll help these two cuties keep the big one in place while the boys have a little talk with him."
"Stay away from me, you freak!" the soon-to-be former taxi driver exclaimed.
Divinity quickly strode over to in front of the man, reached down, and squeezed the parts that made him male until his scream hit octaves that had never passed his vocal cords before. "It's not wise to piss off the Queen of Chicago," Divinity growled. "You won't like me when I'm angry."
"What the Hell are you?" Grissom exclaimed at Divinity.
"That's my MOM!" Chris growled as he broke free of the hug and ripped off his shirt. "Divinity saved me after you whipped me, raped me, then dumped me in the dumpster. You did the same shit to Kary that you did to me except almost killing him, and you were goin' to start on Alfie." Chris ripped the rest of his clothes off, revealing his scar-crossed body. "Take a good look asshole; I'm gonna get paybacks for every single scar!"
"You and what... army... what the FUCK!" Grissom exclaimed as he suddenly discovered how his son was still young.
Kary and Chris watched in fascination, catching parts in the reflections in the mirror on the wall. Their eyes grew wide as, with a guttural growl, Chris' eyes began glowing red and fangs appeared in his wide-open mouth. Leaping across the room, Chris knocked the breath out of Grissom as he body-slammed the grown man's chest. There was an audible crunch as Chris sunk his fangs into Grissom's neck, followed by a sound not unlike the slurp made when drinking through a straw. At first Grissom tried to push the boy that was feeding on him away, but his efforts quickly became weak, then non-existent. Minutes later, it was obvious that Grissom was dead; even if he wasn't, Chris detaching from him then kicking and punching the corpse finished the job. Everyone could hear the bones breaking with each impact, even over the anguished wail of Chris as he released all of his pent-up emotions of the last ten years.
All the Moroi in the room, even Divinity, quickly found shelter as Chris' anguish turned into a Grade-A temper tantrum, the likes of which most of humanity couldn't comprehend. The taxi driver had managed to crawl to the nearest corner as well, and was now watching in fear, totally disregarding his own bodily waste that he was now sitting in.
Kary and Alfie were rooted in place, a gut instinct telling them not to move. As they watched, Chris turned from forcibly disassembling his former father to pick up the nearby desk and throw it through the closed window on the other wall. As every piece of furniture in the room sacrificed itself to the rage of the little nine-year-old, almost all of the room became littered with debris. Almost, except for a six-foot circle around Kary and Alfie, which not even a single splinter entered. Even the drywall dust created when Chris ripped out the breakfast bar and started beating the remains of Grissom with it somehow couldn't penetrate the virtual wall.
As the breakfast bar finally was demolished past the point of being a useful weapon, Chris looked around madly for something else to destroy. At that particular point, Kary whispered "It's over Chrissy; c'mon over here, it's over."
Even Divinity's eyes grew wide as Kary's words did the impossible, curbing the anger at what Chris had went through and allowing the grief to surface. With an anguished wail, Chris dropped to the floor and rolled into a ball, his cries ripping the hearts out of all present.
Kary moved quickly, Alfie sticking by his side. Once Kary managed to get Chris to unroll enough to pull him into a hug, Chris latched on to his new big little brother like his life depended on it. Alfie joined the cuddle from behind, sandwiching Chris between them.
It took almost fifteen minutes for Chris' babbling to become semi-coherent. When it did, the first thing Kary understood was Chris repeating "I killed..." over and over.
Going off of a hunch, Kary pulled Chris into a tighter hug. "If that was your first time, you saved it for a total asshole that deserved it. The bastard's gone, so you ain't never got to kill again unless you find someone as bad as him." Giving Chris' forehead a kiss, Kary added "I'm proud of you, bro."
From the other side, Alfie added "You an' Kar saved me! You're the best brothers EVER!"
The surprise of being accepted, despite what he had just revealed about himself, was enough of a shock to turn Chris away from the spiral of depression that he was sinking into. "Why don't you hate me? I'm a monster." Chris asked softly, glowing tears still running freely down his face.
"Hey, this is MY hallucination, and I don't allow little brothers to talk bad about themselves in it." Kary stated firmly. "Fuckwad over there was a monster; you and I are brothers and we have the scars to prove it. Alfie's had to watch me getting beat and raped to protect him, so all you did is let us watch that asswipe get what he deserved."
"You cussed," Chris commented with the hint of a smile as he tried to wrap his mind around Kary's words. "What if this was all real?"
Kary leaned back so that he could lock his eyes with the glowing eyes of his newest brother. "I really hope it is real, because if it is I'm gonna spend the rest of my life paying my newest brother back for taking out the trash that hurt him and me and was going to hurt Alfie. You saved the lives of kids we don't even know tonight bro, don't forget that. I'm sure that after he finished with Alfie, he would have went to find another kid and done it again."
Struck speechless, Chris did the only thing he could think of; he pulled himself against Kary's chest, rested his head on Kary's shoulder, then closed his eyes as he soaked up the acceptance from his new brothers.
A pair of chuckles got Kary's attention, so he shifted his eyes to find that the two gang members were watching something out of the remains of the window. "What's happening?" Kary asked.
In unison, the twins turned with a grin and replied, "Hulk's got everyone confused! They're over across the street trying to figure out where the desk leftovers came from."
"Hulk?" Kary quizzed.
"Yeah, Chris' 'extra' is strength, serious strength!" one of them sniggered. "Nobody's seen him go off like this though; I'm not sure I ever wanna see it again either!"
"I've got amazing little brothers," Kary boasted, earning him matching giggles from the occupants of his lap.
"They have an amazing big brother; most normals couldn't accept us like you have," the other teen stated. "Divinity, could you stop playing with your lunch and see if Clan Short wants to get involved? These guys need someplace they can be family in the open."
"One second, dearie," Divinity replied, the reply followed seconds later by a sickening crack. "There; you were such a bore, no fight at all!"
Stepping around the debris, Divinity smiled at the sight of Chris, Kary, and Alfie cuddling. "Take care of my baby, Kary," Divinity stated with a smile. "I expect frequent visits from all three of you." With that, Divinity tapped a funny-looking broach attached to his blouse. "Divinity James to Des Moines?"
'This is Kerry, what's up Divinity?"
"Kerry, you cute chip off the silicon block!" Divinity gushed, "How is my favorite baby AI tonight?"
'DIVINITY!' Kerry exclaimed, with an obvious vocal blush.
"Oh shush, cutie. You think you can send that last wave escort over a little early? My baby boy is coming over with his newfound brothers on one of the busses, and I want them to all be ready."
'They'll be right over. I'm tellin' that you're embarrassing me!'
"You can't argue with truth! Divinity out." Divinity replied with a giggle.
Divinity joined the three somewhat confused boys on the floor. "Chrissy, your brothers need you just like you need them; we both know that can't happen on the streets of Chicago. I need you to be my eyes and ears in Des Moines, and I need you to take care of our living family. You'll always be able to find me; you know all of my favorite spots, and Kerry can drop all three of you in to visit."
"Can't you be wrong just ONCE, Mom?" Chris giggled, not breaking the brother cuddle in any way. "The only question is, who is gonna finish off my meals if I can't finish?"
"That's not an issue," two new voices answered from the doorway. "Mini and Alien Busch, Clan Short Security." the shorter of the two added.
"I'm Alien; who did the interior decorating here? It looks awesome!" the taller boy stated with a grin.
"You WOULD think that!" the other boy, obviously Mini, giggled. "I'll admit, the arm sticking out of the ceiling light is a nice touch though." He glanced around, finally spotting Divinity. "Going by Kerry's description, you're Divinity James. Great meeting ya; you wanna do intros?"
Divinity smiled at the new arrivals. "I must remember to tell that cute Patriarch of yours that he is outdoing himself with the cuties he's picking for security! You two are just DE-LISH!" Having made both boys blush, Divinity began introductions. "That pile in the corner was dinner; unfortunately I found him not to my taste, so he's making a mess while he's meeting his Maker. The stud in the uniform is Lieutenant Frankie Kowalczyk, Chicago Police. The sweet twins are Kit and Kaiyan Nascimbeni, and the offensive bitch that's occupying various places around the room was Grissom Kincaid; he used to be the male head of household for the three brothers cuddling over there."
"Who did the interior decorating?" Alien interrupted with a grin. "Whoever did it could give our big bro some pointers!"
"Mini, I hope your boyfriend isn't this impatient in the bedroom!" Divinity exclaimed in an exasperated whine. "Patience, cutie!"
"Divinity!" Kary exclaimed, "No embarrassing the cute guys in my hallucination!"
"Did he just call us a hallucination?" Mini managed to ask despite his blush.
Alien, who was also doing a perfect imitation of a red neon light, replied "Yeah, but he also called us cute."
"You know what this means, don't you?" Mini giggled.
"Brothers?" Alien asked with a raise of his eyebrows.
Mini nodded. "Brothers. Welcome cuddle?"
"Naturally!" Alien giggled as they moved in unison towards the three boys in the middle of the room.
Chris quickly wiggled out of the cuddle, intercepting Mini and Alien. "You hurt my brothers and you'll regret it!" he growled protectively.
Both boys froze as they saw the naked nine-year-old in front of him, but not because of his threat. Mini's eyes went wide as he whispered "Holy Mother of God, what bastard did that to you? I thought I had it bad!"
Alien, on the other hand, reacted much differently. All of the anger that he'd buried about Mini's past because he was more concerned with helping his boyfriend recover surfaced. The scar-covered body of Chris pushed Alien over the edge, and with a growl he grabbed a leftover lamp off of the floor. A few seconds later, he was using said lamp to destroy one of the walls of the room. While in the process of opening up the wall, he gave a verbal example of just how colorful the mixing of cuss words from every language known to the Clan could become.
Chris had no problem picking up the thoughts Alien was streaming about what Mini had been through, and turned to Mini with understanding. "You know." Chris whispered as he stepped forward and pulled Mini into a hug. "Kary, Alfie, he's one of us. He's been through it too," Chris added loud enough to be heard.
That was all the other two needed to hear, as they quickly joined Chris in comforting Mini. Just as the tears stopped flowing from Mini's eyes, Alien exclaimed "What the FUCK! I need some help over here! There are two kids in a cage in the other room!"
"Oh HELL no!" Mini exclaimed as he wiggled free of the hug. Tapping his communicator, he ordered "Mini to Dutchmen! Christian, I need a medic, everyone else standby to go hunting."
"Dutchman Lead to Mini; Christian's on his way. Sitrep?"
"We just found two kids in a cage, and Alien's trying to imitate Colin." Mini replied.
"Oh shit! Standing by for cleanup. Dutchmen out."
Mini turned and couldn't help his grin when he found that everyone else in the room was now occupied with dismantling the wall between the rooms. In no time, the former wall became an open arch between the two rooms. Mini slipped through a gap in the studs and approached the cage, where a pair of apparent six-year-olds were huddled together in the far corner, wearing nothing but underwear. "Hey guys, give me just a minute and I'll get you outta there," Mini stated softly.
"Don't hurt us!" one of the boys whimpered.
"I'm not gonna hurt ya'," Mini replied. "I think whoever put you in there's gonna wish they didn't get up this morning, though."
"You can say that again, cutie!" Divinity yelled from over where wall destruction was still in progress, "I broke a nail!"
"You're such a queen, Mom!" Chrissy giggled.
"And don't you ever forget it!" Divinity stated with flourish.
Giggling, Mini turned his attention back to the cage. "Guys, cover your eyes while I cut this lock off," Mini instructed.
"Okay." the boys said in unison.
Once he was sure they were ready, Mini took out his phaser. After adjusting it to a tight beam, Mini made sure there was no way that the boys could get hit accidentally and quickly removed the lock and hasp. After putting his phaser away, Mini got on his hands and knees and crawled into the cage and over to the boys. "Hey guys, you got room for one more in your cuddle?"
"How's about two?" Alfie asked as he joined Mini, making the inside of the cage slightly crowded. "I like cuddles too!"
Mini shifted around, giggling as he pulled Alfie into his side. "You're gonna get lots of those, lil' bro. C'mon, we gotta make lap space for the little guys!"
"Mommy's gonna be mad you broke her cage," the chestnut-brown-haired one of the pair observed.
"Yeah, we ain't gonna be let out of our room for a month," his blond partner asked.
"She's not gonna have time to worry about a cage, and you're not going home with her... ever!" Christian stated from outside the cage, his tricorder in his hands. "They're both seven, just like your other two sons, Mini. Nothing wrong that can't wait until they get back home."
"Gotcha, bro," Mini grinned. "Now we gotta find the 'rents."
"You take care of the little guys, we'll handle finding the adults," the twin K's chorused as they walked up.
"You might wanna come with us, Doc; I think mommy might need medical intervention," Kit added with a toothy grin. "The boys gave us everything we needed on their surface thoughts."
"Sounds like fun, lead the way!" Christian giggled. "I can even hook up transfusions while you feed!"
"You just love practicing!" Mini giggled. "Have fun, bro."
Alfie looked up at Mini. "You have sons?"
Mini nodded. "Yeah, the twins lost their parents in a plane crash, and me and Alien adopted them."
"That's awesome!" Alfie replied, "How come you could adopt them when you're a big kid too?"
"It comes as part of being part of Family Clan Short," Mini explained. "Sometimes kids need kids to be their parents because they can't trust adults any more. Other times, like what happened with the twins, the older kid notices something about the other kid and decides that he or she wants to be the one to raise the little guy or gal."
Through Mini's explanation, the two young boys had slid closer and closer. The little blond hesitantly reached out and touched Mini's arm, quickly pulling back after making contact.
Mini reached out slowly and brushed a stray hair out of the little blond's eyes. Speaking softly, he stated "You guys can come up here and cuddle; I won't hurt you."
"You ain't gonna yell at us?" the brown-haired boy asked warily.
"No, but I might spend the next twenty years cuddling you," Mini replied with a smile, keeping his voice low.
Both boys considered the offer, then slowly made their way onto the two laps in front of them. Following Mini's lead, Alfie used his free arm to draw the new occupant of his lap into a gentle cuddle. Once both boys were settled in, Mini asked "What are your names, guys?"
"I'm Yenn," the blond whispered.
"I'm Iggy," his brown haired brother added.
With a smile, Mini said "I'm Mini Busch, and the hot guy over there swinging a lamp is my boyfriend Alien. My cuddle helper is gonna be your Uncle Alfie, the naked kid is gonna be your Uncle Chris, and the big kid tickling Chris is gonna be your Uncle Kary."
Just then, Alien noticed the wall sconce with a plastic globe over the bed. As he climbed onto the bed, everyone not in the cage ducked into the other room. Shouldering the lamp like a bat, Alien got into position. After a few test swings to ensure he was set, Alien reared back and swung at the lamp with everything he had in him. The last thing anyone saw before the lights went out was Alien making contact and the plastic globe sailing towards the window. The breaking of glass answered the question of where the globe and lamp ended up.
"Kerry, I need some temporary lighting here, Alien just hit a home run!" Mini giggled.
"Incoming!" Kerry giggled over Mini's commbadge.
A second later, a portable light appeared in the middle of the room. "Who was that?" Iggy asked, pointing at Mini's commbadge.
"That was your Uncle Kerry, he's funny," Mini replied.
"Why is Alien hitting stuff?" Yenn asked.
"Because he's really mad about how Kary and Chris got hurt. He's even madder now because you guys were in this cage."
"Why? Mommy always puts us in it when she goes places." Yenn queried.
"Because no parent should ever do that; kids are never put in cages," Mini explained. "That is why she just lost custody of you forever and I'm taking you home with me. She broke the law, so she can't have you guys anymore."
"Believe him," Frank added as he leaned on the cage. "Right now the twins and Christian are arresting her. Do you guys want to see her before she heads out to the prison planet that'll be her new home?"
Both boys quickly shook their heads no. Mini looked up and asked "How bad?"
"False imprisonment, accessory to suicide, and being a general witch," Frank explained carefully. "Neither of the boy's genetic fathers are able to contest custody from the Pearly Gates, so they are all yours."
Mini quickly read between the lines, and unconsciously gave Yenn a squeeze of consolation. "Thanks, Frank."
Chris walked over, giggling "You can come out now; Alien's back in cuddle mode!"
"You sure? I've never seen him go off like that," Mini stated.
Chris nodded, seriously adding "That was for you too, not just me. Alien's been holding all that in so that he could take care of you. Seeing my scars was just the last straw. I don't wanna see the bill when the hotel sees the redecorating that the two of us did!"
"I'm glad it ain't on my card!" Mini grinned. "C'mon guys, let's get ready to blow this joint! You guys got clothes here?"
"Nope," Yenn replied, "Mommy kept them in her trunk."
"Mine are at the airport, this attack thingie canceled our plane," Alfie added. "They'd fit Chris if I had them, though."
"That's okay, I'll call in an order," Mini assured them.
The boys crawled out of the cage, the two little ones taking Mini's hands as soon as they were on their feet. Mini looked around, and spotted Alien on the phone that had somehow survived the destruction of the room.
As Mini approached Alien with his two charges, he overheard Alien saying "I'm sorry to disturb your sleep, Sir. I'm Alien Busch, Family Clan Short Security. We had a slight altercation with the occupants of rooms 1420 and 1422 while performing recoveries, and would like to review with you how you would like us to assist with repairs."
After a few seconds pause, Alien added "The door to 1420 is open, I will see you shortly. Thank you, Mr. Banner." Once he hung up, he tapped his commbadge. "Kerry, Clan uniforms please?"
"Got ya covered, Alien!" Kerry replied with a giggle. "Slight altercation? Really? You just defined understatement!"
"Whatever!" Alien giggled before flickering and reappearing in full tactical uniform.
At the same time, Mini and Chris found themselves similarly outfitted, while Kary, Alfie, Yenn, and Iggy were outfitted in Clan polo shirts, shorts, and Clan robes.
"Whaaaa...?" Chris asked in shock as he compared his outfit with Alfie's.
"Field promotion, little brother," Alien giggled. Turning to Mini and the two little guys, he smiled. "Now you guys look like our sons, and it looks great on ya'!"
"How'd ya' do that? Iggy asked as him and Yenn exchanged confused looks. "Who's clothes are these?"
Mini pulled both boys into a gentle cuddle. "They're your clothes, guys. Kerry's a really special uncle, and he picked them out just for you. He doesn't usually give out robes unless we tell him to!"
"Did he give those guys robes too?" Yenn asked.
"Nope, I told him to!" Mini giggled, "That's why they have Ensign bars!"
"WHAT?" Kary and Alfie both exclaimed as they quickly reached for their collars and felt the insignia.
"Don't worry," Christian giggled as he walked into the room with the twins, all three now in full tactical uniform. "You'll be promoted just as soon as you pass your weapons training. That should happen tomorrow!"
"W H A T !" the confused pair exclaimed even louder.
"You think YOU'RE confused?" Kit giggled, "Christian just told me that all five of us are adopted BEFORE we meet our new Dad!"
Just then, a new voice exclaiming "HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!" from the other room interrupted the teasing. Alien grinned, whispering "Showtime!" before leading the pack to meet their guest.
They all walked through the former wall, to find a fifty-ish man staring at the window with both hands on his head. Squaring his shoulders, Alien announced "Mr. Banner, I am Lieutenant Commander Alien Busch, BFA, Clan Short Security. Please don't be alarmed, our organization has personnel specialized in rehabilitation for situations like this."
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" Mr. Banner moaned, "I've never seen this much damage!"
Mini tapped on Alien's shoulder. "Cutie, we need to call in the big guns. He's lost it."
Alien waved his hand in front of Mr. Banner's face, not getting the slightest response. "Christian, you're up bro."
"Yes, Sir!" Christian replied as he quickly unpacked his kit. "Mini, I need a bed!"
Mini nodded, tapping his commbadge. Before he could say a word, Ezra appeared along with a bed.
"Petey's tied up," Ezra replied to the unasked question. "I'll cover for him though. Stand clear!"
"Ezzy, wait!" Peter said as he appeared, his eyes red from crying. "We can't just put it back; the bad that happened here will hang around. We need to give it good."
"Whadda you mean, Uncle Petey? Why does it look like you were crying?" Ezra asked in confusion.
Peter quietly replied "I just had to grow up, Ezzy. I had to make a choice that will live with me the rest of my life. Your Uncle Galen is now one of us; it was that or death, and he chose being one of us with what was almost his last breath."
After a pause, Peter added "Levi's been there, and now I understand just what he went through making the decision to save my life. It changes you, Ezzy, and it's changes that you never forget."
Ezra nodded, accepting Peter's words without argument. If there is one thing he knew, it was that the elder Mikyvis made it a point of not misleading their younger brethren about anything concerning the species. One thing he did realize, however, was that Peter's experience just explained a lot about how Levi seemed to be different from the rest of the family. Following his instincts, Ezra did what he would do naturally; he wordlessly pulled Peter into a loving hug.
When the hug broke, Peter looked around the room, noticing the serious faces watching him and Ezzy. "I'll be okay guys," he stated with a small smile. "Ezzy, why don't you take them down to one of the conference rooms? I'll come get you when the room is done."
Ezra nodded his head. "Okay, Uncle Petey." With that, Ezra popped out with the rest of the group.
Now alone, Peter looked around the room, spotting the corpse behind the debris in the corner. "Time to take out the trash," Peter muttered. He then reverted the windows, and began removing all of the damaged items from the room. Once done, he enclosed the rooms in a time bubble, then brought in some of the crews from his construction company. In the matter of minutes, four months of remodeling were completed. The two rooms were now one, with top-grade carpet in the sleeping area, formerly room 1422, and hardwood floors in the living area, formerly room 1420. Everything was upgraded, and the walls were converted to soundproof wallboard. The door to the former room 1422 was completely removed, with the walls of the hallway being refinished so there was no sign that it had ever been there.
Once the crews were done, Peter thanked them and sent them back to when he grabbed them from, ensuring their paystubs reflected the time spent as well as a bonus for the quality of the end result. With just a thought, Galen appeared next to him, immediately wrapping Peter in a hug.
"You okay?" Galen asked with worry.
"I will be, babe," Peter replied softly. "Someday soon, I will be. You wanna see what the guys did for me?"
Galen nodded. "Okay; I wanted this, babe, please stop beating yourself up for it."
Peter leaned over and kissed Galen's cheek. "I can't really explain to myself what I'm feeling right now, Gal'. Just remember I love you, and I'll sort this all out sooner or later."
"You better, or I'll sic Kyle on you," Galen joked. "Now, what's this project?"
Peter started walking Galen through the area. "This used to be two rooms; a couple of the Des Moines guys did some major violent remodeling while doing a rescue. We made one of the rooms into two bedrooms, with doors for privacy. I had the guys pick out some carpet that would feel nice barefoot yet stand up to a lot of use. We turned the other room into a living area with a small kitchenette, and put in some nice teak flooring. All the walls, floors, and ceilings are soundproofed now, and we ended up redoing the hallway so that you can't tell a door is gone."
Galen smiled. "It looks awesome; I like the colors you picked. I'm not complaining, but why'd you make it into one room?"
"Because somehow I could feel the evil that these rooms held," Peter explained seriously. "This wasn't the first time they were used for bad; the only way that felt right was to take them out of existence as they were and replace them with something that was nothing like what was here before. I don't know if it's a side-effect of that singularity or what, but I could just feel it, even though I've never felt things like that before."
"If nothing else, we'll ask Levi," Galen assured Peter, "I'm sure his Friend can explain it. Don't worry for now; I think you did really good, no matter why it was done."
"Thanks," Peter replied as he gave Galen a hug. "Do you think it is ready to show the rest of the guys?"
Galen glanced at the kitchenette counter, where a plate of cookies appeared. "Now it is; let's go get them, hot stuff."
A few minutes later, after ensuring that everyone was warned to expect major changes, the entire group returned to the room. Mr. Banner toured the room with Peter and Galen, amazed at just how well the remodeled room had turned out. The rest of the group tagged along quietly, absorbed in the dialogue between Peter and Mr. Banner as they munched on cookies.
As the tour wound down, Mr. Banner shook Peter's hand. "I'm very impressed, young man. Would you be interested in a contract for a full remodel, with uniqueness between rooms as one of the stipulations?"
"What timeframe would you be looking for?" Peter asked, his shock obvious on his face.
"Based on your response to this emergency," Mr. Banner responded, "I believe that doing rooms at your convenience would be more than appropriate. I am willing to coordinate closing off rooms as you request them, for whatever time is needed to ensure that they are unique."
Peter allowed a smile, as he understood just how much of a chance the man was taking on him. "I'll come by tomorrow with my lead architect and we can discuss details. I like the challenge, and I know the crews will appreciate the chance to be creative."
"That works for me; I look forward to our meeting. All of you have a wonderful day, and despite tonight's previous events, I think the end result makes the previous damage worth it."
Once the goodbyes were completed and Mr. Banner had left, Ezzy looked at the non-existent watch on his wrist. "Okay, some of y'all need to catch a bus four hours ago, and the rest were supposed to be doing other stuff. Uncle Petey? Could you and Uncle Galen take Divinity, Frank, and Christian to when they belong, and I'll handle the bus riders?"
"That works, Ezzy," Peter replied, "Catch up with us on Archnania later, okay?"
Ezra nodded, his worry over Peter obvious in his eyes. "I'll see you later, Uncle Peter. Uncle Galen, take care of Uncle Peter, okay?"
"Gotchya, Rainbow Boy!" Galen gigged. "Go kiss a unicorn, and stop worrying already!"
Kary giggled as they popped into the bus depot. "Hey, this hallucination's getting better! Now I'm learning to jump to different places without walking!"
Alfie and Chris exchanged glances, then giggled as they rolled their eyes. "Is he always this nutty?" Chris whispered.
"Yep!" Alfie replied as he nodded his head. "Fun, ain't it?"
Mini giggled as he lightly poked at Kary. "Dude, you got the big brother thing down great! C'mon, let's get the shrimps on the bus before they see a butterfly and run off."
Kary smiled at the praise, the tone in Mini's voice telling him it wasn't just empty words. As Mini and Alien escorted their two newest leg-huggers, Kary guided his own pair of brothers behind them. Kit and Kaiyan followed behind the group, unconsciously acting as rear guards from habit.
The passengers already on the bus fell silent as they noticed the final group that was boarding. Kit looked around at the staring passengers and announced "Listen up, I'm only saying this once! Yeah, these guys are normals, and they're Chris' brothers and nephews. Chris has already destroyed one hotel room tonight; if anyone even looks at any of them like they want a snack, I promise you'll never make Des Moines. You don't like it, there's the street."
As they started to make their way towards the back of the bus, an older teen muttered "Like any of you shrimps could stop me."
Unfortunately for him, Alien heard his mutter. The teen found himself being drug from his seat by a very pissed off 'normal' who now had a vice-like grip on his neck. "I don't like your attitude, so your request for living in Des Moines is denied." Alien growled as he grabbed the teen's 'equipment' with his other hand. Carrying the teen by his genitals and neck, Alien made his way back to the door and physically threw the older boy to the pavement. The teen had barely hit the pavement before two adult Moroi pulled him back to his feet and escorted him away. Alien turned back to rejoin his family, and was greeted with applause from the rest of the bus.
"Dude, that was awesome!" a tween blond near the front exclaimed. "That asswipe threatened all of us with being tied out in an open field if we didn't do whatever he said. He wanted to form his own gang once we got to Des Moines."
"Thanks," Alien replied. then he added loud enough for everyone else to hear "Clan Short is about family. If anyone else can't adjust to that, you can walk out now with no problems. Anyone that causes problems after we're home will be dealt with by Vulcan law. Any questions?"
A brunette in about the middle of the bus waved his hand. "What did Joe do that made you catch on to what he was up to?"
"I'll answer, Alien!" Kit laughed. "Mike, he fell for the oldest trick in the book. While I didn't lie when we got on the bus, I did phrase it so any troublemakers would see it as a challenge. He exposed himself, and Alien got rid of him."
"What's gonna happen to him?" another boy asked.
Alien shrugged. "I dunno, really. If he's wanted for anything the local guys will handle it; otherwise I guess he'll be back on the street. Once our driver gets here, we'll get going. Just so you guys know, as soon as the door closes this becomes a Clan Embassy."
Alien was interrupted by an adult sticking his head through the open door. "Are there any Clan Short reps here yet?"
Alien turned. "Alien Busch, Clan Short Security. How can I help you, sir?"
"You wouldn't happen to have room for one more, would you?" the man asked. "I've got a newblood halflife I found that was abandoned. I just made sure that he had his first feeding, but I'm not really in a position to take him in."
"I woulda made room, but it just so happens that one of the guys who was planning on going decided that Clan life wasn't for him." Alien replied. "Bring him on; I'm sure that someone here will help him adjust to his new life."
"Thanks, Alien," the man replied. "I'll be right back."
As the man went to get his charge, Alien announced "If you didn't hear in back, we're about to have a newblood join us. I've been told that it's a pretty big shock when there's a change like you guys go through; let's all see what we can do to make him feel welcome, okay?"
Thumbs went into the air, as pretty much all of the bus committed to helping the unseen new guy adjust. A minute later, the man returned with a platinum blond five-year-old boy cuddled in his arms. He climbed on the bus, stating "I promise you'll be taken care of, Grover. These guys spend their lives making sure kids get good families."
"But I'm a monster!" Grover pleaded. "Nobody wants monster kids."
Alien turned, reached up, and brushed his fingers through the boy's hair. "Hey little guy, relax. Two of my brothers are werewolves; if they ain't monsters, you can't be one!"
"Nuh-uh!" Grover responded, "Wer'wolfs ain't real!"
"Yeah they are!" Alien argued with a smile. "You don't believe me, our driver likes his ears scratched!"
"I heard that!" Hac grumbled as he climbed onto the bus. "Watch it, bro!" Hac then noticed Grover, and growled "Please tell me the sire was suitably disassembled."
"Hac, this is Grover; he's joining the group at the last minute," Alien stated in introduction.
Hac nodded, then effortlessly took Grover from the man's arms. "You wanna help me drive, lil' guy?"
"That kid says you's a wer'wolfie; I think he's lyin'," Grover stated, now distracted from the impending trip.
Hac smiled, now fully up-to-date after a quick telepathic briefing by Alien. "I'll tell ya' what, youngling; when we get home, I'll show ya. I don't wanna be naked driving back, so we gotta wait. Okay?"
"Promise?" Grover asked, eyes wide.
"I promise!" Hac nodded with a smile. Turning his head to the man, he said "Nightshade, you did the right thing. I'm giving you everything that Grover has in his head to find the bastard that did this; by order of Family Clan Short, you are authorized to terminate the bitch with extreme prejudice. Consider yourself deputized; anyone gives you shit tap this and help will be there instantly." With that, Hac reached into his pocket and pulled out a communication badge that directly connected to Klaus.
The man, obviously 'Nightshade', took the badge with wide eyes. "You, sir, are amazing. I'll take care of the 'lady' that did this with pleasure. I'll let you know when I've completed the job."
"I'll be looking forward to the call," Hac replied. "We really need to get going, though."
"Understood, have a safe trip," 'Nightshade' replied. "I'll come over to visit you sometime soon, Grover, okay?"
"Okay," Grover replied, now securely latched onto Hac. "You promise?"
"Promise," was the reply as Nightshade exited the bus.
Hac reached over and pressed the button to close the door, then tapped his commbadge. "Hey brat, I need a seat here for my co-pilot!"
"One double seat comin' up, Muttley!" Kerry replied with a giggle. Seconds later, the driver's set vanished, only to be replaced with a wider seat with harnesses sized for the two different occupants. "That better, Fido?"
"You're gonna get lots of exercise in that new body, Kerry... running for your life!" Hac shot back with a grin. "Thanks!"
Once Hac was sure that Grover was properly secured, he took his seat as well and strapped in. Looking over his shoulder, he smiled when he found everyone was now seated, including Alien. "Wolfpack Three, activate Intercept Mode," Hac instructed.
"Intercept activated," a voice responded from the dashboard as the bus started automatically.
Picking up a microphone, Hac announced "Gentlemen, Alien, and Mini, welcome to the Clan Short Express. Due to natural laws, we will NOT be exceeding the speed of light on this trip. For those who may need them, restrooms are in the back. In case of any issues, please obey the instructions of the uniformed Clan officers; believe it or not sometimes they know what they are doing. We couldn't find any volunteers for snacks on this trip, but I've been assured that the destination has a buffet ready for your arrival. Enjoy the ride, next stop Des Moines, Iowa."
Over the giggling passengers, Hac then ordered: "Engage intercept mode."
On the outside of the bus, lights began flashing and the exhaust gained a menacing growl. Hac released the parking brake, and the bus seemed to jump in anticipation of the trip ahead of it. Hac pulled out onto Lake Shore Drive, and quickly was cruising at a comfortable 50 mph. In no time, Interstate 55 came up, and Hac jumped onto the interstate and increased his speed to 90. Things were going smoothly until Joliet, where Hac had to slow down to 30 for construction. As he spotted the end of the construction thirty minutes later, Hac announced: "Hold on, I've gotta make up some time here!"
As the traffic in front cleared the construction zone, they all merged to the right to clear the way for the flashing lights behind them. Hac totally ignored the State Trooper sitting in his car at the end of the unoccupied work zone, lighting up the drive wheels as soon as the last vehicle was out of the way. Screaming like a banshee, the bus jumped and was quickly passing 100 mph.
"Again!" Grover screamed in glee, causing giggles from all that heard.
In the back, Kary was shaking his head. "Okay, someone please tell me I didn't just hear us do a rolling burnout!"
"I'd tell ya' that, but I'd be lying!" Mini laughed. "I think I like these new busses! Just wait, I hear they're even faster than this!"
"If you say so!" Kary replied before giving his cuddling little brothers a squeeze. "What's gonna happen when we get there?"
Mini smiled. "I'll introduce y'all to Dad, and if you like him he'll adopt ya'."
"What if he doesn't want us?" Kary asked with worry.
"Already handled, bro," Mini replied seriously. "Dad has watched the vids that I and Alien make when we're on an operation, and he's the one that said I was right, you guys are perfect matches for the family."
"He's gotta accept Chris, too," Kary stated, obviously not willing to give an inch.
"He's talking to some parents who have already gone through the process of integrating kids like Chris into their family," Mini explained. "Dad doesn't turn people away for being different; he never has. That's how I and Alien got adopted by him, because he looks at us as his sons no matter what we've been through in the past."
Back up front, Hac slowed to take the ramp onto I-80. Once clear of the ramp, he reached towards the dash and pushed a button. almost instantly, the dash announced, "Aerodynamic Slipstream Control activated."
"Wazzat?" Grover asked.
"It's a special force field, kiddo," Hac explained. "It directs the air over the bus and makes it so that we don't blow cars off the road when we pass them."
"Ohhh..." Grover replied. "Blowin' cars offa the road would be bad, wouldn'tit?"
"Very bad, youngling," Hac said with a smile. "You see that little screen in front of you?"
"Uhh-huh!" Grover nodded.
"It is going to light up in a minute; you'll be able to see cars way ahead of us, they'll be little dots on the screen," Hac explained. "Let me know if any of those dots turn red, okay?"
"Okay!" Grover exclaimed, excited to be doing something important.
Smiling, Hac ordered, "Automatic Hazard Avoidance on."
"COOOL!" Grover giggled as the screen lit up in front of him.
Behind them, Kit and Kaiyan were talking with the tween blond that had spoken up earlier. They had found out that he was fairly new, having only been a Moroi for just over a year. The tween, Zach, had been turned on his eleventh birthday by his father that everyone but him had thought dead. It had been discovered, however, that things were not working out as well as they planned, so when the chance to go to Des Moines came up both agreed that it would be best for Zach to take the opportunity. As they got to know each other better, the twins decided that Zach would make a perfect little brother. Nothing could wipe the smile off of Zach's face once they told him of their decision, as he was no longer worried about being alone in a strange place.
Throughout the bus, friendships began as the passengers took hope in the examples they had seen. the overall mood was of hope, as they truly felt that there was a chance they would no longer be considered outcasts from society.
As the bus approached the Illinois-Iowa state line. Grover piped up "There's bunches of red dots up there, Da.. Hac!"
"Thanks, kiddo," Hac replied as he reached over and gave Grover a quick one-armed hug. He then downshifted, and slowed the bus down to the speed limit to approach the anticipated slowdown. As they got closer, he was surprised to find multiple state and local law enforcement vehicles running a full roadblock at the beginning of the bridge over the Mississippi.
As the bus slowed down to navigate around the vehicles, suddenly the brakes locked up and shutters dropped on the passenger windows. "INCOMING PROJECTILES DETECTED," the bus announced. "DEFENSIVE SHIELDS ENGAGED."
Hac slapped the emergency comms button on the dash, "Control, Wolfpack Three is under attack, location the east onramp to the Mississippi bridge on I-80." After a quick glance at the displays that activated when the bus went into lockdown, he added "Attacking force appears to be law enforcement personnel. Bus is in defensive lockdown."
"Clan Short Control, this is Major O'Leery of the Illinois National Guard," the speaker blasted instantly. "Be advised we will have air support onsite in five minutes, ETA of ground support is thirty minutes."
"Major O'Leery, this is Sergeant Guy Handley of the Iowa State Patrol. Tell your men to target carefully; our welcome wagon is coming across the bridge now. Jurisdiction be damned; there are kids on that bus!"
"Gentlemen, this is David Feely, assistant to the Director of the FBI. Responding Iowa officers are hereby given emergency commissions as U. S. Marshalls, and are to identify themselves as such. Survivors of the attacking force, if there are any, will be prosecuted under Federation law for instigating an interplanetary incident."
"Control to Wolfpack Three; Charlie is hot and loading friends. ETA thirty seconds, sit tight."
"Acknowledged," Hac replied, the only thing keeping him from going out and handling things personally being the five-year-old that had unstrapped himself and was now clinging to Hac for dear life. "These shields better be damned good; they gave up on guns and it looks like they are rigging a car to ram us."
Things became interesting really quick at that point. As a dozen police interceptors came flying over the bridge, the vehicle being rigged to ram the bus was set loose. At the same time, Eoghan appeared in his Hind directly above the bus, his language almost as deadly as the two missiles he launched at the oncoming car. By the time the shock wave settled, Clan and National Guard troop carriers popped in and landed, their armed cargo backing up the Iowa State Police that were storming the shocked attackers. Even Hac was impressed, as the entire operation took less than five minutes from the initial attack to the all-clear being called. Once Hac had Eoghan's colorful assurance that all was clear, he disengaged the automatic systems and brought the bus out of the defensive alert.
One of the Iowa officers approached the bus, making sure to signify that he was unarmed. Once on the bus, the first thing he asked was "Is anyone hurt?"
Hac shook his head, "Nope; the automatic systems did their job. Any ideas why those asswipes did this?"
"We think so," the officer replied. "Their leader was decapitated by a piece of the car that your man took out; it seems that he was a Romulan disguised as a human from what we found that was left of him. The first two busses made it through before they were fully set up, so the rest of the kids are safe. We've been ordered to give you a rolling escort the rest of the way home."
Hac smiled as he kissed the top of Grover's head. "See, I told ya they'd fix those bad guys!" Turning to the officer, he replied "Thanks for the help! Did anyone else survive so we can see how deep this went?"
"The National Guard guys are holding survivors, and Clan Intel is on their way to get the details," the officer replied. "Due to the stress, I've arranged a snack at the Iowa Welcome center for all of the nutritional needs of your passengers."
Hac nodded, understanding instantly that the officer was fully aware of who his cargo was. "Thanks, I think all of us'll appreciate the break. Lead the way, we'll catch up on details over dinner."
When they pulled into the Welcome Center twenty minutes later, Hac smiled when he saw that there were a pair of tents and two State Police mobile offices waiting for them. After being guided to a parking spot, Hac shut down the bus and announced: "Okay guys, rest break!"
Hac led the mass exodus from the bus, Grover securely held on his hip. "Snack time, youngling!" Hac stated as he headed towards one of the mobile offices.
Kit and Kaiyan bracketed Zach, the trio following Hac. Chris stuck with Kary and Alfie, figuring that being with his new brothers was much more important than a snack. Mini and Alien each had one of their new sons on their back, the young boys giggling as their new dads did horsey imitations. They headed for the tent, wanting more solid food than what the mobile offices offered. The rest of the bus split up, most deciding that they wanted to hang with their new 'normal' friends.
The group relaxed, joking with each other as dozens of State Troopers ensured that the other rest area visitors didn't cause any trouble while interacting with the Clan inductees. As Mini was returning from escorting Iggy to use the restroom, he was stopped by a young man in jeans and a work shirt.
"Excuse me? Are you with Clan Short?" the young man asked.
As Iggy latched securely onto Mini's side, Mini replied "Yessir. Lieutenant Commander Mini Busch, BFA, Family Clan Short Security. Can I help you?"
"Lieutenant Commander? WOW!" the man reflexively replied in surprise. "Umm... sorry! I'm Abram Yoder; that is my wife Hannah and our son Vernon over on the bench. I am from Elkhart County in Indiana. My wife and I were banned from our Amish community because we engaged in fornication; we were married afterwards once she was found to be pregnant. Our son turns two tomorrow, and we have decided that he deserves the opportunities we missed so we are not pursuing reconciliation to rejoin our former community. Elkhart Social Services suggested that we migrate to one of the Clan Compounds where the skills that we learned may be of use and our educational differences will not be as much of a hindrance."
Mini nodded, smiling as he replied "I don't see any problem with that. One of my brothers is coming over now to help you with getting set up. If there are no problems, you'll be ready to go as soon as we get home."
"Thank you, Sir," Abram replied.
Hac and Grover arrived just then, Grover grinning as he rode on Hac's shoulders. "I've got it, bro," Hac announced. "Abram, I'm Hac Busch. Our intel people have given me a full update on the conditions of your former community. One of the gifts I've lived with all my life is the ability to look into another's mind to see their intentions and detect things in their history that must be resolved. Do I have your permission to perform this scan on you?"
Abram nodded. "I was told that things such as this might be required. You have permission for scanning my family."
"Can I help, Daddy?" Grover asked with excitement.
Hac grinned, obviously enjoying the latest addition to his family's excitement. "You're still learning control, youngling. I'll bring you in with me, but you have to let me control what we see and how we see it, okay?"
"AWESOME! Thanks, Daddy!" Grover exclaimed as he gave Hac's head a hug.
Mini took Iggy with him to meet Hannah and Vernon while Hac began the scan. A few minutes later, Hac completed his scan. Without breaking eye contact with Abram, Hac tapped his subvocal. "Klaus, send me a sensitive to receive a report. Stand by to dispatch a team for immediate sanctions."
"Give me the dump," Mini stated loud enough for Hac to hear. A few seconds later, Mini's eyes grew dark as he tapped his subvocal as well. "Klaus, be advised that Family Clan Short of Vulcan has reviewed the evidence and hereby authorizes non-consensual gathering of evidence to confirm and immediately prosecute all violations of both the Federation and League of Nations' Human Rights Charters in addition to the SHA."
"Understood, Mini. I'll let the teams know." Klaus replied.
Hac, after hearing Mini's response, then stated "Injuring younglings and hiding it behind a perverted religious doctrine of discipline is not acceptable, period. Failure to properly punish those who take advantage of those weaker than them for sexual gratification is not acceptable, period. You've shown that you are willing to learn to live the values of the Clan. I find your wish for a safer life for your family to be sincere, and shall arrange for assistance to help you adjust to a new life where the punishments fit the crime. Your request to be assisted by Family Clan Short is approved."
Just then, a ten-year-old with a lime green mohawk appeared next to Hac. "Whatcha got, Hac?" the boy asked with a grin.
Hac broke his gaze, turning to look at the visitor. "Neon green? Don't you have ANY regard for other people's eyes, Jessip?"
"Nope!" Jessip giggled. "C'mon, fill me in already."
"Brat!" Hac sniggered as he passed on the information from the scan. "Pass it on and get back here; I've got a job for ya' to do."
"Gotcha, fuzzball!" Jessip giggled. "Be right back!"
Abram's eyes were wide in shock. "Where did he come from?"
"Going by the swimsuit, I'm guessing one of the Southern swimming pools," Hac grinned.
"Something tells me life is going to get interesting," Abram commented.
"You have no idea..." Hac laughed as Jessip reappeared, this time appropriately dressed for an Iowa November.
"Wazzup, Chief?" Jessip asked with a smirk.
Hac turned to Jessip, putting a hand on the boy's shoulder. "You see this little guy hanging out on my shoulder? That's my new son Grover, and I think it would be really nice if he and Lonto had a brother who could help them adjust to living longer than normal. What you think, are you up to it?"
Jessip stared at Hac with wide eyes, initially speechless. After almost a minute, he managed to whisper "B...bb...but th...that ... that wou...would m...me...mean ad...adop...adopting m...m...me!"
"Exactly," Hac replied softly. "I should have done it years ago, but I'm finally comfortable enough with myself to admit what I need to do. You in?"
With tears running down his face, Jessip answered in the time-honored tradition of kids throughout all time: he launched himself at Hac and proceeded to attempt to squeeze the life out of Hac while soaking his shirt in happy tears.
"I'll take this as a yes," Hac grinned. "Klaus, log it please; Jessip is now a member of House Busch. When you have a chance, could you move his things up to the Des Moines compound?"
"It's about time you made it official!" Klaus snickered. "The rest of the Council was about to beat you over the head until you realized how Jessip felt about you."
"Bite me!" Hac chuckled.
Abram watched the new family, smiling when he saw Grover use his little bare foot to rub the short hairs on his new brother's head. He then turned to check on his family, and found that Vernon was sitting on Mini's lap, giggling as Iggy played peek-a-boo with him, while Hannah watched over them. Deciding that Hac needed some family time, Abram joined his wife on the bench. "Hannah, things are about to change. Clan Short has accepted us, and if what I just saw was any indication, our lives are going to be totally different."
"These boys are so friendly, I hope there are more like them in the Clan," Hannah stated softly.
With a serious look on his face, Abram replied "When we were being checked to make sure we could be helped, I found out a few things. The most important one is that the Elders taught us wrongly as to the meaning of the Good Book."
"I'll take it from here," Davie interrupted, appearing in his full glory.
"Showoff!" Mini giggled. "Everyone, this is Davie Owens, Assistant to Saint Mikey of Urbandale."
Davie smiled at Mini, then turned to Abram and Hannah, who were halfway to their knees. "Do not bow to me, as I am only the messenger," Davie stated.
Wordlessly, both young adults retook their seats, their full concentration focused on the young Angel in front of them.
"To start with, I'll finish what Abram was saying," Davie stated, "Your former Elders believed they could pick and choose the laws of the state, country, and world they lived in, along with the laws of the Federation. Romans 13, verse 1 states 'Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.' and 1 Peter 2, verses 13 through 17 states 'Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.' I'm just an Angel, but to me that says if there are a bunch of laws at higher levels that say to not beat kids or rape them, the punishments of those laws trump what some so-called church elder says is the law. Saying that asking forgiveness is enough don't cut it, and cutting you off from your own extended family just because you violated a rule that hurt nobody don't cut it either."
Noticing the looks on their faces, Davie added "Those who are misguided shall not be punished for their transgressions; their sin shall be attributed to the one who misguided them. Neither of you has committed any sin which would count as serious; by marrying once the pregnancy was discovered you fulfilled the covenant to provide for your offspring. You have freed yourselves of the shackles of oppression; from this point forward your actions are attributable to you alone."
Abram and Hannah visibly relaxed as understanding dawned on them. "What do we do now?" Abram asked.
"Listen to the Clan Grandmas," Davie stated with a smile. "Especially Grandma Morrison; she makes Saint Peter nervous!"
"I think she makes EVERYONE nervous!" Mini snickered.
"That too!" Davie laughed. "You can also give me a yell, I'm usually hanging around somewhere. I think if you finish the ride home on the bus, and keep an open mind, you'll get a better idea of what the Clan is all about. Don't worry about the rental car, Hac can handle getting it returned for you."
"Thank you, Davie, my heart feels much lighter," Abram stated.
"Thank you for putting your family before things your heart told you were wrong," Davie replied seriously. "You doing that is what made it possible for me to help you." As he started to fade away, Davie added: "Go forward with Our Father's Blessings."
"Hey Mini!" Hac yelled, "We're loading up! Kerry's handled the Yoder's stuff, so we're ready to go."
"One sec, Hac," Mini replied, "Someone needs a diaper change!" Tapping his subvocal, Mini asked "Kerry, could you pop Vern's diaper bag over?"
"Incoming!" Kerry replied.
"Thanks, bro," Mini replied as he laid out the blanket and quickly changed the diaper, Iggy watching intently with his nose pinched shut.
Once he finished, Mini looked over to see two shocked parents staring at him. "I've got a baby brother, and Dad says the only way to learn how to take care of a baby is to actually do it."
Abram thought it over, then replied: "I think I'll need to sit down with your father and catch up on things I was never taught."
Mini nodded. "I think Dad'll like that. He's not my father though; that bastard has met his Final Judgement. Since you didn't know, I'm not mad; but a lot of Clan kids were abused and they attach totally different emotions to the difference between a Dad and a Father."
"I get the feeling that I had a father," Abram mused, "but I will need guidance to learn to be a Dad."
"You just started," Mini said with a smile. "C'mon, we've got cookies waiting in Des Moines!"
Julio paced nervously just inside the gate, his worry about the delayed third bus evident on his face. Even Grandma Morrison couldn't calm him, so she sat with Bob and his sons awaiting the arrival of the final group.
To everyone's relief, the silence of the night was suddenly shattered by the sound of a bus downshifting to navigate the twisting road that led to the front gate. A minute later, the lights of the bus became visible as it rounded the final turn and headed towards the main entry gate.
"FINALLY!" Julio exclaimed in exasperation. As soon as the bus came to a stop, Julio was at the door, squeezing through before it was completely open. He rushed down the bus to Mini's seat, pulling Mini out of it and giving him a tight hug.
"I think your Uncle Julio mighta been a little worried," Alien explained to their new sons. "He's like that, you'll get used to it."
"I heard that, you're next!" Julio stated. "Then I get to meet the new munchkins."
Up front, Hac smiled at Julio's actions in back, then announced "Okay everyone, leave the Director to calm down, he'll be out to welcome you in a few. We need to hurry up before Grandma comes in and gets us!"
Taking the hint, the bus emptied of everyone but Julio, Mini, Alien, Iggy, and Yenn. The new arrivals huddled together in a group, unsure as to the welcome they were about to receive.
Grandma Morrison stood up and addressed the group. "While Director Hernandez is assuring himself that his friends are okay, I'll get things rolling here. I'm Grandma Morrison; you may all address me as Grandma. The very first thing that you need to know is that every single one of you is human, plain and simple. You are no different than anyone else here, and anyone who says different has to deal with me."
Bob interrupted "The only person living that has successfully challenged Grandma and lived to tell about it is on the bus checking on his friends."
"That is because Director Hernandez knows when to stand his ground," Grandma Morrison admitted. "Those of you that have special dietary needs need not worry; my boys will make sure that you are accommodated and any post-feeding assistance you may need will be provided. Each of you will be provided lodging with roommates that you feel comfortable with. Those of you that have bonded into a group will be kept together if that is your wish. This Compound is built on family, and we will assist each of you, however, is needed to ensure you either find a family of your own, or assist you in starting your own family unit. Now each of you owes me a welcome hug before our Director joins us."
"You heard Grandma!" Mini giggled as he exited the bus and began the procession, Iggy latched onto his side. "Grandma, this is one of our new sons, Iggy!"
Grandma gave Mini a squeeze, then dropped to one knee to talk to Iggy, who was holding on to Mini for dear life. "You've got two very protective daddies, Iggy. You don't need to worry about anyone hurting you ever again, they won't let it happen. Your new Grandpa might just beat them to stopping it, though!"
Looking up at Mini, Grandma added "His eyes tell me more than even the report about his former caretaker said. Your love saved your brothers; now it must save your sons."
"Gotcha, Grandma!" Mini replied as he guided Iggy to meet the rest of the family before he passed out from stress.
Alien was next, Yenn glued to his side. As Grandma gave Alien a quick hug, she asked: "Did you pay attention to what I told Mini?"
"Yes, Grandma," Alien replied quickly. "Yenn was listening too."
"Then get over there with your family; these two need to be exposed to Clan life immediately."
With a smirk, Alien saluted Grandma before picking up Yenn and rushing over to join Mini.
Smiling at Alien's impishness, Grandma turned to find her next victim. As soon as she spotted Kary standing there holding the hands of his little brothers, she acquired her target and headed for the kill. "There you are! Hurry up and get your hugs, Bob's waiting for you three!"
"Okay, killer grandmas in my hallucination is getting to be a bit much!" Kary quipped just before being pulled into a bone-crushing welcome hug. "Help?" he squeaked as Grandma made sure he knew he was welcomed.
As she released him, Grandma stated "You have more in common with Mini than you realize, Kary. Your humor will heal your brothers, and your protective nature will give them the security they need to recover. The rest of your family will be your support, so you are no longer doing this alone."
"Is your first name Confucius, Grandma?" Kary wheezed as he regained his breath. "I didn't even introduce myself!"
Grandma snickered. "You've got spunk! All the boys carry cameras on missions, so I saw you just as soon as Mini claimed you as a brother."
"Where can I get a refund on this dream?" Kary asked as he shook his head to clear it, causing both of his little brothers to giggle.
Taking the opportunity while they were distracted, Grandma quickly pulled Alfie and Chris into a hug. "Now you two cuties need to make sure that your brother gets lots of hugs. He needs you more than you need him in some ways."
"What about..." Chris started to ask, only to be silenced by Grandma's finger over his mouth.
"Trust in your family, and your heart will solve all issues," Grandma stated cryptically. "I promise you will never be alone again, even in your sleep."
"You see stuff, don't ya Grandma?" Alfie asked as he put an arm around Chris' waist.
"Only general ideas, what do you know about that?" Grandma asked curiously.
"One'a my friends used'ta kinda do it sometimes," Alfie explained. "His parents sent him to some camp in Florida, so I ain't seen him since just after school started."
"Friends find each other in time, little one," Grandma said with a smile. "Take you brother over to your new family, and show him that dreams do come true."
"Okay, Grandma!" Alfie and Chris chorused as they grabbed Kary's hands and began dragging him over to join Mini.
Kit, Kaiyan, and Zach found themselves the next targets. After giving all three their welcome hug and doing introductions, Grandma smiled. "I'm impressed. You two older boys have shown just how much you understand Clan life by taking in Zach as your little brother. Hac was nice enough to pass on the information, and Bob is looking forward to getting to know all three of you. You've started your new life on the right foot, keep it up!"
"Thanks, Grandma," all three replied before heading over to join the rest of their new family.
After going through another dozen new kids, Grandma finally got to the Yoder family. After giving each of the adults a welcome hug, she picked up Vern and settled him on her hip. "I know you've got more questions than answers right now," Grandma began, "and before the sun rises you're going to have even more. Clan life is a big adjustment for anyone, your situation is going to make it more confusing. I discussed it with Director Hernandez, my son, and my daughter-in-law, and we decided that if you wish that you could join the Morrison household."
"We wouldn't want to be a burden," Abram replied.
"You wouldn't be," Julio stated as he joined them. "Clan families tend to grow, sometimes daily. To make sure there is always an adult around when a kid needs support, a lot of families have merged together their living arrangements. My house is even like that; there are really three different families there, and each of the adults works with the others to make sure all of us can get parent time when we need it, or adult advice on things we are not comfortable asking our parents about."
Grandma nodded. "You'll find that a lot of Clan children need to know that the adult really understands what they have been through before they'll trust them. You've had experiences due to your upbringing that will give you insight as to how some of them feel, and with my family's help you'll gain the experience of how to overcome your past in a healthy way."
"But no matter WHAT Grandma tells you," Julio stated with a grin, "no riding of any Harleys in the Compound!"
"Tyrant!" Grandma snickered as she pulled Julio into a headlock with her free arm.
"Security! Help!" Julio yelled between giggles.
"You're on your own, Boss!" Colin yelled from the group around Bob. "Grandma has us outnumbered!"
"CHICKENS!" Julio shot back.
"Turkey!" Bob yelled over the sound of his sons doing chicken imitations.
Julio twisted free of the hold Grandma had on him, then gave her a hug. "Thanks for the help, Grandma."
"I'm glad to be able to help, Julio," Grandma replied. "No matter what, my family will ensure that you're never standing alone."
Abram smiled as he watched Julio take Vern for his own welcome cuddle. "I think I see what you mean; nobody in our old community would even consider treating an Elder as Julio was just treated. I believe we'll accept the offer."
After giving Vern a kiss on his forehead, Julio added "One thing that you're going to have to adjust to is that in Clan families the women generally have the same say in things as the men. Right now I know that you're not comfortable with that dynamic due to how you were raised, but the longer you are here the more likely it is that you'll shift to being the same way. It won't be forced on you, but I don't want it to ruin your relationship if it rubs off on you."
Abram thought it over before responding. "Thank you for pointing that out, as without forewarning I could easily see that being a problem. The living arrangement that you offered seems to be a good way to assist with adjustments like that before they can become problems, as there are equals that either side can talk to. With others helping along the way, I believe that we can all adjust without destroying the family."
Julio smiled. "Good answer. You've got the help, it's not a sign of weakness to use it. Trust me, you'll find out that you've got help when you least expect it."
"Listen to him, Abram," Hac said as he appeared with all three of his sons. "He's the only living being to make Grandma back down... TWICE!"
"Yes, unlike a certain puppy, Julio knows when to pick his battles," Grandma stated with an evil grin.
"I'm lost," Abram admitted.
"Grandma is usually right, and she gets her way," Julio explained. "But when there is a better way, she will listen as long as you can prove that your way does give a better result."
Abram nodded. "I will keep that in mind. Thank you for accepting us so easily."
Julio smiled as he passed Vern back to Hannah. "Actually, thank you for joining us; you're going to teach us a lot more than we'll teach you. If you want, I can save you some walking and have you teleported to your new home. The Morrisons are expecting you, so it won't be a surprise."
"Please do so, it has been a trying day," Abram replied gratefully.
"Kerry?" Julio asked after tapping his commbadge, "You ready to show your new aunt and uncle their new home?"
"Oh yeah! I can't wait!" Kerry replied with excitement. "Mom's waiting for them now!"
"Go for it, bro!" Julio giggled.
Once the Yoders vanished, Julio turned to check on Hac and his family. He smiled as he found Hac sitting on the ground, Jessip cuddled on his lap and Yonto cuddled into his side. Grover had claimed a spot on Grandma's hip, and had just begun an excited rundown of his first time seeing his new Daddy turn into a wolf.
"You did good, bro," Julio stated with a smile as he caught Hac's eyes. "They'll fit right in with your pack."
"Thanks," Hac replied. "I learned it from you."
"You gonna nest with the group this morning?"
Hac nodded. "Yep, I think the new guys will need me."
"Okay," Julio agreed, "Consider yourself assigned to getting all of them settled in. Take however long it takes; we can cover any emergencies."
"Gotcha," Hac said with a nod. "I'll catch up with everyone once Grandma's up to date."
"Kewl!" Julio replied.
Once Julio had made the rounds of the newest additions to the Compound, the group took a tram ride to CIC, where a special darkroom was already prepared. Each busload had been given their own area in different areas of the compound, as there was no way to assure that all of the new arrivals would get along ahead of time. For their very first day in the Clan, the youth passengers of the third bus found themselves sharing a nest with their new living brothers, the two groups cuddled together in one mass hug.
This is a very interesting and confusing chapter, if anyone completely understood this chapter I strongly suggest making an appointment to see Dr. Richardson.
ACFan continues to overwork our brains with the cameos from other stories. Hac, with a personality, what's up with that? Is the universe going to shrink?
I am afraid to ask for the next chapter, so I am just going back to writing.
The Story Lover