Memories Part 1: The Gathering

Chapter 40

Teri broke from her normal routine and decided to wake her personal collection of angels. The boys had decided that it would be only fitting to spend their last night in Des Moines in a nest in the Rec Room, watching movies until they all passed out.

She came to a stop as she entered the room; her boys presented a sight no artist could capture. Instead of the normal tangle of bodies, the boys had fell asleep in the perfect picture of brotherly love. They had piled pillows and quilts so that they were semi-reclining. Sean and Cory were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, heads laying against each other. Adam was cuddled under Sean's right arm, head on Sean's shoulder; Ty fell asleep wedged between Adam and Sean, head on Sean's lower chest. On the other side, Tommy had taken up the same position as Adam on Cory's left side. Timmy was half-laying on Cory, securely held in place by Tommy.

A familiar voice from behind Teri made her smile even more. "Awesome sight, ain't it Mom?"

Teri turned. "Yes it is, Mike. I'm not sure who needed the family-only time more, me or the boys. I hate to wake them; they look so peaceful. Look at their smiles, you can't tell they are anything but family."

Mike smiled back. "Mom, when you put your foot down about waiting to leave until they had some time alone, it was the best thing you could have done. All of them have been trying to look out for the other guys, they needed the break to finish bonding. I think we're gonna see a change in all of them today, a change for the better."

The conversation was interrupted by a sleepy little voice from the pile of boys. "Mornin' Gran'ma. Mornin' Unca' Mikey"

Teri turned to see her grandson wiggle out of the group, waking most of them in the process, and stumble over to give her a hug. "Good morning Timmy. Did you sleep good?" Teri asked as she picked him up.

"Yeah. I was missin' Ricky, but Unca' Tommy cuddled me and made it better." Timmy replied as he made himself comfortable on Teri's hip. He looked over Teri's shoulder and asked "Unca' Mikey, you gonna stay an' visit today?"

Mikey wrapped his wings around his mother and nephew. "I'm gonna try to, kiddo. If I do have to leave, I promise to come right back."


The rest of the boys wandered over and joined the family hug, sleepy smiles on all of their faces. As the hug broke, Mikey commented "Mom, I think it might be an idea to let the guys use your shower this morning."

Teri cast Mike a knowing look. "I agree; you guys go get cleaned up, I'll whip up some breakfast."

As the boys headed down the hall to get the shower, Adam noticed Cory had quiet tears running down his face, along with a small smile. "What's wrong, bro?" he asked with concern.

The group stopped as Cory replied. "Whenever Mikey thought I needed reassured that we were all brothers, he'd talk Mom into lettin' us use her shower and all three of us would shower together. Mom used to have some special liquid soap that smelled like strawberries just for that, and we'd all wash each other. I didn't remember about it 'till he said something, and I guess I kinda miss him doing that."

Adam handed his clothes to Tommy then hugged Cory. "Bro, maybe that's what Mikey's doing; we can still do it in his memory. We share a lot with the rest of the Clan; but this is just for our family. Will you please make me your little brother?"

Cory smiled as he felt all of the pressure of the last two months fall away. "Little brother, I think you're right. Let's go; it's time to make us all family."

They went into the room, and Cory went to the cabinet that Teri had always kept the body wash in for them. He opened the cabinet door, looked inside and exclaimed "Oh my God!"

The rest of the boys rushed over, and found Cory sitting on the floor holding a bottle with a dusty note on it. On the front of the note, it read "To Cory from Mom".

Cory carefully took the note off of the bottle, and slowly opened it. Once he had read it a few times, he passed it on to Sean with tears in his eyes. Sean took one look, and asked softly "Can I read it out loud, Cor?"

Cory just nodded, still unable to speak.

Sean re-opened the note and read it aloud:



Since you are reading this, it means I finally have my other son back. Mike always insisted on this certain soap for any time you or Sean felt down, and I guess one of you is in need of support again. Cory, since well before the day you moved in Mike considered you just as much his brother as Sean. He loved both of you equally, and told me more than once he'd rather die than see either of you hurt.

Today I placed the rest of Mike's belongings in his room and locked the door. I plan to do the same for your things tomorrow; tonight I'm going back to the hospital to be with you. Today you woke up; thank God you remembered Sean a little bit; he can live with you remembering your friendship. The doctors say you might not remember everything from when you woke up, so I'll fill you in a little. Sean and I were in the room the first time you woke up; you saw me first and asked "Ma'am? Where am I? What happened?". Sean was sitting in a chair on the other side of the bed; when he saw you didn't remember me he sobbed aloud. You turned over and saw him, then said the words I'll never forget. "You're ... Sean? You're my friend, ain't you?"

Cory, you saved Sean with those seven words. If it takes every penny I have, I'm going to get you well again. The bottle this note was on is a symbol of Mike's love for you, as you use it remember Mike is here in spirit with you. I will not ever pack it or throw it away.




Tommy took the note from Sean's hands as Cory stood and fell into Sean's arms. He carefully folded it and laid it on the shelf, then joined Sean and Cory's hug. Adam, Tyler, and Timmy also joined, all of them crying silent tears to match Sean and Cory's tears.

After a few minutes, they broke the hug. Tommy picked up the note. "Timmy, take this to your Grandma and have her put it someplace safe, okay?"

"Okay Unca' Tommy." Timmy replied as he took the note and walked out of the room.

Teri was just about ready to start cooking when Timmy walked into the kitchen. "Gran'ma, Unca' Tommy says to put this somewhere safe."

Teri took the note in wonder, looked down at it, then realized what it was. "Oh no! I forgot all about this! Are your Daddy and Pop okay, Timmy?"

"They cried some, but William says it was a good cry. William said to tell you they's okay."

Teri knelt down and gave Timmy a hug. "Tell William I said thank you. I'll put this away for your Daddy; now you better hurry up and get back up there before they start without you."

Timmy squeezed her then gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek. "Okay Gran'ma, love you!"

Once Timmy returned, the boys undressed and climbed into the huge shower. Even with six of them, there was still a little room to move around. Not a word was said as they started with Cory, everyone slowly washing him from head to toe. Once Cory was done, they switched around and did the same to Sean, then Adam, Tommy, Tyler, and finally Timmy. Just as they finished drying off, Timmy climbed up on Sean and gave him a hug. "Pop, can you ask Gran'ma if we can stay here again tonight? I wanna sleep in our bed with just all my uncles one more time."

Sean looked around at the rest of the group, then replied. "I think you got a good idea, son. I'll see what I can do, okay?"

"Okay Pop. I love you."

"I love you too. Let's get dressed so we can eat, okay?"

"Okay." Timmy replied as he slid down Sean and grabbed his clothes.

Once they were all dressed, the boys headed down for breakfast. Once Timmy let William out for his morning hunt, they sat down. Teri came out pushing a cart stacked with waffles, sausage, and hash browns. "You guys ready to eat?" she asked.

"YEAH!" the boys chorused, trying not to drool.

As Teri started passing out the plates, Tommy looked around the table. "Mom? We got any peanut butter?" he asked.

Teri looked at him in surprise. "Yes, we do; why?"

Tommy giggled. "You mean y'all ain't had peanut butter on waffles? It's awesome!"

Teri went and got some peanut butter; she was surprised to see the rest of the boy's curiosity overcame their hunger as they watched Tommy carefully make sure each square had some peanut butter in it, then pour syrup over the top.

Timmy walked over to Tommy's seat. "Unca' Tommy, can I try a bite?"

Tommy grinned, and cut a small piece off for Timmy to try. Timmy slowly put it in his mouth, ready to spit it out. Once he tasted it, he broke into a huge grin. "Awesome! Unca' Tommy, fix mine like that!"

Teri shook her head as half of Tommy's first waffle disappeared with the rest of the boys trying it. As she saw how the voting was going, she got up and grabbed another jar of peanut butter, sure that it would be needed.

As they finished off the pile of food, Sean got Teri's attention. "Mom, could we stay here one more night? We kinda need some more time together."

Teri looked around the table at her boys, half of which had peanut butter mustaches. She noticed something different; the new bond between them was almost visible. "I'll call everyone and let them know. I think you guys have earned it."


The boys were waiting for Sean in the Rec Room. He told them he had to get something special, then went upstairs. He entered the room carrying a yellow bag, holding it like it was fine china. He carefully sat the bag down, then looked at Cory. "Cory, I promised myself that this bag wouldn't be opened until the day that you could do it. Is today the day?"

Cory looked at Sean, then over at Mikey, who was floating about six inches above the love seat. "Yeah, but I have to say something first. Everyone gather around here, you too Mikey."

Once they were all in place, Cory gathered up his courage and spoke. "Most of you guys don't know what's in this bag, or what it means to Sean and I. I probably couldn't open it if Mikey wasn't here; that drunk killed him when he was coming to pick us up after we bought it. It hurts some to look at that bag; even though Mikey has told me a thousand times that it was his time to go, I still blame myself a little for talking him into taking us to the mall. Sean and I have been talking about getting this out for the last couple of weeks, but I never could go through with it." Cory reached into the bag and pulled out a small white bag. With tears in his eyes, he handed the contents of the bag to Mike. "Mikey, we bought that game for you. I can't play it now; not without you here to play it with me."

Mikey motioned for Cory to sit on his lap, then embraced his little brother with both his arms and his wings. As Cory buried his face in Mike's shoulder and began sobbing, Mike spoke softly. "Cory, I love you little brother. Thank you. I know it still hurts, that's because you love me too. Let it all out, Tigger; you can still love me without the hurt. Listen to your heart, it knows I didn't leave you, I just changed so I can watch my little Tigger no matter where you go or what you do."

Hearing Mikey call him Tigger had the desired effect on Cory; he cuddled in tightly to Mikey, put his thumb in his mouth, and fell asleep. When Cory was young, Mikey had given him the nickname because of the way he always bounced around. As Cory got older, it became an unspoken rule that only Mikey could use the nickname; even then it was saved for special occasions when Cory needed extra support. Sean explained that to the rest of the boys while Cory slept, and warned them that it was best not to use it. Sean had seen one of their cousins try it once before Mike died, and Cory had went off like a rocket. Now, there was a good chance Cory would try to kill anyone who called him by the nickname reserved for Mikey to use.

When Cory awoke twenty minutes later, he followed the same pattern he always did after Mikey helped him get through a meltdown.

Cory looked up at Mikey's face and asked in a sincere, small, childlike voice "Does Tigger's big angel still love him?"

Mikey noticed the slight change in the normal procedure - instead of 'big brother' Cory said 'big angel'. "Tigger's big angel is always gonna love him forever." Mikey replied as he kissed Cory's forehead.

"I love you Mikey." Cory murmured in a more normal voice.

"I love you too Tigger. You know, I've been waiting over a year to see what you guys got; why don't you show me, then we'll see if angels can play video games?"

Cory gave Mikey a small smile. "Okay, what are we gonna play?"

Mikey picked up the game Cory had gave him earlier. "I have this game from the most important people in my afterlife I want to try out."

Cory turned and kissed Mikey's cheek. "Thanks bro, I'm sorry for being such a baby."

Mikey looked Cory straight in the eyes. "You are not being a baby, you're being the little Tigger that I've always loved. No matter how old you are, I'll always be here for you if you need to let out your emotions. You've had a rough year, Cory; you needed to let it out. Do you think you are ready to move on with your life, knowing that I'm right here with you even when you can't see me?"

Cory nodded. "I am now; I'm glad Mom set it up so we would be alone today."

Mikey gave Cory a squeeze, then set him loose to open the bag. Cory got out the X-Box and games they had bought in the mall, and began setting it up with Sean's help. A few minutes later, it was ready to go, and Sean turned to Mikey.

"Mikey, who do you want to lose to first?" Sean goaded with a grin, secretly glad things were working out the way Cory and him had planned in the mall while eating.

Everyone knew it was no contest; when Mikey answered 'Cory' they all smiled. Each of them realized that Cory was the only choice, he needed the final closure of actually playing the game with Mikey to really move on.

Teri looked in the doorway about ten minutes later. Tears of joy came to her eyes at the sight before her. She recognized the NASCAR racing game on the screen as one that Mikey and Cory used to spend hours on with their PS/2. She knew that the PS/2 game disk was securely locked in her safe for Cory's emotional well-being, so it only meant one thing; the X-Box that they had been putting off getting out was finally being put to use. The part that brought back the most memories was who the players were; Mikey and Cory. Sean was joined by Timmy in his normal position cheering Cory on, while Adam and Ty took up position as Mikey's cheering section. As she turned away, the joyous yell from Cory as he beat Mikey out of the pit made her smile.


The boys played again for about three hours after lunch, then Teri interrupted them. "Guys, I hate to say it, but we need to run out and get some more food if we're going to stay another day. If you want to come with me, I'll let each of you pick out a game to play on the X-Box. And yes, Mike, you can pick one out too."

Sean, who was getting thoroughly trounced by Tyler, saved their game. "Sure Mom!"

Mike smiled. "I'll pick out a game on one condition; Cory has to teach the rest of our brothers how to play."

Cory grinned, already knowing what Mikey's choice would be. "You're on, bro. The one I gave you is just for when you are here though, okay?"

Mikey smiled, he now knew Cory would be okay. "It's a deal. You want me to drive, Mom?"

Teri grinned when Cory replied "No way dude! Your license expired when you did!"

When the laughter subsided, Mikey put his arm over Cory's shoulder. "Now that's my little Tigger! Good one, Cory!"

Cory grinned at Mikey. "Thanks bro!"

A few minutes later, they loaded up into Teri's Suburban for the trip. Mikey went invisible and tagged along in the front seat, enjoying the one-on-one time with his charges as much as they were enjoying having him around. As the boys discussed the various wrecks and goofs as they each played the game, Teri drove to the Wal-Mart Supercenter on 73rd street. After she parked, the boys piled out, anxious to get inside and out of the unseasonably hot weather.

After picking up everything they would need for another day in Des Moines, they left the store. They were about halfway to the Suburban when William suddenly launched from Timmy's shoulder and flew off to a far corner of the parking lot. About thirty seconds later, Timmy screeched and went into his war paint. Cory and Sean instantly reached under the loose tee-shirts they had put on and pulled their phasers, then they all followed Timmy to where William was circling a car parked in the corner. Teri hurried to the Suburban and tossed their purchases in the back, then drove over to where William was circling.

As they reached the car, it took less than a second for the boys to assess the situation and jump into action. Sean started trying doors, finding them all locked on the running vehicle. Adam did a flying kick which shattered the drivers window, then reached in and shut off the car. While all of that was happening, Cory got out his communicator, silently thanking God that the Enterprise was in orbit.

"Enterprise this is Ensign Short. I have Priority One traffic!"

The reply was immediate. "Ensign Short, this is Enterprise. Uhura here. Proceed with Priority One traffic."

"Enterprise, I need a Med Team Code Red to my coordinates. Tell them to bring anything they can carry. Subject appears to be an eleven year old male. Have Transporter standing by for emergency evacuation."

"Acknowledged Ensign. Med team enroute and transporter standing by. Enterprise standing by."

Cory dodged the seatback from the Lumina Euro that Sean had just cut off then thrown out, and went in to further assess the situation. He almost gagged at what he saw; chained into the back seat was a boy of about eleven, beaten to within an inch of his life. The boy was totally nude, and was still bleeding from what appeared to be a partial castration. He helped Sean cut the chains with his phaser, then gently helped lift the sweat-covered boy out. As they were lifting him out of the car, Cory noticed the heater controls were set for maximum heat, even though it was well over ninety degrees outside. He had heard the blower motor running when they came up, so it was obvious what was happening.

Just as they were laying the boy out on the makeshift cot formed by the removed seatbacks, McCoy beamed down with his team. He took one look at the boy then began stopping the bleeding. "Ensign Cory, call the ship and tell them to be ready to scramble some molecules ASAP!"

"Already done, Doc. They're standing by."

"Good. Where's the bastard that did this?"

Cory looked over his shoulder at the Windsor Heights police cruisers pulling in. Obviously the Wal-Mart security force actually watched the cameras in the parking lot. "I don't know yet, but I'll bet these guys pulling in will find out."

Cory watched as the cruisers emptied with guns drawn. As soon as the officers realized Starfleet Medical was on site, they put the guns away. Cory got out his ID and walked over to the nearest officer. Figuring this was no time to play games, he pulled rank the best way possible. The wallet was open to show both his Starfleet and Vulcan identification cards when he handed it to the officer, he figured the Vulcan one would get things done the fastest. "Captain, I am Patriarch Short of Clan Short of Vulcan. An attempted murder has occurred. There is a high probability it was committed by the registered owner of this vehicle. May I presume your assistance in the apprehension of the individual who committed this crime?"

Tyler came up at the end of Cory's speech. When he heard how Cory was talking, he decided to follow suit. "Sir, the victim has stated to Doctor McCoy that the assault was performed by his biological mother. His condition is weak, but he positively identified the vehicle as hers."

"Acknowledged Tyler. Inform Director Short that I am claiming jurisdiction over the victim for his protection."

"As you wish, Sir." Tyler replied, then turned and headed for Teri.

Cory turned back towards the Captain. "I revise my earlier statements. Director Short of Federation Child Services witnessed the conditions of the attempted murder. I believe she will be able to arrange any assistance you will require to apprehend this criminal."

The Captain finally found his voice. He had heard the rumors going around the local police forces about Clan Short and Youth Services, but had never expected to actually be dealing with them. "Mr. Short, I assure you that we will do everything in our power to find the person who attempted this. May I ask who is the victim and how bad?"

"Earth male, approximate age of eleven years. He appears beaten over seventy percent of his body, is bleeding from a partial attempt at castration, and is suffering heat exhaustion from being locked and chained in a car with the heater running at maximum intensity."

As Cory went down the list, you could see the blood rising up the Captain's neck. When Cory finished, the Captain replied. "Thank you Mr. Short. Please contact me when you are able to get the victim's name, right now we've got a monster to catch." He turned and started barking orders to his men, then headed over to work with Teri on speeding up catching the mother.

Cory returned to the area where Doctor McCoy was working on the boy. "How is he Doc?"

McCoy didn't even look up. "Just about stable enough to transport. I expect a full report ASAP."

Cory smiled, knowing that McCoy's 'just about stable enough' meant the boy was going to make it. "No problem Doc; we're gonna come up with him. I just claimed jurisdiction; he's mine until I decide otherwise."

Just as McCoy was about to reply, the boy spoke in a soft voice. "Look, an Angel! Am I dead?"

Cory glanced up and smiled; Mikey was hovering over them. "No little buddy, you ain't dead. That's your Guardian Angel, Saint Mikey. He's here to make sure nobody hurts you ever again."

"Kewl!" the boy exclaimed softly before drifting back to sleep.

Cory looked back up at Mikey. "You gonna come up too, bro? Please?"

"I'll be there, Cory."


Sickbay, USS Enterprise, forty-five minutes later:

Cory finally finished his reports, and joined McCoy at the bedside of their newest addition. "What do you think, Doc? He gonna be okay?"

McCoy looked over at Cory. "It matters what you mean by okay. Whatever that witch used to try to castrate him was contaminated; I was only able to save one testicle, the other was already infected and beyond help. No matter what I do, he's going to have some scars, there's too much damage to the skin. He's going to be sensitive to temperatures for the rest of his life, on top of the emotional trauma of what was done to him. He's going to survive, but it'll be a damn miracle if he's ever okay again."

Cory reached down and gently brushed the boy's fine auburn hair out of his eyes, then softly replied "Do what you can, Doc; we'll take care of the rest."

As Cory watched, he saw the boy's hazel eyes flutter slightly and begin to open. Cory motioned for Tyler to join them, then gently took the boy's hand in his.

Tyler saw McCoy's questioning look, and answered the question before it was asked. "Doc, remember I'm an Empath. He's one of us now, that means he gets all the help we can give him."

McCoy allowed himself a rare smile as he thought 'If anyone can save this kid's sanity, they are here in this room. Welcome to your new life kid." He stepped back to where he could monitor the Med Bed, and let the boys get to work.

The boy focused on Cory after some effort. In a slightly weak voice, he asked "Where am I?"

Cory smiled. "Hey little buddy. You're on the starship Enterprise, and just had the best doctor in the Federation fix you up. I'm Cory; how do you feel?"

"I kinda hurt; not as bad as I did, but I still hurt. You were in my dream; I thought I saw an angel and you were there too."

"That wasn't a dream, buddy. That was your new guardian angel watching over you. You're safe now, I promise nobody's gonna hurt you again. Can you tell me your name?"

"You promise not to make me go back if I tell you?"

Cory leaned over and kissed the boy's forehead. "I promise, little guy. The only place you're going when you leave here is to your new home with me."

The boy looked at Cory with suspicion. "You can't promise that; your just a kid like me. You ain't gonna be able to talk your parents into letting me stay; I'll end up on the streets like my little brother."

McCoy stepped up to assist Cory. "Young man, Cory is probably THE most powerful fourteen year old in the Federation. If he decides it's needed, he can have your mother executed for what she did to you with just a nod of his head. Right now, every law-enforcement agent in the United States is searching for your mother, on his orders. If he promises you something, you can bank on it. Do I make myself clear?"

The boy was looking wide-eyed at Cory as he answered McCoy. "Yes SIR!" After a pause, he shyly replied to Cory. "Cory, my name is Calen Michael Slate. I'm sorry about being such a brat, but I guess that's all I'll ever be."

Cory smiled. "Calen, you were not being a brat; you were trying to protect yourself. You were doing nothing wrong. Now what was this about a little brother? Fill me in, I'll bet you we can find him too."

Calen smiled at the praise. "He ran away about a week ago, his name is Cabe Dyson Slate, he's gonna turn nine tomorrow." Tears ran from his eyes as he continued. "I'm gonna miss his birthday; but he had to run away so Mom would stop hurting him. She said he was a freak, he can watch someone play an instrument once then he can do it. I wish CD was here!"

Cory took Calen's hand. "What does he look like?"

"Mom used to say he looks just like me; we got the same eyes and everything."

Cory turned his head. "Doctor, with your permission I would like to have my personnel utilize your resources to locate the missing youth."

McCoy looked Cory straight in the eye. "What are you waiting for, Christmas? You're as bad as Spock; get to it man."

Cory smiled as he looked around the room and began shouting directions. "Okay guys; search and rescue - you have twelve hours! Subject is Cabe Dyson Slate, nicknamed CD. He's eight about to turn nine; look for both ages. Probably malnourished like his brother. Auburn hair, hazel eyes. Tommy - take the law enforcement agencies. Adam - you have the youth shelters; state and private. Sean - courts and newspapers. Timmy and William - work with Orlando, have them cover surrounding states. Move it gentlemen - we have a birthday boy to save!"

McCoy was pleasantly shocked as he watched the Clan step into high gear. When Cory wasn't looking, he slid over to the com unit. "Sickbay to Bridge."

Kirk came on. "Kirk here. Is there a problem Bones?"

"No, but I think you need to see this, Jim."

"On my way. Kirk out."

Kirk smiled when he walked in and found Cory sitting in a chair with a freshly-dressed Calen on his lap. McCoy pulled him off to the side. "Jim, the boy, Calen, has a little brother who ran away a week ago. You've said you wanted to see Clan Short in action; turn around and hold on tight to something."

Just as Kirk turned to look, Timmy called out "Indiana and Nebraska are clear!". A few seconds later, Tommy chimed in "No police reports filed; Polk County Law Enforcement clear!" followed by Adam adding "Polk and Warren County youth shelters clear!".

As Kirk watched the boys working like a well-oiled military machine, McCoy explained. "Cory gave them twelve hours to find the boy; Timmy is interfacing with Orlando, the rest are assigned the most likely ways of locating him in-state. They've already cleared the upper half of Iowa, and all of the states immediately bordering it have been cleared by the Orlando crew."

Kirk shook his head in wonder. "And what is Cory's part in this?"

McCoy smiled. "If I read his eyes right, he's comforting a boy who is about to become his son. At the very least, Teri is going to get two more sons if Cory don't claim them himself."

Just then, Adam yelled out. "Got him! Oskaloosa; private shelter!"

"Get me coordinates!" Sean barked.

Kirk rushed to the com unit. "Bridge, this is the Captain. Have Lieutenant Thompson assemble a security detail in transporter room one ASAP. Stand by for landing party."

"Acknowledged Captain."

Cory stood and brought Calen over to Kirk. "Captain, I'd like you to meet Calen. Would it be possible, with the Doctor's permission of course, for you to arrange a tour for him while Sean and I handle some Clan business?"

Kirk smiled. "Bones, I do believe this young man could stand to see some of the sights in the ship; things like our hot fudge sundaes and the famous Enterprise pizza. Don't you agree?"

"You just better make sure he doesn't over exert himself Jim."

Kirk turned back to Cory. "I'll handle this personally. Cory, I assume you want him to get the 'crew's dependents' tour?"

Cory blushed. "As much as I'd like that, I don't think even I could pull it off."

Kirk turned his head. "Ensign Sean Short, front and center!"

Sean rushed over and stood next to Cory. Kirk looked both of them over, then started. "Sean, has Cory discussed with you his feelings about your newest charges?"

"Yes sir; and I agree with him. But we really have very little chance of doing it."

Kirk grinned as he took Calen from Cory. "You two go get Calen's brother while I show him where his new parents work. That's an order."

Timmy came running from the other side of the room. "Unca' Jim; can William and me go with you and Calen? I can show him the kewl stuff Justy showed me! This is kewl; I'm getting' more brothers!"

Cory stared at William, who had landed on Kirk's shoulder opposite of an awestruck Calen.

"You know, for a little bird you got a big mouth!" Cory mumbled just loud enough to hear.

William turned around and shook his tail feathers at Cory, which caused everyone to laugh. Kirk managed to squeeze out between chuckles "Come on Timmy, let's start the tour."

As Kirk left to start the tour with Timmy and Calen, Sean and Cory led their brothers to the transporter room to begin the rescue mission.


Oskaloosa, IA:

The group beamed into a field near the group shelter. Adam stopped them before they headed to the building. "Hold on guys, I have some background Calen didn't need to hear."

Everyone stopped and turned to Adam. "What've you got?" Cory asked.

"As I was searching the directory for Oskaloosa, I noticed this one did not show the occupant turnover the rest did; in fact the same names were on their resident list for the last two years. On a hunch I did a DNA scan of the building, trying to match to Calen's DNA. The computer came up with a match inside; 97% probability of being related. I've got a feeling this is not what it's supposed to be."

Tyler held up his hand for silence before anyone could reply. About thirty seconds later, he spoke. "I count fifteen kids in there. All of them feel like they're scared and trapped. I can feel their hunger too; not like when we are hungry, but like Jamie and Jacob were when we found them."

Cory had heard enough. "Thanks Ty and Adam. Mr. Thompson, deploy your men to cover all exits. Nobody leaves the building. Call the ship and have Doc standing by in the transporter room; tell him I'll have fifteen boys to be checked out. I'll need Briefing Room One for debriefing the boys once he's done."

Cory then turned to Adam. "Hey bro; have you been taking the weapons training with JJ?"

Adam grinned. "You better believe it. I gotta be able to cover my boyfriend's back."

Cory grinned back. "You're definitely my brother! Did John issue you a phaser yet?"

"No. He said he couldn't unless you told him to. Things have been too nuts for me to ask you. JJ tried to tell him it was okay, but he said you had to make the call."

Cory frowned. "I gotta fix that; JJ is head of security and a commissioned officer, it's his call. Mr. Thompson, do you have a spare phaser with you?"

"As a matter of fact I do; I was not sure if you and Sean grabbed yours, so I brought some extras with me." He pulled a phaser out of the pack on his waist. "Here you go, Adam. I just heard Cory say you were to have one, so that one is yours. I'll get a replacement from Commander Martin."

"Thanks Mr. Thompson." Adam said as he took the weapon, turned so it was pointed in a safe direction, and verified the power level and settings. Once he was sure the phaser was set properly and safe, he clipped it on his belt and turned back to Cory. "Okay, Cor; I'm ready when you are."

Before they headed to the house, Sean added his own thoughts. "Guys, of all of the kids we've helped, this is the first time we are going in as just family. Calen and CD are proof that us brothers are able to handle things without a huge support group. Captain Kirk is going to make them Cory and I's sons, but I'll always know that we wouldn't have them without the help of our three brothers and our youngest son. I know it might not have seemed like it with all of the other guys around, but you guys really do mean more to us than anyone else. You are our brothers, and we are proud of it."

Lt. Thompson smiled as he watched the brothers embrace in a five-way hug. As the hug broke, Cory announced "Okay bros! Let's go show these punks that nobody messes with a kid when the Short family is around!" The boys all high-fived, then turned to the house in the distance and walked purposely towards it.

As they approached the house, Cory noticed the barred windows and excessive locks on the door. "Mr. Thompson, I don't think we are going to bother with the doorbell. All personnel set phasers to stun and have them at the ready, we're going in hot."

Thompson nodded. "I agree Cory, I can smell the fear here. Hold on for a second." He reached into his bag and pulled out two more phasers, then handed them to Tyler and Tommy. "I've seen both of you at the practice range; you might not be certified yet, but I think you can handle these well enough if needed."

They walked up to the door and Thompson smiled. He held up three fingers, got in position, then counted down. When he reached zero, he gave the door a swift kick. The door flew open, the wood frame no match for Thompson's training.

Cory was first through the door. He spotted a man reaching under the kitchen counter and yelled out "Starfleet Security - this is a raid! You in the kitchen; hands where I can see them! Walk VERY slowly in here and lay face down on the floor!" Cory glanced around and verified what he first saw; all of the boys visible in the room were wearing nothing but loose boxers; no socks or anything else. From the bruises he saw, some had very recently been manhandled by an adult. "Adam, Tommy - clear the house; I want everyone in this room! Tyler, guard this man; if he so much as twitches I expect you to fire."

Adam and Tommy took off through the house, and Tyler moved into a safe position to guard the prisoner. Thompson leaned over to Cory. "Why did you announce Starfleet Security instead of Clan Short?"

Cory replied with an evil grin. "I've got quick eyes Lieutenant; if my first impressions are correct, there's a good chance I'm going to say or do some very un-Vulcan things. Just roll with it, this is one of the times human responses are more logical."

Thompson chuckled. "I want to be a fly on the wall when you debate that one with Mr. Spock! You're in command, follow your instincts."

A few more boys came down the hall and joined their house mates on the floor in the main room. Cory noticed the terror on their faces. "Hey guys, relax! We ain't here to hurt you, we came to help you. Once everyone's out here, I'll explain what's going to happen next; if you want to watch some TV while you are waiting go ahead. Just keep the volume down so we can hear if anyone needs help, okay?"

Just then, Tyler yelled at his prisoner. "Don't move, dirt bag!"

Cory grinned. "Guys, don't mind my little brother; he's watched too many Police Academy reruns! The only one here who needs to worry is the guy laying on the floor; thats a real phaser and Ty knows how to use it!"

The boys relaxed and giggled at Cory's humor. One of them reached over and turned on the TV, then flipped to the Cartoon Network. "This is kewl; we never get to pick what we can watch!" he exclaimed. One of the younger kids, who had fresh bruises on his face, came up to Cory. "Sir? Phil's not the real bad guy. He tries to make us feel better when we hurt. Can he watch 'toons with us?"

Cory saw the sincere look on the boy's face. "Mr. Thompson, secure Phil's arms and legs, then sit him up against the couch."

Cory smiled as the boy who asked him to give Phil a break grabbed one of his buddies and pulled the cushions off of the couch to make a comfortable seat for Phil. Once Phil was comfortably seated, Cory leaned over and whispered so that only Phil could hear. "Dude, you still have a lot to answer for. That boy there just got you out of life in prison, at the very least. You are going to be interrogated by a Starfleet officer I know quite well. Take my advice; tell him everything that you have seen or done here. If you fondled a boy, tell him; if you sat up all night cuddling and calming a boy who was just violated, tell him. Right now, I'm here as Starfleet security; when it comes time to decide your fate I will be presiding in my higher office as Patriarch of Clan Short of Vulcan. My intelligence team will be verifying if you told the truth; considering most of them are telepaths I won't have any doubt. We will talk again, the next time you will be given a chance to explain yourself."

Cory stood up, straightened his clothes, then came to attention. "Mr. Thompson, I require your assistance."

Thompson turned from looking out the doorway and hurried over to where Cory stood; the formal tone Cory had used told him this was suddenly Clan business. "How may I be of assistance, Patriarch Short?"

"My observations have led me to conclude that another being is responsible for the majority of the suffering of the assembled youth here. Based on that observation, once Commander Dodds concludes his interview with this subject I must require that he reports his findings to myself before any action is taken. Based on the findings of his investigation and the interviews that Clan Short will perform with the victims, I will then declare the logical deposition of the subject."

Thompson nodded. "I assure you the appropriate people will be notified, Sir."

Cory relaxed and looked around at the confused faces of the boys in the room. "Guys, you just saw me handle stuff in my official capacity. Not only can I tell the FBI to take a flying leap; I've done it. Whatever has been done to you here is over; it's time to be kids again."

Just then, they heard Adam yell from down the hall. "Stay clear of the door!" A few seconds later, a loud crash signified that another door had been sacrificed to the cause of children's safety. About four minutes later, Adam and Tommy reappeared, Adam carrying a boy appearing to be about six. "This floor is clear, Cory; we didn't see any attic access or basement doors in the hall."

Cory smiled as he realized the boy on Adam's side was latched on securely and not letting go. "If you need help explaining your new son to JJ let me know bro. What's his name?"

Adam smiled as he caressed the little blond's head. "Harley Jared Donaldson. His parents were killed in an accident; he got sent here when none of his relatives wanted him. Funny thing is, he's not on the list of kids supposed to be here."

Cory's smile turned to a grin. "Well bro, why don't you, Harley, and Tommy stay here with Sean and Ty while Mr. Thompson and I find the basement. We're still one kid short up here; the kid who is responsible for all of these boys being saved, I hope."

Cory nodded towards the kitchen, and followed Lieutenant Thompson as he worked his way back as silently as possible. Just as Cory had figured, there was a doorway around the corner at the back of the kitchen. They opened the door and carefully slipped down the stairs. The main basement area was clear, but there was a partition at the south end with a dead-bolted door on it. Thompson looked over the design and whispered to Cory. "They have a strong door there, but I think the walls might be weak. Your choice."

Cory looked it over, then whispered back. "Too much chance of hurting someone if they are by the walls; burn off the deadbolt pin then we'll go in through the door - it opens out, so nobody can be hurt."

Thompson nodded, adjusted his phaser, and set to work on the deadbolt. Cory had his phaser out, ready to fire if need be. After about thirty seconds, Thompson stepped back. "It's weak enough we can grab the door and break it; I'm ready when you are."

Cory moved into position at the side of the door, listened for a few seconds, and then nodded that he was ready. As soon as Lieutenant Thompson yanked it open, Cory dove through the doorway. As he entered the room, he saw a man trying to force a boy to perform a blow-job. Reflex kicked in; before Cory even thought about it he fired his phaser and dropped the man where he stood. Cory took a quick look around the room; nobody else was in there. "Clear!" he called out.

As Thompson entered the room; Cory went over to the boy, who was now curled into a ball sobbing loudly. Once Cory got a better look he knew instantly they had found who they were looking for. "CD, I'm Cory; relax little one, we came to rescue you."

CD looked up in shock. "I ain't told nobody to call me that! How'd you know my nickname?"

Cory knelt down and rubbed his shoulders. "Your big brother is worried about you. Your old mom tried to hurt him, and we found him. I promised him I'd make sure you guys were together to celebrate your birthday tomorrow. Hop on, I'll give you a ride upstairs."

As CD uncurled himself and started to climb onto Cory's back, Cory notice Lieutenant Thompson checking the man for a pulse. Cory gave a knowing grin as he commented "Mr. Thompson, I keep forgetting to have you look at my phaser. It seems the power adjustment keeps slipping without me noticing."

Thompson looked up and returned with a knowing grin. "I'll make sure this man's death is logged as a weapon malfunction. When we get back to the ship, remind me to get you a new one. I'll take care of the defect paperwork."

Thompson turned red with anger as CD announced "That's what he gets for tryin' to make me suck him! He was goin' to try to put his thingie in my butt."

Thompson pointed to Cory's phaser then held out his hand, unable to speak. Once Cory handed him the weapon, he fiddled with it for a second then fired it at the body on the floor. Cory and CD watched as the lifeless body turned into a scattering of ashes. Thompson took his phaser off his belt and handed it to Cory. "Yours was definitely defective. Too bad the poor guy was attacking a Clan member, he might have had a chance otherwise. Take mine, I'll have to destroy this one; it's not safe."

Cory saw the confused look on CD's face. "He was attacking you, kiddo. Both you and your big brother are under the protection of Clan Short of Vulcan. I'll explain more later; but for now just remember nobody will ever try to force you to do that again."

A huge grin spread across CD's face as he realized what Cory was saying and what had really happened. "Thanks Cory, you're awesome!"

The three of them headed back upstairs to rejoin the rest of the group. Once they were all together, Cory looked around. "Mr. Thompson, have your team escort this man to the brig; after I brief Commander Dodds on the situation here, I'm sure he'll want to have a long talk with him."

Once the team, to the delight of the kids in the home, beamed up with their prisoner, Cory asked Sean to fill in the boys on what was about to happen.

Sean got all of their attention, then began. "Okay guys, you are about to go visit the USS Enterprise. Once we get up there, Doctor McCoy is going to check each one of you out to make sure you are okay. After that, we'll sit down with you and see if you have a safe home to go to; if not we will put you someplace safe. You guys told me that you have no clothes here; don't worry about it, we will get you some on board the ship. We're gonna talk to y'all all at once so you know there's no funny stuff going on. Right now, CD and Harley have new families they are going to; so they will just be watching as the rest of you get helped out. Mr. Thompson is going to arrange you guys to beam up, stay where he tells you to and stand still. Any questions?"

The oldest boy there, who looked to be twelve, raised his hand. "Are we gonna get to have a tour of the Enterprise?"

Lieutenant Thompson answered for Sean. "You better believe it; I'm going to take you myself. You guys deserve it."

It took a few minutes for the boys to be put in their places, then Cory opened his communicator. The boys all were shocked when they heard his next words.

"Enterprise this is Ensign Cory Short."

"Enterprise, Uhura here. Go ahead Ensign Cory."

"Thanks Nyota. Is Scotty standing by in the lower Transporter Room?"

"Affirmative, Cory. One second, I'll put you through."

A few seconds later, a new voice came on line. "Scotty here. Would our wee guests be ready to come aboard laddie?"

Cory grinned. "That they would, Scotty. We have two groups; Sean is escorting a group of ten, let me know when you are locked in."

"I be ready now Cory. Countin' Sean I have eleven lads showin' on my screen."

"That's affirmative Scotty; energize!"

The first group dematerialized. About a minute later, Scotty came back on.

"I be lookin' at ten excited young lads waitin' here with young Sean. Are their friends ready to be a joinin' them?"

"Affirmative Scotty; ten to beam up. Energize!"