All eyes were on Ardell, who was pale from shock.
Colin's eyes were wide at the implications of the very last part of the dying wish.
Klaus was trying hard to keep his emotions in check, as he knew that it was his responsibility to play the archived recording of Father's request very shortly.
Glen, Cleiton, and Kaique, having just heard the history of their new family, found themselves unable to sort out how they felt.
Luan, Luciano, and Afonso watched expectantly, instinctively understanding that they had no voice in this decision, yet hoping that it was something good.
Hac and his sons Jessip, Yonto, and Grover silently walked in to join the group. Hac squeezed in to take a seat on the opposite side of Colin from Ardell, while his three boys joined their cousins to see if they knew what was happening. All three younglings followed Hac's example, remaining quiet while their Uncle Ardell sorted his thoughts.
Klaus silently nodded to Hac, acknowledging Hac responding to his call; one of the conditions from Father was to have Hac present when playing the saved recording, if he was still alive.
Hac watched Ardell, his heart going out to the very first person since his conversion that declared him an equal. If Colin was to be murdered, Hac would go full wolf to avenge him; for Ardell, Hac would destroy humanity. While Ardell to this day would never accept an oath of loyalty from Hac, the pair were as close as brothers.
Jessip found his telepathy coming in handy, as he was able to fill in some blanks when he picked up questions in his cousin's and brother's surface thoughts. With Grover's help, the young group held a mental conference, their mohawk-haired cousin sharing his eons of knowledge about the Klaus compound community.
As he mentally heard Jessip taking charge of his grandson's concerns, Colin shifted his full focus to Ardell. Seeing that Ardell's face was starting to return to its normal color, Colin allowed himself to relax slightly.
The silence in the room was finally broken by Ardell's whisper, a whisper so soft that it would normally barely be heard, but it cut through the absolute silence like a sledgehammer demolishing a picture window. "My son?"
Klaus nodded. "That's what Father said. He had me record his wishes for you and Hac to hear. Brudei, Barrett and Trevois are listening to his messages to them now; I had to hold them all until I could play all of them at the same time."
"What about you?" Hac asked.
"I just unsealed mine; thanks to the Clan, I've already done what he wanted me to pursue," Klaus replied. "He wanted me to have the chance to be a real boy, and now that I've got this body I'm doing that. The rest is private stuff, but it's all things that I've been working on or am about to."
"Do you know why he put mine and Ardell's together?" Hac asked, knowing that at this point Ardell wouldn't ask his normal questions.
"Because he knew that there was nothing that would separate you; you two are closer than a lot of twins," Klaus explained. "Brudei, Barrett, and Trevois are your brothers; wherever you two go, he knew they would follow. The two of you share the unspoken title of Patriarch over everything that your little project to save the youth of humanity has become. Even now, over three and a half cycles later, if both of you agree that something needs done, the rest of our society tries to find a way to make it work. Father saw that, and he knew that the only way his final wishes would have a chance is if the two of you were still standing by each other's sides, showing the world the true meaning of brotherhood."
"So he still hadn't admitted how much he did to make this happen," Hac stated. "Ardell? Are you recovered enough to hear what Father had to say, bro?"
"Yeah," Ardell replied as he grasped one of Klaus' hands, then reached across with his other hand to take one of Hac's hands.
"Now I know where the legends of the Three Musketeers came from," Colin quipped seriously.
"Don't tell anyone," Klaus replied, just as serious. "Okay, here we go."
"Hello, my sons. If you are hearing this, that means that either Ark or Klaus unsealed this recording after the conditions I put on the lock were met. I can assume that some time has passed, as the conditions were such that you should have had time to recover from your grief at my passing."
"I left recordings for your brothers, too; those are to be played for each of them in private. I hope that I am in a position to watch over you from an afterlife, if one does exist; if it does, I will be right by your side as you are listening today, if at all possible. It is my hope that all three of you are still working together, as I had never even dreamed that I would personally be responsible for guiding the three most influential boys in the known history of mankind."
"Ardell, you restored my faith in humanity, and I am honored to have you as my son, even though I had no part in your creation. On the very day that I saw humanity at its worst, you made the decision which led to me seeing humanity at its best, and you wouldn't take no as an answer. As I record this, there is no way that I know of to repay you for the joy that you brought into my life. One of the conditions I set is in the hope that a future version of Humanity remains at peace long enough to make use of the one part I have left from my life before you; the one part that I would fail at being able to honor appropriately. As I was present when my first son, Dalrus, was killed, the memory of what I saw would tarnish any interaction which I might have if he was to be reborn."
"You do not carry the memories which I must bear; as such, if the technology is available, I ask you to restore Dalrus to life, raising him as your own. There is no other person I would trust to raise the son who gave me a reason to live, and love, after my wife passed. You have proven to be the example to everyone who meets you, and I want my flesh and blood to have the honor of being able to learn from you as his parent. I am aware that Dalrus exists in the original emergency core of Klaus, and Klaus has informed me that Dalrus is approving of the arrangement."
"Hac, while I had initial reservations about you joining our group, you have maintained your promises to stand by Ardell for multiple lifetimes of regular humans, and have taught us all how to deliver justice without losing sight of our goals. I ask of you to watch over Dalrus as you have Ardell; I have absolute trust that he will never have to suffer another attack with you as his living guardian angel. I instructed Klaus that both you and Ardell were to have discovered the capability in your hearts to raise your own sons, either ones taken in as I took you in, or ones that you are responsible for the birth of."
"While I never made you aware of it, for the simple reason that there was nothing that we could do about it, during one of the raids that were done on some of the local labs, we found one of your cousins in suspended animation; something similar to what Trevois was in. Klaus found out enough to determine that he had been genetically damaged beyond what we had the capability to repair, but not enough to immediately kill him if he was resuscitated. I decided it was best to allow him to remain suspended, until such time as his full health could be restored; unfortunately, that time has not came yet. Since you hearing this means that technology is advanced enough to assist Dalrus, I am authorizing Klaus and Ark to assist you with restoring your cousin; to allow you to have the one thing that you have always missed, someone who shares your bloodline. I pray that he can be saved, and that you accept him into your family."
"Klaus, you were my son even before you saved my life. I can only assume that you didn't cheat, and that you found a way to have your own body, so that you can be the great kid that you grew to become. Never forget that I have always been proud of you; from the first day of your new life when you saved humanity, until my last days, when I was only able to watch as you and your brothers continued raising the bar on how a society should function. I am sure that Dalrus is proud of his fraternal twin brother, and he has good reason to be, even if you became his twin out of necessity. Ark has a set of twins that were found with Hac's cousin. They are in the same condition as the cousin, and now that you have a body I would like you to make them my grandchildren, assuming they can be saved too."
"I will let your other three brothers tell you what they wish to share about their messages. Know this; you have been, and always will be, my sons, and nothing can ever take that away. I love each of you, and hope that you finally find the peace that you have spent your lives trying to create. You gave me a reason to live, and there is nothing I can say that truly expresses what my time with you has meant to me. Thank you for coming into my life, and know that you have my love of you into eternity. When your time finally comes, I hope to be waiting for you in the next life with open arms. For now, I give you and your families my blessings for happy lives."
"That's all of it," Klaus stated in a subdued voice.
"Thanks, little bro," Ardell said as he wiped tears from his eyes. "I miss him."
"Me too," Hac admitted, his own eyes wet with tears.
Knowing that his brothers would take time to recover, Colin stated "Kerry? Are you linked in?"
"How'd you know?" Kerry replied over Colin's commbadge.
"Because, little brother, you never let me have any privacy," Colin replied. "Contact Marc and Antonio, please; have them meet us at the Archnanian Medical Center. Please take all of us up there once you have them ready to join us."
"Gotcha, bro," Kerry replied. "I just activated the interdimensional link for Klaus; transfer in five seconds."
The group suddenly found themselves in one of the lounge rooms, along with Kerry, Marc, and Antonio.
"Klaus, I'll handle it for ya, okay?" Kerry stated.
"Thanks," Klaus replied, still trying to recover from the loss he felt from hearing Father's voice.
Pointing to each person as he introduced them, Kerry quickly made sure everyone knew who he was referring to.
Once that was done, he gave a quick rundown, "Marc, Klaus has a hidden personality that was unintentionally activated in his original emergency core back in Cycle Two; that personality used to be the son of the person they called Father. That personality has been active since Klaus was born, and is a fraternal twin. The son, Dalrus, was murdered back in the second cycle, but their Father retrieved the bioimage that was stored in the beds that they used for kids who were being given the common learning drugs back then; I know that you've heard all about those. Father's dying wish was for that personality to be given life in a body again, and Danny has already verified that Dalrus is accepting of it. Hayden and Barrett designed an interface between the Klaus cores and Cameron's core that will allow transfer; the interesting part is that there must be a supernatural spec for bioimages, because the test runs that Hayden did showed that no translator is going to be needed at the image level. On the condition that Ardell accepts the gift that Father left him, could you bring him online in a youth body? The save files contained full DNA maps, so I think we have everything."
"I'll need to look everything over first," Marc replied. "Does Hayden's interface allow me direct access?"
"I think so; he said he'll meet you in Lab Six," Kerry relayed. "If it doesn't do what you need, he'll update it."
"Ardell?" Marc asked, "Do you want me to look into if this will work?"
"Please?" Ardell replied softly.
"Okay," Marc nodded. "I'll let you know what I find out, then we'll discuss what the next step should be. If anyone needs me, I'll be in Lab Six."
As Marc left the room, Kerry added, "Antonio? Ark's transferring three stasis pods to Emergency Room Five; all three are also from the second cycle. They have genetic damage, and on Father's request I'm making the call that we need to see if they can be saved by our current knowledge. If either Hac or Klaus decide they are not ready for them as their sons, I'm going to take the ones in that are affected. While the rest of these guys cuddle the loss out of Hac, Ardell, and Klaus, I'll give you a hand with trying to figure out if we can do anything."
Antonio nodded. "That works for me. Get the lights as we leave; everyone here is going to form a cuddle pile and take a nap until I say otherwise."
"How'd I know you'd say that?" Colin quipped. "You heard the doc, guys; cuddle pile!"
"Hey, 'Tonio?" Kerry said as the door closed behind them.
"Yeah?" Antonio replied.
"Klaus says I need to warn you that some of what we might find is on the technological severely restricted list," Kerry explained. "You might have to deal with some things that are not supposed to be currently known by anyone other than Ark or Klaus. Due to the reasons that these three are being revived, you and me will get what we need, but I have to do a wipe after I'm done to flush the details. Do you have a telepath-proof area in your head, or should we have an Archnanian ready to do cleanup after we're done?"
"I've got it covered," Antonio grinned. "Kyle taught me good!"
"That's probably good; I'm afraid there might be more surprises where you might need to know things," Kerry admitted. "That's why I called you; I don't think anyone else would really be safe, besides the fact that you're the only Doctor who has access to Ark's medical library."
"Thanks," Antonio replied as three pods appeared in the room. "Time to work; let's see what these things tell us."
After a few minutes of studying the data being output by the first pod, Antonio growled under his breath. "The son of a bitch that did this better be glad he's already dead; if he wasn't I'd filet his balls with an angle grinder... without painkillers!"
Unconsciously cupping his own jewels at the thought, Kerry carefully asked "What're you finding?"
"It looks like the bastard half-assed everything he was doing," Antonio growled. "This pod's probably the only reason this shit hasn't already killed this kid. I hope you have access to the FULL second cycle genetic modifications database, because we might need it to find out what in the fuck the mushroom-dicked brain fart was trying to do."
"I do now," Kerry replied. "Klaus upgraded my link, and Ark is now linked with me, we've just opened the sealed records. Show me what you've found, and we'll see if we can match it."
"Try not to puke," Antonio stated as he switched the output to show on the large screen on the wall. "Everything I've got so far from my normal access to Ark's database says these combinations of DNA strings should be fatal."
"Holy shit!" Kerry muttered as he began sorting through the various warnings being generated. "Antonio, Ark says get ready to accept a mental medical download from Ty; Ty's looping to keep up with what we're finding, then he'll give you the report with some ideas from Ark on what can fix him. Once you decide on what to do, I've got control of Klaus's original medbots to perform the procedures. Ark thinks they might have a slight advantage since they are from that cycle, because Founder medbots were never intended for this level of modification."
"I'll second that," Antonio nodded. "I know that this cycle has nothing that can totally fuck someone like what happened to him."
"Oh, crap, Ark's found a match," Kerry suddenly stated with obvious dread.
"What? Is it that bad?" Antonio queried, surprised at the underlying tone of Kerry's voice.
"Worse," Kerry stated. "Take what was done to Hac, add in about a dozen other modifications, some of which had known incompatibilities with at least one of the others, then add in trying to make him into a human phasenmorph. Get ready, this isn't going to be easy."
"Shit!" Antonio exclaimed, obviously about to lose his temper.
Marc sat back to clear his head, almost overcome by what he now knew of the events that led to the birth of Klaus. The only two bright points he found were discovering that Dalrus did not have to suffer the pain of his original soul's passing, and that the brotherhood that was created between Ardell and Klaus was as close as if they were twins.
"Marc? Is something wrong?" Barrett asked from where him and Hayden were verifying that the data streams were not showing any signs of errors being caused by the AI-to-AI translation interface.
"Besides humanity?" Marc replied as he sat up. "I just had a talk with a young child who had a very bright future stolen from him. Then humanity kicked him while he was down, forcing a situation which resulted in a duplicate of him being activated within the core of an AI. The first thing he was aware of was watching people that he didn't know, who were scrambling to save the life of the father he loved. Now he's spent eons mentally active, but not really alive; neither me nor Ardell should have the power to decide if he's really going to be better off as an android."
"Put it up for a vote," Hayden interrupted. "Let the society decide."
"You beat me to it, bro;" Barrett smiled. "He's right, Marc; something this serious needs to be considered by a large group, not one or two people. The Council's seated until Ardell tells them to stand down. Kerry's already working with Antonio, and as Ardell's brother he can go directly to the Council for you, as long as you tell him the details he'll need. You'll have millions of votes in no time, which should make your decision easier. Ardell will go with whatever you decide by doing it that way, so that's one less problem."
"Thanks," Marc replied with relief. "I'll have to ask if I can do that on other AI issues; I never really know if I'm doing the right thing."
"Marc, I'm third in line behind Ardell and Klaus," Barrett stated. "Not only do you have permission, but I'll kick your butt if you don't let us help you from now on."
"Zon Pri Barrett, Zon Pri Hayden?" Kerry interrupted. "Please instruct Doctor Furst on the operation of the VR equipment; the Council is awaiting the three of you for an emergency review."
"Grab mine, Barrett's, and the spare set from our office, Kerry," Hayden ordered.
"Yes, Zon Pri."
"No wonder the second cycle failed," Antonio groused as him and Kerry watched the medbots scrambling to repair the three boys they had drawn. "Those fucknuts could have used this shit to better humanity; instead they created fucking monsters that live as legends to this day."
"Yeah;" Kerry nodded. "I think we got lucky. At least the worst we had was the Unit guys. You really think using the same procedure that was used on them, along with the three modifications from back then, is going to work?"
"It better," Antonio replied. "Nothing else exceeded sixty percent. We have to take the chance on this way, since even in those pods they were starting to degrade due to the genetic damage. Ark gave it just over eighty percent, so I'm pretty sure that's not going to be our issue. Fortunately, using the Unit procedures, we can undo some of the damage from the extra things they tried to do. Their bodies should be fine. The culture shock from waking up multiple cycles after they were fucked over is going to be our bigger problem."
"Okay, I'm officially impressed!" Marc stated as him, Barrett, and Hayden put their VR headsets on the nearest table. "I think we had the majority of the vote before I finished talking!"
"Pretty much;" Barrett nodded. "I was watching the board; the second you made it clear that it was possible to give Dalrus a body, pretty much everyone from the second cycle must have voted, going by the spike."
"I think they made it pretty clear that giving him a body is the only right thing to do," Marc admitted. "Since he's already conscious, what I got from the Council discussion was that he is considered as if he's incarcerated by the current society standards. Looking at it that way, the only right answer is to give him a body."
"I agree," Barrett nodded. "You are not creating a new life, you're just finishing what was started, by providing something that was not available as an option back in the second cycle."
"That's how I took the debate too," Marc admitted. "Now we need to follow up on one of the concerns; did that image get contaminated by the learning drug from back then?"
"I already have Cameron checking into it; I released the data we have on the drug combination for him to do a check," Hayden stated.
"Thanks," Marc nodded. "Could I have a look at the data too? I'm curious as to what they were doing."
"Try not to explode," Barrett stated as he reached over and quickly entered a search term on Marc's tablet. "There you go, don't say I didn't warn you."
Marc started to review the data in front of him, his eyes growing wide only seconds later. "What in the HELL! What brainless piece of crap thought it was a good idea to give kids neurological steroids! No wonder it had to be stopped before puberty; that crap would kill every kid that was taking it!" Turning to Barrett, Marc added, "We need to get this crap on the Federation Banned Substances list; if someone thought of it once, they'll think of it again. Add that mood stabilizer too; the effects of that look too much like zombified mind control."
Barrett nodded. "Good idea, we never considered that. Cameron, you are authorized to release required details of the learning bands to Federation Medical for inclusion on their Banned Substances List on order of Zon Pri Doctor Marc Furst and myself."
"Order and confirmation accepted; technological override approved by Ark," Cameron replied. "I'm sending it to my brother now; he'll submit through Alligator Alley."
"That works, thanks Cam," Marc acknowledged. "Now, if someone could explain how I just got a new title?"
"Maybe because for the first time in eons, someone, namely you, earned the confidence of the Council on medical capabilities," Barrett grinned. "Anything AI related is now only to be done by orders of you or someone you designate; we kinda take the health of our society pretty seriously."
"I'm not sure if I should thank you, or sentence you to a ride in Danny's car with him driving," Marc quipped.
"Thank him, I want to keep my brother," Hayden stated flatly.
"Okay, thanks it is, then," Marc grinned. "Now, did the bioimage save the drugs in his system, and if so, can we isolate it without causing any damage to Dalrus?"
"Yes, there are traces in the image," Barrett replied as he watched the real-time results of Cameron's scans. "I don't think we can pull it, but I think we can stabilize it."
Marc took a few minutes to look over the details. "Yeah, you're right; that crap screws things up permanently. So you think we're better off applying the same modification to his genetics that was used on you and Ardell?"
Barrett nodded. "Yeah; it'll stabilize a lot, and I think it'll make integrating into the new nanotronic brains a little easier. It'll probably be less of a shock, too, since he's already used to enhanced brain activity."
"Good point," Marc admitted. "In just about any other situation, I'd be arguing with you, and I'd probably win. Since we're having to undo someone else's screwups, I'll consider it. Get the details of everything we're looking at, and then all three of us can look it over to decide if we're covering everything without over-compensating."
"I'm glad you were here, Hayden," Marc stated as he gave the profile a final once-over. "It would have taken me forever to sort through the genetic sequences to find leftovers. Any time you want to poke around with this kind of stuff, let me know; you're awesome at it."
"Thanks; it's not much different than electronics," Hayden replied. "It was fun figuring it out!"
"Thanks to teamwork, it looks like we're ready," Marc stated. "Hayden, let's get the chassis ready. Barrett; could you get Ardell and Colin, please?"
"Sure, I'll be right back," Barrett replied.
Ardell and Colin nervously watched as Marc, Barrett, and Hayden verified one last time that the small body that was in the biobed was stable before initiating the personality transfer.
"Biological profile looks good," Hayden announced.
"Physically, the biobed is reporting no issues," Barrett added.
"Nanotronics are reporting no errors," Marc replied. "Initiating transfer."
Ardell stepped closer, hoping that this really worked. He scanned the six-year-old boy in front of him, watching for any sign of life in the prone figure. Unconsciously, he reached out and brushed a few strands of the boy's light brown hair from his eyes, whispering "You can do it, Dalrus."
A very long ten seconds later, Barrett announced "He's taking over life support; he's breathing on his own, and has normal heart rate."
"Nanotronic activity stabilizing," Marc stated. "It looks like he's doing a manual self-diagnostic before he wakes up; that's a good sign."
After a few minutes, Ardell found himself suddenly being studied by a set of deep emerald green eyes. "Paprus?" Dalrus asked hesitantly.
That one word was all it took to clear any doubts that Ardell might have had. Knowing his big brother well, Barrett put the biobed into standby as he said, "You're clear to give him a hug, brother."
Ardell went one step beyond just a hug, picking up Dalrus and holding him chest-to-chest as he said "Yes; I'll be your Paprus forever, Dalrus."
Antonio stalked the three bed's status displays as the second-cycle medbots completed their work on the one ten-year-old and two nine-year-old redheads that were the subject of the current frenzy. "Kerry? I'm seeing some unusual energy readings. See what you've got on them."
"I caught that to," Kerry admitted. "Ark is checking with Nyo, it thinks it might be leftover from the attempt at the phasenmorph genetic splicing."
"I hope not;" Antonio groused, "that's all we need is three redheads blasting people whenever they get pissed off."
"Ark says not to worry about that," Kerry replied. "Nyo agrees, this looks like they're going to have a minor natural resistance to energy weapons; that has the signature of an early phasenmorph shield. Ark is not seeing anything that looks like the standby status of the phasenmorph energy weapon."
"Thanks; I can live with that. What about the other issues?" Antonio replied.
"It appears the 'Colin Procedure' was successful," Kerry stated. "I don't see any of the indicators which suggest they will be able to change shape; they're still going to have the increased muscle mass, though. The XR-415 procedure was applied successfully, so the nervous system damage is recovering at an increased rate. The first round of the Unit procedure stabilized the psionics; I'm not seeing any traces of the incompatible tweaks any more. The second round is still pending."
Antonio nodded, then tapped his subvocal as he stated his next thoughts. "Ark, stand by for declaration from Council Medicus; include the Seer in this transmission."
. < . The Seer is awaiting your declaration, Medicus . > .
"As Council Medicus, it has been determined that genetic modifications performed in the Second Cycle are increasingly being found to have either partially or fully made their way into the current cycle. To ensure emergency response, I designate the AI known as Kerry Morrison as the face that may assist Clan Medical facilities with recovery procedures, without requiring public acknowledgement of the existence of Ark or Klaus. This will require that Kerry Morrison be given full access to the extended library to allow diagnosis without requiring my presence. This is a Priority Medical Action."
"Antonio, this is Nyo. Let me work out the details, you have a valid point. Consider it approved, I'll take it from here."
"Thanks, Nyo," Antonio replied. "Medicus out."
"Why did Danny just tell me 'Congratulations, Dr. Morrison'?" Kerry asked with wide eyes.
"Welcome to the club," Antonio smiled. "You're the Clan's specialist on genetic modifications now. You can forget about that wipe after we're done, I'm counting on you to save me a lot of research."
"Thanks," Kerry replied. "Check bed one; they just finished the second genetic resequence to re-insert some of the clean human DNA using the procedures from the Unit."
"I'm on it, keep an eye on the other two beds," Antonio stated. After verifying the biobed readings with his tricorder, Antonio breathed a sigh of relief. "That did it; there's still that little bit of shield energy, but otherwise he's not degrading any more. Grab a snapshot, we'll need it as a base reference later."
"Got it," Kerry replied. "I'm comparing with the other two, and it appears the results are similar; we'll know for sure once they're done with the procedure."
As the medbots stepped away from the first bed, Antonio stated, "We'll wake up Hac's cousin here first; once we have him stable and aware of his situation, then he can help us with his friends."
"That makes sense," Kerry nodded. "I've got these guys, yell if you need me."
Antonio placed a towel over the boy's midsection, just in case of modesty, then commanded the bed to allow his patient to wake up. Using the dialect from the second cycle, which he'd requested to have added to his languages to be sure that he was understood, Antonio softly said, "Hey there! Time to wake up; your nightmare's over now." After a few seconds, Antonio's words were answered by a pair of chrome-green eyes slowly opening, then darting around before landing on Antonio.
"Who are you? Where am I?" the boy asked, his voice weak.
"I'm Antonio, and right now you're on a different planet than you were when you were put to sleep." Antonio explained. "I just finished un-doing all of the damage that was done to your body. You've been asleep for a while, and the language we speak now has a bunch of words that don't translate into what you know. You're going to hear one of my cousins talking in your head pretty soon; if you tell him it's okay, he can teach your head how we talk now, then we can talk about what I do know about your situation a lot easier."
"Okay, I'm used to telekens in my head," the boy replied, his voice getting stronger.
The boy closed his eyes, which Antonio took as meaning Tyler was handling language and a few items that were better off handled in private. When the boy re-opened his eyes, he asked "Can I get up yet?"
Antonio smiled, as the question was asked in modern English. "Sure; once you're standing, I can have clothes teleported in for you; just tell me what you like to wear."
"Do I have to get dressed already?"
"No, but you will probably want to before we leave the room," Antonio stated. "I'll help you down, then you and I can talk in the conference room over there. Since it's been so long since you ate, I'm going to start you off with a shake to drink to help jump-start your digestive system."
"Effren, that sounds good!" the boy replied as he braced himself on Antonio to climb out of the bed. "Where's the Medicus to check on me?"
"That's me, I'm the head doctor for your family," Antonio replied. "That other kid over there is Kerry; he's my partner when it comes to people who have had their bodies messed with like you did. He's keeping an eye on the twin boys that were found with you; we're letting them sleep until you're caught up enough to help us fill them in."
The boy grinned at Antonio's last words. "They're awake enough to listen; we have a permanent link to talk to each other. They said let their bodys stay asleep though, it's giving them a chance to grab the languages from me, and Uncle Tyler's helping them with controlling their heads like he did for me."
"That'll come in handy," Antonio smiled. "Your cousin told me that back when you guys come from, when you were forced to allow yourselves to be changed, you usually took a new name. He goes by Hac now, and as far as I'm concerned, you can pick any name that you want. You're nothing like what they tried to make you into, but I wasn't able to return you to how you were born, so right now the name that you go by is totally up to you."
The boy appeared to give the offer some serious thought, then said "The nickname my parents had for me translates into 'Angel'; is that considered a good name?"
"I think so, and I'm sure Hac will appreciate it." Antonio replied as they entered the conference room and took their seats. "Do you want me to hit you with the weird stuff first, or do you want to ask questions?"
"Did you say Hac is my cousin?" Angel asked, obviously thinking that was more important.
"Yeah; about eleven, likes to spike his red hair, light brown eyes, doesn't give up," Antonio stated as two shakes appeared on the table. "Sound familiar?"
"Symus," Angel smiled. "They didn't get him?"
"They got him and made him a lupine," Antonio replied seriously. "From what I've been told, he was the best of the batch, but broke out of the lab. Now he's the head of security for the society that he helped create, a society dedicated to helping undo all the wrongs that humans were doing to themselves. That society just joined with the group that I came from, we call ourselves Family Clan Short of Vulcan, and we're responsible for the protection of all youth on a whole bunch of planets."
"You said something about that already; what do you mean other planets?" Angel challenged.
"Okay, so we'll start with what will be weird to you," Antonio grinned before taking a drink. "A lot has happened since you and your friends were put in those pods. Humanity has almost killed itself off twice. During the last cycle of humanity, we achieved flight between the stars, and met other races from other planets that also travelled between the stars. The previous cycle was the first one that wasn't declared ended because of humans almost killing each other; it was declared because we actually lasted long enough to learn from our mistakes just enough for our Clan to form and give hope of us actually growing into a better species."
"How long has it been?" Angel asked hesitantly.
"Before I answer that," Antonio stated softly, "All three of you need to understand and accept that you're not alone. Due to some unexpected side effects from the learning bands from your cycle, when combined with genetic modifications, there are quite a few people here that are still alive from back when you were born. Only two of the lupine made it, one of which is Symus, or as he's known now, Hac. We have Vifer again, but except for a few that originated in the Second Cycle, this time it is a conversion used if nothing else can save their lives. One other change is that they are just as free as any other person. We have Phasenmorphs again too, but they are only used for protection, unless there is no other way to stop someone who is breaking the laws. They're limited as to who can even have one, and the group that makes the decision takes it really serious; they are not general knowledge to most of humanity. Right now, we are on a planet that exists outside the flow of time, so we can take as long as you need to get used to when you are now."
Angel nodded. "You could have just said we're not alone."
"But would you have believed me?" Antonio quipped. "Drink up, doctor's orders!"
"Okay, you're right," Angel admitted before taking a small taste of his drink. "Hey, this tastes good!"
"Just don't drink too fast," Antonio warned, "give your stomach a chance to get used to having something in it again."
"Okay," Angel nodded. "Are you going to tell me how long it's been?"
Antonio waited until he was sure that Angel had swallowed his drink and the glass was safe on the table, then replied "Forty thousand years, more or less."
Angel froze, staring holes in Antonio as he tried to decide if this was a joke. Finally determining that the boy in front of him was serious, Angel whispered "So that's why you wanted me to know I wasn't alone."
"Yes; and now we need to call Hac in, since he's very protective of his family. The only reason he isn't here right now is that he trusted me to make you as healthy as possible," Antonio stated softly. "Just so you know, he can legally adopt you as his son if he wants to. If I know him, he'll rip the limbs off anyone that tries to stop him."
"Yeah, that's about right," Angel replied. "How long until he gets here?"
"How does now sound, Angel?" Hac stated as he walked in, followed by all three of his sons.
"SYMUS!" Angel shouted as he spun his chair and launched himself at Hac.
Antonio winced at the impact as Angel slammed into Hac and latched on for dear life. Motioning to the other three to take a seat, Antonio explained "Angel hasn't seen your Dad for around forty thousand years, so it's going to take a few minutes for him to calm down."
"Does that all make sense now?" Hac finished, having updated Angel and answered questions from all three boys, relayed through Angel, about the parts of earth's history that Antonio had no clue about. "Even though you're a couple of years older than when I last saw you, you're still not too old for me to adopt you, if that's what you want."
Angel smiled, "Mother and Father would hunt me down if I said no!"
Hac chuckled, "That they would. Going by what 'Tonio's said about what they had to do to make you stable, you're probably going to age like I do, so plan on being around for a while. The good news for you is that your new brothers either don't age, or they're like us, so we'll not grow old as a family."
"If Hertus was your Father, does that make him my Grandfather?" Angel asked seriously.
"Yes, youngling, he would be proud if you called him your Grandfather," Hac replied.
"So that means the twins might become my cousins, if Uncle Klaus does what Grandfather asked?" Angel continued.
"Yes, they will," Hac replied. "I know your Uncle Klaus; he has too much respect for Father to not grant his wish, but how do the twins feel about it?"
"He saved our lives," Angel stated, "They can't wait to meet him!"
"Well, we can't have that," Antonio giggled. "Hey Kerry! Wake up the twins, then tell your ancient brother to get his butt in here!"
"I'm on it!" Kerry replied over the room speaker.
"How is Kerry related to us?" Angel asked as he tickled Grover, who had decided his new big brother looked comfy.
"He's your Uncle too; he's something like your Uncle Klaus, only his setup comes from this cycle," Antonio explained. "He's the AI for your new home back on Earth, but he also has an android body that he can use to hang around with the rest of us. He looks human because he is; androids are just another type of human."
Angel nodded. "Okay, the twins needed to know who they were hugging once they woke up."
"I'm sure he liked that!" Antonio grinned as Klaus walked into the room.
"Who liked what?" Klaus asked.
"Your new sons are in the process of giving Kerry a double-hug," Antonio grinned. "You might as well stay standing, you're probably next on their tackle list!"
"Angel, this is your Uncle Klaus. Bro, this is the famous Angel that I complained about us not finding," Hac stated. "He'll give you the bone-crushing hug later, bro; right now he's busy getting cuddle lessons from his little brother. Speaking of twins, how's Dalrus doing?"
"I'm glad you made it, Angel; Hac was grumpy for a few dozen decades when he didn't find you!" Klaus smiled. "Dalrus is going through rehab right now; Marc's making sure he is able to control his new body. Once Marc clears him, Colin and Ardell are going to do the adoption."
"Pass on to Marc that I think we all need to be there when they makes it official; this is a pretty big day for our brothers."
"I agree," Klaus replied. "Message delivered, and Marc approves."
Just then, a pair of naked redheaded nine-year-olds crashed through the doorway, immediately picking out Klaus and tackling him for a three way cuddle. Keeping a safe distance, Kerry walked in behind them, giggling at the chaos he'd help arrange. "Thanks for keeping him standing, Hac; that made it way too easy!"
"The look on his face was worth it!" Hac grinned. "Kerry, Angel is now officially your nephew."
Kerry walked over and gave Angel a hug from behind. "Welcome to the family, Angel. If you need help understanding your new life, let me know. I know a few things that Hac doesn't, so between him and me we should be able to answer your questions."
"Thanks, Uncle Kerry," Angel smiled.
Klaus joined the group, one twin under each arm, their blue eyes sparkling with mischief. "Okay, I'd like to introduce my twin sons; on the left is Taiy, and on the right is Breis. Once I let go, have fun figuring out which is which!"
"I'll know!" Angel grinned.
"That's because you can cheat," Taiy stated with a smile.
"But we know you won't tell, so it's okay," Breis added.
"I can't wait for us to go home, Mom and Dad are going to love having more twins running around!" Kerry giggled. "Klaus, they were listening in when Antonio and Hac brought Angel up to speed, so once they get their shakes we should be ready to catch up with Ardell and Colin."
"Hold out your hands, guys," Klaus instructed. Once both boys had their hands extended, Klaus teleported in two shakes, holding them from falling long enough for the pair to grab them. "Okay, let's head over there; Colin's called in his crew."
Hac gasped in surprise as soon as they joined the rest of the group. For only the second time since it was built, the Council chamber was reconfigured into an auditorium. The first time had been when Father died; as happened then, the heads of every single Clan within the Klaus society were present in person, not using the VR network. In addition, the heads of every Division of Family Clan Short were present. When he saw that Teri, Spock, Sarek, and Amanda were present as well, he realized that none of them would have any say in what might happen next. He glanced at the front row, only to find the entire Morrison family AND the entire Busch family waiting patiently.
After being seated at the long table with Colin and Ardell's family, the group waited to see what was in store. They didn't need to wait long, as Cory and Sean made their way from the back of the stage to the podium.
"May I have your attention, please," Cory asked, which quickly silenced the room. "Thank you. For those who don't know me on sight, I am Patriarch Cory Short of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the Planet Vulcan; I hold the same position in Family Clan Short as Ardell holds within your society. Next to me is my husband Sean; he is the Family Clan Short Archivist. Klaus has assured me that everyone who can possibly witness the events about to happen is watching, so I believe it is time to proceed."
"As the Klaus society had an elder who supported and guided those who would build that which exists today, one who to this day is revered as 'Father', Family Clan Short has a 'Grandfather' who we look to for guidance and wisdom. As every single person watching are brothers and sisters of Family Clan Short, I have offered and been given permission to ask of you to accept our Grandfather, Ambassador Sarek of the House of Surak of the Planet Vulcan, to do that which your Father would do if he was still here. The most senior AI in the known Universe will tabulate the vote, as is customary in your society."
Cory stepped back, knowing that chances were high that he could have done this without asking, but his asking would help strengthen the bonds between the two families. Three minutes later, Ark's voice announced that a majority had been achieved accepting the proposal.
Without being asked, Sarek stood and joined Cory and Sean. Once at the podium, he stated "As you have been accepted as Family by Patriarch Cory, know that the House of Surak accepts each of you as family as well. I find that your method of determining the logical path to provide for the society is a logical and expedient way for humans to operate; I wish to spend some time researching these methods, as there are other societies within the Federation which may benefit from the knowledge, if you find it logical to share your experience."
Hac smiled as he noticed something that only those who knew the heads of the Clans well would notice; the slight shift in posture as they shifted from warily assessing the situation to listening carefully for any helpful tips they might make use of. Without a single word being said by the local leaders, Sarek had just been accepted as Grandfather by an entire society.
Sarek continued, not concerned with what had just occurred. "All youth require someone to nurture and guide them; either a family of their own, or a society such as those built by the two Patriarchs behind me; Patriarch Cory and Patriarch Ardell. Logic dictates that societies such as these will follow the example of their Patriarch; this outcome has been confirmed in both cases. While the designations may be different, both societies have logically formed subdivisions within themselves. Such subdivisions are necessary to assure guidance is present for all members of the society."
"In any mature society, there are events which must be confirmed by an elder. In the absence of an elder, if appropriate alternative procedures are not in place, the event may be determined as invalid. It is my understanding that there were multiple recent events which have met that qualification, due to a procedural misjudgment in the distant past based on then-current data. As 'Father' is now limited to the spiritual plane, I accept the opportunity to assist with that which was unplanned."
"Ardell and Colin, please join me," Sarek stated.
Realizing that at this moment that wasn't a request, Ardell and Colin quickly moved to head to the podium, with all of their sons and grandsons hot on their heels. "Yes, Grandfather?" Ardell and Colin asked in unison as they came to a stop.
Sarek raised an eyebrow, then stated, "Your children joining you of their own accord indicates an unusual bonding in a human family so young. Continue as you have done, you have given 'Father' honor in your application of his teachings."
"Thank you, Grandfather," Ardell replied.
"As despite your physical appearance, you have reached the age of maturity for a Human, it would be logical for you to be evaluated for marriage under Vulcan law. Is it your desire to proceed?"
"Yes, Grandfather," both Colin and Ardell replied, internally realizing this could very well get them out of a ceremony arranged by Grandma Morrison.
"Prepare for a meld, grandsons," Sarek instructed.
"The House of Surak confirms that Patriarch Ardell Morrison of the Family Klaus of the planet Earth and Colin Busch of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan are logically compatible in accordance with the Laws of the Planet Vulcan. As Family Head of the House of Surak, I declare their marriage valid."
'I think this is where we're supposed to kiss,' Ardell sent over their new bond-link.
'Sounds like a good idea to me,' Colin sent back before pulling Ardell in for a tonsil inspection.
While Ardell and Colin displayed their Humanity, Sarek shifted his attention to their sons. Kneeling to be at the level of Dalrus, Sarek stated, "During the review, all of you were confirmed as the legal descendants of both of your parents. Dalrus, by the rules imposed by Patriarch Short which Ardell has incorporated, I must ensure that it is your intent to become the youngest son of Ardell and Colin."
Dalrus smiled as he replied. "My first Paprus was hurt real bad when the original me was murdered; it helped him some when he found out I was alive inside Klaus, but he never forgave himself for what happened. Ardell promised to be my Paprus forever when I woke up with my new body, and my original Paprus said he wanted me to learn to be a kid again from the best person he knew. I watched Ardell forever, so I know he's a great Papa, even though it was other people's kids he was helping. Colin's a good Daddy too, he just didn't realize he was doing it. Could you please make it forever?"
"I am required to ask your brothers a question before I may proceed," Sarek replied. "Glen, Kaique? While Cleiton is genetically bonded to Ardell, and has accepted that bond, you must state if you accept Ardell as a parent in addition to Colin. This will in no way affect the possibility of marriage between Cleiton and Kaique, as there is no genetic tie which would make it illogical to procede."
Glen quickly replied "It would be illogical for me to refuse the father of my brother."
Sarek nodded. "Your logic is sound, grandson."
Kaique added "I agree with Glen; I'd be stupid to reject the person that makes Cleiton happy without a really good reason."
"Cleiton, you have just experienced one of the aspects of Family Clan Short that has led to their success," Sarek stated. "On Vulcan, a brother is a bond not easily broken; today you have seen that your new family holds the same values."
"Thank you, Grandfather," Cleiton smiled, understanding that Sarek's statement was a gentle push for him to allow the new people he was meeting to see his family side, instead of his public side.
Sarek nodded as he stood and faced the podium. "It has been determined that Glen, Cleiton, Kaique, and Dalrus perceive the merging of their family to be logical. I concur with their determination, and declare Ardell and Colin the sole parents of all four aforementioned youth. My word is given."
With the situation involving Ardell sorted out, Sarek turned and began the return to his seat. The trip took much longer this time, as various heads of the Klaus clans stopped him to ask questions which affected their own groups. Sarek took the time to answer each question, which earned him even more respect in the eyes of the Klaus community.
Meanwhile, on the stage, Dalrus was getting impatient, since Ardell and Colin were still kissing. "Papa! Daddy! You can eat each other's tongues later! You gotta give my little brother and Uncle Hac their new kids!"
The room breaking out in laughter made Dalrus realize that everyone heard him, which resulted in his quick retreat to the safety of the arms of his new big brothers.
Ardell and Colin broke their kiss as well, discovering kissing and laughing did not mix. After both of them made sure that Dalrus knew that neither one of them was mad, Ardell walked up to the podium. "First thing I have to say; could one of my AI brothers please give my fellow Vulcan Family Patriarch a tour of the dolphin pools for not warning me?"
"YES SIR!" multiple voices replied in unison, followed by a chorus of giggles.
"Now that I've took care of that problem," Ardell grinned, "Thank you to everyone for taking the time to do this for me and my family. Grandpa Sarek, you honored Father's memories admirably; he would acknowledge the logic of you allowing us the honor of becoming your grandchildren, and for the society that grew because I refused to let things continue as they were, I officially accept your offer to provide the guidance which comes with mental maturity. As you have entered us into the archives of Vulcan as your grandchildren, I declare you Grandfather over all I have created."
"You honor Father properly, Grandson," Sarek replied. "While on Vulcan your statements would be accepted without reply, due to your logic being sound, I find that the Human reply is much more suiting to the honor you present. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Grandfather," Ardell replied. "With as crazy as things have been, there's something I need to take care of. A long time ago, I had an idea, but was too scared to say anything. There was one person who took the time to talk to me; one person who, despite his own problems, really tried to understand what I was thinking and feeling. Back then, Father was still a stranger to me in a lot of ways, since I had just met him. Klaus was just starting to really learn what he was becoming, and wasn't used to dealing with other kids yet. Barrett didn't even know his name yet, and was counting on me to decide a lot of things for him while he was starting on his way to recovering his memories. You see, probably the most successful result of one of the worst genetic modifications in the Second Cycle put me before his own problems. I learned that day one of the biggest lessons of my life; it doesn't matter what I do if it doesn't help someone else."
"That day, Hac followed me after I ran off from being frustrated with what everyone said was normal. He was a fugitive from the lab that modified him, he was being hunted by what we'd call a strike team, he was considered a menace to be killed on sight by society, and he had just been captured by Klaus when Klaus detected a fight outside our base. He put all of that aside to support me, and has been my brother ever since. In a way, he's even responsible for me getting married today, since he led the team that rescued Colin, and he provided the genetic donations that saved Colin's life. One of the things Father mentioned in his dying wish was that Hac help me protect Dalrus if we could get him a body; today we did just that, and I want all of you to know that Hac is the Godfather to ALL of my sons, no matter how they became my sons."
"Now, if my favorite furball will join me, along with his new pack, I believe I owe him a few favors."
Hac, followed by all four of his sons, quickly joined Ardell. Hac instantly pulled Ardell into a hug, expressing without words his gratitude for what Ardell had just stated.
Once the hug broke, Ardell smiled. "Just relax, bro; I need to ask your cubs a couple of questions, and show everyone just why they fit with you."
Hac nodded. "Did you guys hear Uncle Ardell? He's going to explain why we make a great family, which means he's going to talk about some of what you went through."
All four boys nodded, Jessip replying audibly, "We're good, Dad; nobody here cares about us being different, they like it."
"Are you sure, Yonto?" Ardell verified, his concern obvious.
"Yes Uncle," Yonto replied softly.
"I'm going to start with you, since you were first, so go ahead and start your brother cuddles," Ardell stated softly.
"Okay," Yonto replied.
Turning back to the podium, Ardell began, "What you just heard is three more words than anyone but Hac would have got as replies just a few days ago. This is one of those cases where nobody needs to ask; Hac and Yonto have bonded so clearly as father and son that the only thing I can do is say that it is now official. The very first kid that Hac took in was a rescue from what could only be called eternal torture. He was injured bad enough to require a Vifer conversion before we could attempt the extended abuse repairs. It required the combined medical knowledge of Klaus and Ark to heal his body; it is clear that only Hac is able to heal his spirit. Yonto, your Daddy has had a lot of practice healing me, you made a really good choice to heal you."
Ardell turned his head to see if Yonto was okay, only to receive one of his rare smiles. Smiling back, he moved to the next in line. "While Hac was assisting Des Moines with an emergency evacuation of some of the more vulnerable youth Moroi in Chicago, a last-minute passenger was added. Come on over here, Grover!"
"It was ME!" Grover giggled as he pounced Ardell.
Once Ardell was back on his feet, the pint-sized Moroi now happily perched on his hip, he continued, "This little guy is just barely grown enough to even feed, and there is no way he could have survived on the streets. Hac took him under his wing the second he met him, and thanks to a request by my waterlogged fellow Patriarch, he's able to spend time during the day with his family instead of them shifting their schedules to be awake with him at night. That's our brothers in Clan Short looking out for one of our own. Grover, do you want to make Hac your Daddy no matter where you are, for all of your life?"
"You're silly, Uncle Ardell, he IS my daddy!" Grover giggled.
"That works, someone log it!" Ardell grinned as he started tickling Grover.
Ardell finally returned his giggling cargo to Hac, then brought Jessip to the front with him. "Most of you know this little prankster, but for those of you that don't, his name is Jessip. He's been stalking Hac and trying to get him to adopt him since close to the end of the second cycle. Besides being a telepath, he's also able to change the color of any part of his body like a chameleon. He was one of the attempts at getting a spy into our compound near the end of the cycle, but defected within seconds of getting inside. Hac finally gave in to Jessip's requests after he decided that he was adding Grover to his family. The interesting part is that it was Hac that caught Jessip; but just like he did with me, Hac took the time to listen to Jessip, and ended up being the one to convince the rest of us to bring him into our society. Now that you've finally got to spend time with Hac, do you want him to officially become your dad, Jessip?"
"He's been a better Dad than I ever dreamed of!" Jessip replied. "Since I never had one, it's awesome having him now."
"You got your wish," Ardell stated. "I approve the adoption; go give your Dad and little brother a hug."
"Yes, SIR!" Jessip replied as he saluted Ardell before twisting to pounce Hac.
Without prompting, Angel came over to join Ardell. Ardell smiled at his nervous nephew, then softly asked "Would you like to tell everyone about yourself, Angel?"
"Yeah," Angel replied. Taking a moment to steel himself, Angel spoke. "Dad used to be my cousin. There was an attack a long time ago, and he vanished. A few years later, there was another attack, and I was stolen from what was left of my family. They tried to change me into something, but it didn't work right, and the next thing I know I was woke up today. Doctor Antonio and Doctor Kerry said the scientists back then tried to make me like Dad, but also tried to make me like a phasenmorph. Doctor Antonio fixed me; he says I'm like Uncle Colin now, but I still have a little phasenmorph in me, so I'm always gonna have a shield like I'm wearing one."
"You did good, nephew," Ardell stated. "Since you're related to Hac by blood, the only way I can make someone else your parent is if you request it. Do you want me to do that, or do you want to be Hac's son?"
"His son," Angel stated.
"Go hug your Dad, it's official," Ardell stated softly. Once he was sure that Hac had things under control, he stated "One left!"
"About time!" Klaus shot back as he guided his boys toward the podium.
Ardell smiled, then stated, "Most of you have heard me and Klaus refer to each other as brothers, and I know a lot of you just let it slide. It's not talked about much anymore, but within twenty-four hours of meeting each other, we ended up saving each other's lives. When Klaus was still the KLS system, he became my only friend. Not just best friend; he was the only friend I had. It was my suggestion that he could fight to override an order that would have killed over half of the people alive back then. He did it, but had to rewrite some of his own code after they tried to shut him down. I powered him back up, and that's when Klaus was born. Later that day, my body started failing really bad because of the smart bands. Klaus caught it, and he's the one that figured out the procedure to have Father use to fix me before I could die. From the first night on the base until the end of time, Klaus was, is, and always will be my awesome little brother. Now that he's got a body, there are two special boys that went through the same thing as Angel, boys who needed a Daddy that understands them. Father requested Klaus to take them in if he was able, and I'm very proud of my little brother for jumping at the chance."
"Actually, he was afraid I'd pass them to him!" Klaus grinned. "Sorry, I'm keeping them! Everyone, meet Taiy and Bresis. If you figure out how to tell them apart, don't tell their uncles, you'll ruin our fun!"
"So does that mean you guys want to keep Klaus as your daddy?" Ardell asked.
"Fun," the pair see-sawed.
"Congratulations, guys; I think you've made a great choice," Ardell smiled. "Welcome to the family, you're official now."
As Klaus went over to let his boys mingle with Hac's crew, Ardell said, "Since Brudei and Trevois have managed to avoid Grandma Morrison giving them kids or trying to get them married to someone, I've got two more little brothers left. Barrett, Hayden, could the two of you come up here please?"
"We're NOT getting married!" Hayden stated as they joined Ardell.
"I know better, you'd probably torture me!" Ardell replied. "This is more of a favor. Barrett, I remember when we found you, and I remember you actually teaching me to be a kid, even when you didn't really remember how to be one yourself. I had to watch you fight with yourself as to what you should do when we found out that one of the two of you had slipped through time somehow, and celebrated with you after you finally got up the nerve to re-connect with your twin brother. Hayden, I know that you worry about not growing up at the same speed as Barrett; I had Klaus take a deep genetic trace on you last week, and we've confirmed that it was actually you that jumped time, which means that if you had the procedure done that Barrett had, you would most likely age like him, since you still carry traces of the smart drugs in you."
"Marc and Kerry had to explain those to me," Haden stated. "They said they force you to concentrate on just one thing. Could that be why I do that?"
Ardell nodded. "Yes; and the effect doesn't really go away naturally. For me, the procedure gave me control over it; I can turn it on and off. Barrett has to work a little harder at control, but he doesn't get lost."
Hayden considered what was just said. "Are you offering to do it, or telling me to?"
"I think you should, but I won't force you," Ardell replied. "We really don't know how modern medicine interacts with it, so I'm kinda worried; especially after Marc added it to the Banned Substance list."
Hayden nodded. "I see that, if Barrett agrees, I'll do it. Did you check Evan?"
"I'm planning on it after we're done here," Ardell replied. "With what I've been told that Marc stated, it just became high priority."
"Okay, what do you think, Barrett?"
"I agree with Ardell; after today, you should probably do it."
"Okay, set me up," Haden replied. "Evan is going to want it too, even if he's clear. If he doesn't, me and Barrett will convince him."
"He's our brother," Ardell smiled, "I won't argue with him, he's got the right to be there for us." After a pause, Ardell added, "By the way, the favor I need to ask is regarding the little shadow that you two share."
"Caedon?" Barrett asked.
"Yep; he's been talking to the little guys in the Clan, and asked me if I could make you two his co-parents. That would mean you'd share him as a son, even if you each form your own families."
"Yes," Hayden stated, "And Barrett says yes too, even if he doesn't realize it, since he already is a daddy to Caedon in every way but by law."
"Yeah, you're definitely twins," Ardell smiled. "Barrett, is the answer yes, or do I need a chair and some popcorn while I watch you and Hayden argue it out?"
Barrett stuck out his tongue at Ardell before replying. "Now that Hayden and I are back together, I can handle it. We kinda need each other around to be stable."
Any additional reply was silenced by the speeding five-year-old that managed to tackle both Barrett and Hayden. Once the pair realized what hit them, they rolled to pull him into a double cuddle. Ardell smiled, then stated "Whoever's logging, we just gained a pair of co-parents!"
Hertus smiled as he picked up his first son. "I think your brothers are happy, Dalrus."
Dalrus nodded. "I think the new me is goin' to be really happy! You gave me awesome brothers, Daddy!"
Taking his wife's hand with his free hand, Hertus chuckled "I don't think they ever planned on giving me a choice, son," as he led the way to watch their extended family as it moved to the next stage of their new lives.