CSV-DSM Part 2

Chapter 4: "Take it to the limit..."

Des Moines HQ, 4:50 am, Friday, November 5th, 2004:

Ezra grinned even more than usual as he appeared in the living room at Julio's house. Julio and Jesse were just finishing the rounds of hugs for their sons after returning from Florida. After Terry was once again latched to Julio's side, and the triple twins were done mobbing Jesse, Ezra got their attention.

"Hey, Uncle Julio! You ready to take a break yet?"

Julio glanced at Ezra. "It's almost four in the morning, and we are still recovering from time zones! Find my family a bed in a locked room where nobody can find us and we'll all be happy. I just found out that none of our boys will let themselves sleep if we're out doing something."

"I know." Ezra replied. "That's why I'm here. You guys have been invited by Prez to join them for a few nanoseconds on Archnania. You won't be gone more than a second here, but you can stay there as long as you need."

Mick and Janice exchanged glances. "Where is this 'Archnania' at? I've never heard of it." Mick asked.

"It's a place that exists outside time that my brother Dilly found." Ezra explained. "He was there when they became a High Race, and he shares custody of the King's youngest son. Dad and Pop have even let us move the Intel training there, since it means that the guys ain't gotta miss their new families doing things here while they are training. You're invited too, the King likes meeting the Clan parents and learning more about the kids that are going to be visiting there all the time."

Ezra paused, and he could tell by the looks he was getting that he needed to explain more. "The Archnanians pretty much gather knowledge and store it from everywhere they can. They are even working with Ark to fill in some holes in Ark's history that were missed due to equipment failure. Pretty much, Ark handles Earth, they handle everything outside Earth itself; King Harroldo said that Ark is doing such a great job at maintaining and securing history that it would be wrong to duplicate Ark's work; instead they keep a secure backup just in case Ark has a major failure, with everything tagged as either secured, limited release, or full release by Ark so that nothing gets released to people that could cause problems."

"This is why you never let old people ask questions!" Julio whispered just loud enough for his boys to hear.

"But Daddy, you are old people!" Terry replied, testing out the freedom to speak that his six other brothers insisted that he now had.

"You're almost ancient even!" Kurt and Kent added in stereo.

Julio grinned. "Keep it up guys; I know where the pool is and I'm not afraid to use it!"

Jesse grabbed Kent and Kurt, holding one of them under each arm. "I might even have to force you to eat cookies if you don't stop it."

Mick turned to Janice. "Okay, I think the boys have their little terrors under control; what do you think about this little trip that Ezra is talking about?"

"I'm curious about the cookie threat!" Janice replied. "Ezra, how safe is it on that planet?"

Ezra giggled. "Other than getting worn out chasing trees, there is no real danger there. I promised Dad that I'd help out here so that Uncle Julio and Uncle Jesse don't get swamped. That means I gotta make sure they are safe, so if there was any danger I wouldn't be taking them there."

"Chasing trees?" Mick sniggered. "Have you been hanging out with Johnny's squirrels, Ezzy?"

"My squirrels don't chase trees, Dad!" Johnny piped up as him and Eddie wandered into the room, both covered in dirt and munching on fresh carrots.

"How did you two get so dirty so quickly?" Janice asked with a smile.

"We was playing with a couple of Johnny's groundhog friends!" Eddie giggled.

"And the carrots?" Mick asked knowingly.

"Like Eddie said," Johnny giggled, "we was playing with Lew and Fred when there was a big boom from Uncle Herman's garden. A buncha dirt flew up and these carrots landed on us." Johnny paused as he put on his best angel impression. "We couldn't waste them!"

"On that note, I think a vacation might be a good thing!" Mick announced with a roll of his eyes. "Janice, round up the boys!"

Morrison Residence:

"Damn Jake, you outdid yourself on that one!" Pablito stated appreciatively as he appeared with Jake and Thomas by his side.

At the sound of Pablito's voice, the atmosphere was shattered by the sounds of multiple weapons being drawn and prepared for action.

Pablito shook his head. "Dammit! HOW many times do I gotta tell you nutcases that I'M ALREADY DEAD! Besides, it's really bad karma to kill your Guardian Angel!"

"If you're an Angel, Pablito, I'm gonna live forever!" Lucas muttered.

"I'll ask the Boss about that one for you next time I see Him." Pablito responded with a grin. "Anyway, you guys are making me miss some really good shit, so let's get this show goin'. Hey Bob, get over here; the Boss says I gotta do somethin' for ya since you took in the Goof Troop here."

"Bite me!" every living kid in the Busch family that was present exclaimed in unison.

"HELL NO! I've seen where you guys have been!" Pablito shot back.

Mark giggled as he asked Lucas, "Are they really that desperate for Guardian Angels?"

Lucas nodded. "Yeah, he is actually behaving for once."

"I heard that." Pablito exclaimed. "Now I'm asking the Boss for BOTH of you."

Bob finally found his voice. "Why..?"

Pablito interrupted him. "The Boss is trying out a new recycling program. Since you did what He's wanted you to do so far, and these two have already done their afterlife jobs ahead of schedule, you won the lottery and get a two-for-one return on your investment. It kinda helps that these two nuts refused to go through the Gates. That'll teach ya to pray for your son to be returned to ya. Now you got him, his friend, and the whole lame bunch."

"I... They're what..." Bob started to say before passing out on the spot.

As Herman caught Bob, Grandma Morrison turned to Pablito. "Young man, that was a very poor explanation. You WILL revive him, and you WILL explain it again, this time in a manner more appropriate to your station. I have no issue with going over your head if you can't present a miracle in a proper manner, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?"

A note suddenly appeared in Pablito's hand. After reading it, he passed it to Grandma with a grin:


Do as she says, for your own good. My ears STILL hurt from her statements when Adam was kidnapped. I wouldn't wish that on anyone else, no matter how much they like bending the rules.

Saint Peter

"I like you Grandma; it takes a lot to get to him like that! I am so going to use this little note to have some fun!" Pablito grinned. "Okay Bob, wake up for round two."

As he felt Grandma's glare, Pablito commented "Oh what the fuck, as much as I hate this shit I might as well look angelic." With that, he changed into his full angel form, complete with white robes, glowing wings, and a gold halo. "Next time Mikey's gonna do this kinda crap."

"You may proceed, and choose your words VERY carefully." Grandma stated firmly.

"Yes, Ma'am." Pablito replied as he waved his hand, bringing Bob back to consciousness. Speaking slowly, Pablito began again. "Bob, the Man Upstairs is pleased with the work that you have done. Since your son, nor the other boy killed in the accident, ever left what you call the Astral Realm, I have been given Mandate to reward you by returning that which was lost to you. In their afterlife, they both have done much to bring things to where they are today, and this is their reward as well."

Bob was better able to handle the announcement the second time around. "So, if I understand you right, you can give my son and his friend their lives back?"

Pablito glanced over to the two boys, who were following instructions and waiting for his signal before talking or doing anything. He then turned back to Bob and replied. "They already know this and are okay with it, but you need to understand it before I can continue. While they will both appear the ages they were upon their passing, due to the experiences they had in the Astral Plane they are much more mature. As far as any records go, I am changing them to list them as medically resuscitated today to prevent changes to what has already been. They carry knowledge that will be of use later in life, so you are going to find them both different than when you last saw Jake alive. Can you accept that?"

"Yes." Bob replied seriously.

"I warned you." Pablito said with a grin, deciding not to go beyond that when he saw Grandma taking a deep breath. Before she could speak, he quickly said "Thomas, Jake; you can join me now."

As previously arranged, both boys moved to stand on either side of him. Deciding he might as well put on a show since he had to do the Angel thing anyway, Pablito put one hand on the head of each of the semi-transparent boys at his side. As he spread his wings wide, all three were encased is a bright white glow. "By Mandate of the Highest Power, I return to you your bodies and instruct you to go forth and continue your work in human form."

Both boys solidified as everyone watched. After about a minute, the glow subsided and Pablito lifted his hands. Before either nine-year-old boy had a chance to fully turn, Bob was next to them and pulling both into a tearful hug.

Pablito smiled at the reunion, then commented "Have a great life guys, I'll be watching over you. I hate to run, but I gotta find some mouthwash to get this fucking clean outta my mouth!"

Before anyone could comment, Pablito vanished. Mark and Lucas ran over to Grandma and wrapped their arms around her. "Way to go Grandma! You finally put that pest in his place!" Lucas giggled.

Grandma made sure everyone there heard her reply. "Learn from this, boys. There is a time to bend the rules, and there is a time to follow them. As much as he annoys you, judging by your actions, a guardian angel who will bend rules to do his job is a rare gift. If Pablito gets too annoying, just remind him that you are all my grandchildren. If that doesn't work, I'm SURE Saint Peter will appreciate a few words from me going by the note I read."

"But Grandma, I've never seen you follow the rules!" Mark prodded.

"That's because I'm an expert at hiding it." Grandma replied with a smile. "I believe you still need to officially introduce me to your two brothers-in-law, Mark."

"We ain't married..." Mark and Lucas exclaimed in unison as a giggling Adam joined the group.

"Only because I have not found the local pastor, yet." Grandma interrupted.

"We gotta go get Thomas and Jake." Lucas whimpered as he pulled Mark along with him.

"That was evil, Grandma! Can I help?" Adam giggled.

"I think we will need Lucas' brothers, and your other brothers as well, to do this right." Grandma replied with a smile. "I'll work with our family, you see what you can get from his brothers to help out."

"Sweet!" Adam giggled.

As Adam and Grandma plotted, Lucas and Mark quickly walked up to Bob, Jake, and Thomas. "Dad, help me! Grandma Morrison is trying to get us married before we go to bed tonight!" Lucas complained in desperation.

Bob looked up, having just finished assuring both Jake and Thomas that Thomas was just as much his son as Jake was. "There is a patio on the side of the house, why don't all five of us go have a seat there? Herman is showing Mark's parents around and filling them in on the joys of being Clan parents, so we've got a little time."

All four boys agreed, and they walked with Bob away from the group to the secluded patio. Bob sat down, Thomas and Jake quickly huddling together under one of his arms. He held the other arm up, inviting Mark and Lucas to take residence under it. After a brief mental conversation, they took him up on the offer and settled in on his other side, Mark sandwiched between Lucas and Bob.

"Mark? Are you okay this far from Adam?" Bob asked with concern.

"Yes, Sir." Mark replied. "We're kinda holding each other's hands in our heads."

"Good, you need that right now." Bob replied. "Lucas, are you doing the same thing with Logan?"

"I am now; it kinda helps." Lucas replied.

"Okay." Bob smiled. "All four of you are on new ground right now, and I understand just how scary it is for you. Mark, as much fun as it looks like your Grandma is having at your expense, in reality she is trying to show you that you have her support, just like you've always had. Her and I talked a little before you arrived, and she honestly wants you to have the best life that you can. I don't think she understands just how Lucas was affected by what happened to him; you understand it more than anyone here, other than Logan I think, so you're being protective."

Mark nodded, relieved that Bob at least understood the basics of what he was feeling.

Bob continued. "Lucas, you have went through some major changes to your life in the last few hours; changes that I really think you did not plan for emotionally. As much as you have programmed yourself to not do it, you're going to need to lean on Mark to help you deal with the new emotions. I know that Logan is your normal support, but this is something that he has not prepared himself for either. Mark's experience with his family will help you learn how to respond to it in a healthy way."

"I'll try; that makes sense." Lucas stated, Bob's explanation giving him some comfort.

Bob nodded. "Just to be fair, and to make sure we are all on the same page, I'll summarize what I know about these two little angels as well. Jake's worried that all of his new brothers might have replaced his place in my life, and Thomas is worried about if he'll be accepted and if I'm going to hold his parents causing the accident against him."

Lucas leaned forward so he could look at Thomas. "You ain't gotta worry about Dad holding the accident against you, brother. I'll kick his butt if he tries; and since I'm a telepath I'll know it before you do."

"The bad part is, he's right on both counts... He CAN kick my butt, and he's been taking leech lessons!" Bob chuckled, which got giggles from all four boys.

Thomas shyly spoke up. "I'm not pickin' on you, but you two guys are already acting like a couple without thinking about it. When Bob... I mean Dad... asked us to come over here, you guys held a conversation with your eyes that anyone else woulda had to say out loud. Maybe that's why everyone is tryin' to help you."

Jake unconsciously pulled Thomas close to him. "I still know stuff that I learned from you guys becoming Aces. Yeah, Lucas, I checked you out too. I got to learn a lot of stuff while I was dead, and I think part of why this bugs you is neither one of you realizes how much you are helping each other just when you cuddle. The rest of us see it, and I think the rest of the guys want to make sure that you've always got that."

Happy that his summary had started the four boys talking, Bob kept quiet. In the back of his mind, he held on to the hope that the Clan magic would kick in and lead them to beginning the building of the bond that the rest of his sons already shared.

After a few seconds of thought, Mark spoke up. "I guess what really bugs me is that we're being rushed. I know Adam and I are picking on Garrett and Ronnie, but we try to stop it when is goes beyond helping them and starts being pushing them past what they are ready for. Lucas and me ain't even slept in the same house yet and we're already married to everyone else!"

"I know what you mean..." Jake muttered softly.

"Are you and Thomas a couple?" Mark asked.

"We never asked each other; we've been all that each other's had for so long that we thought it'd never matter. We never planned on being alive again; it was about four years ago, normal time, that we met each other." Thomas answered for them both.

Jake giggled. "You're doing it again, Tommy; remember that we got our own bodies now, so we can't pretend we're each other any more!"

"It's still fun trying, Jakey!" Thomas giggled back.

Lucas grinned. "It sounds like you two have spent so much time together that you've become mental twins! The three of us are gonna have to get with our other brother Logan to tune your plotting skills!"

Mark smiled. "Just so we don't mess up and make you mad, are those names private names that only you two can use, or is that what you want to be called?"

Jake smiled."Anyone else calls me 'Jakey' and I'm gonna send them out on a trip with Colin... that includes YOU, Dad!"

Thomas nodded. "Same here... I hate being called Jakey!"

"I don't think that will be a problem!" Lucas sputtered as he tried to keep Mark from falling out of his seat laughing.

After a minute of recovery, Thomas replied seriously. "I guess I really didn't think about it, but yeah, it don't bug me if Jake calls me Tommy. I guess it's kinda one of those things that if I like you it's okay, but I don't like everyone doing it. I wouldn't mind you guys calling me that, or even Dad, but I guess I'd like it better if people called me Thomas, unless I know them good enough to tell them to call me Tommy."

Lucas nodded. "Okay; I just passed that on to Logan for you, bro. He's letting everyone know to call you Thomas until you are comfortable enough with them to say otherwise. I know all of our brothers; they understand."

"Adam and the brats are handling my side." Mark added. "Adam and Garrett are helping explain how a name means more when you've been through something more than most people."

"Good planning, guys." Bob stated. "Based on what has been said... and not said, I've got a serious question, Jake and Thomas. I think the two of you are close enough that you will understand if your answers to this are different, but I also think that it needs to be given some thought before we rejoin the mob that you now call brothers. What does each of your hearts tell you; do you want to try out being a couple, or would you rather just remain very close brothers? Before you answer, I just want to point out that you have brothers who have chosen both paths, and in all cases they are accepted for just what they have decided is best."

"I like Tommy a lot." Jake replied slowly. "He's made me happy for so long I kinda need him. I think of him as my other half anyway, so I guess my heart thinks we're already a couple. I know I'm not really interested in anyone else."

"Jake's the only reason I didn't go to the Gates." Thomas added. "I couldn't leave him there alone, and I started loving him after we had really got to know each other."

Mark smiled. "I can feel it; you guys love each other a lot in some way. If I understood that nutcase that moonlights as an angel, you two can still remember everything. Only the two of you are gonna be able to understand what that means to each other, so maybe part of you coming back was meant to be as a couple. Your bodies may be nine, but your heads are thirteen or so already."

"Mark has a point there guys. Don't let it affect your choice; but if you decide to be a couple, knowing that could help you through the normal rough times." Bob stated.

Lucas giggled. "If that's right, the four of us can plot revenge for the Divine Intervention into our love lives... At least you guys got the slow version, we got the express lane!"

"It didn't help that you inserted yourself into my private areas!" Mark giggled. As soon as Bob, Jake, and Thomas started laughing, Mark and Lucas both blushed bright red. "The memories in my head!" Mark exclaimed as he began fighting Lucas to see who was hiding behind who.

"And you wonder why blonds get a bad rap." Thomas giggled.

The response was instantaneous, as Jake joined Bob in tickling Thomas, with Mark and Lucas joining seconds later.

"You're pretty brave, making blond jokes when you're the only non-blond in the group, son!" Bob commented as he went for Thomas' ribs.

"I told ya blonds are better!" Jake giggled as he went for the armpits.

Mark and Lucas each went for the back of one of his knees, both grinning as they got their revenge.

After a minute of Thomas flopping like a fish on the beach, Bob stated "We better stop guys; he's alive again, which means he'll pee if we keep it up."

The boys complied, and Lucas quickly grabbed Thomas, pulling him into a hug before he could resist. "Welcome to the family, little brother," he said softly.

After the initial shock, Thomas returned the unexpected hug. "You're not mad?"

"No. Spence and us do the same kinda stuff." Lucas explained. "Spence took care of me and Logan; now it's our turn to take care of our little brothers."

Thomas looked Lucas in the eyes for a minute, then as tears began flowing freely down his face he pulled himself against his new big brother. Mark and Jake stood off to the side, Jake cuddled under Mark's arm, as they watched Thomas releasing the pent-up emotions of the last four years. Bob watched quietly, his knowledge of the relationship between Mini and his twin brothers telling him that Thomas was in the best hands possible at the moment.

"I think Tommy's gonna be okay now." Jake said, just loud enough for Mark to hear.

Mark pulled Jake into his own hug. "Both of you are gonna be okay now, I can feel it." he whispered.

Jake's only response was to pull himself in tighter to Mark, absorbing the peace and comfort radiating from his empathic brother-in-law. Neither Jake or Thomas realized it until it happened, but Mark and Lucas mentally agreed to sandwich the two boys between them. It took a little maneuvering, but in no time the two hugs turned into one four-boy hug. The close proximity allowed Mark to do what he did naturally; comforting both Jake and Thomas just by being able to touch them.

Bob waited until his gut told him that the initial bonding the boys needed was well on its way, then he stood and joined the hug, wrapping all four boys in his arms. Lucas looked up and smiled, telling Bob without words that he'd made the right choice.

They stood there silently for a full two minutes before breaking the hug. Thomas had a huge smile on his face as he looked at his new family, finally at peace for the first time in years. He was so full of joy at his good fortune that, without thinking, he blurted out "Jake, will you marry me?"

Jake's eyes went wide, as a huge smile threatened to split his face. Despite their physical age of nine, the two of them had spent so much time traveling the Astral Realm with Uncle Taco that their minds were closer to being sixteen in emotional experience. "YES!" he replied as he launched himself into Thomas' arms.

As he caught Jake, Thomas grinned at Lucas. "Double wedding, big bro?"

Lucas gave a small smile in return; for the first time since he'd met Mark, someone commenting on them getting married didn't immediately make him want to run. In fact, his determination to protect Thomas and Jake the way Spence had protected him and Logan had somehow healed a few of his emotional wounds. He reviewed in his mind everything him and Mark had already been through, both in the physical realm and in their mindscapes, and realized that he really had found the one person he could count on to understand.

Lucas dropped to one knee, taking a surprised Mark's hands into his own. "Mark, in the last couple of hours, you learned stuff about me that even Logan don't know. You didn't reject me, even though a lotta other people woulda; in fact you've tried helping me to get over it. Since I met you, my head's better than its ever been. I never thought anyone that wasn't family would ever accept me, but you proved me wrong. I need you in my life, and wanna know... will you marry me?"

Tears were rolling down Mark's face as he listened to Lucas. Once it was time to reply, he spoke carefully, knowing how much a mis-step would damage the trust Lucas had in him. "When you came in to help me with my head, I got to see the real you, not the one you show people. Grandma always says that when you meet the person that you're supposed to spend your life with everyone else will see it before you do. I like proving Grandma wrong when I can; I did it this time, cuz' I knew it when we set up a room in my head. We kinda need each other, but what is more important is I 'want' to spend time with 'you', even if we fix the stuff. We need each other for now and I want us to be together always.  I love you, Lucas; yes, I accept."

Mark pulled a smiling Lucas to his feet, then wrapped his arms around him as they had their first serious kiss outside of each other's head.

Jake turned Thomas to face him, and imitated the two older boys as he instigated a first kiss of his own with the person he planned to spend the rest of his second life with.

"Special delivery from Harrods of London." Ezra announced as he popped in next to Bob.

Bob looked over, and noticed the two black velvet ring boxes in each of Ezra's hands. "You're a busy little Mikyvis tonight!" Bob chuckled.

"Nah; it's a lot easier since Grandma Lizzy gave us access to her personal account!" Ezra giggled. "Did anyone remember to remind Jake and Thomas to breathe during their first kiss?"

"Considering who they were watching, I'm pretty sure they figured it out; they're still standing." Bob replied.

Realizing that there would be commentary until they were done, both couples broke off their kisses, giving each of their partners multiple quick pecks and repeating "I love you" a dozen times before finally separating. 

Ezra moved over, and handed each boy one of the ring boxes. "Congratulations, guys. I'll warn you now; the Clan grandmas don't believe in small weddings, so prepare yourselves for something really special."

"Tell me about it!" Lucas replied as he mentally filled the other three in on what had been done to Cory and Sean.

Thomas giggled. "Thanks Ezzy; you still gonna visit us now that we're alive again?"

Ezra nodded. "Of course; you're both my friends no matter if you're alive or hanging out as a spirit."

"Kewl!" Thomas replied. The four boys turned their attention to the ring boxes, all of them wide-eyed as they saw the contents. Each box held an almost-identical ring; they were all white gold with a center gold band set with tiny diamonds around the entire circumference. Lucas and Mark's set contained their birthstones intermixed with the diamonds, while Jake and Thomas' had an emerald inset in the shape of angel wings. The boys each took turns on one knee, placing the ring on their partner's finger while Bob and Ezra watched.

Once they were done, Bob spoke. "I won't EVER forget tonight; all four of you have just made my entire life worthwhile. Congratulations, I wish all four of you the best lives together possible."

"Thanks Dad!" all four boys replied in unison, breaking out in giggles afterwards.

Ezra grinned. "Just so you know, I'm protecting you from Grandma Morrison right now; I played with Time a little, so to everyone else you're only going to be gone a couple of minutes instead of the almost an hour you've taken!"

"Oh CRAP!" Mark exclaimed. "Grandma wants to officially meet Jake and Thomas! That's what we came over for, to get them!"

"Five minutes should be about right for what you guys did, at least as far as everyone else knows!" Ezra stated. "Don't worry Mark; I think Grandma will understand."

"Yeah, she would. I just don't think I can sleep through a Harley in my bedroom!"

"Don't worry, Mark." Bob said calmly. "You're engaged to Lucas, which makes you family. I've got your back; I can handle an entire Little League team, not to mention being the parent of an entire strike team. One grandma is no challenge, no matter how set in her ways she is."

"If that ever happens, I'll supply the popcorn!" Ezra laughed, which returned the smiles to all four boy's faces.

Mark had a sudden thought. "Ezra? How were Lucas and I able to talk to our brothers if we were in a time thingie-ma-bob?"

"It went through me, and they were aware that I was buffering time." Ezra replied. "Levi taught me that trick; there are races out there that think too fast for normal telepaths to understand, so he figured out a way to act as a buffer. He prevented a war in one of the Gamma universes with that; after the initial contact was handled, they developed a means for both races to communicate, and now they are allies. Both had advanced to mental communication being their primary way to talk, but one talked at the speed of a horse running while the other talked at highway speed."

"Told ya not to ask!" Lucas giggled as Mark's eyes started to glaze over.

Jake and Thomas both giggled. "Not bad!" Jake commented. "You need to add a few more twists though to really mess with the heads of guys who ain't messed with time!"

Ezra shook his head with a grin. "You're just as mischievous now as you were in spirit!"

"Where's my halo when I need it?" Jake play-pouted.

"Don't worry, little bro; I'll protect you from the big bad mickey-mouse!" Lucas said with a grin.

Knowing that Lucas was just playing, Ezra stuck his tongue out. "See if I give YOU any cookies!"

"Now that's playing dirty." Bob laughed. "Let's go placate Grandma, then I get to brag about my sons getting hitched!"

Colony Kilo Seven:

Colony Kilo Seven. A unique entity in occupied Federation space. Settled twenty-three years ago by the emergency escape pods from the interplanetary settlement ship 'Heinlein' after it suffered an impact from a rouge comet. The planet already contained an intelligent species which was only slightly behind Earth in their technology. The inhabitants, who call their planet 'Uridan', took in the refugees and assisted them in integration into their society. When the Federation located the survivors, they had all found their places in their new home. After negotiation, it was decided that Uridan would accept protectorate status, but due to the organization of their society it would not be beneficial to accept full Federation membership.

This arrangement has worked well, and the former refugees are now fully active in the society. Genetic compatibility is generally favorable, with the more resilient and longer-lived traits from Uridan being quite complementary to the adaptability of the Human genetic set. The first wave of Human-Uridan children are beginning to reach adolescence, and as is custom they are to be sent on a quest to better the society.


"Sir, I just received confirmation that a Clan Short representative will be here within a Federation hour."

Thane Gerris smiled at the excited youth who was almost bouncing in anticipation. As the hereditary leader of what the human members of the society had termed the "Northern Hemisphere" upon arrival, he was looking forward to this meeting almost as much as the young ones. "Herri, please notify the Interspecies Council. You may greet the visitors upon their arrival."

"Thank you, Uncle." Herri exclaimed as he spun and sprinted from the room.


"Terry! Kent! Kurt! Bobby! Bruce! Riley! Reese!" Julio called for the third time. "C'mon guys, Ezzy says it's time to go!"

"But Dad, we CAN'T be late leaving here!" Riley giggled.

"Yeah, it's a time thing, Daddy!" Terry added as he gave the creature on his lap, one that looked like a cross between a squirrel and a koala bear, a hug. "I'll be back, see ya soon!" he giggled as he gave it one more cuddle.

The seven boys finally joined their parents, Jesse trying not to giggle at Julio's impatience. Once the entire group was together, Ezra spoke up. "Seth got a call, and I told him I'd handle getting someone there. We need to take a detour to one of the remote colonies for a diplomatic stop."

"But none of us are diplomats," Julio observed.

"Actually, the combination of you and Jesse is exactly what is needed for this situation." Ezra explained. "You'll understand better once we're there; this one is right up your alley."

"You'll do awesome, Dad; you ALWAYS do!" Kent stated as he moved over and gave Julio a hug.

Jesse smiled. "See, our boys know you well, Hon!"

"Yeah, but they're biased, as well as being cute!" Julio giggled in return as he gave Kent a quick tickle. "Okay, Ezzy, let's get this show on the road before one of my crew kidnaps a tree!"

"But Daddy! He's just a sapling, and his parents SAID it was okay!" Kurt teased as a halo appeared above his head... then two... then three....


"Sir, our consoles are indicating that we are about to receive an incoming transport from some place called Disney World." The security officer turned to look at Thane in confusion. "The transmission ended with what sounded like a group of young ones repeating the words 'It's a small world after all'."

Before Thane could respond, ten boys appeared directly in front of him and Herri, accompanied by a small tree. The one in front stood out from the others due to his hair; it formed a wedge shape, and in Thane's opinion it appeared that the hair color genes had fought each other, then gave up. The end result was a mixture of every color he'd ever seen a human's hair all mixed together.

Behind the lead youth, the next layer made him wonder if it was time to have his eyes checked. In a stair-stepped pattern, three sets of twins were chest-to-back from youngest to eldest in two rows, each row ending with the two oldest boys of the group. Semi-hidden between the two rows was the youngest member of the group, holding the hands of the two eldest with a death-grip. Behind them was a small tree, and the thought that it appeared the tree was placing it's branches on the shoulders of the two eldest youth made him decide it was definitely time to see the nearest medical staff.

Herri just grinned, his youth insulating him from the shock his elders were experiencing. "Welcome to Uridan!" he exclaimed.

"Greetings Herri. I am Ezra of the linage of Richardson of Family Clan Short." Ezra replied, his surface scans already telling him the basics of what normal protocol was here. "We were given the message that you required a personal conference with a member of the Clan leadership."

Herri smiled, knowing that Ezra had just made serious points with the older people there by his conforming to the established Uridan procedure for a diplomatic visit. Knowing it was his turn, Herri became serious. "I am Herri of the linage Gerris, advisor to the Leader for interspecies youth. To my side is Upper Colonies Leader Thane of the linage Gerris. Uncle Thane has been chosen to speak for the elders of Uridan."

Ezra tilted his head in acknowledgment of Thane's status, then did his side of the introductions. "The dark-haired eldest behind me is Director Julio of the linage Hernandez, Leader of the compound located at the place of Clan Short's founding. The light-haired eldest is his bonded Jesse of the linage Crowley. The youth in front of Julio are, in order from tallest to shortest, Riley, Bobby, and Kent. The youth in front of Jesse are, in the same order, Reese, Bruce, and Kurt. The youngest, standing between them, is Terry. All seven of the youth are next in linage from Julio and Jesse. The final member of the group is Fyhrr of Archnania, friend of Terry, Kurt, and Kent."

Jesse whispered to Julio, "Shall I call Keith or do you wanna call Prez?"

Julio grinned. "For?"

"The Valium shipment," Jesse giggled. "We only just showed up and they need a really large Valium shipment. It's time to say something diplomatic, hon."

"Before or after I find out if Mikyvis can be strangled?" Julio giggled back.

Shrugging, Jesse stuck a hand in his shorts pocket and fished around for his wooden a-round-tuit-coin to flip.

When he wasn't planning Ezra's demise, Julio had been scanning the area. The occupants resembled humans quite closely, with the exception of the fact they looked a lot younger in general than what you would expect at this level of government. Their build was slightly thinner than 'normal', with an average height for the adults being about seven feet by his guess. Facial hair, or even the evidence of shaven facial hair, was completely absent, and the texture of the adult's hair was that of a pre-teen human. None of the people, even Thane, had even a hint of an age wrinkle on them.

Julio shrugged off his desire to help Kyle reduce his family size, and spoke up. "Greetings Thane and Herri. My words are echoes of those of my Patriarch; any agreements which we enter into are as if he ratified it personally."

"You're lucky, Ezzy... it was tails." Jesse whispered just loud enough for Ezra to hear.

Thane smiled, the interplay in the background easily spotted. Obviously this group wasn't as serious as they were trying to appear, which was a good sign in his opinion. "Herri, why don't you take our guests to my personal meeting room. You can discuss your idea with them. Once all of you understand the proposal and have reached your conclusions, I'll join you to ratify it and help sort out any issues."

Herri stood straighter as he realized that he was actually getting to do the major work by himself. "Would that be acceptable, Director?" he asked hopefully.

Glad that he wouldn't be stuck dealing with adults, Julio replied "I approve of the proposal. Lead on!"

With Herri in the lead, the group headed towards one of the hallways leading out of the control center.

Thane watched them leave, and as he saw the tree slightly duck to go through the doorway, he signaled for the medical assistance that he was sure he was in need of. "I think leaving diplomacy to youth is a wonderful idea..." he muttered to himself.

"Uncle Thane didn't say which one of his rooms to use. You want to use the inside one or the outside one?" Herri asked as they traveled down the hall.

Julio grinned, obviously formality was about to be tossed out the window. "Let's go outside."

"Great! I hate the inside rooms too!" Herri laughed as he took the next turn. A minute later, they walked through one last doorway and found themselves in a large open area. While it was definitely outdoors, the shimmer of an energy field proved that they were protected from outside interference as they talked. A large table with attached high-backed padded benches sat in the center of the yard. The ground was covered with something that looked like a cross between moss and grass, and some bushes that slightly resembled Earth shrubs were spread around the area.

As they approached the table, Julio stopped and lifted Terry up to his side. "You wanna go play with Kent, Kurt, and Fyhrr while us older guys talk about stuff?" he asked gently.

Terry nodded. "It's really okay?"

"Yep, just stay in the area here; don't get out of our sight, okay?"

"Okay daddy." Terry replied as he wiggled to get down. Within seconds, the three boys were busy exploring their surroundings with their sapling friend.

The other four twins grinned as they realized that they were to be included in whatever was about to happen. They quickly found seats, looking forward to whatever bragging rights they might gain from the trip.

Once everyone was seated, Herri began. "I guess that I should fill you in; Uncle Thane didn't say much about why we wanted to talk to you. We've got a tradition here where when kids reach twelve Anoches, that works out to about seventeen of your Earth years, they are sent out to try to better society in some way. Due to some humans who had to seek refuge here after their ship was damaged, the generation of multi-breed youth is just reaching their time for the trek. With the newer generations, it was decided that readiness for the trek would be determined on an individual basis instead of just by age. After we learned of your Clan from the Rigel conference, I put the idea forward that it was time to expand outside our planet and assist the Clan. As the Eldest of the multi-breed youth, I've been chosen to represent them. The other youth like the idea as well, and are letting me speak for them too."

"Are you thinking of sending all of the 'multi-breed' kids with us?" Riley asked before anyone else could speak.

Herri shook his head. "No way; the elders would never allow that. Our unique background from the mixed families has already made changes in society for the better. Our entire generation, no matter who the parents are, has already upset some long-standing traditions which were overdue for review. This is just the latest; until recently nobody native to this planet has ever considered attempting to live in another world's society while on their trek."

Julio gave Riley a smile, wordlessly telling him that he'd done good. "Herri, I like the sound of this, so far. I was with our Patriarch when he adopted a Tesnian, and I learned some about culture shock. I think that for everyone's well being, we need to look into it deeper, to make sure any possible problems are brought up. I almost think it's required before we consider starting a project like this."

Jesse grinned. "Ezzy, if you wanna get out of my cutie strangling you, you can figure out a way to speed things up. You know, give us the general stuff about society and other things that might be different here!"

"Told ya you'd pay for including the tree!" Bruce giggled.

Ezra stuck his tongue out at Bruce before responding. "I've got the general idea from just listening, but to do what Julio wants would mean that I'd have to do a mind scan on everyone who is being considered for participation to catch any issues they might have." he explained.

"You can do that?" Herri asked. "That would be great; we were worried about the same thing."

"It would have to be voluntary." Julio stated. "Johnny told me surface thoughts are fair game, but anything else is off-limits unless the person okays it first or they are on trial."

Herri grinned. "You've got my okay; I've never met a mind-reader before!"

"How old are you, if it's okay to ask." Jesse asked unexpectedly.

"I'm fourteen Anoches, almost twenty Earth years." Herri replied with a grin.

"Dude! You don't look a day over thirteen!" Reese exclaimed.

"It's a bonus of being part Uridanian!" Herri laughed. "I look old compared to the full-blooded Uranian youth. Most of my friends my age are about your size, Reese."

"How'd you know I'm not Riley?" Reese asked curiously.

"When you were introduced, Riley looked more serious than you, so I guessed!" Herri admitted.

"We're gonna have to work on that..." Reese giggled. "Why are you guys so small? The grown-ups are huge here! They ain't wrinkly either!"

"From what we've figured out after we took in the colonists, it's a combination of things." Herri answered. "Our star has lower emissions of damaging rays than Earth's, so the outer skin tends to degrade slower. Genetically, there are a few strong dominant genes that affect anyone who carries them. We found that they tend to affect mixed-breed aging to the point that we are fairly close to the lower standard for natural Uridanians. We won't know for sure for a long time, since I'm the oldest mixed-breed."

"Dang it Kyle! Warn me before you start talking in my head!" Julio suddenly exclaimed. "Ezzy, your Dad says that if you can get the okay for passing information, Uncle Spock would like it forwarded to the Vulcan Science Institute aging research." Julio paused, then added "I wanna know when he set up a room in my head!"

"I'll work on it, Julio... and he moved in five seconds after Uncle Cory made you into the director." Ezra giggled. "Herri, are you ready to start?"

"What do I need to do?" Herri asked.

"You'll feel me coming in, as long as you don't fight it things will be easy." Ezra replied. "I'm going to take it slow, since your head is probably going to be mapped differently than anyone I've done before."

"Okay, I'm ready." Herri replied.

Everyone watched quietly, not wanting to cause Ezra to have any problems. After a minute, Ezra announced "I've got it."

"Ezra already talked to me about sharing what he's found. I'm fine with all of you knowing it." Herri announced.

"That makes this easy!" Julio giggled. "Go for it, Ezzy."

Ezra updated all of the boys at the table with his findings pre-scan as well as the scan results. All of them considered what they now knew before saying anything. Reese was the first to speak up. "Dad, can we get a vacation house here?"

"We'll talk about that idea a little later, kiddo." Julio replied with a smile. "Herri, there are two things I really see a problem with; the first is that your society is a little bit more socially advanced, and the second is that a lot of the time the Clan has to deal with the worst of society to protect others from them."

"I actually understand; my mother still compares her life here to what she left behind on Earth." Herri replied. "That is one of the things that led to this; to keep a society from sliding backwards, you need to remember the past. Some of the things that you see every day are buried in the shame of the past here. We can't prevent them from coming up again if nobody has a clue what to look for. In the future, my elder brother will take the seat of Leader. Our father and Uncle Thane are counting on him having the knowledge to make proper decisions, and me having the knowledge to advise him in ways to avoid problems."

"Doesn't your Uncle have any kids?" Bobby asked.

"No; for as long as we have documented history, the Leader has no partner or offspring." Herri explained. "His, or her, next youngest sibling's eldest child is next in line as leader. If for some reason that sibling is unable to take the position when it becomes vacant, the position is passed to the next unpartnered family member."

"Are there limits on who the family can partner with?" Julio asked, noticing the resemblance to the Royal Lines on Earth.

"Absolutely none." Herri replied. "Partnerships are for life with whoever your soul pairs you with. Allowances are made for special situations, though. My family is one of those; I have two mothers and two fathers legally. My mother and her Human mate are genetic scientists, as are my father and his Uridanian mate. Shortly after landing, their common interests were found and my father and co-mother took in my mother and co-father to help them adjust to their new home. They pooled their research, and after a lot of work determined that it could be possible that both species were genetically compatible. By that time, others had paired, but were holding off on reproducing until the results of the study were final. All four of my parents received permission to conduct an active test of their conclusions. An Anoche later, I was born; my little brother was born a half of an Anoche after me. We both hold the same status in the family as our eldest brother does, however. If something was to happen to him, I will become next in line for Leader."

"Don't get any ideas, Dad! We AIN'T staying single!" Riley and Reese exclaimed in perfect stereo.

"I'm not that evil... yet!" Julio responded with a grin.

Deciding that it might be best to get things back on track, Jesse asked, "I can tell that you understand, but what about the others that you were suggesting might wish to join us?"

Herri nodded. "My mother and co-father thought of that. Everyone is a volunteer, and all of them have been told about Earth as they remember it. Anyone who thought they might have an issue eliminated themselves. The ones that were left went in front of a panel made up of various members of both races, including our people who are responsible for interacting with other planets. Two Uridanian natives were chosen from the group as most likely to have no problems, two mixed-breed were chosen, and two Human were chosen. One standby for each group was chosen as well." 

Herri paused, and hung his head. "I think I screwed up. I can't go, even though I really want to. I had to go through the process, and I'm the standby for the mixed-breed group even though I qualified as one that could go. I didn't think it was right for me to take a spot unless I was needed, even though Dad and Uncle Thane want me to represent them in the Clan."

"You're coming with us." Julio stated, his tone giving no choice. "You already passed, and you kinda slipped in how you presented it. You were hoping all along that we'd insist on you joining us, and I think that you were right in wanting to be part of the expansion. The other two standbys are coming too, as long as Ezzy passes them."

"Julio, I'm not supposed to..." Ezra started to respond.

"You're not judging humans, Ezzy; you're helping make sure they can handle what they are about to do." Julio interrupted. "You're more qualified than I am in that regard, and you can always bug your Grandpa if you ain't sure."

"Okay... you get to explain that to Dad and Pop." Ezra replied with a grin.

"I just did; and next time Kyle tries to argue, I'm hiding the cookies!" Julio giggled.

"Did someone call for cookies?" Thane said as he walked out carrying a tray. "Herri's mother said that you would probably need some snacks during your discussion, and she sent these for you, as well as a local drink which she says tastes like what you call milk."

Julio and Jesse both cracked up as the smell of cookies brought their youngest three running, Fyhrr close on their heels.

Bobby and Bruce quickly got up and 'assisted' Thane with bringing the cookies and milk to the table. "Thank you, Sir." they said in their most adorable twin-tone.

Thane smiled as he saw the middle set of twins take charge, making sure the refreshments were evenly distributed. He was surprised to see that they placed one of the cups of milk in front of Fyhrr, then shocked as the sapling extended a root tendril up to the table.

Bobby noticed, and explained. "Fyhrr can't eat cookies, but he can use the stuff in milk like he's drinking water from the ground. It's actually good for him, milk has a lot of the mineral stuff in it that his home's ground water has."

"Interesting, thank you." Thane replied, impressed that the boys were looking out for an alien species so well. "How are the discussions going?"

"Good, Uncle. There is one small thing though..." Herri replied.

Realizing by the look on Herri's face that he wasn't going to admit what happened, Thane turned to Julio. "Director Julio, is there an issue that you need assistance with?"

"It'll only be an issue if I don't have nine of your locals with me when I leave." Julio stated. "I don't believe in standbys."

"I see how you earned your position." Thane replied. "There are times when negotiation is required, and there are times when it is a waste of resources. I anticipated this when we were setting up to call you, and I already have full agreement that if you requested such that all nine would be allowed to participate. If you are ready, I can call for the other eight to join you here."

"I think we're ready for them, thank you." Julio replied with a smile. "There is one more check that they will need to go through for their own protection; Herri has already passed his check."

"I will return shortly with the group." Thane replied. "I am glad that you are being thorough; it makes me feel better about sending youth to areas that I have no knowledge of."

"I'll work on that problem." Julio stated. "Every one of these volunteers is joining my family by coming with me, and I'm not going to deny them contact with their home if there is any way I can provide it."

"I appreciate that, Director. I will return shortly." Thane replied before turning to go retrieve the rest of the group.

Once Thane was gone, Herri exclaimed in surprise "You just told Uncle Thane what to do! Nobody does that!"

"Yes they do; you just never saw it before, since you were not involved." Julio explained. "I just learned that lesson from our Division Grandma. If you're right, state it and don't back down. If you're weak when you should be strong, nobody will respect you."

"He's our Leader though; he enforces the rules." Herri replied.

"A leader who refuses to acknowledge that others may be right is called a tyrant. No matter how good you are, there is no one person who will always be right in any situation. I'll bet that is why your social structure requires an advisor to the Leader; it would not surprise me if the advisor has the power to unseat the Leader if he gets out-of-hand." Julio stated.

"You are very observant, and you have explained things quite well." Thane said as he returned with eight youth following him. "As I am sure you expected, a transcript of this meeting is being archived. Would you accept that lesson in governing being distributed for our younger people to learn from?"

Julio nodded. "I hope they discuss it and don't take it as law. As far as the recordings, I hope that you will understand that there are a few areas where your technicians have experienced 'Technical Difficulties' due to things occurring which don't leave this room."

Thane grinned. "I was taught the game of chess by one of our newer residents. I have decided that I must decline any offers by you to engage in a game."

"Too bad." Julio giggled. He looked over the youth behind Thane, and asked "Is there a reason there are no females in the group?"

"Good question." Thane replied. "I asked the same question, and was surprised at the answer. Only two females were interested in joining the group, and both of them stepped out during the first review due to not wanting to be exposed to the current Earth society. As a general rule, the female component of our society involve themselves in activities which advance technological and medical fields. While you and I may see the advantages of them participating, the general consensus is that the first group to help should be all male."

While Julio was debating his response in his head, Jesse spoke up. "Why don't you have a group of them organize here, and once we have reliable secure communications set up they can work with our tech teams without leaving home?"

"Ezra, record that; I'm gonna use it next time hot stuff here tries to tell me he's not special." Julio stated with a grin.

Thane laughed at Julio's hidden complement. "I believe that idea would work perfectly. Shall we see if the rest of the group will meet your requirements?"

Julio, Jesse, and Thane turned, only to find Terry, three sets of twins, Ezra, Herri, and Fyhrr all circulating through the group, getting to know their new friends. Terry looked over at them with a grin. "They already passed. You old guys are too slow!"

"Old?" Julio grinned. "Get over here, little mouse."

Terry walked over to Julio, his posture clearly stating that he expected to be in trouble. Julio got down on one knee, and as soon as Terry was within reach Julio pulled him into a cuddle.

"I'm sorry, Daddy." Terry whimpered.

Julio kissed Terry's forehead. "You have no reason to be sorry, son. I'm almost twice your age, of course you think I'm old! I wanted you over here because I need you to do something really important. I need you to introduce all of your new friends to the rest of us."

"I'm not in trouble?" Terry asked warily.

"No, I'm not one of those bad orphanage guys. I love it when you're having fun." Julio said patiently. "I'm really happy that you're listening to your brothers and learning to be a real kid again."

"I love you, Daddy!" Terry exclaimed as he wrapped his arms around Julio's neck and buried his face in Julio's shoulder.

Noticing the look on Thane's face, Jesse quietly explained. "Me and Julio just rescued Terry and a bunch of other kids from... from Hell. We adopted Terry ourselves, the rest of the kids are finding families throughout the Clan."

Thane looked around, and noticed that all three sets of twins had their eyes fixed on Julio and their little brother, their posture stating clearly that if Terry got punished all six would spring to his defense. "I think I just reached understanding as to what is meant by the comments I have heard." Thane observed. "When it is said that the Clan protects its own, it isn't just a catchphrase."

Jesse grinned. "You ain't seen nothing; a few guys in our division tend to take it personally."

"After meeting your family, that does not surprise me." Thane replied.

Their discussion was cut short as they heard Terry ask, "Do you really want me to inner'duce them all, Daddy?"

"Yes, little mouse. Why don't you ask your brothers to help you by bringing your friends over here one at a time?"

Before Terry could even ask, Kurt and Kent sprung into action, escorting the first victim to Julio and Terry while the other four organized the remaining youth. This boy appeared to be fully human, about fourteen, with short blond hair, green eyes, and light freckles on his face.

"This is Miles; his daddy was the Engine'eer on the Heinlein, and his mommy was an Astrophyseesist. He's fourteen, and he likes playin' with 'puter stuff."

"Welcome to the family, Miles." Julio said as he extended his free hand. "You're gonna want to get together with Richie, he's our resident computer expert. The two of you can probably learn a lot from each other."

"Thanks!" Miles replied as he shook Julio's hand. "It's gonna be fun learning alien tech, even though it's not supposed to be alien to me!"

"Trust me, it IS alien!" Julio giggled. "We've got stuff that nobody else has even heard of!"

The grin on Miles' face said it all as he stepped back; he was already looking forward to having some fun. Sticking with the full humans, Kurt and Kent escorted their next choice into the strike zone.

The thirteen-year-old boy seemed slightly shy as he stood there, his olive skin and brown eyes going well with his auburn hair. Terry began the introduction, stating what he thought was important. "This is Juane, his name is spelled with a j u instead of a w though. His mommy and daddy were killed in an accident, so he lives with his gran'ma. He likes drawin pictures and makin statues."

Julio smiled. "Welcome to the family, Juane. You're gonna make a lot of friends; there are a lot of kids on base that want to learn to draw, but don't trust adults yet. I can think of a few other ways you can help too, we'll talk those over when we get home."

Juane smiled, his confidence bolstered by Julio's willingness to let him use what he loved to help others. He shook Julio's hand as he said 'Thank you', then joined Miles.

The twins acquired their next target, a long-brown-haired boy who looked barely thirteen. As he brushed the hair out of his blue eyes, he smiled at Julio and Terry. Terry began his spiel. "This is Crosby, he's twelve and his mommy and daddy are inna band. He wants to be a security guy when he grows up."

"Welcome to the family, Crosby. Just out of curiosity, how does a security guy within the next week sound instead?" Julio asked with a grin.

"Really!" Crosby exclaimed as his eyes lit up. "That sounds great!" he added as he shook Julio's hand.

Kent and Kurt giggled as they brought Herri up next. Terry took one look and giggled "Daddy and Poppa know you already, silly! You're 'posed to be standin' with Miles, Juane, and Crosby already!"

Julio poked Terry's ribs, escalating the giggles. "Welcome to the family, Herri. You've impressed me, and we can look into getting you some diplomatic training to go along with your natural skills."

"Thanks, Julio." Herri replied as he joined the other three boys, a big grin on his face.

Really getting into the introduction thing, the twins grabbed their next victim. Julio was surprised as he saw the boy, who looked barely twelve, that they brought forward. His auburn hair hung to his shoulders, and he had piercing green-grey eyes that seemed to cut right through you. Almost half of his face was freckles that were close to the same color as his hair. A blue bandana around his head just barely kept his hair out of his eyes.

"This is Kanin." Terry explained. "He's 'bout fifteen Earth years old. He won' tell us 'bout his parents, but he wants to make sure no kid ever gets hurt again. He gives good cuddles, too!"

Julio followed his instincts, and held his free arm out. Kanin took the offer, and quietly cuddled into Julio's side. 

Julio thought for a second, then whispered just loud enough for the two boys in his arms to hear him. "You can tell me more when you are ready, but something tells me that you're doing this to get away from either your old family or the memories of your old family."

Kanin silently nodded, his face buried in Julio's shoulder.

"Does the Leader know why you need to get away?" Julio whispered.

Again, Kanin nodded.

Julio motioned with his eyes for Jesse to join him. Once Kanin was sandwiched between them, Julio asked "Are you hoping that a new family will want you?"

"Yes." Kanin's voice squeaked.

Terry put his left hand on the top of Kanin's head, and wiggled his fingers as he said "You can be my brother. I like you, I think you'd be an awesome brother."

"I wish it was that easy, little guy." Kanin whispered.

"We specialize in wishes." Jesse giggled softly as he saw Julio going into Director mode.

"Leader Thane, I require your assistance." Julio stated, causing the rest of the room's occupants to fall silent. Even the new boys could tell by the tone of his voice that something was about to happen.

Thane quickly joined the huddled group, his instincts telling him that the situation had just changed from diplomatic to intervention. "How may I be of assistance, Director Julio?" he asked.

"I require an immediate report as to the status of Kanin's parents." Julio stated firmly.

Thane nodded; he had expected this question sooner or later, just not before the group had even left the planet. "Both parents were terminated one Anoche ago for multiple transgressions detrimental to the well being of others. No suitable family members are alive to support Kanin. With the approval of my advisors, I have personally ensured Kanin's well-being until such time as he reaches maturity, or is joined with a new family."

"Ezzy, full recording mode; link to the nearest AI." Julio ordered. "Make sure the local recordings are locked as soon as they are recorded."

"Yes, Sir." Ezra responded. "Ready when you are, Director."

Julio began, his face totally serious. "Leader Thane of the linage Gerris, I am required to inform you as Director of the Des Moines Compound of Family Clan Short of Vulcan that anything said beyond this point is an official log and is binding on both parties under Federation and Clan Short Articles. As a Protectorate of the Federation, you are bound to any and all statements made beyond this point. Are you authorized by the Planetary Government of Uridan to speak in their stead and to enter into binding treaties?"

 Thane's eyebrows rose as he realized that Julio had shifted from the mild-mannered boy that only stood up if he needed to into a young man who knew he had power, and was not afraid to use it to ensure justice was served. "While I am authorized to engage in treaties, I would ask that the Lower Leader be allowed to witness and comment."

"Done." Ezra announced as a screen appeared, with a man slightly older than Thane looking out over the group. "Leader Syment, you are on two-way communication. You are already aware of the statements made by Director Julio, so they will not require repeating. Do you agree to Leader Thane speaking for you and entering into treaties on your behalf, subject to your input?"

"I agree." Syment replied.

While this was happening, Ezra was also updating Julio with the status of the planet under both Clan and Federation treaties. Julio was fully prepared by now, and began his statements.

"Welcome, Leader Syment. Leaders, at this time, your planet is under treaty with Clan Short for as-needed assistance. Based on the operation which you have initiated and the current situation of one of your citizens, Family Clan Short hereby serves notice of request to upgrade to full Family Clan Short protectorate status. As a condition of this request, you are requested to adopt the Safe Haven Act with Clan authorized societal modifications into local laws."

Syment commented immediately. "Thane, I have already incorporated most of the SHA into my region; I have no problem with escalating as requested."

Thane nodded. "I have as well; I believe the timing is right to move forward. Director, by unanimous agreement, we concur and accept your request."

Julio nodded; he had been told by Ezra that they were doing it, but putting it out into a logged statement of intent made things easier all around. "Thank you; I am suspending the in-kind support requirements due to the voluntary staffing that has been provided. Based on the recommendations of Ezra Richardson, I am declaring Uridan a Family Clan Short outpost. Training will be provided to allow you to assist as appropriate in this region."

Both Leaders nodded; understanding that Julio had just validated what both had worked hard to achieve. "We look forward to the training." Thane said for both of them.

"Family Clan Short has received acknowledgment of intent, and is ratifying this treaty between Family Clan Short and the planet Uridan effective immediately." Julio stated formally.

"As agreed and recorded, as Upper Leader of Uridan, speaking for myself and the Lower Leader of Uridan, I ratify this treaty as stated with Family Clan Short and shall institute the requirements as stated immediately."

"Logged and sealed." Ezra announced.

"Switch to Clan servers, Ezzy." Julio ordered.

"Switched." Ezra replied quickly.

"As specified in Clan procedures, I, Julio Hernandez along with my partner Jesse Crowley hereby take permanent custody of Kanin of Uridan. Any and all previous statements of custody are hereby nullified Federation-wide."

Kanin looked up at Julio, amazement in his eyes. "Can you do that?"

"I just did, son." Julio replied. "Close all off-site channels, Ezzy."

Kanin was speechless as he squeezed Julio like he was never letting go.

Thane turned to the screen showing his fellow Leader. "That was exactly the one thing we are missing. I look forward to having youth who can step in and handle these situations in a streamlined manner."

"I agree. I must be going, please visit once they have departed so that you can fill me in on what I missed."

"I look forward to it." Thane replied.

Kanin finally let up on his hug enough for Julio to breath again. Julio turned his head to Terry, asking "Are you ready to finish introducing everyone, munchkin?"

"I'll go stand with..." Kanin started to say as he began to pull away.

"You're staying right here, son." Julio stated firmly. "Your new brothers have everything handled, so you can just catch up on hugs."

"Okay." Kanin replied simply as he snuggled back into Julio's side.

Happy that he had gained a new brother, Terry giggled as he began the introduction of the next boy. "This is Xhaakhi; he's sixteen and likes playing games outside a lot!" Terry stated as a boy who appeared thirteen with almost-orange hair, bright blue eyes, and almost as many freckles as Kanin was escorted forward.

"Welcome to the family, Xhaakhi." Julio replied as he gave Terry a poke under the armpits. "Believe it or not, playing games is a lot of help for abused kids; you're going to do a lot of good!"

Xhaakhi grinned. "After watching you helping Kanin, I'm going to enjoy this!"

Since Julio's hands were occupied with two sons, Jesse stepped up and shook hands. "Just wait!" he giggled.

Now that the humans and mixed-breeds were done, all that was left was the three full-breed Uridanians.

The first of the last group appeared twelve, with almost glowing blond hair and sea-green eyes. He was slightly thinner than the earlier boys, but it looked natural on him. His skin was a light olive color, which made his hair stand out even more.

"That's Cerrt, he's seventeen!" Terry announced. "He likes playing with 'puters too; he says his daddy keeps askin' for somethin' called a new firewall. Why does his daddy want to start a wall on fire?"

"Talk to your Uncle Richie when we get home, he'll explain what a firewall is." Julio giggled. "Welcome to the family, Cerrt; you and Miles are gonna have fun working with Richie! I hope you like hardware that nobody else has access to."

"It's a challenge!" Cerrt said with a grin. "It's been a while since I found something I couldn't get into immediately!"

Jesse and Julio both grinned as Jesse shook Cerrt's hand. "If you can break it, you gotta help fix it; you're gonna be busy!" Jesse stated with a grin.

As Cerrt went to plot with Miles, Terry introduced the next boy. This boy had the same light olive skin tone, but his hair was a pale blueish-blond, with teal eyes. He appeared about fifteen, and still had the thin build of his peers. "This is Dayron; his Daddy and Mommy run the planet library. He likes to read a lot, and is really good at answering hard stuff. He's almost twenty!"

Julio nodded, and welcomed Dayron. "You're gonna be a lot of help; even with all the help I get, a lot of the things I need to know don't make sense yet." Julio stated. "I think you're going to make things go a lot smoother."

"I'm glad I've got a way to use what I've learned. I'm going to enjoy helping out while I learn about some new things." Dayron replied with a smile. "It's nice to finally use the things I've read about."

"You're going to fit right in; everyone does something special, that is why the Clan works." Jesse added as he shook Dayron's hand. "Even if you don't think it's special, it is."

The final youth was given the royal escort treatment by all three sets of twins. "This is Ayllyn." Terry said, introducing the small boy; he looked no older than eleven. His skin was slightly lighter than the other two boys had been, and his hair was white-blond. The closest color Julio could think of to describe his eyes was a bright aquamarine. 

Terry continued the introduction. "Ayllyn just turned fifteen, an' he likes medicine stuff. He wants to be a doctor someday! His mommy and daddy are doctors, and he's read ALL of their books!"

Julio grinned. "Welcome, Ayllyn. You're probably going to be a doctor earlier than you expected, and you're going to get a few new toys that most people don't have yet. I'll have Doc Mike get with you to see what you need training on still."

Ayllyn grinned. "That's going to be great; I'm Anochas away from becoming a... Doctor... here."

As Jesse handled the final welcome, he explained "We found out that kids who have been hurt by adults do better with younger-looking and young doctors. I bet Antonio gets you hooked up right away!"

Now that the introductions were done, the triple twins semi-mobbed their new brother, welcoming him into the family in their standard twinnish way. The rest of the new boys watched with appreciation, occasionally commenting to Ayllyn that his services might be needed before departure.

Six hours later:

Julio led the group out of the last dwelling, having met all eight families of the group going with him. Each boy had been given the opportunity to choose any belongings they wanted to take with them, and all of the families were assured that they would be able to contact their sons regularly soon. Julio and Jesse had also taken the time to explain the opportunities they were opening up for each boy, which eased the fears of all of the parents.

"Kanin, is there anything that you want to take with you?" Jesse asked as they made their way to say goodbye to Thane.

Kanin started to say no, he was glad to be leaving everything behind. Then he thought of the one thing that had helped him through the first days after Thane took him in. "I have something that the humans brought to us called a 'teddy bear'. Thane got it for me, do you think he'll let me take it with me?"

"If he says no, I'll adopt it due to abandonment!" Julio commented from the front of the pack. Despite the giggle when he said it, Kanin had a funny feeling that his new Dad was totally serious.

A few minutes later, they were escorted into the equivalent of a parlor at Thane's home. Julio grinned as he spotted the pile of unopened boxes through one of the doorways. Thane walked in through the same doorway, a smile on his face. "How did the family meetings go, Julio?"

"They went well, I think the families are relieved that they have met the people that their sons are going to be living with." Julio replied. "All of the boys, except Kanin, have sent their personal effects ahead, so they are ready to start their adventure."

Thane nodded. "That is good; I am impressed at how well this has proceeded. Kanin, I understand your feelings about how your life was up to this point. You're starting a new life, and I have been preparing for it since the time you were accepted. I have provided you the things that you should have had all along to take with you. You will have a place in this house for as long as I survive; your personal spaces will stay exactly as you have left them."

Kanin was speechless. While he had not been left wanting for anything while living here, he never expected to be honored as a real family member. As silent tears ran down his cheeks, he reached out and clasped Julio's hand.

Thane reached behind a chair, pulling out a light tan teddy bear that had obviously seen many cuddles. "When I took you in, I gave you this as a promise that I would be here for you. The promise still stands, and I want you to take him with you to remember that. I may not be able to call you son by law, but I will always be watching over you as if you were my own blood."

Kanin let go of Julio's hand, and ran to Thane. He wrapped his arms around him, crushing the teddy bear between them as his tears became audible. The rest of the boys watched quietly, all aware that Thane had just given their companion the one gift that he needed most; someone he could call family; someone that actually cared about him on the planet he was born on.

After a few minutes, Kanin pulled away, the teddy bear firmly clutched in both arms. Julio and Jesse quickly moved to cuddle their new son, mouthing "Thank You" to Thane as they wrapped their arms around Kanin. Terry and the triple twins were more proactive, swarming over Thane as they thanked him for caring about their new brother.

Once the swarm had quieted and Kanin had settled down, Thane and the boys said their goodbyes. Ezra took care of the boxes, Kanin promising he would open them as soon as he had his new room after Thane told him to wait. Shortly thereafter, they finally made their way home via Mikyvis taxi.

As soon as the now-larger group appeared in the living room, Mick did a quick head-count, then looked at his watch. "Not bad; we got back nine seconds before you, and you come back with nine new kids. You're getting better, son!"

"When you're good, you're GOOD!" Julio giggled as he blew on his fingertips.

Mick started to reply; then it finally registered in his brain that one of the nine new kids was huddled against Jesse, tightly clutching a teddy bear. Even Janice was surprised at how quickly he stopped joking as he turned towards them. "Jess, would you like to introduce your son to his grandparents?" Mick asked softly.

Jesse's eyes went wide with surprise. After regaining control of his instinct to be formal, he brought Kanin over to Mick and Janice. "Mom, Dad. This is our son, Kanin. He was an orphan on Uridan, and Julio and I adopted him." Jesse paused, then asked "How did you know?"

"When you two are not getting special deliveries from a certain being which makes an acid trip look normal, you only open your hearts to certain kinds of people." Mick replied seriously. "Kanin, I'm glad to have you as part of my family. Your new parents took in your other seven brothers as their own children because of the good they saw in each of them. When you are ready to talk, they'll be there for you. One thing I can promise is that, just like your brothers, you're going to get more love than you ever dreamed of from this point on."

"That's not only from your parents; you're going to get it from us as well." Janice added. "Julio and Jesse are only Clan officers when they have to be; the rest of the time they try their best to be the best parents they can."

Kanin looked at the two adults, torn on how to respond. After some thought, he replied "I'm not really ready to trust you yet. I think the time will come, but for right now I'm really not comfortable with adults until I know they are not bad."

Mick and Janice exchanged knowing glances, then Janice replied. "We understand, in some ways too well. You are in control now when it comes to interacting with adults. If you are having problems or are feeling pushed, let your Dad or Pop know and either they will handle it or they will have us handle it."

"Thank you." Kanin replied, still hugging his teddy bear tightly while maintaining contact with Jesse.

Kanin seemed to relax some once he and Jesse moved back with the rest of his new family. Terry once again handled introducing the rest of the new group, then Julio explained what they were doing. Mick and Janice offered their services as surrogate parents to the rest of the new boys, which relieved a lot of the worry that some of them were feeling.

As they were finishing, the house was invaded by a large group, led by Grandma Morrison, Bob, and Herman.

"Hi Grandma!" Julio giggled as he got Terry comfortable in his favorite spot, sitting on his hip.

Grandma smiled as she looked at the group of boys surrounding Julio and Jesse. Her eyes fell on Kanin, and she simply said "Tell your new parents, they will understand more than you think." Before the sudden panic in Kanin's eyes could take hold, Grandma added, "I don't know what happened, little one, but I know that you have parents now who have knowledge of things which resulted in the instant death of the people who did the abuse shortly after they heard of it."

Kanin relaxed slightly, still watching Grandma warily.

Jesse gave Kanin a reassuring squeeze as the triple-twins reassured their brother by making a human wall between him and the adults. As they were moving into position, Julio introduced his little mob to Grandma.

"I see that your sons take after their parents already." Grandma said with a smile. "Don't worry; I'm only dangerous to people that cross me."

"You'll have to prove that first before we trust our brothers around you." Reese stated firmly.

As the rest of the group that had just arrived began looking for cover, Grandma locked eyes with Reese. As soon as it was apparent that he wasn't going to be intimidated, she smiled and nodded. "You are absolutely right, and between you and your parents I think that your brothers are finally safe. Don't ever lose that conviction; when you are right, you should never back down, no matter what the age of the other person. Just remember to listen, because there are different levels of right, and the other person might just have knowledge of a higher level that you are not aware of. Your Dad was one of those times earlier tonight."

"I'll remember that, thanks." Reese replied, satisfied that the line he had just drawn in the sand wouldn't be crossed.

Julio giggled, happy to see that Reese had taken charge. He looked around the room, and spotted the top of Herman's head behind the couch. "Some security you guys are! Scared of a kindly little old Grandma? Get out here, chickens!"

"A good soldier picks his battles carefully." Herman stated with dignity as the group became visible again from their hiding places.

"Yeah... as I said... chickens!" Julio laughed. "What caused this mass-invasion this late at night?"

Bob smiled as he escorted Jake, Thomas, Mark and Lucas to stand in front of Julio's group. "I thought it would be perfect to have all of our families together for the official announcements."

Julio managed to contain his surprise at seeing Jake, assuming he was just appearing with assistance again. "Go for it."

Bob's smile grew as he continued. "First, thanks to one of the Guardian Angels named Pablito, Jake and Thomas have returned to the living again. I've got my first son back, along with his newest best friend!"

Even Grandma was shocked at the announcement. Once over his initial shock, Julio replied "Umm, does 'welcome back' fit right now?"

Jake and Thomas giggled in unison. "That works!" Jake replied. "I like it a lot better than passing out like Uncle Herman did!"

Jake's comment broke the ice, as everyone chuckled at Herman's expense. Once it calmed down, Bob continued. "With the assistance of a certain multicolored Mikyvis mischief maker, Jake and Thomas are now engaged as well!"

"Congratulations, guys!" Julio and Jesse exclaimed.

"It gets better!" Bob chuckled. "With the help of the same mischievous Mikyvis for ring delivery, Lucas and Mark have also decided to tie the knot, and are engaged as well!"

"Awesome! This gonna be a double wedding?" Julio replied.

"Yep!" all four boys nodded.

Julio smiled, then locked eyes with Lucas as he slipped into Director mode. "Lucas, you are off-duty until I tell you otherwise. I expect you to spend the time with Mark; both personal time and time with both of you interacting with the rest of both of your families, effective immediately. That is an order."

"Yes, Sir." Lucas replied as he came to attention and saluted Julio.

As Julio returned the salute, Colin added from the back of the group "By unanimous agreement between Mini, Alien, Logan, Adam, Jeff, Brian, and myself, if we see either one of you in the next twenty-four hours, all seven of us are gonna take the offender into a dark alley and kick their butt. Understood?"

Both Mark and Lucas rolled their eyes as as they giggled "Yes!" in unison.

Jesse, helpful as ever, stated out loud "Kerry, take Lucas and Mark to Mark's new house."

"Okay!" Kerry replied. The next thing the group knew, the boys were both gone... except for their clothes, which quickly fell into two piles.

"Young man, didn't you forget something?" Grandma asked with a small smile.

"No, Grandma. All of Lucas' weapons went with them." Kerry replied innocently.

"I'll accept that." Grandma replied. "Could you please send the rest of my grandsons to their new home as well? It is well past their bedtime."

"Yes, Grandma." Kerry replied. He gave the boys time to say goodnight, then transported them home... this time fully dressed. Once they were gone, Kerry asked in a serious voice "Boss? You able to take a status report?"

"Go for it." Julio replied as the older members of the group fell silent, hearing something in Kerry's voice that got their attention.

"CIC initial staff are trained and operational." Kerry began. "Pacific Rim is at Red Alert due to an attack on the Hyatt Regency; Las Vegas is at yellow alert and on standby for assistance as needed. Shawn has arranged for extra medical assistance for Hawaii from local sources."

"Does Prez need any help?" Julio asked.

"Not at this time; Shawn is monitoring the situation though."

Julio relaxed, glad that Shawn Douglas was helping keep him from being swamped with details. Just as he was about to ask to be connected with Prez anyway, Kerry interrupted him.

"This is not a drill. A Clan Wide Red Alert has been called. This is NOT a Drill. Red Alert! Red Alert! Clan Wide Red Alert! All personnel report status to CIC immediately! Orlando Headquarters reports all means of contact have been lost with top Clan leadership."

"Intel, SCRAMBLE!" Julio yelled, an unusual panic in his voice. "Find Cory and Sean! PLEASE!"

Recognizing by his comments why Julio was responding like he was, Grandma waded through his family and pulled the now-crying division head into a hug. She turned to the other adults, and ordered, "Don't just stand there! These boys need help, get to it!"

The room quickly emptied of everyone but Grandma, Julio, Jesse, their sons, and the eight boys from Uridan. Grandma looked over at the eight boys as she comforted Julio. In a much softer voice, she asked, "Do any of you have computer experience?"

Miles and Cerrt both stepped forward. "We've done some hacking back home." Miles replied for both.

"Good, I'm afraid that you might be needed before you even meet your fellow hackers." Grandma replied. "Would you mind starting a little early?"

"If we can help, we'll do our best." Cerrt replied.

"Thank you." Grandma replied. "Reese, would you be a dear and show these two young men to the Intel area and introduce them? I'm sure Kerry has already given them clearance."

"Clear them, Kerry." Jesse ordered quickly.

"Yes Sir. Clearances applied." Kerry answered.

Reese gave Grandma a small smile. "I'll be right back, take care of Dad, please?"

"That I will, Reese." Grandma reassured him. "Hurry back as soon as you can; your family needs you too."

Morrison Residence, Des Moines Compound

"Mister Morrison?" Kerry asked, interrupting Frank and Nancy just as they were about to call CIC to see how the family could help with the red alert.

Both parents froze; the confident AI that had assisted with their reunion with Adam now sounded like a very scared child.

"What do you need, son." Frank answered with concern.

"Julio's mom said to tell you to have your family rest. She thinks you might be needed to help later when people start getting tired." Kerry replied.

"Tell her I agree with her plan. Now how are you doing?"

"I'm okay." Kerry lied. "Why did you call me 'son' when I contacted you?"

"I'll address those in reverse order." Frank replied. "I'm one of the unlucky ones who isn't a telepath, but still picks up on the thoughts of certain people. In my case, it's Mark, Jeff, and Brian. Or at least it was until they were taught control, I finally get to sleep without the nightly fantasies of three eleven-year-olds in my head tonight! I couldn't miss Mark's reaction when you called him your brother. Janice and I talked, and we agree that you're just as much family as the rest of our new sons."

"But I'm not even a real kid. I'm just a box in a room, I don't even have a body, yet."

Janice interrupted. "I'm calling bullshit on two points: you being okay, and you not being a real kid. You are just as alive as every other youth that lives here. The fact that you're scared right now proves it; that is something no kid can hide from a mother."

"Could you explain what you meant by 'I don't have a body, yet', son?" Frank asked.

"I'm one of the new kind of AI that Uncle Cory and Uncle Marc put together a team to make. They used some Vulcan stuff, and I can get a body that I can go back and forth to. I can live in it, with a virtual me running everything else, and I can switch over so that a virtual me keeps my body going while I'm doing stuff here. Uncle Marc and Uncle Danny say we can't have bodies unless we got families."

"Kerry Morrison, unless you want me to have your grandmother do it for you, I expect to be able to verify that you have ordered your body by the time we wake up." Janice stated firmly. "You have a backlog of mother cuddles that are building up."

"Really?" Kerry's tearful voice asked hopefully. "You really want me?"

"Yes, son. Wake us up if you need to talk." Frank replied. "If anyone gives you any issues with registering yourself as our son, tell Grandma and she'll help you."

"Sir, I'm Kerry's brother George." A new voice interrupted. "Thank you for caring about my little brother. I just made the appropriate entries into the Family Archives. Congratulations, I think... my little bro is a nut."

"Kerry is a Morrison," Frank chuckled. "He's no different than the rest of his brothers. Thank you, George."

"You're welcome." George replied.

"It's real? I'm really a Morrison now?" Kerry whispered in disbelief.

"Yes son; welcome home." Frank replied gently.

Throughout multiple Clan installations across the world, the stress was slightly relieved by the joyful voice of Kerry announcing proudly "I've got a FAMILY! I'm a MORRISON!"

To be continued...

Author Note:

Okay, the boys are just getting into the problems that Earth is facing, and they are going into it with lots of help from the looks of it. The time spent on Archnania will be covered in detail by a side story containing both mine and TheEggman's PRD characters. Knowing this group, it should be fun!

As you probably could tell, this is going to go a lot different than what happened in Montana. I am looking forward to showing the reader just how our boys shine when set loose in their favorite activity... helping others.

At this time, most of the separate storylines that have been running are merging once again into the main storyline; I hope that the progression is starting to make more sense!

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to any comments or ideas that this latest chapter has sparked!