Memories: Down Under

Book 1


Chapter 8 - Party Hardy

Dreamworld Big Brother Ampitheatre, 12PM, 17th October

The lights of the Big Brother Ampitheatre were dimmed, so that the audience was able to see only the slightest movement. The sounds of instrumentalists warming up could be heard, and the audience was growing more excited. Suddenly, a spotlight came to life on the lone figure of a young looking man, who many in the audience recognised.

"Boys, girls and your guardians. Welcome to the Big Brother Ampitheatre at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast for a special lunchtime concert. Now please welcome your host.... GRETEL KILLEEN!!!"

Gretel walked out onto the stage to the sounds of cheering and applause. She couldn't help but notice the Ampitheatre was as packed as it was during the last finale show for Big Brother she did.

"Thank you, Mike Goldman. Hello!!! Welcome to a very special event." She waited for the applause to die down again before continuing. "When I found out what this event was, I couldn't help but accept the hosting position, or should I say co-hosting. Yes, that's right, for the first time EVER, Mike Goldman and I will be co-hosting a show together. There's also another, surprise co-host, but all will be revealed shortly. Also, the producers of Big Brother have a surprise or two for the audience today, but now, let kick things off. Please welcome to the stage, Cody Thomas, and his miniature backup group, Kane Thomas, Timmy Short, Ricky Micheals and Harley Short-Richardson, singing the popular Evanescence song, "MY IMMORTAL!!"

A spotlight now fell upon Cody, sitting at a piano in the rear centre of the stage. Soon, the opening notes of a chilling song floated through the air of the Ampitheatre. Soon, a soft alto voice rang out through the air.

I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
'Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won't leave me alone

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

For the chorus, spotlights fell on four little boys, whose voices joined in with Cody's, creating the sound of a choir:

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have.....
All of me

You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face its haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away all the sanity in me

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have.....
All of me

Cody threw all the emotion and love for Sky he had into the bridge of the song, bringing the remaining members of the audience with dry eyes to tears:

I've tried so hard to tell myself that your gone
But though your still with me
I've been alone all along

Between the bridge and the final chorus, a curtain behind the four boys fell to reveal the rest of the stage, with Danny on lead guitar, Aaron on drums, and CD on violin. Cory and Sean were both holding bass guitars

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have.....
All of me

As the final notes of the song drifted into nothing in the air, the sounds of sniffling could be heard for a second, before the roar of a standing ovation replaced them and all five of the singers turned bright red, Cody being the brightest of them.

After the applause died down, Gretel moved to the front of the stage, still wiping her eyes. "Wow, wasn't that fantastic. Thanks to Cody, Kane, Timmy, Ricky and Harley." She gave a moment for the audience to calm down before continuing, "Now, welcome to the stage, your mystery co-host, AARON CARTER!!!"

Aaron ran out to the front of the stage to loud cheering and applause. "Thank you, Gretel. HEY GUYS!!!" More cheering. "My bros and I decided since it's a special day for us, we'd make it a special day for all of y'all as well. I say it's a special day today, cause one of my 'lil bros turned 6 today. Kane, come here!"

Once Kane had joined Aaron at front stage, Aaron continued. "Guys, I need your help to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Kane here. Ready... three... two... one..." Soon the entire audience and those on the stage had joined Aaron in singing Kane 'Happy Birthday'. As soon as the song had finished, the opening notes to a well-known AC song filled the air. "That's right guys, it's time for Aaron's... no, Kano's Party!"

Soon the sounds of thousands of kids backing up the teen star on stage filled the Ampitheatre. Everyone, including the adults, was getting into the mood of the concert.

Next, Gretel came up on stage. "Boys and girls. I can see you're all enjoying yourselves alot, so I'll keep this short. First surprise for the day, please welcome to the stage, Australia's favourite daughter, DELTA GOODREM!!!" The Ampitheatre was filled with cheers and applause, as well as a few screams (from a few girls) and cat-calls (from a number of boys, much to their guardians' chagrin).

"Hey guys." Delta said as she walked onto the stage. "Thanks for inviting me to this great event. When I got the call, my first thought was this is an opportunity to repay those of you I met when I was in the hospital for Hodgkins'. And on that, I'll be playing my first ever hit, and a song I'm sure you all know only too well." She then took her seat at the piano. "I'm sure most of you know the words to this song, so sing along if you want to. This song is dedicated to all of you and all the members of Clan Short. Here's 'Born To Try'."

Doing everything that I believe in
Going by the rules that I've been taught
More understanding of what's around me
And protected from the walls of love

All that you see is me
And all I truly believe

For the chorus of the song, most of the Clan members, as well as the audience, joined in.

That I was born to try
I've learned to love
Be understanding
And believe in life
But you've got to make choices
Be wrong or right
Sometimes you've got to sacrifice the things you like

But I was born to try

No point in talking what you should have been
And regretting the things that went on
Life's full of mistakes, destinies and fate
Remove the clouds look at the bigger picture

And all that you see is me
And all I truly believe

That I was born to try
I've learned to love
Be understanding
And believe in life
But you've got to make choices
Be wrong or right
Sometimes you've got to sacrifice the things you like

But I was born to try

All that you see is me
All I truly believe
All that you see is me
And all I truly believe

That I was born to try

I've learned to love
Be understanding
And believe in life
But you've got to make choices
Be wrong or right
Sometimes you've got to sacrifice the things you like

But I was born to try

But you've got to make choices
Be wrong or right
Sometimes you've got to sacrifice the things you like

But I was born to try

As the final notes of the song faded out, Ampitheatre filled with the sound of every man, woman and child in the audience applauding the group. Delta then addressed the audience. "Thanks guys, this past six months has been so amazing for me, and many of you out there were part of the reason for that. And please thank Clan Short for inviting me to this special occasion. Now, I have here in my hands, an envelope containing a special surprise. But I'm not going to read it out to you. Instead, I want you all to welcome to the stage, Skylan Thomas, Head of the Clan Short Oceanic Division.

Applause rang through the Ampitheatre as Sky made his way to stand next to Delta. She handed him the envelope, and the audience went silent as he opened it and pulled out the piece of paper inside. "This says that Delta will donate $100,000 each to the Starlight and Make-A-Wish Foundations. It also says that 20% of profits from her new album will be split between the two charities, and that everyone in the audience will receive a free advance copy of the album." Sky said, before his face lit up and he turned and hugged Delta as tightly as he could. Meanwhile, the audience had broken out in massive applause and cheers.

At that moment, Teri walked out on stage, two envelopes in hand, one bearing the Starfleet insignia, the other, the Family Crest of the Family of Sarek. The audience fell silent again in anticipation. When Teri reached the centre of the stage with Delta and Sky, she pulled Sky into a hug, and then did the same for Delta. After this, she turned to the audience. "How's the concert guys?" After the applause and cheers had died down, she continued. "I know you're all wondering what I have here in my hot little hands. Well the first one is from my department at Starfleet, and our donation goes as follows." She then opened the envelope and read from it. "We donate $100,000 each to Starlight and Make-A-Wish, as well as each and every member of staff in my department personally donating funds to the value of over $500,000 to be split evenly to the two charities."

She allowed the audience to show their appreciation for over a minute, before continuing. "The other envelope I have is a personal message from Abassador Sarek of Vulcan. And it reads:

People of the Nation of Australia of the Planet Earth,

It has come to my attention that my grandsons have determined that the Starlight and Make-A-Wish Foundations are fitting recipients for funding in the local currency. Upon investigation, I find their logic to be valid and within the parameters of their Charter. As recognition of the status of these organizations granted by Clan Short; the Vulcan Council is providing $100,000 to each organisation to assist in maintaining the expected level of care for those in need.

It would be logical to assume that every person of your nation should do all they can to further the causes of these foundations.

Live Long and Prosper,

Ambassador Sarek.

After a few moments for the news to settle in had passed, the entire audience broke out in massive applause. No one could believe the size of the donation from the distant planet. After the applause had died down, Teri continued. "Now, it's nearly time for this concert to come to a close, but, I have been in discussion with the producers of Big Brother and Big Brother himself.... tonight, each and every one of you gets to camp out in the Big Brother Compound! And, to top it off, the events of the sleepover will be recorded, editted, voiced-over by Mike Goldman, and produced as a DVD for each and every on of you. Your own personal Big Brother episode, where you're all the stars!!" This caused the crowd to really go off. "Kids get to camp out undr the stars in heated comfort, and the adults get to use the bedroom, unless they need to keep an eye on their charges."

As the applause continued, Aaron moved to center stage. "Guys, it ain't over yet. We still have time for two more songs! So come on! Let's MAKE SOME NOISE!!!" The group on stage then broke out in a lively rendition of "Another Earthquake", the audience members, young and old, all joining in and dancing, whether standing up or sitting in a chair of wheelchair, every person was moving to the music.

After the notes faded out, Delta joined Aaron at center stage. "Okay guys. It's time for a new song off my album, never before heard outside a recording studio. This is 'Electric Storm'." The audience all fell silent as Delta sang the song and danced a tango-like dance with a surprised looking Aaron. The look on his face caused the boys backstage to bust out in laughter.

After the song had finished, a very red-faced Aaron addressed the crowd. "Thanks for coming guys. Now if you'll all wait right there for a minute, you'll be escorted into the Big Brother house. Don't forget to get your CD tomorrow before you all leave, and give Big Brother the details on which care facility you're staying at, so that he can send you your DVD. Catch yas all on the flip side."


Five minutes later

The Clan were all out the back of the stage, still calming themselves after the eventful concert, Sky was still attatched to Cody, showing his appreciation for the dedication, when they heard from one of the technicians' walkie-talkies, "Can I get someone to have Clan Short come to the Ampitheatre? There's something I think they need to see."

The guys all made to go to the audience area, until Cory said, "Guys, no point in all of us going. Sky, Cody, Danny, Sean, and I will see what's going on, and if we need any of you for anything, we'll call y'all."

They made their way to the pit and found a security guard in the middle of the seating area, a baby booster in his arms. "I believe that someone left this little guy here on the seat, and that you would be the ones to fix the problem." he said, as he gave the boys a view of a baby boy with ocean-blue eyes and a small amount of dark brown hair.

"WHAT!!?? What's a baby like this doing in a booster with no one around?!" Sky said, shocked beyond belief.

"I don't know, but I think that man there might know." The guard said, pointing out a nervous looking man who was searching every seat. The guard then approached the man. "Sorry, sir. This area is closed to the public."

"I'm looking for a baby in a booster. One of my employees left the child here, and I was only just told. She said something about the child screaming throughout the concert and she was sick of it. If I don't find him, then my adoption agency faces a slew of legal problems, and more importantly, the fact that a child is out there somewhere will haunt the rest of my days." The man said in near panic.

"Well sir, I can tell you now that I, in fact, found the child, and that Clan Short is now looking after him. I'll take you to them now, but from what I've heard, you'd better have some good answers to some tough questions." The guard said as he led the way to the group.

"This gentleman says that he's looking for the young boy there. I will leave you to handle this, I have to get to the Cyclone, before it gets too crowded. If you need me or anyone else, just key your communicators to the frequency of 117 MHz. That's the special assistance channel." The guard said.

"Thank you." The man said.

"Sir, I hope you realise that we'll need to ask a few questions about this situation, but before we do that, I'll need to get a member of my intelligence team here. Sky, do you think Kane would be ready for his first field test?" Cory asked.

"I don't know. It might be best to have both Kane and Kyle here. Kyle can help train Kane as we go." Sky said in a considering tone.

"You're right. Best to have some help when it's needed." Cory then pulled out his communicator. "Cory to Kyle."

"Yeah, Cory?" Came the response.

"Kyle, it's time to begin Kane's telepathic training. Grab him and me us at our current location." Cory said.

"On our way, Cor." Came Kyle's response, before Cory flipped his communicator closed.

A few moments later, the two boys arrived, puffing a bit from running so fast. "What's up, Cory?" Kyle asked, as he regained his breath.

"This man here says that the young boy in the carrier Sky is holding was abandoned by one of his staff. I need you to guide Kane in reading his immediate thoughts only while we ask a few questions just to confirm his story." Cory said, reassuring the man at the same time.

"I'm completely okay with that, young man, as I know deep down that you are all trustworthy and will see that what I say will be the truth." The man said seriously.

"Okay, ready Kyle?" Cory asked.

Both Kane and Kyle nodded their heads.

"Okay. First things first. Can you tell us your name and occupation?" Cory asked casually.

"My name is Richard Dreyson, I am the Manager of Activities for the North Melbourne Children's Care Facility." the man answered without hesitation. Cory looked at Kane and received a nod.

"Okay, what is your account of the events that have occured today?" Cory asked carefully.

"It all started this morning. I received the outing information from the administration office and set to work planning the day out. Thankfully, Starfleet offered transport to the location, so I immediately accepted that. Unfortunately, the main carer for Bradin was off sick with the 'flu for the past week and didn't look to be back for at least another week, so I had to have one of the substitute carers take her group, including Bradin. All day, I could see that she was getting more and more tired, but unfortunately, I couldn't do anything about it. The union contract each carer signs states that they can be placed in charge of a set number of children, and I couldn't take Bradin around with me, as he'd not be able to enjoy the day. After the concert, I enquired on the whereabouts of Bradin, and was told by his carer for the day that she was tired of a whining baby following her around. As soon as I heard this, I immediately fired her and started looking for Bradin, as she refused to tell me where she left him." Mr. Dreyson said.

Both Kane and Kyle nodded this time. "Okay, your story checks out. Can you tell me how Bradin ended up at the Care Facility?" Cory asked.

"Bradin was brought in with a severe reaction to one of his innoculation shots. Unfortunately, while he was being cared for, his mother was out, trying to make money to keep him in the Facility for as long as was needed. It was just a few nights ago, that the store she worked at was robbed by a man wielding a knife. It is unfortunate, as she was the hostage he took, and instead of following the robber's demands, the store manager tried to play the hero and tackled the robber, driving the knife into Bradin's mother's neck. Tragically, there was nothing the paramedics could do to save her." Mr. Dreyson said emotionally.

"What will happen to Bradin then?" Sky asked.

"As he has fully recovered from his reaction, there is no way that we can keep him in our care. The only thing I can think of is that he needs to be placed in a care home and adopted." Mr. Dreyson said sadly.

"Not if we can help it." Sky said forcefully. He then turned to Cody, who after a few moments of thought, hesitantly nodded. "Are you sure, babe?"

"I just don't know if I'm ready for that. I mean, it is a lot of responsibility, and besides, it's gonna be hard to actually adopt him." Cody said sadly.

"Not as hard as you might think. And besides, you'll have your parents to help you." Cory said.

"Well.... okay. Let's do it, babe. I think he needs a good home." Cody said, smiling. At this, Sky jumped at Cody and planted a big kiss on his cheek.

"Umm.... someone mind telling me what exactly is going on?" Mr. Dreyson said.

"Mr. Dreyson." Sky began. "I think you'll find that Bradin will have a good home from now on. Cody and I will be adopting him."

"But, you can't be older than 15! I think you'd be excellent parents, but the courts just won't allow it." Mr. Dreyson said, shocked at the words coming out of Sky's mouth.

"The courts have no real bearing on the actions of Clan Short, or the Safe Haven Act. The Act was created by Starfleet to better protect the interests of all children within the Federation, so it's use is governed by Starfleet, not local justice systems." Cory said.

"Well, if you think it'll work, I'm more than willing to try. Are you sure you'll be able to care for him though?" Mr. Dreyson asked.

"Well, if we have any trouble, we'll have our parents to help us. And I think that we'll be fine." Sky said peacefully.

"Well, if you're sure..." Mr. Dreyson trailed off uncertainly.


Big Brother House

As the group of Clan members made their way around the house, some enjoying the spa and pool more than others, Sky, Cody, Cory and Sean all sat down in the kitchen with glasses of water to unwind from the massive events that had occurred only an hour before. Bradin was at that moment being looked after by his proud grandmother, who was already making plans of her own.

"I just can't believe how little that woman could care for such a sweet little guy." Sky said in a tone of desperation.

"I can." Cory said. "A lot of people in her position aren't fit to be near children, yet because of the lack of more suitable people to do the job, it's a sad fact that these people are given such positions of power over the younger generation. But you two did a good thing. I know you only really just got together and all, but if you believe deep down in your hearts that you can do this, then I have the utmost faith in the both of you, and should you ever need help or don't know what to do, I'm sure your mom will be willing to help you out, and there's no doubt that our bros would jump at the chance to babysit their new baby nephew."

"And you KNOW me and Cory are only a call away. I think it's safe to say that a baby will still be a lot of work, but nowhere NEAR as much as raising Timmy is." Sean chuckled.

"POPPA!!!! I hearded dat!!" Was then heard from the general vicinity of the pool.

Sean then had an evil grin on his face. "Oh, by the way, which one of you is gonna breast feed him?"

At that moment, chaos erupted. Cory slapped Sean upside the head, laughing at the mental image now implanted in his mind, Cody and Sky both leaned over the table and began to strangle Sean at the same time as Timmy ran over from the pool area yelling "POPPA!! Leave Unca Sky and Unca Codee 'lone!!", before pouncing into Sean, bringing the whole group crashing to the ground, a triumphant-looking Timmy perched on top of the pile of older boys.

Linda walked up at that moment, Bradin tucked within her arms. "Cody, Sky, come with me please. We need to talk about this little guy." When she saw the boys exchange nervous glances, she continued. "It's nothing bad, we just need to discuss arrangements for the house now that we have a few extra members of the family. Cory, Sean, could you two join us please?"

All the boys followed Linda back to the table the adults were seated at, except Timmy - who pounced Ricky, causing both to topple into the pool giggling.

When the boys had all seated themselves, Linda handed Bradin to Sky, and the boy snuggled into Sky, a contented look on his sleepy face. "Boys," Linda began, "In light of the events of the past two days alone, and the probable effect of continued exposure to the other members of the Clan and their values - no offence Cory and Sean - your Dad and I have decided, or more accurately, realised that our current living arrangements will most likely soon be inadequate for housing future members of our family."

"What your mum is trying to say, in her long-winded manner, boys, is that right now, we adults, with the help of all of you, will lay preliminary plans for the Clan Short Oceanic Compound, or C-Sock for short." Harry interjected, receiving a jab in the side, and causing all seated to giggle or chuckle.

"The plan is to have a general land layout similar to the HQ Compound in Florida, but with a more Aussie flavour, if you will. The compound will have it's own centre of operations, similar to HQ, with cabins for the key members of the Clan and other organisations that you may sponsor, but the purpose-built areas will vary." Teri added to the conversation.

"Now, this means that the current area we're at will be unable to accomodate us, both because of the estimated size of the Compound itself. and the additional security requirements. I'm assuming that each member of the Clan from our family is now assigned a job?" Linda said.

"The guys don't know it, Aunt Linda, but they do. Sky is the Division Head, the power of Veto and all administrative operations need to be cleared through him, until such time as he authorises that ability to another member, preferably Jason, since these two will likely travel together for 'the job', and the Compound won't be able to function efficiently without a person of that position to oversee things. Cody is now the Head of IT for Clan Short Oceanic, the reason being a previous conversation with Harry, in which he told me about Cody's proficiency in that department. Jason is the Oceanic-HQ Liaison, due to his personal link with a member of the HQ Division, namely young Brad. Zeke is the Oceanic-AI Liaison, for obvious reasons. And Kane is the Head of the Oceanic Intelligence/Psy Ops Team, again for obvious reasons." Cory said with finality.

"That leaves a lot of holes in the structuring." Harry stated.

"Well, until such time as numbers allow for it, each member except for Sky will serve a dual purpose within the Division. Kane's second position is as the Quartermaster of the Division. It will be his job to ensure that all new kids are taken care of properly, and to assign quarters, uniforms, equipment, etc. to each member of the Division, and to ensure all outside guests are properly, accounted for and situated. We feel it will help to develop his inter-personal skills and teach him the values of good organisation." Sean stated.

"I can see the good points in that." Linda said.

"Jason's secondary position will be as the Head of Security. Until such time as a suitable replacement as Liaison can be trained, this will continue. When a replacement has been trained, Jason will assume a permanent position as the Head of Security, due to his seniority, and to help him prove himself." Cory said.

"But he doesn't need to prove himself to us." Sky said in concern.

"No, but he needs to prove to himself that he's worthy to share space with y'all." Dan interjected. "This is the best way that his self-esteem, self-confidence and self-value will increase."

"That's the very reason we put him in that position." Sean said. "Zeke's secondary position will be that of Oceanic Head of Medical. Due to the retaining qualities of his positronic matrix, he could store the entire library of medical texts and journals, as well as the knowledge of when to do something. This is also to build up his self-confidence and self-esteem. At a later stage, he can be given the option of continuing with either position, by his choice."

"What about me?" Cody asked.

"Your secondary position is that of Head of Communications. This is simply because Comms is in essence an extension of the IT position. You will monitor any Clan Short Comms traffic to generate a report for Sky detailing operations in effect elsewhere, and to generate a report for the Clan CIC at the end of the week with status reports, as well as critical notice reports for major operations carried out in the Oceanic area when needed." Sean said. "Each of you will have a brief training session with the equivalent member of the Clan HQ guys."

"And what, I sit around looking like in in charge or something? 'Cause I don't think I can do that." Sky said.

"That's one of the things you'll be doing. Someone once told me that every team that's ever been needs someone who at least looks like they're overseeing things to keep them going smoothly. But no, you have the hardest job, as you need to know all these positions, so you can do them, and so that you can see the best position to put a new member in." Cory said.

"Oh, okay." Sky said after a moment of thought.

"So, what's gonna happen is, that, until the new Compound is fully set up and organised, Bradin will be sleeping with the two of you. We'll organise for the full baby care furniture suite through Starfleet Supplies. Kane will continue to sleep in his new room, and Jason and Zeke will be sharing the third room in the apartment. Now, what about Liam and Zoe?" Linda said.

"Liam will need a foster family, as he has told us he has no living relatives, his grandparents all died a few years ago, and his parents were killed in a lab explosion where they worked. Zoe, however, has a living father who was unable to provide the care needed, following his wife's death and is now in a care facility, and Zoe lived with her maternal grandparents until DOCS removed her 5 years ago, and due to a lack of financial ability, they haven't been able to visit her at all in that time." Sky said.

"Mum, do you think we will need housekeeping staff at the Compound?" Cody asked hopefully.

"And more, however, that won't mean that you get out of doing chores around the house, young man." Linda said.

"I know, Mum, but I thought that since it'd be hard for Zoe's grandparents to find better paying jobs, and her grandfather can't do much, because he damaged his back shortly after Zoe went to live with them, that perhaps we could offer them jobs helping around the Compound. That way, they can be around Zoe as much as they like, and it will help them build up a nice retirement fund, without seeming like charity." Cody said seriously.

"That sounds like a very good idea, Cody, but what about Liam?" Harry asked.

"Oh, don't worry about that, dear. I think I know the perfect person to take Liam in." Linda said with a chuckle, before she pulled out her communicator. "Director Thomas to Elena Troy."

"Troy here. What's up, Linda?" Came the response.

"Elena, could you beam to my location as soon as possible, for a personal reason?" Linda asked.

"Why do I get the feeling something is going on? I'll be there in about 5 minutes, just need to report to the boss. Troy out. " Elena said, before signing off.

"Why are you calling Elena, Mum?" Cody asked.

"Something she told me when I first met her tells me that she'd be the perfect mother figure for Liam. She told me that she used to care for her younger brother, and would herself like to have kids. And being close to Liam's age, I think that they should be able to get along well together." Linda said.

"Oh, okay."

Five minutes later, a shimmering column announced the arrival of Elena into the Big Brother Compound. "Hey, Linda. What's up?" She asked as soon as the shimmering had cleared.

"Nothing bad, I assure, my paranoid friend. Just need your opinion on something. See that black-haired boy over there? What do you think about him?" Linda asked.

"LINDA!! He's gotta be about 15 or 16, he's way too young for me!" Elena said in insult.

"No, not that way, numb-skull. I mean, could you see yourself adopting him as your son? He has no family left, and I think the best thing would be for he and his young girlfriend to remain together, and the best way to do that is have her grandparents and yourself reside at the new Clan Short Oceanic Compound. You'd be there anyway, so there's no real argument that you can throw at me I haven't already accounted for." Linda said, ending her statement with a smirk.

"Oh, well, in that case, I don't want to adopt him as a son, he's gonna be my newest little brother." Elena countered with her own smirk.

"Sounds like a plan, now let's get it done. Liam! Get over here! You too, Zoe!" Linda said.

When the two teens were at the table, Liam spoke up. "What's wrong, Mrs. Thomas?"

"That's enough of that Mrs. Thomas business, it's either Linda or Aunt Linda to the both of you. Now, there's nothing wrong, persay, but I need to ask you both a couple of questions. Liam, How do you like life at the Home?"

"It's okay, I have lots of friends, but I don't see myself getting out of there until I turn 18." Liam said softly.

"I wouldn't say that." Linda said with a sly smile.

"What? You've found someone to adopt me?" Liam asked, hope shining in his eyes.

"Not exactly Liam; I want you to meet Elena Troy, Elena, this is Liam Page. Liam, Elena has agreed to unofficially adopt you as her newest young brother. You have the opportunity now to accept or decline, your choice." Linda said in a calming voice.

"Serious? You really wanna take me into your home? What if I was gay or something?" Liam asked cynically.

"Even if you were gay, it wouldn't make a difference, but I can see that you're not gay. I doubt you'd be killing the circulation to that young lady's hand if you were." Elena said with a sly smile.

"I... well... see... umm..." Liam stuttered, before Elena interrupted him.

"How about an introduction? That's usually a good thing to start with." Elena said with a chuckle.

"Oh... um... right. Ms. Troy, this is Zoe Vander, my girlfriend." Liam said with a blush.

"Liam, there's no need for the 'Ms. Troy' bit. If you agree to becoming my new brother, then it'll be either Elena or 'sis' to you, got it?" Elena said with a smile.

"How about Elle?" Liam asked with a smirk.

"Well, if that's what you'd prefer, then sure."

"Cool." Liam said, before he surprised Elena by wrapping his arms around her in a hug. "Thank you." He said quietly to Elena.

"You're welcome." Elena whispered back.

The rest of the group watched as the two bonded as brother and sister, but it was Cory that spoke. "I think this'll be good for both of you."

When the two had pulled apart, Linda continued, looking at Zoe. "Well, Zoe, now for you. Do you miss your grandparents?"

"More than anything, Aunt Linda." Zoe replied.

"Well, I think it'd be best for you if you were to be placed with them again." Linda said seriously.

"What about Liam? Will I be able to see him anymore?"

"Well, if all goes to plan, you two will be able to spend as much time with each other as you like. Tell me, what did your grandfather do before he injured his back?"

"He was a transport driver and manager of the depot he worked at."

"That's perfect. And your grandmother?"

"She was, and I think she still is, a housekeeper for the neighbours."

"Even better. What we hope to do is offer your grandparents position on staff at the new Clan Short Oceanic Compound. Your grandmother can be in charge of housekeeping, general cleaning and cooking until we hire a chef, and your grandfather can manage our motor pool and be in charge of the staff drivers, as well as driving instructor for the Clan members, since you'll all need transportation licences. Do you know what qualifications he holds?"

" I know he has a B-Double truck licence, and he was qualified to instruct drivers for that. He used to be a shuttlecraft instructor for Starfleet Alpha Base in Canberra, before he retired to manage the depot in Sydney, cause he wanted to be closer to the sea, and there were no transfers available. His Starfleet retirement package wasn't used until he broke his back, then it only just covered the doctor's bills, cause they were so expensive, and that's when I was taken away."

"This is going to be very good. If we have him re-sit his shuttlecraft instructor's test, he can train the Clan members on shuttle operations and flight, and with the right connections, even get them qualified, at the same time as instructing them in cars." Linda said. "Well, I think that'll do it for now. You kids all go ahead and have fun, while we adults do all your work." This earned a few giggles from the kids and groans from the adults.

Just as Sky was placing Bradin in Linda's arms, the voice of Big Brother came over the speakers. "This is Big Brother....... Clan Short to the Diary Room immediately."

"Um, wonder what that's about." Cody said.

"No idea. Should we take Bradin with us do you think?" Sky replied.

"Might as well." Cody replied as he helped Sky stand.

When the Clan had entered the Diary Room and seated themselves, the youngest sitting on the laps of the nearest older boy, Big Brother began speaking. "It has come to Big Brother's attention that the founding members of Clan Short have for many weeks been working towards creating a safer world for all children, and have been doing so without requesting reward or compensation. This is unacceptable to Big Brother. In exactly five minutes, Big Brother will unlock the bedroom doors. Inside the bedroom, you will find boxes with your names on them. Inside these boxes, you will find some gifts from Big Brother. These gifts are non-refundable. Big Brother believes that each member of Clan Short has earned these gifts. The other boxes, to be found in the store room, are for the members of Clan Short still in the U.S. That is all."

Each of the boys slowly stood up and made their way out of the Diary Room. Sky turned to Cody, "Well, that was different."

"You're telling me. I wonder what they got us? Can't be too much, but it still sounds cool." Cody replied.

Cory then turned to Sky. "Hey cuz, think I could hold my little nephew for a bit?" he asked with a hopeful look.

"Hmmm.... I dunno." Sky said, causing Cory's face to fall, which caused Sky, Cody and Sean to bust out in laughter, "Of course you can, Cor. Just make sure you return him BEFORE you guys go back home." Sky finished in a teasing tone.

"Yeah, babe, Timmy's enough running around for me." Sean said with a giggle.

Cory sighed dramatically. "Fine. Ruin a guy's hopes, why don't you?"

The group all broke out into a fit of giggles, before Sky handed Bradin over to Cory, who carefully cradled the young boy in his arms. The group was then joined by Jason and Zeke, both with silly grins on their faces. "Okay, you two. What's the go?" Sky asked in a mock-stern voice.

Both the older boys blushed. "Nothing." they said in unison.

"Whatever, dudes. You two look like you were just sn...." Sean said, before a look of realisation fell on his face, and he broke out in a grin. The blushes on the other two boys only deepened, confirming Sean's statement.

The boys were saved from further interrogation by the voice of Big Brother. "This is Big Brother.... Clan Short, to the bedroom."

The Clan's mad dash to the bedroom fell short, as the youngest boys beat everyone else to the room, and stood stock still in the doorway, impish grins on their faces. The other boys all gently pushed the younger ones into the room, and the gentle pushing provoked the younger ones to run to the boxes littered around the room like kids on Christmas Day. After each of the younger boys found the boxes with their names on it, they seated themselves on the nearest bed and began rummaging through the boxes in earnest, cries of "Kewl!" and "Wicked!" accentuating their finds.

Sky, Cody, Cory and Sean found each of their boxes, as well as a special, large blue box marked "Bradin", and sat themselves on a bed and began looking through each box. In each of their own boxes, they found a brand new Sony PSP in Vulcan Green Colouring, with a few games and movies for use with the device. Each box also contained a $200 gift voucher for any clothing store in Australia and the US, as well as a few music CDs and DVDs. "Wow, this is pretty cool. I read about the PSP, but I didn't think they were released yet." Sean said.

"That's probably 'cos they haven't been. Big Brother's obviously gone all out on this. Wonder what he got Bradin?" Cody said as he worked at opening the much larger box.

Inside Bradin's box, the guys found a brand new stroller that doubled as a change table. They also found a new Teddy Bear, which Bradin reached for as soon as he saw it. They also found nappies, bottles, baby formula and other things necessary to care for a new baby. "Wow, this saves us alot of shopping and money. And I think that bear's going to be a firm friend for Bradin." Sky said with a grand smile.

The boys then looked around and saw that the rest of the boys in the Clan had received much the same in their boxes, the difference being that the younger boys had received Nintendo DS consoles instead of PSPs.

"Well, this was a nice surprise, but I think you two need to make use of another of Bradin's gifts.... 'cos he's done a MAJOR mess in his diaper." Cory said with a grimace as he held Bradin out towards Sky.

This provoked a round of giggles from the other three boys, as Sky took Bradin from Cory. "Wimp. Can I get someone set up the stroller, or do you all expect me to change the nappy with Bradin in my arms?"

After a few minutes of fumbling, the others had the stroller set up and ready for Sky to use. As he placed Bradin on the stroller and undid the nappy, each of the other three boys went green in the face and ran for the bathroom. "Cowards!!" Sky giggled, before grimacing himself as he worked to clean the younger boy and change his nappy. "Geez, Bray, what were they feeding you, baby boy?" he asked, which evoked a giggle from the boy on the change table.

After he had finally figured out the right method for changing a nappy, it took Sky 30 seconds to secure the fresh nappy in place, before he went rumaging through the gifts the boy had received, pulling out a fresh jumpsuit and dressing the boy. "There. All done." he said after he'd finally managed to get Bradin's arms into the sleeves of the suit.

About that time, the other three returned, still looking as though they were about to lose lunch, or was it breakfast next? "Dude, I SO glad I don't have to do that!" Cory said with another grimace. The other two boys both nodded their agreement.

"I don't think it'd be wise for you to be nodding YOUR head, Cody, or I might just have to with-hold any 'cuddle-time' on you. As for you two, I'd think you would want to learn, since I seriously doubt Aunt Teri would change the nappy of any baby you two may one day save." Sky said seriously.

"Hmmm, your right." Sean said before turning to Cory, "You EVER decide to adopt a baby, you're dead. Got that, mister?" he said playfully.

Cory went along with it, "Aww, but, Baby. A baby WOULD be CUTE!" This caused all four boys to break out into another bout of laughter. Cory was the first to recover. "Man, I don't think I've EVER laughed THIS often. I'm glad we came on this 'vacation'."

"Me too. It's been great, except for the work we've had to do, and crazy rollercoaster rides and all that." Sean said.

 

"OH YEAH!! GUYS, we GOTTA go on the Cyclone. Man, that looks WICKED!!" Cory said excitedly.

"NO, Daddy!! We gotsta go to the Nickelod'on area first. Me and Ricky want to ride the Reptar 'coaster!" Timmy yelled.

"Okay. GUYS, we GOTTA go on the Cyclone...... AFTER the Reptar 'coaster." Cory said, evoking giggles from the other three boys,

and a triumphant grin from Timmy.

"Do we REALLY need to go on any more rollercoasters? Can't we just stick to a nice, gentle ride?" Sean asked in a whine.

"Well, we could go on the Vortex, the log ride, ooh there's the Thunder River Rapids ride...." Cody said excitedly.

"I said GENTLE rides, not Vortexes, or Rapids, GENTLE." Sean moaned.

"Those ARE gentle rides.... sorta." Cody said with an evil grin.

One hour later

The boys had finished riding the rides they all wanted to, Sean having run to the bathroom right after stepping out of the Vortex, and were now preparing to head back to Sydney. On their way to the exit, Mr. Lane intercepted them and asked that they all sign the covers for the concert CDs. Twenty minutes later, the signing was done, and they made their way onto the shuttles, grouping up as they had on the way to the theme park.

As Sean ran the pre-flight, he called Cody to the cockpit over the cabin intercom. When Cody had joined him, he asked, "Wanna get some pilot training?"

"Do I?! Of course, what do I have to do?" Cody asked excitedly.

"Sit down, put that headset on, and watch closely. You'll be the first Oceanic Division Pilot. Once you've fully completed training, the Clan'll organise a shuttle for the division, that way, you won't be relying too much on Starfleet for transportation. We'll organise for Zoe's grand-dad to be in charge of appropriations and transportation for the division HQ as soon as possible."

"So we'll be self-contained?" Cody asked.

"In essence, yes. The shuttle is to allow your division a much faster means of transport to emergencies, as well as being a key link between the divisions. It will allow you to transport medical patients you may have that cannot be transport via beam method, and its diplomatic status will mean that the shuttle can be used for diplomatic situations that you may face."

"Wow. I guess I didn't really think of the size of this whole thing. Well, what's first, El Capitan?" Cody asked with a giggle.

"Knock that off, or I'll eject you from 10,000 feet." Sean said with a laugh. "First, make sure all passengers and cargo are secured for transport. After that, call for take-off clearance."

"Okay."


15 minutes later, Thomas Residence, Sydney

As Sean ran through the shutdown checklist and opened the shuttle hatch he turned to Cody, "That was good, Cody. Just remember to always be aware of what's happening around you, and be gentle with the controls and you'll be fine. I think two or three extra lessons at Oceanic HQ, and you'll be set to test for your pilot's licence. Then we'll set the ball rolling for an instructor's licence, that way, you can help Zoe's grand-dad, if he's even helping."

"Cool. Thanks Sean." Cody said with a smile.

"No probs, bro." Sean said as they both stood up, before stepping forward and giving Cody a hug. "And if you ever need someone to talk to, I'm only a call away. Sky has Cory; you have me, always remember that." Sean said seriously.

"Thanks, Sean."

"No probs."

The two boys both left the cockpit to find that everyone else had left the shuttle, so they exited to find that the whole group had reformed, and was now on its way to the house. About halfway there, Clive opened the door and let Kiara out to greet the group.

"Well kids. I have reason to believe that there are a few rooms upstairs that need seeing." Harry said to the group. Instantly, the group of boys surrounding the adults ran to the door of the house, before disappearing from sight.

The boys found their way upstairs and all stopped at the door leading to the apartment. "I think Kane should be the person to open the door for the first time. After all, it IS his birthday." Cory said with a smile.

"Really?!" Kane asked excitedly, before bouncing up to the door and trying the doorknob, only to find the door locked. "Hey! It's locked." He said sadly.

"Hang on. Look at your belt loop there, buddy." Sky said curiously. Kane looked down to see a keyring hanging off his belt loop. "Looks like you got a key to the apartment."

"COOL!!" Kane shouted, before fumbling to get the key into the lock, before finally twisting the doorknob to allow the boys entry to the apartment.

A chorus of "Wow." was heard from all boys as they took the new room in. Everything had already been placed around the apartment. They had walked into an entryway, with a shoe and coat rack, already filled with shoes and jackets from the boys' rooms. The entryway opened into a spacious, well-furnished living area, complete with a big screen TV, various games consoles, and a DVD player with a complete DVD collection, as well as a PVR sitting below the TV. In the corner of the room, stood a Clan terminal. In the room were 4 doors leading to the other rooms of the apartment.

Through three of the doors, the bedrooms sat, fully furnished in tasteful (and obviously picked by Linda) colours and styles. Each room had a queen-sized bed, except Kane's which had two double-sized beds. Through the fourth door sat a bathroom large enough to accomodate each of the boys, with two showers a spa bath and two toilets, plus two sinks with four cabinets either side of the two mirrors.

Opposite the doors leading to the other rooms, sat a kitchen with a half-sized fridge, which the boys found stocked with fresh fruits and juices, plus a few other, less than healthy alternatives. There also sat a full-sized dining table, complete with six chairs.

"Well guys. What do ya think?" Harry asked as the adults walked into the apartment.

"COOL!" came the unanimous reply from the boys.

"Well, you got about 2 hours before you boys from America have to take off, so enjoy." Linda said, before each of the adults left the apartment.


Two hours later

Following two hours of mayhem and yelling over a game of 'Halo', the boys from America were told to get ready to leave.

As they were making their way towards the shuttle, each of the boys were saddened, but realised that there were many ways for them all to keep in touch.

After emotional goodbyes, the most emotional being that between Cory and Sky, the group from America boarded the shuttles and took off back towards their home. After they had left, the group left re-entered the house. It was as they were eating a small dinner, that the boys began to show the fact they were tired. Harry had to carry Kane up to his bed, while Linda helped Zeke and Jason. Cody, who was still somewhat awake, helped Sky up to their new bed, before snuggling up to Sky and falling into a peaceful sleep, a smile on his face.

That night, each of the boys, both in Australia, and those napping on the shuttles to America, dreamt about Dreamworld and celebrities. None knew of the challenges that they would each face in the coming days.


Author's Notes:

Well, 8 months, and I know it's not exactly worth the wait, but unfortunately, that's the way life goes sometimes. And the forecast for the future doesn't look so great either, but I'll be sure to at least try and keep to some sort of deadline.

There you have it. The U.S. guys are on their way home, to adventures you're already reading about in "Memories" and "Sentenced to Life", but stay tuned to the Annex Down Under for the continuing adventures of the Clan Short Oceanic Division.

As always, feedback is welcomed, flames will be used to cook my breakfast, and please be patient in your wait for the next chapter of "Memories: Down Under"

Leave feedback at boi_from_aus@acannex.us

Clan Short Archivist Review Notes:

It looks like the Orlando Division of the Clan has finished up its work and is heading home for some more R&R. Sky and Cody have their work cut out for themselves, but they seem to be building an excellent support base also. It looks like The Clan Divisions are all ready to bear down and get to work. I will definitely be keeping an eye on the Down Under Bunch. Another great job making the characters come alive for us. It will be very interesting to see what is in store for Liam, Zoe and Bradin as well as Sky and the rest of the Oceanic Division.

I can truly understand how life can get in the way of writing chapters so I will TRY and be very patient while waiting for the next chapter.

The Story Lover aka TSL