Grace smiled inwardly as Andy bounced happily into the kitchen. "Brandon still asleep?" she asked him, knowing Skipper and Bobby would still be abed. "Uh-huh" was the answer. She efficiently opened the refrigerator, took out a dozen eggs and a package of bacon, then put a loaf of bread next to the toaster, opened the proper drawer and pulled out a spatula, and finally opened a cabinet and pulled out a skillet. Turning to Andy with a warm smile, with skillet in one hand and spatula in the other, she asked, "What do you want for breakfast?"
Andy cringed and tensed to run. "I'm sorry!" he cried out.
Skillet and spatula fell to the floor. "Oh, Andy, I'm sorry … he didn't! … come here, you poor little thing!" she said, at a loss for words. She dropped and pulled the tense, fearful young body to her in a close embrace as he began to cry. As she tried to comfort the young boy, one corner of her mind was analytically saying, 'Oliver and Josiah need to know about this.'
Cdr. Steve Charles listened to Capt. Simmons detail what had come in, encrypted, from Capt. Drumm ten minutes before. The giant black man's normal jovial expression was now hard. He glanced at his second in command. The Andorian was holding rage in check. "I am dishonored," Traafin bit off. "It would have been better had I been tied in a desert and left to die of dessication than this!"
"Nonsense," Charles said. "You placed your trust in a subordinate who gave no sign of having been turned ... as did I and the Captain. Your honor is intact, my brother." He placed his large left hand on Traafin's shoulder; the Andorian responded to the gesture of trust and affection with a wan smile.
"You know what to do," Simmons said to the two Security men. "Arrest him and bring him here for Captain's Mast." Arrrek-Ur and Oliver Romero nodded grimly.
"I shall come with you," T'Laran spoke up. "I place myself under your orders, Arrrek, for I have not been trained in Security. But you may have need of Vulcan strength, and I can take testimony by mind-meld to corroborate that." She gestured at the datapad the Captain held. The Aurelian gestured his assent with his beak, his wings shuddering.
"One moment," Traafin interjected. "Captain, this should be handled in accord with Starfleet justice. But when sentence is pronounced, I claim the right to execute it. The Warrior Code of Honor demands it of me."
"Let it be as you have said," Simmons concurred in fluent Andorian. "Arrrek, carry out your orders." The Captain mangled the trill in the avian's name to a rolled R that would not have seemed out of place coming from Scotty.
"By your leave, sir," the Aurelian said, rose, and exited the room, followed by the Hispanic man and the Vulcan woman.
Brett was trying to pay attention in math, but his emotions kept getting in the way. The two girls passing notes on the sly at the desks in front of him didn't help, either. His gaze kept drifting to the empty desk across the room, the one Danny used to sit in. He was doing his best not to start watering up. Mrs. Carstairs was writing an equation on the blackboard, her back to the class; he wondered idly if she had ever felt like he did.
Josiah slowed his Lincoln as he entered Farmington, waving to Oliver Winfield as the Sheriff turned into the sheriff's department driveway just as he drove past. The only court case today was the trespass case. He reviewed the facts: four boys pranking a grumpy old lady; three had run, leaving the youngest to take the rap. Predictably, she was demanding that Josiah throw the book at the kid; her complaints about neighborhood kids were the bane of the police and his court. He grimaced, remembering the time he'd dismissed a case of 'vandalism' against two young girls whose hopscotch diagram had included a block of her sidewalk. The solution he, George, and the amused cop who had taken the boy home had come up with appealed to his sense of justice: the boy would be required to rake her leaves once, after a short private talk with him and George about finding new friends who would not leave him holding the bag. He wondered idly how Jonas would have handled it.
"Judge!" an alto voice rang out as he parked his car. He glanced over; Myra Townes was walking purposefully toward him.
"Why, hello, Myra!" he smiled at her. "What can I do for you this morning?"
"I'm concerned about Alf Jessup's boys," the woman said shortly. "They got whisked away by those boys in the black cloaks and some wearing Army clothes. You need to get them back here, Judge. Maine takes care of its own."
Thinking to himself that she should have spoken up long since about the beatings they had received, he forced a smile and said, "Alf's in jail, and probably won't be seeing daylight except through bars for a good many years. Were you planning to take them in?"
"If I need to," Myra said firmly, slightly taken aback by the question but rising gamely to the occasion. "You got foster homes, I'm thinking, and they belong back here where they were raised."
"Well, Myra," Josiah answered, "those boys took them to get medical care for what old Alf did to them. I just got word last night that they're back in Maine, staying at Grace Martin's up in Arkham."
"Well, that's a good thing," she said, mollified. "I'm not sure how good an influence that Bobby will be on them, but at least they're back where they belong."
"Have a good day, Myra," Josiah said and turned to walk into the courthouse.
Sheriff Oliver Winfield waved at Josiah as he turned into the department driveway and walked inside with a determined expression on his face. This morning was the regularly scheduled staff meeting, and his experience dealing with Tommy last night when the Trinity had called for help proved to him that something needed to be done, done firmly, and done soon. He hoped that Eric Carlson would be able to help him get through to his former co-workers, now his subordinates.
I was about to ask for transport when in walked my three boys grinning up at me.
"Do I want to know what you three are doing here?" I asked, looking suspiciously at them.
"Probably not," Randy giggled.
"Somehow I didn't think so," I muttered.
"Ah dad, we're not that bad," Danny said.
"No, you're worse," I replied, looking at the now shocked eight year old.
"Come on, dad, let's go," Kev said into the silence.
"Go where?" I asked, now turning my gaze at him.
He just rolled his eyes at me as Randy said, "Ummm, Arkham."
"Well, I'm going to Arkham, yes, but what makes you think you are?" I asked.
"Dad, we might be able to help," Kev put in now.
"Ah no. I think Arkham has had all the 'help' they can stand for a few years," I said with a serious expression on my face.
Three pairs of eyes got big in shock before one set followed by the other narrowed and Randy said, "Not funny, dad."
"Oh, I thought it was," I said, laughing now.
"Awww dad, come on, please," Danny whined.
"Look, guys, this is going to be a delicate conversation we have to have here, and you three…well…."
"We can do 'delicate', dad," Randy said grinning.
"Yep, sure can," Kev added as I looked at him, not believing a second of it.
His nodding rapidly was ruined by Danny whispering, not so quietly, "What's 'delicate' mean?"
That earned glares from the other two and an indignant "What?" from Danny as I broke out laughing again.
"It's not funny," Kevin said as Randy tilted his head and asked, "Now that you mention it, what DOES 'delicate' mean?"
I just shook my head before saying, "You know I love you three to death, but this might not be the best place for you."
"Dad, we can help, look at the other night," Kevin told me.
"Yeah, don't remind me," I said, smiling to take any sting out of the words.
"We did what we had to, dad; we didn't have a choice," Kevin said, dead serious now.
I knelt down and looked all three in the eyes for a moment before saying, "I know that. I was so proud of you for what you did; don't ever doubt that, and you did the right thing."
"You mean that?" Kevin asked, looking at me.
"Could you doubt it, son?" I asked softly, as he gave me a small grin in reply.
I grabbed him and took him into my arms, then the other two as well, hugging them tightly to me before I said, "Let's go shake up Arkham again; you guys might be just what they need after all."
They all pulled back and looked at me before huge grins began to spring forth upon their faces, followed by a loud "YEAH!"
'Then again, maybe not,' I began to think as I stood up and asked for transport.
Shortly we were in Franklin County once again, in Farmington right in front of the sheriff's office.
'OK,' I thought, 'I just hope they are ready for us,' as I slowly walked forward and opened the door, allowing the three terrors into the building.
'Look out Arkham, here they come' was all I could think, as I walked in behind them looking for the sheriff.
As I walked in, the desk sergeant was looking at the boys with a rather strange expression on his face. One I thought I recognized. He perked up when he saw me, though. "He's here, Sheriff!" he called out, "...and he brought his boys with him too!" For some reason his tone of voice shifted at the end of that.
The Sheriff came walking out from a door leading to offices. "Thanks, Randall!" he said. "Good to see you, Sheriff! Come in!"
"The boys too?" I asked. In the background I could hear Deputy Randall saying, "Please say the boys too!"
'Gee, you'd almost think he didn't like them or something,' I thought as the boys giggled and called back as they followed the sheriff into the office, "See ya later, Deputy Randall," only to have Danny add, "Don't worry; we won't forget to visit with ya."
I could have sworn I heard a moan and something like "Please, please… forget," but I must have been mistaken, of course.
"Of course," Sheriff Winfield said. "You boys handled that scene down in town last night very well," he told them.
He led us into his private office and motioned for us to sit down. "Sheriff..." he began.
"Eric, please," I quickly said.
"Good, and I'm Oliver to you," he answered. "If we keep addressing each other as 'Sheriff', we're going to end up confusing these guys, and what else we have to say will be confusing enough to them."
I couldn't help but chuckle a bit at that, and finally said, "I imagine from everything you've said, you'd be right."
"Last night was a real eye-opener to me," he said. "You need to understand, my men are good men, but like all good cops, they take their orders from the Sheriff, and for the last six years before Saturday, that was old Roscoe Burton. And, though I hate to badmouth my ex-boss, Roscoe was on a power trip. He wasn't in law enforcement to see justice done, he was in it because it gave him authority. So I have some minds to change. That's where I need your help."
"Why can't they see what's wrong if it's wrong?" Kevin asked, puzzled, while Randy added, "It's not that hard."
"Yeah, even if the old sheriff was doing things wrong, they shoulda known," Danny said now.
All of them looked like they couldn't understand what was to them such a simple concept.
"It's not that simple, boys," Oliver said, to which Danny shot right back, "Oh, yes it is," almost before the sheriff had finished speaking.
"Hmmm," Oliver said, "Try it this way: You may know something is really the right thing to do. But suppose you have a teacher that wants things done a different way. Wouldn't you go along with what the teacher wants, even if you know it isn't precisely the right thing?"
I watched as the boys were silent for several moments, each thinking to themselves, before turning to one another and having a silent conversation between all of them now.
Then Kevin turned and said, "That's different. Knowing the shortcut to do division that dad taught us, which makes it real easy to do it over long division, is one thing. It's the right way to do it, but our teacher doesn't want us to use it, so while we don't like it, we do it her way."
"Even if it is stupid," Randy interjected.
"Well, that too, but what we're saying is that in something like that, there are two ways it could be done, with both of them being the 'right' way, even if one of them is stupid. That isn't something that can hurt someone, though. In stuff like that, there is right and there is wrong. There is no right way to say hurting a kid is okay like last night. It isn't right, never has been and never will be. It's wrong, and if a teacher wanted us to do something in a way that'd hurt someone, then we wouldn't do it," Kevin said.
"We'd tell dad or whoever we had to, too," Danny put in.
"You're trying to confuse us, sheriff, and we won't let you," Randy told him, smiling.
That flustered Oliver, but he tried to recover. "You're entirely right, boys," he said, "but look at it this way: cops are supposed to follow orders, right?"
They nodded, skeptical but listening.
"And the sheriff that was telling them what to do before me wasn't a very nice man. But they had to do what he said, and they started thinking it was the right way to do things. Now I've got to make them want to do it the right way. If I just order it, it'll be no better than him ordering them to do the wrong thing. Do you see what I mean?"
They thought it over for a minute or two before Danny this time spoke up.
"So you're saying they knew what they were doing was wrong, but they just did it anyway because the old sheriff told them to?" Danny said, shaking his head.
"They knew it was wrong, then they shouldn't have done it," Randy told him.
"They should have said 'No' when the old sheriff told them to do something they knew wasn't right," Kevin said now before Danny picked it up again.
"Why don't they just want to do the right thing?" he asked before his face scrunched up and he said, "If I had been doing something wrong, and now I didn't have to, then I wouldn't want to anymore, and no one would have to 'get' me to do it."
"One of my friends last year, when I was over at his house, took me down to the corner store by where he lived to get something for his mom. He wanted some money to get some candy too, but his mom said no. When we got there, we picked up the eggs she wanted, but he also 'picked up' a bag of chocolates and stuck it in his coat. When I asked what he was doing, he just laughed and said he was getting his candy. I told him it was stealing and to put it back but he wouldn't. He told me not to be such a wuss and to grab something for me too. I wouldn't and he just said I was chicken as he walked up and paid for the eggs. I told him to pay for that too, but he wouldn't, so I told the lady at the counter that he stole it. He took off running but got in trouble at home. We're not friends anymore and I miss him, but I did what was right, because standing by while he did that wasn't," Randy said, and I knew exactly what he was talking about.
I'd never learned the whole story, but I remembered having to come and get him that day. He had been friends with the other boy since kindergarten.
"You are definitely unusual boys," Oliver said to them. 'You can say that again!' I thought.
"Look, isn't there ever a time when you don't know which way to go is the right one, and you have to get help, like from your father?" he asked them.
Almost before he had finished speaking, all three were shaking their heads in a clear no before Kevin said, "Not on the important stuff."
"Sometimes there's things which might be kind of iffy, but like dad says, if you have to ask if it's wrong, then it probably is," Randy told him.
"Sheriff, there are things which you might have to ask if they're wrong or not, but there are also things no one should ever have to ask about being right or wrong. They just are," Danny said firmly.
"Oh, and we're not unusual at all, just normal kids," Randy told him, grinning.
"It's not like the time I asked if it was all right to put a frog down Sally Hopkins' pants. I thought it was fine, but dad for some reason didn't," Kevin said to giggles from the other two.
"Yes, and if I remember the rather irate phone call from your teacher, you did it anyway," I put in.
"Hey, you don't know her; she's a real pain in the a…" Randy started to say before I interrupted with "Watch it."
"Oops sorry, butt then," Randy replied.
"I guess you could say that was something that might be seen either way," Kevin put in now while I glared at him.
"Weeeell, maybe adults won't see it right, but we did," he said, smirking at me.
"Yes, just remember and ask if your butt thought it was quite so right when I was finished with it," I asked of him.
"Well, my butt didn't, but my brain still did," Kevin shot back giggling.
"Oh, heaven save me," I muttered.
"I'm sure I can get him to come, daddy," Danny said sweetly as I quickly told him "Never mind!"
"Look, kids, I'm not arguing whether something's right or wrong," Sheriff Winfield said. "I happen to agree with you. But I kind of happen to like the deputies I've worked with all these years, and instead of getting rid of them, I want to have your Dad help me turn them around so they're doing the right thing. Oh, and maybe with your help too."
"You wouldn't want your Dad to get rid of you and hire some new boys if you were doing something wrong, would you?" he added.
That got them looking at him before Kevin said, "We didn't say that," but Randy added "Yet."
"We weren't talking about something being right or wrong; we were talking about your deputies not standing up for what was right and doing the wrong thing!" Danny said, looking at the sheriff now and none too pleased, eyes almost glowing.
"Your bringing up their having jobs means you know it as well, sheriff, that they shouldn't. Their duty, their job, was to act in accordance with the law, and that means not standing by while others were doing wrong, and not doing so themselves," Kevin said now coldly, and his eyes were definitely glowing now.
I knew he was speaking with his Vulcan training now, where before he'd been all kid.
They were Clan now.
The sheriff had just stepped on his crank with that comment, and I also knew that I couldn't interfere at this point.
With eyes matching his brother, Danny spoke now. "No true father would think of getting rid of their children when they make a mistake or do something wrong. There is a big difference between a child making a mistake and an adult doing what they know to be wrong. To suggest that these deputies are de facto children to you, and therefore their prior actions should be excused is unacceptable."
"If, however, you feel there is something worth redeeming in them, then fine, say that, but don't try and excuse their prior actions. It is probably best in light of what happened last night that we don't even know what those actions may have been, or we would have no choice but to take action which you would not like," Randy told him now.
"Second chances are acceptable if the person is deserving of them, but what I witnessed last night troubled me, because not only was Thomas doing something clearly wrong, but he thought it wasn't. He didn't even realize that there was a problem that needed to be addressed, and this was even after a small boy was thrown down a flight of steps in front of him. That indicates a serious problem with their basic perception of right and wrong. We shall provide assistance in whatever manner we can to facilitate their understanding, but do not try to make less of what their conduct means," Kevin said now.
"Because someone told them to do something doesn't excuse them from responsibility in the matter. Following orders when those orders are wrong and illegal has never been an accepted defense in any court," Randy added.
"Thomas knew it was wrong, but he still acted in accordance with the previous sheriff's instructions to ignore abuse of a child. That is not something that can be easily overcome," Danny put in now.
I watched as the glow faded from their eyes and my little boys were back as Kevin said softly, "We'll help ya, Uncle Ollie, all we can, but please don't try and make what they did okay."
I looked at the stunned sheriff and wondered just what he was going to say now, or maybe what could he say.
The Sheriff drew a deep breath, started to answer them, then stopped and did it again. Finally he looked at them and began.
"After dealing with Jonas and his boys, I suppose I should have expected that — but I treated you as children. That was my mistake."
"What I should have been doing in here is not trying to defend my deputies to you, but what we came in here to do — plan how to tell them how it's going to be. And maybe they need to see kids like you telling them they don't know the difference between right and wrong, to wake them up and get them doing what they ought to. Are you ready for that?"
Three heads nodding was his answer. And with that, the five of us began to plan the meeting with the deputies.
I kept a straight face but chuckled inside as we walked into the meeting room. Randall, Thomas, and ten other deputies were setting there. I followed Oliver in, and saw them recognize me from the TV coverage. But then the Terrors trooped in behind me, in their Clan cloaks — and Randall and Thomas's eyes bulged and their jaws dropped.
"Hey, Deputy Randall! How's it going?" Randy asked, smiling sweetly, but matched equally by the other two. Somehow I think he had become their mission for the day.
Oliver played it straight. "Men, I want you to meet my guests, Sheriff Eric Carlson of Campbell County, Montana, and his sons Randall, Daniel, and Kevin. They will be assisting us with training in this meeting." That added a few to the dropped-jaw quotient. For once not one word was uttered by the grinning boys.
"Gentlemen, our mission as law enforcement personnel says that our duty is to serve and protect the public. The rules under which we work changed last weekend, but the mission did not." Oliver was in take-charge mode, and he looked impressive: a tall, husky muscular older man. He scanned his men. "Can anyone tell me what is missing in doing our duty right this moment?"
Rather blank looks came back. "Tommy," he singled out the young deputy, "can you tell me who failed to perform their duty — for the second time within a couple of days — a few minutes ago?"
I was watching as the Trinity just stared at what Sheriff Oliver was doing, and after seeing even more blank looks, Danny muttered, "Manners for one," but I wasn't sure if anyone heard it. Oliver glanced at Danny; I thought I saw him wink at him.
Thomas looked blank, so Oliver explained. "Randall was addressed by three young boys in a friendly manner — just as he was the other night. Then, he was rude to them and foisted them off on you. This morning, he didn't even answer them. Is that professional?"
We may have been teasing ya some, but we were being nice about it," Kevin added after the Sheriff finished.
"Gentlemen, I posted the Governor's proclamation making us a Safe Haven State, and directing all state and local officials to enforce Federation and Vulcan Law. I discovered the night before last that Tommy had no clue what that implied. Do the rest of you?" Oliver was almost roaring.
"I'm going to turn this over to our guests now," he said, his voice quiet now, "and they can fill you in on what it means. Preferably," he added, turning to the boys, "not the way you had to do it with Tommy."
As we'd arranged, I started. "My name is Eric Carlson, as Sheriff Winfield stated, and I'm going to put it bluntly. You've been led by a crooked cop for the last six years. You've been led by someone who put themselves and their own interest above that of the community and the law. You swore an oath when you put on that badge to uphold the law, not a man. That badge on your chest isn't just an adornment, it isn't just so you can say 'I'm a cop', it's a trust, it's an obligation and it's a duty. That duty, if you wear the badge, is the most important thing there is. By putting it on each day, you are pledging to uphold all those things and more. If you can't do that, if you're unwilling to do that or you've forgotten how to do that, then maybe it's time for you to take that badge off, because there is no more honorable profession to be in than standing up and helping others in their time of need, in putting your life on the line for those same others. Look deep within yourselves and ask if you can still honor that piece of metal and all it stands for. Only you can answer that question. If you can, then you have a place wearing the uniform; if you can't…." I said, letting the end just trail off as I looked at each of the deputies sitting there.
Several of the men looked angry. Thomas looked afraid. I noticed their expression, but I wasn't done.
"Some of you are angry. Good! I want you to think, and if that makes you angry then fine. Some of you are afraid and again that is good also. Ask yourself why you're having those feelings though. Is it because what I said hit a bit too close to home, or maybe right on the dot? In the end the Sheriff can threaten you, beg you, cajole you and be up your ass twenty four hours a day, but it's going to be you, you out there that it will be up to, to do the right thing or the wrong one. Only you can decide which you're going to do, so what's it going to be? Honor the badge and uniform along with all it stands for, or continue with what you've been doing?" I said, hoping it was getting through to them.
Deputy Randall called out, "Who are you to be coming in here and lecturing us like that?"
Another, older deputy spoke up. "Randall, you don't remember what it was like before Burton got elected. Our job was to enforce the law, and enforce the law we did. I ticketed the judge's nephew, and not only did I not get in trouble for it, the judge thanked me after court, for doing my job. When Roscoe took over, that changed. He wanted to curry favor, and we did what he said. I was disgusted, but I've got Sadie and three youngsters still at home to feed, so I stuck it out. What this man's saying is what we should have been doing all along. And in your heart you know it, or he's right: you should turn in that badge if you don't think so."
"That's Mathers; he's senior deputy next to me," Oliver whispered to me.
I just looked at them for a moment before saying, "I'm just a cop, Deputy Randall. Sheriff Winfield thought since I'm in the middle of a lot of the changes going on and a Sheriff in my own community, I might be able to speak to you a bit better than some yahoo from State or God forbid the Feds or Federation. If you want, I'm sure my boys can get Admiral Morrow in here from Starfleet or the Director of the FBI even, but we thought it would be better coming from another cop. I started out the same as you and worked my way up. No bullshit. I'm proud to wear this uniform and this badge, and I expect every one of my men to be the same. If they're not, then they won't be wearing it any longer. I don't know how your Sheriff operates, but that's the way I do things where I'm from, and I can't imagine he doesn't honor the badge in the same way. I was in Montana on Saturday. I saw what those people did, and I saw what those fighting them sacrificed to stop them. I watched my sons join that fight and risk their lives to prevent others from being hurt." I had to stop for a moment as the emotions began to overwhelm me. "I watched my son run into a burning helicopter to save the life of a five year old boy who was still trapped inside. I saw a piece of shrapnel buried in his body and I thought…I thought I had lost him. He's nine years old. So don't you dare ask who the hell I am to be coming in here and talking to you because I'll tell you. I'm a cop and I'm a father, and I have three sons who have stood up and risked it all for others in the best tradition of that uniform that you're wearing, and one they aren't even old enough to don yet. And I watched them stand up here in your town when you wouldn't do the job you're supposed to be doing, and save two boys who were being abused. Not punished but abused. Being thrown down a flight of steps isn't punishment, gentlemen. So you be angry for being called out for what you're not doing, but this little conversation is to tell you that you better think about what you are doing as well as what you're not, and if you are going to start changing to do what the uniform demands, or whether you're going to keep a 'business as usual' attitude," I finished up, looking hard at Randall, daring him to say something else.
Oliver stepped in. "I told you men when I took over that I expected you to enforce the law. We're supposed to be protecting those who can't protect themselves, not turning our back and pretending it isn't happening. If it wasn't for these boys, Tommy here would have been entitled to be locked up for aiding and abetting a felony — he was ready to turn his back on felony child abuse. Thankfully, they were there, they stepped in, called me in, and the perp is in jail now, and the boys in a good home here in this county. I was a deputy like the rest of you up until Saturday, I know what Roscoe was like, and maybe I'm being too lenient, but I know what it's like to be told to do it right."
He drew a breath, and continued. "I'm not a lawyer but I know we've been given a really valuable tool. When the Governor made us a Safe Haven State, that meant that Vulcan law came into effect. And Vulcan law is all about justice — it's not, 'does what this guy is supposed to have done fit some careful definition of a crime?' but 'is what he did logically right or wrong?' I think you can see what that means for a cop — no pussyfooting around, get the facts and arrest. And that's what I expect you to be doing."
Randall didn't look pleased, and I watched as suddenly my three stepped forward, pushing their cloaks behind them fully.
"We do wear a uniform now. This uniform is that of the Unit and Clan Short. This patch on the right shoulder is the Unit's military unit insignia and the other one is the Clan Short sigil. We didn't look for it, but we now wear it, and it comes with just as much responsibility or maybe even more than the one you wear," Randy said before Kevin picked it up.
"It's about right and wrong. You should know that since you're adults. We shouldn't have to be in here telling you stuff we learned before we even started school. I can't believe your mom and dads didn't teach you it too."
"What I want to know is how you forgot it?" Danny asked.
"Whether you like it or not doesn't really matter anymore because that's the way it is. Vulcan Law is in place here and you can either enforce it or not," Kevin said.
"The thing about Vulcan Law is that for you it makes your life a lot easier. Do you know how many times we've heard dad bitching about criminals getting away with something? Well, it's been a lot. With Vulcan Law it's real simple, it's either right or it's wrong, and if it's wrong, then you do something about it. That's it," Randy told them.
"It's about kids being safe and looked after right. I don't know why we're here having an argument about this. I don't know why we had to step in last night when a little boy came flying through a door and down a flight of steps when it should have been plain as day that it wasn't exactly right what was going on," Danny said.
"That's what we're here for, though. We, the kids, will do the job if you the grown up don't or won't. You don't have a choice any more 'cause you've screwed it up too much," Randy said.
"We were never abused; our dad and mom before she died loved us a lot, but we have brothers before Saturday who were. Since that time we've met even more who have lived through stuff you can't even imagine. It isgoing to stop — the only question is, whether you're going to help stop it or keep letting it happen," Kevin said.
"I want to know how you can have forgotten so much. How can Thomas, who lived that kind of life, sit back when he sees another child going through it like he did last night? I want to know why some of you are so dead set on letting people like that go on hurting kids?" Danny said, looking at Randall now, who stood up and angrily said, "I want to know just who you think you are, coming in here telling us what's right and what's wrong like this. I've had it. You're barely out of diapers and you think to lecture us like errant school children. We know our job, so go back to wherever the hell you came from and leave us to do it, instead of destroying good Christian families with your liberal nonsense on how to raise a child."
I moved forward but suddenly I heard *DON'T* in my mind as all three stepped forward, and their eyes blazed forth brighter than ever before as Kevin's angry voice filled the room.
"We will tell you who we are. We are the children who will stand up and put a stop to what you, the adults who are supposed to protect us, aren't. NO MORE will children be hurt. There is punishment which is acceptable and there is abuse. If you as an adult can't figure out the difference when you are charged with putting a stop to it, then you don't need to have that position any longer. If you don't know the difference between right and wrong any more, then it's time you did." He stopped speaking and all three joined hands, then in one voice which sent shivers down my spine said "LEARN."
If I thought those eyes were bright before, they blazed now, as all the men in the room gasped in shock, rocking back in their chairs, shock plainly in their faces.
Even I could feel some of what was being sent out by my sons, and it broke my heart even though I wasn't getting it directly.
A little girl who never got a hug, a little boy who never went through a day with enough to eat, another who never made it through the day without being beaten for the slightest thing. Another who got to look forward to nightly visits from 'daddy' and it went on and on.
Pain, hurt, fear, and more pain poured from my boys into these men, every ounce of it from children, children I knew they had met this past week or so, and those they had known before even.
Child after child, none you could identify but story after story, even so breaking your heart with every second, the little boy who brought home a picture for his mother he'd worked so hard on who only got asked why couldn't he color in the lines, or the girl who did everything around the house, only to be told it was never good enough.
It wasn't only the beatings, the rapes, the really bad stuff — it was all the rest too, it was not having any love or being ignored, it was a glimpse of hell, real ones for far too many kids just like them.
It was what they were fighting for, and what these men had to learn they needed to fight for as well.
It was what we all should always have been fighting for.
When the light finally faded from their eyes, only the sadness remained as some of the men were openly crying while others looked sick, some both.
"Tell me that is liberal nonsense on raising a child destroying good Christian families," Kevin said softly.
"That is what we and you have to stop," Randy echoed his brother's soft words.
"That is the difference between right and wrong," Danny added.
"If you can't or won't, we will. Just let us know and we'll get security personnel in here to take over policing for this area, but it will stop," Kevin told them.
"There are almost five thousand kids who have been through what you've just been shown sitting at the Unit's base right now, and those are just the ones rescued in the last four days," Randy said now.
"When is it going to stop, and are you going to help stop it?" Danny asked.
Oliver had tears in his eyes, but he stood up and eyeballed his men. "Well, gentlemen? What's it going to be?"
Mathers stood. "That's what I became a cop to stop. I'm with you, Oliver." Thomas, whom everybody knew had been through it as a kid, was weeping softly. Mathers offered him a hand, and he stood up. "No other kids should have to go through what I did. Count me in." One by one the deputies stood up, until only Randall was seated.
Everyone's eyes were on him. Slowly he lurched to his feet and said, "It's not right for young boys to be telling their elders what to do, but I guess I have no choice. I pledged to enforce the law, and I'll keep my promise." He didn't look at all pleased or committed, though.
Danny moved forward then to stand in front of the deputy, and looked up at him and in a pleading voice said, "Don't you think we don't want to be? Do you really think we like having to do this? We don't. We just want to be kids and let dad tell us what's what. We don't wanna be adults. Can't you let us go back to being kids again? All we're asking is you do what you're supposed to do as a grown up, protect us."
"My brother asked something yesterday at the funeral, Deputy Randall; did you hear him?" Randy asked now.
"He asked, 'Is it so much to ask?' and that's all we're asking today: Is it?" Kevin finished for the three, all of them now standing together in front of the deputy.
Oliver and I just let that question echo, just as it had when Sammy said it. We could see the deputies nodding. Randall still didn't seem convinced, but at least he was not making any more waves. Oliver caught my eye, and motioned to leave well enough alone. I figured he knew his man, and reluctantly agreed.
As we'd planned, Oliver and I then got into the specifics, how to enforce the Safe Haven Act, when and how to call in telepaths as witnesses, and so on. Then Oliver thanked me and the Trinity, and we turned to leave.
We got outside and I stopped them and knelt down, looking at each of them.
"I'm so very proud of you three. Are you all right?" I asked as they moved forward and gave me a hug, all mumbling "Yeah."
"We just did what we had to," Kevin said into the silence.
"I just wish more people would," Randy put in.
"Well, I think these guys will now, because of you," I told them.
They smiled up at me, and we began walking again.
"Hey, can we go visit Jonas and Harry?" Danny asked suddenly, grinning up at me.
"Yeah, maybe they'll have more pie," Kevin added as I looked on skeptically.
"Besides, Dad, you always said it's not polite to come into town and not visit your family," Randy said now, smiling up at me.
"I don't know, guys; hasn't Arkham suffered enough for one day?" I asked as all three chorused "NO!" amidst giggles.
Yep, my boys were back.
Jonas's expression was conflicted as he and Harry finished their oatmeal. Across the room, Maureen sat nursing her second cup of coffee and staring idly out the front windows. Peter sat next to her, having collected his morning cuddle. "What's wrong, bro?" Harry asked, with a strong hunch what it was.
"Well, you know what we came up with, with Logan and Adam, last night?" Jonas said pensively. "It finally struck me, this morning, we're doing it. I'm ordering Tony — the guy we went to school with — to report to Utah for a week, and he's got to do it or get locked up. I'm really uncomfortable about it. What if he laughs us off? What if I have to get law enforcement involved? This isn't like anything else we've been involved in."
"Look, bud, you're worrying too much," Harry said. "First, I think it's dawned on Tony how much trouble he could have been in, and second, you've got all kinds of backup. The judge will back you, George will back you, the Sheriff will back you, you can call in Starfleet if you need them. First thing, call him, tell him to pack for a week...."
Harry was interrupted by Maureen's gasp. The boys turned — to see the spitting image of Logan as he had looked at age 12, standing in their living room dressed in fatigues, with a sheaf of papers in his hand, a big grin on his face, and what looked like a miniature arsenal in a large bag on the floor at his side.
"You guys are sure hard to catch up with," the boy said with a grin. "I tried to catch you last night to report, but you had already headed out with the kids Chang brought back for treatment by the time I caught up with where you'd been." He handed the sheaf of papers to Jonas, who took them, perplexed, and began to read.
Jonas looked up with a grin. "Welcome to Northeast Division, Todd!" he said to the newcomer. "Mom, Harry, meet Lt. Todd Hayes of the Unit, who's been detailed to us at his own request as our liaison with Clan military. Umm, Mom, I want to offer him the guest room until we get relocated, if you don't mind."
Maureen was stunned, but rose to the occasion. "A hundred thousand welcomes, Todd!" she said in her best brogue, "And that will be being just fine, son. Y'can show him his room...."
"Um, what's going to happen long term?" Harry asked.
Peter's giggles forestalled an answer. "Taken care of, Harry!" he got out amid his mirth. In front of him were the blueprints he had given Josiah back on Sunday. He flipped them to a floor plan and pointed. The two teens and Todd stepped over to look. Two adjacent rooms were labeled 'Todd' and 'Armory'.
Jonas scooped the little Mikyvis up in a hug; Peter hugged back. "How'd you pull that one off. little brother?" he asked him.
"Mikyvis know these things!" Peter said , raising his head from Jonas's shoulder enough to speak. Then he giggled again.
"Um, about Tony?" Harry said. "We need to call him, tell him to be ready and pack for a week, and so on."
"That's the guy you talked to Adam and Logan about, doing his community service at Camp Bam Bam, right?" Todd asked. Jonas nodded yes. "Okay, he'll get a clothing allotment when he gets there. Just tell him to be ready; Daileass can transport him on your orders. He's already got a fix on the location; we made sure of that before I beamed out this morning."
Jonas's self-confidence was back. He picked up the phone and punched in the number. "Hello, Mrs D. This is Jonas McConnaghay. May I speak to Tony, please?" A few seconds' pause. "Tony, you're reporting to Camp Bam Bam this morning for your week of community service. — Well, it's not my problem whether you've told your parents. They are expecting you, and that's a part of your sentence. — You know the alternative. — When you get there, report to Capt. Jory Casey. Oh, and by the way, you'll probably see a lot of things that aren't as you expect them to be. Keep an open mind; that's why you're going there. — That's better. Prepare to be beamed out as soon as you hang up." This last with a meaningful glance at Todd, who signaled Daileass. "Okay; good-bye. See you in a week." Jonas listened for a second, then said "Now."
Todd's eyes went distant for a moment, then he said, "He's there." He grinned.
"What's with the weaponry?" Harry asked him, gesturing at the bag sitting on the living room floor.
"Oh, that's just the start of it," Todd said, "what I could carry along right now. Logan wants to make sure you guys have adequate ordnance to protect yourselves and do your job. I can train your guys with everything I brought. Other stuff, though, you'll have to have Adam send someone up for training, like if you decide you want a self-propelled field gun."
Jonas caught Maureen's eye and gave a subliminal nod not to push the questions he could see building, that he'd explain later. She nodded grudging assent, and asked brightly, "Have you eaten yet, Todd?"
"I had a quick snack before leaving, but I'd love something, ma'am," he replied.
"Come with me," she said, moving towards the kitchen.
Harry and Jonas chose that point to beat a hasty retreat, to leave for school.
Dan looked at his surroundings with some unease — he'd encountered nothing but warm welcome and willingness to help, and he wondered when the bill would come in for what he'd gotten so far, what he'd be expected to do to pay it, and whether he'd enjoy the repayment.
What he saw around him was a bit strange: it looked like a medical clinic had been remodeled by an insane interior decorator with a fetish for the martial arts. Posters of Japanese and Andorian combat techniques competed for wall space with medical-procedure diagrams and, incongruously, a vintage cartoon of Barney and Betty Rubble holding and cuddling Bam Bam. Over the door was a surrealistic picture of a Klingon bat'leth piercing a heart — not the stylized "V-with-boobs" but a realistic human heart. Above the image was calligraphed 'Kor' in a spare, beautiful style.
He thought back to the events of last night. His resolve to follow the mysterious boy's instructions had carried him almost to the Old Belknap Building. When he saw police and what he thought were Boy Scouts around the outside of the building, he started feeling apprehensive that he might be getting himself into something he'd have trouble getting out of. With a sense of panic, he turned to leave — and with a real sense of dread, felt his legs start to collapse under him.
An athletic young cop caught up with him, followed moments later by an older, more heavily built cop. His panic full-fledged now, and feeling like he was losing consciousness, he gasped out "Pablito … sent me." As he said this, two redhead teens came running up, a girl in her mid-teens and a slightly younger boy. Their ears perked up at hearing this, and the boy turned to the cops and said, "We'll handle this." Curiously, the cops deferred to him.
The girl noticed Dan's expression of dread, added this in her head to what he had said to the cops, and said, "Bryan, we need intelligence here." He nodded, and she made a call. A moment later a blond boy somewhat younger than the redheads popped into existence next to them. The cops reacted startledly; the teens took it matter-of-factly. "Brian, Becky, officers," the new arrival said affably.
"He said 'Pablito sent me' just as we got here," the redhead boy said. "Find out what he's afraid of — and why he collapsed." Dan was struggling to maintain consciousness, and trying to figure out how he could get away from the cops.
The blond boy stood there looking at Dan. "Why aren't you with Jerome?" he asked, then "No, don't try to speak. What have you been doing since then?" Dan was speechless; it was all he could do to keep conscious, but that didn't seem to bother the blond boy. "Your father?" he asked. Dan winced; remembering his home and why and how he'd left was something he tried to avoid doing.
The blond boy's face grew angry. "Officers," he said, "with all due respect, your presence is scaring him; he believes you will want to put him into what passes for protective care around here."
The older officer's face turned compassionate. "I can't blame him a bit there. I wouldn't put a wolverine into that system if I could help it, much less a kid." He turned to the redheaded teen boy. "Will you be needing us for anything, lieutenant?" he asked.
"I think we have it under control; thank you for your help," the boy answered. As the policemen turned and walked away, he said, "Report, Tilden!" to the blond boy.
"Oh, I've got quite a bit for you," Tilden answered. "But first things first: we need to postpone intake, and go for immediate transport. He's literally starving, and what he's been through the past two years has left him with a skewed view of reality. I recommend sending him back to base for treatment now. Then I'll fill you in on what I found." Anger flashed across his face as he ended. And with that, Dan lost consciousness.
+ + +
Dan was roused from his memories by the entry of four people all wearing scrubs, covered by lab coats. The first two were men, then one woman, and a kid who was about thirteen. "Good morning, Daniel," the boy said, "my name is Chang. The three doctors with me are Andrew, Gordan, and Debra. They will be covering for me for the afternoon. Would it be acceptable to you if I filled them in on your condition?"
"Um, sure," Dan said, wondering why this kid was acting like a doctor.
"Thank you." Chang said, then turned to the other doctors. "Daniel..." Chang was interrupted by the boy in the bed.
"It's Dan, just Dan... please."
"As you wish. Dan was brought to us last night, as a class three intervention. He is fourteen years old, and presented with obvious signs of malnutrition, as well as non forced sexual activity with an adult male. We have tested him for sexually transmitted diseases, and all of them have come back negative. Since his admittance, he has been on constant IV therapy to help replenish both his energy and his electrolyte counts...." By this point Dan stopped really being able to understand what was being said, as it turned into nothing more then techno-babble as far as he was concerned. He was finally brought back into the conversation a few minutes later when Chang asked him if he was hungry.
'Do people in Hell want ice water?' ran through Dan's mind, as he realized, first, that he was hungry — just healthily hungry — not the cramping pangs of the last few days, and second, that he had to pee — bad. "Um, yeah!" he said. "But I really gotta …." He tried to gesture with his left arm, and realized it was immobilized by an IV line.
"Of course... my apologies. You have been on Fluid therapy since you have been brought in. It is only natural that you must urinate... and I am sure the need is rather great." Chang said with a small smile, which of course was like a huge grin from anyone else. "Gordan, if you would, please." The younger of the two male doctors nodded, stepped forward, and Chang pulled the curtain.
Once the curtain was pulled, Gordan deftly reached for an odd device looking like a clear plastic bottle attached to a funnel by a tube, flipped up Dan's hospital gown, and held the funnel in place. "Let 'er rip," he said; "You're aimed directly into the funnel." Dan gladly followed instructions; Gordan then called out "375 ml" and then flipped Dan's gown back down and opened the curtain.
Debra walked up, and took Dan's hand; speaking softly she said, "I've ordered a meal for you. It's going to be very light — a little cereal with milk, toast, orange juice, and Jello. You can have more whenever you want; just tell the nurse on duty. We're not trying to short you on food. But you need to eat small amounts frequently for a couple of days, while your digestive system gets back up to speed. Just tell someone when you're hungry again, and you can have something more." Dan nodded; right now he didn't really care, he just wanted to eat.
"There's an abuse case next door, boy whose uncle beat him." Chang said turning towards the doctors. "I would like you three to do a thorough physical exam of the boy, and see if you can find anything I missed. Do not worry, I do not believe he will regain consciousness within the next few days. I wish to speak with Dan for a few moments alone."
"Certainly, Doctor Casey," Gordan said, and they filed out.
"You're a doctor?" Dan asked once they were alone.
"I am, I am also second in command of medical affairs here at Camp Bam Bam. The commander is my mother, Dr. Janet Hayes." Chang answered him. "However, I have something pressing that I wish to speak with you about. Bryan tells me you encountered Pablo. Would you like to talk about it?"
'Sure thing, tell him about wanting to kill myself,' Dan thought. Aloud he said, "Well, um..."
"Please do not feel as if that was an order." Chang said as he sat down on the side of the bed. "Your expression tells me that you do not wish to speak about this right now. The reason I am asking is because I am aware of what it means when Pablo intervenes. It means it was a life or death situation."
Chang sat there for a few moments, until it was clear that Dan was not yet ready to talk. Of course Chang could have simply looked into the boy's mind, but he would not do that unless he had reason to think the boy might hurt himself. He smiled softly as he stood up, and spoke again, his soft voice calming Dan some.
"You do not need to talk to me, or to anyone else about what you have gone through. That is yours and yours alone. However, I would suggest that you not hide the truth of what you went through from yourself."
Chang paused and let what he already said sink in. "You will find that many people here have their own stories to tell. Many of them have been abused in one form or another. Some worse then others, but everyone shares one common thread. We are survivors." Chang purposefully emphasized the word 'we,' and was pleased to see that Dan did not miss it.
"If you are interested in sharing with me, I would be honored, but you are under no obligation to share your secrets with anyone... anyone but yourself, that is. There is no wisdom in running from your past; trust me, I had done that for a few years, and it does not do any good. I have found you cannot escape yourself." Chang added the last line with a smile, pleased that Dan seemed to at least be thinking about what he was saying.
"One other thing that you may wish to keep in mind. Camp Bam Bam is not your typical children's home, or anything of the sort. The adults here do not control what happens here. In this place, the adults are here simply to help guide us, but we make the decisions. If you wish, we run this place, and the adults answer to us. Many of the children who have been abused find comfort from that fact. Perhaps it will bring some solace to your soul."
Dan was saved having to make any responses, as a harried looking nurse hurried in with his food tray. As soon as the food was set on the table and then positioned so Dan could reach it easily, Chang spoke to the nurse. "Please do not worry, I am currently working on getting some help with the more menial tasks. I am sure you would like to be able to take a break from having to do an orderly's work."
The nurse smiled tiredly, but nodded. "It would be nice, but we're managing."
Chang nodded, and then let her know that Dan was on portion control, but could eat a meal whenever he was hungry for one.
"Please make sure he is looked after, as he is on bed rest until, at the earliest, this evening." Turning to look at Dan, he continued. "If you feel up to it, perhaps this evening, we can get you up and walking around a bit. I have to leave now, but I will be back later on to check on you. Please remember what I said; you are now a member of our family, and we are all here to help."
Chang was rewarded with a small smile, and a nod from Dan as he tore into his food.
As the transporter brought Tony back to material existence at Camp Bam Bam, he saw he was in a fairly large military-looking room, with a couple of groups standing together and several others working at the sides of the room or walking purposefully from place to place. A brown-haired kid of about age 9 in fatigues was walking by where he beamed in, and turned to him efficiently.
"Hi, kid," Tony said. "I'm supposed to report to a Capt. Jory Casey."
A flash of irritation across the kid's face was followed by a chuckle. "He's with that group right over there," he said, pointing. As Tony moved in that direction, the boy proceeded on his way across the room.
Tony walked up to the group, surprised to find it was made up of two younger teenage boys, two preteen boys, and — and this riveted his attention — a girl with sandy blonde hair, a come-hither smile, and lots of curves in what Tony thought were all the right places. Tearing his attention away from her, he addressed what seemed to be the oldest of the boys. "Are you Capt. Jory Casey? Jonas told me to report to you."
Tony did not expect the reaction he got: everyone started to laugh. Finally the boy he had addressed was able to get out; "Uhhh... no. That's Captain Casey right there." He pointed to the blond preteen boy, who was just grinning. "Howdy," he said with a mile wide smile.
Tony's eyes widened as he looked down at Jory, who was roughly a foot shorter than him. "Um — they told me to report to you when I got here," he said.
Jory answered him, "Yup... Adam said you'd be coming. Basically I'm supposed to make sure you keep yourself out of trouble while you're here. First, why don't I introduce you around. This here is the demolitions team within the Unit, me being their commanding officer." Jory got a huge grin on his face as he delivered his next line. "If it's a big boom, we did it." — which got a laugh out of everyone there.
Once the laughter died down, Jory went around and introduced everyone. "Okay, first we got Mike Bowen [the boy Tony had thought was Jory], Ethan Casey [the other, younger but slightly taller teenager], Malinda Casey [the knockout girl], and Keith Randolf [the other, black-haired preteen]. Guys, this here is Tony DiPuglia, he's here to help out over the next week or so."
Tony, looking a little shy now, greeted each of the boys with a smile and a wave, then a lingering look at Malinda. From the point of view of a straight guy, she probably deserved it: buxom with a relatively slender waist, sandy-blonde hair and starry black eyes, and a warm, appreciative smile that was checking him out at the same time.
Jory then answered Tony's unspoken prayers by asking, "Malinda, would you mind showing Tony around when we finish our briefing?"
Malinda simply smiled and then nodded. "Okay guys, check over your gear, and make sure it's in order. If you got any issues, either check with me or your strike team commander." Jory finished, looking at each one, and when he got a nod from them he dismissed them.
After they all saluted, and he saluted back, Jory shot one other thing to Malinda. "When you're done, can you bring him to the munitions bay? I'll be in there going over things, and then I can give him his assignment."
"Sure thing, bossman," she shot back grinning, "but with this kinda stud, it might be a bit." She ran her hand over Tony's chest, and grinned as Jory just made a gagging noise and turned away. Laughing, Jory headed to the back bay.
Malinda led Tony to an elevator and punched to summon it. A ululating siren started. "Daileass," she said in an irritated tone, "override that. I'm taking Tony to get his ID."
"Your wish is my command," Daileass's giggling voice seemed to come from everywhere. Startled, Tony looked around to see where the voice was coming from.
"Oh, that's Daileass; we keep him down in the dungeon below the seventh level," Malinda chuckled.
A disembodied raspberry resounded from everywhere, followed by giggles. "More like, I let the rest of these guys live in my attic!" came the boy's voice from everywhere.
The elevator doors opened, Malinda and Tony got in, and the doors closed. "Don't you have to punch in a floor?" Tony asked.
"You're taking him to Intake, right?" Daileass asked. Malinda simply nodded yes. "Well, then, no need to tell me what I already know!" he added.
As they emerged from the elevator, Malinda whisked Tony through Intake. "You're just here for a week to help out, right?" she asked. At Tony's nod of agreement, she said, "Just issue him a visitor's badge, normal civilian staff access level. We can skip Medical and the rest of Intake."
She then led him to the clothing area, where two teens and four younger kids were manning what looked like a warehouse of clothing. "Give him a set of coveralls and about four sets of work outfits, and something to relax in," she said, accurately guessing his clothing sizes. The young boy Tony'd encountered when he first arrived walked in, and said authoritatively to the kids pulling clothes for him, "Take good care of him, guys; he's on loan from Northeast Division, to help us out."
"Yessir!" came from three of them; "Sure thing, Ronnie!" from another. All four executed a salute, which Ronnie returned. They all chuckled at Tony's look of surprise.
ID badge around his neck and carrying his clothing issue, Tony obediently followed Malinda back to a different elevator, labeled "Unit and staff only." As they emerged this time, Tony could see a lounge area and exercise room in one direction. Malinda turned the other, walked down a brightly lit corridor to a door bearing her name, pressed hand to access plate, and then pushed the door open. As Tony followed her in, she stood expectantly, her gaze angled upwards. "Well?" she said.
A boyish giggle came back. "Gave him access already, 'Lin. We don't want you feeling frustrated, now!"
Malinda reddened slightly, then laughed. "Keep it up, Dail'! How about if I tell Logan to reprogram you, so your only contact with Draco is on official business?"
"You wouldn't!" the suddenly nervous boy's voice came from everywhere as usual.
"When you tease, little bro, you gotta expect to get teased back!" she said.
Tony looked around. A large comfortable bed and a set of modern-looking bedroom furniture dominated the room. Much of the decor was military in appearance, but with some exceptions — at least, Tony didn't think that typical military rooms ran to fluffy pink bedspreads, or a grey-and-white plush raccoon sitting perkily on a pillow. On one wall was a chart of various explosives, their use and precautions needed; on the opposite wall, a poster of a shirtless (and well-built) action hero movie star. . The rest of the room was the same mix of military-standard and teenage-girl.
"Here, go grab a shower and change into one of these work outfits," she said. "We'll pack away your civvies for when you go back home." She licked her lips.
Tony stepped into the bathroom, stripped, and started the shower. A few moments later, the bathroom door quietly opened, and Malinda looked in appreciatively. Liking what she saw, she called out, "I brought you a towel." As she left, she said "Nice!" to herself under her breath.
The three girls and Danny walked up the three steps onto the porch, Lisa opened the door and they trooped in. A cheerful auburn-haired woman, clearly fighting a tendency to middle-aged weight gain with mixed results, looked up with a delighted smile. "Hi, Mama!" Lisa said.
"Hi, yourself," came back. "Tanya, Rachel, good to see you! Rachel, you don't come around anywhere near enough. And who's this handsome young man?" Danny blushed.
Tanya fielded the question. "Mrs. Murray, this is my cousin Danny — Aunt Kelly's son. They moved back here from New Jersey, and are staying with us for now. Danny, this is Lisa's mother, Annemarie Murray."
"We thought maybe Cody might be willing to show him around," Lisa supplemented. "He doesn't know much of anybody in town yet."
"Good idea!" Annemarie said. She moved to the foot of the stairs and called up. "Cody! Come down here!" Then she turned to Lisa. "Any problems today?"
"No, Mama," Lisa answered. "He tried to get me to talk to him today, but after I found out about him two-timing me on Monday, I told him to leave me alone."
Grimly but pleased, her mother nodded. "Good girl! I never did see what you saw in him, anyway."
"Tony's a 'bad boy', Mrs. Murray," Rachel volunteered. "Good lookin', smooth when he wants to be, knows how to make a girl feel desirable. He hit on me before he connected up with Lisa, and I have to admit I was tempted." She gestured at the soap on the T.V. "You see enough guys like him on daytime T.V. to know just what it is in him that appeals to a girl."
"I suppose," Annemarie answered her, unmollified. "But it's different when it's your little girl."
"Mother!" Lisa said, flustered. Danny was giggling.
Cody came running downstairs. Hair slightly lighter than his mother's askew, a sweatshirt on backwards, and a scuffed-up pair of jeans. "Heya, sis, Tanya, Rachel!" He skidded to a stop. Suddenly shy, he looked at Danny. "Hi."
Lisa saved the day. "Danny, this is my brother Cody. He's 11. Cody, this is Tanya's cousin Danny. He just moved here, and doesn't know anybody or anything to do. I thought maybe you might be willing to show him around."
"Homework done?" Annemarie asked.
"Didn't have any tonight," Cody answered her. He turned to Danny. "Wanna go riding trails? You'll have to use her old bike" (gesturing at Lisa) "'cause I don't got a spare one. But it's a good trails bike, even if it is a girl's."
Danny nodded, pleased to make a new friend. "Sure!" They took off out the door.
Lonnie and Lee were goggle-eyed as Sylvia pulled into the Short Compound. At the Security guard's questioning look, Jared volunteered, "Lee and Lonnie Carlson. Their dad's in Starfleet Security. They're our guests." The Security man saluted and waved them through.
Sylvia pulled up to C.I.C. and dropped the boys. "We'll be over visiting with Teri and Helen," she said. "Come get us when you're ready to go." Mickey smiled his thanks at her.
"C'mon in!" he said to the boys, and led them through a foyer into a conference room. A handsome boy with wavy brown hair and a slender, beautiful blond girl in a dress in autumn colors, both in their early teens, were seated at a table, holding hands and talking animatedly. They started apart as the boys trooped in. A look of recognition and a warm smile came over their faces. "Hey, guys!" the boy called out.
"Hey, Deac, Laura!" Jed replied. "I want you to meet Lee and Lonnie Carlson. We just met them today at the Mall." The four shyly exchanged waves.
Mickey picked up the explanation. "Lee's been the victim of bullies at his school, and I may be jumping to conclusions, but I think I can make a pretty good guess why. That's why I wanted him to meet you," he said.
Looking at the nervous Lee, Raffy piped up. "You're scared, aren't you?"
"Umm... nervous. I don't know what this is about," Lee answered.
"Look," Jared said, "I was always afraid of what people were gonna say, gonna think of me. When my parents got killed, Jed here literally jumped from here to Maine to rescue me, because he loves me." Jared blushed. "There's nothing you can say or do, or be, that is going to make anybody here think less of you. My brother came up with bringing you here because he thought meeting Laura might help you cope, that's all."
"So what's the deal?" Mickey asked. "Why did those punks pick on you?"
"Um, well," Lee started.
"He likes books and computer games, not sports, and he doesn't want to go out and raise hell, or smoke pot with them, so they got down on him," Lonnie volunteered. "You know, we argue and stuff, but I can't stand them being mean to my big brother. I got suspended last month for getting into a fight about him." Lonnie's attitude was defiant, almost belligerent.
"Well, that's different," Deacon chuckled. "Though I can believe Vincent doing that now."
Laura laughed. "Too right, as Sky would say! You're a great little brother, Lonnie." Lonnie blushed at the praise.
"But why'd you want me to meet these guys?" Lee asked. "I mean, they're a nice couple, boyfriend and girlfriend, but...."
"Show him your family picture, Deacon," Jed suggested. Deacon pulled out his wallet, and proudly displayed a picture of Laura in her blue formal dress, Deacon in his blazer, and Billy in a summer suit, taken earlier in the month.
Lee's eyes widened. "That's the Uh..." he stopped, embarrassed. Everyone else completed the sentence "...Underwear Guy!", chuckling.
"Well, that answers that!" Mickey said with a laugh.
"And our older brother," Deacon added.
"When my stepfather threw me out of the house last month," Laura said, "Deacon and his friends the Thompson brothers found me and took me in. They're part of the Clan here, the guys this whole complex belongs to. Everything good in my life dates from that. When he killed my mother and then himself, the Clan found my real father and then made it so I could stay with Billy and Deacon."
Lonnie's expression was intent, his eyes large. "I overheard Dad talking about that to his boss; he didn't know I was awake. He helped with the investigation. It really upset him; he said that the two boys were mine and Lee's age...." Realization dawned on him.
"Let me go change," Laura said, stood and walked into the nearby bathroom.
When Lawrence came out, in boy clothes, he said, "What we're saying, Lee, is that you're free to be yourself, to do what pleases and interests you. You don't have to live up to anybody's stereotypes of what a boy ought to be. My stepfather never got that, never accepted who he was or who I was. That's a big part of what made me who I am."
"And having our friend Lawrence, as Laura, show you that, made the point in a way that words never would," Mickey finished.
"And you know Dad loves you, and will stand behind you, no matter what," Lonnie added.
Lee looked stunned. Mickey noticed. "That's a lot to take in at one sitting," he said. "How about we go get a snack and let it settle? If Helen doesn't have some cookies or brownies available, I'll eat my hat."
"You're that hungry, after that good meal?" Jared asked with a grin. Mickey swatted him playfully.
The intercom startled Sarah Kilbride. Turning her attention from the report she was finalizing for the State Education Dept., the high school principal keyed her station. "Yes, Marge?"
"Sarah, I think you really need to take this call. I'll route it to your computer; it's coming in over the Internet."
Sighing, Sarah said, "Go ahead."
What appeared on her monitor startled her. In the foreground was the grave visage of Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan; behind him stood another Vulcan dressed all in black, and Commanding Admiral Morrow of Starfleet. "I regret the disturbance to your day and the school in your care, Principal Kilbride," Sarek said abruptly. "But I have need of the services of members of my Family who attend your school. Would you be so kind as to summon Jonas McConnaghay, Harry Johnson, and Philip, Randall, and Andrew Wentworth?"
"Of course, Mr. Ambassador," she replied politely, a bit taken aback at the dignitaries on the phone with her. "If you will excuse me one moment, I will send for them over the school's P.A. system." She stepped to the outer office, did so, and then phoned the elementary school to have the twins sent over.
Returning to her computer, she said, "They will be here shortly, Mr. Ambassador. May I ask what this is in regard to?"
"It would be well if I explained to you along with them," Sarek replied. "But I can say that I must take them away from their studies to act in my stead, along with other Clan members being sent on other duties. I do regret the necessity of doing so, as the education of the young is important to their development. But they are sworn to a duty that takes precedence."
A knock on the door proved to be a very nervous Philip; as Sarah let him in, Jonas and Harry arrived on his heels. She motioned them into the pickup field of her webcam. As they were arranging themselves around her chair, the twins came running in, grinning, with her secretary calling out, "Hey, you two, don't...."
"It's fine, Marge," Sarah called out. "I summoned them from the elementary school in response to this call." She sat down; the twins clambered onto her lap, provoking a surprised but pleased smile from her.
Sarek fixed his gaze on the twins. "James and Jacob tell me you are fully qualified to Read and Judge," he said to them. Seriously, they nodded yes. "I have two duties for you, the first today, the second three days from now. They are similar. Today, you will be transported to a F.C.C. church, and Read the pastors and others present." As Philip angrily started, Sarek held up his hand. "You will share your Reading with those accompanying you, and together you will Judge as you have been taught, in my name. On Sunday you will again go to your local F.C.C., and confirm what my people have ascertained from they who were your parents and the other surviving leaders, that the remaining members there were not involved in the conspiracy against my Family."
Sarek's gaze then turned to Philip, Harry, and Jonas. "You three have shown your willingness to risk and if needed give your lives in defense of these two younglings. You will accompany them as their Security, and add your wisdom to theirs to Judge properly."
Morrow spoke up. "Starfleet owes you Wentworth boys a deep debt of gratitude. Thanks to you, we have purged headquarters of those who were stealing from Starfleet, and those who were using what they took against your Clan. Arrests are being made as we speak on several starships, for the same reasons. We will transport you whenever you are ready." Philip looked stunned at this; the twins looked up lovingly at him.
Sarah's lip quirked. She looked at Jonas, twins on her lap. "Given the trial on Monday, you two haven't been here for a full day this week, right?" Jonas nervously agreed. "And I'll bet you can't promise me you'll be here for the full day tomorrow, either?" Wondering where this was going, Jonas shook his head no. "Well, then, plan to take tomorrow off as well. But you three are to work together, and produce at least a ten-page paper describing your activities this week. You may use your speech as a part of it, Jonas. The product will be the week's grade for each of you. It will be graded for writing for English, for content for Social Studies, and for scientific accuracy for science. It will be due Monday unless you notify me that due to your Clan duties, you need longer to complete it." She wrote her home phone number on the back of a business card, and handed it to Jonas. "Don't spread that number around — as if you would," she said with a smile. "Will that be acceptable to you, Mr. Ambassador?"
"That will be satisfactory, Miss Kilbride," Sarek said.
Peter flicked in with Clan cloaks for the five of them, and vanished again. They put them on.
Jonas motioned the other four into a formation in an open area of the office. "Ready, Admiral," he said.
"Energize," Morrow said into his communicator.
The boys were briefly on the transporter stage of Terra Main, but almost instantly found themselves standing on a grassy lawn. Set back from the street on a large lot was a modern-looking church building with a sign proclaiming it the First Fundamentalist Church of Christ. An office wing jutted off the rear of the sanctuary to the right; a sidewalk led back to it. Consulting the datapad he had been handed by a Starfleet Security man on their brief pass through Terra Main, Harry announced, "We're on Grove Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. The evidence they gained from Cdr. Doncaster's guys suggests but doesn't prove the pastors and elders here were complicit in helping set up the raids Saturday. We're to question them while the twins Read them to find out if they were involved." With serious expressions, the boys placed their hands on their phasers and walked down the sidewalk.
They were met at the door by a smiling man in his thirties in casual office wear. "I am Elder Thomas Farr," he said. "I presume you're the party from Clan Short we asked to have come clear us?"
"Yes," Jonas said, volunteering no further information. "Would you show us to where we can meet with the leadership, please?"
"Of course," Farr said pleasantly. He led them down a carpeted corridor to what was evidently a Sunday School and conference room, with a table running the length of the room. Along one wall was a Bible timeline; on the other, a whiteboard and markers. Five people were waiting at the table — a beefy man appearing to be in his 40s in a suit, a spare older gentleman with an expression that made it look like he'd recently eaten a pickle, also in a suit, two younger men in shirt and sweater, one wearing slacks and the other jeans. But the fifth person captured their attention — he was a Vulcan.
The beefy man rose. "Welcome, boys!" he said. "I'm Pastor Will Franklin, the pastor of this church. I understand you're here to clear our names?"
"IF you were not involved in the conspiracy that happened Saturday, then yes, that's true," Jonas said. "We were shot at, and Philip here was nearly killed, by men from our local F.C.C. church, so you'll pardon my being less than happy about this. But we're pledged to be fair and just, and if you were duped by the leadership, then yes, we will clear your names."
"I suppose I cannot ask for more," Franklin responded. "We are all sinners whom God sent his Son to save, and He withholds his wrath in mercy, knowing our weakness. Evil men suborned our wonderful church, and they must pay for what they did. I hope you will understand that we had no part in their schemes."
"I think it would be best to meet with you one by one," Jonas said. "Is there somewhere you all could wait, coming in to speak with us individually?"
"Of course, of course," Franklin said. "We can await your pleasure in the parish hall, having coffee. Can we offer you anything?"
"No, thank you," Jonas said in behalf of them all. "Would you introduce the others, pastor, and then why don't you go first, while the others go for coffee?"
"Wonderful! The sooner we can get this over and show our innocence, the happier we will all be! Isn't that the truth, brothers?"
With what seemed like forced smiles, the other five chimed in with "Amen! You're right, pastor!" He then introduced them. The sour-looking older man was Elisha Burdett, the younger man in sweater and slacks Van McClintock, the one in jeans Earl Hollingsworth, and the Vulcan was Ch'karya son of Xonar. Interestingly, the name offered was simply given name and patronymic, without the customary Family and House tags of a formal introduction. Farr, McClintock, Burdett, and Hollingswoirth were the church elders, the laymen in charge. Ch'karya was the associate pastor. Harry and Jonas exchanged a glance at learning this.
"If you like, the little ones can join our Daycare program while you boys assure yourselves of our innocence," McClintock offered.
"No, they are my little brothers, and I'm responsible for them. They should stay with us," Philip replied, surprising Harry with the amount of confidence in his demeanor.
The Vulcan and the elders filed out. Pastor Franklin smiled at the boys. "Please be seated and tell us what we need to know," Jonas said. "We may have questions as you go along, but finding out what your story is, will probably serve us all best."
Franklin began. "Like many other Americans, I was dismayed to see the breakdown of traditional morality going on. And the sorts of things we learned in high school left me seeking for something I could feel certainabout. I found it in the Eternal Word of God." He patted the Bible he had been carrying meaningfully. "The F.C.C. had a program of arguing cogently with those promoting the acceptance of sinful behavior. I joined it as a young man, not much older than you boys. Over the next few years, I felt a call to the ministry, went to Bible school, and was sent here as a missionary. I built up this church from scratch." He paused, obviously pleased with himself.
"Saturday," Harry prodded, his face blank.
"I had heard rumors of an activist wing within the national church, that was not content with exposing the falsehoods of the people advocating tolerance and acceptance of sin. Until the tragic events of last Saturday, I had dismissed them as slanders against our church. When one speaks the truth, one can expect to be insulted by those who cling to lies. In my own preaching, I denounce sin, but call for loving the sinner. I preach against the homosexual lifestyle, just as I preach against drunkenness, premarital sex, singles bars, living together in sin, the evils of drugs, and many other sinful behaviors that society seems more and more willing to accept. But I have never called for violent action against people engaging in them." He paused. "Well, to be completely honest, I did in one sermon. But it was obviously exaggeration to make a point. Surely you've said something like 'I'm gonna kill him!' in jest? Certainly I never thought that anyone involved with our church could attack and kill anyone in cold blood, even a child molester like that deputy sheriff. It gives us all a bad name, and I cannot blame you for having questions. But I think you'll find that we're good Christian people here." Philip was keeping a tight grip on his emotions as Franklin concluded his remarks.
Harry felt Drew plant one thing in his mind: 'Ask him about the missionary program.' Trying to show no reaction, he said, "We had heard that you have a missionary program here. Can you tell me about that?"
Pastor Franklin appeared taken aback. He responded gamely, "You startled me, son. I wasn't aware it was at all well known. Yes, First F.C.C. of Worcester has a thriving program sending young men out to reach out to others and lead them to Christ. You know, don't you, that this city has a fairly high unemployment rate?"
"I wasn't aware of that, no," Jonas said.
"Well, we do. And as young men are seeking what to do with their lives, we offer them a chance to work for the Lord. We send them for training, and then support them for a year or two while they go out and lead people to Christ. There are quite a few other F.C.C. member churches that have adopted our model of how to reach out to a world that needs assurance that the eternal truths are still valid."
Randy and Drew were making 'cut' motions out of the pastor's line of sight. Jonas picked up on this, and said, "Thank you, pastor. That will be all for now; we may have something more to ask after we've spoken with the elders. Would you please join them and have them step in here, one by one?"
"Of course, son. I'm glad we could set your minds at rest."
The interviews with the elders went similarly. Burdett allowed as how things had been going to the dogs since he was a child. "Pastor Franklin starting this church was like a breath of fresh air. It gives us the chance to fight back against the forces of Satan leading people astray." He paused; his sour expression intensified, if possible. "By 'fight back', of course, I meant spread God's truth, and the scientific studies that validate it, things from the Family Values Institute and other such places. We are zealous for Christ and His Law, prayer warriors, not violent men." He seemed genuinely chagrined that his enthusiasm had led him into using language that could be misinterpreted.
Farr felt the church was a force for good in the city. He was a Rotarian, and had seen violence and what he termed 'questionable' business flourishing, and felt the church was a force for righteousness against them. McClintock echoed Farr. He believed that law and order and discipline were what society needed, and that the church was a shining light towards providing that.
Hollingsworth was a bit different. "I'm a simple man," he said, "a mechanic. Pastor Franklin makes the Bible simple and easy to understand, God's message the clear and easy-to-learn instructions from the Almighty on how humans ought to live. We need more of that in America. And those men who took the law into their own hands, and dragged our church's name through the mud to do so, should be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law!"
At last they came to Ch'karya. The Vulcan walked in smiling broadly. "You are, of course, surprised to find a Vulcan pastor in the Fundamentalist Church of Christ. I will do my best to answer the questions you must have. Would it help if I told you how I got here?"
Disarmed, Harry nodded agreement. Ch'karya began, "In a way, we are something like cousins, as I know you boys are adopted grandsons of Sarek. In my youth, I was a Sybokite. You know of Sybok?"
The boys, mystified, shook their heads no. "Sybok," he continued, "was Sarek's elder son, son of a Vulcan princess who held to the old ways. I found his views on the proper place of emotion in Vulcan life and the importance of the search for Oekon to be … acceptable." He smiled. "Old mannerisms die slowly, I guess. When he became … extremist, calling for discarding entirely the Way of Surak, I did not follow him into exile and madness."
"Instead, I pursued what could be learned of emotion and Oekon, first in the old legends of Vulcan, then in those of other worlds. I found out what must be avoided in the realm of emotion, and how God can be misunderstood by those who shape Him to their preconceptions."
"'Violence ultimately kills itself,'" Harry quoted from the Legend of Syvak and T'Ruti. Ch'karya looked startled, then nodded gravely.
"Eventually, I came to Earth. Of all the seeking after God among the intelligent races of the Federation, Earth's exploration is the richest, and Earth has done more to understand how people with emotions can live together than anyone else. I found a way of connecting to ultimate truths in fundamentalism, and studied for the ministry. When I completed my studies, Will found a place for me here." The Vulcan man's open, pleasant demeanor almost compelled them to believe what he was saying.
"Like every other decent person on any world, I was shocked at the attacks on Saturday, the needless bloodshed and waste of young lives. I still find it hard to believe that the church to which I have devoted my life's work had anything to do with it." His regret was palpable.
"Thank you, sakai" Philip said in dismissal. As Ch'karya left, the three teens' gaze went to the twins.
Vulcan controls firmly in place, the two seven-year-olds walked stiffly to their big brother's seat, and slipped into his open arms. Standing one on either side of him, they said, in unison, "Prepare yourselves."
As Harry, Jonas, and Philip tensed up, the twins executed a mind dump of what they had learned. All three boys registered shock.
"Brandon! Skipper! Bobby! Get down here!" Grace called out. Little Andy shivered in her arms, and tried to get away from the anger in her voice. She held him close. Realizing what his fear was, she quieted her voice and said, "I'm not angry with you, baby — just at the people who hurt you." She kissed his forehead and pulled him into a tight embrace.
Skipper and Bobby came piling down the stairs; Brandon followed a step at a time, nervously. He spoke up. "He didn't mean to do it, ma'am, really. It was my fault!" He looked terrified and resolute at the same time, no easy feat but he managed.
Skipper pulled Brandon into an embrace. "That may have been the bravest thing I've ever seen or heard, li'l buddy. But it's not necessary; it'll never be necessary again."
"Baby," Grace said to the top of Andy's head, "all I was doing was standing there with what I was going to cook with, to find out what you wanted for breakfast. I'm so sorry I scared you."
Bobby was not mollified. "Old man Jessup hit them with that?" he asked rhetorically, pointing to the cookware on the floor.
"Whoops!" Skipper exclaimed, turning off the stove.
"No kid deserves to get hit — leastwise, not with anything but the flat of someone's hand on his bottom when he's still little," Bobby said with some heat. "No matter what they do. There's ways to punish when somebody needs it, and beating's not one of them. That's a part of what we're all about — that, and freedom to love who ya want. We're vowed to stop that, those guys who took you away from your grandpa were vowed to do that — and we'll make sure nobody ever does it again."
"Damn straight," Skipper said, backing up Bobby. Brandon looked at them, wanting to believe but unsure.
"I just wanted to make your first breakfast with us be something you really wanted, Andy," Grace said gently to the small boy huddled in her arms. "I'm so sorry I scared you."
"It was a good thing, Momma," Bobby said. "We found out stuff that would have kept them scared for weeks, got it out in the open." He got a devilish look in his eyes. "Momma, Brandon just got pissed off and deliberately broke the lamp in the living room. What's his punishment?"
Remembering Bobby having done this last year when he was being picked on at school and moody at home as a result, she grinned at him and said to Brandon, "Well, young man, you're grounded for two weeks, you don't get to pick what TV shows we're going to watch during those two weeks, and you lose your allowance until it gets paid for. That's what I did to Bobby when he did that, and that's what I'd do to you. Now, if it had been a real accident...."
Brandon's eyes, open wide, asked her to go on. "...You'd get yelled at to be more careful, so you don't break stuff," she finished.
"That's all?" he said in a small voice.
"That's all," she agreed. "Now, Andy, why don't you go pick up the skillet and spatula, and hang onto them while you and your brother tell me what you'd really like to have for breakfast?"
"We get to choose?" came a small voice from against her chest.
"Within reason," she answered. "It has to be breakfast food, and stuff we have in the house — if you like things we don't have, I'll pick them up when I go to the I.G.A. so you can have them tomorrow or the next day. But yeah, pretty much whatever you like."
"An elephant ear sandwich?" Bobby asked jokingly.
"Sorry, we ran out of the big rolls." Grace knew a straight line when she heard one, and furnished the punch line to the joke. As they had hoped, they were rewarded by a small giggle.
Brandon screwed up his courage. "Scrambled eggs?" he asked tentatively.
"Sure — want bacon with 'em?" Grace agreed. A grin slowly spread across Brandon's face as he finally realized this was for real. "Well, as soon as I can get up from here," she amended. "I seem to have someone permanently attached." Another giggle.
"C'n I have strangled eggs too?" came a small voice.
"Of course, honey," she said. A glance at Skipper and Bobby spoke volumes. 'These two have been frightened out of their wits,' it said. 'We're going to have our hands full bringing 'em back to normal boyhood.'
Cody led Danny out to the garage and got out his and Lisa's bikes. They climbed on and set off, with Danny following Cody down to the end of the street, where a trail led into the woods. Riding hard, they headed through the woods and uphill. Cody skidded to a stop as the woods opened on a rocky open area studded with sparse grass and moss. "This's the lookout spot," he said, and clambered up a rock.
Danny followed him up, and was rewarded with a view of Arkham. Cody pointed out where various things were: the bowling alley, the pizza place, the diner, the abandoned factory that kids would 'explore'.... After a few moments, Cody sat down to catch his breath, and Danny followed suit. They sat there companionably for a few minutes, talking about nothing in particular, the first steps in getting to know each other. Cody felt like maybe, just maybe, this Danny kid might be a friend like the one who had moved away. Danny for his part felt like he might actually find a new life that he could be happy in here.
Feeling like he could trust Danny, at least some, Cody got up. "C'mon," he instructed. "We gotta walk the bikes across a little bit — it's too easy to skid and slide down the slope if you try to ride it." He led Danny across a relatively flat area running midway across a steeply sloping bedrock outcrop, and then to another trail. "This is awesome downhill," he said, "but there's a couple of turns you gotta brake for. Watch what I do!" He jumped on his bike and took off downhill. Danny grinned and followed.
The downhill run left Danny exhilarated and happy. He was having fun on a bike for the first time in a long time. As they skidded to a stop at the bottom, panting, Danny grinned at Cody, who grinned back. Wordlessly, he motioned which trail to take and set off.
They came to a stop where a thicket of box elder had grown up together, making a four-tree cluster of interlocking branches, with smaller shoots growing up around them. A footpath led into the thicket. Cody dropped his bike to the ground and motioned Danny to follow him.
Within the thicket, strips of wood had been nailed to one of the trees, providing a makeshift set of foot- and handholds for climbing. Cody started up it, motioning Danny to follow.
At the top, he climbed off onto a large limb jutting off at angles to the 'ladder', with a smaller limb above giving hand support, and swung around to its far side. As Danny followed him, he was amazed to find a grinning Cody standing, slightly bent over, in a fairly sturdy tree fort completely hidden from view by the foliage of the four conjoined trees.
There were of course gaps between the planks, a gap between the two boards that provided a roof, and in general it was obviously of boy construction. But within the genre 'tree fort' it was a pretty good job. A piece of stained shag carpet covered the floor, a kid-size beanbag chair and a folding camp stool constituted the 'furniture,' and a large wooden box sat against one wall.
"Promise you'll never tell?" Cody asked earnestly.
"I swear!" Danny responded sincerely.
Cody opened the box to reveal: a pack of Basics cigarettes with two missing and a book of matches tucked into the cellophane, a BB pistol, and two girlie magazines. "We tried 'em but didn't like 'em," Cody said, pointing to the cigarettes. "Wanna look at these?" With a broad smile, Danny shook his head yes.
Jonas reached for his commbadge. "Grandfather?"
Sarek's voice came back. "Yes, Grandson?"
"Are you still with Admiral Morrow?"
"I am. Do you have instructions?"
"Yes. Please request him to have Security deployed to these coordinates: 42°32'14"N 71°36'56" W. They should be prepared for armed opposition, and should subdue and place under arrest anyone they encounter. The twins expect that there will only be about fifty people there, after Saturday, but we cannot be sure. At least some may have Starfleet-restricted arms."
Captain Drumm's voice came across. "Orders have been issued as you direct. Do not request; when you investigate, you speak with the voice of Sarek, and we obey your orders."
Sarek again. I gather you have results. Is it wise to report now, or after you leave?
"Now, Grandfather," Jonas said. "We need to validate our decisions with you."
"Proceed." Sarek said, his near-emotionless voice still managing to send a sense of assurance to these human boys who were adopted into his Family.
"Thank you, Grandfather. As directed, we interrogated the leadership of First Fundamentalist Church of Christ of Worcester, Massachusetts. Indeed, they wished to be questioned by Clan Short 'in order to establish their innocence.' They appeared unaware that we had telepaths available to us, and Philip played the twins' presence off as his little brothers for whom he was responsible."
"The church is run by a Pastor Will Franklin — this appears to be his name, not short for William, with a Vulcan associate pastor, Ch'karya son of Xonar. He told us he was a follower of your son Sybok who instead came to Earth to seek after God. They had a board of four elders."
"Franklin and two of the elders were up to their ears in recruiting and arranging training for the shock troops that attacked Sammy's family Saturday, under cover of 'training missionaries'. They had pulled the wool over the eyes of the other two elders and Ch'karya."
"Specifically, Will Franklin, Thomas Farr, and Van McClintock have been Read by Andrew and Randall Wentworth, and are guilty of recruiting, arranging training, and conspiracy to create a vigilante force that attempted to commit premeditated murder on the members of the Reynolds family, and did kill 61 of our brothers and sisters in the Unit, and the others who died in Missoula or from injuries sustained there. Elisha Burdett and Earl Hollingsworth supported the missionary program owing to a view that society was degenerating and that a return to conservative Christian principles was needed. I'm not personally thrilled by that, but they did nothing contrary to law. The twins were not able to read every 'level' of Ch'karya's mind, but he seemed resentful, at the emotional level, of having children sit as his judges, tempered by a view at the logical level that c'thia called for it. They saw nothing wrong in either his attitudes or his actions. But for the first three, the twins and I agree that there is only one sentence proper for their offenses. I have not yet ascertained Harry or Philip's view, but I believe they will agree with our logic." Both boys were serious-faced; they nodded solemnly.
"I concur in the logic of your judgment," Sarek replied. "Are you prepared to execute the sentence?
"I .. um …" Jonas began.
Harry spoke up. "Yes, we are," he said quietly. Philip said a quiet "Yes."
"You may proceed," Sarek said.
"Thank you, Grandfather," Jonas replied, and terminated the call.
Harry stood and walked to the door. "Pastors, elders, would you kindly join us?" he called out.
Smiling, Pastor Franklin led them in. Jonas welcomed them.
Jonas gathered his cloak around him and sat straight. "As tasked by our House Patriarch, we have reviewed the evidence and your testimony." He turned to Ch'karya. "Tomasu [kinsman], I must call on you to stand toglantausu [formal witness]."
The Vulcan seemed taken aback, but responded, "It is acceptable."
Jonas then said formally, "Elisha Burdett, please stand." Frowning, the spare elderly man did so. Jonas addressed him, "Mr. Burdett, we were tasked to determine whether your membership and leadership in a denominational church and local church organization alleged to have been involved in criminal activity was in fact a criminal act. It is my great pleasure to confirm that you are innocent of any wrongdoing. I would only add that the same freedoms that allow you to believe and speak as you do, allow others to take quite different views. Just as you were once young and disagreed with your parents' views, so too we can disagree with yours. I believe that protecting that freedom to disagree, and not forcing children to conform to other's viewpoints by force, abuse, or coercion, is something worth preserving. Because the same sort of laws you favor to control us could just as easily be written to control you. Please think about this, as you make decisions in the future. Thank you for cooperating with us." He rose and bowed to the older man, who looked at him startlingly and bowed back.
"It appears I may have been mistaken in thinking that the young were being led astray," Burdett said. "I was disturbed at being judged by what I thought were mere children, but you have dealt with me as a grown judge would. I thank you for your courtesy." He turned and walked out.
"Earl Hollingsworth, please stand," Jonas then said. "As with Mr. Burdett, we were tasked to determine your guilt or innocence in regard to allegations that your denominational and local church, of which you were a member and leader, were involved in criminal activity. I am pleased to confirm that you were involved in no wrongdoing. Again as with Mr. Burdett, I would like, if you are willing, to add some comments." Hollingsworth nodded. "My mother taught me as a child that the heart of what Jesus taught was simple and easy to follow: Love God, love your fellow man, do to others as you would want them to do to you. It seems to me that no matter how much pastors and theologians try to complicate it, what God wants of us reduces to those simple thoughts. Go in peace, and show his love to others as you would want them to show it to you."
Hollingsworth was beaming. "Thank you. I confess I was angry at this, but you have done your job with honor. I'm grateful for what you had to say." He too turned and exited, a spring in his step that had not been there earlier.
Jonas then said, "Will Franklin, please stand." With his smile firmly in place, and having heard Jonas's formal acquittals of the two elders, Franklin stood up. "We were tasked to determine the truth of allegations that you and your elders were involved in criminal activity in connection with the attacks last Saturday. After reviewing the evidence and your testimony, including the testimony of Vulcan trained telepathic witnesses, we have made our determination. We find you guilty of conspiring to cause multiple murders of innocent children and adults, of recruiting and training armed vigilante guerrillas to commit such murders, and of miscellaneous other acts of war against the Planet Vulcan, the House of Surak, and the Family of Sarek. For your crimes, you are sentenced to immediate execution."
"What!" exclaimed Franklin. "You can't..." He began to lunge toward the boys. Harry was faster; he had his phaser out and brought Franklin down.
Jonas looked at him with an unspoken question. "Did you...?"
Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak yet. He drew a breath, exhaled, and then said, "Level two — lethal. Sentence had been pronounced."
At the same time, Farr and McClintock had began to bolt for the door. Philip was a step behind Harry in pulling his phaser, but had it out in plenty of time. His expression said "Freeze!" without a word from him being necessary. Ch'karya sat watching emotionlessly.
"Thomas Farr, Van McClintock," Jonas said, "You have been tried and found guilty of the same crimes as Will Franklin. You are sentenced to death." He glanced over at Philip.
The stocky teen's face was grim, remembering years of abuse by his F.C.C.-member adoptive parents. He glanced at his little brothers, who had shared in the last years of the abuse, then at Jonas and nodded.
"Carry out the sentence," Jonas ordered. Philip fired once, then again. The two men fell to the floor, dead.
"Ch'karya, do you attest to the logic of our judgment?" Jonas asked.
The Vulcan looked stunned. "I do," he answered after a moment.
"The twins attest that you were not aware of what the pastor and the two elders were doing," Jonas said. "We find you innocent of wrongdoing. Consider carefully what faith is most in accord with c'thia. Go in peace, to love and serve." The Vulcan saluted Jonas gravely, turned, and left.
All five boys sagged as they released the Vulcan control they had learned. Harry touched his commbadge. "Five to beam back to Arkham," he said somberly.
Authors' Notes: Well, it would seem that retribution is being handed out against the creeps in the F.C.C. Tony is encountering things he never expected. And we have a few more boys whose lives are being touched by the Clan. (Nobody told us that Add-A-Kid Disease was so contagious!) We are most grateful to acknowledge the help of Dark Star and Roland, who co-authored portions of this chapter as they have in the past, of Ilúvantír, the Story Lover, and Str8MayB who reviewed the writing and content, and of ACFan, who continues to host us, let us play in his sandbox, and is generally in every way a great friend and colleague. "Till we transport you all to Arkham again...!"