As Cory led Tracy and Adrian off to the side to talk, Sa'ren finally managed to get the slightly oversized cookie out of his Dimension Bag - with the help of all concerned. Then, carrying it above their heads en-mass, the entire group carried it over to Nessy.
"Yes, Girl. This is for you. Be careful," Da'Rima grinned at the huge beast as the cookie was carefully placed before her.
Giggling as he watched the plesiosaur devour the cookie, Sa'ren commented, "She gives Kataui a run for her money."
Linos tapped the Vulcan's shoulder, "Who's Kataui?"
"My Borg tribble."
"What's a tribble?"
"Here," Sa'ren grinned, holding out his hand. Upon it was transported, by a green transporter beam, a small ball of fur with tups and gadgets sticking out of it. A laser sighter popped out to examine the area, then it rolled out of Sa'ren's hand, onto the ground, up Linos' leg, finally coming to rest by his right ear. Once settled, she started purring. "She likes you." Sa'ren observed.
As their brother giggled and petted the creature, Heath and Sawyer asked together, "And what's a Borg?"
"Well, for a while I was one. Still connected to their collective, in fact," Sa'ren answered. "A Borg is a being that has been surgically altered to combine biological and technological aspects. They have one collective mind and act in unison. They have one purpose: to assimilate all other lifeforms into their collective... except for Nine, who came from their universe into ours. He is a free Borg, now. There are others on Earth made by him. One is a U.N.I.T. brother, who needed to become Borg to be able to walk and see again, this tribble is another, me in part, and about three thousand evil bastards who tried to help the zKath yesterday. I have allowed Nine to retain them as his puppets as punishment."
"Ahh, so my sons are Borg." Doug chuckled. "They're aliens, that explains a lot!"
"DAAAADDDD!" all three exclaimed as Jessica playfully swatted the back of Doug's head.
A lumbering form came close to Sa'ren, and he turned to see Jorge staring at him. "Hey, Jorgie! How're you? I-Cheya says you're his brother now. So that makes you mine too!"
"RawrrWrr Arwrr!" Jorge grizzly-giggled as he suddenly pounced Sa'ren.
As he did so, Sa'ren's armor flashed around him and then turned to liquid. Within moments, Jorge was wrestling around on the ground with a silver version of himself, growling and grizzly-giggling together happily.
"Wow! So that's how you turned into Kal'Ras!" Linos laughed happily as he fed a cucumber triangle sandwich to Kataui.
Holding Jorge in a loose head-paw-lock, Sa'ren answered, "Rawrrr raaaw.... Sorry... Yes. My Armor is as me. So is my Sword."
"What Sword?" Gary asked, coming over to watch closely. Next to him, through liquid air, appeared a shattered blade. "Oh... I see," he mumbled as the Sword floated before him. "Uh... can you put it down, Joel... or Sa'ren... what do I call you?"
/You may call him anything, so long as you love him. As for putting me down, ask me, not him/ the Sa'ren answered for Sa'ren.
"Romulan Ale... Yes, that might work." Gary muttered as he stared at the sword.
"Mmm, Romulan Ale," Sa'ren murmured as his Armor morphed back to it's neutral armor state. "Yummm.... you have some?" he pleaded with puppy dog eyes.
"I am NOT getting in trouble for giving youngsters alcohol, young man," Gary said, in full dad mode. "And if I find out you've been drinking, I'll be having words with your parents."
Sa'ren started to pout.
Krane looked over from where he was helping with the cookie-feeding. "My Dad, the only person I know who'll put a lesser god in his place!" he giggled.
"Not really a god. It's the translation of the Vol'Kier word," mumbled the pouting Vulcan (quite the hysterical concept, if you think about it). "They call the Archangels and the Guardians gods too..."
"Guardians?" Gary asked, nonplused.
"I'll explain later," Sa'ren sighed. "Can I have a Romulan Ale shandy instead, then?" he pleaded, obviously with a one-track mind at the moment.
"Sa'ren..." Gary warned, his eyes narrowing at the boy. "I do not accept that language from my sons. I certainly won't from you, no matter who you are."
Sa'ren's eyes widened in shock. Others had commented on his language at times, but no-one had ever taken him to task for it before. "I... I'm sorry," he said softly, blinking at the man before him. Was Gary going to hit him?
"Apology accepted," the man smiled. "Now, Joel, come here for some cuddles."
With but a brief pause, Sa'ren did so.
Over with the triplets, Liam was carefully feeding cookie chunks to the furball on Linos' shoulder. "She's cute." Liam giggled. "How can we get one? I like her."
Jerry smiled, noticing instantly that the little brother he remembered was starting to come out again. "All you can do is ask, Shadow."
"Could you ask for me? He kinda scares me." Liam asked shyly.
Seeing the opportunity for family involvement, Jerry replied. "Let's get Krane, then you'll have all your brothers, along with my three boyfriends, to protect you while you ask."
"Okay!" Liam replied, the thought of having both Jerry and Krane by his side making him feel much safer.
Having overheard Jerry's suggestion, Krane came over, stood at attention, then saluted Liam. "Big Brother Krane reporting for guard duty, SIR!"
"You're silly!" Liam laughed as the rest of the group giggled. "C'mon!"
Sa'ren noticed them coming, but continued to cuddle with Gary, who was explaining the reasons why he didn't like anyone swearing and cursing, never mind children and teens doing so. As the group came close to them, Gary noticed the look in their eyes. "Joel, I think these fine young men want something from you."
With a nod, Sa'ren disengaged the hug and smiled at the group, his eyes settling last upon Liam. What he saw there upset him. He fell to his knees and told his Armor to go away. Now clothed in what he had been wearing when he had first appeared, and with tears in his eyes, he whispered to the boy, "I know. I was like that, once. These others saved me. I will never hurt you, Liam. Not ever..."
"You keep changing. It's scary." Liam whispered, more to himself than to Sa'ren.
"Oh, what my Armour does?"
The boy nodded slowly.
"Mmm... you know the triplets? They can mind talk and the rest? That's because they are different. I am half Vulcan. I can mindmeld and share emotions and help people gain strength to get better in their minds. I am different that way. I am also something else, something older than everything around us, yet only coming into being in my life time... I'm just different, Liam. But I can see how I can be seen as scary. Would... would it be okay for you and me to share our souls? A mindmeld? Might help you understand me so you're not scared of me... but only if you wanna do it..."
Liam tilted his head. "Is that like the telepath stuff? Daddy says that is good since it helped Tracy find me and Krane and save us from the Witch."
"It is different. Vulcans have telepathy, but different to what you know. A mindmeld is like telepathy, but means our minds join together. My Katra, my soul, merges with yours. I enter your being. I can show you what I am, to a point, so that you can understand me. But I don't have to see your mind. I can keep that door closed if you don't want to share it."
"What should I do?" Liam asked as he turned to his brothers.
Krane smiled. "Did you see me getting paired with Ruana?"
"Yeah." Liam replied.
"That means Joel and I are Dragon Brothers. We CAN'T let a member of each other's families get hurt." Krane explained, inwardly hoping it was true.
"Okay." Liam said as he turned back around. "Krane says he trusts you."
"I'll need to touch your face," Sa'ren said, not moving to go closer to the boy.
Liam smiled and shuffled close enough so that the Vulcan could raise his hand slowly and place his fingertips on his face.
"My mind to your mind. Your thoughts to my thoughts. Our minds are merging..." Sa'ren whispered.
Liam finished with him, "... our minds are one."
As the meld began, Jerry turned to Krane. "Dragon-brothers?" he asked, his curiosity obvious.
"Yep." Krane said as he pulled Jerry into his side. "We've both took an Oath to protect Humanity. The real term would have confused Liam and hurt my throat, so I translated. You were my brother before I'd even met you, and I'm not gonna let anything happen to EITHER of my little brothers."
A whisper spoke in the mind of Krane at that moment. 'Krane, Oath Ranger - I am Ga'Nathu, King of the Vol'Kier, the Oath Sworn. I welcome you to our ranks. But know, whilst the Winglord, Sa'ren, is your Brother in the Clan, he is our maker. In the ranks of the Larani'im he would be as a Vol'Kier to you, not a brother. I say this only for you, to clarify to you. Calling a Vol'Kier a 'dragon-brother' would be a breach of etiquette. Do not feel bad, for you have only just joined. Calling us your brothers is acceptable, but adding the other would offend the oldest of us. Be well, and we shall meet in person soon. You are strong, child of Celoi, and I am pleased to have you with us...'
Figuring it was worth the attempt, Krane tried to reply. "I understand, and apologize for the breech. My little brother has been stunted in his learning the last three years, and I was searching for a concept that he would understand easily."
'I know. Which is why I explained it to you, as well as because you have only just joined us... it was well done, by the way. He's a cute little thing, your brother, isn't he?'
Krane mentally giggled. "Yes, he is. He never deserved what happened; now it's my job to make sure his blood brother and I make it up to him."
'Very soon, now, you will have help. They are already with you, but until you are ready, they will not reveal themselves. It is for this reason as well that the Winglord and Golden King have come to you... watch for the Mists, Ranger, for they herald the hope of the ages... the Alanakon are with you.'
"Like Tracy said, if you are confused, wait and the answer will explain itself soon!" Krane chuckled. "Thank-you."
A giant claw came out of a ring of fire that appeared suddenly over his head, and patted him lightly on the back. The pat still threw him nose first into the soft grass and soil. "You're welcome," Nathu's immense voice boomed. Then the claw and fire vanished.
Laughing their eleven-year-old butts off, Jerry and the triplets helped Krane back up. "Bro, if that was a love tap, don't tick him off!" Jerry sputtered. "Whoever that was, and whatever you were doing, that was awesome!"
"That was my grandsire," Koru grinned as he came over and shrank himself down to about five feet tall. "He's awesome... I don't think he's super busy, if you guys want me to ask him to pop over, that is...?" he grinned.
"Might not be too good of an idea yet; Liam's on edge still." Krane replied with a smile. "It's a pretty big shock to go from isolation to this."
"Okay dokie," the large kid grinned as he sat down and pulled Jerry onto his lap. "Mmm... cuddles with humans... you're so soft and squidgie! Like my stuffed toys... hey! I still like my stuffed Rex, okay?!"
"I'm not stuffed!" Rex yelled over from the cookie feeding, still in progress.
"NOT YOU!" Koru yelled back with a grin. "Anyhoo... little Liam and Winglord have finished and are laughing at us... Little better now, Liam?" he asked with a gentle smile; which was amazing how such a draconic face could pull that off.
Before Liam could reply, Jerry commented "If I wake up, someone knock me back out. This is getting to be fun!"
Liam's giggles stepped up a notch. "You're silly, brudder. Uncle Joel showed me where to hide the Wicked Witch. We even helped her store her broom!"
Sa'ren winked at them all, then kissed the boy on the cheek. "I think, if I can get my daft brother Cory to GET HIS BUTT OVER HERE WITH THE REST OF THEM, we can introduce you to some friends... one of which, I'm sure, will want to be friends with you, Liam..."
"He's geeking with Tracy; it'll take a winged escort!" Kirk laughed. "Jorge's gonna need a break after trying to keep an eye on them!"
Sighing, Sa'ren snapped his fingers, and before them all appeared Cory and Tracy - still geeking - and Cody and Adrian... in the middle of one AWESOME power-nap. Naked. With love bites around their necks.
"Oh dear..." Sa'ren blushed.
Krane scratched his head, "Won't Ezra mind?"
"Nope!" Ezra's head giggled as it appeared floating next to them, then vanished.
"Now if we can just find their 'off' switch..." Krane groaned. "My head's hurting already just listening."
Sighing again, and still blushing as the two naked boys woke up with a start, Sa'ren walked over, poked Tracy in the ribs and silenced Cory by kissing him.
"No fair - he gets kisses, I get pokes!" Tracy play-whined.
"Your other half will unman me if I kissed you," Sa'ren answered as he broke his kiss with the now winded Cory.
"No he won't." Emmy interrupted. "He says after seeing the one you just laid on Cory, he wants Tracy to learn how to do that! Kerry wants me to get a closeup for him to study too!"
"Oh," Sa'ren grinned, "okay!" Then he proceeded to chase Tracy around the group, laughing and giggling as Tracy yelled out, "YOU TRAITOR, KARL! I'VE ONLY JUST MET THIS HORNDOG!"
"He'll catch Tracy, soon." Rex commented as he took the smelling salts out of his pocket. "I'm sure I'll be needing these shortly."
"BANZAI!" yelled the happy Elf as he tackled the giggling Tracy to the ground. "Now... I was given authority to kiss, so I'm gonna KISS!"
And so he did. And so Tracy passed out soon after.
"Pphhft, light weight," Sa'ren giggled as he took the smelling salts from Rex and wafted them under the boy's nose. "Wakey wakey!"
"So that's where you learned to kiss like that?" Adrian asked Cody as he snuggled into his side. "What you think Ezzy would say to a three-way couple? Maybe between the two of us we could wear him out."
Cody grinned and blushed. "I... mmm... Ezzy? What say you? I think I've fallen for this nice piece of haggis that's nude beside me..."
"Mmm... he's cute, and nice, and tasty... yeah, I did get a nibble in when you weren't looking... once you guys are done here then maybe you, me and Adrian can heat up Pluto for a bit?" Ezra giggled as he popped in, also nude, to cuddle between the two.
Cody's grin said it all. Adrian was blushing, but doing so with the widest, happiest grin on his face. "Ummm.. can you kiss me first? I would have thought 'get to know you first' would be more important, but as soon as Cody kissed me... I, uh.... kinda knew I... uh..." he trailed off, happy tears in his eyes.
Koru whispered to the others, "A side effect of being a Ranger is having empathy and such..."
"I noticed." Krane grinned. "I knew Liam was getting scared before he said he was."
"I don't think he's quite as scared now, isn't that right, Liam?" Sa'ren giggled as he got up from the now revived Tracy and picked the smaller boy up for a cuddle.
"I'm better, Uncle Joel." Liam smiled. "I think next time we'll go handle first though. The witch's screams kinda hurt my ears."
"I've got something else that'll really help you. Is everyone ready, now?" Sa'ren asked the group, loud enough so that those petting Nessy's tummy could hear.
"Give Ezzy time to catch his breath; Adrian learns quick!" Cody giggled.
"I can breath with my ears!" Ezra mind-sent to everyone. He had no choice in using telepathy, for Adrian was seriously attempting to remove this immortal boy's lungs with his kiss.
"Hollow heads let you do that!" Rex quipped.
"Well, ice water will stop... oh," Sa'ren grinned as Adrian just finished the kiss. "Never mind... okay, guys. There was a help we all had in London yesterday that didn't make it into the worldview due to the intimate nature of the event." He paused and looked around at them all quietly, then continued, "Long ago, in the Age of Gold for the Celoi, the Vol'Kier made themselves known to them and also another race appeared to mankind. This race joined with the other two to form what became known to the Voth and Man as the Three-Way Alliance. These beings do not think as we do. They are like all other animals of Earth in that way. But they are also no longer like anything that lives on Earth. Their legend remained long after the fall of the Age of Gold. That legend became split in the last ten thousand years into two different ones. Both are true... the Mist will now rise and take on form..."
As he was speaking, they all became aware of a thundering gallop coming from all around them. At their feet, mist started to coil out of the ground. Then, once he had finished, the thunder of hooves stopped and the mist solidified into...
"Unicorns?!" Liam wondered, his eyes wide and sparkling. "Wings! They have wings!"
"Pegasus!" others breathed.
Some were gold, others white. Some were colts, others full grown. Pure and lovely and breathtaking, they moved lightly amongst those gathered, see through yet solid and opaque. Unthinkable and knowable. The minds of those there just meeting them reeled back and yet were attracted at the same time.
A young colt, a filly, with pure gold coat, moved close to Liam. Without thinking, he reached out his hand to touch her nose. With a whinny that was as quiet as a thunderstorm and as loud as a spider spinning a web, she lowered her head and drove her immaterial horn into the boy's heart. He felt nothing but warmth, and as she lifted her head away, there was no wound. Images flew through his mind, and he burst into tears at them all. Flinging his arms around the colt's neck, he buried his face in her rainbow colored mane and poured his fears and griefs out to the embodiment of love that now stood before him.
"Know that only the race of man may bond with one of these, only the pure, only the lovely in spirit," Cory said softly. "The whites are males. The golds are females. The rainbow colored manes are due to whom they first bonded with in our time; my little brother - HUMAN brother - Kyle. He thought the colors were pretty, so that is the mark of the new Union between our races. These are the Alanakon, and they want to find friends with you here..."
"Is Liam okay?" Jerry asked, glancing at Krane.
"He's crying out his hurt, bro." Krane replied softly.
"Oh," Jerry said as he turned back. Before him stood a full grown stallion. He snorted at the boy softly, and the wind whistled through his very being. "Ooooh," he murmured as tears began to trickle from his eyes. He reached out and tentatively touched the wondrous' beast's nose. Then he too felt the warmth of the animal's horn as it was pushed into his heart. "Ooooh," he moaned as he too began to cry. With an agility none in this Division had guessed at, this Alanakon used one of his wings to place Jerry on his back, where the boy lay against the smooth, mist-like flesh in order to cry and comfort and receive comfort.
As this was happening, Jorge moved slowly away from the group. As wonderful as these creatures were, none of them would pay any attention to him. He was like them, an animal, and... he was stopped by an object in front of him. He raised his bowed head and saw gold. Lots of gold. He raised his head higher and saw it was a mare. One of the females of these Alanakon. He growled sadly at her, but found himself pushed over onto his back quickly. With shock making him lie still, the mare lowered her horn and passed it into Jorge's heart.
The howls of a grizzly crying was not something anyone could ignore for long, and soon everyone stood in wonder as this huge Alanakon mare managed to get the crying human young boy onto her back so as to comfort him.
"He is human. Utterly human. Let none ever forget this. And only the Alanakon would ever know for certain," Sa'ren said softly as he petted the herd leader, Pe'asgasu the Lord of the Alanakon. "From now unto forever has Jorge been accepted by them, and done by their power... for the name 'Alanakon' means 'Love Bringers'."
Killian smiled, unconsciously deciding to hug the stallion nearby for giving Jorge the gift that even Tracy and Karl had been unsuccessful in delivering; the proof that he was no less human than any of the rest of them.
The stallion in turn gave him the same gift... and then he was crying on the Alanakon's back just as his brother was on his mare's.
Gary, Doug and Jessica were next, all three adults surprised that they had been chosen. Three young colts joined with Ezzy, Cody, and Adrian. Kirk, Tracy, and Rex were next, followed by the triplets.
With only Krane left, the second-largest stallion approached him. Cory spoke for the first time since the pairings started. "Krane, you risked everything to protect Liam. You've stood up and held your ground when most would fail. You being chose last is an honor for that devotion."
Wide-eyed at the huge beast in front of him, Krane stretched out his hand, lightly brushing over the warm nose. Before he knew it, he was bonding just like all the others.
Cory smiled. "All of them. I can't believe that all of them were chosen. This is a first."
"Why I said we should come to this Division first!" Sa'ren grinned impudently. "But noooo, you wouldn't say I'm right. So nerrrr! There, I'm right and you're wrong, and .... HELP ME! HE'S INSANE!" the imp screamed as he darted away from the reaching hands of the now running Cory. "HE'LL TAKE ME INTO THE BUSHES AND DO ALL MANNER OF UNSPEAKABLE THINGS TO MY BUTT!.... oh, that sounds like an idea! THIS WAY, YOU HORRID SEXUAL FIEND, YOU... THE BUSHES ARE OVER HERE... UNSPEAKABLE THINGS, HERE I COME!"
"Tell Jackie next time I decide to have a snowball fight on the beach, Gulf Coast is invited." Tracy said as he gave Cory a quick hug. "See ya' when you get home, bro."
"You bet! Wait until you see the schematics I've got." Cory grinned. "Don't forget to call Grandma Lizzy over. I'll bring Ray down as soon as I can escape Seth. Have a good one!"
With that, Cory and Sa'ren vanished. Ezzy had just left, warning Tracy about Kyle's habit of making a room for himself in the heads of Division Director's heads just before leaving. Cody stayed behind, deciding it would be a good idea to take Adrian up on the offer to meet his father once they were back in Alligator Alley.
Tracy looked over the group, realizing the experiences that were shared had bonded the two families into one. Figuring the time was right, he began the official part of the trip. "Krane, Liam, Jerry, and Gary? I need all four of you over here."
All four guessed the reason, and quickly made their way to stand next to Tracy. Once ready, Tracy began. "Emrys, open official recording."
"Recording open, Director. I show Director Tracy Butler presiding, with the subjects being Gary Michael Gaussman, adult age thirty-eight, Gerald Casey Gaussman, aka Jerry, youth age eleven, Liam Lowell Gaussman, youth age eight, and Krane David Castor Junior, youth age fifteen. Is this accurate?"
"That is accurate." Tracy replied, realizing that Emrys had brought a VI online for recording. "For simplicity, due to full names being on record, given names will be used. Liam, Krane placed you and him under the protection of Clan Short. After verification of suitability, I have determined that you would be in no danger being returned to your birth family. Do you wish to be returned to the custody of your birth father, Gary?"
Liam was quiet for a second, getting things explained by Rex so he could answer honestly. At the same time, Jorge was coaching the triplets through helping Gary, Jerry, and Krane understand the order of action. Sure that he knew what he was answering, and understanding that Krane was next, Liam replied "Yes, I want to live with Daddy Gary."
Tracy smiled. "Clan Short releases Liam to the custody of Gary as of this moment. Gary, please be aware that these transitions can sometimes be rocky. Clan Short will provide any resources needed to either yourself or any of your sons to assist your family in recovery and sustaining a quality life."
"Thank-you," Gary replied.
Tracy then turned to Krane. "Krane, you have previously expressed a desire to join the Gaussman family. Is this still your wish?"
"Yes!" Krane exclaimed with a smile.
Tracy nodded. "Liam and Jerry; are you both willing to accept Krane into your family as an elder brother? Will you support him as he bonds into your family, and help him understand differences between his old life and his new life?"
"Yes and yes!" Jerry replied, barely after Tracy finished.
"Me too!" Liam giggled.
With a smile, Tracy turned his head to Gary. "Gary, your children have accepted Krane as their brother. Are you willing and able to accept him into your family, affording him the same opportunities and restrictions as any other member of your family at his development level?"
"I already have." Gary said simply. "I accept custody of my now-eldest son."
"Okay, one last thing before this is official." Tracy stated. "Krane, do you still wish to change your name?"
Krane nodded. "Yes, please. I wish to be known as Glenn Krane Gaussman from now on. That's Glenn with two 'n's."
Tracy nodded, happy that Glenn had thought it through. "The name change is approved based on circumstances previously recorded. I hereby transfer custody of Glenn Krane Gaussman from Clan Short to Gary Gaussman. This is a permanent placement. This concludes the adoption proceedings."
"Recording closed. Filing, Director." the VI Emrys announced.
A few seconds later, the AI Emmy announced "It's accepted and the name changes are being processed by George, Uncle Tracy. Congratulations everyone! I was watching while it was recording!"
"Thanks, Emmy!" Tracy replied as the new family fell into a four-way hug.
While the family was celebrating, Tracy pulled the triplets off to the side. "Guys, I know you said that you and Jerry want to get married, but I think doing it today would be too much. Why don't we let this day stand on its own as the day Jerry got his little brother back and gained a big brother, in fact later on he'll get one more, then you four can pick another day so that it will be special all by itself?"
All three exchanged glances, then Linos looked over at Jerry for a few seconds. ""I just asked Jerry." Linos replied. "We all agree that sounds like a better idea. Thanks, Tracy."
"You guys are Clan brothers, your parents just don't realize it yet!" Tracy giggled. "I gotta look out for ya!"
Tracy suddenly found himself in a triple hug, words being unnecessary to express the thanks the triplets were expressing.
Over on the other side of the group, Doug turned to Jessica. "Any idea what that's about?"
Jessica smiled. "It's hard to tell, Rex and Jorge have been training them to build shields, and they asked me to give the boys some time to adjust before I try to read them. Tracy's shielded too; I only see what he wants me to. My guess is the boys just found someplace they're not outcasts because they're identical."
Doug's eyebrows rose. "What do you mean? You've never mentioned that before."
"The boys asked me not to, since there's really nothing we could do about it." Jessica explained. "It's a common issue with identicals; the peer group is unsure which is which, so they avoid making close friendships. Very few will risk it, and those usually befriend the entire identical group. Glenn has made friends with Heath, but he's not really reached out to Linos or Sawyer. The boys are longing for that kind of treatment, and they finally found it."
Doug nodded. "First phone you see, call into work and quit. Gary and I were somewhat joking before about following through on the boy's declaration of combining families. It's not a joke anymore; we're moving to Florida as soon as I can find out if I need to arrange it or if the Clan will."
"Sorry, but I picked up on your thoughts, Doug." Rex apologized as he joined them. "Until we're back at Headquarters, Jorge, Adrian, and me have our antennas at max to protect Tracy and the group with him."
"Understood, and I'm glad you do." Doug replied.
Rex smiled. "I've already contacted the Mikyvis Construction Corps. As soon as you said it, all of your belongings were stored in a side universe until we have arranged final lodging. Tracy's already approved me inviting both of you to join our team; once you meet Steve, we'll sit down and figure out where you'll be the most help and most comfortable."
"You know, that's the fastest job interview I've ever seen!" Jessica laughed.
"Naw, we've done better." Rex giggled. "JJ hired a police detective once while the guy was taking a shower, then told him after he and his son were transported to the police station JJ had just destroyed. Serves them right for shooting at him!"
"Does this JJ have temper issues by any chance?" Doug chuckled.
"Nope!" Rex giggled. "He's just fine with it. Pricks and jerks have a serious problem with his temper though, sometimes even a fatal problem!"
Seeing thoughtful look on Doug's face, Rex added "His Dad is the Clan Psychiatrist, and he already gave up. It won't do any good."
Doug and Jessica both began laughing. "Now THAT is ironic!" Doug sputtered. "Just out of curiosity, how long will it take to find housing?"
"I'm guessing an hour or less once we're home, mattering on the results of what Glenn's pondering." Rex replied. "Just roll with it, things are set to work out."
"Have you guys even HEARD of red tape?" Doug asked semi-seriously.
"Yep. We use it to gag idiots who think they're above the law." Rex giggled.
Just then, Kirk ran over and interrupted the conversation. "C'mon! we're going inside to get some munchies!"
"I think that's the first normal thing I've heard this afternoon!" Jessica sniggered. "Lead the way, Kirk!"
With Glenn leading the way, the group followed him through a set of double doors into a receiving room which had two huge outdoor coolers making up one of its walls. "We're gonna cut through the kitchen to get to the REAL dining room, not the formal one!" Glenn giggled. "If you turn left in the hall we're entering next, you'll go to the formal one you saw already. The dry storage pantry will be straight ahead, and we're turning right to go through the kitchen."
"What are these coolers for?" Gary asked.
"The left one is the meat locker, the right one is half refrigerator and half freezer." Glenn replied, smiling at his new dad's interest.
"Nice!" Gary responded.
Krane led the group in, giggling when Jessica compared the pantry to her living room. Just as he made it through the swinging door into the kitchen, an older woman's voice stated "It's about time you brought your guests in, young man. I was about to send Barnaby out after you."
"Sorry, Mrs. Kelsey." Glenn quickly apologized. "I was a little tied up with sorting out a family problem."
"So I understood from what I overheard through the other door." she replied, her no-nonsense tone still showing she cared. "Now escort your guests to their seats like a proper host, then we will discuss what you are doing today."
"Yes, Ma'am." Glenn said with a smile as he complied, the normalcy lifting his spirits even more than they already were.
Most of the group followed him, all except Jessica, who froze at the door and exclaimed "I'm in Heaven!" In front of her was a large commercial-grade kitchen. The center island had about a four-foot walkway completely around it, contained four sinks, and had a long prep counter. At the far end were two stacked commercial convection ovens. To the right, an upright refrigerator held what she assumed would be the small things normally needed during food preparation. Past there, another counter stretched down to three commercial ranges, with a single microwave about halfway down the counter. On the left side of the kitchen, a large opening in the wall created a breakfast bar that sat six comfortably.
Mrs. Kelsey eyed Jessica critically. "Are any of these young gentlemen related to you?"
"The triplets." Jessica replied, having already picked up on why the lady in front of her was being cautious.
Mrs. Kelsey turned and studied the triplets through the breakfast bar opening, all three of which were playfully arguing over who got to sit next to Jerry at the ten-seat table. After about a minute, she turned back to Jessica. "You may join me if you wish. It is about time this house was graced with the presence of a mother. Please address me as Greta, Master Krane's formality was forced on him."
"It is a pleasure to meet you. I'll answer to Jessica or Jess, and I'll accept your offer. Just to avoid any issues, Krane just changed his name to Glenn Krane Gaussman on the advice of the elder Krane. It might be best for him to explain everything else; he's had a busy day."
"It's been years since that boy said even one kind word to his father." Greta stated. "Glenn it is, then. Would you be so kind as to put the sides on low flame while I set the ovens to hold? I think it is time for a young man's maturity to be noticed."
Jessica smiled. "I'd be glad to. I heard in his tone how much he respects you."
They quickly set everything to where it wouldn't overcook, then Greta went to the intercom. "Barnaby, you are needed in the family dining. The young master is to be addressed as Glenn."
"I'll be right there." a male voice replied evenly.
Jessica followed Greta into the dining area, trying not to reveal the surface thoughts she was picking up. Once in the room, Greta stood with her hands on her hips, shaking her head as she watched Glenn unsuccessfully try to sort out who sat where. "This, Glenn, is why you should always have me make the seating plan. Now that you have learned the lesson for the future, please introduce your guests and their relationships." She moved over to Liam, and leaned over to kiss the top of his head. "I already know this little angel, you are not the only sneaky one in the house."
Liam giggled as he reached his arms up over his head and gave her neck a quick hug. Greta reached down and returned it, then stepped back next to her husband, who had appeared as silently as a church mouse.
Realizing that he had just been told he was head-of-house until proven otherwise, Glenn began introductions the way he'd seen his father do the listing for seating since he was old enough to be present. "This is Tracy Butler, Director of the Alligator Alley Division of Clan Short. His husband and son are not present. With him are his brothers Jorge and Killian, as well as Killian's husband Kirk. Next is Cody Short, brother of Cory Short, Patriarch of Clan Short. With him is one of his partners, Adrian Jobs, Operations Manager for Alligator Ally Division. The last member of the team is Rex Carr, Intel Coordinator for Alligator Alley Division."
Glenn paused, suddenly understanding what hard work it was preparing for a group. Greta took advantage of the pause, stating "You are doing good, Glenn. I've began the seating arrangement already."
Calmed by the encouragement, Glenn continued. "Thank you. This is Doug Chambers, and you've met his wife Jessica Chambers. Their three sons are engaged to my brother Jerry; the one to his left is Linos, the one directly to his right is Sawyer, and the one next to Sawyer is Heath."
All three Chambers boys grew huge smiles; not only had they not been referred to as just "the triplets", each of them had been pointed out, properly, by their names as individuals. Doug took one look at those smiles, and resolved mentally to make his declaration outside work, no matter what the cost.
Glenn finally hit the home stretch. "At the head of the table is my new Dad, Gary Gaussman. Next to him is my youngest brother, Liam. My middle brother was introduced with Heath, Linos, and Sawyer, and we have one more brother coming that is at the hospital right now for a full checkup before we meet him. Everyone, this is Barnaby and Greta Kelsey."
"Sir, may I ask the status of Glennwood Guitars?" Barnaby asked politely.
Glenn walked over and put a hand on Liam's shoulder. "Liam and I share ownership fifty-fifty. We have decided to return it to a family-run business once the rest of our family is up to speed."
"That is appropriate; may I ask as to the location of Senior and that woman?"
"The wicked witch is dead, and our other dad is on his way to a class 1 prison planet where he will be assisted with recovery from her spells." Glenn stated with a straight face.
"How long is his sentence?" Greta asked.
Tracy motioned to Glenn, then answered. "By the crimes he was charged with, life. By the circumstances surrounding those crimes, until either myself or Patriarch Short declare him safe to return to society. That safety is not only from him, but to him; the witch set things in motion that we have halted but there might be aftereffects. His safety is just as much my concern as the safety of the occupants of this room."
"I see the mercy of youth is not lost in the position you hold, Director." Greta commented. "You have earned my respect." She paused, then turned to Gary. "Mr. Gaussman, Glenn has inferred that you now hold the position of 'Head of House'. By my observance, all of your sons and prospective in-laws have the beginnings of the training they need to interact in the social circles of the clientele of Glennwood Guitars. With your permission, I would like to accelerate their training by placing them in your position when arranging social functions."
"I not only approve, I'm wishing that you were around much earlier." Gary replied. "I need to ask my sons to make a decision; be advised that no matter what they decide, your positions in my household are secure."
"Thank you, Mr. Gaussman." Greta replied.
Gary turned to the boys. "Guys, there are two decisions that you need to make. The first one is only Liam and Glenn's decision, since they are the most affected. That decision is if they wish to keep this house or sell it. The second is where we will all live; that is one that all three of you MUST agree with."
Rex quickly inserted a note. "Before you guys even think about the second choice, get with me. There are a few benefits of being Clan that you need to be aware of. Jerry, you don't need to worry about Heath, Stewart, and Linos; their Dad has already made arrangements with me to make sure they are wherever you are."
Doug couldn't help but grin as four sunny smiles were suddenly directed at him. "All four of you earned that right today; I'm not going to change what obviously is the one of the best things in your lives.
Looking around, Glenn made a decision. "Liam, what you think about going upstairs while we talk about this, little bro? Jerry can come up after we figure out Dad's first question."
"Can you carry me? My legs are sore from all this walking." Liam asked as he stuck his arms out.
"Better yet, piggy-back ride!" Glenn replied as he turned and squatted down so Liam could get on.
Once Liam was secure, Glenn headed to the archway in the corner of the room and began climbing the spiral staircase. As they were climbing, Glenn barely overheard Jerry announcing "Dad, letting Glenn become our big brother makes up for all the crap you put me through because of the witch. You're the best dad ever."
The growing bond that Glenn had felt with Jerry turned to solid diamond at that moment. Glenn mentally swore to do whatever he could to show Jerry that he loved him as if they were blood. He carried Liam through the upper floor landing, then turned and passed through what they called the 'musical commons' to get to one of the staircases leading to the loft. As he entered the large purple-walled common room, the sudden changes to his life finally came into focus. Before the Witch, this had been his domain. His dad had let him design it himself, making suggestions only to help the then-eight-year-old make something that was realistic. The loft contained four bedrooms; Glenn having been convinced that his Daddy could somehow get him lots of brothers to play with. The main area was larger than an average house; the only 'divisions' being furniture that broke it into sections.
The room hadn't changed in three years. Glenn had been so excited to be getting a little brother; he'd set out his favorite movies, piled up his games, and dug out his Lego collection for the day Liam arrived. When the witch arrived with Liam, taking him directly to the room opposite the stairs they had just climbed, and put the crying boy inside, Glenn began to get mad. When she put the lock on the outside so the door couldn't be opened, and informed Glenn that he'd be locked in as well if he even tried to talk to Liam through the door, Glenn lost it. He had stormed into his own room, slammed the door, locked it, then piled anything he could move in front of the door to keep it closed. For two days, the only sign of life was him yelling 'Go Away!' if someone knocked or tried the doorknob. On the third day, Greta was the only one in the house other than Liam and Glenn, and she managed to talk Glenn into opening the door for her. After convincing him to eat, she had comforted him; something he wouldn't have accepted from anyone else at this point.
For the next month, Greta and Barnaby took every chance they could to salvage what was left of the twelve-year-old boy they loved like a son. After a month of self-imposed exile, Glenn finally re-emerged. The boy who left the room, however, bore no resemblance to the boy that had entered. No longer was he a fun-loving kid who would do anything his father asked. The betrayal of bringing him a brother then denying him contact turned him into a belligerent, cynical terror who even sneered saying 'good morning' when speaking to his father or the witch.
Greta and Barnaby were treated with respect, and even sometimes got glimpses of the sense of humor that used to be a constant joy; those were only seen when Krane Senior and the Witch were out of the house. By being good employees, keeping their mouths shut and their ears open, they quickly figured out the things that Glenn had not already told them. After a few nights of little sleep and hard decisions, Greta and Barnaby decided their highest priority was to take charge of helping the now-frail Glenn recover, and hope that in the process they could use him to bring the boy Liam to the point that they were both strong enough to handle the upheaval that comes with police involvement. At that point, the two adults knew, their lifetime careers were going to be over. It didn't matter; they were willing to pay that price as long as the two boys under the roof here had a chance of surviving the transition.
A week after Glenn's exile, they had the chance to speak to him alone, outside, with neither of the other two adults at home. In fact, they were on an overnight business trip, and not expected home until the next evening. They explained their decision and what was going to happen down the line, then Barnaby handed Glenn a key. "That woman changed the outer door on the apartment to a heavy security door with fingerprint locks. I happen to know the contractor, and called in a favor. Your door and frame were upgraded as well, and the doorknob will now open with only this key; it is always locked and the key contains an encrypted digital code. Greta has one copy stored securely. The only other key is with a third party who I trust to maintain your security, and the installing company is renowned for not opening these locks without a court order. Due to the nature of the lock, only companies with that policy are given the opening procedures by the manufacturer."
That night, Glenn found a drywall saw and note in his just-returned laundry. 'Kitchenette locked from inside. Mirrors are great at hiding things.'
A smile graced Glenn's lips for the first time in over a month. When the house was being built, he had insisted on being there when 'his' area was being finished. He had quickly made friends, instead of being underfoot he tried hard to be out-of-the-way. Within a day, he was helping by getting small things for the workers. In return, they started explaining what they were doing whenever they noticed a curious look on his face. The saw reminded him of something only the construction workers and he knew about; hidden access panels that were not on the plans. After some thought, he remembered that the one for his bathroom was actually in his closet. The kitchenette, however, had one in the cabinet side wall under the sink. He quickly hid the saw and note, grabbed his emergency flashlight, then slid the clothes out of the way in the corner of his walk-in closet. It took a few tries, but he finally found the right spot to push, causing the magnetic latches to extend one side of the access door about half an inch.
Fortunately, the floorboards extended almost all of the way to the edge of the roof, and the attic had been mostly finished in case storage was needed later. Glenn was still small enough that he could stand up, as long as he stayed near the inner walls. That first trip seemed to take forever, but by carefully counting corners Glenn finally found the spot he was looking for. Like the door in his closet, this door had a handle glued on the attic-side; it allowed him to control the door as he opened it. Since this room had not been in use, nothing was stored under the sink, so he had no problem crawling out the access and through the double cabinet doors.
With butterflies in his stomach, Glenn quietly unlocked the door and walked out into the dark room. What he saw almost made him cry; sitting on the far corner of the bed was a five-year-old boy, hugging a pillow like his life depended on it. Greta had slipped and told Glenn his name, so Glenn whispered just loud enough for the boy to hear "Hi Liam, I'm your new big brother Krane. I thought you might want a hug."
Liam's grip on the pillow started to relax. "Brothers don't hurt brothers?" he asked, a glimmer of hope in his voice.
"Brothers NEVER hurt brothers." Glenn responded. "I'm gonna get you outta here, just as soon as I figure out how to get away from those buttheads." he added as he took a seat on the edge of the bed.
"What if you get caught?"
"That's my problem, little brother. Don't you ever worry about it."
Seconds later, the pillow was abandoned and Glenn found himself holding his new little brother, the little arms and legs latching on so tightly it was obvious that Liam had no intention of letting go. After an hour of silently holding each other with tears running down both of their faces, they shifted around enough to lay down, both falling asleep while holding the other tightly. Glenn stayed in there until noon the next day, by then having convinced Liam he would never abandon him, even if a few days passed between visits.
Liam's now-older voice interrupted Glenn's thoughts. "Why you cryin', bro?"
Glenn let Liam down and pulled him into a hug. "I was remembering when you got here and the first day I snuck in to see you. You see all the stuff out here?"
"Yeah, it looks like fun."
"I spent all day three years ago getting it ready for you." Glenn explained softly, the hurt obvious in his voice. "When you were brought in and locked up, I lost my temper then locked myself in my room for a month. This used to be my favorite room in the house; I ain't touched anything in it since that day. I only walk through it because I have to."
"I heard you; you called the witch everything but a human." Liam giggled. "I wanna sit on that couch over there with you, the one by the big TV."
Realizing what Liam was up to, Glenn gave his little brother a soft smile. "Whatever makes you happy, lil' bro."
They headed over to the couch Liam had pointed out, then Glenn sat down, Liam immediately snuggling under one of his arms. As they quietly stared at the blank screen, both boys healed another portion of the hell they had lived through. Jerry silently joining them interrupted their thoughts. "I know, Sawyer told me." Jerry whispered as he took up residence under Glenn's other arm.
After another couple of minutes of silence, Liam stated "Glenn, we gotta keep the house. Even if you don't wanna, we gotta. It didn't do nothin' wrong, and this needs to be the favorite room for me and all my brothers. The witch wins if we get rid of it."
"Now that I know about how things happened, I agree," Jerry added. "We gotta live here and chase all of the bad memories out by making a ton of good ones. This house made us all brothers in a couple of ways, I don't want to lose that."
Glenn sniffled, his eyes once again running as he realized that one of his plans from three years ago had just came true, only doubled. He was sharing his domain with his brothers, holding them as he turned it from 'his' playroom to 'their' playroom. "I love you guys." Glenn whispered as the tears ran full-tilt, washing away another wall he'd built in his mind.
"I love you too, bro." Liam and Jerry both replied as they snuggled in closer to comfort their big brother.
Once Glenn regained some control, they got up and started for the stairs. They paused when Emmy's voice came over the intercom. "Guys, I hijacked the witches security cameras so I could watch to make sure you were okay. I listened too, so I'd know if you needed something. When you decided to stay, I moved the few things that Liam had into a new room, and prepared his old room for your fourth brother; he likes to cook and thinks the kitchenette will be great for snacks. Liam, I gave you some new things that the guys here thought you'd like. Those weak locks the witch put on are history; I put regular knobs on until Daddy Cam and Daddy Teddy can get you hooked into my network. After that, I'll be handling access myself, so locks ain't needed."
"Wow! Who's idea was all that?" Glenn asked, impressed with how some of his worries were already handled.
"Mine! Uncle Tracy says if I see things that need done, he wants me to do them. Did I do good?"
"You did great, little guy." Glenn replied. "You just gave me an idea; I'll talk it over with my brothers and Tracy after Liam, Jerry, and I find out how much of a mess the shop is."
"You want me to play like I'm the computer in the office downstairs? I can sneak in and back everything up, then look through it for you. My big brother Alden is awesome with corporation stuff, he'll help! I'll see if I can find some cameras and stuff too, that way I can watch it for you."
Liam giggled. "Go for it! Have fun!"
"Sweet!" Emmy exclaimed. "You want me to take you downstairs? I'm tied into all the hidden cameras in the house now, so I can see!"
"Sure!" all three boys replied, giggling at the excitement they heard in the AI's voice.
They were still giggling as they appeared back with the rest of the group. Doug and Gary were assisting Barnaby with inserting the extension leaves in the table, expanding it to its maximum capacity of eighteen. Greta was deep in discussion with Jorge, planning out a course to see if his vocal vocabulary could possibly be improved. Jessica was talking with Killian and Kirk, turning her head as she saw them appear from the corner of her eye.
"Welcome back, boys!" Jessica said. "We all just learned an important lesson; just because you've seen someone eating what the rest of the group eats, don't assume it's their preferred diet. Jorge and Killian have agreed to help out by eating like they do with family instead of following formal rules like they planned to; in the process, Greta will explain to all of us how we should adjust. This will help all of you, since you could be asked to step into a diplomatic role in the Clan at any time."
"Did you boys decide?" Gary asked as he looked up. Spotting the streaks on Glenn's face, he added "Are you okay, son?"
"I'm fine... now, Dad." Glenn replied. "We're keeping the house, and living in it. I wasn't given a choice by EITHER of my brothers."
"For some reason, neither of those surprises me!" Gary chuckled. "Rex filled me in on the next stage. Do you want the house to stay here, or would you rather have it a couple of houses from Alligator Alley headquarters, on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale? Our old house would be sent to Hawaii for one of the refugee families, and this lot would become a park."
"How long would that take?" Glenn asked as he caught sight of the two sets of puppy-dog eyes being made at him.
"One second, and we can find out." Tracy said as he joined them. "By the way, you just made Emmy's day. Cam just told me that Emmy brought two primary cores online specifically to do whatever it is you agreed to."
"We're not taking him away from his normal work, are we?" Glenn asked with concern.
"Nope." Tracy giggled. "He's a mid-range system. He's got four mirrored main cores, twenty-five switchable primary cores and fifty secondaries. The final tally isn't in yet on his VI auxiliaries, they're still being installed as we fine-tune his network."
Gary's eyes bugged out. "Mid-range! Most global corporations would risk bankruptcy for a system like that!"
"We're Federation-wide," Tracy giggled. "The specs on the larger systems are need-to-know only; I'll just say they make Emmy look tiny in comparison. You guys ready for me to call the movers?"
"Please!" Gary groaned, the idea that Tracy regarded the obviously state-of-the-art system at Alligator Alley as a mid-range system boggling his mind.
Satisfied that he'd accomplished his goal of blowing at least one adult's mind a day, Tracy tapped his commbadge. "Emmy, could you patch me through to the construction corps?"
"Okay, Uncle Tracy." Emmy replied, putting the call on the intercom just for the humor value.
"You have reached Quintessential Quantum Quality Quonstruction Quorps. We are sorry we missed your call. Please leave a message after the tone, that way we know why we're sitting at the breakfast bar behind you. Thank you! *BEEP*"
"This is Tracy at Alligator Alley, we need to talk about moving ... a ... house ... WHAT THE HECK!" Tracy spun around, the words on the recording finally registering in his brain.
The giggles of Rex, Adrian, Cody, Kirk, Killian, and Jorge told Tracy that the rest of his team were fully expecting this.
Rex quickly did the introductions. "Everyone, from left to right they are Peter, Galen, Eli, Benji, Sammy, and Sebastian. The spare appendage jumping up and down to get noticed is Leg."
"Hey!" all six said in unison, waving their hands in sync. Peter vanished from his seat, appearing in front of Tracy and pulling him into a hug. "You like the new place?" Peter giggled as Tracy returned the hug.
"Yeah; thanks! That was one heck of a wedding present!" Tracy giggled, starting to regain his bearings.
"You're a cute couple!" Peter replied before popping around to give everyone else in the room a hug. Once his sworn duty was done, he landed back in his seat. "Did you say house moving? From which universe to which universe?"
Tracy decided the rest of the group had a really good idea, and grabbed a nearby chair to sit down before he fell over. The fact that most of his team was sitting to avoid falling over laughing didn't escape his notice. Before responding, he made sure subvocally that Emmy had specific instructions for when they got home. "This universe, on both counts. Gary's donating his old house to Hawaii, and we'd like this house on that property. It'd be sweet to make this into a nice park after the house is moved."
Eli's eyes lit up. "Hey Petey! You know that spot on Kuala-whatsi we thought looked too nice for a prefab? How about putting Gary's old place there?"
"Let's look." Peter grinned as him and Eli flickered.
"Yep, perfect!" they chorused.
"I'll start getting things moved over." Galen giggled. "I'm taking Sammy and 'Bas. You want me to see when we need to borrow the heavy work crew from?"
"Sure, cute stuff!" Peter said as he leaned over and gave Galen a kiss. "Don't forget to check Archnania, it's more fun when we time loop from outside time!"
"Gotcha!" Galen said as he vanished with Sammy and Sebastian.
Eli reached behind him, grabbing a set of plans that hadn't been there seconds before he brought it to the table, unrolling it so everyone could see. Leg came over and laid himself on one end to hold it in place, while Peter came over to hold the other end. As Eli was about to start, Peter commented "Don't worry about the food, Mrs. Kelsey. I've placed it in a time bubble until it is time for you to serve it. It'll hold indefinitely."
"Thank you, Peter." Greta replied, deciding that strange was making a lot of sense suddenly.
Giggling, Eli began. "I love the design of this house! You picked a great contractor as well, they even used staggered dual-layer joists between floors to isolate noise."
Benji took a turn. "The house will make the trip no problem, and there shouldn't be any settling issues in its new home. Where we need to make some decisions is how the house faces."
Eli nodded. "Obviously, this house was not designed to be on a beach. The optimum placement for the house is with the formal dining room windows facing the beach. It ruins the effect having the coolers sticking out, though.
Benji pointed off to the side. "We have a device we call a 'gate' that we can install that acts as a doorway to a remote location without you going outside. With that, we could install even larger coolers remotely, and you would still get to them by walking through a doorway. It could even be put on the wall between the kitchen and pantry, saving steps."
"You've got my attention, gentlemen." Greta interrupted. "You are treading in my domain. If that is so easy, what is the possibility of moving the pantry as well, expanding it, and using that space to add a proper dishwashing station?"
Eli tilted his head, "I like that idea. That area of the ceiling was reenforced, so structurally it won't be an issue as long as we put an arch in the existing wall. I can add replicators as well for the mid-meal snacks; Aunt Helen can come over and teach you how to program them to serve food that is up to your standards.
"I've got three techbots on standby." Benji added. "Just say the word, and they'll start prepping the new area for the remote pantry and coolers. It should be ready to use in about an hour; it takes a few minutes for the cryo coolers to come online and equalize at their set-points."
"You may proceed, gentlemen." Greta stated with a smile.
"The dirt's flying!" Benji giggled. "We'll do the interior work once the house is set, it saves programming the gate twice.
Eli got back to the plans. "If the house placement works, I suggest we place a circular drive with a fountain in the middle at the side with the main entry. A side drive will branch off of it, leading to the garages and the parking for office access."
"Speaking of garages, I've got an update for you." Peter interrupted. "Glenn, you inherited sneaky from your father. He did session work on the side; he's done it since before you were born. He did it under an alias, and maintained separate accounts for the alias. The accountant that the witch fired when she made your father take the company public two years ago was handling both accounts, as well as your father's personal finances. He still handles the alias, and is already in contact with Alden to help sort out the mess they've found. Up until he was fired, he maintained the books in such a way that the separate accounts became legal. Where this is of immediate concern is the car collection that your father had. The witch only thought she made him sell them off. Actually, he sold them to his alias; so they never left his hands. I have re-hired the accountant for your personal finances, and he just completed the selling of the vehicles back to you. He will stop by tomorrow to help you balance out everything with your brothers, including which of you is listed as owner on which vehicle."
"The 'Vette?" Glenn asked, tears threatening to escape once again.
"Yes, the '64 'Vette is still part of the collection." Peter responded with a smile. "I'm going to check it over myself before it's brought home."
"He promised... he kept his promise. That was supposed to be mine for my fifteenth birthday. He promised to never sell it." Glenn whispered.
"He might have not been able to deliver it," Rex interjected softly, "but it is yours. March 15th, the title was transferred into your name. Before you start beating yourself up over how you treated him, you need to understand something."
"Go ahead," Glenn whispered, remembering Rex's earlier statement about there being more than what was said.
"Your Dad wasn't aware of what the witch was going to do with Liam either," Rex explained. "What he'd hoped to be a day that you'd look back on with a smile turned into a nightmare, and that broke his heart just as much as the things you said. He realized what deep crap he was buried in halfway through your exile in your room. By the time you came out, he had figured out he was stuck and the witch was starting to take control. Your attitude was the one bright spot he saw; it meant that even though he was lost, you'd make it out one way or the other. His one hope was that you'd drag Liam along with you somehow."
Glenn nodded, letting Rex know that he was still listening.
"You caused your dad's already-strained personality to split," Rex continued, "possibly saving his sanity. The part poisoned by the Witch, and being controlled by her, was what you and ALMOST everyone else saw. The witch was so convinced, she slipped and let Liam be alone with your dad; assuming he'd be just as much if not more of a tyrant if left alone with your little brother. Liam got to see what was left of the father you loved; a part that couldn't be shown to you because it might make you weaken your resolve enough to fall under the witch's control. When you asked for asylum today, you started a war in his head between the two personalities; when the witch was burned at the stake the repressed one took control and so far has kept it. Something that Jorge and I picked up on is that this personality believes that the anger and disrespect was to the other one. It is proud you stood your ground, and is really worried that you might be permanently damaged from his mistake. Before he left, you saw the side that has worried that you might fail for three years. You did what was needed, and now both of you can rebuild what the witch tried to destroy."
"It is a self-defense mechanism," Doug interjected. "It is usually seen in youth after years of mental abuse. One part of the personality is in control while the abusive situation is present, while the other only comes forward when the coast is clear. In most cases, the second personality isn't even consciously aware of the abuse. According to Linos, you did the same thing Glenn, just not to the same extreme. You kept full control of who saw what side of you, switching gears on the fly as needed. He also says your mind healed the rift just as soon as you heard Kirk say that Clan Short accepted your request for asylum."
Glenn tried to summarize. "So the dad that the part of me that wasn't really me was being mean to wasn't really my dad, but my dad let it happen because he wanted me to get to someplace safe with Liam, who only got to see the real me?" He paused, then turned and looked Gary in the eyes. "Dad, are you SURE I'm too young for a drink?"
"You do that again," Gary replied as he tried to clear the smoke from his ears, "and not only will I get you a drink, but I'll join you!"
Barnaby actually smiled as he commented "Sir, the elder Krane maintained a private reserve for occasions when Master Glenn uttered phrases such as this. He found that the earlier vintages restored his capability for clear thought quite effectively. Shall I retrieve the key for you?"
"Hey!" Glenn exclaimed. "I haven't done that in years!"
"Agreed, Master Glenn." Barnaby said as he stepped around to give Glenn a hug. "It has been years, and it is a welcome sign that you have begun doing it again."
"Just wait until we teach him time loops!" Ezra said as he popped back in. "I've only got a second, then I've got to go see Cody and Adrian so they can ask if we can all three be boyfriends. After that, I'll swing by and help Peter with expanding Tracy's bedroom in his dad's house while he was getting married, then I think I'll check on this house tomorrow to see how you're doing before I swing by at bedtime tonight to snuggle with Cody and Adrian for a few hours, then take Cody to where he needs to be about an hour from now."
"Barnaby, please select one of the better vintages; everyone gets wine with dinner." Gary requested. "Greta, please make sure the strength is appropriate for our younger family members."
Giggling, Ezra turned to Tracy. "Uncle Tracy, pretty soon you're going to find out some information that will require Jerry, Liam, and Glenn to have commissions and be recognized as adults. It wouldn't hurt for Linos, Sawyer, and Heath to be commissioned as well. Do you want to handle it now? I might be busy doing something last week later, which could slow things down."
"BARTENDER!" Tracy screamed.
Peter, Eli, and Benji were no help, as all three were literally rolling on the floor, holding their sides as they howled laughing.
Doug, meanwhile, made sure that he had all three of his son's attention. "I will NEVER, EVER complain about triplet talk ever again!"
Smiling at Tracy's response Greta announced, "I like Ezra. By the way is there any way I can assist you so your time loop doesn't take quite as long?"
"You already did when I come by later." Ezra replied. "Thank-you!" Ezra then handed Tracy his PADD, with Pissed Off Chickens preloaded and the game started, giggling, "Prez and Julio are planning on an interdivisional trip to Maui later this week. They're planning on building a hut and playing 'Burning Down The House' and shaking their chickens all night. We might still make it if we hurry."
Just then, Tracy's eyes went wide. A few seconds later, he grinned. "Ezra, a little voice inside my head just told me to tell you to stop picking on the newbies and finish what you came here for."
"Sorry, Dad!" Ezra giggled. "It was fun, though, or it will be, or something like that."
At Gary, Jessica, and Doug's confused looks, Tracy explained. "Ezra's dad is the head of Clan Intel, Kyle Richardson. He just set up his own little spot in my head; it's one of the perks of being a Director, I get direct access to him with just a thought. Heath, Sawyer, and Linos are already approved; Kyle just finished the review of the trial and the events up to now. Kyle's brother JJ grabbed Jerry for Clan Security, and Xain wants Liam and Glenn to begin diplomatic corps training immediately."
"You want me to handle the details, Tracy?" Peter asked. "That way Ezzy can fill you in on the general Clan stuff you'll need to know soon."
"Would you, please?" Tracy replied. "Kyle's helping me with some stuff that's so classified that he has to release it personally."
Taking pity on the confused families, Ezra explained while Tracy was busy with Kyle. "When it comes to security clearances, Tracy was already up there. Dad just set his permanent clearance based on what Tracy's done in the last day. Tracy's joined a really exclusive club; his clearance matches ten other people in the Clan now. Of those ten, only four are not founding members; Danny, Marc, John and Preston."
"The only one of them that is sane is John!" Peter giggled. "Gather around, it's time to make you officers so that you can try to avoid doing real work! I'll tell you right now, that only works in the military though, in the Clan you'll still be no different than anyone else."
Peter popped in front of Jerry first. Both of them seemed to flicker, then Peter began. "Jerry Gaussman, by order of The Royal Police-Keeper JJ Richardson and Admiral Harrison Morrow of Starfleet, I hereby award you the rank of Lieutenant in Starfleet and Lieutenant Commander in the Clan Short Fleet. You are certified in ballistic and energy weapons to level two, and are hereby authorized to carry and use same."
"When did that happen?" Gary asked in shock.
"Last week." Peter giggled. "He's just finding out now that he was here then twice, even though he knew while he was there that he was also somewhere else at the same time."
"Don't worry, Dad," Jerry giggled, "JJ and I had a long talk while Peter was playing with his triceratops friends. We agreed to take turns destroying police stations."
Realizing that Gary was about to ask for an IV hooked directly to a still, Eli spoke up. "There are a lot of legends about JJ; the reason he wanted to have Jerry be Clan Security was how Jerry was actually able to manage his temper, not reacting the way he wanted to. Instead, Jerry pushed it to more productive outlets unless it was over his personal line. He's a lot like JJ when it comes to being fair unless pushed to far. It says a lot when JJ picks someone just based on the intel Kyle gives him; you've got good reason to be proud of Jerry."
Peter nodded. "While it doesn't help any with the events in his past, from now on Jerry will have the choice of redirecting his anger and other emotional responses when doing Clan duties into a mental 'black hole'."
"For regular stuff I'm not supposed to use it," Jerry added. "JJ talked with his Dad, and they had Peter help me make a safety valve; if I'm starting to lose control, my brain will bleed off just enough to keep control. Linos says Glenn's gonna help me with my temper, so now I've got some protection while he's teaching me."
Gary quickly realized what was not being said. Remembering the earlier revelation of Jerry being a walking time-bomb, he realized that the new position was not only to bring Jerry's skills into use, but also to help him keep his stability. The fact that Jerry pointed out Glenn's offer to help him meant one thing; his middle son was determined to have only his new big brother help him. Gary was sure the miracle-kids bouncing in and out could have fixed everything. The fact they didn't said more about their character than everything else he'd seen so far, and it explained their ongoing game of confusion. These boys were not out playing God; they were using the skills given to them by their Maker to help if absolutely needed, but only enough to allow the affected party to complete recovery on their own. The humorous stunts were just a cover to keep everyone from putting them on a pedestal; they brought out the humanity in the boys and proved they were normal.
Gary smiled at Jerry. "In that case, congratulations, Son."
Jerry smiled back, the acceptance for him doing something outside Gary's control meaning more than anything else. "Thanks, Dad!"
Peter moved on to Glenn and Liam. "Guys, both of you have been shuffling personalities; Liam, you've been doing it so that the Witch thought she was getting her way, and we already know about how you did it, Glenn. Being able to do that is a good thing for diplomats, since some races need compassionate interaction, others logical, and even some that value aggressive. Later tonight, I'll take you two up to Archnania to meet Xain and sit down with him. He's going to help you get the basic setup you need in your heads, then the rest of your training can be handled at Alligator Alley. Xain has decided that Diplomatic Corps trainees will start at a rank of Lieutenant, so as of right now both of you are commissioned as Lieutenants in the Clan Short Diplomatic Corps. Just like Jerry, the Federation recognizes your rank, and you will be getting Federation Identification shortly."
"Does that mean I get to see a spaceship?" Liam asked hopefully.
Eli smiled. "Not only do you get to see one, little guy, but you'll get to ride on it when it's taking you someplace to talk to another species that wants to work with Clan Short."
"Wow!" Liam said, his eyes wide with excitement. "Jerry and Glenn too?"
"Yep!" Eli grinned. "Probably Heath, Sawyer, and Linos too. Xain likes to have teams, that way everybody knows what to expect from the rest of the group."
"Daddy! You hear that?" Liam asked. "Me, my brudders, an' Jerry's kissy-friends get to go on a REAL SPACESHIP!"
"I heard!" Gary said as he came over and picked up Liam for a congratulatory hug. Jerry rescued Glenn, who was watching Liam with a soft smile.
"You earned that name a couple of years ago, brother," Jerry said softly. "The only reason you weren't upgraded to 'brudder' is he thought I'd get mad. You're family, and I've already been given pointers from JJ as to how to handle it if you ever start doubting that fact." Jerry paused, then pulled Glenn into a hug. "Congrats on the commission, bro."
As Jerry broke his hug, Gary pulled Glenn into one of his own, Liam adding an extra arm while perched on Gary's hip. Gary caught Jerry's eyes, and a moment later Jerry attached himself to the other side of the hug from Liam.
"Glenn; congratulations Son, you earned this," Gary said lovingly, making sure Glenn knew his words were only for him. "While Cory was here, I asked him about something Tracy's father told me. What I'm about to tell you is the absolute truth, and it is the main reason the boys that helped you today are with us."
Glenn nodded, curious about what was so serious.
"August 27th this year," Gary began, "four days before there even was a Clan Short, an event happened that would change the world. Terrance O'Neal, the only son of Federation Ambassador Marcus O'Neal, was driving down the highway when a bomb went off, throwing his vehicle across the median of a four-lane highway. Ensigns Cory and Sean Short, along with their family, were coming from the other direction as they returned home from a formal dinner with Captain James T. Kirk. They saw the accident, and stopped. While calling for medical assistance from the starship Enterprise, the boys scrambled to see if they could assist. Spotting the five-year-old son of Terrence strapped in a booster seat in back, Cory cut the roof off of the vehicle and extracted the boy. By that time, medical staff from the Enterprise were on-site, working on Terrance. In accordance with the wishes of Terrance just before he passed on from blood loss, Cory and Sean adopted their first son, Timmy. What none of the boys knew at the time was that Cory had unknowingly disarmed a second bomb six seconds before it was to go off."
Gary paused, looking around the silent room.
"Kyle says you're doing good." Tracy stated. "He was there, he should know. To answer the question Kyle thinks a few of you have, once you receive a Starfleet commission you are legally an adult in all regards. Even if we were not Clan, Karl and I would have still been able to adopt Wayne due to being commissioned officers."
"Thank you, Tracy," Gary acknowledged before continuing. "To give a little background, Cory was only eight days into his recovery from stress-induced traumatic memory loss, so emotionally he was really fragile. That night, Timmy had a nightmare; something totally normal considering what just happened. While comforting Timmy, the events of the last eight days came crashing down on Cory, and he started to lose his grip again. While still cuddled with Cory, Timmy said the words that calmed Cory and later became known throughout the Clan as 'Timmy's Law'."
After a pause, Gary said "This is a direct quote. 'My other Daddy used to tell me that sometimes bad stuff happens so the good stuff can. Maybe all that bad stuff happened so I could have you and Pappa.' Those nine words, as simple as they sound, have led a small group of boys who were just doing what they were taught into what is now known as Family Clan Short. During the attack in Montana, a man tried to kill Cory at fairly close range. At that time, Timmy registered the second of his three confirmed kills during the battle. The first was saving someone he considered a brother; but when he saw his Daddy being attacked he literally vaporized the attacker. That one action kept Clan Short going, and turned them from just a blip on the radar into an organization that is getting better known every second. Cory also told me something not public knowledge. While the rest of the Clan was doing their part to assist the rest of the world, key members that were in London were dealing with the actual primary attack; an attack that even the Federation is not equipped to fight. The only ones who could spot it are a small section of the Clan which have evolved into the next stage of humanity; without them we would have lost even if the Romulan threat was beaten."
"I was there in London," Cody interrupted. "Your Dad has it as right as you can get it without seeing for yourself. There's a lot of weird happening, but the really strange stuff it seems our Clan is being set up to handle. That means other humans are kept safe instead of being blindly mass executed. The stuff outside is a good example; a couple a' races that have lived alongside humans forever without being seen except as legends just came out and joined with us to protect Earth. They didn't pick us because we were kids. They picked us because something or Someone is guiding the people closest to being the next stage of Humans to gather around us. No matter what our ages, we're what Humanity is starting to become. Aunt Jessica, you are a good example. Not only are you a telepath, making your sons second-generation and stronger, but you happened to be steered into learning history that would only be useful right now with the changes to the Clan. Uncle Doug, were you scheduled to be on duty today?"
Doug shook his head. "No; Dave suddenly came down sick and asked me to cover him. He's going to be mad that I left halfway through the shift."
"No he's not," Tracy giggled. "I called in Federation Security to cover for you just after we got into the room and saw what was going on."
Cody smiled. "I'll bet he feels just fine already; our guardian angels are like that. That's what I mean; you're here because you're supposed to be here. Joel's my brother, and even he won't say if we're right, but he won't say we're wrong either."
Eli added his input. "Officially, me and Benji are the first kids saved after Clan Short was formed. I've watched it happening; the only reason I can think of is that someone Up High thinks it's time for humanity to move forward, and we got chose to give them an example. Thing is, we're doing it by being ourselves and helping each other. There ain't no meetings planning what we're gonna do; things happen and whoever is around does what they think needs done. Glenn is Clan because he spent the last three years doing what all of us do; that is why Kirk accepted his request immediately without question. Rex had done a quick scan when Glenn came in the room, and gave the group a quick briefing just as Glenn made his statement."
"That explains a lot of things," Gary commented, "including why my three sons have earned positions so quickly. Something tells me what the four of us went through in the last three years is going to come in handy soon, based on what I'm seeing in the history I've just heard."
"I'm not tellin'!" Peter giggled as he gathered the triplets. "Linos, Heath, and Sawyer, Kyle's asked me to do something that's a first. Rex has already started your Intel training, so I don't need to worry about that. You guys are being activated and commissioned as Intel Division operatives specifically assigned to Jerry, Glenn, and Liam. You can do other stuff if they're not out doing something, but when they go out you guys are primarily assigned to work with them. Kyle's giving all three of you the rank of Lieutenant as well, based on all you've done since you met the Clan. Tracy's already talking with Kyle about how to have your Mom help out too, but she's not going to be assigned to your group. She'll work directly for Tracy."
"We didn't do anything special." Linos commented with a blush.
"Tell Glenn, Jerry, and Liam that." Gary interjected. "I'll save them the trouble and call bullcrap. All three of them are better off thanks to things you either did as a group or one-on-one. I'd be willing to bet that you and your brothers averted at least two mental crashes today; something I'd have no idea how to handle. Since this Kyle is able to make rooms in the head of anyone he choses, I'm pretty sure he's smart enough to realize when three very special individuals pool their skills miracles occur. You three have proved that, and are being recognized for it."
"Great," Sawyer muttered, "now we have TWO dads to lecture us on how good we are!"
"You better believe it, son!" Doug chuckled. "Now accept the offer before we start tag-teaming you!"
Tracy giggled. "One of the perks of Clan membership is adults are fair game for dunking in the pool at Alligator Alley Headquarters!"
"Reaallly?" the triplets exclaimed in unison, huge smiles forming on their faces. "We accept! Where do we sign?"
"Vocal works!" Peter sniggered as Doug and Gary exchanged 'Oh Shit!' looks.
"All six are logged and approved, Uncle Peter," Emrys announced. "Uncle Galen says to tell you that you're gonna be movin' the house on the other side from Uncle Clyde's place too. Mr. Fitzpatrick is a retired Navy Mess Chief, and he's moving in to Headquarters to help coordinate the kitchen. Uncle Karl's getting him introduced right now. He's donating his house to Hawaii as well."
"Thanks, Emmy!" Tracy and Peter said in unison.
"How's the prep work going for the main move?" Peter asked.
"Uncle Galen says ready when you are," Emmy replied.
"Okay," Peter replied, "Tell them to charge up, we're on our way for stage one!"