Josh was nervous. Make that REALLY nervous. Since the meeting at Linda's office, neither Sky nor Cody had said much about what was happening. Add to that, the secretive smiles the two shared that Josh could see, and the self-control was quickly evaporating from Josh's mind. Okay, let's just say he was scared shitless.
Finally, the anticipation overwhelmed him, "Well, what did you talk to your mum about, Sky?"
"Sorry, dude, you're gonna need to wait 'til Christian gets back before we can tell you," Sky said with a small smirk, which grew to a grin, when he saw Josh's eyebrows slowly climb his forehead until they were almost hiding in his hair, "It's not that we don't want to tell you, it's just that… well, we can't discuss the news without Chris' input."
"So…" Josh began, deep in thought, "When's Christian supposed to be back, then?"
Sky smiled at the obvious impatience behind the question, "Well, we never really told him what time he had to be home, so anytime between now aaaaand…" he looked at his watch, "bedtime."
Josh sat stock-still, the movement of his chest the only indication he was still breathing. Cody took pity on the poor boy, and tapped his commbadge, "Cody to Delta. Del, is Christian with you?"
"Yeah, he is. Did you need him to come home for lunch?" Came Delta's reply.
"That, and we need him here for a big discussion. Could you send him home, and take care of Bradin for about an hour and a half?"
"Sure thing. Just gimme a chime, when the talking's done. Chris' on his way now, the Bray-Bray and me are gonna head to the caf' for a bite to eat. Delta out."
Two minutes later, the slamming of the door heralded the arrival of Sky and Cody's latest addition. "DADDY! Aunty Delta tolds me you wants me home, so I's here!"
"In the lounge room, little man. We need to have a serious talk before we all have lunch," Sky said with a smile at the energy of the young boy.
"Oh, is I in trouble?" Christian asked, bottom lip poking out at the prospect of punishment.
"I don't know. Is there anything you've done that would mean you're in trouble?" Sky asked in parent mode.
"I don' fink so," Christian said, scrunching up his face in deep thought.
"Well in that case, no, you're not in trouble," Sky said, inwardly thinking to himself 'yet', "We need to talk about you and Josh." He pulled the young boy into his lap.
"Okay, I really likes Josh, he's fun." Christian said with a smile at the boy in question.
"That's good to hear, because your Papa and I are thinking of asking him to join our family. Would you be okay with that?" Sky asked, watching both boys' faces for their reactions.
Christian didn't disappoint, as his eyes widened comically and a blinding smile broke out on his face as he nodded so hard that Sky worried he was about to fall off his perch on Sky's lap. Josh was once again shocked to his core, and could hardly process Sky's statement. A look of confusion soon clouded his face as he asked, "Do you mean, like, your parents adopt me?"
"No, dude, I mean like Cody and I adopt you. I know it might seem a little strange, especially to anyone outside the Clan, but my fatherly instincts are screaming at me that I can help you by doing this," Sky said seriously, "Besides, you and Christian get along well, and I can tell that you would be a great big brother to him, and I know he'd love to have you as one."
"I… I don't know what to say… what to think," Josh said, tears welling in his eyes, "I… don't wanna forget about my mum."
"Josh," Sky began, his face showing his seriousness, "I'm afraid I have some bad news. We will understand if this makes your decision harder, but you need to have all the facts before making your choice. Christian, would you go with your Papa and get lunch started, while Josh and I discuss this personal news? If he decides to later, he can tell you what we talk about, but it's his choice, okay?"
"Okay, Daddy," Christian said, hopping down from Sky's lap. Before he left the room, he put his arms around Josh's waist, mumbling into Josh's shirt, "I be back wiv food for you, okay?"
"Sounds good, little buddy. You be careful in the kitchen," Josh said, unconsciously falling into 'big brother' mode.
"Uh huh," Christian replied, running to catch up with Cody at the doorway to the lounge room.
Once they were alone, Sky motioned for Josh to take a seat on his lap, pulling the boy in for a firm cuddle for a moment, collecting his thoughts, and hoping to broach the subject of Josh's mother's passing as gently as possible.
"My mum's dead, isn't she?" Josh asked, causing Sky to falter.
"I'm afraid so, Josh. I won't go into all the details of how, only that she has had to face the consequences of her actions. I'm so sorry, Josh," Sky kissed the top of Josh's head as the younger boy leaned his head into Sky's shoulder, his body shaking softly with his sobbing.
It took around 10 minutes before Josh's crying had quieted down enough for Sky to continue, "Josh, as I said before, please don't think that this is the reason we talked about adopting you. I meant it when I said that I could, and already do, see you as a son. It is your choice, however. If you say no, then we move forward. If you say yes, then after lunch, we all go to my mum's office, and she makes it official."
"I don't know what I want," Josh said sadly.
"I can understand that, Josh. Not too long ago, Mum visited me in a hospital room, after my birth parents beat and abandoned me. I had no idea what I was going to do, I had no memories and the world was a huge and scary place in that situation. To this day, there are still parts of my past I can't recall. I don't know if I'll ever fully regain my past, but I know now that my future is one in which I am safe, loved and able to make a difference."
"Can I… can I think about it?" Josh asked softly.
"Of course you can. You take all the time you need. I promise you, after we've finished discussing this, I won't bring it up again. When… or if, you decide, one way or the other, you just come see me or Cody, and we'll go from there. Until then, we can continue on like we have so far. Just because you need time to think doesn't mean we have to stop," Sky said, squeezing Josh a little tighter and kissing him on the top of his head.
Sky was sitting in his office, going through his correspondence, when a rather official-looking letter from a local car dealer caught his eye. Opening the envelope, he read the letter to find that the local Holden dealership had offered to outfit the Division's motor pool with vehicles from their company, with a huge discount rate available to Clan Members and their families.
He quickly signed onto the terminal built into his desk, looking up the contact frequency for Holden's headquarters in Port Melbourne. Once he found it, he was soon connected to the secretary of the CEO.
"One moment, Mr. Thomas, and I'll connect you to Mr. Devereux," the secretary said, before the Holden logo filled the terminal's screen.
A minute later, a middle-aged man in a dark suit appeared on-screen, "Ah, Mr. Thomas, I presume? Micheal Devereux, CEO of Holden Australia. How are you, this fine day?"
"I'm well, thank you Mr. Devereux," Sky replied, a little out of his comfort zone.
"Am I to guess that you have received the correspondence that your nearest dealership sent you?" Mr. Devereux asked with a furtive smile.
"Yes, sir. That's what I was calling about. I find it hard to believe the offer outlined in the letter. I mean, the discount rate mentioned alone suggests that you can't be making a profit of any kind," Sky said seriously.
"First of all, please call me Mike, Mr. Devereux is my father, and I don't see him here in the room… thank God. I don't think much work would be happening if he was. He seems to have a habit of telling my staff to take breaks, even if they just had one," Mr. Devereux said with a grin.
"Okay, Mike it is. And call me Sky, I'm not a big fan of the whole title thing. But I was serious about the discount rate. I will only agree to entering into a partnership with your company if it won't affect your profit and ability to keep your staff in employ," Sky said.
"That's just it, Sky. The discount rate stills gives the company around 10% profit, but part of the partnership agreement we would sign states that Holden will, from the time the agreement is signed until the company's insolvency, donate the profit attained from the supply of vehicles to Clan Short, Youth Services or families that benefit from either group's assistance to charities promoting help for the children of Australia," Mike said, theatrically drawing a deep breath afterwards.
"Oh, wow," was all Sky could say in response.
"We have made arrangements to bring a convoy of vehicles to your Compound tomorrow for your Clan to inspect and choose from. Will that be acceptable?" Mike asked, all business.
"That will be fine. I will inform our security personnel of the event. Simply ensure that your convoy master has the correct paperwork and identification documents on hand and ready to show," Sky replied.
"Already ahead of you there, Sky. I know a thing or two about 'diplomatic grounds' and their protocols. As a matter of fact, each and every one of our truck drivers are required to pass diplomatic training before they can deliver to some of our customers. About 40% of our production is divided between the Australian Government and Starfleet Oceanic." Mike said.
"Wow. Well, tell your driver I look forward to meeting him, and seeing the presents he has for us. I have to go now, it's nearing lunch time, and I have a 4 year old that gets testy when he isn't fed regularly." Sky said.
"Ah yes, I remember well the dangers associated with depriving a young boy from his lunch. I wish you luck for the next hour. I'll be in touch, Devereux out." Mike said, before the terminal screen went dark, leaving Sky staring at it, still a little shell-shocked.
After a few moments to soak in the news, Sky decided it would be best to begin lunch preparations. He made his way to the kitchen. "Computer, begin playback, audio selection Sky Kitchen 1," he said as he began pulling the required utensils from cupboards and drawers.
In short order, he became so lost in his work, and the music in the background, he failed to realise that Josh had walked into the kitchen, and was struggling to hold in his laughter at the sight before him. Sky was so into the music, that he was dancing between the chopping board, the stove-top and the sink. It was only when Delta's 'Electric Storm' began blasting through the speakers in the room, and Sky began a similar pseudo-tango to Delta's, that Josh could no longer hold his laughter in. The first bark that escaped caught Sky's attention, and he slipped on a small puddle of water in front of the sink and fell on his butt, his face flaring in embarrassment.
"Josh, how long have you been standing there?" Sky asked in a squeak.
"Long enough to get a little more to think about regarding you adopting me," Josh giggled, "If I say yes, will I be subjected to that sort of torture every day?"
"Smartass," Sky mumbled, before looking at the younger boy seriously, "Have you been doing anything other than thinking about your situation? You can't just focus your entire attention on this one little decision."
Josh rushed over to give Sky a hand getting up off the floor, "I'd hardly call it a little decision, but yes, I have been doing other things. I had a few people I had to talk to, and one I didn't know I had to," Josh said, finishing cryptically.
"Really? Did that all have anything to do with your decision, or was it for fun?" Sky asked with a knowing smile.
"Fine, I'll admit it, I can't think or do anything else until I come to a decision," Josh grudgingly said.
"I thought that would be the case. Just remember, it doesn't matter what your final answer is, you'll still always be a part of the family," Sky said, "Now, will you be joining us for lunch? I've made enough if you want to."
"That sounds good. What's lunch?" Josh asked.
"I've made a beef casserole, a loaf of crusty bread and a sweet lemonade. Sound okay to you?" Sky asked.
"Sounds great, I'm hungry now," Josh laughed.
"Well, you'll need to earn your meal," Sky said, receiving a quizzical look in reply, "I need you to go track down my wayward son and drag him back here in time to wash up for lunch."
"I can do that," Josh said, before running out of the room.
Ten minutes later, the family sat down for lunch. Cody was talking to Sky about the progress he and Kyler had made on the Compound's supply database, as well as Zeke and Tim's progress on their holosuite project, while Josh was keeping Christian entertained, pretending to sneeze his lunch through his nose. The sounds of Christian's giggles filled the room.
It was after lunch had been finished, and everyone was sitting back allowing the food to settle, that Josh spoke up, "Um, I've… made my decision," causing Sky and Cody to stop their conversation, and Christian's head to whip around to stare at Josh expectantly.
"And what have you decided?" Sky prodded gently.
"I… wanna be your son… and Chris' brother," Josh said with a blush, watching as the faces of all around him lit up with joy at the news.
"Really?! You gonna be my brover?" Christian asked excitedly.
"If your Dad and Pop still want me," Josh said, already knowing their response.
"I think we all need to take a walk over to your Grandma's office," Cody said with a smile.
Zeke and Tim were engrossed in their project, and neither noticed the sound of the lab's auto door opening or closing to admit Jason, a look of amused annoyance on his face.
"Hey, boyfriend, you forget that we were goin' into town for lunch today?" Jason asked, surprising the boys who were working.
"Oh… hi," Zeke replied, a blush colouring his features, "I… kinda did. Sorry."
"No need to be sorry. I just came to make sure you had SOME time to relax. Between school, your R&D work, and the recent crisis, I worry that you'll run yourself into the ground. Oh, and Tim, I think you need to find Trent. Last I saw him, he was a little ticked at a lack of 'one-on-one' time with his quote 'brainiac amnesiac' boyfriend," Jason said with a wry grin.
"Ah shoot!" Tim exclaimed, "I completely forgot. How can I fix this?"
"You could always arrange a romantic dinner for the two of you in the city. I think your sister-in-law will be able to help you make arrangements," Jason said speculatively.
"That sounds perfect," Tim said with a gleam in his eyes, before running off to find Delta.
"Sorry I got caught up in my work again," Zeke said softly.
"It's not a problem. As I said, I simply wanted to make sure you didn't run yourself ragged," Jason said, pulling the shorter boy into his arms, "Now, how about we go grab a bite to eat from the caf', and log some time in the comm center? I think we need to check on a couple of our friend's at the hospital."
"That sounds like a good idea. I wanna see how Louis is doing," Zeke replied as the two boys made their way out of the lab.
Trent and Nate were working up a good sweat. Trent was pleased with the enthusiasm and energy Nate showed, as well as his strong desire to learn all he could from the older teen. After they had finished their workout, they made their way to the showers and change room. It was as they were stripping for a shower that Nate asked Trent about the possibility of arranging a set workout time.
"Sorry, dude, but I can't promise a set time, what with the potential for things to go crazy around here at a moment's notice." Trent said apologetically, "But I tell you what, we should arrange a method that allows us to know when the other is available for a workout. It's a real change to finally have someone here that I can trust to spot me on the bigger lifts."
"Yeah, cool." Nate said casually, "I think it'll be great to be able to go up a few weight brackets. Plus, I think I'm already getting a pretty good pump, don't ya think?" At that, he started flexing his arms, showing off some nicely toned biceps for Trent's inspection.
"Lookin' good there, bro. By the time we're through, we'll BOTH be sporting some pretty big guns." Trent smiled.
Squadron Leader Si Bartlett, commander of the Starfleet/RAAF Squadron 20, was taking his daily walk around the town base he called home, when his communicator chimed. He quickly flipped it open and answered. "Bartlett here."
"Lieutenant Commander (*) Bartlett, you are hereby ordered to report to HQ for new orders. Report to office 301 for further information." Came the reply over the communicator, which then immediately went silent.
'New orders?' Squadron Leader Bartlett thought, 'I still have a minimum 2 years assigned here.'
Putting his thoughts into the back of his mind, SQNLDR Bartlett quickly rekeyed his communicator, "This is Squadron Leader Bartlett, requesting priority transport to Base HQ."
"Request received. You have priority, Squadron Leader. At your command." Came the immediate response.
It was times like these that Si appreciated his wife's demands that he keep a spare uniform in his office at HQ. He quickly checked himself over, making sure he was presentable, before knocking on the door of office 301. This office wasn't used by his squadron, and was therefore reserved for visiting ranking officers, although he had received no notice of an impending visit. He was confident, however, that his squadron, and indeed, his whole base were running at peak efficiency.
That was why he was a little taken aback by the presence of none other than the Chief of Air Force, along with a trio of Starfleet Admirals, all sitting around the table at the centre of the room. The CAF was the first to notice Si's presence, and quickly stood.
"Ah, Squadron Leader. Always a pleasure to see you. I do apologise for the cloak-and-dagger nature of your being called. Certain sensitivities must be observed in these times." The CAF, Air Marshall Mark Binskin, said warmly.
"No apologies necessary, sir." Si said professionally, standing at attention, "Squadron Leader Si Bartlett reporting as ordered."
"At ease, Squaddie." Marshall Binskin said. "Allow me to introduce you to the officers accompanying me today. Representing Starfleet Oceanic, we have Vice Admiral Davis Holland," Marshall Binskin indicated the man sitting on the left according to Si.
"Next to him, representing Federation Youth Services Oceanic, we have Commander Alex Harris," Binskin said, indicating a woman in her mid-40s, "Next to her, representing Starfleet Oceanic's Clan Short Liaison office, we have Admiral Bill Morrow."
"A pleasure to meet you all." Si said politely, "Please forgive my asking, but does your being present have something to do with my new orders? Am I being transferred to a Starfleet posting?"
Admiral Morrow stood to answer Si's questions, "Please have a seat, Squadron Leader. I can assure you that your position here on this base is safe. There are simply new circumstances that have come to light." Admiral Morrow waited a moment for Si to sit, before continuing.
"I have no doubt you are aware of the happenings in Sydney, and indeed around the world, these past days." Admiral Morrow said seriously.
"Of course, sir. Tragic events. My squadron and I only wish there was something we could have done to help Clan Short. I myself have two young sons, and the thought of what was done to all those kids, it made me lose my lunch the moment I heard all the details." Si said.
"Yes, I'm sure you're not alone in that sentiment." Admiral Morrow said gravely, "However, it is these very events that are, as we speak, shaping the future for this base."
"How so, sir?"
"Because it is these events that have highlighted the need for Clan Short's survival. And it is this survival, that this base can provide." Admiral Morrow said, before noticing the lost look on Si's face, "Forgive me, Si. I've been told I have a habit of long-windedly getting nowhere. Your new orders are to maintain your status quo here on the base, but if the time comes, you will provide the most suitable location for Clan Short's Oceanic Division's new location. As a remote Defence facility, this base is the ideal staging area for many of Clan Short's operations, and the space facilities located here will prove ideal for maintaining Clan Short's fleet of starships."
"Forgive me, Admiral, but I wasn't aware Clan Short had any starships. As we stand right now, we have our aircraft support facilities running, but we haven't had a chance to begin works on our space support facilities. I'm sure you are aware that our base has only just recently been reinstated as a full Defence facility. We are making good progress on restoring functionality, but we were ordered to prioritise aircraft support." Si said regretfully.
"We are aware of that, however, that has no bearing on these orders. As it stands right now, Clan Short have yet to take command and control of their space fleet, but the time draws near when they will have a fleet of ships ready to deploy. Starfleet are, at this moment, mobilising 20 teams of technical engineers to this base, for the sole purpose of upgrading and refitting your space support facilities. All you will need to do is be prepared. Starfleet Intelligence suggests that an attack on Clan Short is still a distinct possibility." Admiral Morrow said.
"Why are they expecting another attack? This previous attack was already pretty severe." Si said.
Admiral Morrow pressed a button on the table, locking the doors to the office, before answering, "People, the information you're about to hear is classified at the highest level. Dissemination of this information is punishable as an act of high treason." He said in prelude, pausing to collect his thoughts, "The previous attack committed on our soil was committed by a subset of a worldwide religious group calling themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Christ. This was a purely religiously-motivated assault."
"The Australian attack was committed by a group lead by a former Starfleet officer, which unfortunately means that they were able to utilise Starfleet transporter technology to enter the battlefield. The fact that they attacked a civilian entertainment park on the very day that Clan Short was holding an event there suggests that Clan Short is a major target. Starfleet Intelligence believes that an attack of some sort on Clan Short's Oceanic base is imminent."
Commander Harris spoke up next, "Squadron Leader Bartlett, Federation Youth Services believes that the continued survival of Clan Short to be paramount. If Clan Short is attacked again, Starfleet will do everything in their power to ensure that it survives. Because of this, we have requested that Starfleet Command provide a suitable emergency base for use by Clan Short. They would have no intention of simply stepping in and taking over. What we have seen is that Clan Short work together with local agencies very well. I would imagine that you would still maintain control over this installation, but that Director Thomas, the head of Clan Short's Oceanic Division would work alongside you to manage the day-to-day affairs of Clan Short."
"Well, that sounds fine by me. I have to admit that I have admired Clan Short, and even hope to someday help their Patriarch personally. I have read and heard many good things about him." Si said with a smile, "The only thing I could suggest is that if they need to activate our base as their base of operations, that Director Thomas hold a higher rank than me. I think their work is worthwhile, and he has already earned the respect of myself, my wife and my squadron."
"That's very generous of you, Si. As things stand right now, however, Director Thomas already holds a higher rank than you in the Vulcan Space Fleet. His full commission is being held as inactive until such time as he requires the access or authority it gives him. Having dealt with him on a number of occasions, I can tell you that he is a very down-to-earth, level-headed young man." Admiral Morrow said, "Well, now that we have all that out of the way, please allow me to transfer your new orders into your personnel record, and then I believe that we should go and get some food, and brief your squadron on their new orders."
In short order, the group left in search of food, before starting a new chapter in the life of the base.
Cody had just managed to get Bradin down for a nap, and had logged on to a terminal to check up on some of the patients involved in the attack, when suddenly, all the screens around him went blood red…
Hey guys, sorry it's taken me this long to get another chapter out. Real life has a rather nasty habit of picking on me. As it stands at the moment, I have relocated to remote Australia, living and working on a RAAF base in Woomera, home of Australia's contributions to the space race.
I'm also currently studying to earn my Diploma in IT, a qualification I have always wanted to pursue. That being said, I have decided that I can no longer put the voices in my head out of mind. The last three weeks have been a constant demand of "when are you going to keep writing?" and I figure now is as good a time as any, what with there being not much else to do outside of work :P
Also, big apologies for the major cliffhanger, but rest assured I have already begun writing the next chapter, and I promise that I won't keep you on tenterhooks for too long. Just know that there are some changes coming for the Clan's OD. Changes that are both good and bad, but what's life without change?
Until next time (which won't be a long time)