Cory led his family into CIC and smiled as he found Ryan leaning over the back of Seth's wheelchair; giggling as he read the screen in front of them.
"Dude, is this guy SERIOUS?" Ryan giggled. "Mort Watt, Mike Hunt, Cravin Morehead, Guy Butts, Som Yun Wang, Dick Fitzwell, Dick Hurtz, Rex Tumm, B.J. Goode, Longfellow Johnson, Harry Pitts, Willy Little, and Peter Head? If those names are for real, their parents should be shot for stupidity!"
Seth smiled as he looked over his shoulder at his new friend. "I'll second that; naming a kid one of those names is just cruel. Not that this guy's parents were much better; Parker Carr is just as bad."
Cory joined the pair, smiling at the names he heard read out loud. "What's going on guys?"
Seth pointed at the screen. "We received a note from a guy saying he had been contracted to tutor a group of boys. According to this, the list of names he sent along with it is the names of the kids. He says that they show up every day wearing mesh shirts and tight short shorts. He thinks that there might be something funny going on."
"No shit!" Tanner exclaimed as him and DJ joined the group. "What would give him that idea?" He added sarcastically.
"He must be blond." Seth commented with a chuckle, bringing a flurry of good-natured slaps and 'bite me' comments from the surrounding boys.
DJ turned to Cory. "Dad? Would it be okay if Tanner and I check this out? The twins have been working with me and they said I'm okay to take brain scans now."
Cory nodded. "Let's see what Seth has came up with first; I don't want you guys going into something where you'll get hurt."
Tanner giggled as DJ rolled his eyes. "Whatever! Whadda you got Seth?"
Seth's hands flew over the console as he began cross-referencing the available information. About a minute later, he sat back with a grin. "We've got a nice collection of idiots. All of those names trace back to one Production Company specializing in porn; same sex porn covering all age groups. The good news is that they keep their stars working within the same age range; kids with kids and adults with adults. The bad news is that it appears their adult films are just a cover for the kid stuff." Seth entered a few more commands and pictures of the boys began appearing on the screen in front of him.
Just then, Jordy came wandering over and looked at the screen. "OhmyGawd!" he exclaimed in shock. "I know some of those guys; they were in the group home I was in!"
"Are you sure?" Cory asked.
"Yeah; these two were my roommates for about a month, then they got placed with a family." Jordy replied, anger seeping into his tone. "At least they were TOLD they were placed with a family."
DJ put a hand on Jordy's shoulder. "Chill Jordy; why don't you come with us and help us fix it? Since you know some of them it's gonna be easier to get them to listen."
"What are your plans Deej?" Cory asked.
"I think we'll set a little trap." DJ replied with a grin. "The three of us will get set up over there and once the kids are dropped off we'll pull them out and once they are safe we'll take care of the trash that's holding them."
"I like that; just be careful son." Cory replied. "If you guys need anything just give a yell."
"Will do Dad. Has anyone checked out the guy that reported this?"
"I just finished a search on him." Seth replied. "He's clean as far as I can tell. Single, orphan, no love interests currently, no children."
Tanner giggled. "I wonder if he'd mind a few kids running around his place. I'm sure we could convince Derek that he can use another teacher!"
Cory chuckled. "See what he thinks about it; don't go giving him kids he don't want. See how they react to him too; you guys remember how you felt about being adopted, make sure they'll be happy with it before you do something."
Seth smiled. "Why don't you guys get ready; I'll contact him and tell him to expect company."
A few hours later: (Just after sunset)
"Dinner's on!" Helen announced as she pushed a cart into Teri's dining room.
"Thanks Helen, why don't you have a seat and let me help you with the food." Dan said as he stood up. He helped Helen take a seat, then began transferring the hot dishes to their places on the table.
Teri looked around at the assembled group; while recently it had been hard to accomplish, they tried to all get together at least once a week for a 'family' meal. Down the left side of the table were Cory, an empty seat where Sean usually sat, Austin, Brandon, DJ, Tanner, Timmy (With William perched on the back of his chair), Ricky (With Duke on the back of his chair), Paul, CD, Calen, Kelly, Tommy, Gavin, an empty spot for Josiah, Brant, Jordy, Aaron, and David. Down the right side sat Seth, Beau, Toby, Helen, Travis, Gabe, Jimmy, Davey, Alec, Andy, JJ, Adam, Harley, 'Roo, Brad, Daniel, two empty spots for Kyle and Tyler and an empty spot for John. Dan had the seat at the other end of the table from Teri, completing their little group.
Once Dan had taken his seat again, Teri spoke. "Guys, while I appreciate all that you're doing, if you keep growing the families like this I'm going to need an intercom to talk to Dan really soon! Deej, Tanner, Jordy; I'm glad you guys decided to wait until after dinner to head out." Once the giggles died down, she continued. "Davey, would you mind if I said Grace tonight?"
Davey gave a small smile at being asked instead of told. "Okay Aunt Teri. Can I say it next time?"
"Sure thing kiddo." Teri replied. "Thank you." She paused, and once everyone's head was bowed she began. "Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings that you have bestowed on us. Thank you for guiding Jordy, Brant, Paul, Brandon, Josiah, Seth and Daniel to safety. Give me the guidance to teach my newest sons Jordy, Brant and Seth, along with my new son-in-law Josiah, the things they will need to do your work. Give Cory and Sean the guidance they will need also for their new sons Paul and Brandon. Also give Dan and John the guidance they will need for their new son Daniel. Please watch over those who are away; Sean, John, Josiah, Kyle, and Tyler. Protect them and help them to return safely to their families. Pleas watch over DJ, Tanner and Jordy as they go out to assist another group of children. Bless this food that it may nourish the bodies and minds of the family gathered here today. Bless these children as they work to improve the lives of those they come in contact with. We thank you for all you have and will give us in Jesus' name; Amen."
Helen got up and came down the table until she was standing by Brant, She leaned over so that their discussion was masked some by the surrounding noise of the rest of the boys loading their plates. "Thank you for joining us Brant." she said with a smile.
Brant looked up, sadness showing in his eyes. "Thanks Helen. I really wish I could enjoy the food, but if I eat it it'd make me sick. That's why I kinda didn't want to join this."
"I know." Helen replied. "Cory filled us in on that before he went to ask you to be here. It's going to take me a little while to get something figured out that works best for you, but as long as you're willing to try my ideas and give me feedback on them I think we can work it out so that you get to enjoy everything we do. I know you can chew the food and enjoy the flavor, you just can't swallow it." Helen paused long enough to pull a small table with a hole in the top and a napkin dispenser on it over to sit next to Brant. "This is for you; the food that you want to try can be put down that hole and nobody will say anything. Just use a napkin when you are done chewing the food and then put it down the hole; if you think it will be too messy feel free to lean over and spit down the hole." She then motioned for Dan to pass her a covered platter that he had set off to the side. "This is just for you; I'll need you to be honest and let me know what I need to work on to make it better. I've taken the things we're having tonight and tried to give them a base that will make them easier for you to handle and dispose of after you're done with them. I think the flavors will last longer for you with these too. Feel free to switch between the things on this plate and the things on the table to compare them."
"Why are you doing this all for me?" Brant asked.
"Because you're family." Helen responded as she gave him a quick hug. "I always do whatever is necessary to adjust for the different needs of family; your needs are no different than the nutritional shakes I have to make for a lot of your brothers and cousins."
"But I'm not like the rest of these guys; I'm not even really human." Brant replied softly as his eyes started tearing up.
Helen gently turned his face and looked into his eyes, which now had a yellowish glow to them from the tears. "You're a lot more human than you realize angel." she said softly. "I've been watching you; you show love, loyalty to your friends, compassion for those in need, and a whole list of other things. If everyone in this world was like you, we wouldn't need the Clan."
"But my body still ain't human." Brant replied.
"Look around this table." Helen said. "I see a boy with a bio-mechanical body that can read minds, two boys who speak with animals and can change the look of their body at will. I also see empty spots for boys who can manipulate the mind and emotions of someone, and a spot right next to you for a boy who can turn anything into whatever he wants. None of what they can do is 'normal' for humans as a race, yet they are considered family just like any other boy. You are unique, but so is every other boy at this table."
"They don't haveta kill to survive though." Brant sobbed.
"Not directly; but they still do." Helen replied patiently. "I doubt very much that those chickens volunteered to climb on the chopping block." She smiled as the boys listening in giggled. "Just like the rest of these boys you have special nutritional requirements. If I know 'my' boys, they'll make sure that you have those requirements met by someone who was already sentenced to die for their actions. You will be doing your part in the Clan; in fact you'll be helping your brothers by not putting the responsibility of killing on their heads."
"But I can't kill either; I'm a lousy vampire just like I was a lousy human."
Helen kissed his forehead. "You have a heart; you haven't been able to kill because you couldn't pass judgment on someone. There is nothing wrong with that; it makes you a better person that most of the human race. Look at Gabe over there; he gets mad if you kill a fly. Yet he has executed a man for attacking his brothers. There is a time when killing is right; you will know that time and then your inhibition will clear for that one instance."
Brant looked over at Gabe, and was surprised to see Gabe nod his head then close his eyes. Brant gently went over Gabe's memories of the events revolving around the protection of his brothers. Fresh tears fell as he realized the inner struggle Gabe still was having over the decision he made. "Gabe?" he asked softly.
"You did right; I woulda done the same thing." Brant replied. "Don't worry about it no more."
"Thanks Bro." Gabe replied with a small smile. "Comin' from you that means a lot."
For the first time since he sat down, a genuine smile began to form on Brant's face. "Thanks for lettin me see. I wanna sit down with you and Travis after dinner if you'll let me; we kinda have some stuff in common from our old lives and I'd like to talk about it with someone that understands."
"Sure!" Gabe and Travis exclaimed at the same time. Brant saw the looks on Jimmy and Davey's faces and added "Jimmy and Davey too; I think they might be able to help all of us."
"You got it Bro." Gabe replied before returning to his meal.
Helen gave Brant a hug. "That's what I mean; you can make a difference if you let yourself. You have a family now; don't reject them because of what you think about yourself, instead let them show you what you can become."
Brant wiped his eyes. "Thanks Helen; I guess I got a lot of thinkin' to do. I promise I'll let my brothers help now though."
"That's my bright-eyed boy. I'd be proud to call you my son." Helen said with a smile. "Do you need those contacts to see?"
"Naw, they just hide the glow from ..." Brant started to reply before realizing what else she said. "Would you really wanna be my Mom?"
Helen nodded. "Yes, I would be proud to add a son like you. You're a really great person, no matter what people in your past have convinced you of. I'm sure we can find a way to make it legal if that is what you really want."
Fresh tears streamed down Brant's face as he softly replied "I'd really like to have you as a mom; you actually care about me. I'm dead though; how can it work if I'm dead?"
Before Helen could reply, Teri cleared her throat. "You're not dead Brant; you're listed as missing. I was going to bring it up with you after dinner, but now is as good of time as any. I can update your records to reflect you as being rescued by Clan Short. If Helen wishes to adopt you and you agree I'll put that into the official record too; then you will be legally her son."
Brant looked between Teri and Helen for a full minute in surprise before he was able to form a reply. "YES!!" he sobbed as he twisted around and tightly wrapped his arms around Helen. Kelly, Alec, and Travis got up from their seats and quietly joined in the hug; effectively bonding the newest member into their family.
Teri smiled at the group then turned towards Jordy, who was sitting there with a big grin on his face. "You got your wish Son; Brant found a family." she said just loud enough for him to hear.
"Thanks Mom." Jordy replied.
Over in Helen's group, Helen managed to work her way into a chair and now had Brant sitting on her lap. She looked at the smiling face in front of her and said loud enough for everyone to hear "Teri, if you don't have the paperwork done before snack time for my new son you get to deal with this group of boys when they don't have their nighttime snack."
"I'll get right on it!" Teri answered with a laugh. "I know better than to keep this crew from food!"
Helen nodded, then turned back to Brant and wiped a tear of joy from under his glowing eyes. "If you don't need those in your eyes why do you wear them?" she asked softly.
"Vampires wear them so they look more normal. They hide the glow from our eyes." Brant replied.
"Do you have a case for them?" Helen asked. "There is no reason to hide who you are from your family; your eyes are part of you and you should be proud of them."
"I don't wanna freak anyone out ..." Brant began.
Kelly put a hand on his shoulder. "Bro, you'd have to shoot fire outta them to even get a raised eyebrow! Between Timmy and Ricky's warpaint and Eli chasin' people around with his leg your eyes glowin ain't nothin. Some of the kids might ask about them, as long as you tell them that they glow because of your race they ain't gonna care. They'll probably think its kewl."
"He's right." Helen added. "None of your family hides what is special about themselves. You don't need to either; not while you are at home."
Brant smiled as he fished in his pocket and pulled out a small box. He bent his head down and removed the optix from his eyes, then closed the case and put it back in his pocket. He slowly lifted his head and looked around at his new brothers, his eyes now clearly shining in a golden glow.
"Awesome!" Kelly whispered as his eyes met Brant's. "Your eyes are totally wicked bro! Don't ever hide them, they're sweeeet!"
"Really?" Brant asked with a shy smile. "You don't think I look like a monster?"
"No way bro!" Kelly said. "They make you even cuter than you were already!"
Brant was speechless as he blushed and snuggled into Helen. "Kelly's right." Helen whispered. "You do look even better without those things in your eyes son."
Silent glowing tears rolled down Brant's face as he began to accept the sense of belonging to a family that had been missing from his life for so long. After a minute of trying to compose himself, he gave his new Mom a hug, and then still speechless he stood and gave each of his new brothers an equal hug. Fresh tears fell when he looked up from his final hug with Travis to find Jimmy and Davey heading up a quickly-lengthening line of everyone at the table to officially welcome him into the family.
The last person in line was Dan; once they had finished hugging Dan helped the emotionally drained boy back to his seat. "A little advice from someone who has been involved with these boys from the very beginning?" Dan asked softly as he placed a hand on Brant's shoulder.
Brant nodded. "Sure."
Dan knelt down next to Brant. "Forget everything you've ever been told about what you are capable of. Forget everything you've ever been told about your role in life. Follow your heart and work with your brothers, cousins, and nephews. You are an important piece of a huge puzzle that is still being developed; a puzzle that will ultimately make big changes in the world if not the whole universe. Every boy at this table has been involved in something that has already made changes in the world as we know it; now you are part of that and you're part of what looks to be the most influential group in the history of mankind."
Brant looked up and scanned the faces of the boys gathered around the table. As he glanced at each face, he got a flash of what affect they had been part of. "Thanks Dan." he replied as he finished. "I'm gonna take that advice; I ain't gonna let my family down."
Dan gave Brant's shoulder a squeeze as he stood up. "I know you won't; you have more in common with your brothers than you know."
The next morning:
Cory and Kelly were sitting on the sidelines taking a break from the soccer game that had developed after breakfast. "That was a pretty kewl thing your mom did for Brant last night. I think he really enjoyed having special food just for him."
Kelly smiled. "Yeah, he's gonna be a really awesome brother. Did you see him with Jimmy and Davey last night? I thought they were never gonna let him go when they found out he was interested in what happened to them."
Cory giggled. "Tell me about it. I'm not sure who helped who more last night though; Seth said Brant seemed a lot calmer when he went to bed this morning."
Kelly tilted his head. "That's good. I know Jordy was worried about him; Jordy thinks he felt left out because he can't do stuff with us during the day."
"I know; that's why we made sure he showed up at dinner last night." Cory replied. "I didn't know that your mom was going to do what she did, but it all worked out great."
Kelly smiled. "Yeah; he's really kewl once he loosens up. I think he finally got it that we don't care what species he is, he's our brother and that's final. I thought he was gonna jump for joy when he found out that a lot of us planned on staying up just to hang with him."
Cory glanced around at the boys giggling and running on the field. "Yeah; family makes a big difference. I learned that the hard way; I'm glad he's gonna get the chance to have one too. Not having a family really messes with your head."
"Tell me about it." Kelly said. "I figured that out when I was taken away from Mom. Aaron really saved me when he pulled that stunt back in Des Moines; I had been thinking about just giving up on life."
Cory twisted to look at Kelly. "You were considering suicide? I didn't know that."
Kelly nodded. "Yeah; I was. I didn't see any reason to continue with life. I actually had it all planned out and was going to go through with it that night. I kinda snapped at Aaron though when he said he'd try to help me; he was messin up my plans."
Cory put an arm around Kelly and pulled him in close. "I'm glad Aaron did it. I'd hate to have lost you bro. Who knows that you were planning that?"
"You." Kelly replied. "I guess the telepaths probably do too."
"Please promise not to ever think about it again; I love you bro and can't stand to lose you." Cory said softly.
"If I even get close you'll be the first one to know." Kelly replied as he snuggled into Cory's side. "You gave me my life back; I'm not gonna screw that up."
"Are you sure you don't mind watching the boys?" Cory asked his mom.
"You know I enjoy getting back at you by spoiling your sons!" Teri replied with a chuckle. "Besides, Timmy and Paul are never any problem. Go ahead and take care of the things you need to in CIC and I'll see you when you're done."
"Thanks Mom." Cory giggled as he headed for the door. "Be good for Grandma guys!"
"Okay Daddy!" Timmy and Paul chorused from their perches at the counter, each holding a fresh brownie.
Cory walked across the field to CIC, smiling as he thought about how the friends he now had were bonding into a strong family. He entered CIC, and walked over to relieve Seth for a while. "How's it goin bro?"
"Pretty quiet." Seth replied. "I think Brant's good mood has rubbed off on everyone; nobody's even grumbled all day."
Cory started going over the logs of the last twenty-four hours before he took over. He was just about finished when Timmy, Ricky and Austin, all in full warpaint, came sprinting into CIC. As soon as they entered the room, the consoles started sounding an Emergency Distress Signal. A weak voice came over the speakers: "... under attack; lots of people down ....". Cory spun to Seth. "Holy Crap! RED ALERT! Find his location; I want every available trained person out there!"
Seth nodded wordlessly as his hands flew over the console opening all Emergency Communications Channels. Tommy ran into the room and scrambled to his Communications Console; signaling he was ready as he dropped into his seat.
"RED ALERT! All divisions! RED ALERT!" Tommy announced as Seth gave him a nod. "Security Personnel stand by for deployment! All Medical Personnel prepare for incoming casualties. Report status to Headquarters immediately. This is not a drill, attack in progress. Casualties HAVE been reported!"