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"My head is starting to hurt," Isaac complained quietly to the older boy as the duo helped fold a massive pile of laundry.
"Do you need a break?" Alexander asked in concern, putting the back of his hand against Isaac's forehead.
"I should be alright for a little while," Isaac replied with a shrug. "There are just a lot of voices around me, right now."
"That's understandable," Alexander agreed. "Did Kyle show you any tricks to control it?"
"A few," Isaac informed him. "They're still difficult for me to control, though."
"Maybe, you need to ask him to put some sort of filter in your brain?" Alexander suggested. "That could help."
"I'll ask him the next time I see him," Isaac replied with an indifferent shrug.
Alexander quickly pulled the small boy into his arms and held him tightly. "You need to stop procrastinating, Isaac. You could be hurting yourself beyond repair, and we wouldn't even know because nobody else here has your abilities."
Isaac sighed softly. "I know," the smaller boy said with a timid tone in his voice. "I'm just scared. What if the damage is already done?"
"All you can do is ask for help, Isaac," Alexander reassured the boy. "I'm going to send for Kyle or Tyler if you don't."
"You can't ask them," Isaac said pointedly. "They're busy, right now. Especially Kyle."
"I know when you're evading something, Isaac," Alexander told the hazel-eyed youth pointedly.
"I'll get it figured out, Alex," Isaac responded shortly before turning and walking away without another word.
'I love you, Isaac,' Alexander pushed the thought to the younger boy, smiling when he saw the boy falter slightly in his steps. Then, Alexander went in search of his mother, needing to feel her arms around him for a little bit.
Melissa, of course, was more than willing to accommodate for the intrusion.
"Have you seen Conner, anywhere?" The new mother inquired as she held her son, ignoring the meeting that was happening in the room.
"He's with Enon and Orez right now, mom," Alexander replied with a sleepy yawn. "I think they're trying to bribe Geoff into taking them to the store so they can get ice cream."
"That sounds like a good idea," Melissa commented. "Your dad is already there, so money won't be an issue."
Alexander smiled coyly.
"Money won't be an issue, anyway, mom."
"And just why is that?" Melissa teased her son as she poked him in the stomach.
"The Clan pays for everything purchased at "Conner's Market" when it is bought by a kid," Alexander explained with a giggle.
Melissa nodded in understanding.
"Did your dad come up with that idea, or Harris?"
"It was dad and Uncle Vanek," Alexander corrected the woman.
"Oh," Melissa replied, her lips spreading into a grin, her gaze falling on the man that was busy studying a document in his hands. "I always knew that Vulcan was a big old softy when it came to children. It's a shame he never got to have any of his own."
"He does have children of his own, though," Alexander corrected Melissa again. "He's got Arys, Samy, Chase, Phil, Stefan, Nathan, and Anthony, now."
Melissa smiled at Alexander's statement. "Vanek would have told me the same thing, Alex," she agreed with the boy, glad that they were keeping their conversation only loud enough for themselves to hear. "I only meant, I wish he would have had the chance to father his own offspring, to be able to pass on his own genetics."
"Oh," the boy said with a blush. "I didn't think of it like that."
"I didn't expect you to, Alexander," the woman squeezed her son tightly.
"That wouldn't have worked, though," the boy suddenly said thoughtfully, not realizing that the duo had drawn the attention of the other adults in the room. "If Uncle Vanek had met someone else, he would have never been there to help Uncle Harold when Harris disappeared. Then, when Harris was brought back, who knows what man he would have found waiting for him. It could have very well been another version of the Monster that Arys despises so much."
"That's a very astute observation, young one," a deep voice said from the other end of the room. Alexander glanced up to see Vanek looking at him with a raised eyebrow. Harold, Daryl, and Dalton were also in the room, with Harris sitting at the head of the table, his small frame barely containing his laughter. "It is fortunate that life worked out in Harold's favor."
"What about your favor, Uncle Vanek?" Alexander asked before he started blushing again.
"I am perfectly content, Alexander," the Vulcan responded. "My T'hy'la is enough for me."
"Sorry, Uncle Vanek," the boy quickly apologized. "I didn't mean to come off as rude."
"A child's curiosity is always meant to be nurtured," Vanek countered. "While the setting may not have been appropriate, you still deserve the answers to your questions. If they are personal, then I would not have answered your question and I would have explained why I chose not to satisfy your curiosity of the particular subject."
"Understood, Uncle Vanek," the former angel replied with a nervous nod. "I will be more considerate of my surroundings from now on, and I will withhold any personal questions until we are in a more appropriate environment."
Then, the adults in the room went back to their meeting while Harris left his chair to stand next to Alexander and Melissa. "After the meeting," Harris spoke in a quiet voice. "Let's go see that new movie that just came out. Just you and me."
"Really?" Alexander asked in surprise. "Why me though?"
"You were my first friend here, Alex," Harris said with a roll of his eyes. "We need some more alone time together."
"I'm game," Alexander replied with a blush before Harris returned to his seat.
"Sorry," Harris apologized to the others. "So, what's our next move?"
"We need to locate the remainder of the G.O.H. Hideouts, Director," Daryl informed the boy. "The intel team has been finding some information on the hard drive we found in the doctor's office but, as of yet, it hasn't turned up anything useful. It's mostly just the formulas for the different chemicals he was using in his experiments."
"What about the records of those experiments?" Harris asked pointedly. "Were you able to locate those?"
"No, Director Conner," Daryl replied. "We believe they may have been on one of the computers in the lab."
"Was it a complete loss?" Dalton asked.
"It was," Daryl told them all. "There was nothing remaining of the facility. I just wish we would have been able to give the ones that didn't make it a proper burial."
"How many bodies were found?" Vanek said, searching for information.
"Over fifty, Daddy Vanek," Harris informed the Vulcan. "We were planning on going back to get a better count, but other events happened, instead."
"That is understandable, Harris," the Vulcan acknowledged with a nod. "It is better that you focused on rescuing the living. There's something else that we need to discuss."
"The floor is yours, Ambassador," Daryl stated, motioning for Vanek to continue. "I need to do more research before I continue, anyway."
Vanek nodded in appreciation before he pressed a button on the keyboard at the center of the table. The lights dimmed down and a projection of the Starfleet emblem appeared on the wall opposite Harris's position.
"I have discovered some information on the planet that Charles and Melissa found the children on," the man stated before he pressed a button and the image of a young woman wearing a Starfleet uniform appeared on the screen. "This is the photograph of Sarah Chalkrey, a former Captain in Starfleet. This is the last known photograph of the woman before she went to check out a disturbance with her crew near the center of the galaxy. Little did they know, they had a stow-away aboard the Isabella when it launched from Earth in 1962."
Just then, Charles entered the room and froze when he saw the image of the woman on the wall. "That's her!" The man exclaimed as he visibly paled.
"Charles?" Melissa asked in concern.
"That's the woman that fucking bit me!" Charles informed the room in horror, his eyes remembering a very different woman than what the image portrayed. He shivered as he felt her teeth slice into his shoulder as if it was happening all over again. "Holy shit! She was a Starfleet Captain?"
Then, Charles frowned and left the room with Alexander following closely behind him. "Dad, wait!"
Alexander caught up to Charles at the end of the hallway just as the man sat in a chair. Alex quickly slipped onto the man's lap and held his father tightly as the man sobbed.
"I love you, daddy," Alexander whispered, barely loud enough for Charles to hear. He squeezed his father even tighter. "I'll never let them hurt you, ever again."
"I love you, too, Alexander," Charles whispered. "More than life."
The hazel-eyed boy stumbled along the narrow hallway, trying to make it to the bathroom before he got sick all over the floor. One hand was pressed against his temple, trying to help ease the pressure of the throbbing migraine; while the other hand was tracing the wall. Isaac struggled against the multitude of voices and images that were coursing through his mind, trying to differentiate what was reality and what was coming from the "outside". The boy felt his stomach turn as he stumbled forward, his knees giving out before he could catch himself. Just before Isaac hit the floor though, the world seemed to flip inside out around him, and he was suddenly falling to his knees in a field before he found himself hitting the floor of the same corridor he had just been inside. Then, Isaac began to vomit as he sent out a mental shout for help. He tried to focus on the floor and the walls, but only succeeded in fainting.
'Crap,' the boy thought as more voices cascaded around him. He felt his body beginning to shake as the throbbing in his head grew worse. 'I waited too long.'
Brown eyes gazed around the medical center, taking in the sight of so many kids being treated around him. Trevor felt a wave of relief wash over him when he saw Ivan sitting on a cot at the end of the room with a brown-haired boy talking to a group of kids. Trevor tried to sit up, he needed to be with Ivan to make sure that his little brother was safe, but the sudden turning of his stomach dispelled the boy of the notion of moving around. He was about to call out for help when a boy with brown hair and brown eyes sat on the edge of his cot. The boy was wearing a white doctor's coat with a clipboard in one hand and a small paper cup of water in the other.
"Relax, Trevor," the boy instructed with a warm smile. Then, he offered Trevor the water he was holding as he sat his clipboard on the bed. "Drink this. I'm sure your mouth is very dry."
"Yeah," Trevor replied with a crackling voice.
"Take small sips," the boy told Trevor. "You might get sick if you drink it too fast."
"Who are you?" Trevor asked between sips of the cool liquid.
"I'm Doctor Tristan Jennings," the brown-haired boy said proudly. "I got my degree yesterday morning."
Trevor thought for certain that he was dreaming and couldn't stop himself from laughing. Tristan just waited patiently for Trevor's laughing to subside.
"You can't be serious," Trevor finally said, dumbfounded by what he was witnessing. "I've gotta' be dreaming. Any minute now, that stupid fucking Doctor Pain is going to come crashing through that door and lock us all back up."
"I seriously doubt that, Trevor," Tristan told him with a smug grin. "William Cross, formerly known as Doctor Pain, is nothing more than a pile of ash, now. He died when the G.O.H. facility exploded."
"This isn't a dream?"
"Far from, I'm afraid," the young doctor admitted with a soft smile. "Your little brother was completely unharmed, by the way."
"Yeah," Tristan nodded. "He's been by your side since they brought him in."
"Who is they?" The boy asked nervously, fearing that this was nothing but a delicate trap set by someone even higher than Doctor Pain. Were they just studying his reactions to the possibility of being free, or were they just trying to confuse him to his breaking point? Why go to such an elaborate plan just to make one boy go crazy? Was he special somehow? Trevor seriously doubted anything was real. It couldn't be. The G.O.H. had their hands in everything. Trevor was about to break out into tears when Tristan suddenly pulled him into a tight hug.
"I swear that you're safe now, Trevor," Tristan tried to reassure the boy. "I would never lie to you like that."
"You don't even know me," Trevor retorted between sobs.
"I've been the one that's kept you alive for the past day, Trevor," Tristan told the older boy. "Why would I start hurting you, now?"
"Because they made you. . ."
"They can't reach you here, Trevor," Tristan reiterated. "I'll make you see, one day. I promise. Clan Short would never let anything bad happen to one of their own."
"Do you promise to protect me if this turns out to be a trick?" Trevor asked quietly, hoping nobody else heard him.
"With my life," Tristan responded fiercely.
Then, Trevor kissed Tristan on his cheek and nuzzled into the young doctor's arms. Tristan couldn't stop the blush from rising to his cheeks as he stared down in awe at the top of Trevor's head.
'Wow!' Tristan thought with a foolish grin. 'He's amazing!'
Conner looked around the bedroom, his eyes filled with nervous apprehension as he took in the large television on one wall directly above a dresser. There were two-full sized beds on the opposite side of the room, and half of the room was decorated with movie posters and other various images. A bookshelf stood next to a window, overstuffed with books of different sizes. Conner was about to say something when Melissa spoke up from behind him.
"You can decorate your half of the room however you want, Conner," the woman said softly. "Fritz is excited to see what you come up with."
"Really?" Conner asked, a fleeting image of the hazel-eyed boy with curly-brown hair flashing through his mind. "Are you sure?"
"Positive, Conner," Charles reiterated. "Fritz can't wait to be your roommate."
"I hope so," Conner whispered, not realizing that the adults had heard him as he turned back to the room.
"What's your favorite color, Conner?" Melissa asked as she knelt next to the boy. "We can make this side of the room any color that you want."
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Conner asked, his voice heavy with suspicion.
"You're our son, now, Conner," Melissa told the boy, pulling him into her side and holding him tightly. "Why wouldn't we be kind to you? You deserve everything that we have to give!"
Conner seemed surprised by the woman's reaction. Then, he looked over at Charles. "Do you feel the same way, sir?"
"Of course, I do!" Charles replied without a doubt, surprising Conner even more. "You're my son, Conner! All I want is for you to be happy!"
Conner hesitated only briefly before he launched himself into the arms of a very surprised Charles. The boy sobbed as the man just held him tightly.
"You're safe now, Conner," Charles whispered soothingly as he walked over to the closest bed and sat down, rubbing Conner's back the entire time. "We'll never let anybody hurt you, ever again!"
Conner nodded happily, letting the man hold him while he cried himself out. Then, he couldn't stop himself from answering Melissa's question. "Blue," the frail boy whispered.
"What's that?" Charles asked.
"My favorite color is blue," Conner said with a blush as he smiled at Melissa.
Melissa quickly hugged the trembling boy.
The brown-haired boy wandered through the corridors of the large building. He didn't know where he was going, nor did the eleven-year-old really care. Ever since being rescued from Doctor Pain, Castel felt - different. He wasn't certain what he would call it, but he felt relieved that he didn't have to be tortured any longer. There was no longer any searing agony to be suffered. There was no more mental aguish. Most of all, there was no more Doctor Pain.
Castel stopped and sighed with relief.
"I'm free," he whispered. Castel smiled at the words before he felt a tear of happiness fall down his cheek. "Am I dreaming?"
Then, the moment he had arrived at the headquarters building for the Ohio Valley Division of Clan Short, Castel found himself being swept up in the energy of a young hazel-eyed boy named Isaac Jennings. Isaac promptly introduced Castel to Dalton, and the man offered to adopt Castel on the spot. The moment Castel accepted, Isaac hugged Castel tightly and proclaimed that Castel was now one of his older brothers.
Castel smiled at the memory leaning against the wall for a moment. The boy pinched the back of his hand and winced. "Ouch!" He giggled. "I'm definitely not dreaming."
Then, Castel continued exploring the building. He turned down a narrow hallway where he heard the sound of a pained groan coming from nearby. The boy headed towards the sound, feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency as he got closer to the sound's source. Castel's brown eyes went wide in fear when he found the blond-haired child lying in the middle of the floor. Castel couldn't stop the scream for escaping his lips as he screamed for help.
His piercing tenor voice carried down the corridor, sending people running towards the terrified sound. Just as the boy knelt next to the unconscious form of Isaac, a crowd of people arrived, including Doctor Zach, being pulled along by a very serious looking Julian.
"Oh my!" The man gasped as he knelt next to the boy and pulled out his tricorder. "Give me room, guys!"
The kids around the doctor quickly pulled back just before Castel found himself sitting in the middle of the Emergency Ward on a Federation Starship. Castel yelped in surprise as several medics pulled him away from his little brother.
"What's going on here?" A gruff voice asked in confusion. "Where did you-?" His voice fell silent when he saw the condition on Doc Zach's tricorder. "Get him a biobed, now!"
The medics quickly picked up the boy, holding him steady as they transferred him to one of the available biobeds. The doctor with the gruff appearance quickly set to work trying to figure out what was wrong with the boy while Castel and Doctor Zach waited anxiously.
"I found him lying in a hallway," Castel informed the man, he felt like it was important for the man to know. The doctor nodded his head as he continued to work on the boy.
"Are you from Clan Short?" One of the medics asked.
"Yes, we are," Zach replied with a brief nod. "Ohio Valley Division."
"I haven't heard of that one," the doctor replied without looking up.
"We've only been a division for a few days, from what I understand," Zach informed the older man. "I don't even think the Patriarch knows about our existence, yet."
The man just chuckled. "That's usually how it goes with Clan Short."
"Do you work with them often?" Zach asked.
"As much as they need me to," the man replied with a frown as he continued to study his patient. "Is the patient's father still in the picture?"
"Definitely," Castel replied with a nervous smile. "Isaac's daddy is my daddy now, too!"
The doctor smiled at the eleven-year-old. "That's great, little man. Do you know his name?"
"Dalton Jennings," Castel replied proudly.
"Excellent!" The man praised the boy. "Do me a favor, go out to the main desk, and tell the Officer on Duty to get in touch with Dalton Jennings of Federation Youth Services. We need your daddy up here, as soon as humanly possible."
The boy quickly slipped from the room leaving Zach alone with the strange doctor. "What's your name, young man?"
"Doctor William Zachary Adams," Zach answered quickly. "Yours sir?"
"I'm Commander Gregory Marshall, Chief Medical Officer aboard the U.S.S. Galaxus," the doctor replied with a grin. Then, he motioned for Zach to join him. "I'm sure that you have enough experience as a doctor, but I believe that this situation requires a special touch." Neither man noticed Castel reenter the room and stand off to the side so he could watch what they were doing with his brother. "The monitor shows that everything about Isaac is normal except for his level of mental activity."
"What's that mean?" Zach asked in confusion.
"I believe that this young man may have an ability, and it decided to overload him," Commander Marshall stated. "We're going to need the assistance from a Vulcan, and I think I know just the one."
'Stay strong, Isaac,' Castel thought fervently. 'They're getting you help!'
Tristan watched as Trevor and Ivan were talking with their new father and brother. Daryl Greyson was a good man, and his adopted son Joey was just as spirited as his new dad. Tristan felt a smile form on his lips as he watched the brothers interacting with their new family. The young medic felt a tear fall down his cheek when Trevor hugged Daryl tightly. Tristan nearly jumped out of his skin when his new dad joined him.
"Hey, buddy," Dalton greeted the boy with a chuckle and patted his shoulder to calm him down. "Sorry. I forgot that you're the jumpy one."
Tristan quickly blushed in embarrassment.
"That is nothing to be ashamed of, Tristan," Dalton quickly reassured his new son. "Your life has been full of experiences that have shaped you into who you are right now."
"I can't help it sometimes, daddy," Tristan whispered as he leaned into Dalton's side. "I'm just scared that they're going to come back."
"There's absolutely no chance of that, Tristan," Dalton knelt and pulled the brown-eyed boy into a tight hug. "I won't let it happen. Ever."
"Do you promise?"
"With my life, baby boy," Dalton agreed fiercely.
Tristan smiled nervously and let the man hold him, relishing in the love that he was being shown for the first time since he was taken from his parents.
"There's something that we need to talk about, Tristan," Dalton told the boy, leaning back so he could see Tristan clearly.
"What is it?" Tristan asked suspiciously.
Dalton lifted the boy into his arms. "Come on. Let's go somewhere a little more private."
"Yes, sir," Tristan replied meekly, snuggling into the crook of his father's neck.
Dalton rubbed the boy's back until he found a room where Melissa was sitting alone. The woman glanced up from her laptop as the man entered the room carrying his son.
"Hey, Dalton! Hey, Tristan!" She greeted the father and son with a smile before she noticed the expression on Dalton's face. "Do you guys need this room?"
"No, Melissa," Dalton told her as he sat at the far end of the conference table. "It's actually me disturbing you, this time."
"What's going on?" Melissa asked, closing the lid of her laptop.
"Could you be a witness that we had this conversation?"
"Of course, Dalton," Melissa quickly agreed before leaning forward so she could hear what was going on.
Tristan's heart was beating rapidly as he waited in nervous anticipation for his dad to tell him his news. Tristan was beginning to fear the worse when Dalton finally began speaking in a soft tone.
"Tristan, I need to let you know that the Clan found your parents," Dalton began nervously. "Before you get excited though, there's something you need to know."
"What is it, Mr. Jennings?" Tristan asked, quickly suppressing his excitement. "Where did the Clan find my mom and dad?"
"They're in prison, Tristan," Dalton told the boy plainly.
"What?" Tristan's eyes went wide in disbelief. "No. . ."
"They sold you into slavery, Tristan," Dalton continued. "They were caught selling your little brother into slavery, as well."
"But. . .?" The boy's mind was racing with questions, his heart hammering away in his chest, his future was fading from him. "No. . ." His words escaped him as tears flooded his eyes. That wasn't how he remembered it. Were they really there that night? Did he hear the sound of his mother sobbing in the background the night he was taken? Tristan couldn't get a grasp on the situation. What about Jaden? Where was he at? Were all of his memories nothing but lies? How though? "I can't. . ." Tristan felt his body trembling, his sobs becoming uncontrollable as Dalton's words sunk into his mind. "But. . ." The memories were so real. Were they even his? Did his parents ever love him? How much was he worth to them? Tristan flinched slightly when Dalton placed the palms of his hands on the boy's cheeks and made Tristan meet his gaze.
"I love you, Tristan," Dalton told the boy. "For eternity. My promise still stands, little one. I will never let anything bad happen to you, if I have any control of it."
"Why though?" Tristan questioned, his voice filled with sadness. "I'm not even your son. . ."
"Yes, you are, Tristan," Dalton told the boy in a serious tone. "I am your father, and you are my son. That will never change, now."
"What if they escape?" Tristan suddenly asked in fear. "How do we find Jaden?"
"Your parents won't escape this prison, Tristan," Dalton reassured his son. "And Jaden. . ."
Dalton wasn't sure how to tell the boy the next part of his news, but Tristan picked up on it faster than the man expected.
"He didn't make it, did he?" Melissa gasped in surprise at the boy's question, but Tristan's gaze was still on Dalton. His voice quivered with sadness as he spoke. "You can be honest, daddy. I can take it, I think."
Dalton pulled the boy into his chest. "No, Tristan," he informed the medic. "Your little brother didn't survive. Your mom and dad. . ." The man had to stop and take a breath to calm his nerves. "Your mom and dad killed him when Starfleet showed up to bust them."
"He was only ten," Tristan whispered
Tristan wept, not noticing when Melissa moved over next to the father and son to help console the brown-haired child. She rubbed his back gently, wishing that there was something more that she could do for him. Together, the trio grieved for Tristan's brother. The room was silent until the door opened and Julian burst into the room.
"Daddy!" The little boy cried out in worry. "Isaac is sick!"
The Director paced the floor of the room that had been designated as his personal office. There was a desk in the center of the room with a touchscreen computer setup on its top. Harris' father, Harold Conner, had shown the boy how to use the new computer earlier when it had been set up by a team of Vulcans. Only Harris could access the computer in his office. Nobody else could even look at his monitor without his permission, or the display would simply go into a pixelated state - effectively blurring whatever Harris had been looking at. Now, after exploring the new system to the fullest of what he had been taught, Harris returned his attention to his growing division. Their numbers were in the low fifties, but Harris knew they would continue to grow.
"Who even knows how many more we'll rescue?" The boy muttered to himself. "We're going to need a bigger building. . ."
Harris sighed and crossed the room to flop down in the oversized office chair behind his desk. 'What have I gotten myself into?' He closed his eyes for a moment before the computer made a beeping noise. The boy couldn't stop the frown from crossing his lips until he opened his eyes and saw Vanek gazing back at him on the monitor.
"Did I interrupt you, Director?" Vanek asked as Harris sat up quickly.
"No, Ambassador," Harris picked up on the seriousness of the call by his sa'mekh's tone of voice. "How may I be of assistance?"
"Your presence is requested in the Medical Ward aboard the U.S.S. Galaxus, Director," Vanek informed his son. "There has been an incident involving Isaac."
Harris felt his stomach drop at Vanek's words, but forced himself to suppress his worry. It was pointless to worry when the situation couldn't be changed. "I will be right there, Ambassador Vanek."
"Live long and prosper, Director Conner," the Vulcan returned before the screen went blank.
Harris frowned and forced himself to his feet, he had barely taken a step when he found himself standing in the Medical Ward of the starship. The boy immediately went to Isaac's bedside and stroked his friend's forehead with his thumb. To Harris, Isaac looked as though he was just sleeping, but he knew that inside, Isaac had to be going through his own personal Hell.
'I love you, Isaac!' Harris thought towards the boy in a gentle tone. 'I know that you can figure this out. All you have to do is relax and build your rooms. Remember when Kyle said that during our training? Build your rooms, Isaac. Do you want me to get Daddy Vanek to help you?' Harris chuckled lightly when he realized that he was waiting for Isaac to answer him. "Jesus, dude. I'm starting to believe that you can speak back to me. Good thing this only works one way. You're a lot tougher than I am, being able to hear everyone's thoughts and not judging them because of those thoughts." Harris sighed as he gazed at his friend. 'Stay strong, Isaac. I'll see what I can do to help.'
Then, Harris used his commbadge to request transport back to his apartment.
"Are you sure, Jaden?" The echoing voice asked as the boy gazed at the faltering image of his older brother crying in a strange man's arms. "This is a huge responsibility."
"He needs me," the boy replied, a bell-like tone to his voice. "I can handle it."
"Many of said those same words before you," the voice told the boy pointedly.
"I'm not like other people," Jaden said as his eyes narrowed before he turned his eyes to the glowing figure beside him. "I would die a million times just to keep Tristan from crying."
"And he would cry a million times," the form told Jaden. "That is the true depth between your bonds."
"It was my time to go?" Jaden asked in response.
"It was, my child."
"Then, this is my new Destiny," Jaden acknowledged, returning his gaze to his brother.
"Would you like to see your parents, one last time?"
"If only to incite the other prisoners into attacking them, like they attacked me," Jaden answered as he put his hand to his throat, touching the spot where the knife had been drawn across his skin. "It wouldn't be a good idea for me to see them, sir. I'm not ready to forgive them for taking me away from Tristan."
"There's another question that you need to be asked, Jaden," the glowing form told the boy, redirecting the boy's attention.
"What question is that, sir?"
"Do you want to be the protector for only your brother, or for everyone that is a part of his family?"
"I'll protect all of them if I must," Jaden told the form in a fierce tone without any hesitation. "His family is my family!"
The glowing form chuckled warmly. "I've been hearing that a lot, lately," he said in his deep voice. "Now, there's someone that I need to introduce you to."
Jaden jumped slightly when an older teenager appeared beside him.
"Holy-!" Jaden exclaimed before cutting the curse short as the figure solidified into a brown-haired angel with golden wings wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans.
"Hey," the angel greeted Jaden with a smile. "I'm Saint Mikey of Urbandale - Protector of Gay and Abandoned Youth. You must be the new guy!"
"I- I- I'm Jaden," the younger boy stammered as a set of white wings grew from his shoulder blades, the tips of his feathers stretching down to the ground behind him.
"Nice wings, Jaden," Mikey complimented the younger boy. "They look good on you!"
"Thanks, Saint Mikey," Jaden whispered, his confidence slowly returning as Mikey slid his arm across Jaden's shoulders and led him away from the glowing figure hovering nearby.
"First thing," Mikey began as he waved over his shoulder at Saint Peter without looking back. "You can call me Mikey. . ."
Castel sat with his brothers in the Officer's Mess, Julian clinging tightly to him as they waited for any word on their brother's condition. Tristan and William were clinging to each other tightly when Dalton entered with a weathered frown on his lips.
"Dad?" William asked nervously.
"Isaac is going to be okay, boys," Dalton informed his sons before sinking into one of the empty chairs.
"What about you, dad?" Tristan asked. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Yeah, buddy," Dalton responded, forcing himself to smile as his sons began making their way to him. "I'm just exhausted, right now."
Julian climbed into Dalton's lap with Castel following close behind the smaller boy. Tristan and William climbed into the chairs on either side of Dalton and cuddled into the man's side.
"Is there anything we can do, daddy?" Castel asked quietly.
Dalton couldn't help but smile as all of the boys snuggled into him. "This is exactly what I need right now, guys," the man told his sons. Dalton was about to say something else when two angels appeared in front of him and his sons. "Can I help you, gentlemen?"
"Dalton Jennings, I presume?" The angel with golden wings asked with a smirk in a bad British accent. Dalton nodded with as straight of a face as he could muster until Tristan turned to look at the new arrivals.
"Jaden?" Tristan asked in confusion as he took in the appearance of the younger boy with white wings sticking out from his back. Both of the angels were wearing t-shirts and jeans, but the smaller one was nodding emphatically at Tristan as the brown-haired youth slid from his chair. "This can't be. . ."
"It is, though," the older angel told the boy. "My name is Saint Mikey of Urbandale. . ." Mikey just chuckled as Tristan threw himself into Jaden's arms with tears of happiness streaming down his cheeks. "This is Jaden," Mikey directed his words to Dalton and the other boys. "Tristan's little brother. He has decided to serve as the Guardian Angel for your family until such time as your family is no longer in need of his services, or he is unable to perform his duties."
"You're an angel, now?" Tristan asked, his eyes red and puffy from his crying, never breaking his gaze away from Jaden's slightly glowing form. "How though?"
"Don't ask questions, Tristan," Jaden instructed. "Just give me a hug while you can."
"What's that mean?" The older boy asked with worry in his voice.
"It's taking a lot of energy out of me to stay in this form, brother," Jaden responded. "I'm still very new to being an angel."
Tristan nodded, but embraced his little brother as tight as he could.
"I'm sorry that you can't stay with me, Jaden," Tristan whispered, barely loud enough for Jaden to hear him. "I wish that you had been saved before mom and dad did that to you."
"Shh," Jaden quickly silenced his brother's apology. "There's no need for that. I'm content with the choice that was given me and the life I'm living, now. Besides, I'm always going to be with you guys, Tristan. How else am I going to be able to protect you?"
"I'll just, uhh, let Jaden handle it from here," Mikey said warmly. The angel turned his attention to Dalton for a moment. "Congratulations on the expanding family, Mr. Jennings! You deserve it after everything you've had to sacrifice in the search for your son."
"Thanks, Mikey," Dalton replied with a nod. "I'll take good care of Jaden, too."
"We know you will, Dalton," Mikey responded with a smile before vanishing from the room.
"Let me go check on your brother, guys," Dalton told the boys as he slid Julian and Castel off to either side of his body.
"We'll stay right here, dad," William acknowledged as he pulled Julian onto his own lap.
Dalton nodded and went back towards the sliding doors leading to the medical ward, leaving the boys to comfort each other. Castel watched his father walk through the doors before he turned his attention to Tristan and Jaden who were just sitting and holding each other's hand.
"I love you, guys," the eleven-year-old whispered, drawing the attention of each of his brothers. The next thing the brown-eyed boy knew, he was being embraced by three warm bodies and one body with a set of wings wrapped protectively around all of them.
"We love you, too, Castel," Tristan said with as much love as he could push into the words. "More than life!"
For one moment, all of the boy’s minds were filled with a chorus of voices, singing a song that echoed throughout the ages. The song faded as Jaden vanished, leaving each boy holding a white feather in their hand. None of them saw the white feather that had appeared in Isaac's hand at the same moment.
Trevor and Ivan spent their evening hanging out with their new father and little brother. Joey had promptly showed the brothers their apartment, telling the brothers his life story as he walked and pointed out the different rooms. Daryl couldn't help but smile as Joey helped make Trevor and Ivan feel like they were home. Trevor kept taking glances back at the man, not certain if he could completely trust the dark-haired man, yet. Daryl would just nod and smile at the boy, never moving from his position on the sofa so he wouldn't add any unnecessary fear into his new sons.
"This is my room," Joey said happily as he pushed open the last door at the end of the hallway. The smaller boy led his new brothers into his room and smiled as he sat down on the edge of his queen-sized bed. "You guys can sit down. We're safe here."
Ivan looked at Trevor but didn't move until the older boy nodded towards the bed. "Go on, Ivan," he reassured his little brother. "It's okay, I think."
"I know that it's going to take you time to rebuild your trust in other people," Joey told Trevor warmly as he slid over to make room for Trevor to sit down, too. "But I promise you that we're never going to be hurt again, as long as we stay by each other's sides. You're both my brother now, and I'll do whatever it takes to protect you!"
"What can you do, though?" Trevor asked, his eyes flicking towards the door briefly. "You're just a kid."
Joey's smile broadened.
"Remember you said that when you find out how tough I really am," the younger boy told his new brothers. "I took out three of the G.O.H. men by myself."
"Really?" Ivan asked curiously. "How?"
"I shot two of them," Joey replied as he acted out shooting a phaser with his right hand. "The last guy managed to get my phaser away from me, so I used a technique I was taught to paralyze one of his arms before I stabbed him with my knife."
"Wow," Ivan breathed, but Trevor looked as though he didn't believe the ten-year-old. "I want to learn how to protect Trevor, like he's protected me!"
"That's awesome," Joey exclaimed. "Let's go tell dad, Ivan!"
Joey took Ivan's hand in his own and pulled the older boy along behind him as he ran for the living room. Trevor remained behind and listened as Joey was talking excitedly down the hallway.
'Are we really safe here?' Trevor asked himself as he stared at the open door. He was about to get up and go to his own room when Daryl appeared in the doorway and leaned against the frame, not moving any closer to Trevor.
"Are you okay, Trevor?" Daryl asked in concern.
Trevor merely shrugged his shoulders indifferently as he lowered his gaze to the floor. "I'll be okay, sir."
"Is that what you tell yourself, son?" Daryl asked, moving slowly towards the nearby desk and pulling the chair out so he could sit down. "Does it make you feel better to keep telling yourself that you'll be okay?"
"Not really, sir," Trevor whispered.
"Oh, baby boy," Daryl couldn't help himself and moved to Trevor's side, pulling the boy into his lap and holding him tightly. Trevor began to sob uncontrollably in his new father's arms. "It's okay, Trevor. Let it out, buddy."
"They cut me," Trevor whimpered through his tears. "They fucking cut me! They didn't even put me to sleep, daddy. . ."
Daryl couldn't stop himself from shedding his own tears as Trevor's gaze met his own.
"You're safe here, baby boy!" The man declared, barely maintaining control over his anger. "I'll never let those men hurt you, again! Joey won't either!"
"Joey needs protection from them, dad," Trevor countered as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "They'll hurt him if they ever catch him."
"That's where you're wrong, Trevor," Daryl chuckled as he hugged the boy into his chest. "It's those men that need protection from Joey. Especially, if he hears what they did to you."
"I already know, daddy," Joey spoke up from the doorway. His brown eyes were burning with fury as he took in the sight of his brother's face streaked with tears. "I'll make sure they never hurt Trevor or Ivan, again."
Then, Ivan slid around Joey and pushed himself into Trevor's side, making Daryl cuddle him, as well.
"I could get used to this," Daryl said with a warm smile.
'Me, too," Trevor thought with his own smile.
"Come on, guys," Daryl said after a few minutes. "Let's get ready for bed. We can all watch a movie in my room, tonight."
Conner stretched and yawned as he blinked his eyes open against the early morning light shining in through his bedroom window. The ten-year-old couldn't stop the sleepy smile from spreading across his lips as he thought about the fact that he had a new family. For a moment, Conner mourned the loss of his birth parents, knowing that they had given their very lives trying to protect him from the Guardians of Humanity. The boy had cried many tears over the loss of his mom and dad, but he had shed happy tears the evening before when all of his new brothers engulfed the tiny boy in a hug that he never wanted to end.
"It's about time you woke up, Conner," a voice chuckled from the other side of the room, making Conner jump in shock and turn to see Geoff sitting on the edge of Fritz's bed. "I'm just kidding, by the way, Conner. I was told that you could sleep as long as you needed to."
Conner blushed and managed to sit up while keeping the thick comforter pulled up against his chest. The boy couldn't stop the next yawn from slipping past his lips.
"Sorry," Conner mumbled. Geoff just smiled and slid off of Fritz's bed. He crossed the room and motioned towards the edge of Conner's bed.
"Of course," Conner replied shyly before Geoff sat down and turned to face the younger boy.
"Did you sleep okay?" Geoff asked in concern. "You can always go back to bed for a little bit, if you want."
"No," Conner replied quickly. "I shouldn't have slept as long as I did."
"You're fine, Conner," Geoff quickly reassured the boy, patting him on his knee. "Mom and dad thought you would need the chance to catch up on some sleep. Besides, we don't start our new school until Monday. We've got all weekend to get to know each other."
"You want to spend time with me?" Conner asked curiously as he glanced up at the older boy.
"Of course, I do, Conner," Geoff replied without hesitation. "You're my little brother."
Then, Geoff climbed up onto the bed until he was sitting against the headboard and pulled Conner into his arms, making the smaller boy giggle.
"So, what do you want to do today?"
"What do you mean?" Conner asked nervously.
"It's you and me all day, bro," the older boy grinned as he started tickling Conner in his ribs, eliciting a high-pitched laugh from the smaller boy.
"Stahhhhpppppp!" Conner cried, trying to break free from Geoff's grasp. The younger boy couldn't stop laughing as Geoff's fingers traced up and down his ribs. "I gotta pee!"
Geoff quickly relented his torture and let his victim slip from his grasp. Conner darted from the bed, leaving the fifteen-year-old laughing behind him. The younger boy barely made it in time as he relieved himself at the toilet. He washed his hands when he was finished and returned to his room to find Geoff still lying back against the headboard.
"Did you make it?" The green-eyed teen asked.
"Barely," Conner grinned at his older brother before climbing back into his bed. Conner hesitated before Geoff grabbed him and pulled him back to where he had been before the tickle attack. Conner sighed happily as Geoff started running his fingers up and down the smaller boy's back.
"Now," Geoff spoke up, returning to his original question. "What do you want to do, today?"
"Whatever I want?" Conner asked quietly without looking up at Geoff.
"Whatever you want, Conner," Geoff reassured his little brother.
"Can we go-?" The smaller boy started before he changed his mind. "Never mind. It's stupid."
"Hey," Geoff quickly slid his finger under Conner's chin and made the boy look up at him. "It's not stupid if you want to do it, little brother. I'll never judge you." Then, Geoff pulled Conner against his chest, again, and spoke in a low voice. "Now, out with it, Conner Squared."
Conner giggled lightly at the nickname before he got quiet for a minute.
"Can we go see my mom and dad?" The small boy asked timidly.
"Of course, we can," Geoff replied, just as quietly as Conner had spoke. "I'll go ask mom if she can take us there. You should take a shower and get dressed. Wear that white hoodie that Xander gave you. It brings out the colors of your eyes."
"Okay," Conner mumbled shyly as Geoff hugged him, again.
"I'll be downstairs, little brother," the brown-haired teen said as he slid off of the bed. "Try not to take too long."
Conner nodded as he watched Geoff leave his room before the boy went to get some clothes to wear after his shower. He pulled out the white hoodie, and made sure it was hanging safely from the hook on the back of the bathroom door before Conner started the water for his shower. Then, the boy turned to look in the mirror at his own reflection. His brothers, and the other members of the Clan that he had met so far, all admired the condition that shown plainly on the child's face. His right eye was blue, and his left eye was green. It was a rare mutation in his family, one that only surfaced every few decades. Conner's old classmates used to make fun of the boy, using his heterochromia as a tool to tear down the boy. Now, Conner had a new family and friends that loved him just as he was. There was one thing that he needed to do before he could accept his new place in the world, though.
Geoff sat in the back seat of the black sedan with Conner, while Melissa sat up front with Daryl Greyson. The Security Chief, knowing that Melissa was leaving, decided that he needed to just drive the mother and her two sons to their destination. Geoff held Conner's hand as Conner stared out the window of the sedan. The boys watched together as Daryl navigated down some country roads for several miles before he turned into a narrow drive and passed through a set of old wrought-iron gates.
"We're here, boys," Melissa said softly from the front seat. Conner's attention was immediately piqued as he started looking at the different gravestones that the sedan drove past. "They're up here on the left, Conner."
Daryl pulled the car over beside a couple of graves that were sitting on the top of a small rise. He stepped out of the car and opened the back door for the two boys to climb out. Melissa and Daryl scanned the area before they both decided it was safe for the boys to walk over to the headstones.
"Stay together, guys," Daryl cautioned gently as the brothers walked away, hand in hand.
"We will, Daryl," Geoff acknowledged as he led his brother to the graves. The older boy could feel Conner trembling through their connection and squeezed his hand reassuringly. "You can do this, little brother. You're one of the strongest kids I know."
Conner nodded as they stopped in front of the graves. He fought the urge to cry, but Conner wasn't strong enough to stop the wave of grief from washing over him. The boy fell to his knees and Geoff was quick to join his younger brother. Together, the boys shared Conner's grief as the blond-haired boy said goodbye to his parents.
That evening, after having dinner with his family, when the sun was settling behind the horizon, Conner was visited by Chase Conner and Phil Dawson. The two Moroi were dressed in jeans and black t-shirts that had the word "SECURITY" written in large-bold letters stamped across the chest and the back. Conner was slightly taken aback by the duo when they introduced themselves as his "slightly-living cousins". Charles couldn't help but to chuckle at the lame joke, and left Conner in the capable hands of his cousins.
"What's going on?" Conner asked nervously as Chase held his hand, escorting the blond-haired youth to the elevator.
"We've got a surprise for you, Conner," Phil said with a happy grin. "Sort of a "Welcome to the Family" party."
"It's a new tradition that we talked our dads into starting," Chase supplied with his own smile as the doors to the elevator opened and he led Conner inside. "This is for Nate and Anthony, too. They lost their brother the other day while he was performing his duties for Clan Short."
"He died?" Conner asked, a knot forming in his throat as he briefly thought about his parents, again.
"Yeah," Phil answered. "It's going to be okay, though. Harold and Vanek love us like we were their own sons."
"We are their sons, Phil," Chase corrected his brother.
Conner squeezed Chase's hand tighter as the elevator began its descent. The younger boy blushed when Chase looked over at him and smiled. He quickly squeezed Conner's hand back before pulling the boy into a hug.
"You're on the mend, cousin," Chase reassured the boy. "Besides, you can hold my hand whenever you want. I kinda like it."
Conner's cheeks flushed deep red in embarrassment as he thought about how the cold hand felt soft and inviting in his own. Then, an image of Chase kissing his cheek flashed through his mind, making Conner smile slightly.
'I wouldn't mind that,' he thought to himself, not realizing that the other boy could hear his thoughts. 'I can't let Chase know, though. He won't like me, anymore.'
"You're wrong, Conner," Chase said with a whisper as he leaned into Conner's side. "I like you more than you could possibly imagine."
Conner gasped and turned his head as Chase leaned in to kiss him on his cheek, only to be met with Chase's soft lips pressing against his own. Both boys flinched in surprise, but only leaned in closer as Conner slid his hand up Chase's back, effectively keeping the vampire from taking the moment away from him. Only the sound of Phil clearing his throat made the two break away from each other just before the elevator doors slid open.
Conner blushed and started to pull away, but Chase was quick to pull the blond back into his arms.
"Not quite, yet," Chase giggled before he kissed Conner, again. He slid his left hand up Conner's cheek before leaning back to look at his different eye colors. Conner's blush returned fiercely under Chase's gaze before the vampire whispered in awe, "You are so beautiful, Conner."
"So are you, Chase," Conner whispered.
"Let's go, googly-eyes!" Phil teased. "The others are waiting on us."
Then, moving faster than young Conner could keep track of, Phil took off down the hallway towards the commons.
"After you," Chase spoke softly as he motioned for Conner to lead the way. The smaller boy couldn't help but smile as he stepped off the elevator and turned to head in the same direction as Phil had disappeared. Chase stepped out right behind Conner, putting his arm across the boy's shoulders as they walked down the glass lined corridor together. "So, what are your plans after this?"
"I don't even know what this is," Conner replied with a cheeky giggle. Then, he bumped into the side of Chase. "Would you like to elaborate?"
"Nope," Chase returned. "That would ruin everything that your mom and dad planned for the party."
Conner threw his best "puppy-eyed" expression that he could muster at the brown-haired boy.
Chase laughed and pushed the younger boy away for a moment.
"That was really evil, Conner!" Chase accused the ten-year-old with a grin. "You're going to give me a run for my money, aren't you?"
"That's my plan, Chase," Conner smirked. "I have no idea what you've let loose."
"Oh, shit," Chase muttered under his breath.
"What was that?" Conner asked.
"I said that this is it," the Moroi replied quickly, motioning to the glass doors on their right. Chase was quick to pull the door open, letting Conner pass through before he moved up to Conner's side just as they entered the small room that had been decorated for a party. There were balloons of all shades of blue, filling every corner of the room, with several silver and white balloons mixed in with each arrangement.
"It's about time, little brother!" Geoff greeted Conner with a smile and a hug. He stepped back and noticed the way Chase was holding Conner's hand. "Awesome choice, Conner."
Conner blushed, again.
"Can I borrow him, Chase?" Geoff asked as he went to lead his brother over to his mom and dad. "I promise it's just for five minutes."
"Of course," Chase replied with a shy smile. He squeezed Chase's hand one last time before letting it slip from his grasp. "See you soon."
Conner smiled at Chase as he let Geoff pull him away. Geoff just giggled quietly to himself.
"Hey, Conner!" Alexander greeted his brother, quickly getting up from the table to hug the younger boy. Geoff then pushed Conner into the empty seat between their mom and dad. Enon and Orez ran over to a table that had been set up with different pizzas and sodas, making quick work of filling a plate for Conner.
"Here you go," Enon said with a small smile as he set the plate in front of Conner. "Eat up, brother!"
Orez kissed Conner's other cheek before setting a drink in front of Conner and returning to his seat with Enon at his side.
"This is nice," Conner told Melissa, making the woman reach over and hug him from the side. Conner could only smile and whisper, "This is nice, too."
"You deserve it, son," Charles told the boy proudly. "The entire family needs this."
"It's been too long," Harold agreed from his table where he sat with his own sons gathered around him and Vanek.
"We should do this more often," Melissa suggested.
"We can't say that there's too much distance between us," Harold shrugged. "I nominate every Sunday night."
"I don't see a problem with that," Charles nodded before looking at Melissa.
"That works for me, gentlemen," Melissa smiled. "Consider it a date."
The family gathering continued for several hours with the boys of each family intermingling and getting to know each other better. Conner couldn't help but smile the entire evening as he got to know each cousin and brother.
"I love you, guys," Conner said firmly when all of the boys were sitting on the floor in the center of the room. "Thanks for making me a part of your family."
The other boys quickly pounced on Conner in a massive hug that ended with everyone laughing happily.
"Time for bed, guys," Charles announced when it was beginning to get late. "We've got a long day ahead of us, tomorrow."
"What's going on tomorrow?" Conner asked curiously.
"We have a Clan meeting in the morning," Harris supplied. "Then, we are going to the mall. It's time that we bought ourselves some new toys and clothes."
"I've never been to the mall before," Conner noted."
"Neither have I," Harris smiled in return. "It's going to be a new experience for both of us, cousin."
"I can't wait!" Conner smiled back at the brown-haired boy.
Harris walked with Conner and Chase as the two families headed back towards their apartments. Their conversation was light and focused on what they were going to be buying at the mall the next morning.
"I don't have any money, though," Conner said as he felt his hopes begin to fall.
"That's not a problem," Harris reassured the boy. "The Clan pays for everything."
"Really?" Conner asked in disbelief.
"Yeah," Harris nodded. "If Isaac is out of the hospital, we'll get him and his brothers to go with us. Joey and his brothers will probably go, too."
"That's a lot of people," Conner giggled.
"Just wait until we get our entire division over to the mall," Harris grinned. "I'm just keeping it small until we get ourselves in a better situation. We're still new. I don't want to overwhelm us when we're still learning everything that we're involved in. I haven't even met the Patriarch, yet. What do I do if he decides that me or Isaac aren't fit to lead the division?"
"You don't seem like the type of person to have those kinds of thoughts lingering his head, though," Conner countered.
"You would be surprised what I think about," Harris informed the boy. "Ever since I was hit by the car, I think about everything differently."
"You were hit by a car?!" Conner asked in surprise.
Harris giggled. "That's a story for another time, cousin. Maybe, tomorrow night."
"Jesus, dude," Conner said in disbelief, shaking his head. "I'm glad you're here, now. I'd probably be dead without you."
Harris froze for a moment before he blushed and nodded in acknowledgement of Conner's words.
"Thank you, Harris," Conner said before hugging his cousin tightly. "You're my hero."
Then, Conner got on the elevator with his mom and dad, leaving Harris standing in the atrium with a confused expression on his face.
Harris Conner awoke with a chill running down his back as he felt like he was being watched. He was surprised to find himself alone in his room, the boy wondered where his brothers were for only a moment before his body reminded him that his bladder was in urgent need of being emptied. Harris made a dash for the bathroom, barely getting himself aimed in time, before his bladder began to release. The ten-year-old sighed with pleasure before he stuffed himself back into his boxers, and washed his hands. Then, Harris pulled on a t-shirt before he went in search of the boys that normally occupied his bed.
"Hello?" Harris called out as he walked through the quiet home. "Is anybody home?"
The boy thought he caught the faint hint of food coming from the direction of what he thought was a kitchen, but was disappointed to find it empty of any of his family members. There was already sunlight streaming in through the windows, so Harris knew that the two Moroi would be in their light-proof rooms, already tucked in for the day.
'Where's Samy and Stefan, though?' Harris asked himself. 'Where are my dads at?'
Harris checked the bedrooms, frowning in concern when he found them to be void of any inhabitants. Then, Harris went out to the living room and went to the window that overlooked the nearby city of Springfield. Snow clouds loomed on the distant horizon, promising that it was going to be another cold day with winter promising to arrive early. Something seemed off about the view to the boy, though. Even though it was the middle of day, the city below didn't seem to be teeming with life, like it normally was when it was almost noon. Harris took a quick glance at the nearby walk clock, only to find it spinning incoherently.
'What the hell is going on?'
Then, Harris winced slightly when a bright beam of light shot through the distant clouds and landed in the center of Springfield. An explosion of untold magnitude erupted from the impact site, creating a massive bubble of energy that shot outwards with a fury that leveled everything in its path. Harris could only watch helplessly as the blast headed towards him. The boy closed his eyes as he heard the glass shatter and waited for the darkness to take him to the other side.
(To be continued. . .)