Sean looked around him at the group lounging in the Rec Room. After lunch, they had moved all of the tables out of the way so that they would all have someplace to lay or sit. Timmy and Ricky had crashed in the recliner as soon as it was unblocked; the rest of the boys broke into groups and began either playing games or talking.
Cory leaned over and kissed Sean's cheek. "What you thinkin' about, teddy bear?"
Sean smiled. "Just looking around at these guys, thinkin' about how we have become a family. We've got a cute little son, a bunch of brothers, and friends who are just as good as family. In a way, what you had to do has affected me too; it made me finally realize just how much these guys mean to both of us."
"I know, bro. Justy filled me in about something when he woke me up; it wasn't punishing Calvin that was messing my head up. He said it was me worrying about how it was going to affect everyone else that messed me up. I'm glad we saved Tommy though, the things that were planned for him make me sick."
Sean looked across the room at their new little brother. Tommy, Kelly, Caleb, and Noah were sprawled on the floor playing Monopoly; all four boys with smiles on their glowing faces. "I hear ya', bro. Mom surprised me with him, but he fits in with us perfectly."
Sean cuddled into Cory's side, and soon the two boys drifted off into a peaceful nap.
Twenty minutes later, the peaceful scene in the room was abruptly disturbed by Timmy.
"DJ!!!" Timmy screamed. "Nooooooooooooooooooo!"
Sean and Cory jumped up and ran to the recliner to see what was going on. They were both surprised to see Timmy drenched in sweat; breathing heavily and showing his war paint.
"What's wrong, kiddo?" Cory asked in shock.
"Daddy!!" Timmy started crying hysterically as he lunged out to Cory. "DJ's hurt! He's hurt!"
It took a minute to calm Timmy down enough to talk, then Sean asked him, "Who's DJ, munchkin?"
"I don't know, Pappa," Timmy sniffled. "But he's hurt."
"Was it just a bad dream, lil' guy?" Cory asked.
"NO, DADDY!" Timmy replied forcefully. "DJ's hurt and he is asking for help."
"Well tell us where to find him Timmy, and I promise we'll go help him." Cory calmly replied.
"I don't know, Daddy!" Timmy said as he starting sobbing uncontrollably. "I (gasp) just (gasp) don't know."
Cory reached around and felt Timmy's forehead. He looked up at Sean and said, "Babe, go get Mom, Doc Austin, and Dan. He's burning up; one of them has gotta know what's up. Jamie, Jacob; see if you can figure out what's happening!"
As Sean ran out of the room, Cory held his sobbing son, stroking his hair and telling him it would all be okay.
Jamie walked over and placed a hand on Timmy's shoulder as he replied to Cory. "Cor, we were already trying; both of us are just as confused as you. It definitely wasn't any dream, but we can't figure out who or where this DJ is either. There's only one thing we know for sure, this DJ kid needs some help."
Just then, Teri, Dan, and Austin rushed into the room behind Sean. As Cory was beginning to fill them in, the room was silenced by a signal from the terminal. Tommy was nearest; to everyone's shock he glanced at the ID of the caller, jumped up and straightened himself real fast, then proceeded to answer the call.
"Clan Short Headquarters, Communications Officer Thomas Short. How may we be of assistance, Admiral?"
The room was silent as everyone focused on the image of Admiral Harrison Morrow on the screen. "Good afternoon, Thomas. I need to speak to Ensign Cory Short please."
Tommy glanced over at Cory before replying. "At the present time he is comforting his son, Sir. Would it be acceptable if I adjusted the pickup to show his location in this room?"
The Admiral smiled as he replied. "That would be perfectly acceptable, Thomas. I enjoy the rare times I get to see my officers interacting with their families."
Tommy adjusted the pickup, then stepped back. "Go ahead, Admiral."
"Mr. Short, I must commend your choice of a Communications Officer. My only question is why are you hiding him from Starfleet?"
Cory relaxed slightly at the Admiral's humor. "Good afternoon, Admiral. Ensign Sean and myself believe that any future members of Clan Short who wish to become Starfleet personnel need to wait until their fifteenth birthday. We have both learned from the additional stress of our youth in our jobs."
"That is why both of you are commissioned officers, Ensign. When faced with immediate decisions, you have both demonstrated skills that I only wish the Academy could teach. It is also the reason I'm calling you now. I would like to request the assistance of Clan Short in a civil matter."
Cory was suddenly serious. "Go ahead, Admiral."
"My nephew is a police captain in California. One of his men will soon be contacting Director Short regarding two boys. That man, Detective Rob Gunn, is the ONLY person authorized to know any information you may get regarding the location of the two boys. I need the Clan to ensure the boys remain hidden from Earth police personnel until I notify you otherwise."
Cory thought for a second. "Excuse me, Admiral, but with all due respect; is there a reason Federation Security is not able to do this?"
"That is a very valid question, Ensign. The circumstances surrounding the reason the boys are runaways are tied to internal corruption in the local police force. Unfortunately, it is in the one area where Federation Security is not allowed to tread unless Starfleet personnel are involved. As a Vulcan Clan, you have Diplomatic Immunity in any situation which involves your normal business. One of the points in your official charter, as filed with the Federation Council by Ambassador Sarek, reads as follows: 'Clan Short is the primary Vulcan representative for protection of abused or neglected youth for all Federation races.' These two boys fall under that guideline of the Charter, which will make them under your protection if you accept them."
"I see the logic of your request now, Admiral. May I ask the names of the boys?"
"Thank you, Cory. They are both thirteen; one is Tanner Michaels, born February 26th, 1991. The other is David McAllister; he was born March 1st 1991. I'm told David usually goes by DJ."
Timmy let out a screech as he heard the Admiral. William flew in and landed on Timmy's lap. A few seconds later, Timmy looked up at Teri. "Gran'ma, open the door! William's gonna go try to find DJ an' watch him for us."
Cory looked up from Timmy to see a shocked look on the Admiral's face. "Sorry Sir, we just sent one of our Clan Air Force interceptors to locate the boys. Have your nephew inform his man that he needs to get all of his information from us; any electronic means of tracking the boys is going to return false information within the next hour."
The Admiral's shock turned into a smile. "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't believe it. Do you need me to send descriptions?"
Cory looked over to where Noah and Caleb were hurriedly entering voice commands on the computer; the printer was already spewing out sheets of paper. "Actually Sir, my intelligence people are already on it; we might know more about them than you do already. William, he's the eagle that just left, is receiving the information real-time as we find it."
"Thank you again Cory; I'll sleep better tonight knowing that no matter where those boys are they are going to be watched over by your Clan. I would suggest giving them some time to work their way to where ever they are going, just make sure they are safe doing it. I'll leave the final decision to you as to when they are contacted directly by your people. Have a good day, Cory."
"Thank you Admiral. They might not know it, but they are on their way to safety. Live Long and Prosper, Admiral Morrow."
"Live Long and Prosper, Cory Short." the Admiral replied as he signed off.
Once the connection closed, Cory smiled as he called Tommy over. "Hey lil' bro; come here!"
Tommy walked over in front of Cory. "Did y'all think I done okay?" he asked hopefully.
Cory held out his arm and pulled Tommy onto his lap next to Timmy. "You did awesome, Tommy. I thought you sounded very professional. What was that about being the Communications Officer?"
Tommy held down his head. "Sorry, Cory, but I've always wanted to do that. I promise I ain't gonna do it again."
Cory lifted Tommy's head and kissed his cheek. "Lil' bro, you can do it anytime you want. In fact, I think we'll go ahead and make it official; you ARE the Clan's Communications Officer now. How did you get rid of your accent though?"
Tommy's face lit up like a light bulb. "Really?! WOW! Thanks Cor! It ain't hard talkin' like that to the terminal; I just 'tend I'm talkin' stuff into the 'puter to do. It's diff'rnt talking to people."
Cory smiled. "That makes sense to me, bro. Get on over there with JJ, ask him to get you set up in the terminal with full communications rights. Tell him to set up his assistant security officer, Gabe, too."
"Okay bro!" Tommy exclaimed as he jumped off of Cory.
Timmy hopped down long enough for Cory to stand, then climbed back up into Cory's arms. They headed over to where Sean, Justy, Jamie, and Jacob had set up a table and were going over the printouts as fast as Noah and Caleb could produce them. Kyle and Tyler were busy sorting everything into categories.
Cory looked over Sean's shoulder at the paper he was holding. "Dang, it looks like someone drained Tanner's inheritance account! There's only five hundred dollars left in it!"
"I know," Sean replied. "there's no way they can survive on that." He turned to Noah. "Hey Noah, are you still in the account for Tanner's inheritance?"
"Yeah, why Sean?"
"Redirect his card to this account." Sean said as he got a card out of his wallet. "That's my account that has my share of the settlement from when my Dad was killed. Set them with no limit on withdrawals, I doubt they are going to take the whole fifty thousand. Besides, nobody's going to be smart enough to look for their card number, they'll just watch the account that the card is supposed to work for."
Noah spoke a couple of commands, then grinned. "Okay, it's done!" He glanced at the screen and giggled. "Just in time, too; they just got a thousand dollars out of it."
Cory grinned. "Well, at least they have money! Can you tell me where?"
Caleb looked up. "Yeah, it's a Wal-Mart in Auburn, California. I'm 'fixing' the camera in the ATM right now; for some reason it's going to have video problems."
Cory did a double-take. "WHAT! You know how easily that can be traced back to us?"
Caleb shook his head. "Not very easy; I'm routed through the open public network on Alpha Centauri then the FBI offices in Washington, DC. We all know that Alpha Centauri don't release info on their users on the public network; I'm using software that puts us right on it. In fact, traces fall dead as soon as they hit the planet."
Cory giggled. "I had no idea we had a couple of hackers in the house! How seriously are you guys into that?"
Noah smiled. "Actually, it's something I messed around with before Caleb and I got together. He had been doing a few different things too, we just put our skills together."
"Great, later on I want you two to give me a hand, we have some code hacking to do." Cory then took a paper that Justy was handing him; his smile quickly faded. "This is some pretty serious shit! What do you think, bro?"
Justy's face was grim as he replied. "That's the official report; I think it smells more than Aaron's feet. I ain't a personality expert, but this don't match what the comments in their school records say about them. I think there's a set-up going on."
Cory nodded. "I trust you on that; what do you think about having Dan review what you went over? He's the head shrink around here. You're the head of intelligence in the Clan, use any resources you or your team needs."
"Good idea, bro. I'll let you know what he says." Justy replied as he grabbed a pile of papers and headed across the room.
The boys had just finished dinner, and Cory joined Noah and Caleb in the Rec Room. "Well, are you guys up to hacking some software?" Cory asked with a grin.
Caleb turned his head. "Yeah, but why do you want to do it?"
"Well, it seems that Space Sim is doing some things it's not supposed to. We need to figure out why." Cory replied. "I've got the code from Starfleet. We need to de-compile the commercial version and compare the two."
Noah shook his head. "Man, that's a lotta code to go through. Any ideas what we're looking for?"
Cory nodded. "We're gonna start with the multi-player section; we'll go from there. Believe it or not, we're actually wanting to see differences in the code. If it's the same we need to design a patch for Starfleet to block retail versions."
Caleb and Noah both grinned. "Kewl! Can we fix the screwups too?" Noah chuckled.
"We might as well while we're in there. Won't we get in trouble from Microsoft for de-compiling Space Sim though?" Caleb added.
Cory grinned at his two eager helpers. "Don't worry about Microsoft, Starfleet has that handled. As far as fixing errors, if we all agree on it we'll do it."
The three boys sat down and became obvious to everything as they immersed themselves in sorting out computer code.
The rest of the boys were upstairs lounging on the new beds. Matt had picked out two king-size beds to replace the crowded queen size that had been in Cory's room. Floor space was now cut in half, but the expanse of mattresses made up for it. Sean set up two movies to play, and the boys cuddled in groups to watch the shows.
Timmy and Ricky had decided to get back to the normal routine, and attached themselves to Kelly. Since Tommy was also trying to cuddle Kelly, he ended up with Timmy on his lap while Ricky plopped on Kelly.
"Unca' Tommy, why does Daddy gotta play with that stupid 'puter 'stead of bein' here?" Timmy pouted.
"I don't know, lil' buddy; he said it was somethin' he needed to get done."
JJ overheard the question. "Timmy, your Daddy has to do that for his work. Mr. Spock assigned the job of fixing some computer software to your Daddy, and now he's doing what he is supposed to."
Timmy spun his head to see JJ. "Okay Uncle JJ, I un'erstan' now. Thanks!"
"No problem lil' guy." JJ replied as he settled in next to Adam.
By the middle of the second movie, almost all of the boys had drifted off to sleep. The only exceptions were Byron and Antonio; Byron only because Antonio kept squirming around.
Byron giggled as Antonio shifted yet again. "Hey wiggle worm, what's up?"
Antonio stuck out his tongue before replying. "I'm just waiting for my new brothers; this is their first night here, and Sean didn't get to talk to them like he did the rest of us. I hope they don't freak out."
Byron pulled Antonio against his chest. "Relax, babe. They are with Cory, and you know he ain't gonna let anything bad happen. I'm sure they won't even notice; they've been looking at computer code for a few hours now. I'll be surprised if they can see to climb the stairs!"
As if on cue, Cory came walking through the door followed by Noah and Caleb. The two newest boys were halfway across the room before they noticed everyone else; as soon as they did, both of them came to a halt with their mouths hanging wide open.
Antonio jumped off of the bed and ran over to them. "Cory didn't warn you, did he?"
Both boys shook their heads 'no', still in shock and unable to speak.
Antonio shot Cory a dirty look, then grabbed the hands of his new brothers and guided them over to the bed. "Sit down bros; I'll try to fill you in."
Cory joined the boys on the edge of the bed. "Sorry, I'm getting used to the way we all live now; I kinda spaced telling you guys what to expect. Usually Sean sits down with everyone; since we were working on the computer he didn't get a chance with you two."
Noah had managed to recover somewhat, and couldn't help but giggle when he saw Caleb sneaking glances at Aaron. "What do you think, Caleb? Is Aaron's butt as cute as you imagined it was?"
Caleb turned beet red. "I wasn't looking!" he replied forcefully.
"Sure you weren't!" Noah giggled. "You always stare whenever you see a picture of him, and you were almost drooling when we sat with him earlier! Now you're seein' him naked just like you always wanted to!"
"Shut up!" Caleb exclaimed as he held his hands over his face.
Noah was about to continue when Byron stopped him. "I think you've said enough, Noah. There's no reason to embarrass Caleb any more. I'm sure that you are going to respond just like he is within the next month or so; how are you going to feel if he treats you like you are treating him now?"
Noah stared at his feet. "I guess I'd feel pretty bad. I'm sorry for picking on you, Caleb."
Caleb nodded his head, but kept his hands over his face. Cory decided he better diffuse the situation the rest of the way. "Caleb, could you look at me?"
Caleb peeked through his fingers at Cory. "What?"
"Calm down, you're with friends here. The first time Aaron slept nude here I was looking big time. I can call him my big brother now, but I used to stare at his pictures and mentally undress him all the time. It's okay to look here, we all understand. You're not sick or weird, you're just like the rest of us. I know you're embarrassed by what Noah said, but you don't need to be."
Caleb whined his response. "I can't help it, as soon as I saw him there I had to look!"
Antonio grinned. "Bro, I'm a lot older than you are and I still look whenever he gets undressed."
Both Noah and Caleb looked at Antonio in shock. "What you talkin' about; you're just a kid!" Caleb exclaimed.
Cory giggled as he explained. "That's one of the things we need to talk about guys; your little brother isn't as little as he looks. Let's all pile up in a clear spot and I'll fill you in."
Once they were all comfortable, Cory began. "Since Antonio brought it up, I'll explain about him first. You guys have a special little brother to take care of; and he's gonna be little for a long time. Antonio doesn't grow like the rest of us; he was born on February 29th and ages one year for every four years he's alive. He's gonna be nine for just over three more years. I guess you guys are wondering about all the naked guys here too, ain't you?"
Noah grinned. "Yeah, did we miss an orgy or something?"
Cory shook his head. "Not likely, we all just sleep however we feel comfortable. Since most of us are gay and have boyfriends, we like to cuddle up naked. Nobody here cares if you are gay or straight, and nobody will force you to do something you don't wanna do. If you guys are gonna be a couple, all of us are here to help you out, all you have to do is ask. If someone is messing up, the rest of us work together to try to help them out. Trust me, it works; Sean and I had a big blowup, the rest of these guys made us sit down and work it out. I'm going to let Sean fill you guys in on everyone's history tomorrow; for now I'll just tell you that most of these guys are recovering from abuse you can't even imagine in your worst dreams. Oh, if you wake up with two munchkins and a teddy bear in the morning, don't worry. Knowing my son, they are probably doing their normal inspection of everyone's privates. I seriously wonder if he's keeping a list of who has started growing pubes! They'll probably con you into a shower in the morning anyway; it seems to be their way of welcoming you to the family. We usually shower as couples to save time, and we wait till morning so that we can wash of the results of anything we might have done overnight."
Caleb grinned. "You mean messin' around?"
"Yep. Either that or wet dreams from cuddling someone you care about. You guys have any more questions?"
Noah shook his head. "Nah, we'll wait for Sean I guess. It just seemed weird seein' all these moons in here!"
"You mean like this?" Antonio giggled as he stood on the bed, turned around, and wiggled his butt at Noah.
Noah grabbed Antonio's hips and pulled him down onto his lap. He wrapped his arms around Antonio as he replied "Yeah, little brother, just like that. I've kinda been watchin' you today; is Byron your boyfriend?"
"Yeah, you ain't mad are you?" Antonio replied with an edge of fright in his tone.
"No little bro, I'm not mad as long as he takes care of you. I know you helped our new Dad decide to adopt us; I'm gonna make sure nobody hurts you."
Caleb scooted over and joined in the embrace. "That goes for me too, bro. I think I'm gonna enjoy having you as family."
Antonio's smile returned. "Thanks! Would you guys like to cuddle with Byron and me tonight?"
Both boys looked at Byron; when he smiled and nodded his head they chorused "Sure!"
Antonio and Byron staked out a fairly open spot on one of the beds for the four of them while Noah, Caleb, and Cory undressed. Before climbing to their spots on the bed, Cory pulled Noah and Caleb into a hug. "Welcome to the family, guys. You can stop worrying, we're all going to protect you."
Both boys returned the hug, then scampered across the bed to the spot Antonio had set aside for them. There was just enough room to squeeze in; Caleb ended up back-to-back with Antonio, while Noah laid down face-to-face with Caleb. Byron stretched his arm out and protectively laid it over the three boys laying in front of him.
Cory dimmed the lights, then wedged himself between Sean and Timmy. Just as he was settling in, Cory heard the soft voice of Caleb:
Heavenly Father; thank you for guiding us to our new family, a family where we are loved for who we are. Thank you for giving me Noah as a brother and a boyfriend, and thank you for Matt, Antonio, Teri, and all of these boys. Father, please watch over all of us here, help all of these guys overcome the hurt they are feeling. Please watch over our old mom and dad; they still have our love even though Your plans moved us away from them. Please Father, help DJ and Tanner where ever they are to find safety. We thank You for all of Your many blessings as we pray as You taught us:
Noah's voice joined Caleb's to finish the prayer.
Our Father, who art in Heaven; Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done;
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against ourselves.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.
"Amen" Cory whispered as he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.