Cory couldn't help but grin at the reactions of CD, Calen, and Jake to their first shuttle trip. Once the three of them had finally accepted that Sean actually was capable of piloting a shuttle into space, the questions never stopped. Now that they were approaching their destination, he figured it was time to settle them down.
"Guys, listen up! We're almost there; I need y'all to remember something. From now on, everything you say or do is gonna reflect on Sean and me; it'll also reflect on Clan Short. Try to keep stuff like pouncing and pranks in private. Deej, Tanner; you're under the same rules as Sean and I; no making out in public!"
DJ, Tanner, and Sean all moaned in unison. "Awwww mannn!"
"Live with it!" Cory giggled. "Oh, no going exploring; I really don't want to have to go searching for anyone, and we really don't know anyone here."
"Yes Daddy!" the boys all chorused with a touch of sarcasm.
Cory just grinned back at them. "Okay smart alecks, buckle up so we can land. Deej, let me know when everyone is ready."
Cory took his seat again, about a minute later DJ yelled up that everyone was ready. Cory turned to Sean. "Okay Babe, they're strapped down, I'm ready when you are."
Sean turned back to Cory with a grin. "Not now; I'm piloting the shu... oh; you mean you're ready to land!"
Once the comments and giggles in the back settled down, a still-blushing Cory replied "You are sooooo gonna get it later! Are you in position to start landing procedures?"
"By the time you get the okay, I should be right on target; go ahead and make the call, Cor."
Cory nodded as he set the communications console. "Shuttlecraft Mississippi to USS Lafayette.
"This is Lafayette, Lt. Markson speaking. Go ahead, Mississippi.
"Thank you, Lieutenant, this is Ensign Cory Short; requesting permission to initiate landing sequence."
"Permission granted, Mississippi. Stand by for automatic control."
"Standing by. Thank you Lafayette, Mississippi out."
As they were drawn past the ship, Tanner commented "Wow, she looks kinda like the Enterprise, just different numbers. This one's marked NCC-1720."
"Good call, Tanner!" Sean replied. "You're actually right; both ships are based on the Constitution-class hull design. The Lafayette is basically the Enterprise's younger sister."
"Kewl!" Tanner replied as he went back to pointing out things to the newbies.
A few minutes later, as they were shutting down the shuttle, Cory commented to Sean "You know, I think you better handle introductions and formalities, Sean. I guess it'd be better if I came onboard as Clan Short Patriarch."
Sean thought for a second. "Yeah, you might be right. Our ages are going to mess with them enough."
Cory quickly changed shirts to a more suitable one for his status, then signaled that he was ready to Sean. Sean opened the rear hatch, then led the group out to meet the awaiting welcoming party.
"Permission to come aboard, Captain?" Sean announced as he came to attention.
Captain Simmons had watched the boys as they departed the shuttlecraft. Even after the heads-up from Admiral Morrow, the sight was quite a surprise. From the time the shuttle had entered the shuttlebay, it was obvious that this was no ordinary group; the Clan Short crest and Vulcan Diplomatic Corps markings ensured everyone present realized that the occupants meant business. Instead of a rowdy group of kids, he saw a very composed group of youth exiting the craft.
"Permission granted, Ensign. I am Captain Roger Simmons."
"Thank you, Captain. I am Ensign Sean Short, Helm Division, USS Enterprise. It is my honor to present to you Patriarch Cory Short of Clan Short of the family of Sarek of the house of Surak of the planet Vulcan."
Cory took one step forward. "T'nar pak sorat y'rani." he said as he gave the proper salute.
"T'nar jaral." Captain Simmons replied formally, inwardly surprised at the young blond speaking Vulcan so clearly.
Cory continued in English. "It is my understanding Admiral Morrow has briefed you as to the purpose of our travels. Assistance from myself or any member of my family shall be provided if you require it en route to Rigel VII. When not performing official duties, myself and my family prefer to act informally; it would be prudent to inform your crew members as such."
"Understood, Patriarch Short. I will ensure my personnel are notified."
Cory relaxed as he shifted gears. "Thank you Captain. With your permission, I would like to introduce the rest of my family."
Captain Simmons smiled as he heard the change in Cory's speech; he was not really sure he could have handled a formal fourteen year old the entire trip. "Permission granted, Mr. Short."
Cory smiled. "You have already met my life-partner Sean. A word of advice, sir; we've learned on the Enterprise that it works better to use our first names, just like you only address any other Vulcan by one name. Otherwise you end up with both of us if you say Ensign Short or Mr. Short!"
Captain Simmons chuckled. "I see your point; advice taken!"
Cory began the introductions. "First off, I'd like you to meet the Clan Short Activities Director; Jake Thompson."
Jake stepped forward. "Pleasure to meet you, Sir."
"The feeling is mutual, Jake. If you need a hand while you're here, I'll put you in contact with the ship's Rec Officer. If you need anything, let me know."
Jake felt a boost in his self-worth at being treated as an adult by the Captain. "Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate the help."
As Jake stepped back, Cory continued. "Next up is Clan Short's Head Moderator, Xain Thompson, son of Solak of the House of Suvak of Vulcan."
Captain Simmons was shocked as he heard the introduction and saw the young Vulcan boy step forward; Admiral Morrow had 'forgot' to warn him about this. "It is a honor to have you aboard, Xain." he said formally.
Xain raised both eyebrows at the Captain's reaction. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Captain." he replied with a slight smile. "By your reaction, may I presume Admiral Morrow provided you with an incomplete briefing?"
Captain Simmons became openly shocked. "You might say that! I do not wish to insult you, but may I ask about the apparent emotion you are displaying?"
Xain nodded. "I am not insulted; as a moderator for Clan Short, my duties require interaction with all races of the Federation. To perform my duties to the best potential, I must deal with and understand the emotional influences of other races. To understand emotions, one must allow limited experiencing of those same emotions. Upon understanding of the emotional component, it is easier to find a logical conclusion to a problem involving emotional beings. My brothers have also informed me they believe it is 'cool to watch me blow people's minds'; a statement which I am still investigating."
Captain Simmons couldn't help but chuckle. "Xain, I believe you're going to make quite an impression on the Federation. Take it from someone who's been out there; you're doing exactly the right thing! I really think you'll have better results than any of the Federation's current moderators if you keep on the track you are on now!"
"Thank you, Sir." Xain replied as he stepped back.
"I see the Admiral had some fun!" Cory giggled. "Next up is Sean and I's oldest son, DJ Wagner. Before you ask, we let him and his three brothers be adopted by the Wagner's out of fairness to DJ; unofficially Russ and Sara share custody of all seven of our boys. Even though he's our youngest son's half brother, we didn't think it would be fair for DJ to have to answer to a parent three hours older than him all the time, so we set this up."
As DJ stepped forward, Captain Simmons stepped up and put a hand on his shoulder. "DJ, you're a really lucky young man. There are not many people who can say their parents love them so much that they would even think of doing something like that. Welcome aboard."
DJ blushed. "Thanks, sir. I didn't really look at it like that before; I just knew they wanted us safe and happy. I guess knowing you're loved and seeing what is done because they love you are different."
Captain Simmons just smiled and nodded.
Instead of stepping back right away, DJ went over and gave both Cory and Sean a hug. He then turned back to Cory. "Dad, can I introduce my bros?"
Cory glanced at the captain; after receiving a nod, he replied. "Go ahead, Deej."
DJ smiled. "Sir, this is my boyfriend Tanner Wagner."
The introduction caused Simmons to smile. "Welcome aboard, Tanner. I think you've made a good choice for a partner; I wish you both the best."
"Thank you, sir; I plan to keep him too!" Tanner replied with a grin as he shook the captain's hand.
DJ called Toby forward next. "This is our brother, Toby Wagner."
"I'm glad to meet you, Sir." Toby said as he came forward.
Captain Simmons immediately noticed the signs of a boy recovering from malnutrition. "I'm glad to see you here; I'm guessing you finally got the family you deserve. Welcome aboard."
As Toby smiled and moved back, DJ called Beau up. "Sir, I'd like you to meet Beau Wagner; He's always been Toby's little brother."
Captain Simmons noticed the difference in the way Beau held himself as he moved forward.
"Thanks for letting us ride with you." Beau said as he stepped up.
"No problem, Beau. Did you know that you're getting a reputation? Admiral Morrow told me to make sure you were on my side if you get mad; otherwise he ordered me to run for my life!"
"Aww mannn!" Beau groaned as he turned six shades of red. "Dad, will you get in trouble if I pounce the Admiral?"
Before Cory could reply, Simmons spoke up. "As much as I'd like to see that, I'm afraid he would. From what I hear, you like hand-to-hand combat; I'll have my Security Chief get with you, he might be able to teach you a few tricks."
DJ smiled at the antics of Beau. "Captain, the next two are my newest little brothers. First up is Calen Short."
Calen grinned as he came forward. "You got a cool ship, Sir; it's like Dad and Pop's, not like that bucket of bolts Excelsior."
Simmons chuckled. "Sounds like someones been hanging around Mr. Scott! Welcome aboard; if you want to visit Engineering you can as long as your dad is with you."
"Thanks!" Calen exclaimed as he stepped back.
"Next up is the family musician, CD." DJ announced with a grin.
CD shyly stepped up. "Hi sir, thanks for letting us be here."
Simmons knelt down to look CD in the eye. "Thanks for coming. I'm starting to realize what the Admiral meant when he said that you were a special group of boys. I hope I get a chance to hear you play something while you are here; he said you're really good."
CD smiled. "Okay! That's kewl!"
DJ turned around and picked up Timmy after moving William to his shoulder. "Finally, this is my little bro Timmy, also known as Sitting Eagle. His friend sitting on my shoulder is his Eagle Spirit Guide, William."
"When we leavin' to go see Gran'pa?" Timmy asked. "Can we watch as we're leavin'? Can Poppa drive us out?"
Captain Simmons chuckled at Timmy's antics. "Slow down, little one! We're going to leave soon. Why do they call you Sitting Eagle?"
Timmy grinned. "I'm an Indian Brave! Wanna see my war paint?"
Simmons was shocked when the freckled redhead's fair skin suddenly darkened and turned into a full Seminole battle paint. As Timmy returned to normal, Simmons was struck speechless.
"William says the Adm'al didn't tell you 'bout that! Betcha I can pounce him and Daddy ain't gonna get in trouble!"
Simmons found his voice finally. "You better not; there's no need of taking a chance of someone getting in trouble. That's a really nice thing you can do; when do you do it?"
"When William says there's trouble; that way Daddy knows without me tellin' him."
"I'll make sure the rest of my officers know that; you might just save someone's life someday by doing that."
Simmons spun his head in shock when Cory stated "He already has; six of them."
Simmons turned back to Timmy and rustled his fine red hair. "I think I see why your brother is so proud of you; have fun while you're here, okay?"
"Okay!" Timmy replied as he hopped down and retrieved William from DJ.
Simmons motioned for the Ensign who was waiting to show the boys to their cabins. "Make sure Patriarch Short and his family have everything they need in their cabins. Cory, you and your family are welcome to join us on the Bridge for departure if you wish."
As the boys lined up to follow the Ensign to their quarters, Cory replied. "Thank you sir; I'm sure I won't survive the trip if I decline the offer!"
As they headed out the door, Simmons replied "For some reason, I think you might be right!"
USS Lafayette bridge, thirty minutes later:
Sean led the group of boys onto the Bridge. As the door closed behind them, Captain Simmons looked over. "Ahh, just in time Gentlemen! It seems your reputations have preceded you! As you know, we just completed our post-refit shakedown. Patriarch Short, my Chief Engineer has requested that I offer you the honor of manning the Bridge Engineering Station if you so wish. He thinks having the person who designed some of the modifications actually checking them would be a good idea."
Cory was curious as to the violation of normal procedures; for this offer he should have been addressed by his rank. He knew better than to question the Captain in the open, so he went along with it in the fashion he was addressed. "That will be acceptable, Captain. The Chief Engineer's reasoning is logical."
Captain Simmons nodded his head, apparently satisfied as to Cory's response. He then turned to Sean. "Ensign Short, take us out. You have the Conn."
Sean had a huge grin on his face as he took the Command Chair. Once seated, he became serious; he had a sneaky suspicion Captain Kirk was behind this somehow. "Status, Mr. Short?"
Cory didn't even look up as he called out. "All systems online, full impulse and warp capability Sir."
"Acknowledged." Sean replied. "Lieutenant, contact TerraMain and request permission to break orbit. Helm, stand by maneuvering thrusters. Navigator, lay in a course 263 mark 8."
The navigator turned to Sean. "Sir, with all due respect, mark 6 is a more direct route."
Sean nodded. "You are correct, Lieutenant. But by using mark 8, we clear the orbital plane of Sol sooner. The indirectness of the route is made up for once we go to warp speed; we should actually gain about thirty minutes."
Xain had wandered over to the science station. Sean had to strain to suppress his laughter when both Cory and Xain simultaneously announced "Thirty-six point four minutes at standard speed, Sir."
The navigator chuckled. "I stand corrected, Sir. I'll have to remember that trick."
"Sir, TerraMain has cleared us for departure."
"Thank you." Sean replied. "Helm, engage maneuvering thrusters, break standard orbit and come to course 263 mark 8."
About twenty minutes later, the navigator announced "Mr. Short, we are now clear of the Sol system."
Sean grinned. "Very well. Lay in a course for Rigel VII, Warp three."
"Course laid in, Sir."
"Engage." Sean replied.
Once the Lafayette was up to speed, Captain Simmons took back command. "You did very well, Ensign. I just hope that when you finally go through the Academy they don't take away your original thinking."
"Thanks, Captain. I checked the lanes before we left just for the fun of it; I found out nobody ever uses the edge, they always run down the center. I kinda thought about it, and figured out if you run the edge of the lanes you can save a lot of time."
"Don't advertise that!" Simmons chuckled. "We'll just keep that trick for us and the Enterprise to use!"
"Yes, Sir!" Sean giggled. Sean finally turned around and noticed the group of shocked boys watching him. "Excuse me, Sir; I think we fried a few brain cells with your surprise! I better go rescue my sons!"
As Sean received his congratulations from the boys, Cory turned his station over to the regular watch officer and reported to the Captain. "Captain, at your convenience I wish to brief you on the results of the simulations I recently completed."
Simmons nodded. "Would Briefing Room One in five minutes be acceptable, Patriarch Short?"
"That is acceptable, Captain." Cory replied before turning towards the turbolift. Sean was keeping occupied explaining the various underway duties of all of the Bridge personnel to the boys; he waved to Cory to go ahead without him. Cory was surprised to see Xain give Jake a quick look, then Xain broke off from the group and joined Cory. Once the two of them were in the turbolift and on their way, Cory turned to Xain.
"Xain; why did you decide to come with me instead of learning about the operation of the ship?"
Xain raised an eyebrow in Cory's direction. "All the information I require will be delivered to me by Jake through our bond. Despite Starfleet procedures when an officer also holds a diplomatic rank, the Captain placed you in an on-duty position as Patriarch. Logically, your report should be under the same status. As Head Moderator, when you are acting as Clan Patriarch it is my responsibility to either be present at all meetings between yourself and any outside party, or to ensure an appropriate substitute is in my place."
Cory grinned as he put an arm over Xain's shoulder. "Naturally, you're right. I don't want you to work too hard though; you can't learn about other cultures unless you experience them. I expect you to spend some time enjoying the sights with the rest of the guys while we are out; you don't have to shadow Sean and me. I'll make sure you are around when it would be logical to have you present. You just brought up something though; you need to think of someone you want to train to assist you."
Xain was quiet for a second before responding. "Upon our return, I shall begin Kevin and Kenny's training. Jake has informed me that you are insinuating that I have 'fun' on this excursion; is that a correct observation?"
They exited the turbolift and Cory continued the conversation. "Actually, that was more of an order!" Cory replied with a small giggle. "May I ask why you chose Kev and Kenny?"
Xain allowed himself a small smile at Cory's 'order'. "I shall endeavor to comply with your order. Kevin already possesses the necessary skills from his previous residence; all he requires is training on how to apply them professionally. Kenny is quickly becoming a part of Kevin and compliments Kevin's skills."
Cory stopped and looked at Xain with a raised eyebrow. "You know, there's a thin line between diplomacy and B.S.; you just skated right on the edge of it! I agree with your logic about Kevin; even though I bet he'll argue with you. I suspect that you are adding Kenny just because you don't want to see him get left out again; ever since you guys got together he seems to get the least attention. It's gonna be tough convincing him that he's not being chosen just to make him feel good."
"Your observation has some basis in fact, Cory. Based on his life experiences before his father's death, Kenny would not be a candidate for this position. My nomination is based on his reactions from the moment he joined lives with Kevin; it is apparent that both share the same skills, the circumstances of Kenny's upbringing have necessitated his skills to remain latent."
Cory nodded as they began walking again. "Now I see your logic behind choosing him; you have made a wise choice. I'll notify them of their promotions as soon as we are done here; as their supervisor your presence will be required when I tell them. On our way back, we'll let Solak know of your promotion to Head of the Clan Short Diplomatic Corps; that way it appears that you have earned the position by your actions at the conference."
"What is your logic in deceiving he-who-is-my-father?"
Cory grinned as they reached the briefing room door. "There's not going to be any deception involved; I totally expect you to earn that title before we come back. I just have faith that you will meet my expectations; Sean and I haven't been wrong yet about matching skills to positions."
If at all possible, Xain seemed to stand a little straighter. "As you wish, my Patriarch." He then opened the door and escorted Cory inside. They found Captain Simmons and Chief Engineer Cox waiting for them. Once both officers had arisen from their chairs, Xain began. "I am Xain Thompson, Head of Clan Short Diplomatic Corps, Son of Solak of the House of Suvak of the Planet Vulcan. I present to you Cory Short, Patriarch of Clan Short of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak of the Planet Vulcan."
Short Compound; Orlando FL:
Adam, Tyler, Kyle, JJ and Tommy finally figured out where Sean had hid his soccer ball, and were playing in the front yard when they saw a Florida State Police car pull in through the front gate. JJ noticed what looked like a small boy huddled in the back seat, and waved for the rest of the boys to stay put as he walked over to where the car had just stopped.
"Can I help you, officer?" JJ asked as the police Sergeant stepped out of the car.
The officer looked over at JJ. In a tired tone, he replied "Go on back to your game, kid. I'm just trying to ID the kid in the back; the only thing he would say is he needed to see someone here. It's nothing you need to worry about."
JJ quickly pulled out his ID. "With all due respect sir, it is now. I'm JJ Richardson, Head of Security for Clan Short. What can you tell me about the kid?"
The officer looked over the ID, then looked back at JJ in shock. "I guess the rumors are true! I really can't tell you much; the only thing he admitted to is being away from home for the last month. We don't even know his name or if he was kicked out or ran away."
JJ nodded, then thought for a second. "Go ahead and call in, let them know that we are accepting custody of him and will handle it from here."
"Don't you need to talk to him first?" the officer asked with surprise.
"Naw, that's what our Intelligence team is for." JJ replied with a grin. "I can only think of a few reasons to want to come here; all of which lead to him needing our help somehow. Would you mind if I get things rolling here?"
For the first time since he arrived, the officer smiled. "Not at all; I'll call in then start on the transfer paperwork. I will need an adult to sign it though."
JJ's grin got wider. "Sorry, I didn't show you my other ID." He retrieved the second ID and handed it to the officer.
"ENSIGN Richardson?!?! USS Enterprise?!?! " he whispered in surprise. "I guess you CAN sign it; the guys back at the station ain't going to believe this!"
JJ chuckled as he turned and started things going. "HEADS UP!!! Tyler; Go get Teri; meet us in the conference room. Kyle; Kylegram the Three Musketeers, tell them to join us in the conference room; then get everything online in CIC. Tommy; I need all earthside Clan members who are available to meet in CIC and stand by for possible operations. Adam; stay here in case I need a hand."
The officer watched in awe as what he assumed were just normal kids suddenly became all business as they scattered to perform their assigned tasks. The microphone he had been holding fell from his hand when he heard Kyle's report to JJ before he ran off.
"Jamie, Jacob and Justy are on their way. Justy's already alerted TerraMain to standby for a recovery team for Lil' Joe's belongings. He'll get the team together as soon as everyone's here." Without even waiting for a response, Kyle then ran off to the round building in the center of the compound.
JJ turned back, and giggled at the officer's stunned face. Guessing what he was thinking, JJ filled him in. "When your Intelligence division is full of telepaths, you get quick results! Go ahead and finish; it's time for Lil' Joe to get out here and stretch."
As the officer dug out the transfer pages while shaking his head in wonder, Adam opened the back door of the cruiser and finally got a look at the boy inside. "DUDE! Are you okay, Lil' Joe? Mom's gonna FREAK!"
JJ watched curiously as Adam helped the boy out of the car. He appeared to be about eight years old, with medium brown hair and a medium build that was just starting to show the effects of not eating regular meals for a while. His clothes were torn and appeared to not have seen a washing machine in quite a while. Beneath the grime, he had a facial structure which immediately reminded JJ of an elf. JJ couldn't see them from this angle, but he knew that the eyes which went with that face were steel gray with hints of green depending on the boy's mood.
Adam leaned over and looked straight into Lil' Joe's eyes. "I don't know what happened, but you're safe now."
As JJ turned back to sign off on the transfer, Lil' Joe fell into Adam's arms; tears freely flowing down his face.
Teri was sitting at the conference room table in the Clan Headquarters; watching as Tyler, Jamie, and Jacob bantered back and forth about their latest video game conquests. After the first try, she had given up on finding out if the twins knew anything yet; the look they had gave her told her they were not going to reveal anything until everyone was there.
Finally, JJ and Adam escorted their guest into the room. Sammy had ran home and got some clothes which fit fairly decent for Lil' Joe while JJ and Adam made sure he was cleaned up and presentable. As Teri and Tyler watched in shock at who was with him, Adam walked Lil' Joe over and sat him between them.
As soon as everyone was seated, JJ spoke. "We already talked with Lil' Joe; he understands what the twins can do and wants them to explain what is going on. Jacob, you're up."
Jacob looked over at Lil' Joe. "Joe, if you feel a tickle in your head, don't worry. We found some memories you've hidden from yourself; Jamie's checkin' them out, but he's makin' sure they don't pop up to where you can see them if they are bad." He then pressed a hidden button on the table. "Computer. Login: Jacob William Stewart; authenticate seven-nine-six-four-November-Zulu-Alpha."
"Voice print confirmed, authentication confirmed. Proceed Jacob." the computer replied in a voice which sounded suspiciously like Micky Mouse.
Jacob giggled. "I like this one better than the one it came with! Cory didn't tell me Noah finished it!" He then calmed down and continued. "Computer, open new case file. Subject is Joseph Davis Hartman. Age eight, birth date Thirteen July 1996. Confirm."
"Case file created and opened. Standing by."
Jacob looked around the table, then all traces of emotion left his face. "Computer, begin logging results of brain scan report."
"Subject has suffered extended periods of verbal abuse. Thirty-two days ago, his father entered the bathroom while subject was taking a bath without announcement. Upon noticing that subject was engaged in self-exploration resulting in an erection, the father proceeded to physically remove subject from the bathtub and repeatedly slapped him over various parts of his body while yelling 'I told your mother not to let you visit those queers! No son of mine is going to turn into a frigging pansy! I'll beat it out of you if I have to, boy.' Subject managed to break free, and escaped to his bedroom and locked the door. Note that subject was not having sexual thoughts of either males or females during his self-exploration. While his father was trying to find the key for the bedroom door, subject hurriedly put on some clothes and retrieved the one hundred ten dollars and sixty-five cents he had saved for a new mountain bike, along with his address book which contained the address of Tyler at Clan Headquarters. Subject escaped through his bedroom window and proceeded to make his way to this location. Computer; report completed, store and stand by."
Teri pulled Joe over onto her lap. "You came all the way from Des Moines? You could have just called us. How did you get down here?"
Joe looked up at Teri. "I had your number on the computer; it wasn't in my book. I was on the bus, but we had to stop in Pensacola and some guys beat me up when I went to the bathroom. They took all my stuff, even my bus ticket. The bus was gone when I finally came out. I managed to get a ride from a couple'a trucks; I hadda do a lot of walkin' though, and the first trucker told me that I'd better walk at night 'cuz I'd get put in jail for not bein' in school. I got here about a week ago; I couldn't find you anywhere, and I didn't have my book no more. The cops caught me diggin' in a dumpster for food a couple'a days ago; all I'd tell them is I had to find you and Ty. I knew I'd be safe here. You ain't gonna send me back, are ya? The police said I hadda go back where I came from."
"You don't have to worry; you are not going to be staying there anymore." Teri replied as she gave him a squeeze. "If I know these guys, they are probably already making arrangements to get your stuff for you; all we have to do is figure out where you're going to stay."
JJ grinned. "Put it this way; as soon as we're done, Justy and I are gonna take a few of the guys and have a 'discussion' with his former father. We'll see what his attitude is when he gets a visit from both Starfleet Security and Clan Short."
Teri frowned at JJ. "You're starting to enjoy this way too much JJ. It's not a game; you are messing with real people and real lives. Sooner or later things are not going to go easy and someone is going to get hurt. I think you better let Matt handle this until you get your attitude straightened out."
Adam quickly put his hand over JJ's mouth to block his response. He knew from the fire in JJ's eyes that he'd probably start saying things he'd regret later. Adam turned his head to Teri. "Mom; you haven't been to training with us. Even our instructors tell us that it's okay to joke about a mission beforehand; it helps your mind to relax. Trust me, we realize more than you do how serious of a situation we can get into; you haven't heard the horror stories we have. If he didn't joke about it, JJ could be so nervous that he'd mess up and someone would really get hurt."
Teri looked critically at Adam. "You may be my son, Adam, but that does not mean that you can cover for your boyfriend and get away with it. I'm going to talk to Matt; he better collaborate what you just said or else you are going to get to know your room really well. Do we have an understanding?"
Adam stared right back into his mother's eyes. "Yeah Mom. Just remember; when I was at my lowest, JJ was the first one to be there for me. If I thought he was not ready for this, I'd chain him down to keep him from getting himself hurt. You gave me a family again and my little brother back; the last thing I'd do is lie to you after what you've done for me."
Teri nodded. "Point taken, Adam. JJ, I'll withdraw my objection, but I want the three of us to sit down with Matt so I can get a better idea of what my son and his boyfriend are getting into. I love both of you very much; I just need to be sure that you are ready for all of the things you seem to be getting into."
JJ pulled Adam's hand from his mouth. "Give me a break Teri! You forced Dad to stay at your old house on the worst day of my life. The night before that I got a new little brother finally; you don't know how much it hurt me to see Kyle lose the mom he finally earned. If it wasn't for you, my family could have broke down just as it was getting better. There's no way I'm gonna do something that'll put Kyle and Dad through that again."
Teri noticed the tears starting to form in JJ's eyes. "Come here, kiddo." she said to JJ as she scooted Lil' Joe onto her right leg. She reached out and pulled JJ on to her other leg and wrapped her arm around him. "I love you just as much as my sons, and worry about you just as much too. You're a lot like Cory, JJ; you take out your pain by trying to help others. Just like Cory, sometimes you overdo it; if you two had your way you'd take over the universe. Don't take it personally if your Dad, Pop, or me question you sometimes; we just want to help you learn to think before you react."
JJ pulled Teri's arm in tighter as he softly replied. "I kinda understand. It just makes me mad when I'm doing stuff that I've busted my butt to learn and then get told I'm not ready after my teachers said I am. It kinda hurts that everyone says I'm an adult then turns around and treats me like a kid."
Teri smiled as she kissed JJ's head. "Don't think of it that way, JJ; we are just trying to make sure you are there to watch your son grow up. You mean as much to Harley as your Mom meant to you. I know that I just want to help you learn to make decisions thinking about how it will affect him and Adam."
Lil' Joe broke his silence. "Dude! No Way! When did you guys get a kid? He's lucky; I wish I could get a dad who likes kids like you do."
Jacob giggled. "Watch what you wish for dude; around here anything's possible!"
Joey hung his head. "It ain't gonna happen; I'm gonna go to the Devil for touching myself; daddy said so. Nobody's gonna want me; nobody nice."
JJ reached over and picked up Joey's chin. "Lil' dude, you met Justy; he's got a set of Saint's wings waiting for him when he dies. I bet if you ask his brothers over there they'll tell you he touches himself a lot!"
The twins dissolved in giggles as their heads bobbed up and down like jack-in-the-boxes. A few seconds later, Justy stuck his head in the door. "You are SOOOOO DEAD JJ!!!!! Jamie, Jacob; y'alls going swimming - like YOU got room to talk!" Justy then closed the door and went back to CIC.
Even Joey smiled at Justy's outburst. "JJ, if thats an angel, I should have no problem gettin' wings!"
JJ snickered then gave Adam a glance. "Babe; how's the wish-granting business lately?"
Adam grinned. "It's been kinda slow; are you planning on getting even with me for when I went fishing with my brothers?"
JJ tried to look innocent. "Me? You know I never hold grudges hon! It's not every day that you get pulled out of a game of soccer and get the surprise of your life tossed at you as soon as you walk through the door."
Adam shook his head. "Give it up and get it over with; you get to tell Harley though."
Teri shook her head at the boy's antics. "You two are something else!" She turned towards the twins. "One of you giggleboxes mind telling Joey's new little brother to get his skinny butt in here?"
"Yeah, just as soon as Tommy peels him off the ceiling!" Jamie giggled.
Ty and Joey figured out what was happening at almost the same instant. As Joey lunged across Teri's lap and wrapped himself around JJ, Tyler came across the table and crashed into Adam in a huge hug. "Bro!!! You gonna REALLY 'dopt Joey? That's so KEWL!"
Joey was almost speechless, all he could do is repeat over and over 'really?'. JJ repeatedly reassured Joey as he stood up with Teri's help and moved into a nearby chair. "Yes, it's for real lil buddy; just as soon as your new grandma finishes the paperwork your dad and pop are gonna go get your stuff and you'll never have to worry ever again."
Just then Harley came storming through the door. "POP! Is he my new big brother?! When can I innerduce 'im to e'ryone? I wanna take him an' go play! Can we go swimmin'?" he rattled off as he squirmed onto Joey's lap.
"Settle down, munchkin!" JJ giggled. "You'll have plenty of time, okay? Give Grandma a chance to do the same stuff for him that she did for you, then you can introduce him to everyone and show him around."
A few minutes later, Teri had enough information to process Joey's placement, despite the constant interruptions by Harley. As soon as she was finished, Harley broke into a huge grin. "C'mon Unca' Ty! We gotta show my big bro around!"
Tyler put an arm over Joey's shoulder. "C'mon bud, let's check out your new home. It seems your little brother wants to show you off."
Joey grinned. "Do I gotta call you Uncle too?"
Tyler lightly punched Joey in the ribs. "You do and I'll tell Harley where you're ticklish at, dufus! C'mon, you're gonna think your new home is awesome!"
Once the three boys were out of the room, JJ turned to the twins; suddenly all business. "Guys, Adam and I are going to get into our uniforms; tell Justy to have everyone ready to go in ten minutes. Ensure all personnel are issued bodily protection; we are taking no chances."
"Yes sir." the twins chorused.
Adam, JJ, Andrew, Mark and Alec beamed into the driveway of the Hartman residence in Clive, Iowa. JJ looked over his squad to ensure their readiness, then motioned for them to move towards the house. They had just turned the corner in the driveway when the peace of the day was broken by the sound of a shotgun blast.