Memories Part 2: Spreading The Hope

Chapter 1

Southcrest Ranch, October 09, 2004: 7:45 am:

Chip woke to the sounds of music coming from the back of the mansion. He grumbled as he woke Josh and proceeded to get dressed to investigate the racket. Once both of them were dressed, they headed out of the bedroom. Once in the hall, they were met by Nick and Ashley; both of which were not happy about the early wakeup.

"I'm gonna kill someone!" Nick announced as they headed for the stairs.

"Wait in line, Nicky; I get first shot." Chip replied.

They followed their ears to the source of the racket, and soon found themselves outside the studio back behind the main house. Just as they arrived, the 'recording' light came on over the door, so they turned and went into the observation room.

All thoughts of retribution flew from their minds as they entered and saw the assemblage in the studio. In the back, Alec and Aaron were both set up on their drum sets; from the looks of it comparing notes before their next try. Standing in front of Alec's drums was CD; intently fine-tuning his bass guitar. Off to the other side, Sammy and Sebastian were standing comparing notes, lead guitars slung over their backs. Clint and Justy were, from all appearances, coaching the rest of the Clan members standing by a row of microphones off to the side. Just as the four men took seats, Justy and Clint moved to a set of microphones set center stage. The rest of the boys stopped what they were doing and got themselves ready.

Once he was sure everyone was ready, Aaron nodded at Alec and silently gave the count. As the two boys began the drum solo, the rest of the boys tensed to begin their parts. Justy and Clint stepped up to their microphones, and after the second round of the back beat started singing.

Oh we're not gonna take it
No, we ain't gonna take it
Oh we're not gonna take it anymore

Sammy, Sebastian, and CD kicked into gear, all three totally absorbed in getting the notes right.

We've got the right to choose and
There ain't no way we'll lose it
This is our life, this is our song
We'll fight the powers that be just
Don't pick our destiny 'cause
You don't know us, you don't belong

Oh we're not gonna take it
No, we ain't gonna take it
Oh we're not gonna take it anymore

Oh you're so condescending
Your gall is never ending
We don't want nothin', not a thing from you
Your life is trite and jaded
Boring and confiscated
If that's your best, your best won't do

We're right/yeah
We're free/yeah
We'll fight/yeah
You'll see/yeah

Oh we're not gonna take it
No, we ain't gonna take it
Oh we're not gonna take it anymore

Oh we're not gonna take it
No, we ain't gonna take it
Oh we're not gonna take it anymore
No way!

We're right/yeah
We're free/yeah
We'll fight/yeah
You'll see/yeah

We're not gonna take it
No, we ain't gonna take it
We're not gonna take it anymore

We're not gonna take it, no!
No, we ain't gonna take it
We're not gonna take it anymore

Just you try and make us
We're not gonna take it
Come on
No, we ain't gonna take it
You're all worthless and weak
We're not gonna take it anymore
Now drop and give me twenty
We're not gonna take it
Oh crinch pin
No, we ain't gonna take it
Oh you and your uniform
We're not gonna take it anymore

As the group fell silent, they heard Russ announce from the sound booth "That's a wrap, guys!"

Chip led the procession into the sound booth. "Russ, what the heck are y'all doing? And WHY are you doing it this early in the morning?"

Russ started the playback in the studio so the boys could hear the results, and then turned to the four men standing in the doorway. "Blame Cory, Sean, and Justy! According to them, this was the only time they could get everyone together!"

Cory walked up behind them. "Hey! Don't blame us! Tommy and Ty refused to cook breakfast until we got this right; and Helen's on their side!"

Chip shook his head. "Cory, we all know that you just have to say the word, and those guys will do whatever you ask; I know you ain't gonna allow them to hold you hostage over food."

The laughter in Cory's eyes turned to flames as he responded. "Uncle Chip, you of ALL people should know me better than that! I may be Patriarch of Clan Short, but when it comes to family matters I'm no different than the rest of my brothers. I refuse to pull rank just so that they all can appear to act like 'proper' children; if we decide to do something as a family, we ALL do it." Cory was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and found Xain standing behind him, both eyebrows on the half-Vulcan twelve-year-old's face arched.

Cory thought back over the last few weeks, and the changes he had seen in the boy in front of him. Once Xain had understood that the only thing expected of him was to be the best he could be, the boy became an information sponge. It had been Xain's idea for all of the telepaths to join together and do a mass-language dump into everyone's brains. Now, every Clan member was fluent in not only the six languages Kevin knew, but also eagle, common and ceremonial Seminole, and standard and ceremonial Vulcan. In the process, Xain had learned an important lesson; his mixed blood gave him an advantage over pure Vulcans when using Old World human languages, due to the differences in infliction affecting the message you are trying to convey. Once he realized the logical choice was not to eradicate his Human side, but to control it, his stress level decreased and he began to show signs of the great man he would someday become.

Cory cleared his thoughts. "Yes Xain? What is your impression?"

Xain nodded slightly. "The tonal quality of this version is much improved over the original attempt. Justin and Clint have conveyed the proper emotional inflictions in the lyrics to present the message in a form which is understandable to Humans. I believe this version is acceptable for your purposes." Xain then tuned to Chip. "Sir, with all due respect to yourself and Patriarch Short, I am required to make an observation. It is Clan policy for Saturday to be a family day for all Clan members unless an emergency arises. Due to conflicting training schedules during the week, it would be illogical to attempt an assembly of all members. I am sure you are aware that Saturday breakfast is the official meeting to make our reports to Patriarch Short before separating to perform family duties; it is only logical that we complete this Clan business before sitting down for sustenance."

Cory held back a grin as he replied. "Your observations are well received, Xain. As usual, I find your logic flawless. Your observations regarding the most recent performance agree with my own; I will instruct Russ to proceed."

Xain nodded his head, then raised an eyebrow as he glanced out the window. "Excuse me; I must attend to an assignment. Justin and myself were having a discussion when he presented the opinion that the logical way for me to compartment my human side is to first understand it. Saturday has been determined to be the best day to allow illogical responses so that I may analyze them during the week for useful information. I shall return shortly; there is a ritual greeting among Clan members to their caregivers which I find quite interesting."

Everyone turned to the window to watch as Xain, in perfect form as expected, ran out of the building and yelled 'BONZAI!' as he jumped in the air and pounced Allen. To everyones surprise, Allen managed to keep his balance; catching the young boy and spinning around to burn off the momentum. Xain latched on to Allen, obviously not planning on letting go anytime soon. Cory was concerned; something looked off, so he ran out to make sure everyone was okay.

Once he joined them, Cory found Xain and Allen talking in Vulcan. He immediately slipped into Vulcan himself, and assessed the situation. Once he was sure there was no damage, he rejoined the rest of the group waiting outside the doorway. "They're okay; Xain just got hit with a couple of extra emotions he wasn't expecting. Both him and Allen think the experiment went well, they're just sorting out some of the feelings which Xain has no names for. I think Xain has learned more about himself today than in the entire time before he joined us."

Cory searched through the crowd until he found Kevin, Kenny, and Jake. He pulled them off to the side, and told them "Hey guys, keep up the good work. The only reason Xain is doing this good is the three of you not only call him your brother, you treat him like one too. Kev, you probably saved him when you told us what his father planned; his mind was not ready for becoming one-hundred percent Vulcan. YOU did what most people wouldn't do; you helped someone from a different planet in need. Jake, Kenny; both of you are special too. I've watched both of you bust your butts to make sure Kev learns what it means to be loved in a family; on top of that you've made sure Xain learned how to integrate into the Clan as you were learning yourselves. I've heard Allen talking to the other adults; he's justifiably proud of all three of you, and loves all of you equally."

Jake glanced at his two blushing younger brothers, then replied for all three of them. "Thanks Cory; it sounds weird, but that means more hearin' it from you. Dan says we're all still adjustin' to having a family, even Kenny. I'm still having issues with letting someone else make decisions that affect my life; Kev and Kenny still give me attitude adjustments daily."

"Dude! Don't whine - at least you only gotta put up with ONE dad - I gotta answer to THREE plus a Mom!" DJ announced as he joined the group. He giggled as he ducked a half-hearted swipe at his head from Cory. "See what I gotta put up with!"

Cory chuckled. "You love it, and you know it, Deej! I was able to hear you and your bros doing the backups; y'all sounded great! You better be careful, don't forget y'all are hanging over at my place today; I've got ways of dealing with smart-alec sons!"

"Yeah, whatever. Jake, Kevin, Kenny; you guys really do belong with the Clan. The rest of us have been talkin' about how Xain's doin' since he came to stay with you guys. Kev, you've lived head games all your life; you've been the one who has helped Xain the most. You know what he's been through with his old man pushing for him to be like Spock, of all of us you understand how pressure to be something affects you."

Kevin looked down at his feet. "I ain't nothin' special. Kenny and Jake do it all; I'm just there."

Tanner had came over to see what was going on, a giggling Timmy hitching a ride on his back. Everyone was surprised at his reaction to Kevin's comment. Tanner didn't even take the time to put Timmy down; he pushed his way in front of Kevin and roughly pulled the smaller boy's chin up to look him eye to eye. "Kevin, don't start that crap again! Your first day here you set things in motion to give Xain a chance! Thanks to you, all of us can speak languages that we'd never learned without you. Dude; I know your mom and old school screwed with your head, but get over it! You ain't no worse or better than any of the rest of us. Deej and I had to live through some messed up things at our old homes, but I doubt either one of us could have survived a week in the surroundings you grew up in. In fact, most of the guys couldn't handle it; so get your head outta your butt and get on with life."

Kevin stared at Tanner in shock. Up to this point, everyone had treated him calmly whenever he'd felt down about himself; this was the first time anyone had actually lost their temper. Tanner was the last person Kevin expected to go off like this. As he stared, one of the many walls he had built to protect himself began to crumble; finally giving way to the constant support of his family and the Clan. As the years of pent-up emotions were released, Kevin verbally lashed out at Tanner. "Get on with life, huh? You have no friggin idea how much I'd love to just forget it and get on with life! Maybe you should have your boyfriend put a day out of my old life in your head, see if YOU can forget it! Try going to the mall and having to listen to old ladies comment on how much you look like your 'big brother', not knowing he's your twin! Try living with having to ask your twin brother to put down his Trig homework to help you with fractions. Try laying in bed at night, praying that the person who always looked out for you makes it through another day as your big brother and doesn't give up trying to make a life for himself. Or hows about looking across the table every morning, and seeing exactly what you'd be if you had been left with your brother instead of being split up. Oh, while you're at it, remember that everyone else at the table is eating a full meal while you are doing good to stuff down an egg and a slice of toast. Every friggin' day of my life I was told how stupid and weak I am; y'all have proved my old mom wrong, but that still don't change the fact I can't do HALF the stuff I should be able to do! Take a friggin' reality check, Tanner; the way I am right now I can't do crap."

Tanner and Kevin's yelling had drawn the rest of the boys over to see what was happening. Eli had his 'pet leg' clear a path for him, and came alongside Kevin. Between Kevin's stressed posture, red face, and the tears starting to form in his eyes, Eli knew things could go bad real quick. "Kev, listen up a sec." Eli quickly said before Tanner could reply.

"What!?" Kevin exclaimed, not breaking his stare at Tanner.

"Calm your skinny butt down before you do something you'll regret! Tanner's right on both counts; you do a lot more than you think and you're walkin' around with your head up your butt. Trust me, I've been there."

Kevin spun and took a swing at Eli; the punch never connected as Kevin found himself frozen in mid-swing. "Let me go!" he growled.

Eli shook his head. "Nope, not until you calm down." He then turned to Tanner. "Dude, you said what was needed; don't take Kev's reaction wrong. Benj and I did the same thing when Sammy and 'Bastian gave us a reality check. It was about time for this to happen; you handled it pretty good. Sometimes friends gotta rattle the cage to help someone."

Tanner looked over at Kevin, then back at Eli. "Yeah, maybe so; but I had no idea he was havin' it that bad. Kev, when that stuff starts gettin' to ya', you know where Deej and I live. Stop holdin' it in; you can talk to us anytime. Between us and our brothers one of us has gotta be able to help."

Kevin had calmed some. "Yeah, thanks Tanner. Sorry about blowing up; you just hit a sore spot."

Tanner smiled as he turned to take Timmy over to Sean. "No problem, Kev; you're one of us now. We all got to look out for each other."

Eli turned back to Kevin. "You think I can let you go without you going off again?"

"Yeah; just take it easy."

Eli let Kev free and waved him over to a chair in front of the studio. Once they were both seated, he spoke his mind. "Kev, from one twin to another, you need to relax. There's something Sean don't tell you when he reviews our histories. Benji and I were about to give up everything because we thought we were worthless after getting injured. I really have no idea what your life was like; but I do know about some of the stuff you were yellin' about. In the hospital, every time I turned my head and looked at Benji I saw two arms and two legs. I was convinced I was nothin' but a worthless cripple that would have to count on someone to take care of me for the rest of my life. I still hear people comment about 'the poor crippled boy' when they think I don't hear them. I let it get to me to the point I was lookin' for a chance to just kill myself; if it wasn't for our boyfriends and a certain pair of rugrats Benji and me would probably be dead now. I know being with your twin is still kinda new to you; from the sound of it you think you should be just like him. Just cuz' you're twins don't mean you're the same. Benj and me look alike, but get us in school and it's easy to tell us apart just by our schoolwork. I'm good in science and math, Benj couldn't solve an algebra problem if you gave him a week to do it. Stop tryin' to be like Kenny and just be yourself Kev; every time you've done that so far you've made someone's life better since you got here. You had it bad; use that to make sure someone else don't have to live like you did. You're a survivor dude, start acting like it again."

Kevin looked closely at Eli's face. "You're serious, ain't you?" When Eli nodded, Kevin gave a small smile. "Thanks Eli. I guess you're kinda right; I've been wanting to be like Kenny. I just don't wanna disappoint him, Jake, or Allen."

Neither boy had noticed Kenny walking up to them. When he heard Kevin's statement, Kenny replied. "Bro, don't worry about disappointing me. I waited all my life to meet you and ain't gonna lose you. It don't matter what you know or what you look like; you're my twin brother and you're safe with me now. Don't pay attention to all those other people; we both know we're brothers and that's all that matters."


Short Compound:

Sean and Cory were cuddled on the love seat in their family room, watching DJ playing games with Timmy on their X-box. On the other side of the room, CD, Calen, Tanner, Beau, and Toby were in the middle of a rowdy game of Monopoly.

"You know something, Cor? It's times like this that makes this parent stuff worth it." Sean whispered as he cuddled closer.

Cory giggled. "Yeah, but what makes it even better is nobody says nothin' when we're being just like our sons. I kinda like the way everyone treats us like adults but still expect us to be kids."

"That's 'cause you're still a kid, dufus!" DJ chuckled as him and Timmy joined them.

Cory pulled DJ into a headlock. "Don't you forget it either, Deej!" he giggled. "Who's the dufus now, silly boy?"

DJ reached around and started tickling Cory. "You are, Dad!"

As Cory and DJ rolled off of the love seat and began wrestling on the floor, Timmy decided that his big brother needed some help. "Daddy, stop pickin' on Deej. I'm gonna have ta' pounce you!"

"Let them have some fun, Timmy." Sean chuckled as he reached over and pulled his freshly six-year-old son onto his lap before Timmy could carry out his threat.

Timmy cuddled into Sean's chest. "Okay Poppa; but I'm gonna get Daddy later for pickin' on Deej."

"I'm sure you will, Gizmo." Sean chuckled as he pulled Timmy in tighter. "Just make sure you don't get me too!"

Timmy looked up at Sean with an innocent look. "Poppa, I'd never do sumthin' like that! I'm your little angel, 'member?"

Sean giggled. "Lil' buddy, I can see the horns holding up your halo. Your Uncle Justy taught you well; you just tend to keep going once you start."

They were interrupted by Tommy. "Cory! Get out from under all the guys and get in your office! You got a call from Admiral Morrow, Starfleet business."

"Thanks, bro." Cory said as he crawled out and straightened his clothes. A minute later, he keyed his code into the console and answered the call. "This is Ensign Short, how may I help you Admiral?"

"Good afternoon, Ensign Cory. Your presence is required at my office in three hours. Be in full dress uniform. Bring your family with you, once we finish with our official business there is another thing which involves them."

This was the first time Cory had heard the Admiral use that tone. "Yes Sir." he replied. As soon as he signed off, Cory ran back to the family room.

"Guys, get cleaned up!" Cory announced as he entered the room. "Admiral Morrow is expecting me in three hours; he wants my family with me. Get ready."

"I'll call mom and dad to pick us up." DJ announced dejectedly.

"No you won't Deej; I'm calling them to let them know all of you are coming with us." Sean replied. "Just because you guys live with Russ and Sara don't change nothing. Deej, you're Timmy's brother by blood; no legal paperwork will ever change that. Tanner, Beau, and Toby are just as much your brothers as Timmy is our son, so that makes all of y'all our sons too. Admiral Morrow said bring our family; that means you guys too. Now hurry up before I ground you from the X-box for a week."

DJ glanced at Cory, and was reassured when Cory smiled back and nodded. He thought for a second then commented "Thanks guys; I guess I just kinda thought you wouldn't wanna explain having us with you. I kinda see what you meant when you told us it would be better for Russ and Sara to adopt us; it's definitely weird gettin' grounded by someone who's only a couple of hours older than you!"

Cory smiled as he came over and gave DJ a hug. "Dude, all of you are just as much our sons as Timmy, CD, and Calen. It works both ways, though; Russ and Sara are the adults all seven of you need sometimes. We know that we need help sometimes learning to be parents; just because we let Russ and Sara adopt you don't mean we love you any less, it means we want the best for you. Why don't you take all your bros and make sure they get ready?"

"Thanks dad, it's pretty cool having four parents to make up for our old families. You and pop are doing great." DJ replied as he returned the hug. "Go get ready; Tanner and I'll take care of our little brothers."


Starfleet Headquarters, Admiral Morrow's Office:

Cory nervously looked at his family in the outer office, then straightened his uniform and entered the Admiral's office.

"Ensign Cory Short, reporting as ordered, Admiral." Cory announced as he came to attention in front of Admiral Morrow's desk.

Admiral Morrow stood up. Cory knew something was up when the Admiral left him standing at attention; this was the first time that Cory had not been at least told to stand at ease.

"Ensign Short; recently you lead a mission to rescue a child. During the mission, you made a decision which resulted in the death of an adult on the premises. You failed to report the actions of one of the officers under your command which clearly violated Starfleet regulations. I have reviewed your report with your Commanding Officer. Due to the issues involved, the official report released to the public will stand. Internally is another story. Captain Kirk is of the opinion that a Court Martial is not necessary in this case. He has assured me that you have been counseled as to the implications of the actions you allowed. Upon review of your record and consultation with Captain Kirk, it is my decision that you shall be required to perform a non-judicial punishment of 100 hours of community service. In addition, you will have a reprimand for your actions inserted in your permanent service record. Failure to complete the community service in a timely manner or any violations of Starfleet regulations within the next year will result in this being reopened and referred to a Board of Inquiry for Court Martial. Is that understood, Ensign?"

"Yes Sir." Cory replied, trying to restrain his tears.

"Then I shall consider this matter closed unless you give me a reason to act otherwise. At ease, Ensign."

As Cory relaxed from standing at attention, the little bit of control he had over his emotions failed and he fell to the floor in tears. Morrow picked Cory up and put him in a chair, then rubbed his shoulders until he calmed down. Cory looked up at the Admiral in shame. "Sorry for being such a baby, Sir. I guess I don't deserve to be an officer."

"Cory, don't worry about it. I've seen men a lot older than you lose control when placed in a situation like what you just went through. You made an error in judgement and are now answering for it. That is all I ask of any officer under my command; you have earned your bars more than quite a few of your peers of the same rank as you. Your record saved you from a court martial; you just need to think things through before you react. Don't worry about that community service; the things that you do every day as Clan Patriarch more than cover it."

Cory gave Morrow a small smile. "Thanks sir; I feel a little better now."

Morrow went to his terminal. "Lieutenant, send in Ensign Sean and the rest of his family."

Sean and the rest of the boys filed in, William in his normal position on Timmy's shoulder. CD was the first to notice Cory's face, and rushed to cuddle him. "Daddy, why were you crying?" CD asked as he perched on Cory's lap.

Cory wrapped his arms around CD. "Don't worry about it, son. Daddy just did some stuff wrong when he rescued you and has to suffer the consequences."

CD looked at Admiral Morrow with fire in his eyes. "You made Daddy cry. He didn't do nothin' wrong! If it wasn't for him, the bad guy was gonna put his thingie in my butt and make me hurt and bleed back there. Daddy saved my life; just like he saved my little brother and my big brothers."

Admiral Morrow kneeled down to be at the nine year old's level. "You must be CD. You are right; your Daddy was right in saving you. He just did some things he shouldn't have with the reports he had to make."

CD stared Morrow in the eyes. "I ain't a little kid. Daddy and Mr. Thompson made sure the bad guy could never hurt anyone like he hurt my friends and my cousin Harley. If it wasn't for Phil, a lot of the guys mighta died. After what we lived like there, there's nothing Daddy could have done that was bad enough for him to get in trouble on his reports."

Cory recovered from his shock. "CD, settle down. You don't speak to an Admiral like that, kiddo. The part that I got in trouble for is right; I didn't report some things the way I should have and didn't follow proper procedures in a couple areas. You need to remember that Dad and Pop are officers; we need to do things a certain way or else things get really messed up."

"Sorry dad." CD replied as he cuddled into Cory's chest.

"I accept your apology, son; but don't you think you owe someone else an apology?"

CD looked at Cory, then slowly climbed off of his lap. He turned to the Admiral and looked at his feet as he spoke. "I'm sorry for running my mouth Sir. It just made me mad to see Daddy was crying."

Morrow lifted CD's chin. "Be proud, CD. I can tell you are already learning from your new parents. I understand what you were doing, you were protecting your dad. I accept your apology. It's not very often that someone's willing to challenge me like you did; that says a lot about you."

CD gave a slight smile at the complement, then asked "Is daddy going to have to go to jail?"

"No; he's got to do some community service. I'm not going to take him away from you."

"Okay." CD replied as he scurried back to Cory's arms.

Admiral Morrow smiled as he moved behind his desk and took a seat. "Now that the unpleasant part is done, I've got something else that I think you all will enjoy. It seems that Clan Short is starting to get a reputation; I just received a message from Rigel VII. Does the name Ambassador Marcus O'Neal mean anything to you?"

"GRAN'PA!!!" Timmy screamed in joy from his perch on Sean's lap. William added his recognition of the name with a loud 'screech'.

Sean shook his head to clear the ringing in his ears as he replied. "Yes sir; Ambassador O'Neal is Timmy's grandfather. He is also the only citizen of Earth allowed on Rigel VII."

"You are partially correct, Sean. Rigel VII is hosting a conference regarding protecting the youth of the Federation. They approached Ambassador O'Neal and requested a representative of Federation Youth Services attend. After some discussion between myself, the Ambassador, and Ambassador Sarek; we concluded that since Clan Short works so closely with Federation Youth Services, it would be more appropriate for you to represent the Federation as well as Clan Short at the conference."

"So Cory and Sean get to go to Rigel VII? Kewl!" Tanner exclaimed.

Admiral Morrow chuckled. "You're close Tanner; I was given strict instructions by Ambassador O'Neal that Cory and Sean bring their sons too."

There was about three seconds of silence, then with a cheer that rattled the transparent aluminum windows of the office the boys all piled on Sean and Cory in celebration. After a couple of minutes, they calmed down enough to realize where they were and took seats at Cory's feet; still wearing mile-wide grins.

Tanner looked at Admiral Morrow. "Sir, how did you know my name? Nobody introduced us."

"That's easy, Tanner. I was the one who made the request for Clan Short to be looking out for you and DJ long before they picked you up. I recognized both of you as soon as you walked in."

Tanner glanced up at Cory then looked back to Morrow. "But Dad said they helped us because they wanted to."

"That's right. I can't order Cory to help a kid; the only ones who can do that are Ambassador Sarek and the Vulcan Council. I'm only his boss when it comes to Starfleet business. Cory, I thought you said that the Wagners adopted DJ, Tanner, Beau, and Toby?"

Cory giggled. "Sorry sir; it's actually more of a shared custody. Russ and Sara have Earth legal custody of those four, but in actuality all four of us have the same rights for all seven of our boys. Considering Timmy and DJ are half-brothers by blood, there's no way I was going to approve an arrangement which separated them; but it also wasn't fair to Deej to force him to call someone only three hours older than him Pop. The funny part is, all seven of them call Sean Pop and me Dad! Also, if Sean and I have to go out on either Starfleet or Clan business it's not going to totally disrupt any of these guy's lives; they will be with someone they know and trust, someone whose rules they are already familiar with."

Morrow nodded. "Interesting arrangement; but in your situation I would have to say it's a logical one. Just out of curiosity, how do you younger guys feel about it?"

DJ started to reply, but Calen stopped him. "My turn, bro! We all talked about it one day while Dad and Pop were getting some alone time just after we moved. It's actually pretty kewl. If I need to ask about adult stuff that dad and pop don't know yet, I can go to Russ or Sara; stuff that Deej and them don't think the grown-ups would understand they can come to Dad and Pop. We all have to follow the same rules no matter which house we're at, and if we need help with a project or somethin' at least one of them is always free."

Admiral Morrow smiled. "Sounds like you've got it all worked out. Since you are claiming all seven of them, should I assume that there will be nine people on this trip, Cory? You leave Monday, so plan accordingly."

Cory thought for a second, then looked at the sea of puppy-dog eyes staring at him. "If you will excuse me Admiral, I need to place a call first in private before I can answer that. All of you stay with Sean right here."

Morrow waved Cory to use the Conference Room. Once Cory had the door closed, he opened his communicator and called Sara.

Sara picked up. "Hey there Cory. What did they do this time?" she asked with a chuckle.

"So far, they all have behaved." Cory replied. "The Admiral just dropped a bomb on me; it seems that me, Sean, and our kids have been invited to a conference on Rigel VII by Timmy's biological grandfather. I was just asked how many kids are going, naturally with everyone right there; but I ain't gonna answer that without talking to you and Russ first."

"Just a minute, Cory. Russ just walked in with Allen, let me get him up to speed."

Cory listened as Sara filled Russ in. Once Russ was up to speed, he got on the communicator.

"Cory, this is Russ. I hate to put you through this, but since they already know about it there's not much choice. Timmy is automatically going to go since it's his grandpa asking, pretty much the same for DJ. Calen and CD are still overcoming abandonment, so they need to go. Tanner ain't gonna let DJ out of his sight. That leaves Beau and Toby; and there's no way I'm gonna suffer through those two sulking around because they were left behind. Are you guys sure you can control all seven of them?"

"Yeah, since DJ takes being a big brother so seriously he helps a lot. From the way you asked that, I'm guessing you plan on staying home?"

"Good guess, Cory! There's a few things we've been trying to figure out how to slip past the boys; this is the perfect opportunity. Also, this is your first chance to show Timmy's grandpa that his decision was the right one; having us there will only lessen the impact of how good you and Sean do with both your boys and ours. Allen just brought up something though; do you think that you might score some brownie points with Xain's father if Xain was included? This kinda sounds like a Diplomatic thing if Sara told me right."

"Tell Allen I said he's got a great idea. I see what you mean, though; there's a lot riding on how Sean and I look. If you are all sure, I'll tell the Admiral to plan for ten of us and one eagle. Ask Allen if he's sure Xain will go."

"He's calling now; just a minute. Okay, Xain's reply was that it is a logical choice for him to be trained in an actual Diplomatic situation. He also suggested Jake come along to assist you with your crew; something about them being bonded."

Cory giggled. "Tell Allen that I think his twins are rubbing off on Xain! I'll talk with Allen's boys when we get back home tonight; I'm not sure if they are ready for separation like this yet. Thanks, we'll finalize everything when we get back. I better get back before Sean gets mobbed by our sons!"

"Okay, we'll see you in a few hours."

Cory closed the connection, then went back into the main office. As soon as he closed the door behind him, Cory found himself surrounded by his sons, expectant looks on their faces. Cory barely resisted the temptation to mess with their heads. "Okay guys; we decided you all can go. Xain and Jake might be coming with us too."

Cory was swamped by a group hug from the kids. As the hug broke, DJ asked "Why are Xain and Jake coming?"

Cory put an arm over DJ's shoulder. "Xain's joining us for training. Jake might come along to take care of you guys while we are in meetings; that way you don't have to miss out on some fun because you are watching your little brothers. We got to talk to him, Kev, and Ken first to make sure there ain't gonna be any problems."

"Okay. I guess since you and Pop have gotta work while we're there it'd be better to have someone else there too."

Cory turned to the Admiral. "Sir, it looks like there will be eleven of us and one eagle for the trip. We will be taking Xain along for Diplomatic training; I will take care of notification of his father. Can you see any problems with that plan?"

Morrow shook his head. "Actually, I think you're right on target; I'll take care of notifications on this end. Xain and Jake can get their med exams before you depart; stop by Medical on your way out and get all of yours out of the way now. Cory; Lieutenant Barnes will have the specifics of how to document your Community Service requirements upon your return. Have fun, boys; you're going somewhere that none of your friends even have a chance at visiting."


Two hours later, the boys finished their exams and beamed back to Orlando. Cory and Sean looked at each other with knowing grins when they found Teri, Allen, and all four of Allen's boys waiting for them in the dining room.

As soon as Timmy spotted Teri, he was off like a rocket to get prime space on her lap. "GRAN'MA!!! We getta go see Gran'pa! I getta show off all six of my kewl brothers!"

"So I've heard, little one." Teri replied. She saw the anxious looks she was getting from the rest of the boys and smiled. "Relax, guys; I ain't gonna stop you. DJ, why don't you take the fireball and the rest of your brothers to see what you can find out about where you are going? It's usually more fun if you know what to expect."

"Sure, Grandma!" DJ replied as he picked up Timmy off of her lap and headed to the family room with the rest of their brothers.

To everyones surprise, as soon as the boys were out of earshot Xain began the talk. "Cory; k'war'ma'khon has informed me you wish my presence for training on Rigel VII. May I inquire as to your logic behind this request?"

Cory and Sean took their seats before Cory responded. "Xain, your abilities and development have increased dramatically since your arrival. It is my opinion that you have achieved the balance necessary to begin active participation in Clan affairs. From what I've seen when you're interacting with the rest of the Clan, you have a natural talent as a moderator; you have developed the ability to assess the emotional implications of a situation and then sort out the logical conclusion. This is the first time the Clan has been recognized officially and been invited to a conference; it would be illogical to not have our best moderator present."

Xain turned to Allen and stated "Father, I believe I have reached understanding as to your phrase regarding selling snow cones to Eskimos. Your observation that Cory would be quite proficient at it seems highly probable."

In between giggles, Sean managed to say "Busted, babe!" He then turned to Xain. "Seriously, you are ready to start actively doing Clan work Xain; and this is your chance to start making your own way instead of following in Spock's shadow. Cory already talked to Solak; 'he who is your father' has expressed his approval of the path you appear to be taking. Basically, Cory told him that you are using your understanding of emotions to help find the logical solutions to human problems that you are asked to assist with. I think Cory's statement about you being up to twelve languages that you're fluent in helped; Solak is no longer concerned that your studies are being neglected. Of course, Cory failed to tell him how you learned them! There's one point that Cory made to you that I should clear up; this conference is all going to be adults, and none of them are really going to take us seriously. With you working alongside Cory and me, there is a real good chance we can not only gain their respect; we can take charge and make a difference."

Xain allowed himself a small smile. "I shall accept the honor of joining your family for this trip to Rigel VII. I believe that proving to them that we are not just another group of children shall be a very intriguing experience. I must join your sons in discovering the environment on Rigel VII; may I be excused?"

Cory smiled. "Go ahead, Xain; we'll fill you in on anything you miss."

As Xain ran to join the rest of the boys, Cory and Sean directed their attention to Kevin, Kenny, and Jake. Sean motioned to Cory that he was going to handle it, then spoke. "Guys, Xain going with us was Clan Short business. What I'm about to ask has nothing to do with that; in fact all three of you have to agree to it. Kevin, Kenny; Cory and I talked about this. We don't want you to feel left out, but we both think right now you guys could use some more time to really get to know each other better. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you guys are starting to develop your telepathic link like most other twins have, right?"

Both Kevin and Kenny nodded their heads. "Yep!"

"Well, since Reuben and Ricardo are going to be camping out at Doc Austin's for a couple of days next week, if you guys agree to this it'll give you a chance to spend some time with each other without interruptions. Jake, since you did such a great job of looking out for Kevin, we'd like for you to come along and help with the boys when we are tied up. Also, if Xain needs a little support, you'd be there for him."

Surprisingly, Kevin answered first. "Xain needs Jake; he just don't realize it. Kenny and me's been needin' to sit down and share our memories; Jacob and Jamie helped us get ready, but we ain't done it yet."

Kenny picked up the train of thought. "There's stuff that Kev needs me to help him sort out, and I'm learning that I've got problems that he needs to help me sort out. We also kinda need to share our memories about mom and dad; that way Kev knows for sure that Dad loved him and I have at least some knowledge of mom, even if it's not happy."

Cory saw the look on Allen's face and interrupted. "Allen, relax! Jamie filled me in; both of these guys still have the natural link between them that they were born with. They just need to sit down and take the time to re-sync with each other; it's nothing like a mind-meld. Kenny hinted at another thing; both of them will learn from each other's experiences. That means that Kevin will pick up on the skills he was denied by his mother and the school system; things like how to study, interaction with others, pride in his accomplishments. Kenny is going to pick up on things like self-reliance, tolerance for differing lifestyles, and taking a stand for whats right. I was the one who had Jamie and Jacob check them out; if there were going to be problems they were going to put up blocks to save the boys. No blocks were needed, so both Kev and Ken are going to be just fine."

Before Allen could reply, Teri added "Allen, I'll vouch for them too. Not just because Mr. Spock trained them; but because if it wasn't for them, Cory might have self-destructed beyond recovery. Since you're a parent, you haven't received the history lesson the boys did; why don't we sit down later and you'll get a better idea of how safe these guys really are."

Allen relaxed slightly. "If you put it that way, I guess I can live with it. I just worry about losing one of the boys."

Jake reached over and gave Allen a hug. "Pop, we know you worry 'cause you love us. I worry too, they're my little brothers; but I swear that Cory and Sean will never let anything happen that might let them get hurt. I know a lot of stuff that Aunt Teri don't know about; I can't tell you about it, but I can tell you that if Cory's sure they're safe then they really are. Something Kevin didn't say is that right now I need Xain too; when the demons of my past pop up he's usually able to use logic to talk me through it. For the first time since the day I met him, I feel like Kev is safe without me around; as long as my favorite twin brothers don't feel left out, I'd like to go with Xain."

Allen smiled down at his eldest son. "So that's why you've not said anything; I was worried that you were holding it in. Discuss it with your brothers; I'll agree to whatever you decide."

Kevin answered before Jake could even open his mouth. "Cory's right, we need to take some time alone with each other. Xain needs you, bro; Kenny and me need to get our heads straight so that we are ready to go next time."

Kenny finished the thought. "Bro, you saved Kev's life; you've earned this. I'll be mad if you don't go."

Jake smiled, tears of joy trickling down his face. "Thanks guys, I really love you. Cory, it looks like you've got your babysitter!"

Cory smiled back. "Activities coordinator, Jake; thanks for joining us. C'mon guys, let's see what the rest of the guys have found."

As soon as the boys were all out of earshot, Teri turned to Allen. "Let's head into the living room; this will take a while. Trust me, Rigel VII is never gonna be the same again after my two get done with it ..."