Julio giggled as he finally convinced his brothers to put on some dress clothes. "C'mon guys, Cory's waitin' on us!"
Johnny stuck out his tongue at Julio. "Kyle says we still have ten minutes before we leave. They're still tryin to pry that pizza kid off of Bast; it'd be easier if Bast wasn't helping hold him."
"They make a cute pair, though; I thought the poor guy was gonna need new pants when Bast offered to give him a tongue bath!" Julio laughed. "Eddie, I don't think you'll need the roller blades!"
"How can I keep up with you long-legged old guys?" Eddie asked meekly.
"Piggy-back rides... it's a benefit of being a kid!" Johnny replied.
"Oh yeah... I better leave them then!" Eddie giggled as the aforementioned roller blades went flying across the floor. He quickly slipped into the dress shoes that Julio had set out for him, then stood up with a grin. "My feet hurt already, big bro; you gotta carry me!"
Julio laughed as he knelt down to allow Eddie to climb on his back. "Hop on, Cowboy!"
As Johnny watched his little brother climb on Julio's back, a soft smile appeared on his face. For the first time in their short lives, the two youngest members of the Hernandez household were able to feel secure in their surroundings. His smile grew wider as Jesse came over and knelt in front of him.
"You too, Johnny! I can't let you walk if Eddie isn't walking." Jesse announced.
Johnny climbed onto Jesse, snuggling in as he got comfortable on his new friend's back.
Once the two young boys were settled in, their 'horseys' proceeded to go meet up with the rest of the group.
Cory grinned as he saw the Des Moines boys making their way into the Rec Room. "You guys just missed it!" Cory laughed. "Bast just called Jeremy's boss and informed him that Jeremy was quitting, whether he wanted to or not!"
Julio looked over at the fourteen year old (former) pizza delivery driver, who was happily cuddled with Bast in the recliner. "Hey Jer! Isn't that taking 'getting a piece of tail' a little literally?"
Jeremy stuck out his tongue at Julio. "Once you have Lion, you don't keep tryin'!" he shot back.
The room fell into laughter at the quick reply, Bast blushing and pulling his new boyfriend close with a toothy grin. Julio went over to the phone and called the pizza shop, dialing the number from memory.
"Pizza Italiano, this is Kristopher. How may I help you?" a young voice answered.
Julio decided to try out his new title. "This is Director Hernandez; could I please speak to George?" Julio asked politely.
"Yes sir, one minute while I get him," Kristopher replied.
A few seconds later, an adult voice came onto the line. "This is George, how may I assist you, Director?"
Julio smiled. "It's still Julio to you, George. I just wanted to make sure that Jeremy being hijacked by one of Patriarch Short's security detail wasn't going to cause you any issues with your schedule. Also, I want to apologize for the lack of warning. They're only here for the weekend, so Jeremy giving notice was difficult."
"You don't need to worry." George replied, the smile evident in his voice. "I could hear the love in Mr. Lion's voice. I already called a few of the other drivers; as soon as they heard that Jeremy had found someone special, they all agreed to cover for him until one of the new rescuees is able to take his place."
"Thanks George!" Julio replied with relief. "How's business been?"
"Insanely good!" George laughed. "I might need to expand the building over more of that parking lot that I don't use anymore! I'm glad that you guys decided to let me, Walgreens, and the skate shop remain in business here when you annexed the area. With the arrangements that Mr. Takamura made, we can help the kids without worrying about profit and loss. I will say there were some really happy employees here when Mrs. Short made her order, though. Since she paid for the order, all of the kids involved in the order or making the pizzas split the payment between themselves as pocket cash."
"So that's how you do it!" Julio giggled. "No wonder everyone likes working there!"
"I think it's because I don't care if they have fun as long as they do it safely." George chuckled. "My wife is starting to wonder if I've had a bad day if I come home without some part of a pizza embedded in my hair! Speaking of which, I better go; there's a twelve-year-old baker who I owe a dose of pizza sauce down the back of his shirt to."
"Have fun!" Julio giggled. "Thanks for understanding; have a great day!"
"You too!" George replied.
As George was hanging up, Julio barely heard him exclaim "Conlin, you better start running now..."
As Julio was making his phone call, Kyle and Ty were updating Johnny and Eddie on the capabilities of the newest member of the newly-christened Des Moines Psy Corps. As instructed, Robin had come over to have his abilities assessed after he had been observed helping Jules "save" the disco ball at the dance. The eight-year-old strawberry blond had immediately hit it off with Eddie, and the two of them seemed to be constantly giggling as each showed off a little more of what they could do.
Kyle smiled as he watched the two reunite. When Robin had arrived earlier, Kyle had sat down with him to help him discover just what kind of telekinesis Robin was capable of. As soon as Kyle had started to really investigate Robin's powers, he realized that fate had given Robin a lucky break by allowing him to be spotted playing with his skill....
Kyle barely took enough time to explain to Robin what he was about to do, then he pulled Robin's consciousness into his head. Once they were both safely inside one of Kyle's many rooms, Kyle explained in more detail what the problem was.
"Welcome to my head!" Kyle giggled as he pointed toward an overstuffed chair. "Have a seat, then I'll fill you in."
Robin nodded, his eyes wide at the new experience of being in someone else's head. "Am I dead now?" he asked uncertainly.
"No, there's a piece of you that stays back to keep your body alive." Kyle replied seriously. "You've got a special type of head; your mind is about ready to become something really special, but it's missing a couple of puzzle pieces. You're a little too close, though; it's like you're walking a crack on a sidewalk. All you gotta do is miss that crack once and things go 'boom'."
"What happens if things go 'boom'?" Robin asked in a worried tone.
Kyle shook his head. "You don't wanna know, and I'm not gonna let you find out." He paused for a second, then continued. "While you rest in here and munch cookies, I'm gonna go into your head and put the missing puzzle pieces back into place, then I'll take you back and teach you how to use everything. The fixin' part hurts a lot, but while you're in here you won't feel it; at least I don't think you will."
Robin nodded, then giggled as a Transformers episode started playing on the opposite wall at the same time as cookies appeared on the table in front of him. "Kewl! I missed this episode!" Robin exclaimed as he quickly grabbed two handfuls of cookies, then made himself comfortable.
Kyle giggled, then vanished from the room as he began the necessary conversion....
Kyle was brought back from his reflection by Mick walking up to them. "Are the five of you ready to go downtown?" Mick asked, knowing the boys were looking forward to the tour promised by Ted.
"Mrowrrrww??" Charlie seemed to ask from his perch on Johnny's lap.
"Okay, okay... are the SIX of you ready?" Mick laughed.
"Rowrrr!" Charlie purred smugly.
"I getta go too?" Robin asked hopefully.
"Of course." Mick replied. "I'm not mean enough to separate you and Eddie. Speaking of which, on Teri's suggestion I just got off of the phone with your mom. Marcie and us are combining properties, and Teri has arranged for a CIC like Orlando has to be put in place of our houses. The only difference between theirs and ours is the roof is being raised to put our living quarters on the second floor. Marcie is going to become a house-mom for all of you guys and whoever you add to the family. Robin, if both of you guys want it, you and Eddie can share a room."
The two boys grinned as their eyes lit up. "AWESOME!!" they exclaimed in unison.
Mick nodded and smiled. Despite the fact they were neighbors, Eddie and Robin had never had the chance to know each other; Eddie was so deep into his shell that the only people that he would interact with before Cory's return were Johnny, Mick, Janice, and Julio. Now, thanks to Kyle and Ty, his youngest son was rejoining the human race. Mick wasn't about to argue with the way things were going; in fact, with the progress he had seen with Johnny and Eddie in the last twenty-four hours, Mick was willing to just let things progress along their new route.
"A stretched CAMARO!!" Cory exclaimed as Benny, who somehow happened to be the driver of their tram once again, pulled into the lot just outside the gate.
"Of course, only the best for da Boss!" Benny giggled. "C'mon, I've been wanting to ride in this thing since we got it! I'm 'posed to stick with you until you come back home, my boss said so."
"Who is your boss?" Cory asked as he noticed the confused look on Julio's face at Benny's comment.
Benny grinned, winked at Julio and then gestured for both the confused Division Director and the Clan Patriarch to follow him down the sidewalk for a few meters until they were out of earshot of the rest. Kyle and Ty glanced over knowingly, and Benny winked at them too.
"Now I'm really curious," Cory giggled. Somehow, he thought, this should be good. Jace had already said he'd been watching this place, so this was unlikely to be a nasty surprise.
Benny stopped and opened his jacket top and pulled open his shirt. Cory's jaw dropped open, while Julio looked even more confused.
Then, in a soft, south Wales accent, Benny said, "I am Sub-Commander James Benjamin Roberts, Wings Corp, Dragon Division VSO - May we live as the line, and die to defend it."
Cory's face hardened for a split second before he asked, "When were you given your rank, Sub-Commander Roberts? I thought all the kids in the Dragon were lieutenants."
"Apart from Koth and Matthew, yeah. They are higher than me. I was a lieutenant up till this morning," Benny smiled as he allowed Julio to check out his uniform under his outer clothes. "Since you've made this group of head cases a Division, I was appointed main point of contact for the VSO here. If you want, Julio," he added as the boy blew a raspberry at him for the 'head case' comment, "I can be your direct liaison with the Dragon as well."
Julio tilted his head. "So, the Dragon Division Cory told me about... How long have you been VSO? I thought you guys moved here from Illinois; that's what your mom told my mom."
"Ah," Benny giggled as he did up his shirt and jacket, "Swansea... well, the name of the place is right, just the location is a little off. Swansea, South Wales. I was recruited in April when Jace and the gang came back from Vulcan; went to Vulcan myself in June and was back home in July. Got shipped out here to watch some colonials in August... some blond bonce named..." Benny couldn't finish, for Cory had him on the ground being tickled before he could complete his comments.
"Mmm... is this what the Clan is reduced to? Tickle torture? Looks fun! Can I help?" A man's voice said from behind the three boys... for Julio was also attacking Benny for the 'colonial' remark.
"DAD! You TRAITOR!" Benny squealed as he writhed about under the dual assault he was on the receiving end of.
Cory laughed, and as he began to stand up he caught a glimpse of some familiar black fabric through the new arrival's collar. "Feel free to continue as you have been trained, Mr. Roberts." Cory said with a knowing grin.
"That's 'Captain' to you, colonial," Benny giggled as he tried to escape now that Cory's attention was divided.
Julio laughed and caught the boy easily. "Your dad outranks you and you're in charge?" he asked as he hugged the boy close.
Benny nodded, "He's Eyes Corp. I'm Wings. Eyes watch and collate data. Wings set the watch, along with Talons. If it's something in Dad's field, then he tells me what to do. But if it's in mine, he does what I tell him to do! I HAVE THE POWER!"
"Unless I ground you," 'Captain' Roberts grinned as he shook Cory's hand. "Pleased to finally meet you, Patriarch."
Cory grinned, then said shrewdly, "I'm guessing you were once in another service before VSO, and Benny here was recruited along with you?"
"Yes," the man smiled. "I was sent by Her Majesty to join the Division. Formally MI6, and yes, I had the 'license'. I got sent, and he stowed away in the boot of the car... the imp. Jason took a liking to him, and recruited ME only because he wanted Benny as well!"
"Figures. Jace is weird that way." Cory giggled.
"Has he told you who your official liaison is for the main Compound yet, Mr. Patriarch, sir?" Benny grinned evilly.
Cory poked his tongue out at him before shaking his head. "No. I'd assumed it would have been either him or one of the other nuts he has there with us. But I gather it isn't?"
"Nope. I can tell you, if you want," Benny smiled as he and Julio stood up.
"Sure. Then I can torture Jace for forgetting to tell me." Cory laughed. "He's gonna need gills by the time I get home anyways!"
Benny smirked, "Well, one you've known from the Home you were in. The other three newcomers you haven't even considered..." He trailed off as Cory's eyes went wide.
"Yuppers," Benny nodded. "He was rescued by Sarek on the second of Jan, brought to meet Jason, and then went through the training at the same time as my Boss. The other three, however... they are old... but don't look it..." Benny smirked again.
He then added, "And have a large pet!"
"My three android brothers?" Cory asked incredulously. "I didn't think androids were qualified to do that kind of stuff!"
"Llywelyn and Rhys are Black level," Benny pointed out. "They are about the same age as the three amigos who got roped in... by Jason... when he was training... he's good at that," Benny finished with a giggle. "They've been our Vulcan side contacts for a while, but they wanted in on Earth. So they've been transferred undercover."
"Don't you mean 'under THE covers'?" Cory giggled. "That is where they spend most of their time lately!"
"Really?" Benny asked, "who did they pair off with?"
"They haven't got that far yet!" Cory laughed.
Benny giggled, "They've learnt too much from Ollie..."
"Who?" Julio asked.
"Jason's sex-crazed son," Cory laughed.
"Oh, he takes after his Uncle Cory," Julio laughed as he sprinted back towards the limo.
"I could stun him for you," Benny offered evilly as he, his dad and Cory walked back to the limo at a more normal pace.
"No, I'll get him later," Cory smiled.
Benny smiled up at Cory for a second, then hugged him tightly. "Sorry," he blushed as he pulled back. "I've been watching you guys for months, even before coming over here, and I've wanted to hug you for ages... you always looked so sad," he said, his eyes seeming misty with unshed tears.
Cory pulled him back for a proper hug. "That's okay, bro... I understand." Cory said with a smile.
Benny purred into Cory's chest for a moment before asking in a mumble that was nearly obscured by having his face mashed into Cory's jacket, "I saw your face when you saw my uniform. Is there something about the Division that makes you angry?"
"Red One," Cory replied simply, not totally sure that they were in private.
Mr. John Roberts looked down with mild surprise, "So you've been let in on the horror, then." It wasn't a question.
"I understand your reason for looking angry," John said softly as he pulled his son from Cory's arms and into his own. "Imagine how I felt after going through the Fire only to realize that 1) my son wasn't tortured to death before my eyes but 2) he had been tortured like I was and must have 'seen' me die..."
"I know more than you would ever believe...." Cory replied seriously, his tone suggesting it was best to not ask for details.
John nodded before kissing his son's cheek and telling him, "Behave with Cory, or I'll hear about it."
"Sir, yes sir," Benny giggled as he threw an American-style salute at his dad.
"You did that wrong," John laughed as he continued the months-long joke that had been in the running since moving to the U.S.
"I'm a Yank, now," Benny giggled, dropping back into his Middle America style accent. "Got to fit in, Limey."
John glared at his son, shook hands again with Cory and said, "If he acts up, you have my permission to spank him... he's terrified of that."
Benny did go a little pale, Cory noted.
"Oh?" Cory asked carefully.
"It's embarrassing... don't hurt, but it's embarrassing..." Benny whined. "I'll be good, Dad."
John winked at him, "Thank you."
As the man walked off, Cory looked at Benny seriously. "Does he spank you often?" he asked, still careful but also dead serious.
Benny shook his head quickly. "It's not like that. I get spanked if I'm really bad... and I have to admit, I can be. My pranks go too far. He never hurts me, but he and Mam found out years ago that I find it most embarrassing and therefore it's something that makes me behave... a little better, anyway!" he finished cheekily.
"Maybe I should have your Dad straighten out Jace...." Cory murmured with a grin as they resumed the trip back to the limo once again.
Benny grinned and giggled, "Jace don't mind being embarrassed. Just don't ignore him. If you spank him and stand him in a corner for an hour, he'd be in tears over being ignored more than the sore butt. There... now I'm on his hit list for telling you that one!"
"I better warn Mom then." Cory replied seriously. "She doesn't believe in punishments that hurt mentally."
Benny glanced up seriously, "He won't be hurt mentally. He just don't like it. He won't be a gibbering wreck or something. He just can't stand it. Only saw his mam do it once. Sent him to his room and told him to stay there until he was called. Nathan was sent up an hour later and when Jace came back down he apologized and never did it again."
"What did he do?" Cory asked curiously.
"Told his mam to fuck off in the middle of an argument..." Benny giggled. "I thought he was so brave... I'd NEVER tell my mam something like that!" he added with admiration in his voice.
"There's a difference between bravery and stupidity," Cory commented. He then froze as he saw Benny opening the driver's door of the limo. "What are you doing?!"
"I'm your driver too," Benny replied with a grin. "Your driving skills are legend throughout the Clan, Patriarch. I'd like for the limo to return home with all of its paint!"
John, standing by the gates to the compound, called over, "I wasn't impressed the first time he took me on a drive... but he's good... when he reaches the pedals..."
Cory yanked Benny back out of the driver's door and tossed him, giggling, into the back of the limo with the others. "John?" he called to Benny's father. "Would you? Please?"
Nodding, John walked over, patted Cory on his head, then leaned down and whispered into his ear. "He really can drive rather well, as a matter of fact, he's even better at offensive driving than I am. Hell, I have seen him do things in a Yugo that would put James Bond to shame. But I'll let him have fun with you... this time."
"James Bond?" Cory giggled.
"Yes, it's a code name. Ian Fleming found out about it... his stories are over the top, but there is a 'James Bond' active at all times. A few others as well."
"007 and all that?"
"I was 004," John smiled. "Now I'm out, I can tell you. Not even I know who all the Double-0's are."
"Did you ever work with a 'Bond'?" Cory asked with excitement.
"Once. In China," John smiled.
"Your code name?" Cory asked as he was being pulled forcibly into the limo by Sean.
"Tell you later," John chuckled as he closed the door and started the engine.
John guided the limo carefully along with the police escort that had formed around them within a few blocks of the compound. The officers guided the limo into the parking lot of the office complex across from the Capitol Building, motioning for it to be stopped once it was between two stripes painted in the drop-off lane. A few seconds later, the limo and its occupants slowly began sinking into the ground due to the freight elevator that was holographically hidden from normal view.
Once they came to a stop in the underground cavern, John pulled the limo forward to allow for the elevator to return to its normal position. Once the green light illuminated to indicate that movement was safe, John slowly followed the moving light trail through multiple security checkpoints until the limo was directly beneath the Capitol Building. He stopped the car with the passenger door lined up with the red carpet, and then exited the car and went to open the door for his charges to join him.
As he opened the door, he barely restrained his laughter. With Benny acting as a conductor, the boys were all humming the James Bond theme. The two cats made it perfect, keeping time with very loud purrs. "Okay you pint-size comedians, we're here now!" John chuckled.
The limo was quickly emptied of its giggling occupants. First out was Fife, holding Charlie in his arms. Benny, Johnny, Eddie, Casey, Tina, and Robin were next, with Kai hopping out right behind them. Kyle and Ty decided not to wait, and suddenly appeared outside next to Fife. Mont exited next, immediately joined by Bast. Both cat-boys were in full security mode, scanning the surroundings completely before motioning that it was okay for the rest of the occupants to exit. Jeremy led the last group out; first came Julio and Jesse, then Adam and JJ. JJ stuck his head back in and yelled "Sean, get your hands outta Cor's pants and get out here!"
"You're gonna get it later!" Sean commented a few seconds later as he and a blushing Cory joined the group.
"You do know that the seat that you were using folds out into a bed?" John asked, then laughed as JJ and Adam had to restrain Cory and Sean to prevent them getting back into the limo to find out. "Cowboy games AFTER we get home!" JJ laughed as Cory and Sean fake-pouted.
Just then, Ted exited the elevator off to the right with a chestnut-brown-haired eleven-year-old under his arm. "Good evening, Gentlemen!" he announced.
"Hi Ted! What is this place?" Cory asked, glad to have an excuse to change the subject.
Ted smiled. "Welcome to the V.I.P. entrance to the Iowa Statehouse."
"Wow! This is pretty awesome!" JJ commented. "Thanks for lettin' us see it!"
"You're welcome," Ted replied, "but you can plan on seeing it a lot more. All of you guys get to use it now when you visit."
"Why?" Cory asked. "What's so special about us? We're just a bunch of kids that decided to take a stand against abuse."
"Actually, you're considered a State Treasure now," Ted replied with a smile. "Besides, I would be willing to bet that over half of you would never make it through the security checkpoints that normal visitors need to pass through. This is the ONLY entrance into the building that allows the weapons I know some of you are carrying. Above a certain level, it is assumed that the personal security of a V.I.P. will be more effective than the standard security which is normally provided within the building."
"That's no fun, though!" Kyle complained with a giggle. "Ty an' me were gonna walk through the scanners an' make it look like we wasn't there!"
"It'd be funnier if their screen showed you looking like some big animal!" Johnny giggled.
"Or a Dyno-soar!" Casey giggled.
As both Kyle and Ty fell into giggles considering the possibilities, Ted turned to his young companion. "See, I told you that they were normal kids, Richie."
Richie looked up at Ted. "But why would they want someone like me around?" he asked softly.
"Because Julio can really use someone who hacks into the Secret Service servers for something to do between Space Sims missions," Tyler replied as he appeared next to Richie. As Ted's eyebrows vanished into his hairline, Ty added "You'd give Cory a run for which one of you can hack a Starship computer faster!"
"How'd you know that?" Richie asked, then quickly put his hand over his mouth when he remembered that Ted was listening.
"Don't worry about him," Tyler giggled. "Ted, do you know the meaning of a Vulcan Red One event?"
"Yes, one of the Vulcan Diplomats explained it to me as we were reviewing the differences between various Terran legal systems and the Vulcan legal systems," Ted replied. "The House and Senate are really appreciative of having outside eyes helping to review our legal system. It is amazing just how many antiquated laws are still on the books, and how many laws contradict each other when placed side-by-side."
"Good," Ty replied seriously. "You and Richie are now under Red One in regard to any activities that your great-nephew may or may not have done."
"So... Richie doesn't exist anymore? What about ME!" Ted exclaimed.
"You exist. Richie does too," Ty giggled. "Just everything he's done that's... edged past the law?... no longer does!"
Richie looked down at the little blond next to him. "You still didn't say how you knew."
"Purple People Power!" Tyler giggled as he made himself glow with a purple aura.
Richie's eyes got wide at the antics of Tyler. Julio chose that moment to save what appeared to be the newest addition to his growing staff. "Hi there, Richie, I'm Julio. You wanna join us, and we'll fill you in as we get the chance while Ted gives us the Grand Tour?"
Richie nodded warily. "Sure. What about...."
Julio tapped his head. "Don't worry about that. Our Intel guys have already filled me in on what has happened. We'll discuss it after the tour is over."
"In other words, chill out and have fun, we've got you covered, Bro." Cory said with a grin. "Welcome to the Clan!"
Richie smiled as he accepted Ty's hand and walked over to the rest of the group. After a quick round of introductions, and a cuddle test by Charlie, the boys turned back to Ted.
Ted grinned, happy that his plan had worked. "Are you guys ready?"
"Lead on, Uncle Gov!!" Julio giggled.
"Why do I feel like I'm going to regret this?" Ted asked no-one in particular before chuckling and moving off.
"Because you will!!" Kyle giggled in reply.
When they reached the elevator, Ted found himself being stopped by Mont's furry paw. "Where does this go?" Mont asked politely.
"Directly to my office lobby," Ted replied. "Why?"
"Security," Mont stated. He then turned to Kyle, "Charge up, Glow Boy; we're going in as advance team. Bast, you and Ty have the back door. Kyle will tell Ty when the rest of you can follow."
"I'll give you 'Glow-Boy'!" Kyle giggled. "Static and cat fur can be sooo much fun, at least to those who are watching it....."
Mont grinned and stuck his tongue out at Kyle. "You ready, bro?"
Kyle nodded as he moved into position next to Mont. "C'mon, I ain't fried no-one in at least a few hours! I'm gettin' out of practice!"
"Smart-ass!" Mont giggled, grinning almost as much as Kyle.
As they disappeared into the elevator, Ted mused "I feel sorry for anyone in my office right now. Even if they're doing nothing wrong, those two showing up will shock them out of a few lives."
Cory nodded. "Yeah, especially if Kyle decides to have fun."
At that moment, Tyler started giggling madly.
"What did they do?" Sean asked, hoping it wasn't too bad.
"Ted, I think your Publicity Assistant needs a change of clothes!" Ty exclaimed. "Something about a War Cat and a Dragon walking outta the elevator kinda freaked him out! Kyle says if we hurry up, we can all get up there before he regains consciousness!
"Poor guy, he just started last week!" Ted laughed. "Let's see just how bad they scared Harry!"
The giggling mob agreed, and quickly filled the elevator to capacity. As they got to the office level and the doors opened, Ted almost fell down in laughter. Sitting behind his desk was Mont, dressed as a classic British General, complete with monocle and a large unlit cigar. On one side of the desk sat Kyle, still maintaining his illusion of being a large purple and gold dragon, calmly 'washing' his front paws, then quick-drying them with "flame" repeatedly. Tyler laughed out loud, and quickly hopped onto the other side of the desk, turning into an illusion of a living Sphinx as he settled into place.
The assistant, Harry, was out cold, his pair of glasses askew on his face, and his mop of black, messy looking hair splayed out on the carpet.
Robin grinned and looked over at Fife. "Somethin's missin'. Fife, would you like to look like you're ridin' the dragon?"
Fife looked at Cory; when Cory returned his look with a nod and a grin, Fife agreed. "Okay, how are you going to do that?"
"I'll float you, you're light enough it'll be easy!" Robin replied.
Fife 'purred' in joy as he found himself floating across the room and he became 'seated' on Kyle's 'back'. As he was settling into place, Charlie jumped from Johnny's arms and went over to try to revive Harry, using the time-honored method of repeatedly licking his face.
"You guys are ALL evil!" Ted announced as he moved to be in Harry's line of sight when he revived. He was just in time, as Harry's eyes opened and quickly focused on his boss. "You won't believe what...." Harry started to say.
"Yes I would, and it's got worse." Ted replied with a laugh. "Welcome to the world of security, Clan Short Style. Quite effective too, I'd say; it's hard to attack someone when they just scrambled your perception of reality!"
"You're telling me!" Harry said as he reached up and absently started scratching the ears of the purring bundle of fur comfortably curled up on his chest. He straightened his glasses, glanced over at the desk, and saw the grinning faces of a Dragon, a General Cat, a Sphinx, and a Tesnian who was riding the Dragon. He quickly shook his head and turned the other way, to see the giggling group of boys watching him, only a few of whom he recognized. He then focused on the kitten on his chest. "What big teeth you have ...," he groaned.
"I think he's a keeper, Uncle Ted; he only passed out once!" Julio giggled as the occupants of the desk returned to normal and Fife was lowered to stand by the side of the desk.
Harry rolled his eyes, and carefully managed to stand up while holding the furry ball demanding his attention. He turned to Ted. "Sir, I realize that you told me to expect unusual things during this visit, but I was not prepared for this!"
"Neither was I, but I'm the last one who would try to predict what youth will do, especially ones as gifted as this group!"
As the entire group of boys giggled, Harry turned back towards the main group. "Is this cuddly ball of fur alone, or does he have a caretaker?"
Johnny giggled as he stepped forward and petted his kitten. "His name's Charlie; he's my friend."
"He's a nice kitten. What kind is he?" Harry asked, hoping the answer was not what he thought it would be.
"He's a Sabre Tooth! He's got a brother and sister in onea the other Divisions." Johnny replied proudly.
Harry nodded, not sure how it could be, but never less believing the evidence in his arms. "What does he like to eat? We've got a snack set up for you guys a little later, and I want to make sure he is accommodated."
"He eats the same stuff the big kitty kids liketa eat: raw meat and milk," Johnny replied, surprised that Harry was considering his companion as part of the group.
"I'll make sure that arrangements are made, then. Enjoy your tour, guys," Harry said as he carefully handed Charlie back to Johnny.
Harry turned and started heading out of the room. As he reached the door, he turned back for a second. "Oh, I almost forgot. Governor, everything is ready for you. Excuse me, I must arrange for the unique diets of a few of our guests, then I believe plotting revenge is in order."
As Harry left the room, Ted chuckled. "Look out, guys; he went to college to learn advanced deviousness. He has a Masters in it, actually."
"Bring it on!" Kyle giggled. "I wanna see what he comes up with!"
Cory laughed. "Famous last words! What you got planned, Ted?"
"You'll find out...," Ted replied, ending the sentence with a grin.
"Ohhhh, this should be fun!" Julio giggled. "He makes Dad look like an amateur!"
As the boys moved towards the door, Ted announced, "For the new guys I'll give the regular tour first. Enjoy it; not very many people get me as a tour guide."
With that, they exited Ted's office and made their way through the outer lobby. They then entered the upper level of the rotunda, and gathered at the rail surrounding the opening to the floor below. As they looked down through the railing, Ted smiled. "Look up, guys. You'll see all of the flags that have flown over Iowa in its history."
Despite having seen it a dozen times before, Cory still looked up into the center dome at the static display. "Duuuuuuddeee!" he exclaimed as he noticed a major change in the display. The flags had all been placed closer together to make room for two new arrivals. He grabbed Julio, who had not bothered to look, and pointed up and to the left. "Check it out!"
Julio looked at where Cory was pointing, and whistled in appreciation. "AWESOME! They added your flag... and they added my DIVISION flag too! How'd they do that; we just started usin' the new logo earlier today when Johnny, Kyle and Ty came up with it!"
Ted laughed. "Your prank victim of a few minutes ago climbed up there and put it up as soon as the Vulcan Embassy delivered it." He then expanded on his reply when he saw the confused faces on all but the three designers. "It seems that when Ty ordered the cloaks, they automatically transferred the image to a new flag. That is what I was told when it was delivered."
"That makes sense," Cory giggled.
"I thought you'd like that," Ted replied. "Follow me."
The next stop was in one of the wings, where the cats and Fife came to a screeching halt. All three stood there in awe as they inspected the murals that completely covered the ceiling, all depicting points in the early history of the state. The rest of the boys looked as well, those who had seen it before trying to find something that they had missed the last time they looked. Ted just watched, amazed at how the entire group had gone so quickly from the professionals that he had seen earlier in the day, to just another group of kids checking out the old building.
After a few minutes, the boys started migrating towards the opposite wing to check out the murals on that side. John went with the first group to head that way, while Ted waited to move along until the last of the group was ready to go join their brothers. Once everyone was satisfied with their first chance to really look without being rushed, they gathered around Ted.
"You guys ready to do some climbing?" Ted asked with a grin.
"We get to go in the Dome?" Sean guessed, his eyes lighting up at the possibility. "We were told that nobody can go up there anymore every time we've ever had the school tours."
"That is because the school tour guides don't have the security clearance that you guys do," Ted replied seriously.
"Finally, something FUN about all of the titles everyone gives me," Cory quipped, his tone suggesting that it wasn't as much of a joke as he'd like it to be.
Ted caught the tone, and just as seriously told Cory, "I think it's time that you do something about that, Cory. Harry just guaranteed himself a job working for me by his desire to play games at the level they were played on him earlier. If you're not having fun, then things need to change or else they'll get even worse. I think it's time for me to schedule a visit at your Headquarters and give you some professional human input into how things are being run; that way you and all of your brothers can have fun time again."
Cory tilted his head. "How can you help differently than everyone else who is trying?"
Ted smiled. "Easy. They all know you and will try not to hurt your feelings. I consider you a friend, but I'll have no problem telling you to get your head out of your ass if that is what's needed."
"Usually it's his head in Sean's ass that's the issue!" JJ giggled as he ran for cover.
"JJ!!!" Cory and Sean both exclaimed as they took off after him. "You're soooo DEAD!" Sean added with a laugh as their shoes squealed on the hard floors, all three straining to keep traction during the chase.
"That's better!" Ted commented to John. "That is the kind of hijinks I expect at their age."
"Agreed," John replied. "Now, if we can just keep them in that mode for a while...."
"You'll regret it!" Bast commented with a purr. "I like it though!"
After a few minutes, once JJ had been caught and properly tickled, the three boys rejoined the group. As they caught their breath, Ted started heading towards a narrow door off in a corner of the rotunda. "Time to do some climbing, guys!" he announced as he took an electronic key out of his pocket and released the magnetic latch on the door.
The boys all followed Ted, John taking the tail to prevent stragglers. As they started up the tight, steep spiral stairs, Julio giggled. "Uncle Ted, if your butt gets any bigger, you ain't gonna fit on these stairs!"
"Hey now, I've only got a thirty-five inch waist; these stairs are just narrow, brat!" Ted replied.
"Like I said; BIG BUTT!" Julio laughed.
"You know, it's been a while since someone has been tossed out of the cupola," Ted commented as he led the group higher.
"You love me too much to do that," Julio giggled.
"I hate it when you're right!" Ted replied with a chuckle.
A little further back in the line, the younger kids were amazingly having no issues with the steep staircase. Kyle giggled as he realized why; Robin had decided that there was no reason for the kids to wear out their legs, so he was 'floating' them up the staircase, keeping pace with the people who had to use their legs to climb.
"You know, that's cheating!" Kyle giggled softly to Robin.
"I don't care; they don't need their legs hurtin' at the top!" Robin replied with a grin.
"Kewl!" Kyle giggled. "I like the way you think!"
John smiled as he watched the kids in a line in front of him, all of them excited to be doing something special. He knew from the reports that he'd received just how stressed Cory had been recently, and it was obvious that the rest of the Orlando boys were in just as bad of shape. With a few exceptions, it appeared that this tour was good medicine for the boys; they seemed to be letting go and just being kids for a while. Even Robin, with his TK escapades, was doing things that only a kid would think of doing.
As they were nearing the top after five minutes of climbing, Kyle spoke up. "Hey Guard-Pusses, don't worry about it when we get to the top. I'm going to have Fuzzymore run an area-of-effect shield over the entire dome."
"Okay, Glow-Boy." Mont and Bast replied.
"What kind of shield is that?" John yelled up to Kyle.
"Sorry, that's classified; you ain't listed on the 'need to know' list!" Kyle yelled back with a giggle.
"You either, Benny!" Tyler added as Benny started to speak.
Benny giggled, "Dad?"
"Yes?" John answered.
"Oh... fuzzymore?" John asked, his face puzzled.
"I don't wanna ask!" Benny sniggered, "But I'll probably find out. They must think we don't get all the info, huh?"
"Very likely. They are American, after all," John said, after a sidelong look at the others ahead of them.
"I heard that!" came from multiple voices at once.
"Hey, I'm a Royal Prince!" Cory giggled from near the front.
"He's a Royal Hottie too!" Sean added from behind him. "And I get the best view!"
"Hurry, someone feed Cory some garlic!" Ty giggled.
"You do that, and I'll sic Mikey on you!" Sean exclaimed with a laugh.
"Her Maj LET you into the Family? What is the Empire coming to?!" John called back, chuckling.
"She had to make up for YOU, so she added all of US!" Cory shot back.
"Well, my Daddy's SO brilliant that she HAD to lower the tone, or GOD would get jealous!" Benny called back, glad he was further down the stairs from the Patriarch.
At that point they reached the top, and with the help of a Mikyvis, Benny suddenly found himself standing in front of Cory. "You were saying?" Cory asked as he reached out and began tickling Benny. "My Dad is Spock. Game, set, and match, runt!"
Through his giggles, Benny replied, "He's mine too... hehehehe... my a'nirih!... hahahaha.... so I win... hehehehe... as I've got him AND Daddy!.... DAD, HELP!"
"What? Me fight the Patriarch? Sorry, son. You got yourself into this, you get yourself out. I know when I'm well off, old boy!" John replied as he accepted some popcorn from Tyler.
Therefore, on the cupola of the State House, the Patriarch of Clan Short and one of his VSO Defenders engaged in a fine, old-fashioned tickle war.
Sean was nearly wetting himself laughing.
So was Ted.
John continued to munch on the popcorn!
The rest of the boys giggled at the antics of Cory and Benny, and spread out to check out the unmatched view. Fife found himself 'escorted' by JJ and Adam, both boys grabbing the chance to spend a little time with their new nephew. As they looked out over the southeastern side of town, Fife gasped at the expanse in front of him. "It's so spread out!" he exclaimed. "I can't even see the city walls! He then noticed the two rivers joining on the south side of the downtown area. "Where are the river walls?"
JJ put an arm around Fife. "We don't have to have walls here, Fife. Nothing dangerous lives in the water in this area of the U.S.; the most dangerous thing in the water is humans in boats."
Fife looked up in awe. "It's really that safe on Terra?"
"In THIS area of the world, yes," JJ replied seriously. "There are some areas of the southern hemisphere that are not as safe and the swamps of south Florida ain't that safe. Timmy will fill you in more when we get home; he knows more than the rest of us, since he's friends with some of the native Florida creatures."
"Okay," Fife replied as he went back to looking over the countryside from the safety of the highest point in the Capitol Building. Once Cory and Benny finished their tickle war, the group slowly rotated around the cupola so that everyone got to see the view from every point at least twice. The second round was the most interesting to the boys, as the sun was setting, giving them a bird's-eye view of the Des Moines city lights coming on. As the adults watched in amusement, the boys all ohhhed and ahhhed as the nighttime Des Moines skyline came to life before their eyes.
Once he was sure that all of the kids were accounted for, a task made harder by two giggling Mikyvis moving kids around as he was counting heads, Ted secured the door to the highest level of the building. "You know, it was a dead giveaway the FOURTH time I counted Cory in the group!" Ted said with a knowing grin at Kyle and Ty.
"We don't know why you were having problems counting us!" Tyler said innocently.
"You must be getting senile!" Kyle added with a giggle.
"Nice try, guys!" Ted said with a laugh. He looked at his watch and announced "We're right on schedule, believe it or not. Follow me, guys, I've got another surprise for you."
The boys were all curious as they followed Ted through the great halls. As they reached a large set of double doors, Ted grinned at John, then quickly opened one of the doors and led the boys into a darkened room. Once the last boy was in, John closed the door and Ted slowly brought the lights up to their normal level.
As his eyes adjusted to the room, Cory looked around in wonder. They were in the Iowa Senate Chamber, and every single seat in the chamber was filled with the representatives of all ninety-nine Iowa counties.
"Now that all parties are present, I hereby call this Special Session of the Iowa Senate to order," the Speaker of the House announced formally. "The Iowa House of Representatives is standing by to ratify as needed," he added as a screen behind him came to life, showing the House Chamber, which was also filled to capacity.
The Speaker then faced Cory. "The Senate and House of the State of Iowa welcome you home, Mr. Short. Would yourself and your family do us the honor of sitting in on this Special Session?" he asked, motioning to a row of chairs set up on either side of him, all of which had name plaques in front of them.
Cory smiled, happy that he was being addressed as a person, not a title for once. "Thank you, Speaker, we gratefully accept your invitation," Cory replied, trying to keep formal as well.
As the Speaker nodded his head, formality went out the window. All of the boys quickly scrambled to find their seats, Johnny falling into giggles when he saw that Charlie had his own chair right next to his. Ted was seated in front of the podium, with Cory and Sean seated on the Speaker's right-hand side, and Julio and Jesse seated on the Speaker's left-hand side. Once everyone was seated, the Speaker called the Senate to order once again and began their agenda.
"I have before me a petition for an adaptation to the Iowa Code from the Honorable Doctor Patrick Henderson of Polk County. Doctor Henderson, you may have the floor for ten minutes," the Speaker announced.
A stately-looking man in his early fifties stood from his seat. "Thank you, Mr. Speaker and my esteemed colleagues. As we discussed previous to the commencement of this session, the status of plots 135 through 412 of the City of Urbandale has officially been recognized by Family Clan Short as a Division of the Clan. Current Iowa Code does not have provisions for Diplomatic Properties within State boundaries. I propose that we amend the Iowa Code to read as displayed on your screens. Note that there is a per diem clause inserted in sub-article 3126.96.36.199.a as recommended and approved by the Vulcan Consulate for this property. In addition, due to the size of the annexed property, it is proposed that a seat be opened in both the Senate and the House to allow the Division to have a voice in the laws of the State in which they reside." The Doctor paused, and then added, "I hereby open the floor for comments if it is your pleasure, Mr. Speaker."
"Thank you, Doctor Henderson." the Speaker acknowledged. "Are there any comments or objections to this proposal? Please signal the Chair if you wish to speak." He waited an appropriate time, then he announced, "I have heard no calls for additional comment. I hereby put before the Senate a proposal that the House be allowed to comment and propose amendments before final vote to streamline the session. Please signal 'Yea' or 'Nay' to the recorder at this time."
The sounds of multiple notification beeps echoed through the Chamber as fast as the Speaker made his proposal. "I have a 100% response, Mr. Speaker." the Recorder announced a few seconds later.
"Please state the results for the record."
"I have recorded a unanimous 'Yea' to the proposal to allow House debate before placing the petition to a vote," the Recorder announced professionally.
"Thank you; the vote is affirmed. Mr. Speaker of the House, I defer to you at this time," the Senate Speaker announced.
"Thank you, Mr. Speaker." the Speaker of the House replied.
Suddenly it was on. The politicos were in their element. The idea was batted back and forth and every politician had an opinion that they had to have heard.
"The Floor recognizes our distinguished member from Des Moines County."
"Thank you. I would like to first say that I am wholly in support of giving the people of the Des Moines Clan Short Compound a means of active participation in the running of our great state. But I propose that the person from the Clan Short Des Moines Compound be classed as a Delegate."
This was met with a lot of enthusiasm, but as is the way of politics, soon became somewhat muddied by everyone's political agendas.
Of course, not all the Representatives were in favor of this bill. The Representative from Sioux County was the worst of that lot. She came across with a lot of rhetoric about the sovereignty of the State of Iowa being violated by these outsiders. It didn't matter that most of the people in the compound were born and raised in Iowa, or that some of them were Iowans for several generations. Heck, the Sioux County representative was not a native Iowan herself. She was originally from Kentucky.
When it was pointed out that she was not a native of Iowa herself, she responded that "...at least I'm not a Godless queer lover like those Satan-loving degenerates that make up the Clan." This was followed by several similar comments from the less open-minded members of the House. Homophobia, bigotry, and hate were voiced. While the derisive Representatives stopped short of being threatening, it did seem to cross the line of acceptable behavior for the House chamber. What was most disturbing was that these nasty statements were spoken directly into the cameras, so that the boys felt as if it was being said directly to them.
"The perversions supported by the Clan cannot be allowed to be forced on our children!"
Ted looked up and down the two rows of kids. Their expressions ranged from shock to hurt to anger, the anger most apparent in JJ, who was being physically restrained by Adam to prevent him personally dealing with the issue. Ted stood up and walked up to Eddie. He tapped his head once he was standing in front of his nephew. Eddie nodded, and a few seconds later every one of the boys heard Eddie in his head. "Unca Ted is PISSED, an' he's gonna take care of those dorks. He says nobody talks about his family like that, and we's all his family. That means ALL of us, he says."
What happened, before Ted even got a chance, was that a majority of the Representatives began to do it for him. It seemed that they were not going to put up with it either. The Clan had started in Iowa and it seemed that a majority of the Representatives were proud of that fact.
"Perversions?!? How can you even say something like that?! What the children they have rescued came from is the real perversion, and we must do something to stop this cycle of abuse. The institutions that have either turned a blind eye or been unable to deal with this abuse are the real perversion and should be changed or eliminated!"
Back and forth the arguments flew. It was truly a minority that was spewing nastiness, but they were an obnoxiously vocal minority.
"The Clan and what they represent is a serious threat to decent and moral people! They disrupt the sanctity of the family and are persecuting people for practicing their religious beliefs! They are sinners and we can't let sinners have the reins of power!"
"How can you say that?! These people have rescued children from horrible abuse and given them a chance at having a decent life! I applaud the efforts that the Clan has made to protect the most vulnerable of our society. Religion can never be used as an excuse to abuse someone, especially not to abuse a child."
Arguments about what constitutes abuse were made. This was made short work of by the Representative from Des Moines. He quoted the definitions under Iowa, US, and Federation Law. He also showed in those same statutes where it was made clear that religion is never an excuse to violate those laws.
Soon the argument shifted gears. Again it was led by the Sioux County Representative.
"Those who choose a homosexual lifestyle are hated by God. Choosing a life of sin should not be rewarded. 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionist, shall inherit the kingdom of God.'"
Once again it was the Representative from Des Moines who refuted the vile woman.
"Get over yourself. Who would choose to be homosexual when all it causes you is torment and abuse from close minded bigots like you? Like it's a choice! Get real!"
"The word you are using as 'effeminate' is 'malakoi.' Its literal translation is 'soft.' In the context of the society in which this was written, it obviously means a person who is lazy, lacking courage, decadent and such. It has nothing to do with an effeminate homosexual person. First-century Roman culture would consider any man who was more interested in pleasure than duty to be woman-like, meaning effeminate."
"'Arsenokoitai,' which you are trying to say means gay sex, is just lazy translating. One root word means something to do with sexuality and bed, and the other refers to males. Trying to take that and make it mean homosexual is the same as someone from a thousand years in the future taking the hyphenated word 'lady-killer' and saying that it means someone who kills women or a woman who kills, which we know it doesn't mean. Arsenokoitai is a word that we do not know the real meaning for. It is such a rare word that it's exact meaning is lost to us forever."
"Look what happened to the homosexual deviants from Sodom!"
"Ma'am, and I use that term to avoid being rude, you are totally misrepresenting that passage. It states that 'the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man' had gathered at Lot's door. So every man and boy in Sodom was homosexual. That is just absurd. Besides why would Lot, as reprehensible as I find it, offer his virgin daughters to a bunch of homosexuals? He lived in the city, so if they were all homosexual, then he would know that none of them would be interested in his daughters. So it is obvious that Lot knew that a majority of the men must be heterosexual, and he was trying to tempt them from their violent intentions. What you had was a lawless mob intent on perpetrating violence on strangers to Sodom."
While this silenced the Sioux County Representative for the moment, it did not end the arguments being made. Another Representative decided to take another tack.
"Godless people should have no say in our state."
This was met by the Representative from Blackhawk County.
"Are you honestly saying that we should disenfranchise a segment of our population? Did you really just suggest that!?! The constitutions of this State, the US, and the Federation all forbid disenfranchisement for any reason other than treason and imprisonment. As long as you are a resident, you must have a say!"
Most of the Representatives became very appalled by all the name-calling and soon made it clear. After many more heated exchanges, order was finally restored. The debate focused once more where it should be, on the contents of the bill before the House.
It was argued back and forth as to just what the role of a Delegate from Clan Short Des Moines should have. It became quickly apparent that one Delegate from CSDM would not be appropriate. The Representative from Poweshiek County made the proposal that solved that issue. She proposed that the Delegate actually be two people, one adult and one youth.
It was at this point that the Representative from Sioux County lost all control.
"You are proposing that we bring more of these Godless degenerates into our government. These are sexual deviants and the spawn of Satan himself. They are all going to burn in Hell, and I will see to it that they get what they deserve. I'll personally pull the trigger..."
The Speaker banged his gavel loudly. His anger barely contained as he called his colleague to task. "Shut the fuck up! Mrs. Prawn, you have gone way overboard. The members of this Chamber will not listen to your verbal diarrhea any more. Threats and harassment of any kind are not allowed in the House. You know better. Security please escort Mrs. Prawn from the chamber and detain her for an official judicial review."
There was stunned silence. This hadn't happened but one time since the adoption of the "Public Servant Qualifications and Ethics" law had been signed into law in Iowa in 1982. It had been a major advancement in politics. It actually held public officials to a higher standard than those they served.
The law basically said that all public officials, whether elected or appointed, in Iowa would be held to a higher standard than their fellow citizens. They must abide by the Code of Professional Responsibility, made up of Canons containing Ethical Considerations (EC) and Disciplinary Rules (DR). Failure to follow one of these provisions could lead to any of the following: Censure; Impeachment; Criminal and/or Civil Penalties.
The eight other Representatives that were showing off their nastiness beat a hasty retreat from the House Chamber. They realized that things had gotten out of hand and that they might suffer from association with Representative Prawn.
It took several minutes to restore order to the House Chamber. They got back on track and it was eventually was argued that CSDM should have a Delegate in both the House and the Senate. This seemed to stir thing up considerably. It was proposed that the Adult be the delegate for the Senate and the Youth be the delegate for the House. This quickly caused a complete degeneration of the talks.
Finally the Representative from Blackhawk County proposed that it be a total of four Delegates, two adults and two youths. One adult and one youth for the State House and one each for the State Senate as well. Eventually that was to be included.
It was finished up by the Representative from Union County who raised many concerns. Chief amongst his concerns was his worry about the appearance of giving a seat in the State Government to a foreign power. He felt that this clearly was not the case. What was decided was that they would need to make sure that it was portrayed in the right light to the public. One important fact was that the people living in the Clan Short Des Moines Compound would of course all be recognized as residents of Iowa as well as members of the Clan, and that as such they would have a "dual citizenship" of a sort. He also put forward the idea that they should remind Iowans that the role of government was to represent people, not rule over them.
Finally, in an unprecedented move, the new code was written in the House chambers by the committee that brought it forward, incorporating all the changes brought up during the discussions. It passed unanimously with one-hundred-eleven votes in the affirmative. Eight Representatives had effectively abstained from the vote by walking out of the chamber. One had been arrested. Many of the members of the House were heard to comment on how few times they had seen such unanimity within the State House. The one other time was when they had passed the code becoming a "Safe Haven State."
Ted could see that some of what was said had really hurt the kids, even though the House had acquitted itself very well. He turned and looked at them.
"Guys, we will show you that there are adults outside the Clan who are ready to make a real difference," Ted said as he excused himself from his tour group and made his way to the House Chamber.
He found the Representative who was in charge of the Ethics Committee and had words with her. His face was red and he was making violent gestures. She looked pale and shaken after listening to what the Governor had to say. In turn, she made her way to the Speaker and asked if she could have a word. The Speaker's face paled as he listened to what he was being told. A few moments later the speaker called the House to order.
"It has been brought to my attention that some of the statements made about Clan Short... Uhm, constitute Defamation of Character. It has also been... well uhm... How should… should I say this... Uhm... It has been pointed out that several of the statements are actionable in a court of law. I had already decided that most of the statements made are worthy of Censure and will be acted on by the Ethics Committee. A call to the State Attorney General has been made at the request of our esteemed Governor Ted Jacobs. I call for a vote of 'No Confidence' as indicated in our State's Constitution in Article 15 subsection 2 for all eight of the Representatives that walked out of this special session."
"Mr. Speaker, may I have five minutes to address both Chambers?" the Senator from Sioux County asked as he stood his shock and agitation visible on his seventy-year-old features.
"You may, but be forewarned that neither Chamber will tolerate a repeat of what we just witnessed," the Speaker replied, his tone quite clearly expressing his disgust at the comments expressed earlier.
"Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I have no intention of expressing opinions at that level," the Senator replied. He turned so that he was facing the boys, then began. "Esteemed visitors, Members of the House, Members of the Senate, and Governor Jacobs; as a Senator for Sioux County, I have been selected by the electorate many times to express their voice in the running of this fine State. It is with great sorrow that I must speak for my County in this instance; sorrow because of the misleading comments which were made that have given Sioux County a 'black eye' that is not deserved. From each of the residents of Sioux County, I hereby extend apologies to all present for the travesty which we were just subjected to. In addition, I extend personal apologies to our visitors from Clan Short. I am well-known for my public meetings when not at the Statehouse, and I can say with certainty that while a small segment of the population of Sioux County might not be comfortable with the personal values of some of the Clan's members, they overwhelmingly put those views aside as they tracked the advances the Clan has made since its inception. I was one of the first signers-on to the bill now in debate; a decision made by my constituents for me as they pushed for the new Des Moines Compound to be recognized as a distinct entity within the State Government. For those people, whose support despite their personal views has now been tarnished, I apologize and pledge to ensure Justice is served on the one responsible for the insults and threats which were expressed."
Suddenly a young man leaped to his feet. His name was Myron Smith. He was a member of the House from Sioux County. Until his Senator had spoken, he had been hiding his head in shame. He let out with an explosive "Hear! Hear!" as he began to loudly clap his hands. The entire House Chamber was filled with murmurs, affirmations, and gasps. It was not long before the entire Chamber was on its feet applauding in a show of support for the words from the Sioux County Senator.
It seemed to be a race in the Senate to see if they could beat the House in having full participation in the standing ovation. As the ovation started to wind down, the Senator who had spoken up walked up to Cory and held out his hand. "I am truly sorry that you were subjected to witnessing that display." he said sincerely.
"Thank you, Senator." Cory replied, his newfound empathic skills telling him that this was not just political posturing, but actually a man who truly cared about their feelings.
The Senator moved down the line, expressing his apologies to each of the boys individually. A line started to form behind him, as the rest of the Senate joined their colleague in expressing their thoughts.
The Senator of Iowa County was one of the last to get his turn with the Clan boys, and as he drew closer to them, he could see just how much everything was affecting them; especially the young Patriarch himself.
"Screw this shit," he said. It was likely he was going for a silent exclamation just to himself, but the mix of hurt, anger and pure thanks at the reactions against the terrible actions of the Representative from Sioux County had jarred this big man.
A captain of the football team in collage, Senator Lawrence 'Biff' Jones, was a large man; almost as wide as he was tall. A strong family man, with deep religious feelings and concern for the state of the nation's morality, he had once been like the now arrested Mrs. Prawn - but in the last ten years he had personally seen the results of homophobic hatred. He had researched everything possible on homosexuality, and had even done deep historical and linguistic research on the Bible he cared so much about. His attitudes had more than done a full circle.
He was now an activist for equal rights and treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights - yet still a committed Christian in his local Episcopal Church.
And Cory was the first one he reached. Cory was now looking at him warily, for his brief outburst as he drew close to them hinted at another bigot to deal with.
Cory looked up at this six-foot-seven-inch-tall man-mountain before him, his eyes narrowed carefully. Then, Cory's face softened as he saw the tears running down Biff's face and could feel the emotions pouring from the large man.
"My poor boy," Biff said thickly as he picked up and bear-hugged the blond Patriarch.
Even though there were about six states between Cory and his son Austin, and even though there had been zero contact between the two, Cory started copying his android son.
It was, of course, due to having his breath whoosh out of his chest that caused the 'meeping'.
"I wish I could take away what that bitch said," the large Senator whispered to Cory as he lessened his grip, but did not stop the hug. "I wish... Patriarch Short. I've said and done some bad things in my time regarding those who are gay. My eyes were opened when my eldest son got beaten to death ten years ago. Now, my second and now only child, has also said he is gay. He's still a little boy, only eleven... I've done everything I know to make a world where he can be safe. I will support you for all my life. God bless you, Cory... God bless you."
Then, and only then, did he lower the now very tearful Patriarch back down to his feet and moved on to Sean... who got just as tight a bear-hug.
Of course, this was why the 'meeping' became catching...
As the rest of the line advanced, Cory's eyes bugged out of their sockets. He was sure that there were not this many Senators. He was certain that he had met just about all the Senators. Who could all these people be? It was then that his eyes fell to the monitor and he realized that the House Chamber was empty. All one hundred and eleven remaining Representatives had come to the Senate Chamber to offer their personal apology. Tears began to flow down Cory's cheeks as he was overloaded from the enormity of the gesture he and the Clan were receiving.
Myron Smith stood in front of Cory with tears of his own. They looked at each other for a moment, then Myron hung his head in shame.
"Patriarch Short. I am at a loss. I don't feel that anything I could possibly say to you can express how I feel in the right way. I..."
He was too choked up to continue. Cory didn't need to hear anything more. He was picking up the heartfelt distress the man was feeling. Cory reached out and took the man's hand. He then pulled him into a hug and whispered quietly in his ear. When Myron Smith straightened himself up to leave his face had a smile on it. He turned back to Cory.
"Thank you for what you said. In answer to your other question. Yes. I would be honored, Patriarch Short. I know..."
Cory cocked his head to the side a bit as he raised an eyebrow.
"I mean Cory," Myron said with a hint of laughter in his voice. "You are one amazing person. I look forward to visiting you and your family. I know my wife will love meeting all of you."
While Cory and Myron were talking, the Speakers of both Houses were in a deep discussion. A young man ran into the chamber and passed a note to them, then quickly exited. After reading the note, they motioned to Ted to join them. After a few minutes of lively muted discussion, the Senate Speaker reached over to his podium and pressed a button. The runner quickly re-appeared and took custody of the note with a reply signed by Ted on it. Once he was gone, the three men waited respectfully for the rest of the members to finish with their guests. Once things settled down, the Senate Speaker picked up his gavel and tapped it on the podium. "Order in the Chamber," he announced.
Once the chamber went silent, the Speaker continued. "We have received a notice of intent to convene a Grand Jury in regards to the recent events within the House Chambers. Governor Jacobs has instructed the State Attorney General to proceed with his request to convene at his earliest convenience. In addition, the Governor has approved a request from both Chambers to institute Special Procedure 27.14.23A. By agreement between the Chambers, I shall be presiding over both Houses as common vote is recorded through the backup Vote Tally Terminal. As stipulated in the Code, the Recorder shall report vote results by Chamber. Representatives, we ask that you make use of the chairs being provided near the positions of your Senator."
As the members complied with the instructions, Ted gathered the boys around him. "Guys, what you just saw is both Houses agreeing to implement a procedure which is designed to streamline discussion in emergency situations or to allow a gathering when it is impractical or impossible for the Houses to meet in separate chambers. Since the creation of the procedure in 1972, it has only been called into play three times. Of those three times, this makes two that were a direct result of something that involves Clan Short. You guys are seeing history happening right in front of you; let the Attorney General take care of the problems that just happened and get back to enjoying the chance you're getting to watch the Government at work. I promise things will be handled; the Attorney General made use of his privilege of high-ranking officials being allowed to utilize Federation Transporters for official business. Based on the note which I signed off on, within the next twelve hours I believe he will have a Grand Jury seated and hearing evidence."
"Thanks, Ted," Cory replied, speaking for the group. "You're kinda proving what you said to me when you came to Charleston; no matter where we stay, we're still Iowans and Iowa always takes care of its own."
Ted nodded. "Not only are you Iowans, but you guys are the Pride of Iowa. Now stop trying to work and relax already!"
"Okay!" the boys giggled. Most of them went back to their seats. JJ wasn't done yet, and motioned for Ted to follow him to a quiet corner of the chamber. Once he was sure they were not overheard, JJ spoke. "What that bitch spewed from that shithole she calls a mouth hurt my brothers. I'll be watching to see what happens; if I'm not happy with what happens to her... let's just say you won't like me when I'm angry."
"Don't go doing something stupid just to get revenge, JJ," Ted responded, chills running down his spine at the tone in JJ's voice.
"I won't do anything...." JJ replied, purposely leaving the rest unsaid as to what could happen. "I'm not responsible for the actions of some of my friends though. Just because they give Satan nightmares doesn't mean anything...."
"I get the point; when it comes to your brothers you're very protective," Ted commented, not really sure if JJ was stretching the truth or not.
"No, Kyle is protective," JJ responded. "I'm the worst nightmare of anyone who crosses me." With that, JJ turned and headed back to his seat.
The boys were once again enjoying the chance to see professionals at work as they watched multiple bills sail through the process, with Ted signing off on them while the 'ink' was still wet. They watched curiously as the next order of business was brought up by the Speaker.
"It has come to my attention that the Des Moines Clan Short Compound has issued an official crest for their Division," the Speaker began. "As decided in bill 2004.376.2.5, this Crest will be issued on the new official Clan Short license plate, which directly supports the Des Moines Compound. This morning, the Transportation Committee received a response from the US Department of Transportation on the proposed amendment to the bill which remained outstanding pending their reply." He made a few entries on his touchscreen, then read the reply.
"Senators and Representatives of the State of Iowa. While your request to issue Diplomatic Plates is against current procedures, it has been determined that the particulars of the situation warrant a variance in established procedure. As per your submitted specifications, you are hereby assigned as managing entity for plates issued to vehicles used by members of Clan Short of Vulcan. The plates shall have a white reflective background, bearing the inscription 'Iowa Diplomatic' across the top line, bearing the Seal of Clan Short on the left center, with five sequential identifying three inch black alpha-numeric serial numbers proceeded by the letters 'CSV' directly to the right of the Crest. The lower edge of the plate shall contain the word 'Permanent' centered on the plate. You are hereby authorized to immediately begin deployment of said plates, with reports to the US Department of Transportation within twenty-four hours of plate issuance. State residency requirements for issuance of the plates are hereby superseded by Federal code."
The Speaker looked around the Chamber, then spoke. "By a show of hands, is the issuance of these plates as specified in the letter from the Department of Transportation approved? All in agreement with these stipulations, please signal 'aye' by the raising of your hand."
The Chamber was quickly filled with hands flying into the air. At the nod of the Recorder, the Speaker continued. "The ayes are recorded. Those who disagree with the stipulations, please signal 'nay' by the raising of your hand."
The speaker waited a full minute before announcing "It is recorded that there are no 'nay' votes. Those who wish to abstain, please signal by the raising of your hand."
After another full minute, the Speaker nodded. "It is recorded that there are no abstaining members present in the Chamber. Governor Jacobs; we have received a response regarding the issuance of Clan Short Diplomatic plates and by unanimous vote of all present the conditions stated by the United States Department of Transportation have been approved. The quantity of representatives present is in excess of the minimum required for a quorum."
Ted smiled. "My signature on the bill stands. Print it so I can sign it."
A minute later, it was signed. Ted looked around the Chamber until he found the person he was looking for. "Senator Jones? As the originator of the bill, would you please do the honors? I cheated slightly, the first run of the plates is already completed and the first one off the line is in the possession of the Speaker."
As Biff came forward with a grin on his face, Cory and Julio exchanged glances, both wondering which one would be the target of another rib-crushing hug. They received their answer soon enough, as Biff headed directly to Cory.
"I don't even have my own car yet!" Cory giggled as Biff stopped in front of him.
"Yes you do, courtesy of Karl Chevrolet. He's been holding it for the next time you visited home," Biff replied with a grin. "I hope you don't mind a metallic green Corvette C-5, outfitted in accordance with the standards set by the South Carolina Division."
This time, it was Biff who was on the receiving end of a crushing hug... preceded, of course, by a Timmy-worthy pounce, as the Patriarch of Clan Short launched himself at him.
"Our Father, who art in Heaven...." Sean intoned as he raised his eyes to the ceiling.
"Good idea, it worked last time," Mikey commented in Sean's ear, invisible to the rest of the room.
Deep belly laughs started from so deep inside of Biff that Sean felt the need to grab a tricorder and check for seismic activity. "It's quite all right, son," he chuckled as he held onto the hyper Cory.
Sean grinned, for Biff did seem more than happy to be cuddling an emotive teen. Maybe something had been missing since his eldest had died, Sean thought.
After a few minutes of Cory-cuddles, Biff finally was able to open the velvet pouch he held in his hand. With as much dignity as he could manage with a fourteen-year-old hanging off of his side, he presented the plates. "Patriarch Cory Short, in observance to the sacrifices that you have made to improve the lives of the citizens of Iowa and the world in general, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the first plate off of the line to honor the formation of Clan Short and to recognize the unique status of what you have founded." With that, he pulled the twin plates out of the bag and showed them to Cory. Despite the normal procedure of plates being printed in a random order, this plate had been specifically requested to bear the designation 'CSV00001'.
After coaching Cory through his first time signing a registration, Biff filled him in on what to do next. "We had a backup plan in place just in case the Feds did not respond in time; the first Clan Short vanity plate would have been yours if this fell through. Instead, it is being issued to your Mom for use on one of her Hummer limos. Tomorrow at nine am I will meet you at Karl Chevrolet and help walk you through the process of registering your first car. I made some calls already; when I contacted Starfleet to see who I needed to see in the Vulcan Embassy to sort out the entity to place in the insurance block, I was told that as a Starfleet Officer any vehicle that you operate is covered directly by them instead of any insurance company."
Cory just nodded his head, still in shock at the present he'd just received. "Thank you!!" he exclaimed as he accepted the plates from Biff. After another heartfelt hug, Cory returned to his seat, the registration and plates in his hands being repeatedly read over and over as he tried to wrap his head around this new reality.
As Biff found his seat again, Ted chuckled and motioned for Sean to join him. "It appears that Cory is taking a break, so you need to fill in for him, Sean!"
Sean grinned as he looked over at his smiling husband. "It's good for him!" he giggled as he stood up. "You're going to have to work harder to mess up my head, though!"
Ted laughed then nodded at the Speaker. "May I have the floor, Mr. Speaker?"
"You may proceed." the Speaker replied, already knowing what was next.
Ted turned back to Sean. "I have been notified by the US Navy that their detailing and preservation of the turret in the USS Iowa that was used to salute those lost in the Montana Massacre has been completed. The turret and the supporting structures for the memorial will be delivered Monday; at that time the Navy will assist your local engineers in providing a suitable location. At this time they are complying with the screening requirements of your Unit in regards to the personnel that will be provided for a 24/7 honor guard. Once it has been completed, the Admiral of the Navy would like to properly commission the memorial with an official ceremony on a date of your choosing."
"That will work out well, I think," Sean replied. "I'm glad it's getting sorted out; it means a lot to all of us that we have something at Headquarters to serve as a reminder of what happened to us and those friends and family that we lost."
"I agree totally," Ted replied seriously. "In addition, by agreement of the House and Senate, it has been determined that, as a tribute to the last commissioned action of the USS Iowa, the State of Iowa is transferring ownership of a piece of the Iowa's history. We are maintaining a holographic copy of the model that was made for the commissioning of the USS Iowa, with a notice that the original model has been deeded to Clan Short for display in a location suitable to them."
"Oh my God... Kenny is gonna have a heart attack!" Sean announced with a grin. "That's awesome! Thanks; between Kenny and Cory, that model is gonna be protected more than Headquarters itself!"
"Does that mean they like models?" Ted asked with a grin.
"They're as fanatic about models as Juan is about his guns!" Sean replied, causing giggles and nods from everyone who knew Juan.
"Or as fanatical as you are about a certain blond patriarch?" Ted asked with a grin.
"You didn't go there!" Sean exclaimed as he started blushing.
"Yes, I did!" Ted replied as he put an arm around Sean. "It's the prerogative of an Uncle!"
The chamber broke out in laughter, all enjoying seeing the normal interaction between Ted and Sean. As it settled down in the chamber, Ted chuckled to Sean, "Shall we let the reps finish their business so that we can go eat?"
At the mention of food, Sean nodded quickly and ran back to his seat. "Kids!" Ted laughed as he walked back to his seat. The normal business of the Chamber resumed, mainly dealing with smaller issues that, while interesting to the boys, did not affect them directly. After the last order of business, one of the Senators stood to deliver a report after being asked for an update.
"My honored associates," the Senator began, "for the last two days the Vulcan representatives have been reviewing the Iowa Codes to prepare themselves for the consulting role that they have agreed to. At this time there are fourteen entries which they are preparing for us to vote on, due to the entries no longer applying in modern society. There are five redundant codes and eight conflicting codes which have been identified and are being prepared for us to debate as to their status. It is estimated that their preliminary report covering major errors will be done next Friday, with a detailed report on the following Friday to include recommendations that would streamline redundancies in various processes and consolidate areas that are duplicating the same function."
"Just to reiterate, they are very clear that they will NOT re-write our laws, simply point out the places that they feel are no longer proper or logical. My contact has expressed a desire to see how we will handle what has been flagged for consideration." He paused for a moment as he stifled a chuckle. "He has even said, and I quote here, 'it will be intriguing to see if humans can bring some sort of logic to their penal code.'"
"But I was so attached to the law about not hitching your horse to the Capitol railings!" Ted commented with a chuckle.
"Yes, they found that one 'interesting' in its phraseology and detail," the Senator replied with his own smile. "If it is possible for a Vulcan to be relieved, I believe they accomplished it after I reassured them that we do not still hang thieves and ruffians on alternate Thursdays."
"Why not?" JJ asked with a giggle. "It'd cut crime!"
"I think every Thursday would be even better!" Johnny added, barely holding himself in his chair from his giggle fit.
"You might even put it on pay per view... you might be able balance the budget that way!" Tyler added with a wide grin.
"Guys, if I'm ever voted in as President, I'm making you my Cabinet!" Cory laughed, which made the rest of the Chamber break out into their own chuckles.
"God help us if that happens any time soon!" Ted laughed. "Sorry for the interruption, Senator."
"That is not a problem, Governor. I was finished, and quite enjoyed the commentary," he replied.
The Speaker chuckled. "Do any other members of the chamber have business to conduct before I close this session?" After giving a suitable time for response, the Speaker banged his gavel. "This session is now adjourned. Dinner is on the Governor!"
The last line caused a cheer to erupt from the boys. "I'll get you for that later, Fred!" Ted chuckled as the kids quickly clustered around him. "Okay guys, follow me," he added quickly, hoping to get the boys out of the chamber before their drool caused water damage to the antique floor.
By the time everyone was seated in the Dining Room, everyone had split into small groups. Each group consisted of a couple of the Clan contingent and various Representatives and Senators. Conversation drifted between general conversation about the kids, questions about what the boys had seen in the chambers, and the adults asking for the kids' perspectives on some of their pet projects.
Hey Y'all!! Kyle here!
I hope you're likin' how things are goin' in the chapters. Cor an' me are talking some when you ain't lookin'; I think I'm startin' to see what he means about not lettin' this high-race stuff mess with my head so much. I guess it kinda falls back on when Jamie was almost killed by those buttholes who attacked Sammy. I almost lost one of my closest friends, and it's been buggin' me ever since. Mikey says that my kids are startin' to do some stuff that'll make things better; he also says I need to start watchin' them to see how to deal with junk without bein' all grown-up about everything.
It's fun gettin' to be a kid again! I'm tryin' to figure out a good prank to pull on Cory though. I ain't pranked him good in a long time, and I think he misses that! I kinda noticed it when Johnny pranked Julio and Cory really had a good laugh; he ain't laughin' like he used to, and I wanna help him be happy again without havin' to use Mikyvis stuff to do it.
I told Unca AC to go ahead and finish off this chapter so I can get stuff ready for the next one; I got a few things planned that are gonna be awesome kewl to read about! Tommy says we're 'posed to be havin' fun; I'll betya that Cor sends him swimmin' for suggestin' it after me an' Ty start actin' our ages again!
Have fun, and we're gonna start buggin' Unca AC to make him write faster. You can help if you wanna; I think he's gettin' lazy in his ancient age! Me an' Ty are goin' to go check out a few of our favorite play spots while we're back home; if we find somethin' kewl we'll let you know about it in the next chapter.
To Be Continued...
Okay, who let the munchkin at the keyboard... that is NOT where I ended the chapter!! Anyway, I do hope that you are enjoying watching the core characters that make the Short and Richardson families as important as they are as they recover by empowering their friends to follow in their footsteps. As you can see, a lot of decisions are being made by our boys as they finally take the chance to look at things fully. In the process, the newest Clan Division is learning from Cory, Sean, Kyle, and JJ what it really means to be sworn brothers. I am really looking forward to Part Two, which is when Julio, Jesse, Johnny, and Eddie are set loose to carry on the tradition started in a suburb of Des Moines two and one-half months ago. Stay tuned, and thank you so much for sticking with the stories as the boys learn just what is important and what should be cast aside.
Oh, a good sign... Kyle has let me have glimpses of the beginnings of Memories Part 3. Let's just say that I think recovery is finally showing its head and you will be seeing parts of the kids that you have not seen in a long time. Just like real life, it takes time for them to get their priorities sorted out. The time is coming when you will see the boys returning back to the characters we all love as they recover from all of the shocks they received in part two.
Thanks for reading!
Where do you start? What a chapter! Can you believe all the crap that happened in the Senate and House!! My gosh, that lady was mean and I hope JJ gets a hold of her myself. "Those People" just don't have any love in their hearts and seem to be full of hate. I know I have run across a few and figure most of you have. I am just glad that there is a way for Ted to deal with them and permanently too!
I don't know about you, but I need to ask AC to make sure and let me know when Cory will be in my part of the world driving!!! I don't want to be anywhere near him in a Corvette, I like my paint job on my Explorer!! Heehee, I know, dogs don't drive but there is lots of room in the back end for me to play!
So, Cory needs some more rest and play time and hopefully he will get just a bit more of it. I don't like the idea of him looking tired and worried all the time. He and Sean really need some private time too.
Till next time, this is your friendly neighborhood editing puppy!
Another Editor Checks In:
I absolutely loved seeing the kids being kids again after all that they've been through ... and that Cory in particular is coming back to having fun. Having 'Uncle Ted' take him in hand and promise to show him how to delegate and set policy was an excellent touch, AC. And giving the heart of the Clan and the new Division exposure to the political process working as it is supposed to was also a great idea. But I wonder what Kyle has up his sleeves now!
'D' of D&B