The Mikyvis Chronicles

The Musical Interlude: Chapter Two:

(How do you note the passage of time in a place out of time? Oh well, let's just call it later that day.....)

Both Bryce and Dylan had decided that they needed their boyfriends present for the fun they were about to have; so after a little instruction from Quint on how to navigate to Archnania in its new Universal position, they brought Xandor and Thomas to meet their new friends.

"That was FUN!" Chance exclaimed as Xandor brought him in for a landing after giving an aerial tour of the immediate area.

"I like it here; it's like the air is helping me fly!" Xandor commented as a line started forming of Archnanian youth wanting to take a turn in the air.

"It is." Harroldo answered with a smile. "It seems that the planet itself has changed and become more sentient with the recent changes we went through. Those of us who are in touch with what you term as 'nature' have noticed that we seem to be getting more feedback from things around us."

Thomas looked over from where he was introducing his turtle, Fluffy, to some of the local kids. "You guys can talk to the trees and stuff?" he asked incredulously.

"I would call it more of an empathic link; we can communicate feelings and can 'feel' how the tree or other part of our world responds," Harroldo replied as a sapling moved over a few feet to shade Thomas and Fluffy. At the shocked looks from the group, he explained. "There are plants which are... I believe 'vegetarian' would describe it. Back in the forming days of our planet, those plants developed mobility to search out food as they decimated the plant life around them. As a response, the larger plants began to develop the same attribute for their own protection. Plants like trees are now mobile until they are large enough to not be endangered by the vegetarian plants. In this case that you just saw, from what I felt, the sapling noticed that Fluffy was getting a little warm, so it came over to help keep him healthy."

Thomas cuddled into Dylan's side, the explanation relaxing his defenses. "So if someone was to try to do something that would kill a lot of people, the planet can stop it?"

"Before the Change, it would have tried; now I believe it actually could stop it," Harroldo replied seriously. "It is my hope that we never find out. Our laws have no tolerance for those who damage another willingly; with proper enforcement it is my hope we never reach the point where our world must step in."

"Trust me, you don't have a choice," Quint said as he reappeared next to Dylan. "You're a High Race; after... recent... events, it may come down to something very serious; to the point that if it takes wiping all of you out to keep one of you from going rogue, it'll happen... and it'll be before you have a chance to realize it."

"After watching your reaction to the Elder Chance's actions, I have no doubt that you speak the truth," Harroldo stated. "With what I now know, I see the reasoning behind that; with the power that we now have comes the responsibility to police ourselves for misuse of it."

Quint grinned. "Not bad, you get a 'B' for today's lesson. Your homework is to actually do it; I'll be checking it in a few thousand years. Remember homework is ninety percent of your grade!"

"Now that you've achieved your hourly scaring of the natives, I think you need to go cuddle Jessup!" Dylan said with a grin; aware of why Quint was sounding so harsh, yet not wanting to let the mood be destroyed by a problem that might never happen.

"You're just jealous because Jessup recognizes that I'm a superior being to you, and he treats me accordingly," Quint shot back with a grin.

"Yeah, and I'm a Mikyvis..." Thomas muttered.

"That can be arranged!" Quint, Bryce, and Dylan stated in unison.

Thomas backed up. "Hey! I said I was thinking about it, Dyl! Don't you dare! I'm not ready to choose, yet!"

"Don't worry, hot stuff... none of us would EVER force you to change unless you decided to do it," Dylan said as he motioned for Thomas to return to their cuddle. "That don't stop us from joking though."

Thomas shook his head as he returned to the cuddle. "Ten thousand comedians out of work, and I get stuck with THREE of them while vacationing in nowhen!"

Chance chose that time to join Dylan and Thomas, having finally convinced Xandor to give him another ride later. "Hi," he said meekly as he cuddled into Dylan's open side.

Dylan smiled. Xandor's arrival had grabbed Chance's attention immediately, so Dylan had not had an opportunity to introduce Thomas to him. Now that the young Archnanian's curiosity had been sated about his new winged uncle, he was ready for introductions.

"Thomas, you remember me telling you about the prophecy and us gaining a son?" Dylan asked.

"You mean for once you wasn't joking?" Thomas replied, his smile relaying that he was not serious.

"I'm not that bad!" Dylan giggled. "This little guy under my other arm is our new son, Chance."

Thomas smiled, as he had figured it out already by the way that Dylan was watching while Xandor had been giving Chance a ride. He broke the cuddle with Dylan, reached down and picked up Fluffy, then moved to where he could kneel in front of Chance. "Hi Chance, I'm Thomas. Dilly's already told me a lot about you and what happened. Would you like to be my son too?"

Chance's eyes grew wide as he listened to Thomas. "Really? Yes!" he stated. "This isn't happening anything like the way the Ancient One said it would!"

"Told ya he's senile!" Quint yelled from where he was sitting surrounded by Darmi.

"Where's a bolt of lightning when you need one..." Thomas said with a grin. "Trust me, with Dilly around, nothing happens the way it's supposed to, son!"

"Hey, I resemble that remark!" Dylan giggled, causing Chance to giggle as well.

"I like you, you're just as silly as Daddy Dylan," Chance managed to squeak out.

"Guilty!" Thomas grinned. "Would you like to meet Fluffy?"

Chance nodded his head, and carefully reached out and lightly petted Fluffy's head. "What is he? I've never seen an animal like him."

"He's a turtle; they live in the universe I came from as well as the one I live in now. Him and I are all that I know of that is left from the Earth that I came from."

Chance smiled. "He feels happy. I think he's a little hungry too, what does he eat?"

Thomas raised his eyebrows. "Really? He eats worms, flies, and some other small bugs."

"What are those?" Chance asked.

"I'll show you in your head," Dylan offered.

"Okay," Chance replied. A few seconds later, he smiled. "They're Tunlugs! Worms are Tunlugs!"

Thomas smiled at the excitement that Chance was showing about learning something new. "I wonder if it'd be safe to see if Fluffy could eat one?"

Harroldo, who had been quietly watching the boys interacting, answered. "Dylan, if you could get me some detailed information about these 'worms', I could possibly determine their similarity to a tunlug as well as the safety of Fluffy trying one."

"Okay, I think it's time to grab the rest of our guests too!" Dylan giggled. "Be right back! C'mon Bryce and Quint!"


Orlando, FL, Alpha Prime:

"Are you guys really sure that you want to do this?" Russ asked the group of boys gathered around the studio.

"We gotta do it, Dad," Tanner stated. "Cory and Sean gave up their normal lives to give us a family."

"Dad broke the rules to save me," CD added.

"And Daddy and Poppa almost died saving me," Timmy said strongly.

"If they hadn't've saved Timmy and Austin, Joey and I probably wouldn't be alive," KC added as he cuddled Joey.

Russ nodded. "I just need to be sure; this isn't going to be easy. Dylan's already said that he's not going to help any of you to cheat; you're going to need to learn to play for real."

"We know," Austin said. "We want to be able to tell Dad and Pop that we did this and not be lying to them."

Just then, Dylan appeared with Quint and Bryce. "Did someone call for a limo?" Dylan giggled.

Russ rolled his eyes. "I'm still confused about this. How is it we can go and come back without getting older? I know a lot of these guys are going to take a while to decide what instrument they like the best, then learn how to play it."

"Because," Quint said simply.

Russ stared at him, then crossed his arms as a serious look appeared on his face.

Quint rolled his eyes. "Humans... you're not going to understand it, but still you insist on wanting to 'know'... They'll be in a temporal stasis effect for the duration so that they can interact with temporal normal people and objects but remain outside of the effect of the time streams we'll be going through... I think that's about as simple as I can make it..."

"Yeah, what Unca Quint said!" Timmy giggled.

"What scares me more than anything else is the thought that you actually understood that, squirt!" Russ said with a chuckle. He then replied to Quint. "In other words, you guys are the experts, just trust you."

"Bravo! A human gets it! I must note this on the Inter-dimensional News Network!" Quint cheered, pulling out a pen and notepad from 'somewhere' and actually writing something down.

Russ had a weird feeling that there really was an 'Inter-dimensional News Network'... he decided not to ask. His sanity might not be able to take it.

Once everyone had recovered from their laughter at the look on Russ's face, Dylan asked "Is everyone here and ready?"

"Here yes, ready?... I don't think I'll live that long!" Russ chuckled. "Lead the way, oh purple cookie monster!"


Archnania:

"Thanks for showing us how to keep our Human cousins from falling out-of-sync with their home universe," Bryce said to Quint as they watched the native Archnanians welcome Cory's family.

"You're welcome... now kiss my feet," Quint giggled. At the raspberry being blown at him from Bryce, Quint laughed more. "Oh, it was no trouble... it would have been more trouble if I'd NOT have shown you... tangled time-ways are a pain for us Q to sort out, and Galli always pitches a fit if someone messes with a human... he likes humans. Strange person... nearly every 'Earth' that exists has him as a protector.... "

"Hey, what can I say, we're just that good!" Bryce giggled.

"No, it's just that you attract trouble like a flame does a moth!" Quint giggled before pouncing on Bryce and tickling him.

While Bryce and Quint were engaged in their tickle-war, Xandor and Thomas were introducing Chance to their cousins while Dylan and Russ talked to Harroldo. They finally found Timmy and Ricky, who had snuck off and were in a deep conversation with Jessup, William and Duke on their shoulders.

"Told you they'd be checking in with the local wildlife!" Xandor giggled.

"Can I help it that we've got weird cousins?" Thomas replied. "Hey Timmy, Ricky; you guys got a minute?"

"Duh, their ain't no time here!" Timmy giggled.

"How can we have a minute if there ain't no time?" Ricky added.

Thomas looked at the two giggling boys, then at Jessup, William, and Duke, who all seemed to be laughing along with their human friends. "You two have DEFINITELY been spending too much time with your Uncle Quint! Get your scrawny butts over here!"

"C'mon, Jessup!" Timmy giggled as him and Ricky stood up.

Once the boys had joined them, Thomas began the introductions. "Timmy, Ricky, this is your new cousin Chance. Chance, the redhead is Timmy, the eagle on his shoulder is William, the blond is Ricky, and the eagle on his shoulder is Duke."

"Hi!"

"Hi!"

"SQUARK!"

"... chirp!" added Duke before laughing in his Eagle way.

Chance's eyes grew wide, and he quickly bowed deeply to the two boys. "It is an honor to be in you presence, Your Highnesses."

Timmy reached out and pulled Chance up from his bow and into a hug. "If we're highnessessess then that's a good thing, 'cos we's got the best Princely Daddies to learn from... and you're our brother and a prince so that makes sense!"

"Where's a camera when you need it? Cory'd love to see this!" Thomas whispered to Xandor as they watched Ricky join in to make it a three-way hug.

"Will'm heard you! Austie's savin it for Daddy in 'is head!" Timmy giggled as the three boys broke the hug. "C'mon Chance, Will'm says we get to teach ya an'mal talkin'!"

Chance glanced at Thomas. "How does he know how to talk to our animals?"

Thomas giggled. "Don't worry about it, I'm sure he'll explain it in detail. Have fun!"

Chance nodded, and allowed himself to be dragged off to the side by Timmy and Ricky. Thomas shook his head with a grin. "I think we just saw the indoctrination of the first Archnanian Tribe member!"

"I know we did, the question is will they try to include the entire planet?" Xandor laughed.

"Actually, it's more like how long is it going to take them?" Thomas added as he saw Chance waving for some of his friends to join them.

Over in the main group, KC and DJ were comparing notes on what they had noticed so far after their arrival. Joey was securely glued to KC's side, his eyes wide at all of the new things he was seeing.

"Dude, I've never seen three moons in a sky before!" DJ said as he pointed them out. "Does that one have rings?"

KC turned and looked. "DUDE! Ring around the moo-ooo-oon!!"

"You'we siwwy, Casey!" Joey giggled.

"Hey Twerp, why don't you go help Timmy corrupt the natives," KC suggested as he rustled Joey's hair.

Teetering on the precipice of becoming very scared, Joey shrugged, "Umm... Casey, is dhad dwee dawkin' do us?"

KC glanced at where Joey was pointing. Sure enough, a tree was moving toward Timmy's group, and he could swear he felt it 'saying' "Boys need shade."

"Yeah, it's saying that little guys need shade to keep them from getting sunburns," KC replied, hiding his own amazement. "Dilly was telling us about a tree that shaded Thomas's turtle Fluffy; he says the trees are nice, and you know Dilly likes you and wouldn't let you get hurt."

Suspiciously watching the tree, Joey nodded, "'Kay," and pried himself free of KC. As Joey walked toward Timmy, Ricky, Chance and their group of animal and Archnanian friends, another smaller tree shifted and followed. Joey broke into a full run hollering, "DIMMY!!"

KC couldn't help but to laugh as Joey dived into the middle of the group. "Remind me to never piss off a tree!" he giggled as he turned his attention back to DJ.

"In other words, hide your skateboard, huh Crash?" DJ laughed.

"Jeeze! You don't have to go to extremes!" KC said in horror.

"Poor baby!" DJ giggled. "We're here to learn music, not test the planet's medical system!"

"Bite me, Deej!" KC giggled.


While the boys were getting their bearings, Russ and Harroldo were discussing the necessary items needed to do what the boys were there for, with Dylan popping out frequently to get more information for Harroldo to use as reference.

"... I believe that we can duplicate the required energy needs of the equipment fairly easily," Harroldo stated. "I have passed on your information to our ... you would call him a 'Chief Engineer,' I believe ... and he believes that converting our energy supply to your needs will be simple. What resources would you need, as far as areas to practice and operate the various instruments which the boys will use?"

Russ thought for a second. "For a rehearsal space, I think that any enclosed room that's about nine hundred to a thousand square feet should be sufficient for the size of this band. If you could include some acoustic baffling, so the sound isn't bouncing around too much, each band member could hear the others better."

"Prince Dylan?" Harroldo asked. "Would you please take Ezraka with you and visit one of the best practice arenas in your home universe? I believe between him and yourself we can use what you find as a pattern to choose a site here that with be adequate."

Turning to Dylan, Russ quickly suggested, "Take Ezraka to Capital Studios in Hollywood; be sure to show him the echo chamber in the sub-basement. Then hit Muscle Shoals in Alabama. Finally, go to London and the Abbey Road Studios, concentrating on studios two and three. The Beatles used studio two regularly and the London Philharmonic uses studio three. Our goal is to combine the best rooms with the best equipment available, both analog tape and digital recording techniques."

Dylan grinned and popped out, Ezraka vanishing with him from where he was talking with some friends. "Do you think he warned Ezraka before they left?" Harroldo asked.

"I doubt it," Russ replied. "The fine art of warning people before scaring the shit outta them is lost on that boy!"

"So I've noticed; and it seems the Ancient One has learned his habits." Harroldo said with a grin. "It is an affliction of youth, I am afraid to say."

Dylan returned with an obviously still-confused Ezraka. "I got your info, Grandpa Harroldo!" he giggled.

Russ looked at Ezakra and shook his head. "What did you do to this poor boy, Dilly?"

"Nothin'; we just visited the places you told us to, then we took a break at Disney," Dylan giggled innocently.

"Fyvie ... rides ... space ... mountain." Ezraka stuttered.

Russ incredulously shouted "Five?" and glared at Dylan, asking, "Not all repeatedly, one after the other?"

"No, we waited in line between rides!" Dylan replied as a stack of halos appeared above his head.

Russ sighed and turned to King Harroldo, pleading, "Please tell me your people know of tranquilizers? Ezraka probably needs one or two."

"... hundred!" Tanner added as he joined them. "What'd you do this time, Pest?"

"Nothin', we just visited Disney!" Dylan said sweetly.

"Dude, your halos are so bright they're causing a yellow spot in the sky; so don't try to bullshit me." Tanner stated. "You, me and Deej are gonna have a LONG talk really soon."

Scowling, King Harroldo muttered ,"Bullshit? I fail to understand the relevance."

Russ explained, "A bull is a large male mammal, capable of expelling mass quantities of manure, usually in tall heaps." He then glared at the boys, warning, "Cussing at home isn't usually allowed. Let's not do it here at all. This planet and these people don't need us upsetting the beautiful balance they've achieved."

"Sorry Dad." Tanner replied contritely. "Dilly's kinda like a little brother to all of us, and we're worried that he'll do something without realizing that not all kids can handle Miky type stuff happening."

"You guys really think that?" Dylan asked as DJ and KC joined them.

Tanner nodded. "Yep; you're all of us's little bro. One thing that you need to remember is that your Dad was never in the position that you're in right now, so you gotta write the rules. We're writing them too, and you need to set the Mikyvis rules to match ours."

DJ took one look at Ezraka and pulled him into a cuddle. "You're getting better, Dilly; I didn't need smelling salts this time," he smirked. "Chill with the pranks until they get used to us, bro. This place is awesome; we don't need to be ruining it by doing stuff that pisses people off without us realizing that it would do it."

"Sire?" KC asked, "Would there be someplace the kids can get a snack? We're gonna have to figure out sleeping arrangements pretty soon too; it's getting close to the time that they start to wind down for the night."

Pausing for a few moments, King Harroldo nodded and smiled. "Pardon me, I had to reference knowledge of your world's customary sleeping arrangements and foods that might be both pleasing and nourishing." Three canoe vehicles floated toward the group. The King prompted, "We will use these to transport to our city."

"Sweet! I want one!" DJ and Tanner exclaimed in unison as they saw the canoes.

KC grinned. "I wonder how fast they'll go?"

"Forget it, Crash!" Dylan, Tanner, and DJ exclaimed in unison. "No canoe races!" DJ added with a grin.

Swiftly taking hold of KC's shoulder before he could hurry to a canoe, Russ grinned, "Sit at the back and play passenger this time."

"Awww mannn... y'all don't let me have ANY fun!" KC pouted.

"Blame Uncle Marc; he made me promise to return you in one piece with all internal parts functioning just like they were when you left," Dylan interjected.

"Grumpy old fart... a couple of minor dents and he gets all worried." KC muttered.

"Minor dents," Russ laughed, "yeah, a skull and partial spine was all they found of you at the bottom of Malibu Bay, I heard."

"Jeeze! Does EVERYONE know my life's story?" KC pouted.

"No, just the people that care about you." DJ said seriously. "C'mon bro; I need you to help me keep the little guys safe."

"Now that is something nobody's ever said before!" KC responded with a laugh.

Once Timmy, Ricky, Joey, Chance, and half of the local wildlife were loaded into their canoe, they began the trip into the city. The reaction of the new arrivals was as expected; they ooo-ed and ahhhed like a ferret hybrid visiting Fort Knox.

"Casey! Wook, casdwes!" Joey exclaimed in awe. "Wods and wodsa shiney casdwes!"

"Pretty awesome, huh bro?" KC replied.

"Uhh huh! You musd weawwy wike id, you fowgod to caww me punk!" Joey giggled.

DJ laughed. "Don't worry Joey, I'm sure he'll make up for it!"

"Bite me, DJ; he's not a punk when he's right!" KC shot back with a grin.

Russ shook his head at the banter going on between the boys. "Sire, I believe my sanity will need assistance with this group."

Harroldo smiled. "Once they meet with the local youth I assure you that you will be wishing to return to this day."

"I was afraid of that...." Russ moaned as he hung his head in defeat.

The canoes came to a stop next to a building attached to one side of the King's residence. The building appeared to me made of multiple trees intertwined with each other, the gaps filled in with stones that rivaled the best marble on earth in their appearance. A gap appeared in the tree trunks, allowing access to the interior.

Tanner grinned. "Dad? Can we have one of these at home?"

Russ took the rare opportunity, and replied "With you and Deej around, do you really think we need more wood at home?"

"Just because you can't get it up, don't mean we got to stop!" DJ shot back.

"You'll never know if I can or not; unlike you two, your mom and I can accomplish the same task without waking up people three states away, brat!"

"Hey, it's not OUR fault Daileass decided to broadcast audio!" Tanner and DJ exclaimed in unison.

"Sure, blame the AI...." Russ said with a grin. "I believe you, really I do...."

"Stop comparing weenies; we got a treehouse to check out!" Timmy declared impatiently. "C'mon Ricky and Joey, these old guys are goofy! Chance, you wanna show it to us?"

"We're with Timmy, let's go!" CD and Calen exclaimed, their sentiments echoed by most of the group.

Austin found himself being pulled out of his canoe by Leo and Conner, with Brandon pushing him from behind. "Okay! I'm coming!" he laughed.

With the Tribe members taking the lead, the group piled into their new residence. Just inside the entry was a lobby that held a spring-fed pool in its center. Timmy and Ricky wasted no time; as soon as they saw the pool their clothes were off and they were in the water. CD, Calen, Joey, and Chance were right behind their brothers, with KC watching smugly. "See, I had nothing to do with Joey doing something impulsive!"

"You're not on trial, kiddo," Russ said as he put an arm over KC's shoulder. "Now go help your brothers get wet before I have Dilly go get Jerry so that I can chew him a new asshole for being too cautious."

KC's head spun in shock at the statement from Russ. "Wha...?"

Russ looked KC in the eyes as he stated "I'm under standing orders from Cory on all of you boys. I'm to make your lives as normal as possible whenever I can; that means that I will do what is needed to help you build lasting family bonds. You're a big brother to half of the guys here. IF I see you going too far, I will tell you; but there is no way that you can learn to be a big brother by constantly avoiding anything that could possibly be fun for you or your brothers."

"But what if ...." KC tried to reply.

"I know your programming almost as well as Marc does, and I know what I have learned from Austin. You've got the bits in your programming that will tell you if things would be safe for your brothers; all you have to do is learn to listen to what that part of your head is telling you," Russ explained firmly.

"But I ...." KC tried again.

"But you need to get wet before I help you," Russ chuckled. "An uptight musician is a bad musician. I cheated; Marc filled me in on what you've been known to play over your life so far. I've got a suspicion that at least one of your little brothers is going to try to follow along with you. That means he's gonna need you at your best to help him learn. No more arguments, and no more quadruple guessing yourself. Understood?"

"Yes Sir." KC acknowledged, finally admitting to himself that he was fighting a losing battle.

As KC headed to join Timmy and the other munchkins, DJ walked up to Russ. "Thanks, Dad; he needed that and none of us coulda done it to where he'd listen."

"I know," Russ replied. "You've got a lot more experience in being a big brother than he does; since you're the leader of this mob for the moment, your example is going to help him more than anything. Be yourself, and he'll become the big brother that these kids are gonna need to relieve the stress of their days ahead."

"You got it." DJ replied with a smile. He glanced at the pool, and his smile turned to a grin as he saw KC and Austin playing chicken, Timmy and Joey giggling from their perches on their android brothers' shoulders.

"It feels like home already!" DJ laughed as he stripped down and joined his brothers.

Russ shook his head with a grin as he noticed that there were more kids in the pool than what he had brought with him. "Sire, you can kiss normal goodbye; the Clan has invaded, your children will be assimilated."

"I expect nothing less," Haroldo replied with a smile. "Follow me; I was informed that you will appreciate a more private residence than what the children are accustomed to. Your quarters are in the connector between my residence and what Timmy has termed 'the treehouse'."

After what the boys guessed was about an hour, the greatly expanded group climbed out of the pool and shook off the water. After helping Fluffy out of the pool, Thomas glanced around at the brothers and all of the new Archnanian friends they had made. "Our grown-up tour guides chickened out on us! Anyone know where we can find some food?"

"Follow me!" Ezraka giggled. "We'll have to teach you guys to listen to the trees! They say we need to go this way."

"You hear that squirt? You get to add tree talk to animal talk! All you'll have left is rocks and wind!" KC told Timmy, who had decided that KC was going to be his personal horsey.

"I told Unca Marc your head was screwy!" Timmy giggled. "Rocks don't talk! They ain't got mouths!"

Ezraka smiled. "There are ways; our senior scouts can understand it easily."

"KEWL!" Timmy yelled. "KC, Joey, Ricky, Austie! We got ta become scouts!"

"Oh crap..." KC and Austin muttered in unison as the younger boys' eyes lit up.

Chance's grin grew. "Can we make them Scouts, Ezraka?"

Ezraka nodded. "Since they are musicians, it's a necessity. You can't learn music or practice unless you are in a personal zone; and to be in that zone requires you to be one with your surroundings. All Archnanian musicians are Scouts, and as Royal Family our new friends are welcome to join us."

Calen giggled. "Our little bro ain't giving us a choice!"

"Who, me?" Timmy giggled, trying to look as innocent as a newborn baby.

"Yes, YOU!" all of his brothers replied in unison before breaking into giggles.

Ezraka grinned as he led the group into a large dining area. In the center was a long stone table, and seats were provided by roots coming up through the floor. As he watched the new boys' jaws drop, he asked "Does anyone else know how to cook besides me?"

Paul glanced at Pauly, who was in his favorite spot on Paul's hip. "Wadda you think, little guy?"

"We help Unca Tommy, so we can help here too!" Pauly stated with a grin.

KC started to raise his hand, only to have Joey yank it back down. "Unhhh Unhhh, Casey! You made chiwi a coupwe a days ago, and Gwanpa hadda havea fiwe exdinguishew do pud his dongue oud!

"It was only a little spicy!" KC replied in defense.

"Yeah, Unkah Danny is onwy a widdwe owd doo!" Joey stated firmly as he put his hands on his hips. "Unka Mawc hadda used a biobed do fix his dongue! You ain'd cookin'!"

Before it turned into an argument, Austin spoke up. "KC, I'll help cook if you can keep our mini-clones from taking over the universe."

"Sure, you take the easy job!" KC replied with a grin as Timmy and Joey pounced Austin for calling them mini-clones. "Even Galli can't stop those two!"

Timmy and Joey quickly got up from knocking Austin to the floor, and tackled KC. "We ain'd dakin ovew dhe Univewse!" Joey exclaimed.

"Yeah, that's Daddy and Poppa's job!" Timmy added.

DJ and Tanner exchanged glances as more kids piled on top of KC. "Hey KC, you're in charge, we're gonna help in the kitchen," Tanner laughed.

From under the pile, KC yelled "CHICKENS!"

"Yep!" DJ replied as the kitchen crew left the room.

As KC crawled out from under the pile, he realized what Tanner had said. 'Yeah right, I bet they're gonna be checking to make sure I didn't kill someone every five minutes.' he thought sarcastically.

DJ's voice suddenly appeared in KC's head. 'No we won't; and if I have to have Dilly act as an operator to talk in your head again, you're gonna find out just how pissed me and Tanner can get. I told Dilly to let me know whenever you start belittling yourself; you're our bro and we ain't gonna let you go down that road. Get your head outta your ass and be the brother we all know you can be. Got it?'

KC was about to show DJ just why he was a McKensie when a flag popped up in his head about a recent conversation with Danny....

Flashback:

"KC, please follow me." Danny said as Marc began sweeping up the plate that KC had just shattered on the kitchen wall.

"Why, so you can tell me what a fuck-up I am too?" KC shot back.

Amazingly calm despite the emotions flying around the room, Danny replied, "No. You'll see when we're in private."

KC rolled his eyes, and theatrically stomped up the stairs behind Danny. Once they were in Danny's bedroom, KC flopped down in a chair. "Do you need a map to find a spot on my ass that ain't been chewed on yet?"

Danny shook his head. "You know, I need to have Ark run a genetic trace on you; you're so damn stubborn that you HAVE to be related to me in some way."

"Yeah, right, Grandpa."

< Your genetic tree branched fourteen generations back. I believe 'cousin' would be a more appropriate method of addressing Director Page. Additionally, both of you have exhibited a fondness for taking extended naps underneath the surface of the ocean, which indicates definite genetic transferral through the generations. > 

"Thanks Ark, I really needed another curse on me." KC stated, his voice giving away the fact that the change in topic was helping cool him down.

< You are welcome. You might be interested to know that you both are related to JJ twenty-seven generations back as well. > 

"KC, wanna join me in exploring the Marianas Trench without scuba tanks?" Danny quipped.

"Tempting... but I think we'd be found," KC replied.

Danny sat down on the edge of his bed. "You've got a point." Deciding that it would be best to just get to the core problem he was seeing, Danny asked "You know the whole history about Kevin, right?"

KC nodded. "Yeah, Dad sat me and Joey down and gave us the whole long talk."

"So you know that when I was human we were as close as brothers."

"Yeah."

"Now think about this. Kevin was the little brother I'd never had. Joey is the little brother that you've never had before. I've lived through losing my little brother, and right now you feel like you are losing yours. You think you can push back the anger some and actually listen to someone who has been there?"

"No lectures on what I should do different?" KC asked suspiciously.

"Honestly, you were screwed the second Austin stated you were his brother." Danny said with a half-grin. "Jerry inherited that part of his personality from his Mom. If you would have rejected Joey, he woulda went off. Your programming is close enough to a human teenager that sooner or later, he was going to go off without you doing anything extreme. I've already figured out that Jon is the one who keeps Mary's stress level down to where she can usually control it. Give Jon time, he's got to find the chink in Jerry's armor to get him to think clearly. Once that happens, then you two can come to an agreement on how to keep Joey from overriding his own protocols."

KC gave Danny an amazed look. "You don't think it's all my fault?"

"No, I blame Marc; he's the one that wrote your protocols!" Danny giggled.

"I'll have to use that one!" KC replied with a smile, finally relaxed enough to listen.

Danny relaxed as he began. "When Kevin died, I lost the last reason I had to live. I was getting no support from my family, and I was rejected wherever I turned. I had pretty much hit a lifetime low when I took my 'swim'. You can thank Marc for me not immediately telling him to shut me down as soon as I woke up; I was still considering my options when I got taken aside by Alec the day after they arrived here. That's when I found out just how serious these guys are about their family. Alec did everything he could to get under my skin and piss me off until I admitted to myself that I really had family here now."

"That's uncool," KC growled.

"Chill, KC; sometimes that is what it takes, especially if you're as hard-headed as I am," Danny replied. "Actually, I think you ARE as hard-headed as me; are you sure Marc didn't put some of my protocols into you?"

"Nice try, Gramps!" KC laughed.

"Just remember, some of the guys have no problem with forcing you to see things that you refuse to notice because you are pissed off. If they think you're hurting yourself by being stubborn, they'll let you know it by challenging you to prove them wrong. In your case, since DJ is basically blood to you. I think he's the one that you'll have to look out for. He's been there too, and almost managed to commit suicide when he was at his lowest. Something tells me that he'll be the first one to tell you if you're putting your brothers in real danger; he'll probably be your strongest supporter when the parents are worrying too much too."

"Then I'll have to start watching him more carefully, looking for opportunities to return the 'favor'." KC replied with an evil grin.

"You sound like a real brother already!" Danny laughed. "Speaking of which, we've got some plotting to do..."

End Flashback.

'You ain't gotta go down that road either, dude; I'm listening.' KC sent back. 'You keep it up, and I'm gonna make you take a ride along with Cory driving a race car. Save the threats for when I really screw up, LITTLE brother.'

'HEY! That was hitting below the belt! Dad's driving should be labeled cruel and unusual punishment!' DJ replied. 'I'm still gonna have Dilly watching your emotions though; you've let this get to you more than you wanna admit.'

KC mentally nodded. 'I think you're right there; just find someone who doesn't have to look up diplomacy in a dictionary to prod me, okay?'

'Smart-ass! I get the hint! Go spoil our brothers already!' DJ sent back with a giggle.

KC grinned as he looked around the room, sticking his tongue out at Timmy, Ricky, and Joey's knowing looks. "Okay you buncha rats, let's check out the new digs. Stay together, or no cheese for anyone that wanders off."

Calen giggled, his arm around the waist of his new Archnanian friend. "You ain't that mean! Me and Syden will be good though."

Syden nodded. "I'm interested in this 'cheese'; it must be really good to be used as a threat."

KC grinned. "Okay, I get the hint. C'mon bros, and bring your new friends!" He paused, then asked Syden "Do you speak tree? I'm gonna need some help figuring out what's where."

"I just got my tree badge!" Syden replied proudly.

Ezraka had came out of the kitchen after finding that his assistants knew more about cooking than he did. Upon hearing KC's comment, he smiled, understanding that KC had picked up on the bond forming between Calen and Syden. With that one little action, KC had let Syden know that he was accepted into the family and was welcome to participate. "KC, I'll watch for stragglers; Syden will be able to help you with lead."

"Thanks Ez; that'll help a lot." KC replied. "Syden, let's show the carpet rats where the bathrooms are at first, I hate finding puddles on the floor!"

Everyone from Joey on down blew raspberries at KC, then giggled at his fake hurt response.

With KC, Calen, and Syden in the lead, the group began their exploration. As planned, they located the restrooms first; once everyone had taken their turn and Timmy was placated about there being no showers by Ezraka pointing out that natural enzymes in the pool they had swum in got them cleaner than any soap could, they started the tour of the sleeping areas.

As they looked into the first room, Ezraka explained, "From what Prince Dylan has told me, you might find this a little unusual. Our 'bedrooms' are just that; a room with the entire floor as a bed. Archnanian families sleep as a group, instead of separate sleeping quarters for each person. If you wish to divide a section for the privacy that you are used to, just ask the tree and he will grow a wall for you. The tree can understand you, even if you can't hear him yet."

"Deej an' Tan are NOISY; they get their own room!" Timmy announced. "They's louder than Daddy when they play horsey!"

Beau giggled. "You got that right! Can we give them a room on the outer branches?"

"Syden, tell our host that whatever room DJ and Tanner take gets extra soundproofing!" KC laughed, knowing that Dylan was passing along the insults by the innocent look on his face.

"I vote for a whole different tree!" Toby suggested. "Maybe on the other side of the planet!"

"Deej and Tanner say all y'all are going swimming after dinner!" Dylan giggled.

"Traitor!" Timmy, Ricky, Toby, and Beau yelled in unison as they pounced the giggling Mikyvis, knocking him into the bedroom.

"Hey Ez, just in case you missed it, the rats have very accurate homing beacons when it comes to crippling family members!" KC commented as he braced himself for the post-comment pounce. He was not disappointed, as all of the boys not attacking Dylan pounced him, including Syden.

"Hey, didn't you guys promise Marc that I wouldn't break anything on this trip?" KC giggled.

"We pwomised you wouwdn'd bweak sduff, nod us, Cwash!" Joey giggled.

"Gee, thanks Twerp!" KC laughed. "Let me up, rats; we need to get moving if you wanna eat tonight!"

Once everyone was back on their feet, they moved on to look at the other ten bedrooms, then stopped in the huge common room. Dylan had ensured that there were plenty of the boys' favorite board games, and Ezraka let them know that he would go over some of the native Archnanian entertainment devices tomorrow so that they could select what they wanted in their home-away-from-home.

CD noticed an archway on one wall leading to what looked like a highly-polished branch. "Where's this go?" he asked curiously.

Syden giggled. "That's the quick exit. It's a really smooth root that you can slide down to get to the ground. There are interlocked branches that act as a safety net so you can fall off without getting hurt."

KC's eyes lit up. "Yo Dilly, where's my board?"

Dylan giggled. "Here you go, KC. I kinda figured you'd wanna try it out," he stated as he flickered and the board appeared in his hands.

"Hop on, Punk, test ride!" KC said as he motioned for Joey to climb on his back. "Hold on, I don't want to have to fish punks outta the branches."

Sprinting over and jumping on KC's back, Joey giggled, "Do you need a speciaw powe fow punk fishin', Cwash?"

"No, I just use cookies for bait," KC replied as he mounted the board with Joey on his back. He pushed off through the archway, and a few seconds later Joey's laughter and screams of excitement came echoing up from the arch. By the time KC and a very happy Joey returned, there was a line at the archway, with Timmy leading the pack.

"Me next, Crash!" Timmy giggled.

"One ride for the punk clones coming up," KC teased.

"I'm notta clone; I'm the original!" Timmy giggled.

Joey howled laughing, "You'we owiginaw awwighd, Dimmy!"

"I won't argue there, Punk," KC giggled. "Hop on, King Rat!"

Timmy laughed as he latched onto KC's back, then they launched through the archway once again. KC repeated the trip with each of the younger boys; even the Archnanian youth took their turns. As he was returning from giving Syden his turn, he found DJ, Tanner, Paul, and Pauly waiting for him with the rest of the family.

"You're forgetting someone," Tanner said as he pushed a suddenly shy Pauly toward KC.

"You wanna take a ride, little rat?" KC asked as he kneeled in front of Pauly.

"Uhh huh!" Pauly said as he nodded.

"Okay, you need to hop on my back, wrap your legs around me, then put your arms over my shoulders and hold on with them. Don't squeeze my neck, or I'll choke and we'll both fall down. You think you can do that?"

Pauly nodded his head, a huge grin on his face.

"One more thing; your brothers have decided that screaming when we start grabbing air is required, so you gotta keep up the tradition."

"Okay!" Pauly giggled.

"Hop on, one rat ride coming up," KC said as he turned around.

Pauly latched on, and set a new record for noise level as he took his first ride on a skateboard with KC. He was all smiles as they came back; immediately climbing up onto Paul's side. "We were FLYIN'! We dinna touch the ground almost ALL the way!"

"Figures, I'm too big to get a ride like that," Tanner commented with a grin. "Foods on, guys, c'mon, lets eat."

As the boys decided that they were suddenly starving and started running from the room, DJ motioned for KC to wait with him. Once the room was clear, DJ turned to KC. "Do you realize what you just did?"

"What?" KC replied, his tone saying he was expecting another butt chewing.

"You just taught all of your little brothers that they can count on you," DJ replied, ignoring the tone of KC's voice. "Dilly was excited about that exit, and I knew about it from him before you took your first trip. You just shared something you love to do with the little guys, and kept them safe within the normal risks of 'boarding. What really sealed it was how you handled Pauly; he wanted to do something that his big brothers were doing, yet was scared about it. That little speech of yours made it fun for him, as well as showing the rest of the guys that you cared. We're all extremely protective of Pauly since he's the littlest brother; you proved you were family by how you got him ready."

KC shrugged. "Any time you do something with someone new to 'boarding you gotta explain the basics. Any idiot knows that."

"Yeah, and most of those idiots ignore what they know, causing others to get hurt," DJ countered. "You ain't an idiot, and even if you don't know it you've just started the process of teaching a bunch of little guys the basics they need to start learning to ride a board."

"What's gonna happen the first time one of them gets hurt?" KC asked, still not believing he was off the hook.

"You're gonna show them what they did wrong, just as soon as they recover. Even I know that kids are gonna get hurt learning things; I broke my arm a couple of times until I learned to climb trees right."

Finally realizing what DJ was trying to tell him, KC smiled. "So you weren't afraid I was gonna kill one of them?"

"No, I was afraid you'd chicken out and lose your first chance at learning to be a big brother to all of them." DJ grinned. "Marc really screwed up on your self-confidence when you're not being insane; you're a lot better at being a brother than you think."

KC went to respond, but was interrupted by Ricky running into the room. "Deej, Timmy says stop picking on Crash an' get your butt in there so we can eat!"

"Sir! Yes Sir!" DJ giggled as he gave Ricky a mock salute.

"See, you just gotta tell 'im who's boss!" Ricky giggled to KC. "Can I have a ride wit' you to the food?"

Ricky's question told KC more than a thousand words from DJ ever could. "Sure, hop on, Rat; betcha we can beat slowpoke here to the food!"

"AWESOME!" Ricky exclaimed as he climbed on KC's back. "Giddyup!"

"We'll even take the long way to give him a chance!" KC said as he flipped his board so it was pointing towards the archway, and took off with Ricky on his back.

DJ smiled as he watched the pair vanish. 'Welcome to brotherhood, KC.' he thought to himself as he headed for the dining room.


Breakfast the next day:

'I'm NOT gonna even try to rationalize this one to Teri!' Russ thought to himself as he watched his family and their new friends cavort around the table in their birthday suits. Breakfast consisted of a combination of native foods and food that the boys were used to from home. Amazingly, even Timmy was participating in the culinary diplomacy, as he explained the foods he liked and listened to his circle of friends tell him about their favorites.

Russ chuckled as he began eating his 'breakfast salad'. He had watched as KC had finally been granted access to the kitchen, under supervision of the Tribe leadership. The result was a mix of Archnanian standard breakfast fare and Earth breakfast; a salad consisting of something similar to iceberg lettuce and a kiwi-like fruit that had a similar taste to country ham. It also had a sweet mushroom-like something, as well as a fruit milk as dressing that seemed to be a cross between ranch dressing and sour cream. KC had added scrambled eggs, crumbled country sausage, two different cheeses, and crumbled bacon to the mix, then after it passed the first taste test from Joey he decided to add some black beans and mild salsa. Even he was surprised at how the flavors worked together; even more surprising was the demand for it once the group taste tested it. Archnanians and Short family both requested it as part of their breakfast, causing KC to have to make ten times the amount he had planned on.

Calen and Syden had decided to share their breakfast plate, giggling as they watched each other's reaction to new foods. Both of them ignored the knowing looks that the rest of the family gave them, being totally absorbed in the fun of spending time together. Nobody had been surprised when the pair had decided to cuddle together for the night, and the group fully expected Syden to be a part of whatever the day brought.

KC was enjoying being surrounded by his newly-termed 'Rat Pack': Timmy, Ricky, Joey, Pauly, Paul, Chance, Jessup, William, Duke, and a constantly changing group of Archnanian youngsters. With Paul's help, he kept the little guys giggling and made sure they were having fun exploring the new food choices available to them. Since Calen was obviously lovestruck, CD joined up with Brandon, Leo and Conner as they congregated around Austin, helping Brandon and Leo keep Conner informed of the more amusing things that they spotted going on throughout the group.

DJ, Tanner, Beau, Toby, Ian, Bryce, Dylan, Xandor, Thomas, Quint, Ezraka, and Fluffy the turtle had found their own safe zone, and were all watching the rest of the group as they took the time to learn more about the native foods of their new second home. Quint occasionally pulled out his notepad from nowhere, jotted a note, then put it away.

"Okay Quint, what's with the notes already?" Tanner asked after another long note.

"It is rare to see lesser races interacting with superior ones. It is also rare to be able to document the growth of a new High Race," Quint answered without answering.

"Just wait until I tell Grandma Teri that you called her 'lesser'!" Toby teased.

"I meant lesser in power only," Quint quickly corrected. "Don't you dare tell her that; Dad has given her the rights of a Q in regards to me, and I HATE that corner!"

Once the boys were finished, they headed over to the new practice building. The boys who already knew how to play something immediately noticed that their instruments were set up for them on the stage. KC immediately ignored everything else as he ran to the stage and picked up a '57 Fender Stratocaster sitting in front of one of the amps. "If you scratched it, we'll find out if Mickey Mouses can be strangled, Dilly!" he exclaimed as he began examining every square inch of the guitar, including the laminated autograph.

Russ walked up to KC. "You're kinda protective there, kiddo. What's so special about that guitar?"

"My first dad bought it for me, and a couple of his friends signed it for me," KC replied.

Russ took a closer look, and realized that this wasn't a reproduction like he first thought; it was an original '57 Seafoam Green Strat. He then got his first good look at the autograph underneath the bridge that KC was checking for scratches.

"To the little old android from Pasadena. 'Uncles' Jan and Dean."

"Uncles Jan and Dean?" Russ asked curiously.

"Yeah, you know, Dead Man's Curve?" KC replied. "You're lucky Dilly! He's not hurt."

Russ braced himself on an amp to keep from falling over. "You KNEW Jan and Dean back then? That guitar should be in a sealed case, not out on a stage!"

"No way; Uncle Jan told me if he ever caught me doing that he'd take it back," KC stated firmly. "He taught me my first chords on this guitar; I won't learn a song on anything else."

Once Russ got over the fact that KC was holding a guitar that was worth more than the contents of the studio that he used to have at home, he said "I was going to ask the guys who know how to play something to show us what they know. You think you could play something to start it off?"

KC nodded. "Sure." he responded before turning his head to Joey. "Hey Twerp, grab some sticks and pound some skin! Danny's taught you a basic beat, let's see if you can do it without him watching ya!"

"Don'd be siwwy, Casey," Joey giggled. He hurried around the back of the drums, where he effectively disappeared from view. "Uncah Dahny daught me sduff aboud weawwy owd fasd songs." Joey loudly giggled, "You'we nod neaw as owd." KC smirked and squinted. Joey began playing the tom-tom rolls and pounding the beat to Wipe Out. In four bars, KC came in to play the main riff.

Russ had to pick his jaw up off of the stage. While not something he'd send out as a commercial recording, the two boys were ninety percent on target with their playing. Joey mis-timed a few of his hits, probably due to having to overreach. while KC's fingers showed the lack of muscle memory when he slipped on the occasional note.

KC grinned as they finished. "Okay, that took care of the warmup; you think you can handle that classic we've been messing with?"

In reply, Joey began the opening bass drum and high-hat.

"Two girls for everrryyy boyyyy..." Joey began, with KC joining in by the time Joey sang the word 'for'. By the time KC said the first 'woodie' in 'Surf City', CD was running onto the stage and making a beeline to his bass guitar, Austin not far behind heading towards a sax. Russ barely noticed as he stared at the drum set, his mind trying to wrap around the clear voice singing harmony from somewhere behind the drum kit.

CD ran a finger down the low B string on his bass guitar. It wasn't initially correct, but in only seconds, CD had zeroed in on the key and began slapping the hell out of his bass guitar in straight-eight time, working with Joey's drum part, but in a much more modern style than the original recording. CD sounded pretty good and he did add much needed depth to the guitar, drums and vocals. Austin picked up the tenor sax. He found a series of notes that added a counterpoint harmony to the existing music base. He paused a moment only to adjust the mouthpiece to correct the tuning then continued on. Moments later, Conner also went up stage. He sat behind the baby grand piano. He felt the keys to determine where he was and soon began playing appropriate oldies chords. The song approached its end, which KC and Joey knew, but the other three didn't. Sloppily ending the song, the boys busted up laughing.

Clapping his hands, mostly to be encouraging, Russ cheered, "Not bad at all! This is a good beginning place to be." He approached the stage area to tell the boys, "Since CD, Austin and Conner had joined while the song was in progress, try the song again...."

"I'd rather play something else," KC moaned.

"And you will," Russ assured, "but one run-through doesn't make it a song, nor does it make you all a band. Get used to it now, guys. You'll each be learning songs, and then you'll gather to practice those songs as a group. It takes rehearsing as a band to become a band. This is day one, just discovering what might be possible, as a band and as a team.

"Hold on, we've gotta get our punk drummer set up so he can see over the rim of his snares." KC stated as he motioned for DJ and Austin to join him.

"I'll help!" Ian said as he ran up to join them. "I can't play, but I was in charge of setting up for our school music department," he explained.

A minute later, after the three boys held a quick conference about Joey's situation, Ian yelled "Dylan! We need a parts run!"

Dylan came over, and asked "What and where?"

"Get us an eighteen inch tall platform three feet square, and one of those remote bass drum pedals that has a gearbox and a transfer shaft on it," Ian instructed. "We need a Joey-sized stool too; right now he's just bracing himself instead of sitting. Grab my toolbox from Dad's studio too."

"Got it." Dylan's voice echoed as he vanished, only to reappear a few seconds later with the requested supplies. With Joey supervising seriously, the three boys set the platform, anchored it, then rigged the new pedal so that Joey could play without stretching. As soon as the rigging was complete, Joey hopped onto his new perch and began testing the setup. With Ian watching and making suggestions, DJ and KC made fine adjustments to placement, height, and angle of the various elements of the kit until all were satisfied that Joey could comfortably reach everything.

"NOW we're ready to play!" KC announced as him and DJ came from behind the kit. Ian stayed there, ready to make minor adjustments as needed as Joey settled in.

KC counted off, and the group replayed 'Surf City'. It was immediately evident that the adjustments to Joey's drum kit helped, as his hits were much clearer and his timing a lot closer to being right on. CD refined his bass line, accentuating the backbeat being provided by Joey. DJ picked up his Les Paul Deluxe, and joined KC on guitar, while Conner and Austin filled in with their own contributions. As they finished the song, this time in unison, KC turned to CD. "Way to go dude; the first time my uncles tried to record this song they had more bass guitar in it, but since the recording equipment back then couldn't reproduce it without making it muddy, they backed off on it. I think they'll love what you did with it!"

Russ had to work hard to restrain his grin when CD's face lit up. Russ knew from many talks with CD that while the young boy loved to rearrange musical scores to see what he could do, he never considered them good enough to be played for others. CD was his own worst critic; even the work he'd done for Cory's wedding was not good enough in his own eyes, despite what others kept telling him. Russ hoped that KC had just cracked that flaw; from the look on CD's face, KC's personal relationship with the original artists carried enough weight to allow CD to accept KC's praise as fact.

"Hey, guys? You know Stairway?" DJ asked, leaning over so that only KC and CD could hear him.

"Sure, that's easy." KC replied, CD nodding his still-grinning head in agreement.

"Kewl. I've been working with Timmy on the acoustic part of it and he's got really good. What do you guys think about throwing together our own version with whatever our brothers play?"

"I like! CD, me, and Sir Meeps-a-Lot can help the guys figure out what to do if you and Tanner can get them to admit they can play and get them on stage." KC said as he put an arm over CD's shoulder.

"Why me?" CD asked as DJ went out to round up the rest of their brothers into a group on stage.

"Because you're awesome," KC stated factually. "If I've gotta learn to be a big brother, I'm gonna make you learn to be the musical arranger for the band."

"Russ could do it better," CD replied.

"Russ is an engineer, not an artist," KC shot back firmly. "He also thinks like an adult; our parents make the Clan work because they don't think like that, and we're gonna make the band work the same way. Besides, you're the only one of us that can point to a Royal College of Music certificate on their wall... they don't hand those out in Cracker Jack boxes, dude; you earned it no matter what you think."

"But...." CD tried to reply.

"Little brother, chill!" KC interrupted. "You do the work, let the rest of us decide if it's good enough. You're sounding like I did yesterday when I was arguing with DJ about being a good big brother. You ain't allowed to give up unless BOTH of us agree to give up. You thought up the band idea; now the two of us need to turn this family into a band."

"JUST an engineer? I wonder how you'll sound playing lead guitar if you're soaking wet and standing in a puddle of salt water on a grounded metal plate?" Russ chuckled as he joined them. "CD, you're stuck. I agree with KC about his ideas for you helping out the band, so you're going to have to go through me as well before you can give up. I have a sneaky suspicion that the Ancient One here knows more about the music industry than he lets on, even if he IS going senile about how many of the classic hits were written and played by engineers!"

KC rolled his eyes. "See, classic superiority complex. It's a common fault in the engineering community, at least the music side." he stage-whispered to CD, causing CD to giggle.

"Keep it up, brat!" Russ laughed. "I promised to return you in one piece; I said nothing about how many pieces you were in before putting you back together."

"You love me too much to hurt me," KC replied before sticking out his tongue at Russ. "C'mon CD, we gotta sort out a band here."

Russ watched as the two boys moved across the stage. 'Unable to be a big brother my ass,' he thought to himself. 'Watch yourself, little android. You're bonding with your brothers faster than you think; very soon you're gonna wake up and realize that you've become part of the elite group known as the sons of Cory Short in more than just name. Welcome to the family; you've earned it.'


To Be Continued...