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On November 5, 2012, Dave of D&B passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds. At that time, "B" passed on the characters and stories to myself (ACFan) and The Eggman to complete their work. At that particular point, this story was ahead of the rest of the CSU, so it took some time to get things in place in the other stories that had been planned. Some of the points that were planned ended up getting mentions in core CSU stories to lock them in, while others were not developed beyond rough ideas before he passed.
It took time also to determine the best way to handle this, as none of us felt comfortable continuing the writing using D&B's names. Normally, once an author passes on, the story grinds to a halt, as nobody has the rights to the characters to continue it. This is an unusual case, as we were given permission, so the trick was to do it justice. We finally decided on making use of the fact D&B merged their two main stories into one for the BOE, and have determined that we can finish the points that Dave had revealed to us regarding the various characters by doing a multi-chapter Epilogue. Most of his notes went to the grave with him, as they were in his head, but he left us enough that we are confident that we can do his work justice by following this path.
We hope that you believe that this honors the memory of Dave, and look forward to giving closure to as much of his work as we can.
ACFan and The Eggman
"Thanks, Chief; we'll see you tomorrow," Jonas smiled as he ended the call. Turning to Kurt and Scotty, he explained "Looks like everything's handled; the Onondaga tribe has completed the State-ordered annexation of Cicero, and will finish the transfer of management of Onondaga County later today."
"How is that going to help us?" Kurt asked.
"Since the tribe is signing a treaty tomorrow aligning them with Family Clan Short, I don't think you'll have any issues with them," Jonas explained. "You're basically going to be in the same situation as Headquarters; the lands around you belong to the Tribe, but as they're part of Family Clan Short, it all becomes Vulcan territory."
Before Kurt could reply, Peter and Galen popped in with their sons DB and Luke. The pair of mini-Mikyvis screamed "GRANDPA!" in unison as they executed a Timmy-level pounce on Kurt.
"Hey, Munchkins!" Kurt chuckled as he pulled the pair into a cuddle. "What kind of mischief are you up to today?"
"That's Daddy and Poppa's job; we're innocent!" DB giggled, Luke nodding his head rapidly in agreement.
"You know, I ALMOST believe you," Kurt grinned. "Okay Little Bug, since these two are innocent, just what have you and your husband got into THIS time?"
As stacks of halos started appearing above both Peter and Galen's heads, Jonas giggled "Give it up, little bro; we all know you better than that!"
Peter grinned as he stuck his tongue out at Jonas, then explained, "We just helped Uncle Bruce and Harry with the little project they came up with."
"Project?" Kurt asked with raised eyebrows.
"Harry'll explain it," Galen grinned. "It's not bad ... too much ... at least for us."
"You're scaring Grandpa, Poppa!" Luke scolded playfully. "Stop that, it's OUR job!"
"Oh really!" Kurt grinned as he began poking at the ribs of the pair of lap-monsters in his arms. "We have ways of dealing with that!"
As Jonas watched Kurt with DB and Luke, his mind drifted back to the events that he'd not learned of until after the battle; events that very nearly made today impossible. After Peter had miraculously saved Galen, he had become instrumental in the fledgling rescue efforts. Nobody, not even Galen, thought much of it when Peter suddenly popped out from the group with no explanation. He had almost had a heart attack when he found out just why Peter vanished; his little brother decided to take it upon himself to single-handedly save the entire east coast of the North American continent. As the Iowa and Atlantic Fleet were taking down the Romulan ship that had been attacking DC, Peter shifted himself into their engine room, just barely in time, to capture the singularity as it began to collapse, and shift it to another plane.
Peter had barely managed to shift out as the ship began to break up, but the damage had been done to his body by the sheer power of the singularity. Even a Mikyvis was not intended to handle that level of energy; the shield that isolated his anti-energy core from the normal world had already started to break down. Fortunately for him, Pablito had taken station on the East Coast; Pabs immediately added his own shielding to protect Peter, then delivered him to higher-ups who had the power to un-do the damage to Peter's body. Even then, Peter had been changed; he now could "feel" the history of various things, and somehow could see what it would take to un-do the "bad" that glued itself to a region after events that caused pain and suffering.
"Stop thinking about that, bro," Peter said softly as he climbed up to sit on his big brother's lap. "I'm okay now, I promise," he added as he wiped a tear from Jonas's face.
"It just scares me that I almost lost you, and didn't even know it." Jonas admitted.
"I love you too, big bro," Peter stated as he snuggled into Jonas's chest. "Just remember, I did it because I couldn't stand the thought of losing you. That would have killed you, and I can't let that happen."
Overhearing the pair, Kurt came over, both of the junior Mikyvis latched onto his sides. As he took a seat, he said "You know, I think we all need to have a group session with Dan about this. I'm starting to think that having someone that you care about on the edge of death and then returning is even worse than if they'd died, from an emotional standpoint."
"Uncle Dan's busy with the guys who were in London right now," DB stated. "Liam just checked with Uncle Doug; he's free to come over."
"Okay, but ..." Kurt started to reply, but paused as he felt DB vanish from under his arm. A few seconds later, DB re-appeared next to Kurt, a caramel-brown haired eight-year-old by his side and a strawberry-blond adult who looked to be in his mid-thirties off to the side; said adult shaking his head with a grin.
"Grandpa, this is Liam, he's my bestest friend in all the universes, and the big guy is Uncle Doug; he's a kid sic-o-list and useta be a wrestler!"
"You did that on purpose, didn't you, Squirt?" the adult chuckled. "Going by the lost looks and the little guys latching on to the bigger ones, I'm going to assume our little mischief-maker didn't give any details. I'm Doug Chambers, Alligator Alley Medical Services PSYCHOLOGIST. Liam's older brother Jerry is a close friend of Director Butler, and is engaged to my triplet sons."
"Engaged to ALL THREE?" Kurt asked with raised eyebrows.
Doug nodded, "Yep, and I'm not complaining! They inherited telepathy from their mom, and in the process of them helping their then-soon-to-be-boyfriend avoid a mental crash of the same level that Dan told me Cory had, we were hijacked by Tracy, and the three terrors learned to shield their thoughts! I have first-hand knowledge of the internal fantasies of eleven-year-old gay boys, and I'm happy to say I don't have to experience the changes that come when they turn twelve."
"That would have ME needing to see a shrink right there," Kurt admitted. "Did the freckle monster fill you in, or did that slip his multithreaded mind?"
"I told him not to; I don't like to bias myself, it takes options away," Doug replied. "I'm going to guess, based on what Dan's been doing, that at least some of you have problems stemming from recent events."
"You hit the nail on the head," Kurt nodded. "Peter and Galen were literally standing in Death's doorway in two separate events, and it is hitting a pretty decent size group of us pretty hard."
Doug nodded. "Okay, that's enough to tell me this is a group session problem; all of you need to help each other." Looking at the two newest Mikyvis, he added, "Luke, could you please arrange for some comfortable furniture, enough for everyone that needs to be here? DB, while your brother handles that, could you and Liam please make sure that everyone affected that needs to be here is brought in?"
"Okay, Uncle Doug!" all three boys replied in unison.
As the three boys vanished to do their assigned duties, Kurt commented "I don't think it's THAT urgent! We could have just set up a meeting later this week."
Doug shook his head. "I see four CORE leaders in the Clan having issues; Jonas, Scotty, Peter, and you. If it is bad enough to affect all of you, that means it has affected those who you count on to have your back as well. This isn't something that can be dealt with whenever; this needs to be sorted out now, before permanent damage is done."
"Don't argue; Timmy's taking Doug's side!" Galen sniggered. "Petey? You might want to move, DB's bringing Harry in!"
"Oh crap!" Peter exclaimed as he quickly popped to a safe location.
He was just in time, as DB popped in with Harry, Stevie, and Billy. Within seconds, Stevie and Billy were camped on Jonas's lap, excitedly telling him everything they had been doing with their Pop.
Jonas, Harry, and Galen appeared in the driveway of a well-kept rural home. Latched onto Jonas for dear life was the blond-headed reason for their trip; five-year-old Billy Forester. After a quick check of each other's dress uniforms, the three older boys solemnly made their way to the front door of the house, Jonas ensuring the boy attached to him didn't slip off.
As they reached the door, Galen stepped forward and rang the doorbell. A few seconds later, an apparently eleven-year-old boy threw the door open. At seeing the visitors, the boy froze; as his face fell, he managed one elongated, pained yell, "Mooooooooooooooooooooom!"
Hearing the pain in their son's voice, both parents came running. The instant that they saw how the visitors were dressed, they both knew that this wasn't a social call. As the mother pulled their son into a hug, the mid-fifties man quickly took in the dress uniforms, including the ranks, crest, and mourning bands on their arms. "Commander, would you and your party please join us inside? I believe what you must say should be received sitting down."
"As you wish," Jonas replied seriously. They followed the man into the living room, where everyone took seats.
Galen remained standing. "Mr. and Mrs. Forester, Steven, I am Sub-Commander Galen Alexander, Family Clan Short of Vulcan Intel Division. May I present to you Commander Jonas McConnaghay, Family Clan Short Fleet, Director of the Northeast Division of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the Planet Vulcan. He is accompanied by his Husband, Commander Harry Johnson, Family Clan Short Fleet, Assistant Director of the Northeast Division of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the Planet Vulcan."
Once Galen took his seat, Jonas gave Billy a squeeze, then began in his Vulcan demeanor. "I have the unfortunate duty to bear disturbing news. As myself and those of my Division were performing the necessary task of retrieving those who were trapped by debris from the attack on the District of Columbia, we came across a vehicle which suffered damage from sections of a nearby building falling on top of it. Upon investigation, it was determined that the two adults were dispatched instantly upon impact. Additional investigation located the youth in my possession, who escaped injury for no apparent reason other than Divine Protection. Post-incident investigations have confirmed the identities of the victims. The Patriarch of Family Clan Short of Vulcan has instructed me to express the condolences of our entire Family; the victims have positively been identified as your son Steven and his wife Candice. Please be aware that Family Clan Short has already made arrangements to ensure that whatever your wishes are for interment, the costs are to be fully covered by our family."
Mr. Forester saw through Jonas trying to hide behind his Vulcan facade. "Thank you for delivering the news personally, Jonas. Those tears tell me how this has affected you, despite your attempts to hide it in your voice. We were expecting this news, as they were due to arrive here yesterday. Seeing as Billy has not even attempted his usual attack on his Uncle Stevie, may I assume that the event caused issues which you have not discussed yet?"
Jonas locked eyes with Galen for a split-second before replying. "In some circles it could be described as an issue, but Billy has not let me out of his sight since I pulled him out of the wreckage. I've been assured by the head of Federation Youth Services Mental Health department that his reaction is completely normal after what he went through." Jonas paused, then softly asked, "Billy, would you like your Uncle Stevie to sit over here with us so you can make him feel better with your awesome cuddles?"
"Uh-huh," Billy replied with a barely visible nod of his head. "You won't leave?"
"I'll be right here next to you, little buddy," Jonas replied softly.
"Okay," Billy answered, trusting Jonas at his word.
"Go on," Mrs. Forester stated as she encouraged Stevie to sit with Jonas and Billy. "I very much doubt that someone in their position would even consider letting you get hurt."
Stevie gave in, and warily crossed the room to take a seat next to Jonas. Billy gave Jonas a squeeze, then slipped over onto Stevie's lap, immediately cuddling into his chest. To everyone's surprise, the first full sentence that Billy spoke was directed at Stevie. "Unca Stevie? Unca Galen says big boys gotta cry when theys sad or bad stuff hap'ns to their heads. You can cry now, I'll hold you."
That turned out to be the last straw, as Stevie pulled Billy tight into his chest and broke down completely. Instinctively, Jonas reached his arm out, put it around Stevie's shoulders, and pulled the pair of boys into his side. "Go ahead and let it all out," Jonas stated with obvious care, "We're all right here for you."
"I'll take over," Harry stated as he watched Jonas comfort Stevie. "Believe it or not, right now we've got a situation that Family Clan Short has never dealt with, and it is going to take all of us working together to sort everything out. By normal procedures, I would be asking you to allow Galen to do a mental scan of the three of you to start our protocol for placing Billy with you. One of the requirements can't be met, though; while Billy loves all three of you, he has attached himself to Jonas and I. According to Galen's latest scan, he wants to keep his normal view of you as his Memaw, Granpop, and Uncle Stevie. He's also decided that he's going to live with me and Jonas, if we like it or not."
Harry paused at a soft sad chuckle from Mr. Forester. "Like father, like son," Mr. Forester explained. "His Dad was just as hard-headed at his age."
"Great, Jonas has help!" Harry quipped, earning him an elbow jab from Jonas and nods of agreement from Galen.
Sensing the obvious bond the three boys in front of him shared, Mr. Forester ventured, "I am going to assume that no matter what is decided, that scan that Jonas mentioned will be required sooner or later. Galen, would it be possible to answer some of the questions that we're trying to decide how to verbalize while you are scanning us?"
"That's easy!" Galen nodded. "I can bring Harry in with me, one of us should know the answers."
The two adults exchanged glances, then after a nod from his wife, Mr. Forester replied, "Please proceed, gentlemen."
"Before we decide on how to work things out," Mr. Forester stated as he passed out drinks to everyone, "Let's get the elephant in the room out in the open."
At the confused look Jonas and Harry started to display, Mr. Forester explained, "Galen and I have discussed this while he was in my head, and he is protecting the boys. While both of them are aware of the general idea, neither have heard the details."
"You're going swimming when we get home, Galen," Harry promised.
"Sweet, I'll ask Kyle if Timmy's planning any welcome home gifts!" Galen giggled.
Not sure he really wanted to know what that exchange was about after seeing Harry's expression at Galen's reply, Mr. Forester continued. "Jonas, those two boys resting under your arm are actually half-brothers. When Steven, their dad, was just barely thirteen, he got the girl he was dating pregnant on his very first sexual encounter. Unfortunately, she died of complications when Stevie was born; according to the doctors, it would have probably happened no matter how old she had been, so her parents did not hold it against Steven. Unfortunately, the other grandparents did not believe that they could deal with the reminder of their daughter that Stevie would be, so we all sat down and decided that, due to Steven Sr.'s age, it would be best if Stevie was raised by us."
Reading his audience, he paused then added, "They haven't stayed completely out of his life; he received Christmas and Birthday gifts from them, and two years ago they came back into town to actually spend Christmas with him in person. Overall, that went well, and Stevie heard it from their mouths that while they love him, he looks so much like his Mom that he makes them sad if they see too much of him. While Galen was doing his mental interview with Cassie, I called them and informed them of the news. As I fully expect all three of you to be present at Steven and Candice's funeral, you will have the chance to meet them."
"Greg?" His wife interrupted, "Look at Stevie."
"I'll be ..." Greg muttered as he saw the position that Stevie and Billy had shifted to. Billy was sandwiched between Stevie and Jonas, while Stevie now had his forehead nestled up against Jonas's neck. "Jonas, the only other person that Stevie and Billy will cuddle like that is their father. Even in his sleep, Stevie will start to move that way, then will shift back away from me as soon as his senses realizes it is me. Those two have just given you quite an honor."
"I believe that you've been adopted by TWO boys, Jonas," Cassie added.
"You want me to get Prez?" Galen asked.
Jonas nodded, "Yeah, bro; this is getting WAY above my comfort level!"
"I'll be right back," Galen stated before popping out.
Seeing the surprised looks on the adult's faces, Harry grinned, "Don't ask, we'll explain when there's valium available!"
Before they could respond, Galen re-appeared with Prez and Keith, both in board shorts and tee-shirts. Keith was carrying what looked like a cat in his arms ... except for the fact the golden-haired 'cat' had six legs and larger-than-normal ears.
"Timmy sent a 'welcome to the family' present for Billy," Keith grinned. "He's got his time loops twisted again!"
"I'll hold it until Billy's ready," Harry offered.
Galen waited for Keith to pass over the new pet, then stated, "Mr. and Mrs. Forester, the redhead is Admiral Preston O'Brian, Director of the Pacific Rim Division of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of Vulcan. His companion is his husband, Assistant Director Keith Hundser."
Having been at Archnania for over a week, Prez wasn't fully prepared to switch from Platinum Habits bass guitarist and vocalist, but the super formal introduction caused a visible "snap-to".
Prez turned to the adults, stating "The Pacific Rim Division of Family Clan Short and the Royal Family of the Republic of Hawai'i express their condolences at your loss. King Aalona would express them personally, but at this time His Majesty and the Royal Family are off-planet."
"Thank you, Director; please pass on our thanks to the Royal Family," Greg replied sincerely, his eyebrows shooting up as chairs appeared out of nowhere for the new arrivals.
"The brain-leech over there already filled us in," Prez began. "Pretty much, you want to be part of the lives of both boys, you want them to be together like they should have been all along, but you don't want to break the bond that Billy has obviously formed with the hero that rescued him. Did I miss anything?"
Cassie nodded, "I think that pretty well summarizes it."
Greg agreed, "I'd say so, but I don't know how that could work out."
"You've already been approved as Clan parents," Keith stated, "so why don't you just move up to Maine at the Northeast Division headquarters? Knowing Jonas's little brother, he's probably already got a house built for you. You could be grandparents to a large group of kids who are just learning about family, and still be there for your grandsons while Harry and Jonas raise them."
"I warned them they'd be daddies before Thanksgiving!" Prez sniggered.
"As for their other grandparents," Keith stated, "They've had more than enough time to mourn. Either they're going to accept help to get over their issues, or they're going to be told to back off. They're going to stop playing games with Stevie's head one way or the other, we'll make sure of that."
"Hey, we haven't adopted either one of them!" Harry exclaimed.
"Too late, bro; they adopted you!" Prez grinned. "I know that cuddle; Dee used it on us! Has Billy wrapped his arm around a leg, somewhat possessively?"
Harry nodded. "He's been worse than Timmy when Cory's having a bad day!"
"I had to find a crowbar so Jonas could take a leak!" Galen added, earning him giggles from the rest of the crew, and an impish smile from Billy.
Nodding, Prez made a rolling motion with one hand, and Keith joined in, "Been there, done that."
Greg chuckled at the interplay. "I get the feeling that somehow you guys will make it as simple as it sounds, despite the fact that normally it would be impossible. What makes you so sure that what you are suggesting is what the boys want?"
"Not only is Galen a leech," Prez smirked, "but he's an empath too. If he says the boys have bonded with Jonas and Harry, it's fact."
"Is that the case, Galen?" Cassie asked.
Galen nodded. "Yep; Billy transferred his love of his parents to Jonas and Harry as a survival instinct; he's locked in. Stevie has an unconscious 'link' with his little brother, and has accepted them unconsciously as replacing the genetic parents he just lost. Also, Stevie is afraid that you'll do the same thing his other grandparents are doing now that his genetic Dad is gone. He's not going to let his little brother feel like he does."
Both adults were clearly shocked by Galen's statements, but neither one had any doubt about the truth behind it. Recovering first, Greg looked Prez straight in the eyes. "Director, proceed with the accommodations that Keith outlined."
"Wise choice," Prez stated, "I think you'll fit in with everyone else up there." Locking eyes with his husband, Prez asked, "Keith? Could you try to keep some sanity in the move while I pay back Jonas and Harry by making their sons official?"
"No fair, you took the easy job!" Keith shot back with a grin. "Galen, what have you and Petey been plotting while we were talking?"
"Who, us?" Galen giggled as a stack of halos appeared above his head. "Petey says his Mom wants to know if they want to keep this house; if so, she already picked out a spot just behind Division HQ where we can put it."
Keith shook his head, "I shoulda known better than to ask! Okay, Greg and Cassie, just so you know, they CAN actually do that, without spilling a drop of that coffee on your end table. Your choice, and if you say yes, any additions to the house that might be needed they will handle for you too."
"I think having something familiar in their new surroundings might be a big help to the boys," Cassie suggested.
"That's a good point," Greg admitted. "How much time will it take to make that happen?"
"Your house might beat you there," Keith grinned. "After Prez is done, why don't we take a walk with the boys to make sure that anything they want to keep from outside the house is brought along too. Petey's probably already started, and Galen can fill him in on anything that needs added."
"This efficiency is going to take getting used to!" Greg quipped. "You don't happen to have any way to speed up the separation process where I work, do you?"
"Already handled, but you didn't quit," Galen giggled. "Your employer is owned by Wayne Industries, so you just got promoted to on-site representative. Your entire job is to notify Wayne Industries of anything that you think Jonas, or anyone under him, needs. I'll update you about what you have to work with once we get home. Uncle Bruce says welcome to the team!"
"For such a little guy, you've got some pretty big friends," Greg stated. "Thank you."
"You'll get used to it," Prez laughed, "By this time next month, I'll bet that you'll have tossed the Tzar of Russia in the pool at least once!"
Both adults were shocked when Galen giggled and held up three fingers. "He deserved it!" Galen smirked.
"Hey Jonas, wake up your lap monsters before I drown your brother-in-law!" Prez stated as he rolled his eyes. "You and Harry have some Daddy things to do!"
"I think I need to convince Kyle that he's due for some surfing again," Jonas quipped as he tried to wrap his head around just how fast his fellow director was solving the issues. Ignoring the glares from Prez and Keith, Jonas gave the two boys attached to him a squeeze. "Billy? Stevie? Time to wake up, guys; your Uncle Prez wants to help you with what is gonna happen next."
After some stretching-in-place, and an unexpected kiss in the cheek from Stevie, the boys shifted around so that Stevie was sitting on Jonas's lap; Billy being held protectively by Stevie. Billy then reached down and pulled Jonas's arms around them, ensuring that they were both being held by him.
Noticing this, Prez moved to where he was sitting right in front of them. Once Harry had joined in the cuddle, Prez began. "Guys, I know what it feels like right now; I lost my original parents suddenly when I was young. No matter what, if you need to talk about it to someone that understands, I want you to call me immediately so I can come over and help. Can you promise that you'll do that?"
"Yeah," Stevie replied, Billy nodding his agreement.
"Okay, please listen while I explain what has been suggested, then you can tell me what you think," Prez continued. "You have a very special Grandma and Grandpa here; not many adults would care about your thoughts about what needs to happen now. They can see that the two of you need to be together, and they saw how Billy has attached himself to Jonas. Since the two of you obviously need to be together like brothers should, they worked with us to come up with a way that they can be part of your daily lives, yet allow you to follow the attachment that you both are showing to Jonas and, by association, Harry. Before I explain, you need to remember, they are NOT abandoning you or trying to get rid of you; they are giving up their lives as they know them to make sure that you are happy and have them right there for you, anytime you want them. Do you understand?"
"They ain't gonna do like my other grandparents do?" Stevie risked.
"I'll personally kick their butts if they even think about it," Prez promised. "When we're done here, Keith and I are going to have a LONG talk with your other grandparents; Jonas and Harry will let you know how that turns out."
"You better get it recorded," Jonas stated, "something tells me Cory's going to want to use it for training!"
"Or to make JJ jealous," Harry quipped.
"Hey Galen, I need a halo over here!" Prez smirked. "Okay; if you guys really want Jonas and Harry to adopt you, your grandparents are going to move up to Maine and will be living in a house in the back yard of where Jonas and Harry live. Stevie, that means that you'll get to live with your parents for real, and will still have the grandparents that raised you right there with you. Billy, you'll have your brother AND your grandparents right where they should be, and your grandparents will be right there to visit whenever you want. If you both decide to live with them, we'll still do the same thing, that way Jonas and Harry are right there for both of you."
"Stevie?" Greg added, "Don't worry about how we might feel. As long as you're doing what is best for you AND your brother, we're going to be happy. These young men have included the two of you into a group that just literally saved Earth, and they are including both of us as they help you guys regain a normal life. Think about it and follow your heart; you and Billy have the final word, and we'll support you no matter what you decide."
"If you ask," Jonas stated softly, "then yes, me and Harry will adopt you. If you decide to stay with your Grandparents, both of us will still be there for you. By Clan law, the final choice is yours, not ours."
"Okay," Stevie whispered as he tilted his head down to make contact with Billy's head. After a couple of minutes, Stevie raised his head and stated "We want to be adopted by Jonas and Harry."
In his Vulcan trial voice, Galen added "I certify that the statement made by Steven reflects the intentions of himself and William, and that neither were coerced into the determination."
"Someone find a Leech Leash," Prez sniggered. "Billy, I need you to tell me yourself, Stevie can't legally speak for you, okay?"
"I want Jonas as my new Daddy and Harry as my new Poppa and Stevie to be my real big brother not no half brother or uncle," Billy said softly.
"Jonas, Harry?" Prez continued, "Do you accept the wishes of Stevie and Billy, and are you willing and able to take them as your sons as if you had created them, raising them as appropriate for their respective ages? Are you willing to support and encourage their existing bonds with their paternal grandparents, working together to provide them the best opportunities available to them?"
"Yes," both Jonas and Harry replied.
"By the power vested in me by a meddling Vulcan Elf when I least expected it," Prez stated, "I hereby confirm the adoption of Stevie and Billy Forester by Director Jonas McConnaghay and his husband, Harry Johnson. As per Family Clan Short regulations, I declare this placement permanent and dissolve all claims of relation excepting the stated relationship of grandparent held by Greg and Cassie Forester."
"Got it logged, Prez," Galen announced. "Jonas, Harry? Justy says 'it took y'all long enough'!"
"Tell Justy we both said 'Bite me'," Harry replied as he lifted the 'cat' off his lap and shifted it over to sit on Billy. "Uncle Keith brought you a present from our Patriarch's son, Billy. Timmy said it is to welcome you to the family."
"I hate to adopt and run," Prez quipped, "But we have some grandparents to give a reality check to, and I want to do it personally."
"Thank you for the help, Prez and Keith," Greg stated as he shook their hands. "Hopefully our paths will cross again sometime."
"I'm sure they will," Keith grinned, "Those two are regular visitors to Hawai'i!"
"Galen? You want to join the fun?" Keith suggested.
"I wouldn't miss it!" Galen giggled as all three vanished.
"Poppa?" Billy asked hesitantly, "Why's the kitty have extra legs?"
"He's from a different planet, Billy," Harry explained. "We get to visit there a lot, your Uncle Prez and Uncle Keith go there to practice songs for the band they have."
"I bet that he likes cuddles just like you do," Jonas added.
"Okay," Billy acknowledged as he shifted the cat around to cuddle him, earning him a loud purr.
"Is this real?" Stevie asked. "I never heard of anywhere that cats have six legs, but you act like it's normal. I can almost get how we were just adopted, since the news is talking about Clan Short more than anything else, but weird animals?"
"Don't feel bad," Jonas snickered, "I'm still trying to get used to it, too. I'm expecting your Uncle Peter to pop in any second now, since he'll be in charge of moving the house. He can explain better than me; he's Galen's husband, my little brother, and only the fourth of one of the examples of what Humans could become. He saved Galen's life during the battle by making Galen like him. I was watching it when he did it, and I still can't believe what I saw with my own eyes."
"So I'm not nuts?" Stevie asked.
"Nope, it really is that crazy, son," Jonas replied with a grin.
"Well, at least I'm not going to get bored," Stevie quipped. Getting serious, he asked "Do you think Dad and Mom hurt a lot when they died?"
Jonas shook his head. "From what I saw, I'm pretty sure they both died instantly. Our guardian angels like to stop in and say hi a lot, so you'll probably get a chance to ask them. Before you say anything, I'm serious; in a way it makes me feel better knowing they are real and are watching over us."
"Do you think they saved Billy?" Stevie whispered.
"Yes," Jonas admitted. "Not only do I think they saved him, but I think they pushed me to find him. There's no other reason I can think of that made me look at a car that appeared totally destroyed."
"Thanks," Stevie replied as he wiggled around enough to allow himself to melt into Jonas's chest.
Just then, Peter appeared between the couches with a box of purple hard hats. "Mikyvis Construction Corps at your service," he announced with a bow towards the adults.
"Get over here and meet your nephews, little brother!" Jonas laughed. "Everyone, this is my little brother, and Galen's husband, Peter Lambert. I'm sure that Galen's already introduced everyone to him!"
"Yep!" Peter giggled. He walked over to Jonas and the boys, and kneeled down to talk to Billy. "Hey Billy! Would you like me to teach you in your head how to talk to your new friend that Timmy sent you?"
"People can't talk to kitties," Billy replied assuredly.
"They can if they know kitty," Peter replied. "Do you want to try it?"
"Daddy?" Billy asked warily.
"He's telling the truth, son," Jonas replied. "When you meet Timmy, you'll understand, but for now, your Uncle Peter isn't going to ever lie about head stuff."
"Okay, you can try, Uncle Petey," Billy stated.
"This'll only take a second, you'll hear me in your head," Peter explained. After a pause, he stated "Okay, done!"
"Wrarrww puurr?" Billy asked hesitantly.
"Puuurrrrr!" the cat responded, causing Billy's eyes to go wide.
"IT WORKED!" Billy giggled.
Peter grinned, "Stevie, do you want the languages like I just gave your little brother?"
"Go ahead," Stevie replied, curious as to what just happened.
Seconds later, Stevie's eyes bulged as he suddenly understood the conversation Billy was having with his furry friend. "Wow!"
"When we get home, I'll give both of you the rest of the stuff that you're supposed to have, just because you're the sons of a Division director," Peter explained. "Right now, why don't you guys show your new Daddy and Poppa anything that you would like me to take home for you, and I'll get started with moving the house. Don't forget your fort!"
"C'mon Billy," Stevie said, "We got to show Daddy and Poppa all of our stuff."
"We really get to keep the fort?" Stevie asked as they made their way back to the house.
"Of course, we just need to figure out where you want to put it," Harry replied. "In fact, me and your Dad will probably help you upgrade it!"
"Cin'mon likes the fort!" Billy stated, giggling as his furry friend purred his agreement.
"You guys did a really good job building it," Jonas smiled. "If you let Uncle Petey look in your heads, he'll know what you decided that you wanted to keep, and he'll make sure it comes home with you, okay?"
"Okay!" both boys nodded.
Peter spotted the approaching group, and popped over carrying four normal purple hard hats and one cat-modified one. "Hey, you're just in time for launch!" he giggled.
"Unca Petey, Daddy says you gotta look in our heads to see what we wanna take with us," Billy stated.
"Okay, why don't you help Cin'mon put this on while I'm looking," Peter offered, holding out the mini hard hat. "Then you can watch as we launch the house!"
By the time Billy had the hat on Cin'mon, Peter had finished getting the list. After handing out the rest of the hats, he explained "These are in case some dirt falls off. You can keep them, I get new ones whenever we do this. You'll get to watch the house lift up, then it'll look like it vanishes. We do that because people get weird when they see a house flying over them, so we hide it. Galen's going to be inside once he gets back with Eli, Benji, and Robin; this house is smaller than the other ones we've done, so it'll be easy. I'll be right back, I'm going to get the stuff you want to keep and take it home while we're waiting."
Harry smiled as he watched the tension drain from Jonas within seconds of their boys taking residence on his lap. Satisfied that the boys had things under control, he turned to join Kurt and Scotty. Once he had joined them, he asked "Hey Kurt, you still worried about overcrowding?"
"Unless things changed from last night, yes," Kurt admitted.
"Give Petey a couple of days, and we'll have it solved," Harry stated with a grin. "It would be done sooner, but the road department wants to put up the new Spaceport - Airport signs themselves."
"New?" Scotty questioned.
Harry nodded. "Uncle Bruce 'convinced' the Airport Authority that they would be a lot better off a few miles north-east of here. Petey's got crews laying the new runways now. Scotty, you're getting a Rapid Response base over at the old terminal area, along with a Clan shuttle base. Since they won't need the extra runways and the warehouses on this side, the housing areas can be expanded. We've also acquired some additional land that surrounded the old airport, so there will be plenty of extra space. Kurt, you have full access to request help from the Rapid Response base if you need them; they're your first line of defense now."
"There are times that I don't miss our old universe one bit," Kurt stated with a shake of his head. "Only the Clan could pull that one off!"
"We're just that good!" Harry giggled. "By the way, Scotty, congratulations on being promoted to Sub-Director!"
"WHAT!" Scotty exclaimed.
"Oh yeah," Harry sniggered, "We probably should have told you! You've earned it; now if someone argues with you or Kurt, you don't have to wait for us. I'll let you tell Stass that he's became your assistant sub-director. Both of you are getting Sub-Commander ranks in the Vulcan Fleet. You still can call us if you need us, but this helps you guys here."
"Be careful what you ask for!" Kurt chuckled at the expression on Scotty's face. "Next time you guys decide that you want to be in a story, I'm hiding on Archnania until it blows over; I like it here!"
"You're no help, Unk," Scotty shot back. "I know better than to argue, I read what happened to Danny. So pretty much, I can speak for Jonas, which means my word is just like Cory's?"
"You got it; Jonas took almost a week to figure that out!" Harry replied. "Don't worry, you can still call us if you're not sure about something."
"You know, they're right, Scotty; you've earned the title," Kurt stated. "We've got a few bases that we run now, it makes sense to have someone in place that carries the power of the Patriarch."
"You're an adult, you're not supposed to use logic, Unk," Scotty prodded.
"Remember saying that the next time you want something," Kurt teased. "So, Harry? Should I worry about this happening at the other bases?"
"Possibly," Harry grinned. "Ask Scotty, he's able to make those decisions if he wants to."
"I'll tell you after I've done it," Scotty quipped. "I've learned from reading about the best!"
"That's what I'm afraid of," Kurt mumbled with a smile.
"Thanks for showing everyone how their actions changed things, Peter," Doug stated as he looked around the group. "Now that you've heard what each other is thinking, do any of you have any thoughts?"
Luke raised his hand. At the nod from Doug, he stated, "Maybe we should make sure that someone knows where we're going and why if there's an emergency? Put it in their heads or something?"
"I think that could be a good idea; I would think that emergencies might allow you to break normal telepath rules," Doug suggested. "You should probably discuss that with your Uncle Kyle to see if he agrees."
"We just did, a couple of days ago!" Peter, Galen, DB, and Luke chorused in unison.
"You left yourself wide open for that!" Jonas quipped. "I guess I need to loosen up some; I can't keep all of my family at my side every minute. I should be happy that my little brother saved all of our lives, not worrying about the danger he had to put himself in to do it. Me and Harry have two awesome sons now; we need to parent them, not the rest of our family."
"Yeah," Harry nodded, "But part of that's my fault too; I should have spoke up as soon as I saw that it wasn't just a passing thought. Jonas needs me to help him realize when he gets stuck on something, and I didn't do that."
"Me and Billy are gonna help you now, Pop," Stevie stated. "It feels different now; I know now that Grandma and Grandpa wanted to raise me, but it still feels different because I heard you both say that you wanted me. I gotta learn that all grownups ain't like my other grandparents."
"You've got a dad and pop that will be really good at helping you learn that," Doug stated. "I found out that I like working with youth parents much more than adults; you Clan parents are much better at explaining things than adults. I don't think I've heard even one of you guys say 'because I said so' to any of the kids."
"That's because some of us remember how we felt when we were told that," Kurt stated. "That's why I would never have made a good parent back in our old universe; back there, an adult's word was law no matter if they were right or wrong, which I never agreed with." After a pause, he added, "When we first got here, I convinced myself that my nephews were solely my responsibility. I really need to rethink that, because in the Clan I have hundreds of other adults to help me look at things responsibly."
"That's because adults don't know everything, Unk!" Marky giggled from his perch on Kurt's lap. "We're tryin' to teach them, but some are rocks!"
"I knew I should have hidden you from Timmy," Kurt laughed as he gave Marky a squeeze.
"Speaking of Timmy," Doug smiled, "I've got a really big job for you, Billy."
"You do?" Billy asked warily.
"Yes," Doug nodded. "When Patriarch Cory is feeling bad, Timmy climbs up on his lap and cuddles with him until Cory feels better. I think that if you do that for your Daddy, and Stevie does it for your Poppa, then they won't get so they feel like they were earlier as easy."
"Okay!" Billy replied with a smile. "You hear that Daddy? I can't let go of ya' n'less your all betterer!"
Knowing exactly what Doug was talking about, Jonas kissed Billy's forehead as he gave him a squeeze. "I heard, little buddy! I know you're going to do a really great job at it, too!"
Stevie glanced over at Harry, breaking into a smile as his Poppa motioned for him to move over there. Once Stevie had taken his position on Harry's lap, Harry whispered, "You don't have to ask, son; this is to help both of us, so if you feel like you need to cuddle, I'm here for you too."
"My old dad said I was getting to old," Stevie replied softly as he snuggled in.
"If you feel like you need it, then you're not too old," Harry stated. "Neither me nor your Daddy are ever going to refuse you just because of your age; we know about how we still need cuddles sometimes too."
Stevie's non-verbal response said more than any words; he wrapped his arms around Harry and tucked himself in like a boy half his age instinctively would do. "Love you, Poppa," Stevie whispered, expressing his feelings towards Harry verbally for the first time.
"I love you too, son," Harry replied, his smile the largest it had been since before the battle.
"Why don't we leave these four alone for a while," Doug suggested. "Kurt, do you think you could convince our multi-dimensional mischief makers to give us a tour of what they've done while they were here talking to us? I'd like to see the accommodations I've been hearing about from DB."
Kurt nodded, fully aware of what Doug was doing. "Hey Little Bug; why don't we give a tour?"
"Gotcha, Unk," Galen grinned a second before the room emptied of everyone but Jonas, Harry, Billy, and Stevie.
Even though he was fully aware of it, Kurt was still awed by the changes to the North Syracuse campus over the last nine days. While the fully-functional part was still a work-in-progress, the compound was no longer a lifeless destitute relic of the former base. Youth of all ages were now out and about, making new friends and starting to adjust to their new life. The various adults who were not currently working to provide for their charges were out in force, some comforting youth who were still missing their loved ones, some offering guidance to youth who were trying new things, and the rest just watching to see where they might be needed.
"Hey, Uncle Kurt!" a ten-year-old boy hailed as he rode by on his new skateboard.
"Looking good, Tommy; you're getting better!" Kurt replied, smiling at the unspoken decision by the youth residents that he was to be addressed as 'Uncle'.
"Thanks!" Tommy replied as he rode off.
As Kurt watched Tommy ride off, he felt a young body cuddle into his side. He turned his head and looked down, smiling as he saw a familiar silver-blond boy with an erasable mini-whiteboard hanging around his neck. "Hi Austin, how are you doing today?"
Austin shyly smiled and gave Kurt a thumbs-up. He'd witnessed his parents and older brother being killed by a Romulan, and hadn't spoken a word since that day. Kurt had personally ensured that Austin was safe and provided for upon the boy's arrival, which led to Austin homing in on Kurt whenever he saw him.
Austin let go of Kurt just long enough to open the cover on his whiteboard, touching up whatever he'd put on it before nervously holding it up for Kurt to read. Kurt took the board, and felt his heart jump as he looked at the picture that had been drawn by Austin. There were drawings of two people, one big and one little, holding hands. In his seven-year-old scrawl, Austin had put his name under the little one, and written 'Kurt' under the big one. Over the top of the drawing was one word, "Daddy?".
"Scotty, get a picture of this board before anything happens to it," Kurt stated as he lifted it off of Austin's neck. Once Scotty had the board, Kurt dropped to one knee so he could look Austin straight in the eyes. "Austin, does that mean that you want me to adopt you, to make you my son?"
Austin nervously nodded his head in the affirmative.
Aware of the sudden silence as every youth within hearing range directed their attention at the statement, Kurt took the chance to provide an example of what the youth watching him could look forward to. "I'm really proud of you for taking the chance and asking me. Since we're all part of Clan Short, we don't have to see judges and wait; if you're really sure, then Scotty will make it happen right now. I would be honored to be your new Daddy, if that is really what you want."
The next thing he knew, Kurt was on the ground with a crying boy latched onto him like his life depended on it. Smiling, Scotty addressed the rest of the watching youth, "I just got told that I've been promoted to Sub-Director in the Northeast Division of Family Clan Short. That means I don't have to ask for stuff, I can just do it. All of you can do what Austin just did, and it doesn't have to be an adult that you're asking. This is the best part of being Clan, helping someone find family, and I'm really glad that it'll be the first thing that I'm doing with my new title." Noticing that Kurt was now standing, Austin on his hip with a huge smile, Scotty shifted gears. Tapping his commbadge, Scotty stated "Jack, open official log."
"Logging initiated, Director," Jack's voice responded.
"This is Sub-Director Scott Reinhardt, Family Clan Short Residential Services division of the Northeast Division of Family Clan Short of Vulcan. This log is to certify the requested adoption of Austin Hall by Kurt Farnsworth. As Austin is currently unable to respond verbally due to recent events, video confirmation of his responses shall be accepted. Digital documentation of his written request is hereby included within this proceeding." Scott paused as he turned to Kurt and Austin. "Austin, I have witnessed that you have asked for Kurt to become your Daddy. This is your chance to make it real; do you want Kurt to be your Daddy from now on?"
Austin nodded his head and gave a thumbs-up just to be sure.
"Kurt, Austin has expressed the intent of becoming your son. Are you willing and able to take him in as if he was born of your blood, supporting him and guiding him as he grows and becomes an adult, being there for him for the rest of your life?"
"Absolutely," Kurt replied.
"Galen Alexander, as a member of the Family Clan Short Intel Corps, can you confirm that the preceding statements by both parties are truthful and were not made under duress?"
"Both parties willingly and honestly wish for this action to be approved, as logged by telepathic scan. Austin wishes to take Kurt's surname," Galen replied in a formal tone.
"As it is determined that neither party has been coerced, I now declare the adoption of Austin Hall by Kurt Farnsworth to be official, and approve the surname of Austin be changed to Farnsworth. As an Officer of Family Clan Short of Vulcan, I declare all previous claims regarding the former Austin Hall to be null and void. My word is given. Kurt, Austin? Congratulations, you're now a family!"
Scott paused, then added, "Jack, end log, file with the Family Archivist."
"Justy was standing by, he said to tell you good job with the extra steps since Austin is non-vocal. Liam says to tell Austin that his parents and big brother think he made a really good choice, and they are proud of him."
"Thanks, Jack," Scott smiled. Seeing the wide-eyed expression on his newest family member, Scott explained, "Austin, Justy's son Liam can see and talk to ghosts. I think that your old family was guided to him so they could tell you that. He don't joke about that kind of stuff, so it's real, and it means they are watching over you even though you can't see them. Does that make sense?"
"Scotty's right, Son," Kurt added. "I think they did that so you wouldn't worry about how they might feel about you having a new family. They know that you're safe, which means a lot to them."
Austin relaxed, cuddling tightly into Kurt's chest. With his right hand, he used his index finger to trace three words on Kurt's chest; 'I Love U'.
"I love you too, son," Kurt whispered just loud enough for Austin to hear.
Once the Clan boys had answered the questions from the group that had witnessed the facility's first adoption, they headed towards the new addition to the compound. The first obvious change was the old warehouse; it had received a major facelift, now matching the design of the surrounding housing as well as doubling in size. Multiple storefronts had been added surrounding it, just waiting for some of the new residents added by the battle to set up shop. Across the 'street' from the warehouse, a complex of townhouses had appeared.
"Peter, what's that big building on the other side of the warehouse?" Kurt asked.
"You needed a bigger auditorium," Peter grinned. "It also doubles as a secondary shelter; it has two sub-basements that are fully shielded."
"Good idea," Kurt nodded. "How many bedrooms are those townhouses? They're bigger than I'm used to seeing."
"Each one has four bedrooms per apartment, sized to Clan standards," Peter replied. "There are four apartments per building, each with three floors."
"Nice!" Kurt smiled. "I like how you put a decent size yard in the center of each set of four buildings; that should give plenty of play area."
"I'll save us some walking," Peter grinned before they found themselves on the other side of the townhouses. "I was wondering, do you think the compound is big enough to have a tram network?"
"I think it was big enough before it was expanded," Scott offered.
"I agree," Kurt replied. "Who do we need to talk to about it?"
"ME!" DB, Liam, and Luke giggled in unison.
"You left yourself wide open, Kurt!" Doug chuckled. "DB and Liam's been working on a major racetrack project with their brothers and cousins; it wouldn't surprise me in the least if our crew decided to design something to help you out."
"Knowing their parents, I doubt anyone could stop them," Kurt grinned. "What do you think, Scotty?"
"Go for it, just let me know if you need me to get anything," Scotty replied. "Don't forget to put terminals at all the spots that people would normally start or stop at. You might need multiple lines running, at least during the day."
"You heard the Director," Galen smiled at the three boys, all of which were surprised that their joke was taken seriously. "Let me or Peter know if you need help, okay?"
"Okay!" all three replied, their pride at being trusted with the project quickly overcoming their shock.
"Once you get things figured out here, you can look into what the other compounds need," Kurt added. "The first one is always the hardest."
"C'mon Marky, we gotta go tell Liam's brothers!" DB stated. "You gotta help too!"
"SWEET!" Marky grinned seconds before him and the other three vanished.
"Gary's going to shoot me," Doug chuckled. "He's just started to wrap his head around his sons owning a guitar company, and now they're getting into the transportation business!"
"Welcome to my life!" Kurt laughed. "I'm fully expecting Austin to find his own way to help once he's settled in."
Both adults laughed as Austin nodded his head rapidly, then stretched his neck to give Kurt a kiss on his cheek.
"That's my boy!" Kurt quipped, earning him a squeeze from Austin.
The rest of the improvements bore a strong resemblance to a normal suburban neighborhood; the only real difference being that Peter and Galen had not fell into the trap of using cookie-cutter floorplans. The new Rapid Response Base was already partially active, and was expected to be fully online within the next 48 hours. Scotty brought up the plans for a tram service, which led to the interim staff reaching out to DB, Luke, Liam, and Marky to coordinate interconnection of the base with the rest of the compound. Once the tour was completed, everyone said their farewells and returned to their homes to unwind from the day's events.
With Galen's help, it took no time (LITERALLY!) to get Austin moved into his new home, even retrieving his belongings from his old residence. It was no surprise, however, that when bedtime came around, Austin decided that his first night at his new home would be spent sleeping cuddled up to his new daddy.
Hank Rutledge glanced around the chamber, ensuring everyone was present, then after rapping his gavel stated "I call this Emergency Meeting of the Arkham Town Council to order. Due to worldwide events, we will dispense with minutes and old business. Judge Brewster, as you called for this meeting, you have the floor."
Josiah stood up, eliciting a gasp from the entire board when they saw his haggard expression. Not in any mood to mince words, Josiah began. "Jonas has a firm policy of working WITH Arkham as much as possible when there is Clan business which might affect them. In the last day, him and Harry were required to meet with the Assistant Secretary of State because of local officials in New York who believed they were above the laws regarding diplomatic immunity for Vulcan installations. In that meeting, they were almost killed by a Romulan infiltrator, coordinated the events that caused the ship firing on the Capitol to head out to sea, rescued an uncountable number of people, and are now making a report in person to President Powell. I have two young men here who wish to coordinate some major changes that will affect Arkham. I won't stand for any more bullshit today; either you work WITH them to find an acceptable plan, or I start making calls that even President Powell can not override."
Not a single person on the council doubted for a second that Josiah wasn't threatening, he was stating fact. None of them had ever seen him like this, and most didn't want to ever again. Clearing his throat, Hank stated "Judge Brewster has requested an open floor for discussion of improvements to Arkham requested by Clan Short. All in favor?"
"Aye!" multiple voices announced.
"Dissents?" Hank asked warily.
"Those boys have no place ..." Ethel started to state.
"SILENCE!" Hank ordered.
Before he could add anything, Marybeth stood. "Mr. Chairman, I move that Ethyl's services to the Town of Arkham be immediately terminated, and that she be permanently banned from holding any government positions which affect Arkham or any of our residents."
"Seconded," Don announced angrily.
"Before you vote," Calvin stated as he stood up, "Family Clan Short would like to offer the services of a pre-termination scan by Vulcan-Certified telepaths to ensure that the employee has not left any time-bombs that might be detrimental to the town of Arkham. Based on her previous actions, we have in excess of a reasonable doubt that such may be possible."
"Do we have a second?" Hank requested.
"Second," Arthur replied. "I've got the same suspicions."
"So moved," the rest of the board added almost in unison.
As two very large and very furry youth with very big weapons appeared on either side of Ethyl to ensure she waited for the results of the ruling quietly, Hank decided it was best to speed things up. "Does any member of the council object to the two motions on the table?"
After about five seconds of absolute silence, Hank banged his gavel. "It is so moved. Clan Short, you may proceed. Ethyl is immediately terminated, and is barred from public service within Arkham and surrounding unincorporated areas."
"I don't think that you need to worry about that," Calvin growled. "I just got the report. I'll fill you in once the Council session is closed. Mika, Tomis, take her into custody and hold her until the U.S. Marshalls are able to pick her up. She's facing Federal charges."
"Yes, Sir," the pair of guards replied before bodily lifting Ethyl from her chair and vanishing with her. Almost as fast as she was gone, a sixteen-year-old girl appeared in her place.
"Hi, I'm Sandy," the girl announced. "General Casey said that you needed someone to take minutes; I'll cover for you tonight, and we can talk about if you want to make it permanent later."
At the shocked looks of the adults, Calvin quipped "You didn't actually thing I'd let something like that witch getting caught sidetrack this, did you? Sandy's from Bangor, so give her a chance."
Hank nodded, Calvin's actions convincing him of two things; one, he wasn't a person to be crossed, and two, he actually would work to ensure that Arkham's needs were met. "Welcome to Arkham, Sandy. Considering your references, I believe the Board will be glad to discuss permanent arrangements with you."
Hank turned back to Calvin, only to find Skipper and Bobby standing with him. Seeing that he had Hank's attention, Bobby spoke up. "Me and Skipper have been talking to a few people. Due to recent examples of medical care from the nearby regional facilities that does not meet minimum Clan requirements, we have been authorized to offer a fully-funded Federation-approved medical center to the town of Arkham. As with other such centers at Clan locations, there will never be any charge for treating patients. If you accept, all you need to do is suggest locations, we will handle the rest. Any required update to Arkham's infrastructure is automatically included."
Hank nodded. "Considering the fact that you somehow acquired a medivac helicopter, I have no doubt that you can pull this off. My only question is staffing, how can you staff a center of that level here?"
Skipper motioned to Bobby that he'd handle the reply. "There are multiple answers, Hank. First off is the Emergency staff will probably be mainly adult-model Androids, due to their having an entire medical library hard-coded into their heads. There are a whole bunch of them that are itching to assist the Clan in some position where they can be a help to society. We also have refugees from around the world, families that are looking to settle in a place that does not remind them of the horror they just lived through. There will be multiple youth on staff as well, youth that have went through advanced training that only the Clan can provide; those youth will carry credentials from Federation medical. There is a strong possibility of staff from other planets as well."
"How is this going to be funded if there's no charge for services?" Marybeth asked honestly.
"The Federation has a trust fund for each member planet for any services that can not be provided yet, due to reasons specific to the planet," Skipper explained. "That trust fund has been growing for decades; this won't even make a dent in the interest. With the free services the Clan has provided to injured parties, the health sector has finally started to accept that being for-profit is at odds with their supposed primary mission. It is projected that those facilities which do not take advantage of the new procedures will be bankrupt within five years. Knowing the boards of the nearby facilities, that means there is a good chance that Arkham could become the leading regional provider in the next couple of years."
"What kind of timeframe would we be looking at before this would be operational?" Arthur asked.
"Basic services by this time next week," Bobby stated. "Fully operational by Thanksgiving. Calvin's going to be discussing some of the things that could slow this and other projects down once we're done, so I'll let you sort it out with him."
"I'm satisfied," Arthur stated. "I move that we accept the offer presented by Arkham EMS as members of Clan Short."
"I'll second the motion," Don stated.
Hank nodded. "On the recommendation that Arkham accepts the building of a Federation-grade medical center at a location to be determined later in this session, how do you vote? If 'Aye', raise your hand."
After logging the unanimous 'Aye' vote, Hank asked "Does anyone have a suggestion as to where this could be located?"
"Will Davis has been talking about retiring from farming," Marybeth offered. "The only thing keeping him there is that he doesn't want to leave the house he grew up in."
"That's not a problem," Calvin stated. "In fact, I'll bet that old house is overdue for repairs. Not only could he keep the house, but we'd fix it up for him. How much land does he have?"
"I think it's somewhere near eight hundred acres, since he inherited his brother's land a few years ago," Marybeth replied.
"Okay, so about one and a quarter square miles," Calvin clarified. "That would work, and leave him a nice sized yard and personal farm if he wants."
"I can talk to him tomorrow," Marybeth stated.
"Tell him we'll pay the current assessed value of his land plus ten percent; additionally, the land that is reserved for him will have all taxes covered by the medical facility."
Seeing the surprised expressions on the council's member's faces, Calvin quipped, "When your little brother owns the largest construction company in Maine, you learn things!"
"Let's see what Marybeth finds out, then we can look into other options if it doesn't work out," Don stated.
"Don't be surprised if old Will insists on maintaining the grounds," Hank observed. "That man will miss his own funeral if he can find work to do!"
"Don't worry, I'm sure we can keep him busy," Calvin smirked. "You'd be surprised how many orphans will spend hours listening to a grandfather telling stories."
"You might have just located his weak spot!" Marybeth laughed. "I'll be sure to pass it along."
Calvin nodded, then turned serious as he addressed Hank. "Within the next three days, Lambert Acres is going to be built out and fully occupied, followed by the other properties that Peter has first option on. We can handle this one of two ways. Either the council can vote to accept the higher building and engineering requirements of the Federation as an acceptable alternative to the standard permitting and plan review statutes, or I can declare all affected properties as under the jurisdiction of Family Clan Short, making them Diplomatic property. This is part of the Clan's efforts to place those who lost everything during the battle, and I'm not waiting for some paper-pusher to decide he can't find something to complain about."
Hank quickly thought of the last time he'd been addressed like that by a member of the Clan, and the end results when he didn't listen. Not willing to make the same mistake, he replied, "Since you've stated the standards being used, along with a valid reason for the procedure, I think we can work together. All those in favor of Option One, giving Family Clan Short emergency exemption from local code requirements for building, signal with a raised hand."
"Exception," Don stated. "There is no reason to limit this as emergency. I've done a bit of research, and what I have found is that cutting corners on safety is against their mission to protect youth and families. At the most, an annual review might be in order."
"I'll second it with an annual review," Arthur added. "That gives both sides a set time to point out any questions or concerns that have been noted, but are not serious enough for a special session."
"I can live with that," Calvin stated.
Nodding in silent relief, Hank asked "Are there any other concerns?" After a few seconds of silence, he stated "All in favor of Option One as amended, signal with a raise of your hand."
After a unanimous vote, Hank breathed a sigh of relief. "Is there anything else that we need to discuss?"
"You might want to warn the utilities that they're getting visitors for upgrades," Calvin smirked. "Mattering on what's found, Arkham might end up with a couple of utilities that suddenly have their own stations feeding the town. I've heard Dad complaining about how the electric co-op refuses to update the service to Arkham; it'll take me two calls to replace them if they put up a fight."
"The second call will be him telling you that Arkham has their own power company," Bobby interjected.
"Don't waste your time with the co-op," Don advised. "The quantity of housing being added will melt their feed to Arkham, and they'll charge us to replace it. That is part of the issue with Lambert Acres."
Calvin nodded, then tapped his commbadge. "Calvin to Jack; what's the status of the construction corps power division?"
"The gorillas just finished the temp power in the Bronx, and are looking for a challenge, Director," Jack replied.
"DIRECTOR?" Calvin stated in shock.
"With Jonas and Harry out of the country, Jonas has stated that based on your actions in the last twenty-four hours that you are to be regarded as the acting director of the Division in their absence," Jack explained. "Do you have need of the gorillas, Sir?"
"I'm gonna kill him," Calvin muttered before stating, "Ask them if they feel like doing a hostile takeover from a co-op to power the town of Arkham, with enough reserve to handle planned construction in the area."
After a few second's pause, Jack replied, "I think that you just made their week. Where would you like to meet them at?"
"Send them here; I think the council should meet them first-hand."
"As you wish, Sir," Jack replied, obviously rubbing it in that Calvin was unknowingly promoted.
After tapping his badge, Calvin informed the room, "They really are gorillas; they are the result of some secret genetic experiments that some of my Clan family was rescued from. They are hyper-intelligent, and take pride in coming up with unique solutions to engineering issues. Our house is completely self-powered thanks to them, so please don't judge them on their appearance."
"Thanks for the warning, Calvin," Hank stated, glad that he'd erred on the side of caution earlier now that he knew what kind of clout Calvin carried.
Hank's thoughts barely had time to clear before a dozen gorillas of various ages appeared in the chamber. After they gave Calvin a round of hugs for giving them a challenge, Calvin performed introductions.
Once Calvin was done, Don spoke up. "Gentlemen, I believe that you are going to find that the existing infrastructure is less than optimum. How much property will you need to be able to take over the supply of power?"
"Do you have any abandoned buildings?" Rico, the team lead, asked.
"We've got the old elementary school," Don replied after some thought. "It was scheduled to be torn down, but the contractor vanished. It's not really safe for occupancy."
"So it is town property?" Rico asked with a grin.
"Yes," Don admitted.
"How would you like to be the first location in Maine that doesn't have to charge their residents for power?" Rico asked seriously. "As the home of a Clan Division, I can give you that option. The power generation will cost nothing to maintain, and as a home for the Clan Division we can handle the infrastructure as needed, probably with a better response time."
"Does anyone object to the offer or to allowing them to use the old school property?" Hank asked. As he saw each of the other members shake their head no, Hank nodded. "That means we're in agreement. Rico, I'd ask where we need to sign, but something tells me that paperwork isn't required."
"You are correct, all such decisions are recorded, it saves arguments over what was said," Rico replied. "Thank you, this should be fun, it is hard to find a challenge lately!" Turning to Calvin, Rico asked, "Do we have permission to proceed, Director?"
Holding back his urge to threaten Rico for calling him Director, Calvin replied, "Permission granted."
"Showtime!" Rico grinned as he tapped his commbadge. "Hey D, order up a dozen TBs and two dozen MFGs. Drop them at the old elementary school in Arkham, and let the lab know we're going to need to do a full infrastructure upgrade. Tell Dave we might need a few of his guys later tonight to rescue some Shineys!"
"Gotcha, Rico. Delivery in ten minutes."
"Someone better let the night patrol know that any calls about strange-looking creatures they might get is just the new power company getting things set up," Calvin grinned. "Oh, any kids that look like ferrets that are taking wire off of the power poles are working for them too."
"Is there anything else that needs covered tonight?" Hank asked.
"No, I think we covered more than was expected," Calvin admitted.
"This session is in recess until noon tomorrow, at which time we will interview Sandy for a permanent position, as well as receive status updates from Rico if he is at a point that he can break free," Hank stated. "Thank you, everyone; I think a few town residents are going to be pleasantly surprised in the morning! Now, I need to make a few warning calls."
As they left the building to drive back home, Josiah stopped to address his companions. "Calvin, Skipper, Bobby? All three of you did a great job tonight. You three just might have made changes that are going to swing even the most stubborn of the town's residents into supporting the division, because they'll see that the division is doing their best to support their hometown. Calvin, getting us out from under the co-op is just icing on the cake; the town has been trying to get that done for a decade, and you did it with one call. That's part of the reason that you didn't get much argument, the rest of it is that you earned some respect by giving them options that they can use to save face instead of having the Clan put their foot down.
"Thanks, Dad; Jonas is still gonna drown when he gets home, just after I finish hugging him," Calvin stated, earning him snickers from the rest of the group.