Well, here's the latest installment of Jigsaw. Significant portions of this chapter also appeared in Clan Short Pacific Rim Division, chapters three and four, modified, amplified and extended here. The wonderful assistance of The Eggman is appreciated in allowing the outtakes/revisions and in helping with the new material. We also appreciate Roland's help and the use of his characters.
There are several story lines we'd originally intended to pursue in this chapter, which will instead be the subject of chapter 35. Only enough of the events at Camp Bam Bam are related to get characters off to where they are supposed to go. For any unresolved cliffhangers err dramatic pauses, watch for chapter 35.
"How's he doing, Doc?" Malinda asked, as she and Tony arrived at the nurses' station. There was no need to spell out who 'he' was.
Dr. Debra turned from her conversation; she was used by now to such interruptions. "Physically, not too bad," she replied. "He's gaining back his strength, and I'm taking him off portion control. I think we still need to keep an eye on how much he exerts himself."
"But," she went on," he seemed quite depressed last night, when you didn't come back," addressing Tony. "You often see this in abuse cases like his: they find an adult male, or at least an older one, whom they feel they can trust, and bond to him, rebuilding their sense of confidence and self-worth by modeling it on the guy they take as role model. I'm positive that's what Dan did with you, Tony, and your being missing most of yesterday was a real emotional setback for him."
Tony looked sheepish. Overhearing this as she restocked her medical field pack, Becky Smith interjected, "Malinda required his services after her exertions in the operation yesterday, and what we discovered there."
"Kind of a strenuous debriefing, then?" Debra asked. Chuckling, Malinda replied, "You could describe it as that."
"Malinda and I were talking on the way here," Tony said, "and we thought we might see if you'd agree to getting him out of Med. Bay for a bit, maybe take him and his little friend Pete on a short hike and picnic outside."
"I could buy into that, if you stay in touch with Daileass in case of problems," Debra said. "Tony, you know what to watch for, right?" Tony nodded.
Debra turned back to the others. "Skipper, Grace, Bobby, I can't thank you enough for your help. This place went absolutely insane yesterday, and your help made a big difference."
Skipper smiled. "It's what we trained to do, and doing it for the friends we've made here, well, it sort of paid a debt, if you understand what I mean."
Debra nodded. "I do indeed. What now for you guys? Back to Maine?"
"Eventually," Grace said. "The boys have school on Monday, and Skipper can only leave the E.M.S. to be covered by Farmington for so long. But I thought while I was here, I might do a bit of a refresher. My R.N.P. is getting a bit rusty."
"And you guys have a fantastic database!" Bobby said excitedly. "Stuff I never knew...!"
"So if you don't object, we'll hang out here for a few hours, and refresh ourselves," Grace finished.
Debra smiled assent. "There's an office over there," she gestured, "with terminals and such, that you're welcome to use."
"Thanks!" Bobby called out as he headed for it, followed by the others.
As Mickey, Amur Khan, and Runt walked down the Med. Bay corridor, for the most part they were talking about nothing in particular, until Khan stopped and placed a hand on Mickey's shoulder.
"Mickey, I want you to understand something." He paused until he knew he had the boy's attention. "I will be honest here. I would love to be able to say that I wouldn't have done the same thing Jared did, but I can't. The fact remains though, he discharged a phaser inside the base without justifiable cause, not to mention he could have killed a few people. I'm not going to tell Adam about this, but he will learn about it. I expect Cory will go lighter on him than Adam would. For now, though, you may want to take him home, and we'll see what happens when Cory gets around to dealing with it. But I wouldn't worry too much. I really don't think anything bad will happen."
"I'll do that," Mickey promised. "But for now, let me go collect Jed and get Jared out of here."
Khan nodded. "Remind him he is on parole," he said. "We will wait on Cory's justice."
Mickey agreed, and headed for Jed's bed.
After several hours of reading and training videos – Grace on R.N.P. refresher, Skipper and Bobby on emergency medical procedures, with Brandon looking avidly on, while Andy watched cartoons and Nickelodeon with a ward of younger kids, Daileass beeped their commbadges. "Just a heads up – Justy's about to announce a new division being formed. Why don't you grab a bite to eat and I'll transport you over there? You've earned a break."
"Hawaii" came the answer.
Skipper, Grace, and Bobby looked at each other. An excuse to go to Hawaii? "Sounds great, Dail'!" Bobby said enthusiastically. Brandon nodded emphatic agreement, a big grin plastered across his face.
In the cafeteria they ran into Lisa Kingston, the helicopter copilot who had delivered the custody papers for Brandon and Andy earlier in the week. After a chance to thank her and casual conversation over lunch, they asked Daileass to transport them to Hawaii.
When they materialized, on the beach, it was to see some familiar faces among the crowd. Adam, Logan, and Amur Khan, from the Unit, were there, but with them was Adam's little brother Jimmy, who had lived for several days with them before regaining his memory. Jimmy was showing off his new pyrokinetic abilities, and culminated his display by spreading a layer of fire over a part of the bay where no one was swimming or otherwise on the water.
Bobby grinned, happy that Jimmy was now more self-confident. "Showing off again?" he called out to Jimmy. As the latter snickered at the steam rising off the bay, Runt spotted Brandon and came running. excitedly calling out their names and then slamming into Skipper for a hug.
Will Casey sauntered over to the group, introducing them to the redhead who appeared to be the leader of the non-Unit people there. "Hey, guys," Will said. "Prez, these are our friends Skipper Hamilton and Bobby Martin from Maine, their kids Brandon and Andy Jessup, and Bobby’s mother Grace Martin."
It looked like the red-haired 'Prez' was going to introduce them to his friends, but then Jory Casey from the Unit came running up with a box in his hand. "You guys ready yet?" he asked.
Adam nodded, then frowned. "I think we need boards." Listening, Daileass took this as his cue, and instantaneously transported twenty boards to the beach, 16 of normal size and four gigantic 20-foot boards that were also unusually wide. Many of the group were startled by this, but slowly began grinning.
"Okay, we got the boards. Now what?" Adam said, and looked at Prez.
"Umm, we need better waves still," Prez reminded.
"What did I say?" Jory exclaimed, sounding somewhat annoyed. "Just get your butts out there, and let me know when you're ready, and you'll have your waves!"
"Should we be worried?" Prez wondered, not really sure what was going on.
Jory shrieked, "NO!"
"YES!" Juan cried out, almost simultaneously.
Logan just quietly asked, "Are your wills up to date?"
Adam grabbed a board and started running out into the water. "Come on, guys, you wanna live forever?"
Skipper and Bobby looked at each other and grinned, then ran and grabbed a board each. Brandon and Andy made as if to follow them; Grace stopped them, saying, "Why don't you two watch them take the first ride? You'll get your chance after." Less than happy, they grudgingly agreed. Prez and his three friends followed them out, leaving only the four giant boards.
A boy of about ten was whining, "There's no good boards here for me or Bruce."
"Don't worry, little dudes, we got you!" he was answered. Turning around, the two boys saw two gorillas, both wearing leis and board shorts. The gorillas picked up two of the huge eighteen-foot-long boards, tucked them under their arms, and then picked up a boy each. The boys crawled onto their gorillas' backs, and the gorillas headed out into the bay.
Out in the bay, the boys with surfboards were wondering where the promised waves were. They soon found out; Jory pressed the button on the gadget he was carrying, which resulted in charges he'd had planted ahead of time under the water going off, making excellent surfing waves for them to ride back in.
The ferrets were all over the place, excited about the shiny bubbles the wave made. The sixteen boys (and two gorillas with boy riders) rode the wave in to shore.
Everyone was in high spirits. After whispered consultation, three of the Core Rimmers parodied a Beach Boys song in their close three-part harmony: "Little ferret, little one; take my shinys, one by one; do you love me, do you, surfer gorilla; surfer gorilla, my little surfer gorilla."
After a second detonation by Jory resulted in another good set of waves, Jory's fun was spoiled by his mother Janet Casey. Adam gathered the Core Rimmers and suggested they transport to Utah to go over what they'd need to know about security.
As they vanished, Andy asked, "Can we go swimmin' too?"
"Of course," Bobby said. "In fact, I want to go in with you guys too. C'mon, let's strip down and get into the waves."
"Skinny dip?" Brandon asked querulously.
Bobby replied, "Sure, almost everybody else is." Mollified, Brandon joined his younger brother and Bobby in stripping down and they headed into the water.
Runt was in an animated conversation with Bobby, Brandon, and Andy, as Skipper, Grace, Amur Khan, Joe Casey and Janet Hayes looked on bemusedly.
Skipper motioned to Will, who trotted over and listened to his whispered idea. He grinned delightedly and spoke quietly to Daileass; seconds later they vanished.
Meanwhile, Grace introduced herself to Laura Gibbons, mother of two of the kids on the beach. "You know, it looks to me like it's a case of boys worrying about boys and the girls getting left with the short end of the stick once again.
"You're right," Laura said. Laura then called her daughter Lindsay aside. Hurrying across the sand, Lindsay called, "What's up, mom?"
"A few perceptions," Laura smiled. "Once again, boys put other boys in charge." Lindsay helplessly giggled. Waving her arm and gesturing to the shoreline, Laura asked, "I see about one third girls on this beach." Lindsay nodded and grinned. Laura carefully asked, "You know that the girls were sexually abused?"
Grimacing, Lindsay nodded, "It's sick! Lots of them are younger than me!"
Laura nodded agreement, saying, "They wouldn't be fed unless they performed sexually."
"Even sicker!" Lindsay groused.
"Us women need to help them where the boys can't," Laura stated. "What the boys can teach them is that they aren't expected to be sex toys any longer. We can teach them how to be normal, strong young ladies."
"That sounds like an excellent idea," Grace agreed, "and a girl their age like you is just the right person to show them what they need to know."
"There's only one thing that's keeping me from going right to work," Lindsay worried.
Understandingly, Laura nodded, "How to not get upset about the sexual abuse." Lindsay nodded. Laura lovingly finger combed her daughter's hair and explained, "When you need to take a break, come to me or any of the adult women here, okay, precious? Any of us can easily understand and provide a shoulder to cry on. There's an additional benefit to that." Lindsay locked eyes with her mother and waited for her to say, "They'll see you coming to us, so they'll learn to come to us as well. Boys and men can only do so much. That's where we'll step in, for the female perspective."
Lindsay giggled, "Boys are so... weird! They're already calling themselves Rimmers. I don't even wanna know what that means!"
Laura nodded and smiled, "Generally, boys don't care about being naked in public. It's fine for the little girls to play naked at the beach, but the girls your age and older should at least have shorts on."
Lindsay helplessly giggled, "How come boys are so comfortable being naked?"
Laura grinned, "That's just the way boys are! In all honesty, it is a good thing."
"How?" Lindsay laughed.
"Your brother and the other boys that are naked are comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality," Laura reminded. "Boys that aren't as comfortable have their shorts on."
Lindsay laughed, "They show off to prove how comfortable they are?"
Laura shrugged and chortled, "What can I say? Boys are set up differently, inside and out." Grace laughed and nodded agreement.
Vigorously shaking her head, Lindsay then turned and raced back to the shoreline.
About five minutes later, two helicopters very suddenly appeared over the bay about two hundred feet from the shore, both being U.N.I.T. Hueys. The one closest to the beach turned hard and came in fast and low. It landed a short distance up the beach so that there wasn't sand blowing over everyone. The other landed right by it, and Will jumped out of the first one and ran up to the group. "Okay, so who's up for some para-sailing?" he asked with a huge grin.
Bobby came running, followed by Reyes Taraschke, Tory Burgas, and several of the other rescued kids. "You're kidding!" he exclaimed.
"Nope! We've got it all figured out. I got a huge 'chute that we can tether behind one of the Hueys, and drag people across the bay. Hell, if there's someone who has the guts, we can even hook up the tether and let them try and ski."
"'If somebody has the guts?" Bobby scoffed. "I know a dare when I hear one. Count me in!" He grinned at Skipper.
"Do you even know how to ski?" Will asked Bobby.
"I grew up in Maine, what do you think?" Bobby gave back as good as he got.
Starting to head back to the helicopter, Will grinned, "Well, what do you want first, the parachute or the skis?" He stopped, then turned back, saying, "I'll need someone to act as a spotter in the helicopter. Runt, you wanna hang out the side and let me know when the little freak dies?"
"Freak? Why the hell am I a freak?" Bobby asked, pretending to take offense.
"Simple, man, you're about to be pulled by a freaking helicopter while you're on water skis! That's fucking dangerous, don't you think?"
"Nah, easy peasy!" Bobby confidently said.
Little Andy was looking like he half expected to see one of his fathers depart this mortal life immediately.
"Well, come on then, dead meat," Will laughed hysterically. "I'll make sure the medics are standing by. Oh, wait a minute! The medic is flying the other helicopter!"
Grace picked up Andy, giving her firstborn a glare that said without words; 'You will be careful.' "He'll do just fine," she said comfortingly to Andy.
Bobby, Will, and Runt hopped into one of the Hueys. Will belted himself in as pilot, then took off. They veered out over the water and off to the east. Will descended to about six feet above the water and hovered; Bobby jumped out, and Runt threw him the tether and ski rope to hang onto. Bobby treaded water, slipped his skis on, grabbed the tether, and signaled. Will then revved up the 'copter and took off.
Bobby shot across the bay behind the helicopter, screaming with joy. Most of the group on the shore were watching by now. Finally he dropped the tether and swam back to shore laughing.
"I want to try that!" Tory called out.
Over the next half hour, Tory, Reyes, Bobby, Brandon, and two of the U.N.I.T. security detail took turns hang-gliding-skiing behind the copter. Then Skipper took one of the gorillas up.
The gorilla got ready to go and gave the signal. Just as the rope was tightened, a ferret leaped out of the water and onto the gorilla's shoulders. Unable to stop what was happening, the gorilla simply shook his head and adjusted himself for the extra forty pounds of ferret on his shoulder.
After the gorilla-plus-ferret run, Will came back in to shore and picked up his next rider; Amur Khan. Once Khan was in the water, he looked up at his new boyfriend and did something that got Runt to reply with fierce negativity. He patted his shoulder inviting the smaller boy to ride with him. Shrugging to signal acquiescence with the small boy's wishes, Khan simply gave the signal that he was ready. Will started laughing as he hit the accelerator on the helicopter. With Khan's unusual strength and resilience, Will was going to see just how fast he could make the big cat skip across the water of the bay. He did pull it back when he noticed his gauge top the one hundred mile an hour mark. The big cat was barely clipping the wave tops at that speed, roaring and obviously enjoying himself.
At this point, the Core Rimmers, along with Adam, Chang, Logan, Nathan, and Aiden, returned from Utah, and were bemused at the sight of the parasail/water skiing. They were followed almost immediately by the group beaming in from Josiah and Maureen's house. Peter instantaneously popped into Prez's arms for a hug.
Prez looked down at the small boy hugging him and immediately noticed purple eyes. "Another Mikyvis?" Prez chuckled.
"Yep!" the small boy giggled,. "I'm Peter, by the way! Nice to meet ya, Prez!"
John Hundser was excited about the possibility of parasail-water-skiing. As he ran up to the group of adults, his mother didn't even wait. "NO!" she forcefully hollered.
"But MO-O-O-OM!" John whined in his perfected little boy voice.
"No buts, mister! That is way too dangerous," she said as she planted her hands on her hips.
Skipper decided that it was time to interject something. "Mrs. Hundser. There is a reason we brought the second helicopter. It's a chance for some of my guys to practice in their water rescues. Basically, in a few minutes we're going to run it so that when the person falls off the skis, we're asking them to stay there, so that my guys can do a water jump and secure the 'patient' for transport. Not only would John be wearing a flotation device, he would also have someone to him within one minute, probably less."
Brandon was giggling at this. John gave a glance and smile to Skipper that clearly said, 'Thanks'.
Buckling but not quite ready to give in, Jennifer Hundser checked with Janet Hayes, who only smiled and nodded. Jennifer then sighed, "We'll watch the first water rescue. Then you can have a chance only if you go out with Keith."
John jumped excitedly and hollered, "Thanks, mom!" then ran back across the beach to tell Keith and Prez.
As Tory came swimming back into shore from his para-surfing run, Peter looked at him, blinked, zeroed in on him, and popped out of Prez's arms and down to the surf line to meet him. "C'mere," he said warmly.
Puzzled, Tory walked over. "Hold still," Peter said, and concentrated. Ever so slowly, the bruises, welts and scars on Tory's skin from how he had been abused faded to faint ghostly vestiges. "There, feel better?" Peter asked.
Tory looked at his arms first, then down the front of his body. "Much better!" Tory loudly said, "Thank you!"
Kaleo Palakiko had jogged over to meet his friend. "How'd you do that?" he asked with wide eyes.
"Time regression; I took his skin back to before he got beat," Peter explained.
"Can you do that for Kaleo too?" Tory pleaded.
"Sure," Peter said, took Kaleo's hand and concentrated. Slowly the livid bruise marks and pale scars on his rich brown Native-Hawaiian skin faded into nearly normal skin tones.
"How's your chest feel?" Peter asked.
Kaleo drew a deep breath and smiled. "Much better!" he grinned.
"Couple of bruised ribs," Peter explained, "they didn't show up for the medics, but they were obvious to me. So I regressed them too."
Kaleo warmly smiled, "Thanks!" Peter only nodded and giggled, then popped out of existence. From then on he moved around the beach, giving random hugs and healing rescued kids as he found them.
Fourteen-year-old dirty-blond Sean Moorhead, for example, was nursing a black eye, and had welts across his back and buttocks. It was only a moment's work for Peter to regress the inflamed or scarred tissue and the shiner to a more normal state. "How do you feel?" Peter asked him.
Immediately reaching up to his previously swollen eye, Sean smiled at the relief, then noticed no other part of his body ached any longer. "Awesome!" Sean cheered. "Thanks, little dude!"
"'S what I could do," Peter answered modestly. "You need to be sure to eat hearty from now on, though. I couldn't do anything about your low protein levels, and you're nearly at deficiency disease level several other ways. You've noticed your hands and feet aching?"
"Yeah..." Sean replied hesitantly.
"Vitamin K deficiency anemia, I'm pretty sure," Peter said. "It'll go away as soon as you've had a few days of healthy meals. But be sure to eat up!"
Peter came on a another, younger dirty blond with blue eyes who looked to be about eight, sitting in the shallow water.
"Why're you there, Dee?" Peter asked, knowing the answer already.
"How'd you know my name?" Dee Vanderwood asked nervously.
"From the list of rescued kids," Peter said, figuring that it was not a good idea to let him know he had read his mind for it. "But you don't have to stay in the cool water to ease the pain. Here!"
With that, he began to regress the boy's badly-abused anal sphincter and rectum, curing a minor rectal infection and removing the inflammation and scar tissue. Then he did what he could to tone up the boy's muscles.
"You're really underweight and small for ten, you know," Peter said. "Make sure to see the doctor when you leave the beach, so they can figure out what to do to get you back to normal health and size."
Frowning dramatically, Dee whined, "Don't like doctors. The Vulcan doc says I needs to eat more better. I am already." Realizing that his sore butt felt much better, Dee jumped up and happily hollered, "HEY!"
"I did what I could," Peter said to him. "I fixed your butt where they messed it up, but I can't do anything to make your body bigger and better presto-changeo like magic. That's something you gotta do. But at least you don't gotta sit in the water to soothe your butthole any more." Peter paused, then took a small gamble based on what little he could see of the future. "When you figure out who your new parents're gonna be, tell them you need to eat a lot to get your strength back." He gave Dee a hug and hurried on.
Approaching a group of girls, he singled out Vera Kirkwood. Auburn hair and green eyes stood out on what would have been a pretty face if it weren't so haggard, above a slender figure with small but developed breasts. She too had scars from beatings. "Hey!" he said.
"Hi, kid!" she responded spunkily. "What're you up to?"
"Tryin' to help people," Peter answered. "Here, stand still for a minute." He regressed the scar tissue on her back and legs to healthy skin and muscle tissue, and strengthened her shoulder and abdominal muscles. As he worked, his face scrunched up, and he seemed to be breaking into a sweat. Finally he stood back. "That better?" he asked.
"Hey, wow! Yeah, it sure feels better!" she said with surprised pleasure. Then she paused. "If you can do that, can you do anything about...." Her gesture made it clear: there was a low-grade ache throughout her female parts.
"I'm sorry," Peter said. "I can see what's going on inside there. It's better you heal naturally there, instead of having me do it. Because if I fixed it right now, well, remember, that last guy to screw you, with the mustache?"
Taken off guard, she nodded. "What about him?"
"If I do the fix to your uterus and stuff that I could, you're probably going to end up pregnant from what he did. I don't think you want that. I did give your body a leg up on the infection, so it'll heal naturally, but...."
"Yeah, the last thing I want right now is to be carrying some man's baby!" she said. "You made the right choice." Peter smiled, and gave her a big hug.
As Jonas and Harry and their family materialized on the beach at Anahola Bay, Adam Casey spotted them and waved them over. Once they got there, Adam started the introductions. He turned towards the Rimmers and said. "Guys, I'd like to introduce you to the core group from the North East United States Division. First we have Jonas," Adam said as he pointed to him. "Harry is the guy hanging onto Jonas," Adam said with a chuckle. After Jonas and Harry shook hands with the Rimmers, Adam turned to Jonas.
"Jonas, these guys are the Clan Short Pacific Rim Division, or as they're calling themselves, the Rimmers. Why don't you introduce the rest of your group?"
"Okay," Jonas said, "this is my mother, Maureen McConnaghay, and this," pointing to her, "is Harry's mother, Abbie Johnson. Word of warning; never get on her bad side; her tongue could slice cold steel!" He grinned.
Then he gestured at Josiah. "And it gives me a lot of pleasure to introduce my brand new father, Judge Josiah Brewster of the Family Court."
"Over here we have State's Attorney George Wentworth and his older adopted son, Philip. Philip's little brothers are those two little redheads down there in the surf, Drew and Randy. And the kids with them are brand new to our family, as of an hour ago."
Harry looked at the 'Core Rimmers' as they were introduced. Prez O'Brian was a slender redhead with fair skin and the same natural leadership skills that he had come to know in Jonas. Keith Hundser, dark-haired and slender, seemed a bit more reserved in his posture and body language, though friendly enough and welcoming to the Maine guys. Keith's younger brother Drew was next; nothing in particular stood out about him, other than the fact he was clearly moving into puberty even at 12. Blond Cory Seaver was attached at the hip to Drew; he seemed shy and friendly.
Kaleo Palakiko was next. The Native Hawaiian Core Rimmer was built a bit more muscular and shorter than most of the others; despite his warm smile, Harry noticed something haunted in his eyes that hinted of a less-than-happy history there. Mike Gibbons was hearty and enthusiastically welcoming. Like Kaleo a bit stockier than the others, he seemed to have a slightly longer torso and shorter legs than his three agemates. Derrick Seibert was the next one introduced. Harry sensed from his mannerisms that he was a generous and kind person who was just a touch introverted. Finally there was Keith and Drew's (and Prez's?) little brother John Hundser – light brown hair, strongly assertive personality, John was not going to allow his being the youngest to stand in the way of what he needed to do.
"From our own experience, falling into the middle of being part of the Clan is a little bit overwhelming," Jonas said to the Core Rimmers. "Anything you want to talk about, let us know – we've been through it, and recently enough that we'll understand just how you feel." He looked each of them in the eye. "I really expect to be taken up on that," he added. "When life gets crazy, you need friends who've been there. We'd like to be those friends."
Skipper motioned Bobby and Brandon to join him, and then approached Keith. "Sounds like your mother is being protective of John. You heard what I said to her, right?" Keith nodded a little uncertainly. Skipper asked, "Are you a good strong swimmer?"
"Well, yeah," Keith grinned, "If you're going to surf in the waves around here, you pretty well have to be."
"All right then," Skipper continued, "how would you like to be the 'victim' for a sea rescue? We can use the practice, and it should alleviate your mom's fears about John getting a chance to para-ski."
Keith grinned. "Cool, go for it!"
"Okay, then, start swimming out, and we'll take the other bird up and 'rescue' you," Skipper said. Keith gave Skipper a thumbs-up, told his mother what was being planned, and then darted down to the shoreline and started to swim out. Skipper motioned to little Andy, who hadn't been far away from his big brother and father figures. "Okay, Mister Loadmaster, one sea rescue coming up. Ready for it?"
The eight-year-old nodded his head vigorously, grinning ear to ear.
Skipper, Bobby, Brandon, and Andy hurried over to the other Huey. Brandon rushed forward, then stopped short. "Who's co-piloting?"
"Nobody; the Huey can be flown one-man. You're piloting," Skipper instructed, "The three of us will be needed in the back."
Brandon gulped and belted himself in, running quickly through the pre-flight checklist. "Ready!" he called back in his preteen treble.
"Take her up," Skipper instructed. "Keep her low, twenty-five to thirty feet. Head for where Keith's swimming out to." The ten-year-old did as instructed. Many of the rescued kids were watching with fascination as the small helicopter spun up and lifted off the beach.
As he approached, Keith put on a good show of a swimmer 'panicking and drowning'. The Huey came to a hover over where he was; Skipper and Bobby dove from it and swam easily over to him.
Andy dropped the rescue harness out the hatch. As Skipper buoyed up Keith, after telling him to go limp, Bobby belted him into the harness. Skipper wrapped his strong legs around Keith's waist and grabbed the line above Keith's head with both hands. Bobby wrapped himself around the two of them, clinging to Skipper's shorts with one hand and wrapping the other arm around Keith. He signaled Andy, who engaged the winch.
The line came taut, lifting the three of them from the water. Brandon struggled to keep the helicopter level.
As the harness came up level with the bottom of the copter, Skipper grabbed the ski and then a handhold in the hatch, and pulled himself up into the bird. The smaller Bobby followed suit a second later, and together they helped Keith into the Huey's cargo space and out of the harness.
Just then, a commotion arose among the rescued kids on the beach. A nine-year-old girl of apparent Chinese-Hispanic ancestry, Lupe Jui, was animatedly pointing out to sea and screaming, "She's going out too far! She's going out too far!"
Prez, Mike, Adam, Chang, Grace, and Jonas converged on her. Chang laid one hand on her and turned her head to meet his eyes. She looked into them. With a great deal of effort, the twelve-year-old oriental boy, now sporting Klingon brow ridges and a purplish cast to his skin, managed to calm her. "The last thing she said was she wasn't going to be a sex toy to those pointy-eared freaks," the little girl said, gesturing at the Vulcans. "Then she went down to the water and started swimming out."
Adam began to react, caught himself, and glanced at Prez. "May I?" he asked. Prez made a hand gesture that effectively said 'go ahead.' Adam activated his comm-badge. "Skipper! Bobby! Get to that girl swimming out! This one's for real!"
Inside the helicopter, Skipper called out, "Do it!" Brandon rotated the helicopter and headed across the bay to intercept the girl.
"Not sure what's up," Skipper said. "Be ready for anything." He fiddled with the First Aid kit, drew out a hypo-spray, and slipped it in the pocket of the board shorts he was wearing. Bobby nodded. Over the sounds of the helicopter's engines and rotor blades, Keith couldn't hear what was going on but looked out the open hatch. He saw the teenage girl in the ocean, further out from shore than he had been.
"Oh no!" Keith nervously complained, "Not today, not ever!"
"Come in low," Skipper called out. Brandon didn't respond, but skewed the copter into a descending trajectory, coming to a hover about twenty feet above the girl. The two paramedics dropped again. They swam over to the Anglo-Portuguese girl, who looked to be about fifteen.
"Get away from me!" she shouted. "I won't be your fuck toy, or anybody else's either."
"Get her!" Skipper told Bobby, moving in and drawing the hypo-spray. He injected her; she went limp, and began to sink. Bobby treaded water, trying to support her.
Andy had meanwhile been playing out line. Now he tossed the harness down to them. "Lean against the left wall," Andy instructed Keith. Bemused that the little eight-year-old was giving him orders, Keith did as he was told.
The two paramedics got the girl into the harness and signaled Andy to activate the winch. As the combined weight of girl and two paramedics came out of the sea, the chopper tilted. Brandon fought it. At last the harness came level, and Skipper and Bobby repeated what they had done with Keith, drawing the naked body of the teenage girl on board. Skipper slammed the hatch; Brandon headed the 'copter for shore.
Bobby broke an ampoule of smelling salts under the girl's nose. As she came to, she said, "You should have left me. I won't put up with you two raping me!"
"Neither one of us has the slightest interest in sex with you, whether you are willing or not," Bobby said steadily. Gesturing at Skipper, he added, "He's all I want." Looking from the feisty little blond to the big brunet, Keith's eyes widened.
"You see all those people on the shore?" Skipper said to her. "They're either rescued kids like you, or people committed to ending the kind of stuff you had to go through, with the power to make that happen."
"Or both," Bobby added.
Keith told the girl; "Me and Prez are a couple; so are Derrick and Mike and Drew and Corey! Nobody in this Clan will ever take advantage of you sexually. Tonight we're giving all of you the choice of where you want to sleep and who with."
"And," Bobby continued, "that means 'sleep' as in sleep, not 'sleep with' as in sex. You're welcome to fall in love and have sex with the person you fall in love with if you want, but you've had sex just because somebody made you for the last time – ever!"
Keith asked, "What's your name?"
"Melonie Correro," she answered.
"My mom's real good at listening to people," Keith began. "Would you talk with her please?" Melonie only shrugged and sighed.
The Huey set down in the sand at the far south end of the beach. All the adults and about two dozen kids, including the other Core Rimmers, raced down the beach. Skipper opened the hatch door and jumped out into the sand. Bobby and Keith jumped out next. Skipper and Keith helped Melonie out of the 'copter.
"Mom," Keith called. Jennifer Hundser and Janet ducked down and stepped forward. "Can you have a chat with Melonie please?" Keith asked, and with an intense glare offered, "I think she has a lot to say."
Nodding understandingly, Jennifer took hold of one of Melonie's arms and said, "We'll take care of it." She then began to walk away from the 'copter with Janet and Melonie.
"Oh man!" John loudly whined, "now I won't get to get rescued!"
"Who said we were done?" Bobby grinned.
Andy giggled, "Practice makes perfect!"
Keith grinned, "Come on, bro. We'll take a surfboard out and I'll dump you off to be rescued."
"YAAA!" John gleefully yelled and ran down to the shoreline. Bobby, Brandon, Andy, and Skipper jumped back into the Huey, and it soon lifted off.
As they hovered over the water, John and Keith came out into the bay on the board. John's excitement was obvious … including to the eye. As they got to deep water, Will brought the parasail/ski 'copter overhead, and Keith grabbed the tow line, holding onto the board firmly between his thighs.
John remained on the board through the first two turns the Huey made. He then stood and waved his arms before jumping off the swiftly moving board and into deep water. Keith then released the tether so he would be close enough by to help if needed.
Brandon brought the 'rescue' Huey low over John. This time Skipper jumped but Bobby decided to descend on the rescue harness rope. When he was ready, he signaled Andy to run the winch backwards and then descended smoothly to the water. Skipper meanwhile had made his way to John and fitted him with a flotation vest. John was loving being the center of attention.
Bobby brought the harness down, slid easily off it, and began harnessing John into it. The body contact had the expected results on John, who blushed deeply. Bobby grinned. "No sweat, kid; it happens to me all the time too."
"It's the helicopter ride," John loudly giggled, "it was stiff before I even got on the surfboard!" Bobby cracked up and laughed all the way back into the Huey.
As they helped John in, Andy giggled. Bobby laughed, "Don't embarrass him." Turning to John, Bobby said, "Wanna ride copilot? The copilot seat is open; just don't grab the wrong stick!"
Turning bright pink, John giggled, then turned to hurry into the copilot's seat before any more remarks were made. John looked around at all the dials, displays and knobs on the control panel before him.
Intent on his piloting, Brandon didn't say anything as John sat down. As he turned the 'copter towards the beach, he spared a minute to look over at John, and then did a double-take.
"I can't help it!" John giggled and turned red again. "This is about as much as I've ever had."
Brandon couldn't help it; he burst out laughing. "Just about as much..." he got out and howled with laughter.
John blushed even harder. "Just about as much FUN, I meant!" he said.
"That's pretty obvious," Bobby giggled.
Brandon meanwhile had gotten control of himself and brought the helicopter in for a landing. "Wanna go for a ride when we take this back up?" he asked John.
"Could I?" John squealed. Brandon nodded and John smiled widely, nodding frantically as if nothing could make him happier.
"Sure," Brandon said. He nervously eyed John's boner. "Ummm..."
John giggled, "It's that way 'cause I'm in a helicopter... in the copilot's seat!"
Brandon giggled and confided, "I get one whenever I'm piloting or co-piloting too."
"How old are you?" John wondered.
"Ten," Brandon replied.
John thought for a few moments, then asked, "How'd you learn to fly? I mean, I'd love to learn, if my mom would let me."
"I learned in the TARDIS. But Bobby 'n' I could teach you, if we can get your mom to let us!"
John grinned devilishly, "Well, I'm here now. What my mom don't know won't hurt her. At least teach me what some of these buttons, dials and knobs do."
"Well, I think you already know what that knob does," Brandon giggled and pointed.
"That's a joystick!" John laughed. "I know a little, got three older gay brothers, after all. You gonna tell me what all of the knobs up here do?"
Laughing, Brandon began an explanation. "Here, grab this stick," he said. Giggling, John did. "That's the cyclic; it controls pitch and roll. This other lever is the collective. It controls the lift. If you're hovering, it makes the 'copter go up or down. If you've set the cyclic to forward pitch, it makes it move forward." He went on with his explanation, with John eating it up.
Mr. Hundser peeked inside the Huey and smiled, "How was the ride, John?"
Remaining seated, John looked back and called out, "Awesome! Brandon's teaching me about the controls and stuff!"
Looking back, Brandon waved and smiled at John's dad. Jim Hundser smiled and waved at Brandon.
"Dad?" John innocently called. "Can I please stay in here for a while?"
"It would be fine with me," Brandon said. "I did invite John so it's cool. I like having him around."
Jim Hundser grinned and wondered if it would be best to let his son learn, but also considered the possible ramifications from his wife learning about this flight training. Finally, he admitted it would be good for John to have interest in flight since it was a necessary form of transportation between the islands. And the two boys were obviously becoming friends. "Okay," Jim Hundser said, "just for a little while. Pay attention and learn from Brandon."
"Thanks, dad," John smiled, "I promise to pay close attention to Brandon."
Brandon giggled. Skipper looked in to say, "Brandon is a good pilot, sir, and Bobby and I will be here helping coach John."
"Even better," Jim Hundser nodded, "have a good time." He then walked away from the helicopter.
Down on the beach, the rescued kids from both Maine and Hawai'i were intermingling. Seven-year-old Drew and Randy Wentworth were with six-year-old Cesar and Felipe Laurito. Intriguingly, there were lots of gestures and giggling between the two sets of twins, but not a word spoken. They motioned over Terry, the surviving half of the 12-year-old twins that the High Pastors on the Free Holy Republic timeline had taken for sex toys. Slowly, under the assault of the four high-spirited little twins, his reticence and fear eroded away, and he relaxed and ran into the waves with them. Trent stood watching them on the shore.
Lindsay had been talking with Noreen and Earlene Magyar, two of the rescued Hawaiian girls. When she returned, the two sisters were with three other girls. Lindsay recognized Daba Sung, but the other two girls were recent arrivals.
Noreen asked Lindsay, "What did your mom want?"
Lindsay smiled, "To be honest, she reminded me that boys put other boys in charge of this division."
Earlene grinned, "The best boys Joel could find, though."
Lindsay shrugged, "Maybe, but they're boys still."
"The cutest boys on the beach," Earlene giggled.
Noreen impatiently huffed at her sister. "Open your eyes!" Swinging her arm around, Noreen reminded, "There's lots of cute boys around!"
Not too far away, an older girl over heard the conversation and turned around. Lindsay said, "You do know that my brother and all his friends are gay, don't you?"
Noreen nodded and smiled but Earlene wondered, "Are they really gay?"
"Oh definitely!" Lindsay answered. My big brother Mike has been with Derrick for over two years. Keith and Prez have been a couple almost as long. Even Corey and Drew are off the market."
Noreen giggled, "That makes them better leaders for us, don't it?"
Earlene admonished, "You only say that 'cause you feel safe with them."
Noreen grunted, "And so do you! Don't lie, I know it's true."
The older girl that had been listening came over and smiled, "Not all of the boys are gay, though." She then introduced herself, "I'm Linda, from the Clan Northeast division." All the girls said hello and introduced themselves.
Lindsay giggled, "The fact is, they're boys! We gotta stick together to help each other where they just can't."
Daba nodded agreement and noticed, "Me, Lindsay and Linda all have clothes on."
Wearing shorts but topless, Linda asked, "We're to please the boys, though, aren't we?"
Earlene scowled, "Most of the boys are naked. Why can't we?"
Lindsay said, "It's not that we can't now, because we're perfectly safe here. It's only that we're girls and wired differently than show-off boys." Locking eyes with the older girl, Lindsay said, "Our job is not to please boys by being naked. My three best friends are boys and they don't ask me to get naked. If John, Jeff or Tommy ever did ask me to take my clothes off, I'd hit them so hard they'd be seeing stars for a week!"
Shocked, Teena squealed, "John's your best friend?"
Lindsay nodded, "We've known each other since we were babies. When Mike and Keith started school, our mothers met. Me and John are in the same class at our school."
Earlene grinned, "John's really cute too."
Lindsay nodded and smiled, "He's the best friend I could want, in so many ways. The point is, he's still a boy. That's not a bad thing, but he is different than us girls. None of you are sex toys anymore, okay? We're not here for our bodies to be admired by boys. We're here to be friends with them and with each other. If there's ever a special boy you like a lot, then you can find a private place to show him your body. Sex is supposed to be a private time, between two people that are really in love. That's the way it is for everybody, except real perverts, like the grown men that you were with."
Gilroy, the 11-year-old redhead from the Free Holy timeline, smiled shyly at Thanh Espiridion, who had been rescued by Vulcans from the Endeavour on Friday from abusive foster parents on Maui. Thanh smiled back as shyly and came up to him. "Aloha," he greeted the Maine boy.
"Hi! What's that mean?" Gilroy asked.
"It can mean Hello, Goodbye, Good Wishes, or Love," Thanh explained. "It's kind of a greeting you use. What's Hello or Goodbye mean?" he challenged. "It's kind of like the same thing."
"Oh, kewl. Aloha!"
"Did you have to, you know, do stuff for the men like we did?" the slight ten-year-old Vietnamese-Hispanic boy asked.
"Um, yeah," Gilroy answered. "When the High Pastors got, you know, stiffies, we were supposed to take care of them. That wasn't so bad – a little gross sometimes, but you know. Not fun to be made to do it, but I coped. What was bad was they kept beating us to make sure we didn't have sinful thoughts. That, and when they would stick their things into our bottoms. That hurt a lot most of the time."
"Yeah, I know," Thanh replied. "That happened at the group home before I got fostered. My foster parents just expected me to work hard, and beat me. They beat me even when I did what they said, I think 'cause they were mad at other people they couldn't take it out on, so they did on me, but even more if I screwed up on my chores, or got too sick or tired to do 'em."
"We didn't have chores," Gilroy said. "Just a lot of prayers and being preached at, and doing whatever a High Pastor wanted to make himself squirt."
Thanh giggled. "I don't know what the big deal is – you get a stiffy, you want to make it feel good. People put a lot of crazy stuff around that idea, for some reason."
"Yeah," Gilroy agreed. "Hey, wanna go for a dip?"
"Sure!" Thanh replied, and the two boys joined hands and ran into the surf.
The afternoon at Anahola Bay continued like that: fun in the surf and on the sand for Rimmers, rescued kids, Unit members, and Arkhamites, friendships being made, experiences shared... slowly, kids who had had no future beyond abuse unwound, learned to have fun, and bonded with their leaders.
At 5:00 Hawaii time, the Endeavour beamed down clothing that had been fabricated for the rescued kids. The adults and the older kids helped the younger ones with their new clothing, and in the case of the youngest ones, to get dressed. The adults and teens from Maine pitched in to help.
As this was going on, Prez, the director of the new 'Rimmers' division, bellowed out in a Stentorian voice, "CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE?" Once nearly everyone had turned to listen, he called out, "When everyone is packed, we're heading to our new homes! If you're just waiting in line or not otherwise occupied helping some of the little tikes, get dressed. After we get home and get some supper, we'll decide what to do next and whether it requires clothes or not!"
"This is a larger group than we had expected," a Vulcan voice came across the commbadges. "We shall require to transport in multiple groups."
"No, ya don't!" came Daileass's voice. "You get some, I'll get others!"
Peter was standing next to Jonas, and simply said out loud, "Count me in; I'll get the rest!" Although Peter didn't speak into a commbadge or communicator, Jonas heard his voice echoing on the same circuit. A few minutes later, after everyone was clothed and Juan had distributed his V.I. Teddy bears, the Vulcan-crewed Starfleet ship, the Unit A.I., and the little Mikyvis teamed up to transport the group from Anahola Bay, numbering well over 100 people, to the Rimmers; new main base at Ewa Beach, west of Pearl Harbor on O'ahu.
As they went to beam out, Randy Wentworth caught Peter's eye. Peter nodded and giggled. Randy ran over and grabbed a suitcase of clothes accidentally left behind by one of the littler rescued Hawaiian kids, and the Maine group beamed out, with one rescued suitcase.
At Ewa Beach, after the Core Rimmers viewed their new homes and C.I.C., the second item on the agenda was feeding the group. Daileass came to the rescue with dinner supplies: two hundred hamburgers and buns, two hundred hot dogs and buns, two hundred mild sausages, thirty chickens cut into parts, twenty salmon steaks, a hundred jumbo shrimp, twenty bottles of ketchup, another twenty of spicy and mild mustard, relish, pickles, hamburger dill slices, mayonnaise and tartar sauce and two fifty-five gallon barrels of barbeque sauces, twenty gallons each of macaroni salad and twenty gallons of potato salad, sodas, juices, water, milk and for the adults, a case of beer and a case of white wine. Dessert would be cases of cookies and a large supply of fruits.
The Core Rimmers and their parents set to work to cook the meats on the fourteen outdoor grills available around the area. Abbie, with her background as short-order cook, volunteered to help. Jonas, however, saw another alternative, and called Peter to him. The story of what he did to help is covered in Chapter 33.
Josiah, Maureen, Abbie, and George made their way through the throng of kids over to the four sets of Core Rimmers' parents. "May we join you?" Josiah asked urbanely.
"Of course," Jim Hundser replied as courteously. After a round of greetings and making sure everyone knew who everyone else was, they settled in to eat, over conversation that started as small talk and quickly moved in the direction of what it's like to be the parents of Clan boys.
Lanna and Bill Seaver were sitting with Maureen and Josiah enjoying their dinner. Lanna said, "After I had given birth to Corey, the doctor said I shouldn't have more kids because it would be dangerous. Even though I wanted more, I had my tubes tied. For more than eleven years, Bill and I have considered adopting, but one thing or another kept us from pursuing it." She paused and giggled, "Now there are kids coming out of the woodwork! Part of me couldn't be happier."
"It's just so much so fast, quite a sudden change," Bill finished the thought for his wife.
"I know just what you mean," Maureen said with a smile. "Not long after Jonas was born, my ex started running around on me with a high school kid." She chuckled. "It's funny, this past week I welcomed her back to Arkham, because he took off on her too. But I never expected to have more than Jonas, until early this month when we found Clan Short in the middle of our lives."
"You need to roll with the punches, so to speak," Josiah added. "The kids are out to do the right thing, and they have the best possible equipment to do it. Vulcan discipline that they undertake willingly, positive peer pressure, and legal defenses against any possible problems. But it is always a real shock to find all these changes in your lives."
He looked into the distance for a moment. "After my Annie died, I expected never to have children. Honestly, while I've loved Maureen almost from the moment I met her, a big part of what brought us together and kept us going was Jonas; he looked to me as the father figure he never had. But now, we were going to adopt Peter, then Friday we took in Calvin, and a week ago we agreed to foster the fourteen other kids we brought with us: Joey, Jacky, Trent, Linda, and the rest. We just got them only about an hour before Peter brought us all out here to the Islands."
Anna Seibert softly said, "It's one thing for us to adopt and foster these kids. I'm having the most trouble accepting our kids adopting other kids."
"I'm at the same place too, Anna," Jennifer Hundser admitted. "While I'm playing it off as being too young to be a grandmother, the real issue is whether our teenagers are ready to be parents."
"They aren't, in the sense most people would mean it: the adults solely responsible for the kids' care, nurture, and upbringing," Josiah said. "But remember that lady with the catchphrase, 'It takes a village.' Their own parents will help, like any grandparents would, their friends will be there for them; there's a lot of mutual support with the other young parents. It's not like they're alone in an apartment trying to make enough money to take care of themselves and the kids, with nobody to turn to. They have the best possible support system, all around them. And the Clan exists specifically to make sure kids get what they deserve: loving families, so who better to give it than the Clan members themselves?
"Plus, you're a cop, Mr. Gibbons, right?" Josiah went on. Rob nodded. "Then you know the theory of how League and Federation law works with Hawaiian law?
"One element of that," he continued, "is that the leading House on Vulcan, the House of Surak, chartered Clan Short. That means the kids are acting according to Vulcan and Federation laws when they're functioning as Clan members; and Vulcan recognizes a young person as an adult when they show they're ready to undertake adult responsibilities; no nonsense about coming of legal age." He chuckled. "Actually, your kids are now all legal adults, as we just found out two days ago ourselves. As commissioned officers in Starfleet, they are now legal adults."
Harry's mother, Abbie piped up. "Something Maureen had to remind me of when I got to worrying about Harry too much. Did you eight do a good job of bringing up your boys?"
"Of course we did!" Laura Gibbons said. "They know right from wrong and have never been a burden on us or a threat to anyone else."
Abbie offered, "Then what you need to do now is to stop worrying and let them show you just what a good job you did; to make you proud by proving themselves to the world, walking in your footsteps to make the world a better place. That was the toughest lesson I've ever had to learn, worse even than losing my Bert or my little Deborah. Harry's all I've got. But I had to let him be who he needs and wants to be. And I couldn't be prouder of what all he's accomplished."
"We've both known it was time to cut the umbilical cord for years," Jim Hundser told Jennifer. "We've almost completely accomplished that with Keith and Preston. And we've come a long way with Drew." She nodded and realized that what her husband said was very true.
"Maybe that's part of my issue," Lanna Seaver admitted. "It's something I know needs to be done and I've tried, but part of me doesn't want to complete that process."
Bill asked, "Why do you have to complete it now? If Corey was eighteen, would it be complete? Would it ever really be complete?"
"We're seeing age, simple numbers as meaning that some process is complete," Rob Gibbons recognized.
"It's really not related to age," Carl Seibert nodded. "Our boys have always been ahead of the learning curves since before they formed their band, since before they met."
"Ours too," Maureen said. "It may be the mother in me talking, but Jonas has always impressed me with how mature he acts for his age."
"I have the opposite problem," George Wentworth said. "I admit I wasn't ready for kids when I adopted. I've been on a fast track learning process ever since." He smiled ruefully. "But my boys were the wards of a religiously conservative couple that sheltered them way too much and did not give them any affection; quite the opposite in fact, they were physically abused. But the twins need cuddling more than what I think is normal for age seven, and Philip at fourteen is more like a twelve-year-old in terms of social development."
"Actually, none of ours have adopted... yet!" Josiah said. "But we've seen the results of adoptions in a lot of the kids from Orlando. And they're all the happier for it. They're able to give the younger kids something that they need and otherwise wouldn't have; and without interfering too much with their own ability to be kids, because there's always someone available to be responsible when they need a chance to unwind, let go, and just be kids for a bit. That's part of the virtue of being the Clan; they have a Vulcan sense of what it means to be an extended family, something we seem to have lost over the years."
Abbie put in, "If Prez and Keith need to go do something not involving their kids, you don't think Mike and Derrick are going to have the slightest problem with having Dee and Richie come over and play with their kids, do you? We even do that as adults. I can't count the number of times Jonas spent the evening at my place, or even slept over, when Josiah wanted to take Maureen out, or she was working against deadline on a story."
"Just like any extended community, we all share in the responsibilities and the joy of having kids," Jim said. "We assist them when and where we can and they help each other too."
Bill Seaver challenged Lanna; "Tell me you don't enjoy having all these kids around."
"Of course I do," Lanna smiled, "I'm sure we all do. It's only the suddenness of the change."
Jennifer grinned, "I can't say that I'm not enjoying it though."
Anna chuckled, "I've always told Derrick; some day I hope you have children that act exactly the way you act. That day has come. I'll help him when I can, but the rest of the time I'll be absently giggling over the smallest things. Just remembering him carrying little Dillon around will likely set me off in a fit of hysterics later tonight." All the rest of the adults smiled or softly chuckled at that thought.
Maureen smiled. "I know it's a lot to deal with all at once. Just remember, there are a lot of us that have been in your shoes: Teri, Kyle's father Dan, Joe and Janet, all of us. And we're all just a phone call away. In fact, with Peter around," she giggled, "I can probably just drop over for a visit whenever you want."
"Aside from you four, Joe and Janet, we scarcely know who the adults connected with the Clan are, like you just mentioned, let alone know them," Laura Gibbons commented.
"We don't know them well, either," Abbie said. "Teri Short is of course head of Federation Youth Services – and that's across the whole Federation – but I get the impression that in her own list of priorities, she's first and foremost a mother."
"We met Dan Richardson the day our boys were invited to join the Clan," Maureen added. "He's a very good child psychologist, and like all the good ones, he's more interested in the kids than in the profession. I think that seems to be true of most of the Clan parents – the children come first in their lives."
As the Maine group and the rescued Hawaiian kids came into the auditorium, Keith Hundser made his way up onto the stage and over to the grand piano. He began to play the first movement of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto. Nearing his seat, Philip froze. Seven years as adopted son of a fundamentalist bank manager and schoolteacher had given him no exposure to classical music. Drew and Randy gently guided him to a seat, and held their big brother's hands as Keith played. When he finished, there were unshed tears in Philip's eyes.
Harry watched avidly as Mike Gibbons and Joe Casey dueted on a guitar arrangement of Beethoven's Für Elise. 'I've learned more about expressive picking, he thought to himself, 'in three minutes of watching them than in two years of lessons.'
Joey was sitting with Andy; the two eight-year-olds were giggling at the reactions of the ferrets to "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" – for the little animal-human hybrids, the song was almost a transcendental religious experience. Next to them Skipper, who was something of a Pink Floyd fan, thought how perfectly suited the song was for its intended audience.
The older boys from the Free Holy timeline began grooving gently in their seats to the beat of "Shine" – and the song's message began to come home to them. Jacky was smiling as he shook his head to the song, as were Trent and Terry. Manuel had contrived to sit with Calvin, and as the song ended, their eyes met and they exchanged smiles.
On Skipper's other side from Andy, Bobby flashed him a mschievous grin and took his hand as Platinum Habits launched into "Go All the Way." Smiling delightedly, Skipper hugged his younger partner close. A few songs later, Jonas wrapped his arm around Harry's shoulder as they launched into "Precious and Few." Sighing contentedly, Harry cuddled up to Jonas as they listened to their Clan brothers happily.
After the 'Shiny Concert', Prez O'Brian was doing his best to sort out sleeping arrangements for nearly 200 people. After setting aside one of the new dorms for the U.N.I.T. and arranging for a nest in the Hundsers' basement for the Core Rimmers and the Hawaiian rescued kids, he asked, "Who else is staying the night?"
Peter stood up and answered, "Everyone from Northeast Division, Prez."
"Peter!" Prez shouted, "I saw the new building you built for us and heard about all the people you've employed. Thanks for your help, dude."
Peter giggled, "Well, there are actually three new condominiums to the northwest of the C.I.C.. You've got eleven chefs and four housekeepers. Tomorrow you'll have six landscapers and two doctors too! All the chefs, housekeepers, landscapers and doctors will take up residences in the condos."
Maureen piped up, "The rest of us from Maine will take a few condos over night?"
"Sounds good," Jonas said.
Harry, however, had been noticing the expression on the fourteen rescued kids the Northeast group had adopted earlier that day. Now he spoke up. "Um, I think our new guys will want to stay with the other rescued kids, for their own comfort, right, guys?" There were hesitant nods from their kids. "And we Clan guys probably ought to stay with them?" Again he looked at the kids, and got small smiles and nods. "Can you add us in, Prez?" he asked.
"The grownups will be sleeping in proper beds, though," Harry's mother, Abbie said. "I'm too old for a slumber party sleepover!"
Prez chuckled, "Make that a hundred and twenty pillows and blankets."
Daileass giggled, "I've got a head count, Prez. You'll have everything you need waiting in your basement."
Looking out into the back rows of the audience at his parents' faces, Keith laughed, "Sounds cozy!"
After the concert at the new Pacific Rim auditorium, Harry, Jonas and the rest of their kids waited outside for their hosts to finish up and join them. Gathered nearby were groups of Pacific Rim Clan kids. The teens and tweens were in one group and the younger kids in another.
Josiah looked down at his new eight-year-old son Joey, plastered tightly to his side. "Do you want to come with us to the condo where we're sleeping, or stay with the other kids?" he asked.
Joey looked nervous, and glanced at Jacky. Getting a sense of reassurance from the older boy, he said, "I guess I'd like to be with the other kids. But you're not going far away, are you?"
"No," Josiah said patiently. "We'll be right in those big buildings if you need us. But this is like a campout or sleepover for kids. Go have fun. We'll be there when you want us."
"You're staying with us in the nest?" Bobby asked Skipper.
"Of course, mugwump," Skipper said.
"I was afraid you were gonna go with the grownups."
"We're a couple, dude," Skipper answered. "Where you go, I go."
This was followed by a broad batch of goodnights, as the adults from Maine made their way over to the condos, the adults from Hawaii retired to their new homes, and the assortment of kids and teens found their way to the Hundsers', where the first Rimmer nest was about to begin.
Stepping outside with his partner Keith, Prez looked down at Dee and Richie, asking, "Would you guys like to go with Uncle Drew back to the house?"
Keith added, "You guys can stay with us if you're not too tired. We're just going to get all the suitcases."
Prez smirked, "And do what with all eighty-seven of them?"
Keith shrugged, "There's no rain expected. We could just line them all up outside our house?"
Prez and Keith's brand-new ten-year-old adoptive son Dee asked his younger brother Richie, "You tired yet, bro?"
Shaking his head, Richie perkily answered, "Nope!"
Looking up at Keith, Dee said, "We'll go with ya, Daddy."
Harry and Jonas grinned at each other. The new Clan leaders still hadn't gotten the knack of tapping their sub-vocals and having Daileass relocate the suitcases for them. Perhaps they just wanted to spend extra private time with their new Clan kids, though, so neither said a word. Mike and Derrick were having a similar chat with their boys and their ferret kids, the Scooby Gang. Prez then turned to Corey, Drew Hundser, and John suggesting, "If you guys will take our Northeast Division guests back to the house, we'll get the suitcases and our kids taken care of."
Drew, Corey and John nodded. John said, "No problem, bro." John pointed and grinned, "It's not like we can get lost; our house is right there!"
Turning to Harry and Jonas, Keith smiled, "We'll make this happen as quick as we can, dudes." Mike, Derrick, Reyes, Jonah and Dillon began leading the pack of Pacific Rim kids towards the outdoor recreation area where the suitcases had been left.
"Thanks, Keith," Harry said, and Prez and Keith followed the others.
Jonas motioned to his Clan brothers and their rescued kids. They all followed the Rimmers Drew, Corey, John, Bruce and Lindsay into their new home. They went down a hallway, then down a flight of stairs into a large, comfortable basement area. To the left of the staircase was the nesting area where matting, pillows, and comforters had been strewn about. To the right side was an equally large area where the TV's, game stations and the Hundsers' old living room furnishings were arrayed.
On the rec room side of the basement, there was one very large flat screen television mounted on one wall. Behind the staircase, in the center of the wall were the large refrigerator, microwave ovens, cases of popcorn and additional soda, and two large trash cans. Heading to the right and back, Bruce, Corey, Drew, John and Lindsay went right to work turning on twenty smaller televisions and their game stations. Seeing what they were doing, Skipper, Harry, Jonas and Philip assisted.
Bobby suggested to the rest of the Northeast Clan, "Let's get some pillows so we have somewhere to sit and play, okay, guys?" He then led them to the nest side of the basement where many of the larger throw pillows were gathered and brought back to the rec room side.
Corey and Drew began showing some of the kids who had shown up in Drew's parents' new basement rec room how to use the Play Station, while Lindsay, John, and Bruce were doing the same with the others on the Xbox. Jonas, Harry, Philip, Skipper, and Bobby got the younger kids from Maine settled, then kicked back with sodas to wait for their hosts. Within a few minutes the eighty-odd kids who had been on the beach came pelting down the stairs.
Seeing Prez and the older Core Rimmers coming down the stairs behind their Clan, Harry went to the staircase with Jonas and grinned, "That was awfully quick. I thought you'd be gone for at least an hour."
Prez began laughing and Keith pulled him closer. Smiling widely, Mike offered, "When we got to the field and realized that we'd have to help most of the little kids, we came to the same conclusion."
Derrick chuckled, "Finally, while we were discussing how we could move eighty-seven suitcases, Daileass piped up in our ears and offered to move them to the house for us."
"We were gonna mention that," Jonas grinned. "We thought maybe you had a reason and wanted to be with your kids, though, so neither of us said anything."
Prez chuckled, "Next time, please say something. We're not used to having Daileass transport shit around for us.
Skipper laughed. "We have the same problem, bro," he said.
"With us, it's usually Peter transporting things, or sometimes us, hither and yon," Harry interjected. Peter giggled.
Prez suggested, "Let's get this furniture into some sort of arrangement where we can see each other while we're talking." Mike, Skipper, Jonas, and Keith jumped to help him arrange the Hundsers' old furniture into what an interior designer would have called a conversation group.
Noticing Calvin standing off to the side with his hands in his pockets and uncertainly watching the goings on, Derrick whispered to Mike, "Time for compass and map," then nodded towards Calvin.
Mike only glanced at the boy and softly replied, "I'm too direct and rough around the edges, I think."
Derrick nodded and approached Calvin, casually asking, "It's a lot to take in at once, huh?" Calvin only shrugged so Derrick asked, "Wanna go for a walk outside where there's fresh air and quiet?"
Calvin took a deep breath and looked carefully at Derrick. The taller blond haired boy had the most intense hazel eyes and the cutest soft smile. Calvin felt a little more secure with the idea of walking with Derrick alone rather than being in the busy crowded basement, so he nodded and answered, "That sounds really good."
"Let's go," Derrick simply said, and then started up the stairs with Calvin in tow. Derrick pulled open the sliding door and waited for Calvin to pass, then stepped outside before closing the door again. "Only yesterday I was just another high school student," Derrick began, and started walking towards the pool. "I'm used to hangin' with my boyfriend Mike and our friends, Keith and Prez. Now there are twenty times four around."
Derrick glanced over at Calvin. Getting only a nod and smirk, Derrick admitted, "This is not a usual night for us. We'd usually sit around listening to music, writing lyrics and figuring out progressions to songs we cover. That's a busy, fun night for us. Now we're big brothers for dozens of kids. It's a big change but I gotta say, it's fun." A Unit gorilla was walking over by the trees and Derrick waved. "It's such a wacky change though," Derrick snickered. "I have no brothers or sisters, but now I'm a big brother and leader? Ya wanna know what Prez and Keith said?" Calvin nodded and smiled so Derrick answered, "The only thing that makes a leader are the people following. If the followers don't trust the leaders, then they find someone else to follow all by themselves."
Calvin looked up at Derrick with relief. "You know, yesterday morning I was running away from home because my mother got drunk and knocked me around. And the judge and his family picked me up. Now..." his gesture covered the area. "I'm in Hawaii, not Maine. Little kids with purple eyes keep popping in and out – and they're usually delivering more kids! Jonas 'n' Harry are taking everything nonchalantly, and, well, gorillas, ferrets, cats – what's gonna happen next?"
"We're working on the talking coconuts right now," Derrick replied with a smile.
Calvin laughed. "I almost think I ought to take you seriously," he giggled. "But that's the thing – it seems like it's all good, kids who need help, like I did, getting it, but … well, I guess my question is, How?"
Derrick shrugged, "I only think I know some small parts of the answers. This base and everything you see came from Starfleet, courtesy of the Starship Endeavour. It all happened in a day. Logan showed us our bank account earlier today. Somehow, Clan Short has mega-bucks. We can easily feed and house the kids. That's all that matters really, giving the kids what they need, isn't it?"
"That's for sure," Calvin agreed. "But, um, I really want to know what's going on. Harry told me earlier I might 'have to be the Clan' for the kids that showed up just before we came here – and I have no idea how to do that."
Derrick grinned and nodded understandingly. He then softly said, "I don't mean to put you on the spot or make you self-conscious, but why did you choose to go for a walk with me?"
"I dunno, really, I just felt very comfortable talking with you. It's like, I've got a whole lot of questions about what I ended up in, and I feel like I can trust you to help me find 'em out."
"But what did I do? I saw you alone. You seemed lost. All I did was show a little interest. That's all anyone wants and that's all I did. I earned your trust and you've earned mine. So, now go show some interest in one or two kids. You'll earn their trust, and the next thing ya know, you're Clan."
"Yeah, that's it, bro."
Calvin looked at Derrick gratefully. "Okay, let's go do it," he said, a bit more spring in his walk now. He headed for the door.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Core Rimmers and the group from Maine grabbed sodas and settled down on the rearranged furniture. Drew, Corey, and John flopped down on throw pillows. Bobby plunked himself on Skipper's lap in one of the chairs. Keith and Prez cuddled in at one end of the couch, while Harry sat on the floor between Jonas's legs at the other, Jonas's free hand draped over his shoulder.
Finally able to relax after a very long day, the four eldest Core Rimmers seemed to simultaneously sigh. Keith glanced around at his new basement and grinned, "It's all sinking in; goodbye old life, hello new."
Prez nodded agreement and softly wondered, "How can we be Clan? I don't think I'm alone feeling like, I don't have the first clue what to do."
Harry giggled. "You don't really have to think about it when things happen. I think we've mostly found that when stuff happens, you do the next thing kind of automatically, you know..." he arched an eyebrow and adopted a very mock-Vulcan tone of voice, "what seems logical."
Mike chuckled, "Logically speaking, we know we're in Ewa Beach but barely know where we are!"
Drew bluntly asked, "How did you guys deal with your rescued kids and help others?"
Keith elaborated, "We barely had time to chat at Anahola Bay. Are the kids you came here with your original group?"
"Not hardly!" Jonas answered. "We picked up Calvin hitchhiking yesterday, and met the rest of the kids briefly back on the 23rd on another timeline, but the first time we've seen them since then was about an hour before we got here."
"We've only been parents since Wednesday night," Skipper added. "The Unit rescued Brandon and Andy Tuesday from their grandfather, who was beating them, about 11 miles south of where we live. Jonas gave them to us the next day. It's been an experience having kids of our own, let me tell you!"
"Heck, we only got married the night before last!" Harry threw in, as Calvin and Derrick came back down the stairs.
"Marriage is a topic we're all very interested in," Prez shared.
Sitting down on the floor at Mike's feet, Derrick sniggered, "Now that we've got kids, I guess marriage would be a good idea!"
Nudging his boyfriend Derrick, Mike teased, "You guess?"
They all laughed. "I proposed to Harry last Saturday..." Jonas began to say.
"Nothing like long engagements," Bobby giggled.
"...and we tried to get a marriage license on Tuesday, along with my mother and the judge, who's now my Dad for real," Jonas went on. "We got turned down by the town clerk. Admiral Spock got that straightened out on Thursday night, and offered to, um, officiate over our wedding and Mom and the Judge's."
Prez softly echoed, "So the local authorities weren't quick to recognize you as adults and Admiral Spock performed your nuptials."
At the thought of having such a famous person performing the ceremony, Keith grinned, "Admiral Spock, of all people. How totally kewl is that?"
"Yep," Harry said. "You know that as commissioned Starfleet officers, we're legal adults, right?" The Rimmers nodded. "And that applies even under local law in the States or here in Hawaii.
"But you probably didn't realize that as Clan, you all are Spock's close relatives." That got startled looks from the Core Rimmers. Harry went on, "Up until Thursday, we were a subclan of Family Sarek … Spock's father Sarek was our grandfather by Vulcan law. Now we're a Family Clan, but he's still our House Patriarch. And along with that, since Joel is Clan, Spock considers himself to have a father's duty to every Clan kid, you guys included. To you guys, he's not just a celebrity, he's family!"
With raised eyebrows and wide eyes, the new Rimmers smiled widely. Corey giggled, "I never met anyone famous before. I hope I don't faint!"
"So, how are you liking being Clan so far?" Bobby asked. He gestured over at the rescued kids playing or nesting and added, "From the looks of it, you sure hit the ground running."
"Joel rescued them," Keith smiled.
Prez nodded, "We met them Friday evening, after they were rescued."
Derrick added, "On our own, we've only rescued a handful of kids off Ewa Beach."
Pointing to his new friend playing video games with the others, John reminded, "We rescued Bruce off the beach Friday afternoon."
"So you were doing rescues before you became Clan?" Jonas asked. "That's how we got into it, as a matter of fact … when Jed and C.J.'s parents were murdered, they ran, and ended up where we were shooting hoops."
So he wouldn't be overheard by the nearby kids, Prez shook his head and softly grumbled, "I can't believe the stories behind these kids. Murders, sexual abuse, neglect; it's something we can barely get our minds to understand."
Also speaking softly, Mike said, "Part of me wants to pity them but I know, if I were in their shoes, pity is the last thing I'd want."
"All they want is someone that cares," Derrick offered. "So we're brothers to them just like we are to each other."
"That's very true," Skipper observed. "Pity is something you give somebody you think you're greater than, just as obedience is something you give somebody you think you're lower than. Brotherhood or friendship is what you give your equal."
Startled at this coming from Skipper, Harry asked, "When'd you come up with that?"
"It's from doing EMT work," Skipper explained. "The guy's got a broken leg, or arterial bleeding; whether he was showing off for his friends or driving safely and hit an ice patch, it's still the same injury, needs to be treated the same way. After a while, that comes home a little broader: we're all in this together, nobody better or worse, and sooner or later, we all need help, and sooner or later, we're all somewhere where we can give help. What you need is what you give."
"You can't always get what you want," Derrick sang.
All four Rimmers joined in and sang, "But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."
Harry grinned at the Stones lyric. "Or maybe Sir Paul had it right," he said, "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make."
Calvin spoke up diffidently. "You know, yesterday morning I ran away, because I couldn't handle my mother getting drunk and hitting me any more. I didn't realize until now how lucky I was getting picked up by these guys. Oh, and thanks, Derrick," he added.
Derrick warmly smiled, "No problem." Noticing questioning expressions from the others, Derrick said, "We were only chatting; a little interest goes a long way." Gesturing at the kids playing and those that were watching or having their own conversations, Derrick said, "There's the proof in the pudding."
Prez wondered, "So where do we go from here?"
Jonas frowned. "That's kind of a tough question," he said.
"I'll tell you," Bobby said. "You see a need, a problem, and you go fix it, as best you can. That's the right thing in emergency medicine, and it's the right thing for being a Clan member too, as far as I can see. When we get to the scene, we assess the situation, then we do what is necessary. Isn't that what you guys do when you end up on Clan interventions?"
Harry thought about it. "Yeah, you're right. The first intervention we did as Clan members, we went to the hospital to make sure the McKendricks didn't get split up and put into bad situations. That's where we found Peter. And everything since then, it's been just what you said: look over the situation, figure out what we need to do and what help we need, then get the help and do what needs doing for the situation."
"Sometimes you get to reunite families that have been split up, like that one," Jonas added. "Sometimes you find yourself handling more than you expected. Before we were done with helping the McKendricks, we'd rescued Peter, Philip and his brothers, and sent several people to jail or exile." He paused. "And all that was before we actually became a division. One thing, Prez: Cory told me that Teri likes to have recommendations on who to handle Federation Youth Services in your area. She is the one who will name them, but she looks to the people who know them and will be working with them to make recommendations. We didn't find the right guy until yesterday."
"Umm... what's Federation Youth Services?" Drew wondered.
Harry smirked. "Think of it as the Clan for grownups," he said with a laugh. "Federation Youth Services pays the professionals, like doctors, and puts up the money needed for adequate housing and such for kids. They can intervene independently under the Safe Haven Act, and they handle a lot of the background work to make sure kids get what they need. Cory's mother Teri runs it, and she tries to have a Regional Director in place everywhere there's a Clan Division, plus some other places. So she'll probably be asking you who you know that genuinely cares about kids and can act decisively when it's needed."
Keith smirked. Then so did Prez, Drew and John. Corey began giggling as four heads looked up at the ceiling. Getting the intent from the signals being given, Derrick grinned, "Keith's mom has degrees in psychology and sociology. She works... or used to work for Hawaii Medical Center."
"Keeping it in the family," Bobby giggled.
A yawning Geoff, coming over from the kids playing to see Drew and Corey, interrupted the conversation at that point. He was followed shortly by Richie, who snuggled up to Prez. "Can we have some hot choc'late, so we can stay up?" Richie wheedled. Dillon, who had followed them and climbed onto Mike's lap, nodded vigorously at the idea, as did Geoff.
Prez kissed Richie's cheek, then smiled. "It's been a very long day and it's getting late. Why don't you guys get ready for bed?"
Geoff whined, "Don't wanna go to bed yet."
Looking up at Mike over Derrick's shoulder, Dillon reminded, "We wanna stay up with our new daddies."
Keith helplessly chuckled at the boys, then said, "We've got tomorrow and the rest of our lives together, guys. We promise, you won't miss anything if you go to bed." Too overtired to argue, the three little guys only groaned.
As the Rimmer daddies took their kids over to the nesting area, Philip followed them, motioning to his twin younger brothers, Drew and Randy, who were followed by Cesar and Felipe, the year-younger twins who had attached themselves to them back at Anahola Bay. He got the four twins settled in the nest. Seeing the example set, several of the other younger kids came to join them.
Skipper and Jonas carried over a sleeping preschooler each, and put them in the nest without waking them. "Make sure the little guys feel safe and not scared, Dillon," Derrick told his six-year-old.
"Okay, daddy," Dillon answered, yawning but obviously proud at being 'the big kid' given that duty.
Kaleo saw what was happening and began tapping the youngest Rimmers on the shoulder, prompting them to give it up. He led a miniature troop over to the nest and helped them with matting, pillows and blankets.
Over with the gamers, Manuel turned to the Hawaiian boy, Liki, sitting beside him, and softly asked, "Why do you guys listen to Kaleo?"
Leaning closer to Manuel, Liki whispered, "'Cause Kaleo saved us from lots of sex at our orphanage. Kaleo's gay. When the men wanted some, Kaleo would offer himself up rather than see any of the younger kids get messed with. When the youngest of us were getting cussed at or hit, Kaleo would always step in the middle of it. He'd take the cussing and punching. Of course, little guys, like Dillon over there," Liki pointed at the little six-year-old brown haired boy, then continued, "would be really thankful. After the beating or sex, Kaleo would accept their appreciation in ways that mattered to him and to the kid. Once, I asked him about it. Kaleo didn't want the kids to feel like he wanted sex or even the cuddling. He'd have a kid get him a cold washcloth or ice from a glass for his bruises. That's why we listen to him. He's just that kind of a guy."
Manuel nodded. "That's a lot like Jacky was for us. If anybody got beat, he was there with the ointment for them. He'd flirt with one of the High Pastors when it looked like he was interested in one of the littler kids, so he'd distract them. And they were just stupid or conceited enough to believe he really wanted sex with them, so it worked a lot of the time. I usually got the ones that wanted dick along with their fun, but he saved the little ones from the others a lot of the time, and they were grateful."
Once the little ones were settled in, Keith dimmed the lights in the nest area, and the leaders of the two Clan divisions gathered back at the impromptu chat area where the Hundsers' old living room furniture had been arranged. "So, what's a normal day for a Clan leader like, Jonas?" Prez asked.
"Well, Thursday morning we got up, caught the school bus, and went to school, just like always," Jonas said. Seeing their expressions, he added, "But that's where 'normal' stopped. Within an hour, Philip, Harry, and I got called to the principal's office, along with Philip's little brothers. Ambassador Sarek had called for us, to have us go to Worcester, Mass. The FCC church down there had asked to be cleared of suspicion in what happened. As it turned out, half of the leadership were in fact guilty." He shuddered at the memory, as did Philip and Harry.
"We had to convict them and execute them," Philip continued in a flat monotone.
"We were supposed to have been put in a mind meld by a Vulcan healer as soon as we got back," Harry went on, "and we'd have dealt with it much better if we had. But he got detained, and it took a combination of the Unholy Terrors, Dan Richardson, Jamie and Jacob, and finally a mind meld by T'Pol to help us cope with having shot three men dead in cold blood."
So the other kids wouldn't overhear, Mike softly asked, "We'll have to execute people?"
Derrick quickly added, "After what I've learned from some of the kids today, those kinds of sexual deviants definitely deserve it." Prez and Keith slowly nodded.
"We don't usually have to do that part," Jonas explained, " though we often end up sitting as judge and sentencing perverts and other creeps to exile. You guys will probably end up doing your fair share of that, as you come across cases of abuse."
"How do you deal with it?" Prez wondered. "Executing people can't be easy."
"It's not, and God grant it never becomes easy," Harry said. "But sometimes it's what logically has to be done, and that's when we do it – and then get help dealing with it from a Vulcan healer … or at least we were supposed to."
"Down the line," Jonas added, "you guys, or at least Prez, will get some training from Clan leadership in how to know what the right sentence is by Vulcan standards – they're logical, after all – and how to apply them to the situations you run into."
"Who'll teach me that stuff?" Prez wondered, believing it would take days or weeks of study.
Peter giggled. "You'll be surprised how quick you learn it!" he said.
"I think the important part," Skipper interjected, "is not dealing with the criminals, but in what the kids they've been neglecting or hurting need in order to get their feet back on the ground. We found that out with Jondo and then with Brandon and Andy, and we've seen it in some of the other guys in the Clan."
Derrick hummed thoughtfully, then offered, "Normalcy is what they need and what they're getting."
Looking over at the nest to check on Geoff, Drew softly said, "I took Geoff to the bathroom earlier. He wanted me to go in with him. No biggie, I figure he's scared and unsure where he is so I go in. He actually expected me to... ya know, play with his dick... and was surprised that I didn't want to."
Keith asked, "How did he react?"
Drew shrugged, "I think he was confused but he didn't say anything. When we got out of the bathroom and I picked him up, I got a kiss on the cheek though."
Prez smiled, "He appreciated not being a sex toy for you, bro." Keith nodded enthusiastically.
"That's something we're going to have to learn along with you," Jonas mused. "We have these 14 kids from the other timeline living with uis, along with Calvin, who's almost as new; we picked him up hitchhiking and Mom and Dad took on guardianship for him."
He went on, "How do we deal with kids that have been made into sex toys, bring them back to being normal kids? That's what we're faced with."
"All the kids you brought were sexually abused?" Drew asked.
"All but Calvin," Harry said. "And, of course, Philip, Drew, and Randy came along with us. They all were in abusive situations, but not sex abuse. And they're all Clan now – though Calvin is like you guys, brand new to being part of the Clan."
Keith softly offered, "It would seem to me that we have to teach them what is right and wrong. I can only speak for myself but, I didn't start becoming sexually active until I was about ten years old. So for the younger kids, they need to realize that they can choose if they want to be active or not. If they do, then we need to teach them who's appropriate as a partner. All of which has to be done with the most careful words and tones of voice, so they know they're not being punished or ridiculed. It's a simple matter of re-educating them." Keith paused, then groaned, "Oh my God, I sound like my mother!" Everyone erupted with chuckles and laughter.
Harry pointed out, "We need to build up their self-worth and reinforce to them that they have freedom and authority over their own bodies, not what someone else wants them to do – or not do."
Keith nodded, "Exactly. The most important point is how we teach them. It can't ever seem to be frightening to them. The fact is, they were taught stuff that little kids shouldn't have been exposed to. Me, Prez, Derrick and Mike all learned about our bodies together, as friends that were just messin' around."
Mike elaborated, "We all wanted to. No one was forced into anything. We came of age together and within two years, had made our choices of partners. The little kids need to understand that the adults that messed with them were deviants."
Derrick nodded, "At seven, all I cared about was drums, video games and school."
Philip said, "Some of them have really skewed understandings of what kids are supposed to do, thanks to what they've been through. I can really get a handle on that, because I got the same thing from the opposite side – sex was evil. Linda and I like each other now, but, uh, when I look at her, the feelings I get, I feel guilty about. Up here" – he pointed to his head – "I know that's stupid, but down in my gut, I can't help feeling that guilt. For the kids Kyle brought back and for the ones Joel rescued here, I'll bet there's a real feeling that they're supposed to be doing stuff, and feeling guilty because they're not." That was a sobering thought for everyone.
Locking eyes with Philip, Prez asked, "Can I make an observation?" Philip nodded, so Prez continued, "When it was the four of us together, it was fun. But all it took was one missing from the group to make it less fun. Looking back on it with twenty-twenty hindsight, I think guilt may have been part of the issue. For you, though, you're our age and about her age too. It really is kewl, bro. Obviously you can't just ignore what you're feeling, so I could only suggest what I might do in that situation."
"And that is?" Philip prodded.
"Take it slow," Prez answered. "As you feel more comfortable with her, share what your experiences are and how you're feeling."
Keith nodded, "That'll open communications, which we four already had together."
Philip hesitantly nodded. Skipper's eyes were mirthful. "You know what you sound like, guys?" he chuckled. "Telling a teenage boy to 'take it slow'?"
Prez chuckled, "Take the talking slow!"
Derrick nodded and teased, "We'll assume Phil and Linda will be dressed during this talk. Or maybe that's a poor assumption?"
"Philip, yes. Linda ... well, maybe!" Jonas laughed. Philip was turning a bright red at that point, and his pants revealed he was visualizing a naked Linda.
Shaking his head sadly but smiling, Drew felt compassion for Philip and warned, "Leave the poor guy alone before he breaks out in a sweat or crawls along the floorboards!" Focusing on Philip, Drew admitted, "They weren't very tactful when me and Corey hooked up either."
Keith playfully reminded, "But it's so easy to make you blush and it's so cute, bro!" Drew huffed impatiently and softly groaned. Everyone else laughed.
"What about you, John?" Jonas asked. "You're likely to have a different perspective on things than us older guys."
John shrugged and smiled, "I dunno. Nobody's really interested me like that yet. All I know is no matter who I choose, a boy or a girl, it's gonna be kewl with my folks. What I wanna know is how can you tell you like someone that way? I mean, is it thoughts or is it all in your pants?"
Bobby responded, "Well, when I got to about 12-and-a-half, I started boning up whenever I saw a hot guy, which was just about all the time." He paused and blushed. "But really, what I felt for Skipper was quite a bit different from just getting turned on ... though there was some of that too. It was, I don't know, that he was somebody I wanted to be with, in and out of bed, that I could trust with almost anything, a whole lot of feelings mixed together. Getting horny was only one piece of it – a big one, but only a part."
Corey smiled, "Last year, before Drew and I did anything together, I noticed that when he was around, everything was perfect. When he went home, I'd be like, bleh, bored and depressed for no real reason. It was everything really; unless Drew was around, my mind was a waste, my body ached, everything just was bleh." Slyly glancing at Drew, he asked, "Should I go further?"
"If ya want," Drew smiled.
Scooting closer to Drew, Corey giggled, then said, "Our first time was easy and fun. There wasn't guilt or bad feelings at all. It was like only a few days later, we both admitted we loved each other."
Drew nodded, "I guess it was the next weekend we told our parents."
Jonas spoke up. "Harry and I grew up together, like you Rimmers did. But I followed the social customs of small town Maine, and got interested in girls. Since I'm bi, it made perfect sense. A few of the guys and I fooled around, but that's all it was, scratching an itch, so to speak. I figured 'love' was what I felt about getting a girlfriend." He paused and grimaced at the memory. "Then the night after we rescued Jed and C.J., I found out that Harry had a crush on me. And I didn't have any problem making that a part of our relationship." He winced again. "But what really woke me up was when the F.C.C. attacked and I thought they'd killed Harry. That was when I found out what love really was, and how I'd nearly thrown it away. We've been together ever since, and married two days now and counting."
Harry said, "All it took, really, was for me to stop being scared of letting my best friend know how I felt and speaking up."
"I wasn't thinking anything about this stuff before I got sick," Peter said. "It was just school, an' losin' the family I loved, and I don't know, it seems so long ago. But since I turned into a Mikyvis, I've had a chance to see what people in love are feeling, and, um, well, I think there's somebody special for me. It's one of those guys that came in last Monday, and every time I see him, it's special, and I touched his mind, and he feels the same about me." The little Mikyvis blushed.
"Unfortunately," Derrick grinned, "the rest of us can't read minds."
Mike smirked, "It would take some of the fun out of it, but I can sure see how it would be so much easier to get together that way."
"No worries, no fear," Derrick nodded.
Glancing around at each of the other boys, John wondered, "So it's scary too?"
Everyone nodded and offered vocal affirmations of various sorts. Keith told his youngest brother, "Think about it; you feel something but can't be certain if the other person feels the same way about you."
Prez said, "One day, when Keith was at a piano lesson, I went and talked to Derrick and Mike, asking them if I should talk to Keith about it." Taking Keith's hand and chuckling at the memory, Prez said, "It was so weird. Here I am, talking to the other two guys I'd messed around with, asking if I should confront Keith. In effect, I'm telling them that although I like them both a lot, I prefer Keith. I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown."
Mike smirked, "By that time, Derrick and me had already chosen each other. Keith and Prez didn't know we had until they became a couple."
"So you guys were friends, then started fooling around, and then became couples?" Bobby asked.
"Where does forming the band fall into that?" Harry added.
Derrick answered, "Friends with very similar interests first. Mike was already playing guitar, Keith was already playing piano, Prez started playing guitar because of his own interests, but switched to bass because that's what our band needed."
"And because Mike's a much better guitarist with two years more experience than I've got," Prez interjected.
Mike admitted, "There was a point where our abilities were about the same."
John let out a massive yawn, echoed by Corey. Several of the boys decided it was time to join the younger ones in the nest. A few others continued conversing in a desultory manner for a while longer.