Tommy awoke to the sound of soft giggles coming from behind him. As he rolled onto his back to investigate the source, Kelly moaned in his sleep and shifted himself around until he was laying on the left side of Tommy's chest. As Tommy wiggled his arm free and wrapped it over Kelly's back, he addressed the source of the giggling. "Timmy, Ricky; what'ch y'all gigglin' 'bout?"
Timmy pointed towards Noah and Caleb. Though obviously still asleep, the two boys seemed to be acting out their mutual dream by grinding their bodies together. Tommy smiled then motioned to Timmy and Ricky. "Y'all get over here and cuddle with us; them two is just enjoyin' a dream. There ain't no need in you wakin' them and ruinin' it."
The two boys crawled over and slipped under the covers. Timmy immediately wiggled around until he was laying on top of Tommy's stomach, while Ricky snuggled into Tommy's right side. Kelly semi-woke enough to shift around and place his arm across Timmy's back and muttered "Go back to sleep kiddo, it's too early to play."
The last thing Tommy heard before he drifted back into dreamland was a soft voice from the middle of his chest. "Night, Unca Tommy. Love you."
Cory and Sean were engaged in the middle of their morning tongue wrestling when they heard Kelly's comment. "Timmy, this is getting to be a habit!"
They broke their kiss and scooted over to join the tangle of four boys by them. Cory took one look at Tommy's face and knew what had happened. "Hey lil' bro, let me guess; your nephew the wiggle worm has struck again. Don't worry about it; as far as I know he hasn't started doing it on purpose - yet."
Sean placed a hand on Timmy's shoulder and rubbed it softly. "Can you tell me what happened, son?"
Timmy turned his head and replied softly. "Sorry Poppa, Unca' Tommy was dreamin' and he started wiggling his pee-pee on me. My pee-pee was layin' on his; it felt good so I started rubbin' too. A couple a' minutes later, Unca' Tommy's spermies came out all over my weenie, they made it slippery and it tickled then tried to squirt spermies too."
Tommy sat up and pulled his nephew into a hug. "Relax little buddy, I'm not mad; you just surprised me. Promise me that you'll only do that with Ricky? It ain't right for you to be rubbin' with uncles, okay?"
"But we don't know what to do, Unca' Tommy."
Cory looked at Sean, who nodded his head. "Tom, Kel; for some reason I think these two trust you in these matters. We know neither of you would take advantage of them, so could you help them out?"
Kelly giggled. "I think you're just scared they'll get you next! I see what you mean, though. They see all of us makin' out and want to feel it too; it's up to Tommy, but I think it's a good idea that they learn what's okay and what's off limits."
Tommy glanced down at the young boy snuggled tightly against his chest. "I ain't gonna let this lil' guy get hurt; if we don't do it, he'll find someone who will. Kel and me's gotta get Doc's okay first, but if he goes for it we'll handle it bro."
Cory smiled. "Thanks guys; sooner or later Sean and I are gonna have to go on duty with Starfleet. You have no idea how much better it makes me feel to know that we can trust y'all to watch over Timmy. Now, nothing personal, but y'all need a shower!"
Cory and Sean couldn't help but giggle at the looks on Tommy and Kelly's faces as they were drug into the bathroom by their young nephews.
Everyone had just finished breakfast when Dan turned to Matt with a grin on his face. "Matt, did you remember to grab extra sheets for the boy's beds?"
Matt looked at Dan with a confused look. "Yeah, why?"
Dan chuckled. "From the amount of showers this morning, I'm betting they need changed already!"
Before Dan could brace himself, Justy led the charge of blushing boys pouncing Dan. John sat back and laughed. "You should know better, babe!" Before anyone else could react, Dan found himself unceremoniously thrown into the pool.
Teri tried to keep a straight face as the boys filed back in. "Was that really necessary, guys?"
She lost control though when Justy replied. "Yes Ma'am, it sure was! He's just jealous 'cause John didn't give him any last night!"
Once everyone had settled back down, Teri turned to Sean. "What have you guys got on the schedule today, Sean?"
Sean looked at his watch. "In a couple of hours we are supposed to leave to go up to the Enterprise. I figure we have enough time to catch a movie, then we'll head out to the spaceport and head up. That reminds me; just in case anything happens, I'm going to forward the house phone to Cory's communicator. We can respond a lot faster than you could if the boys need us."
"Good idea, Sean. Any idea when you guys will be back?"
"Not really, Captain Kirk invited us up. I'll call you just before we come back."
"Okay. I talked to Russ and Sara last night, they agreed to Tommy's plan, and are going to drive over as soon as they take care of a few things at home. I think there are going to be a pair of very happy boys very soon."
Timmy interrupted. "There's four now, Gran'ma! Kyle asked Mikey, DJ made two friends but the aunt they are comin' to see is in Heaven with my first Daddy."
Teri walked over and gave Timmy a hug. "Thanks for telling me, little one. We'll take care of DJ's friends too."
The boys headed into the Rec room and put in a Harry Potter movie. A few minutes later, Teri looked in on them and chuckled as she heard a lively argument going about which actor was the cutest.
Shuttle Mississippi, Des Moines Spaceport:
Sean began strapping himself into the pilots seat on the shuttle and glanced nervously at Matt.
Matt saw the look, and responded calmly. "Settle down Sean, this is no different than your training runs. If I even considered that you were not ready you wouldn't be sitting where you are now. Just relax, let's get this show on the road."
Sean sat back for a second, then turned to the passenger compartment. "Justy, secure all cargo and make sure everyone's belted in."
"Yes, Sir!" Justy replied with pride. Two minutes later, he called forward. "Passenger area ready for flight, Sean."
Sean forgot who his passengers were and settled into the routine. "Thanks' Justy. Mr. Barnes, begin preflight."
Matt began running his fingers over the console. "Exterior hatches closed and sealed. Life Support on line. Diagnostics passed, standing by to prefire thrusters."
"Acknowledged." Sean replied. "Opening flight plan."
Sean put on his headset and set it for the tower frequency. "Des Moines tower, this is shuttle Mississippi."
"This is Des Moines Tower. Go ahead Mississippi."
"Des Moines, open my flight plan, destination is NCC-1701-A. Standing by thrusters for clear pad."
"Acknowledged Mississippi. Flight plan open, state pilot and co-pilot."
"Des Moines, Pilot Ensign Sean Short, Co-pilot Lieutenant Matthew Barnes."
"Understood and logged Mississippi. Pad clear, engage thrusters and hold position."
"Thank you Des Moines. Engaging thrusters, understand hold position."
Sean turned to Matt. "Mr. Barnes, engage maneuvering thrusters and hold position."
"Aye Sir. Thrusters engaged, engines pass diagnostics and on line."
A few seconds later the comm link came to life. Shuttle Mississippi, this is Des Moines Tower. You are clear for takeoff heading 273 true. Transfer to Denver Control upon entry into Mountain Time Zone."
"Acknowledged Des Moines. Takeoff heading 273 true, transfer to Denver at Mountain Time Zone. Thank you, Mississippi out."
Sean then turned to Matt. "Mr. Barnes, take communications, I have the conn."
Matt smiled at the professional manner Sean was displaying. "Yes sir, I have communications and navigation, you have the conn."
Sean spun the shuttle until it was pointing the right direction, then engaged the engine and launched. As soon as they reached cruising altitude, he relaxed slightly as he announced with a grin "Thank you for flying Clan Short Airlines. I'm sorry, but we will not be providing in-flight meals today; the amount of food required to feed y'all would have put us over takeoff weight! You may now release your seat belts, we are taking a detour over the Grand Canyon for your viewing pleasure."
Matt barely suppressed his laughter at Sean's announcement. "Now THAT is the Sean I want to see at the helm!" he announced over the intercom.
Sean giggled. "We'll see what Captain Kirk thinks first; I'm not sure he's expecting that."
A couple of minutes later, Cory came up front. "Hey Matt, why didn't we get the Newton today?"
Matt grinned. "Well, Cory, the Newton is for Federation business - basically for your Mom and John. This shuttle was just assigned to Clan Short. It has a unique diplomatic status to match the Clan's status. You have got your own personal shuttle, in fact when we move to Orlando it moves with us."
"Wow! Who set that up?" Cory asked in surprise.
"I think Admiral Morrow did it as a gesture towards the Vulcan Embassy; basically acknowledging the status of the Clan. In fact, when we get back it's getting your crest put on it; they didn't have time to do it before we needed it today. They barely managed to get the new transponder in so that we ID as a diplomatic shuttle."
"Kewl! Thanks Matt, it all makes sense now." Cory replied as he turned to re-join the rest of the boys.
About fifteen minutes later, Sean announced "Anyone wanting to see the Grand Canyon, here's your chance!" It took a few passes to satisfy all of the boys, but once they had all returned to the back Sean smiled. "You know Matt, seeing the kid's faces was worth the side trip!"
"I agree! You can see so much more the way you went; I think it was a perfect choice."
"Thanks Matt. It made me relax some too, just flying without having to worry about anything. You ready to go up?"
"Ready when you are, Sean. Just give the word."
Sean smiled. "Let's do it, Matt. Lay in a course for the Denver corridor, then begin preparations for atmospheric departure."
"Course laid in, it's all yours Sean." Matt replied before turning his head to the passenger compartment. "Justy, get everyone ready; we're going up."
Just as Justy began strapping in the kids, Cory's communicator went off. As soon as he answered it, his face went pale. "Hold on, Tanner, we'll be right there. I'm going to give you to Justy; keep him updated - we are on our way." Cory passed the communicator to Justy then ran to the front of the shuttle. "Mr. Barnes, you are relieved of your station. Outfit a security crew with full body armor and prepare for landing. DJ has been shot, they are at the bus station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mr. Short, notify Denver Control we are declaring a Priority One emergency."
Sean snapped into command mode, and began rapid-firing orders. "You heard him, Mr. Barnes. Justy! Keep Tanner on the line; Adam - prepare for emergency maneuvering! Cory, take your station, lay in a direct course for Cheyenne, Wyoming."
Sean switched channels on the communications console as he began initialization of the emergency overrides, then announced "Denver Control, this is shuttle craft Mississippi. We are declaring a Priority One Medical Emergency; I repeat, this is Shuttlecraft Mississippi, we are declaring a Priority One Medical Emergency. Clear all airspace between our present location and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Clear airspace above Cheyenne, Wyoming for emergency atmospheric departure by request of Cory Short, Patriarch of Clan Short of Vulcan. Acknowledge."
A few seconds later, he received the reply. "Shuttlecraft Mississippi, Priority One emergency acknowledged. You have clear airspace below thirty thousand feet en route to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Civilian ATC has been notified and traffic grounded. Airspace above Cheyenne is now a no-fly zone. Do you require us to contact your destination?"
"Negative Denver, thank you. Initiating Emergency maneuvers. Mississippi out."
"Acknowledged. Denver Out."
Adam yelled from the back. "Hit it Sean, we're set back here."
"Hold on!" Sean yelled back as he maxed the thrusters and sped towards Cheyenne. The snap from the shuttle passing the sound barrier echoed down the length of the Grand Canyon. Sean kept his eyes on where he was going as he asked Cory "Have you located that bus station yet?"
"Just entering it into the system now!" Cory replied. "You got it - they better hope there's a place to land."
Justy yelled directions from the back. "Sean, Tanner says there is a yard on the east side; the doors are on the west side though, the east side is only windows."
"Land on the east side!" Matt yelled. "We'll make our own door if we need to!"
"You got it Matt; prepare to disembark on my mark. Phasers set at your discretion, use deadly force if needed."
"Cory, set override on the doors. I want them open the second I cut the thrusters."
Cory entered the commands into the console. "Override set, awaiting your command."
Sean came in fast and low, taking the top off of a small tree as he crossed the sidewalk. He was still about six inches off of the ground when he cut the thrusters. "Landing Party - MOVE!"
Matt led the calvary out the open door. As he quickly appraised the situation through the glass, he saw a man he recognized from pictures as Colin laying on the floor, holding his leg with one hand while trying to control a pistol with the other. When he saw the man turn the pistol towards a small body on the ground, Matt blew out the window in front of them with his phaser rifle. At that point, Colin made his first and last mistake. He shot towards Matt's legs; the problem was, he hit the artificial section of Matt's leg. Colin's shock at Matt not even flinching at a hole you could see daylight through caused him to pause, before he could recover and fire again it was too late. JJ and Gabe both drew a bead on Colin and knocked him out with their phasers. A movement between the benches caught JJ's eye; he nudged Gabe and they focused on the area. JJ had a hunch that he knew who was trying to sneak away; as soon as they got a clear shot they dropped the two suspects. Matt looked over the area then opened his communicator. "Area secure." Immediately, Antonio exited the shuttle with the Med kit, followed closely by Justy, Jamie, Jacob, Kyle, Sebastian, and Sammy. Cory led the second group out, leaving Sean as the only one in the shuttle.
Antonio laid out the Med kit, and quickly surveyed the injuries. Colin's injuries were the worst; he had been stabbed in the inner leg and the femoral artery had been nicked. Antonio quickly repaired the artery and closed the wound, then sedated Colin so that he would not be a threat for about eight hours. Antonio then rushed over to the boy laying on the floor with Timmy trying to snuggle against him. "You must be DJ; relax and I'll see what I can do."
Timmy snuggled tighter to DJ and held his hand while Antonio started stabilizing him. "Is DJ gonna be okay, 'Tonio?"
Antonio looked up from the readout on the tricorder. "He's gonna be fine, it looks worse than it is."
Antonio winced as he began repairs. No major blood vessels had been hit, but the bullet had lodged in the bone. Antonio sealed the smaller blood vessels to stop the bleeding, and extracted the bullet to prevent lead poisoning. The damage to the bone was too much for the equipment he had to take care of, so he temporarily closed things up and numbed the nerves in DJ's leg to eliminate the pain he was feeling. "DJ, listen up. You need to stay laying down, I've stopped your bleeding, but we need better stuff to really finish fixing you. Your bone is messed up, it might break if you stand on it. That new growth on your side is Timmy; why don't the two of you get to know each other while you are waiting to leave."
DJ gave a weak smile in response, and Antonio stood up to go to the other injured boy. As he walked over, a strawberry blond boy that was kneeling by DJ got up and joined him.
Once they were out of earshot, the boy asked Antonio in a low, cold voice "Why did you fix that trash before you fixed DJ? I thought you were coming to help us."
Antonio spun and looked up to stare the boy straight in the eyes. "You must be Tanner. Let me tell you something; in thirty-six years, I have learned one thing, it is NOT my place to decide if someone lives or dies. I suffer from a unique medical condition that makes it in my best interest to have the medical knowledge of a paramedic; I have a photographic memory so I can learn a years worth of knowledge in a week of studying. Since I'm the one with medical training, I'm the one responsible for making the decisions as to who is most critical. If Colin dies, it will be as a result of judgment for his crimes or other causes; not because I refused to treat him. If you ask any ethical medical personnel what you asked me, they will give you the same answer." Antonio turned, knelt down, and began examining a black-haired boy lying on the floor.
Tanner looked down at Antonio in shock. "Sorry Sir, I kinda thought you was a k ... I mean ... uhhh ... is Beau gonna be okay?"
Antonio looked over his shoulder. "Beau is gonna be fine, thanks for telling me his name. He's just got a mild concussion, I can fix that fairly quick. We'll have to talk to Doc about a replacement tooth though, he lost one here. What happened to him?"
"Colin pistol-whipped him, sir. Toby is freaked right now. He won't come out of the office; he's afraid that he's lost his little brother."
Antonio turned to Tanner with a smile. "Tanner, please stop the 'sir' stuff, I'm Antonio, okay? I may have been alive thirty-six years, but I'm still only nine. I'll explain later, it's kinda confusing. Don't worry about what you said, I actually understand what you were thinking; I don't hold it against you. Right now I'd like to ask a favor of you; can you get Toby and tell him I said he needs to be here when I wake Beau up? Then go tell Cory what happened; he's the blond numbskull talking with DJ and Timmy."
"Okay, but why does Cory need to know what happened?"
"This is kinda scary, but he's in charge! Trust me dude, you guys just got inducted into a group that's put the FBI in their place; just go with the flow for now and we'll fill you in later. Go get Toby, I'm almost done."
Tanner ran off, and a few seconds later a boy with white-blond hair came sliding to a stop next to Antonio. "Tanner said he was gonna be okay! Why are his eyes still closed? Where's the doctor?"
Antonio smiled. "I guess you're Toby. I'm Antonio, and I'm the one fixing up your little brother. Beau is fine, but the best thing for him is going to be seeing his CALM big brother sitting here with him when I wake him up. If you are scared, he'll be scared. Let me know when you are ready."
The shock of finding a kid healing his little brother brought Toby out of his panic. "Dude, I hope you're not messin' with me! If you're serious, hit it. If not, you better run."
Antonio giggled. "Get ready then." He adjusted some controls, and a few seconds later Beau's eyes fluttered open.
"Toby!" Beau exclaimed softly as he sat up and wrapped his arms around his brother's chest. "Are you okay? Are DJ and Tanner okay?"
Antonio answered for Toby, who he could tell was speechless. "Tanner and Toby didn't get hurt; DJ's still got to be fixed up the rest of the way, but he's gonna be fine too."
Beau looked over at Antonio, and saw the medical equipment strewn around him, including things he didn't recognize. "Where's the doctor? Last thing I remember is getting hit after I stabbed that sorry piece of trash."
Antonio smiled. "I'm the one who fixed everyone up; from what I've heard, you saved DJ's life. The trash is going to be punished severely for hurting you guys."
Beau looked at Antonio suspiciously. "Yeah, right; whatever. I heard him say he was a cop; ain't no one gonna believe us over him. I'm probably goin' to jail now."
All three boys jumped as a new voice joined in. "You're wrong on both counts. He screwed up big time; he's not gonna be going in front of any Earth courts. By the way, I'm Cory; and I know for a fact that there's an Admiral who won't even let charges be filed against you. You might not have known it at the time, but when you swore to be DJ and Tanner's brothers forever last night, you put yourself under the same protection they're under since they ran away. They told me all about you guys; the only place you two are going is to your brothers new home. The four of you are family, and it's gonna stay that way. C'mon; DJ is waiting to see you guys; he's got to wait 'till we get to Doc to get his leg finished, so right now he can't walk."
The boys went over to DJ and Tanner, and were shortly tied up in a group hug. As Cory walked with Antonio to join them, he commented "How're they doing, Gramps?"
"Stuff it, Blondie." Antonio growled. "I might be old enough to be your dad, but we've already decided not to treat me that age. They're gonna be fine; I'm glad I'd studied all of those medical books over the years - somehow I chose a different one after each brain wipe they tried. Doc Austin found out and showed me how to use the Med Kits; with you klutzes he figured we'd need it. "
They had got within earshot of the new boys as Antonio made his comment, and Cory noticed three confused faces staring at him. "I'll explain later guys; for right now, lets just say you are looking at a very old nine-year-old. I've got some good news for you though; you don't need to talk to Mom about the Safe Haven Act. All four of you are protected under Vulcan law as members of Clan Short. Mom's working out the details now to give you the family you deserve, and I've made sure that there's not a law enforcement agency on Earth that can touch you for what you had to do." Cory finally took the chance to look over the new boys. DJ matched the description they had of him perfectly; thirteen years old, about five foot three, with sandy blond hair and emerald green eyes. He then looked over the three other boys. Beau, the youngest, was about four-three, with black hair and what could only be described as blazing blue eyes. From his build, Cory guessed him at about eight years old; but after Jamie and Jacob he knew better than to go by looks. Next to him was Toby; white blond hair, maybe four-six, with the same eyes as Beau. Toby looked no more than ten. Last was Tanner; about five-three, strawberry blond hair with an eight-inch thin pony tail, steel gray eyes, and the best tan Cory had ever seen. Cory knew that Tanner was also thirteen, and that him and DJ were boyfriends. He turned to Tanner. "Hey Tanner, you can relax; your boyfriend is going to be just fine. Why don't you introduce everyone to the rest of the group here?"
As Matt went to restrain the freshly sedated Colin, JJ and Gabe ran to the other two suspects. As they were restraining the pair for when they regained consciousness, JJ yelled to Matt. "We've got Steve and Mary here!"
"Okay, I've got positive ID, this is Colin!" Matt replied. He finished restraining Colin, then turned to the group of telepaths waiting in front of him. "Okay guys, they are all yours.
Justy concentrated for a second, then announced. "Bros, take this piece of trash; Kyle and 'Bastian, take Mary. Sammy, you and I'll take Steve. Let's drain them guys."
Just then, a local Police Captain walked up to Matt. "I don't know who the hell you think you are, but get these kids out of here before I arrest every single one of you for disrupting a crime scene. Where are tho..."
Matt interrupted as he flipped out his ID. "I'll tell you who we are. Lieutenant Matthew Barnes, Head of Security for Clan Short of Vulcan. My security team has taken three persons into custody for attempted murder of a Clan member. Any further questions need to be directed to the Clan Patriarch, Cory Short; he's the blond young man talking to Detective Gunn over there."
The Captain glanced at the ID, then looked back up with a smile. "My apologies, Sir. I didn't consider that this might be a different way of doing an investigation. Don't you worry about the loss of physical evidence?"
"No need for it. Do you see the pairs of boys with each suspect? By the time those boys stand up, I'll be able to tell you if any of them killed a fly ten years ago. All six of those boys have telepathic abilities, and have been trained to use them to collect evidence. The evidence will be verified by Vulcan mind-meld and entered into an official deposition."
The Captain chuckled. "I know where it goes from there; a Vulcan deposition bears more weight than a signed confession. Is there any way we can assist you?"
Matt thought for a second. "I think we've got it under control in here; but could your officers clear traffic and pedestrians for about a one-block radius? If I know our pilot, he's gonna tear out of here like a roadrunner with it's tail feathers on fire as soon as we can load up the injured kids."
"Consider it done!" the Captain replied as he pulled out his radio and ran towards the doorway.
Tanner looked at Cory in shock. "How'd you know we're boyfriends? Now I know we ain't gonna ..."
Cory placed a hand gently over Tanner's mouth. "Shh, don't panic. A lot of the guys in this room are boyfriends, in fact my life partner, Sean, is waiting in the pilot's seat of that shuttle for all of us. Our son Timmy is the one who has been talking to DJ; that's him down there holding DJ's hand. Y'all are with friends now, for real."
Tanner nodded his head. Once Cory moved his hand, he smiled shyly. "Sorry I panicked, it's just that nothings went right yet. The blond here is Toby, and the little black haired guy is Beau. They're twelve and ten, they're supposed to ..."
Cory interrupted again as he pulled the two boys into a hug. "They are going to join you as brothers in your new family. Guys, your Aunt passed away; later tonight I'll explain how we knew without knowing your names. For now, you can relax; you have a real home to go to."
Jamie and Jacob walked up and joined the group. Jamie spoke for the pair. "Cory, how long do we gotta keep this trash in our heads? Uncle Spock's gonna have to use bleach to get it outta there - it stinks!"
Cory giggled. "Not long guys, we're taking off as soon as everyone's ready. I'm figuring he was the worst, so I'll ask Mr. Spock to do you guys first."
Within a few minutes, Justy, Sammy, Kyle, and Sebastian joined them. Antonio looked up, "It's about time, slowpokes. Y'all ready to go?"
Matt turned to his telepathic interview squad. "You guys have been in their heads; do I need to have them beamed up or will they be safe in the shuttle?"
Justy, Kyle, Sammy, and Sebastian conferred for a minute before replying. Just before they were ready to answer, Antonio joined them. A few seconds later, Justy gave their answer. "Load them up and strap them down, Matt. We got it all figured out."
Antonio waved Benji and Eli over. He broke into giggles when Eli walked up. "Eli, you forgot something again, goofball!"
Eli grinned as he looked down and noticed only one foot. "Whatever; it's just for show anyways! Is DJ ready for a ride?"
DJ was feeling a little silly. "Dude, you're standing on one leg; how can you carry me?" he giggled.
Benji leaned over and explained softly. "He's gonna carry you the same way he carries himself; by floating. I'm gonna take care of the rejects from society. If you want, Tanner can ride with you."
DJ looked over to his boyfriend and smiled. "Tanner, can you hold my hand and walk with me?" The look on all four new boy's faces was priceless as DJ raised off of the ground and floated towards the shuttle.
A minute later, everyone was loaded into the shuttlecraft. Sean looked over their prisoners, then asked a smirking Antonio "What did you do to them, 'Tonio?"
Antonio giggled. "They're just taking a nap for about the next eight hours. Doc McCoy can wake them up if we need them."
Sean smiled. "Way to go, bro." He then headed to the front, and stopped at the first row where their guests of honor were seated. Justy had converted one of the seats into a bed for DJ; Sean smiled as he knelt next to him. "Hey dude, you doin' okay?"
DJ gave a weak smile. "Yeah, but I can't feel my leg. Are you sure it's gonna work again?"
Sean laid a hand on DJ's shoulder. "Don't worry; Antonio just blocked the feeling in it so that you don't suffer. It's all still there."
"Promise. Now you need to just relax, I'm about to take you on the kewlest ride of your life."
Sean became all business as he stood up. He looked around the cabin, addressing occupants as he found them. "Gabe, JJ; you are authorized deadly force - understood?"
"Cory, call Mom. We're stepping up the timetable; we've got the resources of the Federation at our disposal, tell her to use them."
"Got it Bro."
Sean yelled over his shoulder as he moved into the pilots seat. "Justy, prepare for atmospheric departure!" he then turned to Matt. "Mr. Barnes, notify Denver we are initiating Emergency Atmospheric Departure. Bring all systems on line NOW."
"Yes Sir!" Matt replied as he worked his console.
Sean adjusted his communications board, then keyed the transceiver. "Enterprise this is shuttle Mississippi."
"Enterprise, Uhura here. Go ahead Sean."
"Thank you Nyota. I need to speak to the Captain or whoever has the Conn. Requesting Emergency Recovery."
A few seconds later, a new voice came on. "Kirk here. Is there a problem Sean?"
"Yes Sir; could you have a Medical team and Security detail standing by in the Shuttle bay? We are transporting a stabilized gunshot victim and three detainees. We are initiating Emergency Atmospheric Departure in approximately fifteen seconds."
"Understood Ensign. Upon atmospheric departure, initiate Emergency Recovery Sequence Alpha. Personnel will be standing by."
"Acknowledged Captain. We are to come in under Recover Sequence Alpha. Mississippi out."
Justy yelled from the back. "Sean, passengers secure."
"Thanks Justy." Sean turned to Matt. "Status, Matt?"
"Life support on line, all propulsion systems on line. Awaiting your command."
"I have the conn; let's rock and roll." Sean announced.
A scant few seconds later, a sonic boom marked the beginning of a new life for four unknowing boys.
Main Bridge, USS Enterprise:
As soon as he closed the connection with Sean, Kirk went into action. "Mr. Dodds, take Helm to manual. Uhura, sound Yellow Alert; Med team and Security to Shuttle bay for emergency recovery. Mr Spock, you have the conn."
Kirk spun and headed for the turbolift. "Shuttle bay." he announced as soon as he was through the doors.
Scotty met Kirk as he entered the shuttle bay. "What be the problem, Capt'n?"
McCoy joined them just as Kirk replied. "Ensign Sean is coming in hot with a gunshot victim and three detainees. Bones, he said the victim has been stabilized. Scotty, recovery procedure Alpha has been set."
"I'll be on it, Sir!" Scotty replied as he spun around and began rapid-firing orders to the bay crew.
Kirk had just finished filling in Mr. Thompson when he saw the flash of the shuttle passing the Enterprise and then making a quick U-turn. A few seconds later, Scotty received control from Sean and Kirk announced "We're bringing them in; get ready to move!"
McCoy led the charge into the shuttle as soon as the door opened. He spotted a young boy with a tricorder hovering over a seat in front, and rushed up there. Just as he arrived, he heard some very un-childlike mutterings from the boy about the linage of shuttle pilots. "How's the patient, doctor?" McCoy asked with a touch of sarcasm.
Antonio responded without looking up. "Considering the roller coaster we just rode, he's fine. Sean ain't gonna be that lucky when I get my hands on him." Antonio then turned his head and saw who he was talking to. "Sorry Sir, I'm Antonio Barnes. Let me get out of your way."
"I'm Doctor McCoy, son. The only place you're going is to sickbay with our patient. I've been waiting to meet you; besides it sounds like you need a little instruction on keeping hot-shot command officers in line." McCoy replied with a rare smile. He looked over at the three worried faces hovering over DJ. "You three are coming with us; it looks like a couple of you got involved too. I'll get your physicals out of the way while he's recovering."
Three hours later, Forward Lounge:
McCoy led Antonio and the four boys into the lounge to rejoin their group. The only remaining sign of DJ's injury was a slight limp. They were no more than three feet inside the door when Timmy noticed them and ran over, wrapping his arms around DJ's waist.
"DJ! I KNEW you'd be okay! Doc is the BESTEST in the Universe! C'mon guys, you gotta meet ev'ryone!"
McCoy shook his head in wonder as Timmy dragged the boys off. Antonio joined him as he walked over to join Kirk, Chip, Matt, and Sean.
Kirk could not resist the temptation as the two joined them. "Why Bones, I do believe you are growing a shadow!"
McCoy glanced at Antonio, and placed a hand on the blushing boy's shoulder as he replied. "Actually Jim, this young man's thirst for knowledge on the preservation of life is, as Spock would so eloquently put it, impressive. His mind is like a steel trap; by the time DJ was done, Antonio was asking questions about the equipment that I had to think about the answers to. Sean, tell that blond goofball that passes for an Engineers Assistant not to question this young man about medical priorities; the tricorder recorded his tongue-lashing of Tanner. I couldn't have done it better myself. I've ordered Dr. Michaels to accelerate Antonio's medical training. Within the next six months, he is going to take over internal Clan medical. That will free Doctor Michaels up for Safe Haven work. Chip, that means he will be taking care of your sons planet side."
Matt knelt down and pulled Antonio into a hug. "I'm proud of you Son; today you showed everyone the special lil' guy that I love more and more each day."
Antonio melted into Matt's arms. "Daddy; can we sit down? I wanna cuddle."
"As you wish my Elven Prince!" Matt replied as he stood with Antonio still in his arms and carried him to a chair.
Once they were out of hearing, Sean asked McCoy softly. "Doc; all of this switching around ain't gonna mess up Antonio's head, is it? I mean, he won't get dual personalities or something?"
"Good question Sean. From what I can tell the personality shifts from child to adult are a survival instinct; he should grow out of it as his body reaches adulthood. It seems that when his experience is needed the adult comes out; otherwise his normal emotional level is dominant."
"Thanks Doc, that makes sense." Sean glanced over towards the new boys and noticed they seemed to be getting mobbed. "Excuse me, I see four boys who look like they could use a private tour to unwind. With your permission, Captain, I would like to have them on the Bridge in a half hour. I think a stop by the Recreation Deck would do them some good first."
"Permission granted, Ensign. Your plan sounds perfect."
"Thank you, Sir." Sean replied before he turned and intercepted DJ, Tanner, Toby and Beau.
Chip glanced around the room, and smiled as he saw Scotty and Cory assembling their own little group for an Engineering tour. "They're learning." he muttered.
"Yes they are." Kirk replied. "Let's head to the Officer's Galley on Deck Three. I want to give these guys a surprise for dinner."
To both Kirk and Chip's surprise, McCoy chimed in. "Good idea, let me get Antonio and Matthew. Two of these boys have nutritional requirements which they need to be aware of."
Russ and Sara's house, Wendover, Utah:
Russ looked up at the clock on the wall. "That's a good sign; the boys should have left Cheyenne about a half hour ago."
Sara nodded. "I'm surprised they haven't called to say they're okay. I'm sure if Teri had got a call she'd let us know though."
Just as the words left her mouth, the doorbell rang. She relaxed when she opened the door and found their neighbor's eleven year old son Ian.
"Hey Sara, can those boys come out and play?" he asked excitedly, a gleam in his brown eyes.
"I'm sorry Ian, they had to go home already."
Ian was crestfallen. "Aww mannn. I figured they was still here since those birds are still playin' in the yard. I didn't even get to meet them."
Sara ran her fingers through his long chocolate-brown hair. "I'm sorry kiddo." It then hit her what he'd said. "Ian, did you say birds; as in more than one?"
"Stay right here, Ian." Sara turned her head. "Russ! Front yard, NOW!"
"Ian, how'd you like to see those eagles up close?"
"Won't they hurt me?"
Russ joined them. "Actually, I'll bet they would like to play in the sprinkler with you. Those are special eagles."
They went into the front yard. Sure enough, William and Duke were strutting around the yard, popping covers off of the sprinkler heads then putting them back on.
Ian began giggling once he realized what they were doing. "They're silly birds!"
William looked up, then walked over to Ian and gently tugged on the boy's pants. Duke began tapping one of his claws on the top of the sprinkler that he had just re-assembled.
Ian knelt down, and was surprised when William hopped onto his lap and snuggled against his chest.
"Go ahead and pet him." Russ told Ian.
The boy's eyes were wide as he gently rubbed his fingers along William's head and back. Russ brought over a lawn chair, placing it behind Ian and then helping him up into it.
Russ leaned over to William. "William, tell your friend I'm going to turn on the section by the driveway so the rest of us don't get wet."
Duke gave a "cluck" of thanks, then strutted over to the edge of the driveway.
Russ had just returned from turning on the sprinkler when Ian's dad and mom, Robin and Kayla, walked into the yard. Sara motioned them to join her next to Ian. "Come on over and meet Ian's new friend, William!" she chuckled.
Robin was trying to figure out a tactful way to separate his son from what he was sure was a wild eagle, when he was distracted by the sudden appearance of two shimmering columns directly in front of them.
As soon as Teri and John materialized, they took in the action around them. Teri turned to Russ and held out her hand. "Russ, I'm Teri Short, Federation Youth Services. This is Commander John Martin, Federation Security. You already know William; the bird who mis-appropriated your sprinkler is Duke."
Russ shook their hands. "Pleasure to meet you. These are our neighbors Robin and Kayla York. That's their son Ian holding William. Are ..."
Sara snapped out of her shock and interrupted. "I'm Sara. Are the boys okay? What happened? ..."
Teri held up her hand. "The boys will be fine. Right now they are on the Starship Enterprise, along with two friends they made on the bus. Their former parents are in custody; the little bit of information I have suggests freedom is no longer an option for any of the three of them."
"What happened?" Sara repeated.
John took over. "The preliminary report I got from Lt. Barnes is pretty minimal. It appears that Colin, DJ's father, had someone here tracking you. They found out the boy's route, and tried to abduct them at Cheyenne. Two boys got hurt; one of their new friends got a concussion when he was pistol-slapped after injuring Colin with his knife, and DJ was shot in the leg. Tanner used the cell phone you gave him to call; it was forwarded to the shuttle that Cory and the rest of the boys were on. They responded, gave first aid, took the suspects in custody, then went directly to the Enterprise to finish the repairs to DJ's leg."
He was interrupted by Teri's communicator.
"Enterprise to Director Short."
Teri recognized the voice instantly; there was no mistaking the accent. "This is Mom, go ahead Tommy. Does the Captain know what you are doing?"
"MOM!" Tommy giggled before he continued. "Aunt Nyota is giving me lessons. We just heard from Doctor McCoy. DJ is on light duty for a week to finish healing. When we get home, you need to sit down with Antonio, Helen, and the new parents regarding a medical problem Toby and Beau have. Scotty won't let us feed the old parents into the converters, so as soon as we eat and figure out which prison planet they go to we'll be home. Love you, Mom!"
Teri smiled. "Thanks for the update Tommy; Love you too! Short out."
The combination of the good news and the actual exchange broke the stress and had all of the adults smiling. "It sounds like you've got a pretty special son there, Mrs. Short." Robin chuckled.
"Please, just use our first names." Teri replied. "Would you believe that he has a Mississippi drawl that will drive you nuts normally? He's the most recent son that I've adopted, and still is adjusting to having a loving family. I'm up to five living sons at home, one unofficial son in Orlando, and one who was killed by a drunk driver but tends to pop in occasionally. And I can't forget, one grandson and one grandeagle; from the looks of it they are missing each other."
Teri noticed that Ian looked dejected. She knelt in front of him and lifted his chin. "What's the matter, Ian?"
Teri looked him in the eyes. "Ian, I have a house full of boys of all ages who have had to live through things you've never heard of. I've got real good at knowing when something's wrong. We can't make it better if you don't tell us."
Something in the tone of her voice reached Ian, and he opened up. "When I saw a couple of boys over here, I was hoping that they'd like me and maybe be my friends. I got here and they were already gone; now I hear one got hurt and they got to go to a starship. They ain't never gonna come back here, and I ain't got any friends since I am nasty. Daddy can't move anywhere where nobody knows about me since he got laid off. William's the only one besides mommy, daddy, Russ, and Sara that even will cuddle me."
To everyones surprise, Teri looked at the eagle in Ian's lap. "William, I just heard Ian talk bad about himself. By any chance is he feeling the same emotional leanings as most of the boys at home?"
Surprise turned to shock when William turned to face Teri and clearly nodded his head. He then turned back and snuggled into Ian's chest.
Teri turned her attention back to Ian. "Do your parents know what you were talking about when you called yourself nasty?"
"Okay, we'll talk about this out in the open then. You are not nasty; you might be gay. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact I personally know about thirty boys who are gay. I love every single one of them, too. If your parents don't mind, you still have a chance to meet DJ and Tanner; you can escort William and Duke to the Enterprise. That way you can talk to the guys in person, and see that there is really nothing wrong with you."
Ian looked at his parents expectantly. "Please? I'll be good!"
Kayla thought for a second, then asked Teri "Who would be watching him? The other boys could lose him so easy up there."
Teri smiled reassuringly. "Two of my sons are Ensigns assigned to the Enterprise. Also, the Chief Helmsman's sons are there. Between the five of them, there's no way anything will happen to Ian. He's probably safer up there than in your own yard."
Robin glanced at his wife, then gave the decision. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him; go ahead. How's he going to get there and back?"
Teri smiled. "He'll be transported up; if I know Sean and Cory, they'll bring him back on the shuttle after dinner."
Robin reached over and ruffled Ian's hair. "What do you think, son? Can you handle a transporter, a starship, and a shuttle ride all in one day?"
Ian was speechless, all he could do is nod his head so fast it was about to pop off.
Teri put a hand on his shoulder. "You're going to need to calm down a little so I can tell you what to do, okay. I'm going to call in and make the arrangements while you are relaxing."
He nodded once more, then Teri opened her communicator.
"Director Short to Enterprise."
"Enterprise, Uhura here. How may I help you, Teri?"
"Nyota, I have two eagles and one youth who would like to come aboard."
"The Captain says that's not a problem, Teri. Do we need to make any special arrangements?"
"You probably should track down my grandson and his cohort to meet their eagles; since Cory is probably glued to Scotty he can welcome Ian."
Nyota was chuckling as she replied. "Not a problem, Teri. Mr. Scott will call you when he's ready. Enterprise out."
"Thank you; Short out."
Ian was in a daze as Teri explained what he needed to do. She had finally got through to him when her communicator went off.
"Enterprise to Director Short."
"Go ahead, Mr. Scott."
"Aye Lass; by any chance would the young laddy and our feathered friends be ready to join us?"
"I'm not sure who is more excited Mr. Scott; the birds or Ian. They're in position; three to beam up."
"I be locked in and awaiting your word, Teri."
"Energize, Mr. Scott."
A few seconds later, Scotty came back on. "The young laddy and his feathered friends be flyin' around the transporter room. I do believe they're happy to be here!"
Teri giggled. "Thank you Mr. Scott. Short out."
Teri looked over to see four relieved faces looking back at her. "I think he's going to be occupied for a while; now it looks like the six of us need to sit down and have a talk about the future."
Deck Nine Brig, USS Enterprise, outside Holding Cell One, after dinner:
Kirk turned to Spock as they were entering the Brig. "I'm still not sure this is a good idea, Spock."
Spock stopped, motioning the rest of the group to wait. "Understandable, Captain. Logically this interrogation is unnecessary by looking at the surface facts. You must factor in the emotional inconsistencies of the human brain to find the purpose of this endeavor. The emotional and physical trauma which this being has inflicted with the willful arrogance that he is above the law requires closure. The only logical means of closure for these youths is to witness his ultimate breakdown when the fallacy of his legal status is realized."
McCoy's comment from the rear of the group caught everyone by surprise. "I hate to say it, but for once your damn logic makes sense Spock."
Kirk smiled. "Well put, Bones. Let's get this over with."
They split into two groups as they entered the area. DJ, Tanner, Toby, and Beau took up positions in the back group. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Cory and Lt. Thompson entered the cell first. Gabe and JJ entered next and took up positions covering the flanks of the main group. Finally, the back group entered, staying safely behind everyone else.
Cory took the lead. "Colin McAllister. You have been detained for a multitude of crimes." Cory then listed off every single law that Colin had broke. " ... The last and most serious charges against you are one count of attempted murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
Colin grinned smugly. "I'm a cop, punk. Don't try to pull no shit. That fairy so-called son of mine made that shit up to cover for his little boyfriend trying to kill me with a bat. Also, if that little brat hadn't stabbed me, nobody woulda got shot; my finger wasn't even on the trigger. I want my lawyer; once I'm done all of you are getting it for false imprisonment; those four punks in back are all going to Juvie."
Cory barely kept his temper as he replied. "You might want to rethink your attitude; I've got statements which prove you are lying out your ass."
"Kid, go back to your sandbox. Your so-called statements ain't worth toilet paper. I'm a cop, my word IS law."
"Not on MY planet it's not." Cory growled. He turned to Kirk, came to attention, and spoke in a flat voice. "Captain Kirk; as Patriarch of Clan Short of the family of Sarek of the planet Vulcan I am required to claim jurisdiction regarding this detainee. I require the assistance of the persons present as witnesses to immediate trial."
"I acknowledge your jurisdiction, Patriarch Short. The resources of the Enterprise are at your disposal." Kirk replied.
As Cory turned to Spock, Colin shouted out "What the hell do you think you're doing? You are a HUMAN, and the Federation is supposed to protect US! You have no right letting some alien trash persecute me! I want to talk to your superior officer NOW!:"
Cory ignored the outburst as he spoke. "Mr. Spock, you may proceed."
"As you wish, Mr. Short." Spock replied. "Mr. McAllister, there are indications that you are unaware of the facts surrounding this issue. David and Tanner are under the protection of Clan Short by order of Admiral Morrow. Your recent action regarding David violated Interstellar Law. Mr. Short's declaration of jurisdiction may only be overridden by the Vulcan High Council; the scope of the evidence against yourself indicates that the logic of his decision is impeccable. Immediately following your detention the facts of your crimes were telepathically retrieved by two independent sources. Patriarch Short requested my assistance reviewing the evidence. Upon completion of the review I logged the official deposition. The list of crimes which Mr. Short reviewed earlier are correct, in addition the charge of attempted murder is raised to five counts. It is my findings that your intent was to murder all four boys in addition to an Officer Robb Gunn. Mr. Short. As First Officer of the Starship Enterprise, I release Colin McAllister for your sentencing."
Cory stood silently, his expressionless face watching as Colin realized he had finally met his match. In the back, Tanner and DJ began to feel that justice was being served as they watched the emotions fleeting across Colin's face. At first there was anger, but it quickly gave way to shock, panic, and then a painful resignation.
Once Cory was sure Colin realized the full implications of his actions, he spoke. "Mr. McAllister, over a course of many years you have used your own son for personal gain. You invaded his privacy and committed murder of your own wife to continue your perversions. You committed the worst act a father can do to his child; you attempted to molest him and his friend. Then you went a step further; when it was obvious he was no longer going to cooperate with your wishes, you attempted to kill him and his friends. Humans are an unique species; they literally wear their emotions on their faces. The one emotion which you have not displayed your entire life is remorse; even now it is absent from your expressions. I will allow you two minutes for a final statement before pronouncing sentence."
Colin realized leniency was not in Cory's vocabulary, so he went for broke; trying to inflict one last bit of pain. "I admit I did all of that - in fact I made good money. My only regret is that they didn't wanna play along; in fact I would have let their little friends join the fun too if they wanted to."
He was cut off by a soprano growl from the back. "You bastard!" Beau screamed as he rushed past the shocked adults directly towards Colin. Beau had his knife in his hand, and it was obvious he intended to complete the sentencing himself.
Everything seemed to switch to slow motion for everyone. Beau launched himself into midair, bowie knife out for the kill. Colin knocked Beau off to the side and managed to grab the knife from him. As he turned towards Kirk and raised the knife to throw it, JJ realized what was happening and tackled the Captain. Gabe drew a bead; as soon as Beau had fell clear, Gabe shouted "Strike three; you're OUT Bitch!" as he vaporized Colin on the spot. As the knife clattered harmlessly to the deck, time slipped back to normal and everyone began to react.
As McCoy checked on Kirk, Cory rushed over to Beau and ensured he was okay. Once he was sure that the only thing wrong was that Beau was a little shaken up, Cory sat on the floor and pulled the boy into his lap. As the rest of the boys surrounded him, he spoke calmly "Beau, promise me you will never attempt anything like that again. Even though the end result was the same, that was not the way he needed to be executed. You let your anger take control; you ended up putting everyone in this room, including yourself and your brothers, in serious danger."
"But he was trying to hurt DJ again!" Beau answered defiantly.
DJ touched Cory's shoulder, then replied. "Yes he was bro; but I knew it so I wasn't listening. I stopped listening to him when Cory said there was no remorse; when I heard that, the last bit of power he had over me evaporated. We could have lost you bro; and that would be a lot harder to live with than some words out of a dead man's mouth. You were going to execute him, weren't you Cory?"
Cory looked at DJ over his shoulder. "DJ, you will never see his psychological profile. There was no possibility of rehabilitation for your father; even if imprisoned the probability of him committing murder to further his goals was unacceptable. The only logical choice for the protection of him and society was termination."
McCoy joined them, and lifted Beau off of Cory's lap. "Cory you are as bad as Spock. I saw the profile too; what he's saying boys is that Colin was a killer looking for targets. Yes he was going to be executed; and I even agree that it was best. Now you, Beau, are coming to Sickbay for another exam and some talking to about being a hero."
Cory stood up and joined Kirk and Spock as they walked up to Lt. Thompson.
Kirk addressed the security officer. "Mr. Thompson, report please."
"Well Sir, when the young man lost his temper and attacked, the suspect managed to take Beau's knife away from him. Mr. Richardson was closest to you; when he saw the possibility you were under attack he responded by knocking you to the deck. Mr. Michaels and myself continued to monitor Colin; Mr. Michaels was able to achieve the first clear shot and dispatched Colin before anyone could be injured."
"Thank you Lieutenant; please draft a commendation to join mine in these boy's service records."
"With all due respect Sir, that might be a problem." Cory interjected. "They are Clan security; they are not commissioned officers."
"I guess we'll have to fix that problem!" Kirk replied. "Mr. Thompson, I expect to see that commendation in three hours." He turned and went to the Comm station on the desk. "Uhura, get me Admiral Morrow; pipe it down here when you get him."
While they were waiting, Cory rounded up the boys to witness what he thought Kirk was up to. They were all standing behind him when the call came in. "Captain, I have the Admiral on the line."
"Thank you, Uhura; visual please."
The screen came to life. "Good evening, Captain. After seeing the group behind you I'm not sure if I want to ask this, but is there a problem?"
"Good evening Admiral. I do have an issue I need to discuss with you. But first, I believe that there is a Clan Patriarch here who wishes to tell you something."
Cory shot Kirk an 'I'll get you later' glare before composing himself and stepping forward. "Admiral; the youths that were being monitored at your request have been evacuated and are now directly under Clan Short. At this time I request closure of all Federation and planetside investigations directly involving either youth. The situation regarding Colin has been resolved by termination. It is logical that the Federation prosecute Steve and Mary due to the lesser severity of their crimes."
Admiral Morrow nodded. "As you wish, Mr. Short. Yourself and your Clan have done an impressive job; I fully intend to give Ambassador Sarek a glowing letter of appreciation for the assistance you provided. Live long and Prosper, Patriarch Short."
"Live long and Prosper, Admiral Morrow"
As Cory stepped back, Kirk took over again. "Admiral, in the course of Colin's trial there was an altercation. Two members of the Clan Short Security detail were present; due to their quick and professional responses no innocent persons were hurt. As a matter of fact, one of them took it upon himself to knock me to the deck when it appeared I was about to become the target of attack, while the other focused on Colin and dispatched him as soon as safely possible. I fully intended to enter commendations for these two young men, but have been informed they do not have service records. May I suggest that as a measure of goodwill towards Clan Short that their senior security personnel be issued commissions in the Federation Security Department?"
Admiral Morrow chuckled. "You know Captain, I think if you had your way every single one of those boys would be commissioned! In this case I agree with you, though. To perform their jobs properly on Earth they need clearance which will not be argued with. What are their names; I will take it from here and make the appropriate calls."
"Thank you Sir. They are James Jacob Richardson and Gabriel Michaels."
"Very well, then. Express my thanks to both young men. Morrow out."
They prepared to leave, but stopped when DJ and Tanner, flanked by Gabe and JJ, stopped in front of Steve and Mary's cells.
DJ placed an arm around Tanner's waist to give him support, then Tanner spoke. "You never were parents to me. I know what a real family is like; maybe now I can have one again. The only good thing I have to say about you is you didn't try to kill me. You might as well forget my name; when I walk out that door I'm going to forget you and everything about you. You no longer exist, you pieces of trash."
Cory felt an unnatural chill at hearing Tanner's words. He intercepted Tanner in his march towards the door. Quietly, so nobody could overhear, Cory spoke to him. "Tanner, calm down a little bit. I have no doubt that exactly what you said is going to happen if I let you walk through that door right now. You need to stop and sort things out for a second; I'm still recovering from losing memories, and I've learned they are all tied together. If you let this happen, you are probably going to lose your memories of DJ as well."
Tanner froze. "But I don't want them in my head! What can I do?"
Cory relaxed. "Sit down with DJ and the guys tonight; you have a lot of help if you ask for it."
Tanner gave Cory a quick hug. "Thanks for stopping me before I screwed up."
Cory looked over Tanner's shoulder and saw the relieved look on DJ's face. "Any time, bro. Let's go home."
USS Enterprise, Shuttlebay:
Kirk watched with a smile as the boys all prepared to leave. His smile grew even wider when Ian walked up and gave him a hug.
"Thanks, Sir, for letting me visit! Your ship is AWESOME! I wish we could stay longer though, Sean said there's still stuff I didn't get to see."
Kirk tilted Ian's head up to look him eye-to-eye. "Well, I guess that means you are just going to have to come back again, doesn't it?"
Ian's eyes widened. "Really! KEWL! I can really come back?"
Kirk nodded. "You better believe it. You better hurry up, you don't want to miss your first Shuttle ride, do you?"
"No Sir!" Ian exclaimed as he gave one more quick hug then ran towards the craft.
On board the shuttle, Sean was trying to restrain his giggles. On the way up, DJ, Tanner, Toby, and Beau had been too preoccupied to pay attention; but now they were investigating every inch of the craft. When Ian joined them in their poking around, Sean finally lost it. After giving the boys time to satisfy their curiosity, Sean leaned over to Matt. "Matt, you mind sitting behind the co-pilot? The last time we left, I screwed up a surprise. I'm going to try to get it right this time."
Matt smiled. "I was hoping you'd think of that, Sean. If he needs help, I'll be right there."
Sean walked up to where Cory was explaining the console to the newest additions. "Guys, get with Justy and get ready to go. Cory, could you do something for me, babe?"
Cory relaxed as Sean put his arms around him. "What's that, teddy bear?"
"I know this stuff today has stressed you out, hon. Since we can't relax by playing with the flight sim, could you do me the honor of being my co-pilot?"
"But what about Matt?"
"It's okay. He thinks it's a good idea too, and he said to tell you if you need any help he'll be sitting right behind you. I won't be mad if you say no; I just would like the most important person in my life sitting by me as we take the new guys to their new life."
Cory could feel the day's stress fading away as he was filled with the love and support of Sean. "I can't argue with that logic. Let's do it!"
The boys took their seats. As soon as they were strapped in, Sean turned to Cory and announced with pride "Mr. Short; seal all hatches and prepare for departure."
"Aye, Sir!" Cory replied. "Justy, prepare passengers for takeoff!"
Shuttlebay control room:
Kirk and Chip were standing by to watch the boys take off. They exchanged surprised looks when they heard the voice on the comm channel.
"Enterprise, this is Mississippi requesting permission to depart. Pilot is Ensign Sean Short, Co-pilot is Ensign Cory Short. Destination is Des Moines, Iowa."
Chip, smiling, took the controls. "Mississippi, this is Enterprise. Permission to depart granted. Destination of Des Moines, Iowa is acknowledged and logged. Enterprise will maintain surveillance until you contact San Francisco Control. Have a safe trip."
"Roger, Enterprise, and thanks."
Kirk and Chip witnessed the Mississippi's thrusters fire up and gently rotate the shuttle into an outward path. Within minutes, the shuttle carrying the boys was slowly gliding through the forcefield and on its way home.