Dear Diary

Chapter 23


Nate and Lije were not looking forward to today. For one thing, they were coming home from Orlando. For another, their Mom had decided that it was time to go through their older brother's things, box some of it up, and give the rest of the family a little more room in the house. They paid no attention to the phone ringing until they heard their mom calling them.

"Yeah, Ma?" Lije yelled.

"Don't yell in the house like that, doofus," Nate corrected him with a light swat to the arm.

"Hey, that hurt!" Lije pouted a little, but they both knew he was faking it. The two boys walked into the living room where their mother was sitting with the phone to her ear and a motherly scowl on her face. "Sorry for yelling, Ma," Lije mumbled as he studied the design of the carpet very closely.

"Do you boys want to go to work instead of hanging around the house today?" Emily asked her sons.

"Work? We don't have a job…. Wait, you mean they really want us over there?" Nate asked in surprise. "I thought they were just joking."

"We all three have jobs with the Wiggins family," Emily reminded him. "This is Huey calling to ask if you can come in and help set up the computer command center I think he called it."

"SURE!!" Lije yelled again, then suddenly started studying the carpet again. "Sorry."

"Mom, I thought we were going to…."

"Between you and me, Nate, I'm not ready to put his things away yet, are you?" Emily asked quietly.

"No, Mom," her older son replied quietly. "Is it wrong that I don't want to let go of him just yet?"

"Not wrong at all, honey," Emily whispered to her son as she grabbed them both and hugged them tight. Of course, this meant that she dropped the phone. She quickly picked it back up and apologized to Huey before handing the phone to her middle… no, her oldest son. That would take a while to get used to, both in speech and thought.

"Hey, Huey," Nate greeted. At Lije's pestering insistence, he added, "Lije says hi too."

"Hi to both of you," Huey laughed. "You guys ready to start working?"

"Yeah, umm sure," Nate stammered. "I guess I really didn't think Dixon was serious about us helping when we met you guys in Florida."

"Of course he was serious," Huey confirmed. "If you guys were serious about helping."

"Yeah, I feel like we kind of owe it to our big brother to help out the guys that he di… died… to help," Nate explained, even though he was a little choked up at the end.

"Well, I hope it is something you want to do for yourselves too," Huey told him. "The guys we are going to be going after are some of the nastiest things in the universe and they have to be stopped before they hurt any more kids like that guy did Jason and Jessie's family."

"Yeah, no kid any age should go through that or what a lot of the other kids we met in Florida had to survive," Nate said strongly. "I'm totally down with tracking down some bad guys and doing some damage if it means that some kid doesn't get hurt someday."

"Same here, buddy," Huey agreed. "So come on over and we'll get to work on putting this place into working order."

"We'll be there as soon as we can work out the bus schedule, dude," Nate informed him.

"Bus schedule?" Huey questioned. "Forget that buddy; you guys are coming over here today in style. Dad and I will be over to pick you up in a few minutes."

True to his word, only a few minutes later, Huey was jumping out the passenger side front door of the biggest limo the Lewis family had ever seen. He ran up to the door but didn't get the chance to knock before Lije was barreling out to meet him.

"WOW!!!" the boy screamed. "That car is like bigger than our whole house almost. Do we really get to ride in that? Where do I get to sit? MOM! NATE! Come look at this car!"

"Them boys in the back liable to get pretty loud. You may want to ride with me up front, Miz Lewis," Mel told Emily.

"Oh I thought you were just picking up the boys," Mrs. Lewis blushed a little. "I'm not dressed for going to…."

"Now, Miz Lewis, we told you down there in Florida that we just homefolk just like anybody else," Melvin corrected her. "You look just fine to come over and get my wife and her momma off my back… I mean… umm… Well… I just thought…."

Emily laughed out loud, cutting off Melvin's nervous stammering. "I know how you men folk get when we women get to nesting and I'm sure that's what Pet and Annie Mae are doing."

"If that means they are obsessive compulsive cleaning fanatics right now, then you are absolutely right," Huey contributed with a grin. "Dad wants to do the same thing with the cars, but he can't because Mom and Grandmomma are both after him to do stuff for them. We were hoping you could come over and distract them so we could do our own work."

"What if I'm on their side? I am another woman, you know," Emily pointed out with a smirk.

"You're not a woman, you're Mom," Lije told her, grabbing her hand as if it had never been missing, as he tried to drag her to the car. "Now come on so we can ride in the big car, Mom."

"Is he always like this or did he have a bowl of sugar for lunch?" Huey stage whispered as he leaned in closer to Emily.

"Oh he's always like that," Emily laughed again. "Aren't you, Sugar Smack?"

"Sugar Smack?" Huey questioned.

"Yeah, Mom says it was her favorite cereal when she was a kid, but I think it's really because the pain in the butt gets hyper with no warning," Nate said teasingly.

"I'm not hyper, and I'm not a pain in the butt," Lije retorted, then spanked his older brother on the butt. "That's a pain in the butt," he giggled, then yelled, "MOOOM!! Save me!" as Nate started chasing him.

"It's a good thing that car is so big, Mr. Washington," Emily told Mel. "They can be strapped in at opposite ends."

"I tell you another good thing about this here car, Miz Lewis," Mel stage-whispered to her. "That back end part is sound-proofed from the front seat. And me and Pet done told you ain't none of this Mr. or Miz Washington for us. It's Uncle Mel and Aunt Pet for the young'uns and just plain Mel and Pet for you, Miz Lewis."

"If there's no Mr. or Mrs. for you, then there isn't for me either," she corrected him. "My name is Emily and you've convinced me, Mel. I'm riding shotgun. Huey, you're on your own with these two." She quickly got into the door Mel held open for her and shut it just as quickly.

When the limo arrived back at Wiggins House, the three Lewises were all stunned by the sheer size of the place.

"Dude, I've seen hotels that weren't this big," Nate gasped.

"I've lived in towns that weren't this big," Emily whispered.

"We'll help you find your way around, and there is an intercom in every room if you do get lost," Huey told them.

They walked into the kitchen where Annie Mae met them. She instructed them all to take off their shoes as Pet had just finished mopping the floor. Lije immediately turned to his mother with his hands on his hips.

"See there, Ma, I didn't need these shoes after all," the boy pouted.

"Dixon's daddy never wore shoes in this house a day in his life," Annie Mae recalled with a smile. "I remember my late husband chasing that boy down and threatening to superglue his shoes on them feet when we had the lieutenant governor here, then he looked around to see the man was barefoot too," she laughed. "He's the governor now, but he still takes his shoes off at the door every time he visits, so honey child, if he can do it, so can you," the old woman told Lije as she gave him a quick hug.

"Thank you, Mrs. Parker," the little boy said properly.

"Now you boys both got to promise me something right now," Annie Mae said seriously, as she pulled Nate into the hug as well. "You two gonna call me Grandmomma from now on, just like the other boys do, you hear?"

"Yes ma'am," they both replied and returned her hug.

"Now you young'uns run along with Huey, and I'll call you when the pralines are done," Annie Mae grinned at them.

"Pralines?" Emily questioned.

"It's my family recipe dating back to my great great-grandmomma," Annie Mae told her. "And before you say anything else, I'm the grandmomma around here, so that makes it my job to sugar buzz the young'uns and then send them home."

"But Grandmomma," Huey pointed out, "I live here."

"That's true," the old woman said thoughtfully. "I'll have to give your share to these two sweet boys."

"HEY!" Huey protested.

"You know I wouldn't do that to you, baby," Annie Mae smiled. "Now you three skedaddle upstairs and get your fancy machines all hooked up." She stood up suddenly and said, "MELVIN WASHINGTON, you better get your hands away from that bowl. You can have them pralines when they done just like everybody else." Melvin attempted and failed an innocent look before hurrying back out to the garage.

"Come on, guys, I'll take you on the short tour while we get to the office," Huey told Nate and Lije. He showed them the important rooms, like the indoor pool, the ballroom, and pointed out the doors to his room, Jessie and Dixon's room, Jason and Philip's room, and the rooms for Layton and J.B. Huey took a moment to explain what he and Nathan would be doing.

"What's my job?" Lije asked the older teen.

Huey looked down at Lije and told him, "You get the most important job of all. You get to be the tool boy."

Lije looked up frowning. "Ummm… Huey, I'm not gay," he said pointedly.

Huey gave the boy a confused look. "What do you mean? What does that have to do with anything?"

"Well Nate calls his thingie his tool, and I don't want to touch you guys' thingies," Lije complained.

Nate turned shades of red that Huey didn't even know existed, and yelled "LIJE!!"

Once Huey finally stopped laughing, he looked down at Lije and told him, "Not the kind of tools I was talking about, Sugar Smack. We will need you to hand us the pliers, screwdrivers and the clips to hold all the wires together."

"I can do that," Lije said with a big smile.

They worked peacefully for a while getting all the equipment set up where it was supposed to go. Nate looked over at Huey and said, "Well, they're all hooked up. Now what?"

"Now is when we call for backup," Huey answered. "I think we need a data specialist to help us with the programming we will need." He reached over, picked up his communicator, and notified the Clan that he needed some help with computer operations at their headquarters.

Dragon Division responded that they would send someone in just a moment. Literally, a moment later Huey, Nate, and Lije heard the familiar sounds of a transporter beam. The boys turned to see a blue-skinned boy with snow-white hair and two antennae pop into existence in the middle of the room.

"What are you?" Lije asked as he peeked out from behind his big brother shyly.

"Lije, that was rude. He's not a what, he's a who," Nate scolded.

The Andorran stood at attention and gave Huey a military salute. "Sir, Lieutenant Zemal Sharn reporting for duty, I.T. Cordinator Washington, sir."

"Nice to meet you, Zemal," Huey answered. "We aren't very official around here. There's nobody around here that you would call sir or ma'am, except Grandmomma and Mamee. I'm Huey and this is Nate and Lije."

"It is an honor to meet you all in person," Zemal said, still very formally. "I have read your personal files of course, but it is pleasant to be able to see you face to face."

"Does he always talk like a dork?" Lije asked his big brother in a rather loud whisper.

Nate's face turned a bright pinkish color as he answered, "No, he does not always talk like a dork, but you sure do."

"Was your comment about not being very official supposed to be taken as instructions to speak freely?" Zemal asked Huey. When he received an affirmative response, his posture and facial expression both relaxed. He even grinned at Lije and said, "Just so you know little dude, I am not a Who. I have never met the Grinch or Horton the elephant." At this point, he reached out to poke the smaller boy in the tummy and watched Lije giggle and squirm. Standing back up, he observed aloud, "It's a lot warmer here than it was in the UK."

"Well, that uniform can't be helping much," Huey told him. "I don't think any of us have uniforms here, except Layton, and it is his old deputy uniform."

"So you don't have a problem with me taking the uniform off?" Zemal asked.

"Not a bit," Huey confirmed, then gasped and giggled a bit as the Andorian began to strip right in front of him.

"What are you doing?" Nate gasped. "You can't just strip off here in front of people. My little brother is watching."

"The only parts I have that he does not are my antennae," Zemal pointed out. "But you guys did just tell me that I could take the uniform off. I do have my VSO bodysuit on underneath."

"Oh, well, as long as you aren't getting naked," Nate mumbled.

"Why can't he get nekkid?" Lije blurted out. "Does he have different boy parts? Can I see?"

"I thought you said you weren't gay," Huey teased with a grin.

"I'm not," Lije answered quickly. "At least I don't think I am, but that don't mean I can't be nosy."

Huey laughed out loud at Lije's rationalization. He then turned to Zemal and said, "Go ahead, dude, and get as comfortable as you want or can. Momma, Grandmomma, and Mamee would all skin me alive if they knew I made a guest in our home uncomfortable."

"Thank you, Huey," Zemal grinned as he continued to remove his Vulcan uniform. "Actually, now that I am assigned to this team, I need to change the uniform anyway."

"Do we all get uniforms?" Lije asked.

"I guess we should for when we have to dress up fancy for something," Huey thought out loud. "I wonder what they will look like?"

"I can find out for you once we get the computers all connected," Zemal offered.

"Cool, I get a uniform!" Lije yelled happily.

"Maybe you are gay, Sugar Smack," Huey said seriously, but hid a wink to Nate. "I never knew a kid your age to get excited about clothes before."

Nate and Huey laughed as Lije poked his tongue out at them. Zemal just looked at them with a raised eyebrow. If he hadn't had the blue skin, white hair, and antennae, he would have looked a lot like a Vulcan at that moment.

"Do you consider being gay to be a bad thing?" he asked the older boys pointedly. Their laughing stopped instantly.

"Of course not," Huey told him. "I'm gay myself. I was just teasing Lije a little."

"You're going to be loads of fun to work with," Nate mumbled, then said he had to go pee, and walked out of the room.

"Don't worry about Nate, he's just a dumb big brother," Lije told Zemal, who watched the door closing behind Nate.

"Let's get some work done," Huey announced.

A little later, when they were relatively alone, Zemal indicated that he wanted to talk to Huey. Huey made the excuse of showing Zemal around the house while sending the Lewis boys to the kitchen to check on the pralines. Once they were actually alone, Zemal asked if he had done something to upset Nate.

"I sensed that he was very nervous around me," Zemal said. "If it is a problem of me being from another planet, I can request a replacement for myself who is human, or at least more human looking."

"No, I don't think that is it at all," Huey told him. "I don't know exactly what is going on, but they did just lose their older brother, so maybe it is the grief. Give him and the rest of us a little more time and see how it goes, Smurf dude."

"Ok, that one I have to give you," Zemal grinned. "I may not look anything like a Who, but I can't argue the Smurf reference. Now, about that tour and the reference to a kitchen…."

Daniel was being very careful where he went when he had to leave the shelter in his basement. He kept hoping that somehow he would find his mother on her way home to him, but it hadn't happened yet. He knew deep down the chances of her surviving the bombing were slim at this point. He had no idea if the war was over or who had won if it was. It was pretty obvious to him that no matter who had survived the bombing, there were no winners.

He was thankful that due to his family's political pull as well as their money, he lived off the military base where his father had been stationed. He had no idea whether his father was alive any more than he knew about his mother. Daniel's father had been reported missing and presumed dead overseas a day or two before the bombs hit the base and town. He had hidden in the bunker in the basement of their home as soon as he heard the air raid sirens go off. Most of the houses on his block had bomb shelters, but apparently, most of them had not been built up to the standard of his. His father's military command had built theirs, so it withstood the blasts. Most of the houses on his block were just craters now.

Old Man Witherspoon, who Daniel used to mow grass for, and his wife who made the yummy cookies when she saved up enough food rations, were both dead. Daniel had found them the next morning after the attack on town. They hadn't been able to make it to their bomb shelter in time. After he had thrown up for a few minutes, Daniel managed to bury what was left of them in their back yard. They had died trying to reach for one another, so he had put them in the same grave. Plus, it saved having to dig another hole, which was a lot more work than he had thought it would be.

It had been about a week now since the bombing and he had yet to find anyone alive when he got out and went looking. The military base where his mother had been working was still an inferno, spewing smoke and ash into the air. Daniel couldn't bring himself to completely give up hope that she might have made it off the base before the damage got that bad, but he was finding it more and more difficult to believe, the longer he went without seeing her.

Actually, he was beginning to wonder if he would find anyone alive. He reasoned out that perhaps further away from the city and the military base, there would be less damage from the bombings. He packed up some of the supplies from the shelter under his house, and the only thing he had been able to salvage from the rubble; a picture of him with his parents taken just before his dad had shipped out.

He walked until it got too dark to see very well and then he camped out. It had only been a week since the bombing, but he was getting really tired of the canned military rations. He and his mom had been working on a victory garden before the bombing. He had been so thrilled watching the seeds he planted start growing, and so disappointed to find that they had all been obliterated in the bombing.

Daniel walked for three days before he found someone else alive. He had been feeling sicker each day and had started noticing sores on his body that were getting worse. He had come to the conclusion that he might be the only person left alive anywhere, so he was surprised when he heard a woman's voice yelling. He followed the sound and was stunned by what he found. Lying on the rubble that was all that was left was a really fat woman.

"Are you a hallucination?" the woman demanded. "Are you real?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'm real," Daniel answered.

"You have to help me," the woman told him. "My baby is coming." Daniel looked around in the rubble to check for movement. "You look so young, almost a baby yourself."

"I'm almost 12," Daniel defended himself. "My birthday is next month."

"I hope you make it that long," the woman said as she stared at the sores on his arms. Suddenly she screamed in pain again. "My baby!" she gasped breathlessly. "You have to help my baby. Please!"

"Yes, ma'am, I'll help the baby," Daniel assured her. That seemed to calm her down some, but what he said next upset her all over again. "Where is the baby?"

"I'm giving birth, boy," she snapped. "Don't you know what that means? Haven't you had health class in school?"

"We were supposed to start that in January," Daniel answered.

"Well, you are about to get the quick course," the woman told him. "I'm sorry about this, but I can't do this alone and you are the first living person I have seen since the bombing."

Two hours later Daniel was holding a tiny baby girl in his arms as her mother slowly died. The actual birthing had been relatively easy, but the mother's body was covered in a lot more sores than Daniel was, and the physical stress had been too much for her. Daniel, for his part, had handled the situation fairly well, considering it was his first sex education lesson. He had only thrown up once, and he had not passed out. He came close, but he was able to fight it off.

"I know you're young, Daniel, but you are the only person in her life now. That makes you her father, no matter how young you are. Take care of my little Bethany." Those were the woman's last words.

Daniel dug through the rubble of the store and found three cans of evaporated milk that were undamaged enough to be used to feed the baby. He loaded them into his pack and carried Bethany away with him after he buried the baby's mother. As he looked at Bethany sleeping in his arms, he was amazed at how smooth, soft and pretty her skin was, and how delicate, but beautiful her few little strands of red hair were.

He was suddenly reminded of a strange dream he had experienced not long before the bombing. He had been in a strange room and he was getting dressed. He went out of the house saying goodbye to a woman he had never met or seen before, but he called her Mom in the dream. He went to another house and a beautiful red haired girl opened the door. In the dream, he called her Priscilla. They had spent some time talking and then the girl had leaned forward to kiss him. Just as their lips were about to touch, Daniel was woken up to go to school. Bethany looked a lot like the girl from his dream, and he thought for a second that if he were now Bethany's father, the dream girl would have been perfect as Bethany's new mom.

He soon learned that he didn't get much walking or sleeping done with Bethany. She woke up every few minutes, it seemed, needing to eat, poop, pee, cry, or some combination of them. She would usually quiet right down once she was eating, but occasionally she would keep crying. At those times, Daniel hummed to her to settle her. He had no idea what he was humming or where he had heard the tune, but it worked for her and that was what mattered.

She was only two days old when Daniel spotted the first sore on her little body. Concentrating on her as he had, he didn't notice how much worse his own sores had become. His first thought when he saw the one on Baby Bethany was that he had somehow given it to her.

"I'm so sorry BB, I didn't know I would make you sick," Daniel apologized to the infant. He had taken to calling her BB which he had shortened from Baby Bethany, and sounded close to the word baby anyway. "If we can make it back home, there's medicine in the shelter. I'll find some way to make you better, I promise." She woke up at that moment and wrapped her teensy hand around his finger tightly. Daniel marveled at how strong her grip was and thought about all the times he had called girls weak. She made a little smiling face at him, but within a couple of moments she was crying, and no amount of humming would help this time. She was hungry and the canned milk was gone.

"Well, what do you think of that?" Daniel's eyes shot up to see a horribly disfigured man standing in front of him. "I did hear a baby crying. This will be the first fresh meat I've had since the bombs came."

"What?" Daniel asked in confusion.

"Kill it quick, son, and we can share the meat."

"Are you crazy?" Daniel exclaimed.

"Oh all right, I'll pay you for some of it, but mind you, I won't pay much," the man griped. "That kid ain't hardly big enough for one meal, let alone two." He gestured to a cart loaded down with all sorts of things that he had obviously been digging out of rubble from the bombed-out towns around them. "I can trade you stuff."

Daniel's eyes lit up when he saw nearly a full case of canned milk. "You have milk," he exclaimed.

"You want a drink?" the man questioned. "Hell boy, I got better stuff to drink in there than canned milk."

"I want the milk," Daniel said firmly. "She's hungry."

"You don't need to feed her first, you stupid boy," the man snarled. "Just club her over the head with a big rock or something, so we can get to cleaning her."

"We are not going to eat my baby," Daniel growled. "If you try to hurt her, I will kill you."

"Mighty big talk from a sick boy," the man scoffed. He coughed and wheezed a bit. "Do you really think you could stop me?"

Daniel pulled the flare gun from his backpack. "I grew up on military bases, I have been trained right along with the troops. I know every fighting technique that our army does. Do you think I can stop you?"

"Ok, ok," the man said with a shrug, but he was clearly a little intimidated by the gun. "Keep the little brat if you want. I can always come back when you are a little sicker and take her then, maybe you too."

"You're sicker than I am," Daniel pointed out. "Now give me the milk."

"Hold up, boy, I don't give anyone anything," the man contradicted. "What will you give me for the milk? I don't suppose you would part with that flare gun?"

"Of course not," Daniel sneered. "I will give you anything else I have, but I want that whole case of milk."

"You're not telling me what you've got, boy." Daniel opened his back pack, but the man turned down the few meager possessions the boy had brought with him. "You got nothing here I can use, kid. You got anything else?" Daniel turned to lay Bethany on the ground for a moment. He was shocked and disgusted to feel the man's hand on his butt. "Well, you sure know how to save the best offer for last," the man wheezed as he slapped Daniel's butt lightly.

A few minutes later, Daniel was bent over a pile of rubble as the man grunted and moaned behind him. Suddenly the man cried out really loud and collapsed on top of Daniel. Daniel was painfully pinned against the stones and concrete.

"Are you done now?" he asked the man impatiently. There was no answer. "Hey, get off me!" he yelled and twisted underneath the man. The man's body slid off and just lay there. He was dead. "I told you that you would die before she did," Daniel spat at the dead man. For the first time since the bombing, he left a dead body exactly where it was laying. He didn't even close up the man's trousers, as he hoped that if there were any wild animals around, they would bite that part off first.

Daniel rearranged the things in the man's cart to make a safe place for Bethany and to make the cart lighter to push so he could conserve some of his strength. He might not be paying close attention to his sores, but he couldn't help noticing that he was getting weaker. Two days went by and thanks to the cart, he had made a lot better distance. In fact he knew he was only a couple of blocks from his home again when he realized that he didn't have the strength to get there. He sat down for a rest and a cuddle with BB. She now had three sores on her little body and he could see that she was getting weaker as well.

"Please, somebody out there," he whispered as he looked up at the cloud covered sky. "Help little BB. Don't let her hurt too much when I'm gone."

"You humans certainly do like to be dramatic, don't you?" Daniel looked up to see a small, very blond boy standing in front of him. "Well don't just sit there staring at me. Get up. You're family is waiting," the kid said with the barest hint of a smile.

"If you're a hallucination, kid, I am very disappointed," Daniel mumbled. "I would have at least liked to dream up someone nice."

"Ouch that hurt!" the little kid said melodramatically. "I'm not here to make your life perfect, Daniel. Sorry, but I'm just taking you somewhere that you will have a chance to have a life. And the Guardian didn't make me do this, either, so you should jump at the chance that grand ol' me has decided to do this for you, Bethany, and Priscilla."

"Who's Priscilla?"

"That's for you to find out," the kid answered with a wink. "Come on; let's get going so we can pick up David."

"Who's David?"

"Questions questions, when the real fun is in the doing," the boy sighed with a roll of his eyes. He then looked down at the boy holding the baby, "You'd better let me take Bethany. Universe hopping seems to have unpleasant consequences for you humans and we wouldn't her to get hurt."

He helped Daniel to his feet carefully and took the newborn into his arms. He looked into Bethany's face and said thoughtfully, "You know? Humans are kind of cute at this age, even if you are totally helpless and completely fragile."

Bethany took that opportunity to spit up on the boy.

"Scratch that. Maybe you aren't so totally helpless after all. Good luck raising little miss spitfire here, Daniel," he giggled with a sidelong look at Daniel, bringing the slightest of smiles to the hurting boy's face. "Come on... adventure awaits..."

With that, the world around Daniel began to swirl and disappear, and he felt as if he were being squeezed through a water gun and squirted out somewhere else at high pressure.

"David, son, you have to wake up."

"Is it morning already? I just got in bed," the almost-twelve-year-old mumbled sleepily.

"No, David, but we have to go now," Kirby told his son. "Come on, out the window."

"Out the window?" the boy asked as his eyes shot open. They widened even more when he saw his father. "Dad? Are you wearing one of Mamee's dresses?"

"Never mind what I'm wearing, David," his father ordered. "Just get up and get moving!"

"Dad, you're scaring me," David told him.

"Fear is a good thing right now, son," Kirby said quickly, but he caressed his son's cheek lovingly. "We really have to go now, son."

At that moment, Kirby and David heard Mamee's voice from the living room. "What do you mean you're here for David? He's just a child. What could he possibly have done to you or that crazy leader of yours?"

"Ma'am, I will remind you this once, that blasphemy against the Chosen Potentate is forbidden." That was a strange man's voice. "God's choice is leading our country back to the Christian morals that we allowed to be compromised."

"My Christian morals were never compromised, Bobbie Janson. Yes, I remember every student I ever taught," Mamee told the man. "You were bigger than your britches back then and I see you still are. Waking children up in the middle of the night. I must say I do wonder what good this new government can hope to accomplish by such foolishness."

"Mrs. Wiggins, your great-grandson David has been named a deviant, and it is my duty to arrest him in the name of the Chosen Potentate."

"Well, I don't care if you want to arrest him in the name of Harry Houdini, you aren't doing it in my house in the middle of the night," Mamee said firmly. "Besides, what makes you think that my David is a deviant?"

"His fellow deviants gave testimony before their lawful execution that he had been involved in their unholy fornication," Janson answered. "Sexual perversion must be extinguished to cleanse the soul of our nation."

"Who would dare accuse my sweet little great-grandson of such a thing?" Mamee demanded.

"Alexander and Alexandra Jennings, as well as Thomas and William Forrester, all gave sworn testimony that they had performed illicit sexual activity with David Wiggins. They were all found guilty of perversion and sexual impurity and have been duly executed by order of the Chosen Potentate. Susan Wilkins also gave testimony at her trial. She was found innocent of sexual impurity, but has been remanded to the county hospital for treatment after being misguided by your great-grandson and the others."

"I'm sure if there was any misguiding going on, David was as much a victim as anyone else," Mamee stated.

"The testimony of the four other deviants was most convincing, Mrs. Wiggins," Janson told her. "Now I must ask you to stand aside, and let us question David."

"Question him?" Mamee mocked. "It sounds to me as if you have your narrow little mind made up already."

"Well, yes ma'am, the boy has already been convicted by the testimony of the other deviants."

"Stop calling them that, Bobby," Mamee scolded. "They are, or rather were, children until you murdered them."

"Mrs. Wiggins, I am only doing my duty," Janson defended.

"Just as you were only doing your duty when you saw Jasper Boling stealing food from other children's lunchboxes, I suppose," Mamee reminded him. "You never bothered to ask him why he was doing it, did you? Then you went to the principal instead of talking to me. Maybe you should know that Jasper was starving. His family couldn't afford to feed him regularly. Two months after you turned him in and Jasper was expelled from school, he was admitted to the hospital for malnutrition. Little Jasper Boling died in that hospital at the age of eleven, because you had to do your civic duty, instead of your human duty."

"Stealing is a sin, Mrs. Wiggins, and it is against the law," Janson retorted coldly. "Are you saying that you knew that boy was a criminal?"

"I learned why he was stealing the food when he was hospitalized," Mamee answered.

"Failure to report a crime is a crime itself, Mrs. Wiggins," Janson told her. "Were you aware that the Forrester family was guilty of terrorist affiliation?"

"What terrorist affiliation could Abe and Miriam have had?" Mamee demanded. "I've known them both since they were eleven years old and sitting next to each other passing notes in my class."

"If you have known them that long, then you must have known of their misguided religious connections to the Middle East," Janson said leadingly. "If you knew of that crime, perhaps you knew of your great-grandson's unholy and unnatural sexual activities with his fellow deviants."

"If you think that what they were doing is unnatural, you must have forgotten what you were like at that age," Mamee pointed out. "Those children were just discovering and exploring the pleasure that their bodies can produce."

"So you admit to knowledge of criminal impurity, and failure to report it," Janson snapped. "Amee Whatley Wiggins, I arrest you in the name of the Chosen Potentate. I find you guilty as charged of criminal intent to conceal information from the government. This sentence carries a minimum penalty of thirty years in a federal prison. Officer Rollins will escort you to the patrol car outside while I make a search of these premises. It is my duty to inform you that further charges could be added to your sentence, and may raise your penalty to death."

"Do you really think that thirty years in prison isn't a death sentence at my age, Bobby?" Mamee scoffed. "You have no right to search this house, and you most certainly will not lay a finger on my little David," she added angrily.

At that point, Kirby forced his son out the window of the bedroom. They sneaked around the edge of the house and out to the street where a familiar man met them.

"Don't you worry about them patrol cars, Mr. Kirby. I done fixed them good," Melvin Washington said with a conspiratorial grin. "Y'all best get gone while you can. Pet and her momma will see to Mrs. Amee for you. Take care of this sweet boy for us," he added as he hugged David tightly. "Huey was real fond of you, youngun. You go out west and you have a wonderful life for yourself and for him too."

"We can't leave Mamee, Dad," David told his father. Just at that moment, a gunshot was heard from in the house. David looked up to see his father crying and Melvin with his hand over his heart. David shook his head in disbelief. "No, they wouldn't shoot Mamee. She's a sweet old lady who wouldn't hurt anybody."

"Me and Pet, we'll see to Mrs. Amee for you, Mr. Kirby," Melvin said, wiping a tear from his eye. "You take this boy and you get out of this place, and don't you look back now, you hear? Neither one of you, don't look back." He was cut off by hearing yelling from the front of the house.

"Into the car now, David!" Kirby yelled. He grabbed David and threw him into the front passenger seat. Gunshots rang out in the night and David watched out the back window of the car as Melvin fell lifelessly into the street in a puddle of blood. Kirby yelled out as he ran around and got into the driver's seat and sped away.


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