Clan Short Pacific Rim Division

Personal Log - Reyes Taraschke, Part 4

Wednesday November 3, 2004

Thankfully, today was a little busy, but not crazy like yesterday.

I woke about two hours after I fell asleep, from a dream I had about Ryan, instigated by my trip to Sullivan's Island. In my dream, it dawned on me that Ryan had already managed to reprogram his eye movements to be more 'human'. I had to wake and call Jerry Owens immediately to chat about this discovery.

Incorrectly, I had understood that Jerry wanted help getting Ryan to remember and believe that he's an android. The only time Ryan's assumed belief could become a problem is if he and Paul were to leave Clan Short, like it was when they were found about a week earlier. Honestly, I'm happier knowing that I don't have to weasel around, trying to sneak in little truths that would ultimately send Ryan off on a fit and Paul into protecting his brother. Ryan evolved and modified his programming to not only believe he's human, but he actually changed code that allows him to act and appear more human. Yeah, we could all benefit from those modifications, but it's not all that important to me. Now I can simply concentrate on being friends with both brothers.

Both brothers are really kewl. I especially like the way they interact with each other; Paul as the protector, and Ryan as the silly boy. Last night, they hugged me before I left Sullivan's Island. For a few seconds, I was sandwiched between them. Those few seconds were a surprise, but I really felt good. Sitting here now writing this, I'm trying to understand how I feel about Paul and Ryan. Obviously, I like them, but is there something more? Could there ever be anything more than friendship with one or the other? That might be bad, not only for me, but also for the brother left out from those feelings. If I ever did something to cause the two brothers to argue and create an irreconcilable rift between them, I would definitely work to repair the damage, then leave both alone. Neither of the two needs to ever feel bad over something I've said or done, that's for sure.

I did notice something that concerned me. Paul was keeping a distance even while giving a heartfelt hug. He had scoped everything out in the room before moving close. He knew his escape routes. I knew enough about the street kids and abused kids that I had previously met to see it in him. I want to help him feel safe and secure, but that desire can have the opposite effect. I couldn't stand it if I drove him away from me.

Right now I'm trying to understand my own ramblings in the prior paragraph. Sure I like them, but I like a lot of other dudes here in Ewa Beach. There are a lot of great guys that are my age, and they have brothers too; like Kekipi Mahelona is thirteen-years-old and usually hangs out close to his younger brother, Konani, who is ten-years-old. Oke Ka'aukai is also thirteen-years-old and hangs out with his two brothers; nine-year-old Makaio and eleven-year-old Kimo. All five of those dudes spend a lot of time together, and I like all of them, just not the same way I like Paul and Ryan. I believe what stands out about Paul and Ryan is that we had been alone during almost the exact same period of time; I was at the orphanage and they were on the streets. That they're androids also matters to me, which I feel kind of odd about. It's my preference, and I realize I shouldn't limit my options to so few, but I can't help it.

Oh my God...

I'm starting to fall for Paul and Ryan! Now what the hell do I do?

All I can do is sigh and smirk. Could I have possibly made things more difficult for myself? I just asked Alden where my dad and pop are. He answered, "They're still on the rescue mission in California now." Great! Later, I'll get to chew on this while I sleep. Yippee! To make the situation more ridiculous, my kitten, Charles, is softly sniggering at me! At least I wasn't a babbling, stuttering idiot when I was with Paul and Ryan earlier today.

Moving right along...

Jonah and Dillon woke me around seven-forty this morning. Ben, Sung, and Kawazoe were already pulling their boardies and T-shirts on. So we wouldn't wake our dad, pop, or anyone else still asleep in the nest, Jonah whispered, "We've gotta get together as a group still, bro."

Sitting up, I nodded and quietly asked, "Where are we eating breakfast?"

Sung softly answered, "At our house."

"Kewl," I smiled, and stood to dress. I vaguely recalled Grandma Anna inviting us during the wedding reception. The five boys started giggling, causing me to suspiciously smirk.

Widely smiling, Jonah moved closer to me while I was bent over, pulling my board shorts up, and softly chortled, "It's the first time you've woke with a stiffie all week. I guess all your systems are completely back to normal."

I shrugged, "It took five days of no perverted adults wanting some."

Once I was dressed, all six of us went upstairs. We said good morning to Aunt Jen and Uncle Jim. Kawazoe told them we were going for breakfast at his house and we said goodbye before filing out the kitchen sliding door. I had just closed the door behind me when I became the target of silly morning wood jokes from Ben, Jonah, Kawazoe and Sung. Dillon loudly laughed. Walking towards the Seiberts' house, I reminded the four jokers that they had maybe three to five years before their dicks developed minds of their own too. Randy Beale came running up to us. We invited him to join us for breakfast.

Grandma Anna was awake in the kitchen when we stepped inside. Kawazoe and Sung hurried over to give her a hug and say good morning to their mom, followed by Ben, Dillon and Randy, then Jonah and I. She was then hit with a chorus of seven voices wondering, "What's for breakfast?"

"I promised you all something special," Grandma Anna helplessly chuckled. "Go ahead and get cleaned up. It'll be ready in about fifteen minutes." Chattering about how good the cooking food smelled, Sung and Kawazoe spun around, and then raced upstairs. Ben and Randy were on their heels, heading for another bathroom.

Jonah called, "Come on, bro," and hurried with Dillon. Remembering what my dad had said about his mom and dad, I stood there in the kitchen speechless for a moment or two. This woman, whom I had only met five days earlier, was only about forty-years-old, had lost her first born son and was now a mother and grandmother to a growing brood. She seemed so happy with her new life in the Clan. Grandma Anna was at the stove, so I tapped her shoulder and called, "Grams?"

Looking over her shoulder, she queried, "Yes, Reyes?" and I gave her a kiss on the cheek, then hurried after my brothers. She wondered, "What was that for?"

I hit the brakes and spun around, smiling, "A kiss usually means, 'I think you're awesome.' In my case, add 'You're a great mother and grandmother too. I'm happy that you're my grams.'" Before she could say anything, I spun on my heels and raced after my brothers. In the bathroom at the top of the stairs, Sung and Kawazoe were naked and getting into the shower. In the next bathroom, Ben and Randy were standing at the toilet, giggling and peeing. Dillon and Jonah were in the third bathroom. I stepped inside and washed my face while they finished at the bowl.

Jonah called, "Reyes?"

With my eyes closed to protect them from soap, I replied, "Yeah?"

Jonah asked, "What do you think of Randy?"

I shrugged, "He's kewl. I guess he likes us too, since he's been hangin' with us since he showed up Sunday night." Then I started rinsing the soap off my face.

"He wasn't in the nest last night," Dillon grumbled. "He was at the dorm. I don't want him livin' in the dorm."

Jonah said, "We wanna ask him to be our brother too. If he says yes, and I'm pretty sure he will, then we'll talk to dad and pop."

Still rinsing off, I chuckled, "It's kewl by me. That'll be one more kewl guy to add to our family nest tonight." Grabbing a towel to dry off, I checked with my brothers, "Do you still want to do that too?"

"Yep," Dillon chirped.

Jonah smiled, "Yeah, it'll be kewl; all us Gibbons-Seibert boys in one nest."

I reminded, "We'll have to check with the girls in both families too."

Pushing me away from the sink, Dillon and Jonah nodded. "No problem," Jonah said, "I'll check with Brandi, Christel, Lindsay and Latoya later today."

"Don't forget, we've got the Downings' funeral today at eleven," I grinned, and tossed the towel over Jonah's head, then went to relieve my bursting bladder.

Dillon cracked up. Jonah giggled, "Reyes!" then shook his head until the towel fell to the floor.

While I leaked, I noticed Dillon looking my way. I considered asking him why he was looking at my dick, but decided not to embarrass him. Dillon noticed me glancing at him though and giggled, "Your dick changes a lot."

I smiled, "When you're a teenager, yours will too."

"Jonah's dick don't change that much," Dillon observed.

Without thinking, I offered, "Jonah isn't a teenager, and his dick hangs pretty long already. Some dudes grow, like me, dad and pop. Some show, like Jonah."

Picking the towel up off the floor, Dillon hummed, and then said, "Yeah, that's true. At the pools, most boys hang about as far as their sack, maybe a little more, no matter how old they are. Jonah's hangs..."

"Dillon!" Jonah loudly interrupted. I noticed his face was scarlet red.

"What?" Dillon giggled. "It don't matter a whole heck of a lot, but yours does hang more."

I softly said, "Jonah's embarrassed, bro."

Dillon scowled at Jonah and tilted his head. He stopped drying his hands and wrapped Jonah in a tight hug.

Looking like he might cry, Jonah huffed, "It sucks. Somethin' that's a part of me that I should be proud of, or at least happy about... the pervs at the orphanage..." Shaking his head, Jonah clammed up and stopped talking.

I finished at the bowl and flushed, telling Jonah to close the bathroom door. He did so, and I put the seat down on the toilet, sat down and softly called, "Come here for a minute, please."

Still partially attached to Jonah, Dillon led the way. Locking eyes with both my brothers, I assured, "What those people did to us was very wrong. My first mom and dad never did that stuff, and neither did my cousin or his wife. From what I can recall, they didn't do it at the orphanages either, until they learned they could and get away with it."

"I know," Dillon sighed.

Jonah looked away as much as he was glancing at me and Dillon though. I told them, "I love you two guys as brothers, because you're very kewl, very nice, and know when it's time to be serious or when it's time to goof around. Right now, I'm not goofing around. It doesn't matter what's hangin' between your legs. The only person that should matter to is a boyfriend or a girlfriend, someone you already like that you want to make love with. What those jack-offs did to us isn't making love; it was only good for them, they never cared about what it was doing to us." I specifically told Dillon, "They made Jonah feel like his worth was only in what was between his legs."

At first, Dillon's jaw dropped. Then he made the angriest, evil expression I ever saw on his face. He firmly told Jonah, "I wanted you as my brother because you were nice to me, and you're still really nice to me, even though you're older. I tell my friends how nice you are. Richie and Dee and Kokaku and Dewi all like you, because you treat them nice, not because you've got a longer dick."

It was Jonah's turn to wrap Dillon in his arms. With red eyes that were ready to shed tears, Jonah weakly muttered, "Thanks, bros. I really needed to hear all that. Maybe part of me knew it, but I haven't, ya know, completely believed it."

Laying a hand on Jonah's shoulder, I smiled, "You've been my kid brother for years and will be for years to come, even when you're eighteen, all grown up, and I still look like I'm thirteen. The same goes for you, Dillon. And if Randy joins our family, it'll be the same with him too."

Still aggravated, Dillon groused, "I'll check with Randy and ask him why he likes you, Jonah. He'd better not say anything about your dick."

"I hope he doesn't," Jonah helplessly chuckled at Dillon's almost murderous expression.

I recommended, "Just be nice about it, Dillon. First ask him why he likes you, Jonah and me too. If he gives the wrong answers, then you don't need to ask him if he wants to be our brother. Just walk away, wearing that same angry expression. If he gives good answers, then bring him to me and Jonah, so we can all ask him together."

"Kewl," Dillon grinned, as if he were an integral part in a great conspiracy. Jonah released Dillon and wiped his eyes.

"Let's go eat," I smiled. Dillon hurried to the door and out of the bathroom, but I held Jonah back, picked him up and whispered in his ear, "Is that why you were so weird the other night with John?"

Jonah nodded and whispered, "He wasn't teasing me, just telling me that he liked what he saw. He knows how the adults took advantage too, and that's exactly what he called it, taking advantage. It's why I don't know what I want, Reyes. How can I tell if someone really likes me for me, and not for my dick?"

"The same way you could tell about me, Dillon, dad and pop," I answered. "You'll feel it and just know it." I then put Jonah down and we went downstairs for our grandma's special breakfast.

By the time Jonah and I arrived at the dining room table, everyone else was already seated and helping themselves to biscuits or muffins. Grandma Anna and Grandpa Carl were serving their kids and grandkids. On the table were O'Brien potatoes, scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, sausage patties, buttermilk pancakes, fresh baked biscuits, banana nut muffins, pitchers of orange and pineapple juice, and another pitcher of milk. I helped get everyone served, so we could all sit down and eat the feast prepared.

During breakfast, we discussed moving out of the main nest and into family nests. Everybody seemed ready to make the move that night, however, Grandma Anna and Grandpa Carl expected the family size to increase during the day. Grandma Anna was going to ask six-year-old May Hickox to join the family. Grandpa Carl was going to ask seven-year-olds Chad Bunting and Herbert Trumbo to join the family. All three were former F.C.C. kids that had been becoming friends with Brandi, Kawazoe, Latoya and Sung. According to Grandma Anna, the Gibbons family might also be growing by one girl and three boys that day. Ben already knew and confirmed that three F.C.C. boys were becoming good friends and seemed to be latching onto his new dad and mom. The adults only asked that we keep the news from Derrick and Mike, until the adoptions were formalized by Prez. All us kids wrapped up our mealtime conversation by agreeing that we would nest wherever the newest adopted kids felt most comfortable.

I helped Grandma Anna and Grandpa Carl clear the table. Most of the kids went outside to the playground and pools, except for my two brothers and Randy. Walking in and out of the dining room, I heard Dillon asking Randy if he liked us and why. It was easy for Randy to say that he definitely liked us. He then recalled Monday morning, and that it was mostly Jonah, Dillon, Dee and Richie that helped him get acquainted with the base and some of the other kids. Since Randy was seven years old, he simply felt like he fit in most with us; since he was two years younger than Jonah and two years older than Dillon. Randy then reminded Jonah and Dillon that it was them inviting him to go here or there and do this or that. While we were gone yesterday, he simply hung out with other kids, but he was glad when we got back home. I learned that Randy waited to find a seat until Jonah, Dillon, John, Stephen, Frankie, Dee, Richie, Sammy and Gage were done being ushers at the wedding concert. They then went inside the auditorium theater and sat together.

Finishing up in the kitchen, I told our grandparents to be prepared for one more in our family nest. They had already assumed that was the case when Randy was invited to join us for breakfast.

Jonah appeared in the kitchen, asking, "Are you done, bro?"

"Yeah, the dishwasher's loaded and running."

"Kewl, let's shower over at the dorms," Jonah prompted. "Randy invited us, so it's kewl."

The four of us hugged our grandparents, thanking them for an awesome breakfast and then said, "See ya later," before hurrying out the sliding kitchen doors.

I loudly laughed, "What's the rush?"

"We gotta get clean clothes and stuff," Dillon giggled.

Randy chuckled, "And my stuff is at the dorm anyway."

"Then dad and pop will be awake," Jonah added.

All three then cheered, "Then we get to have milkshakes!"

I could only crack up laughing and try to keep up as we ran into the Gibbons' house and upstairs to grab clean clothes from our bedroom. Widely smiling and wisely staying out of our path, Grandpa Rob watched the four of us race out of our room, down the hall and back downstairs. He was already dressed in his uniform and appeared ready to start his work day at the F.Y.S. Building.

We then ran down the path to dorm building one, where Randy was sharing a room with James Hahn. Randy unlocked the door and we all went inside. James was sitting at a desk in his underwear, browsing Nile-dot-com. We all said hello, and Randy asked, "Whatchya lookin' for, bro?"

James shrugged, "I'm just browsing books and CD's and stuff. I never had an allowance or money before. There's stuff I always wanted, but couldn't get. Now that I can get stuff, I'm wondering if I should spend the bucks on it or not. I read a Hardy Boys book and liked it, but I can only read a book once. Music CD's I can listen to lots of times though."

I offered, "I have an idea, James."

He wondered, "Yeah?"

"Books can be read and then shared," I suggested. "Next week, we'll be starting school, which means occasional book reports. A book you read today, others can read when you're done. If the store offers electronic copies, you could order that and share the file. Either way, you should get what you like and not worry about wasting money. Remember, you can earn more money too. You could ask Kaleo to setup a bookshelf in the common room, so everybody that finishes a book can make it available to others just by putting it there."

"Kewl!" James cheered, "I hadn't thought about electronic copies or sharing books like that. Thanks, dude."

I smiled, "My pleasure." Dillon took my right hand and Jonah took my left hand to lead me from the room.

Now shirtless and only wearing briefs, Randy said, "We'll be right back in a few minutes. We're just gonna take a shower."

Jolting as if he had a revelation, James chuckled, "Yeah, I'll be there in a minute," and stood up from his desk chair. As we left the room, James was scurrying around, gathering toiletries and setting out clean clothes.

Moments later, we were in the large lavatory in the longer wing of dormitory one. My brothers and I hadn't been in this lavatory before, but it was the same as the one in the shorter wing, where we had been before with our dads and the other Core Rimmers. Each of us took a sink and started brushing our teeth. I tapped Jonah and gestured with a slight nod of my head towards Randy. Jonah raised his eyebrows and then nodded. I assumed this shower time was like a test for Randy to pass or fail. I have to admit, it was a pretty good idea. If Randy made more than a passing remark about Jonah's dick, he would fail the test.

In about a minute, we were done brushing our teeth and walking into the mob shower changing area. Just finishing up their showers were Kanoa Hale and Louis Mares. Dripping wet and padding our way, Kanoa smiled, "Rimmer sons are showering here?"

Stripping off his clothes, Dillon nodded, "We did Sunday too."

"Down the other hall," Jonah added, and pushed off his boardies and briefs in one swoop.

Kanoa is thirteen years old and Hawaiian, like me. We're pretty close to the same height and weight too. Unlike me, he's got almost black hair and very little hair down around his boy parts, but his voice has changed and he's got really wide shoulders.

Picking up a towel and beginning to dry off, Kanoa said, "You're very welcome here, any time, dudes."

Eleven-year-old Louis nodded, "Yeah, we don't want to feel separated, and don't want you to feel that way either."

Now down to my birthday suit, I gestured at my own body and then at my brothers and Randy, now entering the mob shower, saying, "We're all the same in every way that counts. Randy just happened to invite us here to shower today."

Louis locked eyes with me and asked, "Are you really over fifty-years-old, Reyes?"

Nodding, I grinned, "Fifty-six and a half."

"And a half!" Kanoa sniggered. "As if the six months matters!"

I smirked, "But still thirteen, just like you," and then swiftly got Kanoa in a headlock. Pulling him into the showers again, towel and all, to the laughter and giggling of the others, I sniggered, "Just because I'm an android doesn't mean that I don't know how to act like any other guy!" Realizing that I was about to get him wet again, Kanoa struggled to break free. Giggling his butt off, Jonah skated across the smooth tile floor to turn on two more showers. The next thing Kanoa knew, Randy and my brothers were helping me pull him under one of the sprays.

Roy Angulo came in the mob shower, saw what was happening and cracked up. "This is why I love living here," Roy sniggered, "I never know what will happen, where, or who might be doing it." He undressed and my brothers told him what had happened to cause the shower wrestling and silliness. Already naked, James walked in the shower. Having accomplished my goal and gotten Kanoa all wet again, I released him and jumped back before he could shove me. We both cracked up and knocked knuckles. I turned my back to start my shower and was whacked in the butt by Kanoa's wet towel, causing another roar of laughter. Racing out of the room, Kanoa grabbed a dry towel and kept running, out of the lavatory and back to his room. Hysterical, Louis followed his roommate.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Dillon tapping Jonah and then discretely gesturing to Roy and to James. Roy was fifteen years old. The hair on his legs went all the way up to his crotch. A little hair was also pointing up towards his belly-button. Roy's a tall dude. What hung between his legs was proportional for his overall size; about four inches long, just beyond his scrotum. At the same side of the mob shower, James had his head back to shampoo his hair. James was the same age as Jonah, maybe an inch or two taller, but what was hanging between his legs seemed longer and thicker than Jonah's. For a nine-year-old, it was a hefty slab of meat.

Grinning, Randy noticed the silent comparisons going on. He leaned over and whispered in Jonah's ear. Jonah whispered something back to Randy, causing Randy to lose his smile and vigorously shake his head. My attention was broken when Roy called, "Reyes, did everything work out okay for you yesterday?"

"Yeah, it was very kewl," I answered. "The guys in the A.I. Division are a lot of fun."

Roy nodded and meekly offered, "When I didn't see you or your brothers around yesterday afternoon, I asked Derrick where you were. He told me, and some other dudes that happened to be nearby, that you went for a check-up. I hope that doesn't bother you."

Shaking my head, I smiled, "Not at all. Everything checked out okay, and I learned why I was so worried about prejudices too. It was because of where I was raised. I know now it's not too much of a problem anymore."

"Kewl," Roy grinned. "You know, a lot of us are real interested in computers, electronics and stuff. We think it's awesome that we have you around."

"Plus one here too," James smiled. "What makes you so kewl is that you don't act like we'd expect an android to act, ya know, like you're just another dude to us."

Again, I gestured down my own naked, soapy body and to all the rest of the bodies in the mob shower, chuckling, "I am just another dude. Even when I have access to all the new databases they added, I intend to only use that stuff when it's necessary."

James asked, "So you didn't have to do anything special when you told me about books before?"

Shaking my head, I explained, "Since I never had to go to school, I used to read lots of paperback books. Some were mine, or my dad's, or mom's, or my cousin's books. That was just real life experience; sharing books and having the stories to chat about."

Roy asked, "You have databases but can't access them?"

I nodded, "I was told not to, since my memory was zapped at the orphanage. I have twenty-one years and a whole new life to integrate, so I locked them down for forty-eight hours. Later tonight, I'll be able to access them, if I want."

"Very kewl," Roy chortled.

Finished showering, my brothers and Randy turned the water off and went to go dry off. I hurried to complete rinsing off. I turned my shower off and went to towel dry. I reminded my brothers, "Don't forget to take your comm-badges off the dirty shirts and put them on the clean shirts."

"Ooo!" Dillon groaned.

Jonah nodded, "I would've forgot too. Thanks."

Leaning over to dry my legs, I softly teased, "There was a lot of whispering going on for a while."

Dillon lost it and cracked up, dropping his towel, shirt and comm-badge at the same time.

Jonah giggled, "I'll be chatting with James some time soon."

"Today," Randy firmly added.

Rolling his eyes, Jonah huffed, "Yes, brother."

I was only slightly stunned that Randy was asked already. Dillon noticed me and giggled, "Yep, we asked, and Randy said yes too."

Randy smiled, "I'll need to talk with James too, but it's kewl."

Beginning to dress, Jonah assured, "Dad and pop will definitely say yes to another son."

Randy giggled, "I'm really looking forward to surprising Derrick and Mike later."

"Later?" Jonah and Dillon queried.

I offered, "We could tell them at breakfast."

Pulling up his underpants, Randy briefly paused and glanced at each of the three of us. Finishing the task and grabbing his board shorts, he smiled, "Okay, then I need to tell James too."

Done with his shower, James came over to the changing area with us. He grabbed a towel and asked, "Tell me what?"

Jonah told James, "We asked Randy to join our family."

"We want him to be our brother," Dillon smiled.

James nodded, turned toward Randy and grinned, "When I woke and you weren't around, I wondered what was going on. You only slept at the dorm this one night."

Randy nodded and giggled, "I was surprised they asked, but I have to admit, I'm really happy. I couldn't see myself with any of the other families."

Roy walked in, prompting, "The Core Rimmers should be awake by now. Let's get over to the cafeteria before they leave for school." He grabbed a towel, wrapped it around his waist and grabbed his dirty clothes, then left us.

Randy stepped closer to James and softly said, "You're a kewl roommate, James."

Nodding, James smiled, "I'll ask around and find someone else to be roomies with, hopefully by tonight. That room is too big to be alone in."

Dillon asked, "Don't you want a family?"

James chuckled, "I've got family; tons of brothers and sisters. The Core Rimmers are big brothers. I like it here, in the dorm, though. In a big bed all to myself, I slept like a baby last night." He then waved and smiled, "I'll see you guys in a few minutes for breakfast," and then left the lavatory.

My brothers and I tossed our towels in the big laundry bin, gathered our stuff and left too. Randy giggled, "I guess I'll have to pack my suitcase again."

I recommended, "Do that later this morning, bro. The three of us will be going to the funeral for Bruce's parents at eleven. That'll give you about an hour, I guess."

"Kewl," Randy sighed. He glanced around at the three of us then asked, "Do you think Bruce is okay?"

"He will be," Jonah answered. "He's got John and all the Hundsers lookin' out for him."

All three of them turned to me, wordlessly asking for my opinion. I shrugged, "It's going to take some time; maybe weeks for Bruce. Having a family will make it easier. When I can, I'll have a talk with Bruce too. I hope it's today, but we'll see how he is after the funeral."

We walked into the Gibbons' home again. Grandma Laura was sitting at the kitchen table. Ben was there too, practicing his guitar. He paused for a minute and asked, "Jonah, are you going to practice today?"

"Yeah, probably after dad and pop leave for school," Jonah answered. "I didn't get to play much at all yesterday."

Ben nodded, "Just for fifteen minutes or so."

"I've just got a few things to take care of first," Jonah said.

Our dad and pop walked in while we were still congregated in the kitchen. They said 'good morning,' then Mike checked with Ben, "The spider chromatics are easier?"

Ben nodded and giggled, "Yeah, check it out." He then ran through the exercise, way up high on the neck and kept a pretty even tempo, albeit slowly, because he was softly naming the notes as he played.

When Ben finished and looked up, Mike cheered, "Excellent!"

Smirking, Jonah told Ben, "I can tell you were busy yesterday."

Ben nodded, "The note names are the same at the twelfth fret, and it's a little easier."

Jonah asked, "Show me later?"

"No problem," Ben smiled.

Grandma Laura told Pop, "The Scoobies are around here somewhere. They said that they needed to talk to you."

Pop nodded and softly said, "They've got about fifteen minutes to find me."

Dad smiled, "Then we've gotta grab breakfast before checking our Clan's status and hurrying to school."

Seeing Dillon, Jonah and I carrying wads of dirty clothes, Pop checked with us, "You dudes showered already?"

I nodded, "Over at the dorm. Before that, Grandma Anna made us breakfast."

Dad smiled, "She loves cooking. You guys made her day." Then he leaned over and picked up Dillon. Dad got a kiss on the cheek and gave one back.

"I've still got room for a chocolate milkshake," Dillon giggled.

Grandma Laura hummed, then offered, "How about we do breakfast or dinner here Saturday?"

We all agreed that would be awesome. Then Dad told Pop, "Let's get motivated and in the shower." Pop nodded and they started upstairs, with Dillon getting a free ride. Jonah, Randy and I followed.

Soon after we started up the staircase, Jonah bluntly stated, "We want another brother."

Pop chuckled, "Give us an extra five minutes in the shower, and we'll give it a whirl." Jonah, Randy and Dillon groaned through their giggles. I cracked up.

At the top of the stairs, Dillon whispered in dad's ear. Looking down at Randy, Dad asked, "You want two dads and three brothers, Randy?"

Rapidly nodding, Randy answered, "I've spent most of my time with Dillon, Jonah and Reyes since I arrived Sunday night. Two dads is kewl with me too, especially you two. All you guys are a real family, more than my other family ever was, that's for sure."

Dad nodded at Pop, saying, "I guess we can do this. We'll just have to get Prez to do the honors."

Pop smiled, "We'll gang up on Prez and make it happen later today. Are you dudes gonna wait for us to go to breakfast? Dillon's obviously starved after only one breakfast." Swiftly, Pop tickled Dillon's ribs. Dillon loudly squealed laughing.

I checked with Jonah and Randy. When both nodded, I grinned, "We'll wait up here in our room."

Jonah told Randy, "Let's play some video games while we wait."

"Kewl," Randy cheered, and then they took off down the hall. Pop put Dillon down and the little guy ran after Jonah and Randy.

Pop pulled his T-shirt off. Dad said, "There's a pair of headphones in Mike's bedroom end table, top drawer."

Pop said, "Help yourself, Reyes. There's CD's in my room too."

Dad tilted his head, wondering, "Is everything all right?"

I checked to be certain that Jonah was out of sight, then stepped closer and whispered, "Talking about Randy joining us, I happened to learn something that bothers me." I then softly outlined all the stuff Jonah had been through at the orphanage, reminding them that Jonah was just as likely to swim with his boardies on as he was with them off, then explained the reason why. After telling them about James, and that Jonah wanted to have a private chat with him, I then asked for my dad's and pop's opinions.

Pop softly said, "Let Jonah do what he thinks he needs to do, and let's just keep an eye on him."

Dad nodded, "If it continues to be a problem, we'll talk to Doc Wiener about it. In the meanwhile, encourage Jonah to take his shorts off at the pools."

Pop smirked, "If I had to guess, I'd say slightly less than half of all dudes hang pretty low. Since our dudes are mostly nude around the pools, point them out to Jonah. No dude's worth is in the meat hangin' or how big it gets." He then paused and locked eyes with dad, sniggering, "I married Derrick and he's not a low hanger." I mooed through my giggles.

Pointing in the first bathroom, Dad playfully ordered, "Get your butt in the shower, Lick." Nodding and evilly snickering, Pop followed the order. Dad shook his head, rolled his eyes and chuckled, then went in the bathroom too.

Before I could walk too far down the hall, I heard four high-pitched voices squeaking, "G'mornin', Shiny Daddies!"

The Scoobies bathroom ambush pushed me over the edge and I cracked up laughing again. Walking by our bedroom, I saw Jonah and Randy sitting on the carpeted floor playing a video game. Dillon was investigating the room until he saw me walk past. He ran out of the room after me, asking, "What're ya doin, bro?"

"I'm gonna get a CD from Pop's room to listen to," I answered.

"Yeah? Which one?"

"I don't know yet. Something new, that I don't remember ever hearing before."

We went into Pop's room, knelt down before the stereo and started going through the shelves of CDs. Pop had absolutely no real organization of his CD collection. The stuff he liked most seemed to be on the top shelf right hand side. The rest were scattered around. I happened to find a CD by Guster, and recalled Dad mentioning that band's name during the luau concert Friday night. I told Dillon and we took the CD back to our bedroom. Soon, we were listening to the 'Lost and Gone Forever' disk. Dillon started spinning around and dancing, shaking his little butt around. We had only heard the first three songs and started listening to the fourth song, 'Fa Fa', which Old Habits had played for us during the concert. I couldn't even tell the difference between the Old Habits cover and the original tune I was listening to. Dressed and singing along, Dad and Pop walked in the room. Pop was wearing his Shiny Priest white robe, with the sparkling stars on the sleeves and back, over his T-shirt and board shorts.

Randy loudly giggled, "So, did you make us another new baby brother?" Jonah, Dillon and I roared laughing.

Dad blushed and sniggered, "We tried."

"For some strange reason, it hasn't worked yet," Mike chuckled. "We'll have to keep tryin'."

"Let's go get some breakfast," Dad encouraged. I stopped the CD and shut down the stereo. Jonah and Randy turned off the PlayStation. In moments we were heading back downstairs. Crossing the living room, where Grandma Laura was watching the morning news on TV, we said goodbye and then headed outside. We hadn't gotten far when Ben came flying out the door and caught up with us.

Dillon and Jonah told Ben that Randy was our new brother, and that it would be official later that day.

I asked Pop, "What did the Scoobies want?"

He smiled, "I'm going to make an announcement at the C.I.C., since it affects us all."

Dad said, "We're safe, and all of both families are safe, but the rest will have to take the Shiny Pledge."

Reverently, Pop recited, "I pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation, and to the Gleam for which it stands; one Nation under Shiny – sparkling, with incandescence and radiance for all!" Me, all my brothers, and Ben helplessly giggled.

"I guess I'm family just in the nick of time," Randy giggled.

"Wait," Mike suspiciously scowled, "are you saying that you're not a Shiny Lover?" Playing along, Derrick and I mooed.

Randy laughed, "I am, I swear I am!"

Jonah nudged Randy and smiled, "I pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation."

Randy joined Jonah, reciting, "and to the Gleam for which it stands; one Nation under Shiny – sparkling, with incandescence and radiance for all!"

Dad led us into the C.I.C. dining room and over to the chow line. I could swear I heard something up in the ceiling and looked up for a few moments. In line ahead of us were Sean and Troy. Ahead of them were Prez, Dee, Gage, Sammy, Richie, Keith, Roy, Kaleo, Tory, John, Stephen, Jamie, Jacob, Beau, Drew, Geoff and Corey. Pop went directly to Prez.

Before Pop could say a word, Keith noticed the robe Pop was wearing. He chuckled, "Your Holy Shininess! Please tell me you're not wearing that to school."

Pop smirked, "Dull one, you shall be punished for your lack of Shiny respect."

"Yeah! You tell 'em, Shiny Daddy!" Four voices yelled down from the air conditioning vent. I rolled my eyes, then huffed and turned my attention to the chefs to order my milkshake.

Turning to Prez, Mike seriously said, "We have a small problem."

Obviously afraid to ask, but having no other choice, Prez grinned, "Spit it out before it rusts or tarnishes." In the air conditioning duct, four horrified voices gasped.

"We've been Clan for four days," Mike explained. "We have three days to have everyone take the Pledge."

Keith, Drew and Corey simultaneously and uncertainly repeated, "The pledge?"

Mike seriously nodded, "I'm safe. Derrick and our kids are safe. Outside of my immediate family, no one is safe from Shiny theft."

"Omigod!" Drew and Corey laughed. Keith rolled his eyes.

"What's the big deal?" Prez grinned. "We're all Shiny lovers anyway. Do you want your CD's missing? Do you want any of the small PC or sound system connectors swiped?" Facing Mike again, Prez said, "Lead the way, Shiny Mike."

Putting his right hand over his heart, Mike chanted, "Repeat after me. 'I pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation.'" Everyone in line paused, put their right hands on their hearts and duplicated Mike's words. "I pledge allegiance to the Shiny of the Shiny Nation, and to the Gleam for which it stands; one Nation under Shiny – sparkling, with incandescence and radiance for all!" Even the chefs repeated the pledge.

"I saw one who was mumbling! He's fair game!" Willow could be heard giggling.

Troy gasped and quickly repeated his pledge loudly and clearly.

"Scared that your instruments would be stolen?" Prez giggled.

Troy, still wide-eyed at his close call, nodded mutely.

Sean giggled, "No, more that he was scared HE would be stolen. He's got a shiny butt!" The other kids in line began laughing and giggling. Troy's jaw dropped. He turned ten shades of red, then hauled off and slugged Sean on the shoulder. Almost as red as Troy, Sean rubbed his shoulder and playfully reminded, "I told you there were things you had to take at face value as true."

Troy grinned, "But you told me that when we were in the shower and you were holding my shiny butt! Was I listening? Hearing yes, but not paying much attention."

The Rimmers laughed hysterically, trying to order their shakes. Prez and his family left the chow line with their breakfasts. I followed them, leading my brothers, Randy and Ben to a nearby table.

Out in the dining room, Mike stood on a chair and announced over the P.A., "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, for your own security, I must ask that you all pause for a moment. On this Shiny Day, all that glitters and sparkles amongst us demands that we take notice; Dull ones will be converted; Shiny Haters and Dull Lovers will be arrested or destroyed. Those of you who, like me, enjoy the brightness and warmth of the Day Shiny, then look forward to the fullness of the Night Shiny, please stand and put your right hand over your heart then repeat after me."

Everyone repeated the Shiny Pledge. "Thank you for your time," Pop said, and then took Dad's hand to step down off the chair. The chatter level rose as did some chortling.

Dad and Pop sat down with Keith and Prez, at the table next to ours. Also at a table close by were Drew, Corey, John, Stephen, Jamie, Jacob and Beau. A few tables over, nearer to the wall where the Command Center doors are, sat Kaleo, Tory, Sean and Troy. I noticed everybody seemed to have favorite groups that sat together during meals. There was occasional shifting around as conversations changed from topic to topic. All the F.C.C. kids were sitting together and having a hushed private conversation. Sung, Kawazoe, Cesar, Felipe, Chad, Herbert, Shimizo and Murakami were sitting together at a table near Drew, Corey and John.

There seemed to be an awful lot of dorm kids wearing the same green T-shirts. Looking closer, I saw the band names Time-Touched and Platinum Habits, along with what appeared to be tour dates. It seemed rather odd, for various reasons. First of all, the tour dates and cities were completely ridiculous; I had never heard of some city names and the dates traversed centuries. Also, when had Dad and Pop left with Keith and Prez to perform these concerts? Granted, I was away most of the prior day, and I don't always know where our dads are every minute of every day, but I would think they'd have mentioned being to Jazwhoki in the year 4254. At a moment where dad was sitting quietly and listening to the conversation with Pop, Prez and Keith, I pointed out the T-shirts the kids were wearing.

Derrick tapped Prez and pointed at several kids sitting at tables not far away. Prez looked around. Noticing Prez's surprised expression, Derrick tapped his sub-vocal and called, "Alden, where did the kids get band T-shirts with our band's name on them?" Alden replied via sub-vocal, so I only heard half the conversation and explanations.

"How many 'extras' were there for a tour that hasn't happened?" Keith wondered.

A few moments later, Prez smirked, "Check out the dates and places; they're all over the place, at cities I've never heard of; some are 2014, some are 3075; they're unrealistic dates."

Mike smiled, "You obviously know something we don't, Alden."

Keith interjected, "Drew was hoping to implement a design of a recording studio for us here."

"All that's very nice to know," Prez chuckled, "but what about the tour concert dates?"

All four Rimmers incredulously laughed, "For fifty concerts?"

Pop softly muttered, "We'll need to tell Troy and Reyes."

Dad nodded, "And learn about how this is done. I can only assume time will be virtually unchanged here, but where we're going and what we're doing will take way longer than two minutes."

"We'll have to bring our kids along then," Prez offered.

"I'm not gonna let many months away pass without them," Keith stubbornly insisted.

As this haphazard conversation was going on, the F.C.C. kids had all gotten up from their table and gone over to talk to John. One after the other, John listened to each kid and then gave a hug. John led the kids over to our table, reintroducing Dee, Gage, Sammy, Richie and Geoff as his nephews. In moments, my brothers and I were being reintroduced. The F.C.C. kids were just a little scared and confused. The base was very different from their families and homes, and some of them were scared of me too, because I was a teenager. Jonah, Randy, Dillon, Dee and Richie assured them I was kewl, and was even more than a teenage boy, telling them that I was an android and older than any of their grandparents. Soon, I had Dillon sitting on one thigh and Richie sitting on the other. To prove to the F.C.C. kids I was nice, Dillon asked me about life back in 1950's Myrtle Beach. Some of the youngest F.C.C. kids stayed with me, listening to tales of long ago, while Gage, Sammy, Dee and Jonah took the older group around to nearby tables.

I was still telling them stories of crawdad fishin' and capturing pollywogs, when Kaleo loudly chanted, "I, Tiger, take you, Lover, to be my life partner, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live."

Prez overheard Kaleo and called over, "Who's marrying who?"

Gesturing at the two human vacuums attached at the mouth, Tory cackled, "Sean and Troy. I give them a week."

"A week?" Kaleo incredulously giggled. "A day or two, tops. We'll be lucky if they don't drop to the floor and go for it right here!"

Prez cracked up. Smiling widely at his hysterical partner, Keith loudly reminded, "We need a Vulcan for the mind-melds. At least give us a chance to call Uncle Spock back."

Four-year-old Aaron Pendergrass pointed and wondered, "Who is that?"

"That's Kaleo," I grinned, "He's one of the kewlest around and a Core Rimmer too, like John, Drew, Corey, Prez, Keith, Derrick and Mike."

Five-year-old Randall Mcfarren asked, "Is he really nice?"

"He's one of the nicest," I assured, and then told them a 'G' rated version of how Kaleo saved little kids from abuses at our orphanage. Randall said that his parents used to punish him by making him pray on his knees, sometimes for hours, until he fell asleep. I told them that was bad and a form of abuse, which is why they were all rescued and brought here to be with us. The older kids returned and prompted the little ones to go finish their milkshakes. Dillon smiled and thanked me with a kiss on the cheek, then hopped off my thigh and returned to his chair, grabbing his near empty milkshake glass and going back to work.

Ready for their morning briefing, the Core Rimmers got up. They filed past our table and each of us got kisses on the head as they made their way to the Command Center. Ben and Jonah were talking about their guitar lessons and doing a little finger exercise with the fingers of their left hands tapping at the table. Gage, Sammy and Dee were ready to go over to the pools as soon as they finished their shakes. Richie and Dillon decided to take some of the F.C.C. kids over to the playground for more introductions. I thought it might be a good idea to get a little drumming done, so I would join Ben and Jonah in the Gibbons' basement. In another minute or two, we had all given up on our milkshakes. We took the glasses to the dishwasher, then wandered off in separate directions.

On the way to the Gibbons' home, my comm-badge chirped. Ryan's voice called, "Reyes? Are you awake yet?"

I tapped my comm-badge and answered, "Hey, Ryan. I've been awake a while now. How're you?"

"I'm really good," Ryan cheered, "and so is Paul. He said that he talked to you earlier this morning and I missed it. He usually doesn't talk about people. I mean he does, but usually just monosyllables. You know... Uh... Hmmm... Yeah... Okay... Hell, he used more than one sentence. I mean, I thought the world must be coming to an end. Whole paragraphs, without much cussing or sour looks. Amazing!" Ryan had paused and giggled at that point. Then his voice took on a mischievous tone before he started speaking. "What did you say to him that's got him in such a cheery mood?" It's hard to remember that he's an android like me and his brother. It is amazing how hard it is to hear the usual signs.

I grinned, "Actually, I called to chat with Jerry. Paul happened to come by the room while we were talking."

Ryan giggled, "Oh, he was eavesdropping again?"

In the background, Paul groaned, "Ryan?"

I chuckled, "It's not nice to talk about people behind their backs, so it can't really be called eavesdropping."

"REYES!" Paul loudly laughed from the background.

"Snagged again, bro," Ryan heartily chortled.

"Busted!" Jerry commented from farther in the background.

"There goes my cheery mood," Paul softly grumbled. I became a bit concerned. He had retreated into himself. His voice had changed. It had gone almost flat. The most alarming thing was that he sounded ready for a fight.

"Jerold! Stop spying on your brothers!" Mrs. Owens said, seemingly from another room.

"And you stop listening in on Jerry, Mary!" Mr. Owens laughed.

Joey asked, "Do you needs cuddwes soes you can be cheewy again, Uncah Pauw?"

"I'm fine, Joey," Paul assured.

I could hear in his voice that it was taking all he had to not run. I was imagining him looking anywhere but where there were other people like he had yesterday. His eyes had been like saucers. It had made me think of that saying, a deer in the headlights. I had imagined a set of antlers starting to sprout. He had looked like he was going to bolt just like a deer that was startled while feeding in a field. I was sure that was the look he had now and I thought it was cute. Oh boy. Something must be wrong with me. I am getting turned on by a boy with antlers, and his impossibly cute brother too. I can't fall for both of them, can I?

Jerry giggled, "Cuddles and cookies."

"YEAH!" Joey screamed, "Gwamma, can I have cookies for me and Uncah Pauw?"

Aunt Mary sighed, "One cookie each, Joey. Lunch will be served in five minutes."

"I don't really want a damn cookie," Paul softly bitched.

Ryan giggled, "Yeah, you want it and need it, bro."

Jerry hummed then wondered, "Are we still talking about cuddles and cookies?"

Paul grunted as if he'd been shot in the heart, and groaned in pain, then I heard a thump.

"Jon, remind me to have a talk with Marc and Daniel about the influence they are having on Jerry!" Mrs. Owens shouted.

"Before or after you have to listen to them complaining about the influence he's having on them?" Mr. Owens laughed.

I heard the patter of running feet, then Joey hollered, "Uncah Weyes, Gwamma says you needs do come ovew fow wunch doo!" Joey paused then seriously said, "Uncah Pauw, did you faww down? You'we weaw easy do pounce, dhis way." A moment later Joey giggled, Paul grunted and Ryan and Jerry cracked up.

Jerry sniggered, "You're invited for lunch, Reyes. Get your skinny butt over here and save your boyfriends, now."

"HEY!" Paul and Ryan shouted, obviously blushing as much as I was.

I pondered aloud, "Does it matter that I've already eaten twice this morning?"

Jerry answered, "Nope, lunch is almost ready, so tell that A.I. of yours to do the honors before I have Daileass do it."

"Alden," I called, "please transport me to where Jerry, Paul and Ryan are?"

Alden giggled and sang, "I'm tellin' everyone that you've got two boyfriends, Reyes."

I groaned, "Don't tell..." and finished the statement in a strange living room, "anyone anything, Alden." Looking around the room, I found Joey sitting on Paul's belly on the floor.

Jerry smiled, "Welcome to the A.I. Division's catering headquarters, Reyes. This is my parents' house, next door to Marc's house."

Ryan stepped closer and gave me a hug. He whispered, "For whatever you said to Paul," and then landed a kiss on my cheek.

I shrugged and smiled, "It was the truth."

Paul softly prompted, "Let me up, Joey, so I can say hello to Reyes." Paul looked incredibly uneasy. I had been right in my thoughts; he looked like he could fight or run at any moment. My heart leaped into my throat as I saw him relax a bit when he made eye contact with me.

"And give him mowe hugs and kisses," Joey giggled, then rolled off to Paul's side. I noticed he gave Joey a troubled look. It seemed to me that he was becoming attached to the little guy and didn't know what to do with it. All I could think was 'welcome to the Clan, dude.' It turns everything upside down and inside out, but always in the best ways somehow. Suddenly his whole demeanor changed.

Standing up, Paul evilly grinned, "If everyone would just allow us to get to know Reyes better, before marryin' us off, that would be kewl." Les, Victoria, Marc and Danny came in the front door.

"That's part of why I'm here," I admitted. "In the last two hours, I've already had a big breakfast and a breakfast milkshake too. Besides, I have to be back at Ewa Beach in about forty-five minutes for a funeral."

Everyone in the house queried, "A funeral?"

I nodded, "The parents of one of our rescued kids were found dead. Bruce asked me to go, and I said I would."

Coming over to give me a hug, Paul asked, "Have you ever been to a funeral before?"

I nodded, "Three, for my mom, and then for my dad, and then about twelve years later, for my cousin and his wife."

Ryan gasped, "Oh man!"

Paul frowned, "We're sorry to hear it, Reyes. Losing parents once was bad enough."

"It was a long time ago. Bruce was adopted by one of our core families. He'll have it easier than the three of us did. Now, I hope I can help Bruce in some way or another, so he doesn't stay sad for very long."

"You'we good ad making peopwe happy, you make Uncah Pauw and Uncah Wyan happy!" Joey innocently stated.

Wondering what had been said about me during the course of the day, I felt my face heat up. Beginning to giggle, Ryan's face immediately dropped to my shoulder. Paul simply grinned and turned away from me and Ryan. Joey's eyes widened and he giggled, "WHAD? You was dalkin' aboud Weyes since bweakfasd! Was dhad a secwed?"

Paul smirked, "Don't be shy. Go ahead and let it all out, Joey."

Joey giggled, "You'ww dickwe me!"

"I'll tickle you any way," Paul warned and started to advance. Joey hid behind Jerry. Seeing that the games were about to begin, Danny widely smiled and moved behind Joey, wrapping his arms around him and Jerry so they couldn't get away.

Just as the tickling and loud laughter started, I whispered to Ryan, "Is Paul ticklish?"

With twinkling eyes, Ryan nodded, "Very!" The two of us quietly walked over and each took a side of Paul. I went for Paul's ribs and Ryan went for his brother's arm pit.

Surprised and squirming, Paul loudly laughed, "NO-O-O!" He had nowhere to escape to. Jerry joined us, reaching up and tickling Paul's neck. Trying to cover up, Paul started to wilt. Joey squirmed out from between his daddy and Danny to run around and tickle his uncle to tears. In less than a minute, Paul was hysterical and on the floor again in a fetal position.

Still abusing Paul, Ryan sniggered, "The grump is laughing! Get his feet, Joey!" Danny squatted over Paul's legs, so Joey wouldn't get kicked.

Looking over at Danny, I giggled, "It seemed you were on Paul's side for a moment there."

Danny shrugged and chuckled, "I don't take sides, I just get in as many tickles as I can."

"TRAITOR!" Paul hysterically cackled.

The front door opened again. KC bounced in and hurried over to us to help teach Paul a lesson. He grinned, "Hey, Reyes, long time no see."

"I know, it's been about twelve hours for you guys," I chuckled, "Did ya miss me?"

KC sniggered, "Don't feel bad, but you'll have to stay away a little longer than eleven-and-a-half hours for me to miss you. Try a day or two."

Joey frowned, "Dhad was mean, Cwash," and flung himself onto KC.

KC caught Joey and lifted him up to his hip. "No, Twerp; mean would be taking him on a tour of Timmy's bedroom without preparation!" he informed Joey with a grin.

Joey wondered, "Is dhewe somedhing wwong widh Dimmy's woom? I was dhewe. Id was cwean and nice, widh aww Dimmy's animaw fweinds and evewydhing." Hearing that, I lost it and cracked up laughing so hard that I accidentally missed Paul and tickled Ryan instead. Ryan tickled me back, and so did Jerry, then Joey, and lastly KC shoved me down to allow Paul to get payback.

Evilly snickering at the turn of events, Danny joined the group. In seconds, all I could do was howl laughing and try to protect myself from six pairs of hands tickling me at once. Thank goodness Aunt Mary called, "Lunch time, boys!"

Joey was the first to run over to the dining room, followed by Jerry, Danny and KC. Paul and Ryan only stood and offered their hands to help me up off the floor. I was still catching my breath when I took their hands and got up off the floor. Ryan had the warmest, most appreciative smile spread across his face. Probably because I made him the first target, Paul wore a crooked smirk, but there was a twinkle of joy in his eyes that I never saw the prior night. They never let go of my hands and led me to the dining room.

Entering the already packed room, I couldn't believe the quantity of food on the table. It was a smorgasbord of stuff, including salads, a variety of dressings, eggrolls, little bagel pizzas, fried shrimp, broiled sandwich steaks, and a pile of rolls and breads. Before I sat down, I sighed and told Aunt Mary, "I'm really sorry, but I've already had two breakfasts."

"Eat as much or as little as you like, Reyes," Aunt Mary smiled. "The important thing is you're here to share the meal with us."

Sitting down, I thanked her and then everyone bowed their heads, as was done the prior night at dinner. After about thirty seconds, Uncle Jon's head popped up. Everyone started serving themselves and passing bowls and platters around. I only took a little bit of salad, a bagel pizza and two fried shrimp, and then wondered, "Where are Caleb, Noah, Hunter and Wes?"

Danny answered, "They're working on getting new A.I.'s online and operational. I'll bring back something for them to snack on."

Nodding, I grinned across the table and asked, "When did you get here, Willy?"

Joey giggled, "Wiwwy swidhews in dhe shadows and jusd shows up!"

"It helps being a black panther," Willy softly admitted. "People don't notice me, like a shadow, unless I face them and they see my eyes."

Marc smirked, "Or when he pounces you, seemingly from out of nowhere." Baring his teeth, Willy widely smiled. There's something unnerving about a smiling Carolina panther. Maybe it's me though.

Viccy sighed, "The pouncing last night scared the dickens out of me."

Les smirked. "Hon, you have too much 'dickens' in you for one little kitty to scare out."

I was curious if Jerry, or even Paul, had spoken with Ryan about our early morning conversation, but Jerry was several chairs away from me to my left. I knew they could not bring up anything to Ryan about being an android, but there was still plenty of information that Ryan needed in my opinion. Ryan was sitting directly beside me, to my left, and Paul was directly to my right, but I thought it would be considered rude to whisper to Paul, so I simply sampled my shrimp. Once again, it was as good or better than any fried shrimp I had ever eaten before and told Aunt Mary so. One at a time, others praised Aunt Mary's culinary skills. Aunt Mary thanked each of us for our kind words.

With an evil grin on his face, Jerry commented just loud enough for me to hear him. "You know, I hear boyfriends feeding each other their 'shrimp' is the 'in' thing," he sniggered.

With his eyes, Paul shot arrows across the table at Jerry. The remark seemed to pass over Ryan's head, because he didn't even flinch or grin. Marc obviously noticed and groused, "I don't even have any shrimp on my plate." Covering my mouth with a napkin, I helplessly giggled.

"Don't look at me!" Danny smirked, "There's still some shrimp on the platter."

"Well, you're the closest; help your brother already, Danny!" Mary smiled.

Before Danny had a chance to move, Joey reached across the table and pulled the platter to him. He then carefully picked it up, carried it over, and set it in front of Marc before climbing onto Marc's lap. "Hewe ya go, Uncah Mawc; you an' me can ead aaawwww dhe yummy shwimps now!"

"Thanks Munchkin, let's dig in!" Marc giggled. Aunt Mary just shook her head and smiled. She stood and then retrieved another platter from the kitchen.

Ryan leaned over toward me and whispered, "Don't worry, Reyes. I liked you plenty last night before you left. Paul does too. We're just not gonna rush anything. Kewl?"

Nodding and smiling, I whispered, "Very kewl." Returning to my meal, I forked some salad, softly saying, "We've only been out of our bad situations about a week." Before stuffing salad into my mouth, I glanced over at Paul. He nodded slightly and sort o' smirked.

Jon nodded. "You boys have the right idea, no matter what our resident Cupid tries to tell you," he said just loud enough for us to hear.

Paul sighed then looked across the table, saying, "Mar... uh mom, would you excuse us for a minute or two, please?" Before Aunt Mary could nod, Paul had already taken my hand and started to stand. He led me just out the front door and off the porch, with Ryan trailing us. Paul huffed, "I'm really sorry for all that in there, Reyes. I guess it's because it's been only me and Ryan against the world for so long; they see me with someone I can call a friend and suddenly rice is being tossed and rings are being bought."

Ryan smiled. "Jerry doesn't mean any harm. In his own way, he's showing us that he's as happy about this morning's talks as any of us are. At last, it looks like we've found a place to be, and with people we can trust. Knowing that is at least partially thanks to you, Reyes." After a brief pause and a glance at Paul, Ryan chuckled, "They could access you or Paul or any of the androids with a satellite uplink, but they never do."

I simply asked, "Was it just you and Paul who discussed that?"

Rapidly shaking his head, Ryan answered, "It was over breakfast, so just about everybody was there; mom, dad, Jerry, Marc, Danny and Joey all know about it now."

"Thanks to you," Paul softly told me. He then suggested, "Let's all learn what it's like not living on the edge of our seats. Then we can decide where we want to go from there, if anywhere."

Ryan giggled, "It had to happen sometime, but if anyone could wake up my grumpy brother's heart, it might just be you."

I grinned, "And what is it that makes you think I wouldn't be just as interested in you?" Getting no response from either brother, I told them, "Right now, I like everybody inside at the table the same. Everybody here is nice enough, and no one has hurt me in any way."

Ryan wondered, "So where do we stand?"

Paul waited for my take on it. I shrugged, "We get back to the table and back to getting to know each other better. Tomorrow's another day. Maybe I can come back here again, or maybe you'll want to come visit Ewa Beach. Let's just see how things go."

Paul checked with Ryan, "Does that sound like a plan, bro?"

"Yeah," Ryan quickly answered, but then giggled, "The tickling was fun though, and you needed it. I say we should keep up appearances and keep acting the same, even though we know otherwise."

Paul nodded and suggested, "Let's finish lunch." I turned and headed for the door, noticing Joey was standing at the closed dining room window. Before I could turn or say anything, I was being tickled by both brothers. Giggling and laughing, we hurried back inside and returned to the dining room and our meal.

Soon after we sat, Aunt Mary glanced at me, Paul and Ryan, asking, "Is everything okay?"

Ryan and I nodded, but kept mum. Paul shrugged, "We know where we stand." Jerry began giggling. Paul smirked, "Don't go there, bro."

Jerry smiled, "No?"

"No," was the threefold chorus from Paul, Ryan and me.

Helping myself to another few of Aunt Mary's awesome shrimp, I locked eyes with Jerry, telling him, "My twenty-one years in an orphanage, plus Paul's and Ryan's twenty years on the streets are enough for each of us to deal with for now." Before digging in, I glanced around, saying, "I've got stuff to tell Paul and Ryan, about my first family, second family and current family. It's a fair assumption that they'll be telling me some stuff about their lives too."

Les nodded, "That's a very mature point-of-view." Viccy nodded and widely smiled.

"Quite a difference from rolling around the floor tickling each other," Jon teased.

Ryan giggled, "Can't have too much of either, can we?" Paul gave his brother an evil look then returned to his lunch.

Joey asked, "Do you wanna pway dwums widh me again, Weyes?"

"I don't think I'll have the time today, Joey," I gently answered, and then promised, "I'll be around often enough where we'll have plenty of chances to do that. You could even visit me in the R.O.H., and maybe get to play with my dad's band."

Joey cheered, "Keww!" and then checked with Jerry, "Couwd I go, pwease, Dahdy?"

Jerry nodded and grinned, "Sure, munchkin. If I can, I'll even go along too."

I told everyone, "After I left here last night, I got to play a concert with my dad's band. I know it was recorded."

Before I could have Alden or Daileass give the song to the A.I. Division, a new voice announced over the speakers, "I have it, Reyes." A moment later, we heard the applause over the dining room speakers and then my dad hitting timpani and the gong, starting 'Fanfare For The Common Man'.

I wondered, "Who was that?"

Danny grinned, "Our new A.I., Stevie. Caleb, Noah, Hunter and Wes got him installed and running earlier today."

For the next few minutes, everyone commented on the song playing. Joey asked who was playing the drums, and I told him it was my dad, Derrick Seibert. Les and Viccy were quite impressed by the rock arrangement of a classical piece written by Aaron Copland. I outlined who was playing what instruments for everyone at the table. By the time I was done, everyone except Paul, Ryan and I were done eating.

My kitten, Charles, suddenly appeared on my lap. He looked up and bitched, "Alden said you were having shrimp, and didn't invite me. Harumph! Where's mine?" Ryan began giggling and Paul widely smiled at my kitten and then me.

"You know Aunt Mary's rules, Charles," I warned, and then put a shrimp down on my napkin for him to snack on.

"This is great shrimp, Aunt Mary!" Charles purred. "Could you please remind my pet next time that he is required to have me verify the edibility of any seafood?"

The entire room became silent, except for the music still playing from our concert. Noticing all the thoughtful expressions around the table, Joey howled laughing.

"My royal decree has been acknowledged," Charles purred as he reached a paw up and swiped a few leftover shrimp from my plate.

"Here you go, Your Highness," Mary said with a barely suppressed grin. She came over with a small dish. "I had some lobster left over from the Maine omelets this morning that is going to go to waste if you don't eat it."

Charles sniffed the bowl, then looked up at Mary. "Thank you, Aunt Mary. This is perfect to go with the shrimp. Please invite my pet for breakfast the next time that you do this; he needs to enjoy the finer things in life occasionally."

I knew my kitten had a superiority complex before I took him home. Now I only had to figure out what to do about it. My first objective was easy enough to accomplish. Immediately upon arriving home, I would tell Alden and the other A.I.'s to stop obeying orders from a kitten.

"Just be glad he's not a panther!" Jerry commented at the look on my face. "YOU try telling Willie no when he decides that you're not treating him with the proper respect."

"One of these days you will understand your place," Willie stated with a purr. "Isn't that right, Joey?"

"Dahdy's an awdificial indewwigence kid genius," Joey proudly giggled, and then hurried over to give his dad a hug.

Aunt Mary, Uncle Jon, Les and Viccy began clearing the table. Marc reminded, "Dinner's at my place tonight." Grinning at me, he added, "Before midnight." Without me even noticing, Willie had slithered away from the table and out of the dining room. In another minute, only Paul, Ryan, Charles and I remained in the dining room.

Holding a small piece of a sandwich, Ryan looked beyond me, wondering, "What're you thinkin', bro?"

Shrugging, Paul softly shared, "I was just remembering some details, how mom and dad died, how we wound up homeless and on the streets. We know some stuff about Reyes, but he don't know much of anything about us."

I asked Paul, "When were you activated?"

"June fourteenth, 1951," he answered. "Ryan was born the same day."

Ryan offered, "Mom and dad worked at Vision Industries. Mom worked in housekeeping. Dad worked in building maintenance."

"They got me at a substantial discount off the normal price," Paul added.

Ryan smiled, "They always told Paul, 'to us you are a real boy'."

Paul nodded and then tapped my thigh. On my boardies, he wrote with his finger, 'U' and 'S'. I quickly realized that their parents considered both of them real human boys and they told them so. Nodding once toward Paul, I indicated his message was received and understood. That's probably why Ryan considered himself a real human boy; because his parents always told him it was so.

Paul asked me my activation date, and Ryan quickly asked me about my first parents. I answered them, adding little bits about my first years at Myrtle Beach; friends I had made and the times I played percussion with my dad, at home and on gigs with his band.

We had finished eating. I had Charles transported home, with a half-eaten shrimp hanging out of his mouth. Then Paul, Ryan and I took our plates out to the kitchen. After handing them to Aunt Mary, we walked outside and down to the water line, talking about our lives before the Clan. I listened to Paul and Ryan tell me a little about their lives on the street. When I was asked to tell them about my time at the orphanage, I couldn't share a lot, because I honestly didn't remember, but I did tell them that there wasn't always sexual abuses going on; those had only begun in 1998. "Still, birthdays and Christmas weren't celebrated before 1998. Us orphans always had to do the maintenance around the house, the lawn work and all the painting and daily cleaning too. We always had to do for ourselves, to make life a little more bearable. All us kids always took care of each other, as best as I can recall."

Ryan asked, "And what's life like now?"

"It's awesome," I cheerfully giggled. "You met my brothers, Jonah and Dillon, last night. Today, we're adding another brother. His name is Randy Beale, he's seven years old, got auburn hair and brown eyes, and fits in our family perfectly. All the kids at our base in Ewa Beach are very kewl. Considering some of the stuff we've been through, there's hardly any problems ever. I've heard through the grapevine that some little kids worried about showering with older kids. Obviously that's all worked out too, because me and my bros went with Randy to shower at the dorm this morning. At one time, there was a five-year-old, a seven-year-old, a nine-year-old, an eleven-year-old, me and a fifteen-year-old in there with no problem."

Paul smirked, "That's a really big tub!"

I grinned, "It's a big mob shower. There are eight showers on each of two parallel walls, so sixteen could fit in there easily. I'd venture to say that when school starts next week, everybody in the hallway could fit in there at once, some sharing a shower spray, without bumping into one another. I'll show you around when you come to visit." Then I drew pictures in the sand, describing the basic layout of our base. Sadly, my time was up and I had fifteen minutes to get dressed for Bruce's funeral. Once more, I was sandwiched between the brothers, all three of us giggling and promising to get together again soon.

Stepping back from the brothers, I smiled, "Tell everyone I said goodbye, but I've got to hurry."

Paul nodded, "No sweat." His eyes had gone flat again. I was worried and wanted to say something to make it better, but I realized that was a bit presumptuous of me to think that I could just make over twenty years of distrust and pain just disappear.

"I'll tell Joey that he's comin' with us to visit you," Ryan smiled.

I giggled, "Kewl," and then tapped my comm-badge to have Alden transport me back home and directly to my bedroom. In a flash, I was standing there in the room I shared with my brothers. Dillon and Jonah were already there, half-dressed in shirts, socks and their underpants.

Jonah jumped and hollered, "Where the heck were you?"

"We looked everywhere!" Dillon gushed.

I chuckled, "You didn't check South Carolina." Taking off my shirt, I explained that Ryan had called and that I was invited to lunch.

Charles padded into the room, heading directly to the nearest chair. "Good food!" he purred, then added, "You help Bruce-boy, I will guard the room." He curled into a ball and promptly went to sleep, still purring.

Dillon cracked up. Jonah giggled, "Patch, Riley, Charlette and the other kittens visited us while we were in the basement practicing."

While we dressed, I asked, "Jonah, did you talk to James yet?"

Jonah nodded, "Yeah. He was kewl, but he's straight and wasn't messed with like we were. His parents sound like they were cranky fuckers. They'd take their problems out on him and ground him, so he couldn't leave the house. He actually ran away from home instead of going home from school Monday. Ya know, he didn't even notice my dick in shower. I don't think I could be like him. He's not only happy with his dick, he's very proud of it. It's gonna take me a while to just get over the orphanage and be happy, I think."

I said, "After the funeral, I'd like you to notice the other dudes at the pools. You'll see, at least a third, maybe almost half the guys here hang like you. It's not a problem you need to hold on to, bro." My brothers began giggling at my poor choice of words. I giggled, "You know what I mean! Notice the other dudes and be happy with what you've got, and who you are as a complete person. The problem was the pedophile adults, not you."

"Yeah," Dillon firmly chimed.

Jonah changed the subject by asking, "Ryan called you?"

While we finished dressing, I told my brothers about the dream I had and that I had called Jerry before they woke, and then summarized my conversation with Jerry, adding that Paul had overheard a good part of what we spoke about. Since we were running a little behind schedule, I checked to make sure that Dillon and Jonah had their comm-badges on their shirts, and then had Alden transport us to the gate. Obviously, Bruce, John and Stephen were running late too. The limousine and a stretch-Hummer were just beyond the gate, surrounded by gorillas and G-Cats. It was another couple of minutes before Bruce, John and Stephen transported to the gate, with Frankie also decked out in a suit. His dolphin necklace was proudly displayed over the tie.

Aunt Jen and Uncle Jim immediately went to Bruce and led him to the white limo. The chauffeur opened the rear door and helped Aunt Jen, Bruce and then Uncle Jim. John sent to me, 'Bruce doesn't want my help today. I'm sending you and Stephen all you need to help him out.' Nodding at John, I made sure that I remained close to Bruce. I went into the limo next, and was followed by Stephen, John and Frankie. In another minute or two, our limo was loaded and the driver pulled away.

Wiping his eyes, Bruce softly shared, "My mommy and daddy were good to me. Last Thursday, I was playing with other kids at the beach. They just wanted to go see the island from a boat. Ya know, I was having so much fun, I barely paid attention to them."

"Don't regret that stuff, Bruce," I quickly said. "You couldn't know what was going to happen and neither did they."

Aunt Jen added, "Reyes is right. Had they known, they wouldn't have left in the first place, Bruce."

"I dreamed of them last night for the first time," Bruce mumbled.

Uncle Jim asked, "Was it nice?"

Bruce scowled and shrugged, "Sort of, I guess. They said goodbye to me, like they knew they... d-died..." Losing it again, Bruce stammered through his tears, "t-t-they knew it was a long time. T-t-they f-f-floated up and away, waving and t-t-telling me we'd be together again someday."

Handing Bruce a tissue, Aunt Jen assured, "That says they loved you very clearly." Bruce only nodded and then blew his nose.

While each of us were concentrating on Bruce, I happened to notice John seemed a little distracted. I locked eyes with him. Raising his eyebrows and cracking a crooked smile, he sent, 'Local news reporters and TV crews were at the temple. Suddenly, they all decided to report on something more interesting.'

If Bruce wasn't so wrecked, I would've cracked up laughing.

Making matters worse for me, Stephen turned to John, appearing a little concerned. John sent, 'What? There's an imaginary fire and burglary they can chase down now. Nobody is stopping and talking to Bruce or any of us if I can help it. I just want to get this over with, as quickly and painlessly as possible for Bruce.'

Frankie suddenly needed to hug his daddies tight.

Bruce became very quiet. He wiped his eyes and sat between Aunt Jen and Uncle Jim, occasionally sighing. Bane, Ben and Jonah were keeping Geoff, Dewi and Dillon occupied, playing 'Go Fish' with a deck of cards they found. In a few minutes, we were at the Buddhist temple. I noticed that the gorillas and G-Cats were scattering, making sure the grounds and premises were safe. Lucky then went to the chauffeur. The chauffeur opened the door for us. The youngest were the first out of the limo, followed by Bane, Ben, Jonah, Frankie, Stephen and John. I stepped out next, but remained close to the door, just in case Bruce got wobbly and accidentally slipped or fell, so I could try to catch him. Uncle Jim followed me out and softly assured, "You boys being here means a lot to Bruce. He's just not able to express that now. Bruce wanted to invite more of you, but he wasn't sure if he could keep from crying. You boys are his closest, most trustworthy friends."

Watching wide smiles spread across the faces of my brothers and friends, I warmly smiled, "We know, Uncle Jim. Bruce won't have the chance to stay sad for very long. He's got us and way more thinking of him today."

Bruce emerged from the back of the limo. My hand, Uncle Jim's arm and the chauffeur's hand all reached for him at once. While I stayed with Bruce, Uncle Jim and the chauffeur helped Aunt Jen out of the car.

Bruce checked with me and Jonah, asking, "Do I look all right?"

"You look awesome," Jonah brightly smiled.

I nodded and reminded, "It's your day, bro. You take all the time you need and do what you have to do."

Bruce forced a small smile and weakly thanked us. Aunt Jen took Bruce's hand. He looked up at his new foster mother and seemed to gain strength. He proudly led the way to the temple doors, thanking each of the gorillas and G-Cats as he passed them. Uncle Jim followed with Dewi getting a free ride and Geoff holding his hand. Then John, Stephen and Frankie went to the temple. I led my brothers, Bane and Ben to the temple and held the door open for them.

Bruce was completely awesome during the ceremony. He was like an eight-year-old rock, causing me to wordlessly check with John. 'It's not me,' John sent. 'It's because of you guys being here, so he's being strong for all of us. He knows that if he loses it, Dewi, Geoff and Dillon will crash too, then we're all pretty much shot to hell.'

I think the worst parts of the funeral was little Dewi asking Bruce if the photographs were of his mommy and daddy. Bruce simply nodded and gently smiled, "Yeah, they were, Dewi. Now my mommy and daddy are the same as your mommy and daddy." Dewi slid off his chair, went to Bruce and weaseled onto his new big brother's lap.

I almost lost it!

At the end of the ceremony, I waited by the temple doors for Uncle Jim, Aunt Jen, Bruce, Dewi and Geoff to leave the small room we had been in. Bruce left with the framed photos of his parents. Aunt Jen was carrying one small flower arrangement, which I took from her so she could concentrate on Bruce and the two youngest boys.

Everyone began piling into the limo. While I had the chance, I softly asked Uncle Jim, "What's happening with the remains."

"Cremation is what they wanted and Bruce is following their wishes," Uncle Jim replied. "We'll get the urns over the weekend. Bruce is thinking of spreading the ashes over the ocean. Once he decides for sure, we'll arrange for that to happen."

Still standing outside the limo, Uncle Jim and I heard Bruce inside the limo, proclaiming, "Okay guys, let's lose these ties. I don't want to see any of you in a suit ever again." The cheering and giggling voices of nine other boys carried out to us and the limo driver.

The limo pulled away and we were on our way back home. Stephen asked, "How do you feel now, Bruce?"

Bruce thought a few moments, then shrugged, "It's over. Since Sunday night, it's like I've been living two lives. Now I can think of this life, here and now. What I really am is a little hungry and very tired."

"We'll get you something to eat and then get you to bed," Aunt Jen promised.

Uncle Jim asked, "You know who to come to if you need anything?"

Bruce smiled, "My new mom and dad, or one of my brothers, or any of my friends." He became thoughtful, then softly said, "It's so weird, ya know? A really kewl vacation got bad one night, and then it became good the next day, and two days later it got bad again. The last two days have been weird. It's gonna get better again, right after I wake from a nap."

We all chatted about random topics for the remaining minutes of the drive back to base. I told my brothers about my short trip to South Carolina. Somehow, the rest of the world beyond our fences seemed different. I couldn't put my finger on a reason why I felt that way, but the sight of our base fences and the signs made me feel good. Soon, we were walking through the gate and being welcomed by our base security. Our group headed toward the C.I.C. dining room for lunch. Few of the kids were still there, maybe a dozen or so. Everyone else had finished lunch and were returning to the pools, playground or rec rooms. Seeing his mom, Stephen led Frankie and John to her. Sean and Troy walked out of the Command Center and briefly spoke with John. When Troy and Sean left the C.I.C, John and his small group joined us in the chow line. We all learned that Sean and Troy were now Core Rimmers, and responsible for morale.

After we got our food and sat down, I heard Bruce ask, "You helped me, didn't you, John?"

"Not a bit," John assured. "I told you that I wouldn't, bro. I'll never lie to you. What I did do was help Stephen and Reyes so they could help you any way you needed."

Bruce smirked, "Really?"

Crossing his heart with his hand, John giggled, "Really, I swear."

Aunt Jen smiled, "John's a horrible liar, always has been. You can believe him, Bruce."

Facing Stephen, Frankie and Stephen's mom, John smiled, "I have no idea where I got my empathy from, really." Stephen and his mom widely smiled.

Frankie lost it and laughed, "That's a lie, daddy!" That got our entire post-funeral group laughing.

Randy Beale came running into the dining room. Seeing that we were back from the funeral, he slowed his pace and came over to our table. Randy told us that Troy had started a sing-a-long at the pools. He saw them with comm-badges and sub-vocals and was wondering what had happened, so we told him that they were new Core Rimmers. The four of us wanted to get Randy's adoption taken care of and wondered where our dad, pop and Prez were.

Chewing his lunch, John broadcast, 'Lieutenant Vorik suggested that the Core Rimmers take a nap. All of 'em, except me, Sean and Troy are resting. Prez already knows there are some adoptions to take care of. He plans on taking care of that later, before dinner, when everybody is around to witness them.' I could tell John sent his message to everyone because we all paused and turned to him for a second or two.

I guess Randy had never heard John telepathically before. He vigorously shook his head and giggled, "Okay, that was weird!"

Jonah smirked, "You'll get used to it." Jonah then focused on John and slowly nodded. Glancing between them, I noticed John grinning and Jonah appeared thoughtful. Without intending to, I began to worry.

In my head, I heard John say, 'I'm helping Jonah too, Reyes. What I told Jonah is that Stephen hangs pretty long too, and that there's someone here on base that thinks Jonah's very nice and real cute. I already checked, and the reasons he likes Jonah have nothing to do with sex. Sorry, this is one time I can't tell you who it is that likes Jonah. We'll all find out, when they're ready to tell us. Also, don't bother trying to get Jonah to take his shorts off at the pools. It won't work. Jonah will get naked if and when he feels like it. Watch him; when he's got a lot of support around, being naked is no problem. When it's only a small group of friends around, the boardies stay on.'

"Dillon," Jonah giggled, "you eat as much as me or Reyes!" Randy cracked up.

Dillon shrugged and grinned, "I'm hungry, and I don't wanna be little forever."

Over at the other table, Geoff giggled, "Yeah, me too!"

Jonah sighed then suggested, "Let's get out of these suits."

Dillon nodded then stuffed his mouth with the last of his French fries. Randy carried Dillon's half-full glass of soda. With Dillon still chewing, we gathered our trays and then got up to take them to the dishwasher. Randy handed the glass back to Dillon. Quickly sucking the last of his drink through the straw, he left it there at the dishwasher counter. On our way out of the dining room, Bane, Ben, Jonah, Dillon and Geoff paused at the Hundsers' table to give Bruce kisses on the cheek. Aunt Jen and Uncle Jim looked up at me.

I giggled, "It wasn't my idea. None of 'em ever even told me."

After getting the last smooch, Bruce smiled, "Thanks guys. I'll catch up with you later at the pool, okay?"

All of us promised Bruce that we'd see him later.

Following the pack toward the exit, I wondered, "Whose idea was that?"

Not one of them said a word, but they all started giggling. Dillon and Randy were on either side of Geoff though. The three youngest wrapped their arms around one another's shoulders. Only by their body language was I able to figure out it was Geoff's idea. Thinking about it, I realized that Bruce was Geoff's uncle now. And being the son of Drew and Corey, Geoff was picking up some excellent ideas.

Bane was the only one that went to the funeral who lived in the dorms. He took off to get changed as soon as we got outside. Once the rest of us were back at the single family homes of the Rimmer families, we split up. Geoff went to the Hundsers' house. Of course, Randy followed our family subset to the Gibbons' house. We found the house empty, and assumed Grandma Laura was at the pools.

Upstairs in our room, I went directly for the stereo and reset the Guster CD to play Fa Fa over again while we got changed. I went into the closet and started hanging up each of our suit jackets. Soon, I heard Dillon singing, "Fa fa-fa fa fa fa fa fa, never be the same again. Fa fa-fa fa fa fa fa fa, never be the same again."

Suit slacks were being tossed into the closet too, I realized and scowled, but started hanging them up too. While I was folding and hanging slacks, I heard the out-of-sync chorus singing, "You were always saying something, swear you'd never say again. You were always saying something, swear you'd never say again. Fa fa-fa fa fa fa fa fa, never be the same again. Fa fa-fa fa fa fa fa fa, never be the same again." There was silence from my brothers during the next verse, which was completed by the time I finished hanging up all the clothes. I stepped out of the walk-in closet in my boxer shorts to find, in order, Dillon, Randy, Jonah and Ben line dancing in their underpants and singing the second chorus. Each of them were kicking their legs out, shaking their bottoms and having a great time. I cracked up laughing and joined the dance, at the end of the line behind Ben, thinking, "If dad and pop saw this performance, we'd all be over in Doc Wiener's office!"

We continued singing and dancing through Fa Fa and into the next song. Geoff came over and walked upstairs to find us still dancing in our underwear. Stopped at the bedroom doorway for a moment or two, the little guy grinned and then stripped his T-shirt and shorts off to join our underwear line dance through that song and the next.

Ya know, now that I think about it, that little dance was important for a few reasons. First of all, we needed it after the funeral. Secondly, it was really the first time we stayed indoors at our home for no real reason, other than being together goofing off. Lastly, it included Randy and Ben too, bonding our family together some more.

Listening to another song, we decided to get dressed and go outside. I turned off the CD player and stereo. Once Geoff was dressed, I picked him up and parked him up on my shoulders, demonstrating that I thought the kid had a great idea and it certainly helped Bruce. I carried him downstairs and outside to the pools.

Passing the Rimmer homes and approaching the indoor rec center, we could hear dance music playing. As soon as we arrived, Carmella, Kokaku, Richie, Dee, Gage and Sammy welcomed us home.

Dee asked, "How's Bruce doin'?"

I shrugged, "He's okay, for the most part. Aunt Jen and Uncle Jim are talking with him, John and Stephen now."

Ben offered, "The worst part was in the limo goin' there. Once we got there, he was very kewl. When the monk stood, Bruce did and we all did."

"It was real pretty," Jonah relayed, "not scary or sad or nothin' like that."

Bane smiled, "I liked what the monks said. It wasn't like any church service I've ever seen before."

Gage and Sammy confirmed that Sean and Troy were now Core Rimmers. Jonah and I went to find them and offer our congratulations. We found them, attached to one another, heating up the water in the diving well. I started to laugh, but I guess I had a frog in my throat, because an odd squeaking sound escaped my mouth. Jonah cracked up at me and the two human vacuums attached at the mouth. I did a quick self-diagnosis and put my right hand in front of Jonah's eyes.

"What?" Jonah giggled, and tried unsuccessfully to pull my hand out of the way. Picking up Jonah, I started to walk away. Jonah laughed, "It ain't like we never seen dudes makin' out before!"

Sean called out, "Reyes? Did you need something?"

I giggled, "It'll hold."

Jonah cracked up. Between giggles, he told me, "They're already holdin'!"

Rolling my eyes and shaking my head, I took Jonah to the other pool and jumped in the deeper end.

Surfacing, we noticed a bunch of boys about Jonah's age were tossing a beach ball around. Saying, "See ya later," Jonah swam away from me and over to join Gage, Sammy and Ben.

I decided to head over to the diving well. A few of the guys there asked me about Bruce and the funeral. Horacio was sitting at a table with Sonia. They were sharing a soda and chatting. I took my boardies and boxers off then climbed up to the three-meter diving board. On the way up, I noticed Hank Leve, Keanu Hekekia and Liki Keoloha gathered together on lounge chairs. Keanu was nearest to and chatting with a set of three girls; Ipo 'Aukai, Lani Keawe and Vera Kirkwood.

I don't know Keanu very well, but he was obviously leaning more towards straight. Before diving, I wondered why Liki wasn't getting involved in the conversation with the girls. Liki was an orphanage brother and I knew that he preferred girls. After hitting the water, and then resurfacing, I climbed out of the well and went over to Liki. Carefully, so I wouldn't be overheard, I leaned over to whisper, "Why aren't you chatting with the girls too, bro?"

Nervously looking up at me, Liki got up from his lounge chair and then took my hand. He led me to a quiet area beyond the pool house, nearer to the Rimmer homes. He softly admitted, "I... uh... some of the other dudes are better developed, I guess. The girls don't seem to pay too much attention to me, and I'm not sure why."

"You're taller and a little heavier than me," I quickly said. I then glanced down his naked body. Leaning closer, I whispered, "You hang average, just like most of the dudes."

Liki scowled then huffed, "I dunno, bro. I just feel... different, inadequate, in height, weight, what's hangin', and everything, like I can't keep a conversation goin', so..."

Sadly and slowly shaking my head, I told Liki, "I know you and I think you're a hell of a nice guy. Can I ask you a very serious personal question?"

Rapidly nodding, Liki grinned, "Sure, Reyes."

"Are you sure that you're not making a big deal out of our orphanage experiences?"

Liki sighed, "How can I, or any of us, not make a big deal out of that shit, dude?"

"You can't simply erase the past, but you can keep it in perspective. That life is over, Liki. I know that in your case you never bitched or complained much about being with women, but you sure as hell did when you were with men; they were too rough, not rough enough, their cocks were too big or too small, they needed to shave or shower. Tell me I'm wrong."

Liki shrugged, "That's all true, but..."

I waited several moments then gently prodded, "But what?"

Liki's Hawaiian skin flushed and he asked, "Please keep a secret for me?"

"Sure, dude," I nodded, "no one will ever hear what you tell me in private."

"Please don't tell, especially not your dads or brothers. I'm really kind of confused right now."

I held up my right hand and swore, "I promise to never say a word. This is between you and me."

Liki smiled, "Kewl." He paused a few moments to gather his thoughts, and then softly said, "Everything you said was completely true. Since moving here, Monday night, I took a dorm room with Keanu."


"It's very kewl, maybe too kewl. So we got to talk, about what we had done, and what we kind of missed and needed. So, we do stuff together, and it's better than any sex I've ever had with any man or woman." He paused, blushed and giggled, "Last night, we got carried away. Blowjobs in a sixty-nine and swallowing, then intercourse; he did me and then he wanted me to do him too."

I chuckled, "That's why you two walked into the dining room so late this morning?"

Liki nodded, "Dude, it was awesome. Today though, I'm like, Keanu's a good friend, and he was totally into last night, kissing and all, ya know? We even fell asleep together, with my head on his chest." I nodded, and then Liki continued, "So now I'm asking myself, do I love him? Could I love him, like the Core Rimmers, forever? Would I still love him in five or ten years, when we're both adult men? That's the major problem, and why I'm not talking to the girls much today."

Holding up two fingers on my right hand, I asked, "Two questions."


"First question; does Keanu know how you feel?"

Liki gasped, "Fuck no! I'm so scared to tell him. What if he says, 'No, it can't be like that'? What if he says, 'Yes, let's be boyfriends'?"

I sighed, "Well, if you guys have sex again tonight and it's just as intense, it's not gonna be any easier to ask him tomorrow, is it?" Liki's eyes shot wide open and he shook his head. "So," I continued, "you've got to ask him, and no matter what his answer is, you've gotta figure out the answer to question two; what do you want to do? Do you want to make babies of your own with a girl, or would you be just as happy adopting some with a guy? No matter which you choose, know this; you were my orphanage brother and you are my Clan brother now. Most of the kids here are exactly like you and me, and Kaleo, and Tory, and so on. Those that aren't exactly like us, are only somewhat different, as in they were street prostitutes. At least they got paid. All we got was extra food. The extra food us older kids got we shared with the little kids. And we kept those freaks away from the little kids too. No one here is going to say anything too bad about your past. You're cute, and you're smart, and you're definitely able to carry a conversation with anyone you please. Just figure out what you want. If you want Keanu, then let him know, before you go crazy together tonight."

"What if he says no, and wants a different roommate because of it?"

I smirked, "From what you said, he won't totally blow off the friendship. The worst I can see happening is Keanu deciding to not have sex with you, so he doesn't make matters worse for both of you." I stopped short there, because I saw Jonah running around the pool house.

Also noticing Jonah running toward us, Liki warmly smiled, "Thanks, Reyes. I'll chat with him tonight."

"Reyes!" Jonah yelled, and came to a halt a foot or so away from us. He smiled up at Liki and giggled, "How're ya doin', Liki?"

"Better now, thanks to your bro."

Jonah giggled, "Kewl, man." He then turned to me and asked, "Did you see where Sean and Troy went?"

"No, they were still attached, at the side of the diving well the last I saw."

"They're gone now," Jonah grinned. "And so are John, Stephen, Gage, Sammy and Dee. Our pool ball game has come to a screeching halt because half our team disappeared."

Liki giggled, "They're Core Rimmers now, so they could be anywhere."

I nodded at Liki then told Jonah, "Let's take a look around."

The three of us took the long way around the pool house and rec center, back to the pool and around to the diving well. We never saw Sean or Troy anywhere close by. Jonah and I shrugged.

I asked Jonah, "Does this mean we're in charge?"

Jonah giggled, "Don't look like anybody needs anyone in charge." He then poked me in the belly and added, "But if they do, you're it!"

"That's what I was afraid of."

Giggling his butt off, Jonah then ran back to the pool and his game.

By this time, Keanu was no longer chatting, but climbing to the five meter board. For the first time, I looked at Keanu with a sexual eye. He was about the same height and weight as Liki, and of course, they were both of Hawaiian descent. Keanu dove and did a somersault before straightening up and slicing into the water with very little splash. I applauded and so did Liki, some other guys and most of the girls around the diving well too. I evilly grinned and bounced my eyebrows at Liki. He cracked up laughing, stopped clapping and slightly collapsed against me.

Keanu climbed out of the diving well while some of us were still applauding. Now that I could see him closely, I noticed that he had beautiful hazel eyes. Liki had light green eyes. The two of them together would be awesome, I thought. They were both exceptionally cute and would make a cute couple.

Walking up to Liki and I, Keanu grinned, "Was it that good?"

I told him the truth. "It was great, dude! I won't even climb to five-meters to try anything fancy. You cut into the water like a knife with virtually no splash at all."

"Sweet!" Keanu smiled. "Now, can I repeat it is the question."

Liki asked, "How about we get a soda?"

Keanu nodded, "Sure, Liki." They went over to the lounge chairs and slid into their clothes. I climbed back up the three-meter ladder and watched them walk away from the well, in the direction of the C.I.C.

I remained there at the diving well about another hour, trying dives, chatting with some of the other teens. Keanu and Liki never returned to the pools or diving well. I became somewhat concerned for them, so I got dressed and ran to the C.I.C. Inside the dining room, I found them sitting at a table together, way off to the side of the room, near Shirley's cage. Rather than bother them, I went into the kitchen and got a small soda.

On the way out again, Keanu and Liki hollered, "Reyes," and waved me over. I went there and watched them carefully. It seemed that both Keanu and Liki had puffy eyes, as if they'd been crying. I prepared myself for bad news.

Liki smiled, "Sit with us for a few, bro."

Doing so, I asked, "Please tell me you guys are all right?"

"We're fine," Keanu grinned.

Liki nodded, "Thanks to you, we both got to say what needed to be said."

Leaning over the table closer to me, Keanu grinned, "I've been surprised about stuff with Liki too. If it weren't for you, Liki wouldn't have pulled me aside to talk. Thank you, again."

Liki smiled, "We're on the same page, Reyes. We're starting to feel and think things that surprise us. So, for the time being, we're roommates, and more. In the future, we're going to take time to talk about this important stuff."

"We'll see how it goes," Keanu added. "Saying we're boyfriends right now would be too much too fast for both of us."

"In the meanwhile," Liki continued, "we're still roommates and I think our friendship has grown over the last hour or so."

Keanu nodded, "If things start looking like we're getting more serious, we're going to chat with Prez and Keith, and then your dads too. We need to know what they know; how this could work, long term." He then firmly told Liki, "I am not changing rooms or roommates because of this. Compared to what we used to deal with daily, this is easy, and way more fun."

I couldn't help myself and happily gushed, "I am so relieved! I thought I had really screwed up, and in the process, got you two royally screwed up too!" Sadly shaking their heads, Liki and Keanu roared laughing. I giggled, "What really matters is you two, living together and deciding where your lives could go as closer friends."

Liki tapped Keanu's arm and softly suggested, "Now, to get Reyes back, we've gotta get him hooked up with someone."

Nodding, Keanu chuckled, "There's more than a few right here that think you're hot stuff."

I blushed so hard that they both howled laughing. Covering my face with both hands, I heartily giggled. Liki teased, "Ipo thinks you're way cute, bro."

Uncovering my face, I sniggered, "Sorry, wrong parts there, dudes."

Keanu shrugged, "How about Christian Beresford?"

Shaking my head, I smiled, "It's not that he's not very cute. One thing I've already told myself is, I need another android. I've had two sets of parents already. Derrick and Mike are the third set. I can't see losing the family I have now without having someone that will last a long time with me. Luckily for me, I went to A.I. Division headquarters yesterday, where I met a bunch of very kewl androids, and as time goes on, I'll be sure to meet more, through that bunch."

My two friends chorused, "Excellent!"

Liki smiled, "You deserve someone, Reyes."

I shrugged and stood, saying, "Ya know, it seems to happen when both parties least expect it. Far be it for me to break from the norm." After a brief pause, I grinned, "I need to check on my brothers. I'll see you guys later."

"See ya, Reyes," they chuckled, and also stood.

Liki noticed my curious expression. He blushed and giggled, "There's about two hours until dinner."

"I know just how to work up an appetite," Keanu evilly grinned.

They actually passed me heading out of the dining room. I paused at the doorway to finish my soda, then tossed the empty cup in the trash, before hurrying back to the pool to find Dillon, Jonah and Randy.

Not only did I find them, but also my dad and pop were awake. Dad and Pop seemed quite busy with Dillon, Jonah and Randy, so I was surprised when they left those three and came toward me. Before I could say a word, I was sandwiched between them. I giggled, "Did you have a good nap, and more, I hope?"

Pop planted a kiss on my cheek and seemed to shudder, "Way more than that."

Derrick whispered in my ear, "You're as important as the other three. Don't ever forget that."

Tilting my head, I smiled, "I know, dad. This shows it very clearly."

We separated, then went back to the other three sons and brothers. For a few more minutes, we hung out at the main pool with the other Core Rimmers and their sons. Kaleo and Tory were the last two to show up. It may be just me, but it seemed all of them were happier than ever. Prez even thanked me for arranging for the buses, although he had no idea when we would use a fleet of two hundred buses. "Figuring fifty kids per bus," he sniggered, "I could see using five or ten at each base."

I shrugged and giggled, "A road trip with our UNIT guys too?"

"There ya go!" Prez cheered. "That could fill a few more buses."

Pop called, "Reyes, let's go find the Scoobies."

I nodded and told Prez, "I'll see ya later," then went to my gathered family.

We headed out beyond the outdoor recreation area and into the trees. Pop seemed to know where he was going and only called for Spike, Faith, Willow and Xander once. In the distance, between trees, I could see our school buildings. The ferret foursome scampered up to us. At that time, Pop introduced Randy, and that he would soon be adopted into the family. Each of the Scoobies went to Randy and said hello.

Crawling up Pop, Spike asked, "Beez Randy a brother now?"

"Not yet, later; when we get Prez to make it official," Mike answered.

"Oh," Spike squeaked, and then started stammering, "But... but..."

Up Pop's other side, Willow scampered. She whispered in Pop's ear. My brothers and I checked with dad, but only got a shrug in response.

Pop nodded, "Randy's kewl, but if it's really important?"

"Yup, yup," all four Scoobies chanted.

Pop went to Randy and softly explained, "Once you’re a real brother, the Scoobies will get to know you, but right now, they'd like to show us something. Would you mind if we caught up with you at the pools in a little while?"

Randy shrugged, "It's kewl."

Placing a hand on Randy's shoulder and squeezing, Pop assured, "You're our son, right after we get back and surround Prez." Jonah, Dillon and I nodded and helplessly giggled.

Derrick checked with Randy, "You can find your way back okay?"

Randy nodded and smiled, "If it takes me more than five minutes, I'll yell for help, and a bunch of gorillas or G-Cats will fall out of the trees."

My brothers and I cracked up. Pointing in the direction we came from, Dad chuckled, "That's so true."

Before leaving us, Randy told Xander and Faith, "I've grown to love this family in only a few days. You'll see, I can be trusted with the Shiniest of Shinys, and more." He walked away, toward the main part of the base, loudly reciting the Shiny Pledge.

Dillon firmly told the Scoobies, "This better be really important. Randy is real nice."

Dad nodded and went to Dillon offering his arms. Dillon held out his arms and Dad picked up Dillon, saying, "Trust your pop and the Scoobies. As a family, we'll make it up to Randy so he won't ever feel left out again."

Glancing around at the ferrets, Jonah prodded, "So what's the big deal?"

"We's gots ta show yous," Faith cutely giggled. She and Xander scampered away. Our family followed them, to the base of a dying tree. Willow and Spike climbed down off Pop.

All four pointed at a large hole near the root of the tree, squeaking, "You's gots ta follows us to sees it."

Mike chuckled, "Down there?"

I sniggered, "Couldn't we just transport to wherever?"

They all shook their heads. Spike grinned, "Not this time. You's can sees how we's found it first."

Xander, Willow and Faith scampered down into the hole. Spike held out a little paw to Pop. Taking the paw in his hand, Pop followed Spike, knelt down and crawled into the hole. Dillon and Jonah lost it and cracked up, but they didn't even give it another thought. Dillon and then Jonah followed Pop into the hole.

Turning to my dad, I giggled, "Seriously?"

Dad nodded, pointed at the ground and sniggered, "After you."

Getting down on my hands and knees, I laughed, "We're gonna get so dirty."

Also kneeling down, Dad laughed, "Dirty tree hole Rimmers!"

Up ahead, in the dark tunnel, I could hear Pop bitching and my brothers laughing as we bumped into sides of the tunnel and each other. Squeaky little ferret instructions and laughter echoed in the tunnel. Mostly, we could stay on our hands and knees, but sometimes we had to lay flat and shimmy our way down and around the passages.

Pop griped, "But that way is bigger, I can feel it."

Spike answered, "A bigger dead end, Shiny Daddy."

"We's don't want everybody down here, so's we made some wrong turns to no wheres," Xander explained.

Behind me, dad softly sniggered, "Yeah, how silly could you be, Mike?" He raised the pitch of his voice and squeaked, "We's don't want everybody down here!" I laughed so hard that I fell forward and bumped my nose on Jonah's sandal-covered foot.

We crawled the winding turns of the descending dark tunnel for thirteen minutes, giggling and cracking bad Rimmer jokes. At last we reached the end. I could just barely see Pop offering hands to help Dillon, Jonah and then me out of the tunnel. Brushing myself off, I watched Pop get Dad out and onto his feet. Way up the side of the space we had arrived at, the ferrets had fashioned natural gas piping and light with mirrors.

Pop asked where we were and the Scoobies all proudly replied, "This beez our Shiny Vault!"

Dillon and Jonah began checking the place out and I followed them.

Pop wondered, "Are we even on base anymore? Where exactly are we, Spike?"

"Under the auditorium's basement," Spike happily cheered.

Faith nodded, "Near where Shiny Daddies first plays us Shiny music."

Xander pointed up at another passageway saying, "That leads up to the auditorium basement." It had to be twenty feet up a sheer wall, maybe two or three feet below the ring of gas flames.

"We's can get anywhere on base from here," Willow squealed.

Dad gasped, "My God!"

There were various shiny things in piles everywhere, not to mention hub caps, tire wheels and one really horrible modern art sculpture. I tapped it and assumed it was made of aluminum.

Mike wondered, "What's the most valuable thing down here?"

All the ferrets gathered before that awful aluminum sculpture and cheered, "This beez the Shiniest!"

Dad softly asked, "Do you guys always crawl in and out of here?"

Xander shook his head and seriously answered, "We's can transport in and out with Shinies if we's need to."

Pop grinned, "Well, that answers how some of the larger Shinies got down here. This place is awesome, guys." He paused and wondered, "How come I don't see any guitar picks?"

Crawling up Pop and parking herself on her daddy's shoulder, Faith replied, "Oh, we's keeps them always!"

"Them's from you, Shiny Daddy," Willow reminded, and then crawled up Mike's other side until she arrived at his opposite shoulder.

I asked, "All this stuff came from Dull Lovers and Shiny Haters?"

Xander nodded, "Some of it. Most we's found."

Spike frowned, shook his head sadly and growled, "Tossed asides like garbage! Blasphemers!"

Nodding and forcing a frown, Pop huffed, "I know, it's very sad."

Pointing at four large tikis adorned with pearls, I wondered, "Where did you find these?"

Willow answered, "They was buried here already."

Scratching my head and scowling, I muttered, "They were here?" All four Scoobies replied affirmatively.

Dad asked, "What's wrong, Reyes?"

I sighed, "Tiki carvings are of Hawaiian gods, usually put at burial grounds. Tikis like these, with all these pearls, they must've been extremely important, guarding graves of very important people."

Pop gasped, "Tiki gods guarding burial grounds?" He asked the Scoobies, "Did you guys find any human remains here?"

Spike fervently shook his head, replying, "No, Shiny Daddy, no bones, just Shinies."

Xander explained, "That's why we's picked this spot; it already had lots of Shinies."

Willow nodded, "Yup! We's cleaned the buried Shinies up."

Dad checked his wristwatch then asked, "Are we done here?"

Pop nodded and suggested, "Let's go out under the Day Shiny. Then we can all have dinner together."

While Xander climbed the wall to flip the mirror and turn off the gas flames, Dad gathered Dillon, Jonah and me. Spike held onto Pop's leg and asked, "Yous can find us now, Shiny Daddy?"

Pop honestly answered, "I probably couldn't make my way down the tunnel without getting lost, but at least I know where to find you."

The lights went out. Willow said, "Yous can call for us from any street drain. We'll hear yous down here." A few moments later, Pop called Alden and a split second later, we were all outside and by the pool house.

Across the pool from us were Prez, Keith, Corey, Drew and some new guys. Corey saw first how dirty we were and cracked up laughing. Prez covered his eyes briefly and chuckled. Keith grinned and pointed at the pool house, saying, "No pool for you dudes until you shower."

Pop loudly bitched, "That's why we're here, Dull One."

Suspiciously glaring at Keith, Spike wondered, "Is he really a Dull One, Shiny Daddy?"

"No, he took the pledge," Pop answered. Turning around and following us into the pool house, he smirked, "Keith just likes to tease and bother me. So I tease and bother him too, every chance I get."

Inside the pool house, we all started undressing. In the changing area, Dad separated our comm-badges from our clothes, then called Alden and had our extremely dirty clothes transported to the Gibbons' laundry room. Then our growing family went to scrub layers of dirt off our bodies. Randy came in and giggled, "So, was it really important?"

We all nodded and confirmed that it actually was. The Scoobies noticed us and checked with each other. Spike told Randy, "We's showed our Shiny Daddies and brothers our Shiny Vault."

"Oh, wow," Randy gasped, "That's really important."

Willow offered, "We's can show you later."

Still washing his face, Pop said, "Don't go too far, Randy. As soon as we're done here, we're surrounding Prez and adopting you."

Randy giggled, "With or without clothes?"

Pop grinned, "Why does that matter?"

Randy shrugged, "I just need to know how to dress, or undress for the occasion."

Dad smiled, "Then get undressed."

"Kewl," Randy smiled, and started taking his boardies and underwear off. Before Randy could pick them up off the floor, his clothes disappeared.

Over the loudspeakers, Alden said, "Your clothes are in the Gibbons laundry room, Randy."

Pointing at the ceiling speakers, Dad explained, "Alden is our division's A.I."

Randy wondered, "Like a computer?"

Jonah shrugged, "Not exactly, Alden's a bit more than just a machine."

"He's a real boy to me," Dillon stubbornly added.

Alden giggled, "Okay, you guys just earned bonus points."

Still washing his hair, Pop said, "The A.I.'s make sure all you kids are kewl. If anything were to happen to any of you, like getting hurt or sick, they'd intervene and notify us."

The Scoobies shook water from their coats, then went to the changing room, where Randy was standing. Each of them reintroduced themselves to our new brother. Then they laid two towels on the floor and began rolling around on them to dry off. Pop noticed and helplessly sniggered. Dad sputtered then turned his face into his shower spray. I could tell he was fighting the urge to crack up laughing by his shoulder bounces.

Starting with Dillon, we exited the showers to dry off. Randy sat on the bench and seemed very thoughtful. I wondered, "What's up, Randy?"

Blushing intensely, Randy mumbled, "Well, I feel kind of silly, but I guess now's a good time to ask a question." Looking up at Dad and Pop, he sighed, "Last night, at the dorm, some guys were talking about growing up and puberty. What's that last word mean exactly?"

Jonah smiled, "Okay, me, you and Dillon aren't there yet. Reyes, Dad and Pop are. They've got deeper voices, wider shoulders and hair around their dicks and sacks." Looking up at me, Jonah asked, "What you've got is what you've always had?"

I nodded, "Yep, thirteen is about average for puberty, so I've got some hair down there. Dad's almost fifteen and Pop's near fourteen-and-a-half. They've got more hair than I do."

Randy droned, "Oh, so that's why Roy has way more hair, up his legs and on his belly, he's older."

Pop shrugged, "Or he may have started earlier. Me, Derrick, Prez and Keith all started right around our twelfth birthdays. Corey Seaver is eleven, but he's got a little hair too. His voice hasn't completely changed, but you hear it cracking now and then because it is changing."

Dad nodded, "Another example is Drew. During the summer, his voice was changing. Now it's pretty much done. By the end of the summer, Drew's few hairs turned into more. Now he's got about as much as Reyes."

Randy asked, "So nothing happens like at the same time?"

Dad and Pop both shook their heads. I explained, "Some guys may get the muscles, wider shoulders and body mass first. It all depends on genetics, how it runs in both your mom's and your dad's families. Our Dad and Pop shave. I don't and haven't ever. Even if I did, I'd always have the same fine hairs over my lip, like a thirteen-year-old might. I never asked Drew, but I don't think he's ever shaved either."

Pop tossed his towel in the hamper, saying, "If Drew's like Keith, I'd give it another few months. Before Keith turned thirteen, his mom didn't like seeing him with a mustache, so Keith's dad showed him how to shave. Now Keith gets reminded when to shave by either his mom or his dad."

Dad tossed his towel in the hamper and grinned, "Okay, guys, as soon as we get outside, the four of you need to surround Prez. Give him no escape."

The Scoobies giggled, "We's can help too!"

Pop nodded, "You sure can. Since it seems we have a few new faces out there, we'll get introduced and then tell Prez to go into adoption mode."

Dad chuckled, "If he makes any excuse, or tries to say 'later', Dillon and Randy, your job is to turn on the water works." Immediately, Dillon and Randy put on their pouty-faces. They looked so pitiful, I couldn't help laughing.

Pop sniggered, "Jonah, your job, if the sad-sacks don't get him, is to make Prez feel like he doesn't like you or any of us."

Jonah nodded and giggled, "I can do that."

Dad prompted, "Let's go." We left the shower and the pool house, walked directly around the pool and stopped before Prez and Keith. The Scooby Gang ran up onto Prez's lounge chair. Xander and Faith sat on Prez's knees. Spike and Willow went all the way up Prez's shoulders and sat there. Dad and Pop were introduced to Jesse and Julio, our visitors from Des Moines. They shook hands and knocked knuckles and made some pleasant small talk. Then Dad instructed Prez, "It's time to get your tricorder, bro."

"Now?" Prez confirmed, and glanced around our family and the two Des Moines leaders he was with. I noticed that was enough for Dillon and Randy to put on their act. Widely grinning, Keith pointed them out to Prez. "Oh, for the love of Pete," Prez chuckled, "No, not the pitiful routine!" He quickly tapped his sub-vocal, ordering, "Alden, get me my tricorder before they actually cry."

Keith sniggered, "Our boys are going to be so spoiled rotten. At the first tear, Prez will cave and give them anything they want."

Turning to Corey, Drew grinned, "Let's get Lenny and Geoff." Corey nodded and giggled. They both got up to gather the boys, preparing to adopt Lenny Cutler. Seven-year-old Lenny had been attached to Drew, Corey and Geoff since Sunday anyway.

The tricorder appeared in Prez's lap. From another chair, where she sat with Cesar and Felipe, Aunt Lanna called over, "Preston, we'll have two more adoptions over here, as soon as my husband is done with work." From the other side of the pool, Murakami and Shimizu ran over.

Seeing that the small task was growing exponentially, Prez sat up in his chair and loudly called, "Kokaku and Dewi, com'ere, please?"

The two little four-year-old boys climbed out of the pool and came over, weaseling between me and Jonah to stand before Prez. "Tell mommy and daddy the day is over," Prez told the boys. "Have them come over here, so we can get Dewi officially adopted into the Hundser family."

The two boys loudly laughed, "YAAAAAA!" and took off like a shot for the F.Y.S. Building. Neither had bothered to get dressed though. Grinning, Prez thoughtfully hummed.

Julio laughed, "Well, did you tell them to get dressed first? No-oo-oo!"

Keith sniggered, "Two naked four-year-olds should put a very quick end to the work day." Rejoining the group were Drew and Corey, with Geoff and Lenny.

John, Stephen, Frankie, Lindsay, and their two friends, Jeff and Tommy joined our group. John told Prez, "Let's make Frankie official too, bro."

Glancing around the expanding group surrounding him, Prez smiled, "Let's get started." He pressed a few buttons on the tricorder then held it out, asking, "Lenny Cutler, would you like Drew Hundser and Corey Seaver as your fathers, and Geoffrey Eckel as your little brother?"

"Yup, to me they already are," Lenny smiled.

Prez asked, "Drew and Corey, would you like Lenny as your son."

Drew nodded, "Yes."

"Definitely," Corey smiled.

Prez asked, "Geoff, do you want Lenny to be your big brother?"

Rapidly nodding, Geoff wrapped an arm around Lenny's waist, saying, "Yeah, Uncah Prez." Lenny wrapped his arm over Geoff's shoulders.

"It's official," Prez grinned, "Lenny Cutler is now Drew and Corey's son and Geoff's big bro." The group around Prez applauded. Drew, Corey, Geoff and Lenny stepped back and embraced each other. Prez moved on to the next closest set, asking, "Frankie Petropavlovski, do you want John Hundser and Stephen Marr as your fathers?"

Frankie smiled, "Yes, Uncle Prez. I want their names too. Make me Francis Hundser-Marr, please."

"That's been recorded, Frankie," Prez smiled. "The paperwork will be filed and Grandpa Jim will ask you to sign your name in a day or two." He paused then asked, "John Hundser and Stephen Marr, do you want Frankie as your son, and with the surname he has asked for?"

Stephen giggled, "Yeah, Prez. Thank goodness I won't have to get tongue-tied trying to say 'Petro-pav...lovski' too much more." The entire group around us began sniggering and laughing.

Prez chuckled, "John, do you want Frankie as your son?"

John nodded, "Yeah, bro. Let's get the dolphin lover hooked up." Again, we all began laughing. The only article of clothing Frankie had on was his dolphin necklace. The threesome stepped back and our group moved closer.

Prez asked, "Randy Beale, do you want Derrick and Mike as your fathers, and Dillon, Jonah and Reyes as your brothers?"

Glancing around at Dad, Pop, Dillon, Jonah and me, and getting smiles and nods, Randy said, "Yeah, Prez."

Prez asked, "Derrick Seibert and Michael Gibbons, do you want Randy Beale as your son?"

Almost simultaneously, Dad and Pop chorused, "Yeah, bro."

Prez asked, "Reyes Taraschke, Jonah Desak and Dillon Helde, do you want Randy as your brother?"

I nodded, "Very much."

"Yup," Jonah added.

Dillon giggled, "Of course," earning more sniggering and giggles.

"It's official," Prez smiled, and then asked, "Who's next?"

Uncle Bill and Aunt Lanna stepped forward with Cesar, Felipe, Murakami Junichiro and Shimizu Atsushi. In a few minutes, the latter two were part of the Seaver family. Next to step forward were Grandpa Carl and Grandma Anna, who adopted six-year-old May Hickox, giving Brandi the sister she very much wanted; and two former F.C.C. boys, seven-year-olds Chad Bunting and Herbert Trumbo. Dad widely smiled, and softly told me that he was certain his parents would happily fill their large new home with kids of all ages.

Uncle Jim and Aunt Jen arrived at the pool. Dewi was officially made their son, and Rena Hawkin, an eight-year-old former F.C.C. girl, was made their daughter and Carmella's big sister. Just after five o'clock, the last and largest set of adoptions were four-year-old Aaron Pendergrass, five-year-olds Randall McFarren, Alan McHugh and Tami Hepner, all of whom were former F.C.C. kids and were adopted by Grandma Laura and Grandpa Rob.

When it was all over, Prez recorded that the adoptions were witnessed by most of the Pacific Rim Division's Clan as well as Director Julio Hernandez and Assistant Director Jesse Crowley, from the Des Moines Division.

As we were walking away, Pop sniggered, "Almost every boy adopted was naked at the time of their adoption."

Dad shrugged and grinned, "Most of the fathers were too. I think Stephen was the only one under the age of twenty with shorts on."

Randy admitted, "I was wondering about that."

Dad asked, "How old do you think Stephen is?"

Randy shrugged, "Eight or nine, I guess. He's only a little taller than Jonah."

"He's eleven," Dad softly said, and Randy's jaw dropped.

Pop said, "All you guys get to have those morning milkshakes. Stephen has to have them twice or three times a day. A bunch of you guys are undernourished, but Stephen's malnourished. That's the one thing I'm watching very closely. I want to see all these kids growing and gaining weight." Reaching down and tickling Dillon, Pop laughed, "We'll have no little squirts in this Clan by New Years!"

While Pop and my brothers were laughing and teasing each other, I softly told Dad, "We're going to try and split off into our own family nests, either tonight or as soon as possible."

Dad nodded, "Whatever and whenever, Reyes. If any of the little guys aren't ready, it's no big deal."

I sighed, "Not for us, but for you and Pop it is." Locking eyes with him, I asked, "How many times a day did you and Pop make love in some manner before Friday?"

Dad thought a few seconds, then leaned closer and whispered, "At least twice, sometimes three times a day, and we always had intercourse once a day. He'd be bottom one day, I'd take bottom the next day."

I whispered back, "It's not been that way all week."

"It's getting back to normal, Reyes."

I nodded, "That's my goal, Dad. You two need that. Your love for each other is what made you father figures in the first place, last Saturday. My idea was to break into Gibbons-Seibert family boys and girls nests first. Then it'll be easier to move into the townhouse, where you and Pop can have that nice big king sized bed to yourselves every night." Pop had stopped messing with my brothers and stuck his ear between us to listen in. Dad and I softly sniggered. I grinned, "I'm gonna get all the kids gathered to talk about family group nests. That gives you two about forty minutes before dinner. Spend at least half that time alone, please?"

Dad nodded. Pop took Dad's hand, then tapped his sub-vocal and ordered, "Alden, take me and my husband to our townhome's master bedroom." They vanished.

I went to my brothers, who had already joined up with Aaron, Alan, Ben, Chad, Herbie, Kawazoe and Sung. We got the girls rounded up and went to a poolside private table for our second chat of the day, with a bunch of new members. Most of the kids agreed, it was time to break into family units. Lindsay had already broken off with Christel, and was enthusiastic to have Brandi, Latoya, and May join as sisters that night. Nearing the end of our conversation, I noticed our grandfathers had been watching us. I waved them over so they could hear our plan. Grandpa Rob would have the girls together that night, most likely in an upstairs bedroom. Us boys would probably make a nest in the Seiberts' basement, but we couldn't be certain when that would happen, because the youngest wanted at least another night in the main nest. Aaron Pendergrass was only four-years-old. Alan McHugh and Randall McFarren were five years old.

Our meeting was complete and our granddads clued in, so the girls went toward the Rimmer family homes. I noticed Dad and Pop walking back to the pool area. They were dressed and had obviously showered again, because their hair was still damp. Since it was near dinner time, my brothers and uncles took off to get dressed. Dad and Pop sat at the table with me and I filled them in on the results of our meeting. They were both kewl with the plans.

Dad grinned, "Ya know, Reyes, since Saturday, you've been more than a big brother. You're relieving us of some parental duties."

"Today is the second time since Monday that you sent us off to go make love," Pop chuckled. He then playfully asked, "What do you think we did yesterday without our sons around?"

Dad nudged him and laughed, "That's not all we did, but we did get chances we probably wouldn't have had." Returning his attention to me, Dad smiled, "We want you to chill out. Being a big brother is one thing, but we don't want you worrying about us as well."

"I'm fine," I giggled. "I went to A.I. Division this morning before the funeral. Those guys are fun, and I can't wait for you to meet them. I'm hoping to invite a few of them here soon. Also, what I said before is completely true; Dillon, Jonah and I latched onto you because we liked you as a couple and wanted you as fathers. You two can't prove to me, a fifty-six-year-old teenager, that you don't have needs. We all want you to be happy. Seeing you happy automatically makes us happy."

Dad sighed, "We need you to be happy too, Reyes."

I gushed, "I couldn't be happier. My memories are restored. I've got three kewl brothers and the best two fathers. Yesterday I met eight other androids; Danny, Marc, KC, Paul, Ryan, two adults named Les and Victoria, and a little eight-year-old android named Joey. I haven't seen another android since 1958, when Dad took me to Vision Industries for a final check-up and software upgrade before we moved here, to the R.O.H. Danny Page is the first android ever, a human personality imprinted onto a positronic brain. Marc Furst is really the first of the line of androids that I and most of us came from. KC is a blast, literally! He said himself, 'sometimes I'm an accident waiting to happen'. Paul and Ryan lost their parents twenty years ago. They lived on the streets almost the entire time I was at the orphanage. I learned today that their parents told them that they were completely human to them. My first parents said something similar to me too. In Paul and Ryan's case though, Ryan came to believe in that statement from his parents completely. He will swear to everybody he's one-hundred percent human. Paul protects his brother in every way, including that conviction. They were rescued only last week, a few days before we were, and they're still adjusting to Clan life. A.I. Division headquarters is two homes on Sullivan Island, so there aren't too many kids around, like there are here. Both are about my height and weight, Caucasian, with light brown hair and dark blue eyes, and a couple of freckles too."

My dad and pop glanced at each other and grinned. Realizing I was rambling, I moved on.

"Lastly, now that I've got my memories restored, you guys made me part of your band last night. Honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled with everything without becoming a giggling spaz. Remember what I told you last night, that I developed empathy at the orphanage?" When they nodded, I continued, "I'm not even accessing any of my new stuff yet, and I could see you both glowing as you approached before. I could feel it in my heart, from dozens of meters away. That's the kind of relationship I want, and it's what Jonah wants too. I give Randy another day or two before he's realizing he needs a special friend that may one day become his boyfriend or girlfriend. Even the Scoobies see you as something special."

Turning to Dad, Pop chuckled, "We just lost our first logic war, I think."

Dad nodded then focused on me and asked, "What do you need?"

I shrugged, "The only thing I know for certain is that I should concentrate on another android. After losing two families already, I want someone who can be with me longer than a human, so he can be there for me and I can be there for him. In the Clan, everything has changed for me and for all androids. The one thing that hasn't changed is our longevity and human mortality. At this point, I'm looking around and keeping my options open. Danny and Marc are already together, even if they won't admit it. Joey's too young. That leaves KC, Paul and Ryan, all of which are very kewl. I just don't know any of them too well yet. And there may be other androids I'll meet in the future." I paused then softly asked, "How did you two hook up?"

Pop began chuckling. Dad grinned, "The summer of 1994, The Gibbons' and the Hundsers moved to our neighborhood. Keith, Mike and I were only four, but we were already interested in music. We were friends from the start. Then Prez moved here with his folks in 1997. Three friends became four."

Taking over, Pop explained, "The four of us grew up together. We learned to play our instruments together. Prez was and still is an awesome guitarist, but our band needed a bass player. He took on the challenge. By the time we were about ten years old, we had each messed around with the other three, showin' off our little bones to each other, jackin' off and blowin' each other."

"We all knew what was going on and we were all kewl with it," Dad added. "Five years passed like that. Each of us had sleepovers with the other three, either one at a time or all at once." He chuckled, "One night, Corey was sleeping over with Drew, and I was there with Keith. They caught us in a sixty-nine. So many really good times, it was the best." He then sighed, "Then the O'Brians' plane crashed. Our best friend became an orphan. It was a major shock to all of us and our parents too. We're pretty sure that their deaths led the two of us to become a couple. The Hundsers took in Prez. We became one couple, Prez and Keith became another couple."

"It didn't change much sexually or in any other way," Mike said. "When we had sleepovers together, it was four hands or four mouths working over four cocks. I love Prez and Keith. I just love Derrick a little more."

Derrick checked, "I think it was how intercourse actually worked out that made the big difference." When Pop nodded, Derrick smiled, "Anal sex with Mike rocks more than it has with Prez or Keith. It's like a matter of timing. Mike and I can cum together almost every time. It's the same with Keith and Prez. At the end of the summer, just before school started, the four of us talked and decided from then on, intercourse was between partners only."

I chuckled, "It sometimes seems that you don't like Keith, Pop."

Pop laughed, "Keith and I have been busting each other's balls from the start. He took piano lessons from a classical instructor. I took guitar lessons from a pop and rock instructor. It started really getting silly between us then." He paused and glanced around. Seeing Keith and Prez together with Julio and Jesse, he leaned closer and softly said, "Keith's cock is seven inches long by six inches in circumference. My bone is seven-and-a-half inches long by five-and-a-quarter in circumference. Intercourse was way too short between us. He'd have me groaning and cumming in no time flat and I'd have him groaning and cumming in a few short pumps."

Dad smiled, "It was the same with me and Prez, and me and Keith too. When you've got three awesome friends, all of which you love and think are awesome people, it boils down to who does it for you in the sack. What you need to do is find those kinds of people, Reyes; the friendship is the most important. When you make love, is it over too fast, or are you both enjoying it and ready to climax together? A friend that can perform that miracle is probably the right one for you."

Hearing John's laughter and Stephen's giggling, I leaned back in my chair and huffed, "Wow. I can tell you that I never had a boyfriend before. The sex at the orphanage was never like what you described."

Pop smirked, "Those were perverted pedophiles only interested in their own pleasure. No matter what I ever thought of sex with Prez and Keith, it was never like that. We're best friends. Making it good for each other was always our primary concern. Growing up together, we learned our musical instruments and how to treat our instruments." Dad and I softly chuckled. Pop smiled, "Together, all four of us went from careful and scared to enthusiastic and playful. Right after school started, after the holidays last January, Keith got the flu. For a week, Prez didn't get to sleep with Keith and sex wasn't possible. Imagine Prez getting bitchy and bitchier."

"No," I giggled, "I don't think I want to."

Pop nodded and softly sniggered, "Exactly. By the third day, we took Prez aside, before he had a complete meltdown. Keith knew about it too. It wasn't a problem for any of the four of us, and really told the whole truth; we love each other and take care of each other, no matter what the circumstances happen to be."

Dad recommended, "Have a private chat with Sean Moorhead sometime, Reyes. I don't know what happened or how exactly, but he's completely attached to Troy. And Troy refuses to take a step without Sean right there with him. Since you and Sean have similar experiences, I'd think you two could easily chat and learn something from each other. What we've just told you isn't really a secret."

Pop agreed, "It's got to be pretty obvious to everybody. I'd think everybody ten and over would understand easily enough."

Prez loudly laughed, "Okay, you three! Derrick, Mike and Reyes! You've got four telepaths ready to slam their heads into walls!" Julio and Jesse doubled up and roared hysterically.

"Lucky for you we know you told the truth," Keith loudly giggled.

Julio and Jesse breathlessly laughed, "BUSTED!"

Hanging my head, I softly giggled, "Four telepaths; John, Jamie, Jacob and who else?"

Dad sniggered, "Johnny, from Des Moines."

Turning around and glancing at Jacob, Jamie, John and Johnny, Pop laughed, "This was a private conversation with our son. Nobody asked any of you to listen in!" All four were giggling and playing innocent little angels. Suddenly, Pop covered his ears with his hands and laughed, "One at a time!" Sitting on the edge of the pool, Beau cracked up and slid into the water. He quickly surfaced, coughing and spluttering.

I noticed the adults, including the three from Des Moines, standing and gathering their littlest kids. Prez shouted, "Dinner time, Rimmers!" As usual, little kids cheered and made a mass exodus from the pool. Then the four Clan leaders sitting together got up and started to dress. I slid into my clothes while Dad and Pop gathered our family.

Arriving at the C.I.C. kitchen, we found that our chefs had prepared two alternative main courses; there was roast beef or turkey, and all the usual side veggies, soups and salads. As soon as our family was close enough to the chefs, Pop asked, "Miguel, please get some raw chicken or turkey sliced for the Scoobies?"

Miguel nodded and smiled, but Jessica loudly said, "I'm going to the fridge. I'll get it." By the time our family was nearing the end of the line, Jessica had four small plates of chicken strips prepared. She handed a plate to each of our ferret brothers and sisters.

First to receive his plate, Xander happily squealed, "We's get chickens and turkeys?"

Jessica nodded and giggled, "Everybody else gets a choice, why shouldn't you? Once you're seated, you can share your food with your brother and sisters, or have both."

Pointing up at Jessica's head, Willow asked, "What's that in your hairs?"

"A barrette, so my hair is secure and doesn't fall forward into food."

Widely smiling, Willow and Faith checked with each other. They squealed, "Very nice and shiny."

Spike immediately tapped his comm-badge and ordered Daileass to get barrettes for his sisters. Appearing on each ferret girl's plate were two small barrettes, one gold and another silver. Soon after our family sat down, each girl helped the other put on their new barrettes.

Dinner started normally enough, but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some kids were being silly and giggling. Looking around, I couldn't be sure what was happening. I figured that some of the newer kids were chilling out and more comfortable with their new environment. Jonah and Ben had obviously practiced guitar during the day while I was otherwise occupied. They were chatting about their exercises when I noticed Prez at the next table. He was talking with Julio and holding a spoonful of applesauce in front of him. Unexpectedly, something fell from the ceiling and dropped into the spoon, splattering applesauce around the table. My dad, pop and I helplessly cracked up. We were just calming down and returning to our meals when three cauliflower bombs landed in my bowl of soup. Prez, Keith, Julio and Jesse howled laughing.

Squinting across the room at John, I heard him giggling in my mind, 'Wasn't me!' I grabbed a few extra napkins to clean up the splattered mess when I was hit in the back. Naturally, I quickly looked back. On the floor behind me was a half-chewed roll. John giggled, 'That was me!'

I picked up the roll and watched the parents' tables. As soon as it seemed they weren't watching, I hurled the roll back across the dining room at John. Moments later, Dad used his tablespoon as a catapult to fling a barrage of peas across the room. Watching the adults, Keith prepared a mound of mashed potatoes for launching. When the adults weren't looking, he nonchalantly fired. Potatoes dispersed and went everywhere, hitting John, Drew, Corey, Jamie, Jacob and Beau.

When the adults left the dining room, the food hit the fan. What was occasional became non-stop. After a few minutes of this groaning, laughter and messy silliness, John broadcast, 'Teens are targets!'

Troy gasped, "Shit!" and Sean cracked up, ducking for cover under the table and taking his plate with him for ammunition.

My brothers and the Scoobies scampered away. Teens that had been on the other side of the room came running to our side. Many of the older teen girls just ran for the exit, not willing to participate. Prez, Keith, Julio and Jesse organized, put their leftovers on the floor, tilted the table on its side and set the chairs up as barricades. The four of them huddled behind their protection, each one occasionally popping up to fire. The dining room became a food fight war zone. Picking up my tray to use as a shield, I scooped up some corn kernels and sent them flying. Bob Busch, from Des Moines, popped out of the kitchen with a slingshot, launching deviled eggs toward unsuspecting victims. Our younger chefs, Tony and Gordon, in their mid-twenties, occasionally appeared with ladles of veggies to fire across the room. In minutes, both sides were scraping spent ammunition off the chairs, floor and tables.

It only lasted about twenty minutes, but when the last of the ammo was spent, we all looked around at the mess we had made. Even the bird cages in the corner of the room were splattered.

Covered in food, from his hair to his feet, Robin giggled, "Watch this." He focused on one section of the room. We all watched as food remnants seemingly gathered into a large clump. Afraid of what was going to be done with this massive meter-in-diameter mess, little kids bolted for the exit, squealing and laughing. John telekinetically pulled three large trash cans into the room. Robin's clump dropped into the first trash can, making the most revolting squishy plop I had ever heard.

At the groans and disgusted faces, John howled laughing. More kids left to shower and change out of their soiled clothes. The telekinetics joined forces to clean up a majority of the mess we had made. Tables and chairs were returned to their pre-war states. Once the dining room was clean, the last of us went to shower and change clothes. In the shower with Jonah, I figured that we had showered three times and wore an amazing five sets of clothes during this one day.

Afterward, a lot of us returned to the C.I.C. dining room and rec room to hang out.

Keith returned from the men's room with Dee. Keith sat down and Dee shuffled onto his dad's lap. Facing Prez, Keith sighed, "I think we're gonna have to call Antonio. Dee's still got the runs."

Overhearing that, Nathan turned and said, "Can I suggest a quick checkup by Reyes instead?"

"Why Reyes?" Keith and Prez simultaneously wondered.

Nathan grinned, "He was upgraded. Now he's got the knowledge of any General Practitioner stored in his positronic memory. It would just be easier for Reyes to check Dee over real quick."

I was at the next table over with Dad, Pop and my brothers. Prez called me to come over. Keith explained the situation to Dee, who enthusiastically agreed to have me play doctor with him.

Uncertainly, I checked the time. It had been forty-seven hours and twenty-two minutes since I got those databases. I overrode the lockout on only the medical databases. I widely grinned, "Holy crap! I know exactly what to do!" Dad and Pop began laughing as I hurried to the Command Center to retrieve a tricorder.

In less than a minute, I returned and easily operated the tricorder. I scanned Dee and reviewed the readings. I smiled, "He's not even a little dehydrated. I don't foresee any major problems, just discomfort from going so often. We can even take care of that. Let me just confer with Doc Andrews and Doc Howard. I'll come back with a hypo-spray and Dee will be done running to the bathrooms." Turning and slowly walking a few steps away, I tapped my comm-badge to call the two doctors. I told them what was going on, explained my readings and transmitted them to the doctors.

The doctors reviewed my diagnosis and would have Alden transport a hypo-spray to me. Prez suggested, "Would you like Reyes to be your doctor tonight, at least until we're sure you're better, Dee?" Dee enthusiastically agreed.

I returned and administered the hypo-spray in Dee's arm, saying, "This will take care of the diarrhea and lower abdominal cramps."

"How long will it take?" Prez wondered.

"Two minutes," I answered. "The intestines are packed with blood vessels." Rapidly shaking my head, I giggled, "I'm gonna have to access the various new databases I have!"

Pop howled laughing. Dad called me over, obviously beaming with pride. After instructing Dee to drink plenty of water for the next few hours, I then went to Dad. "I want you to think about something," Dad whispered. "With all your new databases, you're an incredible asset to this Clan. If you want, you can become a Core Rimmer too."

I blushed and grinned, "I don't know, dad. Playing on stage with you guys last night was awesome. That's really all I'm looking forward to."

Pulling me closer and firmly hugging me, Dad smiled, "You'll get more and more chances to do that too. As your databases become more integrated, all you have to do is tell me what you'd like to do. If you say yes then we'll talk with Prez."

Still uncertain, I shrugged at first. Seeing the pride in my Dad's eyes and realizing that he really wanted me to join the command team, I considered it more carefully and teetered on the fence. I told Dad, Pop and my brothers, "Let me sleep on it. A lot of things have changed this week. To go from messed-up memories to this in only two days, it's strange to think of myself as any kind of leader."

Pop nodded, "Take all the time ya need. There's no rush." Jamie, Jacob and Beau were wandering around. They came to our table and said good-bye, and that they were going to the U.K. soon for Joel's and Kevin's wedding. Shortly thereafter, John and Stephen left the dining room with the threesome.

From near his dad and pop, Richie hollered, "Dillon, do you wanna go to the rec room?"

Dillon checked with Randy, Ben and Jonah. All three agreed and stood. Dillon shouted, "Kewl. Let's go." At that table, Richie, Dee, Frankie, Gage, Sammy, Bruce, Dewi and Kokaku got up.

Jonah asked, "Aren't you coming too, Reyes?"

"I'll catch up with you guys later." I loudly called, "Dee, if you need anything, let me know."

Spinning around, Dee giggled, "I'm way better already, but I will, Reyes."

Jonah shrugged, "Okay," and followed the pack to the rec room.

Prez, Keith, Julio and Jesse came to our table. Before sitting down, Prez called Troy and Sean over. He had his PADD and we had a band meeting. The original four members of Platinum Habits began listing their rehearsed songs and checking with Troy and me to fit us in. I couldn't believe the number of truly awesome songs that they could play. They listed songs by Rush, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer that I had no idea they could play. Of course, Troy and I were asked which songs we had practiced too, and those were added to Prez's PADD.

Our meeting was cut short when Prez's comm-badge chirped. We heard an adult man's voice say, "Vorik to Director O'Brian."

Prez tapped his comm-badge and formally responded, "O'Brian here. How can I help you, Lieutenant?"

Vorik answered, "There is a situation requiring the attention of your command team, Sir."

"Acknowledged," Prez replied, and then informed the Lieutenant, "I have Clan Short guests from Des Moines. Would it be acceptable to have them join our team, Sir?"

"Yes, that may prove advantageous," Vorik answered.

"We'll be right there, Lieutenant," Prez said. "O'Brian out." He tapped his comm-badge and sighed, "We'll continue this later, dudes." Standing and looking at me, Prez asked, "Are you joining us, Reyes?"

Dad replied, "I asked, but he needs to think on it, Prez."

Prez nodded and smiled, "It's kewl. Give it serious thought though, okay, Reyes?"

"I will, Prez."

Dad told me, "Join your brothers as a brother. Do what you want to do tonight and take it easy."

Pop asked, "Where do you think you'll be sleeping?"

"Probably at the Hundsers in the nest until the youngest guys are ready."

Pop nodded, "We'll see you later then."

The Core Rimmers and Des Moines teams headed for the Command Center. I couldn't help wondering what they were going to do with two dozen guys entering the room. There were obviously a bunch of kids to be picked up somewhere. Getting up, I checked on my brothers in the rec room. It was mostly kids twelve and under in there, but I wandered around for almost an hour chatting with the kids. Deciding to hang with other teenagers, I told my brothers that I would be at the diving well where I was sure most of the teenagers were.

When I got there, I was surprised to find only fourteen teens, mostly couples; like Horacio and Sonia, Hank and Paige, Liki and Keanu, Arnie and Jerry, Aaron Farris and Stephen Wickes, and some others, just chilling at tables with sodas and munchies. Again, I briefly socialized with the various couples. I learned that Horacio and Sonia were now considering themselves a couple. Hank and Paige were just starting their relationship, since Paige just joined the Clan the prior night. Liki and Keanu were sharing interests and building their friendship toward whatever it might become. Holding hands at the next table, Aaron and Stephen were definitely a couple. Arnie and Jerry were in a more romantic mood, sitting beside each other so they could kiss whenever necessary, and it seemed to be required, secondary to breathing.

Since everybody seemed happily occupied one way or another, I wondered what I could do. What I used to do, lifetimes ago, was practice. It was kind of late though, so going to the Gibbons' basement, where Dad's drums and my congos were wasn't an option. What I really wanted to do was go to the auditorium. On the way, I tapped my comm-badge and called, "Alden, I'm feeling like practicing. I'm going to the auditorium. Could you provide me some tunes to jam along with?"

"Sure, Reyes," Alden responded. "Let me know which songs and I'll play them for you."

At the auditorium, I went to the circuit breaker panels to power up the lights and P.A. system. As I worked, I called, "Alden, could you pump the tunes through the stage monitors?"

"Absolutely," Alden assured.

"That's the only reason I'm turning on the P.A. I don't need to be amplified, only the music loud enough to hear over the drums and congas."

"I've got it handled," Alden said.

Finishing at the circuit breakers, I asked, "Are you busy with the Core Rimmers?" and went inside the auditorium theater.

"Not too busy to help you out," Alden answered. "I've got subsystems to assist you. You'll hear my voice and get the songs you need without impacting the mission at all."

Walking down the aisle, I prompted, "If that changes, let me know."

Alden said, "Think of what you did just a while ago with Dee. In a few seconds, you accessed your medical knowledge, searched the digestive system, discovered what you needed to help with Dee's problem, and then accessed the knowledge to use the tricorder. I've got all that, plus several subsystems to handle tracking the Rimmers and Des Moines teams, coordinate transportation and anything they might need too. It's all interconnected and controlled by me. I'll tell you a secret."

"What's that?"

"You're hearing my voice, but this is one of my subsystems. I am also working with the various teams on their mission. Many times, I'm multitasking. Depending upon the task, whomever I happen to be talking with might never know if they're talking to me or one of the subsystems required to accomplish that particular task. When there's emotion to my voice, you're talking to the real me. If there's no emotion...."

"It's your voice through a subsystem," I finished.


Climbing the steps up to the stage, I hummed, then said, "Alden, let me warm up to some early rock and roll from the fifties or sixties. How about Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, by the Platters, please?"

"Nice choice, dude."

Taking a seat at Dad's drums, I picked up the sticks and prompted, "Play it, Alden." Without a word, the song played through the stage monitors. I was about ten years old when the song was originally released and remembered every lyric while I played along. At the end of the song, I asked, "Alden, let's jump into the sixties. Line up these songs for me in this order; Please, Please Me, Eight Days A Week, Ticket To Ride, Come Together, Mister Soul, Sunshine Of Your Love, Third Stone From The Sun, Communication Breakdown, Summer In The City, Good Lovin', I Can See For Miles and Jumpin' Jack Flash."

Alden checked, "Ready when you are, Reyes."

Saying, "Let's go, dude," Alden played the songs for me and I played along. I got a little messed up twice; once during Come Together, playing those six-to-a-beat tom-tom bits, and again during I Can See For Miles, trying to keep up with Keith Moon's craziness. About eleven o'clock, when I was done with that set, I considered finding my brothers, but told myself, no, dad and pop told me to do what I wanted to do, and I was having fun. So I listed off another twelve songs from the 1970s for Alden to play for me and I played along. About half-way through the list, while I was playing Carry On My Wayward Son, I saw the theater door open. In walked my brothers and friends. For the remainder of the set, I had an audience of about twenty kids who enthusiastically applauded and cheered at the end of each song.

When I was done, I thanked Alden, then put the sticks down and stood, loudly saying, "Okay, you guys, it's almost midnight. Let's go to the nest."

During the walk out of the theater and while I was powering the place down, my brothers and all the kids were telling me how awesome I played. For me, it was simply fun, and I didn't say anything more than "thanks," never telling them about when and where I had messed up. Generally, they were right, given that I hadn't played those songs on a drum kit in over twenty years, I kept up fairly well.

We walked out of the auditorium and across the compound to the Hundsers' home. As quietly as possible, our large group went downstairs to the nest. All the kids went to bed, but I pulled out my laptop. While I'm sleeping, I'll think about becoming a Core Rimmer, but it's really not high on my list of things to do. Playing with the band is high on my list though. Figuring out my feelings about Paul and Ryan is also to be considered. For now, I'm happy enough having android friends. That's something I haven't ever had before.

Yeah, it been an awesome day. I'll write more tomorrow. Dad, Pop and the other Core Rimmers aren't back yet, so it's time to hit the sack.