Clan Short Pacific Rim Division

Personal Log - Reyes Taraschke, Part 3

<Authors Note: This chapter was a team effort. In addition to advancing Reyes' story, there is also a fair amount said about AI Headquarters and the characters from the story 'Sentenced To Life'. More than a week has passed since the last chapter of 'Sentenced To Life', so naturally, AAKD has struck, and we introduce two brothers, adopted by the Owens family. Blame or praise for what is contained herein should be pointed to ACFan, D&B, Dewey, Fibita, Ilu, and Roland.>

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

It's a little before six in the morning. I woke from dreams I was having and couldn't go back to sleep, so I decided to get up, turn the television on and start writing.

In one of my dreams, I was with my first dad, Derek Taraschke. It started as memories of him teaching me to play congas, at home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It's weird, but I never saw him as an old man, even though he was already forty-five years old when I was first activated. In my dream, I remembered him telling me that he and mom couldn't have kids of their own, which is why they took advantage of the cybernetics developments at Vision Industries and adopted me. As happy as I was with him and mom, I never thought to ask why they hadn't adopted a human boy instead of an android boy. It's one of the questions still lurking in my brain that I have no answer for. I don't know why it matters. Without them, I never would've been created, but here I sit in the basement of the Hundsers' home, tapping away at this keyboard, trying to come to grips with fifty-six years of life as a thirteen-year-old android boy.

In my dreams, I clearly remembered my activation and meeting my dad, Derek Taraschke, and his wife, Lokelani, for the first time. While dad and mom watched, the AI engineers put me through a bunch of different physical tests of my motor functions, and then had me take a few written tests. It took the entire day, with only a break for lunch. Then, I went to my new home for the very first time. It was an almost two-hour long drive to a small house, number 596 on Mallard Lake Drive. It was a short walk through trees to the lagoon behind the house. I could follow the inlet directly to the beach about quarter of a mile away. In my dream, I took those same familiar walks, as if I had done it just yesterday.

That first night at home, my dad went to practice playing his drums and I went to watch him. I remember him warming up with various snare drum and tom-tom rolls. While that was somewhat interesting, I started bopping and hopping when he began playing the entire kit. My dad smiled and was soon laughing because I wasn't really dancing, but I was moving in time to his rhythms. After about an hour he was hysterical and took a break to ask if I'd like to learn how to play. Of course, I said yes. Derek started me out with maracas and tambourine and showed me different ways of playing both instruments. The next night he came home with bongos for me and we would practice together every evening after dinner. During the days, I practiced to songs on the radio. One night, he came home with a set of congas for me. The room with dad's drum set soon had filled with all my percussion instruments. Derek taught me everything he knew and we often faced each other while practicing in that room.

During my first days at home, Derek told me, "Though you are different from other children, inasmuch as you don't need to go to school, to us, you are completely human. We want you to have a long, happy life and be social with other boys and girls. If they ask why you don't go to school, tell them you're being educated at home."

Mom said, "Another thing you might be asked about is your skin color. Your skin is dark, like mine, because of our Polynesian ancestry. Tell anyone who might ask that you're Hawaiian-American."

I could understand why school might need to be discussed, but didn't understand why my skin color was an issue. For the rest of the night, I studied the American Civil War and learned about prejudices. During those first days, I witnessed prejudices first-hand, because dad was Caucasian and mom was Polynesian. When we went out together, I noticed some people giving my dad and mom strange looks. I accepted these reactions as any other learned experience. Thinking of it now, while I write this though, it tells me why I was so concerned about telling people I'm an android over the weekend.

When I began meeting other kids in our neighborhood, I told them my heritage exactly as my mom had suggested. I remember the first friend I ever made way back in 1948. His name was Thomas Darr and he was African-American. I met Tom down by the lagoon, while I was searching for crawdads. Another friend made that first summer was Doug Witter. I met Doug through Tom.

In September, when school was about to start, I told Doug and Tom how I was being educated at home. Doug was about to start seventh grade, and Tom was starting eighth grade.

It's funny, I can remember their faces and mannerisms now still, wide awake. What I recall most of all was helping them with their homework during the school year. I also recall how confused they were a year later, because they had both grown and changed, but I had not grown or changed at all. I was five-feet and four inches tall, a hundred-twenty-four pounds in 1948, was still the same height and weight the next year, and I'm still the same height today, only about ten pounds lighter from the meager meals served at the orphanage. I wonder how much I weigh now, after four days of good food. Before anyone else wakes up, let me see if I can find out.

I just called Daileass and learned that there was a scale upstairs, in the first floor bathroom under the sink. While I was up there, Uncle Jim and Aunt Jen came downstairs and started coffee. As of now, I weigh a hundred-thirteen pounds. Eleven more pounds to go to get back to my normal weight. Dewi, Geoff, Richie and Kokaku are awake now. They just went upstairs, needing to go to the bathroom. I'm gonna take a short break and return to the nest, before any of my brothers or my dads wake up and find me writing, which I was specifically told not to do.

Okay, so much for getting right back to writing. It's still Tuesday, just barely. It's been a long, crazy day, so let me try to organize everything that happened.

I actually did fall back to sleep for a little while. Waking to singing, I realized that John and Stephen were floating four feet above the nest. I hadn't even wiped the sleep from my eyes and Clan magic was happening once again. Barely two minutes later, when the singing had finished, everyone still in the basement were also floating several feet off the floor. With his new boyfriend, Stephen, John was powerful enough to levitate everyone down there. Floating there and touching the ceiling, I estimated that John was lifting about a thousand pounds between all of us, and it didn't even faze him in the least; he simply held a kiss with Stephen. I helplessly cracked up laughing at the insanity of it all.

My brothers, dads and I showered at the dorm, then went to the C.I.C. for breakfast. For the first time, we had vitamin-fortified breakfast milkshakes, recommended for all us kids by our new doctor. Dillon got a chocolate shake, Jonah got strawberry and I got an apple pie-flavored shake. In a minute, we were sitting at a table near Prez, Keith and their sons. I started telling my new family about my dreams and first family during breakfast. Derrick and Mike carefully watched me as I spun my tale. I paused when Kaleo and then Prez told us about the I.D. and credit cards. When that announcement was finished, Derrick asked me, "Are you feeling sad anymore, son?"

Shaking my head, I grinned, "Not so much about my other two families. Like Austin said would happen, a lot was integrated while I slept. Now I'm just a little disgusted about twenty-one years in an orphanage. It's weird, because I can remember some things about those years, but because they kept zapping me, there's no dates or times associated with those memories. It's a jumbled up block of stuff with no meaning or sequence."

Jonah wondered, "Do you remember when they started messing around with us kids?"

"No," I replied. "I only remember stuff since June. Between November 1983 and June 2004, there's a couple of things I vaguely recall, but none of it makes any sense at all; like images of people I don't know now. I can't even tell what they're doing that made me store the memory in the first place."

Mike sighed, "We'll just go with what Kaleo and Tory said." He then glanced at Dillon, who was trying to finish sucking his milk shake through a straw, seemingly oblivious to the conversation.

"The abuses started about five or six years ago," Derrick stated. "Until we learn otherwise somehow, that's all we can know."

Mike smiled, "You're all safe now."

Glancing around the table at Dillon, Jonah and me, Derrick asked, "Are any of you having bad dreams about any of that?"

Shaking my head, I answered, "No. I think the reality was worse than anything I could possibly imagine, so I'm not dreaming about it at all."

"Nope," Jonah softly replied.

Still with a straw in his mouth, Dillon only shook his head in response. Since Dillon obviously had his priorities in order, Mike widely smiled and helplessly chuckled.

Derrick grinned, "If you ever do, make sure to let us know about it, okay? Especially if it becomes repetitive, let us know, and we'll talk it out or have a chat with Doc Wiener." Jonah and I vocally assured our dad and pop we would say something, but again, Dillon only nodded slightly. Mike cracked up. Derrick sniggered, "Are you drowning in chocolate milkshake, Dillon? Please say something."

At last, Dillon released his straw, giggling, "It's so good, but I'm gettin' so full." Mike, Jonah and I roared laughing.

On his way to the dishwasher with his empty shake glass, and with Stephen trailing along, John stopped by our table and said, "Intel reports say ninety-two perverted adults, that either actively participated in the scandal, or coordinated the child sex trade within C.P.S. and our government, were arrested or executed last Friday. You dudes really don't need to worry about that stuff any more."

At twenty-of-ten my dads went into the Command Center, with the other Core Rimmers, for their morning status report. I continued sharing my tales of days long ago in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my brothers for about fifteen minutes, until my dad and pop came back out of the Command Center. Getting good luck wishes from a lot of kids, Derrick, Mike, Keith and Prez walked through the dining room and around the tables where all their sons were finishing breakfast. Each of us got a kiss on the head by all four of them.

Dad introduced me to three boys with him; "Reyes, this is Caleb, Noah and Hunter." Derrick smiled, "They work at the Charleston AI Division. I'd like for you to go there with them, for a check-up."

I nodded, "Okay, I guess it's a good idea."

Caleb grinned, "It'll be more than a check-up, Reyes. You'll get to meet some more of your android brothers while we're there."

Noah said, "We've got a few things to take care of here with the new system before we leave. When we're ready to go, where do you think you'll be?"

"Probably over by the pool or diving well," I answered.

Jonah said, "I'll go with Reyes too, dad."

Derrick explained to Caleb and Noah, "Last night, Austin said that Reyes shouldn't be alone for two days. Jonah and Reyes have been together since the orphanage. If anyone would know when Reyes isn't acting right, Jonah would."

"Kewl," Caleb and Noah chorused.

"Have a good time and I'll see you later," Derrick smiled, and then left us. He went outside with the other Core Rimmers to transport to school for their first jazz band concert of the week.

Caleb said, "Give us about an hour or so, Reyes. We'll catch up with you over at the pools."

I nodded, "Kewl, I'll see you in a little while." Caleb, Noah and Hunter returned to the Command Center.

I had managed to finish my shake. Jonah gave up on his, with only a little left in the bottom of the glass. Dillon still had his straw in his mouth though and refused to give up until he had finished it all. Ben came over and asked if Jonah was ready to get in some guitar practice. Jonah was ready, but didn't want to leave me. I assured my little brother that I was fine and would stay with Dillon until he finished his shake. Then Dillon and I would catch up with them and I could get some conga practice accomplished. Taking their shake glasses to the dishwasher, Jonah and Ben left us to get their I.D. and credit cards, then head over to the Gibbons' home.

Thinking about all the music I used to play and what Platinum Habits had played for us the last few days, I waited for Dillon. It was amazing how many songs I didn't know yesterday that I now remembered. There were more than a few tunes Platinum Habits had played that I had never heard before, but there were many that I recalled from before November 1983. I noticed that most of our Clan had gotten their I.D. and credit cards. I went to get mine and Dillon's I.D. and credit cards from Kaleo. By the time that was done and I returned to Dillon, housekeepers were beginning to clean up the dining room. There was very little liquid left in Dillon's glass, so I giggled, "Give it up, bro, or we'll still be sitting here when everybody comes back for lunch."

Releasing the straw from his mouth, Dillon sat back, smiling and groaned, "My belly's gonna go boom!"

Handing Dillon his I.D. and credit card, I grinned, "Can you walk?" and picked up our two glasses.

"Dunno," Dillon giggled, and slid off his chair onto his feet. He stuffed his cards into his shorts pocket. Dragging his feet and waddling, Dillon followed me to the dishwasher, where I left our shake glasses. We started for home. Soon after we walked out of the C.I.C., Dillon giggled, "We'd better hurry."

The little guy jogged past me. Going after him, I grinned, "What's the rush, bro."

"Bathroom," Dillon laughed. Sniggering insanely, I picked up my youngest brother and raced to the Gibbons'. Once there and inside, I put Dillon down and he hurried to the first floor bathroom. Heading down to the basement, I found Bruce, Dee, Randy and Thanh with Ben and Jonah. The six younger guys were playing CD's loudly through the basement stereo and having a small party, with sodas and snacks spread out on the coffee table.

Facing Jonah, I wondered, "Where'd you get the CD's?"

Jonah grinned, "Some are dad's and some are pop's." With his index finger, Jonah gestured for me to lean down. I did and he whispered, "We're keeping Bruce busy, since John is workin' in the Command Center." I nodded my approval, then went to the stack of CD's. Led Zeppelin II was currently playing. Jonah said, "The drum solo dad played yesterday is on this disk. Dad played it way better and much longer though."

Finding the Santana Moonflower CD set, I grinned, "Do you guys wanna hear another awesome drum solo?" and waved the jewel case.

Almost at once, all six hollered, "Yeah!"

Jonah hurried to the player and pressed stop. He pulled out the Zeppelin disk and I handed him the second disk of Moonflower, telling Jonah to "play track three, bro."

While Jonah took care of loading the disk, Bruce put the Zeppelin CD back in its case and I went to the other side of the basement, where the drums and congas were set up. Soon, Soul Sacrifice/ Head, Hands and Feet was blasting through the stereo and I was playing along on the bongos and congas. Dillon came down to the basement. Just like old times, I played the entire congas part for my brothers, uncle and friends. I distinctly remembered playing the song for Derek Taraschke and my cousin, Akamu. Honestly, I was playing for them as well as all the kids hooting and hollering before me. My first dad encouraged me to learn; my second father figure enthusiastically watched me play, and now I was playing for my brothers. I couldn't wait for the chance to play this song with my current dad. Judging by what I had watched him play the previous afternoon, Derrick could easily play this tune. I hoped that Platinum Habits could play it and I could sit in with them some day soon. When the song ended, I was sweating profusely, but still surrounded by all seven of them, cheering and shouting.

Since my blistered hands were hurting, I suggested we all go outside for a little while, to work off our breakfast milkshakes at the pools before lunch. On our way upstairs, Ben and Jonah were giggling through their complaints about how I was improving on the drum kit and now had many years of experience playing congas recovered. I told them; "You guys have way more notes to deal with than I do. Two congas can make about ten tones. A full drum kit like dad's can make maybe thirty tones. I'll guess that a guitar can make at least forty different tones. In the hands of someone like Mike, a guitar could make even more tones than those forty. Please don't give up trying because of me."

Jonah looked up and smiled, "I ain't giving up, bro."

"We just wish that we could play better, faster," Ben added.

Jonah nodded, "What we've got is you, dad, pop, Prez and Keith showing us what we could some day be able to do."

"Like inspiration?" I offered.

"Yeah," Ben giggled. "That's the word I was lookin' for and not finding."

"Very kewl," I nodded.

Arriving at the main pool, we noticed quite a bit of commotion, because Joel had returned for a visit. John, Stephen and Nathan, as well as a human woman and Vulcan man, were there with Joel. Surrounded by most of the younger kids rescued on Friday, John seemed to be organizing the kids so they would each get a turn to talk to Joel and give him a hug. Ben, Bruce, Dee, Dillon, Jonah and Thanh hurried over there. Randy wasn't one of the original eighty-seven, but he followed his friends to meet the person many of us had been talking about.

Approaching, I heard John's voice in my mind, telling me what had happened to Joel soon after he left us Saturday morning. How something so horrible could happen to someone so nice made me sad. Rather than face Joel feeling bad, I considered going over to the diving well. John sent, 'Reyes, you don't have to hide. In your case, specifically, he'd love to know all that's happened to you, thanks to him. Come on over, and let him know.'

I did go over and wait for my chance to say thank you and tell Joel that, thanks to the Clan, I was again a fully functional android with memories going back fifty-six years. Surprisingly, Joel hugged me. How he remembered me when he had rescued so many, I don't know, but it felt nice and made me feel better. After our brief moments together, I went over to the diving well, where the other teenagers usually hung out.

I waved at Kaleo, up on the three-meter board, and at Tory, sitting naked on the edge of the diving well. Beginning to untie my board shorts and join the fun, I was stopped by Caleb, loudly laughing, "Don't get naked yet, Reyes. Let's go to AI Division for a few hours. You can get naked there."

Retying my shorts, I grinned, "Let me get Jonah," and went over to the other pool. I hollered for Jonah and waited for him to get dressed. In a few minutes, we were gathered with Caleb, Noah and Hunter and transported seven thousand miles to Sullivan's Island, South Carolina.

Immediately upon arrival, I recognized the salty smell of the Atlantic ocean. In mid-autumn, some of the tree leaves were changing color, which was another sight I hadn't seen in over forty years. Looking down at Jonah, I smiled, "It feels so familiar, like home."

"Are you okay, bro?" Jonah worried.

I nodded, "Perfectly fine. It's been a very long time, that's all."

Leading the way with Caleb and Hunter, towards what appeared to be a house, Noah asked, "Where are you from, Reyes?"

"I lived in Myrtle Beach my first ten years," I replied. "My mom was Hawaiian and she wanted to be near family, so we moved to Honolulu in 1958."

Caleb said, "We'll try to take a short trip to Myrtle Beach too," and opened the door of the house.

My jaw hit my chest as soon as I walked through the door with my brothers. In front of me, mid-pillow-fight, was a face no android ever expected to see, accompanied by an eight-year-old boy. The two were laughing as they ganged up on a platinum blond android boy who was barely holding his own. "He's THE Danny?" I asked in awe.

Noah giggled. "Yeah, that's the old man himself. He's pretty agile for a rustbucket!" Caleb and Hunter ran for cover, leaving Noah exposed to the inevitable attack.

"I heard that, shrimp!" Danny announced. "Minion, you attack low, I'll take that balloon he calls a head!"

"Oday Masdew Uncah Dahny!" the eight-year-old replied, giggling wildly as he launched himself at Noah's legs. Wide-eyed and giggling, Jonah dashed away from my side just in time.

I became an unwilling victim as the two boys found their target and began tickling any ribs they could find... including mine. Off to the side, Caleb and Hunter were joined by the blond.

"Uncle Marc, when are you gonna teach Uncle Danny that you don't pounce guests until after they've been introduced?" Hunter commented, trying to hide his grin.

"You're just mad that you didn't get him first," Marc replied, not bothering to hide his grin. "C'mon Hunter, lets go find a med-kit for when the animals get tired."

"I'll get some drinks," Caleb offered.

Following Caleb, Jonah wondered, "So this is testing Reyes' reflexes, I guess?"

Hunter giggled, "He's still standing."

Glancing at the pile up around me, Jonah smiled, "Prob'ly 'cos Noah's curled up at Reyes' legs and he can't fall down." Pointing out a pair of purple briefs hanging from a dining room chair, Jonah loudly laughed, "I expected doctors and smart computer people, not pillow fights."

Tickling my ribs and holding Noah down, Danny chuckled, "Hi Reyes. The little fireball on Noah at your feet is Joey."

Trying to block Danny's tickling, I cackled, "Nice to meet ya."

"Just be glad you missed the drum wars; that's what led to the pillow fight," an older lady said. She opened the oven to check on the contents.

"Again?" Caleb asked, rolling his eyes. "Mary, this is Jonah, he's Reyes' brother. Reyes is the one that Noah's tryin' to use as a shield."

Mary came around the counter, and once proper introductions were done, she smiled, "Let me guess... sweet tea for everyone as usual when this happens?"

Jonah uncertainly asked, "Aunt Mary, is sweet tea like iced tea?"

Mary smiled. "Yes, it's iced tea, but made sweet. It refreshes you better in the Southern heat."

"Did I hear someone asking for a computer geek?" An almost-twelve boy with dirty blond hair to his shoulders asked as he waltzed into the kitchen. "Hi Mom!"

"You done waxing the Mustang already, Jerry? You've only spent the last four hours out there," Mary said with a smile.

"I smelled sweet tea," Jerry stated matter-of-factly. He looked towards the entry and giggled. "I see that Danny is welcoming family home with his usual shyness." Jerry introduced himself to Jonah.

"Dahdy!" Joey exclaimed as he broke free of the pile and rushed Jerry.

"Hey squirt!" Jerry replied as he caught Joey. "I thought you and Uncle Danny were practicing?"

"We was bud Uncah Mawc said we was shakin' dhe windows bud we wasn'd bud he said we was so we sdawded a piwwow fighd dhen Uncah Noah cawwed Uncah Dahny owd so we addacked Uncah Noah an' we's been dickwing him since dhen bud we's dickwin' Weyes doo since he was dhewe." Joey explained, seemingly not pausing to breathe. Jonah went into a giggling fit.

"Yeah, I can see we need to tweak those breathing routines of yours later," Jerry grinned as he cuddled his son in his arms.

"DAHDY! You'we siwwy! I'm bweadhin' oday!" Joey giggled. He then turned to Jonah, "Dahdy buiwd me and wode my bwain aww by himself!" he announced proudly.

Suddenly, just as Aunt Mary was about to pass a glass of tea, Jonah fell on his butt, laughing hysterically. Aunt Mary then looked down, smirking, "What's so funny?"

Heaving and holding his belly, Jonah rolled and gasped, "Dickwin' Noah and dickwin' Reyes. It's dickwin my dickie!"

"I didn'd say 'dickwin', I said 'dickwin'," Joey said seriously. After a fraction of a second, he turned to Jerry. "Dahdy, does id sound wike 'dickwin' when I say 'dickwin'?"

Jerry nodded his head, "Yes it does, kiddo."

Joey tilted his head and then grinned. "Dhad's funny!"

Jonah howled, looking into the room where I was still standing, but fiercely blushing as my board shorts were pulled down around my ankles. Danny concentrated on tickling Noah, who wouldn't let go of my legs.

Another boy came running down the stairs just then. "Hey Twerp, why'd you stop playin? I was tryin' to sleep. All this silence woke me up!" he sleepily blubbered as he landed in a chair, sliding it to the side about six inches. Sitting there, the boy waved at me and yawned, "I'm KC."

"Uncah Mawc made us do id," Joey accused.

I waved back at KC and introduced myself. Thankfully, this place seemed to be just as out of control as Ewa Beach and no one seemed to care that I was half-nude.

"I thought you were going to fix that defect in Marc's program, Dad?" KC stated with a grin.

Jerry paused for a second. "I tried, but you know how unstable those old positronic matrices are," Jerry smiled.

"Almost as unstable as eleven-year-old geniuses' brains," Marc quipped as he came back up the stairs with Hunter. "I see you're awake, KC. I'm ready for you, I've got the first aid kits all upstairs now."

"Bite me, Dad," KC grinned.

Marc grinned, but soon the grin began to look a bit wicked. "Mmmmm, KC Barbeque. I am a bit hungry."

"I told Danny to keep you away from Logan; his addictions are contagious," KC half-muttered.

At last, Noah released my legs, allowing me to pull my boardies up and make a quick escape. I went into the kitchen with my brother, then greeted Jerry, Joey and Aunt Mary.

Laughing out loud, Marc tried to get everyone under a semblance of control. He must've known that it was something akin to herding cats, but he tried anyways. "Okay. Okay. I need to ask Jerry about his new brothers."

"What about them?" Jerry exclaimed. "Is something wrong with Paul or Ryan? I gotta call home..."

"Jerry. Calm down," Marc instructed. "I said I needed to ask you something."

Jerry sighed, "Sorry, bro. I feel really protective of them. I mean who could have imagined an android forgetting that he was an android and living on the streets for that many years. I worry about him, but his brother knew and took care of him for all that time. I just can't imagine what it must have been like."

"I know, bro. That's what I wanted to ask you. Is Paul still insisting that his older brother is human?"

"Yeah. Why?" Jerry said suspiciously.

"Whoa, bro. I am just asking because I think we need to do something and I don't want to hurt either of them, but you know that Ryan's delusion that he is human may become dangerous at some point. Remember what happened in the hospital. They were lucky that the duty nurse knew who we were and called us in. If things had gone on the way they were, someone could have been hurt."

"I know but..."

"No buts, bro. I want them to have a good life. They deserve that."

Just then Noah came barreling past with Danny in close pursuit.

I went to Caleb and whispered, "You dudes know about me, don't you?"

Nodding, Caleb softly replied, "Your dad said you were in an orphanage twenty-one years."

"They were periodically zapping my memory with some little Cynthetilife unit," I revealed. "To me, those twenty-one years are mostly blank, just a bunch of uncatalogued memories without names, places or times. Austin was able to fix me last night in about twenty minutes."

Danny hurried into the room again. Noah quickly followed, as quickly as he could with one hand stuck down the back of his shorts trying to de-wedgie himself. Not the least bit disturbed by the madness around us, Caleb asked me, "What did Austin do?"

I giggled at Danny hiding behind Caleb and then me, so Noah couldn't get at him. "He had a few chips that he attached to my uplink port. The first, I think, was basically to reset my diagnostics. Then there were several programming updates. Lastly, he updated a bunch of databases, but warned me to not access them for two days, so I've locked them down until tomorrow night. Then I reinitialized. Immediately, I remembered a bunch of stuff from my first two families."

Joining us, Jonah laughed, "And a whole bunch of bathroom jokes."

I grinned, "I did that to refocus my recollections so I wouldn't stay sad." I told Caleb, "I've got two awesome dads and two great little brothers now."

"Don't forget the partridge in the pear tree!" Noah added with a smirk.

Shaking my head, I grinned, "Never; can’t forget Shirley, she’d never forgive me."

Scowling and shaking his head, Danny wondered, "Okay; who hit you over the head with a coconut, Noah?"

"Nobody," Noah replied, "they really do have a partridge named Shirley in a pear tree."

"Yeah, sure," Danny smirked, "you know I wasn't born yesterday."

"Not by one-hundred-twenty-eight years, three months, and...." Noah threw in.

"No, but you're close!" Marc said as he joined them, the comments about me having got both his and Jerry's interest.

"So you let the only AI on the planet who passes out at the sight of a scalpel perform brain surgery?" Jerry asked with a grin.

"Well, since Austin is Marc's son, I probably better make sure the kid paid attention," Danny giggled. "C'mon, Jer, let's catch a cat so we can scan Reyes."

"You'll pay for that later, Danny!" Marc replied with a grin.

"Hey you two, there are kids present!" Noah chimed in, before sprinting towards the door, this time with Marc in hot pursuit.

Totally confused, Jonah looked up at me. I grinned, "C'mon, there aren't any cats. They want to do a CAT scan on me." I locked eyes with Danny and prompted, "Lead the way."

"Yes, you've definitely got Austin's programming." Danny snickered. "Follow me."

Jonah and I followed Danny through a door and downstairs into a basement. Danny said, "Lights on," and a bunch of ceiling lights turned on. My brother and I had barely crossed the threshold when we heard the first tiny meow, followed by a chorus of meows. From almost every corner of the basement, kittens and cats emerged.

"Okay," I giggled at Jonah, "maybe I am getting a real cat scan."

Joey had followed the group down the stairs, and immediately started introducing each kitten to Jonah as they came over to investigate their visitors. Danny just shook his head with a grin. "I told you this would become a pet hotel if you let Joey install that pet door, Jerry."

"Hey, I could have installed it in your bedroom instead, like Noah suggested!" Jerry shot back. "At least Joey kept his promise; there are no sanitation issues down here."

Jonah sat down on the floor with Joey and got familiar with the kittens. Danny patted a table and instructed, "Lay here and relax, Reyes."

Hopping up on the table, I made myself comfy and watched Danny attach a cable to a computer. Jerry came over and put a calico kitten on my belly. The tiny feline immediately purred, "Warm and cozy," then curled up to take a nap.

Jerry giggled, "Gives a whole new meaning to cat-scan, huh?"

Nodding and petting the kitten on my belly, I giggled, "I guess the fine line between genius and insanity was crossed right here."

Joey looked up from introducing kittens. "Dhewe's no wines hewe. Unca Mawc don'd awwow wines!"

Oddly, I understood Joey perfectly and told Danny, "Hurry and hook that thing up to me. I understood every word Joey said."

"Silly human!" the kitten on my chest purred.

"Malfunction!" I loudly laughed, and took the cable from Danny's hand, then attached it to my uplink port. Jonah, Joey, Jerry and Danny cracked up.

The kitten wiggled its way up to my chin and gave it a few licks. "You're a funny human, I like that. I think I'll keep you," it purred as it began washing my face.

While the kitten continued licking my jaw with its sandpaper tongue, I giggled, "Joey, this one says it wants to come to Ewa Beach with me."

"Keww! He's gonna be a Hawaiian Kiddy!" Joey responded with a smile. "Jonah gods his sisdews."

Jerry giggled, "Three down and twenty to go."

Looking back at Danny, I wondered, "How's it goin', Doc?"

Danny sniggered, "Huh? How's what goin'?"

"The check up!" Jonah laughed.

Jerry giggled, "You're supposed to be doing diagnostics, old man."

"Actually I'm trying to figure out how to install a dataport on you to help fix your memory. The computer runs the diagnostics, I just review the results," Danny giggled.

"And just exactly what is inside your head?" Jerry teased.

"Unlike your stale air, my head contains a masterpiece of human engineering," Danny shot back.

"There's not much there from the orphanage," I grinned. "So far, I've found only fifty-three uncatalogued short memories with no time, date, names or place from those twenty-one years. It's not worth a lot of effort, as far as I'm concerned."

"Charles, control your human," Danny instructed as he scratched the kitten's ears. "There are a few things that we can do here that are not part of the normal diagnostics, Reyes. That's why Austin told you to check in with us."

My new kitten loudly purred, "You're feeling sleepy, very sleepy."

"As long as it's not a big deal," I yawned, then told my kitten, "You're not hypnotizing me."

The kitten seemed to chuckle as it continued to purr "Sleeeeepppppyyyyyy..."

"I just woke up a few hours ago," I giggled, and yawned again. "It's dinner time here, but I just had breakfast." Complaints got me no where. I fell asleep anyway.

"Reyes?" a chorus of voices called.

Waking and looking around the table I had passed out on, I saw Jonah, Jerry and Danny smiling at me. "Please don't tell me that Charles put me to sleep," I muttered.

Jonah and Jerry cracked up. Danny sniggered, "No, I had the computer you were attached to put you to sleep."

I grinned, "Why?"

Danny smiled, "To try and help you get your twenty-one missing years of memories categorized. Maybe you can answer when the abuses started."

"Danny thinks he put you to sleep!" Charles purred from his perch on my chest.

"Silly androids, so self-assured," the kitten in Joey's arms smugly added.

"One of these days they'll learn. It takes a while to train pets," the calico in Jonah's arms purred. "Scratch my ears please, Jonah."

Holding onto Charles and sitting up, I asked, "How long was I asleep?"

"Long enough for us to adopt more kittens, for a total of four, so far," Jonah giggled, and scratched his kitten's ears.

"Nice, I am glad I picked you," the kitten purred.

Danny shook his head. "Now you see what we gotta live with?" he giggled as a solid white tomcat began rubbing his head on Danny's leg. "Yes Bruce, I'll cuddle you while I answer Reyes' questions." Danny said as he picked up the cat.

"You're learning!" Bruce purred as he allowed Danny to pick him up.

The kitten in Jonah's arms leaped to the floor, explaining, "Sandbox time." Charles decided that was a good idea and leaped from my arms.

I wondered, "What's your kitten's name, bro."

"Patch," Jonah smiled.

Glancing at Danny and Jerry, I asked, "Do all my systems check out okay?"

Jerry nodded, "You're good, Reyes. We did some additional programming updates that Austin wasn't aware of. We replaced the access panel to your uplink port also. Your serial number is the same, just with the suffix 'X2'."

Danny instructed, "Take your clothes off, Reyes." I obediently nodded and started to undress. Once I was naked, Danny roamed around me, then leered and sighed, "All your systems are awesome."

I smirked and blushed. Jerry giggled, "You're a perv, Danny." Then Jerry told me, "Expect those bruises and welts to be gone by tomorrow."

"Uncah Dahny, I'm dewwin' Uncah Mawc on you!" Joey giggled.

"How many cookies will you take as a bribe, Joey?" Danny asked hesitantly.

"I'm nahd Dimmy!" Joey laughed.

"Cuddles?" Danny offered.

Joey giggled, "Good cuddwes ow showd ones?"

"Mega good cuddles," Danny offered hopefully.

Joey's eyes widened. "I know whad good cuddews awe. Whad awe mega good cuddews?"

Jonah cracked up.

Danny grinned, "Well, only old people, over a hundred years old, know how to give mega good cuddles. Come here, munchkin!" Danny opened his arms and waited for the boy to accept the 'bribe'.

Joey balked, "I bed Uncah Mawc give me cookies and cuddews."

"But he's not over a hundred years old, though," Danny giggled. "He don't know mega good cuddles."

"Maybe nod, bud I'ww seddwe for cookies, wegguwah cuddews and wadching you skwuhm for Uncah Mawc!" Joey cried with a giggle as he darted out of the room and upstairs calling his uncle's name.

"Aw, crap," Danny groused.

"You want me to get the blankets set out on the couch for you, Danny?" Noah giggled.

"I wonder if the elf has any of his dinner-plate-sized cookies left?" Danny asked idly, wondering if it would help his situation at all.

"Yeah, you're sleeping on the couch all right," Caleb giggled.

Danny rolled his eyes. "You act like we're married or something!"

"You mean you're not boyfriends?" Jonah asked innocently.

Noah and Caleb fell to the floor in laughter, both clutching their sides.

"And I thought the Rimmers were crazy," I softly chuckled.

Marc came down the stairs, Joey riding on his back, munching on a large cookie. "A little birdie said there is something unusual happening down here." Marc stated, barely hiding his grin. "Nice butt, Reyes!"

Sadly shaking my head, I started to put my clothes on again.

"Whad's wong, Uncah Weyes? We doo bonkews fow you?" Joey chortled from his perch.

Marc came over and stood next to me. "Don't worry about it, Reyes. I know it seems crazy here, but that is how we deal with all of the crap that has happened recently. Believe it or not, even when we're joking around, we've been watching you and looking for signs of problems. You'd be surprised at how much a simple blush tells me."

Jerry looked up from where he was reviewing the data from Danny's scan. "He's right, Reyes. Most problems with an AI show themselves in the responses before they are caught by the error handlers. Your base programming checks out pretty much, with a couple of small exceptions that Danny caught and fixed. There is one area I'm checking right now; it's not an error, but more of something that your brain tried to do to prevent damage. You were not programmed with the adaptive routines of the Austin series when you were at the orphanage, but your brain tried to do something anyway. If it passes the tests I'm running right now, I'll activate it permanently for you."

Pulling my T-shirt over my head, I queried, "My brain tried to prevent damage? From the orphanage, or from para-surfing security gorillas, or from speaking shiny-loving ferrets, or from hypnotist kittens, or from hundred-year-old perv androids? I can't understand how my programming might be concerned about damage."

Dillon appeared in the basement beside Jonah. I guess he got bored and dad or pop had him transported. Several kittens scampered over to Dillon. Jonah began introducing Dillon to everyone and all the kittens.

"You've managed to avoid Timmy's bedroom, so you're doing pretty good so far," Marc replied as he went over and looked over Jerry's shoulder. "Jerry, please tell me that I'm not seeing what I think I see?"

"You're seeing it. I just checked with 'Tonio; he's verified it. Reyes' is genetically Tyler's cousin, and his brain started using that gene to maintain emotional connections. Reyes, that is why each time you recovered, you made friends with the same people. You have empath genes from your father's side of the gene pool; it didn't totally take with your original program, but now that you have Austin-series code, you are halfway to becoming a full empath. You have a choice, I can turn it off, or you can leave it run, and have Ty or the double-J's give you some training to use what was given to you." Jerry said seriously.

Dillon tapped Jonah and wondered, "What's that mean?"

Jonah smiled, "It means Reyes is like John was before he became N-Gen yesterday; he feels stuff from other people."

"Oh, kewl!" Dillon cheered.

I told Jerry, "Leave it run. Even if I don't make full use of it, it's answered a big question for me."

Jonah wondered, "Why wouldn't you want to use it fully, bro?"

I shrugged, "It's not that I wouldn't; I simply don't know right now. I would have to check with dad and pop, and then talk with John too. It opens up some doors though, so lets leave it as is."

"I think you've made the right choice, Reyes. Congratulations on becoming the first AI empath." Marc commented seriously. "Jerry, you might want to tie in routine cz-46T34N910257 to the init routine; that is how Austin managed to trigger control when he programmed himself for telepathy. I still don't know what in the hell that routine does, but it seems to work."

"Got it, boss!" Jerry giggled. "Reyes, I need you to plug back in for a minute, I'm going to drop in the control protocols that Austin developed so that you can manage when and how you use it."

I picked up the cable, but before reattaching it, wondered, "You guys aren't sure what the routine does? Is it safe to include?"

"The only issue Austin has is an aversion to blood and scalpels, other than that he's as normal as any Clan member." Jerry replied. "Wait, I take that back; he's a lot more normal than most Clan members!"

Recalling my visions alone with Austin, I muttered, "Austin's kewl," and attached the cable to my uplink port.

As soon as the security routines established a connection, Jerry entered a command into the console and the upload began. A few seconds later, he announced "Okay, Reyes, it's done. I gave you the instruction manual that Austin came up with for any AI that developed special skills; if you have any other questions just call him. You're now one-of-a-kind, and he's the expert on unique positronics." I removed the cable from my uplink port.

Still perched on Marc, Joey giggled, "I jusd dold Ausdin, he says awesome and he's gonna have Uncah Kywe hewp him visid you do hewp widh youw new sduff!"

"Very kewl, Joey," I smiled, and then scowled, "How'd you tell Austin, Joey?"

Joey grinned. "Ausdin and Dimmy and Casey and me are bwodhews and we can dalk do each odhew's heads because we awe speciaw bwodhews."

KC came sliding down the stair rails. "Hey Reyes, the twerp says you've taken after Uncle Ty! Awesome, dude!"

Joey giggled, "I ain'd a twewp, Cwash!"

"Yes you are, that's why I love you!" KC shot back with a smile, making it obvious that this was just friendly banter between the two of them.

I smiled, "That makes you and me brothers too, Joey, cos Austin and KC are my younger brothers. Maybe once this new routine is enabled and I'm trained, I'll be able to talk with you in my head too."

"Awesome!" Joey exclaimed. "Casey! We'we gonna be abwe da dawk do Weyes doo and have aww kinda fun an' pway games in ouw heads and do sduff aww dogedhew and have aww kindsafun!"

KC giggled, "Dad, have you been neglecting Joey's sugar intake? I understood every word he said!"

"Bide me, Casey!" Joey giggled, and then he stuck his tongue out at his brother.

Jerry smiled at the interaction between KC and Joey. I asked Jerry what he was smiling at. He softly replied, "They remind me of the sparring matches that I used to enjoy with Davie."

Surprisingly, an angel appeared next to Jerry, placing an arm over Jerry's shoulder. "See, you followed your heart and it's working out," the angel commented as he gave Jerry a hug.

"Yeah, but I'm still trying to figure out how you got wings," Jerry replied with a grin. "Reyes, this is Davie."

Davie smiled. "Just wait until you see yours... sometime way in the future!" He then turned to me, asking, "How you feeling, nephew?"

Wide-eyed, I stammered, "Uhh... good... thanks... uhh..."

"You've got wings!" Dillon excitedly screamed.

Rubbing his eyes and staring in complete awe, Jonah hollered, "He's an angel!"

"Only physically," Danny giggled. "Jerry's told me some stories about him."

Davie giggled, "You're not much better, Danny." He then turned his attention back to my brothers. "Hi, I'm Davie, Jerry's big brother and the Guardian Angel of the AI Division, when I'm not filling in for Saint Mikey. I couldn't pass up a chance to meet my new family while you're here."

Spinning around in circles like he had just met Santa, Dillon rambled, "Omigod! Jerry's brother is an angel? I can't wait to get home! I gotta tell everyone we've got angels in the family!"

"Who's gonna believe it?" Jonah wondered.

Only momentarily quieted, Dillon hurried to Davie and pleaded, "You gotta come to Ewa Beach, Davie!"

"Sure, you want me to bring Kyle and Tyler to help make waves?" Davie giggled. "That was funny to watch, by the way!"

"Bring anybody ya want!" Dillon cheered.

Giggling, I covered my eyes, knowing that Prez would definitely freak over an angel, two Mikyvis and more twenty-foot waves.

Davie placed his hand on my head. "Welcome to the family, bro. Consider this my present to you." A golden glow surrounded me for a second, then Davie lifted his hand. "No pain for my nephew, and no suffering for those who would be abused due to lack of information," he stated cryptically.

Without a second's thought, I rattled off, "September eighteenth, 1998, a man named Kanunu Kahoalani, the R.O.H. Prime Minister at the time, was at the orphanage talking to Mister Kanes about child prostitution. That's when everything started. They could set it up so that new orphans would replace those that either committed suicide or left orphanage care at their eighteenth birthday. Kids that would not participate simply vanished. There would always be fresh kids and they would share the income."

Danny's eyebrows shot up and KC's normal smile vanished. Danny slapped his comm-badge. "Security, set local condition yellow. I repeat, set local condition yellow. Away team to HQ basement for extraction immediately."

KC looked Joey in the eyes. "Any more info, pass it to me over our mind-link, bro. It's time for me to pay Uncle Cory back for giving Uncle Marc the resources to save me."

A middle aged man came running down the stairs, followed by another android who could pass for Marc's twin. Danny gave orders to the man. Jerry softly explained, "You just blew the doors wide open to the Hawaiian Child Prostitution case, Reyes. That man is Lieutenant Rich Murphy. The guy that looks like Marc is John, his older brother."

Before I could respond, five heavily armed teenaged security personnel appeared behind Rich, and a Carolina Panther padded it's way down the stairs, it's ears laid back against it's head.

"Wiwwy says he's going doo," Joey stated firmly.

"I don't know how I recalled that so clearly," I muttered to Jerry, Jonah and Dillon. Davie innocently turned away and whistled the melody to Let It Be.

Jerry smiled, "Welcome to 'Life with an active Guardian Angel'; you get used to it after the first hundred times or so."

I nodded my head, still not totally believing what was happening, when the last member of the group appeared: a seven-foot tall Bengal tiger-human hybrid with blood-red wings, flaming eyes and sword.

"Hewwo, Kuan Di!" Joey called out.

"Hey Joey." Kuan Ti responded before turning to the assembled group. "Are y'all ready to go? I hear that some people have volunteered to meet their maker, and I'm going to help you expedite the process," he added as his sword's flames flared up.

I am so glad I have access to my archive storage again. Lesson one; do not interfere with large cats wielding flaming swords. Lesson two; do not allow yourself to be touched by angels related to any member of Clan Short. Lesson three; the next time dad tells me to go to the AI Division for a check up, fake the flu, a belly ache, a nervous breakdown or any fitting ailment until he forgets.

Marc grinned at me, offering, "I can tell by the look in your eyes; forget points two and three, I already tried it and it don't work. It works better to just roll with the flow; you keep your sanity that way."

"Oh, so you're saying I am sane," I giggled. "This is good news."

"You're very sane." Marc replied. "The rest of these nuts I'm not quite sure about though."

Danny shook his head. "Okay, how are we getting there? I don't think transporters work with angels."

Kuan Ti shrugged. "Like this," he stated, as the team was surrounded by a red glow before vanishing.

Davie snapped his fingers, and all of us remaining suddenly found ourselves in the living room, with the screen on the wall showing a man sitting in a chair in an elaborately furnished study. Closely looking at the man, I recognized him, even though he was older than I remembered. "I'm time-delaying this so you can see for yourself that it's taken care of," Davie stated. Still watching Davie, I never saw his lips move but I heard his voice in my head, 'Only you're seeing the real events, Reyes. Your brothers, Joey and Jerry will be experiencing the PG rated version.'

Dillon looked around and wondered, "So, umm... there's another bad guy that hurt us kids?"

I nodded, "The one guy that started it all at our orphanage, bro."

Jonah nodded, "And the three of us can tell everybody back home that even this guy was taken care of."

As we watched, the group appeared in front of the guy on the screen, with the angel now standing with flaming wings spread wide and his flaming sword pointed at the occupant of the chair. "I came for YOU!" he growled at the man in a booming voice that sent chills down my spine.

Obviously frightened, Dillon cuddled up to my side. Even Jonah shifted closer to me. I was holding them close, but storing the proceedings I was witnessing. There was no doubt that the Core Rimmers would be asking me about this later.

Back on the screen, security personnel for the ex-Prime Minister started pouring through the doorway into the room. KC, who had obviously been given a chance to outfit himself before they reached their destination, aimed the AK-47 he was holding. "Don't move, Dirtbags!" he exclaimed in a loud voice as the rest of the team took aim with their MP5-A's as well.

Danny looked over the shocked house security team, who were staring at the angel. "We're organizing a one-way trip to Hell; anyone want a ticket?" he asked sarcastically. One of the guards didn't take them seriously, and as I watched he suddenly found himself the target of an extremely pissed-off panther. With one swipe of the panther's huge paw, the man's head suddenly relocated so that it was flopping loosely by his left shoulder. The man teetered a few moments, then fell to the floor.

Jonah muttered, "Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark." I could only wonder what my brother saw; it definitely was not what I saw really happening.

Scott tapped his comm-badge. "Daileass, could you please escort these armed gentlemen to the holding cells at the hospital? I think they need to have their exit interviews."

"You're too nice, Scott; you're spoiling me!" Daileass giggled. "You want me to grab a qualified interviewer too?"

"If you would, please. Thanks, kiddo," Scott replied. Once the house security was gone, he turned to the man in the chair. "DUUUDE! What the hell? Something little like an avenging angel appearing in front of you, and you shit yourself? What a pansy!"

Kuan Ti looked at the strike team members in the room, then back towards the guy that was cowering in his chair, pleading for mercy. "Oh shut up!" Kuan Ti growled low, and thankfully the man did shut up.

The huge cat turned towards the strike team and smiled wickedly. "Sometimes it's nice having a few of these abilities. Now, I will advise anyone with a weak stomach to leave. And yes, I know what you guys have seen before. This will be worse."

"Oh hell!" Someone said, and several of the strike team members filed out of the room, almost running. Then Kuan Ti spoke towards the remote camera that was hovering in one of the corners of the room. "Daileass, there are some that need to see this. They may. Other then that, this is classified material."

From all of the comm-badges the strike team members were wearing, Daileass' voice came across. "You got it, big guy."

Kuan Ti then closed his eyes, and appeared to be muttering to himself. A few moments later, he opened his eyes, and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. "I have called a 'friend' in. Please step to the back of the room, and whatever you do, do not try and attack him."

Several remaining confused people stepped to the back of the room, and waited to see what Kuan Ti was up to. A few moments later, a being appeared in the room. The first reaction from all the strike team members was to either cry out in fright or start to recite prayers. However, all of them did the same thing, and tried to bring their weapons up. With a wave of his hand, Kuan Ti made all of their guns, knives, and other assorted weapons disappear.

I glanced at both my little brothers. It seemed they were in a trance. I looked over at Davie and he held his index finger to his mouth, gesturing for me to remain quiet.

The being that appeared was even taller then Kuan Ti, and wider. The 'thing' was hunched over a bit so it could fit in the room. Its huge bat like wings were furled across its back, and the huge ram-like horns had some very interesting decorations. Its skin was tinged red, and judging by remarks made by those there, it had a smell of sulfur rolling off it in waves. The thing that just appeared in the room with them was a demon right out of the bowels of Hell.

The thing looked at Kuan Ti and spoke in a gravelly voice that just grated on everyone's nerves, almost as bad as fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard. "This had better be good, Kuan Ti. We were about to start the final round of a Bocce Ball tournament."

"Damn, so this is what being scared feels like; this sucks!" KC commented, and he found a statue to hide behind.

Kuan Ti grinned at KC's reaction before he continued. "Oh, I am sure you'll agree with me; this one you are really going to enjoy. However, if you don't mind, allow me a few moments to explain a few things to people who need to know," Kuan Ti stated, to which the demon just gave a dismissive wave.

Kuan Ti then looked up at the remote drone and spoke directly to me. "I know you can still hear what I am saying, Reyes. Daileass, allow Reyes to say hello to Mr. Kahoalani."

On the television I was watching, I noticed a video screen activate in the study with my face on it. I waved and smirked, "Remember me, asshole? I know what you did, and I told my friends. You haven't gotten away with shit, you fuckin' waste of flesh."

The man stared at the screen; the puddle that appeared under his chair confirming that he heard and recognized me.

Kuan Ti then told me, "The being standing next to me is called Drazotus. He is one of Satan's 'special case managers'. See, there are certain types of Evil that even the minions of Hell despise. Child abuse is one of those. There is a saying that 'there is a special place in Hell for child abusers', and that is completely true. Drazotus is one of those demons that handles the really bad people. The problem is, he does kind of enjoy his job a bit too much." Kuan Ti paused as Drazotus started a booming laugh.

When the demon calmed down, Kuan Ti continued. "I have sent several people to Drazotus, because they deserved his 'special touch'. Know that your tormentor will have a long time to regret what he did."

Danny looked around the room as they talked, to find that he was the only one not hiding behind something. "Chickens! I've slept with the Titanic; what's a little demon visit?"

Kuan Ti then turned to Drazotus and spoke directly to the Demon. "The present I am giving to you is named Kanunu Kahoalani. He was the Prime Minister of the R.O.H. and retired from public service in the year 2000. I have been able to confirm that he is guilty of being responsible for eighty-seven current victims of child prostitution; in the past six years, add eighty-eight counts of accessory to murder, fifty-seven counts of selling of children for use in genetic experimentation, one-hundred-forty-eight past counts of child prostitution, and seven-hundred-seventy-seven counts of child rape. Also, fourteen butterflies lost their wings to him when he was younger, as well as four cats that he poured gas on, then tossed a match on, just to see what would happen. Not to mention all the other things he did while he was rising in the ranks of power, most of which would have resulted in a minimum of life imprisonment if he had been discovered. All of which if I tried to list out, we would be here for hours."

If the strike team members were scared before, the sight of a Demon who was getting more and more pissed as Kuan Ti was talking made it even worse. By the time Kuan Ti was done, the Demon looked to be absolutely livid at the man who was calmly sitting there in his chair. However, anyone who looked in his eyes could see the absolute terror he was feeling. "He feels absolutely no remorse for his actions, which is why I felt he should be specially delivered to you or your boss." Kuan Ti grinned as he delivered his last line. "Of course, he does have one redeeming factor."

Drazotus looked over at Kuan Ti with a perplexed expression. "Really?"

"Yeah," Kuan Ti said with a toothy grin. "He maintains an absolutely gorgeous rose garden that he takes very good care of."

Drazotus looked at Kuan Ti like he'd lost his mind, before throwing his head back and howling in laughter. It took a full minute for the demon to calm enough to talk, and when he did, he walked over and slapped Kuan Ti on the shoulder. "Thanks. I was about to utterly destroy him, which would have meant no fun for me. Thanks for calming me down some."

"You're welcome. Now, you wanna take the scumbag away and start your work," Kuan Ti asked as he gestured over towards the man.

"Yeah, I should. If I hurry I can still get back in time to see who's going to compete for the title. There's gonna be lots of bets being placed soon."

With that, the demon and Kanunu Kahoalani disappeared.

Kuan Ti looked over at Danny and said with a shrug. "Hey, what can I say? It's good to have friends in low places."

"I KNEW Garth Brooks was evil!" Danny replied with a grin.

Kuan Ti shook his head. "That was a very bad pun, Danny. Round up your chickens and we'll go back to your compound."

Danny looked around, and giggled as he saw KC clutching the replica of Michelangelo’s 'David' statue. "Hey Crash, you're gonna need to let go of that to go home!"

KC shook his head. "It's going with me then; I ain't letting go until I'm home!"

"As you wish," Kuan Ti said, and he waved his arms, causing everyone to return to the AI Compound.

The television screen went blank. I checked with Davie, "So, he went to hell, alive?"

Davie simply nodded. Scaring the crap out of me, Dillon shouted, "That was kewl!"

"Yeah," Jonah giggled, "he's paying for being really bad."

I didn't have the nerve to question what either of my brothers thought they saw. I was happy they didn't see what I did, and let it be.

Marc walked over and placed a hand on my shoulder, softly asking, "Are you okay?"

I nodded, "Yeah, I think so. I need a change of scenery though. Can we check out Myrtle Beach now?"

Marc nodded, "I think that's a good idea; we'll go as soon as the guys get back. I think KC needs it as much as you, from what I saw."

As if making the point, KC appeared in the center of the room, his arms still securely wrapped around the statue. After a quick glance around the room, he let go and sprinted over to Jerry. As soon as he reached him, he wrapped his arms around Jerry and pulled him into a tight hug. "I'm sorry," KC sighed.

Jerry returned the hug, his face reflecting his confusion at KC's reaction. Marc took my hand, and the two of us joined the hugging pair. "I'll explain, since KC can't," Marc said, just loud enough for the four of us to hear. "There are only two people on this end that saw everything that happened, me and you, Reyes; Davie filtered it for the rest of you to keep it down to what you can handle. I saw what KC saw by being there. For the first time in his life, KC has been scared by something other than his body being shut down because he pushed things too far."

"Uh huh," KC whimpered, the ordeal still fresh in his mind.

Marc noticed KC shivering, and his face shifted to a look of concern. "I hate to do this, but I'm gonna have to." Marc stated. "KC, code Joshua Stewart 53, initiate emotional processor shutdown. Self diagnostics mode three initiate. Execute."

I looked at Marc in shock. "Can you do that to any of us?" I asked as he watched the emotion drain from KC.

Marc shook his head, and Jerry explained, "KC is a prototype, and in his generation there were certain vocal overrides required by Vision Industries in all units in his series. Marc and I disabled all but this one in his latest program update, due to his unique safety protocol situation. We never thought we'd be using it for this kind of situation, though."

KC kept his arms around Jerry, but was now able to speak normally. "Diagnostics show all systems online, Dad. Safety protocol sector 3J56R restructure seventy percent complete."

"Why are you restructuring the safety sector?" Marc asked, a curious expression on his face.

"You know the update that you guys have nicknamed the 'Shannon Update'?" KC asked, his voice clearly showing emotion despite the override. "I want it, now. If what I just felt like is what the people I care about feel like when I do something stupid, I want some limits put back on my safety protocols."

"What do you mean, KC?" I softly asked.

"I'm a 'Mach II' version of the Vision design." KC replied. "Dad... Marc Dad that is... was trying to make a more realistic AI for Vision Industries since your version is a little too cautious. I'm the result, but I'm a walking accident sometimes. They've figured out a better balance now for my safety protocols, but Marc won't force an update onto anyone without the AI's okay. It might change how I act a little, and he won't make anyone change just because he's figured out a better way to do something."

Before I could say anything, Marc added his own views. "I've learned something from Cory. I've always thought of each one of us as individuals, but he's shown me that we're not just a fancy creation of a company, we're people. That means we have the right to determine our own destiny, and the right to choose what is done with our programming."

I grinned and nodded, "I know what you mean, in a few ways. My first father was named Derek, D-E-R-E-K. Even with my memory still messed up, I latched on to Derrick Seibert, D-E-R-R-I-C-K. Both dads are drummers. Saturday, I found myself easily surfing at Anahola Bay, because I had surfed before. I was just as scared as the human boys when Kyle and Tyler created a twenty-foot wave for us to ride. Even this morning, I realized I was scared of others being prejudiced about androids, because I was raised in Myrtle Beach during the prejudices of the 1950's. In only a day, I've figured out why I've done those things. They're part of me now, not just programming."

Jerry smiled as he saw the look flash across KC's face. "The one time that there's a twenty foot wave that KC could surf without getting hurt, and he misses it!"

"Yeah, I know," KC replied. "I'm done restructuring, Dad. Thanks Reyes, you just proved that I'm right to get this update. I won't put bad memories in Joey's head; he might be a twerp, but he's my twerp."

"I'll do it for you, KC," Jerry said with care in his voice. "Let's go, it'll only take a minute. We'll adjust the limits on your emotional processor while I'm in there so it stops overloading."

"Thanks, Dad," KC said as the two of them separated and headed for the terminal in the office.

Marc squeezed my hand. "How are you handling what you saw? Are you dealing with it?"

"I'm fine," I assured, and carefully tiptoed around so I wouldn't scare Jonah and Dillon. "I hope I never ever see anything like that again. And I hope that's the last of the pedophiles responsible for the crap in R.O.H."

Danny came down the stairs, freshly showered, and Davie joined him. They came towards Marc and me. "You know, just when you thought you've seen everything, the Clan comes up with something totally original!" Danny giggled as he put an arm over Marc's shoulder. "That was definitely a new one for me!"

"I think you need the same update that KC's getting; you're nuts!" Marc replied.

"KC's going for the update?" Danny exclaimed. "I saw he was scared. Did he take it that bad?"

Pointing at the statue KC was grasping onto for dear life, I giggled, "Yeah, he took it bad, and took the scumbag's statue too. It figures the pedophile would have a copy of David."

Jonah giggled, "KC had his face in a stone butt and his hands wrapped around the naughty bits too!" Dillon busted up laughing.

I shouted loud enough for KC to hear, "I guess that makes KC an honorary Rimmer."

"That's between him and Scott!" Marc giggled.

"I heard that!" Scott said as he came up behind Marc and grabbed a handful of underwear waistband. "We have liftoff!" he added as he yanked up, causing Marc to squeal as his underwear relocated themselves into his butt crack.

"Ahh, Strawberry!" Danny giggled. "Hey Scott, when did KC start collecting statues?"

"When our fearless leader decided he was insane," Scott deadpanned. "Marc, I think Danny's common sense circuit is burned out.

"He never had one, that's why he took the job!" Marc replied with a grin.

"I'll discuss that comment with you later, bro!" Danny shot back with an evil grin.

Smiling at my two brothers who couldn't stop laughing, I offered, "Maybe now's a good time to change into warmer clothes and head to Myrtle Beach? I'm anxious to see how the place has changed."

Davie looked around the room. "Everyone is about ready, once KC and Jerry finish talking, we'll be ready to go."

"We?" Danny asked. "You joining us?"

"I am your Guardian Angel. Of course I'm joining you!" Davie giggled.

Looking down at my brothers and myself, now wearing jeans, heavy sweaters and parkas, I giggled, "Went a bit overboard, Davie, don't you think?"

"No, this is overboard," Davie giggled as scarves, mittens, and tasseled stocking hats were added.

"I can't see!" Dillon laughed from behind his scarf.

Jonah sniggered, "I can't breathe!"

I giggled, "Has Myrtle Beach shifted north of the Arctic Circle?" I told Davie, "Cold in Hawaii is below sixty-five degrees. All we really need are jeans, long sleeve shirts, sneakers and windbreakers."

"You're no fun," Davie fake-pouted as he complied with my request. He noticed Jerry and KC returning, "Hey booger-breath, have you fixed Crash right this time?"

At last, my brothers and I were dressed more appropriately. The only things Davie added were baseball caps for my brothers and me.

Jerry giggled, "Unlike you, bro, his brain is fully functional."

"Now, is that any way to talk to an angel?" Aunt Mary asked with a laugh as she walked up. "I heard that you're planning a road trip. I've packed a snack in the bus. Which one of you is driving? That way I know how hard I need to pray?"

"He is!" Danny replied, pointing at Jerry. "You need to call in the mega-prayers!"

"Hey, you're the one that had to take the defensive driving class TWICE!" Jerry shot back.

Rolling my eyes, I muttered, "Couldn't we just call Daileass and transport? Please?"

"Pretty please!" Dillon and Jonah chorused.

Mary smiled as she rustled my hair. "You don't need to worry, honey; Jerry's been trained by the Charleston Police Department to drive in all situations. He's safer to ride with than just about anyone else on the road."

I smiled, "I guess we couldn't be safer with a guardian angel."

Looking up at the woman, Jonah asked, "What did you make for us to snack on, Aunt Mary?"

Before she could answer, Dillon cheered, "What you was cookin' smelled so good!"

Mary smiled, "You'll find out when you get in the bus, little ones. You'll be happy. As far as what I'm cooking, you'll find that out at dinner time when you get back."

KC joined them, Joey happily riding on his shoulders. "Casey's godda BIG sdadue!" Joey giggled.

"What are you planning on doing with that now that you don't need to hide behind it?" Danny asked, his tone conveying that it was a serious question.

"I'm keeping it," KC stated. "It is a good reminder that I'm not superman."

Danny nodded. "I think you've got a good handle on things. I would appreciate it if you chose someplace other than the living room to keep it, though."

"Okay, I'll have it moved to your bedroom then," KC said with a grin.

Danny rolled his eyes. "Help the little ones get in the bus, smart-Alec, before I decide to see if you float or sink."

"Yes Sir!" KC replied with a salute, Joey mirroring the salute from his perch.

Danny stopped Dillon, Jonah and me, asking, "Where are your comm-badges, guys?"

My brothers chorused, "We don't got one."

I nodded, "Only the Core Rimmers have comm-badges and sub-vocals."

"Well, you're going off base to an unsecured location," Danny told us. He tapped his chest and called, "Daileass, issue permanent comm-badges for Reyes, Jonah and Dillon. We can't have anyone getting lost." A moment later, each of the three of us had Clan comm-badges on our jackets. Danny explained, "They're tracking devices as well as for communications. Keep them with you at all times, especially when you're off-base."

Jonah, Dillon and I followed our hosts outside to a tour-style bus. It had Clan and AI crests on the side and dark windows. Jerry opened the computerized door and stepped aboard, followed by KC, Joey, Marc, Jonah, Dillon, me and Danny. Granted, I hadn't seen the inside of a bus in twenty-plus years, but no bus I had ever seen had plush seats like this one. Stepping onto the bus behind me were Caleb, Noah, Hunter, Paul, Ryan, Scott and the other five security team dudes. Each seat on the bus had a box of food on it.

"Buckle up, guys!" Jerry announced as he took the driver's seat. "Hey George, wake up! We're heading to Myrtle Beach."

"Driver Jerald Owens authentication approved. Scanning traffic patterns to destination," the dashboard of the bus announced as the engine sprang to life.

Danny took the window seat across the aisle from my brothers and I sat down beside him.

"Oh wow," Dillon and Jonah gasped.

Buckling up, Jonah looked over at me, grinning, "They've got a speaking bus."

Already buckled up, Dillon giggled, "We gotta get a bus like this," then opened his snack box.

Glancing over at my brothers, I smiled, "Let's tell dad and pop about it when we get home. With all the kids we have, we'll need a fleet of buses."

Danny smiled at me. "Just let me know who and when. Charleston will provide the driver training, and we've got a direct line to get as many as the Clan needs. This isn't a normal bus, it's outfitted to S.W.A.T. team standards."

Turning to Danny, I explained, "Preston O'Brian is our division leader..."

"Head Rimmer," Jonah and Dillon giggled.

"And we have about a hundred and fifty kids at our base, but can have two-thousand at our five bases," I continued, "so we'll probably need at least ten of these just for our main base."

"You get that, George?" Jerry giggled.

"Acknowledged. Order for two hundred buses has been placed through Unit Material Acquisitions and has been approved."

Sliding down in my seat, I covered my face and laughed, "Prez is gonna deactivate me. I leave the base for a few hours, recall the ex-Prime Minister was the one that started everything, the dude is executed, and now Prez has gotta pay for two-hundred buses." Jonah and Dillon cracked up. I giggled, "I think I'll hide from Prez for the next few days."

"We paid for this?" Jerry giggled.

"Not that I know of," Danny responded, and then asked, "Hey Marc, did we pay for this bus?"

"Unless you count the gray hairs while the two of you learned to drive it, I don't think so!" Marc confirmed.

"Bite me!" Danny and Jerry chorused.

Danny turned to me and said, "By the way, the worldly assets of Mr. Kahoalani were transferred to Clan Short accounts. That'll pay for buses for every division around the world."

"Oh! So he's paid and paid again. Awesome!" I giggled.

"Route confirmed and clearances received by all local departments," George announced as a map appeared on the Heads Up Display.

Jerry became serious as he put the bus into gear. "Okay, we're rolling, guys. The restroom is in the rear of the bus on the right side, the weapons locker is on the left. Remain seated except to visit the restroom, unless otherwise stated by myself or Lieutenant Shannon in the case of a required security action."

Jerry pulled out, and within five minutes the bus was turning north onto Highway 17. As soon as it cleared the city limits, George announced, "Traffic Avoidance System Active" and the blue, red, and green lights over the cab and rear of the bus activated. Jerry shifted up two more gears as he brought the bus to cruise speed, his full attention on the road and the information being presented to him on the HUD.

I softly told Danny, "I remember taking the trip from Vision Industries to Myrtle Beach with my first mom and dad. It took about two hours, way back in 1948. Have the rules of the road changed that much?"

"Some of them have; but the State has allowed the Clan to operate under some special rules that usually only apply to law enforcement. That's why we have to be certified by them," Danny responded.

Nodding understandingly, I opened my snack box and peeked inside. Neatly arranged in the box was a can of soda, four small plastic containers, one large plastic container and utensils. Beginning to open up the smaller plastic containers, I found coleslaw, macaroni salad, dinner rolls and a lime Jell-O mold with fruit in it. The larger container had several fried chicken pieces in it. Across the aisle from me, Jonah and Dillon were already stuffing their faces. Smiling, I told Danny, "This is awesome. Aunt Mary fixed us entire meals to-go. I expected sandwiches and that would've been plenty."

"You should see it when she's had a little warning!" Danny giggled as he opened his meal.

While everyone on the bus was inhaling Aunt Mary's feast, I couldn't help thinking about Kanunu Kahoalani and the ridiculous number of lives he affected. I didn't feel sorrow, fear or anything at all about his sentence. Since I knew that what had actually transpired was not what Jonah and Dillon saw, I whispered to Danny, telling him everything I was thinking. Nearing the end of my Jell-O dessert, I softly wondered, "I only saw it on a television, but it was shocking enough. I can't imagine what it might've been like to be there in the room. It was enough to send most of the strike team scurrying away, but you just stood there, not too far from Kuan Ti and that demon, like it was no big deal. You must've witnessed far worse in your long life, huh?"

Danny gave a wry smile. "Two lives... two lives and three bodies," he replied softly

Looking carefully at him, I admitted, "Sorry, I don't understand."

Danny nodded. "Very few people do. I lived a full life as a human, died and found my personality had been scanned and placed in a positronic brain. I lived a while in that body, then tried to kill myself, but ended up just taking an extended nap on the floor of the ocean next to the Titanic. Marc gave me this body, transplanting my positronics into it, and then a few days later I found out that I had really died the first time; the personality in my positronics is a new person. It's kinda disturbing talking to your previous spirit, but that is what it took for me to learn I'm my own person with both his and my memories."

I could barely grasp what I was hearing. Danny was human once, had lived a full life, died and was then implanted into an android body. He lived a second life and was now in his third body, continuing his second life. "I can't imagine what that must've been like," I softly muttered.

"Don't try it, it sucks," Danny commented as he reached over and took my hand. "It really screws with the mind, trust me. The funny thing is, what I've went through is the main reason Cory made me the head of AI division. I think he understands us better than just about anyone who isn't an AI; he understands that we need a purpose even more than most natural humans, due to how long we can live. I've promised to stand by his side as long as he's alive. After that I'll just see what happens."

I shared my own story with Danny, briefly telling him about Derek Taraschke, his wife and my mom, Lokelani, and then continued about my cousin, Akamu, who became my second father figure after Derek and Lokelani passed away. "I got to live twelve years with Akamu and his wife," I shared. "They died suddenly, in a car accident. It left me with no one. As happy as I am now, with Derrick Seibert, Mike Gibbons, Jonah and Dillon, I have to wonder what it might be like sixty or seventy years from now, when they're all gone and I'm still alive. It'll be different with the Clan than it ever was before, but I still wonder how my life will be. Who will I have to love, who might love and care about me?"

Danny had a far-off look for a second, then returned his attention to me. "Sorry, as soon as you finished talking, I had to deal with a brain leech who was chewing me out. Kyle's the most protective little brother anyone can ask for. I'll be honest, if you had asked me that before I took my long swim, I probably could have given you an idea from my experiences. I know a few things that Kyle shares with just me, and based on that I'd say your best bet is just play it as it goes; what everyone called normal before the Clan formed is completely out the window now. I've noticed that the Vision AIs who have lived through the worst have been the ones that have surfaced to work within the Clan, usually in the Divisional staff."

I sighed, "It will be different, I know it. I haven't been asked to join the Core Rimmers. Even if I am asked, I don't know if I would accept. It's like having two families; the immediate family and the much larger extended family. I guess I'm worried about the day the Clan no longer exists. Will I ever feel that dull ache from feeling useless and worthless again? No one can answer that question, so I guess it's best to 'play it as it goes', like you said."

"You asked why I just stood there a while back?" Danny said. "I wasn't worried about what was standing there; I've had arguments with Saints and have an almost-eternal being who set up a permanent camp in a corner of my brain because he likes watching me think. In the last few weeks, I've come to understand a lot of things, the most important of which is that the supernatural have rules too. I wasn't worried, because I knew that by the rules the only one in danger was the target; the rest of us were safe as long as we did not involve ourselves in that being's mission."

I considered what Danny had just said about rules. As designed beings, our mission was to be companions, but that was the same purpose every real human had too: to live and to love. As long as we have love, the living is easy. Derrick, Mike, Jonah and Dillon would all grow old and die, but in the Clan Short world, there would always be someone to love; maybe not as much as the immediate family, but there would always be someone. I shared all that with Danny once I had put my thoughts into order.

"I think you've hit it right on the head," Danny replied. "As far as being what you call a 'Core Rimmer', think of this; I never wanted to be the head of AI Division, in fact Cory and I argued about it in what the Clan calls 'The Great Logic War'. I lost the argument, and found out that Cory does not like sheep, he wants people who will tell him he is wrong. The question that you need to answer is not if you want to be part of the Clan's staff, but does the Clan need you in that position, even if you don't think you can do it. I bet your time is coming soon, and I promise you it won't be in any way that you think you'd fit."

I softly mumbled, "It's the twenty-one years of lost life experiences that bugs me. If I attempted to gather all the short bits of memories you guys restored, I doubt it would amount to more than a few days. Here I am, a fifty-six-year-old android in a thirteen-year-old boy's body that really only lived thirty-five years. It's too weird to consider being any kind of a leader right now."

"I spent seventy-two years unconscious on the floor of the ocean, and was made the Director less than a week after Marc reactivated me," Danny replied. "Cory created the Clan while he still was not able to remember over half of his life. Kyle founded a whole race, yet there are parts of his life that even now are buried so deep that he knows nothing about them. You're not alone, the people who are running the show know exactly what you're feeling. They've either been there or still are there."

My only response to that was, "No one's asked me to join the Rimmers yet," but learning all that Danny had said made an impact. I sat back and thought about it. Around me on the bus, I heard KC and Joey playing audible chess, each keeping a copy of the board in their head to track moves; Scott was discussing plans for security once we reached our destination; Marc, Noah, and Caleb were discussing some project; and my two brothers were rambling about how fast we had to moving down the highway. I looked out the window and much to my surprise, all the buildings and trees passing by were a blur.

Noticing my concerned expression, Danny giggled, "It's best to not even ask our speed."

At the window seat across the aisle, Dillon looked down and giggled, "We're passin' other cars like they're standin' still!"

Jonah nodded and laughed, "We've gotta be doin' a hundred miles an hour, easy."

"Close," Danny giggled mysteriously.

In a few moments our speed dramatically dropped. I looked forward and noticed that we were moving to the right onto a highway exit ramp. Helplessly giggling, I told my brothers to sit back in their seats, then softly told Danny, "Ninety-five miles traversed in about forty minutes. A hundred and forty miles an hour?"

"Jerry didn't want to freak you guys out!" Danny giggled, not really answering the question.

"It doesn't seem Dillon or Jonah are the least bit bothered," I laughed.

From a few rows back, Marc sniggered, "And this wasn't an emergency!" and removed his crash helmet.

"Dahdy has had dhis bus doin' a-hundwed an' sebendy-six poind eighd-five-seven-fouw miwes an houw, and he sdiww had a geaw wefd!" Joey added proudly.

Jerry giggled, "He's exaggerating by a couple percent, and I was in top gear."

As soon as the bus stopped along Ocean Boulevard, Dillon and Jonah unbuckled themselves and hurried to the restroom at the back of the bus. To secure the area around our bus, Scott and the security team were the first to exit. Waiting for my brothers, I let Danny and most of the occupants pass by me. Jerry's two brothers, Paul and Ryan, said hello to me as they passed down the aisle. I smiled and greeted them. They were both extremely cute.

Surprising me and making me jump, Peter Lambert popped in beside me. He gave me a hug and smiled, "Take your time, Reyes. You'll be home by dinner time in Hawaii, no matter how long you decide to hang out here."

I giggled, "More Clan magic?"

Peter shrugged and giggled, "Since I couldn't fix up your ouchies Saturday, this'll make up for it." He vanished again before I had a chance to say thank you. A Mikyvis' work is never done.

Still giggling, Dillon and Jonah came out of the restroom. Before they could ask, I smiled, "About a hundred and forty miles an hour."

"OMIGOD!" Dillon and Jonah loudly cheered.

I led my brothers to the front of the bus. Jonah giggled, "I'm sorry, I can't see dad, pop, or any of the Core Rimmers driving that fast."

"If we could get R.O.H. Police approval, and grandpa Rob wasn't around, I think pop would exceed that speed," I sniggered.

Stepping out of the bus, I looked around and recognized nothing. In 1958, Myrtle Beach didn't have huge hotels on Ocean Boulevard, but it did now. Across the road from where the bus was parked was an amusement park called Wild Water and Wheels.

Marc asked, "What's the plan, Reyes?"

I answered, "I only wanted to check out my old house and see how things have changed. Already I can see it's changed drastically. It looks like they kept the boardwalk very much the same though." Turning to Jerry, I pointed and confirmed, "That's the south end of Ocean Boulevard, correct?"

"Sure is, at least that's what the sign says!" Jerry giggled as he pointed at the street sign directly behind me.

A chorus of giggles and laughter broke loose, the loudest from my two brothers. Chuckling at myself, I started walking south on highway 17. I smiled, "It's good to see that the Myrtle Beach State Park hasn't changed a lot." We got past the bus and waited for a chance to run across highway 17. Once that was done, I told everyone, "We're looking for 596 Mallard Lake Drive. It should be just over here a little way." I led the group down 17 toward Mallard Lake Drive. On the way though, I noticed a new strip mall, but kept walking. I paused and scowled, "This street, Perry Circle, didn't exist forty-six years ago." I suggested, "Let's go up here." Pointing to my right, I smiled, "I used to go crawdad fishin' at this lagoon. I think they did some land filling here, because that whole community of homes to the north there didn't exist in 1958. That was all part of this lagoon."

I realized that this part of Perry Circle should actually be in the lagoon and went to peek over the side of the decorative road barrier to our right. "Yep," I giggled, "this road is on pontoons over the lagoon, not on land fill."

"At least they did something right," KC commented.

Scott asked me, "What's next, bro?"

I pointed to the left and said, "We could just cross over to Mallard Lake Drive, so I can get a look at my old house, then we can get out of here and go check out the boardwalk." Taking the lead, Scott led our group between two homes and out beside my old house. The siding and roofing colors were different, but even after all those years, the house was still recognizable. It sent a shiver up my spine. I almost felt like I could walk up to the door and yell, "Mom, Dad, I'm home!" Of course, I didn't do that and kept walking out toward the street to see the front of the house.

Jonah looked up and checked, "Are you okay, Reyes?"

I nodded and smiled, "After all these years, the house is still here and still looks similar, with only a few minor changes." I sighed, "Let's get out of here and have some fun."

Jonah took my left hand and Dillon took my right as we walked out of the neighborhood and back onto highway 17. Realizing that I was all right, Dillon and Jonah hurried ahead to walk with Hunter and Joey. Jerry moved beside me and asked, "Everything's kewl, Reyes?"

I nodded and smiled, "A few things have changed, but not too drastically." I paused briefly, then softly admitted, "I heard what you were saying to Marc about Paul and Ryan."

"I was a little stressed, sorry," Jerry sighed.

"Don't be sorry about caring, dude."

Jerry glanced my way and softly shared, "They were living on the streets for twenty years; almost the same time period you were in the orphanage."

"I guess I feel a little something too," I admitted, "probably because I was getting my memory zapped, but Ryan dealt with his loss differently. In both situations, we were changed."

Leaning closer, Jerry whispered, "You know who you are though. Ryan believes he's human. He doesn't like the slightest implication that he's an android."

I checked, "Paul knows the truth though?" Jerry nodded. I asked, "If you'd let me, I'd like to help them, like you all have helped me?"

"Treat them like humans, okay?" Jerry quietly instructed.

"No problem," I smiled.

KC tilted his head. "I hear GO-KARTS!" he giggled.

"Crap! Marc, did you grab the first aid kit from the bus?" Noah sniggered, before taking off in a sprint, KC hot on his heels.

"Where's a Mikyvis when you need one! C'mon, guys!" Marc joked as he started to jog after the laughing pair.

We raced after the group. Since he was the smallest and couldn't keep up, I picked up Dillon. Soon we were running up to the entrance of 'Wild Water and Wheels'.

"You first, Danny; they always wanna talk to the most ancient person in the group," Caleb giggled.

Danny grabbed Caleb before he could escape, and after a well-executed noogie let him go, then headed toward the ticket booth. "I need admission for nineteen kids and a Guardian Angel," Danny said seriously as he passed over his Clan credit card.

"Guardian Angels get in free, since they usually end up working," the attendant joked as he scanned Danny's card without looking at it. His screen chimed, and it was obvious that he was comparing a picture on the screen with the person in front of him. "Oh! Welcome to Wild Water and Wheels, Director Page! One sec, I need to grab the Clan Short wristbands." He ducked under the counter, and came back up with a box of blue and green twisted rope wristbands. "Everything in the park is compliments of the Management," he explained as he counted out twenty of the bands. "It's the least we can do for the pride of the Carolinas."

In my arms, Dillon started giggling before I put him down. I turned and saw Davie standing there, absently smoothing the feathers in his wings. I giggled, "I guess the bus ride wasn't required for you."

"I'm riding the bus on the way back though!" Davie laughed. "You ever try dodging seagulls at over a hundred miles an hour? Timmy was right, them things is STUPID!"

Dillon howled laughing and I put him down. We walked forward and put on our wristbands. I think the park attendant standing nearby about had a heart attack when he saw we really were accompanied by an angel. Having never been to this park before, I glanced around while Jonah and Dillon excitedly squealed about all the kewl rides. Joey came up to my brothers saying, "Com'on, Diwwon and Jonah. We gods wides 'speciawawwy fow us." Joey, Jonah, Hunter and Dillon peeled off for the little kids Go-Cart tracks.

I joined the line with the rest of the bigger guys for Speed Racers. KC was already in a red hot-rod go-cart. Jerry gasped, "Oh my God, KC put on a helmet," causing the rest of us softly chuckle. KC still burned rubber pulling away and onto the track.

Soon, I got in a very kewl lime green go-cart. It had been years since I'd been at a go-cart track. I put my helmet on and put the car in gear, unintentionally peeling out and onto the track. "Holy crap!" I shouted at the surprise horsepower in the little go cart.

Making his first lap around the figure-eight track, KC laughed and teased, "Com'on, Reyes, you're not gonna let Danny or Marc beat you!" He put the pedal to the metal and took off before I had a chance to reply. Just like with the pinball game, I got used to the newer go-cart and found myself in amongst my android brothers, leading our pack around the track.

Surprisingly, Danny was the wildest of the drivers, his go-cart slipping sideways in every turn as he pushed the limits of its traction. Marc was the sanest of the drivers, staying clear of Danny if possible while doing his best to ensure Danny didn't get a chance to lap him. I was laughing hysterically at the rude comments being made by Caleb, Noah and Jerry, all of which were very near or behind me. As I made a turn around a bend, I could see Paul and Ryan were side-by-side and directly behind Jerry. Back in the old days, go-carts went to a maximum of forty miles-per-hour. These new machines had speedometers that went up to seventy-five and standard tachometers too. I made myself a mental note to see to it that we got a go-cart track installed on one of our larger Rimmer bases, probably on the island of Hawaii.

About a half-hour later, when we had all sufficiently soiled our shorts and laughed ourselves hoarse, our Clan group gathered again. Jonah and Dillon had little radio-controlled go-carts to bring back to Ewa Beach in one hand and the largest chocolate chip and ice-cream cookies I had ever seen. We headed back toward the bus, but Danny and Marc led us onto the monorail. This was something else that didn't exist in 1958. The monorail had two express tracks and two local tracks and a total of four trains. The express tracks only stopped at the extreme south end of Ocean Boulevard, in the center by Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and at the extreme north end of Ocean Boulevard. We rode the express train from the south end to the north end and back to Family Kingdom, where we got off to walk along the boardwalk. The entire ride took about thirty minutes, which I figured meant the express tracks exceeded one hundred miles-per-hour.

We took a nice leisurely stroll south along the boardwalk. Every half a mile or so there was another cabana where live music was being played; some were DJ's, some were jazz bands, some were rock-and-roll, and one even had a string quartet playing classical. Caleb, Noah and Hunter stopped at one place to get cotton candy. I couldn't believe it when Dillon followed and, having finished his giant cookie, got himself a cotton candy. We stopped at another arcade where Jonah shot water from a pistol into a spinning clown face and won a Teddy bear that he gave to Dillon to give to his VI Teddy Bear back in Ewa Beach. I cracked up at the thought of a Teddy Bear carrying a regular stuffed Teddy bear around base.

Along the way, Scott and our security guys stopped for slices of pizza and sodas. What was amazing to me is that, with the wristbands we were all still wearing from Wild Water and Wheels, everything we did along the boardwalk was free. Jonah and I stopped at another concession stand for a frozen custard. Unbelievably, Dillon had finished his cotton candy, had pink splotches all around his nose, lips and cheeks and wanted a frozen custard too! I howled laughing and told our hosts how Dillon had been eating ravenously all day long, since our milkshakes at Ewa Beach that morning. To my knowledge, Dillon had been eating almost constantly for the last five hours.

Just as we were getting close to where the bus was parked, Danny spotted a miniature golf course. We almost had to carry Noah and Caleb, they were laughing so hard at the way Danny grabbed onto Marc and began dragging him towards the gate. The rest of us followed along. KC carried Joey on his shoulders to give his little legs a rest, while Scott had decided that Jonah deserved the same treatment. Just as we reached the gate, a kid about the same age as Hunter fell in behind us with his parents. As I entered the gate, I heard Noah behind me telling the attendant that the Clan was covering admittance for the kid and his parents behind us.

As I caught up with Danny and Marc, I heard Danny telling him "I told you that I was going to get your skinny butt out to play putt-putt!"

"My butt's no skinnier than yours; in fact your butt is my butt!" Marc replied with a grin.

"Yeah, I was going to talk to you about that; your butt itches!" Danny retorted.

"Well, if you took better care of my butt it wouldn't itch!" Marc quickly shot back.

His face covered with pink cotton candy splotches and smeared chocolate custard, Dillon looked up at me, giggling, "How can Danny's butt be Marc's butt?"

Shaking my head, I grinned, "This is a question for greater minds than mine," and then called, "Jerry, not to be the butt of any wise cracks, but what are Danny and Marc going off about?"

"Never try to understand the Ancients; for it will cause much loss of sanity," Jerry replied in a mock 'wise-man' tone.

I giggled, "Thank you, mini-Confucius."

"Unca Dahny's skins wewe made fwom Unca Mawc's budd skins!" Joey interjected helpfully, as well as loudly.

"EWWW!" Dillon loudly laughed.

"That's what you two get for showing your butt in public!" KC laughed at the now-blushing pair. He then slid behind Scott. "Protect us from the butts!" he giggled.

"Be glad Jerry's driving, or you'd all be walking home!" Danny stated with a grin.

"Nope, they'd be flying 'Angel Express'!" Davie stated as he appeared above Danny. "And just so you know, version one of you agrees with me!"

"No fair ganging up on me!" Danny laughed. "C'mon, let's see who can sink their balls in less strokes."

"Shouldn't you be in your bedroom to do that?" Caleb asked innocently.

"Keep it up, Caleb. I'm sure your brother would love to practice first aid on you," Danny stated with a menacing grin.

"I'll give you mouth-to-mouth, babe!" Noah added helpfully.

"You know, you two really need to take some alone time." Danny giggled.

"Every time we try, you two come up with more work for us to do!" Noah and Caleb whined in unison.

"Hey, it's not my fault that things get weird occasionally!" Danny replied in self-defense.

Caleb sighed, "Even in Hawaii we didn't get lei'd."

Dillon, Jonah and I softly sniggered.

"Occasionally... like every five minutes!" Noah grumbled. "Grab a club, old man; prepare to get your butt beat!"

"Dream on; I was playing this game when your grandparents were making out at lover's lane!" Danny shot back.

"At least my grandparents got laid, unlike you!" Noah giggled.

Hunter was holding his sides with laughter. "Pop, you're strange!" he sniggered.

"Thank you, that's the nicest thing I've been called all day!" Noah replied as he poked at Hunter's ribs, causing even more giggles.

Dillon, Jonah and I watched the miniature-golf game start and I checked with them to see if they wanted to play, but they both declined so we simply followed the AI division members that were playing, listening to countless insults and rude remarks.

"Are they always this crazy?" the kid that Noah had invited to join the group asked me. He and his parents were playing right behind the AI group, so they ended up watching as the boys had fun. For some reason, the two adults seemed very familiar. Believing I had met them before, I scanned my memories.

I smiled, "Ya know, things are whacky at our Ewa Beach base, but this Artificial Intelligence division is weirder, without the ferrets, G-Cats and gorillas."

"They're from the AI division of Clan Short? Wait, are those two 'THE' Marc and Danny?" the father asked.

Glancing at the man and then his wife, I nodded, "That's them." The two adults checked with each other, causing me to blush, "I'm sorry, there's something familiar about you, but I'm not sure why I feel that way."

The man grinned, "You can call me Mr. Paul; or better yet, just call me Les." He paused for a second, then added, "You're a Marc series, correct? What year?"

"1948," I replied.

"Ahh, that explains it. Program update z-45-34A9; when Vision Industries started seeing problems with Marc series units having emotional issues if they lost the ones they were bonded to. It gives you a subconscious trigger when you are in the presence of a Charles series or a Victoria series adult android. If you didn't have a family bond, you would have felt comfortable opening up to us and asking for help."

Clearly curious, Dillon and Jonah looked up for my explanation. "That means that if there had been Charles or Victoria series androids on O'ahu in 1983, I would have bonded with them. Since there weren't, well, everything that happened that led to the orphanage and the Clan had to happen." I then introduced Les to Dillon and Jonah, and finished with, "We have two dads at O'ahu. We're only here for the day."

Les smiled. "I'm sure that I speak for both Vicky and myself when I say I'm glad to see that you've found a family inside Clan Short. I've noticed a few things looking at them from the outside, and I think that you're in the best place that you could ever be."

The boy that was with them rolled his eyes and giggled. "You know, having android parents is never dull. I'm always learnin' about things most parents don't know."

"I'm glad you enjoy it, Wes," Vicky replied. "Why don't you go tell your cousin Marc that his Aunt Vicky is overdue for a hug? He's obviously not having much luck playing on this course."

Dillon followed Wes onto the course to get Marc rattled. I asked Les, "How old is Wes?" Jonah remained close to my side, watching me closely.

"Today is his seventh birthday," Les replied. "I never expected it to become a family reunion though; the funny thing is we would have missed you if Wes hadn't insisted on stopping for a cookie."

Jonah giggled, "We are the cookie clan."

I nodded and smiled at Les and Vicky, "Jonah's nine and Dillon is five."

We were sidetracked for a second when we heard Danny yell, "KC! Get off the windmill!"

"But Uncle Danny, you said we have to play the ball wherever it stops!" KC shot back as he lined up his shot.

"He's got you there, Danny!" Jerry laughed. "It's not his fault that Marc's ball hit his and made it jump up there!"

"Boys will be boys," Vicky chuckled as she shook her head.

"Does he still count as a boy at 51 years old?" I grinned.

"Absolutely! Growing up is over-rated," Les replied with a grin.

A few seconds later, the boys returned with Marc. Dillon had co-opted Marc's shoulders, while Hunter had joined them and was dragging his uncle along. "C'mon, Uncle Marc! I wanna meet more of your family!" Hunter exclaimed.

Wes was giggling as he followed along, obviously enjoying the disruption to the Division's plans and the plight of Marc.

"Marcus Furst!" Vicky exclaimed, "I'm decades overdue for a hug from my favorite nephew! Get your little butt over here!"

"Aunt Vicky!" Marc whined, beginning to blush. "We're in public!" At Marc's sudden switch to embarrassed child mode, Jonah and I evilly snickered.

"Well, then you need to start keeping in contact more!" Vicky stated as she pulled Marc into a tight hug, being careful not to dislodge Dillon.

Les chuckled, "That's what I love about the series based on her. They definitely got the mothering instinct right."

"Tell me about it!" Wes giggled. "Mom, Dad; this is Hunter. I'm gonna go play along with him and his dads, okay?"

"Have fun, and stay with the group," Les replied.

"Thanks, Dad!" Wes giggled. "C'mon, Hunter, lets escape before the hug monster catches us!"

Peter Lambert popped in, yelling, "RANDOM HUG!" and embraced Wes. A purple hard hat appeared on Wes' head and then Peter popped away again. Jonah and I glanced at each other, then fell against one another laughing, and became hysterical at Wes' shocked expression.

"What the..." Wes exclaimed.

"I'll explain while we're playing," Hunter giggled as he grabbed Wes' hand.

"Why is it I think I'd be better off by not asking?" Les asked me, as he watched his son being introduced to the golf players.

Still recovering, I giggled, "That little guy was part of the Clan. He likes giving hugs, and purple hard hats."

"He's a Mikyvis," Jonah cackled. "He helped me, Dillon and a bunch of us rescued kids on Saturday."

"Hmm," Les mused, "I'll have to investigate these 'Mikyvis' after vacation; I've never heard of them before."

Marc finally broke free of the hug he was trapped in. "Okay Aunt Vicky, you got in your usual torture. Now spill it; where'd you find the kid and what's his story so I can update my database?"

Vicky laughed, "Stop working so hard, young man, or I'll put you over my knee... again. Wes isn't an AI; he's one hundred percent just-turned-seven boy. And he's our son."

"How?" Marc began to ask.

Vicky interrupted him with a smirk. "You see, when you're all grown up, if you like the opposite sex you share your love with them, and sometimes, when you get intimate, you get blessed with a gift of a child."

Marc was speechless, his blush so bright that it could have lit a football stadium.

Nudging Marc, I playfully reminded, "Not all Vision Industries androids were gay adolescent boys, bro."

"Besides, one of the big selling points was that we are fully functional!" Les added. "Trust me, when she gets going, it beats any amusement park!"

"TOO... MUCH... INFORMATION!" Marc scowled as he tried to use Dillon's legs as ear muffs.

"You know, I really think Marc's blush is much cuter than most of his series," Vickie chuckled. "No offense meant, Reyes, but there's just something about the blush of a kid older than all but one of us! And Marc does it sooooo well!"

"Okay, you two clowns!" Marc stated, trying to regain some of his dignity, "Let me sort this out. You violated the android birth control laws and have given life to a young boy. A boy, which from my observations, is just as bad as his parents about enjoying being able to blindside people with surprises."

"Wow, you must have got a positronics upgrade; that is the fastest you've ever figured something like this out!" Les prodded with a grin.

Marc rolled his eyes. "It's a good thing you guys were a limited run; humanity would have performed a mass exodus just to escape your sense of humor."

Les glanced at his wife, whose eyes were dancing with merriment at the exchange with Marc. He then took a second to check on Wes. Just as he found his son, Joey yelled "FOWWWWE!" and nailed his ball from the seventh tee. The ball took off, hit Wes' hard hat with a 'THUNK', and deflected onto the green. It bounced three times, then rolled into the cup.

"HOWE IN ONE! I godda howe in one, Dahdy!" Joey exclaimed loudly.

Vicky smiled as she saw Jerry come over and give Joey a hug of congratulations, after first making sure Wes was not hurt. "He's such a cute little guy, and so proud of himself for making that shot. How old is he?" Vicky asked.

"You mean Joey? He's almost three weeks old now. He's growing up quick." Marc replied absently, the back of his mind wondering just why Peter knew a hard hat would come in handy.

"Ahh, so you're ignoring the laws now," Les commented with a knowing smile.

"It's not ignoring when you're an embassy," Marc replied. "That's Earth laws, not Federation, and my home is Vulcan land."

Peter popped in again, and stuck a sticker on Wes' hard hat that read 'I Survived Putt Putt Golf with the AI Division' in bright green letters. He then gave both Wes and Joey a hug before vanishing again.

"Hey Marc, you're up. Everyone's seeking shelter, even the new kid!" Danny said as him and Noah joined the group.

"Just because I'm better at playing real golf," Marc muttered. He turned to Noah and asked, "Hey, what made you give these guys Clan access to the park?"

"Let's see," Noah said as he made a show of tilting his head and stroking his nonexistent mustache, "the original Victoria, another AI adult, and an obviously non-AI kid who looks a lot like the two androids. Am I the only one who saw them screaming 'Clan Needed'?"

Danny and Marc looked at each other in shock. "I know Vicky and I didn't recognize them right away; how can you do that?" Marc asked.

"My boyfriend is an AI geek; and I keep up with him the best I can," Noah replied. "Besides, it's obvious if you watch facial reactions as to if someone is an AI."

"How?" Danny asked.

Noah grinned. "Humans don't process their surroundings, and you can see it in the eyes when an AI does it."

I checked with Jonah, "Can you tell that about me too?"

Jonah nodded and giggled, "Only when things happen quick, like Joey's hole-in-one bouncin' around and off Wes' purple hard hat. Real humans don't even try to follow the ball; we just hit the deck when trouble's comin' our way."

"KC's the only exception; he usually tries to catch the ball!" Noah giggled. "You got it pretty close with him, Marc; him, Austin, Joey, and Danny are the only exceptions to that rule."

I told Marc, "You gotta get the program updated for our eye control, bro."

Jonah smiled, "Don't change it, Reyes. It's actually very kewl watchin' your eyes dart around."

"We shouldn't be that noticeable though," I countered. "There are prejudiced people in the world."

Noah smiled. "Don't worry, Reyes. It's not as bad as you think. I've been living with these guys for three weeks, and it's only in the last week that I picked up on it. If you live with an AI it's one of the kewl things that you pick up on, but it's not something that just anyone can see. In fact, each of you guys is a little different in how you do it; I've just been around so many different AI kids lately that I've figured out the pattern."

I sighed, "I was raised here, in the 1950's, when people were very prejudiced. Being aware of that is ingrained into my personality. When I moved to Honolulu, prejudices weren't as bad as they were here. Nobody here or at Ewa Beach treats me differently than any one else. I guess what I'd like to know is if those prejudices have lessened over the years?"

"It's kinda ironic," Marc replied, "once Vision Industries closed down and we were not a commodity any more, we slowly slipped from the forefront of the public's memory. The Cynthetilife series actually did us a favor; since they were less realistic, they didn't trigger the same political responses, which let us slide into the shadows as far as the nutcases go."

I grinned, "That tells me a lot. Prejudiced people are considered nutcases, so it's generally not normal any more, correct?"

Marc smiled, "You can thank the Federation partially for that as well; militant prejudice generally leads to violation of Federation law, which leads to becoming Bubba's bitch. Bubba is actually pretty kewl, he sends thank-you cards to the Clan for the presents we send him, but for some reason, the people who get sent to him don't have the same appreciation that we do of his sense of humor."

"Okay!" I loudly laughed. Even Jonah found it funny.

"Okay, we better let you get over there to try to sink your ball in that hole before everyone starves to death," Les chuckled. "We can catch up more once you boys have finished playing."

Realizing that food came after a bus ride and completing the game of miniature-golf, the AI division members went into overdrive, whacking at balls almost simultaneously. Like a billiards game, some balls ricocheted off other balls and flew into the air, landed in traps, bounced off Wes' helmet and generally caused mass confusion and giggling. Les, Vicky, Dillon, Jonah and I scattered for safety. Since I had time, I led my brothers into a nearby men's room so we could relieve ourselves. Dillon spent more time washing layers of cookie, cotton candy and ice cream off his face than he did leaking. When we stepped back outside, our hosts had managed to complete the game without any injuries despite their best attempts to do otherwise.

"Hey Mom, Dad! We're going home with Uncle Marc!" Wes announced with excitement as he came running over to them with Hunter at his side.

"We are?" Les asked with a raised eyebrow. "Does Marc know this?"

"Uh-huh! Hunter's dad says he's even gonna let us help him set up their new 'puter!" Wes replied, totally ignoring the implied question about the invitation being extended.

We started for the bus. I told Les and Vicky, "It's kewl. Marc's house is pretty large and it's the AI Division headquarters. The basement alone is huge. Joey's got about two dozen cats and kittens down there, and there's still space for AI Division computers and assorted gear."

"How did Joey collect that many cats if he's only been online for three weeks?" Vicky asked.

"It's a genetic attribute," I grinned. "Joey's related to Timmy Short, the six-year-old keeper of animals at Clan Headquarters. From what I've heard, and this is only hearsay, Timmy has all sorts of animals in his bedroom, including an alligator and a baby seal, acquired only yesterday. Those who are unwise enough to enter Timmy's room without knowing about his zoo, usually wind up addicted to Valium and still need some therapy. So a few dozen cats and kittens is really tame, in comparison."

Approaching our bus, Les shrugged and told Vicky, "It sounds all right, hon."

Vicky checked, "These felines are regular house cats, right?"

"Right," I nodded.

Jonah giggled, "We got G-Cats in Ewa Beach though; some are cheetahs, some are lions and some are tigers. They're all part human though and really kewl."

At Vicky's worried expression, I helpless sniggered, "I don't think that helped much, bro." They followed us to the bus anyway.

Dillon smiled, "The G-Cats ain't as scary as the gorillas."

Attempting to alleviate Vicky's fears, I explained, "They're security for Pacific Rim Division. I haven't seen any gorillas at Marc's house." I was tempted to add 'yet', but edited myself.

"Hey Les, you guys got a car here?" Danny asked as he caught up with us.

"Actually, the car is at the airport in Kalamazoo. We've been using public transit while we've been here celebrating Wes' birthday," Les answered.

"You wouldn't happen to know the license number, would you?" Danny asked with a mischievous grin.

Les laughed, "Of course I do; it's 'ROBOTOY', I had a custom plate made."

Danny grinned as he tapped his chest. "Hey Daileass, by any chance can you find a vehicle with the plate that says 'ROBOTOY' in the Kalamazoo, Michigan airport parking?"

"I'm a step ahead of you, Evil One," Daileass replied. "There is a customized, candy-apple red, four-seat converted 1964 split-window Corvette en-route right now. I'm detouring it through the Rimmers; it's a sweet looking car, so Mike's ferret kids are gonna shine it up before I deliver it. It'll be there when you get home."

Danny was about to finish his fun when Daileass added, "Oh, by the way, the lot security guard was standing right next to it when I took it. Once he cleans out his pants, they should be getting a call from him."

"Awesome! Are you sure we're not related?" Danny asked as he tried very hard not to collapse in laughter. He turned back to Les, who had only heard one side of the conversation, and said "Your 'Vette is at our detail shop in Hawaii at the moment, and should be at Headquarters by the time we get there. When you get the call about it vanishing, just smile and say 'thank you'."

Dillon, Jonah and I roared hysterically. There was only one possible 'detail shop' in Ewa Beach and we just happened to be related to the Scooby Gang.

Danny grinned at the confused expressions on the adults' faces. "Welcome to Clan Short!" he giggled cryptically.

Sticking his head out the bus door, Jerry asked, "Are you guys gonna stand out there, or are you coming with us?"

Still giggling, I followed my hysterical brothers on board the bus. Danny, Les and Vicky followed us aboard. Wes was already on the bus sitting with Joey and Hunter.

Once he was sure that everyone was seated, Jerry took the driver's seat. "Thank you for choosing the AI Division Transportation Network!" He announced with a giggle. "Since we have some new passengers, I will go over the instructions once again. While the bus is in motion, we ask that you remain seated with your restraints fastened. At the rear of the bus, the restroom is on the right and the weapons locker is on the left; please do not confuse the two, Scott hates cleaning pee off of his guns. In the event of a hostile situation, please follow the instructions of Scott. Due to the shortness of the return trip, there will be no in-flight movie. Once again, thank you; I hope you enjoy your ride."

Across the aisle from me, Vicky gasped, "A boy is driving this bus?"

Nodding, I grinned, "More like steering, the VI George takes care of a lot. The division has the added bonus of their own guardian angel, so we couldn't be safer."

Behind me, Jonah hollered, "Hey Davie, are you joining us inside or playing dodge the stupid seagulls again?"

Davie appeared, floating down the middle of the aisle. "I'll ride inside, Jonah. Wanna play a couple of hands of Uno? Hey, Booger Breath, you gonna take off sometime today?"

"Find a seat, Angel Boy!" Jerry shot back. "Just because you're considered an angel, for some crazy reason, don't mean you can ignore the rules!"

Davie blew a raspberry at Jerry, then took a seat across the aisle from Jonah.

Jerry giggled, then activated the bus's controls. "Hey George, we're going home!"

"Computing traffic patterns to return to Headquarters," the bus replied, almost immediately followed by "Route confirmed, awaiting activation."

"Light 'em up, George, we're rolling," Jerry replied. Immediately, the lights began flashing once again on the front and rear of the bus, and Jerry carefully pulled onto Highway 17 southbound. Just as soon as we cleared the Myrtle Beach population center, the bus seemed to lower itself to the ground as Jerry began working his way up through the gears.

Reassuringly, I smiled at Les and Vicky, "Easy as pie."

Dillon wondered, "Who's makin' pie and what kind?"

I smirked, "Haven't you eaten enough already today? Aunt Mary's got dinner waiting on us too."

Dillon giggled, "I just feel really hungry today."

Jonah commented, "Maybe you're getting better, bro? Yesterday, a lot of kids were piggin' out at home. The pizzas at lunch were a big hit."

Nervously, Les wondered, "How fast are we going?"

Around us, about a dozen voices chanted, "Don't ask."

I nodded, "My best guess, on the way here in heavier traffic, we averaged about one hundred-forty miles-per-hour. Since it's late and traffic is lighter, I'll bet we'll be back in thirty minutes."

"Twenty-seven minutes and forty two seconds," Jerry yelled back. "Rough guess, give or take a few seconds for wind."

"You'we siwwy, Dahdy!" Joey giggled as he began passing out emergency cookies from the box under his seat.

Taking a cookie, Dillon cheered, "Thanks, Joey."

Rolling my eyes, I warned, "You're gonna explode, Dillon." My littlest brother nodded and giggled around his cookie-stuffed mouth.

Vicky whimpered, "Where are we going?"

"Sullivan's Island, near Charleston," I answered.

Les groaned, "Myrtle Beach to Charleston is ninety-nine miles."

I nodded, "We'll exceed two hundred miles-per-hour, if Jerry and George have their figures right."

Still playing with Davie and not the least bit rattled, Jonah giggled, "Does Valium work on androids? Maybe we should call Aunt Janet?"

Again, Davie waved his arm, and then started whistling Magic Carpet Ride. Les and Vicky snuggled together like newlyweds and didn't say another word about the speed of the bus.

Danny and KC were sitting in front of Les and Vicky, and I heard KC asking something that grabbed my attention. “Uncle Danny? What does it feel like to die?” he asked in an obviously worried voice.

Danny looked over at KC, and going by his expression what he saw on KC's face made him decide to be completely serious. “Is what you saw still bothering you that much?”

I saw KC nod his head. “Yeah.”

Danny reached into a compartment next to him and pulled out a uplink cable. “I think we need to take this into private, kiddo. Do you mind doing a shared link so that I can talk openly?”

KC reached for one end of the cable and plugged it into his access port without a word, his answer obvious as he waited for Danny to do the same.

Danny turned his head before plugging in himself. “Marc, me and KC need to slip off for a private conference; could you make sure we get inside if we're not done by the time we get home?”

“Got ya', bro.” Marc replied. “Good luck.”

Paul and Ryan were sitting in the back of the bus, doing their best to be inconspicuous. I wanted to talk to them, so I decided to go to the restroom then I could remain back there with them to chat. Unbuckling my safety belt, I got up and went to the back of the bus. Ryan was whispering excitedly in Paul's ear. I overheard a little before going into the restroom.

"This was the best day ever, bro. I think I like these guys. I think we may have found a home."

"Me too, bro. They seem to be really nice. Maybe we can make a home here."

While I was peeing, I thought a little about the two brothers. I had the impression that Paul's inner thoughts did not match what he said exactly. He really liked these guys, but they had suggested resetting certain portions of Ryan's positronic brain and purging the programming that made Ryan believe he was a flesh and blood boy. There was no way in hell Paul would let that happen. Paul had to believe that it would dramatically change who his brother is, and he couldn't let that happen. This was his brother Ryan and he was who he was, even if he thought he was a human boy. Washing my hands, I got worried thinking that they might want to run for it again.

I had to do or say something, but wasn't sure how to approach it. Drying my hands, I noticed the sharp cardboard edge of the paper towel dispenser, and grinned. They think flesh and blood makes them human. Well I'm flesh and blood too; a humanoid boy with a positronic brain. Purposefully, I gritted my teeth and slid my hand along the cardboard edge, right along the fleshy bit at the base of my thumb near the wrist, giving myself a good inch-long paper cut. I held a fresh paper towel to the bleeding wound and stepped out of the restroom.

Sitting down beside the two brothers, I blushed and smirked, "Be careful of the paper towel dispenser, dudes," and then showed them the paper cut. Of course, they also saw a fair amount of blood on the paper towel too. "Paper cuts bleed like crazy," I grinned.

To my surprise I noticed that Ryan reacted almost immediately and made a scrunched-up face while making a fist with his hand, while Paul, on the other hand, did just what Noah had talked about earlier. I watched as he scanned my hand before reacting. It was subtle, but there. It did a lot to ease my mind that you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it.

"That looks painful," Ryan said in a sympathetic voice. "Do you need a doctor; maybe stitches? Oh wow. What if it got infected and fell off? We better get you to a doctor immediately."

I noticed that Paul was watching me intently. I felt certain that he was sizing me up. I laughed. What was I going to say that would not drive Paul away? I grinned, "It stings like all paper cuts, but it won't need stitches; at worst, it'll need a band-aid. I'll hold this paper towel against it for a little while and it'll probably stop making a mess." Deciding to change the subject, I smiled, "You dudes raced really well at the go-cart track. KC and Danny were in the lead, Marc was behind them and I was pretty close to Marc. You two and Jerry were right behind me."

"Yeah, the go-carts were way cool. I don't think I ever went that fast," Ryan bubbled enthusiastically.

It made me smile to see him happy, and I could see that it was making Paul smile too.

"Wasn't that cool, Bro?" Ryan exclaimed, as he turned a million megawatt grin on his brother.

"Yeah, Bro. It was way cool, but why don't you turn it down a notch, okay? You're gonna break the seat bouncing on it like that."

Ryan folded his arms across his chest and put on an obviously mock-frown as he made a point of turning his head away from Paul. "Killjoy!" Then he suddenly turned and gave Paul the one-finger salute and made a funny face with his eyes all crossed and tongue sticking out.

Paul just shook his head.

"Oh! My name's Ryan and the grump over there is my little bro, Paul." I couldn't help noticing the emphasis he put on little.

I introduced myself to them and offered my unwounded left hand to knock-knuckles with them, then started telling them a very abridged version of my history, carefully avoiding any mention of being an android. I did choose to tell them that Jonah and Dillon were my new brothers, that we had two great dads, and lived in Ewa Beach, R.O.H., on Oahu. I hoped that my openness would rub off on them and they would open up to me too.

Paul looked me dead in the eyes and replied, "We didn't have it easy either. We had to live rough... you know, on the streets."

"Jeez, bro. You don't have to be such a heavy," Ryan said as he punched his brother in the arm. "I mean it sucked and all, but we got through it, right?"

I warmly smiled, "You two had each other. Unfortunately, I didn't have a brother at the time." I softly asked, "Do you dudes know why I'm here today?"

Paul looked me blankly in the eyes before he spoke. "I don't think I understand what you mean?"

I shrugged, "I don't live here. My brothers and I are only here for the day. My dad asked me to come here for a check-up and my bros decided to come with."

"Oh. I hope your results came back okay. They did, didn't they?" Ryan sounded genuinely worried.

"A check-up! What kind of check-up would you need to come to the AI division headquarters for?" Paul suddenly blurted out in a voice that had somehow become dangerous sounding.

Ryan turned and looked at his brother with a disbelieving look on his face. "Bro. Jeez! What's your problem?"

Quickly realizing that there was no backing down, regardless of Paul's intense glare, I locked eyes with Paul and sighed, "At the orphanage in Hawaii, the adults there were really bad. They used us kids for sex, prostitution, photography, like that. I'm an android, like Danny, Joey, KC and Marc. The orphanage adults used an incompatible device on me that periodically erased my memories. It caused a small problem, where I couldn't access any long term memories. Last night, another android named Austin fixed almost everything in only twenty minutes. Even though I'm healthy, my dad wanted to be sure everything was okay, so he sent me here, with Caleb and Noah. I don't really know these dudes and they don't know me, still the guys here helped me. That's what Clan Short is about; kids helping other kids. The Clan doesn't care that I'm an android, or that I'm gay; they treat me like a brother, like every other real human kid."

Paul's eyes now betrayed a deep distrust. He looked like he would fly from the bus if he could.

"Oh wow. They messed you up pretty bad, huh?" Ryan said with such a sad look on his face that it twisted me up inside.

"Why are you talking to us? Who put you up to this? It's not going to work. You understand me? It's not going to work!" Paul's voice cut in like a knife. It was cold and distant.

"Paul, you stop it right now! He hasn't done anything. He's just talking to us. Why are you always like this?" Ryan had tears rolling down his cheeks.

"Nobody put me up to this, Paul," I quickly and firmly assured. "We just spent hours together, and I never got to talk with either of you. The reason we went to Myrtle Beach in the first place is because I asked to see my old stomping grounds. I had no purpose other than us getting to know each other. If that's too much, if you're prejudiced and can't deal with androids, I'll just go back to a seat away from you."

Paul did something then I had never expected. He curled up into a ball and began to sob.

Ryan suddenly threw his arms around his brother and held him tightly and tried to calm him down.

I was suddenly horrified. I had just wanted to help. I felt like crying myself and started to bolt for the other end of the bus. But I couldn't go. I felt a hand stopping me and Paul's voice trying come through his sobs. "Sorry... I... don'..."

Turning and squatting down, I softly asked, "What is it?" Paul only shook his head. Ryan glanced at me with uncertainty clearly written on his face. So only Paul and Ryan could hear, I whispered, "Four days ago, I was a fuck-toy for perverted men. Since then, I learned to trust the Clan. If it wasn't for them, I still wouldn't know who I am or where I came from. If you can trust me, I'll help you trust them? It's up to you."

I watched Ryan look from Paul to me and back again in confusion out of the corner of my eyes.

Paul regained his composure enough to push forward.

"I don't trust anyone when it comes to keeping Ryan safe, but I will give you a chance to prove you guys aren't going to harm us." He said this loud enough for Ryan to hear unfortunately.

"What do you mean? I trust these guys. The Clan is great, bro," Ryan gushed without taking a breath.

Hunter had slipped by to the restroom when I was preoccupied, and somehow overheard us as he was coming out. He slid into the seat next to me and said simply, "You know I was dead, don't you?"

My head popped up and I stared at the younger boy, knowing he was human and not an android.

Paul was the first one to say something; the sarcasm dripping liberally from his mouth as he spoke. "So you are saying that you were raised from the dead?"

All Ryan was able to get out was a rather weak, "Oh?"

Hunter looked at the three of us for a second, then continued. "Dead dead, as in I met Saint Peter and went through the Gates. My father shot me because I wouldn't get out of the way when he tried to kill a kid in Montana. My body was even in the freezer at the morgue, in the hospital here in Charleston. Would you like to know why I'm here?"

Briefly glancing back at Caleb and seeing him mutely nod, I told Hunter, "Yeah, I'd like to know."

Paul looked at the boy with what could only be classified as hostile intent and spoke before Hunter could say anything. "Okay. I know we've seen angels and all that, but this is a bit much. What are you trying to pull here, boy? 'Cause whatever it is, I ain't buying."

Hunter's eyes flashed for a second. "If you don't believe me, Davie is sitting up front and he can show you exactly what I went through. You ain't never laid there with part of your brain replaced with shotgun shot, have you? Take a look at my head, I've got the scars; Saint Mikey was going to remove any signs of it, but I wanted a reminder of how not thinking for yourself can hurt someone."

"Fine, so you were dead. I believe you." Paul's voice sounded defeated to me. Then he continued in a mumble I almost couldn't make out. "But that doesn't mean I'm buying what you're selling."

Ryan suddenly turned to Paul. It was the first time I could see anger in his face. "Just stop it, Paul. Stop it!"

I softly wondered, "Why do you think any of us is trying to sell something to you? I mean, really, for what purpose would anyone try to deceive you?" Locking eyes with Paul, I gently assured, "All I want, and all anyone here wants, is to help you and Ryan, Paul. Some of us at the orphanages didn't trust Clan Short when they rescued us, but by the next night, they had proved it to us. Only one girl that was raped and had a forced abortion still had trust issues, but by Sunday night, even she was much better. You two are like I was, in a shitty situation where nothing was what it seemed to be. That's over now, but only if you can trust someone other than each other." Shedding tears, I sobbed, "I feel you. You want to run away as soon as this bus stops. If you do that, Jerry will be wrecked and I'll be just as bad, sitting in Ewa Beach, wondering if I said or did something wrong, if I'll ever see either of you again."

Ryan looked at me like I had grown another head. "What do you mean run away? I am not leaving. This is the first time in a long while we've had real beds and a place to stay that doesn't have stupid rules and crazy people trying to hurt us!"

I watched Paul look at his brother with what I could only call a combination of love and annoyance. He seemed to measure what he was about to say and stopped twice before he started as the rest of us looked at him and waited.

"I don't plan on running anywhere," Paul shared. "I don't know what things were like for you guys, but I learned one thing from being on the streets. Everyone wants something from you. Whether it's to join their stupid church, get you hooked on their drugs, be their damn slave, or just to make them feel important. Everyone wants something from you. But the one thing that everyone we got close to wanted was that they wanted Ryan to change who he is. There is nothing wrong with him. He is who he is and doesn't need fixing."

Hunter nodded. "According to the logs of the biobed, I was alive for over an hour after arriving at the hospital before I died. Two people took a chance on me; Caleb, who is now my new Dad, and has been with the Clan before it became a Clan, in fact before any of them had ever met an android, and KC, who was still adjusting to a brand new body, after being found at the bottom of Malibu Bay. That is over an hour, my Dad monitoring the biobed because he knows nothing about being a Doctor on humans, and Uncle KC, who did the best he could because he couldn't live with wondering if he might have saved me. They failed, and it broke both of their hearts; I know, because I saw them crying before I went to Up There."

"That's pretty intense, Hunter," Paul carefully said. "I mean seeing yourself dead. I can't imagine what that would be like. Guys, I know that you all aren't trying to hurt us, but I am not sure that everyone has our best interests at heart, even though that may be how they see it. All I heard when we got here was how they could help Ryan, but he doesn't need the type of help they want to give him. He is who he is and that is fine."

I watched as Ryan's face got a confused look on it. "What did they want to change, Bro?"

"It's not important, Ryan. Don't worry about it. You're my bro and that is all that matters," Paul said in a soft voice to his brother.

I could see that Paul was trying to keep things under control. My guess was that we had gotten too close to the subject of his brother thinking that he was not an android but human.

"Like in our Clan," I smiled. "Trust comes a little bit at a time. All I can suggest is giving us all the benefit of the doubt. I came here not knowing anyone and trusted them to do their best for me. After tonight, spending time away from headquarters and getting to know everybody, how they are in the real world, I mean, maybe you and Ryan can go in baby steps and allow simple checkups? All that matters to me is that I'll get to see you two again. I want to be able to come back here and have friends. Maybe you'd like to spend some time in Ewa Beach too, just to get away for a day?"

Hunter decided to add in his own two cents. "If Uncle Cory ever catches someone trying to change a person from being who they are, or someone doing something to someone without their permission, he'll sic Uncle JJ on them. You don't wanna mess with Uncle JJ; he likes taking out police stations just because they ain't doing what they're supposed to be doing!"

"Okay?" Was the questioning response we got from Paul and Ryan.

Then Paul spoke up. "Who is this Uncle JJ? I think I've heard his name," Paul exclaimed, "Wait, did you say took out a police station?"

Having just met JJ the previous day, I sniggered, "I heard about JJ's temper tantrums. I wish I had video of that!" Surprisingly, a video monitor lowered from the ceiling, On the video, I recognized JJ and Adam. The bottom of the screen read, Kokomo, IN, USA. I loudly laughed, "Who heard my wish?"

Almost at once, Marc, Caleb and Noah chorused, "George did it!"

On the video display, we watched and heard a slightly overweight Sergeant yell, "ON THE GROUND NOW PUNKS!"

JJ stared at the man in shock. "Is this how you greet all Federation Security Personnel?"

"You ain't no Goddamn Federation Security PUNK. Now both of you get your asses face down and spread eagled. You have ten seconds to start moving." The Sergeant accentuated his point by cocking the riot gun he was pointing at the boys.

"Sergeant; I am Lieutenant James Richardson and my partner is Second Lieutenant Adam Short; we are both prepared to show identification to prove our identities. You fire that weapon and you'll wake up in a Federation holding cell; that is a promise."

"You are full of shit, punk; the Federation don't give kids weapons. Drop or you might be lucky and wake in a hospital. Three seconds."

"Unconscious only Mr. Short." JJ ordered. Adam barely had time to nod his head when the sound of a shotgun going off filled the room. As the buckshot ricocheted off of the boys and embedded itself in surrounding walls and furnishings, a white beam shot from each of the boy's arms and knocked the Sergeant unconscious.

"Who wants to join him?" Adam got out just before an officer to his right started to empty his clip in the boy's direction. As the bullets bounced off of the vicinity of Adam's chest, Adam let loose a yellowish bolt from his arm and the officer dropped to the ground. "Stop that!" Adam pointed towards an officer that was hit by one of the stray bullets. "Get that man a medic; and for Heaven's sake stop firing at us before someone gets killed!"

Three officers nodded at each other and opened fire at the same time, trying to overpower whatever JJ and Adam were protecting themselves with. "Screw this shit!" JJ exclaimed. He dropped to his knees and slammed his fist on the ground. A silver-white bubble of energy quickly expanded from him and knocked every officer that was holding a gun on the boys into the nearest wall, leaving all of them unconscious on the floor. Adam pulled his communicator. "Terra Main Security; Priority One transmission from Clan Short Security, Second Lieutenant Adam Short."

"Proceed with Priority One traffic Clan Short."

"I need a security detail at this location ASAP. The local police department attempted to use deadly force on our personnel upon our entry to the premises. Request Central US Security assume jurisdiction. We need medical teams standing by upon arrival at detention facility for one gunshot wound and multiple electrical stun injuries."

"Acknowledged. We have accessed their building monitoring system. Your support is on their way; my supervisor has reviewed the situation and requests that I inform you that Federation Security will prosecute them if you so wish."

Adam looked over at JJ, who was administering first aid to the downed officer. JJ nodded his assent, so Adam replied "My superior officer accepts the offer. Thank you." Starfleet medics and security beamed into view on the screen.

A minute later, the offending officers were gone and the Federation Security personnel began taking over operations. Adam accessed their computer and quickly found out where Brandon was in the building. JJ turned to a nearby Ensign and asked "Would you mind joining us? We are here to pick up a child; originally we were to accept custody under the SHA, but after the 'welcome' we got I'm not going to mess around. This will be a Clan Short extraction."

"I would be glad to, Sir," the Ensign replied. His superior came up behind them and asked "How did you cause so much damage, Lt. Richardson? And how did you escape injury?"

JJ smiled, "All I can say is it is experimental technology which Clan Short has been chosen to test."

Hunter cheered at the appropriate moments as we watched the video, booing officers who made the mistake of trying to cross his uncles. When JJ decided enough was enough, Hunter shoved his fist in the air in triumph. "Yeah, Uncle JJ!" he shouted.

"Holy shit! That was fuckin' BAD ASS!" Ryan hollered. I watched him excitedly bounce in his seat.

Paul on the other hand had developed what I could only assume was a scared expression. "Excuse me a moment," he softly muttered, "I need to stretch my legs."

He did not wait for anyone to answer and made his way toward the front of the bus. I decided to see if he was going to be all right. I thought I might understand why he was having the reaction he did. He might just be thinking that he had just been given a lesson in what happens when you do not do what the Clan wants. In some respects that was true, but only in response to a dangerous situation where they are met with force.

"Paul?" I gently called and reached for his shoulder.

He swiftly spun around and raised his fists, as if preparing for an attack. Lowering his arms and fists, Paul huffed, "Sorry."

I asked, "What is it that you think you just saw?"

I could see the tears starting to stream down his face. Then barely above a whisper, he answered me. "That's what happens when you go against what the Clan wants."

"No, that is what happens to people who hurt the kids the Clan is protecting," Hunter stated factually.

I nodded, "There are bad people that want to hurt the Clan. Around base last night, and again this morning, there was talk of a problem when some of our Clan went to rescue some kids. One of my orphanage brothers is now a Clan leader. His name is Kaleo. At the rescue, a kid planted by the Fundamentalist Church of Christ tried to infiltrate our base. Kaleo had a hissy fit and cussed him out, then hit him. The dude tried to go after Kaleo. That's when both Starfleet security guys stunned his ass. You and Ryan couldn't be safer, Paul."

The almost defeated look in Paul's eyes concerned me, but I knew that only time would build the trust that Paul needed.

"Okay. If you say so. Well, I mean no one has really tried to hurt us. I mean... I guess," Paul said, his voice becoming barely audible by the end.

"Bro. It's okay. They aren't like the other people. I really don't think they are," Ryan said as he made to hug his brother. Turning his head to everyone else he added, "Guys, don't take it personal. He don't trust no one, even me. He's been wrong 'bout people before and I got hurt real bad." Turning to his brother he held up a pinky and Paul slowly hooked his around it. Ryan smiled and said, "Bro, you know this is different. Give 'em a chance."

Paul smiled weakly at his brother, then turned to me. "Well, I think I can trust you, Reyes. You aren't a bullshitter, of that I'm sure. And the Clan, well... I mean look at what they did for Hunter and for you. I mean, anyone who would go to that much trouble for someone they don't know has to have a good point or two. So I guess the Clan can't be all bad." The words sounded sincere to me, but the look on his face still made me worry.

I sighed, "When you spend six years in an orphanage, getting raped and abused so you can eat a meager meal, what's wrong with having a warm bed, plenty of food whenever you want it, and nothing asked of you except caring for a family that cares about you? Life couldn't be better, if you want my honest opinion."

Hunter nodded as he chimed in. "You know who they were rescuing? They were there to get Austin's human 'little brother'; the only survivor of the family that Austin lived with before he was kidnapped. They did all of that just because Austin knew him and wanted to make sure he was alive and okay. Dad told me all about it. The Clan don't care what you are, they just want you to be happy and doing stuff that you like doing. Dad's teaching me computer stuff because I like it, and now me and Wes are gonna get to help with putting in a new computer in the AI Compound!"

I shared, "My dad is teaching me to play drums."

Jonah gushed, "And our pop is teaching me to play guitar."

Joey piped up from his seat. "Uncah Pauly, Dahdy is deachin' me howda build mowe Andwoids!"

I watched as Paul smiled at Hunter's enthusiasm, and as his grin grew and became more relaxed and open with each kid that spoke. I noticed that Joey pushed him over the top. After starting and stopping a couple of times, he finally spoke. "You have a special dad, Joey. He has spent a lot of time talking to me and trying to get me to realize that things are going to be all right, but that is kinda hard for me to believe after all this time. You know it's so cool that you guys have found someone to be a family with, but it's been just me and Ryan against the world for a long time. Look, I know I'm a pain in the ass, but I don't know how to be anything else. It really is the only thing that kept us alive." I watched as he shook his head. Then he got a conspiratorial look on his face and he leaned toward Hunter. "You know that was BAD ASS, what your uncle JJ did. I mean that was so cool."

At last there was a visible crack in Paul's defenses. Jerry hollered, "Okay, you guys, if you'll all park your butts in seats again, I can slow this bus and park it so George can chill for the night!"

"But Uncle Jerry, my butt don't got a shifter!" Hunter giggled as he plopped himself in Marc's lap.

Giggling, Paul, Ryan and I returned to the back row of seats and buckled our seat belts. In another minute or two, we were off highway 17. Not too long later, we had slowed considerably and were pulling into AI Division Headquarters driveway. When the bus had stopped, I released my safety belt and stood. Paul and Ryan followed me down the aisle, but we had to stop and wait for Marc.

"Daileass, could you please transport these two to Danny's bedroom?" Marc asked with a wicked grin as he stopped next to the two connected androids. "Maybe even some soft music playing for when they wake up?" he added mischievously.

"No problem, bro," Daileass giggled, "How about 'The Girl from Ipanema' on the pan flute?"

"That works!" Marc replied. "See if he makes butt comments in public again," he added under his breath with a giggle.

Danny and KC disappeared from the bus. Marc, Paul, Ryan and I cracked up and exited the bus. Parked beside the bus was the '64 Corvette that belonged to Les. It was candy-apple red, and even in the limited light of the driveway, the car sparkled. Les was impressed and raving, "My baby hasn't looked this good in forty years, since I drove it off the lot."

I pointed and prodded, "There's something on the driver's seat, Les."

Unlocking the doors, Les leaned over and reached in. In his hand was a shiny foil wrapped mint and a note that read; This vehicle prepared by Scooby Gang Detailing. I sputtered, then turned away and roared laughing. Many yards away and approaching the house, Jonah and Dillon were occupied with Wes, Hunter and Joey. I couldn't wait to tell Derrick and Mike about Scooby Gang Detailing.

As we walked toward the house, I told Les, Vicky, Paul and Ryan about my ferret brothers and sisters, including some more stuff about my dad and pop. We were about halfway to the house when Willy came running out and pounced Joey.

"Wiwwy!" Joey hysterically cackled, "Whewe was you hiding? We wend fow a wide do Mywdwe Beach and you missed id!"

Amazingly, Scott and Marc were already in position behind Vicky. The sight of a panther pouncing an eight-year-old android was too much for her, and she proved that androids could faint just like a human.

Les gasped and lurched to catch his wife, but she was already safe, draped unconscious in Scott's and Marc's arms. Les sighed, "Maybe mentioning the panther would've been a good idea?"

I shrugged and grinned, "Maybe, but look at how telling you the bus's speed worked out." Davie floated past us, innocently whistling the REO Speedwagon hit, Time For Me to Fly.

Jerry laughed at his brother's antics. "You knew this was gonna happen, didn't ya bro?"

"Maybe," Davie giggled. He made a point of paying attention to Dillon, who was on the ground in the process of being 'welcomed' by Willy, complete with a thorough face cleaning to remove any traces of leftover food.

Les and I took hold of Vicky's legs to help Scott and Marc carry her into the house. We placed her down on a sofa and propped her legs up with some pillows.

Mary came walking into the room, carrying smelling salts. "How far did she make it?" she asked me with a knowing smile as she administered the smelling salts.

"Almost halfway," I giggled. "It was Willy's fault." The words had only left my lips when a conniving panther leaped and we both tumbled to the floor.

"That's a new record... you're slipping," Mary chortled as she reached down and scratched Willy's ears. She then turned to Les. "Welcome to the asylum; unfortunately the inmates have taken over, so there is no escape. We had a psychiatrist, but the boys drove him insane within the first thirty-six hours. I'm Mary. Jerry, Davie, Paul, and Ryan are mine. My husband Jon is on his way over now. Would you like a coffee?"

Sitting down near his recovering wife, Les smiled, "Yes, with only a splash of milk, please."

From the kitchen, Caleb squealed, "Eww! Gross!"

"Most NORMAL people like sugar with their coffee, not the other way around!" Marc yelled back. "You're just gross!"

Glancing around for my brothers, but not seeing them, I soon heard Dillon, Jonah, Joey and Hunter hollering "DINNER!" I followed the sound to find my brothers already sitting at a huge table with Rich and John. Obviously finished with Danny and awake, KC hurried past me and found a seat. I took a chair near my brothers. Entering the room behind me were Caleb, Noah, Jerry, Willy, Danny, Marc, Paul, Ryan, Scott, Mary and her husband Jon. The table was loaded with bowls and platters of food, ready to be served, including boiled jumbo shrimp, country-fried steak with mashed potatoes, glazed baked ham with pineapple and cherries, country gravy and fried okra, string beans, fresh baked bread, butter, and various salads. Off to the side were pumpkin and apple pies for dessert.

Mary went into the kitchen and came back out carrying a platter of raw steaks, which she placed in front of Willy. "Keep your paws off the table, and no eating until everyone else gets served," she reminded the panther.

Willy looked up at her, nodding his head before turning it back and looking longingly at the steaks in front of him.

Everyone briefly bowed their heads. When the last head popped up, hands flew everywhere, bowls and platters were passed around and the chatter level quadrupled. Thanking Aunt Mary for the wonderful Southern meal she had prepared, I was helping serve Dillon when I suddenly felt something rub past my leg.

Charles wondered, "Has that food been sampled?"

"We need to make sure our pets are properly fed," Patch added.

"Laps only, kittens, or no tuna for the night time snack," Mary announced, which led to the sighting of kitten heads poking up in various places all around the table, including one on Danny's lap.

Patch appeared on Jonah's lap. A moment later, I felt Charles making himself a comfy spot on my lap. Missy found herself a spot on Dillon's lap and peeked over the table edge. One glare from Aunt Mary and Missy lowered her head below the table though.

I loaded my plate with country-fried steak, mashed potatoes, string beans and drowned it all in country gravy. Dinner conversation began with telling Aunt Mary and Uncle Jon about our trip to Myrtle Beach. For me, the best part was that the beach side of Ocean Boulevard had not been over-developed with hotels. The efficient mass transit system was a great addition, making all of the city accessible in about thirty minutes. The boardwalk hadn't changed much since I last saw it; some of the concessions had moved around and the cabanas with live music were added, but it still felt very familiar and homey to me.

"I thought they had horse and buggies back then, bro," KC teased.

I grinned, "Nope, petroleum fueled engines." Soft chortling traveled around the table. I smiled, "They already had cars when Danny was first activated."

Shaking his head, Marc giggled, "They hadn't developed the wheel yet."

Danny grinned and warned, "Careful."

Marc giggled, then started humming the melody of Girl from Ipanema and I joined him. A moment later Aunt Mary and Uncle Jon joined us. Danny and KC groaned.

To change the subject, Danny asked me what my favorite songs were. In reverse chronological order, I remembered; "From the early 1980's, Hall & Oates: Kiss On My List and I Can't Go for That. There were so many great tunes from the seventies, but Kansas' Carry On Wayward Son and Boston's More Than a Feeling stand out. From the sixties, Jay and The Americans: Come a Little Bit Closer and This Magic Moment were big hits, and of course everything by The Beatles. Before that, my first dad influenced a lot of what I listened to, like Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Harry James.

KC grinned at me and teased, "You're showing your age, Reyes."

I reminded, "While you were floating with fishies in Malibu Bay, I was working my ass off and periodically getting my memory zapped. You're only five years younger than me."

"But in a brand new body," KC giggled.

"On the beach, after supper, KC," I challenged. With their mouths stuffed, Dillon and Jonah looked up at me like I had lost my mind.

KC laughed, "For what; ya gonna beat me up, old man?"

"You won on the go-cart track. Let's see how good your legs work," I grinned. "A mile out and a mile back again. Remember, I'm eleven pounds lighter than normal and have been running in the sand for thirty-five of my fifty-six years. We'll see if you can do more than run off at the mouth or not." Around the table, mooing and giggling broke loose. I was more than certain I could run at least as fast as KC and had a very good chance of beating him.

Marc grinned, "Is this a closed race or open to anyone?"

I shrugged, "It doesn't matter," and then giggled, "It's open to anyone that wants to lose, I guess." Mooing erupted around the table and Dillon cracked up.

Jonah laughed, "You're so bad, bro. Don't tell anyone you've been running around in the sand with me on your back."

Jerry sniggered, "Let's do an androids only race then. I gotta admit, I'd like to see the results of that."

Joey wondered, "Can I wun dhe wace doo, Dahdy?"

"Sure, kiddo," Jerry smiled.

Right after dinner and the table had been cleared, everyone went outside to the beach. Danny, Marc, KC, Joey and I lined up. Jerry called for a starter pistol, then announced, "Okay, let's have a nice clean race, guys. That means no tripping or shoving...."

"Yeah, Cwash!" Joey giggled.

"I'll be too far ahead of you for you to worry about that, Twerp!" KC replied with a grin.

Stretching and getting ready to run, I realized the jeans I was still wearing were far too constricting, so I stripped off all my clothes. Danny whimpered, "So, I guess Reyes is like the pace car."

"When in Rome...." KC giggled as he also stripped.

"Awesome! We's wacin' nekkid!" Joey exclaimed as he ripped his clothes off.

Danny and Marc shrugged, then also stripped. Off by the dune, all the spectators began giggling. Loudest among them were my brothers and Paul and Ryan.

Jerry pointed and smiled, "Way down by 23rd Street is a pier that's about a mile away, give or take a few feet. Swing around the first pontoon and the first one back here wins." He paused and asked, "Does everyone understand the rules?" Everyone seemed to focus on KC and I cracked up.

"Don't look at me!" KC whined. "I'm not the one who got picked as a Division head for making his own rules whenever he wants!"

Raising his arm with the starter pistol, Jerry giggled, "Okay, you clowns, on your marks..." Unexpectedly, Danny and KC jumped Marc and knocked him over in the sand. The spectators along the dune cracked up.

Joey rolled his eyes as he giggled. "Dhey's siwwy, ain'd dhey, big bwo?"

I nodded, "Actually, I think you're my only competition, Joey."

"WEAWWY?" Joey asked in awe.

Pointing at the three giggling goons trying to stand up, I smiled, "We can beat these guys easily."

"Yeah, dhey's old and swow," Joey giggled wickedly.

Jerry waited for Danny, KC and Marc to stand before quickly saying, "get set," and then fired the pistol.

As I expected, Joey and I were in the lead at the start of the race. I warned my young brother, "Pace yourself, Joey. Two miles is rough. Two miles in the sand at top speed will wear you out fast." I noticed that Jonah, Dillon, Hunter, Paul and Ryan were jogging along the dune, probably to make certain we all played by the rules.

Soon, I was passing the lighthouse, with Joey only a yard or two behind me. I could hear Danny, Marc and KC giggling and passing silly remarks about catching my bouncing butt.

It seemed obvious by the time Joey and I passed the Edgar Alan Poe Library that Danny, Marc and KC weren't really trying too much. I was keeping a nice even pace though and really not pushing anywhere near my capabilities. Approaching the pier, I realized that maybe Marc, Danny and KC would try to catch up on the return trip down the beach. Along the dune, Jonah, Dillon, Paul and Ryan were cheering Joey and me along.

Going around the pier pontoon, I made sure to keep my eyes on Danny, Marc and KC, in case they decided to break the rules and tackle me. I couldn't be sure, but it seemed KC at least was trying to pour on the juice and catch up. Noticing Joey was slowing down, I asked him if he was okay.

Joey nodded, "Geddin' tiwed."

"Can you make it without cramping?"

"Dunno," Joey huffed.

I slowed down and prompted, "Jump on my back, Joey."

"You'ww wose, Weyes!"

"No I won't, I promise," I insisted. Joey leaped onto my back and KC made it much closer to us, but I turned up the juice and sprinted away.

Joey laughed, "You'we wosin', Cwash!"

"Just wait, Twerp. I'll wave as I pass you!" KC shot back with a laugh.

I sniggered, "He's dreaming, Joey. I spent most of the day Saturday running around a beach with Jonah or Dillon on my back."

Joey giggled, "I'ww jump off ad dhe wighdhouse, Weyes. You godda bead Casey."

"I will, Joey," I promised, "just by a bigger margin if you jump off, so don't jump off, this way we both win."

"Uncah Mawc and Uncah Dahny is cadchin' up," Joey warned.

Along the dune, I heard Paul and Ryan making announcements like it was a horse race. Jonah and Dillon were hysterical.

"You keep wunnin' an' I'ww keep wadchin'," Joey offered helpfully.

From the dune, Ryan hollered, "Passin' the lighthouse and we're in the final stretch with Reyes and Joey in the lead, KC in second place and the two geezers in a tie for third!"

"I'll give you 'geezer', kiddo!" Danny yelled back.

Up ahead, I could see Jerry and Caleb holding a yellow tape across the beach. KC tried to sprint ahead, but I leaned forward, allowing Joey's weight to force my legs to move faster and keep us balanced. We got ahead of KC again and Joey began cheering, "You god id, Weyes! Casey is wosing sdeam!"

At the dune, Dillon, Jonah and Ryan cracked up. Paul shouted, "Marc is waving his thingie at Danny, and the ancient one has collapsed in the sand. This race is, dare I say it, in the bag!"

I hit the ribbon chest first and Joey screamed, "We won! Weyes bead you cawwying me, Cwash!"

Slowing my pace to a jog, I circled around the beach with the yellow ribbon flapping in the breeze. Joey jumped off my back and followed me around as I slowly cooled down. Soon, I had my brothers, KC, Paul, Ryan, Caleb, Noah and Hunter congratulating me. Coming over with Danny, Marc giggled, "Good race, Reyes."

Jerry sniggered, "Danny came in third. Marc was disqualified for breaking the rules."

"My dick was floppin' around anyway," Marc grinned. "I just made sure Danny got a good look."

KC smirked, "How?"

Shrugging, I smiled and gestured at my own body, explaining, "This isn't a belly; it's distended from not being fed enough. Twenty-one years in an orphanage. The last six years we didn't get fed unless we performed for pedophiles. Since getting rescued by the Clan last Friday, it's no lie, bro, I've been carrying Jonah and Dillon around beaches with energy to burn. Plus the fact that I've always lived around beaches and know how to run in the sand."

Holding out a clenched fist, KC smiled, "I underestimated you, bro."

Knocking knuckles with KC, I shrugged, "That's never a good thing. About a hundred people in the R.O.H. over-estimated their position and underestimated the Clan. The asshole that Kuan Ti and you guys dealt with earlier was just one of those that made that same mistake."

After getting dressed again, Danny led they way back to the house. He said, "It's time for some late night jamming before Reyes, Jonah and Dillon have to leave and the rest of us go to bed." Turning and walking backward, Danny smiled at me and said, "I'd like to hear what you can play."

Blushing, I giggled, "I play mostly hand percussion, but my new dad has been teaching me to play a drum kit too."

Joey gushed, "I can pway weguwah dwums and ewecdwonic dwums doo."

Leading the way down to the basement, Danny asked, "What do you need, Reyes?"

I rattled off, "Bongos, congas, chimes, cowbell, maracas, tambourine and timbales. With a full acoustic drum kit, I can try some of what Derrick's been teaching me." Only a few steps behind me, Jonah excitedly rambled on about the song I had played earlier that day.

Off to the side of the basement AI lab there was another room filled with all sorts of drums, percussion and musical instruments. There was also two electric guitars and an acoustic guitar. I pointed at them and wondered, "Who plays guitar?"

"I do," KC grinned.

I giggled, "I should've known. Mike Gibbons plays guitar..."

"That's our pop," Jonah gushed, "He can play anything and make it look easy."

I nodded and told KC, "I missed a lot in twenty-one years, but I hung around a lot of musicians before the orphanage. On guitar, Mike can blow them all away."

Gesturing to the drums, Danny prompted, "Show us what you can do, Reyes."

Alone, I walked over to where the hand percussion instruments were arranged near a drum kit. At first, I concentrated on the bongos and congas, recalling much of what I had learned many years ago from Derek Taraschke and started playing at about one-hundred-sixteen beats per minute. While I was playing, I started organizing what Derrick Seibert had played and been teaching me. After about sixteen measures I moved over to play the drum kit. My little solo lasted about two minutes, but I noticed Dillon and Jonah with their jaws hanging open. The rest of the guys down in the basement were widely smiling too, so I guess they liked what I was playing.

Joey sat at the electronic drum kit and counted off a tempo, then he and I began playing for a few minutes. KC added some gritty electric guitar to our groove. It was pretty good and the three of us played for a few more minutes. Since I never played electronic drums before, I asked Joey to show me what his kit could do and tried it out for a few more minutes. I would have to ask my dad to get me an electronic kit like Joey's.

It was getting late and our hosts had been more than kind for many hours. Jonah and Dillon called our new kittens. Marc had Daileass get us three kitty-carriers for the short trip. We had three boy kittens and three girl kittens from three different litters. We started hugging and saying goodbye to everybody from the AI Division. I could tell by the stunned expression Jerry wore that he was surprised as I when Paul and Ryan embraced me, promising they would visit Ewa Beach some day soon. Jonah and Dillon had their radio controlled go-carts and Dillon had his Teddy bear too. I tapped my comm-badge and called for Peter Lambert.

No sooner had I made the call than Peter popped into existence in front of us, wearing a 1940s-style chauffeur's cap and a change-making device around his waist. He pressed the 'quarters' lever, which dispensed a foil-covered chocolate coin, which he handed to Dillon. He clicked it twice more, for treats for Joey and Jonah. "Ready to go home?" he asked.

I grinned and nodded, "Yep. Can you get us home before dinner, with a little time to spare so we can introduce our kittens?"

Inside the kitty-carrier, Charles griped, "I am not happy."

His sister Charlette warned, "Step on my tail again, and be prepared to be ripped to shreds."

"Sure!" Peter replied cheerfully. In Cat, he added, "I'll have you to your new home and out of those carriers faster than you can pounce a catnip mouse."

From three kitty-carriers, a chorus of meows erupted, all encouraging Peter to get them where they were going quickly. Jonah and Dillon cracked up.

Peter then surprised us all by popping over and hugging Paul. He looked questioningly at Ryan, who held up his arms. Peter then hugged him too. "Listen, guys, I don't want to put any more pressure on you," he said to them. "But when the Clan found me, I was dying of cancer, and had a week to live. One of them took me, on his first day of life yet, and made me into this, so's I can help people ways that most folks can't."

"Jeez! It's bad enough with everyone giving me random advice, now I got 'em popping out of fucking nowhere giving random hugs," Paul said, but I noticed he did not have his previous combative tone. If anything it sounded a little tired, but a smile was threatening to break out on his face.

I noticed Ryan had a goofy grin on his face. "Random hugs are nice, bro! You're just a grump. I mean the Clan helped him to beat his cancer. That's great, right?"

"Yes, it's great he got help, bro. No really, I mean it," Paul said as he shook his head.

"Yep! A Grump!"

I found myself stifling a laugh as Paul gave Ryan a tortured look. I really had to wonder which brother was more of a helper.

Returning to Jonah, Dillon and me, minus his chauffeur's cap and change-maker, Peter giggled, "Here we go, guys!" Having been transported a few times, let me just say that Mikyvis transportation seemed fairly different, maybe because we were time-shifting too. For less than a second, I saw a blur of colors that went from dark to extremely bright, like a kaleidoscope with many thousands of colors. It was so different, I had to wonder if it was normal. Immediately upon arrival, I blurted out my question to Peter, Jonah and Dillon. "Did all you guys see colors?"

"Colors? While I was transporting you?" Peter asked. When all three of us agreed, he said, "For us Mikyvis, we can see all times and places at once, though we usually just look at what we're interested in. I don't get any sense of traveling; it's just like sitting in the living room watching TV, then deciding to go to the kitchen, you just get up and go." He giggled, "Be glad it wasn't Dilly. His 'short cuts' usually involve three alternate universes!"

My brothers and I thanked Peter for his help and so did all six kittens.

"Any time, guys!" he said, "I'm only a shout away." And he vanished.

We were standing in the center lawn of the four Rimmer family homes. With as many weird things that happened while we were with the AI Division, the day felt weirder simply because the sun was still up and we had just spent hours at night time. By the Sun's position in the sky, I estimated it was probably about five o' clock in the afternoon. Our first order of business was to take care of our kittens and get our dad and pop caught up on some of what had happened. I knew I could use my comm-badge, but I hadn't really paid attention to any of the Core Rimmers when they used theirs, so I tapped the thing and uncertainly called, "Reyes to Derrick, come in dad?"

Excitedly, Derrick replied, "Where are you, Reyes?"

"And how did you get a comm-badge?" Mike hollered.

Dillon and Jonah began giggling. I grinned, "We're by the houses, and Danny got us comm-badges because we went off base, to Myrtle Beach. We've got a few other things to talk about too."

Jonah laughed, "Like where our kittens can live."

After a brief pause, Derrick softly queried, "You came back with kittens?"

"Six of 'em," I sniggered.

Mike laughed, "We sent you to get your systems checked, Reyes."

I chuckled, "Yeah, they did that, and a bit more." All we heard over the comm-badge was our dad and pop laughing.

Surprisingly, my comm-badge chirped. I tapped it and responded, "This is Reyes."

"Hi Reyes, it's Jimmy, in the Command Center. We were just called by the AI Division. They wanted you to know that Peter just popped back to give Paul and Ryan another set of random hugs."

I giggled, "Kewl. Thanks, Jimmy."

In moments, Dillon, Jonah and I saw our dad and pop running toward us from the pool area.

Charles, Patch and the other four kittens meowed unhappily, "Let us out of these cages!"

Looking into the kitty carriers, Jonah giggled, "Just a few more minutes. We want you to be safe."

The black and white spotted female kitten named Missy whined, "I gotta pee!"

Jonah put his carrier down in the grass saying, "Stay close to us for now, okay?" He then opened the cage door. Dillon put his carrier down and gave the same instructions to Patch and Riley. Patch, Riley, Missy and Natalie cautiously stepped out and into the grass.

Charles and Charlette, in the kitty carrier I was holding, were softly planning my assassination if they weren't let out of the cage in twenty seconds. I quickly put the kitty carrier down. "Lucky, very lucky," Charles meowed as he stepped out of the carrier.

Stepping outside, Charlette warned, "We won't be cute little kittens forever."

I pointed towards Mike and Derrick, jogging in our direction, and told the kittens, "That's our dad and pop. They're Clan leaders, so be nice or they'll have you transported to the Northeast Division, where it snows six months out of the year."

Charles wondered, "What's northeast?"

Charlette asked, "What's transported?"

Patch mused, "And what is snow exactly?"

Jonah smiled, "Snow is cold and wet."

After a kitten outburst of disgust, all six looked up at me and purred, "Touché."

Derrick and Mike slowed their approach. Mike softly moaned, "Aww, they're so little and cute!"

Bouncing over to Mike, Charles purred, "I like him."

"And they're both cute too," Charlette purred.

Our dad and pop hugged each one of us and then we all sat down on the grassy ground so they could meet the kittens and catch up on the day.

Sitting on Mike's lap, Dillon asked, "Is it supper time yet, pop?"

Jonah and I cracked up before Mike could answer, causing both our dads to grin and glance around for an explanation.

I sniggered, "Dillon's been eating almost constantly since breakfast this morning," and then rattled off the long list of meals and snacks consumed by Dillon while we were away. Even the kittens were hysterical, bouncing and climbing around Dillon.

Snuggling with Dillon, Mike laughed, "We'll head over to the C.I.C. for dinner in about fifteen minutes."

Derrick locked eyes with me and asked, "How're you doin'?"

"I'm really good, dad," I smiled. "Danny Page, the first android ever, ran some diagnostics on me, and updated my software a little more."

Joyfully, Jonah burst, "Reyes is like John was before yesterday, empathetic, from dealing with the crap at the orphanage."

Mike and Derrick chimed, "Really?"

I nodded, "They gave me some additional code and a manual to deal with that, so I'm able to integrate it fully over time. They also replaced the access panel on my uplink port. Most surprisingly, they were able to catalog and organize my memories from the orphanage too. I was able to tell them when the abuses started, September 1998, and who started it, the Prime Minister of the R.O.H. at the time. The AI Division has already sentenced him." Glancing at Jonah and Dillon, I softly told my dads, "I'll tell you more about that another time."

Mike nodded and wondered, "How much do you remember?"

"Not a lot," I scowled, "about fifty hours worth of various short memories. When I first got to the orphanage in 1983, it wasn't great, but it wasn't as horrible as it got after 1998."

Dillon gushed, "It was an angel named Davie that helped Reyes remember. Davie said he'd come visit us sometime soon."

Again, Mike and Derrick locked eyes with me. I nodded and chuckled, "Yeah, one of the guys there, named Jerry, had an older brother that died, and he's the Division's guardian angel."

Mike grinned, "Are you sure you're all right?" Dillon, Jonah and I cracked up and nodded.

Derrick chuckled, "Let's get the kittens set up in their own special place." All six kittens began complaining about being put into the kitty carriers again. Derrick called, "Alden, transport the five of us and all six kittens to my basement." A second later, we were all sitting on the carpeted floor of the Seiberts' basement.

Mike called, "Alden, get us two litter boxes and enough food and water dishes for our new pets, please, dude?"

Derrick asked the gathered kittens if they had a food preference. They all liked the dry kibble that they had been eating, so Derrick had Alden get that brand of food, a few warm beds, and various toys and scratching posts for them too.

In one corner of the basement the food dishes were lined up, two large scratch and climbing posts were set up and three soft kitty beds were placed. In the opposite corner, well away from their food and play area, two large covered litter boxes appeared. The kittens scattered to check out their new accommodations.

Standing up with Dillon on his hip, Mike smiled, "Now that the kittens are happy, let's go to the C.I.C. We've gotta tell Derrick's mom that she's got pets, and get Dillon fed before he withers away."

Mike and Dillon led the way upstairs with Jonah, me and Derrick following. Derrick asked, "What else did you dudes do while you were away?"

I answered, "We took a bus ride to Myrtle Beach. I got to see my old house and neighborhood. Which reminds me, we have buses on order, paid for by the assets of the ex-Prime Minister that was confiscated by Clan Short."

Derrick nodded, "Kewl, we could use them to get kids off base, hopefully soon."

While Mike, Dillon and Jonah went outside, I paused and softly told my dad, "We'll have two hundred buses, forty at each base." Watching Derrick's eyes widen and his mouth drop open, I giggled, "They're not your standard buses either. They're tour buses and have like, first class, plush seating, and a bunch of Clan niceties too."

Leading me out through the open door, Derrick chuckled, "They are paid for, right?"

Nodding, I smirked, "That bastard lived in luxury off money made from prostituting us kids. That money is now the Clan's, dad."

Derrick laughed, "I'll tell Prez. He'll be thrilled, I'm sure!"

"Those buses can break two-hundred miles-per-hour, dad," I giggled, "I know, because we went that fast, from Myrtle Beach back to Sullivan's Island in under thirty minutes. You guys will need special training to drive them. Contact Danny to get the training lined up."

"Okay," Derrick roared, "I'll gently tell Prez, when he's in a good mood."

Ahead of us, Dillon and Jonah were excitedly rambling, telling Mike about all the food they ate and the fun they had while away.

Thankful that Derrick was taking all this in stride, I giggled, "When we got back to AI headquarters, we had a big dinner. Then we jammed for about another half an hour before coming home. I got to play congas, bongos, a drum kit like yours and an electronic drum kit too. It's been a long day, dad. It was almost three in the morning when we left South Carolina. Peter Lambert transported us home and back in time."

Derrick nodded, "Are you tired?"

"Not in the least, surprisingly," I answered.

"Good," Derrick softly said and slowed his pace considerably. He then whispered, "Joel's father is Admiral Spock, from Starfleet, and we're all now considered nieces and nephews. Prez wants to take advantage of that, while Uncle Spock is here. If everything works out, dinner will end with at least three weddings, possibly as many as five; definitely me and Mike, Prez and Keith, and Drew and Corey, and possibly Kaleo and Tory and John and Stephen."

"That's awesome!" I cheered.

"I know," Derrick smiled. "Prez said he'd talk with Uncle Spock, so we're not all surrounding him. All we can do is wait, but I want you and your brothers there to witness our marriage."

I happily giggled, "It's been a busy day here too, I guess."

As we walked into the C.I.C., Derrick told me about the jazz band concert that morning, about the short jam session they had with Troy Faris that afternoon, and a little about the phaser training. Once we were inside, Mike chatted with Prez, so our division leader knew that Dillon, Jonah and I had been given comm-badges while in Charleston. Derrick found his mom and told her about the kittens. Then our family sat down to eat. Jonah asked where John was. Dad told us that John and Stephen had gone with Joel and Kevin for a tour of the Enterprise. Jonah and Dillon were told about the planned weddings too.

Everything got more exciting when John, Stephen, Joel and Kevin returned from their tour. I could barely hear Admiral Kirk explaining what had happened, but I did hear that all four had been promoted in rank and received commendations for their service that day. While chatter around the dining room got louder because of the four heroes in the room, it was obvious that the Hundsers' and Stephen's mom were upset.

Derrick, Mike, Prez and Keith gathered to try and set everything right. The four members of Platinum Habits started singing and dancing to calm the stressed out adults. After two songs, both of which I table-drummed along to, everything seemed to be back to normal. Then the dining room lights went out and three of our chefs rolled out three large sheet cakes filled with candles for Kaleo. While we were gone, Kaleo's birthday was discovered. I hurried over there to be amongst the first few that congratulated Kaleo. Of course, Kaleo wanted to know all about what had happened while I was gone, but he had the entire Rimmer clan lining up for cake and to offer him birthday wishes. I promised him that I'd get with him, Tory and Liki soon to share all the news.

I had made it back to our table with cake and just finished it when Prez stood and went over toward Uncle Spock. In moments, all the couples and their sons were standing, anxiously waiting to learn if the marriages would or wouldn't happen. When Prez smiled, nodded and waved us over, my excitement quadrupled. I hadn't witnessed a wedding since 1972, when Akamu got married to Hakumele. This ceremony was less formal, but still quite thrilling because it turned out that all five couples were to wed. I almost cracked up laughing during the ceremony because Mike was so happy, he was swinging his and Derrick's arms back and forth in delight. For me, it was so kewl because Kaleo was up there with Tory too. All at once, my dads, our leaders and two of my best friends in the world were promising their eternal love before the entire Pacific Rim Division. The room seemed to explode in loud applause after John and Stephen made their vows. Then we noticed Uncle Spock returning to Keith and Prez. Everyone was turning to me to know what was now happening, but I didn't have a clue until I heard John in my mind saying, 'It's the Vulcan tel-tor ritual. We're married and getting bonded too.' I softly spread the news with my brothers, but they already seemed to know, as did all the other kids in the dining room. When Uncle Spock completed the ritual with John and Stephen, everyone began clapping again. Then John levitated all the newlyweds so that everyone could see them kissing. The entire Rimmer Clan, including all the parents and other employed adults stood and applauded.

We were all still clapping our hands when the group of ten lowered to the floor and began thanking Uncle Spock, Aunt Teri, Joel and Kevin. Unfortunately, the latter four needed to leave for Joel's and Kevin's wedding ceremony in the U.K.

Before they left though, Prez made a division-wide announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; it is our families tradition and therefore a Rimmer tradition to give and receive abundantly. We've received, now it's time to give. It's six-fifty-two Hawaii time. At seven-fifty Hawaii time there will be a concert at the Pacific Rim main base auditorium. We're celebrating our weddings. All who can attend are very welcome. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have less than an hour to get prepared. Alden, if you please, transport the ten of us, our kids, Troy and Sean to the auditorium lobby."

The next thing I knew, I was inside the auditorium. Corey and Drew went to get the place powered up at the circuit breaker panels. "Okay," Prez began, "first things first. Alden, lock the auditorium doors. No one gets in until seven-twenty-five. Next, we all need to be dressed alike."

Mike quickly added, "Loose clothes so we can move around; shiny platinum-colored polo shirts, black pants and black sneakers."

Derrick instructed, "Close the stage curtains too, Alden."

Alden giggled, "I get to change the Rimmers! You're all gonna be naked for second or two."

Patting Drew on the back, Keith said, "Take a short break, bro. You too Corey." Once everyone was standing still, Keith instructed, "Do it, dude." In an instant, we were standing butt naked. Alden got in a quick sigh and whimper before clothing us all again.

Kaleo asked, "What do you need us to do, Prez?"

Prez said, "I'm thinking you, Tory and Sean can get the concession stand manned. Our kids, John and Stephen, you'll act as ushers. Get everyone seated as quickly as possible. Richie and Dillon, you guys can help just by starting at the front of the aisles. Keep everyone in the center section of seats. As the rows fill up, walk forward so folks know the seats in front of you are filled. When everyone's seated you guys come up on stage and let us know."

Richie giggled, "'Kay, Poppa."

Dillon nodded, "Okay, Unca Prez."

Finished with the power, Drew announced, "We're set, Prez."

"Great," Prez smiled, "get the popcorn poppin' and we'll get a set list together."

Troy reminded, "My gear's at home, Prez."

"Alden!" Prez laughed.

"It's all on the stage waiting now," Alden giggled.

Derrick and Mike hugged and kissed Dillon and Jonah, promising to catch up with them again after the concert. Drew, Corey and Geoff started for the PA room, way above the balcony. Jonah, Dee, Gage and Sammy went with John and Stephen. Derrick took my right hand and Mike took my left, leading me into the auditorium with them. I giggled, "What's goin' on?"

Derrick smiled, "You're with us, on stage." Following us, Richie and Dillon cracked up at my obvious surprise.

Mike nodded, "You've got your memory back and more experience than the five of us combined."

Several yards ahead of us, walking with Keith, Prez swung around and chuckled, "You're part of the band too, as of now, Reyes."

Keith nodded and loudly said, "This concert is about love. We'll break up the ballads and love songs with a few rockers, but we need to come up with a set list that will teach every kid in the audience what love feels like. As soon as we have a list together, Drew and Corey need to know so we have decent lights and sound to really drive the theme home."

"We need a powerful set list, so nobody in the audience fails to catch our meaning," Prez said. "Let's hear some suggestions, dudes."

Troy offered, "I know the sax part for Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are."

"Excellent," Prez and Keith chorused.

I reminded, "A couple of tunes from Friday night's luau would work; Traces, Never My Love, Precious and Few, come to mind."

Prez asked Keith, "How about Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', babe?"

Keith smiled, "It's a rocker with a very direct message."

Derrick suggested, "Who Love's You, Real Love, and Mike could play and sing Imagine."

We walked up the stage steps and went behind the curtain and continued to bounce song titles around. Everybody came up with excellent ideas and all were accepted as part of the list. The problem boiled down to the opening number and something special for an encore. Prez had Alden transport a PADD and he started taking notes and arranging the list. The remaining five of us bounced more ideas around.

Troy sighed, "Ya know, when I was sitting out in the audience Monday, I thought all of you played very well, but what made this band really stick out and shine was the vocals; whether you were rockin', playin' the blues or singing ballads. Even this afternoon, the vocals were fantastic. What if we closed A Capella?"

"Go with that, Troy," Keith encouraged.

Troy suggested, "Because, by The Beatles."

Mike smiled, "Awesome, that's one."

Troy giggled, "You're gonna laugh, but how about I Believe?"

"Yeah," Prez softly chuckled.

Derrick scowled, "I don't think I know it."

"Me either," Mike frowned.

Keith smiled, "It's a simple little two verse number, about a minute and a half or so." He went to the piano to play and sing the song with Troy and Prez. Derrick and Mike agreed to the tune, but we still needed the important opener.

Derrick smiled then began evilly chuckling as he walked up onto the drum risers. Simultaneously, my dad hit the large gong and a timpani, and then hit them again. Keith hurried over to his synthesizers and began playing the opening to Fanfare For the Common Man. With that, we were set and Prez sent the set list to Drew and Corey then we started practicing a few tunes. The four Core Rimmers and core of the band knew so much, Troy and I just went along with it and played our best. There were four songs I would play congas and bongos to and another two where I would play maracas or tambourine. They tried to get me to sing too, but I was never a great singer and my voice was about twenty-one years out of practice, so I wouldn't sing this time around, but my dad and pop promised to work with me, so that I eventually could add a voice to the band.

Before we knew it, our time was up and we went back stage to a dressing room that none of the Core Rimmers even knew was there, so we could continue to practice a little bit. At seven-fifty, we came out of the room and John called Prez, saying "We've still got folks filing in, bro. Looks like a lot from the Rapid Response Base and Utah are here; a bunch from the Nevada Desert Division; judging by accents, more than a few from Oceanic Division too."

Prez grinned, "It's Wednesday afternoon there."

"It's thinning out some though," John said, "Give us another ten minutes."

Troy began pacing the small back stage area where we were waiting. Widely smiling, I watched as my dads, Prez and Keith encircled Troy. "I've never played for more than a hundred or so," Troy admitted.

Keith nodded and explained, "We found out last Friday, audience size don't matter."

Mike devilishly grinned, "Sounds like the same ol' story to me." I helplessly cracked up.

Troy blushed and giggled, "Ain't goin' there!"

Derrick chuckled, "Ah, but you so want to, we can tell!"

Prez smiled, "There's some extraordinary rumors about your boyfriend."

Playing along, Keith teased, "Just tell us if the rumors are true."

Troy laughed, "I have no idea what you're all talking about!" but still blushed bright red.

Richie and Dillon came backstage. Richie said, "We're done, Poppa."

Dillon added, "There's still some middle rows way back."

Hugging both boys, Prez smiled, "You guys did an excellent job. Go ahead and find Uncle John and some seats." The two boys hurried back off stage and raced up the aisle. Facing his band mates, Prez said, "All set and together now, dudes?"

Everyone nodded and Troy nervously giggled, "Just hope I stay with ya's through the whole show!"

"Play like you did yesterday and earlier today and we're kewl bro," Mike assured, and then started up the backstage steps.

Prez nodded, "You've got no worries, Troy. It's gonna be great." He then tapped his comm-badge and told Drew, "Let's jam, bro. As soon as you hear the gong and timpani, open the curtains."

"Kewl!" Drew chirped.

Applause began to swell from the audience. From behind his drum kit, Derrick glanced around at his band mates and got thumbs up gestures. Simultaneously, he hit the gong and one of the timpani, beginning Fanfare for the Common Man. The curtains began to open. Lights flashed above and behind Derrick as he hit the gong and timpani eight more times. Even from back stage, shivers raced up my spine as Keith played the opening horn parts on his synthesizer and Derrick sat at his kit. Troy, Prez and Mike came in then Derrick started pounding his drums. Beginning with a bass shuffle, the band took off like they had played the song dozens of times before. In those first few minutes, watching Troy play the Hammond Organ and then run out to center stage playing his tenor sax, I realized this new dude was every bit as good as the rest of the band. I had my work cut out for me to keep up with this group.

I tried to peer out far enough to see the audience. Beyond all the flashing stage lights, I didn't see much, but what I could see were many smiling faces. We wanted a dramatic opening number to get everyone's attention and my dad found it. The crowd enthusiastically applauded and cheered at the end of the song.

Just as spellbound as any one else, I watched and listened to Platinum Habits playing Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I played tambourine during The Story In Your Eyes, then stepped back stage again. Beginning the first section of pure ballads, the band continued with I Need You, Every Breath You Take, Just The Way You Are, Count On Me, Traces, It's Only Love, Can't You Hear My Heartbeat and If. Derrick came offstage for the latter tune and called Alden for a towel to wipe sweat off his face. Knowing he needed it, I got my dad a cold bottle of water too. I went back on stage again to play congas and bongos during You've Got A Friend. The band wrapped up this section of ballads with the songs Without You and If You Could Read My Mind. Prez's baritone voice was perfect for the latter song; it was as good as the original recording.

All the stage lights went out and they moved around the stage, preparing for Corey's wake up call at the start of What Is Life. After all those ballads and soft lights, so many bright lights flooded the right side of the stage that many in the audience fell back into their seats. Covering my mouth with both hands, I cracked up. I had barely controlled myself when I stepped back on stage to play congas and bongos for Samba Pa Ti and Just Remember I Love You. Surprising me, when the latter song was completed, Derrick proudly said; "On bongos and congas, my son, Reyes Taraschke." Smiling warmly at my dad, I waved at the audience then went off stage. It was then that I realized how sweaty and tired I had become. Playing jazz on stage wasn't like this in the 50's and 60's; there were so many more lights, I couldn't help feeling warm. Derrick had to be just as hot and tired, but he didn't show it. I had Alden get me a towel and cold bottle of water. Completing this mini-set, the band played Who Loves You, Real Love, As Long As You Love Me, Time of the Season and Easy.

The band played their final mini-set of ballads consisting of Precious and Few, Truly, Madly, Deeply, Never My Love, How Can I Be Sure, Your Song, Don't Worry Baby, I Can't Tell You Why, Imagine, Unchained Melody and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Derrick came down off the drum risers and waved me out to join the band. The entire audience were on their feet, applauding and cheering. Gathered center stage, we all held hands and bowed. The curtains closed, but the audience seemed to get louder and called for an encore. I quickly hugged my dad and pop then went off stage to watch them perform the two encore songs, Because and I Believe. The concert lasted two hours and twenty-two minutes.

At the start of the final ovation, while the curtains closed, I heard John calling, 'Reyes, come on, bro, meet us in the dining room for the reception, dude.' I tapped my comm-badge and had Alden transport me there. My brothers and all the Core Rimmers' sons were there. John ordered Alden to get five wedding cakes. Little by little, the adults, our Clan and some of the guests came inside. I got to tell Kaleo, Tory and Liki a lot of what had happened while I was in South Carolina. When the four Core Rimmers entered, they got another ovation and more hugs and kisses as they passed through the dining room. All the newlywed couples went to the cakes. Each couple carved into a cake then fed their partner a piece of cake. Loud laughter broke loose as each of the ten of them smashed pieces of cake into their partner's face.

Dripping with icing, they went towards the men's room to clean up. The reception continued and I roared laughing at Dillon who ate two pieces of wedding cake! After a while, it became clear that the newlyweds would not be returning to the party. The Rimmer parents gathered the youngest kids to take home. As soon as Dillon finished stuffing his face, I took him and Jonah to the Hundsers' basement to join the nest. Jonah and Dillon decided they wanted the kittens to join the nest. Jonah had all six transported to the Hundsers' basement.

Now that the day is done, I figure it lasted about nineteen hours for Jonah and Dillon. I started writing this edition of my log a little after eleven and it's almost three in the morning now. My day has been twenty-three hours long. The Scooby gang just came in for the night and told me that they had been at the wedding concert too and had never seen anything like the spinning mirrored ball used by Corey. Wondering where my dads were, I tapped my comm-badge to check with Alden, asking if they were at the townhouses still. They had more street kids to pick up and get settled. I guess I'll call it an end to an exceptionally busy day and join my brothers in the nest too.

Charles just came up to me with a catnip mouse in his mouth. I heard him purr "Cuddle time, now. I need sleep and you are my pillow."

I guess that makes it official. I'm going to take my kitten to the nest and get some sleep.

"Silly boy. Pet humans can be so vain."