Clan Short Pacific Rim Division

Chapter 8

<Author's Warning: This chapter is not my typical writing style; it is filled with the most gruesomely descriptive writing I could accomplish. While many of my chapters take several weeks to complete, this one short chapter took almost three months, because it was that strenuous on me personally. Some of you know that when I write of difficult happenings in my other stories, they usually appear as 'dream sequences'; as in the case of 'A New Life' Chapter 13 'Tricks Or Treats'. This is not a dream sequence. So you know, I was reading Stephen King's 'The Stand' and Anne Rice's 'Interview With A Vampire' during the time I was writing this chapter, gleaming what I could from those two excellent authors to add in here. Appropriately, it is approaching Halloween. Please be certain you are in a calm and relaxed state of mind before attempting to read this chapter.>

<Author's Note: Important additions were made to this chapter by ACFan (Julio and Jesse's scene), Roland (High Priest Dave's and Nathan Hayes' scene) and Zacky (A Zorro Communications Corp's Board Member scene). My thanks to them for relieving me of writing those scenes.>

Anaheim, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

Off of Ball Road, less than two miles from Disneyland, Drew and Corey were teetering between being concerned for John and frightened for everyone involved in the orphanage operations. Events were supposed to happen in a specific sequence. The strike teams were supposed to cut the phone and the power lines, surround the orphanages, then enter the buildings. Instead, because of John's distress call, all three steps basically happened at once.

The Cambridge Street neighborhood they were at seemed crowded with a lot of homes. Most of the houses nearby were single story homes, except the one they were closely watching. There were single family homes and duplexes lined up on both sides of the street. Overall, this house didn't seem to fit in the neighborhood. It was much larger than all the others and had many more large trees and shrubs around it.

Unfamiliar with their surroundings, Drew and Corey were nervous. Their security teams, Ata and Baakir, the two gorillas, and Conner and Chuck, reassured them that the strike teams were capable of much more than these simple raids of civilian properties. They were well armored and equipped with audio and video systems that fed directly to Alden, Daileass and Draco. They even had night vision goggles so they could see in the dark. Everything done would be documented so that the orphans would be safe and the adults responsible could be prosecuted, just as Prez had ordered. There was one other strike team at another orphanage in Anaheim that Drew and Corey would also investigate.

Many quiet minutes passed while Corey and Drew waited for the call from their strike team that it was safe to enter.

At 1:53 AM Pacific Time, Drew's comm-badge chirped. "Strike team Fox One reporting location secure."

"That was the longest six minutes in my life!" Corey huffed.

Tapping his comm-badge, Drew nodded at Corey, saying, "We're on our way inside." Drew and Corey started across the street with their security.

The strike team commander said, "We'll have the lights back on in a minute or two, Drew."

The boys and gorillas walked into the house. On the right side of the entryway was a large kitchen; on the left was a dining room containing a long table with eight chairs and two benches. The strike team commander, whose name was Eldrin, but preferred the nickname 'El', approached.

Drew asked, "Where's the kids, El?"

"Down this way," El replied, and waved them forward through the dining room to a spacious living room area. There were two large sofas, four wing-back chairs and a large television in a nice wooden cabinet. Over all, everything seemed really decent looking. There were pictures on the walls, some of which were obviously done by the kids.

The lights came on and most of the kids closed their eyes briefly. Looking around the room, the two Clan Leaders saw twelve kids; eight boys and four girls. All the girls were wearing pajamas as were the four younger boys, but the four older boys were only wearing briefs or boxers. At first glance, the kids looked pretty good. However, as Corey and Drew stepped closer, they saw that all the kids were very thin. Corey and Drew went to introduce themselves and tell them that they were Clan Short. From the kids, Drew and Corey began piecing together the living conditions in this orphanage. As it turned out, those pictures hanging on the walls were not done by the kids; they were purchased to keep up appearances for periodic inspections. Bedroom furniture would be carried out and temporarily stored while rented furniture was put in place for those city and state inspections.

Corey and Drew then followed two orphans, one boy and one girl, up the stairs to check out the bedrooms. They found three rooms all similarly furnished with two sets of bunk-beds, a single dresser and small closets. Drew turned to Corey and frowned, "John and me had bunk-beds in a room about this size, but we each had our own dressers and closets."

Inspecting a bed, Corey nodded, "These sheets haven't been washed in weeks. And the pillow is about as fluffy as a saltine cracker."

Pulling open the top dresser drawer, Drew faced the orphaned boy and complained, "What is this? One size fits all?"

The boy, named Jake, shrugged, "We each got one drawer for our stuff. That's mine."

Trying unsuccessfully to not act surprised, Drew turned and softly asked, "You only have three pair of boxers, three pair of socks and three T-shirts?"

Jake nodded, "The stuff I outgrew, Terry's wearing now, in the next drawer down." Drew began sliding open the remaining four dresser drawers.

Looking in the closet, Corey found four pair of sneakers, eight pair of jeans in various sizes and eight button down sport shirts, also in varying sizes. That meant the four boys in this room each had only two pair of jeans, two shirts and a pair of sneakers. Shaking his head sadly, Corey turned to the boy saying, "This ain't right. Each of you kids should have more clothes than this; at least five pairs of jeans and five shirts for school days. Are your clothes washed every other day?"

Jake shook his head answering, "One load of colors every week. One load of whites every week."

"When was the last time your bed sheets were washed?" Corey wondered.

Jake replied, "The second Saturday of the month for this room. The third Saturday for the younger boys. The fourth Saturday for the girls."

Drew asked, "You do your own laundry, don't you?"

Jake nodded, "We all do. Each bedroom does their own wash."

Blinking fast and unable to believe what he was seeing and hearing, Drew asked, "So when do you get to spend time alone?"

Unable to comprehend the meaning behind the question, Jake answered, "We can use the bathroom alone except when we're showering. Then it's two to a tub, every Wednesday and Sunday night for this bedroom. The others shower Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays."

Corey grumbled, "That's just friggin' wrong!"

Locking eyes with Jake, Drew wondered, "How old are you?"

"Fourteen," Jake answered. Drew briefly thought of Kaleo, who stood about two inches taller than Drew.

"I'm twelve," Drew informed him. "We're just about the same height and I've got at least ten pounds on you. How often do you guys eat?"

"Three times a day," Jake replied. "Breakfast and dinner here, lunch at school, except on weekends."

Corey asked, "Have you ever had a cookie, ice cream or piece of cake?" Jake only shook his head. Corey prompted, "Show us the next room, please?"

Jake nodded then led Drew and Corey into the next boy's room. In that room they found virtually the same; minimal clothing, dirty bedding, and not even a deck of cards for the kids to play. Corey had a thought and tore the sheet off one of the beds. As he had guessed, there were tiny bedbugs crawling around.

Moving on to the room shared by four girls, Drew and Corey followed Felicity. Nothing new was found there. Both Drew and Corey found that more distressing. Moving closer to the girl, Drew gently asked, "How old are you?"

"Fifteen," Felicity answered.

Leaning closer still, Drew whispered, "I don't mean to embarrass you, but why aren't there any tampons here?"

Tilting her head curiously, Felicity wondered, "What's a tampon?" Drew's eyes almost shot out of their sockets.

Gathering his composure, Drew again whispered, "What do you do when you bleed, ya know, between your legs?"

Blushing intensely, she answered, "Paper towels or tissues."

Realizing that the girl obviously didn't have the first clue that what she was experiencing was natural and could be dealt with in a more sanitary fashion, Drew said nothing, but his blood pressure was rising to new heights.

On the way back downstairs with Jake and Felicity, Drew and Corey heard Prez over their sub-vocals. He ordered reports made to Alden for medical response assignment and prioritization.

Drew tapped his sub-vocal and said, "Anaheim location Fox one reporting. Twelve children here, eight boys and four girls. They're all thin and dirty. They've been cramped into three small bedrooms with minimal clothing and unwashed bedsheets that have bugs. Over-all, the house isn't too bad, but my mom and dad would spend a week cleaning, toss out most of the furniture and start fresh. There are no medical teams here yet. I'd say these kids need lots of good food, baths and nice clothes. We can provide them way more than they have here, that's for sure."

Alden said, "Your report is logged, Drew. Expect a medical team and V.S.O. officers any moment."

Corey warmly smiled at the gathered orphans. "We'll be getting some visitors, guys. Things will probably happen fast, but here's the basics; doctors will check each of you out, we'll get you cleaned up, dressed in new clothes and provided new homes with some awesome kids that are like you."

Drew smiled and nodded, "We've got everything you guys need and we'll get you whatever you want. At last count, we had about a hundred and fifty other orphans at our main base. We'll bring you home with us, to Hawaii."

That got all the kids excited. They began smiling and chattering amongst themselves. Drew and Corey told them about the main Ewa Beach base. A Starfleet medical team came in and introduced themselves to Corey and Drew then began checking out the kids. Two V.S.O. officers came in. Seeing them, Drew asked, "El, please show the 'care-givers' to our friends?"

Corey nodded, "We'll stay here with the kids until we're needed."

El showed the two V.S.O. officers to the kitchen, where the care-givers were restrained.

As if confronted by the devil, the woman care-giver screamed, "Keep away from me you alien freak!" Her outburst caused all the kids to shrink in fear. Two little girls and the youngest boy began crying.

While the kids were being checked, Corey and Drew told them more about Ewa Beach, how the schools were being set up, how the dorm rooms were spacious and usually had two occupants, but some of the younger kids were choosing four to a room and two to a bed. By the time the medical team transported out with the kids, the two V.S.O. officers were standing by, prepared to report their findings.

Corey and Drew learned that the care-givers had violated seven sections of the Safe Haven Act. They had followed directions of their corporate superiors to the letter. The kids were provided only what was required. They were allowed to attend school, but not allowed class trips, extra curricular activities or anything that might be considered 'entertainment'. Daily portions of food were measured out, as if minimal recommended amounts of sustenance were all any child needed. The Vulcan mind-melds found no remorse in the care-givers.

Drew and Corey verbally assaulted the female care-giver for not providing the teenage girls knowledge of their biology or a tampon. She had the audacity to claim the girls were sluts for having their period. Drew announced, "For your barbaric acts and twelve counts against seven of the articles of the Safe Haven Act, I believe life in a Federation Penitentiary will show you what it's like to be underfed, under-clothed, allowed no form of entertainment or enjoyment whatsoever in your lives. That's what the law says I need to do."

"You have no right!" the man shouted.

"Oh, I have the right," Drew simply said. "I have the right to sentence you to death too."

"Evil bastard children," the woman hissed. She continued to taunt Drew and Corey using the most foul language she could think of.

Drew turned to the V.S.O. officers to have the care-givers taken away to serve their sentence. Beyond disgusted, Corey pulled out his phaser and stunned the woman silent. She fell out of the chair she had been sitting in and her head made a disturbing crack against the linoleum floor. Corey then pointed his phaser at the man, wordlessly daring him to protest. Drew's mouth hung open in surprise and he incredulously hollered, "Corey!"

Corey complained, "That ignorant whore called us bastards?" He then faced the man and proudly said, "I have a mother and a father that love me. If they were here, my mom would've scratched her eyes out and you'd be picking up your teeth for what she said to us."

Shaking his head yet smiling widely, Drew said, "Remember what Skipper said the other night? Feel pity for those you know you're better than."

Corey smirked, "I tried."

Drew smiled up at the two V.S.O. officers. "Please take out the trash and file your reports for our leaders so everyone can be prosecuted." Corey and Drew held up their right hands in the familiar Vulcan method, saying, "Live long and prosper." Then Drew led Corey out of the house. Once outside and away from the Vulcans, Drew admitted that he was equally disturbed with the living conditions and with the woman's arrogance. He then tapped his sub-vocal saying, "Alden, Anaheim site two, please."

Alden replied, "A medical team and V.S.O. are already on-site, Drew."

Drew nodded, "Let's get this over with."

Arriving with their security outside the second orphanage, Corey huffed, "I just wanna get home to Geoff and Lenny."

Drew nodded, "I'm gonna hold them so close, I hope I don't hurt them."

The second location wasn't much different than the first that Corey and Drew visited. Thankfully, at least the girls at the orphanage were taught about their bodies and provided a sanitary way of caring for themselves. Still, they had minimal clothing, were provided minimal food and were cramped four to a room with no opportunity for time alone. Drew and Corey again greeted the kids and assured them how much better their lives would soon be.

One of the little boys asked, "Is we really gonna get t' have milkshakes ev'ry day?"

Drew chuckled, "Every day," and emphasized, "for breakfast."

All the kids under the age of ten simultaneously hollered, "WOW!"

Corey smiled up at the medical team commander asking, "When will we see these kids again?"

She answered, "We'll get them cleaned up and give them a chance to rest. By the time you're having breakfast, they'll be there too." Turning to the kids, she smiled and added, "For breakfast milkshakes." More enthusiastic cheers, laughter and joyful tears erupted from the orphans.

After the kids had been transported away, Drew and Corey stood before the V.S.O. officers to receive the report on the care-givers. Guilty of twelve counts of six violations against the Safe Haven Act, Corey and Drew went to face the adult care-givers. Life imprisonment was again sentenced, this time by Corey. Other than the expected complaints of children passing sentence on adults, they weren't stupid enough to openly mock the two young Clan Leaders.

Drew explained, "If you had those same six violations but only one child, your sentences would've been twenty years, by Vulcan standards. With six violations times twelve kids, we had the choice of sentencing you to prison or death." Turning to the V.S.O. Representatives, Drew ordered, "Tell them."

"That is correct," the young Vulcan man answered. "On Vulcan, a death sentence would likely have been applied."

Corey asked, "So, what's it gonna be; death or life in prison?" Neither adult bothered to answer the question.

Shaking his head at their pretentiousness, Drew sighed, "Come on, Cor," and led his husband out of the house. Drew relieved the strike team to return to the Rapid Response Base.

At two-forty-five Pacific Time, Drew tapped his comm-badge and reported to Keith. By this time, Keith and Prez were aware of what was happening at all the orphanages. Relieved that Drew and Corey had the easiest time with the mildest abuses, Keith told them to go home.

Drew called Alden to transport their security teams, himself and Corey to the Command Center so they could lock up their phasers. There, they would wait for the other seven command teams to return. Logan and Lieutenant Vorik were still busily coordinating activities in California, with medical teams and with V.S.O. operatives. Only then did Corey and Drew begin to understand the scope of the operations across California.

Sacramento, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

At the Elk Grove community near Sacramento, Sean and Troy had to deal with neighborhood dogs that were barking warnings immediately upon their arrival. Before the dogs woke people, the two boys located the closest dog. Troy wasn't certain how he could understand the dogs, but he was more concerned for Sean, who seemed to know just what to do and didn't care how big the dog might be. Sean led Troy closer to a six-foot tall stockade fence then whimpered and softly growled, "We're friends. Do not fear us. We're helpers."

The dog beyond the fence stopped barking and softly groaned, "I woke for nothing?" then lay down.

Confused, Troy's head sagged and his chin bounced on his chest. Troy grinned at his boyfriend and wondered, "How?"

Leading Troy to the next out of control pooch, Sean giggled, "You can do it too. Just remember to talk in short easy to understand phrases, just like they are." Gary, Jeremy, Lakota and Leo followed their charges to the next house where Troy had his first canine conversation. This dog seemed to have control over other neighborhood dogs and when he barked, "Okay," all the other alerted neighborhood dogs settled down.

As they returned to the orphanage, Lakota grinned and explained, "That was an English Mastiff, probably about two hundred pounds. Of course every other dog listens to him."

Noticing Troy's confusion, Sean prodded, "Remember Monday; the two red-haired kids that went up on stage?" Troy blushed at the memory and nodded. "They're Clan Short telepaths," Sean grinned. He then said in Italian; "Mentre facevate pratica a casa Lunedì mattina, hanno fatto un trasferimento delle lingue a tutta la base, compreso cane mattina." (While you were home practicing Monday morning, they did a base-wide mind dump of languages, including dog.)

Humming thoughtfully, Troy then turned to Sean and teased, "You're teachin' the Clan virgin, Mister Unworthy."

Not recognizing what he had just done, Sean giggled, "Learn a little, teach a little. Wait till you see what I teach you next."

Covering his mouth before a loud laugh escaped, Troy nodded and grinned, "I think I know what we'll be doin' after we get home."

Sean's comm-badge chirped. "Strike team Delta One reporting location secure."

Tapping his comm-badge, Sean replied, "We're on our way, Rob." He then reached for Troy's hand and admitted, "It's not even been a week since I was rescued. From here on, I'm probably following your lead, Troy."

Troy nodded and assured, "You're coming home with me tonight, Tiger. This is just a job."

Following Jeremy and Lakota with Gary and Leo bringing up the rear, Sean sighed, "Just a warning, if any of these kids have been sexually abused, I'm gonna be a cranky bitch."

Meeting them at the doorway, Rob said, "There are sixteen kids and two adults." He shook his head and reported, "All the kitchen cupboards are locked. The kids' bedrooms were locked too."

Beginning to shed tears, Sean nodded. Troy asked, "They did that shit to you?"

Sean shook his head answering, "No, they'd beat us if we tried to eat something before they fed us."

Rob grunted, "It looks like the kids here have been beat too. They're all malnourished."

Troy moaned then told the team, "We're here to take care of the kids. Then we'll deal with the fuck-wad adults." The lights in the home came on right after Sean and Troy stepped in the house. They entered in the living room.

Sean shook his hand free of Troy's and immediately went to the kids. Having been in their place only days earlier, Sean didn't care that most of them were naked and dirty. Since all the kids were seated along a couch and on the floor in front of it, Sean parked himself on the floor before them. "My name's Sean." He pointed at Troy and smiled, "That's my boyfriend, Troy. We're Clan Short, here to rescue you."

One of the older boys sarcastically huffed, "Right. Move us from one shit-hole to another, ya mean."

Shaking his head, Sean said, "Last Friday, I was rescued by the Clan. I didn't believe it either, but I promise you, you'll have the best of everything."

One of the older girls, obviously smitten with Troy, pointed at him and asked, "He's an orphan too?"

Sean shook his head and smiled, "No, Troy's mom is a housekeeper at our base. I know it's hard to get, and you have every right to mistrust us, but things are going to be way better from here on. In days, I went from shy, lonely gay boy to having the best boyfriend in the world. It happened because our leaders let us be kids. We can play when we want, we can eat what and when we want, we can live with who we want and where we want. Our base in Hawaii is awesome." Hearing that Sean was from Hawaii, the kids perked up slightly. Sean continued, "We have a pool, a diving well, indoor and outdoor recreation, and our dining room is like no restaurant I've ever been in." Needing some backup, Sean smiled up at Troy saying, "Tell 'em what you told me."

Troy explained, "It's like a five star resort. Sean's dorm room has two full size beds, two dressers, two closets, two desks with a computer on each. He shares that room, for now, with one other teenager. They've got their own TV, a PlayStation and a stereo. The food in the dining room is made by the best chefs around. There's a soccer field, basketball and volleyball courts. For the little kids, we've got a full playground with slides, swings and merry-go-rounds."

Standing up, Sean took his Clan robe off and said, "All my clothes were provided by the Clan. My life has changed so much in only five days, I'll be honest and tell you that I was scared to come in here. Now that I'm here though, I'm excited for all you guys. You're gonna be like me and my orphanage brothers are now; cared for, clothed, happy and well fed."

As Sean was finishing the last sentence and sitting down again, he and Troy heard Prez in their sub-vocals, excitedly ordering prioritization for medical response.

Troy looked down at Sean saying, "I'll handle the report, Tiger. You take care of the kids." When Sean nodded, Troy went outside to the porch to make his report. "Alden, this is Troy. Sacramento location Delta One has sixteen kids. They're all malnourished. The only kids in there wearing clothes are the older girls, and what they're wearing is less than gauze. They're dirty and bruised mostly, but I saw one little boy who's wrist was obviously broken a long time ago. His arm and hand don't look right at all. Some of the other kids have infected cuts and scrapes. I'm not trained to say how serious, but for me, it's gut wrenching. I noticed lots of them scratching itches."

Alden asked, "Have you seen their bedrooms, Troy?"

"No," Troy replied.

"Check it out," Alden instructed. "Pull off a sheet and tell me if you see tiny black spots on the mattresses."

Troy groaned then whimpered, "Bedbugs?"

Alden added, "And lice, more than likely."

Uncontrollably shivering at the thought, Troy went back inside and called for Jeremy to join him. They went upstairs and found four bedrooms. In each room there were mattresses on the floor, but no other furnishings of any kind. There were only pillows and sheets on the beds. Wrinkling his nose and not at all happy with the task, Troy gingerly pulled back the sheet on one bed. At the disgusting sight before him, Troy dropped the sheet and grunted then hurried out of the room confirming, "Yep, bedbugs, lice and God only knows what else."

Troy returned to the living room, feeling like every creepy crawly insect in the house had attached itself to him. Medics had arrived while he and Jeremy were upstairs. Sean noticed Troy scratching and rubbing himself, practically squirming in a very uncoordinated fashion. Troy blushed and grinned then hurried out of the living room. Sean peeked around the corner in time to see Troy shove his hand down his shorts and scratch his crotch, the only area he hadn't already scratched. Covering his mouth, Sean giggled heartily.

"Not funny," Troy smirked. He carefully explained, "Their bedrooms are bug infested and disgusting. Was your orphanage like that too?"

Sean stopped giggling, shook his head and softly answered, "We were used as sex toys so they kept us somewhat healthy. They kept us as close to naked as often as possible. That way, when they wanted some, it wasn't a hassle to get at us. In Hawaii, it don't get cold enough to need more than a sheet. It's freezing here by comparison. Do they have blankets?"

Troy shook his head. "A full size mattress with only sheets on the floor in each room."

Sean nodded, "Like our place then."

Troy stared at Sean. He wanted to scream and toss a fit over what his boyfriend and all these kids had been through. Confused as to what he should do at that moment, Troy stepped closer to Sean and hung off him.

Sean whispered, "You're shaking."

Unable to hide what he was feeling, Troy softly sobbed, "From anger, disgust, sadness; so many bad emotions bubbling up, I don't know what to do."

Sean nodded, "That's a big part of why I love you, Troy. We're gonna do what has to be done. Two Vulcan V.S.O. are already with the adults. Off the top of my head, I'm figuring a minimum of eight Safe Haven Act violations against sixteen kids. We've just gotta wait for the Vulcans."

A Starfleet doctor with a small girl in his arms came around the corner saying, "We're done, gentlemen. This little angel and I are ready to beam out."

Troy said, "Thanks, doc. How long before we get to see these kids again?"

"They want to stay together," the doctor answered. "If possible, you'll have a few in two days. If they insist on staying together, three or four days."

Sean nodded, "Let 'em stay together. It makes a difference."

The doctor smiled then told the girl to "wave bye-bye." The girl giggled and waved her tiny hand. The doctor tapped his comm-badge saying, "Parker. Two to beam to Camp Bam Bam."

A female voice replied. "Locked on. Energizing." A silvery light enveloped the doctor and little girl. They vanished.

Troy squeezed Sean tightly then stepped back. Holding hands, they went down the hall, stopping outside the bedroom where the two adults had been left. The V.S.O. reported that the care-givers had violated three subsections of Article ten, five subsections of Article eleven, three subsections of Article twelve and two subsections of Article fourteen. Troy and Sean thanked the V.S.O. officers then dismissed them to prepare their reports.

Walking into the room, Troy flipped out and went off on a colorful tirade. Grinning widely at his boyfriend, Sean's eyebrows raised. When the male care-giver tried to offer an excuse, Troy quickly removed his Clan Short robe and T-shirt then demanded Sean do the same. Troy pointed out the difference between his well fed torso and Sean's thinner, less muscular torso, the result of Sean's years in an orphanage. The man still insisted that the kids under his care were "fine". Troy roared a string of obscenities that would make anyone from the New York metropolitan area proud, and then sentenced them to death. Both adults loudly proclaimed their innocence while Troy and Sean dug their phasers out of their robes. They set their phasers appropriately, nodded to each other, and then fired, silencing the adults permanently. Putting their T-shirts and robes on again, they then walked out of the room. On their way back down the hall, Troy ducked into a bathroom and puked into the sink. Appearing discouraged, Troy wiped his mouth then returned to the hall and Sean.

"You're still totally awesome to me," Sean warmly assured. Troy uncertainly grunted. Sean wrapped an arm around Troy and wondered, "Can you teach me to cuss like you?" Grinning, Troy turned to Sean. "Lemme see if I can repeat this," Sean teased, "Worthless muthafucking, cock sucking, ass-eating, bitch-bastard, low-life scumbag wastes of fucking flesh." When Troy looked over and attempted to appear innocent, Sean giggled, "And you got it all out in one very loud breath. The veins in your neck and head were about ready to pop!" Troy smiled and shrugged. Shaking his head, Sean commented, "My Lover, a talented, sentimental musician with a wicked temper."

Troy sincerely offered, "I hope I didn't scare you."

"Nope," Sean confirmed. "For what you said about the kids here and me, I love you even more." They stepped outside and met up with their security and the strike team. Sean thanked and dismissed the strike team then tapped his sub-vocal. "Alden, take us to Sacramento site two, dude."

Upon arrival at the Woodlake community, Sean and Troy noticed one armored strike team member standing on the walkway leading to the home. He came to attention and said, "Sirs, Rahul Hayes reporting, sixteen children rescued. They are undergoing medical review. V.S.O. are on site and interrogating the two adults. As per Director O'Brian's order, I've reported to the A.I.'s what we've found."

Troy smiled, "Good job, thanks Rahul." He turned to Sean and suggested, "Go meet the kids, Tiger. I'll get a little more info about the care-givers." Sean nodded then stole a quick kiss. He followed the walkway to the porch and into the home. Troy asked, "Have the adults been the slightest bit cooperative?"

Rahul shrugged and grinned, "About as cooperative as you might expect after being woken up then tied up."

Troy revealed, "The last two considered their kids 'fine', as if keeping them alive was enough."

Rahul sighed, "I don't know, bro. It reminded me of my own hell on earth."

"Sorry to bring back bad memories," Troy quickly offered.

Rahul smiled, "That's why I wanted this job and accepted this assignment."

"Well, I guess I need to see it for my own eyes. As soon as the last of the kids beam out, your team is dismissed." Troy said, and then walked towards the house. Rahul watched Troy and believed that the new Core Rimmer was confident and fully capable of performing his duties. Troy was most interested in how Sean was dealing with the kids. Sean didn't act like he even noticed that the boys and girls were nude. He dealt with their bitterness easily and calmly assured them that their lives would soon be like paradise, with all the comforts they each deserved.

Troy checked with one of the medics. "When will we see these kids again?"

Doctor Metzger smiled, "In two or three days, once we're certain that they're well enough to coexist with the others at Ewa Beach."

Troy nodded, "We've got two doctors and one child psychologist. With a hundred and fifty kids plus staff, we could probably use at least one more of each."

Raising his eyebrows, Doctor Metzger smiled, "I'll put in for a transfer and spread the word. With these children, I've felt more useful tonight than I have in a long time."

Troy nodded and grinned, "I'll tell Prez. We've got four other bases to staff. I'm sure we could use dedicated talent."

Doctor Metzger picked up a small boy of about five-years-old. Only one other medic was still on-site with two other kids, about ten and thirteen years old. The little boy in Doctor Metzger's arms leaned over and kissed Troy on the cheek then hid his face on the doctor's shoulder. Sean began giggling.

Gently rubbing the boy's back, Troy smiled, "Thanks, little guy. I really needed that kiss." The two doctors and three kids beamed out. Sean broke into gales of laughter. "What's so funny?" Troy wondered.

"It's you!" Sean chuckled. "You stepped into the room and every girl turned to look and most of the boys too."

Intensely blushing and beginning to sweat, Troy begged, "Please stop."

Shaking his head, Sean slid in close to Troy then planted his own passionate kiss. It was a relaxing moment that they both needed. The V.S.O. officers walked up. Sean and Troy were all business with the Vulcans. The total offenses numbered nine for each of the sixteen kids. In this case, however, the adults were not arrogant or self-righteous with Sean and Troy. Their silent acceptance of the verdicts changed their punishment from death to life imprisonment.

With the two adults in custody, Sean and Troy went outside to Lakota, Jeremy, Gary and Leo then made their reports to Prez and Keith. Since Sean and Troy were new and Sean was a recent orphan, Prez sent them home to relax, adding that he and Keith would be there in little while for debriefing.

Santa Barbara, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

Julio and Jesse glanced at each other in shock as they heard the orders given to speed things up. They then locked eyes with Rocky and Ricky, who were quickly and silently modifying the settings on the phaser side of their MP5-AX machine guns. Julio glanced at Ricky's rifle, and nodded as he saw the position of the switch. He and Jesse both checked settings on their weapons as well; Logan had insisted they be fully qualified at the same level as the Dutchmen, so their weapons matched the weapons of their security.

Julio's eyes went wide as he heard the Unit security detail leader exclaim "What the fuck!" over the private channel.

"Ball-breakers, lock and load, we're going live," Julio quickly announced as his group began moving towards the duplex-like structure in front of them. "HQ, Butterfly Squad reporting we are hot and active," he added over the secure channel to Logan.

"Acknowledged, backup standing by," Logan replied. "No Aces, understood?"

"Yes Sir." Jesse replied as he closed the channel. With Rocky and Ricky taking the lead and providing cover, the group joined the rest of the squad in a wholesale storming of the house. As soon as they entered the living room through the solid oak door, they realized what had caused the exclamation.

Jesse's normally passive demeanor vanished instantly. Sitting on an end table were five young children, all appearing no more than eight years old, their bare chests striped with what could only be fresh cuts from a sharp object.

"These are the only kids we've found here so far," Lance, the head of the Unit strike force, announced to Julio.

Ricky twitched his nose. "There are more, and this does not smell right at all," he commented as he and Jesse began investigating the house closer. Constantly sniffing, Ricky's nose led him towards an elaborate bookcase on one wall. After a few seconds of inspection, he gave the bookcase a swift kick. The back of the bookcase collapsed, revealing a stairway leading into what could only be the attic.

Julio glanced over at Lance, who was in the process of 'softening up' the lone adult in the house that they had found to this point. "Put a guard on him, have one of your guys help these kids, and the rest of your team needs to prepare for the worst." Julio ordered. "I'll let you carry out the sentence if the scan matches what I'm seeing."

Jesse hit his sub-vocal. "Logan, I want a few of Colin's 'friends' here; we're in Hell, and I'm taking collections for the Sehlat Division Hunger Fund."

Logan didn't bother replying, instead three black-cloaked figures appeared next to Jesse. To Julio's surprise, Jesse pointed at the caretaker and said "One of you take him; he's already claimed if the sentence is death. The other two, follow us."

"You're starting to worry me, babe." Julio whispered as the troops formed up to climb the stairs.

Jesse looked at Julio, his eyes black with suppressed rage. "You've never been tortured," he stated, his omission of anything further more telling than anything else.

"Sir; there is a steel door, latched from the inside, at the top of the stairs." Gage, the ten-year-old explosives expert reported.

Julio tore his eyes from his enraged partner. "Blow the door, try to do it so nobody gets hurt if they're near on the other side."

Gage nodded, "You got it; this is easy, try making a palm tree go up fifty feet and land in the same hole it came from!"

A minute later, Gage came down the stairs. "Stand clear of flying doors," he stated confidently.

Lance nodded. "As soon as the door passes you, move in," he ordered, getting a nod of approval from Julio.

As soon as the path was clear and everyone was in place, Gage smiled and released the switch he was holding. With a loud "BANG", the steel door came flying down the stairwell and past the boys, embedding itself in the far wall. Only two Unit members made it into the stairwell before Jesse, with Ricky hot on his heels, stormed up the stairs with guns at the ready.

By the time Julio made it up the stairs, Jesse and Ricky were standing guard over five adults, taking turns at trying out the new stun bullets on anyone who had the lack of sense to twitch a finger. Julio's stomach flipped and almost emptied as he saw why. Three young boys were being helped down from where they were hanging by their wrists from the rafters. Two boys were gently being released from a rack. A boy and a girl were being disconnected from a chair that had multiple wires coming from it that attached to various body parts. Two little girls and two little boys were strapped to sawhorses, fresh whip marks on their bare buttocks. Each station had multiple high-definition cameras focused on it, the lights indicating that filming was in progress.

"Are you guys Vulcan or do you use standard telepathy?" Julio growled to his hooded companions as he rushed over to help release the little ones from the sawhorses.

"We are both standard telepaths." One of them answered from inside his hood.

"Good; you don't need to get your hands dirty. I want a full report, in my head, ASAP."

"Yes sir." they replied as they turned towards the adults. By the time all of the kids were freed from their bonds, the telepaths approached Julio. "We have your results, Director." they replied formally.

"Give me the dump." Julio said as the last boy from the sawhorse climbed up him and latched on for dear life. A minute later, his voice like ice, Julio announced "I find the adults who have been caretakers of the children of this house guilty of over one-third of the Safe Haven Act. Each adult in this room has willingly and maliciously abused those under their care, to the point of endangerment of life."

A series of loud 'clicks' from Jesse, Ricky, Rocky, and those that were not still helping kids from their bonds told Julio that his next words would have no arguments. "For the crimes that you have committed, I sentence you to... death."

Before Julio could even give the order, live rounds burst from multiple machine guns, quickly turning the row of adults into a pile of hamburger. "Logan, we need a Sehlat for cleanup, at my location in the attic." Julio growled.

"Report, Julio." Logan responded, his voice steady.

"I have five adults who volunteered for supper, one pending, fifteen malnourished children who have been tortured on film that need medivac, and one child attached to my neck who seems to be a recent arrival that will need medical attention upon our return. Now where is our furry gourmet?"

"I will arrange for his supper to be delivered to a location more able to support his weight," Logan replied. "Stand by for medical team arrival on lower level."

"Acknowledged," Julio replied as he signaled for the team to assist their charges with climbing down the stairs. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jesse and Gage making the rounds of the equipment in the attic, obviously preparing to eliminate the reminders of the wrongs committed here.

Ricky remained behind with Jesse and Gage, and the rest of the group returned to the main level. After sentencing the final adult to lunch after reviewing of his actions and a quick stop to get his personal leech's major injuries treated, Julio began doing a walk-through of the house. The house was laid out with six bedrooms. Four of the rooms were obviously for the adults, even though each held two beds, and each contained a personal torture area with cameras, configured so that it became a bookshelf with a flick of a switch. The last two rooms had bunk beds sealed off with portable gates, and bare army cots in the center of the room for the kids to sleep on. The only visible toys were sealed behind the gates, obviously not intended for any actual use. In the kitchen, there were two refrigerators, one labeled 'adults' and the other labeled 'children'. After using his phaser to cut the lock on the adult one, Julio found it full of steaks, milk, beer, and other normal adult foods. The kids' fridge, however, contained powdered milk, water, and a moldy chunk of bleu cheese. The cupboards were not much better; bread, some instant macaroni and cheese, and Ramen noodles. In the living room, Julio noticed that the DVD's in the locked case seemed a little too organized. He went to pull one out after breaking into the case, and instead the entire contents of the shelf came out; all glued together and glued shut.

Just then Gage and Jesse came down to the main level. Julio stopped them, and tapped his subvocal. "Logan, I need to borrow Lucas. We need to do some explosive mental healing here."

"On his way." Logan replied. "Like he'd ever let me live it down for refusing to let him have fun."

"No shit." Julio said, almost achieving a small grin. He turned to Gage, and said "You and Lucas need to see how small you can make this house."

Without waiting for a reply, Julio headed for the lead medical tech. "Are any of these kids in bad enough shape that they can't hang around to watch their horror being destroyed?" he asked seriously.

"No sir, in fact I think you'll heal them greatly by doing that where they can see it first-hand," the tech replied, her face pale from the accounts she had heard from the children.

"Can I push the button? They killed my best friend the day after we were moved here," a small voice whispered next to Julio's ear.

Julio turned his head, looking into the face of the formerly speechless boy that he'd been carrying around. "I can ask, little guy. What's your name?"

"I'm Terry. What's gonna happen to me now?"

"I'm going to take you to visit with some of my friends in Hawaii, then you'll go home to Iowa with us. We can talk about that more after we destroy this place though, okay?"


The seven-year old tucked his blond head back into Julio's neck, falling silent once again. Julio moved over to where Lucas had appeared with four large bags, all of which were waiting as Gage updated him on the situation.

"Guys, I have a thousand dollars that says you can't make this house into a pile of toothpicks in the dead center of this lot." Julio stated seriously, knowing Lucas wouldn't miss out on such a challenge.

"You're on." Lucas whispered firmly. "Gage, break out the sink, it's time to cook."

"On it; it's been a while since I stole money from a Director!" Gage grinned.

Julio nodded, even allowing a smile as Lucas and Gage broke out their 'portable kitchen sinks'. "One thing, little Terry here gets to push the button; they killed his best friend." Julio stated.

"I know, I've been helping in his head since I got here." Lucas replied as he started dumping chemicals in the sink. "Randall's favorite color was purple, we're gonna send this place up in a purple cloud."

The last made Julio relax; the Des Moines group had quickly bonded, and he knew that Lucas would go out of his way to keep his word. He headed over to Jesse, who was quietly unloading his soul to Ricky. As Julio approached, Jesse fell silent. Julio walked up and kissed Jesse's forehead, before stating "I just wanted to let you know it's okay, hon. You can tell me when you're ready, but I'll let you and Ricky talk it out for now."

"Thanks, Babe." Jesse replied softly.

Knowing his boyfriend needed the privacy, Julio began making the rounds of the rest of the kids while his 'boomers' were setting things up for their show. By the time he was done, he had found some very disturbing things. The kids were listed as all being 'home schooled' due to 'emotional imbalance'. In reality, the adults either faked the required tests on the computer, or sat each kid down and gave them the answers to the questions. None of the kids were actually educated, the time was spent filming torture films for sale to anyone who had the means to get them. If the kids performed well, they were given a light meal at the end of their performance. If they did poorly or were off that day, they were limited to the contents of the kid's refrigerator. Clothing was what was on their backs... when they could wear it. For inspections, they were always on 'educational trips' and the rooms were reconfigured to look like they lived in luxury. Kids who did not survive were listed as 'transfers' and then 'runaway - not found' within a month of their supposed transfer.

Julio stepped off to the side, still holding Terry, so that he could think over what had just happened. As he watched without really watching, the Unit troops were busily running wire throughout the building, their instructions coming telepathically from Lucas. Lucas and Gage were quite busy setting charges, each triple-checking to ensure it was just right.

'I wonder how these creeps got away with this crap,' Julio thought to himself. 'What the fuck were they thinking? How in the Hell can someone do that to another person, especially a kid?'

"What'cha cryin' about?" Terry asked softly, his head pulled back to look at Julio's face.

Julio had not even noticed the tears flowing from his eyes. "I'm crying because I can't understand how they could treat you guys like they did." Julio responded quietly.

"But you saved us," Terry replied seriously. "And Lucas says that he's gonna give everyone buttons, but mine is gonna be the one that makes the big boom. He says that when we get home, he's gonna teach me how to make booms myself."

Realizing that Lucas was helping Terry deal by distracting his mind, Julio let one of his worries slide to the back burner for now. "Lucas was taught by the best, so you're going to learn a lot." Julio replied, himself glad for the distraction. "Who knows, you might even get to go launch palm trees with the Patriarch of Clan Short every once in a while."

"You means Lucas wasn't lyin' about that?" Terry asked.

"Lucas can't lie when he's mind talking." Julio stated seriously. "He won't lie anyway, he hates liars and won't become one."

Terry's green eyes gained a little bit of light to them. "Does that mean that you really are gonna be my daddy now? Lucas said that you would."

"You and I need to talk to Jesse, since he's gonna be your poppa, but I'm pretty sure he'll say okay and then it'll be for real." Julio replied.

Terry smiled. "Lucas says it'll be okay."

"You better believe it." Lucas' soft voice announced as he joined them. "Julio, either stop your hangin' on what happened, or I'm gonna get Colin to sort out your head. Got it, bro?"

"Sir yes SIR!" Julio replied as he flipped Lucas the finger behind Terry's back.

"You know I hate needles." Lucas giggled. "Here Terry, this is your button. I've got the main control box disconnected, so it won't do anything. Once I tell you it's live, don't press it until I tell you in your head to do it."

"Okay Lucas." Terry replied, carefully taking the offered button.

Lucas made the rounds of the rest of the kids, giving each of them a button that would help enable Terry's button. As he reached the last boy, the one that had also been tied to a sawhorse, he was stopped before the boy would take the button.

"What about my pet spider, Frankie? He lives on the gate by my bed!" the little boy asked.

"You're Ryan, right?" Lucas asked, even though he already knew the answer.

"Yeah. Where's Frankie?"

Lucas held out his hand, and a little spider appeared on his palm, sitting in a ventilated plastic box. "He's right here, and a friend of mine talked to him to tell him what was happening. He's gonna ride in this box until you get to your new home, and we'll make sure that he's got a nice tank to live in so he don't accidentally get hurt."

"Wow! Thanks!" Ryan stated after checking to make sure it was 'his' spider. After carefully giving Lucas a hug, he took the spider and the button from Lucas and then settled down in the grass.

Once Lucas returned to the control box, Gage got up on a makeshift podium that they had thrown together from the equipment crates that had been teleported in. "Okay everybody, we're gonna pass out what we call 'Micky Mouse Ears'. You need to put them over your ears to protect them from the big boom. We're having a force field set up to keep you from getting hit by anything if something goes wrong, but it won't so you're gonna see a really kewl explosion. When I say 'press your button', I need you to do just that. Once everyone's button is pressed, your bad memories are going to go boom!" He paused, and after a nod from Lucas, continued. "We need to test it, so everyone press your buttons now and hold them until a little bang happens."

At the controller, Lucas watched the status lights. Once each light for the buttons went green, he signaled Terry and smiled as the sound of a firecracker went off behind him.

Gage smiled as well. "Okay, you won't hear me once your ears are covered, so Lucas is going to give you the order to hold your button down again once everyone is ready." Gage turned, and after cupping his hands around his mouth, yelled "CLEAR THE LINE!"

Once everyone had donned their hearing protection, and the third head count had been taken to assure the techs that everyone was accounted for, Lucas did a wide-area broadcast. 'FIRE IN THE HOLE!'

Lucas and Gage checked each other one last time, ensuring the force field was active and all status lights were normal, then with a double thumbs-up, the order was given to press the buttons. Almost instantly, the row of lights lit up, followed by a flashing 'pre-armed' light. Lucas signaled Terry, and less than a second later the ARMED light went live.

With a rumble, the staged charges began doing their work. First to go was the center of the house, along with the foundational supports within the central areas of the structure. As the house started to collapse in on itself, shaped charges began going off, directing the falling pieces into the vacated central area. Finally, less than thirty seconds after it started, the perimeter rings of shaped charges began going off, each ring pushing the debris into a tight pile in the center while breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces.

When all was said and done, the former duplex now occupied a space the size of a lawn shed. As promised, the final explosion was a pyrotechnic blast which resulted in a plume of purple smoke rising from the center of the pile. As the former residents ripped off their hearing protection, each bearing the first smile to grace their face since moving in, Julio realized that this horror was finally over.

"Hey everyone, you can keep the 'ears' if you want, if not just lay them on the ground and we'll pick them up." Gage announced.

Julio smiled himself as he felt Jesse cuddle up to his free side. "Is this our new son?" Jesse asked, obviously already aware of what had been discussed.

Julio nodded. "Terry, this is your new Pop, Jesse."

"Hi Pop," Terry said timidly.

Julio looked around, and heard fire trucks in the distance. "Logan, fifteen plus staff to the Unit hospital, and we need a fast cleanup before the firemen arrive."

"Okay bro; Daileass is on it. See you in a few seconds." Logan replied.

Los Angeles, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

Rafiki, Mike's gorilla, returned from where the policemen had been lying on the East L.A. street. When the gorilla was close enough, Derrick softly asked, "Where'd you send the cops, Raf?"

"Terra-Main Space Station for prosecution," the gorilla replied. "I figure that they're either extremely stupid or involved in the cover-up."

A muffled gun shot was heard. Mike grumbled, "Damned cops blew our surprise to hell."

Derrick scowled, "That confirms at least those two knew what was going on here. I'll bet others in the city government knew stuff too."

Mike sighed, "If Prez finds that out, L.A. will be short a couple of public servants."

Derrick nodded, "Definitely. Get that Irish temper up and we've got big problems." He paused then teased, "Now that I think about it, your temper boils over kind of quick too."

Mike giggled, "But I can recall what I've said and done. Prez just goes nuclear."

Derrick's comm-badge chirped. "Strike team Charlie One, location secure."

Derrick replied, "We heard a gunshot, Zack. Is everyone okay?"

Zack answered, "Yeah, we're fine. One of the 'care-givers' fired a thirty-eight revolver. Thankfully, we've got the best armor available. One team member is sore from the kick in the gut. The asshole that fired the thirty-eight is unconscious at the moment."

Following their security to the property, Derrick said, "We're comin'."

Zack softly said, "Prepare yourselves, guys. It's revolting in here."

"Are the kids safe?" Mike worried.

"Yeah," Zack sighed. "The adults are restrained and gagged so we won't have to hear their shit."

Derrick scowled, "I thought you said the man was unconscious?"

Zack answered, "He is, but the woman's a foul-mouthed wench. Gagging two is almost as easy as one."

Across their sub-vocals, Prez announced, "Attention Core Rimmers and Rimmer Strike Teams. It's way worse here than we could've imagined. There are twenty kids at our location. We need to prioritize what we've got and where we need what type of medical response. I want reports made to Alden, A.S.A.P. We need the location, number of kids and their general condition. Alden, prioritize the incoming data and report back to me. This is turning to shit, dudes!"

Mike groaned, "Saints help us, John and Prez are both very unhappy."

Manuel, Mike's teenaged personal security, whose nickname was Manny, said, "While you two are safe inside, I'd like to have the gorillas check something out."

Mike wondered, "What's up, dude?"

Manny replied, "I keep seeing someone down the block peek around the corner."

Derrick looked up at his Silverback, Talib, and ordered, "Better go check it out."

Nodding agreement, Mike said, "We're safe so don't hurt any one. Bring whomever you find back to us."

Derrick and Mike went into the house. The lights flickered then stayed on. Zack, the strike team leader, waited at the end of the hall. Derrick wondered, "Where's the kids?"

Zack gestured to the room beyond the hallway saying, "In here. There are twenty. The two adults are in their bedroom."

Mike scowled, "What stinks?"

Zack approached Derrick and Mike then whispered, "The kids were locked in their rooms upstairs. If someone needed to go to the bathroom, tough luck. We're cleaning up the kids and I've already called in as a medical emergency."

Mike and Derrick couldn't believe what they had heard. They followed Zack into the kitchen. The kids were naked and pathetically boney, sitting down along the counters and walls, with members of the strike team carefully sponge bathing them with towels. With nothing more to do at the moment, Derrick and Mike grabbed towels and helped get the kids cleaned up. They gently assured the kids that they were safe now and would soon be cared for by the best doctors in the Federation. The kids were literally scared shitless though, and one little girl lost control of her bodily functions while she was being cleaned. Although no one said a word about it and only moved her aside to cleanup the additional mess, she screamed as if her life were being threatened. The fact was, the girl was so emaciated that any touch probably did cause her pain. None of the other orphans moved or spoke to alleviate the girl's fear and pain.

Doctors and medics arrived. Upon seeing the children for themselves, they called for immediate backup. Derrick, Mike and the strike team members stepped aside to allow the medics access to the kids. Standing beyond the kitchen in the hall were two V.S.O. officers. Derrick ordered Zack to "show our Vulcan friends to the dirt-bags responsible."

Shaken to his core, Mike tearfully added, "Get everything from them; we're prosecuting everyone responsible." The Vulcans nodded then Zack showed them to the adult's bedroom. Mike began wandering around to inspect the house. He noticed filthy walls; minimal, useless furnishings; not even a television in the living room. Fuming, revolted and saddened, Mike turned to find Derrick.

Outside with many of the strike team members, Derrick saw his husband and called, "Here, Mike."

Mike didn't even notice the gorillas or the other teenage boys that were found. Shaking violently, Mike buried himself in Derrick's embrace. Derrick softly assured, "It's gonna be okay, Lick. The kids will be fixed up by the docs. The two assholes responsible are dust already, they just don't know it yet."

Mike nodded and sobbed, "They don't even deserve an explanation. I don't want to say a word to either of them."

"I know," Derrick whispered. "It's kewl by me. Let's do it that way."

Forcing a small relieved smile, Mike looked up. It was then that Mike smelled cigarette smoke. Looking around, Mike discovered his and Derrick's security surrounding a group of five older teenagers, some of which were smoking. Wiping his eyes and pulling himself together, Mike asked, "Who are these dudes?"

Manny replied, "The ones that were loitering around watching us are a local street gang."

Derrick said, "These are some of the Latin Kings. They want out, Mike."

Mike's Silverback laid his hands on two of the boys saying, "This is Alfonso and this is Hector. They'll act as spokesmen."

The boy identified as Hector stepped forward. "Me and my friends, we'd like to help. We knew what was happenin' here, but no one would listen. We'll help you if you'll help us?"

Derrick wondered, "What kind of help can you provide?"

Alfonso laughed, "Distractions!"

Hector grinned, "The cops in this city are fucked up. They like car chases, but can't run to save their fat asses. We'll keep them occupied if you'll help some of our brothers and sisters."

Mike asked, "How old are you dudes?"

Hector replied, "Nineteen. Too old and too set in my ways for Clan, but I got brothers and sisters that need to escape home and this city."

Alfonso said, "Seventeen. I ain't ever been arrested, but I got brothers and sisters that need out too. We got no future here."

Derrick smiled, "I'm sure we can accommodate you. Start waking your brothers and sisters."

Grateful for a little cheer in an otherwise dismal night, Mike nodded, "Anyone that wants Clan help will get it." The Latin Kings began pulling out cell phones to call their loved ones. Mike turned to Zack asking, "Can you dudes provide transport for our new friends. Your job is done here."

Derrick reminded, "No weapons of any sort are allowed on base. With these guys covering your back, you won't need 'em anyway."

Having already noticed the weapons many in the strike team and personal security were carrying, Hector laughed, "Fifty cals, M-16's and phaser rifles tend to deter!"

Derrick smiled then carefully said, "We appreciate your offer to help us very much, but we honestly don't need it. Clan Short doesn't require down payments and we sure don't want to be responsible for any of you getting arrested because you helped us. All you need to do is get the kids, okay?" The Latin Kings reluctantly agreed. That wasn't street rules they played by. Derrick called Alden and ordered a Clan Short communicator. He handed it to Hector saying, "You're now Clan intelligence on detached duty. Any kid you find that needs our help, just use this to let us know."

Alfonso pointed and said, "Vulcan dudes waitin' on you." Hearing themselves referred to as 'dudes' both V.S.O. officers raised their eyebrows.

Mike turned and signaled for the Vulcans to wait just one minute then faced Zack saying, "Alden will know where we are. When everyone's gathered, bring them to us."

Zack nodded, "You got it, Mike."

Mike and Derrick went back inside the house to receive reports from the V.S.O. In the meanwhile, the members of strike team Charlie one split into five groups of two and began transporting away with members of the Latin Kings.

Upon hearing a grand total of thirteen violations against the Safe Haven Act, Derrick dismissed the V.S.O. Mike and Derrick set their phasers to maximum and wide beam so they could walk in the room and dispatch the two adults as quickly as possible. This one bedroom had the TV and all the good furnishings. The rest of the house was impoverished by comparison. Of course, the two adults were disintegrated, but so was the bed and about six feet of the wall behind the adults. Peering through the large hole in the wall, Derrick grinned, "Oops! Got a tree too."

Mike shrugged, "Oh fucking well! If we could do it without draining our phasers, I'd happily flatten this place."

Derrick led Mike out of the house. Once with their security, Mike called, "Alden, L.A. site two, please."

Alden replied, "I've received reports from both sites, Mike. It's your call, but L.A. site three is worse than two."

Mike checked with Derrick. They decided to deal with the worst case first and were transported to site three in Los Angeles. While the Compton neighborhood was different, the situation inside was similar to the first site. At least the kids weren't locked in their rooms at night and were allowed to use the bathroom, but the twenty kids were every bit as emaciated, hurting and sickly as the others. There wasn't much time to speak to any of the kids, but they did tell the few remaining orphans that they would soon be feeling better and in Hawaii, living under much better conditions.

The total violations listed by V.S.O. numbered twelve. As they had at the prior location, Derrick and Mike terminated the two adults. Beginning to lose patience and self-control, Derrick and Mike took pot-shots at furniture and walls as they left the dwelling. At the lowest setting, a phaser blast could move a stove or refrigerator. At the next higher setting, a short phaser blast at a plaster board wall would knock a hole through it. Making any attempt at salvaging the residence pointless, Derrick tried the next higher setting on the staircase, destroying most of the wooden steps. Outside watching and hearing Mike's and Derrick's remarks, two gorillas shook their heads while the two teenage security guards began sniggering.

Finally, Derrick and Mike visited site two in Los Angeles. Sixteen kids had already been taken to Blank Children's hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. V.S.O. reports listed nine Safe Have Act violations. After checking with members of Strike Team Charlie two, Mike and Derrick decided life imprisonment was appropriate. By the time they exited the premises, strike team Charlie one had arrived with thirty-six Latin Kings kids between age seven and fifteen. They were spoken to and became more excited about the opportunities possible at Ewa Beach.

Derrick called Prez intending to report all that had been done, but the conversation revolved mostly around the Latin King kids. Alden transported all of them back to Ewa Beach to wrap up the night.

San Francisco, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

Even in their black Clan Short robes, Keith and Prez were chilled. It was forty-six degrees Fahrenheit in San Francisco and John's recent call left them both with shivers running down their spines. Each of the command teams had phasers and a tricorder with them. They were in an area of the city known as The Dogpatch. Sounds from a nearby freeway could be heard and it could be seen only a few hundred feet away. In a small park, Prez and Keith were with their security teams amongst a few trees, across 20th Street from the building that was being raided by Kekoa and his team. They were watching the house and waiting for word it was safe to enter.

Two other strike teams were in San Francisco. The first was west of the 101 Freeway, between 24th and 25th Streets. The other was in South San Francisco.

Holding Prez close so he could whisper as softly as possible, Keith shared, "John sounded real bad, baby."

Prez nodded and whispered, "I can only assume he's feeling stuff from the orphanage he's at."

"The A.I.'s said they weren't spending enough on food or utilities adequate for twelve kids. For the first time, I can honestly say I'm really scared. I'm scared for John mostly, but partially over the orphaned kids."

"It's this place. What a hell-hole. A couple of houses near this small park, but warehouses and industrial complexes within sight. This is no place for an orphanage and kids."

"That's a violation against Article ten of the Safe Haven Act, as far as I'm concerned."

Prez said, "Note that for this location, Alden."

Alden responded, "Noted."

Monitoring his tricorder, Keith said, "The air quality here is putrid. We're only a few blocks from the bay and what looks like industrial docks and shipyards. The wind is blowin' from that direction too."

Alden replied, "Got it, Keith."

Concerned for John, Keith softly told Prez; "I gotta check, T'hy'la" Prez nodded and Keith tapped his sub-vocal. He silently mouthed, "Alden, patch me to John."

Alden replied "Patch complete, Keith."

Keith whispered, "You okay, bro?" A few seconds later, Keith nodded then said, "Be careful." Keith then told Prez, "He was holding hands with Stephen. Everything he might've felt was amplified. Since they let each other go, John's better." He then smirked, "We should've thought of that and warned them."

Prez grinned, "Like any warning might've made a difference."

Prez's comm-badge chirped. Kekoa coughed, "Team Able One to Director O'Brian."

"Prez here. Your status, Kekoa?"

"Location secure, Sir. The care-givers are subdued. The children..." Kekoa paused. Prez, Keith, and their security heard the unmistakable sound of vomiting then spitting. "The children are gathered and safe."

Quickly walking across the street, Prez asked, "Are you okay, Kekoa?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Not all of us are though." Kekoa paused then said, "It's gross in here, Prez. Brace yourself." Without thinking, Prez and Keith ran to the property, across the small lawn and through the already open door. The odor hit them first and they stopped just beyond the door. The smell was worse inside than it was outside. Several flashlight beams could be seen further ahead. Prez and Keith reached into their robe pockets for their flashlights and turned them on. To the right of the entrance was a large, almost barren room. To the left was a short wall then another room with a large table, however there were no chairs. Every wall the boys saw looked like it was gray, but as their eyes adjusted, it was obvious they had once been white; they simply hadn't been painted in many years and were in disrepair. What little furniture was in the room on the right appeared well beneath serviceable. They could only assume it was a living room. There wasn't sufficient seating for six, never mind twelve. At the end of the hall, Kekoa called, "Over here, Prez. We'll have the power back on in a minute. We have two adults, one male and one female, and twenty kids..."

"Twenty?" Prez incredulously repeated.

Kekoa nodded, "Yes, Sir. There are four bedrooms upstairs. The room the adults were in was spacious, well furnished and maintained and had three locks on the door. The kids were in the three smaller bedrooms; six in one, seven in the other two rooms. There were no beds or mattresses in any of those three rooms. Just disgusting old, threadbare sheets shared by every kid in the room. Not even a pillow was there for them. They were behind double locked doors too. They couldn't even use the bathroom; there were plastic buckets for them to piss and shit in." Before allowing the leaders to pass beyond the doorway, Kekoa moved closer to them and whispered, "These kids are emaciated. Some are ill, some have open sores and wounds that appear gangrenous..."

Having heard enough, Keith tapped his comm-badge. "Logan, it's Keith; contact Starfleet Medical, code white, pediatric emergency, set Medical teams at condition orange. Respond to all orphanage locations immediately. Also, get teams at each site for Vulcan mind-meld interrogations."

Logan replied, "I'll coordinate with Starfleet, Charleston Clan Hospital, the UNIT Rapid Response Medical Wing and other major hospitals around the U.K. and U.S. which have large, excellent pediatric facilities. I'll have Lieutenant Vorik contact Commander Jason Evans for V.S.O. Operatives to be dispatched."

At virtually the same instant that Keith began speaking, Prez tapped his sub-vocal and ordered, "Alden, connect me to all command teams. Attention Core Rimmers and Rimmer Strike Teams. It's way worse here than we could've imagined. There are twenty kids at our location. We need to prioritize what we've got and where we need what type of medical response. I want reports made to Alden A.S.A.P. We need the location, number of kids and their general condition. Alden, prioritize the incoming data and report back to me. This is turning to shit, dudes!"

Alden replied, "Understood. Reports are coming in, Prez."

The lights came on. In a second or two, their eyes adjusted. The room beyond the doorway Kekoa was standing in was a kitchen. Prez and Keith barreled past Kekoa. To the right were a group of mostly naked kids. At first glance, Prez thought of the late night commercials asking for aid for starving children in drought stricken corners of the globe. The few kids that were standing had distended bellies, as if they hadn't ever eaten a decent meal in their lives. At their feet were the younger and most frightened kids. Keith and Prez were momentarily struck dumb at the pitiful sight. They turned away and saw the two adults, their arms and legs restrained, laying prone, face down on the floor in their pajamas.

Choking back his tears, Prez moved closer to the kids. There were five kids standing, four boys and one girl. Only the girl had tattered boys briefs on. The tallest boy had kids under each arm and others gathered around on the floor, holding onto his legs. They all were very dirty, as if they hadn't bathed in at least a month. Some of the kids on the floor looked up at Prez rather oddly. Prez had seen shock and surprise in other kids faces before, however this expression was different; they almost seemed catatonic; conscious yet not understanding what was happening around them, as if they were in a different, unknown place. Locking eyes with the tallest boy, he softly said, "My name is Prez. What's your name?"

"Greg," the boy meekly answered.

"Do you understand we're here to help?" The boy nodded. Prez asked, "How old are you, Greg?"


What was most amazing to Prez was that this fifteen year old boy was about the same height as his twelve-year-old brother, Drew. Prez could see each of Greg's ribs, his collar bone and virtually no muscle anywhere on his body. Even what was hanging between his legs seemed more appropriate for a prepubescent. Pubic hair made it obvious he had passed that phase of maturity. Prez said, "You've been trying to protect these kids, haven't you?" Again the boy only nodded. Prez forced a weak smile saying, "It shows, Greg. They're all clustered up to you." Glancing at each of the kids, Prez promised, "From now on, you're all Clan brothers and sisters. We'll get you all any help you need."

Outside the kitchen doorway, someone else threw up. While Prez was fighting back his own need to puke, he continued to try and get to know the kids. Behind Prez, Keith ordered members of the strike team to lift the man and woman. Keith began listing out violations of the Safe Haven Act to the two adults. He finally growled, "I swear to you both, you'll never see the sunrise again. As soon as I get all of what I need from you inconsiderate, inhuman shits, I will take extreme pleasure in turning you to dust myself."

The man protested, "You can't do..."

Keith was beyond outraged. Before the man could finish, Keith punched him in the face, breaking his nose and loosening teeth. Keith screamed, "Yes we can! There is no excuse you can possibly make!" However, the man seemed ready to speak again. Biting his lower lip with both his fists clenched and prepared to land multiple blows, Keith softly warned, "Don't! I swear, I'll kill you with my bare hands."

A UNIT Medical team entered the room. Among the medics was Doctor Janet Hayes. She laid a hand on Prez, then gently said, "We'll take over, Preston. I promise you, you will see these kids again and in better shape than they are now."

Prez nodded then introduced her to the kids. Also entering the kitchen were a Vulcan man and Vulcan woman. Both were dressed in black jumpsuits. They went to where Keith was standing before the two adults. Doing his best to control his temper, Keith told the V.S.O. officers, "Suck them deaf and blind, for all I care. Who is responsible for this? Are they alone or is it in their management? We're prosecuting everybody responsible. If the garbage man knew and didn't say anything, I want his ass on a hook."

The Vulcan V.S.O. officers nodded then went directly to the two adults and began mind-melds.

The UNIT doctors were beaming out with children and additional doctors beamed in to replace them. Having completed their mid-melds with the adult 'care-givers', the Vulcan V.S.O. officers led Prez and Keith outside to report their findings. They wanted a chance to discuss things away from the children and the chaos of the home. Thoroughly disgusted, the strike team members holding the adults upright let them go and nudged them just enough to cause them to both fall face first onto the floor again. One went so far as to sarcastically grin, "Oops! Sowwy!"

The twenty children that had been scraping an existence in this home had managed to keep each other alive. They had shared every morsel of food and taken over household chores for each other when one was too sick or injured to do the task themselves. They did not want to be separated and were being transported to medical facilities at Camp Bam Bam.

While still outside, Prez and Keith received reports from Alden. "The two locations in Anaheim and one of the San Diego locals have twelve kids each. With sixteen kids each are the two other San Francisco locations, one of the Los Angeles locations, the one in Santa Barbara, and one of the Sacramento locations. The other Sacramento orphanage has eighteen kids as does one of the San Jose sites. In addition to your location, two orphanages in Los Angeles had twenty kids each." Alden paused and sadly stated, "The other San Diego site has twenty-four kids, as does John's site in San Jose. Reported from Fresno were twenty-four found plus one D.O.A. We were expecting one-hundred-ninety-six kids. The actual count, not including the one deceased, is two-hundred-eighty-four."

With tears welling up in his eyes, Keith groaned, "John, Stephen, Kaleo and Tory." The sadness Keith felt over his youngest brother, brother-in-law and two close friends that had been orphans themselves turned to rage. His comm-badge chirped. As soon as he tapped it, Kaleo bitterly ranted. Prez was beside himself. If only he had had a clue that it was this bad then he, Keith, Mike and Derrick would've been assigned to the worst locations. Those corporate morons and every person associated with this situation would pay. Prez didn't care if the entire State's government was involved, they would go down in flames with ZCC.

Without saying a word to anyone, Prez slowly walked into the house. Feeling the knots in his husband's gut and throat, Keith followed. The two adults were face down on the floor. All the children and doctors were gone. Prez ordered, "Stand them up and step away." Once the strike team members had followed his order, Prez glared at the two adults and ranted, "You have both been found guilty of fifteen violations of the Safe Haven Act. We have extracted from your memories the names of all your corporate superiors, and anyone else you knew by name, that allowed this repugnant travesty against humanity to continue. You are hereby summarily sentenced to death." While the man and woman loudly protested, pleading for clemency, Prez and Keith pulled their phasers out and set them to medium beam at maximum power. The two V.S.O. officers remained at the back door watching. From the hallway doorway into the kitchen area, Kekoa also watched. Prez and Keith took three steps back. Tired of hearing their pleas, Prez bellowed, "I don't give a flying fuck about mercy for people like you! Neither of you look like you're starving. You did this for personal gain; for money and extravagant personal items. Worse, you have no remorse. Pray to whatever God you believe in and beg him for forgiveness. You aren't getting any from me!" Together, Prez and Keith raised their arms, took aim and fired.

It seemed that the phaser blasts extended outward from the center of the torsos to their extremities. Finally, the two adults were dust on the floor and there was abrupt silence in the room. Now that sentencing was complete, Keith and Prez tried to take deep breaths, but all that accomplished was opening their throats. Keith hurried to the kitchen sink and vomited. Having nowhere else to go, Prez threw up onto the piles of ash that were, only seconds earlier, two extremely warped human beings.

The two V.S.O. officers led Prez and Keith out the front door to the sidewalk. Prez thanked the V.S.O. officers then asked them to prepare their reports regarding this location. Keith asked Alden to transport them and their security teams to the next San Francisco location. Doctors had transported the sixteen kids from the site to pediatric hospitals in Des Moines, Iowa. On-site V.S.O. reports to Prez and Keith found the 'care-givers' guilty of ten violations of the Safe Haven Act. They were arrested and transported to Terra-Main Space Station for prosecution and would likely be sent to off-planet penal facilities.

Finishing at the second of three San Francisco orphanages, Keith and Prez began receiving calls from the other five Core Rimmer teams. Drew called Keith and Keith sent them home. John couldn't even call his oldest brother; Stephen made the call. Prez and Keith wished they could some how undo any damage done to the youngest of the team. Troy called Prez. Kaleo called Keith.

Prez contacted Logan to ask for assistance rounding up what would likely be hundreds of individuals directly and indirectly responsible for the travesties uncovered. Keith checked with Lieutenant Vorik to make certain that Vulcan healers would be available. He sure didn't want any of them going through what Harry and Jonas had experienced. As expected, Vorik was fully prepared. Not only would there be trained Vulcan healers, Riti and Viccy Evans would also be at Ewa Beach. Prez learned that all Clan Division leaders were made aware of the extent of the California Orphanage raids.

Numbed from the atrocities, Prez and Keith went to the last of the San Francisco locations. Immediately upon arrival, Prez's comm-badge chirped. "Yeah," Prez abruptly answered.

Derrick's voice asked, "Hey, how're ya doin', bro?"

Prez grunted, "Alright, I guess."

Derrick offered, "We're finishing up in Los Angeles. What do you need from us, bro?"

"Booze and drugs," Keith smirked.

Mike teased, "We're in a place where we can get them."

An unrecognizable voice wondered, "Wha'choo you want? Smoke? Blow?"

Keith sighed, "I was kidding."

Prez asked, "Who was that speaking?"

Derrick replied, "We picked up some helpers along the way." An unintelligible chorus of voices laughed and joked across the comm-link. Derrick chuckled, "Prez, say hello to the Latin Kings."

Prez carefully repeated, "Hello Latin Kings."

At least a dozen voices answered, "Capasa!"

Cracking the first smile in about an hour, Prez replied, "We've had better nights, dudes."

Derrick said, "They covered our asses and provided intelligence tonight, Prez. We've got about thirty newbies wanting to join the Clan, bro."

Prez nodded, "Any one that needs or wants our help is very welcome. We're almost done here. Is everyone ready to go home?"

Mike said, "We'll meet you there, bro."

San Jose, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

It was just as cold in San Jose as in San Francisco, but John was sweating and feeling horrible. Two orphanages in San Jose were being raided; one in the East Foothills and one in Cupertino, where John and Stephen were. Sitting on the sidewalk, across from the orphanage being raided, with his head between his knees, John could barely get a word out of his mouth without his entire body hurting. Stephen finally got up and began operating the tricorder to check John's health. As soon as Stephen let go and stepped away, John felt better and huffed in relief.

Stephen softly asked, "Are you feeling better, hon?"

John nodded, "I hate to ask you this, baby, but this time, I need you to not touch or hold me. The amplification effect ain't so good."

Reluctantly nodding, Stephen glanced down at the tricorder and watched his husband's body temperature drop from almost one-hundred-two degrees down to just above normal, landing at ninety-nine-point-two degrees Fahrenheit in only fifteen seconds.

In his ear, John heard Keith. "You okay, bro?"

"Fine now," John softly responded. "It was the amplification effect, partly. I'm better now."

Stephen said, "How does your throat feel, hon? You sound way better."

Mildly stunned, John realized his sore throat did feel much better. Warmly smiling up at his husband, John softly assured, "Much better, baby." Telepathically hearing Stephen's thoughts, John replied, 'I love you too.' This began a game they started playing aboard the Enterprise, before everything got crazy.

Stephen thought, "I love you more."

John sent, 'I love you infinitely.'

Stephen giggled and realized he was getting a stiffy.

John only hummed like he had just eaten a large piece of moist chocolate cake and washed it down with an ice cold glass of milk.

Interrupting the game, all the team members heard Prez in their sub-vocals. "Attention Core Rimmers and Rimmer Strike Teams. It's way worse here than we could've imagined. There are twenty kids at our location. We need to prioritize what we've got and where we need what type of medical response. I want reports made to Alden A.S.A.P. We need the location, number of kids and their general condition. Alden, prioritize the incoming data and report back to me. This is turning to shit dude!"

John's comm-badge chirped. "Strike Team Beta One reporting."

"Go ahead, Yan," John replied.

Sounding out of breath, Yan huffed, "Location secure, John."

Standing up, John said, "We're headin' in."

Yan sobbed, "Don't, John."

John frowned, "I know, dude. I'm as protected as I can be. There's nothing else I can do except see it for myself."

"There's no point, bro," Yan weakly offered. "These... they won't be going to Ewa Beach. We'll be lucky if we can save their lives; never mind make them people again. We've made this a priority medical emergency."

John and Stephen slowly walked to the house. Lucky blocked the path to the stairway so neither boy could pass to witness what was upstairs. Even on the lower level, the rancid odors seemed to permeate walls and flooring.

Greeting the medical team, John and Stephen went upstairs with a large group of men and women. John received brief telepathic impressions from a few of the children then blocked any further telepathic contact. Most of the children were beyond any form of rational thought. They were unable to speak and barely had strength to move of their own accord.

Medical personnel found many open sores, wounds and broken bones. Gangrene existed in some form or another, in various levels of seriousness, on every child. Limbs would have to amputated, but the kids were so weak, the doctors worried if their young patients would be able to handle anesthesia. If they could manage to be sedated, the next question was whether they would survive the surgeries intended to save their lives.

Those children that did survive would need years of round-the-clock care to be brought back to some semblance of humanity. Noticing Stephen's nauseated expression, John got his husband out of the house as quickly as he could, which meant holding him, levitating and gliding downstairs. Once outside, John tapped his sub-vocal and reported all that he had witnessed to Alden. Additional medical teams transported on-site and scrambled to the children. Two V.S.O. officers stepped outside. Before they could speak, John sent, 'Report to only me, telepathically.'

Each officer, one at a time, touched John's temple. In the last year, three children had died in this orphanage. To the adult care-givers, they weren't even worthy of sorrow or decent burials. The corpses had been dumped in the desert. When each child died, they accepted another, as if they were mere plastic poker chips and easily replaced. John pleasantly told Stephen to remain outside. He went inside and everything not nailed down on the first floor of the home began flying around in a torrent, into and through walls.

Wide-eyed, Yan muttered, "Oh shit!" He then loudly ordered, "Everybody out now!" The members of strike team Beta one ran out of the house through the nearest doorways. They pushed Stephen out to the street seconds before a seven foot sofa crashed through the living room picture window and wedged itself in a tree. Hearing the commotion downstairs, medical teams and feral kids upstairs completed transporting out, to Terra-Main Space Station.

Without speaking a word or telepathically telling the two fiends what he was about to do, John pushed all the hurt and suffering that he, Stephen and the feral kids experienced into the unsuspecting adults. They felt the hunger, the pain of untreated broken bones, of wounds allowed to become infected and gangrenous. At first, the adults cried out in pain, but then collapsed to the floor and curled into fetal positions. The kitchen where the adults lay and John stood was a tornado of flying glasses, plates, pots, pans and assorted utensils. At no point did John allow anything flying around from his temper tantrum touch the adults or himself. So enraged was John that minutes passed before he noticed the destruction he was causing. Believing that it was time to let the two adults witness what was happening, John pointed his powers at the kitchen counter and sink. John didn't expect it, but the counter shuddered, creaked and levitated. The pipes broke and sprayed water all over the room, reviving the two semi-conscious adults. Finally, John growled, "You ain't even human to me. I have more respect for a slug than I do for you two." He pulled out his phaser, set it to maximum power and medium beam then fired on the man. Shaking his head sadly, John desperately cried, "You're a woman, capable of giving birth and the deepest love known. But did you ever show it once in your miserable life?" John fired again, turning the woman to ash before she could open her mouth to answer.

Having taken two lives, John broke down crying harder than he could remember. In an emotional rage, he fired the phaser across the back wall of the structure. As John walked through the house, every wall was systematically sliced by a continuous phaser beam. Outside, Stephen struggled to break free of Bond, his gorilla, to find his husband. They heard John's loud wails and, seconds later, watched him step outside. John turned and sliced the front exterior wall in half with his phaser. When John had stopped firing and turned to walk towards the street, Bond let go of Stephen. Running at top speed, Stephen flew into John's open arms. John sent to Stephen, 'I made them suffer then killed them, baby. I am evil.'

"No," Stephen sobbed, "you're my world, John. You only did what had to be done. And you did it alone, rather than having me see it. I love you more for that." Stephen hugged John with all his strength and John returned the hug as forcefully. Standing in the street, about five meters from John and Stephen, the strike team and security personal heard loud popping, snapping and creaking wood. While John and Stephen were still hugging and crying, the top three-quarters of the house began to slowly rise into the air. As power cables snapped, arks of bright blue electric light sizzled in the dark night. Yan reacted immediately, sending one of his team to cut the electricity to the house. Yan found and turned the natural gas line off before John caused an explosion that would destroy the entire neighborhood. Lucky hurried to John and Stephen, swept them up and brought them to the street. By the time Lucky put them down, there was at least twenty feet between the bottom half of the first floor and the hovering top part of the house. John kissed Stephen then Stephen returned the kiss. When they separated, the top part of the house crashed down, leaving a pile of rubble that barely looked anything like it was once a house. It reminded John of images he had seen in school, of homes devastated by an earthquake.

Lights in nearby houses began turning on. Yan smirked, "Let's get outta here!" He then called, "Daileass, strike team Beta one, ready for transport back to the Rapid Response base." A moment later, the ten person team was gone.

John sighed, "One more place to visit."

Stephen moaned, "I hope its not as bad as this was."

Nodding agreement, John tapped his sub-vocal and had his team transported to the East Foothills location. John sighed then tapped his comm-badge saying, "Beta command team on-site, Tony."

Tony, the strike team Beta two leader reported, "We're clear, John. The kids have been transported away by medical. V.S.O are still here."

Beginning the walk towards the house, John begged, "Please don't tell me the kids were like little animals, barely alive?"

Tony sighed, "Emaciated, filthy, hurt in lots of ways. Incoming reports have been organized by the A.I.'s. Of the sixteen orphanages, three were listed as level four, the most severe. The Cupertino place you were at was a level four, bro."

John's head sagged and he groaned. He asked, "And this place?"

"Level three, twenty kids in a real bad way," Tony replied.

Shaking his head, John turned to Stephen. "You don't have to come in, baby. I'd really prefer it if you stayed outside."

"John," Stephen whined, "I love you. Please, let me..."

"I need and love you too," John interrupted. "The best place you can be is by my side, afterward, picking up the pieces of me." Stopped on the porch, John pointed at the door saying, "What I do in there isn't me; it's everybody I know, love and respect; it's their pure anger mixed with my own. I don't want to show you that part of me."

Imitating their bonding ceremony, Stephen reached for John's temple and let his love flow. John nodded and smiled. Stepping into the house with Stephen and smelling the foul odors, John yelled, "Strike team Beta two, evacuate the premises." Tony approached and John said, "Get everybody safe. I feel a hissy fit brewin'."

Tony glanced uncertainly at Stephen and John. Stephen nodded and offered, "The last place is flattened, Tony. Rats don't even want it anymore."

Waving his team out of the house, Tony forced a slight smile then firmly grasped John's and Stephen's shoulders, mutely offering what support he could. Two teenage Vulcan boys approached and Tony stepped outside.

The summary report from the teen V.S.O. to John and Stephen included: overcrowding, insufficient living area for the quantity of children in one room, failure to have available any space where the children could have privacy; unsanitary conditions, infestations of living areas by lifeforms accepted by the local general populace as a health or sanitation nuisance; signs of beating, physical restraints; threats of beating, strangulation or physical restraint, behavior which is indicative of such abuse, cowering, withdrawal, hiding behind people, or other behaviors known to be present in victims of abuse; failure to provide adequate food and sustenance. The list seemed to go on and on forever. Each of the abuses listed were repeated twenty times, on each of the children present. Making matters worse, the adults had no remorse. They had withheld common comforts and necessities for their own financial gain. As pleasantly as he could, John praised and thanked the two boys for their efforts.

Stephen meekly offered, "Humans are normally not like this. My mom worked her butt off for everything she could possibly provide me."

The two Vulcans nodded, but said nothing. After they walked away, John smirked, "They don't feel it, baby. What they feel, all the anger, sorrow and even happiness, they hold inside."

"I really wish we could do that," Stephen complained.

Nodding understandingly, John leaned closer to his husband and whispered, "What I'm about to do isn't usually allowed. All I know is, we won't be the same after this. I'm releasing as much as I can now so I won't be veg later, okay?"

When Stephen nodded, John led him through the house to a dining room where two restrained adults were leaning on the table. Seeing two pre-teen boys beyond the room, the two adults immediately began complaining. With a swipe of his hand, John pushed the table into a wall, causing the two adults to fall flat on their asses. John evilly grinned, "Aww, did you fall down?" They started bitching again and John held up the index finger on his right hand. Both adult mouths clamped shut. Unable to speak, the two watched helplessly as John made chairs and other furnishings in the room swirl around them in a tempest. Rolling his eyes, Stephen clung close to John. Wide-eyed, through the churning debris flying about in the room, the two adults saw John and Stephen rise a foot off the floor. John turned Stephen away from the havoc and glared down, his eyes blazing azure blue, at the two cretins.

"You want to feel control?" John hollered. "You want to know terror? You've wanted more than you've deserved for years! You withheld food from kids! You left them dirty, naked and feeling worthless! You did it for money too, you pitiful shits! I hold your lives in my hand and they ain't worth diddly to me! What you are seeing now is the next generation of mankind." The two adults held only contemptuous thoughts for John and his show of power. They only wished to have the chance to do to John and Stephen what they had done to other children. With a nod of John's head, the adults jolted upwards, cracking their heads on the ceiling then dropped to the floor. John growled, "I could squash you like bugs with a thought. I could send you to a prison moon to suffer. You still have no clue how wrong you were, do you?" Shaking his head sadly, John stopped his mini-storm and pulled the phaser from Stephen's robe. He verified the settings then fired twice, instantaneously disintegrating the two adults.

Shaking like a leaf in Stephen's arms, John didn't know what to do or think of next. Was there another orphanage, somewhere else to go? Did he need to execute any one else? How could he possibly recover from what he had seen, heard and done? Who could understand what he had done? For the first time in years, John wanted nothing more than to crawl into his mother's lap and cry. He wondered if that were even possible; would his mother understand murder? Was there anywhere on the planet safe where he could simply relax? Last weekend, lust caused eighty to suffer in Hawaii. In California, greed was the only reason John could come up with for the tragedies he'd witnessed.

Softly shushing his husband, Stephen whispered words of encouragement, love and pride. Receiving no replies from John, Stephen shuddered, but acted accordingly. He called, "Alden, dismiss strike team Beta two and get me Keith." Stephen told Keith that John had executed four adults in under an hour. "I'm taking him home now," Stephen bluntly stated.

Hearing Stephen's voice quake, Keith replied, "We're arranging for healers, Stephen. Go to the Command Center, lock up your phasers and hang out for healing. Trust me, we'll all be feeling better soon, okay?"

Stephen wanted to say something more to Keith, but at the same time, his husband, his rock was a quivering mass. What had happened Tuesday during their time on the Enterprise was very different than what John had to do this night and Stephen understood that. Stephen had Alden transport them back to the Ewa Beach Command Center, as Keith had instructed.

San Diego, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

At Imperial Beach, a suburban area south of the San Diego Bay, Kaleo and Tory watched their strike team enter the orphanage. From the outside, it didn't seem to be more than a three or four bedroom, two story home. Compared to the R.O.H. orphanage they were in only five days earlier, it was smaller, but seemed nicer.

Smiling widely, Kaleo brushed Tory's hair with his fingers and proudly said, "It's so awesome that you're here with me."

Taking a step closer and wrapping his arms around his husband, Tory nodded, "You know I'd have been pacing around waiting for you to come back home."

Kaleo tilted his head asking, "You worry about me?"

Tory nodded and smiled, "Since Friday, every time you're away from me."

"That ain't gonna happen too often anymore," Kaleo assured. There was a long pause in their conversation then Kaleo wondered, "What do you think about this place?"

Tory shrugged, "It don't seem too bad. The neighborhood is real crowded though. It's near the beach too, I can smell the salt air. Compared to the place we were in, this seems okay. At least they've got the beach nearby."

Kaleo mumbled, "Maybe John's place was worse and that's why he told Prez to let the strike teams attack early." Many quiet minutes passed, waiting for word from the strike team commander.

Noticing the confused look on Kaleo's face, Tory asked, "What's wrong."

"I hate to think of twelve kids in a four bedroom house," Kaleo sighed.

Tory reminded, "Four per room ain't as bad as we had it."

Kaleo grunted then admitted, "I guess it's just being so near an orphanage again that's giving me the willies."

Tory admitted, "I feel it too."

Kaleo's comm-badge chirped. "Strike team Echo One, location secure." In the background, sobs could be heard and someone yelled, "This one's in shock! She's not bleeding! I can't tell what's wrong!"

Dale, the strike team commander, shouted, "Elevate her legs! Daileass, get us blankets!"

Beginning to panic, Kaleo and Tory raced across the street and towards the house. They pulled out their flashlights and went inside the house. Prez's voice came over their sub-vocals. "Attention Core Rimmers and Rimmer Strike Teams. It's way worse here than we could've imagined. There are twenty kids at our location. We need to prioritize what we've got and where we need what type of medical response. I want reports made to Alden A.S.A.P. We need the location, number of kids and their general condition. Alden, prioritize the incoming data and report back to me. This is turning to shit, dudes!"

One of the strike team members came running down the stairs with his helmet off. He barreled past Kaleo and Tory then puked on the porch. Kaleo went back outside and held the sickened boy by the waist so he wouldn't fall over into his own vomit. From inside the house and upstairs, Kaleo and Tory heard Dale's report. "Location Echo one. Twenty-four children, all emaciated, one female confirmed in shock. Medical priority or we'll lose her."

Tory raced up the stairs hollering, "What can I do?"

Shaking his head, Dale softly said, "Pray."

"What?" Tory screamed.

Wiping tears from his eyes, Dale said, "They don't understand us, Tory. We told them we were here to help, but they can't understand or even speak any longer." Dale gagged then softly sobbed, "One of them was eating a pile of shit in one room. The lights are on but nobody's home, bro. They're all feral."

"No," Tory gasped. Overwhelmed, Tory repeatedly screamed, "No!" over and over again.

Hearing his husband's desperate cries, Kaleo left the sickened boy on the porch then practically flew up the stairs. Tory flung himself at Kaleo and broke down. Glaring at Dale, Kaleo loudly demanded, "Report!"

Dale again explained the pathetic state of the children. Before Dale completed his report to Kaleo, medical personnel arrived and raced up the stairs. Dale led the first team to the room where the little girl was in shock. Of their own accord, additional medics split off into other rooms. Chaos erupted around Kaleo and Tory. Six medics became eight then ten then Kaleo lost track of how many were there and which room they were in. The lights flickered then remained on. Medics were loudly ordering hypo-sprays and assistance. Kaleo saw a boy lying on a nearby bedroom floor glaring up at him. He must have been around sixteen, judging by the hair around his jaw and mouth, but that boy had the blackest, most hideous, piercing eyes. Not understanding the difference between helping and hurting, guttural wails of children seemed to come from every direction. The sound of Starfleet transporter beams were the only other sounds that could be heard. Medics beamed out with a patient and others transported in. Trapped in a corner while hell broke loose around them, Kaleo and Tory couldn't fully grasp the fact that there was an orphanage worse than the one they had been at. At the first opportunity, Kaleo helped Tory down the stairs and outside. Kaleo made an additional report to Alden then called Keith. All Keith and Prez heard was nonsensical rants between Kaleo's sobs. Suddenly, two black-robed V.S.O. officers were standing before Kaleo and Tory.

Kaleo abruptly cut off Keith then asked the V.S.O. officers, "You have what you need to complete your reports?"

One nodded and the other replied, "Aye, Sir."

"I only need to know one thing," Kaleo said. Getting nothing more than nods from both Vulcans, Kaleo asked, "Is anything besides the death penalty appropriate?"

The same Vulcan that vocally responded before flatly answered, "No."

"You are relieved to complete your reports," Kaleo said. The two V.S.O. officers stepped away and, a moment later, were transported from the location.

Tory's beautiful dirty blond mop was a stringy damp mess, but Kaleo still finger combed it away from his husband's face. Kaleo softly asked, "You ready to do it?"

Nodding affirmation, Tory offered, "I'm fucking pissed."

Kaleo sighed, "Me too. Just don't hit them with your hands."

With a deliberate stride, Kaleo and Tory went back in the home. They learned from Dale where the adult 'care-givers' were. Kaleo patted Dale on the back, offered him his thanks then relieved the strike team. Kaleo and Tory surveyed the house to insure everybody had gone then returned to the downstairs bedroom where two adults were restrained. The first thing Tory saw in the room was a beautiful porcelain sculpture of three breaching dolphins. He picked it up and found that it only weighed four or five pounds. Without a word, Tory hurled it with all his strength at the man's face. The hollow porcelain shattered and the man's face split open from several deep lacerations. The woman screamed seconds before Kaleo broke a Tiffany lamp over her head. Ranting and raving from their own abuses and those committed at that orphanage, Kaleo and Tory destroyed the bedroom, slamming the two adults with every hard item they could find. When they ran out of hard things to hit them with, they climbed up onto the bed, grabbed the pillows and hit them some more until the pillows gave up their down feathers. Eventually, there was nothing left to break and scarcely a safe spot on the floor where Kaleo and Tory could stand. The two adults were bleeding profusely and barely conscious when Kaleo and Tory took their phasers out and fired from atop the bed's mattress. But the two adults didn't disintegrate as expected. Kaleo inspected his phaser then made a crooked smirk at Tory before saying, "I guess the right setting might help."

Tory nodded, "Juan would have a shit-fit and have us re-trained for that."

Pointing at the two adults, Kaleo wondered, "Should we wait for them to regain consciousness?"

Tory shrugged, "If you want. I don't really give a damn."

Humming uncertainly, Kaleo suggested, "We could fuck them?"

"No way!" Tory hollered. "I ain't stickin' my thing in those skanky asses! My dick is only for you now."

"Excellent point," Kaleo cheered. Evilly smirking, Kaleo pocketed his phaser, opened his robe then tore open the Velcro on his boardies. Taking hold of his dick and waving it to and fro, he urinated on the two unconscious adults. Wrinkling his nose, Tory helplessly snickered and wished that he needed to pee. Finished relieving himself, Kaleo stuffed his goods back in his shorts. He and Tory then checked their phaser settings and imitated Prez, counting down from five before turning the two demented individuals to dust. Exasperated, Kaleo huffed, "Fuck! How're we gonna get out of here? There's glass and splintered wood all over."

Not certain what to do, Tory reset his phaser to a slightly lower setting and the widest beam then fired at the carpeted floor. Seeing that Tory was creating a clear path, Kaleo followed his husband's lead and also fired, creating a safe walkway from the bed to the door. They jumped off the bed and walked out of the room. Outside the house and approaching their security team, Tory said, "Let's see what's happening at Eastlake Woods."

Having heard the yelling and the crashing sounds of glass, Kaleo's gorilla, Rasul nodded then teased, "You're really not supposed to do that."

"Oh?" Kaleo innocently smiled, "Sorry, I didn't have a Sehlat or a vampire available." Tory and the two teenage security members cracked up. Kaleo giggled, "Alden, San Diego site two please."

Instantaneously, Kaleo and Tory arrived with their security team in an apparently upscale neighborhood. Kaleo was about to ask Alden if he had transported them to the correct place when two armed strike team members stepped out of the house.

Kaleo asked, "What's the scoop, guys."

Fred answered, "Twelve kids have been transported out to Des Moines, Kaleo. You'll have them at Ewa Beach in the morning."

"Excellent," Tory chirped.

Kaleo complained, "I wish we could've met them."

Bayani, Tory's teenage security guard, softly giggled, "Spend less time redecorating."

Tory grinned, "Now that room almost matches the upstairs bedrooms."

Glancing around at six smiling faces, Fred offered, "V.S.O. are inside waiting."

Kaleo nodded, "You guys are relieved."

Shaking his head, Fred reminded, "Wyatt's in command," then led the way inside the house.

Waiting patiently in the living room, two V.S.O. officers stood as soon as they saw Tory and Kaleo enter. Eight violations of the Safe Haven Act were listed. Since they hadn't seen the kids for themselves, Kaleo and Tory had to ask Wyatt, Fred and the other strike team members their opinions before deciding sentences. They strolled around the house and saw acceptable accommodations, but the closets and dressers had few clothes. The kids had gone to local public schools in a nice community looking like they didn't belong. Having been in the same situation themselves, Kaleo and Tory decided to make the adults suffer as the kids had suffered. They sentenced the care-givers to life imprisonment.

Uncertain if they were finished, Kaleo tapped his comm-badge and checked with Keith. "We're done in San Diego, bro."

Keith wearily said, "Kewl. How're you and Tory feeling?"

Kaleo checked with Tory. When Tory nodded, Kaleo answered, "Not too bad, considering."

Keith said, "We've got one more orphanage to visit.

"Thanks, dudes," Prez cheerfully relayed. "You two are off duty. We'll meet you in the Command Center for debriefing and healing." Keith and Kaleo ended their brief conversation.

Kaleo commented, "I'm gonna go into culture shock at home."

Tilting his head and glaring at his partner, Tory wondered, "Why?"

"The difference in the adults," Kaleo answered. "Not once have I heard any of them swear. Have you?"

Tory thought for a long few moments then realized, "You're right." Tory said, "They must though. All the Rimmers cuss and swear a little so their parents must too."

"Dude!" Kaleo shouted, "They might not be doing it for us, for our sake."

Tory groaned, "Do I feel like shit now? I hardly ever speak to any of them, never mind spending time with them."

Kaleo nodded, "Let's start changing that tomorrow, with all the adults; chefs, housekeepers and landscapers too." Smiling at the two gorillas and two teenage boys waiting by the street, Kaleo said, "This is the first time I've been off base and needed security. You guys have been awesome."

Rapidly nodding agreement, Tory said, "I've seen you looking around, high and low, as if someone might appear to try and harm us."

Kaleo added, "That's what we've seen. I can only wonder what else you've been doing that we haven't seen." Two boys, Bayani and Mark, and two gorillas, Zareb and Rasul, grinned and attempted to appear innocent. The sight of two 'innocent' gorillas set Kaleo and Tory off, laughing hysterically. A few moments later, Kaleo called, "Alden, let's call it a night."

Fresno, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 1:47 AM PST

Immediately upon hearing Prez's order to go, strike team members hustled to cut the power, the phone lines and disintegrate the door locks with their phaser rifles. They stealthily entered the dwelling, insuring rooms were clear as they moved forward in the dark. On the ground level, the four adult care givers awoke while they were being restrained with zip cords. In pairs, other strike team members moved up the stairs. Through their helmets and face masks, they began to detect putrid odors of urine, feces and rotting flesh. Via their armored helmet communications devices and sub-vocals, messages were passed. Four of the six second level doorways were secured with metal plates and deadbolt locks above and below the locked doorknobs. The two unlocked rooms were checked first and found to be bathrooms. Unbelievably, the bathroom toilets, sinks and tubs were clean. While locks were being disintegrated, the ten-man team congregated in the hall. At floor level, they discovered small, fourteen inch long by six inch high steel passageways on the doors. One of the strike team members muttered, "Oh my God, they fed them through these."

"Like prison solitary confinement," another strike team member realized.

In rapid succession, the bedroom doors were opened. Huddled naked in fetal positions on the floor, they found children lying in their own urine, feces and blood. "I've got six," a strike team member announced.

From another room, another boy said, "Six here."

In the third room, another groaned, "Seven, one dead."

"Six in this room," another said from the last room.

While the strike team tried to awaken and check the kids, they all heard Prez say, "Attention Core Rimmers and Rimmer Strike Teams. It's way worse here than we could've imagined. There are twenty kids at our location. We need to prioritize what we've got and where we need what type of medical response. I want reports made to Alden A.S.A.P. We need the location, number of kids and their general condition. Alden, prioritize the incoming data and report back to me. This is turning to shit dude!"

From the third bedroom, while a moaning boy crawled at his feet, glaring up at him with desperate eyes, the strike team leader reported, "Daileass, we've got twenty-four at Fresno and one dead." Feeling his stomach turning, he muttered, "Partially cannibalized," then tore his helmet off and raced across the hall to a bathroom to vomit. Three others joined him, leaning over the sinks and bathtub. When they recovered and turned faucets to rinse away the mess, they found the water had been turned off. At the toilet, the team leader flushed, however no water ran there either. Tapping his sub-vocal, he completed his report. "Daileass, medical priority. Get medics here now. When this is over, I want Vulcan healers assigned to each member of my team. Otherwise, we'll never be able to eat or sleep again."

Daileass replied, "Medics are on their way. Jason Evans and V.S.O. have been notified."

He sighed then told one of the team members to get the water turned on and tapped another on the shoulder to get the electric power restored. Stepping out of the bathroom, he heard other members of his team in the other bathroom vomiting. With all his military and first aid training, the fifteen year old wasn't sure what to do next. There was no first aid sufficient for the kids. He wanted to go downstairs to the adults and exact vengeance, but that wasn't his job. The first four medics materialized in the hall, looking to him for guidance. He asked, "How many are assigned?"

Holding a hand up to his nose, one of the four men answered, "Twelve."

The strike team leader ordered, "Double it. These kids aren't standing or walking out of here."

With nothing left to do except coordinate the medics and care for his team, he gathered them all and led the way back downstairs. "Two at a time upstairs, in five minute shifts until the medics and kids are gone," he ordered. "Whatever help the docs and nurses need, give them. The rest will secure the premises." All the feral kids and medics were transported to Terra-Main Space Station. V.S.O. interrogations of the four adult care-givers were complete. The strike team and V.S.O. waited for a Core Rimmer command team.

Doug and Travis found the four adult 'care-givers' guilty of nineteen violations of the Safe Haven Act. The only parts of the Act not infringed upon were the sexual conduct sections. The kids were treated worse than animals. Most horrific, the one corpse discovered had been partially eaten. The adult 'care-givers' were executed by Doug under V.S.O regulations. The remains were scattered around California, Nevada and Arizona deserts. Due to the extra time it took for the executions and subsequent dispersion of remains, Doug, Travis and their strike team were the last to return to the R.O.H.

Ewa Beach, O'ahu

Wednesday, November 3, 2004 11:01 PM HTZ

Reports from the away teams began coming in to the command center. Logan, Nathan and Lieutenant Vorik organized the data by the number of orphans found at each location. Those with Zorro's described twelve children were considered Level One. Orphanages with sixteen kids were categorized as Level Two; those with eighteen or twenty children were Level Three. The worst cases were those reported with twenty-four children and listed as Level Four.

The next fifteen minutes were spent coordinating medical response units and V.S.O. Operatives. When that task was near complete and Vorik was handling what remained, Logon concentrated on incoming reports of the 'care-givers' from the V.S.O. Logan told Nathan; "We can't leave this task half-assed. I know Prez wanted minimal casualties..."

"But that was when we thought we had twelve kids at each of sixteen orphanages," Nathan finished. He smiled, "I'm checking with Prez now. He's hearing the reports from the V.S.O. at his location. Give him a minute." Logan took that minute to put his shorts back on over his extremely stretched out Terminator briefs. With the seconds remaining, he bitched about Jack ruining his favorite underpants before the operation began. Nathan told Logan, "Keith just said that he wants everyone involved prosecuted to the full extent of the law. His exact words were, 'if the garbage man knew and didn't say anything, I want his ass on a hook'. So let it be written..."

"So let it be done," Logan evilly grinned. He then contacted Colin. "Get your Dutchmen to Zorro Communications Corp's headquarters. Lock down the data center. If anyone gets in your way, turn them into a carpet."

"You take all the fun out of it; I'll have to leave them in one piece if they've got to be carpet." Colin commented.

Foster City, California

Thursday, November 4, 2004 2:24 AM PST

Colin and the Dutchmen raided Zorro Communications Corporation Headquarters. Transporting directly into the lobby, the two security men were immediately stunned. With special emphasis on acquisition of records from the data center, including freezing all databases, mail servers and preventing updates or deletion of information, teams of four spread out around the building to gather all the night shift employees. Faced with teams of armed boys, almost no one thought it wise to test the abilities of Clan Short representatives. All except one of the employees were first telepathically interrogated then sent home. The one employee that remained had been stunned for not stopping what she was doing when told to do so. She was trying to key in a sequence that would have performed an emergency data wipe of the e-mail servers. As it turned out, the woman was only performing her job. Telepathic scans proved she knew nothing of the orphanages, so she was transported to the UNIT Rapid Response Base Medical facility to be revived, treated and debriefed before being transported to her home.

For about another hour, the Dutchmen remained on-site to insure no one got in the building or tampered with the electronic evidence being gathered by Alden, Daileass and Draco. All electronic transmissions to or from ZCC were halted or denied so all available bandwidth fed data directly to the Clan Short A.I.'s. Data that did not match the publicized reports ZCC made, and internal memorandums regarding the social services spin-off, were flagged.


Thursday, November 4, 2004

3:00 AM – 06:00 PST / 12:00 AM – 03:00 HTZ

Incoming data from ZCC headquarters implicated all twelve members of the social services leadership, as well as twelve of the thirteen members of the board of directors of Zorro Communications Corporation. Also implicated in the horrors were the State's Fire Marshall, and the Director of the Department of Health, and the Director of Public Safety, who was responsible for building inspections. The three men had taken jurisdiction from the local departments, but had never once reviewed any of the properties. The Mayor of San Diego, where level 4 and level 3 orphanages were discovered was also on the hot seat. The Chief of Police of San Jose and of Sacramento were identified as complicit as were six of the nine city council members of Fresno.

As additional names popped onto the screen, Logan and Nathan quietly considered who they should send to apprehend the individuals responsible. Hitting upon an evil idea, Nathan grinned, "There's one extremely adept group I can think of. I'll be back in less than five minutes, Logan."

"Kewl," Logan smiled.

Telepathically connected to Daileass, Nathan disappeared from the Command Center, reappearing in a Utah conference room. Mid-shower, wearing a shiny silver shower cap, holding a loofah sponge in one little paw and a bar of soap in the other, High Priest Dave appeared with his head thrown back singing; "We will; we will SHINE you! Yeah! We Will; We will SHINE you!"

Dave's eyes popped open and he looked around trying to find the water that was supposed to be falling on him, when he spotted Nathan standing there. "Oh hello, Nathan." The tone of High Priest Dave's voice was totally natural, as if nothing were amiss. "To what do I owe the honor of basking in your shiny glow."

'This is exactly why I needed to do this. Vorik would have needed to go see a mind healer after this conversation,' Nathan thought to himself as he fought back the urge to run. Hearing Daileass' loud laughter in his mind, Nathan smiled, "Glimmering High Priest of all that is shiny and lustrous, so many children are beseeching you and your flocks' aid in exacting justice on their tormentors." Nathan got interrupted by High Priest Dave, waving the Loofah sponge around, wielding it almost like a sword.

Forgetting all about his shower, Dave became all business. Using his loofah sponge as a pointer, he prompted Nathan, "Ah! You have recognized our shiny greatness. How have the dull lovers harmed those whose true shine has yet to emerge? Tell me of the mission."

Nathan began briefing Dave on the California Orphanage operation and telling him of the Shiny Hating individuals identified as responsible for the abused, malnourished and feral children found. The change in Dave's mood was almost enough to make Nathan worry. Of course, the fact that as Dave was ranting about those 'damned dull lovers', he was waving the loofah sponge around and scattering water all over the conference room, which made it so the intimidation factor was significantly decreased. Nathan said, "Your task is to locate and exact vengeance upon the Shiny Haters. Have all of the Dull Loving bastards disappear, to Runi's dungeon. You and your flock will of course get to keep all shinys found on their person and their property."

His eyes glazing over, Dave shook his loofah and repeated, "All the shinys?"

"All the Shinys," Nathan emphatically stated, and then reminded, "Daileass has the list of names and will help you locate the Shiny Haters. Take the Scoobies with you."

"Daileass!" High Priest Dave barked, "Sound the Shiny Alert! Every member of my flock will be leaving the base to capture these Shiny Forsaken Heathens! The hour of their retribution is at hand! They may have been dull lovers in life, but the Transcendent radiance of Runi and his Shiny vampires shall show them that there is some luster in everyone... even if it is only in their blood! We shall take their Shinys and make them our own, for they do not...."

Dave's rant was cut short as he disappeared. Nathan sighed deeply. "Thanks bro... he was really getting on a roll there."

"Tell me about it," Daileass laughed. "He still hasn't realized I transported him yet."

Nathan chuckled, "Take me back to the Ewa Beach Command Center, bro."

First to arrive back at the Ewa Beach Command center were Julio, and Jesse. Next in the room were Drew and Corey, quickly followed by Sean and Troy, and then Kaleo and Tory. Arriving with Stephen, and unwilling to speak to anyone about anything, was John. Being a big brother, Drew tried his best to get some description of what had happened from his little brother, but all he got from John was a firm telepathic, 'No, don't, bro.' Mike and Derrick arrived in the C.I.C. dining room with thirty-six Latin King kids. A few chefs were called to feed the newbies. While the kids were waiting on quick meals, Derrick and Mike alerted their dads to come and assist getting the new arrivals situated in dorm rooms. Carl and Rob pulled Jim and Bill from their homes to expedite the process. By the time Derrick and Mike walked into the Command Center, Keith and Prez were already there. Last to arrive were Doug and Travis from the Des Moines Division.

Lieutenant Vorik suggested that all the command teams discuss the missions in the conference room. Once alone, any remaining strength withered and all pretenses vanished. All emotions were plainly drawn on the faces of twelve boys and young men. Beginning with San Francisco, Prez and Keith reported two executions and four sentenced to imprisonment. Fifty-two kids were rescued; thirty-two would hopefully be seen at Ewa Beach within a few days. The other twenty were at the level three home and might not be seen for at least a week.

Mike and Derrick reported that two L.A. Police officers had been shot and arrested for interfering with the first orphanage raid. Fifty-six kids were rescued from Los Angeles. Only sixteen would be seen within a few days. The remaining forty would not be seen at Ewa Beach for about a week. Four adults in L.A. were executed and two were sentenced to life imprisonment. An additional thirty-six impoverished street gang members had been rescued and were already on base. The four fathers were getting them fed and then settled in dorm rooms.

At Fresno, Doug and Travis reported that twenty-four were rescued, however any hopes of seeing them in the future were slim to none. One child was already dead upon their arrival. Four adults were executed in Fresno.

Julio and Jesse said that five adults in Santa Barbara had been terminated. Sixteen kids were rescued and most would be in Ewa Beach within a few days. One was going to Des Moines, to be adopted by Julio and Jesse.

Kaleo and Tory reported that two adults were executed and two imprisoned in San Diego. A total of thirty-six were rescued from San Diego, but only twelve would ever be seen at Ewa Beach. Those twelve would likely be there the next day.

Corey and Drew added good news. They reported a total of twenty-four rescued that would be at Ewa Beach in the morning. Four adults had been sentenced to life in prison.

Sean and Troy had rescued thirty-four kids from Sacramento and all would be at Ewa Beach in a few days. Two adult lives were terminated and two were imprisoned.

Finally, Stephen spoke for himself and John. "In San Jose, forty-two were rescued. We'll never see twenty-four of them. The other eighteen will be here within a week, they hope." Breaking down, Stephen wearily sobbed, "John... four adults... executed."

Keith quietly lost it and wiped his eyes. Since he was two years old and Drew was born, Keith was the eldest big brother. It was his job to watch over Drew and John. In addition to all the other traumas experienced, Keith felt that he had failed to protect his youngest brother. With an emotional connection to Keith, Prez also began shedding tears. For what the other team members had gone through, Prez wished that he had ordered the immediate extermination of all the care-givers. Telling himself that he didn't how bad things were didn't help at all.

Eerily quiet through all this, John began shaking and so did the conference table and the lights in the ceiling. Vorik rapidly stood and went to stand behind John. Carefully placing his fingers around John's head, the Vulcan Lieutenant murmured, "My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts," beginning a mind-meld and preventing the likely destruction of the conference room. About two minutes later, Vorik released John. He said, "I have not completed training for full healing of Terrans. In the C.I.C. dining room, sixteen certified healers await your arrival. You will all go there now. I strongly recommend that once the healing is completed, you all go to bed."

Drew asked, "Even me and Corey?"

Corey nodded agreement, "We didn't have to do nothin' compared to these other dudes."

"Yes," Lieutenant Vorik firmly insisted. He explained, "All of you have performed your duties admirably under most stressful circumstances. There is no need to be concerned or frightened. You will not be judged in any manner. Take seats in the dining room. The healers will choose their subjects." Everyone stood. Keith and Drew helped John walk to the dining room. Prez and Corey helped Stephen. The remaining ten filed out behind them.

The Core Rimmers and Des Moines command team leaders took seats at two tables. Fifteen minutes later, Drew and Corey stood then went to the kitchen for cold drinks. They were soon joined by Doug, Travis, Julio and Jesse. When they returned, Sean was seated on Troy's lap. Soon thereafter, Prez, Keith, Mike, Derrick, Kaleo, Tory and Stephen had all been healed. Terry, the Santa Barbara kid Julio and Jesse returned with also got attention from a Vulcan healer. Minutes later, the final Vulcan stepped away from John. Turning to Stephen, John yawned, "I'm real tired, baby."

Thrilled at hearing John's voice calling him 'baby' for the first time in about an hour, Stephen giggled, "Come on, hon. Let's find a place in the nest." Stephen helped John stand then they began the walk to the Hundsers' basement.

Prez pointed at Drew and Corey, smiling, "I've got a surprise for you two." When they suspiciously wondered what sort of surprise, Prez chuckled, "For doing a great job and not needing to take a life, you're in charge tomorrow." Briefly, Prez wondered where that thought came from. Fully involved in everything that occurred in California and since returning to Ewa Beach, he couldn't be certain if he thought of it himself or if was suggested in the mind-meld.

Drew asked, "All day, for everything?"

Prez nodded, "Unless the shit hits the fan and you need help, you've got the ball."

Corey grinned, "We'd better crash soon then."

Before the others could say a word, Prez stood then asked Doug, Travis, Julio, Jesse, Sean, Troy, Kaleo and Tory to stand. "You dudes rock!" Prez cheered, "I can't begin to imagine how this night might have been without your help. We'd definitely still be out there." Troy and Sean blushed while Kaleo and Tory began giggling from the compliment.

Simultaneously, Derrick and Mike shouted, "What about us?"

Tilting his right hand several times, Keith playfully grunted. Shaking their heads, Corey and Drew began giggling at the incessant teasing the older four inflicted upon each other.

Prez reminded, "They're newer; fresh meat, ya know? Talk about baptism by fire." He then warmly smiled, "To build on the camaraderie we've already established, I'd like us all in the nest tonight, if that's all right?"

Kaleo nodded, "It's fine with us, Prez."

Sean had no issue with the idea, but checked with Troy. Troy nodded then told Prez, "Let me tell my mom where I'll be."

"Kewl," Prez chirped. He then devilishly grinned, "Let's make sure that certain corporate shit-stains don't get away with murder."

Standing and moving beside his husband, Keith asked, "Any one wanna help?" Mike and Derrick agreed, but Doug, Travis, Drew, Corey, Kaleo, Tory, Sean and Troy decided bed was the better choice.

They said goodnight to each other. Prez, Keith, Jesse, Julio, Mike and Derrick had snacks and sodas while Kaleo and Tory followed Sean and Troy to the condo.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Thirty-seven-year-old Melvin Blair sat between two much younger looking, scantly-clad blonde-haired women as his limo made its way down Las Vegas Boulevard. All three adults giggled at a comment that Melvin made as he took a sip of wine from a glass that one of the women handed to him. They had just finished a long night of clubbing at the Stratosphere. And now, he was looking forward to chilling out for a little bit at Planet Hollywood before turning in for the night.

Moments after the limo came to a stop in front of the V.I.P. entrance of the hotel, the door was opened allowing for Melvin and his escorts to step out. Given how late it was, one might expect the streets to be rather empty. However, in the heart of sin city, this was hardly ever the case as even now, there was a large rustle of people lounging and walking around the outside of one of the higher-end casinos that Las Vegas had to offer.

"Sorry," a deep, scruffy voice from a shadowy figure dressed in a long fancy-looking trench coat called out as he bumped into Melvin. The drink that the man was still holding onto nearly ended up all over his shirt.

"Watch it, bud!" Melvin angrily called out, once his mind finally registered what had just happened. When he turned around to face the person that had caused him to spill his drink, however, there was no one to be seen.

Shaking his head a little, the man shook the whole situation out of his head, and walked through the V.I.P. entrance into the lobby of the hotel.

The long check-in counter, which normally would have at least twenty clerks checking guests in and out during the day, now had a lone middle-aged man standing at the closest station. "Yes, Sir? May I be of service?" he asked, as the three adults waddled to the desk.

"Melvin Blair," the man spoke with a slight slur, a clear indication that he had already consumed a good amount of alcohol. "You should have a room reserved for me, under Zorro-Communications."

The man gave a slight nod and began typing on the computer keyboard that was in front of him. After a few moments, the man's expression turned to one of recognition. "Ah yes, Mr. Blair. Your usual presidential suite has been reserved for you. I'll just need your credit card to put on file."

Melvin scowled before he grudgingly reached into his pocket and presented his corporate credit card. "You would think you guys would keep this on file so you didn't have to ask for it ever time I was here."

The clerk gave a single nod as he began to type once again. "I'm sorry, Sir. It's the hotel's policy."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Melvin replied as he made no attempt to cover up his annoyance.

After a few more minutes of typing, the Clerk handed back the card. "I'm sorry sir, but there seems to be a problem."

"Huh?" the man replied. "What kind of problem?"

Swinging the monitor around so the man could see it, the clerk pointed to a specific section. "It would appear that the credit card rejected our attempt to place the normal room retainer for your suite."

"Idiots," Melvin replied under his breath. "Look, I'm on the board of directors for Zorro-Communications, I've been here dozens of times before. I have an unrestricted credit limit, so clearly your computers are messing up."

The clerk turned the monitor back around. "I am truly sorry, Sir, but I ran the numbers three times just to make absolutely sure. Perhaps you have another card?"

"Okay look, I don't need this," Melvin grumbled as he snatched the card from the clerk and pulled out a large wad of hundred-dollar bills. He then counted out five bills and placed them on the counter. "That should be enough to cover the retainer." He then counted out five more bills and placed them on the pill. "And there is a little extra to stop giving me a hard time."

The clerk smiled and nodded with understanding. "Very good, Sir. I'm sure this is just a glitch in our system that will be fixed first thing in the morning. I'll arrange to have your belongings taken to your room right away." A few moments later, the clerk handed over a small electronic key card.

Snatching the card, Melvin snorted, "Come on ladies, let's relax for a bit before we go up to the room."

Quickly following the executive, the three walked out of the lobby area and into the main casino area.

Although he planned on relaxing, Melvin also knew that it was late enough in the evening that all of the games he had placed bets on earlier would be over, which meant that he was free to go collect his winnings. As such, with his escorts in tow, he made his way to the sports room and walked up to the betting desk.

Taking out his receipt from when he placed his bets, he handed it to the attendant that was standing behind the counter. "I would like to cash these in. You can give me my winnings in hundred- and five-hundred-dollar chips."

The attendant ran the receipt through the computer. "I'm sorry sir, but none of the bets you placed were winners."

"What do you mean?" Melvin asked as he felt his blood pressure beginning to rise once again. "I know at least three of the races I placed bets on were winners."

The attendant re-ran the piece of paper and shook his head. "I'm sorry sir, but all eight races were busts. I know it's not my place, Sir, but when you make long shot bets at hundred-to-one and two-hundred-to-one odds, you should expect to loose a lot."

"What?" Melvin asked in confusion.

“Don't worry, Sir. Your players club card has been credited with ten-thousand points for the ten-thousand-dollars in bets that were placed. I'm sure you will do better next time," The attendant replied cheerfully as he handed back the receipt.

"Let me see that," Melvin snatched the paper from the younger attendant. "I didn't place any two-hundred-to-one bets, and I sure as hell didn't bet...” The man's voice trailed off as he looked at the sheet in horror. Sure enough, the paper showed that not only had he made the worst possible bets, but in total, he had bet close to ten-thousand-dollars on them; all of which was charged to his personal account on his credit card.

"What kind of crap is this?" Melvin called out. "I would never have made these crappy bets. Especially not at this amount of money. I demand a refund."

"I'm sorry sir, but once you step away from the table after making your original bets, all bets are locked in and final. There is nothing I can do," the attendant replied as calmly as possible.

"I don't give a fuck what you can or can't do," Melvin began to make a scene. "I want my damn money back, or I will have your damn job."

A few moments later, two men in nice looking business suites walked over. Each of them had small casino security emblems on them. "Is there a problem here?" one of them asked as he looked toward Melvin.

Melvin looked at the men for a few moments, as if considering if he felt like taking on the entire security team of the hotel. As he apparently decided against that action, he shook his head. "No problem, I was just leaving."

The two security men nodded, and stood patiently next to the counter as they watched Melvin hastily walk out of the sports room, with his escorts following close behind.

"They just don't understand you," one of the woman stated as she gave Melvin a kiss on the cheek and began to rub her hand down his back.

"They are a bunch of idiots," Melvin shook off the woman's advances. "Honestly, I don't know why I spend so much god damned money here for this kind of treatment."

Deciding that it would be best to cool off by playing a few of the table games, Melvin walked over to the cage, and took ten of the hundred-dollar bills from his large stack of bills to get an equal amount of chips. He then headed over to the roulette table, which he always seemed to have good luck at.

Although he might have had good luck in the past, after ten minutes had gone by, it was clear that he would not have any such luck this evening. Each of the twenty-seven bets he placed lost. At one point he had bet on black six times in a row and the ball landed on red all six times. Out of spite, he bet red six times, and each of those times the ball landed on black. Finally, he bet on both black and red at the same time, and the ball landed on 0, one of only two possible positions that could cause a black/red bet to loose.

With half of his chips gone, Melvin next decided to play a little black-jack. Just like roulette, however, all eight hands he placed were all losses.

"To hell with this crap," Melvin muttered as he took the few chips he had left and walked over to the poker table. At least this was a game that he had a lot more control over.

Even with his card counting skill working at it's full force, the three hands he played of poker all went against him as well.

With all his chips gone, and determined to at least win something, Melvin growled at the card dealer. "Give me another thousand in chips," he demanded as he reached his hand into his jacket to pull out his large wad of money. To his shock and horror, however, he couldn't feel the expected bills. Instead, the only thing he could find in his pocket was a small shiny button which he quickly threw on the floor.

"Where the fuck is my money?" Melvin demanded as he quickly began to search all his other pockets for the missing cash, "Someone fucking robbed me."

Seeing that it was clear they were not going to be getting paid tonight, the two woman which had, up to this point, faithfully stood near or at Melvin's side, slowly began to step away from the man.

"Where do you two think you're going?" the man barked, "I'll make sure you get your damned money."

"You can keep your money, hon," one of them replied before they each disappeared into the crowd.

"Damn it," Melvin cried out as he slammed his hand on the table, causing the other players and the dealer to jump. Seeing more security making their way toward the table, he stood up and grudgingly decided it was time to leave for a bit.

As he walked away from the table, Melvin took out his cell phone and pressed a few numbers. "Henry, bring the car around, I'm heading back out."

By the time Melvin made it back to the V.I.P. entrance and walked outside, his white stretched limo was already pulled up to the entrance waiting for him. Although the door to the back was already open, inviting him in; his driver, Henry, was not standing next to it as he normally would. Right now, however, this was one of the least concerns on his mind.

Sitting down in the limo and closing the door himself, Melvin let out a sigh of relief. He had never felt so humiliated by such low-lives in his life. So now, he needed somewhere to go hang out and relax, of which he knew the perfect spot. "Take me to Fremont Street." In a place like that, he was sure there would be plenty of respectable bars and clubs he could hang out at, and possibly find some better escorts.

Within moments, the limo pulled out of the parking lot and began to travel down the strip. Being as late at night as it was, there was very little traffic still on the street, so they made fairly good time.

As they went, Melvin looked out the window at the brightness that was the Las Vegas strip, and the few people that were still out on the streets. "Damn low-lifes," he said to himself. “The world would be such a better place without them mucking things up all the time.”

Sitting back in his seat, he opened the wet bar, and poured himself another glass of wine. After which, he closed his eyes and slowly began to sip. Because of this, he never noticed that the limo made a few turns that it shouldn't have, and that the lights of the strip were quickly getting left far behind them.

About five minutes later, Melvin opened his eyes back up and looked out the window. Seeing no sign of the strip, or the city itself for that matter, he leaned forward and banged his fist on the glass that separated him from his driver. "Where the hell are you going, Henry? I said to take me to Fremont Street."

As Melvin did this, initially he could only see the hat and the suit that his driver normally wore. At about that moment, however, two things happened which immediately caused him to freak out more than he had ever freaked out before. First, the realization that his driver was a lot shorter than he should have been. In fact, it almost looked like his driver was having problems seeing over the steering wheel. Second, the driver turned his head toward Melvin. Instead of seeing the face that he expected, a fur filled face of some type of half-human, half-animal creature shot him back a toothy grin.

"Fuck!" Melvin screamed as he fell back onto his seat. With his heart pounding, he immediately grabbed for the door handle, opening the door and literally throwing himself out of the limo while it was still going.

After he stopped rolling, Melvin managed to stand himself up and began to dust himself off. Looking ahead of him, he could see the lights of the limo driving off in the distance, with his door still open.

“What is going on tonight?” he thought to himself as he continued to brush off the dirt and noticed that his clothes were not only filthy, but cut in several places. He also noticed that his right arm and knee were scraped up pretty bad, but between the adrenalin and alcohol, he didn't feel any of the pain.

Whipping out his cell phone, he decided enough was enough, and it was now time to call his old man to see if he knew what was going on. Typing in the numbers and hitting send, he patiently waited for someone to pick up. Instead, he was greeted with an automated message "We're sorry, but your account has been suspended due to lack of payment. To be connected to our automated payment system, please press one now."

"This isn't happening," Melvin screamed as he threw the cellphone to the ground and watched in satisfaction as it exploded into a dozen pieces. The satisfaction was short lived, however, as he was now faced with figuring out what to on his own.

Looking around, he could see that he was in what seemed to be a large abandoned lot a good ways away from the city. Probably on the south side of town. There was nothing at all out here except for a few run down buildings, shrubs, a good amount of trash, and a boy in boxers.

Melvin immediately did a double take. With the moon as bright as it was, he could very clearly see a dark haired boy, no older than nine or ten, standing a few feet away from him, wearing nothing other than a pair of blue and white boxer shorts.

"Melvin Blair?" the boy asked softly.

"Who are you? How do you know my name?" the man demanded as he began to stare down the boy.

"You are on the board of directors for Zorro Communications, aren't you?" the boy asked.

"Yeah, what of it?" the man challenged. "Who the hell are you?"

"My name is Brook, but that's not important," Brook replied. "I could be anyone. Any child that does not have a mother or father to care for them. Anyone that needs to live in a place such as the orphanages that your company has setup and manages."

"Oh, you're one of those little shits, are you?" An angry look came across the man's face as he lunged for the boy. Just as he did, the boy seemed to vanish in thin-air, causing Melvin to fall flat on his face, empty handed.

"You spend thousands of dollars that you have embezzled from a company who has been entrusted with the well being of kids," Brook continued from a location behind where the man landed. "And yet, many of those kids are sick or dying from poor living conditions and starvation."

"It's their own damn fault," Melvin growled as he got back to his feet. "Besides, they would die one way or the other. So what's wrong with making a little profit as a result? Isn't that the purpose of every company?"

Brook sighed and slowly shook his head. "How could a man like you be filled with so much anger and rage toward kids?" he asked. "Don't you feel anything at all for what your corporation has done to them?"

A ferrel grin came across the man's face. "Why don't you come here kid, and I'll show you how I feel about little shits like you." The man then lunged for the kid a second time. Just like the first time, however, the kid once again vanished and appeared several feet behind the man.

"In that case, I have a message for you," Brook stated and continued before the man could say anything. "As of tonight, neither you nor anyone else at Zorro Communications will ever be involved in hurting or exploiting any child ever again."

This time Melvin laughed out loud. "Is that right, kid? And who is going to stop us? You?"

Brook shook his head. "No, I don't have any training yet. But my friends will."

"Oh really?" Melvin replied in amusement. "And who are your friends? More little squirts like yourself?"

Instead of replying, the boy vanished once again. This time, however, he did not reappear anywhere else that the man could see.

"Come back, you little shit," the man called out into the night. "We're not done yet!"

"Oh, you're done with him," a higher pitched voice spoke from somewhere to the left of Melvin. "Now you get to deal with us."

"How does it feel to be as helpless as those that you take advantage of?" another high pitched voice from the man's right spoke out.

"A bunch of girls, huh?" Melvin called out, still feeling slightly amused. "Come on out, unless your too scared."

"Your dullness shall never put out the shine of another youngling again," a third high pitched voice called out, just as Melvin could make out a few shadows moving toward him. Slowing turning himself around, he could see at least ten small figures moving toward him in all directions.

"I don't care how many of you little shits there are, I'll take you all on," Melvin cried out, feeling confident that a few little girls would not be able to take him down.

"You got it, buddy," one of the voices called out just as the figures were close enough for Melvin to get a better look at them. In an instant, the man's face turned as white as a ghost as the confident, amused look on his face was replaced with one of sheer terror. Surrounding him were not the seven- or eight-year-old girls that he had expected, but instead very strange looking, short furry creatures, that if he had to guess, almost resembled ferrets.

"This is the part where you're suppose to scream," One of the ferrets grinned as the group of ferrets were less than a foot away from the man.

Less than a mile away, on the outskirts of the city, a small muffled scream could be heard off in the distance, echoing through the desert. With the sounds of the city easily drowning out the sound, no one in Las Vegas would ever here that voice again.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Fifty-one-year-old Charles Vogt, Chairman of the Board of Zorro Communications, and his wife, Shelly, woke late Thursday, only minutes after noon, in their suite at the Hotel de l'Hermitage, after a night spent at the Opera de Monte-Carlo and then at Le Grand Casino. Sitting and reaching her hand for the night table, as she did every morning at home and away, Shelly gasped, "Charles, my pearl necklace, it's gone!"

"It probably slipped and fell behind the night stand," Charles yawned.

Looking around the floor, but not finding the necklace, Shelly began to panic and scurried around.

Charles grumbled, "My fucking Rolex is missing." He went to the window and drew open the curtains, affording him a beautiful view of the Mediterranean. Returning to the bed, Charles began searching for his watch. On the opposite side of the bed, Shelly was already on her knees searching for her pearls. It was then that Charles noticed his diamond wedding band, which he never took off, was not on his finger. Scowling, he went to his wife and wordlessly pulled her up off the floor.

Shelly griped, "Charles, my necklace..."

"And your earrings, and your rings, and my watch and my wedding band too," Charles groused.

Shelly frowned, "We've been robbed?"

Nodding, Charles went to lift the handset on the room phone, only to discover there was no dial-tone. He sourly muttered, "What the fuck?" and repeatedly tapped the buttons to try and get a connection. Distraught, Shelly flopped onto the edge of the bed.

There was a knock at their suite door. Dropping the phone, Charles told his wife, "I'll bet that's security." He opened the door. Shocked to find his eldest son, Samuel, standing there, Charles sighed, "You picked a hell of a time for a visit." Turning and heading back to the phone, Charles bitterly asked, "Why aren't you at Oxford?"

Samuel answered, "I'm between classes anyway." Samuel chose Oxford University simply to get as far away from his parents as was possible. Overhearing a conversation years earlier, he had unintentionally been privy to ZCC policy discussions and fought with his parents over the orphanages.

"Between classes?" Shelly incredulously shrieked. "The flight from London to Monaco is almost three hours! Who the hell..."

Rolling his eyes, Samuel loudly interrupted, "If you'll both just listen for a change, I'll explain everything." He closed the door and took two steps inside the suite and stopped, facing his parents, but staying far enough away to avoid any sudden movements.

"Watch your tongue, boy," Charles admonished.

"No pop, this time you need to watch out," Samuel evilly smirked. "You never spared the rod once in your miserable lives. Angie killed herself to get away from you two..."

Having heard this before, Shelly screamed, "You don't know what you're talking about!"

"I do know," Samuel hollered. "I know so much that I was visited minutes ago, by people who had been to Beverly Hills, and to Pacifica, and to Martha's Vineyard, looking for you. I won't do what Angela did, but I will make amends and have made amends. Look at you two, vacationing on the Med, with the high and mighty, only weeks after your only daughter committed suicide. You think you're above the law. In this case, you bought the law in L.A, lock, stock and barrel. What I reported at seventeen simply wasn't investigated, was it? In case you don't realize it, I feel nothing for either of you. Therefore, I had no problem pointing them here. You're disgusting."

The word 'disgusting' was the prearranged signal. At that moment, twelve ferret-hybrids transported into the room. Shelly briefly screamed then fainted, falling back onto the bed unconscious.

Shocked at what was happening, Charles dropped onto a chair. He locked eyes with his son and growled, "What have you done?"

Wearing a self-righteous smirk, Samuel shrugged and calmly stated, "I'm allowing justice to be carried out, pop. As of this moment, you're worth nothing; your properties and worldly possessions will be confiscated. In a few weeks, Jimmy and I will evenly split the life insurance money for both of you. I don't want the homes, the jets, the yachts or anything from you. I don't even want to know where these guys are taking you. I only hope the remainder of your lives are as painful as possible, as horrific as it was for those unfortunates in the orphanages you profited from. I'll step back and allow justice to be served." He turned and went to the door.

Ferret-hybrids began to surround the Chairman of the Board of Zorro Communications Corporation. The last thing Samuel heard before closing the door was his father hollering his name and calling him a son of a bitch, as if that made any difference at all to Samuel. He had been called that and far worse by his father.

As instructed, Samuel Vogt waited outside the suite doors. Within a minute, there were no sounds to be heard. He opened the door and peaked inside. All the strange little ferret-hybrids, his mother and father were gone. He closed the door again and waited about a minute and a half before feeling a furry paw slide into his hand.

The creature squeaked, "Alden, return us to Oxford."

Samuel blinked and found himself in his flat. The ferret-hybrid smiled then reached into his waist sack and pulled something out then offered it to Samuel. Seeing his father's wedding band, Samuel shook his head and sighed, "Keep it, I don't want it. To me, it's shine is tarnished."

Stunned at the choice of words, the little spiky-haired ferret-hybrid asked, "You believe in the Great Shiny?"

"I believe in doing what's right," Samuel stated. "My parents never could tell right from wrong. As long as there was profit, they believed it acceptable and proper. I didn't live in one of those orphanages, but was raised without hugs or love from either of them; they hired other people to care for us. They gave us everything we could want, but never gave us the love we needed. I feel more for nannies and chauffeurs than I do about them. My brother and sister matter to me because we've learned how not to act from our parents. At last, I feel like I'm liberated from the past; from knowledge I never wanted and could never do anything about." Samuel smiled, "Thank you."

The ferret-hybrid giggled and waved, calling, "Alden, take me to High Priest Dave." He vanished.

Samuel looked at the photographs of his brother and deceased sister on his dresser, praying that human-kind would somehow learn from past mistakes and improve. At least he and his brother, Jimmy, would know and remember enough to push for those changes in whatever ways they could.

Grabbing his trench coat and laptop computer, Samuel left his flat to return to school. Somehow the chilly, overcast skies of autumn in the United Kingdom didn't seem quite so gloomy anymore. A woman greeted him with a pleasant "Good afternoon". Samuel returned the sentiment, just as cheerfully, and found himself repeatedly doing it. It felt good. He felt good.

Ewa Beach, C.I.C. Dining Room

Prez shared his thoughts during the short break. "We all know what the deal was tonight. A corporation created a social services spin-off for tax benefits. They hired sadists to care for kids. What happened tonight must never be able to happen again. To accomplish that goal, I intend to write an official Clan Short press release. We're pointing fingers and naming names. Vulcan mind-melds carry more weight than testimony under oath. Thirty-four adult men and woman were interrogated. From those reports, we're going to blow one hell of a shit storm all over the greedy louses that caused this mess."

Mike wondered, "What are you expecting for repercussions?"

Keith asked, "What do you mean?"

Mike sighed, "Think about it. The King wanted teen prostitutes off the street. Prez accepted that and we've had our shields up since Monday night. At some point, we've gotta get these kids off base; to the beach, to the zoo, any day trip like that. Otherwise, they're like rats in a very nice cage. We don't want the kids threatened because of stuff we decide to do."

"Our kids will always be safe," Keith assured. "There will always be security around. Let's say the rug rats are going to the zoo. At least four adults and eight security guards will be with them. If I know Adam and our UNIT troops at all, the first kid that gets approached or threatened, someone is going to be in a world of hurt."

"This all goes back to what is right versus what is wrong," Prez said. "History has shown us wars caused because right versus wrong couldn't be decided. And why is that? Because some group is putting their own spin on the issue. American History, for example; all men are created equal, except women, except people of color, except this, except that. The American Civil War was fought because the southern economies perceived a threat. How many thousands died, eighty years after the Revolution because of that; for money? The Great War was started because of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Austria presented Serbia with an ultimatum for what? Fundamentally, it was for territory and ethnic cleansing; holding an entire race responsible for the act of one man. Bang, another war.

"It happens over and over again, compromise that only comes back to haunt us. Enough compromises. Those money-hungry scums are responsible for seventy-two feral kids, about a hundred and fifty emaciated and another seventy-two malnourished. Another set of assholes, right here in Hawaii, sexually abused kids. Dee told Keith earlier today that he was fucked by an adult man. What was done to Reyes, or Jonah, or Dillon, or Geoff? All so someone could get their rocks off? Please, gimme a break. Any adult that makes my boys, or any of these kids here cry, there had better be a damned good reason or there will be hell to pay. That's our job, to be big brothers and protect all of them. Being big brothers, we can't delay. We do what we need to and deal with the side effects. If a single person questions what we did tonight, I'll vaporize that person."

Derrick softly said, "As long as you know that there will be repercussions, Prez."

Prez shrugged, "There were repercussions in Montana. No matter what we do or decide not to do, some will have opinions. They targeted us; The Clan as a whole. And they're paying for it, here in the R.O.H., in America, in the U.K., anywhere minds that hate are hiding, we're finding them. They have a choice; grow up and learn or pay for their ignorance. It's that simple; love or hate, right or wrong, good or bad; no spins, no political compromise. Power doesn't exist in money or territory or conquest." Thumping his chest with his right hand, Prez reminded, "Power is right here, within each of us. Trying to take power from someone or forcing your power on someone is wrong and futile. We have to stand up for what is right."

Giggling, Mike teased, "Can I suggest having Lieutenant Vorik write the press release, Mister Subtlety?"

Prez cracked up then nodded and assured, "We're all going to have input, but I'm certain the majority of it will be facts and figures; who did what to how many. Anything beyond that is an editorial. I might get around to an editorial, some other time."

Wrapping an arm around his husband, Keith grinned, "Thank goodness you're not an N-Gen, baby. I half expected the table to shake and the lights to blink."

Meanwhile, in the Hundsers' basement, Viccy and Riti Evans had finished putting John and Stephen into a peaceful sleep. Having never met Stephen, Viccy and Riti were impressed with the boy's empathy. Of course John chose Stephen above all others. Viccy and Riti implanted suggestions into each boy's mind to help them fully recover from the California orphanage raids.

Corey and Drew had showered then decided to watch TV in the living room, waiting for the other Core Rimmers to arrive. Only Kaleo had access to the house; they hadn't yet given Tory, Sean or Troy access. When they arrived, Drew programmed the security scanner, so that the latter three could enter on their own. Once that task was completed, all six went down to the basement nest. Troy was introduced to Riti and Viccy as a new Core Rimmer and a member of Platinum Habits. The three couples made themselves comfortable in the nest. Geoff briefly woke and called for his Daddy and Poppa. Satisfied that Drew and Corey were home, Geoff rolled over and fell back to sleep. Riti and Viccy went to work; finishing the job begun by the Vulcan healers; creating deep, peaceful sleeps and implanting suggestions appropriate for each boy to fully recover.

Back in the Command Center, while efforts were made on the press release, Mike and Derrick contacted other Clan Divisions to check on the rescued kids from California. The level one kids were all doing well and could still be expected in the morning, Hawaiian Time. Of the level two and three kids, many were being treated entirely on bio-beds. Others were still in surgery or had come out of their surgeries and were resting comfortably, some with new limbs. Lastly, Terra-Main Space Station was contacted for status updates on the worst cases. Seven of the seventy-two had already succumbed to their injuries and weakened states. How many more might pass was unknown; it was too early to tell. It was suggested that, with help from Starfleet diplomatic contact with Betazed, perhaps some of the feral children could be fully healed someday. Believing strongly that the Betazoids would be the only course of action appropriate, diplomats were contacted and awakened to deal with the emergency. The worst of the children that survived medical treatment would have the best opportunities to recover on Betazed. It was small bright spot to an otherwise dismal situation.

The boys went back to work on their press release. Over the Command Center speakers, Alden relayed, "You guys need to know a few things. First, remember that everything Daileass, Draco and I knew was shared with Cory Short, Jason Evans and other division heads soon after it happened. Next, someone in Los Angeles was trying to hack into our network, to learn what was going on."

"It was sooo cute!" Daileass laughed.

Draco added, "Jace had a good laugh too. It got better when I suggested that we let them believe they had succeeded."

Shaking his head sadly, Prez smirked, "What did you guys do?"

Alden replied, "We gave them about twenty seconds of out of focus video and distorted audio, to whet their appetites."

Dailass said, "We've been monitoring news networks in California and across the United States. They still haven't figured out what it is they've got, obviously."

Draco shared, "Cory and Jace agree, if you want to, video and audio from the actual operations can be attached to your press release."

The Core Rimmers and all the UNIT boys present in the Command Center gasped.

Keith offered, "Video and audio with the story would make a huge impact."

Derrick suggested, "Nobody should be identifiable; not the strike team members, not the adults and certainly not the kids."

Mike agreed, "Emaciated, naked kids do not need to be televised."

Julio grinned, "Ya might not want to show them the house we blew up either."

Keith told Vorik, "Please have Starfleet cleanup our messes. If they could provide replacement houses, we won't get flack for lowering property values." Vorik nodded and went to complete the assigned task.

Nodding his head, Prez approved of the ideas with the restrictions presented. He told the A.I.'s to get to work immediately. Checking the digital world clocks in the Command Center, Prez said, "It's two-twenty-two here and eight-twenty-two on the East Coast of America. If we can get everything together in the next half hour, we'll make the news before the American stock market opens and before the London exchange closes.

Clan Short Of Vulcan Official Press Release

Thursday, November 4, 2004

06:00 PST / 09:00 EST / 14:00 GMT

Ewa Beach, R.O.H. - On Monday evening, Hawaiian Time, Clan Short of Vulcan received an anonymous telephone call reporting that children were in danger at an orphanage in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. (The address of this location is being withheld at this time to preserve the anonymity of the caller.) Research into the location revealed that the orphanage in question was fully owned and operated by the social services spin-off company held by Zorro Communications Corp. (ZCC-NYSE).

Through extensive investigation into all ZCC owned orphanages, Clan Short of Vulcan found questionable accounting practices that together insinuated children at all sixteen orphanages were not being adequately cared or provided for. On Wednesday, November 3rd, at 3:14 PM HTZ, Clan Short Pacific Rim Division was notified of the transgressions and prepared for on-site operations to determine the extent of the failures to provide sufficiently for the orphaned children.

Zorro Communications Corp. public records stated that twelve children were provided for at each orphanage. Clan Short Pacific Rim Division operations discovered twelve children at only three of the sixteen orphanages. These three orphanage locations were specifically used by Zorro Communications Corp. as the 'showcase' homes for orphaned children and, as such, shown to investors and charitable contributors. The children at those three orphanages were found to be undernourished or malnourished, poorly clothed and living under unacceptable conditions. They were rescued by Clan Short of Vulcan.

Of the remaining thirteen orphanages, sixteen children were discovered at five, eighteen children at another, twenty children at four and twenty-four children at three. At each of the orphanage locations, conditions went from bad to worse to deplorable and horrific. Two hundred-forty-eight malnourished, emaciated and feral children were found at the latter thirteen orphanages and rescued by Clan Short of Vulcan. The total number of children rescued from the sixteen orphanages was two-hundred-eighty-four.

Interrogations of care-givers at the orphanages were performed by Vulcan mind-melds. As of the time this release was prepared, seven children are deceased, sixty-five are in critical condition and another ninety-eight are in serious condition. One-hundred-fourteen children are in stable but guarded condition. The pediatric hospitals where the children are being cared for is classified. At this time, all care-givers, Zorro Communications Corp. personnel involved, and individual participants in the orphanage conspiracy have been prosecuted to the full extent possible by Vulcan law.