Portions contributed by:
ACFan & Beaudreaux
Special Thanks to:
Akeentia & DarkStar for additional character support
As Danny and Noah could be heard pulling out of the driveway, Marc stood up and went to the open window. "Caleb. You busy?"
"Nope, be right there." He shouted back as some of the boys ran back out to the water with Eli slowly walking out behind them.
Without waiting for Caleb to come inside, Marc put his glass in the sink and went into the upper lab to wake up the terminal. Just as Caleb came into the room, Marc sat down. "We have some work to do today."
Caleb dragged another chair over and sat down. "Okay. Should I call the guys in?"
Marc smiled and shook his head, "No, but later on today we need to beam down to Orlando. Eli, Benji, Sammy and Sebastian are clear to go home, I know you wanted to see your father and I kinda need to talk to your Aunt."
"Today?" Caleb smiled. "Cool!"
Marc sat back in his chair and sighed. "Yeah, the next couple of days we have a few things to get done. I'm going to give a call down to CIC to let them know to expect us, you want to give everyone a heads up?"
"No problem," Caleb smiled as he stood back up. "I'm pretty sure it won't take any more than a few minutes to pack, they didn't come with much."
Marc nodded his head and smiled. "Just let them know I'm guessing we should head out in a couple of hours. If that changes after I call, I'll let you know."
"You got it," Caleb said as he pushed his chair back to where he got it from. "Whenever you want to head down, we'll be ready."
"Great, thanks Cal," Marc said as he turned toward the terminal and placed the call to CIC. Once Tommy's image popped up, Marc smiled. "Hey Tommy, is Mom around? I need to talk to her."
"I can check. Ya know ya coulda jus teleported down to see fer yerself. Y'alls familly so stop bein all business like all the time."
Marc smiled and sighed, "I know, but I still have a lot of work to do and I know she's busy too."
"So yer thinkin you need to get an appointment?" He raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Really?"
"You're right." Marc giggled. "You think you could just check to make sure I won't be interrupting anything I just..."
"Just nothin'," Tommy cut him off, "Just get yer narrow butt down here! Most of us are here an jus watchin the grass grow right now."
"Okay, okay Tommy," We'll come down later." Marc laughed. "Actually, Eli, Benji, Sammy and Sebastian will be heading back to Orlando today so I'll get them situated and then teleport over. Sound good?"
"Good 'nuff. You be tellin Lt. Shannon that JJ is lookin fer his report. Gotta get it added to his."
"Will do, thanks Tommy." Marc smiled. "See you soon, Marc out."
"An appointment to see Mom. If she ever hears..." Tommy laughed as his image disappeared.
"Hi Mom," Marc said softly as he entered the den. Teri had a mountain of files spread out on a desk, each representing one of the children that she was trying to place after being separated from their parents. The majority of which were now in custody or worse; dead. "Can I bother you for a minute?"
"Of course you can." Teri smiled. "I needed to take a break anyway. Are you hungry?"
"Nah, just had lunch." Marc smiled. "You look like you're kinda buried here."
"Not exactly." She replied. "Most of these kids will be going to live with family while their homes are investigated and evaluated by FYS. Some will be placed in foster homes for the time being. Our staff is growing so, I'm just balancing out the workload so it goes faster."
"I have some good news for you then I think." He smiled as he sat down.
"Oh really?" Terri smiled. "I'm all for good news."
"Danny told me the hospital is completed." Marc said, sitting forward in his chair, placing a P.A.D.D. on Teri's desk with the building's layout on its display. "Its design allots three of the floors exclusively to Federation Youth Services. Office space on the fourth floor, the third floor is outfitted for the kids you need to house. It has a common area, kitchen and plenty of rooms. For the medically admitted, the second floor is an entire ward that will focus on patients from Federation sources. It's all ready to use."
Teri picked up the device and tapped on the screen a few times. "You boys really did your homework." She smiled. "Recreation and Therapy on the fifth floor. All of this aimed toward FYS' needs?"
"Yeah." Marc beamed. "The layout is close to the way the building was originally used but, It's split between FYS and Clan Short." Marc said as he walked around to the other side of the desk and tapped on the screen while Teri held the device. "Clan Short has its offices and transporter room on the sixth floor, Then it mirrors the federations layout. The seventh floor is medical ward, the eighth floor for housing and residential. Then we have a complete AI ward with clinics on the ninth floor. My favorite is the tenth floor. Cargo transporter and complete Research and Development department for the A.I. Division. You have access as soon as you need it." Marc finished with a smile.
Teri smiled and leaned back in her chair. "Then you're right, this is good news. I'll need to put in a few hours to get our staff up to speed." She grinned as she continued to look at the plans. "Why does it say '??? Hospital'? You haven't come up with a name for it yet?"
"I have," Marc grinned," but I wanted to talk to you about it first..."
Arriving at the Barnes' residence, the silence was suddenly broken as Caleb and Hunter teleported in, the sight of his son in the doorway giving Matt a huge smile.
"The prodigal son returns," Matt said with a smile as he instantly found his arms filled with blond boy. "How are things going on Sullivan's Island?"
"Good now," Caleb replied, maintaining his hug. "We are all just getting things back together and figuring out who is gonna live where and stuff." Looking back toward the door, Caleb finally broke the hug. "Hold on a sec Dad, there's someone I want you to meet."
"You brought someone with you?" Matt questioned as Caleb stuck his head out the door and appeared to be whispering to someone. A moment later, Caleb stepped out of view and came back in with a small boy in his arms. "Oh, who's this little guy?"
"Dad, I have huge news and this little cutie is part of it. You better sit down." Caleb grinned. Once Matt was seated Caleb's smile grew impossibly brighter. "Dad, Noah proposed to me yesterday."
"Are you serious?" Matt smiled. "Oh, I am so happy for you boys." He continued with a thoughtful smile. "Do you plan to have a marriage ceremony or Socius?"
"We're thinking Socius." Caleb smiled as he continued to hug Hunter. "This little guy is the other part of the news though Dad."
"Do I need to be worried?" Matt laughed, causing Hunter to finally un-bury his face from Caleb's neck.
"No." Caleb giggled. "Dad, this is Hunter. Noah and I are going to be adopting him. You're a grandfather!"
"A grandfather." Matt mused. "I'm not even thirty yet." He seemed to think for a moment and then sat forward in his seat. "Okay then. Hunter, may I have a word with you in private?"
Caleb and Hunter looked at each other, Caleb shrugging his shoulders. "Oh...Okay sir." Hunter replied, and like a little soldier; squirmed out of Caleb's grip. "Caleb, yur gonna be right outside the door, right?"
Caleb looked at Matt and when he nodded replied, "I will, I promise." With that said Caleb looked questioningly at Matt one more time, when his dad winked, he stepped out of the room and closed the door.
"So," Matt started as he motioned for the small child to have a seat. "Can I get you something to drink mister...?"
"Russell." Hunter finished for him.
"Ah, an Englishman?" Matt asked, gaining a confused smirk from the boy.
"My dad says English, Scottish and Irish." Hunter looked toward the floor. "Well, my old dad."
"I see," Matt said standing up and walking to the small refrigerator in the room. "I have apple juice, would you like some?"
"No thank-you sir," Hunter replied nervously. "You're really Caleb's dad?"
"I am," Matt smiled and sat back down. "I adopted him just like he wants to adopt you."
Hunter seemed to think before asking, "So, Caleb had an old dad too?"
"He did," Matt replied.
"Is his name different than yours?" Hunter questioned. "His last name I mean."
"Nope, after I adopted him, it became Barnes." Matt sat back in his chair.
"What was it before?" Hunter asked curiously.
"His name before I adopted him was Caleb Skye Faulk" Matt replied. "Are you worried about your last name changing?"
"No." Hunter shook his head. "Did he want your last name?"
"He did." Matt smiled. "Just as much as I wanted to share it with him."
Hunter sat back in his chair and thought hard enough for it to show on his face. Under his breath, he muttered, "Hunter Edward Barnes." Seeming to like the sound of it, he grinned. "Is it okay if he shares it with me too?"
"Would that make you happy?" Matt smiled.
"Yes." The boy smiled. "What about you?"
"Me?" Matt leaned forward. "You want to know how I feel about it?"
"Please, sir," Hunter forced out. "You're Caleb's Daddy and if it's okay I wanna share what you shared with him."
"Hunter," Mat sighed, "You are a very thoughtful young man, you know that?" Without waiting he motioned to Hunter to approach him. Once he was close enough Matt looked him in the eyes and smiled. "My boys don't just share my name, that's just the part everyone can see. They share in all of my love and each holds a piece of my heart. Caleb and Noah love their whole family as well as each other very much, you are now a part of that family. When your new dads share their name with you, they are sharing our whole family with you too."
Hunter stood silently as he thought about what Matt had just said. After almost a full minute thinking, he finally nodded his head. "That makes you happy?"
"That makes me very happy, and proud of your new dads as well." Matt said, smiling when Hunter seemed to relax. "Proud of my new grandson too. That is, if you're okay with me being your Grandpa."
"You mean it?" Hunter asked as his gaze finally met Matt's. "You wanna be my Granpa?"
"I do," Matt replied pulling the boy into a hug. "More than anything else in the world."
As his new grandfather hugged him, Hunter smiled and whispered: "Thanks Granpa."
Matt smiled and looked at the little guy. "Tell you what, why don't I introduce you to your new uncles and then you and your new Daddy can sit down and tell me when this is all going to be official."
"Okay." Hunter bubbled as he hopped off Matt's lap. "Granpa, do you think Caleb would let me call him Daddy?"
Matt stood up and ruffled his hair. "I don't think he ever wants you to call him anything else."
Hunter rushed for the door and pulled it open, to find Caleb still standing in the hallway. "Granpa says he thinks it's okay to call you Daddy. Can I? Please?"
Tears instantly threatening to surface, Caleb looked at Matt and then at Hunter. "Yeah... Oh wow. Yeah..." He got out before the two were attached in a hug once again. "I love you Hunter, so much..."
As the three headed for the kitchen, Hunter filled Caleb in on the sharing of the last name and family and Matt and Caleb just let him ramble on.
"Hi boys." The hostess smiled as she approached. "How many are in your party today?"
"Two," Danny replied with a smile.
The waitress grabbed two menus and appeared to pause, "No parents?"
"Nope, just us," Noah responded with a shrug as a man with three boys entered behind them.
The waitress smiled at the new group and motioned for Danny and Noah to head into the packed restaurant. Looking back to the new group she said, "Hello guys," with a nod, "There will be a wait for a booth. You can have a seat right here and as soon as the next one opens, I'll slide you right in."
"Thanks," The man replied as the boys began to play with the claw machine near the door.
"So, can I get you gentlemen something to drink?" The waitress asked as she placed the menu's on the table.
"Coffee for me." Danny smiled.
"Can I have a Coke please?" Noah added.
"You sure can." She smiled and quickly went to get their drinks.
"This place is busy," Noah said as he looked around.
"Yeah," Danny grinned as he looked at the menu, "we were lucky to get a seat."
"Here you go boys, do you need some time or do you know what you would like to order?" She asked as both smiled.
"I would like the Grand Slam please," Noah said without even looking at the menu.
"Same here." Danny nodded. "Eggs scrambled with wheat toast."
"Yeah, what he said." Noah giggled.
"You got it." The waitress almost sang as she took the menus and quickly vanished again.
"I love Denny's." Noah smiled as he took the paper off his straw.
"It's okay," Danny said as he began to blow on his coffee. "Too busy during the day and just strange late at night." He took a sip of his coffee and then folded his hands. "The reason I wanted you to come with me today is because we have some planning to do."
"I guess." Noah nodded. "Pretty soon we're gonna be up and running."
"Yeah," Danny sighed. "I'm gonna need you to take command for a couple of days after the dedication ceremony."
Noah tilted his head and sat back. "You going somewhere?"
"It's classified." Danny laughed as another waitress who was passing by paused and smiled at the boys.
She paused mid-step and smiled warmly at them both. "Are you boys playing army?"
"No ma'am, Clan Short." Noah smiled as Danny began to laugh.
"That is so sweet!" she said ruffling his hair. "It's good to see kids paying attention to the news." She said and then continued on to another table.
"Why are you laughing?" Noah asked as Danny looked about ready to pass out from laughter.
"She thinks we're playing Clan Short. You know, like kids would play cops and robbers?" Danny gasped, "and you pretty much told her so."
"Oh." Noah smiled and took a sip from his Coke. "If that's the case, I get to be Sean. You can be blondie."
"Oh, I am sooooo telling." Danny giggled.
Once the food arrived, both boys dug right in. "So, what's with the secret?" Noah asked.
"Secret?" Danny questioned and instantly paused. "Oh, you mean the classified comment, right?"
"Yeah, is it really classified?" Noah asked before shoveling in a forkful.
"No secret, I have some unfinished business with my brother that needs to be addressed. Remember, I was only reactivated just before you guys got here. Everything has been going nonstop ever since." Danny smiled. "We need to go to the hospital today, work out a schedule and plan the date and time for the dedication ceremony, inform the rest of the Clan and Federation what will be happening and when. You will take charge of the new staff as they begin to arrive to get oriented while I handle a very important project with Marc, Billy and Jerry."
Noah swallowed his mouthful as Danny filled his. "You'll be here then, that's not so bad."
"Tomorrow, yes." Danny agreed. "Once there is a lull before we start getting hit with work from the Clan and Federation I intend to get on the same page with my brother." He smiled as he stared at his plate with a stare that said he was deep in thought. "Actually, I was thinking that I wanted to bring more of my brothers. Originally I wanted you and Caleb to come with us but then no one would be in charge."
"That stinks." Noah sighed. "I agree though that you need some downtime, Cory and Sean should think about doing the same actually."
"So should you and Caleb," Danny said before nodding his head. "Maybe I should invite Sean and Cory and when we get back, send you and Caleb on a vacation."
Noah took a sip of his Coke before tilting his head, "Any hints as to what your plans are that require you wanting other family around?"
"Nope." Danny giggled as he filled his mouth with more eggs.
"This guy doesn't even trust his second in command." Noah said to the same waitress as she passed, earning a smile and another ruffle of his hair.
"So cute," She giggled and went about her work.
"That's not it at all. You know I'd trust you with my life if need be." Danny smiled. "I want Marc to feel that he is a part of a whole family. As much as he wants to be in a relationship with someone, he wants to know what he missed out on since he never had siblings."
Noah took a sip from his soda and nodded his head in agreement. "He told you this?"
"He didn't have to," Danny replied, tapping the side of his own head.
"Oh yeah," Noah smiled, "I guess you do have that advantage, huh?"
Danny sat back in his seat and grinned. "For now, yes," Then as Noah looked up from his plate continued; "but I plan to level the field really soon."
With a nod, Noah swallowed his mouthful. "I proposed to Caleb."
Choking on his coffee, Danny tried to maintain a smile. "Are you 'choke, choke... gasp... choke' serious? That's awesome!"
Noah watched as Danny got his choking under control, as he wiped the tears out of his eyes Noah laughed, "Wow, you were more excited than Caleb." He giggled.
"Clown!" Danny giggled as he blew his nose. "Got me good that time." After silence began to settle over the table, Danny grinned; "So, you will be needing to take time for a honeymoon instead of just a vacation. Any idea what you two have planned?"
"Not yet no," Noah replied thoughtfully. "But now that I know what your plans are, we should really put some thought into it. I know Cal wants to finalize Hunter's adoption at the same time. Not sure how that will happen though."
"There's one way to find out." Danny smiled as he pulled out his communicator and flipped it open. "Danny Page to Teri Short."
"Teri here, your ears must have been ringing."
Danny tilted his head and grinned. "Nope, but after this week my head is spinning. Does that count?"
"It may. So, how can I help?"
"Teri," Danny smiled as Noah watched curiously, "Marc will be coming to see you soon regarding the dedication ceremony of the hospital. After the ceremony, I plan to take a couple of days off cause me and Marc really need some downtime."
"I hope that wasn't a secret, Marc is here with me now and heard you."
Danny laughed. "No, not really. Hi Marc!" He smiled as that waitress passed the table again, slowly.
"Those toys are getting more and more realistic, I swear." She laughed as Noah opened his eyes wide and emphatically nodded his head in agreement.
"Well, Noah and Caleb have temporary guardianship of a recently abandoned seven year old named Hunter Russell. They would like to legally adopt him and I was hoping this was something that we could be handle before Marc and I go away." Danny smiled at Noah, "They would like to include it in some other plans they have for when Marc and I get back and they take their own break."
"Well hun, this is something that you can invoke yourself as division head. At your request, I can bypass the legal process that would usually be followed to expedite providing a stable environment for a misplaced youth. Are you officially making that request?"
Danny squinted his eyes as the information sunk in. "Oh um, yes. Yes, I am." He got out with a giggle.
"Then I can provide you with the form that just needs to be signed off on and filed and the adoption will be final."
"Just like that?" Danny tilted his head in question like a confused puppy.
"Just like that. You are the head of a Vulcan Clan Division. If you say someone needs to be adopted now for their own well-being, then it will happen."
Danny looked across the table at Noah and smiled. "I'm willing to make that call, Hunter has no family left and he loves Caleb and Noah so much already. Can you send the paperwork to the hospital so we can get this taken care of?"
"Paperwork? Do you have a P.A.D.D. with you?"
"I do," Noah said as he pulled out the one he had in his backpack and slid it to Danny.
"Right in front of me," Danny said as he logged on. "What do I do?" After a short pause a document popped up on his display.
"You place the request for permanent placement of the minor Hunter Russell in accordance with the Safe Haven Act; pursuant to Section 17.8 and Section 135.3(a) Subsection (iv)."
Danny stared at the screen as Noah laughed. "She already filled it out Danny, it just needs your thumbprint to make it official."
"Oh." Danny laughed and pressed his thumb to the device. "I knew that."
"Sure you did." Noah laughed. "Thanks Aunt Teri!" He shouted so she could hear him.
"You're welcome, sweetie. Take good care of this little one and let me know if you need my help."
Noah smiled wide as Danny slid the device back to him. On it was the official record of adoption, displaying the name 'Hunter Edward Barnes' above his and Caleb's names as parents. With a fresh tear in his eye, he smiled. "We will."
With breakfast out of the way, both boys went to the register to pay their bill. As they waited, Noah watched as another waitress approached the man who had entered just after they did, now followed by a growing crowd. "Sir, we're still waiting for a big enough table to open up. Can I take down your last name so we can start a waiting list?"
"Guys, you want to keep waiting or go somewhere else?" The man turned and asked the three boys.
"Let's wait!" All three replied in unison as they continued to abuse the claw game.
"That settles that." The man shrugged. "Last name is Page."
"Gotcha, Page, party of four." The waitress repeated as she wrote it down and moved to the next group.
"Hey, Danny," Noah said as Danny signed the charge slip. "That guy's last name is Page too."
Turning and smiling at the man, Danny nodded his head. "You never know. Maybe he's related somehow." And working their way through the crowd, they both left for the hospital.
The next morning, Danny and Marc arrived at the sparkling new nurse's station and were greeted by a familiar face. "Good morning Director Page, Doctor Furst." Nurse Patty smiled as the two boys approached the counter. "I just received my assignment. I wanted to thank you both for referring me for the head nurse position."
"Thank you for accepting." Danny smiled. "I was just happy that you were available."
"Same here." Marc chimed in. "I have no idea how we would have made it through our first test run without you. I can't wait to really get to work with you."
"That's so sweet." She smiled as Danny grabbed a P.A.D.D. off the shelf behind the desk and powered it up. "Chief O'Keefe is waiting for you both up on the tenth floor in the new AI Replication suite off of R&D. Rylan Perscribo is working up there as well."
"Rylan? I thought he left." Danny scratched his head.
"He had, but Dr. Herron needed to call on him to..." Nurse patty seemed to pause and think. "...to tone down the techbots."
"Oh, I can't wait to hear this one." Danny laughed as he tapped his subvocal. "Page, to Rylan."
"Ahhh, Director Page," Rylan said smoothly. "I was wondering when your team would start returning."
Thanking Nurse Patty quickly, Marc and Danny turned for the main lobby where the elevators used to be. "Nurse Patty told me there was some sort of trouble with the techbots. Do you need assistance?"
"I believe less assistance was in order actually."
Entering the brand new turbolift, Danny requested the tenth floor and then questioned: "Less? I'm not sure I understand."
"You see, it's like this. It appears as though we were not specific enough about our boundaries at this facility. Your units finished the building renovation and set-up, moved to its exterior and then proceeded to design and install a new landscape. When that was finished, they started renovating the surrounding properties."
As the doors to the turbolift opened and both androids stepped out into the large corridor that neither had ever seen before, signs led them to the maintenance shop where they both gasped as they stepped in the door. "This is incredible." Danny gasped as he looked at the large room that had floor to ceiling docking stations and technical displays hiding three of the four walls. On the empty wall occupied a control booth where Rylan was seated at the main console. "Are there extra docks?" Danny asked noticing four were empty after looking around.
"Not exactly." Rylan shook his head and rubbed his eyes. "There are four techbots still finishing one of the neighboring houses."
"Oh boy." Marc giggled. "I hope the owners are okay with the changes that were made."
Rylan grinned and shook his head. "Let's just say that the surrounding homeowners have unanimously decided to welcome you to the neighborhood with open arms."
"Well, that's good." Danny shook his head as he looked around the room. "So you reprogrammed the little-confused vandals?"
Giving Danny a deadpan stare, Rylan sighed. "Confused vandals, very humorous. Yes, they are now required to request authorization before leaving the building's parimeter to assist the adjacent properties. Thankfully, they were aware that the domiciles that they determined to be in need of repair were occupied so, they asked permission to make repairs before engaging in a project. I allowed them to finish the house on Apache St. that they were working on when I recalled them because it is the home of two friends of your division."
"The Sirois boys." Marc smiled, laughing when Danny looked confused. "You remember Benny and Alex. The two boys that broke into the hospital."
Oh yeah," Danny smiled. "Noah threw the oldest of the two in the brig. I remember them."
"Apparently, the Sirois family's home was in poor condition. After receiving the report from number six, I learned that their domicile was structurally impaired. its foundation severely cracked and much of the structure’s building material had been severely weakened by insects." Rylan stood up and stretched. "So I took the liberty of allowing four units to remain until repairs to the structure were complete. It shouldn't take any more than an hour for them."
"So what are you working on now?" Danny asked as Rylan stepped out of the booth and opened a wall panel.
"I decided to complete a communications system between each of the floors and this docking station. This hub lets the main dispatch system monitor all floors for trouble and respond accordingly. Think of your building as the host body and the techbots as its immune system." He managed to get out as a techbot seemed to wake on its own and rush out of the room with Danny and Marc watching in awe. "As you can see, they respond to requests automatically. They can be summoned directly vocally or through the main control console. They can be requested vocally through any of the operational medbots, the paging system, sub-vocals or even by the building itself with hundreds of trouble sensors."
"That's amazing." Danny smiled. "I'm not sure how we could ever repay you and everyone in the Ark compound for all of this."
"Oh trust me, if compensation was ever desired, I'm sure this wouldn't have been a viable option," Rylan said in a flat, distracted tone. "Now if neither of you mind," He said motioning toward the door. "I have about a day's worth of work to complete here before I can leave. I intend to finish ahead of schedule."
"Gotcha," Danny said as Marc opened the door and stepped into the hall. "If you need anything, we'll be in the replication suite."
"Oh, not to worry, I won't." He got out, giving them both the "Shoo" gesture.
The sign on the next door read "AI Replication Suite - Authorized Personnel Only" which made them both smile. Both audibly gasped at what they saw as they entered. Nothing like the temporary setup on the first floor, the room was intimidatingly large. High ceiling, completely outfitted for both android replication and programming with a full medical setup all controlled by a main console that the new Chief Engineer was busily tapping away at.
"Good morning Chief." Marc giggled as he approached the control area. "I see you have a ton of new toys here."
"No joke." Billy smiled. "Running the final diagnostics now and at the risk of sounding full of myself, I did a damn good job with this design. It's surprising me with how well it's working."
"No compatibility issues?" Danny turned back and asked after looking over the biobed the new units would be replicated and biologically activated on.
"I expected there to be some but, it's as if someone up there really wants this to happen. Any initial issues seemed to correct themselves." Billy sat back and sighed. "I thought Jerry was going to be here as well for this one?"
"So did I," Marc replied as he pulled out his communicator. "Furst to Doctor Owens."
"Hi, Marc. What's up?"
"Jerry, we will need you in the replication suite in a few minutes. You are on site, right?" Marc asked pulling out a seat and logging into the console.
"Kinda. I'm next door with Benny Sirois watching the techbots lift his house off its foundation, it's got a huge crack. I've never seen anything like this! It's awesome!"
Marc smiled and shook his head, trying to stifle a snicker. "Well, Doctor. I guess you can stay there and watch the house renovation. We'll just have to activate Kevin without you."
"NOW?!? No no no no... wait for me, please! I'm on my way!"
Giggling when he heard Jerry fumble with his communicator, Marc started to work, attracting Danny's attention while Billy busied himself with final preparations.
"Whatcha workin on?" Danny asked as he leaned in, resting his chin on Marc's shoulder.
"Kevin's dream." Marc smiled. "I finished it last night. Every event that's happened since he went to sleep."
"I thought that was done already?" Danny asked, reading through the code on the screen.
"It was but after his activation failed, way more stuff needed to be added." Marc replied as he appeared to incorporate the new programming into the existing profile.
Danny scanned the entire console while referencing the plans for its design in his head. "Billy, this wasn't in the original design. What does it do?" He asked as he pointed to a cluster of monitors at what appeared to be an independent workstation.
"Ah yeah," He replied as he rolled his chair closer. "I had to design this when we realized that we couldn't get a true representation of a completed android when we activated KC." He continued as he flipped a few switches, entered a command and loaded the profile that was currently in the buffer. "Now we can inspect all aspects of an android before we create the physical body."
"It looks so much like he did when he was still a kid." Danny sighed. "What kind of adjustments can be made?"
"Name it," Billy smiled. "You can adjust skin, hair, eye color and anything else the DNA encoding may pick up the wrong characteristics on since DNA mapping has so many natural variables. You can run a full diagnostic on the positronic brain before it has been materialized to be certain the design is sound. Run simulated tests on the bio-interfaces and make adjustments or perform upgrades. Basically, if something is physically off or needs to be altered or adjusted; we can fix it before materializing the body instead of performing procedures to make changes after the fact."
"He looks perfect from what I can see." Danny got out as Jerry ran into the room and came to a skidding stop at the console.
"Sorry guys but... those techbots are... really doing good stuff... out there." Jerry breathlessly said as he fought to catch his breath.
"You didn't have to run, we were going to wait for you." Marc laughed.
"I know," Jerry replied with a smile. "I just don't want to... make Kevin wait any longer."
"Fair enough. Let's get started then," Marc smiled. "Billy, you are on power. I'll handle running the replication sequence. Jerry, power up the biobed in the replication chamber and stand by to engage life support."
"Okay." Jerry beamed as he rushed around the console and got right to work.
"What can I do?" Danny asked as he watched all three busy themselves in their work.
"Well, you can enter the replication chamber and wait to see your nephew. Same rules apply as earlier. You don't get involved with this one." Marc paused at the console and waited for Danny's protest.
"Okay bro." Danny nodded. "I understand."
Watching his brother enter the chamber, Marc nodded to Billy and the lighting changed in the replication chamber to red. "Stand clear of the biobed," Billy shouted as the unit began the all too familiar hum.
Danny and Jerry both took a step back as the humming deepened and then slowly became a high pitched whining. Watching in amazement, a shimmering form began to take shape on the biobed and in what felt like much more than the six seconds of materialization the entire process actually took, the form of a naked teenage boy appeared and became solid. The biobed sensed the presence of life and immediately engaged life support as it was instructed flawlessly. The room fell back into silence as the lighting returned to the soft white glow it had previously. Marc came into the chamber and watched as Jerry tapped away at the bed's controls. "Report, Doctor Owens."
"Everything looks good. Life support engaged. De-fibrillation completed in .32 seconds following activation, normal sinus rhythm, and blood pressure is now stabilizing." Jerry looked up from the control and smiled at the sleeping boy on the biobed as an alert sounded and the room got very quiet. "His brain is communicating with his body. Life support just automatically terminated, just like you guys planned. He could wake up any time now"
Just as Kevin had done years earlier on the day he had been activated, Danny approached the table and tears welled up in his eyes. Seeing him in the flesh after all these years was even more overwhelming than he had expected. He placed his hand on the boy's naked shoulder and softly whispered, "Where's my shadow?" with a sniffle.
It took a few seconds before the new android's breathing rhythm deepened and with a yawn and a stretch, he simply woke up. "It worked?" He asked no one in particular.
"It did." Danny laughed as all his tension seemed to just evaporate. "Welcome back to the real world Kev."
Grabbing a packaged hospital gown, Jerry approached the side of the bed and tore it open. "Here, let's get this on you so you don't get cold."
"Thanks, Jerry." Kevin smiled as he put his arms into the sleeves and Jerry proceeded to tie up the back. "I guess I was cold."
"It is cool in here." Jerry smiled.
"I meant in the lab," Kevin said as he turned to look at Jerry. "I have a memory of you sleeping with me because you wanted to keep me warm before my activation."
Jerry's expression lit up as he remembered the night he had slept with Kevin's first intended endoskeletal build because he felt cold to the touch. "What else did Marc put in that dream?"
"Well for one thing," He began as Marc appeared to be busy running an analysis at a nearby terminal. "I know that Uncle Marc said that it's rare to have stuff go wrong with an activation but, I've got memories of stuff that happened for more than just a couple of weeks."
"In my defense, your creator did a poor compatibility test on you when he designed you." Marc giggled. "But I'm sure he did a lot of guessing since he didn't have a way to do a full biological workup on you with you still alive."
"When he created that unit, no he didn't," Kevin said as he sheepishly looked at Danny. "But with my neuroimage, that's another story."
"What do you mean?" Danny tilted his head and asked. "I was there when you passed away, he had been long since dead at that point. He couldn't have had anything done."
Kevin sighed and scooted off the biobed, smiling when he realized his legs were strong and easily able to hold him. "Uncle, having the coroner come pick me up when I died was part of something I had arranged back when you first came back home after the accident." Seeing the confused look on Danny's face, Kevin walked around the bed and gave his uncle a hug. "Those were Chuck's people they had you call, not a coroner's office."
"I don't get it," Danny said as he pushed Kevin back at arm's length to look his nephew in the eyes. "Oh my god, you remembered being sick." He blurted with a gasp as Kevin's words on his first day awake as an interactive memory echoed in his thoughts 'Um, well I remember being sick and in the hospital, then I remember talking to you and falling asleep at home. Uncle Dan? Did I die?' Feeling a little light-headed, Danny let Kevin go and leaned on the nearby console. "Tech Mode was only a piece of the puzzle not the whole cause of your consciousness. There was a complete bio-image buried in those files, wasn't there?"
"Yeah," Kevin looked toward the floor as Marc, Jerry and Billy stopped what they were doing and listened. "I wanted the option to be put in an android body if something ever happened to me so you wouldn't be left alone. So when I talked to Chuck about being your Tech Mode, I agreed to be placed on the 'Death Watch' list. It's a legal contract I had with Chuck's people that when I died, if it was possible to pull a full bioimage; his people had a legal right to my body. I guess after he died, I forgot about it and when it was inevitable that I was going to die, it started the legal process. They were supposed to come get my body, perform the bioimaging and, upload me to a new unit for activation." Looking around the room Kevin sighed. "I had forgotten about the agreement so I never got to talk to you about it toward the end. It required your approval for the integration and final activation. That was my only stipulation"
Danny looked dumbstruck as he watched Kevin nervously shift his weight back and forth from one foot to the other.
"So, when Danny couldn't be found, all the stuff needed to bring you back was tossed in storage?" Jerry questioned as he tried to piece together the entire picture. "We were lucky to find it all then."
"Yeah," Marc said as he carefully watched Danny's expression.
"Well," Danny nodded his head and pulled Kevin into a hug, "you're home now and that's all that matters."
"Too bad Andy didn't do the same thing." Kevin smiled sadly. "It would have been cool to have all three of us back together again."
"No joke." Danny sniffled as he squeezed his nephew tight. "I'm sure he'd have plenty to say about waking up in a big open room, naked, in front of a bunch of people."
"Who's Andy?" Jerry asked, being cut off when Marc wrapped his arm around him, giggled and then led him away to give Danny and Kevin some time. "What? I really don't know though..."
November 1, 2004; the front lot of the hospital was swarming with people. Inside the building, final preparations for tours and the grand opening celebration were well under way. Even the techbots were scurrying around the grounds handling minor issues and working on last-minute problems. Marc and Danny nervously stood in the main entryway accompanied by Sean, Cory, Noah and Caleb; and silently watched as the mob who completely filled the front of the property wrapped around the large fountain that Marc's friend 'Gramps' had spent hours working at on a very special gift, which was currently covered. Getting the nod from JJ and Scott that the area was secure, they all stepped out of the front doors and took their seats on the stage that had been constructed for the event. After the crowd seemed to settle down and everyone had taken their seats, a tapping on the mic drew everyone's attention to the stage.
"Ladies and gentlemen, family, friends, neighbors, and distinguished guests. Please take your seats." Admiral Morrow announced at the podium located front and center stage. As he did, chairs on either side of the podium could be seen holding officers, ambassadors, members of Clan Short and law enforcement of various uniforms and ranks. As a hush swept through the crowd, Admiral Morrow continued: "I am proud to be a part of such a historical moment in our history. The grand opening and re-dedication of the old Charleston Naval Hospital under the banner of the United Federation of Planets and Clan Short of Vulcan of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak." Applause broke the silence and quickly waned as the Admiral resumed. "As I am sure you are aware, this building has served us well ever since it opened as a 500 bed hospital so many decades ago. Having been recently decommissioned, it has been acquired by two individual entities who have recently locked arms in their efforts to protect our children from the ugly face of a degrading society. It has been my honor to witness the organization of some of our planet's finest examples of humanity as they became empowered by our Vulcan brethren to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Our planet's youth." Admiral Morrow paused as the audience applauded with enthusiasm.
"The forming of such a Vulcan Clan on our soil could not have happened at a more crucial time, as we have recently learned. Following the events which have unfolded in Montana, without this group's involvement I'm sure that on our own we would never have been able to achieve the same results in ending the recent terrorist activity in Montana, and in saving lives as they proved that they were determined to do. The selflessness and compassion that this gathering of youths has shown surpasses anything that we have ever seen in our history. Most likely anything that we will ever see in our lifetime. But such selflessness comes with a cost. One hundred fourteen lights were extinguished at the hands of an organization who claimed to be doing the work of the lord. One hundred fourteen of our sons and daughters lost forever. In tribute to these One hundred fourteen souls, please rise in silence as the bell tolls in memoriam for each."
Without another word spoken, Sammy Reynolds approached the brass bell which had always been permanently mounted at the head of the water fountain. He took the rope that hung from the bell's striker in hand, turned and waited silently as Mont and Bast Lion of The Unit joined him. The breeze mussed Sammy's hair as it did with the yellow fur of the two G-cat boys. After lowering their gaze for a moment, Mont accepted the rope from Sammy and methodically rang the bell 61 times signifying the lives of their fallen comrades within the Military, Clan and Law Enforcement. After receiving the rope back, Sammy then offered it to Bast who proceeded to ring the bell in the same fashion 53 additional times, signifying the civilian lives lost in the conflict. All in attendance patiently watched on in silence without so much as a single sound the entire time. Following the final toll, Sammy received the rope one last time and all three lowered their gaze for an additional moment. He carefully released the rope and all faced the onlooking crowd with freshly tear-streaked eyes. On the other side of the stage, 7 uniformed officers marched to the head of the fountain led by a limping Sgt. Mike Reynolds of the Campbell County Sheriff's Department in Missoula, Montana; who was one of the first saved thanks to the Clan's efforts. Following him in full dress uniforms with their rifles held diagonally in front of each with the muzzle pointing upward and to the left, were Corporal Will Jackson of the Charleston Police Department, and an officer from the Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Federation. After marching to the opposite side of the water fountain, Sgt. Reynolds ordered the precession to halt with their backs to the fountain. Falling in line, Sgt. Reynolds continued to lead.
"About face!" He shouted and all seven were instantly facing the crowd at the head of the fountain. "Present arms!" He shouted, and all seven held each out as if awaiting inspection. "READY, AIM, FIRE!" And the crack broke the still air, causing some of the younger in attendance to flinch. "READY, AIM, FIRE!" The second shot echoing the first. "READY, AIM, FIRE!" The echo of the final shot silenced before Sgt. Reynolds ordered "PRESENT ARMS!" As all seven held their rifles out, a horn began to play Taps. Echoed from a distance by a second horn. Once the last note faded, the orders were shouted: "ORDER ARMS!" and the butt of all seven rifles rested on the ground to their right. "PORT ARMS!" All seven returned to their original stance with their rifles held diagonally in front of their bodies, with the muzzle pointing upward to the left. "RIGHT FACE! FORWARD MARCH!" And they marched out to the grassy area and stood at rest. The crowd unable to maintain silence as several in attendance wept.
Returning to the podium, Admiral Morrow cleared his throat several times before being able to continue. "Please take your seats." He began and waited until all were once again seated. "It will come as no surprise to you that there is one person we are able to attribute the values that were put in place to build the leaders of such a formidable group. One person who has not only made it her life's mission to work in conjunction with the United Federation of Planets while at the same time, provide the protection of a Mother to all those who have none. She has successfully raised many of these young men herself, instilling a compassion and moral fiber in those who call her 'Mom', 'Aunt', or even just friend; without fail. It has been my honor to work alongside her and it is a privilege to introduce the director of a brand new, fully revamped youth services division of the United Federation of Planets. Please welcome Federation Youth Services Director, Teri Short." Applause roared as Teri stood from her seat and Admiral Morrow shook her hand. Taking her place at the podium, Teri waited as the crowd's applause slowly died down.
"Good afternoon everyone. Thank you, Admiral for your kind words. It is true that we are working very hard to change everything when it comes to the protection and care of our youth. Ever since being pushed into my position," She paused, turning and glaring at Admiral Morrow who made a show of shrugging his shoulders, getting a laugh from the audience. "I've worked very hard to align Federation Youth Services with Clan Short of Vulcan. Not simply because my sons are involved. I believe we have a unique grouping of resources today. Resources that just did not exist previously and in all honesty, exist today only because of our unfortunate past. My grandson in his infinite wisdom once blurted out that 'sometimes bad things gotta happen so the good things can'. It's because of the bad things many of these boys have been through that they refuse to back down when they have the power to do something to right a wrong that is being done to another. It's that message that I want FYS to echo loud and clear throughout the planet and to our neighbors off planet. The weak and defenseless have a guardian angel in these boys, and they have us to help as well." Pausing as the audience applauded, Teri took a sip of water and then a deep breath.
"I would like to take a moment to acknowledge just what has happened here. Thanks in part to our boys and their mission, contacting an old earth organization to gain assistance for a youth android boy that had suffered unthinkable abuse, placed us all in a position to secure this property, at a period in time that it was needed most. This old building once again cared for our injured. It protected our endangered and it comforted our frightened. Today begins its new life of continuing to serve. I am proud to announce that Federation Youth Services will now be headquartered in this very building." And as she got the words out, the canvas covering was removed from the section of the building that displayed in brand new, bright brass lettering: 'United Federation of Planets - Youth Services' resulting in a standing ovation that went on for some time. As the crowd quieted, Teri smiled. "With this new facility, Clan Short, The Vulcan Embassy, The United Federation of Planets and our own guardian angels watching over us, our youth once again have a place to turn." With that said, the audience erupted in applause once again. As everyone continued to applaud, Teri waved and stepped down from the podium.
As the crowd continued to applaud, Admiral Morrow returned to the podium once again and waited for the crowd to settle. "Our next speakers really don't require an introduction. They have made themselves known in every home of every individual in just about any colonized land, on or off planet. They have accomplished more in the means of shaping how we care for the youth of Earth or any other planet within Federation space. In their short lifetime, they have accomplished what generations before have only dreamed was possible; and their work is far from done. Please welcome Sean and Cory Short of Clan Short of Vulcan, of the Family of Sarek, of the House of Surak." As Sean and Cory stood from their seats, the audience stood as well, loudly applauding until both reached the podium.
"Thank you Admiral; we'll be sure to load up Timmy with Pixie Styx before sending him to his next visit to your office." Cory quipped with a small smile getting a laugh from the Admiral in reply. By the way he was standing, it was obvious that recent events still weighed heavy on his consciousness. "A while back, while I was placed in an orphanage to recover from PTSD Memory Loss, a new kid came in one day to live there. Something in his eyes told me he didn't need a shrink, he needed to be wanted as family. I took him in as a little brother, not even remembering at the time if I had any brothers already. When I finally did start remembering my family, I kept my promise to be there for him. We both left the orphanage at the same time; him to be adopted by the shrink that the courts had appointed to help us, and me to return to my home with Sean. That kid was Kyle Richardson; him, his new Dad, and his new big brother JJ were over at my place taking care of the final stuff to place me back with Mom when Kyle's new mom died because of a blood vessel busting in her head. That day, me, Sean, Kyle, and JJ swore an oath to be there for each other for Eternity; as our families have grown and turned into a Clan the oath has extended to every person we have helped. The oath extended to some of the adopted grandchildren of Ambassador Sarek, which triggered our growing family being declared a Clan by Vulcan, since the swearing of brotherhood means more under that family culture."
Noticing Cory was getting tired, Sean took over. "A lot of things have happened since then, one of which was us getting to meet Marc, Danny, and Jerry. Before we even got back from our conference we were at with an android who needed help, JJ had come over to make sure things were ready and decided that it was time to give these guys the family they deserved. With that one choice, we became a true extended family, which was shown to the world when one of the families we were asked to help look out for was attacked. None of these guys wasted time asking if help was needed; they all just stepped up and said 'hit us with your best shot'. That is a real family. That is Clan Short. That is what this building signifies; when you're driving by, remember that as you look at the outside, there is nothing but family love and caring inside. It's been said that love conquers all; today Clan Short is giving Charleston a monument to prove those are not just words, but a way of life. Thank You." With a roar, the audience was on its feet applauding. Both boys watched with a smile as an ambulance slowly rolled into the end of the driveway behind the audience. Startling the crowd, the lights came on and the siren chirped three times. "Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that we bought y'all a housewarming present. Hope you like it." In response, Marc and Danny looked at each other and both just smiled and shook their heads in disbelief.
Shaking hands with Sean and Cory, Admiral Morrow watched as the ambulance was parked and the crowd turned to face the stage again, all with smiles on their faces. "Our next speakers are sure to become very commonly heard names right here in South Carolina as they will be the ones directly involved with running the AI Division that Clan Short has established right here in this very building. Without further delay, please welcome Director Daniel Page and Assistant Director Noah Barnes." The crowd once again erupted in applause as Danny and Noah took their places at the podium.
Watching the crowd settle, Danny looked at Noah and smiled before clearing his throat. "Thanks everyone." He said looking back at the crowd. "I'll be honest, this has all been a blur that is so hard to believe actually happened." He took a deep breath and continued when Noah put his hand on Danny's shoulder. "As I'm sure most of you are already aware, I'm an android. I was created as a prototype by a doctor whose work was deemed illegal and to this day is not duplicated. His work took the image of a real human being's consciousness and used it as the base for an artificially intelligent being. It was a cheat and it was considered cruel and inhuman as it took a snapshot of a real human being's consciousness and trapped it, forcing it to live an eternity in what would be deemed an unnatural existence. In time, a completely non-human intelligence was created to take its place but, was also deemed just as cruel as these beings became just as self-aware as any other on the planet. It would eliminate the market that originally brought beings like myself and many others into existence." Danny looked at Noah who smiled and took over.
"People realized their mistake and made another huge one. They treated these creations as unfeeling machines. They were destroyed or tortured. Used in cruel ways as slaves, targets of violence and even as sexual outlets for perversion." Noah took a deep breath and looked over the audience. "It's awful the things our race did to theirs." His expression became hard: "Just as awful as the same things being done to human children all over the planet today."
Danny listened to the murmur of the audience for a moment before he took back over. "It's true and it's something that is just more comfortable to not acknowledge. Many people justify their actions toward androids by simply not recognizing them as human. We are a lesser life form and that makes it okay. It works the same way with people who are willing to harm a child for their own entertainment and enjoyment. They see them as a form of lesser being or simply as property. Just like the creations that followed in my footsteps, the creations that follow in your footsteps now have a voice."
Noah nodded his head and smiled. "It is a little ironic that just like our director, this hospital will be old...a hybrid! I mean a hybrid!" he managed to get out as Danny playfully smacked him in the back of the head, getting a laugh from the audience that broke the tension a little. "A hybrid, just like the people we are gonna help. Some will be androids, some will be children, all people of all races and all of us looking out for the others. We're gonna protect those who need protecting and we're gonna help those who need help. Not based on who or what they are but based on how we would treat our own family. Because that's what we are, Family."
Danny smiled as the audience erupted in applause and then settled back down once again. "For years, my brother Marc dedicated his life to helping a race that was created by humans and then discarded by them. He endured heartache after heartache as each turned to him to finally find peace in ending their existence on this earth. I dare anyone to imagine a world where suicide is an acceptable means to find peace. Think about that and then imagine yourself in my brother's position. To become a member of a nearly extinct race simply because life was no longer worth living or even worse, was just no longer wanted by the very race that created them. For the small handful that found a purpose, he worked with them in their emancipation and empowered them to take control of their existence. Once that purpose has been found, the 'Why do I even exist?' question becomes nothing more than a distant echo. I am no exception. In the years following my creation, this hard and often cruel world pushed me beyond my breaking point more times than I care to think about. Today, with my new family; I have so much more to do. So many more reasons to exist. People I love and people who love me back. To them, I pledge to follow in the footsteps of Sean, Cory and Marc as we lead this division of Clan Short and serve all those in need. Our youth, our brethren and all who reach out to that distant light at the end of the tunnel." Applause from the audience broke the silence as the next canvas covering on the building was removed exposing the signage which read: 'Clan Short of Vulcan', 'Artificial Intelligence Division' complete with the AI Division crest and the FYS seal on either side of it. "Just like us," Danny almost yelled over the cheering and whistling, "this building now has a new purpose as well! Thank you all!"
As the cheering continued, Admiral Morrow shook both boys' hands before returning to the microphone. "If you'll all give me your attention for a moment." He said and waited as the audience slowly quieted. "Thank you," He continued, "I was just informed that two very special people would like to say something to everyone." As he motioned to his right, Joey and Timmy timidly made their way to the center stage next to the podium as they were too small to stand behind it. Pulling the microphone out of its stand, he knelt next to the boys and held the microphone for them.
"Hewwo evewyone. My name is is Joey Owens and dhis is my bwodhew, Dimmy Showd. We wanded do say dhad we awe weawwy pwoud of ouw daddies and uncwes and gwammas and aww of ouw fwiends." ("Hello everyone. My name is is Joey Owens and this is my brother, Timmy Short. We wanted to say that we are really proud of our daddies and uncles and grammas and all of our friends.") He said with a gleaming smile as Timmy leaned in toward the mic.
"Yeah," He said a little too loudly. "An I wanna thank ya'll for the nice things everybody keeps sayin bout them. They been worryin so much bout us an all the other little kids that no one was worryin bout them. Least, that's what I was thinkin' til ya'll rushed in to help." He said with a satisfied nod. "That's all really, right Joey?"
"Yeah, I dhink so." ("Yeah, I think so.") Joey smiled looking at Admiral Morrow. "Dhank you, siw. Dhad's whad we wanded do say." ("Thank you, sir. That's what we wanted to say.")
"You are very welcome boys." The admiral said as he ruffled both boys hair and smiled as they quickly rushed toward their fathers and tackled them with hugs. Placing the microphone back in it's stand, he cleared his throat and once again waited for the audience to settle down. "Our next speaker has a very special reason to return today. Before recent events shined a very bright spotlight on this building and its occupants, this new team took earlier action to protect a child who was facing having his entire world turned upside down. Please Welcome Dixon Wiggins-Blankenship." And the audience applauded as Dixon and his partner Jessie took their places and watched in awe as the audience continued to applaud.
Dixon stepped up to the podium and cleared his throat, then wiped his eyes a bit. "Sorry everyone, I'm a little emotional about being here, because if it weren't for this building and the great people working in it, I wouldn't be here at all. I was born here in Charleston, but I only recently learned that. You see I was kidnapped as a very young kid, and stolen from my family. Thanks to Clan Short and the doctors here at this hospital, even before it was opened, I have not only been reunited with my last remaining biological family, but now have a lot more family as well. My kidnapper did a lot of good things for me while she was raising me, but she also did some really bad stuff too. When she found out I was in love with another boy, she had a violent episode, and hurt me really bad." He paused for a moment to wipe his eyes again and take a deep breath before continuing. "It's kind of funny that Noah called this place a hybrid, because in a way, I guess that's what I am now. I had to have.... well, parts of me, that is.... well the damage my mom, the woman I had grown up calling mom at least, did to me couldn't be healed. It had to be replaced. I was so hurt not just physically, but emotionally, by what happened, that if it weren't for Marc and some of the other guys I met here at this hospital, I wouldn't have wanted to survive. I didn’t think that what happened to me could be fixed and because of that I thought I would lose the guy I love with all my heart. These guys and all the clan really, gave me back a life that I didn't even know was mine. I had grown up an only child, and now I have more brothers and sisters too, than I can possibly count. Most important to me though is that they gave me back Jessie, and Mamee, and made it possible for Jessie and me to be the parents of Emile and Etienne. I couldn't ask for anything better than that, but I got it anyway by being allowed to join the clan and help others the way I have been helped. For a while I was a little freaked out and worried about what was done for me, medically that is. I was afraid that Jessie wouldn't want me if it wasn't all me, that it wasn't real. For that attitude, I would like to here and now in, public, apologize to Danny, and Marc, and all the other android members of the clan, including my Uncle Doug. I also want to serve notice to everyone here. Don't any of you EVER call any of them anything less than human in my presence. It will not end well, I can assure you. My family is whole now because of these guys, and that family includes full humans, human animal hybrids, androids, and just so you know, I'm not the only human android hybrid in the family either. Where are Eli and Benji?"
"You tell 'em, Dix!" Eli yelled from the audience as Benji jumped up and down, waving his arms to get Dixon's attention, getting a laugh from the audience.
Dixon started to turn away from the mic as he was once again becoming emotional, Jessie stepped up and wrapped his arms around him and gave him a great big kiss. "I love you Dixon, don't you ever doubt that, ever. I love all of you, even..." His voice cut off as Dixon covered his mouth with a hand.
"If you say Frankenweenie in front of this microphone, I will...." Dixon's own voice trailed off as he realized he had just done it himself. He turned back to face the mic fully once again, and even though his face was redder than six suns, he spoke again. "Well, I guess you can't get a personal testimonial more personal than that can you? Yes, there is some laughter about the name now, but I know that when my family, and I include the whole clan in that family, when my family laugh and tease me about that, I know it is done with love, and with the intention of making me feel better not worse, because this family doesn't know any other way to handle people. Although, I do have to say that I could have done with just a little less love and NOT have Frankenweenie on a license plate for my car," he pointed out with a smile as the audience laughed. Once the crowd quieted, Dixon turned toward Marc and took a deep breath in an attempt to stop the tears, a battle he was rapidly losing. Seeing him struggle, Marc got up and walked over to the podium. "Thank you for letting me be your first human patient, Doc." He got out before giving Marc a tight hug.
"You are so welcome." Marc sniffled as he held out his arm and Jessie joined in a three-way hug as the audience got to its feet and applauded and cheered. Once the hug broke, the three walked back to where Marc had been sitting. Before the audience began to settle, Joey rushed Dixon and hugged him tightly as KC gave him a fist bump. The cheers instantly got louder, turning to laughter as KC motioned to Dixon's pants and getting playfully shoved for it by a now smiling Dixon.
"Our next speakers are patients of our newly renovated hospital just like Dixon, before this hospital was ready. As I know you are all aware, this division is absolutely not afraid to go right to work which truly makes them an appropriate extension of Clan Short. I'd like to welcome the following boys to the stage please, Kenneth McKensie, Joseph Owens, Austin Short, Kevin Perry, Elijah Michaels, Benjamin Michaels and Dixon Wiggins-Blankenship." As the boys gathered from side stage or from the audience, Admiral Morrow smiled as Eli and Benji couldn't seem to get their boyfriends, Sammy and Sebastian to let go of their hands. "That's okay boys, you can bring your partners with you." He smiled as the audience applauded the comment. With that, all four boys blushed but rushed to the stage, grabbing Jessie, Dixon's boyfriend on the way by. Once everyone was grouped to the left of the podium, including Eli's old prosthetic leg that seemed to hop on the stage on its own under the control of its owner, causing Joey to bounce and squeal as the 'Pet' leg hopped over to him like a dog. "This small group represents patients in a hospital that wasn't yet a hospital. This group began its work before it had the resources or even a working plan. Before there was the promise of resources and the support of all of you, they saw a job that needed to be done, stepped up and just did it. We could all learn a lesson from Clan Short and these boys to my right are living proof that this building couldn't be in better hands." With that Admiral Morrow turned and applauded the group on the stage, the audience standing and doing the same. "A couple of the boys would like to say a few words as well. I'll let them take it from here."
Taking a deep breath, Eli grabbed Sebastian's hand and approached the podium. "Hi everyone. My name is Eli an' this is my boyfriend 'Bastian. I wanted to say something today 'cause me an' my brother Benji were patients here but, not 'cause we were in danger. Just 'cause our new family here just wanted to help us. See, my brother and me were in an accident. I lost most of my leg and an arm and my brother lost part of his hand. We had learned to live without them tho and even found ways to not need the parts we didn't have. When we met these guys for the first time, it was like seeing family that we didn't know we had for the first time. It was that day when they offered to give us back what we lost." To emphasize his point, he held out his right arm and wiggled his fingers. "That's all new," He said as his old prosthetic leg jumped up and down, causing Joey to giggle out of control as he tried to hold it down, giving the audience a laugh. "And that isn't even needed anymore." Giving 'Bastian a squeeze, he smiled at the audience as it began to quiet down. "They went through all this trouble to make us whole. All this trouble for everybody on this stage right now an' they're just gettin' started. Thanks to you all and to the people who made this place happen for them, they'll be doin' the same thing for anybody, kid or not, who needs to be made whole. They could be missin body parts or missin families like most of us were, doesn't matter. They'll be made whole. Thanks for helping them to make the world whole." He said and the audience got to its feet as KC and Austin took their places at the podium. KC with Joey on his shoulders and Austin with Timmy on his.
With an evil smile, KC adjusted the mic and cleared his throat. "It's not often that one gets the opportunity to speak about someone intelligent, respected, and admired at an event like this. To speak of a person who is a natural born leader and was responsible for pioneering a new age for an entire race that had been discriminated against and shunned by the very people who created it. It doesn't happen often at all. Unfortunately, today I only get to talk about Marc Furst." He said straight-faced as the audience laughed and he let a grin surface. "Okay, seriously. I've known Marc First ever since my second day with my original dad. I was trying to show off that I was able to land a 1080 without ever having tried it before. Both me and my skateboard got broken that day and I got to meet Marc. He was an android just like me but, he was much more. He helped create me and every time I found a new way to damage or maim my body, he would just laugh and make it better. He even talked to my Dad who was sure I had been designed just to give him daily heart attacks that I was just being me and when me just being me caused me to be injured in a place that I wouldn't be found until well after my father passed away, he not only was there to support my Dad but when I was found, it was his team that was there to put me back together. Long before most of you were born, he was already doing this work. I'd be willing to bet, even without all that is going on now, the same amount of years down the road he'd still be doing this work. Cause that's who he is." KC said as Austin nodded his head and took over.
"Of course, most of that work will be fixing up my clumsy brother again!" Austin smirked as he pointed at KC. "Don't let Crash fool you; both of us are the direct result of Marc's life goal of making things better for everyone. There's one thing that KC and I share that is unique; neither of us would be standing here today if it wasn't for the guys here at the hospital and Clan Short. That one thing is that both of us had such serious damage to our bodies that our brains were the only thing left stable in our bodies."
"Unca Marc's still working on Crash's brain, tho!" Timmy offered helpfully.
"Watch it short stuff." KC giggled.
"I got cookies, you ain't gonna do nuttin!" Timmy giggled.
Holding back a laugh, KC waited until the audience settled back down before he smiled and shook his head. "He's probably right."
"You can tell who runs things," Austin giggled as he tickled Timmy's knees. "This is a good example of what KC was talking about, though. The little guy sitting on my shoulder found me laying in an alley while he and my new parents were off-planet for a conference. Besides being a cute little fireball, he's telepathic; thanks to a survival protocol that Marc added to my programming when I was created, the best guess that anyone has is that my brain picked it up and somehow wrote a routine that let me talk in his head and tell him what was wrong. Considering that half my body was already shut down, that was pretty amazing. Not only did he pass on the problems I was having so I could be helped, he stayed by my side until he was sure I would be okay. That is a lot when you consider it involved a maximum-warp trip back to Earth, an emergency shuttle landing, and watching as most of my internal hardware was replaced by Marc, Danny, and Jerry. He is more than my brother in name, though. Timmy cuddled with me on the trip back, and the biobed determined his genetics were a match for the parts of mine that were failing due to the damage to my body. I'm proud to say that the first son of the Patriarch of Clan Short is my brother now in the most intimate way possible; he gave me the genetic patterns that kept me alive."
"Dhad's nod aww of id dho. We'we aww bwodhews!" ("That's not all of it tho. We're all brothers!") Joey added as he wrapped his arms around KC's forehead and gave it a squeeze.
Wrapping one arm around Austin, KC nodded. "That's true creep. It's funny how all that worked out and keeps working out." He continued with a sigh, "Every single person who didn't have a family before, has one now. The four of us are actual brothers. But so are all of our new brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers." He smiled. "We may be able to connect ourselves genetically or through core programming but that isn't needed. We are all brothers and sisters and whatever without needing that extra bond. I think that makes our family one of the strongest ever, and I'm proud to be a part of it." With that, the audience erupted in applause as KC whispered in Austin's ear. When the crowd began to settle once again, KC hugged Joey's legs tighter. "Cause of this family, one of my new brothers gave me a chance to see my original Dad. Really see him. I was shown that we are so not alone, even when we feel like we are. I got proof that he knows I'm okay now and that he will never stop loving me. I also know that this brother, who I had never met; watches over us all. Thanks to Sean and Cory's older brother, we all have that big brother watchin us from the clouds. Him and every one of our family and friends that wasn't destined to stay with us in this form."
"It doesn't stop there, though," Austin added softly. "Conner, Leo? Come on out, guys."
It took a minute for Conner and Leo to make it up on stage, mostly because Leo was guiding his brother, who was keeping his head tilted to shade his eyes. Once on stage, the pair cuddled into Austin's free side. "These are my new sons Conner and Leo;" Austin stated, still speaking softly. "They were orphans, and came here with their sponsor in the Big Brother program when the call went out for help. I adopted them because I felt the connection to them, I really knew I could be the parent they needed. Up until I was rescued, I would have never considered the option, but Marc, Danny, Cory, and Sean have taught me by example that the best payment for being helped is to help others. Love does things money can't touch, and when I look across the table in the morning and see these two smiling faces, I realize that I'm a trillionaire."
"No joke." KC said as he gave Joey's legs a squeeze and Joey smiled.
As a silence fell over the audience, Kevin smiled and approached the boys, hugging Austin and KC who were both misty eyed and having a difficult time continuing. Ending in a group hug, Kevin approached the podium and as he was about to open his mouth, Jerry Owens joined him, and wrapped his arm around him. "Oh, hi." Kevin giggled, not expecting anyone to join him. "I'm actually surprised to be listed along with the first patients. I'm sure that there are very few who know who I am so I'll try to give a little history," Kevin said, looking a little worried. With another encouraging squeeze from Jerry he smiled and continued: "According to the laws of the planet Earth and apparently on other planets within Federation space, I shouldn't exist. In life, I was the nephew of Director Page before he became an android, which only happened because I requested it." A murmur could be heard and made Kevin a little nervous. "Well, that was a much different time and even though I understand why the practice of bio-imaging a human was deemed illegal and immoral, I am glad that the human I was can be preserved by what I am today. I was reawakened not by accident but by the choice of the person whose memories I hold. The person who loved his uncle and then outgrew the childlike android that he was, like a forgotten toy." Taking a deep breath, Kevin looked over his shoulder at Danny, who was seated and hanging on his every word. "When I passed away, Uncle Dan was by my side. He was there when I fell asleep for the very last time, and he was with me when my personality imprint was discovered, and he was by my side when I woke up in this building in my own body. But things have changed now. When I died, Uncle Dan was my only remaining family. I woke up to a huge, loving and accepting family. One I could have only dreamed of back when everything had an expiration date, including me. Under my watch, Uncle Dan suffered way too much abuse, and some of it came from me." He turned and saw Danny getting up from his seat, but raised his hand asking him to wait. "Even with all the bad things that happened I know one thing for sure. His love for his family never dies."
Jerry saw a tear in Kevin's eye and sighed, "I hadn't planned to say anything but, my new brother needs help." Jerry said with a smile as he looked up to Kevin. "I saw Danny's face when he realized that your personality was whole and awake inside his brain. He was so happy and at the same time, he was so concerned and worried about you." Looking back toward the audience he continued: "His love for Kevin never faded over the years. If anything, it got stronger. And guess what, he has a ton of that love. We all get to see it and feel it; and if you sit back and watch anything he does, you can literally see how much of his love makes his decisions." Jerry said crossing his arms. "I watched his face, it was kind and it was caring. I also watched his face when he saw total strangers in need of help. It was the same. I've seen him worry, I've seen him happy, and I've seen him angry. All because of his love for the people around him. I felt like family to him and his brother after the first day we met and I wouldn't doubt that every single person who has met him since feels the same way." Taking a deep breath, Jerry leaned in toward Keven and smiled. "I didn't know either of you as a human and I know that your human selves are hanging out where Davie and Mikey hang out watching over us all. I do know that who you are today is in memory of those people and I'm glad to get to be family with you and through you, with them." As Jerry buried his face in Kevin's chest, the audience stood and applauded. Even louder when Danny walked over, hugged them both and led them to their seats.
"Finally, I would like to introduce our final speakers before the ribon-cutting ceremony. These two could be considered the backbone of the technical aspect of our new AI Division. They are responsible for many of the technological advances you will witness within this building and so much more. Please welcome Dr. Marc Furst and Dr. Caleb Barnes."
As they both stood, you could see Caleb mouth the word "Doctor?" in question toward Marc who simply laughed and led him to the podium. As the crowd settled, they both smiled and patiently waited.
"Good afternoon everyone," Marc began, "I would like to begin with a thought I had not too long ago right out here near this fountain on a very quiet night after we first began using this hospital. I had just met Charles Johnston, the gentleman who is responsible for this beautiful lettering on this building today. After a very stressful day, he talked to me about the importance of family looking out for family and friends being there for each other. He made me think about how in such a short period of time, I went from believing that I had no family left and very few real friends to having more of both than I could have ever imagined. My brother was right, continuing the work of the parent company that created me was laced with hurt and heartache. To watch what I considered to be my entire race slowly become extinct was more than I had bargained for but as Gramps pointed out to me, I'm still here. I can be a part of my race's rebirth and with my new family, I have so much to live for." Marc smiled as Caleb took over.
"You could say I owe this family everything too. It seems like it was a million years ago but, recently I was helped by this family like so many other people have been. When the man I had always believed was my real father caught me cuddled up with the boy who was at the time my new adopted brother, he exploded. Told my mother that he was gonna call the judge and send my brother back because nobody was gonna corrupt his son." Caleb looked over at Noah with their new son Hunter in his lap and he smiled. "My whole world just started fallin apart. Turned out even I had been adopted and they hid it from me. All of a sudden I felt as if my entire life had been a lie and now that the truth was out, my everything started to crumble faster the harder I tried to hold on to it. When things seemed the most hopeless, we turned to Aunt Teri for help and it was like she snapped her fingers and made it all okay. Today, my adopted brother is my life partner. And if the happiness I feel with him is bein corrupted, then I want to stay corrupted." Caleb looked at Marc with a tear in his eye. With a thoughtful smile, Marc wiped away Caleb's tear with his thumb and then nodded for him to continue. "With Aunt Teri, I got this whole huge family. A new Dad that I couldn't love any more than I already do, new brothers who mean the world to me too. I got cousins like you wouldn't believe and now, I have a son who just like me; needed a new family. Right here in this building, after the ugliest act of cruelty, the human race has to offer, I met my son for the first time. I met him and I was forced to watch as his life slipped away. He died from wounds inflicted upon him from his own father because he tried to protect another boy who like me, learned that it's possible for a boy to love another boy and that it's okay." Caleb fell silent and the audience remained quiet. "Because my little boy gave his life so selflessly, one more cousin brought him back to me." Caleb's sniffle was all the cue Hunter needed as he leapt off of Noah's lap and ran over to be scooped up by his new Daddy.
Marc watched as Caleb buried his face in Hunter's shoulder, unable to continue. "This," Marc stated motioning toward the unlikely team of 'Daddy and Son' next to him, "is the direct result of another member of the Short family intervening. With that, there is one more family member that deserves recognition. If you'll give us just one moment." Marc said as everyone seated on stage stood. "Mom, could you join us please?" Marc asked as Teri smiled and all of her family gathered, filling the entire stage in a very short time. Once confirming that everyone was present, Marc looked over the audience one more time before continuing. "That night out here with Mr. Johnston, I was reminded that one particular guardian angel looks over us. He has empowered us to oppose those who hurt others. He's reached out to us from beyond to amplify the voice that will no longer go unheard. In his honor, I realized what the name of this hospital should be from today on. With his family present, in all of your presence, I would like to welcome you to the Micheal P. Short Memorial Medical Center or as I first imagined it; Saint Mikey's." As planned, the final canvas covering the wall of the fountain closest to the building and the stage was pulled away, unveiling the brass lettering of the hospital's new name. The audience stood and cheered as the afternoon sun glimmered off of the new brass lettering. They cheered even louder as the fountain was turned on and the jets of water once again appeared as they had in past years throughout the hospital's existence. Noticing the new tears on Teri's face, Sean, Cory, Marc and Timmy started a group hug that after a few minutes could possibly have set some form of record.
If you looked hard enough, and many did; Mikey and Davie could be seen on the roof of the old building, watching over their family with smiles on their faces.
"Uncle Dan!" Kevin shouted as he ran down the stairs, followed by Joey, Hunter, and Alex Sirois; who had come for a sleepover.
"In the kitchen." Danny shouted, suddenly watching as the four came running into the room and skidded to a halt earning a giggle from Marc, Noah and Caleb who were sitting at the table. Over Kevin's shoulder was a backpack which belonged to Danny. "Ah yes," He said as Kevin handed him the bag. "I have a few things to handle before we leave, thanks Shadow."
Sitting at the table, Hunter in his Daddies' lap, Kevin watched as Danny opened the bag and smiled. "What's up?" Marc asked with a curious look on his face.
"Well, I've had a few days to work up a couple of surprises." Danny smiled as he reached into the bag. "First, Marc." He said taking a computer disk out of the bag and placing it in front of his brother.
"What's this?" Marc asked, picking it up and looking it over.
"Once upon a time, some android used a backup from himself to help me be ready to deal with the chaos that would become my life. His sharing gave me access to all the intimate details of who that person is and to return the favor, I ran a full backup last night and transferred it to this disk." Watching Marc's eyes open wide as he realized what Danny had done made everyone laugh. "I want you to incorporate mine." After watching Marc thoughtfully turn the disk over and over in his hands, he smiled and pulled out a small box and handed it to Kevin.
"What's this?" Kevin asked, shaking the box and listening to the contents make metallic noises.
"Open it and find out." Danny crossed his arms and waited as Kevin opened the box, removing two keys on a ring. "Keys to..." He got out as a picture of a Camaro that looked just like Danny's original from his human years fell out and landed on the table. "Whoah. Did you find..."
"I found one just like it." Danny smiled. "It's not here yet but, when it has been outfitted like the rest of the cars, that one will be yours. Of course, those keys are more symbolic than anything else. Those are the keys to the original so, keep 'em safe."
His eyes tearing up, Kevin rushed his uncle and kissed him on the cheek. "Oh wow. Thanks Uncle..." He got out as Joey and Alex peeked at the picture in awe.
"Caleb and Noah," Danny said after Kevin showed the picture to everyone else in the room. Pulling a P.A.D.D. out of the bag, Danny activated it and then slid it to the couple. "When we get home, the two of you are packing up the Mustang and having your Honeymoon. Directions to a campsite that Kevin and I still own up in New Hampshire. There is a cottage, a small town, a beautiful view and tons of privacy. We will expect you to be gone for no less than a week and while you're gone, Hunter, Joey, Alex, Kevin, and anyone else who would like to, will be joining me and Marc for golfing lessons."
"Coooool!" The smaller boys all shouted as Caleb looked at Noah and blushed a little.
"Until then," Danny continued. "Noah, you are officially in command as of this moment until I return and relieve you."
"Yes, sir." Noah smiled, giving Caleb a peck on the cheek and ruffling Hunter's hair.
Reaching into the bag one more time, Danny lifted an item out of the bag that made Marc's eyes go wide. A glass replica of the sand castle that they built along with Jerry before all the insanity started, complete with the three of them posing for the picture that Mary had taken on that day. "Where did that come from?" Marc gasped. "It's beautiful."
Danny grinned as Jerry tiptoed up behind Marc from the living room and wrapped his arms around him. "Surprise." He said as KC, John and Mary silently came into the room as well. "I asked Josiah to make it when he had to let his giant castle on the beach collapse. I showed him the picture and he created that one." Jerry said as Marc stared in awe at the detail in the glass figure. "I wanted you and Danny to have it, I hope you like it."
"Are you kidding?" Marc asked, kissing Jerry on the top of his head. "It's so beautiful. Thank you, thank you so much." He said as the group all took turns looking the figure over. "That would look awesome on the mantle over the fireplace upstairs."
"We'll put it up there." Kevin said with a smile.
"I wemembew, dhad was dhe day Uncah Dyne swayed dhe big bad sand dwagon! Dhad was so fun I hope dhey aww come ovew again do pway!" ("I remember, that was the day Uncah Tyne slayed the big bad sand dragon! That was so fun I hope they all come over again to play!") Joey said excitedly.
"Yeah," KC replied with a smile, "you're right creep, that was fun."
"So, don't you two have some place to be?" Kevin interrupted with a smile, redirecting everyone's attention back to Marc and Danny. "Not that we're in any rush to get rid of you or anything."
"As a matter of fact, we do have someplace to be right now." Danny said motioning toward the door. "Guys, we'll be home sometime on the 4th. Try not to give Noah too much of a hard time." He said with an exaggerated wink, earning a laugh from everyone but Noah. "Marc, I have one more thing for you but we need to go for a ride to see it."
After another five minutes of hugs, and a group movement to the Camaro to see them off, Marc and Danny were in the car and speeding down the road. "So, any hints?" Marc asked with a grin as Danny kept his eyes on the road.
"Nope." He replied, giggling when Marc slumped in his seat. "You won't need a hint..." He continued as he pulled up to the entrance of the boatyard. "...cause we're already here."
"You rented us a boat again?" Marc beamed.
"Yeah, something like that." Danny giggled, repeating the exact phrase he said to Marc the last time they came here as he parked the car. "This time I'm saying it so there is no misunderstanding, wait here." Danny giggled as Marc playfully punched him in the arm.
"Fine." He giggled as Danny got out of the car and closed the door.
Entering the office, the old man looked up from his paperwork and smiled. "There ya are. Was beginnin' ta wonder if I had the right day in mind. Do ya have Marc with ya?"
"Yeah," Danny replied looking back at the door and giggling. "This time I think he's actually waiting in the car. Is everything all set Sam?"
"She's ship shape and the crew is aboard." The man smiled as he came over to the counter and put a set of keys on it. "My grandson went over each and every inch of her and I'll tell ya, with the help of those two robots you sent down here the other day, she's lookin' like she did the day her hull had its first taste of the bay. Yer brother is gonna be pleased."
Taking the keys, Danny held out his hand to shake, "I owe you big." Danny grinned.
"You owe me nothing." The old man laughed. "Now get yer brother and shove off. Dock 2, slip 1, right where the old girl used to live. That'll be her home again if ya like."
"Thanks Sam, I know Marc will appreciate the sentiment," Danny said as he retreated from the office. "Okay, you can come out now." Danny giggled as he opened the hatchback. "Help me with the bags, will ya?"
"No problem," Marc said as he grabbed a couple of overnight bags leaving Danny with a cooler and a duffel. "Where are we heading?"
"Um," Danny began, pretending to be disinterested. "Dock 2, slip 1."
Pausing in mid step, Marc smiled and looked at Danny. "That's where we used to keep our boat." He said and Danny nodded his head.
"Cool." He said as he closed the car up. "Then you can lead the way."
"Yeah sure." Marc smiled and the two began to walk down toward the docks. Once all the boats were in view Marc slowed a bit and tilted his head. "Wait a minute." He said as he stopped walking. "That looks just like..." He got out before shaking his head. "Nevermind."
Grinning, Danny continued to follow as Marc stopped walking twice. "What's wrong?" Danny asked as he watched Marc's mouth literally drop open and the bags in his hands hit the ground.
"Danny." Marc half whispered. "That one looks just like my Dad's boat." He no sooner said as he was able to read the almost forgotten name off the stern. 'Play-N-Hooky'
"There's a reason for that," Danny said setting the cooler and bag down on the pavement. "That is your Dad's boat."
All at once, tears streamed down both of Marc's cheeks and he sat down between the two bags he had been carrying. "No." He sniffled still not believing his eyes and ears. "Did you..."
"I had some help but, yeah." He said as he sat on the ground next to Marc and looked him in the eyes. "Did I do okay?"
"Oh my god," Marc said as he continued to cry harder. "That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me..." He continued as Danny pulled him into a hug, muffling the rest of his barely coherent babbling.
Noticing the two sitting on the ground, two people jumped over the side of the boat onto the dock and began to run. "Danny! Is he okay?"
"Yeah, just give us a second," Danny shouted back as Marc desperately tried to clear his vision.
"Cory?" Marc asked as he tried to compose himself. "Was that Cory?"
"Yeah." Danny replied as Sean and Cory came to a skidding halt and knelt down with the other two. "Sean and Cory are taking a break too so, I thought since the boat was done and since we haven't had any peace and quiet in days that I would use this new-found sailing knowledge that was included in a gift you gave me..." he was barely able to get out as Marc leaned in and pulled Danny into a very deep kiss, silencing him instantly.
"I knew it!" Cory shouted, earning a smack in the back of the head from Sean. "What? I did."
"Grab the bags, we'll put 'em on the boat and give these two some privacy." Sean said with a smile as the kiss broke and Danny rested his forehead on Marc's, peering into his eyes.
"You knew," Marc whispered.
"Another thing I learned from that same gift," Danny replied as all four stood up. "But the rest of the group finds out and we aren't ever gonna hear the end of it." Danny laughed. "You want to talk about this as we get ready to set sail?"
"This is gonna be fun," Cory said as they each picked up an item and walked down the dock. "I ain't never been on a real sail boat."
"Really?" Marc questioned as Danny took the bag away from him so he could wipe his face off.
"Me neither," Sean said with a grin. "I don't think."
As Danny, Sean and Cory loaded the bags onto the boat, Marc silently walked the vessel's length, running his finger along the contours of its side as he went. Looking along its length from the bow, he appeared to be lost in thought. "A penny for your thoughts." Danny offered as he hopped back onto the dock, joining Marc.
"She's beautiful," Marc said with the tears welling up again. "How... When did you have the time to do this?"
"Ah." Danny smiled pulling Marc into a hug. "Sam, his grandson, and techbots numbers 8 and 12 did all the hard work. I just got the ball rolling."
"Oh my god, are we gonna see sharks?" Sean asked loudly, causing Cory to laugh which made Danny and Marc giggle. "Seriously, I mean you've seen Jaws. They eat boats like this for breakfast."
"Yer nuts." Cory giggled as Danny and Marc, laughed harder and climbed back aboard. "That shark was a robot."
"Oh." Sean smiled turning toward Marc and Danny. "Then it's you two that need to worry, not us."
"Shut up." Marc giggled as Danny untied the boat and like an old pro prepared the sails. "Besides, if we want to keep the sharks away all we need to do is feed you some Garlic."
"Why do the rest of us need to pay?" Danny laughed as he climbed back from the bow. As they all quieted down, Danny held out the key. "You wanna take her out?"
Looking at the key, then at Sean and Cory who were settling into the deck seats he smiled at Danny. "Thanks."
"Just don't scratch the paint." Danny laughed.
"No, I mean for all of this. Thanks." Marc got out as he put the key in the ignition and the boat's engine roared to life.
Kissing Marc one more time, Danny smiled. "It's the least I could do for the person who gave me this new life and a new reason to live it." Danny said as Marc sat at the wheel and slowly pulled the boat away from the dock. Wrapping his arms around Marc from behind, he nuzzled into Marc's neck as the boat was off on the first journey it had seen in so many years.
"What about whales?" Sean shouted, causing everyone to break out in a fit of giggles once again. "Seriously, they jump out of the water and crush this kind of boat! I've seen it in movies!"
"Yeah, we need this." Marc said to the wheel with a smile as he throttled up, aiming for open water where he'd see the sails of his first Dad's boat fill with the wind once again, thanks to his new family.
Danny listened to the sound of the wind, the water lapping the sides of the boat, and the sound of the engine as it all tried to drown out the giggling of his new brothers. "Yeah, we really do." He replied to Marc with a squeeze, never wanting to let go again.
~ The End ~
Notes from the Author:
Before I say another word: Yes, all that just happened. Originally, I was going to be really mean and ignore the hundred plus comments in chats, conversations, and emails that almost demanded that Danny and Marc were a couple. I was going to leave that whole crush situation that Noah had learned about unanswered. I really was. In the story, Noah and Caleb have known for sure for some time and now, Sean and Cory are aware of it. So, why reveal Danny's true feelings now? I guess the CSU continued to push toward making Danny's life better. That's what it has done since the first day that ACFan "helped" me out of the corner I had painted myself into with the storyline way back when. So, it just seemed like it was time for both him and Marc to find happiness too. Those who gave me a hard time about it, that decision is dedicated to you.
I consider it such a huge honor to have played a part in helping to build a project that no one could have ever predicted would have such longevity, involve so many talented authors and tell so many individual stories that exist to accent the rest. When I first started writing this story, I was a fan of ACFan's "Memories" as I had been introduced to him only a couple of years prior by our mutual friend and fellow author, Gary Q. (of http://garysgarden.us) His story was so much smaller back then but had such a powerful message. It was hard not to get hooked on it. When he first suggested the tie-in, I didn't take him seriously. His story was set in a completely different universe and mine in a future time. It took one day of planning and rethinking before we had the working plan to bring my androids and his boys into the same universe. It may have thrown the original story outline out the window but, it became a whole lot better, with a much better message in the end. ACFan originally started out by simply suggesting that Jerry Owens not be a one-off character as was the plan. Thanks to him, Jerry became a main character and in doing so, Joey Owens became a reality (Yes, this means you can blame ACFan for Joey speak! Why not, I do!), and the Federation was actively recruiting teenagers... as were the Vulcans. Sounded crazy back then and we worked hard to prove our insanity. (Mission Accomplished!) I'm putting some thought into an "Afterword" that will explain what almost was and wasn't, among other things like I did for the other project I almost didn't finish.
I know most conversations I've had regarding ending "Sentenced to Life" have not been met with positive feedback. Your average CSU story wraps up anywhere between 25 and 45 chapters and many of you have felt I had planned to cut it short at 18. I understand why so many want the story to continue, and in many ways, it will; in other CSU stories. It's already happened and I'll be honest, the authors who have carried STL characters into other stories have done an incredible job, not to mention that I'm always here to help out with them when needed. In the end, I got to create an A.I. Division to pass on to the canon we all know as the Clan Short Universe. Shorter than some stories as it may be, I'm happy to have finally made it to the point where all the loose ends feel as if they are no more. Thanks for taking the trip with me, for the feedback I've gotten, it was so worth the work that was put in.
One last time, I gotta remind ya... Those of you who haven't read "The other CSU stories" are truly missing out on a very important part of the story. You really gotta read em all. Seriously. Go ahead, I'll wait. Hehehe...
You can find more adventures including the characters of STL alongside characters from some pretty incredible stories, written by some really amazing authors:
CSU founder: "ACFan" at http://cornercafe.us (Memories)
"Akeentia" at http://paddedroom.us (Ark)
"Ilúvantir" at http://cornercafe.us (Sa'ren)
"The Story Lover" at http://storylover.us (A Subconscious Dream)
"The Eggman" at http://cornercafe.us (Clan Short Pacific Rim Division)
"Boudreaux" at http://jeffsfort.com (Dear Diary)
"Boi From Aus" at http://acannex.us (Memories: Down Under)
There may be more in time that involve the A.I. group but right now, I think that's all of them.
*HUGZ* from myself and everyone at the Clan Short; Artificial Intelligence Division!
Note from the CSU Founder:
It took a while, but the ride was worth it! It has been awesome working with Jeff on this project, and I'm looking forward to more years to come! Besides getting a new little brother out of the deal, we both learned a lot from each other. (One thing that was learned was that Jeff will never ever call me if he is having writer's block on a chapter!) Seriously, there are a lot of things that Jeff has added to the CSU - some of which are just now being put into the overall universe. While this may be the end of this story arc, I honestly can say that this is not the end of Jeff's input into the CSU - it is only the beginning! Thanks for the ride, Jeff... I'm looking forward to the next round of insanity! AC
Clan Short Archivist's Review Notes:
Well, that was definitely a wild and woolly rollercoaster of a ride. It is always sad to see a story end and especially one whose characters tugged so hard at your heartstrings. While this chapter did tie up a lot of loose ends it also created new ones. Hint, hint.
The name of the hospital was a perfect touch. Thank you, Jeff, for that very emotional moment.
Now that you have put Sentenced to Life to bed, don't forget you are always welcome to bring your talents into the Dragon Earl Universe.
The Story Lover aka TSL
Assistant Archivist's Review Notes:
As an avid fan of Sentenced To Life, I must say I am very pleased to see how everything turned out so far. As TSL can tell you, I will always be looking for sequels and spin offs. I definitely had tears in my eyes.
I started reading this story before I ever read any of ACFan's work. Some of you might know that this story didn't begin its existence as part of the CSU. I believe that happened at the end of chapter 7. You can correct me if I am wrong.
Can I assume that we will still see the folks in this story in other CSU adventures? I certainly hope so, and I, for one, am looking forward to more full length stories in this saga. Thank you very much, Jeff, for this story and for your other ideas that eventually became stories we love.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher