Chapter co-authored by ACFan. . .
Melissa stared at her husband, or more accurately, she stared at the boy that resembled her husband. It didn’t seem believable to her when Kyle had first told her about Charles’s condition, but now she was faced with the sobering reality of the situation. Charles had the body of a twelve-year-old boy. Tears welled up in the woman’s eyes as she thought about how much her life had changed since Harris had first stepped out of that alleyway.
‘He’s been here three days, and my life has been turned entirely upside down,’ the woman thought bitterly. She knew that nothing that had happened was his fault. The boy was a hero in the eyes of Vanek, and he deserved nothing but respect for the sacrifice he had made to save somebody that he barely even knew.
“Melissa?” The boy sitting across from her was speaking softly as he said her name. “Are you okay, my love? Please, don’t cry. We can work through this, I promise!”
“How, Charles?” Melissa snapped angrily; her makeup was smudged from the tears falling from the corner of her eyes. “Stop saying stuff like that, Charles.”
To Charles, she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, and he told her so. “Why should I stop telling you how beautiful you are?” He asked with a defiant glare. “You’re still my wife!”
“We shouldn’t be married, anymore,” Melissa protested. “This is wrong! You’re just a boy, Charles. You’re not the man that I married.”
“Fine,” Charles snarled, jumping to his feet. “If that’s how you feel!”
Charles stormed from the room, angrier that his voice had squeaked in the middle of his tantrum than he was at Melissa. He loved her too much to let her go this easily.
Melissa winced slightly as the door slammed shut. Her heart hurt, and she couldn’t stop the unbidden sobs that escaped her body. She couldn’t imagine her life without Charles. They had done everything together throughout their married years.They even had a son together, a son that now appeared older than her own husband.
‘What’s Geoff going to think when he gets home?’ The thought just made Melissa cry even more. She was so lost in her own grief that she didn’t even notice Vanek slip quietly into the room.
“I believe that I could offer some insight, if you are willing to listen, Melissa?”
Melissa sat down in one of the old chairs in the empty office that was converted into a storage closet. She buried her face in her hands as tears flowed from her eyes, and her shoulders shook with grief. Vanek quietly moved a chair over next to Melissa and sat down in it.
“I don’t know what to do, Vanek,” Melissa said sadly. Vanek reached over and squeezed the woman’s shoulder warmly. “Everything is changing, and I haven’t even had a single moment of repose to process everything. My husband is a twelve-year-old boy. My brother is now my son. My dad is dead. . .”
Melissa’s voice trailed off as a new wave of grief hit the woman. She hated the man for what he had done to Alexander, and she hated him for how he had lied to Melissa without a hint of any remorse.
“Melissa,” Vanek broke the silence in a soft voice. “Just because your husband looks like he is twelve, and he may act like it,” Melissa giggled lightly at the Vulcan’s joke. “It does not mean that he is only twelve.”
“Walks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” Melissa said doubtfully.
“I do not believe that Charles is a duck, either,” Vanek responded, missing the point of Melissa’s comparison for a moment. “He does have the mind of a thirty-six-year-old man, though. He may have more energy than he did before, but if you watch him, he still acts like the Charles you know and love.”
“Do you really believe that, Vanek?” Melissa asked her brother-in-law.
“I do, Melissa,” Vanek replied with a nod. “If you give Charles a chance, I am positive that you will see that only his appearance has changed.”
Melissa frowned. “I don’t like this,” the woman said calmly. “I’m going to look like a pedophile if I’m walking around with Charles the way he is, now. I’m the Director of the Federation Youth Services – Ohio Valley Division, Vanek! I’m positive that Kyle Esparar doesn’t want one of his Directors dating a child!”
Vanek waited patiently for the woman to finish with her rant before he spoke up.
“Are you willing to throw away your family just because you are worried about how people will conceive your relationship with your husband?” The Vulcan asked, making Melissa flinch in disgust at the idea. “You should ask Alexander and Geoff how they feel about the situation before you jump to any rash conclusions, Melissa.”
Melissa looked at Vanek, sniffling lightly as she regained her composure. Vanek was right, just like he usually was. She needed to gather all of the facts before she made a decision.
Arys sat with Alexander and Isaac as they waited for Doctor Furst to let them know what was happening with the three boys they had pulled from the small spaceship. The three talked quietly amongst themselves, until one of the doors along the far wall opened, and the young-looking Charles Conner came running out of the room with tears streaming down his face. Arys watched as Vanek slipped into the room Charles had just vacated, before the boy went after his uncle. Alexander was right behind him, pushing Isaac in his chair, both boys calling out for Charles to stop. Arys finally tackled the man when they reached the grass on the far side of the parking lot.
Charles cursed as he hit the ground. “Get off of me, Harris!” Charles demanded angrily. “Let me go!”
By then, Alexander had joined Arys in holding Charles down until the man that looked like a boy finally gave up and just sobbed. Harris wrapped his arms around his uncle, holding him tightly as the man cried. Alexander held onto Charles’s hand, whispering reassurances to the man that had been so strong the past few days.
“Dad?” Alexander asked in a quiet voice. “Are you okay?”
Together, Arys and Alexander were able to pull Charles into a sitting position and held him between the two of them.
“It’ll be okay, Uncle Charles,” Harris whispered as he rubbed the boy’s back. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“You wouldn’t understand, Harris,” Charles replied shortly. Arys flinched at his uncle’s tone, and Charles quickly apologized. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, Harris.”
“It’s okay, Uncle Charles,” the boy replied timidly. “I know what you meant. You don’t need to hold back your feelings because of us.”
Charles glanced around at the three boys and sniffled. “You guys probably think I’m a baby,” he said sheepishly. “I don’t know what’s going on with my emotions, anymore.”
“Puberty is a bitch, dad!” Alex giggled, making the other boys laugh. Charles wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his sleeve before he looked at Alexander in disbelief. “What?”
“Did you just call me dad?”
“Yeah,” Alexander replied nervously. “Mom adopted me, so you’re my dad, now.” Then, Alex seemed to understand his father’s confusion. “Did you really think that was going to change because you look like a kid?” He scoffed. “You’re still an old man, dad!”
“I’ll show you who’s an old man!” Charles retorted before he launched himself at Alexander and proceeded to tickle the boy, mercilessly. Charles refused to relent the torture of his new son until he heard the one voice that he was yearning to hear.
Charles immediately turned to see his wife looking down at him with a slight grin on her face.
“Come on, guys,” Arys said softly as he quickly moved over to where Isaac was waiting. “Let’s give them some time alone.”
Alexander quickly picked himself up from the ground and hugged his mom before he went with Isaac and Harris back to the inside of the hospital. Xander took one last look at his mom and dad and smiled happily when he saw the couple hug each other. He was about to go back inside when he saw Kyle Richardson appear with Tyler Short. The two boys were smiling as they each reached out and touched Melissa and Charles. Then, the small group vanished. Alexander nodded once, before turning and following his friends into the hospital where Doctor Furst was waiting for them.
My name is Isaac Jennings, and I’m nine years old. I don’t know what Harris and Alexander have been through, yet, but we are slowly starting to trust each other enough to tell our stories. Alexander knows mine, and I know that he had a very strange life prior to my meeting him. I believe that he died back in 1985, but I don’t know all of the details. I only know that he’s here now, just in time to save my life when I was at my end. Alexander, or Xander as he calls himself, arrived in my life when I needed him the most, and I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if he would have never come and found me.
My mother was a monster, working for a church that brainwashed its members into believing every little word that spewed from the mouths of the leaders. My mother had shown her true colors, though, and had lost her life because of it. I don’t want to think about her. She was a bitch! (Sorry, dad!) I hope he doesn’t read this. I don’t want to give him any reason to regret taking me into his life. Can you believe that it hasn’t even been an entire day, yet? If this is how my life is going to be, I don’t think I’m going to be able to keep up with this new adventure that I’m on. I mean, there are boys that appear and disappear on a whim, and there’s a Vulcan that’s the father of Xander’s friend Arys. My doctor is an android, and he’s working on saving the lives of three aliens that fell out of the sky in front of Arys and his Vulcan daddy.
Vanek makes me nervous, but I can’t wipe away all of the brainwashing with just a thought. There are a few things that those bastards were able to make stick. My daddy promised to help me overcome my mental issues, though. I hope he’s up to the task. I know I’m not. I mean, Vanek is huge! I don’t see how Arys can handle being in the arms of the strange man. I would be scared that he would crush me.
It all seems surreal to me. If I hadn’t watched my mother die with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed that it happened. I didn’t feel sadness over her execution. I felt satisfaction. I had finally gotten the justice that I deserved for all of the abuse that she put me through.
Kyle deserves a thousand hugs for freeing me from that woman’s deceit and wretchedness. I intend to start paying him the next time I see him. That’s not the point of this little part, though. The point is that I have been hearing voices lately. They haven’t been clear, kind of sounding hazy, but it’s been happening more and more. It didn’t even start until this morning, right after Kyle had taken my mother out of existence. It started with my father. The moment he saw me, I could feel the disbelief and the surprise, before I felt the love emanating from him. Maybe it’s not a person’s thoughts I’m hearing, but what if I was feeling their emotions? This is just too crazy for me. I need to talk to Arys about it; he might know what’s going on. Heck, maybe Kyle could help? If I can catch him long enough to give him one of the hugs that I owe him.
I’m not kidding, either. I plan on hugging him one thousand times! I hope he’s ready for this!
Alexander stared out the windows of the waiting room, staring at the spot where his mother and father had once stood.
‘They were holding hands, at least,’ Alex thought happily. ‘That’s a good sign. Maybe, they’ll find a way to work through this?’
Xander didn’t even realize he had started crying until he heard the soft voice of Isaac from behind him. “Are you okay, Xander?”
Alex turned and smiled at the wheelchair-bound boy. “Yeah, Isaac,” he said with a sniffle as he wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “I’m just worried about my mom and dad.”
“I’m sure that they’ll work it out,” Isaac tried to reassure the older boy. “They seem like good people to me.”
“They are,” Alexander agreed. “I’d be lost without them.”
“That’s how I feel about my dad,” Isaac added with a shy grin. “I’m really happy that he’s back in my life!”
“I found out that my dad killed me,” Alexander said solemnly, making the younger boy gasp in surprise. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out, Isaac.”
Isaac quickly took Alexander’s hand in his own. “You didn’t freak me out, Xander,” he tried to tell the brown-haired boy. “My dad sort of told me a little bit, earlier. I just didn’t think that it had to do with you.”
“Surprise,” Xander said with a sheepish giggle.
“It doesn’t change how I feel about you,” the younger boy admitted, before he realized what he had said and blushed deeply.
“Oh, yeah?” Alex asked, clearly catching the boy’s meaning. He couldn’t help but smile at Isaac. “How do you feel about me, Isaac?”
Isaac reached for his wheels, meaning to push away from Xander in embarrassment, but Alex quickly reached out and grabbed the boy’s hands to keep him there.
“I’m not letting you get away, that easily, Isaac,” Alexander grinned. “Especially, after a revelation like that!”
“I’m sorry,” Isaac tried to apologize, only to be silenced by the feel of Alexander’s lips pressing against his own. Alex leaned back for a moment and couldn’t help but giggle at the dreamy smile on Isaac’s face. The boy was breathless as he uttered a single word. “Wow.”
Alexander just kissed Isaac again, happy that he had finally found someone that made the butterflies in his stomach flutter in delight.
“Hey, guys,” Dalton greeted the two boys as he joined them. Alexander and Isaac were profusely blushing as they shot away from each other. Dalton just laughed slightly as he watched the antics of the two boys. “Don’t worry about it, Alexander. I really only care that you make Isaac happy; that’s the only thing that matters to me.”
“Really, daddy?” Isaac asked, his voice trembling. “You’re not mad at me?”
“Why should I be?” Dalton asked, glancing between the two boys. “You weren’t forcing each other, were you?”
“No,” Isaac replied sheepishly. “It’s a sin, though.”
“God,” the tiny boy replied, refusing to look up at his dad. “The pastor told me.”
Alexander watched as the father knelt in front of his son and took the boy’s hands in his own.
“That so-called pastor did not speak for the God I know, Isaac,” Dalton told his son. The blond-haired boy’s eyes were full of tears as he looked up at his father. Alexander fought the urge to rush over and hold the boy in his arms. His entire being called out for him to protect the boy that he loved, but out of respect for Dalton, Alex managed to keep himself firmly in place. “God isn’t going to judge you for falling in love with another boy. Especially, when that boy just happened to be an angel.” Alexander froze at the man’s words and glanced over to see Isaac’s hazel eyes focused on him. There was a slight smile on the boy’s face, even as the tears fell down his cheeks. Dalton reached out and took Alexander’s hand, gently pulling the boy towards his son’s wheelchair. “The two of you were drawn to each other by a force that I can’t even begin to describe, and it is my belief that those forces didn’t bring you together, just to yank you apart, again. You deserve each other, and it’s plain to anybody watching that you love each other. Who am I to keep you apart, when the Universe herself thinks you belong together?” Dalton smiled at the two boys as he pushed their hands together, making both of them blush, again. Isaac sniffled and wiped his eyes with his free hand. “Now, while the two of you continue to get to know each other, I’m going to see if Doctor Furst can give you a checkup.”
“He can’t, yet,” Isaac said sadly. “He’s working on those three boys, right now.”
“Let me see what I can find out, buddy,” Dalton said with a reassuring grin. “I’ll be right back.”
“Okay, daddy,” Isaac responded with a slight smile as his father kissed his cheek. “I love you, daddy.”
“I love you, too, Isaac,” the blond-haired man told his son. Then, he turned and pulled Alexander into a tight hug, kissing the boy soundly on his cheek. “Thank you for saving my son, Alexander. I will never be able to thank you enough for saving my little boy. I love you as much as I love Isaac, Alex. You will always be welcome in my home, no matter what. Okay?”
Alex leaned back with tears in his blue eyes. “Yes, sir,” the boy responded meekly. “Thank you.”
“Screw the ‘sir’ crap,” Dalton laughed and pulled the boy into his arms, again. “It’s either Dalton, or dad, from now on, Alex. You’re one of my kids, now, too. Whether you like it, or not. Okay?”
Alex could only nod as he stifled a sob. Dalton hugged the boy, one last time, before he pushed him towards Isaac and went to find Doctor Furst. Alex looked down at Isaac and blushed.
“He was right, though,” Isaac told the older boy.
“What do you mean, Isaac?”
Isaac hesitated before he finally nodded and smiled. Alex saw a determined look in the boy’s hazel eyes as he gazed at him.
“I love you, Alexander,” Isaac confessed.
Alexander was stunned by the boy’s words, but he saw the conviction in Isaac’s eyes and was quick to recover. He smiled at Isaac and kissed him, lightly.
“I love you, too, Isaac,” Alexander admitted. “I can’t wait to spend my third life with you.”
Isaac sniffled and let himself fall hopelessly in love with the former angel.
Charles felt dizzy as the world twisted around him. This was different than the other times Kyle or Tyler had transported him anywhere. He looked around at the bluish-colored grass that filled the clearing around the small group. Then, the man caught Melissa’s eye, and gasped in disbelief.
“What?” She asked with a smug grin.
“We’re the same height, now,” Charles stated. “You don’t look like a little kid, though.”
“Neither do you, Charles,” Melissa told her husband pointedly.
“What?” Charles asked, his hands flying to his face to feel his cheeks. His brown eyes went wide in disbelief. “This isn’t possible.”
Kyle and Tyler busted out laughing, falling against each other for support.
Melissa and Charles shared a slight look of annoyance. “Why do we look like we’re twenty, now?” Charles asked the two boys, trying to maintain a stern expression, even though he was laughing madly, inside of his head. “What did you boys do?”
Kyle and Tyler continued to giggle, until Melissa finally grabbed Kyle and started to tickle him mercilessly. Charles proceeded to do the same thing to Tyler, until both of the boys were begging Melissa and Charles to stop.
“Now,” Charles asked as he caught his breath. “Who would like to explain what’s going on?”
Both of the boys shared a look before Kyle motioned for the two adults to sit in the alien grass. Once they were situated, Kyle promptly sat in Melissa’s lap, leaving Tyler to cuddle with Charles. Kyle sighed happily before he finally started to explain.
“First,” the tiny boy said softly. “This wasn’t our idea. We weren’t even told what was going to happen. Me and Tyler were only told that we needed to bring you here.”
“And here is?” Charles asked as he looked around them. The sky had a yellowish tint, clearly telling the man that he wasn’t on Earth.
“It’s a planet called Exa,” Tyler replied. “Somewhere near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. You can almost feel the pull of the black hole at the center of the galaxy here.”
“A long way from Kansas,” Charles muttered with a shake of his head, making Tyler giggle. Kyle smiled as he continued with his explanation.
“Now, when I say it wasn’t our idea,” Kyle stated. “I mean that it came from someone much higher in rank than either of us. Anyway, a mistake was made, and Charles suffered because of what was done to him.”
“I don’t think I was suffering,” Charles said softly.
“You were, though,” Kyle said as he tapped the side of his head with his index finger. “I’m a telepath, remember? You can’t keep anything from me, unfortunately. So, the Powers That Be made a decision, one that would affect both of you without turning you into preteens. I don’t know why they made us bring you here to Exa,” the tiny boy stated with a shrug. “I just know that it had to be here. They wouldn’t make the change if we didn’t bring you here. Now, you are both back on the same playing field again. You also have the chance to watch all of your children grow up.”
Melissa giggled lightly. “We only have two children, Kyle,” the woman started to say until Charles stopped her.
“You’re wrong, Melissa,” he said softly. “I’ve already promised Enon that I would never let him go back to the streets. He does have my blood in his veins. I saw that one of the boys they pulled off the ship was Enon’s identical twin, too. That puts us up to four, so far.”
Melissa stared at her husband, a slight smile spreading across her lips. “I love you more, and more, every day.”
Charles blushed. He was about to respond to his wife when he felt the urge to look to his left. He could feel a strange sensation of panic coming from nearby, a sensation that didn’t feel like it was part of him. The man glanced to his left and saw a large tree that looked familiar to him. The tree reached high into the sky; its thick base looked like it was several trees twisted together to form the massive willow tree. Long, vine-like branches hung nearly to the ground and drifted lazily in the breeze that was building. Still, even though it looked peaceful, Charles could feel the panic continuing to increase.
“What’s wrong, Charles?” Melissa asked quietly, noticing the distant look in her husband’s brown eyes.
“I. . .” The man hesitated. “I feel like I’ve been here before, Melissa.”
“What?” Melissa asked in confusion. “How would that be possible?”
“I’m not sure, love,” Charles replied.
“Are you scared?” Harold asked Vanek quietly, his voice barely a whisper as the two men watched Arys sitting by himself, gazing at the other people in the hospital waiting room. Vanek looked at Harold in confusion.
“I do not understand your question, T’hy’la,” the Vulcan asked. “What do we need to be afraid of?”
Harold sighed as he glanced over at his son, again.
“What if I’m a bad father, Vanek?” Harold asked; his voice trembled as he couldn’t bring himself to look away from the lonely-looking child. Arys was smiling, but he seemed like he was missing something. “I’m so scared that I’m going to fuck all of this up. I don’t even know how to take care of a kid. I mean, even right now, he looks so alone, and I have no idea how to fix it.”
“Maybe, you are not supposed to fix what is wrong with Harris?” Vanek suggested.
“What should I do, then?”
“It seems to me that the logical thing to do, would be to ask Harris what is wrong, T’hy’la.”
Harold nodded and kissed Vanek on the tip of his nose.
“Right, like always,” Harold said with a grin before he looked over at his son, again. “I’ll be right back, my love.”
“Take as long as you need, Harold,” Vanek responded with a nod.
Harold stepped over to where Harris was sitting by himself.
“Is this seat taken?” The man asked, making the boy glance up with a wary look in his green eyes. The boy only hesitated briefly before he nodded at his father. Harold kissed his son on the cheek as he sat down next to him. Harris blushed slightly but leaned into his father as the man wrapped his arms around the boy. “Are you okay, Arys? You look like you’re missing something, buddy. If there is anything that you ever need to talk about with me, I am always here for you, baby boy.”
“I know, daddy,” Harris replied meekly. “I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for, Arys,” Harold assured the child as he pulled Harris onto his lap. Harold smiled when his son didn’t tense up like he had been doing when Harold would first touch him. It was a side-effect of Arys’ time in the other Universe that the man was just going to have to deal with. “I just wanted to make sure that you were alright, kiddo.” Harold smiled, trying to keep the boy calm. Harris snuggled into his father’s chest, almost purring with pleasure as the man rubbed his back firmly. “Do you want to talk about it with me?”
Harris hesitated before he nodded.
“I don’t know how to explain it, daddy,” the eleven-year-old stated. “I just feel. . . alone.”
“I don’t mean alone as in, not having a family,” Arys started to babble before Harold put a finger to the boy’s lips. He smiled at his son and kissed the boy’s forehead, again.
“I know what you mean, Arys,” Harold told the child gently. “You want to feel that connection that you see between the couples around you. You want to have that person to share your innermost secrets with.” Harold smiled. “You want to share that first kiss with the person that you love and loves you back.”
“I’m tired of feeling lonely, daddy,” he admitted.
“There’s no need to rush love, baby boy,” Harold stated, tickling his son just enough to bring a smile to the boy’s face. “I’m certain that you will find someone to share your love with, soon enough. For now, just focus on letting yourself heal. Plus, you have two daddies that want to spend the next few days getting to know you.”
Harold was about to continue when the door to the I.C.U. Hallway opened, and Doctor Furst stepped out with a satisfied grin on his face, and an exhausted look filling his blue eyes. The android leaned up against the reception desk and crossed his arms against his chest. Harold held Arys against his chest as he stood to check on the young-looking man.
“Are you okay, Marc?”
“Yeah, Mr. Conner,” Marc replied with a weary nod. “I’m just tired, is all.”
“It has been a long night,” the Starfleet officer agreed. “You should probably get some rest, Doctor Furst.”
Marc smiled. “I will once everyone is safe.”
“I doubt that’s going to happen with this group,” Harold observed. “It seems that they keep finding their way into trouble, every time I turn around.”
“I’ve seen worse,” Marc told the man with a shrug.
“How are they, Doctor?” Harris asked nervously.
“It’s very touch and go, at the moment,” Marc told them. “Enon and Samy can go home today, but I’d like to keep Tymrk another day for observation. Samy is the one that surprised me the most, though.”
“How so?” Harold asked.
“I’m not sure that I can talk about this with you, Harold,” Marc stated doubtfully. “If you were his primary caregiver, the story would be different. . .”
“Are you trying to tell me something, Marc?”
“I could always use a brother, daddy,” Harris suggested, a blush slowly creeping up the boy’s neck and spreading to his cheeks.
“Oh yeah?” Harold asked his son with a grin. “A brother, huh?”
“Yeah,” Harris replied meekly. “Do you and Daddy Vanek have room?”
“Space isn’t an issue, Arys,” Harold told his son, using the nickname his wife had given the boy when he was a toddler. “I just want to make sure that you’re going to be okay with Vanek and me sharing our love with someone else. It would crush us to bring in another child, just for you to end up feeling neglected or jealous.”
“Dad,” Harris said in a steady voice. “I’ve never been loved like this before, or at least, I don’t remember it, but it’s more love than I’ve ever experienced. I don’t even know what to do with all of it. The only right thing to do, is for me to share the love with everybody that I can, daddy. Samy, Orez, Enon, and Tymrk all deserve to have a family. They traveled across the Milky Way, narrowly avoiding death.” A look of determination crossed Harris’s face as he seemed to think about something. “If you don’t adopt them, I will. I can’t let them wind up with someone that I don’t trust or know. It wouldn’t be fair to them.”
Harold’s mouth fell open in disbelief as he listened to the once shy boy, suddenly turn into a completely different person. This was the kid that had fought for his life. The boy that had given his life to save somebody that he had only met a few times before. Now, Harris was willing to save somebody else, and Harold couldn’t help but hug his son tightly.
“That won’t be necessary, Arys,” Harold reassured his son. “I’ll make sure that each of the boys either comes home with us or goes home with your Uncle Charles.”
“Do you promise, daddy?” Harris demanded; his green eyes were filled with anticipation as he studied his father for any hint of deception.
“I promise, Harris,” the man replied firmly. Then, he turned his attention back to Marc, who had tears in his blue eyes as he watched the father and son. “Well, Doc. Who do I need to talk to in order to make those boys a part of my family?”
“I’ll take you to meet them, now,” Marc informed them as he wiped the tears from his eyes. Then, he motioned for Harold to follow him. “Let’s go, Conners. This is your life!”
The trio was just about to go through the double doors that led back into the I.C.U., when Dalton Jennings stopped them.
“Hey, Dalton,” Marc greeted the new Assistant Director of the Ohio Valley Division of the Federation Youth Services. “I was wondering if there was somebody else that could check out Isaac, really quick? I don’t mean to be rude, or anything, it’s just, I know you’re busy. . .”
Harris giggled, making the man suddenly stop rambling, and turn to smile at the boy. Dalton blushed as he turned back to see Marc smiling at him.
“Bring him along with us, Director Jennings,” Marc told the man. “It won’t take very long to do a scan on him. Sorry, I would have gotten it done sooner, but there was an. . .”
“Don’t worry about it, Doctor Furst,” Dalton reassured the young-looking android. “I completely understand that a spaceship falling from the sky could cause an emergency. I don’t mean to put any pressure on you.”
“It’s fine, Dalton,” Marc said. “I actually have a few minutes, for a change. We’d better get Isaac taken care of; that way he can go hang out with his new friends.”
“I’ll go get him,” Dalton nodded, before turning and going to get his son.
“You’re a good man, Marc,” Harold observed with a smile. “I don’t even know how you’re still on your feet.”
“I took a power nap,” Marc admitted with a chuckle. “I had twenty minutes where I had nothing to do, so I caught up on some sleep. Noah would have woken me up if anything had happened.”
“I’m certain he would have,” Harold commented. “He’s as protective as you are, Marc.”
“Sorry for keeping you guys waiting,” Dalton said as he joined Marc, Harold, and Harris. He nodded his head towards the nine-year-old that was clinging to his chest, Isaac’s hazel eyes hidden by Dalton’s neck. “Somebody had to say goodbye to their boyfriend.”
“Daddddddd!” Isaac whined plaintively.
“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Isaac,” Marc stated as Isaac buried his face even further into his father’s neck, looking as though he were trying to become a part of the man. “Love is a gift that should be treasured and celebrated. No matter who it is shared between.”
“Protective and wise,” Harold said with a grin.
“You tend to pick up a few things after seven decades, Harold,” Marc replied before motioning towards the doors. “Are you guys ready?”
Charles felt the panic beginning to overwhelm him as he continued to stare off to the east. Greenish-colored clouds were starting to fill the yellow sky and the man heard a low rumble of thunder come from the distance. The sound of his heart beating away in his chest seemed louder to the man, though. He couldn’t tear himself away from the strange urge to walk forward, a slight rise hiding everything but the massive tree from his sight. Charles needed to see what was on the other side of the small hill. He needed to know why he was starting to panic, and Charles also wanted to know why he felt like he belonged here.
“Don’t go without me, Charles,” Melissa said, quickly catching up to her husband and slipping her hand into his. “I don’t want to be left alone here.”
“I think I’m going to need your help, anyway, Melissa,” Charles informed her, never taking his eyes off of his destination. The man walked through the tall grass until he made it to the top of the hill with the love of his life by his side. Charles stared out in disbelief at the array of huts spread out before them. “We’re definitely not in Kansas, anymore.”
“Have you ever even been to Kansas?” Melissa asked with a laugh.
“No,” Charles replied cheekily. “But I have been here before. I know this place.”
Charles led his wife down towards the huts, not realizing the silence until they were entering the outer perimeter.
“Charles?” Melissa asked softly. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” he told Melissa honestly. The large tree still seemed to be about a mile away, but the huts seemed to stretch as far as Charles and Melissa could see. The panic was beginning to feel more substantial to him, though. It was calling to Charles, almost as much as it tried to frighten the man away. There was one focus to whatever sensation Charles was feeling. Somebody needed help. The man moved forward towards the giant tree, Melissa keeping by his side as they walked through the quiet village. A sense of dread hung over the couple, each step drawing them closer to the source of the feelings. “This is freaking me out, though.”
“Too quiet,” Charles added. “Can you feel that?”
“No,” Melissa told her husband. “I don’t feel anything strange.”
“The tree doesn’t seem to be calling to you?”
“No, love,” Melissa replied, squeezing Charles’s hand gently to let him know that she trusted him. “Do you want to check it out? It seems important to you.”
“I need to, Melissa,” Charles stated quietly, afraid of how Melissa would react. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s almost like somebody is afraid.”
“Let’s go, then,” the brown-haired woman said reassuringly.
Thunder rumbled in the sky behind Charles, causing him to glance over his shoulder at the darkening clouds. “We should go a little faster, Melissa.”
The tree loomed in front of the couple, but it wasn’t the tree that Charles was staring at. Standing at the base of the large tree were nearly thirty children, all dressed in rags and huddled together in fear as they stared at the approaching adults. Melissa gasped in horror when she saw the children.
“Charles?” The woman’s words were barely a whisper, spoken only loud enough for her husband to hear her. “We have to help them. I know some of these children! They’re all from Earth!”
“That’s why I remember this place,” Charles said sadly. “I was brought here when I was nine, after I was kidnapped by aliens that dealt in slave trading. I thought Starfeet had managed to shut the bastards down, but apparently, they failed.”
“That means that it’s our turn, Charles,” Melissa said pointedly.
Someone pushed one of the boys forward; his brown hair was sticking out in every direction and his jeans were covered in grime. His t-shirt had long since faded from its vibrant blue color and was now only a hint of a grayish-blue in the few spots that were clear of mud and dirt. The boy’s hazel eyes were filled with fear as he stopped just a few feet in front of the children. Charles had to grit his teeth to keep the feeling of panic from overwhelming him as he and Melissa finally reached its source. The boy didn’t appear to be older than twelve, and his entire body trembled with the fear he felt.
“Are. . . Are you one of them?” The boy asked.
“Them?” Charles asked in return.
“Them,” the boy motioned towards the silent tents. “They’ve been gone for a few hours, now.”
“I don’t know who they are, I’m afraid.”
“You should be,” the boy said hauntingly. “They’ll take from you, too. They have rings, now. They can walk in the sunlight, but they all left.”
“What do they take from you?” Melissa asked.
The boy reached up and pulled down his shirt collar to show multiple bite marks and bruises across his neck and shoulders.
“They take our blood,” the boy whispered in fear. “Never enough to kill us, just enough for them to stay alive. There are so-called accidents, though. They took from Joshie, and he never came back. All they told us when we asked, was that he died quickly.”
“That’s horrible,” Charles stated in disgust. “You’re not going to stay here a moment longer. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“Do you promise?”
Charles turned and saw that Tyler was already standing beside him, so he returned his attention to the boy.
“Is everybody ready?” Charles asked the group. “We’re going to stop by the hospital before we take everybody home.”
Tyler giggled, making Charles look down at the boy curiously.
“I think you’re giving Cory a run for his money,” Tyler said with a wide grin. Then, the boy smiled at the group. “Don’t freak out, guys! This is going to be different than what you’re used to.”
A moment later, the tree’s base was void of human life, and the rain began to fall steadily from the heavily clouded sky.
Harris Michael Conner couldn’t take his eyes from the three alien boys as they each sat on a single bed, talking in low voices. There was another boy lying on one of the biobeds, but he was silent, and his eyes were closed as the medbots worked on the foreign child. Two of the boys were identical, and the third that was awake had light-blond hair and blue eyes that looked like they contained the stars of the galaxy in them. Arys found himself walking towards the three boys, all of them falling silent when they noticed the brown-haired kid approaching.
“Hi,” Harris said nervously. “I’m Harris. . .”
“But people call you Arys,” the blond boy said with a grin. Harris couldn’t help but smile with him. “I’m Samy.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Samy,” Arys replied with a nod, ignoring the boy’s ability for the moment. It wasn’t important.
“You’re wrong,” Samy told him. “It is important, Arys, or should I call you Director Conner?”
Harris felt his face go pale.
“Samy, you’re scaring him,” one of the twins scolded Samy. The boy smiled at Arys and patted the empty spot on the cot next to Samy. “You can sit with us, Harris. We don’t bite.”
“Speak for yourself, Orez,” Samy teased as he wiggled his eyebrows at Arys. Arys giggled as he sat down on the cot next to the strange boy. Samy bumped his shoulder into Harris and grinned. “You are pretty cute, you know?”
“I am?” Arys asked shyly.
“Definitely,” Samy replied, making Harris blush profusely.
“Thanks,” he said softly.
“My pleasure,” Samy cooed. “It’s too bad though, that you want me to be your brother. That would just make this weird. Wait. Would it be weirder? Everything is already weird.”
Arys looked at Samy in confusion as the blond burst out laughing at his own joke. It was Orez that cleared the confusion for Harris.
“Samy can sort of see the future, Harris,” the black-haired boy said. “It only works a few minutes in advance, though.”
“The scientists on our planet played some nasty tricks on us,” the boy named Enon sadly mumbled as he hugged his twin to his side, almost afraid to let go of him ever again. “They messed with our DNA, while they supposedly were training us to carry on with our people’s ancestry.”
“I don’t think I understand,” Harris replied. “Why would they only choose boys if they wanted you to carry on the legacy of your people?”
“That’s a good question, Harris,” Orez stated quietly. “I’d like to know the answer when you figure it out.”
“You’ll be the second to know,” Harris replied cheekily.
“Umm, Marc,” Samy looked at the doctor with a worried grin. “I don’t think you’re going to be getting very much rest.”
“Why?” Marc asked as he stepped over to the bed where the four boys were sitting.
“You’re about to get busy,” Samy told him.
“God damn it, Charles!” Marc groaned. “Can’t you take a five-minute break?”
“What’s going on?” Harold asked in confusion. “What does Charles have to do with anything?”
“You’ll see when he gets here,” Marc said pointedly. “We may as well head out to the lobby.”
Arys glanced over to where Isaac was sitting on one of the beds after getting his exam done by Marc. The tiny boy was in the process of pulling his shirt over his head, and Harris had to force himself to keep from swearing when he saw the different bruises covering the boy’s torso. Dalton seemed to notice the change in Harris’s demeanor.
“She can’t hurt him anymore, Director Conner,” Dalton told him. “Kyle made sure of that.”
Arys gave the man a single nod before he turned back to the boys on the cot.
“We’re running out of time,” Samy said with a grin.
Marc swore before he darted out the door of the I.C.U. and ran for the hospital lobby. Dalton and Harold were right behind the boy. Harris glanced at Samy in confusion.
“What’s going on, Samy?”
“You’re getting your division,” Samy replied with a grin.
Harold entered the lobby right behind Marc and slid to a stop as Charles and Melissa appeared with over twenty children standing behind them.
“Holy shit,” the man muttered in disbelief.
“I’m going to need some reinforcements,” Marc groaned.
Kyle walked forward and went straight to Marc.
“How bad is it?”
“You’ve got your work cut out for you,” Kyle told the doctor. “It’s emotional and physical, Marc.”
“I need a few more doctors, Kyle,” Marc said with a frown.
“As you wish,” the tiny boy said, turning himself into a genie for a brief moment. The boy snapped his fingers with a grin, and four people appeared a moment later. “Help has arrived.”
“I hope you warned them, Kyle,” Harold reminded the boy.
“That’s why they have their medical bags, Harold,” Kyle giggled in response. “Give me a holler when you guys are ready to check out your new house.”
“We’re going to need a new house, too, Charles,” Melissa said as she started heading towards the boys they had just rescued. “I’m going to see if I can find out anything about their parents while you help Marc.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Charles replied with a chuckle. Charles turned to see that Marc was already heading towards the four new arrivals, so he turned his attention to Dalton and Harold, instead. “Sorry, guys. I got called away on business.”
“Obviously,” Harold replied with a shake of his head. “How many are you adopting?”
“That depends on how many Alexander and Melissa let me; I guess,” Charles replied with a shrug. “Geoff is going to lose his mind when he gets home. There’s something else, though, gentlemen.”
Harold scowled as his brother took on a business tone.
“I know,” Charles stated as he caught Harold’s expression. “I don’t like any of this, either.”
“Where did you find them, Charles?”
“Exa,” Charles said dryly.
Harold knew immediately the significance of the word as Dalton looked between the two brothers in confusion.
“Exa?” The father of Isaac asked. “What’s that?”
“A planet inhabited by Moroi,” Harold almost growled. “This bull shit has to be stopped, Charles! Does Melissa know?”
“She was with me, Harold,” Charles informed him.
“What are Moroi?” Dalton asked.
“Vampires,” Charles said darkly.
Then, Harris entered the lobby, followed closely by Samy, Enon, Orez, and Isaac bringing up the rear. Alexander ran over to Isaac and Harris, slipping his hand into Isaac’s.
“What’s going on?” The former angel asked.
“Your dad has been busy,” Harris said with a giggle. “Come on; we should help. It’s our duty.” Harris glanced up at his father and nodded solemnly before heading for the boys who had just arrived from another world.
Harold couldn’t help smiling proudly as he watched Arys take charge without any issues.
“So, vampires are real?” Dalton asked.
“Very real, Dalton,” Harold replied. “And a closely guarded secret.”
“My personal nightmare,” Charles mumbled.
“How did you ever get away?” Dalton asked in concern.
“The slave traders made the mistake of trying to sell me to some undercover Federation Officers,” Charles told them. “I was lucky.”
Harris took one look at the boys that had been victims, the boys that had wounds, bite marks really, all over their necks, chests, and shoulders. The group of boys were pale and looked as if they hadn’t been given a solid meal in weeks, their cheeks shallow, and their eyes void of any happiness. He began to grow angry over what type of monster could have ever done this to these children, and silently vowed that he would never let it happen, again. Harris would do everything within his power to protect them. He didn’t even hesitate to take over the situation before Melissa, or any of the adults could say a word to the frightened boys.
“Isaac,” Arys snapped firmly, making the younger boy glance at him. Arys didn’t even realize that the room had fallen silent as his voice cut across the lobby.
“Yes, sir?” Isaac replied quickly.
“Go find the cafeteria,” Arys ordered. “Tell them that we need hot chicken broth for twenty-seven children. Ask Kyle to help if he is willing. If they give you any shit, come get me.”
“Ye-” Isaac started to reply before the boy simply vanished.
“Thanks, Kyle,” Arys called out before he turned his attention to the other boys with him. “Enon and Orez, go get a bunch of blankets. These boys are freezing. It’s not just fear making them shake, but the adults are too busy coming up with a plan to act. Get the blankets, and get these boys warmed up, now, please.”
“Yes, sir!” Both of the twins replied in unison before running off.
“Alexander, I want you and Samy to start going through and finding out each of the boys’ injuries,” Harris stated firmly, not caring that the adults were staring at him in bewilderment. He didn’t even notice the smirk on Tyler and Marc’s face. “If they need immediate attention, take them directly to Marc. I don’t know who the other guys are, yet, but I want you to start lining them up with patients that aren’t in serious condition.”
Samy and Alexander nodded before they moved towards the frightened boys. Harris was about to start helping them when he felt a light tap on his shoulder. He turned around to find two boys staring at him expectantly.
“Hi, I’m Jax Miller, and this is my foster-brother Hunter Clark,” one of the boys greeted Harris with a nervous smile. “Our foster-dad is Doctor Zach; he’s standing over there with Doctor Mike from Des Moines. We would like to help, and want to know what you want us to do?”
“Why me?” Harris asked nervously, still not realizing that everybody was watching him.
“You’re the one in charge, obviously,” Jax stated like it should have been obvious to the younger boy.
One of the new arrivals raised his eyebrows, then stated, “Kyle? Ty? We need Julio and Jesse; they can advise this young man as to just how many resources he has available to him.”
“Two Division Directors coming right up!” Tyler replied before two more boys appeared standing near Harris.
Both of them glanced around in confusion before one of them frowned. “Kyle?” The boy called out. “Give me some warning next time, Leech!”
“It wasn’t me, Julio!” Kyle replied as he helped Isaac push a cart of soup bowls into the lobby. “I’m busy! Isaac didn’t want to risk spilling any of the soup! Like I would ever spill soup?”
“My bad, Julio!” Tyler called out, hiding on the far side of the room.
The boy, Julio, shook his head. “You’re as bad as your blond brother, Ty. Are you guys going to explain why you grabbed Jesse and me out of our bedroom, or do I have to ask one of the sane people here?”
“Ask Harris!” Tyler quipped. “He’s in charge, now!”
“His aunt is Director of the O.V.D. of F.Y.S.,” Kyle added as he continued to help Isaac, cheating judiciously whenever the other boy wasn’t looking.
“Clowns!” Julio giggled as he felt Jesse latching onto his side. “Which one of you is Harris, and has anyone bothered to tell Cory yet?”
“I’m Harris,” the boy looked at the newcomer nervously. “Who is Cory, and what are you going to tell him?”
“Cory’s the Patriarch of Clan Short. Someone needs to tell him that his little brothers just added another Division. Welcome to the club; I was just drafted too. This is my boyfriend Jesse, and we run the Des Moines Division. By any chance do you know where we are right now?”
“We’re on the east coast, right now,” Harris replied. “But I think we were going to get home once they finished checking everybody out.”
“The insanity has already started, huh?” Julio giggled. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it – at least that’s what Cory told me. Since the leech patrol decided to get us involved, what did the runts get you involved in before you were ready?”
“Somebody had to take charge,” Harris said with a shrug. Enon and Orez reentered the hospital lobby with their arms full of blankets. “Jax, I would like you to help the twins, while Hunter helps Kyle and Isaac. I’m going to help Alex and Samy, once ummm, Julio is done with me.”
Jax and Hunter each ran off to provide any assistance they could, while Harris turned back to Julio.
“I’ll save you the shock; you’ve been declared a Director,” Julio stated. “Think about picking an assistant while Jess and I give you a hand. If we need anything, I’ll help you get it while we’re waiting for the rats to get you your subvocal and communicator.”
“A Director of what?” Arys asked. “I’m not exactly from here, if you haven’t guessed.” The boy quickly glanced around until he found the Vulcan he was looking for. “I think Daddy Vanek could probably tell you about it.”
Jesse tilted his head and spoke for the first time. “You are the Director of a Division of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan, Sir. I am not aware of what OVD means, but I believe it is the designation of your Division.”
“Umm, okay?” Harris looked at them nervously. “I should definitely get Daddy Vanek, really quick.”
“Oh?” Vanek muttered as he appeared beside Arys. “I take it that you needed my opinion on something, my son?”
“Daddy Vanek,” Harris smiled up at the man and motioned to Jesse and Julio. “Would you mind explaining to these guys that I’m just a random kid?”
“You have always been far from random, Harris,” Vanek replied gently.
“T’nar pak sorat y’rani, Vanek. I am Director Julio Hernandez of Des Moines Division of Family Clan Short of the House of Surak of Vulcan,” Julio formally stated as he offered the proper salute.
“T’nar jaral, Director Julio Hernandez,” Vanek replied as he returned the salute with a raised eyebrow. “To what do I owe this honor?”
“It is apparent that the brothers of the Patriarch have found Harris to be qualified to assume the position of Director of a new Division,” Julio replied. “Myself and my t’hy’la Jesse have been assigned to ensure Harris is advised of the resources he now is availed of.”
Now having been filled in by Tyler, Julio replied. “Harris has exhibited the natural inclination to take charge of situations involving youth which were not being sufficiently addressed by adults in a timely manner. This attribute is preferred by the Patriarch for those who lead Divisions, and as Federation Youth Services has initiated the formation of an Ohio Valley office, Family Clan Short should logically have a Divisional presence at the same location.”
“I find your logic sound,” Vanek responded before he turned to Harris. “It is my duty as your sa-mekh to tell you that this is a great honor, Harris. You have already shown the qualities of a great leader.”
“Are you sure, Daddy Vanek?” Harris asked nervously.
“Yes, Harris,” Vanek told the boy. “I am certain that you were meant to fill this role.”
“Fine,” Harris said suddenly. “As long as I can get these kids the help they need. They’re not all orphans. Isaac told me that he can still see the connections they have with their families. If we can save those, then we don’t need to rescue twenty-seven. We only need to rescue four.”
“How do you know this?” Vanek asked the boy curiously.
“I can feel it,” Arys explained with a shrug. “It doesn’t matter, right now. I need to check on these kids. You should work with Starfleet and find out why there are vampires living in space, Daddy Vanek.”
“Contact Clan Headquarters; they’ll help you get the news to the people who need it,” Julio stated. “If you need us, we’re going to help Harris with finding the homes of these kids.”
“I will keep you posted on the information that I am able to acquire, gentlemen,” Vanek responded as he bowed his head briefly to both of the boys. Then, the man held up his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper,” he said before turning and heading to do as instructed.
“What was that about?” Harris asked as he watched the Vulcan walk away.
“That was him acknowledging your place in Vulcan society,” Julio explained. “C’mon, I’ll try to explain it while we’re helping the kids get a life back.”
That was a good enough spot to end it, I think. I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter! Thanks to Sir ACFan for helping me in writing a lot of this chapter!
And so, it begins… look out Ohio, the Clan has decided that you’re their next target. All I’ll say is that this is only the beginning; past that you’ll have to wait just like I am.
Another great entry into Family Clan Short; I wonder who Cory will hotbox with his garlic farts since he hasn’t been included yet?
And with that being said, I just want to add that anyone familiar with Clan Short stories will be able to tell; this new author has his head in the right place. This is canon for sure, not just a fluke or fan fiction, so to speak. He is fitting right in line and moving things ahead, right in line with the rest of the crew of authors.
I hereby declare that this story is totally awesome, and I love it to pieces.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Clan Short Archivist Notes:
Beware, all ye that pass through this arch of insanity will forever be changed. For Good or Evil, that is for the individual to decide. I am trying to decide if the author missed including anything. Let us see we have Vulcans, aliens that fell out of the sky, Androids, Vampyres, Mikyvis, age increasing, medbots, and biobeds. I don’t think I missed anything, and please let me know if I did.
Keep up the great work O’ Insane One!