Melissa stared at Daryl in disbelief. "You want me to do what?"
"I want you to get some hand-to-hand training from my security team, Melissa," the man repeated with a grin. "It'll be beneficial with how many threatening situations you seem to be finding yourself in."
Melissa frowned at the man's words. "Is it really that bad?"
"Only because you always wind up running off without your security detail," Daryl replied with a mock scowl.
Melissa managed to look sheepish for a brief moment before she laughed lightly. "Sorry, Lieutenant Greyson," she told him warmly. "I'll work on that, but I do believe that you're right when it comes to some self-defense training."
"Good, we'll be leaving shortly," the man agreed with a firm nod before the woman could protest. She watched him walk away before she shook her head and laughed again.
'Self-defense training?' The woman asked herself. 'I'm in my thirties.'
Melissa was suddenly pulled from her inner thoughts by the sound of Samy's tenor voice cutting through the air as the blond-haired boy with golden-brown skin ran up to her with a smile on his face.
"Guess what, Aunt Melissa?!" He asked excitedly.
"What's up, Samy?" Melissa asked the ten-year-old affectionately.
"Me and all of my brothers are going to go do defense training!" Samy told her happily. "We couldn't do that on Sharyn! The scientists told us we were too young for that kind of stuff!"
Melissa began to wonder why the boys of the Clan were going to need training until she remembered the F.C.C. She nodded to herself before she returned her attention to Samy.
"It's a good idea for all of us to get this training," Melissa informed the boy. She was about to say something else when Orez and Enon joined them with the same announcement. The three alien boys were happily running in circles as they chattered on about the different weapons they might get to use. Melissa had never heard of any of the weapons they were naming, assuming that they were from Sharyn, the home world of the three boys. The boys running around her made Melissa reflect on everything she had been through in just a few short days.
'My nephew was returned to the family,' she thought happily. 'My brother is back from the dead. Charles and I are both sixteen-years younger than what we were, I have five loving children, and I received one hell of a job promotion. What else is going to happen?'
"Mom?" Melissa looked down to see Enon looking up at her with concern in his blue eyes. The eleven-year-old slipped his tiny hand into her own and squeezed it slightly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, Enon," she replied with a forced smile. "I'm okay. I was just thinking about the past few days, is all."
"Do you regret it?" The boy asked hesitantly.
"Not in the slightest, Enon," Melissa told the boy truthfully. "It's just a bit overwhelming."
Enon smiled and hugged Melissa. "Thank you, mom," he whispered. "I love you."
"I love you too, little one."
Melissa was about to send Enon off to hang out with his brothers when Daryl called everybody's attention. The man explained the process of how they were going to be traveling to a place outside of time called Archnania in order to learn everything they needed to know. Then, before any questions could be asked, Daryl gave a signal and the lobby was suddenly quiet and void of everyone except the elderly woman that had been hired to work as the receptionist. She stared around the atrium with a look of bewilderment on her face for several minutes before all of the boys reappeared out of thin air. They were laughing and cajoling about like they were in better moods than when they had vanished.
"Welcome back," the woman said to Melissa as she reappeared standing beside the main desk.
"Thanks, Martha," Melissa replied with a weary smile. "Could you hold my calls, please? It's been a long three months."
"Three months?" Martha exclaimed in disbelief. She studied the boys and the woman to see if any of them had aged in the slightest bit, but the elderly woman could spot nothing. "You were only gone three minutes."
"It's hard to explain," Melissa replied, effectively ending the subject. Martha nodded as she glanced around the atrium again. The boys all seemed to be closer than when they had left, and Martha was certain that she spotted a blue flower sitting on one of the boy's shoulders. Melissa drew her attention again. "It's better that you just accept it, Martha. Things are going to get weird around here."
"At least all of the boys are happy, now," Martha stated as she turned to answer the phone as it began to ring. "That's all that matters."
"Exactly," Melissa agreed before she left the woman to her duties. Melissa had something else on her mind as she went in search of her husband.
With the weapons training over and the boys safely back home, Isaac was left with plenty of time on his hands. He wandered the massive headquarters building before he finally settled on a spot in the atrium where he could look over his new family. They had spent three months growing together as brothers and Isaac couldn't help but smile as he thought about the time shared between the small group.
Isaac watched in silence as the different new members of the clan explored the massive atrium. The blond-haired boy barely broke a smile as three boys grabbed another and dunked him into one of the fountains. Suddenly, the three boys vanished from sight, before returning soaking wet only seconds later. The boys quickly helped the younger boy out of the fountain before they started telling him about how cold the water was in the middle of the ocean. Isaac barely listened. He could hear all of the different sounds, thoughts, and voices throughout the atrium, but there was a sound coming from outside that the boy couldn't quite figure out.
Julian was still outside with Tristan and William, while their father was talking with Melissa about sending a voyage to Exa to see who was responsible for the Moroi being there. Alexander was sitting in the sunshine with Geoff, his oldest brother that had just returned from Star Fleet. Both of the boys were laughing as they joked around with each other. The sound wasn't the sound of laughter, though. Isaac could hear distant booms and popping sounds. He even heard people cheering in the distance as he strained to hear more. Isaac saw flashes of someone that looked like Harris's father, beating a blue-eyed boy, before the image flashed to the boy being thrown into a tub as his life faded away. Then, Isaac heard someone calling out to the boy in his head as a ringing noise that sounded like feedback began to cut through the sound.
"Zyan!" Isaac suddenly screamed out as the boy jumped to his feet. His panic was not his own, causing Isaac to run outside in terror just as another boy with brown hair suddenly appeared directly in front of Isaac. Isaac slid to a stop as he heard the sounds of phasers powering up around him. Isaac didn't look away as Harris joined him on one side and Alexander on the other. Then, the blond-haired boy from Isaac's thoughts appeared beside the brown-haired boy.
For a moment, everything was silent until Harris stepped forward with a look of disbelief on his face. "Zachary?" Then, Harris shouted at the rest of the group. "Put down your phasers! This is my foster-brother!"
The blond-haired boy looked bewildered as Harris suddenly hugged him.
"I've missed you so much, Zachary," Harris sobbed as he clung to the older boy.
"I've missed you, too, Arys," the unknown boy whispered, his own voice thick with tears. "I can't believe I finally found you."
"Would you care to explain what's going on here, guys?" Jeff asked as he slid his phaser back into its holster. "Is there going to be a rescue?"
"No," Harris cried happily. "He's my foster brother, Jeff. This is Zachary Brody. . ."
"Umm, Actually, Arys," the boy interrupted Harris hesitantly. "I found my family. My name isn't Zach. I'm, uh, Zyan Montgomery."
"Really?!" Harris exclaimed before he hugged the boy named Zyan, again. "That's fucking awesome, Zyan! I always knew that Zachary didn't really seem right for you." Then, Harris seemed to notice the boy standing with Zyan. "Oh, hi. Sorry. I'm Harris Conner."
"I'm Denly," the brown-haired boy said quietly, his eyes darting to the phasers that were still being put away.
"This is my cousin, Harris!" Zyan told his friend as he pulled Denly in closer. "He's the one who got lost this time. I'm lucky I found him."
"It's only been like two seconds, Zyan." Denly told his cousin calmly. Zyan looked at the other boy in disbelief.
"You've been gone for two days back home, Denly," Zyan told him pointedly. Then, Zyan frowned as he seemed to remember something. "My dad's going to be upset with me."
"Why?" Denly asked. "You're not the one that slipped through a dimensional warp. . ."
"Ohhhh, but I did, Denly," Zyan replied with a giggle. "Right after he had just told me not to come looking for you."
"Let's go inside, Zyan," Harris said, motioning towards the front doors of the building. "A lot has happened in the past few days."
"Days?" Zyan asked curiously. Then, Isaac heard a thought that made him frown. 'How do I tell him that he's been missing for two years? I thought he was dead!'
Alexander grabbed Isaac's shoulder to keep the boy from following Zyan and Harris. "They need this time, Isaac," he heard himself say. "It's the only way they can heal."
Isaac nodded absently as he watched the two boys walk away together. He barely paid any attention as he heard the other boys around him greeting Denly. Alexander in turn, watched Isaac, trying make sure that the boy didn't over-exert his new talents. Isaac gave the older boy a dirty look.
'Sorry,' Alexander thought with a frown before he turned to walk away. Before he could walk a few feet, though, Isaac was firmly wrapped around his waist, hugging him tightly.
"I love you," Isaac whispered. Alexander breathed in deep of the boy's strawberry scented hair before he allowed him to turn back away.
'I love you, too,' Alexander pushed the thought outwards. 'More than life itself.'
Isaac made his way up to Denly and talked to him for a few moments while Alexander watched everybody heading back towards what they were doing before Zyan and Denly appeared out of thin air. The boy sat on the grass and decided to try and let the sun warm him up for a little while like he had done when he was homeless. Alexander closed his blue eyes and let his thoughts drift, reflecting on the good that had happened to him since running into Harris that first time in the park. Then, Alexander had managed to stumble upon Isaac, who had been hiding in a bush just outside of his mom's house, barely getting his new love back to the park before Isaac had collapsed. When Charles had appeared the next morning, Alexander wasn't afraid of the man. He was afraid for Isaac.
Suddenly, Isaac cried out in pain; slamming his hands against his ears as he doubled over. Alexander could have sworn he saw a blur of blond hair run past before Isaac screamed out in terror. Alexander barely made it to Isaac's side when the boy collapsed into his arms.
"It's Zyan," Isaac whispered in a trembling voice. "Help him!"
Then, Isaac's eyes rolled back in his head as he lost consciousness.
Alexander stared at the limp body in his arms for a moment before he started screaming for his mom. It was the security detail for the two boys that arrived first. Yan took Isaac from Alexander and ran towards the headquarters building. Christopher, Alexander's personal guard, carried the very shaken Alexander right behind them. Security cleared the way ahead of the two men and their charges, only allowing those that could help to get past. Alexander's eyes never left the unconscious form of Isaac, all of his thoughts focused on the love of his life.
Castel's brown eyes were filled with tears as the man dug deeper into his arm with the scalpel. Blood poured from the wound, spraying upward as the boy tried to jerk away from the black-haired man, screaming out in agony with each twitch of the surgical instrument. William Cross grinned to himself at the sounds of the screams, barely containing his laughter until his assistant reentered the room.
"Really, William?" The younger man asked as he set his satchel down on one of the nearby countertops. "He's still a kid."
"He's a test subject," the black-haired man responded. "His parents sold him to us to pay off their debt. We can do as we please, now."
"You're sick, Doctor Pain," Greg Marsh said with a shake of his head.
"You can turn your badge into the security desk if you have any objections, assistant," William stressed the last word. Greg swallowed nervously.
"I just think that you should go a little easier on him, is all."
"I'll do as I please, Mr. Marsh," William replied. Then, he yanked the scalpel out of the boy's arm and tossed it on the metal tray next to the gurney. Castel sobbed with relief, slowly growing weaker as the blood poured from his injury. Before he could pass out though, Doctor Pain roughly grabbed his arm and began spraying a thick white foam into the wound. Castel's arm went numb as he looked at the foam in amazement. The man studied the foam for a moment before he let go of Castel's arm. "Besides, I only hurt them to prove a point."
"That you can heal them?"
"No, not even close, Greg," William corrected the man. "To show them that I am in control of their every feeling and emotion. Subject-3 here, is now going to be fearful of me, but he will also know that I can be merciful when I want to be. I'm not always a monster."
Castel trembled with fear as the older man reached down and put the palm of his hand against Castel's cheek.
"You have nothing else to fear this week, Castel," the man told the boy. "Just behave and do as you're told. We'll get along just fine. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Castel whispered in fear.
"Good," William patted the boy's cheek. "I'll see you in the morning at breakfast. Greg will bring your dinner up to your room in a little while. Eat it slowly, though. The foam has a medicine built into it that numbs the area as it regrows all of the tissue below. You'll notice that the foam will start to push out of your skin, that just means that your arm is healing. The foam will not leave your skin until you are healed, though. So, don't freak out if you get your arm wet."
Then, William nodded towards the door and a moment later, Castel saw Greg's face appear above him just before his gurney started moving. Then, the boy fainted from exhaustion.
"I'll never forgive him for this," Alexander said sadly as Harris joined him at Isaac's bedside. The boy's chest was rising and falling slowly as he remained unconscious after Zyan's mental blast. "I can't."
Harris frowned in concern and put his arm around Alexander's shoulders. "Isaac will be okay, Alexander," he tried to reassure his friend. "It's not Zyan's fault either. It was my own."
"How is it your fault?" Alexander's blue eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"I forgot to tell him about my dad," Harris admitted. "I didn't think about it. My mom helped me by healing those memories and I wasn't even considering how it would make Zyan feel."
Alexander remained silent for several minutes before he finally spoke again. "I guess I would have reacted the same way."
"I'm sorry, Alexander," Harris told his friend. "I never meant for any of this to happen."
"You're fine, Harris," Alexander replied with a forced smile. "Do you know where he is, so I can apologize?"
"He went home," Harris said sadly. "Zyan has things to do in his own universe. He doesn't belong here."
"Oh," Alexander whispered with regret in his voice. "Will we ever get to see him again?"
"He'll be back when he's done with whatever he needs to do," the younger boy acknowledged. Then, he smiled at Alexander. "Don't worry, Alex, you'll get your chance to apologize to him."
"I hope so," the former angel said absently. Then, his eyes focused on Isaac again. "When do you think he'll wake up?"
"I could always go get Vanek?" Harris suggested. "He might be able to help?"
As Harris started to stand though, Isaac's eyes fluttered open, and he gazed around himself in confusion.
"Isaac?" Alexander asked as he slowly leaned over the boy and put his hands on both sides of the boy's face. "Jesus, you scared the fuck out of me!" Then, Alexander kissed Isaac.
"I'll go get the doctor and Dalton," Harris said with a nervous chuckle, standing to leave the room. "I'll be right back."
Harris had found a doctor and Mr. Jennings quickly, before deciding to go and check on his other Clan Brothers, giving time for the father and Alexander to spend with Isaac. The Director made his way into the atrium where he found several boys watching a television that had been mounted on the back wall of the elevator shafts. Several sofas had been set up around the large flat screen, giving plenty of people room to see the TV. Harris noticed that the boys were watching a news report about two young brothers that had gone missing from the Springfield area.
"Trevor and Ivan Hagan, thirteen and eleven, have just lost their parents in a horrible car accident last Friday night," the lady behind the anchor desk was reading. Harris could see the woman's hands trembling as she placed them flat against the desk. "The two brothers were last spotted Tuesday morning when a black sedan pulled up outside of their house and they ran out to get into it. Neighbors at the time assumed that it was relatives coming to pick up the children until several members of Social Services arrived nearly five minutes after the sedan had left the area. Police are offering a reward for any information that will lead to the finding of the two Hagan boys."
One of the younger boys muted the television with the remote before he spoke. "This is the twelfth case like this," Joey said with anger in his voice. "We have to do something."
"Everybody head to the Commons," Harris commanded. "We have an investigation to begin. All hands-on deck!"
"Yes, Director!" All of the boys surrounding Harris replied as they saluted him before quickly dispersing. Seconds later, an announcement was echoing through the Atrium for everyone to report to the Commons for a meeting. Harris could only smile at how quickly the members of his branch of the Clan were responding. Then, Harris headed for the Commons, sending out a mental thought to let Isaac know what was going on. Before he made it to the Commons, Harris pulled out his cellphone and called a new friend.
"Hello?" Came the sleepy voice across the handset.
"Julio?" Harris asked nervously. "It's Harris. I might need some help, soon."
"Just say the word, Harris," Julio replied. "You'll get more help than you could ever want. What's the issue?"
"A possible rescue, but we need to gather some more intel first," Harris informed the older boy.
"Me and my bros will be ready, Harris."
Trevor sat on his cot with his knees pulled to his chest, trembling in fear for hours after the men in white coats had come and taken his roommate away. The lights in the facility had flickered shortly after that but Castel had not been brought back like he aways had before. Trevor made a resolution at that moment. He would do whatever it took to break free from the facility he was in. He didn't know how to do it, but he knew he would.
'I'll get Ivan free too,' he told himself firmly. Trevor wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. 'I promise little brother.'
Trevor had nearly drifted off to sleep when the door to his room slammed open and the man with the gray hair was standing in the doorway. "Hello, Trevor," the man greeted the boy in a dark tone. Trevor felt chills go up his spine at the sound of the man's voice. "It's time for you to make your contribution to my program."
"What?" Trevor asked in confusion. Then, four men in lab coats entered Trevor's room and bodily yanked him from his cot. Trevor began to panic and struggle as his sleepy mind woke up quickly. "What? No! Where are you taking me?"
The boy kicked and screamed until the older man stuck him in the neck with a needle, making all of the boy's muscles go limp almost immediately. Then, the man looked at his assistants in disgust. "Hurry up. I want him strapped down before he wakes back up."
"Yes, sir," One of the men replied as he tossed the limp boy over his shoulder. Then, he headed down the hallway in the direction of the labs. It was time for another boy to enter the testing program.
Greg looked up as the door to the lab swung inwards and the lab assistants entered with William right behind them. Greg motioned towards the empty gurney. "Put him there."
Then, the man carrying Trevor, unceremoniously dumped the child on the cot before leaving the room with the remainder of the lab assistants following him. Only Greg and William were present during these types of tests. William closed the blinds to the observation room while Greg strapped the boy's arms and legs down. Then, he hooked an IV up Trevor's hand and turned back to his data station.
"He's ready whenever you are, Doctor," the younger man said as he took one last look at the boy.
Trevor begun to stir as William placed a scalpel on the metal table next to Trevor's gurney. "Welcome back," the man stated in a careless tone before he reached down and patted the boy's cheek. "It's a rite of passage for you to be awake the first time."
"What?" Trevor asked. Then the man unbuttoned the front of the boy's sleeping shirt before he took hold of the scalpel and held it up in front of himself.
"It's okay to scream, Trevor," the man said in an eerie tone. "It's part of the process."
Before Trevor could comprehend what the man had said, William brought the blade down to the bare skin of the boy's stomach and started to cut. All Trevor could do was scream.
Harris looked at the boys that were gathered in front of him. Each one had their own stories to tell, even if they didn't want to part with them yet. Harris wouldn't tell the stories of the others, that was their job to share when they were ready. The Commons was filled with chatter of the small group as they waited on the Director to begin their meeting.
"Good morning, everyone," Harris called out, instantly bringing a hushed silence to the group. "I've called you here to discuss the potential rescue of multiple children from an unknown location. Currently, we are operating on minimal knowledge, so we need to get our asses in gear and find out everything we can about the missing boys. Alexander and Samy, you're in charge of gathering intel on the missing boys. William, you and Joey need to get in touch with Julio. He's expecting your call. We're going to make this a night operation, so make sure you include Chase and Phil in your planning for supplies."
"Yes, sir!" William and Joey quickly replied.
"Stefan," Harris continued with a determined expression in his eyes. "Get with Charles to determine the amount of food supplies you're going to need for up to twenty possible refugees. Don't worry about the cost, either. Jax, I want you to get with Daryl and find out any information he has about the man from the other night. Geoff, you should work with Jax, as much as possible. Tristan, get with Doc Adams, make sure you are ready for any injuries we may find." Then, Harris turned his attention to the smallest member of the Jennings Family. "Julian?"
"Yes, sir?" The seven-year-old piped up in a serious tone.
"You're in charge of the newcomers' personal comfort, Julian," Harris instructed. "Blankets, clothes, whatever they need. Stefan and Charles will be your points of contact if you need anything."
"Yes, sir!" Julian acknowledged.
"We'll meet again in two hours to check on progress," Harris told everyone. "Operation - Lost Souls is in effect. Let's get to work, gentlemen."
"Jesus, Charles," Harold stated with a foolish grin on his face. He and his brother were standing in the rear of the Commons as Harris held his impromptu meeting with the other members of his Clan. "Did you see that?"
"Oh yeah," Charles responded with awe in his voice as he watched the boys head off to begin their tasks. "I hate to see what he does to the first person to tell him no."
"He's going to destroy their world," Harold observed with a smug grin.
"With that being said," Charles changed the subject with a chuckle. "I believe that there are a couple boys that are going to be looking for me in a minute."
"They already are, Charles," the younger brother said as he watched the boy named Julian hesitating to approach them. "Go easy with this one, brother. I think he's terrified of us."
Charles ignored his brother and smiled at the hazel-eyed boy. "Hello, Julian," he greeted the boy. "How are you doing today?"
"I'm alright, Mister Conner," Julian replied sheepishly. "Can you help me, umm, get some, umm, thupplies?"
"Absolutely, Mr. Jennings," Charles responded to the boy's request. "Let's wait for Stefan before we go, though."
"I'll leave you gentlemen to your duties," Harold told Charles and Julian before he went in search of Melissa with an idea. Harold found his sister-in-law talking with Daryl, her personal Chief of Security. "Melissa?"
"Oh, hello, Harold," Melissa greeted him with a smile. "How can I help you?"
"Could we discuss any missing children's reports from the Miami Valley area?"
"How far back would you like to go, Mr. Conner?" Daryl asked.
"Five years," Harold replied. "The Clan has just put into effect "Operation - Lost Souls" and I wanted to see if there were any patterns that we could look for that might help them find the missing children."
"Does this mean that we should plan on building actual houses on the compound, since our families are going to be getting bigger?" Melissa asked with an arched eyebrow.
"I'll mention it to Starfleet," Daryl stated as he turned away and began speaking into his comm-unit.
"Yes, Mr. Conner?"
"Don't run off," Harold told him. "I believe your son is going to be looking for you so he can pick your brain. Harris gave him a task."
Daryl smiled proudly before he thanked Harold and stepped away.
"Should we take over one of the conference rooms in the Pavilion?" Melissa asked.
Harold motioned towards the glass lined hallway leading towards the back part of the building. "After you."
Harold and Melissa spent two hours searching through the files of missing children from the prior five years before they gathered enough of a list to be satisfied with what they had pieced together. The two adults then took their findings to meet with Alexander and Samy, only to find that the two boys had a much more sophisticated system than either of them could work with. Alexander and Samy were grateful for the help though and combined their own findings with Harold and Melissa's. Then, Harold dismissed himself to return to his apartment, while Melissa helped Alexander and Samy work on narrowing down which boys were being held captive.
Alexander and Samy worked swiftly, going back five years in their search for missing boys in the Ohio Valley area. Alexander and Samy were in the process of attempting to hack into the Federation Youth Services' main frame for the seventh time when there was a sharp knock on the door of the office they were in. Both boys looked at each other before Alexander went and opened the door. Alexander was surprised to see a Vulcan standing outside of the door with a metallic briefcase in her hands.
"Can I help you?" Alexander asked nervously.
"We are here to install your new main frame, Mister Conner," the woman replied. "We will be complete with our task in fifteen minutes."
"Do you mind if Samy and myself stay here so we can watch?" Alexander asked in return. "I'm very interested in technology."
"Your observation will not be a hinderance to our work," the woman informed the boy. "You may remain in the room."
Alexander smiled happily as he let the woman in the room, followed by three other Vulcans. Within ten minutes, the woman was showing Samy and Alexander how to use their new system while the other Vulcans cleared whatever mess they had made. The two boys were happily continuing their searches without any hinderance when the team of Vulcans left. Alexander compiled a report for Harris based on a sharper searching filter. The report was completed within the hour, and Harris was reviewing it with Isaac and several others while they came up with a plan.
Harris accepted the idea before he sent a message to Julio with all of their data. Julio called within a minute.
"Hello?" Harris answered his cell phone.
"Your data looks sound to my team, bro," Julio said without any hesitation. "Give the word and we'll be there."
"Tonight," Harris informed the voice over the phone. "My guys will be ready."
"Mine will, too."
Then, the phone went silent. Harris quickly stuffed it into his pocket as he looked around at his advisors.
"Julio is with us," Harris informed them. "Once everyone is gathered in the Commons at sunset, we'll announce our plan."
"That works for me," Alexander replied with a nod.
"Same here," William Jennings responded. "I'll let Joey know."
"We'll meet at sunset, then," Harris acknowledged. "Meeting adjourned, gentlemen."
Harris made his way back to his apartment to get his thoughts together, while the rest of his team continued to work on their projects. The rescue attempt would be their first one, and the director didn't want anything to go wrong. He needed every single one of his people to come back from the mission unharmed. He needed them to survive the coming battle.
The boy found his father sitting in their living room and he promptly went over and climbed into the man's lap. Harold didn't hesitate to wrap his arms around his son and hug him tightly against him.
"What's wrong, Harris?"
"I'm scared, daddy," Harris admitted. "Am I making the right choice to send kids in to fight against armed adults?"
"Do you feel like it's the right decision, Harris?"
"I do," Harris replied. "What if someone gets hurt?"
"That's just a risk that you're going to have to take, son," Harold told his son. "It's a part of leadership. While you may wish that it will never happen to you, it does. And when it does happen, you're going to feel a piece of you die on the inside, Harris. You're going to feel like it's all your fault that they died, too. There's no escaping the guilt."
"Gee thanks, dad," Harris mumbled.
"You can move past it, though, Harris," the man stated. "You can accept the loss and share your grief with those around you. You don't ever need to dwell on it. These boys are willing to make this sacrifice for you, son! You're their inspiration. Show them your fortitude and don't show them your doubts. They must always believe that they are going to be stronger than the forces they face. It's your courage that show them that, Harris. Only you can make them believe."
"Are you ever afraid?"
"All of the time, Harris," Harold admitted to his son. "I just had to learn how to master my fears."
"How do you do that?"
"I think about everything that I could be leaving behind, Harris," Harold told his son. "There's you, Vanek, Charles, Melissa, and all of this." Harold motioned to the room they were inside of before he grabbed his son again. "You and your sa-mekh are my life, Harris. I would die without the both of you."
Harris hugged his dad tightly. "Thanks, daddy."
"Thank you for coming back to me, Harris," Harold replied softly. "I've missed you more than you could ever imagine."
Several people came to visit Harris over the next few hours, each with information they had discovered about the missing boys. Alexander and Samy had even come up with a blueprint of the facility, leaving no question of what Harris's brothers were going to be walking into. Together, Harris and Harold came up with their own plan to attack the facility and save the boys inside. By the time sunset had rolled around, Harris was ready to tell everyone his plan. Chase and Phil followed their brother down to the Commons as he prepared himself to make his speech.
Harris watched as the boys gathered in front of him again. This time, they were bolstered by the presence of Julio's Strike Team. With the assistance of Julio's team and Federation Youth Services, the Ohio Valley Division of CSV had learned that the boys were being kept in an old underground bunker near the center of Springfield. The group that had been kidnapping the boys was known as The Guardians of Humanity, and they claimed that they were working towards a pure human society like Earth had once been. They had been performing science experiments on their kidnapping victims, subjecting them to brutal forms of torture that most people wouldn't be able to withstand. Now, the OVD was going to rescue as many of the boys as they could.
Harris didn't smile or greet anyone as he made his way to the podium that had been set up at the far end of the Commons. The blinds had been closed behind the podium, and a projection of the clan's emblem was being displayed. The boy relaxed his nerves with a deep breath as he took his place at the podium. Isaac stood to his left and Alexander took the spot to his right. It was time.
"Good evening!" Harris called out to get everyone's attention. The room fell quiet immediately as everyone turned towards where Harris was standing. "It's almost time for us to move. Julio's team is going to be moving in first, and Jax's team will follow behind as a clean-up detail." Harris pulled up the blueprints of the facility and began describing the plan as Isaac pointed out the different positions on the blueprint. "The Medical Team is standing by to treat any potential injuries. Our Intel Team will move in behind Julio and Jax to gather anything that can be of use to our investigation. I'm sure this will just be the beginning of a long battle that will take us into the future as we work on taking down this organization. Tonight, we will save lives as a Clan! Tonight, we will earn our place amongst our brothers, and we will make them proud of us! Tonight, we will stand together as one! Let's move out!"
"No butterflies!" Julio yelled as the room echoed with the sounds of his team locking and loading multiple weapons ... each.
Harris couldn't help but smile as he saw everyone following along behind Julio's Strike Team. Then, Harris made eye contact with his father and noticed how the man was smiling at him. Harris nodded at the man before he followed the remainder of the Division off to battle.
Two Boys, Ivan and Trevor, brothers only two years apart in age, stumbled through the dark corridor as the sounds of men chasing them could be heard echoing down the hallway behind the duo. Ivan's heart was hammering in his chest as he ran, gripping tightly to the hand of his older brother. The brothers had barely escaped the clutches of the men the first time and Trevor knew they would be severely punished by the group if they were ever caught again.
"Don't stop running, Ivan!" Trevor urged his little brother. "We have to get away!"
"I don't want to go back, ever!" Ivan acknowledged.
"Same here, dude!" Trevor was scanning the dark hallway for the door he needed, hoping they hadn't missed it. That would condemn the brothers to possible death. The older brother prayed silently for any kind of help that he could get. 'God, I don't ask for much, just keep Ivan alive and safe, please!'
Trevor's vision blurred slightly as tears stung his eyes, but he continued to push forward, knowing what was at stake for the brothers.
"I see a door up on the right," Ivan said, barely containing his excitement.
"Let's go!" Trevor ordered as he wiped his eyes and ran for the door. He pushed it open and shoved his little brother through before following closely behind. Trevor pushed the door shut and locked it, not certain if the men would have any keys to this part of the facility, or not. He could only hope for the best.
Fluorescent lights flickered overhead as the two boys ran as fast as they could down the new hallway. Trevor was trying to remember everything that Castel had told him before the men had taken Trevor's roommate away. He had never seen Castel after that, left wondering if the boy was still alive. The dull sound of an explosion shook the hallway and showered the brothers with concrete dust.
"Keep running, Ivan!" Trevor commanded as the duo barely kept their footing.
"What's going on?" Ivan sounded panicked.
"I'd rather not find out," the older brother said as if it didn't matter to him.
The hallway seemed to slant upwards until the two boys came to a set of wide stairs that disappeared into the darkness above them. Ivan looked worried before Trevor urged the boy upwards.
"We're almost there, Trevor," Ivan declared when he saw a light near the top of the stairwell they were on.
Trevor saw the light and urged his brother to run faster. They were nearly to the top step when Trevor heard a shout from behind him and a sharp pain shot up his back. His knees buckled instantly, and his body slammed into the steps. Ivan looked back and screamed before several children entered from the top of the stairs and began to fire phasers at the men that were chasing the two brothers. Trevor fought to regain control of his body, but the stunner had done its job in immobilizing the young teen.
"Relax," one of the unknown boys said, kneeling beside Trevor and placing the palm of their hand on his forehead. The boy frowned at Trevor before he tapped the Starfleet badge on his chest. "Angel-3 to Command, one medical evac at my location. Victim of a stun phaser. Requesting Trauma-1!"
"Angel-3, incoming transport for medical evac," a voice responded in the blond-haired boy's ear. "Trauma-1 is standing by to receive the patient."
Trevor was suddenly blinded as a white light filled his vision. The next thing he knew, he was lying face down on a hospital gurney with someone shouting orders from nearby.
"Get him into the Trauma Center!" A male's voice commanded. Trevor thought the voice sounded strangely young to oversee a Medical Center. "We don't have much time. His vitals are crashing!"
'Is that why I feel so tired?' Trevor asked himself. 'Sorry, Ivan.' He thought miserably as he felt himself getting weaker. 'I tried to protect you.'
"They're getting brave," Samy growled. "But we're getting closer to their location."
"Judging from what we pulled from Ivan," Isaac stated calmly. "There are at least thirteen more children in that compound that he knows about."
"We can be certain that they've already started moving them," Alexander added. "I doubt they would hang around after we already pulled two boys from them, and we were able to capture one of their men alive."
"They can try to move them," Harris growled. "Julio and Jax will save the other boys, no matter what! We should be getting back so we can help block any potential escape routes. Trevor and Ivan are in good hands here."
Trevor glanced over to see the boys standing near his bedside. He began wishing he could thank all of them until the youngest boy smiled at him before returning his attention to the other boys.
"It's a pity that the guy that shot Trevor killed himself when he saw us coming," Isaac muttered. "I would have loved to pick his brain."
The other council members nodded in agreement as they glanced around at each other.
"We need to get back," Isaac stated. "Let the doctors do their job here."
"Yes, sir," the other boys replied.
Then, Samy called for transport.
Harris moved along silently, keeping his phaser aimed in front of himself as his team swept the barely lit corridor. They had already come across three men in lab coats, whom they were able to dispatch with ease - before moving on to find four boys locked inside a small janitorial closet. Jax called for a medical evac for the boys while Harris guarded the door.
'That's seventeen alive, so far,' Harris reminded himself, urging himself not to think about the freezer they had found. His dreams would be haunted forever by the things they found in that room.
The boy shuddered involuntarily as he and Jax walked side-by-side, each watching for any sign of movement ahead of them. Sounds of gunfire echoed down the corridor as they continued onward, always prepared for the next group of men that worked in the laboratory to pop around the next corner.
Jax's team located twelve more boys as they headed deeper into the facility, following the twisting hallways as they led to the heart of the building. Something told Harris that they would find more survivors there, boys that needed them more than anything.
"This is only one facility," Jax had muttered in disgust at one point.
"I know," Harris agreed. "We've got our work cut out for us."
"How did they remain hidden for so long like this?"
"Somebody must be supplying them with funds," Harris told the other boy.
Then, they found a set of double doors that seemed to be their final destination.
Jax held up his hand and made a sign before three boys came forward with a small briefcase. They set it on the floor and pulled out a small device that they held against the door. One of the boys put a headset on and listened for a moment while the third boy held up a scanner towards the door.
"Two adults and four children," he whispered as the other two boys packed away the device. "Julio's team is getting ready to break in from the other side."
Harris nodded as he and Jax fell back from the door.
"We need to guard this door for anybody that tries to escape from Julio's team," Jax whispered.
"Agreed," Harris replied.
"Take cover on either side of the hallway," Jax told his team. "Nobody comes out that door!"
Suddenly, an eruption of violence came from the other side of the door accompanied with shouting and gunshots that echoed around Harris and Jax. The awaiting team held their phasers pointed towards the door when they burst open and one of Julio's team stepped through.
"All clear, guys!" The boy called before he stepped back inside.
"Four of you remain out here," Harris ordered as he headed towards the door. "Make sure that nobody gets the jump on us."
Jax pointed at four of the squad members before signaling for the others to follow Harris. Jax fell in at the rear of the line as Harries passed through the door in silence. His green eyes studied the scene of bloodshed before him, taking a cursory glance around the room before settling on where Julio was standing over an old man in a blood-soaked lab coat. Harris crossed the room to the scene.
"What's going on here?" Harris asked casually. The man's glasses were smashed on the floor beside him, and he was clutching his stomach in pain. "Why is he still alive?"
"Isaac's not back, yet," Julio replied with a shrug. "Plus, I wanted to see if he was going to piss himself, again."
"Again?" Harris asked with a light chuckle.
"Fuck you!" The man sneered before Julio struck him with the butt of his rifle. The man screamed out as he fell to his side, blood pouring from the wound in his gut. "I'm going to die!"
"You don't deserve anything less," Harris told the man. "Are you the one responsible for all of those bodies in the freezer?"
"Judging by how we found him cutting a boy open when we busted in here," Julio replied, "I'd say he is."
"What about Kyle?"
"He's a little busy, at the moment," Julio shrugged.
"What about one of your guys?" Harris didn't want to be in the facility any longer. There was too much negative energy around him and it was beginning to make Harris focus on the bad things he had been through.
"Isaac needs the practice, Director Conner, but if you would like to get it over and done with," Julio began before he noticed something in Harris's demeanor. "You okay, bro?"
"I'm not sure," Harris replied as he felt chills go up his spine. He instinctively glanced around only to see that it was still the same people in the operating room with him. The doctor began to laugh in a hysterical tone as Harris stepped backwards from them. "Something's not right here."
"What is it, Harris?" Jax asked in concern.
"We need to get out of here," Harris muttered as he felt the ground beginning to tremble beneath his feet.
"You'll never make it in time," the maniacal man retorted before coughing up blood all over himself.
"What's he talking about?" Julio asked before his eyes went wide in fear. "ARK! GET US THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!"
There wasn't a response as every member of Clan Short suddenly vanished, leaving only the adults behind as an explosion ripped through the facility, vaporizing everything in its path.
The man frowned, his gaze never leaving the thirty-five boys that had been rescued from the facility ran by the Guardians of Humanity.
'I'll kill the bastards myself,' the man thought angrily as he watched Zach trying to resuscitate one of the boys. He sighed with relief when he saw the telltale signature of a heartbeat on the monitor next to the boy's biobed. Nothing remained of the facility after a self-destruct sequence had been entered by one of the men inhabiting the building. The boys had barely made it out of the building before the explosion tore through the facility, leaving nothing but dust in its wake. Charles only had one question hovering in his mind. 'Who was behind the Guardians of Humanity?'
The question dwelled in the man's every thought as he went through a mental check of the people he knew. Only a select few knew when Arys had arrived, though Vanek did make it known throughout Starfleet as he tried to find clues as to where the youth had come from. Then, there were the men that had tried to kidnap Harris when he was still in the hospital in a coma.
'How did they know?' He asked himself. 'Were they part of the G.O.H.?'
"What's wrong, Charles?"
Charles turned at the sound of his name to see his brother Harold walking towards him. "Did you see this?" Charles asked as he turned his attention back to the tiny window in the door to the emergency ward.
"Thirty-five rescues in one night," Harold said in awe.
"That's twice now that your son has stepped up and taken control of a situation," Charles observed in a quiet tone.
"I'm proud of him," Harold replied with a grin.
"Same here," the older brother agreed. "Now, what are we going to do about all of these kids?"
"There's a dormitory on the second floor," Harold told the older man. "The boys will be okay once we get them all into counseling."
"I hope so," Charles said whimsically. The man was about to continue on when he noticed one of the boys sitting on a biobed with his legs curled under him and tears falling down his pale cheeks. Charles didn't even wait for permission before he opened the door to the emergency ward and went to the young boy's bedside. The man sat on the edge of the biobed, ignoring the alarms beeping at his sudden presence. Instead, his attention was focused only upon the grieving child. He spoke in a soft voice so he wouldn't startle the child. "What's your name, little one?"
The dusty-haired boy didn't even look up at the man as he replied in a quiet whisper. "Conner."
"Oh?" Charles asked with a brief smile as he thought about what the boy's name would become if he accepted the offer the man was going to present after he got the boy's story out of him. "That's a nice name, Conner. I'm Charles. It's nice to meet you. The man standing at the end of your bed is my brother - Harold."
The boy glanced up for a moment, the colors of his eyes making the man's voice catch in his throat. His right eye was a deep blue color, while the boy's left eye was as green as a Christmas Tree. Charles couldn't stop the smile from spreading across his lips as he thought about the rarity of the boy's condition.
"Holy crap, Conner!" Harold spoke up with an abundance of awe and admiration in his voice. "Do you realize how special you are to have Heterochromia? Dude, that is totally awesome!"
"Do you really think so, Mister Harold?" Conner asked in a squeaky voice. Charles did everything he could to resist pulling the trembling boy into his arms.
"I've always thought that, Conner!" Harold reassured the boy. "Now, I believe my older brother has a few questions to ask you, if you don't mind?"
The boy looked at Charles before he finally shook his head and waited the first question. Charles was quick to jump on the opportunity.
"How old are you, Conner?"
"I'm ten," the boy replied meekly. "How come you look younger than he does?" The boy gestured towards Harold before looking back at Charles.
The man smiled. "I gave some of my blood to a very special boy who was dying, but his blood contained something that went into my body," Charles tried to explain patiently. "Well, whatever it was, it changed me into who you see now."
"Oh," the boy replied in quiet acceptance of the man's explanation. "Is it contagious?"
"No," Charles replied. "It can only be passed on through bodily fluids. It's been acting like a healing potion, if that makes any kind of sense to you, Conner. It barely makes any sense to me, and I'm the one infected with it."
"Are you going to keep getting younger?" The boy fired off his next question.
"Nope," Charles replied with a grin. "When the biological substance infected me, it actually gave me the body of a twelve-year-old, but the change had affected my wife too much. So, one of our friends sort of balanced me out, and this is where I'll probably be for a very long time."
"What happened to your wife?"
"I was changed into the same age as my husband was," Melissa replied as she entered the room and joined the trio. The boy blushed shyly as Melissa sat on the opposite side of the bed from Charles. She reached out and patted the boy's small-pale knee. "Why are you crying, little one?"
"My. . ." Conner clearly wanted to tell someone what had happened, but his eyes darted around the crowded room, hesitantly. Charles knew immediately what the issue was.
"Kyle?" Charles asked the air around them. "Is there anybody that could give us some privacy for a few minutes?"
Without reply, the movement around the small group came to a complete halt. The silence was deafening as the young-looking man adjusted to the sudden change. Even Conner seemed unnerved by the silent atmosphere. Melissa reached out and gently took the boy's hand in her own.
"It's okay now, Conner," she reassured the child. "You can tell us whatever you want here, and nobody will ever find out. Okay?"
"They killed my parents!" Conner suddenly wailed in an eerie tone of voice before falling into Melissa's open arms and sobbing uncontrollably. "The men who took me, killed my mom and dad, right in front of me!"
Melissa froze in horror as she heard the words come from the boy. It was Charles who carried on with the questioning while Melissa held the boy tightly against her.
"Who did it, Conner?" The man asked in a respectful tone.
"That stupid man in the lab coat," the boy sniffled. "He came to our house, demanding that my parents let me join some stupid program he was starting. They refused and he sent his goonies into our house to kill my parents before they kidnapped me."
"Oh, Conner," Melissa whispered solemnly as she kissed the top of the boy's head. "You poor child. You didn't see it, did you?"
"They made me watch," Conner whimpered. "Then, they burnt down my house to make it look like we had all died in the fire."
Then, Conner went on to describe everything that had been done to him in the hands of the Guardians of Humanity. It took Harold's every bit of strength to keep from trying to find the remainder of the organization by himself. As he finished his story, Conner's small frame was trembling in fear and sadness.
"Am I an orphan, now?" The small boy asked with a shaky voice.
Melissa and Charles each shared a look before Melissa asked the boy if he would be willing to come live with them. The woman took a few minutes to tell the child about her and her husband, while also pointing out the different family members that happened past the emergency ward's doors. Conner looked up at the two adults in shock when Melissa was finished before he looked down to where Harold was standing.
"They're being serious, Conner," Harold told the boy with a grin. "You have no idea the love they will shower you with the moment you join their growing family."
"The boys would love to have you as their brother, too," Charles added for good measure.
The boy looked between the three adults before he finally nodded and let Charles and Melissa hug their new son tightly.