Revolutions Universe: Metamorphosis

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Chapter 26 - Still There

"Dax, you don't know how lucky you really are. Most people, the vast majority, will only see the world through a gauzy veil of what's considered 'normal and natural'. You've been given a tremendous gift. You can see a world of possibilities that they can never conceive, much less consider." Ben said to me in an earnest tone.

"Are you saying that being a sissy is some kind of gift?" I asked hesitantly, not sure if that was what he really meant.

"Only you can decide if it's a gift or a curse, but what I'm telling you is that the reason people hate and fear you is that they can't understand you. The world is a big scary place and they've made a list of rules that govern how it operates so that they can navigate it safely. You, by your very existence, break those rules." Ben said seriously.

"So does that mean that even though I'm a guy, I don't have to act a certain way?" I asked cautiously, beginning to understand his meaning.

"That's part of it. Gay, straight, butch, fem, male, female... none of them are absolute; there are degrees. I can see you struggling to find who you are and I want to help you." Ben said sincerely.

I slowly nodded that I was following what he said.

"Find what makes you feel beautiful and joyful, then present that to the world without apology. Whatever you choose, I'm sure that before long a special someone will see it and think that you're the most perfect thing ever. They'll love and accept you for who you are."

"You said 'choose'. But being gay isn't a choice. Is it?" I asked hesitantly.

"No, but how you present yourself to the world is a choice. And whatever you choose is the right choice for you... as long as it's what you really want."

I thought about that for a moment, then cautiously asked, "So if I wanted to wear a dress or something, that'd be okay?"

"If it makes you feel comfortable in your own skin, why not?" Ben responded with a smile.

I nodded as I considered his answer.

"Do you want to dress as a girl?" Ben asked in a low, cautious voice.

"What?" I asked with surprise, then my brain caught up to his question and I said, "No. I've never really wanted to do that."

"Okay. Then don't. Just dress and act the way that feels natural and right to you. Be 'Dax'. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks about your choices. That way they can accept you or reject you for who you really are."

"But what if I want to be a butch, all-male guy, like you?" I asked uncertainly.

After a moment, he responded, "I suppose if that were your choice, you could start lifting weights and working out and practicing the 'straight' mannerisms that define that type of person. Do you think that if you were buff and well-muscled that you'd be happy with yourself? Or would you be living a lie?"

"I don't know. I guess I'm just used to being ashamed of who I am."

"Stand up." Ben said as he also stood.

Reluctantly, I got to my feet and looked at Ben uncertainly.

"What do you think you could do right now to feel sexy and attractive?" Ben asked seriously.

My mind was drawing a complete blank, so I honestly said, "I don't know. I've never felt that way."

Ben looked me up and down, one time, then said, "Take off your shirt."

That surprised me.

It took me a second, but I finally stammered, "What?"

"Just do it. Trust me. I have a reason for asking." Ben said with a smile that encouraged me.

I still felt a little bit awkward about it, but I managed to pull the shirt off over my head without too much difficulty.

It wasn't until the shirt was off that I noticed that I was about half-hard in my sweat pants, and that without my shirt hanging down, Ben could see it.

"There's a mirror over the dresser. Take a look and tell me what you see." Ben told me as he gestured across the room.

I walked over to the dresser and had to fight not to look away when I saw my own image.

Ben seemed to be waiting for me to say something, so I quietly said, "I'm too skinny and I'm way too pale."

"You're beautiful." Ben said firmly, and I saw him looking at my reflection in the mirror.

"There are people who would give everything they have in this world to look like you do. You're trim and toned with almost no body fat. Hold on, let me show you something." Ben said, then started taking off his shirt.

I couldn't help but stare as his firm, hairy, well-muscled chest came into view.

Ben moved to my side and said, "Tell me what you see now."

"God, Ben! You're beautiful!" I gasped without thinking.

"So are you." Ben said with a smile, then quietly added, "Look at us. Really look and tell me what you see."

It took some effort for me to focus on myself, but with Ben beside me, I was able to do it.

"Even though I'm skinny and pale, beside you, I look kinda good." I said nervously.

"We contrast each other. You're smooth, I'm hairy. You're slender and I'm muscled... at least, a little. My darker skin tone complements your lighter tone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with how you look. I couldn't imagine how you could be one bit more attractive than you are already."

I don't know if it was Ben's words, or seeing him shirtless like that, but for whatever reason, I suddenly had the biggest raging hard-on boner ever.

"Are you okay?" Ben asked me with concern.

I was afraid to move or say anything for fear that he might notice. But he was expecting me to answer, so I stammered, "I'm... just..."

To my horror, I saw Ben's gaze shift down in the mirror to focus on the tent in my sweat pants.

"You know I'm straight, right?" Ben asked me in a gentle tone.

"I know." I said as the impossibility of my forbidden desires was exposed.

"You probably already know this, but straight guys sometimes do things together." Ben said in a cautious tone.


I tried to make my voice not shake as I answered, "Yeah?"

"Yeah." Ben said quietly, then continued, "I don't know if it's guys just testing the water to confirm where their interests really lie, or maybe it's just overriding their natural inclinations for an opportunity to get off."

"Have you ever done that?" I asked in a breathy whisper that did nothing to hide my escalating desire.

"Yes. I did it for a couple years, actually." Ben said as a slight blush colored his cheeks.

It was hard for me to tell, because Ben was wearing blue jeans, but I was about ninety percent sure that I could see a bulge forming in his pants.

Hoping to encourage him down the path I thought we were taking, I hesitantly asked, "What do straight guys do together?"

"Well, I can't speak for all straight guys. But what I did was mostly mutual jack-offs. I tried a few other things along the way, but I think that was mostly experimenting."

"So, you'd jack off with another straight guy?" I asked as I watched carefully for his reaction.

There was no doubt about it, Ben was definitely sporting some major wood.

"Yeah. Sometimes we'd do each other. But that's about it." Ben said slowly, but I could hear a slight tremble in his voice.

"That sounds amazing." I said... I'm not sure where that came from, but it was honest.

Ben let out a long sigh, then bent down and picked up his shirt. He gave me a look in the mirror that seemed to be tinged with regret as he said, "It's part of growing up. At least, it was for me. There's no way I can guess what's going to happen to you, but what I want you to keep in mind is that whatever you do with another person, as long as it's consensual, is okay and the right thing and nothing to be ashamed of."

We were so close and now Ben seemed to be backing away.

"Do you want to..." I began to say, but couldn't give voice to my desire.

Ben met my gaze in the mirror as he said, "Honestly? There's a part of me that would enjoy that. But I want you to be able to trust me and to feel safe. I know that if you and I did anything like that, that we'd run the risk of ruining everything else that we have."

What he said made perfect sense, but at the same time, my body was screaming out to me that it wanted release.

"Why don't you go to your room and take care of that? You'll be able to think a lot more clearly about things if you don't have a boner distracting you." Ben said to me gently.

I don't know where it came from, but before I could even think about what was the 'right thing' to do, I moved forward and pulled Ben into a full, deep kiss.

I half expected Ben to push me away, but instead, I felt his arms wrap around me and his bare chest against mine.

One of his hands slid down to rest on my butt and he gripped me, just a little.

I ground against him and felt my erection come into alignment with his.

Then, to my surprise and delight, I felt one of his hands slide down my belly and past the waistband into my sweat pants.

My breath caught when Ben's hand enclosed around my erection.

Ben pulled away, and in a raspy whisper he said, "I love you, Dax."

As his thumb grazed the head of my erection, the seed that had been boiling within me erupted with an intensity that I'd never felt before.

Dax jolted awake as another spasm of release washed over him.

It took a moment for him to realize where he was and what was happening to him.

After a moment to catch his breath and sort out his swirling thoughts and emotions, he finally said to himself, "I guess you'll only ever be the man of my dreams."

A glance at the bedside clock told him that he'd overslept, so he got out of bed to go clean up the mess in his sweat pants and start his day.

* * * * *

"Doctor, are you ready for me?" A woman asked as she walked into the room.

"Yes. We're just about ready to begin. Everyone, this is Nurse Nakahara, she's going to be helping me today." Dr. Murten said happily.

"Kev, would you keep an eye on things here and let us know if Brother Jacques or Zane need anything?" Bug asked quietly.

"Yeah." Kev said with a look of concern at his twin.

"Pop?" Ken said to Allen, oblivious to everything else that was going on around him.

After a moment, Allen hesitantly said, "Cute stuff?"

"Let's step outside and let the doctor work." Bug said as he wrapped an arm around Ken and led him to the door.

"Cute stuff? Is that really you?" Allen asked as tears welled in his eyes.

"Come outside with us so you two can talk." Bug said as he continued to guide Ken to walk with him.

Finally, Allen seemed to realize what Bug was saying and started walking toward the door.

* * * * *

A spirited bout of knocking on the door caused everyone to look up.

"I've got it!" A man's voice called from another part of the house.

Everyone in the living room heard the front door open, then the clamor of little feet as the young trio scrambled through the entry hall and into the room.

"We didn't know if you'd still be here! Did we miss anything?" Max asked, a little bit out of breath.

"No. We were just visiting. You guys can take off your coats and join us, if you'd like." Roris said.

There was a silent moment as looks flashed from one to another, then at some unspoken cue, all three started to take their coats off.

"Would you boys like some breakfast? I have everything I need to make Ezekiel flour pancakes with a fig and soy milk syrup. How about it?" Doris asked cheerfully.

Another silent conference was conducted with facial expressions and eye movements before Bax finally said, "No, thank you, Ma'am. We just had breakfast."

Apollo turned when someone else walked into the room. The man had red hair which was slightly graying and kept in a business cut. Although the clothes he wore would technically be classified as casual, they were of such quality that they projected a facade of professionalism. But in Apollo's eyes, all of that was of secondary importance when he saw the man's height... or lack thereof.

"Everyone, I'd like for you to meet my husband, Marcus. Maybe Rory could introduce you to his friends." Doris said as she walked to her husband's side.

Apollo noticed that Doris stood about four inches taller than her husband.

"Dad, I'd like for you to meet Apollo and Jarritt. And the boys are Max, Bax and Ro." Roris said carefully.

"It's very nice to meet you. As my wife said, I'm Marcus. Corina and Roris are my children and Cheyenne is my granddaughter." Marcus said pleasantly.

Apollo took note of the man's dignified and self-confident tone. The few times he had encountered people of his own height, they tended to fall into two categories. They were either as timid and withdrawn as he tended to be, or they were excessively loud and forceful, trying to compensate for what they lacked in height with abrasiveness and tenacity.

"Do you want to play a game?" Cheyenne asked Bax hopefully.

"Sure. I guess." Bax said casually, then looked at his companions to see if they agreed.

Max and Ro gave identical disinterested shrugs, then followed as Cheyenne led them out of the room.

A tea kettle whistling caused Doris to hurry away.

Marcus looked around, then asked, "Can you believe all that's happened the past two days?"

"It's like something out of a late night disaster movie." Corina said frankly.

"Worse." Roris said with a glance at his sister.

"Carson is working really hard to make a safe place for people to go. Me and Rory are helping him." Lawrence said proudly.

Apollo pried his gaze away from Marcus to pay attention to the stunning young man.

"Lawrence is right. Somehow, Carson's been able to get the local communities to open their arms to refugees from all over the country. He's coordinating things so there will be food and shelter for everyone who needs it." Roris said seriously.

There was a long, silent moment, then Marcus said, "I hadn't considered that after facilitating our rescue, that he would be extending his efforts to reach out to the rest of the country."

"Yeah. And he's letting us help people who need special help, like if they're in wheelchairs or blind or brain damaged, like me." Lawrence said frankly.

"That's right. The placement program will be used to direct the general population to where they need to go to receive help. But Lawrence and I will help the people who need things that Bug's program doesn't cover." Roris said reasonably.

"It's fantastic that you're able to do something to help." Corina said admiringly.

"You could help, too." Jarritt said frankly.

Corina turned and looked at him curiously.

"I don't know who Carson is, but if he's helping so many people, I bet that he'd like it if people wanted to help him to help them." Jarritt continued.

"He's right. If you wanted, I could ask Carson if there's anything you can do to help when I get back to the main house." Roris offered helpfully.

"Sure. As long as Mom doesn't mind watching Cheyenne, I'd be happy to help." Corina said happily.

"I'll call you back as soon as I've talked to Carson." Roris said with an appreciative smile at his sister.

As Roris and Corina were talking, Apollo let his focus shift back to Marcus, who was casually half-sitting, leaning on the arm of the couch.

* * * * *

"Kenny?" Allen asked as tears began to fall down his cheeks.

"Pop?" Ken said as he ran to the man and pulled him into a firm hug.

Bug watched the tearful reunion for a moment before saying, "I'm guessing that you guys know each other."

"This is my Pop... my dad's boyfriend before he died." Ken sobbed.

"Well... fuck." Bug said absently, at a loss for what else to say.

"Pop, this is Bug, he's our boyfriend." Ken said as he continued to hold the man close.

"Our?" Allen asked cautiously.

"Yeah. I'm dating the twins. You got a problem with that?" Bug asked in a tone of voice that was more curious than belligerent.

Allen held Ken for a long, silent moment before responding, "I'm not sure. I'll have to get back to you on that."

Bug considered the response, then said, "Works for me."

"What happened to you? When I tried to call you, there wasn't any answer." Ken asked as he pulled away enough to look Allen in the eyes.

"I'm so sorry about that. I took some sleeping pills and my exhaustion caught up to me. In fact, it was thanks to you calling your friend, Tiffany, that Wallace came over and found me passed out and took me to the hospital. I got your message and tried to call you back when I got out, but I couldn't reach you." Allen said before he pulled Ken in for another hug.

"Yeah. My phone died and by the time I could charge it up again, the service was turned off. Things were kinda crazy back then." Ken said into Allen's chest.

"How are you? How did things turn out with your mother?" Allen asked gently.

"She skipped town before I got the chance to meet her. But... I don't know, things worked out. Looking back, I was really lucky and met some fantastic, remarkable people. I think that losing touch with you was probably one of my only regrets."

"I'm so sorry, Kenny. I was such a wreck when your father died... there's so much more that I should have done." Allen said despairingly.

Ken thought for a moment, then quietly said, "As far as I'm concerned, everything that you did honored my dad's memory. You have nothing to be sorry for."

A chiming sound from the laptop that Bug was carrying caused Ken and Allen to turn their heads in unison.

"Sorry. I didn't know it would do that." Bug said as he opened the lid of the laptop and supported it with one hand.

"User... Bug... Accepted." Sounded from the computer's speakers as the screen came to life.

Allen immediately looked at the laptop with interest.

"Did I just get a message or something?" Bug asked as he looked at the screen.

"A text message was sent by Carson. Would you like the message to be read aloud?" the computer asked courteously.

"No. Just show me." Bug said seriously.

Allen guided Ken to walk with him as he tried to get a better look at the laptop Bug was holding.

"Shit. Carson needs me to set up another table." Bug muttered absently.

"I'm in charge of this facility. Just let me know what you need and I'll be happy to help you." Allen said as he puzzled over the antiquated display on the, obviously, advanced computer in Bug's hands.

"Ken, would you mind too much if I went back to that conference room for a little bit? You can come and get me if you need me for anything at all." Bug asked hopefully.

"I appreciate that you came here to be with us, Bug. Go and do whatever you need to do to help Carson. I promise that if anything happens that I'll come and get you." Ken said warmly.

Bug walked up to Ken and gave him a firm kiss before hurrying away.

"I get the feeling that your boyfriend is an amazing person." Allen said

as he turned his attention back to Ken.

"We've only been together a few days, but, yeah. I think he is." Ken said with a tender smile.

"Come on, we can talk more comfortably in my office." Allen said warmly as he started to lead the way.

* * * * *

Courtney walked into Carson's room and looked at Hobie, Seth and Jay, all hard at work, before focusing on Carson, docked in his alcove.

"Is something wrong?" Carson asked cautiously when he noticed her serious expression.

"No. Not wrong... but, let's just say that things are about to get interesting." Courtney said with a pained look at Carson.

"I'm juggling about a dozen things right now. Can you just tell me?" Carson asked as he glanced back to his screens.

"I suggest that you get your juggling settled as much as you can because when Juan gets here, any balls that are still in the air are probably going to be dropped." Courtney said gravely.

"Yeah. Okay. But what should I expect? Who is Juan?" Carson asked irritably.

"There's not really anything I can tell you to prepare you. Juan just has an... 'abundant' personality. I can't begin to guess at what he might say or do. But whatever it is, it'll probably be over the top." Courtney said cautiously.

"O-kay." Carson said slowly.

"I guess there's one thing that I can tell you, now." Courtney said thoughtfully.

"What's that?"

"You're probably going to ask yourself this later, so I'll save you the trouble of asking and answer you now..."

Carson nodded for her to continue.

"The answer is, 'Yes. He is that good'."

* * * * *

"Carson, you have an incoming call from the warehouse at the new factory." Dizzy said as Carson was trying to get everything settled in preparation for Juan's impending visit.

"This is Carson. Go ahead." Carson said absently.

"I was trying to reach whoever is in charge of the food deliveries." A man's voice said uncertainly.

"You got him. Who is this?" Carson asked as he devoted more of his attention to the incoming call.

"My name is Davis Gray. Mr. Brown hired me to manage the warehouse for him. I've got a problem here and I'm not sure what to do about it." Davis said anxiously.

"What's the problem. I'll see what I can do." Carson said simply.

"The computer system has a listing of all the expected deliveries and I've got everything set up to stage them for easy access to whatever's needed. But I keep getting trucks in that aren't on the list. The drivers have been telling me that they either can't deliver their loads because they won't be able to reach their destinations or that they've been redirected to aid in the relief effort. The problem is, we're not going to have the space to offload the unexpected trucks if they keep coming." Davis said seriously.

"Are we talking about anything perishable or is it all dry goods?" Carson asked as he stopped working on his other screens.

"It's everything. But anything that requires freezing or refrigeration is being rerouted to the local grocery stores. We don't have the facilities for that."

"Okay. For right now, do your best to keep track of what's on each truck and have them park or drop their trailers, if they need to. I'll need to check on a few things and I'll get back to you in the next hour or so. If you don't hear from me in the next two hours, call me back." Carson said firmly.

"I've already had a few drivers drop their trailers, I'm just worried that we're going to run out of space before very long." Davis said frankly.

"Got it. Give me time to work and I'll get back to you when I have a solution." Carson said seriously.

"Thanks. I'll keep things going here until you have a plan." Davis said, sounding much relieved.

"Besides the unexpected deliveries, how are things going there?" Carson thought to ask.

"We're a little short-handed, but we're managing." Davis said honestly.

"As people arrive, I'll be sending anyone with warehouse experience your way. Be sure to call and let me know when to stop sending them."

"Thanks. Will do." Davis said happily.

"And be sure and call me if you need anything else." Carson said as he started typing.

"I will. Thanks."


Carson looked at his screens, then shook his head as he started composing a text message to Bug.

* * * * *

"Ryan, would you come over here?" Dr. Murten asked seriously.

"Didn't you need for me to stay away?" Ryan asked cautiously.

"Don't do what I said, do what I'm saying. Come over here." Dr. Murten said firmly.

"Okay." Ryan said hesitantly as he walked close to his father-in-law's side.

"Ryan, this looks as though it's going to be quite a bit more involved than I had originally planned. Do you think you could get the others out of here without raising too much of a fuss?" Dr. Murten asked seriously.

"Sure, but what's wrong?" Ryan asked with concern.

"I'll explain, later. Please just get everyone out of here so I can get to work." Dr. Murten said urgently.

Ryan nodded, then hurried back across the room, to start talking to people.

* * * * *

"What's all this?" Ben asked as he saw people from the tents in the front yard, as well as a few military men, carrying boxes into the house and up the stairs.

"Just some tech that they're needing upstairs." One of the kids said as he passed.

"Should we help them?" Dax asked cautiously from Ben's side.

"We need to check in with Carson, first. He's probably been expecting us for two or three hours." Ben said frankly.

"If he needed us, he would've called us. He's like that." Oleksandr said simply.

Ben smiled at the boy clung to his side and said, "You're right, Olex. Thanks."

Oleksandr smiled and tightened his hug on Ben, just a little.

* * * * *

"Sorry I'm so late, Carson. I don't know if it's jet lag or the time change or what, but all three of us slept late this morning." Ben said as he walked into the room.

"Not a problem. Did you have breakfast?" Carson asked as he glanced back at them over his shoulder.

"Yeah. Just now."

"Good. If you want to sign in on the laptop by Jay, you'll find a news summary on the main page. That'll get you caught up on what's happened since you went to sleep. Once that's done, I need for you to dig into the current political situation and news reports to see if you can notice any trends that we need to be worried about." Carson said seriously.

"I'm on it." Ben said confidently as he walked to the work table and took a seat, careful not to drop Oleksandr as he did so.

"Is there anything I can do?" Dax asked as he looked around.

"I don't have anything at the moment. Tommy would probably be the best one to talk to about that." Carson said as he turned his attention back to his monitors.

"You can help me, if you want." Ben said with a smile.

"What can I do?" Dax asked as he stepped to Ben's side.

"The guys kind of put me in charge of the Chicago refugees. While I'm reading the news summaries, you could look over what we have planned and see if you can spot anything that we might have overlooked." Ben said seriously.

"Okay." Dax said, pleasantly surprised, as Jay carried a folding chair over to him.

"Thanks." Dax said to Jay, then sat down beside Ben, close enough to touch, and began to share the laptop with him.

* * * * *

"You guys need any help?" Danny asked as he walked with Gerry and Myron into the large bustling central room.

The protection detail, made up of two men in suits, seemed to tense, but relaxed when Mike shook his head at them. "I don't think there's much you can do in here. But Eric and I are likely to be very busy now that our equipment has arrived. You might check with the boys and see what they're up to."

"That sounds good. Do you know where they are?" Danny asked curiously.

"Someone told us breakfast was being served in the dining room a while ago and that's the last I saw of them. You might try Sammy's room before you go downstairs looking for them." Mike said uncertainly.

"Yeah. We just came from the dining room and they weren't down there." Gerry said.

"Sammy's room is one door down, across the hall." Mike said as he pointed out the direction to go.

"We'll check with them and see if they might want to do something fun." Danny said with a smile.

Mike returned the smile and watched the three men go.

* * * * *

To Carson's surprise, the house phone beside his work station started to ring.

"Brown residence. Carson speaking." Carson said professionally.

"Good morning, Carson. Would it be possible for you to get in touch with my son, Dax? If he's available, I'd like to speak with him for a moment." A man asked in a very professional manner.

"Yes. In fact, he's right here. Just a second." Carson said quickly, then turned and said, "Dax, it's your dad."

"Really?" Dax squeaked in surprise.

"Yeah. Here, take it." Carson said as he held out the cordless phone.

Dax was in such a rush to grab the phone that he didn't get his footing quite right and ended up stumbling like a newborn colt across the room.

"Thanks." Dax said as he snatched the phone from Carson's hand.

"Dad? Is anything wrong?" Dax asked as he hurried out of the room.

Ben and Carson exchanged a look, silently exchanging their mutual concern for what might prompt such a call.

* * * * *

"Excuse me, Mr. Brown?" Nurse Nakahara asked as she walked into the hallway.

"He's right here." Kev said from Brother Jacques' side.

"Dr. Murten needs to speak to you. It's rather urgent." Nurse Nakahara said quietly.

"Yes. Of course." Ryan said immediately.

When Nurse Nakahara didn't make a move to go back into the RF Clean Room, he said, "I'm ready whenever you are."

"He asked me to wait out here." Nurse Nakahara said simply.

* * * * *

"Mrs. Brown, I'd like to introduce Juan and Adrian. They're... kind of important... in our organization. They're here to assess the security." Courtney said awkwardly, wanting to relate their significance without getting into their 'rank'.

"Nice place. Secluded. Defensible." Juan said as he looked around the interior appraisingly.

"Yes. But when we were house hunting, I drew the line at a moat." Deb said with a smile.

"Piranha." Juan said with a grin at Adrian.

Deb rolled her eyes, then said, "My husband recently hired someone to oversee the security of the house and grounds. Unless I miss my guess, we'll find Walt back here in the room under the stairs."

Juan looked at Deb curiously for a moment, then quietly asked, "You know a lot more than you're letting on, don't you?"

Deb gave Juan a secretive smile, then gestured ahead of them, toward the stairs.

* * * * *

"How are you doing, Dax? Are they treating you well?" Alex asked his son gently.

"I'm fine, Dad. Everyone's been really nice. How are things there?" Dax asked as he fought down his tears of joy.

"Actually, things aren't going quite as well as I would have liked, but I think the benefit is still outweighing the cost." Alex said cryptically, then quietly added, "Dax, there's a lot that I haven't told you. I wish I didn't have to tell you now. There are some things that I never wanted you to know."

"What is it, Dad? What's wrong?" Dax asked with concern.

"I suppose the best way to do this is just spit it out, so I don't have to dance around the subject... my grandfather, your great-grandfather was the legendary Al Capone." Alex said quietly.

"Al Capone... THE Al Capone?" Dax sputtered.

"The one and only. My father had his name altered, for obvious reasons, and my family name wasn't passed on to you for the same reason. I never intended for you to know about this. I wanted for you to be free from the legacy." Alex said in a pained voice.

"Okay. I guess I can understand that. And I can even see why you didn't tell me when I was little. But I'm glad that you told me now." Dax said gratefully.

"That's not all." Alex said reluctantly.

"Oh. Okay." Dax said cautiously.

"Dax. What I told you about my job at the police department was only half true. I mean, I do that job, just like I told you, but outside of work, I've been carrying on with the 'family business'."

"You can't mean that you're a mob..." Dax began to say, but was interrupted.

"It's best not to say certain things over the phone. But yes, I can mean that." Alex said frankly.

"Oh... Okay, I guess." Dax said reluctantly.

"Good. Because that leads me to why I needed to talk to you today." Alex said at his son's reactions.

"Um, okay." Dax said nervously, sensing that something big was coming.

"You already know about some of the horrible things that have happened and the struggles that regular people everywhere are facing today. There are certain people who are pivotal in a community. They carry the heart and soul, the hopes and dreams of everyone they encounter. What I've tried to do is identify as many of those people as possible and get them to safety." Alex said carefully.

"Wow." Dax said in astonishment.

"Yes. Wow, indeed." Alex chuckled, then calmed as he quietly added, "Dax, what I'm trying to say is that I'm sending buses with our most precious loved ones to Kettle Falls, Washington, and I'm asking you to take care of them for me."

"Wait! What!?" Dax asked in astonishment.

"The buses are already on the road. I've used all my connections, both ways, to deliver them safely to you. I'm entrusting you with the heart and soul of Chicago." Alex said earnestly.

"I'm only fifteen! I can't lead people!" Dax squeaked.

"You're a Capone. It's in your blood." Alex said gently.

"But I'm gay! No one will follow me!" Dax hurried to say.

"You're my son... my only son. If anyone can do this, it's you." Alex said in a tone that was almost pleading.

"I... don't..." Dax began to stammer.

"Dax... Dakota... Think about it. I mean, really REALLY think about it. You don't need to tell me your answer. When the bus carrying your priest friend arrives, two of my people will be riding with him. They're going to contact you first thing when they get there. At that time, you'll either help our people, or you'll step back and let them do it." Alex said seriously.

"I don't know..." Dax hurried to explain to his father.

"Think about it. I have to go now. I love you, Dakota." Alex said softly.

"I love you, too, Dad."

* * * * *

"Way to go, Mikey!" Carson said as he looked at the search results.

"What's up?" Ben asked as he carried Oleksandr with him to stand at Carson's side.

"The guy at the warehouse was asking for some help and as luck would have it, Mikey found someone while he was talking to people who can probably help us out with it... that is, if he's willing." Carson said as he reached for the handset of the house phone, which wasn't there.

"Did you need for me to go get your phone back?" Ben asked when he noticed the aborted movement.

"That's okay. Dizzy can do it." Carson said as he keyed his instructions in on his keyboard.

"Hello?" A man's voice answered uncertainly.

"May I speak to Walter Mason? This is Carson Brown." Carson asked professionally.

"This is Walter, how can I help you?"

"I received a call from one of our people needing some help and I was wondering if you'd be willing to help him." Carson said as he looked around the room to find that everyone else had stopped what they were doing and were looking at him.

"What sort of help did you have in mind?" Walter asked cautiously.

"Well, we're currently using a warehouse to stockpile large amounts of food to help the displaced people who are just starting to arrive. But our man at the warehouse has run into a problem with several unexpected trucks full of various non-food goods that are being donated. I was just wondering if you'd like to help us sort that out, so that the donated goods can be distributed as efficiently as possible?" Carson asked hopefully.

"Actually, I have some experience with softlines distribution. I think that there might be something... wait a minute. Those kids that stopped by earlier, they were asking about what jobs I'd held. They told you about me, didn't they?" Walter asked accusingly.

"That's right. They're trying to find out what skills the people around here have, so that we can make the most out of what we've got to work with." Carson said honestly.

After a moment, Walter slowly said, "I'm unaccustomed to working for people with reasoning skills and common sense, that may take some adjustment. But, yes, I'd be happy to help you out."

"I have someone working on a new distribution program to make the whole thing go as smoothly as possible, as soon as that's in place, I'll call and let you know what's going on." Carson said with a smile.

"I'll be waiting for your call." Walter said happily.

As soon as the call disconnected, Carson looked over his shoulder at Hobie and said, "I need an empty warehouse."

"How close?" Hobie asked cautiously.

"Doesn't matter. They're dry goods. We need warehouse space more than convenience." Carson said frankly.

"Give me a few minutes. I'll get Dad on it." Hobie said seriously, then began to type.

"Mikey? You on?" Carson asked into the air.

"Carson? You know you freak me out when you suddenly start talking outta my tablet, right?" Mikey asked indignantly.

"Of course. That's why I do it." Carson chuckled.

"Did you need something, or did you just want to make me jump?"

"Who says I can't do both?" Carson asked with a grin.

"What do you want?" Mikey asked slowly.

"Just to thank you and Ty for helping us out by interviewing people. Your work is already paying off." Carson said with a smile.

"Already? We've only done, like, four people." Mikey said in surprise.

"Yeah. Well, one of those four will be going to work for us in probably less than an hour." Carson said happily.

"I'm glad it's working. Did you hear that, Ty? They already hired one of our guys." Mikey asked cheerfully.

"Let's go do some more." Ty said in the background.

"Good work, guys! Carson out!" Carson said, then cut the link.

* * * * *

"And this is where all the fun happens." Courtney said as she walked into the room with a small hispanic boy walking right behind her. Everyone turned and looked at the newcomer as Courtney walked up to where Carson was sitting. "Carson, I would like you to meet Juan."

"Hi, Juan. Courtney's told me... well, actually, nothing about you. Except, maybe, to be afraid." Carson said as he watched for the boy's reaction.

Juan couldn't help but grin. "That sounds about right." Juan started to look around, and then spotted Oleksandr sitting next to Ben. Juan got a soft smile on his face, pulled off his backpack, opened it up, and then pulled something out. "You know, you're cuter than Alvin said." He said as he walked across the room. Oleksandr responded by tucking his face into Ben's side to hide.

Juan smiled again, then held out the picture frame. It took a moment, but finally the smaller boy reached out and took it, turned it over, and grinned. "Thanks..." He said shyly as he hugged it to his chest.

"Alvin asked if you could send him one of you and your brothers." Oleksandr smiled and nodded, then looked back at the picture. Juan, meanwhile, looked around the room and spoke to everyone at once. "Just so you all know, I have a few reasons to be here, but the main one is to make sure that you guys have the security setup that you need. So far I've been pretty happy with what I see. The one main thing I want to change is your mine field."

"We... don't have a mine field... I don't think." Carson said in a bewildered tone.

"SEE! You get it! I mean how can you have proper security without a mine field!" Juan said as he threw his arms up in the air. "It's just not right! I mean I can get around not having a real fence with razor wire, but no mines?!"

"You'll have to get it okayed by Mom, but I've got no problem with it. If you ask Dad, he'll probably tell you to put them in the rhododendrons... he hates those things." Carson finished with a smile.

"Oh, I already got plans for those. They would make a great place to hide the gun emplacements." Juan grinned.

"If you keep the rhododendrons, you're gonna lose Dad's vote." Carson said frankly.

Juan giggled gleefully. "Alvin said you guys were fun! I'll see what I can do to get rid of them, but one thing I learned a while ago... it's always best to keep Mom happy if possible."

"You got that right!" Carson agreed.

Juan's smile faded as he looked squarely at Carson. "Alvin also told me about some issues that you are having. Not all of this..." He motioned to everything in the room, "But with the pain you endure..." Juan trailed off to see how Carson would react.

"Yeah. It sucks, but we've done everything we can do. I've just got to put up with it." Carson said regretfully.

"You may have done everything you can do, but we haven't, yet." Juan said seriously. "I don't know what Mom or Chang might be able to do, but I know what I can do." Juan walked up and stood in front of Carson looking him in the eyes. "Alvin told you all about some of the mental stuff we can do." Carson nodded with a look of hope in his eyes. "It'll take some work, and one of the others working with you every day, but if you'll let me, I can either take all the pain away, or at least a large bit of it. You interested?"

"What do I have to do?" Carson asked immediately.

"Well. First thing is not much. Really, the first thing you'll need to do is to make sure that as soon as the pain starts to get bad again, you have to get to one of the Unit guys. They don't have the ability to start this, but they can keep it going. However, if you let it slip away, there's only about five of us that can set this up. So you HAVE to make sure that you get with someone as soon as you start to feel the pain get worse."

"Can we do it now?" Carson asked hopefully.

"Sure, but other than just us sitting there, there's not gonna be much to see." Juan said as he found a chair to sit in. "Just close your eyes and let me do the work."

For the next ten minutes or more, neither Juan nor Carson moved a muscle.

* * * * *

"How are you doing, Cute Stuff? I mean, are you getting by?" Allen asked with concern.

Ken chuckled and said, "Somehow, and I can't tell you exactly how it happened, we ended up staying at Mr. Brown's house. I can't even dream of a nicer place."

"Yes. I've been over there a few times to talk business with Carson when he wasn't able to come to the lab. The house is incredible. I'm glad that you're not having to struggle to get by." Allen said warmly, then quietly asked, "I know how nervous you were about meeting your brother, when you left. How did that turn out?"

"It's a long, long story. But from the moment we met... I don't even have words to explain it. I've never felt a connection like that with anyone before or since. We're closer than friends or brothers. He's part of me." Ken said with a tender smile at the thought of his brother.

"You can tell me if it's none of my business, but why are you here today?" Allen asked cautiously.

"I guess to explain that, I'll have to tell you about Jake. He's the tall skinny guy in there. Right after I got to Chicago, some really bad stuff started heating up. Jake was kind of keeping an eye on Kev, so when things looked like they were going to get dangerous, Jake found a way to get us out." Ken said distantly.

Allen silently absorbed the words as Ken collected his thoughts for a moment.

"We ended up at a mission for the homeless run by a Catholic priest. Even though it would seem to be about as low as a person could go, to some people, it ended up being the luckiest thing that could have happened to us." Ken said frankly.

"I wish I had known. I would have had a place for you and your brother whenever you needed me." Allen said quietly.

"I know, Pop. But things worked out for the best. Jake had a problem with drugs. The priest helped him. Kev couldn't read or write properly. I was able to get him up to speed and both of us were able to finish high school. Even though there were times I thought we were going to be stabbed or shot or maybe even starve to death, I think that all of it must have happened for a reason, because I'm so proud of Kev and Jake... and even myself, for getting through all of it and still being decent people." Ken finished with a smile.

"I can't even imagine. But how did you end up coming here, of all places?" Allen asked curiously.

"That's actually one of those things that makes you think that there must be some Supreme Being planning everything, because I can't think of any other reason that Ben and Zane showed up at exactly the same time that the mission was being closed and all the chaos in the country was about to erupt." Ken said honestly.

Allen nodded, but didn't say anything.

"Some of the priests, high up in the church, you know, the kind who don't actually have to deal with 'common' people, they decided that since being gay is such a horrible sin, that they wouldn't let their priests provide any assistance to them, even if they're gay, homeless kids." Ken said as a note of anger found it's way into his voice.

"I hadn't heard anything about that." Allen said quietly.

"I don't think they advertised it." Ken said with a smirk, then continued, "So Father Doherty, Jake, Kev and me were trying to figure out how to get a group of kids we'd been taking care of to a safe place where they wouldn't be abused or exploited for being gay. Then, out of nowhere, Ben and Zane show up. As soon as we told them what was going on, 'boop', quick as that, they knew just what to do."

"And they knew to come here?" Allen concluded.

"Zane knew Carson and asked for his help and... here we are." Ken finished with a smile, then asked, "How did you end up here?"

"After Carl... your dad..." Allen choked on the words.

Ken nodded for him to continue.

"Looking back, it's obvious to me that I was suffering from serious depression. At the time, I was trying to get through each day, just to get it over with. I can't even tell you how long I went on like that. Every day was exactly the same. Empty. Meaningless." Allen said as he vacantly looked into the distant past.

Ken was shocked into silence at Allen's words.

"I guess the first thing I can really remember with any clarity as I was finally coming out of it, was reading a message from one of the people who used to work for me. His name is Marc. Through all the darkness and despair, he was always there, keeping me connected with the world. Up to that point, everything in my life was focused on my work. I had nothing else. I didn't want anything else. But Marc kept in contact with me and refused to let me back away." Allen said thoughtfully.

"So are you guys... you know... more than friends?" Ken asked with a grin.

"Oh, no. Our relationship is nothing like that. He's happily married to a wonderful man who is perfect for him. But I think I can safely say that Marc is, without a doubt, the best friend that I've ever had." Allen finished with a smile, then quietly added, "I've always had trouble letting people into my life. I guess change is frightening for me."

"Where is he now?" Ken asked cautiously.

"I wish I knew." Allen said as his expression fell.

Ken nodded that he understood what Allen meant.

"I talked to him and also to my mother, Mona, about coming here where it's safer. But I haven't had any contact with either of them since the blackout." Allen said quietly.

"If you can get me their full names, I'll talk to Bug about keeping an eye out for them. He's writing the program that keeps track of all the people who are arriving." Ken said with pride for his boyfriend.

"When he has some free time, I'd like to sit down with him and see what skills he has. I get the feeling that he might be someone Mr. Brown could put to productive use." Allen said carefully.

"I think Mr. Brown Jr. beat you to it. Carson's been keeping Bug busy ever since they first met. In fact, I get the feeling that Carson is depending on Bug to make his entire refugee effort work." Ken said seriously.

Allen looked at Ken for a moment, then said, "Let's go check on your boyfriend, then go and see how your brother is doing."

Ken smiled at the suggestion, then pulled Allen into a quick hug before leaving the office.

* * * * *

"Sorry, Carson." Dax said as he walked into the bedroom, carrying the handset of the phone.

"He's kinda in a trance. So I don't think he's worried about it." Hobie said honestly.

Dax looked at Juan and Carson, frozen in place like statues, then cautiously walked beside Carson and replaced the handset in it's base.

"How are things with your dad?" Ben asked quietly, so as not to disturb Carson and Juan.

"Okay, I think..." Dax said distractedly as he took a seat on the folding chair beside Ben.

"Are you alright?" Ben asked cautiously.

"Yeah. My dad just told me some stuff and... I guess I've got kind of a lot to sort through." Dax said somewhat distantly.

"Do you still want to help me take care of the Chicago refugees?" Ben asked carefully, then quickly added, "I can do it if you're not up to it."

Dax stared at the computer monitor for a moment, then turned to Ben and quietly said, "If you don't mind helping me, if I need it, then I think I can do it."

Ben smiled as he said, "You don't even have to worry about that. I'm right here if you need me. As soon as Carson has a free minute, we'll get you a computer all to yourself and you can work right here next to me."

"Maybe it'd be best if I worked on the computer in my bedroom." Dax said cautiously.

"I guess if you need to work on something really intense and you don't want any distraction, that it might be a good idea. But I think it'd really be best if you worked down here with the rest of us." Ben said frankly.

"Why?" Dax asked curiously.

"There are a couple of reasons, actually. First of all, if you're down here in the 'nerve center' you can stay aware of what's going on and know about things as soon as they happen. Second, there's the whole 'brainstorming' thing. If you get stuck on something, you've got people with a lot of knowledge to rely on. And finally, the inspirational energy of working with so many brilliant people can't help but drive you to do your best work." Ben finished with a grin.

"Inspirational energy?" Dax asked dubiously.

"So thick, you can cut it with a knife." Ben chuckled.

Dax nodded absently as he considered Ben's words.

"Besides, I'll be worried about you if you're working all alone up in your room. You know how I told you that I enjoy your company... that hasn't changed." Ben finished with a shrug.

"And I'll miss you if you're not here." Oleksandr said seriously.

"Okay, Olex. You win. I guess I'm just not used to people wanting me around." Dax said with a smile at the boy sitting at Ben's side.

"Alvin gave me a picture of him and his brothers." Oleksandr said as he held out the picture for Dax.

Dax took the picture and smiled warmly as he looked at the three identical smiling boys.

"Alvin's the one on the left." Oleksandr said as he waited for Dax to give the picture back.

"It's a nice picture." Dax said quietly as he handed the picture to Oleksandr.

"Alvin said that he wants a picture of us, too." Oleksandr said seriously.

"'Us' who?" Dax asked carefully.

"He said he wanted a picture of me and my brothers, so that means you and me and Ben." Oleksandr said seriously.

Dax looked at Ben inquiringly.

"I'm not going to argue with it." Ben said simply.

Dax smiled at the statement, then nodded his agreement to Oleksandr.

* * * * *

Both Juan and Carson started to stir at the same time. Neither boy said anything for a few moments. Carson was busy looking at his legs, while Juan was busy staring at Carson. "The pain... It's gone." Carson whispered, but still loud enough for everyone in the now quiet room to hear. "I... I can't believe it."

Juan hated to take the smile off Carson's face, but he knew he had to. There was something else that they needed to discuss. However, and maybe it was Juan growing soft, but he let Carson sit there in amazement for a few extra seconds before he spoke up. "Carson..." Juan said softly and waited for the older teen to look up before he said anything else. "We have one other thing we need to deal with before we can move on."

"What's that?" Carson said with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Your addiction." Juan said simply.

"What are you talking about?" Carson said in complete denial. "I'm not addicted to anything. Besides, I've got too much work to do to deal with anything else right now."

"BULLSHIT!" Juan almost exploded, causing everyone in the room to jump in surprise, well everyone but Courtney, who was standing unobtrusively, just inside the door. "You've got way too damned many people counting on you to not deal with this shit right now. You're feeling better now, yes, but in a few hours, even when you're not having any pain, you're gonna want that pill. It's gonna fucking call to you, and NOTHING that you do will make it shut up. I don't give a shit what you might fucking think, you're addicted! Until you accept it and deal with it, you're gonna be no better than horse shit around here." Juan's eyes bored directly into Carson's wide eyes as he softly spoke the last part. "Do you want to live with the fact that people got hurt, or worse, because your addiction made it so you weren't sharp?"

Carson had tears in his eyes and he looked away from Juan. "Look, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. I suggest that you choose the easy way because the hard way involves levels of pain that impress even me." Juan said even softer.

"What do I have to do?" Carson whispered out.

"Go with me now to talk with your mom about it."

"How much pain are we talking about, again?" Carson asked, only half smiling, half joking.

* * * * *

The talk with Deb went better than expected. Carson had Jay at his side, holding on to him, the entire time as Juan clearly outlined the problem and his proposed solution. Deb agreed with his plans and told them that Ryan and her father were both at the lab, attending to another matter.

After a moment to gather a few things, Juan was ready for them to hit the road.

Carson and Jay were holding on to each other, less out of emotional need and more out of survival instinct as Juan drove the gator at top speed toward the lab.

It took a moment for Jay and Carson to get Carson's wheelchair set up, but once he was good to go, they entered the lab to find it seemingly abandoned and a flashing red light in the corridor.

"The clean room's down this way." Carson said, but Juan was already moving that direction.

The sense of apprehension grew as they went deeper into the building.

"You need to get out of here. We've got a situation." Allen said when they turned the corner.

"What's going on?" Carson asked with concern.

"The tracking device, it was booby trapped." Allen said grimly.

"It was bad enough that the thing was buried in the bone in Zane's chest, but when they tried to remove it, they found that it was connected to something deeper, which Dr. Murten assumes is an explosive." Kev said anxiously as he held Brother Jacques close to his side.

"Yeah. That was about twenty minutes ago. That's when the doctor threw us all out." Ken interjected from Brother Jacques' other side.

"He said that he was going to try and figure out exactly what it was that he was dealing with, then he'd know who he needed to call." Kev said quietly.

"I got this." Juan said as he walked past all the people in the hallway.

"It's too dangerous. You can't go in there." Allen hurried to explain.

Juan stopped suddenly and looked Allen in the eyes as he said, "If you think you can stop me, go ahead and try. It won't slow me down." He said simply, as he took out a disposable surgical suit, extra small, and put it on.

Allen, fortunately, decided to step aside and allow Juan to continue.

"Where's Bug?" Carson asked as he looked around.

"Some mean boss gave him a whole lot of high level computer work to do. So he's in the conference room working on it instead of being here with us, helping us deal." Ken said with an accusing glare at Carson.

"I just asked him to add a new table to the reception program. I didn't expect him to rewrite the whole thing." Carson explained.

"This is Bug we're talking about. I'm not a programmer, and even I know that if you ask him to improve something that he'll take that to mean 'rebuild it from the ground up'." Kev said frankly.

"I guess Juan's probably going to be busy for a few minutes. I'll go talk to Bug." Carson said quietly.

* * * * *

"You can't be in here." Dr. Murten said when he saw the boy walk into the clean room.

"I already am." Juan said simply. "Plus I heard you got a bit of a situation in here. I can help." Juan grinned widely as he walked up next to the young man on the surgical bed, and looked into his open chest. "Ohhhh... nice!" Juan said as he put his hands behind his back, and peered in, much like a kid looking in a cookie bowl.

"Nice? It's grotesque!"

"Not really." Juan said as he kept looking in at the small bit of explosive sitting in the hollowed out notch in Zane's sternum. "Whoever made this was a true artist. Minimal but effective design. Perfect shaping so that it would only kill the patient, but not kill him quickly. If you notice, the bulk of the explosive goes straight back, and to the right, meaning that it would not affect the heart at all. It would be a somewhat slow death and remarkably painful, but with no way to really save the patient, even if he were in a hospital." Juan looked up from admiring the explosive, and met Dr. Murten's gaze. "Personally, I would like to meet the person who designed this, and shake their hand. Of course that's before I rip their fucking head off, but what the hell!"

Juan looked down again, hands still clasped behind his back, then looked up again. "So you gonna take it out?"

"From your analysis, I will accept that you know what you're talking about. So I'll tell you, the reason that I haven't removed the explosive package is due to the probability that it is booby trapped to go off if tampered with. If you'll notice the way the wires are placed, it seems very likely that if the explosive is dislodged, an alternate triggering device will be activated." Dr. Murten said gravely.

"Probably," Juan said seriously. "Give me a minute to scrub in, then I'll take a peaky."

"There's a portable scrub station just inside the door. Are you going to need any equipment other than what we have at hand?" Dr. Murten asked professionally.

"Nope, this should be good." Juan said as he scrubbed his arms and hands clean, then disinfected them thoroughly. He got a proper surgical gown on, then gloved up. Next he walked back over to the table with his hands held up in front of him, just to make sure that nothing could get on them. "Okay, can you hand me a probe please." Juan said. His earlier joking completely gone now, as he had his game face on.

Dr. Murten moved to the spot usually reserved for the nurse that would be assisting the surgeon, and handed Juan a single use probe. "Thank you. Also, I assume that this is being recorded, right?"

"Yes..." Dr. Murten said slowly. "Why do you ask?"

Juan was gently probing the area around the explosive charge as he spoke. "Well Mom always likes to see what we do, so she can critique it later on. Not to mention that she wanted me to do at least five more surgeries before she signed off on me being a full doc." Juan paused as he looked at the tools. "Can you hand me that mirror?"

Dr. Murten handed it over, and Juan used it so he could look at the underside of the charge as he gently lifted a corner up. "Son of a bitch..." He breathed out as he gently lowered it back down. "They wired it right to his sternum. Whoever put this in never intended for it to be removed... at least not while the patient was alive."

"I can't even conceive of what kind of an evil mind a person would have to possess to be able to imagine such a thing, much less do it." Dr. Murten muttered quietly.

"Trust me doc... This is tame. At least this thing would have killed the patient, there is a LOT worse than death... I gotta say though... His grandfather must have been rather.... possessive." Juan said as his mind raced trying to figure out how to handle this. Finally he sighed. "Well... He's gonna set off metal detectors anytime he goes somewhere, but I guess that's better than being dead."

"What do you mean?" Dr. Murten asked softly.

"It means I'm gonna have to cut out a good chunk of his sternum, and then carefully remove the entire piece." Juan looked up at the doctor and grinned. "I assume you got some metal plates around here to hold his ribcage together? We won't know for sure till we start cutting if we're not just gonna hafta cut out the entire sternum. If we do, I hope you can make a replacement."

"I'll have to make a few calls, but... Arrangements can be made. When will you know? It'll take time for a messenger to deliver it. And I'd rather not keep this young man under anesthesia longer than necessary." Dr. Murten said as he looked into the wound with concern.

Juan nodded as he let his mind feel around Zane's sternum. He was just standing there with his eyes closed for several seconds, before he opened them and looked at Dr. Murten with a small smile. "Well the good news is, it's anchored into the sternum, but not all the way through. The way I see it, we got two choices. First, you make the call and get us a replacement sent in, or, we start some micro cutting and just remove the chunk it's anchored into.The first way would be the easiest, but, well you know how some people prefer to keep themselves as intact as possible. Anyways, I'll leave it up to you to decide."

"And, I assume, the second choice is more time consuming but less invasive. Quite the trade off. I think my first priority is to get that thing out of him. Although it may cause his recovery time to be somewhat extended, he will be alive. Add to that, we're not operating in the most favorable conditions. Were I in a hospital, my decision might be otherwise." Dr. Murten said, apparently justifying his decision to himself as much as to Juan.

"Sounds good to me." Juan said. "Go make your call, I'll start cutting."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

OK... that's two chapters in a row with a cliffhanger. Don't we have rules against such a thing?

I loved seeing Allen and Ken's reunion. That was really nice.

It doesn't seem as though Allen has much of a problem with Ken and Kevin sharing Bug as their boyfriend.

Olex got a picture of Alvin, Simon and Theodore, and I noticed even in a picture, he knew which one was Alvin.

Dax sure got a surprise, didn't he? His dad must think a lot of him and really does believe in him, to give him such an important job to do. I have the feeling that Dax will come through with flying colours, too.

Juan sure saw what was going on with Carson. I have been noticing that, myself, and Carson's mom noticed it, too. It's very good to see that situation getting taken care of.

All and all, this was a very satisfying chapter. I'd say we have ourselves another solid winner.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher