Revolutions Universe: Metamorphosis

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Chapter 40 - A Promise Spoken

"Having grown up poor in Chicago, I have known what it's like to be hungry, and yet, I have never felt it to this degree before. My mother would be ashamed and horrified at what I've allowed to happen. She's entrusted me with her babies, and I've let them starve. Even so, I wish that she were here. I don't know what she could do that I haven't already done. But still, I know that she would have found a way to make it all better."

"Every little town and truck stop that we've encountered on our journey has been looted. I'm not the only one worried. I've talked with the leaders on the other buses and none of us has been able to come up with a plan except to continue on, as fast as we can, to try and reach the 'promised land' where there will be food and shelter and freedom from the constant worry of attack."

"Jus got word. They's cleared tha medical bus ta go straight on through. They ain't gonna have'ta stop all the way to tha hospital." EZ said as he walked toward me.

"Any word on food?" Reuben asked hopefully.

"They's a restaurant back at the check point, but we's tole our people ta keep on movin. Them cars that joined up with us along tha way's prolly gonna stop there. That'll make it better fer us when we gets in." EZ said frankly.

"We should have stopped. Vina and Johnny need to eat." Reuben said honestly.

"They's can hang on fer a little bit more. We's been tole that when we gets to Kettle Falls, that they has restaurants commin outta their ears, and you ain't gotta pay for nothin." EZ said seriously.

"Yeah. If we all stopped at one restaurant at the check point, we'd probably be there half the day trying to get everyone fed." Reuben reluctantly agreed.

"It's less than an hour before we'll be there. All's we gotta do is keep hangin on fer that long." EZ said sympathetically.

"Any word from the medical bus?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"No. They's gots their hands full wit all the people's we been pickin up along tha way. That truckstop owner and his wife... I can't imagine, what all they went through, okay? But them doctors is doin their part and savin lives. Parta that's takin care 'a Ricardo. He's gonna be fine." EZ finished in an assuring tone.

"I guess you're right. Thanks EZ. Not having Ricardo here, where I can see for myself how he's doing, is making me worry that much more." Reuben said frankly.

"Jus hang on. It's almost over." EZ said confidently, then backed away, toward the front of the bus as he raised his voice to gain everyone's attention, "We's less than an hour away, now. When we gets there, we's gonna stop tha buses at tha place where we needs ta check in. But before we do that, they's bout a dozen or so restaurants spread all round tha place. You go and gets yerselves somthin ta eat. They ain't gonna charge you fer tha food, you just go up there and they's gonna give it to yas. When you's done eatin, go back to that there football stadium where we's parked and get yerselves checked in, then yous can git yer stuff off tha bus an go to where you'll be stayin or yous can wait on tha bus an we'll drive ya's over there when everyone's done. If yas miss tha bus, don't worry. We's gonna be comin back two or three times ta get everyone."

"Oh, thank goodness." Mrs. Becker said with relief, "I didn't know how much longer the children were going to be able to go without food."

"The people in charge of all of this are doing their best." Councilman Becker said to his wife, "From what I've seen, they've had to make some difficult decisions about what's best for all of us, and I think that they've done a fine job."

* * * * *

"Come on. We're here." Reuben said to his sister.

"Are we going to get to eat, now?" Edovina asked hopefully and he could tell that she had been silently crying.

"That's right. But since we're one of the later buses, we may need to walk down the block a little to find a place that isn't swamped." Reuben said as he saw the stampede toward the pop-up restaurant on the grassy knoll outside the stadium.

"Can Johnny and Wendy come with us?" Edovina asked hopefully.

"I don't know. Why don't you ask their parents what they're going to do?" Reuben asked his sister with a smile.

Edovina crinkled her nose at her older brother, having expected him to do it for her, then dutifully turned and asked, "Can Johnny and Wendy go with us to a restaurant?"

"I heard what your brother said, and I believe that he is correct. We'll all go with you." Councilman Becker said warmly.

When the rush of panicked, starving people had finally passed, Reuben calmly stood and walked with Edovina toward the front of the bus.

"EZ, aren't you hungry?" Reuben asked when he noticed him standing by the bus driver.

"I was juss makin sure alla tha buses was where they's supposed ta be. I'll be goin now." EZ assured him.

"Do you want to come with us? We're going to walk down the street a little and try to find a place that's not swamped." Reuben asked seriously.

"Yeah. Juss a sec." EZ said with a smile, then called loudly toward the back of the bus, "Theresa, girl! You comin or not?!"

"I'm coming! I was just helping Mrs. Johnson out of her seat." Theresa (formerly known as Cristal) called back as she helped an elderly woman up the aisle.

"We's ready." EZ said with a smile.

* * * * *

"That's weird." Reuben said as he led the way toward a pop-up kitchen nearly two blocks from the stadium.

"What's that?" EZ asked curiously.

"It looks like this place is run by a bunch of bikers. I kind of expected all the restaurants to be... the same. You know, all handing out the same cheese sandwiches and watered down chicken soup." Reuben said honestly.

"Take a good deep smell, Reuben. That ain't cheese sandwiches. That's barbeque!" EZ said before taking Theresa by the hand and leading her more quickly toward the restaurant.

After another step or two, Reuben caught the scent and did nearly the same thing with Edovina, practically dragging her to the source of the intoxicating, mouth-watering aroma.

"What's that?" Edovina asked as they waited their turn in line.

Reuben had been so focused on the scent of the food that he had blocked everything else out of his awareness. He looked where Edovina was pointing and saw a crude stage with a band. They weren't playing at the moment, but it looked like they were getting ready to play their next set.

"I guess we're going to get to listen to some music while we eat." Reuben said frankly, then guided Edovina to step forward in the line.

"That food smells amazing." Mrs. Becker said from behind them.

"I can't wait." Reuben agreed with a smile.

* * * * *

The line wasn't terribly long, and soon all of their group were making their selections from some of the most amazing choices any of them could have imagined.

Once everyone had their food, they walked closer to the stage and there was enough open ground that they could all sit, picnic style, and enjoy their food.

"I have never had barbeque this good before in all my life." Councilman Becker said in amazement.

"It's the best." Reuben was able to mutter between bites.

"How are you guys doing, today?" A young man asked as he approached the group.

"This food is amazing!" EZ said simply.

"Yes. It's remarkable, isn't it?" The young man said happily, then continued, "My name is Ron. The band is just about to finish their break and I was wanting to take a few minutes while it's quiet to walk around and see how everyone is doing."

"We just arrived from Chicago and, to be honest, I don't think I've ever been so hungry before in my life." Councilman Becker said frankly.

"We're getting more and more of that. But you don't need to worry now. We've got plenty of food here. Just sit and enjoy... It sounds like they're about to start again. Come and find me if you need anything." Ron said before hurrying back toward the stage.

"Hey! Everyone! Good news! It turns out that the BMX run is still operating, we didn't know about the automatic lighting along the path, so if you're up for some adventure, you might want to give that a try. Of course, there is also a skateboard run behind us, for any of those who want to give that a try. We also have the dance floor off to our left, so you can get out there and shake it, once the band starts playing. And, of course, there is the amazing barbeque being served, all night long." The announcer said cheerfully.

There was a pause, then the announcer's tone became a bit more serious.

"It's tough out there. We're all tired and afraid. Tonight, we're going to do our best to help you have a good time and take your minds off of that, so that tomorrow you'll be able to start fresh and do what needs to be done next. I guess what I'm saying is that you've made it. You can relax. You have permission. Now, let's enjoy some awesome music. Please join me in welcoming Lesbian Gravy!!!"

* * * * *

Councilman Becker's family, Reuben and Edovina, and EZ and Theresa all sat on the grass and enjoyed their food. In fact, most of the people in attendance went back for second portions.

But finally, when everyone had finished and were enjoying the music, Reuben decided that he had too much to do to be sitting in the grass eating amazing barbeque.

"Come on, Vina, let's go get our stuff so we can go see Ricardo." Reuben told his sister.

When the rest of their group saw what Reuben was doing, they reluctantly decided that, despite how nice it was in the park, they needed to be doing the same.

"Do you think the bus is still going to be there?" Reuben asked EZ with concern.

"Yeah. But if it's gone, it'll be right back. From what they was telling us on the radio, all a us is gonna be living in tha same neighborhood. I think someone called it 'Little Chicago'." EZ said frankly.

"Hopefully we'll be close together. I have a feeling that there won't be any peace in my house if Johnny can't visit with Edovina." Councilman Becker said honestly.

"We'll find a way for them to get together." Reuben said with a smile as they rounded a corner and the high school stadium came into view.

"Yeah. It looks like most'a the buses is still there." EZ said seriously.

"So, we just get on the bus and it takes us to our neighborhood? Then what? How do we know where we're supposed to go next?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"No. You go into tha stadium and they tells ya where you's gonna be livin, then you git on the bus and it takes yous there. And when you git offa the bus, remember to take your shit wit ya, so you'll have it in your... apartment or house or whatever." EZ said as he wrapped an arm around Theresa as much to show his affection as to try and keep her warm in her minimally dressed state.

Reuben put a hand on Edovina's shoulder and checked for oncoming traffic before crossing the street.

* * * * *

As the group walked into the stadium, a young man walked up to them and asked, "Are you from the Chicago buses?"

"Yeah." EZ answered for all of them.

"Since there's such a large group of you, we've opened all the check-ins for you. So you can disregard the signs at the desks and just go to whatever one has the least number of people in line." The young man said cheerfully.

"Thanks." EZ said in apparent surprise.

Most of the check-in desks had a few people waiting, but there was one that didn't have anyone.

As Reuben walked up to the desk, he noticed that the sign above it said 'Special Needs'.

"Is it okay for us to check in here?" Reuben asked uncertainly.

"Yes. We don't have any other customers, so you're fine. Please, step forward. We have enough people to help all of you." A man who sounded to have a stuffed up nose, said pleasantly.

"Thank you." Reuben said as he urged Edovina to walk up to the desk with him.

As he did, EZ and Theresa stood forward to be helped by a young woman in a wheelchair and Councilman Becker took a place at the desk to be helped by an older woman, using a walker.

"What were your names?" The young man, wearing a sticky name tag with 'Joe' written on it, asked pleasantly.

"I'm Reuben and this is my sister, Edovina. But I probably need to get my brother checked in, his name is Ricardo, and he's on the medical bus that went to the hospital." Reuben said seriously.

Joe smiled, then quietly said, "I'm deaf. I couldn't catch what you were saying. If you could speak just a little more slowly and face me while you're talking, I'll do my best to help you."

"Oh. Sorry. I didn't know." Reuben stammered in surprise.

"That's fine. What were your names, again?"

"I'm Reuben Vasquez and this is my sister, Edovina Vasquez." Reuben said carefully.

"Just a moment. This is showing that you have a niece named Edovina Juanita Vasquez, if you'll tell me which is correct, I'll get it fixed in the system." Joe said seriously.

"Oh. Well, Edovina is technically my niece, but we've always thought of each other as brother and sister." Reuben explained.

"Okay. Sorry, just wanting to make sure I had the right people. Were you saying something about a brother?" Joe asked curiously.

"Yes. His name is Ricardo... I mean, I guess he goes by his real name, now. His name is Richard Benjamin Vasquez." Reuben said carefully.

"He's already checked in at the hospital. I'll just link your check-in to his... and that should just about do it. What I have for you is the address of a house for you and your family. It's a two bedroom with three beds. You'll have a working telephone, and a list of numbers that you can call for whatever you might need. Also, there will be some basic groceries stocked in your cupboards and refrigerator, so that you won't have to leave the house for every meal. If there's nothing else that I can get for you, I'll finalize these arrangements, then go ahead and print out the address and directions to your house." Joe said, then waited for a response.

"No. I can't think of anything else, right now." Reuben said in astonishment. He had expected the check-in process to be time consuming and complicated.

Joe smiled at the response, then hit a key on his computer. A moment later, the printer spat out a few pieces of paper which Joe glanced at before handing them to Reuben.

"Thank you." Reuben said, still overwhelmed by how fast and easy the whole experience had been.

"Is Johnny going to live close to us?" Edovina asked her brother hopefully.

"I don't know. Let's go find out." Reuben said with a smile at his sister. After looking at the address on his paperwork, he approached Councilman Becker, who had also just finished the incredibly easy check-in process.

"Vina and Johnny have gotten kind of close. Do you think we can arrange for them to visit?" Reuben asked cautiously. When they were all on the bus together, it made sense for Vina and Johnny to share company, but now that they had arrived at their destination, Reuben wasn't sure if Councilman Becker would want to continue to encourage their relationship.

"We should be able to manage it. They gave me a map. Let's see how close we are." Councilman Becker said without hesitation.

The more Reuben got to know the man, the more he could understand why he had been chosen to leave Chicago with them. He and his family were genuinely good people.

Reuben held his map beside Councilman Becker's and was surprised to find that they were going to be living on the same block. They weren't next door to each other, but they were easily within a comfortable walking distance.

"It looks like we shouldn't have any problem keeping them together." Councilman Becker said happily.

"I'd love to go with you to check out the new house, but I really need to get to the hospital to check on Ricardo." Reuben said frankly.

"I understand that you want to get to your brother as soon as possible, but wouldn't it make more sense to get your things put in your new house, then go and see your brother?" Councilman Becker asked seriously.

Reuben thought about it for a moment, then reluctantly admitted, "Yeah, I guess that does make more sense. Who knows where our stuff is going to end up if we leave now."

"Let's go and see if tha bus is 'bout ready to leave." EZ interjected.

"Right." Reuben said with a smile at him, then noticed that Vina and Johnny were excitedly talking together.

* * * * *

As they walked out to the bus, Mrs. Becker quietly said, "You can leave Edovina with us while you go to the hospital to check on your brother, if you like."

"Let's see how things go with the moving in, first. She'll probably want to go with me, because she's worried about him." Reuben said frankly.

Mrs. Becker nodded her head in agreement.

* * * * *

"Where are we going?" Edovina asked as she struggled a little bit with the weight of the suitcase she was carrying, as well as the backpack on her back.

"We're going to the house we'll be living in. It's just up ahead." Reuben said as he fought to carry all of his and Ricardo's luggage. Truth be told, it wasn't really all that heavy, but it was bulky and angular enough to be difficult to carry.

"That pretty one?!" Edovina asked hopefully.

Reuben made sure to confirm the number on the curb before saying, "Yes. That's our house."

Edovina momentarily forgot about the awkward suitcase and raced ahead to see her new house.

Reuben was taken aback by the neighborhood where they would be living. In all his life, he had never set foot in a neighborhood as nice as this one and certainly never imagined living in such a place.

Every house seemed to be unique and each one was on a large lot, with lots of open space completely surrounding the home.

"Can we go inside?" Edovina asked as she repeatedly pulled on the doorknob.

"Just give me a second." Reuben chuckled as he slowly made his way up the walk.

"I wanna see it!" Edovina whined.

"I know. So do I." Reuben said with a smile, then took the folded paper out of his pocket, to verify where the key to the house could be found.

He walked to the small, nondescript letterbox by the door and felt inside.

Taped to the inside front of the box was an envelope.

He carefully broke the envelope away from the tape, then opened it to find a pair of identical keys.

"Ready?" Reuben asked with a smile.

Edovina was bouncing with excitement.

Reuben smiled at her, then carefully opened the door.

* * * * *

"It's really pretty!" Edovina exclaimed when they walked inside.

"It's nice." Reuben agreed. The house was sparsely furnished, but it had everything that a family might need. The furnishings themselves, were tasteful and Reuben was amazed that the house was essentially being given to them, no questions asked.

"Where's my room?" Edovina suddenly asked, then started running across the living room.

Reuben set down the luggage, then followed, a little more slowly.

* * * * *

"This is my room!" Edovina declared happily.

"Let me see what the rooms are like before we decide who gets what." Reuben said as he glanced around the decently sized bedroom with a queen sized bed.

Once the words registered, Edovina ran past him to the next bedroom to see what it was like.

Reuben followed more slowly and found his sister running from one twin bed to the other, sitting and slightly bouncing on them to check them out.

As he looked around the room, he realized that it was basically the same size as the first one, it just appeared to be a little smaller because it held more furniture.

"Okay. I think you're right. You get the big bedroom and Ricardo and I will take this one." Reuben finally said.

"Really?!" Edovina asked with surprise.

"Yeah. A girl needs her privacy, after all." Reuben said with a smile at Edovina's happiness.

Upon hearing his confirmation, Edovina hurried back to the master bedroom at a run.

"Go ahead and put your suitcase in your room, then we're going to go to the hospital to see Ricardo." Reuben said as he walked back to the front door where he had left the luggage.

* * * * *

As Reuben was putting his and Ricardo's suitcases on their beds, he realized that it had become quiet... too quiet, and turned to see Edovina standing in his doorway.

"I can take you over to Johnny's house and you can stay with them while I go to the hospital, if you want." Reuben said simply.

Edovina slowly shook her head and seemed to be fighting not to say what was on her mind.

Reuben recognized the expression and waited for her to speak.

"I forgot about Ricardo, for a little bit." Edovina said as her eyes welled with tears.

"That's okay. There's a lot going on, right now." Reuben said as he walked to her and gave her a gentle hug.

After a moment, he quietly asked, "Do you want to go to the hospital or stay at Johnny's house?"

"I wanna go see Ricardo." Edovina said as she continued to hold her older brother tightly.

"Then that's what we'll do." Reuben said simply.

* * * * *

Reuben took the map out of his pocket and found that the hospital wasn't marked on it. He wasn't sure about what he should do when Joe's words, from when they checked in, came back to him.

He walked into the kitchen and, just as Joe had said, there was a list of important numbers located right beside the phone. After looking them over, he was pleased to find that one of them was simply listed as 'Information'.

Reuben dialed the number and was happily surprised when it was answered almost immediately.

His happiness was short lived when he realized that the phone had been answered by a computer.

Edovina was at his side, watching and waiting.

"It's a computer. I hate talking to these things." Reuben said frankly.

"We hate talking to you, too." The computer on the phone responded.

"What?" Reuben asked in surprise.

"I'm just kidding." The computer said, then continued, "Please, if you'll just tell me what you're trying to find out, I'll do my best to help you. If I don't know the answer to your question, then I'll connect you with who does."

"Oh, um, I, um, was wanting to go to the hospital to see my brother." Reuben said uncertainly. Now he wasn't sure if he were talking to a computer or not.

"May I verify who I am speaking to?"

"Reuben Vasquez." Reuben said cautiously.

"Thank you, Reuben. I've just verified that your brother, Richard, is currently at the Kettle Falls Hospital. There is a monorail stop two blocks north of your current location, that's station seventeen, you'll need to remember that for when you return. When you go out your front door, turn left, go to the end of the block, turn right, then walk two blocks."

"Okay, I got that. So, what stop do we get off the monorail to go to the hospital and where do we go from there?" Reuben asked carefully.

"The monorail stop is within the hospital."

"Oh, okay. That'll work." Reuben said with surprise.

"The monorail runs on the quarter hour until nine pm. It runs on the half hour until midnight and on the hour until six am. There is no charge to ride the local monorail system."

"Thank you." Reuben said sincerely.

"Is there anything else that I can help you with today?"

"No. I think that's everything."

"Please call back if you find that you have questions. Have a good evening."

"Yeah." Reuben said in astonishment as he absently hung up the phone.

"What's wrong?" Edovina asked curiously.

"I don't know if I just talked to a person or a computer." Reuben said honestly.

"Did they tell you where Ricardo is?" Edovina asked hopefully.

"Yeah. Get your coat on. We're going to have to walk a couple blocks." Reuben said as he went to his room to do the same.

* * * * *

When they stepped off the monorail at the hospital station, they could immediately see that it was a madhouse. Reuben had no idea where he needed to go or where to begin to find his brother.

As he looked around, he spotted two people wearing the familiar 'volunteer' sashes. Although he was hesitant to take up their time, especially since they were in wheelchairs, he didn't see any more promising prospects for help in finding his brother.

* * * * *

"How can I help you?" The woman in the wheelchair asked in a computerized voice. Reuben noticed that she wore a handwritten name tag, like Joe's, that said 'Juanita'.

"My brother's supposed to be here. His name is Richard Vasquez. Do you know who I should talk to to find out where he is?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Give me just a moment to look it up." Juanita said professionally, then began to slowly type on a laptop computer that was sitting on a built-in tray, attached to the wheelchair.

"She's got a name like mine!" Edovina said happily as she pointed.

Juanita looked up from her computer curiously.

"Her middle name is Juanita." Reuben explained.

"Yes. I see it here. Edovina Juanita, that's a beautiful name." Juanita said with a smile, then continued, "Richard is checked in, but I don't have a current status on him. I've just put in an inquiry, that will take a minute. You should know that if his condition doesn't require him to be admitted, that he'll probably be released immediately. If he does need to be admitted, then he'll probably be transferred to the hospital in Colville."

"When will we know?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"One of the attending nurses will probably be updating his file any moment. They'll either tell me where he's been assigned or that he's still being examined. Either way, I'll be able to tell you where to go to find him." Juanita assured him.

"Thank you. I'm really glad that you're here. I didn't know where else to go to ask." Reuben said honestly.

"Adrian and I were sent here to help check in the people who arrived on the medical bus from Chicago. But once they were all checked in, we realized that there weren't any volunteers here, so we decided to stay." Juanita said frankly, then began to type something on her laptop.

Reuben waited to see if it had anything to do with Ricardo.

"Your brother has been examined and is in the second floor waiting area. When you get off the elevator, it should be on your right." Juanita said professionally.

"Thank you, Juanita. I really appreciate all your help." Reuben said honestly.

"That's what I'm here for." Juanita said with an honest smile.

* * * * *

"How are you doing?" Reuben asked as he walked into the small waiting room, across from the second floor nurse's station.

"The doctor says that I'm okay, but I'm really REALLY hungry." Ricardo said honestly.

"Yeah. Well, I know of some good places to eat, so if you're ready to go..." Reuben began to say, but was interrupted.

"We're waiting for Brody." Ricardo said quickly, then continued more slowly, "Ben, I don't remember if you got to meet them before, this is my brother, Reuben and my sister Edovina."

"No. Not that I recall. It's nice to meet you." The man at Ricardo's side said sincerely. It was clear to see that the man, wearing what appeared to be an orange prison jumpsuit, had been injured in some way and was also a patient.

"Reuben, Vina, this is Dr. Ben Stone. He was on the bus with me." Ricardo said as he continued the introduction.

"Please don't call me doctor, especially, not when we're in a hospital." Ben said shyly.

Ricardo laughed, then explained, "Ben's a doctor because he's got PhDs and stuff. He's a doctor of theomogogy, or something."

"Theology and history." Ben chuckled, then winced in pain.

"Are you planning to be here for a while?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"No. Brody's being examined, right now. We just want to see how he's doing and make sure that he has someplace to stay, then I can go." Ricardo said frankly.

"He'll have a place to stay. Don't even worry about that." A man said from beside them.

"This is Marlon. He was on the bus with us, too." Ricardo explained.

"Yeah. My wife, Kara, and I will see that all the kids have a place to stay. We just need to know if Brody's going to have to stay in the hospital or not before we make any plans." Marlon explained.

"Kara's with Lisa, another kid that was hurt." Ricardo added.

Conversation stopped as a frantic looking woman and a priest rushed off the elevator and directly to the nurse's station.

The nurse at the desk talked to them calmly for a moment, then pointed toward the waiting room.

"Are you here waiting for Brody Childress?" The woman asked as she rushed over to them.

"Yes. At least, we're waiting for 'a' Brody. I don't think I ever asked him his last name." Ben said cautiously.

"Is he alright? How is he?" She asked as tears slid down her cheeks.

The priest walked over to them more slowly and said, "I'm Father Doherty and this is Margaret Childress, she's Brody's mother."

"Brody was in a car accident a few days ago and has a few broken bones in his arm and hand, as far as we can tell. But other than that, I think he's fine." Ben assured her.

"Did he say why he ran away? Was it something I did?" Margaret asked suddenly.

"Shhh, Margaret. Don't worry yourself about that now." Father Doherty said to her quietly as he drew her into a hug of comfort.

"He never really told us all of what happened, but when Marlon found him, he and three other children were handcuffed and had their mouths taped shut. So I don't think he ran away. He was probably abducted." Ben said carefully.

"We can worry about that once you've been able to see for yourself that he's safe." Father Doherty said soothingly.

"There they are!" Ricardo said as he pointed to the hallway, past the nurse's station.

"How is he?" Ben asked as he slowly stood.

"Mom?!" Brody said in surprise as he froze in his tracks.

"How are you doing, Brody?" Margaret asked cautiously as her tears continued to fall.

Rather than answer, Brody took off in a dead run to pull his mother into a hug.

"Everyone, this is Dr. Murten. He's kind of in charge around here and he examined Brody personally."

"How is he, Cliff?" Ben asked as he walked to the doctor and gave him a firm hug.

"We had to take a lot of X-rays so that we'd be sure, but it looks as though Brody's going to be fine. He's going to be in a cast for a while, but from everything we could see, his bones should be able to heal without complication." Cliff said seriously.

"Yes. And I think I should mention that that's due, in large part, to the excellent medical care that he received. Thanks to you splinting his injury the way you did, it allowed the bones to fall into line, which means that we won't have to rebreak them to set them properly." Dr. Murten said professionally.

"Is he going to be released?" Ben asked cautiously.

"Yes. Even if we weren't on the verge of being overcrowded, I can't see any medical reason that Brody would need to be admitted. Just be sure to bring him back here next week so that we can take another look at him." Dr. Murten said with a smile, then added, "Speaking of being overcrowded, please excuse me, I have quite a few other patients needing my attention."

"Thank you, Doctor." Margaret called after him.

"I'm going to need to go, too. They need me." Cliff told Ben regretfully.

"Make sure you eat something." Ben said firmly.

"I will. You go on to Allen's and check on the boys and I'll be there as soon as I can." Cliff said honestly.

"I love you." Ben said, then moved in to give him a kiss that proved the strength of his feelings.

"I guess we'd better go get you some food. Are you ready?" Reuben asked Ricardo quietly.

"Do you need us to stay here for anything?" Ricardo asked the other people as he looked around the waiting room.

"Kara and I will see that Lisa, Antony and Tyner are taken care of." Marlon said seriously.

"Just remember to call me if you need anything at all, Richard. We're a team, right?" Ben asked with a smile at him.

"Right." Ricardo confirmed, then looked up at Reuben and said, "I'm supposed to stop at the nurse's desk downstairs and get some medicine before I leave."

"We'll do that on the way out." Reuben said as he guided Ricardo and Edovina toward the elevator.

* * * * *

"We're going to make one quick stop to pick you up some food, then I've got a job to do." Reuben told Ricardo and Edovina as they walked toward the monorail station within the hospital.

"Do you have to?" Edovina whined.

"Yes, Vina. The only reason that we're here and not still in Chicago is because I was needed to do a job." Reuben said frankly.

"A job for the Kings?" Ricardo asked cautiously.

"Higher up than that." Reuben said vaguely, then motioned for them to walk forward, as soon as the monorail doors had opened.

* * * * *

"This isn't our stop." Edovina said in confusion as they stepped off the monorail.

"I know, but there aren't any restaurants between our house and the monorail station. Let's stop and get Ricardo something to eat, then we'll go back to the house." Reuben said firmly.

"Whose house?" Ricardo asked cautiously.

"It's a house just for us." Reuben said honestly.

At the same time, Edovina said, "It's a really pretty house. You're going to like it."

"Is barbeque okay?" Reuben thought to ask as they continued to walk.

"Anything! I'd eat ANYTHING right now." Ricardo said honestly.

"Well, you'd better get ready. Because this is some of the best barbeque that I've ever tasted."

* * * * *

Reuben actually wasn't sure where he was going.

After he had left Edovina and Ricardo at the house with instructions to call the Beckers if they needed any help, he headed out, on foot, toward what appeared to be the center of 'Little Chicago'.

He felt bad for not going sooner, but couldn't honestly think of anything he might have done differently to speed up the process.

As he was walking, he noticed a pair of men approaching on the other side of the street. One of them seemed familiar, and he took a second look to be sure, before calling out, "Trav? Is that you?"

"Reuben? I didn't know you was here! What you doin?" Trav answered as he and his companion hurried across the street.

It was only then that he noticed that Trav's companion was a priest.

He honestly didn't know where to begin to ask about that, and finally decided to not go there.

"What you doin, man?" Trav asked as he approached.

"I just got here on the buses. I'm supposed to find someone named Dax." Reuben said honestly.

Trav put a finger to his throat and said, "Yo! Dizzy, my man! I gots a guy here named Reuben Vasquez who's lookin fer Dax. Can you hook a brother up?"

Reuben looked at Trav curiously at the strange behavior.

"You alright, Dizzy! You alright." Trav chuckled, then looked at Reuben and said, "Dax's juss a few blocks down here. C'mon."

Reuben looked at the priest with question, but didn't receive any explanation. Instead, they both started following Trav as he took off in another direction.

* * * * *

"Jingo! I found me an old bud, from back in the hood!" Trav called out suddenly.

Reuben smiled when he saw her.

"How you doin, Reuben?" Jingo asked as she joined them.

"You already met?" Trav asked with surprise.

"We go way back." Jingo responded, then turned to Reuben and asked, "How are Ricardo and Edovina?"

"Ricardo got shot on the way here, but he's been to the hospital and he's going to be fine. Him and Vina are back at the house, waiting for me." Reuben said frankly.

"Reuben needs to talk to Dax. He's s'posed ta be 'round here, somewheres." Trav said seriously.

"Yeah. He's at the community center, right there." Jingo said, then started leading the way.

* * * * *

As they walked into the community center, the cacophony of voices was somewhat disturbing.

"Dax! I gots someone fer yas ta meet!" Trav called out, to be heard over the clamoring voices.

"Connie, you got this. You decide what needs to be done and I'll back you up." Dax said, then stepped away from the crowd.

Reuben was surprised when he caught his first glimpse of Dax. He knew that Dax was Alex Cappo's son, so he had expected to find a young 'Italian Stallion', full of machismo and bravado.

What he found instead was what looked to be a sweet boy, close to his own age. His first impulse was to whisk the boy away from the loud and demanding people and hide him away, protecting him from the ugliness of the world.

"Who have you got, Trav?" Dax asked casually, as he approached.

"Dax, this here's Reuben Vasquez. He was told to meet wit yas when he got here." Trav said seriously.

"My father told me that you'd be coming. But he didn't tell me what you'd be doing here except helping me." Dax said frankly.

Reuben looked around, then quietly said, "I should probably talk to you about this somewhere more private."

Dax nodded, then looked to Jingo and asked, "How are things going, getting the new people settled in?"

"Good, so far. Having them stop at the stadium and eat, first, helped us so we didn't have all of 'em coming in at once." Jingo said frankly.

"Well, this could still spin out of control. We need to stay on top of it. Call me if you have any problems. Remember, these are our people, so it's up to us to see that they're treated right." Dax said firmly.

"Got it, Boss." Jingo said seriously, then motioned for Trav and his priestly companion to leave with her.

Dax started walking and Reuben hurried along, at his side.

"So, why did my father send you?" Dax asked curiously.

"Your dad called me to his office and told me a lot of stuff, about who he is and who you are. Then he said that I needed to come here to help you because I'm one of the few people who's been on good terms with just about every gang in Chicago." Reuben said frankly.

"How is that?" Dax asked slowly, not disputing his claim, but curious as to how it was so.

"Since I was little, I've been running for the Kings. I've carried messages and sometimes packages for them and I guess because I was so young or something, and because I never treated anyone disrespectfully, that all the other gangs knew who I was and didn't have any problem with me. Your dad said that I was probably one of the few people who could walk into any neighborhood in Chicago without having to worry about being shot." Reuben said frankly.

"So he sent you with a carrot and Jingo and Trav with a stick." Dax said thoughtfully.

"How's that?" Reuben asked in confusion.

"Jingo and Trav can bark and order to get things done, but sometimes that doesn't work. At times like that, you can ask and accomplish more than they can." Dax explained.

"Dax, are you out here?" A voice called on the wind.

"Wanna run?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"It's tempting. But no, that's Ben." Dax said quietly, then said more loudly, "I'm over here."

Two men and a boy walked around the side of the community center and approached when they spotted Dax.

"Reuben, I'd like you to meet Ben, Oleksandr and Danny. If it wasn't for them, I don't think I'd be able to do this." Dax said frankly.

"It's nice to meet you." Reuben said pleasantly, then looked at the little boy and asked, "Are you Danny?"

"Noooo." The boy giggled, then pointed up and said, "He's Danny. I'm Oleksandr."

Reuben smiled at the reaction, then looked at Dax inquisitively.

"I guess I need to work on my introductions." Dax said with a smile, then continued, "Ben and Oleksandr work in Carson's Command Center. They're part of the team that's running the entire refugee program in Kettle Falls."

Reuben looked at them with surprise, then cautiously asked, "So, the check-ins, the volunteers, the restaurants, the... everything? That was you?"

"That was our team. Yes." Ben confirmed.

"Danny works in Monarch Command, they jump into action helping people in large groups, like yours, to see that everyone, in the whole group, is being taken care of. And then they follow up to be sure that no one got left behind. That leaves the base Kettle Falls group to continue their focus on incoming people instead of being bogged down." Dax said seriously.

"Wow." Reuben said as he began to understand just how much work was going on behind the scenes to organize everything.

"If Reuben's going to be helping me, he's going to need a subvocal." Dax said thoughtfully.

"What's that?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"It's like a radio and a band-aid had a child." Dax said as he pointed to a barely visible patch on his throat.

Reuben remembered how Trav had been able to call for Dax's whereabouts and nodded that he understood.

"Or you can have a radio, if you'd rather." Dax added as an afterthought.

"No, but... My little brother and sister are at home and, is there any way I can get something so that they can get in touch with me if they need to?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Well, they could call Dizzy on the phone and he could get a message to you. But I think it'd be better if we just got them a radio that they could take with them. That way you won't have to worry if they're away from the house." Dax said thoughtfully.

"Dizzy. Dax needs a radio and a subvocal. Can you get someone to bring them?" Oleksandr asked seriously.

Reuben looked down at the boy and found that he had a finger on his neck, as Trav had, earlier.

"Thanks, Dizzy." Oleksandr said with a smile, then looked at Dax and said, "Dizzy says that they'll be here in a few minutes."

"Thanks, Olex." Dax said warmly, then looked at Reuben and continued, "Right now, we're getting people into their new homes and asking anyone with craft and artisan skills if they'll be willing to help out."

"That's the first I'm hearing about it." Reuben said honestly.

"We're not making any announcements about it. We're telling people after they've gotten settled in. I mean, it's not like we're going to kick someone out if they don't contribute. But if someone knows how to make quilts or... wooden toys or something, then we're getting them the stuff they need so that they can do their craft and maybe even teach people." Dax said seriously.

"Why?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Today, right now, maybe to give people something to do to keep their minds off their problems. But if this war, or whatever they're calling it, keeps on going, how long is it going to be before we start running out of things like food and clothes? If the factories aren't producing and the roads aren't safe, how long can we last?" Dax asked seriously.

"I never thought of that." Reuben said as he suddenly realized the scale of the things they were planning.

"But if we can get things set up right now so that we have butchers, bakers, shoemakers, tailors and a million and one other things, all ready to go when they're needed, we're going to have a lot better chance of getting all of us through this." Ben explained.

"Except, that we seem to have forgotten one little thing." Dax added as he looked at Ben knowingly.

Reuben looked back and forth between them, not knowing enough of what was going on to even guess.

"My dad sent Reuben, Jingo and Trav to help me with the gangs, but we don't have anyone to go to when we need to organize the regular people." Dax said honestly.

"So, you need someone that you can tell what needs to be done and he'll see to it?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Yeah. But it needs to be someone that the people already trust. We can't just prop someone up there and expect everyone to follow him. In fact, if we did that, they'd probably not follow him, just to prove a point. I mean, we are talking about Chicagoans." Dax said frankly.

"I think I know someone." Reuben said thoughtfully.

"Who is that?" Dax asked with interest.

"Him and his family came here on the bus with us. His name is Councilman Becker. When I first met him I was kind of put off because him and his family seem freakishly good. I mean, like black & white TV family, squeaky clean good." Reuben tried to explain.

"Do you think he'd help us?" Dax asked cautiously.

"Yeah. If there's a way that he can help, I know that he'll want to." Reuben said confidently.

"Reuben! I didn't expect to see you here!" A voice called from the front of the community center.

When he turned, Reuben saw EZ and Theresa walking up the sidewalk, arm in arm.

"Hey, EZ. How are you doing?" Reuben asked pleasantly.

"We's juss lookin 'round the new hood. Wonderin what's up." EZ said frankly.

"Guys, this is EZ. He was in charge of our bus on the way here. He took really good care of us." Reuben said simply.

"EZ, Theresa, I'd like for you to meet Ben, Oleksandr, Danny and Dax." Reuben said reasonably formally, then added in a stage whisper, "Dax is Mayor Cappo's son."

"I didn't think Mayor Cappo's kid would be... a kid!" EZ said in astonishment.

"Look around, EZ. Dax got all this set up for us." Reuben said frankly.

After a long silent moment, EZ finally said, "You done good, Dax. If you need any help, jus let me know."

"If you really want to help, the best thing to do right now is to help the people just arriving find their homes and make sure that they have everything they need." Dax said frankly.

"We're on it." EZ said confidently and seemed to be about to walk away, but changed his mind.

"How's Ricardo?" EZ asked Reuben quietly.

"He's fine. He's at home with Vina, resting." Reuben assured him.

"Let me know if he needs anything at all. He'll have it." EZ said before walking away with Theresa at his side.

"What was that?" Dax asked curiously.

"My brother, Ricardo. When the buses were trying to get out of Chicago, they met with some resistance. I was on another bus when it happened, but from what I heard, when the gunshots started, my brother climbed on top of some other kids and shielded them with his own body. He ended up being shot in the back." Reuben said frankly.

"How old is he?" Ben asked in wonder.

"Twelve." Reuben responded quietly.

"And you say he's alright?" Dax asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Well, as alright as anyone is these days. He's in some pain, but the doctors gave him some pills for that. They didn't seem too worried about his injury, except for the possibility of infection." Reuben said honestly.

"Hang on." Oleksandr said, then touched his throat before saying, "Go ahead."

Everyone stopped and listened to Oleksandr's side of the conversation.

"Yeah. that's right. But we're not inside. Walk around the side to the new shed, we're there." Oleksandr said firmly.

"Yeah. In a minute." Oleksandr said, then tapped his throat again.

At all the curious looks, Oleksandr explained, "The gopher's here with the subvocal and radio for Reuben."

"You wanted the radio for Ricardo, didn't you?" Dax asked to confirm.

"Yes. I'm a little worried about leaving him and Vina at the house by themselves. I'd feel better if they could call me if they have a problem." Reuben said honestly.

"There you are! I got turned around and walked around the wrong side, at first." The young boy said with a chuckle.

"Hi Bobby. I didn't know it was you!" Oleksandr said happily.

"Wow! Here you are, just like you said." Bobby said as he looked at the collection of people, then asked, "Who needed these things?"

"That's me." Reuben said as he stepped forward.

"Do you guys mind if I run these over to Ricardo and Vina? It's just a few blocks from here, I'll be right back." Reuben asked as he accepted the subvocal and radio from Bobby.

"Or, I could drive you. That'd be even faster." Bobby interjected.

"Actually, after hearing what a wonderful thing your brother did, I think I'd really like to meet him, if you wouldn't mind." Dax said honestly.

"I wouldn't mind at all." Reuben said with surprise.

"Can you guys keep an eye on things for a few minutes. We'll be right back." Dax asked Ben, Oleksandr and Danny hopefully.

"We've got you covered." Ben assured him.

"Just call if you need anything." Dax said as he walked with Reuben and Bobby back toward the street.

* * * * *

When the gator stopped at Reuben's house, he got out as he said, "Okay. That's really awesome."

"Let me know when you've got time and I can take you to the gator lot so you can pick one up. They don't cost anything." Bobby said cheerfully.

"Yeah. Okay." Reuben said with a smile.

"Do you guys want me to wait?" Bobby asked, to be sure.

"Yeah. You can come in, if you want. We should only be a minute." Reuben said simply.

Bobby glanced at Dax, to be sure that he didn't object, then got out of the gator and followed.

* * * * *

"I'm back! Did you miss me?!" Reuben bellowed as he walked in the front door.

Vina came barrelling out of the back hallway and Ricardo followed much more slowly.

"How are you doing?" Reuben asked as he hugged his younger sister.

"There's nothing to do here! It sucks!" Edovina announced sternly.

Reuben smiled at the answer, then looked to his younger brother and asked, "How are you doing?"

"The pain stuff the doctor gave me is working. I'm okay." Ricardo said honestly.

"Edovina, Ricardo, I'd like for you to meet Dax and Bobby. Dax is kind of running things here in 'Little Chicago' and Bobby... what do you do? Deliver stuff?" Reuben asked uncertainly.

"I'm a gopher. That means that I go and pick stuff up and take it to where people need it." Bobby said proudly.

"You got a job? How old are you?" Ricardo asked in surprise.

"I'm ten." Bobby said with a grin.

"I'm twelve! Is there a way I can get a job, too?" Ricardo asked hopefully, directing his question mostly to his older brother.

"You need to heal up from your injury, first. Then we'll see what jobs there are." Reuben said seriously.

Ricardo regretfully nodded.

"If they're bored, I could go off duty and take them to the skatepark so they could eat and watch the band and stuff and not be bored." Bobby said honestly.

"Ricardo's recovering from an injury. He can't be up moving around a lot." Reuben said regretfully.

"I could drive them over and as soon as Ricardo's tired or hurting, I can drive them right back." Bobby urged.

After a moment to think about it, Reuben looked at Ricardo and quietly said, "It's possible that this might open up your wound so it'll take longer for you to heal. But it's your choice."

Ricardo considered for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I think I want to go."

"Can Johnny and Wendy go, too?" Edovina asked hopefully.

"No. Not without adult supervision." Reuben said seriously, then added, "But if you call them and let them know that you're going, their parents might decide to take them to the skatepark, too." Reuben said honestly.

"Do you know their number?" Edovina asked as she hurried to the phone.

"No. But if you dial the number for information and ask, the smart-assed computer will probably tell you." Reuben said with a smile at his sister.

"Speaking of Dizzy, you should get your subvocal set up so that you can keep in touch." Dax said frankly.

"What? Oh, right. Ricardo, I brought this for you." Reuben said as he handed him the walkie talkie.

"Cool! I've got one, too! If you've got a radio, you can call and ask for me and talk to me anytime you want. Even if you can't be a gopher, I can tell you about where I am and what I'm doing." Bobby said excitedly.

"Reuben, the round one goes behind your ear and the squarish one on your throat. Once you've got them on, just tap the one on your throat and say your name. After that, your subvocal will be logged in to you and anyone with access to Dizzy can contact you." Dax said seriously.

"I'll show you how." Bobby said as he helped Ricardo with his walkie talkie.

Reuben peeled the pieces of the subvocal off the little slip of paper, then did as he was told and tapped his throat. "I'm Reuben Vasquez."

"Hello, Reuben. I'm Dizzy. If you ever want to talk to someone else wearing a subvocal or a radio, just key the mic and say their name, and I'll be sure that they can hear your message."

"Are you the same computer that I talked to on the phone?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Yes. But I was just kidding about not wanting to talk to you." Dizzy said cheerfully.

"Um, yeah. Okay. I'm going to go, now." Reuben said slowly.

"Tap the one on your throat one more time to turn it off." Dax said quietly.

Reuben did so, then quietly said, "That was weird."

"You'll get used to it." Dax said with a smile.

"Have you got your radio working?" Reuben asked his younger brother and received a nod in response.

"Good. Then you call me right away if you need me. Alright?" Reuben asked to verify.

"Yeah. I promise." Ricardo said solemnly.

"Vina, I'm trusting you to watch after your sick brother. Don't let him get too tired." Reuben said firmly.

"I'll take good care of him."

* * * * *

"You don't mind walking, do you?" Dax asked as they walked at a casual pace down the suburban street.

"No. But I should be asking you, since you gave up your ride back for my brother and sister." Reuben said honestly.

"It's no problem. I promise." Dax said with a smile, then continued, "Actually, it's nice to be somewhere quiet for a few minutes and not be in a hurry."

"Is it bad for you?" Reuben asked with concern.

"No. I'm glad that my dad asked me to help him and I love the people I'm working with. It's just, now and then, it's like it's a little too much. That's all." Dax said honestly.

"Let me know when it's getting to be too much and maybe we can break away and go for a walk or something, if you want to." Reuben suggested.

"Yeah. I think I'd like that."

* * * * *

"Did I miss anything?" Dax asked as he led the way into the community center.

"No. If there were anything important, I would have called you." Ben assured him.

"I was gonna call you, but Ben told me not to." Oleksandr said seriously.

"Oh? What did you want to call me for?" Dax asked curiously.

"There's some guys here, they're named Deacon and Billy. Deacon's a reporter and he wants to talk to you." Oleksandr said firmly.

"Is that alright?" Dax asked as he looked at Ben cautiously.

"They've already talked to Carson and Bug and we've sort of hired them to help us, sometimes, but the rest of the time they're free to chase down whatever stories catch their interest." Ben said frankly.

"And I caught their interest?" Dax asked incredulously.

"Yes. Or at least the stories about you, did." Ben said simply.

"Will you keep an eye on things while I do this?" Dax asked to confirm.

"I'll call you right away if anything comes up." Ben promised him.

Dax turned to Reuben and asked, "Do you want to go with me?"

"What do you want me to do?" Reuben asked cautiously.

"Just listen and maybe, when it's over, you can tell me how I might do better next time." Dax said honestly.

Reuben could see Dax's nervousness, but also his determination to press on. He nodded, then followed as Dax walked into the next room.

* * * * *

"Did you need the room for something? We're just waiting here for someone named Dax." The younger of two men said quickly.

"I'm Dax."

"Oh. Wow. No one mentioned your age. I just assumed..." Deacon trailed off in embarrassment.

"It's okay. I can only give you a few minutes. Come on. Let's walk." Dax said, then led the way out of the little meeting room, not looking back to see if they were going to follow.

* * * * *

It took a moment for Deacon to match Dax's pace, but he was finally able to ask, "I guess my first question is, are you really Alex Cappo's son?"

"Yeah. My parents never married, so I didn't get my dad's name, but he'd stop by all the time when I was little. It's not like he ever said that he wasn't my dad." Dax said simply.

"Why didn't they get married?" Deacon asked curiously.

"Well, if you ask my dad, he'll say it's because his family is really super ultra-Catholic, and since my mom was an atheist, there's no way that they'd accept her. But I think the real reason is that they weren't in love. They had a thing, it was nice for a while, and then it was over. If they would've gotten married, it probably would have been a big miserable screaming mess." Dax said frankly.

Deacon thought about it for a moment, then finally said, "When you put it like that, it makes a lot of sense."

"Later on, my mom got hooked on drugs. It killed her a little bit at a time over a lot of years. But as she was getting sicker and weaker and being less and less of a person, I was growing up and learning how to take care of myself. The drugs finally ended up killing her, but she was mostly dead for quite a while before she finally stopped breathing." Dax said as he looked down the little neighborhood street, illuminated by yellowish street lights.

"That had to be tough. Couldn't your dad help?" Deacon asked with concern.

"I don't know. Maybe he could have if I'd ever asked. But Mom's condition was something that I was used to not talking about. There was a certain point when my dad would want to go and do something with me and I told him that I'd meet him there, or at the corner, or something like that. I don't know if he knew about how bad Mom really was, I just know that we never talked about it." Dax said frankly.

"Okay. Let's move on to what's going on now. How did that happen?" Deacon asked curiously.

"When things started looking like they were going to go bad, I left Chicago with a group of people and came here." Dax said simply.

"How did you choose Kettle Falls?"

"I didn't. The people who I was traveling with did. One of them knew Carson Brown and asked him for help. Carson arranged for us to fly out here and... here I am." Dax finished with a shrug.

"I take it, from what you just told me, that your father didn't arrange for you to come here." Deacon said speculatively.

"No. I got in touch with him and let him know where I was after I arrived." Dax verified.

"And then your father started making plans to evacuate people from Chicago and bring them to Kettle Falls where they would be safe." Deacon said in a leading tone.

"Yeah. He called them our precious people. He knew that some really tough and dangerous things were coming, so he did as much as he could to help save the people who were the heart of Chicago. That way, not only would everyone know that their most precious people were safe, but also, the people back home would know what they were fighting for." Dax said passionately.

"And your father entrusted Chicago's most precious people to your care." Deacon said with a smile.

"He asked me. If I didn't think I could help them, my dad's got people who are strong and capable who could have done the job for him. I could have said 'no' and the people would still have been taken care of." Dax said seriously.

"But you said 'yes'." Deacon said in a leading tone.

"I may be Alex Cappo's son, but I'm also a son of Chicago. These are my people. I think that any 'real' Chicagoan would have done the same thing, if they'd had the chance. We're like that." Dax said firmly.

"How old are you, Dax?" Deacon asked curiously.

"I'm fifteen." Dax said proudly.

"Thanks, Dax. I think that's all I need for now." Deacon said as he turned off his recorder, then thought to ask, "Where are we?"

Dax laughed, then said, "We just made the block. The rec center is up ahead."

* * * * *

Once Billy and Deacon had gone their own way, Dax spent a few minutes with Ben, Oleksandr and Danny to see how things were going.

When he was finally able to break away, he quietly asked Reuben, "So, what did you think of the interview?"

"I think you said some things that people needed to hear, especially the people of Chicago." Reuben said honestly.

"I was just trying to be myself. Did I come off as too... fruity?" Dax asked cautiously.

"No. You were perfect."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I talked to MM yesterday, while he was still writing this chapter.

As always, I am totally wowed by this chapter. I was in tears several times during this chapter.

Dax is certainly pulling his own weight. I am sure his dad will be proud of him. Dax is certainly shouldering a lot of responsibility, but I am pretty darn sure Dax will do his daddy proud.

I was so tickled to see Brody and his mom find each other.

It is very cool to see that lots of people who became separated for whatever reason are finally being reunited. It seems that pretty much everyone has an interesting story to tell their loved ones when they find each other.

I suspect we are going to have to wait for a while to get the whole picture, but I suspect it won't be all that much longer before we will see a lot of loose ends tied in neat little bows... or not. Grin!

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher