Castle Roland

Book I

by MultiMapper


Chapter 33

Posted: 4 Jun 15


Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by MultiMapper and The Revolutions Universe Partnership

All Rights Reserved

What Was Lost

Metamorphosis Logo"Hello, they told me at the checkpoint that when I got here I was supposed to meet with someone named Roris." The young man said uncertainly.

"Are you David Ott?"


"They told us you were coming. I'm Lawrence, Roris is over there, in the arena, checking people in." Lawrence said cheerfully.

"I hate to be a pain, but it's quite a job to get all these guys out of the bus and I can't leave them. Unless it's really important for us to go in, is there any way that Roris could come out here?" David asked hopefully.

"I think he's busy with someone else right now, so it might take a minute, but I don't think he'll mind." Lawrence said pleasantly, then gently pressed on his throat and said, "Roris, David's here and he wanted to know if you can come out and talk to him here. He can't leave his people and it takes a long time to get them off the bus."

David looked at Lawrence curiously. Although he didn't see any evidence of a radio or even a wireless bluetooth device, he recognized that Lawrence was communicating with someone.

"We haven't got it fixed for Roris to be able to talk back to me, but I know that he'll be out as soon as he's done with whoever he's helping right now." Lawrence said with a smile.

"Well, if it's going to be a minute, I need to get back on the bus. Everyone's a little bit nervous about coming here. I don't want for them to go into a panic." David said cautiously.

"Can I go too? I'd like to meet everyone." Lawrence asked hopefully.

"Sure. I think they'd be happy to meet you." David said with surprise. In his experience, most people went out of their way to avoid meeting people with disabilities.

As Lawrence stepped onto the bus, he immediately walked to the person nearest the door and said, "Hi. I'm Lawrence."

The woman was sitting slumped in an electric wheelchair and looking at him curiously.

When she made a few barely intelligible noises, David quietly said, "This is Bonnie."

"I thought she said Bonnita." Lawrence said to David, then turned back to the woman and asked, "Do you like to be called Bonnie or Bonnita?"

She quickly responded and seemed to be filled with renewed energy.

"Since you don't care, I think I'll call you Bonnita. I think it sounds pretty." Lawrence said with a heart-stopping smile.

Bonnita quickly said something that David couldn't begin to decypher.

Lawrence blushed, then said, "Thank you, Bonnita. My boyfriend says that, too."

Bonnita looked at him with surprise for a moment, then broke into laughter.

Lawrence smiled at her again, then moved on to the next person.

"Hi. I'm Lawrence."

"I'm Joe." The young man said in slow difficult speech. He sounded like his nose was stopped up.

"It's nice to meet you, Joe. It shouldn't be long before Rory is here to get you all checked in and stuff. You don't need to be worried or anything. You're here now and everything is going to be fine." Lawrence said happily.

"I can't hear. And you said that too fast for me to understand you." Joe said slowly. His voice had a droning quality and some of his words slurred together.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Lawrence said quickly, then realized what he was doing and slowly said, "My boyfriend, Rory, will be here soon. So you won't have to wait too long."

"Thank you, Lawrence. I don't mind waiting. I can't do anything since my accident. That's how I went deaf. And now I have trouble walking and doing things, because of the brain damage." Joe said regretfully as he glanced toward his folded up walker.

"I've got brain damage, too." Lawrence said quickly, then remembered that he needed to talk slowly for Joe to understand. "There's stuff I can't do because of my brain damage, but my brother and my boyfriend help me when I need it. But there's other stuff that I can do, like coming out here to talk to you. If you want, I bet me and Rory can find all kinds of things that you'll be able to do."

"But I can't do anything." Joe said regretfully.

"It sounds like your brain damage makes it hard for you to do things. My brain damage makes me dumb. My brother won't ever let me say that, but it's true. I'm so dumb that I can't take care of myself. But my brother and my boyfriend don't care about that. They love me and they help me do the things I have trouble with, but they find stuff that I can do, too." Lawrence said earnestly.

Lawrence jumped slightly when he felt a hand on his butt.

He turned and saw Bonnita looking at him urgently.

"Can we do things too?" She asked him in a guttural slur.

Lawrence looked around the bus and realized that David and all six of his passengers had been listening to his conversations.

"I'm not smart, so I don't know how we'll do it. But my boyfriend and my brother will help me find a way that all of you can help out and really do stuff." Lawrence finished confidently.

The sound of a knocking on the door of the bus broke the spell of wonder and anticipation.

David walked to the front of the bus and opened the door.

"Lawrence asked that I come out to talk to you. Is he here?" Roris asked cautiously.

"Yes. He's on the bus. Come in..." David said before he realized what he was saying.

Roris smiled and waited for David to continue.

"If you'll go down to the double doors at the side, I'll let down the lift, then you can come aboard and meet everyone."

"Thank you. I'd like that." Roris said with an ingenuous smile.

"Everyone! This is my boyfriend, Roris! Isn't he the cutest guy you've ever seen?" Lawrence asked as he ran to Roris to hug him.

The stunned people around the bus slowly nodded their agreement in varying states of surprise.

"I was just telling everyone that just because they're in wheelchairs and stuff that they can still do stuff to help us." Lawrence said happily.

Roris looked around the bus at all the hopeful faces, most notably David's, as he waited for Roris' reply.

After a moment of thought, Roris carefully asked, "Are you planning on staying in Kettle Falls, or are you going to move on once you've had a chance to rest?"

Roris noticed that David was carefully hand-signing what he had said, then continued to sign as he responded, "We don't really have any plans. We're really just looking for a place where we'll be safe. From the way things were looking back in Ohio... I don't want to think about it."

Roris looked around the bus again, feeling the weight of responsibility as all the expectant gazes were focused on him.

Finally, he seemed to come to a decision and started slowly typing on the laptop on his lap. As computer arrangements go, it wasn't the most elegant setup, but he was able to make it work. Given his physical condition, that was quite an achievement in itself.

As he was typing, he heard a quiet voice in his subvocal, "Rory, I love you."

Roris stopped his typing and looked toward Lawrence, who was at the back of the bus, looking back with a beatific smile.

Finally, Roris was finished with his typing and took a moment to study his results before saying, "These are your options, as I can see them. First, you could stop here, rest and relax and make sure that your bus is fit for extended travel, then when you're all ready, you could move on into Canada, where I'm sure that someone will find you a comfortable place where you'll be safe."

He stopped talking for a moment and waited for David to catch up with his signing. Once David looked toward him with question, Roris continued, "You could also choose to move somewhere within the United States. Most places that haven't been attacked are still being overwhelmed by people seeking refuge, but I can help you find someplace that will take you."

"But can't they stay here with us? Just because they've got stuff that's wrong doesn't mean that they can't help." Lawrence asked plaintively.

Roris smiled at Lawrence, then looked around the rest of the occupants of the bus before saying, "Another option would be for all of you to stay here, in Kettle Falls. If you decide to stay, it won't be a free ride. To start, you'll be working here, at the arena to help register and accommodate differently abled people. Later, there may be other jobs that you'll be asked to help with. If you decide to stay, you'll be provided food and shelter, and any medical care that you might need."

"This is a big decision. I think we'll need to discuss it, first." David said and signed anxiously.

"You can go to Canada if you want. I want to stay here and help." Joe said firmly.

Lawrence hurried past Roris to Joe. He made sure to stand in front of him, before he slowly said, "You're going to like it here. We'll make sure you're in a good place and if you need anything at all, we'll help you."

"Thank you." Joe said with a slight smile as he fought down his tears.

While Lawrence and Joe had been talking, David walked from person to person to ask them what they wanted to do.

When he was done, he waved a hand in Joe's direction to gain his attention, then began to sign as he spoke, "If there's really a way we can help out, I think all of us would like to stay here with you."

"That's great!" Lawrence exploded happily, then hurried to Roris to give him an enthusiastic hug.

Everyone watched Lawrence's joyful celebration with tender looks and smiles. Finally, Roris was able to say, "We need to get this registration complete, so you can get moved into your new home. I wish I could give you all day to get settled in, but I've had two calls since I've been out here with you. Other people with special needs are having to wait because I'm here."

When David had finished signing what Roris had said, Joe turned to look at Roris and slowly said, "I don't have many things. If David will put my stuff away, I can go and help you now."

Roris smiled at the offer and responded, "Thank you. I can use all the help I can get."

Joe broke into a huge smile when David signed Roris' response to him.

"Before we can do that, I'm going to need a little information to get everyone registered." Roris said seriously.

"Roris, this is David and he helps everyone." Lawrence said cheerfully.

"It's nice to meet you, David. If you'll tell me your full name and where you're from, it shouldn't take too long to get this done." Roris said with a contented smile.

"Bug, Rory's gonna need three more of those voice boxes like what Rory has. Can you get them for us?" Lawrence asked hopefully.

Bug was startled out of his work by the request.

"Why didn't you just ask Carson?" Bug automatically asked, before he could think about how it might sound to his brother.

"Because we need them as quick as we can get them. If you ask him, he'll do it now. If I ask him, he'll do it when he has time." Lawrence said reasonably.

Bug began to laugh, drawing the attention of the others in the command center, then he said, "I think you've got him all figured out."

When Bug noticed that even Carson had stopped what he was doing and was listening to his side of the conversation, Bug mischievously said, "I'll get to work on Carson and I won't let up until he's got you everything you need."

Carson's eyes went wide in surprise at the announcement.

"Thanks, Bug. I've got to get back to work. Rory needs me. We're really busy here." Lawrence responded happily.

"Be sure to remind Roris to remind you to take your pills." Bug said with a tender smile.

"I will. I love you, Bug." Lawrence said quickly.

"I love you, too." Bug said peacefully before ending the connection.

"What are you going to get on me about?" Carson asked cautiously.

"Lawrence said that they need three more of those voice boxes, like the one you made for Roris." Bug said simply.

"That one was a prototype. I don't have any more." Carson cautiously responded.

"Yeah. That's what I thought. But since you got the first one working, you've got all the specs to make more, don't you?" Bug asked curiously.

"Yeah. The design specs are all up to date. There's not really that much to the hardware, it's the programming that was the challenge." Carson explained.

"Good. Then we need to get someone on the job to make some more. Roris and Lawrence need three of them right now. I bet that they're probably going to need even more before long." Bug said seriously.

"I guess I could call Allen and see if he'd be able to call in a crew to throw them together... but it'd really be better if we could do this on Monday when we've got people already scheduled to work." Carson finished honestly.

"Too fucking bad. We don't need this done Monday. We need it now, in fact, yesterday probably would have been better. Call him up and see if he can get something going. Lawrence and Roris are waiting." Bug said firmly.

"Yeah. Okay, I'll call him." Carson said decisively.

Bug smiled to himself, thinking just how smart his brother could be sometimes.

"I don't know what to do." Joe said slowly, hoping that Lawrence and Roris could understand him. He hadn't realized before just how much he had come to depend on David interpreting for him.

Roris began typing on his laptop.

Joe looked from Roris to Lawrence to see if either of them were going to respond.

Finally, Lawrence waved his hand to gain Joe's attention, then pointed to the monitor on the desk in front of him.

There was an instant message text box on the screen, which said, "What I need for you to do is sit down at this computer and keep track of the people with special needs who are coming to us for help. The information from the checkpoints will let us know who is coming. I'll show you what to do on the first few cases, it's not hard. You should have all that you'll need to know to schedule houses or apartments or even an appointment at the hospital. Once you've done all that, we wait for them to arrive. When they check in, we make sure we got them what they need, and then we finalize the arrangements and send them off to get moved in."

"Excuse me!" an angry middle aged man said from the desk.

"Yes. How can I help you?" Roris asked as he turned his attention forward.

The man looked at Roris uncertainly for a moment, then turned his attention to Lawrence and said, "They told me to check in with you because my daughter has Down syndrome and a heart condition."

"What is your name?" Roris asked calmly, although his robotic voice sounded somewhat impatient.

"Phillip Morgan." The man said gruffly.

As Roris was carefully typing on his laptop, it began to slowly slide off of his lap.

Before he could even react, Lawrence was there, moving it securely back into place for him.

"Thank you, Lawrence." Roris said gratefully, then continued to type.

Mr. Morgan's temper seemed to be rising as he waited for someone to tell him what to do next.

Joe saw another instant message come up on his screen. "This is Mr. Morgan. He's an asshole. His daughter has down syndrome and a heart condition. Go ahead and see if you can pull up their information. When you've found them, verify that the accommodations we've made are going to be sufficient for them. If everything is good, then print the directions for them. If you have any problems, I'll be right here to help you."

Even though he'd never used the program before, the controls were intuitive enough that he was easily able to bring up Mr. Morgan's information.

He quickly read through it, then carefully said, "We have a single level house reserved for you. No stairs. It's two blocks from the hospital. Will that be alright?"

"Yeah... why are you talking funny?" Mr. Morgan asked cautiously.

"I'm deaf. But I can read your lips." Joe said slowly, but clearly, then continued, "How long do you plan to be staying in Kettle Falls?"

"I don't know. I'm worried about the Jeep. I don't know how much longer..." Mr. Morgan then turned his head and Joe couldn't see what else he said.

Rather than ask, he clicked a tab on his screen that he had noticed before and was happy to find that it did what he expected. After checking a few boxes and clicking a button, a window popped up with the information he wanted.

"Mr. Morgan, I've just scheduled an appointment for you with Ralph at Big Bubba's Auto for ten tomorrow morning. He can look at your Jeep and make sure that it's fit for travel. Is there anything else I can do for you?" Joe asked as he fought down a smile.

The realization was just beginning to hit him that he was doing a job. He was helping someone. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he was being useful.

"No. If we've got a place to stay and someone to look at the Jeep, I think that's all we'll need." Mr. Morgan said with surprise.

"I'm going to put your expected departure date to be next Saturday. Please let us know if you need to stay longer." Joe said professionally.

"Yeah. I was worried about Shirley travelling so much. But she should be rested up and ready to go again by then." Mr. Morgan said thoughtfully.

Joe clicked the button on his screen, then looked over to see that the printer was working.

He took the two pages from the printer, then held up the first as he said, "This is a map to your house. The other is a map to the auto shop with your schedule details."

"Thank you. That'll help a lot." Mr. Morgan said as he accepted the papers.

Before Joe could acknowledge the next person in line, he saw another instant message pop up on his screen. "That was perfect. I don't think you need me here watching over you. If you have questions or need help, just ask. I'll be right here."

Joe looked toward Roris and saw that he and Lawrence were already helping another customer.

Joe smiled, then motioned for the next person in line to come forward.

"Isn't this place beautiful?" David asked as he led the way into the large home.

No one responded to his question as the rest of the occupants of the bus entered the room in either wheelchairs or walkers.

"According to this, it says that we're going to be sharing bedrooms, two to a room, so you guys go explore and figure out who you want to room with while I see what we've got in the kitchen to make a meal." David said as he looked up from his sheet of paper.

"When can we work?" A young woman, Juanita, asked hopefully.

"I thought that we could get you all unpacked and fed, then I'd drive you back to the arena and we'd see what kind of work they have for us." David explained as he peeked into cupboards.

"We can unpack after we work." Juanita said seriously.

David was about to answer, when he noticed that everyone else was gathered around, all waiting for his decision.

"Alright, but you guys need to eat first. How about I get our things unloaded from the bus, then I'll drive us to one of those tent kitchens that we passed on the way here. Once everyone has had a chance to eat, we'll go back to the arena and start working." David asked as he watched carefully for their reactions.

"Do you really think they can find us jobs?" Juanita asked hopefully.

The laugh that David let loose was a surprise, even to him. He quickly gathered himself, then said, "Considering who it is that's arranging the jobs, I think it's pretty safe to say that they will."

"Can we go now?" Bonnita asked urgently.

David could see that everyone was as impatient as Bonnita and Juanita.

"Head back to the bus. We'll unload and unpack when you guys get off work."

"What's wrong?" JD asked with concern.

"Carson, my boss's son, he needs some work done, and from the look of this message, it's kind of urgent." Allen said thoughtfully.

"Can your boss's son call you in to work on your day off? That's messed up." JD said frankly.

"Carson's not just my boss's son, he's a brilliant programmer and hardware designer in his own right. Apparently, he's developed some kind of translator or interpreter for people with speech problems. He's requested that I call a few people to the lab to build some of these devices to help some people who have arrived and are having difficulty communicating." Allen said carefully as he read through Carson's email.

"If you have to leave, I think we'll be okay." JD said honestly.

"Actually, I may just need to make a few calls. If the people I want are available, I won't even need to go to the lab. They have the skills to do a project like this themselves without me hovering over them." Allen said frankly.

"Oh. Okay. But if you need to go, we won't cause any trouble or tear up the place or anything like that. I promise." JD said earnestly.

Allen smiled at the assurance and said, "I never even considered it. But I've been receiving all these notices about concerts and pop up kitchens in town and I thought you guys might like to go see that... I know I would."

"Yeah. It's been nice to just sit and relax for a while, but it'd be nice to go out and do stuff, too." JD said honestly, then quickly added, "But we need to wait for Jody and the guys to get back before we can leave."

"We can wait for them, or we can probably find a way to contact them and possibly meet them in town, if it comes to that." Allen said pleasantly, then started to type on his laptop.

JD waited for a moment, and just as he was about to get back to his own laptop, a knock sounded at the door.

"Do you want me to get that?" JD asked as he stood.

"Yeah. If you wouldn't mind. I want to get this email off to the team for Carson's project." Allen said as he continued to type.

JD smiled at the look of concentration as Allen lost himself in the task.

"Hello? Oh, hi Ken!" JD said happily.

"Hi JD..." Ken started to say, then was overcome by the sight of all the tattoos on JD's neck and arms.

"Nice ink!" Kev said as he stepped forward.

JD looked in confusion from Ken to Kev and back.

"Yeah. The egg split." Kev said flatly at JD's look of confusion.

After another moment of stunned silence, JD broke into a laugh, then said, "Come on in guys."

"Is Allen here?" Ken asked cautiously.

"Yeah. He's in the dining room, working on his laptop." JD said pleasantly, then conspiratorially whispered, "From the way you ran out of here, last night, I really didn't think you'd be back."

"Bug and Kev kinda made me stop and think about it. Allen really loved my dad a lot. It'd be wrong if I stayed away just because the guy creeps me out." Ken said honestly.

"Give him a chance, Ken. I've had some time to sit and talk with him. He seems like a really great guy." JD said honestly.

"I know. It's just weird... when my dad died and I got shipped off to Chicago, everything changed for me, like, in one day. It was kind of a clean break with no reminders or anything. Now, having all this, bringing it all back. I don't know. It's just hard." Ken tried to explain.

"Trust me, I know how it is to have to deal with painful memories." JD said frankly, then motioned for the twins to start walking again.

"Hey, Cute Stuff! I'm glad you're here!" Allen said joyfully.

"Hey, Pop." Ken said with a reluctant smile.

After a moment of hugging, Allen looked up and smiled as he said, "I'm glad both of you are here."

Kev shyly smiled and said a quiet, "Thanks."

"How's Bug doing, today?" Allen asked as he finally released the hug.

"He's fine. I got the feeling that he's going to be up to his eyeballs in work with all the new refugees coming in." Ken said honestly.

"I feel a little bit guilty about not doing more to help out, but considering what I've been receiving in my email the past two days, maybe the best thing I can do is hang back and be available when they need me." Allen said frankly.

Ken glanced over at the open laptops on the table, then quietly said, "Well, we didn't have any reason for coming over today. I just wanted to stop in and see how you're doing and make sure that the guys are getting settled in okay."

"I think everyone's doing fine. Jody, Nick and one of the other boys went over to Mr. Brown's house to help out with a baby. The rest are here, just relaxing after their long trip." Allen said warmly.

"Yeah. We saw Jorry, Jody and Nick over at the house before we left. I think they said that they'll be staying there with the baby, until Father Doherty and Brother Emo get back from their baby shopping." Ken said seriously.

"Father Doherty and Brother Emo? Nick's not going to like that." JD said apprehensively.

"Yeah. Nick seemed a little bit antsy when he first got there, but when Father Doherty and Brother Emo left, all he seemed to be paying attention to was the baby." Ken said thoughtfully.

After a moment to consider, JD finally said, "As long as Jorry's there with him, I'm sure he'll be fine."

"From what I saw, it was Jody who was helping him hold it together." Kev said frankly.

JD nodded, then quietly said, "Jody's good at that."

"Hello?" Sarah called out as she walked into the unfamiliar house.

"Yeah! Who's that?" A voice responded.

"My name is Sarah. I'm supposed to be moving in... I think. Am I in the right place?"

"I wont sure neither until I checked the letterbox out front. It got the full address printed on it."

Sarah walked outside and checked the address on the letterbox against the one on the map she'd been given.

"I guess I'm in the right place." Sarah said as she walked back in.

"Name's Nelda, but peoples calls me Georgia, you know, like Sweet Georgia Brown." The robust woman said with a chuckle as she walked into the room.

"It's nice to meet you Georgia, did they warn you about my dogs?" Sarah asked uncertainly.

"Honey, don't worry none bout dat. I had me lotsa dogs over the years. Me an dogs gets along fine." Georgia said with a chuckle, then added, "Course, you should know that if I get bit, I bite back."

"Fair enough." Sarah said with relief.

"You got a lot of stuff to carry in?" Georgia asked curiously.

"No. Most of my stuff was lost when my house collapsed. All I have is an old afghan filled with what I could grab from the rubble." Sarah said quietly, then added, "But at least Rufus and Ichabod weren't hurt."

"Rufus? You got a dog named Rufus? Girl, you and me is gonna get along fine. Why don't we go out and you introduce me to your friends?" Georgia asked cheerfully.

"That sounds great, Georgia."

After a few minutes to get the dogs out of the car and to get them comfortable with Georgia, Sarah went about the business of gathering the few things she had been able to salvage.

"Looks like ya's seen some pretty rough travel gettin here." Georgia said as she looked over Sarah's car.

"Yeah. I did a little... a lot of cross country driving. The roads were pretty much out most of the way. I took a lot of little back roads and goat paths and when I couldn't find a road to where I wanted to go, I made my own." Sarah said frankly.

"Here I thought you was all timid like a little mouse, but girl, you're a survivor. We gonna get along fine." Georgia declared.

"I don't know about being a survivor, but I'll admit to being a crazy driver." Sarah chuckled.

Both women turned at the sound of a gator racing up the street.

It took a moment for them to see the child racing toward them.

"I swear, if that was one'a mine, I'd snatch 'em bald-headed if they took off on one of them things." Georgia said with a shake of her head.

Before Sarah could respond, the child slowed the gator to a stop in front of their house.

"Hey! Is one of you Sarah?" The child called toward them.

"Yes. That's me." Sarah said quickly.

"I'm Ro. I got a thing here from a lady at a checkpoint that said that Sarah was going to need some dog food. If you show me where you want it, I'll put it up for you." Ro said quickly.

"That's very nice of you. Right over there, just inside the door will be fine." Sarah said in astonishment.

"You got it." Ro said, then hefted the first of four bags of dry dog food.

An incoming video link appeared on one of Carson's screens and he automatically opened it. "What's up, Dad?"

"I know you've probably got about a hundred things going on right now, but when you can spare a minute, I'd like for you to look over some specs on the body armor. I've done the groundwork myself, but since you oversaw the programming of the robotics in the factory, I'd like for you to look it over. If I'm thinking right, we might be able to start production of the first components as early as Monday afternoon." Ryan said seriously.

"Yeah. Things seem to be stable for the moment, I can look it over. Can you push it to me?" Carson asked as he glanced at another screen.

After pressing a few keys, Ryan said, "You should have it."

Carson looked to see that he had the file, then said, "Got it. I'll shoot it back to you when I'm done."

"Lucas just told me that Jeremy and Hank should be there any minute. Just tell your guys that they're alright and it should be fine." Jay said into his subvocal as he walked up behind Carson.

Ryan noticed and smiled before saying, "It looks like you're busy, so I'll let you go."

Carson was about to respond when his father suddenly seemed to think of something.

Ryan quickly asked, "Do you happen to know what Ty is doing?"

"I think he's still here at the house, helping Mikey organize things." Carson said uncertainly.

"Could you check in with him, and see if Mikey can spare him? If so, could you find someone there to bring him out here to the lab? Since he's said that he's interested in robotics, he might enjoy seeing the steps for reconfiguring the bots in the factory." Ryan said thoughtfully.

"Have you thought about what you're going to do when you start production, since the warehouse is in use?" Carson asked curiously.

"Lance is already working on that. He's got some prefab huts he's going to set up. The only thing we're still working on is a location for the final assembly, once we've got all the parts fabricated." Ryan said seriously.

"Yeah. It'll have to be big, and you're going to need a huge workforce for that." Carson agreed.

"I think we can recruit the workforce from the people passing through. As far as the location, I'll leave that to Lance. I know he'll come up with something." Ryan said assuringly.

"I'll send Ty your way as soon as he's free." Carson said as he glanced at another of his screens.

"Let me know when he's coming. I want him to see everything we're doing from the very beginning so he can witness the entire process." Ryan finished with a smile.

It warmed Carson's heart to know that his father was taking such an interest in Ty. He remembered how special it made him feel when his father had done the same with him, many years before.

"I'll let you know when I've talked to him." Carson said with a note of tenderness under his words.

"Call if you need anything." Ryan responded quietly.

"Yeah. You, too. Bye." Carson said before disconnecting the video link.

"Carson, you've got some visitors." Jay said quietly.

Carson turned and was surprised to see two girls standing in the doorway to his room.

"Hi Courtney. What's going on?" Carson asked curiously.

"I just wanted to introduce you to Jamey, she's the medic who's going to be doing your treatment today." Courtney said simply.

"Hi." Carson said cautiously, then he asked, "Is it going to take long? I've really got a lot of stuff to do."

"Not long. And it has to be done. Deal with it." Courtney said firmly.

Jamey giggled at the surprised look on Carson's face.

"Okay. I guess now's as good a time as any. What do you need me to do?" Carson asked as he undocked his wheelchair and turned to face them.

"Just relax for a minute and let Jamey reinforce Juan's treatment." Courtney said professionally.

"Relax. Yeah. Um, that might take me a few minutes." Carson said apologetically.

Courtney rolled her eyes, then said, "How about you sit there and be quiet for about two minutes? Can you handle that?"

"I can try." Carson said with a slight shrug.

"It'll have to do." Courtney said in exasperation, then glanced at Jamey and gave her a nod.

For a moment, the only sound in the command center was Bug's furious typing as everyone else watched Jamey and Carson, seemingly lost in a trance.

"Is that one?" Oleksandr asked suddenly as he pointed at his computer screen.

Ben read for a moment, then said, "Yes. That was a good catch. Go ahead and log it in like I showed you, then ask Dizzy to enter that into troop movements and to update the map."

Oleksandr smiled as he keyed in the instructions.

"When Zane gets here, you're going to be just fine." Ben said proudly.

"How do you feel?" Courtney asked when she saw that Jamey was finished.

"I didn't even know that I was starting to feel pain again, but I realize now it's all gone." Carson said in surprise.

"Good. That's what we're doing here. Expect Jamey or Victor to be in here every day about this time. But remember, if you start feeling pain earlier, you need to call one of us right away. If you let it go, there's no one here who can do what Juan did for you." Courtney warned.

"I'll remember." Carson promised.

Max had been hanging back, not really participating as Art and Euan explained what they had been doing on the radios.

It wasn't that he didn't want to do his part to help out, but so much had happened in such a short time, that he felt he needed some time alone to process events.

As he walked into the hall, he noticed three Secret Service agents waiting nearby.

Max wasn't as much surprised as he was irritated when he started to walk toward the stairs and one of the agents began to follow.

"Do you have to follow me everywhere I go?" Max asked when he reached the top of the stairs.

"Yes. It's my job to protect you." The agent said simply.

Max let out a sigh, then slowly said, "I really need to be alone for a little bit."

"I can leave you alone, as long as I know that you're somewhere safe. But I can't allow you to wander away, unaccompanied." The agent explained slowly.

"You don't understand." Max said in a defeated tone.

The agent thought for a moment, then quietly said, "Come with me."

"What?" Max asked cautiously.

The agent walked past him and went down a few steps, then motioned for Max to follow.

"Hey, is one of you guys Ty?" Bax asked as he walked into the storage building behind the Brown's house.

"Yeah. I am." Ty said reluctantly.

"I remember you from the plane. I just didn't know your name. Anyway, my name is Bax, and Dizzy told me that I'm supposed to take you to the lab." Bax said quickly.

"Yeah. Carson already told us. I just didn't think you'd be here so soon." Ty said honestly.

"We try to be fast. You ready to go?" Bax asked hopefully.

"Yeah. I guess so." Ty said with an uncertain look at Mikey.

"Dad's great. Don't worry." Mikey assured him.

Ty reluctantly nodded, then walked to join Bax at the door.

"What do you have planned to do today, Jamiah?" Gordon asked curiously.

"I watch after Loquicia. There's nothing else to do." Jamiah said frankly.

"Is there something you'd like to do?" Gordon asked with a smile.

"Not really." Jamiah said warily.

"Come on. You must enjoy doing something." Gordon prodded.

"No. I just do what I've got to do. That's it." Jamiah insisted.

"I can't believe that! A boy your age must have lots of things that he likes to do." Gordon said playfully.

"I'm not gonna suck your dick." Jamiah said flatly.

Gordon's eyes went wide with surprise at the suggestion.

"I mean, thanks for being nice to me and Loquicia, but no matter how nice you are, I'm still not gonna suck your dick." Jamiah said firmly.

"I wasn't going to ask you to." Gordon tried to assure him.

"Right." Jamiah said suspiciously.

"I was just trying to get to know you. Lucas and I had talked about us maybe adopt..." Gordon clamped his mouth shut, but it was already too late.

"You want to adopt us?" Jamiah asked cautiously.

It took a moment for Gordon to resign himself to the fact that he had let the cat out of the bag. But finally he was able to say, "We talked about it."

"Quicia needs a dad. She's never had one. I've done as much as I can for her, but I'm not enough. She needs a real dad, who wants her." Jamiah said firmly.

"What about you? What do you need?" Gordon asked with concern.

"I need to take care of Quicia." Jamiah said frankly.

"But, hypothetically, if we adopted you both, then it would be our job to take care of Loquicia. What would you do then?" Gordon asked cautiously.

Jamiah thought about it for a moment, then quietly said, "I don't know?"

Gordon considered the answer, then smiled as he asked, "Would you like to find out?"

Jamiah returned the smile for a moment, then turned serious as he said, "But I'm still not gonna suck your dick."

"Fair enough."

"They didn't tell me, but if you want, you can take one of the gators and follow me. That way you can drive back if you need to." Bax said as they walked.

"I didn't think about that. Yeah." Ty said with a smile.

"Are you in trouble or something?" Bax asked cautiously.

"No. From what Carson said, Mr. Brown wants to show me some stuff about setting up the robots at his factory."

"That sounds really cool! You'll have to tell me all about it next time you see me." Bax said cheerfully, then gestured toward the parking lot of gators.

"Yeah. I guess. I'm just... Mr. Brown said last night that he wants to be my dad, and that's great and stuff. I just don't know what it's like. I never had one before and I don't want to screw it up." Ty said frankly.

"Yeah. I guess I get that.." Bax said as he stopped. "I'm real lucky because I've got Bug. He's not really like a dad, but he's not really like my brother, either. I don't know what it is, but I know that if I'm ever in trouble or need to talk to someone, I can go to him with it and he'll deal with it. Maybe you could do something like that with Mr. Brown. Don't worry about what it should be and just let it be what it is."

"Yeah. And besides, he may decide that he doesn't want a fruity little fairy as a son and change his mind." Ty said frankly.

"I don't know Mr. Brown, but if he was like that, he wouldn't be nice to half the people here and probably wouldn't let them live in his house. I think you found a good guy to be your dad." Bax said with certainty, then motioned for Ty to pick a gator.

Bax got on his own gator and waited until Ty had backed out.

"Just follow me." Bax called out before heading out toward the lab.

"How are we doing for time? Do we need to do this fast or do it right?" Sharlette asked as she led Father Doherty and Emo down the sidewalk.

"I'm not aware of any time constraints, however, if it's going to take very long, I may need to stop by the house for a minute, before we continue on." Father Doherty said cautiously.

"That's no problem. I was just asking because, if you were in a hurry, there are two stores that we could visit to get you the majority of what you need. But if we have time, I'd like to take you to a few other places where they have less selection, but better quality merchandise. It's the difference between having a bargain basement hunk of slapped together fiberboard or a hardwood piece of sturdy furniture that will last for generations." Sharlette said seriously.

"I know my opinion on such things, but I really think it should be Emo's decision." Father Doherty said with a look at his young companion.

"I get the feeling that Colton doesn't have a lot of things in his life that are going to last. I want to give him the chance to pass his baby things down to his kids, someday." Emo said quietly.

"Your grandchildren." Father Doherty said with a tender smile.

Emo was stunned at the words for a moment, then noticed the concerned gaze that had fallen over Father Doherty's face.

He followed the father's worried gaze to a woman who was standing outside a shop with two boys and crying.

Sharlette and Emo followed silently as Father Doherty approached.

"Margaret, what's wrong?" Father Doherty asked gently.

"When we checked in, they said that we're going to have to leave again in about a week. I don't know where we're going to go and I'm almost out of money. So, even though I never thought I'd ever do it, I decided to pawn my wedding ring... and they only offered me ten dollars for it." She said, then burst into tears as she fell into Father Doherty's arms.

"Shhh. Don't worry. I happen to have made some very important acquaintances since we've arrived. Give me a moment to do some checking and there may be something that I can do to ease your worries." Father Doherty said soothingly as he returned her hug.

"How are you guys?" Emo quietly asked the boys who were standing frozen, beside their mother.

"I'm scared." The younger boy said honestly.

"You don't need to be. Father Doherty is really good at fixing things. Give him a chance and I bet that he'll be able to work something out." Emo said encouragingly.

Once Margaret seemed to have settled, Father Doherty keyed the microphone of his radio and said, "Carson? Would you have a moment to help me with something?"

After a moment, Father Doherty smiled, and said, "I have a young woman here, her name is Margaret..."

Emo looked up at the pause.

"What was your last name, Margaret?" Father Doherty asked curiously.

"Childress." Margaret said in a voice that was hoarse from her tears.

"I have a Margaret Childress here and she's been told that she's going to have to move on, soon. Finances are a concern for her and I was hoping that you might know of something we can do to help her." Father Doherty said slowly.

After a moment of listening, Father Doherty smiled, then said, "Thank you, Carson. I'll do that. May I call you back if that doesn't yield any results?"

Margaret pulled away from Father Doherty and looked at him expectantly.

"Thank you, Carson. You've done so many amazing things. May God's blessings and bounty be bestowed upon you." Father Doherty said warmly.

He gave a chuckle, then noticed Margaret's inquiring gaze on him.

"Give me just a moment. Carson just told me about something that might be able to help you." Father Doherty said quietly, then keyed his mic again.

"Dizzy? I have a Margaret Childress here who would like very much to stay in Kettle Falls. Carson suggested that you might be able to help me." Father Doherty said carefully.

After a moment, Father Doherty looked to Margaret and asked, "Is it true that you've worked as a manager of a cleaning crew?"

"Yes. Back before my husband died, he would work days and be home with the boys at night while I worked." Margaret said quickly.

"As it turns out, they are in need of someone to oversee the crews that clean and restock the houses between occupancy. If you're interested, I can make those arrangements for you and you'll be able to stay here for as long as you like." Father Doherty said as he watched carefully for her reaction.

"Yes! That would be wonderful... except, who'll watch out for the boys?" Margaret asked as her hopes seemed to fall.

"Dizzy? Margaret is concerned that she doesn't have anyone to care for her children while she is working. Is there any sort of day care available, that you know of?" Father Doherty asked hopefully.

He broke into a smile, then told Margaret, "The local school is being used as a childcare facility. We can check with them about the particulars and perhaps they'll be able to watch after the boys for you. And if that doesn't work out for some reason, I can promise you that between Brother Emo and myself, we'll find someone to watch after them."

"Thank you, Father. I'd really like to stay here. I mean, if Brody is looking for me, how's he going to find me if I have to keep moving?" Margaret asked as her eyes began to tear up again.

"Dizzy. Margaret would like to accept the cleaning supervisor job. Will you tell me what she has to do?" Father Doherty asked as he pulled Margaret into another hug.

"He says that you'll need to talk to a gentleman named Lansing Durante to get the details. He's not available at the moment, but will meet you at the arena at four this afternoon, if you're interested." Father Doherty said with a smile.

Sharlette looked up with surprise when Lansing's name was mentioned, but didn't react otherwise.

Margaret gave Father Doherty a sudden kiss on the cheek, then quickly said, "Thank you. Thank you so much, Father."

Father Doherty returned her enthusiastic hug, then quietly said, "Please Margaret, call me Brian."

Once the emotional scene was finished, and Margaret had collected herself, she seemed to notice Sharlette and Emo.

"We're out on a shopping expedition to buy some baby supplies. You remember Colton, don't you?" Father Doherty asked gently.

"Oh, yes. Of course. How is he?" Margaret asked with concern.

"Colton is doing just fine. But we've realized that he's going to need quite a few things if we're going to be staying here." Father Doherty said honestly.

"So, you're staying too?" Margaret asked with a smile.

"Yes. I feel that there is much good we can do in Kettle Falls." Father Doherty confirmed, then thought to ask, "Would you and the boys like to join us? I would value your opinion on our selections."

Margaret seemed to consider for a moment, then smiled as she nodded her agreement.

"Where do you want us?" David asked as he led his group to the check-in desk where Roris, Lawrence and Joe were working.

"Things have slowed down. I think Joe can handle it on his own for a little bit." Roris said as he backed his wheelchair away from the desk.

"Thank you for doing this. Everyone's really excited about having the chance to really help people." David said honestly.

"Believe me, I know how it is." Roris said as he moved to be more or less at the center of the gathering.

"Yes. I think that's something else that they're excited about. You can understand them in a way that I never can." David said regretfully.

"But you can help them in ways that I can't. I have limits that you don't. Don't be sorry. It is what it is." Roris said, then noticed everyone around them, listening to their every word.

"The first thing you're going to need to know is how to navigate a computer program called 'Dizzy'."

By the time they reached the third shop, the two boys were bored beyond words.

They stood together, at the front of the shop, and looked longingly out at the bustle of activity, that seemed so near and yet so far out of their reach.

"Mom! Can I go to the skate park?" A boy called out as he ran into the shop.

"Frankie! I'm with a customer!" The sales lady scolded.

Cody and Jody looked on with interest as the boy squirmed, waiting to be heard.

"I think we'd like to look at the bassinets for a few minutes." Sharlette said to the sales lady, then glanced at the boy with a smile.

Cody and Jody moved closer to hear what the boy was going to ask.

"So what is it that's gotten you so fired up?" The sales lady asked indulgently.

"They've got a bunch of people setting up a thing at the skate park, and it's just for kids my age! They're going to have food and music and skateboarding and... can I go? Please!" Frankie begged.

"You know how I feel about that place. It's just a broken arm waiting to happen."

"But Mom! All the other guys are gonna get to go!" Frankie whined.

"If your dad hadn't been called in to work at the lab, he'd be able to take you." She said irritably, then seemed to mellow slightly before continuing, "I tell you what, when Marie gets here at two, I'll walk over there with you."

"But that's hours and hours!" Frankie whined.

Margaret felt sympathy for the boy, then noticed her two sons watching, but not even daring to hope that they might be able to go.

"Excuse me." Margaret said, drawing the sales lady's attention.

"We'll talk later." The sales lady hissed to her son, then smiled and asked Margaret, "May I help you?"

"I overheard your son talking about some sort of event taking place and it sounds as though it might be something that my sons would enjoy. Can you tell me where it is?" Margaret asked carefully.

"Yes. Out the door and about three blocks down, on your right." The sales lady said hesitantly, like she was about to say more, but was holding it back.

"I don't mean to intrude, but if you're concerned about your son not having adult supervision, he could come with us." Margaret said carefully.

The sales lady seemed to be considering the offer.

"My name is Margaret. I know we only just met, but I understand the position you're in. I worry myself half to death over my children." Margaret said quietly.

"Thank you, Margaret. I'm Melanie, by the way. And if you really don't mind watching after Frankie for a few hours, I'll be able to join you when my relief arrives at two." Melanie said with a smile.

"Yes. That should work out fine. I have an interview at four. I've heard that the school is operating as a daycare, do you know anything about how that works? I'm going to need to leave my sons with them while I'm interviewing." Margaret said thoughtfully, then glanced back at her sons, who were looking, longingly out the front window again.

"Nonsense! If you're going to keep an eye on Frankie, the least I can do is return the favor and watch after yours while you're in the interview." Melanie said with a smile.

"Thank you. That will help so much! It's been years since I've had an interview and I'm scared half to death!" Margaret said honestly.

"You'll be fine." Melanie said with a smile.

"Boys? Will you come over here?" Margaret called to her sons.

"You, too, Frankie." Melanie said to her son.

As the boys drew near, Margaret nodded to Melanie that she could tell them all.

"Margaret has volunteered to go to the skate park with you until I can get off work. Now, you remember to listen to her. If I hear that you've misbehaved, you'll be answering for it for a very long time." Melanie told her son firmly.

"I'll be good." Frankie promised.

"We can really go?!" Jody asked in amazement.

"Yes. You really can." Margaret told her son happily.

"And when I get off work, I'm going to watch after you guys for a while." Melanie said to Margaret's boys.

Margaret noticed Father Doherty watching the proceedings with a tender smile.

"Thank you for everything, Father... I mean, thank you, Brian." Margaret said timidly.

"Remember, if you or the boys need anything at all, be sure that you call me." Father Doherty said sincerely.

"I will." Margaret said with a smile, then stepped forward and pulled Father Doherty into a quick hug, before walking to the front door where the three boys were anxiously waiting.

"May I help you?" The woman behind the counter asked pleasantly.

"Yeah. I think so. My name is Amber Pyle. They told me at the hospital that I needed to come here to get signed in so I'll have a place to live." Amber said nervously.

"It's nice to meet you, Amber. My name is Rhodesia. Welcome to Kettle Falls. I have your records right here. This shows that you're..." The woman at the desk was saying, but a low droning voice drew their attention to a group of people a few counters down.

"I'm sorry, that's the special needs check in. As I was saying, everything's been arranged for you. I have you down for a two bedroom apartment, here in town. You'll be sharing the apartment with a Jonathan Mann, I'm guessing that's someone you already know." Rhodesia said speculatively.

"Yes. He's in the hospital right now. They told me to come down here to check in so he'll have a place to go when he's released." Amber said seriously, then looked down the line at the special needs desk.

"Good. Then it looks like we have everything in order. We have you set up for a prospective departure in fourteen days, to give your friend a chance to heal before you leave. Just come back here and let us know if you're leaving sooner or later than that." Rhodesia said professionally.

Another droning sound drew Amber's attention, and she quickly said, "Please excuse me. I think that woman needs help."

"That's fine. Here's your address and all the particulars. And, like I said before, just let us know if you're departure date changes, so we can have the apartment ready for the next person." Rhodesia said quickly as she handed Amber some printouts.

"I'll do that. Thank you." Amber said as she picked up her luggage and hurried toward the 'Special Needs' check-in desk.

"Excuse me." Amber said as she approached.

"We'll be with you in just a moment." Joe said slowly and carefully, then glanced back to see what was happening with Bonnita.

She looked around and finally spotted David, squatting by a woman's side, carefully listening to her.

"Excuse me, can I help?" She asked, concerned by the woman's agitated state.

David looked up at her, and considered before saying, "Maybe you can. Bonnita needs some help, going to the restroom. I would normally help her, but there are too many people here for me to be able to do that."

"That's no problem. If you'll watch after my things, I wouldn't mind helping her." Amber said as she placed her luggage at the side of the counter.

"It can be a little tricky if you've never helped anyone..." David began to explain.

"It's okay. This is what I do. I work with special needs people." Amber said pleasantly to David, then turned to Bonnita and said, "I'm ready when you are."

The sudden silence caught both JD and Allen's attention.

By some odd happenstance, they had both stopped typing at exactly the same moment.

Both of them started laughing at the ridiculous happening.

"How's it going?" Allen asked JD with a smile.

"Good. I didn't get to do much writing while we were on the road. So now it's kinda like I'm making up for lost time."

"I don't doubt that it will be a great success with as much thought and hard work as you put into it." Allen said confidently.

"My books don't sell that great. I mean, I've got kind of a loyal following, but my stuff goes over most people's heads. My dad really helped me with that. His books don't sell that great either. He made me see that as long as I'm happy with my work and it says what I wanted it to say, that that's enough." JD said honestly.

"I think that's some really good advice." Allen said warmly.

"Of course, then there's Jody, whose books sell like crazy." JD said in a mock grumble.

Allen laughed, then said, "I know you've got to be proud of him."

"Yeah. I mean, if he were a success at anything, I'd be proud. But for him to be a success at writing is incredible. Even though I know it's his accomplishment, I can't help but feel like I had a part in it." JD said with a distant smile.

"I can only imagine. But I'm happy for you." Allen said sincerely.

"Well, with the country being turned upside down, who knows if or when any of us are going to have a chance to publish any more books." JD said frankly.

"Things will eventually settle down. I can't say that they'll go back to just like they were before, but things will settle and life will go on." Allen said sagely.

JD considered Allen's words and slowly began to nod.

"Ready to go again?" Allen asked with a smile.

"Yeah." JD said with a grin.

After a long silent moment, both of them started furiously typing.

As Amber and Bonnita returned from the restroom, David asked, "Is everything alright?"

"No problems." Amber said happily.

"Thank you so much. I didn't know what I was going to do." David laughed with relief.

"I'm happy to help. Is there anything I can do to help you process people in? It looks like you've got quite a backlog here." Amber said as she looked around.

"Thank you, but there's no need. You see, all these people work here." David said with a smile.

Amber looked around with surprise, then quickly said, "That's great! Are you needing any help?"

"I really can't say, mainly because I'm not the person in charge. If you're looking for a job, you'll need to talk to Roris." David said seriously.

"Yeah. When can I meet him? I'd really like to work here." Amber said happily.

"Roris? What do you think?" David asked the young, red headed man in a wheelchair.

"I think she'll fit in with us just fine." Roris said with a smile at David.

"Rory, this is Mr. Flescher. I told him we'd help him next." Lawrence said as he led a man with a walker toward the desk.

"Lawrence?" Amber asked in astonishment.

"Oh, hi Amber." Lawrence said cheerfully before turning his attention back to helping Mr. Flescher.

"What?" Max asked defiantly.

"You said that you needed to figure some things out. Well, here's your chance to ask some questions." The agent said simply.

"There ain't nothin I want to talk to you about, white boy." Max snarled.

"Good. Then I'll talk. I was born on a farm in Oklahoma in 1974..." The agent began.

"I don't wanna hear this shit!" Max exclaimed.

"Then talk. You can ask me whatever you want. I'm not your dad. I'm not your friend. I'm just some guy who got the idea that you've got a lot of hard questions and no one you can really talk to about them."

After a moment, Max quietly asked, "You won't tell no one?"

"Nope. Keeping secrets is part of my job."

"What's your name?" Max asked cautiously.

"Owen Billings."

"Really? That's one of the whitest, white people names I ever heard." Max said with a grin.

"Thank you?" Agent Billings said with a look of confusion, then broke into a smile.

"Okay, Owen, what do you think it is that I need to hear?" Max asked frankly.

"Mainly that all that stuff about race doesn't really matter anymore. Wait. Let me amend that. The stuff about race doesn't matter to decent, reasonable people, anymore. There are still places where it matters very much. But get to know these people and you'll see that they don't even seem to notice race." Agent Billings said reasonably.

"Yeah. I guess." Max said grudgingly.

"It looks to me like your race played a very prominent role in who and what you are. Now, all of a sudden, what used to be the biggest, most defining thing about you is suddenly not seen as important."

"Yeah. All of a sudden, it's like I'm nothing." Max confided.

"You're a general's son. That's something." Agent Billings said simply.

"Adopted." Max said grudgingly.

"It still counts." Agent Billings countered, then he leaned close and said, "And you got 'chosen'. The other generals got stuck with whatever horrible thing their wives squeezed out. Like the luck of the draw."

Max chuckled at the statement.

"Come on. You've got to have more questions than that. When are you going to have another chance to ask an adult questions without having to worry about it being held against you?" Agent Billings coaxed.

"Okay. I want a straight answer. What's up with people hating on gays? I mean, some guys are into guys, some are into girls. Why does anyone care?" Max asked seriously.

"Good question. And the best answer that I can give you is that some people read some books of bronze age mythology from nomadic desert dwellers and believed it. In those books they were told to hate gays, and not eat shrimp, and I think there were some things about unicorns and dragons in there, too. It's all just a bunch of silly, made up nonsense. But there are still people who take it seriously... or so they would have you believe. They go through and pick the things they agree with and try to make other people do as they say. Then they say that the stuff they don't like is all metaphorical or no longer applies for some mysterious reason." Agent Billings said thoughtfully.

Max thought for a moment, then carefully said, "So they tell people to hate the gays so it'll make it 'us' against 'them', even though there isn't any real difference?"

"Yes. But don't forget about the money. Screaming about the evil gays will make people afraid and bring them in, but then you have to get them to empty their wallets. There's no point to ginning up the hate unless you're getting rich in the process."

"That's sick." Max said disgustedly.

"I've always thought so."

"What's the real reason you wanted to talk to me?" Max asked curiously.

"You looked like you were struggling with how to deal with things and I wanted to help you out." Agent Billings said frankly.

"Thanks for noticing, Owen. I feel a lot better." Max said sincerely.

"If you ever need to talk, I'll be around." Agent Billings said with a smile.

Max chuckled, then said, "Yeah. Every time I look up, there you are."

"Do you feel like getting out of the house for a while? You could walk around the grounds." Agent Billings suggested.

"I should probably be helping the others, doing that stuff for the king." Max said regretfully.

"You can if you want. But if you'd like to take a nice quiet walk in the fresh country air, I don't think anyone would mind too much."

"You wanna come with me?" Max asked quietly.

"That's my job."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

Well, that was a very busy chapter. It was so nice that Amber got to see that Lawrence was doing well, and that she can be of help, too.

It is so nice to see that both Roris and Lawrence are able to help other people and be a significant part of the process and not just plopped down somewhere to be the token handicapped people, given make work jobs, just to make them feel good.

Believe me, I know what that is like, when the people in charge "find something you can do", and all they really want to do is get you out of their hair.

Of course, it is obvious to anyone with even the smallest amount of sense that in Kettle Falls, of all places, people with disabilities will be given every chance to reach their full potential and even excel at it.

As you may have suspected, it warms my heart to know that somewhere there are people who look at people and see the possibilities instead of the obstacles, and do whatever is necessary to help people achieve any goals or aspirations in the best possible way.

MM once again has given us new hope for our Universe as well as the one our heroes have found themselves in.

Thank you, once again, MultiMapper, for another great chapter in a wonderful story.

Darryl AKA The Radiorancher

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