Castle Roland

Book I

by MultiMapper


Chapter 36

Posted: 7 Sept 15


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

All Rights Reserved

Attributes of Zero

Metamorphosis Logo"Does anyone care to tell me about what's going on? What was that announcement all about?" Deb asked sternly as she walked into the living room.

"No one's told us anything. We've just been sitting here with the kids." Kev said frankly.

"So everyone's alright?" Deb asked to be sure.

"Yeah. As far as I know." Kev said simply, then turned his attention back to Jody, who was quietly telling a story to Destiny and Aiden, who seemed to be enthralled.

Deb and Janet silently watched and listened for a few minutes before Janet cautiously asked, "What story is he telling them?"

"One of the Benny Bear stories." Ken said simply.

"I've heard all the Benny Bear stories, more times than I could possibly count, and I've never heard that one before." Janet said cautiously.

"This one's from a book that hasn't been released yet. I think this one's supposed to come out in time for Christmas." Nick said quietly, so as not to disturb Jody's story telling.

Before Janet could question any further, the front door opened and a young teenage girl walked in.

"How did the interview go?" The girl asked expectantly.

Deb and Janet looked at her curiously, not knowing to whom her question was directed. Before either could answer, the girl continued, "My name is Jamey. If Mrs. Brown doesn't hire you, come and find me and we'll find a good place for you."

"Thank you." Janet said uncertainly.

"Good luck." Jamey said quietly, with a barely restrained smile before hurrying away, back to the front door.

The two women watched her go and were eventually drawn back into listening to Jody's dramatic storytelling.

"What should we do now?" Deacon asked cautiously as he looked around the command center.

"Right this minute, go home. Take a little time to settle in and get your feet under you. Once you've done that and you're ready to work, come back here and we'll show you what we've done and what we're doing so you can tell us what looks like it will work and what we might try to do differently." Carson said seriously.

"We could do that now." Deacon said slowly.

"You arrived in town this afternoon and you've been on the go ever since. Take this chance to stop and catch your breath. You might not get another." Carson said frankly.

"Would you just get the fuck outta here, already? Here in a week or so you'll probably be whining like a little bitch because you don't have two free minutes to stop and catch your breath." Bug said sourly.

"We'll go." Billy said decisively, then faltered and asked, "How do we get back to town?"

"You can take one of the gators out back or I can get someone to drive you." Carson said frankly.

"If you take a gator, you can take the road out front to the monorail station. The monorail will take you into town. You can walk to your place from there." Ben said seriously.

"Just leave the gator at the station?" Billy asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Then the next person who gets off at that stop will have it so they can take it wherever they need to go." Carson said simply.

"Um. Okay. Thanks, guys." Deacon said uncertainly.

"Enjoy your rest." Carson said seriously.

Deacon nodded, then followed Billy out of the room.

General Adams was finally able to tear himself away from his video monitor where he had been pouring over the replays of the incident on the front lawn.

Although nothing had happened, he still felt the need to talk to his newly adopted son, if only for a moment, to assure himself that Max was safe and well.

After stepping through the open door into what appeared to be the boys' collective bedroom, he looked around with escalating panic when he didn't see his son.

"Where is Max?" He finally asked, to no one in particular.

Several of the boys and young adults looked at each other with question, but no one seemed to have an answer.

"Excuse me, General." A man in a nondescript suit said quietly.

General Adams turned and looked at him with anxiety filling his expression.

"Your son is being accompanied by an agent and is perfectly safe."

"Where is he? I want to see him NOW!" General Adams barked.

The agent waited for a moment to be sure that the General was done, then quietly said, "Your son and his agent are waiting inside a building on the grounds until the U.N.I.T. has completed its sweep of the surrounding area and reported that it is safe for them to go outside again."

"But he's alright? He hasn't been hurt?" General Adams asked to confirm.

"As soon as the alert was called, Agent Billings led your son into a building where they could wait until the 'All Clear' was sounded. While the U.N.I.T. has confirmed that the immediate threat has passed, we are waiting on their reconnaissance team to finish sweeping the area before proceeding." The agent said very precisely.

"Can he get in touch with us if he needs help?" General Adams asked carefully, sounding much calmer.

"Yes, sir. We have constant radio contact with Agent Billings."

"Please see to it that, when it is safe to do so, Max be brought back here. I need to see for myself that he's safe." General Adams said professionally.

"Yes, General. Your son will be returned here as soon as it is safe to do so." The agent assured him.

General Adams gave a single nod, then turned with purpose and walked back to the Vice Presidential control room.

"Are you sure he's alright?" Keil asked as he walked with Agent Cole out of the Secret Service office and barracks.

"I know that it must have been confusing in there with all that going on and everybody listening to their earphones and barely speaking. But the fact of the matter is that the people who approached the house never gained entry. They never even came close. Your son was never in any danger at all." Agent Cole said firmly.

"I still need to see him." Keil said honestly.

"I know. That's where we're going."

"I'm worried about Mr. Mann. Amber said that he was hurt real bad." Lawrence said seriously.

"I've just logged into the hospital computer and they're showing that Mr. Mann is going to be just fine. It is going to take a while for him to get better. Right now they're working to repair some damage to his ears, but after that, the only thing that's going to make him get better is lots and lots of rest." Bug said honestly.

"Do you think Amber's okay? I know she's really worried about him, too." Lawrence asked anxiously.

"I tell you what, I'll go ahead and call her to make sure that she has everything she needs. I'll make sure that Amber and Mr. Mann are taken care of." Bug assured Lawrence quietly.

"Okay. Thanks, Bug. I'm really glad that Amber's here where it's safe. She's really nice." Lawrence said sincerely.

"I'm glad, too." Bug said with a smile at his brother.

When Bug tried to initiate voice contact, he instead received a text message that said, "Special needs desk. This is Joe. How may I help you?"

"Hello, Joe. My name is Bug. I was trying to get in touch with Amber. Is she available to speak with me?" Bug typed in response.

"She's helping Bonnita with a customer right now, so it may be a few minutes. May I have her call you back when she's free?"

"Yes, that will be fine. She knows how to reach me." Bug typed back.

"Good afternoon. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting for so long. There was quite a lot for us to do." Father Doherty said as he led the way into the house.

"Did you find out about our families?" Artimus asked hopefully.

"No. But Carson gave me access to whatever information he has. Let me give you this radio and get you signed in, then you can get the most up to date information about anyone that you're interested in checking on." Father Doherty said seriously.

"Do you need some help, Emo?" Greg asked as he saw the boy carrying an armload of various baby supplies.

"Yeah. There's a lot more stuff in the back of the gator. The rest is going to be delivered later." Emo said before walking toward his bedroom.

Greg and Arthur both got up and went outside to help carry in the baby items.

As Artimus turned to walk toward the door, Father Doherty said, "Please wait a moment so that I can get you signed in. Once you see how this works, perhaps you could hand out the rest of the radios for me."

Artimus noticed the urgency behind Father Doherty's words and asked, "What has you worried, Father?"

"We stopped by the hospital to check on my son and it seems that he's been released. If you would be kind enough to help me, I'd like to get back to Mr. Brown's house, where we left Colton. It appears that that is where my son was taken."

"Of course. Just tell me what I have to do." Artimus said with an understanding smile.

"Just turn it on, then key the microphone and introduce yourself." Father Doherty said gratefully.

"Hello? This is Artimus Stout." Artimus said uncertainly.

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

"Thank you." Artimus said in surprise.

"Now that you're signed in, you can ask Dizzy about whatever you want to know." Father Doherty said seriously, then added, "But before you do that, would you hand out the rest of the radios and help the others sign in? I would like for us to be on our way as soon as possible."

After a moment of surveying the area, a man walked up to Hank and Lazlo and said, "These kids can't be playing here. We're going to need all this space to set up our relief shelter."

"Who are you?" Hank asked cautiously.

"Charles Champion, Director of Operations from the Spokane office of the Red Cross." The man said firmly, as if that should mean something to them.

"If you want to help out, I can put you in touch with the people in charge. They'd be happy to have some more volunteers." Hank said slowly, immediately intimidated by the man's forceful nature.

"Listen. It's nice that you think you're helping people, but now that we're here, you can leave everything to us. We're used to dealing with people in need." Charles said with a condescending sneer.

Lazlo took a few steps away from Hank's side, then keyed his subvocal and said, "Dizzy, could you get my dad to come back here? I think we're going to need him."

After a moment, Lucas responded, "What's wrong, Lazlo? Is there a problem?"

"There's some guy here trying to take over. He's really being a jerk." Lazlo said frankly.

"Jeremy and I will be right there." Lucas said immediately.

"Thanks, Dad."

"This is nicer than our apartment back home." Ron said in wonder as he slowly walked into the living room.

"And it's not an apartment. It's a house." Mal added in amazement.

"That guy you talked to, Bug, said we could really stay here and that he'd get us jobs?" Arlan asked cautiously.

"Yeah. It was freaky because when I told him about us, I expected him to suddenly change his mind because of... lots of reasons. But instead, he seemed to want to help us that much more." Mal said as he opened a cupboard door and was surprised to find food.

A knock on the open door caused all four young men to jump.

As soon as the delivery driver saw that he had their attention, he said, "I've got a delivery here for... Cherrybomb?"

"What kind of a delivery?" Mal asked cautiously as Steven seemed to be trying to blend into the background.

"We got a rush order from Carson Brown telling us that we needed to deliver a top of the line computer setup to someone at this address... Is this the right place?" The driver finished uncertainly.

"I think so. At least, Steven is here. He's Cherrybomb." Mal finally said.

"Alright, then. Where do you want this set up?" The driver asked pleasantly.

"Do you want it in your bedroom?" Mal asked Steven cautiously.

"How about over here? It looks like this end of the dining room is already wired for a computer setup. It has a cable outlet, an Internet hookup and phone lines plus a ton of outlets." Arlan said frankly.

"Hold on." Ron said as he dashed out of the room. Everyone stood around, looking at each other, not knowing what to say.

"Actually, it looks like just about every room in the house is wired for computers, even the kitchen." Ron said frankly as he hurried back into the dining room.

"So, where do you want it?" The driver asked expectantly.

"Does anyone mind if I take over the dining room?" Steven asked cautiously.

"Go for it." Mal said without concern.

After a moment to see that no one else was going to voice an objection, the driver hurried out the front door to begin his work.

"What do you think we've gotten ourselves into?" Arlan asked cautiously.

"Something very good or very bad." Steven said frankly.

When the Benny Bear story was finally finished, Janet quietly said, "I need to go so we can get settled into our apartment."

"We'd really like it if you got the job." One of the younger U.N.I.T. kids, a barely teenage boy, said sincerely.

Deb looked at him curiously, but didn't say anything.

"Thank you. I think I'd like that, too. What's your name?" Janet asked with a smile.

"My name is Victor. If you get the job, me and my brothers and sisters could take care of Destiny and Aiden for you while you're working. We wouldn't mind at all." Victor said frankly.

"That's very nice of you. I was planning to find daycare for them, but if I get the job, I'll remember your offer." Janet said warmly.

Victor's hopeful look at Deb prompted her to say, "You and the children would be welcome to have dinner with us tonight, if you'd like."

"Well, I need to get the apartment..." Janet began to say, but was interrupted.

"We can watch Destiny and Aiden while you do your moving. That way you won't have to worry about them. It'll be a lot faster and easier." Victor said quickly.

Janet seemed uncertain and looked to Deb for guidance.

"It does sound like it will be easier on you, not to have to keep track of the children on top of everything else. If you'd like to leave them with us for a while, I'll see to it that your children are kept safe. And when you're finished with your unpacking, you can come back here and have a nice meal." Deb said frankly.

"If you're sure it wouldn't be any trouble..." Janet said, feeling that she might be on the verge of making a horrible mistake.

"We want to help. It's no trouble at all." Victor said seriously, then quickly added, "And if you need help moving, one of us can help you."

Janet saw a movement out of the corner of her eye and saw two other young teenagers nodding their agreement.

"Thank you." Janet finally relented. "I'll be able to get it myself, but thank you for offering."

"We'll see you at dinner, then. And you can contact me at any time if you're concerned about your kids." Deb said pleasantly.

"Yes. Thank you. I'll see you later." Janet said with a smile, then went to her children to say goodbye.

As Victor was walking away, Deb firmly said, "Hold it right there, young man."

As Max and Agent Billings crested the top of the stairs, Max was surprised to find General Adams waiting for him.

"How are you?" Richard asked as he immediately pulled the boy into a hug.

"I'm fine. When we found out there was trouble, Owen took me into the storage shed and locked the door." Max said into his adoptive father's chest.

"I'm glad he was taking good care of you." General Adams said as he glanced at Owen and gave a quick smile.

"You don't have to worry. Owen won't let anything bad happen to me." Max said with conviction.

"I'll keep that in mind."


"Hi Amber. I'm sorry if I'm interrupting you. Do you have time to talk for a minute?" Bug asked hopefully.

"Yes. We're in a lull at the moment. But until we can get some more of those talkboxes, David and I are needed to facilitate communication. So I could be called away at any moment." Amber said seriously.

"Give me a second." Bug said as he typed in a quick inquiry.

"How are you doing, Bug?" Amber asked with concern.

"I'm busy as fuck, to tell you the truth." Bug said honestly, then continued, "I just asked about the 'talkboxes' and the guys at the lab said that they just now finished them. They're waiting on someone to pick them up and bring them here so Carson can do some kind of fine tuning thing."

"Is there someone there who can help you?" Amber asked softly.

"I'll make sure Carson gets to work on them as soon as they get here." Bug said seriously.

"No. I'm not talking about that. What I'm asking is if there's someone there who can help you and take some of the workload off of you."

"I'm juggling about a dozen fucking crazy high-level things at once. I really don't know anyone else who could keep up with it." Bug said frankly.

"What if you were only juggling eight of those things, or even ten?" Amber asked seriously.

Bug thought for a moment, then reluctantly said, "Well, fuck! There I go again, trying to be the fucking center of every fucking thing. Yeah, I mean, it's still some seriously high-level shit. But I know a few people who could probably take care of part of it. Fuck, as far as I know, every one of them is sitting around with their thumb up their ass, waiting to be asked to help out in some way."

"Well, then. What are you doing, wasting time sitting here talking to me? You need to put those people to work so people don't get the idea that you're not willing to share the fun." Amber teased.

"Thanks, Amber. I really appreciate it." Bug said sincerely.

"It looks like we've got a rush of people coming in. Before I forget, congratulations on finding your twin boyfriends. Lawrence told me that they're gorgeous."

"Thanks. They are." Bug chuckled.

"Gotta go. Bye." Amber said quickly before disconnecting the audio stream.

After a moment of thought, Bug looked toward Carson and asked, "Do you mind if I borrow a few members of the kingdom?"

"What was that all about?" Deb asked firmly.

"We like her." Victor said honestly.

"And?" Deb asked suspiciously.

"That's it. We like her and her kids. We want them to stay." Victor said sincerely.

"I still have two more interviews before I make a decision, so don't get too attached." Deb said seriously.

"Okay. I have to go now. Courtney needs me." Victor said as he looked up into her eyes.

Deb nodded and watched him hurry away.

"Well, that should about do it. Would one of you guys like to come over here and road test this thing to make sure that it has everything you need?" The deliveryman asked hopefully.

"Steven, you should do it. You're the whole reason we're getting an awesome computer setup." Ron said frankly.

Steven looked around anxiously, but didn't seem willing to respond.

"What's your name?" Mal asked the deliveryman curiously.

"Huck." He responded.

"No way!" Mal chuckled.

"Short for Huxley." The man continued timidly.

After a cringe, Mal quietly said, "I hope you got even with your parents for that."

"I did. Every single day of my childhood."

"Huck, I hate to ask this, but Steven gets really freaked out when people get too close to him. Would you mind stepping into the kitchen so he doesn't feel crowded?" Mal asked hopefully.

Huck flashed Steven a sympathetic smile and started walking as he said, "What freaks me out is the dark. I know it's not the same but... well, you're not alone. Okay?"

Steven was stunned by the statement, then stammered a sincere, "Thank you." Before settling in at the dining room/computer table.

Everyone watched silently as Steven booted the computer, then started to put it through it's paces. Huck was smiling and nodding with approval as he watched.

Finally, Steven turned and said, "This is great! Everything seems to be working right."

"Call the store if you have any problems or questions. The number's on the invoice." Huck said casually, then asked, "Do you want to save your boxes?"

After a moment to consider, Mal said, "No. When we have to move, we'll get some more."

"Okay. I'll just gather these up, then. And I'll leave all the manuals and stuff on the breakfast bar."

"Thank you, Huck. We really appreciate all your help." Mal said sincerely.

"No problem." Huck said as he continued to work.

"Do you think we'd be in your way if we started moving our stuff in from the car?"

"That's fine. I'll be out of here in just a minute or two."

Ron, Mal and Arlo walked out to start hauling things in, leaving Steven working on the new computer setup.

As Huck was dutifully working on breaking down the boxes and gathering the packing material into bags, he heard Steven quietly say, "Really, thanks."

"If you ever want to talk... online, I mean, my name in the kingdom is Thumper." Huck said without stopping to look at Steven.

A slight smile crossed Steven's face as he recognized the name. "I've seen you. You're funny." Steven said as he turned in his chair to look at Huck.

"I've seen you, too. I was actually a little bit nervous about meeting 'Cherrybomb'. You're kinda brilliant." Huck said frankly.

"I'm a mess." Steven said regretfully.

"Most of us are, to some degree. That's why we fit so well into the kingdom. If we were all normal and well adjusted, we'd be out having real lives." Huck said frankly as he stopped all motion.

"The kingdom gives me a community that I can be a part of when in the rest of my life, I can barely endure being around people." Steven said regretfully.

"You seem to be alright with your friends." Huck quietly observed.

"They're the only reason that I could leave my apartment and come here. They bend over backward and tie themselves into knots to include me in things while respecting my boundaries. I don't think I'd have the patience to deal with someone as messed up as me." Steven regretfully admitted.

"We do it because we're your friends." Mal said from the kitchen doorway.

"I'd better get out of here. I'm betting this isn't going to be my last installation job of the day." Huck said as he quickly gathered his broken cardboard and packing materials.

"I'll talk to you online." Steven promised.

"Yeah. See you then." Huck said with a quick smile at Steven, then hurried out of the room.

"It looks like you made a new friend. He really seems nice." Mal said with a grin as he stopped at the kitchen counter.

"Yeah. I guess I did." Steven said in amazement.

"He's cute." Arlan said noncommittally as he carried an armload of boxes into the kitchen.

"He is, isn't he?" Steven said thoughtfully.

"I'd fuck him." Ron said simply as he passed through the dining room.

Mal rolled his eyes and tried to restrain a grin as he followed with another load of boxes.

A knock on the door brought conversation to a stop.

"I'll get it." Agent Cole said before anyone else could react.

"Have you decided about what you're going to do next?" Brother Jacques asked his father quietly.

"No. I really haven't had much time to think about it." Keil said honestly.

"How is he doing?" Father Doherty asked as he walked into the room and immediately to Zane's bedside. The young man accompanying him stood just inside the door with Agent Cole.

"He's been sleeping on and off since we got here." Brother Jacques said softly.

After a long silent moment, Brother Jacques quietly continued, "Father Doherty, I'd like for you to meet my father, Keil Samuelson."

Father Doherty looked up with surprise at the announcement then, more or less automatically responded, "A pleasure to meet you."

"Jake's told me about how you took him in and helped him get clean. There's nothing I can ever do to repay you for everything you've done." Keil said honestly.

Father Doherty glanced at Brother Jacques with a gentle smile, then said, "Your son is amazing. His courage and loyalty have inspired me to be a better person than I would have been otherwise."

A movement from the other end of the room caught Father Doherty's attention and he could see that Emo was squirming anxiously, wanting to get back to Colton.

"Brother Emo, would you care to join us for a moment? Then I promise that we'll go downstairs and see how Colton is doing." Father Doherty asked hopefully.

"'Brother' Emo?" Brother Jacques asked cautiously.

"The children came up with that. They felt that Brother Emo exhibited the same instinct to care for children in need that you do." Father Doherty said frankly, then added, "Once they brought it to my attention, I have to say that I agree with them."

"So, are they like priests or something?" Keil asked cautiously.

Father Doherty smiled at the question, then responded, "No. I initially bestowed the title of 'brother' on Jacques to offer what little protection I could for him, when he was first staying with me. However, he took the title that I had given him and with years of tireless good work, redefined it to mean someone who is responsible, trustworthy and willing to accept those who have been rejected or abandoned."

Keil couldn't resist the urge to walk to his son and give him a firm hug.

"Can I go down and check on Colton, now? You can stay up here with your son if you want to. I just need to see how Colt's doing." Brother Emo asked anxiously.

"That's not necessary. I'll go with you now and stop back by later, hopefully when Zane's awake." Father Doherty said gently.

A chill went up her spine as she walked past the tents on the front lawn, to get to the front door.

The frozen angry looks on the children's faces reminded her of scenes from decades old horror movies.

She schooled her expression as she knocked, fighting not to look back to see if the children were watching her.

"Good afternoon." An older gentleman asked very properly.

"I'm Kim Wyatt. I was told to come here for an interview with Debra Brown. Am I at the right place?" She asked cautiously.

"Yes. Please, come in and I will announce you to Mrs. Brown." The man said as he backed away from the door to usher her inside.

Mostly against her will, Kim glanced back over her shoulder as she entered and her breath caught when she saw a half dozen children glaring back at her.

"If you'll wait here for just a moment, I will announce you." The man said, then walked away.

She glanced into the living room, to her left and found that there were a group of children and young adults gathered, taking no notice of her.

As her nerves were just beginning to settle, a young teenage girl's voice whispered from behind her, "Get out."

She turned suddenly to find that no one was there.

"Are you alright?" A young man with a long braid asked as he approached from the living room.

"Fine. Fine. Really... fine." She said nervously.

"Would you like some water or anything?" Another young man, exactly identical to the first, asked with concern.

"No. Thank you. I'm..." She trailed off as her eyes darted around, searching for any sign that she was in danger.

"Mrs. Brown will see you now. If you'll come this way." Mr. Crante said professionally.

"Thank you." Kim said nervously as she began to follow.

As they walked through the living room, Kim noticed a thin young teenager standing stock straight and looking at her with the same angry stare as the children out front.

Just as they were about to pass him, the slightest hint of a predatory smile began to cross his lips.

Kim wanted to rush past the old man, but she didn't know where they were going.

As they were leaving the living room, she heard a boy's voice softly whisper, "Say 'yes'. We'll keep you forever."

Kim turned with a jerk and looked behind her and found all the children and young adults looking back.

"Hello, I'm Mrs. Brown. You can call me Deb."

Kim looked at Deb with panic, then stammered, "I can't... I can't do this."

Deb watched the woman, who was nearly in tears, run across the living room and out the front door.

"Was it something I said?" Deb asked in confusion.

Jamey walked to her side and quietly said, "I don't think she likes kids."

"It seems to have settled down for a little bit, if you would like to go and attend to things for a few minutes." Oma Shoupe said quietly.

"Are you sure you're going to be alright?" Hope asked cautiously.

"Not to worry, I have Jamiah and the girls here to help me out. And if it comes to it, I can always call on Mrs. Rand at the desk." Oma Shoupe said confidently.

"I'm just going to make sure that Hope has everything in order, then I'll be right back to help you." Erika promised.

"Take all the time that you need. I think the children and I will enjoy another story while you're taking care of the practical matters." Oma Shoupe said warmly.

"Would you like for me to bring you back something to eat?" Erika asked quietly.

"If you'll be stopping for something for yourself, I wouldn't mind if you also picked something up for me. Now, go on and do what you need to do before it gets any later." Oma Shoupe said, then made a shooing motion.

"Mama's going to go and put our things into our new house. Are you going to be alright here for a little while?" Hope asked her son gently.

Roman glanced at Oma Shoupe, then nodded.

"Good. I'll be back in a little bit, then we'll go out for something to eat." Hope said warmly.

"French fries?" Roman asked hopefully.

"Yes. Just as soon as I get back." Hope said before giving her son a warm hug.

"What's wrong, Lazlo?" Lucas asked as he and Jeremy approached.

"That dick wants to shut everything down so he can open his own relief center here in this park." Lazlo said as he fought to contain his tears of frustration.

As they took a step closer, Hank saw them and quickly said, "Lucas, this is Mr. Champion. He says that he's in charge here."

"That's news to me." Lucas said honestly.

Jeremy discretely guided Hank to step away as he whispered, "Watch the master at work."

"I am operating with the authority granted me by the governor of the state of Washington." Mr. Champion said firmly.

"Excuse me, but you work for a private charity organization and have no authority whatsoever. If you really want to play the game of who has the most important and influential friends, I believe I could obliterate you with just who is on my speed dial. However, I really don't have time for that... or you, for that matter. If you really want to help, go about fifty miles or so to the north and set up along the roadside to provide travelers a place to stop and rest on their way to Canada. If not... then fuck off. We don't need you." Lucas said frankly.

Lazlo's eyes went wide as he listened to his father's words.

"The governor is going to hear about this! I promise you that!" Mr. Champion huffed.

"Tell her and her lovely wife, Cynthia, that I said 'hi'. My name is Lucas DeLong, but she will no doubt remember me as Lucas from KF Transport." Lucas said without displaying the slightest hint of worry about Mr. Champion's threat.

Lazlo could see that his dad's calm facade was taking it's toll on Mr. Champion.

"We're a humanitarian organization. We're here to help the people." Mr. Champion urged Lucas to understand.

"Oh. Well, we'd be happy to have your volunteers and supplies here in Kettle Falls. They could help innumerable people in their most desperate time of need. But I suspect that that's not what we're talking about. I think you have your grubby little heart set on taking over, then taking credit for everything that's been accomplished here. Of course, once the photographers and reporters have left the scene, so will you, leaving nothing but devastation in your wake." Lucas said pleasantly.

"How dare you..." Mr. Champion began to say, but was immediately interrupted.

"Oh. Did I hit a nerve? Is the big bad bully man going to cry now? Maybe you're going to run off and cry to the governor." Lucas said in a mocking tone.

Mr. Champion turned on his heel and stalked angrily back to his car.

Lazlo stared at his father with wide eyes and his mouth hanging slightly open.

Lucas smiled at his son and gently said, "There's time enough for you to learn how to deal with bullies like him. Try not to worry about it now."

"How did you know he was like that?" Lazlo asked in amazement.

"Think about what I've been doing for a living the past eighteen years. I've been working with powerful and influential people day in and day out. I've learned what drives certain types of people, and in the case of someone like Mr. Champion, what behaviors they use to mask their insecurities. It's remarkable that someone as callous and self-absorbed as he is could rise to such a position of power in a humanitarian aid organization." Lucas said seriously.

"What you just did, how you handled him, that was wonderful." Hank said with a grand smile as he approached.

"Stick with KF Transport for a few years and I'm sure you'll pick up the skills for dealing with self-important little tyrants like Mr. Champion." Lucas said frankly, then looked around to see that no one else was listening before quietly saying, "And I bet he's got an itty-bitty little penis that he's trying to compensate for."

"You can tell that just by the way he acts?" Lazlo asked with surprise.

"The bigger the bully, the smaller the penis." Lucas said with a nod.

"You're a bitch!" Mindy said angrily.

"No. You're a bitch!" Mandy snapped back.

"You're both bitches. Now shut up so we can listen to another story." Jamiah said tiredly.

"You're not the boss of me! I can do whatever I want!" Mandy retorted.

"No, child. You can't." Oma Shoupe said firmly.

The twin girls looked up at Oma Shoupe with identical wide-eyed stares.

"Sit and be quiet, now. I'm going to tell you another story."

"What if..." Mandy began to say, but was cut off.

"Believe me, child. You don't want to find out." Oma Shoupe said coldly.

After a long moment of silence, Oma Shoupe opened a children's book and began to read aloud.

"What's it like here when there's not a thousand people passing through town?" Hope asked Erika as they left the classroom.

"I don't know. As soon as my brother heard that they were going to set up a relief station here, he called me and we drove out here so that we could help out." Erika said simply.

"Oh, I thought you were from here."

"No. But we had a little time to get to know the place before everything went completely crazy." Erika said with a smile, then looked both ways before crossing the street.

"Where is your brother, now?"

"He's on the other side of the river at the Boy Scout camp. He's an Eagle Scout." Erika said proudly.

"Oh? Is he younger than you?"

"Yes. By about twelve minutes." Erika chuckled, then explained, "He's been in scouts since he was in first grade. He first came to the Pacific Northwest on one of his scouting trips and he fell in love with the area. When we graduated college, he talked me into moving up here with him."

"You must be really close."

"He's my best friend." Erika said simply, then gestured for Hope to lead the way into the stadium.

"Hang on, guys. We're waiting on one more to join us." Bug said as he watched his screen.

"I'm not a guy." A feminine voice said firmly.

"I didn't know that, okay?" Bug said petulantly, then added, "And I'll be really surprised if that's the only thing that I say to piss you off before this is all over."

"I just didn't want you to think that you only had guys in this room and then find out that there was a lady present, listening to your 'guys only' chatter."

"Yeah. 'Cause all we talk about is tits and shit like that when we think there's no girls listening." Bug said dryly.

"Sorry. I got your message on my phone and I had to get back to the house." A man's voice said quickly.

"No problem. Thanks for dropping everything to be here. I'll try not to keep you too long." Bug said seriously, then continued, "All of you know me as Y2KBug, you can call me Bug if you want. If you want to introduce yourselves to us by whatever name you want to be called, we'll get this thing started. You want to start us off, Cheshire? Y'know, ladies first."

"You're such a gentleman." She said sarcastically, then continued, "Online I'm Cheshire, but since we're all here, in the same place, and will probably be meeting up at some point, I guess you guys can call me Yolanda or Lonnie."

"Thanks, Lonnie. I hope you'll decide to work with me because there's a shitload of people who need our help." Bug said seriously, then continued, "How about you Geoduck?"

"You may call me Harold. I'm the oldest one here, aren't I?" He asked cautiously.

"Yeah, probably. But you're also the only person around who knows enough about 'old school' programming to be of any help to me. I've got some down and dirty coding that I'm going to need done and you're the guy."

"Well, it was cutting edge when I learned it, but I think I've done fairly well at keeping my skills up to date." Harold responded professionally.

"Good to know. That leaves you, Cherrybomb." Bug said firmly.

"I'm Steven."

"It's okay if you're quiet, Steven. I know that you can hack like a motherfucker. If you're up to it, I'm gonna use the fuck out of your talents." Bug said seriously.

"Do you think you could cut back on the swearing?" Yolanda asked hopefully.

"No. Next question." Bug said simply.

"I've heard that you're one of the guys in charge of the whole 'Kettle Falls' relief effort, but what do you want with us?" Harold asked carefully.

"Here's the deal, guys... and Lonnie. Ever since Studmffn started this whole thing and I joined up with him, we've been getting more and more shit piled on us to deal with. It's finally getting to be too big. If you guys agree to it, you're going to be my team. I'll still do what I can, but there's some stuff that I'll hand off to you because I know that you've got the skills to handle it. The reason I wanted us to meet like this is so that you'll know who each other are and that you can go to each other for help if I'm not around or something." Bug said seriously.

"Is Studmffn there with you?" Lonnie asked curiously.

"Hey, Lonnie! Can't talk. Kinda busy." Carson called from across the room.

"When he's ready to accept some help, Studmffn's probably going to gather his own team." Bug said frankly.

"But you're here in Kettle Falls, like we are, right?" Harold asked cautiously.

"Yeah. We're at Studmffn's house. We'll invite all of you up to dinner sometime when things have calmed down. What do you say guys?... And Lonnie?" Bug finished with a smile.

"So what you're really asking is for a commitment from us. You want to know that if you ask us to do something that we're going to follow through and do it?" Harold asked to confirm.

"Yeah. If we do this right, thousands of people are going to be helped. And if one of you bails out, thousands of people could suffer because of it. It's that fucking serious." Bug said firmly.

"One more question. If we agree to do this, you're going to see that we and our families are provided with food and shelter for the duration of this operation?" Harold asked carefully.

"That's the plan." Bug responded immediately.

"Count me in." Lonnie said seriously.

"Yes. I can't imagine any way that I could make a more significant contribution to the effort." Harold said thoughtfully.

After a moment, Bug quietly asked, "What about you, Steven?"

"Oh, sorry. Yes. I tend to communicate in text. I'm not really used to voicing with people. I guess you couldn't hear me nodding." Steven said in an embarrassed voice.

Bug laughed, then said, "Just as long as you're on board, that's all I care about. Thanks guys... and Lonnie. I'm going to start digging through my shit here and as soon as I find things that I can pass on to you, I'm going to send it. That means that you might just get one or two little things to start with or a whole shit-ton all at once. I don't know yet."

"Bug, if it really means that much to you, you can count me as one of the guys." Lonnie said grudgingly.

"Thanks Lonnie. But if I'm ever saying anything that sounds like I'm disrespecting you, let me know. I'm oblivious as fuck about shit like that." Bug said frankly.

"Okay. I get that." Lonnie assured him.

"Good. Now, you guys go and get something to eat if you need to. Rest while you can. Sleep when you can, because shit's about to get real." Bug said firmly.

"We'll be here when you need us." Harold promised.

"I'll hold you to that." Bug said seriously, then ended the conference call.

A gentle knock on the door caused all conversation to stop.

"I've got it." Agent Cole said as he walked to the door.

"Thank you." Keil said sincerely.

When the door opened, there was a long moment of silence.

"Damion?" The woman outside asked in surprise.

"Sarah? What are you doing here?" Agent Cole asked cautiously.

"The earthquake... my house collapsed..." Sarah stammered.

"Are you alright?" Agent Cole asked with concern.

"The jury's still out on that one. I wasn't hurt, but I've lost nearly everything." Sarah said frankly, then quickly asked, "Is Steven here, too?"

"No. But I saw him last night. He's perfectly fine, well, except for being worried about you." Agent Cole said frankly.

"Can you get a message to him and let him know that I'm alright?" Sarah asked hopefully.

"Yes. With things being as they are, I can't be sure when he'll get it, but I'm confident that he eventually will." Agent Cole said assuringly.

"Thank you. I didn't know of any way to try to get in touch with him." Sarah said with relief.

"I promise, he's fine." Agent Cole said gently, then asked, "What are you doing here?"

"Oh. When I checked in, they asked if I could stay in Kettle Falls and help out at the hospital. When I stopped in to report for work, they asked me to drive out here and check on a patient who apparently still needs a high level of nursing care."

Agent Cole escorted her further into the room and said, "This is Sarah Strong, she's a nurse who's been sent to care for Zane."

"Thank you for coming, Nurse Strong. My name is Keil and this is my son, Brother Jacques. The young man in the bed is Zane, the person you were sent to check on."

"Please, call me Sarah." She said timidly, then quietly said, "I can see from his chart that he's had a rather invasive surgery. Has he been having excessive pain, or any symptoms that are concerning you?"

"Zane's been sleeping most of the time since we arrived here. But the doctor told us that that might happen." Brother Jacques said honestly.

Sarah read through some printouts for a moment before saying, "From what I'm seeing here, all I need to do is get his vitals and see that he's resting comfortably... which he obviously is. According to this, his attending physician will be stopping by later in the day to perform a more detailed examination."

"Dr. Murten lives here." Brother Jacques explained.

"That makes a lot more sense. I was wondering when doctors started making house calls again." Sarah said with a smile.

"From the way I understood it, Dr. Murten wanted Zane to come home where we could watch after him because he's afraid that the hospital is going to fill up and they're going to need every bed." Brother Jacques said frankly.

"From what I saw when I was at the hospital, he might be right about that." Sarah said as she gently took Zane's temperature.

Agent Cole got a curious look, then put a hand to his ear so he could hear his earpiece more clearly.

Keil noticed the movement with concern and waited anxiously for whatever was next.

After another moment of listening, Agent Cole turned to Keil and said, "I've just received word that the preliminary investigation has been concluded. Although we may have additional questions for you later, there's no need for us to keep you in custody. In other words, you're free to go."

It took a moment for the words to sink in, but once they finally did, Keil quietly asked, "Go where?"

"Don't worry about it, Dad. We've got that covered." Brother Jacques said confidently.

"Hello?" A young voice said uncertainly from the doorway.

Carson and Jay looked over from the alcove, but didn't respond otherwise.

Roris and Lawrence were absorbed in their own conversation and didn't seem to hear.

Seth and Hobie glanced up from their work for a moment, but when they didn't recognize the boy, they returned to their jobs.

Oleksandr didn't even glance away from his computer screen and seemed to take no notice of the sound.

When no one else reacted, Bug finally said, "You're one of the new gophers, aren't you?"

"Yeah. I'm Bobby. I've got some... things, that I think I'm supposed to deliver here." The boy said uncertainly.

"Yeah. Good. We've been waiting on them." Bug said seriously, then asked, "Seth, Hobie, do you think you could help Bobby carry in the 'talkboxes' so Carson can get them programmed?"

"Who?" Seth asked in confusion.

"The guy standing next to you. Would you help him carry shit in?" Bug asked hopefully.

"Oh, um, yeah. Give me a second." Seth said as he hurried to finish what he had been working on.

"What are we doing?" Hobie asked as he turned in his chair.

"Follow him, he'll tell you." Bug said as he pointed at the young gopher.

"Oh, sure."

When Bobby handed Carson the first 'talkbox', he was surprised at Carson's single-minded focus on his task.

After a visual inspection of the unit, Carson hooked up some computer cables as he called out, "Dizzy, code mode."

Bobby was shocked to see the collection of six computer monitors withdraw and reconfigure themselves into a pattern of four screens, butted up against each other to provide the effect of one enormous screen.

"Dizzy, enact project three one three software installation." Carson called into the air.

"Would you like for me to detect and install drivers?" A young teenage voice asked from above them.

Bobby looked around in wonder at the surreal happenings.

"Yes. Then give me a report on which drivers have been installed when each one is done." Carson said seriously.

"You got it, Boss." Dizzy responded.

Nothing seemed to be happening for several minutes except incomprehensible nonsense scrolling up the computer screens. Finally, Bobby was able to turn his attention elsewhere and he noticed that there was a younger boy, sitting at a computer, all by himself.

He quietly walked across the room to the boy's side and quietly asked, "What's going on here?"

"We're watching what's going on so we can tell people where they can go and what they can do to help each other."

Bobby thought about that, then quietly asked, "How do you get to be a part of something like that?"

"You already are. You're a gopher."

"I just deliver stuff." Bobby said uncertainly.

"You take stuff that people need to the people who need it."

"What do you do?" Bobby asked curiously.

"I watch the news and the online stuff in case something happens that we need to know about."

"Wow. That's really important. What's your name?"

"Oleksandr." He answered simply.

"I'm Bobby. If you ever need something brought to you, you can ask me and I'll get it for you." Bobby said seriously.

"Yeah. If I need something, I'll call you." Oleksandr said with a smile, then noticed something on his screen that caught his attention.

"I've got to work now." Oleksandr said seriously as he focused on the incoming news report.

"Yeah." Bobby said as he stood and watched Oleksandr work.

"Seth! Hobie! I'm getting things set up here so that I can step away and we can have that talk. While I'm doing this, I need for you guys to get a few things."

"What do you need?" Hobie asked excitedly.

"Three grilled cheese sandwiches and some jelly beans. Let me know when you've got them, because we're going to need to go to the kitchen or bathroom or something. This is going to be messy." Bug said seriously.

"We'll go and get them right now!" Seth said immediately, then urged Hobie to hurry and sign off his computer.

As soon as the boys were gone, Carson cautiously asked, "Grilled cheese sandwiches and jellybeans?"

Bug was already typing at full speed and didn't acknowledge the question.

"Where's Ben?" Dax asked as he walked into Carson's Command Center.

"Having lunch or maybe visiting Zane again. Oleksandr's covering for him." Carson said absently as he kept the majority of his attention on the 'talkboxes' in front of him.

"What'd you need, Dax?" Bug asked curiously.

"Well, I got to talking with Jingo about the Chicago people and we got to thinking that it'd be really good if we could set up some store fronts and, maybe, something like bakeries and butchers and tailor shops and stuff like that. I don't know how much trouble it would be to do something like that, but... well, if things get much worse..." Dax trailed off in frustration, not knowing how to convey his point.

Bug's rapid typing didn't do anything to let him know if Bug had the first clue about what he was trying to say.

"Fuck. Okay. Shit, this would have been a lot better yesterday, but I think it should still work today." Bug muttered, mostly to himself.

Dax glanced around and noticed a boy that he hadn't met before.

"I'm Dax."

"I'm Bobby. I'm a gopher. What do you do?"

"I'm taking care of everyone who's from Chicago." Dax said with a little anxiety showing through his voice.

"Okay. I hit all the craft and artisan classifications I could think of, but if I find more, I'll add them." Bug suddenly said.

"What does that mean?" Dax asked curiously.

"It means that if someone knows how to make quilts, we'll recruit them to you and do our best to get them whatever supplies they need. Same with bakers and butchers and tailors and... well, you got the idea." Bug said frankly.

"But what about sewing machines and mixers and... giant freezers and all the other special stuff that people need to do stuff like that?" Dax asked anxiously.

"I'll do what I can to get what I can. I can't promise that I'll be able to find every single thing that you need, but I'll find as much as I can and your people will have to do their best." Bug said honestly.

After a moment to calm himself, Dax carefully asked, "Okay. What about the storefronts and stuff?"

"That's going to take time, workers and materials. I'll get you what I can as quick as I can, but for now, people may have to use their living rooms as showrooms for whatever it is that they're selling." Bug said seriously.

"Okay. Yeah." Dax said as his mind raced over everything that needed to be done, then something else occurred to him, "Jingo said that if things go really bad, we might even need to think about getting spinning wheels and looms and that kind of stuff."

Bug froze in thought for a moment, then broke into a furious bout of typing.

"You really are in charge of the Chicago people, aren't you?" Bobby asked in wonder.

"Yeah. They're my people, so it's my job to take care of them." Dax said frankly.

"I wish I could do something to help people like that." Bobby said in wonder.

"You're a gopher. You're already helping people like that. It's because of what you do that I'm free to do what I do." Dax said seriously.

"Okay. It's done. You'd better let your people know what's coming because just as soon as the people or supplies show up, they're going to be routed to you." Bug said frankly.

"Thanks, Bug. I'll get right on it." Dax said happily.

"Dax, the Chicago buses are almost here." Oleksandr said seriously.

"Do you know how long it will be before they get here?" Dax asked as he moved to stand behind Oleksandr at the computer.

"I don't know..." Oleksandr said thoughtfully, then asked into the air, "Dizzy, do you know how long it will be before the Chicago buses get here?"

"The Chicago fleet should reach the first checkpoint in about three hours. They should arrive in Kettle Falls in about five hours." Dizzy responded professionally.

"I'm done." Carson announced as he was disconnecting the wires from the last 'talkbox'.

Bobby walked to Carson and asked, "Do I need to take them to the stadium in town, now?"

"Yes. And tell them to call me as soon as you get there. I'm going to have to talk them through hooking them up and initializing the system." Carson said seriously.

"Yeah. I'll be sure and tell them." Bobby promised.

"Do you need some help carrying those out?" Dax asked as he walked to Bobby's side.

"Yeah. Thanks." Bobby said with a smile up at him.

"I'll help, too." Lawrence said cheerfully.

"I'm parked out front." Bobby said as he picked up the first box.

When they had left, Bug stood and said, "I'll be back in a few minutes, I've got to go have 'The Talk' with Seth and Hobie."

Carson and Jay both seemed to be poised to ask questions, but ended up remaining silent as Bug left the room.

"Good afternoon, how may I help you?"

"I was told that there is someone in need of a paralegal at this address."

"Yes. May I tell Mrs. Brown who is calling?"

"I am Olufemi Okpara."

"Please, come inside and I will announce you."

"Thank you."

"Excuse me, Mr. Okpara. I'm Debra Brown. I have something that I need to attend to just this minute, but I promise that I'll be right back with you." Deb said, then walked past him out the front door.

"What can I do for you, Mrs. Brown?" Courtney asked as she stepped out of her tent.

"I don't know what you kids did to Miss Wyatt, or why, but I thought it might be best if we came to an agreement before I attempt to interview Mr. Okpara." Deb said frankly.

"Mrs. Brown, your first interview was with a woman named Janet Hayes. Several of my people were adopted by a woman named Janet Hayes and have taken her last name. Others look at her as their surrogate mother. It's that simple." Courtney gently explained.

"So, you did something to Miss Wyatt to make her leave so that I'd hire the woman who reminds them of their mother?" Deb asked to confirm.

"Yes. And there was also the fact that Miss Wyatt wasn't a suitable candidate to work for you. She copied her classwork and cheated on tests to get her degree. She's lazy, unimaginative, doesn't like children and cheats at Sudoku." Courtney said seriously.

Deb was about to inquire about how Courtney knew all that, but decided that she didn't want to know.

"What about Mr. Okpara?" Deb asked cautiously.

"He's a good, hardworking man. If you decide to hire him, I believe he will do a good job for you." Courtney said grudgingly.

"Thank you, Courtney. Would you please see that no one tries to scare Mr. Okpara away? I would really like to make my own decision." Deb said frankly.

"I'll see that no one interferes with your interview." Courtney promised.

"Oh man! Can you believe all of that?" Seth said in amazement.

"I feel kind of sorry for Bug." Hobie said honestly.

"Why would you feel sorry for Bug? He's awesome!"

"All those girls he was telling us about. They didn't love him. I don't even know if they liked him. They just wanted to be with him because he could give them lots of orgasms."

"Yeah. I guess it doesn't really matter if you know how to work a cooter if the girl doesn't care about you."

"Do you think that maybe that's why Bug went gay?"

"No. I don't think it had anything to do with guys and girls. He found someone, actually, two someones, that cared for him and that he could love. If the twins had been girls, he probably would've done exactly the same thing."

"Do you think you could do that?"

"Do you mean, fall in love with a guy?"


"I don't know. I never really thought about guys like that. But I guess if I get old like Bug and I still haven't found any girls that work out, then maybe I'll start looking at guys."

"Yeah. Me too."

"Maybe, if neither one of us can find a girl, we'll end up with each other."

"Yeah. At least that way I'd know that you weren't only with me for the really great sex."

"Do you think we should have asked him about that?"

"About what?"

"He told us all about what to do to give girls really great orgasms, but maybe we should ask him about guys, too."

"I think that if we end up together, we'll be able to figure that out."


"I'm supposed to ask for someone named Joe." Bobby said as he walked around the side of the special needs counter, where other people were currently being helped.

"He's with a customer right now. My name is David. Is there something I can do to help you?" David asked hopefully.

"Yes. I've got three... I guess they're calling them 'talkboxes', out in my gator for you." Bobby said cautiously.

"Oh! Great! You say they're outside? Let's go get them." David said happily.

There was a low droning sound and David turned to see three wheelchairs lined up and the occupants looking at him expectantly.

"Or... Bonnita, Juanita and Adrian could go out with you to collect the 'talkboxes' for themselves." David said cautiously.

"Okay. But I was supposed to tell you that Carson wants to talk to you as soon as you've got them so he can talk you through how to set them up." Bobby said seriously.

"Okay. If you'll take the gang out to get the talkboxes, I'll call Carson." David said decisively.

Bobby looked at the three people in wheelchairs and said, "They're out here. Come with me."

David, Amber and Bobby helped to install the talkboxes. Once all the units were secured and everyone was wearing their microphones, it was time to initialize the systems.

"Hold down the blue button for about ten seconds, then let it go. That'll let the system know that it's starting to learn a new person. Remember, you're going to need to train your talkboxes. If you say something and it translates it wrong, you need to push the red button to let it know. The more you train it, the better it should work for you." Carson said seriously.

"Can they start?" David asked hopefully.

"Yes. As soon as the talkboxes are initialized, you can start the training. I'm going to sign off now, but if you have any problems at all, you can either call me or Roris and we'll help you however we can." Carson promised.

"I doughnut what tushie." Bonnita said, then broke into laughter as she pressed the red button.

"Whale sound like Roris." Adrian said seriously, then he also broke into laughter.

Other people in the stadium started noticing the nonsensical chatter as well as the laughter coming from the 'special needs' counter.

As much as Bobby wanted to stay and watch for a while longer, he knew that he had an important job to do. People like Carson and Dax were counting on him to make deliveries so that they would be free to help all the people who needed it.

"Thank you, Olufemi. I promise that I will let you know as soon as I've made a decision." Deb said as she walked out of her office.

In the hallway, there were four young teenagers standing and waiting.

"We didn't do anything." Victor said defensively.

Deb couldn't help but smile at the immediate reaction and responded, "Thank you."

All the expectant looks focused on her forced Deb to continue, "Mr. Okpara has an impressive resume and a stable work history. I'd be a fool not to hire him."

The expressions of all the young teenagers fell at the announcement.

"I'm also going to hire Mrs. Hayes. If things go the way I'm expecting, I think that I'll have enough work to keep both of them busy." Deb announced, then waited for the reaction.

All four of the young teenagers went from despondent to joyous in an instant.

To Be Continued…

Editor's Notes:

This certainly was an action packed chapter. It seems there is really a lot of things that need to be accomplished, and it also seems that there are more and more people ready to help, once they know what needs to be done.

I loved the way Laslo's dad saw through that Red Cross blow hard. I also love the fact that it didn't take a telepath to know what kind of stuffed shirt dirt bag bully the guy was.

If anyone works with Bug for any length of time, they are just going to have to get used to hearing a bit of strong language.

I'm really glad that Brother Jaques is able to get close to his dad. They really do need each other. It has been a long time since they have had any communication between them.

It looks as though the Chicago people are going to arrive pretty soon. Dax just might find himself with a huge job on his hands, but somehow, I can't imagine that he will fail. He comes from a family who are not prone to failure.

I am sure his Dad will be very proud of him, and everyone he is able to help will be very happy with his accomplishments.

Bobby is going to be all right, too. He now knows that what he is doing is actually important, and not just busy work, which so often is given to youngsters, to make them feel like there are doing something special, and only later on do the kids find out that it was all for show. That, of course, is not the case in Kettle Falls.

Well, I think I have run out of comments, but, of course, not commas.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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