Standard Disclaimer:

This is not a standard Nifty story: there may be sex in this story, but only insofar as it shows up in real life, and I'm goign to try and take a closed-door approach to it. This is not a porno story, it's intended as a serious novel. That said, I still need to provide certain disclaimer's if I'm going to post on Nifty:

You're all probably familiar with the standard drill: this story may contain sexually charged scenes including same-gender pairings, abuse, incest, rape, and more. If reading such is illegal in your area, please do not continue.

I have my own website, and am also hosted at other sites, including and Redemption, and Guardians before it, are not my only stories! If you drop by my website, it tends to be the most comprehensive source of stories for your reading pleasure, but you will occasionally discover stories that haven't reached it -- such as Unexpected Reactions at

Remember, please, that e-mail is an author's only payment -- please do pay! My address is, and I look forward to hearing from you. I respond to all e-mail recieved.

"That's strange," a clerk commented.

"What is it?" his superior asked.

"Nothing big, just a few samples that got routed through our labs by mistake," the clerk answered. "Naturally, the lab techs did a full work up despite it not being in our juris-" The clerk double checked the file he had open in shock. "Fucking-double-A hell, I don't believe it, I've got a live one Joe!"

"What?!" the supervisor asked, shocked. "Route him into our facilities then!"

"Can't, he's in the judicial system but not convicted... but he's young enough that...." The clerk chewed his lips for a few moments before nodding. "I think we need to kick this up to higher, sir," he suggested.

"Do it, now," the supervisor ordered as he read over the clerk's shoulder. "If I'm reading this right..."

"You are sir, you are!"

Dill kept his face carefully composed as he walked into the building, his face a mask to hide the turmoil beneath. Bastards. Fucking bastards. When he got his hands on them... oh, yes, when he got his hands on them! His sheer rage subsided but slowly as he made his way through the building to Andrew Murphy's office.

Dill's mask sent the receptionist -- new, a small corner of his mind noted -- scurrying for the door to Murphy's office. She opened it a bare second before he reached it, and closed it behind him respectfully.

"Mr. Murphy," he greeted the lawyer. "And who might your lovely associate be?"

The blond in question turned and Dill's back stiffened as he recognized her. "Hello Ms. Jones," he said calmly.

"Dillon," she inclined her head.

"I gather you two know each other?" Mr. Murphy asked.

"Oh, yes," Ms. Jones answered sadly. "Criminal law is my specialty, but Dillon's grandparents asked me to draft a restraining order for them," she shook her head as she met Dill's eyes. "I honestly didn't expect it to stick; I'm good but the order was so absurd it should have gotten tossed out in its own right, much less after your lawyers dealt with it."

"My lawyers, Mr. Murphy's partners to be specific, weren't interested in handling the order, too busy handling all the other details of the power transfers," Dill answered, meeting her eyes squarely. "They sent a very green lawyer to handle the case, who flubbed it completely. In a fair court that could have been dealt with, but I didn't even get that much."

"I'm sorry, it wasn't... I owed them a few favors, and I honestly never thought..." she shook her head, distressed.

"All is forgiven, I've always blamed them, not their lawyers, which would be you, or Rafe," Dill told her gently.

"Very well. At least let me make it up to you, though. I'll handle an appeal whenever you're ready to try," she offered.

"That might be seen as a conflict of interest," Mr. Murphy pointed out, waving at a nearby seat in an effort to get Dill to sit down.

Dill stalked over to the chair and sat down. "You're right, but it's not like I can take this case pro bono without my partners throwing ten kinds of hell."

"True enough," Mr. Murphy agreed.

"A compromise, then," Dill suggested. "You represent Rafe when he takes legal action against the restraining order."

"That certainly sounds equitable," Mr. Murphy agreed, "though waiting for him to wake up-"

"Won't be an issue," Dill interrupted. "An otherwise quiet lunch got interrupted by a phone call from a very irate grandparent, infuriated beyond reason that Rafe's first move on waking up was to ask about me."

"Well, this calls for a celebration!" Mr. Murphy cried out.

"I received a second call from an anonymous number. The man on the other end was using a voice scrambler," Dill told Mr. Murphy.

"Crap, how bad?" Mr. Murphy asked.

"Very. The trial against Sammy is a put-up, to get them leverage over me. I pay them, and Sammy is safe. I don't... and they move him into the general population of a sex-offender facility."

Ms. Jones gasped in shock. "You can't be serious!"

"Those bastards," Mr. Murphy growled. "Even nigger-boys deserve some-" he cut himself off and glanced as Dillon sheepishly.

"Under the circumstances, and given your vehement disagreement with their position, I went momentarily deaf," Dill reassured the man.

"Thank you. And this changes things, attacks on your fortune..." Mr. Murphy grinned to himself. "Yes, this changes things..." he murmured absentmindedly. Shaking himself, he focused back in Dill. "Since this is an attack on your fortune, new rules come into play with the trust. I can spend whatever it takes on this case, so long as you agree with it."

"I have the money to afford it, right?" Dill asked.

"Yes, several dozen times over," Mr. Murphy answered.

"Then nail their balls to the wall, and hang the cost!" Dill ordered.

"What?" a betrayed gasp at the door interrupted. "You bastard, that's my brother!"

"I meant the cost to my fortune," Dill answered without turning. "I..." he paused. "God, Bri, I didn't mean it that way!"

"We'll..." Bri hesitated. "We'll discuss that later."

"Later is good," Dill agreed softly.

"Come on in and sit down," Mr. Murphy told Brian. "We were just getting around to discussing your brother's situation."

"Alright," Bri answered as he walked across the room. Catching site of Mrs. Jones he paused, surprised. "Ms. Jones," he nodded his head to her.

"We made up, Bri," Dill told his lover.

"I figured as much," Bri answered. "I was just surprised to see her here."

"Well, now that we're all acquainted, Samantha, would you care to start the show?" Mr. Murphy asked.

"Certainly Andrew, thought I'd appreciated it if you called me Ms. Jones while we work on this case; having two Sam's around could get a bit confusing. I've reviewed the case, what little of it is available to the public." Ms. Jones shook her head sadly. "Unfortunately, I can't just barge in and declare myself Sammy's lawyer, I'm going to have to work around the edges to see what I can do. And that may not be much."

"I understand," Dill sighed. "I didn't think of that... custody, right?"

"Precisely. Because Sammy was taken in by social services, he is legally a ward of the state, which means the state gets to decide who his lawyer will, or won't, be." She shook her head. "There are some strings I can, and will, pull, but given what you've said about this being a put up, I doubt we'll get anywhere. Especially since we don't even know who it is!"

"I have an idea who it is," Bri said softly. "It hit me while I was in the car. They're the 'Lord's Messenger', carrying the 'Good Lord's Message', and they don't like gays. And lately who exactly has been the biggest religious thorn in the side of any gay individual in the area?"

"That's... suggestive, to be true, but far from conclusive. Especially given how protective the RECC is of children," Mr. Murphy disagreed. "Mind you, as a group they are certainly bloody enough to do it, and they are desperate for funds, but I just don't see them attacking a child. And there are a few other religious nuts out there that are awfully similar."

"How many of them have the pull to manage this? Much less know about our failed attempt to contact you this morning, while not knowing that we showed up in person?" Bri countered.

"True eno- wait, they knew about this morning?" Mr. Murphy asked sharply. "How?"

"I don't know," Bri admitted. "But given how hard it would be to predict our reaction in advance..."

"Not that hard," Dill argued. "I mean, if I have any kind of legal or financial trouble I come straight to Mr. Murphy on it."

"Yeah, but knowing that we'd be coming here today, and that his secretary wouldn't put us through...?" Bri argued. "Unless she was one of them... no, then they'd know about how we showed up!"

"Not if the information hadn't had time to make it through the pipeline," Dill shot back.

"Boys, boys!" Mr. Murphy cut them off. "I know for a fact that she isn't a member of the RECC. Her brother was caught by the truck bomb they set off last year, she loathes them with a holy passion."

"Oh," Dill deflated. "So how did they know about that?"

"Phone taps," Ms. Jones murmured.

"Eh?" Dill asked.

"I heard something the other day about a number of phone taps going missing from some police storage houses," she explained, shaking her head to clear it, "and then being found in illegal use on phones that the police had no interest in. The current theory is they got stolen, so if they tapped your phone, or Murphy's here..."

"Not mine, I get my security swept every day for a reason," Mr. Murphy argues. "Which leaves..."

"The phone that would be most useful to anyone wanting to keep tabs on potential targets," Dill agreed. "We used the open phone for the call here, but we used the secure line to call the car company... that would explain why they didn't know we showed up in person."

"Alright then, that certainly narrows down the groups who might pull this off," Mr. Murphy agreed. "Mind you, I'd advise against closing our minds to other possibilities because we might miss something important!"

"Fair enough, but... does it really matter at this point"? Bri asked. "Shouldn't we be focusing on helping my brother out, less on whodunit?"

"You're the one who brought whodunit up!" Dill pointed out.

"Because I thought it might help Sammy somehow!" Bri snapped. "Clearly it's not, so let's get back on topic!"

"Actually, it might," Ms. Jones told him. "While we might not be able to directly counter the RECC, it may very well be possible to sneak around the edges. I know more than one individual who would love to turn their hands against the RECC, even if it turns out we're wrong."

"Let's calm down, everyone," Mr. Murphy placated Bri. "Getting too involved -- too upset -- will only hurt Sammy."

"Fine," Bri agreed. "Now what can we do?"

"Not much," Mr. Murphy admitted. "Ms. Jones and I will have to nibble around the edges to see what we can find out, and if we find something to do we'll do it."

"Most of our actions will have to be behind the scenes," Ms. Jones added, "but a few well-pulled strings might do a lot of good."

"Alright," Dill said. "Do what you can. But be careful, especially around Children's Services. Emily Tate is involved, and in all likelyhood she's helping the RECC out."

"Who?" Mr. Murphy asked, fingers hovering over a keyboard.

"You remember her, the social worker who kept us from taking Sammy in?" Bri reminded the lawyer.

"That one, yeah I remember her," Murphy agreed as he pulled up the file.

"Tell me about it?" Ms. Jones asked.

"Alright, I will," Dill said. "Bri had moved in with me after getting kicked out by his mother. Unfortunately, he was the one who made sure she kept to her med schedule, and without him she managed to OD, leaving Sammy alone. We tried to take Sammy in, and Social Services stepped in. We started with a Mrs. Andrea Sharp, who almost had the paperwork finished before Ms. Tate intervened."

"Don't ask us how she did it, Andrea couldn't tell us, but Ms. Tate deleted all the files from the system, forcing us to start over. And she proceeded to alter dozens of other files to suit her purposes," Bri lamented.

"She painted us as child abusers and molesters of little boys, and it was all Murphy could do to keep it from coming to trial," Dill said sadly. "We didn't understand it until near the very end..."

"Any idea why she wants a private meeting yet," Bri asked nervously as he fiddled with his clothes.

"Nope, just that she wants it secure, private, and completely off the record. Here, let me do that," Dill answered, taking the tie from Bri's sweaty hands. Stepping around behind him, Dill reached around his lover and tied the tie for him.

"Thanks," Bri smiled over his shoulder. Dill took the opportunity to steal a chaste kiss before backing away.

"It's almost time," he pointed out.

The drive felt like it took days or even months, rather than the minutes it was supposed to. Soon they arrived, and filed in to meet Ms. Tate. The brunette was waiting for them, sitting down behind a table with her long, elegant hair up in a beuatiful coiffure. Her dress, similarly, was an elegent, expensive affair. She'd dressed to make an impression, and Bri was suddenly glad Dill had insisted on dressing up themselves.

"Hello... boys," she finally said, the disdainful pause cutting like a knife, killing any hope Bri carried with him.

"Hello Ms. Tate," Bri answered cooly. "I see they forgot to set chairs out for us," he added.

"You two don't deserve chairs," she told him icily. "I called you sinners here to understand why I did what I did. I hold no hope for it, but as Har- A friend pointed out, the Good Lord works in mysterious ways."

"I didn't come here to be lectured to," Dill answered angrily.

"Well, you will listen!" Ms. Tate snapped angrily. "I hold power over your 'lover's' dear brother," she sneered the word so hatefully both Bri and Dill flinched. "Unless you want him harmed...?"

"Speak fast, lady," Bri snarled angrily.

They stood there like two boys before the principle as she spoke, and when she was finished they stalked out wordlessly, rage beyond rage flowing in their veins.

"Faggot, queer, nigger, demon spawn, a dozen names she called us," Bri said softly.

"I won't even try to repeat the vile, vile things she said," Dill agreed. "She isn't just homophobic; that woman is pure evil. Almost any imaginable form of bigotry from anti-semitism to racism and back again."

"The RECC goes in for religious prejudice in spades, but that woman... I don't doubt the humanity of RECC members, just their wisdom. But her..." Bri shook his head.

"When she took her mask off, the only thing to be seen beneath it was the face of pure god-be-damned evil," Dill whispered softly. "She scared me then, though I didn't let myself admit it. Even now... I'm scared of her."

"She hasn't tried anything since but... Yeah, I'm scared too," Bri admitted.

Ms. Jones looked at them in shock, then glanced over at Mr. Murphy. He nodded slowly.

"Oh hell," she swore softly.

Dill and Bri rode home in silence, just holding onto one another. They'd done what they could for Sammy, but in their heart of hearts, they knew it wasn't going to be enough.

"We never did answer why Murphy was going to be unavailable for several days," Bri mused near the end of the journey.

"I'm sure that part of their plan will become clear soon enough," Dill answered softly.

"Maybe, but-" Bri began.

"No buts," Dill told him. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let's focus on coming up with plans for the things we can predict, and with a little luck control."

"Alright," Bri said softly as he pulled himself up against Dill even tighter.

"I don't know what-" the ringing of Dill's cell interrupted them again. "God-damn it, it never stops!" he swore angrily as he fished it out of his pocket. "Yes?" he snarled into it.

"Hello Murphy... One moment..." Dill pulled the phone away from his ear and found the speakerphone button. "You're on speaker," he told Murphy.

"Bad news boys," Murphy told them. "Someone stole a march on us this morning, and the case has already gotten plead out."

"What? No!" Bri shouted. "My brother!"

"Good news is I don't think it was the RECC who did it; the facility in question is a state run psych ward that does not specialize in sex cases." Murphy hesitated a moment before continuing, "I'm not sure I should mention this, but another of my clients is having me do research on the place, and I don't think it's really what it claims to be."

"What do you mean?" Dill asked.

Murphy's voice was grim. "I did some poking around, just a preliminary investigation before more extensive inquiries. While I didn't get anywhere, I did worry someone. An army officer dropped by my office and told me I either drop the case, 'or else'. I protested, and he threatened me with the patriot act."

"Shit!" Bri swore. "That's big guns!"

"I thought that was restricted to terrorists!" Dill added angrily.

"Yeah, well, it is," Murphy told them with a small laugh. "And by federal definitions, probing into that place is an act of terrorism, it would seem."

"That's absurd!" Dill complained.

"Yeah, but... listen, I have a family, understand?" Murphy's shaking head couldn't be seen, but they both heard it in his voice. "I can't afford to put them in that kind of jeopardy. The guy... he didn't limit himself to threatening me with the act!"

"I understand," Dill said eventually. "Can you get me what information you have on the place?"

"It's already on it's way via courier," Murphy told them. "I can't be involved in this further, I'm sorry." The click of a closing phone line ended the conversation.

"Damn," Dill shook his head. They remained silent for the remainder of the journey, simply giving and receiving comfort from one another. They slowly trudged into the house as the car drove off, lost in silent thought until the household phone rang.

"Hello, Torrelli Residence," Bri answered numbly. "Rafe! Hi! It's good to..." Bri paused as he remembered. "Shit, I can't talk to ya Rafe!"

Dill stared daggers at Bri while wordlessly demanding the phone with an outstretched hand. "The restraining order your grandparents took out- Yes, they took out a restraining order... Sorry, you're going to have to talk to them, I need to hang up or end up in legal trouble... Talk to you later, bye." Bri set the phone on the hook while Dill's eyes shot daggers at him. "In case you forgot, not only is there a restraining order, that phone has been tapped. You can't talk to him Dill!"

"He's my brother!" Dill cried out angrily.

"Yes, and I know it, but the last thing we need now is more legal trouble!" Bri argued.

"You mean the last thing your brother needs!" Dill snarled as his cell phone ring. "Who the hell is it now?" he asked as he dug it out again. "I swear, if it's more bad news..." Seeing the caller ID, he took a deep breath before opening it. "Hello Cheryl, how are you doing?"

"I'll leave you to talk to her," Bri told his lover as he walked to another part of the house. Both of them needed some time alone right about now, emotions were running high and he knew it.

Reaching the suite of rooms set aside for his use when he wanted to be alone, Bri collapsed onto the bed and started weeping uncontrollably.

"And if that half-grown cretin does that to Rafe again, you tell him I'll personally rip his heart out just like he did Rafe's! You got me, Dillon?" Cheryl ranted.

"Cher, shut up," Dill said harshly. "He hasn't had the best of fucking days, neither have I, and he had a good fucking point!"

"I can't believe you're standing up for him!" Cher screeched.

"I'm not," Dill ground out, "he should have let me tell Rafe we can't talk. But I'm making allowances because he's had a day far, far worse than you know!"

"Oh, come on, I know Sammy is in trouble, but it'll work out!" Cher argued.

"No, it didn't work out. I can't tell you everything, but he's been tossed in jail and we probably can't get him out," Dill told her. "And that was just the capstone of Bri's day so far." A few moments silence had Dill checking his phone to make sure the signal hadn't cut out. "Hello?"

"One... Oh my... Um..." Cher stammered in response. "Sorry, I didn't know."

"I know, I know..." Dill agreed. "He's not in a good mood now, and neither am I. This crap is just..." Dill sighed. "I'll let you know more when we're not talking over the open air, Cher. For now just let Rafe know I love him, very much, and if the damned restraining order weren't in place I'd probably come over and see him. I need to go find Bri now, he needs me."

"Alright... I'll talk to you soon, Dill," Cher said as he hung up. Looking around, Dill considered for a moment before deciding to hell with it. They'd agreed not to do it, but right now he just didn't fucking care. "House, where is Brian?"

"I'm sorry, Dillon, at your request I deactivated tracking feature access except under emergencies," the reply from a nearby speaker.

"Override, authorization niner-seven-seven-zulu," Dillon stated.

"One moment... override accepted... he is in his private wing. Shall I connect you?" house answered.

"No, activate kitchen AV suite and display internal security," Dill ordered.

"I'm sorry, but at your request I deactivated access to-" house began.

"Override, authorization niner-seven-seven-zulu," Dill cut the computer off.

"One moment... override accepted... AV suite online now," house uttered.

The TV cabinet opened up on its own and the HD screen flickered on line. Dill was shocked to see Bri weeping on his bed like a lost child. He was in the privacy suite, that meant he wanted to be left alone, but... "House, how long has he been like this? Override user lockout, authorization niner-seven-seven-zulu."

"One moment... override accepted... I'm sorry, your request was unclear. Please rephrase," house answered.

"His weeping. How long has he been on his bed weeping," Dill specified, jaws clenched. Stupid piece of junk AI!

"One moment... override still in effect?" house asked.

"Yes, you damned bucket of bolts!" Dill swore.

"Accessing data... processing... I cannot answer your query, privacy overrides in place," house answered. "Primary user situational override activated... One moment... Video file accessed; playing."

The TV screen suddenly changed to another video stream that made Dill's knees feel weak. "Hello Dillon," the ghost of his long-dead grandmother spoke. "If you're seeing this, you've triggered one of the little land mines I've left buried here and there. This is a prelude video, not the main course. I left the house AI with a number of video files and triggers, and if you hit certain conditions it will call up my messages for you. Don't worry, most of them are good -- they're there to provide you with extra information if you need help with something."

Her voice grew sterner as she continued, however, "But do worry about this one! I wrote three intro videos, one for both you and Bri, one for just Bri, and one for just you. The solo ones are for when you misbehave. If you're seeing this, then I am severely disappointed in you young man! These land mines won't actually strip you of access -- I don't dare even try that -- but they will deliver a good ol' fashioned chewing out, along with some advice." The screen flickered for a moment before clearing up and starting the second video.

"I'm going to assume you felt you had a good reason to violate someone's privacy. I'm going to assume you weren't doing it to be an utter ass. But Dill, the very first rule you should have learned is to respect other people's privacy! I never deliberately violated your privacy using the security system, and after the first accident I stopped using it on you at all, and if you're seeing this, I'm glad I didn't live to see this day!'

"Young man, the only reason you'd be seeing this video is because you tried to use house AI's security systems to spy on Brian. Not simply locate or communicate, but to actually spy. That is despicable. Imagine what he'd feel like if he knew. I could tell him... but I won't. That's for you to do, sometime in the next forty-eight hours."

"I'd suggest complete honesty, and go talk to him. I don't know what made you decide to spy, but it would probably have been a better idea to just talk to the boy. Openness is important in any relationship, and the one you have with that boy is strong and pure. Go."

The old woman smiled across the years as she reached out a hand. "We'll finish this talk later -- house has the second video queued for your convenience. Go."

Dill collapsed to the ground, sobbing, as the TV turned off and the cabinet closed on it. Even now, years later, Grams was still looking out for him.

God, he loved that woman!

Sammy limped along slowly as the correctional officers guided him down the path. The facility he'd been moved to was big, dark, and imposing. He slowed down more and more as they got closer to the building, dragging his feet. His escorts didn't rush him, they felt it too. They didn't have any more choice than he did, but they had no desire to go closer to this place than necessary. No desire at all.

Before they were halfway up the walk, two more guards walked out of the building to meet them. They were dressed almost the same as the two correctional officers who'd brought Sammy this far, but Sammy could see a difference in them before they even got close. The guards who'd come with him were scary, these guys were worse.

His guards removed the chains on his arms and legs while the new guards checked the paperwork. Sammy hoped they'd hurry up, this orange stuff they had him wearing wasn't very comfortable in the heat of the day. As the old guards left, Sammy waved at them before being ordered to follow the new ones inside.

"I'll handle processing, and an eight year old kid hardly needs both of us," one of the guards told the other.

"Alright," the other responded.

The first guard led Sammy down a small corridor to a room where he was told to strip. Sammy didn't enjoy processing at all. First he had to strip down completely, then he was washed by the guard despite being old enough to wash himself. And the guard wasn't very gentle about it, either!

After that ordeal, Sammy was forced to parade around naked as the day he was born down another corridor to a doctor's office. Height, weight, blood pressure and all the other 'normal' items were done in the nude, as was the rather thorough physical exam afterwards. Sammy cried through most of it, but after the first time the doctor just forced him to assume a desired position, learned not to resist. The blood part was scary, and the doctors didn't even give him a lollipop afterwards, the meanies! You always get a lollipop after the needles, shots normally, but blood draws too!

Finally he was given some clothes and he pulled them on as best he could. They didn't fit well, and they were strange, too. Then a guard stripped him off again and put the clothes back on. Sammy tugged at the collar angrily as he insisted they didn't fit right. The guard ignored his complaints as he ushered him into another room.

"Hello Samuel," the man sitting at the desk said. "Come and sit down over here." Sammy sat at the chair across the desk, wondering what was next.

"Alright, I'm giving you fifteen seconds in five..." a male voice announced over a loudspeaker.

"No, I'm going to need at least thirty!" the man complained, glancing up at the mirrors in the ceiling.

"Thomas, standard protocol-" the voice began angrily.

"Fuck protocol! He's a little kid dammit! If I go in as rough as you insist on, I'll probably put him in a fucking coma!" Thomas swore angrily.

"Fine, twenty seconds," the voice answered.

"Twenty five, and no promises about being able to finish activation while I'm in there," Thomas answered assertively. "I haven't even gone in and I can feel this kid is strong!"

"Fine, twenty five it is. In five, four" Thomas turned and faced Sammy and met his eyes. Sammy couldn't look away even as the countdown reached "Now!"

Sammy felt it. It was like some great hand reaching in through his skull and squeezing his brains to mush. The stranger cried as he dug around in there, and then pulled out even as a second countdown reached zero. Sammy collapsed to the ground sobbing in agony the instant his body was free to move again.

"Oh, that hurts!" Thomas complained. "Kid is more powerful than I thought, I partially activated his powers but it's going to be a while before I can do the rest."

"Do it now, Thomas. You know the rules," the voice ordered harshly.

"Tell Doctor Woodward I'd like to speak to him," Thomas ordered angrily. "These stupid rules are bad enough in most cases, but I will not do more to this kid!"

"Five seconds to comply, Thomas," the voice warned.

Sammy pulled himself back into the chair, still sobbing, and his head jerked around as Thomas started thrashing and gasping in his chair, shaking like he was having a seizure. "What's wrong?" Sammy asked, worried.

"I'm alright," Thomas said a few minutes later. "They just don't like-" Thomas seized some more before he could continue. "They don't like it if I don't do exactly as they order."

"Pick a kid, Thomas, or do your job. You're choice," the voice warned. Thomas glared at the curved mirrors at the top of the room again.

"Fuck off!" he swore angrily. "Call Doctor Woodward and tell him that if I go any farther with this kid, his neural pathways will degrade and he'll lapse into a god-damned coma!"

"Pick a kid, Thomas," the voice commanded harshly.

"Call Doctor Woodward! That's in the damned agreement, you idiot! I get to call him in if I want!" Thomas screamed angrily, slamming his hands on the table.

"Richard and Kyle shall be enjoying five minutes with you Thomas..." the voice seemed to grin, "Starting now."

Thomas collapsed to the ground, and Sammy just curled up in his chair and cried as the man thrashed and screamed in agony. "Stop it, stop it, stop it, STOP IT!" Sammy screamed over and over.

"Enough!" another voice came over the speaker. "Thomas, what in the hell possessed you to challenge Franklin?

"I wanted... to talk... to you!" Thomas gasped out between breaths.

"What? Why didn't you just ask?" the second voice asked angrily.

"I did... he refused!" Thomas gasped.

"I'll check the records. If he did... my apologies. What did you want to talk about?" the voice came back a few minutes later. Thomas had crawled back up into his chair, and Sammy just sat there shaking.

"The boy is powerful, Doctor, and I mean really powerful. I can't finish his activation today, it'd kill him," Thomas explained.

"What? Are you trying-" the doctor began.

"Doctor! Take him in one of your machines and test his neural pathways, I am willing to bet you'll find significant signs of stress on them!" Thomas interrupted.

"I'll run the tests, but for your own sake, you had better be right," the doctor said eventually.

Sammy was taken out of the room by another guard and stuck in a machine that made a lot of noise, and told to stay perfectly still. Frightened by the noise, he started struggling against the restraints and eventually the doctors just stuck a needle in his arm and knocked him out.

"Thomas, I'm sorry about what happened earlier," Doctor Woodward said as he removed the restraints.

"Do you really think I believe you?" Thomas asked softly, rubbing his wrists. Days like this he really wished he'd never lost his healing abilities... or the other tricks that came with them. But he'd set his back to the door for a reason, and looking back was a waste of time.

"I have never lied to you," Doctor Woodward pointed out.

"You've never let yourself get caught in a lie," Thomas disagreed. "We both know you lie everywhere you can get away with, and since you won't let me scan you-"

"We've had this discussion before!" Doctor Woodward complained. "The fact that you refuse to cooperate-"

"With butchering kids!" Thomas interrupted. "You butcher these kids and you expect me to cooperate!?"

"It's hardly butchery! These days we don't even loose one in ten who go under the knife!" Doctor Woodward answered.

"Only thanks to Kyle and his ability to heal others," Thomas pointed out. "Those damned brain implants you insist on are an abomination whose only purpose is to try and control us. A control you wouldn't need if you didn't insist on kidnapping children and forcing them to become things they don't want to be!"

"Until we can reliably induce psionic abilities in full adults, we don't have a choice! Do you think any of our enemies would hesitate to use their psionic abilities simply because they can only be safely induced in children?" Doctor Woodward argued.

"It isn't a matter of activating the power while they're children I'm complaining about, and you know it! I'd do that from dusk to dawn if it weren't for your trying to force them to become soldiers and assassins!"

"We need the personnel Thomas, and you know it. We're pressed on all fronts, and the only counter for a psion is another psion!" Doctor Woodward shook his head. "Conversation finished, you're still stuck in the middle ages, and I have better things to do!"

"Better things to do my ass," Thomas muttered as the man left his cell. Leaning back on the cot he was allowed, he once again practiced the mental states conductive to psionic ability. The device in his skull gave him a slow, continuous jolt in an effort to prevent him from entering the state, but he'd almost overcome that, and better yet he was able to keep the trance state low-level enough to avoid the stronger jolt designed to prevent him from staying in the mental state needed. If he could just get another few weeks, maybe he could get around the damned device and contact some friends.

And the idiots had never even considered the possibility! Thomas could have snickered, but then his cell door was abruptly opened and a sobbing kid was thrust through. "Samuel?" Thomas asked hesitantly, not sure if he remembered the kid's name right.

Sammy launched himself into Thomas's arms, sobbing. "Thankyoythankyouthankyou!" he spoke so fast the words were slurred.

"Shhh, it's alright little one, calm down," Thomas begged the child, doing his best to comfort him. It took some effort to do so without falling over, but he lifted the kid up onto his lap.

"Since you refuse to activate him fully," the guard at the door explained, "he gets to spend the night with you."

"Fine, fine, whatever," Thomas hid his joy. If all he could do was spare this kid a night alone... or worse... then he'd do it gladly. Besides, he liked kids and didn't get enough time to spend with them outside of 'training' sessions.

The guard closed the door and Thomas laid back against the wall, enjoying the warmth and comfort of having a child 'blanket' to cuddle up to. The kid's sobbing was slowly fading as Thomas stroked his back and whispered comforts in his ear. "Thank you," Sammy whispered.

"Your welcome little guy," Thomas whispered back. Sammy's squirming suggested that not all was well, though. "You OK?"

"I need the bathroom," Sammy admitted, "but the mens told me I had to stay here all night." Thomas pointed across the room, a slight grin on his face. Sammy looked where he was pointing and frowned. "But... there's no door or walls!"

"I promise I won't watch," Thomas said with a slight grin. Sammy wandered over to the toilet and stared.

"Why is it so weird?" Sammy asked, pointing to the handicap bars.

"Because I can't use my legs," Thomas admitted, thumping the wheelchair by his cot for emphasis.

"You can't?" Sammy asked as he examined the toilet. "Don't watch," he ordered as he dropped his pants.

"I'm not," Thomas smiled as he averted his gaze. The sound of miniature waterfall left little to the imagination, however.

As Sammy took care of his business, Thomas levered himself into his wheelchair as best he could. It wasn't easy, but he managed it. "Whatcha doin?" Sammy asked.

"Well, I gotta use the toilet too," Thomas admitted as he wheeled himself over to the door. Pressing a button, he asked, "Can I please get an attendant?"

"No, you have the boy already," came the sharp reply.

"Wait, is he supposed to... help me?" Thomas asked, a trifle disgusted at the sheer pettiness of the revenge his 'masters' had come up with.


Flat, unequivocal, and just plain wrong. Thomas could have turned the air blue in frustration. "Alright Sammy, looks like I'll need you help for this."

"You will?" Sammy asked.

"Yeah. Since my legs don't work, I have to hold myself up by the arms, which means I can't do stuff like pulling my pants back up, or wiping," Thomas admitted sourly.

"Or hold it yourself when you pee?" Sammy giggled.

Kids and their biology obsessed minds! Thomas didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I generally just sit down to go, saves me the indignity of needing that help." Sammy giggled at Thomas's rather sour reply. "Do you mind helping, kid? I don't think I can make it to morning, but I can try."

"I'll help. Your poop can't be any worse than mine!" Sammy pointed out cheerfully.

Kids! Thomas grumbled a little, but his heart just wasn't in it. Sammy was a little too energetic with his help, but better that than the ten foot poles the guards would prefer to use. Though Sammy's obvious gawking didn't improve Thomas's mood much, either.

"It's huge!" the kid commented when Thomas heaved himself onto the toilet.

"What?" Thomas answered, confused.

"Your peepee! And it's all hairy!" Thomas just stared at Sammy a few moments before closing his legs to hide his equipment as best he could.

"I didn't stare at you!" Thomas accused Sammy.

"I didn't need help wiping!" the kid giggled.

Thomas finished his business as quickly as he could and then stood up to let the kid wipe him. Looking down, he watched Sammy carefully clean every inch the kid thought he could get away with. Clearly he was fascinated with the difference between his own, pre-pubescent body and Thomas's hairy equipment.

Thomas smiled and just looked away, gazing into the past, when he'd been whole. Intact. The injury sure saved him some inconvenience at times like this, except... there wouldn't be times like this if those God-damned bastards hadn't gotten the bright idea to-

The feel of a belt being tightened around his waist startled Thomas out of his reverie. "Oh, finished so soon?"

"Huh?" the kid asked.

"The way you were cleaning me, I expected to have a thorough physical before you were finished!"

The kid giggled as he shook his head. "You're so hairy!"

"No, Harry is in the cell next door, I'm Thomas."

The kid giggled as he said his name was Sammy, and Thomas dropped himself back in his wheelchair. The kid insisted on pushing him back to the bed, and, smiling, Thomas let him -- after they washed their hands at the sink.

"Just about time for bed, kiddo," Thomas told the kid.

"Aaaah!" the kid complained before yawning. Thomas reached over and moved the covers aside before hoisting himself into bed.

"Care to help?" he asked the kid as he moved his legs by hand.

Giggling, the kid helped Thomas shove his legs into place before crawling in beside him. Thomas drew the covers over them and kissed the child on the top of his head. "Sleep well, little one," he whispered softly.

"G'nigh," the kid murmured back, already half asleep. Lucky SOB!

Eventually Thomas followed suit, and drifted off into dreams.

The world around him seem strange as he floated above a bed with two figures in it. A bright light streaked forth from the smaller figure, leaving a dimly lit golden cord connecting it to the body. A similar cord, but done in brighter silver, connected Thomas to what had to be his body.

Dream walking! It had been years since he'd been carried to this strange realm, but he recognized it. Off in the distance a million gleaming stars shone through the walls, in million different shades, sizes, brightnesses.

Recognizing one instantly, a brilliant multi-hued bonfire of a star, Thomas thanked his good luck and tore off, moving through air and walls and stone with quicksilver ease. Instantly he was near the bonfire that represented the dreams of the one man who might help.

Reaching out, he touched those dreams. "It's me, Thomas!" he identified himself, to prevent the dreamer from swatting him aside like an errant fly. "Please, help me!" he begged as he poured raw information into the link along with his voice. "I don't have time to explain, but children are in dire need, and if I don't get your help, more will die! Ple-"

Thomas thrashed in sudden agony as the control collar triggered, waking him and breaking the dream-walk.

"Sammy!" Bri called out in anguish as he woke up from his dream.

"Wha?" Dill asked as he woke up more slowly. "Wha's wrong?"

Bri gulped air desperately for a few moments before he laid back down. "Just a nightmare, Dill, Just a nightmare..."

And elsewhere, Paul whispered angrily as he opened his eyes. "Bastards!" he swore. "I'm coming, Thomas, just hold on..."