"Go in peace. I release you." Jerico said in a gentle voice.
"Thank you." The spirit said in a whisper as he faded from sight.
"So what do we do now?" Devon asked into the ensuing silence.
"We wait." The young Shaman said simply.
"Father, do you need to get to your office to take care of the security red?" Mr. T asked in a subdued voice.
"No. All I would be doing in my office is awaiting a call from the security team. I can do that just as easily from here." Chief Tecumseh said in concentration.
Paul looked around the room, then turned to Jerico and opened his mouth to ask a question.
Before Paul could utter a word, Jerico quickly said, "Uri, would you mind if I use your room again for a few minutes? I need to study this a little more."
"Of course. You may use my room whenever you wish." Uri said as he looked at Paul's deflated expression.
"Thanks." Jerico whispered, then picked up his notebook and rushed out of the room.
"Did I do something?" Paul asked with a pained look at Uri.
"No, you did not." Uri said with assurance.
"Then I guess it's just because I'm here. He had the same look that he gets at home." Paul said in a defeated whisper.
Mouse looked at Luke with concern, and saw the expression reflected back at him.
"Come on." Mouse said quietly and gestured to the door.
Luke nodded and followed Mouse out of the room.
* * * * *
"Can we talk to you for a minute?" Mouse asked from Uri's bedroom door.
Jerico looked up from his notebook and hesitantly nodded.
"Why did you just leave the room?" Mouse asked as he led Luke into the room.
"Because I need to reread this notebook." Jerico said carefully.
Luke shook his head.
"You can talk now Luke." Mouse said seriously.
Luke glanced at Mouse, then back to Jerico before saying, "Your cousin thinks that you can't stand to be around him. When you left, he was sure that it was because of him."
Jerico's expression became distant.
"He thinks that you don't like him and that you think he's just a useless little kid." Mouse said firmly.
Jerico's attention came back to the present and he looked at Mouse with a tired, very old, look in his eyes.
"What's going on?" Luke asked with concern.
Jerico sat quietly thinking for a minute, then noticed the expectant look in both boys eyes.
"It takes a lot of concentration to anchor myself and protect other people from my abilities. If I do it for very long, I get tired and start to lose control of it." Jerico said quietly.
"So you needed to get out of there so you could stop anchoring for a while?" Mouse asked in thought.
"That's right. I can't afford to let my concentration slip for even a minute or I could hurt someone." Jerico said in a pained voice.
"What do you do at home? I mean, when Paul's around?" Luke asked cautiously, feeling like he was on the verge of understanding something.
Jerico looked at Luke with question, then stopped for a moment to think before answering, "I spend what time I can with Pauley, he's really a great kid. But when I start feeling tired, I make up an excuse to get away. I don't want to hurt him."
Luke and Mouse shared a look for a moment before Mouse said, "That must mean that you really suck at making excuses."
"What?" Jerico asked slowly.
"Paul thinks that you don't want him around. That you think he's worthless and you only put up with him because you have to." Mouse said seriously.
"Yeah, and when you make up an excuse, he knows that you're just trying to get away from him." Luke added.
Jerico looked at the floor for a moment, remembering the times he had made excuses to get away from his cousin and realized how much he was hurting Pauley.
Finally Jerico said, "I knew it was a mistake to move in with Uncle Aubrey's family. I knew when I moved here that I would end up hurting someone... I always do."
"You didn't hurt him by moving in. You hurt him by lying to him. If you just tell him the truth and let him know why you need to be alone sometimes, then it won't be a problem." Mouse said seriously.
"Yeah. I thought a Shaman would be smart enough to know that lies hurt people." Luke said firmly.
Jerico looked at Luke with question, then broke into a slight smile as he said, "When I found out you were chosen, I naturally assumed that I'd end up teaching you. It looks like the teaching is going to be going both ways."
Luke smiled at the statement, then became serious as he said, "Then your next lesson is about telling the truth and fixing things when you screw up."
Jerico nodded and said, "Later, when all this stuff with Arlo is taken care of, I'll sit down with him and have a long talk to explain everything."
Luke gave Mouse an urging look that spoke volumes.
Mouse nodded and ran out of the room.
Jerico gave Luke a hesitant look of question.
"Later is a wish. It doesn't exist. There is no later, there is only now." Luke said seriously.
Jerico looked at Luke with wide eyes.
Luke smiled at Jerico's expression and said in his best Yoda voice, "Learn well the ways of the force young Jedi."
Jerico couldn't help but break into laughter at the statement.
* * * * *
"Shhh. It's okay Kevin. You're fine." Devon whispered as he held the boy closely.
"I wish there was something I could do to help." Paul said with a look of concern.
"There are times when waiting is the most difficult thing to do. Please sit down and tell me what's going on with you. We haven't spoken for quite a while." Chief Tecumseh said gently.
"Well, there's not much to say. I just go to school and help mom and Lucy around the house." Paul said reluctantly.
"What about Jerico? I recall Aubrey mentioning that he lived with you once before but I don't really know much about him." Chief Tecumseh asked with interest.
"Oh, well I don't know that much either. Jerico is like my second cousin or something. His grandfather and my grandfather are brothers, Uncle Aubrey's brothers. I guess when Jerico wanted to be a Shaman he came to stay with us for a while so he could learn from Uncle Aubrey. He was really quiet and I don't remember much about it because it was so long ago. After a while he left, then a couple months ago he moved in with us again." Paul finished with a shrug.
"It sounds like you don't know very much about your cousin. Why is that?" Devon asked curiously.
Paul thought about it for a second, then said, "He doesn't talk to me that much. I mean, when we're together I do most of the talking."
A moment of silence fell over the room as everyone was just as happy to let the subject drop at that point.
Suddenly Mouse ran into the room and said, "Paul, I need you to come with me."
"What's wrong?" Paul asked with concern as he stood.
"I'll tell you in a minute. Come on." Mouse said as he took hold of Paul's arm and literally dragged him out of the room.
A moment of silence fell over the gathering before Mr. T said, "Does anyone else remember when Mouse first arrived and was so shy and quiet that you would forget he was in the room with you?"
A chuckle ran through the room as Chief Tecumseh said, "It is a good indication that he is becoming comfortable in his new home."
"If he gets much more comfortable he could dislocate someone's arm." Mr. T said absently.
* * * * *
Paul walked into the room to an unusual sight.
Jerico and Luke were caught up in a fit of giggles, looking like a pair of carefree kids.
Suddenly Paul realized that he hadn't heard Jerico laugh before.
He felt his heart sink as the thought came to him that Jerico could laugh and have fun with this stranger, but couldn't stand to be in the same room with him.
As Paul turned to leave, he felt Mouse's hand on his arm.
"You need to stay." Mouse said quietly.
Jerico and Luke looked up and the laughter stopped as they saw Paul's pained expression.
"Come over here Pauley. I have something to tell you." Jerico said and patted the bed beside him.
Paul gathered his courage and felt a knot of anxiety swell in his stomach as he sat on the bed.
From the way that Mouse had dragged him out of the room where everyone else was, he knew it was something serious.
"Would you guys mind if I told him in private?" Jerico asked carefully.
"Do you think you can do it without screwing it up?" Mouse asked in challenge.
Jerico looked into Paul's frightened eyes, then turned to Mouse and said, "You'd probably better stay."
"Thought so." Mouse said seriously and plopped down on the other bed.
Luke smiled at the statement and took a seat beside Mouse.
"Pauley..." Jerico began.
"Paul." Mouse corrected firmly.
"What?" Jerico asked as he looked at Mouse with confusion.
"His name is Paul. When you call him Pauley you're saying that he's less than you, just a kid." Mouse said seriously.
"Really?" Jerico asked as he looked at Paul.
After a moment of thought, Paul said, "Sometimes I feel like that, but I know you don't mean it that way. You can call me Pauley if you want."
Jerico shook his head and said, "Paul, I haven't been honest with you and these guys made me see that I've been hurting you by lying to you."
A feeling of apprehension exploded within Paul as he became certain that Jerico was about to tell him that he didn't want him around anymore.
"Do you remember when you were about four or five and I came to stay with Uncle Aubrey for a while?" Jerico asked quietly.
"Not really. I mean, I sort of remember, but not too much." Paul said hesitantly.
"Well, back then I was like Luke. I couldn't really talk to anyone because if I did, my words would hurt them." Jerico said carefully.
Paul looked at Jerico with confusion and finally said, "I don't understand."
"You need to show him. You can explain it all day, but he won't really understand until he sees it." Luke said carefully.
Jerico nodded at the statement.
"You can do it to me if you want. I don't mind." Mouse said timidly.
"No. It's better if he does it to Paul so he can feel it." Luke said seriously.
"Do what?" Paul asked with renewed fear.
"I'm going to say something to you. It might make you feel sad for a minute, but I think the guys are right, it's the only way you can really understand. Can I do it?" Jerico asked quietly as he looked into Paul's eyes.
"Yeah. I guess so." Paul said hesitantly.
"When I'm at home, alone in my room, I can hear your family and I know that I can never be a part of that." Jerico said in a pained voice.
Paul looked at Jerico with question, then said, "That sucks. Why can't you be a part of it?"
Luke, Mouse and Jerico looked at each other with surprise.
"Pauley... I mean Paul, how do you feel?" Jerico asked cautiously.
"Um. Fine. I felt a little sad when you said that, but I still don't understand." Paul said carefully.
"Luke, you try." Jerico said with the beginning of excitement in his voice.
"My parents wanted to use me to do bad things and hurt people." Luke said in concentration.
Paul gave Luke a strange look, then hesitantly said, "Um, I'm sorry to hear that..."
"He's an anchor." Mouse said with a great smile.
"I can't believe it." Jerico said in wonder as he looked at Paul with wide eyes.
"Okay, you guys are freaking me out here. What's going on?" Paul asked as he looked at everyone's excited expressions.
"Paul, Jerico has been keeping away from you because if he's not careful his words could hurt you. He was trying to protect you." Luke said seriously.
"It's the same reason that Luke can't talk when we're around other people. If he says the wrong thing he could make someone feel sad or mad or something." Mouse tried to explain.
"Worse than that, he could make someone sick or go insane. Our words can cause the subconscious to make a person believe that they're blind, or deaf or an infant... or a tequila worm... or a doorknob..." Jerico trailed off.
"Really? You can do that?" Paul asked in wonder.
"It's not as cool as it sounds. You have to watch every single thing that you say and it's usually best if you don't say anything at all." Luke said with a pained expression.
"I learned how to keep my words from hurting people, but it takes a lot of concentration and makes me really tired." Jerico said regretfully.
"So he has to stay by himself a lot so he doesn't accidentally hurt someone." Mouse interjected.
"That's why you make excuses to get away from me?" Paul asked with wide eyes.
"That's why. I was afraid that if I relaxed around you that I would accidentally hurt you. It was really difficult because I enjoy spending time with you. You're a lot of fun to talk with." Jerico finished timidly.
Paul was speechless at the statement.
"But you're an anchor, so Jerico doesn't have to do that anymore." Mouse said happily.
"I don't understand... I'm a what?" Paul asked as he tore his gaze away from Jerico.
"It means that Jerico's words don't hurt you. And with practice, you can protect other people from his words too so he doesn't have to anchor himself and be tired and concentrating all the time." Mouse said with a grand smile.
Jerico looked at Paul with an overwhelming feeling of peace welling up inside him.
Paul saw the expression of relief on Jerico's face and said, "I'm glad I can finally do something to help you."
"If you'd be willing, you can do a lot more than help me. What I haven't told any of you is that our gifts become more powerful over time. I'm almost to the point where I can kill with a word. Before very much longer, I won't even need to speak. I'll be able to kill with a thought. People like Luke and I usually end up moving to remote places and living out our lives as hermits to protect others from our abilities. I already have a place picked out in Peru..." Jerico trailed off.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Luke asked with wide eyed horror.
"I was going to when I started your training, but it doesn't matter now. You've found your anchor. With just a little training, Mouse will be able to negate your abilities and protect everyone around you. You won't have to face that decision." Jerico said honestly.
"Wow. I mean, I thought it was kewl that I could do the anchor thing but I didn't know it was going to be so important. That's really awesome." Mouse said with excitement.
"Yes. I think awesome sums it up fairly well." Jerico said with a smile.
"So what do you want me to do?" Paul asked in deep thought.
Jerico turned his full attention to his cousin and said, "Paul, I've nearly reached the end of what I can do by myself. I've searched the world to find a way to avoid it, but what it boils down to is that I'm becoming too dangerous to be around people. I've only got a few years left before I won't be able to anchor myself anymore. I don't even know if I can ask this. I'm asking you to commit to something for the rest of your life."
Paul looked at Jerico with concern and waited for him to finish.
"You don't have to answer now because this is a very big thing and you need to think seriously about it. You should talk with your mom and Uncle Aubrey before you answer. But what I'm asking is if you would be willing to accept me as, kind of like a partner. We've never really discussed what your plans are when you get out of school, but if you'll do this, I'll be a part of those plans. I'll work along side you and do whatever I can to help you. It's the least I can do to repay you for allowing me to stay around people." Jerico trailed off in thought.
"I've been thinking about becoming a stripper in a gay nightclub. I think that would be fun." Paul said seriously.
Jerico's eyes went wide at the statement and he looked like he was about to pass out.
"Got'cha. You were sounding way too serious." Paul said with an impish grin.
Luke and Mouse burst out into laughter as Jerico slumped and started to giggle.
After waiting a moment for the laughter to die down, Paul finally asked, "What about your Shaman thing? Are you planning to give that up?"
"Pauley... Paul, it wouldn't be fair to ask you to give up your future for me. I'll still follow the ways of the Shaman and help people when I can. It's bad enough that I'm asking you to include me in the rest of your life, I wouldn't ask you to give up your dreams for me too." Jerico said honestly.
"You've never asked me about my dreams. Do you know what I want to be when I grow up?" Paul asked with a note of challenge in his voice.
Jerico thought for a moment before saying, "I have no idea."
"I've always wanted to be like you and Uncle Aubrey. I've asked him about it before, but he always said that I wasn't destined to be a Shaman, I have a different path to follow. There was never anything else that I wanted to do. I've only had that one dream and now it looks like I'll have the chance to get it. You know how a doctor has a nurse or a businessman has a secretary. I want to be like that for you. You can be the Skipper and I'll be the Gilligan." Paul finished with a grin.
"I can't ask you to do that..." Jerico said in wonder.
"Um. You didn't ask, he told you what he wanted. It sounds like it's the same thing you want. So what's the problem?" Mouse asked seriously.
Jerico glanced at Mouse, then looked at Paul again and asked, "Really?"
Paul rolled his eyes and turned to Luke and Mouse and said, "He just won't take yes for an answer."
"I mean, are you really sure? This is a really big decision." Jerico asked carefully.
"I see what you mean." Luke said with a chuckle.
"Jerico." Mouse said firmly, dragging Jerico's attention back to him.
"Let us show you how it's done." Mouse said, then turned to look at Luke.
"Will you be my anchor and partner from now on?" Luke asked with a happy little smile.
"Yes, from now on." Mouse said with a grin.
Jerico smiled at the production and felt joy at the prospect of having all his dreams handed to him.
"Now it's your turn young Jedi." Luke said with a grin.
Jerico chuckled before saying, "Will you be my anchor and partner?"
Paul smiled and said, "Yes, from now on."
"I now pronounce you Chosen and Anchor." Luke said in a dramatic voice.
Everyone broke into laughter filled with relief and happiness.
* * * * *
Three short bursts of the buzzer sounded, drawing everyone's attention.
"Shhh Kevin. Don't worry, it just means that the security red is over." Devon said in a gentle voice.
"I need to call security and find out what just happened." Chief Tecumseh said as he stood.
"I suppose I'd better get everyone together so we can go to dinner, it's past time." Mr. T said with distraction.
"Yes. That's a good idea." Chief Tecumseh said before leaving the room.
"I will bring something for you and Kevin." Uri said gently to Devon who was still soothing Kevin in his arms.
"Thank you. I wouldn't want to try and take Kevin to the cafeteria." Devon said quietly.
Uri nodded then noticed Obie sitting alone on the far side of the room.
"Would you like to join me for dinner Obie?" Uri asked in a friendly tone.
"Um. I think Chief Tecumseh is going to call Mike and we're going to talk first." Obie said hesitantly.
Uri nodded and said, "When you are done, you will be welcomed to join me in the cafeteria."
Obie smiled and said, "Okay. Thanks Uri."
Uri nodded and walked out of the room.
* * * * *
"That means the security red is over. We can go have dinner now." Mouse said at Paul and Jerico's looks of question.
"Oh, I'd better go check on the little guy to see if that scared him." Jerico said as he stood.
"Do you need me to go with you?" Paul asked immediately.
"Not this time. I know you're hungry, go with the guys and have dinner." Jerico said with a peaceful smile.
"I'll bring you something back." Paul said seriously.
"Thanks Paul." Jerico said as he started walking toward the door.
"You can call me Pauley if you want. Now that I understand things, I really don't mind at all." Paul said honestly.
"Paul, you've just given me my life back. You've given me a reason to hope for the future. I'm going to call you Paul because it's a sign of my respect for you." Jerico said with intensity.
"You need to teach your chosen how to lighten up. He's way too serious. Call me if you need some help, us anchors have to stick together." Mouse said to Paul with a playful grin.
Paul nodded and said, "I'll probably be calling you a lot."
Jerico shook his head in amusement as he broke away from the group to go into Simon's room to see how Kevin was doing.
* * * * *
Obie walked out of the bedroom and nearly ran into Mouse and Luke in the hallway.
"Hey Obie, do you want to have dinner with us?" Mouse asked cheerfully.
"No thanks. I think Chief Tecumseh is going to call Mike..." Obie trailed off nervously.
Luke gave Mouse a significant look and Mouse nodded with agreement.
Next, Luke looked at Paul with question and received another nod as his answer.
"How do you guys do that? Are you all telepathic now?" Obie asked after witnessing the scene.
Mouse giggled and said, "No. We're all just thinking the same thing at the same time. We all want to stay here and wait until you're done with your talk."
"Really?" Obie asked slowly.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking." Paul said with a smile.
Luke nodded his agreement.
"You guys are going to have to show me how you do that... are you sure you don't mind waiting with me?" Obie finished with concern.
Mouse raised one eyebrow and gave Obie his most incredulous look.
"Okay, stupid question." Obie said with a smile.
Luke and Paul both broke up in laughter.
"What?" Obie asked defensively.
"You just did it." Paul said through his chuckles.
Obie thought about what had just happened, then smiled.
* * * * *
"How are you holding up Simon?" Mr. T asked as he walked into the common room.
"I'm okay. What's going on?" Simon asked with concern.
"Something at Southcrest. Father is finding out about it now. It probably has nothing to do with us." Mr. T said as he glanced at his father talking on the phone.
"I thought it was something like that. I watched the security team patrol the area a few times, but that's all that happened out here." Simon said as he glanced out the window.
"Would you like me to stay with Arlo while you go and get something to eat?" Mr. T asked quietly.
"No thanks. I'd rather stay here." Simon said in a considering voice.
"I'll see that someone brings you some food then. Don't worry, it shouldn't be too much longer." Mr. T said in comfort.
"Why? Did something happen?" Simon asked hopefully.
"Yes and no. We found out some more about what happened to Arlo and why. But we still have to wait for whatever is going to happen next. It's still like Jerico said before, no matter how things work out with Kevin, Arlo will be back in his own body before morning." Mr. T said seriously.
"Kevin? You mean the guy who visited our class this morning? What does he have to do with this?" Simon asked with confusion.
Mr. T's eyes went wide in realization.
"If anyone asks, I'm going to be in my office for a few minutes." Mr. T said quickly.
"Um. Okay." Simon said slowly.
Simon watched as Mr. T hurried out the door.
"Why do I get the feeling that he left something out?" Simon asked into the bowl of water, then looked up as a very timid looking Obie approached Chief Tecumseh at the phone.
* * * * *
"I have already called Cabin Three and your brother will be here shortly." Chief Tecumseh said seriously.
"Thank you." Obie whispered and looked at the cabin door with apprehension.
"Did you find out what happened to make us be at security red?" Mouse asked with excitement.
"Only bits and pieces. From what little I've been able to put together, the security alert was primarily for Southcrest. It's just procedure to lock down all three locations when a security alert is called." Chief Tecumseh said seriously.
"Are Justy and Jacob and Jamie okay?" Mouse asked hesitantly with concern filling his voice.
Chief Tecumseh gently smiled and said, "Please don't worry Harold, I have been assured that no one at Southcrest was hurt. I will make an announcement when I have enough information to tell you more."
A knock on the door stopped any further questions.
"Do you want me to get it?" Paul asked Obie in nearly a whisper.
"No. I'll do it." Obie said and forced himself to walk to the door.
Obie quickly peeked through the peep-hole, then opened the door for his brother.
As soon as the door was opened, Mike lunged forward and pulled his brother into a tight desperate hug.
"Tell me when you're going to leave the cabin. You scared me to death." Mike said with tears in his eyes.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." Obie said into his brother's shoulder.
"Micah, please come over and sit down, we have a matter to discuss." Chief Tecumseh said as he walked to the brothers.
Mike looked up at the chief and nodded hesitantly, then shifted Obie to his side and guided him to the couches at the other side of the room.
Mouse, Luke and Paul automatically followed.
"Boys, I think it best if this discussion be just the three of us." Chief Tecumseh said in a tone that did not invite argument.
"Let's see if Simon and Arlo need some company." Paul suggested quietly.
Mouse and Luke both nodded their agreement.
* * * * *
"Obadiah, this is your decision, therefore you should be the one to tell your brother." Chief Tecumseh said seriously.
Obie nodded and took a deep breath for courage before saying, "I want to move into Cabin One."
Mike looked at his brother with confusion for a moment, then casually said, "Okay."
Obie looked at Mike with surprise, then sagged a little with relief.
"If they've got a room for us, we can get moved in tonight." Mike said seriously.
Obie looked at Chief Tecumseh and received a nod of encouragement.
"Not we. Me." Obie said quietly.
Mike looked at Obie with pain and asked, "Why?"
"Because you can't have fun with your friends with me always hanging around." Obie said as tears filled his eyes.
"I don't care about that. You're more important to me than those guys." Mike said softly.
"I care. Think about it Mike. You can't be with your friends, I can't be with my friends. Neither one of us gets to do the stuff we really want to do because we don't like doing the same things." Obie said in an increasing voice.
Mike stared at Obie for a moment, then looked at the group of four boys at the table by the window looking back at him.
"You really want to move away from me?" Mike asked cautiously.
"Not away, away. Just to another cabin. We can still do stuff together and hang out when we want to, we just don't have to be together all the time. You can play football and watch gory movies and all that other stuff you like to do with your friends. And I'll be right over here in Cabin One when you want to check on me." Obie said in an imploring voice.
Mike nodded his understanding and quietly said, "Got it Obe. You need your space. Give me a minute, I'll be right back."
Obie nodded and watched as Mike walked over to the table where Mouse, Luke, Paul and Simon were gathered.
"I think your brother is accepting this pretty well." Chief Tecumseh said in a considering voice.
"He's probably threatening to beat all of them up if anyone picks on me." Obie said as he glanced at Chief Tecumseh with concern.
"I realize that Obadiah. It is his way of protecting you. There are several in this camp who would give everything they own to know that someone loved them that much." Chief Tecumseh said quietly.
"Am I doing the right thing?" Obie asked with concern.
Chief Tecumseh smiled and said, "Yes. I believe you are doing the right thing for both you and your brother. And beyond that, I believe you are doing it for the right reasons."
Obie nodded, then turned his attention to Mike as he joined them again.
"Is everything okay?" Obie asked hesitantly.
"Yeah. I just needed to be sure that these guys were going to watch out for you." Mike said seriously.
Obie smiled and said, "Thanks. I think the guys would've watched out for me anyway, but it's cool that you asked first."
"Um... yeah... asked... that's what I did." Mike said reluctantly.
* * * * *
"We'll bring some food back for you Simon." Mouse said as the group approached the door.
"Thanks Mouse." Simon said with a slight smile.
As the group walked out the door they were surprised to find Uri standing just outside.
"Why are you hanging around out here?" Mouse asked curiously.
"I have become accustomed to walking to the cafeteria as a group. How was your talk Obie?" Uri asked cautiously.
Obie smiled at Uri's concern and answered, "It went fine. Mike is cool with it."
Uri glanced at Mike's timid posture and quietly said, "There is no need to worry for your brother Mike. We all enjoy his company and he is welcomed here."
"Okay." Mike said timidly as he looked up into Uri's eyes.
"I'm starving, let's go." Mouse said with a big smile.
Uri gave a single nod and began to walk toward the cafeteria.
* * * * *
"...Please leave a message after the tone.... *beep*" Mr. T heard the automated voice say.
"Mr. Pierce, this is Derek Tecumseh, we met earlier today. Please call me back as soon as possible." Mr. T said with frustration.
He had been through the phone numbers for all three of the parents and none of them had answered.
With a sigh of resignation, Mr. T scooted his chair closer to his desk and initiated a call on his terminal.
A window opened immediately and a familiar face greeted him.
"Southcrest Ranch. This is Commander Martin. Oh Derek, it's you. Is everything okay?" John asked seriously.
"Hi John, yes. Everything is fine here. I was just wondering if Cory might be over there?" Mr. T asked hesitantly.
"No. He took a group on a mission before everything went crazy. I'm not sure where he is at the moment but I can find out if you need me to." John said with distraction.
"No. That's alright. It was a long shot anyway. Is everything okay there?" Mr. T asked with concern.
"Right this minute I have teams working at three different locations trying to sort out this mess, so I'll have to get back to you on that one." John said frankly.
"Let me know if there is anything we can do to help." Mr. T said seriously.
"Just keep your kids safe. That's the biggest help you can give me right this minute." John said honestly.
Mr. T smiled and said, "I'll do that. I won't keep you from your work any longer. Tecumseh out."
"Martin out." John said and closed the transmission.
Mr. T thought for a moment and realized that there was nothing more he could do but trust that the Great Spirit would guide everything to work out as it should.
* * * * *
"Wow. That smells great." Paul said as they walked into the cafeteria.
"Yeah. This place has the best food I've ever eaten." Mouse said happily as they walked to the serving line.
Paul noticed that when Uri got into line he took a tray, but didn't get a plate.
"Hi Uri. Trent's got your plate almost ready." Jose said from the other side of the serving line.
Paul felt a tug on his shirt and bent down so Mouse could whisper in his ear.
"Uri gets special food. Don't ask him about it." Mouse said quietly.
Paul nodded as he stood back up.
"Jose, this is Paul. Him and his cousin are visiting us for a while." Mouse said across the serving line.
"It's nice to meet you Paul. If you like lamb, the lamb chops are really good today." Jose said as he pointed at the tray of meat.
"Yeah. Thanks." Paul said happily.
"Yyyyour ffffood." Trent said as he handed Uri a plate across the serving line.
"Thank you Trent. It looks very good." Uri said gently.
Trent smiled with accomplishment at the praise.
Paul took two of the lamb chops, then a large helping of steamed green beans.
"If you like mashed potatoes, you'll want some of these. They're real, not powder stuff." Obie said from Paul's other side.
"They must have to peel potatoes for days to make enough for everyone." Paul said in surprise as he took a good sized scoop of potatoes.
"They have a machine to do the peeling. It doesn't take that long. Waiting on them to boil is the hard part. It's really boring." Obie said frankly.
"You work in the kitchen?" Paul asked with surprise.
"Yeah. We all take turns helping in the kitchen. There's enough guys here that you don't have to do it that often so you don't get sick of it." Obie said happily.
Paul smiled at Obie's happiness and walked with the group to a nearly empty table.
He noticed that there were glasses of water already poured and set out around the table.
Just as Paul was setting down his plate he heard a voice from behind him.
"Pauley? Is that you?"
Paul turned around to find his cousin Charles.
"Yeah. How are you doing Charlie?" Paul asked with a smirk.
Charles winced at the name and said, "Touché. What are you doing here Paul?"
"My cousin Jerico needed something from home, so I brought it to him. I guess you're here with your dad and your brother." Paul said with a smile.
Charles leaned in and whispered, "Actually, I'm here for the food."
Paul laughed, then asked, "Would you like to join us for dinner?"
"No thanks. I'm sitting over there. Besides, I'm almost finished. Just when I saw you I had to come by and say hi." Charles said with a smile.
"Well you still remember where I live don't you? Come over and visit sometime. We'll hang out." Paul said casually.
"Yeah. I'll do that." Charles said happily and walked back to his table.
"You know Charles?" Mouse asked with surprise.
Paul took his seat and said, "Yeah. He's kind of like my cousin."
"How is he 'kind of like' your cousin?" Mouse asked curiously.
"Well, Jerico and I are real cousins, second cousins actually. As far as I know Charles and I aren't related by blood, but our families have been friends since before anyone can remember so we just call each other cousin." Paul said, then took a bite of his food.
"Oh. That makes sense. Wait. Where did Mike go?" Mouse asked as he looked beside Obie to find Mike's plate of food, but no Mike.
"He went to table three to tell the guys that we're going to eat over here tonight. I told him I'd eat with him over at table three tomorrow night... you guys don't mind do you?" Obie asked quietly.
"Mind? I think that's great. This way you two will get to have some time every day when you can talk about what you've been doing and stuff." Mouse said cheerfully.
Paul thought about what Mouse was saying and nodded his agreement.
"Sorry about that. I just wanted to let the guys know what's going on." Mike said as he quickly took his seat beside Obie.
"Did they give you any trouble about me moving out?" Obie asked cautiously.
"Are you kidding? They thought it was a great idea. They could all see how much trouble we were having the way things were." Mike said, then took a large bite of his food.
"Please excuse me for a moment. I am going to ask Trent and Jose to make a plate for Devon and Kevin." Uri said as he stood.
"Oh. I need to get one for Simon." Mouse said as he also stood.
"And Jerico." Paul said as he also stood.
"I will tell Trent and Jose of our needs. You will simply need to stop by the serving line before leaving." Uri said with assurance.
"Thank you Uri." Paul said quickly to his retreating form.
"Yeah, thanks." Mouse called out, then took his seat again.
"You seem to be quite a few people short at your table tonight. Is something wrong?" Mike asked cautiously.
"Trent and Jose are working in the kitchen. Arlo is kind of sick. Simon and Devon are staying with him." Mouse said hesitantly.
Paul smiled at Mouse's distorted version of the truth.
Obie looked curiously at Mouse, then said, "You can tell Mike about it. He won't get funny or think you're crazy or anything."
"Okay, but I'd rather not talk about it in here." Mouse said seriously.
"Yeah. Um. I didn't think to ask you before, but would you guys help me move my stuff over from cabin three?" Obie asked shyly.
"I already asked the Three guys to help us. If the One guys help too, we'll have to split up your pairs of socks so everyone will have something to carry." Mike said with a grin.
Mouse chuckled and said, "Then we'll help Obie unpack when he gets is stuff into the cabin."
Paul looked around and noticed that everyone was finished with their meals.
"If you want something for dessert, there's fruit over there at the end of the serving line." Obie said quietly.
Paul looked at Obie with question.
"They say that too much sugar is bad for us so we have water with our meals and we only get stuff like cake and ice cream for holidays and birthdays." Obie explained quietly.
"It's okay. My mom is the same way. She says that too much sugar makes me hyper." Paul said with a smile at Obie.
"Well, if we're all done, let's get the plates of food for everyone back at the cabin then get Obie moved in." Mouse said happily.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement and took their plates to the window beside the serving line to stack them.
* * * * *
"Can I come in? I brought your food." Paul asked quietly from Uri's bedroom door.
Jerico looked up to reveal the tears in his eyes.
He quickly wiped his eyes and said, "Thanks Paul. I really appreciate it."
"What's wrong?" Paul asked with immediate concern.
"Nothing. I was just thinking about how wonderful everything is going to be now that you can anchor me." Jerico said with a hesitant smile.
Paul sat the food on the bedside stand and carefully took a seat beside Jerico on the bed.
"I don't think I can explain it Paul. I was just about ready to give up. I could see my last day of being around other people coming and no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many books I read there was nothing I could do to prevent it. You really saved me." Jerico trailed off in a whisper.
"Eat your food before it gets cold." Paul said seriously.
Jerico nodded then pulled back the foil to reveal a heaping plate of food.
"You saved me too Jerico. I've been looking at my future spread out in front of me with no idea of what I wanted to do. As far as I knew my one big dream was gone. Mom and Uncle Aubrey have been pushing me to go to college, but... I couldn't see a point. Being your partner gives me a purpose. I can be what I've always wanted to be." Paul said honestly.
"But you won't be a Shaman." Jerico said softly.
"It's not about being a Shaman. I never wanted the mystical power or the title. I just wanted to help people. And being your partner will let me do that. I can help you help them. I can't imagine a more perfect future." Paul said happily.
Jerico stopped eating and looked at Paul with a contented smile.
"It's going to be great." Paul said happily.
"No. It's already great. We've already said the words. We're partners." Jerico said gently, then took another bite of food.
"There's one thing I was kind of wondering about..." Paul trailed off with indecision.
"What is it? You can ask me anything." Jerico said quietly.
"Well. What happens when you um... get a girlfriend? I mean, if you're not going to be able to anchor yourself..." Paul said uncomfortably.
"Oh that. I'm celibate. That's not something you have to worry about." Paul said with a peaceful smile.
"Celibate? You mean that you've never?..." Paul asked with a wide eyed expression of disbelief.
Jerico chuckled and said, "No. It doesn't mean that. I've had several sexual relations in the past. Too many to tell you the truth."
"I don't understand." Paul said cautiously.
"I know. And it's hard to explain. Try thinking about it like this. When someone has an addiction it drives them and consumes them until they self destruct." Jerico said in thought.
Paul nodded hesitantly.
"I'm like that with sex. It consumes me. I can't think about anything else. The more I get, the more I want. And the more extreme I want it to be." Jerico said with pain in his eyes.
"So you just stopped?" Paul asked in a small voice.
"Yes. I just stopped. There's no half-way with me. Either I'm celibate or I'm on a path to destruction. I lose the ability to reason when I'm like that. I really can't explain it any better than that." Jerico finished quietly.
"I think I understand. Well, at least a little. Are you okay with it?" Paul asked quietly.
Jerico considered for a moment, then said, "I really am. But what about you? How do you want to deal with it when you find a girl you're interested in?"
Paul looked at Jerico with indecision and finally said, "I don't know if that's ever going to happen."
"It's okay Paul. You're sixteen. There's plenty of time." Jerico said with assurance.
"No. You don't understand. It's not that I can't find a girl. It's that I haven't wanted to." Paul said in anguish.
"Oh." Jerico said in a whisper.
"I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm sixteen. All the other guys in my class have been dating for years and most of them have had sex and I... I haven't." Paul said with tears in his eyes.
"Have you been to a doctor about it?" Jerico asked quietly.
Paul nodded his head.
"What did he say?" Jerico asked with sympathy.
"Not much. He just had me pull down my pants. Then he said, 'You got some hair down there. That means your hormones are fine'. then he started asking questions about if I liked looking at naked guys." Paul said in desperation.
"He must have thought that you might be gay." Jerico said quietly.
"But I'm not! I don't think about guys that way either. What's wrong with me? I'm such a freak." Paul said as the tears started falling down his cheeks.
Jerico pulled Paul into a hug and said, "I don't know Paul. But we'll figure it out together. I'll talk to a few people and find the right doctor to go to about something like this."
Paul nodded into Jerico's shoulder.
"Physically, how do you feel?" Jerico asked quietly.
"What?" Paul asked as he pulled back to look in Jerico's eyes.
"I just want to know if you have any medical problem that you're aware of. A lump or a growth or anything that's just uncomfortable or doesn't feel right?" Jerico asked with concern.
Paul thought for a moment, then shook his head.
"Okay. I just thought I'd ask. Come here." Jerico said and pulled Paul into a comforting hug.
"What do you think is wrong with me?" Paul asked from the hug.
"I really don't know. It may be nothing. On the other hand, it may be a symptom of a bigger problem. That's why it's important to take you to a doctor and find out for sure." Jerico said quietly.
"But what if they can't find anything wrong? What if this is just the way I am?" Paul asked with deep concern.
"Then you'll probably have to make a decision." Jerico said in thought.
"What decision?" Paul asked cautiously.
"If it turns out that this isn't a symptom of something else and you just have an unusually low sex drive, you'll have to decide if you want to change it or not." Jerico said carefully.
"Of course I want to change it! I want to be like everyone else." Paul said immediately.
"Please think about what you're saying. Doing something to make yourself be like everyone else is a way of rejecting the gifts the Great Spirit has given you. Being different isn't a bad thing, it isn't wrong." Jerico said softly.
"So you want me to stay like this?" Paul asked in confusion.
"No. I want you to make up your own mind and choose what's best for you. And no matter what you choose, I'll be right there to help you. I just want to be sure that when you make your decision you're doing what's best for you, not what you think other people expect of you." Jerico said with sympathy for the pain of his cousin.
"Okay. I guess I get that. I really need to think about what's best for me." Paul said in thought.
"If you want to talk about it some more, I'm here whenever you need me Paul. If anything is bothering you, just come to me and we'll take care of it together." Jerico said as he held his cousin in a firm hug.
"I'm here for you too." Paul said in a small voice.
"What?" Jerico asked, barely hearing the words.
"When you need me, I'll be here to help you too." Paul said in a stronger voice.
Jerico smiled and whispered, "Thank you Paul."
* * * * *
"How has he been?" Uri asked as he walked into the room carrying two plates.
"He's fine. I'm not sure how we're going to feed him." Devon said in thought.
"May I suggest that you put the plate before him and see if he can figure it out for himself." Chief Tecumseh said carefully.
"It's worth a try." Devon said hesitantly.
"I'm sorry I didn't bring you a plate Chief Tecumseh. If you would like this one I can get another." Uri said apologetically.
"No need for that Uri. When my son returns I will go to the cafeteria where I may enjoy a relaxing dinner." Chief Tecumseh said with a smile.
"Go ahead and put the plate in front of him." Devon said as he loosened his hug on Arlo/Kevin.
Uri sat the plate on the bed and backed away.
Arlo/Kevin saw the food and reached for it but wouldn't move out of Devon's lap.
"Go on. it's for you." Devon coaxed.
"Perhaps if you give it to him, he might know what to do with it." Chief Tecumseh said carefully.
Uri stepped to the bed again and picked up the plate.
Arlo/Kevin looked at Uri with fear and huddled into Devon's side.
"Give it to me." Devon said and held out his hand.
Uri handed the plate to Devon then stepped away.
"Are you hungry little guy?" Devon asked as he held the food before Arlo/Kevin.
Hesitantly, Arlo/Kevin brought his hand up to the plate, watching Devon carefully as he did.
"He fears that he will be punished for eating." Uri said quietly.
"Perhaps." Chief Tecumseh said at the heartbreaking sight.
"Go on. It's all for you." Devon said past the lump in his throat.
Arlo/Kevin finally took a piece of food off the plate, then quickly stuffed it into his mouth.
Uri turned away from the sight as Devon whispered, "It's fine. It's just for you. Have all you want."
Arlo/Kevin looked at Devon with question, then after a moment, he started reaching for another piece of food.
Uri looked at Chief Tecumseh with fire in his eyes and said, "This child MUST survive."
Mr. T walked into the room and said, "I'm sorry I took so long. I just had an idea of something that might help."
"Did anything come of it?" Chief Tecumseh asked quietly, not finding any reason to hope in his son's expression.
"No. Just answering machines." Mr. T said as he sat on the unoccupied bed.
"I'm going to get something to eat. Call me immediately if I'm needed." Chief Tecumseh said as he stood.
"I will." Mr. T said with a pained expression as he watched Arlo/Kevin snatch a morsel of food from the plate that Devon was holding.
* * * * *
"Trent said he made this just for you." Mouse said as he presented Simon his plate of food.
"Thank you Mouse. I'll make sure to thank him when he gets back." Simon said quietly.
"Did you notice if Paul came in? We were talking with Trent and Jose and he was gone." Mouse said quickly.
"Yes. He came in the same time Uri did. I think he went into Uri's room." Simon said carefully.
"Oh. He's probably talking to Jerico then." Mouse said as he took a seat across from Simon at the table.
Simon nodded his agreement, then chewed his bite of food.
"I can't believe what kind of a crazy day it's been. Arlo gets possessed and then we see a real ghost..." Mouse said with amazement.
"Wait. You saw a ghost? I didn't hear about that." Simon said seriously.
"Oh yeah. Um. Well it's the ghost of the father of the guy that possessed Arlo." Mouse said in thought.
"Is their whole family moving in?" Simon asked with concern.
Mouse smiled and said, "He's not moving in. He's just trying to protect his son."
"Oh. Okay." Simon said reluctantly, then took another bite of food.
"Anyway, so Paul sees something move in the shadows of your bedroom and then Jerico tells it to 'come forth' and it, like, has to do what he says and there it was, a real live ghost... or not-alive... whatever, it was soooo kewl." Mouse said with excitement.
Simon noticed movement and saw Luke standing away from them.
"Would you like to sit with us Luke?" Simon asked carefully.
Luke nodded hesitantly.
"I don't know why you're scared of me. I promise that I'd never do anything to hurt you." Simon said honestly.
Luke leaned over to whisper into Mouse's ear.
Mouse smiled and nodded, then turned to face Simon.
"Luke said that he's not scared of you. He's just worried that he'll accidentally touch you so he tries not to get too close." Mouse said seriously.
"Oh. I didn't think of that. Thank you Luke. And if you ever do accidentally touch me, I'll try not to freak out too bad." Simon said weakly.
Luke smiled and nodded.
Simon returned the smile, then took another bite of his food.
"So how's Arlo doing?" Mouse asked as he looked in the bowl.
"I don't know. I'm not a telepath or empath or anything so I don't know how he's feeling. I've just been talking to him letting him know that everything is going to be okay." Simon said as he looked into the bowl.
"We could stay with him if you need to go to the bathroom or anything." Mouse said as he looked up.
Simon thought about it for a second, then said, "Yeah. Thanks Mouse. I could use a bathroom break."
Mouse nodded and watched as Simon hurried away from the table.
"Arlo, it's Mouse. Simon needs you so you've got to be okay when you get back into your body. You got that?" Mouse asked seriously.
Luke smiled at him.
"Do you want to say anything while Simon's out of the room?" Mouse asked curiously.
Luke shook his head and pointed at the bowl of water.
"Yeah. I guess you're right. It's best not to take the chance." Mouse said with a smile.
"Thanks guys." Simon said as he hurried back to the table.
"Anytime. Just call one of us if you need a break and we'll be happy to do it." Mouse said happily as he stood.
"I'll remember that. Thanks again for the food, it was great." Simon said as he got comfortable.
"No problem. Just yell if you need anything." Mouse said as he and Luke headed for their room.
"I will." Simon said to the pair, then in a more quiet voice he said into the bowl, "I bet it won't be too long now. If there was a ghost here, that probably means that there's something big happening. We just have to wait for it to happen then everything can go back to normal."
* * * * *
"Where is my room?" Obie asked with a glowing smile, carrying a backpack into the room.
"The one beside the bathroom." Simon said with a smile.
"That's just like my old room." Obie said happily and walked to the room leading a long line of older boys all carrying various items.
"Is Obie moving in?" Jose asked as he rushed into the room with Trent at his side.
"Yes. From the look of it, they probably got all his stuff in one load." Simon said seriously.
"Ccccan wwwwe help him?" Trent asked hopefully.
"I bet he'd like it if you helped. Go ask him." Simon said with a gentle smile.
In the space of a heartbeat, both boys were out of the room.
* * * * *
"Chief Tecumseh?" A woman's voice said hesitantly.
"Yes Mrs. Birch, what can I do for you today?" Chief Tecumseh asked with a peaceful smile.
"I just received a message that a group is transporting in from the Enterprise." Mrs. Birch said quietly.
"Oh. Then I suppose I should greet them." Chief Tecumseh said as he stood.
Mrs. Birch nodded and began to walk away.
"It was an outstanding meal as usual. My compliments to you and your staff." Chief Tecumseh said as he walked to the connecting door to the administration offices.
"Thank you." Mrs. Birch said shyly, then hurried back to tell the rest of the kitchen staff.
* * * * *
Moving Obie into Cabin One had taken more trips than anyone would have guessed. Boys had been running in and out for nearly fifteen minutes but finally silence fell over the common room as the Cabin Three boys had returned to their cabin and everyone else was in Obie's room helping him get settled in.
A loud knock on the door made Simon jump.
He looked across the room and noticed that the last person in must have pulled the slide bolt closed.
Reluctantly, Simon stood and walked to answer the door.
"Who is it?" Obie asked as he ran out of his new room, followed by Trent and Jose.
Simon looked through the peep hole then said, "Chief Tecumseh and one of the guys who visited our class today. I think his name is Kevin."