All characters and the original S:AAB
premise, belong to Glen Morgan and James Wong, and Hard Eight Pictures, Inc. borrowed with
love, but without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
My Brother's Keeper
Commodore Glen van Ross stepped into the Pool Hall and looked around, frowning at the sight of wreckage. Vansen had said there had been an explosion and, from the look of it, it had been a bad one. Two men stood near the wreckage, obviously checking out the damage. Three cats were nearby, also checking the mess out. One, a medium-haired dark gray female, was mincing its way through what was left of the wall, making pointed commentary in a remarkably loud voice for her slender frame.
"Well, looks like we'll be remodeling after all," one of them said with a distinctive Australian accent. So that must be Twonky.
That made the other one Alvin. The AI.
"Call those friends of yours. The ones who work cheap and, get them over here to make immediate repairs. We'll work out the major repairs later." Alvin said and Twonky grunted.
"They're going to love this."
"Hmmmm. . ." And the AI turned. Even prepared the way he was, Ross was taken back by those cross-haired eyes. Alvin paused, looking him over before speaking. "You must be Commodore Ross."
Twonky glanced at them over his shoulder, then returned to his study of the damage.
"Where's McQueen?" Was all Ross said, in curt tones. He just could not bring himself to be civil to an AI. Any AI.
"The back room. Twonky. . ."
"I'll get the twins over here soonest." And Twonky darted out the door, leaving the AI staring after him.
"Quick little bugger, isn't he?" He said finally to Ross. "Come on."
Alvin lead him around the bar and to a door hidden in the shadows. He swung the door open then froze, frowning; but before Ross could begin to get alarmed, he stepped inside. Ross followed.
The room was reasonably well-lit and he spotted McQueen right away, apparently fast asleep on a low bed set against the far wall. Then he spotted another man and blinked, wondering briefly if he was seeing double before remembering what McQueen had told him earlier. Somehow, though, he never expected them to look so much alike, right down to the short silvery hair then the man by the wall turned his head and he could see that the hair on the right side was totally white.
Alvin had continued walking until he stood behind the man, watching as Gary splashed paint in a seemingly random pattern on the wall. No, not random, Ross realized suddenly. A picture was appearing even as he watched.
"Gary." Alvin said suddenly and the man jumped. Paint splattered over the wall, floor and Gary indiscriminately.
"Ack!" Gary yelped, whirling. "You startle me!" And he shoved at Alvin.
The AI didn't even budge, just stared at Gary's paint-smeared body with a resigned expression. For the first time, Ross realized that, save for the paint, Gary was naked.
"Gary, how many times do I have to tell you that if you get up you must get dressed."
Gary stopped trying to shove him and looked down at himself. When he looked back up at Alvin it was with a blandly innocent expression that reminded Ross of his six-year-old niece trying to get away with something she knew she shouldn't do.
"If I paint with my clothes on den my clothes get all messy." He said in his slow way.
"Your clothes are a lot easier to get clean, Gary." Alvin sighed.
"But. . .but. . .I don' like clothes none. They hurt." Gary stared at the paintbrush he still held then turned to eye the wall thoughtfully.
Alvin reached around to take the brush nimbly from the man. "Gary, go get cleaned up and dressed. We've company."
"But Ty's sleepin'! See?" Gary pointed at the man on the bed.
"Other company, Gary." Alvin looked over at Ross and Gary followed his eyes. Clear blue-gray eyes widened at the sight of Ross and Gary slipped behind the AI, peering at the Commodore pensively over his shoulder. "Gary. . ."
The man muttered something too low for Ross to hear and Alvin smiled slightly. "He's a friend of McQueen's, Gary. Yes, honest. Now go wash up and I'll bring you some clothes. Get all that paint off." He added as Gary darted for a nearby door. The AI stared after him for a long moment before turning to a low chest of drawers.
"Clothes hurt?" Ross said in questioning tones and Alvin laughed, a remarkably light sound.
"He had a close encounter with a zipper once and he hasn't forgotten it." Alvin pulled a pair of shorts and a sleeveless shirt from the chest. "You might as well make yourself comfortable. If having Gary slamming around here didn't wake McQueen up, nothing will. Gary's idea of quiet could wake the dead." And the AI followed Gary into the bathroom.
Ross frowned after him before walking to McQueen's side. The sheet covering his friend had crept downward to uncover the badly scarred chest. Now there were more scars; small cuts and gouges that looked as if someone had spent a great deal of time digging out. . .out what? He'd have to ask.
There was a massive bruise covering McQueen's far side and Ross figured the man was lucky not to have ended up with broken ribs. As it was, according to the report he had received, he had two cracked ones. Another bruise stood out on the paleness of his cheek; a cut had been sutured shut above his left eye, both his wrists were bandaged. A neat series of punctures were visible around his neck.
Ross shook his head before turning away. Poor Ty. So much had happened to him in the short span of one day. He'd met a genetic twin. . .a brother, though more then a few people would sneer that InVitros didn't have siblings and weren't capable of having real families of any kind. . .and now this. Whatever this was. No one had cared to fully explain what had happened. Not that it mattered. He'd get the full story from Ty.
He made a slow circuit of the room, admiring the paintings covering the walls until he reached a low bookshelf. He bent over to study the books crammed into the shelves, filling them to the point of overflowing. Several oversized books devoted to the works of science fiction/fantasy artists crowded next to Dr. Seuss and Curious George and a very expensive-looking leather-bound collection of the Kencyrath Chronicles. . .whatever they were. Ross straightened and turned again, pausing at the sight of Gary watching him from the relative safety of the doorway.
"Shoes, Gary." Alvin's voice came from behind the man.
Gary looked over his shoulder, absently standing on one foot as he rubbed the other against the back of his calf. "I don' know where dey are."
"They're where you put them, Gary. Under the bed."
Gary frowned. "How come you know dat?"
"Put them on, Gary."
Gary looked down at his bare feet or rather, foot, since the other was still pressed against his calf. He looked puzzled for a moment before remembering to put the other foot down then he made his way to the bed, flopping down next to it and reaching underneath to pull out a pair of sandals. He slipped them on just as Alvin appeared in the doorway.
"Where's Ricci, Gary?"
Gary blinked and looked around before pulling a large toy raccoon from behind the sleeping McQueen. He waved it at the AI.
"Good. I have to go out and talk to some people. You stay back here."
The man threw Ross an uncertain look but nodded. "'kay."
"You want anything before I go?"
". . .I'm hungry."
"You're always hungry." But Alvin walked to the small refrigerator and pulled out a bowl filled with what looked like orange slices, setting it on the cluttered table. Gary moved to sit at the table, settling his raccoon on his lap and reaching for a slice. "Be good, Gary."
"'kay." Gary mumbled.
The AI looked at Ross then turned and walked from the room, leaving the Commodore at a loss as to what to do. He looked at the still sleeping McQueen then at the man sitting at the table. Gary was studying him shyly, nibbling on another orange slice. He'd been joined by a large gray-and-white cat, who was busy studying the bowl.
"Who's your friend?" Ross asked and Gary looked at his raccoon.
Ross chuckled as he walked over to the table and reached out to stroke the cat. "How about this one?"
"Oh. He's. . . uhm. . . Jesse. Uh-huh, an' there's Ms. B and there's Gambit." He looked around. "But they ain't here right now."
"I think I saw them outside." Ross drew out a chair and sat down, a move that got him a wary look from Gary. He broadened his smile and, after a long moment, Gary returned it shyly before turning to look at the man on the bed.
"You a friend of Ty's?" He asked. "You know him a long time?"
Ross thought back over the years. "Yes. A very long time."
"Oh." He fell silent then said in a tone of wonder. "He's my brother. I ain't never had a brother before."
"Well, neither has he so you have that in common."
Gary rocked for a moment, staring at the man on the bed. "I think maybe I gonna like havin' a brother."
"I think he's gonna like it too. What's this?" Ross reached over to pull a book from a pile on the table. A basic children's book. Gary stared at the cover, blinking.
"Alvin's learning me how to 'member better. I never could before 'cause of my. . .my ouch." He touched the side of his head. "But I 'member better now."
"Oh?" Ross flipped open the book and pointed at a drawing. "What's this?"
Gary looked. "That's a dog. Dr. Streiger got a dog like that. He brung him sometimes to play wit' me when. . .when I was at the hospital. Last time. Uh-huh."
"That's nice. You like him?"
"Dr. Streiger or Rufus?"
"The doc, he done operations on my head an' I didn' like that none but. . .but I like him anyway. An'. . .an' Rufus, he was a lot of fun. 'Course after the operation, I couldn' play with him too hard 'cause my head hurt lots. But he was a big red dog, jes' like that one." And he pointed at the picture, which was of a Irish Setter.
Ross turned to another page. "And here? What's this?"
"Fish. Little bitty fish. Like in the big tank at. . .uh, the hospital."
"A cat. A big cat. Bigger den Jesse even. Wit' stripes." He frowned, eyes thoughtful. "A tiger!" He said triumphantly.
"Very good. And this. . ?"
Gary's frown deepened, eyes squinting. "Moooo."
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