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"Thanks Lehman," Vincent whispered as he finally was able to get his tears under control.
"Are you going to be alright?" JonJon asked him with concern.
"Yeah. I'll be fine. I guess I'm not very good at saying goodbye," Vincent said shyly.
"It's hard for all of us," JonJon said quietly.
Vincent looked over at JonJon to find the tears freely flowing down his cheeks.
"Come over here." Vincent said as he moved one of his arms to invite JonJon into the hug.
JonJon released his seat belt and joined the hug gratefully.
After a moment of the three-way hug, Vincent reluctantly said, "I don't think we should tell anyone about what happened on the Gorn ship."
As Lehman and JonJon thought about the statement, Vincent continued, "In my report I'm going to leave out Eliam and anything about the five of us being able to change the destiny of the universe."
"So what is it okay to talk about?" Lehman asked hesitantly.
"It'd probably be best not to talk about anything that happened on the Gorn ship too much. But if you have to talk about it, just talk about the meal and say that the Holy Ones gave us the necklaces." Vincent said in thought.
"I guess we can say that these things are like passports or something." Lehman said as he held up the crystal on his necklace.
Vincent smiled and said, "That's perfect. The Okudai and the Gorn had a prophecy and when the five of us got together, they gave us these passports so we can travel into each other's space."
JonJon nodded in thought and said, "That will explain how and why we can visit each other."
Movement caused Vincent to look up in time to see Commander M'Butu walk to the shuttle door.
"Is everything okay?" Commander M'Butu asked with concern at the sight of the boys huddled together.
"Yes sir. We just got a little bit sad when we saw our friends leave." Vincent said as he disentangled himself from Lehman and JonJon.
Commander M'Butu gave the boys a bittersweet smile, then said, "It's a part of life in Starfleet. You get to meet some of the most interesting and incredible people in the universe, but eventually your duties will carry you down different paths. I don't know how much it will help, but I can tell you from personal experience that true friendships last forever. Distance and time apart only makes your reunions that much sweeter."
Vincent smiled and said, "Thank you Commander. It does help."
JonJon and Lehman both nodded their agreement.
"Come on guys. We need to go to sickbay before we check in with the Captain." Commander M'Butu said as he opened the shuttle's door.
"Why?" Lehman asked curiously as he stood at JonJon's side.
"We haven't had previous contact with the Gorn, there's a slight possibility that they carry some sort of disease that's unfamiliar to us." Commander M'Butu said, then gestured for the boys to precede him off the shuttle.
"It's just standard procedure in a first contact situation. It's nothing to worry about." Vincent said assuringly.
Commander M'Butu recognized the concerned look on Lehman's face and said, "Crewman Winters is right. I've had to do this about a dozen times since I entered Starfleet and they've never found anything wrong. It only takes a few minutes and it would be foolish not to check."
Lehman considered the words, then gave a small smile to the commander that he understood.
* * * * *
"Gentlemen, I've been expecting you. Who wants to go first?" Dr. Perry asked with a cheery smile.
"Why don't we let Lehman and JonJon do it so they can get on with their day?" Commander M'Butu asked, as he glanced at Vincent.
Vincent nodded his agreement.
"Very well, would you two get on the biobeds? This should just take a minute. In fact, I'm glad to have the chance to check you over again Lehman. How are you feeling this morning?" Dr. Perry asked, as she moved to the head of his biobed.
"I'm fine except for feeling a little bit tired." Lehman said honestly.
"I can certainly understand that. With what your body has been through the past twenty-four hours, it's amazing that you're even out of bed." Dr. Perry said frankly.
Lehman nodded with concern and watched as she examined the scan results.
"Everything looks just fine here. The only thing I would even consider suggesting is that you get some more sleep." Dr. Perry said with a gentle smile.
Lehman broke into a big grin and said, "Well, if I have to."
Dr. Perry chuckled, then moved to JonJon's bed to check over his readings.
Lehman got down off the biobed and moved to Vincent's side.
Commander M'Butu put a hand on Vincent's shoulder to get his attention, then motioned toward the biobed that Lehman had just vacated.
"Well JonJon, you seem to be in excellent biological health and all your Android systems are functioning at or above specifications. But you might consider getting some more sleep too. " Dr. Perry said seriously.
JonJon thought for a moment, then said, "If I start to feel tired, I'll ask Cyril if I can stop work early today."
"That's all I'm asking." Dr. Perry said as she broke into a smile.
Dr. Perry turned to see Vincent in place on the biobed, then glanced over at Lehman with a grin.
"It's really me." Vincent said when he noticed her speculative look.
"I believe you. But I'm just beginning to realize the potential for mischief having you two looking so identical." Dr. Perry said as she ran her scans.
"Really? We wouldn't ever do anything like that." Vincent said as he looked up at her with big, puppy dog eyes.
Dr. Perry broke into a laugh and said, "If Starfleet doesn't work out for you, you might consider selling used cars. That expression was almost believable."
Vincent feigned confusion at the statement, but finally gave it up and broke into a smile.
"Crewman Winters. I don't like what I'm seeing here at all." Dr. Perry said as her mood turned completely serious.
"What's wrong?" Vincent asked, as his smile fell away.
"Tell me, you're in pain right now, aren't you?" Dr. Perry asked as she looked Vincent in the eyes.
"Well, yeah. But it's not too bad. My joints are just a little bit achy." Vincent said dismissively.
Dr. Perry shook her head and said, "With your work, school and now this growth spurt, you're under too much stress. You need to take some time off."
Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "I can ask Daddy Joe... I mean, Lieutenant Bowers about getting a day or two off on the next schedule."
"You aren't understanding me Crewman. That wasn't a suggestion. That was an order. I'm declaring you unfit for duty. I want you to relax and get lots of rest. You are not to do any school work and I'm going to limit your computer access to no more than one hour per day." Dr. Perry said firmly.
"For how long?" Vincent asked with astonishment.
"Until further notice. When you come back in and your stress indicators have returned to acceptable levels, I'll let you return to duty." Dr. Perry said firmly.
"Okay. But does using the comm and writing messages count in my computer time? I'd really like to call my brother and write to some friends." Vincent explained with a hopeful expression.
"I suppose that is a form of relaxation. But if I find out that you've been working or studying, I'll block your computer access completely." Dr. Perry warned as she pressed a hypospray to Vincent's neck.
"I promise that I won't work or study until you say it's okay." Vincent said as a vow.
"Now just stay there for a few minutes while I run some detailed scans that have been requested in your personnel file." Dr. Perry said as she began to key instructions into the head of the biobed.
Vincent rested back and closed his eyes as he considered all the things he needed to do.
"And now Commander, how are you doing today?" Dr. Perry asked as she turned to the other biobed.
* * * * *
"Vincent?" Lehman asked in a whisper.
Vincent opened his eyes and looked at Lehman with question.
"When we're done here, do you want to go and talk about..." Lehman paused and looked around at the other people in sickbay before continuing in a quieter voice, "...Stuff?"
Vincent smiled and said, "Why don't you go ahead and get some sleep first. When I'm done here, I'm going to need to make my report to the captain and it could take a while."
"No one is going to be in the dorsal observation lounge at this time of day. I know that Channing won't mind if you sleep in there and it will be quieter than trying to sleep in the supply room of deflector control." JonJon said quietly as he stepped to Lehman's side.
"Yeah. I'll do that." Lehman said, then turned to Vincent and continued, "Will you come and wake me up when you're ready to talk about stuff?"
"Okay. But I've got a few other things to do after I make my report. I'll come and get you in the dorsal lounge when I'm all done." Vincent said seriously.
"That sounds good." Lehman said with a happy smile.
JonJon looked at Lehman with question and received a nod before turning to leave.
Vincent smiled as he watched his friends walk out together.
* * * * *
"Husband, are you well?" T'Lani asked as she approached the side of his bed.
"Dr. Perry says that I'm showing signs of stress, so she's declared me unfit for duty." Vincent said quietly.
"If you would like, I can assist you in managing your stress level through our bond." T'Lani said impassively as she placed her hand on his cheek.
Vincent considered for a moment, then said, "Actually, there's some stuff that I'd really like to take care of today since I've got the time off. But if you want, we could have dinner, then take care of my stress together in a mind meld... would that work?"
T'Lani gave a small trace of a smile before saying, "Yes. In fact, it would be the preferable way so I may instruct you in stress management techniques rather than managing the stress for you."
Vincent smiled at her statement and said, "Then I'll be sure to be signed on to a terminal when you're about to get off work so you can call me."
"That is acceptable." T'Lani said as she caressed his cheek with her thumb.
Vincent placed his hand over hers and held it for a moment, enjoying the expression of affection from his wife.
* * * * *
"Report Commander." Captain Byrne said in a professional voice as he entered the room.
Vincent released T'Lani's hand and watched as she moved away to perform her duties.
"I was asked to remain on the shuttle when we arrived. Since I wasn't allowed to use my scanners aboard their ship, I believe Crewman Winters will have to file this report." Commander M'Butu said frankly.
Captain Byrne turned to Vincent and asked, "What do you have to report, Crewman Winters?"
Vincent considered for a moment, then said, "I really need to give you my report someplace more private and we should probably be somewhere that we can call Admiral Morrow."
Captain Byrne looked around the sickbay at Commander M'Butu, Dr. Perry and T'Lani, then said, "Please come to my office as soon as Dr. Perry is finished with you."
"Captain, please be aware that I've declared Crewman Winters unfit for duty due to increasing signs of stress." Dr. Perry said firmly.
"Are you saying that he is not sufficiently well to make a report?" Captain Byrne asked with surprise.
"No sir, I'm just saying that I want you to be aware of Crewman Winters' condition before you make any decisions as to what his duties will be, following his report." Dr. Perry said professionally.
Captain Byrne gave the doctor a brief smile and said, "Noted."
Dr. Perry glanced at the head of the biobed and said, "Your scan is complete Crewman Winters, you can go give your report now, but after that, you need to rest and relax. That's an order."
"Yes Doctor. I understand." Vincent said as he got off the biobed.
* * * * *
Captain Byrne, Commander M'Butu and Vincent stepped onto the turbo lift without a word.
When the lift doors closed, Captain Byrne said, "Captain's office."
Commander M'Butu looked at the captain with question and received a shake of the captain's head as a response.
"Main bridge." Commander M'Butu said reluctantly.
Vincent took a deep breath, and despite his words to the contrary earlier, reached out through his bond with T'Lani to help calm himself.
* * * * *
Captain Byrne led the way into his office and took a seat before saying, "At ease Crewman. Please have a seat."
"Thank you sir." Vincent said, as he took the offered seat before the captain's desk.
"Now will you tell me what happened on the Gorn ship that is of so much concern that you didn't want Commander M'Butu in the discussion?" Captain Byrne asked curiously.
"Yes sir. I don't know if Admiral Morrow told you about what I was doing last night while you were at dinner with Lehman." Vincent said hesitantly.
"Not specifically. He just said that you were attending to a matter and would be indisposed for an indefinite period of time." Captain Byrne said carefully.
"This has something to do with that, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to tell you about it." Vincent said reluctantly.
"I see. Well, Admiral Morrow has been kept abreast of the events regarding the Okudai and Gorn vessels, so I'm sure he would like to be included in this conversation." Captain Byrne said as he turned on his terminal.
Vincent nodded absently.
"Lieutenant Patterson, please establish a secure subspace channel directed to Admiral Morrow." Captain Byrne said seriously.
"Yes sir." Debbie's voice said professionally.
A moment later, the captain smiled at the terminal before him.
"Leland, you seem to be having your share of excitement today. Do you have some new developments to share with me?" Admiral Morrow asked casually.
Captain Byrne turned the terminal on his desk, then adjusted the viewing angle so Admiral Morrow could see them both.
"Crewman Winters, we do seem to be seeing quite a lot of each other recently. May I assume that this has to do with your recent mission?" Admiral Morrow asked with a smile.
"Yes sir." Vincent said quietly.
"Crewman Winters believes that he may have information that you would prefer be classified." Captain Byrne said frankly.
Admiral Morrow seemed surprised, then looked at Vincent with question.
"When we went on the Gorn ship, the Holy One of the Okudai and the Gorn Holy One left us in a room and told us to open a box." Vincent said in concentration.
"When we opened the box, the time split happened." Vincent continued in a lower voice.
"Are you sure?" Admiral Morrow asked firmly as Captain Byrne looked between them with confusion.
"Yes sir. I could feel the same thing as when I was time traveling with Dr. Xon and then I saw five people who were exact duplicates of us walking away from the box. All of us saw it." Vincent said seriously.
"Who were the five?" Admiral Morrow asked in a voice that was all business.
"Me, JonJon from the Kimber colony, Lehman, the Chameloid you met last night, Tyber, one of the guys from Okuda and Oscar, a Gorn kid about my age." Vincent said in a slow steady voice.
"We never considered that the Gorn had technology advanced enough to alter time." Admiral Morrow said in a disturbed tone.
"It wasn't their technology sir. It was an ancient artifact. And now that the box has been opened, it can't be used again." Vincent said carefully.
"Did they tell you that?" Admiral Morrow asked slowly.
"No sir. But after the time shift was finished, the box was empty. Whatever was inside is either all used up or in a different timeline." Vincent said seriously.
"Good. The last thing we need is a hostile force on our border that has the capability to alter time." Admiral Morrow said in a tone that suggested that he was thinking out loud.
"I take it from what you've said, that you have some experience with time travel." Captain Byrne said slowly.
Vincent looked to Admiral Morrow with question.
"Leland, I'm sure you understand the dangers of polluting the timeline with knowledge of the future. I must insist that no record involving time travel or the time split be made." Admiral Morrow said firmly.
"Yes sir. Of course." Captain Byrne said in a calm voice.
"Good. The transporter mishap Crewman Winters endured some weeks ago seems to have had the side effect of altering his quantum resonant frequency. A visitor from the future was kind enough to come back and help correct the problem before the time split occurred. Otherwise, Crewman Winters would no longer exist." Admiral Morrow said frankly.
"And I would never have existed. It would have erased that I had ever been." Vincent added quietly.
"Thank you. I understand." Captain Byrne said calmly.
"Now Crewman Winters, what else do you have to report about your time on the Gorn vessel. We have little knowledge of their species and anything you observed may be of great importance." Admiral Morrow said seriously, effectively changing the subject.
"It was bright and humid on their ship. They don't all look alike, J'Laad, their Holy One, was dark greenish gray. Oscar was bright golden colored and his father was a darker color of gold." Vincent said carefully.
"Did you see anything of their technology?" Admiral Morrow asked curiously.
"Just a little bit. Their controls were all crystals. I don't even know how they could work or how they know which is which since nothing was labeled. The control panel in their shuttle bay looked like a box of jewels." Vincent said in thought.
"Do you know if they have transporter technology?" Admiral Morrow asked curiously.
"I don't know sir, but I would guess that they do." Vincent said carefully.
"Why do you say that?" Admiral Morrow asked hesitantly.
"Well, it's just because of something the Holy Ones were talking about while we were in the room. They kept talking about how all our races are just reaching the third age. I think that means that we all have about the same technology." Vincent said seriously.
Admiral Morrow looked off screen for a moment, then asked, "Is there anything else I need to know right away Crewman Winters?"
"Yes sir." Vincent said, then pulled the necklace out of the top of his uniform jumpsuit for the Admiral to see.
"The Holy Ones had some kind of prophecy about five kids from different worlds getting together. Because we opened the box and the time split happened, they believe that the five of us are special somehow and should be able to keep in touch with each other. We were given these passports before we left the Gorn ship." Vincent said carefully.
"Passports?" Admiral Morrow asked as he pressed some keys on his terminal.
"Yes sir. The Holy Ones said that the five of us will be able to go places that other people aren't welcomed if we have these with us." Vincent said cautiously.
"I don't understand. What is it exactly?" Admiral Morrow asked as he studied the necklace.
"This is something that can't be duplicated. There are only five of them. The five people who were chosen to carry them are allowed to cross closed borders and to go places that people who are considered 'outsiders' are forbidden." Vincent said seriously.
"Leland, will you please see that the 'passport' is scanned and send me the findings?" Admiral Morrow asked, then glanced off screen again.
"Yes sir." Captain Byrne said immediately.
"Anything else Crewman?" Admiral Morrow asked impatiently.
"No sir. I'll include the rest in my report... except the time stuff." Vincent finished with a smile.
"You're catching on Crewman. If you'll excuse me now, I have a somewhat urgent situation developing that I need to attend to." Admiral Morrow said quickly.
"Of course sir. Yorktown out." Captain Byrne said calmly.
"Starfleet out." Admiral Morrow said and abruptly cut off the transmission.
* * * * *
"I'm sorry sir, but I wasn't sure if Admiral Morrow wanted me to tell you about the time stuff." Vincent said quietly.
"Quite alright Crewman Winters. I believe you handled the situation correctly. Is there anything else you would like to tell me about your experience on the Gorn ship before writing your report?" Captain Byrne asked professionally.
Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "Yes. I just want to be sure to say that the Gorn that we talked to were nice to us. But I have a feeling that they could be a real threat if they ever decided that we were their enemy."
Captain Byrne thought about Vincent's words for a moment, then asked, "So they don't consider us an enemy?"
"No sir. I don't think they consider us at all. If they ever did 'officially' consider us, we would be at war." Vincent said in thought.
"Why do you say that?" Captain Byrne asked curiously.
Vincent shook his head in frustration and said, "I don't know. It's just a feeling I have. The Gorn *have to* dominate and conquer anyone they encounter or die trying. As long as we don't 'officially' meet them, then we don't exist and they don't have to go to war with us."
"So that is why they refuse any attempts at communication." Captain Byrne said speculatively.
"Yeah. I think they know that they can't beat all the other races in the universe, but by keeping inside the borders of their own space, they can continue to be the supreme beings that they have always thought they were." Vincent said carefully.
"So they're trapped inside their borders by their own beliefs." Captain Byrne said quietly.
"Yes. At least until they have a reason to leave their borders. If the Federation tries to force the Gorn to officially recognize them... we just saw forty of their ships. I don't think that's their entire fleet... not even close." Vincent finished in a worried tone.
Captain Byrne nodded and said, "Please include your speculations and insights in your report, then go down to sciences so the scans of your necklace can be included."
"Yes sir." Vincent said as he stood at attention.
"Dismissed." Captain Byrne said professionally.
* * * * *
Vincent walked into Deflector Control and took a seat at auxiliary station two.
"Hold it right there Champ. Dr. Perry says that you aren't allowed to work today." Joe said as he crossed the room.
"I know. But I have to fill out a report about what it was like on the Gorn ship before I can start my day off." Vincent said as he signed onto the terminal.
"What was it like?" Darin asked curiously.
"Like Florida... In the summer." Vincent said as he brought up Darin's report template from his personal file.
"But what were the Gorn like? How were they?" Darin asked curiously.
Vincent turned in his chair and considered for a moment before answering.
"Once you get past what they look like, I think they're really just like us." Vincent said honestly.
"Really?" Darin asked with surprise.
"Yeah. I mean, their traditions are way different than ours and I get the feeling that it wouldn't take much at all for them to go to war with just about anyone. But the regular people... they're like us. We met J'Laad, he's their Holy One and he's just like Tyce. We also met Oscar. He's a kid just like me. The only difference is that he's gold and has scales... and no nipples." Vincent finished with a chuckle.
"Wow. For some reason I thought they'd be really different from us." Darin said slowly.
"That's what I thought before I met them. But inside, where it counts, they're people just like us. They think and feel and dream about the same kind of things that we do." Vincent said as he started answering the template's questions.
A long moment of silence filled the room until Joe quietly asked, "So what are you going to do with your time off?"
"Well, Lehman is taking a nap right now. I thought that after I finish my report, I could write a quick email to Lawrence, Rory and Ken, and Dylan. Oh, and probably my old principal too." Vincent added in thought.
"Your day off will be over by the time you're finished with all of those." Joe said with a chuckle.
Vincent smiled and said, "I'm going to write one email and carbon copy it to all of them. I just want to keep them up to date on what's going on. Getting to meet the Okudai Holy One would be enough reason to send a letter, but then I got to meet the Gorn Holy One and got to go onto a Gorn ship... Well, I just want to share it."
Joe chuckled and said, "That sounds like a good idea. Go ahead and work on your report and we'll leave you alone."
Vincent tilted his head at the statement, then got up from his chair.
"Can I talk to you for a few seconds first?" Vincent asked seriously.
Joe glanced at Thaelan, then said, "Sure. Is the hall okay?"
"Yeah." Vincent said as he walked to the door.
Joe gave an uncertain look to Thaelan and Darin before following Vincent into the hall.
* * * * *
"What's up Champ?" Joe asked curiously.
"Daddy Joe, I got to thinking about some stuff and I wanted to say that I'm sorry." Vincent said seriously.
"Sorry for what?" Joe asked curiously.
"It's because of you that I'm even allowed to be here on this ship. You said that you'd be responsible for me and train me to be an officer, and I know that if I ever need anything at all, that you'll be there to help me with it." Vincent said in thought.
"Yeah, so what's the problem?" Joe asked with concern.
"It's all one way. You give and give and all I seem to do is take," Vincent said in a diminishing voice.
Joe smiled as he stepped forward and pulled Vincent into a hug.
"It's not right. I should be doing stuff for you too." Vincent said, as he pulled away from Joe's side.
"Vincent. You give me so much, you just don't see it. You give me the chance to do something that matters. You give me the ability to pass on the things I've learned. I'm so proud of you and haven't felt anything but joy from having you here on the Yorktown with me." Joe said honestly.
"Really?" Vincent asked quietly as he allowed Joe to pull him back into the hug.
"Have I ever lied to you?" Joe asked seriously.
"No. You never have." Vincent said quietly into Joe's chest.
"Now the next thing I need for you to do is to get things sorted out so you can manage your work and school without stressing yourself out." Joe said, as he held Vincent gently.
"T'Lani is going to help me with that when she goes off shift today. I think I would've been okay if it weren't for the growth spurt. The aching joints and being hungry all the time is making everything else a bit harder." Vincent said quietly.
"That makes good sense to me, but I think having some days off now and then would also be a good thing, even if T'Lani's stress management techniques do help you." Joe said honestly.
"Will everyone else get days off too?" Vincent asked cautiously.
Joe smiled at the question and said, "As soon as you're fit for duty again, I'll start rotating the schedule so everyone can get a day off."
"Thanks, I just don't want to get days off when no one else does." Vincent said quietly.
"I understand." Joe said peacefully.
"Um, Daddy Joe?" Vincent asked quietly.
"Yes?" Joe responded as he hugged Vincent a little more tightly.
"Well, I think I've done pretty good at taking care of my Starfleet stuff and my school stuff. I was wondering if maybe it's time for me to start working on learning to be an officer?" Vincent asked as he looked up at Joe.
"You would pick the day that you've been declared unfit for duty to ask this, wouldn't you?" Joe asked with a chuckle.
"I guess that does seem funny, but I know I'm not stressed out because of work. I just didn't get a full night of sleep and the growth spurt is messing with me. I was hoping that after I'm fit for duty again, you could start teaching me the stuff I need to learn." Vincent asked hopefully.
"Well, whether you know it or not, you have been learning some of the most basic and important things. You're learning the job from the ground up, rather than learning the way that Darin did out of a textbook. When you move to your next assignment, you'll *know* what you're doing." Joe said passionately.
"Yeah, but I'm not learning about how to be a good leader." Vincent said with concern.
"Sure you are. If you want to know how to be a leader, look at all the leaders you have around you. Watch how they handle different issues and situations then adopt the things that you think work best." Joe said frankly.
Vincent thought for a moment, then finally nodded his agreement.
"But I think it's true that it's time for you to get a little more of the academic training that you will need to pass the officer's exam. As soon as you're approved to return to duty, come back and ask me about it and I'll give you your first assignment." Joe said seriously.
"Thanks Daddy Joe. I just want to make sure I'm doing everything that I need to so I can stay here with you." Vincent said with contentment.
"I'll do whatever I can to make sure you can stay wherever you want to be." Joe said quietly.
Vincent squeezed Joe a little tighter in their hug.
"Now I think you should probably get started on your report so you can start relaxing and enjoying your day off." Joe said with a gentle smile.
"Okay, But don't plan on me being off tomorrow. I'm going to make sure that I'm ready for work in the morning." Vincent said firmly.
"If you say you can do it, I have no choice but to believe you." Joe said, as he coaxed Vincent to walk back to the Deflector Control door.
* * * * *
"Vincent, you got a message while you were out there." Darin said over his shoulder.
Reluctantly, Vincent pulled away from Joe's side to look at auxiliary station two's display.
"It's from Tyce." Vincent said happily, as he sat down and accepted the message.
"That was quick. I don't think it's been an hour since you've seen him." Darin said with surprise.
"He said he'd send me contact information... Oh, wow. He thought of everything. I've got one here for Lehman and one for JonJon too." Vincent said as he looked over the message.
"So you plan to keep in touch?" Joe asked, as he slipped into the chair at auxiliary station one.
"Yeah, but he wants contact information for when I'm at home... I don't really have a home." Vincent said as he turned to face Joe.
"Quite a few of the crew keep apartments in San Francisco so they'll have a home address and a place to stay when the Yorktown stops at Earth for a while. I've never been able to justify the expense." Joe said frankly.
"I'll take care of this later. I need to get this report ready, then I need to go to sciences." Vincent said as he closed the message window.
"I'm sure Billy wouldn't mind it if you used his address as your home address." Joe said quietly.
"No. I wouldn't feel right doing that. Lawrence found his home, I need to find mine." Vincent said firmly.
"You and me both Champ." Joe said, then stood to go check on the main.
* * * * *
"Can I help you?" A slender young woman asked when Vincent walked into sciences.
"Yes. Captain Byrne ordered me to come down here so you could scan my necklace to include in my report." Vincent said seriously.
The woman blinked at Vincent stupidly for a moment, then rushed away.
"Don't mind Marie, she's not adjusting to being on the Yorktown very well. She's still scared to death to do anything that they didn't teach her at the academy." A young man said casually.
"Oh. Okay. Can you scan this so I can attach the scan to my report?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Sure. If you'll drop it in that dish on the table I'll run it through the microscanner. It should just take a few minutes." The young man said pleasantly.
Vincent reluctantly took off the necklace, then carefully placed it in the shallow clear plastic dish.
"I'm Reese. There's a chair right there if you'd like to sit down." The young man said as he placed the dish in the scanner.
"I'd like to watch if I can." Vincent said carefully.
"Sure. But there's not much to see. I'll just target... then focus..." Reese said slowly as he adjusted the scanning beam.
"...and activate the microscanner." He finished happily.
Vincent watched for a moment, then noticed Reese looking at him curiously.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Crewman Winters, you can call me Vincent if you want."
Reese chuckled and said, "I thought it was you. I was at the back of the crowd when you got your promotion so I didn't get a good look at you."
"Yeah. Well, there wasn't much to see. Here's me and here's the rank insignia." Vincent said as he held out his forearm.
Reese chuckled and said, "Well I'm honored to get a personal showing. Let's check to see how your necklace is doing."
Vincent walked with Reese around to the other side of the microscanner and looked at the display.
"Marie must have messed up the calibration. This can't be right." Reese said as he shut the scanner down.
"What's wrong?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"Oh. It's nothing. I should have reset the machine to the default settings before I tried to use it. I'm sorry about wasting your time, it's going to take a few more minutes." Reese said as he keyed in a series of commands.
"Um. Okay, but if it comes up weird again, I want to keep the scan." Vincent said quietly.
Reese started the scanner again, then said, "Sure. But what's so special about your necklace?"
Vincent shrugged and asked, "Did you see those Gorn ships out there a while ago?"
"Yeah. I thought Marie was going to wet her pants when she saw them out the view port." Reese said with a smile.
"I got my necklace on one of those ships." Vincent said frankly.
Just as Reese was about to respond, results started filling the scanner's screen.
After a moment of looking over the readings, Reese shook his head and said, "There must be something wrong with this scanner. According to this, the crystal is made of an unidentified substance and is older than... anything."
Vincent watched as the results finally stopped scrolling and the 'Scan Complete' message came up on the screen
"Yep. Can you send the scan results to Crewman Winters in Deflector Control? Admiral Morrow is waiting on them." Vincent asked as he moved around the machine to retrieve his necklace.
"Wait. It's not a problem with the scanner is it? That thing is... What is that thing?"
"You're the guy with the scanner. You tell me." Vincent said with a smile as he walked toward the door.
"But..." Reese said as he looked up from his scan results with wide eyes.
"The Admiral is waiting." Vincent said before hurrying out the door.
* * * * *
Vincent walked into Deflector Control and went directly to the auxiliary station he was signed onto.
"Where's Daddy Joe?" Vincent asked as he looked around.
"He's having a meeting with Commander M'Butu right now... probably about the days off. Did you get your report finished?" Darin asked as he walked to Vincent's side.
"Yeah. I'm just waiting on... there it is. I just have to attach these scanner results then I'm ready to send it off." Vincent said as he keyed in his instructions.
"Joe was saying that when you go back on duty, we're going to start rotating the schedule so we can each get a day off." Darin said happily.
"Maybe if you ask, Daddy Joe will schedule you to have a day off the same time as Rad." Vincent said speculatively as he took two data padds out from under the work station.
Darin chuckled and said, "He already thought of that. As soon as you go back on duty, he's going to check with Rad."
"That's great. I hope you have lots of fun." Vincent said as he downloaded some information onto the padds.
"Hey, aren't you supposed to be off duty for a while? Why are you taking data padds with you?" Darin asked suspiciously.
"This is the information Tyce sent for Lehman and JonJon. I don't know if JonJon has a computer account set up and I'm pretty sure that Lehman doesn't." Vincent said as he signed off his station.
"Oh. Okay. I just wanted to be sure you were really going to be getting some rest on your day off." Darin said cautiously.
Vincent smiled and said, "Yeah. I'm going to start doing that right now. I didn't get to have my workout this morning, so I'm going to do that, then I'll go wake up Lehman."
"I hope you have fun." Darin said as he moved back to station two.
"I think I will. I'm just going to get changed out of my uniform, then I'll be ready to go." Vincent said as he hurried out of the room.
"I am becoming fatigued watching his preparations for relaxation." Thaelan said absently from the main.
Darin chuckled and said, "When you're nine years old, relaxation is a whole different thing."
Thaelan considered for a moment before saying, "Perhaps you are right."
* * * * *
After going through his warm up stretches, Vincent began to go through the series of fighting stances that Thaelan had taught him.
The exercise that he was working on was to practice moving from one stance to each of the others with a smooth transition, so in a combat situation he could move fluidly and without hesitation.
Vincent pushed himself to move as quickly as he possibly could without sacrificing control of the precise movements.
After the first few stances, Vincent's mind began to wander as he thought over the events of the past few weeks.
His body moved automatically as his mind became clear and focused.
The random thoughts began to fall into place, like pieces of a puzzle.
The Great Spirit.
The third age.
The time split.
The fate of the universe.
The ability to change destiny.
As his body continued going through the series of stances faster, pushing at the edge of his endurance, he pondered over the series of seemingly unrelated things, feeling that they had something in common.
Deep within himself he knew that all of it was somehow related and that if he could just find that common thread, it would all make sense and he would know what he needed to do.
He was vaguely aware of sweat dripping into his eyes, but dismissed it as unimportant as he continued to ponder the mystery before him.
* * * * *
"Excuse me?" A voice intruded on his thoughts.
Vincent held the stance that he was currently moving into and turned his head toward the voice.
"Are you alright?" A young man in his early twenties asked with concern.
"Sure. Why?" Vincent asked curiously as he slowly came out of his pose.
"You've been going through your exercise routine since before I arrived. I've already finished working out and you're still at it. I just wondered if you're okay." The young man said hesitantly.
Vincent looked at the time and was surprised to see that almost two hours had passed.
"Yeah. I'm fine. But thanks for checking. I've got some stuff I need to do and I lost track of time." Vincent said as he started doing his cool down stretches.
"No problem." The young man said with a small smile at the thanks, then walked away.
Vincent hurried through his cool down routine, then went to take a quick shower so he could get on with the rest of his day.
* * * * *
Vincent peeked in the door of the Dorsal Observation Lounge to find Lehman looking out the window at the stars passing them by.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" Vincent asked as he walked to Lehman's side.
"Yeah. When I was on Gartain's ship, I didn't think so. Every star that I saw passing by the window was just a sign of me getting further from my home." Lehman said distantly.
"Oh. I never thought of it like that." Vincent said quietly.
Lehman turned to face Vincent and smiled as he said, "Now each star we pass is taking me closer to my new home."
"Did you have a good sleep?" Vincent asked gently.
"Yeah. It was great. Did you get all your stuff done?" Lehman asked with a happy little smile.
"I just finished. I've sent off my report and I even got the contact information from Tyce... Here, this is yours." Vincent said as he fished a data padd out of his gym bag.
"What's this?" Lehman asked curiously as he accepted the padd.
"It has the contact frequencies so you can call Tyce and Tyber, or Oscar, or the Reverend Mother Myscendria." Vincent said happily.
"Wow. I didn't even think of that. This is great." Lehman said happily.
"Yeah. I've got one for JonJon too. Did you bring any other clothes with you?" Vincent asked as he looked around.
"No. Why?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Because you look like you've been sleeping in those. If you want, we could go down to deflector control so you can change. Then we can go and see if JonJon is ready for lunch." Vincent said with a smile.
"Do you, um... have some more clothes like the ones you're wearing?" Lehman asked cautiously.
Vincent looked down at what he was wearing, then said, "Yeah. I think so. Do you want us? to have lunch as identical twins?"
"It's okay if you don't want to. I just thought it'd be like, you know, having a brother." Lehman said, barely hiding a tone of need in his voice.
"Lehman, you are my brother. That's one of the things that happened to us while we were on the Gorn ship. All five of us are brothers now and always will be." Vincent said firmly as he pulled Lehman into a hug.
Lehman was silent for a moment, then he whispered, "Thanks."
"No prob. Now lets go down and get changed so we can freak some people out." Vincent said happily.
* * * * *
"Here you are." Vincent said as he walked into the cargo bay with Lehman following a step behind.
JonJon looked up from the stack of metal boxes he was working on and said, "Yeah. I didn't know I'd be working down here today. What's going on?"
"Well, Lehman and I are getting hungry and we decided to stop by and see if you were ready to eat yet." Vincent said happily.
JonJon considered for a moment, then said, "Yes. As long as you don't mind if I make a stop along the way."
"No problem. I don't think either of us have any other plans." Vincent said with a questioning look at Lehman.
Lehman shrugged and shook his head.
JonJon picked up one of the boxes he had been cataloging and started walking toward the door.
"What's that for?" Lehman asked curiously.
"Well, the way I understand it, when the Yorktown started beaming us up from the Kimber colony, someone got all the safety deposit boxes together and had them beamed up to the cargo bay. Cyril and I are going through the boxes and identifying who they belong to, then finding out where those people are." JonJon said casually.
"So did you find something interesting?" Lehman asked curiously.
"I don't know. They're all locked. We've just been cataloging them and finding out where the people are that they belong to. This one belonged to my father." JonJon said as he stepped onto the turbo lift.
"Recreation deck." JonJon said to the ceiling of the lift.
"So what's in the box?" Lehman asked quietly.
"I don't know yet. I'll have to get Cyril to unlock it for me." JonJon said frankly.
"Do you want us to leave you alone when you open it?" Vincent asked carefully.
JonJon smiled at the question and said, "No. I would really like for you two to be there with me. I think I'll probably be okay, but if it's something that really messes me up, I'll be glad to have my friends with me."
"We'll always be there with you." Lehman said with assurance.
* * * * *
"I was just about to call you. I don't know about you but I'm ready to take a break." Cyril said honestly.
"Me too. Vincent and Lehman just came to invite me to have lunch with them." JonJon said with a smile.
"What have you got there?" Cyril asked curiously.
"My father's safety deposit box. I was wondering if you could open it for me?" JonJon asked hopefully.
"Just a second." Cyril said, then started typing on his terminal.
"Let's see... Munroe Daniels... yes. Here it is..." Cyril mumbled as he worked.
"Oh, there's a surprise." Cyril said as he looked away from the screen.
"What?" JonJon asked with worry.
"It explicitly states in your father's will that in the event of his death, the safety deposit box was to be given to you." Cyril said uncertainly.
"So can you open it?" JonJon asked cautiously.
"Yes. Of course. Set it on the desk and I'll unlock it, then I'll leave you alone to examine the contents." Cyril said somberly.
"That's okay Cyril. I don't mind if you stay." JonJon said honestly as he placed the metal box before Cyril.
"Actually, Roger and I are going to meet for lunch, so I'd rather go unless you need me to be here." Cyril said frankly.
"No. I'll be fine. I just didn't want you to feel like I didn't trust you." JonJon said quietly.
"Right then. Here we go." Cyril said as he finally located the proper key.
After turning the lock, Cyril quietly left the room.
Vincent and Lehman moved to either side of JonJon and gave him identical hugs.
"We sure do spend a lot of time opening boxes, don't we?" Lehman asked with a chuckle.
"Yeah. I guess we do." Vincent said with a smile.
"Wish me luck." JonJon said with nervousness in his voice.
Vincent and Lehman both whispered, "Good luck." as JonJon opened the box.
Well, I guess ending chapters with people opening boxes is going to be the up and coming thing. This chapter was very nice and we found out a few things. I wonder what Admiral Morrow was so worried about. He kept looking off to the side. I hope Vincent can get his stress level down to a manageable level. I think Lehman and Jon-Jon are really going to be good friends. I have been assured that we will hear from Tyce and the others occasionally. I sure hope that is that case, since they have all become part of our lives. How could we manage without knowing what is happening in their lives.
Now remember that was not a cliffhanger. That was not a cliffhanger. I just want to make sure that you know it isn't a cliffhanger.
I need to point out how much I love all the people in this story. I have told MultiMapper many times how much we all love his boys, and how much we all look forward to each new chapter.? I am still not sure that he believes me, so if any of you out there who are reading this or any other of his stories wouldn't mind doing me a favour, would you please send MultiMapper a note and let him know that John Hollingway, Hal and I are not his only fans.
I know how nice it is to get an e mail from someone that my stories have given a smile. I know from my corresponding with other people, that pretty much everyone that reads MM's stories falls in love with them. I am not asking you to write an essay. Just send a quick note to MultiMapper, and let him know you liked either the chapter or the story. I want him to see that he really does have fans.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher