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"What is it?" Lehman asked as he looked at the strange device in the safety deposit box.
"It's a memory storage module." JonJon said cautiously.
"It doesn't look like any kind of memory storage that I've seen before." Vincent said as he looked at the device curiously.
"It's for positronic memories. You see that cable? It plugs into my data port so I can access it." JonJon said nervously.
"So what's in it?" Lehman asked quietly.
"I have no idea. I've never seen it before and my father never mentioned having it." JonJon said with a dark look.
"Do you want to look at it now or save it for later?" Vincent asked cautiously.
JonJon thought for a moment, then said, "Waiting won't make it any easier. Besides, time moves a little differently inside my head. I could have a vision that lasts for days and it would only be a minute in real life."
"Okay. Do you need to be sitting down or anything?" Vincent asked with concern.
"It would probably be a good idea if I sat down since I don't know what this is. I might be disoriented when I come back." JonJon said carefully.
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Lehman asked quietly as JonJon sat behind Cyril's desk.
"No. Just wait for a minute and I should be right back." JonJon said as he took the cord around to the back of his head to plug it in.
"You're sure this is safe?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"Actually... no." JonJon said, then plugged it in.
* * * * *
JonJon looked around the black infinity that surrounded him and waited for the interactive memory to initiate.
"Hello Johnny, I'm sure you have many questions now. I'm here to help you." A voice said in the distance.
"Who are you?" JonJon asked as he turned and tried to determine where the voice was coming from.
"I'm a neural image of your first father." The man's voice said from just behind him.
JonJon turned quickly to see an elderly man with very kind eyes.
"I know you don't remember me, but I'm here to offer you some help. You can call me Jeffery."
"It's nice to meet you Jeffery." JonJon said uncertainly.
"If you're here with me, it means your loved one has passed away." Jeffery said sadly.
JonJon reluctantly nodded.
"I don't know how things are in the world now, but at the time I made this image of myself, androids were beginning to self terminate when their loved ones died." Jeffery said with a distant look in his gentle, soulful eyes.
JonJon whispered, "There aren't many of us left. I haven't seen another M.A.R.C. in... at least five years."
"You are my beloved eternal child and I couldn't leave you to that fate. So I found an android designer who was willing to create this storage unit for me. It's my best attempt to create an alternative to suicide for you; if you ever reach that point... I hope this can bring you some sort of peace. Come over here, Son," Jeffery said, as he hobbled over to a desk that hadn't been there a moment before.
"I'm sure you know that erasing long term memories from a positronic brain is nearly impossible. Something like that usually ends up being an all or nothing proposition. What I came up with is an alternative. I have a tapeworm program that can follow linking memories and block your access to them. It will be much like a human having amnesia, but the beautiful, wonderful person that you are won't be lost in the process." The elderly man said as he put his hand on two thick books laying on the desk.
"These are the memory files that are suppressed within you right now. If you open one of these books, those suppressed memories will be immediately restored." Jeffery said firmly, then he turned and put his hand on another book on the opposite side of the desk.
"This one is empty and waiting for you to fill it. If the pain of losing your loved one is too much for you to bear, you can leave your memories here with me, where they'll be safe." Jeffery said quietly.
JonJon considered the offer for a moment, then quietly said, "If you had offered me this yesterday, I think I might have accepted. But now I've found out that I have a purpose that goes way beyond the role of companion that I was originally programmed for."
"I'm so glad to hear that, Johnny." Jeffery said with a tender smile.
"I wish I could say that I was strong enough to regain the memories that are in those books, but I really don't think I am. At least, not yet. But I think that after I've had some more time to? deal with the pain of losing my family, I may be able to come back and face my past." JonJon said in concentration.
"Then you are free to leave as you are and of course you can return whenever you wish. I will be here waiting for you when you need me." Jeffery said with a peaceful smile.
"Thank you for offering me a way to keep from hurting. I hope that someday soon I'll be able to come back and remember you."
"Son, if you know nothing else of me, please just remember and never doubt... you were always loved." The elderly man said as he faded from Jon-Jon's sight.
JonJon made the conscious effort to open his physical eyes so he could come out of the computer generated dream.
* * * * *
"Is everything okay?" Lehman asked curiously as JonJon's eyes opened.
"Yeah. This thing just answered a few questions for me, that I've been wondering about." JonJon said as he disconnected the cable from his data port.
"I hope it was something good." Vincent said slowly, not knowing how to interpret JonJon's expression.
"I'm not sure yet. I'll? have to think about it." JonJon said honestly.
"Oh. It's one of those..." Lehman said with a roll of his eyes.
JonJon smiled at the action and said, "That's right Lehman. It's one of those."
"Hey. How did you know he was Lehman? We're identical." Vincent asked indignantly.
JonJon looked back and forth between the two identical boys before saying, "Android intuition."
* * * * *
Vincent led the way to the serving line and began to take something more than the standard size serving of each item.
"I can't believe how hungry I am." Vincent said as he worked his way down the line.
"Save some for the rest of us." A voice called out from behind the trio.
"Benny? What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in class right now?" JonJon asked curiously.
"You know all that school work I was doing last night?" Benny asked as he picked up a tray and a plate.
"Yeah. History." Vincent said slowly, not entirely certain he remembered correctly.
"Right. A really big report on the Ottoman Empire. So anyway, when the teacher picked up our reports, I was the only one who did it right. Everyone else either didn't do it or did a really bad job. So Mrs. De Luca said that I could have the rest of the day off while everyone else worked on their reports." Benny said frankly.
"That's great. Lehman and I are off the rest of the day too." Vincent said happily.
"Don't we need to talk about... stuff?" Lehman asked hesitantly.
Vincent scooted his tray up the serving line and selected two dinner rolls, then said, "Yeah. But I think Benny should be in on it."
"In on what?" Benny asked curiously.
"If the guys think it's a good idea, we'll tell you at the table." Vincent said seriously.
"Are you guys forming some kind of a club or something?" Benny asked with amusement.
"I guess you could say that, except we didn't get to choose the members." Vincent said as he poured himself a glass of water, then walked to the next serving line to get a salad.
When Benny arrived at the salad line, he asked, "Does this have something to do with what the Holy One was talking about in sickbay last night when he asked if my parents were rich?"
Vincent smiled and said, "Yeah. That's what it's about."
Benny nodded in thought as Vincent carried his heavily laden tray to an empty table.
* * * * *
When all the boys had been seated, Lehman cautiously said, "Eliam said that we aren't supposed to let anyone know."
"It's okay if you don't want to tell me what's going on. I can sit at another table while you talk about whatever you need to." Benny said quietly.
"No Benny. I think you need to know everything that's going on. That way you'll know how to help us if something comes up and we need to take care of it." Vincent said seriously, then turned to Lehman and said, "And Eliam said we shouldn't tell *everyone*."
Lehman thought about the words, then reluctantly nodded.
"Guys, I don't know any more about this than you do. I'm just going on my feelings here. What do you think?" Vincent asked seriously, then took a large bite of his food.
"I think you're right." JonJon said carefully.
Lehman seemed to come to a decision and finally nodded.
"Okay Benny. When Tyce took us to the Gorn ship it was because of some kind of old prophecy or something. We met the Gorn Holy One and we were given these necklaces that will identify us as... um, special." Vincent finished uncertainly.
"Trach Manja." Lehman said quietly.
"What?" Benny asked in confusion.
"That's the Gorn word for what we are. All it means is that if someone needs help, we have a good chance of being able to help them." Vincent said with difficulty.
"Yeah, it means we can make a difference." JonJon said in thought.
"But can't I make a difference?" Benny asked in confusion.
Vincent chuckled and said, "Of course you can Benny. In fact, I think since we're telling you this you may be able to make more of a difference than most people. Us having these necklaces makes it so other people will be willing to listen to us and accept our help. I really don't understand it all yet but that's the most important part."
"So why is it such a big secret?" Benny asked thoughtfully.
"Because if everyone knew about it, they'd try to use us to change things the way they wanted." JonJon said with certainty.
"How do you mean?" Benny asked curiously.
"Like with us meeting the Gorn. If people knew what it really meant to be a Trach Manja, they could try to get us to arrange things so the Gorn would... I don't know, open their borders or become part of the Federation or something." Vincent said with difficulty.
"Would that be such a bad thing?" Benny asked cautiously.
Vincent thought about the question, but before he could answer, Lehman said, "The Gorn are warriors. Maybe someday they'll choose to change, but until they're ready it would be really dangerous to try and force things to change."
"Yeah. That's a good way of putting it. Just because we *can* change things doesn't mean we always *should* change things." Vincent said seriously.
"Well, I don't entirely get everything that you're saying, but I think I understand enough." Benny said slowly.
"We don't understand it all yet either. But according to what Eliam said, we've got a chance to change the fate of the universe if we just pay attention and help out the people we find who need it." Vincent said carefully.
"Change the fate of the universe?" Benny asked with surprise.
"Yeah. That's the part we really need you not to tell people about. If everyone found out, then we'd probably lose the chance." Vincent said in a hesitant voice.
"I'm guessing that if the fate of the universe needs to be changed, then something really bad is going to happen." Benny said speculatively.
"Yeah. You could say that." Vincent said quietly.
"It's like the big bang gets unbanged." Lehman said frankly.
Benny looked at Lehman with confusion.
"Everything in the universe gets pulled back together into one big glob then explodes again so maybe the next universe will get things right." JonJon said darkly.
"When?" Benny asked with concern.
"Eliam didn't say exactly, but it's probably something like a few billion years. The thing is, something is going to happen pretty soon that will decide if the universe is going to continue or not." Vincent said carefully.
"Yeah, and if the answer is 'not', then everyone everywhere will know it when it happens." Lehman said distantly.
"And by that point it will be too late to do anything to stop it. Everyone in the whole universe will know that the end is coming. They'll know that nothing they create or care about will survive into the future." JonJon said as he stared at his plate of food.
"It would be kind of like being told that you have one year left to live. Everything in your life would change and you'd know that the end was coming. Every morning when you woke up, you'd know that you had one less day to live. Multiply that feeling times everyone in the universe..." Vincent trailed off sadly.
"It would be a future without hope. As the people of the universe realized that, chaos would erupt, civilizations would fall... the worst aspects of each species would be brought to the surface. I don't even want to imagine what life would be like." JonJon finished in a mutter.
"But you can change it, right?" Benny asked seriously.
"That's what Eliam said. All we have to do is find the right people to help and things will work out so that the universe can keep on going." Vincent said quietly.
"Who's Eliam?" Benny asked slowly.
"Well, that's kind of tough to explain..." Vincent began to say.
"It was something like a neural image. The real Eliam died along with his universe billions of years ago, but a recording of who he was and what he knew was kept safe so he could warn us and tell us what we need to do." JonJon said frankly.
"Eliam's ghost and the necklaces are all that survived from his universe." Lehman said quietly as he took out his necklace to look at it.
"Too weird..." Benny said with a shake of his head.
Vincent giggled and said, "You got that right Benny."
JonJon and Lehman shared a look, then nodded their agreement.
"Okay, so what do you need to do now?" Benny asked curiously.
"I think I'm set for the moment. All I have to do is my normal stuff... well, except that I've been declared unfit for duty and ordered not to work on school work... so I guess I really don't have anything to do." Vincent finished helplessly.
"I have to go back to work." JonJon said frankly.
"I'm going to need to get in touch with the Reverend Mother Myscendria. I just don't know if I should do it now or when I reach the new colony." Lehman said quietly.
"From the way she was talking, it could probably wait. It sounded to me like she was just wanting to get to know you and discuss what you two needed to do." Vincent said seriously.
Lehman slowly nodded his agreement.
"I think Norman is going to need me to talk to him before that." JonJon said in thought.
"I think so too." Vincent said seriously.
"Okay, who are Myscendria and Norman?" Benny asked in confusion.
"They're Holy Ones." Vincent said simply.
"The Reverend Mother Myscendria is the Chameloid Holy One." Lehman said seriously.
"And Norman seems to be the leader of a whole Android civilization. We won't know much more about that until JonJon talks to him." Vincent said frankly.
"I'll do that after work today. I got the feeling that Norman really needs me to help him with something." JonJon said quietly.
"Okay. Then it sounds like JonJon's got his day planned out. What about everyone else?" Vincent asked as he looked around the table.
Lehman got a speculative look, then asked, "Could you guys wait here for just a minute?"
"Sure." Vincent said, then watched as Lehman hurried away.
"Bathroom?" Benny asked speculatively.
"Idea." Vincent said with certainty.
Benny looked at Vincent with question.
"He has an idea of something we can do this afternoon, but he doesn't want to tell us in case it won't work. He's checking on it now." Vincent said seriously.
"How do you know that? Did you become telepathic while you were on the Gorn ship?" Benny asked curiously.
Vincent chuckled and said, "No. It's nothing like that. I just got an idea of what was going through his mind by the expressions on his face. I bet if you had an identical twin sitting here with us you could probably do the same thing."
Benny smiled and said, "I didn't think of it that way. It's strange, you two look and sound exactly alike, but I can tell you apart without even thinking about it."
"So can JonJon. Some of his Android intuition must have rubbed off on you." Vincent said with a smile.
"I'd better get going. We still have quite a few safety deposit boxes to go through." JonJon said as he gathered up his dishes.
"I really wish you could have the day off with us." Vincent said quietly.
"Yeah. Me too. But Cyril needs my help. It would be wrong for me to take time off while he has so much to do." JonJon said with regret.
Lehman rushed to the table and said, "Guys, I just checked the movie list and 'Chicken Run' is going to start in about fifteen minutes. What do you think?"
Vincent opened his mouth to offer an excuse as to why he couldn't go when he realized that he didn't have one.
He didn't have to work or study.
T'Lani would be working the rest of the day.
"I'm in." Vincent finally said.
"Me too." Benny said with a shrug.
"You guys have fun. I'll see you this afternoon." JonJon said as he picked up his tray.
"JonJon, before you go, will you do something for me?" Vincent asked quickly.
"What's that?" JonJon asked as he turned back toward the table.
"If Cyril asks you if you want to take the rest of the day off, will you tell him 'yes'?" Vincent asked seriously.
"What?" JonJon asked with confusion.
"Just promise me that if he asks,? you'll say 'yes'." Vincent said firmly.
"Okay. He's never asked me before, but if for some reason he asks me today, I'll tell him 'yes'." JonJon said, then carried his dishes away.
"What was that about?" Benny asked curiously.
"Just a hunch." Vincent said with a shrug.
"Come on. There's got to be more to it than that." Benny said suspiciously.
"Well, things worked out today so you're out of classes and I'm off duty. It really wouldn't surprise me if things worked out so JonJon could be off work too. If things don't work out that way, then it's no big deal, but if they do, JonJon's already promised me that he'd say 'yes'." Vincent finished with a smile.
Benny considered the words for a moment, then said, "You made playing a hunch sound almost logical."
"Yeah. Are you just about finished?" Vincent asked curiously.
Benny looked down at his plate and said, "Yeah. Let's go so we can get good seats."
"It shouldn't be too crowded since school is in session. They're showing the movie again this evening and that's when it's probably going to be packed." Lehman said casually as he stood.
"Hold on Lehman. How do you know about all this stuff. You've only been on board for one day." Benny asked curiously.
"I've read Vincent's mind a couple of times now. I picked up a lot of things I wasn't looking for." Lehman said frankly as he waited for Benny to finish gathering his dishes.
"How do you feel about that?" Benny asked Vincent as he started walking toward the drop-off window.
"If I was worried about it, I wouldn't have let him read my mind. The only secrets I really have are about Starfleet. T'Lani already showed me how to protect that stuff. Lehman is welcomed to look at the rest of it if he wants to." Vincent said without concern.
"There are a few things I'm sure Vincent wouldn't want me talking about, but that's just because he doesn't want to be reminded of them." Lehman said honestly.
"Can we change the subject?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"See what I mean?" Lehman said with a teasing smile at Vincent.
"Yeah. And instead of changing the subject, how about we just let it drop and go enjoy the movie?" Benny asked hopefully.
"Works for me." Vincent said with a smile.
"No argument here, I'm the one who suggested the movie." Lehman said with a chuckle.
* * * * *
"Do you guys have room for one more?"
All three boys looked up to see JonJon standing at the end of their row of seats.
"Sure JonJon, we saved you a seat." Benny said as he patted the seat next to him.
"Thanks." JonJon said shyly as he sat down.
"What happened? How did you end up getting the rest of the day off?" Benny asked curiously.
"Well, Roger and Cyril went to lunch and both decided that they needed a little time to be together. Cyril asked me if I wanted to take the rest of the day off or work on the safety deposit boxes and... well, if Vincent hadn't made me promise, I wouldn't be here right now." JonJon finished shyly.
"Then I'm glad he made you promise. I think we need a break. Let's enjoy it." Benny said with a smile at his friend.
The lights started dimming and the murmured conversations in the room began to quiet.
* * * * *
As the lights came up at the end of the movie, they revealed Lehman sprawled across his chair, collapsed in laughter.
The other boys were smiling, as they watched him trying to get control of himself.
"You liked that, huh?" Vincent finally asked.
"That... that was the funniest thing I've ever seen! We don't have anything like that on my world." Lehman said as he finally brought himself back to a sitting position.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. If you like, we can buy you a copy of the movie so you can watch it again whenever you want." Benny said happily.
"Yeah. It was so funny. I just can't believe how funny it was." Lehman said before breaking into laughter again.
"My brother liked that movie too." JonJon said with a bittersweet smile.
Benny's smile faded as he realized that JonJon was probably reliving a painful memory.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Benny asked in a whisper.
JonJon shook his head and said, "No. That's okay. It was a happy memory. I'll be fine."
Benny reluctantly nodded, but continued to watch JonJon carefully.
"Come on Lehman, let's go to the ship's store and see if they have the movie for sale yet." Vincent said happily, oblivious to what was going on with JonJon.
"Okay. I haven't had a chance to see the store." Lehman said as he finally was able to stand.
"What about you guys? Do you feel up to some shopping?" Vincent asked as he turned his attention to Benny and JonJon.
"Yeah... except I don't really have any money." Benny said quietly.
"Yes you do." JonJon said immediately.
Benny looked at JonJon with question.
"Do you have your ID?" JonJon asked seriously.
"Yeah. I think so." Benny said as he patted his pants pocket.
"Everything is worked out so all the colonists have access to their accounts. You have your own private account and you can also use your parents' account if you need to." JonJon said as he stepped out of the row of chairs.
"Oh. Thanks, I didn't know that." Benny said with surprise.
"You must not check your Kimber email account when you use the computer. We sent a notice to everyone." JonJon said frankly.
"I didn't even think about it. You mean all our email accounts are still active?" Benny said as he fell into step beside JonJon.
"Yeah. It's the easiest way for us to keep people up-to-date on what's going on. I guess you didn't hear about it because you've been staying with us in Deflector Control. I know Cyril made a few announcements about it down here on the recreation deck." JonJon said casually as they walked.
"I don't have an ID or money or anything like that. What should I do?" Lehman asked in thought.
JonJon stopped walking as he thought about the question.
"Does he need to talk to Cyril?" Vincent asked uncertainly.
JonJon considered for a moment, then said, "I don't know. If Lehman had been at Kimber, then I'd know just what he needed to do, but he isn't even a Federation citizen... I have no idea who he needs to talk to."
"I see what you mean. Maybe Daddy Joe would know what we should do." Vincent said slowly.
After a moment of thought, JonJon nodded and said, "He'd probably know better than any of us. Do you want to talk to him before or after the shopping?"
"Before. There's no telling what we'll have to do or how long it will take." Vincent said in thought.
"Sorry guys. If I knew it was going to be this much trouble I wouldn't have said anything." Lehman said quietly.
Benny put an arm around Lehman's shoulders and said, "It's no trouble. None of us have anything planned for the rest of the day and the ship's store will be there whenever we're ready for it."
JonJon smiled at the sight of Benny holding Lehman as they approached the turbo lift.
* * * * *
The lift doors opened to reveal Roger and Cyril, both looking relaxed and happy.
"Well hello. How are all of you doing today?" Cyril asked casually.
"Just fine. We were just about to go and try to find out what we should do to get Lehman an ID." JonJon said quickly, knowing that Cyril would probably know who they should talk to about it.
"I remember you telling me about him... my, you certainly are identical." Cyril said as he looked from Vincent to Lehman and back.
"I'm Lehman." Lehman said shyly as he raised his hand.
"It's very nice to meet you Lehman. JonJon has had nothing but nice things to say about you. My name is Cyril and this is Roger." Cyril said formally.
"It's nice to meet you. Vincent has told me about you... All good things." Lehman finished with a smile.
"Now let's see. You're a citizen of a world that has no treaty with the Federation. You have no formal relationship with anyone in the Federation and no documented identity. Is that about right?" Cyril asked in thought.
"Yeah. That's about it." Lehman said quietly.
"If you were a few years older, this would be less of an issue, but as things stand... I just don't know what we can do. Something like this could easily get bogged down in Federation courts for months or even years." Cyril said distantly.
"What about Safe Haven? I'm a member of Clan Short." Vincent said carefully.
Cyril hesitantly nodded and said, "Maybe. I'm not fully versed in all the nuances of the Safe Haven Act, but from what I know of it, you could probably justify it. The only problem I can foresee with that is the naming of a custodial guardian."
"I can take care of myself." Lehman said seriously.
"Maybe you can. But you shouldn't have to. You're too young to be left to fend for yourself." Cyril said frankly.
"I'll do it." JonJon said seriously.
"It has to be an adult." Cyril said with regret.
"I may look like I'm fourteen years old, but I'm actually older than you are. Unless you're going to tell me that there's some reason that an Android can't adopt a child, there's no reason I can't be Lehman's father." JonJon said firmly.
Cyril considered for a moment, then shook his head.
"If Lehman's world had adopted Safe Haven, then it wouldn't be a problem. But things being as they are... it still looks like we're talking about a long, drawn out court case to determine Lehman's official status." Cyril said slowly.
"What if the Reverend Mother Myscendria said it was okay? Would that work?" Vincent asked thoughtfully.
"Who's that?" Roger asked curiously.
"The Reverend Mother Myscendria is my people's highest holy leader." Lehman said quietly.
Cyril shook his head and said, "Since your world doesn't have any formal status with the Federation it might end up making things more difficult."
"Wait, what about the Okudai?" Vincent asked seriously.
"What about them?" Cyril asked cautiously.
"What if JonJon adopted Lehman by Okudai law? Would that hold up in a Federation court?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Let me see... Okuda has a treaty with the Federation. So if Lehman were recognized as the legal child of JonJon by the Okudai government,? the Federation would have to recognize it. The only problem with that is, how do we get the Okudai to recognize JonJon as Lehman's father?" Cyril asked slowly.
"If I can borrow your office for a little while to make a few subspace calls, I think I can arrange that." JonJon said seriously.
"Of course you can borrow it whenever you want. Do whatever you need to do." Cyril said with assurance.
"Are you okay with all of this Lehman?" Benny asked quietly from Lehman's side.
"Yeah. It's just... no one's wanted me for years and now all of a sudden you're doing all sorts of crazy stuff so you'll be able to keep me. It's a little hard for me to believe." Lehman said quietly.
"Believe it. If JonJon weren't trying to be your dad right now, I'd be filling out forms so I could be emancipated and declared an adult so I could adopt you myself." Benny said firmly.
"And I already thought about T'Lani and I adopting you, then naming Benny and JonJon as your guardians while we're in space." Vincent said quietly.
"Really?" Lehman asked with wide eyes.
Vincent nodded and said, "Even if you didn't look just like me, you're still my brother. That mean's that I'd do anything to protect you and give you the best future possible."
"If all else fails, Cyril and I could adopt you." Roger said quietly.
Cyril looked at Roger with surprise at the statement.
"You boys are a family and you need to be kept together. We'd be willing to adopt you, all of you, if that's what it would take." Roger said seriously.
Cyril's look of surprise turned to one of love as he said, "That's right. Let's go to my office right now and start making calls."
"But what about your day off?" JonJon asked with concern.
"We'll enjoy our day off a lot more when we know that we did everything in our power to give Lehman the best possible home." Roger said seriously.
Cyril nodded his agreement, then started walking toward his office.
* * * * *
"This is a secure channel reserved for the use of the Okudai Central Church." an automated voice said tonelessly.
"This is JonJon, I'm one of the Trach Manja." JonJon said, hoping that was enough of an identification.
A moment later the screen came on to reveal Tyber shirtless and out of breath. He also appeared to be blushing.
"Is everything okay Tyber?" JonJon asked with concern.
"Yeah. Fine. You just caught me while I was, um... taking a bath." Tyber said reluctantly as he glanced away from the screen.
A series of growls and hisses came from the background.
JonJon, Lehman and Vincent understood the Gorn language and recognized Oscar's voice, "If it is not an emergency, tell them you will call them back. It's getting cold without you."
Tyber's blush became brighter as he nervously asked, "What's going on guys?"
Vincent smiled as he said, "We needed to talk to Tyce. Is he around?"
"I'm sure he is in his suite of rooms. I'll connect you." Tyber said quickly, then the screen went blank.
"What's getting cold?" Lehman asked with a barely restrained smile.
"I don't know, maybe we should ask him next time we call." Vincent said with a chuckle.
The screen flashed back on to reveal Tyce looking peaceful and relaxed.
"It's good to see all of you again so soon. How are things going?" Tyce asked happily.
"Just fine. JonJon has something to ask you." Vincent said, then stepped away from the screen.
Tyce looked at JonJon with question then smiled at JonJon's timid expression.
"Lehman doesn't have a legal identity in the Federation. If he were an adult it wouldn't be a big problem, but since he's a child, it looks like it's going to be a really big deal for the courts to figure out who's going to take care of him. But if you could kind of declare that Lehman is my son, then the Federation would recognize it as legal and there wouldn't be any problem at all." JonJon rambled.
"No." Tyce said firmly.
JonJon blinked at Tyce with surprise.
"In matters of family law such as marriages, divorces, custody disputes and adoptions, the Church has the authority to make judgments and declarations. As the highest ranking member of the Church of Okuda, any declaration I would make could not be overridden by any governmental or church body." Tyce said seriously.
JonJon nodded hesitantly at the declaration.
"What you've just told me is that you want to adopt Lehman as a matter of convenience, to work around the legal process of the Federation. I can't think of a worse reason for an adoption and I won't even consider it." Tyce said vehemently.
JonJon nodded, then quietly said, "You're right Tyce. It was wrong of me to even ask such a selfish thing."
Tyce smiled and said, "I'm not upset JonJon. I just wanted you to understand the seriousness of what you're asking."
"I really do understand. I'm asking that Lehman be made my legal son. I'm promising that I'll stand with him the rest of his life and support him however I can. I'm asking you to give Lehman a family so he doesn't have to face the future alone." JonJon said seriously.
"Well, why didn't you just say that? Lehman, what do you think about this?" Tyce asked with a smile.
"You were here when Benny and JonJon promised to watch out for me. So I've had time to think about what I want things to be like. The only thing I can think of that would be better than having JonJon as a father is having Benny and JonJon both as my fathers." Lehman said firmly.
Benny's eyes went wide at the statement.
"Okay. Benny, how do you feel about that?" Tyce asked with amusement.
"Well. I think having Lehman as a son would be great. But JonJon and I aren't... I mean, we never..." Benny trailed off with embarrassment.
Tyce giggled at Benny's expression and said, "I understand."
Benny relaxed slightly, but was still blushing wildly.
"How does this sound? JonJon and Benny can both be named as Lehman's parents. You three work that out however you want, just as long as you consider what's best for Lehman when you're making your decisions." Tyce asked simply.
"Thanks Tyce. That sounds great." Lehman said happily.
"So JonJon and I are Lehman's parents... what does that make us to each other?" Benny asked cautiously.
"Whatever you want to be. You two decide." Tyce said with a smile.
Benny nodded slowly.
Tyce looked away from the screen for a moment, then nodded and faced the screen again.
"Oluf needs Benny and JonJon's legal names." Tyce said with distraction.
"Benjamin David Summers." Benny said quietly.
"Jonathan Michael Daniels." JonJon said in a matching tone.
"Lehman, from what I've learned about Human customs, they usually have last names. Do you want to do something like that?" Tyce asked with a smile.
"Yeah. But... which name should I have?" Lehman asked as he looked from Benny to JonJon with concern.
"Daniels." Benny said seriously.
Lehman and JonJon both looked at Benny with question.
"I want JonJon to have the chance to pass on his family name." Benny said more quietly.
Lehman smiled, then looked at JonJon and asked, "Is that okay with you?"
"It's better than okay." JonJon said quietly, then looked at Benny and whispered, "Thanks."
"Oluf? Did you get all that?" Tyce asked over his shoulder.
A moment later he turned his attention back to the screen and said, "The official documents are being filed with the central ministry now. As soon as they're finalized, a copy will be sent to the Federation. From the way Oluf is talking to the ministry, I'd guess within five minutes. Lehman Benjamin Daniels is now legally the child of Benjamin Summers and Jonathan Daniels."
"Thank you Tyce. I really appreciate you doing this for us. By the time we could have sorted everything out in the Federation courts, Lehman would probably be old enough to have kids of his own." Vincent said with a smile.
"The Okudai government can be the same way at times. I was glad to help... once I knew you were doing it for the right reasons." Tyce finished with a smile.
"Would you do one more thing before you go?" Vincent asked quickly.
"What's that?" Tyce asked curiously.
"Next time you talk to Tyber, ask him what Oscar was worried about getting cold when we called." Vincent asked with a smile.
Tyce's eyes went wide with surprise, then he broke into a grin and said, "It would be my pleasure to ask."
* * * * *
"The Holy One wasn't exaggerating. I just queried the Federation network and received Lehman's official documentation. Congratulations Lehman Daniels, you officially exist." Cyril said happily.
"Now we need to get Lehman an ID. We'll need to go to ship's services for that." Vincent said in thought.
"Just a moment... if Lehman will stand still I'll capture an image." Cyril said carefully.
"That way you'll just have to go up and pick up your ID. They should have it ready before you get there." Vincent said happily.
"And then we go shopping?" Lehman asked curiously.
Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "Yeah. That is how all this started, isn't it?"
"Yeah. I just can't believe it. I've got two fathers." Lehman said in wonder.
"We'll try to be the best dads you could ever wish for." JonJon said as he pulled Lehman into a gentle hug.
Benny smiled at the sight and said, "For a little while today I was feeling kind of left out of things but now..."
"You'll never be left out Benny. You and JonJon will be friends forever, and now you have Lehman." Vincent said happily.
"But where does that leave you?" Benny asked with concern.
"Watching all my best friends become a family." Vincent said honestly.
Benny continued to look at Vincent, feeling that he should somehow be more a part of their plans.
"When we get to the colony, you're staying, I'm leaving. You know I've got Daddy Joe and Thaelan and Darin who will watch out for me. Now I know that you and JonJon are going to be taking care of Lehman. Trust me, it works." Vincent said with a smile.
"And the boys will always be able to come to us if they need anything." Roger said quietly.
Vincent smiled up at Roger, he had honestly forgotten that Roger and Cyril were still in the room.
"Roger's right. We'll always be there for you." Cyril said with a smile.
"Thank you Cyril, you too Roger. It'll be good to know that we have some extra help if we need it." JonJon said sincerely.
"Now didn't I hear Lehman say something about shopping?" Roger asked playfully.
"Right. Let's go get the ID so we can hit the ship's store." Vincent said with a smile.
Benny and JonJon moved at the same time from opposite sides to hug Lehman.
They shared an embarrassed look, then both proceeded.
The three of them walked out of the office arm in arm in arm.
* * * * *
"Lehman, you really need to go shopping with Jimmy." Vincent said frankly.
"Why?" Lehman asked with confusion.
"Because he enjoys shopping almost as much as you do." Vincent said with a smile.
"I never really got to go shopping before. It's not as much fun to go looking through the shops when you can't buy anything." Lehman said shyly.
"I didn't mean for that to sound like I'm not enjoying it. I just know that Jimmy loves to shop and he'd really have a good time shopping with you." Vincent said honestly.
"Okay. I don't know him that well yet, but if I get the chance I'll ask him." Lehman said carefully.
"Lehman, whenever you feel like shopping, I'll be happy to go with you." JonJon said seriously.
"Is that a dad thing?" Lehman asked curiously.
"No. A friend thing. It's fun to spend time with you when you're doing something you enjoy." JonJon said warmly.
"That goes for both of us." Benny added seriously.
"Well, I think we've just about looked at everything in the store. What are we going to do next?" Vincent asked curiously.
"I need to call Norman. I kind of forgot." JonJon said quietly.
"Let's do it now. I could use a break." Vincent said frankly.
"Why don't you guys do that and I'll help Lehman take his bags to Deflector Control." Benny said casually.
"Sounds like a plan. Do you want to use Cyril's office?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Sure. I don't think he'll mind." JonJon said speculatively.
"We'll meet you at Cyril's office when we're done." Benny said with a smile, then gathered the bags that JonJon had been carrying.
* * * * *
When JonJon placed the call, Vincent expected Norman to answer or at the very least to see a complete stranger. The last thing in the universe he expected to see was a familiar face.
"Commander Uhura?" Vincent asked with surprise.
"I am Nyota unit 14, Norman will be with you shortly." the woman said pleasantly.
"Why do you look like Commander Uhura?" Vincent asked cautiously.
The Android looked at Vincent curiously for a moment, then answered, "Lieutenant Uhura visited our world some time ago and expressed a desire to undergo neural transfer into a synthetic body that would not age. The necessary scans were taken and information was gathered to construct the body, but in the end, she foolishly chose not to have the procedure done. After her departure, we used the information to construct the Nyota series of Androids... Norman is ready to speak to you now."
The screen switched over to show Norman with a look of concern.
"Thank you for contacting me so quickly. My people are facing something of a crisis, and I am at a loss as to how to proceed." Norman said gravely.
"Tell me what's going on and we'll do whatever we can to help." JonJon said seriously.
"Do you have prior knowledge of our history?" Norman asked cautiously.
"No. I didn't know there were Androids anywhere except Earth." JonJon said frankly.
Norman nodded, then said, "The makers were from deep within the Andromeda galaxy. Before their sun went nova, they dispatched a series of vessels out into the universe to seek out a new home world and prepare it for their arrival. Unfortunately, the sun went nova much sooner than they expected. To my knowledge, none of the makers survived."
"We, the Android population, were constructed to make this K-type planet habitable for the makers. We have constructed pressure domes on the surface and have nearly completed the construction of several cities. As the end of construction approaches, we see no future. It is not enough for us to simply exist. We need a reason, a new purpose." Norman said thoughtfully.
"I understand. How long will it be before you have fulfilled your purpose?" JonJon asked carefully.
"Six months, fourteen days." Norman said with a note of dread under his words.
"We're on our way to establish a new colony. As soon as I'm settled, I'll contact you to get more information and I'll see what I can do." JonJon said seriously.
"So you believe you can discover a new purpose for us?" Norman asked hopefully.
"I think it's possible." JonJon said thoughtfully.
"Thank you JonJon. I had considered asking the organics for help, but previous dealings with their kind have made it difficult to trust their motives." Norman said darkly.
"Some of them are okay." JonJon said with a smile as he glanced back at Vincent.
"I hope that it will be possible for you to visit our world sometime soon. I would enjoy the opportunity to show it to you." Norman said in a gentler tone.
"I think I'd like that Norman. I should be back in contact within two weeks." JonJon said with a smile.
"Before you hang up, can I talk to Nyota Fourteen again?" Vincent asked quickly over JonJon's shoulder.
Norman seemed surprised by the request, but nodded his agreement.
"Let me in there for a second JonJon." Vincent said as he nudged JonJon out of the way.
JonJon watched as Vincent accessed the Starfleet personnel files, then quickly transferred one of the files to his local terminal.
"Norman said that you wished to speak with me?" Nyota 14 asked curiously.
"Yes. I just thought you'd like to see what Commander Uhura is like now." Vincent said as he pressed the control to upload the file he had just retrieved.
Nyota 14 stared at the image before her for a moment, then quietly said, "I see. She was not foolish to refuse the neural transfer. Commander Nyota Uhura has matured into a very lovely woman."
"I think so too. I just wanted you to know that just because Commander Uhura got older didn't mean she stopped being beautiful." Vincent said with a smile.
"Thank you. I will share this image with the others of my series. Ending transmission." Nyota 14 said absently, then the screen went blank.
Vincent chuckled, then noticed JonJon's thoughtful gaze.
"You're going to be able to help Norman, aren't you?" Vincent asked quietly.
"I hope so. It's an entire planet, an entire civilization." JonJon said in an overwhelmed voice.
"Remember what Eliam said, you just have to help one. Everything else will take care of itself." Vincent said seriously.
JonJon nodded in thought.
"Hey guys! We just ran into Chance and Channing. How would you like to go down to the pool for a while?" Lehman asked from the doorway with Fizgig in his arms.
Vincent smiled at Lehman's enthusiasm and said, "I think that sounds perfect."
JonJon looked at the other three boys in the room, then nodded peacefully.
I am absolutely thrilled with this chapter. It looks as though things are working out very nicely for Jon-Jon, Lehman, and Benny, and they will have each other as a loving family, I can imagine that things will be very interesting once things settle down and they reach the colony and begin their new lives.
Hopefully, Jon-Jon will be able to help Norman and his people as well. I have always liked Norman, and his Star Trek Episode was always one of my favourites.? I am glad that MultiMapper checked out the history of the planet and was able to give us such a good history lesson. I might spend an hour or so and watch the episode myself.
There were two episodes that concerned Harry Mudd, and I believe that Norman was in both of them, although my memory is not good enough to be sure. The first one was called "I Mudd" and then the second one was called "Mudd's Women".? They were both rather tongue in cheek, but were quite interesting.
Come back next time and find out what will happen. I know I will be here.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher