Frontier

© 2006-2015 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link. While these stories are provided for free, I would appreciate it if those who were able would consider contributing to this artist via my Patreon.

Chapter 2

"Before we land, I need to tell you what to expect." Joe said seriously.

Vincent moved away from the view port and looked at Joe with question.

"When we leave the shuttle, all the new personnel are going to meet with the captain to be officially welcomed aboard and given their duty assignments." Joe said carefully.

Vincent nodded his comprehension.

"What I need to know is if you would like for me to stay with you, in case you need me to explain something." Joe said quietly.

Vincent thought about it for a moment, then said, "Cory had a talk with me before we left. He said that I'm a Vulcan citizen now and that if I act like a kid, I'll be treated like a kid and kids don't get to be in Starfleet."

"But you are a kid." Joe said with concern.

Vincent smiled at Joe and said, "Yeah, but I don't have to act like one. Cory told me how him and some of the other Clan members handle that."

Joe looked at Vincent with question.

"He said that it won't work if I try to act like an adult all the time, so when I need to be a kid, I should spend some time with you and let you be the adult for a while." Vincent said shyly.

"Your patriarch sounds like a very wise young man." Joe said with a tender smile.

Vincent nodded, then said, "So I think I should go and talk to the captain by myself, but after he's done talking to me, I might need some kid time."

"I'll be in deflector control until after we're away from TerraMain. I need to be there to be sure everything is running properly. Will you meet me there?" Joe asked quietly.

Vincent smiled and said, "Yeah, thanks Daddy Joe."

Joe and Vincent looked up as the door of the shuttle opened.

Vincent took a deep breath for courage, then unbuckled his seat belt and picked up his carry-on bag from under his seat.

Joe looked at Vincent with concern, wanting to shelter him from what was to come.

Vincent glanced up at Joe and recognized the expression of concern.

"Don't worry Daddy Joe, I'll make you proud." Vincent said with a toothy grin.

"You already have." Joe said quietly.

Joe noticed that the shuttle was nearly empty and quickly picked up his flight bag.

"Go ahead, I'll see you in deflector control." Vincent said as he followed Joe to the door.

"I'll be waiting." Joe said quietly.

* * * * *

Vincent stepped off the shuttle and noticed a gathering to one side.

He walked over and sat his carry-on bag aside, then took his place standing in line.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Joe step onto the turbo lift at the far end of the bay.

The muttered conversation around Vincent stopped as he noticed two officers approaching.

One was a slender, older man with short brown hair graying at the temples and captain's bars on his collar. The other was a huge black man, at least a foot taller than the captain and he wore the rank insignia of a commander.

"I'm Captain Leland Byrne and at my right is Commander Oliver M'Butu, my first officer. Once introductions are made, Commander M'Butu will see to assigning rooms and duty schedules." The Captain said seriously.

Vincent did his best to stand at attention and keep his gaze forward.

"Sometimes it is said that I am an easy captain because I don't require the intricate formalities that some others do. I can't speak to that point. I believe formality has it's place in ceremonies with visiting dignitaries, but in day to day life aboard a starship it is an unnecessary source of stress. What I do require of my crew is proper courtesy and respect. If you behave in a manner that is rude or disrespectful, you may find yourself assigned to another posting or in the worst case scenario, put off the ship at the nearest Federation facility to await transport back to Earth." Captain Byrne said seriously as he walked up and down the line of people who were joining his crew.

Captain Byrne stopped at the other end of the line from Vincent and said, "Lieutenant Morgan, I'm glad you decided to come out of retirement. No disrespect intended toward your replacement, but I swear that the engines just haven't *felt* right since you left."

"Thank you Captain. I've missed being on the Yorktown. I'll get right to work on getting the engines tuned to your liking."

"Thank you Richard, it's impossible to relax properly when it feels like something is out of place." The captain said with a gentle smile, then walked to the next person in line.

"Chief Morgan and I are old friends from a time before most of you were born, will the rest of you please introduce yourselves?" The captain asked pleasantly with an expectant look at the next person.

"I am Ensign T'Lani daughter of Sufaal of the house of Sukaan of Vulcan." The Vulcan woman said very precisely.

"Ah yes. Our new medical assistant. Dr. Perry will be happy to see you, she's been doing without a second duty nurse for over a month." Captain Byrne said seriously.

"I will endeavor to perform my duties adequately." Ensign T'Lani said in a flat tone.

"Welcome aboard Ensign T'Lani." Captain Byrne said, then moved to the next person in line and waited expectantly.

"Cadet Darin Cooper reporting as ordered, sir." The young man said in a somewhat forceful and panicked voice.

"At ease Cadet... on second thought, step forward." Captain Byrne said, then looked to Commander M'Butu with question.

The Commander handed a small box to the captain, then took a step back to watch.

"This isn't a training vessel, so there is no place for a cadet on my ship." Captain Byrne said firmly.

Cadet Cooper's eyes went wide at the declaration and every bit of color seemed to drain out of his face.

"So after a review of your academy transcript, I am happy to say that my first duty as your commanding officer will be to promote you to the rank of Ensign. Welcome aboard Ensign Cooper." Captain Byrne said as he attached the triangular rank insignia onto Ensign Cooper's uniform.

"Thank you sir." Ensign Cooper said, looking like he was about to explode with excitement.

Captain Byrne smiled then took a single step and looked down at Vincent with question.

Vincent forced himself to remain calm and remembered what Cory told him about his proper title in the Clan. He looked the Captain in the eyes and carefully said, "I am Vincent Winters, son of Clan Short of the house of Surak of Vulcan."

Captain Byrne looked at Vincent with an appraising eye for a moment before saying, "Vincent, when I was contacted by Admiral Morrow about the possibility of you joining my crew, I was not enthusiastic about the idea. Every crew member on this ship is here for a purpose. The proper place to receive training is the academy, not my ship."

Vincent maintained his calm appearance and waited until he was asked to make a comment.

"But after receiving assurances from Patriarch Short, Director Short, Commander Dodds, Captain Spock and Ambassador Sarek that you would be an asset to my crew, I decided to give you a chance. What you do with that chance is entirely up to you."

"I understand." Vincent said carefully.

"Welcome aboard Crewman Winters." Captain Byrne said formally.

"Thank you sir." Vincent said in an equally formal tone.

"Now Commander M'Butu will give you your assignments. It was a pleasure to meet all of you." Captain Byrne said, then walked away.

"Chief Morgan, it's good to see you again. Your quarters are just where you left them." Commander M'Butu said with a kind smile.

"Thank you Oliver. Once I've had a chance to settle in, come down to the engine room so we can catch up." Chief Morgan said in a casual tone.

"I'll do that Chief." Commander M'Butu said then watched as Chief Morgan gathered his things and walked toward the turbo lift.

"Ensign T'Lani, your cabin assignment is on G-deck, section H4, room two. And of course you are assigned to Medical. Dr. Evelyn Perry will be your direct supervisor. When you've stowed your gear, check in with Dr. Perry to receive further instructions." Commander M'Butu said seriously.

"Yes sir. Thank you sir." The young Vulcan Ensign said formally, then gathered her things to leave.

"Ensign Cooper, your cabin is on G-deck, section D7, room four. You are assigned to Environmental Control and Lieutenant Nyman will be your direct supervisor. You will meet with Lieutenant Nyman tomorrow morning at 08:00 in Environmental Control." Commander M'Butu said seriously.

"Commander?" Ensign Cooper said cautiously.

"Yes Ensign?" Commander M'Butu said as he looked up from his data padd.

"There must be some mistake. I've only received the required courses in Environmental Systems. I'm specialized in Helm and Navigation." Ensign Cooper said slowly.

"I see. I'll have to check into that. Excuse me for just a moment." Commander M'Butu said seriously.

"Yes sir. Thank you sir." Ensign Cooper said quickly.

"Crewman Winters. you have been assigned to share quarters with Ensign Cooper. That's G-deck, section D7 room four. You're assigned to Deflector Control and Lieutenant Bowers will be your direct supervisor. I have a note here saying that your uniforms arrived earlier today, you'll need to go to the quartermaster's office to pick them up." Commander M'Butu said as he looked at the data padd.

"Commander, I'm a crewman. Shouldn't I be assigned to enlisted quarters?" Vincent asked cautiously.

Commander M'Butu smiled at the question and said, "The only difference between enlisted quarters and junior officer's quarters is the company you keep. The rooms are identical. Since you are in the mentoring program, we thought it would be good for you to live among the junior officers. You might end up learning a thing or two that they didn't think to include in your lessons."

"I understand, thank you sir." Vincent said seriously.

"Ensign Cooper, I'll see what I can find out about your orders and contact you when I know what's going on. Enjoy your evening." Commander M'Butu said casually.

"Yes sir. Thank you sir." Ensign Cooper said in a somewhat disbelieving voice.

Vincent picked up his carry-on bag, then walked over to the shuttle and retrieved his suitcase.

As he started toward the turbo lift, he noticed that Ensign Cooper was still standing in the same spot with a bewildered look on his face.

"Are you going to our quarters now?" Vincent asked as he altered his course to stand beside the Ensign.

After a blink and an absent shake of his head, Ensign Cooper said, "What? Oh, yeah. Give me a second."

Vincent watched as the new Ensign retrieved a single piece of luggage from the back of the shuttle.

"Do you know where we're going?" Ensign Cooper asked with distraction.

"Yeah. Do you want to go right to our cabin or do you mind if I stop by the quartermaster's office to get my uniforms first?" Vincent asked casually as he began to walk.

"I don't mind. It looks like I have all the time in the universe." Ensign Cooper said distantly.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked curiously as he stopped to wait for the turbo lift to arrive.

Ensign Cooper looked at Vincent with distraction and said, "I kept telling myself it was too good to be true. I wasn't at the top of my class, I never did anything that made me stand out... I kept saying it had to be a mistake, it was too good to believe..."

The doors to the lift opened and Vincent led the way inside.

As soon as they were inside, Vincent said, "Deck G, Section D7."

"When I finally got here, I started to believe, and then the Captain promoted me to Ensign..." Cooper said in a distant voice of shock.

Vincent felt the turbo lift change direction from vertical to horizontal.

"...I thought my dream was coming true." Ensign Cooper finished in a whisper.

"Come on, we're going to the cabin." Vincent said as the lift doors opened.

"What about your uniforms?" Ensign Cooper asked in a confused voice.

"I'll go back for them. Come on, our room is right down here." Vincent said as he led the way.

Ensign Cooper followed along, only half aware of his surroundings.

"This is it." Vincent said and walked up to the door.

Ensign Cooper stepped into the room and looked around.

"I'll take the top bunk if you don't mind... it's a kid thing." Vincent said as he opened his suitcase and began unpacking his things into a small built-in cabinet.

"Yeah... yeah. That's fine." Ensign Cooper said as he sat down on the bottom bunk.

Ensign Cooper looked around the room curiously and asked, "Is this all there is?"

Vincent smiled at the question and said, "Unless you want to count the bathroom through that door that we have to share with two other people."

"I guess I thought it'd be bigger. It's like a closet." Ensign Cooper said absently.

"It's not that small... but I guess when you're my size things look bigger." Vincent finished with a smile as he stowed his suitcase in the bottom of a locker built into the closet.

"How old are you?" Ensign Cooper asked hesitantly.

"I'm nine. How old are you?" Vincent asked as he pulled the contents of his carry-on bag out and put them away.

"Twenty. I don't know what I'm going to do..." Ensign Cooper said distantly.

"What do you want to do?" Vincent asked seriously as he put his carry-on bag into the storage locker with his suitcase.

Ensign Cooper thought about it for a moment, then said, "All I ever wanted was to be part of something. I want to belong."

Vincent looked at Ensign Cooper carefully, then said, "Okay. What about being a part of the Yorktown's crew? Would that work?"

Ensign Cooper looked at Vincent and said, "It's a mistake. I don't belong here."

"Listen up. I'm a nine year old kid. If anyone doesn't belong here it's me. But I'm here and I'm being given a chance to be a part of all this. If I screw up, I'm gone. But if I can learn the stuff I need to learn and do the jobs I'm given, then I'll be able to stay here." Vincent said firmly.

Ensign Cooper looked at Vincent with question, not understanding his point.

Vincent rolled his eyes and said, "You're being given a chance to be a part of all this. Yeah, someone probably made a mistake. So what? You're here and this is your chance. Take it. When you talk to Commander M'Butu, let him know what you can do and see if there's any way he can make you a part of the crew permanently. There's a ton of jobs for navigators and helmsmen. I think that if he knows that you really do want to be here, he'll help you."

"You think so?" Ensign Cooper asked with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

"It's worth a try. You've got nothing to lose and everything you always wanted to gain." Vincent said with a smile.

Ensign Cooper smiled and said, "You're right. Thank you."

"No problem. Now I've got to go to the quartermaster's office to get my uniforms. Do you want to come with me?" Vincent asked casually.

"Yeah. Do you know where it is?" Ensign Cooper asked slowly.

"Sure. I've pretty much memorized the constitution class deck plans. You ready?" Vincent asked with a smile.

Ensign Cooper looked at his suitcase still sitting in the floor, then shrugged and said, "Sure. Ready when you are."

* * * * *

"Excuse me sir. I was told that there was a delivery waiting for me in here." Vincent said timidly to an older man engrossed in something on his terminal screen.

The man looked up slowly at Vincent, but didn't say a word.

"Commander M'Butu said that my uniforms would be here. I'm Crewman Winters." Vincent said, even more slowly.

Finally the man said, "My youngest grandson is older than you."

Vincent held back the immediate insult that popped into his head and decided to try that thing the Captain had talked about... respect.

"I bet you'd be really proud of him if he was my age and he was made a member of the Yorktown crew." Vincent said carefully.

The man smiled at the statement and said, "Yes. I suppose I would be. What was it you were looking for again?"

"Uniforms. Commander M'Butu said that Patriarch Short had them sent here." Vincent said, trying not to sound too demanding.

"Short? Oh, the delivery from the Vulcan consulate. Yes, I know right were that is, give me just a minute. A curious name for a Vulcan, that..." The man muttered as he walked over to a large rack of shelving.

Ensign Cooper leaned down and whispered, "Maybe you should think about trying out for the diplomatic corps."

Vincent giggled and said, "Not for a while, my mouth still likes to run off on it's own too much. You just got to see me one of the few times I caught it before it got away."

"Here you go Crewman Winters. Will you need a carry-all for this?" The quartermaster asked as he sat a stack of uniforms on the counter.

"I can get it if Ensign Cooper will help me." Vincent said with a smile at his companion.

"Only if you'll call me Darin." Ensign Cooper said with a smile.

"It's a deal Darin, come on." Vincent said as he gathered half the stack into his arms.

* * * * *

"How do I look?" Vincent asked as he walked out of the bathroom.

Darin looked at Vincent curiously.

"What? Did I miss something?" Vincent asked as he looked down at himself.

"What is that symbol on your arm?" Darin asked as he stood.

Vincent looked at the upper left sleeve of his uniform and saw the Clan Short symbol.

"That's the symbol of my Clan. It just identifies me as part of Clan Short of Vulcan." Vincent said as he started putting away the rest of his uniforms.

"I was wanting to ask about that. You obviously aren't Vulcan, but you introduced yourself as a Vulcan and you wear a Vulcan symbol." Darin said carefully.

"It's kind of a long story and I need to go check in at Deflector Control right now, is it okay if I tell you when I get back?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Sure. I still have to unpack, then I should probably go back to the quartermaster and get some uniforms too. I just realized that I only have Cadet uniforms." Darin said in thought.

"Okay. I'll see you in a while." Vincent said quickly, then hurried out the door.

Darin smiled at the door, then opened his suitcase to begin unpacking.

* * * * *

"Crewman Vincent Winters reporting as ordered." Vincent said just inside the door of deflector control.

"At ease Crewman." Joe said with a gentle smile.

Vincent assumed a relaxed posture and waited for Joe to tell him what to do.

"We'll be leaving TerraMain in a few minutes. As soon as we're up to speed and we're sure that everything is working the way it should, we can get out of here." Joe said casually.

Vincent didn't see any need to reply so he waited to be told what to do.

"Let me give you the grand tour." Joe said and gestured to the large control panel nearly filling one wall.

"This is the nerve center of deflector control. If something should ever happen that we can't use this main panel, there is a duplicate panel in main engineering and less complex versions of this control panel on the bridge and the auxiliary bridge." Joe said from Vincent's side.

"The other workstations in the room are for sub-system analysis. That's where we do the majority of our work. When the deflector is working properly, someone just needs to man the main station and the rest of us can check the back-up systems and do whatever maintenance needs to be done." Joe said seriously.

"What will my job be?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Your first job is to not touch the main console. There are only five people on this ship approved to operate the main deflector console and you're not one of them. Do you understand?" Joe asked firmly.

"Yes sir." Vincent said seriously.

"Good. Tomorrow we'll start you on the training simulation for the command systems. Once you have a working knowledge of the software, we'll dive into the hardware and teach you how to troubleshoot and repair the equipment." Joe said in thought.

Vincent smiled at the announcement. He was glad to know that his Daddy Joe was going to treat him like a real member of the crew.

"Did Commander M'Butu tell you about your duty schedule?" Joe asked seriously.

"No. He just told me to report to you." Vincent said as he looked up at Joe.

"Basically, you'll be working alpha shift with me this week. After that, you will be assigned to work in the area that you're placement test says you're strongest in. At that time schoolwork will be added to your work day." Joe said as he watched for Vincent's reaction.

"School work?" Vincent asked slowly.

"Learning to perform your duties doesn't take the place of a good, strong education. After some time to settle into your routine, you'll move to your new post and you'll begin your course studies. You'll have study materials that you can download and study in your own time and you'll have class time via subspace. Basically, instead of working a five day work week like the rest of us, you'll be getting a three day week in whatever duty station you're assigned to and a three day week in school. If you like, I'll try to set it up so that we can have one day off together each week." Joe said with a smile.

"Yeah. I'd like that a lot." Vincent said happily.

"Connie, this is Crewman Vincent Winters. He'll be training with us this week." Joe said proudly.

The man Vincent had seen with Debbie on the shuttle turned in his chair and looked at Vincent with surprise.

"Have you noticed that as you get older, the new people seem to be getting younger." Joe said with a teasing smile at his friend.

"Debbie told me about you. It's a pleasure to meet you Vincent." Connie said as he turned in his chair and offered his hand.

"Thank you, it's nice to meet you too." Vincent said as he shook the hand firmly.

A beeping on the main console drew everyone's attention.

"Okay, stations everyone. It's time." Joe said as he stood before the big console.

Connie got out of the chair and moved to one of the smaller workstations.

"I'm here." A woman's voice said as she emerged from behind a partition.

"Susan, this is Crewman Winters. We're about to get underway." Joe said as he took the seat Connie had vacated.

The woman looked at Vincent curiously, then hurried to another workstation.

"Has anyone seen Larissa, Kent or Jimmy?" Joe asked as he worked the controls.

"Jimmy is up in main engineering double checking the power distribution conduit that was replaced while we were docked. I don't know about the others." Susan said seriously.

Joe shook his head and said, "Vincent, take the third station and just watch it. If you see anything but green lights across the board, call it out immediately."

"Yes sir." Vincent said quickly and took a seat at the station next to Susan's.

"Here we go." Joe said and started working the controls.

Vincent looked down at his panel and saw the systems starting to come alive.

One by one the lights on his panel started turning green.

"Green across." Connie called out from his station.

Joe didn't acknowledge the statement as he continued to work the controls.

"Sorry. I just wanted to be sure they didn't miss anything when they did the installation." A young man said as he hurried into the room.

"Thanks for checking on that Jimmy, take station three. Vincent, watch what he does." Joe said without looking up from the main console.

Vincent quickly moved out of the chair and watched as Jimmy started pressing buttons on the control station.

He recognized that Jimmy was doing system checks on all the deflector control consoles.

"Status?" Joe called out.

"We're good to go." Susan said in a firm voice.

"Green across." Connie repeated.

"Green board." Jimmy said quickly.

Vincent felt the ship shudder and was aware of the feeling of the engines causing a slight hum through the ship.

"We've almost cleared the doors." Joe announced in a voice of deep concentration.

Vincent watched Joe at the main console for a moment, then remembered that he was supposed to be watching what Jimmy was doing.

Jimmy was simply watching the control panel intently.

A low hum seemed to fill the room and Vincent looked around in wonder.

"Deflector at full power. Systems status?" Joe called out.

"I show a faulty power distribution conduit... E4. I'm bypassing." Connie said seriously.

"Jimmy, isn't that the one that was replaced while we were docked?" Joe asked in concentration.

"Yes sir. I just ran a level two diagnostic on it. There's nothing wrong with it." Jimmy said in a lost voice.

"We're going to have to check the distribution node and the control circuit." Susan said from her console.

"Good idea. Susan, take Vincent with you. He can hand you tools." Joe said seriously.

"Yes sir." Susan said quickly and hopped up from her seat.

"Vincent, go with Susan. She'll be working in a tight space and she'll need you to hand her the tools she'll need." Joe said firmly.

"Yes sir." Vincent said quickly and followed Susan to the locker at the side of the room where she was getting her tool kit.

"Jimmy, do you have any idea where Larissa or Kent are?" Joe asked in concentration.

"No sir. They left the ship when we docked. I don't know anything about their plans." Jimmy said seriously.

"Will you have any problem moving to Beta shift? If they don't show up, I'll need to replace them on the schedule." Joe asked hesitantly.

"That won't be any problem for me." Jimmy said with a smile in his voice.

"Thanks Jimmy. You've just been promoted from tool passer to status board watcher." Joe said with a smile.

* * * * *

"I can carry that for you." Vincent said as Susan picked up the cloth bag.

"Oh. Thank you Crewman Winters." Susan said and handed the bag to him.

"It's okay if you call me Vincent." He said with a shy smile.

"We didn't get formally introduced. I'm Crewman Susan Walker, you're welcomed to call me Susan." She said as she led the way out of deflector control.

"It's nice to meet you Susan." Vincent said as they walked down a catwalk toward the turbo lift.

"Aren't you a little young to be in Starfleet?" Susan asked curiously.

"Yeah. I guess. But age is just a number. I've met a few people who are plenty old enough to be in Starfleet but wouldn't be able to handle it." Vincent said seriously as they boarded the lift.

"Main Engineering." She said into the air as the lift doors closed, then she turned to Vincent and said, "You got me there. Well, if you need any help with anything, just let me know. I've been serving on the Yorktown for three years, I know my way around pretty well."

"I'll remember that. I'm doing okay so far, but I'll probably need some help getting used to some stuff." Vincent said in thought.

The lift stopped and the doors opened to reveal a bustle of activity.

"Welcome to Main Engineering." Susan said as she led the way off the lift.

Vincent followed silently, trying to absorb everything about his new surroundings.

"Chief Morgan?" Susan said in surprise.

The man Vincent had seen earlier in the shuttle bay was standing at the main engineering console.

"Susan? Is that right?" The man asked in a cautious voice.

"Yes sir. I'm impressed that you remember me. It's good to see you again. We're here to check on a faulty power distribution conduit, E4." Susan said seriously.

"Isn't that the one the young Crewman was checking earlier?" Chief Morgan asked carefully.

"Yes sir. The conduit was replaced while we were docked. We're here to check the distribution node and the control circuit." Susan said and indicated Vincent at her side.

"We? Oh! They certainly are making the crewmen tiny now-a-days." Chief Morgan said with a wide eyed look at Vincent, then in a more professional voice he said, "If you end up having to replace the control circuit, bring me the old one. When I was reviewing the logs I noticed that they seem to be failing a little more than they should."

"I'll do that Chief. Thanks for telling me, I'll check the control circuit first." Susan said seriously.

Chief Morgan nodded, then turned his attention to another member of the engineering staff.

"Come on Vincent, it's over here." Susan said and started to walk.

"Do you have to report like that to the Chief Engineer whenever you come into Engineering or just when you're fixing something?" Vincent asked curiously.

"We should definitely check in when we're doing any kind of repairs, but it's a good idea to check in with the Chief Engineer when you're going to be in his area. It's just the courteous thing to do." Susan said, then stopped in the hallway.

"Hand me the decoupler." Susan said as she started to remove a panel in the wall.

"Which one? You've got about five of them here." Vincent said as he looked through the tool bag.

"The star-head one. If I ever need one of the others, I'll ask for it by name." Susan said as she sat the cover plate aside.

Vincent quickly pulled out the requested tool and handed it to Susan.

"Hand me the test unit, then hold a light so I can see what I'm doing." Susan said as she leaned into the small space.

Vincent took out the test unit and handed it to her quickly, then retrieved the flashlight and squatted so he could watch what she was doing.

"I'm going to test to verify that the unit is unpowered. It's very important that you do this every single time you work on any equipment. You don't get a second chance if you forget." Susan said seriously.

"I understand." Vincent said quietly as he watched.

"Good. Now I'm going to switch over to the diagnostic mode of the tester and see if this thing really is bad." Susan said as she pressed a few buttons on the test unit.

"Shouldn't it show as a bad control circuit instead of a bad conduit in deflector control?" Vincent asked in thought.

"Not if part of the problem with the control circuit is it's diagnostic routine." Susan said as she watched the test program running.

"So does that mean that maybe the control circuit is fine and the diagnostic is wrong?" Vincent asked carefully.

"That's a good question. Let's check that out." Susan said and started pressing some buttons on the test unit.

Vincent watched what she was doing carefully for a moment and tried to anticipate where she would need the light.

"It looks like you're right. It's the diagnostic that's making the computer think the conduit system is bad." Susan said, then handed out the test unit.

Vincent took the test unit and picked up the decoupler again.

"Decoupler." Susan said and the tool was in her hand before the word was completely out of her mouth.

"You must have done this before." Susan said with a smile as she worked to get the control unit detached.

"I just handed tools to my dad when he was working on his car a few times." Vincent said casually.

Susan chuckled and said, "Well, you'll probably get a lot of use out of that skill for a while. You're starting off better than Jimmy. He didn't know what a decoupler was."

"I've seen pictures of the tools, but this is the first time I'm seeing most of them for real." Vincent said, then accepted the decoupler from her.

Susan handed out the control circuit, then started to extricate herself from the tight space.

"We need to go get a replacement for this unit. That diagnostic failure bothers me." Susan said as she stood.

Vincent picked up the tool kit and walked to her side.

"If the diagnostic system can malfunction and give a false positive, it could just as easily give a false negative." Susan said in thought as they walked to the supply room.

"You need to tell Chief Morgan about this. If you're right, there could be hundreds of control circuits lying to us all over the ship." Vincent said with concern.

"Right. Come on." Susan said and changed direction to main engineering.

* * * * *

"Chief Morgan, Vincent has found a potential problem." Susan said seriously.

Vincent looked up at her in surprise.

"What did he find?" Chief Morgan asked curiously.

"When I was checking the Control Circuit, Vincent suggested that it might be giving a false diagnostic report and triggering a false positive reading for the power distribution conduit. Show him the tester Vincent." Susan finished seriously.

Vincent opened the tool bag and handed the test unit to Chief Morgan.

After a moment of pressing buttons, Chief Morgan looked carefully at the tester's results.

"I see what you mean. This shouldn't be able to happen." Chief Morgan said in thought.

"You said that there were other control circuit failures. If they were the same as this one, then there could be unsafe systems all over the ship." Susan said seriously.

"If the diagnostic can lie and tell you that good systems are bad, then they could be lying and saying that bad systems are good too." Vincent interjected.

Chief Morgan handed Vincent the tester, then said, "May I have the control circuit unit when it is removed?"

Vincent reached in the bag then handed the control unit to Chief Morgan.

The Chief turned the unit over and appeared to be looking for something in particular.

Susan and Vincent watched without comment as Chief Morgan inspected the unit carefully.

"You say you just uninstalled this unit?" Chief Morgan confirmed.

"Yes sir. Not more than five minutes ago." Susan said cautiously.

"Come with me to the supply room. I would like to approve the replacement you're given." Chief Morgan said as he led the way.

Susan and Vincent shared a questioning look and followed behind.

* * * * *

"What can I get for you today Chief Morgan?" The supply officer asked with surprise.

"A replacement for this." Chief Morgan said and sat the control circuit unit on the desk.

"Oh sure, just be a minute." The supply officer said as he picked up the unit.

"I'll have that back before you go." Chief Morgan said firmly.

The supply officer looked at the unit in his hand, then hesitantly handed it back to Chief Morgan.

As soon as the supply officer was out of the room, Vincent said, "I think he knows what's wrong. He really didn't want to give that back to you."

"I noticed." Chief Morgan said with concern.

Susan and Vincent shared a look of question at each other as they waited for the supply officer to return.

Chief Morgan took a seat behind the desk and pressed a few buttons beside the terminal, then said, "I need a security team to Main Engineering supply."

"Right away sir." A voice responded.

Vincent and Susan both looked on in surprise.

"Sorry that took so long Chief, a lot of stuff to look through." The supply officer said in a nervous voice and he was visibly sweating.

"I'm sure." Chief Morgan said slowly.

"Here's what you were looking for. Will there be anything else?" The supply officer asked in an almost frantic voice.

"Susan, would you test this unit to see that it behaves properly before we leave?" Chief Morgan asked casually.

"Of course." Susan responded as she accepted the new control unit.

Before she could ask for the tester, Vincent was handing it to her.

* * * * *

Two security officers walked into the supply room and looked at Chief Morgan with question.

"Please take Chief Petty Officer Marks into custody. We're going to need to ask him a few questions." Chief Morgan said slowly.

"Yes sir." One of the security officers said, then gestured for the supply officer to come with them.

"I was just doing what I was told." Chief Petty Officer Marks said as he walked toward the security officers.

"I'm sure you were. We'll discuss it shortly." Chief Morgan said in a disappointed tone.

Susan looked up from the tester at Chief Morgan and said, "This unit seems to be working properly."

"I thought it might. Go ahead and install it. Don't be surprised if you get a call later to come to security... both of you." Chief Morgan said seriously.

"Yes sir." Susan and Vincent said in unison.

"Go on. I'm sure Joe is fretting about where you two are by now. He's probably convinced himself that you've fallen into the warp core or some such thing." Chief Morgan said with a smile.

"That sounds like him." Susan said with a chuckle.

Chief Morgan smiled at the pair and nodded.

Once they were gone, his gaze fell on the faulty control circuit and the smile fell off his face.

* * * * *

"I was thinking you two had run off with Larissa and Kent." Joe said from the main console.

"No sir. Just a little problem with the control circuit." Susan said as she took her seat and quickly glanced at the readings.

"What kind of problem?" Joe asked with concern at her tone.

"The kind that shouldn't be able to happen. Chief Morgan is looking into it now and I'm sure we'll be hearing about it soon." Susan said seriously.

"Is E4 ready to go online?" Connie asked from his station.

"It checks out as fine, but I'd like to run a level 3 diagnostic on the entire E4 system before we bring it up." Susan said frankly.

Joe was surprised by the request, knowing that it would take nearly an hour to run a diagnostic with that level of precision. But he knew Susan well enough to know that she must believe it was important.

"Go ahead Susan. Connie, do you mind taking over the main while Susan runs her diagnostic? I need to make a few calls and see if I can track down our wayward children." Joe said with a smile.

"I've got it Joe. Just let us know when you find something out." Connie said as he moved to the main console and took Joe's place.

"It's a deal." Joe said and hurried out of the room.

After starting the diagnostic scan, Susan noticed that Vincent was standing in the middle of the room with a lost expression.

"Vincent, why don't you put the tool bag in the supply locker, then come over here." Susan said in a friendly tone.

Vincent was startled to realize that he had been standing there lost in thought. He quickly put the tool bag into the locker Susan had taken it from, then walked to stand by her side.

"On second thought, I think what you need to learn is the station that Jimmy is working right now. Unless Lari and Kent come up with a really good story, chances are that Jimmy is going to take Kent's place on Beta shift and you'll be taking Jimmy's on Alpha." Susan said as she got up from her station.

"Really?" Vincent asked in wonder.

"We have to be able to cover the shifts. Without Larissa, Connie is going to have to move to Beta to run the main. We'll still be one short, but we can manage if we have to." Susan said seriously.

Connie turned in his chair and glanced at Susan and seemed to be thinking about her statement.

"Joe will take Alpha shift, Connie will go to Beta to cover Larissa, Lou will work Gamma shift. I'll probably second Joe, Jimmy will second for Connie, and Judy will second for Lou." Susan said in thought.

"Which means that Vincent will be third spot on Alpha shift and Beta won't have a third spot." Connie said carefully.

"No. That can't work. We need a third person on Beta shift too." Susan said with a shake of her head.

"Um. If I can leave for a minute, I may know someone who can help." Vincent said carefully.

Connie looked over the main console quickly to see that nothing needed to be done, then said, "Go ahead."

Vincent nodded and hurried out the door.

* * * * *

Darin was sitting on his bunk lost in thought when Vincent came running into the room.

"What's got you so excited?" Darin asked curiously.

"Did you talk to Commander M'Butu yet?" Vincent asked quickly.

"No. I've just been waiting for him to call." Darin answered slowly.

"Do you still want to stay on the Yorktown?" Vincent asked, nearly bubbling over with enthusiasm.

"Yes. I'm just not sure how I can make that happen." Darin said in a small voice.

"Have you studied anything about Deflector Control?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Sure. It's part of the standard Engineering course. It was one of my better classes. I qualified for everything except the main position." Darin said carefully.

"Then if you'll come with me and talk to Lieutenant Bowers, maybe we can make it so you can stay." Vincent said happily.

"Really?" Darin asked with surprise.

"Yeah, but you gotta hurry before he finds someone else." Vincent said quickly.

Darin looked down at the new uniform he was wearing, wanting to be sure that he was dressed properly.

"Come on!" Vincent said urgently as he ran out the door.

Darin quickly stood then took off at a run to follow.

* * * * *

"I found Larissa and Kent." Joe said in a low voice as he walked into Deflector Control.

"I'm guessing that it's not good news." Connie said as he turned to look at Joe.

"No. Not good at all. They went on a five day drinking binge and ended up in jail in Rio de Janeiro." Joe said quietly.

Susan shook her head and said, "I thought she was doing so much better."

"We all did." Joe said with regret.

"So what's going to happen to her?" Connie asked with concern.

"I really don't know. This is probably it for her. Even if they decide not to throw her out of Starfleet, I don't think they'll ever offer her a position of responsibility again. I think it's safe to say that she won't be back." Joe said with regret.

"What about Kent?" Susan asked quietly.

"As far as I know, this is his first time in trouble. He'll probably be ordered into counseling or something like that. I doubt that he'll be back either." Joe said in a hollow voice.

A long moment of silence fell over the room as everyone considered what had happened to their friends.

The door opened and Vincent hurried in, followed by a timid looking ensign.

Vincent ran to stand before Joe and tried to calm himself before saying, "Lieutenant Bowers, can I... may I speak with you privately for a moment?"

"Of course Crewman Winters. Will the hallway be alright?" Joe asked curiously.

Vincent nodded and ran back to the door.

Joe followed more slowly and noticed the timid young ensign standing just inside the door as he passed.

* * * * *

"Ensign Cooper is here by mistake. He knows about Deflector Control stuff and wants to stay on the Yorktown." Vincent said quickly.

"At ease Champ. Calm down and explain this to me a little more slowly." Joe said in a gentle voice.

"Ensign Cooper was sent here to work in Environmental Control, but he doesn't know about that stuff. Someone messed up on his paperwork or something and he got assigned here by accident. He studied Deflector Control stuff at the academy and maybe if you give him a chance, he could stay on the Yorktown and help you out." Vincent said hopefully.

"Okay, I think I understand what you're saying. Let's go back inside and see what Ensign Cooper has to say about it." Joe said quietly.

Vincent nodded happily.

* * * * *

"Ensign Cooper, I'm Lieutenant Bowers. Crewman Winters says that you have the required skills to work in deflector control." Joe said carefully.

"Yes sir. I've taken the required courses at the academy. I can work with all the systems except the main console." Darin said quickly.

Joe nodded, then looked around at the other people in the room with question.

"I say give him a try. It sounds like he could second for either of us." Connie said frankly.

Joe nodded in thought, then asked, "What about the engineering side of things. Would you be able to repair or replace a defective piece of equipment?"

"Yes sir. I did very well in my engineering courses." Darin said hopefully.

"Connie, what would you think about having Susan and Jimmy on Beta shift with you? I could take Ensign Cooper and Vincent on Alpha shift with me. Would that work?" Joe asked in a considering tone.

"It sounds like you're going to be wanting Beta shift to do the majority of the work while you're training your new crew." Connie said in thought.

"Something like that. We'll do as much as we can, but you'll probably get more than your share... Unless you have a better idea?" Joe asked seriously.

"No. Actually, I think it works best this way. You'll have full coverage for anything that pops up during your shift and I'll have the more experienced team to do the bulk of the work on mine." Connie said carefully.

"I agree. Then all that's left is to convince Commander M'Butu to let us have Ensign Cooper." Joe said seriously.

Connie chuckled and said, "Sometimes it's good to be a lowly Ensign."

Joe smiled at the statement, then said, "Come on guys. Let's talk to Commander M'Butu about making everything official."

* * * * *

As they exited the turbo lift, Vincent realized that they were on Deck B, right below the bridge.

The lift let out in front of Commander M'Butu's office, which didn't have a door.

"Commander M'Butu, may we speak with you for a moment?" Joe asked carefully.

"Of course. And if you're calling me by my title, I'll assume this isn't a social call." Commander M'Butu said as he sat back in his chair.

"No sir. I have a few personnel matters to discuss with you." Joe said quietly.

"What can I help you with Lieutenant?" Commander M'Butu asked professionally.

"Ensign Hampton and Crewman Simmons didn't report back to the ship before we disembarked." Joe said seriously.

"I know. I just received the report from Starfleet security a few minutes ago." Commander M'Butu said solemnly.

"That leaves us understaffed by two people and I wanted to ask you to consider making Crewman Winters posting to Deflector Control indefinite and assigning Ensign Cooper to us." Joe said hesitantly.

Commander M'Butu looked at Vincent curiously, then said, "As long as Crewman Winters doesn't mind staying in Deflector Control, I have no problem with it."

Vincent smiled at the statement.

"As far as Ensign Cooper, I'm still investigating why he's here at all." Commander M'Butu said as he turned his curious gaze to Darin.

Ensign Cooper did his best not to cringe when Commander M'Butu's attention turned to him.

"As near as I can tell, six of Ensign Cooper's classmates were assigned to various duties that were obviously beyond their ability to perform. Their academy transcripts were altered and somehow their fraudulent orders were 'forced' into the Starfleet personnel system.� This appears to be a prank, but I assure you that Starfleet is taking the breach of security very seriously." Commander M'Butu said firmly.

Darin thought he was going to pass out for a moment, then made the conscious effort to start breathing again.

"However, no one has suggested that Ensign Cooper or any of the others effected had any part in the prank and therefore should not be penalized for it. But that still leaves us with Ensign Cooper who was promoted for invalid reasons and assigned to duties he is unqualified to perform." Commander M'Butu said in a considering voice.

Joe looked at Commander M'Butu with question, hoping that he was considering letting Ensign Cooper stay.

"You say that Ensign Cooper has the skills required to fill an open position in Deflector Control?" Commander M'Butu asked in thought.

"He has the required course studies. He lacks any practical experience. But I think that if he's given a chance, I can have him up to speed in no time." Joe said carefully.

"It sounds like a workable solution to our problems. We are scheduled to be back at Earth in two weeks. If everyone is willing, Crewman Winters and Ensign Cooper could work in Deflector Control until we return to Earth. We can evaluate the performance of both and make a more permanent decision at that time." Commander M'Butu said in thought.

"Thank you Commander. That sounds like a good idea." Joe said happily.

"Crewman Winters, Ensign Cooper, do you have any problem with this arrangement?" Commander M'Butu asked in a professional tone.

"No sir." Ensign Cooper said, a little too quickly.

"No problem sir." Vincent said in a more casual voice.

"Then if there is nothing else, you are dismissed." Commander M'Butu said formally.

"Thank you sir." Joe said, then led the way to the turbo lift.

* * * * *

As the trio walked into Deflector Control, Joe announced, "It's official. Crewman Winters and Ensign Cooper are now assigned to deflector control."

Susan and Jimmy hurried over to offer handshakes and congratulations.

"Welcome to the team guys." Connie said with a smile from the main console.

To Be Continued...