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Vincent and Dr. Xon appeared out of thin air and found themselves standing in a park.
"Are we in the right place?" Vincent asked curiously.
Dr. Xon raised his tricorder to perform a brief scan, then said, "Yes. Your alternate self should be approximately twenty meters in that direction."
Vincent looked in the direction Dr. Xon indicated and froze in shock.
Dr. Xon looked curiously at Vincent, then said, "We must proceed."
"But... that's my mom." Vincent whispered.
Dr. Xon looked where Vincent was staring, then quietly said, "Events in this alternate universe appear to have unfolded much differently from yours. I did not have sufficient time to catalog the differences. I apologize for not anticipating this possibility."
Vincent looked at Dr. Xon curiously for a moment and was surprised to see true remorse in his eyes.
"It's okay. I know you didn't do it on purpose." Vincent said quietly as he slowly turned his gaze back to his mother.
Vincent continued to stare until he felt Dr. Xon's hand on his shoulder urging him to walk.
The woman noticed two people approaching and stopped fussing over the food she was putting out on the picnic table.
"Greetings." Dr. Xon said formally at the woman's inquisitive stare.
"Hello. That's a really great costume. My hus..." She said, then noticed Vincent.
Vincent stared at the alternate version of his mother, not knowing what he should say.
"Vinny? What did you do to your hair and who's your new friend?" Peggy asked cautiously.
"I... um, it's kind of a long story." Vincent stammered.
"Mom! Dad wants to know if you're ready for him to start the burgers or if we have time to try the kite?" Lawrence called as he ran up to the table.
When he saw Vincent and Dr. Xon he froze in his tracks.
He stared at Vincent for a moment, then looked behind him and saw his brother and father playing catch with a Frisbee.
Vincent followed his gaze and was astounded to see himself playing Frisbee and having fun in the park.
"Who are you?" Lawrence asked in wonder as he stared at Vincent again.
Vincent blinked, then said, "Crewman Vincent Winters."
"Larry, get your father over here." Peggy said in a flustered voice.
"Yeah." Lawrence said absently, then ran off at full speed.
"Mrs. Winters, we need to..." Dr. Xon began to say, but was interrupted.
"Silva." Peggy said firmly.
Dr. Xon raised an eyebrow in question.
"I divorced Victor about six years ago, I'm Peggy Silva now." She said seriously.
"Silva? Like principal Silva?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"Yes, Mitch and I have been married for almost four years." Peggy said with a peaceful smile.
"What is it Peggy?" Mr. Silva asked as he ran to Peggy's side with the boys following a step behind.
"You need to see this." Peggy said and motioned to Vincent and Dr. Xon.
Mitch looked at Vincent, then down at his youngest son who was now at his side.
"This might take a little explaining." Vincent said hesitantly, feeling the stares of everyone on him.
* * * * *
"Ray? How are you doing? Is everything alright?" Rad's father asked as he took a seat in front of the terminal.
"Can Tan hear us?" Rad asked cautiously.
"No, I left him chunking up the vegetables for our stew tonight. What's going on?" Rad's father asked with concern.
"Tan didn't come home from school a couple days ago. Everyone's been running around looking for him. They thought he'd been abducted." Rad said frankly.
"I'm sorry to hear that. He arrived here last night and it didn't occur to me to call and make sure they knew where he was."
Rad looked at his father cautiously for a moment, then said, "Dad, you're not very good at lying. You should really stick to the truth."
"Fine. He told me that he ran away and I promised that I wouldn't tell anyone he was here."
Rad nodded and said, "That's better. So how is he?"
Rad's father looked down in thought, then finally said, "Feeling alone in the world."
"Do you mind him being there?" Rad asked cautiously.
"Not at all. I've always liked Tan, he's a good kid."
Rad smiled and said, "I was thinking that, if you wanted to, we might work it out with Mom so Tan could stay there for a while."
"A while?" Rad's father asked cautiously.
"Like maybe until he's eighteen?" Rad asked hesitantly, closely watching his father's reaction.
"Why don't we just say that he can stay until he's ready to leave for college? I don't want him to get the feeling that I've marked the calendar and I'm waiting for the day to come when I can throw him out."
Rad let out a gust of breath in relief and said, "Yeah. That'd be great. If he tried to go back to Mom's, sooner or later something would happen to cause a blow up and he'd end up running away again... and this time we might not be able to find him."
"I think you're right."
"Besides, I think he needs a role model as much as a friend." Rad said quietly.
"I see what you mean. Your mom is a wonderful person, but she's not a shining example of how an adult should behave. And from what I hear, her boy-toy is just about worthless."
"Come on Dad, you know that Brad is trying. That's a lot more than I can say for Tan's father. I doubt that he's talked to Tan more than five times in the past ten years." Rad said with disgust.
Rad's father nodded sadly and said, "I guess you're right. I know that Brad is doing his best. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body... or a smart one."
Rad smiled and nodded, then said, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you guys out."
"Stay here with me when you get back to Earth. It'll be good to spend some time with you and I think Tan needs more than one role model."
"Okay, I'll do that as long as you don't mind if I bring my new boyfriend. Dad, this is Darin. Darin, this is my dad, Drake Radovanovich." Rad said gently.
"It's nice to meet you Darin. Don't tell me Ray finally found someone crazy enough to put up with all his hijinks." Rad's father
"It's nice to meet you too. And it's possible that I am crazy enough for him... we'll just have to find out." Darin said with a fond smile at Rad.
"So Dad, is there anything else I can do to help you and Tan?"
Drake considered for a moment, then said, "Smooth things over with your mom. If you can manage that, I think everything else will be fine."
"I'm on it. Oh, and when I get back to Earth, do you think all us guys could have a get-away weekend at the cabin?" Rad asked hopefully.
"Sure, that sounds like a lot of fun. Count me in."
"I already invited Brad."
"Oh, then strike that part about fun. It sounds painful and awkward. You're welcomed to use the cabin, but I'll pass."
"Please think about coming with us Dad. You might be able to help Mom and all the kids out by giving Brad a few pointers. You know, now that you're older and wiser." Rad finished with a smile.
Rad's father thought for a moment, then quietly said, "I suppose I should. Otherwise I'll probably have Shayd and Shadoe living here in a few months."
"And Mike not too long after that." Rad said with a smile.
After a nod, Drake said, "Go work on your mom and let me know when everything's settled."
"You got it. I love you Dad." Rad said with a warm smile.
"I love you too Ray. Be safe."
* * * * *
"Perhaps once we've come to some sort of terms, you might stop blocking our communications long enough for me to let my priests know what's going on. I'm sure they're quite concerned by now." Tyce said casually as he looked at Treifa and Gartain.
"I was able to get a brief message through to the home world before the hostile ships returned." Oluf said cautiously.
Tyce looked at Oluf with surprise, then hesitantly asked, "What did you tell them?"
"I told them that a number of Okudai military ships had been pursuing us for days and that we suffered severe damage." Oluf said with caution at Tyce's expression.
"And..." Tyce prompted.
"...and that a Federation vessel came to our aid moments before we would have been destroyed." Oluf said cautiously.
Tyce thought for a moment, then quietly asked, "Who did you talk to?"
"The senior priest, Adelaide." Oluf said, and looked as if he were about ready to run and hide.
Tyce closed his eyes and hung his head as he concentrated on the situation.
"What's wrong?" Lehman asked in a whisper.
Tyce slowly raised his head, then turned to Lehman and quietly said, "Of all my priests, Adelaide has to be the most flighty and high strung."
After taking a deep breath to calm himself, Tyce turned to Oluf and slowly said, "At least they know that I am safe aboard the Yorktown."
"Our transmission was cut off before I could complete my report." Oluf said hesitantly.
Tyce nodded silently.
Looks flashed around the table as everyone tried to understand the implications of what had been said.
"So the news of attack has reached Okuda Prime. Knowing Adelaide, the video transmission of your report has probably been sent to every media center throughout the system." Tyce said in a considering voice.
"He wouldn't really do that would he? I mean, it would cause complete anarchy." Treifa asked cautiously.
"Given Adelaide's nature, I feel comfortable saying that by now every person in the Okudai system has probably seen Oluf's report at least once." Tyce said seriously.
"What are we going to do?" Traiel asked as he realized the gravity of the situation.
"Stop blocking communications. I need to talk to the home world if there is to be any chance of stopping this before it grows out of control." Tyce said firmly.
Gartain looked at Traiel with question and received a nod.
"I will need to contact my ship." Gartain said hesitantly.
"Of course." Captain Byrne said as he stood.
The captain walked to the wall and pressed a button which caused a panel to open and reveal a large view screen.
"We sometimes have conferences in here." the captain explained as he pressed the main comm button.
"Communications." Debbie said professionally.
Captain Byrne stepped aside so Gartain could speak.
"Would you please connect me with the first officer of the Timmeraeon?"
"Right away." Debbie said then the screen went blank.
A moment later a dark haired woman appeared on the screen, looking curious.
"It appears that the situation may have changed. Stop jamming communications and open a channel to Okuda Prime." Gartain said forcefully.
"Perhaps we should survey the situation before we have our talk." Tyce said in thought.
After a moment of thought, Gartain said, "Agreed. See if you can lock onto a news broadcast."
"Yes.... right away." The woman said quickly.
"Treela, will you relay the news transmission to us?" Gartain asked cautiously.
"Yes sir." The woman said quickly, then the screen changed to show Oluf talking in a panicked voice.
"You called that one." Lehman said as he walked to Tyce's side and looked at the screen carefully.
A commentator came onto the screen and said, "If you'll look in the background, you can see the damage and two bodies."
"Not good." Treas said absently as she watched the screen.
"We say again, the High Priest Oluf was unable to tell us of the condition of our Holy One before the transmission was jammed at it's source. All we know is that it was our own ships that caused this death and destruction you see in the background.� From Oluf's brief statement it appears that an alien ship named 'Yorktown' came to defend our Holy One from his own people!" The commentator said as his face began to turn red with fury.
"It's worse than I thought." Tyce said reluctantly.
"The colonies of Andarka, Kerova, Greater and Lesser Nistruum and Vennis have called back all officials from Okuda Prime and announced that they will no longer follow any orders given by the central government... or in the words of Governor Janke, 'The murderous bastards who attacked our beloved Holy One'." the commentator said seriously.
"The government won't allow..." Treifa began to say when the commentator continued, "President Malif has issued orders that military ships be dispatched to assume control of each of the named colonies, but as yet, no military ships have launched. Apparently, a significant number of our brave soldiers are having difficulty interpreting their oath of service to mean that they should turn their weapons on their own people whose only crime is showing support for the Holy One who is beloved to us all."
"I've seen enough." Tyce said as he turned away.
"Holy One, you need to let the people know that you're not injured before this degenerates into a revolution." Captain Treas said quickly.
"Why should I? You and your fellow captains chased me all the way out here with the intention of killing me. Perhaps I should ask for sanctuary in the Federation and let you and your friends sort this whole mess out." Tyce said darkly.
"That wouldn't be right. We need you in your proper place." Traiel said forcefully.
"And why should I concern myself with your needs?" Tyce asked in a considering voice, then walked to Audge's side as he continued, "Could it be because you believe that I'm not really the Holy One. Maybe you think I'm the shape shifter that you sent to kill me and take my place?"
Traiel looked at Tyce with disbelief.
"I'm not him Traiel. I was going to pretend with you a while longer in hopes that you would reveal who is pulling your strings. But I've since realized that it doesn't matter. You wanted a world without a Holy One. Now you've got one. I've discovered that I want to have a life that's my own. Let's just part company and make us both happy." Tyce said in a snarl.
"You can't!" Captain Gartain barked.
Tyce turned to Captain Byrne and asked, "Captain, do you think it would be possible for me to join JonJon's colony?"
"I'm sure they would be honored to have you." Captain Byrne said formally.
"Yes. And even if they aren't honored, at least they won't conspire to kill me." Tyce said seriously before turning to face the captains again.
Treifa took two steps forward, then knelt down on one knee before Tyce.
"I regret my part in the plot against you Holy One. Here, before everyone, I swear my loyalty to you. Please forgive me." Treifa said with his head bowed.
"Arise Treifa. You are forgiven." Tyce said gently.
Captain Treas stepped forward and also got down on one knee.
"I'm sorry Holy One. I thought I was helping to provide a better future for my grandchildren." she said in remorse.
"Arise Captain Treas, I can see the pain these decisions have caused you and know that your actions were taken out of love and concern, not malice or greed." Tyce said gently.
Captain Treas nodded as she slowly stood.
Captain Gartain began to step forward when Tyce held up his hand.
"I see no remorse in your soul. Only a desire to ally yourself with the other captains so you will not be held accountable in the coming days. Captains Gartain and Traiel, I would advise that you not return to the Okuda system. If you do, you will not only stand accused of crimes against me, but also of crimes against Lehman, the Chameloid that you had surgically altered so he would be able to take my place. You have violated the highest laws of Okuda with this barbaric act and I will personally testify to assure that you are convicted for the pain you have caused." Tyce said in a voice that was nearly a growl.
"I... I didn't..." Captain Gartain began to protest.
"Save your lies. I have the ability to read your SOUL!" Tyce finished in a scream.
"Holy One." Oluf said and pointed at the view screen.
The image was of an explosion at the main gate of the presidential palace.
"Yes. Captain, could you possibly contact the main church on Okuda Prime. As nice as it would be to go to the new colony, these are my people and they need me." Tyce said with resignation.
"I would be honored to help however I can Holy One." Captain Byrne said reverently, then hit the main comm button.
* * * * *
"I don't understand what's going on here. Who are you?" Mr. Silva said cautiously.
"Um, I'm Crewman Vincent Winters, Petty Officer second class from the USS Yorktown." Vincent said shyly.
"No. I mean, who are you really?" Mr. Silva asked as he looked at Dr. Xon carefully.
"I don't know what you're asking. That's who I really am." Vincent said as he looked around at everyone staring at him.
"I am Dr. Xon, a Federation scientist." Dr. Xon said as he watched their examination of him.
"It's not a costume." Mr. Silva said as he cautiously reached out to touch one of Dr. Xon's ears.
"No sir. It is not." Dr. Xon said as he remained perfectly still.
"That's not possible. Star Trek is just a TV show." Peggy said carefully.
"Star Trek?" Vincent asked slowly.
"Yeah. It's this really cool show about people who travel through space and meet all kinds of really cool aliens and get into space battles and stuff like that." Vinny said quickly.
"Yeah. It's about the Enterprise and Captain Kirk." Lawrence said slowly as he stared at Vincent.
"So there's no Federation or Starfleet here?" Vincent asked in surprise.
"Just in the TV show." Vinny said frankly.
"What are you doing here?" Mr. Silva asked curiously as he took a step back out of Dr. Xon's personal space.
"Well, I think it might be really hard to explain. If you don't have Starfleet, then you probably don't know much about time travel." Vincent said carefully.
"Try me. I've been watching science fiction since I was Vinny's age." Mr. Silva said frankly.
Vincent looked up at Dr. Xon to explain.
"I have been studying a time portal called The Guardian of Forever on a distant planet..." Dr. Xon said slowly.
"The City on the Edge of Forever." Mr. Silva said with a nod.
"Pardon?" Dr. Xon asked curiously.
"Let's see, that's the one where Dr. McCoy accidentally injects� himself with an overdose of cordrazine and beams down to the Guardian of Forever. A landing party follows him and after he steps through the guardian, the Enterprise disappears because he changed history. So Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock go back to try and stop him from doing whatever he did that changed the future." Mr. Silva said in concentration.
"Edith Keeler had to die." Vinny said slowly, straining his memory.
"I am astounded that you know of these facts. The existence of Gateway has been a well guarded secret in the Federation since Captain Kirk's discovery. The details of that encounter in the past are only available to the researchers." Dr. Xon said in surprise.
"Well, if you understand all that, then this shouldn't be too hard to explain." Vincent said, sounding relieved.
"Correct. Due to a transporter accident, Crewman Winters' quantum resonance signature was altered. This, in turn, caused Crewman Winters to become disassociated with his own universe. The consequence of this disassociation would result in all the incarnations of Crewman Winters in all alternate universes to be removed from existance. With the assistance of the Guardian of Forever, we are traveling to select alternate universes so Crewman Winters can make physical contact with his alternate selves. The contact causes the quantum signatures to slightly realign and will, in theory, cause Crewman Winters to reassociate with his own dimension before a temporal/spatial convergence occurs." Dr. Xon said seriously.
After a long silent moment, Vinny said, "That made my head hurt."
"Mine too." Mr. Silva said as he put an arm around his son.
"If I can shake hands with your son for a couple seconds, we'll be done and you can get back to your picnic." Vincent said frankly.
"Is it going to hurt?" Vinny asked cautiously.
"No. It just tingles a little. You might feel funny for a few seconds afterward, but then it goes away." Vincent said with an assuring smile.
Vinny looked up at his dad with question.
"Do you have time to answer a few questions before you do that?" Mr. Silva asked cautiously.
Vincent turned to Dr. Xon and asked, "Do I?"
"We have eight point four nine minutes before the vortex will reopen." Dr. Xon said seriously.
Vincent nodded, then said, "Go ahead and ask me whatever you want to know."
* * * * *
"No Mom. It's me." Rad said quietly.
"Brad said that you know where he is. How is he? Is he getting enough to eat?" She asked desperately.
"He's fine Mom. Is Brad around? I need to talk to you both." Rad said seriously.
"Something's wrong, I knew it. Is he in trouble? Is he in jail somewhere?" She asked with tears in her eyes.
"Mom. Get Brad and I'll tell you." Rad said firmly.
Rad's mother hopped up and ran into the next room.
"I really feel like I'm intruding on something private." Darin said quietly.
"I feel like I'm watching a soap opera." Joe said with a teasing smile at Rad.
Rad chuckled and said, "Thanks Joe. That put everything right back into perspective."
Darin looked curiously at Joe and smiled at the way he had just diffused the emotions of the situation.
"He's coming. Now where's Tan?"
"Mom. Tan's with my dad." Rad said firmly.
"How did he get there? Did your father come down and get him?" She asked in confusion.
"No. I don't know how he did it, but Dad said that Tan showed up there last night." Rad said seriously.
"Why didn't he call me? I've been worried sick!" She said in an increasing voice.
"He didn't call because Tan asked him not to. I'm pretty sure Dad felt that it was more important right then to let Tan know that he was somewhere safe and that he was with someone he could trust." Rad explained calmly.
"Rayne explained a few things to me and I think I understand why he left." Brad said quietly.
"Why?" She asked in a helpless voice.
"He left because he's growing up. I've been treating all the kids the same, like they're all four years old. He couldn't handle me watching over him every second and had to get away." Brad said quietly.
"You're not quite as dense as I thought." Rad said with a smile at his old friend.
"Yes I am, you're just really good at explaining things." Brad said shyly.
"You've given me a lifetime of practice." Rad said with a chuckle.
"So when is Tan coming home?"
Rad glanced away for a moment, then looked his mother in the eyes as he said, "I don't know if he will come home. I think maybe he'll be better off at my dad's for a while."
"He needs to be here with me. Drake isn't even his father." She said as tears started streaking down her cheeks again.
"No, he's not. But I think Brad explained the problem perfectly. Tan needs someone to relate to him as a teenager. He needs a father to help guide him into adulthood. No offense Brad, but with the feelings between you and Tan already, I don't think there's any way you could be that for him. Dad may not have been the best husband that ever was, but he's a great father." Rad finished firmly.
Janet reluctantly nodded her agreement.
"Do you think he'll come visit?" Brad asked as he held his wife gently at his side.
"I think he might if you invite him. It might not hurt if you let him know up front that you're not going to try to talk him into staying while he's there." Rad said seriously.
"I'll do that." Brad said in nearly a whisper.
"Dad also said that it would be okay if we borrow the cabin for a weekend. He might even join us if he's free." Rad said with a smile.
"Did he really say that? I got the feeling that he hated me almost as much as� you did." Brad said hesitantly.
"He doesn't hate you. Hopefully he'll be able to tell you that for himself when we have our weekend." Rad said with a smile.
"Thanks for all your help Rayne." Janet said as she hugged Brad tightly to her side.
"No problem Mom. But next time, call me as soon as it happens. You don't need to be worrying like this." Rad said frankly.
"You have your own life now. You'll never find someone to settle down with if your crazy old mother is always calling about every little thing that goes wrong." She said frankly.
"You're not old." Rad said seriously, then after a second broke into a smile.
Everyone started to chuckle at the statement.
"And since you brought it up. Mom, Brad, this is my boyfriend Darin. Darin, this is my mom Janet Curry and her latest husband, Brad." Rad finished with a smile.
"It's nice to meet you Darin. And just wait until you get home Rayne, you're not so old that I can't put you over my knee." Janet said playfully.
"Mom! Not in front of my friends!" Rad said in a scandalized voice.
"Hi Joe! I didn't see you there." Janet said with a wave.
"Hi Janet. It's nice to see you again. How are things going?" Joe asked with a smile.
"You know me. Same ole, same ole." Janet said with a secretive smile.
"That's good... Wait! The last time you said that..." Joe began to say when Rad interrupted.
"Mom! You're not!" Rad said desperately.
"The doctor confirmed it Monday. Apparently I had one egg left and my little stud here found it." Janet said with a playful smile.
Rad looked up at Joe and said, "Eww. I was planning to eat later."
"Congratulations you two. I'm happy for you." Joe said with a smile.
"Thanks Joe." Janet said happily.
"Yeah. It really is great news. I'm happy for you both." Rad said with a gentle smile.
"Thanks Rayne. You don't even know how good it is to hear you say that." Janet said as she hugged her husband tightly.
"Well, we're on subspace so I'd better end it soon. Brad, would you do one thing for me before we get back to earth?" Rad asked hopefully.
"Sure, what is it?" Brad asked cautiously.
"The next time you and Mom are getting all romantic and stuff, just remember... I came outta that thing." Rad said with a smile.
Brad got a confused look, which slowly turned sour.
"Love you Mom. Bye." Rad said quickly and ended the transmission.
* * * * *
"Holy One! It's so good to see you! A middle aged priest said with relief.
"Hello Adelaide. Would you get Chaundra for me?" Tyce asked carefully.
"Are you well Holy One? Do you need assistance?" the priest asked frantically.
"Adelaide! Get Chaundra!" Tyce barked.
The priest froze for a moment, then ran out of the room.
"Is he going to get in trouble for sending that report to the media?" Lehman asked from Tyce's side.
Tyce smiled at Lehman's concern and said, "No. Adelaide was acting true to his nature. I can't help but believe that the forces that guide the events of the universe arranged for him to be the one to accept the transmission. There is more going on here than I originally thought."
An elderly woman walked before the screen and bowed reverently.
"Summoned, I come." She said in a quiet voice.
"Chaundra, favored of Austir, it is time to prepare the way for the new age." Tyce said formally.
"I recognized the signs. All is in readiness." Chaundra said, still looking down.
"Then connect me with Malif. It's time." Tyce said firmly.
* * * * *
"Have you ever seen the Enterprise?" Vinny asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I even got to eat dinner there once." Vincent said proudly.
"Did you get to meet Captain Kirk?" Mr. Silva asked with a smile.
"Yeah. I didn't really get to talk to him or anything, but I got to meet him." Vincent said with a smile.
"What about you Dr. Xon? Have you been on the Enterprise or met Captain Kirk?" Lawrence asked curiously.
"Unfortunately, I am unable to answer those questions. Crewman Winters and I are from the same dimension, but from different times. I cannot allow him to return to his own time and dimension with any specific knowledge of the future." Dr. Xon said seriously.
"Otherwise you risk creating a temporal paradox." Mr. Silva said speculatively.
"Correct." Dr. Xon said and seemed to be impressed.
"So Crewman Winters..." Mr. Silva began to say.
"You can call me Vincent if you want." Vincent said quickly.
"Thank you Vincent. So what's it like being a crewman?" Mr. Silva asked curiously.
"Oh, it's great. I'm in a mentoring program so I can learn to be an officer and I work in deflector control." Vincent said happily.
"Oh wow. Do you get to work the deflector dish?" Vinny asked with excitement.
"Well, not really. The person who runs the main console really does that. But what I do is make sure that all the power systems and command systems and consoles are working right so whoever is running the main has everything they need." Vincent said with a smile.
"That must be so great! I wish I could live in space and go to different planets and meet all kinds of different aliens like you do." Vinny said in wonder.
Vincent took a step forward and looked his alternate self in the eyes as he said, "Even though it sounds like fun, traveling through space and all that stuff isn't half as good as being able to have a picnic with your family."
"What happened to your family Vincent?" Peggy asked with concern.
"My mom and dad died. But before they died we didn't do things like this. Not since I was a little kid." Vincent said as he glanced at the picnic table.
"Why not?" Mr. Silva asked quietly.
"Because we were all scared of my dad's moods. We tried to be quiet and keep away from him so we wouldn't make him mad. I didn't even know I was doing it back then, but we all just knew that we had to be quiet and not disagree with him or do anything that might set him off." Vincent said distantly.
"What a horrible way to live. Is that what would have happened if I stayed with Victor?" Peggy said as tears welled up in her eyes.
"Yeah, probably. I never lived any other way so I didn't know there was anything wrong with it until they died. Now that I'm living on the Yorktown, I'm happy just about all the time. Everyone is really nice and they all treat me like any other member of the crew." Vincent said happily.
"I'm very glad to hear that." Mr. Silva said as he put a comforting arm around his wife.
Vincent looked into Vinny's eyes again and said, "So do you see? I get to live on a starship and do all that stuff, but I don't have a mom to tuck me in at night or a dad to take me to the park and play with me. My brother has his own life and I probably get to see him more on a view screen than I do in real life. As good as my life is, you've got all the stuff that really matters."
"Okay. I won't wish it again." Vinny said quietly.
Vincent reached into his pocket and took out one of the couplers that he had been carrying.
"This is a coupler from my ship." Vincent said as he handed it to Vinny.
"Thanks. What does it do?" Vinny asked as he looked at the small metal device.
"It holds things together the way a nut and bolt does." Vincent said with a smile as he watched his other self happily.
"Thanks. It's really awesome." Vinny said with a big smile.
"Dr. Xon? Are you ready?" Vincent asked over his shoulder.
"Proceed." Dr. Xon said as he turned on his tricorder.
"Will you shake my hand?" Vincent asked gently.
"I'd rather have a hug." Vinny said shyly.
Vincent smiled and said, "Me too. Come on."
Vincent pulled Vinny into a firm hug and felt the electrical tingle spread through his body.
"It feels funny... kinda nice." Vinny said as he snuggled tighter into the hug.
Vincent giggled and said, "Yeah. I like it too."
"Three... two... one." Dr. Xon said formally.
Vincent reluctantly let go of his alternate self and smiled when he saw the peaceful look in his eyes.
"I guess we're going to have to go soon. I've got to go back to my own dimension." Vincent said quietly.
"It was a pleasure to meet you Vincent. Now that we know that Star Trek is being lived for real somewhere, we're going to watch it every time it's on. Maybe someday we'll even see you on there." Mr. Silva said with a smile.
Vincent looked up into the man's gentle eyes, then reached into his pocket and pulled out the last coupler he was carrying.
"Here. I'd like you to have this." Vincent said shyly.
"Thank you Vincent." Mr. Silva said with astonishment.
"Crewman Winters, it is nearing time to depart." Dr. Xon said firmly.
"Okay, I'm almost ready." Vincent said, then hurried to Lawrence.
"Do you know anyone named Deacon?" Vincent asked seriously.
"No. Why?" Lawrence asked cautiously.
"I just know what happened in my dimension. If you find a guy named Deacon, be nice to him. He's a really good guy." Vincent said, then gave Lawrence a quick hug.
"Crewman Winters, we have fifty-five seconds." Dr. Xon said seriously.
"Be right there." Vincent said as he hurried to stand before the alternate version of his mother.
"It was good to meet you Vincent." Peggy said with a peaceful smile.
"It was good to meet you too. I've only got a few seconds, but there's something I didn't get to do before my mom died and I wondered..." Vincent trailed off, not knowing how to ask.
"I understand. Go ahead." Peggy said gently.
"I love you mommy." Vincent said as he ran to her and gave her a tight hug.
"I love you too baby." Peggy said in a whisper as tears filled her eyes.
"Five... Four..." Dr. Xon said without emotion.
Vincent gave Peggy a quick kiss on the cheek, then ran to Dr. Xon's side.
"Bye!" Vincent said as he took Dr. Xon's hand.
As everyone said 'Goodbye' in unison, the world faded away from Vincent's sight.
* * * * *
"Do you think your brother is going to be alright there with your father?" Darin asked with concern.
"Yeah. My dad is great. He'll make sure that Tan gets put on the right track." Rad said as he stood.
"From the few times that I've talked to your father, I get the feeling that he's a very secure and self assured person." Joe said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. I guess so. He always seems to be... on target. Like he knows where he's going and exactly what he has to do to get there. I stayed with him for almost a year before I entered the academy. He taught me a lot." Rad finished with a peaceful smile.
"I think I'd enjoy getting to know him." Darin said with a smile at Rad.
"That's good, because we're going to be staying with him while we're on shore leave." Rad said with a grin.
Darin noticed that Joe was looking around and quickly asked, "Joe, would you like to have dinner with us?"
"That's alright. I know you two don't get to spend a lot of time together." Joe said gently.
"C'mon Joe. It's not like we're inviting you to join us for sex. Just a conversation over meatloaf." Rad said with a roll of his eyes.
Joe smiled at the comment, then noticed a blush rising up Darin's face.
"And besides, this is one of the things we enjoy doing as a couple. We like to spend time with our friends." Rad said in an urging tone.
"Yeah, you're important in both our lives, so we want to spend time with you." Darin said seriously.
"Thanks guys. As long as you're sure I won't be intruding, I'd love to have dinner with you." Joe said warmly.
"Good. Come on, we'd better get him out of here before he can find another excuse." Rad said with a teasing smile.
Joe chuckled, then looked across the room at Connie and said, "Darin and I have our communicators if you need anything."
"Got it boss. Enjoy your dinner." Connie said with a quick smile, then turned his full attention back to the console.
After one last look around the room to see that everything was normal, Joe walked to follow Rad and Darin.
* * * * *
"Holy One, it's good to see that you are well." Malif said in a formal voice.
"Thank you. And rest assured that you *are* speaking to the Holy One, not the Chameloid that was sent to take my place." Tyce said firmly.
"Pity. I liked that plan. It would have made everything work out much more smoothly." Malif said without concern.
"Let's get down to business. I know that you sent the ships to hunt me down and kill me. But considering the media event that apparently just happened, perhaps there is a way we can set our dispute aside long enough to concentrate on what to do for the benefit of our people." Tyce said frankly.
Malif chuckled and said, "Media event? Don't worry about that. My soldiers have taken control of the media. The people will only know what I choose to tell them."
"The people already know that you sent ships to attack me. And when I return, I'm going to call for free elections. How can you possibly believe that events are working in your favor?" Tyce asked curiously.
"Because the people are mindless drones. Since I have control of the media, I can tell them what to believe. And as far as you returning, even with a Federation escort, you will never survive the trip back to Okuda Prime." Malif said with a cold smile.
Tyce looked at him cautiously, then quietly asked, "What have you done?"
"I've done what the Holy One's have been afraid to do. I've begun to form alliances outside the Okudai system. And as a symbol of our alliance, my new friends are going to send an armada of warships to destroy you." Malif said with a malicious grin.
Tyce thought for a moment, then looked at Malif with sudden realization.
"You can't mean that you've formed an alliance with the Gorn?" Tyce asked with dread.
"As a matter of fact, I have." Malif said proudly.
"You ignorant fool..." Tyce said as he shook his head.
"The Gorn will expand their empire to include us. We will become part of a force that can rival the Federation!" Malif said in triumph.
"Malif, you've allied yourself with devils. The Gorn won't include us in their empire, they will enslave us. All mammals are food to them, our people will become their cattle." Tyce said in panic.
"I have been assured that only a small portion of the population will be reserved as consumables and breeding stock... The outer colonies most likely. But the government is going to be given a fleet of Gorn warships to command so we can move out of this system and finally begin to expand our influence." Malif said happily.
"President! Stop!" A man said as he ran into the room.
"I'm on a private call. What is it?" Malif asked with irritation.
"It's not private. It's being transmitted all over the system." the man said breathlessly.
Malif looked at his screen and saw Tyce smiling back at him.
"How could you, I have control of� the media centers..." Malif asked in shock.
"Every temple has it's own transmitter, we've just been waiting for this day." Tyce said seriously.
"Jam him, Gartain! Jam the signal!" Malif called in a scream.
"Since Dingovan is one of the outer colonies, I think that I will not." Gartain said in a growl, then turned away from the view screen.
"Traiel, stop him!" Malif said in a snarl.
"No. I have sealed my own fate, but to do this would condemn my son. That I will not do." Traiel said, then also turned away.
Tyce stood before the monitor and firmly said, "My people, you have seen and heard the truth for yourself. Just as with the cycles of nature, a season of cold and suffering precedes the dawn of a new age of growth and rebirth. I declare before you all, the new age has begun. It is time to rid ourselves of the greed and corruption that have plagued our society and brought despair to our people."
"Holy one!" Oluf said in shock.
"Silence!" Tyce barked, then continued to the view screen, "Soldiers of the old government, you will not be held to account for standing against your own people in this uncertain time, but now is the time for you to make your final choice. Will you be agents for the corruption and greed that have caused the suffering of your friends and families? Will you work to enslave your own people so they can become the cattle of another race? Choose now."
"Holy one, do you know what you're saying?" Thaelan asked in shock.
Tyce nodded and continued, "People of Okuda! Hear me! RISE UP AND TAKE BACK OUR WORLD!"