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"Is it okay if we eat with you?" Benny asked hesitantly.
Lehman looked at Vincent with question and received an assuring nod.
"Yeah, sure..." Lehman said with a tone of voice that revealed his uncertainty.
Benny sat down between Lehman and JonJon, then waited as Vincent walked around the table to sit across from him.
Vincent and Lehman glanced at each other with concern, feeling uncomfortable and not knowing what they should do or say.
JonJon looked at Benny curiously, but was also at a loss for words.
"I don't know what to say." Benny finally said as he looked at JonJon helplessly.
"You could start by saying that you're sorry." Lehman said frankly.
Benny looked at Lehman with surprise.
"Even if JonJon doesn't know what you said back there, you still said it." Lehman said as he looked Benny in the eyes.
Benny nodded, then turned to face JonJon.
Just as he seemed to be ready to speak, he quickly turned to Lehman and asked, "What is it okay to talk about? I mean, since he forgot stuff, what am I supposed to not say?"
Before Lehman could answer, Vincent said, "I think that as long as you're worried about it, you won't say anything too bad."
Lehman nodded and said, "It's his memories that were hurting him. There's a big difference between being told something and remembering it happening."
Benny slowly nodded, then turned to look at JonJon again.
"I'm sorry JonJon. When you decided to forget your life, I got mad and said some things..." Benny trailed off.
"What things?" JonJon asked in a voice so low that it could barely be heard.
Tears of shame started to well up in Benny's eyes as he fought to say, "I said... I said that by choosing to forget who you are, you'd be killing yourself and...
"...and that I would never forgive you." Benny finished in a whisper.
"Was I your boyfriend?" JonJon asked as he looked Benny in the eyes.
"Do what?" Benny asked in a gasp.
"Is that why you were so mad at me? Because we were boyfriends and I chose my own life before yours?" JonJon asked with an expression that was free of accusation.
"No. It wasn't anything like that. We were just friends but it really hurt when you decided that you wanted to forget me, it was like our friendship meant nothing to you." Benny said in a rush to explain.
JonJon considered the words for a moment, then stood and walked to Benny's side.
Benny looked up at JonJon with question, not having any idea what he was going to do next.
"I'm sorry Benny." JonJon whispered as he hugged Benny gently.
"I don't know what I was thinking or feeling before or why I chose to do what I did. But I'm really sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me." JonJon said with true regret sounding in his voice.
Slowly, Benny stood and put his arms around JonJon to return the hug.
"Will you just promise me that you won't wipe out your memory again?" Benny asked as he held JonJon firmly in his arms.
After a moment to consider, JonJon pulled out of the hug enough to look Benny in the eyes and said, "Okay. I'll promise that I won't wipe out my memory again..."
Benny smiled and moved in to hug JonJon more firmly.
"...if you'll promise to never die." JonJon continued in a pained voice.
Benny pulled back with surprise as he thought about the words.
JonJon looked up into his eyes, not backing down from his statement.
After a moment to consider, Benny nodded and said, "Fair enough."
JonJon smiled, then released Benny from the hug and went back to his own seat.
"So is everything okay between you two now?" Vincent asked as he looked around the table at his friends.
"I guess so." Benny said in a tone of voice that betrayed his uncertainty.
"What's still wrong?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"JonJon didn't do exactly what he wanted." Lehman said bluntly.
Benny looked at Lehman with surprise and a little bit of hurt.
Lehman noticed and said, "Benny, I like you. I've liked you since I first met you. But when you try to bully JonJon by threatening not to be his friend, you really piss me off."
"Is that what I'm doing?" Benny asked absently as he considered his actions.
"Pretty much." Lehman said seriously.
Vincent looked at Lehman with surprise and question at his drastically different behavior.
"What?" Lehman asked when he noticed.
"What what?" Vincent asked in automatic response.
Lehman rolled his eyes, then said, "It looks like you've got a question. What is it?"
"Well, I don't know exactly. I guess I'm just wondering why you're acting this way all of a sudden."
Lehman considered for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I guess that's a fair question. I'm acting this way because JonJon promised to love me and be my brother and friend. I'd expect him to do exactly the same thing for me if someone was trying to manipulate me."
"Wait. I wasn't trying to manipulate anyone." Benny sputtered.
"Act the way I want you to. Do as I tell you and I'll be your friend... if that isn't manipulation, what is it?" Lehman asked frankly.
Benny winced at the harsh question and wasn't certain enough of his own motivations to dispute Lehman's words.
"I don't pretend to know what it's like to be Human. But among my people, this is one of the ways that you show your love to the people who are closest to you. You protect them." Lehman said seriously.
"Yeah. Humans do that too... or at least they try to." Vincent said thoughtfully.
After another moment of thought, Benny said, "I didn't realize that I was doing it, but I'll try not to bully JonJon anymore. I guess I'm still just feeling a little bit hurt because I know how it feels to be alone, and if I can deal with it, I don't see why JonJon can't."
JonJon sadly nodded, knowing that Benny had just revealed the true root of his feelings.
After a moment of stunned silence, Lehman sputtered, "You think you know what it feels like to be alone? Benny, you don't have a clue... Why don't I show you what it *really* feels like."
Before Vincent could stop him, Lehman placed a hand on Benny's neck and held it firmly in place.
"Feel what I felt, then see if you have the right to sit in judgment of someone else's pain." Lehman said through gritted teeth.
* * * * *
The smell was the first thing that Benny noticed.
It was a horrid, cloying stench that almost made it impossible to breathe.
As he looked around, he saw that the sky was gray with the smoke of multiple fires.
Unbidden, the knowledge came to him that the smoke was coming from massive pits where the plague infected bodies were being burned.
A pair of yellow eyes caught his attention, then another.
Even though the people didn't say the words, their eyes said more than enough.
The eyes spoke of shame, disgust, revulsion, and even hatred.
They hated the 'filthy animals' who were poor and infected with the plague that would eventually kill off nearly two thirds of the planet's population.
There were even some of the 'upper class' who believed that *all* the poor should be thrown into the pits with the burning bodies to prevent further spread of the plague.
Suddenly Benny realized that he wasn't in control of his body.
Then to his horror, he finally understood.
What he was looking at was a memory, Lehman's memory... and he couldn't help but follow it to it's conclusion.
Lehman/Benny continued on past the disgusted people lining the street to make his way to the edge of one of the pits.
He took the scrap of cloth that he had been using to cover his nose and mouth to wipe the tears away from his eyes.
Then with some effort, Benny felt Lehman's body transform, or to be more precise, he felt his eyes transform.
His vision narrowed and seemed to become more acute as he looked down into the pit of burning bodies. It took a few minutes for Benny to realize what Lehman was doing.
Benny's heart sank as Lehman's eyes searched through the sea of burning corpses, focusing on one face then another. One by one, Benny looked at the faces of the dead until he had seen dozens.... maybe hundreds. But since he wasn't in control of the body in this memory, all he could do is continue to look at the sea of bodies. One face after another... trying to find the body of Lehman's father or mother.
All he wanted to do was see them one last time...
...To say goodbye.
//This is what it means to be alone. After this, a bunch of us kids... orphans, we were collected and taken into the city. We were split up into the different orphanages and warehoused like we were objects. But whenever I look back and think about how alone I really was, I always come back to this memory. At this time, on this day, I had no one. Not one person in the world, or in the entire universe, existed who cared for me. *This* is what it means to be alone.// Lehman explained gently.
* * * * *
"Don't hurt him." JonJon said quickly.
Vincent got between JonJon and Lehman and said, "Don't try to pull them apart. You could end up hurting them both."
"But he's going to hurt Benny." JonJon said in frustration.
"Let me handle this." Vincent said firmly, then turned to look at Lehman.
"Lehman, you need to stop this now. I don't want to have to hurt you." Vincent said in an urging tone.
"He needs to understand." Lehman said distantly.
"What you're doing is wrong. It's a violation of his mind. You could be put in jail for doing this." Vincent said seriously.
"I'm done." Lehman said as he slowly took his hand away from Benny's neck.
"Benny? Are you alright?" JonJon asked as he rushed around to Benny's other side.
After a moment of staring sightlessly, Benny blinked, then turned to look at JonJon with question.
"I'm sorry if he hurt you. I didn't want that to happen. Please tell me that you're alright." JonJon said as tears filled his eyes.
"I'm fine JonJon. Really." Benny said quietly.
"Lehman, you need to promise me that you'll never do that again." Vincent said to Lehman firmly.
"I'm not a Human. Stop trying to make me be one!" Lehman snapped as he returned Vincent's hard gaze.
"I'm not trying to make you be Human. I'm trying to tell you what you need to know to live with Humans. If you go around attacking people telepathically, they'll lock you up. I love you Lehman and I don't want you to get into trouble... I just want you to be happy." Vincent finished softly.
Lehman closed his eyes and took in a slow, cleansing breath before saying, "Okay. I'm sorry Vincent... I'm not usually like this. It's just... I don't know. Maybe hearing Cyril and Roger say that they'd make me their son and that JonJon would be my brother... It kind of brought it all back. I'm going to have a family again and I want to protect them."
Benny stood from his chair and walked to Lehman's side.
"Thanks for sharing that with me." Benny said and raised his arms, then put them down again, not sure if Lehman would welcome a hug from him.
Lehman smiled at the abortive movement then pulled Benny into a firm hug.
"So you don't hate me?" Benny asked cautiously.
"If I hated you would I go through all that and risk JonJon beating me up and Vincent throwing me in jail?" Lehman asked with a chuckle.
"I guess not." Benny said with relief.
"Is there room for one more?" Vincent asked from Benny's side.
"Nope. Two more." Lehman said as he put out his arm to invite JonJon into the hug too.
"Everyone is watching." JonJon said as he looked around the Engineer's mess hall.
Vincent glanced around the room briefly, then said, "Yeah, they're just jealous."
JonJon smiled at the response, then moved into the four-way hug.
* * * * *
A week had passed without incident.
Even though Roger and Cyril had invited the boys to share their cabin, JonJon and Lehman decided to continue to stay in Deflector Control so they could spend as much time as possible with Benny and Vincent.
All the boys were aware that the time was drawing near, but none of them wanted to discuss what was going to happen when they reached the new colony site.
"Crewman Winters, report to conference room one." Debbie's voice said firmly over the Deflector Control's comm system.
Vincent looked up from station two, where he had been working, in time to see both Joe and Darin's concerned looks at him.
"One of these days, the captain is going to have to pick on one of you guys instead." Vincent said as he logged off his workstation.
"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about." Joe said quietly, obviously not believing it.
"Well, at least this time we aren't in a space battle." Vincent said with resignation, as he patted his pants pocket to be sure that he had some couplers, then he walked to the door.
"Call if you need us for anything." Joe said with concern.
"Sure thing. I've got seven." Vincent said as he clipped a communicator to his belt, then walked out the door.
* * * * *
As Vincent walked into the conference room, he was surprised to see that Captain Byrne, Commander M'Butu, Lieutenant Simms and Cyril Byrne were all present and seemed to be waiting for him.
Vincent came to attention and said, "Crewman Winters, reporting as ordered, Sir."
"At ease Crewman." Captain Byrne said automatically, then turned to face the entire group and continued, "As I'm sure you all know, we are scheduled to arrive at the SA-14 colony site in approximately eighteen hours."
Vincent nodded that he was aware and there were similar reactions from the others.
"What is not common knowledge is that we are scheduled to have a meeting with a Soleen-Avalla ship in advance of our arrival at the colony." Captain Byrne said seriously.
"Even though we have been in contact with the Soleen-Avalla for a number of years via subspace, this will, in fact, be the first time our people have actually met face to face. That being the case, this will be regarded as a 'first contact' situation." Captain Byrne said as he looked over the group before him.
"We literally know nothing of the Soleen-Avalla civilization. They seem almost xenophobic in their actions, refusing all requests for information. The fact that they offered us their colony was shocking enough, but now they have also agreed to meet with us in person and conduct us to the new colony. " Captain Byrne said professionally.
"We will be at the rendezvous coordinates shortly. Report to the bridge in one quarter of an hour, dress is formal. You are dismissed." Captain Byrne said firmly.
The others turned to leave as Vincent continued to stand.
"You had a question Crewman Winters?" Captain Byrne asked simply.
"Yes sir. I understand why everyone else is going on this mission, but I want to be sure I understand why I'm going, so I'll be able to do what I'm expected to." Vincent said carefully.
Captain Byrne smiled at Vincent and said, "It was very conscientious of you to ask. In the interest of furthering your studies in the mentoring program, Commander M'Butu and I feel that a practical demonstration of the first contact protocols that you have been learning about in your officer's training may provide an invaluable lesson. I would think that seeing the process first hand would be of more benefit in your education than reading any amount of material on the subject." Captain Byrne finished with a smile.
"Thank you sir, I understand. Is there anything special I should do, since I don't have a dress uniform?" Vincent asked seriously.
"Just change into a fresh uniform and make sure your boots and rank insignia are sufficiently shined." Captain Byrne said consideringly.
"Yes Sir." Vincent said formally.
"If there is nothing else, you are dismissed." Captain Byrne said in a semi-formal tone.
"Yes Sir. Thank you Sir." Vincent said, then turned to leave.
* * * * *
"What's up Champ?" Joe asked as Vincent walked into Deflector Control.
"Away detail." Vincent said, as he turned and walked into the supply room.
Joe shared a curious look with Darin, then tilted his head in the direction of the supply room to encourage Darin to go.
Darin nodded and hurried to the supply room doorway.
"An away detail to where? We're kind of in the middle of nowhere." Darin asked curiously as he watched Vincent taking off his boots.
"We're supposed to meet with a Soleen-Avalla ship in a little while and I'm going to be part of the delegation that meets them." Vincent said shyly.
"Why you?" Darin asked curiously.
"The captain said it would be good for me to learn about 'first contact' by doing it... even though I guess this will kinda be my second one." Vincent said as he pulled a shining cloth out of his storage crate and worked to bring his boots up to full luster.
Darin shook his head and chuckled as he said, "Only my little brother..."
"I don't have much time. Could you help me?" Vincent asked as he kept his focus on his boots.
"Sure, what can I do?" Darin asked as he stepped into the supply room.
"Would you get my new uniform out of my storage crate and make sure that it isn't wrinkled and that the rank insignia is shiny? I want to be sure that I look okay." Vincent said in concentration.
Darin immediately went to the storage container that Vincent had been using as a locker and pulled out the neatly folded jumpsuit.
He carefully unfolded it and looked it over to see that it was presentable.
"It looks fine." Darin announced as he turned to look at Vincent.
"Thanks. I've only got a few minutes." Vincent said quickly as he set his boots aside then threw the shining cloth into the crate.
"I'll get it ready for you." Darin said as he began to open the front of the new jumpsuit.
"Here." Vincent said as he handed Darin his wallet and two couplers.
Darin smiled as he placed the items into the new uniform.
"What about the communicator?" Darin asked as he gestured toward the communicator still hanging on Vincent's belt.
"Would you mind putting it up for me? I'm pretty sure that no matter what happens, I won't be needing it." Vincent said as he handed the communicator to Darin.
"No problem." Darin said gently as he clipped the communicator onto his own belt.
Vincent quickly opened the front of the jumpsuit uniform he was wearing and stepped out of it.
Darin handed him the new uniform and said, "Just leave the other one and I'll take care of it."
"Thanks." Vincent said as he pulled the new jumpsuit on.
"Would you like some gel for your hair? It might look a little more formal." Darin asked consideringly.
"Yeah." Vincent said as he bent down to pull on his boots.
Darin hurried to his own storage crate and returned with a dab of styling gel in his hand.
"Just hold still for a second." Darin said as he rubbed his hands together.
As soon as Vincent had finished pulling on his boots, he stood before Darin and waited for him to apply the gel.
Darin smoothed his hands over Vincent's slightly shaggy hair a few times to get the styling gel evenly distributed.
"Now, just comb your hair and you'll be ready." Darin said as he took a step back to look.
Vincent reached into his crate and pulled out a comb, then quickly pulled it through his hair.
"How's that?" Vincent asked as he looked at Darin expectantly.
"It looks great. You should think about using gel all the time." Darin said with a smile.
"Okay. I've got to go now." Vincent said quickly.
"Go on." Darin said and held out his hand for the comb.
Vincent handed the comb to Darin, then hurried out of the supply room.
* * * * *
As Vincent stepped onto the main bridge, he noticed that Captain Byrne was the only one of their group present.
The last time he had seen the captain in a formal uniform was when the Holy One was welcomed aboard.
"Captain, I'm detecting a vessel entering this sector... it's just dropped out of high warp." Lieutenant Clark said cautiously.
"On screen." Captain Byrne said immediately.
After a moment, Lieutenant Clark said, "I'm sorry sir, this is the best I can do at this distance. It's still at the far side of the sector."
As the somewhat blurry image of the alien ship filled the screen, Vincent's eyes went wide.
"It's Gorn." Debbie gasped from her communications console.
"No." Lieutenant Clark said hesitantly.
All attention turned to Lieutenant Clark as he examined the readings on his console.
"There are similarities in design, but this ship is more advanced than the Gorn ships... A lot more." Lieutenant Clark said in concentration.
"Be that as it may, it's best to err on the side of caution. This may be an indication that the Soleen-Avalla may have similar customs to the Gorn. Discontinue all invasive scans and make no attempt at communication. Use tactical scanners only and be prepared to discontinue the tactical scans as soon as the ship enters visual range."
"Yes sir. But they've stopped moving." Lieutenant Clark said slowly.
"Captain, we're being hailed." Debbie said cautiously.
"On screen." Captain Byrne said seriously and turned to face the main view screen.
Vincent noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to see that Commander M'Butu, Lieutenant Simms and Cyril had joined them.
"Federation Starship Yorktown, are you prepared to receive our representative?" A man's cold, professional voice asked.
Vincent looked at the view screen to find the image of a middle aged man. His appearance was human and his expression was nothing short of completely professional.
The captain stood a little straighter and said, "Yes. We will be honored to receive your representative. If you will send us rendezvous coordinates...."
The captain was interrupted by the appearance of a fountain of multi-colored sparkles that seemed to erupt from nowhere. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the sparkles vanished leaving a fourteen or fifteen year old girl standing before them.
Vincent stared in wonder at the beautiful girl. She was small with delicate features and had large soulful eyes. Her long brown hair nearly reached her waist and she was wearing a thin shimmering robe that loosely draped over her slender frame.
"But they're all the way on the other side of the sector." Lieutenant Clark said in wonder as he looked at his console again.
"I am Jenn. I am the representative of the Soleen-Avalla sent to conduct you to the colony." The young girl said seriously.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Jenn. I am Captain Leland Byrne. May I introduce my first officer, Commander Oliver M'Butu, my Chief of Security, Lieutenant Wayland Simms, my son, Cyril Byrne, who also happens to be one of the leaders of the colony and Crewman Vincent Winters, son of Clan Short of the house of Surak of Vulcan." Captain Byrne said as he gestured to indicate each person in turn.
Jenn looked at each person who was introduced and gave a slight nod of acknowledgment, then her gaze fixed on Vincent.
After a moment she hesitantly asked, "Is he the one who entered the reactor?"
Captain Byrne seemed surprised by the question, but quickly answered, "I wasn't aware that you knew of that, but yes."
"We requested an accounting of the events that led to the evacuation of the colony. The report we received made mention of Crewman Winters' heroic act." Jenn said with a gentle smile, then turned to Vincent and said, "It is an honor to meet you Crewman Winters."
Vincent was stunned for a moment, but was somehow able to say, "It's an honor to meet you too."
Jenn smiled warmly at Vincent, then turned her attention back to Captain Byrne.
"I'm sure you've realized that the Soleen-Avalla are a very private people." Jenn said seriously.
"We've noticed." Captain Byrne said carefully.
"It is for that reason that I have been sent to you. My ship will depart and I will conduct you to the new colony. I will be able to answer any questions you might have." Jenn said as she looked the captain in the eyes.
"Oh. I see." Captain Byrne said slowly.
Vincent felt a momentary sensation, like an itch on his chest. He discretely rubbed the spot hoping to soothe the itch without anyone noticing.
"Although I have a multitude of questions, I must admit that they all stem from my personal curiosity. I'm certain that Cyril has many questions of great concern to the colonists." Captain Byrne said, then looked at his son.
Cyril stepped forward and said, "Whenever you're ready, we could go to my office. As my father said, I have quite a few questions for you, and if we can get them answered before we arrive at the colony site, we might just be able to get this done without too much trouble for anyone."
Jenn glanced away from Cyril for a moment, then said, "My ship is leaving. I can go with you now."
"Captain, the Soleen-Avalla ship is leaving the... they're gone." Lieutenant Clark said as he looked over his scanners carefully.
"Please define 'Gone'." Captain Byrne said with concern as he walked to stand behind the lieutenant.
"When they moved out of the system, they dropped into high warp... I mean, really high warp." Lieutenant Clark said as he played his sensor readings back for the captain to see.
"Our ships use a different system of propulsion which allows them to move a bit faster than your Starfleet ships. I believe your people call it trans-warp." Jenn said informatively.
"Transwarp is considered to be a failed technology in the Federation. The theory seemed sound, but we could never get it to work dependably." Captain Byrne said seriously.
"It is only in recent years that the Soleen-Avalla have perfected the process." Jenn said casually.
"Perhaps we will have an opportunity to discuss it later." Captain Byrne said diplomatically, then turned to the helm and said, "Lieutenant Clark, proceed on course to SA-14."
"Aye Captain." Lieutenant Clark said as he worked his controls.
"Jenn, if you would like to rest for a time after your journey to meet us, we can show you to your cabin now." Captain Byrne said respectfully.
"There is no need Captain. If you would have no objection, I would like to get to work answering those questions you mentioned earlier." Jenn said with a gentle smile.
"As you like. But I won't allow my son to monopolize all your time aboard my ship. I would like to invite you to dine with me in the officer's dining room this evening." The captain said smoothly.
"Yes, of course Captain. I will look forward to it." Jenn said gently.
"Then if there is nothing else, you are all dismissed." Captain Byrne said to the group.
Cyril led Jenn to the turbo lift first as Vincent and Commander M'Butu watched them go.
"What a lovely girl. I wonder how one so young was chosen to represent the Soleen-Avalla empire." Captain Byrne said speculatively.
"I can't imagine, but given her self-assurance and gentle demeanor, I find it easy to believe that she is up to the challenge." Commander M'Butu said frankly.
Captain Byrne nodded his agreement, then quickly said, "Oh, and Crewman Winters, you will also be expected to attend tonight's dinner welcoming Jenn aboard."
"Yes sir." Vincent said as he straightened his posture.
Captain Byrne nodded, then turned his attention to someone who approached from his other side.
The turbo lift door opened and Vincent got aboard.
"Deflector Control." He called to the ceiling of the lift as he thought about all that he had seen.
* * * * *
"So Champ, how did it go?" Joe asked happily, obviously relieved to see Vincent return so soon.
"It went pretty well. I want to write some stuff down real quick before I forget it." Vincent said as he hurried to one of the auxiliary stations.
Darin and Joe exchanged a look, then Joe slowly made his way across the room, trying to look casual.
When Vincent noticed Joe standing behind him, he said, "I just wanted to take some notes about how the meeting went. The captain said I was there to learn about First Contact, so I want to be sure that I learned something."
Joe put his hand on Vincent's shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze before saying, "You've done a really great job dealing with your duties and school work. I was thinking that if you're up to it, we might do a little extra work on your officer's training while we're getting the new colony settled."
"Really?" Vincent asked hopefully.
Joe nodded, then said, "But I'm going to need for you to make me a promise before we get started."
"What's that?" Vincent asked as he devoted his full attention to Joe.
"Make sure you don't pass up any chances to spend time with your friends while we're here." Joe said gently.
"What?" Vincent asked in confusion.
"I'm just saying that this is something extra that we can do while you have spare time. Make sure that you spend plenty of time with Benny, JonJon and Lehman before the Yorktown has to leave. I have a feeling that you'll have plenty of time to study on the way back to Earth..." Joe trailed off.
"...without them being here." Vincent said as he nodded.
"So do you promise?" Joe asked seriously.
"Yeah. I promise that I won't pass up any chances to spend time with the guys." Vincent said as he forced a smile onto his face for Joe's benefit.
* * * * *
"The shift is over. What are you doing Champ?" Joe asked as he noticed that Vincent had been sitting motionless for some time.
"Whenever I get really mad or something like that, I've been using my bond with T'Lani to help calm me down. I was just kind of working out how I can do the same thing for myself so I won't have to bother her all the time." Vincent said carefully.
"Do you think she minds helping you control your emotions?" Joe asked as he casually dropped into the chair at auxiliary station one.
"No. I know she doesn't mind. But I still need to learn to do this for myself. I'm a Vulcan citizen, so I should be able to control my own emotions when I need to." Vincent said seriously.
"You may be a Vulcan citizen, but you're still a Human. No one is going to expect you to behave like a Vulcan." Joe said as he looked Vincent in the eyes.
"Maybe not. But that's not what I'm really talking about. It's more like the way I got mad when Tyce kissed me. I could have messed up things between Okuda and the Federation because I couldn't control myself." Vincent said, and Joe began to realize the depth of Vincent's conviction.
"I thought you were seeing a counselor for that." Joe said cautiously.
"Yeah. I am. And that's working pretty good. But what Tony is helping me with is understanding why I feel the way I feel about certain things. This is something else, I'm trying to figure out how to catch it when my emotions get crazy all of a sudden and are trying to get away from me." Vincent said with determination.
Joe considered the words for a moment, then nodded as he said, "I think that's a good plan. I'll let you get back to it."
Vincent looked at the time on the auxiliary station's display, then said, "I need to get cleaned up before dinner. I'm going to have dinner in the officer's dining room."
"Oh? Is this going to become a regular thing for you?" Joe asked with a smile.
Vincent looked at Joe curiously for a moment, then said, "Lehman is the one who went to the last dinner. This will be my first time."
"Oh, right. Well, I hope you have a good time. I'm sure Dennis will be preparing one of his masterpieces for the special occasion." Joe said warmly.
"Wait... Dennis? Are you talking about that guy from the shuttle who wore so much cologne I could taste it?" Vincent asked cautiously.
Joe chuckled, then said, "One and the same."
"Maybe I'll just have the salad." Vincent muttered with a worried look.
"Despite what you may think of him as a person, he really is an excellent chef. The food will be fine, I promise." Joe said, then stood.
Vincent looked at Joe uncertainly, but finally accepted that it was *possible*.
* * * * *
Vincent walked into the storage room to find Darin standing in only his boxer shorts.
"Hot date?" Vincent asked as he waggled his eyebrows at Darin.
"Actually, yes." Darin said with a happy smile.
"I've got to get ready to have dinner in the officer's dining room." Vincent said as he began to change out of his uniform.
"I've been meaning to do that, but I think Rad and I are just so comfortable with the Engineer's mess hall that we haven't really talked about going to the officer's mess." Darin said casually.
"Well, this will be my first time." Vincent said a little bit nervously.
"My dad used to have formal dinners all the time and I learned pretty quick to keep myself entertained while I pretended to pay attention." Darin said casually.
"So can you give me some advice? I don't want to say or do the wrong thing and make Captain Byrne regret that he invited me." Vincent said, letting his full anxiety be clearly heard.
After a moment to think about the question, Darin smiled and said, "Someone very wise once gave me some good advice about what to do in a situation like this."
Vincent devoted his full attention to Darin, hanging on his every word.
"Just think about what Joe would do if he were there instead of you." Darin said with a smile.
Vincent puzzled over the statement for a moment, then broke into a wide grin.
"That's one of the first things that you taught me, little brother, and it's always worked." Darin said with a gentle smile.
"Thanks." Vincent said timidly, then reluctantly continued, "It's almost time, I've got to go."
"Me too. Give me a second to gel my hair, then I'll walk with you to the lift." Darin said as he quickly checked himself to see that he hadn't forgotten anything.
"You look fine." Vincent said with a smile, then asked, "Do I need anymore gel?"
Darin glanced at Vincent, then said, "No, it still looks good. You really should consider using it all the time, I think it makes you look more professional."
Vincent pulled a small hand-held mirror out of his storage crate and looked at himself for a moment before saying, "I don't know. I guess it's okay if I'm going somewhere fancy, but I'd feel like I was acting like I'm someone that I'm not if I wore it all the time."
Darin gestured toward the door of the storage room, indicating that he was ready to go.
* * * * *
As Vincent and Darin stepped into the main room of deflector control, Joe said, "You two look great, I hope you both have a wonderful time tonight."
Both Vincent and Darin could clearly see the pride in Joe's expression as he looked at 'his boys'.
"Thanks, we'll do our best. We've got to go now." Darin said as he turned to go.
"I hope you have a good night too." Vincent said, then walked with Darin out the door.
A moment of silence fell over Deflector Control until it was broken by Connie saying, "I hope Melina and I are as lucky as you when we have kids."
"I hope so too Connie... there's no feeling in the universe that can match this." Joe said distantly.
* * * * *
"Good evening Crewman Winters." Captain Byrne said warmly as he noticed Vincent walking into the dining room.
"Good evening Captain." Vincent said in his 'mature' voice, doing his best to behave as Joe would.
"Since our guest of honor hasn't arrived yet, you may want to have a drink and mingle before we sit down to dinner." Captain Byrne said as he gestured to the other guests in the room.
"Thank you sir, I'd like that." Vincent said calmly and gave the captain a small smile of gratitude for treating him the same as any of the other guests.
"What would you like to drink, Crewman Winters?" a waiter asked from Vincent's side.
"Water, if that wouldn't be too much trouble." Vincent said as he looked up into the waiter's eyes.
"No trouble at all." the waiter said with a smile.
"Well Crewman Winters, how are you doing these days? I haven't heard much from you since we parted company with the Okudai." Lieutenant Simms said casually as he approached.
Vincent smiled and said, "Well, I guess if things are getting boring, I could try to stir something up."
"No no. I wasn't complaining. I was just saying that for a while there I was seeing you more often than some of my own security officers." Lieutenant Simms said with a smile.
A nearby movement drew Vincent's attention and he turned to see the waiter approaching with his drink.
Vincent smiled as he accepted a long stemmed glass of iced water with a slice of lemon in it.
"Thank you." Vincent said to the waiter and received a nod from the waiter before returning his attention back to Lieutenant Simms.
"I haven't seen much of Korrigon since we left the Okudai, do you know how he's doing?" Vincent asked casually before taking a sip of his water.
"He's fine. Actually, I've been keeping him busy." Lieutenant Simms said with a smile.
Vincent gave a Vulcanesque raise of one eyebrow to prompt Lieutenant Simms to continue.
"After Korrigon made the choice to join the colony, he started to think about what he could possibly do for a job once he got there. His skills as a mercenary aren't of much use in polite society." Lieutenant Simms said seriously.
"Yeah. I guess it would be hard to start a new life from nothing." Vincent said speculatively.
"Exactly. So I've been working with Dave to discover his interests and how they might be used to make him a productive member of the colony." Lieutenant Simms said frankly.
"Have you come up with anything?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Yes. As a matter of fact we have. If everything goes to plan, Dave is going to be opening a pub, possibly even an inn. We'll just have to see what type of buildings they have when we get there." Lieutenant Simms said speculatively.
Vincent thought about it for a moment, then smiled as he said, "Yeah. I can see how that would work out for him. I think that if I went into his pub that I'd feel really comfortable."
Lieutenant Simms smiled and said, "That's what I thought too. He has such a genuine 'down to earth' nature that he automatically puts people at ease."
Vincent turned at movement from the front of the dining room and saw a group of people entering.
He had expected Jenn and Cyril to be at the dinner, but was surprised to also see Roger, JonJon and Lehman walking in.
"If you'll excuse me, I have something I need to discuss with Roger." Lieutenant Simms said quietly.
"Sure. It was nice talking to you." Vincent said with a smile.
* * * * *
"I didn't know you were going to be here." Lehman said as he and JonJon walked up to Vincent.
"Yeah. I think I'm here as part of my officer's training. I need to learn how to act at a formal dinner and stuff like that." Vincent said happily.
"Cyril said that he wanted us to come so he could have his whole family at the dinner tonight. I was afraid that it was going to be really boring." Lehman said frankly.
"I think it's going to be kind of nice. You know, like playing at being grown-up. I wouldn't want to do something like this every night, but it might be fun once in a while." Vincent said with a smile.
"Thank you Vincent. I wasn't sure how I felt about being here, but I think 'playing at being grown-up' will make the dinner a lot more fun." JonJon said quietly.
"It looks like everyone is going to the table. Let's go."
* * * * *
"It will be a few minutes before dinner is served, so everyone please make yourselves comfortable." Captain Byrne said to the table in general, then turned to his side and asked, "Jenn, have you been introduced to everyone?"
After a moment to look around the table, she answered, "Yes. Though I haven't had the opportunity to speak to everyone, I know who everyone is."
"Very well. How are the preparations for the colony going?" Captain Byrne asked curiously.
"Cyril and Roger have done an amazing job of preparing. We should have the settlement plan complete well in advance of our arrival." Jenn said with a casual smile.
"Yes. Jenn has a wealth of information about the colony site. So the majority of the work we have left to do is detail work." Cyril said frankly.
"And JonJon has been a great help to us." Roger added timidly.
"Oh really?" Captain Byrne asked with surprise.
"Yes. Jenn has information about the available housing and Roger has a detailed listing of the families in need of accommodations. JonJon has been working to merge the two lists." Cyril said proudly.
"Lehman, I hope you aren't feeling left out of all of this." Captain Byrne said seriously.
"I'm fine Grandpa. I've been taking care of Fizgig." Lehman said seriously, then after a moment of consideration he continued, "And I've been making sure that Dad and Other Dad don't make JonJon work too hard."
Captain Byrne chuckled and said, "Very good. That's a very important job and I'm sure everyone appreciates your efforts."
"We do Father. Lehman is a good brother." Cyril said warmly.
Captain Byrne smiled at his family, then turned to Jenn and asked, "So Jenn, I understand that the colony has stood unmanned for over a hundred years. Do you have any idea as to it's condition?"
"Yes Captain, before I came aboard I contacted the Haventauk AI and received a visual survey of the colony. Although the farmlands at the perimeter of the colony have returned to the wild, the colony itself has been maintained." Jenn said seriously.
"This is the first I'm hearing about an AI system. Are you saying that there is an intelligent computer maintaining the colony?" Commander M'Butu asked curiously.
"Yes Commander. Mycien is the Guardian of Haventauk. He has been keeping the colony maintained until the day arrived that someone chose to return." Jenn said frankly.
"Will the AI unit be willing to accept us? He might see us as aliens." Lehman asked curiously.
"Mycien has been kept up to date on all the information regarding the Kimber colony and is awaiting your arrival." Jenn said with a pleasant smile.
"So is the new colony named Haventauk?" Vincent asked curiously.
"That was the name of the former colony." Jenn said shortly, and it was clear from the tone of her voice that the colony would be getting a new name.
"So what are you going to call the colony now? Kimber V?" Lehman asked as he looked around.
"No. I don't think so. Kimber was the name of the local star where the colony was located and Kimber IV was the fourth planet." Cyril said seriously.
"What do you think it should be called?" Roger asked Lehman gently, not wanting him to feel that Cyril was dismissing his suggestion out of hand.
"I don't know... how do you usually name places?" Lehman asked curiously.
"There are many methods for naming. The colony site is currently designated SA-14 on the star charts, being the 14th star charted in the Soleen-Avalla territory of space." Commander M'Butu said seriously.
"Of course, some places are named for the people who discovered them. Others are named for great people as a tribute." Cyril said thoughtfully.
Captain Byrne nodded and said, "There is also the tradition of naming a place to recognize what you want it to become, such as New England or New Amsterdam."
Everyone noticed as JonJon leaned in and whispered to Lehman.
After a moment to consider, Lehman nodded and whispered in return.
"Did you have an idea?" Roger asked curiously.
Lehman looked at JonJon with question and waited for him to answer.
Finally, Lehman turned to Roger and said, "JonJon has an idea, but he's afraid that you'll think it's stupid."
"Please don't be concerned JonJon, we are simply discussing possibilities right now. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' suggestions." Captain Byrne said gently as he looked JonJon in the eyes.
"Go on." JonJon whispered to Lehman shyly.
Lehman smiled at his brother and said, "Well, JonJon was thinking that Kimber IV was a colony where everyone was hoping that they could make new lives that were uncomplicated and happy."
Everyone at the table was devoting their full attention to Lehman, genuinely interested in what he had to say.
"Well, JonJon was thinking that since Kimber IV was kind of like everyone's hope, maybe this colony could be known as 'New Hope'." Lehman said as he looked around.
There was a long moment of silence as everyone considered the suggestion.
"I like it." Vincent said honestly.
JonJon looked at Vincent timidly, then smiled.
"I think that is a very good suggestion. When the council meets, I'll be sure to offer your suggestion to them." Cyril said firmly.
JonJon beamed at Cyril's words, then turned as waiters arrived with plates of salad for everyone.
* * * * *
"The last time I had dinner in here, the Okudai thought we were vegetarians because we had salad first." Lehman chuckled.
Captain Byrne smiled at the memory, then turned to his side and said, "I hadn't thought to ask about your diet Jenn. Are there any foods that your people cannot eat or that are offensive to you?"
Jenn smiled and said, "The Avalla are herbivorous. Their bodies have difficulty processing meat. The Soleen are omnivorous, like your people."
"Then the Soleen and the Avalla are two distinct species?" Commander M'Butu asked with interest.
"Yes. But my people would prefer that I not expound on that subject... perhaps at a later time." Jenn said gently.
"As you say, but can you tell us, are you Soleen or Avalla?" Captain Byrne asked curiously.
"Neither, or perhaps both. I am Soleen-Avalla." Jenn said seriously.
Vincent giggled, drawing everyone's attention.
"Sorry." Vincent said shyly, then continued, "I just like the way she answered your question. It was kind of like watching someone steal a base in baseball."
Captain Byrne smiled at the strange analogy, then began to explain, "Baseball is a game..."
"Excuse me captain. " Jenn interrupted gently, then continued, "We have been monitoring Federation broadcasts for some years and I am familiar with the sport. In fact, I have a special fondness for the Detroit Tigers."
"Oh. I see." Captain Byrne said with surprise.
"You really like the Detroit Tigers?" Vincent asked curiously.
Jenn smiled at Vincent and said, "Yes. I do not think that they will win, but I like them."
Vincent chuckled and said, "As long as you're not counting on them to win, then I guess they're alright."
The waiters returned to the dining room and began to clear away the salad plates.
* * * * *
"Why did they give us catsup?" Vincent asked when he noticed that he and Lehman were the only ones at the table with catsup by their plates.
"Oh, I guess I never did tell you about that." Lehman said with a chuckle.
"I remember hearing Thaelan mention something about catsup, but I didn't get the whole story. Will you tell me later?" Vincent asked with a smile.
Lehman nodded, then started to eat his dinner.
Commander M'Butu smiled at the exchange, then turned to Captain Byrne and asked, "Since the colony has been maintained, there isn't any reason that our initial landing party shouldn't include Cyril and Roger, is there?"
"I was just thinking the same thing. What do you think Cyril? Will you be ready to survey the colony when we arrive in the morning?" Captain Byrne asked with interest.
"Yes. I believe so. And if you have no objection, I would like for Crewman Winters to be included on the team." Cyril said consideringly.
"May I ask why?" Captain Byrne asked with interest
Vincent listened intently as he slowly cut himself a bite of meat.
"Crewman Winters has been declared our first citizen. Though it may be a symbolic gesture, I believe it will hold some meaning for the colonists. In effect, it would be a way of saying that the colonization has begun because the 'first' of us has arrived." Cyril said carefully.
"As you like." Captain Byrne said simply, then glanced at Vincent to be sure that he didn't have any objection.
Vincent smiled and nodded his agreement, then took a bite of the meat and slowly chewed.
His mind drifted away from the conversation as he considered the flavor of the meat.
It just seemed to be wrong... flat... not really bad, but something was definitely missing.
"Catsup helps." Lehman whispered at his side, snapping him out of his thoughts.
Vincent cut another, smaller piece of meat, then spooned a little dab of catsup on it.
"Here, I'll share." Lehman said to his other side as he scooted his bowl of catsup between his and JonJon's plates.
Vincent took a bite of the meat, then considered the flavor with the catsup added.
"It's better, isn't it?" Lehman asked seriously.
"Yeah. Thanks." Vincent said happily.
"Crewman Winters, if I recall correctly, you haven't been trained in the use of side arms. Is that right?" Lieutenant Simms asked casually.
Vincent swallowed his bite of food, then took a sip of water before answering, "Yes. That's right."
"Well, with the Captain's permission, I would like to give you some basic instruction after dinner. I believe that it would be appropriate for you to wear a side arm when we visit the colony tomorrow." Lieutenant Simms said seriously.
"Yeah." Vincent said quickly, then restrained his enthusiasm and asked, "Captain?"
"Yes. The general orders do insist that the members of the initial survey party be armed. Although I doubt that you will need to use your phaser on this mission, it won't hurt for you to have the instruction." Captain Byrne said frankly.
"Thank you Captain." Vincent said, barely containing his excitement.
* * * * *
As Vincent continued to eat, he was only half aware of his surroundings. He was enjoying his meal but his mind kept drifting back to the fact that he was going to receive phaser training.
He had never really thought too much about taking the training because other things always seemed to be more important. But this was different. The head of security and the captain both felt that he was ready for this training... he wasn't too young... they trusted him.
* * * * *
"Wow." Lehman said, breaking Vincent out of his thoughts.
Just as he was about to ask Lehman what had surprised him, movement from Vincent's side drew his attention and he watched a waiter place a flamboyant and decorative dessert in front of him.
It was huge.
Puff pastry, vanilla ice cream, another wafer thin pastry, chocolate ice cream, more pastry, strawberry ice cream, and one final layer of pastry that had been sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
"My people have never created a food such as this." Jenn said in amazement.
"Our chef has really outdone himself with this creation." Captain Byrne said with appreciation.
Vincent slowly worked to get some ice cream along with a piece of the flaky delicate pastry.
The slight crunch was the perfect contrast to the smooth creamy ice cream.
"This has to be the best dessert I've ever had in my life." Vincent said before slowly taking another bite.
"Me too." Lehman said with a delighted smile.
The captain gestured to summon one of the waiters, then said, "Please convey our sincere appreciation to the chef."
The waiter smiled as he nodded, then quickly withdrew to the kitchen.
"Cyril, can you give us some sort of a hint about what we'll be finding when we arrive at the colony site?" Captain Byrne asked curiously.
"Yes. It appears that the colony is three to four times the size that we need. That is allowing us the opportunity to provide for generational growth in our plans for the initial settlement." Cyril said seriously.
"We're setting it up so parents and kids and their grandkids can all have houses and live in the same place if they want to." JonJon explained to Lehman at his side.
"That really sounds nice." Lehman said with a speculative smile.
Vincent nodded his agreement to the statement.
"Of course, our plans might change once we've visited the colony site. No amount of speculation will completely prepare us for the reality." Roger quickly amended.
"Yes. We will do as much as possible before we arrive, then adapt our plans to the colony that we find." Cyril said frankly.
"That being said, perhaps we should excuse ourselves and get back to work. There's still quite a lot to do before we arrive." Roger said cautiously.
Cyril looked at his father with question at the suggestion.
"Perhaps Jenn would enjoy a tour of the ship and an opportunity to relax before resuming her work." Captain Byrne said carefully.
Cyril nodded his acceptance of his father's statement.
"Captain, if you are asking my preference, I would really like to return to the preparations for our arrival. I have had little to do but rest until your ship arrived." Jenn said frankly.
"As you wish. But please keep in mind that the Yorktown will remain for as long as we are needed. There is no need to work yourself to exhaustion." Captain Byrne said with concern.
"Thank you Captain. I too will remain for as long as I can be of benefit. I am certain that we will have many opportunities to speak once the colonization efforts are underway." Jenn said seriously.
"Then we should be going." Cyril said, then looked to his father to be sure that he wasn't being rude by suggesting that they leave.
"Yes. I believe we all have duties that we could be performing." Captain Byrne said as he stood.
The rest of the guests followed the captain's lead.
"While you're working, I'm going down to play with Fizgig for a while so he won't feel lonely." Lehman said to JonJon with a smile.
"Thank you. I am so lucky to have a brother like you. I wouldn't have known what to do to take care of Fizgig if it weren't for you." JonJon said as he pulled Lehman into a hug.
"Crewman Winters. If you have no other duties now, we could begin your side arm training." Lieutenant Simms said seriously.
Vincent turned and said, "No. I don't have anything else planned tonight."
"That's good, because this could take a few hours." Lieutenant Simms said, then looked at Vincent with question, obviously giving him one last chance to back out.
"Sounds great. I'm ready when you are." Vincent said with a smile.
Editor's Notes: What a difference a universe makes! It is interesting to compare the two situations. I am really looking forward to seeing what will happen in this new universe. Did anyone notice what Jenn was saying in her answer to the question as to her species?
For those of you who may not have been following Frontier, you may have missed something. Let me just say that when it comes to MultiMapper's stories, when something seems to be different than what you were expecting to see, you should pay close attention, because there will be a short quiz at the end of the semester. Don't worry, I won't give you any spoilers, but I have warned you to pay close attention to details.
I am ready and waiting for the next chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher