Universe Alpha 7:
The Reflection of Home

Copyright © 2015 by MultiMapper and CSU Productions
All Rights Reserved

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Chapter 50 - The Pride of My House

Upon waking, Vincent was surprised to realize just how much time he had before his shift.

Chip's words came back to him, telling him that he would have plenty of free time, and likely, not much of a social life.

He dressed more or less automatically as he thought about what he could do to fill the hours, but when he was finished, he found himself dressed for a workout, but with no place to go.

He checked the deck plans to confirm what he already knew, the Vulcan ship that he was serving on didn't have any sort of gym or designated recreation area.

After looking a little closer, Vincent spotted a small cargo bay which was flagged as 'currently unused'.

Although he had no reason to distrust the ship's inventory, he still felt that he needed to inspect the cargo bay, to be sure it was indeed empty, and that it would be suitable for his workout before claiming it for himself.

With his gym bag in hand, he left his cabin.

* * * * *

Of course, being among Vulcans, there was no staring or pointing. But he did encounter more than one raised eyebrow on his trip to the lower deck. He wondered if the reaction would have been any different if he had been wearing his old 'immodest' workout clothes.

Upon arrival at the cargo bay, he had to enter his authorization code to gain entry, but once inside, he found the space to be larger than he expected and actually perfectly suited to his needs.

To be honest, if he had some workout mats and a heavy bag, it might be a little better, and a locker room would have been nice. But the main thing he needed was enough open floor space to be able to move around.

Once he had his gym bag set aside, Vincent moved into his primary defensive posture, then began to work his way through the primary stance routine.

He could feel that he had let himself get a little out of practice. The movements weren't as fluid as they had once been and, of course, his constantly changing body was adding it's own variables into the mix.

After the third time of completing his stances, Vincent decided to try the counter stances.

As before, the movements weren't as fluid as they once were, but Vincent could feel that he had more power available in his thrusts.

He fought to maintain his pace as well as his precision. Although he was pleased that he had been able to complete the routine in a manner that Thaelan would have seen as adequate, he couldn't deny that he needed to stay more on top of his training.

When he was finished, he took the towel out of his gym bag and mopped the sweat off his brow before leaving the cargo bay.

* * * * *

Upon arrival back at his cabin, Vincent made a point of changing the designation on the cargo bay from 'Unused' to 'Reserved for Major Winters'. That way, if someone needed the cargo bay for something, they would know that it might be available, but also that they would need to contact him before using it.

He took a nice long shower, then changed into his uniform.

As he was about to leave for the mess hall to have his breakfast, he realized just how much time he was going to have free in the coming weeks. A certain amount of that time could be occupied with the study materials for the mission. But that wouldn't take all his free time and he really needed something else to do.

Rather than put it off, Vincent signed onto his terminal and connected with the Vulcan Academy of Science.

Since he was an established student, the process of re enrolling was surprisingly easy. Within a matter of minutes he was enrolled in the fourth standard course of study. Once that was done, he went into his personnel file and updated the information to reflect his recent promotion and current assignment.

By the time he was done with that, he was well and truly ready for breakfast.

* * * * *

When Vincent walked up to the food line in the mess hall, one of the workers cautiously asked, "Major Winters?"

"Yes. That's right." Vincent said hesitantly.

"When the human scientists had their breakfast earlier, they requested coffee."

Vincent felt a flare of panic well up within him as he waited for the crewman to continue.

"Since the supply of coffee was specifically designated to be for you, I felt that I should not offer the beverage to the other humans. I am unfamiliar with Human socialization customs. Was I mistaken?" The crewman asked seriously.

Vincent smiled in relief, then said, "No. You did the right thing."

The crewman nodded once, then asked, "Would you care for some coffee to accompany your meal?"

"Yes. I would like that. Thank you."

The crewman nodded again before withdrawing into the kitchen.

Vincent went through the serving line and made his selections, then found a table off to the side where he could sit and watch the other people in the mess hall as they interacted.

* * * * *

When Vincent got back to his cabin, he began to go through his study materials for his next standard course of study.

He carefully went through the lessons and categorized them. Although there were some things that he would need to do in private due to the need for extensive writing or calculations, there were other tasks which involved mostly reading, that he would be able to do in his spare time while he was on the bridge.

* * * * *

Vincent could really tell the difference in the level of difficulty between the third and fourth standard course of study. He had originally planned to stop by the mess hall for a snack, if not a full meal, before his shift. However, he became engrossed in his school work. Vincent couldn't seem to wrap his mind around the concept of n dimensional spaces and manipulating their vectors.  He could get the math to work, but he couldn't seem to visualize what the math was representing.

When he arrived on the bridge, there were no variations to report and he soon found himself in the command chair, watching the bridge crew perform their duties.

It didn't take long before he was engrossed in his studies, trying to comprehend what very well might be incomprehensible.

He was jolted out of his studies by a shipboard communication. "This is Crewman Syvar in the mess hall. There is a group of human scientists who appear to be inebriated and are presently engaged in a physical altercation. Please advise."

"T'Amarak, call security to the mess hall." Vincent said immediately.

"We are a science vessel. We do not have a security detail." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said informatively.

"Right." Vincent huffed in resignation, then said, "Get me whoever's in charge of Engineering on this shift."

"Right away." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said quickly.

A moment later a male voice sounded on the intercom, "This is Lieutenant Sa'Raal. How may I be of assistance?"

"This is Major Winters on the bridge. Could you spare two or three of your crew to help me for a few minutes? I have three drunk Humans in the mess hall who need to be taken to the brig." Vincent said sternly.

"We don't have a brig." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said quietly.

"Right." Vincent sighed, then continued, "Would you arrange for the Humans to be put in their quarters and the doors deactivated?"

"Yes, Major. I will see to it." Lieutenant Sa'Raal said firmly.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Contact me if you have any questions or concerns." Vincent said seriously.

"Yes, Major." Lieutenant Sa'Raal said professionally.

Vincent looked at the time and was surprised at how late it was.

"Major Vyorin, I'd like to go down to the mess hall to see for myself how things are. While I'm down there, I'll go ahead and take lunch. Are you ready to take command?" Vincent asked seriously.

"Yes." Major Vyorin said simply as she stood.

"We've maintained course and speed and there are no variances." Vincent said as he signed off the chair console.

"I have command." Major Vyorin said impassively.

"I stand relieved." Vincent said, then walked immediately to the turbolift.

* * * * *

As Vincent walked into the mess hall, he saw several tables and chairs gathered at one side of the room and a single crewman running a floor scrubbing machine.

"Do you need any help?" Vincent asked carefully.

"No. The cleaning will be completed in three point two nine minutes at which time food service will resume." The crewman said professionally.

"Was anything destroyed?" Vincent asked as he looked around.

The crewman looked up from what he was doing, then shut off the floor cleaner and stood to attention as he said, "Apologies, Major. I was intent on my duties and did not realize who you were."

"As you were, Crewman. I just wanted to know about the damage for my report to the captain." Vincent said calmly.

The crewman restarted the floor cleaner, then said, "No damage, as such. Three members of the crew were impacted by thrown foodstuffs and had to return to their quarters to clean themselves and their clothing."

"Do you have any idea of what started the fight?" Vincent asked curiously.

"No, sir. They were intoxicated when they arrived and they voiced their displeasure at our lack of... 'munchies'. Once their food selections were complete, they went to a table. Some time later, a verbal altercation erupted followed by thrown foodstuffs and physical violence." The crewman said as he continued to work.

"Was anyone hurt?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"No members of the crew were injured. The humans... forgive me... the three scientists might have had some superficial injuries, but no serious injuries were evident."

Vincent watched for a moment as the crewman finished running the floor cleaner.

When he saw the crewman starting to shift one of the tables back to its usual place in the dining room, Vincent hurried to say, "Let me help you."

The crewman quirked an eyebrow at him, but didn't make any protest as Vincent took the other end of the table and helped put it back in place.

* * * * *

With the two of them working, it didn't take long to get the mess hall back to its usual appearance.

"Would you care for some food, Major Winters?" The Crewman asked simply.

"Yes. Thank you." Vincent said as he walked to the serving line, then thought to ask, "Are you Crewman Syvar?"

"That is correct."

"Well, if those human scientists give you any more trouble, be sure to call me." Vincent said seriously.

"Should the need arise, I will do so." Crewman Syvar said simply.

With his full plate, Vincent walked to a table and began to eat.

Since it was nearing the middle of the overnight shift, people began to drift in to take their lunches.

"Thank you for your help, Major Winters." Crewman Syvar said as he placed a steaming mug of coffee on Vincent's table.

Vincent was surprised by the thoughtful gesture and quickly responded, "Thank you!"

Crewman Syvar gave a single nod of acknowledgement, then returned to the kitchen area.

When his meal was finished, Vincent sat for a few minutes and sipped his coffee as he watched the members of the crew interacting.

* * * * *

Vincent composed a report about the incident. There wasn't much to it, but it outlined the facts that Vincent had been able to discover. For the remainder of his shift, Vincent continued with his school work.

When the captain walked onto the bridge, Vincent immediately logged off and stood, then stepped aside.

"Report?" Captain T'Sudun asked as she sat and logged in.

"We have maintained course and speed. No variances." Vincent said smartly.

Captain T'Sudun looked at her console for a moment, then said, "I see that there was an altercation with the Human scientists. What action have you taken?"

"I had them subdued and returned to their quarters, then I had their door mechanisms deactivated. I thought that should hold them until you could decide what you wanted to do with them." Vincent said seriously.

"You appear to be working under a misconception. I expect to be consulted on matters that impact the operation of this ship. Inconsequential matters such as this are to be dealt with by the duty officer." Captain T'Sudun said firmly.

"Yes, Captain. I will take care of it." Vincent said seriously.

"I have command." Captain T'Sudun said simply.

"I stand relieved." Vincent responded professionally.

"Dismissed." Captain T'Sudun said as she went to work, reviewing something on the chair console.

Vincent went to one of the auxiliary consoles on the bridge and verified a few things before placing a call. "Engineering, could you possibly spare two of your crewmen for a few minutes to escort the human scientists to conference room one?"

"Yes. Would you like the power restored to their door mechanisms?" The engineer asked simply.

"Yes. Please restore the power." Vincent said decisively, then ended the transmission.

* * * * *

Vincent thought through what he intended to do as he waited for the Human scientists to arrive.

When the door opened, he realized that the men before him were somewhere in the nebulous area between hung-over and still drunk.

"Oh fuck! What now?" One of the men said as he somehow managed to get most of himself sitting in one of the chairs at the conference table.

Vincent looked at the two crewmen who had accompanied the scientists and said, "Thank you, I'll take care of them from here. Dismissed."

The two engineering crewmen exited the room as Vincent looked over the sorry sight of the three men before him.

It took a few minutes, but finally all three men focused their attention, such as it was, on Vincent who was glowering at them.

"At first, when I found out that I was going to have to decide what to do with you, I was going to search your cabins and take away your alcohol, then confine you to quarters until you figured out that being drunk and disruptive wasn't acceptable behavior." Vincent said seriously, then waited for a few minutes to let his words sink in.

"But, you know what? I'm not your mother. Just because I'm the only other Human on this ship doesn't mean that I have some kind of responsibility to take care of you." Vincent said firmly.

As far as Vincent could tell, the three men were listening to him, although he couldn't be certain that his words were getting through.

"So, here's the deal. If I get one more report of you three doing anything to disrupt the ship's operations or to inconvenience her crew, I'm going to stop at the next habitable planet and put you off the ship. And, from there, you'll have to find your own way home." Vincent finished in a low voice.

"You can't do that!" One of the men barked.

"Try me." Vincent said coldly.

There was a long moment of silence as the men appeared to be trying to gauge Vincent's seriousness.

"That's it. I'm done with you." Vincent said, then stalked out of the room.

* * * * *

After leaving the conference room, Vincent made his way back to his cabin to revise his earlier report about the incident and to establish what he had told the men would happen should there be another such occurrence.

As soon as his report was amended, Vincent went to the mess hall for a much needed and well deserved dinner.

As Vincent was filling his plate, a crewman approached and asked, "Would you care for some coffee, Major Winters?"

"No. Not at this time of day. But thank you for offering." Vincent said sincerely.

The crewman nodded, then returned to his other duties.

* * * * *

As Vincent was looking for a place to sit, he noticed that the navigation officer, Lieutenant Satok, was eating by himself.

"May I join you?" Vincent asked in Vulcan, as he approached.

"Please do." Lieutenant Satok automatically responded.

Vincent placed his tray on the table and took his seat.

"Do you feel a kinship with the members of our house?" Satok asked without prelude.

Vincent considered the question for a moment as he chewed his food, then carefully responded, "I feel pride in the history of Vulcan and of our house's place in that history. I feel a kinship with others who feel that pride."

Satok's expression was one of deep concentration as he calculated the permutations of Vincent's response.

Vincent continued to eat while Satok considered. Finally, he felt compelled to add, "It's like with those human scientists, tonight. There are humans that I respect and admire, but it's not because they're Human."

"You accept those who share your beliefs, but not those who don't?" Satok asked carefully.

Vincent thought as he chewed, then finally responded, "No. I feel kinship with those who share my beliefs. I accept those who I believe behave admirably."

"Major Winters, please contact communications. You have an incoming video transmission." Sounded from the intercom.

"Excuse me. I have to go. We'll talk again later." Vincent said as he gathered his dishes. Fortunately, he had been able to finish most of his meal before the call came.

"That would be acceptable." Lieutenant Satok said seriously.

Although there wasn't a 'logical' reason to believe so, Vincent still got the idea that somehow during their brief interaction, he and Lieutenant Satok had established the foundation of some sort of a relationship of mutual respect.

* * * * *

Once Vincent was back in his cabin, he went to his terminal and signed in.

"Communications, this is Major Winters. I'm ready to receive the transmission." Vincent said professionally.

There was a long moment of silence, then a man's image appeared on the screen. At first, Vincent thought that the image might be computer generated. He couldn't pin down exactly what it was, but the image somehow looked fake. Then the man spoke, and Vincent realized that it was the man, himself, that looked fake.

The man's hair was sculpted into an unrealistic parody of casual. His teeth seemed to be a shade or two too white. His skin was a shade or two too tan. Vincent got the sense that if they were in the same room, that the man's obscenely expensive cologne would be so strong that it would be offensive. Vincent had no problem imagining the man wearing a leisure suit, rather than a Starfleet uniform.

"Ensign Winters, I am Lieutenant Kildare from the Judge Advocate General's office. In reviewing for the upcoming proceedings regarding Chief Petty Officer Marks, I thought it prudent to inquire if you might have further information or wish to amend your initial report." Lieutenant Kildare said smoothly.

"Lieutenant Kildare, until my assignment on the T'Salanade ends, I carry the rank of Major. I don't know if it will make any difference in the official paperwork or not, but you should probably call me Major, just so everything's being done correctly." Vincent said carefully.

"As you like, Major Winters." Lieutenant Kildare grudgingly said.

"If you'll send me a copy of my report, I can look at it right now. For as big a deal as it turned out to be, I really didn't do that much." Vincent said honestly.

"You should keep your own copies of any sworn statements that you send to Starfleet." Lieutenant Kildare said as he sent the file.

"I do." Vincent said simply, then after accepting the file transfer, he continued, "But I'm not swearing under oath that my copy is correct."

"There shouldn't be any alteration once your report is submitted." Lieutenant Kildare said condescendingly.

"Yeah. And a lot of other things that shouldn't happen did after the whole control circuit mess." Vincent said frankly as he reviewed his report.

"If you'll just look this over to see if there's anything you need to add or amend, your part in the proceedings should be concluded." Lieutenant Kildare said somewhat impatiently.

"Give me a minute. That was a really long time ago and I want to be sure that everything is right." Vincent said absently.

"Take all the time you need." Lieutenant Kildare said flatly.

After a long moment of silence, Vincent finally said, "Yeah. This is right. It tells exactly what happened and I don't have anything to add."

"Thank you, En... Major Winters. This should conclude your part in this matter." Lieutenant Kildare said seriously.

"Good. But if you need me for anything else, you know where to find me." Vincent said with a smile.

"We've noticed that your name has come up quite a lot in regard to several matters. It is likely that someone from my office will be contacting you soon." Lieutenant Kildare said in a 'less than thrilled' tone of voice.

"I can't wait." Vincent said flatly.

"Starfleet JAG out." Lieutenant Kildare said simply.

"T'Salanade out." Vincent responded, then closed the transmission.

* * * * *

Vincent couldn't account for the tiredness that he was feeling, but since all his outstanding tasks had been completed, he couldn't think of any good reason not to go to bed.

He changed out of his uniform and went to bed without giving a thought to what he was doing. His mind was numb and some sort of autopilot assumed control of his actions.

The next thing he knew, he was in bed, wondering what T'Lani was doing, right at that moment.

* * * * *

When Vincent awoke, he felt well rested and noticed that the ache that he had come to expect upon waking was now completely absent.

He was glad that he had been able to reestablish his morning routine. He went down to his cargo bay and had an extensive workout. After that, he went to his cabin and had a luxurious shower... well, as luxurious as one can get with a sonic shower.

Following that, he went to breakfast and was able to enjoy two cups of coffee along with a satisfying meal.

The hours after breakfast were filled with intense schoolwork. Although he had spent a good portion of the previous night reading the materials, he found that he wasn't able to demonstrate his understanding mathematically.

By the time he was supposed to get ready for his shift, he was just beginning to grasp the underlying concepts that were being presented.

He felt that if he were to attempt to read the text again, with his adjusted point of view, that he might be able to draw more realistic and workable conclusions.

* * * * *

When Vincent arrived on the bridge, he found that they were travelling on the same course and at the same speed as when he had turned over command. There were no variances to report. Apparently, nothing at all had happened the entire day.

Vincent accepted command, and after a brief tour of the bridge to verify what he already knew, he started rereading his lessons on the chair console.

Breaks and lunches came and went, barely noticed. There were a few times near the end of his shift that Vincent caught himself staring blankly at the chair console screen but resolved himself to the task of taking full advantage of the time to study.

When Captain T'Sudun arrived, Vincent was able to say, nearly word for word, what had been said to him at the beginning of his shift.

* * * * *

Once he had made his way through the serving line and selected a reasonable dinner, Vincent found Sublieutenant T'Amarak and Sublieutenant Sehlk sitting together.

He automatically began by slipping into Vulcan as he asked, "Would you mind if I sit with you?"

"Please do." Sublieutenant T'Amarak immediately responded.

"How are you two doing this morning?" Vincent asked as he sat down.

"Very well." Sublieutenant T'Amarak responded for both of them.

"It seemed really quiet on the bridge last night. From the course and speed, it looks like we're probably going to have another week of the same before we arrive at our destination." Vincent said casually.

"I would not seek for it to be otherwise." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said simply.

Vincent laughed, then said, "Yes, excitement on the bridge usually isn't a good thing."

"I was interested to know, if you wouldn't mind sharing, what were you reading so intently during the shift?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked cautiously.

Vincent smiled at the question, then said, "Since there's not a whole lot going on during our shift, I decided that I would use that time to read my school work. When I'm off duty, I go ahead and do the exercises and try to use what I've been reading about."

"An admirable use of time." Sublieutenant Sehlk said with a slight nod of approval.

"Should you have need of assistance with your studies, I would be available." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said seriously.

"I'm doing okay, so far. But I'm really just getting started in this standard course of study. If I get to something that I can't figure out on my own, I may ask you for help later." Vincent said simply.

"Again, if you wouldn't mind saying, I am interested to know how you resolved the situation with the... humans." Sublieutenant Sehlk finished with a grimace at not finding a better term to describe them.

"Yeah. That was kind of tough. I don't have a lot of experience with things like that so I almost made a big mistake and tried to take responsibility for them and treat them like children." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"I do not understand." Sublieutenant Sehlk said slowly.

"I know. I think it's a human thing, but I'll try to explain." Vincent said carefully, then continued, "My first impulse was to do for them what they should be doing for themselves. As adults and scientists and guests, they should behave in a professional manner. So I was going to take away their alcohol and try to threaten or bully or shame them into acting the way they're supposed to."

"I have not had sufficient interaction with humans to know how to do any of those things." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said quietly.

"Trust me, it's a human thing that you don't need to worry about." Vincent said with a smile.

"What did you do to resolve the situation?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked curiously.

"I told them if they didn't behave properly, that I'd put them off the ship." Vincent said simply.

There was a long moment of silence as both sublieutenants considered his words.

Vincent continued to eat as he waited for their next questions.

"So, in essence, you let them know that their behavior would not be tolerated. Thus, causing them to take responsibility for their own actions, rather than you trying to control them." Sublieutenant Sehlk cautiously summarized.

"Yeah. The captain on my last ship was known for putting people off the ship who behaved disrespectfully. I don't know what Vulcan officers would usually do in the same situation, but it was the best answer that I could come up with." Vincent said honestly.

"I am unable to speculate as to what would be the preferred course of action. That is why I was curious to know what you had chosen to do." Sublieutenant Sehlk said seriously.

"That's good. I think the time while I was working as 'backup crew' was some of the best training that I could have ever gotten to prepare me for what I'm doing now. Not only was I able to work all the stations and get familiar with actually working them, but even when I wasn't on a station, I was there to see how the 'professionals' who worked there every day handled different situations and how the commanders made decisions." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"Is it common for Starfleet personnel to focus their attention on the position they desire rather than the position they have attained?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked curiously.

Vincent chuckled at the question, then said, "I don't think anything's common. Everyone does things their own way. But as for me, I was in the Starfleet Mentoring Program, so I learned my job by doing it and by watching the people around me. Because of that, I learned a lot about command while I was learning about everything else because I was on the bridge, paying attention."

"Such an approach would seem to make logical sense, but I cannot see a way in which the learning process could be replicated en masse." Sublieutenant Sehlk said thoughtfully.

"No. And it probably wouldn't work for everyone, anyway. But a few lucky people get to learn the job from the inside out. People like us get to witness the command styles of different officers so that we can choose what we think works best." Vincent said frankly.

"People like us?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Like I said before, I was doing your job not too long ago. You have to be aware of what's going on at every station, in case you need to take over. You get to see how everyone else does their jobs and the command styles of the different duty officers. I mean, I guess you don't have to do anything with all that information, but it seems like the most logical thing to do would be to evaluate it and decide what works best and what you would choose to do in the same circumstances." Vincent explained carefully.

"Please allow me to verify, you see me as being as you are?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked cautiously.

"Sure. You've got the skills. You already work all the stations on the bridge. You've got a curious nature, or you wouldn't be sitting here asking me about stuff. If you can manage to find a command style that works for you, I can't see any reason that you wouldn't be a really good commanding officer, someday. I mean, if that's what you want to do." Vincent said frankly.

"Thus far, I have not been in a supervisory position. The concept of 'command' seems somewhat nebulous to me. Some people seem to have an assertive nature that is well suited to the task. I do not believe that I am one such person." Sublieutenant Sehlk said carefully.

"I was talking to my cousin about this just a few days ago. What I told him is that it's not as much about telling people what to do as it is knowing what to do. When you're in command, and you know what needs to be done, organizing people and getting them to do it is the easy part." Vincent said seriously.

"So, as an example, when you were faced with the situation with the Human scientists, your first decision was what was to be done to negate their aberrant behavior, and your subsequent actions were to carry out that primary decision." Sublieutenant Sehlk asked thoughtfully.

"Yes. Trying to tell people what to do before you have a plan makes no sense." Vincent confirmed.

"Now that I understand your reasoning, I can see the logic of your actions." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said seriously, then continued, "Initially, I did not follow the reasoning when you called engineering for assistance. The choice seemed somewhat... random."

Vincent smiled before saying, "I just thought that the people in engineering have to be strong and smart to do their jobs. So, even if we were on a human vessel, the engineering crew would probably be the most capable of doing the job. Well, assuming that we don't have security. They're trained to handle situations like that."

"Do such incidents frequently occur on Human vessels?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked curiously.

Vincent laughed, then said, "No. At least, not on my ship."

"I am curious to know how Captain T'Sudun or Major Sunaak would have reacted to a similar situation." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said seriously.

"Me, too." Vincent said honestly, then continued, "If I'd seen one of them handle something like this before, then I probably would have done it their way, because I'd feel like it was the correct way to handle things on a Vulcan ship."

"I cannot speculate as to their actions, but I doubt they could have come to a better resolution." Sublieutenant Sehlk said confidently.

"Well, I guess we'll find out. If either of them think that I should have handled things differently, I'm pretty sure that they'll let me know." Vincent said frankly.

"If that were to happen, could you perhaps inform me of their advice? I would be interested to know what other possible course of action could have been taken in that situation." Sublieutenant Sehlk asked hopefully.

"Sure. If they say anything to me, I'll let you know." Vincent said warmly.

"If you will excuse me, I have a number of correspondences that I am committed to respond to in the coming hours." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said as she stood.

"Yeah. After doing all that reading, I have a ton of exercises that I have to work through to be sure that I actually understand everything. After that, I've got a whole bunch of historic timelines to plot out so that I can be ready for my reading during tonight's shift." Vincent said as he too got up from his chair.

"I believe a variety of comparative historic timelines are available for download from the Vulcan Academy of Science." Sublieutenant Sehlk said cautiously.

"Yeah. I've seen them. But if I don't plot it out for myself, I'm not going to remember it. Once I've plotted my own, then I'll go back and compare it with the downloaded ones to be sure that I haven't missed anything important." Vincent said unenthusiastically.

"It appears that you must work far harder than a Vulcan to achieve the same level of understanding." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said cautiously.

"Well, to be honest, my wife helped me to compartmentalize my mind so that I could learn things a little bit easier. I still have to work to learn stuff, but not as hard as some other Humans might have to. And I think there's some stuff that Humans are just naturally better at, like art and literature and stuff like that. I mean, Vulcans can still do all that stuff, but I think that because Humans are used to dealing with emotions every day, we don't have to work as hard at understanding it." Vincent finished with a smile.

"Perhaps." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said thoughtfully.

"Good morning, Major Winters. Thank you for joining us. Have a good day." Sublieutenant Sehlk said in very precise English.

"Good morning, Sublieutenant Sehlk. I hope we will be able to share meals together often." Vincent responded slowly and respectfully.

"I feel our conversations are quite productive." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said seriously.

"Yeah. They usually give me a lot to think about." Vincent said with a smile.

Once Vincent had dropped off his dinnerware, he went to his cabin to do a little studying before he went to bed.

* * * * *

"Major Winters, you have an incoming diplomatic transmission." A male voice said from the intercom, interrupting his sleep.

Vincent glanced at the clock as he got out of bed and walked to the computer.

"This is Major Winters, I'm ready to receive my transmission." Vincent said as he tried to get his eyes to fully open.

"Vincent? Did I wake you up?" Cory asked with concern.

"Yeah. But it's no big deal. My alarm was going to go off in a little bit anyway. What's up?" Vincent asked curiously.

"It's been a few days since you left and I was wanting to see how you're doing." Cory said honestly.

"I'm doing fine. Thanks for arranging this for me. I'm learning a lot." Vincent said honestly.

"Good. I knew that you could do it. I just wasn't sure that you'd be happy about it." Cory said frankly.

Vincent giggled, then said, "Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn't really sure at first. But I've got a really good captain and a great crew. I learned a lot from Captain Byrne and the command staff of the Yorktown, but now I think that I'm learning the stuff that other people can't teach you. It's the stuff you have to figure out for yourself."

"That's exactly what I wanted for you, Vincent." Cory said peacefully.

"How are things back on Earth?" Vincent asked quietly.

"We're busy. As word spreads about the Safe Haven Act, there's more and more for us to do. But, as much work as it is, I wouldn't have it any other way. We're doing a lot of good." Cory said honestly.

"I was just talking to someone last night, he's also a member of the House of Surak. We were discussing kinship. While we were talking, I realized just how much honor you bring to our house." Vincent said seriously.

"We, Vincent." Cory said simply.

After a moment, Vincent smiled and reluctantly said, "Yeah. We."

* * * * *

They had a long conversation after that, mostly catching Vincent up on how everyone was doing.

Vincent told about his visit with his cousins and his time at Chip's house.

When the call was finally finished, Vincent dressed, worked out, ate breakfast and returned to his cabin for a shower before settling in for a long and productive study session.

When he arrived on the bridge, once again, they had maintained course and speed and there were no variances to report.

Vincent checked for himself that everything was proceeding normally before settling in at the command chair to begin an evening of study.

* * * * *

While concentrating on his reading, Vincent was aware of the sound of the doors opening and someone walking onto the bridge. However, it was such a common occurrence, that he didn't bother to look up to see who it was.

"Excuse me." A man's voice said quietly.

When Vincent looked up, any good mood or sense of peace that he might have unknowingly been feeling was suddenly absent.

"Dr. Peavey, how may I help you?" Vincent asked without a hint of emotion behind his words.

"We were talking and thought, you know, since you're human..." Dr. Peavey trailed off and seemed to have run out of steam.

Vincent gave a Vulcanesque raise of one eyebrow as he waited for the man to continue.

"Well, I mean, we just thought you might like to come down to my cabin, we're all going to meet there, and have kind of a Christmas party." Dr. Peavey said cautiously.

"Your last party nearly got you thrown off the ship. Do you really think that's such a good idea?" Vincent asked carefully.

"We've been careful about the drinking since then and... c'mon, it's Christmas." Dr. Peavey urged him to understand.

"Well, it's not like you've been restraining yourselves for weeks and months. That was two days ago." Vincent said frankly.

"Yeah. We just thought that since we're all away from our homes and our families, and since it's Christmas..." Dr. Peavey began to say when he was interrupted.

"Yes. I'll stop by, at least for a little while. You're right, it'd be wrong if I didn't do something for Christmas. Thank you for inviting me." Vincent said carefully.

"Yeah. We'll see you tomorrow night, around eight, is that alright? Is that too early for you?" Dr. Peavey asked cautiously.

"That's fine, I'll see you at 20:00." Vincent said calmly.

"Good. We'll see you then." Dr. Peavey said in a rush, then hurried away.

As Dr. Peavey passed through the doorway, Vincent absently said, "Dismissed." Then went back to his reading.

* * * * *

The rest of the shift came and went, mostly without notice.

Vincent ended up eating his dinner with Lieutenant Tolek and spent the majority of the meal talking with him about helm operations.

When Vincent told Lieutenant Tolek about the comments that were made when the Yorktown had been docking upside down at Coffelt, he could have sworn that Lieutenant Tolek almost betrayed a smile.

Although Lieutenant Tolek wasn't very chatty company, Vincent had the sense that Tolek was the perfect foil for his sometimes dry humor.

* * * * *

When Vincent woke, it was with an awareness that a potentially unpleasant task lay before him.

Even though he went through his usual morning routine, including the workout, Vincent decided that, since it was Christmas Eve, he would allow himself the indulgence of a day off from studying.

As Vincent thought back on Christmases past, he felt that it had always been something of a mixed bag. Of course, the gifts were the high point in his estimation. But looking at it realistically, most of the rest was about as much fun as a growth spurt.

His mom would work and slave in the kitchen for days to prepare. His dad would huff and fume about... whatever was pissing him off that particular day. He and Lawrence would do their best to stay out of the way. Then on Christmas, it would all come together as something of a perfect storm.

Either his father would explode about something or his mom would run off in a crying fit. Then he and Lawrence would be walking on eggshells around both of them until they could find a way to escape.

Then, of course, there was the dreaded Christmas dinner. All of them gathered around the table, sitting silently, waiting to see who was going to misstep, misspeak or do whatever it was to unleash the full holiday fury.

Finally, Vincent came to the conclusion that spending Christmas Eve with the Human scientists would, in a way, be carrying on the family tradition of misery and heartache that he had become accustomed to.

It just wouldn't feel like Christmas without it.

* * * * *

Vincent was anxious as he pressed the button to request entry.

His dislike for the men was a contributing factor in his unease, but then there was the fact of Christmas, itself.

He really didn't feel like celebrating. In fact, he honestly didn't feel like acknowledging the holiday at all.

The fact that he was on a Vulcan ship, traveling away from Earth, would seem to be custom tailored to his desire, except... there was still a part of him that wanted to hang on to something that, for better or worse, had always been a part of his life.

"You made it! Come on in!" Dr. Peavey said happily.

Vincent walked into the cabin and looked around cautiously.

Although he had never actually been in a dorm room before, he had a sneaking suspicion that this was what one looked like.

There were piles of dirty clothes, here and there. Dirty dishes were collected on nearly every level surface. And a surprising abundance of, presumably empty, beer cans were scattered, stacked and otherwise cluttering the entire room.

"Are you really 'The Hero of Kimber'?" Another of the men asked suddenly.

"That's what some people call me. Who are you?" Vincent asked seriously.

"Oh, I'm Dr. Keele from Texas Tech." The man answered proudly.

"An Aggie, that explains a few things." Vincent said with a teasing smile.

Dr. Peavey and the other man broke into immediate laughter at the response.

Vincent turned his attention to the third man and looked at him speculatively before saying, "We have Oklahoma and Texas... So, are you from Nevada?"

"Wisconsin." The man said quietly.

"Nice to meet you, Wisconsin. You guys can call me Vincent, if you want." Vincent said with a smile.

"Feel free to call me Wisconsin, but my name is Dr. Hosein."

"Let me think about it." Vincent said with a grin.

"I don't know how much of a Christmas party this is going to be. I mean, we don't have a tree or presents or... anything, really. But it just felt like we should do something since it's Christmas Eve." Dr. Peavey said frankly.

"This is fine. If you hadn't invited me, I would've just treated this like any other day. I think it's probably right that I should do something." Vincent said frankly.

"Come on, have a seat." Dr. Peavey said as he gestured toward the couch, then asked, "So you're really third in command of the entire ship?"

Vincent walked to the couch and began to move wadded clothes and various other debris to clear a place for him to sit as he said, "Yeah. I was trained to be an officer on the USS Yorktown. I just got my commission when we arrived back at Earth and my first assignment was aboard the T'Salanade."

"Spence got the word that there was a science expedition headed out this way and called us to see if we wanted to try for it." Dr. Hosein said seriously.

"Which one is Spence?" Vincent asked as he looked around. Although he had briefly looked at their personnel files after 'the incident', he honestly didn't care enough to commit their information to memory.

"Dr. Spencer Peavey, at your service." Dr. Peavey said with a smile.

"Got it." Vincent said with a nod.

"I'm Roger and he's Lee." Dr. Hosein said as he indicated Dr. Keele.

"I heard stories going around about 'The Hero of Kimber' before I left Earth. I never would have thought that I'd ever meet you." Dr. Hosein said with a grin.

"Well, I don't know how big of a deal it really is, but here I am. If there's anything you want to know, go ahead and ask." Vincent said simply.

The three men had matching lost looks. Obviously, none of them had thought that far ahead.

"Did they end up doing a parade or anything for you?" Dr. Peavey finally asked.

Vincent laughed, then said, "No. Not really. I mean, the people at the New Hope colony did this thing where they named me as their first citizen and gave me a house. Then, when I got back to Earth, my Clan had this really big party. That's about it."

"Why did the people at this other colony give you a house?" Dr. Peavey asked in confusion.

"Oh, the people at the New Hope colony are the people from the old Kimber IV colony." Vincent explained, then added, "And they had a whole lot more houses than people, so they had an extra one that they could give me."

"So you've got your own house. That's really something." Dr. Peavey said frankly.

"Yeah. It's nice to know that when my wife and I get some time off, that we'll have someplace to go that's all ours." Vincent said honestly.

"Wow. You're really thinking ahead. You're just barely a teenager and you're already planning for when you're married." Dr. Keele said in astonishment.

"Um, yeah. I guess you guys haven't figured this part out yet, but because of a whole lot of stuff I ended up being a Vulcan citizen. On Vulcan, your age doesn't have anything to do with being an adult. Because of the stuff I did at Kimber, my Vulcan grandfather decided that I earned my adulthood." Vincent said carefully.

"I guess that's one way of doing it." Dr. Keele said cautiously.

"Yeah. Well, Vulcans also have arranged marriages. So when I was declared an adult, another Vulcan house contacted my grandfather about me getting married. When I found out about it and found out who it was, I said that I wanted to." Vincent said as he watched for their reactions.

"So you're not talking about 'someday'. You've really got a house and a wife?" Dr. Peavey asked to confirm.

"Yeah. My wife is on Vulcan right now, studying to be a doctor." Vincent said frankly.

"That's some crazy shit." Dr. Keele muttered, then said a quick, "Sorry."

"I've heard worse." Vincent said with a smile.

"So, what're you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?" Dr. Peavey asked curiously.

"Learning about being in command by doing it." Vincent said honestly.

"God! When I was your age, space was something so far away and unreal to me that I didn't even dream about it." Dr. Keele said with a shake of his head.

"What are you guys doing out here, anyway? I mean, what's your project?" Vincent asked curiously.

"When Spence heard about the collapsing wormhole, he got in touch with Roger and found out that Roger had a theory that he wanted to try out. They got in touch with me because I had the hardware that they'd need to pull it off. All three of us are tenured and were able to get the time off for a research project, so... here we are." Dr. Keele finished with a smile.

"Okay, but what's your project? I didn't see it in the itinerary." Vincent asked again.

"Oh, yeah. As soon as the wormhole's completely collapsed, we're going to shoot a neutrino pulse at it to see if it can revive it." Dr. Peavey answered.

Vincent thought for a moment, then cautiously asked, "I don't know a whole lot about wormholes, but why do you think a neutrino pulse would have any effect at all?"

"A few years back, I was going back through some historical Vulcan astronomical data about wormholes and found an anomalous neutrino reading that couldn't be explained. The Vulcans thought that it was just a one off thing that didn't have anything to do with the wormhole collapse. And it might have been. But just in case it wasn't, I came up with a mathematical equation that uses neutrinos as a stabilizing factor in the overall structure. So, if my theory is right, then a neutrino pulse might temporarily revive a collapsed wormhole. Chances are that I'm wrong, but we're out here to prove or disprove it, once and for all." Dr. Hosein said professionally.

Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "Okay, so when everyone else is completely done with everything that they're doing, you're going to launch a probe and do a neutrino pulse, just to see what happens?" Vincent asked to verify his understanding.

"That's pretty much it." Dr. Peavey said frankly.

"Do you already have everything scheduled with Major T'Sunol?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Is that the one that's the head of sciences?" Dr. Peavey asked cautiously.

Vincent nodded.

"No. We haven't really talked to her yet. She's always so busy, I figured that we'd wait until we're closer. All we need to do is fire one little probe. I'm sure she'll be able to work it in." Dr. Peavey finished with a smile.

"You don't work around Vulcans much, do you?" Vincent asked incredulously.

"No. But I figure science is science. It's the same for them as us, so if I know it's gonna work, then there's no problem." Dr. Peavey said frankly.

"Well, the problem with your theory is that Vulcans are really good at planning everything down to the nth degree. If you drop this on her at the last minute, she might just say 'no'. And since she's the head of sciences, that'll be the end of it." Vincent said honestly.

"I guess I'll talk to her sometime tomorrow, after I've had a chance to sober up." Dr. Peavey said wearily.

Vincent looked at him curiously.

"We're going to get hammered, tonight. It's Christmas Eve. Just accept it, it's going to happen." Dr. Peavey explained.

"I'll never understand Humans." Vincent said with a shake of his head.

"Don't worry. We heard you the other day. We're going to keep it in the cabin and not cause anybody else any trouble." Dr. Peavey promised.

"I guess that's fair." Vincent finally conceded.

"I think that's enough business talk. It's time to get this party started. Do you want some eggnog?" Dr. Keele asked with a smile.

Vincent made a show of looking around the cabin before saying, "I have to be on duty in a few hours, that's probably not a good idea."

Dr. Keele slowly nodded, then said, "Yeah. Probably not. We didn't have any eggs anyway, this is more like 'nog-nog'."

"I don't want to know." Vincent chuckled.

* * * * *

Once Vincent had accepted command, he made a quick round of the bridge before putting in a request for Major T'Sunol to contact him at her convenience.

A few minutes later, Major T'Sunol walked onto the bridge and asked, "You requested to speak with me?"

"Yes. Thank you, Major. I just wanted to tell you that I spoke with the Human scientists. One of them is probably going to contact you tomorrow to arrange the details of their project. Since I didn't see any reference to their project in my mission briefing, I wanted to be sure that you would be able to make accommodations for them." Vincent said seriously.

"Unless their project has grown in scope from the initial proposal, it shouldn't impact any of the other projects. However, it will be good to have the details verified so the timetable can be finalized." Major T'Sunol said carefully.

"From what they told me, they plan to launch a probe to emit a neutrino pulse near the collapsed wormhole aperture." Vincent said informatively.

"I can see no scientific value in this pursuit." Major T'Sunol said frankly.

"Neither can I. But if they do it and nothing happens, just like we're expecting, then years from now, anyone who has the same idea can look back and see that it's already been proven to be a waste of time. And because of that, doing it this once, isn't a waste of time." Vincent finished with a smile.

Major T'Sunol stared at Vincent for a moment, apparently at a loss for words.

"Yeah. I know. Human reasoning can sometimes make the stupidest things sound almost logical." Vincent said with a grin.

"Almost." Major T'Sunol said slowly.

"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that one of the Human scientists will probably be down to see you as soon as he's sobered up. I wouldn't expect him before noon." Vincent said frankly.

Major T'Sunol appeared to be about to say something, but in the end seemed to think better of it.

"If there is nothing else, you are dismissed." Vincent said as he fought to restrain his grin.

* * * * *

The rest of the shift went by without incident.

Vincent had been half expecting to receive a report about the Human scientists and their drunken antics.

When he was in the mess hall, making his dinner selections, Major Vyorin walked up to him and quietly said, "I would speak with you."

Vincent was surprised by the statement, but quickly answered, "Yeah. If you'll get a table for us, I'll be right there."

* * * * *

Once he had sat down, Major Vyorin quietly said, "I have requested reassignment to another shift."

"Oh? Is there something wrong?" Vincent asked curiously.

"No. Not at all." Major Vyorin said carefully, then explained, "I was initially scheduled to work the third shift to serve as backup in the event that you were unable to fulfill your duties. But in light of your performance, I believe that it would be most advantageous if I were to return to my customary position on second shift and allow Lieutenant Sarpk to take my place. I believe he would benefit from the experience of working with you."

"Yeah. I thought that's why you were there. But, I'll still be sorry to see you leave my shift. Whenever I went to lunch or got caught up in something else, I was never worried because I knew you were there and that if anything came up, I knew you could handle it." Vincent said frankly, then added, "But if you think it's better this way, I'll trust your judgement."

"Although your command style may be unconventional, I find it to be acceptable. It is my hope that Lieutenant Sarpk will observe your style of command and allow himself to explore possibilities that he had not previously considered." Major Vyorin said carefully.

"I'll do my best to help him." Vincent said with a smile.

"I believe that you will. Tonight, Lieutenant Sarpk will be your second. But if in future, you find that you have need of assistance, you have only to ask." Major Vyorin said calmly.

"Same here. If you need anything, just call." Vincent said with a smile.

Major Vyorin inclined her head in a solemn nod of acceptance, then left his table.

Vincent sat and slowly ate his breakfast as he considered Major Vyorin's words. Although he didn't want to see her go, he accepted her decision as the compliment that it was. In the end, he summarized the entire event in two words. Merry Christmas.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

This was a very interesting chapter, in that it shows that when you are on a ship which is not one of the Glory crowned top of the line vessels, so to speak, such as the Enterprise or the Yorktown, things don't always consist of one brilliant adventure after another, day in and day out.

On this assignment, it seems that Vincent is learning that in the day to day world of interstellar space, things happen much more slowly and infrequently than what he is used to.

I am also noticing that Vincent, as is often the case, is giving other people cause to think twice before writing him off as just a privileged kid who got dumped in their midst and who will have to be baby sat, while they do all the work.

Right from the start, he is doing his part and taking the responsibility of learning just what is going on and why it is happening, as well as contributing his own insights to the job at hand, and generally being quite a useful member of the team.

I am really enjoying this storyline, and am ready to continue as soon as I can.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher