Universe Alpha 7:
The Reflection of Home

Copyright © 2015 by MultiMapper and CSU Productions
All Rights Reserved

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Chapter 51 - Where Greatness Dwells

Vincent was already up and halfway dressed before he realized that it was Christmas morning. Well, technically it was after noon, but it was morning to him.

As he went through his morning workout routine, he thought about what, if anything, he wanted to do to mark the occasion.

By the time he got back to his cabin, he had decided that the holiday was the perfect excuse to send messages to all his friends, all over the universe.

Since he had written to everyone recently, he didn't have much to say except 'Merry Christmas' and to tell them that he was doing fine. But it still felt good to have people in his life that he cared about, and wanted to share even that little bit with them.

Once his correspondence was all taken care of, he stopped by the mess hall for a good breakfast and some much needed coffee before settling in for some serious studying.

The history lessons were absolutely enthralling. While he had never had a particular interest in history when he was back on earth, he was surprised to find that comparing how different societies progressed through the various stages of development was not only interesting, but somewhat addictive.

Vincent even toyed with the idea of contacting Tyce to get some Okudai historical information, just to see how it stacked up against the Federation worlds.

* * * * *

All too soon, the time arrived for Vincent to begin his shift.

When Vincent walked onto the bridge, he noticed Major Vyorin was in the process of handing the science station over to Lieutenant Sarpk.

Although he would like to have stopped by to speak with Major Vyorin for a moment, it was time for him to take command.

"Starfleet has restricted travel on our initial course. We have calculated a new course to bypass the restricted area. This should not impact our projected arrival at the coordinates of the micro-wormhole. I have no other variances to report." Major Sunaak said professionally.

"I have command." Vincent responded calmly, then sat down in the command chair to sign in.

"I stand relieved." Major Sunaak said formally. A moment later, he said more quietly, "Please inform me if the absence of Major Vyorin causes you an inconvenience. I have no intention for it to be so."

"I think we'll be alright. But I'll let you know." Vincent said as he studied the new course.

Major Sunaak nodded once, then left the bridge.

Vincent looked at their projected course for a few minutes, then made an inquiry of the computer.

Since the most direct route to their destination was off limits, they were projected to take a more circuitous route. Their projected course was so unlikely that Vincent was interested to know if they would be travelling through 'virgin territory'.

It took a moment for the computer to poll Starfleet Command for the requested information, but finally he got the result that he expected.

He switched the view on his chair console to look at the particulate matter flow while doing a quick check for any anomalous EM readings.

Vincent had become familiar enough with particulate matter movement to recognize the pattern of the matter flow to be something other than usual.

By the look of the 'fanned out' pattern of the particles, it seemed possible that there might be something with a significant gravity well in the vicinity. As he continued to watch, he was able to discern more of a pattern and finally said, "Lieutenant Sarpk, would you focus scans on heading three oh one mark one seven and give me an evaluation?"

"Yes, Sir." Lieutenant Sarpk said immediately.

"Lieutenant Satok, would you plot a parabolic course z minus sixteen thousand kilometer arc to take us back to our current projected course in about two hours?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Yes, Sir." Lieutenant Satok said seriously.

"Lieutenant Tolek, stand by for evasive maneuvers. I can't promise that we'll need them, but it's best to be safe." Vincent said as he looked at the science station anxiously.

"Major Winters, although I have insufficient evidence to say with certainty, preliminary readings suggest that the phenomenon at three oh one mark one seven may, in fact, be a quantum filament." Lieutenant Sarpk said carefully.

"Yeah. I figured it was something like that. Some kids get toys, some kids get bikes. What do I get for Christmas? A quantum filament in my path!" Vincent groused, then noticed that everyone was waiting for his instructions.

"Lieutenant Sarpk, do you think you can get me an idea of the orientation of that thing?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"I will attempt to do so." Lieutenant Sarpk said immediately.

"Sublieutenant T'Amarak, would you contact Vulcan High Command and Starfleet and let them know that if anyone else is trying to detour around their 'off limits' zone, that they need to be careful if they come this way." Vincent said seriously.

"I will advise." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said professionally.

"My readings indicate a possible orientation of two hundred fifteen mark seven seven degrees and a six degree nutation." Lieutenant Sarpk said carefully.

"Talk about doing the exact wrong thing..." Vincent muttered to himself, then said more loudly, "Lieutenant Satok, why don't we try that parabolic course with plus sixteen thousand kilometers? Lieutenant Sarpk, when you've completed your scans, compose a scientific assessment to submit to Vulcan High Command and Starfleet."

"Yes, Sir." Both men said immediately.

Vincent glanced at the particulate overlay image on the chair console for a moment as he waited.

"Course plotted and laid in." Lieutenant Satok said seriously.

Vincent brought the plotted course up on his screen and briefly looked it over before saying, "Good work. Lieutenant Tolek, change course, maintain speed."

"Yes, Sir." Lieutenant Tolek said immediately.

* * * * *

As Vincent was filling out his report on the incident, Lieutenant Sarpk walked to the command chair and waited to be acknowledged.

"How can I help you, Lieutenant?" Vincent asked as he looked up.

"I am curious to know... how were you able to detect a quantum filament at such a distance while we were traveling at warp?" Lieutenant Sarpk asked seriously.

"Well, my assignment before this one was on the USS Yorktown. There have been a few times when we were traveling through 'virgin territory' that we've run into unexpected things. One of my commanding officers is in the habit of watching the particulate matter flow patterns, and I've started doing that, too. At least, I do that when we're not on established trade routes." Vincent said frankly.

"I fail to see how particulate matter flow patterns would divulge the presence of a quantum filament." Lieutenant Sarpk said cautiously.

"Let me show you." Vincent said as he got up from the command chair.

Lieutenant Sarpk looked at Vincent uncertainly, but finally followed him to the sciences station.

With a few quick presses of keys, Vincent had the particulate matter flow pattern on the screen.

"I guess it helps if you look at these things a lot. You kind of get used to what's normal and what isn't." Vincent said seriously.

"I see no discernable pattern." Lieutenant Sarpk said slowly.

"That's because there isn't one. We're in 'virgin territory' so there's no ships zipping through here to make waves and ripples. All you've got here is random dust. But, now let me show you what I saw as we were approaching the quantum filament." Vincent said as he brought up another image.

Lieutenant Sarpk examined the new image carefully.

"Do you see that 'fan' pattern, right there at the top edge? Something like that can be caused by a few things, and none of them are good." Vincent said frankly.

"I see the pattern." Lieutenant Sarpk said hesitantly.

"Now, look at this." Vincent said as he superimposed another image over the particulate matter pattern.

"I do not see anything." Lieutenant Sarpk said carefully.

"Yeah. And that's your first clue that there's a problem. The disruption of the particulate matter flow shows that there's a gravity well of some sort, but general scans and a visual survey don't show anything causing it. So, when I figured that out, I knew there was some kind of a problem. Until you did an intense scan, I couldn't be sure if it was a micro-black hole or a dark matter planetoid or what. But whatever it was, I knew that we didn't need to be running into it." Vincent said frankly.

"The logic seems circuitous." Lieutenant Sarpk said cautiously.

"Yeah. You go with what works." Vincent said frankly.

"Major Winters, Starfleet has issued an advisory for ships in this sector regarding the quantum filament." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said efficiently.

"Good. Thank you." Vincent said to her, then looked back at Lieutenant Sarpk and asked, "Did you have any more questions?"

"No. Not at this time. Thank you, Major." Lieutenant Sarpk said respectfully.

"Well, if you have questions later, please feel free to ask." Vincent said before returning to his command chair.

* * * * *

Once all his reports had been completed and filed, Vincent finally got around to the business of reading his study materials. Understandably, he kept one eye on the particulate matter overlay, but the chances of running into two distinct, unrelated astronomical phenomena in the same shift were... well, astronomical.

When he came to a good stopping point in his reading, Vincent walked to the science station and found Lieutenant Sarpk working through some very high level, complicated equations.

When Sarpk looked up from his work and noticed Vincent's presence, he quirked an eyebrow in inquiry.

"Whenever you're at a good stopping point, let me know and I'll go to lunch." Vincent said carefully.

"I can take command now, if you are prepared." Lieutenant Sarpk said seriously.

"I don't want to interrupt." Vincent said frankly.

"This project can wait until later. I was simply trying to verify that what we encountered was, in fact, a quantum filament. My scans were inconclusive, however I believe that by eliminating other possibilities, I may be able to narrow it down to either a quantum filament or something we have never encountered before." Lieutenant Sarpk explained.

"Let me know what you come up with." Vincent said with a smile, then continued, "Well, if you're ready to take command, I'm ready to eat."

"I have command." Lieutenant Sarpk said professionally.

"I stand relieved." Vincent responded, then left the bridge.

* * * * *

When the captain walked onto the bridge to begin her shift, Vincent signed off the chair console and stood aside.

"We are proceeding on course at recommended speed. I have one variation to report." Vincent said smartly.

"Proceed." Captain T'Sudun said as she signed in.

"I detected an anomalous reading and Lieutenant Sarpk identified it as possibly being a quantum filament. We altered course to bypass the phenomenon and returned to our projected course once we were past it." Vincent said carefully.

"Quantum filaments are difficult to detect. They do not show on standard scans." Captain T'Sudun said as she read his report.

"Yes, Captain." Vincent said professionally.

"Your report of the incident appears to be acceptable. Dismissed." Captain T'Sudun said simply.

Vincent gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, then left the bridge.

* * * * *

When Vincent finished making his dinner selections, he noticed that Lieutenant Sarpk was in line, filling his plate.

"Would you like to sit with me?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Yes, Sir." Lieutenant Sarpk said without betraying any emotion.

"I'll get us a table."

* * * * *

Once Lieutenant Sarpk had taken his seat, Vincent quietly asked, "So, were you able to rule out all the other possibilities?"

"Not as yet. The readings that we took could indicate a number of different phenomena." Lieutenant Sarpk said simply.

"Well, at least we didn't hit it. That's the big thing." Vincent said frankly.

Lieutenant Sarpk gave a slight nod of agreement.

"I'm glad you were there last night, to back me up. The science station is one of my worst things. I mean, I know how to work it, but to do what you did, finding out that thing was a quantum filament, that probably would have taken me half the night." Vincent said seriously.

"Perhaps you know more than you realize. When you alerted me to the anomaly, I was intently studying the forward scanners. I saw no indication of anything out of the ordinary." Lieutenant Sarpk said simply.

"Yeah. Well, I think the last time I used the particle overlay was when I found a recent warp trail in what was supposed to be 'virgin territory', I followed it and found a crashed ship with four survivors."

"It seems unlikely that one of your age would have the mental discipline to command a starship. And, by the fact that you are Human, I would expect some degree of irrationality and emotionalism. However, having seen you perform your duties, I can find no fault in your actions." Lieutenant Sarpk said seriously.

Vincent nodded as he thought about the words, and finally said, "Yeah. To be honest, I've just worked with some really great people. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. I mean, they helped teach me the job and stuff, and that's important, but I think the biggest thing they did was let me be there and see them doing their jobs. I got to see how different people acted when they were in command and then I figured out what I thought worked best."

Lieutenant Sarpk sat quietly, with a considering look for a moment, while Vincent ate.

"If I may ask, what were you told about my assignment to your shift?" Lieutenant Sarpk asked quietly.

"Major Vyorin said that she'd rather be on 2nd shift. I don't think I was told anything more than your name." Vincent said honestly.

"In evaluations, I have been told that I do not instill respect. When I am in command, the persons in my charge do not have confidence in my decisions." Lieutenant Sarpk said quietly.

Vincent gave a long sigh, then said, "Yeah. I know what that feels like."

"How could you possibly know?" Lieutenant Sarpk asked incredulously.

"Because every time I work with someone new, they take one look at me and figure that I can't possibly do my job. What I've figured out is that no matter what they think of me, I've still got a job to do. If I need them to do something to get that job done, I tell them. That's it." Vincent said frankly.

Vincent went back to eating as Lieutenant Sarpk seemed to be lost in thought.

"I don't know what else to do. I follow the rules to the letter." Lieutenant Sarpk confided quietly.

"Well, there's your first problem. The rules are the boundaries of your job, they're not the job." Vincent said frankly.

"I do not understand." Lieutenant Sarpk said cautiously.

"Like on the bridge last night. My job was to get this ship to where it's supposed to go, on time and with everyone safe. So, I did what I had to do to make that happen and when I needed you guys' help, I asked for it." Vincent said simply.

After a moment of thought, Lieutenant Sarpk cautiously said, "It couldn't be that easy."

"No. It's not always easy. But you get in there and do your job, the best you can, whether it's easy or not. We're not here because of the easy days when everything goes right. We're here for the nights like last night. Even if nothing else happens on the rest of our trip, we earned our pay and proved our rank last night." Vincent said seriously.

After a long moment to think it over, Lieutenant Sarpk quietly said, "We did, didn't we?"

* * * * *

When Vincent got back to his cabin, he had a few messages waiting for him. None of them were anything urgent. Mostly they were just responses to the emails he had sent the previous day.

Once all his replies were sent, he decided to do a quick review of the mission briefing materials. He was happy to find that Dr. Peavey must have spoken with Major T'Sunol, because the neutrino pulse project had been added to the itinerary.

Once he felt that he had the revised timetable firmly in mind, he began the process of getting ready for bed.

As he lay, on the edge of sleep, he thought to himself that all things considered, it had been a good day.

* * * * *

When Vincent walked onto the bridge that night, he was surprised to see an unfamiliar sublieutenant at the auxiliary console and Sublieutenant Sehlk manning the navigation station.

Vincent went to the command chair and accepted command from Major Sunaak and signed in on the chair console before making a round of the bridge.

When he arrived at the auxiliary station, he quietly said, "I'm Major Winters. I assume that you're Sublieutenant Tevik, here to serve as backup."

"Yes, Sir." Sublieutenant Tevik said formally.

"I guess my command style can be a little bit... um, human. So if you have trouble understanding my orders or expectations, please feel free to ask for clarification." Vincent said carefully.

"I will do so." Sublieutenant Tevik said seriously.

"Good." Vincent said with a smile, then went to the command chair to read through the reports that told him in very formal language, that absolutely nothing had happened since he was last on the bridge.

* * * * *

After a short bit of studying, Vincent made a round of the bridge and found that Lieutenant Sarpk was still working on the data from the quantum filament, from the previous day.

"Have you been able to figure anything out about that yet?" Vincent asked curiously.

"I believe I have eliminated a sufficient number of possibilities to state with some amount of certainty that the phenomenon we encountered indeed was a quantum filament. The possibility of it being otherwise is so statistically unlikely as to be negligible." Lieutenant Sarpk said confidently.

"But you're still tracking down those statistically unlikely possibilities to eliminate as many of them as you can, aren't you?" Vincent asked with a smile.

"Of course." Lieutenant Sarpk said simply.

"I'm sure you've already noticed this, but I feel like I need to say it anyway." Vincent said in prelude, "It's Lieutenant Satok's day off, so Sublieutenant Sehlk is on the helm. We have Sublieutenant Tevik covering breaks and lunches."

"If I may ask, why do you feel the need to state what appears to be obvious?" Lieutenant Sarpk asked with honest curiosity.

"I'm just making sure that we're both seeing the situation the same way." Vincent said and finished with a shrug.

After a moment to consider Vincent's words, Lieutenant Sarpk said, "Verifying mutual understanding is logical."

"I do my best." Vincent said with a smile.

* * * * *

Later, when Vincent had reached a good breaking point in his reading, he walked to the science station and quietly said, "I'm scheduled to have the day off tomorrow. I just wanted to see if there's anything you need to talk about before that."

"I anticipate no difficulties." Lieutenant Sarpk said simply.

"Okay. Just checking. I'm ready for lunch now, if you have time to cover me." Vincent said casually.

Lieutenant Sarpk keyed in a few commands on his console to verify their course and speed, then said, "I have command."

"I stand relieved."

* * * * *

When Vincent had initially seen his schedule and found that he only had one day off every ten days, he was concerned that he might be fighting exhaustion by the time his day off arrived.

It turned out that his day off was, for the most part, just like any other day. The only differences being that he did some extra laundry, bed linens and such, and that he did his reading in his cabin rather than on the bridge.

* * * * *

Two days after his day off, as Vincent was eating his breakfast, he heard as well as felt the sensation of the ship reducing to impulse speed.

It was a surprise, only in the sense that he had become accustomed to the sensation of the ship traveling at warp. Logically, he knew that it meant that they had finally reached their destination.

Vincent had to fight the irrational urge to abandon his breakfast and go to the nearest viewport. He knew that in the coming days he would have countless opportunities to see the micro-wormhole and before it was all over, he'd probably be sick of looking at the thing.

* * * * *

Regardless of what his logical mind knew to be fact, when Vincent got back to his cabin, he looked out the viewport, only to find that nothing out of the ordinary was visible to him.

Next, he went to his terminal and brought up the ship's forward view. There, in the middle of his screen, pretty as you please, he saw a faint, misty vortex, hanging all alone in space.

Remembering the mission briefing that he had read so many times by now, Vincent knew that at this moment, the people in sciences were gathering preliminary readings to establish a baseline for later comparison.

Once those readings had all been taken and verified, the first series of probes would be deployed.

As he considered the timetable, he realized that several of the probes would be launched during his shift.

Considering all the time that he had devoted to his classwork since leaving Earth, Vincent felt comfortable letting it go for one night and was looking forward to a shift where he might actually be able to do something.

* * * * *

There were times when Vincent was astounded at how wrong he could actually be.

The ship was at full stop.

The crew were at station-keeping, meaning that they were sitting there, with nothing to do, simply waiting to be needed for something.

At least while they were on the journey to the location of the micro-wormhole, Vincent had been responsible for the safety and well-being of the ship.

Now that they had arrived, his job was essentially to sit and wait while the scientists performed their duties.

That might have been interesting to see, if he had been on the lower decks, in the midst of it.

But, no.

He was on the bridge.

It took less than an hour for him to realize that there was absolutely, positively, nothing for him to do.

The unyielding tedium of the journey thus far, paled in comparison to the relentless void of sensation and the secession of time that characterized an eight hour shift at station-keeping.

Vincent started reading his next lesson and kept marginal awareness of the goings on around him.

At one point, about half an hour before his lunch, Vincent was aware that sciences was deploying the first volley of probes.

The faint 'pft' sounds from deep in the ship turned out to be the high point of the shift.

* * * * *

Vincent decided that the phrase 'Happy New Year' wasn't coined by someone who had been sitting, staring at a micro-wormhole, for days.

To make matters worse, from Vincent's point of view, it didn't even look like the stupid thing was collapsing. It was just sitting there, almost mocking him.

He briefly thought about stopping in to see the Human scientists for a few minutes, just to acknowledge the occasion. But when he considered that the scientists appeared to be overly fond of alcohol and that it was New Year's Eve, he thought better of it.

* * * * *

The next day, as Vincent was in the command chair, he began to ponder the nature of boredom and wondered if it had any definable limits.

Because, just when it seemed that he had become as bored as it was possible to be, he would find himself in new and uncharted depths of boredom that he couldn't have imagined before. Maybe he would ask Lieutenant Sarpk about that. It seemed like something he'd know about.

"Major Winters, I'm picking up a ship dropping out of warp." Lieutenant Sarpk said suddenly.

"Can you identify it?" Vincent asked as he fought to bring his sluggish mind to full clarity.

"The ship appears to be Klingon. They are at full impulse and on course toward our location." Lieutenant Sarpk said firmly.

"Sublieutenant T'Amarak, please hail the Klingon vessel." Vincent said seriously.

"Yes, Sir." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said efficiently.

"Lieutenant Sarpk, would you put the visual of the approaching ship on the main screen?" Vincent asked slowly, almost casually.

"Yes, Sir." Lieutenant Sarpk said immediately.

Vincent looked at the ship design and noted that it wasn't one of the Klingon military vessels that he was familiar with. That didn't mean that it wasn't armed, after all, it was a Klingon ship. But from the style of the ship, Vincent supposed that it was either a civilian transport of some sort, or possibly a converted military support ship.

"The Klingon captain has responded to our hail." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said professionally.

"On screen." Vincent said as he stood from the command chair.

There was a long moment of silence as the Klingon peered at him in astonishment.

Finally the Klingon captain said, "It surprises me to find a Human child in command of a Vulcan ship. I was not aware that the Vulcans were so desperate."

"Sublieutenant T'Amarak, would you please turn off the universal translator for a moment?" Vincent asked politely.

"Yes, Sir." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said cautiously as she pressed a button on her console.

Vincent took a step closer to the viewscreen before saying in guttural Klingon, "Yes. I am young. Yes. I am Human. And, yes, I am in command of this ship."

The Klingon captain appeared to be surprised not only by Vincent's words and attitude, but also by his ability to speak the Klingon language.

After a moment for the Klingon captain to process what he had said, Vincent continued, "Perhaps, if Klingons were to take their young off the teat a few years sooner, their children might also be capable of command at my age."

After a moment of surprise, the Klingon captain let out a loud bark of laughter.

Vincent smiled at the reaction, knowing that he had managed to establish a dialogue with the Klingon in a way that met with his favor.

After a moment to calm his laughter, the Klingon captain said, "We are a science vessel, here by invitation of the Federation, to study the wormhole collapse."

Vincent nodded, then responded, "To my knowledge, we were not advised that you had been invited. But, no matter. Feel free to conduct your study. Be advised that we will be launching a series of probes as the collapse progresses. I wouldn't want you to think we were firing at you."

"I doubt that we would be alarmed, but I will inform my crew." The Klingon captain said graciously.

Vincent nodded, then said, "I will leave you to your scientific study, then. T'Salanade out."

"Krop'tek, out."

"Please compose..." Vincent began to say, then realized that he was still speaking in Klingon. He switched to Vulcan and said, "T'Amarak, please compose a report for Vulcan High Command and Starfleet to let them know about the Klingon vessel. Include a copy of our sensor readings and communications."

"Would you also like a copy sent to the captain?" Sublieutenant T'Amarak asked carefully.

As Vincent sat down in the command chair, he responded, "Yes, and also send a copy to Major Sunaak, they need to know what's been said."

"Yes, Major." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said professionally.

Vincent thought over the exchange with the Klingon captain for a moment, then something occurred to him. It took him a few minutes to confirm his suspicions, but when he finally did, he quickly composed an email.

"Hey Cory, I'm on the bridge right now, so this won't be a long message. But the funniest thing happened to me just now and I had to tell you about it. My ship met up with a Klingon ship and I had the chance to talk to their captain. The really weird thing is, I just started learning Klingon a few months ago, but somehow I was able to understand him and didn't have to try and figure out how to talk back to him. Like I said, I'm on the bridge, so this can't be long. But, next time, would you ask first or at least let me know when you're giving me a language dump? Love you, love Sean, gotta go. Bye. Vincent."

* * * * *

As Vincent composed his report about the arrival of the Klingons, he stopped for a moment to consider the ironic twist that his life had taken.

Only a few short weeks before, the thought of having to compose a report would have filled him with dread. But now, he was almost giddy with the prospect of having something productive to do.

* * * * *

At the end of his shift, Vincent told the captain as succinctly as possible about the arrival of the Klingon science vessel.

"I have read your report." The captain said simply.

That didn't seem to require any response from him, so Vincent waited to either be asked a question or to be dismissed.

"Your interaction with the Klingon captain was quite... irreverent." Captain T'Sudun said carefully.

"I was just trying to speak to him in a way that he would understand." Vincent explained carefully.

"You seem to have accomplished that goal. Be advised, should it be necessary for us to have further interactions with the Klingon vessel, you may be called upon." Captain T'Sudun said seriously, then added, "Since you have established such a rapport."

Vincent fought down a smile as he said, "Of course, Captain."

"Dismissed."

* * * * *

One shift came and went.

Nothing happened.

Another shift came and went.

Still, nothing happened.

As Vincent stepped onto the bridge, he wasn't really anticipating anything to be different.

After accepting command, he read through the reports for the day and found a note that the degradation of the micro-wormhole had started to accelerate.

Vincent immediately looked at the viewscreen and found that the aperture didn't look one bit different.

As it turned out, that was the sum total of excitement for the day.

* * * * *

Vincent had another day off, which consisted of laundry and more studying.

Although he had never been one to join in many of the recreational activities available on the Yorktown, he had always known that they were there if he ever chose to participate.

His weeks aboard the T'Salanade had proved to him that such diversions actually did perform an important function.

He went back to work the next night to find the bridge exactly as he had left it.

Even though he had been assured that the micro-wormhole was collapsing at an increasing rate, he still couldn't see any visible evidence of it.

The thing was still hanging there on the viewscreen.

Watching him.

Laughing at him.

* * * * *

A few days later, Vincent was awakened by the sound of a shipboard communication.

He groggily got out of bed and went to his terminal to answer it.

"Pardon my intrusion, Major." Lieutenant Sarpk said carefully.

"That's fine, Lieutenant. What is it?" Vincent asked seriously.

"The collapse of the micro-wormhole is imminent. I thought you might like to witness the event." Lieutenant Sarpk said hesitantly.

"Yes. I would like that. Thank you for calling me." Vincent said with a smile.

Lieutenant Sarpk nodded once, then the video transmission ended.

Vincent hurried to dress in his uniform, then went directly to the bridge.

He was surprised to find that both Captain T'Sudun and Major Sunaak were also present.

When he followed their interested gazes to the forward viewscreen, he saw the same image that he had been seeing since their arrival.

They all stood in silence for nearly twenty minutes, when suddenly, the micro-wormhole winked out of existence.

Vincent blinked his eyes, somehow not able to convince himself that it was really gone.

A distant 'pft' sound caught Vincent's attention and he watched as a probe approached the micro-wormhole's former location, then seemed to just stop dead.

Although Vincent knew that the neutrino burst wouldn't be visible to the naked eye, he somehow thought that something might happen.

After a few minutes, Vincent looked around the bridge and quietly asked, "Is that it?"

"It will be necessary to remain for a time so that comparative readings may be taken." Captain T'Sudun said seriously.

Vincent slowly nodded.

The captain seemed to have turned her attention elsewhere, so Vincent quietly walked off the bridge.

* * * * *

For the next two days, Vincent had been anxiously waiting for sciences to finish their scans so that the ship could be underway.

However, no matter how much he might have wished for it to be otherwise, they remained at a full stop.

Vincent woke to the sensation of the ship's engine. He didn't have to bring up his terminal or even look out the viewport to know that they were at full warp.

Happiness infused his whole being, at knowing that even though it would take about ten days, they were finally on their way back.

From what he had been told the last time he checked with Joe, that would mean that when he arrived back at Earth he would have nearly a week before the Yorktown was scheduled to disembark.

Somehow he doubted that a week of shore leave would feel anywhere near as long as a week aboard the T'Salanade.

* * * * *

With each passing day, Vincent's sense of anticipation increased.

On his next day off, he thought he might crawl out of his skin he was so anxious for the mission to be over.

He was tired of studying.

He continued to work on his lessons and forced himself to persevere. But he was well aware of the fact that the monotony and the repetition were taking a psychological toll on him.

* * * * *

Days later, as Vincent was doing his stance routine in his cargo bay, an announcement came over the intercom requesting him to report to the bridge.

In the weeks that he had been aboard, he hadn't received such a request before, so he grabbed his towel and hurried out of the cargo bay.

"Major Winters, reporting as ordered." Vincent said as he walked to the command chair.

"We have received notification from Starfleet requesting that you be returned to Earth with all due haste." Captain T'Sudun said frankly.

Vincent waited, since her statement hadn't been voiced in the form of a question.

"We have altered our course and increased speed. The estimated time of arrival is 17:35, Federation Standard Time, tomorrow." Captain T'Sudun said firmly.

Once again, Vincent didn't see any indication that she expected a response.

"Dismissed."

* * * * *

Vincent went immediately to his cabin to see if he had been sent any messages from Starfleet that might explain things in more detail.

There was an official email waiting for him which contained his formal reassignment to the USS Yorktown.

The accompanying message didn't shed any light on what might be going on. He was told to report for duty ASAP.

After a few minutes to think over what he should do, he finally decided to make a quick subspace call.

"Hello?"

"Daddy Joe? Do you know what's going on?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Hold on, Champ. Do I know what's going on about what?" Joe asked curiously.

"I've just been told to get back to Earth and report for duty as soon as possible." Vincent said seriously.

"I haven't received any calls on my communicator, but I haven't checked my mail since yesterday. Give me a minute." Joe said cautiously.

Vincent waited anxiously for him to continue.

"Here it is. I've got a message telling me that my shore leave's been cancelled. I'm supposed to report for duty at 18:00 tomorrow." Joe said slowly.

"I'm going to be cutting it close. I'm not due to arrive there until 17:35." Vincent said frankly.

"Well, you know how it is. If they want you to report at 18:00, we usually don't disembark until about 22:00. Just do your best." Joe assured him.

"Did they tell you anything about why we're being scrambled?" Vincent asked carefully.

"No. Not that I would expect them to." Joe said honestly.

"Okay. Well, I guess there's not much I can do until we arrive back at Earth." Vincent said anxiously.

"How are you doing?" Joe asked with concern.

"To be honest, I don't think I've ever needed 'Kid Time' as much as I do right now." Vincent said with a weary smile.

"Get yourself back to Earth and I'll see what I can do about that." Joe said sympathetically.

"Just getting to talk to you is enough. I feel a lot better already." Vincent said honestly, then quickly thought to add, "Tell Lawrence and Deacon 'hi' for me."

"I will." Joe assured him, then reluctantly said, "You probably shouldn't be on subspace too long. Besides, you probably need to pack."

"Yeah. I'll get right on that." Vincent said with a smile.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Vincent." Joe said warmly.

"Tomorrow." Vincent agreed, then ended the transmission.

* * * * *

After retrieving his gym bag from his cargo bay, Vincent returned to his cabin. When he changed out of his gym clothes, he dropped them into the fresher as he took a much needed sonic shower.

As soon as he was finished with that, he went immediately to the mess hall to have his breakfast.

For some reason, the food seemed to be tastier and the coffee was absolute heaven.

When he returned to his cabin, studying was completely out of the question.

Since he couldn't think of any good reason to wait, he started packing his belongings.

It occurred to him that he hadn't mentioned his personal belongings back on Earth when he talked to Joe, so he sent him a quick email asking him to have his things transported aboard whenever he had the time.

By the time Vincent had finished with his packing, it was nearly time for him to start his duty shift... his last duty shift aboard the T'Salanade.

* * * * *

When Vincent reported for duty, Major Sunaak said, "We have altered course and speed, as you may be aware."

"Yes. The captain called me as soon as the orders came in." Vincent confirmed.

"My perception of Humans has altered since meeting you." Major Sunaak said seriously.

"In a good way, I hope." Vincent said with a smile.

"I do not attach 'good' or 'bad' modifiers to my preconceived notions, they simply 'are'." Major Sunaak explained.

"I should probably do that, too." Vincent said with a smile.

"Are you ready to assume command?" Major Sunaak asked professionally.

"I have command."

"I stand relieved."

* * * * *

"I have received notice that I will be in command of the third shift for the duration of our mission." Lieutenant Sarpk said as he approached the command chair.

"Yeah. I've been recalled to Earth. That's why we changed course and speed, to get me there as soon as possible." Vincent said frankly.

"I wish to express my thanks to you. Your insights regarding command have proven valuable to me." Lieutenant Sarpk said carefully.

"Yeah. Well, just remember that there's email and subspace if you ever need any more insights. Just because I'm not going to be on the ship with you every night doesn't mean that you can't ask me if you need something." Vincent said seriously.

"I will remember." Lieutenant Sarpk promised.

* * * * *

As the shift continued, Vincent was feeling more and more nostalgic about leaving the T'Salanade.

"Sublieutenant Sehlk?" Vincent said as he approached the auxiliary station.

"Yes, Major?" Sublieutenant Sehlk responded.

"I don't know if you've heard, but I've been reassigned back to the USS Yorktown." Vincent said carefully.

"Yes. My apologies, Major, but I overheard you when you were speaking with Lieutenant Sarpk." Sublieutenant Sehlk said quietly.

"That's fine. Before I go, I just wanted to be sure to remember to ask you to do me a favor." Vincent said seriously.

"What may I do for you, Major?" Sublieutenant Sehlk asked curiously.

"I would like for you to contact me as soon as you're offered your own shift as a duty officer, and then contact me again when you're given your own ship." Vincent said frankly.

Sublieutenant Sehlk raised an eyebrow with surprise at the unusual request.

"You've got the skills. You've got the curious nature. All that's left is for you to find your voice and you'll have everything you need to be a captain. I just want to be sure that you're going to tell me about it when you've pulled it all together." Vincent explained.

"Yes. Should that come to pass, I will notify you." Sublieutenant Sehlk said carefully.

"Good. And you can send me an email about anything else you want to share with me, but I wanted to be sure that you knew that I expect to be notified when you're given command." Vincent said frankly.

"I understand. You have my word." Sublieutenant Sehlk said sincerely.

* * * * *

As Vincent's shift continued, he was surprised when Lieutenant Tolek returned from break and approached the command chair rather than returning to the helm.

"I heard that you are leaving. I wished to give thanks. You have been most kind." Lieutenant Tolek said seriously.

Vincent couldn't remember them speaking about much more than helm operations, but responded, "It was my pleasure. I can be contacted through Starfleet if you ever feel like talking about anything."

Lieutenant Tolek gave a single, serene nod of acceptance of the proposal.

* * * * *

When Vincent went to lunch, the mess hall was quiet, as usual. That was one fact of working the third shift that Vincent actually liked. He never really minded being in the mess hall on the Yorktown during the day when it was filled with chatting people. But it was also nice to have the peace and quiet to slowly enjoy a meal and afterward, sip his coffee.

"Good morning, Crewman Syvar. How are you doing today?" Vincent asked as he made his food selections.

"I am well. Your coffee will be ready momentarily." Crewman Syvar said seriously.

"Thank you. Just so you know, I'm being reassigned to a Federation ship, the Yorktown, so I won't be coming in for coffee anymore after today." Vincent said seriously.

"I will see that your remaining coffee supply is sent to your cabin." Crewman Syvar said carefully.

"Thank you. I'm not sure that I'll need it, but better safe than sorry." Vincent said with a grin.

"It has been a pleasure to serve with you. Many officers do not speak to crewmen. You have been most kind." Crewman Syvar said seriously.

"Yeah. Well, I was a crewman up until about five weeks ago. Don't be too hard on the officers, sometimes they've got so much going on, that they don't realize that they're doing it." Vincent said frankly.

"I will remember." Crewman Syvar promised.

* * * * *

When Vincent returned from lunch, Lieutenant Sarpk left to take his.

"Major Winters?" Satok asked hesitantly from the navigation station.

"Yes?" Vincent asked as he got up from the command chair.

"I have worked with Lieutenant Sarpk previously. You have changed him." Lieutenant Satok said cautiously.

Vincent smiled at the statement, then responded in Vulcan, "We talked and I told him a few things. That's all I had to do with it. If he changed at all, he changed himself."

"Regardless, thank you. What you have done is right." Lieutenant Satok said seriously.

Vincent smiled at the comment, then went back to the command chair.

* * * * *

After turning over command to the captain, Vincent went to the mess hall for dinner.

He smiled when he saw Sublieutenant T'Amarak, Sublieutenant Sehlk and Sublieutenant Tevik sitting together.

"Do you have room for one more?" Vincent asked as he approached with his tray of food.

At the three blank stares directed at him, he rephrased, "Do you mind if I sit with you?"

"Please do." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said quickly.

"You are leaving today?" Sublieutenant Tevik asked before Vincent could get settled into his chair.

"Yeah. I don't really know what's going on except that my ship, the Yorktown, is being launched about a week ahead of schedule. I'm supposed to report for duty at 18:00." Vincent said frankly.

"Although you're leaving us, I believe your influence may be felt on this ship for some time." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said seriously.

"I didn't do anything." Vincent said cautiously.

"Your presence has introduced new concepts into a stagnant system." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said simply.

"Well, I hope that's a good thing." Vincent said reluctantly.

"We will have to wait and see." Sublieutenant T'Amarak said frankly.

"If any of you ever need anything that I can help you with, please let me know." Vincent said sincerely.

"Only if you will do likewise." Sublieutenant Sehlk said seriously.

Vincent smiled, then said, "It's a deal. And I don't think I'm going to have to wait too long for you to find your voice."

Sublieutenant Sehlk strategically turned his attention to his dinner, acting as though he hadn't heard the comment.

* * * * *

Although Vincent knew that he wasn't going to be able to sleep well due to the level of excitement he was feeling, he conformed to his routine and at least tried.

Just at the point where he felt himself drifting away, he heard the intercom announce that he was to report to the bridge.

He took a minute to get into his uniform, then hurried out the door.

* * * * *

"Major Winters, we have just received word that the Yorktown has revised their departure schedule and will disembark at 16:00 hours." Captain T'Sudun said calmly.

Vincent hadn't looked at the ship's time before he left his cabin, but he knew that they were already traveling at top speed to get him back to Earth.

"I have informed Starfleet that we will not be able to conduct you to Earth within that time frame, so they have recommended that we alter course to intersect with the Yorktown as they leave the Sol system." Captain T'Sudun said seriously.

"How long do I have before we meet up with them?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Thirty four minutes." Captain T'Sudun said seriously.

"Then I guess I'd better get my stuff together and go to the transporter room." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"Major Winters. You have performed your duties adequately." Captain T'Sudun said firmly.

"Thank you, Captain. It has been an honor serving with you." Vincent said respectfully.

"Dismissed."

* * * * *

Vincent went back to his cabin and made one last pass to be sure that he had gathered everything.

He did his best to leave the cabin in the immaculate condition that he had found it, then carried his backpack and knapsack out of the room.

* * * * *

Time seemed to slow to a crawl as Vincent waited in the transporter room.

Finally, he heard the sound of the engines change as they dropped out of warp.

He looked down at the next transporter pad where his possessions sat, then up at the transporter operator in anticipation.

"The Yorktown is signalling ready for transport." The transporter operator said efficiently.

"Energize."

And the Adventure Continues...

Editor's Notes:

As often happens at the end of a story arc, I have mixed emotions, both happy and sad. I have already communicated my feelings to MultiMapper, so he knows that I would genuinely like to know what happens to the Vulcans once Vincent has left their ship.

I have really enjoyed meeting Vulcans who are not exactly top level military envoys. This is a science vessel on a normal duty run, although, some very important information may have been gathered, it wasn't one of those heroic rescue missions or a great battle waiting to happen, but we have learned more about ordinary Vulcans, if there is such a thing as an ordinary Vulcan, than anyone has known before.

This shouldn't surprise us much, since Vincent was on board, but both groups, both Human and Vulcan, have learned a great deal, or at least should have. I have my doubts as to what those Human Scientists learned, at least if their behaviour which was displayed when they first met Vincent is any indication.


I am pretty sure that Vincent has made new friends who won't soon forget him or his insights.

It looks as if Vincent won't have much if any time to relax before he is back on duty at his normal job. I hope it won't take too long before we can read about Vincent's return to the Yorktown.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher