© 2007 MultiMapper
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Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 23

The group escorted Treifa to the transporter room and watched as he left the ship.

Once he was gone, Vincent casually asked, "Tyce, would you and Audge like to take a shower and have your clothes cleaned before the dinner?"

Tyce considered for a moment, then said, "We did not bring other clothing and would not wish to be an imposition."

Vincent smiled and said, "The fresher doesn't take very long to work. It should be finished by the time you're done showering. Or if you'd like to change into other clothes, I bet mine would fit you and Audge could probably borrow something from Darin."

Tyce looked down at his diaphanous robes for a moment, then said, "Since I have received the honor of being 'The Holy One' I have only worn the official robes of my position. If you are sincere in your offer, I believe I would like to borrow some of your clothing."

Vincent smiled at the formal statement, then looked at Audge and asked, "How about you, would you like to get a shower and change into some other clothes?"

Audge timidly nodded that he would.

"Alright, let's go to Deflector Control' to get you something to wear, then we'll go to Daddy Joe's cabin and get showered. I'm pretty sure that Lou and Judy are still on the Auxiliary Bridge so there won't be anyone there." Vincent said as he led the way to the turbo lift.

"Vincent, I appreciate your courtesy. I realize that you were ordered to accompany us during our time on your ship. But to offer the use of your own clothing goes beyond that duty. Thank you." Tyce said quietly.

"Deflector Control." Vincent said to the ceiling of the lift, then turned to Tyce and said, "Friends share stuff. You and Audge are both my friends and it wouldn't matter if you two were crewmen on your ship, I'd be doing exactly the same thing."

Tyce smiled and said, "I have no doubt in the truth of your words."

The turbo lift doors opened, as Audge said, "Thank you for including me in your declaration of friendship. I do not understand why it is so, but I know that you are sincere."

Vincent led the way to Deflector Control as he said, "Boy, you guys sure are serious about this stuff."

Tyce nodded at the statement as the trio walked into Deflector Control.

* * * * *

"Hey Darin, would you mind if we borrow some of your clothes for Audge? His stuff is a little torn up from the battle." Vincent asked casually.

"Help yourself. My bag is in the storage bin just inside the door. My name is on the tag on the handle." Darin said as he glanced away from his console for a moment.

"Thanks." Vincent said happily as he turned to lead the way into the supply room.

"Vincent, aren't you going to introduce me?" Joe asked from beside Thaelan at the main console.

Vincent giggled, then said, "Daddy Joe, this is 'The Holy One' of the Okudai and his protector, Audge. Guys, this is Lieutenant Joe Bowers, he's kinda like my father."

"A pleasure, you must be very proud of Vincent." Tyce said reverently as he bowed slightly to Joe.

"A little more every day. It's a pleasure to meet both of you." Joe said as he respectfully returned the bow.

"The guys need to get cleaned up before dinner. I'm just going to get them some clothes, then we're going up to the cabin to use the shower." Vincent said quickly.

"I think that if you check with Commander M'Butu, you'll find that he's arranged for our guests to have their own quarters while they're staying with us." Joe said seriously.

"Oh. Um, okay. I didn't think of that." Vincent sputtered.

Joe chuckled, then said, "Why don't you get their clothes together while I find out where their cabin is?"

"Thanks Daddy Joe. We'll be right back." Vincent said happily and hurried into the supply room.

Tyce and Audge followed more slowly, both enjoying the scene of family caring before them.

* * * * *

After finding some casual pants and a pull over knit shirt for Audge, Vincent began to look through his own things.

"What do you think of these?" Vincent asked as he pulled out a pair of black slacks and a mint green button up shirt for Tyce's inspection.

Tyce smiled and said, "They will be fine."

Vincent folded the clothes, then sat them on top of a storage bin so he could gather under garments to go with them.

Tyce slowly walked closer to Vincent and quietly whispered, "Vincent?"

As Vincent turned at the sound, Tyce closed the distance between them and pulled Vincent into a firm hug.

Vincent smiled at the action and responded by putting his arms around Tyce.

After a moment of hugging, Tyce moved in and gave Vincent a full kiss on the mouth while his hands drifted down to Vincent's ass.

In a heartbeat, ice flowed through Vincent's veins and he broke out of the embrace.

Tyce looked at Vincent with confusion at the move.

"You... you tried to..." Vincent said in an increasing voice as rage began to fill his eyes.

Audge moved to Tyce's side in a protective gesture.

"I do not understand. We are friends." Tyce said with confusion as he took a step toward Vincent.

"Stay away from me..." Vincent said in a barely contained scream.

"Is something wrong?" Joe asked as he hurried into the supply room.

"He kissed me." Vincent said in a growl as he pointed.

Joe walked to Vincent's side and gently put a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't touch me!" Vincent warned as he staggered a few steps back.

"Did I do something improper?" Tyce asked quietly.

"I don't know. As soon as we can get Vincent calmed down, we'll sort this out." Joe said in thought.

Vincent saw the look of confusion in Tyce's eyes, the look of warning in Audge's and the concern in Joe's.

It was Joe's concern for him that finally broke the rage and Vincent closed his eyes and took in a trembling breath as he tried to regain control.

"Okay. I think he's past it now. Would you tell me what happened?" Joe asked quietly.

"Vincent has stated that he is my friend. I simply wished to give physical expression to our emotional closeness." Tyce said reasonably.

"But I'm married." Vincent snapped.

"I am male." Tyce responded quietly.

Vincent looked at Tyce with confusion as Joe said, "We don't have much information about the customs of your people. Could you explain why you being male makes a difference?"

Tyce thought for a moment, then said, "Vincent is married to a woman. She is his mate and the only one to satisfy his chi. But to maintain balance he must also satisfy his ieb. I sought to express my friendship for Vincent and help to satisfy his ieb."

"My what?" Vincent asked in confusion.

"I think we need to define some terms here Holy One. What is chi?" Joe asked carefully.

"Chi is the love for the opposing gender." Tyce said carefully.

"So that means ieb is the love for ones own gender." Joe said quietly.

"Correct. To have both satisfied brings balance and harmony to ones life." Tyce said seriously.

"Stop! Don't go in there!" was heard from Deflector Control.

T'Lani walked into the room with a phaser raised.

"Husband. I sensed an attack upon you. Do you require assistance?" T'Lani asked as she held the phaser before her.

Vincent was in shock for a moment, then quickly said, "No. I'm fine. Tyce just... I mean, the Holy One..."

"The people of Okuda have a different philosophy about marriage and relationships. The Holy One was trying to express his feelings of friendship in a very normal and natural way for him, but by our standards, it seemed to Vincent that he was being attacked." Joe said carefully.

"Is this correct Husband?" T'Lani asked cautiously.

"Yeah. I guess on Okuda, married people have sex with their friends or something." Vincent said as he walked to T'Lani's side.

T'Lani lowered her phaser, then pulled Vincent into a one armed hug.

Tyce felt like he needed to explain and said, "Every person has the chi and the ieb. They are the forces that draw us to form relationships with those around us. When a person marries, they dedicate their chi or ieb to their partner. But the opposing force must also be satisfied or it will bring disruption and eventual ruin to the relationship."

"So if a man gets married to a woman, he's supposed to have sex with other men?" Joe asked carefully.

"Only with his closest friends or his wife's brother if that is more convenient." Tyce said seriously.

"I see. Well, we do it differently. When a man marries a woman, he takes a vow to be only with her for the rest of his life." Joe said in an informative tone.

"But how can this be? The imbalance would cause chaos." Tyce said speculatively.

"I don't understand what you mean." Joe said cautiously.

"To satisfy only the chi leaves the ieb to grow and become an increasing distraction. Making such a vow would cause even the thought of satisfying the ieb to be coupled to guilt. And if the ieb were indulged, then the marriage vow would be broken. I can see no good coming from this arrangement." Tyce said darkly.

Joe considered the statement for a moment, then said, "You have to understand that we have different cultural customs. Over a period of millennia our people have built definitions of what it means to be married and committed in a relationship. Logically, I can see what you're saying, but I know that if I were married, I would still believe I was being unfaithful to my wife if I had sex with anyone else."

Tyce considered the words carefully, then quietly said, "Since meeting your people I have felt that the people of Okuda were primitive and backward in comparison. Upon learning of this... attitude that you have regarding relationships, I feel that, at least in some way, we are more advanced."

Joe smiled at the statement as he said, "I think you may be right about that. Not every advancement of a civilization is an invention. Sometimes it's a philosophy."

"This may significantly change my people's view of the Federation." Tyce said in thought.

"How so?" Joe asked curiously.

"For my people to know that they would be among people who do not balance their chi and their ieb will be disconcerting to many. Some will refuse any contact based on that fact alone." Tyce said in a distant voice.

"I don't understand why." Joe said carefully.

Tyce looked Joe in the eyes and said, "It is a common belief among my people that a person who does not live in harmony is mentally unstable."

"They would think that we're all insane?" Joe asked cautiously.

"Not necessarily insane, but suffering from the stress of being imbalanced. The results of that stress could be aggressive behavior, territorialism... and in the most extreme cases, rape and murder." Tyce said seriously.

Joe's eyes went wide at the statement, then he glanced at Vincent who was still at T'Lani's side.

"My apologies Lieutenant Bowers. It is not my intent to make you feel that I believe these things of you." Tyce said quietly.

Joe turned his attention back to Tyce and smiled as he said, "I wasn't offended. Besides, I'm balanced, I'm not getting any chi or ieb."

Audge laughed at the statement, then quickly tried to hide it.

Tyce glanced at him with a fond smile, then said, "I think that means you aren't the only one."

"Holy One, would you mind very much if I asked Vincent's brother, Darin, to escort you to your cabin so you can get your showers? I have something that I would like to discuss with Vincent for a moment." Joe asked hopefully.

"That would be fine. Should we return here after our showers?" Tyce asked curiously.

"That sounds like a very good idea." Joe said with a smile.

"Um, wait." Vincent said hesitantly, then looked at T'Lani with indecision.

T'Lani nodded to him to continue.

Vincent stepped forward and looked Tyce in the eyes, then said, "I'm sorry I yelled at you like that. I really am your friend and I'm sorry if me doing that made it seem? like I wasn't."

"I understand now Vincent, and your apology is accepted." Tyce said gently.

Vincent stepped forward and pulled Tyce into a gentle hug, then hesitantly started to kiss him.

Tyce responded just as gently and enjoyed the kiss.

When the kiss finally broke, Vincent looked into his eyes and said, "T'Lani said it was logical."

Tyce looked at T'Lani, then said, "Your wife is not only very protective of you, but also very wise."

Vincent smiled at the statement, then walked to stand before Audge.

"Come down here Audge, you're my friend too." Vincent said firmly.

Audge bent down a little so Vincent could pull him into a hug, then shared a brief kiss with him.

"This is a good sign for the future of all our people." Tyce said with a contented smile at Joe.

After releasing Audge from the hug, Vincent said, "Oops. I think I got too much ieb. I need to get some chi to keep everything balanced."

Tyce, Audge and Joe all smiled as Vincent hurried to T'Lani and hugged her tightly.

"Vincent, I'll be right back." Joe said, then led Tyce and Audge out of the room.

* * * * *

Joe walked back into the supply room to find Vincent and T'Lani exactly as he had left them.

"Vincent, there's something that I think you need to know and now seems to be a good time to tell you." Joe said seriously.

"Would you prefer that I leave you alone for this discussion?" T'Lani asked calmly.

"No T'Lani. I think it would be best if you were here." Joe said as he considered what he was going to say.

"That probably means it's something really serious." Vincent said as he renewed his hug with T'Lani.

"Vincent. I learned some things about your father that... well, it just seems right that you should know now." Joe said hesitantly.

"My dad? What is it?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Did you ever wonder why your dad hated Lawrence so much?" Joe asked quietly.

"Not really. He hated Lawrence because he's gay." Vincent said honestly.

Joe shook his head slowly, not disagreeing with Vincent's answer, but trying to find another way to approach the subject.

"Lieutenant Bowers, would it not be best to simply say what you need to say, then answer whatever questions result?" T'Lani asked simply.

Joe's eyebrows went up in surprise at the suggestion, then he said, "Thank you T'Lani. That probably would work best. And please call me Joe while we're conducting family business."

"Of course." T'Lani said and inclined her head slightly in a show of respect.

"Well then. Vincent, your father was attracted to Lawrence. He couldn't express his feelings the way he wanted to so he expressed them as hate." Joe said frankly.

Vincent thought about the statement for a moment, then asked, "You're telling me this because of the chi ieb thing, aren't you?"

"That's what made me think about telling you now." Joe said honestly.

Vincent nodded as he thought.

"Please allow me to verify my understanding. Vincent's biological father was sexually attracted to Vincent's brother, your son Lawrence. Since his marriage vows forbade any expression of his sexual desire, he instead abused the child?" T'Lani asked slowly.

"Well, yes and no. I think Winters had other same-sex urges before he fixated on Lawrence. And not only his marriage vows, but probably his upbringing contributed to the way things worked out. He might have even been sexually abused himself at some point." Joe said carefully.

"Wait. Wait. You're saying that my dad was hot for Lawrence. But because he couldn't have sex with him, he hurt him instead?" Vincent asked seriously.

"No, I'm saying that because of the way he was raised and the things he believed, that he couldn't admit to himself that he had sexual feelings for any other male. He was taught to hate gay people, and when he started having latent homosexual urges, he didn't have any healthy way of dealing with them. So eventually his frustration and hatred developed into his abuse of Lawrence." Joe said in thought.

"Huh?" Vincent asked in quiet confusion.

"Vincent, it's a very difficult concept to explain and I don't even know if I understand it all. I just felt that I should tell you this now so you could deal with it in the context of the chi and the ieb. I can't think of a better way to explain what was probably going through your father's mind." Joe said frankly.

"I will help Vincent to process this new information." T'Lani said seriously.

"Thank you T'Lani, but considering what Vincent just did, I think he understands. Even if it isn't entirely on a conscious level." Joe said with a smile at Vincent.

"What did I do?" Vincent asked cautiously.

Joe squatted down to look Vincent in the eyes and said, "You overcame a lifetime of conditioning that was meant to make you hate anyone who was different from you. Without any encouragement from me, you made the choice to forgive the Holy One for the misunderstanding and put your friendship with him first. I'm so proud of you Vincent."

Vincent took a step forward and pulled Joe into a firm hug.

"My husband has chosen well to place his trust in you." T'Lani said frankly.

Joe gave Vincent one final squeeze of the hug, then stood and said, "I'd have to say the same thing about his choosing to marry you."

T'Lani inclined her head in acceptance of the compliment.

"I think I'll leave you two alone for a few minutes. I left Thaelan running Deflector Control by himself." Joe said with a gentle smile.

"Thanks for telling me all that stuff, I love you." Vincent said as he walked to T'Lani's side.

"I love you to Champ." Joe said, then walked out the door.

* * * * *

As Darin, Tyce and Audge walked down the catwalk, Darin quietly asked, "When I take you to your cabin would you like me to wait for you to finish or would you rather that I left you alone? Oh... or you could call me and I could come back if that's what you want."

"If you have other duties to perform we could call when we are finished if you will instruct us in the use of your comm devices." Tyce said calmly.

"Oh no. I don't have any other duties right now. I just wanted you to be comfortable." Darin said in a rush then stepped forward as the turbo lift doors opened.

Tyce smiled at Darin's flustered nature and said, "I think it would be good to get to know the brother of my friend Vincent."

"Deck D." Darin said to the ceiling of the lift, then turned to Tyce and said, "Thank you Holy One. So far all of Vincent's friends have turned out to be really good people."

"Please call me Tyce, and this is Audge." Tyce said gently.

"Oh, thank you Tyce. It's nice to meet you both. I'm Darin." he said, somewhat shyly.

"Darin, I am curious to know something about your culture." Tyce said slowly.

"Sure. Ask me anything you want." Darin said with a warm smile.

"Vincent is a child, yet he has the responsibilities and respect of an adult. I am curious to know if it is true of others of your people or if Vincent is somehow unique." Tyce said carefully.

Darin chuckled as they stepped off the lift, then gestured to a door a few feet away.

Tyce and Audge followed Darin for the few steps to the doorway, then into the cabin.

"Commander M'Butu wanted to know if you would prefer for Audge to have separate quarters or if you would rather have him in here with you." Darin said seriously as they entered into a comfortable living area.

"I would prefer to have him share quarters with me. I feel safe with him nearby." Tyce said as he looked around.

Darin led the way into the bedroom and said, "Then I'll have another bed brought in before tonight."

"I would not be opposed to sharing this bed with Audge. There is more than enough room." Tyce said seriously.

"Well, I'll have another bed brought in anyway. You two can decide if you want to use it or not." Darin said with a grin.

Tyce smiled at the statement as he nodded his agreement.

"The shower and laundry fresher are in here." Darin said as he walked into the bathroom.

"Audge, would you go first so I may have some time to speak with Darin?" Tyce asked simply.

"Yes Holy... Tyce. But I may have difficulty with..." Audge trailed off as he looked at his cast.

"Oh, I can help you with that." Darin said quickly.

Audge hesitantly nodded. Before he knew what was happening, Darin was helping him to remove his shirt.

"If you'll just hold still, I'll pull the sleeve over your cast." Darin said in concentration.

"Thank you Darin. You are most kind." Audge said quietly.

Darin smiled as he worked the tight material over the cast.

"There. Do you think you'll need help with anything else?" Darin asked curiously.

Audge looked down at himself, then said, "I don't think so."

"Well, if you have any problem at all, we'll be in the living room. Just call for me and I'll come in and help you." Darin said with assurance.

"Thank you. I will." Audge said with a genuine smile.

Tyce gave Audge a quick, fond smile, then walked with Darin out of the room.

* * * * *

"Let's see. You wanted to know if Vincent is unique." Darin said as he led the way through the bedroom and into the living area.

"I get the sense that he is unique in many ways, but I am curious to know if others of his age have made similar achievements." Tyce said carefully.

Darin gestured for Tyce to sit with him on the couches in the living area, then said, "If you would have asked me a few weeks ago I would have said no. But since I've met Vincent, I've learned about some things that I wouldn't have believed before."

"What things?" Tyce asked curiously as he shifted to be comfortable on the couch.

"Well, let's see. I guess it starts with Vincent's official title. He is Crewman Vincent Winters, Son of Clan Short of the House of Surak of Vulcan." Darin said carefully.

"He has mentioned that he has adopted the Vulcan culture as his own, though I do not understand why it is so." Tyce said seriously.

"I don't understand everything about that either. I'll do my best to tell you his story from the start, at least as much as I know of it." Darin said, then looked to Tyce for approval.

After receiving it, Darin continued, "Vincent's parents died recently. That's when he met Joe, his half-brother's father."

"Half-brother?" Tyce asked curiously.

"Yes. Vincent and Lawrence had the same mother, but different fathers. Vincent and Joe aren't related by blood, but... well, that doesn't matter. Joe is Vincent's dad no matter how you look at it." Darin finished with a smile.

Tyce nodded that he agreed.

"Well anyway, I guess Joe and Vincent talked to some people, some pretty high ranking people, and they came up with the plan for Vincent to be adopted by Clan Short..."

"Excuse me, but what is Clan Short?" Tyce asked curiously.

Darin smiled, then said, "That's what I wondered. I did a little research and found out that it's a Vulcan sub-clan of the house of Surak. Clan Short was formed for the purpose of helping abused and neglected children. The strange thing is that Clan Short is made up of children."

"Children like Vincent?" Tyce asked curiously.

"That's right. According to the stories that I've read, the members of Clan Short have done things that could only be classified as miracles if anyone else had done them. They've rescued children from some of the most horrible and disgusting things that you could ever imagine. They have the support of Vulcan, Starfleet and the Federation. In fact, it's thanks to them that the Federation's Safe Haven Act has been implemented on nearly every world in the United Federation of Planets." Darin finished happily.

"Excuse me, what is the Safe Haven Act?" Tyce asked curiously.

"It's a piece of legislation that basically says that if a child is in danger, certain people have the authority to step in and protect the child even if other laws might normally prevent it. By using the Safe Haven Act, Clan Short can rescue a child in trouble and take him to a safe place where he'll never be hurt again. His family, the courts or even the government officials can't override the protection of Safe Haven." Darin said firmly.

"Would it be possible for me to see a copy of the Safe Haven Act. I would like to review it and see if it would be of benefit to my people." Tyce said carefully.

"Sure, I'll make sure you get a copy. Anyway, back to Vincent. When we left Earth on this mission, we received a distress call from the Kimber IV colony. They had a reactor that was leaking radiation and about to go critical. Vincent was the only one small enough to fit through the tunnels to get to the reactor. Well, he did that and saved a few hundred lives. I don't really understand a lot about Vulcan traditions, but since Vincent did something so brave, by Vulcan law he earned his adulthood. So even though he's still a child, legally he's an adult." Darin said carefully.

"I would like to hear more of this incident." Tyce said slowly.

"Well, I doubt that Vincent will talk to you about it too much, but if you ask Joe, I'm sure he'll tell you whatever you want to know." Darin said with a smile.

"He is a proud father, and rightfully so." Tyce said with a grin.

"Okay, so Vincent's an adult. Um, I guess the next thing was his promotion. Because of all the lives he saved and some other stuff that he did, he was promoted by two ranks, so now he's a Petty Officer second class. I'd guess that he outranks around two hundred people on this ship."

"I didn't realize that he had that much authority." Tyce said with surprise.

"Well, it's different for the enlisted ranks. Officers actually have the authority, Vincent's rank is more of a sign to those around him that he is competent in his job and that he is trusted by the officers to give instruction in his area of expertise. Although he would technically outrank a new crewman who just boarded the ship, chances are that he would be working along side that crewman and offering advice. But it's still quite an achievement."

"Vincent explained that his family elders chose his wife for him. How do you feel about that custom?" Tyce asked curiously.

"Well, it worked out fine for Vincent. But I'm not sure that the elders of every family could do as good a job as Grandfather Sarek did. I could see myself having difficulty giving up that control over something so important in my life, but at the same time, I think that I would probably trust Grandfather Sarek's judgment better than my own." Darin said carefully.

"Excuse me, but I am having difficulty." Audge said as just his eyes peeked around the edge of the bedroom door.

"Please excuse me Tyce. I'll be right back. "Darin said courteously and walked to the bedroom door.

* * * * *

"Is everything alright?" Tyce asked curiously.

"Yes. Audge was able to get undressed, but then he didn't know how to use the laundry fresher or the sonic shower. When you go in, I'll show you how to use everything before you get started." Darin said calmly.

"These quarters are quite comfortable. Do you have accommodations like this?" Tyce asked curiously.

Darin chuckled, then said, "Not quite. These are senior officer's quarters. I'm sleeping in the supply room of Deflector Control right now. But once we've delivered the colonists to their new home, Vincent and I will be sharing a cabin that is smaller than this living room."

"I see. Are the accommodations you share uncomfortably small?" Tyce asked with concern.

"Actually no. I was surprised at how small they were when I first arrived on board. But after staying there one night I was comfortable. I think sharing the room with Vincent made that possible. Rather than just being a place to sleep, it's the room I share with my brother." Darin said peacefully.

"Joe also refers to you as Vincent's brother, yet from the story you have told me about him, I suspect that it is an honorary title and not a circumstance of his birth." Tyce said carefully.

"That's right. Vincent and I met for the first time when we came on board. We were assigned to share quarters. I was an only child and always wanted a brother. Vincent was raised with his older brother Lawrence. When we found ourselves together in this new situation, we quickly became friends and before long, became as close as brothers. Joe has accepted me as another son, just like he did for Vincent." Darin said with a happy smile.

"In the days before I became the Holy One, I too wanted a brother. I was like you, an only child. But now that I am the Holy One, it is not possible for me to have such a relationship." Tyce said with regret.

"Why not?" Darin asked curiously.

"Because my duties preclude me from forming such relationships." Tyce said quietly.

"I bet that Audge would be your brother. He obviously admires you. I think that you could have the same type of relationship with him that I have with Vincent if that's what you both wanted." Darin said with a gentle smile.

Tyce shook his head and said, "Audge sees me as the Holy One, just as all my people do. I don't think there is any way that he could see beyond my title... such is my destiny."

"Only if you let it be." Darin said with certainty.

Tyce looked at him curiously.

"When I was assigned to the Yorktown, it was a mistake... well, actually it was a cruel joke. When I realized what happened I felt a lot like you do now. I felt like it was already a foregone conclusion that I would be decommissioned and sent back to Earth. But Vincent helped me and encouraged me so I didn't accept what I thought was fate. He kept me moving toward the outcome I wanted. Now I'm here. I'm a full ensign, not by accident or as part of a joke, but because I proved my abilities. Vincent has helped me understand a lot of things, but one of the most important things I've learned is that you're only doomed to your fate when you don't fight against it." Darin said passionately.

Tyce thought about the words for a moment, then smiled as he said, "The tone of your voice was very much like Vincent's when you said that. I can see that you really are brothers."

Darin giggled and said, "You aren't the first person to tell me that."

"Excuse me, do you think you could help me get this shirt on?" Audge asked from the bedroom doorway.

"Sure. I'll be right there." Darin said happily and hurried to Audge's side.

Tyce remained seated and watched through the bedroom door as Darin and Audge worked together to get the sleeve of the shirt over his cast.

* * * * *

"T'Lani has to get back to work." Vincent said with regret as he walked away from the supply room.

"How are you doing Champ?" Joe asked quietly from station one.

"I'm fine. Thanks for letting us have a few minutes alone. T'Lani helped explain some of what you were talking about." Vincent said as he walked slowly to Joe's side.

"Come here." Joe said warmly and pulled Vincent into a hug.

"Oh jeeze. I just got my chi and my ieb balanced." Vincent whined playfully.

Joe snuggled Vincent against his side, then said, "As I understand the concepts of chi and ieb, they are the forces of sexual attraction that people feel. What I feel for you is nothing like that. I'm sure if you ask the Holy One, he will explain the feeling a father has for his son isn't an example of ieb."

Vincent rolled his eyes and said, "I know that. I was just playing. Why do you have to be so serious about this stuff?"

"I guess it's because I want to be sure that you understand as many things as possible to prevent a repeat of what happened this afternoon with the Holy One." Joe said frankly.

Vincent reluctantly nodded, then said, "He really freaked me out when he did that. It was like..."

"Like what?" Joe asked curiously.

"Um... This morning when Thaelan and I were working out, something happened." Vincent said slowly.

"Something?" Joe asked cautiously, concerned by Vincent's tone.

"Yeah. I um... got mad. I mean... I don't know how to explain it really..." Vincent trailed off helplessly.

"Vincent was consumed by rage." Thaelan said from the main console.

Joe and Vincent both turned to Thaelan with surprise.

"Andorians have excellent hearing. As I was saying, when Vincent began today's exercise, he became enraged and temporarily lost the ability to reason." Thaelan said seriously.

"Is that right?" Joe asked as he looked at Vincent with concern.

"Yeah. And I kinda got the same feeling when Tyce kissed me." Vincent said in a small voice.

"If I had known that, I wouldn't have told you about your father today. I'm sorry Vincent." Joe said as he renewed his hug.

"It's okay. I'm glad you told me that stuff. But what I wanted to tell you is that I'm um, going to ask to talk to a counselor about it so maybe we can figure out how to keep it from happening some more." Vincent said uncertainly.

"I think that's an excellent idea. If you want, I can make those arrangements for you." Joe said quietly.

"No. I'll take care of it myself when we get Tyce back to his home. I don't know when I'll have time to see a counselor while he's on the ship." Vincent said as he turned to look Joe in the eyes.

"You've got it Champ. Just let me know if there's anything that I can do to help you." Joe said with a gentle smile.

"I think I'll be able to handle it. Thaelan says that it's not a really big problem yet, so if I go to the counselor and ask for help I should be able to take care of it." Vincent said with a smile.

"I think he's right. Just remember that you don't have to do it all by yourself. If you ever need to talk or just need a hug, you've got your whole family that you can depend on." Joe said warmly.

"I'll remember." Vincent said happily and hugged tightly to Joe's side.

"While the Holy One is getting his shower, would you like to run some status checks on two and three for me?" Joe asked casually from the hug.

"Sure." Vincent said gently, then moved to station two.

* * * * *

Darin walked into the living room to find Audge looking around curiously.

"I showed Tyce how to operate the sonic shower controls and how to start the fresher." Darin said casually as he took his seat.

"Thank you for attending to us. Your people have been very kind." Audge said quietly.

Darin smiled and said, "I'm just glad to be able to do something to help."

Audge nodded his understanding of the feeling.

"You look worried. Do you want to talk about it?" Darin asked with concern.

"You would have no more influence over the situation than I do." Audge said distantly.

"I may not be able to do anything to change whatever it is, but talking about it might make you feel better." Darin said casually.

Audge looked into Darin's eyes and said, "I am not worthy of the position I have been given."

Darin chuckled at the statement.

Audge looked at him curiously.

Darin smiled and tried to explain, "While you were showering, I was just telling Tyce that I wasn't worthy of the position that I was given when I came onto the Yorktown."

Audge seemed surprised by the statement.

"Audge. Sometimes in life you work hard and are rewarded in exactly the way that you expect. But other times opportunities are presented to you. When that happens, you have the choice to either reject those opportunities because you feel you don't deserve them, or you can accept them and do your best to live up to the challenges you have been given." Darin said carefully.

"But I have been the least of the followers of 'The Holy One'. I have not been educated by the priesthood. I have never been in a position to give a proper tribute or serve in any meaningful way. So many have devoted their lives to his service and deserve the opportunity that I have been given." Audge said quietly.

"Audge. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes it a horrible accident and sometimes it's your dream job being handed to you. It's not your fault, you have no control over it, you don't deserve it and it still just happens. But what you do have control of is how you deal with it." Darin said firmly.

Audge nodded slowly in thought.

"And if you're interested in my opinion, I think I can explain why you are actually more qualified than most to be Tyce's protector." Darin said cautiously.

Audge looked at Darin with surprise, then quickly nodded.

"I'm guessing that Tyce has been surrounded by priests since he became 'The Holy One' right?" Darin asked cautiously.

"I assume so. I only saw him for the first time today." Audge said quietly.

"Then why didn't he choose them to come here with him?" Darin asked curiously.

"I do not know. The high priest, Oluf, told me that I was to protect 'The Holy One'. He did not offer a reason." Audge said slowly.

"I think it's because Tyce doesn't need the high priest of 'The Holy One' or the most devoted follower of 'The Holy One' to be with him constantly. Being 'The Holy One' is his job. But when 'The Holy One' has come to the end of his duties for the day, Tyce needs someone who will be there for him. You're the best person to do that." Darin said seriously.

"I am?" Audge asked cautiously.

"Yes. You're coming to him as a regular person, not someone who was groomed to serve 'The Holy One'. If you choose to, you can relate to Tyce and give him someone that he can depend on when he's not doing his job. You are in a position to keep that sweet gentle person named Tyce from becoming lost in his responsibilities and duties." Darin said with passion.

"How is it that you know this?" Audge asked in wonder.

Darin smiled and said, "Because what I'm saying that you can be to Tyce is something like what I try to be for Vincent."

Audge stared past Darin in thought at the statement.

"He needs you Audge. He needs a real person in his life to keep him anchored. You can perform a very important function... provided that you don't talk yourself out of it because you feel unworthy." Darin added quietly.

The sound of movement from the bedroom caused both men to look up.

"If you say that the shower device cleaned me, I will believe you. But I much prefer a shower that uses water." Tyce said as he walked into the living area wearing a light green button up shirt and black slacks.

"There's a Jacuzzi tub in there too. After your dinner you could go in and soak in the water if you like. In fact, it's big enough for two." Darin said with a glance at Audge.

"I think that I would like to try that. Thank you Darin." Tyce said with a smile.

"Yes. If I can keep my cast from getting wet, I too would like to try it." Audge said cautiously, feeling that he might be overstepping his bounds.

Tyce looked at Audge with surprise for a moment, then smiled as he said, "Let's plan on doing that after dinner then. I'm sure Vincent wouldn't mind some time to do things by himself this evening."

"Most likely he will spend that time with his wife. They take an hour or so after their duty shifts each night to spend together." Darin said warmly.

"A very good arrangement. It is the foundation of a lasting union." Tyce said sagely.

"I guess since you're both finished, we should get back down to Deflector Control so you guys can go to dinner." Darin said frankly.

"Before we do that, would it be possible to contact the Dorsa so that I may speak to my high priest, Oluf?" Tyce asked seriously.

"Of course. If you'll have a seat at the desk, there is a comm unit that you can use. Just press the main comm button and tell whoever is on duty who you want to speak with and they'll take care of it for you." Darin said instructively.

"Thank you Darin. It will be helpful to be able to establish communications on my own." Tyce said as he moved to the desk.

After pressing the main comm button, the screen came to life to show an attractive woman.

"Communications." The woman said professionally.

"This is 'The Holy One' of the Okudai. Could you contact the Dorsa and connect me with the high priest Oluf?" Tyce asked carefully.

"Of course Holy One. I will have him for you in just a moment." The communications worker said respectfully, then the screen went dark.

Tyce smiled with accomplishment at being able to make the call without any complications, then turned his attention back to the console screen as it came back on.

"'Holy One'. It is so good to see that you are well. I was becoming concerned." Oluf said in relief.

"I am quite well Oluf. There is a dinner planned this evening and I have asked that you be invited to attend. Please arrange to transport to this ship and meet with me at your earliest convenience so I may speak with you about some new developments before the dinner." Tyce said calmly.

"Of course Holy One... may I also bring your formal robes?" Oluf asked as he looked at the unusual shirt that Tyce was wearing.

"No. but you may bring one or two of my regular robes. I will be wearing this clothing to the dinner. I will explain when you arrive." Tyce said carefully.

"As you say, Holy One." Oluf said as he bowed reverently.

"One other thing." Tyce said quickly before Oluf disconnected the transmission.

"Yes?" Oluf asked quickly.

"Please arrange for additional clothing to be provided for Audge, the man who came with me to protect me. I'm sure if you ask Captain Marr, he can find where Audge's clothing is stored." Tyce said, then glanced away from the screen to give Audge a quick smile.

"I will see to it 'Holy One'. I will join you as soon as I am able." Oluf said in an almost panicked voice.

"I will be in Deflector Control when you arrive." Tyce said seriously.

"Deflector Control. I will remember." Oluf said quickly.

"I will see you soon. Good bye Oluf." Tyce said with a gentle smile.

"Good bye 'Holy One'." Oluf said and bowed respectfully.

Tyce cautiously pressed the comm button again and the screen went dark.

"You handled that like you've been doing it all your life." Darin said with a smile.

"Although your Federation technology is different from ours, it operates fundamentally the same way. We had better go or Oluf will be in Deflector Control before we are." Tyce said with a grin.

"Tyce." Audge said cautiously.

Tyce turned to look at Audge with question.

"Your hair is somewhat disheveled. Would you like me to help you with it before we go?" Audge asked cautiously as he looked at Tyce's long flowing black hair.

"Yes, thank you. I've become accustomed to someone doing it for me and forgot." Tyce said timidly.

"The things you need should be in the top drawer of the dresser in the bedroom." Darin said quickly.

"You can come with us if you like." Tyce said as he walked toward the bedroom.

"No. Thank you. I think I'll let Audge handle this himself." Darin said with a smile at the pair.

* * * * *

"'Holy One'!" Oluf said in relief as he rushed into Deflector Control carrying a bundle of clothing.

"It is good to see you Oluf. Lieutenant Bowers, would you mind if I made use of your storage room to speak with Oluf privately for a moment?" Tyce asked casually.

"You're welcomed to use the storage room if you like. But I'm sure you could use one of the conference rooms where you would be more comfortable." Joe said quickly.

"There is no need. What I have to say won't take that long." Tyce said with a smile, then turned to Oluf and said, "Oluf, please come this way."

Audge watched cautiously, not knowing if he should stay or go. A glance from Tyce told him all he needed to know and he quickly followed the pair into the storage room.

* * * * *

"'Holy One', it is improper for you to be in this... workplace. I was led to believe that you would be treated as a dignitary among these Federation people." Oluf said in despair.

"Oluf. I am here because I choose to be here." Tyce said simply.

"But 'The Holy One' should not be subject to the trivialities of starship operations. You should be surrounded only by the most important and influential of their people." Oluf said desperately.

"Oluf. I have been sequestered from our own people since I became the Holy One. Austir kept counsel with only the heads of church and government for most of his life. The result has been that 'The Holy One' has lost touch with the common man. I'm ashamed to say that I know more about the day to day life of a Federation citizen than I do of my own people. It is going to change, starting now." Tyce said firmly.

"But it isn't proper for 'The Holy..." Oluf began to say.

"Oluf. That was a statement. Not a question. I will start with you. Up to now, you have fulfilled your duties as you have understood them. You have served me well as you have sought to protect me from unpleasantness and helped me to maintain my dignified bearing despite my young age. As of now, your first duty to me is to tell me the complete and honest truth about what is happening with our government and our people." Tyce said seriously

"'Holy One', I don't understand what you mean." Oluf said in astonishment.

"Have you served in this way for so long that you've forgotten what the truth is?" Tyce asked cautiously.

"No. But I don't understand what you are asking of me." Oluf said, and a note of helplessness could be heard in his voice.

"I am asking you to stop protecting me from the information that you feel is too unpleasant for me to know. I cannot make good decisions for my followers if I do not have accurate information. If you are unable to be honest and truthful with me, I will find someone who is able." Tyce said as he looked Oluf in the eyes.

"Yes... yes 'Holy One'. I will see that you are provided complete information." Oluf said quietly.

"Good. When we return home, I want you to make arrangements for children near my age from each colony and province to be randomly selected and brought to the capitol city to meet with me." Tyce said seriously.

"That could take some months to arrange." Oluf said hesitantly.

"Not all at once. One or two a week will be fine. I would just like to spend some time talking with them so I can get to know them and learn about their lives. How can I help to provide for their needs if I don't know what they are." Tyce finished simply.

"But... but you are 'The Holy One'." Oluf said in a disillusioned voice.

Tyce saw what was happening and said, "Yes Oluf. I am the Holy One. You, better than anyone, should know the abilities that I possess. But I am not omniscient or omnipotent. I suppose that over the last few decades that fact has been forgotten. It's time for us, all of the church, to turn our focus on the needs of our followers."

After a moment, Oluf reluctantly nodded.

Tyce considered for a moment, then reluctantly said, "I can see that your having difficulty with this. I think I may be able to ease your mind about it."

Oluf looked at Tyce with question.

After a quiet moment of concentration, Tyce slowly spread his arms and tilted his head back slightly.

A shadowy form slowly emerged from Tyce's chest and approached Oluf, who was frozen in a mix of wonder and fear.

"Oluf, my dear friend. It is good to see that you are well." The shadow said in a whispery voice.

"'H... Holy One'?" Oluf asked in fear.

There was a faint chuckle from around the room.

Audge, who had been standing silently watching, looked around and saw at least a dozen indistinct shapes throughout the room.

"All of us have used that name." the shadow said in a barely audible voice.

"But it is me that you remember. I am he who was Austir."

"Austir." Oluf said as tears welled up in his eyes.

"You need not fear me, my dear friend. I am simply here to assure you that young Tyce is doing what must be done at this time. Just as in nature, there is a time for the young to be protected and confined to the nest, but when they have grown enough, it is time for them to go out into the world to begin their own lives." Austir said softly.

Oluf nodded reluctantly.

"I was the protective parent who kept all my children sheltered and safe. Tyce will be the one to prepare them to leave the nest. Please help him my friend. All the Holy Ones who have ever been are in agreement that it is time." Austir said hopefully.

"I will Holy One. I will." Oluf promised as his tears fell.

"Remember the orchard in the springtime Oluf. That day still lives in my heart." Austir said in a whisper, then began to walked toward Tyce who was watching the scene before him sadly.

"I will Holy One. I'll never forget." Oluf said in a quiet, distant voice.

Austir gave a brief smile, then was absorbed into Tyce. One by one, the others made their way to Tyce and were also absorbed.

Audge hurried to Tyce's side and looked at him with question and concern.

Tyce smiled at his concern, then turned his attention to Oluf.

"Do you see now Oluf? I carry them with me. They advise me and offer their different points of view. I'm not a child who wants to make changes just to see things change. I am 'The Holy One' and I am clearing the path for the new age."

To Be Continued...