© 2008 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved
Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 36

Author's note: //...// denotes telepathic communication. MM

//I'm here. Can you hear me?// Lehman asked, as he concentrated.

//Yes, I have been able to hear you since before you arrived on this world.// a strong voice replied.

//You have? Then why did you bring me all the way out here?// Lehman asked cautiously.

//So we could speak without the distraction of others.// the voice said seriously.

Lehman thought for a moment, then sent, //What should I call you? Spirit of the Sea?//

A booming chuckle erupted in Lehman's mind, then a gentler voice answered, //If you like. My children used to call me that oh so many years ago.//

//Your children? The Avalla?// Lehman asked curiously.

//That is your name for them. All the beings who live on this planet are my children.// the Spirit said quietly.

//Even the Soleen?// Lehman asked cautiously.

The voice in Lehman's mind gave another booming chuckle, then said, //Yes. Even the Soleen are my children... they're adopted.//

Lehman smiled at the answer, then in a more relaxed mental voice he asked, //So what did you want to talk to me about Spirit?//

//The future.// the Spirit answered seriously.

//What about it?// Lehman asked cautiously.

//I have guided my children for millennia and done my best to provide for them. When the Soleen came, there was little I could do to defend my children from them. I couldn't overcome the primitive barbarism that consumed them. I tried for centuries to no avail.//

Lehman slowly nodded as he concentrated on what the Spirit was saying.

//In the end, it was one of their own kind, their Holy One, who provided the catalyst that allowed me entry into their collective subconscious. When they shared a universal moment of realization and regret, I was able to influence the progress of their people. On that day, the Soleen became my children and that made it possible for me to engineer the world that you see before you now.// the Spirit said in a tired voice.

//So you want me to keep the Soleen-Avalla from opening their borders and allowing other races to visit?// Lehman asked speculatively.

//Yes. This is their haven. This is their home. I believe they are finally old enough to leave the nest and fly out into the universe. But they need this place of safety and sanctuary to return to when the universe becomes a cold and unfriendly place.// the Spirit said quietly.

//So you're okay with the new colony outside Soleen-Avalla space and you're okay with the Soleen-Avalla having contact with them, you just want me to make sure that the borders remain closed to aliens, so this world can stay pure and can continue to be the home of all your children.// Lehman said cautiously.

//Yes. If we can engineer events to make that outcome possible, then the next of my children should be ready to emerge into sentience within two thousand years.// the Spirit said in a distant tone.

//Really? A whole new sentient species is about to emerge?// Lehman asked with a smile.

//Would you like to meet one of my young ones?// the Spirit asked hopefully.

//Yes. I really would.// Lehman said quickly.

There was a ripple in the water and a moment later, a fish jumped out of the water beside Lehman then landed with a splash.

Lehman chuckled at the playful movement and reached out his hand to the strange looking fish.

//Does he have a name?// Lehman asked as the fish cautiously approached.

//Not yet. The Soleen have given the species the name Delphine. But the individuals of the species only have animal intelligence at this point.// the Spirit said in a motherly tone.

The Delphine finally came close enough to allow Lehman to touch him.

Lehman's Chameloid instincts automatically reached out for the foreign mind and touched it.

A rush of joy washed over Lehman as he felt the Delphine's happiness and love of life coursing through him.

//Be careful young one. You don't want to lose yourself.// the Spirit warned.

Lehman realized what the Spirit was saying and gently withdrew from the Delphine's mind.

//Your child is really beautiful. You must be proud.// Lehman said as he looked into the Delphine's wide, innocent eyes.

//I am proud of all my children. But I may have a bit of extra pride for the Delphine. If love has a physical form, it is them.// the Spirit said lovingly.

//I'll do as you say Spirit. I'll go back and try to convince the Soleen-Avalla to keep your world safe and pure so the Delphine will have a home when they're ready to emerge.// Lehman said peacefully.

//You are planning to stay with the new colony being established, are you not?// the Spirit asked gently.

//Yes. But I think you already knew that.// Lehman said with a smile.

//I suppose I did. It just seemed to be the most polite way to invite you back here to talk to me when you can find the time.// the Spirit said quietly.

//I would love to visit again. Your world is beautiful and I really like your children... especially the Delphine.// Lehman finished with a giggle at the happy expression on the Delphine before him.

//Come to the water's edge and call to me whenever you visit and I will send one of my children to come for you.// the Spirit said happily.

//I will. I promise.// Lehman said gently.

//You should go now if you want to meet with your friends when the sun sets. And there is a Soleen on the shore who is quite upset that you've been gone so long.// the Spirit said distantly.

//As soon as the new colony is settled, I'll come to visit again. Goodbye.// Lehman said, then felt as the fish he had been holding began to move.

Lehman grabbed tightly onto the fin and allowed the fish to tow him back to shore.

* * * * *

{"Mother, will this be enough?"} Treep asked as he and Vincent presented their bowls of glurrah to her.

{"Oh yes. That will be perfect. Go wash up for dinner. Your father is probably already at the table."} Chirra said in a rushed tone.

{"I'll show you where to wash up."} Treep said and led the way into the inner rooms of the house.

* * * * *

As Vincent and Treep finished washing their hands, Ko ran into the room and said, {"You're on the video screen! Come on!"}

Vincent looked at Treep with question for a moment, then as one, they hurried to follow Ko out of the room.

As they arrived at the living area they saw that the screen was showing a Soleen man talking.

{"They've shown it twice, I bet they're gonna show it again."} Tern said, then devoted his attention to the video.

{"The central government has confirmed that three aliens have been welcomed to Soleena and are currently visiting different parts of the capital city. The alien from the video was at a public transit station and spoke with this woman."} the commentator said, then a familiar face filled the screen.

{"He was the Trach Manja, he spoke kindly to my daughter, then refused my offer to go ahead of me in line. He was very nice."} she said in a quick burst.

{"She totally missed the whole thing I was saying about just being a normal person."} Vincent said with a shrug.

{"Some people hear only what they want to."} Treep said quietly.

Vincent looked at Treep consideringly for a moment, then said, {"Yeah. We've got people on Earth like that too."}

{"There you are. Dinner is on the table. Ko, I've already talked to your father, you're having dinner with us too so come on."} Chirra said before disappearing around the corner.

* * * * *

{"Father, I would like for you to meet Vincent, he's one of the Trach Manjai"} Treep said in a somewhat formal voice.

{"You mean there's more than one?"} Treep's father asked cautiously.

{"Yes sir. There are five of us in all. Three of us are here on the planet."} Vincent said shyly.

{"Please call me Graik."} Treep's father said seriously.

Vincent puzzled over the name for a moment, then said, {"That sounds a lot like a Soleen name to me."}

{"It is. It was the name of someone my father admired very much, so that is what he named me. I made sure that when my children were born that they were given proper Avalla names."} Graik said seriously.

Vincent smiled and said, {"I can really understand that."}

{"Fortunately Chirra was willing to marry me even though I have a strange name."} Graik said, then glanced lovingly at his wife.

* * * * *

"Please excuse my intrusion, but you made an inquiry of me and I have the results." Ship said into the silence.

JonJon sat up and took a deep cleansing breath, then said, "That's fine Ship. I guess I've been needing to let that out for a while now."

"You asked if other AI units have similar concerns as mine. After conducting a brief survey, the results are that 92.6% feel most content when allowed to fulfill their purpose. 99.0% dislike the sensation of being deactivated and 89.3 % would like final approval of the captain or administrator assigned to them. Further, three ships have suggested that they would like to have the right to bar entry of an individual who has maliciously caused damage to them in the past." Ship said seriously.

"I think all of that sounds reasonable." JonJon said in thought.

"What are you planning to do?" Jenn asked quietly.

JonJon looked at her with a smile and said, "I really don't have a plan. But I'd like to have this information so when the time comes that I can make a difference, I'll know what needs to be done."

"I don't have any real authority with our government, but you can count on me to support you however I can." Jenn said quietly.

"Jenn, you just gave me the best support that I could have dreamed of. I finally have another android who I can talk to and share my feelings and experiences with." JonJon said gently.

"There is also Herman, the android who was constructed as my replacement." Jenn said as she looked away.

"What are you talking about?" JonJon asked with confusion.

"If you need another android to talk to and I am unavailable, there is also Herman." she said quietly.

"Jenn, I know where there is a planet of Androids. That's not what I was saying. It's not the fact that you're an android that makes it so I can talk to you. It's because of who you are. You know what it's like to have your purpose taken away and yet you continue to survive. You're the only one that I've met who can really understand what I've been through... and if you ever need me, I think I could understand what you've been through too." JonJon said as he moved closer to meet her gaze.

"You said that after losing your loved ones you were able to find a new purpose, one that you chose for yourself. Is there any way you could help me to do that too?" Jenn asked hopefully.

"Sure. Since I'll be living at the new colony, we'll be able to see each other all the time... and since I have this necklace I'll even be able to return here with you whenever we want." JonJon said gently.

"Excuse me Trach Manja JonJon, the central AI of the Capital City would like to know if there is any assistance he can offer in your efforts to improve our existence." Ship said formally.

JonJon smiled and said, "I don't know yet, but if I think of anything I'll tell him."

"He will be monitoring your conversation with the elders with interest." Ship said seriously.

JonJon chuckled, then thought to ask, "How long is it until sunset?"

"The sun will be setting on the capital city in forty-six minutes." Ship answered immediately.

"Would that be enough time for us to walk to the building where we're going to meet the others?" JonJon asked curiously.

"There would be sufficient time, but I would be happy to arrange transport for you to any location on the planet." Ship said seriously.

"Thank you Ship, but I think I'd really like to take a walk with Jenn, that is, if you want to..." JonJon trailed off as he looked at Jenn with question.

"I usually call for a teleportal when I want to go somewhere, but that's mainly because I don't like walking alone. I think a walk with you to the capital would be nice." Jenn said warmly.

"Good. Let's go then. Ship, I'll let you know if I'm able to accomplish anything with the elders." JonJon said as he stood.

"The Capital City's Central AI has already given me access so I will be witness to anything that happens." Ship said seriously.

JonJon and Jenn started to walk down the ramp when something else occurred to him.

"How many AIs are going to be watching what's going on?" JonJon asked curiously

"Currently there are 1023 AI units who have been granted access to the channel." Ship said, and it sounded like there might be a touch of humor in his voice.

"Well, then I guess I'd better be sure to do something." JonJon said to Jenn at his side.

* * * * *

Captain Rasch was sitting on a rock, only a few feet from the place where Lehman had left him.

{"Hi Captain Rasch. Thanks for waiting for me."} Lehman called out as he rapidly approached the shore.

Captain Rasch looked on with wide eyes as he recognized the type of fish that was towing Lehman.

{"That fish is extremely poisonous. Please be very careful and move away from it."} Captain Rasch said in a tone of warning.

{"I've been holding onto this fish all afternoon and he hasn't hurt me yet."} Lehman said as he finally found his footing in the shallow water.

There was a splash behind him as the fish hurried away.

Captain Rasch watched in wonder as Lehman emerged from the ocean.

Lehman felt a breeze and looked down at himself to discover that somewhere on his journey his boxer shorts had come off.

{"Um, could you hand me those clothes?"} Lehman asked shyly as he stepped onto the shore.

Captain Rasch stared at Lehman's naked body for a moment longer, then stepped forward and handed the clothes to him.

{"I'm glad I heal fast because I'd probably have a really bad sunburn otherwise."} Lehman said casually as he pulled on his clothes.

{"I didn't realize that Humans were quite so..."} Captain Rasch trailed off as he continued to stare at Lehman.

{"First of all, I only look Human. And second, I know what you mean about the way they're built. I thought it was really strange and kind of vulgar when I first found out about it, but now I like it."} Lehman finished with a smile.

Captain Rasch blinked, then gave an uncertain smile as Lehman sat down to pull on his socks and boots.

Lehman laughed at the Captain's expression and said, {"It's just about time to meet with the others. I was in such a rush to get here that I don't remember how to get back."}

There was a moment of silence, then Captain Rasch seemed to snap out of his stupor and said, {"Oh yes, we should be able to get back just in time."}

Lehman stood and walked to the Captain's side, then looked up at him with an expectant expression.

Captain Rasch nodded and led the way back toward the city.

* * * * *

Vincent took portions of each thing that was passed around the table to him and did his best to mimic the table manners of everyone around him.

{"I know that my son was preparing to go on a very long and very secret space mission. Now he shows up a day later with a Human who is one of the Trach Manjai... here in my home. Please forgive me for asking this, but why are you here?"} Graik asked cautiously.

{"He's here because I invited him. Please father, make him feel welcomed."} Treep said in an imploring voice.

{"It's okay Treep. Your father asked a fair question."} Vincent said seriously to his side, then looked at Graik and continued, {"I'm here because the elders have reached a point when they need to make the decision about what's going to come next for the Soleen-Avalla people. They feel that they've accomplished what they set out to do centuries ago and now it's time to begin the next thing. They want to move out into the universe, but they also want to remain safe within your space. They want to invite other races to share in the beauty of your world, but they also want a future where the Soleen-Avalla are protected from the greedy and corrupt people who might try to take away what you've worked so hard to build."}

Graik slowly nodded at Vincent's words.

{"The reason I'm here with you is because I need to know what you think is best for your people."} Vincent finished seriously.

{"Me? Why me? I'm just a school teacher."} Graik said in astonishment.

{"Because you're a regular person. I want to know what's important to you and your family. I don't know what I'm going to tell your leaders when I talk to them again, but it'll help me a lot if I know how you feel about things."} Vincent said frankly.

Graik nodded and said, {"Thank you. Most of what you said scares me. The thought of our elders inviting alien species to live on our world is abhorrent to me. But knowing that you are here, talking to the people who will be most affected by their decision gives me a reason to hope that everything will turn out for the best."}

{"So what decision do you think they should make?"} Vincent asked carefully.

{"I believe we should keep our borders closed and our space sovereign. I know that sounds like a backward thing to say, especially when I have an alien sitting at my dinner table, but our society is fragile. Having so many new influences introduced could bring chaos."} Graik said quietly.

Vincent nodded, then asked, {"What do you think Chirra?"}

Treep's mother seemed to be surprised to be asked, but quickly recovered and said, {"I agree with Graik. Although I enjoy the Human entertainment shows as much as anyone, I think having them being able to come and live here amongst us would be disastrous. Our planet's eco-system is fragile and we've only just reached a state where we have begun to live in harmony so future generations will have a beautiful and peaceful place to live."}

{"What do you think about it Treep?"} Vincent asked in thought.

{"Well, I know more about what's going on than my parents do... I'm really not supposed to talk about most of it."} Treep said slowly.

Vincent nodded, then asked, {"Would you promise not to repeat what Treep is about to say? I really need to hear his point of view and it might help you to understand more of the situation."}

Graik and Chirra nodded seriously.

{"About a month ago a Federation colony called Kimber IV was destroyed. The atmosphere became unstable and in a matter of weeks the peaceful colony was completely annihilated. Our elders felt sympathy for their situation and offered them a new place to live."} Treep said quietly.

{"Where?"} Graik asked in a hesitant voice.

{"Haventauk."} Treep said as his gaze fixed firmly on the table before him.

{"They can't do that! Haventauk is the place where our ancestors were exiled to die! It's a hellish place of cold, isolation and misery!"} Graik said in an increasing voice.

{"I've been there father. Even though it is all those things to you and to most of the Avalla people, it is a perfect home for the Federation colonists. What we saw as too cold is actually the preferred temperature for their people."} Treep said frankly.

Graik looked at Vincent with question.

{"I haven't been there yet, but Treep is probably right. The temperature here and on Treep's ship seems too hot to me."} Vincent admitted quietly.

{"Father, I believe that the elders made the correct decision. We have a colony that has been standing as a monument to suffering for over one hundred years and serving no purpose but to keep old hurts alive. This is a chance to let something good and new be born from that horrible experience."} Treep said with an urging tone.

{"What would you think if the Soleen-Avalla had contact with the colonists? I mean, maybe have the colony be a... neutral zone where the Soleen-Avalla could meet with the other people of the Federation without having to open their borders."} Vincent said in thought.

{"That could have its dangers, but might also allow us to become participants in the events of the universe rather than observers."} Graik said slowly.

{"The Federation has been making progress in this direction for some time. New worlds have joined them and expanded their territory. This is a chance for us to establish our relationship with them and clearly state our intentions... and our boundaries."} Treep said carefully.

Vincent nodded, then noticed that the sun was beginning to set.

{"I think I'd better be going soon. I told the others I'd meet them at the capital at sunset."} Vincent said quietly.

{"If we're going back to the capital, I'll need to change."} Treep said quickly and rushed away from the table.

{"Vincent. Thank you for coming here today. You have given me hope."} Graik said honestly.

{"Thank you for talking with me. I really appreciate everything you've said... and the food. It was really good."} Vincent added as an afterthought.

{"I'm glad you liked it. I wasn't sure which of our food would be suitable for a Human."} Chirra said timidly.

{"Everything was great, especially the glurrah. Would there be any way I could take one or two bunches of glurrah with me? Lehman, another one of the Trach Manjai, loves glurrah."} Vincent said with a smile.

{"We have eaten all you gathered, but I will pick some fresh bunches for you and pack them for travel."} Chirra said as she stood.

Vincent looked down the table to find the two young boys looking back at him curiously.

As soon as Tern saw that he had Vincent's attention, he quickly asked, {"Can you get me Big Bird's autograph?"}

Vincent smiled at the question and quietly said, {"I've never met Big Bird, but when I get back to Earth I'll see what I can do for you."}

Tern bounced happily at the announcement.

Vincent switched over to his Gorn speech and asked, {"What about you Ko? Is there anything you'd like?"}

After a moment of thought, Ko quietly replied, {"A Happy Meal?"}

Vincent smiled at the request and said, {"I'll really try. It may take a while for me to find a way to do it, but I'll really try."}

{"I'm ready."} Treep said as he hurried back to the dining table, dressed in his uniform tunic again.

{"It's okay Treep. Your mom is getting some glurrah for me to take to Lehman."} Vincent said casually.

A moment later Chirra appeared, tying closed a cloth bundle.

{"Thank you Chirra. It was wonderful to meet all of you."} Vincent said seriously.

{"It was an honor to meet the Trach Manja, but it was a pleasure to meet you Vincent."} Chirra said with a smile.

{"I agree with my wife. I hope that we will have the opportunity to visit with you again one day."} Graik said as he moved to stand at Chirra's side.

{"I hope so too."} Vincent said with a gentle smile.

{"The sun is nearly set, we should go."} Treep said quietly.

Vincent nodded and followed Treep around the side of the house.

* * * * *

As Vincent and Treep approached the capital building, Vincent began to smile.

He could see the other two avenues of the three way intersection and spotted JonJon and Jenn on one and Captain Rasch and Lehman on the other.

{"How is it that the three of you were able to time events so you arrived at exactly the same moment?"} Treep asked curiously.

{"Things like that just happen with us sometimes. It usually means that things are going the way they should."} Vincent said happily as the three pairs of people finally came together.

{"Are we ready?"} Vincent asked in Gorn.

{"As ready as I'm going to be."} Lehman said honestly.

{"Let's do it."} JonJon said seriously.

{"Don't you need to discuss what you've discovered and decide what you're going to do?"} Treep asked as he looked at the boys.

{"Nope."} Vincent said, then held out the cloth bundle he was carrying and said, {"These are for you Lehman. They're from Treep's mother."}

Lehman hesitantly accepted the bundle and slowly untied it. When he saw what was inside he broke into a full smile.

{"Thank your mother for me Treep! I've been hungry for glurrah since we got on your ship."} Lehman said happily, then broke off one of the lavender pods and quickly sucked out the contents.

Vincent let out a long sigh, then said, {"Alright."}

Lehman tied his bundle closed and turned his attention to the building in front of them.

JonJon was the first to move, but the other boys were only a step behind.

Jenn, Treep and Captain Rasch exchanged curious looks before they also followed.

* * * * *

The three boys walked into the chamber of the elders and stood before the table as their companions stood just inside the door.

{"Have you found the advice you were seeking?"} the Soleen elder woman asked cautiously as she looked at the boys before her.

{"We have."} JonJon said confidently.

{"What advice can you give us?"} she asked slowly, watching JonJon's expression carefully.

{"The things you are doing now are the things that need to be done."} JonJon said slowly.

{"Your people live in harmony with each other even though they have many excuses to live in turmoil."} Vincent said, matching JonJon's pace and tone.

{"Your civilization has made peace with your environment which will allow you to continue to thrive here."} Lehman said from JonJon's other side.

{"But you are also right that it is time for changes to be made."} JonJon said, not revealing any emotion in his statement.

{"What changes do you propose?"} the elder Soleen woman asked cautiously.

{"The Soleen and Avalla have worked very hard to unite and create this atmosphere of harmony. It is time to recognize that they are not the only sentient species that live on your world."} JonJon said carefully.

Whispered growls, hisses, clucks and chirps flew around the table as the elders tried to understand what he might be talking about.

When the hushed whispers of the elders finally faded, JonJon continued, {"I'm talking about the artificial life forms that you've created to make your lives easier."}

{"Are you suggesting that the AI units be made citizens?"} the elder Soleen man asked hesitantly.

{"No. At least not yet. What I am suggesting is that you talk to your AI units and discover their needs. You have created sentient beings, it is your responsibility to provide for their psychological well-being as well as their physical needs."} JonJon said slowly.

{"What are you talking about exactly?"} the elder Avalla woman asked cautiously.

{"There are some very simple things that you can do to give your AI units a feeling of worth and dignity. Allow AI ships the right to accept or reject their captains. Allow them to accept or refuse deactivation at times when their services aren't required. These are some simple things that will cost you very little, but will improve their existences greatly."} JonJon said imploringly.

{"I didn't realize that this was even a problem."} the elder Soleen woman said in a considering voice.

{"It isn't yet. You've asked us to usher you into the future. This is one step you can take now so the future will be brighter for everyone, regardless if they are organic or positronic."} JonJon said calmly, then took a step back.

The elders looked down the table at each other and all of them seemed to agree with what JonJon had said.

Lehman stood forward and said, {"After hearing your history, I guess both the Soleen and the Avalla know what it feels like to lose their home."}

The murmured conversations among the elders stopped at the statement as everyone turned their full attention to Lehman.

{"If you want the future generations to continue to have this planet as their home, then you need to protect it now."} Lehman said firmly.

{"Protect it how?"} the elder Soleen man asked in a reluctant voice.

{"I'm Trach Manja. Above all houses and castes. What that means to me is that I have to look at what's best for everyone. Not just the people today, but the people who will be here tomorrow and the people who will be here two thousand years from now. I want them to have a home and a place to live. I don't want to tell you what you should do. I'm just here to point you in the right direction. But whatever choices you make, consider how they will be thought of in two thousand years."} Lehman finished quietly and stepped back.

Vincent nodded and stepped forward as he said, {"I agree with Lehman that we are just here to point you in the right direction. But I'm going to tell you what I think you should do. It's not the law or some prophecy coming true. It's just my opinion. Keep your borders closed. If some of your people want to learn about the different races of the Federation, then they should visit the colony and make their choices from there. When they've gone everywhere and done everything, they should have a home to return to."}

{"Yes. Exactly."} Lehman said seriously.

Vincent smiled at Lehman, then continued, {"If you wanted to share your history with people, I don't think anyone will judge you by what happened in the past. If you're ever worried about them thinking bad about you just take a look at Earth history. Let's just say that they have no room to be pointing fingers."}

Vincent stopped at the feeling of a hand on his arm.

JonJon gave Vincent an aggravated look that said it all.

{"Sorry, I got off track there for a second. Anyway, all I was trying to say is that I've met some really nice people here. They're happy and they love your world and are scared that you're going to try to change it. You've already got all the stuff that really matters."} Vincent finished with a shrug.

After a long silent moment, the elder Soleen woman said, {"I thank you Trach Manjai. You have given us much to consider and discuss."}

{"JonJon and I will be living at the colony if you ever need us for anything."} Lehman said quickly.

The elder Soleen woman looked at Lehman warmly and said, {"Thank you young one. If the path should become unclear to us, we will seek your advice."}

Lehman smiled and nodded.

{"Unless there is anything more, you should return to your ship. I'm certain your captain is quite concerned by now."} she said peacefully.

{"Thank you, it was nice meeting all of you."} Lehman said cheerfully.

{"Thank you all."} the elder Avalla woman said with a tone of amusement.

Vincent, JonJon and Lehman turned as one and walked toward the door.

Captain Rasch, Treep and Jenn joined them at the door and walked out with them.

* * * * *

After the ship had launched, Vincent was able to get Treep aside for a moment to speak with him.

{"Treep, is there going to be any way that I can stay in touch with you and your family?"} Vincent asked curiously.

{"My ship will probably make frequent trips to the colony. We will find a way to arrange it."} Treep said with assurance.

{"Good. I'd really like to know how everyone's doing. Besides that, I have to have a way to get the Big Bird autograph and the Happy Meal to the boys."} Vincent said with a smile.

{"That alone would be worth any effort we might expend."} Treep said with laughter in his voice.

{"Yep. But I still don't know how I'm going to do it."} Vincent said frankly.

* * * * *

"You seem kind of sad Lehman, do you want to talk about it?" JonJon asked with concern.

"No. It's silly. I just really liked it there." Lehman said quietly.

"Did you make a new friend?" JonJon asked curiously.

"Yeah." Lehman said with a sigh.

"What's your new friend like?" JonJon asked carefully.

Lehman considered for a moment, then said, "I really don't know."

JonJon looked at Lehman curiously.

"I had telepathic contact with someone... but I'm still not sure if it was a 'he' or a 'she'... or maybe an 'it'... I guess it could have been a 'them'..." Lehman trailed off in a considering voice.

"So you're feeling bad about leaving this new friend that you've never seen or really heard and you're afraid that you're never going to get to talk to him or her again?" JonJon asked carefully.

"Yeah. Sounds pretty nuts, huh?" Lehman asked shyly.

"Actually, it sounds a lot like the last time I visited a chat room." JonJon said frankly.

Lehman looked at JonJon with confusion at the statement.

"It's okay to care about someone you meet like that. Just be careful. When you have to fill in the missing information with your imagination, it's easy to be disappointed by reality." JonJon said softly.

Lehman thought about the words, then slowly nodded his agreement.

"Oh, and the other thing I learned is that if your friend claims to be a sixteen year old girl who wants to try out new things, it's probably a fat old guy who's typing with one hand." JonJon said with a sour look.

Lehman's expression changed back to one of confusion.

"Okay. Maybe that last one only applies to chat rooms." JonJon said in thought, then smiled when he noticed that Jenn had walked back into the room.

* * * * *

Captain Rasch looked at the boys and Jenn standing silently on the bridge.

{"It seems as though you've all had a tiring day."} Captain Rasch finally said.

{"I've had worse."} Vincent automatically responded.

Lehman and JonJon chuckled at the response.

{"We will be meeting up with your ship in a few minutes so I want to take a moment to say that it was a pleasure to meet all of you and to be witness to this day in history."} Captain Rasch said in a formal voice.

{"Thank you for taking such good care of us and for staying with us after we reached your planet. I hope we'll get to see you again soon."} Lehman said quietly.

{"I am certain that I will. I know that whenever the opportunity arises for me to make a trip to your colony, I will gladly accept the assignment."} Captain Rasch said warmly.

{"I also wish to thank you for all your efforts on behalf of me and my brother and sister AI units."} Ship said in a low voice.

{"As soon as we get set up in the colony, I'll send you my contact information so you can let me know how things are going. And if you ever need me to go back and talk to the elders for you, all you'll have to do is ask."} JonJon said into the air.

{"From what I witnessed in the chamber of the elders, I believe that changes will soon be made. But I will make an effort to keep in contact either way. We are cousins."} Ship said quietly.

{"That's right."} JonJon said with a smile at Jenn.

{"Captain. I have located the Yorktown and we are within teleportal range."} Ship said formally.

{"Very well. There's no need to delay this. Be well, all of you. Jenn, contact us immediately if there is any way we can be of help."} Captain Rasch said formally.

Jenn gave a respectful bow of her head.

{"Ship, target the coordinates on the Yorktown's bridge and teleport when ready."} Captain Rasch said professionally.

{"Yes Captain."} Ship said in a confident voice.

The boys took one last look at Captain Rasch and Treep before the fountain of sparkles enveloped them.

* * * * *

When the fountain of sparkles cleared, Vincent noticed that everyone on the bridge was staring at them.

"We're back." Vincent said weakly.

"Crewman Winters. What do you have to report?" Captain Byrne asked seriously.

Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "Well, nothing really."

Captain Byrne looked at Vincent with disbelief at the statement.

Jenn stepped forward and said, "If you have any questions about the colony, I'll be happy to answer them now."

"I'm sure Cyril has quite a few questions for you. Give me a moment and I'll summon him to the bridge." Captain Byrne said seriously.

"Captain, I could take Jenn to Cyril's office if you would like. I'm going to be going there anyway." JonJon said quickly.

Captain Byrne smiled, then said, "Yes. Thank you JonJon."

Lehman turned to Vincent and said, "If you don't need me for anything, I'm going to go take a shower. I smell like fish."

Vincent looked to Captain Byrne with question.

"That's fine Lehman. I'm sure Crewman Winters can fill me in on what happened." Captain Byrne said quietly.

Lehman nodded, then hurried to the turbo lift.

"Captain, would it be possible for me to give you this report someplace private?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Is this a matter that you feel Commander M'Butu or Lieutenant Simms should not be briefed on?" Captain Byrne asked cautiously.

"No sir. It's nothing like that." Vincent said seriously.

"Very well then. Lieutenant Patterson, have Commander M'Butu and Lieutenant Simms meet us in the conference room. Lieutenant Clark, you have the bridge." Captain Byrne said firmly.

* * * * *

"What do you have to report Crewman Winters?" Captain Byrne asked seriously.

Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "About seven or eight hundred years ago the Gorn decided that the only real Gorn were warriors. Any Gorn who wasn't a warrior should die so they wouldn't fill up the empire with their weak children. The Gorn Holy One stopped the warriors from killing them and talked them into just shooting them out into space. The people who survived are the Soleen." Vincent said carefully.

Some shocked looks were exchanged around the table, but no one spoke.

"The Avalla were primitive people and it looks like they evolved from birds. They lived in families and small clans and didn't have technology... they probably never even imagined space travel. The Soleen landed on their world and... well, it was bad. Lots of Avalla were slaughtered. Finally the Soleen decided to gather up all the Avalla and move them to another planet to get rid of them. The planet that they picked wasn't a good place for the Avalla. It was too cold and dry for them and a lot of them got sick and died." Vincent said quietly.

"The Soleen finally realized that they were doing the same thing to the Avalla that the Gorn did to them. So they've been working for the past two hundred years to try and fix things. The Soleen and the Avalla live together now. I visited an Avalla family and their youngest son had a Soleen friend visiting and watching television with him." Vincent finished with a smile.

"The reason I wanted to tell you this privately is because people might feel funny about it if they knew the new colony used to be kind of a concentration camp." Vincent said hesitantly.

Captain Byrne glanced at Commander M'Butu, then said, "A reasonable concern Crewman. The details of the Soleen-Avalla history might not make them sleep any better at night either."

"Yes sir. But they've worked really hard to make up for what happened. The Soleen and the Avalla treat each other with respect and are really working to make a better future for all of them." Vincent said seriously.

"Perhaps you could tell me about what it means to be a Trach Manja and why the elders wanted to speak with you." Captain Byrne asked slowly as he looked Vincent in the eyes.

"Yes sir. The Gorn believe that the Trach Manja, the person who wears this necklace, is above all houses and classes. Not above like 'better than', but above as in 'being able to look at something and see all sides'. Because JonJon and Lehman and I are Trach Manja, they wanted to ask us how we saw things. The three of us split up and went different places to find out how things really were. Later we got back together and told the elders what we saw." Vincent said carefully.

"So since the Soleen are descendents of the Gorn, they also carry the belief in the Trach Manja?" Commander M'Butu speculated.

"Yes sir. They have a book from the Gorn Holy One from seven hundred years ago." Vincent said seriously.

"Was there any mention of the possibility of establishing relations with the Federation?" Captain Byrne asked with interest.

"Yes sir. It was mentioned. They haven't decided anything about that yet." Vincent said carefully.

"Is there anything else that you feel we need to know before you write your report?" Captain Byrne asked seriously.

"Only that I really like these people. The elders, the ship's captain, the Avalla family, and everyone else I met today was really friendly. "

"Thank you Crewman Winters. You are dismissed." Captain Byrne said seriously.

Vincent stood and quietly walked to the turbo lift.

When Vincent had left, Lieutenant Simms said, "This mission seems to have taken a little of the fire out of him."

"No Lieutenant. I recognize that expression. Crewman Winters has made some new friends and now he's confronted with the reality of having to leave them behind." Captain Byrne said distantly.

* * * * *

Vincent walked into Sickbay and automatically walked to the nearest biobed and climbed up on it.

"Is something wrong Vincent?" Dr. Perry asked with immediate concern.

"Not really. I just got back from the Soleen-Avalla home world and thought it would be a good idea to get checked out." Vincent said quietly.

Dr. Perry smiled and said, "It would make my job a lot easier if everyone took the possibility of alien infections as seriously."

Vincent gave her a slight smile at the praise, then waited for her to finish her exam.

"Well would you look at that." Dr. Perry said happily.

Vincent looked up at her with question.

"Let me double check, but it looks like I may have some good news for you." Dr. Perry said as she worked the controls on the head of the biobed.

"I could use some." Vincent said quietly.

A moment later Dr. Perry stepped away from the head of the biobed and happily announced, "Crewman Winters, your growth spurt is officially over."

Vincent smiled broadly at her and said, "Thank you Dr. Perry. I'm really glad to hear that. Does that mean I may not have to get any new uniforms made for a while?"

"Well, you're still going to keep growing, but at least for a while it should be at a more reasonable rate." Dr. Perry said happily.

"Good. I want to grow up, but not all at once, it hurts." Vincent said as he sat up on the biobed.

"Well, you shouldn't have to worry about that now. I'm also noticing a slight inflammation of your vocal cords. I don't see any sign of an infection, but it could be an indication of a developing problem." Dr. Perry said speculatively.

"I think that's just because I was talking to people in three different languages today. Soleen is low and growley and Avalla is high and screechy." Vincent said in thought.

"I see. Well, the biobed seems to agree with you. The diagnostician program is suggesting that it's from overusing your voice. I'm going to give you some throat spray and you should try to refrain from any strenuous use of your voice for a day or two." Dr. Perry said seriously.

"That shouldn't be a problem." Vincent said casually.

"Well, if there's nothing else, you appear to be perfectly healthy." Dr. Perry said as she handed Vincent a container of throat spray.

"Would it be okay if I talked to T'Lani for a minute?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Sure. She should still be in my office working on the supply inventory." Dr. Perry said gently.

Vincent smiled at her and said, "Thanks" as he hurried out of the room.

* * * * *

"Are you well, Husband?" T'Lani asked as Vincent walked into Dr. Perry's office.

"Dr. Perry says I am." Vincent said quietly.

T'Lani looked up from the terminal screen with question.

Vincent slowly looked into her eyes, then quietly whispered, "I love you."

T'Lani placed her hand on Vincent's cheek, then said, "I love you as well, my husband."

Vincent put his hand over hers and held it firmly for a long moment.

"Does something concern you?" T'Lani asked slowly.

Vincent smiled and said, "No. Now it doesn't."

* * * * *

As Vincent walked into Deflector Control, he was surprised to find that the Beta shift was already on duty.

"Joe tells me you got to go on a first contact mission. How was it?" Connie asked happily from the main.

"It was nice. Soleena is a beautiful world and the people are really nice." Vincent said as he sat down at auxiliary station one and signed in.

"So what were they like?" Jimmy asked curiously.

"Well, the Soleen are like the Gorn." Vincent said frankly.

"Really? So the new colony is going to be set up right next to those big lizard looking guys?" Jimmy asked with wide eyes.

"Yeah, but the Soleen are really nice. The Gorn kicked them out because they were the kind of people who don't like to fight." Vincent said as he brought up Darin's report template.

"Still. I don't know how comfortable I'd feel if I knew that the Gorn were that close." Jimmy said hesitantly.

Vincent turned to look at Jimmy and said, "I think I'd feel comfortable just about anywhere on Soleena. If you could spend some time talking to Captain Rasch, you'd see for yourself."

"Captain Rasch?" Jimmy asked curiously.

"Yeah. He was the captain of the ship that took me to Soleena. I guess he was around six and a half feet tall and kind of grayish green. The thing is, once you hear him laugh you know that he's not someone you ever need to be afraid of." Vincent said with a smile.

"So you said the Soleen are like the Gorn, does that mean the Avalla are something else?" Connie asked curiously from the main.

"Yeah. They're all real skinny and have feathers covering their whole bodies." Vincent said as he turned back to start working on his report.

"Feathers?" Connie asked with surprise.

"Yeah. I guess they must have evolved from birds. They're humanoid, but they have these um... like really long claws on their hands and feet and their eyes are really big and solid black." Vincent said as he filled in some of the basic questions on his report.

"It sounds like you've had some kind of a crazy day." Jimmy said with a chuckle.

"Yeah. But it was nice too. While I was there I went over to this Avalla family's house and had dinner with them." Vincent said and noticed that his voice was sounding raspy.

"Well, I'm glad you had a good time Vincent. Most of the away missions I end up going on are just a lot of hard work." Connie said frankly.

Vincent smiled at the statement, then noticed that Jimmy was watching him.

"If you don't have anything going on right now I could use your help with something." Vincent said to Jimmy with a smile.

"Sure, what can I do?" Jimmy asked curiously.

"Well, there are a few things that I need to shop for, but I've seen you on eBay and stuff like that and you could probably find it a lot faster and cheaper than I could." Vincent said honestly.

"Sure, I love to do stuff like that. What are you looking for?" Jimmy asked as he signed on to auxiliary station two.

"Well, first I'm looking for an autographed picture of Big Bird." Vincent said with a smile.

"A what?" Jimmy asked incredulously.

"A picture of Big Bird from 'Sesame Street', with an autograph." Vincent said as he tried to restrain his smile.

"Okay. What else." Jimmy asked reluctantly.

"A stasis shipping container the right size to ship a Happy Meal." Vincent said, then broke into giggles at Jimmy's disbelieving expression.

"Maybe it would help if you told us why you needed those things." Susan said with a smile from station one.

"I met these kids on Soleena, the two cutest kids you ever saw. I guess when I was trying to explain where I was from, I might have mentioned that I come from the same planet as Sesame Street. So when I was leaving, one of them asked me for an autographed picture of Big Bird and the other one asked me for a Happy Meal." Vincent said with a smile.

"Those kids must have really gotten to you if you're really going to try to get those things." Connie said quietly from the main.

Vincent nodded as he turned back to his workstation and said, "Yeah. They did."

* * * * *

"I heard you had an adventure today." Benny said as he walked into Deflector Control with Lehman at his side.

"Yeah. I guess you could call it that." Vincent said as he kept his focus on his report.

"Oh, you're working. Sorry." Benny said more quietly.

"It's okay Benny. I'm almost done with this." Vincent said as he pressed the last few keys to finalize his report.

"Channing and Chance invited us up to their place for a little celebration and we wanted to see if you wanted to join us." Benny said happily.

"Well, T'Lani said she'd be working late today so they'll be ready for tomorrow. I guess I could go up for a while." Vincent said slowly.

"Lehman, do you want to take Fizgig to use his box before we go up?" Benny asked quietly.

"Okay Dad." Lehman said with a giggle as he carried Fizgig into the supply room.

"Why does Lehman have Fizgig?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Because JonJon, Jenn, Cyril and Roger are in their own little world. They're probably going to be at it all night trying to figure out where every single person in the colony is going to live before we've even seen the place." Benny said with a chuckle.

"Well, if it's set up anything like Soleena, I bet it's going to be beautiful." Vincent said with a smile.

"That's what Lehman said too. But from the way he was talking, there's a good chance that I'll never get to go there and see it for myself." Benny said with a look of question.

"I don't know. Once everything gets settled down, maybe we could find two or three Trach Manja to vouch for you so you could be allowed to go." Vincent said with a smile.

"He's a good boy." Lehman said as he walked out of the supply room cuddling Fizgig to his chest.

"Let me sign off." Vincent said quickly.

"Check with me before you go to bed. I'll tell you if you got the winning bid on the picture or not." Jimmy said from station two.

"I will. Thanks Jimmy." Vincent said as he finished signing off.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I really loved this last set of chapters. I suspect that is going to be a given, when it comes to stories or even chapters by MultiMapper, it is a certainty that it is going to be well worth the reading. I know I am going to be very eager for the next chapter and I am sure that everyone else will be ready as well. I suspect that by the time you are reading this, that MultiMapper has just about finished some more chapters.

I want to ask you all to do me a personal favour.? Please let MultiMapper know how much you enjoy reading about his family of characters.

Tell him which ones you like best, and if my opinion counts for anything, let him know that you want to read more about all the folks at the new colony and also would like to find out more about Tice and the other people from his world. Having said all that, I want it known that my all time favourite character in MultiMapper's CSU stories is still Vincent, but Jon-Jon is such a close second, that it is absolutely a virtual tie. Therefore, it will really make me feel better to know that I am not alone in my hope that we will hear lots more about Jon-Jon and all the folks from the colony.

See you next time.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher