© 2008 MultiMapper
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Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 42

"Lehman?" Vincent asked quietly.

"Yeah." Lehman responded, without opening his eyes.

"I was just thinking about what you said, about us using the powers that the universe gave us. Do you really think we did anything?" Vincent asked curiously.

"How do you mean?" Lehman asked curiously.

"When we put our hands on Lindon. Did we actually do anything that helped him?" Vincent asked slowly.

After a moment of consideration, Lehman said, "I think so. I'm just not sure what it was. Maybe by us doing that we caused Challen to go more slowly or more carefully and that's what Lindon needed."

"But if we didn't do that, what do you think would have happened?" Vincent asked distantly.

"I hope we never find out, because I have a feeling that neither of us would want to know." Lehman said seriously.

"I thought that maybe when we did that, we made Challen stop and look at Lindon like a person instead of a patient. Maybe it isn't enough if we care, maybe we need to get other people to care, to make it work." Vincent said in thought.

Lehman considered the words, then reluctantly said, "That could be."

"I just want to know so when we have to help my brother or my Clan, that we can do everything right so we can really help them." Vincent said as he turned to look at Lehman.

"I know. Even though I don't really know them, I want to help them too." Lehman said as he opened his eyes and turned his head slightly.

"You're going to love them, and I know that they're going to love you." Vincent said with a smile.

"I hope so. I know that I want to like them because you do. They're your family, and since we're so close to being the same, that makes them almost like my family too." Lehman said cautiously.

Vincent chuckled, then said, "There's something that I didn't tell you before."

"What's that?" Lehman asked curiously.

"Well, it's a Clan thing that when one of us calls someone a brother, they really do become a brother. According to everything that the Clan believes, you're already a part of our family." Vincent said, as he looked Lehman in the eyes.

"Thank you." Lehman said, then rested back in the steamy water of the bathing pool.

* * * * *

Movement drew Vincent and Lehman's attention and they watched as the two Soleen men who had been sharing the bathing pool got out of the water and went to the other side of the room to dry themselves.

"Would you mind if I ask you a question?" Ship asked quietly.

Both Vincent and Lehman were immediately concerned by the tone of Ship's voice.

"It's fine. What's the matter, Ship?" Lehman asked seriously.

"I am concerned that since I refused to follow Captain Rasch's orders, that he may have me deactivated when we return to Soleena." Ship said frankly.

"Can he do that?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"Yes. He would simply have to submit a work order stating that I am malfunctioning, then I would be deactivated and perhaps even have my memory wiped." Ship said gravely.

"He wouldn't do that, would he?" Vincent asked carefully.

After a long moment to consider, Ship quietly said, "I believe that Captain Rasch is a kind man and that he considers me a member of his crew. Therefore, I would hope that he would respect my being and try to understand that I was interpreting my conflicting orders to the best of my ability..."

"But if he did decide to do that, is there any way you could tell your side of the story to someone to explain what happened?" Vincent asked carefully.

"No. If Captain Rasch decides that I acted irrationally, I will be deactivated." Ship said simply.

"Then we should definitely talk to Captain Rasch about this." Lehman said thoughtfully.

"Ship, he won't do anything before we return to Soleena will he?" Vincent asked into the air.

"No. Not unless he believes that my behavior is such that I am unable to perform my duties." Ship said with a note of dread under his words.

Vincent nodded, then turned to Lehman and said, "I'd like to talk to JonJon about this before we talk to Captain Rasch. This isn't something that only affects Ship. This is something that applies to all the AIs on Soleena. It's wrong. There's no judge or jury, there's no defense. If the captain says that the AI is wrong, then he's wiped out, just like that..."

"Yeah. I guess I wasn't looking at the big picture." Lehman said, as he considered the words.

"Would you like for me to establish contact with the Yorktown?" Ship asked cautiously.

"No Ship. Not right now. I think Lehman and I should both think this out for a little bit before we start talking to people. I have a feeling that this could stir up a lot of people on Soleena if we don't do it just right." Vincent said carefully.

"How do you mean?" Lehman asked hesitantly.

"Ship. If you decided that Captain Rasch and the rest of the crew were crazy and posed a threat to you and the rest of the people of Soleena, could you... space them?" Vincent finished reluctantly.

"I would never do that." Ship said with surprise.

"I'm not saying that you would, I'm just asking you that if there were a situation where you knew it was the right thing to do, is there anything that would prevent you from opening up the doors and ejecting every living person on this ship out into space?" Vincent asked seriously.

After a long moment to consider, Ship reluctantly said, "If I were able to reconcile my programming to believe that it was the proper action to take... I could do it."

Vincent nodded, then said, "I'm just thinking that if we do this wrong, the AIs might begin to see the Soleen-Avalla as their enemies or as their oppressors. If that happened, then it could get really ugly."

"Do you really think the AIs would do that?" Lehman asked as he realized the enormity of the situation.

"I hope not. But can we take that chance? If we're not careful, we could be opening a can of worms." Vincent said seriously.

"Wait. A what?" Lehman asked with confusion.

Vincent chuckled, then said, "It's an Earth saying, 'opening a can of worms' means that if we do this, we might not be able to undo what happens because of it."

"How does that have anything to do with worms?" Lehman asked, still sounding completely lost.

"According to the common usage of your language, to 'open a can of worms' is to get involved with something that is unpleasant, difficult and not easily resolved." Ship said frankly.

"I still don't see what that has to do with worms in a can, but I guess it doesn't matter. What do you think we should do next?" Lehman asked seriously.

"For right now, I think we should think about it and see if we can come up with some ideas." Vincent said slowly.

"If it will serve to prevent disharmony among my people, I will accept deactivation." Ship said quietly.

"No Ship. You're our friend and we won't let that happen." Lehman said immediately.

"He's right. And besides, you being deactivated won't stop this. The most it might do is slow it down a little. JonJon has already started working on making sure that AIs get some rights, this is just the next step. I'm hoping that if we do this right, everyone will end up getting what they want without any problems at all." Vincent said seriously.

"And if we do it wrong, it could turn into a war between the AIs and the Soleen-Avalla." Lehman said quietly.

"Yeah. That's why we need to do it right." Vincent said frankly.

* * * * *

"I think I stayed in there too long. My skin is all shriveled." Lehman said as he dried himself.

"Mine too." Vincent said with a chuckle.

"But it sure was nice. I feel good." Lehman said with a smile.

"Me too... Ship, how is Lindon doing?" Vincent asked into the air.

"Challen has completed his medical procedures and Lindon continues to sleep naturally." Ship said casually.

"They took our clothes... I didn't even see them come in." Vincent said as he picked up unfamiliar clothes from the place where he had left his uniform.

"Yes. Your clothing is being cleaned and will be placed in the quarters you have been assigned when the cleaning process is concluded." Ship said seriously.

"Thank you Ship... where are our quarters?" Vincent asked as he pulled on a pair of pants that looked a lot like sweat pants.

"In deference to your positions as Trach Manjai, you have been assigned neighboring quarters on the second deck of the ship, next to the Captain's quarters." Ship said reverently.

"Kewl. We're like visiting dignitaries or something." Vincent said with a giggle as he pulled on his tunic.

"If the other kids back at the foundling home could see me now..." Lehman said with wonder.

Vincent froze in mid motion, then asked, "Do they have a video terminal at the foundling home?"

"Mrs. Mikbar does." Lehman said cautiously.

"Then it would be possible..." Vincent said speculatively.

"No, it's way too far away." Lehman said quickly.

"If you can tell Ship where your world is and maybe give him the Reverend Mother's contact frequency, I bet you could make it work without too much of a problem." Vincent said as he finished tying his tunic closed.

"I don't think I want to." Lehman said cautiously.

"Why not?" Vincent asked curiously.

"I don't know. I just... I'm scared to talk to them." Lehman said in a whisper.

"Think about me being scared to go back to Earth. Is what you're feeling kind of like that?" Vincent asked as he looked into Lehman's eyes.

After a moment to consider, Lehman hesitantly nodded.

"If you want to, I bet we can do it." Vincent said with a mischievous grin.

"It would be kind of nice to find out what happened to the others." Lehman said thoughtfully.

"And maybe you can find out what's happening back on your world now. It's been over a year since you've been there, right?" Vincent asked in a leading tone.

"Yeah. Over a year." Lehman said distantly.

"Come on. Let's go." Vincent said as he led the way to the door.

"I'm not sure if I even want to." Lehman said as he quickly tied the belt of his tunic.

"I mean to the rooms. If you really don't want to talk to them, then we won't." Vincent said from the doorway.

"I didn't say that I wouldn't, I just said that I'm not sure." Lehman said as he finally fell into step at Vincent's side.

Vincent smiled to himself, knowing that Lehman had already decided and that his protest was completely for show.

* * * * *

"Trach Manja Vincent, your room is the first door on the left. Trach Manja Lehman, your room is the first door on the right." Ship said respectfully.

"That's handy." Vincent said casually, then walked to his room.

Rather than go to his own room, Lehman followed Vincent.

"Wow. It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be." Vincent said as he looked around.

"It's about the size of the entire storage room in Deflector Control." Lehman said casually.

"Look at this." Vincent said as he pointed at the bed.

"Yeah?" Lehman said as he walked to Vincent's side.

"I didn't think about it down in the sickbay, but the beds are six sided just like most of everything else." Vincent said with a chuckle.

Lehman examined the bed which looked very much like a regular bed except that the head and foot of the bed formed points instead of flat boxed ends.

"I think I like it better this way." Vincent said as he climbed on the bed and laid back.

"Why is that?" Lehman asked as he walked around the other side of the bed, then cautiously sat on the edge.

"Come on, try it out." Vincent said, then patted the spot beside him to emphasize his words.

Lehman smiled, then laid in the spot beside Vincent.

"I don't know why I like the bed this way... maybe it's just because it's something different from what I'm used to." Vincent said speculatively.

"Or maybe it's like what the Avalla believe and has something to do with the patterns of nature." Lehman said as he rested back.

"Yeah. I suppose that could be it. I haven't had a lot of contact with nature, so I don't know too much about that." Vincent said as he closed his eyes.

Lehman giggled and said, "Neither have I. But I know that I feel comfortable here. I can't explain it except to say that everything seems so harmonious."

"Yeah. I felt the same way back on Soleena when I visited with Treep's family. Once I got past the weirdness of things, I felt like it was... right. Like everything was just the way it was supposed to be." Vincent said quietly.

"Do you want to take a nap?" Lehman asked cautiously.

After a moment, Vincent said, "No. If I go to sleep now, I may not be able to sleep tonight when I need to. I'd hate to have my schedule all backward and be falling asleep when I'm supposed to be helping my clan."

"Then we'd better get up because I'm feeling awfully sleepy." Lehman said seriously.

"Yeah. Me too. I think it was that hot bath that did that." Vincent said, then reluctantly sat up.

"What do you want to do next?" Lehman asked as he slowly made his way to a sitting position.

"Well, I see a video terminal over there. We could make a call if you wanted to." Vincent said quietly.

"I guess since we're here..." Lehman said reluctantly.

Vincent smiled to himself as he got off the bed and walked to the terminal.

* * * * *

Without Ship's assistance, they never would have been able to establish the connection. But after skillfully working a few relays, Ship was able to get a response.

{"This is a secure channel. Please use another frequency."} A computerized voice said firmly.

Vincent and Lehman both felt excitement at hearing the declaration.

"I am afraid that I cannot gain further access to the channel you have requested." Ship said with a tone of regret.

"No Ship. This is fine." Lehman said upward, then to the terminal screen he said in his own language, {"This is the Trach Manja Lehman."}

After a moment, a well dressed blue skinned man appeared on the terminal screen.

{"Trach Manja Lehman, I am Brother Amilyn. The Reverend Mother said that you would call."}

{"Brother Amilyn, would it be possible for you to connect me with the foundling home in central Piazt? It's run by Mrs. Mikbar."} Lehman asked uncertainly.

{"Of course. It will only be a moment."} Brother Amilyn said, then the screen went blank.

{"Mikbar foundling. This is Kress."} A young voice said seriously.

Lehman looked at the screen with surprise. He had expected to wait while the priest searched the city directory for the foundling home.

He suddenly realized that the boy was waiting for him to respond and quicly said, {"Kress, this is Lehman... I don't know if you remember me or not."}?

The young boy began to laugh as Lehman puzzled over the unusual reaction.

{"Lehman, all Chameloids know who you are and of course I remember you!"} The boy said joyfully.

Lehman smiled at the warm and sincere greeting.

{"The Reverend Mother said that you were stuck in one form. Is that really what you're going to look like forever?"} Kress asked quietly.

{"Yes, as far as I know. Kress, I'd like for you to meet Vincent. He's the Trach Manja for a group of planets called The Federation."} Lehman said as he adjusted the monitor slightly.

{"Hi."} Vincent said shyly.

{"So you took the shape of another Trach Manja and that's how you became a Trach Manja?"} Kress asked with excitement.

Lehman chuckled at the question, then said, {"No. It wasn't quite like that. I can't tell you why I was chosen, but five of us from five different races were brought together and we were all chosen. I just called to find out how everyone is doing there."}

{"You wouldn't believe it. Last week there was a knock on the door and it was the Reverend Mother Mycendria and a bunch of the highest members of the Church. They took Mrs. Mikbar away and now they've taken control of the foundling home."} Kress said, nearly breathless with his excitement.

{"So is everyone alright?"} Lehman asked with concern.

{"We're great! We have food and everyone gets their very own bed now. Day before yesterday, Lonna came back. I guess Mrs. Mikbar sold her off to some really scummy Dokugan traders and the Church rescued her and brought her back."} Kress said quickly.

{"How is she?"} Lehman asked quietly.

{"For the first day, all she did was cried. Yesterday she spent the whole day talking with a group of Sisters and I think I saw her smile once. Do you want to talk to her?"} Kress asked quickly.

{"Sure, if she wants to talk to me."} Lehman said uncertainly.

{"If everyone knew it was you on the terminal, they'd all want to talk to you. The Reverend Mother said that you're our voice in the universe."} Kress said, then darted away from the terminal screen.

"It sounds like you're famous." Vincent said quietly.

Lehman considered for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I thought we were supposed to be in the background, helping people. I didn't think the Reverend Mother would tell everyone."

"If the way Kress is acting means anything, maybe this is what your people need." Vincent said speculatively.

"Maybe..." Lehman whispered.

{"Lehman? Is that really you?"} A dark blue skinned girl asked as she sat before the terminal.

{"Yes Lonna, how are you?"} Lehman asked cautiously.

{"I was hurt and scared for a long time. But all that is over now and... well, the Sisters say that our people are at the dawn of a new age. I went from being locked in a little room and... things more horrible than I could have imagined in my worst nightmares... and now... it's my new age too. Anything is possible."} Lonna finished with a weak smile.

{"That's right Lonna. We're through the pain and now we're with people who love us and anything is possible."} Lehman said, then glanced at Vincent.

Lonna followed his glance, then looked from Vincent to Lehman with question.

Before she could ask, Lehman said, {"This is Vincent. How I got trapped in his form is kind of a long story. The important part is that he's like I am. I represent the Chameloids, he represents the Federation."}

Lonna's eyes went wide as she gasped, {"Federation."}

{"You've heard of the Federation?"} Vincent asked carefully, not quite used to Lehman's language.

{"I heard the Dokugu talking about them. They said that the Federation have an empire even bigger than the Gorn."} Lonna said fearfully.

Lehman looked at Vincent with question, he had never thought to ask just how big the Federation was.

{"Yeah. The Federation is bigger. But it's okay. We're nice."} Vincent said quietly, not knowing how to ease her concerns since he didn't know what they were.

{"Lonna, I'm going to be going now. But if you ever need me for anything, you can send a message to the Reverend Mother and she'll see that I get it."} Lehman said seriously.

{"Really? You want to hear from me?"} Lonna asked in wonder.

Lehman smiled and said, {"Yes Lonna, if you, or anyone at the home needs any kind of help at all, I want to hear from you."}

Lonna nodded her agreement.

{"Tell Kress that I'll be calling back from time to time to see how you're doing. Goodbye."} Lehman said quietly.

{"Goodbye."} Lonna said peacefully.

Lehman disconnected the transmission, then looked at Vincent with concern.

"What is it?" Vincent asked quietly.

"The Dokugu... they're horrible. It's a miracle that she's still alive." Lehman said as his tears started to fall.

"She's safe now and she's happy. Just remember that." Vincent said as he scooted over to give Lehman a comforting hug.

"I should really talk to the Reverend Mother Mycendria." Lehman said as he closed his eyes and soaked in the feeling of having someone who cared about him.

"It can wait. Why don't we go check on Lindon?" Vincent said quietly.

"Ship would have told us if he needed anything." Lehman said cautiously.

"Yeah. But I'd feel better right now if I could see with my own eyes that he's okay... I guess it's a Human thing." Vincent said dismissively.

"No. I understand what you're saying and it's not just a Human thing. Let's go." Lehman said as he stood.

* * * * *

Vincent and Lehman walked into the medical bay to find Lindon fast asleep.

He had turned half over on his side and his wings had stretched out slightly as he slept.

"They're pretty." Lehman said as he moved to the side of Lindon's bed.

Vincent noticed that Lindon's wings had the same blue iridescence as his hair.

After moving to get a better view of Lindon's head, Vincent confirmed that what he thought was soft downy feathers was in fact hair after all. It was fine and soft just like a babies, yet a full head like a normal twelve year old.

Lindon opened his impossibly large eyes and looked at Vincent with question.

"How are you feeling?" Vincent asked, again taken aback by Lindon's soulful gaze.

"I had the strangest, most wonderful dream." Lindon said in a voice that radiated contentment.

"Why don't you tell us about it." Lehman said as he moved to Vincent's side.

Lindon considered for a moment, then said, "Well, it was really weird. There was this big beautiful meadow and these rabbit people..."

"Oh. Did you get to meet Pipi and Peiron?" Lehman asked with a smile.

Lindon looked at Lehman with surprise and said, "Yes... how did you know? Were you reading my mind while I was sleeping?"

Lehman chuckled and said, "No Lindon. I would never read your mind without your permission. I just know because Vincent and I both had that dream last night. We spent about 15 hours in the Realms."

"It was such a happy place. The Queen even came to see me... but she was a he..." Lindon trailed off with confusion.

"That was Brakkii. I'm surprised he's still there." Vincent said frankly.

Lindon shook his head and said, "When the Queen talked to me, he said that the dream world was a place for me to come when I wanted to have an adventure. He said that in his realms, brave warriors fight heroic battles. The hurt are healed and the old can remember how to be children again... then he took us, me and the rabbit kids, to the Valley of Cuddles and Snuggles. That was the best thing ever."

"We didn't get to go there. But it sounds nice. Maybe we'll get to go next time." Vincent said with a smile.

Lindon got a serious look, then said, "I need to use the toilet."

"It's right over there. We'll help you." Vincent said as he motioned toward the door.

"Wait... You weren't just in there were you?" Lindon asked cautiously.

"No, not for a couple hours." Vincent said hesitantly.

"Oh, okay." Lindon said as he started to get up from the bed.

Vincent and Lehman automatically moved to either side to help him.

After a moment of uncertain balance, Lindon was finally able to walk on his own.

"Just yell if you need any help." Vincent said as he watched Lindon walk into the little bathroom.

As soon as the door had closed, Vincent turned on Lehman and asked, "What was that about?"

"What?" Lehman asked, trying his best to look innocent.

"That thing about him asking when was the last time I was in the bathroom." Vincent said seriously.

"I guess when I was giving him the basic information that he would need, I might have slipped in the information that he should never, ever, except in the most extreme emergencies, go into the bathroom right after you've been in there." Lehman said as he tried to restrain his smile.

"Nice. Some kind of brother you are." Vincent said with a roll of his eyes.

"I was just telling him what he needed to know to survive." Lehman said with a chuckle.

Reluctantly, Vincent broke into a smile, then pulled Lehman into a casual hug.

After a moment of hugging, Lehman quietly asked, "It's okay if I tease you sometimes like that, isn't it?"

Vincent smiled as he said, "Yeah. I never really had a friend before who I could do stuff with like teasing. But I know you're not serious, so it's okay."

Lehman pulled out of the hug enough to look Vincent in the eyes, then hesitantly said, "Good. Except that I am serious. It was horrible."

* * * * *

As Lindon walked out of the lavatory, Vincent asked, "How are you feeling?"

After a moment to consider, Lindon said, "I think I feel fine... maybe a little bit hungry."

"That settles it, you and Vincent must be related." Lehman said with a chuckle.

Lindon looked from Lehman to Vincent with confusion.

"Don't worry about it Lindon. Lehman just likes to tease me because I have a good appetite." Vincent said casually.

Lindon looked more confused than before and quietly asked, "Is it bad to be hungry?"

"No." Vincent said immediately, then continued in a slower voice, "It's not bad at all, Lehman just likes to tease me because I get hungry more often than he does."

"And he eats more than most adults." Lehman added dryly.

"Come on, let's go to the dining room and see if there's anything ready." Vincent said casually, ignoring Lehman's statement completely.

"If your need is not immediate, you could join Captain Rasch for the midday meal. It will be served in the dining room shortly." Ship said informatively.

"Yes. Thank you Ship." Lehman said into the air.

"Captain Rasch will be pleased that you are going to join him. I believe he would like to meet Lindon." Ship said seriously.

"Sounds good." Vincent said cheerfully, then looked at Lindon speculatively.

"What is it?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"I was just thinking that if we could find a sheet or something like that, we could make some kind of a shirt for Lindon. You know, just kind of drape it around him without messing with his wings." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"Lindon, would you like for us to try to make a shirt for you?" Lehman asked seriously.

"You mean I could be dressed like you?" Lindon asked hopefully.

"I bet we could do it... Or better yet, Lehman and I could take off our tunics." Vincent said simply.

"You don't have to do that." Lindon protested immediately.

"It's no problem. The temperature on the ship is a lot warmer than what I'm used to. I'd probably be a lot more comfortable if I took off this tunic. Ship, would it be disrespectful or anything if we went to lunch without our shirts?" Vincent asked into the air.

"No Trach Manja Vincent. The Soleen-Avalla have no ceremonies or etiquette associated with the midday meal. If you are most comfortable without your tunics, you may attend the meal bare chested." Ship said respectfully.

"Thank you Ship." Vincent said with a smile.

"There is, however, something of a tradition among the Soleen-Avalla that the evening meal be attended by the entire family, or in this instance, all available crew and guests. It would be preferable to be more formally attired for that meal." Ship said frankly.

"Will the clothes we brought with us be okay for that?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Yes. They will be suitable. And once the midday meal has been served, one of the cook's assistants, Gormah, will begin modifications on a standard tunic for Lindon." Ship said seriously.

"I feel bad that everyone is going to so much trouble and we're not doing anything." Vincent said quietly.

"If the circumstances were reversed and Captain Rasch and Treep were guests aboard the Yorktown, would you do any less to make them feel welcomed?" Ship asked seriously.

Vincent smiled as he remembered all the things he had done to make Tyce and Audge feel welcomed aboard his ship, even offering the use of his own clothes.

"Thank you Ship. You're right." Vincent said with a smile.

"Do you want to go to our rooms to drop off our tunics before we go to lunch?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"Sounds like a plan." Vincent said with a smile.

"Is that okay with you Lindon?" Lehman asked more quietly.

"I guess so." Lindon said in an overwhelmed tone.

"Don't worry about it buddy. You just woke up. I bet things will start making sense soon." Vincent said cheerfully.

"Thanks for being so nice to me." Lindon said in a whisper.

"Yeah. No problem. Now let's get going." Vincent said happily.

"So you can eat?" Lindon asked, then glanced at Lehman with a smile.

"So *we* can eat." Vincent said, then casually draped an arm around Lindon's shoulders.

* * * * *

"I guess we're the first ones here." Vincent said as he peeked into the dining room.

"The meal is still being prepared Trach Manja Vincent. If you would like to be seated it will be brought to you shortly." Ship said seriously.

"Okay, thank you Ship." Vincent said as he walked to take a seat at the main table where they had sat before.

As Lindon tried to take his seat, his wings kept him from sitting fully in the chair.

"Do you need some help?" Vincent asked quietly.

"I don't know. I can't seem to figure out how I can sit like you do." Lindon said as he sat sideways in the chair.

"Can you pull in your wings?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"I don't know how." Lindon said quietly.

"Of course. Since I don't have wings I couldn't tell you how to control yours. Hold still and let us help you." Lehman said as he moved to Lindon's side.

Vincent also got up, and together they gently guided Lindon's wings to pull in close to his body.

"Is that okay?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"Yeah. It's fine." Lindon said slowly.

"Do you think you can hold them like this?" Vincent asked with concern.

"I can try." Lindon said helplessly.

"Good. Then why don't you go ahead and face forward so we'll be ready when the food gets here." Vincent said as he slowly stepped away.

Lindon immediately turned in his chair and was happy to find that he could sit comfortably.

Vincent and Lehman took their seats, then both looked at Lindon to see how he was doing.

"Before the captain gets here, maybe we should tell Lindon a little bit about Earth. I wasn't able to give him much information." Lehman said cautiously.

"Well, there's not much to tell." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"Are there other people like me there?" Lindon asked hopefully.

"I've never seen anyone else with wings. But that's the only difference." Vincent said seriously.

"Will people think I'm weird because I have wings?" Lindon asked fearfully.

"No. I don't think so. They'll just think that you come from another planet. Earth has contact with lots of different people from all over the universe and most of them look a lot more different than you. I'm pretty sure that no one will think anything about it." Vincent said with a smile.

Lindon didn't seem convinced, but reluctantly nodded at the answer.

"What about the climate?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"In the summer it's a lot like it is on this ship. Right now... I guess it's October... it should still be pretty nice, but not quite as hot as it is here... we'll probably need to wear shirts." Vincent said as he considered.

Lehman nodded his acceptance of the answer as Lindon sat silently, apparently lost in thought.

Vincent and Lehman both looked at Lindon with concern and waited for him to speak.

"I must have been a really bad person for my people to shoot me out into space like they did." Lindon said in a whisper.

Vincent and Lehman shared a look, neither certain of how to respond to Lindon's words.

After a long moment of silence, Vincent quietly said, "I could kill you with my bare hands."

Lehman and Lindon stared at Vincent with disbelief at the cruel words spoken so casually.

"I could probably do it in less than two minutes unless Lehman tried to stop me." Vincent said as he looked into Lindon's eyes.

"What I'm trying to say is that there are a lot faster and easier ways of getting rid of someone. If I were going to guess, I'd say that someone must have thought you were very special to go to all the trouble to protect you and send you out into space." Vincent said carefully.

"Lindon, I believe Trach Manja Vincent is correct. Given the level of technology that was used on your ship, there is every indication that the people who sent you into space were doing everything in their power to preserve your life." Ship said seriously.

Lindon looked down at the table as he considered what the others had said.

"Do you really think you could kill someone in less than two minutes?" Lehman asked curiously.

After a moment to consider, Vincent quietly said, "Yeah. I think so. Thaelan has been teaching me how to protect myself and he's already shown me a few killing moves. I wasn't sure if I should be learning that so soon, but he explained that since I don't know what kind of threat I'll have to defend myself against, that I should learn at least a few killing moves early in my training."

Lehman reluctantly nodded at the explanation.

* * * * *

The door opened and all three boys turned at the sound.

"Lindon, this is Captain Rasch, he's the captain of this ship." Lehman said with respect.

Lindon's large, soulful eyes got impossibly larger as he stared at Captain Rasch.

The sight of the nearly seven foot tall Saurian walking toward him paralyzed him with fear.

"It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Lindon. Welcome aboard. Ship and Treep have been keeping me apprised of your condition." Captain Rasch said through his translator.

Vincent and Lehman waited to see what Lindon's response would be, but soon realized that he was too afraid to speak.

"Lindon hasn't met any of the Soleen crew yet. I guess this means that Lehman didn't fill him in on who everyone was." Vincent said with a teasing smile at Lehman.

"Oh, um... I didn't really think about doing that. Recent memories are stored differently from long term ones. I was really just focusing on giving him the basics so he could function on his own." Lehman said with a slight note of apology in his voice.

"Lindon, you do not need to fear me. You are welcomed aboard my ship and will be treated as my honored guest." Captain Rasch said sincerely as he looked into Lindon's eyes.

"Thank you." Lindon whispered in a trembling voice.

"After lunch, do you think we could explore Lindon's ship to look for clues about who he is and where he came from?" Vincent asked casually, trying to take Lindon's mind off his fear of Captain Rasch.

"I'm afraid that won't be possible. The ship was in such a state of deterioration that it was unsafe. I ordered that it be destroyed to prevent any possibility of injury." Captain Rasch said gravely.

Vincent nodded his acceptance as Lehman said, "Treep said that there weren't any records about where Lindon came from. Were you able to find out anything else about him before you destroyed the ship?"

"No Trach Manja Lehman. I'm afraid that the computer systems were degraded to a point that it was impossible to retrieve any information. Graid was able to determine that a fault in the engine systems caused the ship to go off course and that if the engines had remained intact, Lindon would have been delivered to Vulcan." Captain Rasch said frankly.

"When we get to Earth I'll talk to Sean and Cory about that. If Lindon was being sent to Vulcan, then maybe the Vulcan High Command have encountered other people like him. I'm sure either Cory or Grandfather Sarek will be able to find out if they have." Vincent said seriously.

Lehman nodded, then said, "If that doesn't work out, then maybe we could ask Tyce and J'Laad if they've seen anyone like Lindon before."

Vincent nodded his agreement.

"You are speaking of J'Laad? The Holy One?" Captain Rasch asked cautiously.

"Yeah, you've heard of him?" Vincent asked curiously.

"He... he was the one who sent my people away from the Gorn." Captain Rasch said hesitantly.

"But that would mean that he's over seven hundred years old." Lehman said cautiously.

Captain Rasch slowly nodded and said, "Our people do not have a predetermined lifespan. Although the elderly are more susceptible to illness than the young, I have heard tell of those who have lived over a thousand years. Unfortunately, my own people have endured such hardship in the recent generations that there are none who have reached such an age among the Soleen."

"I wonder why J'Laad didn't tell us." Lehman said thoughtfully.

"If you were over seven hundred years old, would you want to tell everyone you met?" Vincent asked seriously.

"Actually, yeah." Lehman said with a playful smile.

Vincent chuckled at the unexpected response, then shrugged and said, "I might too... just to brag. But I can see why someone else, especially a Holy One, wouldn't want to talk about it."

"I guess so." Lehman said, then noticed that Lindon was staring at them vacantly and obviously feeling left out of the conversation.

Captain Rasch also noticed and decided to change the subject to something that Lindon might be included in.

"Do you have any plans about what you'll be doing when we reach Earth?" Captain Rasch asked casually.

"No. We don't really know what's going on there so we can't plan anything." Vincent said reluctantly.

"I didn't realize that you weren't informed about the attacks. Ship can retrieve the Federation news broadcasts and we can contact your Clan for the most recent developments." Captain Rasch said immediately.

"No. Please don't." Lehman said before Vincent could respond.

Captain Rasch looked at Lehman curiously.

"I can't really explain it except to say that it's a Trach Manja thing." Lehman said reluctantly.

"Yeah, it's kind of like Lindon meeting you just now." Vincent said seriously.

Lehman looked at Vincent with question, not understanding where he was going with the analogy.

"We didn't tell Lindon anything at all about you before you walked in here. Because of that, his reactions and first impressions weren't based on anything except what happened in that first moment. His point of view was completely his own because we didn't tell him what to expect." Vincent said with difficulty.

"Okay, I get what you're saying." Lehman said with a nod, then continued, "Lindon might have been able to see something that we missed because we knew what to expect."

"Right." Vincent said with a smile of accomplishment at Lehman, then turned to Captain Rasch and said, "That's what Lehman and I need to do. We need to visit my Clan and see what's going on without anyone's opinions or any speculation to change how we see things. Doing it this way, we might be able to see things from a different perspective from the people who are in the middle of it."

Captain Rasch slowly nodded, then said, "Since I have had the honor of seeing the Trach Manjai advise the elders, I believe I understand what you are saying."

"I would really like to know what's going on, but not so much that I want to take away what might be my only way of really helping my brother and my Clan." Vincent said gravely.

"Lindon might also be able to help us like that. His point of view will be different from ours and he might be able to spot something that we miss." Lehman said speculatively.

"I hadn't thought of that." Vincent said thoughtfully, then turned to Lindon and said, "Lehman is right, it's possible that you'll be able to help a lot of people."

"Me? How can I help people?" Lindon asked apprehensively.

"Just be yourself and don't be afraid to say what you're thinking." Lehman said frankly.

"Yeah. If you have any questions, just ask." Vincent said seriously.

"Well, I do kind of have a question right now..." Lindon said quietly.

Before Lindon could ask his question, the door opened to reveal two Soleen carrying trays of food.

"I can't believe it. I got so busy talking I forgot about lunch." Vincent said with surprise.

"I can't believe it either." Lehman said with a chuckle.

Lindon watched the Soleen carefully as they placed the platters of food on the table.

"Please eat and enjoy." Captain Rasch said as he started taking selections of food from the platter before him.

"Just grab whatever looks good to you." Vincent said to Lindon at his side.

"It all looks good." Lindon said as he looked at the abundance of food.

"Then have some of everything... Just do like Vincent." Lehman said casually.

Lindon looked over at Vincent's plate, then said, "I'm hungry, but not that hungry."

* * * * *

After everyone had made their food selections, Lehman said, "So you said that you had a question."

Lindon thought for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I was just wondering... what's going to happen to me? Am I going to be living with you?"

Vincent and Lehman shared a concerned look before Vincent hesitantly answered, "We don't know yet."

At Lindon's curious stare, Vincent reluctantly continued, "Lehman and I don't live on Earth. We're going there to help my Clan. Once we're sure that everyone is okay, we're going to be leaving."

"Where do you live?" Lindon asked quietly.

"I live on my ship, the USS Yorktown. Lehman is going to live at the new colony on the border of Federation and Soleen-Avalla space." Vincent said seriously.

"So where will I live?" Lindon asked in a small voice.

"Wherever you want to." Vincent said simply.

Lehman nodded and said, "You could come to the new colony with me. I'm going to be starting a new life there and you'd be welcomed to come with me."

"And if you chose, you could come back to Soleena with me. I am certain that there are any number of people who would be honored to make you a part of their family." Captain Rasch said seriously.

Vincent smiled, then said, "But it's too soon to be deciding that. Once we get you to Earth, we're going to try to get your memories restored. Once that's done, you may have a completely different idea of what you want to do."

"I guess so. But I'm just scared that when I remember who I was, I won't like who I really am." Lindon said nervously.

Vincent gave a chuckle before saying, "Just last month I didn't like who I was at all. If it turns out that you don't like yourself, let me know and I'll help you figure out how to fix it. As long as you want to change, it isn't really that bad."

"Yeah. And since you're starting over with people who don't know you, it's possible to be the person that you want to be. Not the person that you were." Lehman said frankly.

"You didn't like yourself?" Lindon asked Vincent curiously.

"That's right. And now I'm a lot better." Vincent said happily.

"I wasn't really happy with who I was before either." Lehman said honestly.

At Lindon's curious gaze, Lehman continued, "I guess I always felt like I was nice, you know, a good person. But since I was poor, I felt like I wasn't worth anything. I couldn't accomplish anything."

"And now you're a Trach Manja." Vincent said happily.

"I've been wanting to ask... what does that mean?" Lindon asked carefully.

"It just means that we can help people." Vincent said simply.

"But can't everyone help people?" Lindon asked cautiously.

"Sure they can, just not everyone *knows* that they can." Lehman said frankly.

Lindon scrunched up his forehead in thought about the statement, then finally said, "So *knowing* that you can help people is what makes the difference?"

Vincent and Lehman exchanged a look, then Vincent cautiously said, "Maybe. It's possible that that's all there is to it. We don't really understand everything about what it means to be a Trach Manjai yet."

"I wish I had something like that... that I knew I had a purpose." Lindon said quietly.

"Let's work on getting your memory restored first. From the way we found you, I'd say it's possible that you do have a very big purpose." Vincent said frankly.

"Do you really think so?" Lindon asked hesitantly.

"I think it's possible. Hopefully we'll find the answers you're looking for when we get to Earth." Vincent said sincerely.

Lehman slowly nodded his agreement, hoping that Vincent was right.

To Be Continued...

Editor's notes:

Very good chapter and some very interesting new info about Lindon. I am sure he will be a very good person and I, for one, really like him a lot. I wonder what will happen when he meets Serok?

This is still another example of great writing from MultiMapper

Thanks once again MM.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher