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"All hail, the Queen of the Realms, the Great Mother of us all, Queen Brakkii."
"Can you stop calling me that? I'm no one's mother." Brakkii muttered as he walked past the crier of the court.
Vincent looked around curiously. Although he knew that he was in the dream realm, he hadn't been in this large, open courtyard before.
As big as the place was, it was nearly packed to capacity.
Vincent could see several different races and species native to the realm, but also a surprising variety of people that he was sure were 'travelers' like him.
A low growl sounded that he could feel resonating in his bones.
He looked up to see three enormous dragons perched outside the walls of the courtyard and absently wondered, given their enormity, if the court yard might look like a food dish to them.
"I'm getting there! Be patient!" Brakkii called toward the golden dragon as he walked quickly up the aisle.
"Thank you, everyone in attendance for being here on this monumental occasion." Brakkii called out.
With as large as the courtyard was and the number of people in attendance, Vincent knew that it was absolutely impossible for a voice to carry to everyone, the way Brakkii's seemed to be doing.
"Vincent?" A timid voice asked.
He turned and smiled as he recognized who he was seeing.
"Vince, I'm glad you could make it." Vincent said warmly as he gave his timid, alternate self, a hug.
"What's going on?" Vince asked cautiously as he looked around.
"I'm not sure yet. But it looks like just about everyone is here." Vincent said casually.
"Are Lehman and Thomas here?" Vince asked as he tried to spot them.
"I see Lehman and Jordy over there with a bunch of the other Clan guys, but I haven't seen Thomas yet." Vincent said as he also scanned the crowd.
Another growl drew their attention upward.
"Did you have somewhere more important that you needed to be?" Brakkii asked as he looked at the golden dragon impatiently.
After a moment, he continued, "I didn't think so. Now, if I may?"
"Where am I?" A voice asked from Vincent's other side.
"Vinny? What are you doing here?" Vincent asked delightedly.
"I don't know where here is. What's going on?" Vinny asked shakily.
"It's me, Vincent... you know, Crewman Winters. How are you doing?" Vincent asked happily.
"Okay, I guess. What's going on here?" Vinny asked cautiously.
"Brakkii said there was going to be a big party, but that's about all I know about it." Vincent said seriously.
"Who's Brakkii?" Vinny asked as he noticed the dragons towering above them and scooted closer to Vincent's side.
"That's him, standing up front. He's the queen of this dream realm." Vincent said simply, then thought to mention, "Vinny, I'd like for you to meet one of our other selves, his name is Vince."
Vinny looked past Vincent and stared in wonder at another version of himself.
"Is he like you? I mean, a crewman?" Vinny asked timidly.
"No. He lives on earth, like you do." Vincent said gently, then pointed as he said, "Over there is another one of us, his name is Lehman."
Vinny followed his pointing finger and easily spotted yet another person who was a mirror image of him.
"How many of us are there?" Vinny asked cautiously.
"Let's see, there's you, me, Vince, Thomas, Lehman and the Vindicator. That makes six, that I know of." Vincent said honestly.
"The Vindicator?" Vince asked cautiously.
"Yeah. He's kinda the evil me from a negative dimension." Vincent said hesitantly.
"You lead a really interesting life, don't you?" Vince asked with a barely restrained grin.
"More than you know." Vincent chuckled, then turned to Vinny and quietly said, "This is all a dream. Just relax and enjoy it."
"One and all, our Great Mother, the Queen of the Realm, stands before you now to make an official announcement!" The crier called out to gain everyone's attention.
"I'll show you a mother, you little..." Brakkii muttered, then calmed himself before saying, "Friends and loved ones, residents and visitors, I welcome all of you to this joyous occasion. Never before has the realm seen a day such as this."
Silence fell over the crowd at the serious words.
Even the dragons were silent, paying their full attention.
"Before you all, this day, I declare that the child known as Thomas Winters, will henceforth officially be known as Prince Thomas of the Realm of Dreams and heir apparent to the throne. As you have honored me, I ask that you also honor this, my chosen child."
As everyone watched, Thomas walked down the aisle, then went down on one knee before Brakkii.
An attendant stepped forward, with a small golden crown on a cushion.
Brakkii took the crown and gently placed it on Thomas' head.
"All hail, our new prince, Prince Thomas!" the crier called out joyfully.
A cheer rose up from the crowd that was absolutely deafening, although the dragons had quite a bit to do with that.
"In keeping with the traditions native to Thomas and his people, we are going to celebrate by having the biggest and best party that anyone has ever imagined! So be it!" Brakkii exclaimed, then clapped his hands.
The sound when Brakkii clapped his hands was deafening, and like a soap bubble bursting, suddenly their surroundings had completely changed.
Instead of being in a courtyard, they were in a huge grassy meadow. Bonfires were lit and countless tables of food were filled to overflowing with food beyond imagining.
Vincent looked around to get his bearings and smiled when he saw that the golden dragon had nearly a dozen young kids climbing on her.
"What are we supposed to do?" Vinny asked cautiously.
"Eat, drink, dance, and have fun!" Vincent said happily.
"But I don't know anyone." Vinny said quietly.
"Only one way to fix that! Come on!" Vincent said as he started walking.
Vince and Vinny exchanged an uncertain look before following.
"Hey! Pipi! Hold on! I've got someone for you to meet!"
* * * * *
When Vincent woke, it took a few minutes for him to remember where he was. His mind was still filled with vivid imagery of the coronation and the party that followed.
As he came more awake, he suddenly became aware of something hard and smooth nestled between his butt cheeks. Panic sprang up as he realized what it was, but just as suddenly, he remembered who it was that was snuggled up behind him.
The room was quiet and no light was showing in through the windows. From the way he felt, Vincent was reasonably sure that it was somewhere around four or five in the morning.
He carefully extricated himself from Kennon's embrace and made sure that he was resting in a comfortable position before quietly working to find his clothes in the dim lighting.
As soon as he was dressed, he made his way out and away from the living room so that he could make his call without disturbing anyone.
"Manu, I'm ready to transport up." Vincent said in nearly a whisper.
"On your command." Manu responded, equally quietly.
"Transport." Vincent said, then felt the rush of sparkles consume him.
* * * * *
After a stop by his room to change into some soft linen pants, Vincent went to the lounging hall to do his morning workout routine.
He was surprised to find more crewmembers than usual in attendance, but everyone seemed to be perfectly happy sunning themselves on the upper platforms or sitting and talking quietly on the lower ones.
Vincent moved into his first pose and held it for an extra moment before starting his routine.
As he went through his poses, he noticed that a few of the crewmembers were watching him, not as though they were studying him, but more like they were observing a theatrical production or a dance recital. Then again, their eyes might just have been drawn to the movement.
Time slipped away as he got lost in the routine. He hadn't realized that he had become so disquieted by learning of what had happened to his clan. Only now, when he was lost in his workout, could he see just how uneasy and pained he was feeling, even when he wasn't consciously aware of it.
He had temporarily lost himself in other tasks, but that had only soothed him on the surface. The turmoil was eating away at him inside, and he wouldn't be able to move past it until he found a way to make peace within himself.
Suddenly, he realized that if he had gone to the funeral the previous day, it might well have been able to give him some solace. However, since he had chosen not to go, he had missed that opportunity and would have to find some other way.
Something seemed to be teasing at the edge of his mind, like the beginning of an idea that didn't want to be explored.
Vincent focused more of his attention on his workout, knowing that if he didn't pay it attention and try to seek it out, then it would probably come forward on it's own.
Finally, a possible solution to his problem popped into his mind, and he very nearly regretted it.
It definitely fell into the category of something that he didn't really want to do, but probably should.
He continued his workout, going over the pros and cons in his mind until he finally gave in and resolved himself that he was going to have to do it.
He moved into his final stance and held it, before gathering his things so he could go to the bathing pool. He had things to do and, as much as he might want to, he couldn't put them off.
* * * * *
"Good morning, Vincent." Geoff whispered as he got up from the floor.
"Good morning." Vincent responded, noticing that most of the clan members were still asleep.
"Where's the bathroom?" Geoff asked as he tried to hide his nakedness behind his hands.
"Come on, I'll show you." Vincent said as he stepped away.
* * * * *
"Why are you up so early? Are you going somewhere?" Geoff asked as he walked out of the bathroom.
"Actually, I've already gone to the ship, had a good workout, a bath, and breakfast. I'm just getting back." Vincent grinned as they walked back to the living room.
"Oh. How late is it? Do you know if I need to go back for my treatment with Challen right now?" Geoff asked quietly as he searched for, and found, his clothes.
"I didn't see Challen when I was on the ship. But I'm sure that when he needs you, he'll call us on my bracelet." Vincent said frankly.
"Right." Geoff quietly said as he dressed himself.
"Did Eli and Tyler help you with your empathy stuff?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Yeah. It's going to take a little while before I'm comfortable with it, but they showed me pretty much everything I needed to know. I think all that's left to do is practice."
Vincent nodded and motioned for him to follow.
"Unless you have stuff you need to do here, I can get Manu to beam you up to the ship right now." Vincent said as they stopped in the hallway.
"Yeah. I suppose that since everyone else is still asleep, that now would be the best time." Geoff said consideringly.
Vincent nodded his agreement, then said to his bracelet, "Manu, would you transport Geoff up to the ship?"
"Yes. On your command."
"Have Manu call me if you need anything at all." Vincent said seriously.
"I will." Geoff promised.
Vincent nodded, then said into his bracelet, "Transport."
* * * * *
"Vincent?" Lawrence asked cautiously as he opened his eyes.
"Yeah. I needed to ask you something but I didn't want to wake you up." Vincent said frankly.
"So you were sitting there, watching me sleep?" Lawrence asked cautiously.
Vincent nodded with a smile.
"You're weird." Lawrence said as he forced himself to sit up.
Vincent considered for about a second, then nodded his agreement.
"What did you want to ask me about?" Lawrence asked curiously, then seemed to realize that he was naked.
Vincent fought down a smile at the sight of Lawrence trying to discretely cover himself with a corner of a nearby blanket while trying to act casual.
"This morning when I was doing my workout, I got to thinking about some stuff, and, well, I don't know if you'd want to, but I thought about us, maybe, going over and visiting mom and dad's graves." Vincent said uncomfortably.
Lawrence was obviously surprised by the suggestion.
"It's okay if you don't want to. I just thought... I don't know... I just feel like I need to, and I thought maybe you might need to, too." Vincent said awkwardly.
"Me, too." A small voice said from nearby.
Vincent looked around and smiled when he saw Joel, awake and alert, nestled in Kevin's arms, looking back at him.
"Sure, if you want to go with us, that's fine." Vincent said with a smile, then looked at Lawrence with question.
"I haven't been there since you left Earth. I guess it's probably time." Lawrence said reluctantly.
Vincent nodded his understanding as Lawrence stood, trying to hide his nakedness, then went to find his clothes.
"This is when I get to be strong for someone else, isn't it?" Joel asked quietly.
"Yeah. And I can't think of anyone else that I'd rather have beside me, being strong for me." Vincent said warmly.
* * * * *
As they had requested, the gravestones simply had names and dates.
Although he knew that what he was feeling was completely illogical, he still felt that he was doing the right thing as he approached the graves.
"I don't know what to say." Lawrence said as tears slowly fell down his cheeks.
"This isn't about words." Vincent said as his eyes started to well up.
As Joel pulled Vincent close for a reassuring hug, the dam burst.
Vincent felt the last of his self control give way as great heaving sobs erupted from him.
Joel remained silent as he held Vincent through his pain, and, as he had said earlier, he was able to be strong so Vincent wouldn't have to be.
The most reassuring thing for Lawrence was seeing his brother finally express his grief. Lawrence had grieved his loss at their parents' funeral, but Vincent had kept everything bottled up. Now, he was finally ready to grieve, accept and deal with what had happened.
After Vincent's tears had finally subsided, the three of them stood at the graves silently for a while, not saying or doing anything.
Finally, without anything to trigger it, Vincent turned and started walking away.
Lawrence and Joel silently walked with him.
Reluctantly, Joel quietly said, "I need to get back to the Short Compound. I can feel that they're looking for me."
"Yeah. We should have told someone where we were going." Lawrence said slowly.
"They can feel that I'm okay. It's just... um, well, they're planning kind of a surprise and I don't want it to be spoiled because I'm not there." Joel timidly explained.
"A surprise?" Vincent asked as he glanced at Joel curiously.
"Yeah. For my birthday... mine and Jude's." Joel said reluctantly.
"It's your birthday? Happy Birthday, Joel! I didn't know, I would have got you something." Lawrence said with a smile.
Joel looked at Vincent and quietly said, "You already gave me something really important just by letting me be here with you for this. Thank you."
"Thank you, too, Joel. I don't know if I would've been strong enough to do this by myself. Having you here made all the difference." Vincent said sincerely.
Joel smiled as he felt the depth of emotion through his bond with Vincent.
"Well, if we're all done here, we'd better get to it." Lawrence said, breaking the quiet, introspective mood.
"Yeah." Vincent agreed, then lifted his wrist as he said, "Manu, would you transport us back to the Short Compound?"
"On your command."
* * * * *
The combined birthday celebration started at breakfast and continued on into the morning, with more and more people showing up to offer their congratulations and well wishes for the birthday boys.
Vincent was a little more reserved than usual, but overall was having a good time.
As he was standing back, people watching, someone suddenly caught his eye.
He did a classic double take as he looked back again to be sure that his eyes weren't playing tricks on him.
Although his logical mind told him that the person he was looking at couldn't possibly be who he was thinking it was, he couldn't resist walking up to him to be sure.
"Excuse me." Vincent said cautiously, as he approached.
The boy turned around and looked at Vincent curiously.
"I'm sorry, but for a minute I thought you were a friend of mine. You look almost exactly like him." Vincent said timidly.
"Look who's talking. I've noticed at least two other people here that look exactly like you. How many of you are there?" The boy asked curiously.
"I've lost count." Vincent said with a grin, then asked, "Do you maybe know someone named JonJon?"
"No. That name's not familiar to me." The boy said consideringly.
"It's weird. You could be brothers." Vincent chuckled.
"That's not very likely. You see, I'm an android."
"Yeah. So's JonJon." Vincent said honestly.
"Really? And you say he looks exactly like me?"
"No, not exactly. I mean, it's not like I couldn't tell you apart. But you look so close, with the same hair and eye color and stuff, that it really is like you're brothers." Vincent explained.
"Well, seeing that your friend is also an android, I suppose that it's actually possible that we were created using the same genetic biostructure. That would, in essence, make us brothers on a biological level."
"I'm Vincent, by the way. It's nice to meet you."
"My name is Marc. It's nice to meet you, too. Tell me more about your friend, JonJon. There aren't many of us running around these days and it'd be nice to hear about one of us that's doing well."
"JonJon lives at the New Hope colony. I think that if he really is your brother, that you'd be really proud of him. He's a great guy." Vincent said happily.
"Even if he isn't biologically related to me, it's still good knowing that he's enjoying a good life with good friends." Marc said warmly.
"It's more than that. Just a week or so ago, JonJon was talking to the rulers of an entire star system and telling them about how AI's and androids should be respected and should have rights in their society. So JonJon's not just out there being happy, he's working to make a place where other people like him can be happy, too." Vincent said seriously.
"He sounds really amazing, like someone that I would very much like to get to know." Marc said with a smile.
"Well, there's no problem with that. If we can find an open terminal, I can call him and introduce you." Vincent said frankly.
"I'd feel funny doing something like that." Marc said cautiously.
"Putting it off doesn't make it any easier. Besides, I know that it hurts JonJon to feel like he's all alone in the universe. I can't think of anyone better to prove to him that he isn't." Vincent said with an expectant expression.
"Okay, yes. I'll do it." Marc said decisively.
"Come on. Let's find a place where we can make a call."
* * * * *
Once basic introductions were out of the way, Vincent withdrew from the game room to leave Marc and JonJon to talk.
He had no idea what, if anything, would come from their talk, but deep inside he felt that it was the right thing for both of them.
"Trach Manja Vincent, may I speak with you for a moment?" Sounded from his bracelet.
"Treep? You're being awfully formal all of a sudden. Is something up?" Vincent asked curiously.
"I felt it was appropriate since I was conducting ship's business." Treep said more gently.
"Okay. What is it?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Our repairs are complete and our cargo holds are filled to capacity. Captain Rasch asked that I inform you that we are scheduled to depart in approximately three hours." Treep said quietly.
Vincent was surprised by the announcement, but finally said, "I knew it was coming. I guess that no matter how long we stayed, I'd never be completely ready to go. Thanks for letting me know."
"Given the relationship that Trach Manja Lehman has entered in to, I am reluctant to give him this news." Treep said hesitantly.
"Yeah. I know. Don't worry about it, Treep. I'll tell him." Vincent said decisively.
"Thank you, Vincent." Treep said sincerely.
"Sure. I'll see you in a few hours."
* * * * *
"Guys, hang on." Vincent said as he caught up to Jordy and Lehman, who were walking away from him.
"Oh, Vincent. I haven't seen much of you today. How are you doing?" Lehman asked happily.
"I've been around. Listen... um, Treep just called me and, I guess the ship's all fixed and loaded and... we're gonna be leaving in about three hours." Vincent said reluctantly.
"Oh." Lehman said as he looked down.
"I'm sorry, Lehman." Vincent said sincerely.
"I know. Me, too." Lehman responded as a tear escaped his eye.
Jordy gathered Lehman into his arms and held him firmly as Lehman began to cry in earnest.
Vincent walked away, wishing there was something he could do to allow Jordy and Lehman to have more time together.
* * * * *
"Vincent?" Aaron asked uncertainly as he approached.
"Yeah." Vincent said as he discreetly tried to dry his watery eyes.
"David wanted me to give this to you."
Vincent looked at the 8x10 picture of David, then looked at Aaron curiously.
"It's for a fan of his on your ship." Aaron explained.
Vincent turned the picture over to see a brief handwritten note from David to Treep.
"I'll be sure he gets it." Vincent assured him.
"Good. Now I have to find Jordy. He's needed in CIC." Aaron said as he looked around.
"Can you give him a few minutes? He's saying goodbye to Lehman." Vincent asked quietly.
"Crap! I was supposed to catch him before that happened. Where is he?" Aaron asked anxiously.
Vincent pointed and Aaron hurried away.
Vincent followed, wondering what was going on.
* * * * *
"Seth? Did you need me for something?" Jordy asked as he rushed into the room with Vincent, Aaron and, of course, Lehman, following him.
"Not me." Seth said frankly, then pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.
"What'd you need, Cory?" Jordy asked cautiously.
"I'll get to that in a minute. First, how much do you know about the Soleen-Avalla?" Cory asked carefully.
"That they exist... that's about it." Jordy said honestly.
"I suppose that's the most important thing." Cory said consideringly, then looked Jordy in the eyes and continued, "The Soleen-Avalla are going to adopt the Safe Haven act on their world."
"That's great news!" Jordy said with a smile.
"Yes. But it also leaves us with a problem. How can the Clan be there to help them out when they're needed when we're so far away? We've all seen how time seems to slow to a crawl around us when times are difficult. How can we ask someone in trouble to wait for a week or more for help?" Cory said seriously.
Jordy nodded slowly as he thought about the problem.
"I've been in contact with the leaders at the New Hope colony on the Soleen-Avalla border. They have agreed to donate a three-block parcel of land to Clan Short, so that we can start up a Clan compound there." Cory said with the beginning of a smile.
Jordy looked at Cory with surprise as he realized what that might mean.
When Cory saw that he had figured it out, he smiled and asked, "Interested?"
"You mean, I could go there and work at the new compound?" Jordy asked hopefully.
"Not exactly. You'll be running it. You've worked long enough in CIC to know what needs to be done and how things should be organized." Cory said seriously.
"And we'll just be a subspace call away if you need any advice from us." Sean added quickly.
Cory smiled at him and nodded his agreement.
The tears, welled in Jordy's eyes, started to overflow as he turned to Lehman and said, "We can stay together."
"There's that, too." Cory said with a grin.
"So, you'll do it?" Sean asked, just to make it official.
"Yes! Of course I will!" Jordy exploded joyfully.
"Then you'd better go get your stuff packed. From what I've heard, the Soleen-Avalla ship is scheduled to depart early this evening." Cory said warmly.
"Come on, Lehman! We've got a million things to get! And we have to tell everyone!" Jordy called frantically as he ran for the door.
"Thanks, Dad." Vincent said with a contented smile at Cory.
"It was logical." Cory said impishly before coaxing Sean to walk with him out of CIC.
* * * * *
"Jordy said that you're about to leave." Thomas said as he approached with Dylan at his side.
"Yeah. The ship will be ready to break orbit soon." Vincent said regretfully at having to leave his latest new brother.
"I hate that you have to leave, but I guess we'll still be able to see each other every night." Thomas promised.
"That's right, Prince Thomas. I'll be there." Vincent said gently.
"And between Dylan and Brakkii, I'll be able to visit you on your ship whenever I want." Thomas said happily.
"Yeah. I guess you can." Vincent said with a smile.
"Thank you, Vincent. I love my new life and all of it is because of you." Thomas said sincerely.
"All I did was help you out when I could. It was you that made the choices that brought you to today." Vincent said warmly.
Thomas rushed forward and pulled Vincent into a tight hug.
Vincent returned the hug, then noticed Dylan watching them.
"Take good care of him." Vincent said quietly.
Dylan nodded his promise as a solemn vow.
"I need to find Lawrence before I have to leave." Vincent said as he pulled out of the hug.
"See ya later." Thomas said as he stepped to Dylan's side.
"How about in the Valley of Cuddles and Snuggles?" Vincent asked with a grin.
"We'll see you there."
* * * * *
As Vincent walked up to Lawrence and Deacon, he could see that they were both happy. He hated to interrupt their good time.
"My ship's going to be leaving soon." Vincent said without prelude.
"You know, if you ever change your mind about things, we'll always have a place for you." Lawrence said as he held Deacon at his side.
"Come here and give me a hug." Lawrence said as he stepped away from Deacon.
Vincent went willingly and couldn't believe how good it felt to be held so affectionately by his brother.
"I don't know if I've said it enough, but I'm really proud of you." Lawrence whispered as he continued the hug.
"Thanks." Vincent whispered into his brother's chest.
"Don't forget that you have some things at Billy's house." Lawrence warned.
"I'll remember." Vincent promised.
Lawrence finally released Vincent from the hug and said, "I love you."
Vincent grinned up at his older brother and said, "Yeah. I still can't get over that."
Deacon broke into laughter at the statement.
"I love you, too, Lor." Vincent said quietly, then turned to Deacon and said, "And I think you're pretty okay. Take good care of him, will ya?"
"Sure. I will. Just because you said so." Deacon grinned, then was surprised when Vincent moved in to give him a quick hug as well.
"Be sure to call me if you need anything." Vincent said as he stepped away.
"We will if you will." Deacon said with a smile.
"Manu, will you transport me up?" Vincent asked into his bracelet.
"On your command."
* * * * *
When Vincent materialized, he looked around the bridge and saw that Lehman, Jordy and Geoff were also there, anxiously waiting for the ship to break orbit.
"Vincent, Seth at Clan Short requested that I transport some deliveries to your cabin." Manu said informatively.
"Really?" Vincent said curiously, then looked to see if Lehman had any idea what he was talking about.
At Lehman's shrug, Vincent left the bridge and went directly to his cabin.
* * * * *
When he walked into the room, there was a fairly large box on the floor and an overnight delivery envelope sitting on his desk. Carefully, he opened the envelope and to his surprise, a single photograph fell out.
Vincent chuckled as he saw the autographed picture of Big Bird, then he suddenly remembered a promise that he had made.
"Manu! Don't let them leave orbit! I need to go back to Earth for one more thing." Vincent said as he scrambled to open the box.
As he had expected, it was the stasis unit that Jimmy had ordered for him.
"We are holding orbit and awaiting further instructions." Manu said calmly.
"Okay, I guess the only thing I need right now is for you to find a McDonalds restaurant, so I can transport down and get something." Vincent said as he set the stasis unit aside.
"I am ready to transport on your command." Manu said efficiently.
Vincent stood straight and said, "Transport."
* * * * *
When the sparkles cleared, Vincent found himself on the sidewalk, just outside a McDonald's restaurant.
Quickly, he walked in and found that he was only second in line for the order window.
"Welcome to McDonald's, what can I get for you today?" The teenage clerk asked professionally from behind a cash register.
"I need a hamburger Happy Meal, no drink and with an extra toy." Vincent said seriously.
"For thirty cents more, you can get a large french fries." The clerk suggested.
"No, thank you. It's not for me. It's for a four year old." Vincent explained as he fought to keep the impatience out of his voice.
* * * * *
Once Vincent had paid his money, he waited by the pickup counter, trying not to fidget, knowing that everyone on the ship was waiting on him.
"One Happy Meal with an extra toy." Another clerk said as she stepped up to the counter and placed the Happy Meal before him.
"Thank you." Vincent said with relief, then said into his bracelet, "Okay, Manu. I'm ready to beam up."
"On your command."
* * * * *
The dining room was silent as everyone watched the rainbow fountain of sparkles fade to nothingness.
Finally, the clerk behind the register turned to his coworker and said, "So it's going to be one of those nights."
The girl gave a weary sigh as her reply, then picked up a damp rag and walked to the dining room to clear tables.
A long time ago, I learned that a chapter ends when it contains everything needed to tell what needs to be told.
This one is a little shorter than the usual Frontier chapter, but it pulled together a lot of loose threads and answered several lingering questions. Don't worry, there are still a lot of things waiting in the wings of MultiMapper's mind, and as soon as Vincent gets around to telling him what's going on, I am sure MM will write it all down for us.
I just wanted to point out that this chapter brings this particular story arc to a rather satisfying conclusion.
Thanks, MultiMapper, I really enjoyed this chapter, as always.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher