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Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 13

"Excuse me Ensign Thaelan. This is the first I've heard about this." Joe said hesitantly.

There was a beep from the main console and Connie quickly checked to see what it was.

"We've just received Ensign Thaelan's orders." Connie said seriously.

Joe read over the orders quickly, then said, "I see. You are approved to work the main deflector console. That'll be a big help."

"Yes sir." Ensign Thaelan said rigidly.

"At ease Ensign. I'm Lieutenant Joseph Bowers, you're welcomed to call me Joe. You can stow your gear in the storage room over there if you like. We'll be bunking in there until the colonists are delivered to their new home." Joe said as he pointed.

Ensign Thaelan sat his rucksack on the floor beside him and stood at attention again.

"We'll keep the duty schedules pretty much like they are for the moment. Ensign Thaelan can take the lead on alpha shift. Darin can be his second and Vincent can be his third. Connie, Susan and Jimmy can take beta shift and Lou and Judy can have gamma. We'll run it that way for a while until our new people are comfortable with their positions. If anyone starts feeling like they need a day off, come and talk to me and we'll work something out." Joe said in thought.

"I've logged Ensign Thaelan's cabin assignment." Connie said seriously.

"Thanks Connie. Ensign Thaelan, this is Ensign Constantine Agropos, we call him Connie. He's my second in command in here so if you have any questions or concerns when I'm not around, he'll be the one to ask." Joe said formally.

Connie looked at Ensign Thaelan expectantly, ready to exchange a greeting or shake hands. Ensign Thaelan's only acknowledgement to Joe's introduction was a disinterested glance.

Joe gestured for Ensign Thaelan to walk with him and led him to Susan.

"At station one we have Crewman Susan Walker. She's qualified on all the positions except the main console and is one of the best troubleshooters we have." Joe said with a smile at Susan.

Once again, Ensign Thaelan didn't do more than spare a glance at her.

"At station two we have Crewman Anthony James Tullis, we call him Jimmy. He's relatively new and has been operating as general help and doing minor repairs for quite a while. Even though he hasn't been tested on all positions yet, he has the knowledge and experience to serve as your second if the need arises." Joe said seriously.

Jimmy smiled at the statement.

"Sitting at station three is Crewman Judy Wills. She's been with us for quite a while and she's fully qualified to work second position and has performed as Lou's second since she arrived." Joe said with a smile at her.

"Sitting at the first auxiliary station is Ensign Lourdes DeGama, we call her Lou. She works the main on gamma shift and has been here the longest after Connie. If you're having any difficulty, Lou should be able to answer any question you have." Joe said, then gave her a quick smile.

"At the second auxiliary station is Crewman Vincent Winters. He just joined us yesterday and is learning the stations. He serves as general help and is learning the basic maintenance. Vincent will be working on your shift, so part of your job will be to contribute to his training. " Joe said, then gestured for Ensign Thaelan to walk with him to the trio standing by the storage lockers.

"The Ensign with the black eye is Ensign Darin Cooper. He'll be serving as your second. Darin just joined us yesterday, but he is fully qualified on all but the main position and has proven to be innovative and level headed in a crisis. What he lacks is practical experience, so it will also be part of your job to guide him and help him until he learns all the ins and outs of deflector control." Joe said seriously.

"Next we have Benny and JonJon, they are from the Kimber colony and will be staying with us until we reach the new colony. They're both responsible young men so I doubt that you'll have any problem with them." Joe said with a smile at the boys.

Ensign Thaelan glanced at the boys, then turned his attention to Joe.

"The men will be sleeping in the supply room and the women will be sleeping in quarters. We will all use the bathing and laundry facilities in the quarters located on deck E section C2 room 2." Joe said seriously.

"Deck E?" Ensign Thaelan asked hesitantly.

"On the Yorktown we tend to refer to the decks by letters rather than numbers. The turbo lift's control system will recognize the command whether you say deck E or deck 5 so it shouldn't be much of a problem for you." Joe said seriously.

Ensign Thaelan nodded his understanding.

"Now that you've been introduced to everyone, do you have any questions for me?" Joe asked curiously.

"Not a question, more of an observation." Ensign Thaelan said in a slow voice that barely contained his hostility.

"I know that the official reason I was transferred from the Enterprise was because the Yorktown was about to embark on a long voyage and was short a key person in deflector control. But the reason *I* was chosen for this assignment is because I refuse to be silent about the duplicitous nature of Starfleet. To all the worlds of the Federation they preach about equality when in reality it is a military force of Humans with a few token representatives from other worlds who are displayed as proof of their equal representation. The people of Andor were founding members of the Federation and yet we are treated as if we are some sort of oddity because we do not appear Human." Ensign Thaelan said vehemently.

"I see... Do you think that you are capable of behaving in a civil manner toward your coworkers?" Joe asked seriously.

"Yes sir." Ensign Thaelan said coldly.

"Will you be willing to instruct Crewman Winters in his duties and follow up to see that he understands your instructions?" Joe asked without any emotion in his tone.

"Yes sir." Ensign Thaelan said again.

"Will you assist Ensign Cooper to become familiar with his duties and instruct him how to help you train Crewman Winters?" Joe asked without inflection.

"Yes sir." Ensign Thaelan said firmly.

"Good. Then there is just one more thing for me to say. I don't agree with your opinion of Starfleet. But since I enjoy having an intelligent discussion with someone who has an opinion different from my own, I think we might both enjoy a discussion of politics and Starfleet policy after our duty shift sometime. However, I'm going to ask that you not dwell on the subject while we're on duty. It could easily cause tempers to rise, which is distracting from our purpose for being here." Joe said as he looked into Ensign Thaelan's eyes.

"I understand Lieutenant Bowers." Ensign Thaelan said in his cold voice.

A beeping from the main console drew Joe's attention.

"Good. Ensign Thaelan, please take the main console. It sounds like we're about to get underway." Joe said and stood aside.

"Yes sir." Ensign Thaelan said hesitantly and walked to take the seat at main deflector control.

"Ensign Cooper and Crewman Winters are now at your command. Everyone else, please stand away from the work stations." Joe said firmly.

Vincent quickly signed off auxiliary station two, then hurried to stand by station three.

"Ensign Cooper, go to station one and give me a power status report. Crewman Winters, go to station three and give me a control console status report." Ensign Thaelan said firmly.

Darin and Vincent took their stations and began running the requested status checks.

"Power systems nominal, primary field generator at maximum." Darin said professionally.

"All consoles functioning normally." Vincent said carefully.

"Ensign Cooper, bring the secondary field generator up to full power. Crewman Winters, move to station two and give me a system status report." Ensign Thaelan said forcefully as he started to work the controls.

Joe, Connie and Lou watched the unconventional way Ensign Thaelan was setting up the main deflector field properties.

"All systems show as operational." Vincent said quickly.

"Crewman Winters, put secondary control systems on active standby." Ensign Thaelan said in a voice between anger and panic.

Lou and Connie exchanged a look at the strange order.

Vincent quickly worked the controls, then said, "Secondary systems are active and standing by."

A moment later the hum of the main deflector could be heard as well as felt throughout the room.

"Primary deflector status?" Ensign Thaelan called seriously.

"Operating within normal parameters." Darin said as he watched the readings carefully.

"Primary control system status?" Ensign Thaelan demanded as he tuned the field harmonics to optimum efficiency.

"All primary control systems show normal function." Vincent said as he looked over the board.

"Secondary control system status?" Ensign Thaelan barked out abruptly.

"Secondary control systems all functioning normally." Vincent said quickly as he looked over the entire board again.

The hum of the ships engines could be felt as the ship quickly approached warp speed.

Joe watched Ensign Thaelan carefully and noticed that he had his fingers poised, ready to switch over to the secondary systems at the first sign of any trouble.

Once the ship had made the transition into warp, Ensign Thaelan slowly withdrew his hand from the system transfer controls.

"Ensign Cooper, power down the secondary field generator. Crewman Winters, switch secondary control systems to inactive standby." Ensign Thaelan said firmly as he made some adjustments to the field harmonics.

"Secondary field generator power reduced and in standby mode." Darin said carefully.

"Secondary control systems inactive and standing by." Vincent said next.

"Ensign Cooper, run a status check on the primary power system. Crewman Winters, run level two diagnostics on all primary first-level control systems." Ensign Thaelan barked out harshly.

"Ensign Thaelan, Lou is going to relieve you now. Would you come out into the hall to speak with me?" Joe asked seriously.

Ensign Thaelan was surprised by the order, but quickly said, "Yes sir."

When Ensign Thaelan stood, Lou quickly took his place at the main console.

Feeling the stares of everyone in the room on him, Ensign Thaelan followed Joe out the door.

* * * * *

"Do you think Joe's chewing him out for yelling like that?" Jimmy asked cautiously.

"Knowing Joe... no. He's probably out there telling him to tone it down a notch or two." Connie said frankly.

Vincent giggled at the statement.

"What's so funny?" Darin asked curiously.

"Daddy Joe said those exact same words to me just a little bit ago." Vincent said with a smile.

"What do you think about this new guy?" Jimmy asked as he looked around the room.

"Personally, I think he's a prick." Lou said casually as she adjusted the main deflector control console back to it's normal settings.

"And we all know how you hate those." Connie quipped.

Vincent broke into laughter at the statement.

"Well, you made a nine year old laugh... that must mean your humor is getting more sophisticated." Lou said over her shoulder.

"Do you think he's going to yell at me and Fizgig like that?" JonJon asked quietly.

Silence fell over the room at the serious question.

"We won't let him scream at you JonJon. We all like you and no one is allowed to scream at you." Connie said warmly.

"That's right. You're one of us so you've got all of us on your side." Jimmy said with a smile.

"Wait. We shouldn't be picking sides." Vincent said as he stood from station two, then continued, "This isn't right. Yeah, he's a prick, but that doesn't mean that he can't be one of us."

"Vincent, you can't change people..." Lou began to say.

"No, but he can change himself if he really wants to. But he won't want to if we're treating him like he doesn't belong here." Vincent said seriously.

Connie shook his head and said, "If he screams at JonJon or Benny..."

"...or Fizgig." JonJon added quickly.

Connie nodded and said, "...or Fizgig, then all bets are off. I don't care what kind of problem he's got. If he takes it out on one of the kids, then I'll personally go to the Captain and see about getting him put off the ship at the next M-class world we pass. That is, if I don't punch him out first."

Vincent shook his head and said, "I don't want him to scream at anyone either, but wouldn't it be better to try and help him fit in here instead of trying to get him thrown out?"

"You and Darin are the ones who are going to have to work with him. So if you can get him to adjust his attitude, then I'll be willing to give him another chance. Otherwise, I'm taking this to the top." Connie said firmly.

"And maybe the guys could go somewhere while you're on duty so you won't have to worry about Thaelan going off on them." Jimmy said speculatively.

Vincent nodded, then looked at Benny and JonJon with surprise.

"I forgot that Dr. Perry ordered Channing to stay in bed for the next three days. If you guys wouldn't mind, I was wondering if you could go over and keep him company and bring him food and stuff so he doesn't get too bored. I mean, he needs someone to take care of him while he's sick and I thought you guys might want to help him out."

Benny looked at JonJon with question and shrugged.

"Can Fizgig go too?" JonJon asked quietly.

"Yeah. I bet Fizgig will be all kinds of help keeping Channing from being bored." Vincent said happily.

"Okay. It sounds like fun. Let's go figure out what we're going to do. Three days is a lot of time." JonJon said with growing excitement and rushed into the storage room.

Benny smiled at Vincent with admiration and said, "Thanks for thinking of us Vincent."

Vincent nodded and watched as Benny walked into the supply room to join JonJon.

"You win." Connie said in resignation.

Vincent looked at Connie with question.

"I'll give him a chance and give you time to get him turned around." Connie said without enthusiasm.

"Yeah. Work your magic, little man." Lou said with a smile.

Vincent giggled at Lou's name for him.

All conversation stopped as the doors opened.

* * * * *

"At ease Ensign." Joe said seriously.

Ensign Thaelan remained at attention.

"That was your first time wasn't it?" Joe asked as he leaned against the wall casually.

"Yes sir." Ensign Thaelan said reluctantly.

"I thought so. The simulator does a good job of preparing you for every possible scenario but one; the routine departure where nothing goes wrong. Your service record shows that you have served in Deflector Control on three ships in the past year and a half, not counting the Enterprise where you've served a day and a half. Do you know why you haven't been operating the main?" Joe asked curiously.

"Prejudice." Ensign Thaelan said firmly.

Joe considered for a moment, then said, "I can't say for sure that prejudice wasn't a factor at some point, but I think it was your attitude that caused the problem." Joe said frankly.

"My attitude does not effect my ability to perform my duties. To deny me the opportunity to use my skills and advance my career because I refuse to be silent about the injustices I witness is a form of oppression of the highest order." Ensign Thaelan said in an increasing voice.

"I disagree." Joe said calmly.

"How can you disagree when the evidence clearly shows that I have been routinely scheduled to work the stations beneath my ability and shifted from ship to ship like a piece of cargo?" Ensign Thaelan asked desperately.

"After what I saw in there, I have no doubt about your technical skills or abilities. What concerns me is your ability to lead and train people that you openly despise." Joe said as he looked Ensign Thaelan in the eyes.

Ensign Thaelan froze at the statement, so Joe continued, "I believe the reason that you weren't scheduled to operate the main console is because no one thought you had the social skills that are necessary to build a cohesive team. No one wants to follow the orders of a tyrant who barks orders at them all day long. And I believe that none of your former commanding officers wanted to put their people through the ordeal of being subject to your authority."

"But I follow the code of conduct exactly..." Ensign Thaelan said distantly.

"Those codes are in place as limits, that's the extreme that you are not permitted to pass. To function as a team, it's necessary to build mutual respect and understanding. Your current command style will only cause animosity and resentment." Joe said seriously.

"Lieutenant Bowers, would it be possible for you to... help me?" Ensign Thaelan asked reluctantly.

"I could. But I won't." Joe said frankly.

Ensign Thaelan looked at Joe with surprise.

"I can't tell you how to behave, that's a very personal and individual thing. Your behavior is something that's your own responsibility to determine. I may offer some suggestions along the way and you'll be free to accept them or reject them as you see fit, but it's going to be up to you to become something more than a petty dictator on a power trip. You're starting out with a clean slate here. Darin and Vincent are going to be your team. They're both brand new and need to be trained in the best way to do their jobs, not just what's in the textbook but also what an officer with a year and a half of experience doing their jobs has learned along the way." Joe said seriously.

"So you're still going to let me run the main?" Ensign Thaelan asked carefully.

"Not just run the main, but command your crew. I'll be working your shift until you've become a little more comfortable in your position, but it will be up to you to make your group a team." Joe said seriously.

"No one has ever said these things to me before." Ensign Thaelan said quietly.

"I suspect that they felt it was easier to move you to someone else's duty shift or to someone else's ship rather than confront your attitude and be accused of bigotry." Joe said frankly.

"Thank you for being honest with me Lieutenant Bowers." Ensign Thaelan said as he straightened his posture.

"Your welcome. And I have one piece of advice to offer before we go back in... that is, if you're interested." Joe said in a more casual voice.

"Yes sir, I am." Ensign Thaelan said quickly.

"You know how others have made you feel just for the fact that you're an Andorian?" Joe asked cautiously.

Ensign Thaelan nodded hesitantly.

"My advice is to try to avoid making your coworkers feel the same way just because they *aren't* Andorians." Joe said seriously.

"I'll try. I'm not really used to considering the feelings of others." Ensign Thaelan said quietly.

"Oh really?" Joe said with a smirk.

Ensign Thaelan hesitantly nodded.

"Sorry. That's something called sarcasm. I get the sense that once you get used to it, you'll be good at it." Joe said with a smile.

Ensign Thaelan looked at Joe with confusion.

"Spend some time with Vincent and you'll figure it out in no time." Joe said, then gestured toward the door.

Ensign Thaelan squared his shoulders, then followed Joe into Deflector Control.

* * * * *

"So what are you guys talking about?" Joe asked as he walked in with Ensign Thaelan following a step behind.

"Ensign Thaelan." Vincent said seriously.

"What about him?" Joe asked cautiously.

"We were just trying to decide if we want to keep him or not." Vincent said as he looked Joe in the eyes and silently urged him to play along.

"And what did you decide?" Joe asked slowly.

"We decided that he's a keeper. He knows his stuff on the console, that's the hard part. So now we just need to get him to lighten up some and everything will be fine." Vincent said with a smile.

Ensign Thaelan looked at Vincent with shock.

"What do you think Ensign? Do you want to be one of us or would you rather do everything all by yourself and scream when you want something?" Vincent asked seriously.

Ensign Thaelan thought about the question for a moment, then said, "I think I would like to try being one of you... I'm just not sure how to do that."

"Don't worry, we'll all help you. Especially me and Darin." Vincent said with a smile.

"That's right. Us new guys need to stick together." Darin said firmly.

"And I'll be there to answer any questions any of you guys have." Joe said happily, amazed at the way Vincent handled the situation.

"Lou, can you think of any way to help Ensign Thaelan?" Vincent asked as he ran to her side.

After a glance of irritation at Vincent, Lou hesitantly said, "I suppose that after everyone settles in tonight, I could walk him through the controls to show him how we do things."

Ensign Thaelan looked at Joe with question.

Joe thought for a moment, then said, "Ensign Thaelan, your way of setting the controls was fine, but it wouldn't hurt for you to see another way of doing it. As long as it works, I don't mind which method you use."

Ensign Thaelan nodded, then turned to Lou and said, "Thank you Ensign DeGama, your instruction will be appreciated."

Lou glanced at Ensign Thaelan's tight, formal posture, then muttered, "Um... yeah. Sure."

"Connie, what can you do to help Ensign Thaelan?" Vincent asked with enthusiasm.

"I can welcome Ensign Thaelan to the team." Connie said seriously as he walked to Ensign Thaelan and offered his hand to shake.

Ensign Thaelan hesitantly accepted the offered hand and shook it with a firm grip.

"If you have any problems with anything, just feel free to ask." Connie said with an amused smile.

"Should the need arise, I will remember your offer." Ensign Thaelan said slowly.

"Does anyone else have any ideas about how we can help Ensign Thaelan to fit in?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"I could introduce him to my friends. I bet they'd like to meet him." Jimmy said with a happy smile.

"You'd better watch out Ensign Thaelan, Jimmy's friends are a hyper bunch. They'll try to talk your ears off." Susan said with a teasing smile at Jimmy.

Jimmy started to object, but after a moment of thought, he nodded his agreement.

"I would be honored to meet your friends." Ensign Thaelan said cautiously.

"Cool! After all that stuff Ensign Thaelan will probably be fitting in here better than I am." Vincent said happily.

A chuckle spread through the room at the statement.

"I think it's time to start getting ready for bed. Why don't we let the boys go up and get showered first, then we can take our turns." Joe said seriously.

"I'll go get the guys." Vincent said quickly and rushed into the supply room.

Ensign Thaelan watched Vincent leave the room then asked, "Is that the child who was promoted during the ceremony earlier today?"

"That's right, so were Susan and Darin." Connie said proudly.

"The children on Andor aren't given such responsibilities. It is believed that childhood is the time to acquire knowledge and skills for use later in life." Ensign Thaelan said carefully.

"Daddy Joe, we need to stop by the quartermaster's office for clothes for the guys before we shower." Vincent said as he hurried out of the storage room with Benny and JonJon following close behind.

"Good idea champ. When you get to the cabin, the pass code is 1717. Just don't take too long up there. We all need to take a turn at the shower." Joe said seriously.

"We'll be quick." Vincent said with a cheerful smile and hurried to the door.

Joe turned his attention back to Ensign Thaelan and said, "It's the same way on Earth, but if there were an Andorian child who had a special gift for art or music, would he be encouraged to develop it or would it be put off until he was an adult?"

"The child would be encouraged to develop the gift." Ensign Thaelan said carefully.

"That's why Vincent is here. He has a gift. I can't say exactly what it is, but since he's been on the Yorktown, he's made some significant contributions. He's thriving in this environment and we're all helping to guide him in the most productive direction." Joe said contemplatively.

"Thank you, I understand." Ensign Thaelan said carefully.

"If you would like, you can stow your gear in the supply room then go and get something to eat or explore the ship." Joe said casually.

"I had a meal before leaving the Enterprise and I am familiar with the constitution class of starship." Ensign Thaelan said seriously.

Joe smiled at the statement and said, "I was just trying to say that you're off duty and have free time to do whatever you would like. You are welcomed to stay here if you want. We won't be doing much of anything until the boys get back."

"If you would allow it, I would like to review some personal correspondence." Ensign Thaelan said quietly.

"Sure, you can use one of the auxiliary stations." Joe said with a smile.

"Thank you Lieutenant Bowers." Ensign Thaelan said respectfully.

"You're welcomed to call me Joe." He said and noticed discomfort in Ensign Thaelan's expression.

"...whenever you're ready." Joe added, more quietly.

Ensign Thaelan nodded, then went to auxiliary station one and signed in.

"You know, that's not a bad idea. I need to see if Melina sent me anything." Connie said with a grin.

"Does this mean you two are going to be exchanging intergalactic love notes for the next year?" Joe asked in a teasing voice.

"Jealous?" Connie asked with a raised eyebrow.

Joe made a show of thinking about it for a minute before answering, "Maybe a little."

"Thought so." Connie said, then went to auxiliary station two to sign in.

* * * * *

"Thaelan, do you want to see a picture of my fiancée?" Connie asked quietly.

Ensign Thaelan turned and saw a picture displayed on Connie's station.

"I normally do not find Human characteristics to be attractive, but your fiancée is a very handsome woman." Ensign Thaelan said in a considering voice.

Connie considered the statement for a moment before responding, "Yeah, she is, isn't she."

Ensign Thaelan opened a file and brought up a picture on his screen.

"This is my wife." Ensign Thaelan said quietly.

Connie looked at the picture of a smiling Andorian woman with long flowing white hair and said, "She's really beautiful."

"She died nearly five years ago. That is why I left Andor." Ensign Thaelan said distantly.

Connie glanced at Thaelan's pained expression and said, "I'm sorry to hear that."

"She died from a complication with her pregnancy. Neither she nor our child survived." Ensign Thaelan said in a low voice.

"I guess some things are the same no matter what world you're from." Connie said gently.

Thaelan looked at Connie with question.

"I have a brother back on Earth who went through exactly the same thing. I saw how it destroyed his life... it's been almost ten years now and he still hasn't gotten completely past it. He just seems to be wandering aimlessly through his days, not really caring about anything." Connie said quietly.

"That's easy to do when everything you care about has been taken away." Ensign Thaelan said seriously.

"I guess so. But it seems like such a waste. Nicky was always such a friendly guy, always so happy. Now it's like the light went out in his eyes. It hurts to see him like he is now." Connie said as he looked back to his console.

"My family has made the same comment toward me. It made my decision to enter Starfleet easier. At least they won't have to suffer with me." Ensign Thaelan said distantly.

"It doesn't work that way." Connie said as he turned to face Thaelan again.

Thaelan looked at Connie with question.

"I'm just as worried about Nicky out here as I would be living in the same house with him... maybe even more. At least if I were there I could be sure that he was taking care of himself." Connie said seriously.

"Perhaps you're right. My decision to enter Starfleet was more about getting away from the reminders of my previous life than helping those around me." Ensign Thaelan said consideringly.

"Yeah. Well, I think that's okay. Sometimes you have to consider other people's feelings, but other times it's important to consider your own and do what you need to do to heal yourself." Connie said frankly.

Ensign Thaelan nodded his agreement.

* * * * *

The door to deflector control opened to reveal Rad wearing a big smile.

"Hey Rad, what's up?" Joe asked happily.

"I've been talking with Chief Morgan since the ceremony... where's Vincent? I need to congratulate him." Rad said quickly.

"Up taking his shower. What were you two talking about?" Joe asked with a smile at Rad's excitement.

"We've been talking about the new transporter retrieval method. Joe, I'm really excited about this." Rad said enthusiastically.

"Funny, it doesn't show." Joe said with a grin.

"That was sarcasm, right?" Ensign Thaelan asked from the auxiliary station.

"That's right. You're getting it." Joe said with a smile, then continued, "Ensign Thaelan, I'd like you to meet Ensign Rayne Radovanovich, we call him Rad. Rad, this is Ensign Thaelan. He transferred from the Enterprise and he'll be in charge of the alpha shift of Deflector Control." Joe said with a smile.

"Do you know Ensign Tabitha Brooks from the Excelsior?" Rad asked curiously.

"I am somewhat acquainted with her." Ensign Thaelan said hesitantly.

"I thought so. God, that woman hates you with a passion! I was stuck in a departure lounge with her for nearly three hours and all she could do is bitch about how horrible you were." Rad said with a chuckle.

Ensign Thaelan looked at Joe with confusion.

Rad noticed Thaelan's expression and chuckled as he said, "Don't worry about it man. Tabby isn't happy unless she's bitching about something. If she ever had a day that she didn't have something to complain about she'd probably just self destruct. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that no one takes her seriously... it's nice to meet you."

"A pleasure?" Ensign Thaelan said uncertainly.

Rad laughed at the confusion in Ensign Thaelan's eyes.

"Rad is the essence of deportment and tact." Joe said with a smirk.

Ensign Thaelan considered the statement for a moment, then said, "More sarcasm, right?"

Joe chuckled and said, "Very good. You're getting it."

A beeping from the main console drew everyone's attention.

After a moment, Lou said, "I have a diplomatic transmission for Vincent."

"Call the cabin and see if he's there yet. If not, you'll need to page him." Joe said casually.

"Got it." Lou said seriously.

Ensign Thaelan looked at Joe curiously, hoping for an explanation.

"I'm sure it's someone from Vincent's clan." Joe said without concern.

"Clan? I didn't realize that Humans had clans." Ensign Thaelan said carefully.

"They usually don't. Let's see... after Vincent's parents died last week, he was adopted by a Vulcan clan which made him a citizen of Vulcan. Clan Short has been recognized by the Federation as a diplomatic entity, so any communication from them is automatically considered a diplomatic transmission." Joe said as efficiently as possible.

"It sounds like the child has known considerable pain in his short life." Ensign Thaelan said speculatively.

"You have no idea." Joe said frankly.

Rad looked at Joe with concern.

Joe glanced around to see that no one else was listening, then moved closer so only Rad, Connie and Thaelan could hear.

"I'm telling all of you about this so you can help me if Vincent has a problem." Joe said in prelude.

"The day I met Vincent, he had just come back from the hospital." Joe said quietly.

"What was wrong with him?" Rad asked with concern.

"His father had hit him and knocked him down. Vincent hit his head when he landed and received a concussion." Joe said, trying to control the emotion in his voice.

"Please tell me it was an accident." Rad said quietly.

Joe shook his head and said, "I've seen the bruises. The bastard punched Vincent hard enough that you could count the knuckles in each bruise."

Connie shook his head as tears started to well up in his eyes.

"Guys, I'm telling you this because I don't know what might cause Vincent to flash back on those abusive times of his life. He was physically and emotionally abused and that's got to leave some kind of a scar. If you notice him having trouble, help him through it the best you can and call for help from the rest of us if you need it." Joe said seriously.

"He always seems so happy, I had no idea." Connie said distantly.

"Earth held nothing but painful reminders for him. He is happy here. I just wanted to ask you guys to help me keep him that way." Joe said seriously.

"I understand why you would ask your friends to help you in this matter, but I fail to see why you would include me." Ensign Thaelan said curiously.

"Because you are going to be Vincent's commanding officer for the foreseeable future. You need to be aware of potential problems so you'll be prepared to deal with them if the need arises." Joe said carefully.

"Thank you Lieutenant Bowers, I understand." Ensign Thaelan said seriously.

"You can call him Joe." Rad said frankly.

"Whenever he's ready. There's no rush." Joe said with a smile at Rad.

"You just like someone calling you by your rank for a change don't you?" Rad asked with a grin.

Joe chuckled and said, "I actually prefer the more relaxed environment where we're all on a first name basis. But until Ensign Thaelan is comfortable with that, I don't mind being called lieutenant."

"Come off it Joe, you get a thrill every time someone calls you lieutenant." Rad said with a grin.

"Maybe a little bit, but let's wait and see if Lieutenant Radovanovich thinks it's as funny when it's his time." Joe said consideringly.

Rad's grin transformed into a full smile at the thought.

Connie started laughing and said, "From the look on his face, I think that Lieutenant Radovanovich might enjoy it a little too much."

Ensign Thaelan felt amusement bubbling up within him at the statement and was shocked to realize that he was smiling.

* * * * *

"Hurry and get it before they hang up." Benny said as the trio rushed into the cabin.

"Crewman Winters." Vincent said as he slammed the button to accept the transmission.

"Vincent, you have a diplomatic transmission." Lou said seriously.

"Thanks Lou." Vincent said as he took a seat at the desk.

"Do you want us to leave?" Benny asked from behind Vincent.

"I don't care if you stay, but you guys could get started on your showers while I'm doing this if you wanted." Vincent said casually as he logged in and accepted the diplomatic transmission.

"You go first." Benny said to JonJon with a smile.

JonJon nodded and went to the bathroom to start his shower.

"There you are Vincent. From as long as it took, I thought they'd lost you." Cory said in frustration.

"No, we were just leaving the quartermaster's office when you called. It took a few minutes to get to the cabin. What's up Cory?" Vincent asked casually.

"Vincent, speaking strictly as your guardian and someone who cares about you there's something I need to say." Cory said seriously.

"Okay." Vincent said hesitantly.

Cory nodded, then cleared his throat.

After a moment to collect his thoughts, Cory said, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKIN MIND!?"

Vincent's eyes went wide at the question.

"Sorry Vincent, I think it's hard coded into our DNA or something that when one of your kids runs off and gets married without telling you that you have to say that. Now that I've got that out of the way, maybe you could tell me how this happened." Cory said reasonably.

"T'Lani's family contacted Grandfather Sarek and wanted to arrange a marriage. When Grandfather told me about it, I said that I wanted to do it." Vincent said simply.

"Vincent, we're talking about the rest of your life here. What were you thinking?" Cory asked with his concern showing through his voice.

"I was thinking that I trust Grandfather Sarek to protect me and do what's best for me. I was thinking that T'Lani really wanted to marry me or she wouldn't have started all this. I was thinking that I want to be happy like you and Sean and like Grandfather Sarek and Grandma Amanda. I was thinking that now I'll have someone who will be there even if things don't always turn out the way I want them to. I was thinking that once I do this, I'll never have to worry about finding a girl that likes me and dating and all that other stuff that drives old guys like you crazy..."

"Hey! I'm not old." Cory said in offense.

"Whatever you say Dad." Vincent said with a roll of his eyes.

Cory shook his head and muttered, "Kids these days..."

Vincent smiled and said, "Today Grandfather Sarek said that I'm an adult. He wouldn't have done that unless he believed it was true. I didn't go to him and say, 'Grandfather, please find me someone to marry right now'. The head of another family called Grandfather Sarek and asked him if it would be logical for T'Lani and I to get married."

"Okay, I get that." Cory said carefully as he considered the statement.

"Cory, when you became my guardian, you made me a Vulcan citizen. That means a whole lot more to me than a bunch of words on a piece of paper. I'm allowed to be a crewman on the Yorktown because I'm a Vulcan. I'm allowed to have you as my family because I'm a Vulcan. Everything good that's in my life right now can be traced back to when you made me a Vulcan citizen. I'm a part of Vulcan now and because of that, I'm going to trust in Grandfather Sarek and the old ways of Vulcan. If he says that T'Lani and I are a logical pair then I'll believe him."

Cory thought about Vincent's words and finally nodded.

"Does that mean you're okay with it?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Sort of. I mean, I think I get what you're saying. I still don't know if this is a good idea, but I guess we'll find out together. Vincent, since you've been declared an adult and you are allowed to make choices for yourself, but would you please *try* to include me in your decisions? I'll always think of you as one of my kids and if you'll talk to me about things before you decide them, maybe I can give you a different point of view or just be there to tell you that you're making a good choice." Cory said imploringly.

"Yeah. I can do that." Vincent said quietly.

"Benny, can you come here for a minute?" JonJon called from the bathroom doorway.

Benny shook himself out of his thoughts and hurried to the bathroom.

"When are you going to tell Lawrence?" Cory asked quietly.

"Tomorrow. I want to do it when T'Lani is with me so he can meet her." Vincent said with a smile.

"He's going to freak out." Cory said with a chuckle.

"At least." Vincent said with a smile.

"I'm going to go now. Congratulations on... everything." Cory said peacefully.

"Thanks Cory. I'm sorry I didn't call you before, things got a little bit crazy for a while." Vincent said timidly.

"I can imagine. Do you want a little piece of advice from your Clan's patriarch?" Cory asked with a smile.

"Sure." Vincent said suspiciously.

"Make sure you're well rested and ready for one massive party when you get back to Earth. You have a lot of people who want to celebrate everything you've achieved today." Cory said with a smile.

"I'll try but I really don't like stuff like that." Vincent said carefully.

"Well, since you probably won't be back to Earth for at least two months, it'll give the guys some time to settle down about it. We're still going to have a party when you get back, but it won't be nearly as crazy as if you came home today." Cory said happily.

"Thanks Cory. Tell everybody thanks for all the great cards and messages. I haven't had a chance to read them all yet, there's about a hundred of them." Vincent said with a smile.

"Yeah. All the Clan members and everyone at Camp Little Eagle wanted to send you their own message so you'd know how many people care about what happens to you." Cory said seriously.

"I didn't know there were that many. I'll have to make sure to meet them all when I get back." Vincent said happily.

"Yeah, we'll do that at the party. It's getting late, I'd better be going. Good night Vincent." Cory said gently.

"Good night Cory." Vincent said peacefully and ended the transmission.

Benny walked out of the bathroom with a stunned expression and slowly blinking his eyes.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked with concern at Benny's apparent stupor.

"Um...Optional upgrade... characteristics." Benny responded in puzzlement.

Vincent looked at Benny with confusion and said, "What? Wait. On second thought, I don't want to know."

To Be Continued . . .