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Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 28

"Um... Hello?" Vincent said cautiously as he walked into the unfamiliar room.

"Hi. Can I help you?" A pleasant young man asked in a casual tone.

"I, um, don't know. I need to talk to a counselor about some stuff. Am I in the right place?" Vincent asked as he looked around.

"Yeah. Have a seat. I'm Tony." the young man said as he turned off his terminal and gave Vincent his full attention.

"Are you a counselor?" Vincent asked cautiously as he continued to stand. He expected a counselor to be older and more professional looking.

"That's how I'm listed on the crew roster. What's up?" Tony asked casually.

"Um, well. A few things I guess." Vincent said nervously.

"Why don't you have a seat and tell me what's bothering you." Tony said as he sat back in his chair and turned to face Vincent fully.

Vincent cautiously sat down, then said, "Well, I'm not sure about everything. I've kind of had a lot of stuff happen all of a sudden and I really don't know how I feel about all of it yet."

"Oh. I can probably help you with that. You're Crewman Winters aren't you?" Tony asked curiously.

"Yeah. How did you know?" Vincent asked suspiciously.

"Because I saw you get your promotion in the rec hall. It's an honor to meet you." Tony said with a friendly smile.

"Thanks." Vincent said shyly.

"Let's see... Feeling overwhelmed by a large number of changes in your life sounds like a reasonable reaction to me. It takes time to adjust to changes, even good ones." Tony said consideringly.

Vincent thought about the statement, then nodded his agreement.

"Do you feel like talking about any of those things now?" Tony asked casually.

"Not really. Everything just seemed to hit at once, but I think it's like what you just said, it's going to take time." Vincent said slowly.

"Well, if you feel like talking to someone to help you sort it all out, that's one of the things I'm here for." Tony said simply.

Vincent smiled and said, "I think that right now I just need some time to sit and think about stuff. But if I get hung up on anything I might ask for your help."

Tony nodded his agreement to the arrangement.

"Um, and there was kinda something else." Vincent said uncomfortably.

Tony looked at Vincent with question and waited.

"I've been having problems with getting mad. Sometimes things will happen that will make me go kinda crazy mad and I can't think right. I just wanted to see if maybe I could get some help before it happens and I hurt someone or get into trouble because of it." Vincent said in thought.

"I can think of a few things to try." Tony said casually.

"I wasn't wanting to get started on that right now. I'm assigned to escort the Holy One while he's on our ship. But I was thinking that after that, I could do... whatever it is that we can do to fix it." Vincent said uncertainly.

"Fair enough. The first thing I'd like for us to do is a medical work-up with an extensive neurological scan." Tony said seriously.

"I was just in Sickbay this morning. They said I was fine except that I'm having a growth spurt." Vincent finished shyly.

"That could mean that you're having hormonal surges that could effect your emotional stability. We'll have to take a look at that too." Tony said in thought.

"So it might be just because I'm going through puberty?" Vincent asked with surprise.

"That's one possibility. Or your hormonal balance might be exacerbating an existing condition. We won't know until we've done the scans." Tony said frankly.

Vincent smiled and said, "I thought maybe I was going nuts or something. I didn't even think it could be because I'm growing up."

Tony smiled at Vincent's relief and said, "Well, we're going to do a lot of tests, both physical and psychological to find out exactly what's going on with you. When we're finished, we should have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done to keep your moods even."

"Thanks Tony, I feel a whole lot better already. I was afraid that the same thing was wrong with me that made my dad get mean and hit my brother." Vincent said seriously.

"If your father had an abusive nature, then there's a possibility that what you're experiencing is how you learned to deal with anger or stress. Let's hold off on worrying about that one until the physical tests are completed." Tony finished with a smile.

"Okay. So what do I do now?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Well, let's see." Tony said and turned his terminal back on.

After a moment of keying in instructions and reading the results, he finally said, "There you are."

Vincent looked at him curiously and waited.

"I'm putting a request for the medical tests that I want into your file. The next time you have free time, stop by the Sickbay and get the doctor on duty to run the tests." Tony said frankly.

"Oh, okay. Then what?" Vincent asked with a small smile.

"Then, when your schedule has stabilized and you know when you'll be available for regular visits, come back to me and we'll go over the medical scans and if there's anything physically wrong, I'll tell you about it and we'll discuss your options." Tony said, then looked up from his terminal.

"Thank you Tony. When I came in here I thought you were going to have me laying down on a couch and talking to you about my mom and stuff." Vincent said honestly.

Tony chuckled and said, "Freudian analysis can help in some cases and I can't say that we won't do that at some point, but for now we'll just work on ruling out any physical cause for your mood swings."

"Um, okay. Sounds good to me." Vincent said happily.

"Well, that's all for now... unless you want to lay down and tell me about your mother?" Tony said with a smile.

Vincent giggled and said, "Maybe next time. I'm going down to Sickbay now."

"It was a pleasure to meet you Crewman Winters. Hopefully we'll get this taken care of without too much difficulty so you can get back to working your way up the chain of command." Tony said warmly as he leaned across his desk to offer his hand.

Vincent shook Tony's hand and said, "Thanks for being so nice. I was a little bit worried about doing this before, but now I feel like everything is going to be okay."

Tony smiled and nodded.

Vincent smiled in return, then walked out the office door.

* * * * *

"T'Lani, are any of the medical teams back on the ship yet?" Dr. Perry asked quickly as she gathered surgical supplies.

"No Doctor." T'Lani said professionally.

"Then I'm going to need you to assist. I know you aren't a doctor yet, but we don't really have much choice. This boy's body has rejected these transplanted organs and if we don't hurry and get them out of there, he's not going to survive." Dr. Perry said frankly.

"I am ready to assist." T'Lani said calmly as she walked to Dr. Perry's side.

"Get Nurse Young in here. We'll need his help too." Dr. Perry said absently as she looked over Lehman's scans again.

"Right away." T'Lani said and walked briskly out of the room.

"Hang on little guy. You're going to get your chance to live." Dr. Perry said in a whisper as she continued to study the biobed's readouts.

* * * * *

"How are you at comparative xenobiology T'Lani?" Dr. Perry asked as she stopped and looked inside the incision.

"I am well versed in the subject." T'Lani said frankly.

"Good. Then take a look at this and tell me if you have any clue as to it's function." Dr. Perry said as she pointed to a small glandular organ.

T'Lani inspected the small organ visually, then pressed some controls on the biobed to do a detailed scan.

"The fibrous structure seems indicative of a filtration organ, but I cannot speculate as to it's function." T'Lani said carefully.

"Focus on the sack underneath." Dr. Perry said as she glanced at Lehman's vital signs.

"A neurochemical reservoir? I do not see the logic of this arrangement." T'Lani said in confusion.

"You think that's something, look at this one." Dr. Perry said as she pointed to another organ.

T'Lani adjusted the scanner to the indicated organ, then said, "The function of this organ would seem to be to attach neural triggering chemicals to hormonal secretions."

"It could take us years to figure out the functions of all these organs and this boy won't last another half an hour in this condition." Dr. Perry said gravely.

"What do you recommend that we do?" T'Lani asked with concern.

"From everything that I can see here, the majority of his other organs function much the same as a Human's. It's just his endocrine system and skin that are drastically different. If we were to use artificial organs designed for Humans, they should be able to sustain him in reasonable health." Dr. Perry said carefully.

T'Lani looked at the medical readings for a moment, then said, "If we do nothing. He will die. If we use the artificial organs as you suggest, he may die. Logically, the choice is clear."

"Thank you T'Lani. I was having a moral dilemma since, from a certain point of view, this could be considered a further mutilation." Dr. Perry said seriously.

"First, do no harm." T'Lani said without inflection.

"Right. Do you know what we're going to need from medical supply?" Dr. Perry asked with renewed conviction.

"Yes doctor. I will return shortly." T'Lani said quickly.

"Nurse Young, brace yourself. This is going to be a race." Dr. Perry said as she picked up a laser scalpel and started to work.

* * * * *

"T'Lani? What's going on?" Vincent asked as he walked into main sickbay.

"Husband, I am gratified to see that you are well." T'Lani said while keeping her concentration on the surgery before her.

"T'Lani, get that one there." Dr. Perry said intensely.

"Yes Doctor." T'Lani said as she carefully worked her way in beside Dr. Perry.

"Oh, I'm sorry, you're busy. I'll come back in a while." Vincent said quietly as he realized that he was interrupting surgery.

"No, actually you might be able to help us." Dr. Perry said suddenly as she looked up.

Vincent stopped and looked at her with question.

"Since this young man appears to be the same size and age as your husband, we could use Vincent's blood chemistry readings as norms for Lehman. It should allow us to get his levels balanced much faster than the trial and error method I was originally going to use. And considering the weakened state that this boy is in, he doesn't need the additional stress of a hormonal imbalance." Dr. Perry said quickly to T'Lani.

After a moment, T'Lani said, "Husband, you could assist us by getting on the second biobed."

"Um, sure." Vincent said cautiously, just understanding that it was Lehman who was being operated on.

After a moment to settle into place, Vincent said, "I'm ready."

"Nurse Young, order complete pituitary, thyroid and pineal output reports and have the results sent over here." Dr. Perry said firmly.

Vincent watched as Nurse Young worked the controls at the head of his biobed quickly.

"What's wrong with Lehman?" Vincent asked quietly.

"He's had a lot of organs transplanted and his body rejected them." Nurse Young whispered in return.

Vincent turned to watch the next bed with concern.

* * * * *

"I think everything is settled here for the moment. I would like to go check on Lehman now." Tyce said apprehensively.

"I only received word that Lehman was a Chameloid impersonating Crewman Winters with Starfleet Command's approval. I'm interested to know more." Captain Byrne said frankly.

"There's not much more to know. Lehman was brought onboard disguised as Tyber, then when we left the transporter room, he revealed who he really was. Lehman disguised himself as Vincent so he could be near me and help me try to expose Traiel and whoever was working with him." Tyce said carefully.

"And the surgical changes that you mentioned earlier were performed on him? And that's why he's in Sickbay now?" Captain Byrne speculated.

"It is possible. I would like to go to sickbay to be sure that he is well." Tyce said with worry.

Captain Byrne nodded and said, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help."

Tyce smiled and said, "I will Captain. Call me if you have need of me."

Captain Byrne nodded that he would.

"Oluf?" Tyce asked as he glanced to his right, knowing that Oluf would be within earshot.

"Yes Holy One, how may I serve you?" Oluf asked in a rush as he hurried to Tyce's side.

"I would like for you to remain here and keep abreast of events. If a situation arises that requires my attention, you may summon me. If you have need of anything, simply ask the Yorktown staff and they will see that your needs are met." Tyce said firmly.

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

Tyce turned to his other side and gently said, "Tyber, would you like to go to Sickbay with me? There is someone that I'd like for you to meet."

Tyber looked at his father talking with a group of people, then hesitantly turned to follow Tyce to the door.

Tyce glanced to see that Audge was following them, then continued out of the room.

* * * * *

"How are you feeling Lehman?" Tyce asked as he walked into the sickbay.

"I'm Vincent." Vincent said quietly.

"Oh. Well it's good to see you again. Lehman wasn't feeling well and came to sickbay. Have you seen him?" Tyce asked as he looked around.

"He's over there. They've been doing surgery on him since I got here." Vincent said in a concerned whisper, then glanced at the next biobed where Dr. Perry and T'Lani were still working.

"I didn't realize that his condition was so serious. How is he?" Tyce asked cautiously.

"I think he's going to be fine." Dr. Perry said as she took a step away from the biobed.

"Really?" Vincent asked with relief.

"Well, we have reason to hope. The replacement organs that we used were designed for Humans, so there might be some side effects from using them on a person of another species but... everything seems to be functioning normally and his vital signs are stabilizing."

"Replacement organs?" Tyce asked curiously.

"Yes. Several of his internal organs, mostly those associated with the endocrine system, were replaced with foreign organs. Those foreign organs were rejected by his body and died. Since we could only speculate on the purpose of some of those organs, there was no way we could mimic their functions. What we ended up doing was taking artificial organs designed for Humans and adapting them to function in his system." Dr. Perry said in a clinical tone.

"How long will it be before he wakes up?" Tyce asked with concern.

Dr. Perry looked at the readings on the head of the biobed, then said, "Hold on. T'Lani, come look at this."

Everyone was silent as Dr. Perry carefully lifted a gauze pad from the right side of Lehman's abdomen.

"This doesn't make any sense." Dr. Perry said in confusion.

T'Lani looked at the readings on the head of the biobed, then pressed in a series of commands to verify that the readings were correct.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked in a small voice, afraid of the answer.

"He's healed." Dr. Perry said as she adjusted the scanner of the biobed to focus on different areas.

"Isn't that a good thing?" Tyce asked in confusion.

"This boy has just had major surgery. He had over a dozen incisions and now there's not a mark on him." Dr. Perry said seriously.

"Doctor, please look at this." T'Lani said as she indicated a detailed reading on the biobed's display.

"I don't understand. Why are they so worried if he's healed?" Tyce asked Vincent curiously.

"I think it's because they don't understand 'why' he's healing so fast. It's a Human thing to worry about what you don't understand, even when it's a good thing." Vincent finished with a relieved grin.

Tyce smiled at the statement, then turned his attention back to Lehman's bed.

"So the same process that allowed him to alter his physical form before is healing his physical damage now." Dr. Perry said speculatively.

"It appears that his body needed an adequate hormonal balance for the regeneration process to become active." T'Lani said in thought.

"So he's going to be alright?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Yes. I think so. But I still don't know how alright he's going to be." Dr. Perry said slowly as she looked over the scans again.

"How do you mean?" Tyce asked curiously.

"His body has already healed the incisions that were made to implant the artificial organs. I suppose it's possible that he could spontaneously regenerate replacement organs for the ones that were removed." Dr. Perry said in thought.

"It is also possible that only his epidermal layer has the accelerated healing factor and that the replacement organs will continue to be needed." T'Lani said professionally.

Dr. Perry nodded her agreement, then said, "We'll need to keep a close watch on him for the next few hours to see what develops."

"When do you think he will awaken? I would like to assure him that all is well." Tyce said quietly.

"The anesthetic should wear off soon. He could wake at any time." Dr. Perry said as she looked Tyce in the eyes.

"Thanks for helping him Dr. Perry. When he's well enough to travel, I'm going to make sure that he gets a wonderful home." Tyce said sincerely.

"I'm afraid he's going to need to be somewhere that a Federation doctor can care for him. The artificial organs that I've implanted will need to be maintained. He should be able to lead a normal life, but if any of his organs are somehow damaged, only a Federation doctor would have any hope of repairing or replacing them." Dr. Perry said as she glanced down at Lehman tenderly.

"I understand. What you have done is far beyond the capabilities of my people. Thank you for saving him." Tyce said as he followed her gaze to look at Lehman's face.

"If you really want to thank me, there's something you could do that would absolutely make my day." Dr. Perry said with a warm smile at Tyce.

"What is that Doctor?" Tyce asked with surprise.

"Go into the convalescent ward and talk to your injured people. They seem to feel as if they're doing something wrong by being here. I know it would lift their spirits tremendously if their Holy One would go in and talk with them." Dr. Perry said with a gentle smile.

"It would be an honor to talk with those brave people who fought to defend me." Tyce said warmly.

"I'm going to stay here in case Lehman wakes up." Vincent said quietly.

"When he does, tell him that I will return shortly and that I am concerned for his well being." Tyce said seriously.

"I'll tell him." Vincent said with a smile.

* * * * *

Lehman was beginning to thrash around and struggle in his sleep, then he started whispering, "No, don't..."

Vincent hurried to Lehman's side and said, "It's okay Lehman. You're safe."

Lehman opened his eyes and saw that Vincent was standing over him, holding his hand.

"I don't want to be him. I want to be you." Lehman said in a weak, tired voice.

T'Lani walked to the head of the biobed to check Lehman's readings.

"What?" Vincent asked quietly with concern.

"Him. Who I was before. No one loved him. I don't want to be him anymore. I want to be you." Lehman said semi-coherently.

Vincent smiled and said, "It's okay Lehman, you can be me if you want to."

Lehman looked into Vincent's eyes with hope and asked, "Really?"

"Sure. I love my life and I don't mind sharing it."

"But... What am I going to do now? You have Daddy Joe and Darin and I've got... no one." Lehman said as tears welled up in his eyes.

"What would you think about going to the new colony?" Vincent asked cautiously.

Lehman thought for a moment, then whispered, "By myself?"

Vincent smiled, then said, "T'Lani, would you call Benny and JonJon and ask them to come to sickbay?"

"Yes Husband." T'Lani responded immediately.

"What are you going to do?" Lehman asked weakly with concern.

Vincent squeezed Lehman's hand firmly and said, "I'm going to get you a family."

Lehman stared in wonder at the statement.

* * * * *

Tyce and Tyber walked down the hallway that led to the convalescent ward in silence with Audge following a step behind.

Just as they were about to enter the ward, Tyber quietly asked, "Do you really want me to stay with you?"

Tyce turned to look at Tyber and saw the concerned expression that he was wearing.

"Yes Tyber. I really do want you to stay with me." Tyce said with assurance.

"Why?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"Tyce?" Audge asked quietly from behind the pair.

Tyce turned to face him with a look of question.

"If you would like, I think I can answer Tyber's question." Audge said hesitantly.

Tyce was surprised by the offer, but nodded hopefully.

Audge turned to face Tyber and said, "When 'The Holy One' is in front of priests and politicians he has to be strong and be the leader. But when he's done with his duties, he's still a person just like you and me. Tyce needs people around him who treat him like a real person... like a friend. He's not just offering you a place to live. He's offering you a place in his family. I think he needs you as much as you need him."

Tyce was stunned by the statement, and was surprised to find that he was nodding in agreement.

Tyber looked from Audge to Tyce uncertainly.

"We're not trying to take the place of your father and we're not asking you to forget him or stop loving him. We're just trying to give you a home." Audge said gently.

"I've never really had a home. I've always lived on ships with my dad." Tyber said in a small voice.

"We'll do our best to make it comfortable for you." Tyce said quietly.

"Thank you Holy One." Tyber said shyly.

"No Tyber. You and Audge are my family. You can call me Tyce."

* * * * *

Benny walked into the room first, followed by JonJon who was carrying Fizgig in his arms.

Both stopped and stared in shock when they saw two Vincents, one on the bed and the other standing beside him, holding his hand..

"Guys, this is Lehman. He's kinda like my twin." Vincent said with an impish grin.

"Who is he?" Benny asked with concern.

"Do you want to tell them?" Vincent asked Lehman curiously.

Lehman thought for a moment, then said, "I'm a Chameloid; a shape shifter. Well, except that I can't change anymore... Anyway, some guys from Okuda took me from my home world. They wanted to kill 'The Holy One' so I could change myself to look like him and take his place. When I did that they were going to run the church of Okuda through me and pretty much take control of the entire government. After I came on this ship, I took Vincent's shape so I could help him and the Holy One catch the bad guys doing something wrong, but... I got stuck like this."

"And he's just had surgery and had to have a bunch of his organs replaced." Vincent added gently.

"Do you have a family back on your world that's worried about you?" Benny asked quietly.

Lehman shook his head and said, "There was a plague on my world a few years ago and both my parents died. I was in a foundling home after that... I can barely remember what my parents looked like now. Besides, since the bad guys did this to me, I can't change my shape anymore. I couldn't go back there if I wanted to. I'd be a freak."

Benny nodded in thought.

"And Lehman needs to be somewhere that he can see a Federation doctor. He wouldn't be able to stay on his home world if he did go back. I was thinking that if you guys wouldn't mind it too much, maybe Lehman could go to the new colony with you." Vincent said slowly.

Benny and JonJon looked at Vincent with shock. Even Fizgig looked a little surprised.

Vincent felt that he needed to explain, so he took Lehman's hand and held it firmly as he said, "When Rory came on the ship a few weeks ago to see if it was safe here for me, I got to thinking about what it would be like to go to the new colony and live with you guys. Even though I'm happy that I'm allowed to stay on the Yorktown, a part of me is disappointed that I wasn't able to go with you."

Benny and JonJon both nodded that they understood.

"Lehman has some of my memories and already said that he wants to have a life like mine." Vincent continued carefully.

"Well, you could just think of this like what would have happened if Rory had said 'no'. This way it's like I get to go live with you guys AND I get to stay on the Yorktown. It's like that thing about having your cake and eating it too." Vincent finished with a smile.

"So you want us to pretend that Lehman is you?" Benny asked Vincent slowly.

"No. Not really pretend. I'm just saying that you could try to accept him because he's the same as me. Let him have that place that you were going to let me have." Vincent said with difficulty.

"How do you feel about it Lehman?" Benny asked quietly.

"I don't know... I remember a little bit about you and JonJon from Vincent's memories, but if I do this I still won't have a family... I mean, like parents..." Lehman trailed off in a worried voice.

Vincent smiled and said, "You don't need to worry about that. I have a ton of fathers and uncles and brothers. I know that if I ask them, they'll all love you and worry about you the same as they do with me."

Lehman looked at Vincent with confusion.

"Daddy Joe, Thaelan and the whole Clan are like my fathers. Even though you'll be living at the new colony, you'll just be a subspace call away from all the help and advice that you'll ever need." Vincent said assuringly.

"And you'll have me and JonJon right there with you to watch out for you so you'll never have to be alone." Benny said quietly.

"And Fizgig." JonJon added shyly.

Lehman looked at the dog in JonJon's arms and smiled.

"I think living with you sounds like it might be nice." Lehman said as he reached a hand out to gently scratch Fizgig behind the ear.

Fizgig sniffed the hand, then turned and started to lick Lehman's palm.

JonJon watched with a smile and said, "Fizgig agrees."

* * * * *

As Tyce, Tyber and Audge walked into the convalescent ward they noticed that it was quiet and an atmosphere of despair permeated the room.

After a moment to look around, Tyce cautiously walked to the first bed.

There was a young woman sleeping soundly, but she seemed to have an expression of worry.

"Holy One?" A weak voice called uncertainly from the next bed.

Tyce looked over to see a middle aged man with a bandage covering the majority of his chest.

"Yes. I am the Holy One." Tyce said gently as he approached.

"Are you well Holy One? They didn't hurt you?" The man asked with concern.

Tyce smiled gently and said, "I am well thanks to you and your crewmates."

"Good." The man said with relief as he rested back.

"Tarmon, son of Markham, I wish to thank you for the sacrifices you made to ensure my safety. You and your fellow crewmates will be remembered as heroes among our people." Tyce said as he took Tarmon's hand and held it gently.

"Joining the crew of the Dorsa was my only chance to serve 'The Holy One'. All my training and everything else I've ever done in my life brought me to today. That's all I ever wanted." Tarmon said peacefully.

"Rest and become strong Tarmon. This is only the beginning." Tyce said with a smile.

Tarmon nodded slightly, then closed his eyes to sleep.

"Did my father cause this?" Tyber asked with tears in his eyes.

"Your father played his part in the events that led to today. But if he had not made the choices he did, another would have taken his place. I believe it was inevitable." Tyce said as he led the group to the next bed.

They stopped at the bed to find a young man with his eyes bandaged.

"Mykale, son of Jarisson, how are you feeling?" Tyce asked gently.

"Who is it? How do you know me?" the young man asked in fear as he turned his head toward Tyce's voice.

"I am the Holy One, and I know all my people." Tyce said with a pained expression at Mykale's fear.

"Are you really 'The Holy One'?" Mykale asked hesitantly.

"I am." Tyce responded quietly.

"Did they hurt you?" Mykale asked desperately.

"No. I was not injured." Tyce said with assurance.

"Then it was worth it." Mykale said with relief.

"Do you need anything to ease your recovery?" Tyce asked gently, sensing an underlying despair in the man.

"The doctors, they were able to save my life, but... but they couldn't save my eyes." Mykale said in a trembling voice.

"I'm so sorry." Tyce said as he held Mykale's hand firmly.

"No. It was a small price to pay for your safety. I would do exactly the same thing if I knew it would keep you safe. I just... I don't know what I'm going to do now..." Mykale trailed off in despair.

Tyce thought for a moment, then said, "If you would be willing, there is a service you could perform for which you are uniquely qualified."

"Anything Holy One. How can I serve you?" Mykale asked with hope.

"You and your crewmates have sacrificed much to protect me. Our world is entering a new age and many changes will occur in a short time. If you would be willing, I would like for you to have the responsibility for seeing that all the members of the Dorsa's crew are honored and remembered for their service and that those who survive are having their needs met." Tyce said gently.

"But I'm blind." Mykale said in a small voice.

"Then you will have someone to help you. But I am entrusting you alone with this duty. When we arrive at Okuda Prime, you will be given a room in my main temple and you will have priests to provide whatever assistance you may need to fulfill your duties." Tyce said, then turned to Tyber and continued, "Tyber, if you would like, you could be in charge of seeing to Mykale's needs."

Tyber looked at Tyce with surprise, then said, "But I'm just a kid."

Tyce smiled and said, "So am I. So are Vincent and Lehman. Being young doesn't prevent us from doing what must be done. If you're willing to see that Mykale has all the help that he needs, you can always come to me or Oluf and ask any question you might have."

Tyber thought for a moment as he looked at the bandaged young man on the bed, then said, "Thank you Holy... Tyce. I think I'd like to try."

Tyce smiled, then squeezed Mykale's hand gently and said, "Tyber has agreed to help you. Would you like to help me and your crewmates by doing this?"

"Yes Holy One. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity." Mykale said with a content smile.

"You earned this opportunity. Rest now and heal. Tyber will keep in contact with you and when you have recovered enough to assume your duties, he will see that you have all that you need."

"I'll begin as soon as possible." Mykale said seriously.

"Heal first. There is time." Tyce said gently, then laid Mykale's hand on the bed.

"As you say Holy One." Mykale said with a peaceful smile as he relaxed.

* * * * *

"It would be beneficial if you would sleep. Your readings indicate fatigue." T'Lani said seriously.

"Can I stay awake a little while longer? I want to be sure about what's going to happen next." Lehman asked with a puppy dog expression in his eyes.

T'Lani raised an eyebrow at the expression, then looked at Vincent in question.

Vincent leaned in to whisper, "It doesn't work on Vulcans."

"Oh." Lehman said shyly, then broke into a smile.

"Please conclude your business so you may rest." T'Lani said quietly, then took one last look at Lehman's readings before leaving the room.

Lehman noticed that Benny was standing silently with a distant look on his face.

"Is something wrong?" Lehman asked with concern.

Benny looked at Lehman as if just remembering that he was there.

"Oh. Um, no. I'm sorry Lehman. If Vincent says you're alright then it's fine with me if you come to the new colony with us." Benny said quickly.

Lehman looked at Benny consideringly, then up at Vincent with question.

"What's wrong Benny?" Vincent asked seriously.

Benny shook his head and said, "It's nothing."

Vincent and Lehman shared a look, then both turned their inquiring gazes on Benny.

After another moment of distant thought, Benny felt the identical stares boring into him.

"It's nothing." Benny said defensively.

Vincent and Lehman continued to stare at him in silence.

"Fine. Fine. I'll tell you." Benny finally said with resignation.

"It works a lot better with two of us." Vincent whispered with a smile at Lehman.

"I'm worried about my family. Okay? I haven't heard anything from them since the Enterprise left and I know that other people have already heard from their families. Being here in the sickbay again just kind of brought it back to me." Benny said with aggravation.

"Then let's call them." Vincent said simply.

"We can't do that." Benny said irritably.

"Sure we can... if I can call Starfleet Command you can call Starfleet Medical." Vincent said seriously.

"But we're not supposed to use subspace unless it's official business or an emergency." Benny said hesitantly, obviously wanting to do it.

"If your family are all this stubborn their doctors are probably going through hell." Vincent said as he walked to the nearest comm panel.

Lehman chuckled, then winced in pain.

"Don't make me laugh. It hurts." Lehman said with effort.

"See what you did?" Vincent said to Benny, then pressed the computer access to the comm system.

"It's going to be faster to do it this way." Vincent said seriously as he keyed in his search criteria.

Benny slowly walked to Vincent's side to see what he was doing.

"You Summers are like rabbits. Look at this." Vincent said as he pointed at the display screen full of people named Summers.

"That one, that's my dad." Benny said as he pointed at one of the names on the screen.

Vincent keyed in the proper ID, then waited for the call to be answered.

"Orlando Regional Medical Center." A woman answered professionally.

"We're calling to talk to Harold Summers. This is his son." Vincent said seriously and indicated Benny at his side.

"Let me see... He's listed to have no visitors, that would include calls... But give me a second, his primary care physician is right over there, I'll ask him." The nurse said and hurried away from the view screen.

A professional looking man who appeared to be in his mid thirties took a seat before the terminal and said, "I'm Doctor Reynolds. What can I do for you gentlemen today?"

"We called to see if we could talk to Harold Summers. But the nurse said he couldn't have any calls." Vincent said in a professional tone.

"That depends, is one of you two Benny?" Dr. Reynolds asked the two boys casually.

"I am." Benny said quickly.

"Then I'll let you speak to him. I've been trying to limit the interruptions to his sleep. He needs a lot of rest. But I'm sure that getting to talk with you will help him to sleep more soundly. Hold on. I'll be right back" Dr. Reynolds said seriously, then the hospital's logo filled the screen.

"I wonder why he's in Orlando. I thought he'd be in San Francisco." Benny said as he looked at the screen anxiously.

"Starfleet would send him wherever the best doctor was that could take care of him." Vincent said in thought.

A moment later the screen flashed on again and Benny was relieved to see his father looking back at him.

"How you doing Benny Boy?" Mr. Summers asked his son with a relieved smile.

Vincent smiled at the greeting, then walked back to his place at Lehman's side to give Benny some privacy.

"I'm doing fine Dad. We're about half-way to the new colony now." Benny said with tears of joy welling up in his eyes.

"So you're not having any problems? Everyone's treating you okay?" Mr. Summers asked with concern.

"Everything's great Dad, I promise. The Deflector Control team kind of adopted me and JonJon. We've been rooming with them and they've been taking really good care of us." Benny said, then noticed a tear falling down his cheek.

"I'm glad to hear it. On the way back to Earth I began to realize just how much I was asking of you by giving you all the responsibility." Mr. Summers said in a worried voice.

"It's okay Dad. If I have any kind of problem I've got lots of people who will help me. How are you and Mom and Callie?" Benny asked desperately.

"I think we're all going to be fine. Your sister was sent to Vulcan to see a specialist in bone reconstruction. Your mother is in the Starfleet medical facility in San Francisco and I'm here in Orlando so I can see a specialist about my spine." Mr. Summers said seriously.

"Will you let me know if you need anything?" Benny asked in a small voice.

"They're taking great care of us Benny Boy. You'd think we were royalty from the way they've been fussing over us. Just be sure to take care of yourself. We're all missing you like crazy." Mr. Summers finished with a sad smile.

"I miss all of you too. Tell Mom and Callie that I love them the next time you talk to them." Benny said quietly.

Lehman tugged on Vincent's arm to get his attention and got him to lean down.

"I'll tell them. The Doctor is saying that I need to try and get back to sleep now. Make sure you send me a letter and some pictures as soon as you get there." Mr. Summers said seriously.

"I will Dad. I promise." Benny said, just realizing that the tears were flowing down his cheeks.

"Don't hang up. I need to make a call too while you've got the connection." Vincent said as he rushed to Benny's side again.

"I love you Benny Boy." Mr. Summers said in a sleepy voice.

"I love you too Dad." Benny said quietly.

Vincent rekeyed the comm to terminate the connection to the hospital room, then keyed in another location.

"Clan Short." A voice said immediately.

"Hi Tommy, are Gabe or Adam around where I can talk to them?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Yeah. Adam's right here. Hang on a second." Tommy said politely, then turned and screamed, "ADAM! YOU HAVE A CALL!"

Vincent chuckled to himself, and glanced back to see Lehman fighting to hold in his laughter.

"Oh, hey Vincent. What can I do for you?" Adam asked as he quickly took the seat that Tommy had vacated.

"I was just wondering if you could do me a favor." Vincent asked hopefully.

"Sure, what do you need?" Adam asked casually.

"I've got a friend named Benny from the Kimber colony and his family is all hurt and in different hospitals. I was just wondering if you guys could kind of send them like, flowers or something like that. You know, let them know that they've got people who care about them." Vincent said uncertainly.

"Care packages. Got it." Adam said with a smile.

"Yeah. That sounds good. Benny's last name is..." Vincent said before he was interrupted.

"Summers. His family are in Orlando, San Francisco and at the Vulcan Academy of Science Medical Center." Adam said with a smile.

"Wow. You're getting really good at doing searches. Cory must be keeping you guys in practice." Vincent said in an impressed voice.

"It wasn't that hard. When you said Kimber, that cut the possible matches to less than two thousand, and there was only one Benjamin who didn't return to Earth, his last name is Summers. From there it was a snap." Adam said, sounding proud of himself.

"Thanks Adam. I just wanted to be sure they knew that there was someone around who cared about them." Vincent said quietly.

"We'll check with their doctors and find out what they can have and what they might need. You know, like crossword puzzles and CDs. Stuff like that." Adam said happily.

"That sounds great. I appreciate this." Vincent said with a smile.

"Hey, it's just something we do." Adam said dismissively.

"I've gotta go now. Thanks again." Vincent said quickly.

"Anytime Vincent." Adam said with a smile and closed the transmission.

Vincent turned and was surprised to find that JonJon was now at Lehman's side.

"Thanks for doing that Vincent. That was great." Benny said and gave Vincent a quick one armed hug.

"Then you should thank Lehman, it was his idea." Vincent said as he led Benny back to Lehman's bedside.

* * * * *

Tyce, Tyber and Audge walked to the next bed to find a serious man staring at them.

The man was around thirty with straight jet black hair and pale brown eyes that were almost amber.

From the way the blanket draped over him, it was obvious that he only had one leg and the bandaged stump on his right side was all that was left of his right arm.

Tyce stared at the man for a moment, then hesitantly said, "Jarkin, son of... Jarkin?"

A smile broke out on Jarkin's face at Tyce's confused look, then he said, "Yes Holy One. My father was killed in a farming accident a month before I was born, so I was given his name."

Tyce nodded that he understood, then asked, "How are you feeling Jarkin?"

"I am in no pain, but... I'm half a man now. I can't work my farm anymore or... anything. What good can I be like this?" Jarkin asked in a pained voice.

"I suspect that you have the ability to provide a much needed service to our people." Tyce said honestly.

Jarkin looked at Tyce curiously, prompting for more information.

"Please be assured Jarkin, you have a purpose and your injuries will not prevent you from carrying it out." Tyce said gently.

Jarkin slowly nodded, then quietly asked, "Would you answer a question for me?"

"Of course. What would you like to know?" Tyce asked casually, feeling an unusual kinship with this man.

"These people, the Humans, why do they look like us and speak our language?" Jarkin asked as he looked into Tyce's eyes.

Tyce glanced around the room, then moved closer to speak quietly.

"If I share this information with you, will you give me your vow not to repeat it?" Tyce asked quietly.

Jarkin's eyes went wide at the question and he quickly nodded.

"Many centuries ago, there was a sharp decline in the birth rate of our people, have you heard of that?" Tyce asked in a whisper.

"Yes. It was said to be the result of industrial pollutants." Jarkin said cautiously.

"Correct. And it is true that the pollution was the cause. But the situation was far more severe than you were led to believe. The industrial byproducts that were released into the environment caused genetic damage to our people for generations. More and more were born sterile until it became a significant threat to our very survival. Stopping the pollution did not remove the sterilizing agents from our environment. In fact, there are still traces of it to be found on Okuda Prime today." Tyce said carefully.

"So what happened?" Jarkin asked cautiously.

"The Holy One at that time secretly contacted a few trusted friends from other worlds for their assistance in preventing our extinction. One of them knew of the Humans, and so it was decided that some of these Humans would be relocated to Okuda to provide fresh genetic codes for our population and hopefully allow those who were still fertile to produce fertile young." Tyce said uneasily.

"Relocated, as in abducted?" Jarkin asked in a whisper.

Tyce nodded with regret and said, "At first just a few, but more over time. Two, maybe three thousand in all."

"But why doesn't our history show this?" Jarkin asked contemplatively.

"With the help of another race, who I would prefer not to name, we were able to alter the memories of the Humans that were brought to us... The abducted Humans were given false memories and led to believe that they were the survivors of the failed Mitigahl colony. They were given the knowledge of our language, but they also retained the memory of their original language. Within four generations, our people were speaking the Human language of English and the Okudai language of Gillikanese was nearly forgotten." Tyce said carefully.

"How could it spread so quickly?" Jarkin asked cautiously.

"Because nearly every Okudai today is descended from those Humans. Only one in ten thousand Okudai today has the original genetic code of our ancestors." Tyce said seriously.

"Is that why it takes you years to find a replacement?" Audge asked from Tyce's side.

Tyce looked at Audge with surprise.

"You need a person with that original genetic code to be the next Holy One." Audge said speculatively.

Tyce hesitantly nodded.

"So is that why the Holy Ones have fought so hard to keep us separated from the rest of the universe?" Jarkin asked cautiously.

Tyce nodded and said, "If there were an influx of new genetic sequences into our population, all the descendants of the Okudai founders would become blended with other species. Within a few generations the essence of Okuda would be lost."

"That's why you can see our lineage, isn't it?" Audge asked cautiously.

"Yes. You might call it a survival skill. I can only pass the knowledge and experience of the Holy Ones on to a person with that specific genetic sequence from the founders. It took ten years for Austir to find me." Tyce said quietly.

"Why are you telling me this?" Jarkin asked curiously.

"Because you asked." Tyce said slowly.

"Oh... I thought it might be... Am I descended from the founders?" Jarkin asked hesitantly.

Tyce smiled and said, "Yes and no."

Jarkin looked at Tyce with confusion at the statement.

"Since it has been so many generations since the Human genetic material was introduced into our society and we haven't had any new influx of alien genetic material in the successive years, the original Okudai sequence is finally beginning to establish itself in those who have human ancestors. You Jarkin, son of Jarkin are one of those rare people. You carry the Human ancestry, as most of our people do, but you also have the dominant Okudai genetic sequence that defines us as a people. People like you are very rare Jarkin, and very important to our future." Tyce finished with a smile.

"But if we join the Federation, we stand to lose that genetic sequence because we'll end up mixing with Humans again." Audge said in thought.

"No. People like Jarkin and Tyber are our hope of surviving the new age. In our ancestors, the genetic sequence was recessive. In Jarkin and Tyber it is dominant. Three out of four of their children will carry the dominant trait and the remaining one will carry it recessively." Tyce said happily.

"I'm special?" Tyber asked with disbelief.

"Not just special Tyber. Essential. You and Jarkin and probably less than one thousand others out of all our people are our hope for the future. If you were to mate with a Human, a Vulcan, or even an Andorian, the chances are that your offspring would have the dominant genetic sequence that defines our people. Your children would probably even have the same dark hair and light eyes that you and Jarkin share. This is another sign that it's time for the new age of our people to begin." Tyce said gently.

"The New Age?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"Let's leave Jarkin to get his rest and I'll talk to you about that later." Tyce said gently.

Tyber looked at Jarkin and saw that he was fighting to stay awake.

"Jarkin, I'm going to be living with The Holy One when we get back to Okuda. If you need my help with anything, let me know. If we're the hope of Okuda, we need to take care of each other." Tyber said seriously.

"I'll let you know if I need anything. Please come back and visit if you find the time." Jarkin said quietly.

"I will." Tyber said gently, then reached down to pull up Jarkin's blanket a little and tuck him in.

"Do you see your purpose now Jarkin?" Tyce whispered as he smiled at Tyber's tender care.

"Yes Holy One, I understand. Thank you." Jarkin said, then closed his eyes.

The group stood silently for a moment and watched as Jarkin fell into a contented sleep, then moved to the next patient.

To Be Continued...