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Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 29

"Vincent? Would you do something for me, please?" Lehman asked quietly.

"Sure, Lehman, what can I do?" Vincent asked as he hurried back to Lehman's side.

"Would you let me see some more of your memories of Benny and JonJon? I didn't get much more than their names the last time I touched your mind." Lehman asked shyly.

Vincent thought about it for a moment, then said, "Okay. But it might be a little weird because I met JonJon when I was blind."

"I just want to know more about them if that's okay." Lehman said uncertainly.

Vincent picked up Lehman's hand and held it to the side of his face, then placed his other hand on the side of Lehman's face in the position for a mind meld.

"What are you doing?" Benny asked curiously.

"I just want to make it as easy for Lehman as I can." Vincent said quietly as he continued to hold Lehman's hand in position.

"Thank you, that did help. I'm done." Lehman said in a worried whisper.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked with concern as he placed Lehman's hand back on the bed.

"JonJon lost his whole family, then he had a nail in his head... in his brain. It just makes me feel bad to know that he was hurt so much." Lehman said quietly.

"Thank you for worrying for me Lehman, but I'm really fine now. I miss my family a lot, but being here with all of you is making it hurt less. As far as the nail, I'm an android and the nail only caused some minor damage to my hardware. I wasn't in any pain, I didn't even feel it." JonJon said with assurance.

"I'm glad you're not hurting." Lehman said in a whisper.

"Why don't you go to sleep now. You look like you really need it." Vincent said with concern.

"Yeah. I will. Thank you for finding me a family." Lehman said with an honest smile.

Vincent smiled in return and said, "I want to thank you too, Lehman. You're going to have the other future that I wanted for myself."

Lehman smiled with contentment as he fell asleep.

* * * * *

When Tyce, Tyber and Audge arrived at the next bed, they found a middle aged woman fast asleep. A significant portion of her body was covered with burns and she was wearing a mask to help her breathe.

"I'm sorry Tyce." Tyber said, as tears filled his eyes.

"For what?" Tyce asked curiously.

"For what my father did. If he caused all this suffering... Why are you letting him go?" Tyber asked as he looked at Tyce with tears running down his cheeks.

"Because Lehman asked me to." Tyce said frankly.

"I don't understand." Tyber said hesitantly.

"Tyber, your father made some unfortunate decisions. One of those decisions was to take a Chameloid child from his home world so he could assume my form and replace me." Tyce said seriously.

"The blue boy." Tyber said in a whisper.

Tyce looked at Tyber with question.

"While I was sleeping one night, I felt someone touch me. I woke up in time to see a blue boy leaving my room. I tried to tell myself it was a dream but..." Tyber trailed off in thought.

"I'm sure that was him. When he came on this ship with your father, he looked like you." Tyce said gently.

"So if he was trying to take your place, why are you doing what he asked?" Tyber asked slowly.

"Because he helped me. Some horrible things were done to him. They cut him open and did things inside him so that once he took my shape he would be able to stay that way." Tyce said seriously.

"My father did that?" Tyber asked as his tears started to fall again.

"I'm sorry Tyber. I wouldn't have talked to you about this until later, but you asked the questions and I believe that learning a truth, even a painful truth, is better than living in ignorance."

Tyber stood silently for a moment as his tears fell, then he quietly said, "I wish I could be mad at you and say that I know it's not true."

"I know." Tyce said, then gently put his arms around Tyber.

A moment later, Tyce was surprised to feel a hand grip his shoulder.

"You did the right thing Tyce." Audge said with assurance.

"Thank you." Tyce said as he felt his own tears threatening to fall.

"Tyber." Audge said seriously.

After a moment, Tyber looked up at Audge cautiously.

"Lehman forgave your father. Not only did he forgive him, he asked Tyce to keep him from being sent into Ikerian exile. I know learning these things hurts you, but please understand that Tyce and Lehman don't hold any animosity toward your father. They're just trying to do the right thing for everyone, even him." Audge said seriously.

Tyber thought about the words for a moment and put them together with what he remembered from when he arrived on the ship.

"Is the blue boy still here?" Tyber asked slowly.

"Yes. He's the one in the bed in the next room." Tyce said gently.

"Can we go back in and talk to him? I need to ask him something." Tyber said in thought.

"What do you need to know?" Tyce asked curiously.

Tyber thought for a moment to find the right words, then he said, "I want to ask him how he can forgive someone who hurt him the way my father did. I want to understand."

"I hope the answer that he gives you can bring you peace." Tyce said as he led the way to the door.

* * * * *

Tyce, Tyber and Audge walked into the main sickbay to see Benny, JonJon and Vincent surrounding Lehman's bed.

"It looks like Lehman is asleep. Come over here Tyber. I want to introduce you to everyone." Tyce said gently.

Tyber cautiously walked with Tyce to join the gathering around Lehman's bed.

"Vincent, I would like you to meet Tyber." Tyce said gently.

Tyber looked curiously at Vincent, then down at Lehman with confusion.

Tyce understood Tyber's confusion and decided to try a different approach.

"Tyber, son of Okuda, I would like you to meet Crewman Vincent Winters, son of Earth... and Vulcan." Tyce added in consideration.

"And Andor." Vincent added.

"Andor?" Benny asked curiously.

"Vincent, I understand your relation to Earth and Vulcan, but how are you a child of Andor?" Tyce asked carefully as an uneasy feeling washed over him.

"It's an Andorian tradition that a father teaches his children to defend themselves. When Thaelan started teaching me to fight, he kind of adopted me into his family. I did a little research on Andorian traditions and... well, me knowing his family style of fighting would qualify me to be his heir. Even though he doesn't call me his son, the things he's doing are what an Andorian father would do for his son." Vincent said shyly.

"A child of three worlds..." Tyce said distantly.

"What's wrong?" Audge asked from Tyce's side.

Tyce stood silently for a moment, then absently said, "Audge, would you summon Oluf? I need him."

"Right away." Audge said quickly and ran to the nearest comm to make the call.

"Is something wrong?" Vincent asked with concern.

"No. Not wrong, just... too soon." Tyce said carefully.

"Did something happen?" Lehman asked as he peeked open one eye.

"No Lehman, I'm sorry if I woke you." Tyce said gently.

"That's okay. I was only a little bit asleep anyway. I just woke the rest of the way up when I heard you guys sounding worried." Lehman said seriously.

"So what's wrong?" Vincent asked with concern.

"Before I answer, I need to ask all of you some questions." Tyce said in thought.

"Ask us anything you want. We're all friends here." Vincent said as he looked around the group.

Tyber looked at Vincent with caution at the statement.

"Lehman. Please forgive me for asking, but you were orphaned by poverty, weren't you?" Tyce asked carefully.

"Yeah, I guess so. If my parents weren't so poor, they'd be alive right now. The medicine they needed to cure them from the plague was too expensive. How did you know?" Lehman asked slowly.

"Because he's the Holy One." Vincent said to Lehman with a teasing smile and a wink.

Lehman rolled his eyes at the statement, then looked back at Tyce who was still deep in thought.

"Benny, are your parents exceptionally wealthy?" Tyce asked slowly.

"Not even close. My dad is a botanist and my mom is a xenoarchiologist." Benny said hesitantly.

"Oluf will be here in a moment." Audge said as he hurried to Tyce's side.

Tyce absently nodded as he continued to think.

"What's bothering you Tyce?" Vincent asked with concern.

"It's like I have a puzzle, but the pieces won't fit together." Tyce said with frustration.

"What pieces of the puzzle are you missing?" JonJon asked timidly.

"The first one is the child of laughter and light, born of wealth and privilege." Tyce said absently.

"JonJon has blond hair, that's kind of golden and he's kind of funny... well, not at the moment but usually..." Benny offered weakly.

"I wasn't born, I was manufactured." JonJon said frankly.

"What was that?" Tyce asked with surprise.

"I'm an Android." JonJon said hesitantly.

Tyber and Audge looked at JonJon with surprise.

"The child ageless and unborn..." Tyce said distantly with a nod, as if he had expected the statement.

"Yeah. That sounds like JonJon." Vincent said hesitantly as he looked around the gathering.

The door opened and drew everyone's attention.

Oluf ran into the room and directly to Tyce with an expression of worry.

"When you packed Austir's belongings, did you bring the black ironwood box?" Tyce asked firmly.

"Yes Holy One. I was instructed to bring it whenever he would travel." Oluf said quietly.

"Please retrieve it from the Dorsa and bring it to me. I have need of it's contents." Tyce said firmly.

"Right away Holy One." Oluf said quickly, then rushed out of the room.

"Can you tell us what's going on?" Vincent asked seriously.

Tyce looked at Vincent and said, "No. I've probably said too much already."

Vincent looked carefully at Tyce and saw the concern in his eyes.

"Can you tell me... is it something bad?" Vincent asked cautiously.

Tyce considered for a moment, then said, "That's a judgment that you will have to make when the time comes. I think you will approve of the end result."

Vincent glanced down at Lehman and said, "That sounds like something that's gonna suck."

* * * * *

A moment of silence fell over the room until it was finally broken by Tyber asking, "Lehman, could I ask you a question?"

"Sure Tyber, come over here where I can see you better." Lehman said quietly.

"I just... I don't know how you could forgive my father when he did so much to hurt you and caused so much death and pain." Tyber said as he looked into Lehman's eyes.

Lehman saw the pain and confusion that Tyber was struggling with and said, "I could forgive him because you love him."

Tyber looked at Lehman with confusion.

"Back on your ship, I touched your mind so I could impersonate you. I could see your father through your memories of him and the love that you feel for him. Even though he hurt me and a lot of other people, I know that he has some good in his heart and should be given the chance to overcome his darker desires. I would have done anything to stop him from killing the Holy One, but once he was stopped, I didn't have any desire for revenge." Lehman said carefully.

"Tyber, my dad was a little bit like yours." Vincent said from Tyber's side.

Tyber looked at Vincent with surprise.

"He hurt a lot of people. He even killed a few. But he wasn't all bad... Well, maybe at the end he was... but when I was a little kid he was a good dad. I guess even though I could hate him and blame him for a lot of stuff, all that would do is make me feel bad inside. It makes it easier if I tell myself that I don't like who he was when he did those bad things, but I still love the dad who cared about me and loved me when I was little." Vincent said distantly.

"So I can still love my Dad without agreeing with what he did?" Tyber asked cautiously.

Tyce smiled and said, "Yes Tyber. I think Vincent and Lehman have explained things very well. Your father obviously loves you very much and regrets that his choices have caused this outcome. You can choose to continue to love your father and forgive him for making bad decisions."

Tyber slowly nodded and said, "Thank you... all of you. After seeing everything that my dad caused to happen I felt like I was some kind of monster for still loving a person who could cause so much pain."

Lehman took hold of Tyber's hand as Vincent moved in to put an arm around him.

"It's okay Tyber. I know exactly how you feel and it's really okay to love him." Vincent said gently.

Lehman looked up into Tyber's eyes and nodded his agreement.

* * * * *

"I am sorry for the delay 'Holy One', the contents of the storage area shifted during the battle..." Oluf rambled as he rushed into the room carrying a heavy black box.

"Please be calm Oluf, the Holy Ones past have carried that box with them for over a thousand years and never needed it's contents. I only wished to have it now as a precaution." Tyce said thoughtfully.

Oluf looked at Tyce curiously, but didn't ask.

"Lehman, I believe we should leave you so that you may rest. We will speak again before I leave." Tyce said gently.

"Thank you Tyce. I'd be really scared being helpless on an alien ship like this, but having you all here... I feel like everything is going to be okay." Lehman said with a weak smile.

"Lehman, if you wouldn't mind, Fizgig and I would like to stay here with you." JonJon said quietly.

After a moment, Lehman turned slightly and looked at JonJon with question.

"You're going to the new colony with us, that makes you part of our family. I've lost a lot of family and I'd feel better if I could be here to make sure that you're going to be okay." JonJon said shyly.

"Thanks." Lehman said with a small smile as he reached out to pet Fizgig.

JonJon responded by placing Fizgig on the side of the bed.

After a moment of sniffing around, Fizgig laid his head on Lehman's chest and settled into sleep.

Lehman smiled at the move and began to gently pet Fizgig as he closed his eyes.

* * * * *

"We should probably check back with the captains to see if anything else needs to be done." Tyce said quietly as he led the group away from Lehman's bed.

"When I left, they were coordinating preparations and repairs. Other than a few messages, there was nothing to concern you." Oluf said seriously.

"What messages?" Tyce asked as he led the way out of sickbay.

"Minister Falek wanted your approval to activate the planetary reserve troops to serve as ground defense if some of our enemies were to get past our armada." Oluf said professionally.

"What did you tell him?" Tyce asked cautiously.

"I told him that such preparation would be diligent. The planetary reserves of all our worlds will be waiting for the call to duty." Oluf said cautiously, not entirely sure what Tyce's reaction would be.

Tyce slowly nodded and said, "Yes. That will serve our purposes well. Were there any other messages?"

"Jessub from the Mycien colony called to ask for clarification of his duties. I told him that a list of his duties would be forthcoming." Oluf said carefully.

Tyce looked around the group who were all gathered around them and asked, "Vincent, where could I go to make a call to Okuda?"

"Well, I bet the conference room is probably being used right now. Maybe the engineering conference room?" Vincent finished uncertainly.

Tyce nodded and gestured toward the turbo lift before them.

Vincent led the way and the rest of the group followed.

Once everyone was aboard, Vincent said, "Deck P."

* * * * *

"You inquired of your duties in the upcoming election?" Tyce asked the view screen carefully.

"Yes Holy One. I wanted to be sure that there were no misunderstandings about your expectations." Jessub said reverently.

"My expectation is for you to facilitate a fair and transparent election. Take every reasonable step to ensure that no one can claim that the results are anything but accurate and representative of the wishes of our people." Tyce said firmly.

"Yes Holy One. But there are others with more experience who might be able to perform the job more efficiently." Jessub said hesitantly.

"Perhaps, but it is not your experience that qualifies you for this job. It's your honesty and your belief that every citizen should have a voice. You may recruit those with more experience to aid you in your duties, but use your own judgment to determine what is the best method to give our people a truly fair election."

"Yes Holy One. Thank you, I understand."

"And when your duties bring you to Okuda Prime, I would like you to stay with me at my home." Tyce continued without any show of emotion.

"Yes Holy One. Thank you." Jessub said hesitantly.

"I know what Austir said to you when I was chosen to be Holy One. And what he said was true to some degree. I am now the Holy One and all the people of Okuda are my family. But he was mistaken when he said that the person I was, your son, would be lost. I am still Tyce and I would like to visit with you and mother if she is available to accompany you." Tyce finished in a more gentle voice.

Jessub smiled and said, "As if there is anything in the universe that would be more important to her. She's been alternating between worry for you and grief over losing you."

"I've missed you both as well. I'll look forward to seeing you when I get back to Okuda." Tyce said as tears welled up in his eyes.

"I'll tell her right away. I bet she'll start cooking food to bring with us the moment I tell her." Jessub said with a tender smile.

Tyce laughed and said, "Just tell her not to make any of those crusty meat pies. I can't stand those things."

"Me either. I don't know why she keeps making them. I'll tell her but it may take a declaration from the Holy One himself to stop her."

"I'll do it if I have to. Stay in touch and let me know." Tyce said in a more gentle voice.

"I will. I'm glad to have my son back. I'm very proud of you Tyce. You're doing a great job." Jessub said quietly.

"Thank you Dad. I'm glad that I was able to retain myself after becoming the Holy One. I need to attend to other duties now. I love you." Tyce said as tears welled up in his eyes again.

"I love you too Tyce." Jessub said, and tears were also forming in his eyes.

The screen went blank and Tyce felt an arm come around him and pull him into a hug.

He didn't need to look up to know who it was.

"Thank you Audge." Tyce whispered as he returned the hug and fought to get his emotions under control.

* * * * *

"So what do we need to do next?" Vincent asked, directing his question to Oluf.

"They moved to a conference room before I was summoned to attend the Holy One. It would probably be best to see if there have been any developments." Oluf said thoughtfully.

Tyce released Audge from the hug and said, "I agree. We can attend to those matters, then retire for the evening."

"Do you think my father will be there?" Tyber asked quietly from behind Vincent.

"If he isn't, we'll find him for you." Tyce said with a smile of assurance.

Vincent led the group out into the hallway.

"If you guys don't mind, I have some stuff to do for school tomorrow." Benny said reluctantly.

"Homework?" Vincent asked with a smile at Benny.

Hesitantly, Benny nodded and said, "History."

Vincent chuckled and said, "It's funny, we're here *making* history by saving the Holy One and you have to leave us to study history."

"Yeah. Real funny." Benny said with a sour look that finally broke when confronted with Vincent's beaming smile.

When everyone was aboard the lift, Vincent said, "Conference room one."

"Deflector control." Benny said quietly from Vincent's side.

The silence in the lift was becoming uncomfortable, so Vincent casually asked, "How are you feeling Audge? Is your arm bothering you at all?"

Audge considered for a moment, then said, "No. If it weren't for the cast on my arm I wouldn't even know that I had been injured. Your healer's are quite skilled."

Vincent smiled at the formal answer, and said, "I'm glad you're not hurting, but if the pain medicine starts to wear off, just let me know and we'll get you some more."

The doors opened to reveal all the captains sitting around the conference table, talking at once.

Tyber hurried out of the turbo lift and ran to his father's side.

Vincent glanced at Benny and quietly asked, "Would you tell Daddy Joe that I'll probably be down in a few minutes?"

"Yeah. I'll tell him. See ya in a few." Benny said with a smile at his friend as the lift doors closed.

* * * * *

"How are you doing Tyber?" Traiel asked with concern, as he stood to pull his son into a hug.

"I'm okay. The Holy One and his friends have been really nice to me and helped me a lot." Tyber said as he held his father desperately.

"We've just about sorted everything out here. Commander M'Butu has provided us with the locations of some planets with natural resources we can use. With a little hard work and some good luck, we may be able to find a world that we can call our own." Traiel said gently.

"We would be better off staying here and joining forces with the Gorn." Gartain said firmly.

"Haven't you learned anything?" Traiel asked in a tired voice.

"The Gorn would not be interested in allowing you to join them. The only value our people have to the Gorn is as food." Tyce said frankly.

"So you say. I believe that if we were able to speak with the Gorn we might be able to convince them that we could be their allies." Gartain said as he turned his angry gaze on Tyce.

Audge and Vincent moved protectively closer to Tyce on either side with matching expressions of warning.

"You idiot! Tell me honestly Gartain, what would you think of a ship full of aliens who came to us in a position of inferiority and weakness, then asked to be our allies?" Traiel asked frankly, then waited for an answer.

Gartain stared at Traiel for a moment in thought, then turned away with an expression of shame.

Traiel turned his attention back to his son who was still hugging him and gently asked, "Now that you've had some time to think about things, do you think you're going to be okay staying with the Holy One?"

Tyber tried to get his emotions under control before saying, "Yes. The Holy One and his friends have helped me understand some things. They told me about some of the things you did..."

"I'm sorry Tyber." Traiel said in a pained voice.

"I know. They also helped me to understand that I can still love you even though you made some mistakes." Tyber said quietly.

Traiel gave a weak smile at the statement, then turned his attention to Tyce and said, "Thank you Holy One. I was worried that when Tyber learned about everything that I did he'd end up hating me."

"Hate is not something to carry, it is something to overcome." Tyce said quietly.

"I need to write that one down." Vincent whispered to Audge playfully.

Audge glanced at Vincent as he tried to contain his smile.

Tyce grinned at the whispered conversation between his friends.

"Tyber, I'll be leaving soon. All your clothes and things are still aboard the Nezratia, right where you left them. Captain Treas' first officer Tomie will be commanding the Nezratia now and she has promised that you'll be safe if you choose to return." Traiel said quietly.

"I'm going to miss you." Tyber said in a small child's voice.

"I'll miss you too. But if I can find a new home, maybe someday we might be able to be together again." Traiel said hopefully.

"I'd like that." Tyber said in a whisper.

"Good. Then I'll have something to work toward." Traiel said gently.

"Treifa, how are the preparations for departure coming along?" Tyce asked as he turned, trying to divert attention from Tyber and his father to give them the illusion of privacy.

"Very good. Crew members from the Timmeraeon have transported to the Dorsa so she will be fully manned for the return voyage. The most serious repairs are nearly completed. We should be able to be underway on schedule."

"Good. Could you also see that our injured aboard the Yorktown are made as comfortable as possible when they are returned to our ships? I would like to be sure that they are treated as heroes for the sacrifices that they have made." Tyce said carefully.

"Captain Treas thought of that and has already begun to convert one of her cargo bays into a care facility. Medical personnel from all ships will transport to the Mangeon before we depart so that our honored comrades will have the best possible care." Treifa said seriously.

"Thank you Treifa and be sure to convey my thanks to Captain Treas." Tyce said gently.

Treifa nodded his agreement.

"Holy One?" Tyber asked from his father's side.

Tyce turned to look at Tyber with question.

"Can we get a priest or someone to take care of Mykale? I'm worried that he'll start feeling helpless and sorry for himself if he's put in a big room with a lot of other people and can't do anything for himself." Tyber asked hopefully.

Tyce nodded, then turned to Oluf and said, "Will you see that someone is assigned to attend one of our injured men named Mykale? And be sure that Mykale knows that Tyber will be available to provide any further assistance that he may need."

"Yes Holy One, what did you want me to do with this?" Oluf asked as he indicated the black lockbox on the conference table beside him.

"I will be retiring for the evening shortly. You may bring it to my cabin." Tyce said gently.

"As you say Holy One. If you will excuse me, I will make arrangements for Mykale's attendant now and return shortly." Oluf said quickly.

"Yes, of course." Tyce said with a gentle smile and watched as Oluf left.

* * * * *

"Crewman Winters, could I speak with you for a moment?" Lieutenant Simms asked from Vincent's side.

Vincent was startled, but hid it quickly and stepped away to talk to Lieutenant Simms privately.

"I had an idea and thought I'd talk to you about it before doing anything." Lieutenant Simms said quietly.

"What is it?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"It's about Korrigon, I don't know how well he's going to fit in at the new colony." Lieutenant Simms said carefully.

"I haven't really talked to him much. What's wrong?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Well, I did as you suggested and over the past two weeks I've been going through our security procedures with him to find the holes. We've talked about things and I just get the feeling that he's not going to do well living among the colonists." Lieutenant Simms said in slow consideration.

"What's his problem?" Vincent asked with interest.

"Well, it just seems like he's not committed to improving his situation. It's sort of like he's going through the motions until something better comes along."

"So what was your idea?" Vincent asked slowly, thinking he might already know.

"Well, I was thinking that we might talk to everyone involved and if they all agree, he could be invited to join up with the Okudai exiles. I have a feeling that he might fit in better with them." Lieutenant Simms said in thought.

"What do you need me to do?" Vincent asked as he considered what Lieutenant Simms was saying.

"After reading your reports and talking with you, I've come to respect your opinion about things. You seem to have a unique point of view. I thought that you might see some reason that this is a bad idea, or if not, maybe you could help me talk to the people involved to get them to agree to it." Lieutenant Simms said carefully.

"I think it would be best if you talked to Commander M'Butu and the Captain about it, they'll probably trust your opinion more than mine about something like this. But I'll talk to the Holy One and Traiel to see if they would be willing to go along with it." Vincent said slowly.

"So you do think it's a good idea?" Lieutenant Simms asked carefully.

"I don't know about that, but either way, I think he should be given the chance to decide what's going to make him happy." Vincent said carefully.

Lieutenant Simms smiled and said, "Thank you Crewman Winters."

Vincent nodded, then glanced around the room to locate Tyce.

* * * * *

"You asked to see me?" Korrigon asked as he stepped off the turbo lift.

"Yes Korrigon, please come in." Commander M'Butu said casually.

Korrigon hesitantly walked in and realized that most of the people in the room were Okudai.

"Are you aware of what's going on with the Okudai ships?" Commander M'Butu asked seriously.

"Not really sir. I heard that they were here trying to kill a holy leader or something. But that's about it." Korrigon said hesitantly.

"For reasons that we don't need to go into right now, the people who were responsible for the plot to kill the Holy One are being given the Okudai ship Timmeraeon so that they can leave. They will be exiles from their own people, but they will be free to go on their way and hopefully make a decent future for themselves." Commander M'Butu said in a careful voice.

After a moment to think about the statement, Korrigon nodded his understanding.

"I've talked to Captain Byrne, Cyril Byrne, The Holy One, and Captain Traiel of the Timmeraeon about this and they've all agreed that you should be given the opportunity to join the crew of the Timmeraeon if you're interested." Commander M'Butu said cautiously, watching carefully for Korrigon's reaction.

"You want to send me into exile?" Korrigon asked in shock.

Lieutenant Simms stepped forward and said, "We're not sending you anywhere Korrigon. But when you came to us, you were left with little choice but to go with us to the new colony. Since this opportunity came along, we wanted to give you a choice and some control over your future."

Korrigon looked at Lieutenant Simms carefully, and realized that he was the one who orchestrated the entire event.

After a moment of thought, Korrigon quietly said, "Thank you for doing all of this Lieutenant Simms. You're right. Up to now I've been going along with what was happening because I felt like I didn't have any other choice. A part of me wants to leave on the Timmeraeon and go back to the kind of life that's familiar to me. But I think that since I do have a choice, I'd really like to continue on to the new colony and try for something different this time... something better."

"I think that's a good decision." Lieutenant Simms said with an honest smile.

"Yeah. I guess it'll make a difference because I'll know that I'm going because I want to, not because I have to." Korrigon said consideringly.

Lieutenant Simms glanced at Vincent with a smile of gratitude.

"Now that that's done, we should be on our way." Traiel said with resignation.

"Already?" Tyber asked from his side.

"Yes son. The Timmeraeon is ready to depart and we have a long way to go before we reach our first planet of resources. Every minute we wait here is another minute we will be without food and water as we try to get to our first stop." Traiel said gently.

"I understand." Tyber said as he tried to act bravely.

Traiel squatted down to hug Tyber and whispered into his ear, "As soon as we've found a place and built it up enough to call it a home, I'll find a way to get in touch with you and let you know."

Tyber smiled and hugged his father with all his might.

* * * * *

"Audge, are you about ready to retire for the evening?" Tyce asked curiously.

"Yes, after a visit to the sickbay for more pain medication I will be ready." Audge said gently.

"Is it hurting you?" Vincent asked with concern.

"I'm just beginning to feel a slight ache, it's nothing to worry about." Audge said peacefully.

"Actually, I need to go to the sickbay too. I'm supposed to get checked out to see if I need another vitamin shot." Vincent said in a considering voice.

Tyber reluctantly walked away from his father and to Tyce's side.

"Do you want to go to the transporter room with your father?" Tyce asked gently as he pulled Tyber into a casual hug.

"No. We said what we needed to. Besides, he said he didn't want to beam over to his ship looking like he'd just been crying. It sends the wrong message to the crew." Tyber said as he returned the hug firmly.

Audge gripped Tyber's shoulder briefly in a show of support.

"Come on guys. Let's go." Vincent said from Tyber's other side.

"Oluf, come along and bring the box. We'll be retiring for the evening soon... Oh, and remind me before we leave sickbay to ask about a way to keep Audge's cast dry." Tyce said as the group walked toward the door.

"As you say, Holy One." Oluf said quickly as he grabbed the box from the conference table.

* * * * *

"How's he doing JonJon?" Vincent asked as he led the way into sickbay.

"T'Lani said that he's completely healed and that doing all that healing is probably what's making him so tired." JonJon said quietly.

"Do you need to take Fizgig down to use his box or anything while we're here?" Vincent asked as he watched Fizgig sleeping on Lehman's chest.

"No. He's fine for a while." JonJon said peacefully.

"Did Dr. Perry say when Lehman could leave sickbay?" Tyce asked curiously.

"Yeah. She said that since he's healed, there's no real medical reason that he needs to be here now. But she said it was okay if I stayed here with him in case he has nightmares or something like that." JonJon said carefully.

"I guess that as soon as we get Audge taken care of, Lehman could come down to deflector control with us... well, unless you want to stay up here with him in sickbay tonight?" Vincent finished uncertainly.

"No. I think we would both be more comfortable in deflector control. As soon as you're ready to go, I'll wake Lehman and we can go with you." JonJon said consideringly.

* * * * *

"Vincent? How are you doing?" Joe asked with concern as Vincent walked into Deflector Control.

"I'm fine... why?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"You've been gone a long time. Thaelan was just starting to tell us about your dinner... something about catsup?" Joe said hesitantly.

"Oh, yeah. Um..." Vincent stammered uncomfortably when the door opened and JonJon walked in with Lehman who was wearing one of Vincent's uniforms.

"Actually, he was the one that went to dinner." Vincent said shyly and made a vague gesture in Lehman's direction.

Silence fell over the room as everyone looked from Vincent to Lehman and back.

"There's two of you." Jimmy said in amazement.

Vincent rolled his eyes and said, "We can't sneak anything past Jimmy."

"How..." Susan asked, as she looked at the surreal sight before her.

"Vincent?" Joe asked as he looked from one to the other.

"Um, that's me." Vincent said as he raised his hand.

"Lehman should lie down." JonJon said quietly.

"I need to do something first." Lehman said and walked to stand before Joe.

"My name is Lehman, and I was pretending to be Vincent when I came in to change clothes before dinner." Lehman said shyly.

"That was you?" Joe asked hesitantly, still unable to believe what he was seeing.

"Yeah. And I'm sorry I lied to you. If you'll forgive me, I promise that I'll never do it again." Lehman said seriously.

Joe looked carefully into Lehman's eyes and saw that he was really worried.

"Okay. You're forgiven." Joe said with a small smile and opened his arms.

Lehman smiled with relief and hugged Joe tightly.

"Okay Vincent. What happened?" Connie asked from the main.

"It's kind of a long story and Lehman needs to go to bed. I can tell you all about it later. The important thing is that Lehman is going to the new colony with Benny and JonJon." Vincent said firmly.

"And Fizgig." JonJon added with an expression of concern directed at Lehman.

"And Fizgig." Vincent said with a smile.

"Come on Lehman. I think it's our bedtime." JonJon said gently.

Lehman nodded with a gentle smile and walked to JonJon's side.

As they approached the partition to the storage room, they saw that Benny had been watching the whole time.

"Why didn't you warn them about Lehman?" JonJon asked, as he draped one arm around Lehman's shoulders.

"And miss seeing their reactions? No way." Benny said with a chuckle.

"Are you about to go to bed too Benny?" Lehman asked, and Benny heard the hopeful tone in his voice.

"Sure Lehman, I'll be ready in a minute. Save me a spot." Benny said gently.

Lehman happily nodded and walked with JonJon into the supply room.

* * * * *

Darin pressed the comm button by the cabin door and waited.

"Do you think it's too late for me to be visiting?" Darin asked with concern.

"It's not really that late. He should still be up." Rad said consideringly.

"Well, he is the Holy One. Don't holy types usually go to bed early?" Darin asked uncertainly.

"Like I would know." Rad said with a mischievous chuckle.

The door finally opened to reveal a nine or ten year old boy with black hair and very light brown eyes.

"I brought something for the Holy One. Is he here?" Darin asked cautiously.

"Yes. He and Audge are bathing right now, I kind of got the feeling that they might be in there for a while. Is it something I can give him or do you need to deliver it yourself?" The boy asked cautiously.

Darin smiled and said, "I can give it to you. It's just a copy of the Safe Haven Act that he asked about earlier today. Tell him Darin brought it by."

"Oh, okay. By the way, I'm Tyber." The boy said shyly as he accepted the data padd from Darin.

"It's nice to meet you Tyber, this is Rad." Darin said with a casual smile.

"It's nice to meet you both. I'll make sure he gets this as soon as he gets out of the bathing room." Tyber said seriously.

"There's no rush. Thanks." Darin said then glanced at Rad to see if he was ready to leave.

"I'm glad to help. Have a good evening." Tyber said, then retreated back into the cabin.

After the cabin door closed, Darin smiled brightly and said, "Way to go Holy One!"

* * * * *

"Please wake up Crewman Winters." a voice said gently.

Vincent felt a hand on his shoulder and slowly opened his eyes to see Oluf kneeling beside him.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked blearily.

"The Holy One has requested that you, the Chameloid and the Android attend him." Oluf said quietly, trying not to wake the others in the supply room.

"Their names are Lehman and JonJon. If you call them that again I'll start calling you the 'old Okudai priest'." Vincent said firmly.

Oluf reluctantly nodded and said, "My apologies Crewman Winters. I am not entirely familiar with the customs and formalities of your people."

Vincent looked into Oluf's eyes for a moment, then said, "That's okay Oluf. If you'll go out to deflector control and wait for us, I'll get Lehman and JonJon up."

Oluf stood and gave a courteous bow before leaving the room.

Vincent forced himself to get out of his sleeping bag, even though a part of him very much wanted to sleep for a few more hours.

* * * * *

"Lou, the Holy One wants to meet with us. Will you let everyone know if we're not back before they wake up?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Sure thing. Go have fun." Lou said with a smile.

"At 04:00? Yeah, I bet there's just tons of fun things to do right now." Vincent said sarcastically as he walked to the door where the others were waiting.

* * * * *

"What's going on?" Vincent asked cautiously as he followed Oluf into Tyce's cabin.

"The Gorn ships will be arriving soon. If you would all agree to it, I would like for you to accompany me over to the lead Gorn vessel to meet the Gorn Holy One." Tyce said frankly.

"Why?" Vincent asked suspiciously, feeling that Tyce wasn't telling them everything.

"I can't really say more. I just know that this is what needs to be done right now." Tyce said honestly.

Vincent reluctantly nodded his acceptance.

"Are you feeling up to this?" JonJon asked Lehman quietly, but everyone in the room clearly heard.

"Yeah. I'm fine now. I think I just needed a good sleep." Lehman said with an encouraging smile.

"Oluf, do you understand the protocols for meeting with the Gorn?" Tyce asked firmly.

"Yes Holy One." Oluf said reverently.

"Good. I need you to go to the bridge and arrange for a shuttle to transport us to the lead Gorn ship when it arrives..." Tyce said seriously.

"But Holy One, I should attend you at this meeting." Oluf said with concern.

"Normally that would be true, but not this time. Only these four may accompany me. When the Gorn ship arrives, instruct the Yorktown's bridge crew on the protocols. The Gorn will be wary of a Federation vessel and any oversight could become a source of conflict. Oluf, there is no one else who can perform this duty better than you. I am depending on you." Tyce said as he stared deeply into Oluf's eyes.

"I understand." Oluf said with resignation.

"Go to their bridge now, time is short." Tyce said seriously.

"Yes Holy One." Oluf said with a bow, then retreated from the room.

"Audge, I would like for you to check on the patients that we met in the Yorktown's sickbay. Make sure that they have everything they need and are comfortable." Tyce said carefully.

"It's my job to stay with you and protect you." Audge said quietly as he looked into Tyce's eyes.

Tyce nodded with regret and said, "That is true. But you can't come with us. Will you trust me?"

Audge smiled at the question and said, "Yes Tyce. I will always trust you. Do you need me to do anything else before I leave?"

"No. I'll contact you on the Mangeon with further instructions before we depart for Okuda." Tyce said seriously.

"I'll be waiting. Take care of yourself." Audge said as he looked into Tyce's eyes with concern.

Tyce smiled and said, "If I weren't completely sure that I would be safe, I would have you by my side."

Audge hesitantly nodded, then turned to leave.

"Would someone please bring the box? We need to be going." Tyce said as he looked at the group of four boys who had been watching silently.

"I'll get it." Tyber said quickly and walked to the table where Oluf had left the box the night before.

* * * * *

"Holy One, your priest said that you needed a shuttle." Commander M'Butu said as the group walked into the shuttle bay.

"Yes Commander. It is necessary for us to greet the Gorn Holy One personally when he arrives." Tyce said seriously.

Commander M'Butu looked at the collection of boys for a moment, then said, "I would be honored to pilot the shuttle if that is acceptable."

Tyce considered for a moment, then said, "I hope you will not take offense to this, but if you pilot for us, you will need to remain on the shuttle while we are aboard the Gorn ship."

"Just tell me what I need to do." Commander M'Butu said seriously.

Tyce smiled and said, "When we leave the ship, you will receive an automated navigation signal. Allow the Gorn ship to assume control of the shuttle. That will be all until we are ready to depart."

"I understand. The preflight has already been done and the Windsor is ready to depart." Commander M'Butu said as he indicated the large shuttle.

"Let's go aboard and wait for the Gorn ships to arrive." Tyce said calmly and started walking toward the Windsor.

The rest of the group exchanged curious looks, but followed silently.

* * * * *

"Captain, sensors are picking up three... fifteen... thirty Gorn ships." Lieutenant Clark said as he felt numb shock wash over him at the sight.

"Discontinue the use of all sensors. They will perceive it as a violation of their ships." Oluf said firmly.

Lieutenant Clark looked at the Captain with question.

"Do it. Ensign Munroe, do a ship wide shutdown of all sensors and notify all departments that they are not to attempt any type of scan of the approaching vessels." Captain Byrne said firmly.

"Yes sir." Lieutenant Clark and Ensign Munroe said in unison.

"Please contact the shuttle to let them know that the Gorn ships are arriving." Oluf said as he watched the main view screen.

"Lieutenant Patterson?" Captain Byrne asked as he glanced at her.

"Yes sir." Debbie said quickly, then made the call.

"Oh my God!" Ensign Munroe gasped in astonishment as she saw the view screen fill with forty Gorn warships. Any one of them would be a match for the Yorktown.

"Do not hail or attempt any kind of contact with them. It would be seen as disrespectful." Oluf warned.

"Absolutely not." Debbie said, as she looked at the screen in wonder.

"The shuttlecraft Windsor has exited the shuttle bay." Ensign Munroe said with distraction.

"We are merely observers in these events. Remain here silently and the Gorn will contact us if there is any need for our participation." Oluf said seriously.

"Lieutenant Patterson, monitor all channels for any attempt at contact." Captain Byrne said over his shoulder at her.

"Yes sir." Debbie said and dragged her attention back to her communications panel.

* * * * *

"The Gorn ship has control of the shuttle." Commander M'Butu said through the shuttle's comm.

"Can you tell us what we're doing now?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Actually, I don't know much more than you do at this point. I'm going to introduce you to the Gorn Holy One, then we're going to see what happens next." Tyce said cautiously.

"Why us? I mean, why not Benny or Darin or Audge?" Vincent asked curiously.

Tyce smiled and said, "It's true that there is a reason that you four were chosen to accompany me, but I can't really explain further, in case I am mistaken."

"Does it have something to do with what's in the box?" JonJon asked carefully.

Tyce glanced at the black box that Tyber had put in the seat next to him.

"I brought the box for the same reason I brought the four of you." Tyce said carefully.

"It's like we're talking in circles around each other." Lehman said with a curious glance at Tyce.

"Dancing." Vincent said with a smile.

JonJon giggled at the statement and the feeling of tension in the room seemed to ease somewhat.

"We're entering the lead Gorn vessel." Commander M'Butu said over the comm.

"Tyber, you can leave the box here for now. We'll come back and get it if it's needed." Tyce said seriously.

Tyber nodded that he heard.

"I guess it's time to meet the Gorn." Vincent said reluctantly as he stood.

JonJon and Lehman stood more slowly and moved from their seats to join Vincent in the aisle.

"Do we need to do anything special like bow or anything like that?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"No. The Holy One will appreciate it if you show him respect in the manner of your own culture rather than try to conform to his." Tyce said as he led the way to the door.

"Let me get that for you Holy One." Commander M'Butu said as he walked around the group of boys and activated the main door of the shuttle.

"Thank you Commander. If all goes well, we will see you soon." Tyce said carefully.

"And if it doesn't go well?" Commander M'Butu asked cautiously.

Tyce looked into Commander M'Butu's eyes and revealed a little of the concern he was feeling.

"I see someone." Vincent said from the door of the shuttle.

"It's time." Tyce said as he walked past Vincent to lead the group.

* * * * *

"What is the meaning of bringing these creatures?" J'Laad asked sternly as he watched the group leaving the shuttle.

All the boys froze in place as they looked at the large reptilian creature with greenish gray mottled skin.

Tyce seemed to ignore the question as he said, "My people have just reached the precipice of the third age. Then a series of unlikely events brought me to meet this group who represent many different people."

"They all appear to be of your people." J'Laad said cautiously.

"Appearances can be deceiving." Tyce said, then motioned for Vincent to step forward.

"This is Crewman Vincent Winters of the Federation starship Yorktown. He has been adopted by fathers from three worlds." Tyce said in a leading tone.

J'Laad nodded slowly, apparently understanding the significance.

Tyce turned to indicate Lehman and said, "Lehman is a Chameloid, orphaned by poverty."

"It's too soon. My people have only just entered the third age." J'Laad said reluctantly.

"As have mine, and theirs." Tyce said frankly.

"Tyber is one of my people, his father was instrumental in the plot to remove me from service." Tyce said in an informative tone.

"Orphaned by treachery." J'Laad muttered as he looked at Tyber.

"And JonJon is an Android." Tyce said with a glance at JonJon.

"Immortal child." J'Laad said, barely even looking at JonJon.

"So what I need to know is if you happen to have the child of laughter and light with you?" Tyce asked frankly.

J'Laad stared at the silent group of boys for a moment, then reached beside him to brush his claw-like finger across a crystal embedded in the control panel. Soon he began to make sounds that were like gurgles and hisses to the boys untrained ears.

"I'm going to guess that means yes." Vincent said to Lehman who was now at his side.

J'Laad turned his attention to the boys and said, "You are welcomed here. Please come with me so you can be made comfortable."

"Tyber, would you get the box?" Tyce asked quietly.

Rather than answer, Tyber hurried to the shuttle.

J'Laad looked at Tyce curiously.

"We will be ready in a moment." Tyce said seriously.

J'Laad nodded cautiously, then opened a panel and took out a necklace with a large jewel on it.

Tyce nodded in approval as Tyber returned from the shuttle.

"You brought it?" J'Laad asked with surprise.

"Of course. I assume that you have yours as well." Tyce said frankly.

"I do... I suppose that whether we consider ourselves ready or not, it is time." J'Laad said with resignation as he led the way out of the room.

* * * * *

Vincent noticed that the lighting in the hallway seemed to be harsh and the humidity unusually high.

"This place reminds me of my home." Lehman said casually as they walked.

"How is that?" JonJon asked curiously.

"It is very moist where I am from, though not usually this hot." Lehman said in a considering voice.

"I guess it gets like this in Florida too sometimes." Vincent said thoughtfully.

"Is that your home planet?" Tyber asked curiously.

Vincent smiled and said, "It's the place on my planet where I'm from. My planet has lots of different climates."

The group all fell silent as they passed two large reptilian creatures who seemed to be staring at them.

"I hope they're not thinking that we're dinner." Lehman said in a whisper.

J'Laad began to laugh from ahead of them and said, "Not to worry young Chameloid. If you are invited to a meal here it will be as a guest, not as an entrée."

"Thanks." Lehman said hesitantly, not feeling especially comforted.

J'Laad chuckled and gestured to a doorway.

Tyce led the way into the room and the group of boys followed close behind.

* * * * *

As the group entered, they all noticed a thin, golden skinned reptile looking at them from the other side of the room.

J'Laad walked across the room and placed the necklace over the golden reptile's head.

"This will allow you to speak their language." J'Laad said in a comforting voice.

The reptilian boy looked around the room with question and his gaze finally stopped on the group of boys looking back at him curiously.

Before anyone could say a word, the boy broke into uncontrollable laughter and exclaimed, "They *do* look like hairless monkeys!"

Vincent couldn't help but smile at the statement and began to laugh.

After the laughter had quieted, J'Laad said, "I would like all of you to meet..." Then a series of gurgles and hisses followed that were apparently the boy's name.

"Oh wow. Um, I don't think I could say that if I tried." Vincent said reluctantly.

He looked around to see that the others agreed.

"Could you say it again? Maybe we could come up with something close?" Vincent asked hesitantly.

The golden skinned Gorn seemed to be amused by the suggestion, but slowly began to pronounce his name in a series of gurgles, growls and hisses.

"That middle part sounded something like 'hrrskr', can we call you Oscar?" Vincent asked hopefully.

The boy considered for a moment, then said, "I like the sound of it, but before I agree, does it have a meaning?"

"Well, I'm sure it does, but I don't know what it is. It's just a name that sounds a little bit like your name." Vincent said carefully.

"We can consult the Yorktown's computer if you want to know the meaning of the name." Tyce said carefully.

"No. I simply wanted to know if I was being given a name that was descriptive in some way." the Gorn boy said carefully.

"Oh, I get it. You wanted to know if we were calling you 'snake-face' or something." Vincent said casually.

Oscar looked at Vincent with question, obviously not understanding the reference.

"It doesn't matter. Oscar doesn't mean anything bad. I promise." Vincent said with a smile.

"I would like to introduce all of you to the heir to the third estate of the Gorn empire, Oscar." J'Laad said formally.

Vincent wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but felt that he should bow out of respect.

The rest of the boys followed Vincent's example and bowed respectfully to Oscar.

"Thank you." Oscar said with surprise at the polite and respectful gesture.

"Oscar, this is the Holy One of the Okudai people. It is proper to also address him as Holy One." J'Laad said seriously.

"Another Holy One? A mammal?" Oscar said in wonder.

Tyce smiled at the statement and said, "Yes Oscar. Many races have Holy Ones like yours. Those who don't, have people who serve the same function with our assistance."

"It's a pleasure to meet you Holy One." Oscar said respectfully.

"It's nice to meet you too Oscar. Let me introduce you quickly to the others so we can start this." Tyce said, then looked to see if Oscar was ready.

After a nod from Oscar, Tyce said, "The one in the uniform is Vincent, the one who looks like him is Lehman, the blond is JonJon and the one with long dark hair is Tyber."

"I will try to remember." Oscar said carefully.

"If you don't remember, you can always ask. We won't mind." Vincent said with assurance.

Oscar smiled and said, "Thank you. I have never spoken to mammals before. I thought you would be more... primitive."

Vincent giggled at the statement and said, "I kinda thought the same thing about you."

Oscar's eyes went wide with surprise at the statement, then a look of curiosity seemed to fill his expression.

"Did you have a question?" Vincent asked cautiously, hoping he was interpreting the expression correctly.

"Well yes. I have studied about sentient mammals, but there are certain things I wasn't sure about. I am curious to know... Do you really have nipples?"

"Yeah, do you want to see?" Vincent asked with a smile.

Oscar nodded quickly.

Vincent opened his jumpsuit uniform enough to expose one of his nipples.

"THAT'S SO DISGUSTING!" Oscar said in amazement, then started laughing himself silly.

Everyone watched as Oscar slowly fell to the floor, clutching his sides with laughter.

J'Laad looked to Tyce with question and received a nod in return.

After a moment for Oscar to get himself under control again, J'Laad said, "We believe that you five share a destiny."

All the boys turned their attention to J'Laad at the vague statement.

"The only way to know for sure is in that box." Tyce said as he indicated the box in the floor beside Tyber.

"What's in the box?" Vincent asked cautiously.

"Perhaps nothing, perhaps many things. You'll have to open it to find out." Tyce said with concern evident in his voice.

"What exactly is going to happen when we open the box?" Vincent asked more carefully.

"I don't know." Tyce said, then noticed that J'Laad had moved to the door.

"No, wait! What are we supposed to do?" Vincent asked in a rush.

"Just open the box. After that, it's up to you." Tyce said, then followed J'Laad out the door.

* * * * *

"Who else has the feeling that this is really gonna suck?" Vincent asked as he looked around.

"I thought it was just me." Oscar said as he walked to Vincent's side.

"The Holy Ones wouldn't do anything to put us in danger... would they?" Lehman asked uncertainly.

"Normally I'd say no. But from the look in Tyce's eyes... he's scared." Vincent said reluctantly.

"We could just not open the box, then tell him there was nothing in it." JonJon said quietly.

"You want to lie to a Holy One?" Oscar asked with surprise.

"No, we don't want to. But JonJon is just coming up with another possibility so we can all think about it. " Vincent said seriously.

Oscar nodded his acceptance of the reasoning.

"We're going to open it. We have to." Tyber said as a statement of fact.

Silence fell over the group for a moment, then Vincent quietly said, "I'll do it."

"Me too." Lehman said and held out his hand.

Vincent smiled and laid his hand on top of Lehman's.

"I'm with you." JonJon said as he looked at the two identical boys.

"An heir to the third estate of the Gorn empire wouldn't be worthy of his name if he were afraid of the unknown." Oscar said as he placed his claw-like hand over JonJon's.

Everyone looked at Tyber with question.

"I'm the one that said we have to." Tyber said with a smile and made the stack of hands complete.

Vincent looked around the group, then said, "Let's do this."

Everyone looked at each other with question for a moment, then Oscar and Vincent moved at the same time toward the box.

Vincent gave Oscar a quick smile then, as one, they opened the lid.

To Be Continued...

Editor's notes:

I have several things to say before I comment on this chapter.

First, I am deeply honored to be allowed to edit this story.

Second, I need to tell some people that due to my limited vision, it doesn't take me any longer to edit a chapter than it would to simply read it, I am not capable of speed reading like some other people that I know, and since I would read it anyway, I haven't lost any time by editing it.

That statement was for the people who have been telling me that I have been doing too many things for other people and not enough for my own stories.

So third, I promise that I will attend to my own stories as well, but I have to ask any or all of you this question. If you had been given the opportunity to read a chapter of Frontier before it was posted, would you have been able to turn down that gift? I want an honest answer.

Fourth, I have been told that due to some issues which I have not been told of specifically, that MultiMapper has found himself in the position of either spending time going over existing chapters, in order to get them ready for posting, or spending time writing new ones. The chapters need to get posted. The chapters are something that many people are waiting to read. I fully intend to read the chapters whether I edit them or not. If I, or someone else doesn't edit them, then it will take time away from MultiMapper's current writing, and thus we will have to wait longer for new chapters to appear. Those of you who know me already know that I am an avid reader of MultiMapper's stories along with many other fine authors. Whenever a new chapter is posted, I read it as quickly as I find it, so part of my time will certainly be taken up with reading his chapters. I think I am actually repeating myself. I think I have made my point, except to say that If I have done a good enough job, and MultiMapper is satisfied with my work, I will be editing his stories.

Now on with my notes on this chapter.

MultiMapper told me that I could put in editor's comments in the chapters if I wanted to. I want to. As time goes by and I become a little more comfortable writing these notes, you might just find a little more humour creeping into them. I wanted my first set of notes to be pretty concise and to the point. I don't want to take you off on a flight of funny feelings or forcefully frolicking after facing far off flights not fit for frail foundlings. I ran out of f words. That is the kind of thing that happens to me sometimes, and I beg your forgiveness for being downright silly.

This Chapter was one of the most interesting and heartwarming chapters so far. I must say that I think he has been taking lessons in dramatic pauses from Str8mayb and should be watched very carefully by The Cliffhanger Police, in case he gets any more ideas about putting his characters in danger and then ending a chapter.

Thank you once again, MultiMapper for allowing me to edit this great chapter. I am eagerly waiting for the next one.

Your Friend Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher