"I don't know what to do." JonJon said quietly.
"Tell me this. If you were to decide that you wanted to pursue a relationship with Jenn, do you think that Benny would be any less of your friend?" Channing asked seriously.
"I don't know." JonJon mumbled.
"If he did stop being your friend, then how much of a friend was he to begin with?" Channing asked seriously. "I mean, is it really friendship if you always do things just to please him and make things be the way he wants them... including yourself."
"But that's kind of what it means to be a companion android." JonJon said as he looked up at Channing helplessly.
Channing shook his head and said, "You're a sentient being. The moment that happened, no one had the right to command your thoughts and feelings. Besides that, you're Lehman's companion. What you feel for Benny or Jenn is entirely up to you."
JonJon slowly nodded as he considered Channing's words, then quietly said, "But I don't know what I feel."
"Then give yourself some time to sort through your emotions. There's no reason that you have to decide this now." Channing said gently.
JonJon slowly nodded.
"We'd better go check on your brother, now. As excited as he's been, I can't imagine that him being this quiet could be a good thing." Channing said with a smile.
"You're right. I can't hear him." JonJon said as he stood.
* * * * *
Vincent glanced up at T'Lani before knocking on the door.
"Come on in." Benny said cheerfully.
"Thanks." Vincent said quietly, then followed Benny into the house.
"I'm glad you got here when you did. JonJon and Jenn are going to have to leave soon, and I wanted for all of us to have some time to hang out together." Benny said cheerfully as he led the way through the central room and into a well appointed living room.
"Yeah. Thanks for inviting us." Vincent said shyly, then noticed that Fizgig was jumping pawing at his leg, his sign that he wanted to be picked up.
"Hi Fizgig. It's nice to see you, too." Vincent said as he picked up the dog and petted him gently.
"I'm sorry that we don't have any snacks or music to make it a real party, but at least we have the most important thing, good friends." Benny said happily.
"Do you want music?" Vincent asked casually.
"Yeah. But I don't want to spend money on a sound system. There's a lot more important things that I'm going to need to do to get this place ready for my family when they arrive." Benny said frankly.
Vincent looked upward and said, "Mycien, would you play a random selection of Earth pop music at a moderate volume?"
"Yes, Vincent." Mycien said quietly, then lively music started playing.
"What? Who was that?" Benny asked as he looked around.
"That was the colony AI, his name is Mycien." Vincent said frankly.
Benny looked at JonJon and Jenn and asked, "You knew about this?"
Both nodded, their matching expressions saying the same thing, 'Of course. You didn't?'.
"If you have any questions or problems, all you have to do is ask Mycien and he'll help you find the answers. He knows the inventory of what's available to use, he has bots that can help you do things... I bet he'll be all kinds of help getting this place ready for your parents." Vincent said seriously.
"I'm guessing he doesn't have any storerooms of pizza anywhere." Benny said with a grin.
Before Vincent could respond, Mycien said, "There are three varieties of fruit bearing plants in your garden that are currently producing edible fruit. It is not pizza, but it might be an enjoyable snack for you and your guests."
"I wouldn't know which fruits were edible and which weren't." Benny said frankly.
A holographic image of three pieces of fruit appeared in the air before Benny.
"The coloring indicates ripeness in all three fruits. There is also a difference in firmness." Mycien said frankly.
"Thank you." Benny said in a slightly startled tone.
"The kitchen is outside, to the left. You'll be able to get water there if anyone is thirsty." Vincent added helpfully.
"There are also flowering plants in the garden that can be used to make an infusion that should serve as tea, should that be desirable as a beverage." Mycien said informatively as the hologram of a small yellow flower appeared before them.
Benny chuckled, then said, "Thanks, I guess this really is going to be a party."
Vincent smiled then noticed that Channing was looking at him with concern in his eyes.
"You should probably mingle or something. I need to talk to Channing about something." Vincent said seriously.
"Yeah. Thanks again." Benny said happily.
Vincent nodded, then started walking across the room.
* * * * *
"What's wrong, Channing?" Vincent asked seriously.
Channing looked around, and seemed conflicted.
"Do you want to go for a walk?" Vincent asked casually.
"Yeah." Channing said with relief.
Vincent tilted his head toward the door, then waited for Channing to start walking with him.
* * * * *
"You look worried. What's wrong?" Vincent asked as they walked outside.
"It's about you and T'Lani." Channing said quietly.
"What about us?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Vincent, you're nine years old. She's an adult. Even though you two are married, it still seems wrong that you're... you know, having sex." Channing said with difficulty.
After a moment to consider, Vincent slowly nodded, then said, "Well, thanks for being worried about me, but what my wife and I do in the privacy of our own home isn't anyone else's business."
The words weren't said angrily, but more as a statement of fact.
Channing slowly nodded his acceptance of the statement.
"But I can see that it bothers you, and I'm glad that you're talking to me about it instead of running to the captain or something like that." Vincent said frankly.
"I wouldn't do that, Vincent." Channing said honestly.
"Yeah. But still, thanks." Vincent said with a smile.
Channing watched as Vincent seemed to come to a decision.
After a moment to consider his words, Vincent quietly said, "T'Lani and I talked about all of this before we ever did anything. Kids who are going through puberty go through some different stages, you know, discovering things and figuring out how it all works."
Channing gave a slight smile and nodded that he understood.
"T'Lani knows about that stuff. She's done all kinds of research and besides that, we have our marriage bond. She doesn't have to guess at what I'm thinking or feeling, she can just look." Vincent said seriously.
Channing nodded again, indicating that he was following what Vincent was saying.
"So I'll end up learning about the same things that everyone else does when I'm ready to. The only differences are that I'll learn it with my wife and I'll learn it without having to hide or be ashamed." Vincent said as he looked Channing in the eyes.
"When you put it like that, I kind of wish that I had a wife to help me go through puberty." Channing said gently.
Vincent chuckled and said, "Yeah. I don't know if puberty is ever easy for anyone. But I can't think of another way I'd want to do it."
Channing smiled at the statement and Vincent noticed that the troubled look in his eyes seemed to be gone.
"While we're out here, do you want to help me pick some fruit for the party?" Vincent asked casually.
"Sure." Channing said with a smile as he walked around the side of the house with Vincent.
* * * * *
"We brought snacks and drinks!" Vincent said as they walked into the living room, Channing with a bowl of fruit and Vincent with a cannister of freshly brewed tea.
"Thanks!" Benny said happily as he cleared off a place on the table.
"How are things going in here?" Vincent asked as he looked around.
He noticed that Jenn and T'Lani were talking quietly together and considered asking through their bond about what they were talking about, but decided that T'Lani would tell him if she wanted him to know.
"Lehman was just telling us about how he wants to fix up one of his houses to be like a house on his homeworld." Benny said frankly.
"Are you missing your home?" Vincent asked with concern.
"Not really." Lehman said simply. "But I was thinking that it might be nice if I had a place that was kind of just mine. You know, a special place where I can go to be alone and think about stuff. And since I have three houses, I thought that I could make one of them be a place like that."
"That does sound nice." Vincent said gently, then noticed that JonJon seemed to be distracted, stealing glances at Jenn.
"What's up with you, JonJon?" Vincent asked casually.
"I'm fine." JonJon said, a little bit too quickly.
'Sure you are.' Vincent's inner voice said sarcastically.
"Glurrah!" Lehman said happily when he noticed the fruit that was in the bowls.
"What's that?" Benny asked curiously.
"Come on. I want to show you." Lehman said happily and drew Benny away.
Vincent gave a quick look to Channing and it seemed that they were on the same wavelength. Channing gave a nod, and slowly walked to join Lehman and Benny.
"What's wrong, JonJon?" Vincent asked quietly.
"Nothing." JonJon said quietly, but the expression of worry in his eyes betrayed the lie.
"I can't help if you won't tell me." Vincent said seriously, letting it be known with his tone that he wouldn't be dissuaded easily.
"I think Benny and Jenn both like me." JonJon said anxiously.
After a moment to consider, Vincent slowly nodded and said, "Yeah. Probably."
"I don't know what to do. I like them both and I don't want to hurt either of them." JonJon said as he looked Vincent in the eyes.
"Then just be honest with them." Vincent said frankly.
"If I could just choose one or the other, then being honest wouldn't be that bad. But I don't know how I feel about them." JonJon said in turmoil.
"Then you're not ready to choose." Vincent said simply. At JonJon's worried expression, he continued, "If you like them both, then spend time with both of them. Don't make a choice until you know, deep in your heart, that you really believe in it."
JonJon considered for a moment, then slowly nodded.
"And remember, you don't just have two choices." Vincent added seriously.
JonJon looked at him curiously.
"It's not just one or the other. Both and neither are also valid choices." Vincent said honestly.
"Both?" JonJon asked as his eyes went wide.
Vincent smiled at the reaction, then said, "Yeah. I don't know if you could make it work, but you might end up being able to have it all."
JonJon slowly nodded, but now seemed to be lost in thought rather than anxiety.
Vincent watched him for a moment, then wandered away to allow him time to think.
* * * * *
"So, how did you like the party?" Vincent asked as he and T'Lani walked into their home.
"Typically, I find social functions of that sort to be an inefficient use of time and energy. However, I found Jenn to be interesting and learned much about Soleen-Avalla medical technology." T'Lani said seriously.
"That's good. You should probably make a report on what you learned if there's anything that Starfleet Medical would want to know about." Vincent said as he walked into the living room.
"I will do so when we return to the ship." T'Lani said simply.
Vincent's eyes fell on the book and picture frame he had brought from the Yorktown.
"When I told Darin that we were coming down, he said that I should bring something that I could leave here to make it really our home." Vincent said as he opened the book and took out the picture.
"I fail to see how the presence of personal artifacts makes the dwelling any more or less ours." T'Lani said frankly.
Vincent smiled as he worked to fit the picture into the frame as he said, "I don't know if there's any logical reason for it, but I think he was right. If I leave something of mine here, then it's like I've staked my claim or marked my territory."
T'Lani slowly quirked an eyebrow at him.
Vincent chuckled at the expression, then said, "Yeah. I know."
As Vincent placed the picture on a narrow table against the wall, T'Lani walked to his side.
"Are these other members of your family?" T'Lani asked curiously.
"Yes and no." Vincent said as he looked at the picture. "That guy who looks like me, his name is Vince. The people with him are the people he lives with at Camp Little Eagle."
"So this is one of the alternate versions of yourself that you met while travelling in time." T'Lani said slowly.
"Yeah. He gave me this picture when we left. I don't know exactly why, but it's special to me." Vincent said thoughtfully. "I guess it's like, it shows me that no matter how things change or seem to go wrong, things still have a way of working out alright."
"It is late." T'Lani said as she turned to look at her husband.
"Yeah." Vincent said as he looked up into her eyes. "Let's go to bed."
* * * * *
When Vincent awoke, it was to a warm glow of sunlight filling the room and a slightly chilly breeze.
He looked at the windows and realized that they seemed to be upside down from what he was used to. They opened down.
But laying in bed, he appreciated that the windows were open about eight inches, near the ceiling. So reflected sunlight was coming into the room, but it wasn't so bright that it was bothersome.
T'Lani was still asleep, so he quietly made his way out of the room and to the bathroom.
The Soleen-Avalla 'facilities' were a bit different than what he was used to, but he hadn't decided if it was enough of a difference that he would go to the trouble of buying and installing a new toilet.
Once he was dressed, he walked outside to the kitchen area and took a bowl out of one of the cupboards.
Slowly and casually, he walked around the side of the house to the garden to gather some fruit for breakfast.
* * * * *
"Husband." T'Lani said gently as she approached.
"My wife." Vincent said warmly as he looked back at her.
She walked to him and placed a hand to the side of his face and caressed his cheek with her thumb.
After a moment, he took her by the hand and guided her through the garden to the pond.
"No place such as this would be allowed on Vulcan. Land that could be used to produce food would not contain family dwellings." T'Lani said as she looked around.
"The pond is used as part of the solar collection process, the moss in the pond cleans the water. The garden not only produces food, but also cleans the air." Vincent said quietly. "This place isn't abusing nature, it's in harmony with it."
T'Lani looked around for a moment, then said, "It is."
"Here, I gathered some fruit for breakfast. Let's sit down and eat." Vincent said as he offered her the bowl.
T'Lani carefully sat down on the bank of the pond then set the bowl of fruit between them.
"We have three houses on our property. I thought that, after we finished breakfast, we could go explore the other houses." Vincent said casually, before taking one of the pieces of fruit and taking a bite.
"Yes. I would like to know what accommodations are available if either of us should have visitors from off planet." T'Lani said frankly as she also took a piece of fruit.
"Yeah. I guess I hadn't thought about it that way, but it would be nice if I had a place for Daddy Joe or Darin to stay if they were visiting." Vincent said thoughtfully between bites of his food.
"Yes. And I believe that separate dwellings would be preferable should the members of my family choose to visit." T'Lani said slowly.
T'Lani had never discussed her family with him and he was interested to know about them, but from the closed off look on her face, he guessed that she wouldn't be receptive to having the discussion right then.
They sat for a while longer, both eating their breakfast and enjoying the serenity of their surroundings.
* * * * *
As they stepped out of the front of their third house, Vincent noticed that there were people further down the street.
"I guess that the colonization is really getting underway now." Vincent said casually.
"Vincent!" A voice called and a man started running toward them.
It took a moment, but Vincent finally realized who it was.
"Hi Korrigon!" Vincent called in return.
"Hey! Is this your house?" Korrigon asked as he slowed his approach.
"One of them. We were just looking all of them over. Korrigon, I don't remember if you've met my wife, this is T'Lani." Vincent said cheerfully.
"Yes. We met in sickbay." Korrigon said quietly, then added, "It's nice to see you again."
T'Lani inclined her head in greeting.
"Hey, I was just about to go into town to pick out a place to use as an inn. Would you two like to come along?" Korrigon asked hopefully.
Vincent glanced at T'Lani with question.
Both of them were scheduled to have the day off, so there was no reason to refuse, but Vincent didn't want to make the decision for her.
"That would be acceptable," T'Lani said calmly.
Vincent smiled at her answer, then nodded his agreement to Korrigon.
"There's a transporter station about two blocks over that way." Korrigon said as he pointed.
"Transporter station?" Vincent asked curiously as they started to walk.
"Yeah. They're kind of like bus stops, except that when you get there, you just tell it where you want to go and it transports you there. It's great!" Korrigon said happily.
Vincent nodded as he remembered when he had visited the planet with Commander M'Butu the day before and Mycien had explained how the teleportal system worked.
* * * * *
The exploration of the town buildings had turned out to be very relaxing and interesting.
Vincent, T'Lani and Korrigon walked through three buildings and discussed the merits of each before Korrigon finally made his decision and started planning how he was going to get his inn up and running.
When Lieutenant Simms arrived, Vincent announced that they were going back to their house.
He didn't want to come out and say it, but he was hungry.
* * * * *
When they arrived back at their house, Vincent and T'Lani had a simple meal of fruit, then walked out into the garden and sat by the pond to enjoy a little relaxation before they would both have to return to work the next day.
As was natural for them when relaxing, they joined into a mind meld and entered a meditative state.
Suddenly, Vincent felt something begin inside him. It was a grinding sensation, as though his mind were being shredded.
T'Lani felt it too and strengthened her bond to anchor him through the experience.
Vincent couldn't really call the sensation 'pain' as such, but the feeling was certainly not a pleasant one.
Vincent and T'Lani, in their combined state, felt as though their minds were being pulled out of shape and reformed into an unfamiliar configuration.
They lost any sense of time as the world seemed to blur around them.
* * * * *
"Husband." T'Lani said aloud.
Vincent blinked and realized that they were no longer in their mind meld.
"What happened?" Vincent asked as he looked around the garden.
Although he couldn't put his finger on it, he had the feeling that something had changed.
"Unknown." T'Lani said thoughtfully.
Vincent could tell from her expression that she was feeling just as disoriented as he was.
"Everything is different." Vincent said slowly, although his senses were telling him that nothing around him had changed.
"All that was familiar yesterday, now seems like a dream." T'Lani said distantly.
"Yeah. It's like everything is new." Vincent said with difficulty. "Even history... is new. Like it was just now made up, and the ink isn't even dry."
"According to the law of parsimony, the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one," T'Lani said frankly. "That would mean that what we have just experienced is some sort of mental aberration that afflicted us during the mind meld, and that the world has not changed, but only our perception of it."
"I guess if that's true, it'll be easy enough to prove. I can remember things that happened yesterday but at the same time, I know that they didn't." Vincent said frankly.
T'Lani thought for a moment, then said, "I distinctly remember that yesterday I treated Crewman Monahan for an injury to her ankle."
"But you know that she didn't have an injury?" Vincent asked curiously.
"Not precisely." T'Lani said slowly. "What I know is that there is no crewman named Monahan on the Yorktown, nor has there been since my arrival."
"But she's the one who made my uniforms after my growth spurt." Vincent said thoughtfully, then quietly added, "Except that I also know that a Crewman Duckworth made them... I just don't know who that is."
"I believe there is sufficient cause for concern. We should report this incident immediately." T'Lani said decisively as she stood.
"Yeah. My communicator is in the house." Vincent said quickly as he thought about his travels with Dr. Xon and the time split that he had warned about.
* * * * *
"Yorktown transporter control, this is Crewman Winters, I have two to beam up." Vincent said seriously.
"I'm sorry. We've suffered a transporter malfunction. All transporter traffic has been halted until the entire system has been checked." The transporter technician said seriously.
"Are there any shuttles on the surface yet? We really need to get back." Vincent said as he started chewing on his lower lip.
He glanced up at T'Lani with concern to find her looking back at him with a hint of worry.
"Vincent?" Mycien interrupted.
"Yes?" Vincent responded, then noticed the framed picture on the table.
"My transporter capabilities are not impaired. I could transport you aboard the Yorktown if there is a need." Mycien said seriously.
Vincent felt a boost of assurance that no matter how strange things seemed to be, they might turn out to be alright.
"Yes. Please." Vincent said with newfound serenity, then gave T'Lani an encouraging smile.
Before he was aware that it had happened, they were standing in transporter room three.
* * * * *
"Captain Byrne?" Vincent asked from the captain's office doorway with T'Lani at his side.
"Crewman Winters, may I assume that you've just experienced something a bit out of the ordinary?" Captain Byrne asked seriously as he looked up from his desk.
"Yes, sir. You could say that." Vincent said anxiously.
"Please go to conference room one. You will be briefed shortly. And you are not to discuss this matter with anyone outside of the conference room, including me." Captain Byrne said in a tone that conveyed the severity of the matter.
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir." Vincent said immediately, then walked away with T'Lani at his side.
* * * * *
"Commander M'Butu, do you know what's going on?" Vincent asked as he entered the conference room.
"If you've been sent here, then I suppose you know as much as I do." Commander M'Butu said evasively.
The door of the turbo lift opened and Chief Morgan, Lieutenant Simms and Debbie stepped out.
"Crewman Winters, why am I not surprised to see you here?" Chief Morgan asked with a chuckle under his words.
"I don't know, sir. But it does seem right, doesn't it?" Vincent asked with a cheeky grin.
The doors of the turbo lift opened again and discharged Dr. Perry and Nurse Stepanov.
"We have quite the gathering, here." Dr. Perry said frankly. "I see some old, familiar faces."
"And some new ones." Chief Morgan said as he glanced at Vincent.
Before Vincent could decide what questions he wanted to ask first, the view screen at the front of the room filled with the Starfleet logo.
After a moment the logo was replaced by a Starfleet admiral who Vincent somewhat recognized, but couldn't seem to place.
"By the order of Starfleet command, all information that is about to be disclosed is to be considered classified. The dissemination of this information in any form will constitute an act of high treason." The admiral said firmly.
"Who the hell is that?" Chief Morgan asked curiously.
"Admiral Kincaid... but I'm sure I never heard of him before today." Commander M'Butu said frankly.
When Vincent heard the name, he knew that it was right, but he also knew that, like the commander, he hadn't ever heard of him before that day.
"As many of you are aware, an unexpected 'event' has occurred. We still don't know how or why, but what we do know is that anyone who has ever traveled through time or across dimensions has been effected." the admiral said firmly, then added in a slightly less formal tone, "I understand that even though I remember most of you, that to you I am a stranger. So I will allow Captain Spock to continue with this briefing, since he has a better understanding of what you are going through."
The screen switched over to show Captain Spock in a conference room that was nearly identical to the room that they were in.
"Greetings. It appears that by some method that we do not understand, our history has undergone a significant change. It also appears that only those who have traveled through time are aware of the changes, though we can only speculate as to why that is." Captain Spock said seriously. "It happens that nearly the entire crew of the Enterprise have recently traveled through time, so it seems reasonable for us to lead the investigation into this matter."
"We have little information as to how or why, but we can share with you 'what' has happened. I believe that this might best be illustrated with an example. My brother, Commander Dodds, came away from the experience this afternoon with the knowledge that his first husband is alive and as a consequence, he never became involved with his second husband." Captain Spock said without inflection.
Vincent's eyes went wide as he distinctly remembered his 'Uncle Josh', but also knew in his mind that his 'Uncle Ben' was his uncle Chip's husband and that he was a good and caring man.
"Be aware that all of us are likely to encounter variations in this new reality. Starfleet's orders are to make note of any and all changes that you recognize, and submit your reports directly to Captain Kirk or myself. Also be aware that Admiral Kincaid will be in charge of this investigation at Starfleet and will be kept abreast of any new developments."
Vincent's mind began to race. He couldn't be sure that anything he remembered was still the way he remembered it. His family, his friends, his clan. Any or all of it could have changed.
"The most asked question of the past hour has been in regard to Admiral Morrow. It appears that in this reality, Captain Morrow never increased in rank. He currently serves as captain of the Ptolemy class vessel, USS Masada." Captain Spock said frankly.
Vincent instinctively reached out to T'Lani with his mind as he put an arm around her. The universe felt like it was slipping out from under him and he needed to feel her presence to be assured that there was 'something' he could depend on.
"No mention of this event is to be made in official reports or with those not involved. Relevant information will be disseminated periodically." Captain Spock said formally, then a look of compassion seemed to come into his expression as he said, "We are only at the beginning. Allow us the time for discovery. And most importantly, remember, none of you are alone in this. We will endure... together."
A moment later, the Starfleet logo filled the screen.
Vincent looked around the room, making a careful mental note of who was there so he would know who he could talk with if he should need to.
When Commander M'Butu approached, Vincent said, "I guess this means that I didn't need to be so secretive about it when I time traveled. You must have time traveled, too."
Commander M'Butu smiled at the statement, then said, "Yes, I have. And that's as much as I can ever say on that subject, Crewman Winters."
Vincent thought about his statement, then chuckled as he said, "Yeah, same here."
"T'Lani, have you noticed any variances in your personal history?" Nurse Stepanov asked as he approached.
"Not as yet." T'Lani said simply.
He chuckled, then said, "You are lucky. Apparently, in this time... or reality, or whatever it is that we're in, I was working as a nurse at a hospital in Rysyevo, back on Earth."
"What are you going to do?" Vincent asked curiously, wondering if he was supposed to be where he was.
"What can I do?" Nurse Stepanov asked frankly.
Vincent gave him a worried look.
"Please Vincent, do not be concerned. The life that I remember in this... dimension... is not the type of life that I want to have. I was in a job with no future. Dr. Perry has already said that we will arrange things with Starfleet to fix it so that I am 'officially' here." He said with a smile.
"Well, I'm glad things worked out for you, Vlad." Vincent said honestly, then noticed that everyone was leaving the conference room.
"Husband. While we are aboard the Yorktown, I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to file a report about what I have learned about Soleen-Avalla medical techniques." T'Lani said quietly.
"Yeah. I'd like to check in at Deflector Control, too." Vincent said seriously, not wanting to admit that he wanted to see if any of his friends were gone or had changed. "I'll meet you on the planet."
* * * * *
"It's your day off, Vincent. What are you doing here?" Joe asked curiously.
"We had to come up to the ship to do some stuff. You know, reports and stuff. How are things around here?" Vincent asked casually.
"We had a control circuit failure on the bridge. While you're here, you should see this." Joe said as he led Vincent to station three.
Vincent followed along and watched as Joe brought up the log file from earlier.
"See that?" Joe said as he pointed to the display.
Vincent looked where Joe was pointing and puzzled over the information.
"That doesn't make any sense. According to this, there was a power surge and a power outage at exactly the same time." Vincent said slowly.
"When the unit failed, it started giving false readings." Joe said frankly. "You're going to need to be on the lookout for things like this."
"You have it offline now, does that mean that the redundant system failed too?" Vincent asked curiously.
"No. The control circuit refused our commands and wouldn't allow us to switch over." Joe said with a concerned look.
"But that shouldn't be possible." Vincent said thoughtfully.
"Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be." Joe said simply.
"So is this something that Hargrove Industries did, or is it something that happened because of us undoing what they did?" Vincent asked curiously.
Joe smiled with pride at Vincent, then said, "A little of both, actually. It seems that when they reworked the control circuits at Hargrove Industries, they disabled the switching mechanisms on some of them. Their work-around on the diagnostic used a simple program to mimic that function, but when we removed the reworked diagnostic systems, we also removed the ability to remotely switch."
"Isn't that dangerous?" Vincent asked with concern.
"Normally, no. Right now... possibly." Joe said hesitantly. "From what I've been hearing, it seems that the control circuit failures are becoming more common. Usually we would replace a failing circuit before it ever got to that point, but we're running out of spare parts and all the spare parts that we do have are worn out and should have been destroyed long ago." Joe said frankly.
"Is it possible to 'make' control circuits? I mean, from other stuff, not using any of the old worn out parts?" Vincent asked slowly.
"Theoretically, yes. Realistically, no." Joe said carefully. "We could make them, but we'd be back to Earth by the time we were finished with the first one."
Vincent nodded at the answer.
"You don't need to worry about this, now. I just wanted you to be aware of what to look for when you start your shift in the morning." Joe said with a smile.
"Okay, is it okay if I use the second auxilliary station to write a report?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"No, that's fine. Go ahead." Joe said gently.
Vincent walked to the station as he considered how many things he would need to include. Of course, there would be the obvious differences in the two universes that he had noticed, but there was also the warning that Dr. Xon had given him about an impending time split.
Of course, Admiral Morrow had been made aware of all of that, but now 'Captain' Morrow probably wouldn't recognize him if they were in the same room. So he felt that he should make a report in case the information would help Captain Kirk and Captain Spock make sense of what had happened to them.
* * * * *
After a longer than usual session of report writing, Vincent felt the need to get away for a bit and transported down to the planet.
"Hi Vincent." Benny said as he opened his door wide, inviting Vincent inside. "I stopped by your house a little while ago, but you weren't there."
"Yeah. T'Lani and I had to go back up to the ship to do a few things." Vincent said dismissively as they walked toward the central room.
"Who's here?" A girl's voice called from the central room.
"It's Vincent." Benny called back, then rolled his eyes.
A little girl looked in through the door at the end of the room, then ducked back out of sight.
"You could at least say 'hi' to him." Benny said with aggravation.
"Hi Vincent!" she called out in an obligatory sing-song voice.
It took a moment for Vincent to find her name in his new memories, but finally he responded, "Hi Hailey."
"You know, by the time Mom and Dad and Callie get here, I'm going to be an old man from watching after her." Benny said frankly.
Vincent chuckled, then said, "This is what big brothers do."
"I guess you would think so, since you're a little brother." Benny said as he led them into the living room.
Vincent considered for a moment, then nodded his agreement, then thought to ask, "How are JonJon and Lehman doing?"
"As far as I know, JonJon and Jenn are both on the ship, basically directing traffic. Lehman and Channing are going through all of Cyril and Roger's houses, all of JonJon's houses and all of Lehman's houses." Benny said with a smile.
"It sounds like Channing is going to need some days off to recover from his shore leave." Vincent said with a grin.
"Yeah. Sounds like." Benny agreed.
* * * * *
"Do you like this one?" Hailey asked as she held a yellow dress in front of her, then covered it with a blue one and asked, "Or this one?"
"I think you look just fine in your coveralls." Vincent said simply.
Hailey gave him an aggravated look, then turned her expectant gaze on her brother.
"Yellow. Definitely." Benny said seriously.
She held out the dress in front of her, then muttered, "I like the blue one better."
"Then wear the blue one. This isn't a state dinner, we're just going over to Roger and Cyril's house." Benny said wearily.
"But Lehman's going to be there!" She said emphatically, then turned and walked out of the room.
"Do you think that Lehman is the least bit interested in her?" Vincent asked curiously.
"He'd better not be." Benny said frankly.
Vincent looked at Benny with surprise.
"That's my sister and I've seen him naked." Benny said simply.
Vincent chuckled, then nodded that he understood what Benny was saying.
"Besides, she's nine years old. She should still be having tea parties with her dollies." Benny said with a worried look at the door.
"And what should I be doing?" Vincent asked with the arch of an eyebrow.
"You're the exception that makes the rule." Benny said frankly.
Vincent laughed outright at the statement, then finally said, "It's good to know my place in the grand scheme of things."
A beeping drew Vincent's attention to his communicator.
"Crewman Winters." Vincent said seriously.
"Vincent. The captain is having us recall all the ship personnel." Joe said in a low voice.
"Is something wrong?" Vincent asked quickly.
"We've been recalled to Earth." Joe said frankly. "The Soleen-Avalla have promised to watch after the colonists and a Federation vessel with supplies has already been dispatched."
"But what's wrong? Why have we been recalled?" Vincent asked curiously.
"It's the equipment failures. They're afraid that if we don't leave soon, we may not be able to make it home under our own power." Joe said frankly.
"Do I have time to say goodbye to JonJon and Lehman?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Yes. But don't take too long. As soon as everyone is in their right place, we'll be leaving." Joe said quietly.
"I won't be long." Vincent said seriously, then looked at Benny with concern.
* * * * *
"Where's Channing?" Vincent asked as Lehman guided them into Cyril and Roger's house.
"He got called back to the ship." Lehman said frankly.
"Then where's JonJon?" Vincent asked as they walked into the living room.
"He's still working. I got a message that him and Dad and Other Dad would all be here soon." Lehman said quietly.
"You should have come over to my house. There's no reason that you should have to be alone." Benny said with concern.
"I wasn't alone. Fizgig is here." Lehman said as he looked lovingly at the little dog, then added, "Besides, I'm not helpless. I can take care of myself."
Vincent remembered all that Lehman had been through and couldn't deny that he deserved to be allowed independence if that's what he wanted.
After a moment, Vincent reluctantly said, "I got called back to the ship too. I just wanted to come over here and say goodbye before I left."
Lehman seemed to be expecting the words, but even so, Vincent could see the emotional impact.
"I'm going to miss you, Vincent." Lehman said as he hugged Vincent firmly.
"Whenever you want to talk to me, I'm always going to be as close as the nearest terminal." Vincent said as he held Lehman in his arms.
"It's not the same." Lehman whimpered.
"I know." Vincent whispered and held him even tighter.
"I'm going to be living the other future that you wanted for yourself. So I'm going to do my best to do like you would do and make it great." Lehman said as a vow.
"Don't worry about what I would do. Just be happy." Vincent said sincerely.
"Benny and JonJon will help me with that." Lehman said quietly.
"You forgot about Hailey." Vincent said with a grin.
Lehman glanced at the girl on the other side of the room, whispering to her brother, then said, "No. I didn't."
Vincent chuckled, then released Lehman from the hug.
"Tell JonJon that I'm sorry that I didn't get to say goodbye to him in person. And that I'll call in the next day or so." Vincent said as he reluctantly backed away.
"You'd better, or we're going to get Jenn to lend us a ship and we'll come after you." Lehman teased.
"It might be worth it just so I could see all of you again." Vincent said as tears filled his eyes.
"You have a home here, Vincent." Benny said as he approached. "So we know that you'll be back."
"Yeah. I will. Every chance I get." Vincent said with a watery smile at Benny.
"Take care of yourself, Crewman Winters." Benny said gently.
"I will if you will, Mr. Summers." Vincent said as his tears finally began to fall.
"I guess..." Vincent began to say as he pulled out of the hug, but his voice caught.
He looked around at his friends, then quietly said, "Mycien, would you transport me to the Yorktown?"
Benny, Lehman and Hailey watched as a fountain of multi-colored sparkles erupted around Vincent, then subsided, leaving nothing in their wake.
I certainly am glad to see a new chapter in this wonderfully different story about Vincent, and his friends and family.
It was interesting to see what happened when the universe split happened. I see that a few new faces have appeared, and it is good that we have all traveled through time, so we will know what changes have taken place. In fact, if we have been paying attention, I think we know a lot more than Vincent, or anyone else in this story does.
As I think I might have already mentioned, it is going to be extremely interesting to see the subtle and not so subtle differences between what happens in this universe, compared to the one in "Frontier."
One thing is certain, it will be interesting and very much fun to read the two different stories and see where things differ.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Author's Note: If you would like to follow the events at the New Hope colony, you can switch over to that story which starts with Chapter 36 (the next chapter in order after this one)
If you would rather follow along with Vincent and see what he's going to do next, you may continue on to 'The Opposite Heaven', also Chapter 36... that's not confusing... right?