CSU: Frontier

Chapter 34: Opening the Door

The Yorktown had been traveling for over a week through a particularly uninteresting part of space, working their way toward the Soleen-Avalla system.

In that time, Vincent had worked out a schedule that somehow accommodated work, school, officer's training, time with T'Lani and still left a little time for him to spend with Benny, JonJon and Lehman.

Dr. Perry examined Lehman, but declared that since much of his physiology was a mystery to her, that she wouldn't be able to make any determination about his aging until a little more time had passed.

The only things that might be worthy of note in recent weeks were Vincent's daily visits to sickbay for vitamins and pain medication and his nearly insatiable appetite.

Vincent and Lehman were no longer identical. The difference between them was slight, but it was noticeable since Vincent was getting taller. This, in turn, caused him to need new uniforms.

With the help of Ensign Collins and Crewman Monahan in ship's services, Vincent had a new set of uniforms custom made just for him.

The quartermaster's office was able to supply Vincent with a new set of boots that actually fit.

Vincent was just happy to know that male and female crewmen wore the same style of boots.

* * * * *

"Crewman Winters, report to conference room one." Debbie's voice said firmly over the Deflector Control's comm system.

Vincent looked up from station two, where he had been working, in time to see both Joe and Darin's concerned looks at him.

"One of these days, the captain is going to have to pick on one of you guys instead." Vincent said as he logged off his workstation.

"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about." Joe said quietly, obviously not believing it.

"Well, at least this time we aren't in a space battle." Vincent said with resignation, as he patted his pants pocket to be sure that he had some couplers, then he walked to the door.

"Call if you need us for anything." Joe said with concern.

"Sure thing. I've got seven." Vincent said as he clipped a communicator to his belt, then walked out the door.

* * * * *

As Vincent walked into the conference room, he was surprised to see that Captain Byrne, Commander M'Butu, Lieutenant Simms and Cyril Byrne were all present and seemed to be waiting for him.

Vincent came to attention and said, "Crewman Winters, reporting as ordered, Sir."

"At ease Crewman." Captain Byrne said automatically, then turned to face the entire group and continued, "As I'm sure you all know, we are scheduled to arrive at the SA-14 colony site in approximately eighteen hours."

Vincent nodded that he was aware and there were similar reactions from the others.

"What is not common knowledge is that we are scheduled to have a meeting with a Soleen-Avalla ship in advance of our arrival at the colony." Captain Byrne said seriously.

"Even though we have been in contact with the Soleen-Avalla for a number of years via subspace, this will, in fact, be the first time our people have actually met face to face. That being the case, this will be regarded as a 'first contact' situation." Captain Byrne said as he looked over the group before him.

"We literally know nothing of the Soleen-Avalla civilization. They seem almost xenophobic in their actions, refusing all requests for information. The fact that they offered us their colony was shocking enough, but now they have also agreed to meet with us in person and conduct us to the new colony. " Captain Byrne said professionally.

"We will be at the rendezvous coordinates shortly. Report to the bridge in one quarter of an hour, dress is formal. You are dismissed." Captain Byrne said firmly.

The others turned to leave as Vincent continued to stand.

"You had a question Crewman Winters?" Captain Byrne asked simply.

"Yes sir. I understand why everyone else is going on this mission, but I want to be sure I understand why I'm going, so I'll be able to do what I'm expected to." Vincent said carefully.

Captain Byrne smiled at Vincent and said, "It was very conscientious of you to ask. Actually, there are two reasons that you are being included on this mission. The first and more important one being the necklace you received during your encounter with the Gorn. If it truly does open doors that would be closed to others, then it would be prudent to include you in the first contact delegation."

Vincent nodded his acceptance of the reasoning.

"The second reason is as a practical demonstration of the first contact protocols that you have been learning about in your officer's training. I would think that seeing the process first hand would be of more benefit in your education than reading any amount of material on the subject." Captain Byrne finished with a smile.

"Thank you sir, I understand. Is there anything special I should do, since I don't have a dress uniform?" Vincent asked seriously.

"Just change into a fresh uniform and make sure your boots and rank insignia are sufficiently shined." Captain Byrne said consideringly.

"Yes Sir." Vincent said formally.

"If there is nothing else, you are dismissed." Captain Byrne said in a semi-formal tone.

"Yes Sir. Thank you Sir." Vincent said, then turned to leave.

* * * * *

"What's up Champ?" Joe asked as Vincent walked into Deflector Control.

"Away detail." Vincent said, as he turned and walked into the supply room.

Joe shared a curious look with Darin, then tilted his head in the direction of the supply room to encourage Darin to go.

Darin nodded and hurried to the supply room doorway.

"An away detail to where? We're kind of in the middle of nowhere." Darin asked curiously as he watched Vincent taking off his boots.

"We're supposed to meet with a Soleen-Avalla ship in a little while and I'm going to be part of the delegation that meets them." Vincent said shyly.

"Why you?" Darin asked curiously.

"The captain said it would be good for me to learn about 'first contact' by doing it... even though I guess this will kinda be my second one." Vincent said as he pulled a shining cloth out of his storage crate and worked to bring his boots up to full luster.

Darin shook his head and chuckled as he said, "Only my little brother..."

"I don't have much time. Could you help me?" Vincent asked as he kept his focus on his boots.

"Sure, what can I do?" Darin asked as he stepped into the supply room.

"Would you get my new uniform out of my storage crate and make sure that it isn't wrinkled and that the rank insignia is shiny? I want to be sure that I look okay." Vincent said in concentration.

Darin immediately went to the storage container that Vincent had been using as a locker and pulled out the neatly folded jumpsuit.

He carefully unfolded it and looked it over to see that it was presentable.

"It looks fine." Darin announced as he turned to look at Vincent.

"Thanks. I've only got a few minutes." Vincent said quickly as he set his boots aside then threw the shining cloth into the crate.

"I'll get it ready for you." Darin said as he began to open the front of the new jumpsuit.

"Here." Vincent said as he handed Darin his wallet and two couplers.

Darin smiled as he placed the items into the new uniform.

"What about the communicator?" Darin asked as he gestured toward the communicator still hanging on Vincent's belt.

"Would you mind putting it up for me? I'm pretty sure that no matter what happens, I won't be needing it." Vincent said as he handed the communicator to Darin.

"No problem." Darin said gently as he clipped the communicator onto his own belt.

Vincent quickly opened the front of the jumpsuit uniform he was wearing and stepped out of it.

Darin handed him the new uniform and said, "Just leave the other one and I'll take care of it."

"Thanks." Vincent said as he pulled the new jumpsuit on.

"Would you like some gel for your hair? It might look a little more formal." Darin asked consideringly.

"Yeah." Vincent said as he bent down to pull on his boots.

Darin hurried to his own storage crate and returned with a dab of styling gel in his hand.

"Just hold still for a second." Darin said as he rubbed his hands together.

As soon as Vincent had finished pulling on his boots, he stood before Darin and waited for him to apply the gel.

Darin smoothed his hands over Vincent's slightly shaggy hair a few times to get the styling gel evenly distributed.

"Now, just comb your hair and you'll be ready." Darin said as he took a step back to look.

Vincent reached into his crate and pulled out a comb, then quickly pulled it through his hair.

"How's that?" Vincent asked as he looked at Darin expectantly.

"It looks great. You should think about using gel all the time." Darin said with a smile.

"Okay. I've got to go now." Vincent said quickly.

"Go on." Darin said and held out his hand for the comb.

Vincent handed the comb to Darin, then hurried out of the supply room.

* * * * *

As Vincent stepped onto the main bridge, he noticed that Captain Byrne was the only one of their group present.

The last time he had seen the captain in a formal uniform was when the Holy One was welcomed aboard.

"Captain, I'm detecting a vessel entering this sector... it's just dropped out of high warp." Lieutenant Clark said cautiously.

"On screen." Captain Byrne said immediately.

After a moment, Lieutenant Clark said, "I'm sorry sir, this is the best I can do at this distance. It's still at the far side of the sector."

As the somewhat blurry image of the alien ship filled the screen, Vincent's eyes went wide.

"It's Gorn." Debbie gasped from her communications console.

"No." Lieutenant Clark said hesitantly.

All attention turned to Lieutenant Clark as he examined the readings on his console.

"There are similarities in design, but this ship is more advanced than the Gorn ships... A lot more." Lieutenant Clark said in concentration.

"Be that as it may, it's best to err on the side of caution. Discontinue all invasive scans and make no attempt at communication. Use tactical scanners only and be prepared to discontinue the tactical scans as soon as the ship enters visual range."

"Yes sir. But they've stopped moving." Lieutenant Clark said slowly.

"Captain, we're being hailed." Debbie said cautiously.

"On screen." Captain Byrne said seriously and turned to face the main view screen.

Vincent noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to see that Commander M'Butu, Lieutenant Simms and Cyril had joined them.

"Federation Starship Yorktown, are you prepared to receive our representative?" A man's cold, professional voice asked.

Vincent looked at the view screen to find the image of a middle aged man. His appearance was human and his expression was nothing short of completely professional.

The captain stood a little straighter and said, "Yes. We will be honored to receive your representative. If you will send us rendezvous coordinates...."

The captain was interrupted by the appearance of a fountain of multi-colored sparkles that seemed to erupt from nowhere. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the sparkles vanished leaving a fourteen or fifteen year old girl standing before them.

Vincent stared in wonder at the beautiful girl. She was small with delicate features and had large soulful eyes. Her long brown hair nearly reached her waist and she was wearing a thin shimmering robe that loosely draped over her slender frame.

"But they're all the way on the other side of the sector." Lieutenant Clark said in wonder as he looked at his console again.

"I am Jenn. I am the representative of the Soleen-Avalla sent to conduct you to the colony." The young girl said seriously.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Jenn. I am Captain Leland Byrne. May I introduce my first officer, Commander Oliver M'Butu, my Chief of Security, Lieutenant Wayland Simms, my son, Cyril Byrne, who also happens to be one of the leaders of the colony and Crewman Vincent Winters, son of Clan Short of the house of Surak of Vulcan." Captain Byrne said as he gestured to indicate each person in turn.

Jenn looked at each person who was introduced and gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, then her gaze fixed on Vincent.

After a moment she hesitantly asked, "Is he the one who entered the reactor?"

Captain Byrne seemed surprised by the question, but quickly answered, "I wasn't aware that you knew of that, but yes."

"We requested an accounting of the events that led to the evacuation of the colony. The report we received made mention of Crewman Winters' heroic act." Jenn said with a gentle smile, then turned to Vincent and said, "It is an honor to meet you Crewman Winters."

Vincent was stunned for a moment, but was somehow able to say, "It's an honor to meet you too."

Jenn smiled warmly at Vincent, then turned her attention back to Captain Byrne.

"I'm sure you've realized that the Soleen-Avalla are a very private people." Jenn said seriously.

"We've noticed." Captain Byrne said carefully.

"It is for that reason that I have been sent to you. My ship will depart and I will conduct you to the new colony. I will be able to answer any questions you might have." Jenn said as she looked the captain in the eyes.

"Oh. I see." Captain Byrne said slowly.

A movement against Vincent's chest drew his attention.

He reached his hand up before he realized that the feeling was the necklace he still wasn't accustomed to wearing.

Vincent remembered Lieutenant Walking Bear telling him about signs and omens, then reached into the neck of his jumpsuit and took the necklace out where it could be seen.

"Crewman Winters?" Captain Byrne asked curiously as he noticed what Vincent was doing.

Jenn looked at Vincent and her eyes went wide.

"Trach Manja." She whispered.

Vincent nodded and watched as she raised her hand and moved toward him.

She stopped just short of touching the necklace and gasped, "It's authentic!"

A beeping from one of the consoles drew the captain's attention.

"The Soleen-Avalla ship is now approaching at full impulse." Lieutenant Clark called out in a tone of warning.

"Jenn, what is happening?" Captain Byrne asked quickly.

"My superiors must speak with the Trach Manja." Jenn said in a distracted voice.

"Are you saying that the people on your ship would like to speak with Crewman Winters?" Captain Byrne asked cautiously.

Jenn tore her gaze from Vincent's necklace and said, "No, our leaders need to speak with the Trach Manja on our world."

"Because he wears that necklace?" Captain Byrne asked cautiously.

"He is Trach Manja... Above all houses and castes." Jenn said urgently.

"Commander M'Butu?" Vincent asked quietly to his side.

"Yes?" Commander M'Butu responded in a whisper as he leaned down.

"Is there any way JonJon and Lehman could come up here? I think they need to be here for this." Vincent said carefully.

Commander M'Butu looked at Vincent curiously for a moment, then hurried across the room to Debbie.

"Would Crewman Winters be in any danger if he were to go with you?" Captain Byrne asked cautiously, obviously uncertain about letting Vincent go.

"No. My ship... my people, all my people would defend him with their lives. We have been waiting for centuries for the Trach Manja to arrive." Jenn said desperately.

"Perhaps if you could explain just what a 'Trach Manja' is and what he would be expected to do, I would be inclined to allow Crewman Winters to go with you." Captain Byrne said carefully.

"Captain?" Vincent asked uncertainly.

Captain Byrne turned to face Vincent with question.

"This is why you wanted me to meet the Soleen-Avalla. The door is open." Vincent said quietly.

Captain Byrne looked at Vincent for a moment, then turned at the sound of the turbo lift doors opening.

JonJon and Lehman looked around curiously, then noticed Vincent.

"Come here guys. We've got work to do." Vincent said as he gestured to them.

Jenn looked at Vincent curiously.

"Guys, this is Jenn. Jenn, this is JonJon and this is Lehman...? they're Trach Manja too." Vincent said seriously.

Jenn looked at the two boys with disbelief.

"Come on guys. Whip'em out." Vincent said with a smile as he held up the pendant of his necklace.

Lehman reached into his shirt and pulled out his necklace as JonJon blushed wildly.

Vincent smiled at JonJon's embarrassment and said in a more gentle voice, "Sorry JonJon. Jenn just needs to see your necklace."

JonJon's blush subsided slightly as he reached into his shirt and brought out his necklace for Jenn to see.

"I don't understand... three?" she said in confusion.

"Actually, there are five of us. But only three of us are on this ship." Vincent said seriously.

"Five... Trach Manja..." Jenn said slowly.

"Yeah. But it would make sense for you to think there's only one since we're from five different species. Each species would probably only learn about their own." Vincent said speculatively.

Lehman looked from Vincent to Jenn then asked, "What do we need to do?"

"We're going with Jenn to the Soleen-Avalla home world to meet with their leaders. And even though I don't know exactly what we'll be doing, I'm pretty sure it's going to take all three of us to do it." Vincent said seriously.

Jenn looked at the three boys, then to Captain Byrne with question.

"If you will give me your promise that they will be returned to us safely, they may leave with you." Captain Byrne said seriously.

Jenn gave a relieved smile as she said, "Thank you Captain. Proceed toward the new colony and we will rejoin you before you arrive."

"We will await your return with anticipation." Captain Byrne said formally, with a slight note of apprehension under his words.

"Are you ready to go?" Jenn asked as she looked at the three boys.

Vincent patted his pocket, then said, "Yeah. I'm ready."

JonJon and Lehman shared a look, then nodded in unison.

The multi-colored fountain of sparkles enveloped Jenn and the three boys and a heartbeat later they were gone.

* * * * *

As soon as the alien transporter beam faded, Vincent looked around and said, "I thought so!"

Lehman and JonJon looked at Vincent with question.

"It's a Gorn ship. The light, the humidity... it's exactly the same." Vincent said with certainty.

"How do you know of the conditions on a Gorn ship?" Jenn asked cautiously.

"Because we've been on one." Vincent said simply.

Jenn seemed to be disturbed by the answer, but didn't ask anything further.

After a momentary distant look, Jenn said, "The captain wants to meet with you. He's right this way."

* * * * *

As Jenn walked ahead of the group of boys, Vincent turned to Lehman and quietly asked, "Telepath?"

"I don't think so. I don't sense any telepathy." Lehman said in concentration.

"A subcutaneous transmitter and receiver." JonJon said with certainty.

"Um, what does that mean?" Lehman asked slowly.

"It means she can hear and talk to the people in charge by using a device that's hidden inside her body." Vincent said, feeling disturbed by the thought.

"No. Well yes, that's what it means, but that's not exactly what I was talking about." JonJon said as he watched Jenn walking ahead of them.

"Then what?" Lehman asked cautiously.

"Excuse me Jenn, may I ask you something?" JonJon asked as he started walking faster to catch up with her.

Jenn stopped to look at JonJon with question.

"You're an Android, aren't you?" JonJon asked speculatively.

Jenn seemed to be surprised by the question, but finally answered, "Yes. Did they do such a poor job of programming me that you could tell?"

JonJon smiled as he said, "No, your programming is great... maybe better than mine. There are just certain things that Androids can do that organics can't."

"Like what?" Jenn asked cautiously.

"When you walk, every step is exactly the same. It's simply a function of your programming and it makes perfect sense. For some reason, when the organics walk, no two steps are exactly the same. They shift their weight differently and the distance between their steps is varied." JonJon said informatively.

"So you're an Android too?" Jenn asked hesitantly.

"Yes. But do you want to know what's even better than that?" JonJon asked with a big smile.

"What?" Jenn asked cautiously.

"I'm also a Trach Manja." JonJon said seriously.

Jenn tilted her head slightly as she processed what that meant to her.

"So... even though we are artificially created beings, we have our own Trach Manja?" Jenn asked slowly.

"That's right. There are only five Trach Manja in all the universe and one of us is an Android." JonJon said proudly.

Jenn stared at JonJon for a moment, overwhelmed by this new information.

"Um, is the captain waiting on us?" Vincent asked quietly.

Jenn blinked, then said, "Yes. He's right this way."

Jenn started walking again and the three boys fell into line behind her.

"Jenn is really pretty isn't she?" Vincent asked JonJon quietly.

"Yeah." JonJon whispered as he watched her walking.

"And she's nice too." Lehman said, then gave Vincent a conspiratorial wink.

"Nice." JonJon agreed.

Vincent and Lehman smiled at each other as the group approached a large door.

* * * * *

Author's Note: {"..."} signifies text spoken in another language (translated for your convenience). MM

"It's a lounging hall." Vincent said happily.

"Do you think we'll get to have a traditional feast?" Lehman asked hopefully.

A large muscular Gorn stepped from behind the largest of the pedestals in the room and growled to Jenn in the Gorn language, {"Offer them my greetings and tell them that they are welcomed here."}

"The captain says..." Jenn? began to say when Vincent interrupted.

{"Captain, we speak your language and are honored to meet you."} Vincent said in Gorn.

The captain and Jenn stared at Vincent with disbelief.

{"Thank you for inviting us aboard your ship. It is very comfortable."} JonJon said quietly.

The captain began to chuckle, then it became a deep, full laugh.

Vincent, Lehman and JonJon shared a look of question with each other at the strange reaction.

{"You will understand later. Come, let us relax during the uninteresting part of our journey."} the captain said as he started walking them around the back of the pillar.

"Do you think they have Juppa rats?" Vincent asked JonJon with a smile.

"Or glurrah?" Lehman asked in a giggle.

"Do you two always think with your stomachs?" JonJon asked, trying to restrain a smile.

Vincent and Lehman shared a considering look for a moment, then answered in unison, "Yeah."

* * * * *

{"Come and lounge with me."} the captain said as he sat on the floor, then laid back to bask in the artificial sunlight.

Vincent and Lehman immediately accepted his invitation as JonJon remained standing and looked at Jenn with question.

"Will you lounge with us?" JonJon asked hopefully.

Jenn looked at him with indecision for a moment, then said, "Since you speak the captain's language, there is no need for me to be here."

JonJon smiled at her warmly and said, "Maybe not, but you could still sit with us and tell us about yourself."

Jenn looked around and noticed that the captain was looking at her curiously.

"Yes, I would like that, but not here. I believe that Captain Rasch would like to talk with your friends." Jenn said shyly.

"I think they'd like to talk to him too. Where can we go?" JonJon asked gently.

"Let's go to that platform over there." Jenn said as she pointed.

"Lead the way." JonJon said as he looked deeply into her eyes.

* * * * *

"I never really thought about if JonJon was gay or straight before, but I guess now I know." Vincent said as he watched JonJon and Jenn slowly walk down the ramp.

{"It was our understanding that the Federation and the Gorn had only encountered each other one time and that it did not go well.") Captain Rasch said in a relaxed voice.

{"I really don't know anything about that."} Lehman said honestly.

{"I don't know much more than what you just said. But 'the Federation' didn't really meet the Gorn this last time, just us three and two others."} Vincent said frankly.

{"Then how did you come to learn our language?"} Captain Rasch asked with interest.

Vincent considered for a moment, and finally said, {"When we were on the Gorn ship we were given our necklaces. I'm not sure exactly how or why it happened, but after that we found out that we had learned each other's languages. Oscar spoke Gorn, so now we all do."}

{"Will you please relax. My questions aren't formal inquiries on behalf of my government, they are simply my curiosity about the races I've only observed by subspace video transmissions up to now."} Captain Rasch said lazily.

{"Okay. What else would you like to know?"} Vincent asked as he laid back and rested his head on his interlaced fingers.

{"There is one thing that I am curious about."} Captain Rasch said slowly.

{"What's that?"} Vincent asked as he became more comfortable under the bright light.


* * * * *

"Is someone listening to everything we say right now?" JonJon asked curiously as he took a seat on the platform beside Jenn.

"No. While I was aboard your ship I was transmitting all my visual, auditory and scanning data. Once we returned to this ship I will only transmit that which I feel will be of interest to the elders." Jenn said carefully.

"So when you looked at our necklaces, you were scanning us?" JonJon asked curiously.

"Yes. I was created with a sophisticated scanning array should the need arise for me to gather information covertly." Jenn said timidly.

"Have you ever had to do that?" JonJon asked with concern.

"No. This was the first time I have ever left the Soleen-Avalla system." Jenn said as she looked bashfully into JonJon's eyes.

"Are there a lot of Androids on your world?" JonJon asked in a friendly tone.

"No. I am one of two that were created." Jenn said quietly.

"Really? Why only two?" JonJon asked curiously.

"When the Soleen became aware of the Mammal species venturing out into space, they constructed me to be a public face and voice for the Soleen, and later the Soleen-Avalla." Jenn said distantly.

"I guess that makes sense, but why did they create another one?" JonJon asked curiously.

"Because when they constructed me, they did so using the features that they believed Humans found attractive. Later they discovered that they made me too young and that Humans would not be able to accept me as an authoritative figure representing an entire planetary system." Jenn said quietly.

"So the other Android they constructed appears to be older?"

"Yes. His appearance is what the Earthers call, 'middle-aged'. His features are modeled after many political leaders and authority figures from the past decades." Jenn said darkly.

"Why does that make you sad?" JonJon asked curiously.

"Because he was able to fulfill the purpose I was created for." Jenn said distantly.

JonJon nodded as he whispered, "I understand."

"You do?" Jenn asked uncertainly.

"Yes. I too was created for a specific purpose, to be a companion. When my family died, my purpose died with them." JonJon said distantly.

"How do you endure?" Jenn asked in a pained voice.

"It was difficult, I contemplated searching for a way to end my existence, but with the help of my friends I finally found a new purpose, to be Trach Manja. And this purpose wasn't chosen for me, but was something that I freely accepted for myself." JonJon said as he looked deeply into Jenn's eyes.

"That's why I accepted the liaison position to the new colony... I had hoped..." Jenn trailed off with defeat.

"What's wrong?" JonJon asked curiously.

Jenn forced a smile onto her face as she said, "Nothing really. I thought I could be happy being the liaison between the Soleen-Avalla and the colony since it would be nearly the same as my original purpose but now..."

"What?" JonJon asked quietly.

"Well, now that looks like such an empty future. I mean, you'll be leaving to travel the universe on your starship fulfilling your purpose as Trach Manja and I'll be here, both literally and figuratively between two worlds." Jenn said darkly.

"Jenn, I think there's something that you're not understanding." JonJon said cautiously.

"What's that?" Jenn asked as unformed tears glittered in her eyes.

"I'm not leaving. I'm going to live at the new colony." JonJon whispered.

"One of the Trach Manja is going to be living at the new colony?" Jenn asked in wonder.

"No. Two of the Trach Manja are going to be living there." JonJon said with a smile.

"So I'll be able to see you again?" Jenn asked as her excitement grew.

"I'd be disappointed if you didn't." JonJon said gently.

Jenn smiled shyly at the statement as she looked deeply into JonJon's eyes.

* * * * *

After closing the top of his jumpsuit and waiting for Lehman's giggles to subside, Vincent relaxed back and waited for the captain's next question.

{"Tell me of your home. What is it like?"} Captain Rasch asked curiously.

{"Well, my world has quite a few different climate zones. But Florida, the place where I live, it's kinda like this in the summer. Hot and humid."} Vincent said casually.

{"Where I lived it usually didn't get this hot, but it was just as humid."} Lehman said as he turned onto his stomach, then rested his chin on his joined hands.

A tall and horribly thin man walked onto the platform and at first glance seemed to be wrapped in something like dirty gauze bandages. It took a moment for Vincent to get his eyes to focus on the man's white arms in the bright light, but finally he was able to focus and understand.

He was covered with feathers.

The man made a few chirps and squawks to the captain.

Vincent and Lehman froze as they realized that they both understood what he was saying.

{"The elders wish to inquire of the conditions of the Trach Manjai and if there are any arrangements that can be made so they will be comfortable when they arrive."}

Lehman looked at Vincent with question.

"I guess the plural of Trach Manja is Trach Manjai?" Vincent said uncertainly.

{"Tell them that the Trach Manjai are well and if I discover any needs, I will contact them immediately."} Captain Rasch responded in the Gorn language.

The young man let out a few clucks and a short squawk which both boys knew meant, {"I will tell them right away."}

"That wasn't Eagle was it?" Lehman asked cautiously.

Vincent thought for a moment, then slowly shook his head and said, "Not really. But I think it was close enough that we were able to understand it. Eagle isn't like other languages, it doesn't really have grammar or individual words. Each sound is it's own entire concept."

Lehman nodded in thought at the analysis.

{"I'm sorry if my first officer disturbed you."} Captain Rasch said carefully.

Vincent looked at the Captain and smiled as he said, {"He didn't upset us, we were just discussing his language."}

{"Yes. It seems ironic that our two species are physically unable to speak each other's languages. All our children are taught to understand both languages from a young age."} Captain Rasch said distantly.

{"Wow. That had to be tough. It's amazing that your two species have been able to get along with each other."} Vincent said seriously.

{"We haven't."} Captain Rasch said quietly.

Vincent looked at Captain Rasch with surprise.

{"A very long time ago..."} Captain Rasch began to say.

"Vincent! Look!" Lehman said with excitement as he pointed at the next platform.

Vincent sat up in time to see JonJon and Jenn gazing into each others eyes and apparently moments away from kissing.

"Way to go JonJon!" Vincent said with a smile.

{"This is good. Jenn has been sullen and withdrawn for far too long."} Captain Rasch said from Vincent's side.

{"I'm guessing that JonJon's going to be in a better mood too."} Vincent said with a chuckle.

JonJon and Jenn turned in unison to find everyone watching them.

"Busted!" Vincent called out, then broke into giggles.

JonJon blushed, then leaned in to listen when Jenn whispered something to him.

A moment later they were walking down the ramp off their platform.

* * * * *

{"We will be arriving at Soleena shortly. Come and I will show you the command center."} Captain Rasch said as he slowly stood.

{"We're there already? I thought it would take at least a day to get there."} Vincent said curiously.

{"Our technology is a little more advanced than what you are used to. Come along."} Captain Rasch said proudly as he started walking down the ramp.

Vincent and Lehman scrambled to their feet so they could join him.

* * * * *

"Jenn said that we're almost at their world." JonJon said quietly.

"Yeah, that was a lot faster than I thought it would be." Vincent said as he fell into step at JonJon's side.

{"Come and see my command center."} Captain Rasch said as he led the way through large double doors.

* * * * *

Vincent looked around the large open room and was confused by the lack of instrumentation.

There were a few panels around the edges of the room, but they were dark and no one was manning them.

The first officer chirped something quickly to the Captain to draw his attention.

The captain chuckled and said, {"Come over here so you can see our world."}

All three boys hurried to the captain's side and stared at the holographic solar system that appeared in the middle of the room.

{"The blue world is Soleena, that is our home."} Captain Rasch said happily.

{"Traffic has been cleared and we have been given priority approach status. Central AI requests permission to assume control."} the first officer chirped seriously.

{"Ship, interface with Central AI and confirm the flight plan."} Captain Rasch said firmly.

A moment later a disembodied voice said, {"The proposed flight plan is confirmed. Projecting course."}?

All three boys watched as a transparent tube appeared in the holographic solar system.

{"Show me the atmospheric entry and landing points."} Captain Rasch said as he looked at the course carefully.

The hologram expanded and finally settled to show the tube running from the outer atmosphere to a point on the planet's surface.

{"Yes. Accept the flight plan and let Central AI have control."} Captain Rasch said seriously.

{"Central AI has assumed control. Arrival time will be nine minutes."} the ships AI said dispassionately.

{"Captain, if we have time I'd really like to see your deflector control department."} Vincent said quickly.

The captain smiled at Vincent, then said, {"Those functions are handled by the ship's AI and we actually have very little to do with it. If for some reason we had to run it manually, the control panel for that system is right over here."}

Vincent followed Captain Rasch to something that looked like a mosaic of broken glass embedded in the countertop.

{"I don't understand how you know which controls do which things."} Vincent said as he looked at the control panel carefully.

{"Perhaps you don't know how to read our language. All the controls are clearly marked."} Captain Rasch said seriously.

{"I don't see any markings."} Vincent said as he leaned in closer.

The first officer chirped which drew Vincent's attention.

{"His visual range might be more like mine."}

Vincent looked up into the feathered man's solid black eyes curiously.

The first officer lifted one of his taloned hands to just above the control panel and pressed a single button that Vincent hadn't noticed before.

A bluish/lavender light shone on the control panel and a series of markings could clearly be seen on all the small crystalline controls.

Vincent cleared his throat before saying in Eagle, {"Thank you. I can see them now."}

The first officer stumbled two steps back and seemed to be in shock.

{"Did I do something wrong?"} Vincent asked the captain in Gorn.

The captain gave a full, hearty laugh from deep in his chest before saying, "{No young mammal. You've just confirmed that you truly are Trach Manja. Above all classes and castes."}

The first officer seemed to have regained his composure and quietly chirped, {"I am Treep. I am honored to meet you."}

Vincent smiled at the reverent and respectful tone in Treep's voice.

{"It's nice to meet you too Treep."} Vincent said as gently as he could in Eagle.

{"Your language is so different... so musical."} Treep said slowly, apparently in awe.

{"On my planet, this language is the natural speech of the species Eagle. My brothers and I are the only Humans who speak it."} Vincent said carefully.

{"Eagle?"} Treep asked curiously, then looked upward and chirped, {"Ship, please display the Earth species 'Eagle'."}

A large holographic image of an American Bald Eagle appeared in the center of the room and began to slowly rotate.

{"She is beautiful... and you speak her language?"} Treep asked in fascination.

{"Yes. And I think that if you ever meet an Eagle, you could probably understand each other."} Vincent said with a smile at Treep's enjoyment.

{"We are approaching the Central Government Complex."} the Ship's voice said seriously in Gorn.

{"Come now. Jenn will take you to meet our leaders."} Captain Rasch said gently as he made a motion to the main door.

{"Could Treep come with us too?"} Vincent asked before thinking.

Captain Rasch smiled and said, {"Once we have landed Treep may join you."}

{"Central AI has transmitted coordinates for teleport."} the Ship's voice said seriously.

{"You may go now to talk with the Elders. Treep and I will join you as soon as the ship has landed and been secured."} Captain Rasch said professionally.

{"Thank you Captain."} Vincent said for the group of boys.

A fountain of multi-colored sparkles enveloped the boys and Jenn an instant later.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

Well, I must say that was indeed a treat. Jenn seems to be very nice and it would seem that Jon-Jon may have found his mate. That will be so nice for both of them. It seems to me that maybe not only does Lehman have two dads, but he also has a nice new mom as well.? Of course I am only speculating.? Remember, as I write these notes, I have just finished reading this chapter, so I am no farther ahead than you are. I do, however have plenty of curiosity as to what will happen next. Let's hope things will work out well for everyone concerned.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher