Memories Part 1: The Gathering

Chapter 16

Kevin ran after AJ. "What's the hurry?'

"Unless you want two of your new nephews committing murder, you better get the lead out!" AJ shouted back.

Kevin caught up with AJ just as they were reaching the back of the property, and went into shock at what he saw as they rounded a row of hedges. Jason was lying on the ground on his stomach, pants around his ankles, with Sean sitting on his back, pulling his arms back almost to the point of separating Jason's shoulders. Dylan was in the same position, only with Cory on his back.

"Sean Michael Short, you BETTER have a good explanation for this!" Kevin exploded.

Sean replied in a deep voice, his barely restrained rage evident. "These bastards are cheating with each other on Uncle Brian and Uncle Justin."

"REPEAT THAT!" Kevin said in shock.

"You heard him," an enraged Cory all but yelled, "these two were screwing like rabbits. I'm just deciding which arm to rip off first to make stew with." To emphasize his point, he yanked hard on Dylan's right arm, causing a loud "POP", and causing Dylan to scream like a girl in pain.

"Let them up," Kevin said through clenched teeth. "I'll make sure Chip leaves that arm for you, Cory. The rest of the limbs are all his. Sean, you can bargain with Josh over your piece. Let's get this trash up to the house, before I decide to just bury them here."

As he was standing up, Jason sneered, "I love how you take these little snot-nosed punks word without asking us."

Before Kevin could react, AJ picked Jason up by the shirt and slammed him against the nearest tree. "If I EVER hear another comment like that about my nephews out of that sewage pit you call a mouth, you're gonna be shitting every tooth you have."

AJ put Jason down and Kevin told him and Dylan "Get your skanky asses up to the house and into the living room. You both have some serious explaining to do. And I mean NOW!"

The two men started to shuffle towards the house, but ended on their faces in the dirt when Sean and Cory drop-kicked them from behind. "I would suggest you move a LOT faster if you want to be able to sit when you get there!" Sean growled at the two as AJ and Kevin dragged them back to their feet.

They reached the house and were almost in the living room when Justy came down the stairs. "Uncle Curly and Uncle Bri are up in Sean's room with the boys. Dad and Pop will be right down," he told Kevin.

"How did you know what's happening?" Kevin asked, surprised.

"My lil bros couldn't miss it. We'll keep the rest of the kids busy while you deal with this trash." Justy replied, then turned and spit on Jason and Dylan and said, "You are not related to me anymore."

Jason stood up and slapped Justy's face, just as Chip and Josh entered the hall. Josh snapped, running up and giving Jason a right hook that laid him out flat on the floor. "If you ever even touch my son, ANY of my sons, ever again I promise you'll wish you had never been born."

Chip rolled Jason on his back, nailed him with a right hook, then informed him "The only reason I'm not killing you right now is my baby brother and cousin are first in line for what you have done to them. Right now instead of sitting by the pool watching your SONS getting acquainted with their new family, they are upstairs trying to protect the boys from finding out what you two have done." He then pointed at Justy, who was cuddled between Sean and Cory, the two boys holding him protectively. "Right there is one of the four most important people in my life. If you attack him, you attack me. My son is standing there with a handprint and tears on his face instead of his normal smile. He said you are both no longer family to him. You might as well add me, Josh and the twins to that list."

Dylan cynically commented, "You know, it's funny - you are condemning people for things I have heard nobody say anything about, and on top of it you are standing up for your brat when he was the one that spit on us!"

Chip spun around to face Dylan, his face starting to turn red. "I got a little surprise for you, Romeo. First off, Justy knows more about you than your own husbands do about now. There's a good reason for that; his new little brothers seem to have been gifted with telepathy. When AJ took off with Kevin, they were curious and, for lack of a better description, 'scanned' AJ to see what was going on. From what Justy has told me, all the cuddling they've been doing is more than we thought, Seems they have developed a way to transfer thoughts to Justy, and he can do limited talking to them. They scanned you two losers and pulled every detail of what you have been doing the last six months, and gave every bit of it to Justy. I know what you just did, and can find out more just by asking. As far as the spitting goes, be glad that's all he did. He was going to piss on you, but Jacob reminded him you liked it last month."

"Yeah right." Dylan responded. "Next thing you're gonna tell me is the kids can talk to ghosts too."

Chip started to respond, but Justy interrupted him. "Dad, let me answer."

Chip looked at the serious look on his son's face. "Go ahead, angel. As long as you are sure."

"I'm sure. First, ghosts are Kyle's specialty, just ask Uncle Kevin. Second, does Atlanta, May 14th of this year, doggy style in the dressing room during the third set, using olive oil for lube, ring any bells? Or how's about something more recent: four days ago, about 3pm, in Brian's garage, 69'ing in the Lexus? Do I need to continue? Oh, by the way, Jacob just asked Uncle Nicky if sperm stains velour seats. Nicky said yep, Aaron got busted that way once, fortunately he was able to lie about who it was with. How ya gonna explain THAT one to Uncle Bri?"

Justy gave a satisfied smirk at the ghost-white faces of Dylan and Jason in front of him. "I thought so. By the way, you might as well stop thinking of ways to get back at us. It's kinda hard to do when we know about it as soon as you think about it. Jamie just filled in Kyle and Ty, so within the next 10 minutes every kid but Rusty and Robbie will know what's been happening."

At that point Anne came roaring in, followed by what could only be described as a multi-generational lynch mob. She took one look at Jason and Dylan, and then turned to Chip. "Get that fossilized doctor down here. I want these two revived when they pass out from the reaming they are about to get."

Chip went to reach for his communicator when he started to feel the room start spinning. Josh and Justy noticed this and Justy caught his father. "Dad, let me, please? Your blood pressure is already way up. I can see it." Justy could feel the tears swelling in his eyes. "I love you, Daddy. Don't let those two turds hurt you. Sit down with Pop and calm down. Let me call the Enterprise. If the old fossil gives me any trouble I'll talk to Uncle Jim."

Josh took the communicator from Chip's belt and handed it to Justy. "Babe, admit it, he's right. Let's sit and watch the fireworks, it looks like Aunt Anne is in rare form. Besides, you need to calm down right now." Chip just nodded his head and allowed Josh to lead him to the rec room, where they sat down.

Justy grabbed the communicator and moved onto the stairs. "Thanks Pop." He then opened the cover. "Dodds to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Uhura here. Justy, what are you doing using your Dad's communicator?"

"Hi Aunt Nyota. Can you patch me through to Sickbay? We kinda need Doc down here."

"What's wrong with your Dad?" Nyota asked in a concerned voice.

"Pop's calming him down right now, before he has a heart attack. His blood pressure is really high. Please, can I just talk to the Doc?"

Kirk's voice then came over the communicator. "Justy, this is Uncle Jim. Bones is on his way to the transporter room now. What is going on down there that would keep both your Dad and Pop from calling?"

Justy looked at the group assembling around their targets. He suddenly realized what could happen, and let the fear show in his voice as he answered. "Uncle Jim, you know the lynch mobs they show in the movies? I think I'm looking at one about 20 feet away from me."

"Don't move from that spot, Justy! I'm on my way down. Stay on the comlink with your Aunt Nyota until I get there."

Justy heard Kirk in the background as he explained to Nyota what happened, so he was not surprised when four forms materialized in front of him. McCoy immediately headed to the rec room to check on Chip, while Scotty and Kirk joined Justy on the stairs. Mr. Spock stood in front of Justy with a raised eyebrow.

"Justin," Mr. Spock began, "It appears that your assessment of the situation was quite accurate. Are you capable of enlightening us as to the cause of this irrational behavior?"

Justy looked up at the man that, by Vulcan law, was legally his uncle. He knew an emotional response would be inappropriate, although he knew that Spock would understand. He thought for a second, making sure he had the proper phrasing, and then stood to face Spock. "Uncle, it is sure that my emotions would cloud the information you seek if I was to speak. I have been practicing thought transfers with my new brothers. Would that be more acceptable for you to learn the truth?"

"That would be logical, nephew. Let us retire outdoors to lessen your distractions."

Ten minutes later they returned and rejoined the group at the stairs, which had grown as McCoy, Chip and Josh had joined them. Josh had a protective arm around his husband's waist. Chip was leaning on Josh, his head resting on Josh's shoulder. As they walked up, they could hear AJ going off on Jason.

"Jason, you heartless bastard, do you realize that right now your husband is sitting up there with a boy who is in the same shoes as me - an addict?"

Jason replied, "Now you are ranting. If he was an addict McCoy would have told us."

"Hey stupid - the Doc DID! An addict is someone whose body can not process a chemical, which causes either an unnatural craving and dependency or bodily damage. If I drink Nyquil, it could kill me - if he has sugar it could do the same to him. I'm weaned off of alcohol; he needs to be weaned off of sugar. Tell me the difference!"

Everyone on the stairs tuned out the happenings in the other room as Spock walked up to Chip and Josh, placed his hand on Justy's shoulder, and said "Chip? Joshua? Young Justin is progressing above the levels expected for his maturity. I expect to see him and the two youths whom you have rescued for a short training session this afternoon."

Josh put his hand on Chip's shoulder and stood up. "We are honored by your request to train your nephews, and we accept. May I suggest you include our nephews Tyler and Kyle? I believe you will find their abilities 'interesting' to investigate."

"Young Justin made mention of them. Your reasoning is sound, Joshua. Inform the two youths that they are to join your sons. I shall return in 2.5 minutes. A matter has come to my attention which must be resolved."

Spock walked into the other room, the crowd parting as he strode purposely towards Jason and Dylan. McCoy took one look at the way the Vulcan was walking, and yanked out his communicator. "McCoy to Enterprise. Tell Chapel to grab everything she can and get down here NOW! We've got a rabid green-blooded Vulcan on our hands! McCoy OUT."

Spock reached the two, stood just out of arms reach, and spoke to the rest of the group. "I must end this interrogation. Starfleet regulations state that the residence of a Starfleet officer falls under Starfleet jurisdiction for all legal matters. This residence is the primary domicile for two officers of the Starship Enterprise, Ensigns Cory and Sean Short. Additionally, as per regulations, Vulcan law applies to any domicile being used as a temporary or permanent residence by a citizen of Vulcan. As with the case of Mr. Dodds and his family are temporarily residing here, that statute applies to this situation. Mr. Dodds is not only a Vulcan citizen; but he is, what humans would call, 'adopted' into my own family."

Spock then turned around, and faced Jason. "Mr. Mitchell, stand." Jason knew that he was in deep trouble with the Vulcan when he was referred to as 'Mr. Mitchell'. Spock continued, "As stipulated in Vulcan law, your mate will be given the option of having you castrated for your unfaithfulness. There is another matter which I must bring to closure myself. Extend your right hand."

Jason had never seen the look on Spock's face he saw then, so he carefully extended his hand, mentally prepared to pull back if needed.

Spock grabbed the hand with both of his in a grip which could not be broken. "You have assaulted a youth of my family, specifically my young nephew. Vulcan law requires me, as the eldest male present, to determine suitable retribution for the transgression. Logic dictates the offending member be sufficiently injured as to serve as a permanent reminder not to repeat the offense." Spock then tightened his grip, the sounds of bones breaking evident to the entire room. The pain was too much for Jason, and he passed out.

McCoy checked the damage as soon as Spock released the mangled hand and let Jason drop to the floor. "Dammit Spock, you missed the thumb!" McCoy grumbled as he proceeded to immobilize the hand. "There, is that a satisfactory reminder?" he asked sarcastically.

"That should suffice as a beginning." Spock replied with both eyebrows raised. His ears picked up the whimpers of Jamie and Jacob. Spock turned to face the young boys. "Jamie? Jacob? Your actions today were as expected from citizens of Vulcan. There has not been sufficient time for you to learn the customs of your second home. The punishments you are seeing are only allowed if the person has committed acts which are destructive to the population or his family. Please communicate with Justin; his knowledge is sufficient to begin your teachings." Both boys concentrated, and began to relax once they learned what was happening.

Spock then turned to Dylan. "Mr. Waters, stand."

Dylan was suddenly glad he had not struck anyone, so he stood up, expecting just a verbal attack. He, too, knew that he was in deep trouble with the Vulcan when Spock referred to him as 'Mr. Waters".

"It is my understanding that one of the Enterprise's junior officers attempted to physically amputate your arm. Rest assured he will be dealt with accordingly, and next time will successfully complete the task. Logic dictates that due to Mr. Littrell being Mr. Dodds' brother by adoption, he is also mine. As such, you have committed an act of infidelity against a member of my family. If he chooses castration, I will perform the procedure myself. It is my responsibility to ensure you are not capable of repeating the offense during the period he is considering his response." Spock then kicked out, breaking Dylan's right leg just above the knee.

Christine had beamed down, and went to work on Dylan. What she heard as Kirk walked over shocked her.

"Only do what's necessary to stabilize them." Kirk said forcibly. "Let the local hospital worry about repairs. Those two have lost any rights to medical treatment on my ship."

Christine looked at McCoy, who just nodded his head in agreement.

Kirk turned to Josh. "Josh, it's my understanding that your bandmates are planning on spending the afternoon working instead of relaxing. Is that the case?"

Josh grinned. "Yep, it's for a good cause though."

"Well, I want them all to come up for lunch. Get them together, Backstreet too, and they can transport up with us. You, Chip, Curly, Brian and the boys come up on the shuttle. The rest of the adults will be waiting for you on the Enterprise. I'll have a few crew members give them a hand later to ensure everything is ready."

"Sounds like a plan! Give me ten minutes to get everyone ready. Just seeing some of their faces when they transport out will be worth it!"

McCoy made the final arrangements for Dylan and Jason's trip to the hospital, and then joined Chip, Sean, Cory, Justy and the twins in the rec room. "I'm glad that green-blooded hobgoblin wasn't mad" he grumbled as he sat down.

Sean asked Chip in awe "Are you really Spock's brother?"

"Yep. I was adopted into his family a few years ago after a diplomatic mission on the Enterprise by Spock's parents, Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and his wife, the Lady Amanda. Your Uncle Josh became their son as well when he married me. Justy is his nephew, and the twins are one ceremony short of becoming his official nephews. From what I just heard though, their status is already confirmed. When he told Justy to start training them, that was the first step."

Cory then asked McCoy, "Doc, I heard you say you were glad he wasn't angry. I thought Vulcans had no emotions. So how could he be mad?"

McCoy grinned. "Don't let them fool you. Trust me, after carrying him around in my head I can guarantee they have emotions, they just keep them bottled up. I've seen what happens when that green-blooded hobgoblin lets loose, a rabid lion attack would be a pat on the back compared to what he could have done with his bare hands."

Cory looked at Sean. "Babe, remind me never to piss off a Vulcan!"

Chip chuckled. "Good idea, Cory. It's also a good idea not to mess with their families. Just ask the two who left in the ambulances!"

Josh walked back in. "Jim said get ready, Doc. Everyone's gathering now to beam up."

McCoy started grumbling about 'molecule scrambling' as he headed toward the doorway. Chip could not resist taunting him. "Doc, if you didn't complain so much, you might have a chance at convincing Scotty to set it to de-fossilize you when you re-materialize!"

McCoy turned to comment, but turned back around when he saw the barely suppressed laughter on everyone's face. "Damn kids these days. No respect for their elders." he was heard to mumble as he passed the doorway.

Sean looked around the limo as they pulled onto I-80 to head to the airport. He whispered to Cory, who was snuggled close into him "You know something, Cor? A month ago, all I wanted was to have you back and be able to cuddle like this. If you had told me all the rest of this would happen too, I woulda laughed. Now look at us, I have the one person back who makes my life complete ..."

Cory interrupted him with a wicked smile. "Really? Who's the person who makes your life complete? I'd like to meet him!"

Sean smiled. "Nice try; YOU are the only one who makes me complete, you silly little elf!"

Cory blushed. "What ever you say, teddy bear. You know, I remembered something this morning; it seems kinda funny now looking back. Remember when Mikey caught us making out about a week before the accident?"

Sean instinctively pulled Cory in close, still unsure of how Cory would react while talking about his latest recovery. "Yeah, you wanna talk about it?"

As Cory prepared to answer, he noticed that all the rest of the kids in the limo shifted around so they were surrounding him and Sean. He was about to comment when Tyler spoke up.

"Big bro, you and Sean have been there for all of us when we needed help. It's only fair we should be here for you." Tyler then cuddled up under Cory's free arm as Adam continued.

"You were talking in your sleep last night, bro. We all know you have been keeping quiet, trying not to worry any of us. Sean, the twins made sure you slept through last night, but the rest of us took turns making sure Cory was okay all night. The two of you have done everything you could to help the rest of us when we needed it, now it's our turn to pay you back."

Chip spoke from the other side of the limo. "Adam, let me explain it, kiddo. Our three had a talk with us this morning, just after they gave us their usual good-morning pounce. Cory, Sean? You both know the twins are full-blown telepaths, and Kyle is not too far behind them. It seems that your little brother has a gift too; Tyler is an empath. Do you know what that means?"

Cory thought for a second. "That means he can read emotions, don't it?"

"Very close. In his case, he actually can feel others emotions, and in turn cause the emotions someone is feeling to change. It's a rare gift on Earth, but there are other humanoid races where it is common. The plan all these guys came up with last night is this: Tyler is going to watch your emotions, when he sees that you have the combination of guilt and grief that shows up every time you start to remember something, he's going to send a pre-arranged emotion to Kyle, who will then contact the twins via 'Kylegram'. The twins will then broadcast to everyone else that whoever is nearby needs to go to you until Sean can be there."

Cory looked around at the concerned faces surrounding him. "I don't know what to say. I've been trying to make sure you guys were happy after all that's happened to you, but now you are turning it around. Thanks, bros. Neither one of us will ever forget this, we both owe you forever." He then wiped a stray tear from his cheek and pulled Ty into a cuddle with him and Sean.

Aaron surprised them all as he spoke up softly. "Sean, Cory; you guys are my little brothers now. Let me worry about the big problems, you two just worry about each other. From what I've seen and heard, the two of you have done enough in the last two weeks to wear out even Chip. You need to take a break and let me deal with things now. I know what it's like to have to stop being a kid before you are grown up. I refuse to let you go through that. Anything that comes up from now on you call me. If I can't handle it, I'll find someone in the family who can. Now, how's about telling us about you guys getting busted; I wanna hear that one myself!"

Cory chuckled. "Whatever, bro. Actually, now it IS kinda funny to think about, but we were both scared when it happened. Mom was out restocking the fridge, and Mikey was supposed to be over at the neighbors helping clean out the garage. Sean and I were watching ET for about the zillionth time and as usual at the end he was crying on my shoulder."



"Sean, you know what this does to me when you do this"

"Sorry, Cor. It's just the end makes me sad."

"Why did you insist on watchin' it then?"

"'Cause I know you'll cuddle me."

Cory leaned back and pulled Sean on top of him. "Like I really need an excuse to cuddle you! You're so cute, who could resist!"

Sean giggled. "The only cute one here is lying under me. Now shaddap and kiss me, you fool!"

"That's the best idea you've had all week." Cory said as he pulled Sean's face towards his.

The kiss started with both boys keeping their mouths closed, but Cory soon opened his mouth slightly and gently ran the tip of his tongue over Sean's lips. Sean parted his lips, and returned the gesture; then softly sucked Cory's tongue into his mouth. Within seconds, they were both trying to locate each others tonsils enthusiastically. At the same time, their hands began roaming over each others bodies. Cory slowly slipped his hand into the back of Sean's shorts, and began caressing his smooth globes.

"What the HECK do you two think you're doing?!?!"

Cory and Sean separated in record time, and looked up to see Mike standing over them. They jumped to their feet, looking for an escape route.

Mike looked at them sternly. "Don't even try it. Plant yourselves on the couch, NOW! Now could one of you answer my question, preferably today?"

Both boys sat down and stared at their feet. Neither one spoke, afraid anything they said would get them in more trouble. They were shocked when Mike pushed them apart and sat between them, placing an arm over each boy's shoulder.

In a much calmer voice, Mike spoke to them. "Hey lil' bros, sorry to scare you like that, but what would have happened if Mom had walked in on you two? You probably don't know this, but she figured out that you two were gay and boyfriends a while back, but it still would not be cool to throw it in her face like that."

Cory looked at Mike accusingly. "Did you tell her?"

Mike gave Cory a hurt look. "Bro, you know I wouldn't do that. A couple months ago, she talked to me while you two were down at the park. She told me what she thought, she was worried that I would find out and either hurt you guys or shut you out. I pretended I didn't know, and told her that if she was right that I would still be the same big brother to you as I have always been."

Sean gave Mike a worried look. "Does she still love us?"

Mike kissed Sean's forehead. "Yes, lil' one, she still loves you both. You know if there had been a problem I would have got you out of here; I promised you guys I would protect you forever when you first told me, and that still stands. Sean, you don't need to worry, between Cory and me nobody will ever hurt you and get away with it."

Cory reached an arm around and hugged Mike. "Sorry Mikey. I guess we let it get a little out of hand, huh?"

Mike chuckled. "Lil' bro, if it had been a movie, you were moving from an 'R' rating to an 'X' rating real quick, or at least your right hand was!"

Cory blushed. "MIKEY!"

"Sorry bro, but the truth hurts! Why don't you two hit the pool and cool off, I'll bring some drinks out and join you in a few, okay?"

Both boys breathed a sigh of relief, and ran to the changing room after giving their big brother a hug.

End Flashback

Curly leaned across the group and hugged Sean and Cory. "It sounds like Mike was an awesome brother. I'm sure he's proud of you two now."

Cory smiled. "Thanks, Uncle Justin. Something felt weird when I was telling that though."

Curly parted the boys so he could kneel in front of Cory and Sean. "I have an idea what it was, but I'll ask a couple questions to make sure. Sean?"

"Yeah, Uncle Justin?"

"Think real carefully. Before Mike's accident, which one of you was usually the one going to the other for comfort?"

Sean thought for a minute. "You know, now that I think about it, usually it was me. If I had a problem, I'd go to Cory, and if he had one he went to Mike."

Curly smiled. "That's what I thought, and it kinda explains a little of the stress you two are showing. I'll bet you are afraid to lean on Cory like you used to, Sean. And Cory, I'll bet you feel like you are missing someone to lean on, and don't feel right leaning on Sean."

Both boys looked at him in shock as they realized that Curly was right.

"Uncle Justin?" Cory asked softly.

"Yeah, buddy. You okay?"

"I think so. I think you are right, but what can I do?"

Aaron slid over next to Curly. "Cory, lil' bro, I realize for the next couple of months it will have to be by phone, but I would be honored to be the one you lean on. And if something happens and you can't get ahold of me, you have a buncha' uncles and a few aunts who are more than glad to help or listen."

Curly smiled. "He's right. Your mom gave him the big brother position. He won't replace Mike. Nobody can do that. But I know that Aaron will do whatever it takes to help you."

Cory leaned forward and pulled Curly and Aaron into a hug. "Thanks, guys. I guess I still have a lot to re-learn, I'm really glad I've got y'all to help me out. I've never really felt right asking Sean for help since I came back; now I see why." Cory turned to Sean. "Baby, I'm really sorry I was so hard on you. It's gonna take a little work, but lets get back to the way we used to be, okay?"

Sean smiled. "Cory, just be yourself. If I need more than you can handle, tell me. I've been so scared that I'd hurt you if I counted on you for comfort like I used to, that you wouldn't be able to handle it. We both have a little relearning to do. If you are sure you are up to it, I'll try to loosen up some."

Josh chuckled. "It doesn't matter if he is up to it, Sean. You've been supporting everyone without anyone to support you. If you don't start opening up to him soon you will end up in the same state he was in a few months ago. Every strong person has someone they go to for comfort; for Chip, it's me; and for you it needs to be Cory again. Now, if y'all are done with your conference, we're gonna get a parking ticket if we don't get this limo off of the landing pad!"

The kids all looked at Josh with confused looks, and then piled out the doors as they realized the limo had been stopped for the last ten minutes. Chip laughed at the noises of shock and appreciation as all the boys saw the shuttle for the first time. As he exited the limo, he pulled Aaron and Curly to the side.

"Aaron, you first. That was an awesome promise to make to those boys. I really hope that you meant every word."

Aaron looked at Chip and smiled. "Chip, trust me. I meant every word I said. I feel so much better since Mom made me part of their family. There's no way I'm gonna break the promises I made."

"That's what I wanted to hear. You have made me proud, now you better go find David before he gets lost without you!"

Aaron blushed and ran off to rejoin his boyfriend. Chip then turned to Curly and pulled him into a hug.

"Jus, when did you grow up on me?" Chip said with a smile. "Not only did you just probably save those two's relationship; but you probably saved their sanity too."

Curly giggled. "Hey, I just did what either of them would have done. I saw a problem and tried to help them avoid it. Nothing special."

"That's a load of bull, and you know it. Two weeks ago, you would not have even listened to them; now you not only paid attention but thought about what was happening. Honestly, I'm not even sure you woulda caught it two DAYS ago. 'Fess up, what's the source of your sudden growing up?"

They started walking towards the shuttle as Curly was thinking. "You know Chip, this may be weird, but I feel totally different since Rusty appeared. It's like the part of me I was totally missing but didn't know about is suddenly here."

Chip smiled. "That's what I thought. It shows watching you when he's around. Welcome to fatherhood, Justin. I think you are going to do an awesome job. Go find Rusty before you break your neck watching him. You have made me prouder of you today than I have ever been."

Curly hugged Chip and said thanks, then all but ran to Rusty.

Chip walked up to Sean and listened as Tyler was talking to him.

"Big bro? Where's that shuttle from?" Tyler asked Sean.

Sean pulled Ty under his arm. "What does it say on the side? Why don't you read it to me?"

Tyler looked at the shuttle. "It says 'Columbus' up there on the front."

"That's the shuttle's name, lil bro. Look on the back, that's where it tells where the shuttle is from." Sean said patiently.

Tyler squinted in the sunlight, and read the lettering. "It says 'NCC-1701-A'. 'USS Enterprise'. WOW! Is it really from the Enterprise?"

"Yeppers! One of these days, I might be able to fly it; then I'll take you for a ride, okay? You better hurry up and find a seat!"

"KEWL! Thanks bro!" Ty yelled as he ran to the shuttle's rear door and up the ramp.

Chip chuckled, which got Sean's attention. "That was great, Sean. I think you just made his day! Now you better hurry up yourself."

Josh was standing at the door counting heads, as Chip entered he whispered something to Josh which brought a grin to his face.

Shuttlecraft Columbus:

Chip sat in the pilot's seat, bringing the shuttle's systems online. He yelled back to the passengers "Justy, are all the kids belted in properly?"

"Yeah, Dad. I'm just getting belted in now."

"Thanks, son." Chip grinned; thinking of how Captain Kirk had given Justy the responsibility of making sure everyone was belted in the first time Justy had ridden on a shuttle. Now it was tradition; no matter who the pilot was, if Justy was onboard he was responsible for checking belts. Chip then looked over at the empty seat to his right. 'Time to have some fun' he thought.

"ALRIGHT! WHERE is my CO-PILOT!" Chip yelled in as irritated of a voice as he could fake without breaking out in laughter.

"Pop's back here!" Justy giggled.

"Josh knows he's not allowed to co-pilot if another helm officer is on board." Chip responded. "Mr. Short! Stop making out with your boyfriend and report to your post!"

Sean responded in a shocked voice. "Really?? Uhh ... sorry ... Yes sir!"

Chip was unable to suppress a laugh when Sean sheepishly slipped into the co-pilot seat.

"Sorry sir, I thought since I was only a kid the regulations did not apply to me." Sean said sheepishly.

Chip smiled. "Cut the 'sir' crap, Sean. I'm doing this as a treat for you, not because of the regulations. Just so you know, after today they do apply. This will count as your co-pilot training." Chip noticed Sean stiffen at that. "Relax Sean, Josh is qualified. If he can do it you will have no problems."

"I HEARD THAT!" Josh shouted. "You are gonna pay for that later, hun!"

Chip turned to face his husband. "Promises, promises, big boy!"

Sean giggled. "What do you want me to do, Uncle Chip?"

"Did you study those data disks that I gave you?" Chip asked.


"Just follow the pre-launch routines from them. I'll tell you if you miss something."

"Okay." Sean concentrated, and slowly began checking readouts and adjusting controls. "I think I got it. Hatch is secured and hatch seal is verified. Life support and gravity are online and passed diagnostics. Communications online, engine prefire complete."

"Sounds good, you got it all. What's next?"

"You already checked to make sure the passengers were secure, so I guess it would be calling the tower for clearance."

"Very good! Just so you know, the Captain has ordered that Justy handle the passenger check if he's onboard. What are you waiting for?"

Sean placed the headset on, and dialed the tower frequency on the communications board. "Des Moines tower; this is shuttle Columbus. Requesting clearance for departure." Sean said in the deepest voice he could muster.

"Shuttle Columbus, this is Des Moines tower. Please state pilot and co-pilot names and destination."

Before Sean answered, Chip got his attention. "Tell them we are going via the San Francisco lane," he said over the intercom.

"Des Moines tower, this is shuttle Columbus. Pilot is Commander Charles Dodds, co-pilot is Ensign Sean Short. Destination is November Charley Charley One Seven Zero One Alpha. We will be using the San Francisco flight lane."

"Acknowledged, Columbus. Landing pad is clear. Ignite engines and standby for clearance."

"Columbus standing by. Thank you, Des Moines."

Sean looked at Chip "We are cleared to fire up the engines, then hold for flight clearance, Uncle Chip."

"Thanks, Sean. You are doing great! Just one thing: when you give them the registry number for the ship, you don't have to phonetically spell out the number. Our transponder sends the data as soon as we enter our course plan; you are just verifying the data. If what you said was not clearly understood to match, at that time they will request a phonetic repeat of the information." Chip then energized the impulse engine, hovering the shuttle about a foot off the ground.

"Columbus, this is Des Moines tower."

"This is Columbus. Go ahead, Des Moines." Sean replied.

"Columbus, you are number one for takeoff. You are cleared bearing two-six-three, altitude four-eight thousand feet. Transfer to Denver control for further instructions upon entering Mountain Time zone. Have a good flight."

Sean verified that his display matched the verbal information, then replied "Acknowledged, Des Moines. Columbus number one for takeoff bearing two-six-three, cruising altitude forty-eight thousand feet, transfer to Denver control upon entering Mountain Time zone. Thank you, and have a good day. Columbus out."

"I got it all Sean. Great job, you sounded like a pro!"

"I guess all those hours playing on the flight simulator games musta done some good, huh Uncle Chip?" Sean asked as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"Must have! You just made me very proud, and I'm sure the Captain is gonna be impressed when he reviews the flight logs. I've seen Academy grads that still can't do that good."

Sean beamed with pride at the praise from Chip, and started scanning the panels in front of him with renewed confidence as Chip lifted off and began their journey.

Orlando, FL - Orlando Interplanetary Spaceport

John was still in shock. As soon as he had arrived on the Enterprise, Captain Kirk had informed him he was to beam down for his interview with Starfleet Security. It ended up not being much of an interview; he had never seen anything like it.

"Mr. Martin, have a seat. Would you mind if I called you John?"

"Feel free, Admiral"

"I've been in contact with your supervisors; between their recommendations and the information given to me by Captain Kirk and Commander Dodds, the only real question I have is would you feel comfortable moving up to Chief of Starfleet Security for the Southeastern Region of North America? Before you answer, John, you should know everyone I've talked to in Des Moines has assured me you would have no problems with the responsibilities involved in the job. In fact, they are not much different than the ones you have now, just a little larger scale."

John thought for a second, then replied "Admiral that answered one question. I just would feel bad about leaving Polk County short-handed without notice."

The Admiral nodded. "John, that's one of the qualities that got my attention; your loyalty. You have no need to worry, I've been in discussion with the county board. We decided that if you accept the job, a Starfleet liaison will be assigned to the Polk County Sheriffs Department permanently. He will perform normal duties, as well as acting as a coordinator for Starfleet/civilian matters."

John grinned. "Sounds like you planned ahead, Admiral. I'll be up front with you; before I accept, I need to know if there will be any problems with me having a boyfriend and family."

"Well, John, you managed to sneak something past me! Congratulations on the boyfriend. If anyone gives you a problem about him let me know. Starfleet does not tolerate bigotry or discrimination. Who's the lucky guy?"

John smiled "Dan Richardson. We have 2 boys, both his sons."

"Ahhh ... Commander Dodds' older cousin. I guess that settles where you are going to live! How's this sound; if you accept, you start today. You will be listed as TAD in Des Moines until you can move to your new home; if anything comes up where you are needed here we can transport you to the 'port immediately."

John stood up. "Admiral, I accept. Thank you for your trust, it will not be violated."

The Admiral shook John's hand. "That is one thing I am not worried about. See the Ensign at her desk. She will take you to get your equipment."

Thank you, Sir. Have a good day."

John fingered the communicator on his belt, and sensed the phaser in the shoulder holster under his jacket. The bomber jacket itself was deceptive, the only thing that gave him away as Starfleet Security was the small emblem over the breast on the jacket, and the commander's insignia on the right shoulder strap. Inside the jacket, in special hidden pockets, was special security 'toys' that he had previously only dreamed of using.

John returned the salute of the guard as he crossed from the Starfleet area of the spaceport to the public area. He was hungry, so he decided to grab a snack before he returned to the Enterprise. He finished off the fish sandwich and strawberry shake from McDonalds, and headed to the restroom before leaving.

Years of training settled in as John entered the restroom quietly. The first thing he taught any new officer was to do that, there were numerous times he and his men had ended up with a bust from walking in on a crime in progress in the restrooms. He scanned the room, and saw nothing except two small sets of feet occupying one stall. He was about to relax his guard until he heard the voices from the stall.

"Are you okay, Jeffy?"

"Yeah, at least I'm not peeing blood this time."

"Why is daddy so mean? All you did is ask if we could get a snack."

"I don't know, Sammy. What bites is he would really hurt us if we tried to say anything about him hitting us. Who's gonna believe a couple of kids?"

John had heard more than he could stand. He walked up to the stall door. "I'll believe you. Starfleet Security, open up, please."

There was a pair of whimpers from behind the door, then it opened slightly. John carefully opened it further, and had his first look at the occupants. Inside was a pair of platinum blond boys, tears falling from their sky blue eyes.

"You're not in trouble, guys. How old are you, and what are your names?"

The nearest boy looked up at him. "I'm Sammy Taylor, this is my brother Jeffy. We're 10."

John's blood began to boil as he had a better look at the two boys. Sammy had a healing black eye, while Jeffy had an obviously fresh bruise forming just off to the side of where his kidney should be, along with a nose which had obviously been broken in the past. "Be honest, who did this to you guys?"

They both started to look at the floor, but John kneeled down and lifted their chins. "Guys, I can't help you if you lie. Tell me the truth, and I'll protect you."

In a weak voice, Jeffy answered. "Our Daddy did it. He says that's the only way we'll learn. If we don't get out there soon, he'll be mad. That's how my nose got broke last year."

"I need you guys to totally trust me, okay? I'd like you to stay in here until he comes in. I'm going to give you some pins to wear. They will record what he says and does. I'll be in the other stall, and that way I can catch him in the act. Does that sound okay to you?"

Both boys nodded. Sammy looked at John. "You promise to protect us?"

"You better believe it." John answered as he pulled two miniature bugs out of an inside jacket pocket and pinned them inside the boy's collars.

John pulled out his communicator. "Martin to Security Central."

"Central; go ahead, Commander."

"Central, activate and record on C-1 and C-4. Alert level two, standby to transport all occupants from my location on my cue."

"Understood, Commander. Alert level two, recording and transporter standing by. Do you need officers standing by at the pad?"

"Give me four officers, phasers set to stun only."

"Acknowledged. Standing by."

John had the boys re-enter the stall, and he entered the stall next to theirs and raised his feet to make it look unoccupied.

Five minutes later, someone entered the restroom, looking to see what stalls were occupied. Once he was sure the boys were the only ones in there, he spoke.

"Alright, you two brats! Get your butts out here and get your punishment for making me stand out there. I mean NOW!"

John heard the door unlatch, then the slam of it being forced open followed by two loud slaps. "You little brats ain't learned yet, have you? Get your asses out there; once I get you home you're gonna get a real reminder of who is the parent and who is the child. Don't make any plans, you ain't gonna be able to move for a few months."

"But...." Jeffy began to reply, his tears audible in his voice.

"DID I TELL YOU TO SPEAK?" the man said, the rustle of his clothes indicating that he was going to back up his words with action.

John jumped to his feet. "ENERGIZE!"

The four of them materialized in the Security transporter room a few seconds later, and the boy's father was hit with three stun rays from phasers as soon as he materialized. Just before the man crumpled to the floor, John noticed the fist just inches from Jeffy's jaw.

John checked the boys as the doctor that was standing by checked their father. Once he was sure there was no additional damage that required immediate attention, he stood and turned to his men. "Well done, gentlemen. I see that you came prepared; from the looks of it the rifle might have came in handy. Once you transfer this man to holding, drop by my office and give the Lieutenant your ID numbers; he will be expecting you. Your records will be noted with my approval of your professionalism."

The squad leader went to attention. "Thank you, sir. I know I speak for my squad, and probably the whole region, when I say welcome to Orlando and we all are proud to be serving under you."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. I would like to see this region meet the toughest standards in the fleet - those set by the crew of the Starship Enterprise. If your squad is any indication, we are already there. It looks like the Doc is done. Carry on."

The security team responded with crisp salutes. John had to restrain a chuckle as he overheard one of the junior men comment to their prisoner "Welcome to the worst day of your life. You just pissed off the Head of Security for this entire region. That means you are now on the scum list of every Starfleet security person in southeast North America."

John turned to the doctor. "Were you able to get a positive identification for me?"

"Yes, Sir. That ensign has no idea how much of an understatement he just made! Starfleet Security is the least of this guy's problems. He's been identified as Lieutenant Jonathon Taylor. And Commander, you're gonna love this."

"I am?" John said.

"Yes, sir. Mr. Taylor's current assignment is the Starship Enterprise, assigned to Helm Division. His superior officer is Commander Charles Dodds."

John grinned. "I think you're right; his problems are just starting! Chip's gonna have a field day with that one. I'll have McCoy send the med records down for you. I think he's gonna become a long-time resident."

The Doctor looked at John in shock as he watched the ensuing communications.

John flipped open his communicator and switched to the starship's frequency. "Martin to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Uhura here. Go ahead, John; and, by the way, congratulations."

"Thanks Nyota. I need to speak to Captain Kirk, Priority One, Official Business."

Nyota entered on-duty mode, realizing from that point on everything was official logs. "Stand by, Commander. I'll contact him for you."

"Standing by." John replied.

Thirty seconds later, he received a reply. "Kirk here. How may I help you, Commander?"

"I've had an incident with one of your crewmen, Captain. Would it be possible to schedule a conference between myself, you, Commander Dodds, and the head of Youth Services in approximately fifteen minutes onboard the Enterprise?"

"Consider it done. Mr. Dodds and his party are on final approach as we speak. Shall I inform Mr. Scott you are ready to beam up?"

"Yes, sir. There will be three to beam up, and if possible I would like Dr. McCoy standing by."

"That will be no problem. I'll see you when you get up here, Mr. Scott will call you when he is ready to beam you up. Kirk out."

"Martin out." John then closed his communicator and returned it to his belt.

The doctor shook his head in disbelief. "Every director before you has taken at least a year before any ship's Captain would even speak civil to them. On your first day, you have the Captain of the flagship of the fleet OFFERING to beam you up! If this is a preview of what things are gonna be like, I'm glad I'm on your team."

John smiled. "Thanks, from what I've seen today I think there's gonna be lots of happy faces around here for quite a while." John sat down in a nearby chair, pulled both boys onto his lap, and cuddled them while calling his office to notify his clerk of the expected visitors and what he wanted inserted into their records. Just as he finished, Scotty called him on his communicator, letting him know McCoy was standing by and they were ready to beam him and his companions up.

The boys had obviously done this a few times, as they automatically took positions next to John as soon as they heard they were beaming up.

As he watched them dematerialize, the doc thought to himself 'I hope he's doing what I think he's doing. Those two need a good home.'

Shuttlecraft Columbus, approaching San Francisco:

Chip smiled as Tyler took his turn checking out the cockpit while they were in flight. The boys had all taken turns, asking questions and enjoying the view.

"Whaddar those buildings?" Ty asked.

"That's San Francisco." Chip replied. "Do you see that real tall one over there?"

"Yeah, it's HUGE!"

"Well, that is Starfleet Headquarters. Your mom, me, Sean, Cory, and probably John all work for the people in there."

"Wow, that's awesome! Hey, what bridge is that? I think I saw it in a school book?"

"That's the Golden Gate Bridge, lil' buddy. You want to have a closer look?"

"YEAH! That'd be AWESOME!"

Chip dived down and skimmed the water heading towards the bridge. Sean giggled and pointed at the viewer, which he had set for rear view.

"Hey lil' bro, look at this. That's what's called a 'rooster tail', and I think Uncle Chip is going for the world's record on size!"

Ty took his eyes off the bridge long enough to look at the viewer, and gave an appreciative "WHOA! KEWL!" before his attention was drawn back to the bridge in front of them.

As they passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, Sean reached for the radio headset and put it on. As Tyler was shouting and bubbling about seeing the bridge, the call came over the radio that Sean was expecting.

"Shuttlecraft, this is San Francisco Control. Identify self and pilot."

Sean grinned as he replied. "San Francisco Control, this is shuttlecraft Columbus. Pilot is Commander Charles Dodds."

"Columbus, this is San Francisco Control. I should have known. Tell that kamikaze helmsman that Commander Jamison said warn me next time. Also, tell Chip he gets one hundred points for flooding my spoiled nephew's convertible with that rooster tail. I'm still chuckling over it."

"Will do, San Francisco Control. If your nephew wants us to pay for it, send the bill to Captain Sulu on the Excelsior. That's who taught Uncle Chip to fly."

"Columbus, I might just do that, just to see the look on his face! 'Uncle Chip', huh? It's great to see he's letting family other than that husband of his ride shotgun! Enjoy yourself, and tell Chip I said stop in some time."

"Thanks, Commander. I'll do that. Columbus out."

Sean looked at his board, and noticed the autopilot was engaged. When he looked over at Chip, he saw why. Chip was laughing so hard tears were rolling from his eyes. Chip noticed Sean looking at him, and gained control enough to speak.

"Sean, I don't believe you just did that! Hikaru is gonna shoot both of us when he gets that bill! I can't wait to see his face, that's gonna be priceless! If there was any doubt that you are my nephew, there ain't any more. You are about to become a legend in Starfleet for that prank!"

Sean giggled. "I thought you'd like that. Are we about ready to head up?"

Chip checked the ships position. "Yep. Justy, belt everyone up. It's time to go vertical!"

"Sure thing, Dad."

A minute later, Justy yelled from the back "Sean, all passengers are belted. We're ready back here!"

Sean looked at Chip. "Ready when you are, Sir."

Chip smiled. "Go ahead and request clearance, Mr. Short."

Sean hit the switch on his console. "San Francisco Control; this is Shuttle Columbus, requesting clearance for atmospheric departure. Destination is NCC-1701-A."

"Columbus, this is San Francisco Control. You are cleared for immediate departure on Lane Seven. You have a clear lane."

"Acknowledged, San Francisco. Lane seven and the lane is clear."

"Confirmed. Have a safe trip, Columbus."

"Thank you, San Francisco. Columbus out."

Sean sat back and watched in awe as the shuttle's nose came up, the impulse engines came to full power, and the shuttle rocketed away from Earth.

A few minutes later, Chip couldn't help but smile at his co-pilot's awe as they broke thru the ionosphere and Sean got his first look at space. Not wanting to ruin the moment, Chip quietly checked in with TerraMain and received their flight instructions. Just as he was finishing, Sean looked over and saw what Chip had done.

"Sorry, Uncle Chip. I shoulda done that," Sean said.

"Don't worry about it, Sean," Chip said with a smile. "I would have been disappointed if you hadn't stopped to enjoy your first look at space."

"Thanks, Uncle Chip. This is just so AWESOME!"

Chip chuckled. "Keep that attitude, Sean. Captain Kirk once told me, 'If space becomes boring, it's time to retire'. I think he's right. The look on your face a few minutes ago proved it."

Just then, Ty popped up into the cabin. "Unca Chip? Why's it getting dark outside?"

"Tell you what, Ty. I'm going to announce it. I'll bet a few of your brothers want to know too."

Chip turned on the passenger cabin speaker. "Tyler just asked me a question that I'm sure crossed a few minds back there. He wanted to know why it got dark outside. We just left the Earth's atmosphere, so there is no air to give the sunlight its color now."

Sean giggled, then announced "Look at the viewscreen; you can see the sunlight on the satellite I found. Anyone know which one it is?"

Chip looked at the dataline and had to restrain himself from laughing. "Good choice, Sean!"

After about a minute, Cory spoke up. "I guess nobody else wants to guess, so I'll try. If I'm right, there are three uncles back here who should be ashamed of themselves; but I think it's the MTV satellite."

"You got it, Cory." Chip chucked. "How'd you figure it out?"

"Sean was having me quiz him last night on satellites. I recognized the number."

Chip laughed. "Good deal. Keep that up, cross-training is good. But slow down some, okay? You two don't have to learn everything in a week!" He then turned to look at Josh. "Hun, how's it feel to be shown up by your nephews?"

Josh grinned while flipping Chip a one-finger salute. "Better watch it. I bet they show you up soon too!"

Chip shook his head, and turned back to Ty. "You wanna sit up here, lil one?"

"YEAH!" Tyler answered excitedly. "I won't get in the way of you flying, will I, Uncle Chip?"

"Naw, I'll fix that." Chip then entered a command into his console, then picked up Tyler and sat him on his lap. "Mr. Short, you have the conn."

Sean looked at Chip in shock, then hurriedly answered "Yes, sir!"

"If anyone else wants to come up and look around, come on. Just don't touch the consoles." Chip announced. This almost immediately caused a stampede of curious kids from the back.

Robbie tugged on Chip's arm. "Unca Chip? Why can't we float?"

"The shuttle has artificial gravity, Robbie. That makes it so everything stays where it belongs and doesn't float around. It also keeps your Uncle Justin from getting sick."

"Aww, man. I wanted to float!" Robbie pouted.

"Talk to Justy, maybe he'll take you guys to the anti-grav chamber today to play around."

Robbie turned to Justy. "Will you? Puhweezzee!"

Justy grinned. "Sure! Maybe we can get a game of 'tag' going if there's not too many others there!"

"AWESOME!" was the unanimous response from all the kids.

Adam glanced in front of the shuttle, and asked "Sean, is that another satellite up there?"

"Kinda, bro. Actually, that's TerraMain. That's the main base for all the Federation starships."

"Wow! What's those little dots around it?"

Chip answered. "JJ, those are the box docks. They're basically dry-docks. If a starship is getting a lot of work done, it's put in there. That way, instead of having to move the repair equipment around inside TerraMain, it all stays in one place and they bring the ship to it."

Sean noticed a red light illuminate on his panel, and picked up his headset. "TerraMain, this is Columbus, requesting permission to enter security zone. Destination is NCC-1701-A."

"Columbus, this is TerraMain. Permission granted."

"Thank you. Columbus out."

The light changed from red to green, and Sean adjusted their course to head towards one of the box docks, using transponder information from the Enterprise. He couldn't contain his grin when Chip told him to take the 'scenic route' when they got there.

Tyler noticed they were no longer heading for TerraMain, and spoke up, "Uncle Chip! I think Sean is lost, he's going the wrong way!"

Chip laughed. "Don't worry, he's doing fine. Just watch."

A few minutes later, a box dock with a starship docked inside it came into view. Everyone was silent as they came up closer and the starship became clearer and larger.

"Man! Those nacelles look SWEET!" Cory said in awe.

"Cory, you're worse than Scotty!" Josh chuckled.

"What? So I like looking at the engines. What's the big deal?" Cory responded defensively.

"Settle down, Cory." Chip said soothingly. "What Josh was saying in his crude way was that you are a lot like Mr. Scott. You are both natural engineers. You see the beauty in the machinery. Take it as a compliment."

"Okay, Uncle Chip. Sorry, Uncle Josh, for getting mad." Cory replied meekly.

Josh stepped behind Cory and pulled him up tight to him to show he accepted the apology, and continued to hold him as Sean gave the grand tour of the outside of the starship.

"Ty, why don't you read me the lettering off of the side of the engine? That way we'll know if Sean is in the right spot." Chip asked.

"Sure! It says 'NCC-1701-A ...'. HEY, that's the Enterprise's number!"

Adam spoke up, "Uncle Chip? Is that REALLY the Enterprise?"

Chip smiled. "It sure is. You think Sean has the right place?"

"YEAH! Can we see the rest of it?"

"Sure. Mr. Short, why don't you show the underside to our passengers first?"

"Yes, sir." Sean replied.

"Uncle Chip?" Tyler asked with a puzzled look. "Why do you call Sean 'Mr. Short' when you talk to him?"

"Right now, he's on duty. When he's on duty, I have to treat him like any other officer. That's how officers are addressed when they are working."

"Okay." Tyler answered, satisfied.

Chip was shocked as Cory began pointing out various parts of the gigantic starship to everyone as they passed by them. Once they had passed the bottom edge of the saucer, Sean headed out a little bit, then turned around and gave the passengers a full frontal view of the starship. Sean then eased Columbus in a different direction so that they were rising above the great starship's saucer. JJ read off the name and number on the saucer. "'USS Enterprise'. 'NCC-1701-A'." JJ turned to look at Chip. "Uncle Chip, those letters are huge."

Tyler spoke up, "Unca Chip, what are those little bumps under the name?"

"Ty, those are phaser banks." Chip noticed a scared look on the young boy's face. He put his hand on Tyler's shoulder and gently squeezed it. "Don't worry, little buddy. They've been deactivated while the ship is in dock."

As they came in closer to the saucer, Sean spoke up, "Hey, guys? You see that big bump in the center of the saucer? That's the bridge; it's where Uncle Chip works, and hopefully someday I'll work there too."

The shuttle was flying over the saucer and getting close to the starboard nacelle when Adam spoke up, "Uncle Chip, we're getting awful close to that. We're gonna be ok, right?"

"We sure are, Adam. The warp engines are shut down right now while the ship's in dry-dock. Scotty shut them down when we docked last week."

Sean guided Columbus between the two huge nacelles. The kids could see the wing-like pylons connecting the nacelles with the Engineering section. Sean then lowered the shuttle below the nacelles, heading towards the back of the Engineering section. He then guided the shuttle towards the open landing bay doors, finishing the tour. Sean then announced, "Sorry guys, but you need to go belt back in for landing. That's the rules."

There were a few grumbles, but a couple minutes later, Justy yelled up "Everyone's belted in!"

"Thanks, Justy." Sean called back. He then set the communications board to the starship's frequency.

"Enterprise, this is Columbus, requesting permission to come aboard."

Uhura's voice came over the comlink. "Columbus, this is Enterprise. You are cleared for landing. Will this be manual or automatic?"

Before Chip could tell Sean what his reply should be, Sean answered the question. "Enterprise, we'll go with manual today."

"Acknowledged on that manual landing. See you onboard, Columbus."

Chip looked at Sean. "Are you sure about that?"

"Yep. I'm willing to give it a shot."

Chip sat back, and watched as Sean piloted up to the open landing bay doors. Everyone felt a tingle as the shuttle passed through the shuttle bay force field.

"Unca Chip, what was that?" Ty asked worriedly.

"We just went through the force field that keeps the air in the ship." Chip replied.

"How could we go thru it if it's keeping the air in?" JJ asked.

Cory answered. "There's a transponder on the shuttle. It's like an electronic ID bracelet. When the ship 'sees' the ID, it checks to see if we are okay to come in. If we are, the computer modifies the force field to bend around us as we enter."

"Wow!" JJ replied.

"You've been studying the manuals, huh Cory?" Chip asked with a grin.

"Yeppers. I don't wanna disappoint you."

"You won't. Now slow down, please? I don't want you two to overload yourselves."

"Okay." Cory replied.

Just then Sean sat the shuttle down. It slid a couple of feet once it hit the deck before coming to a full stop, but other than that it was a smooth landing.

"Sorry, sir." Sean said, embarrassed. "I guess I wasn't stopped."

"Don't worry about it Sean, all of us do that occasionally. You did great for your first time."

"Thanks, Uncle Chip!" Sean said as his face exploded into a grin. He then made sure everything was shutdown, opened the rear hatch, and informed everyone they could unbelt and get up.

Just then, Cory yelled out, "Captain on deck!"

"At ease!" Kirk said with a grin as he entered the shuttlecraft. He then came up to the cockpit. "Mr. Short, you did well for a first time. I have crewmembers that still can't land that good."

Sean blushed. "Thank you, sir. How did you know it was me?"

"It was easy. Usually Mr. Dodds here tries to see how close to the bulkhead he can slide the shuttle without making contact," Kirk replied with a smile.

Chip gave his Captain a dirty look. "Thanks a lot, SIR!" Chip said as Sean broke into a fit of giggles.

"What is it you are always telling Justy?" Kirk said with a big grin. "Oh yeah, I remember. Hey Chip - BUSTED!"

Chip began blushing a deep red as everyone broke out in laughter. Once they calmed down, they all exited into the shuttlebay.

Kirk pulled Chip to the side. "Mr. Dodds, You need to meet me in the briefing room in ten minutes. We have an emergency conference with the Southeast Region Security director. Mr. Scott is going to escort everyone to the forward lounge."

"Yes sir."

Sean returned to Chip's side. "What was that all about, Uncle Chip?"

"I have no idea, Sean, but I got this funny feeling that it isn't good." Chip then turned to follow Kirk to the turbolift, leaving Sean, Cory, Justy and the rest of the tribe in the capable hands of Josh, Brian, Curly and Scotty.