"Uncle Roger, get us out of here before my crazy great uncle Dougie decides that he needs to poke or prod or pinch or look at anything else within ten feet of me," Dixon yelled out as he practically ran up to the hangar outside which rested the Caledonia III. If Dixon had been expecting a normal looking boxy shuttle craft, he was happily mistaken. This thing was the hot rod of shuttles. Long, low, given that it only had one deck, sleek, with two powerful engine nacelles that looked suspiciously warp drive capable, and best of all for his division, the beauty was purple, green and gold, with the division logo prominently displayed on her flanks. Dixon wasn't sure that was the correct term for where the logo was, but it was all he could think of at the moment. The Caledonia III looked like the sports car of shuttles instead of a warp capable Winnebago, not that Dixon had any problems with the vehicle from Spaceballs. It was great for a movie.
"Dixie," Jessie called out as he ran up behind him. "Uncle Dougie says to tell you that the next time you order him to stand down and run out of his sick bay, getting dressed as you go, he is going to reinstate the use of hypodermic needles and vaccinate you for everything he can think of and then some."
"Lt. Nelson, you have your orders, I want to be on the D'Kyr as fast as you're allowed to get me there," Dixon gulped as he ducked behind a wall of the hangar as if hiding from his chief medical officer.
"Begging your pardon, Commander, but shouldn't I at least wait until the rest of your command crew have joined us?" Roger chuckled.
"Ok, fine, but I'm waiting inside," Dixon snapped as he scrambled into the gorgeous shuttle craft.
"We can leave once our crew and security detail get here, Uncle Roger," Jessie laughed as he followed his brave husband. "Dixie, where did you go?" he called out as he walked into the shuttle.
"Jessie, have you seen this thing before?" Dixon called out from further inside the small ship. "This shuttle is amazing. It's more like our own tiny ship than a shuttle. There's a work station for the entire command crew, not just the flight crew, and did you see that cell as you came up the ramp? There's a biobed in here, and bunks for the crew to take rest breaks. This baby is awesome. Hey, do you think it has its own AI? Probably not since it's just a shuttle, but Frankie and Ziggy have it and they're cars, so maybe. Did you notice the colors on this baby? Auntie Rene and the Popsicles are going to love it. It is so perfect for our division. I wonder how fast this thing can go?"
"I have been informed that the Caledonia is capable of sustained Warp 2, Commander, which by my calculations is 8 levels of warp slower than your mouth at the moment," Healer Stepn said quietly as usual.
"Hey, I may be a Fleet Commander and Division Director, but I'm still a twelve year old kid too, and this shuttle is the coolest thing I've ever seen," Dixon pouted. "And what happened to Vulcan officers respecting their commanding officers?"
"I did address you as Commander," the Vulcan pointed out.
"You know something, I think I'm really starting to like you, Stepn," Jessie grinned. "I didn't think I would ever find a Vulcan this much fun to be around."
"Oh, sure, take his side," Dixon pouted more.
"You know good and well you like him, too," Jessie retorted.
"Yeah, I guess I really do," Dixon finally smiled. "I really am grateful that you have a sense of humor and can tease me and the family a bit, Stepn. I owe you a lot for helping my mom when she needed it, but I really am glad that we have you here as well. You truly do fit well into our family, not just into the division."
"I am gratified that my personality is suitable, Dixon. I'm sure I do not need to tell you that such has not always been the case. I have had difficulty finding assignments as many of my people find me to be too young, too frivolous, and too human. I should point out that my background is both like, and unlike, another esteemed Vulcan of your acquaintance. As with Spock, my father was Vulcan, and she who was my mother was from Earth. Unlike him, however, I was raised more on Earth than anywhere else. I never set foot on my father's home world until I entered the Vulcan Academy of Science to study as a mind healer. As scientists, my parents were frequently called upon to study space anomalies at the far reaches of our universe. I was therefore raised by my Earth grandparents in a small town in Eastern Maryland. When I was thirteen Earth years of age, my parents joined an ill-fated research mission near the Romulan Neutral Zone. The ship was lost with no survivors."
"You bring honor to their memories, Stepn," Dixon said softly.
"As you are no doubt aware, many in our family understand that loss and share your pain," Jessie agreed. "May I ask how long ago you lost them? I regret that I have not reviewed your personnel data to such an extent to even know your age. It's just… well, you look quite young, but I know Vulcans age differently than humans."
"I am touched by the inclusion I have felt within your extended family, Dixon and Jessie," Stepn said softly. "My parents' mission was fifteen Earth years ago, and my grandparents were killed in automobile accident shortly after my graduation from the Academy. By Earth chronology, I am not quite twenty-eight years of age."
"Twenty-eight, you say," Jessie mused.
"I'm sure Healer Stepn will make Doug or me aware of any issues he will have performing his duties, or any medical leave he requires," Dixon said firmly, cutting off anything Jessie might have said. "Jessie, do you want to get with Uncle Roger and do the preflight checks on the shuttle?"
"Yeah, I'll do that, I'll do that right now," Jessie said with a grimace at having almost said something that would have embarrassed both him and Stepn.
"Your discretion is appreciated, Commander," the Vulcan said as he sat at the counselor's work station. "I understand that as my commanding officer you need to be aware of my situation."
"You do not need to speak of it until it is necessary, although choosing a private moment might be preferable than waiting until a more urgent and possibly more public time," Dixon said without looking at him. "If you are uncomfortable speaking of it with me due to my age, that will be understandable as well. You are also welcome to speak of it privately with Uncle Doug."
"Your training supersedes your limitation of age, Commander," Stepn said with a nod of a salute. "If I were discomfited by your age, I would not have agreed to the assignment to your division. I do rely heavily on both your oath of privacy as a healer and your discretion as an officer of the Clan in this matter." The Vulcan healer looked around for a moment and then spoke again quietly. "This will be my first true experience of pon farr," he confessed. "My first at age fourteen came at a time when I was already meditating more than is normal due to the recent loss of my parents. My second, well…. I was a passenger in the automobile crash that took my grandparents lives. I was injured severely enough that I was in an induced coma for six months. My second pon farr would have taken place during that time. When I awoke at the end of the healing period, I did not revert to the schedule so to speak. My healers believed that my body, for lack of a more appropriate term, skipped that cycle as my energies were more devoted to my recovery. My parents never got the chance to arrange a bonding with a partner for my pon farr cycle. My father had planned to discuss the matter with me, but was lost before that conversation could take place. I assure you, however, that none of this will affect my performance of my duties, Commander."
"I am honored by your trust," Dixon said as he stepped closer to the young adult. "Stepn, I am deeply moved that you would share so much of your personal circumstances with me. By my vows as a mind healer, an officer of the Clan, and most importantly, your friend, no one will ever hear of any of this from me without your express permission. I am proud to call you friend, and if I may be so bold as to offer, I would be equally proud to call you Uncle."
"To have a family once more is a thought that threatens to overwhelm my logic, Commander, Dixon, nephew," Stepn whispered in a voice that betrayed the battle to control his emotions. "You are aware that this will encourage the teasing which I enjoy at your expense?"
"It is that teasing that lets me know you were meant to be part of my family, Uncle Stepn," Dixon confirmed. "There is one thing about being part of the family which may be difficult for you to manage, however."
"If you mean the human predilection for physical embrace, I am confident in my ability to endure, as my grandparents were huggers as well," Stepn said with a rare smile. "In point of fact, it was one of the first confrontations I experienced when I went to Vulcan for my training. I was ill prepared for the less demonstrative nature of my father's people, and found myself, in human terminology, homesick for the level of tactile affection I was accustomed to as a child." After a moment, he added, "My last statement was a hint, Nephew Dixon."
"Received and noted, Uncle Stepn," Dixon grinned as he wrapped his arms around the man's chest lovingly. "Welcome to the family."
"Hey, if it's finally official, I get hugs too," Jessie blurted as he came back into the central cabin of the shuttle. "I never had a real uncle before but I don't think I could ask for a better one."
"Your confidence in my abilities is appreciated, Jessie," Stepn told him as he held out an arm so he could embrace both of his new nephews.
"This hug is from Davey, Daniel, and Danielle, too," Dixon told them both. "But they all intend to get individual hugs in person once we return from the ship inspections."
"They will be most welcome," Stepn assured him. "For the moment, I should concentrate my time on the crew profiles of the ships we are to inspect."
"That reminds me. Thank you for filling in as chief medical officer of the inspection team, Uncle Stepn. Danny and Priscilla feel much better having Uncle Doug oversee her pregnancy right now since we've discovered that there have been unknown effects on their unborn daughter due to the trip to Archnania."
"I am honored to be of included, nephew. While I am fully trained as a medical healer, my specialization into what humans call psychiatric medicine makes your Uncle Doug the most logical and experienced medical personnel to address the particular situation. As this is merely an inspection tour, my qualifications are adequate to accompany you."
"Yeah, and Jason and Phillip, being trained in sports medicine, are grateful to be allowed to stay behind and set up the physical training facilities for the division."
"I look forward to the use of the training facilities myself when we return. It has been some days since my last physical training appointment."
"Yeah, I'm excited to see what they do with that space too," Huey said as he sat at his work station, only to jump back up and stand at attention. "Oops. Major Washington-Whatley reporting for duty, Commander."
"Major Dolfis-Miers reporting for duty, Commander," Layton added as he too stood at attention.
"Welcome aboard and at ease," Dixon told them both. "Ok, the formalities are appreciated and done, guys. Have a seat and review the specs for the Lafayette, as it's our first stop."
"All Inspection Team members present and accounted for, Commander," Jessie grinned. "Preflight checks are completed."
"Thank you, Subcommander. Now tell Uncle Roger we can get out of here as soon as he's ready," Dixon smiled back.
The Caledonia lifted off and quickly reached the edge of North American airspace just as another very familiar looking long range shuttle was entering the sector. "Uncle Roger… was that us?" Jessie asked as he blinked.
"I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't confirmed it with the instruments," the man nodded rather blankly.
"Hey! Did you guys see that? That shuttle looked a lot like us, but there were bumper stickers all over it," Dixon called out.
"Your visual acuity is excellent, Commander. My own gaze was distracted by what appeared to be a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the forward viewport," Stepn announced.
"Sweet, we'll get home just a few minutes after we left," Huey smiled. "Remind me to sneak some extra pralines from Grandmama for little Zipper."
"Hey was that… Wait a minute! Who put bumper stickers all over my shuttle?" Dixon demanded loudly.
"What do you expect when you make a comment about it not looking like the Winnebago in Spaceballs? Never challenge a mikyvis like that, Dixie," Kyle giggled from somewhere.
"You know what? I think I kind of like the stickers," Dixon responded. "Thanks, guys." To Roger and Jessie he added, "Lt. Nelson, I will be joining the post flight inspection of the Caledonia. I want to know what all they put on her."
"I think we'll all be doing that inspection, Dixie," Huey laughed.
"Hi guys, are you ready to go rescue my Uncle Jase?" Zipper asked as he was suddenly in the room with Emile, Etienne, Jules, and Julie.
"I guess so, is it ok for Uncle Dougie to leave Aunt Cilla?" Etienne asked the little guy.
"I told Uncle Dougie he really doesn't have to go," Zipper told them. "I'll be able to fix everything wrong with Uncle Jase just by reversing the time of his body."
"You can do that?" Jules asked wide-eyed.
"I can now," Zipper giggled. "Oh after we get Uncle Jase, I get to take you guys someplace very special to my family. We gotta bring Mommy's brothers home with us, too. She's going to be so happy to have little brothers to take care of with her Daddy and Uncle Jase."
At that moment, in the kitchen of the Wiggins House, where all the mothers of the Intel Support division were gathered while sharing café au lait, recipes, and embarrassing stories about their children, Alia Nelson shuddered for a moment. "I'm sorry ladies; I just got the most uncomfortable sensation. Like a bad premonition of sorts, but that's just silly. Nothing could disturb how happy I am to be part of such a wonderful group of people as this division, this family."