By ACFan
Portions contributed by Slash & Greybear

Copyright 2003 by ACFan

Dedicated to the memory of Justin Case 1956-2003
We will all miss you Justin, but your kind words and support will never be forgotten.

This story assumes the technology and capabilities of the 23rd century are present in modern-day society

All copyrights are the properties of their respective owners, no monetary gain is being received for this work of fiction.

Authors note: I wish to express my extreme gratitude to Slash and Greybear for their numerous contributions to this story -- they added the final touches to make this all come together. Also thanks to Art, BillW, Dan, and Jay for their assistance in editing, proofreading, and generally helping me out of a rut occasionally.Thanks to "Z", Karla, and the rest of the Library members for your support when I started this.

Portions of this story contain characters and/or situations from Greybear's story, "Enterprise Tour". All of such are used with permission, and all disclaimers, copyrights, and notices from "Enterprise Tour" are hereby included as part of the notices for this story. I also wish to thank ND for allowing the use of his original character, Johnny Carter, from "Nick and Ashley" in this story.

Special thanks and hugs go to a special "lil' angel", namely my little bro, the lives you touch are TONS better from you just being there, you have contributed more than you will ever know!

A HUGE thanks to Comicality for his support of all of us aspiring writers!


This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Send comments and suggestions (flames ignored) to:AC Fan

Part I: The Gathering

Chapter Seventeen

Kirk led Chip to the turbolift. As the two men entered the lift, Chip turned to his Captain. "Sir, is anything going on that I need to know about?"

Kirk turned to face his Helmsman. "All in good time, Mr. Dodds. We're needed in a meeting with the Southeastern Regional Security Director and the Director of Youth Services."

That's when a light bulb went off in Chip's mind. "Teri's involved in this meeting? It must be pretty important then."

"You could say that." Kirk then turned his attention to the intercom inside the lift. "Deck Seven!" The lift began its journey thought the interior of the starship.

As the turbolift made its way through the ship, Chip became more worried at his CO's silence. Within a couple minutes, they were on Deck 7 and heading for the Briefing Room. When they walked in, Chip's jaw dropped.  Sitting there waiting for him were Teri and John, both with serious looks on their faces.

"Okay, I'm here. Now will someone please tell me what the HELL is going on?!" Chip said, exasperated. "And why are you involved, John?"

John answered. "It seems one of your junior officers has a serious temper problem. As for my involvement, I AM the Security Director for the North American South East Region. That kinda makes it my responsibility to report this to you."

"Report it already! And WHY is Teri involved?"

Teri signaled John that she wanted to answer. "Chip, the reason I'm involved is there are two young boys who were the targets of your man's anger. Unfortunately for him, John caught him in the act. John has filed for Safe Haven Act protection for the boys, and is accepting custody as soon as Doctor McCoy finishes with them."

Just then, as if on cue, McCoy walked in with the two boys. "John, they're all yours.  I found nothing permanent.  I'll review the short term things you need to watch with you after your meeting is done."

Chip turned around to see the boys, and his jaw dropped. "Jeffy? Sammy? Are you guys okay? What happened, why didn't you tell me?"

Jeffy and Sammy's faces lit up when they saw Chip. They ran over and grabbed him in a double hug. "Uncle Chip!!" They clung to Chip like there was no tomorrow. "We're so glad to see you."

"Please, what happened, guys?" Chip asked in a worried tone.

"Daddy got mad at us again." Sammy said in a small voice.

After letting go of the two boys, Chip knelt down to face them. "Why didn't you two tell me what was going on?"

Jeffy spoke up, "Daddy told us that you wouldn't believe us if we told you. He also said that he would REALLY punish us, too, if we told you."

"Well," Chip said, "you don't have to worry about your Daddy ever again."

"You promise?" Sammy asked.

"I promise," Chip replied. Then he got an idea. "Jeffy? Sammy? You two want to see Justy and Uncle Josh?"

The boys' eyes lit up at the sound of JL and JC's names. "They're aboard?"

"They sure are. And Justy's got two new little brothers with him. Want to meet them?"

"New brothers? AWESOME! Where they at?" both boys answered.

Chip chuckled as he stood up and punched a button on the table. "Dodds to Security."

A voice came over the intercom. "Security, Thompson here, Commander."

"Mr. Thompson, can you come up to the Briefing Room on Deck Seven?"

"Sure thing, sir. I'll be there in five minutes."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Dodds out." Chip closed the connection. He then returned his attention to the boys. "Guys, John is a good friend of mine. He has promised to take care of you, and I promise he will not hurt you like your old FATHER did."  Chip then sat down and the two young boys crawled up into his lap.

The two boys cuddled in Chip's lap. "Thanks Uncle Chip. If you trust him, we will too."

Five minutes later, Thompson entered the Briefing Room. "You sent for me, Commander?"

"Yes, Mr. Thompson. Could you escort these two boys to the Forward Lounge on Deck Six? Personally deliver them to my husband and son."

"Yes, sir."

Chip turned to the boys. "Jeffy? Sammy? I want you two to go with Mr. Thompson here. He will take you to Uncle Josh and Justy, okay?"

"OK, Uncle Chip." Thompson then led the boys out of the Briefing Room.

Chip then turned back to the table. "Okay, first off, congratulations John. Second, tell me what happened."

USS Enterprise, Forward Observation Lounge:

Justy was having a blast. As soon as they reached the lounge, all the kids immediately rushed to the windows. Justy gladly played tour guide, pointing out all the sights to the rest of the boys.

After about five minutes, the newness wore off and Tyler snuck up behind Justy. He slapped Justy on the back of the head. "TAG -- YOU'RE IT!"

Justy spun around as everyone else scattered around the lounge. "You asked for it, Ty! I'm gonna get you!" He then took off chasing Tyler, but reached out and tagged Rusty as he ran by him. "Tag, you're it Rusty. But I'm still gonna get you, Ty!"

The lounge was filled with giggles and the occasional `aww man!' as the kids got totally involved in their game. When Lt. Thompson entered with Jeffy and Sammy, nobody even noticed until Kevin gave one of his patented whistles.

"Alright you animals!" Kevin yelled. "We've got company. Find a seat and PLANT IT!"

All the boys froze, and then looked at the doorway. Justy grinned. "He's not company; that's Lt. Thompson. He's a target!" Justy then noticed the boys who were with the security officer. "That's no fair Mr. Thompson; bringing kids with you to keep from being pounced. Jeffy, Sammy, come on in here; let me introduce y'all to the rest of the tribe."

Jeffy giggled at Justy, who had froze sitting on Aaron's chest. "Hey buddy, I see you have Aaron in his place again!"

Justy grinned at the twins. "You bet! C'mon, you need to meet my lil' bros!"

Sammy and Jeffy walked over as Justy waved Jacob and Jamie to join them. Once they were all standing together, he started introductions. "Sammy, Jeffy; these are my lil' bros Jamie and Jacob."

Nick chose that moment to look up from his snuggle with Ashley. The sight in front of him was too much to resist commenting on. Justy was standing in the middle, his wavy dirty blond curly hair going all over the place from wrestling. On his right were his freckled little brothers, their strawberry blond hair in tangles, and the tops of their heads just even with his shoulders. On his left, two bruised platinum blonds, their curls hanging to their shoulders, just four inches taller than the other set of twins.

"Call the exterminator! We're being invaded by twins!" Nick yelled.

The response was quick and deadly, as both sets of twins plus Justy pounced on Nick and Ashley. Ashley slapped Nick upside the head. "Next time goofball, MOVE that scrawny butt of yours before you insert your foot in your mouth!" Ashley said with a laugh.

The five boys released their prisoners, and Justy began pointing out everyone else in the room. "I guess I'll start with the two goofs in the corner. The one with auburn hair is Sean, and the blond that you need sunglasses to look at is Cory." He then yelled to Cory "HEY, BLONDIE! Stop sucking on your boyfriend's face and GET A ROOM!"

Cory began to give Justy a one-finger salute, then thought better of it when he noticed the four boys standing with him. He stood up, pulling Sean up by an ear, and came over to the group. "Hey guys; don't believe everything this goofball tells you. Aaron has been a bad influence on him."

"Bite me Cory. This is Jeffy and Sammy Taylor, from what my bros tell me they are the latest new tribe members." Justy replied with a grin.

Justy got an evil grin on his face as he went to introduce the next pair. "If you look behind the couch, one of your new brothers is behind it humping his boyfriend!"

"HEY!" two squeaky voices answered from behind the couch. The two 12 year olds stood up, both as red as JJ's strawberry blond hair. They climbed over the couch, using Nick and Ashley as ladders. Once they were standing in front of the couch, JJ and Adam said in unison "You are gonna get it later, Justy!"

"Yeah right!" Justy said sarcastically. "Jeffy, Sammy, the one whose face matches his hair is your new brother JJ. The blond nutcase standing next to him is his boyfriend Adam; he's Sean and Cory's lil' bro."

JJ gave Justy a confused look. "Jus, could you fill me in here? Do you mean brother like you and me or like Kyle and me?"

Justy smiled as he replied. "Bro, since Uncle John has used the Act, I would say that they are gonna be you bros for real."

JJ looked at the two boys. They were standing there with a scared look; as if afraid they would not be accepted. "Jeffy? Sammy? Come here guys." he said, holding his arms out.

They slowly walked over, unsure as to his intentions. Both boys' bodies were stiff as JJ pulled them into a hug.

"Welcome to the family, bros." JJ said softly. "I'm not gonna ask what happened, I can guess from how you look. Don't worry; I'm here to protect you now."

Adam carefully joined the hug from behind, turning it into a four way hug. "Guys; I'm guessing you are here because of the same thing that happened to me. Don't worry about any of the guys here; nobody will let that happen to any of us ever again. Since I've been through something like you, anytime you wanna talk just ask, okay?"

The twins relaxed, assured that they would really be accepted. Jeffy spoke. "Thanks Adam. We might take you up on that later, but not now. This is blowing our minds."

"I understand. I just went through it myself. One thing; you can definitely trust these guys. Once you are part of the family, every single one of them will back you up. Why don't we let Justy finish introducing everyone before he pees himself?" Adam finished with a grin.

"I HEARD THAT! Be glad you are still under Doc's care!" Justy said. "I can't slap you; but you WILL be swimming when we get home!" He then pointed Jeffy and Sammy to look over towards the window. "The last group is the five giggle boxes over by the window. First is your little brother, Kyle. He's the little brown haired munchkin over there. You see the older blond, the one whose hair almost looks white? That's Sean, Cory, and Adam's little bro, Tyler. By the way, Ty is taken; Kyle is VERY possessive of him! The little blond is Johnny. He's Nick and Ashley's boy. The little strawberry blond is Robbie, he's B-Rok's foster son. The red-blond 12 year old trying to keep them all under control is Robbie's cousin Rusty. Rusty is Brillo-head's foster son."

Kyle ran over, with Ty following close on his heels. "KOOL! More big brothers!" he exclaimed as they each grabbed a twin into a hug. As the hug finished, Kyle looked at the two boys with a serious expression. "After what you had to go thru, you deserve a new family. I'm proud to call you two my brothers." Kyle said softly.

Jeffy and Sammy looked at Kyle in shock. "How ... what ... who ..." they both said in confusion.

JJ chuckled as he filled them in. "Sorry bros, I didn't get a chance to warn you. Between Kyle and the twin carrot-tops over there, there is no such thing as a secret around here. The only person whose mind they have not read this week is Uncle Chris -- and that's because he has none." JJ then looked around the room. "UNCLE KEV!" he shouted, "Could you stop boring Andy to death and let him come meet my new bros?"

Kevin picked up a cushion from a nearby chair and tossed it at JJ, and then patted Andrew on the shoulder before sending him over to the boys.

The twins watched as the skinny redhead ran over to join them. JJ introduced him as he slid into the group. "Jeffy, Sammy; this is my best friend Andrew. Just like the rest of us kids here, he is one of your new brothers."

Sammy spoke up. "Don't get me wrong; but this is NUTS! How do you guys keep track of who belongs to who?"

Cory giggled. "I ask the same thing every morning, bro. Just roll with it, it grows on you."

Sean then tapped Justy on his shoulder. "Hey Jus; whadda you say we go play in the anti-grav? I know your Dad said it was OK on the way up here."

Justy grinned. "Yeah, but we have to have some adults with us; it's ship's regulations."

Lt. Thompson overheard this, and immediately interrupted. "Justy, don't even think of me! I'm not getting any closer to that chamber than the control room -- Doctor's Orders! Remember what I was like LAST TIME after you finished with me?"

Brian and Curly both spoke at the same time. "I'll go!" they said in unison. They looked at each other in shock, and then blushed when Kyle spoke aloud what both were thinking.

"Both of them want to do the same thing -- play with their new sons!" Kyle said. "I guess you guys ARE gonna be good daddies!"

Ashley looked at Nick. "The two of us are going too -- someone's gotta keep those two in line!"

Nick looked at Ashley in shock, and then replied as he stood and hurried away from his husband, "You talk about ME putting MY foot in MY mouth! You just put yours so far in if you wiggle your nose it's gonna turn brown! When you get bruised ribs, don't look at me for sympathy -- you asked for it!"

Lt Thompson shook his head. "Alright, let's go. This is starting to sound like a Klingon family reunion here! I'll alert Sickbay to be ready.  Y'all need to work off some energy."

USS Enterprise, Recreation Deck:

The boys were just finishing putting on their safety gear before going in the chamber when JJ pulled Jeffy and Sammy aside. "Guys, I know you gotta be sore; Adam is still feeling his bruises too. Stick near to us, I know the rest of the guys are not going to go after you, but it's still best to stay safe."

Jeffy got a concerned look on his face. "JJ; can I ask you something without you getting mad?"

"Sure bro, any time."

"Why is everyone being so nice? When do we get to see what everyone is really like?"

"As shocking as it sounds, all the guys here are actually being themselves right now. Sean, Cory, Kyle and I made a pact to stand by each other no matter what a while back. As each kid joined us, they have been added into the pact; now you guys are a part of it too."

"But what if we screw up, or make someone mad?"

"We all screw up, lil bro. The difference is, the rest of us will help you fix what you mess up. Making someone mad happens to all of us sooner or later; if anyone responds too badly, the rest of us will take care of them."

"If you say so. I hope you are right."

"Hey, I'm your big brother now. If ANYONE gives you a problem, come get me, okay?"

Sammy and Jeffy fell into a hug with JJ. "Thanks ... bro. I guess we gotta learn that families don't mean pain, huh?" Sammy said softly.

"That's right. Wait till just before bed tonight; Sean and Cory usually have a meeting with all the kids so everyone knows what the others have been through. That way we can help each other adjust and get over what happened to us. As hard as it is to talk, don't be afraid; anything that's said in our tribal pow-wows does not go any further -- even Uncle Chip does not know what we talk about. You are gonna be surprised at how many of us understand what you have been through."

Curly walked up as JJ finished. "You guys okay?"

"Yeah Uncle Just; we were just having a family conference." JJ responded.

"I kinda figured that when I heard the last thing you said. Just to let you guys know, all of us adults are here for you too. Everyone you have met today has their own skeletons in their closets. There is not a single one of us who will let you get hurt again. Let's hurry up and get in there before everyone else starts worrying."

Curly pulled the three boys into a hug, and then guided them into the chamber. As JJ took the twins over to join Adam, Curly launched himself at an unsuspecting Ashley. "BONZAI!" he screamed as he flew across the chamber.

About an hour later, Chip walked into the Anti-Grav Tank Control Room.  He addressed Thompson, "How are the natives enjoying the tank?"

Thompson replied, "Just fine, sir."

"Good.  I need Sean Short out of there, Lieutenant.  I'm going in there."

"Good luck, Commander.  You're gonna need it."

"Thanks a lot, Lieutenant," Chip said with a pout in his voice.  He then hit the intercom button to address the occupants of the tank.  "Okay, you hooligans.  I'm coming in there, so no pouncing!"  Chip could hear a chorus of "Awww Mann's through the speaker.  A few minutes later, he entered the Tank.  Justy came floating towards him. "Hey Dad! What's up?"

"I need Sean for his tour."

"OK! I'll find him!" Justy then set off to find Sean, who was in the process of being tagged by Ashley. Justy got Sean's attention. "Hey, bro. Dad's looking for ya. He wants to take you on your tour."

Sean's eyes lit up at the words that Justy had just said.  "KEWL!!!  You think you can escort me over to Uncle Chip without getting attacked?"

"Sure, bro.  Come on."  Justy led Sean to where Chip was floating. 

Sean couldn't stop in time and slammed into Chip.  "Sorry, Uncle Chip," Sean said, blushing.

Chip responded, still trying to catch his breath, "That's ok, Sean.  Just don't let it happen again, okay? Now go get your uniform jacket on and follow me."

"OK," Sean said.  Chip then led the boy out of the Anti-Grav Tank. He gave a wave to Mr. Scott, who was just entering, obviously to pick up Cory.

USS Enterprise, Main Bridge:

Chip led Sean out of the starboard lift onto the Bridge.  Sean was in awe at the sight in front of him.  He had heard of many of the Enterprise's missions, and had always dreamed of coming aboard the legendary starship.  Now here he was, not only on the Enterprise, but standing on her Bridge as well.  Chip turned to Sean, "You okay, little buddy?"

After a few seconds of being in awe, Sean found his voice, "WOW!!  This is AWESOME!!"

"It's not that awesome.  It's only the Bridge of the Enterprise," Chip said.

"To you it's only the Bridge, Uncle Chip.  To me, it's a dream come true," Sean said. 

Chip started to show Sean around.  Chip started the tour at the Science Station.  Spock just happened to be on duty at the time, seated in the command chair.  "Commander Dodds?   I take it that this is the young man interested in Bridge Operations, specifically the Helm?"

"Yes, sir.  His name is Sean Short, and he's my nephew."

Spock turned to face the younger boy.  "Mr. Short, welcome aboard the Enterprise.  I trust your trip up here was memorable?"

Sean blushed for a moment then regained his composure.  "Yes, sir, it was.  Uncle Chip ... I mean, Commander Dodds ... let me pilot part of the way up here.  It was AWESOME!!"

"I am gratified that you found your trip stimulating.  I am sure that Commander Dodds will show you every aspect of the Bridge today."

"I plan on it, sir," Chip said.  Chip then led Sean around the Bridge, stopping at each station along the way, explaining everything.  Sean was still somewhat in awe at the fact that he was on the Bridge of the Enterprise and having met Captain Spock.

Once Chip and Sean made their way around the Bridge, Chip led his protégé down the steps to the center of the Bridge.  He placed his hand on the back of a chair.  "Sean, this is the Helm.  This is my station here on the Bridge."  He paused for a moment, and then patted the back of the chair.  "Want to try it on for size?"

Sean was dumbstruck when he heard his Uncle say what he thought he said.  "You mean it?"

"I sure do, Sean."  Sean sat down in the chair at the Helm console.  Chip, being the doting uncle his was, pointed out all the features and controls on the console.  Sean was amazed at the fact that he was sitting at the console that his uncle sat at everyday.  That he was at the console that basically controlled the movements of the giant starship. He looked up at his Uncle.

"You know something, Uncle Chip? The flight sim I have at home is actually right -- the controls on the console match the game controls perfectly! I bet I could run this console in no time.  This is my favorite station when I'm playing."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Which simulation software would you be referring to, Mr. Short?"

Sean turned towards the science officer. "It's Microsoft Space Sim 2004, sir."

"Interesting, Mr. Short. I assisted in the initial programming for the simulation, but have not evaluated the final product. That is a situation which I shall soon rectify. Mr. Dodds, have you evaluated this software?"

Chip replied "Yes, sir. I was instrumental in the designing of the Helm Control section for the Constitution-class ship that is used in the simulation."

"Fascinating. I will need to evaluate your efforts, brother. I expect they are up to our families standards?" Spock stated.

"As always, brother. I would not allow anything less." Chip replied with a slight grin.

Sean picked his jaw up from the console in front of him. "SWEEEEET! You REALLY helped program the sim? AWESOME!"

Chip chuckled. "Yeah, Sean; the console I used for the sim is based on the Enterprise's console, with a few changes for security reasons."

Sean took a second look at the console. "I see what you mean, there are a few controls here that are not on the sim, plus you moved a couple things around. I bet I could still have it down in about 5 minutes if you let me study it."

Chip chuckled. "I'm sure you could. We use the same software for training at the Academy; when we get back home I'll unlock the training mode for you, then everything will be exactly like what you see here."

"SWEEEET! Thanks Uncle Chip!"

USS Enterprise, Engineering:

"Well, whadda ye think, laddie?" Scotty beamed as they walked into Main Engineering.  The part that Cory glued his eyes on first was the massive warp core, the heart of the Enterprise.  The core ran vertically; extending eight decks up and five decks down.  The horizontal part ran out from the main core and back until it split into two upward conduits inside the nacelle pylons and into the nacelles themselves. 

"WOW, Mr. Scott, this is AWESOME!" Cory replied as his head spun, taking in the entire room.

Cory's eyes settled on the main control console. "I KNEW IT! That looks EXACTLY like the one in our game looks like -- at least AFTER I modified the program!"

Scotty looked at the boy in shock. "Laddie, what program would that be?"

"It's Microsoft Space Sim 2004. Sean and I played it all the time when I would visit.  Things have been so nuts the last week since I moved back home that we have missed our usual games."

Scotty got a curious look on his face. "Aye, that be the one I figured you was talking about. Tell me, exactly how did you modify it?"

Cory blushed. "Well ... I kinda noticed something didn't feel right when I was playing as engineer. So I took it back to the home with me and dug around in it after I de-compiled it. I found a few settings that were turned off, so I turned them on; then I tweaked the program some so the readings it gave me were more accurate. Do you know the program, Mr. Scott?"

"Aye, young Cory; that I do. I certified the Engineering part myself." Scotty replied. "And I dinna wanna hear no more `Mr. Scott' from you. You are to call me `Scotty', understood?"

Cory grinned. "Sure thing ... Scotty!"

"Now tell me, lad; just how did you make the readings more accurate?"

Cory thought for a second then replied. "I noticed the rounding routine that they were using for the readings left a major error - the readings on the console resolved to 6 places, but the readings used in the computations were only resolved to 4 places. I updated it so both resolved to 10 places and was suddenly able to tweak the efficiency rating higher than I had ever been able to before."

Scotty got a look of wonder on his face, for the first time in a long while he was impressed by the achievements of a cadet. "Cory, me lad. I dinna know how you did it, but I believe you unlocked the Academy training mode in your game. Do you think you might be able to show me on the lady's computer what you did?"

Cory beamed with pride, his idol was asking him to show his skills. "Sure, Scotty.  Are you sure the Captain won't care?"

"Don't you worry, laddie.  I can handle the Captain. You just show me some of your magic."

Cory stood at the console, first checking the existing core readings. He then turned to Scotty, "Scotty, could you unlock programming mode on the ship's computer for me? I don't want to accidentally trip any of the security blocks."

"Smart thinking, lad. I'll do ye one better, I'll give you your own access." Scotty walked up to the console.

"Computer; add new user. Identification: Commander Montgomery Scott.  Authorization:  Scott six-nine-five-bravo-alpha."

"Identity confirmed. Continue."

"Computer; new user name Cadet Cory Patrick Short. Access level two. Override rank requirement."

"User addition approved. Override approved. Proceed with voiceprint identification."

Cory took his cue. "Computer. Identify Cadet Cory Patrick Short. Authorization:  Short one-seven-one-alpha-delta.  Process and acknowledge."

"Identity confirmed. User entered. Authorization code accepted.  Level two access granted."

Scotty looked at Cory. "That should do ye, lad. There's only one level more powerful than that on the ship, and only six other people have that one."

"Thanks Scotty! This should only take a minute here."

Cory then logged into the computer's program mode, and ten minutes later he finished the changes that he had done to the simulator. He then issued the final commands.

"Computer; debug routine 28c974f3."

"Acknowledged. Debug complete, no errors found."

"Computer; compile routine 28c974f3."

"Compile complete. Awaiting run authorization."

Cory smiled. "Scotty, I need to do a full reload and restart on the mixture control program. I think that's gonna require both of us to do."

Scotty smiled. The boy was impressing him more every second. "Aye lad, that's true. Let's be gettin' this started already."

Cory crossed his fingers as he gave the final command. "Computer; reload and execute program 28c9. Authorization: Short one-seven-one-alpha-delta."

"User authenticated."

Scotty spoke up. "Computer; reload and execute program 28c9. Authorization: Scott six-nine-five-bravo-alpha."

"User authenticated. Reload and execute of program 28c9 in ten seconds."

The ten seconds seemed like forever, but then there was a flicker of the console lights and the new displays came online. Cory immediately spoke as soon as it was obvious the system was back up.

"Computer; run full diagnostics warp core mixture controls."

"Diagnostics complete. No errors found."

Cory then showed Scotty the new displays. As they finished, Cory commented about the 95% efficiency rating that was being displayed. "That's not bad, it could be better though."

"That it could, Cory. Just your programming change alone has brought it up a full percent though."

Cory grinned. "If it's okay with you Scotty, I can show you what this fine lady is really capable of!"

"Laddie, you already have my full attention. Show me how well you can make this fine girl sing."

Scotty watched with pride, then shock, as the efficiency rating display slowly climbed. After ten minutes, Cory sat back.

"That's about the best I can do. The mixture control circuitry needs finer steps in it."

"Laddie, do you realize what you've done?" Scotty asked, shock evident in his voice.

"What's that, Scotty? Did I mess up?"

"Not hardly, lad. The gents who designed the core say the highest possible rating is 97%. You just exceeded that by 1.3%. Once Starfleet confirms the reading, you will be the most famous engineer in the fleet!"

Cory turned beet red. "Scotty, this is your ship. You deserve the credit, I'm just a kid."

Scotty looked at Cory sternly. "I'll have none of that, lad. This lady is yours as well, and I'll have no part in denying you credit for a job well done. If I have to walk up to the Admiral myself, you ARE a full member of the Enterprise's crew. Let's finish your tour; you need to be familiar with your new home."

Cory smiled, and walked up to Scotty and gave him a hug. "Thanks Scotty, you just made one of my dreams come true!"

Surprisingly, Scotty returned the hug. "Lad, the Enterprise has been jokingly called my wife; and the Engineering crew my family. That makes you my son, and I couldna be prouder."

USS Enterprise, Forward Observation lounge:

Captain Kirk walked into the Lounge, and looked around at the boys laid out on the floor, munching on sandwiches that had been sent up from the Galley. He noticed Kevin standing off to the side, and headed toward him. "Well Kevin, have they enjoyed themselves today?" he asked as he walked up.

"Yes sir; I think they almost wore out the anti-grav chamber. I know a bunch of boys who are going to sleep like rocks tonight."

"Well, I have another special treat for them; as soon as Cory gets back."

Kevin saw the gleam in the Captain's eye and chuckled. "Knowing you, sir, this should be good."

Just then, Chip and Sean came in. "I see the tribe is recharging!" Chip commented as he grabbed one of the few remaining sandwiches. He noticed the smile on Kirk's face and commented "For some reason, I'm afraid to ask what you are up to, sir. The last time I saw that smile you made Justy the ship's mascot - a point he NEVER lets me forget!"

"Just wait." Kirk replied. "I think you will enjoy this just as much as the recipient."

Sean walked up to the men. "Captain? Thanks a LOT for letting Commander Dodds show me the bridge. I hope on day I'll be able to work up there too."

Kirk smiled at the young cadet. "Mr. Short, keep that dream. If I have any say at all, you WILL see that dream come true. Do your best and listen to your Uncle Chip; the rest will come easy."

Sean stood straight and tall. "Aye sir. I will do that. Thank You."

Kirk grinned. "That I have no doubt of. Now go enjoy yourself with the rest of the kids. That's an order, Mr. Short."

Sean grinned as he saluted the captain and ran over to tell the rest of the kids about his tour.

The kids all gathered around Sean, curious as to what happened to make him so happy.

"Okay, spill it!" Justy said.

"Just chill!" Sean replied. "Wait for everyone to sit!"

Once everyone was gathered around, Sean began. "Man, that was AWESOME! Uncle Chip took me up on the bridge. He let me sit at the Helm, then I got to sit in the Captain's chair! I found out something -- Mr. Spock and Uncle Chip helped program Space Sim 2004!"

"No way!" Justy interrupted. "I knew Dad was messing with it, but I didn't know about Uncle Spock! Are you sure?"

Sean grinned. "Yep. Mr. Spock told me himself. Uncle Chip says when we get home he's gonna unlock the training mode so I can start learning the Helm just like at the Academy."

Sean continued to fill the group in on his tour, until ten minutes later Cory and Mr. Scott entered the lounge.

Kirk and Chip both did a double-take when the two walked in. Scotty was walking with Cory held close, his right hand on Cory's right shoulder.

"Thanks for the tour Scotty; that was great!" Cory said as they walked up.

"T'was my pleasure Cory. You needed a proper introduction to our lady.  After all you are as responsible for her health as myself."

Kirk could not resist the temptation. "Mr. Short, is that the proper way to address your superior officers?"

Scotty pulled Cory close, then answered for him. "It would be if he was following the senior officers' orders, Captain."

Kirk grinned and shook his head. "That knocks military protocol for a loop. Someone call me when you all decide to put me back in command."

Cory began giggling. "You ARE in command, sir. You are just lucky to have officers who can handle problems themselves."

Chip grinned. "Out of the mouths of babes, Captain!"

Scotty and Cory walked over to the rest of the boys, and Cory was just getting ready to start telling about his adventures when Mr. Spock came into the room and handed a tablet to Kirk. Everyone fell silent when they heard Kirk's response.

"Thank you, Spock. I presume you are going to be present for the ceremony?"

"Affirmative, Captain. I believe it will be necessary for myself to enter a commendation onto the official record."

"I expected as much. Get the podium ready while I have Uhura start the recorder." Kirk replied.  He then walked over and activated a wall comm unit.  "Kirk to Bridge."

"Bridge. Go ahead, Captain"

"Uhura, begin recording in the Forward Lounge. I want this played ship-wide."

"Understood, Captain. Starting recording now. Bridge out."

Kirk went up to the podium, and got everyone's attention. "I want all of you to gather in front of the podium. I have a special announcement to make."

Once everyone was in place, he continued.

"Cadet Cory Short; front and center."

Cory walked up to the podium. "Cadet Short reporting as ordered, sir."

Kirk addressed the young man in front of him.  "Cadet Short. It has come to my attention that you have performed a modification to the Enterprise which has improved her efficiency above and beyond what was specified in the original design. In the absence of an obvious problem, you still sought a solution; and in the process you have set a new standard for the entire Fleet to follow. I just received confirmation from Starfleet; your programming has resulted in a confirmed efficiency rating for the ship's engines of 98.3%. This action went above and beyond the expectations of a Starfleet Cadet's performance; I now have a message from Admiral Morrow which I am to read to you:

To: Cadet Cory Patrick Short; Des Moines IA USA Sol III (Earth)

From: Admiral Morrow, Starfleet Operations, San Francisco USA Sol III (Earth)

CC: Starfleet BUPERS; cmdg. off., USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-A

Cadet Short;

Due to your recent performance, I have received requests for action from Commander Montgomery Scott; Captain James T. Kirk; and Captain Spock. All three hold your skills in the highest regards, and I am honored to comply with their request.

Effective immediately, you are activated as a full Ensign assigned to the USS Enterprise. You are to be listed on the ship's roster as inactive reserve, but are subject to activation if required. You have all privileges and responsibilities of a Starfleet officer from this point forward.

Welcome to Starfleet Command, Ensign.

Admiral Morrow

Kirk retrieved a small box from his pocket. "Ensign, welcome to the Enterprise." He then handed the box to Scotty.

"Ensign Short," Scotty began, "It be with more than a wee bit of pride I'll be putting this on to you. These would be the first Ensign bars that were issued to anyone of your age. It's only fitting that I be putting them on to you, seeing as one day this lady shall be all yours."

Cory stood at attention as Scotty pinned the new bars on his uniform; then saluted Scotty as he stepped back. "Thank you, Commander. I will do my best to prove you right."

As Scotty stepped back, Mr. Spock stepped forward. "Ensign Short. I have reviewed the modifications you completed and found them fascinating. As is ship's policy, I am inserting a commendation into your service record. Your performance today meets the standards expected of the Enterprise's senior officers, which has also been noted. The Enterprise only accepts the best of Starfleet for its crew, so it is only logical that you be assigned to her."

Instead of saluting, Cory raised his right hand, palm out, in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Captain Spock"

Spock returned the salute. "Live long and prosper, Ensign Short. Your understanding of proper protocol will also be noted."

Kirk returned to the podium. "At ease Mr. Short, and welcome aboard the Enterprise. Uhura, stop recording."

"Recording stopped sir. Congratulations, Cory!"

"Thank you, Commander."

Cory spent the next hour accepting congratulations and telling everyone about his tour. Chip noticed he was getting worn out, and decided that since McCoy had finished with everyone they would leave after dinner. He pulled Cory off to the side. "Cory, now that you are the ranking officer I need you to get everyone together and down to the Crew's Dining Lounge on Deck Eight. I need to stop by the Bridge. I will see you down there."

"Yes sir." Cory then issued a whistle that rivaled Kevin's. "Okay, everyone settle down. We are heading to the Crew's Dining Lounge on Deck Eight for dinner. Justy, I'd like for you to take care of the little ones, and Sean can take care of the teens. All the adults please stay with me. Uncle Josh, could you follow behind so we don't lose anyone?"

Josh was impressed, even though you could tell Cory was issuing orders, he had phrased it so nobody would have hurt feelings. "Sure thing, Cory."

They made it to the Dining Lounge without incident; and after a lively dinner Chip had Cory take the adults to the transporter room while Sean took everyone who was riding the shuttle to the hanger deck.

Once Cory had watched the last one beam down, he headed to the hanger deck. Upon entering the shuttle, he sealed the hatch and turned to get his seat. To his surprise, instead of being in the co-pilot seat, Sean was sitting back with the rest of the passengers.

"Sean, what are you sitting back here for?" Cory asked.

"You out-rank me now. That means that the co-pilot seat is yours." Sean replied.

Chip watched silently from the front, curious as to how this was going to play out.

"Sean, come on, you know you want to be up there. Why don't you head on up, I'll wait till I can co-pilot with you."

"Nope. I'm not going to break the rules."

Cory knew that Sean would argue all day, so as much as he hated to do it, he went for broke. "Mr. Short. Report to the co-pilot position immediately."

Sean looked at Cory in shock. He began to formulate an argument, but just as he started to speak Cory stopped him.

"That was an order, Mister, not a request."

"Yes sir." Sean replied as he moved up front.

Once Sean was settled in, Chip opened the private pilot channel. "Sean, settle down a second and listen, okay bud?"

Sean looked back at Cory with a glare, then responded. "Yeah, go ahead Uncle Chip."

Chip saw the look, and prayed he could diffuse the situation. "Sean, don't think I'm taking sides, but would you listen to where I think Cory was coming from?"

"I guess."

"Believe it or not, he was looking out for you. He all but told you he did not want to be up here, I'll bet it was because he wants you to have your flight time in so you can be certified as a pilot on the shuttles. You could not see it from where you were sitting, but I saw his face before he decided to pull rank on you. Sean, I could see the pain in his face, it was the only way he could see to get you to listen, and it hurt him to do it."

"Why did he have to be so cold about it? When we went to dinner he didn't do that.  This time it was like he was rubbing it in."

"He knows you Sean. Believe it or not, legally when he asked you to come up here the first time that could have been an order. You have hurt him twice at the same time; you refused to go along when he said to go do what you really wanted to do anyway, and then you disregarded his rank by arguing with him. In two minutes you have ruined a great day for him, and I'll bet that you're jealous of his rank and taking it out on him."

"Yeah, sorry Uncle Chip. I guess you're right." Sean then looked back to find Cory, and felt his heart drop when he saw Cory had folded down a jump seat in the rear of the compartment and was sitting there crying, staring at his feet. "Excuse me a minute, please Uncle Chip?"

"Go ahead. I'll get the preflight done."

Sean got up and headed back to Cory. He tried to put his hand on Cory's shoulder, but Cory swatted it away. He knelt in front of Cory.

"Cory, please listen to me. I'm sorry babe, I guess I wasn't thinking. I know I shouldn't have argued with you. I did not really mean to hurt you. I guess I was a little jealous about you getting your commission and took it out on you by quoting regulations. Can you forgive me, babe?"

"I really don't know, Sean. I saw that look you gave me. You HATED me." Cory then screamed it out. "HOW THE HECK CAN I FORGET THAT YOU HATED ME!"

To Be Continued ...

I hate to say it, but y'all asked for this one! {GIGGLE} My E-mail box has been getting cobwebs, so I thought a little incentive to write me and let me know how the story is doing was in order. (OK, so I'm lousy at subtle hints!) I've lost most of your e-mail addresses in a forced OS reload, so PLEASE let me know what you think!

The Story will continue - unless you tell me to stop. I speak for all the writers on the site when I say that not receiving email is just the same as being told to stop writing. Most of us do this for fun and the gratification that we have touched you somehow with our stories. Please, sit down and let your favorite writers know how you feel, it really does make their day.

As always, you can keep up with this story, as well as Enterprise Tour along with a few special guest authors on our home page, The Annex . I also try to keep a fairly updated note on story status on the site, so it's worth watching.

Stay safe, and be sure to show your special someone you truly love them this holiday season.