"Little Britches" - Star Trek Universe
Thanks: to J. K. Poffenberger, who created the "Little Britches" A/U
Size: Approx 111K
Captains Personal log stardate 2137: My first mission as a new captain. Have been given command of the USS Regulator. A sleek no nonsense long-range assault vessel. We have been sent to a remote area of the neutral zone to patrol along its borders. The Romulans havent done anything in years but the Federation wants to be on guard. My crew consists of a diverse group. Some of the command personal are familiar but some are new. Lt. Wilmington is my second in command and the ship's weapons officer as well as navigator. Hes none too happy that the limited crew doesnt offer him much choice of women but Im sure he will be happy with the choices he does have. Josiah Sanchez, ship's communications officer, dont know the man but he has an impressive record. Chief medical officer Nathan Jackson, Jackson is familiar to me from time spent on the USS Falcon. Nathan has recently been promoted to this position and doesnt feel he is qualified. Starfleet sent him on this mission so he could gain confidence in his abilities. Ship's pilot Ezra Standish, a rogue element. His background is less than stellar. This new crew will take some getting used to but Im sure well manage.
Chris ended his log and told the computer to save it. Once that was done Chris left his small quarters and headed for the bridge. The powerful ship hummed around him as they moved at warp four. Chris walked onto the bridge and headed for the command chair. This wasnt a Constellation class ship so the captains chair was basically just an extension of the communications console. Chris nodded to Josiah as he took the seat next to him. Ezra and Buck were at their stations directly in front of him. Chris watched as Ezras fingers flew over the controls and Chris could see how the man was accused of cheating at the ancient game of poker. Chris was about to read the morning reports when Josiah called to him.
"Chris Im picking up a distress beacon," he said.
"How far?" Chris asked.
"Not sure let me transfer the information to navigation," Josiah said.
"Beacon is approximately three hours away at warp four," Ezra said in his cultured southern accent. "The planet the signal is emanating from is just on the fringe of the neutral zone."
"Can we get to it?" Chris asked.
"Yes, but the planet is barely within Federation space," Ezra replied. "A few feet to the left and it would be in the neutral zone."
"Josiah can you tell what ship its from?" Buck asked.
"No," Josiah said. "Im barely picking up the beacon. It is intermittent and I think its just about ready to fail."
"Ezra take us to warp 8," Chris commanded.
Chris watched the view screen as the stars were stretched and the ship shot ahead. At warp eight the ship would reach the planet in less than an hour.
+ + + + + + +
The creature was surprised as three man materialized out of nowhere. It scampered into the brush and watched from a distance. It watched as the dark skinned one opened up a metal object and swung it in various directions out in front of him. He cursed as the instrument failed to do as it was supposed to. The creature watched for a few more minutes then quickly ran back to the ship. It knew why they were here.
"You getting anything, Nathan?" Buck asked.
"No," Nathan admitted. "I can tell you the direction of the life readings but not exactly what they are."
"Damn, Nathan, this whole planet is teaming with life," Buck cursed. "Couldnt we have waited until this side of the planet was in the morning cycle before coming down?"
"What, Buck, afraid of the dark?" Chris teased as he walked forward.
"When its an unknown planet and its dark, hell yes," Buck said as he held his phaser at his side.
Nathan made them change directions after a short time, as he would get intermittent information from the Tricorder. They had walked for about twenty minutes when they saw the ship not too far ahead. They could all see the ship had been down there for awhile. The lush tropical vegetation was quickly covering the hull. Chris found a hatch but discovered it was sealed. He didnt want to go floundering around and told Buck to burn it open. Buck adjusted the phaser to a small beam and pointed it to the hatch. A short time later the door fell into the ship. Buck entered first followed by the others. The ship still had some power and some lights were still working but not many. They cautiously moved down the corridor and they were surprised to see how well this part of the ship had held together. Chris asked if Nathan was still getting any life readings. Nathan shrugged and said maybe. He just couldnt tell. The hair on the back of Chriss neck was standing on end and he could swear something was watching them. Suddenly he heard a noise from the room they had just passed. He was at the end of the line and he spun to protect their back. Chris wasnt prepared for the demon that landed on him.
Chris grappled with what he thought was a wild cat. The thing was all teeth and claws. He tried to grab any part of the animal but it clung to him just out of reach. Chris was finally able to grab a chunk of its hair then throw it off him hard against the wall. He watched in horror as a small body slid to the ground. Chris couldnt believe it. It was a child. He wanted to see how bad the child was hurt , but he heard a scream from the room.
Out ran another child as wild as the first. Except this one had long dark hair and was smaller. The grimy child ran over to the first and stood in front to protect it.
"My God," Buck said when he saw the small boy glaring at them as he protected his friend
"How long do you think theyve been here?" Nathan asked as he tried to get a reading from the tricorder.
Buck thought the child had the sweetest face under all that grime. He had a soft spot for puppies and little kids. Buck walked towards the child and he snarled. As quick as lightening the small boy tried to slash Buck with a sharp object, barely missing him.
"Sweet," Buck said jumping away.
"Nathan how's the girl?" Chris asked in concern. He couldn't believe he'd hurt a child.
"Alive, I think," Nathan said in exasperation. He knew Chris felt guilty for hurting the child.
"You think?" Chris said angrily.
"Sorry, Chris, I cant tell until I get closer," Nathan said. "I cant do that until we get that hellion out of the way."
"I'll get him," Buck said advancing again.
The black haired demon lunged at Buck and the lieutenant dodged. The small boy wasn't able to recover as fast and Buck grabbed him by the belt on his pants. Buck easily lifted him off his feet.
"No!" the boy scream. Then started speaking in another language.
"Easy there little guy," Buck soothed. "We don't want to hurt you."
The boy wasnt convinced and started to struggle more. Buck was forced to grab him around the waist and hold him against his hip. This left Bucks face vulnerable to attack by the boys hands and nails. The big lieutenant was forced to pin the boys hands against his side. The little devil continued to fight and Buck couldnt believe the strength of someone so little. Finally the struggling stopped and Buck was surprised to see the boy was crying.
"Shhh," Buck said as he carefully released him. "I aint gonna hurt you."
Buck was taken by surprise as little arms wrapped tightly around his neck as the boy buried his face against his neck and cried. The lieutenant patted him on the back as he watch the captain and Nathan deal with the little girl.
Nathan carefully turned the child over, shocked to see how skinny she was. Once Nathan got her turned he pushed the tangled mess of blond hair off the childs face. Nathan could feel Chris wanting to push him out of the way so he could get closer. Nathan waved the tricorder over the still form and cursed.
"Im not getting anything," Nathan said. "Ill have to take her back to the ship."
"Alright you and Buck take them," Chris said. "Send Ezra down. Ill take a look around."
Nathan nodded as he carefully lifted the child. Chris backed up as Buck hit his combadge and signaled four to beam up. He watched as they shimmered and slowly disappeared. Once they were gone Chris continued deeper into the ship. As he walked along the corridor the lights began to become less then none at all. He pulled out a flashlight and continued. Not much further ahead Chris could see the damaged area of the ship. He was forced to crawl over a section of wall that had collapsed. Chris figured he was headed for the bridge but he couldnt be sure. The corridor ended in a tangle of metal that Chris knew he wouldnt be able to get through. He back tracked to another corridor and followed that one. He discovered a door that had boxes and other items from the ship stacked against it. He figured the children must have done it but wasnt sure. Chris pushed the boxes away to find the door was mangled and slightly ajar. It was a tight fit and Chris was barely able to squeeze through. The room was pitch black but Chris could feel the breeze on his right cheek. Chris swung the light around the room and froze in horror. Several skeletons were in the room and Chris knew why the boxes were piled in front of the door. Chris walked over to the closest one and knelt down. He took a closer look and could see the bones had been chewed on. Chris picked one up to get a closer look.
"Dear, Lord," Ezra said as he came into the room.
"How did you know I was here?" Chris asked.
"I followed your trial through the dust," Ezra said as he looked around. "Do you think the children came in here?"
"One of them did," Chris said. "Im guessing the older one. There were boxes piled in front of the door."
"Was that before or after what ever creature came in to disturb the dead?" Ezra asked.
"I dont know," Chris said. "I suppose it doesnt matter. Either way would be hard on a kid."
Ezra nodded and followed Chris as he moved across the room. There was a door on the other side of the room and Chris made his way towards it. As they got closer they both heard a loud growl and stopped. They swung their light towards the sound and saw a feline backed into the corner. It was about the size of an Earth cheetah and Chris backed Ezra away from it. When they were far enough away from the hole leading out to the jungle the cat lunged through and disappeared.
"Now we know what kind of animal did this," Ezra said pointing to the skeletons.
"Yeah," Chris agreed.
They went back over to the door and were forced to use their phasers to get it open. Once it was open they walked into what was left of the bridge. Chris could hear the beacons hum as he got closer to the command console. Ezra stepped up beside Chris and plugged in a small portable generator. Once the unit was plugged in the computer on the console came to life. Ezra tapped out a few commands and stepped back.
"The computer is transferring all files to the Regulator," Ezra said.
"Guess thats all we can do," Chris said.
"Except maybe bury the unfortunate crew," Ezra suggested.
"Maybe we can burn them," Chris said. "Ill ask Josiah."
Chris made his way back to the other room. He stood in the doorway and shined his light over the room. Chris counted at least eight skeletons and wondered if any were the childrens parents. Ezra joined Chris a few minutes later and told him the transfer was complete. Chris stepped into the other room and Ezra followed. Chris hit his combadge and told the ship two to beam up. Once the shimmering stopped the spotted cat made its way cautiously back to its den. It sniffed the spot the men had been standing on but wasnt interested. The cat moved back to its corner and disappeared.
Once they were on the Regulator, Nathan took the children to sick bay. The smaller boy was still crying and holding tight to Buck. The lieutenant shrugged and followed Nathan. The little girl in Nathans arms hadnt stirred and he was starting to get worried. The child weighed almost nothing and Nathan wondered what they had been eating all this time. When they got to sick bay Nathan laid the little girl on an exam table.
"What should I do with this one?" Buck asked.
"Why dont you see if you can get him washed up," Nathan suggested. "Might want to use the tub instead of the sonic shower. I think youll get more off him."
"Alright," Buck said and moved over to the bathroom in sickbay.
Nathan grabbed another Tricorder and some towels and walked back over to the exam table. He flipped open the instrument and passed it over the little girl. Nathan smiled as he read the readings.
"How is she Nathan?" Buck called.
"Well she isnt a she," Nathan answered. "Its a he."
"Under all that hair?" Buck asked surprised.
"Yup," Nathan said then frowned.
He adjusted the Tricorder then passed it over the boy again. Nathan got the same readings as before. He reached up and pushed the hair back form the boys ears. As he expected, Nathan saw they were pointed. He just shook his head and continued his examination.
Buck hadn't suspected that the other child was a boy. With all that blond hair Buck had assumed it was a girl. Buck sat on the edge of the small tub as he continued to hold the other boy. He leaned over and turned on the hot water. It was unusual for a Federation ship to have real water bathtubs but you could still find them on the older ships. As the water splashed into the tub the dark head came away from his chest. Buck wasnt surprised since all children seemed to love to play in water. The small hand reached out and Buck slowly grabbed it.
"Hot," he said.
The boy turned his big brown eyes to Buck and the Lieutenant smiled. The little boy shyly smiled back at him. Buck turned on the cold to try to regulate the temperature of the water. When the boy reached out again Buck didnt stop him. The boy stuck his hand under the water and laughed. When the water was finally to a temperature Buck thought was good he turned off the cold water then helped the boy get undressed. The clothes practically fell apart in Bucks hands . Once the little guy was in the water he started splashing around and yelling in delight.
"Whoa there half pint," Buck said. "Lets try to keep some of the water in the tub."
The little boy looked at Buck oddly. Buck thought maybe he didnt understand English but then remembered the boy was speaking English on the ship.
"Do you have a name?" Buck asked and the boy nodded. "Think you can tell me?" The boy shook his head no. "Why not?"
"Youre a stranger," he said. "Vin told me not to talk to strangers."
"Well thats pretty smart," Buck smiled. "If I tell you my name we wont be strangers any more. Then do you think you can tell me your name?"
"Uh huh," the boy said.
"Well my names Buck Wilmington."
"Im JD Dunne." The boy smiled. "Im five. I think."
"You think?" Buck asked. "Dont you know?"
"Not sure," JD said. "Vin thought it was my birthday a little while ago but he wasnt sure."
"Vin, is that your friend?"
"Vins not my friend hes my cousin," JD said. "Is he gonna be alright? Vin doesnt usually seep at night?"
"He doesnt?" Buck asked confused as he scrubbed the dirt off the boy.
"No we seep when sun's out," JD said seriously. "Bad things come out when the sun does."
"So you are awake at night?" Buck asked.
"Uh huh," JD said.
"Well little guy looks like were going to have to cut this," Buck said as he tried to get the twigs out of JDs hair.
"Vin was gonna," JD said.
"Well I can do it if you want me too" Buck said.
"Okay," JD smiled. "Dont like it in eyes."
"Alright you behave," Buck said. "Ill be right back."
Buck left the door open as he walked out. He saw Nathan trying to wipe some of the grime of the other boy.
"Hey Nathan, you got any scissors?" Buck asked. "I cant get anything through JDs hair so I figure Ill cut it."
"You got him to tell you his name?" Nathan asked surprised.
"Yup," Buck smiled. "After I told him mine so I wasnt a stranger. That one's name is Vin."
"Vin," Nathan said surprised. "Odd name for a Vulcan."
"Yup," Nathan said and pushed the hair from Vins pointed ears.
"Now thats odd," Buck said.
"JD said Vin was his cousin but he isnt Vulcan," Buck said.
"You sure?" Nathan asked.
"Doesnt have elf ears thats for sure," Buck smiled. "So you got any scissors?"
Nathan handed Buck some scissors and the Lieutenant went back to the bathroom. Nathan turned back to Vin and tried in vain to get the knots out of Vins hair. He had given up and gone back to trying to get the dirt off the boy when Chris walked in.
"How is she Nathan?" Chris asked.
"Well first off shes a boy," Nathan smiled.
"Well that explains why he was pretty strong," Chris smiled.
"Got a better explanation for that," Nathan said. "Hes a Vulcan."
"What was a Vulcan doing on that ship?" Chris asked as he pushed the boy's blond hair back to see his pointed ears.
"Dont know," Nathan said.
"So how is he?"
"Pretty good knock on the head," Nathan said. He saw Chris cringe. "Dont worry hell be okay. Hes a little malnourished but other than that hes fine."
Vin heard people talking and lay there with his eyes closed. He thought they sounded like grown ups but that was impossible - they were all dead. Vin didnt hear JD and that worried him. When he felt the emotion he quickly suppressed it and thought logically. JD couldnt be far away, he just had to find him. He couldnt do that if he lay here. Vin slit his eyes open a little and saw two grown ups not too far away. Their backs were to him so Vin opened his eyes and looked around. He was on a different ship but he couldnt see JD. Vin became frightened and jumped off the bed yelling.
Both Chris and Nathan were taken by surprise as they turned to see the boy jump off the bed. They were even more surprised as a wet, naked little boy ran past and over to Vin. Buck came running out and stopped next to Chris. JD was hiding behind his cousin who faced the adults defiantly.
"Easy there, Vin," Chris said. The boy narrowed his eyes but didnt say anything. "We dont want to hurt you."
"Where are we?" Vin demanded.
"Youre on another ship," Nathan said.
"I see that," Vin said staring at Nathan.
"Hes gonna be a handful," Buck predicted. "This is the USS Regulator. Not that the information will help you."
Vin bit his lip trying to decide what to do. The mustached man was right, the information didnt help him. JD stood behind him shaking. Vin wrapped his arms around JD and pulled him close.
"No I just got him clean," Buck sighed.
"Vin would you like to take a bath?" Chris asked as he knelt in front of the boy.
"Felt good Vin," JD said. "Dont itch no more. Buck let me play in water. We havent done that in long time."
Vin was torn. It was logical to get cleaned up since the water was now available, but he wanted to protect JD. He didnt know if it was dark outside or not.
"Is it night time?" Vin asked.
"What?" Chris asked confused.
"Yeah, Vin, its night time," Buck said quickly. "No bad things are out yet."
"I show you," JD said taking Vins hand and dragging him towards the other room.
"What was that about?" Chris asked as the boys disappeared.
"JD told me they were only awake during the night," Buck said. "That bad things came out during the day."
"But that doesnt make sense," Chris said.
"Its what they believe, Chris," Buck said. "Theyre only little. It doesnt have to make sense."
Buck followed them to the bathroom. As he stepped inside he smiled when he saw them both in the tub. Vin was washing JDs hair.
"I already did that son," Buck said. Vin jumped at Bucks voice and dropped the soap. "Didnt mean to scare you."
"I wasnt afraid," Vin said. "Fear is illogical."
"Oh," Buck said kneeling down trying not to smile. "Well why dont I give you a hand."
"No!" Vin said angrily. "JDs my cousin."
Chris looked at Nathan in concern. The boy seemed to be trying to suppress his emotions but sometimes he wasnt able too. Nathan shrugged. He had no experience with Vulcan children. Vin appeared to want to do everything himself yet seemed angry when things didnt go his way. Chris stepped in to give Buck a hand. Buck finished up with JD while Chris took care of Vin. Chris knew they wouldnt be able to get Vins hair cleaned until they cut it.
"Vin we have to cut your hair," Chris said.
"No!" Vin said and pulled away from him. "I wont let you!"
"Now look, Vin, its for your own good," Chris said and reached for the boy.
Chris grabbed Vins arm and Vin bit him. Chris let go with a yelp as Vin jumped out of the tub and ran into the other room. Chris walked out of the bathroom rubbing his hand. He found Vin standing in the corner. He was trying to get his fingers to go through his mated hair. Chris walked over and knelt next to him.
"What if we cut it just enough to get the twigs out," Chris said. "Would that be okay?"
Vin turned to Chris with tears in his eyes, which he quickly brushed away. Chris just shook his head as the boy tried to get his emotions under control.
"That would seem the logical thing to do," Vin said without inflection.
Chris again shook his head as Vin turned his back to him. He took the long strands in his hand and cut out the matted parts. When he was done he a had a pretty good pile of hair on the floor along with some twigs. When his hair was finished Chris took him back to the tub and washed it. They came back out a few minutes later with a newly cleaned Vin. Buck had gotten clothes from the replicator and he helped Vin put them on.
"Are you boys hungry?" Nathan asked.
"Yeah!" JD yelled. "The repicator stop working. Only carrots come out. Vin cant eat carrots. Make him sick."
"You got food out of the replicator?" Buck asked.
"Sure," JD said. "Aint that where supposed ta get it?"
"Vin how long has it been since youve eaten anything?" Nathan asked.
"Dont know," Vin shrugged.
Nathan ordered soup and some bread and placed it in front of the boys. JD gobbled his down and Buck scolded him. Vin ate his more slowly and Nathan suspected it was because he wasnt used to anything this rich. When they were finished JD tugged on Vins shirt.
"Vin is it still dark out?" JD asked.
"I dont know," Vin said.
"Im tired," JD said. "Want to go seep."
"Yup the sun came up while your were getting your bath," Buck said as he looked at his watch.
"Where we gonna seep?" JD asked.
"You can sleep on that bed," Nathan said pointing to a bed.
"Too high," JD said. "Seep in closet."
JD walked over to the cabinet by the wall and started pulling everything out of it. Vin went over to help him and in no time the cabinet was empty. Buck didnt say anything as he grabbed some blankets and pillows and walked over to the cabinet. He helped spread the blankets. When they were done the boys climbed in. JD went close to the wall and Vin lay in front of him facing out. JD snuggled up to Vin as Buck covered them.
"Doors opened or closed?" Buck asked.
"Closed," Vin said. Buck closed the doors and walked over to the others.
"What are we going to do with them?" Buck asked.
"I have no idea," Chris answered.
Chris left the boys with Nathan and headed for the bridge. Buck followed him and they entered the command area together. Josiah was sitting at his area as Chris joined him. Buck headed for the weapons console.
"Josiah are you getting anything from the records Ezra downloaded?" Chris asked.
"Quite a lot," Josiah said. "It's very interesting. All of the passengers have Romulan blood."
"All of them?" Buck asked surprised.
"The captain's log says they were all being persecuted on various planets," Josiah replied. "Seem they were trying to find a planet where they could live peacefully."
"Any information about the two boys we found?" Ezra asked.
"Yes," Josiah said as he hit a few buttons and a picture of the older boy came on the screen. "This is Vin Tanner. Says he is part Romulan, Vulcan and a little human thrown in. Log says he was traveling with his aunt. Which brings us to the other boy." Josiah hit a few buttons and the younger boy came on the screen. "JD Dunne is mostly human. His mother was also on the ship."
"Poor kids," Buck said. "We didn't find any adults alive."
"Where are they now?" Josiah asked.
"In Medical with Nathan," Chris answered.
"Poor guys are sleeping in a cabinet," Buck said.
"A cabinet?" Ezra asked surprised.
"Yes," Buck sighed. "The little guys wanted somewhere safe. They also think it's daytime."
"You lost me," Josiah said.
"There's large felines on the planet," Chris said. "We found where the adults were. The bodies were ripped apart."
"Hell," Buck exclaimed. "You think they saw?"
"We think the older one might have," Ezra said. "There were boxes piled in front of the door to prevent someone from entering."
"What are we going to do with them?" Josiah asked.
"Keep them," Buck quickly answered.
"I don't know," Chris said to stop Buck from getting too excited.
"But, Chris, theyre only little boys," Buck insisted.
"We can't keep them on the ship," Chris said.
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Vin was restless. He wasn't used to the noises of the ship. JD was sound asleep next to him and Vin tried not to wake him. Vin's stomach growled loudly and he decided to sneak out to get something to eat. He cautiously opened the door and looked around. The dark medical officer wasn't around and Vin sneaked out of the closet. He walked over to the replicator and stood in front of it.
"Chocolates cake," Vin said.
The platform shimmered and the cake appeared. Vin asked for another piece and also other things he liked. He took his prizes and snuck back to the closet. He put the food down and touched JD's shoulders by mistake as he tried to get comfortable.
"What ya doin'?" JD asked.
"Nothing I was just hungry," Vin said.
"Can I have some?" JD asked.
Vin gave some of the cake and other sweets to JD. They both gorged themselves on the food then decided to go explore. Vin opened the door to look around.
"NO!" JD yelled. "It's light out."
"It's all right, JD, were not on the planet," Vin said. "These are lights."
"Like before our ship broke?" JD asked.
JD nodded and Vin opened the door. The room was empty and Vin led JD over to the door. It swished open automatically and JD jumped back. Vin remembered the doors doing that and wasn't afraid. He took JD's hand and walked through the door. JD wasn't sure about walking around when it was light out and stayed close to his older cousin. Vin quickly moved down the empty corridor until he came to a T intersection. He hugged the wall and looked cautiously around the corner. JD wanted to look also and he peered out from under Vin's arm. The corridor was empty and Vin took JD's hand and continued exploring the ship. They made it halfway down the corridor when they heard voices approaching. Vin grabbed JD and went to the nearest doorway. They stood in front of it and the door opened automatically. Vin pulled JD inside and they stood there frozen as the door closed behind them. JD quickly moved to his cousins side as they looked around the forest. Vin didn't know what to do. It was daylight and they had to find shelter.
"Hide," JD urged.
Vin took JD's hand and ran into the forest. He didn't know what was going on. It didn't look like the same kind of plants he was used to. Once under the trees Vin frantically looked around for a place to hide. JD was scared and started to cry. An animal roared in the distance and both boys jumped.
"Hide now!" JD cried.
Vin could see there was nowhere to hide close by and he ran further into the forest. JD tried to keep up with his taller cousin but tripped on a root and fell. JD cried harder and Vin told him he had to be quiet or they would be found. Vin made JD climb on his back. JD clung to Vin as they looked for a place to hide.
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Nathan walked into sick bay and over to his console. He opened his personal log and began to recite the days medical information. It didn't take him very long since all he had to report was the two boys they found on the planet. Nathan ended his log and decided to check on the boys. He stepped into the other room and saw the cabinet they had been sleeping in open. Nathan looked inside and wasn't surprised to see it empty.
"Damn," Nathan cursed as he hit his combadge. "Captain the two boys are no longer in sick bay."
"What!" Chris snapped.
"I came back to check on them and they were gone," Nathan replied.
"Ezra run a scan for them," Chris said.
"Aye captain," Ezra said as his finger flew over his console. "They are in holo-suite 2."
"Let's go, Buck," Chris said as he headed off the bridge.
"Mind if I come?" Josiah asked. "I'd like to meet them."
"The more the merrier," Buck smiled as he followed Chris.
+ + + + + + +
Vin was finally able to find a log they could hide behind. He made JD lie close to the log then he stretched out behind his cousin with his back exposed. They both lay there shaking as they listened to the sounds of the forest. They both jumped when a crow cawed in the tree close to them. Vin could feel JD shivering and he wrapped his arms around his cousin and held him close. Vin wasn't sure how long they'd been there when he heard something sniffing close by. He knew their hiding place wasn't the best and decided he had to lead whatever it was away from JD.
"JD you have to do exactly what I say," Vin whispered. "I'm gonna make the animal follow me so he leaves you alone."
"Don't leave me," JD cried clinging to Vin.
"I have to," Vin said. "But I'll come back for you."
Vin kissed his cousin and told him to be very quiet. JD nodded and Vin let him go. JD made himself as small as he could as Vin covered him with leaves. Vin looked around and saw a large brown animal digging up roots by a tree.
"ARGH!" Vin yelled waving his arms to get the animals attention.
Vin was frozen in place as the animal stood on its back legs and roared. It walked towards Vin on its back legs waving its paws. Suddenly Vin remembered what he had to do and ran. He looked back once and saw the animal chasing him. Vin couldn't believe something that big could run so fast. Vin wasn't watching where he was going and ran into something. He would have fallen except something grabbed his arm. Vin screamed and tried anything to get away.
"It's alright, son," Josiah said as he tried to hold onto the struggling boy.
"Holy..." Buck exclaimed as the bear came crashing out of the trees.
"Computer, end program," Chris commanded.
The bear instantly disappeared, as did the forest. They ended up standing in a room that was all black with a yellow grid pattern running along the walls and ceiling. Buck saw JD curled in a ball in the corner and walked over to him. Buck kneeled down and touched him. JD screamed which made Vin fight Josiah even more.
"Ah!" Josiah yelled as Vin bit him.
Before he could bolt Chris grabbed him and gave him a little shake. "Vin!" Vin looked up at his name and saw the man who found them.
Vin's stomach rebelled and he threw up all the food he had eaten before they went exploring. Chris held Vin's shoulders until only the dry heaves were left. He could feel the small boy shaking and Chris gathered him in his arms. Chris was taken by surprise when Vin threw his arms around his neck and clung to him. Vin's legs wrapped around his waist and Chris could feel just how strong Vin was. Josiah touched the boys back and Chris grunted as Vin held on tighter.
"He okay?" Buck asked as he walked over. JD had is arms wrapped tightly around Buck's neck. As he came over they could see him trying to get the boy to loosen his hold.
"Cutting off your air?" Josiah smiled.
"Not funny," Buck said. "This little guy has quite a grip."
"I bet," Josiah laughed.
"I can't believe how frightened they are," Buck said. JD was still crying as Buck rubbed his back.
"Let's get them back to sick bay," Chris said as he headed for the door.
Buck followed Chris and Josiah set the holodeck to self-clean. Josiah could see Buck was becoming attached to the young boy. Chris on the other hand seemed uncomfortable with the older boy. He figured it had something to do with the fact that Chris's son was about the same age when he died. The captain didn't speak of it much but everyone knew how his wife and son had died. By the time they got back to sickbay JD was talking with Buck. Josiah could see the traumatic experience was forgotten. He smiled as the little boy asked a thousand questions.
"What happened?" Nathan asked as they walked in.
"Found them in one of the holo-suites," Chris said as he tried to hand Vin to Nathan except Vin wouldn't let go.
Buck sat on one of the exam beds with JD. He watched as Chris sat across from them with Vin. Chris absently rubbed Vin's back and felt him flinch.
"Vin does your back hurt?" Chris asked and the boy shook his head no.
"It does but he don't talk about it," JD whispered.
Nathan picked up the tricorder and passed it over Vin's back. He looked at the readings and frowned.
"What?" Chris asked.
"He has a slight curve to his lower back," Nathan answered. "Looks like he's had it since birth."
"Can you fix it?" Josiah asked.
"Normally I would say yes," Nathan said. "If he was human there'd be no problem. With his Vulcan physiology he has different nerves and organs too close to his spine for me to go messing with it."
"Is he in pain?" Chris asked.
"Probably some minor discomfort but nothing to worry about," Nathan said. "I'll give him something for it."
Nathan picked up a hypospray and went to place it on Vin's neck. Vin smacked it out of Nathan's hand and glared at him. The hypospray landed at Josiah's feet and he picked up.
"Vin it will help," Chris said.
"How do you know my name?" Vin asked suspiciously.
"The computer on your ship told us," Chris answered. "You're Vin Tanner and that's your cousin JD Dunne."
"It's not fair," Vin said. "I don't know yours."
"My name's Chris Larabee," he said. "Im captain of this ship."
"Pleased to meet you," Vin said holding out his hand. Chris smiled and shook his hand.
"Me too!" JD said reaching out his hand.
"Why did you wander around?" Nathan asked, after introductions were made.
"I was curious," Vin said. "It was my fault not JD's."
"You're not in trouble," Josiah smiled. "How did you end up in the holosuite?"
"Huh?" JD asked.
"The room with the forest," Buck said.
"I don't know," Vin said. "We heard someone coming and we ran."
"Then we were out during the day," JD said frightened. "We had to hide or the bad things would get us."
"It's okay, little guy," Buck soothed. "Nothing's going to hurt you here."
"But there was," Vin cried. "A big one just like on our ship."
"I know," Chris said as Vin huddled against him. "But the ones on this ship are make believe. They won't hurt you."
"Promise?" Vin asked.
"I promise," Chris said smiling. "Think you can let Nathan give you something to help your back?"
"I guess," Vin shrugged.
Nathan smiled and injected Vin with the hypospray. Chris could feel Vin relax in his arms as he held him. Vin was reluctant to let Chris go. It was nice having an adult hug even if it was illogical. The drug made Vin sleepy and he soon drop off to sleep.
"Vin sick?" JD asked when he saw he was asleep.
"No he's just tired," Chris said as he lay Vin on the bed.
"Me too," JD said. "But can't seep here. Haveta go in closet."
"You don't have to sleep there any more," Buck said.
"Yes!" JD cried becoming agitated. "Have to hide!"
"Alright, JD," Chris said not wanting to frighten the younger boy. He picked up Vin and headed for the cabinet. "You go in first and I'll put Vin next to you."
"Okay," JD said cheerfully and jumped down from the bed.
JD climbed into the cabinet and moved over so Chris could put Vin next to him. Chris put Vin down and JD cuddled next to him as Chris covered them both with blankets. When they were settled Chris stepped back and closed the door.
"Theyre awfully cute," Josiah said.
"Don't you go getting attached either," Chris warned. "They can't stay."
"Why not?" Buck asked.
"This isn't a proper place to raise a child," Chris argued.
"And the place I was raised was?" Buck asked.
'Not the same, Buck and you know it," Chris said. "You had your mother."
"True," Josiah agreed. "But these boys have no one."
"We'll bring them to the closest space station," Chris said.
"And give them to who?" Nathan asked.
"I don't know," Chris argued. "But they can't stay here and that's final."
The three officer watched as Chris left sickbay. They knew the boys would be shunned since they were part Romulan. They had their work cut out for them if they were going to convince Chris to let them stay.
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