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Mark C. Henrie



The voice came thundering across the Golden Nova Bar and Grill of the vacation planet, Festus III, with the vastness of deep-space itself. "Montgomery Scott, you old spacedog. Why bless my soul (which it sorely needs)!"

"Aye, and who's thot?" Scotty answered, looking up questioningly from his drink and peering through the haze of smoke which filled the large room.

"It's me, lad!" came the thundering voice again, this time attached to the body of a man somewhere in his late sixties or early seventies with gleaming silver hair swept back and a handsome face with many laugh lines around two dazzling blue eyes.

"Why, it's Chauncey Shamberger!" Scotty exclaimed in excitement as he stood. The two men exchanged an enormous bear hug.

"That's right. It's ol' Chauncey, scourge of the Sirian satellites. I'm still in space, too old to tell me to retire. And you're still in space, too, if I've heard rightly, and wearing full commanders' stripes at that."

"Aye, 'tis true enough. I finally let them promote me so long as I could stay wi' the Enterprise and me bairns."

"Still on the Enterprise, eh? Soon to be the finest ship in the fleet..."

"If'n I may correct you, always the finest ship in the fleet..."

"If you say so..."

The two men exchanged playful punches on the arm. Then Scotty continued, "Aye, we've been in drydock for four months now, and we're waiting clearance to begin the overhaul. The order should be comin' through shortly. Admiral Kirk is working hard to get the lady set."

"Four months in drydock without any work for an engineer? Why, Scotty, boy, what on Earth and in space did you do to pass the time?"

"Saints preserve me, Chauncey, what a question! Here, have some of the scotch I've been drinkin', and I'll tell you what I've been doin'. First, I think I need a few more sips m'self."

Both Chauncey and Scotty lifted their glasses and swallowed their liquor in short order. Scotty sat looking at his glass for a few moments, and Chauncey took the opportunity to pull out of his pocket an enormous cigar and light it. The room was soon filled with a peculiar greenish blue smoke and a terrible odor which roused Scotty from his cogitation.

"What in the galaxy are ye smokin', Chauncey? It's enough to throw a body from here to Vega!"

"It's a cigar I have especially made by an Andorian on the Arpinza Colony. The tobacco's a hybrid, cross between Vulcan and Kzin breeds, and blended with all that exotic stuff is some Virginia pure bred."

"Whatever it may be, it's mighty potent. I believe I'll be needin' another drink jus' te get the smell of it outta me nose."

"You know, Scotty, I think you're right. I think I'll be needing another drink to get the smell out as well, if for no other reason." Both Chauncey and Scotty laughed heartily as the drinks arrived on the auto-vendor.

"But anyway," Scotty began. "Like you were sayin', what does an engineer do with himself? It's a pretty problem. I'd been sittin' about the Enterprise for a month after we docked and I was nearly outta me head with boredom. I'd had the whole ship cleaned spotless--for microbes even--three times in that month! I'd run tests on every circuit and chip in her sweet engines and computers. She was in ship-shape, and I had nae a thing te do. I wrote four papers for Scientific Federate and some trade journals, but I was sick with somethin' te do.

"So, then," Scotty continued as his eyes became ever so slightly glassy. "Some brilliant desk-jockey came to me one day and said, 'Commander Scott?' And I said, 'Aye.' 'I'm from Fleet Headquarters,' he said. I said, 'Aye,' all the while knowin' that I didn't like what was comin', whatever it was. And finally, after some mindless banter (you know how those paper-pushers can be), he came out with it and said, 'Fleet Command knows that an accomplished engineer like yourself must be bored in drydock.' My heart took a leap. I thought maybe I was wrong and this could turn out well. 'So we're giving you a sort of working vacation to pass the coming month or so.'

"Chauncey, I was absolutely crushed! Here I thought they were going to let me in on the refit for the warp engines they're a-workin' on. After all, I did come up with the idea and the original math on the five year mission. But no, these eggheads from 'fleet Research wanted a crack at it first so they could grab all the glory. I wasn't disappointed in that. I didn't care who got the credit. I only wanted some engines to work with."

Here Chauncey interrupted with a puff of smoke. The bar was already completely obscured by billowing clouds of greenish blue fog. "But what was this working vacation all about? Surely it couldn't be that bad."

"Heaven help us all, Chauncey, you wouldn't believe how bad! They made me a babysitter!"

Chauncey almost shot his flaming cigar from his mouth. "Great Jumping Galaxies, Scotty, why in hyperspace did they do that?"

"How should I know? They just did. So they next day I found myself on a shuttle travelling toward Starbase Two. I arrived in nae a day or two, and during that time I looked through the files of these little lads I'd be taking around. They were all boys between the relative ages of eight and twelve, and they were all the sons of 'fleet bigwigs. Most of 'em had never even seen their home planets. Most of em had never been off Starbase Two before.

"My 'vacation' was to take them on a trip to one of the major worlds. In a burst of blasted bureaucratic brilliance, the brass picked Tellar."

At this, Chauncey frowned to suppress a smile. Failing at this, he laughed a little. Then he burst into a full, uncontrollable laugh. "Oh, Scotty, I am sorry, but that's so...hilarious. I mean, you've only been to Tellar...what...four times?"

"Only three. I didn't know a pluto's worth about that fool planet and the pigs."

At this, the table behind Scott's suddenly became quiet, and both Chauncey and Scotty turned to see five burly Tellarites sitting there quite drunk. Scotty and Chauncey both smiled that same conciliatory smile which so often saves drunken bar patrons from a brawl.

"I didn't know a thing about that planet and its inhabitants," Scotty corrected. "But you know Starfleet Command as well as I. Remember? These are the lads that made you, the best pilot and one of the best helmsmen in the fleet, the chief maintenance officer of Starbase Seven. I'm just lucky this was temporary."

"Oh, but Scotty, so was my stay as that maintenance officer."

"Oh," Scotty saw the amused look on Chauncey's face. "How did you manage to get out of that glamour job?"

"Now, you know better than that, Montgomery Scott. I merely did my job so well that within two months the base was so absolutely filthy that I was instantly replaced. I've been training helmsmen for the past three years at the Academy."

"Ah, Chauncey, there's nae too many like ye around nae more. But as I was a-sayin', I had these lads, seven of 'em. I had me three Humans, two Tellarites, an Andorian, and a little Vulcan. I met them the first day I arrived..."

Scotty stood stiffly in the briefing room, waiting for his charges to arrive. He still wondered what had made the high brass choose a bachelor engineer to play father to seven little boys. All he could do was shrug it off as bureaucratic brilliance and leave it at that. He had read all the dossiers. John Collier, age twelve, Terran, son of Commodore Collier of Tactical Studies; Tony Sassani, age nine, Terran, son of Rear Admiral Sassani, Chief of Strategic Technology; Vega Gnost, age ten, Terran, son of Admiral Gnost, Chief of Sciences; Gjav Gragrar, age ten, Tellarite, son of Vice Admiral Gragrar, Chief of Public Relations; Gorgi Brazus, age eight, Tellarite, son of Commodore Brazus, commander of the peace-keeping force in the Kzin Patriarchy; Kelvar Kazanga, age eleven, Andorian, son of Vice Admiral Kazanga, commander of the Third Fleet; and the youngest of them, the lone Vulcan Storl, age eight, son of Admiral Storl, Chief of Logistical Support.

Scotty was ready for anything, he thought, so there was no need to worry in the least. Why, then, was he sweating? Oh, merely nervous excitement.

The door of the briefing room opened and the boys spilled out (or in, depending on your perspective). Almost immediately, they joined in chorus with "Hello, Uncle Scotty!"

Scotty's heart warmed, and he smiled to himself. So, Uncle Scotty, was it? Well, why not? He thought he'd be able to live up to that so long as things did not get too far out of hand. This might just turn out to be a fun trip after all, the space-tried engineer thought to himself, prematurely of course.

"All right, lads," Scotty announced cheerfully. "Line up with yer baggage."

The eleven small boys lined up in a row, but none had their luggage. John spoke up. "Our bags are being loaded onto the Excalibur right now. We could never carry it all by ourselves. It's being loaded into the cargo holds, and then pieces of it will be dropped off at each hotel we'll be staying at on Tellar. It's much easier that way."

Only the elite, Scotty thought to himself "Well, I guess ye've never had to learn the virtue of trav'lin' light, have ye now? At least we're ready fer this little excursion, it seems. So then let's go." And Scotty beamed with delight as the room again erupted with a chorus of young voices, this time exclaiming, "Hooray!"

"So you arrived safely on the ship," Chauncey asked.

"Aye, but by the time we arrived on Tellar, I'll tell ye, I wanted my mother!"

Chauncey laughed lightly and then asked, "That reminds me, Scotty, how are your parents?"

"Oh, they're doin' fine. Dad's enjoyin' his retirement though he still does substitute teaching at the high school now 'n then. And me mom's still workin' at her family's company. When me Uncle Angus dies, she'll become the sole owner of McClaren Distilleries, you know. But I'm getting away from th' story. We were on the Excalibur, and we were doin' quite fine until the third day when they...started te git a wee bit restless...

Scotty roamed about the engine room of the Excalibur with a look of perfect contentment on his face. He alwaysloved being around engines, even ones that weren't his own. These were a fine set of bairns, and Scotty said as much to the fine engineer, Lieutenant Commander Sorenson. Scotty walked along, caressing the finely kept control panel. He scanned the readouts with utter bliss until suddenly he noticed something, and his jaw dropped. He turned ash white.

"What's this?" he shouted, pointing to the display panel as Lieutenant Commander Sorenson came to his side.

"Why, sir," the young officer replied in an explanatory tone, "That's the bridge life support display."

"I know that!" Scotty replied with irritation. "But look what it reads, mon, look what it reads?"

"It reads the bridge at a constant temperature of one hundred thirty-five degrees and that xenon has replaced oxygen in most of the atmosphere."

"That's right," Scotty became anxious. "And if that's so, everyone on the bridge is dead by now."

"Gee, I guess you're right," came Sorenson's laconic reply, and then he began to giggle. Scotty heard more giggling behind him and turned to see Kelvar and Tony standing aside laughing. The old space-dog saw at once that he had been the brunt of a masterful practical joke and promptly, and quite obligingly, turned a shade of bright red. The engine room erupted into a din of uproarious laughter.

But despite that little incident, the boys were good through most of the trip to Tellar, and, at last, the starship was in standard orbit around the green and blue globe of Tellar. In the transporter room, the last goodbyes were being said by the junior officers to the restless little lads and their nursemaid/uncle, Scotty.

"Here, why don't I accompany you down, Scotty," Captain Conrad said.

The boys were beginning to push and shove on the transporter platform. "Now settle down, lads," Scotty chastised. They did so tentatively. "No, Captain," Scotty addressed Conrad. "I think I can handle 'em. At least I hope I can."

Captain Conrad smiled knowingly before saying, "Very well, Mister Scott. I wish you the best of luck." Scotty smiled. And then, before the transporting occurred, Captain Conrad smiled devilishly and added, "Oh, and Mister Scott, enjoy your vacation."

With that, the transporter beam turned seven boys and Scotty into sheets of shimmering light before they reappeared in whole in the transporter room of the Poda Bova Grand Hotel Interstellar. Two of the seven small figures reappeared locked in a tussle, busily tearing at each other's hair. Scotty broke that up at once and saw that it might not be as easy as he thought.

That night was the first real rest Scotty had had since the trip had begun at Starbase Two several days before. He told all the boys to get showers and get ready for bed, which they did remarkably well (to Scotty's everlasting relief). Once in their pajamas, he let them watch some of the video of Tellar while he sank into an easy chair with one of the latest editions of Crystalline Microcircuitry, one of his favorite technical journals.

The boys were watching one of the top rated shows on Tellar, Space Trek, the story of the brave, all-Tellarite crew of the U.S.S. Porcis, whose adventures took them to the far ends of the galaxy in search of new life and new civilizations. With the exception of Gjav and Gorgi, the boys were not enthused. Scotty was not interested at the moment in what the boys were watching, because he was deeply immersed in an article of the new Ching Mai Pei Trilithium Theorem. When Kelvar Kazanga tapped him on the knee, he was startled.

"Uncle Scotty..." Kelvar began uncertainly. "I've got to...tell you something."

"What is it, lad?" Scotty asked distractedly.

"Well," Kelvar was still a trifle uncertain. Then he shouted at the top of his young Andorian lungs, "PILLOW FIGHT!!!" And as one, the group of boys descended onto Scotty with pillows flying. An engineer who had faced the trials of the five-year mission was battered relentlessly by soft white pillows in the hands of giggling young lads.

Serves me right, Scotty thought, for not paying total attention to the lads. Then he picked up the nearest pillow and joined in the fray lustily.

"Oh, Chauncey, I'll tell you, I'm gettin' too old for these kinds o' things. Give me a battle fleet of Klingon cruisers. They're easier to handle."

"Don't give me that, Scotty. You loved every minute of it."

"Aye, 'tis true," Scotty admitted. "But that night after I had lost the pillow fight decisively (I was outnum'erd seven te one, mind ye, or I coulda held me own), I was tempted to call in a medic and give each of the lads a very heavy tranquilizer. One that could put out a Mugatu.

"It took about two hours after that for them to settle down, though they did deserve that little bit of fun. After all, they had been fairly good aboard the Excalibur," Scotty added while Chauncey filled the room with another cloud of smoke. "And then the next day, they did somethin' so very sweet...I guess."

The orange suns of Tellar shown brightly through the window, and Scotty awoke with the last trace of a headache. Should've known better than to order Tellarite whiskey before going to bed, the engineer thought with remorse and deep regret. Just then the door of his room opened, and in spilled the seven boys with a tray.

"Look, Uncle Scotty," young Tony Sassani spoke for the group. "We brought you breakfast in bed."

Uh oh, Scotty thought, for he hadn't yet opened his eyes. Why did I get this job anyway? But he was really too touched with the gesture to be upset, and so he opened his eyes to see a huge tray of food. "Why bless your souls," he said.

"Oh, it's nothing," John, the oldest, interjected. "After all, we only charged it to your account."

Scotty swallowed hard and was remarkably successful at keeping a smile on his face. "Well," he said with a feeble laugh. "Let's see what we have here," he said as pleasantly as possible, remembering how expensive prices could be at a luxury hotel. "We've got...what have we got here?!"

Scotty looked down at his tray with a mixture of horror, wonder, and disdain. Three eggs--not the Terran variety, but the egg of the Trasaz bird of Tellar--stared up at Scotty with greenish grey yolks. Next to them were some wholly indiscernible foods. Scotty asked Gjav and Gorgi about them.

"Well," Gjav began. "The bacon (that's bacon, by the way, Uncle Scotty) is our native variety from the Flemumbi, the Tellarite version of the Terran pig. You've got some toast there--yes, I know it's slightly pink, but that comes from the minerals in Tellar's soil and how they react to standard Terran wheat."

Gorgi took up the explanation as he pointed to three cup-like containers, each of which contained some type of liquid. The first one was quite thoroughly green, with bits of pink floating about. "That's Greblom soup, Uncle Scotty, and it's made of boiled Greblom Grass (which gives it its green color). The pink things floating around in there are live Pingini fish which add to the flavor."

Scotty frowned, felt increasingly nauseous, and looked to the next cup which contained a watery pudding, "That's Brembin pudding. It's made with fat and Flemumbi intestines, and it's sweetened with Tellarite maple syrup." Scotty choked momentarily and then looked at the last cup which contained a noxious yellow liquid. As far as he could see, nothing was swimming in it.

"That's coffee," Gorgi explained.

"Oh," Scotty replied in a pallor. Well, he thought to himself. Maybe he could manage to down the eggs, and then he'd put the rest of the food down the disposal when the boys left. "Uh, how much did all this cost anyway?" Scotty asked in his most nonchalant manner.

"Thirty-nine point fifty-five credits," Vega Gnost announced proudly. "And we tipped the man five credits, and the left over change."

"Oh, is that all," Scotty said as he turned a slight shade of red. "Well, thanks so much, all of you. Now why don't you all get dressed."

When they were gone, Scotty stifled a scream and decided he'd try the yellow coffee. To his surprise, it was actually good! When he had finished it, he thought better of his decision to try the eggs and sent the works right down the disposal. He'd spent forty-five credits for what amounted to a cup of yellow coffee. It was the most expensive cup of coffee he'd ever had. He'd just have to pick up some junk food along the way that day (providing that Tellarite junk food was any better than Tellarite haute cuisine).

By 0945, the troops were ready and waiting for their first excursion on the planet. As they were in the central metropolis of Telmart, there were innumerable sights to be seen in the immediate vicinity, and so Scotty had scheduled a full four days to be spent right here. The first order of business, of course, would have to be the Tellar Interplanetary Zoo. That seemed harmless enough.

"...and when we reach the zoo, we will not, I repeat, not, stray more than ten meters from the main party. Try to stay within sight of me. If we lose any of ye lads, ye'll report to a security guard at once. Understood? Any questions? Then let's go!"

By transporter, they were at the zoo in less than five minutes. The first hour went very well. They saw most of the unique animal life of Tellar. Particular favorites of the Tellarites, Gorgi and Gjav, were the Telvars, monkey-like animals with blue fur. They were usually used to represent all non-Tellarites in comic strips of the planet for they looked like a marvelous cross between an Andorian, a Human, and a Vulcan. None of the other members of the party were quite so enthused in watching the Telvars. The Andorian member of the party, Kelvar, found the Zefrans fascinating. The Zefrans were one of the most successful predatory species of Tellar, in fact one of the most successful predators in the Federation. At only forty-five kilos, its claws and fangs could rip open the toughest hides, and the dragon scales on its back made it immune to counterattack. In the jungles which girded Tellar at the equator, even modern Tellarites had to take many precautions against these fierce animals. It was natural though, that an Andorian would find it interesting.

Storl, the young and slightly homely Vulcan boy did not "like" any of the animals, but he was "fascinated" by the common antelope. He simply could not fathom the usefulness of their horns, and when Scotty looked at the immensely complex system of antlers of the small beasts, he had to agree that they were utterly useless appendages and a freak of evolution. Storl spent the better part of the day trying to determine how it was evolutionarily possible, but as he was only a young Vulcan, he lacked the ability and finally gave up the puzzle. The Human boys seemed to be most intrigued by the Framarts, an aviary-predatory species which had nothing even remotely similar among Earthly creatures. The Framarts were extremely large, and looked almost like a small bobcat with a huge set of wings.

Even Scotty was enjoying this little trip through the zoo. Never since his childhood had he really stopped to enjoy the surroundings, and because he knew there was no possibility of his getting to a set of engines to work on, he decided to relax and enjoy himself. While he would have dropped this trip in a microsecond to work on the new pulsed warp theory, he had to admit to himself that this simple pleasure of seeing the animals was satisfying in itself.

And then it happened. Scotty knew things had been going to well.

At the edge of the Grazzilot pen, the young Gorgi slipped beneath the bars and fell in. Now a Grazzilot is an animal to be reckoned with. Slightly smaller than an elephant, it is the largest species of crab in the known galaxy. It is quite carnivorous, and its claws can bend iron. But, of course, Scotty didn't know that. All he knew was that one of his charges had fallen into an animal pen, and since there was no creature in sight (the Grazzilot usually hides in its den like a spider), he jumped down to rescue the young Tellarite who was busy squealing in that uniquely Tellarite way of expressing fear (squealing, that is, like a Terran pig). In a matter of seconds, Scotty had scooped up the little squealing Gorgi and hoisted him up to his friends. Then he looked around to see the Grazzilot emerging. Scotty gulped once again and then scrambled up the side of the pen at at least warp five. He was quickly out of harm's way as a claw flew past him. That ended the excursion to the zoo, and it was more than past time to go back to the hotel for a rest, a long rest...and maybe some scotch.

"So you almost had your face clawed off, eh lad?" Chauncey said with a small laugh. "I bet that's the last time you'll ever have crab legs for dinner."

"Aye, ye're plenty right there," Scotty replied as his accent became thicker with the consumption of scotch. "I nae want te see a crab for as long as I live, and then some. But after, the first day, things went pretty well.

After that one small incident, Scotty thought he'd just about had it. He had to scold Gorgi for getting too close to the rail, of course, and he did that with the ease of his convictions. But then, he never had told them not to get too close to the bars, so he didn't spank the lad as he wanted to. Then he told the rest of the boys to be more careful and to consider the dangers involved before doing anything. "Look before you leap," in other words. Scotty then retired to his bedroom, but not before making sure all the boys understood perfectly that he would order his own breakfast the following morning.

When the morning came, Scotty had to hurry to get ready for another day of touring Telmart. Today had been designated for the Tellar Museum of Natural History, a sprawling complex of buildings near the center of the city. It had been built in 2098 O.E.G. only two years after the first Tellarites had visited Earth and seen the Smithsonian. With typical Tellarite behavior, the museum was the largest of its kind in the Federation, though the exhibits were sometimes lacking in content. Scotty didn't see the sense in visiting the Museum of Natural History the day after visiting the zoo, but he had his official itinerary, and he had to follow what the brass had given him. After washing, dressing, and eating a very satisfactory breakfast of steak and eggs, he rounded up the boys, and they were off by transporter to Drangelfort Street and the museum.

In all his life, Scotty had never seen so large a structure except in space. The buildings seemed to go on forever, and he had to give the Tellarite architects credit for getting the thing to stand, ugly as it was. Scotty found the nearest entrance and entered with the seven boys. In front of him stood a very helpful map, stating in twelve different languages, "You Are Here," alongside an arrow pointing to a tiny space in the vast maze of the map. Scotty remembered how proud of their heritage these Tellarites were, and knew that only such a large structure as this would suffice to tell the rest of the Federation of the "Tellarite Story." After wondering wryly if he would find his way back out of the place within a week, he glanced down at the boys and said, "Let's go!"

Down cavernous halls through which the little group walked, there was an abundance of exhibits of questionable validity and objectionable aesthetic value. Scotty's immediate first order upon seeing how immense the place was, consisted of only a few words. "If you see something that really, really, really, positively interests you, we'll stop to read it over. Otherwise, we're moving on." He knew that it might be a day's walk just to get through the megalith.

Onward the eight walked, past displays of early Tellarite cave paintings, through a huge model of the Tellarite heart, next to thousands of stuffed animals and models of animals from all the eras of history on the planet. Only twice that day did they stop. Once it was for Storl, the young Vulcan whose extremely pointed ears made him look almost comic. He wanted to learn more about the five porcine species of Tellar which had not evolved into intelligence. To the Tellarites, they were like the Terran monkeys, apes, and orangutans. Scotty knew full well the ways Vulcans soak up information, so the group stopped for one minute and four seconds (as Storl told Scotty when the engineer pulled him away from the glass exhibit cases to keep up with the rest of the group). The only other stop was also initiated by Storl who wanted to find out about the microbes of Tellar (admittedly, John Collier, who wanted to major in biology and become a science officer on a starship, also initiated this stop). So for two minutes and twelve seconds, the group stopped at the exhibit. By 1500, closing time, the group had just about completed their trip through the main sections of the museum. The only problem was that they were quite completely lost.

"Now dinna fret yerselves, lads," Scotty reassured the boys, all of whom were enjoying their situation immensely. "We'll get outta here in no time. We've just got to find a phone or a sign or something..."

"Ah, Uncle Scotty," Storl interrupted.

Scotty, after thinking to himself, Why me, Lord?, responded with, "Yes, Storl?"

"Well," the young Vulcan replied. "It seems to me that if we go down this hall, turn left, then go down that hall and take the third right, and then if we bear left again, we'll be at the front entrance."

Scotty said, "Aye..." and shook his head slightly. But he knew that Vulcans of any age were notorious for this kind of thing, so he consented and told the small one with the pointy ears to lead the way. Within ten minutes, they had reached the front entrance and the dubiously fresh air of Tellar. And the second day had ended without incident for Scotty, which made the engineer very, very happy.

Day three came soon enough, though, and Scotty was beginning to tire. Each night he'd go to sleep around 2330 Terran equivalent, and then he'd get up at 0545 Terran equivalent (Tellar's day consisted of 22.3 Terran hours) due to the necessities of parenting seven small children. He was quite weary and wondered when (or if) this vacation would ever end.

This day was to be a sight-seeing trip. The boys and Scotty would board one of the hover-buses and spend the day flying to the best tourist attractions the city. Scotty was to be the guide, and he had his handbook with him for easy reference and reading on this planet of which he knew next to nothing.

"And here's our first sight, boys," Scotty announced to the seven who were pushing against the windows on the starboard side of the hover-bus to get a better view. "It's the Krambarga Garza, or in the common tongue, the Glass Palace. Made of crystal quartz blocks weighing up to twelve tons, it was constructed in the Tellar year 132 by Gorfo the Terrible, the first ruler of the Benda Dynasty, who conquered most of the continent. In modern times, it was the nation which Gorfo founded which had united Tellar on a planetary scale..." and Scotty went on with his verbatim reading of the tourist handbook.

That day they saw a total of fifteen of the best sights of Telmart. And when they got back to the hotel. Scotty decided to use one of the suggested tools for working with children he had read about in the Federation's "Babysitter's Handbook."

"So Tony," he asked the youngest of the Terrans, one of the quieter ones of their little group. Oddly enough, after only these few days he had noticed that of all the races, the Terrans were the least comfortable in forming friendships and friendly relations with the people they met. This seemed odd, for the Andorians were so warrior-like, the Tellarites so abusive, and the Vulcans so logical and unemotional. Surprisingly enough, however, only the Terrans seemed to hold back from friendships with the hotel personnel and the people at the tourist sights. "What did you like best about today's trip?"

Tony looked only slightly embarrassed about being singled out so suddenly, but he thought for a moment and finally decided with a nod, "I think I liked the statue of Gelvi the best."

"And why was that?" Scotty continued, trying to utilize the tools for optimum group dynamics he had learned in the handbook.

"I don't know, Uncle Scotty. I just thought it was really impressive." And it truly was. The Statue of Gelvi, God of Knowledge, was one of the largest statues built on any planet. Standing a full 531 meters high, it was only a mere one hundred forty Terran years old, and decorated with gold and silver, two elements which occurred in relative abundance on Tellar.

"What about you?" Scotty asked, directing his questions to Gjav, one of the native Tellarites.

"I liked the wharf!" Gjav said excitedly. "It's the most Tellarite thing on all of Tellar, I think. All the hustle and bustle and buying and selling and shouting and yelling and arguing. It was very wonderful!"

"And you, John?" Scotty asked John Collier, the older member of the group.

"I think I liked Brandi Street best," John replied as Scotty laughed. Scotty was in agreement with John on this remarkable bit of Tellarite nature. The city of Telmart was built on an extremely hilly tract of land, and Brandi Street ran directly into a jutting cliff in the middle of the city. It was quite impossible for normal ground vehicles to travel up the cliff, but two hundred years earlier, the Tellarites of the city built an enormous vehicle elevator there. In the day of the hovercraft, the elevator (which was still in use) was most humorous.

"And what about you, Kelvar?" the engineer asked the young Andorian member of the little band.

"I think I liked the great carving of Prapsor," the blue-skinned lad answered. His age was such that his antennae had yet to fully develop, and he did look amusing with the small bumps bulging just under his white hair. But the Prapsor carving was a logical choice for an Andorian. Prapsor was the Tellarite God of War and the mountain carving of him resplendent with implements of war rose to a height of more than a thousand meters. This awesome sight which dwarfed such Terran carvings as Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Mountain was a logical choice for an Andorian, a member of the insectoid race which had in its history as a race fought a genocidal war with a rival intelligent species on their home planet for ten thousand years. While that racial war was more than a hundred thousand years in the dim mists of ancient history, the Andorians had retained their passion for aggressive tendencies and the arts of war.

"Let's see now, who haven't we called on? Vega, what did you like best?"

The youngest of the Terrans thought for a long moment before spouting out, "I liked the Executive Palace. It's so big and so beautiful!" The last word he stretched way out. To the eyes of anyone else, however, it was a gauche, bizarrely decorated, and quite overly sumptuous piece of architecture. Again, a typically Tellarite artifact, and something only a ten-year-old could love.

"What about you, Gorgi?" Scotty looked down at the younger of the Tellarites on the trip with sparkling eyes. Gorgi's eyes sparkled back, and the little piglet wrinkled his nose with happiness.

"I liked the House of Frivolity!" he exclaimed, and Scotty knew full well that he might. The House of Frivolity was built by Barbo Bembalbus, one of the kings of all Tellar during the planet's monarchial period. What it amounted to was the largest, most intricate fun house in all the Federation, an exercise in fun and games on a grand scale, kept in operation by the planetary government for the sake of off-world tourists and of natives as well.

The last of the seven was the Vulcan Storl, and Scotty so far was enjoying this little session as much as the boys. "What did you like best, Storl?" the engineer asked.

"That is a moot question as stated, Uncle Scotty. To 'like' is an emotional response, however, I found the building entitled, 'The House of Fral,' to be most stimulating."

Scotty blinked a moment. Fral was the Tellarite equivalent of Terran corn, and the House of Fral roughly equated with the Corn Palace of North America on Earth. It had been included on their itinerary only because it was one of those innumerable tourist traps which appear so often in travel booklets. Scotty found it only boring.

"Yes," Storl defended his answer. "The architecture of the structure seemed to show that it was not of native Tellarite design at all. Also, the illogic of the building materials was remarkable. And the purpose was also confounding as I could discover absolutely no purpose whatsoever. In all, I haven't the slightest idea why the building exists, and such blatant illogic, even for the Tellarites, puzzles me, yet stimulates me to think as well."

Scotty had to chuckle. "Well said, lad," he admitted. "Well said, indeed. But I guess it's about time for bed. Tomorrow, though, we have one big glorious day of nothing but rest. The day after that, though, we're off again, so let's make the most o' tomorrow. Off to bed with ye."

"So things were really working out pretty well, eh Scotty?" Chauncey asked as evening became full night and the glasses of scotch became a bottle.

"Aye," the Enterprise's engineer answered with a more-pronounced brogue than he had used in quite a while. Mixed in with that brogue, however, was the slur which so often accompanied it after a full three hours in a pub, saloon, bar, or drinking establishment, whichever the case may be.

"So the next day we spent relaxin', and me an' the lads went swimmin' in the hotel pool, an' otherwise relaxin' som'more. We had a splendid time thot day, thank God, becuz th' next day we took off te the far side o' th' planet fer... oh, Chauncey, we took off the next day fer a campin' trip!" And Scotty spat the last word out with appropriate vehemence.

Thunderous laughter roared across the Golden Nova Bar and Grill once again as it had so many times that night, accompanied by a thunderhead of greenish blue smoke. Chauncey, just as tipsy as Scotty, almost rolled off his chair. "A camping trip! Oh, Scotty, my boy, you poor thing! I hope at least you didn't get any Tellarite mosquito bites!" And the laughter thundered once more across the bar...

"All right, lads," Scotty stood before the troops who had lined up and were standing at attention next to their camping packs. "'Tis most important that ye remember the rules of camping here on this planet. Especially since this'll be a true-to-life, back-to-nature rustic, and I repeat, rustic, camping experience. We'll have one whole week here in the beautiful Gralfalti Forest, and we won't meet another soul during that time period. We'll be totally isolated from civilization. And we'll be havin' a fine fun time of it, lads. So now, let's set up camp." And the boys rushed down to pick up their tent packs as the week of camping in the great outdoors of Tellar began.

"Where does this go, Uncle Scotty?"

"Can we eat now?"

"Are we going to go hiking at all?"

"Who's going to make the food?"

"I don't think we put this tent up right."

"Can we eat now?"

"You mean we're actually going to be living here?!"

The endless comments and questions rolled on from the boys, and it was several hours before things had settled down to near-normalcy. As Scotty cooked the meal on the crude heating unit provided for this rustic excursion, he recalled his early youth and the camping trips he often took with his father and his uncle. A smile passed quickly over his face as he remembered the good times they had had. By the time the orange twin suns of Tellar had almost set, casting odd shadows and creating an equally odd sunset color, the group was eating some fine food.

"How de ye like the food, lads?" Scotty asked as he sipped some coffee, Tellarite coffee at that, as he had acquired the taste for it quite rapidly.

"It's excellent, Uncle Scotty," John Collier spoke for the group. The boys all agreed, even Storl, who was not noted for his appreciation of non-Vulcan food.

Then, as the light of 61 Cygni finally fell completely below the horizon and darkness came abruptly, Scotty indulged a whim and gathered up some wood to light an actual wood campfire. The warm glow of the firelight soon animated both the boys and the engineer into a discussion about things which they would long remember fondly. The time passed so quickly, though, that it was soon time for all decent bodies to be sleeping, and so Scotty reluctantly interrupted their fine talking and motioned them to gather up into their sleeping bags. In a few minutes, they were settled down and silently watched the flames of the campfire. Indulging another whim, Scotty asked, "Lads, how would ye like te hear a story?"

Instantly, the boys perked their ears and all agreed wholeheartedly with the capital idea. "Very well." Scotty warmed to the occasion and remembered his youth again. "It was a dark and stormy night, and we were all sitting around the camp..."

Soon after the story, the boys were soundly sleeping. And soon after sleep had come, dawn came as well, and with it, the bugling of reveille by one Tony Sassani. While his tone and execution of the waking-tune was not quite perfect by any means, it did indeed serve its purpose in waking them all from a deep sleep. While Scotty's back hurt a bit from sleeping on the ground all night, he rose and took a deep breath of the air, scented faintly with the smells of vegetation. 61 Cygni shown a short distance above the horizon, and its strange light gave color to the twilight landscape. After a few minutes, it was twilight no more, and the countryside of Tellar blossomed in all its glory of oddly-tinted green and aqua colored leaves.

After breakfast, again expertly prepared by the hands of Scotty, master chef of the fry pan and campfire, the group did some hiking about the hills in the area. Gjav and Gorgi acted as tour guides, explaining the indigenous plants and wildlife which they encountered. While Storl asked seemingly infinite numbers of questions, the rest of the boys contented themselves with the Tellarites' short explanations and pushed on.

After lunch, some of the boys went swimming with Scotty while some stayed at the campsite to catch up on the sleep they had missed the night before. While Scotty, Kelvar, Storl, John, Tony, and Vega enjoyed the warm weather of a Tellarite summer afternoon by the side of a nice-sized stream, Gjav and Gorgi napped lazily beneath the tall, aqua-colored trees by the campsite, about a kilometer away. Scotty was enjoying himself and the antics of the young boys. Before this vacation, it had been five full years since he had done any swimming (he hated the ship's pool), and he truly enjoyed every minute of what he thought had been a lost pleasure.

He was floating lazily on his back, sunglasses protecting his eyes from the rays of the orange suns above and sipping some iced tea when Gjav Gragrar burst through the bushes yelling frantically. Scotty was startled and went under, losing iced tea and sunglasses. As he came up gagging on swallowed water, he heard the squealing voice of Gjav and knew that something was gravely wrong.

"They've got Gorgi! They've got Gorgi!" he shrieked.

Scotty plowed through the stream onto shore. "Now calm yerself down, Gjav, and tell us what's wrong." Scotty was very worried and the words, "they've got Gorgi," sent a shiver down his spine.

Gjav made a valiant effort and was finally successful at subduing his emotions. "They've got Gorgi," he began, squealing once again entering tentatively into his voice. "Three of them, Kzin, I think. I saw them sneaking up to the outskirts of the camp and hid. They didn't see me, but they got Gorgi, I think they might be looking for us now!"

Scotty's eyes clouded. His brow became intense as he made the connection. Gorgi's father was the head of the peace-keeping force in the Kzin Patriarchy. A kidnapping attempt here in the middle of nowhere would be extremely easy for a small group of overzealous Kzin patriots. The vacation had ended.

"All right, boys," Scotty's voice became more authoritative than the boys had heard before. His accent almost totally disappeared, such was the intensity of his concentration and clarity. "We've got to act fast. Kelvar and Storl, you two stand lookout two hundred meters that way, toward camp. If you see anyone coming this way, get here and warn us immediately." The two ran off at once in curt, military discipline. In a way, Storl and Kelvar were quite alike, for deep in their heritage was the legacy of the warrior, and both now donned the trappings of their predatory past to meet the crisis.

"Gjav and Tony, pick up all the stuff we have lying around here, we've got to get a moving." The two flew into action.

"John and Vega, come with me; we've got to find somewhere to hide until we can do something about this. They wouldn't try any kidnapping unless they were well-armed, and since we don't have anything, we're in bad shape. Let's go."

Like a well-oiled military unit, all seven of the now comrades-in-arms set themselves to their tasks. With almost unbelievable efficiency, each task was completed. In ten minutes, the countless signs of civilization which had lain about the streams were packed for travel. Ten minutes after that, a small cave was discovered in a hillside. It was a common feature of Tellarite geography in this region of the planet, and Scotty hoped the Kzin did not know as much as Gjav about the subject. They were very fortunate indeed for that discovery because only moments later, Storl and Kelvar had run back to the stream to report Kzinti movements toward their present position.

"Quickly and quietly, lads," Scotty commanded. "We've got to get out of here, and we canna leave tracks." The Kzin are noted hunters. Kelvar and Gjav, I guess you can best handle covering our tracks. Let's move!"

Like jungle cats, the small boys and the engineer from deep space moved silently amidst the Tellarite vegetation while 61 Cygni's rays continued to beat down with greater heat. Tense moments passed, but at last they had made their way to their safe-house, and a few moments after that, Kelvar and Gjav joined them.

"Do you think they can pick up our trail?" Scotty asked.

The smiles on both their faces assured Scotty that they had done their job well. From somewhere in his clothing, Kelvar produced a feathery tassel which he hung around his neck and a short shiny sliver of metal heavily inlaid with ornamentation. These were the signets of an Andorian warrior, and Scotty felt very strange, for he felt comforted by this, a child's toys to a Human, but deadly weapons in Kelvar's Andorian hands. Despite the ludicrous bumps beneath his white hair, the blue-skinned Kelvar looked like a warrior-born.

And all the boys looked different as well. Storl's eyes and features shone darkly, without a hint of emotion. Beneath that mask, though, Scotty could almost feel the heat of Vulcan, the sands and the rocks, the beasts and the hunt. And the Terrans were changed as well. From deep in the prehistory of Earth, the boys drew to themselves the low flame of the carnivore from which man had evolved. The Humans were, in their own cunningly surviving way, just as terrible to behold as the alien boys. And they were no longer boys, but fellow survivors in a crisis.

"What do we have now?" Scotty asked as he looked down to the packs carried by the boys. Soon they were unpacking a gamut of gear which had somehow been "used" during their frolics in the stream, mere minutes before. Besides inflatable rafts, towels and sand shovels, there was also a transistor radio, an old-fashioned relic which coarsely picked up communications signals. With Scotty's technical genius, it just might be possible to send a distress signal.

"All right," Scotty announced to the boys. "Let's think this thing through. Gorgi's been kidnapped by a few Kzinti, probably zealots. Now for this, they must have known our itinerary, and they must have known we'd be without major communications equipment except for the emergency transmitter we have back at the camp. But if this is so, then they would probably have set up their base of operations somewhere here in the Preserve. It would be difficult to handle captives over large distances, and they're pretty well hidden here no doubt. Does this sound logical, Storl?"

"So far it does, Uncle Scotty. I would assume that they would take Gorgi and strip the camp of necessary equipment and then return to their base. However, since we all escaped capture, I'd also assume that they'll be frantically searching for us, and they'll have at least one of their number watching the camp for our return."

"Aye," Scotty agreed. "And there's probably naught to be found at the camp which could help us anyway. Whatever we do, we'll have to do it from here. First, I think I'd better try to get help with what we've got here. Kelvar and Vega, you'll be lookouts for the first watch. Stay close to the mouth of the cave and make sure you're not seen. Warn us if you see anything suspicious. I, in the meantime, will try to make a receiver into a transmitter, which shouldna be too difficult at all."

And so Scotty set work with the primitive tools at his disposal. The hours passed, and it was soon twilight. Sweat dripped from the Scot's brow as he worked frantically to finish his makeshift work. At last, it was finished, an extremely low-grade transmitter. "This should work for a time while the battery lasts," Scotty said with satisfaction. "Now who here knows galactic prime code really well?" Vega Gnost raised his hand. He was studying communications.

"Very well, you've got to stay here and send our message."

A look of disappointment crossed Vega's face with the words "stay here." Over the past hours, a lunatic plan had gradually formed in Scotty's conversation with the boys, a plan which called for action on their part. Vega did not want to be left out.

"Now you know our plan calls for help," Scotty explained as best as he could, "The kidnappers have probably warned the authorities away with a threat to kill Gorgi if they came near. They're also probably claiming to have us as well. We have to let the officials at Starfleet Command-Tellar know that we're all right and that we're going to take action."

Vega reluctantly agreed and consented to be the one "left out" of the coming excitement.

Scotty empathized with the boy, but he knew it was for the best. The only hope he could see of their plan working depended upon reinforcements. "All right, the message should read like this: S.0.S. S.0.S. S.0.S. (repeat that as often as you think necessary). Then, 'Commander Scott to Starfleet-Tellar. Gorgi Gragrar only member of party captured. Rest of party proceeding on rescue mission. Additional forces needed to successfully free Gorgi. Help urgently requested.' After that, keep repeating the same message over and over, and we'll all hope that somebody will be able to pick up such a low-grade transmission somehow. All right?"

Satisfying himself with the responsibility of his mission, Vega nodded happily and immediately began tapping out the distress message on the makeshift transmitter.

"Now lads," Scotty turned to the rest of the boys who were huddled around with an odd assortment of makeshift weapons and gear. "We've got to act quickly and quietly. Remember that Kzin have better night-vision than we do, so we'll have to be very careful. You all know you're each one extremely important to the plan, and if each of us can do our jobs, we'll rescue Gorgi. All right? Let's be a-movin'." Scotty's face showed confidence, but inside, he questioned the rightness of this decision. He was leading five boys into possible death to save another boy. Well, all had volunteered, but that was beside the point. Wouldn't it be wiser to stay safe and let the authorities handle the kidnapping? That question had taken hours of agonizing to work through, but Scotty finally remembered that the highest official of Starfleet on Tellar and indeed in the Sector was not known for his forceful resolution against terrorist attacks. It was extremely likely than the Kzin could successfully pull off the kidnapping if someone did not act. He had to save the lad, no two ways about it.

The air at night around the cave was cool and smelled faintly of dew mixed with vegetation. A gentle breeze swayed the underbrush and made the nervous engineer worried, for a Kzinti could easily be hiding anywhere. The alert senses of Storl and Kelvar, however, assured Scotty that none were near, and they moved on in the darkness with no moon overhead.

After some time, they had successfully navigated their circle to the far side of the camp where they had so happily told stories and talked the night before. Then, the already quiet group hushed into total silence as they advanced almost like ghosts toward the camp. Twenty-five meters outside camp, Storl's ears picked up the faint sound of low breathing, and Kelvar's ability (small as it was due to his youth) to detect infrared radiation indicated the exact location of the Kzin guardian they had suspected. Motioning for the rest of the group to remain unmoving, Scotty and Kelvar moved silently in a circular pattern while Storl crept up straight from behind. The minutes passed, and from the irregular breaths of the Kzin, Storl knew the kidnapper felt their presence. A solid punch slammed into the feline's jaw. The Kzin fell to the ground, and the group moved forward to meet Scotty, Kelvar and Storl. The Kzin was disarmed, and with the phaser in his hand, Scotty felt much better.

A moment later, the Kzin regained consciousness, but before he could shout, he saw the barrel of the phaser pointed toward him. "All right now, lad," asked Scotty in ominous tones quite unlike his cheerful self. "I want to know where your hiding place is and where you're keeping our Gorgi." The Kzin were never noted for their cooperative nature, so Scotty prodded some more by turning his phaser quite noticeably to heavy stun.

"Ye know, lad," Scotty continued. "With this phaser armed liked this, ye will nae die a quick death, but a long, slow and painful one. Didja want that, now?" Scotty's savage smile at his own remark sent a chill down the Kzin's back. He looked about him to the five mere children surrounding him. But they did not look like helpless children, but vicious predators, eager for the kill. Surprise, coupled with the unnatural look of the five children and Scotty's prodding, produced results, and the Kzin talked.

After helpfully explaining the whereabouts and strength of the Kzin force, the felinoid was consigned to unconsciousness by the Vulcan nerve-pinch administered by Storl. Though the young Vulcan insisted he would remain "out" for at least five hours, Scotty thought it better to make sure by tying the Kzin to a tree with some rope left in camp. The rope was the only useful bit of material left in the camp, however, so the five children and the engineer immediately set out to the encampment of the Kzin, intent on freeing their fellow at all cost.

Again, the minutes ticked by, but now their travels through the tangle of underbrush were lighted by one small moon shining brightly overhead. After what seemed like hours, the six hunters reached the area of the Kzin encampment and the time had come for some real action. Scotty set his phaser on heavy stun again.

Each of the boys prepared what weapons they had brought with them. Scotty's only hope lay in surprise and swiftness. He had been gladdened to hear that the camp only contained five Kzin (if their informant had not lied), but even that small number required a great amount of care to deal with them if no life was to be lost.

Two sentries stood within view of each other at opposite sides of the well-hidden camp. The Kzin encampment consisted of four tents and some scattered gear. Happily, the only detection equipment they had was designed to warn of approaching vehicles, and not living beings on foot. Scotty decided his best chance lay in taking out both guards at once, but since he was only one person, he would have to rely on his wards to silently incapacitate a professional killer the likes of a Kzin. After a moment, he decided to send Kelvar and Storl to one end of the encampment while he would deal with the other end. Storl was to utilize the nerve pinch quietly, and Kelvar's K'Frez was a back-up in case he failed. Scotty would simultaneously knock out the other guard, and he only hoped that the camp had no hidden alarms which might detect their presence once they began the attack.

Scotty silently instructed Storl and Kelvar as to the plan and then he himself crept through the underbrush to a position behind one of the guards. The passage of the time was measured by the rapid movement of the small satellite, Durmin, overhead. It moved a full ten degrees in the sky as Scotty prepared for his attack. Across the Kzin compound he knew that Storl and Kelvar would be intently waiting for him to make the first move.

The engineer leaped from behind a bush and came down with his full weight on the feline. At the same instant, Storl threw himself at the other guard, only barely missing his mark. The Kzin easily threw Storl in a basic judo-like move, and then stood over him menacingly, his claws looking extremely sharp. But before the guard could act, Kelvar had used his K'Frez. The sliver of metal sliced through the air and embedded itself in the feline's neck. He slumped over dead.

On the other side of the camp, Scotty was first met with difficulty, The Kzin was obviously well-trained in self-defense techniques. But the fury of the Scot's initial attack soon increased, and the guard was unconscious in a matter of seconds. As he handed the Kzin's phaser to John Collier, Scotty looked to the far side of the camp at the other guard's body and Kelvar Kazanga standing over it. Storl had picked up the other phaser. Remarkably, the struggle had not awakened the other Kzin, and for the first time since Gorgi's capture, Scotty felt good.

Now, all of the boys moved in alongside Scotty as he closed in on the tents. But suddenly, as they got within five meters of the tents, a shrieking alarm sounded from some of the equipment. Scotty cursed as he fell to the ground in a crouch. The boys likewise dropped. John and Storl wisely were crouched in readiness, and the alarm spent itself into silence. All was still. Then, in a furious storm, the counter-attack began as the Kzinti burst forth from their tents with phasers discharging in all directions. Scotty took aim, fired, and rolled, and Storl and John kept them pinned down by a cross-fire of phasers blasting.

The Kzin took what little cover they could behind some nearby boulders or trees. One had already been felled by Scotty's phaser, but the remaining two were firing viciously, their weapons set on kill. When Scotty realized this, he became angry. He became very angry. The thought of such callousness appalled him, and his own phaser fire became more rapid. In the midst of the small battle, Kelvar, Tony and Gjav ran through the cross-fire into one of the tents to free Gorgi. Tony was grazed by a phaser bolt, and seeing this, Kelvar once again loosed his K'Frez at one of the Kzin. It reached its mark, and the Kzin slumped back against a tree. The last Kzin was also soon felled by John Collier's phaser.

"Hooray!" Gjav shouted as he found a freed Gorgi, who also gave a like exclamation of joy. With the battle over, Storl and John set about tying up the living Kzinti while Scotty immediately found some communications equipment, real communications equipment.

"This is Commander Montgomery Scott to Starfleet-Tellar. Come in Starfleet," Scotty spoke urgently in the communications equipment of the Kzin.

"Yes, Commander Scott," came a voice reply, but from behind.

Scotty turned to find a Starfleet Marine captain in full battle gear. He smiled. "We picked up the distress signal Vega Gnost was transmitting," he explained. "We came as soon as we got the message, but it seems we were too late for the festivities."'

"Aye," Scotty smiled as well.

Around the Kzin's camp, the reunited boys were happily recounting the parts they played in the saving of Gorgi, while Gorgi himself was elaborating on his captivity, and Vega told of his guiding of the Marines detachment.

Scotty slapped a Tellarite mosquito on his neck and looked around at the wake of their invasion. Five boys and an engineer had entered this camp of killers, and now two of the kidnapping Kzin lay dead while the remaining ones were all quite incapacitated. Scotty smiled again and thought that just maybe this had been as fun as working on the new pulsed warp engines.

An hour later, the boys and Scotty were all soundly sleeping in a suite of rooms at the Poda Bova Hotel Interstellar.

The next day, after dressing, Scotty and the boys received a distinguished visitor in the person of Fleet Admiral Nogura.

"Sir," Scotty snapped to rigid attention in his dress uniform as Nogura entered.

The aging admiral returned his salute and then smiled. "So these are the boys who went through this bit of a tussle, eh?"

"Aye, sir," Scotty answered. "And an impressive lot they were, sir."

"I'm sure they were," Nogura commented. "As were you yourself, Commander Scott."

"Well..." Scotty blushed slightly with modesty.

"And I'm happy to inform you that you shall be receiving the Federation Medal of Valor as well as the Great Shield of 61 Cygni for your exploits."

"Aye!" Scotty said with a mixture of shock and joy and modesty. "Er...Aye, sir."

"Oh, and Mister Scott, I'd also like to inform you that your working vacation here with the boys is over, as is their vacation."

With this, all the boys moaned. "Now, boys," Admiral Nogura chastised. "Your families are extremely concerned about you, and they want to see you home. And you'll have more vacations, don't worry."

This cheered the boys only a little, but it sufficed to stop their protest. "And as I was saying, Commander Scott, you have been assigned to begin work on the pulsed warp engine project in two weeks--that two weeks is for a little bit of...ah...if I dare say it, a little bit of vacation." The whole room erupted into good-natured laughing, and Scotty knew at once that in a very real way, he would miss all these boys. And the fact that he'd finally be able to work on some engines, some new experimental engines at that, only partially made up for the end of this strange experience on Tellar.

"And so I've been a vacationin' right here for the past few days," Scotty said to Chauncey whose eyes were extremely glassy. The bar had all but cleared out (as much as from repulsion from Chauncey's smoke as from the late hour), and both Scotty and Chauncey were drooping quite low to the table from just a few too many drinks. The great cigar Chauncey had lit at the beginning of the evening had dwindled into a small stub hanging in his mouth.

"Well," Chauncey said in a slightly incoherent voice. "Bless your soul as well then, Scotty my boy."

The engineer chuckled and lifted his glass unsteadily in a toast. Chauncey did likewise with equal shakiness. "Here'sss t'vacations an' wee lads," Scotty began. "And may God bless all engineeeeersss who hafta do th'babysittin'." '

"Here, here!" Chauncey seconded Scotty's toast, and the two drank down the scotch quickly.

"Now, ye know why'n I said that toast, eh?" Scotty asked Chauncey.

Chauncey shook his head. "No..."

"Because...they've asked me to do it again next year!"

Chauncey chuckled. Then he laughed. Then Scotty chuckled in echo. Both men roared with laughter which thundered out of the Golden Nova and down the night street of the planet of Festus II. The drinks that night were many more.

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