Chapter Seventeen: Zorn - Part Two

by The Story Lover

(In collaboration with TrueFan, Zarek Dragon and Douglas DD)

Author's Notes:

The new character that you are about to meet comes from a society slightly different from those aboard the SS Sooloo. The character's society has a different set of ranks and is not use to the Rank Structure used by the crew of the Sooloo. Because of that he will call Lt. Commanders, Lt Commander instead of Commander. Also, he is accustomed to using the terms decks for floors, overheads for ceilings, bulkheads for walls and hatches for doors. There are other differences you will find as you read the chapter. This is the second part of meeting this character.


"Kyle, before I give you the personal message I have for you, I have a question. How is your penguin, Megrez?" Zorn's question caused Kyle to have an absolutely stunned expression on his face.

"Uhhh... Megrez is fine, b-b-but... Zorn, how do you know about him?" Kyle stuttered his reply just a teeny bit.

"Kyle, can we sit down before I explain that and give you your message? You definitely need to be sitting down to hear what I have to say. No, it isn't bad, it is just sort of important and some people would find it preposterous. Plus I need to sit down as this has been a very tiring day for me and it is a long way from being over." Zorn inquired of an obviously rattled Kyle.

Kyle didn't answer, he just grabbed the closest chair and took a seat. Zorn took the one next to him and sat down as well. Zorn then lightly placed his left hand on Kyle's shoulder and as he began speaking he pointed with his right hand at the stars.

"Kyle, this message is from your friend Megrez, yes the one out there. He is the one that told me about Megrez the penguin and he says, 'The stars will always be there wherever you are and whenever you need them. Just open your heart and your mind and listen, they may not always have the answers, but they will always point you in the right direction.' He also said, 'trust in your heart and your inner knowledge. They won't let you down.' Even now he is speaking to you; I can see that in your eyes and in your relaxed pose. Take your time, I will be here when you are done."

Zorn finished speaking to Kyle, not knowing whether Kyle even heard him. Zorn removed his hand and then sat there, peacefully communing with the stars on his own. He even tried to see if he could reach his House but there was too much cosmic interference. 'Aurix' gave him a few status updates and then Zorn took a few moments to get his own thoughts together.

"One more thing Kyle, before we go, Megrez asked me to give you this as well; it has been in my family for generations. I have no idea how Megrez even knew that we had it, my family has had this telescope for generations before I ever learned to speak with the stars. I now believe Megrez made sure that my family found this gift and we saved it for now. I am sure that you will know what to do with this and take very good care of it."

Kyle slowly stood up, and then carefully movedTelescope closer to the Sinocardian and gave him a tentative hug while saying, "Thank You, this is the most amazing gift that anyone has ever given me." Then he thought, 'Thank you, Megrez as well'.

Kyle broke the hug and then stated, "I guess it is time to go face the music." He then walked over to the comm panel, activated it and then spoke, "Captain, we are ready to meet with you and the Senior Staff at your convenience, Sir."

While Kyle was comming the Captain, Zorn was communicating with 'Aurix,' trying to find out what 'face the music' meant.

"Zorn, we need to go, they are waiting for us and the Captain said to please hurry; I told him that we would be there ASAP."

Zorn stood there for a minute trying to understand what Kyle was trying to tell him. Although by now, Zorn had acquired an extensive knowledge of Terran English, some figures of speech, acronyms, and abbreviation still were outside his understanding.

Kyle took pity on him because of the strange look on Zorn's face. "ASAP means 'as soon as possible.' Let's go, big guy, we have a long way to go."

That wasn't exactly true as they were going to the main conference room which was directly below the observation dome. In fact, everyone else had just finished seating themselves.

Zorn's Meeting with the Senior Staff

"Gentlemen, I would like to sincerely thank you for your warm welcome to your wonderful ship. Your spirit of co-operation with another species is commendable, especially since you weren't expecting to come across one so soon into your journey. If there is anything else that I can do to improve the performance of your ship, please just ask me or 'Aurix'." Zorn then resumed his seat and looked across the table at Dave.

Dave looked at Zorn and then the rest of his staff. "And with Zorn's help, we've discovered the full potential of this ship, I believe. Have any of you been able to test the newly adjusted equipment?"

Starting with Hal, all the officers gave a quick report about what they discovered was unlocked. None had truly been able to test it, but would begin once they were on their way again. And with that, Dave adjourned the meeting.

Meeting the Medici Twins

"Kyle, would you please come with me to Jace and Jordan's quarters, they would like me to meet the twins. Since you are closer in size to them than I, you might be able to help them not be afraid of me. Could you please do that for me? For them?" Zorn begged of Kyle.

"If you think it will help, I guess I can do it as long as Jace and Jordan will be there." Kyle reluctantly agreed and only because he thought Zorn might scare the twins as well.

"Thank you, we need to hurry or we are going to be late. I told Jace and Jordan that we would be there about now. I didn't know about the All Division Head Meeting then, and neither did they, now that I think about it. I also need you as I haven't quite integrated the map of the Sooloo completely into my brain, so lead the way." Zorn of course, then grabbed Kyle's hand and began dragging him who knows where.

"Zorn, stop! I said I will help you and just for your information, we are going the wrong way; now let me lead." Kyle didn't give Zorn a chance to respond; he just switched hands and headed in the other direction.

Kyle and Zorn arrived at Jace and Jordan's quarters only a few minutes after Jace and Jordan, as they had to make a pit stop along the way.

Jordan opened the door and said, "Kyle, Zorn, please enter; the twins have been waiting for their Uncle Kyle and they also want to see a 'real life alien' as Jason put it."

Kyle entered first followed slowly by Zorn who was looking about, curious as to what the twins looked like. At first, Zorn couldn't see anyone in the room but Jace, Jordan, Kyle, and himself. But then a little blond head momentarily peaked out from behind Jace, and just as quickly, the head was hiding again. Zorn took a few steps inside the hatch and then knelt, which brought a big smile to Kyle's face as he realized exactly what Zorn had done and why.

"Jonas and Jason, its Uncle Kyle and I brought a friend with me that your Dads said you wanted to meet. And yes, he is a 'real life alien,' but he isn't as scary as he looks and he even made himself smaller so he wouldn't be so frightening to you. Plus, he likes Megrez so he has to be a nice guy. And he has really funny looking hair. So please come out, say hello to Zorn; I promise you that he won't hurt you. Don't forget that you have Al the Bear to protect you as well."

"You mean Kyle the Bear, remember we changed his name," Jonas corrected as he poked his head out from the left side of Jace.

Seconds later Jason popped his head out from Jace's other side, flashed a grin at Zorn and then disappeared.

Jonas disappeared behind Jace as well and you could hear them whispering; soon they shyly walked around Jace and stood in front of him. Jace wrapped his arms around the twins and they snuggled back into him, basking in the warmth of his love.

Secure in the safety of his Jace's arms, Jason began to speak with a very slight stutter, "You... c... c... can't be a Zorn, you have to be an Allie 'cause you be an alligator..."

"Jason, you can't say that; he might get mad and he is really big!" Jonas whispered into his brother's ears or so he thought.

Kyle, Jordan and Jace just stood there and stared, not knowing what to do and really afraid that Zorn was going to go ballistic.

Zorn started laughing so hard he nearly fell over and ended up sitting on the deck. He then spoke, looking directly into Jason's eyes, "I am sorry, Jason isn't it, but I am not an alligator, although I am related to the family of Crocodilia. I am a Sinocardian and my name really is Zorn, but if you want to call me Allie you can, but only you. Is that okay with you?"

Zorn sat there quietly with his arms at his side, trying to look as harmless as he could while the three 'adults' stood there, not breathing in anticipation.

"Okay, I am going to call you Allie Gator©Allie Gator© (" Copyright ACFan and CSU Productions and used with permission."). You've got funny looking hair, Allie Gator©, can I touch it?"

And like most children of any age, Jason didn't wait for permission, he just ducked under Jace's arm and started walking toward Zorn. Zorn didn't say anything, he just bent his head forward a bit so Jason could touch his hair. The sigh that reverberated through the quarters was probably heard throughout the universe. As soon as Jason started playing with Zorn's hair, the universe was gone for him. He was in his own world with Zorn's hair and nothing else existed.

Both Jace and Jordan were shocked and concerned because of the look on Jason's face and the fact that his eyes seem to be slightly glazed. Jordan started to walk over to Jason and Zorn, but was stopped by Jonas raising his hand in a stop motion and shaking his head 'NO'.

Jace looked down at his "son" and raised an eyebrow inquiringly. Jonas just smiled up at Jace and then said, "It's okay, he is just immersed in the experience and in a few moments, he will start to smile and then slowly return to us. That's what my parents always said to me."

"Are you sure, Jonas?" Jace asked with a bit of trepidation in his voice.

"Yup, and Zorn, don't be surprised if Jason wraps you in a hug and doesn't want to let go for a while. He obviously likes you and isn't scared of you anymore," Jonas answered Jace while looking at Zorn.

Kyle moved over to where Jordan stood and began having a quiet conversation trying not to interrupt Jason and Zorn.

"'Uncle Kyle', you don't have to whisper. Jason can't hear you and even if he could he likes you, so he wouldn't be bothered." Jonas told his 'Uncle Kyle'.

Sure enough, just a few moments later a smile began to appear on the face of Jason and then he turned his head and looked into Zorn's eyes. "You have funny hair but I like it and I like you, you are nice," with that Jason did indeed begin hugging Zorn and he looked like he would never let go.

Zorn, still unsure of the situation, just sat there afraid to move or even breathe. Zorn, however, couldn't control his innate paternal or nurturing instinct and slowly began to return the hug. To his and everyone else's surprise, Jason let out a sigh of contentment.

"Jace, Jordan and Uncle Kyle, can we talk about Jason and his Autism and how he is going to react to everyone he meets and who meets him?" Jonas basically asked the air.

Jonas then ducked out from Jace's arm and walked over and grabbed one of Jordan's hands and led him over to the couch. Then pulled him down to sit on one of the couches in the nook. Jace then sat on the other side of Jonas and Kyle sat on the loveseat across from them.

Jace and Jordan's Quarters"Ummm, Jonas, it is usually the 'adults' that are supposed to begin or have these kinds of conversations…" Jordan began speaking but came to a stop when Jonas put up a stop sign.

"Jordan, Jace, Uncle Kyle, how much do any of you or the other officers know about Autism? I got it right that time. How much do you know about my brother's medical history?"

A surprised Jordan responded, "Go ahead, you definitely have our attention now."

"Jason is a high funkshoning Artistic, he has trust and communing issues, he has a haiku." Jonas was having a little bit of trouble with some of the terms so Jordan decided to help him.

"I think that you were trying to say that Jason is a High Functioning Autistic and that he has trust and communication issues and a High IQ. Would that be correct?"

Jonas just gave a strange look and asked, "Isn't that what I said?"

"Close enough, tell you what, I will ask you some questions based on what I know about Autism and you can answer them. That way you don't have to use a bunch of big words. Sound good?" Jordan asked Jonas while trying not to chuckle.

Jonas let out a big sigh and then responded, "Yup, that would be much easier than trying to remember and using those doctor-speak words is hard to do. So, ask away please?"

While Jonas and the other three were having their conversation, Jason and Zorn were having a powwow of their own. having a powwow of their own. (" Jason was playing the thousand question game. ") Jason was curled up on Zorn's lap and was having the time of his life. He had found a new friend and protector and was perfectly content where he was.

Back on the couch, Kyle was amazed at how much minutiae about Jason and his issues; Jordan's skillful questioning soon gave them the answers they would need to make life easier for all concerned.

Suddenly Jason blurted out, "Hungry, need sketti."

With that, Jason climbed off Zorn's lap and then tried to pull Zorn to his feet while saying, "C'mon Allie Gator, I hungry you can give me a piggyback ride to the food place."

Poor Zorn he had no idea what to do, here was a very determined eight-year-old child trying to pull him to his feet. Plus, he had no idea what a 'piggyback ride' was; he thought that the 'food place' was the Officer's Mess, but wasn't sure. Just as he started to give in to the inevitable and rise to his feet, 'Aurix' chose that moment to give Zorn the information about what 'piggyback ride' was. Zorn stumbled in surprise and ended up on his back with Jason laying on top of him. The whole room went completely silent, no one wanted to breathe in order not to surprise Jason. They shouldn't have worried as Jason started giggling and said, "Again, again, that was fun."

"Jason, can you please go get your 'Uncle' Kyle and bring him over here to help me get up and then I will give you a piggyback ride for some 'sketti'

The Officers Mess:

While the group was enjoying their snack, Kyle could see that Zorn was getting more and more uncomfortable. Just as he was going to ask what the problem was, Jordan inquired of him, "Zorn, something seems to be bothering you and I don't think it's the food. Care to tell us what the problem is?"

"Can we discuss this outside in the hallway?" was Zorn's slightly agitated response.

Looking at the twins, Jason's face covered with spaghetti sauce, Jordan smiled. "Jonas and Jason, will you stay here with Jace and your Uncle Kyle while Zorn and I go talk? It's some ship business that will probably bore you. And Jason, before you ask, you can have a little more 'sketti' but only after you wash your face, no more garlic bread though. Does that work for everyone?" was Jordan's response to Zorn.

Jason's response was simple, "I love 'sketti.'" Jonas just smiled and nodded his head. Kyle, and Jace both responded with, "sure." Jace's face and eyes conveyed a different message though, it said 'You owe me one and I will collect for this, Lover.'

Jordan and Zorn headed to the hallway outside the Officer's Mess.

The Hallway:

"Okay Zorn, what's troubling you? It must be something big if I can tell you are upset," A concerned Jordan asked the Sinocardian.

"It's nothing that terrible, it is just that I am very sensitive to the vibrations and energy emissions of spaceship engines. Your engines have a very, very slight imbalance in them that is causing again a very, very, and I do mean very small vibration that I can feel. We Sinocardians believe that our ability to feel such things is left over from our days of swimming after prey. The ability to sense vibrations, electric and magnetic currents in the water was very helpful in acquiring sustenance. If we can head to your engine room I should be able to help your Chief Engineer resolve the problem."

While Zorn was replying, Jordan was thinking, 'Could that be why some of the crewmen are feeling uneasy and some have headaches?' "Zorn, I need to let Jace go with you to the Engine Room as that falls under his purview. Let me contact Commander Marlin and ask him to meet the two of you in the Engine Room. Then we can see if we can resolve the issue, sound good?"

Zorn didn't hesitate before answering, "I think that will be an acceptable solution to the problem. We might want to let the folks inside know before we head off to the Engine Room in order to avoid any issues. I had better tell Jason myself so he won't think that I am deserting him."

The two headed back into the Officer's Mess and let everyone know about the change in plans. Zorn would need to clean up a bit before they headed to the Engine Room after a hug from Jason as he was now wearing as much 'sketti' sauce as Jason.

After a quick stop at the 'fresher', Zorn and Jace headed to the Engine Room.

Engine Room:

Arriving at the Engine Room, Jace reintroduced Zorn to Connor and Zorn asked to see the results of some of his diagnostic programs. He then asked to rerun certain programs after he and Connor had determined the correct parameters to change. There were a few tense moments when 'Aurix' displayed a message on one of the engineering workstations.

"Commanders I am extremely sorry about the breach of your ship by my ship's AI and I will take care of that right away. It will not happen again, that I promise you!" Then, as if speaking into the air, Zorn demanded, "'Aurix' listen up and listen well; YOU WILL NOT ACCESS ANY OF THE SOOLOO'S SYSTEMS WITHOUT MY EXPRESS PERMISSION AND THAT OF THE SOOLOO'S COMMAND STAFF! Do you understand? I know that you were trying to be helpful but that was just plain rude to take over their systems without permission. Are we clear going forward? You can respond verbally through the Sooloo's Comm System." Zorn looked at Jace and Connor and they both nodded yes. "You can apologize while you are at it!" Zorn spoke aloud and through his subvocal.

'Commanders Blackwell and Marlin, please accept my profuse apology for invading and taking control of your systems. I will not do it again without your express permission. That is unless it is necessary for the protection of the Sinocardian Ambassador.'

"Commanders, your engine controls and systems require a very fine degree of control. I don't quite have the exact knowledge of your systems to use your consoles the way I need to. What I need to do is far more complex than what I did earlier. I would like your permission to have 'Aurix' modify one of your consoles to Sinocardian controls. When we are finished I will have 'Aurix' revert it to Terran Standard or just have 'Aurix' convert the Sinocardian control system to a Terran system. That way your console will retain its increased sensitivity and display but it will be familiar enough for you to use with no retraining. The choice will be yours and yours alone. Do we have your permission to proceed?" Zorn inquired of Jace and Connor.

"Just a moment Zorn, I need to brief the Captain on your request, it is just protocol. Give me a moment," Jace told Zorn and Connor nodded his head that Jace was correct.

Jace stepped away to use the comm, and gave Dave the gist of what Zorn had requested. Dave's reply was definitely in the positive and to quote him, 'Why are you still talking to me? Get it done. It's a win-win situation for us as far as I am concerned.'

Jace then relayed Dave's response to Zorn and Connor as well as Ensign Kohl, who was hanging on every word and surreptitiously watching Zorn, at least he thought he was being surreptitious.

Unfortunately for Tom, he wasn't as sneaky as he thought. "Ensign Kohl since you have your console up and running, we will use it for Zorn and 'Aurix' to update. As long as it will work for you and 'Aurix', Zorn?" Jace informed Tom and inquired of Zorn.

"As long as Connor verifies that it has the same capabilities as his console that is fine with me," Zorn answered positively.

"It is exactly the same and if you will give me a few moments, I will unlock it for remote programming. That will make it far easier for 'Aurix' even though he has proven our firewalls are porous." Connor headed over to the aforementioned console, sat down and let his fingers fly across the screen.

Just a few moments later he announced, "Okay Zorn, it is all yours and 'Aurix's'."

Zorn quickly traded places with Connor, made a few slight adjustments to the chair and then stated out loud. "'Aurix,' begin conversion of the console I am sitting at."

Before Zorn had stopped speaking the screen started flashing and the icons and script changed so rapidly that no one could keep track of what was happening. That was until Connor looked at Zorn and saw that Zorn's eyes were tracking everything that was happening on the console screen. What was even more amazing was the fact that Zorn's head movements showed he was not only following what was happening on the screen, but he was also understanding it. Before anyone could believe it, the screen froze in what everyone assumed was Sinocardian Script.

ɥɥ ɥľľɷľľ ņʑƦɰ ʌɰťƦɰʌ ϣľɰɠįľɷ ϣľɰɥľɷʌɥɥ ɥľľɷľľ ņʑƦɰ ʌɰťƦɰʌ ϣľɰɠįľɷ ϣľɰɥľɷʌ (SS Sooloo Main Engine Control Console)

ʞɷʌʑɥʌ ʌɰɠʌį ϣľņņʑɰϰ ʑϣϣʌɥɥ ϣľϰʌʞɷʌʑɥʌ ʌɰɠʌį ϣľņņʑɰϰ ʑϣϣʌɥɥ ϣľϰʌ (Please Enter Command Access Code)

"Commander Marlin, I will have 'Aurix' overlay Terran Script and a Terran Keyboard in order that you can grant me Command Access. 'Aurix' has learned his lesson and learned it well. He only altered the controls to Sinocardian standard, he did not alter the Command Access Protocols. Will you please enter your code for me?

"Before Connor enters his code I have to ask why 'Aurix' just didn't give you complete access and why he didn't just give you ship-wide access at the same time?" A very curious Jace asked Zorn.

"Commander, first I will answer the question that you didn't ask but really wanted to. Yes, 'Aurix' could have given me and him complete and absolute control of your ship. He could have locked every single person on this ship out of every single console. But he won't and I won't let him, he will only do exactly what I or your Command Staff request of him and nothing more than that unless my life is in imminent danger. When I gave 'Aurix' his new orders (read him the riot act), it instigated a set of protocols that restricted his access and control of your ship's computer system. We are here to help you just as you helped me." Zorn paused for just a minute and his face showed that he was concentrating on something.

"Jace, would you please inform the Captain of 'Aurix's' and my great appreciation for all of your assistance. 'Aurix' just informed me that with Ensign Daniels and Crewman Olson's help the repairs to all our systems have been completed. You should be proud of your people; 'Aurix' says that they are very professional and hard working. That is, once they got over the fact that they were actually communicating and working for the ship. When they finished, they actually thanked 'Aurix'; also, please inform the Captain that 'Aurix' is converting one of our handheld computers similar to your tablets to Terran script and configuration. The handheld will contain all the history of Sinocardia and as much of our technology as we are authorized to share. He decided on his own to do that in payment for your ship's help." With that, Zorn stood up so that Connor could take the seat and input his command code easily. It took Connor only seconds to input his code then the screen changed to display Sinocardian script again and Connor got up so Zorn could regain his seat.

ϣľņņʑɰϰ ʑϣϣʌɥɥ ϣľϰʌ ʑϣϣʌʞɠʌϰϣľņņʑɰϰ ʑϣϣʌɥɥ ϣľϰʌ ʑϣϣʌʞɠʌϰ (Command Access Code Accepted)

Zorn sat back down and began to run a multitude of intensive scans and soon the results began displaying at lightning speed again. Zorn made a pass over the console and everything paused. "Gentlemen, please forgive me as I have inadvertently been very rude. Is there a monitor or viewscreen that I can have 'Aurix' display the results of the scan in Terran on? That way you might be able to understand a bit of what my scans are uncovering. You will be able to control the speed that the reports are displayed?" Zorn's question caught everyone off-guard as they were still in shock at the speed that the reports were being displayed and the fact that Zorn seemed to be following every one of the reports.

Jace replied, "Yes Zorn there is a viewscreen in the bulkhead in front of us just for the purpose of making reports easier for us to see." Jace paused a moment and then addressed his ship, "Activate viewscreen directly in front of me." The fifty-plus-inch diagonal viewscreen activated, displaying the Sooloo's Wallpaper.

"'Aurix,' could you please display the results of the scans that Zorn is running on the newly activated viewscreen at one-quarter speed?"

'I will comply Commander, and you can vocally request any display changes that you need and I will make those changes.' Before 'Aurix' had finished speaking, the viewscreen began displaying the scan results previous to the scans being paused at a speed the Terrans could handle.

Zorn resumed his console while the others began scanning the reports on the large viewscreen. "Hmm, this is very interesting. Let me rerun this scan with some tighter parameters and also run this high-level diagnostic scan. Don't get too excited folks, but I may have found the source of that low level, almost subliminal rumble. Your viewscreen is displaying the possible reason. Give me a few minutes more and we will know for sure."

While Zorn was making his comments, Jace and Connor were staring at the viewscreen; they slowly came to the conclusion that Zorn may be on to something.

A few moments later, Zorn, with a few sweeps of his hands across the console, made the viewscreen display the results that he had just seen with the important parts highlighted and enlarged slightly.

"As I hope you can see there are two issues that are causing the problem; either one is capable of causing the problem. Both are capable of creating a small rumble/imbalance on their own; one that even I couldn't detect without instruments or diagnostic scans. The first issue is that your fuel mixture settings are slightly off, more fuel is being supplied than oxidizers and boosters. This is causing an uneven reaction of your fuel. The second issue is even more critical, your fuel system doesn't have a fuel intermix chamber which means that the unmixed fuel, oxidizers and boosters are being fed directly into the combustion chamber without being mixed first. That causes not only uneven combustion but a waste of fuel. By fixing these two problems you will not only eliminate the rumble, but increase engine production by at least thirty percent. I believe that would be a very desirable outcome." Zorn's pronouncement had Connor eagerly nodding his head and even Jace was developing a grin on his face.

"Captain to the Engine Room please, Captain to the Engine Room, please. We have some things that you really do need to see." Jace announced to the ship as he didn't want to waste time getting to a comm panel.

Seconds later, "Acknowledged" was heard in the Engine Room.

Within minutes, Captain Bowman arrived in the Engine Room and before anyone could get their greetings in place, Dave began questioning them.

"Okay, what is so important that you made me come down here away from completing my beloved paperwork? Couldn't it have waited a few more minutes?"

Jace spoke up, "Captain we brought you down here as we may have solved a problem that we didn't really know existed and we may have found a way to increase our engine efficiency by more than thirty percent.This was all done with Zorn and 'Aurix's' help. I think that those are perfectly good reasons to drag you away from your 'hated' paperwork, don't you?"

Now the ball was back in the Captain's court, "What do you mean by 'a problem we didn't know that we had'?"

Intermix Chamber"That problem, we believe and Zorn concurs, is probably the cause of most of those low-grade headaches and uneasiness that some crewmen have reported. Zorn detected a very, and he did mean very low rumble throughout parts of the ship. He thought it might be coming from the engine, so we decided to come down here and run some tests. The closer we got, the more the rumble was apparent by Zorn's facial reactions. With 'Aurix's' help he ran some very fine-tuned scans and diagnostic tests. He confirmed that there was a rumble and that its harmonics were in the range that could irritate sensitive people. He then found the source of the rumble; both Connor and I agree that the rumble's source has been correctly identified." Jace paused a minute to first look at Zorn then Connor for confirmation of what he had said so far. Zorn and Connor both nodded positively.

Jace began speaking again while still looking at Connor, "I believe that Connor can quickly reduce the cause of the rumble with a few fine adjustments to our fuel system." Connor again nodded yes. "Now I am going to ask Zorn to explain what Connor needs to do and what still needs to be done, which is why it was so important for you to be here. Also, what would you say to a thirty percent increase in Engine efficiency?"

"Commander, are you crazy? Of course, I would want a thirty percent increase in engine efficiency? Now, how about an explanation?"

Zorn decided to defuse the situation and spoke up, "The overall issue is caused by an imbalance in your fuel delivery systems. Your fuel mix parameters are slightly out of optimal adjustment and you do not have a fuel intermix chamber. This is causing an uneven reaction which is causing the rumble and your current engine inefficiency. I believe, along with Jace, that Connor can easily adjust fuel mix parameters so that the fuel, oxidizers and boosters are in sync. To solve the problem completely and improve your engine efficiency, we need to add a fuel intermix chamber to your fuel supply system. As of now, the only mixing that occurs when the semi-mixed fuel exits the conical adapter from the fuel line to the combustion chamber. The intermix chamber is a cylinder that has conical ends that expand and compress the fuel as it enters and exits the chamber. The cylinder contains spiral baffles which ensure complete mixing of the fuel elements. If your ship is unable to manufacture the required fuel intermix chamber, 'Aurix' can easily manufacture one on the Golden Dragon. We would be glad to do that for you."

"Zorn, thank you very much for your explanation and the surprising thing is that I understood all of it. Jace, can we manufacture the needed part? Zorn, how long would it take you to install and test the intermix chamber?" The Captain rapid-fired his questions.

While the Captain was waiting for his answers, Connor went over and sat down at his normal console "'Aurix,' please return this console to normal use?" 'Aurix' didn't reply vocally, he just reverted the console. "Thank you 'Aurix'"

Connor had realized that for some reason Zorn was under the impression that the Sooloo had only one impulse engine. Connor knew that they had two with primary and secondary emitters/nozzles. However, he couldn't remember whether each emitter/nozzle was supplied with a separate fuel system? It didn't take Connor long to find his answer and they would need four intermix chambers, not just the one.

"Captain, Commander, and Zorn, something has been bugging me and I know what it is. The Sooloo has two impulse engines and each of the engines has a primary and secondary emitter/nozzle. Each emitter is supplied by a separate fuel system; this means that we will need four intermix chambers, not just the one Zorn surmised. Additionally, in order to install the intermix chambers, we need to be at a dead stop and we have to flush the complete fuel system to remove all traces of the oxidizer. 'Aurix' has given us a chat window on my console, I asked him if the intermix chamber needed to be installed as close to the engine as possible. He confirmed my suspicions and then pointed out where the nearest access point is. It was where I vaguely remembered it being. It is an external access hatch directly in front of each impulse engine."

"The number of the chambers needed isn't important, 'Aurix' can manufacture as many as needed. Although, as Connor has determined, the optimal installation location is as near as possible to the engine. However, they can be installed anywhere in the fuel supply system, the optimal location will provide the most efficient output. It is possible however, to have two intermix chambers in the fuel supply line; one in an easily accessible location and one in the optimal location. While there isn't an appreciable increase, it does ensure that the fuel intermix is more consistent throughout the system. I would recommend going with the dual chamber solution, which means that we will need to manufacture eight of the chambers." Zorn lessened the severity of Connor's announcement.

Jace answered both of the questions that the Captain had asked, "We could possibly manufacture the chambers; however, they would be hand created and hand assembled. If The Golden Dragon can manufacture/extrude them we would be better off. If we do EVA's with Maintenance Shuttle backup, the external installation according to my calculations will take approximately an hour-and-a-half for each pair. That is using two teams, with only one team approximately four hours allowing for a rest period between fittings. The internal fittings should only take about fifteen minutes apiece if we do them from here. That is assuming Zorn will help us with the internal fittings. The most time-consuming parts of the repairs are going to be the flushing of the fuel system and then the refilling and bleeding of the system."

Zorn interrupted Jace by waving his hand, "I believe that I can be of service with the bleeding of the fuel system; we have a device that will allow you to recover over ninety percent of the bled fuel mix. Shall I ask 'Aurix' to prepare two of them for your use?"

After a few minutes of contemplation, the Captain decided to go ahead with the whole kit and caboodle. "Jace, with Zorn and 'Aurix's' assistance, I think that we will go with the dual chamber setup and begin installation and testing tomorrow at 0900 tomorrow. Zorn, will that give you and 'Aurix' time to get everything manufactured and assembled?"

'Captain please forgive me for interrupting, but I have already complied with your manufacturing request and I have altered the connectors for the recovery devices. Is there anything else that I can assist you with?' 'Aurix' inquired of the Captain.

The next day by 1415, all the work had been completed and testing was ready to begin.

"Before we begin testing Captain, I would be remiss not to inform you that there will probably be a slight sputtering when the engines are first ignited, due to residual fuel left over from the bleeding process. However, the sputtering will be very brief, not more than a few of your Terran seconds. In fact, the sputtering may not be noticeable at all except by the monitoring and alert software." Zorn casually informed everyone waiting patiently in the Engine Room.

The Captain looked at Jace, Jordan, Zorn and Connor and everyone had positive looks on their faces. Jace and Connor were seated at consoles, Zorn had a handheld to monitor the test, the large viewscreen was displaying a split screen, one screen displaying the scan results and the other displaying a view of the impulse engines.

"All hands, this is Captain Bowman. As I am sure you are aware, we have been at all-stop for the last several hours while work has been going on to make our engines run more efficiently. We are preparing to get underway again, shortly. We don't expect any issues, but take whatever precautions that you may, just in case. That is all."

"Jace begin the restart procedure."

Jace and Connor both began making entries into their console and soon there was the slight hum of pumps and ready lights changing from red to yellow, and then to green. Within a few minutes, all systems were go, "Captain, all system show green, and all pressures are at normal operating pressures; we are a go for restart." Jace stated assuredly.

"Captain, I concur; my scans show ready as well," Zorn interjected.

"Jace, initiate restart and proceed at 1/8 impulse and then increase speed in 1/8 increments until half impulse is reached." The Captain anxiously ordered.

"Aye Sir, restarting then proceeding at 1/8 impulse." Jace restarted the engines and had to quickly throttle the engines back as they had forgotten to recalibrate the speed controls for the increased engine efficiency. "Captain, before you ask why I reduced speed, the Impulse Engines are definitely at least thirty percent more efficient. I set the speed at 1/8 impulse and Connor verified it. However, the actual speed that we obtained at that setting was 3/8 impulse and still climbing slightly. There are no rumbles and all pressures are still normal. I recommend that we come to a full stop again while Connor and I recalibrate the engine controls to reflect the increased efficiency."

"Make it so"

"You may proceed, Commander," The Captain turned to Zorn, "Thank you, Zorn, it seems that our refit is an unqualified success. Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Once the recalibration is done, I think we need to cruise at half impulse for thirty minutes or so. We will have to save the full speed trial for later. I do believe that this lovely lady can really fly now."

"It was my pleasure, Captain and I now believe that I can increase your sensor and scan efficiency by at least another fifteen percent. That will have to wait for a day or so as I have been requested to spend some time with Jason and Jonas so that Jace and Jordan can have some 'me' time." Zorn replied to the Captain.

The recalibration and subsequent tests were completely and overwhelmingly successful and soon everyone headed to the Officer's Mess except for those whose shift it was in the Engine Room. As Zorn headed out with Jordan, Jace, and the Captain on their way for a mini celebration they passed Crewman Head pushing some kind of mop. Zorn's expression became one of extreme discomfort. He actually shivered in disgust but kept up with the rest of his party. Jace happened to observe the shudder and as soon as the crewman was out of sight, quickly halted the party.

"Zorn, what is the matter? I noticed that you became visibly upset as we passed Crewman Head. Has he done something to you or caused you a problem?"

Zorn turned toward the Captain and began to speak, "Captain, it is imperative that you get rid of that crewman he is a menace to your ship and your crew."

Dave became very concerned and asked Zorn exactly what he meant, why did he feel that way. "Zorn, what do you mean that he is a menace to the ship and crew? And how do you know that?"

"Captain, that person is seething inside with repressed emotions and he is emotionally unstable. I don't read minds, but I do read and experience emotions and he is building up toward an explosion. The look that he gave you and your officers was one of pure and unmitigated malice. You should confine or terminate him immediately before he hurts someone or damages your ship. If you can't terminate him, I can have 'Aurix' refit one of our stasis units until you can deal with him or return him to Terra. I am sorry to inform you of the problem," was Zorn's reply.

As Zorn continued to walk with Jordan, Jace and Dave, he quickly turned around. There was a blur of motion toward Zorn and then Zorn instinctively reacted. That was when Dave noticed the broken mop handle by Crewman Head's hand as he lay against a bulkhead. The look of surprise on Head's face told a tale. Zorn immediately started to apologize, "I'm sorry Captain, I could sense the attack and reacted on instinct. He came at me and I just did a quick back hand, I didn't mean any harm."

"You don't need to apologize. I can see that he was about to attack you, and I am sorry for that," Dave apologized. Then he called out, "We have a medical emergency at my location."

Seconds later, the HMH appeared and started his usual spiel before seeing Head lying on the floor. The "Howser" stated, "It appears that crewman Head has suffered blunt force trauma to the back of the skull and perhaps a broken neck. He is dead, Dave. I will know more with an autopsy."

Zorn looked down, "I feel really bad. Here I am on a peaceful mission, making first contact, and I killed someone. I am truly sorry."

"Zorn, it was self-defense," Dave declared. "If you hadn't reacted, he was going to try and kill you. You did nothing wrong. You did say that he was a troubled individual."

Upon hearing the commotion, Aiden, who wasn't far behind them, came running. He looked at Jordan and declared, "I was afraid of something like this happening. One of the reasons I wanted extra security with Zorn was for his protection."

"Aiden, if you can have some men assist with taking this body to Sick Bay so Doogie can perform his autopsy, I would appreciate it. The rest of us need to head for the bridge so we may continue our mission."


End Notes:

This chapter is a work of Story Lover with the collaboration of 3 authors. We will be posting chapters of this story as we are able. When commenting, please cc all three authors and Story Lover. Authors of Voyagers and Story Lover

We want to thank Story Lover for writing Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen. We think he did a great job with creating our first life-form encounter and hope to see more of his work in the future.


TrueFan, Zarek Dragon, and Douglass DD

Guest Author's Notes:

I would like to the thank the authors of Voyagers very much for allowing me to enter and expand their universe. It was an awesome experience and I truly hope that readers have as much fun with this collaboration as much I did.

'Til we fly again,


I would love to hear your comments on my foray into the Voayagers Universe at The Story Lover