"The happiness of a man in his life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions."

- Lord Alfred Tennyson

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0630 HRS

Slowly and steadily, the USS Centurion was making its way into the docking bay of McKinley Station. Captain Mitriv Ronovsky was standing on the bridge, watching the helmsman maneuver the ship carefully into place. 'Home again,' he thought, 'but not for long.'

The Centurion was docking at the earth-orbiting station to get some of the systems reset and updated, take on needed supplies, and then leave for their new assignment. The longest this stop should take was a couple of days... at least, so Captain Ronovsky was hoping. He didn't care much about the lack of action while the ship would be sitting at the dock, and was therefore looking forward to getting on the way again, soon.


Lt. Cmdr. Liam O'Riley was looking out the window of the guest quarters that he had been occupying for the past two days on board the Centurion, watching the docking clamps lock into place. He was hitching a ride from his last assignment on the USS Acquisition to McKinley Station where he was to rendezvous with the Tenacious. This transfer, he had agreed to so he could advance his career in Starfleet, would put him in the position of Chief Security officer on the USS Tenacious under Captain Roan Price. He was actually looking forward to the change of pace and the new challenges that were awaiting him.

An added bonus of this two-day journey was that he had been able to spend some time with his cousins Derek and Damon Lowe, whom he hadn't seen for several years. It had been a fun two days, and they had done much catching up. 'Those two goofballs haven't changed a bit, since the last time I've seen them,' he thought with a smile.

He had also met their match, Lt. Ashton Bauer, who never seemed short of jokes to play on them, especially Derek. Somehow, he felt sorry for the new Captain, Mitriv Ronovsky, having to put up with these "three Stooges", and was wondering how the former Captain had handled them all these years. 'A truly extraordinary feat if you ask me!'

=/\= - =/\=

0730 HRS

"Damon, come on," Derek urged his younger brother along, "it's time to get off this ship and have some fun!"

"I don't see why you're so anxious," Damon retorted, "I'm not in a hurry to get in trouble... again. Remember last time we've visited Earth? I can't imagine that they'll ever let us near San Francisco bridge again."

"I don't think I've heard that story yet," Liam was laughing, as they all walked along the corridor on deck 9 toward the turbo lift. "Do I want to?"

"Maybe another time, Liam," Derek chuckled, waving him off. "Besides," he addressed Damon, smiling sheepishly, "Ashton's not with us this time... We shouldn't have any trouble at all."

"Yeah... I still don't understand why he volunteered to stay on the ship and help the repair crew," Damon contemplated with a grin. "I think, he wanted to get away from you, bro."

Derek glanced at him. "Aw, you know Ashton, he can't handle it when someone else touches his 'babies'," he laughed, thinking of his best friend. He knew, he would miss not having him with them, but he also understood how Ashton's mind worked.

"His 'babies'?" Liam didn't follow.

"The computer core and the warp drive," Damon enlightened his cousin. "Matter of fact, to quote Ashton, he said 'I won't let any trained monkeys, other than Derek, touch my warp engines'."

"Shut up!" Derek was mocking annoyance.

Liam chuckled. "Ah... Well, you've got me to compensate," he pointed out with a smirk.

"Ya think, ya can handle us, cuz?" Damon smiled at him broadly.

"Bring it on."


They arrived at the turbo lift, when...

"Lieutenant Lowe!" The hail from Captain Ronovsky coming over Derek's commbadge interrupted their playful banter.

"Yes, sir." The Assistant Chief Engineer stopped just short of stepping in.

"I hate to spoil your already brief shore leave, but... we've just received a personal emergency message for you and your brother from the Washington. It's from your father," the Captain sounded concerned. "Are you able to take the message right now?"

"Yes, sir," Derek answered, greatly disturbed. "We're not far from Commander O'Riley's guest quarters. We can take the message there in a few minutes."

"I would suggest you do so, immediately," Captain Ronovsky advised him.

Derek and Damon looked at each other ominously. This didn't sound good at all!