Two Is More Than Half Pt 2

Two Is More Than Half Pt 2

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

The Enterprise is sent to answer a call for help. What they discover will rock Picard and Crusher to their cores.

Summary

The Enterprise is sent to answer a call for help. What they discover will rock Picard and Crusher to their cores.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Two Is More Than Half Pt 2

Author Chapter Note

The Enterprise is sent to answer a call for help. What they discover will rock Picard and Crusher to their cores.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: July 21, 2012

Reads: 458

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: July 21, 2012

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Once again sitting on the floor, this time with their backs against a blank wall, just underneath the small windows, Jean-Luc listened with growing fascination as Beverly continued explaining what she’d found out.

“...so you see their brains actually have two receptors from the divided auditory nerve. One I’m certain works in a conventional way, interpreting sounds carried through the structures of their inner ear and converted into an electric signal which the brain sorts out, but the other receptor is discrete, meaning that its function isn’t quite so clear-cut. When I was still on the ship and I first saw this division of the nerve and the two separate receptor areas, our computer theorised the patients may hear in two very distinct ways. Now that could mean each receptor interpreting the sounds differently, or the sounds themselves are perceived differently.”

“How?”

“Well, it could be that their main receptor interprets sounds just like ours, that is they hear just like you and I do, but the other receptor may pick up subsonic sound or...hear colours.”

Turning his head, Jean-Luc’s frown was a deep one. “Hear colours?”

“Uh huh. It’s called synaesthesia. People who experience it describe hearing colour and tasting sound. It was extensively documented by a scientist called Richard Cytowic in the 1980s and the reason I suspect this ability has manifested itself in the children is because it usually requires (in a human brain) a second sensory input or cognitive pathway and that is exactly what I think the discrete receptor is.”

Clearly impressed, Jean-Luc said breathlessly, “How astonishing! Imagine, Beverly...imagine what that must be like.”

“Oh, I know, it’s remarkable, isn’t it? But when you take into account their present difficulties, what may seem like a blessing to you and me is a curse to them. It doesn’t matter how the sound is perceived, Jean-Luc...if they hear it, it causes agony.”

“So what can you do?”

By her smile, Jean-Luc knew she was both happy and confident. “I think, with a bit of sleight-of-hand and the assistance of one of their computers, I should be able to either temporarily ‘turn off’ the cognitive pathway or redirect the feed or both.”

“Why temporarily? Why not permanently?”

“Because I don’t think that’s necessary. Jean-Luc, these children are unique in so many ways, I am loath to make any permanent changes if I don’t have to. I still suspect, with a little help, this condition will eventually resolve itself. By ‘turning off’ the cognitive pathways and redirecting the feed I should be able to buy them the time they need to recover on their own. Besides, if you possessed such a remarkable and profoundly unique ability like synaesthesia would you want to lose it? How would you feel if, having had the ability all your life, you suddenly had it taken away from you?”

“I’d be devastated.” Jean-Luc whispered.

“Me too. But, if I’m right and the Gods smile on me, then I don’t see why my idea won’t work.”

Drawing his legs up, Jean-Luc rested his forearms on his knees and allowed his hands to dangle. Beverly noticed his gaze, although directed at his hands, was distant. She waited, knowing he would voice his thoughts when he was ready. The wait was a short one.

“So...you’re going to need access to what...a surgery suite and one of their computers?”

“Presumably, although as we know, they don’t practice medicine like we do. I’m only making my assumptions based on my knowledge and how I’d go about it. They may have something else in mind entirely.”

“But...if you did get access to one of their computers...do you think they’d limit your access...your usage?

Beverly shrugged, pulling down the corners of her mouth. “I don’t know, but given how paranoid they’ve been about playing their cards so bloody close to their chests, I’d have to say it’s most likely there’d be some kind of restrictions in what I could either access or do. I mean I’ll probably have one of their healers overseeing anything I do anyway.”

When nothing further was said, Beverly asked quietly, “Why, Jean-Luc? What’s on your mind?”

Still with his eyes fixed on his hands, Jean-Luc said softly, “I was just thinking how...helpful...it would be if you could access some information for me, that’s all.”

“Let me guess. You want me to see if I can find a way to rid you of the Borg nanites by accessing the information stored in their databanks.”

“It would be an ideal opportunity.”

“And totally unethical.” It had been said softly, but the rebuke was clear. Both husband and wife sat in strained silence for a while before Jean-Luc sighed and shifted slightly.

“I’m sorry, Beverly. You’re quite right; I cannot ask you to compromise your ethics over a personal matter.”

Gently laying her hand on his forearm, Beverly tilted her head until their temples touched. “It’s a little more that a ‘personal matter’, Jean-Luc. I know you, my love and I know what the knowledge of what you carry in your body must be doing to you, especially given the consequences and your feeling of having lost your humanity. I’m just so very sorry I can’t help you.”

Another lengthy silence dragged by until Jean-Luc said very softly, “What am I, Beverly?”

Sighing deeply, Beverly moved closer so that their sides met. “If you’re referring to the grotesque description of you as a Borg/human hybrid, that’s bullshit, Jean-Luc. That term was used in spite, deliberately meant to put you in an untenable situation. Your brother was point-scoring Jean-Luc and he used whatever he could to kick your feet out from under you. You know what a hybrid is, Jean-Luc. Do you think you’re some kind of subspecies? A latent, undeveloped human/Borg...thing? That, Jean-Luc is utterly absurd and you know it!”

“Since the battle of Wolf 359 there have been those who...”

“Yes, I know and those individuals are bitter and misinformed. Look, grief does stupid things to people, Jean-Luc and as with most calamitous events there will be those who will always seek to find a scapegoat.”

He seemed to be paying particular attention to his right thumbnail, picking at the cuticle doggedly. “Have you heard what some of those people have said about me?”

“Yes,” hissed Beverly through her clenched teeth. “Yes, I’ve heard their vitriolic slurs, their vicious innuendoes and baseless accusations, but Jean-Luc, we’ve been through this! You know it’s not true! Don’t tell me I’m going to have to go over everything, point-by-point again?”

“No,” he summoned a wan smile that didn’t reach his eyes which were still fixed on his thumbnail. “But in the light of what we now know, perhaps some of the...slurs...weren’t all that far off the mark. I mean if I’ve been altered at the atomic level by Borg technology I’m not exactly wholly human, am I. So I ask again...what am I, Beverly?”

“Okay, let’s look at this from another angle. Do you make any distinction between Borg nanites and the nanites we regularly use or are you lumping all nanites together?”

“Why is that important?”

She almost rolled her eyes, but resisted the urge. “Because if you feel the same way about all nanites, then every Federation citizen walking around with our nanites inside them, happily doing the work they were programmed to do are not what they appear. Is that the case, Jean-Luc? A human patient undergoing treatment using nanites is no longer human?”

When he said nothing, Beverly softened her tone. “And you’re forgetting something.”

To his raised eyebrow, Beverly offered a tender smile. “Just as in the past you saved humanity from the Borg, your own body is helping to preserve your species by utilising its own defences. Face it, Jean-Luc, you’re a fucking hero. Again.”

He couldn’t help it, the snort of disgruntled amusement burst out before he could stop it. Bumping her shoulder against his, Beverly said wryly, “Now stop wallowing in self-pity and help me up. I can’t feel my bum any more and I want to get this show on the road.”

With his usual grace, Jean-Luc rose to his feet and assisted Beverly to hers. He held her hands and looked deeply into her eyes.

“Merci beaucoup, Beverly. J’taime, mon coeur.”

“You’re welcome and I love you too, Jean-Luc. Never forget it.”

“I won’t.” He smiled. “....you won’t let me.”

Beverly’s smile was so filled with love; Jean-Luc’s heart soared.

 

 

 

“Computer...” said Geordi wearily, “what if we...” Pinching the bridge of his nose, the dark engineer grimaced. “What’s the use?” he muttered. “We’re not going to be able to get through their damned shielding; I can’t understand why he thinks we can! What does he think we are...miracle workers?”

Sonya Gomez sent her boss a sympathetic look and sidled over, joining him at the main console. The newly promoted Lt. directed her steady gaze at the calculations Geordi had been making and shook her head. “So, sonar’s out?”

“Yeah.” Sighed Geordi. “We know where to look; it’s getting through the shield to lock onto an object to beam up that’s so damned impossible.”

As inappropriate and trite as it was, Sonya couldn’t help but comment, “Things are only impossible until they’re not.”

Geordi’s expression showed both his disgust and his growing irritation. “Oh that’s just great! No shit, Sherlock.”

Hearing her boss utter an expletive stunned the woman and she immediately felt sorry for being so fatuous. “I’m sorry, sir...I just...”

Letting a short breath out through his nose, Geordi waved the apology away. “Don’t worry about it, Sonya...I’m just a bit on edge, that’s all. This...” he nodded towards the console screen. “Is the stuff of my nightmares.” He snorted softly. “Do you remember when Captain Montgomery Scott came aboard? We rescued him from a downed ship called the Jenolan. It’d crashed on the surface of a Dyson’s Sphere.”

The frown of concentration on the Lt.’s face cleared as she recalled the memory. “Oh, yes, sir, I remember him.”

Folding his arms across his chest, Geordi softly grunted. “He told me the job of the chief engineer is to make the impossible possible and to do it in such a way as to not let your superiors know how you did it. And...to never give an accurate estimation of how long it would take.”

“Why?”asked a clearly confused Sonya.

“Because...” grinned Geordi, “It preserved the mystique and went a long way to making you appear to be a miracle worker.”

“...which you just said you’re not.”

“Exactly!” Shaking his head, Geordi grunted again. “Commander Riker has given me an order, one which I am duty bound to obey and I want to, I really do, but...” he waved his hand at the console. “How the hell am I supposed to figure out how to circumvent something I don’t understand! Even the computer hasn’t a clue. God, I wish...”

Sonya lowered her head and winced. “Do you think he could’ve done it?”

“Data can do anything. You give him enough time and he can...” Suddenly realising he was speaking in the present tense; Geordi flushed and shook his head. “Damn!” He muttered softly.

Embarrassed for her CO and feeling the echo of grief for their lost comrade, Sonya focused her full attention on the console screen in an effort to give her boss and friend some privacy to recover himself. It was while she was staring at the readouts that she said idly, more airing her thoughts than anything else, “Do you think it cycles?”

“What?” said a distracted Geordi.

Pointing with her chin, Sonya elaborated. “The alien shielding...if that’s what it is. Do you think it cycles?”

Unfolding his arms, Geordi frowned. “Well if it was a conventional shield grid, then yeah, it’d cycle, but we’re not seeing any grid of any kind. In fact we have absolutely no idea what powers it, so if you’re thinking of some sort of generator which cycles through a standard nutation, then forget it.”

Warming to her embryonic idea, Sonya’s gaze became intense. “Only if the nutation is an oscillating one! What if, drawing on the raw power we already know they have, it waxes and wanes? We know about the absorption rates and we think we know the other number sets pertain to distribution...you said it yourself, that much raw energy would be damned hard to control...so wouldn’t it be just as difficult to maintain a constant energy shield without some kind of fluctuation?”

His cybernetic eyes sharpening his gaze, Geordi straightened and snapped his fingers. “Oh, my God...you might be right! Computer, using a standard scan, sweep the coordinates of the multi-discharge and look for any disruption in the spectral field.”

“Scanning.”

The chief engineer and the Lt. kept their gaze locked until the computer said calmly, “Disruption detected.”

“Yes!” They shouted in unison. Geordi moved quickly to another console and began to input commands as fast as he could. Over his shoulder he said, “Well done, Sonya. I’ll be sure to let Commander Riker know this was your baby!”

Feeling immensely satisfied, the Lt. grinned. “Just as long as we don’t go ‘bang’ the moment we beam anything up!”

Shaking his head, Geordi chuckled. “That’s part of my job, Sonya. Carrying the can when things go... ‘bang’.”

Ten tense minutes later, Geordi, Will and Sonya were standing in transporter room three. Tucking in his chin and surreptitiously crossing his fingers, Will said quietly, “Energise.”

In the familiar blue, sparkling column of light a vaguely humanoid shape began to appear, lying prone on the pad. Just as the gathered personnel realised the object was glowing, it abruptly vanished. At the exact same instant the red alert siren sounded and the ship was plunged into utter darkness. What followed was absolute mayhem.

 

 

 

 

At Jean-Luc’s summons, the adviser returned and led them both out of the room. In the corridor, two more beings waited and Beverly was politely directed to go with them. It was explained that she was to meet with some healers to discuss her findings and any treatment she had in mind.

Jean-Luc was taken in the opposite direction with the advisor and wasn’t at all surprised to find himself back in the long room. The advisor left, giving no explanation, so Jean-Luc distracted himself by going over to the clear wall and staring out into the wind-swept, frozen wastes. He hadn’t been aware of it, but his senses had heightened by a small amount since he’d been on the planet and so he picked up the very subtle shift in the atmosphere of the room as the door silently opened.

Although the ambient temperature, like the lighting was constant, there were times when both changed. The glow of the aliens was one obvious cause for the change of light, but the temperature sometimes rose imperceptibly when the room’s occupants were only human. The difference wasn’t enough to make it comfortable; Jean-Luc still found it too cool for his liking, but the change was there, nonetheless.

He didn’t turn or acknowledge his brother in any way. His twin came to Jean-Luc’s side and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him just as preoccupied with the bleak view as Jean-Luc seemed to be. Eventually the conscience said softly, “Quand j?ètais jeune, j?ai charchè un reconfort lá-bas.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Jean-Luc replied, “I too sought solace in places like that in my younger days.”

His eyebrows rising, the twin asked with growing interest, “Vous avez vècu dans une terre gelèe? La France est la glace?”

Smiling, Jean-Luc shook his head. “No, France isn’t a frozen land, it’s not all ice. I meant that I sought solitude, that the places I went in my youth were very…quiet and in that quietude I found solace.” He turned to see his brother and their eyes met. Jean-Luc had a small smile on his face, one that in the recent past might have provoked the man into feeling offended, but now made him simply curious.

“What is it you find amusing, Jean-Luc?”

The smile grew. “Actually it’s interesting that you’ve asked me that in standard. It’s your French that’s caused my reaction.”

His eyes narrowed, but the conscience gave his brother the benefit of the doubt. “Really. In what way?” An innocent enough question, but asked with a tiny hint of warning. Jean-Luc heard it and held up his hand.

“I mean no offence; indeed your French is perfect. That’s what’s affected me. It’s pure and unaccented.”

Clearly not understanding, the conscience frowned and tilted his head. Jean-Luc’s smile returned and his eyes twinkled. “Have you noticed the difference in the way Beverly and I pronounce our words? We’re both speaking standard, and the words are the same, but they sound different.”

Shrugging, the twin pulled down the corners of his mouth. “I have heard some differences but I thought it was because you were different genders.”

“Ah. No, that’s not the case. Remember our earlier discussion about countries? How each country has its own history and sometimes race? And how it’s very common for different countries to have their own, very distinct language?”

“Yes.”

“Well, even in countries that use the same language, there are regional differences. Even within the country itself, there are regional influences on how the language is spoken…how the words are pronounced…even the way of adapting the language to reflect the local flavor. It can be as expressed as a dialect, which is a sort of sub-language in its own right or a simple case of accent. Some accents are slight, some very strong and to those who study these things, known as linguists; it can be easy to identify not only the country, but the region within the country that the speaker is from.”

The conscience nodded, understanding, but not knowing how to apply the new knowledge to himself.  “So, why does my lack of…accent…amuse you?”

“Now that is embarrassing.” Jean-Luc said, offering a rueful smile. “It takes us back to humankind’s persistence in hanging on to national identity. Many countries, if not all, are proud of their history, their contribution to Earth’s history, especially now as Earth has taken its place in a much larger community, comprising of our interstellar neighbours. But going back…and not that far…one can find a time where this national pride, some called it patriotism, represented itself in some fairly parochial thinking and France in particular had some groups within its population who wished to ‘preserve’ the purity of all things French, including our language. You see for much of modern Earth’s history, the English language was the dominant one, especially as it was the main language of commerce. This caused a great deal of discontent among those who resented the ‘pollution’ of their cultures and languages by the influence of English-speaking countries. And in France as far back as 1635, a body, calling itself l?Académie Française was formed with the express purpose of protecting the purity of the French language. And it exists still to this very day, although since the mid 20th century it has had no binding power, it was always the official authority on the usage, vocabulary and grammar of French. With the saturation of English through the media and technology they tried to prevent what they referred to as the Anglicisation of the French language. Now I have never proscribed to their stance. I believe everything, including language evolves, in fact one of the best examples of this is English. From its earliest origins it has been adaptable, ultimately becoming a polyglot and it was for that reason it was chosen as the Federations’ ‘default’ language, hence its name...Federation Standard.

“To hear you, not only speaking unadulterated French, but French with no regional influences is astounding! It has made me think about my mother tongue for the first time in many, many years. It’s not a criticism, far from it, indeed I should thank you. Hearing, rather than reading my own language as it once was is somehow comforting. I know that must make little sense to you, but that is the only explanation I can give.”

A companionable silence followed before a wry conscience remarked, “Perhaps I should inform the educators to reassess their sources. If their information is that out-of-date, maybe it’s time they caught up.”

The men shared a quiet chuckle but soon lapsed back into silence. When Jean-Luc spoke there was an edge of hurt and anger in his tone.

“Why did you seek to manipulate me with the knowledge you possess of what I carry within my body? Was it really necessary to demean me, to humiliate me so thoroughly? To so savagely wrench my perception of myself away? To rob me of my very humanity?”

The conscience bowed his head and sighed, his eyes closing in pain. “I am sorry, Jean-Luc. You had taken a stance I found reprehensible and hypocritical.”

He lifted his head and stared out into the dimness, looking but not seeing. “Had this entire situation not affected my children, I would never have been so deliberately cruel, but I felt if I could not find a way to render your argument null-and-void, you would persist with some kind of misguided rescue of either me; my children or all of us and could not let that happen. By telling you about the micro nanite infiltration of your body, I had hoped, not to hurt you, Jean-Luc, but to put you in the same situation as my children. I fear my lack of understanding of human dynamics; human interactions caused me to be far more harsh…and tactless than I should have been. I know how devastating the news must have been for you, especially given that you now know it is the reason you cannot successfully reproduce but, Jean-Luc, if we were to change places, would you not do whatever you could, use whatever you had available to you to protect your children? Your people?”

Jean-Luc turned at the same time as his brother and they stared into each other’s eyes. Jean-Luc understood, but the anger, the hurt lingered. The conscience saw this and sighed. “What would you have me do, Jean-Luc? You enjoy a position of authority and with that authority comes responsibility. Well, I too have authority and responsibility, but where your primary focus is your ship and the crew and the Federation’s concerns, my prime focus, my only focus, my raison d’etre is my people! Not seven hundred, Jean-Luc, millions! If your stakes were that high, how far would you go? Would you consider the feelings of one individual? Even if that one person was your long-lost identical twin?”

“No,” sighed Jean-Luc. “No, I wouldn’t.”

“Then do not judge me so harshly, Jean-Luc. I did what I did because I thought it expedient. What is the saying? Rien de personnel?”

“Nothing personal.” Grimaced Jean-Luc. “Oh, yes, I understand. I suppose I should be experienced enough to not take it so personally, but I’m afraid my experiences with the Borg have left an indelible mark upon me, one I fear will never be erased, especially as I now know, at the very base components of my body I am still Borg.”

“Jean-Luc…” sighed the conscience. “Despite my extremely poor choice of words, and my deliberate intent to shock and hurt you, surely you do not believe you are anything but fully human?”

The smile that appeared on Jean-Luc’s face was cold. “That is something Doctor Crusher and my late ship’s counselor spent a very long time trying convincing me of. Do you know what a locutory is?”

The twin frowned, tilting his head. “No…I do not think…”

“L’locutoire.”

“Ah! Oui.”

“When I was assimilated, it wasn’t to make me a simple drone; no…the Borg had a much more sophisticated plan for me. I was assimilated in a very special way. Rather than becoming a drone, I became an entity known as ‘Locutus of Borg.’ The speaker for the Borg. Ostensibly my task was to be the liaison between the about-to-be assimilated Federation and the Borg. As it turned out, I now know it was a ruse, but my real purpose, or so I thought, was to become the ‘consort’ to the Borg queen. The Borg perpetuate themselves by assimilation, but there are circumstances where they reproduce sexually and normal drones, having had their sexual organs removed as a normal part of their assimilation and therefore useless for that function, a different kind of Borg was required. That, of course was me. The offspring are used in two ways. Some, very rare individuals, are destined to become new Borg queens, but most of the rest are destined for nothing but organ harvesting. There are some Borg, deemed more important that most, who to sustain their existence, that is prolong the ‘life’ of their organic parts by replacing failing organs with new ones. The unfortunate young, having donated the required organs are salvaged as drones, albeit with a much reduced ‘lifespan’ but mainly they are simply terminated and their organic remains reconstituted into bioorganic ‘food’ for the rest of the collective.”

Jean-Luc grunted softly and shook his head. “Knowing what I do now, it’s highly unlikely I would’ve had any success in impregnating the queen and the irony is…it would’ve been their own damned fault.”

His laugh was bitter, sending a shard of guilt and pain into the conscience. He placed a gentle hand on his brother’s shoulder. Feeling a deeply imbedded need to help he spoke without his customary consideration, something he’d not done since his youth.

“What if I told you my people could reverse what has been done?”

Jean-Luc’s eyes sharpened. “You can remove the nanites? From the sub-atomic level?”

Taking a much needed deep breath, the conscience, having broached the subject without due thought, had no option but to continue. “I am not a healer, Jean-Luc, I cannot say how far our medical community can go, but even if the nanites cannot be removed, I feel sure they must be able to be rendered inactive, at least in such a way as to restore your fertility.”

Rubbing his fingers over his lower lip, Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened in thought. “At the moment I’m sterile. That is my body’s way of protecting my species from what the Borg have done to me. What’s to say any interference could only make matters worse?”

“In what way?”

“Think about it! If your healers get it wrong, who knows what may be produced! God…a human/Borg cyborg? Something grotesque? Something not…human?”

He glared at his shocked brother. “Un monster putain?”

The conscience gasped. “A fucking monster? Jean-Luc, you are not thinking correctly! Do you honestly believe that is possible? That our healers would allow that to happen? Why? Do you think we seek to punish you? Because it seems to me that you are doing that all by yourself.”

Pushing his brother roughly, Jean-Luc poked the shocked man in the chest with a stiff finger.

“You…” he said vehemently, “were never assimilated! You never endured the physical agony! You never watched while your mind was raped, your body violated and then all that you were used to destroy and corrupt, all the while knowing that as well as being the harbinger of doom of your people, you were expected to breed with the chatte who made you!

“And you think you can make it all better by offering to make me fertile again! How dare you!”

Confused, the conscience grabbed Jean-Luc’s fisted hands and gripped them tightly. Jean-Luc growled and tried to wrench his hands free, but his brother’s grip was as strong as his own. They soon reached an impasse.

“Vas te faire encule!” Yelled Jean-Luc. “Lâchez-moi!”

“Fuck you too, Jean-Luc, but no! I will not let you go!”

The sobs seemed to come from so deep inside Jean-Luc that his entire body shook with their force. The conscience eased his grip and before his brother could escape, enfolded him in his arms, hugging him tightly. Jean-Luc grabbed fistfuls of his twin’s tunic and held on for dear life while his inner storm raged.

 

Had the circumstances been different, Beverly would’ve liked nothing more than to spend hours poring over the astonishing array of computer assisted medical technology and the enormous banks of data available about not only the indigenous species, but the species of all those beings who had served as the conscience.

With the assistance of her two companions, Beverly accessed a three-dimensional image of each child’s auditory system and the two separate receptor areas of the brains. Inputting the information from her tricorder and having both described and explained her suspicions about synaesthesia, the three healers set about formulating a course of action by which the ‘feed’, that is the auditory input to the discrete receptors of the children’s brains could be temporarily disabled.

It had taken some time for Beverly to convince the healers that it all probability, should they be successful in shutting off the feed, that the condition would most likely then be able to resolve itself. Indeed, when she had suggested that the conscience himself had overcome his experience with the condition on his own, rather than because of anything the healers had done, they were both skeptical and somewhat offended, but, with her superior, although admittedly sketchy knowledge of the condition exceeding theirs, the healers eventually had to accede.

Beverly was very happy to find, once the healers accepted her diagnosis and her ideas for treatment, they showed nothing but dedicated focus and within a few hours a procedure had been decided on. To Beverly’s amazement, there would be no surgery involved. Using a technique so advanced she found it too sophisticated to completely understand, she was shown how the treatment would be implemented. There would be no need for any anaesthesia or invasive surgery; the entire procedure would be conducted by a computer, overseen by an alien operator. The only difficulty was making sure the children were not exposed to any sound.

Having gained permission to be present, Beverly was taken, in the company of a fellow healer, to a non-descript room, light blue in colour and featureless except for a padded examination table with an overhead fixture of some sort. Entering an enclosed booth to one side, the walls of which were clear, Beverly watched as her colleague brought up all the relevant details of the children, including all the new information and images. The alien healer then activated a program and an awe-struck Beverly looked on as the screen in front of her displayed the entire procedure. She was so absorbed by what she was seeing she didn’t notice when all four children were ushered in.

They must have been slightly sedated, as each was a little unsteady on their feet and their eyes were half-lidded. As Beverly watched, her companion gently tapped her shoulder, gesturing for her to look at the screen. There she read, “As you can see, all effort had been made to prevent the children from being exposed to any sound, but to assist in this matter, each child has been administered with a very mild sedative, but one that, although appears to have affected their motor skills, has actually dampened their auditory receptors. It is this deadening of their hearing, even though they are not using it that is causing some of the physical reactions you are seeing.”

Before Beverly could ask how the procedures would be undertaken, given that all four of the children were present, her unasked question was answered when, as she watched, two healers gently encouraged one of the boys to lie on the table. The others were gently led to one side. They watched impassively as their brother settled and when a very bright blue light speared down from the fixture, Beverly momentarily lost her vision. She had turned away, screwing her eyes closed and placing both hands over her face but a gentle tap on her shoulder let her know she could once again open her eyes.

Blinking rapidly to help dispel the spotty after images of light, Beverly made out a cloud of pale blue light hovering over the child’s head. It separated into two equal halves, each half going to the ears. Beverly couldn’t stifle a gasp as the clouds of light disappeared inside the ears. It obviously caused no pain as the boy remained still and calm, his face showing nothing but acceptance.

His forehead began to glow, brighter than the rest of his naked body and a shaft of his own golden light rose to join, then mix with the downward beam of blue light coming from above. He seemed to sigh and his eyes drifted closed.

Although Beverly had already seen all of this in the simulation, seeing it in actuality was stunning, almost but not quite spiritual in nature. The room was so preternaturally silent, those taking part so reverent, it stirred in Beverly long-thought-gone feelings of almost supernatural awe. The very fact she’d never seen anything like it before only added to her utter astonishment.

Within a few minutes the procedure was over and the teenager assisted with gentle care from the table. He seemed even more unsteady on his feet, but other than that, none-the-worse for his experience.  Each of the children touched him and Beverly wondered if it was to reassure, commiserate or merely to show love. Perhaps, she thought, a little of each.

The next child, another of the boys took his place on the table and the procedure repeated and still Beverly was just as awe-struck as she was the first time and she remained so with each subsequent treatment. Just over half an hour later, all four children were back in their padded, silent room.

As Beverly and her companion were about to leave the booth, she asked, “Would it be possible for me to have some kind of record of what has just been done? If not the technical notes, then perhaps a vid of some sort?”

Looking back at the screen, she frowned and let out a frustrated sigh as she read,

“I am sorry, Doctor Crusher, but that is not possible. You were only allowed to be in attendance because you have been instrumental in finding a way to help the conscience’s children. That is reward enough.”

“I do not seek any reward.” Said Beverly tightly. “I asked merely from a medical standpoint.”

“My apologies, Doctor, I misunderstood your motives. Again, what you ask I cannot provide. In fact, we are going to have to insist you never divulge to any being what you have seen here. I am aware we have no way to compel you to abide by our wishes, we can only hope that your personal integrity is such that you honour our wishes in this matter.”

Both Beverly and the healer knew this was a reference, though veiled to her Hippocratic Oath. Beverly bridled, but said nothing, understanding the depth of feeling behind the being’s need to remind her.

Having been allowed to look in on the now sleeping children, Beverly asked to be taken back to Jean-Luc. She felt growing unease when her request was refused.

 

 

 

With none of the automatic systems of the ship functioning, and in complete and utter darkness apart from the meager light of their palm beacons, Will and Geordi had had to make their way to the bridge through the Jefferies tubes. Sonya, at Geordi’s request had embarked on a journey of her own back to engineering using the same method.

As the two men negotiated the last of the cramped tubes, Geordi grunted, saying sarcastically, “Well, at least they left life support and gravity on.”

“Yeah,” growled Will. “So nice of them! How magnanimous.”

Geordi grunted softly.

“You know, Commander, I don’t want to be the one to point out the obvious, but with this demonstration of their power, I can’t help but think we’ve been…well…lucky.”

That brought Will to a halt. Twisting his large frame within the tight confines of the tube, he shot a hot glare back at the engineer, some of his expression lost in the ever-present dark.

“Oh, really? And just what’s so lucky about sitting in a ship which at the moment is as useful to us as a floating stem bolt?! Jesus, Geordi! We’ve just been castrated! I don’t call that lucky!”

To lighten the mood a little, Geordi gave a soft chuckle. “Hey, I agree with you! This ship is my baby and anything done to her I take personally, but think about it, sir. All we did was sneak  under their skirts and try to beam something up. Now that got an immediate and rather obvious reaction…but we’re still here, aren’t we? No cloud of space dust where the ship used to be.”

The big man, now once again moving forward on all fours, grunted sourly. “Yeah, well just don’t expect me to tug my forelock and ask forgiveness! They might be showing off and yeah, I get the message loud and clear, but this little show of might is wearing a little thin.”

Having reached the last of the blast hatches, Will pressed a device onto the hatch and inputted a code. There was an audible click and hiss before the hatch parted a small distance. Using his hands, Will pried them all the way open and unfolded himself onto the dark bridge. The noise of his arrival caused one of the nervous crew to shine his beacon directly into Will’s face, making him bark, “Do you have to?!”

The chagrined young officer immediately lowered the beam, saying with a stammer, “Sssorrry , Cccomandder.”

Will sensed rather than saw Geordi exit behind him. Sweeping their beacons around, the exec soon ascertained no one was injured. “Right!” he said with as much authority and confidence as he could muster. “First things first. We need to get our key systems back on line. That means the comm. system, communications, shields and weapons. I want each of you to get a partner and start working on how to get access to those systems.”

Turning, Will shone his beacon at Geordi’s midriff. “Mr. LaForge, I want you to get to the computer core. See if there’s been any damage done and if not, then find a way to boot it back up. I don’t care how you do it, where you find power, if indeed there’s any to find, but it seems to me that our alien friends have way too much access to our computer and I think that’s how they’ve managed to pull our plug out. If you can find out how to put it back in, we just might be able to have a little tète â tète with our hosts.”

“Okay, Commander, but like you said, power is going to be a little hard to come by.”

“Portable generators?” Suggested Will.

Geordi shrugged. “I’ll give it a try, sir, but it’d take a lot of generators to supply enough power for an entire system reboot of the computer core.”

“Granted, but we might not need a complete reboot…just enough for our key systems.”

“I’m on it, sir. Ah…” Will couldn’t see it, but he knew his friend was grinning. “Permission to leave the bridge, Commander?”

“Get out of here, LaForge!” snarled Will good naturedly. With little else to do but offer his help where needed, Will squashed his anger and impatience and set to work.

 

 

 

 

The conscience held his brother until his trembling ceased and his breathing evened out. He felt Jean-Luc’s hands release their hold of his tunic and a slight tension stiffen the man’s body. Not sure, but feeling his brother needed some space, the conscience let him go and took a step back. Jean-Luc lifted his hands and scrubbed his face before sniffing and giving his nose a wipe with his sleeve. Throughout all of this he kept his head lowered and his eyes downcast.

“Are you feeling any better? Asked the conscience gently.

“Yes. “sighed Jean-Luc in a  roughened voice. “I must apologise for such an appalling display. It was most…unseemly.”

“Unseemly?” the conscience asked incredulously. “Jean-Luc, your reaction was understandable…I do not think it could be described as unseemly.”

Dragging his bloodshot eyes up to meet his twin’s concerned gaze, Jean-Luc tried to smile, but failed miserably. “Well whatever it was, I’m not happy about it, either me displaying it or you witnessing it.”

“Je suis votre frère, Jean-Luc, votre frère jumeau.”

This time he was more successful in summoning a genuine smile. “I know you’re my twin brother, but somehow that makes it worse. If you were a complete stranger…”

The irony of his unfinished statement made both men frown. It was the conscience who said what they were both thinking.

“But we are complete strangers, are we not? Yes, we are twins, identical twin brothers, but we might as well be each a different species. We have some things in common other than our physical appearance…gestures, tastes perhaps and of course there is always Shalaft’s! If not for that little genetic gift of our forebears, we would have never met. But as for anything else? We would need years, Jean-Luc. Years for me to learn all your history and years for you to learn mine. But we do not have years; we do not have weeks…at best we have days and I do not know how you feel about that, but I am left feeling…confused, discontented and bereft.

“I have never had reason to resent my people or my position. I was chosen and I serve. It is all I have ever known. But now? I suppose it could be equated to you being shown something you find intensely interesting and just when you think you are going to get to understand it, it is taken away from you. Of course I am speculating, simply voicing my own opinion, but surely you feel the same?”

“Yes,” Jean-Luc said softly. “I feel exactly the same. I want to stay; I want to get to know you…and your family. I’ve told you about our older brother, Robert.”

“Oui.”

“Well, what I didn’t tell you is that we didn’t actually get along.”

Seeing the frown of confusion on his twin’s face, Jean-Luc sought to explain. “Look, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Robert. He was a good man, no doubt. He was a good son, a good husband and a good father to his son, but he and  I…we just didn’t see eye to eye. I think he resented me from a very early age. But that’s not to say he’d feel the same way about you, had you been there. You and I are physically the same and yes, we do share other traits, but that doesn’t mean we have the same personality and it may have been my personality he didn’t like.”

Gesturing for Jean-Luc to move across the room to the clear wall, the conscience rubbed his fingers over his lower lip, obviously deep in thought.

“How did you not…see eye to eye? What does that mean?”

Jean-Luc’s smile was rueful. “We disagreed a lot. We argued. Robert sided with our father about the continuation of our family’s tradition in wine-making and when I made it known, from quite an early age, that my intention was to join Starfleet to live and work in space, they were appalled. Both Robert and our father did everything they could to dissuade me and when it became obvious I wouldn’t be swayed, they became derisive and dismissive. Life was miserable for me for a very long time. I craved our father’s approval and he wouldn’t give it. And Robert? He went out of his way to bully and demean me. In short, my formative years were hell.”

Sadness and shock warred for dominance on the conscience’s face. “Was there no one? No one to comfort you?”

Jean-Luc’s smile grew incredibly tender. His voice was soft when he said, “Our mother. She was so gentle, so supportive. If not for her unwavering and unstinting love, devotion and belief, I don’t know that I would’ve succeeded in my dreams.”

The conscience grunted softly. “My mother was also very supportive and so was my father.” The man chuckled. “My father thought he was a comedian. He was always playing tricks on me and my siblings. Even when we were older and could see what he was up to, we never failed to laugh. To do otherwise would have hurt his feelings.”

“Tell me more about your family.” Said a now curious Jean-Luc.

“Oh, there really is not all that much to tell. I had a mother and father, two brothers and a sister…all older. My siblings had left the complex before I came of age and my parents soon after. I have not seen any of them since, although I know my parents now lie in the great floe.”

Sadness made Jean-Luc sigh. “I know I have no right to judge, but that seems so cruel.”

The conscience shrugged. “Perhaps, but in the beginning I was so busy I had little time to feel self pity and as I matured I found it wasn’t family I needed, but quite the opposite. Solitude was what I craved. I found it…out there…on the ice.”

He sighed and lifted one hand to place his splayed fingertips on the clear surface. “Out there I could think, I could let my mind wander in private thought, not thought devoted to my purpose or by the constraints of my position, but thoughts that were mine and mine alone. Sometimes…”

“Yes?” Jean-Luc prompted gently.

“Sometimes I would sit in a sheltered spot and look up at the stars. And every-now-and-then…not often, but sometimes I would wonder…”

“…if anyone like you was out there?”

“Yes.” He whispered.

“Me too. Although I knew there were others…many, many others. But never, in all my dreams had I ever thought I had a twin, an identical twin brother. Once Robert and his son Rene died, I was alone. Maman and father had been gone a long time and I had finally reconciled with Robert, but before we could take advantage of our newly found friendship he was gone too.”

“And now?”

“And now I find not only am I not alone…but I have a new family!”

“And perhaps the ability to have one of your own?”

“Perhaps.”

“You will let us try?”

The two men looked deeply into each other’s eyes and Jean-Luc sighed. “I don’t mind admitting I’m frightened, but yes, I am willing to allow your healers to try.”

“I am glad, Jean-Luc. Now, I think it time you met my one. I happen to know she is intensely curious about you. Although…”

By his twinkling eyes Jean-Luc knew he was amused. “I think she is actually more interested to see a version of me without this.”

He reached behind him to lift his heavy braid. Jean-Luc chuckled and shook his head. “Yes, well I must say it makes a difference.”

“Indeed.”

As they walked from the room, their chuckles hung in the cool air long after they’d gone.

 

 

 

Beverly was unaware how, but the adviser had been summoned and appeared in the sparsely furnished room in which she’d been waiting. Unlike her husband, she’d not been detained, but on finding she was able to exit the room hadn’t exactly helped as she had no idea where to go. She had the impression the complex was a large one and though she suspected Jean-Luc and his brother would be in the large room with the clear wall, not only didn’t she know where it was, she didn’t know how to get there if she did.

So she bided her time, worrying and fretting, but feeling there was a purpose to being…isolated…from both her husband and his brother and to be honest, she recognised they needed time alone.

As their mission was now almost completed, their imminent departure meant that unless Jean-Luc was going to try to remove his brother and his children from the planet, their time together was soon to come to an end…prematurely. How, she wondered, do two people so inextricably linked, bound by their very identical genetics, reconcile the fact that having only just met, now must part, in all probability never to see each other again? It was a tragic and heartrending situation; one that she knew would wound her husband deeply, especially when the knowledge of what he carries in his body is taken into account. She sighed and was pinching the bridge of her nose in deep thought when the adviser came in. He carried two eye shields and Beverly frowned, wondering why that was so.

Gesturing to her new tricorder, in its holster on her hip, Beverly took it and guided her eyes to its screen.

“The conscience wishes for you and his brother to meet his one. Please accompany me.”

The journey was a surprisingly long one, making Beverly realise she’d underestimated the size of the complex. Where she’d thought it large, it now seemed to be huge.

Rounding a gentle bend in a tastefully coloured corridor, Beverly’s face split into a grin of delight because before her was her Jean-Luc, who she could plainly see was not only calm, but exhibiting anticipation and gentle happiness on his face.

The conscience, who had an eye shield in his hand, smiled widely and gestured to the eye shields his adviser carried. “I must ask you put those on…both of you. My peoples’ essence glows in direct response to strong emotion or deep thought. My one is excited to meet you…” his smile became a grin. “I believe the term is she will…‘Shine like a beacon.’”

Jean-Luc smiled with understanding and Beverly chuckled. They put the eye shields on, then felt the conscience take a hand of each and lead them into a room.

They came to a halt and the conscience said gently, “My beloved one, this is my brother, Jean-Luc Picard.” He lifted the hand he held and the captain smiled as his face was touched very softly. He then heard his brother say “And this is his one…his wife, Beverly Crusher.” Repeating his action, he lifted their joined hands and Beverly smiled as she felt the ethereal touch to her face. There was a small silence, which the husband and wife presumed was to allow the vivid glow to diminish. That proved correct because the conscience said quietly, “Although you will find it a little uncomfortable, please remove your eye shields now. The glow will fade.”

Even though they’d been warned, both Jean-Luc and Beverly screwed their eyes to mere silts and even then their eyes produced tears. But, true to the conscience’s word, the glow rapidly faded until it was tolerable and what they’d become accustomed to.

The female was the same height as her one and although she wore a pastel green, unadorned top and cream trousers with matching soft, flat shoes, the light emanating from her hands, neck and head were enough for the humans to have to blink away the after effects of her bright glow.

Tenderly stroking her face, an obviously enamoured conscience smiled as he watched her delicate hands rise. No one’s eyes but hers could see the movements of her fingers, but the conscience was ready to show the waiting couple his sleeve screen. But just as they moved closer together, the female stepped nearer, gently taking Jean-Luc’s hand and encouraging him to one side. As Beverly read, “I am very happy to meet both of you, but, if I may, I wish to see my one’s brother.”, Jean-Luc watched intently as the alien being ran her hands lightly all over his body, as if she could detect the shape and musculature of him through his uniform.

At first he was disconcerted, it was such an intimate thing to do and it was done with such familiarity, he had to remind himself that to this being he was identical to her mate…her one, so it was natural to touch him in such a personal way. This exploration ended with her hands delicately encircling his head. Although he couldn’t see her facial features, he somehow got the distinct impression she was smiling. With gentle urging he turned and he felt her run soft fingertips through the short bristles of his clipped light grey hair. He turned his head when he heard Beverly chuckle. Her gaze was on his brother’s sleeve.

“She says there is less to play with.”

Reddening slightly, Jean-Luc summoned an embarrassed smile. “Yes, well, I’m sure.”

The conscience, on seeing his twin’s discomfit, went to him and placed a placating hand on his shoulder. “You need not be embarrassed, Jean-Luc. My one is taking the opportunity to remind me that this…” He reached around behind him to grab his braid and bring it around to his front. “Sometimes gets in the way.” He shot a wry grin at his one, then snorted. “Of course there are times when I do not braid my hair and then…” He grinned. “She gets lost!”

The humans all chucked and the conscience showed the screen with its rows of odd text scrolling across the surface.

“My one is laughing. At me.”

With gentle urging, the female encouraged Jean-Luc back to Beverly where they stood close, basking in the open affection and obvious ease with which the conscience and his one had with each other. More text appeared as the female lifted her hands, but the words made the man frown. He almost dropped his arm, thereby hiding what she’d said, but Jean-Luc caught his brother’s action and gently snagged his sleeve. Reluctantly the man allowed the couple to read.

“Are you going to take my one and my children from me?”

Beverly frowned and lowered her gaze to her feet, her eyes closing as she knew what pain that question was causing her husband. To his credit he kept his voice even as he answered.

“You are aware of my dilemma.”

“Yes.”

“I have not yet made up my mind, but I can tell you I am leaning towards not disturbing things as they are…provided I can gain some kind of assurance that the practice of…forgive me but there isn’t a kinder word to describe it…stealing of undeveloped human children from Earth stops. Now that still leaves a very grey area, in that humans, no matter where they are conceived or born are still under the auspices of the Federation and therefore protected by Federation law, an argument could be made that if they were conceived and born outside the Federation, then perhaps cannot be made to comply with the law as it stands.” He sighed and rubbed his brow. “I feel I should point out the law was never meant as a blanket coverage of all Federation species. Just as our charter is to peacefully explore it stands to reason that it would be inevitable that Federation citizens would eventually settle and reproduce outside of Federation space. The sticking point for me, at least, is the way in which the conscience is sought. Even if the mother was a human, living outside Federation space, I have a great deal of trouble accepting that taking a developing embryo, even though the mother would be unaware of its presence and she would have at least one other embryo, it’s still not right.”

The female bowed her head and was momentarily still. She then lifted her head and her hands. Jean-Luc read from the screen, “But can you say the mother or the children we…procure…suffer in any way? The conscience is loved and nurtured by the family chosen for him, they volunteer even though they know once he reaches the age of acceptance they must be banished from society. Is their sacrifice to be forgotten in your distaste of our ways…ways that predate your Federation?”

“I am aware,” sighed Jean-Luc, “that to your people, the Federation, indeed all the worlds within the Federation must seem very arrogant, very naïve, and I have to admit that was exactly what I was when I first discovered the details of how things work here. And I freely admit our implied right to judge others is the height of hypocrisy, given our, and by that I mean humankinds’ specifically, history of violence and intolerance, not only amongst ourselves, but yes, towards other world’s peoples. It has taken us so long to reach this stage of our evolution…” He sighed again and grimaced. “We seem to have taken the moral high ground, conveniently forgetting other species’ evolution…their very histories that are so much older than ours. Forgive me, we are still growing, but I can tell you that we can and do still learn. But I alone cannot change policy. Once this comes to the attention of my superiors I cannot say what will happen.”

It was the conscience’s tight, barely controlled, angry voice that made Beverly wince inwardly.

“And just what can they do about it?! Jean-Luc it matters not! The Federation can complain, protest, they can even try to prevent my people from doing what they have done for centuries, but you and I both know you are helpless to prevent it! There is absolutely nothing your people can do!”

Turning to his brother, Jean-Luc looked him in the eye, his gaze unwavering. “So are you saying your people would carry on with a practice they knew to be against the will of another species? That’s not the impression I’ve gained of your people, brother. Who’s doing the sabre rattling here? Your people or mine?”
 

“Sabre rattling, Jean-Luc?” said a mildly amused and derisive conscience. “Compared with the technology of my people, sabres are a fair equivalence of what your people have by comparison.”

Beverly lifted her head and interjected quietly, “Why are we even discussing this? We all know that ultimately this is going to come down to Jean-Luc. He’s either going to gain some kind of agreement with your people and leave it at that or, having reached no consensus; he’ll have no option but to report the situation back to his superiors. What happens after that is in the lap of the Gods. Certainly it’ll have nothing whatsoever to do with Jean-Luc.”

She smiled sadly and gently took his hand, lifting it and laying their joined hands on her cheek. “Jean-Luc is Starfleet’s most experienced and respected captain and his superiors will listen to him, but he is not a policy maker. He obeys orders, just like the rest of us. Piling your angst on him serves no useful purpose, but to make an already difficult situation worse.”

The female raised her hands and the scowling conscience glanced down at the screen, his stern expression softening. “It would seem my one agrees with you, Beverly.”

As more text appeared he offered the screen to the couple.

“You are a mother, Beverly?”

“Yes.”

“Then I can see why you would see this differently.”

A confused Beverly tilted her head and frowned. “I don’t understand. What do you mean?&rdqu


© Copyright 2018 Heather Smyth. All rights reserved.

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