Two Is More Than Half Pt 7

Two Is More Than Half Pt 7

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

Same as Pt 1

Summary

Same as Pt 1

Chapter1 (v.1) - Two Is More Than Half Pt 7

Author Chapter Note

Same as Pt 1

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

Reads: 201

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

A A A

A A A

 

The atmosphere in the observation lounge was very tense. Seated around the table were Will, Beverly, Geordi, counsellor Adams and acting chief security officer, lieutenant commander Owen Gables. Sitting in Jean-Luc’s customary place at the head of the long table, Will sat back, but his pose was far from relaxed. His urge to get up and pace was almost impossible to suppress, so by way of forcing his body to obey him, he deliberately adopted an informal demeanour.

Once everyone had sat he turned his focus to Beverly. “Report, Doctor.”

Placing her hands palm down on the tabletop, Beverly’s jaw clenched. “Long story short, I don’t know what’s wrong with Captain Picard. He’s in a state of unconsciousness I’ve never seen before. It’s heavier than sleep, but not as deep as a coma, yet it isn’t a true form of unconsciousness.”

Beverly’s eyes drifted down to her hands to find she’d dragged them into tightly balled fists.

“Our scans show some neural activity we can’t explain. Somewhere, deep in his prefrontal cortex…” She sighed and lifted one hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. “Look as unscientific as it sounds, all I can tell you is that something’s going on in there and we have absolutely no idea what it is.”

Patrick Adams sat forward, placing his forearms on the table and lacing his fingers. “The prefrontal cortex? Interesting. That involves cognitive functions and determines personality. While you were on the planet, did Captain Picard exhibit any anomalous behaviours? Did he perhaps act in a way that gave you any cause to suspect he was experiencing some disruption in the function of his brain?”

Gritting her teeth, Beverly was about to snap a biting remark when Will cut her off, saying succinctly, “Doctor Crusher has not yet had the opportunity to file her report. Until she does, let’s just concentrate on what she tells us. I’m sure she’ll give us all the pertinent details.” His meaningful look wasn’t lost on Beverly and she sent him a brief glance of gratitude. Adams saw the byplay and filed it away for later examination.

Will shifted slightly in his chair, the only outward sign of his need to move.

“Is there anything else, Doctor? You stated that captain Picard’s life was in danger.”

Shaking her head, Beverly’s lips thinned. “Not in danger, per se, what I said was his life was in the balance.”

“Okay,” conceded Will. “Would you like to elaborate?”

“As well as the anomalous readings from his prefrontal cortex, I’m not convinced his left parietal lobe is functioning correctly either.”

Before Will or anyone else could say anything, Beverly held up her hand. “I can’t give you anything definitive. It’s…all I can tell you is that while we were on the planet, the captain underwent a procedure. Afterwards, he was in the main, well, but he was in an altered psychological state. He had yet to emerge from that state when he was brought back on board. However, while on the planet after the procedure, almost exclusively, he would only speak in French.”

The gathered personnel looked at each other, frowning. Counsellor Adams said quietly, “A default mechanism? He is French isn’t he?”

“Yes, “ Beverly said, trying to be patient. “But Captain Picard rarely uses his native language. He’s been teaching me for years, but only very informally, mostly just as a form of amusement. He’s spoken little but standard since his late teens.”

“But…” said a thoughtful Adams. “He is fluent in several languages. I’ve read his file, Doctor; he’s even fluent in some of Earth ancient languages, such as Ancient Greek and Latin.”

Will could see that Beverly was rapidly losing patience with the counsellor. To circumvent any unpleasantness, he turned his attention to Beverly and asked, “Are you aware we’ve been hailing the planet for hours with no response?”

Shaking her head, Beverly shrugged. “No. I’ve been so absorbed with Jean-Lu…Captain Picard…I wasn’t aware of anything else.”

Will sent a look at Geordi and he sighed. “They’ve been completely ignoring us, doc. We’ve done everything except throw rocks.”

“So what are we going to do?” asked an increasingly alarmed and suspicious Beverly. It was Will who answered.

“Well we tried to leave, but…”

Beverly was on her feet so fast her chair scooted backwards with such force it hit the viewport and upended. “NO!” She shouted.

Her outburst had startled everyone causing a stunned silence. Will’s quietly worded, “Why?” Made Beverly swallow and use the time it took to right her chair and regain her seat to compose herself.  “Because...” Her voice broke and she took a few deep breaths before she could continue. “Because it’s now my belief we need the aliens. We need their medical expertise.”

Deciding now was the time to tell the staff about the existence of the captain’s identical twin and how that came to be took some time, but Beverly got through it somehow. Geordi’s softly spoken, “Holy shit!” caused Beverly to snort.

“Oh, yes, that’s one way to put it.” She said wryly. “So you can see it’s not as simple as just asking for help.” She sighed and again put her hands on the tabletop. “Look, this is pure speculation on my part, but I can’t shake the feeling that the captain’s twin might be suffering whatever it is that’s affecting the captain. And if that’s true, then maybe they’ll help us.”

Will crossed his legs, resting his ankle on his thigh and gripping it so tightly his knuckles showed white. Patrick Adams watched all this, making mental notes.

“Well, Doctor, it seems we’re not going anywhere anyway.” To Beverly’s raised eyebrows, Will swept a hand. “They’ve taken control of the helm. We can’t move.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Will said sardonically, nodding thoughtfully. “Yeah, oh. But we’ve got a little plan…something that just might make then sit up and take notice.”

Beverly’s eyes narrowed. “Surely you know there’s nothing we can do? If they want to keep us here, we can’t stop them.”

Pulling down the corners of his mouth, Will inclined his head in agreement. “True, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit here and just take it. I don’t know about you, Beverly, but if someone wants to shaft me, they can show some courtesy and ask me first!”

Taking a deep breath, Beverly said quietly, “What are you going to do?”

Will’s grin was wolfish. “Not much. Just fool around with some infra red light, that’s all.”

With her knowledge of the essence, Beverly knew instantly what Will was referring to. Shaking her head vigorously, Beverly speared Will with a pleading look. “No, Will, don’t do it!”

Unable to contain himself any longer, the big man shot out of his chair and began to prowl around the table. “Why the hell not? Those bastards have had us by the short and curlies from the moment we arrived! In fact, my bet is this entire mission was a setup. They lured us here and have been lying to us ever since to keep us here! Identical twin my arse! He’s a clone and you and I fell head first into their trap.”

“No Will, you’re wrong.” It was an effort for Beverly to keep her tone soft.

The big man sneered. “So now you’re defending them while your husband lies in sick bay with his brains scrambled?”

“I’m not defending them Will, all I’m saying is that no matter what you do, you won’t win. All you’ll do is endanger Jean-Luc’s life.” She lifted a stricken face and said softly, “Are you prepared to do that, Will?”

He came to stand behind her chair, bent and placed one large hand on the table. With his head near hers he said quietly, “This ship has over seven hundred people on board, Beverly and in the absence of the captain, they’re all my responsibility. Are you asking if the entire ship’s crew is worth more than one man?”

“No, I’m not.” Said Beverly, barely keeping control. “But can’t you see, Will? You won’t win this battle. It’s pointless to even try.”

Will straightened and went back to the head of the table, gripping the back of his chair. “It’s not the battle I’m interested in winning, Beverly. It’s the war. Dismissed.”

As everyone began to file out, Beverly stayed in her seat, head cradled in her hands and she quietly wept.

 

 

 

“I can see only one alternative.” The male healer looked down at the device in his hand, then directed his gaze at the conscience, his body encased in the brilliant light of the essence.

“Yes, I agree.” His colleague allowed. She tilted her head and sighed. “You are aware of their plans?”

The male sighed too, lowering his glowing head. “Yes. It was inevitable, I suppose, but disappointing nonetheless.”

Inclining her head, the female acknowledged the remark. “I had hoped Riker would be more like the conscience’s brother. He is far more evolved.”

“Evolved?” the male shook his head. “I do not think it is a matter of evolution, more a simple difference in personality. One only has to access the archives to see that humans, even the more…enlightened ones have very disparate personalities.”

“But so different?” Insisted the female. “Riker is overtly aggressive! The conscience’s brother is…”

“…like the conscience?” The gentle admonishment made the female glow vividly.

“I admit I have made a basic error in making a gross generalisation.  Of course humans are just as diverse as individuals  as we are. But the question remains. What do we do about Riker and what he proposes?”

The male tilted his head and sighed. “Obviously he cannot be permitted to carry out his plans; the essence must not be violated. No doubt our strategists will consult with us, but I feel we have but one alternative.”

“He must be bought here.”

“Yes.” The male demurred. “The conscience’s brother must be brought to him. The connection must be restored if we have any chance of separating them.”

“And his one? The healer? Should we bring her too?”

The male shrugged; an oddly human gesture. “I cannot see how we can avoid it. The conscience’s one has been very beneficial in keeping him calm, even in his altered state. It is possible his brother’s one can do the same for him.”

“Agreed, but Riker is not going to accept this. It is most likely he will become even more irrational and belligerent.”

“True, but I feel our strategists will be able to make it perfectly clear to him, without any hint of injury to any individual or damage to their ship, that resistance or even protest is pointless.”

The female lifted her hands higher, indicating a more fervent tone. “But surely even that will cause Riker to react. It seems that his irrational and belligerent behavior increases the more helpless he feels.”

“Sadly, you are correct, but we cannot be held responsible for his inherent behaviour. All we can do is render him, and by extension his ship, harmless.”

The female snorted, a soft, somehow sibilant sound. “Harmless? They were never considered capable of doing us any harm.”

“I was thinking more of them themselves. Who is to say what lengths Riker would go to defend…or retrieve his…friends?” He sighed. “It matters not. Our strategists can negate or nullify anything he tries. It is a pity though. We requested their presence and their help and they came and gave it willingly. I find the current situation…distasteful.”

“Yes,” agreed the female. “And then there is the conscience’s brother’s continuing…difficulty…with the procurement.” She sighed. “Although I commend their sentiment…their….Prime Directive…it has its merits, but to attempt to apply it to us…to even have the temerity to think we would accede…I cannot help but feel insulted by their conceit.”

“Indeed. There is much to regret about this entire episode.” The male sighed, lifting a glowing hand to rub his flat nose. “All we can hope for is to resolve this in such a way as ensure no one is harmed or left adversely affected by their experiences with us.”

“And that we retain our autonomy…and our privacy.”

The male nodded his agreement and a small hiatus ensued, their hands falling to their sides. When the female again lifted her hands, the male inclined his head, his eyes fixed on her fingers.

“I must admit, though, I am disappointed with the knowledge the humans, indeed the entire Federation may be left with the opinion we have been…and still are, acting in what they consider an immoral way or at the very least, in violation of their laws.”

“Perhaps,” demurred the male. “But ultimately it is irrelevant. There is nothing they can do to stop us.”

“Agreed, but from what we know of them…humans in particular…they can be very…persistent if they believe they have been wronged. Riker said as much himself.”

“Still irrelevant.” The male looked briefly at a device then returned his attention to his companion. “It matters not. Once the transcendence takes place, any concerns the humans or the Federation have will be moot.”

“And in the interim?”

The male shrugged. “Irrelevant.”

The female responded to a gently strobing light and nodded. “I am going to reduce the essence. The conscience would benefit from being with his one for a short time.

“Agreed.”

 

 

 

As the officers filed out of the observation lounge, Patrick Adams hung back, staying just inside. The doors swished shut, leaving him alone with Beverly, although she was unaware of his presence. He moved quietly back to the table and just as quietly took a seat opposite the weeping Beverly.

“Would you like to talk about it?” he asked softly. Startled, Beverly’s head snapped up and immediately anger spiked. Rising quickly to her feet, she glared down at the man. “No, I would not.” She said coldly.

He shrugged; beads of sweat on his brow. Despite her anger, Beverly’s medical brain kicked in, cataloguing this information for further analysis later. “It might help, Doctor.” He said mildly. “You’re under an enormous amount of stress right now and added to what you and the captain have been going through these past months…” he shrugged again, lifting his hands, palm upwards.

Curbing her irritation and anger, Beverly managed a cool smile. “While I appreciate your offer, counsellor, I don’t need any assistance right now, but thank you.”

“It’s not going to get any easier, Beverly.” His use of her given name only served to increase her anger, but she knew he was only trying to do his job. The cool, fixed smile stayed, but her eyes glittered dangerously. “Look, Counsellor…Patrick…” the smile grew in size but not in warmth. “I really don’t have the time. Right now I have to devote every gram of my energy and thought to Captain Picard.” Adams opened his mouth to protest, but Beverly held up a hand and shook her head. “No. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. But…like we told you previously, once the dust’s settled, then yes, we’ll come to you for joint counselling.”

She was on the way to the other doors when Patrick’s soft words made her falter slightly before regaining her resolve.

“Very well, Beverly. Just so you know…I’ll be here to pick up the pieces when the inevitable happens.”

He sat still for a moment or two, staring at the closed doors. Sighing, he wiped his wet brow and hoisted his body to his feet. As he went to exit through the same set of doors, he thought, yet again, “I really must lose some weight.”

 

 

 

Will cast his eyes around the bridge, noting everyone was ready. After a measured look at Geordi, he nodded once, curtly. “Do it!”

Turning to the engineering console, Geordi’s hands went to input the commands to send the focused shaft of infra red light into the dish on the planet’s surface when the console abruptly went dark. Then, one-by-one every console on the bridge went out. Stepping back from his station, his hands still at waist height Geordi muttered, “What the hell?”

Will didn’t have to be told. He clenched his fists and bowed his head, screwing his eyes closed in impotent fury. “Fuck you!” he thought vehemently. It took several long minutes, the bridge now completely silent with the cessation of the usual soft background noises, before Will lifted his head to address the waiting crew. “Get to work! Find a way to get back control of the damned ship!”

No one said a word, not even to acknowledge the orders. It simply wasn’t appropriate and in Will’s present mood, no one dared draw attention to themselves.

The sounding of the red alert both shocked and startled the already rattled crew Out of sheer habit, Will whirled to face tactical. Powers lifted her hands helplessly, shaking her head.

“I don’t know, Commander!”

Closing his eyes again, Will tried to take a deep breath, tried to calm down, but it was too much. Lifting fisted hands he shouted, “Fucking hell!”

It took two tense minutes before Will was able to say with some control, “Computer, reason for red alert?”

There was no reply. His expression glowering, Will said curtly to Owen Gables. “Lieutenant, get some teams together. I think you’ll find it’s the captain’s been taken, but after checking sick bay, do a physical check, count heads.”

“Yes, sir.”

The lieutenant went to the lift doors but they didn’t open. Sighing with anger and frustration, Will stabbed a finger in the direction of the Jefferies tube hatch on the opposite side of the bridge. Silently Gables nodded and soon disappeared into the bowels of the ship.

 

 

 

One second Beverly had been striding briskly through the ship, on her way back to sick bay, next she was staggering as she found herself back in the room where Jean-Luc had undergone his ‘recovery’. She spun around, her balance precarious. Seeing Jean-Luc, lying naked on the bed, she began to go to him, then halted, her heart accelerating as she saw, next to him on another bed, was his twin, also lying naked, his one by his side. 

Her need to be with her husband overrode her caution and she went boldly to the bed, lifting her chin and staring defiantly at the softly glowing female. Although she couldn’t see the being’s eyes, Beverly felt sure they were locked on hers, each taking the measure of the other.

A gentle hand on her shoulder made her know her attention was required elsewhere, but she’d be damned if she was going to back down. Foolish and immature as it was, somehow; deep inside Beverly, she knew instinctively just how important it was to win this minor battle of wills. She was immensely gratified when the female lowered her head, but the resulting radiance made Beverly screw her eyes shut and cover her face with her hands. Stalemate.

The hand on her shoulder remained and it was only when she felt a gentle squeeze that she risked opening her eyes. A screen was offered and she read, “No doubt you are aware of the anomalous readings in the brain of your one. The conscience is suffering the same condition.”

“What is it?” asked Beverly urgently.

“We do not know. We have not encountered anything like this before. Our knowledge of the human brain is extensive, but we cannot offer any explanation as to why these readings exist.”

The healer, its gender unknown to Beverly looked down at the captain, then after offering a small bow, passed a small device over and around Jean-Luc’s head. Beverly watched stoically, knowing she was out of her depth. If anyone could help the two men, it was the aliens.

“We are correct. The readings are identical.”

It turned to Beverly and tilted its head, its raised hands drawing her eyes back to the screen.

“Tell us more about the phenomena you described to the conscience.”

“You mean the twin thing?”

That seemed to confuse the being, so Beverly qualified.

 “Sorry, I take it you’re referring to the unexplained abilities sometimes exhibited by identical twins?”

“Yes. Can you tell us more?”

Sighing, Beverly frowned, chewing the inside of her cheek. “Well, I can’t tell you all that much, ‘cause I simply don’t know….in fact human medical science doesn’t understand it, despite centuries of study. We know things happen, but not all identical twins, triplets or more exhibit it.”

That seemed to make the alien healer think. In the ensuing hiatus, Beverly gently laid her hand on Jean-Luc’s brow. What she felt made her frown. “He’s hot.”

She saw the healer’s hands rise. “Yes, both the conscience and his brother have an elevated body temperature. We do not know why, but as it seems to be doing no harm, we have not, as yet, done anything to restore their normal body temperature.”

“I take it you’ve thoroughly checked the hypothalamus? It is responsible for regulating body temperature.”

“Yes.”

Again there was a hiatus, but as soon as Beverly saw the hands rise again, she directed her gaze to the small screen. “What can you tell us about the…twin thing?”

Shrugging, Beverly pulled her mouth to one side. “Okay, well, we know that some sets of identical siblings, usually twins, but as I said, other birth multiples have exhibited these…phenomena…and the siblings are of the same gender, of course…there’s been well-documented cases of identical siblings having almost telepathic abilities. Sometimes they feel each other’s pain, in other instances, one will speak…begin a sentence, only to have the other…or others finish it. And I suppose the most remarkable are documented cases of twins and I should point out that this has occurred in non-identical twins as well…having been separated at birth, they were nevertheless aware of the existence of each other. Not in a conscious way, but at the sub conscious level and it was often a factor in the twins reuniting as adults.”

Her eyes on the screen, Beverly read, “Were these individuals separated by any great distance?”

“Sometimes yes, at least as far as being confined to our planet. But although it was most commonly seen where the children who grew to adulthood were in the same country, there are cases where the children had been separated by continents, sometimes thousands and thousands of kilometers apart, in different countries and cultures.”

“So…they would have completely disparate lives.”

“Uh huh.” Nodded Beverly. “Depending on the country, the language, diet, in the past even a different religion.”

“This is most intriguing. You stated earlier that on discovering the…connection…between the conscience and his brother you thought perhaps it was not evident at first because the conscience had been removed in an undeveloped state. If that is the case, why then would the…connection…intensify once we had removed the nanite infestation?”

“I don’t know.” said a frustrated Beverly. “I have been thinking about it of course…are you aware of engrams?”

“Engrams?”

“Yes.” Nodded Beverly. “They’re a type of memory. What do you know about memory in humans?”

The being tilted its head. “We know that memory in the human brain is created and encoded chemically and retrieved electrically.”

“Narrowing her eyes, Beverly asked, “That’s it? That’s all you know?”

“Yes. What else is there to know?”

Rubbing the tip of her nose, Beverly ordered her thoughts. “Okay, memory in humans. What you said is true, but that was a grossly simplistic description. The areas of the human brain responsible for memory are the cerebellum, the striatum, the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus and the amygdala. The reason so many areas of the brain are involved is because different memories are stored in different ways. It depends on how the memory derived. Was it tactile? Sensory? Visual? Was the memory gained by an experience? An event? But engrams differ because they’re memories we’ve carried as an evolving species. Think of them as evolutionary holdovers. They exist in the LIP…the lateral interpositus nucleus, which is within the cerebellum. Engrams are our automatic responses. I can’t be more specific than that as the effect of engrams differs from person to person. Some people will, in some circumstances, exhibit atavistic behaviour that can be directly attributed to an engram, where someone else in the same circumstance may show nothing or a completely different behaviour.” She sighed and shrugged. “It is most certainly governed by genetics. I suppose if your parents both have a  strong engram presence in their brains, it stands to reason their children will carry the same trait and the opposite is also true as is any mixture…or intensity.”

“We will scan your one. We will see if we can establish if he still has his…engrams.”

“And if he doesn’t?” asked a sickened Beverly. “Can you do anything to replace them?” She asked hopefully.

“We do not know. Allow us to carry out our scans.”

It wasn’t as if Beverly had any choice. As she watched the healer retreat into the booth, she knew the conscience’s one was watching her.

It was only a few minutes before Beverly noticed the screen in her hand was glowing. She lifted it and the glow vanished to reveal text. “Join us please, Beverly.”

As Beverly crossed the room she felt the female’s eyes on her, but she studiously ignored her. Once inside the booth, she was gently ushered to a floating, life-size hologram of Jean-Luc’s brain. Several areas were highlighted. Gesturing to the image, the nearest healer directed her eyes to the text under the hologram. She read. “Are these the correct areas you spoke of?”

“Yes.” Agreed Beverly. She then pointed, saying absently, “Can you separate these areas and enlarge?”

Instead of answering by text, the image simply changed to conform to her request. Text appeared under the hologram again. “All you have to do is ask for what you need to see, Beverly. Our system will provide all you wish.”

Sending a quick glance of thanks to the healer, Beverly said tentatively, “Show me the lateral interpositus nucleus within the cerebellum, enlarge again and highlight.”

The image changed instantly and Beverly found herself leaning forward. She didn’t see the healer use his hands in the air to adjust the image. The specific area was now an object a metre in diameter.

“Okay…now identify the engrams. I want you to enlarge any concentration and highlight.”

“What exactly are we to look for? How do we identify these…engrams?”

“Oh…sorry.” said Beverly apologetically. “Pyramidal cells. It’s the neurons inside that have a very specific and unique connectivity. It should show quite clearly as being very different from normal neurological neurons.”

The new image made Beverly’s eyes close briefly with relief. “There they are! He still has them.”

Peering at the bright cluster that now took up a tabletop size of area in front of her, Beverly said distractedly, without talking her eyes off the hologram, “This, of course, isn’t how the engrams would appear in the brain, I’ve just asked for this representation to make it easier for us to see them.”

Text scrolled under the image. “It is an enormous number. Is that considered normal?”

Beverly smile was indulgent. “Ah, the complexities of the human brain. You can’t think of engrams as single entities, although they are, being basically a type of neuron, but like all neurons in the brain, they’re interconnected. They may number from 30,000 to 100,000 or more, but it’s their connectivity that makes them so unique. The pyramidal cell structure assists the synapses but it’s the association of the required atavistic memory that makes the engram neuron activate. Of all those engrams, at any given instance, only a very small percentage may be required at any given time. Indeed, it’s possible an individual could live their entire lives never having activated a single engram.”

“From what you can see, are these engrams…normal?”

Beverly shrugged. “I don’t know. Unless they’re activated, I wouldn’t know and even then, I’d be hard pressed to know the difference as it’s exhibited behavior that’s noted, not any change in the engrams themselves.”

“Wait.”

The hologram winked out of existence, then just as suddenly reappeared. Beverly frowned, not understanding what was happening. Then her penny dropped.

“This is Jean-Luc’s brother’s brain, isn’t it.”

“Yes. This is the conscience’s engrams. As you can see…”

The hologram changed again and now the two areas of engrams were displayed side-by-side. “They, like the brothers themselves, are identical.”

“No surprise there.” Beverly muttered sardonically.

“Yes, but can you discern if there has been any…alteration? Any disruption?”

Chewing again on the inside of her cheek, Beverly thought hard. Eventually she sighed and tilted her head. “Well,” she said cautiously,  “I did do a level four neurological scan on the captain many years ago, looking for any evidence of a neurological disease and at that time, apart from find a slight defect in the parietal lobe, I can’t say I recall noting any anomalous readings of the LIP.”

“If we could see the results of those scans would it be of some assistance?”

“Yes.” Said Beverly nodding eagerly. “I could compare them and with your technology, easily see any changes. Especially as I have these images of the twin’s brain as well.”

Somehow Beverly expected to wait, but the scans she’d taken years ago appeared as holograms before her. Shocked, she stammered…“How…?”

But there was no reply to her question. Text began to scroll. “Can you see any difference, Beverly?”

Gathering her shattered composure, the doctor spent several long moments comparing, asking for several magnified views of all three holograms. Sighing, she stepped back and gestured to the images.

“As far as I can see, I can’t detect any changes. But I’d like to do a chemical analysis. Bearing in mind that engrams aren’t encoded chemically, they’re already present at birth, I still want to know if their basic chemical makeup is not only unchanged, but stable. I can use the captain’s old scan as my yardstick.”

“Yardstick?”

Rolling her hand, her eyes still on the three holograms, Beverly muttered, “Base comparison.”

The asked-for analysis suddenly appeared, but Beverly frowned with incomprehension. “What is that?”

“It is the chemical analysis you requested.”

“No it’s not.” Said an increasingly alarmed Beverly. “I don’t recognise any of that! What are those chemicals?”


“They are the normal chemicals one would find within a human brain.”

“No they’re not!” Beverly had to stop herself from shouting. Calming down, she took a deep breath and asked, “What are you using as your source?”

The healers all looked at each other, their hands raised. Beverly waited impatiently until text appeared.

“The conscience has always possessed these chemicals in the brain.”

Narrowing her eyes, Beverly asked quietly, “All consciences…or just human ones?”

“All.”

Lifting her hand to nibble at her thumbnail, Beverly tried to fit this new information into what she knew of the aliens’ history. She came up empty.  Sighing with frustration, she asked, “Is there anything you do, either during gestation or…maybe as soon as a new conscience has been…procured…to help them adapt?”

“Adapt to what?”

“I don’t know!” Beverly snapped. “Life here…among your people…or this planet.”

“The conscience has little direct contact with the people, Beverly. Only those chosen to serve as his one, family or staff have any contact with him.”

Suspicion rose, causing Beverly to fold her arms. “Okay, what about the planet? I know this…” she waved her hand to encompass the complex. “…is suitable for humans and obviously those of you who live here too….but what about outside? What are your cities like? Are they enclosed too? Is there something in what little atmosphere this planet has that’s dangerous? I know the conscience has often ventured outside. Was he altered in some way?” A new, very unsettling thought occurred and Beverly stared at the holograms with dawning dread. “Have you altered Jean-Luc and me too?”

The stillness and silence of the booth was ominous in its own way. With growing alarm, Beverly said quietly, “What have you done?”

When the text finally began to scroll, Beverly wasn’t at all sure she wanted to read it.

“It was necessary.”

“To do what?”

“There is, in the air you breathe, a suppressant, a chemical that inures you to the more…deleterious effects of the pervading atmosphere. You are quite correct, Beverly. There is something harmful. It is to do with the essence. Where the conscience has always been protected, we who serve with him have had the opposite done to us. We have been exposed. It is not possible for us to live in this environment and breathe the same air without serious consequences. Unfortunately, as our physical selves have reached a point where we can no longer adapt, we who serve have, in effect, given our lives for our chosen paths. To serve is to die.”

“My God…is there nothing you can do? Surely, after all this time…”

“So few are affected, Beverly, it was hardly worth it. In any case, our conclusion will assist the people. We do not regret or rail against our decision. It was taken with full knowledge of the consequences.”

Looking back at the holograms, Beverly asked worriedly, “So, can you remove the chemical or not?”

“To do so would place all of you in great danger, Beverly.”

“Yes, but with this…” she pointed at the highlighted areas. “…our brains won’t function as they should. I know I’ve not exhibited any adverse reactions, but if my engrams have been effectively turned off, who’s to say in the future a situation may arise when the lack of engram activity costs me my life?! Or my husband’s! You can’t leave us like this!”

“But, Beverly…is it the dormant state of the engrams that is responsible for the condition of the conscience and his brother?”

Throwing her hands up in angry frustration, Beverly shouted, “I don’t know!”

“Then why do we not attempt to bring the engrams out of their dormant state and see if that improves the conscience and his brother’s condition?”

“Oh, that’s just fine and dandy,” snapped Beverly sarcastically, “but what about the rest? Are you going to restore the natural chemical balance in Jean-Luc’s and my brain?” Another thought struck her. “And commander Riker?”

“When your time with us is at its end, we will do what we can, for all of you, but we must caution you…we have not had to do this before.”

“What’re you saying?”

“We cannot predict what might happen.”

“Great…oh, that’s just great.”  Beverly really wanted to sit down, but she’d had enough. Turning abruptly she left the booth and went to her husband, picking up his hand and holding it to her cheek.

 

 

 

Their eyes opened at precisely the same time. Beverly stood on one side of the bed, a healer on the other. Next to Jean-Luc’s bed, only a metre or so away, the same thing was happening with the female and a healer. Both naked men stared sightlessly up at the ceiling and oddly, blinked at the same time and in the same pattern. Both healers, one with the captain, the other with the conscience, passed a hand holding a small device around the heads of the men and Beverly gasped softly as a hologram appeared above Jean-Luc’s head. Glancing over, she saw the same thing over the twin’s head.

With some gestures of their hands in unison, the healers enlarged the holograms and all of the brain was eliminated except the areas of engrams. As before each area was highlighted.

As Beverly watched a small capsule was introduced into the right nostril of each man. At first, nothing happened, then suddenly, as one, both twins began to shake. Beverly laid her hand on Jean-Luc’s bare chest, over his heart only to find it was beating incredible fast. Her head snapped up, her voice loud, curt and crisp. “If you don’t slow down the rate of cardiac activity, the conscience will suffer a cardiac arrest! Jean-Luc’s heart will withstand the overload, but the rest of his cardio-vascular system won’t.”

“We know.”

Nothing happened. With growing frustration and alarm, Beverly shouted, “Stop it! Whatever it is you’re doing, stop!”

“We cannot, the procedure is in progress. To stop it before it has completed would put the conscience and his brother in grave danger.”

“But they’re already in grave danger!” Beverly yelled helplessly, her eyes going from her husband’s shuddering, naked body to that of his twin. Unlike Beverly, who kept her hand on Jeran-Luc, the female had bent so that her glowing head was almost touching her one’s.

Beverly started when gentle hands eased an eye shield into her free hand. She shook her head irritatedly, waving the being away, but she found she couldn’t refuse. As she watched another healer put a shield on Jean-Luc’s eyes. Beverly had choice but to comply. The last thing she saw before everything went black was the female putting a shield on the conscience’s eyes.

Beverly put her other hand on Jean-Luc, this one on his cheek. Stubble pricked her palm and as she kept in physical contact with him, she felt the shuddering become increasingly violent.

“What’s happening?” she called out, but she received nothing by way of reply. Under the hand on his chest, Beverly felt his heart accelerate and she knew his body simply couldn’t withstand it. “Stop!” she yelled desperately. “Please…for God’s sake…stop it! You’ll kill him!”

When Jean-Luc’s heart abruptly stopped beating, Beverly was so shocked all she could say was, “No….” so softly, no one heard. Under her hands his now utterly still body began to rapidly cool. It wasn’t until mere minutes later, when she began to shiver that she realised the temperature of the entire room was plummeting quickly.

When hands tried to usher her away from Jean-Luc’s body, she resisted, twisting violently from side-to side, trying to dislodge the gentle, but firm hands. Eventually too many hands overwhelmed her and she was all but dragged away. She sensed she was in a smaller space and surmised she’d been taken to the booth. The same gentle urging had her sink into a seat of some kind. Blind, frantic and on the verge of panic, all Beverly could do was sit and shiver more and more violently as the temperature continued to rapidly drop.

In her sensory-deprived world it was difficult to accurately gauge the passage of time, but Beverly felt not long had passed before her body stopped shivering. She registered it was now extremely cold, but it wasn’t until she developed a sudden, overwhelming urge to sleep that she understood she was suffering from hypothermia. Sluggishly, she tried to force her mind to work, but, like her body, it was in the process of closing down.

Behind the implacably black eye shield, her eyes slowly closed, even as the last vestiges of her conscious mind screamed in frustration and desperation, “NO! Stay awake! If you go to sleep, you won’t wake up!”

It was no use. She slipped into sleep, never seeing her decreasing breaths clouding thickly around her head.

 

 

 

Will had finally given up. He’d been angry for so long, the frustration and anguish had built to a point where he simply couldn’t sustain it any longer.

With the ship sitting practically dead in space, Will had come to accept there was nothing anyone could do. So, although he’d ordered all strategic stations manned, the rest of the crew was ordered to off duty status. Having given the orders he felt strangely tranquil.

In his quarters, Will had allowed himself the luxury of a long hot shower, he’d trimmed his beard, eaten a decent meal then, after feeding and changing Charlotte and watching her kick on her mat for half an hour, he’d taken his daughter and crawled gratefully into bed, sleeping solidly for seven hours.

Charlotte’s growing complaints drew him from his slumber and he smiled, his eyes still closed as his hand felt and found his little girl safe beside him. At his touch, she settled momentarily, but soon her insistent grizzling drew a soft protest from Will as he exited the bed with the baby in his arms.

Managing to empty his very full bladder one-handed, he washed that hand then changed the baby before wandering into the living area, pausing by his bedroom mirror on the way out and snorting at the reflected image.

“Not the epitome of a Starfleet commander, Charlotte.” He chuckled quietly. Dressed only in a pair of ill-fitting shorts, his dark hair was askew, his eyes bleary, despite his good sleep. Yawning expansively, he knuckled his eye with his free hand as he stood in front of the replicator.

Armed with a warm bottle, he settled into the sofa and spent a contented twenty minutes feeding his daughter. It wasn’t until she’d been burped and was lying on her mat that Will called the bridge.

“Anything to report?”

“No, sir.” Said the officer of the watch. “Everything’s just the same, Commander, no change.”

Instead of the rush of anger and furious frustration those words would’ve caused only several hours before, a now calm Will sighed and said quietly, “Thank you, bridge. Any change, let me know immediately. Riker out.”

Looking down at Charlotte he couldn’t help but grin. “Well little girl, you have the entire ship to play in. Until we’re up and running again, your daddy is at your disposal.”

He stood, stretched his large frame and wandered back to the replicator, getting something to eat. Momentarily confused, he asked, “Computer, what is the time?”

Of course there was no reply so he just shrugged and said aloud…“Feels like breakfast time.”

With that thought in mind, he ordered scrambled eggs on toast and a mug of coffee, indulging himself with milk and sugar instead of his usual black, no sweetener.

Having eaten he showered again, dressed in a clean uniform and combed his hair. Thus prepared, he went and picked Charlotte up and exited his quarters, looking down at the baby to say, “I think you’ll enjoy engineering. Lots of pretty lights.”

 

 

 

The softly diffused light Beverly perceived through her eyelids reminded her of dawn on Caldos…that and the distinct chill in the air. Sighing, she turned her head, flaring her nostrils, trying to pick up the aroma of porridge she knew her nanna would be making.

With an anticipatory smile, she rolled over and abruptly fell approximately half a metre onto a cold, hard surface. Brutally wrenched from her dream, Beverly yelped in surprise and scrabbled to her feet, completely disoriented. Her eyes darting to and fro, it took a few panicked seconds for her to remember where she was. She shot out of the booth, ignoring the healers, her heart in her mouth.

What she saw brought her to an abrupt halt. Sitting on the side of one bed, close and side-by-side, Jean-Luc and his twin, both still naked, had their hands one on top of the other beside them. The female held the conscience’s free hand and as Beverly slowly approached, Jean-Luc, who didn’t take his gaze from his brother’s face, who was also staring at him the same way, held out his hand in a silent invitation for Beverly to take it. This she did, but then stood, confused and frightened.

“Jean-Luc?” she said gently.

He didn’t react in any way. She tried again. “Jean-Luc…it’s me…Beverly. Can you hear me?”

Other than holding her hand, he gave no indication that he registered her presence. The twins kept their eyes locked on each other. Switching to French she said carefully, “Jean-Luc, c?est votre épouse, Beverly. Etes-vous d?accord? Pouvez-vous m?entendre?”

He was no more responsive to his native tongue than standard. She fretted, thinking…“I told him I was his wife; I asked if he was all right and if he could hear me and I got nothing, not in French and not in standard. What the hell’s going on?”

As Beverly tried to figure out what was happening, the glow of the female made her turn to look at her. Beverly, on seeing the female offering her hand became suspicious. “What do you want?” she asked warily.

Watching in the booth, one of the healers lifted her hands and said, “Should we instruct her?”

“No.” said the male. “She has the intelligence to solve the puzzle presented to her.”

“Are you sure?” the female gestured. “I am not so confident.”

“We must allow her to make her own choices. Be patient and wait. We will soon see. If she fails, we will instruct her.”

Beverly’s eyes left the female’s offered hand and took in the tableau. Each person was linked; the only gap was between her and the female. “A circuit?”  Thought Beverly. “Is that what this is about? Am I supposed to…complete the chain? Am I the missing link?”

Tentatively, Beverly lifted her hand and allowed the female to wrap her extraordinary long, slender fingers around hers. Beverly didn’t register the chill of the female’s flesh because as soon as their hands touched she felt a heavy jolt right between her eyes. Her head snapped up, her eyes wide. The three humans were all the same, each head raised; eyes and mouths wide open. The alien female glowed brightly, but not so vividly as to damage the human’s eyes.

Struck mute, Beverly ‘saw’ memories. Some were hers, some she knew to be Jean-Luc’s, but there were others. There was no seeming chronological order to any of it, nor was there any order to the rapid, unceasing parade of images. It was a stream of fragments…a mélange of experiences some familiar, most not. But it wasn’t just visual. With each fragment came tastes, smells…sounds. In the silence of the room, the four beings experienced every moment of each other’s lives, from birth to the present.


© Copyright 2017 Heather Smyth. All rights reserved.

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