Two Is More Than Half Pt. 3

Two Is More Than Half Pt. 3

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

Same as Pt 1 and Pt 2

Summary

Same as Pt 1 and Pt 2

Chapter1 (v.1) - Two Is More Than Half Pt. 3

Author Chapter Note

Same as Pt 1 and Pt 2

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

Reads: 243

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

A A A

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

“Well,” the text read. “As a mother surely you would wish the best for your male children?”

Cautiously, not knowing where this was going, Beverly nodded. “Yes, but that would so for any child of mine, male or female.”

“Of course, but if you knew that a male child of yours was serving a purpose as important, as vital as that of the conscience, would you not be happy?”

Growing increasingly unsettled, Beverly shook her head, saying tightly, “If my child grew to adulthood, with me, then if it was his or her decision to take the position as the conscience of your people, then provided it was their choice and an informed one, then yes, I would be happy. But to have one of my embryos taken without my knowledge…”

Text appeared and Beverly stopped talking to read. “But, doctor, you would not know! How can that upset you?”

Her blue eyes beginning to blaze, Beverly ground out, “You’d have to ask Jean-Luc that!”

Jean-Luc had lowered their hands and gently parted them. He looked into the glowing area where he felt the female’s face was. “We seem to have reached an impasse. Until each of us can see this objectively I don’t see the use in discussing it any further. All we’re going to achieve is more anger and confusion.”

The conscience looked at his brother frankly and nodded. “I agree, Jean-Luc. Nothing will be gained from further antagonism. In the end all each of us is doing is posturing.”

He didn’t even look at his one, so familiar with her he knew she was talking. His eyes drifted to the screen and he smiled. Before he told the couple what his one had said, he turned to her and ran the back of his hand down the side of her face. With his gaze fixed on her glowing head, he said softly,

“She apologises. She wishes you to know, Jean-Luc, and you, Beverly, that my brother and his one will always be welcome in our home.”

The smiles were a little brittle, but at least they appeared. The conscience tilted his head in a very familiar gesture and addressed himself exclusively to his twin. “May I tell your wife, Jean-Luc?”

Knowing exactly to what he was referring; Jean-Luc gave a solemn nod, but said nothing. The conscience directed his attention to Beverly and said gravely, “Jean-Luc has agreed to allow our healers to attempt to…restore him.”

Turning to her husband, Beverly said softly, with growing excitement, “Jean-Luc?”

He looked deeply into her eyes and offered a lopsided smile. “It’s true. My brother thinks there’s a good chance I can be made fertile again. It may be possible to completely remove the nanites, but if not, then render them inactive, thereby restoring my ability to produce children with you.”

Beverly couldn’t stop the tears of joy that welled in her eyes, nor did she even try. “Oh, Jean-Luc…” was all she could muster before she took him in her arms. He hugged her tightly, struggling to keep his own strong emotions under control.

Lifting her head only high enough to see the conscience, Beverly mouthed silently “Thank you.”

He simply smiled and it was such an achingly familiar expression it made more tears flow.

 

 

 

Slow frustrating hours had passed on the dark, silent Enterprise, so that when power was abruptly restored, the sudden blaring of the red alert sirens and harsh, overly-bright light and the violent shuddering of the ship made everyone momentarily panic.  On the Bridge it was only Will’s curt, “Man your stations!” that quelled what may have become a full blown breakdown of SOP.

Swinging around, the big man barked, “Do we have communications?”

“Yes, sir!” Replied one officer. “We have intraship and broadcast available, Commander.”

Nodding, Will was about to call engineering when the great ship shuddered even more violently, the lights and consoles flickering off and on.

The call from engineering was static filled and Geordi’s voice clearly showed his immense agitation.

“Bridge! We’re experiencing an enormous electromagnetic discharge all over our hull. It’s playing havoc with our systems and I’m only holding things together with hope and sleight of hand!”

“What the hell is causing it, La Forge?!” Will shouted to be heard over the whooping sirens. Grimacing he snapped to no one in particular, “Turn that damned thing off!”

Just as the officer at tactical said apologetically, “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t.” Geordi responded. “I don’t know Commander; the readings are off the scale. But I can tell you that if it doesn’t stop…and soon, we’re going to lose containment of the warp core. And those generators I used to power up the key systems? They’re being fried one-by-one. We’ll be back to where we started in a very short time, that’s if we don’t obliterate ourselves first!”

Blocking out the incessant racket going on around him, Will closed his eyes and thought hard. Eventually he could come up with only one suggestion, but the ramifications were grim.

“Geordi, the only thing I can think of that would produce an EM discharge of this intensity is if a ship is too close to us. Is it possible to scan?…not far, just maybe two hundred metres around the ship?”

“I’m with you, Commander, but if another ship is the cause, it’d have to be suicidally close to create this much EM discharge, but I’ll see what I can coax out of our scanners before they crash.”

Ignoring Geordi’s reply, Will, his face set in a stony glower, said curtly, “Can we access the forward viewscreen?”

The response was hesitant; making Will struggle to curb his impatience. With the chaotic flickering off and on of the power and the by now ear-splitting wail of the sirens, coupled with the dreadful shuddering of the ship, everyone was becoming tense and irritable and very frightened.

“I…I think so, Commander, but I can’t guarantee it’ll stay on.”

“Do it!” Growled Will.

Although everyone on the bridge had a job to do, it was natural that they all glanced at the viewscreen when it rolled, flickered momentarily, then activated to give a grainy picture. What they all saw caused a collective gasp and one anonymous voice to say in shocked vulgarity and fear,

“Oh fuck! What the fuck is that?”

Will didn’t even hear the tremulous remark. His eyes were glued disbelievingly at the image before him. Overshooting the Enterprise was the stationary underside of what could be only the biggest ship Will had ever seen. And, although it was glowing brightly, it was so close, merely twenty metres or so above them, that the EM discharges were like swirling bright blue snakes, writhing sinuously, clearly demonstrating the most incredibly powerful raw energy.

When two vessels as intrinsically powerful as a starship came into close proximity to each other, the inherent naturally generated forces they exuded interact, combining the electrostatic, magnetostatic and electromagnetic fields. This interaction produces an infinite range of energy as the passive elements are drawn to the negative forces and creates current in an unending circuit. It is so powerful it has been estimated to be 1036, which is greater than Earth’s gravitational field.

The expression of the gargantuan force is the manifestation of the EM discharges. The only thing preventing the immediate destruction of either ship was the fact that they were in space and therefore not connected to anything that could direct the circuit to ‘earth’. In effect, both ships were enveloped within an electrical storm that, given time would render the Enterprise first drained of all power and thus unable to control or prevent the inevitable loss of containment of the warp core. But if the Enterprise was in danger, what of the other ship? It was that question which made Will yell, “Geordi, are you getting this?”

“Yes! Dear God, Commander, that thing above us is huge!”

“Tell me about it! Geordi, why are they still glowing?! Can you tell if the EM discharges are having the same…or any… effect on them?”

The din on the bridge was really getting on Will’s nerves. He needed to think and now his crew was not only rattled by the strobing of the lights and consoles, but now they had to deal with the knowledge that a behemoth of a ship was hovering over them like some kind of raptor, so close it was literally sucking the life from their ship.

While the exec waited for Geordi’s reply, the ship was plunged once again into utter darkness and in the abrupt silence, so complete everyone’s ears rung loudly, a small female voice said,

“Oh, shit…what now?”

“Geordi?” Called Will, experimentally. When there was no reply, he raised his voice. “Bridge to La Forge!”

Nothing; just dead air. The deck beneath their feet began to glow and Will looked down, saying angrily, “What the hell?”

It was the officer at the con who said timidly, “Ah…Commander?” Will turned and was about to bark an admonishment when he saw what the crewman had called him for. Rather than scrolling, lines of text were tracing across the forward viewscreen, eventually appearing as the lines of text in a book. Stepping closer, Will read out loud.

“We hope this small demonstration of our capabilities will encourage you to cease dabbling in things that are not your concern. Our planet is our home and it is sacrosanct. Until such time as you have been either given permission or are invited to access anything about our world or its people you will respect our right to privacy. If this demonstration is not sufficient to dissuade you, a stronger display of our power can and will be initiated. We trust, indeed we hope this will not be necessary. Do you comply?”

Into the silent space of the bridge, eerily lit by the softly glowing deck, Will, squinting his eyes with both suspicion and humiliation, said tightly.

“Yes! We comply!”

The text on the screen vanished to be replaced by two words.

“Thank you.”

The shuddering that had become a feature of the ship abruptly ceased and the lights and consoles activated at the standard settings. Gone was the overly bright lighting, the haphazard on-off of the systems, to all intents and purposes, the Enterprise was back on line. This was confirmed when a wary call came from engineering.

“Bridge? This is engineering. Is everything okay up there now?”

Taking a deep, calming breath, Will shook his head. “Yes, Geordi, we’re no worse for wear.”

“Commander, what the hell happened? One second we were a hairbreadth away from total annihilation…and then it was as if someone had thrown a switch!”

Snorting his frustration, Will sought refuge in the command chair. “We’ve just had our nose bloodied, Geordi and it was done by the biggest kid on the block.” He half turned, craning his neck to catch the eyes of the officer at tactical. “I don’t suppose our computer got a look at that thing?”

The officer frowned over his console and bared his teeth. “It got something, sir, but it’s like an incomplete slide show. It could only process when the power was on, so all we’ve got is bits and pieces.”

“Shit!” Muttered Will darkly. Louder he said, “Well that’s better than nothing.” Lifting his head he said, “Computer, begin analysis of the data you’ve just compiled.”

“Any analysis done will be incomplete, Insufficient data.”

“Just do what you can!” barked an annoyed commander. Under his breath he murmured,
“Jesus, what the hell is your job anyway?”

To the waiting Geordi he said in a slightly more convivial tone, “Any damage, La Forge?”

He heard the fatalistic and weary sigh. “Nothing we can’t handle, Commander, but it’s going to take a while to affect all the repairs. We’ve got blown ODN lines, ruptured conduits all over the damn ship.”

“Well, Geordi, it’s not like we’re going anywhere soon anyway.”

“I hear you, Commander.”

“So…” asked Will cautiously. “Where’s the other ship now?”

“I’ve got no idea, sir. It just appeared, did its thing and vanished.”

“Hmm, just like their other ships. And what about the EM discharges? Do you think they were affected?”

“I doubt it, Commander. In fact I’d hazard a guess they initiated it knowing it wasn’t going to trouble them at all.”

“Damn! Okay, Geordi. Do what you can, we’ll sit tight up here.”

 “Right, sir. La Forge out.”

Sitting in the command chair, Will mulled over the experience, paying quite a bit of attention to the behavior of the crew. He wasn’t happy with his conclusion. Rising, he said stiffly,

“Lt. Stevers, you have the bridge.”

The startled young woman nodded jerkily, blurting, “Aye, sir!”

Will was on his way to his quarters. He could have called, but rather than ask after his daughter, he had an overwhelming need to see and hold her. And he wanted time to think about what he was going to do with the bridge crew. And the situation with the aliens.

 

 

 

 

The conscience, having given his one a surreptitious sign to leave, offered seats to his guests and while they settled, lifted his head and said softly, “Three henaz.”

Just as a replicator would’ve done, the requested items shimmered into existence on the small table around which they all sat. But where a replicator such as the Enterprise couple were familiar with would have made a distinctive sound and taken a few seconds, whatever produced the three filled drinking vessels was silent, much faster and discreet.  Looking around, neither Beverly or Jean-Luc could identify any apparatus or device, indeed, as Jean-Luc’s curiosity gathered strength, his eyes inspected the room with greater intensity and he soon realised that apart from the sparse, but comfortable furniture and two moderately large windows on the far wall, there was nothing else. No light fittings, no ventilation grilles-and yet he could feel the gentle movement of the cool, circulating air- his curiosity deepened. Glancing at the windows he could see the light from inside only just penetrated the darkness outside and yet, within the room, in fact right throughout the complex, there was ample light, not bright, but adequate. So if there were no light fittings, where was the light coming from?

His perplexed look wasn’t lost on his brother. With a small smile he said quietly, “It is the essence, Jean-Luc.”

Turning to look at his brother, Jean-Luc’s gaze was intense. “The essence?”

Before the twin could explain, Beverly placed a gentle hand on her husband’s forearm and said softly, “Yes, Jean-Luc. The essence. That’s what it’s all about, that’s what’s at the very heart of these people. Their very core.”

“What are you saying, Beverly? I don’t understand.”

She sighed sadly and tried to let him see she never meant to hurt him by not telling him everything she knew. “I have told you about the biochemical relationship these people have with their ‘star’…the one they built.”

“Yes.” Said a now disturbed and wary Jean-Luc.

“Well, it’s not just a star, tiny or otherwise. Not exactly.”

His head swiveling between his wife and his brother, Jean-Luc settled his piercing gaze on his wife. “I think you’d better explain yourself, Beverly.”

She was clearly uncomfortable. She shifted in her chair and her hands began to wring on her lap. Taking a deep breath, she swallowed and made a start. “Jean-Luc, this goes way beyond the Prime Directive, it goes way beyond the Hippocratic Oath. What I know about these people and their relationship with what’s in the anomaly…Jean-Luc there is a sacrosanctity about what lies in there and I’m not at all sure I should speak about it, that I have the right to say anything about it.”

His captain’s mantle settling over him only made Beverly sadder. In an effort to make him understand, Beverly increased her grip of his arm and stared unwaveringly into his eyes. “Jean-Luc, you have to admit that sometimes there are things we just don’t have the right to know.”

She could see the conflict in his eyes. One part of him, the captain, was angered that an experienced officer under his command would deliberately choose to withhold what could prove to be vital information, but on the other hand, there was Jean-Luc, Beverly’s husband, who did understand, but felt hurt because she didn’t confide in him, especially as it involved his own twin brother. Before the situation between husband and wife, captain and subordinate could escalate, the conscience said gently, “It is all right, Beverly. I will tell him.”

Jean-Luc, having given Beverly a long, measured look, turned his attention to his brother. The man’s gentle smile settled some of Jean-Luc’s inner turmoil.

“As Beverly has told you, my people are inextricably tied to what exists within the…anomaly…as you call it. Yes, at its very heart it is a manufactured forced nuclear reaction, a miniscule star, but, Jean-Luc…it is so much more.” He turned and stared out into the darkness for a few long seconds before sighing and refocusing on his brother. “My people are a society that exists for and by itself. By that I mean that each and every individual not only lives their own lives, but does so keeping in mind society as a whole. Nothing is done, either as a group or as an individual without careful consideration as to the consequences for the entirety of our society. Now that may seem a little excessive. It may seem to you that the actions of one surely could have little or no effect on the whole, but that is not the case here.

“When the people first arrived here, on this barren, frozen world and the citizens began to fade and die, our scientists knew they had to come up with a solution…and quickly. They had the knowledge and the technology to create a small star, but not the ability to stabilise or maintain it. That required something quite extraordinary and if not for the inherent altruism of my people, there would be no society, indeed no people today.”

He looked down at his hands, his expression one of deep introspection. Jean-Luc wondered if his brother was lamenting the fact he lacked the ability to communicate as his people did.

“What eventually took place was one of the most selfless acts any species could lay claim to. In order to stabilise the new star, and to assist in its integration within the cells of the people, eight thousand seven hundred and eighty people volunteered to sacrifice their lives so that their essence, what Beverly so clinically described as a biochemical reaction, could be fused into the fledgling star thereby forever linking the people to this new life-giving creation.

“And that sacrifice continues to this very day, Jean-Luc. What Beverly said is true, even after death, my people go on giving, providing for the others. This collective cooperation has been the cornerstone of this species’ existence since recorded time and it was for that reason my people came to the conclusion that it was unconscionable to be governed by one or even a group of their own kind. They are so bound by the societal prerogative, the very thought of one of their own being in a position of power over the rest, was impossible. And so the concept of the conscience was born. But it never occurred to the ancestors that the chosen sentient being would object. To them then, and even now, the very thought that a sentient being wouldn’t see what an important and vital task they’d been chosen for was logical and fulfilling a noble position just never entered their heads. Why would it? My people had, by-and-large, evolved on their own. They had no reason to think any other species wouldn’t be of the same philosophy. It came as quite a shock when the first few consciences reacted so violently and vehemently to their abduction and installation.  

“Over time, of course, things changed. More and more species became space travelers and inevitably, some, like the Borg, were overtly hostile, but my people were never in any danger, indeed behavior as they began to witness only made them more determined to stay hidden.

“But of course, having lived with the concept of the conscience for so long, as I’ve already told you, it is a system that is simple, elegant and efficient; my people are not going to change. They cannot! It would dismantle their society, a society so old and successful it makes your Federation seem child-like.”

Jean-Luc absorbed all that and laid his forearms on the table, interlacing his fingers. He too stared at his hands.

“So if it’s not a star, exactly, what is it?”

The conscience sighed, sat back and ran a hand over his bald pate. “I am not sure I can give you an accurate interpretation. It is organic…”

“Living?” Jean-Luc asked incredulously.

“In a way, yes. Just as the gamma radiation is incorporated into the cells of my people, so the essences of those who sacrificed themselves lives within the forced nuclear reaction.”

“So…” Jean-Luc frowned as his mind wrestled with the astonishing concept. “So, every time the ‘star’ discharges, it’s returning the energy back to the people.”

The conscience offered a wide smile. “Yes! And within the star, the donated essence is self perpetuated simply by the nuclear reaction.”

“An unending circuit!” Said Jean-Luc triumphantly. “My God, that’s incredible!”

“Indeed. Not only did those long dead scientists find an answer to the problem of saving the people, they did it in such a way as to give their society, their people the means to live forever. My people are born, they live and they die in the natural way of all things, but as long as our system remains undisturbed, my people will not alter.”

He waved his arm in a wide sweep. “Everything you see, Jean-Luc, not only the people, but everything, our buildings, our ships, our clothing and food, everything comes from the essence! Just before you were trying to work out how this room was lit. Yes?”

With an amused light in his eyes, Jean-Luc merely nodded.

“Can you not see, brother? Look again.”

Sitting back and sliding his hands off the table to rest in his lap, a relaxed but alert Jean-Luc studied his surrounding with a new perspective. Instead of looking for that which was familiar to him, he tried to see as his brother did and when he finally made the connection between what he was seeing and what his brain was telling him he actually gasped.

“Dear God…the walls…the ceiling….it’s all light!”

Smiling indulgently, the conscience folded his hands behind his head and sat back, very satisfied and willing to let Beverly take up the narrative.

“Is it all alive?” Jean-Luc spoke so reverently he almost whispered.

“No,” said Beverly. “Not what we’d think of as alive, but everything carries the essence, so in effect there are living cells in everything. Nothing to enable sentience, but I can’t say that what you see around you isn’t as much a part of this species as their own physical selves.”

“A symbiotic relationship.”

Beverly screwed her face up. “No, it’s way too complicated for that particular description, although it has elements of interdependency. Try to think of it more along the lines of metabolism.”

That made Jean-Luc frown. “Metabolism?

“Uh huh. As a living entity, humans must ingest food. Then inside the body, that food is digested and the resulting fluids metabolised. Take way the food and there’s no metabolism and the body begins to feed on itself until it can no longer sustain itself and it dies. Same thing at work here. The relationship between the essence and this species is as vital as food. The only difference is that where we have to source our food and have a constant ingestion to stay healthy, because this species has incorporated its essence in everything, the energy pulses from the ‘star’ are just top ups. Like your brother said, it’s like a perpetual motion engine. It just goes on and on in an unending circuit.”

“And the dead continue to provide for the living.” Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head in wonder. He looked at his brother and smiled. “Your people are indeed unique.”

“Yes, they are. But that does not solve our mutual problem.”

Holding up his hand, Jean-Luc grew serious. “Would it be possible for me to meet with a group of representatives of your people?”

“Why?” Asked a confused conscience. “No group of my people have any power or status to arrive at any decisions. That is my task. I am the conscience.”

“Yes, but you’ve told us that your peoples’ society works together and that they’re not going to abandon the concept of the conscience. Correct?”

“Yes.”

“Well surely I can make my concerns known? If I can convince your people to desist in procuring the conscience from within Federation space I think the problem would be solved.”

By the familiar tightening around the skin of his mouth and eyes, Beverly could see the conscience was annoyed. Speaking softly and enunciating slowly, he said,

“I have already told you, that decision will be mine! I speak for my people. I am the conscience!”

Growing increasingly annoyed himself, Jean-Luc said tightly, “You are being deliberately obstructive!”

“Vraiment, Jean-Luc? Eh bien je crois pour ma part vous êtes un pique arrogant!”

Although his expression didn’t alter, Jean-Luc blinked in surprise. It had been a very long time since anyone had called him and arrogant prick in his native tongue.

“Be that as it may, it alters nothing. One way or another, brother, we have to find an equitable solution to this.”

“Or what?” the twin said contemptuously.

Jean-Luc’s smile was cold. “Oh, I know we can’t stop you, we haven’t a hope in hell, but are your people going to be happy when they discover that despite all their efforts to procure the conscience in such a way as to not distress the mother from whom the embryo was stolen, the cat is now out of the bag and we poor, plodding humans object. Yes. We object as pathetic as that might sound to you. Your expounding of your peoples’ society? The selflessness? You’re not unique in that. Humankind is reaching a similar stage and we’re not going to sit idly by and allow your people to continue with this unspeakable theft of living, sentient beings!”

The tension in the room almost made the air crackle with charged energy. Beverly held up her hand and said quietly, “We seem to be back to square one. It’s not just the star and the essence that’s perpetually in motion.”

There were several more long seconds of strain before Jean-Luc bowed his head, shook it and sighed. The conscience’s glare faded and he too sighed and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his prominent nose. It was Jean-Luc who spoke first.

“I apologise, brother. It’s a very emotive issue.”

“Yes, it is. But I too, must apologise. I do see your point, Jean-Luc but I am torn. My first, my only priority is my people; just as yours is to your people. I do not see how we can reconcile our differences.”

“Well,” sighed Jean-Luc. “Somehow we must!”

The three humans sat in perplexed silence for some minutes before the conscience placed his large hands flat on the table and gave his brother a measuring look. “Are you ready, brother?”

Tilting his head slightly, Jean-Luc felt his artificial heart accelerate in response to the sudden flood of adrenaline in his body. “You mean...?”

“Oui. Il est temps.”

As Jean-Luc slowly rose from the chair he reached for Beverly’s hand. She looked at him, making the translation. “Yes. It is time.” She summoned what she hoped was an encouraging smile but her heart too was racing.

 

 

 

 

 

Having told the pale and obviously shaken ensign who served as his baby sitter to take a break, Will laid back on the sofa with Charlotte awake and making squawks and crows, bringing an indulgent grin to her proud and loving father.

He held her around her chest and under her arms, lifting her until her little feet, clad in soft, cream coloured booties, just lightly brushed his stomach. He looked down at her feet, screwing up one side of his face and idly wondering if he really had the time to take off his uniform tunic and her booties to feel the sensation on his bare skin.

He had found feeling his daughter’s skin on his very calming as if it was a connection, not only between him and Charlotte, but Deanna too. He sighed; remembering how beautiful his lover’s skin had felt under his fingertips.

Looking up at his little girl he smiled tenderly and said softly, “You’ve got a lot to live up to my little one. Your mother was stunning, she could stop men in their tracks and either destroy them with a mere, withering glance, or make them helplessly melt with a lingering look. I know it worked on me. The moment I set eyes on her, I was a done deal!”

He lowered the baby until she was lying on his chest, her hands opening and closing reflectively while she snuffled around his neck, her legs pushing up and down. Tucking in his chin so he could place a tender kiss on the soft fontanelle, he said tenderly, “Your mother used to call me ‘Imzadi’. It means ‘beloved’ in her native tongue. I have lost her, little Charlotte, but I have you. You are now my Imzadi. It’s different of course, you’re my daughter, not my life partner, but I love you no less. From now on, my sweet girl, you are Imzadi to me, now and always.”

Being with his daughter had the effect of recharging Will. He lay with her for only a little while longer before summoning the Ensign back to his quarters. The young woman had managed to regain her composure and Will decided to give her some encouragement. He handed Charlotte to her and said,

“How long have you been aboard, Ensign?”

“Oh! Um…three months, Commander.”

“Three months?” said an amused Will, barely hiding his grin. Slowly but surely his old self was emerging. “First posting?”

Growing a little less tense, the youngster nodded; a ghost of a smile evident. “Yes, sir.”

 “Well, Megan, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, Megan, that little contretemps we just had? Think of it as SOP. You’re in space now and just as we’re bound to do some really interesting stuff, sometimes it gets a little scary.”

Almost mouth agape, she said incredulously, “Scary, Commander? I wouldn’t call what we just went though, scary, sir, I was terrified out of my mind!”

Immediately alarmed, Will’s geniality vanished to be replaced by a hard look. “Where was my daughter during the entire time?”

“In my arms, sir and both of us were under the table.”

Taking a deep breath, Will let his rising tension abate. He even allowed a small smile to appear. “Well, that’s probably not a bad idea.” He sobered then. “Look, Megan, I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again, so when you’re relieved, just let whoever takes your place know that your idea of holding Charlotte in your arms and sheltering under the table’s fine by me.”

Almost letting out an audible “Phew!” The ensign summoned a small smile. She even ventured, “Commander, you needn’t worry. The entire crew wants to babysit for you.” She looked up into Will’s eyes and the exec felt his heart squeeze as he realised just how young she was. “Counsellor Troi, sir. I never had the privilege of meeting her, but so many people have told me what a lovely person she was. I guess we just want to…help in whatever way we can.”

Humbled and feeling the all-too familiar lump forming in his throat, Will merely nodded and plastered a smile on his face. Somehow he managed to say, “I’ll be on the bridge.”

After he’d gone, Megan hugged Charlotte and smelled the telltale whiff of a dirty nappy. As she went to the nursery she whispered to the baby, “We’re going to get your daddy through this, little Miss Riker. Until the captain comes back, he’s the man!”

Charlotte stared up implacably with her obsidian eyes and cooed. Megan giggled.

 

 

 

 

Before entering the room, the conscience, now with his adviser, brought everyone to a halt. Taking the eye shields from his friend, Jean-Luc’s twin said apologetically, “I apolgise, but I will have to ask you to join me in wearing these.” He lifted his hand. “My peoples’ ability to glow is connected to their emotions and any physical stimuli. Even deep thought will cause them to glow too brightly for any human to withstand.” He summoned what he hoped was an encouraging smile. “While you are being examined, Jean-Luc, although the actual investigation of your body will be done by our computers, there will be three healers present. Depending on what they discover is how profound their essence response will be.”

“I see.” Said a tentative Jean-Luc. “Can you tell me what this examination will consist of?”

Frowning, the conscience sighed. “I am afraid not. I am not a healer, Jean-Luc and in truth, until my children fell ill, I had little to do with healers. Happily, I have maintained robust good health.”

Slipping her hand into her husband’s, Beverly said quietly, “So has Jean-Luc.” She turned her head to look at him, her smile one of appreciativeness, admiration and love. “He’s a fine physical specimen.”

The conscience’s highly amused look was gone very quickly, but not before Jean-Luc had felt the flush of disgruntled embarrassment.

“Yes…well…” He said, drawing his dignity around him. “Perhaps it would be best if we got this underway?”

Inclining his head, the twin smiled. “Of course.” He hesitated and directed his gaze into his brother’s eyes. “I have done some research, Jean-Luc. Fortune sourit aux audacieux?”

With a soft expulsion of breath from his nose, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes, a small smile evident. “Fortune does indeed favour the brave. I can only hope to live up to that particular adage.”

With a nod of acceptance, the conscience gestured to the door and once it opened, it quickly became obvious Jean-Luc was to enter alone. Beverly tightened her grip on his hand, her eyes showing her alarm. Seeing this, and before Jean-Luc could say anything, his brother said softly, “Fear not, Beverly. You will be near, you will be able to observe once the glow has faded sufficiently but you cannot be in the same room.”

A protest teetered on her tongue, but Jean-Luc squeezed her hand and said, “It’s all right, Beverly. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

She marveled at the way he was quelling his own fear to reassure her, so to help him she acquiesced, but not before she kissed his cheek and whispered, “I love you.”

He said nothing in return, but she saw his love for her in his eyes. As he donned the eye shield and entered the room, the door slid silently shut. The conscience ushered Beverly, with the adviser, into an adjoining side-room, much like the booth she’d occupied during the children’s surgery only more spacious and with seats. With the conscience and Beverly effectively blind, they had no way to know what was happening, they would have to rely on the recordings and the adviser who would let them know when it was safe for them to remove the shields.

Jean-Luc tried not to startle when the gentle hands began to remove his clothing. His softly spoken, “I can do it.” stopped his disrobing and he finished the task himself. Goose bumps covered his body in the too cool air and he couldn’t suppress a shiver. Gentle hands guided him and his feet moved cautiously. Within what felt like a few metres, gentle pressure on his shoulders seemed to impart the direction to remain standing, but still. He gave a slight nod and said, “I understand.”

He never heard the healers retreat behind their console. Standing alone in the room, the naked man gave himself over to the aliens.

 

 

 

The adviser watched in stoic silence as the brilliantly bright light encased Jean-Luc so effectively, even he could no longer see the human.  His eyes, visible to only his own kind, tracked the progress of the scan and as the light penetrated to the very atoms of Jean-Luc’s body, the adviser frowned at what he saw. Abruptly the light vanished, but the glow from the healers was almost as bright. The adviser, vividly radiating himself, used a computer uplink to gesture to his fellow beings,

“It is a serious infestation.”

“Yes.” They agreed. “The Borg have indeed left a significant presence. There can be no doubt they wished to keep him…or his progeny. All they would have had to do was send the activation signal. Compete assimilation would have taken mere minutes.”

Sighing, the adviser gestured, “Is he salvageable?”

“Unknown. We are not sure what will happen to his cells if we remove that which his body has integrated itself with so successfully.”

“What are your predictions?”

There was a hiatus while the healers considered the question.

“Again, it is difficult to say. We have not had to do this before. Our simulations suggest it is possible, but even with our intimate knowledge of this life form and our technology, an infiltration at the sub-atomic level of the body makes it a dangerous proposition to attempt removal.”

“I see.” The adviser chanced a glance at the two humans who stood rigidly, both facing the clear wall, even though neither could see. He sighed. “Is it possible to render the infestation inert?”

“Yes. But that may not successfully address his infertility. It may allow the gamete to continue to divide and develop normally, but that would mean that any offspring he and his one produce will carry the infestation, although on an ever-decreasing scale. However, even inert the mere presence of the micro nanites may inhibit cell division in the gamete.”

The adviser sighed.

“So either way, he either regains his fertility and passes on a significant amount of nanites to each offspring or he remains infertile.”

“Yes.”

“Please lessen the essence. I require interaction with the conscience and his brother’s one.”

The glow slowly faded until it was at a tolerable level. Placing a gentle hand on his conscience’s shoulder, the adviser let him know he could remove his eye shield. The man looked at his brother, seeing him naked and so vulnerable. He let Beverly know she could take off the shield and she gasped softly at seeing her husband. She called out, placing her hand on the clear wall. “Jean-Luc?”

“He cannot hear you, Beverly, nor can he see with the shield on.”

Nodding sadly, Beverly sighed and dragged her eyes away from the upsetting sight. The adviser directed the twin’s attention to the screen on the wall and he gestured for Beverly to join him as they read.

Mere minutes later Beverly whispered with sick awe, “Oh, my dear God.”

Casting a confused look at her, the conscience knew it was an inappropriate time to ask what that meant. He’d heard the fear and horror in those whispered words.

The adviser lifted his hands.

“Doctor Crusher, you can see the dilemma our healers face. It is possible to remove the nanites, we possess the technology to do it, but we do not know what it will do to your one. He may not survive. Either the procedure could kill him or his body may fail without the nanites.”

Beverly reread the information and bared her teeth, her hands fisting painfully. “Dammit!” Struggling for control, she knew it wasn’t going to be her decision…it never was. Turning her attention to the conscience, she said quietly, “Can I speak to him?”
 

“Yes, but not in the same room. You must stay here.”

Nodding her acceptance, she turned as Jean-Luc’s brother gestured with his hand to show the link was open. She strove to keep her voice calm and steady, belying the desperate fear and dread she felt she knew her next words would bring.

“Jean-Luc, can you hear me?”

His head twitched slightly, but otherwise he remained still. “Yes.” He said quietly.

“You have a decision to make, my love.”

“Go on.”

As gently as she could, Beverly told him what she knew, finishing by saying, “…so it’s either leave them in your body, inert and hope for the best or risk your life to remove them.”

There was a tense silence before Jean-Luc said, “But if they’re left, even if we successfully produce children, they will carry these…nanites…”He said the word as if it was an obscenity. “And be just as infected as I am.”

“Yes, but to a lesser degree. Without the ability to self-replicate, each time you ejaculate, you will be lessening the amount of nanites in your reproductive system and, as you know, it only takes one sperm to fertilise an egg. But because the nanites are in your body at the sub-atomic level, we’re talking about such an immense number it beggars belief. If you take an average human weighing say….seventy kilos, that’s a calculation of approximately 7x1027, and that’s just the atoms, not the sub-atomic amount! So although each subsequent child would have less nanites than the one preceding, the amount with still be…well…”

Jean-Luc held up one hand. “I get the picture.”

He sighed, bowed his head and was still and silent for several long moments. When he lifted his head, Beverly knew what he was going to say and she almost sobbed with fear, sorrow and helpless grief.

“I want them gone. I want them out of my body. I want to be fully human again and not infect any child I make with you, Beverly. I want my legacy to be ours, not stained with the filth of the Borg. And if I die in the process, at least I will die an unsullied human, not some grotesque parody of a living drone. I want my freedom!”

It was so natural for Beverly to seek solace in the arms of Jean-Luc’s twin. He was surprised but his arms went around her so easily. She hugged him tightly, muffling her sobs in his familiar feel of his broad chest. He spoke for the bereft woman.

“Very well, Jean-Luc. Nous comprenons. Ce sera comme vous le soulhaitez. Bonne chance, mon frère.”

The gentle words, said with such heartfelt solidarity made Beverly sob all the more, especially as she brought the words together in her mind. “We understand. It will be as you wish. Good luck, my brother.”

He eased Beverly from him and very gently turned her so she could see her husband. Although he still wore the eye shield, he seemed somehow to know where to direct his gaze. His head lifted and turned ever so slightly and Beverly gasped as she knew he was looking straight at her.

The conscience said softly, “You must put the shield back on now, Beverly.” And it made her groan softly, “No.”

But she had no choice. The thought that she may have just seen the last image of her husband alive almost made her collapse. Sensing her distress, the conscience assisted her in putting on the shield, then he donned his own before wrapping his strong arms around her and hugging her to him. Lifting his head he said firmly, “The essence will protect him!”

In the room the light intensified to incredible levels. The process had begun.

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Heather Smyth. All rights reserved.

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