Two Is More Than Half Pt. 4

Two Is More Than Half Pt. 4

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. 4

Author Chapter Note

Same as Pt. 1

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

Reads: 260

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

A A A

A A A

When the quiet voice of the officer at tactical reported the latest discharge from the anomaly, Will merely grunted. His frustration, already sizeable was growing by the minute.

Where Jean-Luc’s command strengths lay in limitless patience and careful calculation, Will’s were in unpredictability and pro active strategies. To sit helpless and cowed on the bridge of the flagship of the fleet, unable to do anything without permission struck at Will in a very deeply personal way.

His childhood, since the age of two when his mother had died and through the tough years with his distant and seemingly cold father, culminating with Will being abandoned by his father when he was only fifteen, had left an indelible mark on the man. From such a young age he was determined to be responsible for his own destiny, in charge of not only his life, but his situation wherever possible, made his current predicament all the more galling. It ate at him like acid, turning him sour and sullen and without the steady presence of Deanna to help him cope, his dark mood only intensified.

He sat stiffly in the command chair, staring with barely contained fury at the planet, the fact that they still couldn’t see it clearly only adding to his dark mood. He heard the aft lift doors open, but he didn’t turn to see who had just stepped onto the bridge. It wasn’t until a presence close to his left made him glance that way.

Geordi La Forge had served with Will for a very long time and knew the man well, both as his exec and as a good friend. The engineer knew exactly what the first officer was going through. At a curt gesture from Will, Geordi sat in the vacant seat to Will’s left. He glanced at the forward viewscreen, grimaced and turned to face the commander. Will chose not to look at the dark man, choosing instead to keep his internal fire ablaze by glaring at the indistinct image before him.

“You know…” a tired Geordi remarked idly, “My mother used to say that the longer you stayed angry, the shorter your life.”

Will’s curt grunt made Geordi shrug. “I don’t know what to say, Commander. The repairs are well underway; we’re replicating new generators to replace the ones we lost…” He sighed and shut his eyes, gently pushing his fingers into them.  “Hell, sir, I don’t like this any more than you do, but we really don’t have a say, do we.”

Turning to face his friend for the first time, Will’s expression softened. Seeing just how exhausted Geordi was robbed Will of some of his anger. “I know, Geordi and that’s what really eats at me. I hate it when my hands are tied.”

“I hear you, Commander, God, I agree with you, but what can we do? The aliens have made it abundantly clear not only will they not tolerate any interference from us, they’re more than willing to give us a slap on the wrist if we try!”

To Will’s sour glower, Geordi shrugged. “Believe me, sir; what we experienced was a slap on the wrist! I’ve been going over the bits-and-pieces the computer managed to capture and I’ve gotta tell you, that ship was so far in advance of what we’d even consider high-tech…” he held up his hands in helplessness. “It makes the Enterprise look like a toy! If they’d wanted to…well, we wouldn’t be here having this little chat, I can assure you.”

Will’s face sobered and he sighed. “How close?”

Geordi knew he was referring to how close they came to destruction.

“Seconds, Commander, seconds.”

“And they knew, of course.” Said Will sardonically.

“Oh yeah, no doubt.”

“Shit!” Will’s curse was muttered quietly, but it garnered a few looks from the bridge crew.
“So, is there anything was can do?”

Another shrug from Geordi made Will scowl again. “Not that I can see, Commander. Honestly, in my opinion we’re better off just waiting until the captain and Beverly come back. Who knows? They might know something.”

“Yeah, they might.” Muttered Will darkly. “And on the other hand, they might not come back!”

Seeing his commander was closing off again, Geordi rose stiffly and nodded. “Well, I’d best be getting back to engineering, sir. With your permission?”

Will surprised the man by shaking his head. “No. Permission denied.”

To Geordi’s confused look, Will summoned a warm smile. “Get some rest, Geordi. You’ve earned it.”

“And what about you, Commander?”

Another grunt preceded Will stretching out his long legs and rolling his shoulders. “I’ll stay up here a while longer. Who knows, I might be able to turn my eyes into phasers and fry those superior bastards from orbit!”

Geordi’s soft chuckle warmed Will and as the man left, the residue of his humour stayed with Will for some time.

 

 

 

The three healers behind the console were studying their readouts intently. Precisely one hour had passed and they were no further in reaching their ultimate goal than when they’d begun. Their patient was lying sprawled on the floor, having succumbed to unconsciousness only ten minutes into the procedure.

When the intense light had once again enveloped him, it took mere seconds for the pain to begin, but he bore it stoically. However as it increased so he began to lose the fight. Sweat coursed down his naked body, his screams of agony ignored and he began to shudder, every muscle he possessed tightening into a rigid rictus. It was merciful when his brain could no longer withstand the pain and he passed out, falling to the floor. The light raised and hovered just above his prone body only long enough for one of the healers to quickly move to him to better position his now senseless self. Having done that and once again back at the console, the light altered its dimensions to encompass all of his spread-eagled form.

Beverly and the conscience watched on blindly, the twin with impassive calm, Beverly with almost hysterical panic as she heard the hideousness of her husband’s agony. At one stage she attacked the clear wall blindly, breaking her fingernails as she clawed ineffectively at its smooth surface in a useless attempt to get to him. The adviser closed the audio link, only to have Beverly screech her insistence that he reinstate it. Somehow she felt she could help her husband by sharing his unbearable suffering even if it meant she only heard him but not see him.

It was Jean-Luc’s brother’s strong arms that took her, gently pulling her back. She refused to allow him to turn her away from the clear wall neither of them could see. Like the need to hear him, she also needed to face him, somehow sensing where he was as he’d done with her.

The being to the right of the three lifted her hands and the other two turned to watch.

“It has been over an hour now. I do not know how much more his body or his brain can withstand.”

“Yes.” Agreed the middle being. “I too am very concerned. His bio readings are not stable.”

“The essence will sustain him, but I do not know, should he survive, in what condition he will be in when the procedure reaches its end.”

The being on the left sighed, his hands held up. “He has made it quite clear he wishes to be free of the infestation. We can do no less then abide by those wishes.”

“Yes, but at what cost?” The middle of the three gestured. “Do we have the right to bring about the conclusion to satisfy his perception of his humanity?”

“That is not our decision to make.” Gestured the right hand being. “If he feels less than fully human because of the infestation, then surely we have an obligation to assist him?”

They all sighed and the middle being gestured to the console. “In a way, it is ironic. These nanites, though gross and inelegant by our standards, represent a level of technology that is almost sublime considering their creators. The Borg are not known for their subtlety.”

“Indeed”, gestured the left of the three. “If they had not been redeemed by their creators, I have to wonder just how far they might have gone in their pursuit of perfection as they saw it.”

Stretching out her arm, the female pointed at Jean-Luc’s body. “Perhaps he represents how far they had come? The ability to create the means then infect a living body as complex as a human with nanite technology at the sub-atomic level is remarkable.”

“Agreed.” The right of the three nodded. “But that does not make our task any easier. The ability of the nanites to colonise his parthenogenic implant is complicating what is already a very difficult situation. I am not at all sure it can be salvaged in a state we can repair. I feel it best we create a new one.”

“That would be the most uncomplicated solution.” The female gestured. “Should we create a more sophisticated organ? Or one that is indistinguishable from his original organ, artificial or organic?”

“I am not sure.” Said the left of the three. “I will have to seek clarification from the conscience.”

The female made a curt gesture. “But wait! Should the conscience be asked to make such a judgment when it concerns his own brother?”

The three looked helplessly at each other until the right male shook his head and pointed at Jean-Luc. “He is dying. Our simulations tell us the nanites are withdrawing from his cells, But it will be some time before we can successfully remove them completely from his body. Without a replacement cardiac organ, he will not survive. The one he has now is already insufficient for the task. The nanites are leaving it at a faster rate than the rest of his body and the resulting damage to the organ is making it all but useless.”

Making a unilateral decision, the female went to the screen and lifted her hands. In the room the adviser watched as she gestured and sighed as he knew he would have to ask his friend and conscience to make a judgment on his brother’s life.

With a touch of an invisible, at least to a human’s eyes, tab, the clear wall darkened until it was black. With a gentle tug on his sleeve, the adviser let the conscience know he could remove the eye shield. He blinked in mild surprise at seeing the room lit only by the soft ambient light emanating from his friend, but before he asked for any clarification, he carefully removed Beverly’s shield. She looked at the now blank wall in panic and confusion. The man gripped her upper arm, saying firmly, “Beverly, do not panic. My adviser needs to speak with me. As soon as I know what he has said, I will tell you.”

With no option but to do her best to control her ragged emotions, Beverly’s head jerked up and down as she silently agreed. The conscience moved a little way off to one side and waited as his friend’s hands made their intricate dance of words.

The soft glow from the screen on his sleeve cast a bluish tinge over his patrician features. As he read his brow lowered and he would’ve closed his eyes if not for the fact he had to keep reading.

Finally he sighed, nodded to the adviser and went back to Beverly. She looked at him and a soft sob escaped her at the sad and troubled look in the man’s eyes.

“My healers have asked me to form a judgment. As things are now, it is not known if he will survive the procedure and even if he does, they cannot accurately predict in what condition, either physically or mentally or both he might be left in. But the immediate problem is his parthenogenic heart. It must be replaced…now. Their question is whether or not to supply him with an identical artificial organ, an organic organ or something far more sophisticated.” He stopped, briefly closed his eyes and sighed. “Or…”


“Don’t do anything at all.” Whispered Beverly. In a stronger tone she said, “Do I have a say in this?” She tried to keep the hard sarcasm out of her voice but was only partially successful. The conscience’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t rise to the bait.

“As his one, of course you do.”

Beverly smile was cold. “Yes. But it’s you who’ll decide, no matter what I say.”

Angrily the conscience spun and punched the wall, startling the adviser and shocking Beverly. With his head turned to glare hotly at Beverly he bared his teeth. “What do you expect from me?!” He shouted. “I am the conscience. It is my task to make these kinds of decisions! Why do you think I was asked?!”

Staying calm in the face of his naked fury, Beverly said quietly, “Do you think you’re qualified to make a judgment over whether or not you permit your bother to live?”

The man seemed to slump, his shoulders sagged and his head bowed. “Il n?est pas si simple.” He said softly.

No,” Agreed, Beverly sadly. “It’s not that simple, it never is.”

The conscience folded his arms across his chest, but his right hand rose to rub his fingers over his lower lip. The sight was too much for Beverly who closed her eyes lest she break down at seeing such a familiar gesture.

“If I allow him to receive a new cardiac organ, what would be your recommendation? A new organic organ, an identical artificial organ or something more sophisticated?”

He was shocked when Beverly said flatly, “What difference will it make?”

“What?” He asked incredulously. “Qu?est-çe que ca veut dire?”

Too drained and too grief stricken to even bother trying to translate, Beverly merely stared at the man. Impatiently he repeated himself. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Leaning back until her back bumped against the wall, Beverly shrugged. “If he’s left disabled in any way, he won’t want to live, so giving him a whizz-bang high tech heart or even an ordinary organic one isn’t going to make much difference, is it. If he’s got any self-awareness and can understand he is permanently disabled and only alive because of his new heart, he’s not going to want to live anyway.”

“Then what do I do?” Asked a now shaken conscience.

Shrugging again, Beverly made no effort to keep her distain from her voice as she said, “Don’t ask me. This is what you were chosen for!”

She turned her back on him then, no longer able to look into eyes that were, to all intents and purposes, her husband’s. She heard the short, angry expulsion of air through his nose and even though she couldn’t see him, Beverly knew exactly what his expression would be.

The adviser also knew as soon as he saw the look on the conscience’s face. His brother would get a new heart, what sort he would soon discover.

 

 

 

The three healers watched the screen as the text appeared.

“My brother wishes to be rid of the nanite infiltration of his body, but his one has informed me as did he, that he would rather die than live with the infiltration. It is a difficult choice, but I have come to a judgment. My brother is the man he is because of many and varied factors, including physical ones. I do not know why he has an artificial heart, but it is integral to who and what he is. For that reason I believe we should not alter him unduly. Replace the parthenogenic heart he now has with an identical unit. If, on being rid of the infiltration he survives, but is left disabled and unwilling to continue his life you are authorised to assist in his conclusion.”

His face was stony as he read the reply. “It will be as you wish.”

Beverly’s quiet voice showed none of her grief and sorrow. “I suppose it was the only choice you could make and given we both know Jean-Luc’s wishes, your decision was fair.”

The conscience turned slowly and regarded Beverly with a measured look. “Weighing the ramifications of my decisions is part of what and who I am. At my stage of life, if I could not function in this instance, my position as the conscience would be untenable.”

Beverly’s expression hardened. “So it was just a purely logical judgment, no personal feelings involved?”

The man bowed his head and sighed. “I would be lying if I said I had no personal motives, but I had to put them in the context of the petition, just as I would take into account the societal expectations of my people and how that impacts on the law, which always has been and always will be, absolute. Finding a solution is not often easy, but that is my function.”

Beverly’s smile was tight, her eyes glittering with anger. “So you saw this as a balancing act?” She snorted; her expression one of utter disgust. “Where you marry your peoples’ societal expectations with the law, so you blended Jean-Luc’s wishes with your personal feelings.” She shook her head, her hands fisting. “But you gave yourself a nice safe out, didn’t you.”

Narrowing his eyes, the conscience tilted his head and said with suppressed anger, “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Well.” Beverly said, waving one hand. “We all know about the underlying problem you have with your brother…the Prime Directive problem. How convenient would it be if he’s left disabled? You got off the moral hook by permitting the replacement heart, but then invoked Jean-Luc’s own insistence that he wouldn’t tolerate living if he was at all disabled! Now that’s a very neat solution to the problem, isn’t it? It’s a win-win for you.”

Folding his arms across his chest, the conscience stared stonily at Beverly. “An interesting interpretation, Beverly, but you have not taken into account what will happen if Jean-Luc survives intact, both physically and mentally.” He smiled but there was no warmth in the expression. “I would find myself…”he frowned, trying to find the right words in standard. Giving up, he said them in French. “Retour à la case départ.”

Raising her eyebrows, Beverly snorted sardonically. “Back to square one? Yes, I suppose you would, but you’d be there, sitting on the moral high ground, Jean-Luc knowing he owed you his life.”

“He would only know that, Beverly, if you told him, because I have no intention of doing so, not now or in the future.”

Shaking her head, Beverly almost spat her words. “You’re still hedging your bets!”

“Meaning what?!” shouted the conscience.

“He’ll never know if you saved him or if you caused him to be in a position of wanting to die!”

They stood almost toe-to-toe, each glaring at the other. The adviser, who had been listening to the increasingly hostile exchange, had kept most of his attention on the screen. His gentle tug at the conscience’s sleeve broke the icy connection between the two humans. Jean-Luc’s twin went to the screen and read, his face grim.

He looked over his shoulder and said tightly. “It is done. A new identical parthenogenic heart beats in his chest and the nanites have begun to leave his body. We will know very soon in what condition he will be left in when the procedure is complete.”

“Can I see him?”

Shaking his head, making his braid swing ponderously, the conscience said with restrained civility, “I am afraid the essence would be too intense. However you may watch some of what is happening through a filtered image on this screen.”

Not wishing to be near him, but having no choice as he refused to move, Beverly stood by the man’s side and directed her gaze at the flat surface of the screen, doing her best to ignore his close proximity. As they watched, the adviser wondered briefly at what emotions each human was feeling. On some level, he thought, they would share the same feelings, but the differences in their concerns for the man undergoing the procedure were so diverse…he gave a mental shrug. It was out of his hands, indeed, it was even out of the conscience’s hands. Whatever happened from that time on would guide the conscience in how he was to deal with the consequences and ramifications of his decisions. As it had always been.

 

 

 

It had taken Beverly a few minutes to become accustomed to making out what she was seeing. The light was so pure and bright even with the filtering, the image she was seeing was gently distorted, but she soon discerned Jean-Luc’s naked, spread-eagled form and it took a great deal of concentration before she finally saw the surface of his skin very gently shivering.

At first she assumed it was an atavistic reaction of his body; even in its unconscious state to the too cool temperature of the room, but the man standing beside her obviously saw the same thing because he asked his adviser, “Why is his skin…tremblant?”

His eyes went to his screen and as he read he sensed Beverly moving closer so she too could read the reply.

“He trembles because the nanites are gathering en masse under the surface of his skin.”

Alarmed, Beverly blurted out, “Don’t tell me they’re going to burst out of him all at once!”

“No.” the text scrolled. “The healers have informed me they will leave in microscopic layers…waves, if you will, and as they are easily tiny enough to exit through the pores of his skin in great numbers, that is how they will leave him.”

The conscience shook his head, his braid gently bumping Beverly’s hip. “Your calculation of the amount of atoms in an average human body was staggering.”

“Yes”, Sighed Beverly. “But I don’t think you truly understand the scope of his…infestation.”

He turned his attention away from his brother and regarded Beverly thoughtfully. If she was aware of his scrutiny she ignored it, keeping her eyes fixed on the screen.

“Enlighten me.”

There was no trace of sarcasm, indeed his tone was one of genuine interest and concern.

“Well…” Beverly pulled her lips to one side, gathering the information in her mind, grateful in a way to be able to momentarily distract herself. “Let’s look at molecules. A single molecule equals 6.023x1023, known as Avogadro’s number and that is the number of atoms with a mass that equals the atomic weight of the element or in other words, the molecular weight of a molecule. So, if we say there’re roughly 2.3x1013 molecules per cell, about 23 trillion, and approximately 6x1014-16 trillion- cells in an average human body…and I have to point out here that there’s an enormous variation in the size of the cells, from the tiny cells of, say the cerebellum, to the relatively huge cells that make up DNA, then a very rough calculation of the number of molecules in an average human body alone is 10x1027, which is one thousand, trillion, trillion molecules.”

The conscience digested that then his face showed his dawning understanding. “And my brother’s infestation is at the sub atomic level.”

“Yes.” Sighed Beverly. She then held up her hand. “And no, I can’t even begin to try to supply the figures for that.”

“Our healers will know.” He said absently.

“Mmm, I suppose they will.” Looking at the man for the first time in a while, Beverly asked softly, “How far does your peoples’ technology go? Do they possess nanite technology like this?”

She was gesturing to the screen and the conscience’s expression changed. Beverly sighed and waved away her question with an irritated swipe. “Don’t bother; I can see you won’t answer me.”

Taking a deep breath, the man said quietly, “My peoples’ technology transcended nanites eons ago. They have something that performs a similar task, but is entirely organic and of course contains the essence.”

Her eyes lighting up with intense interest, Beverly said in hushed awe, “You introduce life forms to make repairs?”

The man’s smile was an indulgent one. “Hardly a ‘life form’, Beverly. It is part of the essence, therefore part of my people. I suppose it is analogous in a very gross sense to your cloning. The end result is indistinguishable from the original.”

Her eyes drifting back to her husband, she could see his skin was still trembling. Her focus was intensifying when she perceived a softly asked question, but she had to ask Jean-Luc’s twin to repeat it. He smiled his understanding.

“How did he lose his original organic heart?”

Keeping her gaze on the screen, Beverly smile was rueful and sad. “The indiscretions of youth.”

The conscience waited for more, but Beverly had again lapsed into silence. He prompted her gently. “You cannot leave it at that.”

“Hmm?” She hummed absently, then realised what she’d done. Taking a deep breath, she elaborated. “Believe it or not, Jean-Luc wasn’t always so…controlled…so…buttoned up.”

Seeing his confusion, Beverly quickly sought another words in her patchy French.

“Um…” she rolled her hand as the words came to her. “Attentivement sobre et réflechié.”

“Ah, oui! Carefully restrained and thoughtful.”

Nodding her head, Beverly smiled. “Yes. In his youth he was a cocky, self absorbed, puerile young man interested more in sexual conquests and getting into trouble than growing up.”

The conscience frowned, his eyes narrowing. “I understand self-absorbed and puerile…but ‘cocky’?”

“Oh..um…well it’s like arrogant, but more…cheeky?”

“Cheeky.” The word was said with plain incomprehension. Snapping her fingers, Beverly said triumphantly, “Effronté.”

The smile that spread across the man’s face forced an involuntary snort of amusement from the doctor.

“So,” Mused the conscience. “This gouaille…this cheekiness caused him to lose his heart?”

“Uh huh. Are you aware of a species called Naussican?’

The man pursed his lips and shook his head. “No.”

“Ah. Well they’re kinda belligerent and Jean-Luc, just graduated from the Academy and at a star base awaiting his first posting as a brand-new ensign, got into a fight with three Naussicans, they’re huge, by-the-way and he was unarmed. Apparently he was doing quite well, you know, holding his own, but one of the three drew a large serrated knife and stabbed Jean-Luc through the back. The blade pierced his heart.”

“And it could not be repaired?”

“No…” Said Beverly thoughtfully. “I suppose had he been on Earth, close to SFM they might’ve been able to at least attempt it, but as it was, he was lucky the base had a sick bay that not only had a parthenogenic replacement available, but the medical personnel at hand capable to do the necessary surgery. He was damned lucky.”

The man looked at his brother and sighed. “Your medical technology has done an admiral job. The unit has functioned well all this time.”

“Not so well as it turned out.” By the rueful tone, the conscience knew there was more to this particular story. To his raised eyebrow, another expression that forcibly clenched Beverly’s own heart, she continued.


“About nine, maybe ten years ago it was found the original implant was malfunctioning. He had it replaced, but not without some drama. If not for the fact that the then CMO of the Enterprise could get to him quickly he wouldn’t have survived.”

“So…” The man tilted his head. “He was not on his ship…and you were not there?”

“No. I had taken the position as head of SFM. I was on Earth.”

“I see. Ah…SFM?”

“Oh! Sorry, Star Fleet Medical. I only stayed for a year then I returned to the Enterprise as her CMO. Chief medical Officer.” She elaborated with a smile.

His smile widened, his eyes twinkling. “Most prominent healer.”

That brought a self-depreciating chuckle. “On the ship, perhaps, but certainly not at SFM or the Federation for that matter…far from it.”

“Yet you accomplished the task for which you were summoned.”

Sighing, Beverly shrugged. “I’m not sure of that. I’ve not had an update of any sort about your children. I have absolutely no idea how they’re progressing if indeed they’re progressing at all.”

“They are.” He said gently. “Already they are beginning to tolerate soft sounds. My healers estimate they will be able to return to us very soon.”

Beverly’s smile was one of relief and not a little pride. “Well that is good news.”

They stood in silence for a while, watching Jean-Luc. The conscience’s soft, rumbling voice once again encroached on Beverly’s focus.

“Can you tell me what you mean by…‘sexual conquests’? Does that mean my brother conquered his ones? That he…maîtrisé them?”

Shaking her head and making a curt gesture with her hand, Beverly said with a trace of impatience, “No, not mastered. It means he was more interested in the physical aspect of the sexual act than in developing an emotional attachment or component with his partner, who was not, by-the-way, his one.”

She chanced a glance at the twin and saw his confusion. Sighing she went on to a further explanation. “Young humans, especially in their late teens and early adulthood are often very cavalier and promiscuous…” At his yet again look of incomprehension, Beverly cast about, shaking one hand impatiently, willing the right word to appear in her mind. Her face brightened when it finally surfaced. “Promiscuité.” The conscience nodded his understanding. “Where it comes to sex. Rather than seek a lasting relationship, they prefer to have casual ones or no relationship at all, just a willing partner to share a purely physical act and mostly the more the better. The wish to form a lasting relationship…settling down…comes with maturity. That change in Jean-Luc occurred as a direct result of losing his heart. It forced him to confront his past behavior and the reasons behind it and he realised he didn’t like what he found. Credit has to be given to him to make such fundamental changes at such an early age and to not only his lifestyle, but his very life philosophy, because it made him the remarkable, extraordinary man he is today.”

“An interesting view of a complex being.”

“That’s a little cold, isn’t it?” said Beverly angrily. “He’s not some lab experiment, you know. He’s your brother!”

The conscience’s smile was kind. “You misunderstand me, Beverly. I was comparing his early life with mine. I did not have the opportunity to…express…my inner yearnings, although I doubt I felt them as my brother did. My first sexual experiences occurred simply as a consequence of self exploration. My adviser and my parents explained to me the purpose of my body’s ability to do what it did and the reason it was so pleasurable, but it wasn’t until I joined sexually with my one that I first experienced the…profondeur? of the act.”

Beverly smiled and offered the translation, letting him know he had chosen the right word. “Profundity. How old were you?” Asked Beverly softly.

“I was in my mid twenties, and I was not prepared for the emotional intimacy. In fact I recall being frightened by it. I felt too vulnerable. In my position as the conscience, I have to be apart, forever separated from my people. If not for that separation, I could not perform my task. The tremendous intimacy, the emotional bond that that single act waked in me affected me so profoundly I considered severing my relationship with my one.”

“Yet you didn’t.”

“No.” He sighed wistfully. “I was in love with her then as I remain so today. Parting from her was impossible. I had to learn to overcome my fears and to make a separation between my position and my relationship, which of course, grew to become a family.”

“You are even more like your bother than you realise.”

She ignored his querying eyebrow and chose the moment to see if she could glean some more information about his people.

“So…if you don’t mind some personal questions…how did you and your one…?”

His smile stayed in place, but his eyes hardened. “You are referring no doubt to our anatomical differences?”

“Yes and more. You’ve already told me your healers have been required to assist in the reproduction of offspring between the conscience and his one covering many varying species for a very long time.”

“That is true. As for anatomical differences, I cannot give you a comparison as I am unfamiliar with human female anatomy, having never seen one. Because of my one’s intense glow during this time, I have to wear my eye shield, so I am without sight. My one guides me. All I can say is that we are…compatible. We both experience intense physical and emotional pleasure. As I have previously stated, it is a profound expression of both our mutual love and devotion.

“The…” Like Beverly, he rolled his hand, searching for the correct word. “Con…” He quickened the motion of his hand.

“Conception?” Offered Beverly.

“Yes. The conception of our children was brought about by the healers. Once my one and I had decided to reproduce, my one was...fait prête?”

“Made ready. Prepared.”

This time he just nodded. “Once she was in the correct state and we…l?amour fait?”

Beverly smiled tenderly, saying softly, “Made love.”

“Whatever it was the healers had done worked. And then at intervals of three months, another conception occurred, until my one carried within her four developing children.” His face had taken on an enthusiastic expression, one Beverly had seen many times on his brother’s face when talking about something dear to his heart. “The gestation period of my people differs from humans, but the children’s hybridism was taken into account. It was engineered so that our children were born one at a time, three months apart. Their development was tailored to compensate for this so as to lessen the physical burden on my one.”

“And the gender? Were you given the option of choosing?”

“We were, but we decided to leave it to chance as it was irrelevant. Our children would never reproduce so it did not matter.” Beverly savagely quashed the protests that teetered on her tongue.  “My people do though. At times to redress a naturally occurring predisposition for gender imbalance, they will occasionally balance a generation’s gender quotient so as to preserve the genetic diversity required for a healthy population. But the healers tell me that their predictions are that in the not-too-distant future; my people will evolve to a level when the physical manifestation of their being will no longer be necessary.” The conscience’s expression was one of reverential awe. “At that time they will transcend and exist as nothing but pure thought and be able to inhabit everything, everywhere at once.”

His gave himself a mental shake and sighed. “Their physical selves have already reached the point where evolution can go no further. Once they integrated with the essence they became something quite extraordinary and it set them on an irrevocable path of the inevitable transcendence.”

Tilting her head, Beverly was careful to keep her tone neutral. “And then they won’t need a conscience any more.”

His smile showed her he understood the tacit reminder of the ever-present problem.

“True enough. But until that time comes…”

“Yes.” She said softly, “Until then.”

The intense light surrounding Jean-Luc lessened somewhat, but not enough to allow the humans to dispense with the filtered screen. They were however better able to see the prone man. It was Beverly’s trained physician’s eyes that saw the difference.

“He’s not trembling any more.”

“No,” agreed the conscience. Turning to his adviser, he saw the being’s hands were raised. The man’s eyes went straight to his screen. “The nanites have been successfully removed.”

Stepping closer to the filtered image on the screen, Beverly placed her hands on each side, bending slightly to try and get a better view.

“How is he?” She barked urgently.

The conscience kept his eyes on his sleeve screen. “His body has responded well to the process however his nervous system has been compromised.”

Before Beverly could articulate her alarm, the man held up one hand. “It can be repaired.”

“His brain…his higher functions?” Beverly’s voice had taken on a clipped professional crispness, her way of dealing with her fear.

“Wait.”

The filtered image Beverly had been staring at so intently abruptly winked off. Gasping in shock, Beverly took an involuntary step back, but was just as startled when the black wall suddenly reverted to clear. Stepping quickly up to it and placing her hands flat upon its cool surface, she watched as two healers knelt beside her husband. One placed a hand on his forehead, the other, holding something too small for Beverly to see, passed its hand the full length of Jean-Luc’s body and lingered a short time at his head. The being that had its hand on Jean-Luc’s forehead, lifted its hands and half turned its body, obviously gesturing to someone out of sight. Text began to scroll across the screen to Beverly’s left.

“The infiltration of the brain has left some residual damage, but we feel confident we can redress the problem. His neural pathways are not yet carrying the electrical impulses as they should, but again, we feel that can be remedied. Of more concern are the major neural bundles throughout his body. There has been significant disruption to the connective pathways. It will require intensive work to restore both function and sensation to these areas.”

“So…” Beverly’s eyes clouded in thought. “His main sensory centres aren’t functioning. Okay…what about higher functions? Speech, thought…”

She got no further. She stopped mid-sentence to read. “We suspect all his higher functions will respond to our treatment.”

“Suspect?” Snapped Beverly sharply. “Are you sure or not?”

“We were not responsible for your one being in need of this procedure, Doctor. We are doing all we can in a situation that, although is within our capabilities, is not within our experience. We offer all we have…all we can do. We are confident, Doctor.”

Although still angry and terrible stressed, Beverly had to admire the way the gentle admonishment seemed to be heard as well as read. She took a calming breath and bowed her head. “I understand, you have my apologies. When may I see him?”

“Soon.”

“I take it you’re not going to leave him lying on the floor.”

“You are correct, of course. He will be taken to a place where we can continue to treat him. He will be safe and comfortable.”

Beverly was struggling to keep her voice steady. “And there’ll be no more pain?”

“No. No more pain. That was regrettable, but such was the nature of his infestation it was unavoidable.”

Fisting her hands, Beverly asked what she knew was basically a rhetorical question. “You had no analgesia?”

The healers answered anyway.

“We did, but it was inappropriate to use in this instance. We knew that having reached a certain point, the essence would assist his brain to…shut down?”

“But not before he experienced unspeakable agony.” Beverly said sarcastically, then immediately regretted her words. Before she could apologise, the conscience gently gripped her elbow. “It is time we left this room. Jean-Luc will be taken soon, we can wait elsewhere…somewhere more…à l?aise?”

“Comfortable.” Beverly summoned a weary, worried smile. “That sounds nice, merci.”

He smiled at her use of French and ushered her from the room. Beverly didn’t seem him leave, but the adviser didn’t accompany them.

Their journey was relatively short and Beverly quickly realised she was now within the living area of the complex. The room was sparsely furnished, something she was becoming accustomed to, but nevertheless it was comfortable, just as her husband’s brother had said it would be.

She even detected the slight rise in the temperature of the room. As always, one wall offered a view of the dark, frozen land with the ubiquitous wind-driven lumps of ice smashing silently into obliteration against the outside surface. The floor covering was thicker and softer and the lighting more subtle.

Taking a seat on a sofa-like piece of furniture at the conscience’s gesture, Beverly watched as he sat beside her and said quietly, “Two hot drac.”

The drinking vessels that miraculously and silently appeared on the low table in front of them were steaming. Following his lead, Beverly picked hers up, blew on the dark liquid’s surface and took an experimental sip. It was very tart, but not unpleasant, the aftertaste leaving an unusual spicy warmth all over the inside of her mouth. The man beside her took a long sip, closed his eyes and obviously savoured swallowing. He opened his eyes, smiled and lifted the vessel.

“Drac. It’s very calming. I find even inhaling the aroma has a beneficial effect on me.”

Taking another tentative sip, Beverly swallowed and said cautiously, “There’re no…narcotics…no…pharmaceuticals in it is there?”

His smile grew, but there was a hint of condescension in it. “My people have not allowed such mind or body altering substances for eons. No…” He took another long swallow. “This is a simple relaxing…boissons.”

Feeling more confident and actually beginning to enjoy the brew, Beverly grinned. “What is it with you Picards and your beverages?”

That made the man raise his eyebrow. Shaking her head, Beverly sat back, finally allowing herself to relax a little. “Jean-Luc has a favourite boissons too. His beverage of choice is a tea called Earl Grey. He drinks copious amounts of it, hot, no sweetener and no milk. If I had a bar of gold pressed latinum for every time I’ve heard him say, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” I’d be able to buy out the Ferengi Board of Commerce!”

The twin chuckled and drank some more. “While I do not even pretend I understand everything you just said, I am pleased my brother finds comfort in such a simple thing as a ‘cup of tea’.”

Beverly’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve heard the expression before?”

Caught out, the man flushed slightly. “Since meeting my brother, I have become…curious. Our archives are very comprehensive. The thoughts and remembrances of consciences past, those taken as older people were recorded and that term…‘cup of tea’ has come up more than once, but it was not until you said the word ‘tea’ that I put the two together. I can only assume a ‘cup’ is a particular type of drinking vessel?”

Beverly nodded, intrigued by this information. “Yes it is, but…”

He smiled, immediately sensing her unspoken question. “You have noticed the…lacunes…the…gaps…in my speech.”

Beverly merely nodded. The conscience sighed. “When you are taught two languages by people not fully familiar with them, it is inevitable that not all the words of each language are going to be learned. I have words in both languages for a drinking vessel, but not ‘cup’. Like so much about myself, I only know what my parents, tutors and later my adviser and healers told me.” He smiled ruefully and made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “There are gaps it would seem, in much about me.”

Sadness warred with a desperate need to help this man. Moving a little closer, Beverly caught his eyes, quelling the surge of emotion at looking into eyes so familiar.

“If you allow it, we can fill in those gaps…those lacunes.”

“To what end, Beverly?” He sighed, bowing his head and staring into his now empty mug. “It will not help. I have been this way all my life and until I knew of my brother’s existence I had never given any thought to being anything other than, primarily the conscience and secondarily one to my one and father to my children. What possible good could come from learning more than I already know? That alone has caused me terrible anguish. To learn more would do what?”

He spread his arms wide. “Me faire abandoner tout ce que j?ai jamais connu? Ma position? Mon seul? Ma famille? Mon peuple?”

Beverly held up her hands and the agitated man was about to translate but Beverly shook her head. “No! Let me have a go at this. You’re asking if learning more about your humanity…yourself, would…make you abandon everything…you have ever…known?”

At his silent nod, Beverly continued. “Your position. Your one. Your family.” She sighed sadly and finished. “Your people.”

“Oui.”

“I don’t know what to say…in either language.” Defeat coloured Beverly’s voice and the conscience strove to ease her. “Do not trouble yourself, Beverly. From the moment I met Jean-Luc, this…” he snorted softly. “Problem was bound to surface. It is something I and I alone must come to terms with.”

An uncomfortable silence descended before the conscience broke it by saying in a gently amused tone, “You must have more questions.”

Summoning a smile, more for his benefit than hers, Beverly nodded. “I do indeed.”

“Then while we have the time…allez-y.”

“Go right ahead? Oh God, how many times have I wished an alien culture would’ve said that to me!”

They shared a soft chuckle before Beverly sobered. “Okay…from what I learned during my…journey…through your peoples’ history I know that your peoples’ DNA is now so unique it hardly falls into the category of a simple, although I use that term as a gross understatement,  genetic blueprint for building life. Can you tell me more?”

Sitting back for the first time, Beverly briefly closed her eyes when he crossed his legs in precisely the same way Jean-Luc did. He even rested his hands, one still holding the empty mug the same way, resting in his lap.

“Well as a doctor I do not have to describe DNA as you known it.”

Beverly nodded; a small smile evident at his attempt to keep the mood light. “My peoples’ DNA isn’t.”

Frowning, Beverly tilted her head. “Isn’t? Isn’t what?”

“DNA.”

“Then what is it?”

His smile widened as he anticipated what impact his next words would have.

“A life form.”

“No!” said Beverly incredulously. Then, as her eyes darted to and fro in rapid thought, she suddenly snapped her fingers. “You told me your people can’t evolve any further…at least not physically! It’s the essence! Isn’t it?!”

“Yes.” He was grinning now, his eyebrows raised. “It is so elegant, Beverly. A life within a life, sustained by the same mixture of life in an unending cycle.”

“And now that it’s self-sustaining…”

“There is no more need of the body.”

“My god…” whispered Beverly, only now fully grasping the implications of such a unique emergence of new life. Before she could say anything further, the man beside her gently took her hand, drawing her eyes to his steady gaze.

“You have often mentioned ‘God’…‘Dieu’. Jean-Luc, in his discussions with me about our family history and Earth’s history, mentioned ‘religion’. I recognize the words, but I do not understand them. And you mentioned ‘apostles’ when you told me the meanings of his names. Can you explain these things to me?”

“Oh God…where do I start?” Realising what she’d just said, Beverly shook her head and offered a rueful smile. “You know it’s silly really. Those words…‘God’ and ‘Dieu’ which mean the same thing as I’m sure you know, are holdovers, words that once had significant meaning but are now just words we use with little or no thought.” She chuckled and shook her head again. “This is going to be difficult to believe, but there once was a time, a very long time ago on Earth, where if you said those words in the wrong way, you could be tortured or killed.”

To the man’s shocked expression, Beverly nodded. “It’s true! It was called blasphemy.” She took a deep breath and proceeded to give the conscience an abbreviated explanation of religion. He was left shaking his head in disbelief.

“And you say all that began with ancient humans giving supernatural connotations to things simply to explain that which they were incapable of understanding?”

“Yep. You have to keep in mind that humans are intrinsically curious, the need to satisfy that inherent curiosity has led us to where we are now, but conversely it has led us to some disastrous behavior and ways of thinking. But as we evolved, we slowly left behind the superstitions and the need to accept a ‘higher power’ and take responsibility for our lives and our actions.”

The conscience sighed, shaking his head in wonder. He shifted slightly, using his free hand to ease the end of his braid from under his buttock.

“And so all these references… ‘Dieu’ and so on are just…habit?”

“Yes.”

“And no one still believes?”

“Oh yes, there are those who wish to believe in the existence of a supreme being and that’s fine, but for the most part, Earth and most worlds of the Federation are wholly secular.”

Seeing confusion again, Beverly clarified, “La?ques? Um, no religion.”

“Ah, yes, I see.”

“You know, your human parents believed and your older brother, although secular, married a woman of faith.”

“Really?” Said an obviously amused man.

“Yes. They belonged to the UCE. The Uniting Church of Earth. It’s not exactly uncommon in the more rural areas of Earth to find people with some kind of faith, but is nothing like the faiths of old. It’s a very generalised concept now, and I must say, unifying for those who choose to belong. But where once those who believed were often compelled to draw others to their beliefs or try to affect non-believers with their concepts, no such things happen now. Faith is a very personal thing and really is quite rare within Earth’s population.”

“And what of you and Jean-Luc?”

“Secular, both of us.”

The conscience let his head rest on the back of the padded seat, moving his head to ease the tension of his braid. “I find the whole idea of supreme beings understandable in a way.”

Curious, Beverly tilted her head. “How so?”

Holding the mug in one hand, he gestured with the other. “Well, look at what my people will soon become. Being everywhere and everything at once. Is that not God-like?”

“Yes.” Sighed Beverly. “I suppose it is. In fact what we’ve seen of them and their abilities are almost worthy of our reverence.”

That made the man snort, his wry glance letting Beverly know her gentle jibe had been accepted in the spirit in which it had been given.

Beverly said quietly, “You say soon. How soon?”

“Until my people become nothing but pure thought?” The man frowned and turning his head; staring out into the darkness. “I am not sure. Soon is a relative term for my people. It may mean in ten years or a millennia. For a species that have existed as long as they have, time is of little relevance.”

The door slid silently open and the adviser stepped into the room. The conscience didn’t bother to look at his screen. Taking Beverly’s hand he assisted her to her feet, saying, “We can see Jean-Luc now.”

As they left the room, butterflies the size of emus took flight in Beverly’s stomach.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc’s eyes were closed. A small smile graced his relaxed face. A light covering of stubble covered his cheeks, under his nose, his chin and neck and he was still naked and uncovered, although he was lying on a softly padded bed and the room temperature had been raised a little.

He sighed, the taste in his mouth bringing forth deeply embedded memories, long ago encoded and never before accessed. His mother’s milk was warm and sweet and the accompanying feelings of security and comfort flooded his psyche as she crooned to him, leaving him profoundly contented and at peace. “Mon cher fils peu.” Her voice gently embraced his outer body as her milk filled him within.

Beverly stood silently at his side, the urge to speak to or even touch her husband almost irresistible to deny, but her instructions had been implicit. On the other side of the bed stood Jean-Luc’s brother, his expression unreadable as his eyes gazed intently down.

Picking up movement, Beverly noticed Jean-Luc’s hands curling, his thumbs going under his fingers in an immature fist. Then slowly his wrists curled inwards and inched up until his closed, curved hands rested on his hirsute chest.

When his eyes opened she was not prepared for the astonishing lack of awareness in them. If she had to describe what she saw, the only thing she could say was all she could see was pure innocence. Certainly there was no trace of her beloved Jean-Luc in those hazel eyes, nor did he appear to see her or anything else. Panicked, Beverly shot an urgent look at the conscience, but he seemed to be somehow serene, completely untroubled by what he must have seen, but either chose to ignore, or lacked the ability to respond to.

With growing alarm, Beverly turned, seeking out a healer. Fortunately one was nearby. She came to Beverly and without having to be asked, the conscience joined them. The healer’s hands performed their mysterious invisible dance and the twin sighed. Keeping in mind the need for silence, Beverly read from the offered screen on his sleeve.

“He is in a very safe place within his mind. We have placed him there while we effect our repairs to his brain. At the moment he feels safe, secure and at peace.”

To Beverly’s earnest look, the text scrolled,

“He feels nothing in the way of discomfort.”

Again her piercing gaze seemed to impart her unspoken questions.

“We envisage he will be capable of speech very soon, but we hasten to warn you he will not, initially, be as you remember.”

Beverly’s eyes snapped up, then just as quickly went back to the screen.

“We ask that you remain calm. Although his condition will be…unsettling, it will be transitory. Given time…perhaps a day or two, we are confident his higher functions will be completely restored. He will sleep often and for long periods of time. As for the neural bundles, that is going to take more intensive treatment and if you desire, we welcome your input.”

Nodding enthusiastically, the healer acknowledged Beverly’s agreement with a small bow but the accompanying radiance from the being made both humans screw their eyes shut. It wasn’t until Beverly chanced to peek that she saw Jean-Luc’s brother had laid one large, gentle hand across his twin’s open eyes. She smiled her thanks and looked down at her husband, noting the serenity of his expression mirrored that of his brother’s previous state. She wondered, as her gaze never left Jean-Luc’s face, just what, if anything, the twins might have shared.

 

It was three long hours before a dazed Beverly was brought out of her stupor to the soft sound of Jean-Luc’s whispered voice. Not knowing if she could yet speak to him, she bent to put her ear close to his mouth. He was repeating the same sentence over and over.

“Mon cher fils peu.”

She lifted her head, her eyes misting with tears. The conscience had heard the soft words and his expression was oddly closed. “My dear little son.” Thought Beverly. What are you thinking about, my love? A child of ours…or…your mother’s? Did she say that to you when you were little, Jean-Luc? The healer…she said you were in a safe place…that you felt safe, secure and at peace. Are you with your mother, Jean-Luc? How old are you, mon coeur?”

With no answers to her questions, all Beverly could do was continue to wait. The occasional glances at Jean-Luc’s brother only confused her. Since hearing the softly spoken endearment, he had remained closed and Beverly sensed an almost hostile aura around the man. But, despite whatever he may be feeling, the man wouldn’t leave his brother. Beverly found his actions commendable, but her cynical side had to wonder if he was acting on his own agenda. The Prime Directive problem hadn’t gone away, indeed, as it seemed more and more likely that Jean-Luc would make a complete recovery; it was pushing further to the forefront.

Time wended its way inexorably forward, minutes morphing seamlessly into hours. When Jean-Luc spoke again, Beverly was wrenched out of her semi-sleep state and into full wakefulness.

“Je suis maman faim et je veux aller à la toilette.”

Beverly got the gist of what he’d said and was about to summon a healer when one appeared at her side. The conscience glanced at his screen and spoke, but softly and in French.

“On peut parler maintenant, mais doucement et en française. Il ne comprendra pas la norme.”

Holding up her hand to gain a little time, Beverly thought hard. “Okay…Jean-Luc said…I am hungry mom and I need to go to the toilet. Right, that was fairly straightforward. Now the other…um…“We may speak now….um…mais…Oh! But…softly? And in French. He will not…understand standard!”

Giving a nod of comprehension, Beverly assisted the conscience in gently helping Jean-Luc from the bed. They led him on unsteady legs to a small niche in the wall where Jean-Luc managed to urinate. On the way back to the bed Jean-Luc looked at his brother with a confused frown. He then turned his gaze on Beverly. His softly spoken words almost brought her to an abrupt halt.

“Il est moi, mais qui êtes-vous?”

She gathered her shattered wits and smiled as she helped ease him back onto the bed. But her mind was racing. “He is me, but who are you?” “How can he know his brother is his identical twin if he’s still in a child-like state and doesn’t know who I am?”

The conscience was thinking much the same thing. He left the bed and went to the small group of healers, unobtrusively ensconced in a small nook across the room. When he returned he


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