Two Is More Than Half Pt. 9

Two Is More Than Half Pt. 9

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. 9

Author Chapter Note

Same as Pt 1

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

Reads: 226

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 16, 2013

A A A

A A A

 

Jean-Luc couldn’t remember ever feeling so mentally fatigued. He was walking with his equally weary brother and the adviser back to the living area and it was all Jean-Luc could do to focus enough thought on putting one foot in front of the other.

He barely noticed when gentle hands stopped his forward movement and eased him into a sitting position on a bed. The action of turning, swinging his legs up and placing his head on the pillow was automatic, but no less welcomed. As his eyes drifted closed, he had just enough control to think, “I hope Javier isn’t too far away.” Before his mind simply closed down.

Javier seemed to sag once Jean-Luc succumbed to deep sleep. The adviser had to all but carry the man to his bedroom arranging him comfortably just as his one entered the room. Both beings glowed brilliantly and the adviser gestured, “The conscience is well, merely mentally exhausted. With sleep, he will be restored.”

“How much sleep?”

“We do not know. It could be relatively short time, or many, many hours. They will know when it is time to waken.”

The two beings stood with their hands by their sides, both contemplating the sleeping human. The one sighed; lifting her hands to say, “I have learned much about him. He is different now.”

“He too has learned. We can only hope his…difference will not affect his ability to function as he is intended…for the people.”

“I do not see how we can do anything if it does. Who is to say what all this new information he has learned about his origins…and his connection to his brother will do?”

The adviser sighed. “It is a vexing problem. If I send the procurers out now…prematurely…it will compromise his position as well as compel him to eventually step aside too early. But he knows, unless he is willing to leave you and your children, which is unthinkable, he is forced to stay, no matter what his…feelings…are on the subject. As much as he may wish to explore his new-found knowledge about himself, the simple fact is he cannot. And it will only be worse for him if he has to step aside before his time to make way for the new conscience. We have never had a situation where a former conscience has survived for more than a year or two before the natural conclusion. But this conscience...your one…has many, many years ahead of him yet.”

The female dimmed slightly. “I have been giving this some thought. Would it not be possible to...alter us…my children and me…to be able to leave?”

His arms thrust out in front of him, the adviser shouted, “Leave?! Never! Our people never leave!”

Bowing her head and lowering her hands below her waist, the female gestured meekly, “But our ships…”

“Are staffed by those who are bound to the essence of their ship! You know this!”

The adviser lowered his hands and sighed deeply. “I do understand your dilemma, I…we…share it, but you must put aside any thought of leaving. It is simply not possible. I am sorry.”

“Then…” the female dimmed further, almost to the point where she no longer glowed. “…in the event he does decide to leave…”

The adviser finished her sentence. “…then you and your children will be facing the conclusion.”

Both beings were silent for a time, the stillness of the room at odds with the frenetic annihilation of the ice chunks driven against the outside of the dark windows.

“I have lost him either way. He is not my one any more. He is Javier Picard. Whether or not we can go forward…still be as we were…” she sighed. Lifting her head, the adviser saw her thick gel-like tears. “I am thinking of the people as well. We will all lose him.”

“The conclusion may be the only answer if he becomes…reluctant to serve.”

The female was surprised when the adviser gently took her hand. “I have known the conscience for most of my life. It is my belief he will overcome this and once again take his rightful place as our conscience. And I do not believe it will be the knowledge of a premature conclusion that will sway him. It will be his love. His love for you, his children, but most of all, his love for his people. He is not Javier Picard. He is the conscience!”

The adviser left then and the female lay down beside her one, draping one arm over his body. Her tears made red blotches on the skin of his shoulder.

 

 

 

Beverly closed her eyes and sighed. “No, I can’t believe this.”

Adams was no empath…or telepath for that matter, but he didn’t need to be. Beverly’s expression, though well-hidden was easily seen by the trained counsellor. Shoving his fear down, he braced himself and said with quiet authority, “What is it?”

Knowing nothing but the plain truth would do, Beverly locked her eyes with his and said with the same steadfast honesty, “A Karralyn cestode.”

Squinting, Adams repeated uncomprehendingly, “A Karralyn cestode? Okay, I know what a cestode is…it’s an intestinal worm, but why does the word ‘Karralyn’ give your eyes a look of deep concern?”

“Because…” sighed Beverly, rubbing her forehead. “…a Karralyn cestode has the potential to kill you.”

“Oh.” Said a stunned counsellor. He then regrouped. “You say it has the potential. What can you do?”

“Normally, provided we find it in time, it’s a reasonably straightforward procedure to remove it. However…”

Now growing afraid to ask, Adams parroted, “…however…?”

“First we have to find it.” Hitching her hip to sit sideways besides the counsellor, who was sitting on the biobed with his large, fat legs dangling, Beverly swung the monitor so he could see it.

“What do you see?”

He peered, one of his hands wiping at the ever-present sweat. He shrugged. “Ah…nothing.”

“Exactly.” There was a hint of exasperation in Beverly’s voice. “This parasite is remarkable, counsellor. It has the ability, on sensing the presence of the scanning procedure, to mask itself, in effect, becoming invisible…see through. And thus undetectable. This particular helminth can lie dormant for a very long time…years sometimes.”

Nodding slowly, Adams said thoughtfully, “I began to lose my appetite and gain weight at about the same time maybe…two years ago?”

Nodding too, Beverly agreed. “Makes sense.”

“So what happens?” he looked at the monitor again. “If it’s still undetectable to your scanners, how do you know I have it?”

Beverly’s smile was indulgent. “Well, your symptoms…” she gestured to his body. “Your increasing weight gain, the copious sweating…” Her smile became sympathetic. “Your body is doing what it can to kill the invader. The weight gain is almost all fluid and the perspiration is due to a rise in your core temperature, again your body trying to kill the parasite. The excess fluid you’re carrying is also being excreted through the pores of your skin, not just your sweat glands. Add all that up, and I had a fair idea where to look.”

“But you said it was invisible.”

“And it is.”

“So?”

Placing her hand on his wide forearm, Beverly tried to ignore the feeling of the damp material. “Something’s changed, Patrick, something that has made your passenger’s presence obvious.”

“My worsening…symptoms?”

Nodding, Beverly’s voice was gentle. “Yes, but something else as well.”

“What?”

“It’s gone through its breeding phase, Patrick.”

Adams swallowed, his Adam’s apple hidden in his chins.  His voice was a little high and sweat ran freely down his face. “Breeding?”

“Yes.” Beverly altered the images on the monitor and gently directed Adam’s eyes back to the screen. His eyes widened. “Are those…?” He felt sick.

“Eggs. Approximately five hundred. Unlike the hermaphrodite parent, the eggs cannot mask themselves. They’re difficult to identify, but as you can see the computer has picked up the outline of the actual outer ‘shells’.”

“Why? Why did it wait so long to breed? Did it have to mature?”

“No. Although we don’t come across these particular helminths all that often, from what we know of them, as soon as they reach a certain size, they can activate their reproduction process. But what triggers it…we don’t know. They reach the ‘adult’ size very quickly, within two months of ingestion.”

“Ingestion? I ate the…eggs?”

“Drank, more likely. I’ve been looking at your file. Your last posting? The Melbourne? You went down to a Federation colony to counsel some of the inhabitants on Balkora III, they’d been struggling with the constant stress of being on the Federation/Cardassian border.”

Adams nodded, remembering. “Yes…they were having replicator problems and the water was being brought in from a local river and treated.”

“Yes. And in that water was the microscopic eggs. The young that are about to hatch inside you will excrete eggs in the thousands. And no matter what’s been done to the water, they’re impervious.”

“So…?”

“…So, we found out about the eggs in the water on all the M class planets in the Balkora System about eight months ago.”

“But, Doctor Crusher…if you knew…?”

Beverly had the good grace to look embarrassed. “To be honest, Counsellor…yes, I did notice your weight gain and the perspiration and yes, I should’ve done something a lot sooner, but your symptoms aren’t exclusively those of a Karralyn infestation. Quite apart from an actual medical problem, you may have simply caused your symptoms yourself with mere over-indulgence in the wrong foods and not exercising. It’s rare, but it does happen and, as a medical professional, sometimes I have to sit back and wait. Of course if not me, then someone in my profession should have said something sooner…but counsellor, there comes a time when people have to take responsibility for their own health. And before you ask…yes, the computer should’ve flagged your file as you having been exposed to a potentially dangerous medical situation. I can’t tell you why that didn’t happen…” Beverly shrugged. “Put it down to snafu. Sometimes the transfer of records from ship-to-ship doesn’t take place quite as smoothly as it should. Bits can and do go missing.”

The counsellor sighed. “Well, whatever. I’ve got this…worm…and now it’s bred and I’m full of eggs, and about to be host to thousands more. So that brings us back to the potential to kill me. Care to elaborate?”

“Once the eggs hatch, the young attach themselves to the walls of your large intestine. There they suck your blood. Depending on the age and health of the host, death can occur within as little as three weeks. The young’s eggs pass out of the host well before death, leaving the quickly maturing young to continue to feed on the decomposing corpse. If close to water, and having eaten all available organic matter, the now adult helminths will make their way into the water and go through another breeding phase, thus infecting the water. If no water is close enough, they can bury themselves and enter a dormant-like state and await either a flood or a predator, as being consumed will be just as effective in spreading the eggs as actually excreting them. In the new host, the cycle begins again.”

“Now thoroughly disgusted and scared, Adams voice quavered as he asked, “…so you can cure me?”

“Yes! Definitely. Also we’re going to have to treat the ship’s biowaste elimination process system as there’ll be eggs in there and anyone you’ve shared bodily fluids with will have to come in to sickbay for treatment.”

Adams blushed and Beverly squeezed his shoulder. “It’s not too bad, Patrick. We’ll be giving you a medication that’ll kill the adult, and the young. But although the medication with assist in breaking down the…matter of the cestodes, passing them and the eggs, although small, will be a little…uncomfortable.”

Adams blanched and closed his eyes. Beverly’s soft voice went on and he began to wish she’d stop. “Of course you’ll be confined to sickbay as we’re going to have to monitor you and dispose of the…products…very carefully. Even dead these creatures are dangerous.”

He nodded, his eyes still closed.

“Now I’m going to set things up before you get your first course of the medication. While I’m busy, I want you to give one of my staff a list of all your…partners…you’ve had since you drank the water on Balkora III.”

“Even while I was on the Melbourne?”

“Yes.”

His eyes were still closed when Beverly left. The next voice he heard was a male asking some very embarrassing questions. Patrick kept his eyes firmly shut.

 

Jean-Luc had no idea how long he’d slept, but he felt refreshed once he woke. He stretched and even though his eyes were closed, he knew his twin was near.

“Je ne sais pas quelle heure, il est, mais bon martin se sent en quelque sorte approprié.”

The man leaning in the open door had a knowing smile on his face. “Well, I do not know what time it is either, but like you, perhaps good morning is appropriate.”

Swinging his legs around, Jean-Luc sat on the bed, absently running his hand over his stubbled chin. His brother gave a short jerk with his head.

“Come, Jean-Luc. I will take you to my sale de bain. There you can laver, toilettes et raser.”

As Jean-Luc got to his feet and frowned down at his nakedness, before looking pointedly at his brother’s clothed form. Grinning, Javier pointed silently to the foot of the bed. There, partially hidden by the covers Jean-Luc had thrown back, was a uniform, complete with rank pips and communicator. Whether or not it was the original, the captain couldn’t say. Lying on top was a robe. Having donned the robe and gathering his clothing, Jean-Luc followed his brother further into the living area until he was directed into a bathroom. It was a muted light blue and the floor covering, a darker blue, was soft. When he was ready, Jean-Luc stepped into what he presumed was the shower stall and as soon as the door closed, it activated, but although whatever the substance was, it was comfortably hot and seemed to be wet…he had the distinct impression it wasn’t water. It flowed, there was no aroma but it was pale green and risking a tentative taste, he found it surprisingly sweet. But it was slightly too thick. No, he decided, not water.

Not tarrying, he found if he rubbed his hands over his body a soft, fine lather formed. He quickly washed and soon found himself standing with a towel around his waist looking down at a shelf with some unidentified, small devices on it. He was just picking one up when a soft knock at the door caused him to respond quietly, “Come.”

Javier entered and smiled down at the devices. “I thought you might appreciate some assistance.”

Jean-Luc grinned. For some reason, Jean-Luc felt happy, as if he was years younger and carefree. And his brother’s proximity amplified this feeling. Shaking his head, Jean-Luc said ruefully, “You feel it too, don’t you?”

Javier’s grin increased. “La joie de vivre? Oui, Jean-Luc. I feel it too.”

Sighing, Jean-Luc placed a fraternal hand on Javier’s shoulder. “I’ve heard that phrase so many times, Javier. ‘The joy of life.’ I’ve experienced it, indeed, Beverly has brought it to me in such a way I never thought possible…but this…toi et moi…you and me…it’s different…like…”

“…rien d?autre tu as jamais connu?”

“Oui.” Smiled Jean-Luc. “Exactly. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

Javier’s eyes danced with delight. He shrugged, one eyebrow raised. “Perhaps, Jean-Luc we simply possess a certain…je ne sais quoi.”

Jean-Luc’s laugh was a hearty one. His eyes twinkling, he nudged Javier, his grin a devilish one.

“So many clichés, Javier. Je ne sais quoi?” he snorted and shook his head. Let’s not be too stereotypical.”

Frowning slightly, Javier picked up one of the small devices and held it up. Jean-Luc quietened and gave his twin his attention.

“I am not sure I understand either the word…stereotypical or its context, but I gather it is not a good thing?”

Putting the device in Jean-Luc’s hand then directing that hand to his face, Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose as the device activated automatically and quickly began to remove the stubble. Javier took his hand away and watched in silence as his brother shaved. Pulling his lower jaw to one side and opening his mouth a little, Jean-Luc managed to say, “Being stereotyped isn’t bad per se, but it can be seen as limiting and in the wrong context, derogatory. Generally speaking, it’s an oversimplified, standardised image or perception of a person or group.”

His shave complete, Jean-Luc ran a hand over his now silky-smooth skin, nodding his impressive appreciation. “Races, religions, even genders on Earth were often stereotyped in the past and rarely was it helpful or a successful way of maintaining friendly relations.”

“Then the question must be asked. Pourquoi le faire?”

Jean-Luc sighed. “Why do it indeed. You know, we have to be constantly vigilant, Javier. It’s so easy to stereotype beings. Take the Ferengi, for instance. Immediately one thinks of avarice, obsession with the accumulation of wealth at all costs…but I have known some fine Ferengi, scientists, fellow Starfleet members…” he sighed again. “There is an old Earth saying about giving a dog a bad name.”

To Javier’s raised eyebrow, Jean-Luc chuckled and shook his head. “It simply means that once a reputation is gained, it is very hard to shake.”

Jean-Luc’s mood sobered as he recalled his conversations with Beverly about his own ‘reputation’. Javier sensed the shift in his brother’s mood and squeezed his shoulder.

“Finish here, Jean-Luc, et on peut rejoinder ma famille pour le petit déjeuner.”

The captain smiled his thanks. “I would love to join your family for breakfast. As a matter of fact, j?ai faim!”

Laughing, Javier left the bathroom, saying over his shoulder, “No more hungry than me…big brother. Alors dépêchez!”

“Hmph!” Jean-Luc snorted with disgruntled good humour as he began to dress. “Hurry up, indeed!”

 

 

 

The four healers at their console each bowed their heads reverently. One, a female lifted her hands. “The essence has seen fit to restore him.”

“Yes.” Agreed the female by her side. “He is indeed fortunate.” With a wave of her hand, an image of Will’s brain appeared. “Although his Triune brain is still active, I do not believe it will interfere in his brain function. As his engrams have reverted back to their natural state, I do not see why this…” She gestured to the image. “…lesser activity should pose any significant problems.”

The male, a little taller than the rest, raised his hands. “Yes, I believe you are correct, but everything rests on whether or not Beverly can address the over-activity in the infant’s brain, because if she cannot, Riker cannot be returned to his ship. Even with our chemicals and the psilosynine removed, if he were to be in contact with his child as she is at present, the psilosynine he would immediately begin to reproduce may well put him back in the same mentally unbalanced state as he was previously. Even without the presence of our chemicals.”

“Indeed,” his companion nodded. “We must consider his latent psionic ability. It would surely reactivate at an unacceptable level if he were to be exposed to his child as she is now.”

The male sighed, bowing his head and lowering his hands. “I will contact Beverly.”

Again two of the other three healers left the booth. The remaining being, the female he’d had support from previously, lifted her hands, but only to the height of her prominent hips. “We have taken an irrevocable step. Once could be considered imperative, given the circumstances, but to do it again?”

“I know.” he sighed deeply. “Although I have stated I am willing to be accountable for my actions, I regret I have involved you.”

Bowing her head, the female glowed brightly and gestured, “That is not your burden to bear. I knew what I was doing when I chose to stay. I may not agree with what you have done…what you chose on your own to do, but as a healer I could not ignore the fact that what you were doing was right. Not in accordance with our peoples’ way, but right, nonetheless.”

“You honour me.”

She shook her head and lifted her hands a little higher. “No,” she demurred. “The essence has honoured you. By restoring Riker, the essence has bestowed its gift. Had you not done what you did in initiating contact with Beverly and isolating the problems, the essence could not have done its work. I can only view that as tacit approval of what you have done. Whether or not the others agree…”she sighed, her hands dropping. “…I cannot say. But if you are censured or even made ready for the conclusion, then I will join you and I will do so with an open heart and mind, knowing that you…we…did what was right.”

The male stretched his arms out, the female mirroring him until their fingers met. The implied trust, the intimacy of the gesture was profound, certainly imparting more than any ‘words’ could possibly do justice.

While the healers were communing, Will’s eyes opened. At first he was confused, not knowing where he was or how he got there, but as his brain came online so did his memory, at least to a point. He frowned, trying to recover what he’d lost. Shivering slightly in his naked state in the cold room, he sat up slowly, swinging until he was seated sideways. Looking around, he could see the healers through the clear wall of the booth.

“Hey?” He called out experimentally. Their hands immediately dropped and, as one being stayed in the booth, manipulating the floating controls, the other, the male went to Will. In his hand he had a small screen. Will took it, his expression wary.

“How do you feel, Commander?”

“Okay…but I think I’m missing some memories.”

“What is the last thing you remember?”

Will’s frown was a deep one. “Um…” he squinted. “…I was on the bridge…I think I was talking to LaForge. We were going to…”

He realised what he was about to say and shut his mouth. The text that appeared on the screen made him scowl.

“We were aware of what you planned to do with the shaft of infrared light, Commander Riker. We would not have allowed that to occur.”

He only kept his anger in check with a mighty effort. Because of his memory loss, he didn’t grasp the fact he had reverted to his usual behaviour.

“I see.” He said coldly.  “Then can you tell me how I came to be here? And what’s been done to me?”

“Of course, Commander.”

In a few minutes, as Will read the text, the healer told him of everything that had taken place. He left out nothing including his; and by extension his colleague’s, circumvention of their peoples’ ways. It took several minutes for Will to absorb all that information and quell his alarm.

“How is my daughter?”

“We were just about to ask that same question of Beverly when you woke. Would you like to be with us when we interface with her?”

Sliding off the bed, Will took two steps before he came to an abrupt halt. Looking down at his naked body, he said, doing his best to hide his discomfort, “Ah…some clothing would be nice.”

As the healer bowed and began to walk to the booth, Will clarified, “Something warm?”

He cast a look at the man and had to grin. “Of course, Commander. You will soon be wrapped up, not only warm, but no longer a distraction to the other healers.”

Beverly had finished with Adams and Doctor Ogawa had gone back to the baby. The scans on Charlotte’s brain were almost complete and so far she was stumped. When the summons came from a staff member to respond to the aliens she was relieved, not only as she needed help with treating Charlotte, but she was desperate for any news of Jean-Luc.

Making sure Charlotte was still well asleep, the twilight sedation even now still doing its job; Beverly hurried to the large screen that took up nearly all of one wall. On seeing her friend, Beverly’s reaction was one of heartfelt delight. “Will!”

“Hi, Beverly.” He forestalled any further greetings by saying urgently, “How’s Charlotte?”

Beverly too had to curtail her need to enquire after her husband. She offered a small, but warm smile. “She’s fine…for now.”

“Meaning what?”

Beverly’s smile faded and she sighed. “She’s sedated, Will…”

The big man’s expression was grim. “Sedated?!”

Holding up one hand, Beverly kept her tone placatory. “It’s okay! It’s a very light paediatric sedation, Will, more like natural sleep than a drugged state.”

“Okay, but why has she had to be sedated?”

Casting a look at the alien healer standing beside the agitated man, Beverly sent a silent request for assistance. The healer placed a gentle hand on Will’s shoulder. His first reaction was to shrug it off, but he quelled it to turn his head, dragging his eyes away from Beverly. “What?” he barked curtly.

The healer inclined his head towards the screen Will still held in his hand.

“Your child has had a difficult time, Commander. Once you were taken from your ship, she became…distressed. In order to first identify the reason for her behaviour then find a way to help her, Beverly had no option but to sedate her.”

Letting out a forceful breath of frustration, Will turned back to the floating screen.

“So, is that what happened? Have you identified the problem and fixed it?”

“Not exactly.” Beverly said reluctantly. “In fact I’m glad contact has been re-established. I need some help.”

The healer, now joined by the female, lifted his hands higher and gestured, “How can we be of assistance, Beverly?”

“Access the scans…they’re complete now.”

The image of Beverly’s face vanished to be replaced by an equally detailed image of Charlotte’s brain, the relevant areas highlighted and enlarged and with the Enterprise’s computer’s analysis appearing as slowly scrolling text down one side. With a few graceful gestures, the healer moved the image to allow an inset of Beverly.

In silence the two healers studied the image, obviously waiting for something. It was Will whose short patience made him say curtly, “What’s going on?! Why aren’t you doing something?”

Contrapuntal to Will’s impatience, the placid reply from the female made Will glower at her.

“We are awaiting the opinion of the essence. Now that we are familiar with the human brain and the brain of the hybrid Betazoid/human as it has been affected by our chemicals, the essence can find a way to restore your child to a more…natural state.”

“That’s a little cryptic, isn’t it?” Snapped an increasingly alarmed and irritated Will. It was Beverly who poured oil on troubled waters.

“What they mean is Will, like you, Charlotte might not be able to be…put back the way she was.” Will’s mouth opened as his face suffused with angry blood.

“Hold on!” Said Beverly sharply, both her hands raised. “It’s not as bad as you think. The aliens can and will help, but neither they nor me can restore either of you to the way you were, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Will’s narrowed eyes clearly showed his skepticism, but he trusted Beverly, so he kept his outrage to himself and allowed Beverly to continue uninterrupted.

“You must’ve noticed a…connection…with Charlotte…a connection much like the one you shared with Deanna?”

Will nodded, his expression still dark.

“Well, because of the chemicals you had in your brain, some alien, some you’d made yourself, somehow a kind of psionic bridge was created. It made Charlotte’s paracortex activate in a way it shouldn’t, not only because she’s way too young, but as only one quarter Betazoid, she shouldn’t possess the telepathic ability she demonstrated. And Will….neither should you. Even with your latent psionic ability, it’s too limited, Will.”

“So what does all this mean? Is Charlotte going to be all right?” Will was calmer now, but no less deeply alarmed.

It was the female healer who answered. “All right is a relative term, Commander. We feel you will both function normally, indeed apart from a residual ability to…be connected to your child…psionically…albeit  only very mildly, at least until she reaches puberty, we doubt you will notice any difference.”

“But..?” Will was unconvinced. He cast a look at Beverly and his suspicions were confirmed. She shrugged as the healer continued.

“You and your daughter have been irrevocably changed. Your brains will now function differently than they did before...but we stress, with absolutely no detriment to either of you.”

Beverly took up the discourse. “Will, it’s like this. Apart from the very mild psionic connection you’d already noticed between you and Charlotte, nothing’s going to change. Now isn’t it worth having that bridge…that connection with her? And like the healer said, once Charlotte reaches puberty, the link will probably get stronger. As a parent, I know that’s a plus!”

“I guess,” sighed Will, running his hand through his hair. “it’s just…”

“Knowing your brain and Charlotte’s brain are…different now?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” smiled Beverly. “I can tell you that nothing’s actually changed…not structurally at least. Everything’s as it was, it’s just that some areas which should be…quiet…are now active. That’s all.”

He smiled for the first time, a slight twinkle in his eyes. “That’s all?”

Chuckling, Beverly shrugged. “It could’ve been a hell of a lot worse.”

“Yeah. So when can I come back?”

The male gestured. “Soon, Commander. The essence is at work. Allow time for it to bestow its blessing.”

Seeing her opportunity, Beverly said quietly, “Tell me about my husband.”

 

 

 

 

“And I say he sounds jaune.” Jolie said mildly, in stark contrast to Forte L?orange’s loud “Non! Bleu, definitely bleu.”

“Well, Jean-Luc said placatingly, I like both yellow and blue.”

Long nez gave his uncle an amused look and said, “Mais quel est votre préfréré?”

Sitting back and wiping his mouth with his serviette to cover his smile, Jean-Luc cleared his throat and said, “Neither yellow nor blue are my favourite.” Robuste was about to ask the obvious, but Jean-Luc beat him to it.

“Vert émeraude.”

Emerald green?” Javier said curiously.

“Yes.” Jean-Luc replied. “An emerald is a precious stone from Earth. It’s green in colour and can vary from light to very dark green but traditionally it is a deep, lustrous green that has depth and clarity.” He sighed and offered a wistful smile. “Our maman had a necklace, an heirloom passed down through her family for many, many years that had, as its centre piece, a lovely emerald. It’s probably why I like the colour so much.”

“And where is it now…?”

Jean-Luc didn’t get to answer as the adviser came into the room. Javier’s eyes went straight to his sleeve screen.

“A situation has developed that requires you adjudication.”

“Now?”  said a clearly annoyed conscience. “We…” he gestured to Jean-Luc, “…have not yet completed our…education.”

“I am aware of that and I apologise for the interruption, but this is a matter of some importance.”

Knowing his old friend wouldn’t have come to him had it not been important made Javier regret his churlish reaction. Rising from the table, he looked first at his one, then his children and lastly at his brother. “Please, wait until I return. I cannot say how long I will be gone, but perhaps you can all spend the time learning more about each other.”

All eyes were on Javier as he left the room with his adviser.

 

 

The startled yelp from one of her nurses had Beverly rush to Charlotte’s biobed. A shaft of bright light was spearing down, right through the ceiling and bathing her head in its brilliance.

With gentle shooing gestures, Beverly said quietly, “Stand back, everybody.”

Alyssa Ogawa sidled over to her boss and said sotto voce, “Do you know what’s happening?”

Equally quietly, Beverly replied, “I think so. That…” he inclined her head towards the light, “…is what the aliens call ‘the essence’. It’s a long story, and one I’m not able to tell you, but rest assured, little Charlotte is in no danger. Quite the contrary. If I’m right, once the light extinguishes, she will be…restored.”

The Asian woman frowned, her almond-shaped eyes watching the extraordinary phenomena.

“You say, restored, Doctor. What, exactly, do you mean by that?”

Beverly sighed and gave a one-shoulder shrug. “I can’t be certain, but from what I know her brain should be re-set. Her psionic connection with her father will remain, but much muted and once she reaches puberty it’ll probably increase, but that’s something Commander Riker’s going to have to deal with. For now…” Beverly smiled. “…that little girl is going to grow up with a unique connection with her daddy.”


“That’s so sweet, considering Commander Riker shared a psionic connection with Counsellor Troi.” Alyssa sighed wistfully.

“Yes, it is.”

“And do you know how long it will take to…”

Everyone gasped softly as the light suddenly vanished.  Charlotte began to kick and wave her arms before her black eyes opened. She burbled and then smiled.

“Alyssa,” said a happy Beverly. “Would you get a bottle of warm formula for our little patient? I think if I feed her while we run a quick neurological scan, focused on her paracortex only, she might lie still, at least she might not mind the head restraint.”

While the doctor went to the replicator, Beverly picked the baby up and quickly changed her. Gentle hands laid her back down and eased the softly padded paediatric halo around her head. As Beverly’d predicted; Charlotte was much more interested in her bottle than the scan. In fact the scan was completed before she’d finished her feed.

Freed from the medical paraphernalia, Beverly held the little girl in her arms while reading through the results. Alyssa didn’t have to ask, Beverly’s riant expression said more than any words could.

The Asian doctor ran her fingers through Charlotte’s reinstated natural, soft, dark brown hair. “Is it my imagination, Doctor or is she…calmer?”

“That’s a very astute observation, Alyssa. I think we’ve all become accustomed to the slow incremental deterioration in Charlotte. As the psionic link with her father grew, so did her paracortex activate correspondingly and then when Commander Riker was returned from the planet with not only his naturally produced psilosynine saturating his brain, but with the alien chemical present too…the resulting psionic chaos was inevitable, I suppose.” Beverly sighed, rubbing her hand up and down Charlotte’s back. “It would’ve been harder on Charlotte though. The Commander was mentally disturbed; he doesn’t actually remember his abnormal behaviour, but Charlotte? She may not remember it, but as an infant she couldn’t even process what was happening to her at the time. I shudder to think what this poor little girl went through. It must’ve been very frightening at times.”

“Hmm,” agreed Alyssa. “So does this mean Commander Riker will soon return?”

“Oh, I think so. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t. In fact…” Still with Charlotte in her arms, Beverly went back to the large screen. “Can you hear me?”

The red headed doctor grinned as text scrolled. “Yes, Beverly. We can hear you.”

“Is Commander Riker still with you?”

“Yes, he is here.”

Placing a gentle kiss atop Charlotte’s head, Beverly said, “Then tell him he can come home.”

“We have been analysing the data, Beverly. The essence has indeed bestowed its gift. The organic substance we placed in Commander Riker’s brain to protect him once we had removed our chemicals with soon attenuate and be absorbed. He is ready to return now.”

Beverly opened her mouth to say more when she jumped as two large hands insinuated themselves under hers, Will’s voice saying brokenly, “Daddy’s here, my little Imzadi. Come to daddy.”

Will was standing next to Beverly, tears in his eyes. The call from the bridge almost went unnoticed. “Commander Riker? Are you all right, sir?”

It was then that everyone realised the red alert siren was blaring and the light strips were flashing red. Will swallowed his turbulent emotions to say, “Cancel red alert! Are we back up?”

“Yes, Commander. Everything came back on line at the same time the computer registered your return, sir.”

Will and Beverly shared a knowing smile.

“Orders, Commander?”

“Nothing yet. I’ll be up there soon. In the meantime, I want the ship staffed in the standard roster, all stations manned.”

“Aye, sir. Bridge out.”

“I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, Beverly, so…” he leaned in and pecked her on her cheek. “…thank you.”

As he turned to leave, Beverly plucked the hem of his shirt. He looked over his shoulder, his mild impatience clear.  Beverly raised one eyebrow. “You might want to get changed first.”

Realisation dawned and Will grimaced. “Oh…yeah. Not exactly Starfleet issue.”

He was on the move again, headed for the door. As he left, Beverly heard him summoning a sitter.

A lot had happened to Doctor Alyssa Ogawa in the last two years. She’d married her long term boyfriend, Lieutenant Andrew Powell, obtained sponsorship from Beverly and worked damned hard, even during her first pregnancy and throughout her medical career, she’d seen quite a bit, but assisting Counsellor Patrick Adams to expel the remnants of his infestation wasn’t on her list of highlights.

The poor man was seated on a special commode, its waste holder configured for maximum secure containment, which meant a certain amount of suction was used to maintain a ‘seal’ between the skin of Adams’s backside and the rim of the seat.

Medication had reduced the remains of the worms and softened the egg shells, but even so, the process of expulsion was painful and protracted.

She stood by the copiously sweating man, wiping his face with a cool, moist cloth. The odour was very unpleasant and although he’d had medication to control the worst of his cramps, with each wave he’d bend slightly forward, groaning softly, both people finding the accompanying noisy splatter distasteful.

The separate unit they were in was hermetically sealed and the only communication with the outside was via a wall-mounted, voice-activated intercom. Alyssa was expecting it when Beverly’s voice came through.

“So, how we doing?”

Adams groaned softly and Alyssa sighed. “We’re getting there, Doctor. The scans show only a few more shell fragments and perhaps a kilo more of cestode particulate matter to be expelled.”

“Good. The computer’s been telling us the medication has done a good job, all the excreted matter is dormant. Once everything has been expelled and the vaccination given, the elimination protocol can commence.”

Adams lifted his head, swallowing and saying weakly, “Vaccination?”

“Yes,” Alyssa said sympathetically while wiping his face again. “Once a human has suffered a Karralyn infestation, the immune system will be compromised for some time. To offset this, we administer a broad-spectrum vaccination. It’ll hold the fort, so to speak, until your body reasserts its normal immune functions. But…” Alyssa smiled to ease the man’s worry. “…no away missions until your scans show you’re properly and completely protected.”

The obese man managed a smile just as another cramp hit. He clenched his teeth and gasped as another jet of lumpy liquid fired from his body. Afterwards he snorted as Doctor Ogawa wiped his face. “If I never go on another away mission, I’ll be a happy man.”

“Well then,” there was a twinkle in Alyssa’s eyes. “You’ll have plenty of time to get in shape and adopt a new eating regime.”

His eyebrows rose. “I hadn’t thought of that. How long will it take to lose all this weight?”

“Actually, faster than you might think. You’re carrying an enormous amount of fluid. We’ll be giving you very gentle diuretics to help your body rid itself of it and it’ll take a while for your thermostat to reset itself, but really, with proper food and ample exercise…”

“So I’ve got a bit of work to…” Another cramp bit and he groaned softly. Alyssa patted his shoulder, saying, “One thing at a time, Patrick, one thing at a time.”

 

 

 

 

Conversation at the table had trickled to a halt. The children had picked up on the underlying unease their mother was experiencing and it put a pall over the gathering. Eventually Jean-Luc said quietly, “You are still unsure about me, aren’t you.”

The female glowed a little brighter, but not uncomfortably so. When she lifted her hands above the level of the table, one of Jean-Luc’s nephews, Robuste, offered the use of his sleeve screen. Out of the corner of his eye, Jean-Luc saw the children all train their eyes on their mother, their fingers jerking as if they were trying to emulate her gestural language. Jean-Luc idly wondered if it was a genetic imperative.

“Unsure is perhaps not the correct term. You and my one are no longer…” she brought her hands together and very delicately meshed her finger tips. Jean-Luc nodded his understanding. “…and yet…”

“We’re still connected.” Supplied Jean-Luc.

“Yes.” She gestured. “I do not know how effective your education will be…how my one will cope with the coming separation.”

“Well,” sighed Jean-Luc. “I don’t know either. I am just as joined to my brother as he is to me, but I cannot stay here and he cannot leave. Somehow, using the techniques we’re being taught, we must learn to live apart. There’s no alternative.”

“I am aware of that, Jean-Luc, but you will leave mostly unchanged. Yes, you will have the knowledge of the existence of your identical twin, and as I understand it, both of you will always remain…connected…but my one has undergone a fundamental change…a shift not only in his expanded knowledge, but in his perception of himself. I have a name for my one. He does not know it, but he knows he has it, yet he now wishes to be called Javier. That is not who he is! Despite my private name for him, he is the conscience! No name, no sobriquet can suffice. He is the conscience. That is not a title, Jean-Luc; it is a state of being…an état d?etre.”

Placing an elbow on the tabletop, Jean-Luc rubbed his fingers over his lower lip, surprised when Robuste shoved his sleeve screen under his nose. “Do not do that!”

Confused, Jean-Luc said, “Do what?”

Pointing with two stiff fingers, the female used her free hand to mirror what Jean-Luc had just done. Although he could not see her face, he realised before he read the text. “That is something my one does!”

Patiently, Jean-Luc said softly, “I can’t help sharing the same gestures. I don’t know why we have this ability, I know it is common in twins, but as our case is so unusual, I don’t even have a name for it. I can only apologise if I upset of offend you and assure you it is not done intentionally.”

Mollified, the female did her best to relax and resume their conversation in a calmer mood.

“Do you understand my dilemma?”

The reference, though oblique to his own ongoing problem the Prime Directive was proving to be wasn’t missed by the captain. Nevertheless, he let it pass and answered honestly. “Yes, I am and I cannot even begin to fully understand what this situation has done to you.”

He sighed, shaking his head. “My overwhelming reaction is to want to apologise, but I have done nothing to apologise for.”

The female lifted her hands higher, but Jean-Luc interrupted her. “I’m referring to the situation between my brother and me, not the broader concerns about the conscience and how he is sought.”

The female lowered her hands and sighed.

“Then it is me who should apologise, Jean-Luc. I know you have done nothing wrong, that you have intended no personal pain or anguish to befall any of us…but that has been the inevitable consequence of your being here.” She sighed again. “No one is to blame. I cannot say I am unhappy with your peoples’ intervention in the treatment of our children, on the contrary, I will be eternally grateful, but the cost! Have I lost my one? Is the person he is now the same man? I do not think so. And neither do I know how to bring him back or if indeed that is possible.”

Lowering his head, Jean-Luc sighed. He thought for a little while and then said quietly, “I can’t say if the man you know as your one…the conscience…will ever revert to what he was, but I can tell you, with certainty, he will continue to function as the conscience. He is as devoted to that…” Jean-Luc smiled then, a small gesture but a genuine one, “…and to you and the children as he has always been. Perhaps, with time, you can all adjust.”

The female tilted her head, her hands rising a little higher. “That is provided of course, that your…Federation…are content to leave things as they are. And that, Jean-Luc Picard will be up to you, will it not?”

Before he could reply, the conscience and the adviser came back into the room. Although his tone was mild, Jean-Luc knew he was deeply disturbed. “We must go now, Jean-Luc. Our educators await and I have taken too much time from them already.”

Jean-Luc smiled down at the children, who all offered their goodbyes, but to the female he gave a formal bow. “Madame.”

She inclined her head in acknowledgement and began to glow brighter. As Jean-Luc left with Javier and the adviser, the children were donning eye shields.

 

 

 

Throughout the hours that followed, Jean-Luc and Javier worked hard, learning the disciplines and techniques to master their connection. Two full days passed before the educators issued a suggestion. The twins were to go out onto the ice, walk in opposite directions until told to stop by those monitoring from within the complex, then measurements would be taken by the twins themselves, and a group of healers. On their return their brains would be scanned. If the results of everything were satisfactory, Jean-Luc would be free to return to his ship…and Beverly.

Suited up in the remarkably comfortable survival outfits, the men ventured outside. Jean-Luc would’ve liked to have had time to explore, but that was not why he was there. Having been giving both his instructions and direction, he nodded to Javier and said over their interlink, “Bonne chance, mon petit frère.”

He could see Javier’s face through the polymer mask. He was grinning. “Toi aussi, moi le grand frère.”

They turned in opposite directions and, bending into the wildly deranged wind, the ice particles and chunks shattering harmlessly against their impervious suits, went on their way.

It seemed to Jean-Luc he’d been walking for hours. His urine had been recycled and processed; affording him perfectly potable water he could sip through a tube that protruded from his helmet near his mouth. Warmth was provided by both his body and an internal heater that drew its power from the wind. He was prepared to keep going, not knowing precisely how far he was supposed to go when text appeared, crawling across the inside of his face plate.

“Stop now, Jean-Luc and rest.”

Looking around, he saw there was nothing of note to find any shelter from the wind except a small lump in the ice. He went to it and lowered himself into an almost lying position. Even though his suit was very well insulated, he still could hear the howling of the wind and at ground level, the ice was driven in a horizontal swathe approximately one metre thick. He was just relaxing when he heard Javier’s voice but it took a second or two before he realised it had not come over the interlink, but in his mind. He answered the same way, thinking instead of speaking.

“Yes, Javier, I hear you.”

“I am not experiencing any…difficulties, either mental or physical. You?”

“No.”  He found he could easily shrug. “In fact before you…spoke…to me, I had not given our separation any thought.”

“Nor me, although now I am concentrating …je peux sentez dans mon esprit.”

“Oui, moi aussi.” agreed Jean-Luc. “I can feel you in my mind as well.”

“Hmm, but it seems that unless we actively wish it…concentrate…it does not seem to be in the…avant-garde?…of our minds.”

“The forefront.” Jean-Luc supplied. “No, you’re right.”

“So, shall we contact those who wait?”

“Yes, might as well, but before you do, can I enquire how far apart we are?”

“Of course. All you need do is speak aloud. You will be heard.”

“To whom am I speaking?” asked Jean-Luc.

“The conscience’s adviser, Captain.”

“May I ask, what is the physical distance that separates my brother and me?”

“Measured in increments you would be familiar with, the distance is precisely ten kilometers.”

“And you think that distance is enough for the purposes of this…test?”

“Yes. Provided the scans we will conduct on yours and the conscience’s brain show no anomalous readings, the healers are confident a vastly increased distance will make no difference. If there were going to be any problems, they should have manifested themselves by now.”

“I see. And I take it the organic suppressant I have in my brain has no bearing on the results or the chemicals my brother has in his brain?”

“No, Captain. This is not now nor has it ever been about the chemical constituents of either brain, although the unique latent ability you both possess only came to the fore because of the chemicals, now that it has been amplified and activated, it has just become a matter of finding a way to regulate and control the amount of connection. We recognise neither the conscience nor you can perform your tasks if hindered by your presence in each other’s mind. Now that we know you can be physically separated, yet still possess the ability to reach each other at a level that is acceptable to you both, we feel a satisfactory balance has been achieved.”

While Jean-Luc was pondering that, Javier’s voice entered his mind.

“It is time to return, Jean-Luc. Although our suits are adequate, it would be best not to take liberties with the ice.”

Climbing to his feet, Jean-Luc reversed his direction and began, once again bent into the howling gale, to begin his journey back to the complex. He glanced up and through his face plate he saw the ice particles, some quite large smash against the clear material of his mask. On the inside was a display, giving him directions but what amazed him, and had done since stepping outside the complex was that the ice, even large pieces, smashed and shattered against him with little or no effect. He thought to his brother, “This ice. It’s not what I would know as ice, is it?”

Jean-Luc clearly heard the amusement in Javier’s thoughts. “The only thing our ‘ice’ has in common from what I know of Earth ice is that it is frozen. You did not notice the ‘water’ when you…douch?é?”

“Showered. Yes, I thought the water was…not water.”

Javier’s laughter in his mind made Jean-Luc chuckle. “All right. If it’s not water, what is it?”

“Ah! I believe the word I need is…d?azote?”

“Nitrogen?” said an amazed Jean-Luc. “Oh, of course! When frozen, nitrogen forms crystals that have an open structure and they lose density!”

“Oui. We also have on this world, nitrogen…volcans?”

“And the nitrogen volcanoes spew the nitrogen in a vapour that crystalises!” Jean-Luc grinned. “So…the ‘water’ in the shower? That can’t be nitrogen in a liquid form; otherwise I’d have been frozen solid. How is it processed to create the liquid?”

Javier laughed again and Jean-Luc could ‘see’ his brother’s face in his mind.

“For that you will have to ask my scientists, Jean-Luc. I am an expert in the law of my people and some of the science they use, but as to the finer points? Que puis-je dire? If it does not pertain to a petition, I do not need to know.”

“Then when we get back, I will be asking some questions.”

There was silence and Jean-Luc frowned. “Javier?” he thought.

The regret in his brother’s voice was unmistakable. “You may not get the opportunity, Jean-Luc. Once the scans have been done and provided all is well, you will be returned to your ship. And then, my brother, you will be respectfully requested to leave.”

Inside his helmet, Jean-Luc’s expression soured. “That’s unacceptable, Javier, you know that! I can’t leave while the situation that exists with your people taking embryos from humans in Federation space remains.”

The inaudible sigh was strangely loud in Jean-Luc’s mind. “Jean-Luc, there is nothing you can do! You cannot stop it nor can the Federation.”

“But, Javier….that leaves me in an untenable position! What do you expect me to do? We are both aware of how devoted, how inextricably bound we are to our respective appointments. You can’t deviate from your path, but neither can I!”

“Jean-Luc, you know how this situation distresses me, as I know it distresses you, but you have to face the fact that nothing can be done! You can keep your ship here, you can summon fleets of Starships, but you cannot do anything! You cannot even protéger your citizenry. If my people wish to obtenir a new conscience then they will do so. There is nothing you or anyone else can do to stop it!”

“We wouldn’t have to protect our citizens from your people procuring embryos if you put a stop to it!”

“I cannot!”

“Cannot or will not?!”

They were shouting their thoughts. Javier strove for calm. “It is not a matter of whether or not I can or cannot, will or will not, Jean-Luc. It is the way things are. You have to accept it.”

Finding himself calming, Jean-Luc sighed, his next words laced with sadness. “I hear you, Javier, but I feel you too. I know you no longer condone what is happening.”

“That is irrelevant, Jean-Luc. Like you, there are times when I am faced with unpalatable decisions, judgments I have to make that while being in accordance with the law, are personally difficult for me. That is part of who and what we are. Avec l?autorité vient la responsabilité. You know that.”

Shaking his head, Jean-Luc sighed. “How often have I heard that? ‘With authority comes responsibility’.  But surely, Javier, one can be responsible and still be guided by one’s conscience?”

The chuckle was sardonic. “Why do you think this…position…I hold was so named? Jean-Luc, I am my peoples’ conscience. Not mine! I know you have broken your Prime Directive…more than once. But I cannot, Jean-Luc. When you act, when you make a judgment it is usually concerning your ship and your crew n?est pas? And sometimes your decisions have broader ramifications, but even during a situation diplomatique, you are dealing with abstracts, something…remote and the final outcome will be decided by a distant government. Oui?”

“Yes.”

“Well, le frère, that is not what happens here. Although you know my people are not compelled to obey, the judgment of a conscience has never been challenged. Now if you were in my position, would you put your personal opinion...your private belief, especially given you have only just rece


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