The Lazarus Dilemma.

 

 

                          The sated man lay face down on the bed, spread eagled with one arm hanging over the edge of the mattress and one foot poking out from the covers, although the blankets only covered him just over his buttocks. His gentle snores amused the woman as she suckled her son, her twinkling eyes leaving the man’s form with reluctance as she checked on her other infant son, studiously gripping his feet in the cradle.

The lovemaking had been extraordinarily intense, leaving her contented and replete, the cries of their twin sons dragging her from her husband’s warm embrace with great reluctance. The four month old boys were taking a lot out of her, especially as she insisted on breast feeding them both. Matthieu, the one at present sucking greedily was the oldest by seven minutes. His brother Henri, though junior was the more placid of the two. It wasn’t often he was fed first, his older brother making his displeasure at having to wait very obvious. Henri on the other hand was content to bide his time, seemingly knowing instinctively his mother would feed him eventually.

The soft tapping on the bedroom door made the woman smile.

“Come in Jacques.”

The four year old peeked in and, seeing his father asleep, tiptoed over to his mother and settled a hand on her arm as he watched her feed his little brother. Gently rocking in the antique wooden chair beside the bed, the woman put one foot on the mattress and leaned down to kiss her eldest son’s forehead. Jacques’s soft giggle and whisper made the woman smile.

“Papa’s snoring.”

Whispering herself, the woman agreed.

“Yes he is. Why don’t you hop in with him? It’s nearly time for him to wake up.”

The dark hazel eyes, so reminiscent of his father gleamed and the grin made his dimples indent. His resemblance to his father was remarkable, even down to his dimpled chin. The little boy crept over to the bed with exaggerated care and, mustering all his stealth, insinuated himself onto the mattress and next to his father’s somnolent body.

As soon as the man sensed his son’s touch the snoring abruptly stopped. With awareness slowly rising, he groped at the blankets and pulled them higher up his naked body. Jacques, in a moment of mischief, lifted the blankets and giggled delightedly as he uttered breathlessly,

“Papa you’re not wearing anything!”

His head turned away from his son, the man growled and used his outstretched arm to make a grab for the boy. Considering only seconds before he had been blissfully asleep, his reflexes were astonishing. Captured by one large strong hand, the boy giggled and made a half-hearted attempt to struggle free. The man turned his head and tucked his free arm under him so as to better tickle his son. The giggles turned into squeals and the woman sighed dramatically.

“Jean-Luc stop torturing the boy! You’re disturbing the twins.”

Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Starship Enterprise rose up on an elbow and blurted on his son’s stomach. As Jacques screwed his face up in disgust, Jean-Luc lifted his head and grinned at his wife.

“Good morning Beverly.”

She smiled tenderly at him and returned the greeting.

“Good morning to you.”

Wishing fervently that he could get up and kiss the love of his life, the naked Captain frowned and looked down at the now quiet boy. Before he could say anything, Jacques frowned and lifted a hand to touch the tip of Jean-Luc’s nose.

“Papa…why aren’t you wearing any clothes?”

The Captain ignored the chuckle from his wife and smiled down at the lad.

“I got hot so I took them off.”

That gave the boy pause for thought.

“But Papa you only wear shorts to bed. Why did you get hot?”

Feeling somewhat exasperated, Jean-Luc scrambled for a plausible excuse the boy would accept. His troubled gaze cleared as inspiration struck.

“I…ah…must have dreamt I was at the beach. I always get hot at the beach.”

Jacques’s eye shone as he gasped.

“The beach? Papa can we go…can we go this afternoon? You said you’d show me the rock pools!”

Jean-Luc sat up and made an attempt to look as if he was considering the plea. With warmth glowing in his expressive dark eyes he smiled at the boy.
“Well, as I have today and tomorrow off…if it’s all right with Maman…I don’t see why not.”

The force of the little body launching himself around his torso almost toppled the Captain. He hugged his son and kissed the top of his head.

“Go and wash your face and get dressed now Jacques, we’ll be having breakfast soon.”

As Jacques left the bed, Jean-Luc was congratulating himself for so deftly avoiding an embarrassing situation. His smugness was however, short lived.

“You must dream about the beach a lot Papa. I have found you…”

The boy frowned as he used his left hand to close the little finger and thumb of his right hand, triumphantly holding up the remaining fingers.

“Three times without any clothes in bed.”

The Captain prided himself on his self control and his ability to not react overtly to most situations, but as he was constantly learning, his children could break down his carefully constructed barriers with astonishing ease. The blush didn’t bloom fully, however the tips of his nears turned red and to those who knew him well, it was a stunning display. He cleared his throat and made sure his voice was steady.

“Hmm. After you’ve washed up you can start to set the table.”

Beaming at the implied responsibility, Jacques’s eyes shone with adoration for his father.

“Yes Papa.”

As the boy triggered the door mechanism, Jean-Luc called,

“Don’t replicate anything; I’ll be out in a moment.”

The door closed on the boy’s reply. Jean-Luc relaxed slightly and eased his legs over the side of the bed and stood, finally able to kiss his wife good morning. The kiss was languid but Beverly, sensing her nursing son was finished, lifted a hand and wickedly tickled Jean-Luc’s scrotum. He snorted and stepped backwards, shaking his head.

“You could simply tell me to stop.”

The answering smile was both devious and saucy.

“Where’s the fun in that?”

He frowned.

“Tickling my balls is fun?”

Beverly cocked her head and sighed.

“It can be.”

Jean-Luc scratched his stubbled cheek and shook his head.

“Hmm. Well I’ll take your word for it. Are you right while I have a shower?”

The Doctor nodded.

“Uh huh, they’re both finished. I’ll go and supervise Jacques until you come out.”

With a nod of acceptance, Jean-Luc stepped past his wife but paused to kiss her again. She smiled and playfully swatted his bare behind as he left her.

His one word reaction made her giggle.

“Wench!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    When Jean-Luc emerged into the living area he smiled at the scene before him. Jacques and Beverly were seated at the table, the boy dressed, his hair showing his attempts to comb it with the help of some water. The result was rather…interesting, tufts and spikes standing next to wet areas, plastered down and still dripping. The twins were on a soft quilt next to the sofa. As usual, Henri was content to wave his soft rattle, seemingly mesmerised by the bright colours and happily cooing and gurgling but Matthieu had turned himself over and was making a determined effort to wriggle off the quilt, his soft toys ignored. The Captain cast a look at his wife and hooked a thumb towards the babies.

“I see Matthieu is up to his usual tricks.”

With a grunt, Beverly grimaced.

“Oh yes…that little boy is going to be a handful. Like you, he likes exploring. God help us when he starts to crawl.”

Jean-Luc watched the baby straining forwards and sighed.

“Well at least with his hair we’ll never lose sight of him…or his brother.”

Both identical twins had their mother’s vibrant red hair in luxuriant abundance. Their blue eyes were the same shade as Beverly’s but both boys had their father’s dimpled chin. Jean-Luc took his seat and was reaching for a croissant when Jacques piped up.

“Papa can I sleep with no pyjamas on? I sometimes dream about the beach.”

Seeing the consternation on her husband’s face, Beverly decided to help him out.

“No Jacques, it’s important little boys keep their jamies on. Even when they get hot, grownups can still get cold later and they know how to warm up again. When you grow up you can decide whether or not to wear jamies, but until then Papa and I want you to wear them. Okay?”

The boy nodded.

“Okay Maman…anyway if Papa got cold you could warm him up.”

Smiling slyly at her husband, Beverly nodded.

“Yes I could. Now…which beach programme do you want us to run? The Sandy Point one or the Squeaky Beach one?”

Jacques didn’t hesitate.

“Squeaky Beach! Papa said he’d show me the rock pools. He said there were…”

The little boy frowned and screwed up his face.

“Ah…”

Suddenly his face cleared and he grinned.

“Starfishes!”

“Starfish.”

Jean-Luc gently corrected.

“Not only starfish, but molluscs, crabs, little fish…in fact all sorts of things.”

Jacques grinned at his father.

“And we can swim.”

The Captain sighed.

“Yes, we can swim.”

The lad clapped his hands and Beverly chuckled.

“While you two are busy on the Holodeck I’m going to get Ensign Miles to come by to sit with the twins. I’ve got some work to do in Sick Bay.”

Jean-Luc looked up from buttering his croissant and frowned.

“Do you have to go? It would be nice if you and the twins came to the beach too.”

With a sigh, Beverly drank the last of her coffee.

“Sorry, I’ve got an experiment running that simply won’t wait. Tell you what…if I finish early enough I’ll join you…okay?”

Jacques jiggled up and down on his chair.

“With the twins?”

As Beverly answered, Jean-Luc put a restraining hand on his son’s shoulder, his look telling the boy to sit still.

“Yes, with the twins.”

Quietening, Jacques grinned happily.

“Yay!”

Breakfast over; Jacques left the table, leaving the adults alone. Beverly watched as the older boy went to his brothers and gently played with them. Jean-Luc’s soft deep voice made her frown.

“I’m still not all that happy about you going back on duty.”

Sipping her second coffee, the Doctor flapped a hand.

“Oh Jean-Luc…it’s only a few hours a day, besides you do a full shift every day.”

Holding up one hand, Jean-Luc accentuated his points by touching his fingers.

“One, I still do a lot of my daily work from our quarters. Two, I’m not breast feeding two fast growing babies and three, I didn’t have a difficult pregnancy and delivery. Selar told you your recovery was going to take time, especially considering you’re feeding the boys. I just think you should take some more time off. Why rush back to work?”

Beverly rested her elbows on the table and held the cup between her hands. They had had this discussion before…and probably would again. She sighed and closed her eyes.

“Jean-Luc I need to work. I need to reassure myself I’m more than just a mother. I was a Doctor a long time before our children were born and I fully intend to be one after they grow up. Do you realise how fast medical knowledge and technology moves forward? If I stay away too long it will pass me by!”

Jean-Luc grunted and wiped his mouth with his serviette.

“You can keep up by reading all the current journals. And Beverly…motherhood is certainly not something to belittle. I happen to think it’s a wonderful state of being and vitally important for the children.”

Despite her exasperation with the man, she had to smile.

“As do I my love. Look it’s just a few hours a day. If I don’t handle it I’ll back off…okay?”

Running his fingertips around the rim of his cup, Jean-Luc sighed in capitulation.

“Very well.”

Henri’s sudden wailing brought the adults to their feet. Matthieu triumphantly waved the soft rattle in his hand while his bereft brother cried his outrage. Jacques took the rattle off Matthieu and abruptly both babies were bellowing. Jacques got up in disgust and stomped off to his room. As he passed his parents he grumped,

“It’s too noisy in here!”

Each adult picked up a baby and spent several minutes calming them. Jean-Luc wrinkled his nose and patted Henri’s bottom.

“He needs changing.”

Beverly nodded.

“So does Matthieu. You go first.”

Jean-Luc went back into the bedroom, entering the nursery and placing his son on the changing table. Beverly stood in the doorway watching with amused wistfulness.

“You’ve come a long way Jean-Luc.”

With expert efficiency, Jean-Luc had the baby changed in a few minutes.

“I had too. After all…I was responsible for all this.”

Beverly giggled as they swapped places.

“Well I grant you kids were your idea, but I had some input.”

The caress to her neck was both unexpected and welcomed.

“You have made me a very happy and contented man my love.”

Having successfully changed Matthieu, Beverly turned and kissed her husband.

“And you my dear Captain have made an honest woman of me.”

Jean-Luc let out a soft laugh and hefted his burden.

“Time for a supplement feed?”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh, some pureed fruit will do for now. They can have something more substantial later. You go put Henri in the high chair while I replicate some fruit.”

Jean-Luc had just fastened Henri into his chair when the door chimed.

“Come.”

Commander Will Riker strode in, his trademark grin in place.

“Good morning Captain.”

As soon as the burly man spoke, Jacques barrelled out from his room.

“Uncle Will!”

The boy launched himself at the tall man and Will grabbed the boy, hoisting him up above his head and whirling him around. Jacques squealed in delight and shouted,

“Papa! Look…I’m flying!”

Beverly walked from the replicator, fretting baby in one hand, a bowl of pureed fruit in the other. Her resigned voice cut through Jacques’s racket.

“If he throws up on your head Will, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.”

Lowering the giggling boy to the floor, Will ruffled his hair and gave his behind a pat.

“You wouldn’t throw up on your Uncle Will, would you Jacques.”

His eyes shining, the boy shrugged.

“I don’t know!”

Jean-Luc gave his Exec a look and gestured him to a seat.

“What can I do for you Number One?”

His grin lingering, the big man took a seat.

“New orders Captain.”

Raising his eyebrows at this breech of procedure, Jean-Luc waited for Will’s explanation. Noting his CO’s reaction, the First Officer lifted a hand in apology.

“I know Captain, you should’ve been the one to receive them, but Admiral Mitoshi called about an hour ago and was in a hurry. She sends her regrets.”

Letting the moment pass, Jean-Luc gave a nod and gestured for his Exec to continue.

“We’ve been redirected to the Garuda system. Seven weeks ago seven members of an advance science team were deposited with field equipment to do a preliminary study of the chosen site. Apparently the Exeter had found some very interesting biological specimens that Starfleet Medical has since discovered have led to some significant breakthroughs. The advance team was to collect more samples and do some more testing. They were due to stay three months but three days ago Command lost contact with them. Not only have they stopped sending regular updates, they don’t answer any hails. The Hood was due to pick them up in five weeks, but Command wants us to go see what’s going on.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his lower lip thoughtfully.

“I see. ETA?”

“Four days at warp five, but the Admiral has given us permission to exceed that.”

The Captain stood and tugged down on his tunic.

“Very well. Set course and engage at warp eight.”

Will also stood and gave a slight bow of his head.

“Yes Sir.”

As Will left, Jean-Luc went to his wife and took the spare spoon out of her hand. He hooked a chair with his foot, dragging it closer as he dipped the spoon into the bowl then offered it to Henri. The baby obediently opened his mouth and took the fruit. The Captain chuckled at the resulting wide-eyed look.

“I don’t think he’s terribly sure about this fruit. What is it?”

With admirable dexterity Beverly caught the almost liquid fruit that Matthieu extruded from his mouth with her spoon and directed it back between his lips. This time the baby swallowed.

“A mixture of apple and pear.”

Jean-Luc redirected his attention to Henri to find him waiting patiently with his mouth open.

“Well Henri seems to have made up his mind.”

Beverly chuckled and fed Matthieu another spoonful.

“Will this new mission alter your plans?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No, I don’t think so; Will can handle it until I’m due back on duty, besides I’m available if he needs me.”

That made the Doctor smile.

“Good I know Jacques is looking forward to spending time with you on the Holodeck. If you do the beach this afternoon, what will you do tomorrow?”

Shovelling more fruit into his son’s mouth, Jean-Luc wasn’t quite as adept as Beverly with spoon feeding.

“Well we won’t be going to the Holodeck until the afternoon…in the morning I thought we could all go to the pool in the gym. The twins seem to love it and Jacques is slowly mastering backstroke. Later I thought I might introduce him to horse riding.”

Beverly cast her husband a sceptical look.

“A four year old?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“I was only six when I started. Don’t worry; I’ll programme something suitably docile.”

Beverly maintained the stare.

“And small.”

The Captain sighed theatrically.

“Of course.”

The fruit was almost gone and Matthieu seemed to have had enough. Beverly stood and went to fetch a damp cloth. Henri gurgled happily as he spat out some fruit and, before his father could prevent it, brought his hand first to his mouth and then, coated in the sticky mess, unerringly directed his hand to his abundant red hair. With the spoon poised in the air, Jean-Luc dropped his head and sighed.

“Henri my son, you’re going to get me in deep trouble.”

Beverly appeared beside her husband and groaned.

“Oh Jean-Luc…”

The man looked up and tried to plead his case.

“He was too quick for me…again.”

Hands on hips, Beverly snorted.

“I don’t understand it! You have very good reflexes…why can’t you stop him before he puts his food in his hair?”

Jean-Luc frowned and shrugged.

“I…I don’t know. He seems to fool me every time.”

With her usual gentle efficiency, Beverly cleaned Matthieu and grumbled.

“Well you can bath him! Ensign Miles will be here in ten minutes so unless you want her to think you’re completely incompetent you’d better get moving.”

Jean-Luc was already on his feet and removing Henri from the chair. He grimaced as the baby gripped his shirt with the offending hand and ignored the following jibe.

“And change your shirt.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 When Jean-Luc and Henri emerged from the nursery, Jacques was regaling Ensign Miles about his upcoming trip to the beach. To the young woman’s credit she patiently listened to the little boy while sitting Mathieu on her knee. When she realised her Captain was in the room she climbed immediately to her feet and tried to control her nervousness. Knowing the Ensign was intimidated by him, Jean-Luc mustered a smile and put Henri down on the quilt.

“Thank you for coming Ensign. I take it Doctor Picard has left?”

Swallowing to wet her dry mouth, Ensign Miles nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

“Well, both the little terrors have been fed and changed so you shouldn’t have any trouble. They can be put down for a sleep in about an hour. Did Doctor Picard leave some milk?”

The Ensign nodded again.

“Yes Sir.”

Stifling a sigh of exasperation at the Ensign’s nervousness, Jean-Luc smiled again and gave a short nod.

“Well then…”

He turned to his son and said,

“Do you have your bathers on?”

The boy nodded enthusiastically and, to prove his point, pulled down his trousers to show his father the brightly coloured swimsuit. The Captain went to his son and hitched up his pants, grinning widely.

“All right we can go.”

He turned back to the Ensign and noted her eyes had widened.

“Ah…Sally isn’t it?”

The woman nodded.

“Yes Captain.”

“Don’t hesitate to call either me or Doctor Picard if you have any concerns at all, no matter how insignificant. All right?”

The nod was jerky.

“Yes Sir.”

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Jean-Luc maintained his smile.

“Right then. Jacques?”

He held out his hand and his son quickly took it.

“Shall we?”

Once the doors closed on the departing pair, Sally sat heavily on the sofa and dandled Matthieu on her knee.

“Your Dad scares the hell out of me, but holy cow…he’s gorgeous!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    It was late in the afternoon when Beverly finally made it to the Holodeck. She wheeled the double stroller over the sand to find her husband reclining against a rock, their son sleeping by his side. In a colourful array around them, several buckets filled with water sat on the sand and Beverly chuckled quietly.

“Been collecting specimens?”

Jean-Luc grinned and shook his head.

“My God…his curiosity is insatiable! We had to examine…minutely I might add…every living thing we found. He decided we should put our finds in buckets according to colour. Thus…the crustaceans are in the yellow ones, the molluscs are in the orange ones, fish are in the blue ones and things not readily identified are in the rest. I tell you Beverly…he’s a born scientist.”

While Jean-Luc had been talking, Beverly had spread a blanket and was in the process of extricating the twins from the stroller. Jean-Luc stood and helped her, noticing that the boys were now dressed in sunsuits and hats. He looked up at his wife to see her lift her dress over her head to reveal a dark blue one-piece and his appreciative whistle made her grin.

“You’re a lecherous man Jean-Luc Picard.”

The Captain lifted his chin and huffed.

“Lecherous? I think not! Discerning most definitely, but lecherous? It isn’t lecherousness to admire one’s wife.”

Beverly stepped back and deliberately looked the man up and down. Not a tall man, Jean-Luc was nonetheless a well put together example of masculinity. He was well muscled, lean and compact and the way he filled out his black speedos made Beverly unconsciously lick her lips. When their eyes met there was absolutely no doubt of the mutual attraction that blazed between them. Jean-Luc was about to step up to her with the intention of kissing her when Jacques sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“Maman?”

Beverly planted a quick kiss on Jean-Luc’s cheek before she sat beside her older son. Fully awake now, he grabbed her hand as he stood, pointing at the buckets.

“Did you see Maman?”

Smiling tenderly, Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh. Are you going to show me?”

By now dragging on her hand, Jacques impatiently insisted she rise.

“Yes! Come on Maman.”

With the twins occupied with their toys, Jean-Luc sat with them and watched as Jacques showed his mother every one of his precious specimens. The sigh that overtook the Captain was a deep one.

“I am so lucky…My God I have been blessed.”

 

 

 

 

 

                     They stayed on the Holodeck for two more hours before the twins began to loudly complain. The family packed up their things, Jean-Luc assuring Jacques that the specimens would be better off back in the pool. Their arrival back at their quarters preceded a very busy time as Beverly fed the twins and Jean-Luc organised dinner for himself, Beverly and Jacques. Later, when the children were all safely in their beds, Beverly flopped down on the sofa and plonked her feet on the low table. Jean-Luc joined her, an open bottle of wine and two glasses in his hands.

“You look exhausted.”

The Doctor shot her husband a sardonic look and gratefully accepted the full glass. She closed her eyes and took a long sip, swallowing and letting out a deep breath.

Jean-Luc placed the bottle on the table, sat back and took a sip of his own, but his eyes never left his wife. His deep voice made Beverly frown.

“You’re doing too much.”

Rubbing her brow with irritation, Beverly sighed tiredly.

“Don’t start Jean-Luc.”

The Captain leaned back and placed his feet next to Beverly’s on the table. Despite the warning in her voice, he wasn’t going to let the matter rest.

“Beverly when are you going to admit that you went back to work too soon? Look at yourself…you’re exhausted. You cannot continue to try and balance work and the kids. Something’s got to give.”

Unable to hide her irritation, Beverly glared and shook her head.

“I don’t believe this! We are in the twenty-fourth century Jean-Luc…archaic concepts of chauvinism such as you’re suggesting disappeared eons ago!”

His voice showing his own growing irritation, Jean-Luc growled,

“It’s not chauvinism dammit! Beverly you had a very difficult pregnancy, for God’s sake you had to battle just to carry the twins to term. Then the delivery was complicated and protracted and the damn haemorrhage you suffered could very well have taken your life. Why can’t you see that you need to rest?”

Beverly’s eyes settled on her glass and she ignored her husband as she took another sip. Undaunted by her attitude, Jean-Luc continued.

“And why do you insist on breast feeding the twins? They are old enough to be weaned; you’ve given them a wonderful start. It’s taking too much out of you my love, especially now that you’ve gone back to work.”

Beverly’s voice rose with anger.

“I told you…it’s only a few hours a day! For crying out loud Jean-Luc, I’ve seen you practically drag yourself out of Sick Bay to return to duty…don’t tell me I can’t go back to work!”

Keeping his own voice down with an effort, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth.

“I’m not telling you any such thing! All I’m saying is something’s got to give. If you insist on working then you either have to wean the twins or organise for more help with the children so you can get more rest.”

The look he got was frankly calculating.

“What about you? Why don’t you shorten your hours and spend more time with the boys?”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips and lowered his head.

“Are you asking me because you think I need to spend more time with the children, or is it because you don’t like anyone else helping?”

Beverly tried to glare her outrage but the gentle question got under her defences. She sighed and flapped her hand.

“You know damned well I don’t like outside help. It took me three weeks to warm to Sally.”

Jean-Luc sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Then what do we do? For the foreseeable future it will be difficult for me to cut my hours and you seem to be stuck in obstinacy.”

Her glittering eyes and thinned lips clearly showed her anger.

“I am not obstinate!”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Fine! But will you at least admit that you need to rest?”

He lowered his voice and reached up to gently push some stray strands of hair behind her ear.

“You can’t do it all my love.”

The anger slowly abated, eased by the resolute love that showed in her husband’s eyes. Beverly sighed and managed a smile.

“I’ll think about it.”

Knowing that was as good as he was going to get, Jean-Luc gave a pensive nod and looked into the deep red wine in his glass. The deep smooth timbre of his voice gave Beverly a delicious thrill.

“Have you spoken to Deanna lately?”

The Doctor frowned.

“I had a quick chat over the comm. this afternoon.”

Jean-Luc looked up, concern in his eyes.

“How is she?”

“Worn out. Apparently Emily is still very unsettled…not sleeping well or feeding properly. Deanna is going to contact the Harrami University on Betazed; she thinks they might be able to help.”

The Captain nodded.

“It’s the hybridism?”

Beverly sighed.

“She thinks so. Apparently the university has a department that specialises in Betazoid hybridism.”

Taking the time to refill their glasses, Jean-Luc sat back and sipped before voicing his next question.

“And Will?”

A deep frown creased Beverly’s brow as she idly ran her fingers around the rim of her glass.

“He is helping, but Deanna thinks he’s not taking it as seriously as he should. It’s as if he has come to the conclusion that Emily’s just a fractious baby and Deanna’s overreacting.”

Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“I did have a talk to him recently…I suggested he reduce his hours…spend more time with Deanna and the baby, but he resisted. Beverly…he does recognise the baby as his now doesn’t he?”

Beverly shrugged.

“He says so. It’s odd really, Deanna offered to organise a paternity test but he adamantly refused, even though his first reaction was to deny parentage. I don’t know Jean-Luc…they have the opportunity to really make something of this but the distance Will has put between them…”

She sighed deeply.

“I suppose I’m just being a hopeless romantic, but if two solitary, set-in-their-ways people like us can overcome our years of denial of our feelings and finally admit our love, why can’t they? Look what we have Jean-Luc…they could have it too.”

Putting his glass on the table, Jean-Luc took Beverly’s glass and placed it next to his. He then took her hands and looked deeply into her eyes.

“They may find their way my love, then again, maybe they won’t…but if they do, if they’re exceptionally fortunate like us, then I can only hope they find the happiness I have found. You complete me Beverly…in ways I can’t adequately describe. You have given me life my love…life and three precious children. My heart could not be fuller. I love you.”

With her eyes brimming with unshed tears, Beverly closed the small distance between them and kissed her husband with all the love and tenderness she could muster. Jean-Luc wound his arms around her and leaned back, drawing her down to lie with him. Over many slow minutes they divested each other of their clothing until, naked and highly aroused, they joined and held tight, savouring the heady high of penetration. Lying on their sides, Jean-Luc slowly withdrew until only the head of his penis resided inside her. He gently pinched her nipple as he slid back into her and growled his appreciation as she lifted her leg higher and over his hip. Letting go of her breast, he gripped her behind her knee and pulled her leg higher still, all the while maintaining his deep, slow thrusts. As the sensation intensified, Beverly groaned and met his thrusts with wanton jerks of her hips, driving him ever deeper. She reached over his shoulder and pulled him to her, her teeth leaving red marks on his neck. Jean-Luc felt his need growing rapidly and quickened his thrusts. He let go of her leg and insinuated his hand between them, seeking then finding her swollen clitoris. With quick, firm strokes he teased her, gritting his teeth and screwing his eyes shut, knowing his climax was imminent.

“Please Beverly…hurry…”

Just when he thought he was going to lose his battle he felt her internal muscles contract rhythmically as her body flexed and shuddered, her teeth sinking into his neck. Her soft cry was lost as he surrendered, his orgasm making him push himself deep inside her, his body jerking spasmodically as he ejaculated.

Many minutes later Beverly relaxed and allowed her arms to fall limply by her side. Jean-Luc pulled back slightly and grimaced, his chest was wet with her milk and a trickle of blood from his neck had mixed with the fluid creating a macabre pattern. Through mere slits he could see her eyes twinkling.

“We’re a mess.”

He nodded, his smile a tired one.

“Indeed.”

“And we’re going to have to replicate new cushions for the sofa…again.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes followed the dribbles of milk across his chest and onto the cushion. He also felt the wet spot down lower. With a rueful grin he lifted his eyebrows and kissed the tip of Beverly’s nose.

“We could always use plastic covers.”

The Doctor snorted and raised a languid chuckle.

“Oh yeah I can see it now. Deanna comes to visit and sees the furniture covered in plastic. That’ll go down well and when she asks why…”

Jean-Luc growled and gently bit his wife’s earlobe.

“All right I get your point.”

They lay quietly for a while, kissing and caressing gently, the euphoria of their lovemaking slowly fading. Beverly feathered her fingers over his face and quirked an eyebrow.

“By the way…is this what you meant by resting?”

Jean-Luc’s embarrassment made Beverly giggle delightedly. He sighed and idly drew a finger around her areola, making the nipple harden.

“I’ve been bad haven’t I.”

Wrapping her arms around his head, Beverly clenched her internal muscles and Jean-Luc smiled. In a saucy whisper she said,

“I like my men bad my love…and you are the absolute worst.”

His male pride restored he eased out of her and sat up.

“Shower?”

Holding out her hand, she allowed him to help her up and looked down at the sofa with distaste.

“Oh God…what a mess.”

Jean-Luc bent down and gripped the cushions, lifting them with a grimace.

“You go shower, I’ll take care of this.”

He turned to go to the reclimator but her soft touch to his neck stilled his feet.

“Then I’ll take care of that.”

He nodded and kissed her fingertips.

“I’ll be with you shortly.”

Walking somewhat unsteadily, Beverly went into the nursery and checked the twins before going to the bathroom and entering the shower. As promised Jean-Luc soon joined her and within fifteen minutes they were in bed. They settled together, Jean-Luc spooned against her back but, as he was drifting off to sleep, he heard her softly chuckle. His one word query rumbled through his chest.

“What?”

He had to strain to hear her muffled question.

“Are you going to dream about the beach again tonight?”

He frowned; about to ask why when he realised Beverly was referring to his nakedness. He chuckled and pulled her closer to him.

“If I do you’d better be there too.”

Beverly entwined her fingers with his and sighed.

“Oh you can bet on it.”

Sleep swiftly claimed them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  As Jean-Luc and Jacques walked back to their quarters the next afternoon, they raised smiles from the crew they passed. Both in riding habits, Jean-Luc wore fawn jodhpurs, long black boots, a woollen jumper and a soft cap. His son wore dark brown jodhpurs, short brown boots and a windbreaker. While Jean-Luc carried a short hunting cane, Jacques carried a crop and a white helmet. Their conversation centred around their mounts.

“But Papa why did Emlyn refuse the jump?”

“Because you hadn’t gathered him properly. Horses need to be collected and balanced to jump…even over cavalettis.”

They entered their quarters and Jean-Luc immediately grinned. Sitting on the sofa was his wife and on the soft quilt at her feet, played the twins. The Captain strode to Beverly and gave her a soft kiss. The Doctor trailed her fingers down his face then cast her eyes over the pair.

“Well I must say…you both look very fetching.”

Jacques looked up at his father, his brow furrowed.

“Is that good?”

Letting out a gentle chuckle, Jean-Luc ruffled the boy’s hair.

“Yes son, that’s good. Now go and get changed.”

Jean-Luc had just sat down next to Beverly when he was hailed.

“Riker to Picard.”

He sighed and gave his wife a look of apology.

“Picard here.”

“Captain we’ve achieved orbit around M225. I think you should come up here Sir.”

Stifling the urge to ask why, Jean-Luc knew Will wouldn’t have disturbed him on his day off without good reason.

“Very well Commander, I’ll be up shortly. Picard out.”

The Captain rose and looked down at his wife.

“Are you finished for the day?”

She nodded with a smile. Jean-Luc gave her a smile of his own.

“Do you want me to call Ensign Miles?”

With a shake of her head, Beverly stood and gently squeezed his bicep.

“No my love, we’ll be fine.”

He gave a nod as he walked to the bedroom. Over his shoulder he called.

“I’ll be as quick as I can.”
He emerged scant minutes later in uniform. Jacques, by this time changed and playing with his brothers, looked up at his father and frowned.

“Why are you in your uniform Papa?”

Crouching down with his son, Jean-Luc rested his arms on his thighs and sighed.

“I have to go to the Bridge Jacques.”

The boy shook his head.

“But Papa you said you didn’t have to be on duty until tomorrow.”

“I know Jacques but Uncle Will needs me. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Seeing the boy was going to make things difficult for his father, Beverly stood and held out her hand.

“It’s time to bath the twins. Want to help?”

That brought a grin of delight.

“Can I get in the bath too?”

Beverly nodded.

“Oh I think so…but no splashing!”

“Okay Maman.”

With his son suitably distracted, Jean-Luc sent Beverly a look of gratitude and quietly left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      The Captain’s arrival on the Bridge brought a higher level of tension to the attendant crew. Jean-Luc exited the lift and strode to the Command well, casting an eye at the planet below.

“Report Number One.”

Will immediately stood and vacated the Command chair.

“We have a problem Captain.”

“How so?”

Gesturing to the forward viewscreen, Will’s voice showed his frustration.

“We can’t scan the planet Sir and with the massive solar flare activity of the Garudan sun, we can’t use transporters either.”

Jean-Luc ran a finger over his lower lip in thought.

“I take it you’ve hailed the planet.”

Will nodded.

“Yes Captain…no response.”

The Captain didn’t hesitate.

“Very well, assemble an away team and shuttle down.”

“Aye Captain.”

As Will called his team together, Jean-Luc took his seat and began what he found sometimes difficult to do. Wait.

It was twenty-five minutes before a scratchy call came from the planet.

“Riker to Enterprise.”

Jean-Luc lifted his head to respond.

“Picard here Commander, go ahead.”

“Captain we’ve found the scientific team…they’re all dead Sir.”

His face showing none of the anguish he felt, Jean-Luc asked,

“Can you determine cause of death?”

“No Sir. Our instruments aren’t working too good down here.”

Briefly lowering his head and closing his eyes, Jean-Luc took a deep breath.

“Understood. Bring the bodies back with you…we’ll autopsy them here.”

“Aye Captain.”

Jean-Luc allowed a few seconds before he made another call.

“Picard to ensign Miles.”

“Miles here Captain.”

“Ensign would you please report to my quarters? I am in need of your services again.”

“Yes Captain, I’m on my way.”

Taking another deep breath, Jean-Luc lifted his head.

“Picard to Doctor Picard.”

“Picard here.”

“Doctor we’re bringing several bodies aboard needing autopsies. I would prefer it if you did them.”

There was a momentary silence before Beverly replied,

“Understood.”

Jean-Luc gave a small smile.

“Ensign Miles will be with you shortly…and please tell Jacques I’ll read to him tomorrow if I come in too late tonight.”

“Will do. Picard out.”

Once again Jean-Luc settled in to wait.

Will returned to the Bridge forty-five minutes later and the call from Sick Bay came fifteen minutes after that.

“Picard to Captain Picard.”

“Picard here Doctor.”

“Captain I’ve done the preliminary scans and I can tell you the cause of death. They all drowned Sir.”

The frown that graced Jean-Luc’s face as he turned to his Exec made Will shake his head.

“Drowned Doctor? Do you know how?”

“No Captain, but I would like to request I go down to the planet. I need to take some samples.”

Pursing his lips, Jean-Luc directed his attention to his Second Officer, seated at Ops.

“Data what time is it on the planet?”

The android turned in his chair and replied,

“Night has just fallen Captain. The time would be analogous to twenty-thirty hours.”

“And what is the length of the night?”

“Nineteen hours Captain.”

With his lips compressed into a thin line, Jean-Luc considered his options. Coming to a decision he lifted his head.

“Doctor you may shuttle down at twelve hundred hours tomorrow…and I will go with you.”

Will began to protest and Jean-Luc held up a hand to silence him while Beverly responded.

“Well okay Captain. Picard out.”

With the channel closed Jean-Luc turned to Will and speared him with his intense dark hazel eyes.

“I take it you have an objection Number One?”

Sitting up straight, Will tucked in his chin.

“As a matter of fact yes Sir I do.”

Jean-Luc smiled ruefully.

“I don’t see any problem here Will, I won’t stay long…once Doctor Picard has her samples we’ll shuttle straight back to the ship.”

Will shook his head.

“But Captain…”

Jean-Luc’s lowered brow told Will the argument was over.

“No Will…call it Captain’s prerogative.”

Swallowing further protests, Will sighed, his face clearly showing his displeasure.

“Very well Captain…but will you take security with you.”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“Oh I don’t think so Number One. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Giving up reluctantly, Will gave a curt nod.

“Yes Captain.”

Jean-Luc stood and tugged down on his tunic.

“You have the Bridge; I’ll be in Sick Bay.”

Standing, Will nodded.

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Jean-Luc found his wife in the analysis lab. He went to her side and squinted at the image on the computer screen.

“What is it?”

Straightening, Beverly flipped her hair off her neck.

“Short answer is…I don’t know. What I do know is it’s some sort of chemical but exactly what sort I haven’t a clue.”

Lowering his head and folding his arms, Jean-Luc sighed.

“I take it you got it from one of the bodies?”

The Doctor nodded, her soft grunt making her frustration clear.

“We’ve only done preliminary scans but so far the samples we’ve taken from each body all have this chemical present in similar amounts. It has permeated the nervous system and altered the cellular cohesion.”

She turned to her CO and frowned.

“Jean-Luc I’ve never seen anything even remotely like this before.”

“But the cause of death was drowning?”

Beverly shrugged.

“Well yes, at least the lungs of all seven bodies were full of water and all signs point to death by drowning, but with this chemical present it’s not so cut-and-dried. Until I can identify this substance and determine exactly what it did, I can’t offer a definitive answer.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“Very well. Will the autopsies be done this evening?”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes, with Selar and Tomlinson helping me we should be finished by…oh say, oh three hundred.”

Allowing his Captain’s mask to fade, his eyes showed his love and concern.

“All right, I’ll be returning to our quarters within the hour. Please don’t work too hard and take advantage of a sleep in in the morning.”

Beverly was about to protest when Jean-Luc held up a hand.

“I’m sure Selar can continue the work on identifying the chemical, it doesn’t require your personal attention. Please Beverly…it’s bad enough that you have to work late tonight, don’t exacerbate matters by going on duty early tomorrow without sufficient rest.”

Running her hand through her hair to quell her irritation, Beverly sighed and briefly closed her eyes. When she opened them she raised a small smile.

“Okay, but I’ll do it under sufferance.”

That brought a smile of understanding from the man. Casting a quick look over his shoulder to ascertain their privacy, he leaned forward and kissed her. Beverly grinned wickedly and pinched his behind. He snorted and gripped her wrist, his deep voice low.

“Wench!”

As he left the lab Beverly watched his retreating backside with lascivious thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 The lights were very dim when he entered their quarters. In the gloom, Ensign Miles could be seen slumped in one corner of the sofa, head tilted awkwardly and a PADD resting on her lap. With his customary silent step, Jean-Luc went to Jacques’s room, tucking the little boy in and kissing his forehead. Next stop was the nursery, to repeat his actions with the twins. Satisfied that all was well, he walked silently back into the living area and gently gripped Sally’s shoulder, giving it a gentle shake as he said quietly,

“Ensign.”

The young woman startled awake, jumping so violently the PADD slid off her lap and clattered onto the floor. Jean-Luc stilled her hands and bent, picking up the device and putting it on the low table.

“I’m sorry to have startled you Ensign.”

Scrambling to her feet, Sally gulped and attempted to push her hair from her face.

“Captain!”

Jean-Luc’s finger went to his lips in a ‘be quiet’ gesture. Sally nodded, blushing furiously. In a much quieter voice she said,
“I’m sorry I was asleep Sir…I must have dozed off while I was reading.”

The Captain waved a dismissive hand.

“Ah, no matter…no harm done. I’m sorry I’m so late getting back. Was everything all right?”

Sally Nodded, a small smile on her face.

“Yes Captain. Jacques helped me put the twins to bed…he really is a dear little boy.”

That brought a warm smile from the usually stoic man.

“Yes he is. Well you’d best be getting back to your quarters. It will be necessary for you to report back here tomorrow at eleven thirty hours, both Doctor Picard and myself will be going down to the planet. I will contact your immediate superior to inform her of the change in your duty shift.”

Having got control of her breathing, the Ensign managed to give a professional nod.

“Yes Captain, thank you Sir.”

Relieved that she was finally relaxing a little in his presence, Jean-Luc gave a nod and a small smile.

“Dismissed Ensign.”

Sally stepped past the man but paused and turned, summoning her courage.

“Captain Picard?”

Jean-Luc looked up, tilting his head.

“Yes?”

The smile that graced the young woman’s face made Jean-Luc realise just how attractive she really was.

“Good night Sir.”

Keeping his face neutral, the Captain inclined his head.

“Good night Ensign.”

Ten minutes after she left Jean-Luc was in bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      It was oh three twenty and as Beverly entered the silent quarters she didn’t bother asking for lights. The exhausted woman began to strip off her uniform as her tired feet took her to the bedroom. She paused at the door and sighed, reversing her course and entering her eldest son’s room. Having made sure he was sleeping peacefully, she went into the bedroom, crossed it and entered the nursery. Henri was tucked in and sleeping soundly, but Mathieu had wriggled free of his blankets and was quietly fussing. With a smile and a shake of her head, Beverly found his dummy and guided it to his mouth. As soon as the baby felt the soft rubber he latched on and sucked contentedly. Beverly tucked him in and left to finish undressing. She slipped into bed wearing nothing but her briefs. Jean-Luc sighed and mumbled something incoherent as Beverly snuggled into his back, her arm going around his chest and her legs intertwining with his. She felt his body stiffen as he woke, his deep rumbling voice making her sigh.

“Everything all right?”

“Uh huh.”

“Did you get finished?”

“Hmm.”

He gripped her arm and found her hand, lacing their fingers together. Beverly took a deep breath and concentrated on relaxing her tense body. Jean-Luc felt the loss of rigidity and smiled.

“Sleep my love.”

She didn’t answer, she was already drifting off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 At oh seven thirty Jean-Luc woke to feel Beverly getting out of bed. He sat up quickly and grabbed her wrist.

“What are you doing?”

Casting him an exasperated look, Beverly tried to free her wrist.

“Let me go Jean-Luc.”

He shook his head.

“No. Not until you tell me what you’re doing.”

With a snort, Beverly’s blue eyes flashed.

“I just thought of something. I need to get to Sick Bay.”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“Oh no you don’t! You’re staying here in bed.”

Now Beverly’s formidable temper was rising. 

“Now you look here Jean-Luc! I…”

He again shook his head, completely unmoved by her anger.

“No. If you have some information, call the duty Doctor, or call Selar, but you are not leaving this bed until I’m satisfied you’ve had sufficient rest.”

Beverly relaxed herself, hoping to catch her husband off guard. Jean-Luc however was not fooled. He increased his grip and shook his head.

“No you don’t. Call Sick bay and tell them what you want.”

The fire in Beverly’s eyes would have made a lesser man flinch.

“And if I don’t?”

The Captain’s face hardened.

“Then I will relieve you of duty.”

Now outraged, Beverly hissed,

“How dare you! I would never have believed you could be such a bloody chauvinist! I am the CMO of the ship Captain and I insist you allow me to do my job!”

Releasing her wrist, Jean-Luc got out of bed and, in silence, went to her side and sat, settling his intense gaze on her face. He kept his voice soft and low, but the steel still showed.

“That’s the second time you’ve accused me of chauvinism Beverly. It wasn’t true the first time and it’s not true now. Are you going to try and tell me you’re not exhausted?”

Beverly said nothing.

“If you were a member of your staff what would your recommendation be?”

The Doctor lowered her head and ground out,

“Jean-Luc…”

He took her hands and tilted his head to see under her brow.

“Beverly be reasonable.”

That brooked an angry response, Beverly lifting her head and her voice.

“Be reasonable? You’re a fine one to talk! Dammit every time you’re in Sick Bay…”

The Captain’s eyes darkened and he growled loudly,

“Look at yourself! You’re pale, your hair has lost its shine, there’re dark circles under your eyes…I’m telling you Beverly…you have to rest! And if you don’t do it this morning, you won’t be going down to the planet with me this afternoon.”

The wail from the nursery made Beverly swear.

“Shit!”

Jean-Luc stood and glared down at his wife.

“I’ll change them and bring them in. You stay in bed!”

She returned his glare and as he turned his back, she poked her tongue out. By the time he returned with Mathieu she was calmer. She put the little boy to her breast and sighed as Jean-Luc left to change and gather his youngest son. When he came back into the bedroom, Beverly was leaning back on the pillows, her eyes mere slits. The Captain sat on the bed, cradling Henri as his brother fed greedily, waiting patiently. Once the feed was over, Jean-Luc laid Henri on the bed as he took Mathieu to burp him. Beverly took Henri and offered the other breast. Having achieved a good belch, Mathieu stuffed his fist into his mouth and worried it, making small grunting noises. Jean-Luc looked down at the baby and frowned.

“He’s still hungry.”

Beverly sighed and nodded wearily.

“I know, one breast isn’t really enough for either of them any more. Replicate some porridge for them.”

Jean-Luc rose to go to the nursery. He paused at the door and quirked an eyebrow.

“With milk or water?”

“Umm milk. The replicator has my milk in the programme.”

He nodded and continued into the nursery. When he emerged, Mathieu had a bib on and the Captain had another bib in his free hand. Tossing the spare bib to Beverly, he entered the living area and, knowing his son would complain loudly if he put him in the high chair without offering him food, Jean-Luc went to the replicator and ordered the meal whilst holding the baby. Armed with a bowl of warm porridge and milk, he went to the high chair and spent some time getting the wriggling child secured. By the time he offered the first spoonful, Mathieu was crowing loudly.

Fifteen minutes later Jean-Luc appeared at the bedroom door, a wide grin on his face.

“Voila!”

Beverly looked up from her doze and managed to giggle.

“I don’t believe it…his hair is still clean. What did you do…tie him up?”

Looking appropriately affronted, Jean-Luc lifted his chin and said disdainfully,

“I’ll have you know I have developed a superior technique.”

Beverly snorted.

“Ha! We’ll see how you go with mashed vegetables.”

The glare lacked any real venom. The Captain went back out into the living area and deposited the baby on the quilt, making sure he had plenty of soft toys. By the time he came in to get Henri Beverly was dozing again. He took the baby and repeated his feat of feeding him and keeping him clean. Soon both twins were playing happily and Jean-Luc went into the bedroom, pulling the cover over his sleeping wife and getting his clothes out. He would wait until Jacques woke and joined him for breakfast before he showered and shaved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The four year old woke about an hour later. Jean-Luc was sitting at his desk, doing some work when the little boy emerged, knuckling one eye and yawning expansively. Jean-Luc smiled and said softly,

“Good morning Jacques.”

The boy mumbled something and ambled over to his father, insinuating himself onto Jean-Luc’s lap. The Captain wrapped his arms around his son, breathing in his unique scent and kissing the top of his head. They sat in warm silence for a while before Jacques lifted his head and asked,

“Where’s Maman?”

Keeping his voice soft, Jean-Luc replied,

“She’s asleep Jacques. We must be very quiet; your mother is really tired.”

The lad nodded.

“’Kay. Can we have breakfast? I’m hungry.”

As Jean-Luc rose to his feet, he hefted his son and settled him in his grip.

“Yes of course. What would you like?”

The mischief in Jacques’s eyes was clear. Only just containing his grin he said,

“Coffee and croissants.”

Jean-Luc growled and blurted his son’s neck, muffling the boy’s giggle against his shoulder.

“I don’t think so little man. How about some cereal and fruit and some juice?”

Jacques frowned but couldn’t hold it. He grinned at his father and nodded.

“All right.”

Lowering the boy to the floor, Jean-Luc ruffled his hair.

“Good. Now you go and wash up and get dressed while I replicate the food.”

“Okay Papa.”

Jean-Luc had eaten his first croissant by the time Jacques re emerged. At a gesture from his father, Jacques went to him and stood still while Jean-Luc tucked his shirt in and tied his shoe laces. No comment was made about his hair, his efforts to comb it interesting to say the least, but he was proud of his work and his parents had decided to let the matter go. Jacques climbed onto his chair and spent the next ten minutes eating. Once he was finished Jean-Luc said,

“I have to go and shower. Will you watch the twins for me?”

Puffing his chest out with pride, Jacques nodded.

“Yes Papa.”

The Captain stood and bent down to kiss the lad’s forehead.

“Now you come and get me if you get worried.”

The nod was a solemn one.

“Yes Papa.”

“Good lad.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   When Jean-Luc came out of the bathroom Beverly sighed and turned over but didn’t waken. He dressed and was back in the living area in under fifteen minutes. The boys, all three of them, were happily playing. Jacques looked up and frowned.

“You’re in uniform.”

The Captain went to his sons and sat on the floor.

“Yes I’m on duty now.”

The youngster’s head dropped and he sighed.

“Oh.”

Wanting to cheer the lad up, Jean-Luc offered,

“How about I work from my desk here until your mother and I have to go down to the planet?”

Jacques smiled, but he was still troubled.

“Who will come to look after us while you’re gone?”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Sally Miles.”

Jacques looked down at Mathieu who was endeavouring to take the soft stuffed Targ out of his hand. He absently gave it to his little brother and grinned up at his father.

“That’s good Papa, I like Sally.”

Jean-Luc retuned the grin.

“Fine. Now I have some work to do. All right?”

The lad nodded.

“Okay.”

Once seated at his desk, Jean-Luc tapped his comm. badge.

“Picard to Riker.”

“Riker here Captain.”

“Will I’m going to be working from my quarters this morning. Feel free to call me if anything comes up.”

“Yes Captain…ah Sir?”

Jean-Luc sighed quietly, knowing what was coming.

“Yes Commander.”

“Are you still planning on going down to the planet this afternoon?”

The Captain kept his voice even.

“Yes.”

“Sir…”

Now growing irritated, Jean-Luc’s voice grew hard.

“We’ve already spoken about this Number One. I am going down to the planet…get used to the idea.”

Jean-Luc could almost see Will tuck his chin in.

“Very good Captain. Riker out.”

Jean-Luc turned to see his son standing beside him. The boy’s eyes were wide.

“Are you mad at Uncle Will?”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“No Jacques.”

“It sounded like it.”

The Captain lifted his son and set him on his lap.

“You know that Uncle Will is very good at his job?”

The boy nodded silently.

“Well, part of his job is to make sure I’m always safe. He doesn’t want me to go down to the planet because he thinks it may not be safe.”

Jacques frowned deeply.

“But Papa…is it safe?”

Jean-Luc smiled his reassurance.

“I think it is.”

That was enough for the boy. He nodded and slid off his father’s knee.

“Okay.”

Jean-Luc watched as the boy went back to his little brothers before activating his computer and beginning his work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        It was just after eleven thirty when Beverly woke. She stretched with cat-like grace and was mewing with pleasure when she suddenly stilled and closed her eyes.

“Damn!”

She sat up and pushed at her unruly hair while lifting her head and calling,

“Picard to Selar.”

“Selar here.”

“How are we going with the chemical…any progress?”

“No Doctor.”

Swinging her legs off the bed, Beverly stood and arched her back, her fingers kneading the small of her spine.

“I’ve had an idea. I want you to test the adrenaline levels of all seven bodies.”

“May I ask why?”

Beverly frowned lifting her hands to give shape to her words.

“It was something I remember seeing in the cellular mitosis levels.”

“Very well Doctor. Is that all?”

“Yes. Picard out.”

She had just emerged from the shower to find her husband waiting with a fresh towel. She smiled as she took the towel, but gently slapped his shoulder.

“You deliberately made it so as I’d go back to sleep.”

Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows and nodded, a small smile on his face.

“Guilty as charged.”

She huffed, her irritation obvious. The Captain folded his arms, his smile fading into a frown.

“Why are you upset?”

Drying herself with brisk movements, Beverly gritted her teeth.

“Because I told you I wanted to contact Sick bay. I had something important to ask Selar.”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“Well I didn’t stop you.”

Her piercing blue eyes rooted him to the spot.

“You know damn well feeding the twins in bed that early was going to put me to sleep! Why didn’t you let me get up?”

Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes.

“Because you were exhausted! How many times do I have to say it?!”

By now dry, Beverly brushed past her husband and stalked into the bedroom, dressing with brusque efficiency. Jean-Luc allowed a cold silence before he asked gently,

“How do you feel now?”

Her answer was icy.

“Fine.”

Not wishing the anger to go any further, Jean-Luc went to his wife and took her hands.

“Beverly? Please my love…don’t be angry with me. I had no choice.”

The fire in her eyes as she gazed at him would have made a lesser man cringe but Jean-Luc held her eyes and showed her the love in his. The tension slowly left the Doctor and she lowered her head.

“All right Jean-Luc.”

He let go of her hands and embraced her, immensely gratified when her arms went around his head. They shared a gentle kiss before Beverly pulled back and looked at the door.

“What time is it?”

“About quarter to twelve.”

Beverly left his arms and went to the dressing table, taking a brush and pulling it through her hair.

“What time do we go down to the planet?”

Jean-Luc sat on the bed and watched his wife, admiring her svelte form.

“Oh I thought twelve thirty, but it’s not hard and fast, we can please ourselves really.”

Beverly turned and smiled.

“Good. I want to feed the twins and get them settled for a nap before Sally arrives.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Very well. Are you going to supplement their feed again?”

Beverly sighed and scratched her temple.

“Uh huh.”

She gave her husband a long look and smiled.

“I’ll wean them Jean-Luc…you’re right it is taking too much out of me, and besides, they’re just not getting enough from me.”

The Captain went to his wife and took her hands.

“You’ve given them a marvellous start Beverly, be happy with that.”

The smile was brave but Jean-Luc could see the sadness in her eyes. They shared a tender kiss then left the bedroom, Beverly chuckling as she saw Jacques refereeing his little brothers as they strove for possession of a bright yellow duck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    They had fed and changed the twins and were getting lunch when Sally arrived. Jean-Luc remained quiet and unobtrusive, trying to get the young woman to be more relaxed in his presence. Beverly invited the Ensign to join them for lunch and the Captain was mildly surprised when she accepted. Jacques chatted away, impressing the Ensign by occasionally slipping into French. The meal out of the way, they were sipping coffee when Sally cleared her throat.

“Captain, Doctor, I have something I’d like to run by you…it’s about Jacques.”

Giving her their undivided attention, Sally reddened but swallowed and continued.

“Are you aware there are five children aboard the same…or similar…age as Jacques?”

Jean-Luc looked at Beverly and shrugged.

“No Ensign.”

Beverly smiled and nodded.

“I am. Jacques sometimes plays with Adam Stefferson.”

Sally grinned.

“That’s right. Well Kerry Lockwood has organised a pre-school group for the littlies. I was wondering if Jacques could join.”

The parents shared another look and Jean-Luc gestured to his wife.

“It’s all right with me. Who is Kerry Lockwood Ensign?”

Meeting her CO’s intense gaze made Sally’s heart pound.

“She’s a Lieutenant Junior Grade assigned to Astrophysics. She has a background in teaching pre-schoolers Sir.”

Beverly finished her coffee and smiled.

“Well it sounds wonderful. When does it start?”

Sally returned the smile and ruffled Jacques’ hair.

“It already has. There is a class this afternoon, I could call Kerry and set it up if you like.”

Again the parents shared a look and a smile. Jean-Luc said gently,

“Make it so Ensign.”

Lunch over, Jean-Luc and Beverly prepared to leave. Beverly took one more look around the quarters before saying to Sally,

“The twins are in their cots, fed and changed. I’m not sure when we’ll be back but I’m not anticipating being very late. If you need to, call Gail Grundy if you need to rest.”

The Ensign grinned and nodded.

“Will do Doctor.”

Jean-Luc rose from his desk and joined his wife.

“Ready?”

“Yep.”

Just as they were about to leave, Beverly received a hail.

“Selar to Picard.”

“Picard here. Go ahead.”

“Doctor I have completed the scans for adrenaline. In all bodies, levels of adrenaline are one hundred and fifteen percent above saturation levels.”

Beverly grimaced.

“That’s an enormous amount! Have you taken a biopsy of the adrenal glands?”

“Yes Doctor. They all appear to be normal.”

“Well keep at it Selar, I’ll contact you when I get back. Picard out.”

Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows.

“Trouble?”

Beverly shrugged.

“Unknown. At the moment it’s just another aspect of the mystery.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips.

“Well we should go.”

“Right.”

As they walked to the Shuttle Bay Jean-Luc smiled.

“Ensign Miles does well with children doesn’t she.”

Beverly snorted.

“She ought to!”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Why?”

“Because she’s the eldest of nine children my love. She told me going to the Academy was a Godsend, she found the peace and quiet of the grounds wonderful…and sharing a room with just one other person…bliss!”

The Captain shook his head.

“Nine children? My God that’s a rarity these days. No wonder she knows so much about babies and pre-schoolers.”

“Hmm.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Will Riker was waiting for them in the Bay. His quiet insistence finally paid off resulting in both Beverly and Jean-Luc going down to the planet well armed.

Jean-Luc piloted the shuttle to a likely landing site within fifty metres of where the bodies were found. The Captain exited the little craft first, scanning in a wide circle before he would allow Beverly to join him. He grunted as she stepped to his side.

“I’m getting almost nothing.”

The doctor took some time to look around her. They were situated in a semi-clear plateau, to the south of their position the land fell away in a gentle slope to a swathe of trees, beyond which was the shore of a large sea. East and west the plateau rose slightly to more bush but to the north it rose sharply, the low scrub giving way to grassy tussocks until another plateau flattened the mountaintop. Birdsong could be heard and judging by the small clumps of manure dotted here and there, there was evidence of grazing animals.

Just before the rise to the east, four tents could be seen and surrounding them, equipment was strewn about. Jean-Luc gestured in that direction and both officers studied their tricorders as they walked.

They arrived at the shelters and Jean-Luc pointed to an area outside the middle tents.

“The bodies were found here…laid out side by side.”

Beverly turned and went up on tip-toe, lifting a hand to shade her eyes from the bright sun.

“I can just see the sea over the tops of the trees. How far do you think it is?”

Jean-Luc turned and mirrored her gesture with his hand.

“I’d say about a kilometre…not much more.”

Turning back to the tents, Beverly snorted.

“If we accept that’s where they drowned…how the hell did they get up here…and who laid them out?”

Jean-Luc grunted.

“I don’t know but I can guarantee it wasn’t the birds or the grazing animals. What occurred here smacks of intelligence…lethal intelligence. What we have to do is try to make contact.”

Beverly nodded.

“Hmm. Laying the bodies out like that…it was very ritualistic wasn’t it.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Perhaps…or they might have been simply leaving them for us to find. After all, they were brought back to their campsite.”

“I suppose so. In any case I’m going to want a sample of the sea water before we go.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Agreed. Will took all their computers…Data’s downloading the logs and going over their research. Once we get our samples we can leave.”

Beverly grinned and started back to the shuttle.

“I’ll get the cases. You check out the tents.”

The Captain tossed her a smile and nodded.

“Will do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Within an hour and a half they were finished. They lifted off from the planet and, while they made the relatively short journey back to the Enterprise, Jean-Luc asked,

“Beverly…those adrenaline levels…why would they be so elevated?”

The Doctor sat back in the cockpit seat and shrugged.

“I’m not sure. As you know, adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. It is responsible for many things, but the most obvious is the ‘flight or fight’ response. Adrenaline levels that high can be brought about by many causes, but I suppose my first guess would be enormous stress, most probably fear.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“That sounds bad. I mean adrenaline levels that high caused by fear would indicate abject terror in unprecedented amounts.”

Beverly sighed sadly.

“Pretty much.”

They were silent as they docked. As they exited the little craft, a call came from the Bridge. Predictably, it was Will.

“Riker to Picard.”

Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, Jean-Luc answered,

“Picard here.”

“Glad you’re back aboard Sir. Data has completed his analysis of the computers.”

“Very good Number One. I’ll be there shortly. Picard out.”

Before he could say anything else, Beverly gently gripped his arm.

“I’ll be in Sick Bay.”

About to protest, the Captain instead lowered his chin and nodded.

“All right. I’ll see you later.”

With a quick peck on his cheek Beverly left. A few minutes later Jean-Luc was on his Bridge. He wasted no time on pleasantries, directing both Will and Data to join him in his Ready Room.

“Report Data.”

With both senior officers seated in front of their CO’s desk, the android tilted his head and began.

“The information I have analysed is comprehensive Captain. The group had identified three biological specimens that meet the criteria for medical’s research. The leader, Lieutenant Kim Beazely had successfully extracted the pertinent cells of two of the specimens and had written a comprehensive report on the results. His second in command, Lieutenant Junior Grade Gerrul, J’Huz had identified an area to the north of their camp as being a rich area for further study. They had intended to move their camp up to the top of the plateau within days of the last entry and to that end, had set up preliminary markers to facilitate their work.”

Jean-Luc sat back and pursed his lips.

“I see. Was there any mention of concern? Any hint of trouble? Did they, for instance, encounter any evidence of intelligent life?”

Pulling down the corners of his mouth, Data shook his head.

“No Sir, none. To all intents and purposes the team were functioning well and succeeding admirably in their mission brief.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Exactly what has medical so excited?”

“The specimens found provided a substance that has wide ranging benefits to the medical community. So far they have identified uses in orthopaedics, haematology and oncology. Apparently the eventual uses for the manufactured drugs derived from the specimens could be significantly far reaching.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“And are the specimens floral or faunal?”

“Floral Captain, although one is a moss-like substance that may be more faunal than floral.”

The Captain stood, bringing his officers to their feet also.

“I see. Well until we hear more from Sick Bay we will wait.”

Hearing the dismissal, Will and Data turned to leave, but Jean-Luc called softly.

“Will? A moment if you please.”

The big man returned to the desk.

“Yes Captain?”

Jean-Luc let his stern command façade drop and smiled at his Exec.

“I will be on the Bridge for a few hours Number One. Why don’t you take some time off and spend it with your daughter.”

Will was about to refuse the offer when he saw his Captain’s eyes harden. Stifling his irritation, he instead summoned a smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Thank you Captain.”

Both men exited the Ready Room and Jean-Luc watched as the younger man entered the turbo lift. The Captain settled into his seat and stared balefully at the planet rotating lazily below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Deanna was seated in the living area of her quarters, head bowed in her hands and eyes firmly closed as her daughter screamed unceasingly. The Counsellor was bone tired and very distressed. She didn’t hear Will as he spoke; in fact it was his hand on her shoulder that startled her out of her morbid thoughts. She looked up at the man, tears streaking her gaunt face. Raising his voice to be heard over the cacophony, Will almost shouted,

“How long has she been like this?”

Lowering her head and shaking it slowly, Deanna shrugged and waved a hand in silence. Angered by her response, Will went to the cot and scooped up the baby, holding her against his chest as she arched her back and screamed louder, her little body rigid. The Commander rubbed her back and crooned, his efforts to comfort the baby utterly useless. After ten minutes the exasperated and frustrated man put the baby back in her cot and went to sit beside Deanna.

“Can’t you stop it?”

Keeping her head in her hands, the Counsellor tiredly shook her head. Will scowled and looked over his shoulder at his daughter, her little face red and sweaty as she bellowed.

“But you’re her mother!”

At the end of her tether, Deanna sprang to her feet and fisted her hands in the startled man’s tunic.

“Damn you Will Riker! It’s got nothing to do with me! Emily is a hybrid…something’s wrong with her!”

He glared up at the petite woman and growled loudly,

“Then do something about it!”

The slap to his face was loud even over the baby’s raucous din. Immediately on his feet, Will grabbed Deanna’s hands and shouted,

“How dare you!”

With tears of anger and frustration coursing down her cheeks, Deanna shouted,

“How dare I? Because you’ve all but abandoned us! Where have you been these last two days Will? I’m struggling here…I need help!”

“Then get someone to help you!”

Her eyes bored into his.

“You’re Emily’s father Will…I want your help!”

Will let go of her hands and wiped his face.

“All right what do you need from me?”

Deanna brushed at her tears and sighed.

“I’m going to call Beverly to see of she will give Emily a mild sedative so I can get some sleep. Would you stay?”

The big bearded man nodded.

“Okay.”

Grimacing at the noise, Deanna lifted her head and shouted,

“Troi to Doctor Picard.”

“Beverly here Deanna. What can I do for you?”

“Can you come to my quarters and bring a med kit please?”

“Will do…are you all right?”

Sighing deeply, Deanna answered,

“Not really but it’s Emily who needs to see you.”

“I can hear her! I’m on my way. Picard out.”

The parents sat down and Will leaned closer to be heard.

“Have you contacted the university on Betazed?”

Deanna nodded wearily.

“Yes, I’m waiting to hear from them.”

Casting an annoyed look at his daughter, Will growled,

“Will they be able to do anything?”

The tears began again.

“I don’t know!”

Seeing her distress, Will gently put an arm around his friend and eased her head onto his shoulder.

“It’ll be okay Dee.”

They sat in miserable glumness as the baby continued to scream. They didn’t hear the door chime so Beverly used her medical override to let herself in. Will looked up and grimaced.

“What a racket!”

Deanna lifted her head and nodded.

“I need to get some sleep Beverly. Can you give Emily a light sedative?”

The Doctor frowned.

“It’s not really recommended Deanna. Babies shouldn’t be sedated.”

The distress was clear in the Counsellor’s voice.

“I know but I have to get some sleep…and so does Emily. She’s been screaming for hours and she won’t feed.”

One look into Deanna’s desperate eyes was enough for Beverly. With a decisive nod she patted Deanna’s arm.

“Okay. I’ll just scan her first.”

Will and Deanna sat glumly while Beverly deployed her tricorder and scanned the baby. They didn’t hear the hiss of the hypospray, but the sudden cessation of noise made them realise their ears were ringing. Beverly turned the baby on her side and tucked her in. Deanna went to the cot and stared down at her daughter, tears flowing freely down her cheeks.

“How can one so small make so much noise?”

Beverly turned the scanner on her friend and frowned at the results.

“You’re dehydrated, you’ve not eaten sufficiently and you’re exhausted. I want you to eat something before you go to bed.”

About to protest, Will’s strong hand on her arm stifled her words.

“Don’t worry Beverly, I’ll see to it.”

Smiling her gratitude, Beverly packed up her med kit and made to leave. She hesitated at the door and said,

“Emily should sleep for about six hours. I recommend you try and feed her just as she wakes up. You might have better luck then.”

Both parents nodded. Almost as an afterthought Beverly muttered,

“And you Will Riker are relieved of duty for the foreseeable future.”

His mouth agape, he didn’t react until Beverly had already left the room. He caught up with her in the corridor outside.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I can’t be relieved of duty!”

Sighing and trying to ease the man’s angst, Beverly gripped his elbow.

“Listen to me Will…Deanna is at the end of her endurance. She’s had enough and needs help. What do you think is going to happen when Emily wakes up?”

The Commander shrugged.

“Hell I don’t know…I guess she’ll start crying again.”

“And how do you think Deanna’s going to cope with that? This sleep she’s about to have is the first in nearly fifty hours Will. Why don’t you know about that?”

The tall man ran a hand through his hair and had the good grace to look embarrassed.

“I…I…ah…”

“Will she needs your help. Be with her…help her through this. Emily’s your daughter too.”

Not willing to give up, Will tried one more time.

“But Beverly…relieving me?”

She smiled to take the sting out of her words.

“I’ll talk to the Captain, Will, it’ll be all right.”

As she walked off down the corridor she felt his eyes on her back.

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          Jean-Luc turned his head to greet his wife as she arrived on the Bridge. She gestured to the Ready Room and he nodded, saying quietly,

“You have the Bridge Data.”

Once inside, Beverly quickly outlined what had transpired with Will, Deanna and the baby. Jean-Luc nodded pensively and guided Beverly to the sofa where they both sat.

“I take it he resisted?”

Beverly grunted.

“Oh yes…in fact he was outraged.”

The Captain sighed.

“Damn. I was so hoping he would volunteer to take some time off to help Deanna. Just how is Emily?”

Beverly rubbed her forehead in exasperation.

“At the moment she’s exhausted and very hungry. The sedation I gave her was very gentle but it really went against the grain I can tell you. If Deanna wasn’t in such terrible need of rest I would have refused.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“There was no alternative?”

Beverly shrugged.

“Well I could’ve taken Emily to Sick Bay and kept her there while Deanna got some sleep but it would have been very disruptive…and besides with the empathic connection between mother and baby I don’t think Deanna would have allowed herself to be separated from her. In the long run the kindest thing for all involved was to sedate her.”

Jean-Luc sat back and crossed his legs.

“How long do you envisage keeping Will off duty?”

Beverly sighed and pushed back her hair.

“As long as it takes for Deanna to recover…maybe thirty-six hours.”

With a decisive nod, Jean-Luc brought the discussion to a close.

“Very well, although I may have to do more work up here instead of our quarters. I’ll talk to Data…see how he feels about it.”

Both officers stood and Beverly sighed as her husband kissed her tenderly. Before she turned to leave she said softly,

“I love you.”

He smiled and trailed one finger down her face.

“And I you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    At seventeen thirty-eight Jean-Luc walked into his quarters to be greeted by his oldest son, running to him at top speed, his right hand clutching some sort of construction.

“Papa! Look what I made!”

Staggering a little under the onslaught of Jacques cannoning into his legs, the Captain grabbed the boy’s shoulders to steady him.

“What have you got there Jacques?”

With a huge grin, the lad thrust his prize up towards his father’s face.

“It’s the Enterprise Papa!”

The man dropped to one knee and took the offered model. It was made with bits of stiff cardboard, paper and tinfoil and had been painstakingly painted. Over the saucer section was daubed…1701 E. Jean-Luc studied the construct, giving it his full attention. When he spoke to the boy, his voice was soft and very deep.

“This is marvellous Jacques. You have put a lot of work into this.”

His wife’s gentle voice made him smile.

“I told Jacques you made model Starships when you were a boy.”

As Jean-Luc stood, he picked up his son and directed his eyes to his wife, clearly showing his love and pride. Unaware of the by-play between his parents, Jacques piped up with,

“I made it at school.”

Jean-Luc kissed his son’s temple and raised his eyebrows.

“Did you now? What else did you do?”

As Jacques regaled his father about his afternoon, Beverly went to the twins and made sure they both had toys to play with. She sat on the sofa and let her head rest back on the cushions. When the chatter of her older son eventually diminished she opened her eyes and smiled as her husband sat beside her.

“How are things in Sick Bay?”

“Fine. We’re no further in identifying that chemical but all the autopsies are finished and the bodies have been prepared for transport back to their origins.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Good. Any news about Deanna and Emily?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No, but I intend to drop by after dinner. Emily should be waking up about then and I want to see if we can get her to have a feed. I really don’t want to have to feed her intravenously.”

The Captain frowned.

“Well I understand that, but you must be very tired. Can’t one of your staff do it?”

With a weary smile, Beverly shook her head.

“Deanna’s my best female friend Jean-Luc…she and Will need me at the moment.”

With a sigh of resignation, Jean-Luc capitulated.

“Very well. I’ll see to the children while you’re gone.”

She leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“Thank you my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Having fed the twins and enjoyed their own dinner, Beverly left her family and went to Deanna’s quarters. She knew as soon as no one answered the chime that things were once again bad. She used her override to enter and was surprised to find the volume of Emily’s crying wasn’t as bad as she had anticipated. However it was two very anxious parents who were attempting to encourage their reluctant daughter to feed. Deanna sat with the baby in her arms, one swollen, leaking breast exposed as she repeatedly offered her nipple. Emily would take it, suck once or twice then release it to wail piteously. As Beverly approached, Will ran a frustrated hand across his face and swore loudly.

“Shit! This is pointless!”

Before Deanna could remonstrate with the angry man, Beverly dropped a hand to his shoulder and gave a squeeze.

“Patience Will.”

To Deanna she said,

“Have you tried a bottle?”

Gritting her teeth, Deanna nodded grimly.

“Yes, with my milk and with formula. She just won’t accept anything!”

Beverly sat beside the distressed woman and held out her arms.

“Here, let me take her.”

It was with relief that Deanna handed over her daughter. Will stood and paced restlessly, his fingers raking through his hair.

“What’s the matter with her Beverly?”

Just then Deanna received a call from the Bridge.

“Counsellor there is an incoming message for you from Betazed.”

Closing her eyes, Deanna grimaced and muttered,

“If that’s Mother I’ll scream!”

Lifting her head she replied,

“Thank you Bridge, I’ll take it in my quarters. Troi out.”

She went to her computer and activated it while sitting and trying to tame her unruly hair. The face that appeared made her smile tiredly.

“Brun Embrahood! It’s good to see you.”

The dark haired man grinned widely.

“And you Deanna. When I saw your name attached to the enquiry to the university I made sure it was me who answered. So tell me, how is your daughter…and congratulations by the way.”

Deanna sighed, her smile turning worried.

“Thank you Brun. Emily’s not doing very well I’m afraid. She won’t feed and she gets very little sleep as she’s crying almost constantly.”

The Betazoid nodded thoughtfully.

“I see. How old is she? About one month?”

“Yes.”

The middle aged man smiled.

“That’s not unusual with hybrids Dee. I’m sending you a formula that should help, but to get it exactly right I need a genetic profile of both you and the father. Once we have that we can tailor the enzyme balance and end all this trouble once and for all.”

The tears that welled in Deanna’s eyes were ones of gratitude.

“Thank you Brun, you’re a gem.”

“No problem Deanna. Let me know how you get on…and this time don’t leave it so long to contact me.”

The Counsellor nodded.

“I won’t. Enterprise out.”

She then accessed her terminal and, as promised, the formula recipe was there. She downloaded it onto an isolinear chip then went to the replicator and placed the chip in the slot, allowing the central computer to analyse the information. Within two minutes the replicator conjured up a warmed bottle of dark cream liquid. Deanna took the bottle and went to Beverly, sitting beside her and taking back her fractious daughter. At first, when offered the bottle, Emily resisted, her screams becoming progressively louder, but after some of the liquid had entered her mouth, she suddenly stopped her struggles and began to suck, her efforts becoming increasingly stronger. Will came over to sit on the floor at Deanna’s feet, his mouth agape.

“Well I’ll be damned.”

As the baby fed, Beverly said softly,

“So who’s Brun Embrahood?”

Deanna smiled as she watched her daughter finally feed.

“His father is a dear friend of Mother’s. While I was growing up I used to see a lot of him, then later, when I was studying psychology, he was at the university teaching medical graduates. He’s a gastroenterologist.”

Beverly grinned.

“With a knack for helping hybrids.”

With the level in the bottle quickly dropping, Emily’s eyes began to droop. Beverly stood and gently squeezed Deanna’s shoulder.

“Well everything seems to be under control here. After you put Emily down I want you to go back to bed.”

The Counsellor looked up and smiled, but her tiredness made her usually shining black eyes dull.

“No argument there Beverly.”

Beverly nodded and turned her attention to Will.

“And you Commander…I want you to get some sleep too, but Deanna will need a decent meal when she wakes up and a quiet couple of days to follow. I’m counting on you to provide them.”

Stifling the irritated sigh that wanted to emerge, Will instead inclined his head and muttered.

“You got it Doctor.”

With nothing further to say, Beverly left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    The lighting was subdued in her quarters when she entered. Soft classical music wafted through the air and she spied her husband in his favourite chair, his nose buried in a book, the overhead spotlight providing enough light for him to read by.

After checking on the children, Beverly went and sat on the arm of his chair.

“I have good news.”

Jean-Luc closed the book on his finger and looked up, his eyebrows raised.

“Oh?”

Beverly spent a few moments telling her husband about the success with Emily. He smiled, his eyes warm and twinkling.

“That is good news. I know Deanna must be so relieved, but how is Will taking it?”

Beverly frowned.

“Actually he was so amazed he didn’t say much. He’s still upset at being relieved though.”

Jean-Luc stood and held out his hand while he placed his book on the low table.

“Well it’s still very good news. Now wife…I think you should go to bed.”

He expected her to acquiesce, but instead she sidled up to him, gathered his tunic and undershirts in her hands and pulled them free of his pants. She then insinuated her hands under his clothes to caress his skin. When she spoke her voice was low and sultry.

“Only if my husband comes with me.”

His eyes darkened and he sighed.

“I think that can be arranged.”

Thinking she would turn to go to their bedroom, she surprised him again by unzipping his trousers and reaching inside his briefs to gently grip his penis. With a gentle tug she led him slowly across the room to their bedchamber.

By the time they were standing beside the bed, he was hardening in her hand. She released him and stood before him, slowly stripping off her uniform. Jean-Luc mirrored her actions, divesting himself of his clothing…not hurriedly, but in a leisurely fashion, taking the time to watch each other as they stripped.

Once naked they kissed languidly, allowing the tension to rise slowly. As they kissed their hands caressed and touched, feather-like contacts that left them wanting more. When Jean-Luc’s fingers lightly circled her areolas she sighed into his mouth and danced her fingers down the length of his stiffening penis, dallying at the head and teasing the slit. He growled with soft sensuality and left her mouth, slothfully kissing his way down her neck to tarry at the suprasternal notch, pushing his tongue into the indentation. Beverly mewed softly and hefted his testicles, gently massaging them. His mouth travelled lower, planting open-mouthed kissed over the surface of her breasts. The Doctor arched her back, offering her breasts to him and he took the offer gladly, descending onto one nipple with his hot mouth as his fingers gently pinched out the other. Unable to continue her caresses, she lifted her hands to hold his head, pulling him closer and silently asking for more. He swapped nipples, lavishing each in turn with his tongue and teeth, while his hands roamed over her body.

He knew her body well, knew where her erogenous zones were and exploited them mercilessly. By the time he slowly sank to his knees in front of her she was panting with desire. With her legs already apart, Jean-Luc had no trouble spreading her with his fingers and kissing her intimately. While his tongue probed and lapped, his fingers slipped inside her, first one, then two, then three as Beverly pushed her hips forward, grinding herself against his questing mouth as her hands held his head.

He slid his fingers in and out of her while his tongue teased her with tantalising brushes and playful nips. Her continuous soft moans and copious lubrication told him she was close. He spread his fingers inside her and ground his tongue against her clitoris. Beverly inhaled sharply and rose up on the balls of her feet, pulling his face savagely against her sex. As her internal muscles rhythmically gripped him through her climax, Jean-Luc continued his actions, eliciting two more orgasms in her before he slowly eased off. He rose slowly and held her in his arms as she wilted against him. After a few seconds he guided her onto the bed and ushered her up the mattress until her head was lying on the pillows. He covered her with his body and her arms went around him as his erection slid through her saturated folds. She opened her legs and hitched them over his hips, their kisses passionate and protracted. Beverly could taste herself in his mouth and she sighed, pushing her hips up in an obvious invitation. He pulled back slightly then eased forward, his penis nudging into her entrance. As he slowly penetrated her she broke the kiss to bite his neck, her eyes screwed shut as he filled and stretched her. His need escalating rapidly, he didn’t wait but started to thrust quickly. Beverly gasped, her grip on his buttocks tightening. Jean-Luc suddenly rose up on his arms, staring down intently as he increased the power and frequency of his thrusts. Out of control, Beverly twisted and flexed under him, biting her lips to keep from crying out. Jean-Luc’s deep urgent voice made her open her eyes.

“Beverly…I’m going to come…”

It was the urgency that sent her over the edge. As he pushed deeply into her and shuddered through his orgasm, Beverly arched up off the bed, her mouth agape in a silent scream as her climax ripped through her. They held each other, their bodies caught in a rictus of ecstasy, only to collapse moments later in a sweaty, tangled heap, panting and gasping.

It was Lean-Luc who found his voice first. In a husky whisper he gulped and said,

“Oh God… Beverly that was…that was…oh God.”

Her smile was tired and lopsided but she had to agree.

“You can say that again my love.”

He rolled gently to one side and flopped onto his back, one arm flung across his face. Beverly turned onto her side and entwined their legs while resting one arm across his chest and nestling her head on his shoulder.

He raised his free hand and rubbed it through his body hair, snorting and smiling.

Intrigued, Beverly lifted her head.

“What?”

His deep voice rumbled through his body, making the Doctor sigh with happiness.

“I’m not drenched in your milk.”

She plucked at his chest hair and he let out a soft yelp.

“Ow!”

“That will teach you not to make fun of me. You know I couldn’t help that.”

He grinned.

“Still it is nice to be dry. Why, by the way, is that so?”

Beverly settled her head back on his shoulder and sighed.

“Because I’m taking medication to dry up my milk.”

That sobered the drowsy man.

“Oh. I’m sorry Beverly.”

She snuggled into his body and kissed his skin.

“No need my love, it was my decision.”

As he reached down to grip the blankets to pull them up, Beverly rode the movement and sighed when the soft coverings slid over her body. They were silent for a while before Jean-Luc muttered,

“Bon niut mon coeur. J’taime.”

With her eyes closed, Beverly smiled.

“Good night Jean-Luc, I love you too.”

They slipped seamlessly into sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Deanna slept so soundly she didn’t dream. The hand that shook her shoulder was insistent and she rose to wakefulness sluggishly, a groan of complaint and a grimace telling her disturber just how reluctant she was to wake. Will scowled and shook his head, increasing his grip of her shoulder and adding an irritated voice.

“Come on Deanna…wake up! The baby wants a feed.”

Emily’s wails could be heard and Deanna chose to ignore them.

As the words filtered through the fog in her mind, her disgruntled feelings gave way to rising anger. With her eyes firmly closed and her face set in grim lines she ground out through clenched teeth,

“Then feed her!”

The hand on her shoulder disappeared and the voice barked,

“What?”

Still refusing to open her eyes, Deanna sighed with disgust.

“Go to the replicator, get a bottle of the new formula and feed her.”

The mattress shifted as Will stood.

“That’s your job!”

Her anger now overriding her desire for more sleep, Deanna opened her eyes and glared up at the big man.

“You insensitive bastard! Go and feed your daughter and leave me alone!”

With a deep soft growl, Will turned for the door but Deanna stopped him in his tracks.

“And she’ll need to be changed.”

His outraged glare was pointless. Deanna had already closed her eyes again and snuggled down into her pillow. He gave her a final glare, just for the sake of it, then left the bedroom and went into the nursery. Emily wailed loudly in her cradle, her little fists clenched tightly. Leaving the distressed baby, Will went to the changing table and inspected the items, picking up a tube of cream, taking off the lid and sniffing the contents suspiciously. As Emily’s cries became more strident, the First Officer scratched his head and shrugged.

“Shouldn’t be too complicated.”

It was almost twenty minutes before Will finally succeeded in getting a clean nappy on his daughter. He held her up at arm’s length and scowled as the infant screamed. Trudging into the living area with his daughter held against his chest, Will retrieved the bottle from the replicator and went to Deanna’s favourite chair, sitting heavily and positioning Emily for her feed.

The baby was uncooperative. By now frantic, Emily squirmed in her father’s arms, amazing him by raising the volume of her screams even further. Will was fast losing his patience and was becoming scared. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to remember the previous day and what Deanna had done. He sighed, opened his eyes and attempted to get the teat of the bottle into Emily’s mouth. She wasn’t impressed by his efforts, arching her back and turning her head to the side. Will gritted his teeth and tried again, this time squeezing the soft bottle and managing to get a small quantity of the liquid inside her mouth. She coughed and gagged and there followed a period of silence. Will, thinking he was having some success, gently pushed the teat into his daughter’s mouth and waited. Nothing happened. Emily’s face slowly began to turn red and he suddenly realised she wasn’t breathing. He jerked the bottle out of her mouth and lifted her up. The sudden movement made Emily take a huge breath and she expelled in a long scream. Will swallowed his relief and again laid her in his arm. With determination borne of stubbornness, he persevered with the bottle until, quite abruptly, Emily started to suckle. One minute she was screaming uncontrollably, the next she was feeding; her little fists each side of the bottle and her unfocussed eyes staring up at her perplexed, but gratefully relieved father.

As the dreadful noise suddenly stopped, Deanna slowly relaxed her very tense body and opened her tightly closed eyes. It had been extremely difficult to lie passively in bed while her daughter screamed and Will struggled, but she knew she had to do it, if only to make him his take share of the load. She sighed deeply and centred herself, allowing her barriers to lower in order to sense her daughter and her father. From Emily she felt contentment and satisfaction. From Will she sensed amazement, relief and affection. Her eyebrows rose and she slowly sat up, pushing her unruly hair away from her face. She knew sleep was long gone, so she rose from the bed, donned her robe and went out into the day area. Will was so engrossed in watching his daughter suckle; he didn’t notice Deanna standing in front of him until she spoke.

“It feels wonderful doesn’t it.”

The Commander slowly lifted his head and instead of his trademark grin, he face was serious and contemplative. When he spoke his voice was soft and filled with awe.

“I never realised Deanna.”

Perching on the arm of the chair, Deanna sighed as the first paternal feelings from Will washed over in strong waves. Will’s eyes went back to his daughter and he shook his head.

“She’s so small.”

Deanna’s sigh was a sad one.

“With her feeding problems she’s put on very little weight since her birth.”

Will frowned and looked up at his friend.

“I’ve been a complete arsehole haven’t I.”

Deanna shrugged sadly.

“I sensed your anger and reluctance Will…and your fear but I never understood it.”

The big man closed his eyes and sighed.

“It’s true; I was angry…and afraid. When you first told me you were pregnant I was furious. It crossed my mind you had used the pregnancy to trap me, after all you had always used an implant. I thought maybe you would use the pregnancy to force me into something I didn’t want.”

Deanna swallowed her anger and dismay and strove to keep her voice even.

“Will what happened between you and me the night Emily was conceived was wonderful. Unexpected, but wonderful. How we ended up in my bed is a mystery to me but I don’t regret it. As for the implant, I haven’t been using one for some time…there just didn’t seem to be any point.”

Her eyebrow rose and she couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

“Besides, you’ve always used one.”

Will reddened and lowered his eyes.

“I had been receiving treatment for a sexually transmitted disease and I was advised to go off the implant during the therapy. I was clear of the disease when we had sex, but Selar had told me to wait another three weeks before a new implant was inserted to give my system time to recover.”

Deanna shook her head.

“So Emily’s conception was just bad, dumb luck.”

Will nodded.

“I guess so.”

The Counsellor nodded.

“Okay I can understand your anger, but why were you frightened?”

Will lowered his head and gently removed the now empty bottle from Emily’s slack mouth. Using his thumb, he wiped away a dribble of formula from her chin and gently lifted the baby to his shoulder. As Deanna watched in stunned amazement, Will rubbed and patted his daughter’s back. She sensed his reluctance to speak, but knew him well enough to know he would eventually be forthcoming. Emily burped up some liquid onto Will’s shoulder and Deanna patted his arm.

“Stay there, I’ll get a cloth.”

She was back in moments and cleaned up the mess. In a gentle voice she said.

“You can put her back in her cradle now.”

He lifted his head slowly and the look in his eyes took Deanna’s breath away.

“Would it be all right if I just held her a while longer?”

Battling her rising tears, Deanna nodded mutely, a lopsided smile in place. They sat in companionable silence for a while before Will started to speak in hushed tones.

“I never wanted to have kids. I never wanted to do to any child of mine what my father did to me.”

Deanna gently squeezed his shoulder, silently encouraging him to continue.

“I know that knowing what my father did made it easier for me to avoid doing the same things, but I couldn’t be sure…I couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t do exactly the same things. After all, I put my career above my love for you…above everything else…relationships, personal happiness…and I’ve hurt you deeply, something I never meant to do. In many ways I behaved just like my father and it disgusted me!”

He sat back and eased Emily into his arms.

“You know…and this is a really terrible thing to say…but when the Captain and Beverly got married I thought they were fools. They seemed to be willing to throw away everything they’d worked all their lives for…and for what? A legal contract?”

He snorted and shook his head.

“Madness! And then when they had kids I thought their insanity was complete. At any moment I expected them to say they were leaving the ship to set up some kind of domestic nirvana in la la land. I couldn’t understand it, especially the Captain…he was always so dedicated to his work…the ship…his Command. I just couldn’t see why they acted as they did. If they wanted a relationship, why didn’t they just have one like the rest of us? You know…share a bed, have some fun and no harm done. Why marriage…and why kids? It simply didn’t make any sense.”

He sighed and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.

“And then we spent that night together and I was happy about it. Sex with you isn’t like sex with any other woman…we have this…connection, this history and I kinda hoped it would continue, but when you told me you were pregnant I wanted to run away from you as fast as my legs would carry me.”

With a shake of his head, he sniffed and blinked away his tears.

“I’m sorry Deanna. I was a coward and a fool. I said hurtful things and I should’ve been there for you and Emily from the beginning.”

There was a sad silence before Deanna smiled through her tears.

“Well you’re here now Will.”

He nodded and smiled ruefully.

“And I’m here to stay…if you’ll have me.”

The kiss was a gentle one and Will closed his eyes with relief.

“Thank you Deanna, I won’t let you down…again.”

The Counsellor smiled warmly.

“I know.”

 

                     Beverly looked fondly at her husband as he poured another cup of coffee for her. Jacques was frowning down into his cereal bowl, idly pushing some of the soggy breakfast about with his spoon. Jean-Luc, understanding his son’s mood, sighed and gently replaced the coffee pot on its warmer.

“Jacques I know you’re disappointed but it can’t be helped. Uncle Data needs me on the Bridge.”

The youngster scowled.

“But why Papa? Uncle Will doesn’t mind if you work from here. Why won’t Uncle Data let you stay home?”

Jean-Luc sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“It’s not that Uncle Data won’t allow me to work from here Jacques, it’s just that he is more comfortable with me on the Bridge at this time.”

The piping voice was querulous.

“But why Papa?”

Taking pity on the vexed man, Beverly reached out and gently squeezed her son’s hand.

“Jacques Papa must do his duty…you know that.”

The boy shook his head.

“But he can do his duty here.”

Her smile was tender.

“Sometimes yes, he can, but right now he has to present himself to the Bridge and we need you to be a big boy and not make a fuss about it.”

The lowered eyes and pouting lip made Beverly inwardly smile…so like his father.

“Come on Jacques…be fair. Papa spends as much time with you as he can! It’s not easy for him you know, being the Captain and your Papa too.”

With a lifted chin, Jacques said defiantly,

“But Maman Papa is the Captain…he can do whatever he wants! If Papa wants to stay here, Uncle Data would have to say yes.”

Beverly sighed in frustration and Jean-Luc sent her a look of gratitude. He sat back and drained his cup before addressing his son.

“Do you think that would be fair Jacques?”

The boy looked at his father with confusion.

“What?”

The Captain gave a half smile.

“Think about it Jacques. Do you think it would be fair of me to work here from our quarters when I knew Uncle Data wanted me on the bridge?”

The boy frowned deeply.

“Uncle Data’s really smart. He would be all right.”

“Uncle Data is a subordinate officer Jacques and, even though he is very, very smart, he relies on me to guide him…to show what we call ‘leadership’. And I can’t do that by staying here in our quarters when I’m needed on the Bridge.”

Finally giving up, Jacques sighed and pushed his bowl away.

“All right Papa.”

Beverly smiled at the boy and ruffled his hair, earning her an admonishing look as the offended lad attempted to smooth the damage with his hands.

“Have you finished your breakfast?”

The boy nodded.

“All right, help me clear the table then you can play with your brothers.”

While the dishes were cleared, Jean-Luc went to his desk and sorted through some PADDs. He separated the ones he wanted from the pile just as Beverly appeared at his side.

“The water in the lungs of the deceased is identical to the water we collected from the beach.”

The Captain looked up and scowled.

“So they did drown at the beach.”

“Yep.”

He ran an exasperated hand over his bald pate.

“Then how the hell did they get back to the campsite?”

Beverly shrugged.

“I’ve no idea, but would it be possible for me to go back down?”

Jean-Luc’s eyes glittered.

“Why?”

“Because I want to go to the top of the plateau for some more samples.”

With his arms slowly folding over his chest, Jean-Luc gave the request some thought.

“I take it you think it important.”

The Doctor nodded.

“Yes. I want as much information as I can get. There is a chance…admittedly a very small one…but a chance nonetheless, that the unidentified chemical in the bodies may have a source somewhere within their search areas and if that’s so, then I need to find it.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“Agreed. I’ll come down with you.”

Beverly’s expression mirrored her conflicting emotions.

“Do you think that’s wise Jean-Luc? As much as I enjoy your company…with Will still off duty and Data requesting your presence on the Bridge…”

He dismissed her concerns with a wave of his hand.

“I’m sure Data can hold the fort for as long as it takes to gather a few samples.”

Her face cleared but doubt still lingered under the surface.

“Well all right. This afternoon?”

His smile made his eyes crinkle.

“Uh huh. I’ll give you a call.”

He picked up his PADDs and Beverly gently halted his movement by placing her hand on his chest. They shared a tender kiss then she whispered in his ear.

“Thank you for last night…it was…incredible.”

He closed his eyes as a wave of heady emotion coursed through his body. When he opened them he smiled rakishly.

“I aim to please.”

He stepped past the amused woman, not at all surprised to feel the slap to his behind. After giving his sons a kiss each he left his quarters, his heat brimming with happiness and his step light.

 

 

 

 

                 Having outlined his intentions to his Second Officer, Jean-Luc endured the predictable protests until his patience wore thin. Adopting an uncompromising Command façade, Jean-Luc’s voice softened and his dark eyes hardened. Data, an astute student of body language and the subtle nuances of his CO in particular, immediately recognised the end to the situation.

“Mr.Data I will be going down to the planet in the company of Doctor Picard this afternoon. This discussion is closed.”

Although his golden eyes dilated, there was no other outward sign of dismay or discomfort to be seen in the android, despite his emotion chip providing both feelings in abundance. With an incline of his head, Data acquiesced.

“Aye Captain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                The next few hours were quiet, the usual efficiency of the Bridge heightened by the Captain’s presence. Just after noon, Jean-Luc rose and went into his ready room, saying over his shoulder,

“You have the Bridge Mr.Data.”

The Captain had only had enough time to order a sandwich and a cup of tea from the replicator when his door chimed. As he seated himself behind his desk, he called,

“Come.”

Data came in and Jean-Luc gestured to the seat in front of his desk.

“Please Data…sit.”

The android did as his CO suggested and placed his hands on the desktop.

“What can I do for you?”

Tilting his head to one side, Data tried to predict the reaction to his next words.

“Captain Picard I would like to ask you to reconsider your decision to go down to the planet.”

Although anger and irritation spiked, Jean-Luc knew Data well enough to realise there was something more than stubborn adherence to standard operational procedures behind his request. Sitting back and picking up the crystal shard that lived on his desk, Jean-Luc’s face was completely unreadable. His voice was very soft and deep.

“Why?”

“Sir our sensors have recorded an inherent instability in the atmosphere. The computer has analysed it and concludes there is a ninety six point five percent chance of severe gravimetric storms imminent. It would be unwise for either you or Doctor Picard to be on the surface when they hit.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips.

“Gravimetric storms are a very localised phenomenon. Are you certain the area we will be covering is under threat?”   

Data shrugged.

“No Captain I am not certain, but the danger exists.”

The Captain lowered his head and ran his fingers over his lower lip.

“The samples Doctor Picard wants to collect are of vital importance Data. Surely we can use our tricorders to alert us of any approaching storms?”

The corners of Data’s mouth turned down.

“As you know Captain, our instruments are almost ineffectual on the planet’s surface. Their use would be severely limited.”

“All right, what about the shuttle’s sensors?”

Data frowned.

“They would have sufficient sensitivity to be of use Captain but how can you stay close enough to the shuttle to hear the alarm if you are off collecting samples?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Look Data I’m sure the Doctor and I can work something out. Your caution is commendable, but I really think this discussion is moot. Thank you.”

Hearing the dismissal didn’t make Data feel very confident in leaving. He sighed and opened his mouth to continue. Anticipating this event, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No Data, my mind is made up. Please desist.”

With no further room to manoeuvre, Data stood and nodded.

“As you wish Captain.”

After the android had left Jean-Luc tapped his combadge.

“Picard to Picard.”

The amusement in Beverly’s voice when she replied made the Captain smile.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that Captain. What can I do for you?”

“Are you ready to leave?”

“Yes.”

“And the children?”

He heard her sigh.

“Jacques is at preschool and Ensign Grundy is with the twins now, but Sally is due to relieve her in about an hour.”

The Captain sat back and nodded.

“Good. We shouldn’t be too long…have you got everything you need?”

“Pretty much. I’ll call down to the Shuttle Bay and have the duty officer load. How much time do I have?”

“Oh I think fifteen minutes…longer if you need.”

“No that should be fine. I’ll meet you in Bay three in a quarter of an hour. Crusher out.”

Jean-Luc sighed and lifted his head.

“Doctor?”

The reply was cautious.
“Yes?”

“I beg your pardon.”

Now she sounded confused.

“What?”

“You haven’t been Doctor Crusher for almost five years.”

There was a blank silence followed by,

“Oh. I did it again didn’t I.”

His chuckle was warm.

“Look I really don’t mind…are you sure you still want me to tell you when you forget?”

The growl was low.

“I didn’t forget Jean-Luc! I just…it’s habit dammit. I’ve been saying ‘Crusher out’ for bloody years! How would you cope if your last name was changed?”

He grinned.

“I would be all at sea my love, but your name change was your idea. I was perfectly happy for you to keep your old name; you were under no obligation to change.”

Her voice softened.

“I know, but I wanted to take your name Jean-Luc. Besides, now that we have kids I think it’s fitting we all have the same surname.”

“Agreed. Now…our fifteen minutes has been significantly eroded. I’ll see you in twenty minutes. Picard out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                The shuttle had just cleared the bay for the relatively short journey down to the planet when Beverly turned her clear cerulean eyes on her husband. Taking a few moments to admire his patrician features, she frowned and broke the gentle silence.

“Jean-Luc I want to ask you something, but I don’t want you to get upset.”

He made some course adjustments before he turned his head and raised an eyebrow.

“Well you may ask Beverly, but I can’t say how I will react until I hear the question.”

Beverly sighed at his rather predictable reply, but nodded her agreement of his stipulation.

“Okay, fair enough. I want to know why you’re so keen to come with me. You know as well as I you’re breaking SOP by accompanying me and it’s not like you to do that. This is the second time you’ve suggested you come with me…is it because you really want to be a part of the investigation in a hands on fashion, you don’t think I’m up to the work on my own…or you’re simply being over-protective?”

His initial reaction was irritation, followed by a spike of anger and it surprised him, both by the appearance of such feelings and the intensity they held inside him. He sat back and took a deep breath, settling himself and trying to be objective.

“Are you asking me as my CMO…or as my wife?”

Beverly shrugged, a little shaken by his query.

“They’re one in the same aren’t they?”

He shook his head.

“No, they’re not. Beverly throughout our marriage have I ever let our relationship colour my judgement or perception of your job? Have I, for instance, ever refrained from sending you on a dangerous mission because we are married?”

The Doctor shook her head, her frown deep.

“And I can tell you why. I respect you as an officer and a highly trained professional. To let my feelings interfere in the committal of your duties would be criminal. But…as your husband I feel fear every time you leave the ship.”

He sighed deeply.

“I can’t help that my love, but it’s my problem to overcome and I strive to do so. Now as for this mission, I have to admit I am motivated by feelings of wanting to protect you, though I think your current physical and mental condition is relevant to that; however I can assure you I am here for purely professional reasons. Seven people have died under suspicious circumstances and I want to find out why.”

Beverly nodded slowly, not fully convinced.

“Okay, but you’ve rarely exercised your prerogative to go on away teams…like I said it’s against SOP. Why now…why this mission in particular?”

Jean-Luc brought the little craft into a gentle landing at the campsite and deactivated the engines. He sat back in his seat and grinned ruefully.

“Boredom.”

Beverly’s eyebrows rose incredulously.

“What?”

His grin widened.

“You heard me…boredom. Do you know what it’s been like all these years…sitting up there on the Bridge while others do the work? Listening to their reports…watching them go about their duties and not being able to do much more than monitor them? It’s hell Beverly…sheer unadulterated hell and I’m tired of it. An opportunity appeared that gave me the excuse to not only leave the ship on an away mission, but to do so with my wife…who, coincidentally, isn’t in the best of health and could do with some care. All right…it’s against SOP and if called on it I would probably be censured by my superiors, but it’s my decision to make…and I’ve made it.”

Beverly regarded her husband silently, once again marvelling at his ability to surprise her. She gave a small smile, just a tipping of one corner of her mouth and muttered,

“Still…it’s a little over protective isn’t it?”

The captain shrugged.

“Perhaps. Put it down to my maleness…or consanguineous concerns.”

That made Beverly snort in disbelief.
“Consanguineous concerns? Explain.”

Having activated the hatch controls, Jean-Luc stood, assisted Beverly to her feet and guided her to the aft section and the opening hatch.

“All Picard men over the centuries have been protective of their women. It’s in the blood.”

That made Beverly gape.

Their women? Don’t you think that’s a tad chauvin…”

The Captain held up a hand and rolled his eyes.

“Please…don’t accuse me of being a chauvinist again Beverly.”

He sighed.

“Look just accept the fact that I’m an old fashioned man and that when we took our marriage vows I committed myself to you…and that means, amongst other things, affording you my protection. All right?”

Throwing her hands in the air, Beverly lifted her head and sighed.

“God…you are the most…”

She suddenly lowered her hands and gazed at her husband with unabashed love.

“The most chivalrous, noble…drop-dead gorgeous man I’ve ever known.”

His smile was warm, but he was embarrassingly disgruntled, his frown showed that.

“Well…ah…thank you. Now we’d best unload our equipment, then I’ll set the sensors to watch the weather.”

The Doctor grinned, her ability to discomfit him amusing her.

“Okay…Captain.”

He heard her impertinent tone and sighed, although inside his heart sang.

“Oh my love…I adore you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    They spent an hour collecting samples before Beverly stood and stretched. She wandered over to Jean-Luc and gained his attention.

“It’s time we went up to the top of the plateau.”

He nodded and glanced over at the shuttle.

“We can leave most of the equipment here.”

Beverly nodded.

“Agreed.”

Within minutes they were hovering over the mist-clouded plateau. Beverly could tell by the tense set of his shoulders that the information he was getting from the scanners didn’t meet with his approval.

“What is it?”

He sighed and shook his head.

“There’s nowhere to land.”

Leaning over to get a look at the screen, Beverly scowled.

“What do you mean? There must be somewhere.”

The Captain grunted in frustration.

“I’m afraid not. The entire surface of the plateau…which by the way isn’t all that big…is covered by jagged rocks and unstable shale. There just isn’t anywhere to put down safely.”

Scratching her head, Beverly let out an exasperated breath.

“So what do we do?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“There’s only one thing we can do. Land back at the campsite and climb up ourselves.”

In the silence that followed Jean-Luc turned and watched his wife. He could see her uncertainty.

“Don’t worry about it Beverly. I’ll take us back to the Enterprise and detail another team to do this. It won’t take all that long.”

Her head snapped around, the fire in her eyes unmistakable.

“You will not! Land the bloody shuttle Jean-Luc!”

He sighed and shook his head.

“I really don’t think you’re up to this.”

She had to concentrate on not raising her voice.

“I most certainly am up to this…for God’s sake stop coddling me. Land the shuttle and we’ll climb up to the plateau.”

He had two choices. He could acquiesce and allow her to attempt the task or he could pull rank and order her back to the ship. Each choice had its pitfalls; the knack was to choose the one least likely to cause the most trouble. He sighed and gave in.

“Very well…if you’re sure.”

The withering look made him inwardly wince. In frosty silence he landed the shuttle and proceeded to take out the necessary equipment. Once suitably prepared they walked to the steep rise and looked up into the thickening mist. With a gentlemanly gesture of his hand, Jean-Luc beckoned his wife to precede him.

“After you.”

She huffed theatrically and began to climb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Despite the insidious dampness of the all-pervading thick mist, they were both hot and sweaty when they finally crested the top. Beverly sat heavily, drawing her knees up and resting her forearms, her head bowed. Jean-Luc slid his backpack off his shoulders and set it down beside his wife before dropping to one knee and gently gripping her shoulder.

“Are you all right?”

With a deep sigh, Beverly raised her head and summoned a wan smile.

“Yeah…a little winded, but I’m okay. What now?”

Jean-Luc stood and squinted off into the swirling mist.

“Well as soon as you’re ready we’ll collect the samples then I suggest we skedaddle out of here…post haste.”

Beverly’s chuckle made him glance down at her, a frown on his face. With raised eyebrows he silently queried. Beverly chuckled again and supplied the answer.

“Skedaddle?”

He shrugged and grinned ruefully.

“Well…it seemed appropriate.”

She held up her hand, snorting with amusement.

“Help me up Jean-Luc…you never cease to amaze me.”

Delighted that he had managed to surprise his wife, the Captain helped her up then bent to open his backpack. He removed several items then straightened and looked off to his left.

“I’ll start over there.”

Dusting off her seat, Beverly nodded.

“Okay, I’ll go over there.”

She pointed behind her and Jean-Luc grunted.

“Keep your communicator on an open channel. Once we go into the mist we won’t be able to see each other.”

Beverly nodded.

“Agreed.”

They parted and once Jean-Luc had reached a likely spot he tapped his comm. badge.

“Can you hear me Beverly?”

Her reply was laced with warmth.

“Yes my love.”

“Good. I’ve reached the outer marker and I’m about to start.”

“Okay, I’ve just about to reach my marker…I’ll set up my apparatus in a minute.”

“Very well.”

Just as Jean-Luc set his backpack down the loose shale slipped down towards the edge of the easterly drop. The Captain grabbed the pack and dug his feet in, leaning back until his hand met the ground. His movement was stopped and he swallowed, edging forwards to peek over the lip. The drop was hidden by the mist but he knew from the shuttle’s scans that there was a sheer fall of twelve metres before a series of ledges broke the sloping drop back down to the campsite, three hundred and eighty seven metres below. He sighed and sat back, scrabbling backwards away from the drop. Once he felt safe, he deployed his equipment.

Both Jean-Luc and Beverly had been diligently working before the Doctor looked up, frowning at the darkening sky, such as she could discern through the mist. She tapped her badge.

“Jean-Luc?”

His response was immediate.

“Yes?”

“Is it my imagination…or is it getting darker?”

He frowned as he looked around him, the failing light now obvious to him.

“As a matter of fact it is, but we’re supposed to have several more hours of daylight yet.”

Remembering the briefing her husband had given her, she muttered,

“Gravimetric storms?”

“It could be. We’d batter pack up and prepare to leave. Are you almost finished?”

“Yes…you?”

He smiled.

“Yes I was taking the last sample.”

“Me too. I’ll meet you back where we came up.”

“Will do.”

He quickly began to pack his equipment and had almost completed his task when there was a sudden bolt of sickly green energy. It struck only a few metres from him and he cowered, his arms over his head.

“Beverly!”

Her reply was scratchy.

“Yes…I can hardly hear you.”

“Plasma bolts! Start down now…I’ll catch you up.”

“No! Where are you?”

“Beverly…get down to the shuttle…NOW!”

He heard his communicator crackle and all of the hair on his body rose. He smelled the change of atmosphere and grabbed his backpack, rising to his feet to make a run for it. The bolt slammed into the shale next to him, sending up a choking cloud of dust. The energy rebounded off the ground and hit his side, searing his flesh. His strangled cry was drowned out by the tremendous roar that followed the bolt. His body was blown sideways towards the drop and landed near the edge. In a semiconscious daze he dug his fingers into the shale but it was too late. With ponderous increments his legs and hips slid over the edge, teetered for several sickening seconds before his upper body suddenly slipped silently over the lip.

He dropped like a limp rag doll, his body turning lazily through the charged air. He tried to curl up and protect his head but in his dazed state he had little control over his body. He slammed back first into an ancient desiccated bush, the brittle, dry wood exploding with devastating results. Vicious shards of wood were driven into his body as the timber skeleton offered no resistance, his body smashing through it and into the stone ledge with deadly force.

Shale fell over his unconscious, bleeding form, covering him into a blue-black shroud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        As Beverly approached the easterly marker she slowed her steps and dropped to all fours. Another bolt of plasma struck the ground off to her right and her hair rose off her scalp. She coughed in the thinning air and waited until the oxygen returned before creeping closer to Jean-Luc’s backpack. She reached it and looked frantically around, seeing nothing of her husband. She lifted her head and yelled,

“Jean-Luc! Where are you?”

With no other sounds but those of the raging storm, she set about searching for her Captain. As she made a pass close to the edge she saw the furrows his hands had left in the shale. Her face paled and, as she moved closer, she saw blood which had made gory clumps in the shale dust.

“NO!”

She slapped her comm. badge.

“Picard to Enterprise!”

Nothing…just static.

“This is Doctor Picard calling the Enterprise…Emergency! Two to beam immediately to Sick Bay!”

Again there was no reply.

“Dammit!”

Lying flat on her stomach, Beverly inched to the edge, digging her feet into the shale and pushing backwards with her hands, she looked over the rim. She could see nothing but the thick mist. She called again.

“Jean-Luc!”

But she got no reply. As she wriggled backwards, away from the edge there was another plasma bolt strike nearby, blasting an inspissated cloud into the air, causing her a hacking cough. With gritty, streaming eyes, Beverly scrabbled back to the spot where they had crested the top and began a pell-mell descent. Heedless of her own safety, the Doctor went at break-neck speed, rushing headlong down the steep slope. It was of no surprise that she eventually went head over heels, tumbling out of control until the slope became less steep. She rolled one more time then regained her feet, loping down the slope with long strides. When she finally made it to the campsite, she was bleeding from several wounds and scrapes and was badly out of breath. In a staggering run she made for the shuttle. Just as she approached the open hatch a tall being stepped out of the craft. Beverly skidded to a halt and swallowed to catch her breath. Now out of the mist, in the gloomy light the Doctor regarded the greenish-blue creature. It was tall, over two metres and had webbed hands and feet, with a fin-like organ that went from the forehead, over the head and down the being’s back.

Beverly allowed a few seconds of silent inspection before she took a tentative step forward. She smiled and held up her hands.

“I mean no harm.”

The being stared blankly at her, the nictitating membranes of its eyes flicking twice and the deep slits in its neck wetly opening and closing.

Growing frustrated, Beverly stepped closer.

“I’m sorry, but I need the shuttle. My…mate is injured and I need to help him.”

She was about to step closer still when the being lifted one webbed hand. In it was a small device, the tip of which glowed bright blue. Beverly knew a weapon when she saw one. She shook her head.

“No…please…”

She turned to run only to be confronted by two more beings, each holding a weapon. She spun back to the being at the shuttle.

“Please! I mean no harm…I must go!”

With no thought of her own safety, Beverly tried to brush past the alien. As she went by its shoulder it raised its other hand and she felt a sting over her breast. She stopped abruptly and looked down to see blood start to colour her uniform. As her body began to register the effects of a drug she said breathlessly…

“No…what have you done?”

She very quickly lost control of her body, collapsing onto the ground. She could see, hear, taste, smell and feel but had absolutely no command of any muscle in her body. She felt herself lifted over the shoulder of the alien and her eyes faithfully recorded their passage over the ground, although she could only see in one direction…she could not move her eyes or blink.

She was placed face down on a vehicle of some sort, cylindrical and cold. It rose silently and moved off towards the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Data took one more look at the screen and quietly summoned his CO.

“Commander Riker to the Bridge please.”

Will emerged quickly from the ready Room.

“Yes Data?”

“Sir there are significant gravimetric storms over the plateau.”

Will’s stomach immediately soured. He cast a sideways glance at the Lieutenant at Tactical and said firmly,

“Hail the Captain.”

Several seconds later the young man said apologetically,

“No response Sir.”

Still in civilian clothing, Will wished he could tug down his tunic. He took a deep breath and came to his decision.

“Right I’m taking a shuttle and an away team and I’m going down to see if they’re all right. Data you have the…”

The android Second Officer stood and shook his head.

“No Commander. You are still listed as being off duty…and in any case, you are the senior ranking officer aboard. It would be inappropriate for you to leave the ship.”

Will’s usually friendly blue eyes glittered angrily as he prepared to argue his case. Data, however, was not to be swayed.

“I will lead the away team Sir.”

Snapping his mouth closed, Will nodded grimly.

“Okay, but you get back here pronto…and bring them home…don’t take no for an answer.”

Data’s smile was warm.

“Aye Commander.”

As Will seated himself in the vacated centre seat, he lifted his head.

“Riker to Troi.”

“Troi here, go ahead.”

“Deanna I’m going to have to stay up here a little longer…something’s come up.”

There was a moment’s hesitation before Deanna asked.

“Is everything all right?”

Will sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“We don’t know…yet. Can you sense Beverly or the Captain?”

“No…not really.”

“Okay, thanks anyway.”

“Let me know Will…Troi out.”

The big man stared sullenly at the planet and snorted.

“I knew he shouldn’t have gone down there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Flying a shuttle through a gravimetric storm required superlative skill and, even with the shuttle’s shields activated, the little craft was severely buffeted. Data hovered over the shuttle at the campsite and scanned as best he could under the circumstances. With only partial scans available, Data ascertained there were no humanoid life forms present. He inputted the appropriate commands and the ship rose and ascended the rise up to the plateau. As had the Captain before him found out, there was nowhere to land. Instead Data piloted the vessel very low, slowly skimming over the surface until he found first Beverly’s equipment, then the Captain’s backpack…too near the edge of the cliff for comfort. Utilising exceptional skill, Data brought the shuttle to a static hover and kept the craft steady while a crewman jumped from the open hatch to reconnoitre. He returned fifteen minutes later and was assisted aboard by his ship mates.

Data turned in his seat and said,

“Report Ensign.”

The sandy haired young man swallowed and caught his breath.

“Sir I’m afraid it’s bad news. There is evidence to suggest someone has gone over the edge. I found drag marks and blood Sir.”

The android spent a few seconds forming and discarding hypotheses. Eventually he settled on one.

“Perhaps one of our officers fell over the cliff and the other is mounting a rescue. We must investigate.”

The storm was slowly abating and the plasma bolts were coming less infrequently, but Data kept the shields at full strength and piloted the shuttle with due caution. He took the little ship over the edge and turned on the powerful flood lights, keeping the nose of the craft facing the cliff. Twelve metres down they found the Captain’s body, partially buried under a cover of shale.

With the same skill as before, Data positioned the shuttle close enough to allow crewmembers to jump a short distance to the ledge. Only this time Data utilised the computer to take control while he left the ship in the company of two crewmen. They landed near the Captain and went straight to him, tricorders scanning. While Data cleared the shale from Jean-Luc’s face, one of the Ensigns muttered,

“I’m reading very faint life signs Commander, but I can’t tell what his injuries are.”

“Understood Ensign. We will have to be very careful in how we get him on board. Moving him may be dangerous.”

“Yes Sir, but we have to get him back to the Enterprise really quickly Commander.”

Data looked up and tilted his head.

“I am aware of that Ensign. Go back to the shuttle and get a whole body pressure suit.”

“Aye Sir.”

While the Ensign was gone, Data and the other officer gently straightened Jean-Luc’s grotesquely twisted body. The woman assisting Data suddenly paled.

“Commander…there’s so much blood…”

“Are you all right Ensign? Are you going to faint?”

Pausing in gently pulling the Captain’s unnaturally crooked leg out straight; Data suddenly grabbed the woman’s body as she slumped forward. He lifted her and laid her beside his CO before returning his attention to his Captain. The mist was rapidly clearing by the time the Ensign returned with the pressure suit. Together the two men eased the Captain into the suit and closed it, activating the air pump to supply the pressure that they hoped would control the bleeding and keep his battered body stable enough to move.

Such was their caution it took over twenty minutes to get Jean-Luc aboard the shuttle. The Ensign who had fainted had recovered and sat pale and shaking in one of the aft seats. Data ran a tricorder over the Captain before going to the cockpit for the journey back to the Enterprise.

As they cleared the surface, Data opened a channel.

“Data to Enterprise.”

“Riker here. Go ahead.”

“Commander I have found Captain Picard. He is severely injured Sir. Request immediate transport direct to Sick Bay.”

“Understood.”

Data heard the order and turned to see his Captain’s body disappear in a sparkle of blue light.

“Thank you Commander. I will return to the surface to search for Doctor Picard.”

“Any sign of her Data?”

“Not so far Sir.”

“Right…keep me posted, Enterprise out.”

As Data made the course corrections to take them back to the plateau, he said over his shoulder,

“Will you be able to continue Ensign?”

“The young woman nodded, lifting her chin.

“Yes Sir…I’m sorry I fainted.”

Data nodded silently and brought the shuttle to a hover over Beverly’s equipment. He then turned in his seat and addressed his crew.

“It is my intention to have the shuttle maintain this position at a height of one point five metres above the surface. We will disembark and search the plateau for any signs of Doctor Picard. Any questions?”

Receiving shakes of the head, Data turned back to the controls and opened the aft hatch. As the crew stood he said,

“Do not go too close to the drop on the east side. I will search there.”

The two Ensigns muttered,

“Yes Sir”

 As they jumped from the craft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Will arrived in Sick Bay as they were removing the pressure suit from Jean-Luc. Blood dripped onto the floor and the big man swallowed, his eyes squinting as he took in the ghastly sight of his friend’s smashed body. He stood to one side as he listened to Doctor Selar catalogue Jean-Luc’s injuries.

“Two skull fractures…prepare a deep neurological scan. Four crushed vertebra, five broken ribs, lacerated kidney, severe bruising to the liver, ruptured abdomen and spleen with accompanying internal bleeding. Pelvis is in eight pieces both legs multiple fractures, left arm broken in five places…both scapulas shattered. There are multiple wounds with pieces of wood deeply embedded and a severe burn to his right side. Prepare him for surgery…STAT. I want whole blood and plasma drips…get a line in and the worst of the wounds packed with super absorbent gauze.”

The staff hurried to carry out their orders. Selar stepped back and faced her worried CO. She spoke without waiting for the inevitable questions.

“His injuries are severe; however I believe he will make a full recovery, provided I can get him to surgery quickly enough. At the moment blood loss and shock are the most pressing concerns, that and the skull fractures. I will know more soon.”

Will gave a curt nod, both acknowledging her words and dismissing her. The Vulcan physician left him and ushered her patient into the surgery suite. The Commander gained the attention of a passing nurse.

“I will be in Counsellor Troi’s quarters. Please call me as soon as you have any information about Captain Picard.”

“The young man nodded.

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Deanna, already aware of the tension and worry in her friend, faced the door expectantly as he approached. She called out just before he pressed the chime.

“Come in Will.”

The Commander strode in, his face softening as he took in the scene before him. Deanna was lying on the sofa, her head and shoulders propped up with pillows as she fed their daughter. Will sat on the arm of the sofa and rubbed his face with his hands.

“How is he?”

Will shook his head.

“Bad. Multiple injuries…severe blood loss…shock….need I go on?”

Deanna grimaced.

“I sense very little from him…he’s deeply unconscious. What happened?”

Will shrugged.

“To be honest I don’t know. We got a call from Data to say they’d found him, but I know little more than that.”

“And Beverly?”

Will sighed.

“No sign of her yet.”

Seeing that Emily had finished the bottle, Deanna sat up and was about to burp her when Will’s large hands appeared and he took the baby, gently settling her on his shoulder. As Deanna watched his gentle patting, she sighed.

“Well there’s no way Beverly would have left the Captain…unless she went to get help. Where was he found?”

Will shook his head.

“I don’t know.”

Deanna laid a gentle hand on Will’s thigh.

“Look, under the circumstances I think you’d better return to duty…your place is on the Bridge. Contact Data and get the information you need.”

Seeing the uncertainty in his eyes, Deanna smiled to give him the encouragement he needed.

“Go Will. I’ll get someone to watch Emily and I’ll go down to Sick Bay. I’ll keep you posted…as long as you do the same for me.”

Handing his daughter back to her mother, Will stood and gave a nod.

“Do you mind if I get changed here?”

She shook her head.

“Not at all.”

The big man disappeared into her bedroom, emerging minutes later in uniform. He went to Deanna and planted a kiss on her cheek.

“I’ll be in touch.”

She smiled and nodded.

“Thanks.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Beverly’s eyes were tearing as they reacted to the salty air of the beach. The craft settled on the sand and she felt straps placed tightly over her back and legs. The alien being straddled her and the craft lifted from the sand, heading out to sea. They skimmed over the surface of the water, their speed excessive. When they were approximately one hundred metres off shore, the craft and its occupants suddenly dived under the surface. Beverly had no warning, no chance to take a deep breath. The water stung her open eyes and, as they quickly descended to the sea floor, her eardrums painfully perforated with the increased pressure. Unable to hold what little breath she had any longer; her lungs expelled her air in a rush of bubbles. She was unable to stop the reflex inhalation. Cold sea water flooded her lungs, the burning shock making her gag. The second inhalation wasn’t as painful as the first and her vision began to grey. By the third breath she was unconscious. Five minutes later she was clinically dead.

 

 

 

 

                        Data went into the abandoned shuttle and turned on the power. After checking the logs he activated the floodlights, adding to the light from his own shuttle. With night fast approaching, he stepped out of the craft and addressed his waiting crew.

“Although we know our instruments will not work adequately here on the surface, I ask you to use your tricorders…it may be that close inspection may yield clues we might otherwise miss. To that end I must stress…use your own senses, eyesight, hearing; even smell could tip the balance of our search. I will scour the area at the base of the plateau. Marks, you search in an arc from here to the edge of the forest. Haddrell, you search from here to the small rise to the west. Report anything…I repeat, anything out of the ordinary. Dismissed.”

The officers spread out, each bending low in an effort to see the ground by the light of their palm beacons. Nearly an hour passed and nothing was found. Data called the others back to the shuttle.

“It is now fully dark; I suggest we return to the Enterprise. We can resume our search in the morning.”

The atmosphere in the shuttle was gloomy as the three officers made the journey in silence. Once clear of the planet, Data opened a channel to the ship.

“Riker here Data, go ahead.”

“Sir I must inform you we have had no success in our search for Doctor Picard.”

“Understood. Once you’ve docked I want a briefing.”

“Of course Commander. Data out.”

It was only half an hour before Data strode onto the Bridge. Will rose and, with a look and a pointing finger, directed his staff to the Observation Lounge. The seated officers all looked expectantly at the android and he quickly gave his report.

“We found Captain Picard on a ledge, twelve metres down from the eastern lip of the plateau. His backpack was abandoned as was Doctor Picard’s equipment. There were signs of a struggle in the shale near the lip…I believe the Captain attempted to arrest his fall. There was also evidence of plasma bolts striking close by. That, added to blood we found near the lip that has been identified as coming from Captain Picard suggests he was injured before he went over the edge.”

Will stroked his beard.

“Right…so it seems they got caught in the gravimetric storm and what…the Captain fell over the edge?”

“That or blasted over.”

The Commander grunted.

“Okay what about Doctor Picard? Where the hell is she? Did she fall too?”

Data shook his head.

“There was no evidence of that. We searched the base of the cliff and scanned the remaining ledges from the shuttle as well as thoroughly searching the top of the plateau. Commander we found nothing but her equipment. Of Doctor Picard herself we found nothing.”

Will grimaced.

“What about their shuttle? What did the logs have to say?”

Data folded his hands on the tabletop and sighed.

“The logs gave no indication of anything amiss Commander. I read of their difficulty in finding a landing site atop the plateau and of the Captain’s efforts to rig an alarm that they could hear to warn them of approaching storms. Other than that, the logs yielded very little.”

Will abruptly stood and went to the viewport.

“Well I know for sure Doctor Picard would never leave the Captain, especially if he were injured…unless she needed to get help. Now if she were up on the plateau when he fell she would’ve been unable to get to him…right?”

Data nodded.

“Indeed. In fact, due to inclement weather conditions, it is doubtful she would have been able to even see him.”

Will grunted.

“Okay…so what would she do?”

Geordi, up to this time content to sit and listen, raised his hands.

“There’s only one thing she could do Commander…get back to the shuttle to use it to rescue the Captain.”

Will slapped his thigh, moving back to the table and grabbing the back of his seat.

“Precisely! So she went back down…did she make it?”

Data shrugged.

“Unknown. There is no evidence to suggest either way.”

Will growled.

“Well I don’t buy it! Beverly would give her life before she abandoned her injured husband. Data I want you and Lieutenant M’Rak to organise six teams. Take as many shuttles as you need with whatever equipment you require. Go back down there and search again. There has to be something we missed.”

Data and the Vulcan head of security stood and went to leave. Will stopped them with an urgent plea.

“Find her.”

They both nodded and said quietly,

“Yes Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      It was pain that woke Beverly. Although her eyes were already open, they slowly began to focus and the all-pervading pain made them tear…that and the fact that they were dry from being unable to blink. Her chest and throat aflame, Beverly tried to take a deep breath, but it was impossible.

“What?…I drowned! I know I did…I remember…”

 The lower half of her face was covered my some sort of mask and a tube extended down her throat. A particularly bad pain in her left upper chest made her realise something had perforated her flesh.

“I must have been resuscitated!”

 With no way to look down to see what it was, Beverly instead concentrated on what she could see.

 She was lying naked on her back on a cold metal surface. Overhead there was a bright light and her eyes had trouble seeing past the glare, but beyond the halo of light she could see some sort of apparatus which seemed to be attached to something that disappeared from her line of sight. She swallowed with difficulty and devoted some thought to her situation.

“Well…I can see, hear and breathe and my heart seems to be functioning all right. I can swallow…can I move anything else?”

She spent the next few minutes trying and failing to move any part of her body.

“Okay…I can’t move, but obviously there are some functions unaffected by whatever it was they injected me with. Right. I can feel and I seem to have all my cognitive abilities. Now what?”

Several minutes passed before Beverly suddenly became aware of a spreading warmth puddling under her.

“Oh great…I have no control over my bladder.”

Just then her skin registered a shift in the surrounding air. A very gentle breeze touched her naked body, raising goose bumps.  With her senses honed, she waited to see what would happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       “Well if you need me, don’t hesitate to call.”

“Yes Counsellor. Harrigan out.”

Head nurse Alyssa Ogawa set the cup of hot chocolate on the table beside Deanna and said quietly.

“Jenny Harrigan?”

Deanna looked up and smiled.

“Yes. I asked her to stay with Emily…now that we’ve got her feeding properly she’s not such a pain to be with. She even sleeps now.”

Alyssa chuckled.

“I don’t know how you coped Counsellor. From what I heard…it must have been very hard.”

Deanna sipped her drink and shrugged.

“It was, but what else could I do but cope? She is my little girl. It wasn’t her fault.”

The two women shared a few moments of silence before Deanna asked,

“Any news?”

The Lieutenant shook her head.

“No. last time I checked Doctor Selar was treating the Captain’s skull fracture. Don’t worry though…I’ll keep you posted.”

Deanna’s smile was tired.

“Thank you.”

Alyssa stood and gently squeezed Deanna’s shoulder.

“I’ve got to get back to work. Will you be okay?”

The Counsellor smiled and nodded.

“Yes, I’ll be fine.”

She watched the nurse walk away and concentrated on sensing her Captain. Her frown at feeling very little marred her classical beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      With his usual clinical efficiency, Data deployed his teams with logical thought. The tall bright lights were set out in a pattern that gave them optimum illumination. Broken up into groups of two, the eighteen pairs spread out in a predetermined arc, tricorders scanning and eyes peeled. At the base of the incline Lieutenant J.G. Parminder Singh suddenly stopped and fell to her knees. Her partner, Kessok Jul, a Bolian of immense proportions, went down on bended knee beside her and frowned.

“What is it?”

With an irritated sigh, Parminder shook her tricorder.

“I got a fleeting reading of microcellular debris…but it’s gone again.”

The blue Ensign looked up the incline, aiming his palm beacon.

“Let’s go up a bit…we might find a bigger sample.”

Parminder stood and grumbled,
“You’re supposed to call me Sir.”

The Bolian snorted.

“Of course…Sir. My apologies…it’s just that you are so…small.”

The little Lieutenant looked up at her subordinate and smiled.

“I see what you mean, but don’t let Commander Data catch you forgetting.”

With a chuckle, Jul helped the Lieutenant to her feet and they started up the incline. They had gone up almost seventy metres before Parminder suddenly stopped. She again dropped to her knees and grunted as she pressed the controls on the tricorder. By now well out of the radius of light at the campsite, Jul aimed his palm beacon on the ground and hunkered down beside the Lieutenant.

“Anything…Sir?”

“Yes…dammit it comes and goes…wait a minute.”

After another sweep with the tricorder the Lieutenant gasped.

“Yes! More microcellular debris…and blood!”

Jul stared down at the barely discernable drips and grunted.

“Are they..?”

“Uh huh. Doctor Picard’s. We need to tell Commander Data.”

“Agreed…Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Half way between the Picard’s shuttle and the tree line, Data was on his knees, bent forward with his face almost touching the ground as his right hand gently skimmed the surface. His remarkable eyes contracted and dilated as he made microscopic measurements. The two junior officers trotted up to their CO slightly out of breath.

“Sir?”

Maintaining his concentration, Data said softly,

“One moment please.”

He shifted slightly, altering the angle of his line of sight. He blinked once and sat up. Parminder was intrigued.

“Have you found something Sir?”

Data nodded.

“I believe so Lieutenant. There is a very slight indentation here…as if something of significant weight rested here. Judging by the shape I would say it was cylindrical, approximately one and a half metres in length and half a metre in diameter.”

“Could it be made by any of the scientist’s equipment?”

Data stood, dusting off his pants and shaking his head.

“I do not think so.”

 His face cleared and he faced the two young officers.

“Do you have something to report Lieutenant?”

Proffering her tricorder, Parminder nodded.

“Yes Sir. We found microcellular debris and blood that has been confirmed as coming from Doctor Picard.”

Data took the device and turned to get the light from the nearby pole.

“I see. Where did you find these samples?”

Parminder turned and pointed up the incline.

“We found the first at the bottom, but there are bigger samples about seventy metres up.”

Data nodded.

“Come with me please.”

Together the three officers went over to the Picard’s shuttle. On their way Data gathered six more crewmen. Once assembled, the android addressed them.
“I want you to make a line and ascend the incline. Don’t go more than one hundred metres up, but look carefully. Scan for microcellular debris and blood. Report back to me when you are finished.”

There was a quiet chorus of “Yes Sir.”

Data watched them go then went back to his own study of the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      It was oh four fifteen when Deanna was woken by a gentle shake to her shoulder. Selar stood over her, her dark Vulcan eyes showing concern.

“Counsellor perhaps you should retire to your quarters?”

Brushing her hair back, Deanna shook her head.

“I will, once I know how Captain Picard is.”

The Doctor nodded.

“I understand.”

She gestured to the office and both women went there, entering and settling in their respective chairs. Selar sat behind Beverly’s desk, her hands clasped on the desktop.

“I have completed the surgery on Captain Picard and he is resting comfortably in his room. I foresee no complications to his recovery, however as he suffered a large subdural haematoma his stay here will be several days.”

Deanna sighed.

“I see. I take it all his other injuries have been successfully treated?”

Selar inclined her head.

“Yes Counsellor. He will require extensive regeneration therapies but that should cause no problems. He is a very fit man for his age and has always exhibited remarkable restorative powers.”

Deanna smiled ruefully.

“I think you’re forgetting two rather important factors.”

The Vulcan raised one perfect eyebrow in query. Deanna sighed and tapped her fingers to illustrate her points.

“One, he has always had Doctor Picard here to look after him, and two, his compliance with any treatment had always been because Beverly wouldn’t put up with his nonsense. You’ll have your work cut out for you…both getting him to stay here, and to succumb to your treatments.”

The look on Selar’s face brooked no argument.

“In the absence of Doctor Picard, I am acting CMO of the Enterprise and as such, Captain Picard will obey my orders. I am sure, as he is a consummate professional, he will comply.”

Deanna’s chuckle was a tired one.

“I think you underestimate his dislike of Sick Bay Doctor. However, I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

She stood and stretched.

“Well I will retire for the night. I will let Commander Riker know about the Captain.”

Selar gave a short bow.

“Thank you Counsellor.”

As Deanna left she smiled to herself.

“When he wakes up, you’ll have a battle on your hands my friend.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Will was tired and irritated. The latest report from the planet shed no light on Beverly’s disappearance; indeed, all it did was deepen the mystery. He sighed as the Sick Bay doors hissed open, and put his concerns aside. He was there to visit his Captain who knew nothing of his wife’s status.

Being au fait with Sick Bay’s rules. Will met with Selar in Beverly’s office first. The Vulcan gave her usual dispassionate report.

“Captain Picard regained consciousness at oh seven forty this morning. I am keeping him lightly sedated and controlling his pain with analgesia, the result being he will be quite drowsy. His right leg is in a plasticast from hip to toes, as is his left arm. Both arms are in stasis to prevent movement thereby facilitating the healing of his shattered scapulas. He is undergoing full-body regeneration therapy and he has a duraplast patch on the back of his skull. Intravenous infusion of both blood products and nutrition was withdrawn this morning; however he is attached to a biowaste unit.”

Will nodded and ran his fingers through his beard.

“Can I wake him?”

Selar raised an eyebrow.

“For what purpose?”

The Commander sighed.

“He’s going to want to know where his wife is.”

The Doctor lowered her head and considered Will’s words. With a shake of her head she clasped her hands behind her back.
“I do not think it would be advantageous to tell him.”

Will snorted.

“Maybe not, but I’m telling you he’ll want to know and if I don’t tell him he’ll fight you tooth and nail until he finds out.”

Selar shrugged.

“Then my suggestion is…do not wake him.”

The big man shook his head.

“Doctor he already knows something’s wrong, the minute he realised you were treating him. He’s waiting to hear from me.”

The Vulcan’s dark eyes bore into Will.

“Are you certain this is wise?”

Will nodded.

“Believe me…the alternative is too ugly to contemplate.”

With a curt nod, Selar gave her permission.

“Very well, but try to keep him calm, I would not like to increase the level of sedation at this stage.”

Will gave an encouraging smile.

“Will do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   When Will entered his CO’s private room he wasn’t surprised to see the man fighting sleep. Through slitted eyes Jean-Luc saw Will’s entry and summoned his roughened voice.

“Where is she Will?”

Grabbing a chair and reversing it, Will straddled the seat and rested his hands along the back. He took a deep breath and looked into the older man’s eyes.

“We don’t know Captain.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and swallowed, gathering his courage and quelling his fear.

“I went over a cliff. Did she?”

Will shook his head.

“No Sir, in fact we have evidence that proves she tried to make it back to your shuttle.”

The Captain digested that information before asking,

“Did she take the shuttle?”

“No Captain. We have evidence she made it down the slope, but as far as we can tell, she never made it to the shuttle. Data has found three indentations half way between the shuttle and the tree line. It looks as though three small craft have set down.”

His slitted eyes glimmered in the light of the room.
“What are you saying?”

Will sighed.

“I’m not sure Sir, but we can’t discount the possibility she was abducted.”

There was a momentary silence before Jean-Luc sighed.

“What else is being done?”

“Data has nearly forty crew at the campsite going over the area with a fine toothed comb. Until we complete our investigations there’s little more can be done.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod. He swallowed again and frowned deeply.

“My boys?”

Will grinned.

“Ensign Miles stayed with the boys in your quarters last night…she set up a cot in Jacques’ room. As far as I know, all is well.”

Jean-Luc was about to say more when a quiet medical alarm sounded. He winced and closed his eyes. Will stood and laid a hand on the Captain’s chest.

“Sir? Are you all right?”

Before Jean-Luc could answer, Selar entered, a hypospray in her hand. She checked the readout above the bed and administered the hypo.

“Captain Picard that should alleviate your pain.”

To Will she said,

“The Captain needs to rest.”

Will nodded and turned to leave but Jean-Luc’s deep voice stilled his feet.

“Keep me informed Number One…and please ask Ensign Miles to see me at her convenience.”

Will gave a nod.

“Aye Captain.”

As the big man left he heard Selar saying,

“Sleep Captain Picard…sleep.”

 

 

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

                              Beverly knew there was someone in the room with her, but until they entered her field of vision, they remained invisible to her. She could hear movement and as she felt cold hands on her skin she wished she could shudder. Hands lifted her breasts and pressed the flesh, her nipples receiving due attention. Whatever was imbedded in her upper left chest was slowly withdrawn and the excruciating pain made Beverly yell in her mind. Tears streamed down her face as the agony radiated out through her chest and torso. She felt blood running down her sides, then the sensation of the gore being wiped off her skin. Something was pressed over the wound and she smelled the unmistakable aroma of burning flesh, but oddly, there was no associated pain. The residual pain throbbed insidiously in her chest, but she was very grateful to note it slowly ebbed. More movement could be heard then she felt her legs being parted. Her labia were spread then something was inserted into her vagina. Outraged and helpless, Beverly endured the intrusion, again crying out in her mind as the object penetrated too far. At the periphery of her hearing she detected odd, soft beeps, as if an instrument was working. The sudden cold application of metal against her clitoris made her silently yelp. The mild electric shock that passed through the organ made her silently gasp, but her drugged body showed no outward reaction to this violation. She tried to relax but she felt a pressure deep inside her body, followed by sudden intense pain in her lower abdomen. The pressure increased until she was silently screaming, tears pouring from her eyes. She dimly heard a loud chiming and the pressure abruptly ceased. Into her blurry vision a figure appeared, the suddenly blocked light casting too much shadow for her abused eyes to see. She smelled something decidedly wet and swallowed convulsively. As her vision adjusted an alien face stared down at her. Large webbed hands appeared and the mask was taken off her face. Then, with no time to prepare herself, the tube that was extended down her throat was withdrawn. Again she cried out in pain and anguish as the delicate mucous membrane of her throat was torn by the dry tube. The cold hand pulled her chin down and introduced a thin metal pipe. There was a hissing sound and Beverly’s mouth was pervaded by a strong chemical taste. The pain in the trachea lessened and she gave a prayer of thanks. The alien moved away and she felt something being placed over her abdomen. It was heavy and heart rate increased with her fear.

“Oh my God…what now?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Selar, being a Vulcan, had almost limitless patience but her Captain was trying her resolve. For the third time in as many minutes she found herself shaking her head.

“No Captain Picard you may not sit up.”

He glowered at the woman and growled,

“Why the hell not?”

Adopting what she hoped was a respectful demeanour, the Doctor explained.

“Captain your injuries were quite severe, necessitating lengthy treatment to affect a complete recovery. “

His eyes glittered dangerously.

“I understand that, but why must you insist I be laid flat on my back? Surely I can sit up at least.”

Taking a deep breath, Selar clasped her hands in front of her.

“Captain there are some injuries that require deep regeneration therapy…”
“Which I can take sitting up!”

Ignoring his interruption, Selar continued.

“Your shoulder blades in particular must be kept still, both for the regeneration treatment and to make sure the repaired bone knits correctly.”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“So I had a few broken bones…I’ve had them before.”

“Yes Captain you have, but your right leg was badly broken in several places and both scapulas were shattered, not to mention your pelvis. I’m sorry Sir, but the only way I can heal these injuries satisfactorily is to have you lie flat in bed while the regeneration beams do their work.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips and huffed.

“Very well I will accede, but I want to be removed from the biowaste unit.”

The Doctor bowed her head and briefly closed her eyes.

“Captain your request is illogical. How could you adequately void your bodily waste while being kept still in bed?”

His lowered brow deepened and he scowled.

“I would manage.”

The Doctor’s jaw tensed.

“I’m sorry Captain…no.”

It was unusual for Jean-Luc to raise his voice, but he was frustrated and angry.

“Look Doctor my wife is missing on that damned planet and I’m stuck here unable to lift a finger to help find her. Dammit woman…can’t you see I need to do something!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Selar sighed.

Captain I understand but your attitude is illogical. As your Doctor I am bound by my oath to treat you as I see fit, to do otherwise would be negligent of me. Please Sir, your compliance will speed your recovery.”

The Captain squinted and gritted his teeth. With a glance at the readout Selar could see his pain levels were rising. She left the room, to return shortly with a hypospray. As she injected the man he closed his eyes and sighed.

“Why is there so much pain in my head…and why is my sight affected?”

“You sustained two serious skull fractures, causing a large subdural haematoma. It and the fractures have been repaired, but the underlining brain tissue has been traumatised. You will experience vision disturbances and pain until the tissue regains its former state.”

His voice had become gravelly.

“How long?”

“At least three days…perhaps longer.”

With a grunt he snarled,

“And the rest? How long will I be stuck here?”

Ignoring his sour attitude, Selar replied,

“I envisage you will be able to be discharged to your quarters in a week.”

A nurse entered and Selar turned to hear what he had to say. She nodded and again addressed her Captain.

“Sir Ensign Miles is outside…she says you have requested her presence.”

Jean-Luc nodded, his eyes still closed.

“Sir I do not wish you to be disturbed at this time. I will ask her to come back tomorrow.”

His eyes snapped open and he gently shook his head.

“No! She is looking after my children…I need to see her.”

Knowing that the man wouldn’t settle until he knew his children were all right, Selar acquiesced.

“Very well, she may have five minutes.”

The Ensign entered and Jean-Luc opened his eyes, doing his best to put a smile on his face.

“Ensign please, sit.”

The nervous woman sat on the edge of her chair, trying to keep the blush from rising over her face.

“Hello Captain Picard, how are you Sir?”

The smile widened but didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Oh I’m fine. Tell me…how are the boys?”

“Well Captain…Jacques misses both you and Doctor Picard, but they’re all well. Captain…do you really read Jack The Ripper to Jacques?”

Jean-Luc clenched his fists, his eyes glinting angrily.

“I most certainly do not! Why?”

Sally’s grin was infectious.

“Because he told me you do. He asked me to read to him last night and when I enquired which book you were reading to him, he told me Jack The Ripper.”

With a deep sigh, Jean-Luc wished he could rub his face with his hands.

“He doesn’t even know what the book is about. He saw me reading it last week and asked me about it. I fobbed him off but obviously his curiosity has been aroused. I have been reading Gulliver’s Travels to him.”

“I thought so Sir, it’s sitting on the nightstand beside his bed.”

The Captain nodded.

“Where I left it. Tell me, how are the twins doing with their feeds?”

Sally grinned.

“Oh they’re doing really well. I have Ensign Grundy come and help me…I know Henri will wait fairly patiently but I don’t think it’s fair. With Gail helping me we can get them both fed at the same time.”

Jean-Luc smiled his gratitude.

“Thank you Ensign, that is very kind of you. How are they tolerating the fruit?”

“Oh really well Captain. They’ve progressed to apple and orange and I’ve introduced some rice and barley. Don’t worry Sir, they’re doing fine.”

There was a momentary silence then Jean-Luc frowned.

“Doctor Picard told me you are from a large family.”

Sally smiled wistfully.

“Yes Sir, I am the eldest of nine.”

“That is so unusual these days. What was it like Ensign…growing up in such a crowded household?”

Sally shrugged.

“Oh I guess it was a little noisy…not much privacy…if I may ask Sir…do you have any siblings?”

The sadness that passed across the Captain’s face made the Ensign instantly regret her question but before she could retract it her CO smiled softly.

“I had an elder brother but he died a few years ago.”

Sally sighed.

“I’m sorry Sir.”

Jean-Luc wished he could shrug.

“It’s of no consequence Ensign. Has your department head been notified of the situation?”

The Ensign nodded eagerly.

“Yes Captain, Commander Riker spoke to her and I have been released from my duties to care for your children until such time as the situation is resolved.”

The Captain nodded.

“That’s good. I take it you have adequate help if required?”

“Yes Sir. Not only is Ensign Grundy available, so are several other crewmembers. Once it became clear that you needed help I was inundated with offers.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“How gratifying. Well I am pleased it’s you caring for the boys. Perhaps you can bring Jacques to see me soon? I know he will have some questions for me.”

Sally grinned.

“Oh yes…no doubt about that Captain, but I think he needs to see you for comfort too Sir. He misses you very much…both of you.”

Jean-Luc sighed, his eyes troubled.

“What have you told him?”

It was Sally’s turn to sigh.

“Not very much. I haven’t told him Doctor Picard is missing, but I did tell him you have been injured and have to stay in Sick Bay for a while.”

“How did he take it?”

Sally frowned.

“He was very worried Captain. It took a lot of effort on my part to finally dissuade him from coming down here to see you. He can be a very determined little boy.”

The Captain gave a rueful smile.

“It’s a family trait Ensign, one he gets from both sides. Some may call it stubbornness.”

Selar came back in and said softly,

“You must rest now Captain.”

The Ensign stood and smiled down at her CO.

“Don’t worry about your kids Captain; I’ll take good care of them.”

With a tried smile, Jean-Luc nodded.

“I know you will Sally and I do appreciate your assistance.”

Selar waited until the young woman had left before injecting her patient with a sedative. As his mind and body succumbed to the drug he managed a scowl at his Doctor.

“You always get your way don’t you.”

He was asleep before she had to reply. Smoothing the blanket over his chest, Selar gave a satisfied nod.

“Most times Captain…most times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Will Riker strode onto the Bridge, his curt order to the Lieutenant he was relieving making the man wince inwardly.

“Report!”

“Sir! There has been a change in shifts down on the planet and Mr.Data reports they have discovered alien DNA at the shuttle site. They are at present trying to identify it.”

Will nodded and, as the change of shifts occurred around him, he raised his head and called,

“Riker to Data.”

The reply was instant.

“Data here Commander.”

“What have you got for me Data?”

“Early this morning we discovered DNA and cellular residue from Doctor Picard very near the shuttle. I utilised the shuttle’s scanners to augment our tricorders and found DNA from an alien source. We have, as yet, been unable to identify it Sir.”

Will stroked his beard.

“I see. Any more information about the indentations? Are they from a craft?”

“We think so Commander. We have detected a slight electromagnetic disturbance which may indicate a power source. We will investigate further.”

Taking his seat, Will nodded.

“Very well Commander. Riker out.”

An hour passed before Selar appeared on the Bridge. In her usual calm Vulcan manner she requested to see Will in the Ready Room.

“What can I do for you Doctor?”

Selar took a seat and clasped her hands on the desktop.

“Commander I have some disturbing news.”

Will’s stomach soured, his thought going immediately to his Captain.
“Is it Captain Picard?”

Selar shook her head.

“No Sir…at least not directly.”

Will scowled.

“Explain.”

The Doctor frowned slightly and sat forward.

“You are aware Commander of my on going efforts to identify the chemical found in the bodies of the scientists?”

Will nodded silently.

“In my investigations I decided to go back to the bodies to do a microscopic analysis of the tissue. What I have found is deeply disturbing.”

The Commander kept his face inscrutable.

“What did you find?”

“Sir there has been tissue taken from the bodies and invasive procedures undertaken.”

Will’s eyebrows rose.

“Tell me.”

“I discovered each major organ in all seven bodies had tissue removed. The evidence of this…biopsy-like sampling was very well disguised but evident nonetheless. Even the reproductive organs have been sampled. Also I found three entry points into the brain. One at the occipital cortex, one in the frontal lobe and one…and this is somewhat surprising, up through the palate of the mouth and through the thalamus and corpus callosum and into the parietal lobe.”

Will closed his eyes momentarily and shook his head.

“So…whoever did this was doing what? Experimenting? Exploring?”

Selar shrugged.

“I would say exploring Commander. If I was presented with alien bodies I may well do exactly as they have done.”

“Why didn’t you discover this before?”

The Vulcan tilted her head and raised one eyebrow.

“The autopsies had been conducted and, apart from the chemical and the highly elevated adrenaline levels we found, there did not seem to be anything else of note. The microscopic tissue analysis I did would not usually be considered in a standard autopsy unless there was doubt about the cause of death. We established very early that they died as a result of drowning.”

Will sat back and ran his hands over his head. He sighed and picked up the crystal shard the Jean-Luc kept on his desk.

“Do you know if they were alive or dead when these…samples were taken?”

Selar shrugged.

“Unknown Commander, however the elevated adrenaline levels seem to suggest enormous stress was experienced by the…victims. It may well be that they endured the procedures whilst alive…and aware.”

The crystal shard clattered on the desktop as Will growled,

“Shit!”

 A frown graced the Vulcan’s face.

“Sir?”

Will sighed.

“You are aware Doctor Picard is missing?”

“Yes Commander.”

“Well what if the same people who did the experimenting on the scientists have Doctor Picard?”

Both of Selar’s eyebrows rose.

“That would be…unfortunate.”

Will scowled.

“Yes, it would. Have you made any progress in identifying the chemical?”

“As a matter of fact, yes Sir. Although we have not identified all of the constituents, we have established the chemical is a drug and its effects would be similar to that of curare.”

Will frowned, shaking his head.

“I’m not familiar with that drug.”

“Curare has been used on Earth for centuries. It was first found by South American natives and used for hunting. In effect it renders the recipient utterly unable to control their muscles. However the victim can see, hear and feel.”

Will rubbed his face with his hands.

“Oh God…this is too horrible to think about.”

Selar nodded.

“Indeed it is disturbing. Especially when you consider, if Doctor Picard is indeed in alien hands, that they now have a female to examine.”

Will’s head shot up.

“Oh Christ…we have to do something!”

The Doctor sighed.

“What more can we do Sir?”

Will stood, bringing the interview to an end.

“I’m not sure Doctor but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit on my arse up here twiddling my thumbs!”

As the big man strode from the office, Selar followed him, her thoughts wry.

“How illogical.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The passage of time was very difficult to judge for Beverly. Since the heavy sensation descended on her stomach she had been left alone. The vaginal probe was left in situ but the spray that had been applied to her throat had worn off and she struggled to breathe through the raw tissue. But despite her uncomfortable state she drifted off into a light sleep. It was interrupted by cold hands on her face. Although her eyes had remained open throughout her slumber, she realised they were not so dry. Her curiosity was answered when, without warning, an alien appeared in her line of sight and dripped some liquid into her eyes. Unable to show her appreciation, Beverly’s heart accelerated when she felt a sharp pain on her forehead. Blood trickled each side of her head as the pain intensified. Whatever had penetrated her skin suddenly met the bone of her skull. Again the pain intensified as the intrusive metal instrument abruptly began to spin. The Doctor shrieked in agony as the bone was bored, but once the skull had been penetrated the pain suddenly lessened. The instrument was withdrawn and Beverly caught sight of a thin, flexible tube being introduced into the hole in her skull. There was a deep pressure inside her head and she felt nausea rising. Fortunately she passed out.

It was pain that woke her. She was lying on her side, her hair obscuring her vision. Cold hands held her, preventing her from rolling forwards or backwards. The same pain as had occurred in her forehead now bit into the skin and bone low at the back of her head. Again she cried desperately in her mind as the dreadful drilling took place. When the pain suddenly subsided she sobbed silently with relief. This time, when the sensation of pressure occurred she remained conscious. After what seemed an interminable time she was gently rolled onto her back and her head raised and placed on something hard. She could now see down her body. The vaginal probe was connected to a thick cord that in turn entered what looked like some sort of computer. An alien appeared near her feet and gently pushed the probe deeper inside her but, although the action was gentle; it was again pushed too far inside her, causing the wretched woman to cry silently in pain.

Another alien lifted her head and adjusted it until the hard pillow was under her neck. Her head was eased back until her neck was hyper-extended. Now she could only stare at the white ceiling. A cold hand gripped her chin and pulled it down, opening her mouth to its full extent. She felt and heard the sharp click as something metal hit her teeth and pressed down on her tongue. Again her heart accelerated as she felt the biting pain in the roof of her palate as it was being pierced. Whatever did the cutting sliced through the palate and into her nasal passage, then on up into the bone of the sphenoidal sinus. It then began to drill. Beverly shrieked in silent in agony, tears streaming from her eyes. Her bladder released and she gagged as blood filled her mouth. Something soft and rubbery was insinuated into her mouth and the blood and saliva was sucked away. Just when she thought she could stand no more agony, the floor of the skull was penetrated and the pain abated. As a flexible tube was introduced into her brain, her bowel emptied itself and she lost consciousness again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Selar had just given Jean-Luc some liquid sustenance when there was a soft knock at his door. Making sure she had wiped her Captain’s mouth, the Doctor went to the door and opened it. With a gesture she bade the caller to enter. Sally Miles came in and Jacques trailed behind her, holding her hand. Jean-Luc slowly turned his head, and seeing his son, smiled.

“Hello Jacques.”

The little boy stayed behind the Ensign, peering around her legs. In a small voice he said,

“Papa?”

Wishing he could hold out his hand, Jean-Luc instead broadened his smile and nodded.

“Yes son, come here…come to me.”

Gaining confidence at hearing his father’s voice, Jacques sidled past Sally and approached the bed. He looked solemnly at the man and frowned.

“Why are you in bed Papa? It’s nearly lunch time.”

Jean-Luc kept the smile in place but he sighed.

“I got hurt Jacques. I have to stay here in bed for a while.”

The boy nodded.

“Papa…where’s Maman?”

Glancing at the Ensign, Jean-Luc frowned.

“Ah…Maman is very busy on a mission.”

Jacques thought about that for a few seconds then nodded.

“Can I sit with you on the bed?”

The Captain nodded.

“Yes I think so.”
He cast a look at Sally and she smiled obligingly.

“Here you go.”

She lifted the boy and set him down beside his father. There wasn’t much room and Jean-Luc chafed at not being able to put a protective arm around him.

“What have you been doing?”

The lad beamed.

“At school I made a dragon!”

Jean-Luc looked suitably impressed.

“A dragon? My goodness. Next time you come to visit me, will you bring it?”

Jacques nodded.

“I couldn’t bring it today ‘cause it’s still wet. Papa…when will Maman’s mission be finished?”

The Captain kept his worry from his voice.

“I’m not sure Jacques.”

The boy frowned.

“But you’re the Captain…you know everything.”

That brought a sigh.

“I don’t know everything Jacques and while I’m here in Sick Bay I don’t get to hear all that goes on.”

“Why?”

“Because Doctor Selar wants me to rest. Do you remember when you had tonsillitis?”

The boy nodded vigorously.

“Yes! Maman took them out and gave me a bowl of ice cream.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“That’s right, but before Maman removed them do you remember how she made you rest a lot?”

Jacques frowned then smiled.

“Yes. She said it was so I’d be strong for the…the...op...op…”

“Operation.”

“Oui!”

“Well it’s the same for me. I have to lie still while I get better.”

The boy’s eye widened owlishly.

“You can’t move?”

Jean-Luc smiled to take his worry away.

“Not much but tomorrow, or maybe the next day I will be allowed to move. I broke some of my bones and I have to lie still so they can mend properly.”

“Oh. I want a hug.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Well I can’t move my arms, but if you’re very careful, you can hug me.”

The boy grinned and Sally stepped forward to lend assistance. Jacques gently hugged his father then rested his head on Jean-Luc’s chest. When he spoke his soft voice was sad.

“I miss you and Maman Papa.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“I know Jacques, but hopefully we’ll both be home soon.”

He altered his voice to a more cheery note as he asked,

“How are your little brothers?”

The boy lifted his head and giggled.

“They’re okay. Yesterday Matthieu got rice and apple in Sally’s hair. You should have seen her!”

Jean-Luc chuckled and stole a glance at the embarrassed Ensign. To ease her chagrin he muttered,

“Both of the twins have done that to me Sally…don’t worry about it.”

The Ensign grinned ruefully,

“Thank you Sir, but as you can see, I have long hair and you have…oh…excuse me Captain.”

Again embarrassed, Sally lowered her eyes as she blushed furiously. Jean-Luc chuckled again and sought to save her.

“It’s all right Sally, I fully understand that wiping food from a bare pate is much easier than having to wash long hair.”

The mortified young woman looked up quickly and smiled.

“Yes Sir.”

Jean-Luc yawned and blinked several times.

“Well my son, I think I will have to rest soon. I keep being given medicine that makes me go to sleep. Will you come and see me again?”

“Oui Papa. Can I come and see you after dinner? Maybe you could read to me”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“I’ll ask Doctor Selar and I’ll let Sally know. All right?”

The boy nodded and bent forward to kiss his father’s cheek. He giggled and ran his fingers over Jean-Luc’s chin.

“You’ve got whiskers.”

He chuckled.

“That I have. Perhaps you can help me shave later.”

The boy nodded.

“Okay.”

Sally helped him down from the bed and, as they left, Jacques turned at the door and waved.

“Bye Papa.”

“Bye Jacques.”

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           The ensign that trotted up to Data was out of breath. The android turned to the young woman and patiently waited for her to get control of her breathing. Eventually she gasped,

“Sir you were right. There is alien DNA at the indentations…and we found some more at the tree line.”

In Data’s hand were three very small scraps of grey and black material. He had just confirmed they were from Beverly’s uniform. He looked at the Ensign and nodded.

“Very well Ensign, thank you.”

As she turned to leave, the woman hesitated and turned back to her CO.

“Sir?”

Data raised his eyes to meet hers.

“Yes?”

“What do you think it all means Sir? Do you think Doctor Picard has been abducted?”

Pulling down the corners of his mouth, Data shrugged.

“Although at this time we cannot be one hundred percent certain, evidence so far suggests that is what has happened.”

The young woman blanched.

“Sir…do you think that’s what happened to the scientists?”

“It could be.”

Shaking her head, the Ensign swallowed to wet her suddenly dry mouth.

“But Sir…they all died.”

Data nodded.

“Yes they did.”

Giving her CO a stricken look, the Ensign drifted away. Data had just returned his attention to the shuttle scanners when a familiar voice drew his attention.

“What have you got Data?”

He swivelled the cockpit seat and tilted his head.

“Commander Riker? What are you doing here Sir?”

Will waved his hand impatiently.

“Never mind that…fill me in.”

Data frowned but stifled his protest at his CO’s presence. Instead he gave his report.

“In addition to our previous findings, we now have small scraps of Doctor Picard’s uniform from the incline and just recently I have been informed that the same alien DNA as we found here at the shuttle, has been detected at the indentations and at the tree line.”

Will folded his arms and scowled.

“So it’s pretty certain then…she was abducted.”

Data allowed a nod.

“In the face of the evidence…yes Sir, I believe she has.”

The big man slumped into the unoccupied cockpit seat and rubbed his face wearily.

“We have to find her…and soon.”

That surprised the android.

“Of course Commander…is that not why we are here?”

Will grunted.

“You don’t understand Data. Selar has just informed me that the bodies of the scientists have been experimented on. Tissue has been taken and their brains invaded with instruments. Now add to that the fact that the scientists were returned drowned…and the fact that they were all male…do you get my drift?”

Data frowned then raised his eyebrows.

“I see Commander. You are saying that on the basis of Doctor Picard being female, she has provided the aliens with a different subject.”

“Yes. And Doctor Selar also told me that the chemical found in all seven bodies is a drug similar to curare.”

Data frowned.

“That is most unfortunate.”

Will nodded.

“Yes it is…and I’ve been told that the elevated adrenaline levels in the bodies may indicate they went through the experimentation whilst alive and aware.”

Data nodded slowly.

“I see now your need for haste. What do you suggest we do Commander? We have almost exhausted our investigations here.”

Will stood and tugged down on his tunic, a habit he picked up from his Captain and not necessary with the new uniforms, but one he found strangely comforting.

“I think we should move this investigation to the sea. Everything points to that.”

Data stood and nodded.

“I will see to it at once. Will you be staying Sir?”

Will gave a curt nod.

“Yes, at least for the time being.”

Data bowed his head.

“Very well Commander.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Beverly’s eyes were wide open and staring but in reality she saw nothing. However her mind was furnishing images at an astonishing rate. All her memories were rushing by, flickering instances of her infancy, her early childhood on Arveda III and with that her precious memories of her parents, there were images of her teens, living with her grandmother on Caldos, fleeting glimpses of school, then the Academy and Jack Crusher, her first husband, but when she reached her time in medical school the images suddenly slowed. As the scenes scrolled across her mind, some were accelerated and some slowed, but as they progressed Beverly sluggishly realised her brain was being accessed for information. It had not occurred to her before, she was too involved in her memories to comprehend what was happening, but when the images abruptly slowed she had a chance to catch her breath. Now she tried to divorce herself from what she could see in her mind’s eye and concentrate on what was happening to her. With this intense mental effort, the images wavered and stopped. She felt an increase in the pressure in her head but resisted. The voice that invaded her mind made her sob with both fear and dread.

“You will cease.”

“What?”

“You will cease your efforts to stop the harvesting.”

“What are you harvesting?”

“Your knowledge.”

“Why?”

“Because we need to know.”

“What do you need to know?”

“That is not your concern.”

“But if you tell me I might be able to help.”

“You cannot help.”

“How do you know?”

“We know.”

The pressure increased again and Beverly felt herself beginning to fade. She bolstered her strength and struggled to keep the invaders out.

“You will cease!”

“No! Tell me what you want.”

There was silence then the voice returned.

“We think you possess knowledge we need.”

“Why?”

“Because you are a healer.”

Beverly thought furiously.

“Did you try and get this knowledge from the others? The scientists?”

“Yes.”

“They died. Did you kill them?”

“No. Yes. They drowned. It was not our intention.”

“I drowned. Did you intend that?”

“No. We exist in water but we can exist in air.”

“Amphibian?”

There was silence while the question was considered. The answer was curt.

“Yes.”

“You resuscitated me.”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you resuscitate the scientists?”

“We did.”

“But they died of drowning.”

There was the metal equivalent of a sigh.

“We can resuscitate here but not on land.”

“Then how am I going to get back to my people?”

“You will stay with us.”

“No I wish to go back to my people. They will be very worried, they will be looking for me.”

“What is a…husband?”

“Ah…he is my…mate.”

“And children?”

“Our offspring.”

“You are very…attached to your husband and children.”

“Yes. Humans most often mate for life. Please…you must let me go.”

“No, you will stay. We need you.”

“But you haven’t told me why?”

“Why are you different from the others?”

These sudden shifts in subject were hard for Beverly to handle. She concentrated on keeping control of her thoughts.

“Different?”

“Your body differs.”

“Oh. I am female. They were male.”

“What is the purpose of this?”

“Humans have two genders, necessary for breeding.”

“How does this occur?”

Beverly mentally sighed again.

“Well…the male inseminates the female and the offspring develops within the body of the female. It is gestated for nine months and is born live, but still underdeveloped and totally dependant on its parents. It will not mature for many years.”

“That is inefficient.”

This time Beverly shrugged in her mind.

“Well it has worked for Humans for millennia. In fact all mammals follow a similar process.”

“Mammals?”

“A descriptive scientific term for the warm-blooded animals of Earth, from where Humans originated.”

“Interesting. We will continue.”

The pressure grew and Beverly cried out as her struggle for control began to slip.

“No please…”

“You cannot resist, we will find what we need.”

A coldness pervaded Beverly’s mind as dreaded words filled her head.

“Resistance is futile.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               It was early evening on the ship and Jean-Luc’s discussion with Selar was causing him to become angry and irritated.

“Look I just want to read to my son. Can’t you do something about my vision?”

Selar sighed.

“No Captain I cannot.”

Jean-Luc scowled.

“There must be something surely…a temporary solution.”

“I am sorry Captain but I am not prepared to administer any extraneous drugs or therapies. It could set back your recovery.”

The Captain grimaced.

“But I want to read to my son and I can’t with my sight the way it is now.”

With great forbearance, Selar kept her voice even.

“Captain Picard I have already explained why your sight has been affected. You are receiving the appropriate treatment and it will rectify itself in due course. You will just have to be patient.”

“But…”

“Captain why don’t you utilise an audio book? You can still be with your son while you both listen to it.”

Jean-Luc glowered and grumbled,

“It’s not the same.”

“Well I am sorry Sir. Now would you like a cup of tea?”

This was a new development. Up until now Selar had forbidden him his favourite brew. He looked up in surprise and nodded.

“Yes I would…thank you.”

She was gone only a minute and returned with a steaming cup.

“Doctor Picard had noted in your records that you prefer Earl Grey tea, hot, black and unsweetened. I hope this is to your taste.”

She gently lifted his head and placed a straw in his mouth while gently warning,

“It may not be as hot as you like…I need to protect against scalding.”

Jean-Luc drew the liquid into his mouth and sighed with pleasure. She was right, it wasn’t as hot as he would have liked, but it was delicious nonetheless. As the warmth spread in his stomach he closed his eyes and smiled.

“What made you change your mind?”

The Doctor tilted her head.

“You are progressing well. I saw no need to deny you your preferred beverage any longer; however I will restrict the amount you ingest.”

Jean-Luc sighed. It had been a very long day. Although he was given regular updates from the Bridge and Will came down as often as he could, to be confined and immobile in Sick Bay while his beloved Beverly was missing ate at him, eroding his patience and stamina. He swallowed and nodded.

“I understand. Thank you Doctor.”

Hearing the subtle dismissal, Selar bowed slightly, put the now empty cup in the recycler and silently left the room. Jean-Luc gathered his thoughts and stared at the ceiling.

“Picard to Ensign Miles.”

“Miles here Captain.”

“Ensign could you bring Jacques down here please? I would like to say goodnight to him.”

“Of course Captain. Would you like to see the twins too?”

Jean-Luc gave that a moment’s thought.

“Yes Ensign, I believe I would.”

“Very well Captain, we’ll be there shortly. Miles out.”

The Captain sighed and closed his eyes.

“Where are you my love? Are you all right? We’ll find you Beverly…hold on…hold on mon coeur.”

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

               In all there were six shuttles parked along the sandy beach. For two hundred metres in each direction, Enterprise crew scoured the sand, while over head and out to sea, two shuttles methodically swept back and forth, their scanners and sensors penetrating into the water. Will and Data stood at the shore line, staring out at the low-flying shuttles, one with forlorn despondency, the other with limitless patience. When Will spoke, his voice showed his low spirits.

“This is getting us nowhere.”

Data cast a look at his CO and frowned.

“It has only been one point four hours Commander.”

The big man grunted.

“What about the thirty eight hours at the campsite?”

Data shrugged.

“All thorough investigations take time Sir.”

Folding his arms, Will lowered his gaze and stared at his feet.

“The scientists all drowned Data. How the hell did it happen? Were they taken out to sea and abandoned? Were they in a craft that sank? How the hell did seven grown men drown?”

Although the questions were largely rhetorical, Data answered nonetheless.

“Unknown Sir, but we will keep investigating until we have the answers. Captain Picard would expect no less. By the way Commander, how is the Captain?”

Will sighed and ran a hand over his head.

“He’s coming along all right. By this evening I think Selar might let him sit up.”

Data nodded.

“That is good. He must be very concerned. Who is caring for his children?”

Will frowned and lifted his head, giving the Second Officer a perplexed look.

“I…ah...I don’t know.”

Data, seeing his CO’s discomfort, changed the subject.

“Once we have the results of our search, I will correlate everything and perhaps we will gain information that will lead us to Doctor Picard.”

Will grunted.

“Yeah well it can’t come quick enough for me. Have you spoken to Geordi about augmenting the Enterprise’s sensors?”

“Yes Commander. He suggests we may have more success with our sensors in a few hours. The solar activity is abating but it is a temporary situation. The sun is a particularly active star.”

With a growl, Will scratched his cheek.

“Just like everything else about this damn situation! I’m going back to the ship Data, keep me appraised.”

The android nodded.

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The pain deep within her head made Beverly cry silently. She had woken to the pervasive invasion of her brain, the memories accessed scrolling by, sometimes at phenomenal speed, sometimes so slowly she relished the opportunity to revisit long lost or seldom seen visions of her past. The aliens seemed to be concentrating on her medical knowledge, lingering over her memories of medical school and subsequent experiences as a qualified Doctor. She endured the invasion for several hours before it abruptly stopped. Into her line of sight appeared an alien. It dripped some solution into her eyes and turned away. Beverly, seething with indignation and fear, concentrated all her meagre resources and tried to move. The index finger of her right hand twitched then rose a few centimetres. Immediately an alarm sounded and the alien reappeared. It stared down at Beverly before disappearing from sight. The sting in her shoulder told Beverly more of the drug had been administered. She struggled to move the finger again, but try as she might, it was useless. Once again she was immobile.

The probes in her brain became inactive and the memory theft stopped. She felt the probe in her vagina move and the pain returned deep inside her. Hands touched her lower belly and she cried out silently as something was pushed through the skin of her lower right abdomen. She felt the cold metal slide through her flesh and pierce something within her. Gasping and sobbing she called,

“Stop!”

The voice that answered was completely dispassionate.

“No.”

“What are you doing to me?”

“We are harvesting.”

“Harvesting what?”

“That does not concern you.”

Beverly was incensed.

“Doesn’t concern me? You’re taking samples from me!”

The voice sounded bored.

“You will be silent.”

“I will not! Stop what you’re doing!”

“If you will not be silent we will hurt you.”

Beverly almost laughed outright.

“You’re already hurting me! Have you no concept of pain?”

The procedure halted.

“You are feeling pain?”

“Yes!”

The voice took on a note of contrition.

“We are sorry…we did not know.”

In exasperation, Beverly had to stifle the urge to shout.

“Why did you think I was crying?”

The alien appeared near her head.

“Crying?”

Beverly sighed.

“Crying is a response to certain stimuli. It can be emotional or physical in nature but most times it indicates distress, but not always. In this case crying was caused by pain, fear and outrage.”

The alien bent forward and delicately sniffed Beverly’s face. It straightened and seemed to sigh.

“Is this why your eyes…leaked?”

“Yes. Crying causes the lachrymal glands near the eyes to excrete excess fluid.”

“Your eyes are dry now.”

Beverly sighed.

“Because I can’t blink.”

There was a momentary pause.

“If you could blink…your eyes would be moist?”

“Yes. The lachrymal gland produces fluid constantly to lubricate the eyes. It is distributed by blinking.”

“We will remedy this.”

The alien went out of sight but soon returned with a small metal cylinder. It was placed at the corner of her left eye and she felt a sharp pain. This procedure was repeated on her right eye and, after a few minutes she tried and successfully blinked.

“Thank you.”

The alien inclined its head.

“We will continue.”

The pain in Beverly’s lower abdomen returned and she cried out.

“No! Stop…please!”

The voice was tired.

We apologise but we cannot. We must harvest.”

“But…”

“It would be better if you thought of your…family…and ignored what is happening.”

“I can’t! It hurts too much!”

“We are sorry.”

Whatever it was that had penetrated her skin was slowly withdrawn. Just as Beverly was breathing a sigh of relief, it suddenly pierced her on the other side. She moaned and tried to writhe.

“My ovaries! You’re taking samples from my ovaries!”

“Be quiet.”

“No! Stop please…you don’t need that.”

Instead of answering, the probe was pushed deeper inside and Beverly cried out.

“No…please, no more!”

The vaginal probe suddenly heated up, the warmth radiating out and pervading her lower abdomen. Beverly silently sighed with relief.

“Is that better?”

She swallowed.

“Yes.”

“We will continue.”

The Doctor rallied her waning strength.

“Tell me what it is you seek. I might be able to help you.”

The voice was suspicious.

“Why would you help?”

The red head wished she could smile.

“Two reasons. One, I am a Doctor and as such I have sworn an oath to not only do no harm, but to help wherever I can. The other reason is because I am a member of Star Fleet. We are bound to help those in need.”

The voice grew derisive.

“As long as it does not interfere with your Prime Directive.”

“You know about that?”

“Yes.”

Beverly inwardly sighed.

“It is true that the Prime Directive sometimes prevents us from helping those in need, but as long as who we wish to help is of a similar technological level as us, there should be no problem and that seems to be the case with you.”

There was an ominous silence before the voice returned.

“You cannot help.”

Frustrated, Beverly snorted silently.

“How do you know? Tell me what it is you look for, what it is you need.”

The alien appeared at Beverly’s head.

“You are a healer…we understand your motives. We will discuss this.”

It moved away and Beverly called out,

“Wait…come back…talk to me…I don’t want to be alone!”

The soft footsteps slapped wetly as they receded from her hearing. Beverly swallowed and stared up at the white featureless ceiling, blinking away her tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       The bed had been raised and Jean-Luc sat up, his head slowly spinning. Selar stood by his side, a hypospray in her hand.

“I can give you medication for your vertigo Captain.”

He shook his head, his eyes closed, wincing as he did so.

“No thank you Doctor, I would like to see if I can cope without additional drugs.”

Selar sighed.

“Very well Sir.”

A few minutes later he opened his eyes and took a deep breath. Looking around he gingerly lifted one arm. Selar immediately grabbed his wrist.

“That would be inadvisable Captain.”

Jean-Luc gave a nod and made sure he bent his arm at the elbow, keeping his shoulders still. Mollified, Selar let go of his wrist and nodded.

“That is acceptable Sir.”

She turned and offered him a drink. He took the straw and sucked, the tea filling his mouth. Swallowing, he sighed and managed a smile.

“Are my children here?”

“Yes Captain they are waiting outside with Ensign Miles.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and took another deep breath.

“May I be disconnected from the biowaste unit now?”

Selar was about to shake her head in the negative when she saw what an effort her Captain was making in hiding both his pain and dizziness. With him now allowed a small amount of movement she could not, in good conscience, deny him his request. She gave a silent nod of her head, unseen by the Captain. He didn’t know of her decision until she began to disconnect him. He endured the embarrassment stoically and sighed when he was once again lying free of paraphernalia. Selar waited until he opened his eyes and looked at her.

“You will let someone know when you need to void your waste.”

He nodded tiredly and sighed.

“Of course.”

The Doctor nodded.

“Very well, I will allow your children in to see you now.”

Jean-Luc raised another smile.

“Thank you Doctor.”

His smile grew to a grin when Jacques made his way past the pram and rushed into the room.

“Papa! Look what I bought to show you!”

From behind the boy’s back his little hands produced a mysterious construct. Jean-Luc’s grin still in place, he frowned and looked expectantly.

“What have you got there?”

Jacques’ look of disbelief was priceless.

“It my dragon Papa!”

Now seeing the green and red paint…and lots of glitter, Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose.

“Ah! Of course. Bring it over here son so I can see it better.”

With Sally’s help, Jacques was placed on the bed, grinning up at his now almost upright father. Careful not to move his shoulders, Jean-Luc took the dragon from the lad and inspected it.

“Well Jacques…this is the best dragon I’ve seen today.”

The boy giggled.

“Oh Papa…how many dragons have you seen today?”

The Captain made sure he looked as though he was seriously considering the question.

“Well, let me see. One was brought in this morning to have its claws trimmed, and this afternoon Doctor Harrington saw one who’s fire had gone out…so…yours is the best out of three.”

Jacques’ incredulous look made the man laugh.

“I’m having you on Jacques. I’ve only seen one dragon today, but it’s still the best.”

The boy chuckled and leaned forward, wrapping his arms around his father and snuggling into his chest, the dragon forgotten on the bed. Jean-Luc returned the hug as best he could, tears pricking his eyes. While all this had gone on, Sally had taken Matthieu out of the double pram and was amusing him with a soft stuffed cat. Henri waited patiently while his brother received all the attention. Jacques pulled back and sat up, seeing that his father wanted to see his other sons. Matthieu was placed in his arms and Sally picked Henri up, Jacques helped Jean-Luc to settle his older twin in one arm then watched as the younger boy was placed in the other arm. The Captain looked down at his little boys and chuckled as Matthieu crowed at him. When he spoke his voice was soft and very deep.

“How are they sleeping?”

Sally smiled.

“Very well Sir. I feed them dinner at about eighteen hundred, bath them both and by nineteen thirty they’re both in bed. They play a while then they nod off and sleep through until about six or seven.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“And the feeding?”

“No problem Captain. They’re tolerating the added grains really well and the fruit goes down a treat.”

Henri yawned and lifted his legs to grip his feet. Jacques giggled and gently tickled the baby, making Henri gurgle. Jean-Luc watched with amusement before asking,

“And you Ensign, are you getting sufficient rest?”

Sally reddened immediately.

“Oh yes Captain, you needn’t worry about me Sir.”

Jean-Luc lifted his eyes from his sons and frowned at the young woman.

“I will most certainly worry about you Ensign. You are looking after my children and I deeply appreciate your efforts. Did you know you are the only person Doctor Picard is happy to have baby sit?”

Sally’s blush deepened.

“Oh Captain…I…I…no Sir I didn’t know.”

“Well it’s true. Now I want you to promise me something.”

The woman swallowed and tried to cover her smile.

“Yes Sir?”

“I want you to promise me you’re not taking on too much. You told me there are others willing to help…avail yourself of them.”

The smile became a grin.

“Yes Captain. I will.”

The Ensign got a chair and sat while the Captain played with his sons.

It was Jacques who noticed his father was sweating. Showing maturity beyond his tender years, the boy caught Sally’s attention and frowned at her. The Ensign stood, curious as to what was bothering the lad. One look at her Captain had her very concerned. Jean-Luc was pale and there was a slight tremor in his hands. Sweat trickled freely down his face and his eyes were dull.

“Sir? Captain Picard? Are you all right Sir?”

The man looked up and swallowed, giving a slight shake of his head. Sally didn’t hesitate. She slapped her comm. badge.

“Miles to Selar.”

“Selar here.”
“Doctor I need you in Captain Picard’s room immediately.”

“On my way.”

The Doctor entered with a hypospray in one hand and a tricorder in the other. She administered a drug and scanned the Captain as Sally took the twins and put them back in the pram. Jacques slid off the bed and went to Sally, his thumb stuck in his mouth as he stared wide-eyed at his father, his arm wrapped around her legs. While the Ensign tried to quell the boy’s fear, Selar spoke softly to her CO.

“You have done enough for one day Captain. I have given you a potent analgesic and you require rest. I will lower the bed.”

He raised one hand and shook his head, his voice husky and ragged.

“No…wait one moment…please.”

Selar paused and frowned.

“Captain…”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and shook his head.

“Please…let me say goodnight to my children.”

The Doctor stood back from the bed and sighed.

“Very well.”

Jean-Luc beckoned to his eldest son and smiled.
“Jacques?”

The boy stepped forward but faltered as his father closed his eyes and swallowed. His voice was very small when he said,

“Papa?”

The Captain opened his eyes and let his son see his love.

“It’s all right Jacques…come here please.”

Taking halting steps, the boy approached his father, his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth. Sally followed him and when he was close enough, lifted him onto the bed.

Jean-Luc slowly lifted one arm and smiled at his son.

“I need a hug Jacques.”

At first the little boy wrapped one arm around his father, not willing to give up his thumb, but as Jean-Luc settled his arm over his back, Jacques slipped his thumb from his mouth and wrapped his other arm around his father. His small body trembled as he started to cry, making Jean-Luc’s eyes fill with tears. The Captain lowered his face and kissed the top of his son’s head, whispering,

“It’s all right Jacques…everything’s all right.”

The boy shook his head and pulled away. Through his sobs he managed.

“No it’s not Papa. I want Maman…I want you to come home. It’s not the same. Sally doesn’t do the voices like you do when she reads to me. She makes me comb my hair different…I have to tuck myself in in the morning….it’s not the same Papa. Come home Papa…please?”

The man sighed and used his thumbs to wipe away the boy’s tears.

“I can’t come home yet Jacques but soon…I promise.”

The boy fell forward onto his father’s chest and sobbed, his voice muffled.

“What about Maman. Can you bring her home?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Not yet.”

The boy’s voice grew to a wail.

“Why? You’re the Captain…you can do anything!”

Jean-Luc pulled his son to him and closed his eyes in anguish. Jacques dissolved into more sobs and clung to his father. The twins started to cry and Sally went to Jacques, gently tugging his shoulders.

“Come on Jacques, it’s time to take the twins home. They need their dinner…will you help me feed them? Maybe you can have a bath with them too.”

Unwilling to release his father, Jacques tightened his grip, causing Jean-Luc to grimace and Selar to step up to the bed. Between the Doctor and the Ensign, they got the boy to let go of his father but he resisted their efforts to lift him from the bed, struggling and shouting.

“NO! I want to stay with Papa!”

He was becoming increasingly distressed when Jean-Luc’s deep commanding voice cut through his racket.

“Jacques!”

It was a tone the boy seldom heard from his father, but he reacted immediately. Suddenly still and quiet, he looked owlishly at the man, hiccupping occasionally. Jean-Luc softened his voice but the inherent authority was unmistakable.

“You will go back to our quarters and behave yourself. I will be home as soon as I can.”

Tears sild silently down the boy’s face but he nodded and said quietly,

“Yes Papa.”

Sally helped him from the bed and it was then she noticed the twins had stopped crying. As she left with her charges she marvelled,

“My God…even babies obey him!”

As Selar lowered the bed, Jean-Luc marshalled his remaining strength to spear her with his intense gaze.

“You will discharge me as soon as possible. My children need me.”

Knowing now was not the time to argue, the Doctor inclined her head.

“Yes Captain.”

She administered a sedative and, as the man slipped into sleep, she noted his stern expression didn’t alter.

“You are a very determined man Captain Picard.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Data bent low on his hands and knees and sniffed the aggregation of grasses and mud. His tricorder suggested it was a nesting site but, as there was no evidence it had been used in quite some time, the android decided to heed his own advice and use all his senses. The Lieutenant at his side frowned and gave a sidelong look at his companion, another Lieutenant, his eyebrows raised.

“Ah Commander…what are you doing?”

Data sat back on his haunches and brushed his hands free of sand.

“Although the information is sporadic and incomplete, the tricorder suggests this is a nest site. I am endeavouring to ascertain whether or not that is correct by utilising my olfactory senses. It has been documented that reptilian nest sites have a peculiar odour, one easily detectable.”

The young man gaped and shook his head.

“And does it Sir?”

Data shrugged.

“That is indeterminable as I am unfamiliar with this planet’s species. However I can determine it carries no reptilian odour that I can identify.”

The Lieutenant shrugged.

“So now what Sir? We have found an old nest. So what?”

Data stood and flicked at the sand on his trousers.

“We must thoroughly investigate everything we find Lieutenant. We do not yet know what is significant and what is not.”

“But Sir…how can an alien nest site be significant?”

The android shrugged.

“I do not know.”

Just then Data’s comm. badge came to life.

“Shuttle Monash to Data.”

“Data here, go ahead.”

“Sir we’re getting some screwy readings here. Request your assistance.”

The Second Officer frowned.
“Define ‘screwy’ Ensign.”

“Well…we think there might be a mass at one hundred and fifty metres of depth, but we can’t be sure. One minute we get random indications of a power source then it disappears. We need your help Sir.”

“Understood, I am on my way. Data out.”

The pale artificial man turned to his fellow officers.

“While I am gone I want you to search this section of beach. If you find any more nest sites, catalogue them then report to Commander Peverill. He will assign your new tasks.”

The men nodded and replied in unison.

“Aye Sir.”

Within fifteen minutes Data had piloted a shuttle out to sea and landed it on the water’s surface. Stern to stern, both craft had their aft hatches open, through which Data entered the Monash.

“Ensign Tamblyn, you reported a ‘mass’ at a depth of one hundred and fifty metres. Can you be more specific?”

Paul Tamblyn shook his head.

“Not really Sir. We think what we’ve found is the top of something, because the actual depth here is one hundred and sixty-five metres.”

“I see. Why do you not think it is a naturally occurring phenomenon?”

Tamblyn sighed and shrugged.

“Because of the sporadic power readings Sir. The source is unknown, but I don’t think it is naturally occurring. We’ve been trying to pin it down when we see it, but it keeps ghosting then disappearing.”

Data tilted his head in thought.

“And you think these readings are coming from the…mass?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Curious. Is there a deep water pressure suit on board?”

The Ensign shook his head.

“No Sir.”

“I see.”

Data walked forward and opened a broad range channel.

“Commander Data to all shuttles. Any shuttle containing a deep water pressure suit, please report to me immediately. Data out.”

He waited only five minutes before making his decision.
“It would seem none of the shuttles has one. I will return to the Enterprise. In my absence, Commander Peverill will be in charge. Please make your reports to him until I return.”

He didn’t wait for a reply. Several minutes later the shuttle had lifted off and was ascending the heavens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Will twisted in the Command chair and frowned.

“He asked for what?”

“A deep water pressure suit Sir.”

The big man nodded.

“That’s what I thought you said. Riker to Data.”

“Data here.”

“Going for a swim Data?”

Will grinned at hearing the obvious confusion coming from his friend.

“Sir?”

“You want a deep diving suit. Why?”

“Oh. Yes Sir. We have discovered something under the surface of the sea that warrants further investigation. Also, while I am aboard I will see if Geordi is ready with the augmented scanners. We would benefit from their readings.”

“Understood. I’ll let him know you’re on your way. Riker out.”

The First Officer ran his fingers through his beard and sighed. Lifting his head he called,

“Riker to LaForge.”

“LaForge here.”

“Geordi, Data’s on his way. How are we going with the scanners and sensors?”

“Almost there Commander, but our window is going to be very short. The activity of the Garudan sun is increasing again.”

Will nodded, his face showing his frustration.

“How long will we have?”

“Best estimate…twenty minutes.”

With a grunt, Will closed his eyes briefly and shook his head.

“Damn. Okay Geordi, start as soon as you’re ready. Send all our results down to the planet as well as to our science stations.”

“Will do Commander, LaForge out.”

The quiet voice of the Tactical officer broke into Will’s thoughts.

“Commander Data’s shuttle is docking now Sir.”

Giving a curt nod, Will muttered.

“Thank you Ensign.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      It had been several hours and no one had returned to Beverly’s room. She had managed to doze fitfully but as her fear slowly gave way to boredom, her thoughts settled on her family.

“Oh my little ones…are you all right? Is your father with you? Did they rescue him? Is he all right?”

 Images of her husband filled her mind and she sighed inwardly, remembering the night everything changed.

It had been nothing special, just a shared dinner, although being in her quarters was a little unusual, their habit of dining in Jean-Luc’s abode almost sacrosanct. They had eaten in easy companionship, chatting freely about everything and nothing, keeping up with ship’s gossip, work…the usual things. After dinner they had retired to the sofa to savour their wine, a bottle of the Picard vineyards. Beverly watched her friend surreptitiously, happy that he could relax so much in her company. Her pupils dilated as she took in his features…his body. She had always found him attractive…compelling…his natural authority and commanding presence made him very alluring but what she found most irresistible was his well hidden vulnerability. That he was willing to let his guard down with her was a tremendous compliment and she found she was becoming increasingly unable to resist his appeal. She had long harboured erotic fantasies about him, but as her feelings for him grew, the fantasies became more and more prevalent. And knowing he loved her…had done for thirty years…only served to make a difficult situation worse.

She sat up abruptly and placed her glass on the table, putting it down with more force than she intended. Somewhat startled, the Captain shot her a glance.

“Well I suppose we should call it a night Jean-Luc. I have to be up early tomorrow.”

She saw the disappointment flicker in his eyes but he covered it well. He stood and held out his hand, assisting Beverly to her feet. They walked slowly to the door and, as it opened, Jean-Luc turned to his best friend with the intention of thanking her for a lovely evening. He caught Beverly in an unguarded moment. As their eyes met he saw the love in her eyes.

Jean-Luc was a man accustomed to seizing opportunities when they arose. It was a philosophy that had served him well all his life. Not willing to change now, he took a step forward, allowing the door to close. Holding Beverly’s gaze, he raised his hands and cradled her face, leaning in slowly and brushing his lips over hers. The shock of their touch sent a shiver through the red head. She gasped softly and, as he approached for another kiss, she closed her eyes and waited breathlessly. The following kiss made her moan softly and when they parted she mewed in discontent. Still holding her face, Jean-Luc said quietly,

“Open your eyes Beverly.”

Once he held her gaze he took a deep breath and swallowed.

“I love you Beverly…you know that. Do you love me?”

All she could do was nod; her voice had long ago deserted her. The smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth made Beverly chuckle. Jean-Luc kissed her again. What started out as an expression of tenderness became heatedly passionate, leaving Beverly weak-kneed and clutching his shoulders. When he picked her up she sighed and laid her head against his neck. As he carried her into the bedroom she whispered,

“Make love to me Jean-Luc.”

His reply was another languid kiss. They made love twice that night and again in the morning. As they lay quietly, enjoying the afterglow of their efforts, Beverly finally found her voice. She snuggled into his embrace and, with tears in her eyes, said,

“I love you Jean-Luc. I have for a long time.”

He tightened his embrace and kissed the top of her head.

“I know.”

They were married three months later.

Her thoughts drifted then. Images of their married life, the afternoon Jean-Luc proposed made her sigh.

They were sharing a day off. The Captain had done some tweaking of the rosters to allow them to have a day off together. He had taken Beverly to the Holodeck for a picnic. The blanket was spread on the top of a small rise, the grasses soft and fresh. Around them in every direction sprawled the Picard vineyards. Beverly was sitting within the embrace of her lover, her back pressed against his chest. She leaned her head back onto his shoulder and sighed as he gently caressed her neck.

“Oh God…this is wonderful. Is it really like this?”

Jean-Luc chuckled.

“Well we do get lovely days like this in late spring and early summer but the truth is there are insects that bite up here. Whenever I came here as a lad to read I always had to smother myself in anti bite cream.

The Doctor giggled.

“Oh I can just see you…all shiny.”

With a snort, Jean-Luc gently bit her neck.

“I was not shiny! The cream rubbed in completely. What I detested was how it smelled. I ended up smelling highly perfumed! My dear brother used to give me hell about it.”

Beverly turned in his arms and knelt. With mischief in her eyes, she leaned forward and nuzzled his neck, groaning sensuously. Amused…and a little aroused, Jean-Luc lifted his head to give her better access. The gentle shove on his chest had him topple backwards leaving Beverly to stretch out on top of him. He sighed and brought his hands to her head, guiding her mouth down to his. The kiss was passionate and Beverly mewed as she felt his erection grow under her. His hands drifted down her sides, his fingers gathering the material of her sundress. As the fabric slid up her legs, Jean-Luc’s eyes suddenly widened as he encountered no underwear. Beverly lifted her head to smile into his dark eyes. His one growled word sent shivers down her spine.

“Wench.”

She sat up and ground herself against him. He gripped her hips and pushed up, closing his eyes and moaning softly. Abruptly, making his eyes snap open, Beverly moved backwards to sit on his thighs. She made short work of opening his trousers and freeing him from his briefs. With a few quick tugs, she lowered his pants and underwear to his thighs then moved back up to straddle him. She rubbed herself over his stiff penis, coating him with her dew. His hands went to the buttons of her dress, but he growled in frustration as his fingers fumbled. Taking pity on him, Beverly took over and undid the dress, pulling it open and displaying herself to him. With no bra to worry about, Jean-Luc smiled as he lifted her breasts out of the confines of the dress and rolled the nipples in his fingers. Beverly was deeply aroused. She leaned back, arching her neck as her lover kneaded and teased her breasts. Suddenly she looked down at him, placed one hand on his chest and raised herself, taking his penis in her other hand and lifting it. With slow deliberation she lowered herself, centimetre by centimetre until he was deeply inside her. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and gasped, grabbing her dress and pulling her down for a heated kiss. The broke the kiss, panting and gasping. Beverly lifted herself slowly the dropped back down sharply, making them both cry out. Heady with desire, the red head quickened her motions, rising and dropping forcefully. Very rapidly she approached her release but her lover had other ideas. He suddenly sat up and stilled her. Utilising his mouth, he lavished her nipples while his fingers explored her sex. She shifted and wrapped her legs around him, giving him better access to her clitoris. As he kissed her again, his fingers slid over her pearl making her shudder. He lifted his hands and wrapped his arms around her before slowly leaning forward to lay her on her back. With her legs around his waist, Jean-Luc pulled himself out of her tight heat and slid his penis through her folds. Beverly gasped and shook her head, panting,

“No…no…I want you inside me…quickly Jean-Luc…please…quickly!”

Ignoring her plea, he nuzzled her neck, while slothfully pushing his erection back and forth over her clitoris. His deep voice was husky with desire.

“What do you want Beverly? What do you want me to do?”

She bit her lip and screwed her eyes shut to stop her reply. He chuckled and pushed himself harder against her.

“Tell me my wanton lover…how do you want it? Hmm?”

Unable to resist his sensuous voice, Beverly gasped,

“Hard…I want it hard and fast!”

“Then that’s what you’re going to get!”

He surged into her, the sudden penetration making Beverly shriek. He took her hands and pinned them beside her head as he rose up and proceeded to plunge violently in and out of the writhing women below him. Mindless with sensation, Beverly arched her back and gripped his shoulders.

“Yes! Yes! Oh God…I’m going to…”

Abruptly she was there…her climax causing her to scream softly as her body twisted and flexed in ecstasy. Undone by his lover’s reaction, Jean-Luc closed his eyes, his mouth agape as his orgasm swept him away. Buried deep within his lover, he spasmed rhythmically as he ejaculated. Seconds later he collapsed, panting and softly moaning Beverly’s name. With every residual pulse of his softening penis, Beverly clenched him internally. They lay in each other’s arms, slowly regaining their breath.

Eventually Jean-Luc rolled to his side, taking Beverly with him. As they lay quietly, still joined, Jean-Luc sighed and tenderly kissed her.

“I never want to do anything else but make love to you.”

Beverly chuckled languidly.

“What…no captaincy? No exploring space?”

He shook his head.

“No. I just want to spend the rest of my days loving you. And as for exploring…I’d rather explore you.”

He gently pushed himself into her and she sighed.

“We have the rest of our lives Jean-Luc. Don’t even think of giving up your life’s work for me…or anybody else. It’s who you are.”

They kissed again and Jean-Luc smiled.

“Actually there’s a way I can have my cake and eat it too.”

That made Beverly’s eyebrows rise.

“I’m cake?”

He chuckled.

“Not exactly, but I think you know what I mean…although you are simply scrumptious.”

The Doctor giggled.

“And you’re incorrigible. Now what’s your big idea?”

He sighed, closed his eyes briefly and swallowed.

“Marry me.”

Beverly’s dreamy look disappeared. Suddenly tense she gasped,

“What?”

Rising up on one elbow, Jean-Luc looked down at the startled woman.

“You heard me. Marry me…please.”

It was Beverly’s turn to swallow. She frowned, her eyes darting about.

“But…Jean-Luc…it’s only been two and a half months.”

He smiled tenderly.

“And thirty years.”

She looked into his eyes and saw the love and determination. Sighing, she shook her head.

“You’re mad.”

He chuckled.

“Perhaps but I know what I want. The thing is…do you what the same?”

Staring deeply into his eyes, she whispered,

“Are you sure?”

He nodded slowly.

“Yes, absolutely.”

Her smile was small, but her eyes sparkled.

“Then yes.”

His smile became a rare full grin and his eyes glittered with tears.

“I love you mon coeur…I will make sure you will never regret what you have just done…what you have just given me.”

Her own tears sliding down her face, Beverly sighed.

“I know my heart…I trust you…implicitly…and I love you, with all that I am.”

He sighed and they kissed again.

“I am a very lucky man.”

Beverly giggled.

“I know.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       It was getting late when Data was finally ready for his dive. The shuttle floated serenely on the surface as the two Ensigns checked his suit.

“All clear Sir.”

Data turned and nodded.

“Very good Ensign, thank you. I estimate I will be gone approximately thirty minutes. Please monitor the line and be ready to haul me up if I give the appropriate signal.”

The young man nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

Moving with surprising ease, Data went to the open aft hatch and sat on the leading edge with his flippered feet in the dark green water. The older Ensign once again checked the line attachment and tapped Data’s helmet, giving a thumbs up sign. The android answered the sign and, without any further ado, slipped feet first into the frigid water.

As he quickly sank the oxygen mixture in his tanks changed to compensate for the ever increasing depth. At seventy metres he switched on his helmet lights and aimed the beams down. The inky blackness below him extinguished the light, swallowing it up completely. With infinite patience Data bided his time, knowing he would eventually arrive at his destination. The pressure compressed his suit against his body, but he was comfortable, the internal heater keeping him warm. At one hundred metres an automatic system within the suit compensated for the pressure and he realised he could move more freely. Now surrounded by absolute darkness, Data turned his head, his lights illuminating bizarre and deadly looking creatures. His hand dropped to his phaser, but the animals avoided him, seemingly disturbed by his lights. He glanced down just in time to see the top of an enormous dome suddenly appear out of the blackness. He kicked his feet and arrested his downward fall, hovering over the dome. Aligning himself horizontally, he drifted down until his gloved hand made contact with the dome. It was covered by a thick coating of marine growth but as he rubbed vigorously, the underlying surface became evident. It was rough, grey in colour and obviously not natural. He kicked his feet, moving at a slow pace. He deployed his tricorder but was frustrated by the results. His hand encountered an irregularity and he stopped, his hand busily brushing away the growth. He exposed a seam. Turning at right angles to his previous trajectory, he followed the seam as it traversed the top of the dome and disappeared down the gently sloping side. He was so engrossed in his investigation; he literally bumped into the sea floor. Righting himself, Data stood on the barren sandy bottom and frowned. The surface of the dome went below the sea bed. He floated down to his knees and, waving his hand vigorously, shifted an amount of sand but got no further in discovering how deeply into the bed the dome went. With his tricorder showing very little information, Data placed one hand against the surface and, using his flippers, began to circumnavigate the dome.

It took nearly forty-five minutes before he returned to his starting point. He encountered more seams but apart from that the dome was featureless. The comm. unit in his helmet came to life.

“Commander Data?”

“Go ahead.”

“Sir we are receiving the results of the Enterprise’s scans. I think you should see this Sir.”

“Understood. I will surface immediately.”

As he began his ascent the line was taken up and, due to the sophistication of his suit, decompression was unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    In the time it had taken for Selar to leave the Captain’s room to retrieve a hypospray, Jean-Luc had sat up and twisted himself in the bed so the one leg was dangling over the side while the other leg, completely encased in a plasticast, stuck out in front of him. The Doctor entered and stopped dead.

“What do you think you are doing?”

The man grunted.

“I am attempting to get out of bed.”
“Why?”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly.

“As I told you yesterday…I want to be released to my quarters. Today would be good.”

Selar went to his bedside and injected him before he could protest.

“That was for your pain Captain. I cannot release you yet, you are still undergoing intensive regen treatments.”

The Captain shook his head.

“You have a portable regen unit; I can be treated in my quarters.”

“That is illogical Captain Picard. You are here; you should take advantage of that fact.”

The man grunted.

“You saw how my son reacted yesterday. He needs me Doctor and I intend to be there for him.”

The Vulcan shrugged.

“Children of his age are very adaptable; he will soon become accustomed to his changed circumstances.”

Jean-Luc shook his head vehemently.

“I don’t want him to adjust! Look, his mother is missing, he’s pining for her and I’m not there to comfort him. He’s suffering. I have to be there for him and I can’t do that from Sick Bay.”

He looked into Selar’s dark eyes and all but pleaded.

“Please Doctor…I must do this.”

Selar stood absolutely still as her analytical mind sorted through the facts. She knew if she didn’t acquiesce he would become belligerent and his treatment would be that much more difficult. She clearly remembered Deanna’s warning. But could she treat him adequately in his quarters? She weighed the pros and cons and quickly came to her decision.

“Very well Captain I will release you, but until I am satisfied you are coping you will have a nurse stay with you twenty-four hours a day.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips and considered the options. He fixed the Doctor with a steady gaze and offered a suggestion.
“I would like to limit the amount of people in my quarters at the moment…my children have been disrupted enough. How about you let Ensign Miles look after me?”

Selar shook her head.

“Unacceptable. She lacks the required medical training.”

Resting his cast encased arm on his chest, Jean-Luc sighed.

“Look all she needs do is scan me regularly with a medical tricorder. You, or some other Doctor will be coming by often enough and I will tell her if I require help.”

Selar retuned his gaze with equanimity, giving his words due consideration.

“It would mean I have to trust you.”

Jean-Luc nodded seriously.

“Yes.”

“You have proven, over the years, to be a recalcitrant patient. Some might say…difficult.”

Jean-Luc nodded slowly.

“That is true.”

“Why is this different?”

The smile that emerged on her Captain’s face surprised the Doctor.

“Because this involves my children. I may take liberties with my own health, but I would never compromise theirs.”

Said with such resolute conviction, Selar had no choice but to accede.

“Very well Captain. I will take you to your quarters and initiate your regen treatment. I will trust you. Don’t disappoint me Sir.”

Jean-Luc nodded solemnly.

“I won’t…thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Geordi turned from the aft science station and repeated his words.

“There’re a series of them Commander. Over a twelve kilometre square I count…”

He turned back to his screen and paused,

“…eighteen of them.”

Will, standing beside the dark man, ran a hand through his hair.

“Do we know what they are?”

The Engineer shrugged.

“Well, we’re only getting partial information, but they’re not naturally occurring, and there’s air inside them…air and water in separate compartments.”

Will chewed his lip.

“Dwellings?”

Again Geordi shrugged.

“I don’t know for sure, but what else could they be? And Commander…the structures extend below the level of the sea floor…at least twenty metres, maybe more and there’s evidence to suggest each structure is connected to the others by subterranean tubes at least three metres in diameter.”

The big man puffed out his cheeks.

“Okay…do we have any idea how many people could be down there?”

The engineer sighed.

“None whatsoever. If there’s anyone down there we can’t detect them.”

Will grunted.

“Damn. Okay keep scanning. Have you sent what we have so far to the surface?”

“Yes Sir. Data should be back aboard the shuttle in about ten minutes.”

“Right. Keep me posted.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The two Ensigns on the shuttle assisted their Commander back on board. Data took his helmet off and, with further help from the junior officers, quickly divested himself of the pressure suit. He was seated in the cockpit ten minutes after he came aboard. His remarkable positronic brain assimilated the incoming information at a phenomenal speed, the Ensigns could only stand and watch in awe. Having read the information, Data tapped his comm. badge.

“Data to Enterprise.”

“Riker here. Go ahead Data.”

“Sir I have read the results of the scans and I can confirm most of what you have found. Although I only examined one of the domes, I ascertained they are not naturally occurring and do extend below the floor of the sea.”

“Understood. Is there anything other then the domes? Anything else on the sea bed?”

The android shook his head.

“No Sir, the sea bottom is barren, devoid of plant and animal life as far as I could see, however the surface of the dome is covered by a luxuriant amount of marine growth.”

“I see. Very well, have you anything else to report?”

“Yes Sir. On our investigation of the beach and the dunes we discovered what appears to be a moderately large nest site. I would like to bring some samples aboard for further analysis.”

“That’s fine Data. I’ll see you when you come up.”

“Aye Sir. Data out.”

The Second Officer turned his head and caught the attention of the waiting Ensigns.

“We are taking the shuttle back to the beach. Please take your seats and prepare for lift off.”

“Aye Sir.”

As soon as Data’s shuttle settled on the beach, a tall female Lieutenant met him as the hatch opened. Data stepped out and lifted an eyebrow.

“Report Lieutenant.

“Sir we have found several more nest sites, five containing some large unbroken eggs and the remains of broken eggs.”

“I see. Anything else?”
“No Sir.”

“Show me please.”

The walk to the nests was relatively long, about four hundred metres. The Lieutenant led Data into the small dunes and pushed through some undergrowth. There, in a saucer-like depression were the remains of a nest and in it sat eight large bluish eggs, surrounded by the broken residue of several more eggs. Data went to the nest, went down on one knee and peered closely at the remains. As he examined the eggs, the Lieutenant informed him,

“The other nests with eggs are down the beach a ways, approximately fifteen metres apart.”

The android stood and deployed his tricorder.

“These nests are one point five metres in diameter and one point eight metres deep. That suggests a creature of some appreciable size. The blending of soil and plant material to construct the nest suggests the builder intended to use the heat generated by the nest to aid in incubation, a tactic shared by many species of reptiles and birds from Earth.”

He turned to the Lieutenant.

“I want you to gather a team. Collect samples of the soil, plant material, and broken eggs and take several of the unbroken eggs. Bring them to my shuttle when you are ready.”

“Aye Sir.”

On his walk back to the main landing site, Data was met by Lieutenant Peverill. The young man nodded to his CO.

“Sir we have discovered three indentations on the beach. I believe they fit the dimensions of the indentation found at the campsite.”

Data raised an eyebrow.

“Indeed? Show me please.”

Once again on his knees, Data meticulously measured the indentations then stood and brushed the sand off his trousers.

“You are correct Lieutenant. These indentations are an exact match. Take a cast of them. I will be returning to the Enterprise shortly, you will assume command in my absence.”

The young man nodded.

“Yes Commander.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Deanna Troi knew the man before her well as her Captain, but the man himself remained somewhat of a mystery. He only ever let her see of his real self what he allowed her to see. She knew this was a defence mechanism, one carefully constructed to protect himself, but she was curious nonetheless to know what lay in his heart as well as his mind. Seeing this stoic and reserved man seated with his son on his lap, a gentle smile on his face and suspicious moisture in his eyes, Deanna knew she would probably never know his true self…that would be something only Beverly would ever know. She resolved to query her friend about it…if she was recovered.

Sally Miles was feeding the twins, having just scanned her Captain and found, although he was tired and in mild pain, he required no medical intervention. Jacques was chatting to his father and Jean-Luc was listening closely to what his son was saying. Deanna watched with interest as the man’s brow lowered.

“Well if you didn’t want him to take your book, why didn’t you say something?”

Jacques’ voice was small.

“Because he’s bigger than me.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“But Jacques Adam Stefferson is your friend. Are you frightened of him because he’s bigger than you?”

The boy shrugged.

“He took my pencils and I asked for him to give them back. He wouldn’t so I took them. He pushed me over.”

“I see. Does your teacher know about this?”

Jacques shook his head.

“No.”

The Captain pursed his lips and lowered his head and his voice.

“Would you like me to talk to her?”

The boy looked into his father’s eyes and nodded silently.

“All right. Now…are we going to read?”

The boy shook his head.

“Oh? Why not?”

Tears welled in the little boy’s eyes.

“Papa where’s Maman?”

Jean-Luc cast an eye at Deanna and frowned.

“Jacques…”

The lad shook his head and raised his voice.

“No Papa…I want Maman! Where is she? I had a yucky dream last night….I couldn’t find Maman and when I woke up she wasn’t there and neither were you!”

Deanna caught her CO’s eye and he nodded imperceptibly. She moved closer to the boy and his father.

“Jacques.”

He reluctantly turned his head and regarded Deanna with teary eyes.

“You know that your mother is a Star Fleet officer.”

The boy nodded, his thumb making its way to his mouth.

“And you know that sometimes Star Fleet officers have to do things that take them away from their families.”

The boy’s face brightened.

“Like when Papa went to that planet with the green people and didn’t come home for lots of days?”

Deanna smiled and nodded.

“That’s right. Well your mother has gone away too.”

That brought a frown.

“But Papa doesn’t know when she’s coming back and he’s the Captain…he should know everything.”

Deanna shook her head.

“No Jacques, he doesn’t know everything. Sometimes even Captains don’t know everything that happens.”

“But he’s my Papa and Maman’s my Maman…why doesn’t he know where she is?”

Jean-Luc took his son’s hand and said softly.

“Jacques…”

The boy shook his head.

“No Papa…why don’t you know?”

Deanna sighed and closed her eyes, saying softly,

“Tell him Captain.”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and swallowed.

“Jacques you know that Maman and I went down to the planet?”

The boy nodded.

“Well while we were there I got hurt. Your Maman tried to help me, but somehow she went missing and so far we can’t find her.”

That brought quiet tears from the boy.

“You don’t know where she is?”

“No.”

“Did you hail her?”

“Yes, but she didn’t answer.”

The tears intensified.

“Will she come back?”

Jean-Luc wrapped his good arm around his son and laid his cheek atop the boy’s head.

“We are doing everything we can to find her Jacques.”

Deanna raised her mental barriers against the anguish coming from father and son. She stayed half an hour more before leaving them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The cold wet hand on her face woke Beverly from a fitful doze. Her eyes snapped open and an alien appeared, blocking the light from the overhead fixture.

“We have given your words due consideration. You may be able to help us.”

Beverly swallowed.

“What is it you need from me?”

Instead of answering, the alien moved away and Beverly felt the probe being withdrawn from her vagina. She felt something tugging at the skin of her lower abdomen, followed by the sensation of something being taken from her flesh. There was little pain. The covering of her body with a soft blanket-like article made her sigh.

“Will you let me move?”

There was a sharp pain in her upper arm and the cold feeling of liquid being infused into her muscles. She waited and within minutes she began to regain control over her body. Instead of doing anything overt, she shifted her head slightly and moved her eyes until she could see the alien. She smiled.

“Thank you. Will you remove the probes from my brain?”

“No. Without those we cannot communicate.”

“Then may I sit up?”

The being went to a control panel and pushed a button. The top half of the bed rose until Beverly was sitting up. She lifted her hand, the action sluggish, but she sighed with relief at being able to once again move. Before she could ask any more questions, a computer screen was moved closer to her. Displayed on the terminal were images of human anatomy, one male, the other female. The alien gestured with a webbed hand.

“Can you explain the differences in your anatomy?”

Beverly smiled.

“Of course.”

She lifted her hand and pointed.

“This is a female. Females are generally smaller than males, have wider pelvises and lighter muscles. These organs are breasts. Their primary function is to produce milk to nurture our young.”

 Her finger lowered.

“This organ is the uterus. In it, the fertilised egg grows into a baby. On either side of the uterus are the ovaries. They produce eggs.”

She shifted her attention to the other schematic.

“This is a male. These are testicles. They produce sperm, needed to fertilise the female’s eggs. This organ is the penis. It is required in fertilisation, as the procedure requires the sperm to be deposited within the female.”

The alien nodded.

“These organs…do they have any other functions?”

Beverly smiled.

“Yes, some do, I have only mentioned their primary function.”

“I see. Tell me…what is this?”

The alien enlarged an image of the female genitalia and pointed to the clitoris.

Beverly sighed.

“That is the clitoris.”

“What is its function?”

“To provide pleasure.”

“Why?”

Beverly slowly lifted her hand and rubbed her cheek.

“In Humans the process of procreation is very, very pleasurable for both male and female. Also in Humans the act of procreation is undertaken for purely pleasurable reasons…that is not for procreation.”

There followed a protracted silence. The alien looked at Beverly then looked at the screen, seeming to be confused. It eventually gave the Doctor its attention again.

“I do not understand. Why would you go through the process of procreation and not reproduce?”

Beverly smiled.

“As I told you it is extremely pleasurable. For many centuries Humans have had control of their fertility, only creating offspring when they wanted to. That means that they can enjoy the pleasure of the act without reproducing.”

The alien shook its head.

“So you are telling me you use the process of reproduction for…pleasure only?”

“Yes.”

“Does this process have a name?”

Beverly chuckled.

“It has many names but the most common is sex.”

The tall being sighed.

“Perhaps you cannot help us after all.”

Beverly frowned.

“Why do you say that?”

In silence the alien pushed the screen out of the way and went to leave the room. Beverly spoke out loud.

“No…don’t go! Tell me what’s wrong.”

The alien didn’t understand her words, but it heard the urgency inherent in them. It turned and went back to the console.

“We are too different.”

Beverly shook her head.

“Do you mean anatomically?”

Shaking its head, the alien lifted its hands.

“No…philosophically. To us, the process of reproduction is sacred. We too derive pleasure from the process, but to indulge in the act for the pleasure alone is abhorrent. We cannot ask one who takes the process so frivolously to help us. It would be an anathema.”

The red head shook her head.

“But you can’t judge me because our cultures differ. My knowledge as a healer might be able to help you! That has nothing to do with my attitude to sex!”

The alien sighed, its nictitating membranes briefly covering its eyes.

“We will give this some consideration. Do you require food…drink?”

Realising she was both hungry and thirsty, Beverly nodded.

“Yes please, I need both food and drink.”

“I will provide for you.”

Without another word, the being left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Will and Deanna were enjoying a quiet few minutes in Deanna’s quarters. Emily lay in her father’s arms, sound asleep after a feed. The new formula, tailored to her genetic profile had improved her demeanour greatly, feeding now a pleasurable experience for all involved. Deanna watched in amusement as Will’s eyes drooped and his head began to nod. She could feel his weariness so she leaned forward and eased her hands under the baby, her intention to put her in her crib. Will’s eyes snapped open and he growled.

“I was not asleep!”

Emily snuffled and he lifted the little girl to his broad chest, gently rubbing her back. Deanna sighed and gave her friend a sceptical look.

“Will you’ve been awake for over forty hours; it’s time you got some rest.”

The big man shook his head.

“Not likely Dee. With the Captain out of Sick Bay prematurely and the situation with Beverly unresolved I’ve got way too much to do.”

Placing her hand on his forearm, Deanna let him see her concern.

“But Will you can’t go on like this. What possible good will it do if you collapse through exhaustion? If you really want to help Captain Picard and Beverly you have to get some rest so you’ll be at your best.”

The First officer grunted.

“It’s so bloody frustrating Dee. With the solar activity from the Garudan star we can’t use the ship’s scanners, transporters or sensors properly and our equipment is virtually useless on the surface. We’re effectively blind. Now we know there are underwater structures…huge domes connected by subterranean tunnels…and we can’t see inside them.”

Making sure his daughter was secure; he rubbed his face with one hand.

“What if Beverly’s being held in one of those domes? How the hell are we going to get her out?”

The Counsellor made sure her voice was soft and calm.

“Are we doing everything we can to find her?”

Will nodded silently.

“Then you can’t do any more Will. Look, it’s getting late and you really need some quality sleep. Go…get in my bed and get the rest you so desperately require.”

There was a momentary silence while Will warred with himself. He knew Deanna was right, but his burning need to find Beverly pulled him towards the Bridge. With a soft grunt his body, not his mind, won.

“All right Dee. Here…”

He handed the baby to her mother and slowly stood, taking the time to stretch. He cast Deanna a look of tired gratitude and slowly walked into her bedroom. She noticed his slumped shoulders and sighed, tapping her comm. badge and saying quietly,

“Troi to Bridge.”

“Bridge here, Lieutenant Duggan.”

“Lieutenant Commander Riker will not be returning to the Bridge until tomorrow morning.”

“Acknowledged Counsellor. Bridge out.”

Deanna’s eyes drifted down to her daughter and she smiled tenderly.

“You will see your Daddy in the morning my little one.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Jean-Luc, having been given a potent analgesic prior to retiring for the night, was sluggish to waken as his brain perceived the soft voice of his oldest son.

“Papa? Papa wake up.”

The man’s eyes slowly opened and he lifted his head, noting that the lights were on in his bedroom.

“Jacques? Are you all right? Where’s Ensign Miles?”

Knuckling his eyes, the boy took a shaky breath.

“Sally’s asleep. Papa I had a yucky dream…can I get in with you?”

Jean-Luc found a smile.

“Of course you can.”

With his free arm, the Captain lifted the blankets and Jacques wasted no time in snuggling into his body. With the hip to toe cast on his right leg and his left arm also encased in a long cast, Jean-Luc found it difficult to embrace his son, but, such is the flexibility of children, Jacques soon moulded his little body to the contours of his father and, after placing his thumb in his mouth, let his body relax. Jean-Luc quietly ordered the lights off and in the silent darkness he heard his son softly crying. Not knowing what to say to comfort the boy, Jean-Luc gently stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head. After a few minutes Jacques asked around his thumb,

“What if Maman doesn’t come back?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and concentrated on keeping his voice even.

“I’m sure we’ll find her Jacques. Uncle Will and Uncle Data are doing everything they can.”

The boy sniffed.

“But they don’t know where she is…neither do you. What if she’s hurt?”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and said softly,

“Lights ten percent. Jacques will you help me to sit up?”
“Oui Papa.”

Together they got Jean-Luc sitting up, his back propped against the head of the bed, Jacques careful to place the pillows behind his father. Jean-Luc lifted his encased arm and encouraged his son to snuggle against his chest. Once the boy was settled, Jean-Luc hugged him as best he could and sighed.

“Jacques whatever happens…you and your brothers won’t be alone, you have me.”

With his thumb still in his mouth, Jean-Luc had to listen carefully to hear his son’s words.

“I know Papa but I want Maman too. Don’t you want her?”

Tears pricked the man’s eyes as he nodded.

“Oh yes…oh yes Jacques…I want her very much.”

The boy lifted his head, his eye wide.

“Tell me about your wedding day again Papa.”

That brought a wistful smile to the Captain.

“Well…I hadn’t seen your Maman for three long days. We had set the date, but at the last minute I had to mediate a dispute between some miners. We had rendezvoused with the Agamemnon and Captain Simpson, an old friend of mine, had agreed to marry us. The two ships…the Enterprise and the Agamemnon stayed in orbit around Jarros waiting for me to finish the mediation. Finally, after days and days the miners reached an agreement and I was able to come back to the Enterprise. Now, your Aunt Deanna wouldn’t let me see your Maman because it was our wedding day. Uncle Will, Uncle Data and Uncle Geordi took me to my quarters and stayed while I showered and shaved and got dressed.”

Jacques nodded.

“In your dress uniform.”

“That’s right and your uncles were in their dress uniforms too. We waited in my quarters for two whole hours until it was time to go to the forward lounge. Aunt Guinan had decorated it…it looked beautiful and Uncle Will had turned the ship so all we could see out the viewports was stars. Uncle Will and I took our places with Captain Simpson and waited. Then some very pretty music started and I turned around…and there was your Maman.”

Jean-Luc’s voice broke and he had to swallow and take a deep breath to regain his composure.

“Your brother Wesley was holding her elbow and Maman was holding a small bouquet of orchids.”

Jacques sighed.

“She was very beautiful.”

Jean-Luc tightened his arm around his son.

“Oh yes Jacques, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Aunty Deanna walked behind her and all together they walked slowly through the lounge until Maman stood by my side. I took her hand and we faced Captain Simpson and he married us.”

The boy giggled.

“And then you kissed and then there was a big party.”

Jean-Luc answered his son’s chuckle with one of his own.

“Yes I did and yes there was…a very big party. Uncle Data and Uncle Geordi had made a special programme on the Holodeck and we were there a very long time having our party. Lots and lots of the crew stopped by to congratulate Maman and me. It was a very happy, wonderful day.”

Father and son stayed in companionable silence for a while before Jacques said,

“Tell me about when I was born.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Well…we had only been married a few weeks when I asked Maman if she would like to have children. She wasn’t too sure at first, but after she thought about it for a few days, she told me she would be very happy to have some children. You were conceived about a month later and by the time we had our first wedding anniversary, you were there with us.”

Jacques lifted his head and took his thumb out of his mouth to stare solemnly at his father.

“You helped me to be born.”

The Captain nodded.

“Indeed I did and it was a wonderful experience, one I will never forget.”

“Maman said you were scared.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Ah…actually scared might not be the right word. I was worried and apprehensive, but I don’t think I was scared. You see having a baby is very hard work and, even though the mother is given medicine to help, it is a painful process and I found it very difficult to see your Maman go through that and not be able to do much to help her.”

It was Jacques’s turn to frown.

“But you knew what to do.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes, I had been practising with birth simulations on the Holodeck and Doctor Selar was there to help me if I needed her, but Jacques being there and assisting in your birth was a very intense experience. It may be hard for you to understand, but it changed me forever.”

“But you were happy?”

“Oh yes! Very, very happy, so was Maman.”

Pulling slightly away from his father, Jacques crossed his legs and smiled.

“And when Matthieu and Henri were born you helped too.”

Jean-Luc smiled, but his eyes were haunted.

“Yes, but Maman had a very hard time having the twins, then, just after they were born, Maman had a medical emergency that made her very sick. I was very, very worried about her.”

The boy nodded.

“I remember Sally came to stay with me ‘cause you stayed with Maman in Sick Bay all night.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes and then you…”

The man tickled his son,

“Came to Sick Bay next morning and saw your little brothers.”

Jacques giggled then sobered.

“Papa I want Maman to come home.”

Jean-Luc gathered the boy in his arms and together they lay back down. Once Jean-Luc was satisfied his son was warm and comfortable, he kissed him and gave him a hug.

“Me too Jacques, me too.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     It was a little unusual for Data to be seated at the analysis computer in Sick Bay. The lab he was in was deserted but for him and he found the screen a bit low to see while standing and, rather than adjust it, he chose to sit. The results scrolled across the screen and he frowned, looking over to the spectral analyser that scanned the three eggs. Refocussing his attention on the screen, he highlighted an area and enlarged it.

“Curious.”

He tapped his comm. badge.

“Data to Riker.”

It was Deanna who answered.

“Troi here Data, Commander Riker is asleep. Can I help you?”

Data gave the query a second’s thought before replying,

“Could you come down to Sick Bay please Counsellor?”

“Ah…yes, but it will take me about fifteen minutes, I have to get someone to sit with Emily.”

“Understood Counsellor, I will see you when you arrive.”

The mechanical man looked again at the screen and again tapped his comm. badge.

“Data to LaForge.”

A sleepy voice responded.

“LaForge here Data, what can I do for you?”

“I am sorry to disturb you Geordi, but I require your presence in Sick Bay.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Data and Geordi were pouring over the screen when Deanna arrived. Geordi saw her and stepped to one side to give her a clear view of the screen.

“What is it Data?”

Data stood and pointed to the images.

“We may have discovered something of importance Counsellor.”

Troi peered at the screen and smiled.

“I see. Well what is it? What am I looking at?”

Using his index finger, Data illustrated his words.

“What you are looking at is a spectral analysis of three of the eggs we recovered from the nests. See here…”

He pointed to one particular egg,

“It contains an immature being. But this egg and this one too also contain infant beings.”

Deanna nodded.

“So?”

“Each of the immature beings is significantly deformed.”

The Counsellor gasped and looked up into Data’s golden eyes.

“How do you know?”

“Apart from each individual having different deformities, I have established these anomalies are inconsistent with sustaining life.”

Deanna stood, a deep frown marring her classical beauty.

“Have you scanned the other eggs?”

“Yes Counsellor, they are all defective.”

“None are compatible with life?”

“No Counsellor.”

Geordi stepped closer and gently gripped Deanna’s shoulder.

“And they’re amphibious Counsellor…at least they’re supposed to be.”

Deanna’s eyes snapped to Data for an explanation. Again he pointed to the screen.

“These organs are supposed to be gills and these…”

He indicated the shadowy images,

“Were meant to be lungs.”

Deanna turned her back on the screen and folded her arms.
“Right. From what we know so far, Beverly appears to have been abducted and possibly taken into the sea. We already have seven dead bodies, all male and all drowned. We have discovered some sort of structures under the sea which our scans can’t penetrate. Data what are the odds that Beverly is being held in those structures?”

With a tilt of his head, Data made the calculations.

“Ninety-eight point seven percent Counsellor.”

Her next question was directed at the Chief Engineer.

“Geordi can you devise some sort of scanner that we can use close up, under water? Possibly hand-held?”

The blue ocular implants that served as Geordi’s eyes dilated.

“Maybe Counsellor…if we tie several tricorders together and tap them into our sensors, but that will depend on the Garudan sun. We will have to wait for a quiet interlude in the sun’s activity.”

The Counsellor nodded.

“Very well, make the required arrangements. I will wake Commander Riker and inform him of what’s transpired.”

With a nod and a quiet, “Yes Sir.”, Geordi left. Deanna turned to Data and smiled.

“Good work Data, keep working.”

“Aye Counsellor.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   The hard cold surface of the metal table was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Now able to move, but still connected to the probes in her brain, Beverly sighed and shifted again, trying to ease the growing pain in her back and buttocks.

When the door whispered open, the Doctor turned her head and smiled. Knowing communication wasn’t possible until the alien went to the console, Beverly waited, stifling her impatience as the tall being walked ponderously across the room. Finally connected, the words sounded in her mind.

“You have eaten…drank?”

“Yes thank you. May I have my clothes?”

“Clothes?”

“The garments I was wearing when you took me.”

The being nodded.

“Ah yes. I am sorry but the garments you were wearing have been destroyed. In our culture it is considered impolite to cover our bodies with garments.”

Beverly sighed despairingly.

“I see. Well, despite the blanket you gave me, I am cold and uncomfortable. This table is hard and cold. I need to cover myself with something warm and I need something softer to sit on if I am required to remain here for much longer.”

The alien stepped back from the console and studied the woman. Placing its webbed hand back on the panel, it said,

“I see. What would suffice?”

Beverly smiled.

“Do you have a padded chair?”

With a shake of its head, the alien seemed to frown.

“What is a padded chair?”

“A chair is something you sit on. A padded chair is a chair that has soft cushioning.”

Obviously confused, the alien shook its head.

“I do not know of these things.”

With a smile, Beverly lifted a hand to give a depreciating wave.

“Oh don’t worry about it. How about something soft on the floor?”

That brought a smile, the appearance of several sharp teeth making Beverly inwardly cringe.

“Yes I can supply that.”

Maintaining her own smile, Beverly placed a hand on her chest.

“Thank you. My name is Beverly Picard.”

“We know.”

“What is your name?”

The alien gave a short bow.

“I am known as Het Ma.”

Beverly’s smile broadened.

“I am honoured to meet you Het Ma. Have you spoken to your colleagues about my helping you?”

“I have.”
“And?”

Instead of answering the woman, Het took the thin cables connected to the probes in her brain and disconnected them from the console. It then bent and retrieved a moderately sized metal box, the surface of which was covered in gauges and switches. The cables were connected to the box and Het came closer to the table.

“You may stand.”

Somewhat surprised by this turn of events, Beverly eased off the table, but had to hold its edge as her head swam. Taking several deep breaths, she steadied herself and faced the alien who was now standing closer to the door, the box in its hands.

“Can you walk?”

Wrapping the blanket about her form, Beverly nodded and took a few tentative steps. With growing confidence, she made it to the door.

Het passed its hand over a sensor and the door opened. The corridor outside was dark, but as they stepped into it, the overhead lights came on automatically. As they walked down the tubular structure, the lights came on as they went, the ones behind extinguishing.

After ten minutes Beverly was becoming tired  but, just as she was about to ask Het to stop, the alien halted beside a closed door and passed its hand over another sensor. Beverly’s eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the dim lighting of the room, but her breath caught in her throat as she realised what she was looking at.

On the floor, lying on beds of dark blue vegetation, lay deformed aliens. Most of them were young, but there were some adults. Beverly stepped into the room and thought,

“My God Het…what happened to them?”

The being sighed.

“We do not know. Approximately eight turns ago some of our offspring emerged from the egg deformed. Many died and many eggs failed to hatch. Whatever has caused this continues and the number of properly formed, live hatches is becoming rarer. If we do not find the cause and rectify it, we, as a species, will die out.”

Kneeling beside one drooling victim, Beverly gently touched its head. Its eyes opened and its mouth opened and closed, but she could see the vacancy in its eyes. The Doctor looked back at Het and shook her head.

“Can you give me more light and a scanner?”

Het sighed.

“No. Bright light disturbs them and you would be unable to use our scanners.”

“Why?”

“Because they are bio-molecular. Our scanners interact directly with our brains. Our technology would be incompatible with you.”

Beverly frowned.

“But you can communicate with me via a direct connection to my brain. Couldn’t we adapt your scanners?”

Het shook its head.

“No. This form of communication is only possible because of what we have learned from you and your fellow Humans. The adaptations for communication are vastly different to what would be required for you to adequately use a scanner. I fear it may damage you irreparably.”

Beverly stood, her eyes faithfully supplying images of deformed limbs, grotesque head malformations…the images of hell. She briefly closed her eyes.

“Are there more?”

Het sighed deeply.

“Yes, many more. These cannot breathe in water and others cannot breathe in air. There is no pattern to the deformities, some are significantly afflicted, others mildly, but as I have said, many more are dying in their eggs, never to hatch.”

Careful to avoid the probes in her head, Beverly rubbed her brow.

“And I take it you have checked the parents? Taken DNA samples…done genetic profiles?”

“Yes. We have discovered some anomalies which, as yet, we cannot explain.”

Beverly turned to the alien and lifted her hands.

“Het I come from a great ship, in orbit around your planet. On board I have equipment that could help. Allow me to return to my ship. I want to help you.”

“No.”

Stifling the growl of frustration that welled in her throat, Beverly straightened and looked Het in the eye.

“Then let me contact my ship. There are people on board that can help me and you.”

Het shook its head.

“No. You will not sully my people. I am grateful for your offer, but I cannot allow my people to be exposed to you and your culture.”

This time Beverly couldn’t disguise the frustration in her voice.

“Then how do you expect me to help?”

“We will supply all the information we have amassed. Perhaps you will be able to find the answers we seek.”

The Doctor lifted her hands in exasperation.

“But Het I know nothing of your people. I need more than statistics and scan results I won’t understand!”

Het smiled.

“You are a great healer. We have faith in you.”

Beverly sighed deeply and took one more mournful look around the room. Fastening her eyes on her captor she shrugged.

“Well I am flattered but I think you are mistaken.”

Het bowed.

“We will see.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Sally was disturbed to find Jacques not in his bed when she awoke. Not finding him in the living area, the Ensign risked her Captain’s wrath by peeping into his bedroom, breathing a sigh of relief to find father and son asleep in bed.

She had showered and was setting the table for breakfast when the boy emerged, rubbing his eyes and yawning.

“Good morning sleepy head.”

Jacques frowned bleary-eyed at the woman but delivered the message his father had given him.

“Papa wants to wash and shave.”

With a nod, Sally tapped her comm. badge.

“Miles to Gibson.”

“Gibson here. Good morning Sally.”

A smile spread across Sally’s face.

“Good morning Nathan. Captain Picard is ready for his ablutions.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there. Gibson out.”

Having got Jacques seated and started on his breakfast, the Ensign knocked softly on the bedroom door.

“Come.”

“Good morning Captain.”

Before Jean-Luc could return the greeting, the twins began to fuss. He glanced at the nursery and smiled as Sally said,

“They sound hungry Sir. Would you mind waiting for your breakfast while I feed them?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“Not at all, I’ll have breakfast after Ensign Gibson has helped me.”

“Thank you Sir.”

An hour later, breakfast over, Jean-Luc sat on the sofa reading to Jacques while the twins played on the quilt at his feet. He had been given a painkiller and was waiting for Selar to call him to Sick Bay. He didn’t have long to wait.

“Selar to Picard.”

“Picard here.”

“I am ready for you Sir.”

Holding up a hand to silence Jacques’ protest, the Captain responded,

“Very well Doctor, I will beam directly to Sick Bay.”

“We will be waiting Sir. Selar out.”

With the channel closed Jacques took the opportunity to vent.

“Papa you said we would spend the day together!”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“We will Jacques but I have to go to Sick Bay for a while. I promise it won’t be long.”

The boy scowled.

“Why do you have to go? Sally told me you would be able to get better here at home.”

“That’s true but some of my injuries need to be taken care of in Sick Bay. Besides, I need you to keep an eye on the twins while I’m gone. You can do that can’t you?”

The request robbed the boy of his discontent. He gave his father a long look then sighed.

“Yes Papa but do you promise to come back soon?”

Jean-Luc ruffled his son’s hair.

“Yes my sweet son, I promise.”

“Okay then.”

Giving the boy a one-armed hug, Jean-Luc released Jacques and encouraged him to move away. He then lifted his head and called,

“Picard to transporter room. One to beam directly to Sick Bay.”

“Aye Captain, energising.”

Jacques watched as his father disappeared within a sparkle of blue light. He sighed as Sally emerged from his room with a PADD.

“Time to practice your numbers Jacques.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Selar stepped back from the bio bed and consulted the screen above the bed. The reclining Captain remained silent as the Vulcan physician went about her business, but his impatience was just under the surface. Now free of the derma plates at the back of his head and the cast on his leg, Jean-Luc itched to get back to his quarters, however he had to wait for Selar’s diagnosis of his condition. Eventually the stoic woman nodded.

“Generally I am pleased with your progress Captain You will require physical therapy on your leg and your sight may be mildly affected for a small amount of time to come and you will continue to experience discomfort in many areas of your body, but you are ahead of schedule and I see no reason why you cannot continue to recover in your quarters.”

Seeing her CO begin to rise to a sitting position, Selar offered her hand and the Captain took it. Once upright he slowly lifted his cast-encased arm and raised his eyebrows.

“When will this come off?”

The Doctor folded her arms and raised one eyebrow.

“Two more days Captain.”

Jean-Luc nodded pensively then asked.

“And the pain in my shoulders?”

Selar frowned.

“That is difficult to say Sir. The shattered bones have knitted satisfactorily but there will be residual pain upon movement for some time yet. Such a severe injury will require time to heal Captain.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“I see, very well, thank you. I take it I can return to my quarters?”

Selar inclined her head.

“Yes Captain and now you are free of the cast on your leg; perhaps you might allow the use of a wheelchair?”

Jean-Luc considered the suggestion and gave a nod.

“Yes that will be fine.”

Within minutes Jean-Luc was on his way back to his quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Data sat back from the screen and slowly shook his head.
“I do not understand.”

Will, standing beside the android leaned forward and peered at the screen.

“Why Data…what is it you don’t understand?”

“These deformities Commander. I cannot find the cause.”

Will looked again at the screen and screwed his face up in disgust.

“Well whatever’s causing it…it’s doing a bang-up job. That thing is revolting.”

Data nodded pensively.

“Indeed it is, but I have looked at several of these deformed beings and I have noted the deformities differ from infant to infant. If you look carefully it is possible to use the computer to build a construct of an undeformed being.”

The First Officer’s eyebrows rose.

“Really? Show me.”

Data entered the requisite commands and within seconds a three dimension image appeared. As it slowly rotated on the screen Will softly whistled.

“Now that is something! Reptilian?”

Data shook his head.

“I think not Commander. These organs…”

He pointed to the screen,

“Are gills, but if we look inside the creature…”

He brought up another image,

“These organs are definitely lungs. I would say these beings are amphibian.”

Will grunted quietly.

“Well that explains how they were able to grab the scientists and Beverly then disappear into the sea. Okay, how do they communicate?”

Data sighed.

“That is difficult to say Sir. There is a rudimentary larynx but I would hazard a guess that they utilise touch or perhaps telepathy. The brain capacity is very large with the hippocampus highly developed, even in these young. Also the webbed hands and feet possess very highly developed sensory pads at the end of each digit. The number of nerve endings far exceeds that which you would find in a Human.”

Will straightened and arched his back, pushing his fingers into the small of his spine.

“Okay so…we have an amphibian species that has developed a curiosity for Humans. Why did the scientists drown?”

Data sat back from the screen and folded his hands in his lap.

“Unknown Sir.”

Running his hand through his hair, Will snorted.

“Well we need to find out if we want to have any hope of rescuing Beverly.”

Data nodded once.

“Agreed Commander.”

As Will turned to leave, he said over his shoulder,

“I’m going to report to the Captain. Keep me posted.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc sat in his favourite chair, Henri in the crook of his arm. Seated on the sofa, Sally fed Matthieu while Jacques watched. As usual, the younger twin waited patiently while his older brother fed. Sally smiled at her CO, seeing him lost in the eyes of his little son.

“I’m so glad Doctor Picard has her milk in the replicator files. They don’t need it…not really, but they enjoy it so much.”

The Captain looked up and returned the smile.

“I’m just grateful they’re still willing to take it. The silence is rather pleasurable.”

Sally’s chuckle made Jean-Luc’s smile broaden.

“They do make a racket when they’re hungry, don’t they…well, at least Matthieu does. After this they can have some mashed vegetables and gravy.”

That made Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rise.

“Oh that sounds tasty. When did they start having that?”

“A couple of days ago.”

Jacques screwed his face up and shook his head.

“Mashed vegetables? Yuk!”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Why do you say that Jacques? You like vegetables.”

The boy’s eyes grew wide.

“Oui Papa, but mashed? That’s for babies.”

Said with such an air of superiority, the adults had to concentrate on not laughing. Matthieu finished his bottle and the delicate manoeuvre of swapping babies took place. Henri latched onto his bottle and sucked voraciously, his eyes closing in contentment. The older twin, now lying in his father’s arm, looked up into Jean-Luc’s face owlishly, making the man chuckle.

Jacques moved from the sofa to sit on the arm of his father’s chair and offered his hand to his little brother. Matthieu took his thumb and tried to stuff it in his mouth. Jacques groaned and retrieved his hand, his face one of disgust. Just then the door chime sounded.

Jean-Luc looked up and called,

“Come.”

A smiling Commander Riker entered, his grin widening at the scene before him. It faded however as he realised he was interrupting feeding time.

“I’m sorry Captain, I can come back later.”
He’d just finished his sentence when Jacques launched himself at the big bearded man. With his usual swiftness, Will scooped the boy up and spun him around over his head. Jacques squealed and Jean-Luc admonished,

“You’ve been warned about that Will. Vomit in your hair is singularly unpleasant.”

The Exec gave his Captain an incredulous look and Jean-Luc shrugged.

“Or so I’ve been told.”

Chuckling softly, Will eased Jacques to his feet and ruffled his hair.

“How you doing tiger?”

The boy looked up, his face suddenly serious.

“I miss Maman Uncle Will.”

Will hunkered down and gently gripped the boy’s shoulders.

“We all do Jacques and we’re doing everything we can to find her.”

The boy nodded solemnly.

“That’s what Papa says.”

Jean-Luc’s quiet deep voice caught Will’s attention.

“What’s our status Number One?”

At the gesture from his CO, Will sat on the sofa and clasped his hands.

“Well Sir we’re still mainly blind. We can get a look at the surface only when the Garudan sun quietens, which isn’t often. At the moment Geordi’s cobbling together some tricorders we hope to link to our sensors so we can scan inside the domes, but we’ll have to wait for the next calm cycle from the sun.”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips and lifted his head.

“And then?”

Will’s face became grim.
“We send down some divers and hope we get what we want.”

“You’re certain Beverly’s there.”

Will nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

There was a momentary silence then Jean-Luc sighed.

“I’ve been reading Data’s reports…these deformities…could they have anything to do with the abductions?”

Will shrugged.

“Unknown Sir, but if you were suffering something similar, who better than to help you but a highly trained Doctor?”

It was Jean-Luc’s turn to nod.

“Indeed, but what about the scientists? They were taken, then returned drowned.”

Will shrugged again.

“Maybe they didn’t have the information required. After all, Beverly’s not been returned, perhaps she’s being held because she does have what they want.”

“Hmm, yes you have a point. Well keep on it Number One.”

The big man smiled.

“We will Sir. So, tell me, what did Sick Bay say?”

That bought a scowl from the older man.

“Usual draconian edicts. The cast stays on for two more days, but apart from that I’m…”

Will grinned.

“Fine Sir?”

The glare lacked any real venom, although the Captain’s voice was cold.

“Yes Commander, I am fine.”

Coming to his feet, Will went to his Captain, bent and softly rubbed his knuckle over Matthieu’s cheek. The baby grabbed his finger and tried the mouth stuffing routine. Will chucked and gently pulled his hand away.

“No you don’t mister…I need that finger.”

Jean-Luc smiled and offered the baby the knuckle of his index finger. Matthieu immediately took it and started to suck. Keeping his attention on his son, Jean-Luc said softly,

“How is Emily?”

Will’s reply was equally soft.

“She’s just fine Sir. With the help of a friend of Deanna’s from the university on Betazed, we’ve been given a new formula specifically tailored for Emily. She’s now feeding well and sleeping…finally.”

Jean-Luc looked up, his gaze piercing.

“And Deanna?”

Will smiled tenderly.

“She’s fine Captain.”

Tilting his head slightly, Jean-Luc softened his gaze.

“And you and Deanna?”

That brought a sigh and a look of regret.

“We’re okay Sir, no thanks to me. I was an ass, pure and simple. Lucky for me Deanna has such a forgiving nature.”

Jean-Luc smiled wistfully.

“I am constantly surprised by the amount of love, patience and forbearance Beverly has shown me. God knows…I never deserved it. Perhaps it is something inherent in women…there to make up for the deficiencies of men.”

Will grinned, his blue eyes twinkling merrily.

“I don’t think they need any help Sir, they have an ample armoury when it comes to the battle of the sexes. I know for certain I was smitten the moment I met Dee. She stole my heart and has had me wrapped around her little finger ever since…and you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully.

“While I may like to cling to the illusion that I’m in control I have to agree with you Number One. Now…I believe you’re off duty for the interim. Go and spend some time with your family. Keep me apprised of any developments.”

The big man gave a nod.

“Will do Captain.”

After Will left Jacques sat on the arm of Jean-Luc’s chair and smiled.

“I like Uncle Will, he’s fun.”

The Captain returned his son’s smile and nodded.

“He’s a good man Jacques, Emily is a very lucky little girl.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          Beverly groaned and rubbed at her tired eyes. She had a headache and her back was causing significant discomfort. With the blanket still wrapped around her naked form, she scowled at the computer screen and grunted.

“How the hell am I supposed to make head or tail of all this!”

She pressed a button and the images on the screen scrolled down. Picture after picture assaulted her senses. Deformed beings, in varying stages of development were displayed with dispassionate clinical efficiency. Beside each image unintelligible text appeared, obviously the scientific notes for each case. Growling in frustration, Beverly lifted her head to stretch her neck, only to pull tight the cables attached to the probes in her brain. Sharp pain sliced deep inside her head and she yelped. A quiet alarm sounded, bringing Het Ma within moments.

“What are you doing Beverly?”

The tired Doctor looked up and lifted her hands.

“Sorry I keep forgetting the probes are there.”

Het scanned the monitor then turned to Beverly and made a hissing sound.

“You have disturbed the connections. Are you in pain?”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes.”

The nictitating membranes over Het’s eyes flicked twice and the being flexed its hands.

“I do not know what we can do about that. Our drugs may harm you.”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Beverly sighed.

“What I really need is sleep.”

That brought a frown.

“Sleep?”

Beverly smiled wearily.

“An extended period of voluntary unconsciousness Humans need to regenerate and rest.”

Het’s eyes widened.

“Ah! Yes I understand. What do you require to…sleep?”

“Another blanket, something soft to lie on, quiet and darkness.”

The being bowed.

“It will be as you wish Beverly.”

As Het turned to leave, Beverly called it back.

“Het tell me something. When these deformities first started, was there anything else that happened around the same time? Anything you would consider unusual?”

The tall alien tilted its head and seemed to be thinking deeply. With a sigh it lifted its hand and rubbed its chin.

“I was quite young eight turns ago, but I remember people saying that we had to limit our time on the land. Apparently our skin was being burned by the sun for the first time in living memory.”

Beverly frowned and folded her arms.

“I see. You lay your eggs on land don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“What is the incubation period?”

Het went to the computer and entered some commands before it answered,

“By your time frame, fourteen weeks.”

“Right. Do you build a nest?”

Het nodded.

“Yes but only to provide steady, constant warmth. The eggs are exposed at the crown of the nest to utilise the heat from the sun.”

Beverly rubbed her forehead and sighed.

“Okay, thank you Het.”

Giving a slight bow, the alien left the room. Beverly scowled at the computer screen and shook her head.

“Radiation overexposure. Could it be that simple?”

She sighed expansively and waited for Het’s return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    It was morning on the Enterprise and Will had just reported for duty on the Bridge. He had received the hand-over report from the night watch and was settled in the Command chair when Data exited the aft turbo lift. The android walked to the Command well and faced his CO. Will looked up at his friend and smiled.

“Good morning Data.”

“Good morning Sir.”

In his usual no-nonsense style, Data wasted no more time on pleasantries.

“Sir I request we do an in depth analysis of the Garudan sun.”

With a frown, Will lifted his head.

“Why?”

“Because I believe the deformities I have been studying have a direct link to the sun.”

“How so?”

Data tilted his head, his eyes showing his concern.
“I am not certain, but I believe the malformations may be the result of exposure to harmful radiation.”

Will stood and turned to the Lieutenant manning the science station.

“Initiate a level five scan of the Garudan sun Lieutenant.”

“Aye Sir.”

The Commander then turned back to his friend.

“Have you accessed the last survey notes on this system?”

The android nodded.

“Yes Commander. The last ship to do any scientific studies of this system was the Melbourne, twelve years ago. Their report states the Garudan sun was normal for its age and type.”

Will scratched his beard.

“So you think the sun has undergone some sort of change?”

“Yes Sir and if that is the case it is entirely possible harmful radiation could be flooding the nearby planets including the one we now orbit.”

“What sort of radiation?”

“Well, considering the Garudan sun is a G type yellow star I would have to say gamma radiation.”

Will raised his eyebrows.

“A G type yellow? Same as the Sol system sun.”

“Yes Sir.”

The Lieutenant turned from her monitor and said quietly,

“Commander Riker the Garudan sun has decreased in size and is emitting morbidly high levels of gamma radiation.”

Data moved the aft science station and began to enter commands. He worked at a phenomenal rate until he lifted his head and turned to his CO.

“Sir the hydostatic equilibrium of the sun has destabilised. The fusion reaction has accelerated.”

With several long strides, Will joined Data and stared at the calculations on the screen.

“Is the sun going nova?”

“No Commander, but these changes will bring about the eventual demise of the sun. For the time being it will grow.”

Will folded his arms and bowed his head.

“What could have caused this if not natural ageing of the sun?”

“I would say that in the last twelve years a black hole has passed too close…close enough to be within the Roche limit of the sun and in doing so, ripped off part of the sun’s matter, thereby causing the instability.”

Will briefly closed his eyes and sighed.

“So the long term prognosis of this system is?”

“This system is doomed Commander. However there is a more pressing concern. As Garuda is the only inhabited planet in this solar system that we know of, we would need to evacuate it. The gamma radiation will only increase. Life on Garuda will no longer be sustainable.”

Will ran an exasperated hand through his hair and grunted.

“Right. Senior officer’s briefing in ten minutes.”

“Yes Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The senior officers sat around the long table in the aft observation room. Will, Deanna, Geordi, Data and Lieutenant M’Rak all cast their eyes towards the planet lazily turning in the black void of space. Taking a deep breath, Will tapped his finger on the tabletop.

“Our Garudan problem has just become significantly more complicated.”

Pressing a control on the console near his hand, Will brought up a three dimensional hologram of the planet and its sun.

“We have discovered the Garudan sun has been destabilised and is emitting high levels of gamma radiation. As the sun expands these levels will increase to lethal dosages. The sun is doomed and so is this system.”

About to say more, the sound of the opening doors made Will turn his head. His eyes widened and he immediately rose to his feet.

“Captain!”

Jean-Luc walked slowly into the room, his cast-encased arm held awkwardly at his side. The effort to keep his face neutral whilst enduring significant pain made Will inwardly grimace. Deanna, sensing her CO’s distress, stood and went to his side, but refrained from touching the man, knowing such an action, especially in front of his senior staff would not be appreciated or appropriate.

Amid some minor reshuffling, the seat at the head of the table was made available and Jean-Luc took it, smiling his thanks and sinking gratefully into the chair.

The only outward sign of the pain he withstood occurred when he first spoke. His roughened voice cracked and he paused, frowning as he cleared his throat. When he tried again his voice was deep and clear.

“Report Number One.”

Over the course of a few minutes, Will explained the situation and marvelled at the calm demeanour his Captain showed. Ever the professional, Jean-Luc eased his broken arm onto the table and sighed.

“Right well we have to gain contact with the inhabitants. If Doctor Picard has been abducted to assist these people in some way it is highly likely she would have found that the deformities have been caused by over exposure to gamma radiation and if that’s so, then she will be trying to convince her…hosts…to either release her, or contact us.”

Data, always playing devil’s advocate, spoke softly, but his words cut through the atmosphere.

“Sir with all due respect, we do not know that Doctor Picard is even alive. If what happened to the scientists is any indicator it is highly unlikely that she survived.”

When he spoke, Jean-Luc’s voice was emotionless, but his eyes darkened and glittered dangerously.

“That is true Mr.Data but I have to believe she survived. Until I see her lifeless body for myself I will carry on as if she is alive and well.”

Somewhat chagrined, Data bowed his head.

“Yes Sir.”

Turning his head slowly, Jean-Luc faced his Exec.

“If Doctor Picard is being held in one of those under water domes, how much protection from the radiation may she be getting?”

Will sat back and shrugged.

“I really don’t know. Data?”

The Second Officer frowned and tilted his head.

“Although we cannot as yet penetrate the surface of the domes, the deformities I have seen seem to suggest they have been caused by direct exposure to the sun’s rays.  Gamma radiation would be able to penetrate the sea water to the depths of the domes, although they would be attenuated but unless there is sufficient density to the dome’s structure, or shielding with lead or some similar native metal, the radiation would reach inside the domes.”

Jean-Luc gave a shake of his head.

“Then it is even more imperative that we find and rescue her. Data in the reports from the Melbourne…was there any suggestion of warp-capable species anywhere in or near this system?”

“No Sir.”

Will frowned deeply and clasped his hands on the tabletop.

“You’re thinking about the Prime Directive.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“Yes I am. If we find their technology is inferior to ours and they’re not warp capable I’m afraid evacuating these people might be impossible.”

Geordi’s ocular implants dilated as he sat forward, his voice worried.

“But Sir they have already been exposed to some of our technology. The campsite had lots of very sophisticated equipment.”

“Which was left untouched. Look you know I want to help but it may be that our hands will be tied.”

Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc gathered his thoughts and focussed on the immediate problem.

“Until we know more about the inhabitants I suggest we concentrate on finding and recovering Doctor Picard. Do we know when the next opportunity to use the sensors will be?”

Data shrugged.

“That is becoming increasingly difficult to predict Sir, but we may have a short time within the next three hours.”

“Very well. Mr.LaForge have you completed the modifications of the tricorders?”

“Yes Captain. They’re ready and tied into the ship’s computer.”

“Good, well done. Right, Data prepare for the dive.”

“Yes Sir.”

Hearing the dismissal, the staff rose and headed for the doors. Deanna stopped at the Captain’s shoulder and waited until they were alone before she said softly,

“Can you make it back to your quarters or would you like to beam there?”

Jean-Luc slowly stood and smiled ruefully, although it didn’t reach his eyes. Despite his outward countenance of calm, his mental barriers couldn’t contain the pain he was enduring. Deanna gently gripped the elbow of his good arm and tapped her comm. badge.

“Transporter room, two to beam to the Captain’s quarters.”

“Acknowledged. Energising.”

Sally stood as the two officers materialised in the living area. Jacques, seeing his father, stood and would have run to the man but for the restraining hand on his arm. Seeing the look on Deanna’s face, Sally kept her voice low.

“No Jacques, your Dad needs a minute or two. Let him sit down and get his breath back.”

The concerned Counsellor noted how pale her Captain had become and the sweat that beaded his forehead. As she attempted to steer him to the bedroom, Jean-Luc shook his head and took a deep breath. His voice was very deep and ragged.

“No…my chair.”

“Captain you need to rest. Please…”

“No I can rest in my chair.”

With her knowledge of the man, Deanna knew the futility of arguing. Instead she addressed the Ensign.

“When is Captain Picard due for his next analgesic hypospray?”

“About twenty minutes.”

“Well I think in this case we can give it to him early.”

As Deanna eased Jean-Luc into his chair, Sally retrieved the hypo, but when she got a close look at her Captain she gasped softly and asked Deanna,

“He looks terrible. Do you think we should call Doctor Selar?”

About to answer, Deanna was cut off by the Captain’s gravelly voice.

“No, I just need a minute.”

The hypo was administered without further delay and the relief on the man’s face was obvious. Deanna gave Sally a meaningful look and the intelligent young woman responded with a surreptitious nod. She stood and reached out her hand.

“Jacques would you like to see the Shuttle Bay?”

The boy shook his head without taking his eyes off his father.

“No I want to stay with Papa.”

Deanna could sense the boy’s anxiety and smiled at him.

“Jacques I need you to take Sally out of these quarters for a while. You can do that can’t you?”

“But Papa…”

Jean-Luc lifted his hand in a silent invitation. Jacques sat on his lap and rested his head on the Captain’s chest.

“Jacques Deanna wants to talk to me about some grown up stuff. Go with Sally, it won’t be for long.”

The boy lifted his head and nodded, his thumb creeping up. Jean-Luc gently grabbed his son’s hand, preventing him from putting his thumb in his mouth.

“It’s all right Jacques.”

The boy’s voice was very small when he asked,

“Are you okay Papa?”

Jean-Luc summoned a smile.

“Yes son, I’m fine. Off you go.”

As Jacques stood, his thumb slipped into his mouth and his other hand found Sally’s. The Ensign wrapped her free hand around his shoulders and ushered him to the door, saying over her shoulder,

“The twins are asleep.”

Deanna smiled her acknowledgement and waited until the doors closed before turning her attention to her Captain.

“Captain I am very worried about the amount of stress you’re under. The current situation is very bad and rapidly becoming worse and I am concerned you cannot cope.”

Jean-Luc sighed resignedly and lowered his head.

“Counsellor…”

“No Captain. Please…you shouldn’t have come to the staff briefing Sir. You’re still recovering from severe injuries, you’re suffering significant pain and you’re exhausted.”

His head snapped up and he glowered.

“Counsellor I cannot sit idly by while my wife is missing presumed kidnapped. I need her…my children need her and I’ll bloody well do everything I can to find her!”

Stiffening her mental barriers against his anger, Deanna kept her tone even and reasonable.

“I understand that Captain, but what good are you going to be to Beverly or the children if you do too much and collapse? Please Captain; you must see the truth in what I’m saying.”

His glare faded as the concern and genuine affection shone in her eyes. Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“Counsellor…Deanna…I have to do something! I can’t just sit here in my quarters, waiting…thinking…remembering…”

He bowed his head, taking a shuddering breath. His voice was very soft and low when he said,

“This is killing me Deanna. I need her.”

The Counsellor gently took his hand and encouraged him to lift his head.

“We’ll find her Captain; you just have to be patient.”

His head lowered again and his voice broke.

“I don’t know if I can.”

“You can Captain…we’ll help you.”

Although Deanna couldn’t see his face she knew he was weeping, she sensed it. She knelt at his knees, reaching up and drawing him into her embrace.

“Well find her Captain…she’ll come back to you.”

In the silence of the cabin Jean-Luc sobbed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Beverly’s headache was getting progressively worse and to make things even more uncomfortable, she was losing the feeling in her hands. Due to the probes in her brain she was unable to lie on her back, but even on her side she found it very hard to get to sleep. The thin wire protruding from her mouth caused her to occasionally gag and that, coupled with all the other discomforts made sleep impossible. The bed that Het had made for her was soft and warm but she sighed and sat up, raising her hands and rubbing the tips of her fingers on her thighs.

“Why the hell am I losing feeling in my hands? And this bloody headache! Dammit!”

As she shakily stood the lights activated making her squint and wince. It was only moments before the door opened and Het came in and immediately connected the probes to the computer.

“You are finished sleeping?”

Beverly smiled.

“So it would seem.”

“I thought you would be sleeping for many hours.”

That brought a chuckle.

“So did I.”

Het frowned.

“You do not want to sleep?”

“More like I can’t.”

The tall alien stepped closer to Beverly and lifted a webbed hand.

“You are unwell?”

Rubbing her temples, Beverly smiled ruefully.

“I’ve seen better days.”

“I do not understand.”

The Doctor shrugged.

“Don’t worry about it. Would you tell me more about your species?”

Feeling tired and somewhat nauseous, Beverly sat in the chair that Het had provided. It nodded and gave a wave of its hand.

“Ask whatever you wish and I will endeavour to answer.”

“Okay. What is your lifespan?”

“By your standards, twenty-five years.”

That made Beverly gasp.

“But that’s so short!”

Het smiled.

“Perhaps, but we breed prolifically. We mature early and are able to breed at age six. In one lifetime, an individual can produce over two hundred offspring.”

Careful not to disturb the wire at the back of her head, Beverly gathered her hair in her hands and pulled it into a ponytail.

“You don’t have genders. How do you breed?”

Het went to the computer and entered some commands. An image appeared and it pointed to it.

“For breeding to occur, two individuals have to come into season. In our abdomen, a tube extends through an opening and genetic material is extruded…up to twenty times. The gametes are then placed in an incubator. When the material from both donors mixes, a zygote forms. In five hours a shell is formed around the developing embryo. The donors then take the batch of eggs to land where a nest is built to allow the remaining incubation to occur.”

The Doctor nodded.

“And that takes fourteen weeks.”

“Yes.”          

Beverly pursed her lips in thought.

“You use mechanical incubators. Wouldn’t it be better to use the incubators here for the full incubation? Rather than rely on the sun?”

Het paced a few steps and sighed.

“You do not understand. We honour our young by making sure they hatch under the glory of the sun. We worship Beranna, our sun…the giver of life.”

“I see. Tell me…have your people ever left your planet…travelled the stars?”

The alien bowed its head, sighing deeply.

“Oh yes. Many, many turns ago we arrived on this planet. Our original home was attacked by another species and they would not live with us. To hasten our demise they polluted the seas and destroyed our nesting places. We took to our ships and travelled a very long way, searching for the right place to settle. On five occasions we thought we’d found somewhere, only to be driven off by the indigenous population. Eventually, we found this planet and settled here seven hundred of your years ago.”

The Doctor sighed.

“That’s a remarkable story Het. Where are your ships now?”

“We used them to build our new dwellings here under the sea. Long ago we decided we would not be driven from this home. We no longer needed our ships, we will stay here forever.”

Beverly stood and gently wrung her hands, trying to get some feeling back.

“How long did the journey take?”

“Just over seventy years.”

“So your ships were generational?”

Het frowned.

“I do not understand.”

Beverly smiled.

“Sorry. I meant your ships must have been equipped to allow for breeding.”

Het’s brow ridge rose.

“Ah! Yes, although it was very hard on those hatched on the ships. They came into the world without being blessed by the sun. Three generations of my people suffered for that.”

Beverly stepped closer to the alien and said softly,

“Het it may well be that the problems you face now have been caused by your sun.”

Het stiffened, outrage plain on its face.

“That is absurd! How could blessed Beranna harm us? It is unthinkable!”

Beverly folded her arms and sighed.

“Het did your people keep the computer records from your ships?”

Warily, Het nodded.

“Yes.”

“Then go and check them. See what you can find about radiation, particularly gamma radiation and its effects when overexposure takes place.”

Giving Beverly a look of disbelief, Het took a few steps towards the door then halted and turned.

“If what you say is true…we are doomed.”

The Doctor shook her head.

“Not necessarily Het. If what I suspect is true, my ship can help.”

The alien frowned, shaking its large head.

“But that would mean sullying my people! That cannot be!”

Taking tentative steps, Beverly approached the being, keeping her voice soft. The wires prevented her from getting too close, but she was close enough.

“That may not be the case Het. It may be possible to help your people without them knowing.”

“Why would you do this? Do you wish to conquer us?”

Beverly lifted her hands.

“No, not at all. Het you have seen my memories, you know about the Federation of Planets and what they do. We don’t conquer anybody. People ask to join…it is a very good thing, mutually beneficial. Now you’re not a member, but because your technology is similar to ours, we can help you despite your not being a member. It’s what we do.”

“And what would we owe you for this benevolence?”

“Nothing!”

There was a momentary silence while each person watched the other. Suddenly Het sighed and rubbed its eyes.

“I will do as you say…I will access the records. Then I will speak to others about what you have said.”

Beverly nodded and smiled.

“Good, you do that. In the meantime I’ll try to get some sleep.”

Het bowed and went to the computer, disconnecting the wires to allow Beverly more freedom. She was settling on the soft blue foliage on the floor when Het said softly,

“Sleep well Beverly.”

She smiled and nodded.

“I’ll try Het, thank you.”

The lights extinguished leaving Beverly to her thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          As Data descended the depths he allotted a portion of his remarkable positronic brain to the likelihood of the gamma radiation penetrating the domes. As the light faded and darkness encroached, his helmet lights activated, making an island of light in the otherwise inky dark. He was staring up at the invisible surface when the proximity alert gently sounded; informing him he was near the bottom. His feet settled on the sand in a small cloud, a crustacean scuttling to one side. Turning in a small arc, Data orientated himself and took the necessary steps to bring him to the dome. He activated the cobbled together tricorders and activated his comm.

“Data to Enterprise.”

“Geordi here Data…how are you doing?”

“I am doing well Geordi. Are you receiving the output?”

“Yes.”

“Very well, I am activating the ship’s sensors.”

On the Enterprise a tense silence settled on the Bridge as the crew waited to hear from the Second Officer. Seven minutes passed before his voice was again heard.

“I am receiving results. Do you copy?”

Geordi peered at his screen and nodded.

“Yes Data we’re getting the information now. There are…two hundred and thirty five beings in that dome…all alien. Data Doctor Picard isn’t there. Can you follow one of the tunnels to another dome?”

“Yes Geordi, please wait.”

Again the Bridge crew could do nothing but bide their time. As the minutes passed the Chief Engineer growled,

“Dammit…we’re going to lose our window.”

Will went to Geordi and glared at the monitor.

“How long?”

“Ten minutes at the most.”

Will lifted his head, his voice hard.

“Data you’ve got less than ten minutes before we lose our window.”

The disembodied voice remained calm.

“Understood Commander, I am approaching the next dome now.”

Two point six minutes later Geordi yelped,

“I’ve got her! Data we have a Human female bio sign! Mark coordinates of that dome.”

“Done Geordi.”

Will asked breathlessly,

“Is she all right?”

Geordi shrugged.

“It’s hard to tell, her readings are very faint. She’s in an air compartment…and there are sixty three aliens in the dome, some in water, and some in air.”

The First Officer’s voice grew worried.

“Is she alone?”

Geordi nodded.

“Yes.”

The dark Engineer softly swore.

“Shit…there goes our window. We’ve lost contact Sir.”

Will growled.

“Data can you do anything?”

The confused android responded with,

“What do you suggest I do Commander?”

Running his hand through his hair, the Exec almost shouted,

“I don’t know…thump on the dome…let them know you’re there!”

“I will endeavour to make contact Sir.”

Several minutes later Data’s calm voice sounded over the speakers.

“I have tried to make my presence known Commander, but there was no response. Shall I return to the surface?”

Will sighed and sat dejectedly in the Command chair.

“Yes Data, come back to the ship.”

“Aye Commander.”

After taking a few moments to collect himself, Will stood and straightened his tunic.

“You have the Bridge Geordi; I’m going to see the Captain.”

Geordi gave his CO a look of sympathy and nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         It was late afternoon and Jean-Luc was sitting in the living area, watching the twins play on the quilt. Jacques was due back from preschool and Sally was massaging the Captain’s neck and shoulders. The man sighed and relaxed into her strong hands, his eyes drifting shut.

As Sally stood behind her Captain, her mind began to wander as her fingers kneaded his muscular shoulders. In his emerald green casual shirt and light grey trousers he cut a dashing figure and the fact the he was still recovering from his injuries faded from her mind as she felt the insidious stirrings of desire. She had long been attracted to the older man, his physical handsomeness coupled with his aura of authority was a potent mix, Sally had often indulged in sharing her fantasies about the man with like minded friends. She idly wondered if he knew just how many of the female crew…and some of the males…lusted after the austere Captain. Her massage gentled until her fingers caressed rather then kneaded. The dozing Captain sighed but as Sally’s fingers gently brushed the sensitive area below his ears he suddenly woke, his body stiffening. The Ensign, jolted out of her reverie, stilled her hands as Jean-Luc slowly turned his upper body. His face was unreadable but his eyes glittered. His voice was low and very deep.

“Ensign?”

Sally swallowed convulsively, her face reddening.

“Ah…Ah...sorry Captain…I was um…daydreaming.”

Jean-Luc slowly stood, a deep frown on his face.

“Indeed. Well perhaps your time could be better spent looking after the twins. They probably need changing.”

The highly embarrassed young woman could only nod, her voice deserting her. Jean-Luc watched as she went to Henri just as the door opened to reveal Will and Jacques. The boy ran to his father, flinging his arms around the man’s legs and nearly knocking him over.

“Papa!”

“Hey there my son…steady on.”

Jacques giggled and turned his head to look at the grinning Riker.

“Uncle Will made Janis go all squidgy.”

Jean-Luc threw his Exec a confused look and asked,

“Squidgy? Janis?”

The big man ran a hand over his beard to cover his laughter.

“Ensign Janis Danforth has a crush on me…I just had a little harmless fun with her.”

Jean-Luc rolled his eyes and ruffled his son’s hair.

“Don’t take any notice of your Uncle Will Jacques…one of these days some woman is going to phaser him into oblivion and it will probably be your Aunty Deanna.”

Jacques looked up at his father and frowned.

“Why?”

The Captain sighed.

“Never mind.”

Will stepped closer to his Captain and caught his eye. The humour was gone and Jean-Luc could see something important was afoot.

“Go and help Sally with the twins Jacques, I have to talk to Uncle Will.”

“Okay Papa.”

When the boy was out of earshot, Will told Jean-Luc of their success in locating Beverly. The Captain’s mechanical heart missed a beat and he grabbed Will’s arm.

“Can we contact her? Is there any way to get her back?”

Will shook his head.

“No so far. We’ve lost our window and until we get another one we’re mostly blind.”

“But her life signs…”

“Were faint, but readable. It’s probably because of the dome’s construction rather than any detriment to Beverly’s health.”

Jean-Luc let go of Will’s arm and turned, walking slowly to the view port.

“But can we take the chance? She may well be ill or injured. When is the next window?”

Will sighed.

“Unknown Sir.”

Jean-Luc lifted a hand and rubbed his face.

“Very well Number One, keep me informed.”

“Aye Captain.”

After Will had left Jean-Luc made his way to the nursery.

“Ensign I’m going to Sick Bay…I’m not sure when I will return.”

The Startled woman turned and nodded.

“Yes Captain, I’ll look after the children.”

He gave a curt nod.

“Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Sick Bay was a well ordered facility, Beverly’s staff happy in their work. There was a gentle buzz about the place, a combination of operating technology and the soft murmur of conversation that gave Sick Bay a signature feel. Selar, seated in Beverly’s office with the door open knew immediately when a change came over the atmosphere. Tension was in the air and she wasn’t surprised when her Captain appeared at the door. The Vulcan looked up then bowed her head slightly.

“Captain.”

Jean-Luc entered the office and lifted his chin.

“Doctor. I have a request.”

“Selar stood and clasped her hands in front of her.

“And that is Sir?”

The Captain lifted his cast-encased arm and tapped it with a finger from his other hand.

“I want this removed.”

The Doctor showed no emotion and she gave a small shake of her head.

“That would be inadvisable Captain; the bones have not yet fully fused.”

Jean-Luc’s already stony façade didn’t alter.

“Nevertheless I want it removed.”

“May I ask why Sir?”

“No.”

Selar returned her CO’s intense gaze with equanimity.

“In that case Sir I must decline. As your Doctor, my first duty is to your well being and to remove the cast at this time would be detrimental.”

Jean-Luc studied the woman with dark glittering eyes. When he spoke his voice was flat and hard.

“If you do not remove it, I will do it myself.”

Selar pursed her lips and devoted some thought to what she knew of the Human facing her and quickly decided he wasn’t bluffing. She frowned slightly and weighed her options; including her chances of getting the man to tell her what exactly he had in mind.”

“I take it Sir; you wish to use the arm.”

Jean-Luc gave a single nod.

“Yes.”

“I see. You realise doing so will not only damage the arm, but will be significantly painful to you.”

“I understand.”

Selar came around the desk until she was standing beside her Captain.
“May I enquire Sir…what is it you intend to do?”

His posture rigid, Jean-Luc turned his head, his eyes dark and unreadable.

“That is not your concern Doctor; suffice it to say I need the use of my arm.”

“And you will not be dissuaded?”

“No.”

There was a moment’s silence before Selar sighed softly.

“Very well Captain. Come with me please.”

Ten minutes later, in the privacy of his private room, Jean-Luc sat on a bio bed, his arm free of the cast. The Doctor was scanning him thoroughly and the Captain was resisting the urge to vent his irritation. Finally snapping her tricorder closed, Selar lifted her head and speared the man with an intense gaze.

“I am concerned about you Captain. Your recovery has been hampered by your reluctance to rest properly and you have not had sufficient sustenance.”

Ignoring the gentle admonishment, Jean-Luc flexed his hands and frowned.

“Am I free to go?”

Selar’s voice hardened.

“Captain Picard…to use Human vernacular, you are running on empty. You are not capable of doing whatever it is you have in mind.”

The stubborn, determined stare Jean-Luc gave the Doctor made Selar sigh in frustration. In silence she turned and retrieved a hypospray.

“Please remove your shirt Captain.”

Bare chested, Jean-Luc sat stoically while Selar’s strong fingers probed his shoulder joint. He endured the pain silently, staring fixedly at the opposite wall. Having found what she was looking for, Selar injected the Captain and Jean-Luc felt a tingling sensation down the length of his arm, all the way to his fingertips. Before he could make any enquiries as to want she had just done, another hiss of the hypo made his pain dissipate.

“Captain I have just given you a slow acting analgesic. It will not be as efficient as your normal pain relief, but it should last longer.”

Jean-Luc lifted his left arm and opened and closed his fist, frowning at the tingling. He lifted his eyes and the Doctor explained.

“I have administered a partial nerve inhibitor. You should be able to use the arm but the pain should be lessened. However I must warn you that with reduced sensation, the likelihood of increased damage to the arm is much greater as you will be less aware of how much damage you are causing.”

The Captain gave a nod.

“Understood.”

Selar stepped back and gestured to the door.

“You may go Captain.”

He was buttoning his shirt as the Sick Bay doors closed. Arriving at his quarters, he noted that Sally, Jacques and the twins were getting ready for dinner. He disappeared into his bedroom and soon re emerged dressed in a light grey sweatsuit. He went to his eldest son and gripped the boy’s shoulders.

“Jacques I have to leave the ship for a while, I’ll be back as soon as I can, but it might not be until tomorrow, or maybe later.”

Large eyes, so like his own, looked up and began to fill with tears.

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc wrapped the boy in his arms and kissed his cheek.
“I’m going to find Maman.”

Jacques nodded solemnly, his tears sliding down his face.

“Can I come?”

Smiling tenderly, Jean-Luc stroked his son’s head.

“No Jacques, I need you to stay here and help Sally take care of your little brothers.”

The boy’s lip quivered and his voice broke.

“But Papa…what if you don’t come back?”

Keeping his emotions under control with difficulty, Jean-Luc hugged his son and spoke in a husky baritone,

“I’ll come back Jacques and hopefully Maman will be with me. Now I need you to be brave…can you do that?”

The boy nodded into Jean-Luc’s neck and he kissed his cheek.

“Good lad, I’m proud of you.”

Jean-Luc eased back from the boy and wiped away his tears. Cradling Jacques’ face in his hands, Jean-Luc looked into his eyes and said,

“I love you Jacques, never forget that.”

“I love you too Papa.”

The Captain stood and picked his son up, carrying him to the table and settling him in his seat. Sally straightened and nodded to her CO.

“I’ll take care of them Captain.”

“Thank you Sally.”

As he left, Jean-Luc heard his son’s muffled sobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The captain stopped long enough to replicate a small backpack. He then made his way to the armoury, quickly emerging with a now full backpack slung over his shoulder. His final destination was Shuttle Bay two. Making sure the small craft had two pressure suits aboard; he settled in the cockpit and went quickly through his pre fight check. As soon as the blast doors opened the comm. system came to life.

“This is the Bridge. Identify yourself.”

Anticipating this situation, Jean-Luc kept his voice crisp and calm.

“This is Captain Picard. I am taking a shuttle to the surface.”

The obviously young voice hesitated.

“Um…Captain…this is most irregular Sir. You have not filed a flight plan…and Sir…you are listed as being off duty.”

Keeping his anger in check, Jean-Luc gave a small sigh.

“I am aware of that. To whom am I speaking?”

“Oh! Sorry Captain, Lieutenant Farrugia Sir.”

“Well Lieutenant this is a personal matter so you can disregard normal SOP.”

The hesitancy was still there.

“Ah…yes Sir. Should I notify Commander Riker Sir?”

“No, that won’t be necessary. It is my intention to return as soon as possible.”

“Very well Captain, you are free to launch.”

Stifling another sigh, Jean-Luc gave a grim smile.

“Thank you Lieutenant, Picard out.”

Four minutes later, shuttle craft Keating was on its way to the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        When Beverly woke from her troubled sleep she knew immediately that something was very wrong. The headache was now pounding sickeningly and her vision was affected, but although she found the headache difficult to endure, the loss of feeling in her hands and arms frightened her more. The numbness was now up to her biceps and her hands were stone cold. She stood on unsteady legs and lifted her deadened hands to cover her flushed face.

“Oh God…”

She took two steps and staggered, collapsing to her knees and retching. She didn’t hear the doors open but the sudden influx of light made her moan piteously.

Cold damp hands gripped her shoulders briefly then she heard the computer activate. The soft, slightly sibilant voice wafted in her mind.

“Beverly…what is wrong?”

Such was the pain in her head; she struggled to form her answer.

“I don’t know.”

Het’s voice was strained.

“How can I help you?”

Beverly swallowed her rising stomach contents and risked lifting her head.

“Let me go back to my ship.”

“Beverly…”

Her control over her mind was gradually slipping. Mustering the last of her strength she pleaded,

“Please Het…let me go.”

The alien wasn’t quick enough to catch her as she pitched forward unconscious. Not knowing what else to do, Het covered the Doctor with her blanket and hurried from the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Having piloted the shuttle down to the surface, Jean-Luc accessed the Enterprise computer and retrieved the coordinates that would guide him to a position above the dome where Beverly had been found. He gently eased the little craft onto the undulating sea and inputted instructions to the computer for station-keeping. He then left the cockpit and went aft, spending almost fifteen minutes putting on the pressure suit.

Diving alone was never a good idea, but diving unassisted to the depths he intended was downright dangerous. Jean-Luc was well aware of the danger and the fact that what he meant to do was against SOP, but he was driven, driven by a desperate need and a fierce love for his wife.

Into a large net bag he stuffed the spare suit and hoisted the duplicate air tanks over his shoulder. Pain slithered through his body and his left arm was still tingling and sluggish, but he ignored all this and pressed the release for the aft hatch. As the hatch deployed, waves splashed over the edge and Jean-Luc noted the darkening clouds and worsening seas. He sat at the edge of the hatch and put on his flippers before taking one more look at the sky. He secured the helmet on his head and slipped into the water, his weight belt making him rapidly sink.

Laden as he was with the back pack, net bag and the spare tanks, he concentrated on adjusting his descent to allow for the current, keeping an eye on the depth meter strapped to his right wrist. The display inside his helmet lit up as the light faded and he confirmed his position with a flick of his eye.

He ignored the eerie blackness and slowly rotated his head from side to side, using the powerful helmet lights to pierce the darkness. Many minutes passed as he sank before the shape of the dome suddenly appeared below him. Not wanting to land on the apex of the dome, he reorientated himself to a horizontal attitude and kicked his feet, skimming over the top and down the side until he settled onto the sand. Wasting no time, he struggled to open the backpack and withdraw four small metal devices. He activated the circuitry and attached the devices to the wall of the dome. He then set what appeared to be a timer on his right wrist and, having checked that the devices were firmly attached, he pushed off from the dome and swam as quickly as he could away into the darkness. About fifty metres from the dome he found some rocks behind which he settled. He lifted his right hand and was about to press a button on the wrist device when hands suddenly grabbed his helmet, twisting it violently sideways. The seal broken, water began to fill the suit and he kicked violently, disturbing the sand in a billowing cloud. More hands reached out of the black, trying to grab his feet, but the Captain contorted his body, jack knifing then using the sea floor to gain a push in another direction.

Momentarily free of his attackers, Jean-Luc used the opportunity to press the button. There was a loud concussive boom, the shock wave rolling him along the sea floor. Disorientated and with his ears ringing, Jean-Luc struggled to find which way was up. His body was wracked with pain and his vision was blurred.

He eventually relaxed and allowed himself to sink to the sand and once he got his bearing, slowly rose to an upright position. He attempted to secure his helmet but something was wrong, the seal wouldn’t re engage. He slowly swam in the direction he thought the dome lay and couldn’t stifle a cry of alarm when the first alien body floated into the beams of his helmet lights. Not stopping to investigate the body, he redoubled his efforts and went forwards, arms out in front, searching for the dome.

He encountered three more bodies before he became aware of a growing dull red light off to his left. He altered course and swam towards the light, suddenly confronted by the wall of the dome, a gaping hole evident. The edges of the hole glowed red, the interior in utter blackness and Jean-Luc cursed as he realised he was looking at a force field. He swam forward slowly until he settled only centimetres from the hole. He lifted a tentative hand and touched the force field, the resulting shock forcing him several metres backwards. He shook his head in an effort to clear his thoughts when he was grabbed from behind. A hand reached around, grasping his faceplate. He had enough time to draw a quick breath before the helmet was ripped off his head. More hands grabbed him and he offered no resistance, allowing his captors to take him back towards the dome. With his arms pinned to his body he was unable to struggle. As the pressure in his lungs built he closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. Briefly opening his eyes he could see the featureless wall of the dome getting closer and closer. Suddenly a section of the wall glowed and, as they kept going forward, they slipped seamlessly through the wall. The interior was dark and Jean-Luc suddenly spasmed as his lungs expelled his breath. He tried desperately to not inhale but he was helpless to stop the reflex action. Cold salt water flooded his lungs and he coughed violently. Before he could take another watery breath he passed through another wall and collapsed onto a hard surface in an oxygen environment. He coughed and gagged, water spewing from his mouth and nose as he struggled desperately to expel the water from his lungs and draw in some air. Rough hands dragged him unceremoniously to his feet and, as he coughed and retched, his equipment and pressure suit were ripped from him. Not content to stop there, his clothing was stripped away and he was dragged naked down a corridor and shoved coughing and gasping into a sterile, empty room. The door slammed shut and Jean-Luc fell to his hands and knees, his eyes streaming as he struggled to breathe.

 

 

 

                      Dozing with his daughter on his bare chest was a new experience for Will. With Deanna lying by his side, the First Officer had fed Emily then, satisfied that she was comfortable, lay back and placed his large hands over the little baby, her small body engulfed in his gentle grasp. Deanna watched in amusement as the man’s eyes slowly drooped until they closed. She sighed peacefully and closed her own eyes, drifting in the warm paternal feelings of her lover. The call from the Bridge was very unwelcome.

“Farrugia to Riker.”

Will’s eyes snapped open and Deanna placed her hand over his so he wouldn’t grip the baby too tight. Will smiled his thanks and cleared his throat.

“Riker here.”

“Commander I have been trying to contact the Captain but he’s not answering.”

With a frown, Will sat up and handed his daughter to her mother.

“He is off duty Lieutenant, perhaps he’s resting.”

“Ah…yes Sir, but Captain Picard took a shuttle to the surface about two hours ago and he hasn’t reported back yet.”

Will was out of bed in an instant.

“He what? Why wasn’t I informed?”

Hearing the alarm and anger in his CO’s voice, the Lieutenant stammered.

“Well…I…I…he…that is the Captain said…”

Will almost shouted,

“What did he say?”

Will almost heard the swallow.

“He said not to bother you Sir. He told me he wouldn’t be long.”

By now in his uniform, Will was heading for the door.

“Did he file a flight plan?”

“No Sir…he said it was a personal matter.”

“Right. I’m on my way up Lieutenant. Call Mr.Data please, have him meet me in the Captain’s Ready Room.”

“Aye Commander.”

Data arrived at the same time as Will. Both men entered the Ready Room, Data waiting patiently while his Human superior gathered his thoughts.

“Data we have a problem. Captain Picard has taken a shuttle and gone down to the surface. My bet is that he’s gone to try and free Beverly.”

The android’s eyebrows rose.

“That would be a most unfortunate course of action Sir.”

Will snorted.

“Yes it would. I want you to take another shuttle and go down there…find him and bring him back.”

Data gave a short nod.

“Yes Sir.”

He turned then hesitated and turned back.

“Commander…what do I do if he refuses to come?”

“Pick him up and carry him.”

Data’s mouth opened and closed before he tilted his head, his golden eyes gleaming.

“Sir I cannot undertake such an action. Perhaps…”

Will held up a hand, silencing the verbose mechanical man.

“I was joking Data. If the Captain refuses to come back you’ll have to play it by ear. Be persuasive…use your android wiles…I don’t care what you do, just bring him back.”

Worry and confusion skittered across his eyes as Data nodded.

“I see Sir. Very well.”

As Data left, Will tapped his comm. badge.
“Lieutenant M’Rak report to the Ready Room."

“On my way Sir.”

Within seconds the Vulcan head of security stood before the Captain’s desk. Will looked up, his face grim.

“Lieutenant I want you to go to the shuttle bays and count the number of pressure suits. Then I want you to go to the armoury and do an inventory. If there’re any suits or ordinance or weapons missing, you come and tell me. Don’t use the comm. system, come up to the Bridge.”

“Aye Sir.”

As the woman left, Will sank into the chair, placed his elbows on the desktop and rested his head in his hands.

“Oh Captain…what the hell have you done?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          Having got some control over his coughing, Jean-Luc’s throat was raw and his eyes were still streaming. Taking as deep a breath as he could, he sat and drew up his legs, resting his head on his knees. Cold and shivering, he felt the change of atmosphere as the door opened. He looked up to see a tall alien pointing a weapon at him. Slowly holding up his hands, Jean-Luc began to rise. The alien stood still, the nictitating membranes of its eyes quickly flicking. Standing on rubbery legs, Jean-Luc raised his chin and said with a gravelly voice,

“I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise.”

Behind the alien, two more of its kind entered, one going to each side of the Captain.

At a gesture from the one with the weapon, the other two grabbed Jean-Luc’s arms and tugged him forward. There was a searing pain in his left arm and he struggled but all that brought was more pain. He felt something cold and hard pressed against his head and when he looked up, the glowing tip of the weapon was pushing against the skin of his forehead. He stilled and tried to even his ragged breathing.

“What do you intend?”

At the periphery of his hearing he detected some clicking sounds. The aliens holding his arms jerked him forward again and this time he acquiesced. Stumbling slightly, he allowed them to lead him from the room. His journey was a short one. Another door opened and he was ushered in, the sight of a cold metal table making Jean-Luc’s testicles retract up towards his body. As he was led to the table he struggled violently until the weapon was shoved against his temple. He was quickly strapped to the table. The alien with the weapon went to a nearby equipment trolley and picked up a hypodermic syringe. The Captain’s eyes narrowed.

“What is that for?”

One alien grabbed Jean-Luc’s left arm, just above the elbow and squeezed tight. As his veins rose, a needle was inserted and Jean-Luc tensed, but rather than administer a drug, the alien took some blood. As the needle was withdrawn, without applied pressure, the small wound bled, leaving a trail of blood over Jean-Luc’s elbow and onto the table.

His voice still ragged and the occasional cough assailing him, Jean-Luc tried to make contact.

“What do you want from me? Where is Doctor Picard?”

The being who had taken Jean-Luc’s blood left his side and went to a computer console. It wheeled the terminal over to the table and picked up a new instrument. It placed the shiny metal end of the device in the middle of Jean-Luc forehead and activated it. The high pitched whirring did not drown out the cry of pain as the drill sliced through the skin and hit bone. The sound of the drill altered as the load was taken and Jean-Luc howled in agony as the bone was bored. As soon as the skull was penetrated the drilling stopped. He was then unstrapped and rolled to his side, held immobile by very strong hands. The dreadful drilling again took place low on the back of his head. When he was rolled onto his back, Jean-Luc was gasping with pain. His body and head were strapped again and his mouth was forced open. The drilling into his palate made him scream. Such was his anguish; he never felt the straps taken off his head or the probes being pushed unto the new holes. Tears wet his face and he panted loudly, nearly drowning out the soft voice that appeared in his mind.

“Who are you?”

The Captain shook his head and grimaced.

“What?”

“Who are you and why did you attack us?”

Jean-Luc swallowed and closed his eyes, concentrating on forming his words in his mind.

“I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. I came to liberate the Human you are holding.”

The alien leaned over Jean-Luc, its cold hand gripping his throat tightly.

“You killed two and injured three of our number.”

Struggling to breathe, Jean-Luc had difficulty summoning the words in his mind.

“It was not my intention to harm anyone. I merely wanted to liberate my crewman.”

After interminable seconds the hand relaxed and Jean-Luc coughed raggedly, drawing deep breaths.

“Why is this person so important to you?”

Blinking back tears, Jean-Luc sighed.

“She is my wife and mother of our children.”

The alien straightened and stared at the Captain.

“Beverly is your wife…your mate?”

Jean-Luc focussed on the alien, his mind sharpening.

“Yes. Where is she? Is she all right?”

Instead of answering the Captain, the alien turned abruptly and left. The other two went to the door, standing guard silently.

 

                        When M’Rak entered the Ready Room Will was seated behind the desk, his head in his hands. He looked up and gave a short nod.

“Report Lieutenant.”

“Sir there are two pressure suits missing and four micro detonators with delay switches attached.”

“Any phasers?”

“No Sir.”

Will stood and ran his hand through his hair.

“So he took a suit for Beverly and intended to blast his way into the dome, but went unarmed. Dammit! Okay Lieutenant, that will be all, thank you.”

As the Vulcan left, Will tapped his comm. badge.

“Riker to Data.”

“Data here Commander.”

“Where are you Data?”

“Sir at present I am in the Captain’s shuttle. The conditions down here have made it impossible to keep the shuttles on the surface of the water. I am lifting off, keeping both shuttles three metres above the sea.”

“Understood. What is the forecast?”

“As near as we can ascertain, a low pressure system is moving in. Conditions will continue to worsen.”

Will closed his eyes and sighed.

“I see. Will you be all right? How will you get back to your shuttle?”

“I will be fine Commander. I will activate the computer remotely and beam up when I resurface.”

“Okay…who will monitor your dive?”

“Ensigns Williams and Hendry.”

“Understood. Be careful Data, Riker out.”

Once in his suit, Data dropped from the rear of his shuttle and entered the water feet first. He sank quickly, keeping an eye on the depth readout inside his helmet. The light faded at approximately sixty-five metres and by seventy metres he was in total darkness. His helmet lights came on and he continued to sink. A dim, sepulchral green light caught his attention. Below him, growing brighter as he neared it, was a dome of light, eerily looming out of the blackness. As he got closer, he slowed his descent until he hovered three metres above it. Data frowned and activated his comm. unit.

“Data to Enterprise.”

“Riker here, go ahead.”

“Commander I have encountered what appears to be a force field. It extends approximately twenty metres above the domes, encasing them completely.”

“Can you get through?”

Data allowed himself to drift lower, causing the shimmering shield to arc menacingly.

“I do not think so Sir.”

The android could hear the frustration in his CO’s voice.

“All right Data, come back to the ship.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

                     With the help of one of its own kind, Het lifted Beverly onto the table in her room and connected the probes to the computer. Again, with the aid of its colleague, Het extracted a blood sample from the Doctor and spent several minutes at the computer before sighing and picking up another hypodermic. After quickly administering a drug, Het stood to one side, watching Beverly keenly. It was only moments before she groaned and her eyes fluttered open, only to immediately squint.

“Oh God….my head…”

She tried to lift a hand to her brow, but her arm refused to obey her. Frowning deeply, she was distracted by the soft voice in her mind.
“I am sorry to wake you but I need your help.”

Beverly turned her head to try and focus on the alien. Nausea welled and she swallowed, grimacing as her stomach threatened to expel its contents.

“How can I help?”

The computer monitor was brought closer.

“I want you to look at these two samples.”

Squinting and with sweat breaking out over her skin, Beverly tried to concentrate. After several seconds Beverly said with surprise,

“These are Human blood samples.”

Het nodded.

“They are. Which is normal?”

Unable to lift her arm to point, Beverly nodded, her eyes indicating her answer.

“That one…the one on the right.”

Het nodded again.

“And this one…what is wrong with it?”

The insidious pain in her head was making concentration and sight very difficult. Beverly peered at the screen and shrugged.

“I’m not sure, but the cells seem to be deformed. Why I don’t know. Whose samples are they? Mine?”

“One is yours; the other is from a Human male.”

Beverly closed her eyes as another wave of nausea washed over her. Swallowing and taking a deep breath, she willed herself to keep control.

“One of the scientists?”

“No.”

That brought a frown.

“Not one of the scientists?”

“No.”

“Who…Oh my God…you’ve captured someone from the Enterprise…someone sent to rescue me!”

She struggled to sit up but a cold clammy hand held her down.

“You will rest.”

Exhausted and very unwell, Beverly fell back onto the table and shook her head.

“No Het…please…let me see this person…please…”

The probes were disconnected and Het again rested its hand on her chest, silently telling Beverly to lie still. Tears welled in her eyes as the aliens gently picked her up from the table and settled her back on her bed on the floor. She watched them leave as frustration surged, making her sob and call out weakly to their departing backs,

“Let me go!”

The silence in the room after they left rankled the Doctor. To bolster her flagging spirits and to quell her rising fear she shouted,

“I WILL get out of here Het! Damn you!”

She closed her eyes and slipped seamlessly into unconsciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Data sat before the desk in the Ready Room, his golden eyes keenly watching his CO. Will re read the report and snarled,

“Shit! With this damn force field we can’t even think of rescuing either the Captain or Beverly.”

Data nodded.

“Indeed. It is a situation I had not foreseen.”

The big man picked up Jean-Luc’s crystal shard and rolled it end to end in his hands.

“What about the shuttle? How will they get to it if it’s hovering three metres above the water?”

“I have programmed the computer to search constantly for Human bio signs. As soon as they are detected, the computer will automatically beam them aboard.”

Will grunted.

“And we have to hope one of them will be well enough to pilot the ship back to the Enterprise.”

“Yes Sir.”

Will sat back and sighed.

“Very well Data keep hailing the surface, all languages, all frequencies. You never know…we might get lucky.”

Data stood and nodded.

“Aye Commander.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Thirty minutes after leaving Beverly, Het returned with two compatriots. They lifted the Doctor onto the table, but didn’t connect her to the computer, nor did they rouse her. While she was unconscious, a two centimetre thick and six centimetre long probe was inserted into her vagina and the screen activated. Het studied the image that appeared and, using a thick needle, punctured her lower right abdomen and guided the needle to her ovary. There the alien extracted some tissue. The needle was withdrawn and Het emptied the needle’s contents onto a fluid coated slide. It was placed into the computer and the resultant image closely studied. With a nod and a soft clicking sound, Het left as his colleagues took the probe from the Doctor and gently put her back onto her bed.

Within a minute Het was in Jean-Luc’s room. The Captain couldn’t turn his head, but he knew he had company. His outraged voice surged through the alien’s mind as soon as he activated the computer.

“Let me go!”

Het ignored the angry words and calmly placed Beverly’s specimen in Jean-Luc’s computer. Then, with cold equanimity said,

“We require reproductive material from you.”

Immediately silenced, Jean-Luc blanched.

“What?”

Het scowled.

“You heard me. We want reproductive material from you...we want…semen.”

“Why?”

“That is not your concern.”

The Captain closed his eyes, and, despite the thin cable extending from his mouth, closed his lips and ground his teeth.

“In that case, I refuse.”

Het sighed.

“Then we will take it from you.”     

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and frowned.

“And just how do you propose to do that?”

The smile on Het’s face made Jean-Luc’s blood run cold.

“There are many ways, but the most efficient would be to place a probe in your rectum to stimulate your prostate gland. Of course you could masturbate…that would be less…intrusive.”

His eyes open wide, Jean-Luc swallowed.

“How do you know…?”

“We have the memories of those we have studied and one of those is a healer.”

A steely resolve settled over the Captain.

“I still refuse to cooperate. You have no right to do this to me.”

Het shrugged.

“That is regrettable Captain; nevertheless we will get our sample.”

Het closed its eyes for a few seconds and the door opened to admit two colleagues. The tall aliens went to the table and gripped Jean-Luc’s legs, forcing them apart. Het took a probe from the table and with little care for the pain it caused, inserted it in Jean-Luc’s anus.

The Captain’s body tensed, as his gritted teeth were bared. A low growl emitted as his eyes screwed shut and sweat broke out on his forehead. A low grade electrical charge was put through the probe and, against his will, he attained an erection. A sudden sharp surge in the electrical charge sent a shard of pain through the Human as he ejaculated. The probe was withdrawn and the semen collected in a small glass container. Het placed the sample in the computer and studied the results as Jean-Luc said huskily,

“What you have done is a violation of my rights and my person.”

Not taking its eyes off the screen, Het sighed.

“As I said Captain, it is regrettable, but I am concerned about more than your rights. I am genuinely sorry for what we have done, but my people are suffering and it is up to me to find a solution.”

Jean-Luc took a calming breath and steadied his internal voice.

“Is that why you are holding Doctor Picard?”

Het turned and looked down at the Human.

“Yes.”

The Captain returned Het’s gaze and said quietly,

“We already know what is wrong with your people and we can help you.”

The alien sighed.

“That is what Beverly says, but I cannot allow my people to be sullied by contact with your ship.”

Jean-Luc’s dark eyes glittered with intensity.

“But it is my ship that can help you! Your sun has become unstable and is expanding. The situation you find yourself in is only going to get worse. We would be willing to organise the mass removal of your people from this planet to a new world, one in a stable solar system.”

Het waved a hand and growled,

“Impossible! Our sun is our God…we cannot live without it!”

Keeping his mental voice soft, but insistent, Jean-Luc implored,

“But your sun is killing you! Let us help.”

Het’s eyes glimmered wetly, the nictitating membranes sliding quickly over the lenses. It held Jean-Luc’s gaze a moment longer then suddenly left, the two helpers in tow.

Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes, wishing he could rub his temples as a headache settled in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      When Beverly awoke she was back on the table. The lights were, thankfully, subdued but even so, her headache made her gag. The residual sting of a needle radiated in her upper arm and she turned her head, looking for Het. It was standing by the computer, its eyes fixed on the screen.

“What do you want Het?”

The alien turned and pointed to the screen.

“I want you to tell me why the cells have not divided.”

Beverly squinted at the monitor and gasped.

“My God…what have you done? That is a Human zygote!”

Het waved a hand.

“Yes, but why do the cells not divide?”

Beverly rolled to her side with difficulty and rasped,

“Can you enlarge the image?”

Het entered some commands and the image enlarged. The Doctor swallowed and let out a quiet moan.

“The egg is deformed Het. You will not achieve a successful conception.”

In silence Het removed the container and placed another in the computer. Beverly refocussed and grunted.

“It’s the same Het. The egg is malformed.”

Again Het changed the sample in the computer. Beverly sighed.

“The sperm seem to be all right, the problem lies with the eggs. Are they mine?”

Het spoke with regret.

“Yes Beverly.”

It was Beverly’s turn to sigh.

“The gamma radiation is affecting me Het. If you don’t release me soon, the damage will be irreversible.”

The alien looked at the screen, its voice soft.

“And the sperm?”

“If the donor stays long enough he will be affected too. Let us go Het.”

In an uncharacteristic display, Het picked up Beverly’s hand, but frowned when she didn’t react. The Doctor shook her head.

“I have lost the feeling in my arms Het and it is extending into my torso.”

The alien bent over her and frowned.

“And you are in pain?”

All Beverly could do was slowly nod. Het straightened and shook its head.

“I am sorry Beverly, we never intended you to be harmed. I will speak with the others.”

Feeling the edges of her consciousness fading, Beverly managed a smile.

“Just let us go Het. That’s all I ask.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Hours had passed and Jean-Luc’s headache was becoming uncomfortable. He closed his eyes against the bright overhead lights and concentrated on calming himself, trying to find a Zen-like peace. The opening door broke his concentration and he softly sighed. The voice in his head made him open his eyes.

“If we allow you to help us, would you be able to do so without the members knowing?”

The Captain frowned.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

Het came closer to the bed and bent over the Human.

“Would you be able to transport us without the members knowing?”

After a moment’s thought, Jean-Luc tried to nod.           

“Yes I think so. We have ships that have enormous holodecks. We could replicate these domes and beam your people up into them. They would never know the difference.”

Het sighed.

“We understand holographic technology. It could work.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and pursed his lips.

“But how would you explain the differences in environment when your people were eventually exposed to their new home?”

Het shrugged.

“We would tell them the truth. It is the trauma of contamination we wish to avoid, not the fact that our home is doomed. They already know something is very wrong.”

As it spoke, Het undid the restraints and helped Jean-Luc to sit up. The Captain looked up at the tall alien and said,

“Take me to Beverly.”

Het studied the man and shook its head.

“Not yet, but soon. Wait here.”

Jean-Luc gave a frustrated snort as the alien left. He slowly stood and took a few steps towards the door, but was brought up short by the cables connected to his brain. With a grunt he glared at the computer and went back to the table, hitching himself up and rubbing his hands, the tingling in his fingers annoying him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Jacques pulled the blankets over his head and shut his eyes tightly. He could hear Sally in the living area talking to his brothers as she prepared their breakfast. His door opened and he cringed.

“Hey you, it’s time you got up sleepy head.”

When there was no response Sally went to the bed and tried to pull the blankets back. Jacques held on tight and yelled,

“Leave me alone!”

Somewhat taken aback, Sally sat on the bed and patted the lump under the covers.

“Come on Jacques, you should have been up an hour ago.”

The small voice was muffled but determined.

“I’m not getting up!”

The Ensign chuckled.

“What…you’re going to stay in bed all day?”

That was greeted with silence. Sally sat up and cleared her throat, her next words stern.

“Get out of bed Jacques!”

“No. Go away.”

With a pensive sigh, Sally left the room and tapped her comm. badge.

“Miles to Troi.”

“Troi here.”

“Counsellor could you please come to the Captain’s quarters? I need your help.”

“On my way. Troi out.”

Sally was feeding the twins when the door chimed. She bade the caller entry and smiled a greeting as Deanna came in. The Counsellor sat beside the Ensign and chuckled at Matthieu who was waving an empty spoon around his head as Sally fed him. Henri sat patiently, his own spoon clutched in his hand as he tried to guide it to his mouth

“My God, they’re growing so fast!”

Sally grinned.

“Oh yes…I think they’ve put on weight since they were weaned too.”

Deanna watched for a few more minutes before asking,

“What can I do for you Sally?”

The Ensign turned to the Counsellor, worry in her eyes.

“It’s Jacques, Counsellor. He won’t get out of bed.”

Deanna frowned.

“Is he unwell?”

Sally shrugged.

“I don’t think so; he just refuses to get out of bed. He told me to go away.”

Deanna stood and looked at Jacques’ door.

“Okay, I’ll go and talk to him…see what’s wrong.”

As the door opened, Deanna caught movement as Jacques pulled the blankets over his head. She hid a smile and sat on the bed, saying softly,

“Sally says you won’t get up.”

The voice was small.

“Go away.”

“Do you feel sick Jacques? Would you like me to feel your forehead?”

“No.”

Deanna sighed and crossed her legs.

“Would you like to tell me why you won’t get out of bed?”

“No.”

“Well that makes me very sad Jacques. I thought we were friends. Friends tell each other things, especially when it’s something important.”

There was a small silence until Jacques’ voice uttered,

“I don’t want to get up.”

“Why Jacques?”

When he spoke again, Deanna could hear tears.

“Because if I stay here I won’t miss Papa and Maman.”

Deanna lowered her head and sighed.

“Jacques you will miss your parents no matter where you are.”

Angrily throwing the covers back, the boy glared at his Aunt.

“No I won’t! If I stay here I can pretend…I can pretend they’re here.”

“But…”

Fat tears slid down his cheeks as he began to sob.

“If I get up and go into the day area I will see they’re not here. Their bedroom is empty…Papa’s uniform is on his chair…Maman’s coat is in the closet…they aren’t ever coming back and I can’t…I can’t…”

He broke down and Deanna took him into her arms, rocking him gently.

“Hush little one, I’m here…everything is going to be all right.”

Struggling free of her embrace, Jacques shook his head vehemently.

“NO! No it’s not. Papa and Maman are gone! They’re never coming back.”

Deanna took him again and held him tight, willing her own tears to remain unshed.

“No Jacques I’m sure they’ll come back. You have to believe that.”

For several minutes Deanna held the boy as he sobbed in her arms. Eventually she lifted his chin and smiled down into his red eyes.

“Now why don’t you go and wash your face and come out for breakfast.”

Jacques nodded silently and left his bed, walking slowly into his bathroom. Deanna went out to the day area to find the twins on a quilt on the floor. Sally looked up expectantly.

“He’s missing his parents and he’s very worried they’re not coming back.”

The Ensign sighed.

“I thought so. What can we do to help him?”

“Just be supportive and confident. Of course ultimately the only thing that’s going to fix this is the return of Captain and Doctor Picard, but until that happens we’ll have to be very gentle with him.”

Just then Jacques came out of his room, dressed and looking forlorn. Deanna stayed while he listlessly ate a small breakfast then took his hands.

“Jacques how would you like to spend the morning with me? You could help me with Emily…I’ve seen how good you are with your little brothers.”

The boy looked up with sad eyes and shook his head.

“No Aunt Deanna, I would like to stay here with Matthieu and Henri.”

Sally and Deanna shared a look and Deanna frowned.

“Okay. Would it be all right if I came to see you later? Maybe after school?”

Again he shook his head.

“I don’t want to go to school any more. I just want to stay here.”

Deanna sighed.

“All right but can I see you this afternoon?”

Jacques sighed and nodded.

“Oui.”

Deanna gave Sally a surreptitious jerk of her head, indicating she wanted to talk quietly with her. The Ensign gave an imperceptible nod and stood.

“Jacques I’m going to see your Aunt out. Can you watch the twins for me?”

The boy nodded silently and the two women went over to the door, stopping just shy of the sensor. Deanna folded her arms and spoke quietly, while watching the children.

“He’s obviously drawing comfort from his surroundings.”

Sally sighed deeply.

“Do you think he should hide himself here?”

The Counsellor shook her head.

“I don’t think he’s hiding, just communing. He will probably become withdrawn…try to engage him in conversation about things he enjoys…draw him out of you can, distract him from his morose thoughts.”

Sally snorted.

“That might be very difficult Counsellor, he can be very determined when he wants to be.”

Deanna smiled ruefully.

“And if he’s anything like his parents that determination will be rock solid. Look Sally he’s very young, he shouldn’t be facing trauma like this. Just be there for him and I’ll come by this afternoon to assess him.”

The ensign gave a resolute nod.

“Okay Counsellor.”

As Deanna left she tapped her comm. badge.

“Troi to Riker.”

“Riker here.”

“I need to speak with you, are you free?”

“Yes, come on up.”

Approaching the turbo lift, Deanna sighed.

“Beverly…Captain…please come home soon, your son needs you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Will rested his foot against the console pedestal and leaned an elbow on his bent knee.

“So you’re saying we can’t predict when the next window will occur?”

Data turned his head, the corners of his mouth turned down.

“No Sir. As the low pressure increases on the surface, our ability to utilise our sensors becomes increasingly limited. That, added to our on going difficulties with the solar radiation, has made our long range sensors virtually useless.”

Will ran his fingers through his beard.

“But we know the weather is worsening.”

“Yes Sir. The last recorded wind strength was one hundred and eighty kilometres an hour with seas running at seven metres and rising.”

Alarm skittered across the Exec’s face.

“What about the shuttle?”

“I have raised it remotely to an altitude of eight hundred and fifty metres. At that height it is above the worst of the wind. The onboard computer will continue to scan the surface looking for Human bio signs and will automatically beam up anything that matches Captain Picard or Doctor Picard.”

The big man nodded.

“Right. Now, about that force field. Is there any way we can deactivate it?”

Data shook his head.

“I do not see how Sir. We cannot scan the field, or even guess at its source.”

Will straightened and scowled.

“And there’s been no response to our hails?”

“None Sir.”

The frustrated man ran a hand through his hair.

“You’re telling me we can’t do anything but sit up here and wait?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Well I don’t buy it. Riker to LaForge.”

“LaForge here.”

“Geordi come up to the Bridge.”

“On my way. LaForge out.”

Just then Deanna emerged from the aft turbo lift. Will looked up, is eyebrows raised. The Counsellor pointed to the Ready Room and Will gave a nod.

“You have the Bridge Data.”

The android’s reply was lost as the two officers went into Jean-Luc’s inner sanctum. Instead of sitting behind the desk, Will opted for the sofa and Deanna joined him.

“What can I do for you Dee?”

With a warm smile, the Counsellor took Will’s hand.

“I know you’re very busy my love, but I have a favour to ask.”

Will grinned, his eyes twinkling.

“Anything, you know that.”

Deanna sobered.

“It may not be that easy Will.”

In silence, Will tilted his head, his blue eyes encouraging Deanna to continue.

“Jacques isn’t handling the separation from his parents very well. He’s become morose and withdrawn. The poor little boy is convinced his parents aren’t coming back. Will you have always had a very good relationship with him. If you can find the time, could you go and talk to him?”

Will sat back and took a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds before expelling it slowly.

“What would I say?”

Deanna shrugged.

“I’m afraid you’d have to play it by ear. Jacques likes you and he recognises the connection between you and his father. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you try to take the Captain’s place, but Jacques may take anything you say with more credence because of who and what you are.”

Will frowned and shook his head.

“Well okay, but I still don’t know what I could possibly say to make him feel better.”

Deanna clasped her hands in her lap and sighed.

“It may be that a simplified rundown of our efforts to find his parents may be enough. He’s a very intelligent little boy Will, he will know if he’s being patronised. Knowing what is being done might be enough to give him hope. Remember he feels very helpless Will.”

A faraway look settled in Will’s eyes and he sighed deeply.

“I remember how that feels. Okay Dee I’ll talk to him. Give me an hour or so.”

The Counsellor stood and leaned down to kiss his cheek.

“Thank you Will.”

As Deanna was about to leave the door chimed. She activated the sensor and smiled at Geordi.

“Come on in, I was just leaving.”

The Engineer settled in a chair as his CO went to sit behind the desk. Wasting no time, Will said,

“Have we a vehicle on board that can operate at depth in water?”

Geordi hesitated before answering.

“Ah…not really, but I could modify a class three shuttle.”

Will sat back and folded his arms.

“Can you install phasers?”

The dark Engineer nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

“How long will it take?”

“Better part of two days.”

Will scowled and made a rude noise.

“Do it.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    An hour and a half later Will stood outside his Captain’s quarters, his mind churning with worry. He took a deep breath and pushed his anxiety aside before pressing the door annunciator. He was a little surprised when Sally answered the door, rather than calling him to enter. The Ensign smiled sadly up at her CO and waved him inside.

“Come in Sir.”

Will’s eyes quickly found Jacques. He was sitting in his father’s favourite chair. Will wandered over and ruffled his hair.

“Hi there sport.”

Instead of responding to his Uncle, Jacques lifted a black T shirt and held it to his cheek. In his other hand he held a sapphire blue scarf. Will sat on the arm of the chair and gently fingered the scarf.

“Is this your Maman’s?”

The boy nodded, his thumb going to his mouth. Will recognised the T shirt as belonging to the Captain. Keeping his voice soft, Will reached down and softly squeezed the lad’s shoulder.

“Would you like to sit on my knee while I tell you what we’re doing to find your parents?”

Jacques lifted his head and Will swallowed a gasp at the sadness in the hazel eyes so reminiscent of his Captain’s. The boy silently stood and Will insinuated himself into the chair. Jacques settled on his lap, never letting go of his prizes or taking his thumb from his mouth.

“Okay. First of all your Uncle Data has twice dived down deep under the water to where we found your Maman. She’s in a big dome. He couldn’t get in so he came back to the ship. Your Papa wanted to rescue your Maman so he took some explosives and went under the water to blast his way into the dome that your Maman is in. Now he hasn’t come back yet, but we think he’s there with her. Right now Uncle Geordi is preparing a shuttle we’re going to take under the water to see if we can bring back both of your parents.”

His words were muffled by his thumb, but Will heard the soft voice.

“What if you can’t find them?”

“Then we’ll keep on looking.”

Jacques looked up and took his thumb out of his mouth.

“I want to look too.”

Will placed his arm around the boy’s shoulders and gave a gentle squeeze.

“You can’t Jacques. Besides we need you here to help Sally look after your brothers. Don’t you think your Papa and Maman would be disappointed if you left them without their big brother?”

Jacques looked over to his parent’s bedroom, knowing his brothers were asleep in the nursery. He said softly,

“Uncle Will, what will happen to us if Papa and Maman don’t come back?”

“Hey sport…don’t think like that. I’m sure…”

The boy shook his head, silencing the big man.

“No Uncle Will…what will happen? Will we stay with you and Aunt Deanna?”

Knowing the boy wouldn’t accept anything but an honest answer, Will sighed and gave him another encouraging squeeze.

“I’m not sure Jacques, but I can tell you that whatever happens you and your brothers will be looked after.”

His thumb went back and the boy sighed, lifting his father’s shirt to his face. Will, wanting to lift the boy’s spirits smiled and made sure his voice sounded light.

“Hey…how would you like to come to the Bridge?”

Jacques didn’t lift his head, but murmured,

“Papa says I’m not allowed on the Bridge.”

Will chuckled.

“I know that, but how about we make a deal? When your parents come back, I’ll talk to your Papa and I’ll see if I can get him to agree to letting you come up. I’ll even see if you can sit in his command chair.”

The boy looked up at his Uncle, his mouth agape.

“What do I have to do?”

Will winked.

“Two things. First you have to cheer up. And second, you have to come for dinner in Aunt Deanna’s quarters this evening and help me change Emily’s nappy.”

Jacques screwed his face up in disgust.

“That’s yucky Uncle Will.”

The First Officer sighed.

“Tell me about it…but a deal’s a deal. How about it?”

A small smile emerged and the boy nodded.

“Okay. Can I stay up late?”

Will took a moment, seeming to consider the request.

“Well…okay, but not too late.”

The smile grew.

“Cool! What are we having for dinner?”

Will laughed.

“Tell you what. You’re seeing Aunt Deanna later today. Why don’t you discuss it with her?”

The smile became a grin.

“Okay Uncle Will.”

Lifting the boy, Will stood, turned and put the lad back on the chair. He ruffled his hair and winked.

“Right. I’m going back to the Bridge. You keep your chin up…okay?”

“Oui Uncle Will, I can do that.”

“Good man.”

There was a lightness to Will’s step when he left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          This time when Beverly was roused from her unconscious state she rolled to her side and vomited. Het gasped and grabbed her shoulder. The Doctor kept heaving even though her stomach was empty. Het, with the help of another of its kind, lifted her onto the table and connected the probes.

“How can we help you Beverly?”

Struggling to control her heaving stomach, Beverly shook her head, saying weakly,

“Let me go. I need to get back to my ship.”

For the first time, Het gave Beverly hope.

“We are considering doing that, but before we do, I need to know what is required to rectify the damage done to us.”

Finally gaining control of herself, the Doctor took a few deep breaths. She opened her eyes and squinted against the insidious pain in her head.

“There are treatments, but I would have to do extensive studies on your physiology.”

Het nodded thoughtfully.

“We have a natural ability to heal ourselves by rapid regeneration. Is it possible we may revert to our former healthy state unaided once we are removed from the radiation?”

Beverly sighed.

“I suppose it’s possible, but I can’t answer that until I know more about you.”

“I understand.”

Taking more steadying breaths, Beverly asked,

“Het why did you attempt to achieve a Human conception?”

Sadness permeated Het’s voice.

“We have reached a stage where we can no longer successfully merge our genetic material. No zygote forms. We needed to see if any other form of conception could take place. The deformities of your eggs have shown us just how rapidly you have been affected by the radiation. It helped us come to a decision to seek help.”

Beverly opened her eyes and smiled.

“You will accept our help?”

“Yes. Your…husband, Captain Picard has offered a solution to our dilemma.”

Beverly gasped.

“Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc is here?”

“He is here.”

Struggling to sit up, Beverly begged,

“May I see him…please Het, let me see him.”

The cold hand on her chest made her lie back down. Het’s voice was kind.

“Soon Beverly. In the meantime…rest.”

The probes were disconnected and Beverly sighed in frustration. Het and its colleague left and the Doctor looked at the closed door.

“Jean-Luc? Where are you my love?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        As Will strode onto the Bridge, Data turned in his chair and speared his CO with an intense look.

“Commander we have a problem.”

The big man took his seat and sighed.

“What is it Data?”

“The radiation levels are rising Sir. We need to raise shields and begin hyronalin treatments.”

Will frowned.

“Does Sick Bay know?”

The android nodded.

“Yes Sir. Doctor Selar has reported several instances of radiation induced illness.”

Will stood and lifted his head.

“Riker to Selar.”
“Selar here.”

“Doctor we are raising shields. Begin hyronalin treatment as soon as possible.”

“Understood Commander. I will instruct the computer to release hyronalin into the air. Selar out.”

With a nod from Will, shields were raised. Data’s fingers danced over the console and he frowned.

“Sir we have been receiving a modicum of protection through the construct of our hull, but even so, the radiation his affected us very quickly. Unless the dome structure offers some sort of protection, both Captain and Doctor Picard will be affected far more than we have been…Doctor Picard in particular as she has been on the surface longer than any body else. Also Sir we cannot allow any crew to return to the surface.”

“Understood Data.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc was rapidly losing his battle with his pain. The drugs had long ago worn off and, to add to his woes, his hands were numb. He sat up and glared at the computer, noting the thin cables that connected him to the device. Ignoring the raging headache, he slid from the table and made his way to the computer. With little care for the consequences, he disconnected the cables. There was a sharp pain in his head and several moments of intense dizziness before his vision cleared and he regained his equilibrium. He gathered the cables in his hand, willing the numb appendage to close. He staggered as he walked to the door and had to steady himself against the wall as he inspected the mechanism. It took over ten minutes as he fumbled with his unresponsive hands, but when the door finally opened he lurched out into the corridor and took a few deep breaths, trying to orientate himself.

He had only travelled fifteen metres before two aliens appeared at the end of the corridor. Jean-Luc ignored them and continued, his hand held against the wall to steady himself. The larger of the two beings raised a weapon. The Captain grunted and lifted his chin and his voice.

“Where is Doctor Picard?”

The smaller alien gestured Jean-Luc to stop but the naked Human shook his aching head and went forward.

“I demand you take me to Doctor Picard!”

There was a soft coughing sound and a dart embedded itself deeply in Jean-Luc’s upper chest. He looked down at the slowly bleeding wound and tried to pull the dart out. His body began to tingle and his legs gave out, depositing him on the floor. As control was lost, the two aliens loomed over him, one turning him onto his back.

“Summon Het.”

While the aliens waited for their leader they removed the dart. Jean-Luc groaned in his mind and felt the blood running over his chest. He heard the wet slapping of webbed feet approaching and soon Het came into his line of sight.

There were some soft clicking sounds and the Captain was gently lifted and carried down the corridor and into a dimly lit room. As he was placed on another cold metal table, he caught sight of Beverly, lying on her side on a bed of blue foliage. He shouted silently,

“Beverly!”

But no sound emerged from his mouth. As he lay, helpless and frantic, Het connected the cables and spoke softly,

“Calm yourself Captain Picard.”

“What is wrong with Beverly?”

Het sighed.

“We do not know. She suffers pain in her head and her hands and arms are paralysed.”

Jean-Luc found he could swallow and he struggled to get control of his emotions.

“I too have pain in my head and I cannot feel my hands.”

Het frowned and entered some commands into the computer.

“We are sorry; we do not know why this is happening.”

“You have given me a drug…I cannot control my body. Why have you done this, I mean you no harm.”

Het turned and stared at the Human.

“We need to harvest your memories.”

“Why?”

“To learn.”

Wishing he could sigh and move, Jean-Luc strived to keep calm.

“Humans consider their memories private. To take them without permission is a violation. You have already violated me, both physically and psychologically, why do you wish to compound these assaults?”

Het gently pressed some controls and Jean-Luc felt the presence of another in his mind.

“NO! You may not…”

The alien placed a cold damp hand on Jean-Luc’s bare chest.

“Do not resist Captain, you cannot stop us.”

Ignoring the words, Jean-Luc steeled himself against the invasion of his mind, throwing up every mental barrier he had. The pressure in his brain increased until he was sobbing silently.

“Give up Captain…it will be easier…”

“No…no…I will not…”

There was a blinding flash of light in his mind and his resistance collapsed. He gasped, at first disorientated, then he saw his memories start at the very beginning…suckling at his mother’s breast, hearing her croon…everything his mind had stored scrolled by making him sometimes smile, sometimes sob piteously in his mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Jacques grinned as Deanna brought the big steaming bowl to the table. Will was seated with the boy, Emily asleep in her crib. The First Officer leaned forward and drew a deep breath through his nose.

“Mmm that smells divine. I didn’t know you liked spaghetti bolognaise Jacques.”

With a watering mouth the boy nodded vigorously.

“I love it! Papa says I would have it every night if he let me.”

At the mention of his father, Jacques’s face fell. Deanna sensed his sadness and said softly,

“Do you also like parmesan cheese?”

The boy nodded again.

“Stinky cheese? Oui.”

As Will dished out the pasta, Deanna distributed some hot crusty bread. Will, wishing to distract the youngster chuckled under his breath.

“I thought you might ask for snails.”

With his fork poised over his bowl, Jacques frowned.

“Snails? Why would I ask for snails?”

Will grinned.

“French people eat snails. They’re called escargots.”

With a look of utter disbelief, Jacques shook his head.

“If I’m not allowed to tell lies, neither are you.”

The big man shook his head.

“No really. Isn’t it true Dee?”

The Counsellor nodded.

“It’s true Jacques. Escargots are considered a delicacy in France.”

The boy screwed up his face and poked out his tongue.

“That’s yucky! Snails are slimy and they live in dirt. How could anyone eat them?”

Will shrugged and made a comical face.

“I have no idea.”

The boy peered at both adults and sighed, letting the matter go as he attacked his meal.

“Well I still don’t believe you.”

Before he thought of the consequences, Will snorted and said,

“Ask your father.”

Deanna felt a wave of terrible sadness wash over her and the fork fell from his hand. Will grunted and rubbed his face in his hands before ruffling Jacques’ hair.

“Hey…the French also eat frog’s legs.”

This time the look Will got was frankly incredulous.

“Frog’s legs?”

“Uh huh. Another delicacy.”

The boy shook his head.

“I am never, ever going to France.”

The adults chuckled and the meal progressed fairly happily. As they ate a dessert of banana cream pie, Emily woke up and Will went to her, picking her up and saying over his shoulder,

“Are you going to help me change this nappy Jacques?”

The boy swallowed his mouthful and shook his head.

“Non Uncle Will, I am still eating. Maman says I can’t leave the table until I finish my meal.”

The big man grunted and disappeared into the nursery. Deanna chuckled softly and shook her head.

“That’s not exactly true Jacques. Your mother says you have to stay until you’ve had enough.”

Jacques shrugged.

“Same thing.”

Deanna frowned.

“No it’s not, and you know it.”

Scraping the last of his dessert into his spoon, Jacques paused with the utensil near his mouth, his eyes twinkling.

“Are you going to tell Uncle Will?”

Deanna’s smile was wicked.

“No.”

Jacques put the last spoonful in his mouth and grinned, saying around his food,

“Bon.”

Ten minutes later all four were seated in the day area. Will, having been given a bottle by Deanna, was feeding Emily while Jacques and Deanna watched. Sensing the boy was calm, Deanna said softly,

“How are you sleeping Jacques?”

The boy shrugged.

“Okay I suppose.”

“Any bad dreams?”

His eyes clouded.

“Yeah…some.”

“Want to talk about them?”

“No.”

Deanna took his hand and looked into his eyes.

“It might help.”

Sighing, Jacques’ eyes filled with tears.

“It’s always Papa and Maman. Something bad is happening to them and I can’t help.”

Deanna gently squeezed his hands.

“That must be very scary.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you know what I do when I have a bad dream?”

The boy shook his head.

“I tell Uncle Will about it straight away. Telling someone makes it feel better.”

The lad sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve.

“Before…when Maman and Papa were home I would go to their room and they would let me sleep with them. I didn’t have to tell them anything, just being with them made me feel better.”

Deanna let go of his hands and put and arm around his shoulders.

“Well you can go to Sally.”

Jacques’ voice was small.

“It’s not the same.”

“No it’s not, but it’s better than lying in bed on your own feeling frightened.”

After a few moments Jacques nodded. He then turned to Will.

“Uncle Will…do you have bad dreams?”

The big man nodded.

“Sure I do. Everybody does Jacques.”

That made the boy gape.

“Even Papa?”

“Yep, even your Dad.”

The youngster frowned.

“But…he’s the Captain…and a grown up. Why would he have bad dreams?”

Deanna smiled softly and gently ran her fingers down the boy’s cheek.

“Jacques every one, grown ups and kids all at some time have bad dreams and the more experiences you have the more likely it is you will dream about it. Now you think about all the things your Papa has done, all the adventures he’s had. Don’t you think he would have the occasional bad dream?”

The boy shrugged.

“I suppose, but Papa told me that before he and Maman were married he used to be lonely. If Maman wasn’t there, who helped him when he had a bad dream?”

Deanna and Will shared a quick glance before the Counsellor smiled again.

“Well, if he was really upset he would come and talk to me.”

Jacques thought about that for a few seconds before he looked up and smiled.

“Like I am.”

Deanna grinned.

“Yes. And I want you to know you can talk to me or Uncle Will or Sally about anything you like.”

The boy gave a thoughtful nod.

“Okay Aunt Deanna.”

Will, having finished feeding his daughter, gave her to her mother and activated the computer on the table.

“How about we look at some old vids? Have you ever seen a western?”

The boy frowned and shook his head.

“I don’t think so…what’s a western?”

Deanna’s eye lit up.

“Ah! Horses, cowboys and guns. The good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats.”

Jacques shrugged.

“Okay.”

Three hours later Will took a very sleepy boy back to his quarters. After he was safely tucked up I bed, Will outlined their talk with Sally. She gave her assurance she would be alert for any nightmares.

Will had just left Jacques’s quarters when he was hailed.

“Data to Riker.”

Before he replied, Will lifted his head and said,

“Computer what is the time?”

“Twenty one forty-eight hours.”

He then tapped his comm. badge.

“Riker here Data, you went off duty hours ago. What can I do for you?”

“As you know Sir, I require no rest. I am at present in Engineering with Geordi and we need to see you Commander.”

Will gave a nod and sighed.

“Okay, I’m on my way. Riker to Troi.”

“Troi here.”

“Dee I have to go to Engineering. I don’t know how long I’ll be.”

“All right Will; I’ll see you when you get back. Troi out.”

The Commander strode into the heart of the ship, the pulsing blue light of the wrap core casting its ethereal glow over the department. Geordi and Data were at an island console, both bent over, studying readouts. They both straightened respectfully when Will joined them.

“You doing some overtime too Geordi?”

The dark Engineer grinned, giving a jaunty nod.

“Yes Sir.”

“Okay what have you got?”

The humour left Geordi’s face and he sighed.

“Commander our problems have just become significantly worse.”

Will closed his eyes momentarily and gritted his teeth.

“How so?”

“Well, as you know, with our reduced sensor capabilities we are having great difficulty taking readings of the planet and the space around us. With that in mind, Data decided to take some samples of the surrounding space. Sir with the instability of the sun, there are many types of radiation and particles being emitted, many of then harmful, but what has caused us greatest concern is a massive amount of high energy protons.”

Data took up the conversation.

“The sun is a type G2 so it is expected that gamma radiation and high energy protons would be emitted under these circumstances. However the level of both is almost in the lethal range.”

Will folded his arms across his chest, his face showing his concern.

“What do high energy protons do to Humans?”

Data’s eyebrows rose.

“Apart from general neurological disruption, they cause cell damage in all living things.”

The big man grunted.

“Cell damage? So is it the protons or the gamma radiation that has caused the deformities?”

Data shrugged.

“That is moot Sir as either would do it, however at the present moment it is the protons that are the greatest cause of concern. If we do not soon recover the Captain and Doctor Picard the damage to their bodies will be irreversible.”

Will ran a hand through his hair.

“Understood. What about the ship?”

It was Geordi that answered.

“Under normal circumstances our hull, being made of Duranium, offers adequate protection…but…with proton levels this high we are under significant attack.”

The First officer grimaced.

“Will our shields protect us?”

“Yes Sir. High energy protons are large by microscopic standards and tend to travel at sub-light speeds, unlike gamma radiation which is electromagnetic in nature and is basically light. Protons actually have matter.”

“Right. Geordi how are we doing with the modified shuttle?”

The Engineer sighed.

“It’s coming along Sir, but it will be at least another twenty or so hours until it’s ready.”

Will scowled.

“Why so long?”

“Well we’ve fitted the phasers but making a shuttle of that type water tight for the kind of depths you’ve told us about…”

There was a heavy sigh.

“It’s difficult Sir and we’ve had the added problem of getting the shield generators to be able to function as well.”

“Why is that a problem?”

Geordi smiled.

“Well we have to run the shields while the shuttle is away from the Enterprise to protect whoever is aboard so I’m using them to help with the sealing of the craft. Now normally that wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, but at depth the shields will begin to modulate. I have to coax the generators into giving an uninterrupted power feed to keep the shields steady. It’ll be tricky, but I think I can do it.”

Will gave a deep sigh.

“Okay Geordi keep me informed. Have you let Sick Bay know about the protons?”

Data nodded.

“Yes Commander. Doctor Richardson informed me that effective counter measures are in place. He will notify you if any cases of proton damage are reported.”

Will smiled tiredly.

“Thank you Data. If there’s nothing else?”

Both officers shook their heads.

“Right. If I’m needed I’ll be in Counsellor Troi’s quarters.”

Data inclined his head.

“Aye Sir.”

Within minutes Will was back with Deanna. Over a cup of coffee he sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulder.

“I have something I want to run by you.”

Hearing the hesitancy in his voice, Deanna turned and gave him her full attention. Will sighed and rubbed his tired eyes.

“What would you say if I suggested we move in together?”

The Counsellor chewed her lower lip for a moment before a small smile emerged, making her inky black eyes twinkle.

“I would say that is a very good idea.”

A relieved Commander gave a short laugh and sat back, drawing Deanna into his arms.

“Good, I’m glad. Now…my quarters, your quarters or new quarters?”

Resting her head against the solid wall of his chest, Deanna closed her eyes and drew in his scent.

“I’m not particularly fussed but we will need more room no matter what we choose.”

Will nodded pensively.

“Agreed. Once we have the Captain and Beverly back I’ll talk to Geordi about it…see which scenario is the easiest.”

Feeing her eyes begin to droop, Deanna nodded and sighed.

“Good. Now let’s go to bed.”

With a soft snort, Will nodded and helped Deanna to her feet.

“Oh you don’t have to ask me twice. I’m bushed.”

Deanna’s smirk was wicked.

“So a back rub is out of the question?”

An evil knowing grin appeared on Will’s face.

“If I’m not mistaken, back rubs make you horny.”

Adopting an innocent visage, Deanna gaped, wide-eyed.

“They do? Oh my…whatever will I be able to do about that?”

Will bent forward and kissed her, his hands cupping her bottom.

“I have a few ideas.”

Deanna grinned saucily and took hold of his hand, leading him to the bedroom.
“I bet you do.”

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  As Beverly regained consciousness she became aware of cold damp hands holding and supporting her. The sting in her upper arm told her she had been given another needle. She groaned piteously and struggled to sit unaided before opening her eyes and steeling herself against the subdued light which served to aggravate her dreadful headache. Het, kneeling at her side gently urged her to her feet and held her securely while she found her balance. Beverly was staring fixedly at the floor, willing her rebellious stomach to cease its threatened heaving. She took a few deep steadying breaths before she gingerly raised her head and opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was Jean-Luc lying naked and helpless on the table. Taking a few staggering steps she reached the table. Het gripped her tightly as she leaned forward, her frustration at not being able to touch her husband making her growl softly. The Captain, as soon as his wife appeared in his line of sight called out to her silently, his eyes tearing.

“Beverly! Are you all right?”

The Doctor frowned deeply, then, realising her husband was paralysed, turned to Het and snarled,

“Give him the drug to counteract what you have done to him!”

Not understanding her words. Het nodded to its assistant and Beverly’s cables were connected to the computer. Before she could repeat her demand, Jean-Luc’s voice filled her mind.

“Beverly? Beverly my love…are you all right?”

“Jean-Luc…oh my God…”

She turned to Het and glared.

“Give him the countermeasure for the paralysing drug.”

Het sighed and nodded to one of his companions. Jean-Luc felt a deep burning sensation in his arm and very slowly he started to regain control of his body. As he struggled to sit up, Het took a few steps away from the table. Jean-Luc lifted his arms and took Beverly into his embrace.

“Oh God Beverly….I’ve missed you!”

She smiled weakly and sighed.

“I’ve missed you too my love. Are you all right?”

The Captain shook his head, wishing to devote himself to his wife, but she knew him well and forestalled his protests.

“No Jean-Luc. Tell me, are you all right?”

He grunted with frustration and pulled back slightly to look into her eyes. Seeing her determination, he capitulated.

“I have a terrible headache, I feel nauseous and I can’t feel my hands, in fact the numbness is slowly creeping up my forearms.”

He looked tenderly into her dull blue eyes and gently laid his head against hers.

“Now, tell me about you.”

Smiling at his quiet strength and drawing in his scent, Beverly sighed and closed her eyes.

“Mostly the same as you, except I can’t feel my arms and the numbness is beginning to spread to my torso. Also I have been losing consciousness easily.”

Jean-Luc lifted his head, a deep frown of worry evident.

“The drugs they have given us?”

With a heavy sigh, Beverly attempted to shrug, but was unsuccessful.

“I don’t know…maybe, but radiation damage might be a factor too. Jean-Luc we have to get out of here…soon.”

Hearing the underlying desperation, Jean-Luc turned to Het and formed his words in his mind.

“We are both very unwell and it is most likely our condition will worsen. You must release us.”

The tall alien sighed and briefly closed its eyes.

“If we release you, will you still help us?”

Jean-Luc nodded emphatically.

“Yes! Whatever happens we will still help you.”

The alien considered Jean-Luc’s words and sighed.

“Very well, we will release you.”

Beverly gently took Het’s hand and smiled.

“Can you remove the probes?”

Het shook his head.

“No there has been an unforeseen problem.”

Jean-Luc and Beverly shared a frightened look before the Doctor asked,

“What sort of problem?”

Het left Beverly and walked to the other side of the table, turning the monitor and inputting some commands into the computer.

“As you can see, at the probe sites, there has been an odd integration between the probes and the tissue of your brains. We don’t know how to remove them without causing catastrophic damage.”

Anger welled and burned hotly in the Captain.

“I take it you were unaware that this might happen?”

Het could only nod.

“Yet you went ahead and drilled into our heads and introduced your technology into our brains without knowing what could happen! How dare you!”

Unable to touch her husband to calm him, Beverly instead said softly,

“Jean-Luc…”

Het lifted his chin and glared at the man.

“We had to communicate with you and this was the only way! Would you rather we simply killed you and be done with it?”

Jean-Luc’s silent voice was hard and menacing.

“Like the scientists?”

Het closed its eyes and bowed its head.

“That was unavoidable.”    

“Why? Why was it unavoidable?”

Lifting its hands, Het’s eyes pleaded.

“Captain you have to understand…we had no way of reviving them once we reached land. They drowned being taken back.”

That brought a deep frown to Jean-Luc’s face.

“Then just how are we to be returned?”

The alien shrugged.

“You will have to utilise the suits you were using.”

Beverly could see Jean-Luc was worried. Her gentle voice made him look at her.

“What is it?”

He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“Think about it Beverly. Neither of us can use our hands. How the hell are we going to get back into my shuttle?”

She smiled and tilted her head.

“We’ll manage my love…we always have.”

Swallowing his disquiet, Jean-Luc didn’t tell her that his suit was damaged. He turned his attention back to Het.

“You will help us?”

The alien bowed.

“Yes, but we do not want to leave our domes. Our tests have shown we are receiving some protection from the radiation within them. We will help you into the suits and we will assist you in leaving the dome, but after that you will be on your own.”

Not the best case scenario, but Jean-Luc knew it was better than nothing. He gave a curt nod.

“Very well. Do you have our clothing?”

Het shook its head.

“Unfortunately no. Garments are considered offensive and your clothing was destroyed as soon as it was taken from you.”

Jean-Luc cast a look at Beverly blanket clad form and Het smiled.

“Beverly was cold.”

The Captain swivelled on the table and placed his numb hands on Beverly’s shoulders.

“We’ll be home soon my love.”

As Het disconnected them from the computer, Beverly smiled, tears welling in her eyes.

“I can’t wait.”

 

                 Having made love to Deanna, Will was sound asleep when the call came.

“Selar to Riker.”

Years of practice had him immediately awake, although his voice was rough.

“Riker here.”

“Sir you wished to be informed if we had any cases of high energy proton damage.”

The Commander sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“You have some?”    

“Just one. I have been treating Lieutenant Barrul for fertility problems. She came in to Sick Bay half an hour ago complaining of pain and dizziness. When I scanned her I found she had conceived, but the zygote is defective. There is cell damage. She has since spontaneously aborted the zygote. I did not prevent it.”

Deanna sat up and gripped Will’s arm, seeking silent permission to speak. He nodded and she said,

“How is the Lieutenant?”

Selar’s voice was resigned.

“She is understandably upset, as is her partner. Commander I took the precaution of taking tests of both the Lieutenant and her partner. Sir they have both suffered cellular damage. I recommend we leave this system immediately.”

By now out of bed and almost finished dressing, Will grunted.

“That’s not possible yet Doctor. I thought you had instigated counter measures for the radiation and the protons?”

“I have Commander.”
“Then what went wrong?”

Will heard the Vulcan sigh.

“Lieutenant Barrul and her partner are Desorians. It may be that they are more susceptible to damage than the predominately Human crew.”

“I see. Can you reverse the damage?”

“I am attempting to do so.”

Now out in the day area, Will called for lights.

“So apart from leaving the system, what are your recommendations?”

“We must get all non-Human crew members to report to Sick Bay to be scanned. I will also increase the amount of hyronalin in the air.”

“Understood. I’m on my way to the Bridge; I’ll contact you when we have a schedule worked out. Riker out.”

As he turned for the door, Deanna caught his arm and said softly,

“I’ll go to Barrul’s quarters.”

He nodded and bent to kiss her forehead.

“Tell them…oh God…what do you tell parents who have just lost their child?”

Deanna sighed and squeezed his arm.

“It’s okay Will, leave it to me.”

He gave a nod then strode out of the cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

                  The level of frustration Jean-Luc felt as he stood by helplessly while three aliens helped Beverly into her suit caused his headache to spike. She twice had to sit to rest and calm her queasy stomach as the slow process took place. Already in his suit, the numbness had crept slowly up to his elbows and his arms hung by his sides, to all intents and purposes, useless. He knew that the cables in their heads were going to make wearing the helmet difficult and the cable that extruded from their mouths was going to make breathing the compressed gasses harder, but with no other alternative, he sighed and concentrated on summoning the strength he would need to help his wife.

They were in a small room at the outer rim of the dome. Once Beverly’s and his helmets were located snugly Jean-Luc activated the comm. system.

“Beverly can you hear me?”

Her voice showed her trepidation.

“Yes Jean-Luc.”

“All right, this should be fairly straight forward. As you know, the in-suit micro computer will assist the tanks to alter the gasses we breathe as we rise, negating the need to decompress. I will hold you as best I can and our ascent should be a steady one. Now when I left there was a storm brewing so it may be a bit rough on the surface. We need to stay together while I manoeuvre us to the shuttle. All right?”

Beverly nodded and through the face plate he could see her eyes were large and luminous. Jean-Luc turned to Het and nodded silently. The alien placed its hand against a control pad and a section of the wall glowed. At a gesture from Het, Jean-Luc and Beverly swallowed their fear and stepped through the wall.

Their helmet lights came on automatically as they immediately began their ascent. Face to face and with Jean-Luc’s arms wrapped around her, the Doctor closed her eyes and sent a prayer to any deity that might be listening.

“Please…we want to see our children again.”

As soon as they stepped into the black sea Jean-Luc felt the freezing inrush of water through the damaged seal of his helmet. He had hoped that the internal air pressure would keep the water out, but that was not the case. The interior of his suit was compromised and his feet, then his legs burned as the frigid water crept up inside. After ten minutes they were half way to the surface and the water was up to his chest. Their rate of ascent was calculated by their computer and Jean-Luc struggled to free one hand to enter the commands that would speed the process, but it was useless. He had no control over his hands; indeed he barely had enough control to keep his arms around his wife. As the water filled his suit he began to take deeper and deeper breaths, saturating his blood stream with as much oxygen as he could. As they approached the surface their ascent slowly accelerated but it was too late for the Captain. With Beverly looking on in horror, his helmet filled with water.

“Jean-Luc!”

Seventy eight metres below the surface Jean-Luc lost his battle and expelled his breath, inhaling the water in a convulsive gasp. He smiled at his wife. Summoning his remaining strength he hugged her to him and closed his eyes, calming himself and filling his mind with images of Beverly and their children.

By the time they broke into the heaving sea he was unconscious, his lungs filled with water but somehow he still held Beverly within his arms. Towering waves crashed over the floundering couple, one moment at the bottom of a trough, the next dragged up onto the top of a cresting surge. Screaming wind whipped the tops off the surf, the hard pellets of water striking them like bullets. With her legs wrapped around her husband, Beverly continued to call to him, desperately trying to rouse him.

“Jean-Luc…Jean-Luc, hold on!”

When the tingle of the transporter slithered through her body she sobbed with relief, but when they rematerialised in the shuttle she screamed in anguish. Alone, she was unable to remove Jean-Luc’s helmet, thus providing him with air. She even tried using her feet but it was useless. They were on board and safe, but Jean-Luc would die anyway if she couldn’t resuscitate him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Will, seated in the Command chair, was feeling his disturbed sleep. Rubbing his grainy eyes for the third time, he was about to retire to the Ready Room when the Ensign at Tactical said suddenly,

“Sir! The Captain’s shuttle has just beamed up two life forms matching the Captain and Doctor Picard.”

His response was immediate.

“Hail them!”

Beverly heard the call over her comm. system.

“Enterprise to Picard.”

She almost vomited as she replied,

“Will! Get us back to the ship…NOW!”

The First Officer stood and barked his commands.

“Instigate a link with the shuttle and pilot it back to the ship remotely.”

“Aye Sir!”

“Beverly?”

“Will Jean-Luc has drowned inside his suit and I can’t get him out of it. Have him beamed directly to Sick Bay!”

The big man gritted his teeth.

“We can’t transport through space Beverly. As soon as you’re aboard I’ll have you both beamed directly to Sick bay.”

“Okay but hurry Will…for God’s sake…hurry!”

It was a very tense ten minutes before the shuttle entered the docking bay. As soon as the little ship was inside the bay Will ordered the transport. Beverly and Jean-Luc materialised on the floor of Sick Bay. As two med techs helped Beverly to her feet, Selar and a nurse disengaged Jean-Luc’s helmet and immediately applied resuscitation as water poured out of his suit, pooling on the floor.

Struggling vainly against those who were helping her, Beverly craned her neck to see as Jean-Luc was lifted and placed on a bio bed.  The suit was cut from his body and fell to the floor, mute evidence of their struggle. Hands gently took her suit off and a Sick Bay gown was eased over her head, the nurse confused when Beverly did nothing to help. With a frustrated jerk of her head, the Doctor hissed,

“I can’t move my arms!”

Once dressed, Beverly was ushered to a bio bed; all the while she kept trying to see how her husband was doing. Doctor Karl Henderson caught her attention as he scanned her, a deep frown on his dark face. He gently lifted the cable that extruded from her mouth and asked,

“What the hell is this? It’s connected to your brain.”

Dragging her eyes from Jean-Luc to face the younger man, Beverly gave a soft grunt.

“I know and so are the other two. It was the alien’s method of communication…direct access to our brains.”

Henderson snapped the tricorder closed and barked.

“I want a level five neurological scan and a complete blood analysis.”

The senior nurse, Alyssa Ogawa nodded and gave her boss a smile of encouragement. Leaning close she whispered,

“Don’t worry Doctor Picard, we’ll soon have you put to rights.”

Beverly didn’t respond, she hadn’t heard her loyal staff member. Her eyes were once again on her husband’s bed as Selar led the effort to save him. She never felt the hypo that extracted her blood, and when gentle hands straightened her head inside the neurological scanner, she stared up at the ceiling and gritted her teeth. A mask was fitted over her mouth and nose and she tasted the hyronalin as it was introduced into her body.

A soft voice in her ear interrupted her frantic thoughts.

“You will have to stay prone for two and a half hours Doctor. Try to sleep.”

With a deep sigh, Beverly closed her eyes against the acerbic words that teetered on the tip of her tongue. Instead she gave a small nod and tried to relax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Incredibly Beverly did manage to doze. A gentle hand on her shoulder made her eyes snap open to reveal Selar. With the mask muffling her voice, Beverly’s urgent question lost none of its intensity.

“How is Captain Picard? Were you able to resuscitate him?”

The stoic Vulcan rarely smiled, but she graced her CO with a warm grin.

“Yes Doctor, however we were very lucky. The water he was immersed in was very cold which had quickly lowered his body temperature sending him into rapid hypothermia. That, plus his good fortune in having an artificial heart saved him. A normal heart may well have ceased beating.”

Letting out a breath she was unaware she’d been holding, Beverly closed her eyes and swallowed.

“So there’s no brain damage?”

When Selar hesitated in answering, Beverly’s heart accelerated.

“What!”

The Doctor clasped her hands behind her back and bowed her head.

“You are no doubt aware of the problems associated with the introduction of alien technology into the brains of Humans.”

Beverly nodded.

“In both you and Captain Picard the probes have integrated into the brain tissue in such a way as to make their removal very difficult. Exactly what has been done to the brain tissue is, as yet, unknown.”

Beverly sighed and gave a snort.

“We both suffer from severe headache, nausea and increasing paralysis.”

Selar nodded.

“We know. Also, the blood analysis from both of you has shown alien drugs evident. Until we purge your system of these drugs we are unable to treat any of your symptoms…I am sorry Doctor. However, we are unsure exactly what is causing your symptoms, whether it is the alien technology or their drugs. This is making your treatment very difficult.”

Beverly clenched her jaw and willed her anger into manageable proportions.

“I understand. When do you think Captain Picard will regain consciousness?”

Lifting her head and glancing towards the Captain’s private room, Selar gave a small smile.

“We hope to see some progress in that regard in approximately five hours. In the meantime we will shift you to his room.”

Beverly smiled her gratitude.

“Thank you Selar.”

The Vulcan merely inclined her head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Will had been down to Sick Bay twice in the last two hours and he knew that Beverly and Jean-Luc were as well as could be expected. Now seated on the Bridge he once again rubbed his eyes and sighed. Leaning back he lifted his head and said softly,

“Are we still hailing the planet Ensign?”

The young woman’s reply was also soft.

“Yes Commander, all languages, all frequencies.”

With another sigh, Will crossed his legs, resting one ankle on his knee. When the Ensign spoke again some time later it was with puzzlement.

“Sir?

Will turned in his chair, his eyebrows raised.

“Yes?”

“Commander I’m receiving something…but I can’t view it or bring it up on audio.”

The First officer stood and went to the Tactical station. He peered down at the display and frowned, pressing in a few commands. When the ship’s computer still refused to identify the file, Will, growled and tapped his comm. badge.

“Riker to Data.”

“Data here Sir.”

“Data are you still in Engineering?”

“No Sir. Geordi and I are in Shuttle Bay two, working on the chosen shuttle.”

Will smiled grimly.

“Right, well we’ve received something we can’t identify, play or view. I need you to unlock it.”

“Understood Commander. Route it to the computer in my quarters, I will go there immediately.”

“Will do. Riker out.”

The big man turned to the Ensign beside him and shook his head.

“Anything else?”

The young blonde shook her head.

“No Sir. After the initial download it went quiet again.”

“Okay but stay on your toes, something tells me things may change.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Safely ensconced in his quarters, Data frowned over his computer console and tried another approach. For twenty eight minutes he had toiled to unlock the mystery before him and, so far, had been defeated. Entering a new set of instructions, the computer gave a beep of compliance and set about carrying out its instructions. Expecting another failure, Data sat back in his chair, already formulating his next plan of attack. When the screen suddenly began to display alien script he sat up, his body rigid. Tapping his comm. badge, he kept his eyes riveted to the screen as line after line of symbols appeared.

“Data to Riker.”

“Riker here. What have you got Data?”

As he spoke, Data slowly shook his head.

“I have opened the file Commander. We have been sent a message in written form.”

“What does the translator make of it?”

“Nothing as yet Sir.”

The frustration in Will’s voice was obvious.

“Well will you be able to decipher it?”

“Unknown Commander.”

“Well get working on it Data. We need to be able to communicate with those people if we’re going to be able to help them.”

“Understood Sir. Data out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly was awake in the dimly lit room when Jean-Luc opened his eyes. She saw his body tense and called softly,

“It’s okay Jean-Luc; you’re safe on board the Enterprise.”

He slowly turned his head and blinked owlishly as his eyes focussed. When he spoke his voice was very deep and gravelly.

“Beverly?”

She smiled tenderly and nodded.

“Yes my love, it’s me.”

“Are you all right?”

Her smile widened.

“Well, I’m no worse. How about you?”

He swallowed and briefly closed his eyes.

“About the same. Bloody hell…this headache!”

“I know my love, but until our systems are purged of the drugs the aliens used, our symptoms can’t be treated. Hold on and be patient, it won’t be long now.”

There was a soft knock at the door and Beverly frowned.

“Come in.”

Deanna entered and smiled.

“Hello Beverly, Captain. It’s so good to see you again.”

Jean-Luc smiled bravely as Beverly sighed.

“It’s good to be back, believe me.”

Deanna came closer to Beverly’s bed and said softly,

“I have some little boys outside who really want to see their parents.”

Beverly cast a look at her husband and, seeing his look of acceptance, she nodded.

“Bring them in.”

Once the door was opened, Sally came in, pushing the double stroller with one hand, and holding Jacques’ hand in the other. He went first to his mother, his steps tentative. Beverly smiled her encouragement, wishing she could hold out her arms. Jacques silently accepted Deanna’s help in getting onto Beverly’s bed, then looked on in confusion when his mother didn’t embrace him. Beverly’s eyes welled with tears as she said softly,

“There’s something wrong with my arms Jacques. Can I have a cuddle?”

The little boy melted into his mother’s body, wrapping one arm around her while his thumb slid into his mouth. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes. Beverly laid her cheek on the top of his head and let her tears fall. After a few minutes Jacques sat up and looked into Beverly’s eyes with a level of intensity she’d not witnessed in him before.

“I missed you Maman. I didn’t like it when you went away.”

Sniffing and wanting to wipe her eyes, Beverly smiled gratefully when Deanna dabbed with a tissue.

“I didn’t like it either Jacques and I missed you too…very much.”

The boy looked over at his father.

“Can I cuddle Papa too?”

Beverly gently kissed his cheek and nodded.

“Yes, but Papa’s arms aren’t working either so you’ll have to cuddle him really well.”

Deanna assisted Jacques down from Beverly’s bed and up onto Jean-Luc’s. The Captain expected his son to immediately embrace him, but the boy hesitated, looking into his father’s eyes. He took his thumb out of his mouth and sighed.

“I’m glad you came back Papa.”

His face a serious mask, Jean-Luc’s voice broke as he replied.

“Me too my sweet son.”

Jacques’ eyes travelled over his father’s head and he frowned.

“Papa what are these?”

His small hand lifted to take the thin cables but Jean-Luc gently shook his head.

“No Jacques, don’t touch them please.”

Casting a look at his mother, the boy again stared at his father, this time with fear.

“Papa?”

The Captain smiled.

“It’s all right Jacques. Maman and I visited some people who couldn’t talk like you and me. These…”

He gently lifted the cable that extended from his mouth.

“Were put in our heads so we could talk to them.”

Jacques lifted his thumb to put it in his mouth, but seeing the look of disapproval from his father, lowered his hand and sighed. His thumb sucking had been a mild bone of contention between Beverly and Jean-Luc. The Doctor, although worried her son was feeling insecure, advocated letting him grow out of the habit on his own, where as his father thought it should be gently discouraged. They had yet to find a compromise and Jacques simply behaved as each parent wished, as the situation demanded. He sat up straighter and lifted his chin.

“Will Doctor Selar make them go away?”

Jean-Luc slowly nodded.

“Yes.”

“When? I don’t like them Papa, they’re scary.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Soon.”

The boy leaned forward and peered.

“Do they hurt Papa?”

The Captain’s smile faded.

“Yes.”

“Are you and Maman being brave?”

Jean-Luc’s smile returned and he nodded.

“Yes, I suppose we are.”

Jacques thought about that for a moment then gave a nod.

“Uncle Will said I had to be brave too. Can I cuddle you now?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and nodded.

“Uh huh.”

As the little boy snuggled into his father’s body, Jean-Luc sighed and allowed some of his tension to ease. While the Captain had been talking to his son, Deanna and Sally had taken the twins out of their stroller and were busy showing them to Beverly. The Ensign had explained how the boys were thriving on their now expanded diet and Beverly marvelled at how she thought they’d gained weight. The Doctor looked up and grinned at Sally as Mathieu crowed and stuffed a fist into his mouth.

“Is he hungry?”

The Ensign shook her head.

“No…I think a tooth is more likely.”

“A tooth? Jean-Luc? Did you hear that?”

Lifting his head from his son, the Captain smiled and gave a nod. Returning her attention to Sally, Beverly asked,

“How close?”

“See for yourself.”

With a gentle rub of her fingers against the baby’s cheek, he opened his mouth and Sally leaned forward, allowing Beverly to see his reddened and bulging lower gum.

“Oh yes, I can see it. What about Henri?”

“Yes, him too.”

Jacques sat up and looked at his father.

“Why don’t babies have teeth when they’re born Papa?”

The Captain smiled.

“Because they don’t need them Jacques. All they need is milk when they’re very little and you don’t need teeth to drink milk, do you?”

The boy thought about that then said,

“So now Sally is giving them real food they’re growing teeth?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“No, not exactly. They aren’t sprouting teeth just because they have a new diet, just that it’s time for it to happen. As they grow older they will cut more and more teeth and, coincidently their diet will change too.”

Jacques ran his tongue over his teeth and smiled.

“I have lots of teeth.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“And you will get more.”

That brought a gasp.
“More?”

Jean-Luc grinned.

“Uh huh.”

“Will you get more teeth Papa?”

The Captain shook his head.

“No son. The last teeth one gets happens at about eighteen years of age. I’m a little older than that.”

The little boy grinned.

“Oui!”

Jacques hopped off Jean-Luc’s bed and, as Deanna and Sally brought the babies to their father, the older boy climbed back up on his mother’s bed. As he slid his thumb into his mouth he stared at the cables and sighed. Beverly smiled and said gently,

“It’s okay little one, really.”

Jacques frowned and shook his head.

“I don’t like them Maman.”

“Neither do Papa or I.”

There was a small silence, then Jacques sighed deeply.

“When will you and Papa come home?”

Again wishing fervently that she could take her son in her arms, Beverly smiled bravely.

“I’m not really sure Jacques. Doctor Selar has to make us better and I don’t know how long that will take.”

The boy nodded solemnly and frowned as Deanna gently gripped his shoulder.

“We’d better go now Jacques, your Maman and Papa need to rest.”

He gave the Counsellor an annoyed look and huffed.

“Can I come back soon?”

Deanna smiled gently.

“Oh yes I think so. Come on, I’ll help you down.”

Jacques gave his mother a kiss then Deanna helped him up onto his father’s bed where he hugged the man fiercely and kissed his cheek. The twins had been put back in the stroller and Sally was waiting outside as Deanna took Jacques’ hand and led him to the door. The boy halted and turned, his eyes brimming with tears.

“Au revoir Maman, au revoir Papa.”

Jean-Luc’s reply was sombre.

“Not au revoir Jacques, we’ll see you again very soon.”

The boy regarded his father with a closed expression that worried the man. With a small nod, Jacques allowed Deanna to lead him from the room. Once alone again, Jean-Luc sighed deeply.

“He isn’t handling this at all well.”

Beverly snorted.

“What do you expect? He’s four years old.”

The Captain closed his eyes, wishing he could rub them.

“He’s feeling insecure isn’t he.”

It wasn’t a question and Beverly didn’t treat it as such.

“He has been for some time now my love.”

“What can we do?”

Beverly sighed.

“I’m not sure…I’ll talk to Deanna about it.”

Selar entered with a PADD in her hand. She went to Jean-Luc and took a moment to study the readouts on the screen above his bed.

“Captain Picard I would like to perform your surgery now.”

Beverly couldn’t contain her curiosity.

“You have worked out how to remove the probes?”

Selar turned to her boss and inclined her head.

“Yes I believe so, although the procedure should be easier with the Captain than you, as the integration of the probes in his brain is not as pervasive as in yours, possibly due to his shorter exposure.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened.

“Are you saying the damage to Doctor Picard’s brain is worse than mine?”

Selar clasped her hands in front of her and lowered her head.

“Damage may not be an appropriate term Captain. Until I remove the probes we will not know exactly what the residual effect will be, but solely on the basis of exposure it would seem that any effect will be more pronounced in Doctor Picard.”

Jean-Luc clenched his jaw, his face settling into a stony mask.

“Then I insist you operate on her first.”

Both Selar and Beverly spoke at the same time.

“No Captain…no Jean-Luc.”

Selar shared a look with Beverly and ceded the conversation to the older woman. Giving her husband an uncompromising look, Beverly sought to sway him.

“Jean-Luc don’t be obstructive. Let Selar proceed the way she needs to.”

The Captain shook his head.

“No I won’t hear of it. Look Beverly if you’ve been worse affected by these damned probes then it makes sense that you should be relieved of them first!”

With anger quickly building in the red head, Selar held up a hand and intervened.

“If I may Doctor?”

Having received a curt nod, Selar continued,

“Captain Picard I would like you to look at this situation from another perspective.”

Curbing his rising irritation, Jean-Luc gave the Doctor a stony look and a short nod.

“Very well.”

“Captain I am approaching the surgery from a position of significant disadvantage. In effect I will be performing an operation to remove alien technology I am unfamiliar with, the result being I will be unaware of the repercussions of such removal. As your brain has been less affected, don’t you think it would be wise for me to start with your first…to perfect my technique before I attempt the more difficult surgery on your wife?”

His expression didn’t alter, but his eyes darkened.

“You want to practice on me?”

“In effect…yes Sir.”

Wishing he could rub his lower lip with his fingers as he thought, Jean-Luc lifted his head when he heard Beverly’s gentle voice.

“It makes sense Jean-Luc. Selar needs to find her way with this and you’re the best candidate.”

His sigh of capitulation made Beverly smile.

“It’ll be okay my love. Think of it this way…you’ll be helping me in the best possible way.”

Before the man could respond, Selar went to Beverly and injected her with a hypospray.

“That should ease your pain.”

She then turned back to the Captain.

“Unfortunately Sir, I am unwilling to give you anything with your surgery pending. If you can wait it will help your body in the long term.”

The Captain gave a grunt and closed his eyes. He listened to Selar and only responded with a curt nod.

“A nurse will be here shortly to take you to the operating suite. I will see you there.”

After Selar had left Beverly said softly,

“Don’t be angry my love.”

He opened his eyes and frowned.

“I don’t like this Beverly.”

She smiled.

“I know but think of later…when we’re both free of the probes and on our way to recovery.”

The smile was slow in coming but it was warm.

“Then that is what I’ll do. I love you Beverly.”

The nurse softly knocked and was given permission to enter. She helped Jean-Luc onto a gravi bed but he stopped her before she could whisk him away.

“A moment if you please?”

The young woman nodded.

“Of course Captain.”

Struggling to his feet, Jean-Luc went to his wife and kissed her tenderly.

“I’ll see you soon mon coeur.”

She smiled and touched her forehead to his.

“I’ll be waiting.”

As he disappeared through the door she said silently,

“Good luck my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Three hours and eighteen minutes after he started, Data sat back from his computer and tapped his comm. badge.

“Data to Riker.”

A tired voice answered.

“Riker here.”

“Sir I have deciphered the message.”

“And?”

Data raised his eyebrows at the curt question.

“It reads Sir, ‘We are the Guron. We are sorry for the deaths of your scientists. Your Captain has offered help. We accept. We will wait for your response.’”

Will grumbled something incoherent then said,

“Come up to the Bridge Data.”

“Aye Sir.”

On the Bridge, Will lifted his head and called,

“Riker to Selar.”

The response was not what he expected.

“This is Lieutenant Harrow Commander. Doctor Selar is in surgery. Can I help you?”

“Yes you can Lieutenant. Is Doctor Picard awake?”

“Yes Sir.”

“And can I see her?”

“Just a moment Sir, I’ll check.”

Only a few seconds passed before the Lieutenant was back.

“Commander? That will be fine Sir.”

“Thank you, Riker out.”

Will stood and strode to the turbo lift, calling over his shoulder,

“Tell Mr.Data he has the Bridge.”

The reply was ignored.

Will found Beverly lying quietly with her eyes closed. He came into the room and gently cleared his throat. She opened her eyes and smiled.

“Hi Will.”

Hearing her tiredness, Will returned her smile and grabbed a chair, turning it and straddling the seat, resting his hands on its back.

“How do you feel?”

The Doctor sighed.

“Well…not too bad now that the bloody headache I had is almost gone.”

Will nodded.

“I bet. How about the nausea and paralysis”

Her smile faded.

“The nausea has settled but the paralysis is growing. It now extends down my torso and into my legs.”

“Damn. Look Beverly I don’t want to tax you but I need some information about the people who held you.”

Beverly nodded, her eyes warm.

“No problem Will, how can I help?”

Will smiled his gratitude.

“I need to know what was said between the Captain and the aliens. We’ve received a written message that Data has deciphered. It says they have accepted the Captain’s offer of help. What did he offer?”

The Doctor sighed.

“It’s complicated Will. These people are xenophobic. They don’t want contact with us, but they know they need our help. Their leader, Het, is intelligent and reasonable. Its main aim, apart from saving its people is to protect them from what it sees as contamination by us. To that end, the Captain offered holo ships, capable of carrying large numbers. The strategy would be to transport the beings to the holo ships without their knowledge thus protecting their integrity…and their innocence.”

Will ran a hand through his hair and nodded thoughtfully.

“Okay I can see how that would work. Obviously the holo ships will be configured to simulate the interior of their domes, but what happens when they get to their new world? How will Het explain that?”

Beverly grinned wearily and shook her head.

“You misunderstand Will. Moving these people isn’t a secret…Het told me they don’t fear the move so much as they fear interaction with us. Once we they arrive at their new home Het will tell them their journey is over.”

Will sighed.

“Well okay, but I get the impression they were reluctant to leave. How come?”

The Doctor smiled.

“They had travelled a very long way over a very long time to find this planet Will and they view the sun as a God. How would you feel if you found out the thing you venerated and worshipped was the cause of a catastrophe amongst your people and the reason you had to leave?”

The First Officer chewed his lip.

“Pretty pissed off I suppose. Okay, so I have to contact Command and get this evacuation on the move.”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh and quickly Will. The damage those people are suffering is severe and getting worse.”

Will scratched his cheek and gave Beverly a frank look.

“Actually I think it’s worse than you know.”

Her eyebrows rose and Beverly tilted her head.

“How so?”

“Their sun is unstable Beverly and apart from the gamma radiation there are high energy proton particles in huge numbers being emitted. We’ve had problems with the non-human population of the ship despite our hull construct and shields.”

Beverly gasped.

“My God Will...high energy protons deform the cells faster and more severely than gamma radiation! No wonder the aliens suffered accelerated birth defects.”

Will nodded.

“I know. Beverly we really need to get out of this system. As soon as I let the aliens know that help is on its way…we’re out of here.”

The Doctor sighed worriedly.

“I understand Will, but is there anything we can do to help them until the ships arrive?”

The big man shrugged.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to discuss it with Data and Geordi.”

He stood and in one motion returned the chair to its original place.

“But in the meantime…you get some rest. I’m sorry to have disturbed you.”

Beverly smiled up at her friend and winked.

“No problem Will, although I can’t sleep, not until Jean-Luc is out of surgery and I know he’s going to be all right.”

Will gave a sympathetic nod.

“Understood. Well rest anyway, you don’t have to sleep.”

Beverly inclined her head.

“Will do.”

Within ten minutes Will was back on the Bridge.

 

 

 

                      Data rose from his seat as the big First Officer strode purposefully onto the Bridge. Assuming the Command chair, Will gestured Data to sit at his right and gave the android his full attention.

“Data can you write a message to the aliens?”

“Yes Sir.”

The Exec ran his fingers through his beard as he considered his options.

“How accurate can you be?”

Data shrugged.
“While I am not yet familiar with the entire structure of their language, I feel confident I can achieve an eighty nine-point-six percent accuracy in anything I compose.”

“Good. Tell them we are contacting our superiors to organise the necessary ships and we’ll contact them as soon as we know when they will arrive.”

Data rose and gave a nod.

“Very well Commander.”

As he turned to leave the Bridge, Will held up his hand, halting Data’s feet.

“And tell them they need to line their domes with lead if they have it, or some other thick, dense metal. Inform them about the high energy protons and tell them if they need more help, we’ll do what we can, but that because we are suffering from the sun’s emissions as well, we need to leave this system as soon as possible.”

“Aye Sir.”

Data left and Will lifted his head to call,

“Riker to LaForge.”

“LaForge here.”

“Come up to the Ready Room Geordi, I need to speak with you.”

“On my way Commander, LaForge out.”

Will was seated behind the desk, sipping a cup of coffee. Geordi grinned as he approached the desk, seeing a steaming mug of raktajino waiting for him. The dark engineer sat and picked up the mug, raising it with a flourish.

“Thank you Sir.”

Will shook his head with a good natured grunt.

“I don’t know how you can drink the stuff…tastes like mud.”

Geordi’s grin widened.

“Well, drunk iced like the Cardassians prefer, I agree with you….but hot….well, let’s just say it makes all the difference.”

With a soft chuckle, Will brought the meeting to its purpose.

“Geordi you can stop your work on the shuttle.”

The engineer gave a knowing look.

“Yeah, I thought as much. Data told me about the message.”

“Oh right. Well it seems our next move may be to help the aliens avoid further damage from the sun until we can evacuate them. I’m sending a message to tell them, amongst other things, to line their domes with lead or some other dense metal. If we find they are unable to do that, what can we do to help?”

Geordi shrugged.

“Gee Commander that’s a hard one. Lead is the best defence against both gamma radiation and high energy protons…I mean even with our Duranium hull and our shields we can’t keep ourselves completely safe. I suppose we could augment their shields…once I know more about them, but as to what else we can do…I really don’t know.”

Will gave a rueful nod and sighed.

“Okay, give it some thought and I’ll let you know what they say. Dismissed Geordi.”

As the engineer walked to the door, Will called softly,

“And get some rest. I know you were up all night working on the shuttle.”

Geordi grinned and gave a nod.

“Aye Sir.”

Will sat back and finished his coffee. He had just picked up Jean-Luc’s crystal shard when a call came through.

“Data to Riker.”

“Riker here, go ahead Data.”

“Sir I am ready to send the message.”

“Right. Send it Data.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Despite her earlier prediction, Beverly was lightly dozing when Jean-Luc was brought back into his private room. She stirred and opened her eyes to see her sleeping husband being put into his bed. With rising impatience she watched as Selar activated a small regeneration unit and aimed it at Jean-Luc’s head but Beverly was surprised to see a larger regen unit placed over his body and activated. The Vulcan physician took her time to study the readouts on the screen above the bed making Beverly grit her teeth and bite her tongue. Eventually Selar left the Captain and devoted herself to her other patient.

“How is he?”

Selar sighed.

“The surgery was difficult, but it went well. I anticipate a full recovery.”

Beverly nodded thoughtfully.

“His brain tissue?”

“Bruised and swollen in places, but with appropriate medication and regeneration therapy it should heal sufficiently well.”

Beverly cast her eyes over her husband again and frowned.

“Why regen over his body?”

Selar glanced at the Captain and gave a worried look.

“Apart from the residual damage from his prior injuries, there has been some cellular damage. It should respond to regeneration therapy.”

Beverly’s blue eyes pierced the Vulcan’s stoic gaze.
“Should?”

“I am confident.”

Beverly was going to say more but Selar stopped her.

“Doctor Picard you are due for your surgery. You will be taken in shortly.”

Beverly closed her mouth and her heart skipped a beat. When she spoke she couldn’t keep the fear from her voice.

“Can you do it?”

Selar frowned.

“I would not attempt it if I thought I could not do it.”

Beverly sighed in exasperation.

“Yes I know that, but the Captain’s surgery was difficult…mine will be worse.”

The Vulcan bowed her head and sighed.

“While I am aware of the higher degree of difficulty and the elevated risks involved, I still feel I can successfully perform the surgery. However if you lack confidence in me, I can put you in stasis until we reach a medical Star Base where you can be seen by a neurological specialist.”

Knowing the Vulcan lacked the emotions to be offended by what Beverly had said, the red head nonetheless felt she had indeed hurt her colleague. Coming to a quick decision, Beverly smiled bravely and shook her head.

“No Selar, I have every confidence in you. Go ahead…do what you do so very well.”

Selar gave a nod and left. As Beverly waited for the nurse to come in to take her, the Doctor looked over at her husband and sighed, whispering,

“Well, hopefully I’ll see you again soon Jean-Luc. I love you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Several hours later Jean-Luc woke sluggishly and immediately wished he hadn’t. He emitted a long low groan as his entire body throbbed in pain. His head ached abominably and nausea threatened to make his stomach begin to heave. Keeping his eyes firmly closed, he heard someone enter and braced himself to listen to the inevitable words of encouragement. He wasn’t disappointed.

“Steady Captain Picard, I will give you something for all your symptoms.”

Jean-Luc felt and heard the hyposprays as he received three injections. The relief he experienced made him sigh and open his eyes. A tall dark male loomed into his field of view and the Captain realised he didn’t recognise the man. He summoned a wan smile and looked over at Beverly’s bed. Upon seeing it empty, he returned his gaze to the man and asked in a husky voice,

“Where is Doctor Picard?”

“She is in intensive care Captain.”

Jean-Luc gave a nod and swallowed to wet his dry mouth.

“And you are?”

The man smiled and introduced himself.

“I am Doctor Lionel Darcy. I will be looking after you until Doctor Selar is free.”

Seeing his Captain was struggling to talk, Lionel said gently,

“Wait Captain, I will get you a drink of water.”

Seconds later Jean-Luc was helped to take a straw into his mouth, He sucked greedily, savouring the deliciously cold liquid as it slid down his parched throat. The Doctor removed the straw before Jean-Luc had finished, earning a glare from the older man. Lionel smiled and shook his head.

“Not too much yet Captain.”

Without thinking, Jean-Luc tried to sit up. He quickly discovered two things. His left arm was encased in a light cast and he was very, very weak. A firm hand rested on his shoulder, gently stopping any further movement.

“Lie still Captain, you’re in no condition to move.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and grunted, refusing to tell the Doctor he now felt dizzy. The calm voice made the Captain grit his teeth.

“Deep breaths Captain, it will pass.”

Ignoring the disorientation, Jean-Luc said,

“You say Doctor Picard is in intensive care. How is she? Can I see her?”

The guarded caution in the Doctor’s voice made Jean-Luc open his eyes and study the man.

“Doctor Picard’s condition is stable at this time.”

“Stable? What the hell does that mean? Why is she in intensive care?”

The dark man sighed and lifted his hands to give his words form.

“Captain Doctor Picard’s surgery was very difficult and there were some unforeseen complications. She is seriously ill Sir, but as I said, her condition is stable.”

“Prognosis?”

Lionel summoned a small smile, but Jean-Luc noticed it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Doctor Selar is hopeful of a full recovery; however the next forty-eight hours will be crucial.”

Keeping his piercing gaze steady with a concerted effort, Jean-Luc asked what he dreaded to be told.

“What is the nature of her illness?”

Lionel shifted his feet and bowed his head.

“There are several areas of concern. There has been significant swelling in the brain that has not responded as well as we hoped to treatment and some residual bleeding. Also her paralysis has not yet abated; indeed it seems to have worsened to include her pulmonary function. At present she is being ventilated artificially. In addition there has been significant cellular damage that is impairing her ability to heal. In all we are having difficulty treating these problems but, as I said, if we can get through the next forty-eight hours I’m sure we will begin to see some progress.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and sighed.

“I take it she’s unconscious.”

“Yes Captain, we are keeping her in a medically induced coma.”

“May I see her?”

The Doctor frowned and ran a hand over his face.

“Perhaps later Captain, when you are feeling better.”

Knowing arguing would be pointless; Jean-Luc gave a curt nod. He closed his eyes but they snapped open as a mask was put over his nose and mouth.

“We are increasing your hyronalin treatment Captain. Just breathe normally and try to rest. I will be back shortly.”

After the Doctor had left, Jean-Luc took the opportunity of inspecting his body. Under the bright blue regeneration beams he could see very little. The cast on his left arm told him the bones needed further help in healing and the dull throbbing from other parts of his body was evidence of other injuries that he had aggravated. He sighed and lay back, closing his eyes and devoting every ounce of his meagre energy to sending his wife his thoughts.

“Get well mon coeur…I need you…I can’t live without you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Commander Will Riker lay stretched out on the sofa in the Ready Room sleeping soundly. It was oh eight nineteen and he had, apart from two hour’s sleep, been up thirty nine hours. He didn’t hear the first two chimes from the door, but the knocking broke through to his consciousness and he stirred, lifting his head and calling groggily,

“Come in.”

Data entered, sympathy etched in his face.

“I am sorry to wake you Sir, but we have a reply from the planet.”

Will sat up slowly and rubbed his face with his hands.

“What do they say?”

Data held up a PADD and read.

“We thank you for your assistance. We will endeavour to strengthen our domes against the sun’s emissions, but we fear we may need help. It should be known within thirty hours if we can adequately bolster our protection. We will advise you of our progress.”

Will took a deep breath, coming to his feet and stretching.

“Okay, we wait. Computer, what is the time?”

“Oh eight thirty two.”

The Commander grunted.

“We should be hearing from Command soon. Data get down to Engineering, I want you to help Geordi devise a way to help shield the domes until the ships arrive.”

“Aye Sir.”

The big man went to the desk and sat before lifting his head and calling.

“Riker to Sick Bay.”

“Sick Bay here Commander.”

“How are the Captain and Doctor Picard?”

“Captain Picard is conscious and recovering well. Doctor Picard is out of surgery and in intensive care. Her condition is critical, but stable.”

Will scowled.

“Understood, Riker out.”

Striding out onto the Bridge, Will went to the vacated command chair and checked the read outs before he said to the Lieutenant at Ops,

“You have the Bridge DeSora, I’ll be in Sick Bay.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          Seven and a half hours had passed and Jean-Luc had slept some more. He was awoken by Selar running a scanner over his hip. He summoned his voice to ask,

“How is Doctor Picard?”

The Vulcan kept her gaze on her instrument as she answered her Captain.

“Doctor Picard is stable at present.”

The Captain grunted and briefly closed his eyes.

“How long have I been asleep?”

“Several hours Captain.”

“And Doctor Picard’s condition hasn’t changed?”

“No Sir.”

Thinning his lips, Jean-Luc speared Selar with a piercing look.

“I want to see her.”

“That is not possible Captain.”

“Why?”

Finally looking up from the tricorder, Selar’s gaze was steady, her demeanour unruffled.

“Because you are still undergoing regeneration therapy Captain and you need to rest.”

“But…”

The Vulcan shook her head.

“No Sir, you will stay where you are. Also Captain, besides your ongoing treatment, I need a sample from you.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“What kind of sample?”

Selar’s calm exterior didn’t falter.

“A semen sample Captain.”

Jean-Luc’s mouth opened and he shook his head.

“What? Why?”

The Doctor put down the tricorder and clasped her hands in front of her.

“While you were undergoing surgery, I took a semen sample and discovered your sperm has been badly affected by the radiation and high energy proton particles. You are receiving treatment to reverse this, but we need to monitor your sperm production and quality and the easiest way to do that is to take a sample from you twice a day.”

The Doctor turned slightly and gathered something from the table behind her. She offered the item to her Captain.

“Please collect the sample in this sterile cup and make sure the lid is placed on firmly. As your left arm is immobilised, I suggest you use your right hand. You are right handed are you not?”

Jean-Luc nodded numbly. She turned, leaving an embarrassed and speechless Captain in her wake. Pausing at the door, she turned and said,

“I will lock the door and inform the staff to avoid entering. Please let me know when you are finished.”

Jean-Luc stared at the closed door then glared at the cup he held in his hand, muttering darkly,

“Bloody hell!”

Twenty minutes later the still embarrassed Captain summoned his Doctor. Selar took the cup, but before she left she said,

“As I told you Captain, I will require twice daily samples. As it is late afternoon now, I will expect the next sample to be taken tomorrow morning. Also, provided you rest comfortably over night, I see no reason why you cannot visit your wife after breakfast.”

That brightened the troubled man. He raised his eyebrows and asked,

“May I stay with her?”

Selar shook her head.

“No Captain, after your visit you will be brought back here for further treatment.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“Very well.”

After Selar left, Jean-Luc lifted his head and called,

“Picard to Riker.”

“Riker here Captain.”

“I would like to see you Will, can you come down to Sick Bay?”

“On my way Sir.”

His recent activities had exacerbated his pain and Selar re-entered with a hypo. He remained stoically silent as she administered the analgesic but sighed with relief as the drug took hold. He was alone when Will came in, a wide smile on his face.

“Hello captain, it’s good to see you Sir.”

Jean-Luc returned the smile and gestured to a chair. Will turned the seat and straddled it in his customary fashion, making Jean-Luc sigh wistfully.

“How are they treating you Captain?”

Jean-Luc’s eyes twinkled as his smile widened.

“Oh you know…despots the lot of them…and the food is atrocious.”

It was an ongoing joke amongst the crew. With food replicators used throughout the ship, there was no difference in any department or private quarters, but everyone, excluding Sick Bay staff, insisted the food from the replicators in the medical facility was horrible.

Will chucked and shook his head.

“Tell me about it! I mentioned it to Beverly once and she threw a PADD at me. Talk about over sensitive…”

At the mention of his wife’s name, Jean-Luc sobered. Will saw the change and offered a sympathetic sigh.

“I know Sir. I came down earlier today but you were asleep and I wasn’t allowed to see Beverly. Has there been any change?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No, she continues to hover in an induced coma in a critical condition. All the staff will say is that she’s stable.”

Will nodded.

“Selar told me they should know more tomorrow.”

“Yes I was told the same thing. If all goes well, I will be able to visit her in the morning.”

Will smiled warmly.

“That’s good Sir.”

Jean-Luc cleared his throat and asked,

“What’s happening with the aliens?”

Will took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Well I just got finished talking to Command just before you called. They are sending eight large holoships and seven Starships. The planet they have found…a class M uninhabited one with land and sea areas, is eight days away at high warp, so we’re looking at a sixteen day turnaround.”

“And how long to assemble the fleet?”

“Two weeks Sir.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his lower lip with his fingers and nodded slowly.

“How many per trip?”

Will sighed.

“Well the holoships can take about seven hundred each but the Starships can only use their holodecks for transport, so they’re limited to two hundred and fifty each.”

Jean-Luc grunted.

“So… 7350 per trip. That will mean many trips Will. Do the aliens know yet?”

“No Sir, but I asked Data to write a message to inform them and he should be ready to send it soon.”

“Fine. How is the ship coping with the radiation?”

“So far so good Captain. Selar has increased the hyronalin in the air and is treating any individuals who suffer damage, but the best thing would be for us to leave as soon as possible.”

The Captain nodded thoughtfully.

“Understood. Have Command been informed of the dangers?”
“Yes Sir.”

“Fine. Well keep me informed Commander, thank you.”

Hearing the dismissal, Will rose and returned the chair to its usual place. He bid his Captain good evening and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Will was in the turbo lift heading back to the Bridge when Data hailed him.

“Yes Data?”

“I have sent the message Commander. Also I believe Geordi and I have a solution to the shielding problem of the domes.”

“Understood. I will be on the Bridge shortly. You and Geordi come up.”

“Aye Sir.”

Will was at the aft science station when the two senior officers arrived. He gestured to the Ready Room and all three entered, then settled into the seats.

“What have you got?”

It was Geordi who answered.

“I think we can strengthen their shields Commander, but it will take some doing.”

Data tilted his head and added,

“We will need to build at least eighteen new field generators, capable of operating underwater and at great depth.”

Will frowned.

“And we can do that?”

Geordi nodded.

“Yes Sir, but it will take time.”
“How long?”

The dark engineer sighed.

At least five days.”

With a grunt, Will rubbed his eyes.

“Damn.”

“We can speed the process a little by using the large replicators and pulling staff from other duties.” Data said.

Will looked up at the ceiling and sighed.

“Do it. Data contact the planet and ask them if they can help. Who knows what their technology is capable of?”

“Aye Sir.”

Will smiled tiredly.

“Thank you gentlemen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Jean-Luc found it hard to sleep over night. Restless, he called for lights and was trying to sit up when the duty nurse came in.

“Captain Picard? Are you all right Sir?”

The Captain glared at the young man then barked,

“I would like to sit up.”

Coming further into the room, the Lieutenant shook his head.

“I’m sorry Captain, but you’re supposed to lie flat. The regen beams…”

Jean-Luc held up his hand.

“I know. The regen beams need to do their job. Very well I will read. Can you bring the computer screen closer to my bed?”

Now clearly nervous, the nurse cleared his throat and tried to sound officious.

“Captain Picard you are to rest. Perhaps if I lowered the lights…”

By now angry. Jean-Luc levelled a stony look at the hapless Lieutenant and snarled,

“What I would like, Lieutenant is to read!”

The young man began to tremble.

“I’m very sorry Captain…that is not possible. Ah…can you sleep Sir?”

“No!”

“Then I will get you a sedative.”

As the nurse turned to leave Jean-Luc growled,

“I don’t want a sedative dammit! I want to…”

He was talking to an empty room. With a disgusted snort, Jean-Luc dropped his head to the pillow and gritted his teeth. When the nurse came back in he held up his hand and scowled.

“I can assure you I do not want a sedative Lieutenant.”

The nurse gave a stricken look and stammered,

“I’m sor...”

Jean-Luc snarled,

“Sorry, I know. Very well, damn you.”

As the drug entered his system he felt his body relax and his mind dull. He barely registered the Lieutenant pulling up his blankets or the lights being lowered. He slipped into sleep and the young man sighed.

“Sweet dreams Captain.”

The next thing Jean-Luc knew was that someone was calling his name. He opened his eyes and squinted at the bright light. Selar stood beside his bed, a cup in her hand.

“Good morning Captain Picard. I trust you slept well?”

Instead of responding, Jean-Luc snatched the cup and glared at the Doctor. Completely unperturbed, Selar continued,

“After you produce the sample you may have breakfast, then I will detail a nurse to assist you in showering. In the meantime I will give you something for your pain.”

Speaking for the first time, Jean-Luc grumbled as he received the hypo,

“When can I see my wife?”

Selar gave a small smile.

“After you have eaten and taken your ablutions Captain.”

His grumbled “Very well.” Might have made anyone else smirk, but not the Vulcan. She offered a short nod and left.

Once alone, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and relaxed. Masturbating whilst thinking of Beverly was nothing new to the Captain and he knew he could accomplish the task quickly. For more years then he cared to admit before they began the relationship which led to their marriage, it was something he did fairly often to relieve built-up sexual frustration. He was semi-hard when he pushed the blankets down. His pyjama pants followed the blankets as he gently squeezed his penis and concentrated on thoughts of making love to his wife. In his mind’s eye he saw Beverly lying beneath him, her fiery red hair spread on the pillow and an alluring flush staining her alabaster skin as she writhed and begged for her release. He hardened in his hand while he began to stroke himself. Her imagined moans and whispered pleas drove him to a higher degree of arousal. He opened his legs and stroked faster, baring his teeth as Beverly’s image wrapped her long legs around his waist and met his thrusts. With his eyes screwed shut he felt his orgasm approaching. Beneath him Beverly raked his back with her nails as she arched upwards, her internal muscles rhythmically clenching him as she called his name in triumph. Holding the cup awkwardly in his left hand, Jean-Luc rolled onto his side and grunted as he came, ejaculating into the cup.

He lay quietly until he began to soften. Then he rolled onto his back, opened his eyes and attached the lid to the cup. Placing the receptacle on the bedside table, he pulled up his pants then the blankets before summoning Selar. The physician, with her usual emotionless demeanour, took the cup and left. With little time to contemplate his embarrassment, a nurse entered carrying a tray. She smiled brightly and set the tray aside as she deactivated the regen unit and swung it out of the way. She then helped her CO to sit up and placed the tray on his thighs.

“There you are Captain Picard. Now you eat all of that and I’ll have Alan came in and help you shower and shave.”

Stifling the glare that lurked in his eyes, the Captain dredged up a smile.

“Thank you Ensign.”

Fortunately the young woman was wise enough not to outstay her welcome. Having seen the Captain begin his meal she left. Jean-Luc took a bite of his toast and stared glumly at the bowl of porridge, muttering,

“Marvellous…just bloody marvellous.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Just under an hour later the Captain was seated beside his wife. Shaved, showered and dressed in clean pyjamas and robe, Jean-Luc held Beverly’s hand as his eyes fed him images he’d rather not seen. His beloved wife was lying on her back, an intravenous line attached to her right arm. Three areas of her skull had been opened and tubes protruded from her head, each dark with blood. The respirator rhythmically suffused her lungs with oxygen and extra tubes were attached, presumably to add other gaseous drugs. Her skin was sallow under the regen beams and her closed eyes were sunken. The only comfort Jean-Luc could draw from his unconscious wife was the warmth of her hand.

He had been accompanied by Alan Fairbain, the nurse who had helped him in the bathroom, but the astute man had seen that his Captain wished to be alone with his wife so he left, softly telling Jean-Luc that he would return in half an hour.

Once alone, ten silent minutes passed before Jean-Luc quietly began to speak.

“Beverly my love…you must fight this. You have suffered enough, it’s time you came back to me. Jacques and the twins will want to see you…they will want to cuddle you…you need to be awake my love…to tell them how much you love them.”

He shifted in his chair and gently cleared his throat, the lump therein making speech difficult. Blinking back unshed tears; Jean-Luc lifted Beverly’s hand and held it against his cheek.

“My love…my beloved Beverly…please come back…I cannot think of my life without you…I couldn’t go on, I would cease to exist my love. I can’t…I won’t contemplate life without you Beverly. I love you…I don’t tell you that often enough do I? I do Beverly; you mean more to me than my life…I am incomplete without you. Do you remember the day we married? When I turned and saw you…you were so beautiful…so radiant…and you were mine, all mine. I waited so long my love…so very long, but my God, it was worth it. You have made me so very happy, so very proud…not only did you give me your heart and soul; you gave me three beautiful children. Do you know how much that means to me my love? You have completed me, closed a gaping hole in my soul I never thought would heal. Only you Beverly, only you could have done that for me.”

Jean-Luc sniffed quietly and rubbed a finger under his nose, uncaring of the tears that slid down his face.

“I will never, as long as I live, forget the first time we made love. I was overwhelmed mon amour…it was so intense…so beautiful, the most intimate and wonderful experience of my life. You have given me so much Beverly…it seems somehow unfair as I can’t repay you for what you’ve given me, but I will try mon coeur, I will try to repay your loving heart. I will Beverly, I promise but to do that I need you to come back to me, so try Beverly…try hard, I’ll be waiting.”

He slowly came to his feet and bent to place a tender kiss to Beverly’s forehead. He held her hand against his chest and closed his eyes, resting his brow against hers. That was how Lieutenant Fairbain found them. He gave a soft, discreet cough and Jean-Luc sighed. He opened his eyes and kissed Beverly again, whispering,

“I’ll be waiting my love…hurry.”

He turned then and, without a backward glance, left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       At the tactical station on the Bridge, Data’s eyebrows rose as he read the incoming message.

“Sir?”

Will half turned and raised his chin.

“Yes Data?”

“A new message has just come in Commander and I think you may find it helpful.”

Will rose and strode around to join the android. The message was now appearing in Standard text.

“We acknowledge you last message and wish to inform you that preparations are underway to cover our domes with Benolium, a native metal we believe may add to our protection. In addition we request you supply one of the new field generators as we have the capability to replicate anything you produce. Will await your reply.”

Giving a non-committal grunt, Will stared down at the screen as he said,

“How close are you to finishing the prototype?”

“Geordi is fine-tuning it as we speak.”

“Good. Data I want you to ask Het just how many people we are dealing with. The Captain thinks it’s a significant number…we need to know exactly how many.”

Data nodded.

“As you wish Commander, I will contact them now.”

Shifting his focus elsewhere, Will lifted his head and called,

“Riker to LaForge.”

“LaForge here.”

“Geordi how will you deliver the generator?”

Will could hear the resigned sigh.

“Well Commander I thought about dropping it into the sea over a designated spot and letting it sink to the bottom, but I really need to place it, set it up, then activate it so I can be on hand if anything goes awry.”

Will pursed his lips and scratched his fingers through his beard.

“Understood. So how then?”

“Two choices Commander, either three divers guide it down using floatation, or we’re back to the modified shuttle. Take it down in that and beam in on site.”

Nodding slowly, Will said softly,

“Which do you prefer?”

There was a momentary pause before Geordi responded,

“It would be better if we took it down by hand Commander. There’s too much at stake for any snafus.”

“Right. How soon?”

“Two hours, tops.”

Will nodded thoughtfully.

“Okay, you and who else?”

“Data and Ensign Henderson.”

“Understood. Let me know when you’re ready. Riker out.”

The big man turned to the android.

“Go and help him Data and remember to take a PADD or something loaded with their language so you can communicate with the aliens.”

Data gave a small nod.

“Aye Sir. I have sent the new message Commander. If I am unavailable when the reply comes in, the computer will automatically translate and display the text at this station.”

Will smiled.

“Understood, thank you Data, well done.”

As the Second Officer left the Bridge, Will settled into the Command chair and ran a hand through his hair.

“And still we wait.”

 

 

 

                 After lunch Deanna visited her Captain.

“Hello Sir, how are you today?”

The distracted, worried man sighed.

“I am well Counsellor, thank you.”

Sensing his disquiet, Deanna gave a sympathetic squeeze of his right hand.

“I’ve just been in to see Beverly, Captain; I understand how worried you must be.”

A soft grunt was his only reply. Deanna gained a chair and moved it close to his bed, sitting and concentrating on her CO.

“Captain, Jacques wants to see her.”

Jean-Luc frowned deeply, his eyes glittering.

“I don’t think that’s wise Counsellor…he’s upset enough as it is.”

“I agree he is upset Captain, however I believe that will worsen if he’s denied access to his mother.”

The Captain pursed his lips and regarded the petite woman speculatively.

“Beverly said he was feeling insecure. Do you think by not seeing his mother, it will exacerbate matters?”

Deanna gave a slow nod.

“Yes Sir, definitely. He suffered significantly when she went missing, then to make matters even worse, you left too and despite your assurances that you would return…with his mother…I don’t think he believed you. Very quickly he began to wrestle with the consequences of both of you never coming back. It was frightening Captain, how one so young could just…accept such a terrible situation.”

Jean-Luc scowled.

“Oh I’m sure you’re exaggerating Counsellor. Jacques can be very melodramatic when it suits him.”

In a very quiet voice, Deanna said,

“Captain…he asked Will if he and his brothers would come to us in the event you and Beverly never returned.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened and his voice dropped to a whisper.

“He said that?”

“Yes Sir and if we keep him from his mother now the consequences could be dire.”

There followed several moments of silence. Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes, saying softly,

“Very well.”

Deanna stood and made sure her voice was full of encouragement.

“He’s at preschool at the moment. I’ll bring him down later this afternoon.”

The Captain dragged his eyes up to meet Deanna’s and nodded. The small smile he gave tugged at Deanna’s heart.

“I’m sure everything will be all right Captain…we just have to be patient.”

The smile faded, but Jean-Luc nodded.

“Thank you Counsellor.”

Five minutes after she left, Jean-Luc called Selar. The Vulcan came quickly and stood beside his bed.

“Yes Captain?”

“I want to get out of this damned bed.”

He expected a refusal and was surprised when the Doctor gave a curt nod.

“Very well Sir. You may get up, but I would like you to continue to rest by sitting in a chair. I do not want you walking about this facility.”

Containing his irritation, Jean-Luc gave a short expulsion of breath and nodded.

“Very well. Also Doctor I wish to take my eldest son to visit his mother later this afternoon. I hope you have no objections?”

Selar gave the proclamation adequate thought then nodded.

“That is acceptable Captain, however as we will be withdrawing the drugs that are keeping Doctor Picard in a coma, I suggest the visit be a short one.”

That caught Jean-Luc’s interest and his heart accelerated.

“You expect her to regain consciousness?”

Selar frowned.

“No Sir, in fact I expect the Doctor to remain unconscious for some time yet, but as the extent of her brain injury is significant, her responses to the cessation of the drugs may be somewhat unpredictable and I simply wish to shield your son from anything he might find traumatic to witness.”

As his hope faded it was replaced with gratitude for the Doctor’s compassion. He gave a nod and offered a small smile.

“Thank you Doctor, I will keep that in mind. May I ask…how was my latest sample?”

“You are still producing malformed sperm Captain. All we can do for now is continue treatment and monitor the situation.”

“I see.”

Selar tilted her head and said softly.

“I will summon Lieutenant Fairbain. He will assist you in getting out of bed.”

As she turned to leave, she hesitated.

“Oh…and Captain…I will be removing your cast tomorrow.”

Relief washed over the man.

“Thank you Doctor, I look forward to that.”

Fifteen minutes later the Captain was sitting in a comfortable chair contemplating the impending visit from his son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The Ensign at Tactical was very nervous. This was her first stint on the Bridge and her mind was whirling with thought as she manned her station. The only way she could feel any more nervous would have been if the Captain was in attendance. Even so, the First officer was on duty and though he was usually genial and approachable, these lest few days he had been tense and taciturn. When her console gently beeped she jumped, her apprehension made worse as Will stood and turned to face her.

“Ah…incoming message Sir…from the planet.”

In a few long strides, Will left his seat and joined the Ensign. She looked on as he inputted some commands to display the text. Reading quickly, the Ensign was surprised when the big man softly swore.

“Oh Shit!”

As his legs took him to the Ready Room he said over his shoulder,

“Get me Command and send it in here.”

The Ensign swallowed as her fingers began their dance.

“Yes Sir.”

The link was established and Will nodded to Admiral Speers.

“Sir.”

The older woman inclined her head and smiled.

“What can we do for you Commander?”

“We have a problem. Admiral.”

The flag officer sat back in her chair and rubbed her forehead.

“I take it you are referring to the situation on the planet?”

Will nodded.

“Yes Sir. We were under the impression we were dealing with a significant number of people, but I have just found out the number is nearly one hundred and twenty seven thousand.”

The Admiral grimaced.

“Dear God…it will take months to move them all!”

“Yes Sir. Apparently there are just over two hundred separate communities, all under water, each containing approximately six thousand individuals.”

The Admiral took a deep breath and briefly closed her eyes.

“Right. I’ll get things moving faster this end. Commander contact the aliens and tell them they will need to do something to raise their level of protection until we can complete the evacuation.”

Will gave a curt nod.

“Aye Admiral, in fact we’ve already got them working towards that.”

“Fine. Anything else Commander?”

“No Admiral, thank you.”

“Speer out.”

Will sat back and ran a hand through his hair. He was just about to leave the room when a call came from Engineering.

“LaForge to Riker.”
“Riker here, go ahead Geordi.”

“We’re ready Sir.”

Will sighed deeply.

“Okay, proceed Commander…and keep in contact.”

“Aye Sir, LaForge out.”

The big man left the Ready Room and took his position in the Command Chair. He stared balefully at the plant and rubbed his eyes.

“Dammit…we need to get the hell out of here!”

 

 

 

 

                  Jean-Luc was reading when Deanna arrived with Jacques. The boy took his thumb out of his mouth as he entered the room, making Deanna give her Captain a knowing look. The man understood her tacit plea for understanding and smiled warmly at his son, lifting his arm and inviting the boy onto his lap.

Once he was settled, Jean-Luc kissed his forehead and hugged him.

“How are you Jacques?”

The boy looked up into his father’s eyes and the Captain could easily see the boy’s fear.

“Okay Papa.”

“And did you sleep well last night?”

The boy shook his head sadly.

“No Papa.”

“Oh, why?”
“I had a yucky dream. It made me cry and I felt sick in my tummy.”

Jean-Luc lifted his cast encased arm and wrapped it around his son. Now totally within his father’s embrace, Jacques rested his face against Jean-Luc’s chest and sighed, his thumb sneaking into his mouth. Jean-Luc allowed a silence before he asked gently,

“Would you like to see Maman today?”

Not lifting his head, the boy nodded.

“Very well, but I have to tell you she is…asleep Jacques and you might see some things that you may find…a little scary.”

That brought the boy’s head up and he looked fearfully into his father’s eyes.

“What things?”

The Captain sighed.

“Well, Maman has some tubes coming from her head and she has a tube connected to her arm. She has a device in her throat that’s helping her to breathe too. She is very pale Jacques, she looks very sick, but she is going to be all right, we just have to be patient.”

Jacques gave his father a speculative look and shook his head.

“I don’t believe you.”

A surprised Captain raised his eyebrows. His son had never lost faith in him before.

“Why Jacques?”

“Because you said Maman would come back and she didn’t…you had to go and get her.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“But she did come back Jacques.”

“And you went away too. I didn’t like that Papa. I was scared.”

Taking his arms from around the boy, the Captain gripped his shoulder with his good hand.

“Jacques I understand how you feel, but I can assure you everything is going to be all right. Your Maman will wake up and get better.”

The boy shook his head and sucked his thumb. Deanna, by now very concerned, stepped closer to the two males and said softly,

“Jacques would you like to talk to Doctor Selar? She’s looking after your mother.”

The boy shrugged silently. Jean-Luc looked up and gave Deanna an imperceptible nod. The Counsellor smiled and left.

While she was gone, Jean-Luc said,

“How are your little brothers?”

Speaking around his thumb, Jacques mumbled,

“They’re okay.”

“Have you been playing with them?”

The boy shook his head.

“No they’re too sad to play.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.

“I’m sure that’s not true Jacques…they’re only little, they wouldn’t be sad.”

The lad looked up and gave his father an accusing look. Jean-Luc frowned, feeling vaguely guilty. Deanna and Selar came in, the Counsellor giving her Captain a surreptitious nod, letting him know she had talked with Selar and explained the situation. The Vulcan went to Jacques and went down on one knee. Now at his level, Selar said softly,

“You wish to know about your mother?”

Still sucking his thumb, Jacques nodded silently. Understanding the lad’s difficulties, Selar smiled.

“Your mother is very sick and at the moment she looks very frightening, but I believe she will get better. We are doing everything we can for her Jacques.”

The boy sighed, blinking back tears. Jean-Luc felt his accelerated heartbeat and wrapped his good arm around him, lowering his mouth to his ear and whispering,

“It will be all right Jacques. Would you like to see her now?”

The lad nodded and Jean-Luc looked up at both women. He gave a nod and Deanna took Jacques’ hand and helped him off his father’s lap so the Captain could stand. Then, together they all went to see Beverly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

                  Intensive care was a scary place for a youngster. Unlike the rest of Sick Bay which was warm and friendly, intensive care was sterile and cold, the walls covered with screens and consoles and sophisticated machinery littered the floor space. The sound of the respirator made Jacques hesitate at the door, but Jean-Luc squeezed his hand and gently urged the boy forward.

“It’s all right son, come on.”

With his thumb firmly stuck in his mouth, the boy followed his father into the room. The bed lay in the centre and overhead a huge multi-faceted light shone down on his mother. Over most of her body a regeneration unit bathed her in bright blue light and a high-tech blanket covered her.

Jean-Luc reached for a mobile chair and wheeled it over to Beverly’s bed. He sat on it and patted his thigh. Jacques silently climbed onto his father’s knee and stared at his mother. The Captain picked up his wife’s hand and kissed it.

“Hello my love, Jacques and I have come to visit you.”

The boy looked at his father in confusion. Jean-Luc said gently,

“Even though Maman is asleep she might be able to hear us. Talk to her Jacques, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.”

With his free hand gripping his father’s robe, Jacques took his thumb out of his mouth and whispered,

“Maman?”

Jean-Luc’s soft deep voice gave encouragement.

“Louder Jacques…speak so she can hear you.”

The boy sat forward and said,

“Maman? It’s me.”

When there was no response, Jacques looked at his father with tears in his eyes. Jean-Luc hugged him with one arm and said softly,

“It’s all right son, just talk to her. Tell her about school today.”

The boy dragged his eyes from his father and stared at the unconscious woman. Slowly at first he stated to speak.

“I made a bird today Maman. I painted it blue, red, yellow and green and it hangs from a cord and its wings flap.”

Jean-Luc gave a comforting squeeze of his arm and nodded.

“Good Jacques…go on.”

“Miss Lockwood says tomorrow we can put a chip in it that will make it whistle. We are allowed to choose whatever bird sound we like. I chose a lyre bird cause I remember the one you showed me in the bird programme at home.”

Jacques lapsed into silence and Jean-Luc took up the discourse.

“I’m allowed out of bed now Beverly and tomorrow I will have my cast taken off my arm. Hopefully I can go back to our quarters soon.”

That was said for the benefit of his son and the Captain was gratified to see the boy lift his head and smile at him, the first smile he had seen since the boy had arrived.

“Really Papa?”

The Captain cast a look at Selar and she bowed her head. He smiled down at his son and nodded.

“Yes I think so.”

The boy’s lip quivered as he asked,

“Can I sleep with you?”

“Yes.”

With his thumb creeping back into his mouth, Selar came over and said gently,

“That is enough for now, your mother needs to rest.”

Jacques hopped off his father’s lap and Jean-Luc took his hand. They had just reached the door when a medical alarm sounded and Beverly suddenly started to convulse. The Captain swung around and took two steps towards his wife, but Deanna grabbed his arm and tugged him to the exit.

“Come on Captain…Jacques doesn’t need to see this.”

Cursing under his breath, Jean-Luc quickly walked outside, dragging his reluctant son with him. The boy struggled outside, trying to get back to his mother.

“What’s happening Papa? What’s wrong with Maman?”

Saying nothing, Jean-Luc led the protesting boy back to his room. Once the door was closed, Jean-Luc went down on one knee and gripped his shoulder.

“Jacques your mother is very sick and sometimes sick people have what they call…set backs. Doctor Selar is with your Maman and I’m sure she will handle the situation.”

Jacques looked at the closed door and shook his head.

“But I want to go back to Maman.”

With rising irritation, borne of his worry for his wife, Jean-Luc growled,

“Well you can’t.”

The boy shrugged free of his father’s hand and made a dash for the door. Jean-Luc lunged forward and caught him, but they both ended up sprawled on the floor. Jacques twisted in his father’s grip and shouted,

“Let me go! This is all your fault! Let me GO!”

Shocked by his son’s outburst, Jean-Luc released the boy, intending to get a better grip, but with only one hand to hold him, Jacques easily eluded capture. He was on his feet in an instant and out the door before the Captain could stop him. He barrelled into intensive care to see Selar administering electric shocks to Beverly to restart her heart. As her body jumped with the current, Jacques stood opened mouthed, saying over and over…

“Non…Maman…non.”

Deanna quickly grabbed the boy, just as Jean-Luc made it to the room. Between them they ushered Jacques outside where he angrily looked up at his father and spat, pointing back at Beverly’s room.

“You did that!”

The Captain’s voice was ragged as he tried to placate his son.

“Jacques…please…”

Ignoring the man, Jacques turned on his heel and ran from Sick Bay, leaving his father open mouthed. Deanna quickly grabbed his arm, saying,

“I’ll go after him Captain.”

Suddenly alone, Jean-Luc gathered his shattered wits and re-entered intensive care. Selar was watching the monitors as Beverly lay quietly.

“How is she?”

The physician nodded.

“The convulsion has passed and her heart is once again beating properly. How is your son?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“I’m not sure…he was very angry…and shocked.”

Selar sighed.

“This is what I warned you about Captain.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his eyes with his free hand.

“It was caused by the cessation of the sedating drugs?”

“Yes.”

“And now?”

The Doctor turned to look at her Captain and, seeing his distress, offered a sympathetic smile.

“I still believe she will recover Captain. We just need time.”

Jean-Luc grunted.

“Time we have in abundance Doctor…patience however seems to be in rather short supply.”

Selar left her patient and went to her Captain.

“Sir your wife is a very strong individual, both physically and psychologically. You have to have faith that she will recover and faith that I will do my best to see that it happens.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Oh I have faith Doctor…I know how strong my wife is, but there is more to this than just my faith. I have a four year old son who believes she won’t recover and that her situation if of my making.”

Selar frowned.

“That is illogical Captain.”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“No Doctor…that is children, at least Human children. Doctor I need to be with him. Is it possible for me to be discharged to my quarters?”

Selar tilted her head, considering the request. She sighed in capitulation.

“Had I not seen what happened with your son I would be inclined to refuse. However I can see how your presence is vital so I will accede to your wishes Captain. You will be required to come to Sick Bay three times a day for treatment. I hope that will suit your plans.”

Jean-Luc summoned a wan smile.

“That will suffice Doctor, thank you. May I go immediately?”

Selar bowed her head.

“I would like you to have a regeneration session before you go Captain.”

He gave a curt nod and went to his wife’s side. As he took her hand and kissed her brow, Selar said quietly,

“I will still require the twice daily samples Captain.”

Closing his eyes and trying to ignore her presence, Jean-Luc gave a silent nod. The Doctor gave the screens one more look then she left. The Captain sighed and rested his brow upon Beverly’s.

“I’ve got my work cut out for me with Jacques my love…come back to me Beverly, I need you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Deanna ran to the first junction in the corridor and came to a stop. Knowing the futility of chasing the boy, she instead lifted her chin and asked,

“Computer, location of Jacques Picard.”

“Jacques Picard is at present in turbo lift nineteen, ascending.”

“Computer inform me when Jacques Picard enters quarters or any other room”

“Acknowledged.”

Walking at a normal pace, Deanna went left at the junction and ambled to the turbo lift. She did not, however, call for a car. She waited patiently and after a few minutes the computer chimed.

“Jacques Picard has entered the port Observation Lounge, deck six, section 21 A.”

Deanna summoned a lift car and it arrived quickly.

“Deck six, port side.”

Her arrival at the Observation lounge took only moments. The door opened for her and, in the darkness, she immediately heard sobbing. Rounding the table, she found Jacques huddled in a ball below the windows. The Counsellor said nothing; instead she sat beside the boy and placed a comforting hand on his trembling shoulder. At first he flinched away from her touch, but after some time he shuffled closer, eventually resting his head on her thigh. His thumb slipped into his mouth as his chest hitched, making him emit small distressed sounds.

Deanna gently stroked his hair and waited. After a while Jacques mumbled,

“Papa is a bad man.”

Deanna frowned but resisted making any comment, other than to ask,

“Why do you say that?”

Jacques sniffed and shook his head.

“Because he made Maman go to that dumb planet and then he came back and she didn’t, then he went away, then he got her hurt and then she got sick.”

Deanna sighed, but kept stroking his hair.

“That’s not true Jacques…and I think you know that.”

The boy sat up, took his thumb out of his mouth and glared.

“He made Maman go to that planet and she didn’t come back!”

Deanna shook her head.

“No he didn’t Jacques, in fact your mother was going to the planet anyway and your father insisted on going with her. You know that the Captain isn’t supposed to leave the ship.”

Unwilling to accept the truth, Jacques angrily shook his head.

“He ordered Maman to go!”

Keeping her voice even and calm, Deanna sighed.

“No he didn’t Jacques. As CMO, your mother was the most qualified person to go to the planet to collect the samples we needed. I know for a fact that your father asked her not to go, he was worried about her.”

Still angry, the boy raised his voice.

“Well how come he came back and she didn’t?”

Deanna sighed again.

“Your father was injured Jacques…very badly and Uncle Data found him. It wasn’t until some time later that we realised your mother was missing. By that time your father was in Sick Bay, but he was unable to help us. It was very hard for him Jacques, when he woke up and knew your Maman was missing. He wanted to look for her but he wasn’t allowed.”

“But he went away.”

“Yes. He was so worried about your mother that he discharged himself from Sick Bay and went to find her…and he did. He brought her home didn’t he?”

The boy shook his head.

“But when I saw them, Maman and Papa had things in their heads. Papa said the aliens had done it. Why did he leave Maman with bad aliens?”

Beginning to feel somewhat exasperated, Deanna tried to remain patient.

“He didn’t leave her with them Jacques…and they’re not bad. While your father was lying injured on the planet, some aliens took your mother to their home, under the water. We didn’t know where she was.”

The boy digested that and shook his head.

“Then how come Maman was all right when I saw her? Her arms didn’t work but we cuddled. Now she’s sick.”

Deanna smiled softly and gently pulled the boy into her embrace.

“Those things in her head had to come out Jacques, but the operation was very tricky and it has made her sick.”

“Papa had those things taken out and he didn’t get sick.”

“Your father didn’t have them as long as your mother.”

An uneasy silence descended for a few minutes before Jacques sat up, his face unutterably sad.

“Papa doesn’t care about me or Matthieu or Henri. He went away.”

“Of course he cares Jacques.” Deanna said with a sigh. “He loves you and your brothers, but sometimes grownups love each other so much they will do anything to save the other. Your father knew you and your brothers were safe and cared for here on the Enterprise, so he left to find, then rescue your Maman. He wanted to bring her home Jacques, not only for himself, but for you and your brothers too. You’re a family and that’s very important to your parents.”

Jacques sighed and slipped his thumb into his mouth. Around the digit he said softly,

“He made me scared and angry.”

“I know Jacques but it wasn’t his fault…not really. Are you still angry with him?”

The boy shrugged noncommittally, making Deanna sigh.

“Well will you go to your quarters now?”

By way of answering, Jacques climbed to his feet, waiting while Deanna regained her footing. Hand-in-hand they left the lounge and returned to Jacques’ home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The storm had abated and Data landed the shuttle on the ocean’s surface. In the time it took to don the pressure suits, the Enterprise had contacted the aliens and four beings were waiting in the water.

The generator was manoeuvred into the water and the attached floatation bags buoyed it on the surface. Data, Geordi and the Ensign slipped into the water and grabbed the generator while Data inputted some commands into the micro computer in his hand. The floatation bags deflated somewhat and the generator slowly submerged.

The aliens descended along with the Enterprise officers, their luminous milky eyes glowing in the water.

It took twenty minutes to reach the sandy bottom and, once the generator was properly sited, Geordi activated the unit and watched as its power produced a partial shield. Suddenly, above this semi force field, the alien protective barrier shimmered into existence and, in the inky darkness; energy could be seen arcing between them.

Data consulted his computer and nodded in his helmet. Activating his comm. unit he called.

“It is functioning well Geordi but you need to alter the sub harmonics. They need to cycle through the lower megahertz range.”

The Ensign took Geordi’s tools as the Engineer went to the access port and opened the little hatch. Bright blinking lights greeted his eyes and he spent several moments making the necessary adjustments. Once satisfied with his work, Geordi stood up and turned, aiming his light at his friend.

“How’s that Data?”

The android nodded.

“That is good Geordi. The total field strength has increased by two hundred and fifteen percent.”

LaForge grunted.

“Will it be enough?”

Data shrugged.

“I do not know, but it is certainly a significant improvement.”

Ensign Henderson, warily watching the aliens, suddenly notified his superiors,

“Ah Sirs…I think they want something.”

Two of the beings had drifted closer and Geordi smiled through his faceplate.

“Data tell them everything is functioning well and they can take the generator any time they want.”

Spending a few minutes with a PADD, Data held the device out to the nearest alien and watched as the being floated close enough to take it. While the alien read, Geordi deactivated the generator. The three Humans were surprised when four more beings appeared out of the darkness and gathered around the generator. The PADD was returned to Data with new script appearing in the screen. The Second Officer read then inclined his head.

“They acknowledge our message Geordi and are ready to take the generator into the dome.”

The Engineer nodded.

“Okay we can go back now.”

The Humans gathered together to begin their ascent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Jean-Luc entered his quarters with some trepidation. Immediately his ears were assaulted by the sound of crying babies. Sally was seated in front of two high chairs, Matthieu and Henri both strapped in and letting the displeasure and frustration show. As Jean-Luc crossed the room, he cast an eye at his elder son’s bedroom to see the door closed. He stood beside the Ensign and had to raise his voice to be heard over the din.
“What’s wrong?”

With a full spoon poised in front of Matthieu’s mouth, the baby turned his head to one side and screamed. In an equally loud voice Sally shouted,

“I don’t know Captain! They’ve both been like this for most of the day. I asked Jacques to help me but his presence only seemed to make matters worse.”

Picking up the spare bowl, Jean-Luc attempted to feed Henri. As soon as the little boy stopped to take a breath between his cries, the Captain shovelled a small amount of mashed vegetables into his mouth. With a comical shocked look, there was a momentary silence as Henri processed the fact that he had food in his mouth before he automatically swallowed, but rather than improve his demeanour, it made things much worse. The baby’s face suffused with blood as he screamed his outrage. Jean-Luc sighed and put the bowl down to tiredly rub his face.

“All right I give up…what do we do?”

Sally dropped her spoon back in the bowl in disgust and began to free Matthieu from the seat. Jean-Luc followed her lead and released Henri. Sally picked the older twin up, then the bowl and marched determinedly to the sofa. Jean-Luc followed suit and found himself sitting next to Sally with his screaming son in his arm. Over the racket of both babies, Sally shouted,

“Hold him against your side and tuck one arm under your arm. Use that hand to hold his free arm and use your free hand to try and feed him!”

The Captain nodded his understanding and took a few minutes to achieve success, difficult with the cast on his arm, in gaining control of the squirming baby. Once satisfied with his efforts, he leaned forward and scooped up some food with the spoon. With Henri’s mouth open in a bellow, Jean-Luc simply deposited the vegetables in his mouth and, as before, after a moment’s shock, Henri swallowed. However, unlike the previous occasion this time Henri didn’t resume screaming. Instead he whimpered softly and opened his mouth again. Quickly taking advantage of the lull, Jean-Luc got another spoonful of food into the boy. He realised it was suddenly quiet and looked up to see Sally was having similar success with Matthieu. He smiled with relief and concentrated on his task. Nothing was said until the bowls were empty, then Sally lifted Matthieu and cuddled him. A little more reserved, Jean-Luc freed his son from his constraints and settled him against his chest. Sally sighed and grinned ruefully at her Captain.

“The quiet is nice isn’t it.”

“Indeed.” Said Jean-Luc, returning her grin. His smile faded as little as he frowned.

“Why were they so upset?”

Sally shrugged.

“I have an idea, but it’s nothing based on any scientific fact.”

“Tell me anyway.”

Flushing under her Captain’s intense gaze, Sally indulged in a quick thought.

“Oh God you’re gorgeous…how would you look when you…”

Seeing her momentary lapse and her reddened skin, Jean-Luc frowned and gently called her name.

“Sally? Are you all right?”

Caught in her fantasy, the blush deepened and Sally scrambled to gather her wits.

“Ah…yes Sir…I…ah…it’s um…the twins! Yes that’s it, ah…I think they have been unsettled by the absence of you and Doctor Picard and I think they sense Jacques’ unhappiness too.”

Jean-Luc’s frown deepened.

“But they’re so young. Surely…”

“Oh no Sir…you’d be surprised.”

Suddenly realising she had interrupted her Captain, Sally gulped and stammered,

“Sorry Sir.”

Allowing the lapse to pass, Jean-Luc softened his eyes and lowered his voice.

“You sound sure. On what do you base your convictions?”

Appreciating his gentleness, Sally sighed.

“When my youngest brother was about the twin’s age my mother went on a field trip with her students. She was gone three weeks and by the time she got back my father was just about ready to tear his hair out. Bobby had started to become fractious the day after Mum left and slowly got worse as time went on. Of course Dad was at work during the day so the childcare facility bore the brunt of Bobbie’s antics, but overnight it was a nightmare. It was one of my younger sisters that discovered that if we held Bobby he would feed, but for the rest of the time he was virtually inconsolable.”

Jean-Luc looked down at his now calm son and sighed.

“Well at least we discovered this early. Do you think they will be satisfied with just me?”

Sally swallowed and thought wickedly,

“Oh God…I know I would!”

Outwardly she smiled innocently.

“Oh yes Captain I think so.”

But then she frowned.

“However Sir…we need to do something about Jacques. His moods affect the twins and he’s been really grumpy lately. He’s been having bad dreams…he’s not even eating very well.”

The Captain sighed.

“I will do what I can Sally but at the moment he’s not very happy with me.”

The Ensign stood and deposited Matthieu on his father’s lap.

“Well Sir I’m sure you’ll sort things out. Now I’ll go and get a wet cloth to clean these boy’s faces.”

With both his sons on his lap, Jean-Luc waited until Sally had disappeared into the nursery before he tenderly kissed each baby. In a quiet, deep rumble he said,

“Maman will be home soon my little ones, but in the meantime please be patient with me.”

After cleaning the twins they drank a bottle of milk then settled on the quilt.  Jean-Luc spent half an hour playing with them before he sighed and looked again at his son’s closed door. Sally knew what was going through his mind and said softly,

“Go Captain. Putting it off will only make it worse.”

Jean-Luc sighed resignedly and stood, wincing softly at his still sore body told him that sitting on the floor probably hadn’t been a good idea.

He approached Jacques’ door and knocked. There was no reply so he opened to door and peeked in. Jacques was lying face down on his bed, seemingly asleep. Smiling slightly, Jean-Luc went into the room and took a blanket out of the closet, shook it out and spread it over the boy. He gently stroked Jacques’ head and kissed his temple before he began to withdraw. Just as he got to the door he heard a soft voice.

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc returned to his son and sat on the bed.

“Yes Jacques, it’s me.”

Turning over slowly, the boy looked up at his father and the Captain could see he’d been crying. Gently brushing his short hair backwards, Jean-Luc smiled and said softly,

“You were asleep, sorry I woke you.”

The boy shook his head.

“No I wasn’t…I don’t like sleeping, I get yucky dreams.”

“Do you want to tell me about them?”

“No.”

Jean-Luc slowly nodded.

“All right. It will be dinner time soon, what would you like?”

Jacques sat up and frowned.

“Why am I allowed to choose?”

The Captain shrugged.

“I thought you might like to, that’s all.”

Warily, the boy moved further away from his father, into the corner of the wall. Jean-Luc frowned and held out his hand.

“Would you like to sit on my lap?”

The lad shook his head, his thumb slipping into his mouth. Jean-Luc kept his face gentle but his eyes glittered. Jacques looked at him defiantly and said around his thumb,

“Spaghetti bolognaise.”

Smiling warmly, Jean-Luc nodded.

“Very well, but with this cast on my arm I’m going to need your help to set the table and bring the bowls and plates from the replicator.”

Jacques frowned and muttered,

“Get Sally to help you.”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No Sally has done quite enough work lately; in fact I’m going to tell her to take the night off. Tonight it will be just you, your brothers and me.”

That brought a deep scowl and a raised voice.

“I want Sally!”

Keeping his voice soft, it did, however, still convey an uncompromising attitude.

“No Jacques, Sally will leave later this afternoon and not return until tomorrow morning.”

Jacques tugged his thumb out of his mouth and shouted,

“NO! I want Sally!”

The Captain sighed.

“Well I’m sorry Jacques but that’s not going to happen. Now I am going to go back into the day area for a while then I have to go to Sick Bay for a treatment. Would you like to come with me and look in on Maman?”

Stuffing his thumb back into his mouth, the boy gave an angry, curt nod. Jean-Luc stood and held out his hand.

“Want to come outside? I can read to you if you like.”

With his eyes downcast, Jacques shook his head in silence. The Captain sighed and left.

Sally was sitting on the sofa reading as the twins played on the quilt. Jean-Luc sat beside her and softly cleared his throat.

“Sally after I return from Sick Bay this afternoon, I want you to go back to your quarters for the evening.”

Disappointment surged through the young woman but she kept it from her face. Her voice, however, betrayed her.

“But Sir, how will you cope?”

Jean-Luc smiled with more confidence than he felt.

“Oh I’m sure I’ll manage.”

The Ensign shook her head, not wanting to contradict her CO, but wishing to offer her ongoing help. She also wanted to stay in his company; her feelings for her Captain were growing steadily.

“But what about dinner tonight? How will you cope with the twins if they play up?”

“Jacques can help me.”

“But Sir…”

Jean-Luc took one of Sally’s hands in his and looked deeply into her eyes. The Ensign melted, her heart accelerating and her mouth going dry.

“We’ll be fine Sally; I want you to have a night off. Get some rest, visit some friends…I don’t care what you do, just have some time to yourself.”

Without giving her actions any thought…in fact if she had she would never have acted as she did, she leaned forward and softly kissed his cheek. Jean-Luc sat very still but let go of her hand. Wishing to break the spell, the Captain cleared his throat and looked down at the twins.

“Well! I’d better change these boys before they start to make their displeasure known.”

Startled out of her daze, Sally immediately blushed deeply and scrambled to recover her wits. She quickly debated apologising for her action, but, seeing that her Captain seemed willing to let the matter go, she swallowed gratefully and rose to scoop Matthieu up from the quilt. Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.

“It’s all right Sally I can do them both.”

The Ensign smiled in return.

“Yes Sir, but once you take Henri away, Matthieu will start to complain. It will be easier if I hold him while you change Henri.”

Realising the veracity of her words, Jean-Luc sighed and nodded his head.

“Very well. Once we’ve finished I will be going down to Sick Bay with Jacques for about an hour. When I return you may go.”

Sally grinned to cover her dismay.

“Okay Captain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         Jacques had not said a word to Jean-Luc as they walked through the corridors to Sick Bay. Upon entering the facility, Alyssa Ogawa greeted her Captain and ushered him into his private room. He lay on the bed while the nurse set up the regeneration equipment. Once the beams had been activated, the Asian woman turned to Jacques and said,

“We have some good computer games here. Would you like to play one?”

Jacques, with his thumb firmly planted in his mouth, nodded solemnly, causing Jean-Luc to say quietly,

“That is not how to answer an adult Jacques.”

The boy glared at his father but managed to say,

“Yes please Alyssa.”

Ruffling the boy’s hair, the nurse winked and whispered,

“I’ll be right back.”

Once she’d left Jean-Luc gently admonished his son.

“When people are kind enough to offer you something they think you’d like, the proper way to respond is by talking to them and using your manners. You know that Jacques.”

The boy, sitting on a chair and swinging his feet, stared at the floor and shrugged.

Jean-Luc frowned and continued.

“Maman and I have taught you better than what I just witnessed son. Good manners and a smile will open far more doors than rudeness or a frown.”

Still with his eyes downcast, the conversation was stopped by Alyssa coming back in. She handled a small device to Jacques and smiled.

“There you go.”

The boy took the offered item in silence. Jean-Luc’s voice was exasperated and irritated.

“Jacques!”

Looking up at Alyssa, Jacques smiled and said around his thumb,

“Thank you Alyssa.”

“You’re welcome.”

Turning her attention to her CO she said,

“Captain I will be back in forty five minutes. Please lie quietly.”

“Thank you Lieutenant, I will.”

After Alyssa had left, Jean-Luc turned to his son and sighed.

“Jacques what did I tell you about…”

The boy turned up the volume of his game and stared at the screen with dogged stubbornness. The Captain closed his eyes and raised his voice.

“Turn that down!”

The volume dropped but Jacques kept his full attention on the game. Realising he wasn’t going to get through to his son; Jean-Luc looked up at the ceiling and sighed.

“Patience…patience Jean-Luc.”

 

 

 

 

 

                          Soon enough Jean-Luc was free to take his son in to visit his mother. Jacques refused to hold his father’s hand and kept his eyes lowered, his thumb in his mouth. As the males walked into intensive care, Selar was taking the breathing tube out of Beverly’s throat. The Vulcan looked up and smiled.

“I am glad you are here Captain I have good news.”

Jean-Luc went to Beverly’s side and bent to kiss her brow.

“And what would that be?”

“The paralysis is abating and Doctor Picard can now breathe on her own. If she continues at this rate, I expect her to regain consciousness sometime tomorrow.”

Jean-Luc breathed a huge sigh of relief and gently gripped his son’s shoulder.

“Do you understand what the Doctor has said Jacques?”

The boy shook his head so Jean-Luc went down on one knee and looked under the boy’s brow.

“It means Maman is getting better and hopefully she will be awake tomorrow.”

Jacques gave his mother a quick look then resumed staring at his feet, furiously sucking his thumb. Jean-Luc stood and wheeled a chair over, sat and said softly,

“Would you like to sit on my knee while we talk to Maman?”

In silence the boy shook his head, not looking at his father. The Captain sighed and gently admonished,

“Jacques…”

The boy looked up, glared at his father and growled,

“No.”

Jean-Luc bowed his head, striving to keep calm.

“Very well. Are you going to talk to Maman?”

Again Jacques shook his head.

“No.”

Pursing his lips, the Captain decided to ignore his son’s antisocial behaviour and turned his attention to his wife. He spoke softly to her for ten minutes while Selar tended the monitors and administered pharmaceuticals. As the Vulcan finished and went to leave the room, Jean-Luc stood and suddenly scooped his son up and deposited him in the chair. He bent and said softly,

“I have to talk to Doctor Selar. Why don’t you talk to Maman, I’m sure she would love to hear from you.”

Leaving the stunned boy, the Captain motioned Selar to the far corner.

“Do you have a prognosis Doctor?”

The physician nodded.

“Indeed Captain. I believe Doctor Picard will make a full recovery.”

Rubbing his lower lip with his fingers, Jean-Luc asked,

“No residual problems?”

Selar frowned.

“That is difficult to say Captain, however our scans show good healing and I have no reason to believe she will be anything but returned to full health.”

Finally finding a smile, Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly.

“Thank you Doctor, I deeply appreciate your efforts.”

“Not at all Captain, I am merely doing my job.”

The Vulcan’s features softened and she asked quietly,

“Captain you are due to produce a sample. Do you wish to do that now?”

The tips of Jean-Luc’s ears turned red, but otherwise he didn’t show his embarrassment.

“No Doctor, I would prefer to do that in my quarters. May I ask if you could come by and pick it up at say…twenty-thirty hours? I will be alone with my children tonight so I won’t be able to leave them.”

Selar inclined her head.

“Of course Captain. And what about tomorrow morning?”

“I will bring the sample when I arrive for my treatment.”

Giving a slight bow, Selar smiled.

“Very well Captain, I will leave you now.”

Jean-Luc watched her leave then went back to his son. Jacques was sitting in silence, sucking his thumb and staring at Beverly’s hand. The Captain lifted him off the chair then kissed his wife, saying,

“Goodnight my love, until tomorrow.”

Again refusing his father’s hand, Jacques trailed the man out of Sick Bay and back to their quarters.

Once back in their domain, Jean-Luc dismissed Sally then turned to his elder son.

“Come on Jacques…it’s time we got dinner.”

Apart from a withering glare, Jacques said nothing as he helped his father get dinner on the table. As they ate, the Captain tried to make conversation, but Jacques ignored him. Finally, in desperation, Jean-Luc said,

“After dinner I want you to help me feed the twins. Will that be all right?”

Jacques was in the process of refilling his bowl and he looked up at his father with disdain. With deliberate slowness he tipped the bowl over, spilling the contents onto the table. Jean-Luc’s mouth opened in astonishment before he barked,

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

In a gesture of pure insolence, Jacques picked up a handful of the pasta and threw it at his father. It hit Jean-Luc’s chest and slid down his shirt and onto his lap. Now clearly angry, the Captain stood and threw his serviette down onto the table.

“You will clean that mess up my lad, then you will go to your room!”

His raised voice upset the twins and they began to wail. Gritting his teeth and briefly closing his eyes, Jean-Luc said with deceptive softness,

“I am going to feed your brothers. This mess better be gone by the time I’m finished with them.”

Jacques said nothing; he just stared at his father. Taking the time to wipe his shirt, Jean-Luc went to the crying twins to begin the trial of feeding them.

In all it took just over forty-five minutes to get the babies to eat their dinner. Then came the battle of the bottle. Matthieu took his well enough but unusually; Henri decided to protest at having to wait. By the time it was over both the twins and their father needed a bath. Jean-Luc stripped to the waist and bathed first one, then the other twin, then put a clean nappy on each of them and then got them into bed.

He walked back out into the living area to find the table clean and the dinner cleared away. Even the floor was clean. He grunted and lifted his chin.
“Computer what is the time?”

“The time is twenty hours, three minutes.”

Knowing Selar was due in twenty-seven minutes; Jean-Luc went into his bathroom, stripped and got into the shower, making sure he had a sterile cup with him. Grateful that the cast he had was waterproof, he adjusted the water to a comfortable heat and quickly washed himself, then concentrated on relaxing. With his mind filled with erotic visions of Beverly he soon completed his task and was left gasping, his heart pounding in his chest. He was drying himself when the door chimed.

“Just a minute.”

Tying his robe around his waist, he took the cup and put it in his pocket. Answering the door he greeted Selar and gave her the cup, wishing her good night.

Finally able to take stock, Jean-Luc looked at his son’s closed door and sighed. He walked over and knocked, but received no reply. Entering he was astounded to find Jacques’s room in complete disarray. His bed was upturned, all his books and knick knacks were on the floor and his closet had been emptied, also onto the floor. In the middle of all this mess, Jacques lay asleep with the rubble…on the floor.

Jean-Luc closed his eyes, ran a hand over his head and took a deep breath, before letting it out explosively. He went to his fully clothed son and gently picked him up; carrying him to his bedroom where he laid him in his bed and took his shoes off then pulled the covers up. Having made sure the boy was still asleep. Jean-Luc went out into the living area, went to the side board and retrieved a bottle of authentic cognac. With a tumbler and the bottle in his hand, he plopped down in his favourite chair and plonked his feet on the coffee table. He poured a stiff drink and held it up in front of him.

“Here’s to fatherhood.”

The measure went down in one gulp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Jean-Luc was dreaming about Beverly, as she appeared just after giving birth to Jacques. Although tired and sweaty he thought she’d never looked so radiant. He was bending to kiss her when he heard someone crying. Confused, he looked down at his wife, but she was smiling beatifically at him. Growing increasingly worried, he began to search for whoever was so upset. His dream faded as reality imposed itself. Drawn out of sleep, Jean-Luc realised Jacques was sobbing. He turned over and wrapped his good arm around the boy, drawing him closer. He kissed his son’s cheek while saying softly,

“Hush my son; it’s a dream…just a dream.”

Jacques suddenly stiffened, his eyes snapping open. His small quavering voice made Jean-Luc’s heart clench.

“Papa?”

“Yes Jacques…it’s me.”

“I had a very yucky dream Papa…I want Maman.”

The man sighed.

“She’s not here Jacques but I am. Tell me about your dream…perhaps I can help.”

Half sitting up, Jacques called,

“Lights fifty percent.”

He stared down at himself and shook his head.

“Why am I in your bed with all my clothes on?”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Because I found you asleep in your clothes on the floor in your room. I thought you might sleep better here with me.”

The boy immediately climbed out of the bed and glared at his father, shouting,

“I want Maman!”

The Captain frowned, lifting his index finger to his lips.

“Shh Jacques…you’ll wake your brothers.”

Jacques sneered.

“I don’t care! Maman isn’t here and it’s your fault.”

Somewhat stunned at his son’s vehemence, Jean-Luc held up a hand.

“Now wait a minute Jacques, that’s not exactly true. I…”

The boy had heard enough. He covered his ears and yelled,

“I won’t listen to you!”

As he stormed out of the bedroom, the twins began to cry. Jean-Luc angrily got out of bed and shrugged into his robe. He entered the nursery with a scowl on his face.

Half an hour later, silence once again pervaded Jean-Luc’s quarters. He’d managed to coax the twins back to sleep and he now stood outside Jacques’ closed door. Not bothering to knock, the Captain went into the room to find his son asleep on the righted mattress. Jean-Luc sighed, found a pillow and put it under the boy’s head before covering him with a blanket. When Jean-Luc was once again lying in his bed, he sighed deeply, his body aching mildly and his thoughts troubled. He was not looking forward to morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Sally had spent her night off indulging in fantasies about her Captain. She knew she probably shouldn’t, but such was her infatuation, she found she was helpless in its grip. As a result her sleep was restless, inhabited by erotic dreams leaving her frustrated and unfulfilled. She found, in the early hours of the morning, that sleep was not what she wanted anymore. So she rose, showered and went to her computer, accessing the crew bulletin board. There were a small group of like-minded women…and some men…who maintained an encrypted site on the internal computer system that allowed each of them to share their thoughts about the Captain. Sometimes they posted doctored erotic photos, sometimes they shared their fantasies or sometimes they wrote poetry, it didn’t matter what the content was as long as the subject was Jean-Luc Picard.

Since she last visited the site there had been some new postings and she spent a happy half an hour reading and viewing the shared works. Another hour passed as she wrote of her latest fantasies before she finally exited the site. Checking the time, she found it was oh six forty. She knew her Captain would most likely want to sleep a while longer, but she was also aware the twins often woke early. She balanced the knowledge that her CO would probably like some quality time alone with his children against the fact that he would find it difficult to feed everybody, especially when the twins weren’t being patient about waiting for breakfast. Besides, she wanted to be with the man and the fact it was in his quarters only made the experience that much more tantalising. That was the deciding factor, so without further thought she left her cabin and made her way to deck nine.

Jean-Luc, dressed in his robe and bare footed, closed his eyes against the racket his infant sons were making. The bowls of porridge were rapidly cooling as the battle went on; both boys had oats in their hands and hair. In desperation, Jean-Luc had given Henri his bowl and spoon to try and keep him amused while he fed Matthieu and the resulting mess was everywhere, all over the baby, the high chair and on the floor. When the door chimed he growled deeply under his breath and barked,

“Come!”

Hearing such a curt command, Sally entered cautiously, but the sight that greeted her almost made her laugh out loud. Jean-Luc glanced over his shoulder at his visitor and caught the mirth in her eyes. He glowered and growled,

“Not a word Ensign! Come over here and give me a hand.”

Swallowing her glee, Sally went to the replicator and ordered a new bowl of porridge and a spoon. She then joined the Captain and fed Henri. Jean-Luc sighed as the noise slowly abated as the twins finally settled to feed. Once the porridge was gone, Sally replicated two bottles of milk but stopped her Captain from releasing the boys from the high chairs.

“No Sir,” she said, looking distastefully at the messy babies.

“Let’s give them their bottles here and when they’re finished we can bath them.”

At first Jean-Luc sighed, his face lined in a frown, but as the boys greedily sucked a small smile emerged.

“They are in a bit of a mess, aren’t they?”

Sally grinned.

“A bit? I’d say a hell of a lot…Sir!”

His smile widened and Sally was thrilled to hear a deep chuckle.

“Yes well…”

Then the Captain frowned.

“What time is it? You’re here early aren’t you?”

Flushing slightly, Sally swallowed and bowed her head.

“It is early Captain…but I know how these little boys can be in the morning, so I thought you might need some help.”

Jean-Luc gave the young woman an appraising look then smiled.

“Well done Ensign…you may well have saved my sanity.”

Sally allowed a self depreciating smile, but inside she glowed. The twins finished their bottles and were finally released from their chairs and taken into the nursery for a much needed bath. While Jean-Luc managed to bathe them, Sally went back into the day area to clean up the mess. By the time Jean-Luc re emerged with two clean boys, there was nothing to show for the morning’s disaster. The twins were put on the quilt and Jean-Luc said,

“Ah…I’ll go and shower.  Sally…Jacques had a bad night so let him sleep.”

“Okay Captain.”

During his shower he quietly masturbated and collected the sample. He then shaved and dressed, re entering the day area feeling refreshed and eager to begin his day.

He smiled at seeing the table set for breakfast and smelled the hot croissants as Sally brought them from the replicator. He poured himself a cup of coffee and was sipping as Sally spoke.
“You say Jacques had a bad night Sir?”

“Hmm. Actually I am growing more and more concerned about his behaviour. I’m going to ask Counsellor Troi to speak with him.”

He briefly told Sally about the incident at dinner and how the boy had trashed his room. Then he explained the overnight unpleasantness. The Ensign sighed and shook her head.

“I can see how you would be worried Captain….behaviour such as you’ve described is so unusual for Jacques. He’s normally such a quiet, polite little boy.”

Jean-Luc paused in buttering his croissant and lowered his head.

“He blames me for his mother’s predicament…and to be honest, I can’t fault him for that…nor can I adequately explain to him why it was I left the ship, effectively abandoning him to search for my wife but I have to, I have to find a way to reach him…to reconnect.”

The Captain sighed deeply.

“I had a sad and adversarial relationship with my own father Sally and I have absolutely no intention of alienating my own son, especially at the tender age of four. I am intimately well aware of how much it hurts.”

The Ensign looked at her Captain as if she were seeing him for the first time. It had never occurred to her that this man…this man she admired, respected and yes, lusted after, might have had a less than happy childhood. Somehow she assumed everything in his life would have been perfect, mirroring the almost legendary and certainly larger than life man he was now. Her heart swelled and desire slithered through her veins as his admission made him even more attractive to her. His face was so open…and she thought with a jolt…so vulnerable.

“Jean-Luc Picard…vulnerable? My God!”

It took her a moment to realise he was talking again, his gentle baritone caressing her ears.

“So you can see how important it is that we take it very carefully with Jacques.”

She quickly gathered her straying thoughts and was about to reply when Jacques emerged from his bedroom. He was still dressed in the clothes he’d slept in and his hair, though reasonably short, stuck up all over his head at odd angles. Sally gave her Captain a look and with his eyes he told her he would handle the boy.

“Good morning Jacques.”

The boy ignored his father, saying to Sally instead while he knuckled one eye,

“What’s for breakfast?”

The Ensign didn’t reply, she bowed her head and waited with baited breath. Jean-Luc’s voice was deceptively soft and Jacques knew he was angry, but in his present state of mind he couldn’t care less.

“Jacques I am not in the habit of being ignored. When you are spoken to it is polite to respond.”

The boy shrugged and climbed onto his seat in silence. Deciding it was probably better to let the matter go, Jean-Luc stood and went to the replicator.

“What would you like Jacques? Cereal and toast?”

Jacques again ignored his father, opting to amuse himself with the buttons on his shirt. Jean-Luc stifled his growing irritation and asked again,

“All right, how about scrambled eggs on toast?”

That was met with more silence.

“French bread?”

Nothing.

Growing suddenly tired of his son’s attitude, Jean-Luc’s voice took on an unmistakable ring of authority.

“Jacques! What do you want for breakfast?”

The boy finally made eye contact with his father and said calmly,

“Spaghetti bolognaise.”

The Captain closed his eyes and silently counted to ten before saying quietly,

“You had that for dinner and it is not an appropriate food for breakfast.”

“I don’t care. I want it.”

Sally could sense her Captain was running out of patience with his son. She caught his eye and smiled.

“Captain…if I may?”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod. Sally turned to Jacques and smiled.

“How about some French bread in star shapes? You can have it with cinnamon and warm milk.”

The boy’s eyes lit up and he grinned.

“Oui!”

While Jean-Luc ordered the meal, Sally gently took Jacques’ hand, saying quietly,

“After breakfast I’ll help you clean your room.”

She jumped slightly as her CO sat and said,

“That won’t be necessary Ensign, Jacques can clean his room himself and if he needs any help, I will assist him.”

The rest of breakfast was taken in silence. Once the table had been cleared, Sally went to sit with the twins while Jean-Luc spoke to his son.

“I have to go to Sick Bay soon Jacques, but I will remain here while you clean your room. If you need any help, come and get me.”

The boy gave his father a bored look and slid off his chair. Jean-Luc watched him enter his room then rose and went to his desk, choosing to do some work while he waited for Jacques to complete his task. Approximately thirty-five minutes later, Jacques emerged, dressed in clean clothes and his hair combed…at least his version of combed. Jean-Luc stood, smiling at the boy and gestured to the bedroom.

“Right. Let’s have a look.”

As soon as the bedroom door opened, a terrible smell assaulted Jean-Luc’s nostrils. Confused, he looked around at the now pristine room, everything restored to order. He stepped further into the room, still trying to identify the smell. His eyes fell to the floor and he stopped dead still, a small sound of disgust escaping his mouth. There, on the floor in the middle of the room, his son had defecated. Shock, disbelief and profound disgust warred within Jean-Luc as he turned to his son, while pointing to the odious item on the floor.

“You did that?”

Jacques gave a disinterested shrug and went to sit on his bed. Jean-Luc’s hand grabbed his shoulder, halting his progress.

“I asked you a question.”

The boy began to get upset. With his lower lip trembling, he nodded slowly, his eyes filling with tears. The Captain went down on one knee and gently held the boy’s shoulders.

“Why Jacques? Why would you do something so…disgusting?”

Confusion and fear skittered across Jacques’ face. He struggled free of his father’s hands and shouted,

“I don’t know!”

And ran for the door. Jean-Luc let him go, completely nonplussed with the situation. He spent the next ten minutes cleaning up the mess, then sanitising the carpet before ordering a deodorant to be released into the room. He then tapped his comm. badge.

“Picard to Troi.”

“Troi here Captain.”

“Counsellor will you meet me in Sick Bay in ten minutes?”

“Of course Captain. Troi out.”

Emerging into the living area, Jean-Luc spotted his eldest son cuddled up to Sally, his thumb firmly in his mouth. In silence Jean-Luc went into his bedroom and collected the sample, pushing it into his trouser pocket. Upon re entering the living area he said quietly,

“I’ll be in Sick Bay for the next hour or so. Jacques I will want to talk to you when I return.”

The boy ignored his father, sighing and snuggling closer to Sally. The Ensign shot her Captain a look of sympathy and nodded.

“He’ll be here Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Ten minutes later he was lying on a bio bed, the blue light of the regeneration beams bathing his body. He had been seen by Alyssa Ogawa but she had informed him that Doctor Selar would be by to see him soon. He was contemplating the morning’s events, his eyes closed and a deep frown on his face when the lyrical voice of his Counsellor invaded his thoughts.

“Good morning Captain.”

His eyes cracked open and he smiled, but it was a wan effort and didn’t reach his eyes.

“Good morning Counsellor.”

Deanna secured a chair and settled next to her CO.

“You wanted to see me Sir?”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a moment before slowly letting it out. He raised his good hand and rubbed his face.

“Yes Counsellor, I need to speak with you about Jacques.”

“Have you had further problems Sir?”

With a derisive snort, Jean-Luc nodded.

“You could say that.”

He spent a few minutes telling Deanna about Jacques’ behaviour over the last evening’s dinner and what happened overnight. He finished with,

“And this morning he…oh God. Deanna after breakfast I asked him to restore his room. While he did that I did some work, but I told him I would help if required. He eventually came out, washed and changed. I went into his room with him to inspect the results…only to find he had…he had…he had defecated on the carpet.”

He shot a quick glance at the Counsellor to try and gauge her reaction to his shameful admission, but he was greeted with a calm unruffled expression from the petite woman. She tilted her head slightly and asked,

“Was his room tidy?”

Somewhat confused by her equanimity, Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes…I couldn’t have done a better job myself.”

That brought an enigmatic smile. Jean-Luc expected an explanation for his son’s behaviour, but what he got was a question.

“Captain why do you think Jacques did what he did?”

With a deep frown and a shake of his head, Jean-Luc replied,

“I have no idea. Such an act…it was utterly…disgusting.”

Deanna’s mysterious smile widened.

“As it was meant to be.”

Knowing she was trying to get him to see something didn’t take the irritation out of his voice.

“Well I won’t put up with such…animalistic behaviour!”

Deanna said with a sigh,

“It wasn’t animalistic Captain…it was a very clear message.”

Now clearly angry, Jean-Luc barked,

“To whom?”

Deanna’s deliberately soft voice still managed to shock him.

“You.”

Wishing he could pace, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and briefly closed his eyes, before muttering,

“My son defecated on his bedroom floor as a message to me? And what, pray tell, was he trying to convey by perpetrating such a vile act?”

Deanna sighed again.

“Captain can’t you see? You have described his behaviour as disgusting and vile…and in some ways it was, but think Captain. How do you think Jacques views your actions over these last few weeks? Do you think, perhaps, that he might think your actions vile and disgusting?”

Realisation slowly dawned on the man. He softly rubbed his lower lip with his fingers and sighed.

“I suppose he might.”

Deanna smiled.

“Yes Sir and to a four year old things take on very basic proportions. He did what he did, but I doubt there was much thought behind it…it would have been a spur-of-the-moment thing, something that suddenly occurred to him. You upset him and he chose that to upset you…and may I point out Captain, it worked perfectly. There wouldn’t be too much he could do to disgust you so thoroughly…would there?”

Jean-Luc slowly shook his head.

“No, you’re right in that. His behaviour up to that point had been less than good, but each instance of insolence, or rudeness I could cope with. But this…”

He sighed heavily.

“Caught me completely off guard.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose then fixed a steady gaze on his Counsellor.

“So…what do we do?”

Deanna’s smile brightened.

“I will talk to him Captain, but what he needs is you and Beverly and some quiet time together. Sir…if I may…would it be possible for you and your family to leave the ship for an extended period of time in the near future?”

The Captain frowned and gave a shrug.

“Well it’s possible Counsellor…but…”

Deanna held up her hand, effectively silencing the man.

“Sir living on a Starship is dangerous enough, but when your parents are the Captain and CMO, things can become very…scary…for a little boy. At the moment Jacques’ world has collapsed, everything he counted on for support and comfort has been taken away and if, after this crisis is over, you and Beverly simply resume your lives as they were, Jacques may not recover completely…he may be left feeling permanently insecure.”

There followed a few moments of silence while Jean-Luc digested the words. He sighed and his clear hazel eyes glittered.

“I suppose Matthieu and Henri could be affected too?”

Deanna shrugged.

“Quite possibly, although being twins they may develop a support network between themselves, but they will be somewhat influenced by their older brother and it could affect them too.”

The Captain nodded thoughtfully.

“Obviously I need to talk to Beverly about this, but thank you Counsellor, you have given me much to think about.”

Hearing the subtle dismissal, Deanna stood and returned the chair to its proper place.

“How much longer will you be here Sir?”

“Oh…about an hour I suppose.”

“Very well Captain, I’ll go and talk to Jacques now.”

For the first time since she arrived, a genuine smile appeared on the man’s face.

“Thank you Deanna.”

He was left alone for a further twenty minutes before Selar came to his side and turned off the regen beams.

“You may sit up now Captain Picard.”

He did so slowly, pivoting on the bed until his legs dangled over the edge. Selar went to a nearby trolley and returned with an instrument in her hands.

“I will remove your cast now Captain.”

With a heartfelt sigh of relief, Jean-Luc smiled.

“Thank you Doctor.”

Scant minutes later the hand held laser had cut open the cast and Selar utilised her strong hands to peel the plastic material from Jean-Luc arm. He slowly flexed the arm and winced. Selar gently admonished him.

Your arm will be quite tender for some days yet Sir…and to that end…”

She held up her hand and Jean-Luc cast  suspicious eyes over what she held.

“It is a strengthening device Captain. This…”

She showed him a shiny metal cuff,

“Is placed around your upper arm. And this…”

She lifted another piece of the equipment,

“Is held by your hand. As you can see, there is a connector between the two pieces. You straighten your arm and the resistance you feel will slowly strengthen the appendage.”

Jean-Luc suddenly remembered where he had seen one of these apparatuses before.

“Ah! Wesley Crusher had to use one of these when he injured his arm at the Academy.”

“Yes Sir. You will still be required to report for regen treatments; however you can reduce the therapy to twice daily, instead of three times a day.”

Jean-Luc nodded pensively, then frowned.

“And the samples?”

Selar bowed her head.

“As there has yet to be any change, I would like you to continue with your established routine Sir.”

Quelling his disappointment, Jean-Luc asked quietly,

“How is Doctor Picard this morning?”

The Vulcan immediately brightened.

“Much better Captain! Overnight we removed the intracranial tubes and have sealed her skull. Tests show the paralysis has almost disappeared and her blood chemistry has all but returned to normal. We are concentrating on reversing the cell damage now…much the same as you Captain.”

He didn’t smile, but his artificial heart sang nonetheless.

“Is she still unconscious?”

“Yes Sir, but not for much longer, in fact I expect her to waken anytime now.”

Now he smiled.

“Then you will have no objection to me seeing her?”

Selar shook her head.

“None whatsoever Captain.”

Leaving the exercise device on the bed for later collection, Jean-Luc strode to intensive care and entered, his step light for the first time in weeks.

He had been sitting by his wife, holding her hand and softly talking to her when he felt her gently grip his hand. He stopped talking and stood, bending closer and saying,

“Beverly?”

Her eyes fluttered open and she gasped softly. Jean-Luc strengthened his grip of her hand and placed his free hand on her cheek.

“Easy now my love, everything is all right. You’re on the Enterprise.”

She blinked a few times and Jean-Luc watched as her cerulean eyes cleared. Her eyes found his and she smiled, but when she tried to speak, only a croak emerged. Jean-Luc smiled and gave her a kiss.

“Wait a moment and I’ll get you a drink.”

While he filled a glass, he quietly called Selar. He was helping Beverly drink when the Vulcan appeared.

“Doctor Crusher…how do you feel?”

After finishing her drink and clearing her throat, Beverly said softly,

“I have a headache Doctor, but apart from that I feel fine.”

Selar left momentarily and returned with a hypospray. She injected the red head and Beverly sighed, a smile on her face.

“Thank you, that’s much better.”
Selar took Beverly’s hands and said,

“Squeeze as hard as you can.”

Beverly complied and the Vulcan nodded.

“You have not yet regained complete control over your hands, but I expect you soon will. Lift your arms above your head.”

Jean-Luc watched and could see a tremor coursing through the muscles of Beverly’s arms. He cast a glance at Selar but she was totally focussed on Beverly.

“Hmm, it would seem the paralysis has not receded as much as we thought, however your rate of recovery is such that it should abate fairly quickly. Are you hungry Doctor?”

Beverly frowned in thought.

“Well…I suppose I could eat a little. Toast and tea perhaps?”

The Vulcan gave a curt nod and turned, saying,

“I will return shortly.”

Once again alone, Beverly turned her gaze on her husband and lifted a hand, crooking her finger.

“Come here you.”

He smiled and bent forward, wrapping his arms around his beloved Beverly. She curled her arms around his head and they shared a tender kiss. He nuzzled her neck and kissed his way to her ear where he whispered,

“Oh God Beverly…how I’ve missed you.”

She sighed with happiness and nudged his head up so she could see his eyes.

“I had a dream Jean-Luc…I could hear you and I wanted to wake up so I could tell you to stop worrying…to tell you how much I love you…but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t wake up. It was so frustrating!”

Tears spilled over her eyelids and Jean-Luc took her face in his hands, using his thumbs to wipe away the moisture.

“It doesn’t matter my love, you’re here now. I love you mon coeur…with all that I am.”

Selar quietly cleared her throat as she entered the room and the couple reluctantly parted. With the bed raised, the Vulcan placed a tray on Beverly’s lap and watched as the red head slowly ate.

“Doctor Picard, as you still require extensive regen therapy and you are receiving ongoing cell regeneration treatment, I envisage you will have to stay here in Sick Bay three more days. After that, depending on your recovery status, you may be discharged to your quarters.”

Beverly scowled and was about to remonstrate with her colleague when Jean-Luc forestalled her.

“That’s fine Doctor.”

With a nod of acceptance Selar left. Beverly ate the last of her toast then handed her husband her empty cup, one eyebrow raised. He smiled and took the cup, saying wryly,

“You wish more tea?”

Her nod was her only response. He knew she was annoyed with him and he sought to settle her ruffled feathers.

“Would you like to see the boys?”

Her reply was curt.

“Yes.”

He sighed and took her hand.

“Beverly…”

Her eyes glittered like two blue diamonds.

“I would appreciate it Jean-Luc, if you would mind your own business where it comes to medical matters. And, when I am addressing one of my staff you, Captain, can butt out!”

He lowered his head and kept his voice soft and even.

“I apologise for upsetting you Beverly, but Selar was talking to you as a patient and I know from personal experience just how much of a difficult patient you can be. I did not intend to encroach on your position as CMO, only to forestall an impending argument between you and your Doctor. I acted not as Captain, but as your concerned and loving husband.”

Having effectively taken the wind out of her sails, Beverly suddenly slumped and snorted.

“I hate it when you do that.”

He raised one eyebrow.

“Do what?”

“Use logic against me.”

He smiled and kissed the tip of her nose.

“I have found over the years that logic can be the only foil against your legendary temper.”

That brought another derisive snort.

“And did it ever occur to you *Captain* that your bloody use of logic may be the cause of provoking my legendary temper?”

His chuckle broke the last of her irritation and she joined him in laughter. He took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly.

“You make this crusty old Captain very happy Doctor Picard.”

“And you me. Now…go and get the kids.”

One last kiss made him sigh.

“Very well my love, I’ll be back soon.”

Beverly watched him leave and sighed.

“Oh God…how I love you Jean-Luc.”

                            Deanna entered her Captain’s quarters deep in thought. What he had told her of Jacques troubled the Betazoid and she sighed, knowing it was going to be a battle to get the stubborn little boy to see reason. The boy in question was sitting on a stool, an easel in front of him with a large piece of white paper attached. He was studiously daubing with black and red paint in sweeping broad strokes of his brush.

The Counsellor went to him and gently ruffled his hair.

“That is a very interesting picture Jacques. Would you like to tell me about it?”

The boy shrugged but paused in his work, the brush poised and slowly dripping onto the cover he wore. After a lengthy hiatus he frowned and said,

“It’s my dream from last night.”

Deanna studied the painting.

“It looks scary.”

The boy nodded.

“It was.”

As Deanna stared at the work she began to see an image emerge from the chaos of the brush strokes.

“Jacques…” she said, pointing at the image.

“Is that some sort of creature?”

The boy nodded solemnly.

“Oui, it’s a monster. It’s Papa.”

Gently resting an arm across his shoulders, Deanna said softly,

“You father isn’t a monster Jacques.”

The boy lowered his eyes and stared at his dripping brush. He absently lifted his hand and painted his fingertips. Deanna sighed and took the brush from him and placed it in the water-filled cup by his side. She then took a rag and cleaned his hands, but his vacant stare as he watched her hands upset the empath, his ability, even at his young age, to suppress his feelings both worried and caused despair. Sally, who had watched the exchange from the sofa, correctly surmised that Jacques had withdrawn and rose, calling softly,

“Jacques? Your brothers would like to play with you I think.”

The boy slowly lifted his head and his hazel eyes cleared. He slid off the stool and waited patiently while Deanna took his cover off him, then went to the quilt, sitting and picking up a soft toy to tickle his little brothers.

While he was engrossed, Sally gently took Deanna’s elbow and led her over to the other side of the room, saying quietly,

“He’s been really quiet since the Captain left this morning…not at all like his usual self. I’m worried Counsellor. Shouldn’t he be happy now both his parents are back?”

Deanna sighed and rubbed her brow.

“In his heart, yes he’s happy, but he has been deeply traumatised by this and it’s going to take a while for him to find his equilibrium again.”

The Ensign nodded, but Deanna could see by her deep frown that she was still troubled.

“But why is he so angry with the Captain?”

With a bowed head, Deanna balanced the need for her Captain’s privacy against the need for the carer of his children to know what was going on.

“Jacques sees his father’s absence from the ship as abandonment Sally…and he also blames his father for his mother’s subsequent injury and illness. Not only does he feel very insecure and frightened, he also feels deeply angry and he’s having trouble expressing it and his ability to suppress his emotions isn’t helping. He so like his father in so many ways…”

The Betazoid gave a shuddering sigh.

“It has taken me years to get the Captain to be more open with me about his feelings and even then he only lets me feel what he wants me to sense.”

She shook her head.

“I suppose it’s only natural that Jacques should be so much like his father, but it does make my job that much harder.”

Deanna looked up to see Sally watching Jacques as he played with the twins. The younger woman sighed and said wistfully,

“Captain Picard is such a wonderful role model…such a fine man and father…Jacques doesn’t know how lucky he is.”

As the strong emotions emanated from the Ensign, Deanna frowned. She had, often actually, felt affection and an undercurrent of attraction from Sally for her Captain, in fact it was commonplace amongst the crew, but the depth and strength of these feelings gave Deanna cause for concern. She gently placed her hand on Sally’s arm and said softly,

“Ensign?”

The use of her rank snapped Sally back to her senses. Flushing deeply, she mustered an embarrassed smile, knowing the Counsellor had been privy to much more than idle thoughts. She gave an uncomfortable laugh and shook her head.

“You caught me didn’t you.”

To ease her embarrassment, Deanna smiled, her obsidian eyes twinkling.

“It wasn’t anything I haven’t sensed before from both you and others Sally…our Captain is a very attractive man, but I must say I was a little surprised by the depth of your feelings. Surely you must find it…disturbing…to spend lengthy periods of time with him.”

Sally sensed that an incorrect response would most certainly see her reassigned poste haste. She took a deep breath and ordered her thoughts.

“Actually Counsellor being able to help him makes me proud. What I’m doing is important and I want to do it to the best of my ability…my feelings are irrelevant.”

Several long moments passed as Deanna held Sally’s gaze. The Ensign strove to settle her emotions and present a steady flow of quiet confidence.

Eventually Deanna gave a short nod.

“Very well, but I advise you to try and quell your feelings for the Captain. He is a happily married man and it is inappropriate for you to think of him in that way.”

Stifling the desire to breathe a deep sigh of relief, Sally instead gave a nod and a smile.

“Of course Counsellor.”

Just then the man in question walked through the open doors. As he strode to his children, he cast the women a look and they knew by the broad smile on his face that he had good news. He sat on the floor with his sons and ruffled Jacques’ hair, causing the boy to duck away from his hand and scowl, but such was his father’s happiness, it didn’t faze him.

“Jacques your Maman is awake! Would you like to go and see her?”

A warm light appeared in his eyes and Jacques nodded vigorously.

“Oui Papa.”

“Then go and wash your face and hands while I get your brothers ready.”

Sally and Deanna joined their Captain, Deanna gently squeezing Jean-Luc’s forearm.

“Beverly’s awake? That’s wonderful! How is she?”

Not able to wipe the grin off his face, Sally noted how his hazel eyes twinkled.

“She awoke with a headache and there is still a little residual weakness in her arms and hands…but apart from that she’s well.”

Deanna grinned, basking in her Captain’s deep happiness.

“I’m so happy Captain. Would you please tell Beverly I will be by to visit her soon?”

Jean-Luc had picked Henri up and nodded and he watched Sally pick Matthieu up.

“Of course Counsellor.”

The Ensign was somewhat unsettled but she hid it very well. On one hand she was delighted her Captain was so happy, but she knew this news would spell the end to her duty and that upset her deeply. Instead of dwelling on the problem, especially in the company of the empathic Counsellor, she devoted her attention to the twins, saying respectfully,

“They probably need changing before you go Sir.”

Jean-Luc gave a nod and turned to the bedroom.

“Come on then, let’s get it done….the sooner we finish, the sooner I can get these children to their mother.”

Sally savagely quashed the swell of jealousy and smiled sunnily.

“Okay Captain, you first Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s chuckle hung in the air long after he left the room. Deanna frowned as she watched Sally follow her CO into the nursery. It was a very pensive Betazoid that left the quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Beverly was sitting up and waiting expectantly. She had been moved into the main body of Sick Bay and was being entertained by some of her staff when her family arrived.  At Jean-Luc’s urging, Jacques approached her, shyly making his way through the forest of legs until one of the nurses noticed him and made the others make room. Once the visitors saw their Captain, they quickly said their farewells and left the Doctor to be alone with her husband and children. Jean-Luc parked the stroller and hoisted his elder son up onto the bed. Jacques ignored his father but his broad grin aimed at his mother made her hold her arms out and say,

“Give me a cuddle!”

Jacques flung both arms around his mother and buried himself in her embrace. Beverly hugged him fiercely, kissing the top of his head and deeply breathing in his scent. Finally, after several minutes, Jean-Luc said softly,

“Hey…there’re two more little boys who want to see their Maman.”

Unseen by each of his parents, Jacques scowled, but by the time he lifted his head, he was smiling again.  Beverly looked up to see her husband holding both the twins. Matthieu has pulled off his communicator and was studiously chewing it and Henri was endeavouring to remove his rank pins. Beverly chuckled and shook her head.

“You’re getting quite good at that aren’t you?”

The Captain grinned and gave an awkward shrug.

“Well suffice it to say…I don’t think I’m going to be so proficient when they’re older…and bigger.”

Beverly gave Jacques one more kiss then encouraged him to move back a bit. She then held out her arms and Jean-Luc carefully placed the boys, one in each arm. He sat on the side of the bed and draped an arm over Jacques shoulders, but the boy shrugged out of the gesture and moved to the other side of the bed. Beverly saw this and gave her husband a questioning look, but he shook his head surreptitiously and she knew he would talk to her about it later. As the Captain watched his wife with his sons he smiled.

“Do you realise in three days time, they will be five months old?”

Beverly looked up, her mouth agape.

“Five months! My God…the time is flying. They’ll be sitting up soon.”

“Uh huh…and look what I discovered yesterday.”

He bent forward and gently pulled down Henri’s lower lip. There, nestled in a red gum and covered in drool was the white tip of a new tooth.

Beverly gasped delightedly and gently rubbed the new tooth with her finger. Henri latched on to her finger and chewed mightily. The Doctor gave a giggle and raised her eyes to her husband.

“And Matthieu?”

In answer, Jean-Luc repeated his actions to display another new tooth in the older twin, although it was not as noticeable as Henri’s. Beverly withdrew her now wet finger and hugged the babies to her breast.

“What clever little boys!”

Jacques, silently watching with his thumb in his mouth, piped up with,

“I’m going to get more teeth.”

Immediately realising their older son was feeling left out, Jean-Luc ruffled his hair and grinned.

“Yes you are and not only are you going to get more teeth, some of them are going to be when you’re almost grown up.”

Ignoring his father, Jacques looked at his mother and asked,

“When will I get some more teeth Maman?”

A slight frown crossed Beverly’s face but Jean-Luc smiled and shook is head. She sighed and gave Jacques her attention.

“Oh when you’re about six you’ll cut some molars, there bigger teeth at the back.”

That pleased the boy. He sat up and grinned.

“So my new teeth with be bigger than Matthieu’s and Henri’s?”

“Oh yes! For a long time all they will have are little teeth at the front. You have lots more teeth than they.”

When Jacques nodded and resumed sucking his thumb, he was smiling.

The family stayed together for a further half an hour before Selar came in, just as the twins stared to fuss. As Jean-Luc put the babies back in the stroller, the Vulcan physician came to the bed and stood, her hands clasped in front of her.

“Doctor Picard I would like you to rest now.”

Beverly sighed and smiled at Jacques, who was watching her intently.

“I know Doctor. Tell me…can I get up and shower soon? I feel…scungy.”

The Doctor bowed her head.

“Yes Doctor, later this afternoon. Now, if you don’t mind Captain, I would like your wife to get some much needed rest.”

Jacques remained passive as his father lifted him off the bed. Jean-Luc looked up at Selar and nodded.

“We’re on our way now Doctor. I would like to come back later if I may?”

With a short nod, Selar acquiesced.

“Of course Captain…in three hours?”

Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.

“I’ll be here.”

He then surprised his wife by giving her a kiss and a hug. Usually he was very reticent about showing affection in front of anyone but his children.

“See you in three hours.”

She smiled and gave him a wink, then sobered and cast a look at Jacques, saying sotto voce,

“We need to talk.”

In an equally quiet voice, Jean-Luc replied,

“I know. Later.”

As they were leaving, Selar walked with the Captain, saying over her shoulder,

“I will return shortly Doctor Picard.”

As they neared the exit, Jean-Luc said,

“Doctor, when may I return to duty?”

The Vulcan gave him an appraising look and shook her head.

“Not for some time yet Captain. Until I have remedied the cell degradation and your injuries have completely healed you will have to remain off duty.”

The Captain sighed and ran a hand over his head.

“I see.”

Knowing he was disappointed, Selar sought to ease him.

“Captain think of it as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your children and the chance to assist your wife in her recovery once she’s discharged.”

Jean-Luc saw her tactic for what it was and raised a wan smile.

“Thank you Doctor, I will do as you suggest.”

As he and the children left, Selar made a mental note to contact Counsellor Troi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      The little family was just nearing their quarters when the easily recognisable voice of the First officer stopped them. Jean-Luc turned and smiled.

“Hello Will, how’s my ship?”

The big man grinned, his blue eyes twinkling.

“She’s just fine Captain…ship shape and Bristol fashion.”

They walked the last few metres together and Jean-Luc gestured to the door.

“Would you like to come in?”

“Yes Sir, there are a few things I need to talk to you about.”

Once inside, Sally met them and took the stroller, heading for the nursery to change the twins. Jean-Luc called after her,

“I’ll help you with lunch.”

The Ensign grinned over her shoulder and replied,

“Thank you Sir.”

He then turned to Jacques.

“Why don’t you go and get your favourite book and I’ll read to you after lunch?”

The boy gave his father a disdainful look and said succinctly,

“No.”

And turned away. Jean-Luc’s quiet voice stopped him in his tracks.

“No what, Jacques?”

The boy kept his back to his father and said insolently,

“No thank you…Captain.”

He stalked to his room and Jean-Luc watched him go, a deep frown on his face. Will, somewhat confused, said quietly,

“Sir?”

Snapped out of his ruminations, Jean-Luc sighed and gestured to the lounge furniture.

Once they were both seated, Will began.

“Captain this problem we’ve been dealing with is getting worse by the minute. Now we know just how many people are involved with the evacuation, things have become rather complicated.”

He explained how they had built the generator and how the aliens were replicating more.

“The trouble is Sir, the longer we stay here, the greater the danger to our crew.”

Jean-Luc scratched his cheek and gave the problem some thought.

“How long until the fleet are assembled?”

“Well, the initial fleet will be a few more weeks, but because there’re so many people to cater for, a further fleet will be needed because of the lengthy turnaround time. Command is talking about at least eight more ships and they can’t assemble for another month.”

The Captain nodded thoughtfully.

“And are the aliens doing everything they can?”

“Yes Sir. Apart from the generators, they are shielding their domes with a native metal.”

“And have we done all we can?”

“Aye Sir, I don’t think there’s anything more we can do.”

The Captain sat up, his dark eyes intense.

“Then prepare to leave orbit Number One. Send a message to the aliens outlining what is happening now and what will happen in the future. Explain our problem and tell them they can contact Command if they need to.”

Relief washed through the Exec and he smiled.

“Thank you Captain, I’ll get right on it.”

He stood and smiled down at his CO.

“How’s Beverly Sir?”

Jean-Luc returned his smile.

“She’s fine…hopefully she’ll be home in a few days.”

He stood and grinned.

“That’s great Sir.”

Just then Sally emerged from the bedroom with two hungry babies in her arms. Jean-Luc stood and sighed, muttering,

“Oh what fun…lunch time.”

The big First Officer shook his head and made for the door.

“I’ll leave you to it Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s reply was wry.

“Thank you Number One.”

His chuckle could be heard long after he left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   After lunch Jean-Luc asked Jacques to help him clear the table. The boy did so with obvious reluctance, but the Captain ignored his attitude and the task was quickly completed. Before the lad could escape back to his room, Jean-Luc took him by the shoulder and led him to his desk.

“Jacques I want to talk to you.”

The boy stuck his thumb in his mouth and lowered his face.

“Come on son…look at me.”

When no reaction was evident, Jean-Luc gently lifted this son’s head, but Jacques kept his eyes lowered. The Captain gently gripped his hand and gave a gentle tug, trying to dislodge his thumb from his mouth.

“You don’t need to do that Jacques.”

The boy fought his father’s efforts and glared at the man. Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“Look Jacques, I know you’re angry with me and I understand how you must feel, but Maman is coming home in a few days and I don’t think she’s going to be wanting to see you misbehaving. How about we come to an arrangement?”

Jacques gave his father a suspicious look, but at least held eye contact.

Encouraged, Jean-Luc continued.

“If you can put aside your anger with me, I promise to leave you alone as much as you like. I won’t bother you…as long as you do all the things you’re supposed to, and you behave yourself.”

Jacques gave the suggestion adequate thought then nodded silently. The Captain breathed a sigh of relief and ruffled the boy’s hair.

“Good. Now, do you want me to read to you?”

Around his thumb the boy mumbled.

“No thank you.”

Somewhat disappointed, Jean-Luc nodded.

“All right. Well I have some work to do so you can play with your brothers or perhaps Sally can find something for you to do. What would you prefer?”

The boy looked over his shoulder and mumbled,

“I’ll ask Sally.”

Later, as Jean-Luc worked at his desk, he looked over at his son to see him sat next to Sally as she read to him. A spike of hurt speared through him and he clenched his teeth and closed his eyes against it. His eyes opened and drifted to the viewports to see the ship slowly turn away from the planet. As he watched they made the jump to warp and the Captain sighed deeply.

“I wish you all good luck…you’re going to need it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Three hours later Jean-Luc was at the replicator in his private room in Sick Bay. Beverly had been moved in there and she was watching him, knowing he was stalling since she’d asked her question. Deciding to up the ante, she repeated her query.

“Tell me what’s wrong between you and Jacques.”

Rejoining her at the bed, Jean-Luc handed her the cup of tea and hitched himself onto the side of her bed. He took a sip of his tea, all the while debating just how much he should tell his wife. Growing increasingly impatient, Beverly barked,

“Jean-Luc!”

He sighed and lowered his head in defeat. In a very subdued tone, Jean-Luc told Beverly all that had transpired with Jacques over the preceding days. He faltered when he told her about what Jacques had done in his room, but he pressed on, not stopping until he had divulged everything. He finally fell silent and Beverly took a deep breath.

“I see. What have you done about it?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“I’ve asked Deanna to talk to him.”

Beverly’s eyebrows rose, as did her voice.

“That’s it?”

His voice taking on a defensive tone, Jean-Luc’s anger rose.

“Well what do you expect me to do? The boy barely looks at me let alone talks to me!”

Hearing his anger and hurt, Beverly moderated her tone.

“Okay I understand Jean-Luc, but this isn’t solving anything. Jacques is unfairly blaming you for things that were out of our control. He needs to see you’re not the ogre he thinks you are.”

Reining in his exasperation, Jean-Luc sighed.

“I know that Beverly, but how the hell do we do that when he can barely stand to be in the same room as me?”

Beverly frowned, chewing her thumbnail.

“Have you spoken with him at all?”

Jean-Luc lifted a hand and rubbed his brow.

“Yes, after lunch today I got him to make an agreement with me.”

“An agreement?”

Resisting the urge to cringe, and knowing Beverly would not be pleased by his next words, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and carried on.

“I made a deal. He behaves and I’ll leave him alone.”

Closing her eyes, Beverly let out a long breath, shaking her head.

“Just how do you think that’s going to help the situation? You need to talk to him Jean-Luc…reason with him…not wimp out and make a bloody deal with a four year old!”

The couple sat in angry silence for a few moments before Jean-Luc grunted and shook his head.

“You’re right of course.”

Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.

“Why did you do it?”

“Because…” he snorted,

“You’re coming home in a couple of days and I wanted things to be…civil…between him and me.”

Beverly’s lopsided smile made the Captain feel better.

“You don’t think I would’ve noticed something was wrong?”

With a rueful smile, Jean-Luc shook his head.

“It would seem I wasn’t thinking at all.”

“That much is certain.” She said with a chuckle.

“Okay, you need to talk to him. Ignore his attitude and act as you’ve always done, expecting him to toe the line. Consistency Jean-Luc…and a united front. I’ll talk to him too…let’s see if together we can break through the walls he’s constructed.”

Feeling better than he had in days, the Captain summoned a warm smile. He gazed into his wife’s eyes and sighed deeply.

“J’taime mon coeur.”

Beverly returned his tender smile with one of her own.

“You too my love. We’ll get through this Jean-Luc. It’ll try our patience but together we’ll get him back. You’ll see.”

The shared a soft kiss before Jean-Luc answered all Beverly’s questions about the mission. She made sure Command were aware of all she knew about the aliens and Jean-Luc assured her the report she’d tabled only hours before had already been sent. Satisfied, Beverly leaned back against the pillows and speared her husband with an intense gaze.

“Now my Captain…how are you?”

With a flap of his hand, Jean-Luc dismissed the question.

“Oh I’m fine.”

Sighing with a mixture of exasperation and irritation, Beverly shook her head.

“Don’t give me that. I can see you’re favouring your left arm.”

“Oh it’s a little sore, that’s all.”

“Jean-Luc!”

Beverly’s uncompromising tone made Jean-Luc realise he wasn’t going to get away with anything but the absolute truth. He took a deep breath and bowed his head.

“Very well. My arm has only been out of a shoulder to knuckles cast since yesterday and I am still receiving therapy. I have general soreness throughout my body and Selar is still treating the cell degradation. I have to produce a biological sample for her twice a day.”

Beverly nodded thoughtfully.

“What sort of sample?”

“Semen.”

“Oh.”

Beverly frowned and hesitated.

“Er…How do you..?”

The tips of his ears reddening, Jean-Luc glowered,

“Jesus Beverly…How do you think?”

“Oh.”

The red head reached forward and took his hand.

“I wish I could help you with that.”

His embarrassment disappeared.

“Actually, you do.”

Beverly’s eyebrows rose.

“I do? How?”

Jean-Luc’s dark eyes glittered.

“I think of you…I think of how you look when we make love.”

Beverly flushed and bowed her head, but when she raised it there was an impish grin on her face.

“You’ve done that before.”

He nodded pensively.

“Yes, many, many times, but before I could only use my imagination…now I know.”

Holding out her arms, Beverly whispered,

“Come here.”

They moved into each other’s arms and shared a languid kiss that slowly became more and more passionate. Jean-Luc’s hand drifted to Beverly’s breast and he teased out the nipple, making her moan softly. He lifted his head and said,

“Computer lock the door to this room, authorisation Picard, Omega three eight.”

As he spoke he undid the top of Beverly’s nightie. Before she could protest he took a nipple into his mouth. The Doctor arched under him, her legs involuntarily parting. As he teased her nipples with his lips and teeth, his hand trailed down her body to lift the hem of her nightwear. Drifting his fingers up the insides of her thighs, Beverly gasped and clenched her jaw to stifle her softly sensuous moans.

When his hand made contact with her folds she lifted her hips, silently pleading for his intimate touch. He didn’t disappoint. He deftly opened her and slipped two fingers inside her while his thumb gently caressed her clit. She gripped his shoulders as he teased her, bringing her closer and closer to the edge.

“Oh God…Jean-Luc…yes, yes…I’m going to come…”

He felt her contract around his fingers and he pressed his thumb hard against her clit while pinching and nipping her nipples.

Her body flexed and writhed before shuddering, rhythmically jerking as he brought her over the abyss again. He slowly stilled his fingers and, when she calmed, gently slipped them from her body. A tender kiss followed and Beverly sighed with replete languor.

As Jean-Luc straightened and closed her nightie, Beverly chuckled tiredly, causing the Captain to give her a quizzical look.

“What?”

“You realise of course, that Selar will know exactly what we’ve done when she comes in to check on me.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“She will?”

“Uh huh. The readouts will show it.”

“Oh.”

Beverly chuckled again.

“Yeah…oh.”

Shrugging, Jean-Luc kissed his wife again then sat up and made a deliberate show of sniffing his fingers.

“Well at least I’ll know what I’ll be thinking of when I procure my sample later.”

Beverly blushed and cast a look at his bulging crotch then sighed.

“I wish I could help you with that.”

He smiled at the words she’d so recently used. With another shrug, Jean-Luc gave a rueful grin.

“I’ll save it ‘til later on.”

Just then the door chimed. Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows, silently asking his wife if she was ready for company. She nodded and he said,

“Computer unlock door.”

Selar entered and came immediately to the bedside. As was her habit, she cast her eyes over the screen readouts and did what Beverly thought she’d never see a Vulcan do…she did a double take. Her eyes snapped to the couple. Beverly was staring at the wall over Jean-Luc’s shoulder and the Captain was studiously examining his thumb, his head bowed. There was an uncomfortable silence before Selar cleared her throat and asked,

“How do you feel Doctor Picard?”

With a devilish grin, Beverly stretched and muttered,

“Wonderful.”

That was enough for the Captain. He slid off the bed and put his hands in his pockets.

“Well, I’ll be going. I’ll…umm, come back after dinner.”

As he walked to the door, Beverly’s eyes drifted to his grey trousers, settling on his behind.

“Oh but you’ve got a great arse Jean-Luc!”

Her thoughts were brought back to the present when Selar said,

“Would you like your shower now Doctor?”

Beverly grinned and threw back the covers.

“As a matter of fact I would.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     When Jean-Luc got back to his quarters, Jacques had just returned from Pre School. He was sitting with Sally, showing her his latest creation. The Captain wandered over and sat beside him.
“What have you got there Jacques?”

The boy ignored his father, opting instead to keep talking to Sally.

“And Kerry said I can make another one so I can hang them from the roof in my room.”

Jean-Luc could see the object had wings and was dark green in colour. He held out his hand.

“What is it Jacques? Show me please.”

Turning his body to hide the object, Jacques glared at his father and said insolently,

“You said you would leave me alone.”

The look in her Captain’s eyes told Sally it would be best if she made herself scarce. The Ensign muttered a quiet,

“I’ll just go and look in on the twins Sir.”

Jean-Luc didn’t acknowledge Sally’s utterance. He briefly closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“About that Jacques…it’s not going to work. If I don’t play an active role in your life I would be remiss as a parent. Besides I want to be a part of your life…I don’t want to be at odds with you.”

The boy maintained his glare and stared to rise. Jean-Luc gripped his shoulder and stopped him.

“No son, we need to talk.”

The angry sneer on Jacques face deeply hurt the Captain, but he ignored it and shook his head.

“Look I know you’re angry with me…and you’re entitled to your feelings, but you are a child Jacques and that entails a certain amount of respect and obedience. In return I will give you unwavering love and support, but it would be best if you would tell me how you are feeling right now.”

With his lower lips quivering, the boy’s eyes filled with tears.

“I don’t want to talk to you!”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“I know you don’t but it will help Jacques…really it will. Tell me how you feel.”

Jacques threw his precious construct onto the floor and clenched his fists.

“I feel…I feel…angry…and scared! You’re a bad man Papa.”

“I know you think I’m a bad man Jacques, but what did you expect me to do? Your Maman was missing and we had reason to believe she was being held against her will by an alien race. I had to try and rescue her.”

The boy shook his head, a sob hitching his chest.

“No! Uncle Will could have rescued Maman…or Uncle Data…it didn’t have to be you! Maman went away and didn’t come back, then you went away too. And then you came back and Maman was hurt.  It’s not fair!”

“I was hurt too Jacques.”

“That’s because you’re bad!”

“I’m not bad Jacques! Look when grownups love each other as your mother and I love each other the bond is so strong you would do anything…anything at all Jacques, to keep each other safe. I only left because I knew you and your brothers were safe here on the Enterprise, with Sally and Uncle Will and Aunty Deanna to look after you. Do you really think I would leave without making sure you and your brothers had someone to care for you?”

Now crying freely. Jacques shouted,

“It’s not the same! First Maman went away and then I had yucky dreams then you went away and it wasn’t the same. I woke up and there was no one there! I wanted Maman and I wanted you but there was no one there!”

Jean-Luc swept the boy into his arms and hugged him tightly as he sobbed. Over and over again the Captain said,

“I’m sorry Jacques…I’m so sorry.”

Eventually Jacques calmed and shifted in Jean-Luc’s embrace. The Captain eased his hold on the boy and gently lifted his head. With his thumb firmly planted in his mouth, Jacques sniffed as his father wiped his nose and eyes. Placing a gentle kiss on the boy’s brow, Jean-Luc said softly,

“Feel any better?”

Jacques shrugged and stared down at the object on the floor. The Captain bent and picked it up.

“A dragon?”

With a silent nod, the boy took the object from his father and turned it over. Jean-Luc could see a small touch pad on the underside. With a gentle push the wings began to slowly flap.

“Oh that’s grand! Did you say you were going to make another one?”

Again the silent nod.

“Well I’m sure Ensign Lockwood must be very pleased with it. Was it hard to make?”

Jacques shook his head and said around his thumb,

“Kerry said mine was the best in the class.”

Jean-Luc smiled with paternal pride.

“I bet it was. How about we have dinner and then I’ll help you hang it in your room.”

He was hurt and disappointed when Jacques shook his head.

“No thank you, Sally will help me.”

Quashing his pain, Jean-Luc smiled and gave a wink.

“All right. How about dinner then?”

Jacques nodded and stood. Jean-Luc also rose to his feet and laid a gentle hand on his son’s head.

“You go and put your dragon in your room and wash your face. I’ll get dinner ready.”

With another silent nod, Jacques left his father. The Captain rubbed his face with his hands and sighed.

“What was it you said Beverly…patience? God give me strength!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Dinner was sombre but civil enough. After the meal Sally and Jean-Luc fed the twins then gave them their evening bath. With the babies playing on the quilt and Jacques seemingly content to play a computer game in the living area, Jean-Luc took the opportunity to retire to the bathroom to procure his sample. Finding a towel on the floor from his morning shower, he scowled and pushed it behind him with his foot, meaning to pick it up when he left. Unseen, the towel slid into the doorway, preventing the door from completely closing. He took a few minutes, standing facing the basin with his eyes closed and let his mind wander to thoughts of his beautiful wife and how she looked that afternoon as he brought her to orgasm. As he hardened, he opened his trousers and reached into his briefs, freeing his growing erection. After gently squeezing himself several times he began a measured stroking, his free hand cupping his testicles.

Sally was reading while she watched the twins and, when Henri posited some milk, she rose to go to the nursery to get a cloth. She noticed the semi-closed bathroom door and, as she passed on her way back to the living area, she peeked in. When she saw rooted her to the spot. In the reflection of the wall mirror she could see her Captain masturbating. She was captivated by the expression on his face and how his large hand barely covered the length of his shaft. She swallowed convulsively as he quickened his strokes, she could tell he was tugging down on his testicles as his mouth opened and he began to pant. His head lolled back and he thrust his hips forward as he suddenly released his balls and reached for a cup, sitting on the counter. With a loud gasp he ejaculated into the cup, his head bowed and his eyes mere slits. His tense shoulders slowly relaxed and he took a deep breath, letting it out in a sigh as he whispered,

“Oh Beverly…”

It was enough to bring Sally back to her senses. She quickly left the bedroom and went back to the twins, the ache in her genitals making her wish she could excuse herself to bring herself some relief.

Placing the lid on the cup, Jean-Luc made himself comfortable and fastened his trousers. He then washed his hands and, putting the cup in his pocket, turned to pick up the towel. He frowned when he found it jamming the door and bent to remove it. Having put it in the recycling unit, he went to join his sons. As soon as he sat in his favourite chair, Sally, somewhat red in the face, cleared her throat and said softly,

“Ah…I’ll be back in a minute Sir; I just have to get something from Jacques’ room.”

He looked up and smiled, devastating the young woman.

“Very well Ensign.”

Sally rose quickly and went straight to the room. Once the door was closed she went into the bathroom and locked the door. Within minutes she was gasping through an intense climax. She supported herself against the basin with one hand as the other slowly eased out of her uniform.

“Oh God…”

She restored her clothing and washed her hands before giving herself a once-over in the mirror. Her face was flushed and her nipples were still erect, but she took a deep breath and exited the room, lowering her head as she walked back over to the sofa. Jean-Luc looked up and gave a smile as she seated herself and said quietly,

“I’ll be going back to Sick Bay for a while and I will be taking Jacques. Do you want me to help you put the twins to bed?”

Swallowing and schooling her features carefully, Sally looked over to her Captain and summoned a smile.

“No Sir, that’s fine. Give my regards to Doctor Crusher.”

The Captain stood, giving a nod.

“I’ll do that.”

He went down on his knees and picked each of his infant sons up in turn and gave them a cuddle and a kiss.

“Bon nuit mon petite garcons.”

He stood and smiled down benignly.

“I’ll look in on them when I get back. Would you like the night off Ensign?”

Sally smothered a smile and shook her head.

“Well…I think it would be best if I stayed Captain. They will be up early tomorrow.”

Remembering the disastrous breakfast of that very morning, Jean-Luc frowned and cleared his throat.

“Ah…yes…I suppose your help will be invaluable. Thank you Ensign.”

“You’re welcome Sir.”

Jean-Luc then turned to his older son.

“Jacques would you like to come and say good night to Maman?”

The boy put down his computer game and nodded.

“Oui Papa.”

The man stood and held out his hand.

“Bon. Come on then.”

Immensely gratified that the boy took his hand, Jean-Luc smiled down and tightened his grip.

“Maman will be very happy to see you.”

Jacques nodded and slipped his thumb into his mouth. Together they left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Beverly was sitting in a chair beside her bed dressed in a clean nightie, robe and slippers. As the door opened, Jacques let go of his father’s hand and ran into the room, delighting the Doctor when he climbed onto her lap and embraced her in a huge hug. She kissed the top of his head and returned the hug.

“Well hello there.”

Jacques lifted his head and kissed his mother, his face beaming.

“Hello Maman. I made a dragon at school today and the wings flap.”

The red head stifled a giggle.

“Did you now? Well you’ll have to bring it and show me.”

Jean-Luc grinning as he watched mother and son, lifted a chair and brought it close to his wife. He sat and said softly,

“Ensign Lockwood says Jacques’ dragon was the best in the class.”

Beverly tickled the boy and chuckled,

“I bet it was.”

Jean-Luc leaned forward and tousled his son’s hair.

“We must remember to bring it next time.”

Just then there was a knock at the door. Jean-Luc half turned and said,

“Come.”

Deanna entered, a smile on her face and a gift in her hands.

“Good evening Captain, Beverly and you too Jacques.”

The adults returned the greeting but Jacques stuck his thumb in his mouth, although he did smile. The Counsellor approached Beverly with a mischievous grin on her face. Beverly looked up at her with suspicion.

“What’s going on?”

Bending to give her best friend a quick kiss, Deanna took the opportunity to whisper in her ear.

“I have something here that’s better than sex.”

Beverly gasped softly and cast a look at her husband, who was watching the exchange with interest, although he hadn’t heard what Deanna had said. In an equally quiet voice, Beverly muttered,

“That’s not possible.”

“Wanna make a bet?”

With a wicked grin, Deanna presented Beverly with her gift. Showing some trepidation, Beverly cautiously undid the wrapping, frowning at the large flattish plain brown box that appeared. She eased off the lid and smiled.

“Chocolates!”

Then she whispered,

“I hardly think that chocolates are better than sex Dee. Even you, committed chocolate addict that you are, can’t believe that!”

The Counsellor straightened and lifted her chin imperiously.

“These are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill chocolates Beverly.”

The Doctor grinned.

“Oh? What are they then?”

With a triumphant flourish of her hand, Deanna announced,

“They are authentic, pure, Algoriian chocolates.”

Beverly gasped, her mouth agape.

“You’re joking! Where the hell did you get real Algoriian chocolates?...and why the hell are you giving them to me?”

Deanna grinned with a conspirator’s glee and sat on the bed.

“Well, as to where I got them, my mother knows the Algoriian ambassador and he gave her five boxes.  About two months ago she sent me a parcel and, as usual, I didn’t get around to opening it…you know how I hate mother’s parcels…”

Beverly chuckled, remembering some of the other parcels and the atrocious clothing inside.

“Well you can imagine how delighted I was to finally open this one and find…amongst other things…authentic Algoriian chocolates. Now…as to why I’m giving them to you…I’m not really. Actually you’re getting them under one condition.”

Beverly raised an amused eyebrow.

“And that is?”

“We share!”

That brought a laugh and the Doctor shook her head.

“And if I refuse?”

“Then I repossess the chocolates and eat them all myself.”

Scandalised, Beverly shook her head.

“You wouldn’t!”

Scowling in mock irritation, Deanna gave a curt nod.

“I damn well would!”

Jean-Luc stood, amusement clear on his face.

“Beverly if it’s a choice between sharing the chocolates and getting none, I think your decision is clear. Besides I’ve heard that real Algoriian chocolates are utterly sublime. Some say they should be banned in the Federation they’re so good.”

Beverly looked at the box in her hands and sighed.

“Well I guess when you put it like that I have no choice.”

She looked up at Deanna with mock sadness.

“Oh very well, but you drive a hard bargain!”

While the women giggled, Jean-Luc said softly,

“I’ll be back in a minute ladies…and don’t forget to share with Jacques.”

They were still giggling when he left the room.

Jean-Luc found Selar in Beverly’s office. He knocked politely and the Vulcan stood, gesturing him inside.

“Good evening Captain Picard.”

“Good evening Doctor. I have brought my sample.”

He reached into his pocket and retrieved the cup, handing it to the Doctor. She took it with an inclined head.

“Thank you Captain.”

He gave a thoughtful nod then asked,

“Has there been any improvement?”

Selar shook her head.

“No Captain and I have discovered that Doctor Picard is suffering similar cell degradation.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“But we already knew that.”

The Vulcan sighed.

“I do not mean the general degradation Captain. During her last scan I removed two eggs from each of her ovaries and all four eggs were deformed. It would seem you are both suffering the same compromised fertility.”

Jean-Luc gripped the back of the chair and frowned deeper.

“I see. And is there anything you can do?”

The Vulcan steepled her fingers and sighed.

“Yes but I am hesitant to proceed. I would prefer to continue on the present course of treatment for a while longer.”

“How much longer?”

“A day or two Captain.”

“And then?”

Selar gave a shrug.

“Then I will reassess my options.”

Jean-Luc took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Very well Doctor. I will see you in the morning. Good night.”

“Yes Captain, good night Sir.”

When Jean-Luc re entered his private room, all three occupants were chewing, their eyes closed and a rapturous look on their faces. He smiled and said softly,

“May I have one?”

Beverly’s eyes snapped open and she frowned.

“Oh all right…here.”

She offered the box and Jean-Luc spent a moment choosing a chocolate. He popped it in his mouth and bit, his eyes immediately closing in delight.

“Oh I say…they are good, aren’t they?”

Deanna sighed and opened her eyes and seeing her CO so mellow, decided to ask him a question.

“Captain I have a request.”

Swallowing and summoning a smile, Jean-Luc turned his attention to his Counsellor.

“And that is?”

“Well, while you spend some time with Beverly, I would like to take Jacques to the forward lounge.”

The lad’s eyes lit up and he looked imploringly at his father. Jean-Luc frowned.

“Children are not permitted in the forward lounge Counsellor.”

“I know Sir, but I thought we could make an exception…just this once.”

Beverly kept silent, but she gave her husband a significant look. He sighed and cast his gaze to his son.

“You will behave yourself?”

The boy nodded solemnly.

“Oui Papa.”

The Captain smiled.

“Very well then, you have my permission Counsellor.”

Taking one more chocolate for herself and making sure Jacques took one too; she smiled brightly and took the boy’s hand.

“We won’t be gone long Captain.”

Jean-Luc gave a nod then turned back to his wife.

“May I have another chocolate please?”

Beverly grinned.

“Hooked?”

He shrugged.

“They are moreish.”

With a giggle, Beverly crooked her finger, drawing her husband closer.

“Wanna know a secret?”

He grinned.

“Of course.”

“Deanna thinks these chocolates are better than sex.”

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

“You’ve got to be joking!”

“Nup.”

“Well someone should say something to Will…he can’t be doing it right.”

Beverly giggled and gave him a quick kiss.

“My thoughts exactly!”

He chuckled and kissed her with tender love. She smacked her lips, an evil gleam in her eyes.

“French Algoriian chocolate…a definite improvement.”

He sighed and rolled his eyes.

“You are incorrigible!”

Holding his face in her hands she kissed him with gentle passion.

“And you love it.”

All he could do was sigh with besotted happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The quiet hum of conversation in the forward lounge suddenly silenced as Deanna and Jacques walked in. Glances were exchanged and Guinan, the enigmatic bar tender, rested her elbows on the bar and raised one non-existent eyebrow.

“Well this is different. To what do we owe the pleasure?”

Deanna ignored the stares of the room’s occupants and smiled beatifically.

“We have the Captain’s permission to be here Guinan. May I have a hot chocolate and an Acturian fizz for Jacques please? Well be sitting over there.”

She indicated a table near the viewports and Guinan gave a nod.

“I’ll bring them over.”

With a smile of thanks, Deanna led Jacques to the table and took their seats. The boy looked around him in wonder, his eyes going everywhere at once.

“What do you think?”

He dragged his attention back to Deanna and grinned.

“It’s awesome! Look at how big the viewports are!”

The gentle murmur of conversation resumed as the others decided to ignore the boy and his companion. Deanna smiled to herself and lifted her head as Guinan delivered the drinks.

“Thank you.”

The bar tender smiled and wafted away, her demeanour serene as always.

Jacques took a sip of his drink and immediately burped. He reddened and held his fingers against his lips.

“Pardon moi.”

Deanna chuckled.

“That’s the fizz part. Drink it slowly or you’ll really let out some gas!”

The boy giggled and it gratified the Counsellor to see him so happy and relaxed. She decided to take advantage of his good mood.

“It was good of your father to let you come wasn’t it?”

The boy shrugged.

“I suppose.”

“He doesn’t often rescind standing orders, even for one exception.”

Again, the diffident shrug.

“Why do you think he did it this one time?”

Jacques stared at his drink, idly running his fingers around the rim of the glass.

“I don’t know.”

Deanna sighed.

“Well think about it Jacques, you know your father as well, if not better, than me.”

There followed a protracted silence. Deanna held her tongue, giving the boy enough time to think. Eventually he sighed.

“Maybe he was trying to be nice.”

“Hmm. Okay, why would he be trying to be nice?”

The boy gave his now familiar shrug and lowered his eyes. Deanna took a long sip of her drink and tilted her head.

“Do you think it’s because you’ve been so mean to him?”

Colour flushed the boy’s face and he muttered,

“Papa’s bad.”

It was Deanna’s turn to shrug.

“Well if that’s true, how come he let you come to the lounge? That doesn’t sound like the actions of a bad man.”

The boy sneered.

“He’s just trying to be nice to make me behave.”

The Counsellor shook her head.

“No, I don’t think so Jacques. Your father loves you very, very much. I think he’s trying to show you in ways you can understand.”

Jacques looked up confused.

“What?”

Deanna smiled.

“Okay, have you ever known your father to change his mind about a standing order?”

The boy shook his head.

“No, never.”

“And yet he did just that to allow you to do something he knew was important to you. You know how important it is to your father to be the best Captain he can be. In rescinding his standing order…even just this once, puts that at risk Jacques. If his crew sees that he’s willing to rescind his standing orders to please his son, they may think he’s not the Captain they thought he is and that would devastate him Jacques. Being the best Captain he can be means everything to him, but not as much as the love of his son. Do you understand?”

Comprehension dawned on the boy’s face and he nodded.

“Yes Deanna I understand.”

The Counsellor smiled widely.

“Good. Now finish your drink, I’ve got to get you back to your parents.”

                     It was very late at night and Sally lay in her cot, wide awake. Try as she might, she was unable to get the image of her Captain masturbating out of her mind. When Jean-Luc and Jacques had returned to their quarters she had excused herself, asking her CO if she might go back to her quarters for a short while. He consented and she spent a frantic twenty minutes on the bulletin board, writing about what she’d seen, Of course she wrote it as a fantasy and, with her anonymity assured, she could be as graphic as she wished. She did it to try and rid herself of the lingering desire, the ever present sexual tension her Captain elicited in her.

Now, in the small hours of the morning, she lay awake and aroused in Jacques’ room. With a soft irritated snort, she threw the covers off and exited the cot, pacing around the dark room in her t shirt and panties. Her nipples pushed against the soft fabric of her shirt and she contemplated going into the bathroom to masturbate, but the knowledge that the man she so desired slept mere metres away gave her boldness she didn’t know she possessed.

Leaving the bedroom, she made sure the door to Jacques’ bedroom remained open as she crept to Jean-Luc’s bedroom. The door sighed open and she stepped in, the sight of her Captain asleep in his bed making her knees go weak. He was bare chested and lying on his back, one arm flung above his head, the other resting across his stomach.

Mustering courage she didn’t know she had, Sally approached the bed until she stood by his side. She raised a hand and tentatively touched his cheek. In his sleep, he smiled and turned his head to the ephemeral touch. Emboldened, the Ensign bent low and delivered a feather-like kiss to his lips. His lips pursed in response and he sighed, whispering,

“Beverly…”

Sally stood and scowled. She was about to kiss him again when a cry came from Jacques’ room. Jean-Luc’s eyes snapped open and he sat up, startled to find Sally standing beside his bed. The Ensign froze, shock registering on her face. In the darkness Jean-Luc didn’t see her reaction; he threw off the covers and exited the bed, running to Jacques’ room.

By the time Sally made it into the boy’s room, Jean-Luc had picked him up and was crooning softly to him. The flustered Ensign watched as the Captain turned to her and said quietly,

“I’ll take him into my room. Thank you for waking me Ensign.”

She gulped but kept her face calm in the subdued light.

“Ah…that’s okay Captain…anytime.”

After he had left with his son, Sally made Jacques’ bed then climbed into her cot, calling for the lights to dim. In the darkness she remembered how his lips had felt against hers. Within minutes she was masturbating, her mind filled with erotic images of her Captain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Having collected his sample in the shower, a shaved and dressed Captain was setting the table when Jacques came out of his room, tugging Sally’s hand impatiently. The twins, successfully fed, bathed and dressed, lay on the quilt happily amusing themselves. Jean-Luc cast his eldest son a speculative glance, the boy’s disgruntled irritation at finding himself in his father’s bed upon waking at odds with the happy boy who scrambled up onto his chair and harried the Ensign.

“Like yesterday…star shaped ones!”

The Captain lowered his brow and gently admonished,

“Jacques if you are asking something of Sally, use your manners.”

The boy sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Star shaped ones please Sally. Like yesterday.”

The Ensign grinned.

“Okay Jacques, star shaped French bread it is. Chocolate milk or orange juice?”

“Umm…chocolate milk, warm please.”

Jean-Luc stepped aside from the replicator, a plate of hot croissants in one hand, a pot of fresh coffee in the other. While Sally gave the replicator her order, Jean-Luc put his burdens on the table and said quietly,

“You know Sally, if you’d rather have something else for breakfast…feel free. I’m afraid coffee and croissants are a long-standing habit of mine, but there’s absolutely no need for you to pander to my tastes.”

Smiling sunnily at her Captain, Sally shook her head.

“Oh no Sir, that’s all right. I’d never had croissants before and I find I like them, especially with raspberry jam.”

Once they were all seated, Jean-Luc passed the pastries to Sally and waited while she selected two. While she buttered them, Jean-Luc took two for himself and mirrored her actions.

“Tell me Ensign, what would you normally have for breakfast?”

That brought a chuckle, making Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rise.

“Well Sir, that kind of depends.”

“I see. On what?”

Sally put a dollop of jam on her croissant and took a healthy bite. She chewed and swallowed before she answered.

“Well, if I were at home my mum would insist on toast, cereal with fruit and tea. Left to my own devices I’d probably have scrambled eggs on toast, but here on the Enterprise I tend to just have a cup of tea before I go on duty.”

Jean-Luc smiled his understanding.

“Yes there are times when I start my day with a simple cup of coffee. What sort of tea do you prefer?”

Reddening slightly, Sally softly cleared her throat.

“Ah…just ordinary back tea Sir. What about you? Do you like tea?”

The Captain’s smile was wistful.

“Oh indeed. I don’t have many vices Ensign, but Earl Grey is one of them. Doctor Picard is always telling me I drink far too much of it.”

Sally nodded slowly.

“Earl Grey? I must try it sometime.”

Jacques muttered,

“Papa drinks it with no milk or sweetener. It’s yucky.”

Jean-Luc’s voice was deep and soft, but Sally heard his gentle amusement.

“Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste.”

Jacques’ next question made his father smile.

“Papa I’m finished my French bread. May I have a croissant please?”

The Captain smiled warmly.

“Since you asked so nicely, you may. What would you like on it?”

“Peanut butter.”

To his credit, Jean-Luc disguised the shudder that ran through his frame. He summoned a wider smile and said brightly,

“Peanut butter it is.”

After breakfast, Jacques had to go and wash his hands. While Jean-Luc waited for his son the door chimed.

“Come.”

Will strode in, his genial face wearing his usual grin.

“Good morning Captain.”

Jean-Luc returned the greeting with a smile.

“Good morning Number One. What can I do for you?”

Handing his CO a PADD, the big man replied,

“New orders Sir.”

As Jean-Luc read, Jacques came out of his room and spotted the First Officer. He ran headlong at the man, yelling,

“Uncle Will!”

In what was a ritual between them, Will picked up the lunging boy and hoisted him high above his head, helicoptering him to the delight of the boy who squealed loudly. Startled, the twins began to cry, making Jean-Luc growl at his Exec.

“Must you Number One?”

Chagrined, Will lowered the boy to the floor and set him on his feet. Both Jean-Luc and Sally went to the twins, hesitating slightly while they worked out who would pick up whom. It took some minutes to quieten the babies, but once peace was restored Jean-Luc walked back to Will, Matthieu in his arm, the boy trying to pick the button from his shirt.

“So we spend three days at Arkaria base being scrubbed clean of radiation and high energy protons, then we are slated for one week’s shore leave on Varran IV?”

He held up the PADD and scowled at it.

“Then what?”

Will shrugged.

“Unknown as yet Sir.”

Jean-Luc grunted softly.

“They’re up to something Number One. Command always has something for us.”

Will lifted his hands and snorted.

“That’s true Sir, but until they deign to let us know, we’ll just have to carry on as usual.”

Jean-Luc gave a deep sigh.

“Agreed.”

Jacques, hanging onto one of Will’s legs piped up.

“Uncle Will we’re all going to see Maman. Come with us.”

The Captain nodded.

“Yes Will, Beverly would love to see you.”

The big man grinned.

“I’d love to Sir…but Captain…there’s something I need to ask you.”

Intrigued, Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows.

“Oh?”

“Yes Sir. While you and Beverly were missing on the planet, I sort of told Jacques I would ask you if he could come up to the Bridge and I thought…seeing as how we’re not doing anything special at the moment, that today might be a good time.”

Jean-Luc’s friendly demeanour suddenly disappeared behind his Captain’s mask. In a soft voice he said,

“I do not allow children on my Bridge Commander.”

Will swallowed his dismay and risked censure by pressing further.

“I know that Sir, but it would mean an awful lot to Jacques…and I sort of promised.”

His eyes now dark and glittering, Jean-Luc’s voice became hard.

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Jacques, watching the exchange, slipped his thumb into his mouth and hugged Will’s leg, as he stared at his father. Will felt the boy’s desperation and decided the risk of his Captain’s anger was worth it.

“Please Captain…it’s important.”

Jean-Luc, despite holding his son in his arm, stood ramrod straight, his face a stony mask. He held himself like that for a few seconds, then lowered his eyes and sighed, the rigidity leaving his body.

“Yesterday I allowed Counsellor Troi to take Jacques to the forward lounge…against standing orders…MY standing orders. Now it seems my son is going to the Bridge. Tell me Commander, do you think my credibility will be irrevocably damaged in the eyes of my crew?”

Will’s relieved grin transformed his face. His voice was gentle.

“Not at all Sir…in fact I think they will think all the better of you for it.”

Jean-Luc held out his hand and Jacques left Will and took it.

“Do everything Uncle Will says and don’t touch anything. All right?”

Wonder and incredible excitement shone in the boy’s eyes. In an awed whisper he managed,

“Oui Papa. I promise.”

“Fine. Then let’s go and visit Maman.”

It was quite a crowd that left his quarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Jean-Luc was surprised to find his wife standing in the main body of Sick Bay, watching as Alyssa scanned a young girl who was sniffing and teary-eyed. Sally, pushing the stroller with Henri in it and Matthieu in her arm, took Jacques’ hand and made him stand with her to one side with Will. The Captain quietly approached the Doctor and made sure he kept his voice soft and low.

“What do we have here?”

Both Beverly and Alyssa, engrossed in what they were doing, jumped slightly. The little girl gaped at the Captain, her sniffles momentarily forgotten. Beverly turned to her husband and offered as warm smile.

“Natalie took a tumble on the Holodeck.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“She’s very young to be going to the Holodeck.”

Beverly smothered a smile.

“She wasn’t there alone. Her father is Doctor Prescott. He took her for an outing; he’s just gone to get her favourite doll to make her happy.”

“I see…and what are you doing out of bed?”

Alyssa turned to her Captain and smiled.

“My thoughts exactly Sir, but Natalie likes Doctor Picard and I don’t think she would have settled as quickly as she did without her help.”

Jean-Luc gently rubbed his fingers over his lower lip.

“I see…and is Natalie all right now?”

Alyssa nodded.

“Yes Sir, just about fixed.”

He took Beverly’s elbow and started to lead her away.

“In that case I will take Doctor Picard back to her room.”

Before she could protest. Jean-Luc gestured over to Sally, Will and the children.

“You have visitors.”

Beverly grinned and held out her arms, her anger forgotten. Jacques released his hand from Sally and ran to his mother, flinging his arms around her waist and hugging her for all he was worth. She hugged him back with equal force and kissed the top of his head. The boy suddenly pulled away and gave her a look of incredulous excitement.

“Maman…guess what!?”

Beverly, still smiling radiantly, shook her head.

“What?”

His voice dropping to a secretive whisper, Jacques informed her,

“Papa said Uncle Will can take me to the Bridge!”

Beverly tore her gaze from her son to cast her husband a disbelieving look. Jean-Luc just shrugged, his face a study in nonplussed embarrassment.

“What could I do? Will promised him.”

The Doctor released Jacques and sidled up to Jean-Luc, her face exuding tenderness. When she spoke it was sotto voce.

“You old softie!”

He melted under her gaze and had to concentrate on not kissing her as he so wanted to. Beverly, however, had already shifted her attention elsewhere.

“And how are my little boys?”

She knelt in front of the stroller and tickled both twins, laughing delightedly when they chuckled. Jean-Luc bent low and whispered,

“Come on; let’s go into your room.”

Mildly amused at her husband’s innate need for privacy, Beverly stood and nodded to Sally, who wheeled the stroller in front of her. Will, Beverly, Jean-Luc, Sally, Jacques and the twins all crowded into Jean-Luc’s private room and Beverly, at the Captain’s insistence, took a seat in the chair. In no time she had a baby in each arm and Jacques leaning against her shoulder. Sally excused herself and Will, seeing Jacques was getting fidgety, took the boy’s hand and said softly,

“Is it all right if we go now?”

Beverly was too engrossed in the twins to do much more then lift her face and smile. Jean-Luc stood and nodded, giving his eldest son a solemn look and raising his finger.

“Now you remember…you are to do as Uncle Will says and…”

Jacques nodded vigorously.

“And don’t touch anything. Oui Papa.”

His smile was a tender one.

“All right then, off you go, I’ll come up and see you later.”

Beverly sighed wistfully after her son had gone.

“He’s so excited!”

Jean-Luc grunted and rubbed his face with his hands. Beverly knew he was tired and asked gently,

“Are you all right?”

Knowing prevarication would only anger her, he nodded, a smile emerging.

“Yes…I’m just not sleeping too well.”

“How’s the pain?”

He shook his head, waving a hand dismissively.

“Oh all but gone. I think I’m just missing you.”

There was a knock at the door, and having been granted entry, Selar came to stand before the couple, her hands clasped behind her back. Jean-Luc took the opportunity to hand her his morning sample and she gave a curt nod.

“Thank you Captain, it is fortunate you are both here as I wish to discuss your ongoing treatment.”

Jean-Luc took Henri from his mother so Beverly could get more comfortable. With each parent occupied with a baby, Selar frowned and continued.

“As you are aware, you are both suffering extensive cell damage due to radiation exposure. The general damage seems to be rectifying itself, but your reproductive cells aren’t regenerating as I hoped. To that end I wish to take a more aggressive approach.”

Beverly nodded thoughtfully.

“The Stanislaw therapy?”

Selar bowed her head.

“Yes Doctor.”

Jean-Luc turned to his wife, one eyebrow raised in silent query. Beverly elaborated.

“Doctor Igor Stanislaw found that with radiation exposure patients suffering our kind of problem, an infusion of hormones to increase sperm and egg production is often beneficial.”

Selar continued.

“Of course there are differences between you both. Males are constantly making new sperm whereas females have their supply of eggs already made, but the therapy concentrates on augmenting the existing treatment by accelerating both the production of sperm and the maturing of eggs, making many more available for ovulation, which would occur very frequently. It is hoped that this increase will facilitate the production of healthy cells in a relatively short time.”

Jean-Luc said softly,

“How short a time?”

“As little as three weeks.”

Beverly sighed, looking at her husband with sympathy, knowing he was extremely uncomfortable with this conversation.

“We will still have to undergo hyronalin treatments and regen therapy, but the Stanislaw method is sound.”

Jean-Luc nodded, the looked Selar in the eye and asked,

“Are there any side affects?”

The Vulcan gave a short nod.

“Yes Captain. With the massive influx of hormones there will be heightened emotions, changes in appetite and hair growth…”

She bowed her head and Jean-Luc had the distinct feeling she was embarrassed, but quickly shoved that thought away. She was a Vulcan, unemotional to a fault.

“And a greatly increased libido…Sir.”
He felt the tips of his ears warm and chanced a glance at his wife and almost groaned at her unsuccessful attempts to stifle her giggle. Her eyes caught his and he sent her a stern…’this isn’t funny!’ look which only served to increase her mirth. Selar, seeing her presence was no longer required, gave a short bow and said as she left,

“I will return later with your first injections.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  As Jean-Luc walked out of the aft turbo lift he heard Will saying,

“And that’s another tactical display.”

He strode down the command well, spying his son seated in his chair. He softly cleared his throat and Jacques looked up, his face splitting into a huge grin.

“Papa…this is awesome! I’m in your chair.”

He smiled tenderly at his son and gave a nod.

“So you are. Enjoying yourself?”

The boy nodded vigorously,

“Oui Papa! Uncle Will has shown me all the stations and I haven’t touched anything.”

The big man, standing to Jacques’ right, grinned at his Captain.

“True enough Sir, his behaviour has been exemplary.”

Jacques looked up at his Uncle with a confused frown. Will ruffled his hair and said softly,

“That’s good.”

Slowly folding his arms across his chest, Jean-Luc pursed his lips.

“I see. Tell me Number One…have you demonstrated the seat restraints?”

The First Officer’s grin widened.

“Ah…no Captain. Perhaps now?”

All Jean-Luc did was nod once. Will bent low and muttered,

“Keep your hands on the arms of the chair Jacques…and don’t be frightened.”

As the boy nodded silently, Will pressed a button on the right arm of the seat. Suddenly two belts appeared over the boy’s shoulders, quickly sliding down his torso to connect with two more belts coming from each side, across his lap. They automatically adjusted to his small frame, holding him snugly in the chair. The boy lifted his head, gaping at his father.

“Oh wow Papa.”

The Captain grinned.

“Indeed.”

Will pressed the release button, freeing the boy. Jean-Luc stepped forward, squatted and rested his hands on the lad’s thighs.

“Would you like to see my office?”

Jacques nodded and Jean-Luc stood, holding out his hand. The boy took it and the Captain led him across the Bridge to his Ready Room. Once inside, Jean-Luc gestured to the seat behind his desk. After gaining an encouraging nod from his father, Jacques walked tentatively around the desk and climbed onto the chair. He surveyed the expanse of the desk top, taking in the monitor and several PADDs that lay in a neat pile. His eyes drifted to the photo in an elegant silver frame and he smiled.

“That was at my birthday.”

Jean-Luc nodded and came around the desk to hitch his hip on the edge.

“That it was. We had fun, didn’t we.”

The boy nodded.

“I ate so much cake I vomited.”

That brought a grimace from the man. He sighed, a rueful smile on his face.

“Yes…on me if I remember correctly.”

The boy chuckled.

“And Matthieu and Henri were allowed to play with some cake too.”

The bought a snort from Jean-Luc.

“And your mother and I had to bath them to get it out of their hair…and ears…and noses.”

Jacques laughed and Jean-Luc ruffled his hair.

“Your fifth birthday isn’t far away Jacques. Any idea what you’d like for a present?”

The boy frowned and shrugged.

“I…I don’t know Papa.”

Planting a kiss on top of his head, Jean-Luc smiled.

“Well you have plenty of time to think about it. Now, we should be getting back to Sick Bay, your little brothers will be wanting their lunch.”

Giving a nod that reminded Jean-Luc of himself; Jacques left the seat and came around the desk, taking his father’s hand. With a barely suppressed grin, they exited the Ready Room.

“We will take our leave Number one.”

Jean-Luc looked down at his son and the boy smiled.

“Thank you very much Uncle Will.”

The big man winked and pointed to something behind the child. As he turned, Will activated the viewscreen. The vista of stars streaking by at warp from head on made the boy gape.

“Oh boy!”

Jean-Luc sent Will a smile of appreciation then gently gripped his son’s shoulder. He dragged his eyes from the viewscreen and walked with his father to the aft turbo lift.

They stepped into the lift and Jacques craned forward for one last glimpse of the Bridge as the doors closed.

He sighed and leaned against his father’s leg, lifting his thumb to suck, but he hesitated and looked up at his father.

“Papa?”

Jean-Luc looked down, his face tender.

“Yes son?”

“Merci beaucoup Papa.”

The Captain sank to his knees saying softly,

“Halt.”

The lift stopped and Jean-Luc gently took his son into his embrace.

“J’taime Jacques.”

The boy sighed and rested his head on his father’s shoulder.

“J’taime Papa.” He whispered.

They stayed like that for some minutes, communing, the rift slowly healing. Eventually Jean-Luc stood and said more forcefully,

“Resume.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Sally was helping Beverly to change the twins when the males returned. The Ensign, having finished her task, sent Beverly a smile before leaving the room. The family spent twenty minutes together, Beverly being regaled by Jacques’ visit to the Bridge. Selar came in just as Jean-Luc was preparing to leave. In her hands was a hypospray. Jean-Luc held up his hand.

“One moment Doctor.”

The twins were back in the stroller and Jean-Luc looked down at his eldest son.

“Jacques do you think you can wheel your brothers out to Sally and wait with her until I come out? I won’t be long.”

Straightening under the weight of such an important task, Jacques nodded solemnly.

“Yes Papa.”

As he took the handles of the stroller, Jean-Luc smiled with pride and love, saying softly,

“Go straight to Sally and tell her I’ll be out shortly.”

The boy nodded.

“Oui Papa.”

Now alone with the Vulcan physician Jean-Luc and Beverly tilted their heads to allow her to inject the medication. She then stepped back and addressed them both.

“Doctor Picard I am very pleased with your progress thus far and I have amended your discharge time. If your scans are acceptable this afternoon, you may be discharged to your quarters this evening.”

The couple shared a happy look, then Jean-Luc asked,

“Will we have to report for any further treatments?”

The Vulcan nodded.

“Yes Captain, I would like to see you both for regeneration therapy and an injection, but only once a day.”

Beverly tilted her head.

“And the hyronalin?”

“There should be sufficient in the ship’s air.”

Jean-Luc nodded decisively.

“Right. Well I’ll come back this afternoon.”

Selar inclined her head.

“That would be acceptable Captain.”

Giving his wife a quick kiss, Jean-Luc left. Selar helped Beverly onto the bed and raised one eyebrow.

“That is the happiest I’ve seen him in quite a while.”

Beverly chuckled.

“Yes…it suits him doesn’t it.”

The Vulcan shrugged.

“I couldn’t say Doctor.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         At fifteen thirty hours Beverly was quietly fidgeting as Selar completed her scans. Whilst waving the scanner module about Beverly’s head, the Vulcan paused and lifted her eyes to spear the red head with an uncompromising stare.

“You are in pain. Why didn’t you tell me?”

With a sigh of irritated resignation, Beverly shrugged.

“Because it’s just a mild headache.”

Looking unconvinced, the physician inputted some information into the tricorder and deepened the scan.

“It seems to be related to the new medication.”

She lifted her head and frowned.

“This is a nuisance Doctor. Normally I would administer an analgesic and you would be no further troubled, but under the circumstances of your current treatment, I am reluctant to add to your drug regime.”

Beverly smiled tiredly.

“Look it’s no problem, really. I’m sure I can put up with a little headache. It will pass once my body adjusts to the new hormone levels.”

With a doubtful glance, Selar gave a reluctant nod. Beverly took her opportunity to continue something that had stared earlier in the day.

“So have you given my request any thought?”

The Vulcan set the tricorder at a different level and continued the scan.

“I take it you are referring to your desire to be discharged earlier than my previous pronouncement?”

Seeing that her colleague’s eyes were fastened on the tricorder, Beverly rolled her eyes and pulled a face, however she kept her voice even.

“Yes Selar. As I told you, I would like to be there when my husband feeds, bathes and puts our children to bed. Your original discharge time precludes me doing that.”

“So you would like to leave Sick Bay earlier.”

“Uh huh.”

Selar snapped the tricorder closed then slid the scanning module into its recess. She seemed to come to a decision.

“Very well Doctor, I will discharge you at seventeen thirty hours.”

Beverly’s grin could have lit a darkened room.

“Thank you!”

With a graceful inclination of her head, Selar offered a small smile.

“I will inform the Captain.”

As Selar left the room, Beverly absently lifted her right hand and rubbed her temple. Her smile, however, never faltered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Jacques was sitting on his father’s lap as he read to him. As always happened, the gentle baritone of his father’s voice lulled the boy and his eyes began to droop. Jean-Luc, well aware of his son’s propensity to fall asleep as he read to him, cast an eye over the boy and couldn’t help but smile. The twins were having their afternoon nap and Sally was sitting opposite, her nose buried in a book. Their quarters were warm and quiet. Jacques’ eyes closed and his head slowly settled on Jean-Luc’s shoulder. The Captain put aside the book and gently wrapped his arms around his son. The boy snuggled deeper into his embrace and snuffled before slipping his thumb into his mouth. It didn’t stay long however. After a few sucks it slipped from his mouth.

Once Jean-Luc was sure Jacques was fully asleep he lifted his head and said very softly,

“Ensign?”

Sally immediately lifted her head and, seeing Jacques fast asleep on his father’s lap, smiled warmly at her CO. In an equally quiet voice she replied,

“Yes Sir?”

“Doctor Picard is being discharged to our quarters later this evening. Although she will want to take a full role in mothering our children, I would appreciate it if you would stay until I tell you you are no longer required.”

The Ensign nodded.

“Yes Captain.”

Jean-Luc returned her smile and went on to say,

“I envisage it will be a few weeks before Doctor Picard is back to full strength and, even though she will no doubt vehemently protest, I want you to assist her as much as possible…or as much as she will allow. I will soon be returning to duty and although I can do some of my work from these quarters, I do have to spend some of my day on the Bridge.”

Sally gave the man a warm smile and nodded again.

“Of course Captain, I will stay as long as you feel I am needed.”

Jacques mumbled something incoherent and Jean-Luc gently stroked his hair. The boy settled again and the Captain smiled.

“I do hope you fully realise how much we appreciate your being here Ensign. Your help has been invaluable and I deeply appreciate your assistance. You have developed a bond with our children…one I hope will continue long after you return to your normal duties.”

Flushing with pride at her Captain’s heartfelt words, Sally beamed at the man, her heart singing. In a hushed voice she managed,

“Thank you Captain, I have really enjoyed being here with you.”

She suddenly gulped and her blush deepened, causing her to add hastily,

“And the children of course.”

Oblivious to her gaffe, Jean-Luc smiled and was about to say more when the comm. system came to life.
“Selar to Captain Picard.”

Jacques jumped at the loud voice and lifted his head, mumbling,

“What?”

Stifling an annoyed sigh, Jean-Luc lifted his head and said,

“Picard here Doctor.”

“Captain I have amended Doctor Picard’s discharge time. If it is convenient you may pick her up at fifteen thirty hours.”

His annoyance evaporated and the Captain grinned.

“Acknowledged Doctor, I’ll be there at the appointed time. Picard out.”

Sally’s smile faltered and her eyes glittered. Jacques sat up on his father’s lap, knuckling his eyes.

“Papa is Maman still coming home?”

The Captain grabbed the boy and tickled him, making Jacques giggle and squirm.

“Yes my lad, she will be home in a couple of hours.”

His happy grin made Jean-Luc chuckle, but then he sobered.

“Now you will have to remember Jacques…Maman will be tired and we will have to take care of her which she won’t like very m