Missing.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard sighed inwardly and briefly closed his eyes. It wasn't that he didn't want to listen to his wife; it was just that she'd been talking about the same thing for over half an hour and he was beginning to tire of it. The discussion, if you could call it that, had been going on for the past two weeks and, although he was sympathetic to his wife's arguments, they hadn't swayed him…yet.
He knew he should be getting back to the Bridge, but he also knew if he left right now, his wife would be highly displeased. He sighed again, it wasn't his fault she was heavily pregnant…or perhaps it was? Shrugging inwardly, he put that thought to the back of his mind for further analysis later. In the here and now he smiled up at the vexed woman and tried…again…to make her see reason.
"Beverly you're not thinking straight."
Before she could make an outraged comment, he held up his hand.
"Paul, David and I are going to the site for two weeks. We'll be camping…roughing it. We'll be grubbing around in the dirt. There'll be no baths or showers, no laundry and no creature comforts. Why would an eight months pregnant woman want to subject herself to all that? It doesn't make sense."
Beverly Picard, CMO of the Starship Enterprise put her fists on her hips and glared imperiously down at her seated husband. She knew his arguments were rational…in fact it was his calm reasoning she found the most irritating, but the plain truth was…she wanted to go. Knowing a direct confrontation would only make him angry, she opted for a more subtle approach. After all, didn't her beloved Grandmother tell her one could catch more flies with honey, than vinegar?
Relaxing her tense body, she smiled as she slowly lowered herself into a chair opposite her husband and took the time necessary to calm herself. Jean-Luc was well aware of her strategies, but kept silent, part of him interested to see what she would try next.
"Jean-Luc, do you remember what I was like in the latter stages of my last two pregnancies?"
He was about to say…"Grumpy", but fortunately held his tongue. He knew all too well what provoking Beverly's legendary temper would get him. So instead he raised his eyebrows in thought and tried to say something non-inflammatory.
"Ah…you were…tired...a lot."
Beverly's smile didn't alter, but her eyes hardened.
"Yes I was, but I was also very lonely."
Realisation hit Jean-Luc and he shook his head.
"But…"
Beverly held up her hand.
"Let me finish. From the eighth month of each pregnancy I was relieved of duty and virtually confined to quarters. How did you think that made me feel?"
He was going to shrug, but thought better of it.
"Um…I suppose you felt…isolated."
She nodded, the smile still in place, but it held little warmth.
"Yes…isolated. Do you think I'm going to feel the same way with this pregnancy?"
"Possibly."
The smile faltered.
"Possibly? Oh I think it's a given! Now Jean-Luc, how do you think I'm going to feel if I have to stay behind while you and the boys go off gallivanting to Herros IV? Do you think my loneliness and isolation will be worse?"
They had been over this before…many times and Jean-Luc was running out of both reasonable arguments and patience. Still though, he persisted.
"You won't be alone Beverly. Deanna will be a constant companion."
The smile disappeared and Beverly glowered.
"Do you have any idea what a half Betazoid; half Human woman is like when she's pregnant?"
Actually he did, his Executive Officer, one William Riker, husband of said pregnant hybrid woman, gave him almost daily updates as to her condition. However, Jean-Luc wisely held his counsel. Beverly didn't wait for him to answer anyway.
"I'll tell you what she's like! She's a pain in the arse! Look, don't get me wrong, I love Deanna like a sister, but pregnant Deanna is hell incarnate. All she wants to do is eat and talk about babies! AND…she doesn't put on so much as a gram, despite stuffing herself constantly!"
While Beverly took a breath, Jean-Luc surreptitiously glanced at his antique nautical desk clock. Unfortunately Beverly saw him. With ice dripping off each clearly enunciated word, she said in a low voice,
"Do you have somewhere else you'd rather be?"
Caught like a rabbit in the lights, Jean-Luc swallowed and tried to smile.
"Ah…I am supposed to be on the Bridge."
Before Beverly could protest, Jean-Luc held up a placating hand.
"But…I'm sure Will can do without me for a while longer."
He stood and went to sit on the arm of Beverly's chair.
"My love there is an easy solution to all this. We won't go."
On her feet remarkably quickly for one so ungainly, Beverly brushed past her husband, shaking her head and flapping her hands.
"That's not an option, Jean-Luc, and you know it! You promised the boys this trip long before we knew I was pregnant. It wouldn't be fair to them."
Coming to his feet, Jean-Luc sighed and ran a hand over his bald head.
"Then I don't know what to suggest."
Beverly spun around, her hands going back to her hips.
"Well I do! Let me come with you!"
Jean-Luc lowered his head, took a deep breath and slowly counted to ten.
"Beverly…"
She stepped closer to him and gently gripped his upper arms.
"Jean-Luc this needn't be as problematic as you think. If we just took a little more equipment…I'm not saying I want the works, just a few little luxuries, there's absolutely no reason why I couldn't come."
He was finally beginning to crumble. He looked into his wife's eyes, worry and love warring for dominance.
"What about your checkups? Who will monitor your health?"
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Beverly kept her voice soft, but she couldn't disguise her amusement.
"I'm a Doctor, my love; I can monitor my own health."
Jean-Luc chewed his lower lip and shook his head.
"I still don't like it Beverly. The Enterprise will be well out of communications range and that's not taking into account Herros IV's natural dampening field. If something went wrong we couldn't call for help, in fact even using the shuttle, we'd have to get almost clear of the Herros system before we could send any subspace messages."
Draping her arms over his shoulders, Beverly smiled tenderly.
"Come on Jean-Luc…what could possibly go wrong? You always make sure you prepare very thoroughly whenever you take the boys camping and they know to obey you. And if it's the pregnancy you're worried about, you know I'm as fit as a fiddle and so is the baby. Face it my love, there is no reasonable excuse to prevent me from going…except your stubbornness."
Capitulation wasn't as painful as he thought it would be, but still, worry niggled him. He sighed and said softly,
"Very well Beverly, but it will be on one condition."
Stifling her irritation, Beverly said cautiously,
"And that is?"
He looked deeply into her eyes.
"That you get clearance from Selar."
Brightening immediately, Beverly grinned.
"You're on!"

 

 

 

Paul Picard was very patient for a twelve year old. He was like his father, both physically and in his demeanour. With his PADD held in his hand, he waited outside the classroom while his younger brother indulged in yet another argument with Stacey Grimble. David was more like his mother in temperament although he was more a mixture of his parents physically. He had his father's dark hazel eyes and dimpled chin, but unlike his older brother, there was a definite shade of red in his hair and a pugnacious lift to his jaw. David seemed to revel in confrontation, arguing being his favourite pastime. That he chose to argue so frequently with Stacey amused Paul, he could see his brother liked the girl, but mentioning that fact to David would only provoke him, so, like his father, Paul kept his thoughts to himself.
Finally David emerged, energised, his eyes sparkling. Paul offered a long suffering grin and both boys fell into step as they traversed the corridor on the way to the nearest turbolift.
The eighteen month age difference rarely showed in the boys, they were gifted children, products of their genetic inheritance. Being physically alike, however, didn't mean they shared other traits. Their interests varied widely as did their tastes in things like clothing and music, but one thing they did share was an interest in archaeology. Their father had introduced them to it at an early age and had fostered their fledgling curiosity, augmenting it with camping trips to archaeological sites. Their next trip was only two days away and the boys were very, very excited. This had been planned for over a year; much depending on how close the Enterprise was going to come to the system and how much time their father could take off work.
Now, with everything seeming to fall into place, they had only two days to wait. As they stood at the turbolift, waiting for a car, David said to his brother,
"Are you packed?"
Giving a solemn nod, Paul acknowledged David's question, then sighed and asked one of his own.
"Do you think Papa will cancel?"
With a frown, David shook his head just as the lift doors opened. They stepped into the empty car and the younger brother cast Paul a scathing look, whilst muttering,
"Deck nine." He then grumbled,
"Why the hell would he cancel?"
Giving David an admonishing look for his use of less then polite language, Paul sighed.
"Don't tell me you haven't noticed Mum lately."
Realisation dawned.
"Oh, that. Yeah well maybe it's because she's so fat."
Paul rolled his eyes.
"She's not fat you idiot, she's pregnant. There's a big difference and if you paid a little more attention to her, you would see that she's upset about something."
David glared at his brother.
"I know what she's upset about Paul…she wants to come with us and Papa won't let her."
The lift stopped and the doors opened. The boys continued their conversation as they walked down the corridor.
"What do you think about it?" Paul asked.
David shrugged.
"I don't know, but if Papa thinks she should stay here, then I think maybe she should."
Just as they approached their quarters, Paul sighed and looked at his younger brother.
"If she does, I'll miss her."
The doors opened and the boys walked through. As the doors hissed closed, David murmured softly,
"Me too."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had finished most of what he wanted to get done and was sipping a well earned cup of Earl Grey tea in his Ready Room before making a final log entry for the day and ending his shift. He let his mind wander, but it kept coming back to the day's earlier discussion with Beverly. He sighed, put his cup down on the desktop and leaned back in his chair, stretching and taking a deep breath. He muttered to himself,
"Are we doing the right thing?"
Shaking his head, he devoted some thought to the pregnancy. It had been a complete surprise. After many years of close friendship, their relationship had altered dramatically one night after Jean-Luc had been discharged from Sick Bay. He had been rather badly injured in a diplomatic mission that had gone horribly wrong. A terrorist organisation had planted a bomb in the meeting chambers and the resultant explosion had slaughtered seventeen people, six crewmen from the Enterprise and eleven indigenous beings. There had also been many casualties, Jean-Luc being one of them; in fact if not for the immense bravery of an Ensign on the security team, Jean-Luc would have been killed. She had thrown herself over her Captain to shield him and in doing so, lost her life.
His injuries had been severe, requiring three bouts of extensive surgery and a nine day stay in Sick Bay. His constant companion through those long days was his best friend and Doctor, Beverly Crusher. She not only healed him, she nursed him through the lengthy regen treatments and rehabilitation therapies. She was there when his temper got the better of him; she was there when he felt despair and she was there when his nightmares woke him screaming in the night. Their already profound bond deepened and, two days after he had been discharged to finish his recuperation in his quarters, Beverly came by in the evening and Jean-Luc knew immediately something about her had undergone a fundamental change.
She was nervous, barely able to sit still and, oddly, she wouldn't look him in the eye. He was puzzled and not a little worried, but he didn't push her, having enquired if anything was wrong and receiving a negative reply.
They ate an uncomfortable meal, one peppered with long silences and telling small talk. Usually, after dinner, they customarily retired to the sofa to enjoy a brandy or perhaps a cup of tea, but on this night Beverly stood from the table, offered a tight smile and appreciation for the meal, then abruptly turned towards the door.
Jean-Luc was dismayed. He stood, his hand rising of its own volition.
"Beverly…don't go."
He wanted her to stay, he always did. As much as he adored these evening with her, the pain of her leaving stabbed deeply into his heart. He loved her, had done for over twenty five years. He knew it, she knew it, but they danced around each other, suppressing the potent sexual tension for the sake of their precious friendship.
Beverly stopped just shy of the door sensor, her head bowed and her body trembling. Jean-Luc approached her cautiously, as one would approach a frightened animal. Keeping his deep voice low and soft he said,
"Whatever it is, you can tell me."
To his relief she slowly turned and lifted her head and for the first time that night, she looked into his eyes.
He was so deeply shocked by what he saw, he took a backward step. For the first time in all the years he had known her, she was looking at him with unmistakable love in her eyes. Tears welled, then spilled down her face as her lower lip trembled. In a whisper he had to strain to hear she said,
"I can't do this any more."
Overcoming his shock, he stepped closer, daring to take her hand in his.
"What is it you can't do any more, Beverly?"
More tears slid down her face as a soft sob broke through her breathing.
"This…you and me."
Dreading what she was going to say, he took a deep breath and asked,
"What do you mean?"
Beverly raised a hand and wiped ineffectually at her tears.
"You and me…us…Jean-Luc, you very nearly died not long ago."
He remained silent.
"For some time now I have realised my feelings for you go way beyond mere friendship, even a friendship as strong and as deep as ours. I've…"
She took a shuddering breath.
"I've been dreaming of you Jean-Luc…all sorts of dreams, some…actually a lot have been erotic in nature, but some have been horrible, nightmares about you leaving me…dying…"
With a shake of her head she stalked past him and went to the viewport, wrapping her arms around herself. He turned and followed her coming to stand directly behind her. He looked at her reflection in the clear aluminium of the viewport.
"I can't deny it any more, Jean-Luc. I love you, but it scares the hell out of me."
There was silence as they stared at each other. Eventually Jean-Luc sighed as tears welled in his eyes. In a whisper he said,
"You love me?"
Beverly turned, still hugging herself.
"Uh huh and I'm terrified."
Words other than 'I love you' filtered through to his brain. With a frown he asked,
"Why? Why are you so frightened, Beverly?"
Anger flashed in her cerulean eyes making them glitter.
"Because I don't want to love you! I want it the way it was, when we were just friends! When it wouldn't destroy me so utterly if anything were to happen to you! When I had a chance to maybe recover!"
Confused and dismayed, Jean-Luc took a step closer to the anguished woman. With a raised hand in warning to keep his distance, Beverly glared at him.
"Don't Jean-Luc, don't try to placate me. I've been struggling with this for weeks…months…and it's driving me nuts!"
Keeping his voice soft and trying to hide the pain she was causing him, he said,
"Why didn't you tell me?"
She shook her head, pressing her fingertips against her brow.
"I wanted to…God…I tried to so many times, but I always got cold feet. Then you were injured and it looked…at one stage…like you might not make it. And it was up to me to save you! Jesus Jean-Luc! Part of me was panic stricken that you might die and another part was trying desperately to stay calm while I did what I could to save you."
She sat heavily down on the sofa.
"And then I realised if you died I would have never had the opportunity to know what it was like to be in a loving relationship with you and that made me so very angry."
She sighed and softly sniffed.
"And then you slowly got better and I knew I was right back where I started."
Jean-Luc gingerly sat beside her, close, but not too close. On one hand he was absolutely overjoyed at her confession, but adversely he was dismayed by her anguish.
Taking Beverly's sudden silence, he said softly,
"Do you know just how long I have been in love with you?"
Beverly lifted her head and wiped at her tears.
"Not exactly."
"Twenty-five long years, Beverly. Do you know what that means?"
She shook her head.
"It means I fell in love with you the instant we first met."
"Oh."
With a rueful smile, Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"Beverly I understand your fear, I share it. When I have to send you into dangerous situations I'm absolutely terrified and each time I die a little inside. But I am a coward, Beverly. I hide in my uniform, I use my position as Captain to put up a wall so to the outside I appear unperturbed, but Beverly, if anything ever happened to you I doubt I would recover. I knew all those years ago, when you chose Jack, that I was going to have to live with my feelings for you."
He shook his head.
"Unrequited love hurts Beverly, it hurts like hell, but I wouldn't change these last years for anything. Your friendship has meant the world to me and now that I know you love me…"
A single tear slid down his face and he took a deep breath.
"Beverly our love need not cause you fear or anguish. Isn't it better that we know now how each of us feels…and try to live however long we have left as lovers as well as best friends? You have already enriched my life. Let me enrich yours. Let me show you that our love can bring happiness beyond our dreams. Let me chase away your fears."
He edged closer and took her hand.
"Let me love you."
He let go of her hand and cradled her face in his palms. Slowly he approached her and she held her breath as their lips touched. His kiss was tender and soft and she marvelled at how he managed to restrain himself. Slowly her hands came up, encircling his head. She opened her mouth to him and his tongue tentatively entered, to be met by her tongue…gently and softly.
He let go of her face and embraced her, gently pulling her closer. She went willingly and he deepened the kiss. Their tears mingled as did their breaths. Beverly's heart was pounding and her head was spinning. Never, never before had she been kissed so lovingly. After some time Jean-Luc tapered the kiss and looked into her eyes.
"I love you Beverly, with every fibre of my being and if you will let me, I will spend the rest of my life showing you."
Though she was crying freely, Beverly smiled tenderly and summoned what was left of her voice.
"I love you Jean-Luc, with all my heart and soul. If you will have me, I am yours…for eternity."
They kissed again before Jean-Luc whispered huskily,
"Let me make love to you Beverly."
She nuzzled his neck and whispered into his ear,
"Yes my love…slowly...sweetly…as only you can."
He smiled as he stood and helped her to her feet. Looking deeply into her eyes he said richly,
"As I have so often dreamed."
They made love three times that night. The first like she had asked, slow and sweet, then they slept for a while and woke simultaneously to make love again, this time with heated passion…ravishing each other. They slept again and it was Beverly who woke first. She lay quietly in the darkness, listening to her lover's breathing. He seemed to know she was awake; his eyes opened and glittered in the dark. Wordlessly they kissed and made love again, this time with amusement as they learned more about what pleased each other.
There was no dawn to their new day, being in space, unless they were near a sun; it was inky black outside, the only light coming from the pinpoints of stars. But it was a new dawn for Beverly and Jean-Luc.
As they lay together, entwined and utterly content, Beverly sighed, causing Jean-Luc to tighten his arms around her.
His voice rumbled in the otherwise silent room.
"What is it my love? Do you regret…"
Beverly lifted her head, trying to see into Jean-Luc's eyes.
"No…not at all, in fact I'm deliriously happy."
"Then why do I detect a note of sadness in your voice?"
She sighed again.
"Because we wasted so much time…and it was my fault. If I'd only been…"
He kissed her temple and muttered,
"Don't think like that Beverly, it's pointless. We have each other in the here and now. Look forwards, not backwards. In fact…"
He lifted her head to look into her eyes.
"I have a question for you."
Not knowing what to expect, Beverly's heart accelerated.
"A question?"
"Uh huh."
She swallowed to wet her suddenly dry mouth.
"What is it?"
He smiled, but Beverly could barely see him.
"Marry me, Beverly."
There was a momentary silence before Beverly said shakily,
"That's not a question."
There was a long suffering sigh before she heard,
"Very well. Beverly Crusher…will you marry me…please?"
Beverly softly gasped as everything suddenly became clear. In her mind she rejoiced.
"I love him! I've loved him for so long…oh God…yes!"
Jean-Luc waited patiently for her answer, but his stomach had been invaded by enormous butterflies. When she had remained silent for a few minutes, he summoned his voice to say,
"Beverly?"
Abruptly snapped out of her revelations, Beverly looked into the glittering points of light that were his eyes and nodded, barely able to speak.
"Yes."
Jean-Luc blinked, daring to believe what he had just heard, but doubting it anyway.
"What?"
With a small giggle, Beverly stretched up and kissed her lover. She then leaned to his ear and whispered,
"Yes, Jean-Luc…yes, I'll marry you."
His hug was bear-like making Beverly laugh out loud, but his kiss was one of unbridled passion and the love they made afterwards, extraordinary.
Beverly didn't know it, but when they married in a simple ceremony on the Enterprise six weeks later, she was pregnant. Jean-Luc was unable to use a contraceptive implant because of his parthenogenetic heart and Beverly had been remiss in having hers renewed. She had, in one sense, been unlucky. Normally with the implants, there was a three week window between the expiry of the implant and the insertion of a new one. Under normal circumstances, there would be enough of the hormones present in the body to prevent conception, however, in Beverly's case, she proved to be exceptionally fertile.
She had her suspicions, but it wasn't until they were on their honeymoon, that she finally scanned herself and found out. At first she was worried, worried for several reasons, nonetheless that she and her husband hadn't discussed the topic of children and she wasn't sure how he would take it, but as usual, Jean-Luc Picard surprised her.
At first he was shocked, so shocked that he abruptly left the room and didn't return for over an hour. During this time Beverly sat in their beach-side cabin, agonising over the situation. But when he finally returned, he was smiling. He went to his wife, knelt at her knees and took her hands in his, saying in a rough voice,
"I am overjoyed my love…I am unsure as to how you have done it, but you have managed to complete me. Thank you."
It was a stunned Beverly who was helped to her feet. They kissed, tenderly at first but soon passionately and the love they made was not only physically satisfying, but emotionally wonderful and sustaining.

 

 

 

Paul's birth was a little chaotic. Beverly had exceeded her due date by two weeks and almost everybody on the ship was on tenterhooks. Jean-Luc, despite many suggestions that he take some time off, found he couldn't spend all of his day with Beverly. Too many people dropped by their quarters and besides, he was too nervous. No, he felt the best place for him, after spending his mornings with his wife, was the Bridge, or more specifically, his Ready Room and it was there that he finally received the call he'd been waiting for.
"Selar to Captain Picard."
His mechanical heart wasn't supposed to miss a beat, but it did. He swallowed, briefly closed his eyes and summoned an even voice.
"Picard here, go ahead Doctor."
"Captain, your wife is in the final stages of labour. Your presence is required."
His eyes snapped open as he stood, slightly gaping.
"Final stages...but why wasn't I…
"Now Captain!"
His training kicked in.
"On my way."
He had wanted to give Beverly a message of support, but that went out the window. He literally ran out of his office, saying to Will,
"You have the Bridge Number One!"
And as he entered the turbolift he said, almost as an afterthought,
"I'll be in Sick Bay!"
With a knowing grin, Will turned to the Lieutenant at Tactical.
"What's the pool up to?"
The young man grinned.
"Five thousand and eighty credits Sir."
With his patented shit-eating grin firmly in place, Will lifted his head and softly called,
"Riker to Humphries."
"Humphries here Commander."
"Mark the time Ensign, the Captain just left for Sick Bay in one hell of a hurry."
There was a muffled, "Shit!" followed by,
"Marked Sir. Will you monitor the situation?"
Will's eyes twinkled.
"You bet. Remember the entire pot goes on gender, eye colour, hair colour, time of birth and weight."
"Understood Commander. Humphries out."
As Will took his seat, the Lieutenant at Tactical muttered,
"You're going to win, aren't you Sir."
His grin widening impossibly more, Will chuckled.
"I intend to, Lieutenant, I intend to."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc burst into the birthing room to find Deanna holding Beverly's hand. By the look on Deanna's face, Jean-Luc correctly surmised she was sensing Beverly's pain. Glad that Beverly had the support of her best friend; Jean-Luc offered a wan smile as Deanna made way for him to be at his wife's side.
Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand. Beverly opened her eyes and was about to say something when a contraction took her. She arched up off the bed, gritting her teeth and groaning loudly. Jean-Luc put his arm around her back, saying softly,
"Breathe, Beverly, breathe with it."
The sweaty Doctor speared her husband with a withering glare and ground out,
"Fuck that! If you're so fucking good at this…you do it!"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed. He had discovered two immutable facts about Beverly and pregnancy. One left him very happy, if not somewhat exhausted as she developed an almost insatiable appetite for sex. The other fact was she found ever more colourful and increasingly obscene ways to express herself.
He ignored her outburst and wiped a cool cloth over her beaded brow. The hand she was holding was beginning to throb, Beverly's grip vice-like. That too he ignored as the next contraction seized her. Over Beverly protracted howl, Selar's calm voice said,
"The head is crowning."
Jean-Luc held his trembling wife to his chest as she pushed with all her might. Two consecutive contractions had Selar saying,
"The child is born, you have a son. Captain, would you like to sever the umbilical cord?"
With his mouth ajar, Jean-Luc stared numbly at the Vulcan Doctor. It was Beverly who jolted him back to reality.
"Go on Jean-Luc…cut the cord and bring me my son."
Almost in a dream-like state, Jean-Luc went to Selar and took the offered implement. It was only a matter of seconds before his tiny, bundled son was placed in his arms. He turned and looked at the infant, then lifted his teary eyes to his wife. In an uncharacteristically shaky voice he managed,
"Beverly, we have a son."
She held out her arms.
"I know."
Walking on trembling legs, Jean-Luc went to his wife and gently laid the bundle in her arms. Beverly pulled back the blankets and kissed the baby's tiny nose.
"Hello Paul Robert Picard. I'm your Mummy."
Beverly looked up at her husband to watch him offer the baby his forefinger. The infant gripped his finger and he smiled.
"Welcome aboard my little son. I'm your Papa."

 

 

 

David's birth was a little more orderly, although it was still late. This time, Beverly was eight days over her due date when, in the middle of the night in bed, her water broke. She slept blissfully on, but Jean-Luc woke, frowning in confusion as he registered that his left thigh was wet. He turned over to find Beverly's lower half of the bed was saturated. Sitting up, he softly called,
"Lights, twenty percent."
He blinked owlishly, then gently shook his wife's shoulder, saying softly,
"Beverly? Beverly, wake up."
As was usual with Beverly in the late stages of her pregnancy, her reply was curt and to the point.
"Fuck off, Jean-Luc."
He sighed and shook his head.
"Look, I know you don't want to wake up, but the bed's wet and I think your waters have broken."
Beverly's eyes snapped open and it was then she realised she was wet. Dragging herself into a sitting position, she grumbled,
"Shit!"
Before Jean-Luc could say anything else, she suddenly winced, her hands going to her distended belly.
"Oh fuck…that was a contraction!"
Jean-Luc's heart skipped a beat as he raised his head and called,
"Picard to Sick Bay."
The reply was instantaneous.
"Yes, Captain, Doctor Reynolds here, go ahead."
Jean-Luc opened his mouth to speak, but Beverly beat him to it.
"I'm in labour Stan, call Selar would you? I'll be there shortly."
"Acknowledged, Doctor Picard. Would you like me to send a gravibed?"
Jean-Luc was nodding vigorously as Beverly said,
"No, that won't be necessary Stan; the walk will do me good. Picard out."
As Beverly left the bed, Jean-Luc stared open mouthed.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
His outraged tone made Beverly whirl around and point her finger at him.
"Now you see here, Jean-Luc, I'll be damned if I'm going to arrive in my own fucking Sick Bay on a gravibed! There's absolutely no reason why I can't walk there…especially if you help me! Now get out of the fucking bed, we have work to do!"
Somewhat stunned by her outburst, Jean-Luc slid from the bed, grimacing with distaste as the cool air of their quarters made his wet shorts very cold. Beverly was in the bathroom and he could hear the shower running. He went into the room to see her wet nightie on the floor and Beverly in the stall. Shrugging, he doffed his shorts and joined her.
Twice during their shower he had to hold her as contractions seized her. He wanted to comment that they were getting closer together, but in her present mood, he decided to let sleeping Beverly's lie.
Once out of the shower and dressing, Beverly muttered,
"You'd better call Deanna, she's going to watch Paul, remember?"
Snapping his fingers, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Oh right."
He tapped his comm. badge.
"Picard to Troi."
A very sleepy voice answered.
"Is it time Captain?"
"Yes Deanna, could you come to our quarters immediately please?"
"On my way."
As the comm. closed they heard Will mumble,
"What?"
Beverly chuckled.
"Sounds like Will's not quite awake yet."
Jean-Luc snorted.
"He soon will be. He's running another pool."
With a grunt, Beverly beckoned for Jean-Luc to help her put on her shoes.
"After he cleaned up the first time, I'm surprised anyone would bet against him."
Kneeling at the foot of the bed, Jean-Luc sighed and tossed the shoe over his shoulder.
"You've got too much fluid my love, they won't go on."
Beverly scowled.
"Fuck! Shit! I don't want to walk into Sick Bay bare foot and pregnant!"
Unfortunately Jean-Luc couldn't stifle a chuckle. Beverly planted her foot square in his chest and shoved him off balance. He landed on his backside and gave his wife a glare of wounded outrage.
"What was that for?"
"For laughing at me, that's what!"
He took a deep, calming breath.
"I wasn't laughing at you Beverly; I was laughing at the situation."
She glared at him, tears welling in her eyes.
"Well I don't think it's funny!"
Knowing her emotions were on a roller coaster, Jean-Luc slowly got to his feet and took her hands.
"I know my love, I'm sorry. Come on, come and sit down on the sofa while we wait for Deanna."
Their journey to the living area was halted by another contraction. Jean-Luc was about to call Deanna to see when she would arrive, when the doors chimed.
"Come."
Deanna breezed in, her obsidian eyes dancing.
"What are you still doing here? Go…get to Sick Bay!"
Offering an appreciative smile, Jean-Luc stood and helped Beverly to her feet, then together they made their slow way to Sick Bay.
David's arrival occurred less then two hours later. He was a big baby, nearly four kilos and Beverly was exhausted at the births' end. Jean-Luc held his newly born son and sighed.
"We have another boy."
Beverly grimaced.
"As much as I adore boys…a little girl would've been nice."
Jean-Luc looked up from his son and grinned.
"We can always have another."
By her look, Jean-Luc knew he had said the wrong thing. He frowned and shook his head.
"Sorry."
Beverly sighed.
"Didn't we decide that two was enough?"
He nodded.
"Yes, you're right, two is plenty."
Struggling to sit up, Beverly pushed at her damp hair, trying to get the wet tendrils off her face.
"Jean-Luc really, at my age…"
He silenced her by putting David in her arms. While he watched her become bewitched by her new son, he stroked her hair.
"I know Beverly, please forgive me, I was a little taken up by the moment."
She gave him a grateful smile and kissed David's nose.
"Hi there little boy, you're David you have a big brother called Paul and I'm your Mum."
Jean-Luc bent over and smiled.
"And I'm your Papa, welcome aboard."
David yawned and promptly fell asleep.

 

 

Just on ten years later, Beverly came out of the bathroom, massaging her fingers into the small of her back. Jean-Luc looked up from his book and noted his wife's slightly green pallor. He closed the book on his finger to keep his place and asked softly,
"Beverly…are you all right?"
She waved away his concerned enquiry and plonked down on the sofa.
"Oh I'm fine Jean-Luc, I just feel a little off. Must be some kind of minor bug."
He pursed his lips.
"Perhaps you should see Selar?"
With a snort, Beverly leaned back and put her feet on the low table.
"For what? An upset stomach and a few joint pains?"
Jean-Luc stood and went to the replicator.
"At least let me get you an antacid."
Beverly sighed.
"Oh all right, but make it peppermint flavoured please, I hate the orange one."
"Will do."
Within seconds, Jean-Luc was sitting next to his wife, gently encouraging her to drink the cup of thick white liquid. She downed the concoction and smiled at her husband.
"Thank you."
He took the cup and put it on the low table. Then he sat back and began to massage Beverly's neck. She all but purred and relaxed under his hands. He added to her pleasure by nuzzling her neck with his lips. She sighed and let her head loll back.
"Hmm, that's nice."
He moved his mouth near her ear and whispered,
"How would you like a full body massage?"
A dreamy smile emerged and she nodded, saying saucily,
"As long as it ends in good sex."
He chuckled, a deep, rich sound that sent shivers down Beverly's spine.
"I think that can be arranged."
He stood and helped her to her feet. Hand in hand they walked to the bedroom and as Beverly began to strip, Jean-Luc said,
"I'll just go and check on the boys."
She smiled sultrily and jiggled her breasts at him.
"Don't be long."
He shook his head and left the room, a wry grin on his face. He was back very soon and to Beverly's raised eyebrow he nodded, saying,
"They're both sound asleep."
The red head was sprawled face down on the bed and Jean-Luc hardened at the sight of her naked body. He quickly undressed and straddled her, noting she had replicated some warm oil. He covered his hands and began.
Half an hour later, Beverly was writhing under her husband, flexing through her fourth orgasm. She was so energised…every part of her was highly erogenous. During her massage she had come, by him merely touching her clit. Now, as he slowly slid his thick, long, stiff penis in and out of her, she came quickly and easily and in the back of Jean-Luc's mind, an alarm went off. But he quickly ignored it as his own climax approached. As Beverly lifted her legs over his shoulders and begged him for more, he closed his eyes and gave up his formidable control. With hard, fast thrusts he sent Beverly into a cataclysmic orgasm as he reached his own release. He shouted incoherently as he held himself as deeply inside her as he could get. Spasming around him, Beverly's body shuddered and trembled through her after shocks.
Minutes later Beverly gently bit his earlobe, making him raise his head from its resting place on her shoulder. He looked, bleary eyed down at his wife to see her smiling.
"That was absolutely fantastic, Jean-Luc."
He slowly rolled to his side and lay slightly panting.
"Glad I could be of service."
Beverly chuckled and snuggled into his lean form. Remembering what had alarmed him, he said softly,
"I want you to go to Sick bay tomorrow for a check up."
Sleepily she muttered,
"Why?"
Holding his own oblivion at bay he murmured,
"I think you're pregnant."
There was no reply, Beverly was asleep and so was Jean-Luc.

 

 

 

He was right of course. With his suspicions nagging him, he had asked his wife the next morning to let him know when she was going to consult Selar. Beverly hadn't remembered what he'd said the night before and was considering not calling him, but she weighed the consequences of his disappointment and called him any way. Selar was just completing her scans when the Captain joined them.
Beverly was blasé, but Jean-Luc was deadly serious. Selar rechecked her tricorder and sighed.
"Doctor Picard, I thought we'd agreed you would take precautions until menopause was complete."
Beverly's pupils dilated.
"What are you saying?"
Proffering the tricorder, Selar stated what Beverly could plainly see.
"You are five weeks pregnant."
Beverly sat in stunned silence while Jean-Luc lowered his head and waited for the explosion. He didn't have to wait long. With an abrupt fling of her arm, Beverly threw the tricorder across the room, accompanied by,
"Fucking hell!"
Somewhat alarmed that his wife should express herself so loudly, and obscenely in her own Sick Bay, Jean-Luc gently gripped her shoulder and said quietly,
"Perhaps we can take this into your office?"
The staff watched in stunned silence as Beverly slid off the bio bed and stalked across the main room and into her inner sanctum. Jean-Luc followed her and Selar said softly,
"I will be available for consultation if you need me, Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded his thanks and entered Beverly's office. While she paced like a caged beast, he opaqued the windows and shut the door. He knew while the storm raged he was going to be the target of her anger. He sighed and bowed his head.
"Calm down Beverly."
She rounded on him, her words flung like darts.
"Calm down? Oh that's right…you're not the one who's pregnant! You're not the one who's going to go through fucking morning sickness and aching joints! You're not the one who'll be up every ten minutes to pee! For God's sake Jean-Luc…I'm too old for this! This is YOUR fault…it has to be!"
Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc swallowed and tried again.
"Selar said you were going through menopause. Why didn't you tell me?"
Her hand went from rubbing her brow to flapping away his words.
"Because it's of no consequence. Dammit Jean-Luc…these days menopause is nothing! We can hold it off, bring it on…it is barely noticeable to most women."
He made sure he kept his voice low and even.
"But you went off your implant."
The glare was back. She speared him and her tone was defensive.
"Yes! I had to, to allow my body to adjust to the decreased hormones. Once menopause was over, I could adjust my hormones to any level that suited me. How the hell was I to know I was still ovulating?"
Holding up a placating hand, Jean-Luc guided the slowly subsiding woman to her desk. He sat her down and perched on the desktop.
"Beverly, this is no one's fault…it just happened. What we have to do, is decide what we're going to do about it. What are our options?"
With tears threatening, Beverly sighed.
"Basically there are three options. The first I absolutely refuse, and that's termination. The second is I carry the baby and the third is that we utilise an artificial womb."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"All right, I agree with you about the first option. Now, the other two. What do you want to do?"
Her tears began to fall and she lowered her head to rest on his thigh. He had to strain to hear her.
"I don't know."
He gently stroked her hair as he said,
"You won't be any less of a mother if you don't carry the baby my love."
Beverly lifted her head and sniffed.
"I know that Jean-Luc, but I want to…the thing is I don't know if I can."
He gave that some thought.
"Well, what are our medical options? What can be done for you to make it easier?"
Sitting back in her chair, Beverly finally began to think straight.
"Oh, actually there's quite a bit that can be done. There are a multitude of drugs I can take to alleviate my symptoms and I'm sure I can work on reduced hours to keep my energy levels up…"
She looked up at her husband.
"Yes…I think this could work!"
She stood and embraced her husband before kissing him soundly.
"We're going to have another baby! Thank you Jean-Luc!"
He didn't roll his eyes, but he wanted to. He smiled, but he sighed inwardly. Living with Beverly was always going to be interesting.

 

 

 

As with the previous two pregnancies, they decided to resist the urge to identify the gender, wishing to be surprised when the child was born. Beverly was given some drugs to relieve the pain of her aching joints and an anti-emetic to counter the nausea.
Being late in the day shift, Jean-Luc called the Bridge to say he was knocking off for the day and together, the couple went to the classroom to pick up their sons.
Both Paul and David sensed something was in the air, for one thing, it was very unusual for both parents to pick them up together and, uncharacteristically, their father was holding their mother's hand…all the way back to their quarters. They knew their father very well and understood his need to maintain a certain level of remoteness while on duty, but in the privacy of their home, he was demonstrative with all of them, openly demonstrating his love and affection.
So when the family finally reached their quarters, it was David, predictably, who broke the ice.
"What's up with you two?"
Beverly smiled as she went to the replicator and ordered four glasses of Champagne, leaving her husband to deal with his sons.
"We have some good news."
Again it was David, who said,
"You've been promoted to Admiral?"
With a wry smile, Jean-Luc shook his head. Beverly joined them with a tray and they all took a tall flute of bubbling wine. Jean-Luc and Beverly held hands again and Beverly said softly,
"We're going to have a baby."
There was a protracted silence from the boys. Jean-Luc sipped his Champagne then asked,
"Have you anything to say?"
Paul smiled and raised his glass.
"Congratulations Mum, Papa."
David lifted his glass too, but his smile was a little slow in coming.
"Yeah, congrats and all that, but I'm not sure I want a little brother."
Jean-Luc smiled and said softly,
"Or a little sister?"
With a stunned gasp, David looked at his older brother.
"Oh my God…it might be a girl!"
Paul shrugged.
"So?"
Panic stricken, David looked beseechingly at his mother.
"Do you know?"
She shook her head.
"No, we decided on being surprised."
Looking into his glass, as if the wine could give him answers, David sighed.
"This is a disaster."
Beverly chuckled and Jean-Luc put a reassuring arm around his younger son.
"I'm sure everything will be all right, David. It won't be as bad as you think."
Paul sipped his wine, then asked,
"But Papa, why have you waited so long for another baby? I always thought you and Mum were satisfied with just us two."
Beverly sighed and answered for her husband.
"It was a mistake Paul, we didn't mean to make another baby…it just sort of happened."
The serious lad frowned.
"But you want it?"
Jean-Luc gave a decisive nod.
"Yes, very much."
With a shrug, Paul grinned.
"Then it's okay with me."
Jean-Luc downed the rest of his wine, then took Beverly's glass.
"Right! Well lads, we men are going to have to look after your mother. This pregnancy will be very hard on her so we'll have to make sure she doesn't do too much."
Paul grinned.
"Will do Papa."
David sighed.
"Okay."
As the adults went about their business the boys retired to their room. Paul, as usual, began to study. David flung himself onto his bed and groaned.
"Oh God…a squalling baby to put up with. You know Steve Gersh?"
Paul nodded absently, not really listening, but David didn't notice.
"He's got a new baby brother and he reckons he's going to request his own quarters. Hey…"
He sat up, snapping his fingers.
"Maybe we could do that! It would be so cool, Paul…we could have our own rooms…oh yeah…I'm going to ask Mum."
Lifting his head, Paul sighed.
"Don't be such a dweeb, Dave; you know damn well neither Mum nor Papa would let us have our own quarters. You're just going to have to get used to the idea of a new baby."
Folding his arms across his chest, David glowered.
"So that's it? Get over it? Well I don't think it's fair!"
Paul shrugged, returning to his school work. Reluctantly, David picked up his PADD and began to work.
Over dinner that night, Paul brought up something that had been troubling him. Carefully placing his cutlery beside his plate, he softly cleared his throat.
"Papa?"
Jean-Luc looked up from his plate and smiled,
"Oui?"
It was an old joke and Paul chuckled, knowing his father was quietly encouraging him to speak in French, but as Paul grew older, he used his father's native language less and less. He was fluent, as was David; it's just that his mates thought it wasn't quite cool.
"Papa, what about our camping trip to Herros?"
Jean-Luc's smile disappeared to be replaced with a frown. He sighed and offered a shrug.
"Well, at this stage I see no reason to alter our plans, of course it still depends on where the Enterprise is going to be and if I can take the time off work, but I don't think the news of your mother's pregnancy should cause us to change things. What do you think Beverly?"
Giving the question adequate thought, Beverly smiled and shook her head.
"No problem. Besides, you three have been planning this trip for eight months now, far be it from me to ruin everything."
Jean-Luc held up a finger.
"Of course it does depend on your mother's health, but if all goes well, we should leave in about seven months from now."
David, idly pushing the remains of his dinner around his plate with his fork, spoke softly, but Jean-Luc heard the hope in his voice.
"Have you got any idea of the ship's schedule for that time?"
With a knowing grin, Jean-Luc wiped his mouth then took his time in placing his serviette beside his plate, knowing David was waiting eagerly for his reply.
"As a matter of fact, I do. About the time we have planned to go, the Enterprise will be swinging by the Saroria sector. Now if you'd like to look that up…"
Paul sat forward, keen to show his father he already knew.
"The Saroria sector is only seven AUs beyond the Herros system."
Jean-Luc nodded then turned to David.
"And how far is an Astronomical Unit?"
The boy frowned, his lips thinning as he thought hard.
"It's…one point four nine five, by ten to the eleventh power metres. It is the distance from the centre of the Earth to the centre of the Sun in the Sol system."
Jean-Luc clapped the lad on the shoulder.
"Well done David. Now, how's your history? Do you remember I told you about Imperial measurements?"
David frowned, but Paul nodded.
"Yes. Many countries of Earth used to use IM centuries ago."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Very good. Well can you tell me what an AU is expressed in miles?"
Both boys scrabbled to leave the table. In the sudden silence of their departure, Beverly chuckled.
"You are clever Jean-Luc. You manage to teach them by making it interesting."
The Captain shrugged.
"I clearly remember my own school years and some very good teachers who made learning a pleasure for me."
Beverly stood and began to clear the table. Jean-Luc joined her and she whispered,
"It's one of the things about you that I knew would make you such a great father, my love."
It was Paul who won the race back to the dining table with David hot on his heels. Jean-Luc smiled and pointed to his eldest son. He straightened with pride.
"Ninety two point nine million miles."
Jean-Luc ruffled his dark hair.
"Well done! And…remember this. It was France that came up with the metric system we still use today."
Both boys grinned and went to help with the disposing of the dishes. The family settled down to read and Jean-Luc thought to himself,
"My God, I'm so lucky to have a family such as this."
Beverly held her PADD in one hand, the other hand settled protectively over her stomach.

 

 

The chime from the Ready Room door broke Jean-Luc's reverie. With a start he realised he'd been day dreaming for over fifteen minutes. He took his foot off the desk, straightened himself and called,
"Come."
A bemused Will Riker entered. Jean-Luc held up a hand and lowered his head.
"I know Number One; I was wool gathering…I'm just leaving now."
The big, bearded First Officer grinned.
"I can't say that I blame you, Sir. You start your leave tomorrow, I suppose with the camping trip and all, you have a bit on your mind."
Jean-Luc stood and stretched.
"More than you know, Will. It looks like Beverly is coming with us."
The Exec gaped.
"Do you think that's wise, Sir?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No I don't, but the good Doctor has made it abundantly clear she does not want to be left here on the ship while we go camping."
With a soft whistle, Will grabbed the back of the chair in front of the desk.
"But she's what, eight months? Really, Captain…"
Jean-Luc let out a slow breath and rubbed his eyes.
"I know, Will, but honestly, can you think of anything more stultifyingly boring than waiting here on the ship while your husband and children leave you for two weeks? Remember, Will, she's all but relieved of duty."
The big man shrugged.
"I suppose, but she will have Deanna for company."
Being the consummate professional he was, Jean-Luc showed no outward reaction to that statement, but inside he cringed. He smiled, his dark eyes twinkling.
"Perhaps it's just as well they won't be left to their own devices Number One. Who knows what they might get up to?"
With a grin, Will nodded.
"Yeah…whatever it would be would involve copious amounts of chocolate."
"Indeed. Now you have the Bridge I take it?"
Will nodded.
"Yes, Sir."
"Then I will take my leave. I'll see you briefly in the morning."
"Right Sir. I'll have the crew roster for your approval then."
Jean-Luc nodded and both men left the office.

 

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc approached his quarters, he slowed and sighed. It seem like so very long ago that he would return to his cabin, tired and lonely after a long day, to eat a solitary meal and retire to his bed…alone. How things have changed. Now he knew his family awaited him. His sons would be eager to tell him about their day and his wife would, if she was home before him, have an aperitif waiting for him. He sighed, the smile that graced his face utterly contented.
As he walked through the doors, Paul looked up from his PADD to call,
"Hello Papa."
On hearing his brother's greeting, David came out of his room and went to his father for a hug.
"Hi Papa."
Jean-Luc kissed the top of David's head and hugged him tight. Then he let go of the boy to amble over to his eldest son. Paul put aside the PADD and rose, hugging his father. Beverly, coming out of the master bedroom, watched as Paul closed his eyes and breathed deeply through his nose, infusing his senses with his father's scent. She smiled wistfully, vaguely remembering doing the same thing with her parents. She was very young when her parents died, but she did have some memories of them, and that was one. She went to the sideboard and poured a sherry. Paul was just letting his father go when she offered Jean-Luc the glass. He took it with an appreciative smile.
"Thank you."
He sipped and closed his eyes.
"Mmm, that really is delicious."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, it's Catalan Ximenez….from Barcelona I think."
Jean-Luc sipped again and sighed.
"Marie should be congratulated, sending us drinks other than Picard wines."
Beverly moved closer to her husband and all but purred,
"Don't I get a kiss hello?"
Paul sat down and snorted.
"Get a room."
Beverly turned and poked her tongue out at her son, making both boys chuckle. Jean-Luc sighed.
"Oh now that's very adult, Beverly. Why not show them how an adult really behaves?"
She turned her attention back to her husband and he knew the instant he saw her expression, he'd made a fatal error in judgement. He had enough time to put his glass down and think,
"Uh oh…"
When she kissed him. It wasn't a peck on the cheek, or even a chaste kiss on the lips, it was a passionate expression of both love and lust. His body stiffened and his hands went to her shoulders, meaning to gently push her away, but as her tongue sensuously intertwined with his, he lost all thought of resistance. He relaxed and kissed her back, wrapping his arms around her and smiling inwardly when she swooned in his embrace.
Her protruding belly made it impossible for full body contact, and perhaps that was a good thing, because Jean-Luc felt a familiar tightening in his groin and knew if he didn't stop the kiss, he would be highly embarrassed. He tapered the kiss and knew by the smoky blue of his wife's eyes, that she was aroused too. Stepping slightly to one side, Jean-Luc whispered into her ear,
"Tonight my love."
Beverly smiled and he sighed at seeing the love…and desire…swirling in their cerulean depths. He sat and crossed his legs, hoping neither son saw the slight bulge in his pants.
It was the boy's turn to replicate the evening meal and they chatted as they went about their tasks.
"Hey Papa, have you packed?"
Jean-Luc looked up from the computer and shook his head.
"Ah…no Paul, in fact there's something I need to discuss with both of you."
He got up from his desk and went to the dining table, helping the boys as they set it.
"You both know that your mother has been somewhat…upset…lately?"
Both boys nodded silently.
"Well the reason she's been upset is because she doesn't want to be left behind when we go camping on Herros IV."
David shrugged.
"But Aunt Dee will keep her company."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything more, Beverly wandered over and sat at the table.
"What would you say if I told you that, at the moment, I found Aunt Dee's company a bit…tiresome?"
Paul, always the pragmatic one, looked at his mother and nodded slowly.
"Because she's pregnant."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes. You know that Aunt Dee is a hybrid?"
Both boys nodded.
"Well, that makes her a little…hard to put up with while she's pregnant. If she was all Human, or all Betazoid, it would be a lot easier…for her too…but as it is, I find her company at the moment a little…tedious."
David frowned.
"So you want to come with us?"
Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
The boys looked at each other and shrugged. It was Paul who spoke for both of them.
"It's okay with us."
Beverly beamed at her boys, tears twinkling in her eyes. Jean-Luc set the plate of warm crusty rolls on the table and said quietly,
"It will depend on what Doctor Selar says, but if she gives the go-ahead, your mother will be accompanying us."
David grinned.
"That's cool Mum, I was going to miss you anyway."
Paul nodded.
"Me too."
The family ate dinner then the boys went to their bedroom to study. Jean-Luc retired to his desk and Beverly to the sofa, her feet on the low table as she read some medical journals.
Later that night, after the boys had gone to bed, Beverly rose from the sofa and went to Jean-Luc's desk. She stood beside him, reading over his shoulder.
"Making things easier for Will?"
Jean-Luc grunted and rubbed his eyes.
"Yes, if I get everything in order, it will make his job that much simpler."
Idly running a finger over his ear, Beverly purred,
"What a kind man you are. When are you coming to bed?"
He knew she was aroused without looking at her. Her tone and the caress to his ear told him all he needed to know.
"Oh, about another hour."
She bent to moisten his inner ear.
"I'm going to bed now…I'll read and wait for you."
Steeling himself for the look of frank desire on her face, Jean-Luc looked up and smiled.
"All right, I'll be along soon enough."
She gently kissed his temple, then bit his earlobe. A spike of sensation went straight to his groin and he closed his eyes, swallowing to wet his suddenly dry mouth. When he opened his eyes, Beverly was sauntering across the room, managing, despite her ungainly size, to swish her behind most provocatively.
Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, the slowly let it out. He was semi erect and he knew if he didn't purge his mind of his wife's wanton movements, scent and seductive voice, he might as well abandon his work and go straight to her. He briefly closed his eyes and counted to twenty in Klingon. Opening his eyes, he concentrated on the computer screen, but after ten minutes of fruitless endeavour he gave up in disgust. As he rose from his desk, still semi erect, he shook his head ruefully.
"Damn you Beverly.", he muttered, although there was a ghost of a smile on his lips.
Asking for the lights to extinguish as he crossed the room, he ended up at his open bedroom door to see Beverly sprawled in the bed, the sheet pulled up under her bare breasts and her legs splayed. She was reading one of what Jean-Luc had named, a knee trembling book. He could see the cover, a lurid depiction of a muscled hero with a swooning female in his strong arms. Hiding his smile, Jean-Luc softly cleared his throat. Beverly looked over the top of the book, her smoky eyes and erect nipples showing her arousal.
"Oh, hello Jean-Luc."
He didn't say anything, he just stripped off his tunic, shirt and vest, leaving him standing in the doorway, bare chested. Beverly's eyes roamed over him, travelling from his face, down his muscled chest and stomach to settle on the bulge in his trousers. As she remained transfixed, Jean-Luc toed off his boots then hoicked his foot to his knee in turn to rid himself of his socks. Then, with is crotch under Beverly's intense gaze, he slowly undid his fly and let his pants drop, where he stepped out of them.
In response, Beverly let the book fall to the floor then pushed the sheet down her body, exposing her nakedness to him. She licked her lips and crooked a finger, saying huskily,
"Come here, Jean-Luc."
He walked slowly to the bed and stood at its edge. Beverly got to her knees and crawled to him, her eyes boring into his. She knelt in front of him and ran her fingers lightly over the straining material of his grey briefs.
"You seem to have quite an impressive erection, my love."
He smiled and when he spoke it was with a low gravelly voice that sent shivers down Beverly's spine.
"So it would seem."
She licked her lips again, swallowing to clear her voice.
"And what did you intend to do with it?"
His smile grew.
"Oh I have a few ideas."
"Like what?"
He trailed his fingers down his wife's face.
"I thought I'd make love to you…push myself in and out of you until you screamed in ecstasy."
Beverly leaned forward and rubbed her face over the straining briefs. As Jean-Luc watched, she slid her fingers through her folds. He reached down and pulled her hand free, lifting it to his mouth to lick her dew off her fingers. Beverly moaned softly and pulled her hand back. She then slid his briefs down and watched as he flicked them off his feet. She moved on the bed, making room for her husband. She lay on her back and reached for him. He lay beside her on his side and kissed her passionately, while his hands roamed over her body. Her tender breasts were gently kneaded and the nipples rolled between his fingers. He rose up and bent to take a nipple in his mouth. Beverly arched at his touch, moaning louder. Knowing Beverly's need was growing urgent, he left her breasts and kissed his way over the large mound of her belly before settling between her spread legs. He gently kissed her labia before sliding his tongue through her folds. Beverly tried to reach his head, to press him to her sex, but with the size of her belly, she couldn't grab him. Instead she gripped the sheets, her knuckles whitening as her grip increased as Jean-Luc feathered his tongue over her clit. Very gently, he slipped two fingers inside her and her climax surged through her with such suddenness; Jean-Luc had to hold her legs apart so she wouldn't smother him. Three times he brought her to orgasm, each time ridiculously easily. Just a few swipes of his tongue over her clit and his questing fingers…and she was there, again and again.
The throbbing of his penis finally began to be too much for the Captain. He kissed his way back up her body and wrapped her in his arms, whispering,
"Are you ready for me?"
She nodded and turned onto her side. Jean-Luc spooned behind her and reached over her hip to tease her again. Gently pushing down on the fan of her pubic hair, he aligned her as he slid his penis inside her.
They both moaned sensuously as the emotional and physical high of penetration swept over them. Jean-Luc waited until Beverly had comfortably accommodated him, then slowly began to thrust. As he slothfully slid in and out of her, his knowing fingers teased her clit. He knew, with her advanced pregnancy, the blood supply to her genitals was greatly increased and as such, she was not only very tender and sensitive, but on a hair trigger. As he slowly continued, Beverly came. He gritted his teeth against the delicious rhythmic contractions that gripped his penis and resolutely continued his slow thrusts, knowing it was what his wife needed. His fingers lightly slid over and around her clit, eliciting climax after climax. Eventually Beverly gasped,
"Now…Oh God Jean-Luc…now!"
This was his signal to release his control. He closed his eyes and began to thrust hard and fast. He still teased her clit and Beverly gripped his hand with hers, helping him to pleasure her. Her body suddenly stiffened and she began to softly scream.
A roaring began in Jean-Luc's ears and, from behind his closed eyelids, bright colours exploded as he ejaculated deeply inside his wife. In a rictus of ecstasy, Beverly's fingernails bit into Jean-Luc's hand as she spasmed through a tremendous orgasm.
It was some time before Jean-Luc was able to lift his head. He kissed Beverly's neck and sighed.
"I love you mon coeur, but your appetite for sex is going to kill me."
She chuckled lazily and slowly turned over, separating them. Looking through slitted eyes at her husband, Beverly grinned.
"Are you complaining?"
He shook his head.
"Not at all, however, whoever does the autopsy is going to have to put on my death certificate….Death by an overabundance of sex."
Beverly chuckled again and stretched.
"God I feel wonderful!"
He snorted.
"You're eight months pregnant, as horny as a teenager and you've just had a dozen orgasms. Why wouldn't you feel good?"
With twinkling eyes, Beverly snuggled up to her husband and nuzzled his neck.
"You're forgetting something."
Somewhat distracted, Jean-Luc said dreamily,
"What?"
"The man responsible for my euphoria is lying right next to me…he's my husband…and I love him with all my heart."
Jean-Luc chuckled tiredly and gathered her into his embrace.
"And I love you, but your beloved husband wants to go to sleep now. You can adore me again in the morning."
Reaching down, Beverly gently grabbed his flaccid penis.
"Promise?"
He sighed and rolled his eyes.
"You are determined to kill me!"
"Is that a yes?"
Closing his eyes, he smiled, whispering,
"Yes."
He slipped into slumber, Beverly not far behind him. They were both smiling.

 

 

 

While the boys made last minute additions to their packs, Jean-Luc accompanied Beverly to Sick Bay. Selar was waiting for them and ushered them into the Captain's private room. As she began her preliminary scans, the Vulcan Doctor asked,
"How are you Doctor Picard?"
Beverly resisted the urge to fidget and smiled.
"I'm actually quite well, thank you. The medication you gave me for the fluid retention has been successful."
Selar frowned and offered an uncharacteristic sigh of exasperation.
"Doctor Picard, the last time you were here, only two weeks ago, I advised you to abstain from vigorous sex."
As the words left her mouth, Jean-Luc flushed and lowered his head. As many times as he'd accompanied his wife for her regular obstetric visits during all of her pregnancies, the frank discussions of their private lives really annoyed him. He was a very private man and this seemingly cavalier disregard for his well nurtured sense of privacy rankled him. Beverly, on the other hand, wasn't fazed in the slightest. She flushed, but her wicked chuckle showed she wasn't embarrassed in the least.
"Oh that….yes, I know what you said Selar, but my libido had other ideas. Besides, it helps me to relax and it's a great sleep inducer."
Snapping her tricorder closed, Selar shook her head.
"That may be so Doctor, but at this late stage of your pregnancy, multiple orgasms could very easily trigger labour."
Beverly shrugged.
"Well at eight months that's no drama. The baby is fully formed; the last four weeks are mainly for weight gain."
Selar sighed. She seemed to do that a lot in Beverly's company.
"Yes Doctor, but a full term baby would be preferred."
Beverly's next comment made the Vulcan shake her head.
"I always seem to go over my due dates anyway."
After administering three hyposprays, Selar nodded.
"Your exam is complete, I have detected no abnormalities. You may go."
Beverly cast a look at her husband and Jean-Luc softly cleared his throat.
"Doctor Selar, there is something we would like to discuss with you…something of some importance."
Affording her CO her undivided attention, Selar clasped her hands in front of her and inclined her head.
"Yes, Captain Picard?"
Jean-Luc took a deep breath and began.
"You may be aware that I, in the company of our children, will soon be leaving for two weeks' leave off the ship."
The Vulcan nodded.
"Yes, Captain."
"We have recently decided it would be very nice if Doctor Picard could accompany us. We seek your medical permission."
Selar raised one perfect eyebrow, her gaze speculative.
"It would be better if she stayed aboard, Captain."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything, Beverly sighed and rolled her eyes.
"But there's no medical reason why I have to stay…is there?"
Selar shook her head.
"Not at this stage. You and the baby are in excellent health."
Beverly smiled encouragingly.
"And as long as I keep receiving my medications…which I can give myself…there's no reason I can't go…right?"
With limitless patience and no emotion, Selar caught Beverly's eyes and spoke softly.
"But as a Doctor, you are well aware of the vagaries of pregnancy. Even though your last two confinements were trouble free and you had relatively easy deliveries, it does not necessarily mean that this pregnancy will be the same. Anything could happen and often does."
Beverly flapped her hand dismissively.
"Captain Picard has taken extensive training in advanced first aid and he has completed level five birth simulations. In a worst case scenario, he could easily deliver me."
Selar's eyes darkened.
"And what if there were complications? The infant was born distressed or you delivered an incomplete placenta…or you haemorrhaged? No, Doctor, there is no substitute for a well equipped medical facility staffed with trained personnel."
Jean-Luc gently squeezed Beverly's hand and said softly,
"She's right, Beverly; this isn't such a good idea."
With a snort, Beverly slid off the bio bed and flicked her hair back. She was angry, but took the time to calm herself.
"Look, I know that you have to see this dispassionately, Selar and I commend you for the diligence you show, but I am unmoved. If we take adequate precautions and I monitor my health, and that of the baby, there is absolutely no reason why I can't go…now is there."
Defeated but unbowed, Selar shook her head.
"No, Doctor."
Smiling sunnily, Beverly said cheerily,
"Then let's hear no more gloom and doom. If you will supply me with two weeks' worth of medications, I can go and pack."
Jean-Luc wasn't happy. As Selar gave a small bow and left the room, he took his wife's hands and looked into her eyes.
"Beverly, I really don't think this is a good idea."
Her anger bubbled up to the surface, but she could see the love and worry in the depths of his dark hazel eyes. With a sigh, she softened her voice.
"Jean-Luc, my love, it will be fine. Do you really think I would endanger the well being of our baby?"
He shook his head, whispering,
"No."
She kissed the tip of his nose.
"Then trust me."
He sighed and gave in.
"Very well."
Selar returned with the medications, all injectable, and bid her patient goodbye. As the couple walked back to their quarters, Jean-Luc lifted his head and smiled.
"I just had a thought."
Smiling at his lighter mood, Beverly took his hand and asked,
"What is it?"
"You know how you said you'd like a few extras…to make the trip more comfortable for you?"
She nodded.
"Uh huh."
His grin widened.
"Well, why don't we take the Calypso?"
Beverly gaped.
"Take the Captain's yacht? Jean-Luc, that's a brilliant idea! It has a fully functional bathroom, a nice master bedroom, replicator…all the mod cons. What a great idea."
With a smug, self indulgent grin, Jean-Luc nodded.
"I thought so. I can camp out with the boys in the tent, but you can afford yourself the luxuries of the yacht."
Just as they neared their quarters, Beverly leaned close and whispered,
"And you can sneak in every so often for some fooling around."
He offered a wry chuckle and rolled his eyes.
"I don't believe it! After what Selar told you about avoiding sex? You're incorrigible!"
Beverly surreptitiously dropped her hand and pinched his backside.
"And don't you just love it!"
She stepped in front of him and entered their quarters. Jean-Luc watched her behind with an appreciative eye and shook his head.
"My God Beverly…you do keep me on my toes!"

 

 

 

The next day found the family on the Calypso, Will, Deanna and Data there to see them off. The boys had stowed their bags in the second bedroom and Jean-Luc had ushered a quietly protesting Beverly into one of the sumptuous lounge chairs in the living area. With David in the cockpit and Paul by his father's side, Jean-Luc smiled up at his First Officer and took a large breath, expelling it softly.
"Well, Number One, the Enterprise is yours until we return. See that she's handed back to me in the same good order as I hand her to you."
The big man grinned and nodded.
"Aye Captain, the ship will be in Bristol Fashion."
Deanna chimed in with,
"And if she isn't, Captain, you can order Will to clean the warp injectors with his toothbrush."
A raised eyebrow from the older man had Will blushing slightly.
"Ah…I forgot I promised to give Deanna breakfast in bed this morning."
Beverly chuckled, calling out,
"Then you deserve everything you get!"
Jean-Luc smiled as Data opined,
"It is well known that pregnant females become irrational in the latter stages of pregnancy. Perhaps you should pay more attention to your duties as a husband, Commander."
Deanna stared open mouthed at the android, just beating Beverly with,
"Irrational? How dare you!"
Before she could launch into a tirade, Jean-Luc rescued the hapless Lieutenant Commander.
"I'm sure Mr.Data meant no offence."
Data nodded, although his confusion was plain to see.
"Indeed. I am quoting from several studies undertaken by specialists in the field of human reproduction. I can, if you like, recite the pertinent articles for your purvey."
Beverly sat back and crossed her legs, amused, but nonetheless offended.
"I'm sure you can quote chapter and verse, but being labelled as irrational is bound to make one a little testy. Tell you what Data; investigate the instances of irrational behaviours in fathers of newborns. Perhaps you will find it's not just females who succumb."
Data's eyes darted too and fro as he accessed the wanted information, but before he could expound on his new subject, Jean-Luc softly cleared his throat.
"Well Number One, if you are satisfied, we will depart."
The big man nodded.
"Fine by me Sir."
With gentle goodbyes, the crew left the family and waited as the outer hatch closed. Over the comm. system they heard Jean-Luc request clearance to launch. The great ship came out of warp, allowing the Captain's yacht to disengage from her moorings under the saucer section. She dropped several metres then glided off to the port side. Will tapped his comm. badge.
"Riker to Captain Picard."
"Picard here Will, go ahead."
"Au revoir Captain, see you in two weeks."
"Acknowledged Commander, Picard out."
Paul and David were both in the cockpit with their father as the Enterprise made the jump to warp. David's quietly muttered, "Holy shit.", brought a stern rebuke from his father.
"That is quite enough my lad. That kind of language will not be tolerated!"
The lad lowered his head and said quietly,
"Sorry, Papa."
Paul gently punched his brother's shoulder and tried to lighten the mood.
"It is a wonderful thing to see."
Jean-Luc smiled at his elder son and nodded.
"Yes it is. The first time I saw a ship jump to warp from space I think I may have said something similar to what David said, however I was substantially older."
He ruffled David's hair and said softly, but with affection,
"Come on, your mother would most probably want a cup of tea by now."
David smiled gratefully at his father and nodded. They were amused to find Beverly dozing in her chair.

 

 

 

Their journey took two days, the length of time shortened by the superior speed capabilities of the Calypso. They entered orbit around Herros IV at oh seven forty of the fifth day.
Jean-Luc called everybody into the living Area.
"Right. Now as you all know, we cannot beam down to the planet; we will have to land the ship. While we are within the Herros system, we will be out of communication with everybody…the Enterprise or any other ships. We won't even be able to send subspace messages. We will be on our own. Beverly, I expect you to monitor your health and that of the baby on a regular basis. Boys, I want to reiterate…you are not to wander far from the campsite, especially on your own. The planet is uninhabited and as far as we know, there are no dangerous life forms so I will not be armed, however you all know there are both type three phasers as well as phaser rifles here in the weapons locker. I intend to land the ship near what has been identified as an ancient town. There is a river as well as the ruins and I expect you all to treat the site with your usual respect. Are there any questions?"
Beverly and the boys shook their heads so Jean-Luc nodded.
"Very well, prepare to land."
It took only twenty minutes before Jean-Luc sat back from the controls and smiled. Paul winked at his father, making the man chuckle.
"Smooth as silk Papa, well done."
From over his shoulder, Beverly's voice was laced with amusement.
"The last time you landed anything that gently was on our honeymoon."
Jean-Luc turned to look at his wife and offered a devilish grin.
"That was because I didn't want to spill any Champagne."
David sighed.
"Can we go outside?"
With a decisive nod, Jean-Luc activated the aft hatch. As both boys hurried aft, Jean-Luc called,
"No further than one hundred metres from the ship…and stay together."
As calls of …"Yes Papa." Drifted back, Beverly grinned and held out her hand, encouraging her husband to take it. He did and they walked back into the living area.
"I suppose I should start unloading the camping gear."
Beverly chuckled.
"You could wait until the boys get back."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"If I wanted their help I never would've let them go. No, I'll manage."
Going to the replicator, Beverly ordered two teas as her husband began to unlock the cargo space. Having retrieved the mugs, she settled into a chair and watched with mild amusement as Jean-Luc spent ten minutes hauling out the gear. Once he had a sizable pile near the aft hatch, she called softly,
"Come on, your tea is getting cold."
Her sighed and smiled.
"Perhaps I should have got the boys to help."
He sat next to his wife and accepted the cup of tea. She smiled at him and waved a hand.
"You were right the first time…they weren't going to wait, but maybe you could have waited for them to get back."
Jean-Luc sipped his tea then offered a rueful grin.
"Yes, but I want to get the campsite set up as soon as possible. Our exploration can wait."
Beverly nodded.
"But not the boy's."
He shook his head.
"No."
They were just finishing their teas when two excited boys rushed back inside the ship.
David hurried to his father's side, waving his hands animatedly,
"It's so cool Papa! The ruins are super and the river is really cold. Paul says he saw a fish. Did you bring our rods?"
Jean-Luc smiled at his son and nodded.
"Yes, and I packed the lures."
Before David could say anything further, Paul grinned and gripped his father's shoulder.
"Papa, I saw some pottery shards. How come the survey teams left them?"
Jean-Luc opened his mouth to reply, but David was off again.
"Papa, the trees have fruit in them. Can we eat them? I saw some birds; can we look for their nests?"
Beverly leaned forward to take David's hand.
"How about you let your father get a word in edgeways?"
With a wry chuckle, David nodded.
"Okay…sorry Papa."
With a tender smile, Jean-Luc pointed to the pile of camping gear the boys had ignored as they rushed into the ship.
"First of all we have to set up our camp. I want you two to take out the tent and activate the self-inflator. But before you do that, I want to reconnoitre the site."
The boys nodded enthusiastically. Paul turned and swept his arm in an arc.
"There's a good spot near a stand of trees, Papa, not far from the ship."
Jean-Luc gave a thoughtful nod.
"That sounds good, but we will have to scan the trees to make sure they're safe. We don't want boughs falling on us, do we?"
The boys shook their head, saying in unison,
"No, Papa."
Jean-Luc stood.
"Right then, Paul, you get a tricorder, David, help your mother up."
The family left the Calypso to explore their new surroundings.

 

 

 

The spot under the trees was indeed ideal. The river was only ten metres away and Jean-Luc carefully scanned the area to see if there had been any recent floods. Having found that there hadn't been, he gave the boys the go-ahead to inflate the tent. That was quickly accomplished, as was the hurried ferrying of equipment from the yacht to the tent. Knowing the boys were impatient to explore, Jean-Luc decided the digging of the fire pit could wait, as could the deployment of their sleeping gear. With a knowing look and a wry smile, Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand and caught the boy's attention.
"All right, I think we can go exploring now. Do you both have a tricorder?"
They nodded enthusiastically.
"Fine…go. But, stay within fifty metres of your mother and me and don't touch anything the tricorders have trouble identifying."
It was over the sound of running feet that their reply was heard.
"Okay Papa."
Beverly giggled and squeezed her husband's hand.
"God…they're so keen! Were you like that at their age?"
Jean-Luc offered a rueful smile and nodded.
"Actually, I think I was worse. My parents often left me in the care of my brother and I made it my business to escape from his supervision. I often gave him the slip and went into the village, to haunt the library or the museum."
He sighed and shook his head.
"You know, I always thought of it as a game, but I must have caused Robert much heartache. It's little wonder he resented me."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"I suppose he got into trouble if it was found you'd been off on your own?"
Jean-Luc sighed and gave a nod.
"Oh yes…and at the time I thought it was funny. We were at each other from a very early age…right throughout my childhood I perceived any instance where he got into trouble because of me as some kind of victory. We were as bad as each other, but in retrospect, I think I was a right royal pain in the arse."
Beverly sighed and looked sideways at her husband, frowning when she saw the sorrow etched on his handsome face.
"From what you've told me about your relationship with Robert, I think your behaviour was more like self defence. He bullied you mercilessly."
Jean-Luc nodded and tried to smile, but the sadness remained.
"Yes he did, but I have been left wondering if I may have somehow provoked him."
Beverly snorted and shook her head.
"That's not what Marie says. She told me your mother always said you were a quiet, studious little boy, right from when you first talked. It seems to me that Robert resented you from a very early age…why is anybody's guess. Maybe it was simple jealousy?"
Jean-Luc shrugged and sighed.
"When I was young I used to wonder what it would have been like to have a younger brother…or sister."
He gave a rueful chuckle.
"And I am ashamed to admit I hoped, if I had a younger sibling, that Robert would decide to bully them, instead of me."
Beverly sighed and led Jean-Luc over to an outcropping of smooth rocks, where she gingerly sat. She looked up into the dappled light and contemplated the vast differences in their lives. She sighed and shook her head, offering a wry grin.
"You know it's funny. I was an only child and I lost my parents when I was very young. My childish dreams were filled with fantasies of me, my parents and some younger brothers and sisters…all very idyllic and utterly unbelievable."
She chuckled sadly.
"But it never occurred to me that I might not get on with my siblings."
With a sad sigh, she shook her head.
"While you, on the other hand, grew up in a stable, traditional family, steeped in history and tied to ancestral lands…and you were miserable."
Rubbing her forehead, Beverly shrugged.
"I don't think there's any such thing as an ideal family, there're too many dynamics to take into account. I suppose it's like a lottery, you have to be lucky, then you have to learn to live with what you get…and hope for the best."
Jean-Luc's attention was on the boys, but he had heard every word his wife had said. He sighed and slowly nodded.
"I suppose you're right, but I'd like to think that two people who love each other would create children who shared that love. Call me a romantic, but I never thought our children would be anything less than loving, caring individuals, especially with you as their mother."
The soft kiss to his cheek was unexpected and it made him smile. He turned to his wife to see her eyes twinkling. When she spoke, her voice was laced with deep emotion.
"You always manage to say the right thing."
They shared a tender kiss.
"I love you Jean-Luc."
He sighed and caressed her face.
"And I love you. Now, are you up to a little wander through the ruins?"
With Jean-Luc's help, Beverly stood.
"Yes, I want to see what has you and the boys so excited."
As they traversed the short distance to the ruins, Jean-Luc asked,
"Have you done any study on this site?"
Knowing he would be disappointed if she said no, Beverly was pleased to be able to say,
"As a matter of fact, yes. I read the report from the Hathaway's survey and I had a quick look at Professor Markham's notes."
Jean-Luc grinned, his eyes glowing with happiness.
"Oh that's grand Beverly. You're going to be able to talk with the boys about what they find."
She slipped her hand into his and smiled knowingly.
"And what about your notes? I haven't read them yet."
He flushed slightly and took a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds before expelling it slowly.
"Ah…there're not finished."
Beverly shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"I don't get it Jean-Luc. You are a consummate professional, completely confident and competent in your work…for God's sake; you are the foremost, most celebrated Captain in Starfleet! Why do you feel inadequate when it comes to your archaeological research? You're just as accomplished as the experts."
Coming to a halt, Jean-Luc stared off into the distance and for a moment, Beverly thought he wasn't going to respond. Then he sighed and gave a small shrug.
"I suppose it goes back to something Professor Galen said to me when I turned down his offer to accompany him on his quest to find our progenitors."
When he said nothing more, Beverly gently prompted him.
"What was it he said?"
Turning slowly to look into his wife's eyes, Jean-Luc's voice broke as he softly said,
"He called me a dilettante."
Beverly's heart squeezed in sympathy and she felt a surge of anger towards Jean-Luc's deceased mentor.
"Well it's not true! Look Jean-Luc, he spoke in anger…he was trying to goad you to bend to his wishes…and he apologised! I was there, I heard him…he said he was too harsh! Don't let the barbs of a selfish old man damage your perception of your archaeological abilities my love. You're as good as any Professor I know."
Their conversation was ended by an excited David, who rushed to his parents, gesticulating at his tricorder and all but shouting,
"Come on Papa, come and see what we've found!"
Both parents summoned enthusiastic smiles and hurried behind the retreating boy, but Beverly caught her husband's hand and said softly,
"And I want to read your notes."
Jean-Luc shot Beverly a worried glance, but the love and determination in her eyes made him smile. He nodded and Beverly squeezed his hand, making his artificial heart swell.
He mouthed,
"I love you."
And Beverly grinned and nodded, mouthing,
"I know."
They entered the ruins with a light step.

 

 

 

That night, around the fire, the boys discussed their finds with their parents. In front of each lad lay a small pile of artefacts. Jean-Luc had helped them categorise each piece and was in the process of assisting the boys in making a time line. Beverly watched them with a wistful smile on her face.
"So you can see, by identifying the markings on the shards, we can place it in the time line."
Paul nodded thoughtfully.
"Then these pieces aren't all that old."
Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.
"No, not from what we can tell from this site, but that is understandable, seeing that these pieces were found on the surface. The really old bits and pieces are buried."
David inclined his head.
"How deep Papa?"
Jean-Luc sat back and rubbed his lightly stubbled jaw.
"Oh I would hazard a guess that the really old pieces could be found at about two metres or more."
Paul sighed.
"And I suppose we'd have to know where to dig?"
With a nod, Jean-Luc reached for a PADD. He activated it and showed the screen to the boys.
"Yes. As you can see, the best areas of interest are near the south edge of the ruins. It would seem that over time the site of the town…or village, moved somewhat from its original position. Now that could have been through expansion or some other reason. Can you think of any reason why the site of the habitation was moved?"
The boys thought for a while and it was Paul who answered first.
"Defence?"
Grinning, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, that's one reason. They may have found it easier to defend their dwellings by moving the village. What else?"
David's face lit up.
"I know! The river. It may have changed its course, or the people might have shifted the town to get closer."
Jean-Luc grinned at his younger son.
"Yes! Well done, both of you."
The boys grinned and Beverly sighed with happiness. Jean-Luc took the PADD and brought up a new schematic.
"Now tomorrow I think we should concentrate our efforts along the southern boundary. Here you can see where the last archaeological team did their digging. They found some significant pieces there. It may be that our luck will hold and we'll have some success too."
The boys nodded and David stood to put some more wood on the fire. Jean-Luc looked up and cautioned him.
"David, we'll be going to bed soon, don't put too much on the fire."
The boy nodded.
"Okay, Papa."
For the next hour or so the family chatted around the fire before Beverly rose and stretched, pushing her fingers into the small of her back. Jean-Luc looked up and smiled in the firelight.
"Going to bed?"
The Doctor nodded.
"Yep. Come and see me before you turn in will you?"
Jean-Luc smiled and bowed his head.
"Your wish is my command."
Paul chuckled and David groaned.
Twenty minutes later the boys were in bed, chatting amiably and Jean-Luc was checking the fire. Satisfied that the campsite was secure, he went to the Calypso and entered through the aft hatch. It was dark inside, save for a sliver of light coming from under the bedroom door. He pressed the door release and smiled at seeing his wife curled on her side, her nose in one or her erotic books. He leaned against the door frame, his arms crossed over his muscled chest.
"You look comfortable."
Beverly looked up and he could see by her smoky blue eyes that she was aroused. He stepped over to the bed and sat on the edge. Beverly dropped the book and reached up to grab a handful of his shirt, pulling him down to her waiting lips. They shared a passionate kiss and when they parted Beverly licked her lips and said sultrily,
"You are coming back…aren't you."
Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes. His voice was a deep rumble when he said,
"The boys are still awake."
Gently biting his earlobe, Beverly whispered,
"Then when they're asleep…I'll be waiting."
She ran her fingers over the growing bulge in his pants and he sighed.
"Don't you remember what Selar said? We're not supposed to have sex."
Beverly mewed and kissed him again, whispering huskily,
"I don't give a damn what Selar said, I want you…and I'm damned well going to have you."
Knowing that if he didn't leave immediately he would succumb, Jean-Luc pulled back and lifted his wife's hand from his crotch. He summoned a smile, but his heart was racing.
"I'll be back as soon as the boys are asleep."
Smiling triumphantly, Beverly gave a small chuckle, knowing her husband was just as aroused as she was.
"See that you are, my love."
Jean-Luc stood and Beverly's eyes settled on his bulging trousers. She licked her lips and, while she had his undivided attention, slowly raised her hand and seductively slipped one finger into her mouth, sucking and licking it slowly. Jean-Luc's eyes darkened and his one muttered one word made Beverly chuckle again.
"Wench."
He abruptly turned to leave, but Beverly's sultry voice stopped him.
"I'll be naked when you get back."
With his back to his wife, she didn't see him close his eyes and take a deep breath, but she saw his shoulders rise and fall and giggled.
"You'd better hope the boys go to sleep soon, or I might have to start without you."
Ignoring the jibe, Jean-Luc exited the ship and stood by the fire for some minutes, trying to regain control over his body. When he had subsided enough, he listened carefully and heard the boys were still chatting, albeit very quietly. He turned off the perimeter lights and took a seat by the fire, by now a glowing bed of embers. Ten minutes later silence descended.
Jean-Luc got up slowly, stretched, then went to check on his sons. Both boys were sleeping, so he left the tent, activated a proximity alert on his tricorder and set it down on the ground. He then entered the Calypso.
The light under the door was softer than before. Jean-Luc opened the door and smiled at seeing his wife, sprawled atop the covers, naked as promised, but sound asleep. He was covering her with the blankets when she woke. Looking up blearily, Beverly frowned and shook her head, trying to shake her hair away from her eyes.
"What are you doing?"
Jean-Luc sat on the bed and gently pushed some red locks out of the way.
"I was tucking you in. You were asleep."
Suddenly coming fully awake, Beverly struggled to sit up.
"I was not."
Smiling and shaking his head, Jean-Luc chuckled.
"Yes you were. Now lie down, you need your rest."
Hunching over the swell of her distended stomach, Beverly mewed with annoyance.
"I don't need bloody rest…what I need is my husband!"
Gently rubbing her back, Jean-Luc tried to keep the amusement out of his voice.
"I'm here."
The red head growled.
"Not for rubbing my back dammit…I'm horny Jean-Luc!"
His eyebrows rose.
"Still? I thought some sleep would have…"
"What? Put the fire out? I was having an erotic dream dammit!"
As Jean-Luc quietly said…
"Oh."
Beverly sat back and caught one of his hands. She steered it to her breast, saying softly,
"You know what I like."
Her nipple was already erect and he rolled it in his fingers.
"Hmm, it seems you were right."
Beverly grabbed his shirt and tugged it free of his trousers. He bent for a kiss and they descended into a passionate connection. Parting, they were slightly panting as Beverly said,
"You've got way too many clothes on Jean-Luc."
He kissed her again, then left the bed, quickly stripping off. When he returned to her, he was naked and semi hard. She patted the bed beside her and he lay down, groaning softly as she took his growing erection in her hand. They kissed again and Jean-Luc carefully kneaded her swollen breasts. He knew they were sore and took care to be gentle. When he tenderly took a nipple into his mouth, Beverly moaned softly and wrapped a hand around his head, pulling him closer.
"Yes…oh yes Jean-Luc…"
His hand trailed down her side to dally in her copper curls before gently sliding down further to part her lips. She lifted her hips, seeking his touch. She was wet and Jean-Luc smiled around her nipple, marvelling at how sensuous she was.
He slid two fingers inside her and ground his thumb against her clit. Beverly gasped and one of her hands gripped his shoulder, her nails breaking the skin.
Leaving her breast, Jean-Luc lapped and kissed his way over the rise of her stomach and buried his head between her legs. Beverly was forced to let go of his now turgid penis and Jean-Luc sighed at the loss of contact. He didn't dwell on it though, opting instead to concentrate on pleasuring his wife. Her first orgasm took both of them by surprise. Beverly writhed on the bed, her hands lifted to the pillow, gripping until her knuckles showed white. The next two climaxes came quickly making the woman shudder and spasm. Jean-Luc eased his head up and gently removed his fingers. Looking up at his wife, he smiled at the slitted eyes that looked back at him. Beverly lifted a weary arm and crooked a finger at him, beckoning him up the bed. He went willingly and lay beside her. She gently eased her hand onto his chest, idly playing with his body hair. She surprised him by sitting up and encouraging him to do the same and when she straddled him he smiled and gently cupped her breasts. With her protrudent stomach, it was easier if Jean-Luc reclined away from his wife as she deftly lifted his penis and slowly engulfed him. He closed his eyes and moaned sensuously as the sensation of being trapped in her tight, slippery heat overwhelmed him.
He let her set the pace, struggling to resist the urge to grip her hips and thrust up into her as hard as he could. Knowing she would be very sensitive, he very gently slid his fingers over her swollen clit, making her gasp and shudder.
He expected her orgasm and when it came he gritted his teeth against the delicious sensations as she rhythmically gripped him. As it passed, Beverly's head rolled forward and she opened her eyes. The carnal heat in them made Jean-Luc's already racing heart accelerate. Baring her teeth, Beverly ground out…
"Fuck me, Jean-Luc!"
It was what he'd been waiting for. He grabbed her hips and began to thrust up into her, hard and fast. Beverly leaned forward and gripped Jean-Luc's shoulders. With her hair falling in a red curtain around him, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and gave himself over to his need. As his orgasm consumed him, he dimly heard Beverly's cry of liberation.
Several minutes later, Jean-Luc became aware that Beverly was trembling. Held up by her arms, her head was bowed and her entire body was quaking. Jean-Luc sat up and eased her to one side. She dismounted him and stretched out on the bed. He took her in his arms and stroked her back, murmuring,
"J'taime mon coeur, J'taime."
After a few minutes she chuckled tiredly and lifted her head, kissing Jean-Luc on the tip of his nose.
"You always speak to me in French after we have sex."
He shook his head, gently admonishing her.
"Not after we have sex mon amour, after we make love."
Beverly's eyebrows rose.
"Oh…sorry, my mistake."
They lay quietly for a time before Jean-Luc rumbled,
"I have to go, I don't want either of the boys to wake and not find me in the tent."
Just beginning to doze, Beverly nodded and sighed.
"Okay."
Jean-Luc kissed his wife and left the bed, pulling the covers over her. As he bent to kiss her again, he noted she was asleep.
"Bon nuit mon coeur."
He was in his bed ten minutes later and soon asleep himself.

 

 

 

The days passed happily, the boys and their father spending most of the daylight hours engrossed in their digging. Beverly amused herself by reading and sleeping. Dawn on the fourth day brought rain. Jean-Luc, having woken to the sound of rain on the tent, left the boys sleeping as he donned some clothing and made the twelve metre dash to the Calypso. By the time the hatch opened, he was wet. He stepped inside and went into the bedroom, crossing the room silently and entering the bathroom. Having towelled off the worst of the water, he sat on the bed and smiled down at his sleeping wife. She seemed to sense his presence, turning over and sighing, a smile gracing her face. He bent forward to brush his lips over hers. Her eyes cracked open and her smile grew.
"'Morning."
Jean-Luc kissed her again and sighed with love and happiness.
"Good morning my love. Sleep well?"
Beverly stretched and mewed. Opening her eyes wider, she frowned.
"Your shirt is wet."
He nodded.
"Yes, it's raining."
"Oh."
With a chuckle, Jean-Luc ran his fingers down her face.
"Although we have the equipment to fend for ourselves, I thought it might be nice if the boys and I joined you for breakfast here on the Calypso."
With none of her usual grace, Beverly heaved herself up into a sitting position and spent a few minutes trying to tame her unruly hair. Defeated, she harrumphed and gave her husband a look of derision.
"So actually, what you're saying is that you're chicken."
He sighed and rolled his eyes.
"No, we're not. I just thought it might be nice to eat here, rather than in the tent."
Beverly grinned cheekily.
"You mean here with the replicators."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"Well…yes."
She leaned to him and kissed him.
"Okay."
He grinned and delighted her by gently cupping her breast and tweaking the nipple. She moaned softly and gently bit his neck, whispering huskily,
"I'm horny Jean-Luc."
He chuckled and closed his eyes, murmuring,
"You always are in the morning."
As his hand slid up her thigh, Beverly smiled and said sensuously,
"And you're going to tell me you didn't wake up with a hard on?"
He growled as she trailed her fingers over the bulge in his pants.
"You know damn well I did."
She nuzzled his neck and under his ear.
"And you're hard now."
"Hmm."
She surprised him by getting off the bed. Doffing her nightie, she made quick work of his trousers and briefs, then steered him until he was sitting on the edge of the bed, his feet on the floor. She stood between his open legs, inviting him to caress her. He did so, trailing his fingers up to her nipples and down between her legs. She lolled her head back, sighing as she lifted her hands to hold Jean-Luc's head as he bent forward to take a turgid nipple into his mouth.
He knew Beverly had something in mind and when she suddenly turned he understood what it was. With her back to him, she straddled his lap, reaching between her legs to lift his penis so she could slide it inside her.
Jean-Luc's hands went to her hips as she leant slightly forward to slide up and down his shaft. He reached around her and feathered his fingers over her clit. With her advanced state of pregnancy, Jean-Luc knew she would not be satisfied unless she experienced several orgasms. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the sensations she was eliciting and concentrated on bringing her pleasure. As his fingers slid over her clit, his other hand reached up to play with her nipples. Beverly moaned and quickened her actions, her first orgasm taking both of them by surprise. Such was the intensity of the sensation of her contracting around him; Jean-Luc was unable to stop his release. He pushed up inside her and cried out as he came. Beverly, feeling his rhythmic pulsing, came again as he managed to continue to stimulate her. Even though he was beginning to soften, Beverly continued to ride him and Jean-Luc kept his fingers busy over her clit. Twice more Beverly came before she finally calmed. Jean-Luc's penis had already slipped from her and Beverly sighed, feeling its flaccid form nestled in her folds. His semen had flowed out of her, to join her dew, leaving them both messy.
Beverly sighed as Jean-Luc gently lifted her off his lap. They both stood on rubbery legs and Beverly grinned.
"Shower?"
He nodded.
"Yes, but we'd best be quick, the boys will be awake soon."
As it was, Jean-Luc was just dressing, Beverly enjoying a few minutes more under the shower, when the boys entered the ship, shaking raindrops from their hair.
Jean-Luc appeared from the bedroom and smiled.
"Your mother will be out soon. What do you want for breakfast?"
The boys grinned, sitting at the dining table while their father went to the replicator.
They had just finished their meal and were going over the plans for the day, when the proximity alert sounded. Instantly on his feet, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"It's probably just an animal, but I want you to stay here while I go and check."
The boys nodded and Beverly muttered,
"Here's your coat and take a phaser."
He gave a curt nod and went to the weapons locker, removing a type three hand phaser. He then put his coat on and went to the aft hatch and activated it.
It was still raining outside and he squinted to see through the grey curtains. He suddenly tensed when he discerned three tall shapes, moving around the tent. Stepping out into the rain, Jean-Luc cautiously approached the figures, while silently activating the phaser.
He was only a few metres away from the closest being and he could see that it was tall and angular, dressed in some sort of suit, although its head was bare. It suddenly turned, its multi-faceted eyes catching his. Jean-Luc froze, but managed to smile. In a steady voice he said,
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
The other two beings joined their companion and one seemed to scan the Captain. Jean-Luc stood still, keeping the phaser lowered. The being lifted its head and Jean-Luc heard a soft clicking. They surrounded the Captain and he noticed the one with the portable scanner was now pointing the device at the Calypso. Feeling somewhat apprehensive, Jean-Luc stepped out of their circle and moved closer to the yacht. The beings made no move to follow him. He smiled and called softly,
"Beverly, can you hear me?"
Her firm reply made his heart swell with pride and love.
"Yes Jean-Luc, we can hear you. I'm scanning them now."
His smile stayed in place as he said softly,
"That's good. I think they mean no harm, but I want to be on the safe side."
"Understood."
There followed a few tense minutes as the aliens and Jean-Luc stood mere metres apart, each watching the other. When Beverly next spoke, Jean-Luc was relieved.
"Jean-Luc? They're insectoid."
He sighed.
"I can see that Beverly. Are they armed?"
There followed a few seconds before Beverly called softly,
"Not that I can see."
Jean-Luc kept his smile in place.
"Right, thank you, Beverly."
The Captain placed the phaser in its holster and lifted his hands, palm out.
"We mean no harm."
After what seemed to be a quiet discussion between the aliens, they cautiously approached Jean-Luc, the one with the scanner putting the device away. One being stepped forward and raised a three-fingered hand. There followed a protracted series of clicks and soft hisses. When the being had finished, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Beverly, did the universal translator pick that up?"
By the sound of her voice, Jean-Luc could hear his wife was intrigued.
"Yes, it's working on it…wait…"
After a minute or two, Beverly said excitedly,
"I have it Jean-Luc; it was a message of greeting."
The Captain nodded slowly before saying softly,
"Would you mind if I invited them in?"
"Not at all."
"Very well."
While Jean-Luc began his invitation with hand gestures, Beverly said to the boys,
"Stay calm; this is a first contact situation."
Paul frowned up at his mother.
"I'm scared, Mum."
David nodded vigorously.
"Me too! What do we do?"
Beverly smiled encouragingly.
"You don't have to do anything my loves. Don't worry; your father wouldn't invite these beings in here if he thought there was any danger."
Further discussion was curtailed as Jean-Luc entered the ship, cautiously followed by the three aliens. As Beverly handed a towel to her husband to wipe his face and head, Jean-Luc noted the suits the aliens wore seemed to absorb the water as if flowed down their bodies. The being with the scanner deployed the instrument and held it up. There was a series of clicks and hisses and the universal translator cut in.
"We are honoured to be on your ship."
Jean-Luc smiled and gestured to the seats.
"We are honoured to have you here."
Once everyone was seated, the alien with the scanner aimed it at the boys. To their credit, and under the scrutiny of their father, they sat still, their eyes wide. The scan results caused much consternation amongst the aliens. The one nearest Jean-Luc said,
"What are these?"
It gestured at the boys and Jean-Luc smiled.
"They are our children…our offspring."
The universal translator rendered his words into clicks and hisses. The alien nodded ponderously, but when the scanner was aimed at Beverly, all three beings came to their feet, the noise of their speech loud and their body language showing consternation.
Eventually they calmed enough for one to ask,
"This one is different. Why?"
Jean-Luc frowned and Beverly said quietly,
"Gender, Jean-Luc."
Giving a relieved nod of thanks, Jean-Luc explained,
"We are Human. Humans have two genders, male, such as myself and our offspring, and female."
That seemed to cause some considerable confusion. The one word question was curt.
"Why?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"It is the way we are and it is required for procreation."
All three beings crowded around the scanner before one asked,
"Is that why the…female…has a life form within its body?"
Jean-Luc smiled and nodded.
"Yes."
The aliens discussed this information so quietly; the translator didn't pick up the speech. Having come to some sort of resolution, all three sat and the one with then scanner spoke.
"We are scientists, we explore to find the origins of our people and to discover new species."
Jean-Luc had been sitting with his hands clasped on his lap. He lifted one hand to give form to his words.
"We are explorers too. We seek out new life and new civilisations, but we like to delve into the past as well. We are here to study the ruins."
One of the aliens lifted its head to look around the confines of the Calypso. It shook its head.
"Your ship is very small, but well appointed."
With a self depreciating smile, Jean-Luc explained,
"This is a pleasure craft I am able to use. The ship we belong to is very much bigger."
One of the beings nodded and checked the scanner.
"And you are the Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard. This…"
He gestured to Beverly,
"Is my wife, Beverly Picard and these are our sons, Paul and David."
Beverly smiled, saying softly,
"I am a Doctor."
Once the translator had done its job, the Humans were a little surprised to see each of the aliens bow to Beverly. She shot Jean-Luc a look and shrugged. The aliens saw the byplay and one explained,
"Healers are venerated in our society. We honour you, Doctor."
She smiled.
"Thank you, I am humbled."
There followed a few minutes of silence before Jean-Luc asked,
"Do you think your ancestors had anything to do with these ruins?"
One of the aliens nodded.
"Yes. We have discovered evidence of ancient civilisations we believe may have been our forebears in this system. It is possible that those same people may have colonised this world."
Jean-Luc stood and went to retrieve a PADD. He activated it and offered the device to his guests.
"All we know so far is that the inhabitants were bipedal, but whether or not they were humanoid or insectoid…we don't know. I can give you the studies on what our survey teams have found so far and you are welcome to view both our notes and our finds."
The beings bowed.
"That is very gracious of you, Captain, thank you."
The aliens stood.
"We will begin our survey now; perhaps later you might like to visit our ship?"
Jean-Luc stood and nodded.
"We would like that, thank you."
All three aliens bowed and filed out of the ship. Watching them go, Jean-Luc frowned when David muttered,
"They give me the creeps."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything to his son, Beverly sighed and gripped the youngster's shoulders.
"Me too."
Jean-Luc sighed with exasperation.
"Look, just because they're different to us, doesn't mean they are anything but that…just different. Not good, not bad, just different."
Beverly snorted,
"Yes my love, but multi-faceted eyes and chitinous coverings doesn't make for easy assimilation. Let's face it, they are as alien as you can get."
Wiping his face with his hand, Jean-Luc strove for patience.
"Yes, but think of how we must seem to them? For all we know, we might be exuding an offensive odour they find appalling. I think we should concentrate on what we have in common, not on what sets us apart."
Beverly smiled and gave a nod.
"Agreed. By the way, I checked the weather forecast and I think this rain will clear soon, but there will be more later today."
Jean-Luc grinned, giving his wife a look of gratitude.
"Well then, we'd best get ready to go out there. Paul, have you catalogued the last finds?"
The lad nodded.
"Yes, Papa and David has entered them on the time line. We're getting down to the older stuff now, at least where we're digging."
Giving a decisive nod, Jean-Luc went to the replicator and ordered a flask of coffee. With the flask in his hand, he gave Beverly a quick kiss and gathered his sons.
"Ready?"
Both boys grinned and nodded.
"Right let's go. Beverly I take it you will stay here?"
She bowed her head.
"A least until the rain stops."
All the males grinned and stepped out of the craft. They were pulling their hoods over their heads when Beverly called,
"I meet you later with some lunch."
Their replies were lost as they walked away. Beverly sighed and stretched, grimacing when the baby kicked her under her ribs.

 

 

 

As Beverly had predicted, the rain eased off then stopped all together. Jean-Luc and the boys were working on an area approximately five metres square and had dug down almost one and a half metres. Jean-Luc had laid a grid of bright yellow twine, sectioning off the area in squares. Each square was worked in turn. Paul was kneeling, a trowel in one hand and a brush in the other. Fortunately, they had rigged a tarpaulin over the site, so they were spared the trouble of working in mud.
David was working a little closer to his father when he suddenly stopped his gentle scraping to pick up his tricorder. He scanned the object that lay just under the surface and said quietly,
"Papa?"
Jean-Luc looked up from his crouch to say,
"Yes?"
David shook his head.
"I'm not sure what this is Papa. When I first scanned it, I thought it was some sort of utensil, but the readings I'm getting now…I don't understand."
Jean-Luc stood and dusted off his pants. Stepping over the twine, he left his square and went to join his son.
"All right, let me see."
He took the tricorder, entered a few commands then smiled.
"Ah, I see where you would be confused. Whatever it is you've found, it is made of pottery and metal. What the tricorder did was give two readings as it was trying to analyse the metal."
David raised his eyebrows and nodded.
"Oh, I see. And has it Papa? Has it analysed the metal?"
Jean-Luc frowned.
"Actually it hasn't…it seems to be having some trouble."
He inputted some more commands, then sat back on his haunches.
"This is odd."
Paul, surreptitiously listening, said quietly,
"What Papa?"
David was craning his neck, trying to see the tricorder.
"What is it Papa?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"The tricorder can't identify the metal. I'd like to see the object David; you keep working on it and call me when it's clear of the ground."
The youngster grinned up at his father and nodded.
"Okay Papa."
Paul smiled at his brother and sent a wink at his father. Jean-Luc smiled at the boy and said softly,
"Have you found anything of interest, Paul?"
The boy shook his head.
"No Papa, nothing since yesterday."
The man nodded.
"Would you like to try another square?"
The boy grinned and nodded.
"Yes, I think that would be a good idea."
Jean-Luc smiled and beckoned his son over to him.
"Try a square near me, there seems to be quite a lot just under the surface in this area."
The boy gave a nod and stood, before stooping to pick up his tools. He suddenly froze and his quiet voice was laced in tension when he softly said,
"Papa? We have visitors."
Jean-Luc looked up to see five aliens standing close by. As he stood, Jean-Luc recognised the three he had met earlier. One of the aliens stepped forward and lifted a small device. There was the, by now, familiar clicking and hissing and Jean-Luc was pleasantly surprised to hear Federation Standard issuing from the instrument.
"I am M'Harret, the leader of this expedition. You are Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
The Captain inclined his head.
"Yes, I am pleased to meet you."
The alien bowed its head.
"And I you. I have been looking over the information you gave my colleagues, it was quite comprehensive. I thank you for your kindness."
With a smile, Jean-Luc stepped closer to the group.
"It was my pleasure. May I ask, have you any notes on this site?"
The alien shook its head.
"Sadly, no. We have made extensive studies of other sites on planets in this system, but as we only arrived here several hours ago, we have yet to begin here."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"I understand. You are; of course, free to see whatever we have, although at this stage, it's not much."
The alien bowed its head.
"We thank you, Captain."
Just then, Beverly came onto the scene. Jean-Luc smiled at his wife, seeing that she was carrying a basket. As she walked past the alien group, they turned to watch her. Jean-Luc assisted Beverly onto a stool in the shade of the tarpaulin and took the basket from her, placing it on the dirt. Just as she was making herself comfortable, she winced and placed her hands on her distended belly. Jean-Luc squeezed her shoulder and asked softly,
"All right?"
Looking up into his concerned eyes, Beverly smiled lopsidedly.
"Yes, junior's kicking is getting a little uncomfortable."
M'Harret took a step forward, looking intently at a scanner. It shook its head in wonder.
"I was told about this and I have seen the scans, but to see it with my own eyes….it is incredible. You carry, within your body, another being."
Beverly smiled, absently rubbing her stomach.
"Yes, it is the way we procreate."
The aliens all moved closer, making the boys crowd around their parents.
M'Harret went down on bended knee and looked into Beverly's eyes. She suppressed a shudder and summoned a smile. The alien tilted its elongated, shiny head and lifted a clawed hand.
"Can you explain or describe the process?"
Sending an embarrassed look at her husband, Beverly took a large breath, held it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly. Offering a smile, she said softly,
"The males impregnate the females and the resulting zygote gestates within the female. The gestation period is nine months and the infant is born very underdeveloped and totally dependent on its parents. It takes approximately eighteen years for full physical maturity."
There were a few minutes while the alien's translator made sense of her words. It was a disbelieving leader who looked at Beverly, slowly shaking its head.
"That is incredible!"
Jean-Luc smiled down at M'Harret and asked,
"If I may, what is your process for procreation?"
The alien stood and Jean-Luc had the impression the being was smiling.
"Of course Captain, ours is a simple process. Genetic material is taken from five individuals and the resulting…mixture, is a clutch of seminal pods. Gestation…as you put it…lasts,"
It consulted its device and looked up again.
"…eighteen weeks and at the end of that time a fully formed and mature individual emerges from each pod."
M'Harret tilted its head, seeming to consider its next question.
"You say your offspring are born underdeveloped and reach maturity at eighteen years of age. Does that mean they can…breed…then also?"
Beverly smiled and shook her head.
"Not exactly. Human children reach sexual maturity, that is they are able to procreate, at approximately twelve to fourteen years of age. Many centuries ago, when Humans were still in a primitive state, procreation often took place at this age, but as Humans matured as a species it was realised that parenting was best when partaken by psychologically mature individuals. So as our species aged, so did the age of the parents. Now days almost all parents are twenty or older."
The baby moved and Beverly shifted on the stool, trying to find a comfortable way to sit with the baby being so active. M'Harret bent forward and delicately sniffed.
"Your scent is markedly different from the males. Is it because you are a different gender, or is it because you carry offspring?"
Beverly smiled and shrugged.
"I don't know."
She winced again and the alien asked,
"Does your offspring cause you pain?"
With a grimace, Beverly moved again on the stool.
"Not pain exactly. The infant is almost ready to be born and has grown to a size where there is not much room for it to move. Thus, any movement it does make, significantly impacts on me."
The alien nodded pensively.
"I see. And you only produce males. How do females come to be?"
With a wry chuckle, Beverly shook her head.
"You misunderstand. I can produce both male and female babies. Each pregnancy is different and the chances of producing either gender are the same. That I have only produced males so far is just luck."
Beverly got the distinct impression the alien was frowning.
"Luck?"
Jean-Luc smiled and offered,
"Happenstance."
The being seemed to smile and gave a nod.
"Ah, I think I understand. Do you know the gender of the being you carry?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No. It is possible to find out, but we prefer to be surprised."
M'Harret stood and bowed.
"Well, we thank you for your patience. We will leave you now; perhaps we will see you again later."
Jean-Luc straightened and smiled.
"We look forward to it."
The aliens moved off and Beverly chuckled as both boys breathed a sigh of relief.
Because of the inclement weather, Jean-Luc and the boys went back to the Calypso a little earlier than usual. Beverly had only stayed an hour after lunch, and when the males got back to the ship, they were amused to find her dozing in one of the lounge chairs. She woke and struggled to get out of the chair, but Jean-Luc went to her, squeezing her shoulder and gently telling her to stay where she was. She gratefully subsided and watched with maternal pride as her sons set about ordering the evening meal. However, seeing as how it was still a little too early to eat, Jean-Luc ushered the boys outside and into the tent, where he instructed them to take a shower. By utilising the water from the river, Jean-Luc had set up a solar heated shower in its own cubicle, affording some privacy. The Captain pointed out that neither of the boys had showered in some days and now would be a good time.
Once the boys were clean, he informed them they would now be welcome to sit at the same table as their parents. They were still laughing about it as they went back to the Calypso.
Dinner over, the boys spent some time cataloguing their finds. Jean-Luc was at the main computer, trying to analyse the metal in the object David had finally wrested from the dirt. As the preliminary scans had shown, it was made of metal and pottery. It was approximately ten centimetres long and thinly elliptical, with one end rounded, while the other was bulbous. The metal and pottery were fused seamlessly and Jean-Luc marvelled at the workmanship. Under magnification, intricate carvings could be seen on the metal areas and the pottery was adorned in repetitive markings. As to its function, Jean-Luc had absolutely no idea.
Stymied by the inability of the computer to identify the metal, Jean-Luc snorted softly and deactivated the scan. He was just about call up some notes when Beverly's soft call was heard.
"Jean-Luc?"
He came out of the cockpit to see M'Harret and another alien waiting quietly at the open hatch. With a wide smile, Jean-Luc beckoned them inside.
M'Harret bowed then said softly,
"We would like to invite you to our ship."
Casting a surreptitious look at his wife, Jean-Luc saw her give a noncommittal shrug. Both boys moved closer to their mother and Jean-Luc noted their less than enthusiastic looks. However, in the name of goodwill, Jean-Luc accepted. He then held up the artefact.
"I have been unable to identify the metal in this article. Perhaps your scanners would have better luck?"
M'Harret gave the artefact a cursory glance and nodded.
"I would be happy to assist you Captain."
Jean-Luc smiled his thanks and they left.
Within minutes they were all walking down the river bank towards a large stand of trees, a few hundred metres from the Calypso. They entered the copse to find a clearing in the centre. A moderately large runabout type of vehicle was settled on the ground, several pieces of equipment scattered about the area. Light spilled out of the open hatch and M'Harret gestured for the Picards to precede it into the craft.
It was roomier inside than first impression told and, aside from the banks of computers and many consoles, there were also comfortable chairs and, lining the wall to one side, large bunk-like beds. Just to the left of what Jean-Luc assumed was the entrance to the forward cockpit area was a closed door.
The family were offered seats and tumblers of water given. Jean-Luc noticed there were three aliens attending at all times and he also noted, somewhat worriedly, that they were paying particular attention to Beverly and their unborn child.
M'Harret sent the other two aliens outside so it wasn't too crowded inside and Beverly kept looking at the hatchway, making sure it remained open. The tall alien offered his hand to Jean-Luc and the Captain realised it was asking for the artefact. He slid it out of his pocket and placed it in M'Harret's hand. The alien took it to a scanner and inputted some commands. There was a high-pitched whine and several lights lit up. M'Harret's head snapped up and it stepped back from the scanner.
"This is remarkable!"
Rising from his seat, Jean-Luc joined the alien at the scanner.
"What is it?"
Pointing with one long, clawed finger, M'Harret directed Jean-Luc's attention to the screen.
"The metal is native to our home world. I do not understand how it could be here…our scans have not shown any deposits anywhere on this planet."
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"Then perhaps it is indeed your ancestors we are studying. Is it possible they may have brought the metal from your home world?"
M'Harret placed its hands either side of the screen and bowed its head, saying softly,
"I do not know Captain, but this is a significant find. May we keep the artefact?"
With a smile, Jean-Luc nodded.
"I don't see why not, however my son would like to catalogue it, record it on a vid and enter it on our timeline. Perhaps I can bring it to you later tomorrow."
Straightening, M'Harret bowed its head.
"That is acceptable, Captain, thank you."
Jean-Luc was well aware his family felt apprehensive about being in the alien ship, so he brought the visit to a close, citing the need to get their children to bed. M'Harret nodded its compliance and Jean-Luc turned to go back to his family, only to frown at seeing two aliens, crouched either side of his wife, running scans over her body.
Clearing his throat loudly, Jean-Luc made a point of taking Beverly's hands and helping her to her feet. The Picards bade their hosts good evening and left.
On the way back to the Calypso, Beverly shuddered.
"That was creepy Jean-Luc. They were treating me like a lab rat."
The Captain sighed and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"It's only natural curiosity Beverly, take no notice."
David scowled and shook his head.
"They were rude Papa; they ran scans without asking permission."
Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.
"You know better than to ascribe our social norms onto other species, David."
The lad snorted.
"Yes I do Papa, but even so, they all but poked and prodded. Like Mum said…it was creepy."
Paul nodded, saying,
"They all but pushed David and me out of the way to get closer to Mum. I didn't like it."
Wishing to bring the conversation to an end, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Well it's over now. After I give the artefact to them tomorrow, I'll suggest they leave us alone."
Beverly squeezed his hand and gave him a meaningful look.
"I think that it's for the best my love."
Back at the Calypso, Jean-Luc resisted the urge to light the fire as it began to rain again. Feeling tired, Beverly went to bed and Jean-Luc sat up with the boys for a while before they too went to bed. In his camp bed, Jean-Luc frowned and turned onto his side, mumbling softly,
"I hope they're not offended."

 

 

 

As there was a light drizzle in the morning, Jean-Luc and the boys opted to have breakfast on the yacht. The rain had mostly cleared by the time they were ready to go back to the ruins and Jean-Luc smiled as he bent to kiss his wife goodbye. The gentle pinch to his backside made him grin and the smoky blue of Beverly's eyes told him that if he didn't leave immediately, he would find himself in the bedroom, most probably without his pants. With a huskily whispered,
"Later."
Jean-Luc joined his sons outside.

 

 

 

Having showered and dressed, Beverly was amusing herself some hours later with one of her erotic novels. The gentle knocking at the hatch broke through her aroused state to look up and call,
"Yes?"
M'Harret and two other aliens entered and Beverly smiled.
"Hello, I'm afraid Jean-Luc isn't here at the moment."
The tall alien seemed to smile then produced a small metal object, the tip of which glowed a dull red. Beverly had seen many weapons in her lifetime and immediately tensed. M'Harret motioned with the weapon for Beverly to stand. The other aliens went to her, gently grabbing her arms to assist her. Once she was on her feet, M'Harret said,
"You will come with us."
Beverly shook her head, swallowing to wet her suddenly dry mouth.
"There is no need for this M'Harret."
The alien tapped a device on the arm of its suit and uttered what Beverly surmised were commands. She wasn't surprised when they all dematerialised.
Rematerialising on the alien ship, Beverly tried again to make M'Harret listen.
"Please, let me go back to my ship. There is no need for this."
With a curt gesture, M'Harret directed the other aliens to take Beverly to the closed door. As it opened Beverly softly gasped. Inside was surgical suite. She stood mute and unresisting as her clothing was taken from her. In silence she was strapped to the cold metal bed. M'Harret came into her line of sight and bowed its head.
"I regret that you are frightened, Beverly. We are scientists, as I told the Captain, but what I didn't tell him is that we dissect inferior species when we encounter them. However, your species we find particularly intriguing. This concept of gestating your offspring within your body is fascinating. We will be taking your offspring."
Violently shaking her head, Beverly cried out,
"NO!"
M'Harret shook its head and went to a table, its surface covered with medical instruments.
"You are fortunate Beverly, we have decided not to dissect you, you will live, but we will take your offspring."
Tears ran down each side of Beverly's face.
"No, please don't. Human children need their parents…don't take my baby, it won't survive without me."
As it picked up a scalpel, M'Harret sighed.
"We have gathered enough information about your species to be able to keep the infant alive, at least until we have completed our studies."
It approached Beverly as another alien lowered a powerful light over her naked body.
"Unfortunately, none of our drugs are suitable to use on you, so I regret you will have to suffer the surgery without anaesthetic. Try to keep still."
The cold of its hand when it touched Beverly stomach made her shudder. She had enough time to say,
"Please don't…"
When the first long cut was made.
Beverly's screams of agony and anguish seemed to go on forever. Her sight dimmed as she felt each layer of her skin, fat, muscle and the amniotic sac being cut open. Cruel, cold hands introduced instruments that kept the gaping wound wide open as those same cold hands eased inside her to gently grip her baby. Her tortured flesh stretched and bulged as the baby was turned, then lifted out of her body. Beverly choked back her sobbing screams to blink away her tears to look at her infant. As the baby's first weak cries filled the room, she saw that it was a girl.

 

 

Some two hours later, Jean-Luc looked up from what he was doing to check the chronometer on his tricorder. Noting that lunch time had just passed, he frowned, wondering where Beverly was. He sighed and shrugged, surmising she was most probably asleep. Rising to his feet, he softly called to his sons and, once they had joined him, he said softly,
"I want you two to go back to the Calypso; I'm going to the alien ship to give M'Harret the artefact.
Paul nodded, but David scowled.
"It's not fair Papa. I found that artefact, it should be mine."
Sighing, Jean-Luc gently gripped his younger son's shoulder.
"Yes you did, but it would seem it comes from their ancient civilisation, not ours. Under those circumstances, don't you think they should have it?"
David sighed and his frown lifted.
"Well…okay, but if we find another one, can I have it?"
Jean-Luc smiled and ruffled the lad's hair.
"I don't see why not."
With a chuckle, the boys departed for the Calypso. Jean-Luc went south, aiming for the river and once at its bank, followed it upstream towards the copse of trees. He was very surprised to see the alien ship rise silently and move off towards the Calypso. As it passed over his head, a small object was jettisoned. It descended until it was level with his head, approximately two metres in front of him. Frowning, Jean-Luc was raising his tricorder to scan the object when it suddenly exploded with a brilliant flash of intense light. Jean-Luc flung himself to the ground, curling up and covering his head with his arms. After a few seconds, and realising he felt no pain, Jean-Luc opened his eyes, but found he could see nothing. He got to his feet, blinking rapidly, but though his eyes felt gritty and tears ran freely, he could see nothing. He stood very still and listened, trying to rely on his other senses and, at the periphery of his hearing, he detected soft moaning. He turned slowly, attempting to find the direction of the sounds and after a few minutes, decided where he needed to go. Taking cautious, shuffling steps and with his arms outstretched in front of him, he made his slow way towards the sounds.
He had only covered about ten metres when the sound of running feet came from behind him. Jean-Luc stopped and turned, just as Paul grabbed his hand.
"Papa! Mum's not at the Calypso and the alien ship hovered over the yacht and some kind of beam covered it."
The man gripped his son's hand.
"Were you in the ship when that happened?"
Paul shook his head.
"I wasn't, but David was."
His eyes darting to and fro, Jean-Luc called,
"David?"
The boy was standing right next to his brother and his voice showed his obvious confusion.
"I'm right here Papa."
Summoning a wan smile, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I can't see, son. An object from the alien ship exploded in front of me and it was very bright. As a result, I am temporarily blind."
Before the boys could say anything, Jean-Luc said softly,
"David, are you all right? Do you think the beam did anything to you?"
The boy shrugged and looked at his older brother. It was Paul who spoke.
"He's okay Papa, but what about you?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Don't worry about me, I'm fine. Now I want you to do something for me. Stand still and listen."
A few seconds passed before both boys exclaimed…
"Someone's hurt!"
Before he could stop them, both boys began to run towards the sound. It was a barked command that halted them in their tracks.
"Stop! David, come and help me. Paul, you go towards the sounds."
Jean-Luc heard Paul's footsteps recede just as David took his hand. He could feel the boy was trembling.
"It's all right, David."
The boy looked up at his father, his voice breaking.
"Papa, it sound's like Mum."
He squeezed his son's hand.
"I know, David, I know."
The pair had only gone a few metres when Paul's panicked voice reached them.
"Papa! It's Mum, hurry…she's hurt really bad!"
Jean-Luc began to run, heedless of the fact that without his sight, he couldn't see where his feet were taking him. Twice, despite David's warnings he fell but desperation drove him to his feet. It was Paul's warning that brought him to a halt.
"Stop Papa, you're here."
Taking a few tentative steps towards his son's voice, Jean-Luc stopped again and fell to his knees, reaching with his hands. Paul caught his hands and directed them to his wife. As he gently ran his fingers over her sweaty skin, he said roughly,
"Tell me what you see Paul."
As soon as the boy spoke, Jean-Luc knew he was crying.
"Mum's got no clothes on and there is a terrible cut across her lower belly….and Papa…the baby's gone."
Swallowing his anguish, Jean-Luc felt his way to Beverly's face and gently caressed her. Closing his sightless eyes, he said,
"Is she conscious?"
Paul's uncertainty was obvious.
"I don't know Papa, her eyes are open a little but I don't think she's fully awake."
Jean-Luc nodded slowly.
"I see. Is she bleeding?"
Paul had to take a steadying breath before her replied,
"Yes, a little."
Jean-Luc eased a hand under Beverly's head and gently lifted it, whilst saying softly,
"Paul, I want you to go back to the yacht and get a medical tricorder and a blanket. I'm going to carry your mother, David; I want you to guide me."
Grateful for something constructive to do, both boys were immediately on their feet. Paul sprinted off towards the Calypso as Jean-Luc positioned his arms under his wife. Very gently, he took her weight and struggled to his feet. David gripped his elbow and said shakily,
"This way Papa."
It was slow going, Jean-Luc having to feel with his feet as David guided him through the scrub alongside the river. They had not travelled very far before a panting Paul rejoined them with the blanket and tricorder. Jean-Luc gently placed Beverly on the blanket and asked Paul to scan her.
Jean-Luc waited impatiently for the results. Paul was stifling his tears as he read to his father,
"Mum's semi-conscious, the baby and the placenta are gone. There is a foreign chemical in the uterus and over the cut and all the colostrum has been removed from Mum's breasts."
Jean-Luc gritted his teeth then asked,
"What are her pain levels?"
"High, but not in the morbid range."
Jean-Luc stood and went to Beverly's head.
"All right, I think it would be best if we carried your mother on the blanket, I want to minimise her discomfort. I will take this end, if each of you can take the other end."
The boys nodded silently and it was Paul who realised their father couldn't see them. He said softly,
"Okay Papa."
It took over forty-five minutes to get back to the Calypso. Upon entering, Jean-Luc instructed Paul to power up the vessel, but it soon became obvious that something was very wrong. Nothing worked. Whatever it was the alien ship had aimed at the Calypso, it rendered the yacht powerless.
Swallowing his anger and anguish, with the boy's help, Jean-Luc put Beverly in their bed and put a dressing over the gaping wound. He then covered her and asked Paul to scan her again. Noting that her core temperature was down, Jean-Luc asked David to get two more blankets from the closet. Having tucked Beverly in, he asked Paul to get a med kit. From it, Jean-Luc instructed Paul to take out the analgesic vial and load the hypospray. Having given the instrument to his father, both boys watched as Jean-Luc felt for Beverly's neck and injected her. Again Paul scanned his mother and was pleased to report her pain levels had dropped.
With little more they could do for Beverly, Jean-Luc asked David to sit with her while he and Paul went to the cockpit to see if they could somehow overcome what the beam had done to the ship.

 

 

 

 

Over the next two days not much changed. Beverly continued to hover in a semi-conscious daze, her bleeding sluggish, but still prevalent. With his sight still non-existent, Jean-Luc had to rely on his sons for almost everything. Paul had scanned Jean-Luc's eyes and found he had suffered a flash burn. Saline was dripped into the affected eyes and it gave some relief from the grittiness, but his sight remained lost. They packed up the camp and stowed the equipment in the yacht. Jean-Luc and Paul had tried for hours to restore power to the systems, but with no luck.
On the evening of the second day of being marooned, Jean-Luc tried to bolster his son's failing spirits. They were all sitting on the bed, next to Beverly as Paul was encouraging her to drink. He was having some success and it cheered him a little. They had had nothing but field rations, heated up on the outdoor fire. Jean-Luc was desperate to get Beverly to eat, but so far she had resisted. However she would drink and he felt that was all he could ask of her at the moment.
The Captain was about to ask David to get the tricorder when there was a soft beeping coming from the cockpit.
All three froze, looking at each other. Jean-Luc was first to move. He stood and held out his hand.
"Take me to the cockpit…quickly."
Paul was closest to his father so it was he who led the man forward. David went ahead and was already talking by the time Paul and Jean-Luc entered.
"Scanners are working Papa! We can scan…three kilometres around us."
Jean-Luc smiled, but couldn't keep the frown off his face.
"And is there anything we need to know about?"
The boy shook his head then, remembering his father couldn't see him, said softly,
"No Papa, there's nothing there."
Keeping his smile in place, Jean-Luc scratched the skin just above his left ear.
"Well then, perhaps we should see if we can find out why the scanners have suddenly decided to work."
They poured over the systems for over two hours, but their efforts were fruitless. Not only could they not explain how or why the scanners had abruptly come on line, they were no further in discovering why everything else was dead.
It was a despondent group that finally gave up and went back to the living area. While Paul went to check on Beverly, David idly went to the replicator and said, more in hope than anything else,
"Hot chocolate milk."
To his stunned astonishment, the unit activated and provided what he'd asked for. Unable to see what had happened; Jean-Luc had heard the unit operating and barked,
"What's happening?"
David jumped back from the replicator as if it might bite him. He gulped and stammered,
"It's working Papa."
Calming himself with an effort, Jean-Luc got up from his chair and made his way across the room to join David. Using his hands, he found his son and gently squeezed his shoulder.
"It's all right David, I didn't mean to shout. I take it the unit produced what you asked for?"
The boy nodded, saying,
"Yes Papa."
The man smiled warmly.
"Then it would seem our systems may be coming back one at a time. Can you get a tricorder please?"
He waited only a few seconds before David returned with the requested item. Jean-Luc kept his smile in place and said softly,
"David, scan the unit."
He heard the tricorder activate, then David ask,
"What am I looking for?"
"I want to know the power output. Is it normal?"
David frowned and shrugged.
"I'm not sure, Papa."
Jean-Luc bowed his head, still smiling.
"That's all right son. Is the indicator in the green?"
The boy nodded again.
"Yes, Papa."
Giving the boy's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, Jean-Luc's smile widened.
"That's as it should be. Now I want to scan other parts of our systems. Come with me and we'll start in the cockpit."
They had been using the camp lights at night, the Calypso being in utter darkness, but as Paul joined his brother and father in the cockpit, the interior lights suddenly came on. The boys squinted and gasped as Jean-Luc held his hands up, saying,
"I think I can see a little."
Paul grabbed Jean-Luc's hand, saying excitedly,
"Really, Papa? Can you see me?"
Jean-Luc blinked several times and the ubiquitous tears overflowed his eyes. He sighed and shook his head.
"No, I can't see you Paul, but the lights came on and I saw the change."
Paul squeezed his father's hand.
"I'll go and get the medical tricorder. Maybe a scan will tell us something."
David guided his father into one of the cockpit seats while they waited. Paul was back in less than a minute and the scan took place. Jean-Luc could tell by the excitement in his voice that Paul had good news.
"There has been some healing Papa. The optic nerve isn't so badly damaged now and the ulceration on the cornea is subsiding."
Just as Jean-Luc was about to say how pleased he was, two more consoles lit up. David dived into the free chair and exclaimed,
"We have shields, impulse power and thrusters."
It was Paul who spoke next.
"We can take off!"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes we can, but without warp power it will take us weeks to get out of this system. Remember we can't call for help until we're clear of the Herros system."
Paul sighed and shook his head.
"What do you want to do Papa?"
Smiling at his son's level headedness, Jean-Luc tried to look optimistic.
"I think we should get some sleep and look at the situation again in the morning."
He was somewhat surprised to hear it was David, who said quietly,
"And who knows, while we sleep more of the ship's systems may come back on line."
Jean-Luc gave a decisive nod.
"Indeed. And I want to make sure your mother is fit enough to travel."
Allowing his sons to lead him back into his bedroom, he bid them goodnight and waited until he heard their bedroom door close. He then disrobed and slipped into bed beside his dazed wife.
"Lights off."
In the darkness he whispered,
"Well my love, we will wait and see with the dawn brings."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc woke early, but with his defective eyes, he had no way of knowing what the time was. Beside him, Beverly's breathing was soft and rhythmic, indicating sleep, but he knew she was most probably still in the induced daze. He sat up and called for lights, knowing when the room became lit. He felt his way out of the bed and into the clothes he'd left on the chair beside the bed. As he put his trousers on, Beverly softly moaned. Immediately Jean-Luc went to her and felt for her hand, saying softly,
"Beverly? Can you hear me?"
There was a protracted silence before Beverly croaked…
"Jean-Luc?"
Feeling with his hands, Jean-Luc gently touched her face.
"Yes, my love, it's me."
He felt tears flow down her face.
"Jean-Luc…the baby…they took her."
Keeping his voice soft and even with an effort, Jean-Luc said gently,
"I know, my love, I know."
Frustration grew in Jean-Luc as he heard Beverly softly sob.
"They took her Jean-Luc, they cut me open and took her….our little daughter."
She suddenly struggled to sit up; causing Jean-Luc to feel for her shoulders to prevent her, but it was pain that defeated her. With a long moan, Beverly lay back down, her crying intensifying.
"Are you looking for her Jean-Luc?"
Taking a steadying breath, Jean-Luc tried to calm his distraught wife.
"We're doing everything we can my love. Soon I will be able to contact the Enterprise. They will help us."
A small voice came from the doorway.
"Papa?"
Hearing David, Jean-Luc turned his head and smiled.
"It's all right, son, your mother has woken up."
The boy came into the room and nodded.
"Paul says to tell you that all the systems seem to be on line now, Papa."
His smile widened.
"Well that's good, isn't it. Tell you what, you come and sit with Mum, and I'll go and help Paul with the ship. All right?"
Unconvinced, but unwilling to disobey his father, David came to sit on the bed as his father rose and felt his way to the door. Once out of the bedroom, he called softly,
"Paul?"
Within seconds his eldest son was at his side.
"Yes, Papa."
"Help me into the cockpit son; it's time we left Herros IV."
With both of them seated in the cockpit, Jean-Luc led his son through the pre flight check. Paul was nervous. He had flown simulators with his father before and had some hours logged on shuttles, but he had never flown something as powerful as the Captain's yacht. Jean-Luc was aware of what his son was going through and sought to ease his tension. In a light conversational tone he asked,
"Has all the camping equipment been stowed?"
Frowning over his console, Paul looked up and nodded.
"Yes Papa, I stowed the lights last night."
Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully.
"And the fire pit? It was filled in and the fire completely doused?"
"Yes, once the replicators came on line I went outside and did that."
Smiling with pride at his son's good common sense, Jean-Luc sat back and said softly,
"Now this will be straight forward Paul, a simple lift off. The computer will do most of the work; just keep an eye on our attitude and the power distribution in the nacelles."
His voice showing his nervousness, Paul said quietly,
"Yes, Papa."
As the ship's connection to the ground was severed, a slight shudder went through her frame. As their altitude increased, so did their rate of ascent. Once the ship was several kilometres up, she moved forward in a long arc, her altitude ever increasing. The blast shields automatically deployed, shutting off the view of the thinning atmosphere.
There was another shudder as the accelerating ship broke through the gravitational pull of the planet and broke into the darkness of space. The blast shields lowered and Jean-Luc said softly,
"Well done Paul, that was smooth."
The boy swallowed and summoned a small smile.
"The computer did most of the work Papa, I only kept an eye on things."
Jean-Luc grinned.
"Well I think you did very well. Now, we need to input our course. Do you remember how to do that?"
The boy nodded.
"Yes."
"Right. As we have left Herros early, the Enterprise will not know we are on our way, so I am going to give you a course that will take us to where she will be in five days. Also, once we clear the Herros system, we will need to send a sub space message to the Enterprise, asking her to leave immediately to meet us."
"Will we exceed warp five, Papa?"
The man nodded.
"Yes we will and I will be requesting the Enterprise do the same. Now, here is the course."
Minutes later Paul turned to his father and sighed.
"Course laid in at warp nine, Papa."
"Engage."
With the Calypso under way, Jean-Luc left Paul in the cockpit and went to join Beverly. She had calmed but frowned as Jean-Luc felt his way into the room.
"Jean-Luc? What's wrong?"
He smiled and made his way to the bed.
"Oh it's nothing my love; I'm just having a little trouble with my eyes."
"What sort of trouble?"
Before Jean-Luc could answer, David piped up with,
"A bomb went off in Papa's face. He's blind."
Beverly gasped and despite her pain, attempted to sit up. Jean-Luc, although he couldn't see her, was aware of what she was trying to do. He shook his head and said softly,
"Please Beverly, it's all right."
He cast an exasperated look in David's direction and sighed.
"It wasn't exactly a bomb; it was a small device that exploded near my head. I received a flash burn to my eyes."
Beverly, momentarily overcome with pain, lay back on the bed, slightly panting. After a few minutes she asked,
"What treatment have you been giving your eyes?"
Wishing he could see her, Jean-Luc concentrated on her voice, trying to gauge her level of pain.
"I have been putting saline drops in them."
Knowing his options had been limited, Beverly nodded.
"When were they last scanned?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"Paul scanned them last night. He said the optic nerve was healing and the ulceration on the corneas was subsiding."
With a weak smile, Beverly held out her hand.
"I would like to see a new scan."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything, David reached for the tricorder.
"I can do it Mum."
Stifling his protests, Jean-Luc sat passively while his youngest son scanned his eyes. The boy then handed the tricorder to his mother. Beverly struggled to concentrate on the readouts, but she saw enough to be alarmed.
"Jean-Luc…the damage has been significant! You should be in Sick Bay receiving treatment."
With a wry grin, Jean-Luc shrugged.
"Well as you know, that's not possible at the moment. I do think I am getting better though, I can tell when a light is turned on now."
With an exasperated shake of her head, Beverly strove to overcome her pain long enough to make her husband realise just how badly his eyes had been damaged.
"Jean-Luc…"
He raised a hand and shook his head, his tone becoming no-nonsense.
"Look Beverly, it doesn't matter. Until we meet with the Enterprise, we'll just have to make do. Now if you don't mind, I would rather concentrate on you."
He looked in David's direction.
"David, I need you to check on the bleeding."
The boy paled a little and nodded.
"Okay, Papa."
As the blankets were pulled back, Jean-Luc said softly,
"You just lie still and let us take care of you Beverly."
He could tell by her sigh that she was angry, but he ignored her as he waited for his son to report.
"Papa?"
"Yes?"
"I think it's bleeding more now and Papa?"
Covering his alarm, Jean-Luc kept his voice steady.
"Yes, son?"
"There's blood coming out of Mum's…you know…her…"
Jean-Luc frowned and sighed as Beverly softly said,
"My vagina?"
David's voice was small as he said,
"Yes. There's blood on the sheet."
Closing her eyes, Beverly sighed softly.
"That would be consistent with what they did."
Jean-Luc frowned.
"How so?"
The Doctor rubbed her brow.
"When they took the baby, they also took the placenta and separating it from the uterine wall caused heavy bleeding. I remember they sprayed something in me…and on me…maybe a coagulant of some sort that's now wearing off."
Worriedly, Jean-Luc asked,
"What can we do?"
Summoning a wan smile, a brave Beverly's eyes dulled.
"Not that much, my love. There is a coagulant in the med kit, but I am wary of using it after the aliens administered some kind of stupefying drug."
The worry in Jean-Luc's voice roughened it.
"Then what will happen?"
"I will continue to bleed. All we can hope is that is doesn't worsen."
"And if it does?"
Beverly's smile turned bitter.
"Then you will have to pack the wound and if that doesn't work, we'll have to try the coagulant."
Jean-Luc rubbed his eyes and sighed.
"Very well. In the mean time we will put a towel under you and perhaps a wad of gauze to prevent further leakage?"
Beverly's smile turned tender.
"Yes, that's a good idea and I think some more analgesic."
Over the next two hours Jean-Luc, with the help of David, monitored the bleeding, only to find it was gradually getting worse and so was Beverly's pain. No amount of analgesic seemed to give any relief. Under Beverly's instruction, David had packed the wound as best he could, but the trauma for both mother and son was terrible. A frustrated Jean-Luc could only hold his wife's hand and hope for the best.
There was great relief when Paul called from the cockpit.
"Papa?"
"Yes?"
"We're just about to leave the Herros system."
"I'm on my way."
Jean-Luc squeezed Beverly's hand and said softly,
"We'll be able to call for help now my love."
Summoning a wan smile that didn't reach her troubled eyes, Beverly tried to sigh.
"None too soon."
David stood, tapping his father on the shoulder.
"Do you want me help, Papa?"
He smiled down at the boy.
"No, I can find my way. You stay here and look after Mum."
He didn't see David's nod. With his arms outstretched and feeling his way with his hands and feet, Jean-Luc made his slow way to the cockpit. Having gained his seat, he turned to Paul and said,
"Do you know how to send a sub space message?"
The boy nodded, but his voice was uncertain.
"Ah…I think so."
Jean-Luc smiled his encouragement.
"It's all right; I'll talk you through it. Minutes later, Paul was tapping the send key. He swivelled in his seat and faced his father.
"How long until they get it?"
With a shrug, Jean-Luc rubbed his sore eyes.
"It depends on how far away they are. Worst case scenario would be several hours, but if I'm right, they should be within one hundred and forty or so light years of us. If that's the case, they should respond within the hour."
Paul nodded thoughtfully.
"And if so, how long until we meet them?"
Jean-Luc's smile widened.
"Well, considering we're travelling at warp nine and they do the same, it would be only a matter of a few hours."
There was a momentary silence, until Paul asked quietly,
"How's Mum?"
Jean-Luc sighed deeply.
"Not very well, I'm afraid. She's bleeding…quite a lot now…and the painkiller no longer seems to work."
More silence descended before Paul said tentatively,
"Papa…she's not going to die is she?"
With a decisive shake of his head, Jean-Luc made sure his voice was firm.
"No. We'll meet with the Enterprise soon, Paul, have no fear."
The intercom came to life as David called for his father.
"Papa?"
Jean-Luc knew immediately by the sound of his voice, that something was wrong.
"Yes?"
"Papa, Mum's unconscious. I can't wake her up!"
"Stay calm, David, I'm coming."
On his feet very quickly, Jean-Luc offered a quick smile of gratitude as he felt Paul take his elbow to guide him. They were in the bedroom scant seconds later. Issuing brusque orders, Jean-Luc said,
"Paul, scan her. David, check the wound."
Waiting tensely, Jean-Luc heard David gasp loudly.
"Papa! There's blood everywhere!"
Over the sound of the working tricorder, Paul said quietly,
"Her blood pressure is really low, Papa, so is her body temperature."
Taking a steadying breath, Jean-Luc said softly,
"All right. We repack the wound and make sure she's well covered in blankets. Computer raise room temperature by ten degrees."
"Acknowledged."
"Paul, I want you to go back to the cockpit and call the Enterprise again. Tell them we are in urgent need of medical assistance."
"Yes, Papa."
As Paul hurried from the room, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"I will get another towel. Do you need any more gauze?"
He could hear the tears in David's voice as he replied,
"Yes, Papa."
"All right, I'll replicate some. Have you got some new gloves?"
He heard the med kit open.
"Yes."
"Right. Put them on, I won't be long."
Tense minutes passed while David's trembling hands gently packed gauze into the gaping wound. At his father's insistence, gauze was also packed into Beverly's vagina. A fresh towel was placed under her and she was tucked in as the males sat back and tried to quell their rising dread.

 

 

It was just over an hour before Paul's excited voice came over the comm. system.
"Papa! The Enterprise is calling us!"
Snapped out of his fugue, Jean-Luc immediately roused himself.
"On my way!"
With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc let David know he needed no help. By now familiar with his journey, Jean-Luc made it to the cockpit surprisingly fast for one who was blind.
As he took his seat, he gave a curt nod.
"Let me hear it."
"Calypso, we have received you message. On route to you at warp nine, estimated rendezvous, three point five hours. Please acknowledge. Enterprise out."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything, the console beeped. Paul scanned the controls and said jubilantly,
"It's them again, Papa. They've received the second message."
"Calypso, message received and understood. Medical teams standing by. Enterprise out."
Jean-Luc closed his gritty eyes and nodded.
"Right, send this. Enterprise, Doctor Picard has suffered a forced caesarean and is bleeding uncontrollably. Request emergency beam out as soon as we are in range."
Paul manipulated the controls then nodded.
"Done, Papa."
Jean-Luc sat back and rubbed his face.
"Well, we have done all we can. Now we have to wait."
Paul gave a nod, then asked,
"What is their transporter range?"
Jean-Luc smiled and opened his eyes.
"Oh, several thousand kilometres."
Paul sighed.
"So we'll know when Mum dematerialises?"
With a shrug, Jean-Luc gave a nod.
"By then we will be in real-time contact with Uncle Will. They will let us know when transport is imminent."
Nothing further was said and Jean-Luc went back to the bedroom, explaining to David what had happened.
It was very frustrating, not being able to do anything. David had been quietly crying and Jean-Luc had him sit so he could hug the youngster. He squinted in the dim light of the bedroom, trying to will his sight back. It was a call from Paul that roused him.
"Papa?"
He sat up and gently eased himself away from David.
"Yes?"
"Uncle Will is calling you, on screen."
With a smile, Jean-Luc ruffled David's hair.
"Help is coming."
He then called,
"I'm on my way, Paul."
In minutes Jean-Luc was seated in the cockpit, staring unseeing at the viewscreen. He smiled at Will and sighed.
"It's very good to hear from you Number One, we need help."
"I know Captain, we're about ten minutes away from being able to transport. What happened?"
With a long sigh, Jean-Luc explained.
"We were met by some aliens and they took an interest in the pregnancy. While the boys and I were at the dig, they took Beverly to their ship and performed a caesarean. They stole our baby…our daughter."
Will grimaced and Jean-Luc could clearly hear anger in his voice.
"Damn! Do you know where they are now?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No idea. Will, they have a two day head start. They did something…there was some kind of beam used that rendered the Calypso completely powerless. We had to wait two days until our systems came back on line. We've been under way approximately forty hours."
"Understood. What are we looking for?"
Jean-Luc sighed again.
"An insectoid race, their ship was moderate in size…it's possible they have a bigger ship in the vicinity. Will, they are looking at all the ruins throughout the Herros system. It's possible they might still be there."
"Right, Sir. Once we have you aboard, we will set course for the Herros system."
"Acknowledged, Will, thank you."
The big bearded man nodded, then turned as someone spoke to him. He nodded and turned back to the screen.
"Prepare for transport."
"Jean-Luc rose and nodded.
"Understood, transport when ready."
As Jean-Luc slowly walked back to the bedroom, he called,
"David?"
The reply was quick in coming.
"Yes, Papa?"
"Mum is going to be beamed away any second."
"Okay."
Just as Jean-Luc got to the bedroom door, he heard the unmistakable sound of the transporter. David went to his father and wound his arms around the man's chest. Jean-Luc placed a hand on top of his head and sighed.
"She'll be all right now, son, Doctor Selar will fix her."
As he spoke, David quietly sobbed. Paul appeared at the door, saying softly,
"Papa, the Enterprise is approaching."
The Captain nodded.
"Right, I'd better get to the cockpit. Paul, will you come with me please?"
Before the lad could answer his father, David said quietly,
"Can I come too?"
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Of course you can."
Together the two boys helped their father to the cockpit. Under his instructions, Paul brought the Calypso down from warp speed to impulse power. He told his father he could see the Enterprise on the forward sensors.
"She's dropped out of warp, Papa."
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Good, come to a full stop and maintain this position."
"Okay, Papa."
The lad carried out the instructions and then grinned at his father.
"They're approaching, Papa."
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Fine, now I'm going to ask Uncle Will to tractor the Calypso into her dock. It won't be as smooth as docking manually, but under the circumstances I think it wise."
Jean-Luc couldn't see his son, but the boy was grinning.
"Well, considering the alternative, I think it's a good idea, Papa. I don't want to trash the ship."
With a smile and a nod, Jean-Luc asked quietly,
"Open a channel to the Enterprise."
The face of Will Riker appeared on the screen and he frowned when he realised his Captain couldn't see him.
"Sir? What's wrong with your eyes?"
Offering a rueful smile, Jean-Luc rubbed his reddened eyes and shrugged.
"Ah…I had a run-in with some alien technology. I received a flash burn."
Will scowled.
"Can you see at all, Sir?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No."
"Then we'd better get you to Sick Bay."
Holding up a hand, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"It can wait, Number One, I would prefer to speak with you about finding the aliens."
Knowing that arguing would be pointless, Will shrugged.
"Well long-range sensors aren't much help. Anything within the Herros system would be invisible to us, even if we were parked right next to it."
"Understood, but in the meantime we can investigate all the insectoid species we have on file."
With a nod, Will sighed.
"Well we're about to come to a stop. Who will pilot the ship to her dock?"
With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc lifted a hand.
"Tractor us in Will, it will be easier in the long run."
The big man smiled.
"Will do, Sir."

 

 

Jean-Luc tried to not grimace as the Calypso bumped her way into her dock. The hatch was opened and Will grinned down.
"Welcome, home Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded and allowed his sons to direct him to the hatch. Once in the body of the Enterprise, he tapped his comm. badge.
"Picard to Sick Bay."
"Sick Bay here, Ensign Harrow, Captain."
"Ensign, what is the status of Doctor Picard?"
"She is in surgery, Captain. I will ask Doctor Selar to contact you immediately she is out."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"Thank you Ensign, Picard out."
He turned to his Exec.
"Have a detail unload the yacht, Number One, then meet me in the Ready Room."
Will nodded, but his frown was a deep one.
"Captain…if I may, Sir, you really need to go to Sick Bay. We can discuss the aliens while we walk."
The glare was a withering one, but David's hand gently squeezing his father's stole Jean-Luc's anger. He looked down at his son and sighed.
"I suppose you and Paul agree with your uncle?"
Both boys nodded and it was Paul, who said,
"It makes sense, Papa. You need to have your eyes seen to and you also need to know about Mum. Sick Bay is the best place for both of those things."
With a sigh of capitulation, Jean-Luc reluctantly agreed.
"Very well."
Will had a PADD in his hand and he activated it while they walked.
"I've been going over the files, Captain and the computer has downloaded all the insectoid species we're familiar with. Once your sight is restored, you can go over them."
Jean-Luc grunted.
"We can do it sooner than that, Number One. Both Paul and David saw the aliens; they can identify the species…if it's one we have on file."
The big First Officer cocked his head.
"You have doubts about that, Sir?"
With a long sigh, Jean-Luc nodded.
"It's a gut feeling, Will, but I don't think the Federation has had dealings with this species before. We were too…new…to them. I got the distinct impression they'd never seen a Human before. They were certainly fascinated by our reproductive process."
Will snorted as they entered a turbolift.
"So fascinated they assaulted Beverly and stole your child."
"Indeed, and I intend to get her back, Will. As soon as my sight is restored, we will begin our hunt."
"Agreed."

 

 

 

Doctor D'Arcy Carmody was the duty Doctor when Jean-Luc and his party arrived in Sick Bay. He was taken immediately to a bio bed and thoroughly scanned.
"It's nasty, Captain. You are going to require extensive regen treatments and your eyes will need to be bandaged for a few days while a healing salve is applied."
With his back ramrod straight, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"That is unacceptable Doctor. I need my eyes; I have an important mission…one that I simply can't put off."
Jean-Luc heard the Doctor sigh.
"I'm sorry, Captain Picard, but there is little I can do. Until I treat your eyes, you will have no sight. Whether or not your eyes are bandaged, you will not be able to see."
Now clearly angry, Jean-Luc's voice lowered and became deceptively soft.
"That's not good enough! My daughter has been abducted and I have to get her back!"
With remarkable calmness that he didn't actually feel, Doctor Carmody remained firm.
"There's nothing I can do but treat you as I see fit, Captain. You will simply have to wait, at least three days, perhaps more. Now if you would kindly lie down, Captain, I can begin."
With little option but to obey, a disgruntled Captain lay down, his mind seething.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was still under the regen beams, his eyes bandaged, when Beverly came out of surgery. At his insistence, she was placed in his private room and, once his regen treatment was over, he went straight to her. Selar was monitoring the readouts as Paul led his father into the room.
"Captain Picard, I take it you wish to know the status of your wife?"
He nodded.
"I do, yes."
"I had to perform a curette, but I foresee no complications. The bleeding has been stopped and Doctor Picard is being transfused with whole blood. She is also being fed intravenously. There is one outstanding problem, however. The wound will not heal. No matter what we did, the flesh has been altered at the molecular level, preventing integration of the tissue. I have sutured the wound closed and dressed it accordingly, but until I can ascertain exactly what has been done to the tissue, the wound will remain unhealed."
Wishing he could see his wife, Jean-Luc felt for her hand, gratified when David guided him to it. He took Beverly's hand and lifted it to his face, saying softly,
"How does this impact on her recovery?"
He heard Selar sigh.
"Obviously pain relief will be an issue. I believe a nerve block may be beneficial…we also have to guard against infection. She will, or course, be confined to Sick Bay until the wound can be healed."
"I see. But apart from that?"
Selar shrugged.
"I expect her to make a full recovery."
Jean-Luc smiled for the first time.
"Well that's something at least. When will she waken?"
"In approximately three hours."
With a decisive nod, Jean-Luc spoke to his sons.
"Right, we have enough time to go to our quarters, shower and change, eat a light meal then get back here. Did you look at the PADD your Uncle Will had?"
It was Paul who answered.
"Yes, Papa but we didn't recognise any of the pictures."
"All right, it is as I thought. Doctor Selar?"
"Yes, Captain."
"I would like you to investigate my treatment…see if there is any way to accelerate my healing."
Being a Vulcan, Selar showed no emotion as she replied,
"I will do as you request, Captain, but I am sure Doctor Carmody is treating you with the best available therapy."
Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.
"I don't doubt that Doctor, but it is imperative I regain my sight as soon as possible."
"I understand, Captain."
Jean-Luc offered a tight smile, then reached for Paul's shoulder.
"If you would be so kind as to lead me?"
The boy grinned.
"Okay, Papa."

 

 


Beverly woke slowly and as her mind came on line, she became aware of the sounds and smells of Sick Bay. Rather than move, which would sound a quiet alarm bringing medical personnel, she opted instead to spend some time familiarising herself with her body. She had no memory past the arrival of three aliens while her husband and sons were at the dig. She frowned slightly, recalling her feeling of unease as the beings entered the yacht. With a small sigh, she realised the only way she was going to fill in the blanks was to move. She shifted slightly on the bed and immediately knew she'd been given a nerve block. Before she could investigate further, the quiet voice of Selar filled the room.
"Doctor Picard, you are awake. How do you feel?"
Beverly opened her eyes and smiled tentatively.
"I feel fine, although I cannot feel my lower abdomen."
Clasping her hands in front of her, the Vulcan bowed her head.
"That is because you have a wound which we cannot heal. Rather than use potent analgesics, I opted instead to deaden the entire area."
Beverly's heart accelerated and her stomach soured. Her hands went to her stomach and she gasped at finding the bulge absent. Struggling to sit up, she all but shouted,
"Where is my baby?"
Strong hands gripped her shoulders, easing her back down. In her panic, Beverly heard Selar call her husband.
"Selar…where is my baby?!"
The Vulcan kept a firm hand on Beverly's shoulder.
"Please lie still, Doctor Picard, I do not want you to start bleeding again."
Gritting her teeth and trying to calm herself, Beverly took a deep breath then asked again,
"Selar, where is my baby?"
Instead of answering the anguished question, Selar said,
"Captain Picard will be here soon, please try to remain calm."
By now convinced something dire had happened, Beverly began to shout.
"I want to see my baby! Where is it?!"
The quiet hiss of the hypospray heralded Beverly's capitulation. As the light sedative took effect she ceased struggling and frowned.
"Why have you sedated me? Where is my baby?"
She didn't see her husband enter the room, but she felt his strong hands take hers and she closed her eyes as his deep, soft voice carried to her.
"Beverly you must stay calm."
With tears gathering in her eyes, Beverly looked up at Jean-Luc and asked beseechingly,
"Jean-Luc…where is our baby? What has happened?"
Sitting on the side of the bed, Jean-Luc wished he could see his wife. He took a deep breath and asked softly,
"What is the last thing you remember?"
Seeing the bandages on his head for the first time, Beverly gasped softly and replied,
"I was in the yacht and three aliens arrived…M'Harret and two others."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"That's all?"
"Yes."
Gripping her hands in his, Jean-Luc tried to will his love into his wife.
"Beverly, those aliens took you back to their ship…where they…took the baby."
There was a moments' silence before Beverly's small voice was heard.
"They took it? How?"
"They performed a caesarean section on you."
Again struggling to get up, both Jean-Luc and Selar had to force Beverly back down. She shouted,
"Where is it?"
Keeping his voice even with effort, Jean-Luc replied,
"We don't know."
Becoming hysterical, Beverly kept struggling to get out of bed, all the while shouting,
"Why don't you know?! Let me go! I must find my baby!"
Even though Selar possessed great strength, she was having trouble controlling the panicked woman. Beverly wrenched her hand free of Jean-Luc's grip and swung it hard, hitting Selar on the side of the head. Caught off balance, she staggered sideways as Jean-Luc kept up his efforts to control his wife.
Now beyond reason, Beverly clawed at her husband, seeking to escape his grip. Unable to see what she was doing, Jean-Luc was unprepared when she lashed out with her foot, collecting him in the solar plexus. The air was driven from his lungs and his grip loosened.
He vaguely heard Selar's voice but was unable to discern what she had said. He was trying to recapture Beverly's hands when she struck him flush on the nose. With a cry of pain, he staggered backwards, blood streaming down his face. Beverly saw her chance and lurched from the bed, cannoning into Jean-Luc and knocking him off his feet. Selar blocked the entranceway and Beverly snarled, lowering her head in preparation to charging, but the arrival of three burly male nurses proved too much for her. She was caught and a hypo of heavy sedative was administered. As she lapsed into unconsciousness, Selar scooped her up into her arms, then gently laid her on the bed. As Jean-Luc asked,
"How is she?"
Selar was checking the wound.
"Doctor Picard has torn her sutures; I will have to re-close the wound. She is also bleeding heavily. Captain Picard, while I attend to your wife, please seek assistance from the duty Doctor."
With his hand held to his bleeding nose, Jean-Luc offered a curt nod as one of the nurses led him from the room.
Fifteen minutes later, Jean-Luc was standing beside his wife's bed, holding her hand. Selar was just finishing closing the wound. The Vulcan sighed.
"I have had to use metal clips, the wound's edges have become ragged where the sutures were torn."
Jean-Luc didn't bother to turn his head towards the Doctor; instead he kept his attention trained on his unconscious wife. He did, however, ask Selar a question.
"Why can't you cut away the affected tissue and then try to seal the wound?"
The Vulcan sighed and Jean-Luc thought he could hear exasperation in her voice.
"Whatever the aliens used when they performed the caesarean section, it has affected all the tissue in the lower abdominal area. I tried resecting some of the flesh and then joining it, to no avail."
Jean-Luc sighed and gritted his teeth.
"I don't understand this. Doctor Picard regained consciousness on the Calypso after a period of semi-consciousness and was quite coherent. She knew what had happened…she remembered everything. Why has that changed?"
Although he couldn't see her, Jean-Luc clearly heard the uncertainty in her voice as she said,
"I am not sure, Captain Picard, however we do know that alien pharmaceuticals have been used. It is possible they have interfered with Doctor Picard's cognitive functions. You say she was semi-conscious for a time. Could you describe to me her state?"
Lifting his head to stare unseeing at the ceiling, Jean-Luc sighed.
"I didn't actually see her; I had by then lost my sight before I found her, but my sons tell me she was in a stupor. Her eyes were half open, but she was unable to respond to us in any way."
Selar inclined her head.
"I see. Did she react to pain stimulus?"
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No. I picked her up and carried her in my arms some distance and she didn't react at all. Even once we had her back in the yacht, she showed no reaction to her pain."
With her eyebrow raised, Selar nodded slowly.
"Interesting. How long was she in this state?"
Lowering his head, Jean-Luc frowned under his bandages.
"Oh…I'd say about thirty hours."
"And was her regaining of consciousness sudden, or gradual?"
Jean-Luc momentarily chewed his lower lip.
"Um, sudden I think. I was with her and she just came to. I called my son to come and scan her."
"I see. And did she remember everything at once, or did you have to jog her memory?"
With s decisive cut of his hand, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"No. She knew…she was aware of everything that had happened; in fact she told me the caesarean had been performed without anaesthetic. She remembered all of it."
Selar sighed.
"Then something has happened. Either there has been some kind of change in her brain chemistry, which is possible with the alien drugs that were used, or she has repressed the memory to protect herself."
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Like dissociation?"
It was Selar's turn to shake her head.
"Not exactly. There are similarities, but the two states are different. The fact that Doctor Picard had remembered what had occurred makes me think this is a case of repression. However I will not know one way or the other until I do a thorough neurological exam."
Jean-Luc sighed heavily.
"When will you know?"
"A level five exam, including a thorough analysis of the brain chemistry, will take just over three hours. You are welcome to wait, Captain."
With a tired shake of his head, Jean-Luc placed Beverly's hand back on the bed.
"No, my children are resting at the moment, but soon they will be wanting to see me to ask me about their mother. If I'm not there, they will only worry."
With a slight bow of her head, Selar acknowledged his words.
"I see."
"Will you call me when you have finished the exam?"
"Of course, Captain."

 

 

 

Will tabbed off the computer in the Ready Room and sat back, looking up at the ceiling whilst running his hands through his short, dark hair. He had just received his new orders and he knew his Captain wasn't going to be pleased. Never being one who vacillated, Will abruptly left the chair and marched out onto the Bridge. Without pause he made for the aft turbolift, saying over his shoulder,
"You have the Bridge, Mr.Data; I'll be with Captain Picard."
The android's reply was lost as the lift doors closed. Before requesting the deck he wanted, Will lifted his head and asked,
"Computer, location of Captain Picard."
"Captain Picard is in his quarters. Deck nine, room…"
"Cancel. Deck nine."
Soon delivered to the appropriate deck, Will quickly found himself at Jean-Luc's door. To the door chimes he heard,
"Come."
Jean-Luc waited until his caller identified himself. Will shot a grin at the boys and they both said,
"Hi Uncle Will."
Some of the tension left Jean-Luc as he waved his Exec to a seat.
"Hello Will, what brings you here?"
Jean-Luc knew immediately by Will's voice that he bore bad news.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this Captain, but the Enterprise has been ordered to the Bracks system. There has been a major seismic event on Bracks II and relief efforts are urgently required. We're the closest ship."
Years of Captaincy and diplomatic expertise kept Jean-Luc's face neutral, but inside he seethed.
"I see. Departure?"
"Immediately."
Bowing his head slightly, Jean-Luc tried desperately to think of a way out of his dilemma.
"I don't suppose you can spare me any crew?"
Hating having to turn down the gently worded request, Will shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Sir, no. We will be needing all hands. Apparently, once we see to the injured and rescue any survivors, our next job will be to move the entire colony to a more stable land mass on the planet. We will be responsible for setting up buildings and infrastructure, then supplying all they need until a designated supply ship can make it out there. I estimate we'll be at the planet for weeks, if not months."
"I see."
Taking a large breath, Jean-Luc came to his decision.
"Can you spare the yacht?"
Suspicion crept into Will's voice.
"I suppose so, but why?"
Straightening his spine and lifting his head, Jean-Luc kept his tone light.
"Because I intend to use it to find my daughter."
There was a momentary silence before Will spoke.
"Sir…you can't see. How the hell do you think you'll get by?"
"I'll manage."
Paul rose slowly to his feet and said quietly,
"We'll help Papa, Uncle Will."
Before Will could say anything, Jean-Luc turned to the sound of his son's voice and gently shook his head.
"No you won't, Paul. You and David will be staying here, on the Enterprise."
Jean-Luc couldn't see the anguish on his son's face, but he clearly heard it.
"But Papa, you will need us."
Again, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Your help would be invaluable, Paul, but I cannot take you into what is most probably going to be a very dangerous situation. Besides, your mother is going to need you."
Caught between the need to help both parents, it was David who said,
"Then take us and Mum too. We can take care of both of you."
Jean-Luc sighed and his smile was a gentle one.
"You know we can't do that, David. Your mother is under Doctor Selar's care, she needs to stay in Sick bay until she gets better."
He gestured for his sons and they went to him, each taking one of his hands. Jean-Luc went down on one knee and spoke very gently.
"You both know I have to do this and I need to know that you're both here to take care of your mother. Those aliens stole your little sister and I have to get her back. Now, can I rely on you to stay here and help your mother?"
Both boys nodded and it was Paul who realised they had to say something, as their father couldn't see them. He took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice from cracking.
"Yes, Papa."
Will sighed and ran a hand over his face.
"Captain, I can see why you have to do this…but Sir…you can't see."
Standing, Jean-Luc placed a hand on each of his son's shoulders.
"I know Number One and I intend to talk to Selar about it. It may be that she can offer me a solution to my problem.
The tall man played the devil's advocate.
"And if she can't?"
Resolute, Jean-Luc's jaw was set.
"Then I will just have to think of something. Either way, I'm going."
Will swallowed and adopted a professional demeanour.
"Very well, Captain. I can give you an hour, then we have to leave."
Mirroring Will's clinical stance, Jean-Luc offered a curt nod.
"Thank you Commander. I will go immediately to Sick Bay; I will advise you when I am ready for departure."
Standing to his full height, Will gave a slight bow.
"Aye, Sir."
Without another word, Will turned and left. Jean-Luc relaxed a little and sighed.
"Well lads, will you guide me to Sick Bay?"
There was a soft chorus of, "Yes, Papa."
As they left their quarters, Jean-Luc thought,
"I'm coming little one, Papa's coming."

 

 

 

If Selar was surprised to see the family as they entered Sick Bay, she didn't show it. Although she had not summoned them, she guessed they were concerned and wanted to see their loved one, so she was a little taken aback when the boys went to see their mother while their father sought her out and asked for a private conversation in Beverly's office. Offering a quiet agreement, Selar placed one of Jean-Luc's hands on her forearm and guided him to a seat before the desk. She then took a seat herself.
"What can I do for you, Captain Picard?"
He took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then let it out slowly.
"I have just been informed that the Enterprise is needed for a relief mission in a distant sector. I have decided to leave the ship in search of my missing child. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the Enterprise's mission, Commander Riker cannot spare any crew to assist me and I am unwilling to take my sons. What I require, Doctor, is my sight."
Selar placed her clasped hands on the desk top and raised one perfect eyebrow.
"I see."
"Is there anything you can do?"
With a slightly bowed head, Selar weighed her options.
"Perhaps, Captain, but I am reluctant to stray from the standard treatment for an injury such as yours. We are dealing with your sight, Captain. It is not something to be trifled with."
Jean-Luc gritted his teeth.
"Neither is the life of my child."
Selar sat quietly, studying the man before her. She was well aware of his record and had served under him for several years. She knew him to be honourable, stalwart and intelligent, but of the man himself she knew little, although he didn't seem to be held hostage by his emotions as so many Humans were. Inwardly she sighed as this situation was all about emotion. The man's child had been abducted. Any man…indeed any person would do anything in their power to retrieve a lost child. She had to help him.
Taking a deep breath, Selar spoke quietly.
"There is something I can do for you Captain, but it will be painful and will not completely do the job. Upon returning to the Enterprise you will have to undergo surgery and therapy to not only undo what you are about to do, but to restore your sight to what it should be."
Pushing his fears aside, Jean-Luc nodded once.
"I understand. What will you do?"
Selar knew her next words would have an effect on her Captain…she wondered briefly if he would show it.
"It is something we learned from the Borg."
There was little to see, other than a slight stiffening of his shoulders.
"Go on."
"I can modify some nanites…program them to repair some of the damage to your eyes."
"But?"
"I cannot prevent the pain it will cause. If you were here, I could do something about it, even if I sedated you, but on your own, I am afraid you will just have to bear it. The amount of analgesics you would need would only impair your cognitive functions."
Jean-Luc gave a short nod.
"How soon can it be done? Commander Riker has given me only one hour before the Enterprise leaves."
Appreciating his no-nonsense approach, Selar made some quick calculations.
"Thirty minutes…perhaps forty?"
Standing, Jean-Luc gripped the back of the chair.
"Make it so. I will wait here, with my wife and sons."
"As you wish, Captain. I will call you what I am ready."
He was about to leave, but hesitated at the door.
"Would it be possible to wake Doctor Picard? I would like to tell her what is going on."
Selar considered his request and inclined her head.
"I will wake her, Captain, but if she exhibits unreasonable behaviour, I will not hesitate in sedating her again."
"Agreed."
They left the office together.

 

 

 

In case Beverly became violent again, a restraining field was activated over her body, confining her to the bed and holding her motionless.
Selar administered the stimulant and the first reaction was Beverly took a deep breath, then she opened her eyes. At first a little confused, she tried to rise, only to be confronted by the restraining field. Her darting eyes landed on her husband, but the bandages on his head made her frown.
"Jean-Luc? What's happening? Why are you bandaged?"
He smiled and said softly,
"My eyes have been damaged. Beverly, if you promise to stay calm, we can dispense with the restraints."
He heard the suspicion in her voice when she asked,
"Why wouldn't I stay calm?"
He took a deep breath and tried to keep the smile from slipping.
"Because once you remember what has happened, you will get very upset. If that happens and you lose control, Selar will sedate you. Do you understand?"
Now frightened, Beverly nodded, saying in a very small voice,
"Yes."
Wishing her could hold her hands, Jean-Luc said as gently as he could,
"Do you remember our trip to Herros IV?"
"Yes."
"While we were there, we met some aliens."
Beverly nodded.
"M'Harret. I didn't like it."
"Yes. Beverly, M'Harret and the other aliens took our baby."
Beverly's face creased in a frown, then she struggled to look down her body.
"No!"
Bending lower to her to speak, Jean-Luc raised his voice.
"Beverly, listen to me! I am going to find her, I leave very soon. You and the boys must stay here on the Enterprise while Selar makes you better."
With tears sliding down her face, Beverly whimpered,
"You're going to find our baby?"
"Yes and the boys are going to stay to help you."
Jean-Luc cast Selar a beseeching look and she deactivated the restraining field. Beverly immediately tried to sit up, but Selar's strong hands gently pushed her back down. The Vulcan then guided Jean-Luc's hands to his wife. He took her in his arms and whispered fiercely,
"I will find her my love."
As the couple were embracing, a nurse came in and gave Selar a PADD. She read the information then quietly cleared her throat. Jean-Luc heard her and gently said to his wife,
"I have to talk to Selar now. The boys will be here with you. Lie quietly now."
With a gentle kiss, he left Beverly to join Selar outside.
"Captain, we have the results of our neurological scans."
"And?"
"It would appear the problem is an imbalance of the brain chemistry."
Wishing fervently that he could see, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Can you rectify it?"
He heard Selar sigh.
"I am not sure, Captain, as the imbalance has been caused by the alien drugs. I will first have to isolate the residual traces of the drugs, analyse them, then formulate a way to nullify both the drugs themselves and the effect they have had on Doctor Picard's brain."
Rubbing his fingers over his lower lip, Jean-Luc frowned.
"How confident are you?"
With an uncharacteristic shrug, Selar sighed.
"I will not know for some time. Too much is dependent on our being able to analyse the drugs."
"Well, do you best, I will see you shortly."
"Yes, Captain."
They parted. Jean-Luc returned to his family and Selar went to program the nanites.

 

 

 

Thirty-eight minutes later, Jean-Luc was lying on bio bed while his eyes were held open with small metal apparatuses. The healing salve had been removed and a local anaesthetic applied to both eyes. As Selar worked, she spoke softly to her Captain.
"The anaesthetic I have given you will last approximately two hours, Captain. After that time you will begin to experience ever increasing pain."
With a small sigh, Jean-Luc muttered,
"I understand."
He felt nothing as a large needle was introduced into each eye. There was the sensation of pressure but it soon dissipated and he frowned as a liquid was dripped into his eyes.
"What is that?"
Concentrating on what she was doing, Selar's voice was distracted.
"I am applying a polymer to protect each eye. It will become semi-hard, moulding itself to the contours of your eyes. If you inadvertently rub or otherwise interfere with your eyes, the polymer will provide protection. While the nanites are doing their work, the area inside your eyes, and to some extent the surface of your eyes, needs to be kept as sterile and undisturbed as possible."
Jean-Luc pursed his lips.
"I see. Tell me Doctor, if I find myself in inhospitable environments, do you wish me to add extra protection?"
The Vulcan nodded.
"Yes, Captain. The wearing of goggles would be advised, especially if the environment is dusty."
"Understood."
The metal spreaders were removed and his eyes allowed to close. He blinked a few times then sighed.
"I still can't see."
Selar nodded.
"I am aware of that, Captain, however that will soon begin to change, although the changes will not be startling, or even gradual. They will take place in specific stages until you reach a level of healing that will allow a modicum of reasonable sight. I must reiterate, however, your sight will not be stable, nor will it last for any long period of time. As I have previously stated, you will need to return to the Enterprise for a permanent repair of the damage and the full restoration of your sight."
Slowly sitting up, Jean-Luc resisted the urge to rub his eyes.
"Thank you Doctor. I will go and say goodbye to my family."
With a gracious bow, Selar stepped back and bade her Captain farewell.

 

 

 

Seated in the cockpit of the Calypso, Jean-Luc didn't bother to acknowledge the departure of the Enterprise. He had used the vocal interface to launch and now he sat back and wished he could rub his eyes.
"Computer, set course for the Herros system, warp nine."
"Warning: as per Starfleet regulations, exceeding warp five is not recommended."
With an irritated sigh, Jean-Luc barked,
"Authorisation, Picard, gamma, delta two five."
"Authorisation accepted. Course laid in at warp nine."
"Engage."
With little else to do, Jean-Luc eased the chair back and tried to get some much needed sleep.
One and a half hours later, he was woken from his light doze by pain in his eyes. He resisted the urge to rub them as the deep-seated pain and pressure began to slowly grow.
Instead of dwelling on his discomfort, Jean-Luc concentrated on opening his eyes to discern if he could see anything. At first there was nothing, but after he requested more light, he realised he could see vague shapes.
Immensely pleased with the results so far, he ignored the growing pain and left his seat to go aft, into the living area. By using his hands and his new-found sight, he made his way to the replicator.
"Tea, Earl Grey, hot."
Having retrieved his brew, Jean-Luc retired to a lounge chair, sipping and mulling over his mission.

 

 

 

 

Selar sat back from the computer in the analysis lab and frowned. Alyssa Ogawa, Beverly's trusted head nurse looked over the Vulcan Doctor's shoulder and shook her head.
"That doesn't make any sense."
With a sigh, Selar inputted some new commands and muttered,
"I am aware of that, Lieutenant; however we must keep up our work. Doctor Picard's health depends on it."
Alyssa nodded, consulting the PADD in her hand.
"Yes, I know, Sir, but the molecular bonding just doesn't make any sense. The chemicals aren't behaving as they should."
Selar sighed.
"You are basing your observations on known reactions. We are dealing with unknown chemicals. Anything is possible."
With a frustrated shake of her head, Alyssa protested.
"But Sir, Doctor Picard was lucid for a while. Why has she regressed?"
Offering a slight shrug, Selar shook her head.
"I can only surmise that the effect of the drugs is cumulative, that it is length of exposure that exacerbates the effects."
"Even though she only had a short exposure?"
"So it would seem."
Alyssa's next words were bitter.
"Then they must be very potent chemicals to be so effective now."
"Indeed, but we must also look at their reaction to the brain chemistry. I believe it is that reaction, rather than the potency of the drugs, that is causing the trouble."
Alyssa nodded.
"So are you trying to nullify the reaction, or the drugs?"
Sitting back from the screen, Selar lifted one eyebrow.
"Both, but I feel we should try to re-establish the normal brain chemistry first."
There followed a short silence, before Alyssa asked,
"Then you will be wanting more cerebral fluid."
Selar gave a curt nod.
"Yes."
As Alyssa turned to leave she said quietly,
"I'll set up for the procedure."
Selar didn't reply, she was too engrossed in the image on the screen.

 

 

 

David watched as his elder brother gently eased Beverly's head up so that she could suck from the straw. They had both been by their mother's side for over two hours but it was Paul who was seeing to her needs. Feeling left out and frustrated, David stood and said too loudly,
"I'm going to get something to eat."
Paul's head snapped around and he glared at his brother.
"Keep your voice down you idiot! Can't you see Mum's trying to rest?"
David returned the glare then made an obscene gesture with his hand. Paul angrily shook his head and turned away from this brother, muttering,
"Idiot."
Beverly had remained calm while the cerebral fluid had been extracted. Paul had stayed by her side, holding her hand. Having been roused by the heated exchange, she looked up at Paul and asked softly,
"What's wrong?"
Paul looked down at his mother and summoned a smile.
"Nothing, Mum, David's just being an idiot."
She sighed.
"Don't call him that, Paul; you know it makes him angry."
With a long-suffering sigh so like his father that Beverly inwardly smiled, Paul shook his head.
"Well if he didn't act like such a dweeb, I wouldn't have need to call him an idiot."
Beverly said gently,
"There is much about you two that's similar, and much that's dissimilar. You're like your father, while David is more like me. Have patience, Paul…be a little more tolerant with him."
The lad nodded, but Beverly could see he was still angry with his brother. To shift his focus, Beverly asked,
"What happened on the planet, after I was taken?"
Paul sighed.
"Well, we didn't know you'd been taken. When you didn't show up at lunch time, Papa thought you might be sleeping, so he suggested we go back to the yacht. He was going to go over to the alien's ship to give them the artefact that David had found. David and I went to the yacht but you weren't there. Papa had seen the alien ship take off and it flew overhead and stopped over the Calypso. A beam of blue light came down, then the ship left. We went back to find Papa. We found him on his hands and knees. There had been some kind of explosion and he couldn't see. Then we heard moaning and headed towards the sound. We found you."
Beverly sighed.
"What then? Did I tell you what had happened?"
Paul shook his head.
"No, you were sort of…not with it. Your eyes were open, but you weren't there."
Her hands sliding down her abdomen, Beverly's eyes filled with tears.
"But my baby was gone."
Paul sighed and nodded.
"Yeah. Papa carried you for a while, but it was really hard 'cause he couldn't see. David went and got a couple of blankets 'cause you were naked. Then we carried you in one of the blankets."
Stifling her anguish, Beverly asked softly,
"Was I bleeding a lot?"
The boy shook his head.
"Not then. We got you back to the yacht and I scanned you with a medical tricorder. It said you were bleeding internally, but the wound wasn't bleeding that much. The scan showed alien drugs had been used too."
He sighed.
"It was really hard Mum, there was no power at all in the yacht and Papa couldn't see. I was really scared."
Beverly frowned.
"No Power? Why?"
Paul shrugged.
"We're not certain, but we think the beam that the aliens used did something to the power systems. It took two days before everything came back on line and we could take off."
Beverly looked deeply into her son's eyes.
"Who flew the ship?"
Flushing with pride, Paul said softly,
"I did, under Papa's instructions."
Beverly smiled.
"I'm very proud of you."
Paul shrugged.
"David did a lot too, Mum. While I was in the cockpit nearly all the time, he looked after you, 'cause Papa couldn't."
Closing her eyes, Beverly sighed.
"That must have been very frightening."
Paul nodded.
"Yeah. After a while you sort of…woke up. You told Papa what had happened and helped David to look after you. About that time, the bleeding got a lot worse. David had to pack the wound and he also had to put gauze in your…"
The boy went bright red and pointed down her body, saying softly,
"Your…vagina."
Beverly closed her eyes again and swallowed.
"Damn, poor kid."
With a slow nod, Paul sighed.
"He was pretty upset about it. I think he was really scared and embarrassed."
Summoning a smile, Beverly took her son's hand.
"I'll talk to him about it. Now, did you hear what I told your father? About what happened to me?"
The boy slowly nodded in silence.
"Will you tell me?"
Paul bowed his head and sighed.
"Mum…why do you want to know? Wouldn't it be better to wait until your memory returns?"
Irritation spiked, but Beverly calmed herself to ask,
"Paul, put yourself in my position. I have been abducted and my baby stolen. Wouldn't you want to know how that happened?"
The boy shrugged.
"If it was a bad story, then maybe not."
Giving his hand a gentle squeeze, Beverly smiled and said softly,
"Tell me anyway."
Clearly reluctant, Paul sighed.
"I don't know the full story, I just know you were restrained and the baby cut out. You were awake at the time."
Beverly digested that, then asked,
"Do you know the sex of the baby?"
He nodded slowly.
"Yeah, it was a little girl."
Her voice broke.
"A little girl?"
Paul sadly nodded.
"Yeah."

 

 

 

 

On the Bridge, Will was standing at Data's shoulder as the android scrolled through the information Jean-Luc had downloaded from the Calypso's computer.
Data cocked his head in a curiously cat-like gesture and said quietly,
"Curious."
Will leaned forward.
"Have you got something Data?"
The Second Officer nodded.
"Perhaps, Commander."
He pointed to his screen.
"This artefact may have a connection to another found several years ago in the Regala system which, as you know, abuts the Herros system."
Will ran his fingers through his beard.
"Okay, but how does that help the Captain?"
Data's pupils contracted.
"Research into the Regala artefact seemed to suggest it came from a distant sector, out past the Megallanic cloud."
Will huffed.
"That's a hell of a long way from the Herros system."
Data nodded.
"Indeed it is, but it may give us a clue as to the origin of the insectoids."
Will straightened and placed a warm hand on Data's shoulder.
"Well, send what we have so far to the Captain. Anything is better than nothing."
"Aye, Sir."

 

 

 

 

The pain was quickly getting much worse. At first it was slow, creeping up in small increments, but over the last hour the level of pain had accelerated. Jean-Luc was sat in the living area, bent forward, holding his head in his hands, his jaw clenched. Sweat beaded his bald head and trickled between his fingers. The call from the cockpit went unheard the first time, but on the second occasion, Jean-Luc lifted his head, blinked slowly and got unsteadily to his feet, just as the third call came through.
"Incoming transmission for Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
His voice was gravelly as he replied,
"Acknowledged. Replay, audio only, in here."
"Acknowledged."
Over the next few minutes Jean-Luc listened as Data's report came through. With a grim smile he muttered to himself,
"Well done, Data."
Using the new information to take his mind off his pain, he opened his eyes only to realise he could see a little more. Pushing the pain aside, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and summoned an even voice.
"Computer, display all known facts about the ruins in the Regala system, and cross reference them with anything we know about the inhabited systems beyond the Megallanic cloud."
There was a momentary hiatus before the computer replied,
"There is little known of the inhabited systems beyond the Megallanic cloud. Specify."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"I cannot."
Then he thought of something.
"Computer, do we know of an insectoid species that may be from beyond the Megallanic cloud?"
"There is a probability of eighty-seven percent that the insectoid species that once inhabited both the Herros and Regala systems may have originated from a system beyond the Megallanic cloud. However without empirical evidence to prove the supposition either way, Starfleet has not noted the species in our files."
Uttering a soft, "Damn." Jean-Luc sat back and sighed.
"So we do not have an image on file?"
"No."
He sighed again.
"Very well, display all you have on the Herros and Regala systems."
Images and text appeared on the screen, but as hard as he tried, he couldn't see it clearly. Savagely tabbing off the screen, he said brusquely,
"Replay, audio only."
"Acknowledged."
Ten minutes later, with his head bowed; Jean-Luc just stopped himself from rubbing his eyes. Despite his best efforts, the insidious pain was eroding his concentration and he sat back with a grimace, closing his eyes and resting his head back on the cushioned backrest. Through clenched teeth he muttered,
"I know little more than I did in the beginning. Damn."
He sighed and tried to relax his tense body.
"Computer, time to arrival in the Herros system?"
"We will arrive in eight-point-six hours."
Deciding to try and meditate, Jean-Luc summoned his voice one more time.
"Computer, alert me in…three hours."
"Acknowledged."

 

 

 

 

M'Harret looked dispassionately down at the squalling infant. The little girl was restrained naked on a cold metal table, two probes were attached to her head and several wires were connected to various parts of her little body. Through her left nasal passage, a thin tube was inserted, the end of which terminated in her stomach.
The alien pinched her flesh between the claws of its right hand and grunted.
"I cannot understand how they are born so completely helpless."
M'Harret's assistant nodded ponderously.
"Indeed. If what you told me about the adults is true, then it is remarkable that they grow to maturity at all."
A cruel claw was put into her mouth, pulling down her lower jaw, making her cry louder.
"There isn't even anything to chew with!"
M'Harret lifted a hand and scratched the high dome of its head.
"It is interesting though. Our scans show she has her reproductive organs in place, in fact they are remarkably like her mother's."
The colleague looked up, its multi-faceted eyes gleaming.
"Do you think we can breed with her?"
The tall alien sighed.
"Probably not. It takes many years for Humans to reach sexual maturity, although we may be able to alter that. No, I think once we have studied her we may as well dissect her as usual."
The subordinate grunted.
"If she survives. Despite synthesising the liquid you took from her mother, she fails to thrive. She has lost weight and will not settle. Of course it may be normal for her to scream constantly, but I doubt it."
M'Harret nodded.
"Yes, it is a puzzle. Oh well, I suggest you employ a hearing dampener. At least that way you can work in peace."
The grin exposed the feeding mandibles and M'Harret let out a barking laugh. It left the room with the baby's cries echoing in its ears.

 

 

 

Long before the computer's alert, Jean-Luc gave up his attempts at meditating. The pain in his eyes was simply too severe. He tried listening to music but found he just couldn't relax. To try and find some relief, he went and showered, alternating the water temperature between hot and icy cold. It helped a little and he soon found himself dry, dressed and sitting back in the living area.
With little else to do, he sighed and addressed the computer.
"Computer, display all notes on the ruins of Herros IV."
As the screen came to life, Jean-Luc suddenly realised he could see well enough to make out what was being displayed. To make things easier, he requested the computer to enlarge the text. He had read these notes before, but this time he read them knowing that the insectoids may well have been the builders of the ruins.
Ten minutes later he sat back, ignoring the pain as he thoughtfully rubbed his lower lip.
"Computer, are there any other significant sites, other the one I have been studying, on Herros IV?"
"Yes. There are three other sites, not as extensive as the main site, but significant in their own way."
"Display what is known about them."
He read for a while, until his eyes began to water. With a sigh of frustration, he tabbed off the screen.
"Computer, open a channel to the Enterprise."
"Channel open."
"Captain Picard to Enterprise Sick Bay."
"Sick Bay, Selar here."
"Doctor, how is my wife?"
"She is as well as can be expected, Captain."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc closed his eyes.
"Have you isolated the chemicals?"
"No, Sir, but we are making progress. I feel we are getting close to a breakthrough."
"I see. And the wound?"
"It is still resisting our efforts to heal it, Captain."
"That's not good, Doctor. Tell me, do you know how my sons are?"
"They are well, Captain. They have been spending a lot of time here in Sick Bay, visiting their mother. I must say, their company has lifted her spirits significantly."
"What time is it there?"
"It is thirteen seven."
Jean-Luc smiled despite his pain.
"Are my sons there? Would it be possible for me to speak with them?"
"Ah, yes, I think so. Please wait while I get them."
Jean-Luc sat back, the smile still in place. His wait was not a long one. It was Paul's voice he heard first.
"Papa?"
"Yes, Paul, it's me. How are you, son?"
"I'm well, thank you, Papa. Are you okay? How are your eyes?"
"Oh they're coming on just fine, I can see a lot now."
David's voice piped up.
"We've been looking after Mum, Papa, like you told us to."
Jean-Luc's smile widened.
"I'm sure you are doing just fine, David. I'm so glad you are there, I know your mother draws great comfort from your presence."
Paul grunted.
"She's been asking a lot of questions, Papa. I had to tell her what happened. I didn't want to, but she really needed to know."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc ran a hand over his head.
"That's understandable, considering the circumstances, Paul."
The Captain heard his son sigh.
"I know, Papa, I just felt really uncomfortable telling her."
"Well, you did the right thing."
When David spoke, Jean-Luc could hear his uncertainty.
"Papa"
"Yes."
"Paul says Mum wants to speak to me about what I did while I was looking after her."
The older man sighed.
"And you're worried about what she might say?"
"Yes."
Jean-Luc lowered his head and closed his eyes.
"David, you know your mother loves you?"
"Yes."
"And you trust her?"
"Yes."
"Then trust that she won't do or say anything you should be afraid of. David, I know some of the things you did embarrassed you and your mother knows this as well. It will be all right, son, I promise."
When he next spoke, David sounded a lot happier.
"Thanks, Papa."
Jean-Luc smiled.
"Well I suppose I should go. If I can, I will call again tomorrow."
Both boys said in unison,
"Bye, Papa."
"Goodbye my sons."
Jean-Luc tabbed off the channel and sat back, trying to ignore the pain in his eyes. He sighed and decided to spend some time lying down. He went into the bedroom, toed off his boots and stretched out on the bed. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on thoughts of his family…and his little lost girl.

 

 

 

It was towards the ship's evening that Beverly asked to see David. He had made himself scarce, although he was in Sick Bay and Beverly was worried about her younger son. She knew he sometimes felt intimidated by his more serious brother and with that, he often sought his own company. With the knowledge of what the boy had done for her, and knowing how embarrassed he must be by it, when he walked into the room, Paul caught her look and absented himself.
With his head lowered, he only nodded when Beverly asked if he would like to sit on the bed. In the ensuing silence, Beverly sighed and said softly,
"I'm really sorry David."
He looked up, a puzzled frown on his face.
"Why, Mum?"
"Because you had to do some pretty embarrassing stuff and I want you to know how proud and grateful I am that you put aside the way you felt and helped me."
David shrugged and blushed deeply. With a sigh, he looked at his mother and she could easily see his pain.
"I had to, Mum. Dad couldn't see and Paul had to stay in the cockpit. I'm just glad you're okay."
She smiled tenderly and took his hand.
"I'm really very proud of you, you know. Even adults would have had trouble doing what you did."
"With a self-depreciating grin, there was a definite twinkle in his eyes when he said wryly,
"I have seen parts of you I never want to see again!"
Beverly flushed as she giggled.
"I bet!"
He sighed again and when he looked at his mother, she could see his worry.
"Mum….Papa will get the baby back…won't he?"
She sighed and lowered her head.
"I hope so, David, at the very least; he will do everything in his power to bring her home."
The youngster nodded, but the worried frown remained. Beverly gently squeezed his hand and said softly,
"What do you think we should name her?"
The boy looked up, confusion on his face.
"Don't you and Papa have a name picked out?"
With a wry chuckle, Beverly gently ruffled David's hair.
"We were pretty sure we were having another boy!"
David chuckled.
"Really?"
"Uh huh. He was going to be called Michael."
David sighed.
"Michael. I like it; I would've called him Mike."
Beverly smiled wistfully.
"Yes, well now we have to think of a girl's name."
They sat in silence for a few seconds, before David said,
"I'll go and get Paul…he's really good at names."
Letting go of his hand, Beverly smiled her agreement. David slipped off the bed and was out the door very quickly. When he came back in, he was talking animatedly with his brother.
"So you can see how we need a girl's name."
Paul nodded thoughtfully, then looked up at his mother.
"Have you any preferences?"
Beverly shook her head.
"Nup."
His next gesture was so like his father, Beverly had to stifle a gasp. Paul gently rubbed his fingers over his lower lip.
"Well, do you think Papa might like something French?"
With a shrug, Beverly sighed.
"For all I know, he might prefer something Shakespearean."
David rolled his eyes.
"Oh yeah, Ophelia!"
Paul screwed up his face in disgust. Beverly chuckled and gently punched David's shoulder.
"I don't think so…if he chose a Shakespearean name; it would be from a nice character, not a tragic or deceitful one. Do you remember King Lear?"
Both boys nodded.
"Well, out of those three daughters only Cordelia was nice. Goneril and Regan were awful."
David shook his head.
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean he will pick Cordelia."
Beverly shook her head.
"No it doesn't."
Paul sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"So if he chose something French, what do think it might be?"
With a sigh, Beverly shrugged.
"I really don't know. With your father's love of the stars, maybe he would choose Etoile?"
Paul's head shot up.
"Star?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, it somehow seems appropriate doesn't it?"
David hopped off the bed and stretched.
"Well I don't mind what you call her, as long as she has her own room. I don't want to share with a squalling baby."
Covering a grin with her hand, Beverly nodded noncommittally. David yawned and Beverly said quietly,
"How much sleep did you two get last night?"
It was Paul who answered.
"Not that much."
Adopting an uncompromising look, Beverly pointed to the door.
"Well I want you to go back to our quarters, have something to eat, and then go to bed!"
The boys grinned, but then David frowned.
"Mum…Papa told us to look after you. We can't do that from our quarters."
Paul nodded.
"Yeah, Mum, we really should stay with you."
Beverly sighed, but she smiled tenderly.
"Where are we?"
Paul frowned.
"In Sick Bay."
"And do you think the staff here are well trained?"
He nodded.
"Yes."
"Then don't you think they can look after me? You know Doctor Selar. Do you trust her?"
It was David, who nodded and said,
"You know we do."
Beverly's smile widened.
"Then let her do her job."
The boys looked doubtful and Beverly sighed.
"Don't you think Papa would be unhappy if he knew you were going without your rest just so you could stay here in Sick Bay, watching while the staff looks after me?"
Paul sighed and shrugged.
"I suppose."
With a shooing motion, Beverly encouraged the boys to the door.
"Go! Do as I say and get something to eat and a good night's rest."
The boys looked at each other and shrugged. Paul turned to his mother and offered a lopsided smile.
"Okay, Mum, sleep well."
Beverly grinned.
"I will and I'll see you both first thing in the morning."
After the boys left, Beverly eased herself back down and stared up at the ceiling.
"Where are you Jean-Luc? Have you found our little girl?"
When Selar came in half an hour later, Beverly was asleep.

 

 

 

The beeping of the computer roused Jean-Luc from the shower. In an attempt to ease the pain, he had once again retreated to the shower, letting hot water cascade over his face, his eyes tightly closed. With a low growl, he tabbed off the water, stepped outside the stall and roughly towelled himself before wrapping the towel around his slim waist. Through squinted eyes, he made his way to the cockpit, scowling when he saw they were approaching Herros IV.
He disengaged the auto pilot and summoned his husky voice.
"Computer, reduce speed to one quarter impulse and take up a geosynchronous orbit above the main ruins on the northern continent."
"Acknowledged."
Ten minutes later the computer spoke.
"Geosynchronous orbit achieved."
Jean-Luc rose and made his way back to the bedroom. Minutes later he was dressed. He went into the main living area and, using his access code, opened an armoured locker. He quickly perused the contents and chose a personal phaser, a mark four hand phaser and a new phaser rifle. He retrieved a backpack and in it he put several small explosive devices and two large ones. Having closed and locked the small armoury, he put a med kit into the backpack, followed by several packets of field rations and a tricorder.
"Computer, what are the weather conditions at the ruins site?"
"Heavy rain, wind from the south east, gusting to eighty kilometres an hour and total cloud cover."
"Local time?"
"Oh eleven twenty three."
Jean-Luc replicated himself a warm, waterproof coat with a hood and a pair of gloves and a stout pair of all weather boots. The last thing he replicated was a pair of goggles. He hefted the backpack over his shoulder and fitted the goggles over his eyes. He then pulled the hood over his head and fastened it under his chin.
He went aft and stood on the small transporter platform.
"Computer, one to beam to the surface."
As he disappeared in a sparkle of blue light, he closed his hand around the phaser and clenched his jaw.

 

 

 

The dispassionate weather report from the computer did little justice to the conditions on the surface. As he materialised, cold blasting winds drove him back a few steps. He bent, trying to shield his face from the sleeting rain. Blinking several times, he made out the river and the stand of trees, many metres in the distance. He had already determined that the last landing site of the alien ship was where he would begin his search.
Fortunately his walk to the stand of trees was undertaken with the driving wind at his back. As he neared the river he could hear, even over the howling wind, the water racing along the bed. He cast a leery look at the tumultuous water, shuddering at the thought of being at its mercy. He noted the water level had risen significantly and made a note to keep an eye on it. The demisters in his goggles did a good job of keeping the lenses clear, but his sight wasn't as good as he'd hoped. He had virtually no peripheral vision and his forward vision was slightly cloudy.
Stifling a sigh, Jean-Luc made his way into the copse, grateful from the respite from the wind and the driving rain.
He soon found the clearing where the alien ship had rested and went down on one knee, swinging the backpack off his shoulders and removing the tricorder. A quick scan told him much, although nothing he didn't already know. Picking up a nearby stick, he dug into the soft soil and turned over several clods. He scanned again, this time altering the parameters of his search. When he squinted at the screen, he gave a satisfied grunt.
"So, traces of your propulsion system."
Confident his ship's computer would be able to analyse it further, Jean-Luc rose to his feet and looked around the clearing. Over to one side, about twenty-five meters away was where they had found Beverly. Acting purely on instinct, Jean-Luc went to the area and stood still, ignoring the rain that pelted him as he stared at the ground. Dropping down on one knee, he scanned the ground, not surprised to find the rain had washed the surface of the soil clean, but, as he did with the landing site, he found a stick and turned over some of the soil. Another scan made him sigh and close his watery eyes.
"So…traces of DNA and chemicals. Could be interesting."
The roaring of the river caught his attention and he stood, casting a look in its direction. Noting that the water was beginning to break the banks in places, he hurried back to his beam out point. With a quick tap to his communicator he said loudly,
"Computer, one to beam up."
The quiet of the Calypso was startling after the cacophony of the wind-driven rain. Jean-Luc took off his coat, boots and goggles, then stepped off the transporter pad, making his way to the cockpit. It was the work of mere seconds to download the tricorder information into the ship's computer. Jean-Luc sat back and rubbed his eyes, immediately reminded that he was forbidden to do so by the uncomfortably hard shell over his eyes. He blinked away his forming tears and savagely shook his head.
"Dammit!"
Taking a calming breath, he opened his eyes and addressed the computer.
"Analyse traces of propulsion system and extrapolate a source."
There followed several minutes of silence, broken when the computer's feminine voice intoned,
"Propulsion system appears to be anti-matter sequencing pulse generator."
Jean-Luc frowned.
"Anti-matter sequencing? Explain."
"Similar in theory to the Romulan system of quantum singularity, not enough is known about this system to form solid scientific formulae."
"Merde!"
After a few minutes of furious thought, Jean-Luc asked,
"Computer, do we know of any species that are using anti-matter sequencing?"
"Not with any sound basis."
Stifling a growl of anger, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and ground out,
"Explain."
"We have only encountered evidence of anti-matter sequencing on three occasions. On two of those occasions, it has been theorised that the possible insectoid species that may originate beyond the Megallanic cloud may be responsible, but not enough evidence exists to make a determination one way or another."
Muttering to himself, Jean-Luc nodded.
"It's good enough for me!"
He sighed and sat back, trying to rest his aching eyes.
"Computer, access all information on the ruins in this sector and display."
He blinked several times before he could see clearly enough to study the information on the screen. The pain was quickly eroding both his patience and his stamina. Having come to his decision, he said tiredly,
"Computer, set course for Herros III."

It wasn't the weather on Herros III that was a problem; it was the lack of breathable atmosphere. Having got the coordinates for the largest of the ruins on the surface, Jean-Luc debated the wisdom of transporting down into such a hostile environment. He sighed and shook his head, muttering,
"My daughter has no choice, so neither have I."
Putting on the evac suit was time consuming and he began to feel his lack of sleep as he stood on the transporter pad. Over his right shoulder was the backpack and in his hand was a phaser.
"Computer, one to beam down."
He wasn't entirely sure what to expect when he rematerialised on the surface, but a drifting grey mist wasn't it. Unable to see more than a few metres in front of him, Jean-Luc quickly deployed his tricorder and made his way tentatively towards the ruins.
Once there, although he couldn't physically see through the inspissating mist, he could tell by the readings he was getting, they were remarkably similar to the ruins on Herros IV. Puzzled by the markedly different atmospheres of the two planets, Jean-Luc blinked several times and began to methodically walk through the crumbling stone work and obvious traces of dig sites. He had travelled in a circle of nearly two hundred metres before his tricorder loudly beeped. He stopped, rapidly blinking to try and clear his defective sight. What he saw made him softly growl.
"So, you were here too."
Looking around the area as best he could, he could see by the tricorder screen that he was standing in an area clear of significant ruins. The same evidence of the alien's propulsion system was there and it was a fresher sample than he'd previously collected. He gritted his teeth and straightened.
"I'm on your trail now."
His journey back to the beam out point was slow, but determined. Once back aboard he doffed the evac suit as quickly as he could and made his way to the cockpit, calling to the computer,
"Computer, has Herros III always had this atmosphere?"
"No."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc ground out,
"Elaborate."
"The science team of the USS Hood discovered evidence that seems to suggest Herros III once was a class M planet."
"So what happened to change that?"
"That is unknown; however it is possible that a collision with a large asteroid carrying the necessary components for a chemical reaction in the atmosphere is the most likely scenario."
Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. Do we have any idea of a time frame?"
"No, not enough study has been done to accurately determine when such an event may have occurred."
With a deep sigh, Jean-Luc sat back and resisted the urge to rub his aching eyes. The pain had now spread, not only were his eyes painful, but he now felt pain behind his eyes and into his head and it was getting progressively worse. Tyring to push the pain aside, he concentrated fiercely on the matter at hand.
"Computer, if there was an indigenous population living on Herros III at the time of the event, how long would they have had to evacuate the planet?"
"Unknown. Too much depends on how quickly the chemical reaction took place. It could have been instantaneous, or it could have been completed over the course of many months. More study is required before a determination can be made."
Muttering to himself, Jean-Luc sighed.
"Well either way, they had to have had the means to travel through space en masse. Maybe not warp capabilities, but enough to get them to Herros IV and beyond."
After a thoughtful pause, Jean-Luc lifted his head and said,
"Computer, of the remaining planets in this system that have ruins, how many are M class?"
"There are three other planets, all class M."
With a decisive nod, Jean-Luc intoned,
"Set course for the next planet and engage at three quarters impulse."
"Course laid in."
"Engage."

 

 

 

K'Lerran peered again at the screen and shook its large domed head. Being the leader of the team studying the human infant, K'Lerran knew its superior was waiting on the results of their investigation, but the more the infant was scrutinised, the more fascinated K'Lerran became.
A stupefying drug had been administered after complaints from other team members about the noise the baby was making. She now lay quietly, her half-lidded eyes staring up at the overhead lights. K'Lerran knew she was able to feel, indeed it was important to their work that all her reactions be monitored, but it had to admit, it was much more convivial to work in a quiet environment.
Staring intently at the screen, the small vaginal probe was manoeuvred closer to the left ovary. It cast a quick look at the brain wave patterns, noting the spike. The quiet voice of its immediate subordinate disturbed its concentration.
"The information we gained from their ship's computer tells us we require luteinising hormone before an egg is released."
K'Lerran nodded ponderously.
"That is true, but we must also consider the release of an egg is dependent also on its maturity. We have to find a way of making her body produce the hormones to not only release the egg, but to mature it in the first place."
The subordinate sighed.
"A complicated procedure."
"Yes, but not out of our reach. The infant's body already contains the glands that are responsible for the hormones; we just have to find a way to activate them prematurely."
Poking the little body with a long claw, the subordinate shrugged.
"I can't believe how utterly helpless it is. How a species managed to overcome such an impediment and exist is beyond comprehension."
K'Lerran snorted.
"From what we have learned they not only exist, humans have proliferated! It would seem this precarious and inefficient method of procreation hasn't been an impediment at all."
Picking up a small, sharp scalpel, K'Lerran made a small incision in the baby's lower abdomen.
"Hand me a retractor, I want to see one of these ovaries."
As the alien went about its work with cold, unfeeling dedication, neither being noticed how the brain pattern waves spiked erratically, a sure indication of pain and distress. If they had, neither would have cared.

 

 

 

 

Selar entered Beverly's room, carrying a PADD. The red headed Doctor was lying down, a book tented on her chest as she dozed. With a soft clearing of her throat, Selar said quietly,
"Doctor Picard?"
Beverly's eyes snapped open and she immediately started to sit up, but a firm hand on her shoulder reminded her that it would be better if she remained lying. The Vulcan physician looked down at her colleague, her gaze intense.
"Doctor Picard, I have some results I would like your opinion of."
Blinking her sleep away, Beverly nodded.
"Of course."
Selar handed the PADD to Beverly, then clasped her hands in front of her. Beverly activated the device and read, a frown forming.
"Well I must say…this is different."
With a slight incline of her head, Selar agreed.
"Indeed, Doctor. I have never seen anything like it before."
With her frown deepening, Beverly scratched her head.
"So is it chemical?"
Selar shrugged.
"I thought so at first, but now I am not so sure. Certainly the result in your flesh is a chemical reaction, but the precipitator is, I think, electro-magnetic in nature."
Beverly's head snapped up, her cerulean eyes widening.
"Electro-magnetic? Then how do we stop it?"
With a small sigh, Selar lowered her head.
"I do not know, this is out of my purview as a medical practitioner."
Beverly nodded absently, her brilliant mind already trying to unravel the puzzle. After reading the information twice more, she said distractedly,
"We need to talk to Geordi…and Data."
Selar nodded.
"I will summon them."

 

 

 

 

Will Riker was seated in the Command chair as the great ship cleaved her way through the cold, black void of space. He had ordered the forward viewscreen activated, the sight of the stars, elongated and prismatic at warp, always a balm to his troubled thoughts. His wife, Counsellor Deanna Troi was well aware of his unrest. She exited the aft turbolift and made her way to the command well. Sitting with a sigh of gratitude at being able to take her weight off her swollen feet, the very pregnant woman acknowledged the smile of greeting from her husband and allowed five minutes of silence before saying quietly,
"Can I see you in the Ready Room please, Sir?"
Will knew, but the use of formality, that this wasn't a visit of a personal nature. He stood to his full, impressive height and nodded once, gesturing that Deanna should precede him. Once they were both in Jean-Luc's office, Deanna sat on the sofa and let out a long sigh. Will sat beside her and took her hand, the protocol of command taking a back seat to his concern for his wife. She smiled her gratitude and lowered her head.
"You mind's not on the mission, Will."
Knowing exactly to what she was referring to, Will dropped her hand and stood, glaring angrily down at his wife.
"I know that, dammit!"
Ignoring his outburst, Deanna exuded nothing but calm equanimity.
"How do you expect to do your job if you can't focus your thoughts on the matter at hand?"
Will took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds before letting it out slowly. With an effort, he calmed himself.
"Dee…they took the baby."
Deanna nodded, saying softly,
"I know, but…"
Will held up his hand.
"Not only that, they butchered Beverly to do it, they left the Captain blind and marooned on a planet with his injured wife and children, unable to call for help. What kind of bastards are these people?"
Taking a steadying breath, Deanna strove for calm.
"You know we can't hold our standards up to other species, Will. What they did might be perfectly normal to them."
Will scowled, his voice a growl.
"Don't give me that claptrap! They treated the Captain and his family with complete disdain. They saw something they wanted and they bloody well took it…and who cares about the consequences! And now, Captain Picard is out there…going to who-knows-where, trying to rescue his daughter, while trying to cope with his defective sight, while Beverly lies in our Sick Bay with a gaping wound that won't heal and who knows what psychological damage! You tell me, Deanna…how the hell am I supposed to feel about it! Eh?"
Her own anger rising, Deanna struggled to stay calm.
"It's no good shouting at me, Will, I agree with you, but while Captain Picard is off the ship, you are acting Captain…and you have a mission to complete."
After a few tense seconds, Will's shoulders fell and he slumped down onto the sofa. He sighed and rubbed his eyes, wiping away some suspicious moisture.
"I know Dee, I'm sorry, it's just…I keep thinking what would I have done if it were you and our baby."
He sighed heavily and looked deeply into Deanna's obsidian eyes.
"And I am forced to admit…if I caught them, I'd slaughter each and every one of them."
With a lopsided smile, Deanna took his hand and lifted it to her lips where she kissed his palm.
"Well, hopefully Captain Picard will have more control. Now, are you going to be able to put all this aside to complete the mission?"
The big man nodded, a rueful smile evident.
"Yeah, I know how important it is…I'll be okay."
They shared a tender kiss, then Deanna said softly,
"Okay then, help me up, I think I'll go and see Beverly."
Once on her feet, Will kissed her again.
"Tell her we're thinking of her…and the Captain."
Deanna nodded, tears welling in her eyes. In an unsteady whisper she said,
"And their little girl."
Will nodded, touching his forehead to hers as he said huskily,
"And their little girl."

 

 

 

 

Geordi and Data met at the Sick Bay doors. The dark engineer smiled at his android friend, his blue ocular implants dilating.
"Hi Data, do you know why we've been summoned?"
The golden skinned Second Officer shook his head.
"No, Geordi, I do not."
Smiling, Geordi gestured to the doors.
"Well, we might as well find out."
"Indeed."
Selar met the officers and led them to Beverly's room. Geordi grinned, offering a wave.
"Hiya Doc."
Beverly looked up from the PADD and smiled.
"Hi, Geordi, hi, Data."
The android inclined his head.
"Hello, Doctor Picard. How are you today?"
Her eyes already back on the PADD, Beverly muttered distractedly,
"Oh I'm fine."
Selar could see that her boss wasn't going to be forthcoming, so she addressed the officers.
"We require your combined expertise. Please read this information."
She gave Geordi a PADD. On it was the same information that was on Beverly's.
The engineer read, Data also perusing the text. It was Data who spoke first.
"This is fascinating, Doctor. I have never seen electro-magnetic forces used in this way."
Geordi shook his head.
"Me neither. And you think these forces are responsible for the chemical changes in Doctor Picard's flesh?"
Selar shrugged.
"The result is evident, what I have to do is find the precipitator. I believe I have correctly identified it."
Geordi nodded.
"Yeah, Doc, I think you have."
Selar quietly clasped her hands in front of her.
"We need to stop the effect so I can heal Doctor Picard's wound."
Data looked at the Vulcan and offered a small smile.
"And that is what you require of us."
Selar gave one nod.
"Yes."
With a sigh, Geordi put the PADD on the bed and softly cleared his throat.
"Doc?"
Beverly lifted her head, but her eyes stayed on the PADD. Geordi smiled and tried again.
"Hey, Doc?"
She dragged her eyes up and frowned.
"Yes?"
Geordi pointed at the PADD.
"Do you have any ideas?"
Her eyebrows rose.
"As a matter of fact, I think I do. Am I right in thinking I have to be earthed?"
It was Data who responded.
"That would be one way of ridding you of the electro-magnetic residue."
Beverly's next query was directed at Selar.
"And if the E-M residue was nullified, or eliminated, you could reverse the chemical reaction?"
The Vulcan slowly nodded.
"I believe so, yes."
The red head shrugged.
"Then all we need is a way to earth me."
Geordi sighed and shook his head.
"It's a little more complicated than that, Doc."
Beverly frowned.
"How so?"
Data pointed at the bed.
"You are already earthed."
Screwing up her face, Beverly said quietly,
"I am?"
"Uh huh.", said Geordi. He sighed.
"It would seem simply earthing you isn't going to be enough. What we're going to have to do is somehow…drain you…of the energy."
That caused a deeper frown.
"Drain me?"
Data nodded vigorously.
"Yes…use your body as a conduit."
Beverly gaped.
"A conduit?"
Geordi placed a calming hand on her forearm.
"It's not as bad as it sounds, Doc. We need to connect you to another E-M source, then place something attractive nearby, using your body as a conduit for the E-M energy to pass through."
Beverly ran her hands through her lustrous red hair.
"So this…attractor…it would act like what…a battery?"
The engineer nodded.
"Yes. Your body would act like a conductor, allowing the E-M energy to pass through, hopefully taking your residue with it and depositing it all in the attractor."
Selar spoke quietly.
"Can you do this in Sick Bay?"
Geordi shrugged.
"I don't see why not, it's pretty straightforward."
Beverly smiled.
"Then as my illustrious husband would say….make it so!"

 

 

 

It took the better part of two days to thoroughly check the remaining sites in the Herros system. At each site Jean-Luc found traces of the alien's propulsion system, each sample a little fresher than the last. He coped as best he could with his pain, grateful that he had some sight to work with. Sleep was nearly impossible and he found his appetite was nearly non-existent. He got by on snacks and light meditation for rest.
Having consulted the computer, his next destination was the Regala system. It was a journey of only a few days, a week at most and he had already decided that was the most logical place to search next. One thing cheered him. In the Regala system he wouldn't be troubled by the communication blackouts that plagued him in the Herros system.
He asked the computer to alert him when they had left the Herros system and went to lie on his bed.
As he closed his throbbing eyes in an attempt to meditate, he relaxed his body and let his mind calm. One thought was repeated again and again.
"I'm coming my little girl, I coming."

 

 

 

 

It was morning on the Enterprise and Paul was setting the table. As usual, David was dawdling in the shower. Paul gave the breakfast order to the replicator, then considered waiting for his brother, making sure the food was hot for him, but as they'd had this particular argument more times than he cared to admit, he shrugged and requested the food. A good fifteen minutes passed before David appeared, looking somewhat damp. He took one look at the table, noticing that most of the hot food was gone, and stomped angrily to the replicator to order more food. Paul sipped his orange juice, seemingly oblivious to his brother's bad temper. David retrieved his breakfast and plonked himself down at the table, casting his brother a glare.
Paul sighed and rolled his eyes.
"What?"
Stuffing a croissant into his mouth, David growled through the food,
"You might have waited."
With an uncaring shrug, Paul raised his eyebrows.
"Why should I? Every morning you take ages in the shower. Why should I have to wait for you?"
Having swallowed his mouthful, David glared again.
"Because it's good manners! You know Mum and Papa always like us to be at the table to eat our meals together."
Paul shrugged again.
"Well, as you can plainly see, Mum and Papa aren't here and I'm not willing to wait every morning while you fool around in the shower. What are you doing in there anyway…playing with yourself?"
Incensed, David threw a croissant at his brother.
"You take that back!"
A cruel grin crossed Paul's face.
"Trying to make it big for Stacey Grimble?"
David sprang to his feet.
"Shut up, Paul!"
Suddenly finding no more amusement in baiting his younger brother, Paul threw his serviette down and stood.
"We have to get to Sick Bay. You coming?"
Still smarting and glaring at his brother, David silently left the table and stalked to the doors. As they exited together he muttered,
"You can be such an arse hole sometimes."
Paul just grinned.

 

 

 


The boys found their mother out of her room and in the main body of Sick Bay. Lying on one of the major bio beds, Beverly was connected by round metal paddles, themselves connected to a small machine. The paddles were stuck to several parts of her torso, but mostly concentrated on her lower belly.
Paul and David were ushered to one side by Alyssa Ogawa and they watched wide-eyed as she explained.
"Commander LaForge and Commander Data are rigging up an apparatus to try and rid your mother of an electro-magnetic residue that is causing a chemical reaction in her flesh that is preventing us from healing her wound."
David swallowed and pointed to the bed.
"Will it hurt?"
Alyssa frowned.
"Ah, I'm not sure. I hope not."
Geordi placed a reassuring hand on Beverly's shoulder and spoke quietly.
"How you doing, Doc?"
Beverly smiled, but he could see she was nervous.
"I'm okay, Geordi."
He patted her shoulder.
"That collector under you not too uncomfortable?"
She shook her head.
"No, just a little cold."
He made his voice as warm as possible.
"Well, this shouldn't take long."
Taking a deep breath, Beverly asked hesitatingly,
"Will it hurt?"
Data, listening to the exchange, came closer and shook his head.
"I do not think so, perhaps a small amount of tingling?"
Swallowing to bolster her confidence, Beverly nodded.
"Okay, let's do it."
Everybody stood back from the bed as Geordi activated the device. There was a low hum and all looked at Beverly. She softly gasped as a low humming became louder, then frowned. Selar, standing close to the bed, said softly,
"Are you all right, Doctor Picard?"
Just as she began to nod, Beverly suddenly called out.
"It's getting hot!"
Selar's eyes flicked to the screen at the head of the bed. With dispassion common to her species, Selar intoned,
"There is no increase in the temperature of your flesh or skin."
Beverly's hands were fisting.
"I don't care….it's getting bloody hot!"
Data frowned over his tricorder.
"There is a seventy percent rise in the galvanic skin response."
Selar scanned the readouts, her frown deepening.
"I am not registering such a rise."
Suddenly Beverly was yelling.
"Stop it! I'm burning!"
Geordi stepped forward, yelling over the din,
"Another ten seconds, Doc, we're almost there!"
Paul grabbed Alyssa's arm, his voice cracking,
"Why won't they stop?"
David took two steps forward before Alyssa pulled him back.
"They know what they're doing, just wait!"
What started out as a guttural yell, quickly became a scream of agony. Beverly arched up from the bed, her skin glowing bright red. Just as Selar was about to sedate her, Geordi shut off the device. Beverly collapsed on the bed and Selar immediately administered a powerful analgesic. As the metal paddles were removed, they came away with Beverly's skin attached to them. Terrible blisters began to rise over her skin, but as Selar scanned her, the Vulcan gave a decisive nod.
"She is free of E-M residue. I will take her to surgery and repair the burns, then I will concentrate on the wound."
As Beverly was transferred to a gravibed, Geordi leaned down to her and said softly,
"I'm sorry, Doc, we didn't know that was going to happen."
She smiled blearily up and sighed.
"No problem, Geordi, it seems you fixed me anyway."
The two boys watched as the mother was taken away. Paul walked over to Data and tugged at his sleeve.
"Uncle Data, why did it burn?"
The android shook his head, pulling down the corners of his mouth and raising his eyebrows.
"I do not know. We will have to analyse the data from the actuator."
David had joined his brother.
"But it worked?"
Data smiled.
"Yes, it did."
Alyssa came over and put a gentle hand on each boy's shoulder.
"Your mother will be in surgery for a while, why don't you go back to your quarters? I'll call you when you can see her."
Paul sighed and looked at his brother.
"We have to clean up after breakfast anyway."
David nodded, then shrugged.
"Yeah, but there's no one to growl at us if we don't."
With a snort, Paul jerked his head towards the doors.
"Come on."
They left and Geordi chuckled.
"What a combination, the Captain's quiet determination and their mother's mercurial tempestuousness."
Data nodded.
"Indeed."

 

 

The restraints had caused nasty bruises to rise on the tender flesh of the baby's arms and legs. Noticing that she shivered constantly, despite the stupefying drugs, K'Lerran had raised the temperature in the room until it began to feel uncomfortably warm. It did, however, stop the baby shivering.
She now had two wounds in her lower abdomen and, as the alien consulted a scanner, both of her ovaries lay on her pale skin.
M'Harret came into the room and gasped at the heat. K'Lerran bowed apologetically, quickly explaining the anomaly. The leader snorted and stared unfeelingly down at the baby.
"It is a remarkably complex little creature."
K'Lerran sighed wistfully.
"Are you sure it is not possible to keep it? It would make an adorable pet."
With a decisive shake of its head, M'Harret squashed the idea.
"That is absurd! Of course you can't keep it! Think, K'Lerran…if we kept all our specimens we would soon be nothing but zoo keepers. No. After your studies are complete, dissect it and then dispose of it in the usual way."
Risking its leader's wrath, K'Lerran said quietly,
"May we not breed with it? I believe I can mature one of its eggs. We can use its own cells for fertilisation, but a male of the species would be even better. Think of it M'Harret, we could use them to do all the dangerous tasks…be our servants…I'm sure we could train them."
The tall leader seemed interested.
"And how do you suggest you gestate the result of this…engineering?"
Becoming excited, but not showing it at all, K'Lerran kept its voice steady.
"I believe I can construct a suitable vessel to incubate the subject."
Warming to the idea, M'Harret scratched its chin.
"Or course it would be simpler to abduct a sexually mature male and female of the species."
Keeping his dismay at bay, K'Lerran nodded.
"Yes it would, but think of the scientific kudos we would gain by doing it this way. And…if this infant survives and grows, we would have the use of its eggs for many years, she has hundreds."
M'Harret stared at the baby, then lifted its eyes to watch the brain pattern readouts.
"It is experiencing severe pain."
The assistant sighed.
"I know. I'd rather it didn't, but it can't be helped I'm afraid."
The leader shrugged.
"There are two things you should keep in mind, K'Lerran. One: this creature is nothing more than a lowly animal, fit for study and little else. And two: do not let yourself become attached to it. I will give your proposal appropriate thought, but if I decide it is to be destroyed, you will carry out my orders without question. Is that clear?"
K'Lerran bowed its head.
"Yes, my Liege."
After M'Harret had left the room, K'Lerran ran a claw gently down the baby's face.
"I hope I get you little one, you could make me famous among my people."
The little girl stared sightlessly up at the ceiling.

 

 

 

As Beverly was taken back to her room, Alyssa checked the flow of the intravenous feed. Once the red head was connected to the monitors, Selar stepped back and consulted a PADD. Alyssa came over to her, reading over her shoulder. She gestured towards the bag of fluids, suspended above Beverly's left arm.
"So you think this will redress the imbalance in her brain chemistry?"
Selar nodded, but kept her eyes on the PADD.
"Yes, I think so. Whilst we were conducting her surgery, I noted the similarities between the chemical reaction in her flesh to the imbalance in her brain. With the aid of the computer I was able to formulate a solution that should correct the imbalance, although I am not sure exactly how long it will take. In the mean time, she will have to be carefully monitored."
With a nod, Alyssa sighed.
"Do you have any idea how the correction will manifest itself?"
Looking up, Selar frowned.
"I am not sure I know what you mean."
Alyssa turned to look at the sleeping Doctor.
"Well, will she just wake up with her memories intact or will she recover them slowly?"
With a small shrug, Selar inclined her head.
"I do not know. It is possible the memories may be fragmented, or they may be intact, I have no way of knowing. Memory is stored chemically and activated electronically. As you know, Doctor Picard's body has been flooded with EM energy and infused with alien drugs. We have witnessed the effects of the combination, but as to how she will recover from these invasions…that is any body's guess."
With a deep sigh, Alyssa gave a slow nod.
"Then, as you say, we will monitor her closely and wait."
Selar nodded.
"At present it is all we can do."

 

 

 

 

With a soft grunt, Jean-Luc hefted the weight up to his chin, held it for a few seconds before slowly lowering it to his thighs. Dressed only in light grey briefs, the sweating man had, in desperation, resorted to strenuous exercise to try and distract himself from his pain. He had run on the treadmill for over two hours, then worked out on the rowing machine for another hour before lying prone and using his legs to pump a weight machine until his muscles trembled in protest. And now he stood lifting ever increasingly heavy weights with his arms. His eyes were closed and he ignored the sweat that ran down his face to drip off his nose and chin. He had been standing thus for almost two hours and his arms and upper body were beginning to complain. His muscles burned and as he completed another slow, smooth repetition, he felt the tendons and sinews in his arms and shoulders creak. He had intended to work out until the pain of his abused muscles overpowered the pain in and behind his eyes. However that was not to be. He was a very fit man, well muscled and lean and very used to a lot of strenuous exercise. A part of him knew this strategy would fail, but stubbornness and determination overrode logic and so he gritted his teeth and lifted the weight again, hoping he could find some kind of relief.
The soft chime from the computer made him pause and open his eyes.
"Incoming message for Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc lowered the weight to the floor, then went to the table to pick up his towel. While roughly rubbing the super-absorbent cloth over his sweaty face and body, he said in a roughened voice,
"I'll take it at this terminal."
He sat at the table and turned the screen towards him and tried to compose himself. The image that appeared on the screen made his stomach sour and his heart accelerate.
"Doctor Selar, is Doctor Picard all right?"
With an inclination of her head, Selar lifted a hand to try and calm the man.
"She is resting and her condition is stable, Captain Picard."
Letting out a long sigh of relief, Jean-Luc closed his eyes momentarily and said a short prayer of thanks to whatever gods may be listening. Having calmed himself, he lifted his head and opened his eyes.
"Report, Doctor."
"We have managed to rid Doctor Picard of the electro magnetic influence that had caused the chemical reaction in her flesh. Having overcome that, I have been able to successfully close her wound. She required surgery for that and another matter and, at present, she is unconscious but as well as can be expected. Also, Captain, I have, with the aid of the computer, formulated a solution which is being intravenously fed to your wife which I am confident will correct the chemical imbalance in her brain."
Despite his pain, Jean-Luc smiled.
"Oh I am so very pleased, Doctor, thank you. When will you know if it has been successful?"
Even with his defective sight, Jean-Luc saw Selar's hesitation.
"Doctor Picard should wake in a few hours, I will assess her then."
Nodding slowly, Jean-Luc was well aware his question had not been answered. His voice took on the unmistakable ring of command.
"I understand, Doctor, but when will you know if her memory has been restored?"
Not intimidated by his authority, Selar continued to hedge.
"I will know more once I have assessed her, Captain. To speculate at this stage would be unprofessional…and unwise."
Defeated by her stoicism, Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his head.
"Very well, I expect you to contact me as soon as you know anything."
"Of course, Captain."
Gathering his thoughts, Jean-Luc asked,
"What time is it there, Doctor?"
"It is ten oh ten-two hundred, Captain."
"I would like to speak to my sons."
Selar gave a short nod.
"They are in their quarters, Captain, I will transfer the call."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Thank you."
There was a momentary hiatus before the image of his eldest son appeared.
"Hi, Papa!"
Summoning a smile, Jean-Luc made sure his pain was hidden.
"Hello, Paul, how are you?"
The boy grinned.
"I'm okay, Papa, how are you? How are your eyes?"
Warmth spread through Jean-Luc's chest, it always did when he spoke to his children.
"I'm fine and my eyes are getting better all the time. Is David there?"
Instead of answering, Paul merely nodded and left the field of view to be quickly replaced by his brother.
"Bonjour, Papa."
Jean-Luc chuckled as he saw a hand appear to not-so- gently punch David's shoulder. Jean-Luc knew his sons were competitive and correctly surmised that Paul had been less than pleased by David's use of French to gain some advantage over his older brother, knowing as he did, his father's approval of the use of his native tongue.
Not willing to give either lad ammunition to use against one another, Jean-Luc resisted the urge to converse with his son in French and instead said in Standard,
"How are you, David?"
David was well aware of his father's peace keeping efforts, so he abandoned French, however he wasn't about to let Paul off the hook.
"I'm good, thanks, Papa. Hey, Papa…Paul ate all the hot stuff again this morning before I got to the table. I had to replicate my own breakfast…again."
Although the smile disappeared, there was a glimmer of humour in Jean-Luc's eyes.
"Did you take too long in the shower again?"
Instead of answering, David just shrugged. Jean-Luc sighed.
"David, you know that it is rude to keep people waiting."
With a scowl, David glanced at his grinning brother.
"Yeah, but it's also rude to eat all the hot stuff before I get there."
Jean-Luc tiredly rubbed his face with his hands.
"We've had this discussion many times before, David. I'm not there to sort this out son, I need you and your brother to behave and look after your mother, you can do that, can't you?"
With a sullen look, David nodded. Jean-Luc smiled.
"Can Paul hear me?"
Paul's voice was clear.
"Yes, Papa, I'm here."
"Good. Now, David, I want you to try and take shorter showers, I know you are aware that water is a limited commodity on the ship. And Paul, I want you to wait a little longer before you put the breakfast on the table. If you both try hard, I'm sure you can find some middle ground. This particular trouble has gone on long enough already."
He watched as David nodded and both boys said,
"Yes, Papa."
"Good. Now I've spoken to Doctor Selar and she says your mother is doing well. Are you spending time with her?"
The boys changed places so that Jean-Luc could see Paul.
"Yes, Papa, we stay until we're told to come back to our quarters. This morning they did something to Mum that burned her. She yelled a lot, it was really scary."
Immediately alarmed, Jean-Luc sat up straight. He barked,
"Burned her? How? Why?"
Paul saw his father's alarm and swallowed to wet his suddenly dry mouth.
"I don't really know, Papa. Uncle Data said Mum had something in her they had to get out. He and Uncle Geordi put metal paddles on Mum's skin and they burned her. Doctor Selar had to take Mum into surgery to repair the damage."
Calming himself, Jean-Luc managed to find a reassuring smile for his son.
"Well I'm sure everything is all right. When I have finished speaking with you and David, I'll get you to transfer me back to Sick Bay and I'll speak again with Doctor Selar."
"Okay."
Keeping his smile in place and his worry at bay, Jean-Luc tried to sound cheerful.
"Now, how are your studies going? Are you keeping up with your homework?"
Paul reddened and Jean-Luc immediately knew something was amiss.
"What is it, Paul?"
The lad took a deep breath and let it out slowly, much as his father would.
"We haven't been back to school yet, Papa."
Covering his amusement at his son's discomfort, Jean-Luc's smile faded.
"I see. Have you contacted Mr.Harrison?"
"No, Papa."
"And why not?"
Paul shrugged and Jean-Luc felt slightly annoyed.
"That is not an answer, Paul."
The boy glanced at his brother for support and by the scowl on his face, obviously received none. Showing maturity beyond his years, Paul straightened and lifted his chin.
"We've been too busy, Papa, what with looking after Mum and everything."
Deciding not to be too harsh, Jean-Luc gave a sympathetic look and nodded.
"I do understand, Paul, but I want you to contact Mr.Harrison and let him know you're back on board. I don't expect you to attend school, but I do want you to keep up with the work. Tell Mr.Harrison I said it will be sufficient for you to work from your quarters, at least for now."
Somewhat relieved, Paul found a wan smile and nodded.
"Okay, Papa, we can do that."
Jean-Luc smiled tenderly.
"That's good; you know I'm very proud of you both."
Glowing under his father's praise, Paul's shoulders straightened. He spoke softly, but Jean-Luc heard him and his heart swelled.
"J'taime, Papa."
Before he could respond, he heard David say,
"Moi aussi, Papa."
Taking a few seconds to swallow the lump in his throat, Jean-Luc's eyes glistened suspiciously. He said softly in French,
"And I love you both, with all my heart."
Switching back to Standard, he said with more force,
"Now, is there anything else you want to talk about or ask me?"
Paul nodded, his face falling.
"Have you got any closer to finding the baby?"
Keeping a confident tone to his voice, Jean-Luc managed to smile.
"I think so, yes. I am on the trail of the aliens…I hope it won't be too much longer until I track them down."
Shouldering his brother out of the way, David's image appeared.
"What will you do then, Papa? Will you kill them all and rescue her?"
Stifling a sigh, Jean-Luc sat back, somewhat exasperated.
"You know me better than that, David."
The boy lowered his head and blushed, saying nothing. Jean-Luc sighed.
"I will assess the situation thoroughly before I resort to violence, that would be worst case scenario. I would like to try and talk to the aliens, make them understand what they have done is wrong and get them to see they must give the baby back to me."
David's face paled as he asked,
"But what if they don't?"
Jean-Luc's face hardened.
"Then I will do whatever is necessary to get her back."
David nodded silently and Jean-Luc smiled.
"Now I really must go. Is there anything else?"
David shook his head and Jean-Luc heard Paul say,
"No, Papa."
Sitting up straight, Jean-Luc made sure his love for his sons was in his voice when he said,
"Then I will say adieu. I will call again soon, in the meantime, behave yourselves, look after your mother and do your homework. I love you both."
He heard the boys say in unison.
"I love you, Papa."
Then Paul said,
"I'll transfer the call now, Papa, adieu."
"Goodbye."
As The screen went blank, David muttered,
"Those aliens are in deep shit."
Paul nodded solemnly.
"Oh yeah, if they make him angry, they'll never live to regret it."

 

 

 

The next face that appeared on the screen was a young female Ensign. Immediately intimidated by the image of her Captain, the woman straightened and barked,
"Sir!"
Stifling a sigh and remembering Beverly's amusement at how ridiculously easily he scared the lower ranks, Jean-Luc adopted a benign look and kept his voice soft.
"At ease, Ensign. I wish to speak to Doctor Selar, is she available?"
The trembling woman nodded jerkily.
"Yes, Captain, I will get her for you straight way."
Before Jean-Luc could say, "Thank you," the youngster was gone. While he waited he draped his towel across his shoulders, his cooling, sweat soaked body making him feel a little cold. Selar soon appeared and inclined her head.
"Captain Picard, how can I be of assistance?"
Keeping his voice even, he could not keep the anger out of eyes as he asked sternly,
"I have been informed that Doctor Picard suffered burns serious enough to require surgery. Would you care to explain how this happened?"
It was a matter of only minutes as Selar informed him of what had transpired. He sighed and bowed his head.
"I see. Was this the…'other matter' to which you referred earlier?"
Selar gave a curt nod.
"Yes, Captain."
His anger crept into his voice.
"I asked you for a report, Doctor, a full report. You left out vital information and I am not accustomed to my officers being anything less that honest and frank with me. The next time I ask you for a report I expect it to be complete!"
Unruffled by her Captain's anger, Selar merely bowed her head.
"Of course, Captain, my apologies. I did not consider the injuries warranted full disclosure. I will be more forthcoming in future."
Somewhat mollified, Jean-Luc moved on.
"Tell me, Doctor, how did it happen? Surely Commanders Data and LaForge wouldn't have deliberately exposed my wife to such injuries?"
Selar shook her head.
"No, Captain, they would not. What happened was unforseen and completely unexpected."
"I see. And I take it Doctor Picard suffered nothing more than burns?"
"That is correct, Captain and as soon as the procedure was over, she was immediately treated with analgesics and taken straight to surgery to repair the damage."
"And you say she is resting comfortably?"
"Yes, Captain and the wound is now closed."
Jean-Luc sighed and raised his hands to rub his eyes, but remembered in time and instead rubbed his face.
"Very well, Doctor, I will go. Please tell my wife I am thinking of her and keep me informed. Picard out."
Selar stared at the blank screen for a second or two, thinking, not for the first time, at how humans were so sentimental. Her Captain's words were highly illogical. Of course Doctor Picard would know he was thinking of her. Why should he ask her to pass on something so patently obvious? She sighed and shrugged. As long as she worked and lived among humans, she would never fully understand them.

 

 

Data turned in his seat at the Con and said quietly,
"We are approaching the Bracks system."
Will looked up from his contemplation of his boots and nodded.
"Very good, slow to one half impulse."
Data executed the command and sat still, awaiting his next order. The Ensign at Tactical straightened and said,
"Sir, incoming communiqué from Bracks II."
Will gave a nod, then barked,
"On screen."
A Human woman appeared, somewhat dishevelled.
"Captain Picard?"
Will stood to his full height and wished he could tug his uniform down.
"Captain Picard isn't available. I am Commander William Riker, First Officer."
The woman looked confused.
"But you are the Enterprise…right?"
Will frowned.
"Yes, this is the Enterprise."
The confusion on the woman's face gave way to irritation.
"Then where is Captain Picard? I wish to speak with him."
Stifling a sigh, Will summoned a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Captain Picard is not aboard; he is pursuing a private matter."
The woman scowled.
"That's not good enough! I want Picard!"
Lowering his head and slowly counting to ten, Will lifted his head, his smile absent.
"May I ask to whom I am speaking?"
With a slightly shocked expression, the woman then gave an angry look and huffed.
"I am Prime Minister Hettie Martin….Commander."
The derisive way she used his rank made Will realise she was a petty bureaucrat, even though she was the leader of her people. The tall man smiled and offered a slight bow.
"I am pleased to meet you, Prime Minister Martin. Now, my officers have been going over the information you have sent us and we have several plans we'd like to put into operation."
His no-nonsense approach robbed her of her bluster. With the well being of her people at stake, the woman had enough sense to know that she must listen to the man and do what he said.
"Very well, I will convene a meeting on your ship with my chief advisors. Please have your personnel ready to meet with us."
Offering another small bow, Will nodded.
"That's fine, Prime Minister. Would two hours from now suit you?"
"Yes. Martin out."
Once the viewscreen had reverted to its display of space, Data turned and cocked his head.
"The Prime Minister seems to be very officious. Will that not make it difficult to deal with her?"
Will sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Yes, Data, it will."
For four days, Jean-Luc had got by on very little sleep, but by the morning of the fifth day he was desperate. Miraculously, the pain had subsided a little and he took the opportunity to stretch out on his bed. It was mere minutes before he fell sound asleep.
Over three hours he slept, not even turning over and when the alarm chimed he didn't hear it. In the cockpit, the proximity alarm chimed again, indicating the presence of another ship. The area of space he was traversing was littered with planetoids and space debris, the alarm was frequently going off, but the computer was well equipped to deal with these situations, altering course to safely avoid any collisions. So he slept through the alarm. In his subconscious he probably heard it, but such was his exhaustion and the knowledge that it was most likely another planetoid, his brain insisted on sleep.
The alien ship swept by, several thousand kilometres distant, its passengers taking no more interest in the Calypso as she did of them.
It wasn't until five hours later that Jean-Luc awoke. The pain had increased again, making his dreams turn to nightmares. He gasped awake, sitting bolt upright, his hands going to his face. As the threads of his dream began to dissipate, he realised he was safe aboard his little ship. Drenched in sweat, he exited the bed and stripped before stepping into the bathroom and into the shower. Minutes later he stood before the mirror, a towel held to his face. He sighed and lowered the towel to scowl at himself. The nightmare still bothered him and he shook his head, muttering,
"You old fool, Picard…it was just a bloody dream."
He dried himself brusquely and dressed by rote, his mind elsewhere. By the time he wandered into the cockpit, he realised, despite the omnipresent pain, he was slightly hungry.
The blinking red light on the main console immediately caught his eye. Frowning, he sat and activated the unit, only to see a star chart appear, showing not only his position and flight path, but that of the other ship. He slammed his hand down on the console and barked,
"Computer, why didn't the proximity alert sound?"
"The proximity alert sounded at thirteen-seven hundred hours, thirteen thirty-five hours, fifteen eight hours and sixteen forty-nine hours. No action was taken."
Realising he had slept through the alarms, Jean-Luc lowered his head and muttered,
"Merde!"
He sighed and resisted the urge to rub his eyes.
"Computer, analysis of the other ship?"
"Ship is consistent with the vessel encountered on Herros IV"
His heart accelerating, Jean-Luc sat forward and asked,
"Can you extrapolate a flight path for the other ship?"
"This region of space consists of many obstacles, thus a straight flight path is not possible. The predicted flight path of the other ship would have to take into account variations in course due to obstacles."
Stifling a sigh, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Understood. Where did the ship originate and where is it going?"
"The ship originated in the Regala system and the emended flight path appears to be taking it towards the Dregan nebula."
Jean-Luc sat back, perplexed.
"The Dregan nebula? What the hell would they want to go there? There's nothing there."
Pushing aside his confusion, Jean-Luc barked,
"Computer I want to follow that ship at a discreet distance, but close enough to keep within the extreme limit of the sensors."
"As previously stated, this region of space contains…"
"I know that dammit! Set course to follow that ship as best you can."
The gentle chimes of compliance went unnoticed by the Captain. Even his pain went unfelt as his mind slipped into gear, formulating a plan to free his daughter.

 

 

 

 

If the baby could have screamed, she would have. Her eyes were under examination, cold metal apparatuses kept the lids wide apart and in each eye, thin needles punctured the eyeballs. K'Lerran carefully attached wires to the needles, then connected the wires to a device. Overhead, a sinister looking machine quietly hummed and clicked and when the alien reached up and pulled it down, a beam of red light focused on each of the baby's eyes.
K'Lerran looked at the nearby monitor and gasped. An assistant shook its head.
"That is remarkable!"
K'Lerran nodded vigorously.
"Yes! Who would have thought that such uncomplicated structures could deliver such impressive images? When you compare the simple structure and function of these eyes with our multi-faceted compound eyes, I would never have guessed they could come even close to our superlative sight. Yet look at this. Yes, it is only one single image, and the focus is poor but if I'm right, that is more to do with the immaturity of the subject, rather than an inferior function. And the colours!"
The beam was intensified and the baby's brain pattern waves responded by spiking dangerously. K'Lerran ignored the readouts to continue its study. It turned to the assistant and grinned.
"You know, this could have far-reaching effects for our military. Just think of it, we could incorporate something like this into our battle helmets, in the visor display."
Basking in its superior's enthusiasm, neither being was aware of their leader's arrival until M'Harret spoke.
"What have you here, K'Lerran?"
Immediately straightening and bowing twice, as was the custom, the scientist pointed at the screen.
"This is a representation of what the infant sees."
M'Harret frowned.
"It is out of focus."
K'Lerran bowed again and clasped its hands.
"Yes, but we think that is because of the immaturity of the subject. With growth, I am confident the sight will improve."
M'Harret looked down at the baby and grimaced.
"It is ugly."
The scientist nodded.
"Yes, but surprisingly complex. We have arrested the weight loss, although it isn't gaining weight."
It sighed.
"I do wish we could communicate with it."
With a derisive wave of its hand, M'Harret dismissed the underling's concerns.
"I have been thinking about your proposal, K'Lerran…and I believe it has merit."
Trying to keep its excitement at bay, K'Lerran adopted a submissive pose and almost whispered,
"We may breed with it, my Liege?"
Sniffing loudly and re-enforcing its superiority by excreting a small amount of pungent matter from a gland under its chin, M'Harret collected the matter with its claw and smeared it over the domed head of the scientist. In response, K'Lerran squirted a small jet of urine onto the floor. M'Harret snorted, bringing the ritual to an end.
"Yes. I have decided the best way would be to abduct a Human male. You may begin your attempts to breed immediately we have another subject and in time, if they both survive, you may explore their reproductive behaviour as they would do so naturally."
Almost overcome with gratitude, K'Lerran squirted another, larger, jet of urine, making M'Harret chuckle.
"You are a loyal minion, K'Lerran. Make sure your experiments succeed."
"Yes, my Liege."

 

 

 

 

The first inkling that something was amiss was the readouts on the monitor. The nurse charged with Beverly's care heard the gentle chime from the computer and went into Beverly's room, expecting to find her awake. Instead she was confronted with a set of readouts that indicated her patient was experiencing serious trouble. Beverly lay stiff, her eyes rolled back into their sockets.
"Doctor Selar, report immediately to Doctor Picard's room!"
The Vulcan arrived within seconds and took in the situation with professional calm.
"She is in neural shock. We must find a way to wake her."
A hypospray was slapped into her hand and she raised a querying eyebrow at the nurse.
"Triox."
Selar gave a nod.
"A stimulant might work."
The hiss of the hypo was loud in the eerily quiet room. Beverly twitched but didn't wake. Another alarm went off and Selar looked up at the screen.
"She is in danger of a synaptic overload. Get me a neural stimulator."
Two innocuous looking small, square devices were placed on Beverly's brow. Selar looked over to the nurse, who manned a machine. At a nod from the Vulcan, an electrical charge was sent through Beverly's brain. Her body arched and twisted to one side, but she remained in the grip of her paroxysm. Selar barked,
"Raise to one hundred. Again!"
Once more the current was passed into Beverly's head. This time she shrieked, her eyes opening wide. Selar gripped her shoulders, saying loudly,
"Doctor Picard! Doctor Picard, can you hear me?"
Beverly arched up again, her hands going to her lower belly. She shut her eyes and screamed again, then yelled,
"No…No stop! Don't take my baby!"
Selar shouted to the nurse,
"She is still in its grip. Shock her again, one hundred and fifty!"
A shudder passed through Beverly's body before she suddenly went limp. Soft groans escaped her mouth and her hands still groped at her lower belly. Selar took Beverly's hands and squeezed them. She lowered her voice to say gently,
"Doctor Picard, you are on the Enterprise. You must wake up now."
Beverly's eyes opened and she frowned, croaking,
"What?"
Keeping her voice low and gentle, Selar let go of Beverly's hands to softly grip her shoulders.
"You are safe, Doctor Picard. Do you understand?"
When Beverly struggled to sit up, Selar helped her. At first confused, Beverly looked around the room, slowly shaking her head.
"I was…I was in an alien ship…"
Her hands went to her lower belly as her eyes dipped down.
"They cut my baby out."
As the nurse retrieved a glass of cold water, Selar said gently,
"Yes, that happened but your husband rescued you. Do you remember?"
Beverly accepted the glass and drank greedily. She finished but the frown remained.
"Yes, I think so. My boys were there too."
She sat quietly for a few minutes then suddenly lifted her head and snapped her fingers.
"Yes! I do remember…Jean-Luc's eyes were damaged…he went in search of our daughter!"
Selar nodded.
"That is correct. The Enterprise is in orbit of Bracks II, rendering assistance after a major seismic event. Your sons are aboard and your husband left several days ago to rescue your daughter."
Beverly's hands went again to her lower belly.
"The wound?"
"It has been successfully closed."
Beverly summoned a small smile, but it was obvious she was concerned.
"And my brain chemistry?"
Offering a shrug, Selar sighed.
"Considering you now have your memory restored, I can only surmise your brain chemistry is now, once again, normal."
Beverly went to get up off the bed, but Selar stopped her.
"What are you doing?"
Gritting her teeth, Beverly ground out,
"I am going to get up. I want to see my boys, then I want to find my husband."
Selar shook her head.
"That would be inadvisable, Doctor Picard. I will have your children come to you. As for Captain Picard, you should wait until he returns."
Knowing that arguing would get her nowhere, Beverly relaxed and lay down while Selar called her boys, but she wasn't about to give up. She was going after her husband, and the consequences be damned.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc blinked several times, a soft growl of frustration breaking the silence of the cockpit. His vision was blurry and under the protective shield, his eyes kept tearing. He took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, and then let it out slowly. He closed his eyes, waited for a count of ten, then opened them again. Although still slightly blurry, there was a small improvement. Not knowing how long this would last, he focused on the screen and concentrated.
As per instructions, the Calypso was following the alien ship at a discreet distance. The image on the screen, although magnified, was almost too small for Jean-Luc to identify, but he knew from the computer's analysis, it was the ship he'd been seeking.
So far their flight path had been somewhat erratic, the need to avoid space debris causing frequent course changes. Jean-Luc sat back in his seat, thoughtfully rubbing his fingers over his lower lip.
"Computer, is there any indication the alien ship has detected us?"
"No. There has been no evidence the ship has attempted to scan us."
"Can we scan them?"
"At this range, any scans would be ineffectual. Advise closing the distance before initiating scans."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc rubbed his face.
"No, I want to maintain this distance…although…computer, would it be possible to draw near the alien ship, using space debris to mask our warp signature?"
"That would depend on finding a planetoid that exhibited tetryon emissions."
"Tetryon emissions? Why tetryons?
"Because teryons will create a natural mask. The warp signature will appear to the other ship as background radiation."
Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. And if we are masked, will we be able to make passive scans of the other ship?"
"Yes, as long as the wave length of the scans stays low."
With a grim smile, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Very well. Computer, identify a planetoid, close to the flight path of the alien ship and that is emitting tetryon emissions, then plot a course that will put us in its shadow."
"Acknowledged."
Jean-Luc felt the ship accelerate and change course. He sat back and stared balefully at the screen.
"I'm coming my little one, Papa's coming."

 

 

 

 

Paul gaped and cast a look at his brother. The younger boy's mouth was also open, but he snapped it shut and muttered,
"Holy shit."
Beverly immediately admonished him.
"What have I told you about bad language, David? It is completely inappropriate for one of your age to use language like I just heard. What do you think your father would say if he heard you say something like that?"
David reddened and mumbled,
"Sorry Mum, but gee, what you just told us…I couldn't help it."
Paul laid a comforting hand on his brother's shoulder and looked up at his mother.
"Are serious, Mum? Are you really going to find Papa?"
Her irritation with her younger son quickly dissipating, Beverly smiled at the boys and nodded.
"Uh huh. My wound has been healed; my brain chemistry in once again normal and I can't just sit here on the ship, wondering what's happening. Your father's eyes aren't the best…I bet he could use some help."
Paul nodded but Beverly could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
"Can we come?"
Keeping her voice gentle, Beverly said softly,
"It would be better if you stayed here, on the ship."
It was David who asked,
"But Mum, we could help you."
Paul nodded vigorously.
"Yeah, Mum, we could do all sorts of stuff. Besides, you just might need our help."
Beverly was shaking her head when David said quietly,
"Mum, we won't stay here."
Beverly's eyes sharpened and she was about to lay down the law, when Paul lifted his chin to say,
"We have as much right as you to go after Papa…and our little sister."
Beverly softly gasped and looked at her sons as if seeing them for the first time. The quiet determination she saw in Paul's dark hazel eyes was so reminiscent of his father, all resistance fled. She sighed and gave a rueful shake of her head.
"I must be mad, but you're right, Paul. Okay, you can both come, but this isn't some kind of adventure we're embarking on, this is really serious stuff. I need to know that you both will obey me at all times, I can't be monitoring your behaviour all the time as well as find your father…and I think I will need your help."
Both boys suppressed their elation, instead offering solemn nods. Paul asked quietly,
"When will we go?"
Beverly sighed, worry skittering across her eyes.
"Well, I have to talk to Uncle Will. This mission the ship is on at the moment might require my services as a Doctor. If I'm needed, especially at these early stages, then I will stay as long as I'm required. However, if not, then it depends on whether or not your Uncle is willing to lend us a runabout."
David frowned.
"Then don't ask for a runabout, take a shuttle, there're plenty of those."
It was Paul who scowled at his brother.
"Use your brain, you dweeb! Don't you think all the shuttles are going to be used on the current mission? Runabouts aren't suited for the short work the shuttles will be doing and runabouts are capable of much higher speeds than shuttles. It has to be a runabout…it's obvious!"
David pulled a face at his older brother and made an obscene gesture with his hand. Beverly cleared her throat and said in a warning tone,
"David!"
The youngster lowered his head, but not before firing a glare at his older brother. Paul ignored him and turned his attention back to his mother.
"So, if you don't have to work and if Uncle Will gives you a runabout, when will we go?"
With a gentle smile, Beverly ruffled Paul's hair.
"As soon as I'm clear of Sick Bay."
Recovered from his battle with his brother, David frowned and asked,
"But you don't have to stay, do you? Aren't you all better?"
Beverly sighed and tried to keep the irritation out of her voice.
"Doctor Selar is a very good Doctor and she takes her work very seriously. She won't discharge me unless she's absolutely sure I'm completely well."
Paul shrugged.
"So when will that be?"
With a deep sigh, Beverly shrugged.
"I don't know."
David scowled and shook his head.
"But, Mum, you're her boss. Can't you tell her you want to leave?"
Sadly shaking her head, Beverly said softly,
"No. At the moment, although I am still the CMO, I am a patient in this facility
and I have to do what my Doctor tells me."
Not convinced, and exhibiting his mother's penchant for an argument, David's pugnaciousness came to the fore.
"But you don't have to do what she says! You can discharge yourself any time you want!"
Taking a steadying breath, Beverly tried to stay patient with her younger son.
"Yes I can, but what sort of example would that set? All my staff, in fact the entire crew could infer from my actions that it is acceptable for patients to ignore the advice…and the authority of their Doctors!"
She smiled to take the sting out of her words.
"No, David, I must obey my Doctor, just as any patient should."
Unwilling to concede, David shrugged and said derisively,
"Well I don't see the point of being the CMO of the whole ship and not taking advantage of it! It doesn't make sense."
Before Beverly could say anything further, Paul sneered at his brother and muttered,
"You can't see the point because you're too stupid! Just shut up and listen to Mum."
Knowing that an argument was imminent, Beverly raised her voice and said,
"How about you two bring up the star charts and show me our projected route to the Herros system?"
Paul shot his mother a grin and a nod, but David scowled at his brother and made another obscene gesture. With a stifled sigh, Beverly ignored the byplay, knowing once they got immersed in what they were doing, the sparring would all but cease.
The boys left the room and Beverly lifted her head to stare at the ceiling, saying softly,
"Where are you my little girl? Has your Papa found you yet?"
She sighed and closed her eyes, sending a silent prayer for help.

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Hettie Martin drew herself up to her full height, which wasn't all that much; in fact she found her eyes level with Will Riker's chest. Stifling a sigh of irritation, the pugnacious woman shook her head and dug her heels in.
"That's just not good enough Commander. I want greater autonomy."
His own sigh just under the surface, Will plastered on a sympathetic look and shrugged.
"Well I'm sorry Prime Minister, but in situations like these, ship's Captains…or in this case, First Officers, have the say in the deployment of men and materiel. I'm afraid you're just going to have to bide by my decisions."
The woman's thunderous look boded ill.
"I was not elected by my people to play second fiddle to the likes of you! I'm sure, if Captain Picard were here, he would understand the gravity of my situation."
His patience wearing thin, Will straightened and all but snarled,
"Well, Captain Picard isn't here, Prime Minister, so you will have to deal with me and my decision stands. Your colony will be relocated and I doubt it will be staying on this planet…it is simply too unstable. Now, we have selected a new planet not too far away and…"
Taking umbrage, Hettie stabbed her finger at Will.
"You have selected? Where was the consultation? Why weren't we given any say in the matter? Who gave you the authority to make such a unilateral decision?"
Now clearly angry, Will slapped his hand down on the table top.
"My position as acting Captain gives me the authority!"
He took a calming breath and briefly closed his eyes.
"Your needs as far as a planet are concerned are well documented and as such, made our search quiet simple. Put plainly, there weren't that many candidates, so no, you weren't consulted, as to do so was redundant. In actual fact, Prime Minister, you don't have a choice. Either you accept the new planet, or we will take every single person in your colony back to Earth."
The woman's mouth opened and shut twice before any sound came out. With bulging eyes and the veins in her temples throbbing, Prime Minister Martin found enough of her voice to mutter,
"Well, seeing as how you've made the decision for us, we have no other option but to concede."
She took a deep breath and recovered somewhat.
"But you can be sure….Commander…that I will be protesting your aggressive, bombastic attitude with your superiors."
Will stepped back and offered a slight bow, hiding his smile of triumph. In a soft, even voice he said,
"I'll tell them to expect your grievance."
He turned on his heel and marched from the room. Once outside, he tapped his comm. badge.
"Senior officers meeting in the forward observation lounge in ten minutes."
His smile had turned grim by the time he took his seat in the lounge.
The assembled officers attuned themselves and waited for Will to bring the meeting to order. It was with deep satisfaction that he looked around the table. His Captain may have hand picked the senior staff, including himself, but Will knew he was working with the finest in the fleet. Data, seated to Will's right, tilted his head as Will said,
"The decision has been made. We're taking them to Karrana."
Data nodded slowly.
"The report from geology was compelling. This planet's inherent instability will eventually tear it apart."
Will sighed.
"Try telling that to Prime Minister Martin! First she flatly refused to believe me, then she refused to consider moving. I don't know what she thinks the quakes of the last six months were about."
Geordi gave a short chuckle.
"Maybe she thought it was nothing more than teething problems."
Will snorted, saying wryly,
"Teething problems my arse."
Then he turned his attention back to Data.
"So we've got to move the entire colony. All their equipment, stores, livestock and people. I want to know how long it will take."
Making his calculations in seconds, Data nodded.
"Once we have seen to their casualties, I envisage it will take three trips to transplant everything and everyone. It is a six day journey to Karrana at warp five, so with a turnaround of twelve days, it will take thirty-six days to complete the mission."
Will grunted softly.
"Okay, sounds good. Selar, what are the casualties like?"
The Vulcan physician clasped her hands on the tabletop.
"So far there are twenty-eight dead and three hundred and forty-seven wounded, out of a population of four thousand and sixty-eight. Of the injured, we have eighty-nine serious, eleven critical and the rest will recover quickly, once they have been seen to. At present, we are treating fifty patients a day."
Will gave a thoughtful nod.
"And I take it all personnel with medical training are working?"
Selar nodded.
"Yes, Sir, including Doctor Picard. She was deemed well enough to assist us."
Will nodded, then consulted a PADD.
"Right, Geordi, we'll have to allocate more power to the replicators to cope with the increased demand and we'll have to convert the cargo bays into billets for the first two trips. After that, for the final trip, they will have to be converted again to take the livestock."
He lifted his eyes to spear the Security Chief.
"M'Rak, I want your personnel on their toes. With this many civilians on board, there's bound to be tension. Try to limit gatherings to only a few people at a time and advise the crew to assist where necessary."
Having received a quiet, "Yes, Sir." From the Vulcan, Will turned his attention once more to Data.
"We will have to monitor our stores as well, Data. They will have machinery that needs repairing, but I don't want to deplete our stores too much. If necessary, after we've delivered them to Karrana, I will take the Enterprise to the nearest Starbase for supplies."
He looked around the table.
"Right. Any questions?"
Having received none, Will dismissed his staff. He sat back and glared at the planet below, muttering,
"The sooner we get away from here, the better."

 

 

 

 

Beverly smiled as Paul handed her a tricorder. David stood nearby, a PADD in his hands.
"Now, let's see if this arm is broken."
The child looked up at Beverly with large, tear filled eyes. David moved closer and said quietly,
"You'll be okay, my Mum will fix you."
Paul nodded.
"Yeah, you're really lucky. Our Mum is the best Doctor in the world."
Beverly smiled and said softly to Paul,
"I'll need the osteo knitter."
He handed her the instrument and at Beverly's behest, David gently held the arm as Beverly fused the broken bone. The child barely whimpered as the freshly repaired limb was put in a sling. Holding her hand out, Beverly kept her eyes on the child as she said,
"Tempazine."
The hypo filled with analgesic was slipped into her hand and Beverly shot a smile at her sons. She ruffled the child's hair and stood, kneading her fingers into the small of her back.
"Okay, who's next?"
David consulted his PADD.
"Ah…abdominal pain, pallet two."
Beverly sighed and cast him an admonishing look.
"Does the patient have a name?"
David shrugged.
"Not that I can see."
Mumbling under her breath about referring to patients by their name, rather than their injury, she moved down the line of cots until she came to number two. On the pallet lay an elderly woman. She looked up at Beverly and smiled.
"Hello, dear."
With a bright smile on her face, Beverly squatted by the bed and took the woman's hand.
"Hello there, I'm Doctor Picard."
She pointed to the PADD in David's hands.
"It says there that you have a pain in the stomach."
The old woman nodded.
"That I do."
"Well, let's see why."
Paul handed his mother the tricorder and she spent a few moments waving the detachable module above the woman's stomach. With a decisive grunt, Beverly looked up and smiled.
"You have torn your abdominal muscles. I can fix that."
Turning to Paul she said quietly,
"Tissue mitigator."
Paul handed her the device and watched as she felt with her hand, then used the mitigator to fuse the torn muscles. The relief the woman felt was clearly evident on her face.
"Thank you dear."
Beverly smiled as she got to her feet.
"You're welcome."
She turned to David.
"Right. Next?"
A voice from behind them made Beverly turn. Selar raised an eyebrow and pointed to the doors.
"It is time you rested, Doctor Picard."
Offering a quick smile, Beverly shook her head.
"No, I'm fine, really."
Selar gently took Beverly's elbow and began to steer her to the doors.
"I'm afraid I must insist, Doctor. You have been working non-stop for seven hours, it is time you rested."
Beverly was about to argue when Paul said quietly,
"You'd better do as she says, Mum, you don't want to argue with your Doctor."
Undone by her own words, Beverly plastered a wan smile on her face and nodded.
"Yes, well I suppose I could do with a rest. Tell me, Selar, how many more patients are there?"
Looking over Beverly's shoulder, Selar gave a slight inclination of her head.
"Not that many, Doctor, and what is left are the minor cases."
Beverly's smile grew warmer.
"I see. So I may be free soon?"
Pursing her lips, Selar nodded.
"Yes, Doctor, in fact I do not envisage you being needed any more. Once you have rested I will consider you discharged from my care."
Her smile impossibly brighter, Beverly winked at her sons.
"Right! Well, if it's all right with you, Selar, I will take my leave."
Knowing her boss as well as she did, Selar cautioned,
"Make sure you rest, Doctor."
As Beverly and the boys made for the doors, she tossed over her shoulder.
"Oh I will, you can count on it!"
Once outside, it was David who voiced his thoughts.
"You're going to rest on the runabout, aren't you."
It wasn't a question and Beverly didn't treat it as such.
"With you two along to help, I can get all the rest I need. Now…"
She tapped her comm. badge.
"Picard to Riker."
The reply took a few seconds and Beverly could hear the weariness in Will's voice.
"Riker here Beverly, go ahead."
With her fingers crossed, Beverly said,
"Will, I know you're very busy, but I need to see you, ASAP."
"Ah…give me half an hour, then meet me in the Ready Room, okay?"
Her smile radiant, Beverly nodded.
"Okay."
But before she could close the channel, Will asked,
"Beverly, in the meantime, could you drop in on Deanna? I haven't heard from her in a while and I haven't checked, I've been too flat out."
"Will do, Picard out."
Beverly looked at her boys and sighed.
"Want to come with me, or would you rather wait in our quarters?"
Paul shrugged.
"We might as well come with you."
David nodded.
"Yeah, besides, Aunt Deanna always gives us some chocolate."
With a chuckle, Beverly gestured with her head.
"Come on then, the sooner we do this, the sooner I can see your Uncle Will."
They soon arrived at Deanna and Will's quarters but there was no answer to the chime. Frowning, Beverly asked,
"Computer, location of Counsellor Deanna Riker?"
"Counsellor Riker is in her quarters."
Beverly's bemusement turned to alarm.
"Computer, medical override. Open this door, authorisation Picard, CMO."
The doors obediently opened and Beverly immediately saw Deanna on the floor, near the sofa. She ran to her friend, calling,
"Medical emergency in Commander Riker's quarters!"
Kneeling beside her friend, Beverly was annoyed to hear Deanna say,
"You really bark your orders, Beverly."
With Paul and David each side, Beverly asked,
"One of you get me a med kit."
As David rose, Deanna's hands went to her distended abdomen and she groaned. Beverly shook her head, asking harshly,
"How long have you been labouring?"
She had to wait until the contraction passed before she could answer. Panting and wiping at the sweat which trickled down her face, Deanna tried to smile.
"About two hours."
David offered his mother a medical tricorder and the red head snatched it from him.
"Why the hell didn't you call for help?"
Before she could answer, Deanna was wracked by another strong contraction.
Under her breath Beverly muttered,
"This baby isn't going to wait!"
To Paul she said,
"Get me some pillows and towels. David, help me get your Aunt comfortable."
David was appalled to find that meant helping take his Aunt's clothing off. He said nothing, but blushed bright red. Paul soon returned and the pillows were put behind Deanna and the towels were put under her. Just before another contraction hit, Deanna ground out,
"I knew how busy Sick Bay was…I thought I could do this by myself."
Beverly grunted, then slapped her comm. badge.
"Picard to Riker!"
Will heard the terseness in Beverly's voice and answered cautiously.
"Riker here."
"Will, you're about to become a father! Get to your quarters…NOW!"
His voice was perplexed.
"My quarters?"
Clenching her teeth as Deanna contracted again, Beverly all but shouted,
"Yes! Hurry!"
"On my way, Riker out!"
The doors suddenly opened and a Doctor, followed by two nurses barrelled into the room. Beverly looked over her shoulder and barked,
"She's just about to deliver; we don't have time to transport."
Just then, David called,
"Mum!"
Beverly turned back to Deanna to see the baby's head crown. Deanna shrieked just as Will ran into the room. Paul moved out of the way to allow Will to kneel by his wife's side. He grabbed her hand as she pushed again. The baby's head slipped free, then one shoulder. Deanna rested only a few seconds before another contraction delivered the baby in a rush of bloody fluid.
Will looked down, his mouth agape. Beverly was busy clearing the baby's airways when he blurted,
"It's a boy!"
His attention was soon drawn back to Deanna as she groaned and contracted again. Beverly looked up and grinned.
"Hold on, you're in a hell of a hurry with everything."
Deanna just shook her head as the placenta emerged. The Betazoid finally relaxed and shed two fat tears. She looked up at her husband and said weakly,
"Is that all? Can I rest now?"
Will offered a shaky smile and nodded.
"Yeah, I think so."
A thin cry broke the silence and Beverly laughed.
"He's fine! Want to cut the cord, Will?"
The big man nodded and took the instrument in his hand, but it was obvious he was in a daze. The cut was quickly made and the baby swaddled. Beverly sat back and said quietly to the medical team,
"Give them a few minutes peace, then transport them all to Sick Bay."
"Aye, Sir."
Standing and ushering her boys aside, Beverly whispered,
"We'll see Uncle Will later. For now, let's go back to our quarters."
But before they could leave, Deanna called out,
"Thank you Beverly, will you come by later?"
With a nod and a cheery smile, they left.

 

 

 

Playing hide-and-seek in amongst space debris at warp speeds wasn't an easy thing to do. Having to rely solely on the computer for the constant course changes did nothing to ease Jean-Luc's worry as his ship slowly caught up to the alien vessel. Taking refuge behind a planetoid, one that was emitting tetryon particles, a discreet scan was initiated and the Captain wasn't pleased with the results. As the computer informed him of the information it had gathered, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and swore.
"Fuck! Ablative armour, superior weapons and shields, how the hell am I going to get on board the fucking thing?"
The computer chimed.
"That is not a valid question. Please restate your enquiry."
Jean-Luc sighed heavily, muttering darkly,
"Shut up."
He sat back and rested his head on the backrest, trying to put his pain aside, but it eroded all his efforts, creeping into his stamina and depriving him of sleep and appetite. He knew his circadian rhythms were all but destroyed; he also knew he had to eat, but try as he might, food didn't appeal to him. Sighing heavily, he got up slowly and shuffled his way to the replicator. Once facing the slot, he put in an order for a vitamin shake. It dutifully appeared and he lifted it to his mouth, drinking the thick vanilla liquid before he could give himself time to resist. It went down, but he had cause to think it might not stay down. He braced himself against the wall and took a few deep breaths before he conquered his rebellious stomach. Thinking that a calming cup of Earl Grey tea might help, he replicated a cup and went back to the cockpit. His sight was blurry, but he managed to bring up a schematic of the alien ship and study it.
It was an hour before he realised he'd fallen asleep. He started awake, the rapid rise to consciousness making his pain spike. Stiff from his awkward perch in the seat. He got up and stretched before going to the bedroom and lying on the bed. In the hope that he might again find sleep, he said softly,
"Computer, wake me in three hours."
He was confused when the computer carried out its instructions a few hours later. Rolling over, he slowly sat up, almost rubbing his eyes, but remembering at the very last moment. His voice was deep and raspy as he asked,
"Computer, what is the time?"
"The time is oh five seventeen hundred hours."
Grumbling softly to himself, Jean-Luc slowly got up and stretched.
"And what is our course and speed?"
"We are still tracking the alien ship at a distance of one hundred and eighteen thousand kilometres. Speed varies, but averages at warp three."
With a soft grunt, Jean-Luc went into the toilet and, as he urinated, asked,
"And has the alien ship given any indication that they know we're trailing them?"
"No. No scans have been initiated and their shields are inactive."
He was washing his hands as he lifted his head and frowned.
"Given that they have stayed on this course for some time now, can you extrapolate a destination?"
"It still appears likely they are headed for the Dregan Nebula."
"ETA?"
"At present speed, nine point six hours."
Jean-Luc considered another vitamin shake, but his stomach reminded him that probably wasn't a good idea. Instead he replicated another cup of Earl Grey and headed for the cockpit.
Once comfortably seated, he activated the viewscreen and said,
"Computer, display on the forward viewscreen the Dregan Nebula."
"Warning. Starfleet has not done a complete survey of the Dregan Nebula. Any representation with be only fifty-two point five percent accurate. The rest will be supposition."
"Acknowledged. Display representation."
He couldn't see it clearly, but what he could see made him snarl. An unwholesome conglomeration of swirling gasses and debris filled the screen and in its midst, three planets. He sat forward and squinted, but the image remained blurry. With an irritated grunt he barked,
"Computer, information about the three planets within the nebula."
"Only partial readings have been taken of the largest of the three planets, designated F446 by survey vessel, USS Hargraves."
"Understood. Give me the information, audio only."
"F446 is an L class planet on which solanagen based life forms have been detected. It has been theorised the planet may have once been M class. Evidence of ruins was noted, but no exploration undertaken."
Jean-Luc's frown deepened.
"Solanagen based life forms? I thought they only existed in subspace?"
"That is so. Captain Mark Curruthers, of the Hargraves, noted that there was evidence of subspace distortions around and on the planet."
"Cause?"
"Unknown, however they might be a phenomenon indicative of the nebula. More study is required before a definitive answer can be given."
"Understood. Can we avoid the subspace disruptions?"
"That would depend on our ability to detect them. At present, sensors are not calibrated for that amount of perception."
Gritting his teeth, Jean-Luc ground out,
"Can you calibrate the sensors?"
"Yes."
"Then do it!"
Jean-Luc sat back and rubbed his fingers over his lower lip. Suddenly snapping his fingers, his head shot up as he asked,
"Computer, would the ablative armour of the alien ship give it an advantage when encountering subspace distortions?"
"Yes."
"Can we do anything to our hull to afford us added protection?"
There was a momentary silence before the computer responded.
"Yes. Magnetising the hull plating would, in effect, cause the distortions to ripple over us, rather than collide with us, however such an action will not afford the amount of protection ablative armour gives."
"Understood. How long will it take to magnetise the hull plating?"
"Approximately three hours."
"Do it."
Jean-Luc rose and went aft, to the storage lockers. He took out an evac suit and performed a thorough check, using a tricorder to augment his faulty sight. Once that was done, he went to the armoury and took out a phaser rifle, a mark three hand phaser and a personal phaser. His backpack was still loaded with the explosives so he put it by his seat and sat down, idly asking,
"Computer, ETA at the Dregan Nebula?"
"Eight point nine hours."
He looked up at the ceiling and grinned mirthlessly.
"So, you're going to F446? That's where I'll get you…you bastards!"

 

 

 

Will's goofy grin made Beverly softly giggle as she entered Sick Bay. Deanna was feeding their newborn son and Will's ecstatic expression was mirrored by Deanna's gentle maternal glow. The red head approached the little family quietly and stood unnoticed for a few minutes, basking in their gentle love. It was Deanna who eventually saw Beverly and she smiled widely, beckoning her best friend closer. Beverly perched on the bed side and sighed happily.
"He seems to be feeding well."
Deanna nodded, her eyes falling to the suckling infant.
"Yes, he's a strong little boy."
She glanced at her husband, her smile turning into a wicked grin.
"He's just like his father."
Will reddened and offered a sheepish grin, but said nothing.
Beverly very gently ran her fingers through the luxuriant growth of downy dark hair on the baby's head, asking quietly,
"What is his name?"
It was Will who answered.
"Peter. Peter Michael Riker."
Leaning forward, Beverly placed a gentle kiss on the baby's head. She sat up, her smile a sad one.
"My husband isn't here to say this, so I will say it for him. Welcome aboard, Peter."
Deanna took one of Beverly's hands and smiled.
"He'll be back soon, with your little girl, I'm sure of it."
Beverly looked deeply into Deanna's eyes and the Betazoid could see the worry swirling in the blue depths. Although her empathic sensed were dulled by the pregnancy, she was aware that Beverly was about to do something important. Before she could ask Beverly what it was, the Doctor turned her attention to Will, saying softly,
"Will, I want the use of a runabout."
He knew immediately what was on her mind.
"You can't go after him, Beverly…it makes no sense."
Anger spiked in Beverly, but she stayed calm.
"No sense, Will? My husband is on his own with barely any sight, trying to rescue our daughter. He doesn't even know where she is!"
Will took a steadying breath and lifted a hand, meaning to lay it on Beverly's forearm, but she stood abruptly, glaring down at her CO. He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Beverly, I can't let you go."
Her voice was so quiet, Will almost asked her to repeat herself.
"Then I resign."
He shook his head.
"Beverly…"
In a stronger voice, Beverly said,
"As a civilian, I am requesting the use of a runabout. If you refuse I will consider myself a captive on this ship and I will do everything I can to leave."
Deanna could see her husband was getting angry, so she said quietly,
"I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement, Beverly. Let's just stay calm and we'll discuss it."
Shaking back her hair, Beverly's eyes were hard.
"There's nothing to discuss. Either you give me the use of the runabout, or I resign and leave anyway."
It was with mild surprise that Will, instead of prolonging the argument, tapped his comm. badge.
"Riker to Data."
"Data here, go ahead."
"Data, would you come immediately to Sick Bay please?"
"Yes, Sir, I am on my way."
A frown creased Beverly brow.
"What's Data got to do with it?"
Will smiled, but his eyes were glittering.
"Wait and see."
While they waited for Data's arrival, an uncomfortable silence sat heavily on them. Deanna finished feeding the baby and Will took his son, lifting him gently to his shoulder so he could pat his back. Beverly tried to maintain her anger, but the scene before her stole her angst. She sighed with relief when Data strode purposefully to the bed. Will looked up at the android and surprised Beverly by smiling.
"Data, I know you do the work of many and this current mission will keep you very busy. How many officers do you think it will take to do your job as acting First Officer if you were suddenly…reassigned?"
Data's eyes darted from side to side for a few seconds, then he shrugged.
"Of course it would depend on whom I chose, but three officers of Lieutenant Commander rank would probably be sufficient. It is not the amount of work so much as their lack of experience in the job."
Will nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. Tell me, Data, if I told you Doctor Picard has requested a runabout to go in search of Captain Picard, what would you say?"
Pulling down the corners of his mouth and raising his eyebrows, Data tilted his head in a curiously cat-like gesture.
"I would say I find the idea inherently dangerous and I would advise the Doctor against it."
Again Will nodded slowly.
"And what would you say if I suggested, seeing as how she is determined to go, despite my objections, I think it would be a good idea if you went with her?"
Before Data could respond, Beverly shook her head, saying in exasperation,
"Will, that's absurd! I don't need a bloody chaperone for God's sake!"
Holding up one hand to silence the vexed woman, Will returned his attention to Data.
"Well?"
His face emotionless, Data gave a short nod.
"I think that would be a very good idea, Sir."
Beverly's mouth opened to protest, but Will silenced her.
"And you think you can adequately fill your post?"
A glimmer of a smile appeared on Data's thin lips.
"Yes, Sir."
Will's smile didn't quite reach his eyes, but his tone was warm.
"Then I am reassigning you, Data. Your mission is to accompany Doctor Picard and be of any assistance she may require."
His eyes shifted to Beverly, once again stymieing her protest.
"And you, Doctor, will take advantage of what I offer with grace and humility."
Snapping her mouth closed, the fire in Beverly's eyes made her formidable. She silently debated the wisdom of arguing with Will, but in the back of her mind she knew his decision was not only very generous, but vital to her plans. Standing to her full height, she gave a curt nod and had the grace to say quietly,
"Thank you, Sir."
She lowered her head as Data asked,
"When do we leave, Doctor?"
Realising Data needed some time to recruit his replacements; she looked into his eyes and smiled.
"How much time do you need?"
Cocking his head, Data considered the question.
"I need to select the officers and thoroughly brief them. As it is now fourteen-fifty seven, may I suggest our departure be at change of shift tomorrow morning? That way the alpha shift can settle into their new command structure at the beginning of their shift."
Offering a thoughtful nod, Beverly chewed on her lower lip.
"Okay…that should work for us."
Will frowned.
"Us?"
Beverly looked at Will and knew this situation was not yet over.
"The boys and me."
The frown deepened and Will shook his head.
"You can't take the boys."
Beverly smiled but there was steel in her eyes as she said quietly,
"I'm not going without them, Will. They have as much right as me to find…and help, Jean-Luc."
Will's anger returned but he kept his tone reasonable, not wishing to provoke Beverly's legendary temper.
"But what of the danger you may face? Beverly…you're going into an unknown situation…that's even if you manage to find the Captain. Don't you think it would be better if you left the boys here, safe on the Enterprise?"
Her anger turning to fury, she struggled to keep her voice down.
"Are you accusing me of being a bad mother? Are you suggesting I would deliberately put my sons in danger?"
Will shook his head as he gently handed the baby back to his wife.
"No I'm not, but can you honestly say the boys won't be in danger if they go with you?"
Beverly all but hissed,
"We live and work in space, dammit! Danger confronts us every minute of the day!"
Striving to keep calm, Will nodded.
"Yes, but we don't deliberately seek danger. Look, Beverly, the boys can stay with Deanna and me, we'll look after them."
One thing Beverly rarely, if ever, did was change her mind once it was made up. She shook her head and stared down into Will's eyes.
"They're going with me, Will, and that's final."
Will knew Beverly very well and he knew at that point he wasn't going to be able to make her reconsider. It irritated him, but he knew he also had a strong stubborn streak. Swallowing his anger and dismay, he gave a curt nod and turned to Data.
"As well as assisting Doctor Picard, you are also responsible for the well being of Paul and David. See that they all return to the ship in one piece."
Offering one short nod, Data said quietly,
"Yes, Sir."
Beverly's shoulders lost some of their tension as Will said softly,
"There will be a runabout ready for your departure in Shuttle Bay two in the morning. I expect regular reports."
Coming to attention to show her gratitude and respect, Beverly looked into Will's eyes. Her expression was unreadable, but there was warmth in her eyes.
"Aye, Sir, thank you."
Will held her gaze for a few seconds before saying quietly,
"Dismissed."
Beverly sent a smile to Deanna and turned but stopped as Will muttered,
"Find them and bring them home, Beverly."
She looked over her shoulder and winked.
"You can count on it."
She left, leaving Data with Will to discuss the selection of the officers.

 

 

 

The wounds in the baby's lower abdomen were still open and the probe in her vagina had not been removed. Her eyes were no longer held open and the wires had been withdrawn, leaving her eyes bloodshot and swollen. Tears trickled down the sides of her face, gathering in her small ears to overflow and run into the wisps of auburn hair, but no sounds emerged from her little mouth. K'Lerran had placed each of her tiny ovaries in stasis, although they were still connected to her body by their pedicles. The alien had managed to synthesise several hormones and was in the process of attempting to bring several tiny eggs to maturity. The scientist worked alone, its colleagues finding the heat of the room far too uncomfortable, but K'Lerran didn't feel it. Totally absorbed in what it was doing, the evidence of the baby's distress that showed so clearly on the monitors went ignored by the alien. The bruising to her arms and legs marred the perfection of her skin and she gained no comfort from the synthesised liquid that a machine pumped regularly through the tube in her nose that filled her little stomach. She had never felt the warm embrace of her mother, never felt her mother's nipple in her mouth as she suckled. The scent of her father had never reached her senses; she wasn't even able to express her pain, fear and loneliness by crying. She lay immobilised on a hard metal table, her existence dependent on the whims of a cold, uncaring alien, who's only wish was to use her body to facilitate its scientific curiosity. She was alone and adrift, unaware that her father was not far away, desperate to find a way to rescue her.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was sure the time was passing so slowly because of the pain he was suffering. His long-range scanners had told him the alien ship had descended into the gasses of F446's outer atmosphere, but he couldn't approach the planet just yet. Blocking his way were several subspace distortions. He had encountered one recently and although the recalibrated sensors had given warning, they still ran into it. As predicted, the distortion rippled over the craft, rather than catastrophically colliding with it, but the little ship was shaken so badly, Jean-Luc suspected some of his teeth may have been loosened.
With that thought in mind, he was unwilling to expose his ship to any more stress and that meant finding a way through the distortions, as well as finding a safe place to land, somewhere free of the distortions and hidden from the alien ship, but close enough for him to get to it with relative ease. He had to take into account he would be in an evac suit, limiting his movements and oxygen supply.
He sat back and sighed, wishing he could rub his eyes…anything to ease his insidious pain.
"Computer, has the alien ship landed?"
"Yes, it has set down beside a lake composed of sulphuric acid."
"Has it detected us?"
"Unknown, but it has exhibited no aggressive actions. Shields are down, weapons off line and scanners inactive."
"How long will these distortions hide us?"
"Unknown, although if their systems are as hampered as ours, it may be hours before they are aware of our presence."
Idly rubbing his fingers over his lower lip, Jean-Luc frowned and asked,
"Can you find a place for us to land, not too far from the alien ship, that has a distortion between us and the other ship?"
"That will be problematic. The lake is large and on two sides there are significant land forms. Only on one side is the enough space to land the ship and there is a distortion present, however that would put almost one and a half kilometres between both ships."
With an exasperated sigh, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"That makes my job very difficult. I would have to carry extra oxygen cylinders…and I will have to take a container to put my daughter in. She cannot breathe that air any more than I can."
He sighed again.
"Are you sure there's no where else? What about the lake? Could we suspend the ship just above the surface and I transport to the other ship?"
"No. The gasses coming off the acid's surface would soon compromise the ship's integrity. Also, molecular transportation is not advisable. There is significant ion radiation interference, any biological matter would most certainly rematerialise severely distorted."
Jean-Luc squeezed his eyes shut and muttered,
"Fuck!"
He stood and ran his hands over his head, looking at the ceiling for inspiration.
"All right. If we set down where you recommend, how much oxygen am I going to need?"
"That would depend on your physical output."
Gritting his teeth, Jean-Luc struggled to keep his anger under control.
"I will be traversing the distance on foot, carrying a laden backpack, several weapons and a sealed oxygen crib."
"Will you be exerting more than your usual amount of energy?"
Rolling his eyes, Jean-Luc barked,
"Yes!"
"Then you will require, in addition to the standard oxygen supply incorporated in your suit, five additional cylinders."
"Five? Shit! How the hell am I going to be able to carry those as well as everything else?"
"Anti-grav units."
Jean-Luc froze, his mind racing.
"Anti-gravs will work down there?"
"Yes, although their energy cells will have limited use."
"So I can replicate a pallet, with some anti-grav units?"
"Yes."
Slapping his hand against his thigh, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Right! Computer, using the distortions to mask our approach, set us down in the area you have found."
"Due to the prevalence of the distortions, it will take considerable time to navigate our way through."
"Understood. Engage."
He ignored the chimes of acquiescence as he made his way to the aft replicator.

 

 

 

 

Beverly had not slept at all during the long night previous to their departure. Lying awake in the early hours of the morning, she idly wondered if Data was nervous, but immediately discounted the thought, knowing he could deactivate his emotion chip whenever he wanted. Her mind kept going to her husband…and their little daughter. She sighed in frustration and sat up, flinging the covers off the bed. As she stood, there was a knock at her bedroom door.
"Mum?"
With a wry smile, Beverly lowered her head and called softly,
"Yes, Paul."
Not only Paul entered, but David did too. They stood awkwardly just inside the door and Beverly noted they were both dressed. At her hard look, Paul swallowed and muttered,
"We couldn't sleep."
She waved them over and gathered them into her embrace. They hugged silently, then Beverly stepped back, eyeing each boy.
"Did either of you get any sleep at all?"
David shrugged, but Paul nodded.
"Yeah, a bit."
With a slow nod, Beverly smiled.
"And you've showered?"
Both boys nodded.
"Well, why don't you set the table and replicate breakfast while I shower and dress?"
Paul nodded and turned, but David lingered. He looked up at his mother and frowned.
"This trip…it's going to be dangerous, isn't it."
Beverly had never lied to her children and she wasn't about to start.
"It may be, David. I will do my best to keep us out of danger, but I can't guarantee it."
The boy lowered his head and Beverly went to him, gently ruffling his hair. In a soft voice she asked,
"Would you rather stay here, on the Enterprise?"
His head snapped up and she plainly saw anger in his eyes.
"NO!"
Trying to placate him, Beverly held out her arms, silently asking for a hug. David hesitated, but his face crumpled and he flung himself into his mother's embrace. She held him tightly while he wept and trembled. After a few minutes, he turned his head to one side and gave a shuddering sigh, mumbling,
"You must think I'm a real baby."
She kissed the top of his head and gently squeezed him.
"No, I don't my sweet son."
They hugged in silence for a few minutes, before Beverly said gently,
"It's all right to be scared, David. I get scared too…so does your Papa."
David's body stiffened and he stepped back, looking up incredulously at his mother.
"Papa gets scared?"
With a lopsided smile, Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
"When?"
With a smile, Beverly encouraged David to sit with her on the bed.
"Oh, lots of times. You know when he sends me on missions…dangerous missions?"
The boy nodded.
"Well, he's really scared then, scared that something might happen to me."
David frowned.
"Then why does he send you? He could send Selar."
"Because I'm the CMO. David, when we got married, we decided that our marriage wouldn't interfere with our duties on the ship. Your father is the most senior officer aboard…our Captain, and every person on this ship has to obey him. Now in return, your father never gives orders that are unreasonable. And even if he did, this crew trusts him, they know if he gave an order, no matter how unreasonable it may seem that he would have a valid reason for doing so and they would obey him, no matter what. And, David, that includes me."
The boy thought about it for a moment then shook his head.
"But I've never heard Papa order you around."
Beverly's smile widened.
"That's because in our private life, he wouldn't. Actually…"
She chuckled.
"He wouldn't dare!"
She could see confusion in her son's eyes, so she elaborated.
"When we're on duty, I have to obey him, I swore an oath when I joined Starfleet to do so, but once we're off duty, we can behave like any other married couple. You know that, as CMO, I am in charge of Sick Bay?"
The boy nodded.
"Well, I am also one of only two people on the ship that can order your father off duty."
David's eyebrows rose.
"Who's the other one?"
"Your Aunt Deanna."
The boy nodded wisely.
"Because she's the ship's Counsellor."
"Yes. And when your father is a patient in Sick Bay, he has to obey his Doctor."
David grinned.
"Like you had to."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes."
They smiled at each other but David's smile faded and he shook his head.
"It still seems unbelievable…Papa scared?"
Ruffling his hair, Beverly urged him to stand.
"David, you have to remember, despite your father being the Captain, he is, underneath it all, just a man with all the flaws and frailties that entails. He's not a superman and it would be unfair of you to think of him as such. He is you father, and he loves you with all his heart."
The boy looked into his mother's eyes and smiled.
"I understand, Mum."
She grabbed his shoulders and turned him towards the door. Patting his backside, she said with amusement,
"Now scoot. Go help your brother while I shower."
As David got to the door he stopped and turned, catching Beverly as she was about to enter the bathroom.
"I love you, Mum."
She smiled and winked.
"And I love you."

 

 

 

Data was waiting for them in the Shuttle Bay and Beverly smiled as she saw him.
"Good morning, Data."
"Good morning, Doctor Picard and good morning to you, Paul and you, David."
The boys grinned and Paul said,
"Hi, Uncle Data, we're really glad you're coming with us."
The android was about to say more when the big doors trundled open and Will came in. He strode over to the little group and smiled.
"Deanna wanted to come to see you off, but the baby was hungry…so…"
Beverly flapped a hand.
"Oh, don't worry about it Will, I'm sure she's way too busy."
Will gave a nod, then clapped his hands together, and then rubbed them.
"So, you're ready?"
Data nodded.
"Yes, Sir. I have checked the runabout for equipment and I have performed a pre flight check. All is in readiness."
Will pursed his lips and nodded.
"Good. Now you realise the Calypso is capable of higher warp speeds than the runabout."
Data inclined his head.
"Yes, Sir. I have calculated our flight path to Herros IV; we will begin our search there."
Will frowned.
"But didn't the Captain say he was going to the Regala system?"
It was Beverly who answered.
"Yes, but we don't know if that's where he actually went. We thought if we could pick up his ion trail at Herros IV, we could simply follow it."
Will scowled and shook his head.
"The trail would have significantly decayed by now."
Data lifted a hand, holding up his index finger.
"Not necessarily, Sir. Within the Herros system the space is not like normal space. You are aware of the communication difficulties?"
Will nodded.
"Well I think things like ion trails will maintain their cohesion much longer than normal. If that is so, we should have no trouble detecting them, then following them."
The big man ran his hand through his hair.
"Okay, I get that. Have you made any plans as to what you're going to do if you find him with the aliens?"
Beverly shrugged.
"With or without the aliens, it doesn't matter. We'll contact him and join up with him. After all, two ships has to be better than one, especially when the one is manned by a single person…a single person with vision difficulties."
Will thinned his lips and nodded.
"Agreed."
He stood to his full height and took a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds before slowly letting it out.
"Well good luck and come home soon."
He turned to the boys and grinned.
"And you two…keep an eye on them."
He pointed to Beverly and Data, making the boys chuckle. Will waited until everyone was aboard and, as the runabout powered up, he activated the blast doors and watched as the craft slid through the force field and out into the cold blackness of space.

 

 

 

It was just over two hours of frustrated irritation for Jean-Luc before the Calypso made her landing on the planet. He had already donned the evac suit and the gravi-sled with its cargo of oxygen cylinders and crib was in readiness. All he had to do was put on his helmet, heft the backpack and leave the ship.
As the computer confirmed their safe landing, Jean-Luc barked,
"Once I am off the ship, raise shields."
"Acknowledged."
Knowing he was about to enter a noxious atmosphere, Jean-Luc utilised an air lock to prevent any of the poisonous gasses from entering the ship. He stepped into the airlock, donned his helmet and activated the exchange of atmosphere. He felt his ears pop and, as the outer hatch opened, he squinted as bright light lanced into his visor. A quick adjustment gave his eyes relief and he stepped onto the planet's surface, the gravi-sled faithfully following him.
The tricorder in his hand was operating effectively, but he had trouble seeing the screen. He pressed some controls on the left arm of his suit, bringing up the readouts on his interior display. It was still somewhat blurry, but he had more success in discerning what it was displaying.
There was a stiff head wind, making him lean into it as he made slow progress across the rocky ground. He had to be very careful, as dotted haphazardly on the ground were small pools of bubbling sulphuric acid. His gloved hands fisted as he wished he could move faster, but hampered as he was, he had to be content with slow, steady progress.

 

 

 

 

K'Lerran made a small incision in the baby's chest and inserted a thin probe. He watched the progress of the probe's tip on a monitor, halting it as it penetrated the infant's heart. The bleeding around the heart wall was immediately staunched and the scientist nodded with satisfaction.
"This is a curious organ. It seems to be responsible for your circulation my little one. Let me see what's inside."
From the tip of the probe, hair-like filaments emerged, infiltrating the chambers of the baby's heart. K'Lerran's eyes glittered as the information scrolled across the screen.
"Ah yes, I see. Now…let me look at this fluid."
The alien placed a tight band around the baby's right thigh, raising her blood vessels. A thick needle was introduced into her flesh as the alien drew up ten mils of her blood. It detached the syringe, leaving the needle in the baby's leg. Taking the sample to a computer, K'Lerran put a tiny amount onto a chip and inserted it into the machine. It then bent to look into the magnified screen.
"Oh how fascinating! Yes, this is wonderful!"
It turned to smile at the baby, but the smile quickly turned into a scowl as the alien saw blood trickling down each side of the baby's leg, to pool on the metal surface of the table.
"Damn!"
When it had detached the syringe from the needle, it gave no thought as to the blood that would continue to flow out of the needle. With utterly no concern for the baby, it pulled the needle out of her thigh and pressed a clawed finger hard against the small wound. Tears flowed from the baby's eyes and the monitor showed her distress, but K'Lerran ignored both.
From across the room, another computer chimed. The alien made a clicking sound and left the baby, hurrying to see what the computer was signalling. It lifted its hands and chuckled.
"Yes! I have the hormones I need."
It went back to the baby, carrying what looked vaguely like a hypospray.
"Soon I will have some mature eggs my little one!"
It had just injected the baby when a subtle shift in the room's temperature signified someone had entered the room. Without turning to see who it was, K'Lerran barked,
"I don't need any help! Leave."
The deeper voice of M'Harret made K'Lerran spin around, touching its head and bowing in supplication.
"My Liege! My apologies for being so rude. I am at a critical stage…"
The tall alien waved its hand dismissively.
"I am not interested in your excuses K'Lerran, I am, however, interested in your progress."
Bowing low again, K'Lerran gestured to the baby.
"I have just administered the synthesised hormones. I believe we should have mature eggs very soon."
"Very soon? Too vague, K'Lerran. When?"
Sweat began to bead on the high dome of K'Lerran's head. Knowing M'Harret would keep it to any timetable; it decided to err on the side of caution.
"Seven turns, my Liege."
"Seven turns. We will be on this planet seven turns, K'Lerran. If you fail to produce mature eggs in that time, the experiment will cease. We can dispose of the remains in the lake."
Dismay threatened to overwhelm the scientist. Showing boldness it never knew it possessed, it took a step forward and said softly,
"My Liege, please…let me continue, there is so much to learn."
By the dark glimmer in M'Harret's eyes, K'Lerran knew it was on dangerous ground. The leader stood to its full, impressive height and said in a quietly threatening tone,
"Your fascination with the Human infant has taken you away from your other studies. You have become fixated, K'Lerran. You must think of the good for all of us, not just how to satisfy your scientific curiosity."
Risking its life, K'Lerran took another step forward.
"But my Liege…I'm so close."
M'Harret held up a hand and silenced the scientist.
"You have seven turns, K'Lerran. If you have not succeeded, you will dissect the infant, then dispose of its remains."
The scientist knew it had reached the end of M'Harret's patience. K'Lerran bowed low and squirted an amount of urine onto the floor.
"It will be as you wish, my Liege."
After M'Harret had left, K'Lerran went to the table and looked down at the baby. With a sigh it muttered,
"If you value your life my little one, you will help me."
Keeping in mind his oxygen use, Jean-Luc tried to keep his exertions to a minimum. The wind made it difficult to keep his balance and the rocky ground hampered his progress, but he walked doggedly on, the gravi-sled hovering ten centimetres above the ground and following him faithfully.
He had traversed three quarters of a kilometre before he was forced to stop and rest. The physical exertion was taking its toll, but so was the persistent pain. It had increased and he was having difficulty pushing it aside. The only saving grace was that his sight had suddenly improved. Not only could he read the interior display with ease, he could also see some distance into the swirling, milky green gasses.
Not wishing to risk compromising the integrity of his suit by sitting on a rock, he opted instead to perch on the gravi-sled. Over the howling of the wind he could hear the hum of the anti gravs as they took his weight. While he was resting, he took the time to check the crib. Inside the sealed container was a soft mattress, an equally soft blanket, a nappy and a bottle, filled with replicated breast milk and kept warm by a little element. Attached to the container were two oxygen cylinders and a heating unit.
Having rested sufficiently, Jean-Luc rose and checked the display inside his visor.
"Right, three quarters of a kilometre to go."
He stood and silently cursed the howling winds that made his journey so difficult.

 

 

 

With the runabout well on its way, Beverly convened a conference with her sons and Data. They sat at the dining table in the living area and studied the maps Beverly had supplied.
More for Data's benefit than anything else, Beverly pointed out the ruins.
"This is where the Captain and the boys were working. Our campsite was here…"
She indicated the spot.
"And the Calypso was landed here."
She then traced the way to the wood.
"The alien ship was here, near the river."
Data nodded.
"And you were found…where?"
Beverly pointed to a spot just on the edge of the wood.
"Here."
The android tilted his head as he visually measured out the distances.
"I see."
He turned his attention to the boys.
"What can you tell me about the beam the aliens used on the Calypso?"
David shrugged.
"I don't know, I was watching Paul."
Paul sat forward, eager to be of assistance.
"It happened just before I got to the ship. It came from the alien ship, which was hovering, about fifty metres above the Calypso. It was blue."
Data nodded his encouragement.
"Interesting. And once you were aboard you found all the power gone."
Paul nodded.
"Yes! Nothing worked."
With a sigh, Data sat back and steepled his fingers under his chin.
"Curious. Tell me, Paul; was there any evidence that the main computer core had been accessed?"
The boy shrugged.
"I don't know."
"Your father did not say anything about it?"
Paul shook his head.
"No."
Beverly sat forward, her blue eyes sharp.
"Why do you ask, Data?"
The android's golden eyes speared the Doctor's and he sighed again.
"I find it odd that the aliens would abduct your daughter with so little knowledge of human physiology. However, if they accessed the computer core, they would have gained extensive knowledge of humans in general and infants in particular."
Taking a deep breath, Beverly let it out in one word.
"Damn."
Data tried to ease her anguish.
"It is not necessarily bad news, Doctor. With the knowledge they gained they would know how to feed and care for her."
Running her fingers through her hair, Beverly had to bite back her urge to snap.
"I know that, Data, but what do they want her for? A pet? For experiments? Or were they driven by nothing more than idle curiosity and they will dispose of her once they become bored?"
She sighed and closed her eyes.
"We need to get her back…and soon."
Paul reached across the table and took his mother's hand.
"We'll find her Mum; we'll find her and Papa."
David nodded vigorously.
"Yeah, and anyway if Papa finds them first, he'll kill all of them to get her back."
Beverly frowned at her youngest son.
"You know better than that, David. Your father will try to negotiate before he resorts to violence."
The boy lowered his head and sighed.
"Yeah, I know, but if they make him mad, they'll be in deep shit."
Rubbing her brow, Beverly sighed.
"David…language, please!"
"Sorry, Mum."
Data smiled and pointed to the map.
"Will you show me around when we get there?"
Paul shrugged.
"If we go down to the surface, sure."
Data nodded.
"Although it is unlikely, I look forward to it."
Beverly stood and smiled down at her boys.
"Okay, seeing as how neither of you got a decent night's sleep last night, I suggest an early night."
Paul smiled and nodded, but David groaned.
"But, Mum…"
Beverly pointed top the bedroom.
"No buts, mister. Off you go."
He stood and walked very slowly to the doors. Paul had already gone in but David hesitated outside.
"Will you come and tuck me in?"
Beverly chuckled.
"Of course I will…now scoot!"
Once both boys were in their room, Beverly sat back down and sighed. Data gave her a sympathetic look and smiled.
"Although my experiences with human children are limited, I nonetheless think your sons are fine boys."
Beverly smiled tiredly and leaned forward to give Data's hand a gentle squeeze.
"Thank you my friend, I appreciate it."
Data watched as she stood and went to the boy's room, saying softly,
"I will keep you all safe, Doctor, I promise."

 

 

 

 

Will had had just about all be could take. He was well versed in diplomacy, having watched his Captain over the years, but as Hettie Martin made yet another unreasonable demand, Will wished fervently that he possessed his Captain's seemingly limitless patience. The big man stifled a sigh and clenched his teeth.
"I'm sorry Prime Minister, we cannot do that."
The diminutive woman scowled.
"And why not? If Captain Picard were here, he'd make it his business to see we had all we needed. You, on the other hand, have been nothing but obstructive...and impertinent."
Deciding he'd had enough, Will's façade slipped as he said angrily,
"Look it is unreasonable to ask my crew members to act as lackeys to your colonists! They have already given up too much to accommodate you people. You have taken all the allocation of water and your use, despite your instructions to the contrary, of the replicators has severely taxed the ship's resources. Why can't you get it into your damned head…we're doing everything we can! Show a bit of damned respect!"
The woman's face registered shock and disbelief.
"How dare you! I have never been spoken to in such a manner before. Show you respect? When you show me none?"
She made the mistake of poking Will in the chest.
"Now you see here, you…"
He grabbed her wrist so fast; she was left speechless and gaping
"Let me set you straight on a few things, Prime Minister. One: you will not touch me…ever! Two: From now on, your people will abide by my instructions, failure to do so will result in every single one of you being confined to the cargo bays. And three: If I have any more trouble from you, I will have you thrown into the brig for the duration of the journey. Is that clear?"
Shocked to her core, Hettie could do nothing but nod dumbly. Will gave a curt bow, then brushed past her, the steam coming from his ears all but visible. Had he chanced a look over his shoulder, it is unlikely he would have liked what he saw. Hettie's cheeks were flushed, her green eyes dark and sparkling and her nipples pushed against the fabric of her tunic. For the first time in more years than she cared to admit, Hettie Martin was deeply aroused. With abruptness that shocked her, Hettie desired Will Riker and nothing was going to stop her getting what she wanted.
As he made his way to the turbo lift, Will passed Lieutenant M'Rak. Will stopped and called her by rank.
"Lieutenant, a word?"
The Vulcan head of security halted and turned to face her CO.
"Yes, Sir?"
Will tried to relax. He liked M'Rak, the woman was good at her job and Will admired her devotion to her duty.
"I have just read the riot act to Prime Minister Martin and I don't think she took it too well. It might pay to keep an eye on her, who knows what mayhem she might get up to just to get back at me."
Having had to deal with many of the problems caused by the colonists, M'Rak gave an understanding nod.
"Aye, Sir."
Will summoned a wan smile.
"Just so you know…I told her that any more of her shenanigans and I'd confine the colonists to the cargo bays. She has been told to stop treating the crew as servants and I told her that if she personally gave me any more trouble, I'd throw her in the brig."
The Vulcan didn't smile, but there was a definite glint in her eyes.
"What about ship's recourses, Sir?"
Will offered a small nod of agreement.
"I told her their use of the water allocation and replicator energy was above and beyond our capabilities to maintain, I can only hope she's half the leader she thinks she is and talks to her people about it. If she takes it personally, who knows what may happen, but the bottom line is, if they don't curtail their usages, we'll have to ration them."
M'Rak gave a curt nod.
"Aye, Sir. I will monitor the situation and keep you informed."
Will's smile grew to reach his eyes.
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
Will reached the Bridge and handed command to the Lieutenant Commander all ready seated in the Command Chair. Taking refuge in the Ready Room, Will replicated a cup of hot, black coffee and sat wearily at the desk, letting out a long sigh. He stared into his cup and shook his head, muttering,
"One day gone, five to go. Gods…give me strength."

 

 

 

The warning chime from the tricorder occurred simultaneously with the visual warning that appeared on the visor display. Jean-Luc stopped in his tracks and scowled.
"The subspace distortion. Now…how do I get around the bloody thing?"
He looked through his visor into the gasses, but saw nothing of the distortion. Giving an annoyed grunt, he raised his voice to be heard over the winds.
"Computer, how is it that we have subspace distortions on the planet's surface? I thought they only occurred in space."
The reply was laden with static.
"Unknown, however the anomalous composition of the Dregan Nebula may have some bearing on the matter."
"Acknowledged."
He looked again at his visor display and sighed.
"Computer, what would happen if I tried to walk through the distortion?"
"It is highly likely you would suffer significant injury without some sort of shielding or magnetic plating to protect you. Also, you may encounter solanagen based life forms. Advise you find a way around it."
"Understood."
Mumbling dark curses under his breath, Jean-Luc measured the distortion and found it was possible to go around it, but it would add significant time and distance to his journey.
Knowing his oxygen supply was limited, he gritted his teeth and altered course. His new route would take him close by the base of a large outcropping of rocks. As he walked, he saw that the rocky boulders would give him a better approach to the alien vessel. With a grim smile, he bent into the swirling winds and pressed on.
It had taken all of one cylinder and a quarter of another before he found a vantage point from which he could get a glimpse of his target. He doused his helmet lights and lowered his profile but he was forced to use the binoculars he had in his backpack. Peering through the lenses was difficult as he had to hold the glasses up to his visor, but once the auto focus did its job, almost immediately he saw two figures near the aft hatch.
He lowered the binoculars and thought hard. Secreted in his clothing he had his personal phaser. In a holster at his hip, he had the bigger hand phaser, but after some consideration, he pulled the phaser rifle out of his pack, then said quietly,
"Computer, what would happen in this atmosphere if I discharged a phaser?"
"The area surrounding the target over a distance of two metres would ignite, as well as the target."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"I see. And the target…would it be destroyed?"
"Provided the phaser was programmed to an appropriate setting, yes the target should be destroyed."
Briefly closing his eyes, Jean-Luc sighed.
"And if it was discharged inside the alien vessel?"
"Unknown, it would depend on the interior atmosphere."
His brow lowering, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Acknowledged."
He was carefully pushing backwards off the boulder when he felt it move. Surprised that a rock so big would be so unstable, once his feet were firmly on the ground, he gave the rock an experimental push. He was shocked to find it moved relatively easily. His shock, however, quickly turned to cunning as he realised he could use the rock to cover his advance on the ship. He looked around and saw several boulders, mostly large, but some moderately sized. He went to the nearest and gave it a hard shove with his foot. As he suspected, once the boulder was out of the lee of the mound and into the wind, it was pushed along quite quickly, driven before the gusts.
With his mind working in overdrive, Jean-Luc got behind a moderately large boulder and manoeuvred it until the wind began to move it. He crouched behind it, his phaser rifle held to his chest and the leash from the gravi-sled attached to his belt as the boulder slowly began to roll.
He had calculated well. The boulder's path took him within four metres of the two aliens before it moved away. Holding his breath, Jean-Luc straightened and aimed the rifle, before calling out,
"Hey!"
The aliens spun around, both reaching for their weapons, attached to the evac suits. Jean-Luc took two quick steps forward and brandished the rifle. The aliens slowly raised their gloved hands as Jean-Luc cautiously approached. Once he was close enough, he said firmly,
"Where is M'Harret?"
The aliens looked at each other and one pointed to the closed hatch.
Gesturing with the rifle, Jean-Luc said calmly,
"Open it."
The aliens didn't move, so Jean-Luc got close enough to put the business end of his rifle against the visor of one helmet.
"Open the hatch or I will fire."
Even through the material of their visors, the aliens could see the determination in Jean-Luc's eyes. Slowly, one of the beings turned and pressed a recessed control. The sound of the machinery and the explosive atmosphere exchange made Jean-Luc step back. He cast a look inside to see it was an airlock. With quick jerks of the rifle, he gestured the aliens inside before he too entered. Pointing to the lighted controls, Jean-Luc silently ordered the airlock to be activated. His ears popped as the exchange was made. The interior door opened automatically and Jean-Luc made sure the aliens could see he was still aiming the rifle. They preceded him into the body of the craft and Jean-Luc could see on his display that the air was breathable. Keeping the rifle trained on the aliens, he took off his helmet. The aliens slowly did the same.
"Get M'Harret."
Moving slowly and making sure Jean-Luc could see their hands at all times, one of the aliens went to a console and pressed a control. There was a series of hisses and clicks before the being stepped back and stared at the Captain.
"Right", thought Jean-Luc. "It's been summoned, now all I have to do is wait."

 

 

 

Paul was almost at his wit's end with David. The younger Picard had been in a foul mood for most of the morning and Paul had had enough. Beverly, sensing her son's surliness, chose to leave him alone, rather than tackle him about it. She and Data had sequestered themselves in the cockpit, leaving the boys to their own devices.
While Paul tried to do his homework, David made a desultory effort with his school work before abandoning it and picking up a PADD. It was obvious he was trying to write something, and equally obvious he was having difficulty. His grunts and snorts eventually got the better of Paul and the older boy looked up and said harshly,
"Will you shut up! I'm trying to get some work done."
David glared at his brother and made a show of dropping the PADD. He pushed his chair back and stalked to the replicator. Paul, although annoyed with his brother, nonetheless, didn't like to see him upset, so while David's back was turned, Paul picked up the PADD and began to read.
Several seconds passed before Paul chuckled, then laughed outright.
"You're writing a love letter? To Stacey Grimble?"
He laughed louder but his mirth quickly turned to anger as David snatched the PADD and yelled,
"Shut your fucking mouth, you prick!"
There was a sudden silence as a shocked Paul stared open mouthed at his brother. Both boys were unaware that their mother, who had heard David's outburst, had quietly entered the room. When she spoke her voice was soft but it had an edge to it.
"What did you just say to your brother?"
David spun around, blushing fiercely. When he didn't say anything, Beverly's voice rose.
"I asked you a question!"
Paul, ever the peace maker, stood and softly cleared his throat.
"It's okay, Mum, we were just fooling around."
With a curt gesture of her hand, Beverly said sharply,
"I want to speak with David alone. Please got to your room, Paul."
Paul knew his mother well enough to know now wasn't the time to argue. Generally speaking, both parents were usually softly spoken and calm, even in a crisis, but should either boy anger their parents…woe betide the perpetrator. The only real difference between them was the boys could easily tease their mother, but not their father. He joked with them and his sense of humour was often evident, but he didn't take kindly to being teased. The boys understood this and acted accordingly.
Paul stood, gathered his PADDs and cast his brother a sympathetic look before leaving the room. Beverly took Paul's seat and pointed at David's seat, silently ordering him to sit. Once he had, Beverly said softly,
"I have heard you use bad language before, David, and I have spoken to you about it, but never have I heard you be so crude to your brother. Would you like to tell me why you spoke as you did?"
Like his brother, David knew his mother well. He knew she was giving him the opportunity to explain himself and he appreciated the gesture, but he really didn't want to confess why he had been so angry. He hung his head and shook it.
Beverly sighed and sat back, studying her son's auburn hair. After a while she sighed.
"Neither of us is leaving this table until you tell me…and if you want any privileges, you'd better come clean."
David knew exactly want the privileges were. Going to the cockpit, hanging out with Data, helping his mother prepare for the mission, all these things were gone…unless he confessed. He sighed and lifted his head, before slowly picking up the PADD.
"I was writing a letter…or I was trying to."
Beverly summoned a sympathetic smile.
"A letter? To whom?"
David blushed, lowered his head and mumbled. Beverly sighed and cast a glance at the ceiling before saying gently,
"What was that, David? I didn't quite hear you."
The boy closed his eyes, lifted his head and blurted,
"It's to Stacey Grimble!"
With a frown, Beverly shook her head.
"Stacey Grimble? Lieutenant Commander Charles and Lieutenant Gail Grimble's daughter?"
David nodded mutely. Stifling a sigh, and thinking how much like his father David could be when trying to extract information from him, Beverly offered a smile and asked,
"You go to school with Stacey, don't you?"
David nodded, mumbling,
"Yeah, we're in the same class."
"I see. And what was in the letter?"
David silently shrugged so Beverly put her hand out, saying softly,
"May I see it please?"
Knowing a refusal was out of the question; David pushed the PADD across the table top, then sat back, lowered his head and folded his arms defiantly.
Beverly activated the device and silently read. She sighed as she put the PADD down.
"It's a very nice letter. How long have you felt like this for her?"
David shrugged again and Beverly said softly,
"That's not an answer, David."
When the boy lifted his head, Beverly could see he was close to tears.
"It started when she invited me to her birthday party last year."
Sympathy wrenched Beverly heart. She reached forward, silently asking for his hand. He gave it as two tears tracked down his face.
"I really miss her, Mum. We talk about stuff, you know…all sorts of stuff and she always says really cool things. I thought that, seeing I'd be away for a while that I'd write to her, but instead of just writing a normal letter, with just, you know…news, I kept wanting to say other stuff."
He wiped angrily at his tears and shook his head.
"It's dumb!"
Beverly smiled gently.
"It's not dumb, David, I think it's lovely. Does Stacey share your feelings?"
He shrugged miserably.
"I don't know."
With a sigh, Beverly pointed to the PADD.
"Well, if she reads that, she'll soon know. Are you going to send it?"
Again the disconsolate shrug.
"I don't know."
With a soft sigh, Beverly squeezed his hand.
"May I offer a suggestion?"
The boy looked up, curiosity in his eyes.
"Yes."
"Tone it down just a wee bit. Girls Stacey's age like boys, but get a bit nervous at the thought of a boy, even one they like, coming on too strong. If you like, once you've finished, I can have a look at it and maybe give some more advice?"
Finding a small smile, David nodded.
"Okay."
Beverly's smile was warm, but her eyes glittered when she said,
"Now as for your language, I understand how angry you must have been that Paul read the letter, but that doesn't excuse what you said. I want you to apologise to your brother and as punishment, you are to get breakfast and dinner for all of us for the rest of the week."
David sighed and was going to roll his eyes, but thought better of it. He knew he had gotten off lightly. He smiled at his mother and gave a nod.
"Okay, Mum."
"Good. Now I want you to go to your room and finish your homework. And send Paul out, will you please? I want to talk with him."
Once again his usual buoyant self, David nodded and shot his mother a cheeky grin.
"'Kay."
When Paul appeared at her side, Beverly looked over her shoulder to see that the bedroom door was closed. Having ascertained their privacy, Beverly said quietly,
"What David said to you was inexcusable, but he was provoked. He will apologise to you, but in future, don't go reading his letters. Give him his privacy. Okay?"
Paul nodded, sadness colouring his eyes.
"Okay, I'm sorry, Mum."
Ruffling his hair, Beverly said quietly,
"It's not me who you should be apologising to."
Getting the hint, Paul nodded.
"Okay, I hear you, Mum."
With a satisfied nod, Beverly smiled.
"Good. Now, have you finished your homework?"
"Yes."
"Right, come up to the cockpit, I think Data has some work for you."
Paul grinned rakishly, reminding Beverly forcibly of his father.
"Cool."
Together they went forward.

 

 

 

 

Hettie Martin looked at herself in the mirror and smiled in what she thought was a sultry manner. She leaned forward to check her makeup again and harrumphed as she applied some more rouge. Then, satisfied with her face, stepped back and turned side-on to admire her shapely dress. It was calf length, shimmering green and clung to her like a second skin. She was bare footed and had absolutely no intention of wearing shoes. With one last look, she smoothed down the fabric of her dress and lifted her head, saying imperiously,
"Computer, I summoned Commander Riker ten minutes ago. Where is he?"
"Commander Riker is in turbo lift three, descending."
"I see."
She sprayed on some more heady perfume and wandered into her living area. The lights were lowered and several scented candles burned throughout the room, producing what she hoped was a seductive atmosphere. Wine cooled in a bucket, gleaming crystal goblets shone gently in the diffused light and a plate of refrigerated oysters sat ready for consumption. The door chime sounded and Hettie went immediately to the lounge, arranging herself appropriately and calling sultrily,
"Come in…Will."
The big man strode into the room, squinting in the dim light. He looked around, slightly confused.
"Prime Minister?"
Offering a small shake of her head, Hettie called softly,
"Over here…Will."
The First Officer spotted Hettie and swallowed convulsively. Now he could see what she was wearing, the dim light, candles, wine and food began to make sense. He remained standing as he said,
"You called, Prime Minister?"
Becoming annoyed with his stiff formality, Hettie crooked her finger.
"Call me Hettie, Will. Come and sit down, you must be exhausted after such a long day."
Beginning to sweat slightly, Will shook his head.
"No thank you, Prime Minister. I am a little busy, so if you would just tell me what it is you want…"
Quickly becoming angry, Hettie made a concerted effort to calm herself. She came to her feet slowly, in what she believed was grace personified. Sidling up to the Exec, she ran her fingers over his broad chest and purred,
"You have such a stressful job…why don't you let me…relieve you of that stress?"
Now alarmed, Will grabbed her hand and stepped back.
"I don't think this is appropriate behaviour, Prime Minister."
Hettie moved closer and gently cupped his genitals.
"I'll tell you what is appropriate behaviour, Commander. Appropriate behaviour would be for you to take me into the bedroom and make me happy."
Shock gave way to anger. Will glared down at the woman and took her wrist, squeezing until she winced as he removed her hand from his genitals.
"I will overlook this blatant example of sexual harassment, Prime Minister, but if you ever try something like this again…"
She stepped back and sneered.
"You'll throw me in the brig?"
Will smiled coldly and shook his head.
"No, what I propose is much worse than that. I will tell my wife what you have attempted, my wife and mother of my new born son!"
With that, Will turned and marched from the room. Incensed, Hettie ran into her bedroom and flung herself on the bed. Minutes later she was bringing herself to a cheerless orgasm as her devious mind set itself to get back at Will Riker.

 

 

 

Less than a minute passed before a door opened and M'Harret appeared. The big alien came to a halt as its multi-faceted eyes roamed over Jean-Luc's form. With a flick of its hand, it dismissed the other two aliens then returned its attention to the Captain, its eyes settling on the phaser rifle.
"Do you intend to use that?"
Jean-Luc smiled coldly.
"If I have to."
The alien shrugged.
"I take it you want your…infant."
"My daughter, yes, I want her."
Looking nonchalantly at its clawed hand, M'Harret shook its head.
"We haven't finished with it."
Anger surged through Jean-Luc, but he kept calm…icily so.
"What you have done is an outrage! You assaulted my wife and stole our child. I want her back…now."
Although its eyes were so different from his, Jean-Luc thought he saw a change in their depths.
"As I said, Captain, we haven't finished with it yet."
Jean-Luc raised the rifle to his shoulder and said quietly,
"Then I will have to take her. Where is she?"
M'Harret stood to its full, impressive height and silently pointed to the door behind it. Keeping the rifle trained on his adversary, Jean-Luc stepped closer to the alien, his eyes darting to the door release. It was all M'Harret needed. With lightning reflexes it grabbed Jean-Luc's arm and twisted violently, snapping the bones. Jean-Luc's finger spasmed, depressing the trigger. A bolt of blue light streaked out from the barrel, searing the wall and a bank of consoles before travelling in an upward arc and scorching the ceiling. M'Harret wrenched the rifle out of his hands and used it as a club, swinging it in an arc to impact on the side of Jean-Luc's unprotected head. The human dropped like a stone, unconscious. M'Harret tabbed a switch and said mildly,
"K'Lerran, I have something of interest for you. Come immediately."
The tall alien was inspecting the phaser damage when the scientist emerged from the lab. It stood, gaping down at Jean-Luc somnolent body. M'Harret toed the body and sniffed.
"You wanted a human male? You have one."
Overjoyed, K'Lerran went down on one knee and turned Jean-Luc over. It gasped softly.
"This is the human we met on Herros IV."
M'Harret nodded ponderously.
"It is."
K'Lerran stood and frowned.
"But it is one of the progenitors of the infant."
The leader shrugged.
"So?"
The scientist sighed.
"Genetically it would be better if we…"
M'Harret cuffed the subordinate across the head. Immediately, K'Lerran squirted a large amount of urine onto the floor and bobbed its head three times.
"My apologies, my Liege, I forgot myself. I am overwhelmed by your gift, thank you."
M'Harret stood over Jean-Luc and lifted a leg, defecating on his body. With one more disdainful look, it took its leave.

 

 

 

Searing pain in his head and right arm woke Jean-Luc. He cracked his eyes open and wished he hadn't, as bright white light lanced in, making the pain in his head worse. He closed his eyes again and slowly counted to twenty before trying to open them again. This time he withstood the pain better and was able to look around. He was naked and restrained on a metal table. He looked to his left and saw nothing that alarmed him, other than a bank of computers and assorted metal objects. But when he looked to his right he gasped. Less than two metres away was his little daughter. He tried to focus his eyes to see her properly, but his vision was slightly blurry. He could see she was naked and, like him, restrained. He made out probes and wires extending from her body, but what made his anger spike even higher was the vaginal probe. He struggled against his restraints until a large, cold hand gripped his shoulder.
"Stop struggling, Captain, it won't help."
Straining to see the owner of the voice, Jean-Luc shouted,
"Let me go! Let my child go! This is an outrage!"
The hand squeezed his shoulder until Jean-Luc growled in pain.
"Calm yourself, Captain. Getting upset helps no one."
Taking a deep breath and trying to ignore his pain, Jean-Luc tried to reason with his captor.
"There is no need for this. Let us go…please."
Coming around to where Jean-Luc could see it, K'Lerran clasped its hands in front of itself and sighed.
"I'm afraid I can't, Captain, you and your infant are much too valuable to me."
Scrambling for inspiration, Jean-Luc said forcefully,
"Then keep me, just let my daughter go."
The alien shook its head ponderously.
"No, I need both of you."
Suspicious, Jean-Luc barked,
"Why?"
Surprise registered on the alien's face.
"To breed with you, of course."
It took a few seconds for the stunned Captain to react. He gaped and shook his head.
"Breed with us? Are you insane?"
K'Lerran grinned, saying smugly,
"Insane? No, I don't think so, in fact I think my experiments with you and the infant will be lauded by my people."
Jean-Luc almost spluttered, such was his outrage.
"But you can't seriously think you can breed with us!"
The alien shrugged.
"Why not?"
Briefly closing his eyes, Jean-Luc strove for calm.
"For one thing, the infant is my daughter, it is genetically unsound to breed with two so closely related individuals, and second, she's far too young! Humans don't reach sexual maturity for years…she's just a baby, for God's sake!"
With a wave of its hand, K'Lerran dismissed the Captain's protests.
"You needn't concern yourself, Captain. I have harvested several ova from the infant and I'm in the process of maturing them. As to your relationship to her, I agree you are not the best candidate, but you are what is available and, like any good scientist, I will make do with what I have."
Anger surged through Jean-Luc, making him shout,
"I will not be a part of this…it is obscene! It is an atrocity!"
K'Lerran smiled and bowed its head.
"You have no choice, Captain. In two days I will collect semen from you. Resistance is pointless. You are mine to do with as I wish."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Look, what possible motive can you have for wanting to breed with us? Even if you succeeded, which I doubt, what do you intend to do with the result?"
The smile on the alien's face grew and Jean-Luc's dread increased.
"We feel it would be beneficial to our society to have an…underclass, ones who will do the work we feel is beneath us."
Jean-Luc gaped.
"You want to create Human slaves?"
The alien shrugged.
"That is a very emotive term, but call them what you will, we desire them, and you and your infant will provide the first examples of what we hope will be a thriving industry. You should be grateful, Captain. From what little I know of you, you enjoy exploring, investigating…you will be at the forefront of a new era for my people. You should be honoured."
Jean-Luc's voice dropped to a low grumble.
"I am not honoured, I am appalled! What you are suggesting is monstrous. Please, I implore you…don't do this. Let us go."
K'Lerran sadly shook its head.
"Impossible, I'm afraid."
Looking again at his helpless baby, Jean-Luc's voice broke as he asked,
"May I hold her?"
The alien considered the request for a few seconds before nodding.
"I don't see why not."
It then raised a hand and its eyes darkened.
"But I warn you, Captain. If you try anything, anything at all, you will be severely punished. Do you understand?"
With tears welling in his eyes, Jean-Luc nodded mutely. An assistant was called for and as his table was brought into an upright position, K'Lerran went to the baby and undid her restraints. The assistant undid the bands holding his arms, freeing them. K'Lerran gently picked up the baby and brought her to her father. Ignoring the pain of his broken right arm, Jean-Luc took his daughter in his left arm and gently touched her face. When she didn't react, he asked without looking up,
"What have you done to her?"
He kept his eyes on his daughter as K'Lerran replied,
"She has been given a drug to keep her calm."
"Is she pain-free?"
The alien sighed.
"Unfortunately no."
Jean-Luc looked down her little body and frowned.
"Are those her ovaries?"
The scientist nodded.
"Yes, we removed them three days ago. As you can see they are being held in stasis and are still connected to her by their pedicles. It will be possible to replace them if we so wish."
His eyes travelled down further.
"And this probe?"
The alien shrugged.
"The vaginal probe was necessary."
Shaking his head sadly, Jean-Luc sighed.
"You ruptured her hymen."
K'Lerran flapped a hand.
"It was of no consequence, Captain."
Looking up for the first time, Jean-Luc's eyes glittered with suppressed anger.
"It mattered to her."
With a shrug, the alien said brusquely,
"You have held it long enough. Give it to me."
His anger fled as he whispered,
"A little longer…please…"
K'Lerran snorted and turned away. Jean-Luc lifted his daughter and gently kissed her cheek, whispering,
"We will get out of this…somehow, my little one, I promise."
Her bloodshot blue eyes stared vacantly up at him and he choked back a sob. He held the little girl to his chest until cold hands began to pull her away.
"NO!"
The point of a weapon was pushed roughly against Jean-Luc's temple. Near his ear K'Lerran's voice was low and decidedly deadly.
"We don't need you conscious to take what we need, Captain. Give me your infant."
Jean-Luc released his grip and watched as his daughter was placed back on her table and restrained. As his table was moved back into a horizontal position, he kept his eyes on his baby.

 

 

 

Data sat back and shook his head.
"There is no evidence of any craft, Doctor."
Beverly ran her fingers through her hair and snorted.
"Well, we were expecting that. Can you detect any ion trails?"
Data made some adjustments and nodded.
"Indeed, Doctor Picard. There are two ion trails, one more recent than the other."
Beverly gave a curt nod.
"Right, set course and follow them, warp five."
Before he acted on his orders, Data hesitated and turned to face his superior.
"If I may, Doctor, warp five is inappropriate. If their destination was within this system, I recommend we proceed at impulse."
Realising her mistake, Beverly lowered her head and sighed.
"Of course, Data. Do you think we will be staying in this system?"
The android nodded.
"It would seem their flight path will take them to Herros II."
Beverly nodded and made the gesture her husband did when executing the order to proceed.
"Then make for Herros II at full impulse. Engage."
Data smiled and bowed his head.
"Aye, Sir."
Paul poked his head into the cockpit and saw Herros IV disappear from the screen.
"Where are we off to now?"
It was Data who answered.
"Herros II."
"Cool. So we didn't need to go down?"
Beverly smiled to take the sting out of her words.
"No, and I told you that might be the case."
Paul returned her smile.
"I know, Mum, it's okay."
David appeared next to his brother and asked,
"What's going on?"
Data responded.
"We are on our way to Herros II."
David's eyebrows went up.
"Oh. So they went there?"
Beverly smiled and nodded.
"We think so."
David stepped into the cockpit and looked at the controls.
"Mum, I have an idea."
Somewhat distracted, Beverly turned her head towards her son, but kept her eyes on her monitor.
"Hmm? What?"
David rolled his eyes at his mother and directed his attention to his brother.
"Do you remember what Papa said about long range sweeps…you know, when you're looking for another ship?"
Paul frowned in thought, then snapped his fingers.
"Yeah! He said you have to cast a net."
Beverly tore her eyes away from her monitor and shook her head.
"What are you talking about?"
Data, who had been listening, interrupted.
"Please explain."
Using his hands to illustrate his words, David said excitedly,
"Papa told us that the best way to find an ion trail was to cast the sensors like a net. That way you can see an exit trail as well as an entry trail."
Beverly was perplexed. She shook her head again, saying,
"What?..."
Data cocked his head, his remarkable positronic brain coming to grips with the enigma. He suddenly jerked his head up.
"I see! Rather then single-mindedly following one trail, if we spread our sensors in a wider arc, we may find the exit trail earlier, thus negating the need to follow the prime trail to its source before we find the exit trail."
Paul frowned, but nodded. He looked at his brother.
"Does that sound right to you?"
David shrugged.
"I suppose so."
Beverly rubbed her brow and sighed.
"Data, will this shorten our search?"
The android nodded.
"Yes, Doctor, considerably, if we are fortunate."
With a lopsided grin, Beverly shrugged.
"Then make it so, Mr.Data."
"Aye, Sir."
It was the work of only minutes before Data sat back with a satisfied smile on his pale face.
"I have an exit trail, Doctor."
Excitedly, Beverly sat forward in her seat.
"Can you extrapolate a flight path?"
The android nodded.
"I think so, but if we move to a more central position within the system, we may negate the need to follow this trail to its destination."
Beverly frowned, then snapped her fingers.
"By using the net technique."
Data nodded.
"Yes. If my theory is correct, the Captain and the aliens probably visited all planets in this system, known to have ruins."
Frowning, Beverly shook her head.
"We know that, Data, that's what our search is for."
With his limitless patience, Data showed no irritation as he continued,
"Yes, Doctor, but we can find out if they have left this system by locating the exit trail."
"You mean, rather than go from planet to planet; we put ourselves somewhere within the system where we could find their exit trail."
Data nodded.
"Yes. By my calculations, it will take only a few hours. If we find no exit trail from the system, we will know they are on one of the planets within the system. All we would have to do then is follow their ion trails until we locate that planet."
Placing her hand upon Data's shoulder, Beverly smiled tenderly and nodded.
"Do it, Data."
Plotting a course that would take them into a central position, Data began his sensor sweeps. Beverly watched in fascination as the images of the system came up on the viewscreen. After several long minutes, Beverly frowned.
"Data, why are you concentrating on this sector? They could have exited anywhere."
Not taking his eyes off the screen, Data replied softly,
"I have been exploring the concepts of human intuition and what is commonly known as 'gut feelings' and I have experienced what I can only guess is a 'hunch'. Something is telling me they have left the system and this is the sector they did it from."
He tilted his head, his pupils dilating.
"In fact…"
Beverly peered at the screen and muttered softly,
"I'll be damned."
Pointing at the two faint trails, Data smiled wryly.
"How gratifying. It seems we have found their exit point."
Beverly stood and brought up a star chart.
"Can you tell where they were going?"
Glancing at the chart, Data frowned.
"If they stayed on their course they would eventually arrive at the Dregan Nebula, but they would have to pass through this area…"
He indicated a darker area of space.
"That area is populated by millions of pieces of space debris, ranging in size from pebble sized bits to planetoids. Passage through that sector will be extremely hazardous."
Chewing her lip, Beverly glared at the chart.
"But we can navigate through it?"
Pulling down the corners of his mouth, Data nodded.
"Yes, but our speed will be significantly decreased."
Beverly nodded slowly.
"Agreed, Data, but I don't think we have a choice. Set course and follow those ion trails at our best speed."
"Aye, Sir."

 

 

 

 

The morning shift found Will rested and reasonably happy. After his embarrassing encounter with Hettie, he had gone to his quarters and spent a very pleasant evening with his wife and son before getting a decent night's sleep.
His edicts concerning the colonists seemed to be paying dividends, at the shift change the officer he relieved reported a quiet night with no problems created by their guests. The big man settled into the command chair and idled away three hours in relative peace before he decided to finish up some work in the Ready Room. He had been working quietly for an hour and a half when he was interrupted by the door chime. Keeping his eyes on the computer monitor, he called out in a friendly tone,
"Come in."
Several seconds passed but Will didn't look up, wishing to finish what he was doing, but the cloying scent of heavy perfume reached his nose and his eyes widened. Staring unseeing at the monitor, Will fixed his face into an unreadable expression and slowly lifted his head. Before him stood Prime Minister Hettie Martin. He swallowed as his eyes betrayed him by roaming over her body, especially her breasts which were squeezed together in a tight bodice, making them want to spill out at any moment. The rest of the diminutive woman's body had been confined in a tight body suit, the material accentuating every curve and fold.
Will forced his treacherous eyes back to Hettie's face, only to be assaulted by the most blatantly sexual look he ever seen on a woman her age. He swallowed again and schooled his features.
"Prime Minister, what can I do for you?"
As soon as the words left his mouth, Will inwardly cursed. Taking his question as an invitation, Hettie walked, or rather, minced, around the table until she was standing next to the now sweating man. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she pushed his wheeled chair back from the desk and insinuated herself between his legs.
"What can you do for me? Why, Will, where do you want me to start?"
Her fingers trailed up his leg to brush over his genitals. Snapped out of his shock over the woman's audacity, Will grabbed her hands and sprang to his feet. Glaring down at the woman, he gritted his teeth as she batted her eyes at him.
"I told you last night I wasn't interested, Prime Minister. Leave, now."
Her eyes hardened and she wrestled her hands free. When she spoke the sultry coquettishness was gone to be replaced by harsh iciness.
"Do you know Admiral Frank Costa?"
Thrown by both the abrupt change in her demeanour and the non sequitur, Will stepped back and raced to gather his scrambled thoughts.
"Frank Costa? Yes, I know him."
"Well, my dear Commander, Frank Costa is my ex husband and he would be very upset to hear how badly you've been treating me. In fact, he would be so upset he may just decide to make your career suffer some significant set backs."
She turned and walked around the desk until she was facing the door. In what Will could only guess she thought was a provocative move, she waggled her behind as she ran her hands down her sides. Will stood in silence, resisting the urge to throw her bodily from the room.
She turned slowly and cupped her wobbling breasts.
"How would you like to be sent to command some out-of-the-way space station…or a mining colony?"
She hitched her behind onto the edge of the desk, looked Will in the eye and blatantly sucked her index finger in a way that left Will in no confusion as to what she was suggesting.
Not the least intimidated by her wanton and grotesque display, Will straightened and said firmly,
"Prime Minister Martin, this is the second time you have subjected me to sexual harassment and this time you have threatened me as well. As acting Captain I am placing you under arrest. At this time I will afford you the dignity of being confined to quarters, however if you persist with this behaviour, I will have you incarcerated in the brig."
Before the stunned and angry woman could react, Will raised both his head and his voice to call,
"Lieutenant M'Rak, report immediately to the Ready Room."
He ignored the reply to his order, instead opting to stand at attention and stare emotionlessly at Hettie. The door chimed within the minute and Will barked,
"Enter!"
His Vulcan security chief entered and came to attention beside Hettie.
"Sir!"
Will's eyes left the Prime Minister and settled on the Vulcan.
"Prime Minister Martin has been placed under arrest by me for sexual harassment and threatening behaviour. She is to be confined to her quarters, with a guard at her door, 24/7. If she resists or causes you or your staff any trouble, throw her in the brig."
Showing absolutely no emotion, as M'Rak nodded she said crisply, while taking hold of Hettie's arm,
"Yes, Sir."
M'Rak began to lead Hettie from the room, but she struggled until the Vulcan stopped. Hettie turned to Will, hissing,
"You will pay for this outrage, Riker!"
With his face showing his disgust, Will waved a dismissive hand, saying firmly,
"Get her out of here."
Once the doors closed, Will slumped in his chair and rubbed his eyes. With his good mood destroyed he stared balefully at the computer monitor and softly swore.

 

 

 

 

 

For over three hours, Jean-Luc had been softly talking to his little daughter. It had absolutely no effect, of course, but Jean-Luc couldn't just lie there, less than a metre away and not try to offer some sort of comfort, even if it was only his deep, lulling, mellifluous voice. His neck ached from being turned so long and his sight was iffy at best, but he kept talking to the baby, hoping against hope that she could hear him.
He heard a door slide open, but he studiously ignored the alien who approached him until cold hands touched his body. He flinched and barked,
"Take your hands off me!"
K'Lerran came into view, a scowl evident.
"Your attitude is most upsetting, Captain. It would be better for both of us if you simply accepted your fate."
As the being spoke, it fitted an elastic sheath over Jean-Luc's penis. The human shifted his hips, trying to break contact, but the alien pressed a control that tightened the restraints until Jean-Luc groaned in agony. K'Lerran waited some minutes, watching Jean-Luc suffer before it said quietly,
"Will you behave?"
All Jean-Luc could do was nod. There was a slight hum and the restraints lessened their hold.
"There, isn't that better?"
Again, all Jean-Luc could do was nod as he tried to regain his breath. Eventually he gasped,
"What are you doing?"
The alien shrugged as it went to a computer terminal.
"I require a semen sample."
Frowning, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"But you said it would be a couple of days."
Concentrating on its task, K'Lerran only just kept the conversation going.
"Yes, but things have changed."
Straining against his bonds, Jean-Luc lifted his head to ask,
"Why?"
K'Lerran sighed and tabbed on a control. The sheath on Jean-Luc's penis contracted until it tightly enclosed the organ. Jean-Luc gasped, but resisted the urge to struggle.
Slowly turning to face its captive, K'Lerran shook its head.
"So many questions, Captain."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything further, something was introduced into his penis. He groaned as the infiltration was slowly made and cried out as whatever it was pushed into his body. He barely heard K'Lerran say,
"Try to relax, Captain. The probe will stimulate your prostate gland, affording me a sample of your semen."
He felt a terrible pressure in his body then, to his stunned astonishment and embarrassment, he attained an erection. Through the pain he could feel his erection growing to unbearable proportions. He cried out as the pain became so intense he began to grey out, but just as he thought he would lose consciousness he orgasmed and the pressure immediately abated. Panting and groaning softly, he was dimly aware that the probe was being withdrawn and the sheath was being removed from his penis. He opened his eyes and tried to summon his voice but what emerged was a parody of its usual velvety timbre.
"What you have done is an outrage."
K'Lerran shrugged.
"You might see it that way, Captain, however I do not. Now I suggest you relax and try to recover."
The alien moved out of sight, but stayed within the confines of the room. Over the thundering of his heart, Jean-Luc could hear the scientist moving about. After he had calmed, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"You seem to have what you need. Why don't you let us go? Surely you don't require us any more?"
From across the room, K'Lerran replied,
"Oh but we do, Captain. If we are to create an underclass of people, we will be needing genetic samples from you and the infant for a long time to come."
Shaking his head in frustration, Jean-Luc spat,
"But it is genetically unsound! You cannot contemplate creating a being from our genetic material…We are too closely related!"
The alien's voice showed its exasperation.
"I know that, but we have no choice. You and the infant are what we have!"
Jean-Luc gritted his teeth.
"Of course you have a choice! You can let us go!"
The Captain distinctly heard a sigh.
"I'm sorry, Captain, that is not an option."
It suddenly came into view and its expression was sorrowful.
"I understand your anguish, Captain, but my hands are tied. If we don't successfully breed with you, my orders are to dissect you, then dispose of your remains in one of the acid lakes."
Jean-Luc's mind was racing.
"But do you always follow orders? Even when they are unconscionable? You are a scientist. Do you believe it is right to experiment on sentient beings?"
The frown on K'Lerran's face showed it was nonplussed.
"Of course it is right! How else can we get feedback, if not through our subjects? There is no point in experimenting on non-sentient beings. They are too dumb to help us."
About to argue further, Jean-Luc was silenced by a threatening hiss.
"Enough! You are wasting my time, Captain. The experiments will go ahead, that is final!"
Jean-Luc sighed and muttered,
"I hope you have a conscience, because what you are doing is a violation against humanity."
The restraints tightened and K'Lerran hissed,
"Shut up."
Jean-Luc snapped his mouth closed and bore the pain until the alien had felt it had made its point.
K'Lerran came close to Jean-Luc and bent to speak into his ear.
"You are at my mercy, Captain. I suggest you adopt a more servile attitude."
The restraints tightened even more, until Jean-Luc cried out in agony. His broken arm bent as he struggled against the bonds. K'Lerran grabbed the arm at the break and squeezed. Jean-Luc howled and the alien had to shout to be heard.
"Will you behave?"
Barely able to articulate, Jean-Luc sobbed,
"Yes!"
The restraints loosened, but the scientist kept squeezing the broken bones.
"I will quickly tire of you if you continue to annoy me, Captain. That would be very…uncomfortable for you."
The alien straightened and let go of Jean-Luc's arm. Through watering eyes, Jean-Luc saw the alien step closer to the baby. He saw K'Lerran savagely pinch the flesh of the baby's thigh between its cruel claws.
"Of course, I can always take my anger out on the infant."
The monitor showed elevated spikes in the readings, making K'Lerran tut.
"Oh look, the infant doesn't like what I'm doing. Do you think I should stop?"
Taking a shuddering breath, Jean-Luc struggled to stay calm.
"Please, hurt me if you must, but please…I beg you…don't hurt my daughter."
The alien abruptly left the baby, leaving a darkening bruise on her thigh. It moved closer to Jean-Luc.
"Then you remember who is in charge, Captain. I will not hesitate to injure either of you if you continue to resist me."
Jean-Luc said nothing, but his hatred and loathing for this creature burned brightly in his mind. Outwardly, his anger showed only in his eyes.
"Very well. I will no longer resist."
K'Lerran stood upright and huffed.
"Finally! You humans are an obstinate species. I will make sure the infant learns to be more obedient than you."
It moved away to the other side of the room.
"Now keep quiet, I have important work to do."
Jean-Luc stared up at the ceiling and sighed.
"Be patient my little one, Papa will be with you soon."

 

 

 

 

After yet another sudden course change, Beverly pulled her hair back and snorted.
"Gods, this is like flying in a pinball machine."
Data looked up and frowned.
"Query….pinball machine?"
Flashing a weary smile, Beverly sighed.
"An ancient game from Earth, Data. A metal ball was sent in an enclosed machine to make its way through a series of obstacles. Every collision resulted in amassing points. The object of the game was to keep the ball in play as long as possible."
Data nodded his head pensively.
"Thus amassing the most points."
"Exactly."
The android looked at the viewscreen and nodded.
"I see the comparison, Doctor. The space debris in this region of space and our navigation through it must seem like a cosmic game to you."
Beverly shook her head.
"Not a game my friend, far from it. This is as deadly as it comes."
Data nodded thoughtfully.
"Indeed."
Beverly sat back and stretched.
"Can you tell where in the Dregan Nebula they went?"
Data shrugged.
"I cannot tell yet. I would envisage, once we are in the nebula, providing the conditions allow, I should be able to track the ion trails without any difficulty."
Beverly stood and smiled down at the Second Officer.
"Fine, Data. I'm going to get some sleep, call me if you need me."
"Yes, Doctor."
Having gone aft, Beverly was surprised to find the boys still up. She was going to tell them to go to bed, when she realised they were working on something. Parts of a phaser rifle were spread across the table.
She sidled over to the boys and said quietly,
"What are you two up to?"
Paul looked up and smiled, but Beverly could see by his red eyes that he was very tired.
"David remembered how Papa retuned the phasers when you fought the Borg. We thought, if we went into a non-oxygen environment, that we should have at least one phaser that can be used in almost any atmosphere."
Her heart welling with love and pride, Beverly sat at the table and watched as the boys went about their work. After a little while she asked,
"Where did you get the specs?"
David pointed with his chin.
"The main computer."
Dread washed through the Doctor.
"How much do you know about the Borg?"
Paul's equanimity frightened Beverly.
"We know about the assimilation."
Scrabbling to gather her wits, Beverly asked in a shaky voice,
"Have you ever spoken to your father about it?"
David shrugged.
"We tried once, but he didn't want to talk about it."
"So all you know is what you've read from the computer files."
Paul nodded.
"Yeah, but of course we only had access to the general files. Most of what was there was classified."
Beverly grimaced.
"For good reason."
She sighed and rubbed her brow.
"I suppose you want to know more?"
Paul nodded, but David frowned.
"Mum, was Papa really turned into a Borg? Did he really destroy the fleet?"
Lowering her head, Beverly stifled a groan. She took a deep breath and lifted her head to face her sons.
"I will tell you what you want to know, but first, I want you to tell me how you came to know enough to look it up in the files."
The boys looked at each other and Paul shrugged.
"The kids at school told us that Papa had been turned into a Borg once."
"Dammit!" Beverly raged. Both boys glanced nervously at each other before Paul said quietly,
"If you don't want to talk about it, that's okay, Mum."
Beverly shook her head vehemently.
"No it's not! You need to know the truth, not gossip from your school mates or dry reports from the computer."
She sat back and ran her fingers through her hair.
"Okay, here it is."
Over the next half an hour she told them everything she could about the Borg and what they had done to Jean-Luc. She started with Q's forced introduction of the Enterprise to the cyborgs and ended with the battle to save Earth. In between, she told them about their father's capture and assimilation, the battle of Wolf 359 and his subsequent rescue and his efforts in defeating the Borg. She left nothing out and when she finished her story, she said softly,
"So you can see why your father might not want to talk about it. It was a very traumatic time in his life, one that he is still not fully recovered from. In fact, I don't think he ever will be."
Both boys nodded solemnly, but Paul said,
"Does he think we will think less of him?"
Beverly smiled lopsidedly and shrugged.
"Perhaps."
David screwed up his face.
"That's bullshit, Mum. We love him."
Sighing and casting her young son a stern look, Beverly wagged a finger at him.
"While I appreciate the sentiment, David, you must curb your habit of using inappropriate language!"
The boy reddened and shrugged.
"Sorry, Mum."
The Doctor's face remained impassive.
"So, are you going to bed now?"
Both boys nodded, rising from the table. Paul looked down at the disassembled phaser rifle and pointed to it.
"Is it okay if we finish this in the morning?"
Summoning a small smile, Beverly nodded.
"Yes, although I might ask Data to have a look at it."
David offered a sheepish grin.
"That's probably a good idea."
Beverly gave them ten minutes to get changed and brush their teeth. When she went into their room, they were both sitting on their beds. While she went to David, Paul asked,
"Mum, does Papa remember everything about his assimilation?"
She tucked David in, kissed his brow, then turned to her elder son.
"Yes, he does. It will always remain one of his most painful memories."
"Does he get nightmares?"
"Yes."
David sat up.
"And you help him?"
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, but if it's very bad, your Aunt Deanna helps him too."
The boys looked at each other.
"We want to help too."
Beverly sat on Paul's bed and rubbed her brow.
"I know you do, but it's hard for your father. He doesn't like to talk about it and I'm pretty sure he doesn't want you boys worrying about it either."
Paul shook his head.
"We know that, Mum, but we want Papa to know that no matter what the other kids say, we love him and it's okay…what happened. We don't think he's a…monster."
Beverly stifled her grimace and sighed.
"Is that what the kids at school say? That he's a monster?"
David shrugged.
"Sometimes, but the last time Michael McAllister said it, Paul threatened to break his nose, so he shut up about it."
Closing her eyes, Beverly sighed again. She turned her attention to Paul and hardened her features.
"What have I told you about using violence to solve your problems?"
Unaffected by his mother's anger, Paul stood his ground.
"It was the only way he would listen to me, Mum. He'd been calling Papa names for weeks and we got tired of it. The other kids had started too, but once I threatened Michael, he shut up and so did the others."
Waving her hand, Beverly's frustration showed in her voice.
"But it solves nothing!"
David disagreed.
"Yes it did, Mum. They all shut up about it…it worked."
Taking a calming breath, Beverly lowered her voice.
"Okay, they shut up, but they're no further in knowing what really happened! Don't you think it would have been better if you'd told me or your father so we could address this as a family? Those kids need to know the truth, that way they wouldn't feel the need to call your father names."
Realisation dawned and both boys lowered their heads and blushed. It was Paul, who said,
"Sorry, Mum, we didn't think."
Beverly stood and bent to kiss his brow.
"When we get back to the Enterprise, your father and I will be having a chat with your teachers."
Both boys rolled their eyes, but neither said anything. Beverly was well aware they felt embarrassed, but what she had said was true. Ignorance was no excuse for cruelty.
She walked to the doors and said softly,
"Good night, sleep well."
The boys said in unison,
"Good night, Mum."
She smiled, saying,
"Computer, extinguish lights."
The opening doors let in a shaft of light, silhouetting the Doctor. Paul lifted his head and said quietly,
"We love you, Mum."
They could hear the love in her voice when she said,
"And I love you. Now go to sleep."
She walked to the table and stared down at the dismembered phaser rifle. Lifting her head she called softly,
"Data, can you come to the living room please?"
"On my way, Doctor."
She picked up the barrel of the rifle just as Data appeared. Beverly gestured to the remains and briefly explained what the boys had in mind.
"So, can you complete it, Data?"
He smiled.
"It would be my pleasure, Doctor."
With a sigh and a smile, Beverly turned to her bedroom.
"I'm off to bed, Data. Good night."
The android nodded.
"Good night, Doctor."
As Beverly slipped into bed, she thought of her husband.
"Forgive me for telling them my love, but they needed to know."
She was asleep within minutes.

 

 

 

Data hesitated at Beverly's bedroom door. Even though he knew her quite well, he always felt awkward waking people up. Sleep to him was an opportunity to indulge in his dreaming program, but the truth was, he needed no sleep. Humans, on the other hand, suffered greatly without adequate sleep. He sighed and pushed the annunciator. Years of medical training had Beverly awake immediately. She sat up, pushing her unruly hair off her face as she scrambled to recognise her surroundings. Realisation dawned and she smiled as she called,
"Come in."
Data entered, feeling uncomfortable. Beverly could see it in his lowered head and eyes that were reluctant to stay on hers. She was aware of his discomfort and said softly,
"It's all right, Data, come on in."
He came further into the room, but still he was uncomfortable. Beverly smiled and patted the bed.
"Come and sit down, Data."
He looked up and managed a wan smile.
"If it is all right with you, Doctor, I would rather not."
She sighed.
"Why are you so uncomfortable around sleep?"
It was Data's turn to sigh. He raised his hands, then dropped them by his sides.
"Humans are at their most vulnerable when they sleep. Also, they adopt rituals before they sleep."
Beverly frowned.
"Rituals?"
Data nodded.
"Yes. They go through the same set ritual each night before retiring. It varies from person to person, but I have yet to meet a human who doesn't have a night time ritual."
Beverly's frown remained.
"And that troubles you?"
Data sighed.
"It does not trouble me per se; however I find the whole concept of sleep somewhat…disturbing. I understand why humans need to sleep and, through my studies of humans I know how important it is for them to sleep…but the process is so…mysterious. Humans have little or no control over what they dream, their bodies regenerate without their knowledge and some humans have been known to behave in bizarre ways during sleep. For a process that is so important to humans, it remains deeply…puzzling…almost...mystical…and I find being in the same room as a sleeping human, or one who has just woken to be somewhat…unsettling."
Beverly summoned a smile.
"Well I suppose I can understand that. Would you like to wait outside until I'm showered and dressed?"
Data's smile was warm.
"If you are not offended, then yes, Doctor."
Holding up her hands and splaying her fingers, Beverly chuckled and said,
"Ten minutes, I promise."
A relieved android went out into the living area and began to replicate breakfast. As he worked, Paul came out of his bedroom, hitching up his askew pyjama pants and knuckling one eye.
"'Morning, Uncle Data."
Seeing Paul's hair so awry made Data momentarily forget his discomfort and smile.
"Good morning, Paul. Your mother will be out in a few minutes."
The boy yawned and nodded.
"Okay, I'll drag David out of bed and get him into the shower. With a bit of luck, we might see him before breakfast is over."
With a frown, Data asked,
"But will not you be requiring the shower also?"
Yawning again, Paul shook his head.
"Nup, I'll use Mum's."
He wandered back into his bedroom just as Beverly emerged, pulling her vibrant red hair into a ponytail.
"Are the boys awake?"
The android nodded.
"Yes, Doctor, they will be out shortly."
As Beverly helped Data to put the food on the table, Paul came out of his room to toss over his shoulder,
"David's in our shower, I'll use yours…okay, Mum?"
Her reply was lost on her closing bedroom door. She smiled wistfully and chuckled.
"It's ridiculous. Paul takes after his father, he can be showered and dressed in minutes, but David…he's more like me."
Confused, Data shook his head.
"But Doctor, you take little time with your ablutions."
The chuckle became a laugh.
"Now, perhaps, but when I was young, my Grandmother used to despair that I would ever get to school on time. I used to spend far too long in the bathroom. It's only my medical training that has taught me to be quick."
She leaned closer and crooked her finger.
"Want to know a secret?"
Data raised his eyebrows and nodded.
"Yes."
Beverly sighed, her blue eyes losing focus as she cast her mind back.
"Captain Picard was very young when he first became a Captain and he was very concerned about the image he should project. He was always worried he would be called to an emergency situation in the middle of the night and take too long to get into uniform. So you know what he did?"
The android shook his head silently.
"He used to sleep in his duty uniform!"
Data processed that and shook his head.
"But from what I know of human sleep, does not one get a better night's sleep when wearing clothing appropriate for the occasion?"
Snapping her fingers, Beverly nodded once.
"Yes! He soon discovered that he wasn't sleeping well and gradually gained enough confidence to get changed to sleep."
Data pulled down the corners of his mouth and raised his eyebrows.
"I would never have imagined that Captain Picard ever lacked confidence...in anything."
Her smile a warm one, Beverly chuckled.
"Well there you go. He was young and inexperienced once."
Data smiled also.
"As was I."
Breakfast was soon over and Data put a PADD on the table.
"We will be within the Dregan Nebula in eighty five minutes. I have noted the course of the ion trails and I feel confident we will be able to track them once we are in the nebula."
Daintily wiping her mouth with her serviette, Beverly placed the napkin on the table and sat forward.
"What do we know about the nebula?"
Data frowned.
"Not as much as I would like, but enough for us to navigate with a modicum of safety."
"So where do you think they are heading?"
Taking the PADD and pulling up some information, Data offered it to the Doctor.
"As you can see, there are some planets within the nebula; however none of them are class M."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"I see. And of these planets, have any of them got archaeological ruins?"
"Unknown, Doctor. There has been little study of the nebula by Starfleet; however, judging by the pattern of evidence of ancient civilisations throughout this sector, it is possible that there may be some ruins."
With a frown, Beverly shook her head.
"Even though the planets aren't class M?"
Data nodded.
"Yes. While we would normally associate ruins with M class planets, there is nothing to suggest that beings have not colonised other classes of planets. Also, planets can change their designation over a period of time. What we find today may not be what was here millennia ago."
Beverly sighed.
"You're right, of course. Tell me, Data, did you ever do any research on the artefacts Captain Picard brought back from Herros IV?"
Data gave a short shake of his head.
"Not as much as I would have liked, Doctor, but I did make a connection between some of his artefacts and others collected over time by Starfleet in the Herros system. There are undoubtedly from the same people."
Beverly slowly nodded.
"And can you tell what species they were? Were they humanoid for instance, or insectoid?"
Data shook his head.
"Sadly, no. Many of the artefacts are decorated, but not with pictures, nor have I seen any languages or pictograms."
With a sharp expulsion of breath, Beverly rubbed her brow.
"So we still don't know if those insectoids we're after are the original inhabitants of this sector."
With a shrug, Data sighed.
"No, but does that have any bearing on the matter? We are trying to rescue your daughter."
Beverly looked up and offered a wry smile.
"You are forgetting Starfleet protocols, Data. It may well turn out that the insectoids did what they did as a matter of social norm. Who knows what their ways are? If they are the indigenous species of this sector, then we are the trespassers. We may well be embarking on a course of action that might lead to war with these people."
Data sat silent and still for five seconds, a remarkable period of time for him to process what Beverly had said. His golden eyes regained their focus and he looked deeply into Beverly's eyes.
"Do you intend to abort this mission?"
Her face losing its warmth, Beverly's blue eyes darkened and glittered.
"NO! Those bastards assaulted me and stole my baby. At the very least they should be punished, but I will settle for getting both her and my husband back…in one piece."
Data's voice was soft, but his eyes showed his worry.
"Despite Starfleet protocols?"
Looking over her shoulder to see her sons settled in the day area, Beverly hissed softly,
"Fuck Starfleet protocols. They can throw the book at me, Data, they can cashier me, I don't care. I'm going to get my baby and my husband back."
Showing his unstinting support, Data nodded decisively.
"And I will assist you, consequences be damned."
Beverly smiled and extended her hand across the table to take Data's.
"Thank you, dear friend."
He smiled.
"You are most welcome, Doctor."
The four occupants of the runabout occupied themselves while the little ship approached the nebula, but not one of them was really concentrating on want they were doing.

 

 

 

Despite his dire circumstances, the pain he was experiencing and the anguish over his daughter, Jean-Luc slipped into a light doze and began to dream. He was with Beverly and the boys, now years older as they sat together on a beach, watching a five year old little girl build sand castles.
The tide had turned and the waves were beginning to reach up the sand, coming closer and closer to their place. Beverly reached for Jean-Luc's hand and cast a worried look at the encroaching water. Offering a smile and a nod, Jean-Luc called to their daughter,
"Little one, come here, the tide is coming in, we must move higher up the beach."
She turned her head, the bright sunlight catching her curls and highlighting the coppery sheen of her hair. Love shone in her blue eyes as she giggled,
"Don't worry, Papa, you will save me."
As Jean-Luc slowly got to his feet and held out his hand, a huge wave began to form. Its rushing roar making him raise his voice.
"Little one! Come now, come to Papa, quickly!"
Beverly and the boys suddenly faded out of sight but Beverly's scream hung in the air.
"Save her, Jean-Luc!"
The little girl looked over her shoulder at the rapidly approaching wave and began to cry. Jean-Luc lunged forward, but his feet had sunk up to his knees in the sand. He cried out and frantically tried to free himself, but the sand had set like concrete, trapping him.
His daughter was only metres away but the wave was closer. It had broken and was rushing up the sand like a white, tumbling battering ram. The noise was horrendous and Jean-Luc bellowed,
"Come to me, little one…take my hand!"
He stretched out, lying almost flat on the sand, only centimetres separated them, but the wave loomed over the little girl. As it seemed to hover above her, she turned to her father in a suddenly eerie silence said softly, but succinctly,
"You can't save me, Papa…goodbye."
As the terrible wave covered her and she disappeared, Jean-Luc screamed.
A cold hand gripped his shoulder, giving it a firm shake. Jean-Luc startled awake and gasped. K'Lerran loomed over him, a deep frown creasing its face.
"What is wrong with you?"
Shaking his head and trying to get control of his breathing, Jean-Luc summoned his gravelly voice.
"I was dreaming."
The alien's frown deepened.
"Dreaming? I do not understand."
Managing a sigh, Jean-Luc explained.
"Humans dream in their sleep. Dreams are images that appear from the sub conscious."
K'Lerran shook its head.
"And these…dreams…they are unpleasant?"
"No, not always. Some dreams are pleasant. My dream was unpleasant because of my circumstances."
The alien straightened and became distant.
"Well be that as it may, I have work to do. You may be interested to know, I intend to fertilise an egg now."
Dread washed through the Captain. He lifted his head, straining at his restraints to see the scientist, who had moved out of sight.
"Please…please don't do it."
Jean-Luc couldn't see the alien, but he could hear its voice.
"Don't be ridiculous Captain. That is why you are here!"
It appeared at Jean-Luc's side and pulled a monitor into view.
"I will let you see the conception."
Blinking away tears of anguish, Jean-Luc focused his troublesome sight on the monitor. He could make out an egg, surrounded by many sperm, each trying to break in. Although he dreaded what he was seeing, some part of him was fascinated. Suddenly one of the wriggling sperm broke through the egg's shell. In an instant, the shell changed to prevent any other sperm breaking in. The tail of the successful sperm detached and the head burrowed deep within the egg. Jean-Luc knew that the first cell division was imminent. He dragged his eyes away from the monitor to see K'Lerran utterly transfixed. Jean-Luc had to speak twice before the alien acknowledged him.
"What?"
"I said it's not too late to stop this."
With a derisive snort, K'Lerran turned to face the human.
"Stop it? Are you mad? This…"
He gestured to the monitor,
"May well become my life's greatest work. How can you even suggest that I stop it?"
Trying to keep his anger under control, Jean-Luc struggled to keep his voice soft and even.
"Because, not only is it immoral, it is scientifically unsound! I have already told you…we are too closely related. The resulting foetus is likely to have physical abnormalities."
That caught the alien's attention. It bent over Jean-Luc and gripped his jaw.
"What? What kind of abnormalities?"
Finding it difficult to talk with the alien's claws digging into his face, Jean-Luc remained silent until its grip eased.
"There can be many abnormalities, both physical and psychological. You may even create a being that looks normal, only to find it is mentally defective. Humans have known for centuries not to breed with closely related individuals. Even those who have religious beliefs find in their teachings that it is an unsound and unsafe practice. One of the reasons why humans are so genetically diverse is that we make sure we do not breed with our close relatives. That has kept us genetically strong for millennia."
K'Lerran straightened and cast a look at the monitor. Its eyes seemed to glitter as it thought about what Jean-Luc had said. With an almost distant tone, it remarked,
"The first cell division has taken place."
Jean-Luc snarled,
"Have you not heard what I have told you?"
The alien grabbed Jean-Luc broken arm and squeezed. The Captain writhed and yelled. K'Lerran had to raise its voice to be heard.
"I don't care about your breeding practices! If the infant I create is defective, I will either heal it, or destroy it! And if I find I am unable to create a viable being, I will simply dispose of you and gain another human male…one not so closely related! I will not fail my people because of your insane genetic imperatives."
It gave Jean-Luc's arm one final squeeze and let him go. The wretched man tried to stifle his sobs, lest he distress his daughter. He looked up at K'Lerran through his tears and ground out,
"I am going to kill you for what you have done to my family."
The alien barked out a cruel laugh.
"Brave and foolish words from an insignificant being. Accept your fate Captain, resistance is useless."

 

 

 

Hettie Martin sat facing the monitor in her quarters, still fuming over her treatment. When the call came from the Bridge, she had to concentrate on sounding civil.
"Prime Minister, we have Admiral Costa for you."
"Thank you, Bridge, I will take it in my quarters."
The Federation logo disappeared and the image of a kindly looking elderly man appeared. His smile of greeting faltered as he saw the anger in his ex wife's face.
"Hello, Hettie. What can I do for you?"
Dispensing with any pretence of civility, Hettie launched into a tirade.
"I am being held captive on the Enterprise! I want Commander William Riker demoted and sent to some out-of-the-way post, immediately!"
They had been divorced for over fifteen years and during that time, Admiral Costa had, on occasion, been the recipient of Hettie's outraged communications. And it was always the same. Some poor, unsuspecting Starfleet officer had somehow upset the woman, usually by refusing her advances, and the resultant indignant call for revenge was always forthcoming. The Admiral took a calming breath and tried to be patient.
"What happened, Hettie?"
The diminutive woman sat upright and glared at her ex's image.
"I have been insulted and incarcerated in my quarters! He even threatened to throw me in the Brig! Can you believe that? The cheek!"
Costa sighed and ran a hand through his short, grey hair.
"Did you come on to him?"
Showing the outrage she felt, Hettie flushed and shook her head.
"I did no such vulgar thing! I merely let him know I was interested, that's all. After all, he made it obvious he was attracted to me."
"So how did he take it?"
Tears began to well in her eyes.
"He was rude and dismissive. My God, Frank, he accused me of sexual harassment! Can you imagine it? Me, sexually harassing someone? It's preposterous!"
Keeping calm, Admiral Costa offered a tired smile.
"I see. And did you try again?"
Flapping her hands, Hettie's flush deepened.
"Well why wouldn't I? He kept giving me the impression he was interested!"
"And he got angrier?"
"Yes!"
The old man sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Okay, is Captain Picard there? I want to talk to him."
Hettie dabbed at her eyes theatrically and shook her head, sniffing loudly.
"No, he's not on board. Commander Riker is acting Captain…the insensitive bastard."
"All right. I'll contact him and we'll talk, but Hettie, you're going to have to leave him alone. He has made his feelings clear and you have to abide by his decision."
The little woman waved her hand.
"Oh you can count on that! I won't go near the insensitive beast!"
"Fine, I'll talk to you soon, Costa out."
Will was well aware of the subspace call to the Admiral. When the officer at Tactical quietly said,
"Sir, I have an incoming message from Admiral Frank Costa for you."
He stood from the Command chair and silently pointed to the Ready Room. He set his jaw, fully expecting an uncomfortable time ahead.
Once he was seated, he activated his desk monitor. The image of the Admiral appeared, and before Will could say anything, Frank held up his hand and smiled.
"Take it easy, Commander, I'm not calling to give you a dressing down, or to tell you your next assignment will be on the outer rim."
Immediately liking the older man, Will smiled and sat back, the tension in his shoulders easing.
"Well, that's good to hear, Admiral."
Offering a rueful smile, Costa nodded. Then he sighed expansively.
"Hettie means well, Commander, it's just that she gets it in her head sometimes that certain men are attracted to her and when she…reacts…to what she thinks is mutual attraction…things get out of hand."
Letting out a sigh of relief, Will ran a hand through his dark hair.
"I just want you to know, Admiral; I did nothing…absolutely nothing to give her the impression that I was at all attracted to her."
The older man nodded slowly.
"I understand, Commander. Now I have spoken to Hettie and I doubt you'll have any more trouble with her, but as a word of warning, stay out of her sight, at least until you reach your destination."
Will frowned.
"That could be problematic, Admiral. With Captain Picard away, I am acting Captain and as such, I have to deal with people in the Prime Minister's position."
"Oh, right. Well, can't delegate to your Second Officer? Perhaps you could cite operational imperatives."
Bracing himself for the inevitable disbelief, Will smiled wanly and sighed.
"Unfortunately, Sir, as well as the Captain, the Second Officer…and the CMO are all off the ship."
The older man sat back, shocked.
"That's half of the senior staff!"
"Yes, Sir."
The Admiral's eyes hardened.
"Where are they?"
Paling a little, Will answered,
"Ah, we're not exactly sure, Sir."
His face began to flush with anger.
"You don't know? Half of the senior staff of the damned flag ship are not aboard…and you don't know where they are?"
"No, Sir."
"How long has this been going on?"
"Just a few days, Sir."
"And when will they be back?"
Wishing he could close his eyes, Will toughed it out.
"We don't know, Sir."
The Admiral's voice dropped to a harsh whisper.
"You don't know."
"No, Sir."
As the Admiral sat back to contemplate the situation, Will took his chance to butter him up.
"Sir, although it sounds bad, it isn't, not really. The mission we're on now is complicated, yes, but still fairly routine for us. I can delegate any of several very competent officers to deal with any situations that may arise, in fact the Second Officer was very careful to select, then fully brief three very able officers to take his position before he left. Really, Admiral, we're not disadvantaged at all."
The older man stared at Will for some slow minutes and Will began to feel sweat trickling down his back. Eventually he sighed and rubbed his forehead.
"Captain Picard is married to your CMO, isn't he?"
"Yes, Sir."
"And I take it, whatever has taken them and your Second Officer off the ship, is personal?"
"Yes, Sir."
He sighed again.
"Then I will take this no further. Captain Picard has a very good reputation; I doubt he would have gone off in a cavalier fashion. Now, about Hettie. My advice is to get her to liaise with you through another officer…a female officer."
Will smothered a relieved smile.
"Yes, Sir…a sound bit of advice."
The Admiral offered a warm smile.
"I hope we don't have to speak again, Commander."
The big, bearded man grinned.
"No offence intended, Admiral, but me neither."
"Costa out."
Will sat back and his grin widened as he looked up at the ceiling. With a devilish gleam in his eye, he intoned,
"Lieutenant M'Rak, report to the Ready Room."
"Aye, Sir."

 

 

 

 

Data and Beverly were in the cockpit and Data was shaking his head.
"I am sorry, Doctor, but without the proper means of protection, I am afraid we are going to have to navigate our way around all of the subspace anomalies."
"Is there nothing we can do?"
The android shook his head again.
"No, Doctor. If we were in the Calypso, we could magnetise the hull plating, but the construction of the Captain's yacht is significantly different to this runabout."
Beverly growled,
"How much longer is it going to take?"
Trying to sound hopeful, Data offered a small smile.
"Not as long as you would think. I have ascertained where both ion trails terminate. Taking into account our need to avoid the subspace anomalies, I envisage we will make planet fall in six hours at our present speed."
Her face clearly showing her anger, Beverly barked,
"Oh yes, at seven hundred kilometres an hour!"
Frowning, Data shrugged.
"That is the best advisable speed, under the current circumstances."
Beverly was about to say more, when Paul appeared at her shoulder.
"It's okay, Mum, don't get mad at Uncle Data, it's not his fault."
Letting out a plosive breath, Beverly lifted a hand to rub her forehead.
"I know, Paul, it's just so damned frustrating."
Paul glanced at his uncle and smiled.
"What kind of planet are we going to?"
Data returned the smile.
"F446 is an L class planet. Long range scanners show ruins and two space craft on the surface."
Paul's smile grew.
"And one of those craft is the Calypso."
Data nodded.
"Yes."
The boy turned to his mother.
"See, Mum? We know where he is and we're on our way. We just have to be patient."
Offering a small chuckle, Beverly ruffled Paul's hair.
"You are so much like your father, Paul."
She stood and turned to face Data.
"Class L? We're going to need evac suits."
The android nodded again.
"Indeed."
Paul plucked at his mother's sleeve.
"What about David and me?"
She looked lovingly into his eyes to try and ease his disappointment.
"You and your brother will be staying on board the runabout."
His face fell.
"But, Mum…"
Beverly shook her head.
"No buts, Paul. It's just too dangerous."
He heard the finality in her voice and, unlike his brother, accepted it with grace.
"Okay, Mum."
She held out her hand and said softly,
"Come on; let's go tell your brother."
Paul nodded but then shook his head.
"He's not going to take it very well."
Beverly sighed.
"I know."
Paul was right. David's face grew livid as he gaped.
"We have to stay here? Why?"
Beverly took a calming breath and tried to ease the growing angst.
"Because it's too dangerous, David."
The boy folded his arms across his chest and raised his pugnacious chin.
"Then why the hell are we here? I thought we were coming along to help!"
Beverly's eyes hardened but she kept her voice even.
"You are helping, David, by staying on the runabout and monitoring things."
The boy sneered, spitting,
"Monitoring things? You mean staying out of the way! It's not fair, Mum…you can't make us stay here if we don't want to!"
Her own anger quickly rising, Beverly clenched her teeth.
"Oh yes I can! You will do as you are told, my lad and stop arguing!"
Paul could see this was going to end up in a shouting match. His younger brother wouldn't dare defy his father, but he was too much like his mother to back away from a fight with her. Paul, ever the peacemaker, stepped between the antagonists and held up his hands. Facing his brother, he said quietly,
"David, someone has to stay here to oversee the mission. How will Mum and Uncle Data know what's going on if we don't tell them? It will be you and me who will be monitoring the main computer, giving Mum and Uncle Data all the information they need. We will be in charge of sensors, scanners, shields and weapons. I think you've forgotten how limiting an evac suit can be, especially on an L class planet."
Some of the anger left David's face as he contemplated Paul's words. Wisely, Beverly remained silent. Seeing he had a foothold, Paul continued.
"And we have to be ready to get our little sister back. We will need to have the humidicrib ready and have Mum's med kit laid out for her. We will have heaps to do, David, we'll be really busy."
Having calmed herself, Beverly looked past Paul to catch David's eyes.
"It's true, David. All the things Paul has said are true. Uncle Data and I will be relying on you and your brother while we're on the surface."
The last vestige of anger dissipated and David sighed.
"Okay, I see you need our help."
Paul stepped out of the way to allow Beverly to hug her younger son. She kissed the top of his head and sighed.
"Now we have a lot of work to do and your uncle can't help us."
Paul frowned.
"Why, Mum."
Offering a tired smile, Beverly gently gripped Paul's shoulder.
"Because there are some subspace anomalies within the nebula and Data has to navigate our way around them."
It was David, who shook his head and said,
"But the computer can do that, Mum."
Beverly ruffled his hair and shrugged.
"Yes it can, but we have to make sure we don't even brush one of these anomalies. Apparently the runabout's construction differs from the Calypso and we can't magnetise our hull plating to protect us. So it's best that Data pilots us to the planet manually."
Both boys nodded their understanding and Paul grinned.
"So what do you want us to do?"
Love and pride gleamed in Beverly's eyes as she looked down at her sons. Taking a deep breath, she pointed at the evac suit locker.
"First, we'd better check the suits."
Ten minutes later, they were engrossed.

 

It had been a busy day so far and Will had finally managed to find an hour to spend with his wife and son. As he entered their quarters, the sound of a crying baby assaulted his ears. He wandered into the bedroom to see Deanna changing the baby while he did his best to wriggle out of her grasp.
"Do you want some help?"
It was an exasperated woman who looked up beseechingly at her husband. She had to raise her voice to be heard over the racket.
"If you could just hold him still while I get him changed…"
Will obliged by placing one large hand on the baby's stomach, effectively stilling his struggles. Deanna quickly changed him and picked him up. Will frowned over the noise and asked,
"What's he so upset about?"
He followed Deanna as she went into the living area and sat in one of the comfortable lounge chairs. She remained silent as she bared her breast and offered the squalling baby her nipple. As soon as Peter found the nipple, he immediately began to suck. In the ensuing sudden silence, Deanna sighed and closed her eyes. Will sat beside her and gently ran his index fingers over his son's cheek. Deanna opened her eyes and finally answered his question.
"He was upset because he wanted to be fed and wasn't willing to wait while I changed him."
Will grinned.
"I'm not sure whose temper he has, yours or mine."
Deanna smiled wryly.
"Yours, definitely, yours."
The parents sat in companionable silence for a while, watching their son, but Deanna sighed and shifted slightly before she said quietly,
"When were you going to tell me about Prime Minister Martin?"
Will flushed and ran a hand over his face.
"You know about that?"
With a one shoulder shrug, Deanna nodded.
"Yes. Although my empathic senses are a little dulled right now, I still felt your anger and discomfort. It wasn't hard to fill in the blanks. Not much happens on this ship that I don't know about."
Will sighed ruefully.
"You know I didn't encourage her?"
Deanna kept her eyes on the baby, but she nodded.
"Yes."
"Her ex husband called me earlier today. You know Admiral Frank Costa?"
Deanna shook her head.
"No."
Will sighed again.
"Well neither do I, really, but he turned out to be a decent enough man. He told me he'd spoken to the Prime Minister and I shouldn't have any more trouble. Apparently this sort of thing has happened before."
It was Deanna's turn to sigh.
"Poor woman."
Will gaped.
"Poor woman? What about her victims?"
Turning to look up at her husband, Deanna's smile was mischievous.
"Are you saying you were out of your depth? That you required help?"
Adopting mock outrage, Will's eyes danced.
"I'm saying nothing of the sort, but if that woman had had her way, I might have been ravished beyond comprehension."
Peter had finished, so Deanna gently transferred him to the other breast. He sighed as he took the nipple into his mouth and began to suckle.
Deanna looked up at her husband and he softly gasped at seeing desire swirl in her eyes. Her voice dropped low and sultry.
"Ravished beyond comprehension? Now there's a pleasant thought. How long can you stay?"
Growing hard at the mere thought of what his wife was suggesting, Will grinned wolfishly.
"I have a whole hour."
He could see her obsidian eyes had become smoky with lust.
"Oh, good, I'm sure Peter will sleep soundly once he's finished his feed."
Will glanced down at his son and said silently,
"Hurry up, little man; Mummy and Daddy want to play."

 

 

 

 

Data looked over at Beverly as the runabout landed. She smiled at him, then squinted through the forward screen to try and see through the swirling gasses outside. She knew they were only thirty metres away from the Calypso, but she couldn't see it.
"God, it's like pea soup."
Data frowned, they his eyebrows rose.
"Ah. Yes, Doctor, it is thick, however I think real pea soup is a different shade of green."
Smiling, Beverly stood and jerked her head towards the rear of the ship.
"Come on, Data, let's get suited up."
As they walked towards the rear of the ship, Data said quietly,
"It is some distance to the alien ship, Doctor. We will need to carry extra oxygen cylinders."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, I thought I could carry four on my back and perhaps you could carry six?"
The android nodded.
"Yes, that would be advisable. Ten extra cylinders should be ample for our needs."
Paul handed his mother her helmet.
"You're taking ten extra cylinders?"
Beverly sighed and shrugged.
"Yes. It way more than we should need, but who knows what we might find? I think it best we over supply, rather than find we haven't got enough."
David helped Data strap the cylinders to his back.
"So we'll keep the channel open at all times."
Beverly offered a smile.
"Yes. The scanners and sensors have located the alien ship and so far we have noted five aliens, working about one and a half kilometres from their ship. We think there are another two on board and we also think we have detected your father's life signs, but with the interference it's a little hard to tell. You keep an eye on the screen and let us know if anything changes. We'll be relying on you, as our equipment will be compromised."
Both boys nodded and Paul said softly,
"Will do, Mum."
With both Beverly and Data suited up, they put their helmets on and checked each other's comm. systems. Her voice altered by the comm., Beverly awkwardly hugged her boys then said,
"I'll keep in touch."
Paul grinned and blew a kiss. David waved.
"Bye, Mum", they said in unison.
She grinned through her face plate.
"Bye…for now."

 

 

 

 

It had been very quiet in the room in which he was being held. Jean-Luc had spent some time trying to see as much as he could. Over in one corner he could see his evac suit, clothing and the little humidicrib. His backpack lay nearby and he could only guess that the gravi sled and extra oxygen cylinders was still outside the ship. Of his weapons he could see nothing. Trying to formulate one plan after another only brought frustration. Restrained as he was, there was absolutely no chance for escape. Somehow he had to persuade K'Lerran to release him.
He had been aware of the need to empty his bladder for some time; in fact his need was becoming urgent. Rather than simply voiding his urine onto the floor, he instead grasped the nucleus of a plan and began to call loudly.
"Hey! Hey, I need to relieve myself! Hey!"
To add to the noise, he banged the back of his head against the metal of the table. The dull thumping mirroring the pain in his head.
"Hey, someone come here!"
The door opened and an alien he didn't recognise stepped into the room. It strode over to Jean-Luc and gripped his broken arm, squeezing savagely.
"The prisoner will be silent!"
Jean-Luc bore the pain without vocalising it. He gritted his teeth to grind out,
"I need to relieve myself."
The alien snorted.
"What does that mean?"
Mercifully, it let go of Jean-Luc's arm. Panting in agony, the Captain lifted his head and explained,
"I need to void liquid waste from my body."
The alien scowled.
"How will you do this?"
Seeing his chance, Jean-Luc tried to gather his wits.
"I need to stand on my feet and utilise my hands."
Grumbling under its breath, the alien activated the table machinery, tipping it upright. It then began to undo the restraints. Just as Jean-Luc slid down the twenty centimetres to the deck to stand on his feet, the door opened and K'Lerran came in. It immediately went to Jean-Luc and grabbed his broken arm, while glaring at its assistant.
"What are you doing?"
As Jean-Luc writhed in pain, the assistant said humbly,
"Forgive me my lord, the prisoner told me it had to void waste from its body."
Thankfully, K'Lerran eased its grip.
"Is this true?"
Unable to articulate, all Jean-Luc could do was nod.
"Very well. Do you require anything?"
Jean-Luc nodded and managed to say,
"A container…something into which I can pass the waste."
Remembering the waste the baby had passed, K'Lerran asked cautiously,
"Is it liquid or solid waste?"
"Liquid."
The scientist turned to its assistant.
"Get a large beaker."
The container appeared within seconds. Jean-Luc took it gratefully and looked at K'Lerran's hand, holding his arm. With a snort, the alien let him go. Jean-Luc turned his back to both aliens and thankfully emptied his bladder.
When he finished, he turned slowly, the beaker offered in one hand. As the assistant went to take it, Jean-Luc flung the contents into the alien's eyes. It let out a yell, its hands going to its face. Swinging his arm in a wide arc, Jean-Luc caught K'Lerran across the face with the beaker, shattering it. Bright green blood welled, momentarily blinding the alien. Clasping his hands together and ignoring the pain of his broken arm, Jean-Luc swung his arms in a club-like blow against K'Lerran's head. There was an ominous crack and the tall alien dropped like a stone. Rounding on the assistant, Jean-Luc was struck a blow across his chest, the claws of his assailant opening up three deep lacerations, exposing the bones of his ribs. Running on adrenalin, Jean-Luc delivered a round house kick to the alien's head, staggering it. Once again using the double handed crushing blow, Jean-Luc struck the alien in the neck. It sagged to its knees and was rendered unconscious with another kick to the head.
Not taking the time to check his captors, Jean-Luc went to the baby and quickly undid the restraints. He could do nothing about her open wounds or her displayed ovaries, however he managed to disconnect the bag of fluid that constituted her food from the machine that regulated it and, leaving the feeding tube in place, he took her into his arm and cradled her as he very gently removed the vaginal probe. He looked down at her, saying softly,
"I'm going to take you home, little one."
He went to the humidicrib and opened it, gently laying her down and covering her with the blanket. He sealed the humidicrib and turned on the oxygen. Getting into the evac suit with only one functioning arm was difficult, but he managed it. Dragging the humidicrib behind him, he cautiously approached the door.
It opened to his touch and he was relieved to see no one was in the living area. He could make out the airlock and he made for it, dragging the humidicrib with him. Although he kept looking, he saw nothing of his weapons. As he positioned the humidicrib inside the airlock, he positioned himself so he could shield his daughter should he be faced with the enemy when the outer doors opened.
The wait was only a short one, but to Jean-Luc it seemed interminable. He crouched and steadied himself as the outer hatch opened in a wheezing gush.
His luck ran out. A sentry turned towards the noise and immediately raised its weapon. Jean-Luc dived headlong out of the airlock, hit the gravelly surface and rolled. Two bright green blasts brought up gouts of pebbles and dust, one just clipping his thigh as he rolled. He came to a stop quite near his assailant and, quickly re-orienting himself, swung his legs and took the feet out from under the alien. Also clad in an evac suit, the being floundered to regain its footing. In the ensuing struggle, Jean-Luc managed to kick the weapon from its gloved hand. It sailed off and the wind caught it, making it disappear from view. Jean-Luc was on his feet first. He aimed a kick at the faceplate of his opponent and was gratified to see two cracks appear. But the alien was strong. It got to its feet and Jean-Luc could see it talking, obviously summoning help. Throwing caution to the winds, the Captain lunged forward, catching the alien around its waist. Both beings fell to the ground, but Jean-Luc had underestimated the alien's strength. It twisted in his grip and brought a fisted hand smashing into his chest. Already he could feel his undershirt soaked in his blood from the lacerations and the air rushed from his lungs as the blow hit home. He saw stars and, with only one functioning arm, he knew he would quickly lose the fight. In utter desperation, he reached around the back of the alien's helmet and grabbed whatever he could before wrenching hard. Two flexible tubes were torn free and the sudden plume of escaping oxygen quickly dissipated in the howling wind. The alien lurched backwards, its hands scrabbling to grab and reconnect the torn tubes. Jean-Luc aimed a kick at the being's midriff and it fell to its knees. Another kick to the faceplate shattered the plexiglass. The alien let out a strangled cry and fell face down on the surface. It shuddered and convulsed before suddenly becoming still.
Jean-Luc crouched, trying to regain his breath and knowing he had sustained at least two broken ribs. He stumbled back to the airlock and almost tripped over the gravi sled. With a grim smile, he pulled the humidicrib out of the airlock and positioned it on the sled. It was only as he bent to check the anti grav units that he noticed a small rupture in his suit. Around the small opening, the material was scorched, evidence of the hit he had taken from the alien's weapon. The alarm on his suit's computer suddenly sounded and he looked at his heads up display to see three aliens approaching from the direction of his ship. With no other alternative, he turned away from safety and made off into the jumble of rocks and boulders, the gravi sled following faithfully.

 

 

 

 

Paul's voice was scratchy as he reported to his mother. Over the static filled channel he said urgently,
"There are three aliens between you and their ship. They seem to have somehow come from the lake."
Beverly activated her comm. system.
"Acknowledged. Any sign of your father?"
"Wait…yes, I think so. There are faint human life signs moving slowly away from the alien ship."
Data studied his tricorder but shook his head.
"I am not getting anything."
Beverly gave him a curt nod before saying to Paul,
"In what direction is he moving?"
"Ah…north-east. Mum, I think he may have the baby with him. We are getting very faint readings of another human life form, but it may be ghosting, the further he gets away from the alien ship, the weaker the readings. He seems to be moving within an area rich in Berrimite. The signal is beginning to fragment."
"Understood. We need to avoid the aliens. Can we go around them and intercept your father?"
Paul's voice began to show his worry and strain.
"Um…wait a minute…"
David said to his brother,
"Here, Paul, they can get amongst the rocky ground."
Beverly heard Paul agree.
"Mum, if you move in an arc to your right, you should come across a rocky outcrop. Not only will you avoid the aliens, but if you keep going north-east, you will get closer to Papa. But, Mum, it will be very hard for David and me to track you and I think communications will go down once you get deep into the area."
Beverly held up her hand, halting Data. She sighed and gave an absent nod.
"Understood, Paul. I will keep the channel open as long as I can."
"Okay, Mum."
Beverly pointed off to her right and Data nodded. Bent against the winds, they struck off to find the ground slowly rising.

The oxygen alarm sounded softly and Jean-Luc swore. The hole in his suit was small, but it was enough to bleed off his oxygen at an alarming rate. Checking his scanner, he found that the device was somehow hampered in its operation. Casting about, he quickly saw an overhang where he could shelter from the wind. As he moved forward, the gravi sled behaved sluggishly and, as he turned to look, one corner suddenly sagged to the ground. Muttering a dark curse, Jean-Luc crouched only to see the red light of a depleted battery. The other three units still showed green, but he knew it was only a matter of time before their power was exhausted. Gripping the corner of the sled, Jean-Luc manoeuvred it under the overhang and sat wearily. Taking stock, he knew he was in trouble. There were two more cylinders attached to the crib and one spare on his back. As he was thinking about his dilemma, the cylinder in use ran out and automatically, the on board computer switched to the new cylinder. He found the tear in his suit and pinched it closed, but he had nothing with which to seal it permanently. He sighed but the pain in his chest made him cough, further exacerbating his pain. He calmed himself and looked down at his daughter. The little baby was lying quite still, her vacant eyes staring up at nothing. He wanted to pick her up to comfort her, but she was sealed within her crib and wouldn't be free of it until he could get back to his ship. That, however, was looking unlikely. He simply didn't have enough oxygen to make the journey.
He was running out of time. Closing his eyes, he came to a quick decision. He would try to get as close to his ship as he could, hoping against hope for some kind of miracle.
Having made his mind up, and feeling better for having a plan, he stood and bent to support the gravi sled, only to find that two more units had failed. With only one more anti grav unit on operation, the sled was useless. With a grunt, he picked up the humidicrib, staggering slightly as pain washed over him. Blinking away gritty tears, he turned towards his ship and began to walk.

 

 

 

 

Paul was right. Within one hundred metres of entering the rocky outcrop, all communication with the runabout ceased. Beverly switched to suit to suit comm.
"Data, how far away from the aliens are we do you think?"
The android shrugged.
"That is difficult to say. If they went back to their ship, we would be a few hundred metres away; however, if they are in pursuit of Captain Picard, they might be quite close."
Beverly softly swore.
"I wonder if their instruments are as compromised as ours?"
It was a rhetorical question, but Data answered anyway.
"Unknown, Doctor."
Beverly checked her oxygen use and sighed.
"It's almost time for me to discard a cylinder. How is your usage holding up?"
His reply stunned her.
"I am not breathing, Doctor. The only air I am using is to talk."
Beverly chuckled softly.
"There are times, Data, when I envy you."
The android smiled.
"I thought it might be helpful to preserve as much oxygen as possible."
Beverly smiled.
"You are a clever man, Data."
Beverly turned to attention to the terrain.
"If you were in Captain Picard's shoes and you had what are probably hostile aliens on your tail, what would you do my friend?"
Data stared off into the ever growing jumble of rocks.
"That is dependent on many factors, Doctor, but presuming he is armed and has adequate oxygen, if I were he I would be trying to get back to my ship."
Nodding pensively, Beverly sighed.
"Me too. So I suppose the best thing we can do, is vector our approach to try and meet him."
"Agreed, Doctor."
Data looked up into the side of the increasingly steep outcropping.
"Of course he will have to avoid the aliens, as will we, but I do not think he will go too high up. He has the baby to think of."
Beverly looked down at the humidicrib and nodded.
"Yes, it would be difficult to manoeuvre a sled in those rocks. Okay, we stay low and try to find him."
She looked again at her scanner.
"Dammit, we're almost blind!"
Data thought for less than a second.
"It may be possible to rig the proximity alert on the tricorder to function under these conditions, but I fear it will be severely limited."
Beverly looked at her companion and gave a curt nod.
"Do it, Data, anything is better than nothing."
His reply was almost lost in the howling wind.
"Aye, Sir."

 

 

 

 

The first thing Jean-Luc knew of his pursuers was when a bright green blast of lethal energy impacted on the rocks close to his head.
He dropped to a crouch and ran as best he could, dodging in and out of the boulders. To his left, the ground began to rise sharply, but he resisted the urge to climb. Not only would it be exceedingly difficult with the humidicrib, his exertions would increase his oxygen needs.
Another blast of energy seared the rocks nearby, splintering the rock and causing shards to fly off in all directions. Jean-Luc dropped to the ground, keeping the humidicrib under him. Three stone shards hit him, one in the back of his right thigh, one just above his left buttock and one under his right shoulder. He heard some more deflect off the oxygen cylinders. He had to put more distance between him and the pursuers. Ignoring the pain throughout his body, he picked up the crib and ran, not bothering to crouch.
The shards that had penetrated his body weren't leaking too much oxygen through the holes in his suit, so he didn't bother to try and remove them, but as he ran he could see the oxygen level on the gauge inside his faceplate begin to rapidly fall.
He gritted his teeth and ignored the danger he faced. Turning left around a huge boulder, he found himself in a stone canyon. It passed his mind that it may have a dead end, but he was committed, not able to turn back. Running as fast as he could, he traversed at least seventy metres until he came to a fork. Without hesitation, he chose the right side, hoping to angle down towards his ship. He had only run a further fifteen metres when he came to another junction. Again he chose the right side. He was beginning to tire and the weight of the humidicrib was causing significant back pain, but he ran on until he came to a narrowing of the channel. There was a gap between the walls, but not wide enough for him or the crib to get through. Looking up, he saw that it may be possible to get the crib up onto the top of the rocks, and then climb up himself.
He gasped in agony as he hefted the crib above his head. He got the edge onto the rocks then, in a series of jumps, managed to push the crib onto the rocky outcrop.
Out of breath and in searing pain, he began his climb.
When he finally made it, he had tears streaming down his face. The oxygen depletion alarm was quietly sounding and he knew he was almost out of time. Luckily, the other side of the outcrop sloped gently back down to the surface. He picked up the crib and stumbled down the incline and collapsed at the bottom.
Through watery eyes he spotted a small cave so, dragging both himself and the crib across the stony ground, he sought shelter in its dark depths.

 

 

 

 

Paul had just finished checking the power gauge of a phaser rifle. It sat across his lap as he kept his vigil in the cockpit. David shook his head and sighed.
"I'm telling you, when Mum finds out, you're going to be in deep shit."
The older boy shrugged.
"I don't care. As long as you and I are stuck here on our own, I want to be able to defend us."
David grunted.
"Yeah, but what about what Mum and Papa have told us about handling weapons? You know we're not allowed."
Again, Paul shrugged.
"These are extenuating circumstances. I'm sure neither Papa nor Mum meant us to be unarmed in this situation."
With a snort, David flapped his hand.
"If Mum had wanted us armed, she would have given us weapons before she left. And besides, how are you going to explain how you hacked into the weapons locker security system? I'm telling you…you are going to be in deep shit."
Annoyed with his younger brother's attitude, Paul cast a speculative look at the boy and said quietly,
"And you're jealous. Jealous that you didn't think of it, and jealous that I was able to hack into the locker."
Coming quickly to his feet, David fisted his hands.
"You take that back!"
Paul's reply was soft, a sure sign of anger and one David should have noted.
"Make me."
David had taken two steps towards his brother when a subtle noise broke the tension. Both boys looked aft, but it was Paul, who said quietly,
"What was that?"
With a shrug, David whispered,
"I don't know."
Passing the phaser rifle to his younger brother, Paul whispered,
"Point it at the aft hatch; I'm going to check something."
David tried to stop trembling but failed. Paul turned to the console and inputted some instructions. Almost immediately there was a quiet alarm. David jumped and stuttered softly,
"What the hell is it?"
Paul went to his brother and took the rifle.
"There's someone trying to access the airlock. They've bypassed the normal alarm."
Just as he spoke, the outer hatch opened then closed. Through the window of the interior hatch, the boys could see an alien. They had only seconds before the intruder was inside.
Paul gently pushed his brother behind the bulkhead, then he positioned himself so he had a clear shot at the hatch. David hissed,
"Are you going to shoot it?"
Paul grinned mirthlessly.
"What do you think, stupid?"
As the hatch began to open, David said,
"What if it's here with a message from Mum…or Papa?"
Paul didn't have a chance to answer. The alien stepped into the aft area of the ship and the shaking boy challenged it.
"What are you doing here?"
There was no vocal reply. The alien raised a weapon and fired at the sound of Paul's voice. The shock of being fired upon made both boys duck and yelp, but Paul quickly raised the rifle, took the time to aim, then depressed the trigger.
The blast of blue energy caught the alien in the chest. It staggered backwards, fell to one knee then seemed to rally. It dived to one side and fired again.
David all but shrieked,
"You've got it on stun!"
As Paul frantically tried to raise the power setting, the alien fired again. The lethal energy beam whispered past the boys to impact on the forward screen. The plexiglass cracked and blackened.
By now, David was lying on the floor in the foetal position with his hands wrapped around his head. Paul, seeing the alien advancing on their position, finally selected the highest setting on the rifle. He popped up from the floor, took aim and fired.
The blast caught the alien in the side, but it was enough. Its body seemed to freeze, then quickly vaporise.
In the sudden silence of the little ship, Paul muttered shakily,
"Shit, I think I've pissed my pants."
David looked up from the floor and saw a dark stain on his brother's trousers. He let out a strangled chuckle and peered around the bulkhead to see nothing but the alien's weapon, lying on the deck. He got slowly to his feet.
"Hold shit, Paul, you did it. You killed the fucker."
With a grunt, Paul sat heavily in one of the cockpit seats. He sighed and dropped the rifle.
"Mum's right, you swear too much."
David sent his brother a wry look.
"Shit, I think I've pissed my pants?"
Paul glared.
"Shut up, David."
A quiet alarm sounded, startling the boys. David was first to react. He went to the console and muttered,
"Oh shit, we're venting oxygen. The forward screen is cracked."
Paul got to his feet, wishing his legs would stop trembling.
"Then we're buggered. The ship isn't space worthy with a cracked screen."
"So what do we do?"
Paul shrugged.
"I suppose we have to hope that Papa's yacht is okay. Other wise, we're stuck here."
David sat heavily in the other seat and grunted.
"Oh, shit."

 

 

 

Jean-Luc found it hard to find a comfortable way to sit. His eyes hurt, his body hurt in fact, it even hurt to breathe. He pinched closed the hole in his suit, knowing that precious oxygen was leaking out through the other holes the stone shards had made.
He wanted to sigh…he wanted to yell his frustration, but he did neither. He looked into the crib and placed his gloved hand on top. The baby stared sightlessly upward, utterly immobile.
"I'm sorry, my little one, it seems I have failed you."
He turned slightly to one side and leaned against the back wall of the cave, staring listlessly at the entrance.
"It seems I have failed us both."

 

 

 

 

M'Harret motioned its two companions to a halt. They were faced with a fork in the canyon and the alien leader was reluctant to break up its team. It dropped to its knees and scoured the surface, trying to find any evidence to tell them which direction Jean-Luc had chosen, but the winds had obliterated any signs. It stood and made a curt gesture with its hand.
"You take that path, G'Renan and I will take this one."
With a guttural grunt, the soldier muttered,
"As you wish, my Liege."
M'Harret jerked its head to the remaining soldier. They went down the right hand path.
Their journey brought them to the final junction. Without hesitation, M'Harret motioned its companion to take the left path. Within minutes the alien leader had reached the narrow passageway. It sighed.
"I wish I could take my helmet off, human…I would be able to smell your fear."
Being so tall, it was easy for the alien to clamber up the rock face. It stood on the top, staring down the incline, a grim smile on its face.
"I'm close…aren't I, human."

 

 

 

Data held out his hands and helped pull Beverly through the gap under the two boulders. She was down to her last two cylinders and the exertion of clambering over and under the rocks was increasing her oxygen use. She climbed to her feet and shook her head in frustration.
"This is taking too long, Data."
The android nodded.
"I know, Doctor, but what else can we do?"
Beverly sighed. She looked along the walled canyon and jerked her head.
"Keep going, I suppose."
They had travelled only fifty metres or so when Data's tricorder began to beep. He immediately checked it and gripped Beverly's arm.
"We have a contact."
"Where?"
Data turned in a small circle before pointing off to his right.
"Over these boulders, approximately eighteen metres."
Beverly looked up and grimaced.
"They're going to be bloody hard to climb, Data."
He looked up too and shrugged.
"There may be another way around, but I think we should take the most direct route. I will climb up, then I will assist you."
Beverly nodded and watched, amazed as Data swarmed up the rocks. He then lay flat on the top and held his hands down.
"Grab my hands, Doctor, I will pull you up."
Despite the difficulties presented by the suit and their gloved hands, Beverly managed, with Data's help, to scale the rocks. They got to the top just in time to hear, even over the wind, the discharge of an energy weapon.

 

 

 

With the oxygen depletion alarm quietly sounding in his helmet, Jean-Luc began to pant. Sweat covered his body and he began to feel light headed. The voice, when it came, made him softly curse.
"Human? Are you in there human?"
Jean-Luc looked about frantically for a weapon…anything with which to defend both him and his daughter. He picked up a fair sized rock and threw it out the entrance. Summoning his voice, he shouted,
"Leave us alone, M'Harret."
The chuckle he heard chilled his blood.
"Leave you alone? After coming all this way to find you? I don't think so, Captain. You have caused me trouble. At least one of my party is dead because of you…and the infant."
Jean-Luc heard the sounds of rocks moving under foot.
"No, Captain. Either you surrender to me or I will destroy you both."
Almost out of air, Jean-Luc managed to shout,
"You intend to kill us anyway."
There was a momentary pause, then M'Harret snarled,
"Then die, you puny little life form!"
The first bolt of energy hit the back wall of the cave, mere centimetres from the crib. Jean-Luc's vision was greying, but he pulled the crib to one side and draped his body over it. As consciousness fled, he thought,
"I'm sorry, little one."
It was Data who spotted M'Harret. One look at Beverly was all he needed to take aim and fire. Unlike Paul, Data had the modified rifle set on 'kill'. The alien's face registered surprise as its body quickly vaporised.
Data clambered down the rocks and disappeared into the cave. As Beverly crouched at the entrance, she had to move out of the way as Data dragged Jean-Luc's body outside.
"He has asphyxiated, Doctor. We have to give him oxygen…quickly."
As Data spoke, he utilised his phenomenal speed to take two cylinders from his back and attach them to Jean-Luc's suit. Once the life-giving oxygen was flowing, they immediately noticed the rents in the Captain's suit. Beverly reached into one of her deep pockets and pulled out a tube of sealant. She had to pull out the shards of rock, but within minutes she had the tears sealed. While she worked, Data had gone back into the cave to retrieve the crib. He reported to Beverly that the baby was alive, but the Doctor was more concerned with her husband. Despite the oxygen, Jean-Luc wasn't breathing.
"Dammit, I need to resuscitate him!"
Data frowned.
"But how, Doctor…you cannot take his helmet off."
She didn't comment as she laid Jean-Luc flat on his back. She straddled him and placed her hands each side of his chest. Pressing down sharply, she felt his broken ribs and grimaced, but she was rewarded as she released the pressure and he inhaled. She kept at it until he groaned and coughed, bringing up some bright blood and his eyes fluttered open. Beverly put her face plate next to his and shouted,
"Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc can you hear me?"
He looked up with unfocused eyes and smiled. In a raspy voice he said softly,
"You look like Beverly."
She smiled back, her eyes filling with tears.
"It is Beverly, Jean-Luc."
She left her husband to check on the baby. Data was holding the crib and staring inside.
"I fear she has been given some kind of stupefying drug, Doctor."
Beverly ran her eyes over her daughter and nodded.
"Yes and that bag of feed is almost empty. We have to get back, Data…as soon as possible."
"Agreed, Doctor. If you will assist Captain Picard, I will carry the crib."
Beverly nodded as she stood.
"And our crib?"
"We will take the oxygen cylinders, but discard the crib. This one will suffice."
"Right, let's get going."

Their oxygen use was beginning to outstrip their reserves. Even with Data not breathing and the baby only using a fraction of her allotment, it soon became obvious that they weren't going to make it back to the runabout. They were approaching the edge of the rocky outcrop and paused to rest. Jean-Luc was having breathing difficulties that Beverly had diagnosed as a lacerated lung. He was bleeding into the lung and it had collapsed. She and Data were discussing their options when Jean-Luc said softly,
"Forget the runabout, make for the yacht, it's closer."
While Data consulted his tricorder, Beverly sat closer to Jean-Luc and said,
"We have to go back to the runabout, my love; the boys are waiting there for us."
He lifted his head and frowned.
"You brought the boys?"
Beverly grimaced.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Before Jean-Luc could say anything further, Data interrupted.
"Captain Picard is right, the Calypso is significantly closer. However, there is a subspace anomaly between us and the yacht. We would have to go around it."
Beverly shook her head.
"But won't that make our journey longer?"
Data nodded.
"Yes, but you could come some of the way, then I could leave you, get to the Calypso and retrieve more oxygen cylinders, then come back for you."
"So we would be out in the open for a while?"
Data nodded again.
"Yes, but it would only be you and the Captain. I would take the humidicrib with me."
Jean-Luc wheezed,
"And the boys?"
"Once we are all aboard the Calypso, we can move the ship closer to the runabout and collect your children."
Beverly looked at her husband and sighed.
"I suppose it might work, but Data I really need to get Captain Picard back to the Calypso as soon as possible."
The android gave a curt nod.
"Then I will endeavour to be as quick as possible."
Sliding her hand under Jean-Luc's shoulder, Beverly helped him to his feet.
"Right then, let's get going."
They moved off and Beverly tried her communicator.
"Paul, can you hear me?"
The reply was static filled, but Beverly could hear the relief in her son's voice.
"Mum! It's good to hear you. Have you found Papa and the baby?"
"Yes, we have them both, but we're running out of oxygen, so we're going to make for the Calypso. Once we get there, we'll move the ship closer to you."
"Okay, but Mum, you can't use the runabout any more, it has a cracked screen."
"How the hell did that happen?"
She heard Paul sigh.
"It's a long story; I'll tell you when you get here."
Wishing to know what had transpired, warred with her oxygen use. Beverly gritted her teeth and briefly closed her eyes.
"All right. Sit tight, hopefully it won't be too long."
"Right, Mum. Paul out."
They had only going another seventy metres or so when Data called a halt.
"You must stay here. I will be as quick as I can."
Beverly assisted Jean-Luc to sit, then she sat beside him, huddling against the wind. They watched as Data disappeared into the swirling green gasses.

 

 

 

David had waited patiently while his brother had showered and changed, but once he emerged clean and sweet smelling, the younger boy was at him.
"Once Mum hears you killed that alien…she's going to be pissed."
Paul rolled his eyes.
"Oh yeah…and what were we supposed to do? Let it kill us? Grow up, David; you're acting like a little kid."
The junior Picard bridled.
"I am not! I'm trying to find a way out of this. After all, it wasn't me who pissed his pants!"
Paul swung around, his dark hazel eyes flashing.
"No, you were curled up in a ball on the floor!"
They stood, toe-to-toe, neither giving an inch. Eventually it was Paul who held up his hands.
"Okay…we were both scared stiff, but I don't think we're going to get into trouble for defending ourselves."
David sighed.
"Using a weapon we've been forbidden to touch, after hacking into the locker's security system. Oh yeah…she's going to be delighted."
Just then the call from their mother came through. Afterwards David shook his head, saying ruefully,
"Why didn't you tell her? Don't you think she's going to wonder how the screen got cracked?"
Paul sighed and sat down.
"Didn't you hear? They've got Papa and the baby."
With a shrug, David pulled down the corners of his mouth.
"So?"
"So why didn't Papa say anything?"
Realisation dawned on David's face.
"Oh, shit…do you think he's been injured?"
Nodding thoughtfully, Paul raised his hands to give his words form.
"He must be, otherwise he would have said something."
David snapped his fingers.
"Yeah! And Mum was so preoccupied she never asked you about the screen."
Paul nodded.
"So Papa's been hurt. I wonder how the baby is?"
With a shrug, David sat down.
"Who knows? I suppose we'll just have to wait until we hear."
"Yeah."

 

 

 

As promised, Data was indeed quick. He reached the Calypso, only to find it surrounded by a force field. Opening a channel, he contacted Jean-Luc.
"Captain Picard, it is Data."
Coughing up a small amount of blood, Jean-Luc answered breathlessly,
"Picard here, Data, go ahead."
"Sir I need you to contact the Calypso's computer to lower the shields."
Muttering a soft,
"Damn, I forgot about that."
Jean-Luc nodded, saying,
"I will do so at once. Picard out."
He took as deep a breath as he dared and said,
"Picard to Calypso, lower shields."
Data noted with satisfaction that the shields lowered. He was on board in seconds and back outside with six cylinders within minutes. As he ran around the periphery of the subspace anomaly he called,
"Doctor Picard, I am on my way back to your position. I estimate I will be with you in ten minutes."
"Acknowledged, Data, Picard out."
Beverly had just turned to her husband to check him, when she saw two figures looming out of the gasses behind them. Not waiting for an explanation, she hauled a protesting Captain to his feet and dragged him off towards the Calypso in a weaving jog. Jean-Luc's protests died on his lips as a bright green beam of energy lanced by them, missing by only centimetres. Beverly cursed silently.
"Dammit…we're unarmed!"
With no tricorder to warn them of the subspace anomaly, they were running blind. Another beam blasted the ground to their left and Beverly gasped,
"Faster, Jean-Luc, we have to move faster!"
As they jinked and ran, Beverly switched channels,
"Data! We're under attack…hurry!"
Her heart skipped a beat as the android's calm voice was heard.
"I have you on my tricorder. You need to move further to your left, you are encroaching on the edge of the anomaly. I will be with you shortly."
Jean-Luc's strength was waning fast. Unable to breathe properly, the exertion of running was taxing him quickly. He began to stumble and Beverly had to haul him along.
"Come on Jean-Luc, just a little further…"
Another beam clipped Beverly's shoulder, sending her sprawling. Without her help, Jean-Luc fell to his knees, gasping and coughing up blood.
"Beverly! Are you all right?" He panted.
Her arm numb from the shoulder down, the Doctor struggled to get to her feet.
"I'm fine…we must hurry…"
But it was too late. Out of the swirling gasses, two aliens warily approached, weapons at the ready. At the jerking gesture, Beverly raised one arm, but Jean-Luc had pitched forward, desperately trying to get his breath. While one alien covered them, the other advanced slowly. As Beverly was frantically trying to think of some sort of strategy, over their helmet comms came Data's voice.
"Duck!"
Beverly dived headlong, covering Jean-Luc's body with hers. She didn't see what caused it, but there was the unmistakable sound of a phaser rifle being fired, immediately followed by a tremendous explosion. The gasses themselves seemed to ignite. Their ears ringing, Beverly slowly sat up and assisted Jean-Luc into a sitting position. Data was kneeling by their sides.
"I have five cylinders. I will attach two each now."
As he worked, Beverly asked,
"What the hell happened?"
She could hear the trace of amusement in his voice.
"I threw an oxygen cylinder at the aliens, then I fired at it with my phaser rifle. The resultant explosion was very gratifying."
Beverly grinned.
"And the aliens?"
"They took flight. I doubt they will be back."
Jean-Luc's hacking cough forestalled any further conversation.
"Data, Captain Picard requires urgent medical attention. How far to the Calypso?"
The android helped Jean-Luc to his feet, then picked him up in his arms.
"Not far, Doctor…if you will follow me?"
Twenty minutes later they entered the Calypso's airlock.

 

 

 

Beverly was torn between needing to see to Jean-Luc's injuries and wanting to check on the baby. Jean-Luc made up her mind for her. Once out of his suit, he waved away Beverly's hands that wanted to explore the lacerations on his chest and said softly,
"I'm fine…go and see to our daughter."
Offering a tender smile, Beverly got rid of her suit then went to the humidicrib, unsealing it and uncovering the little girl. The Doctor winced at seeing the open wounds and her displayed ovaries, but she very gently picked her up and held her to her breast. The baby remained unmoving and unresponsive. A deep, gentle voice at her side made Beverly sigh.
"Will she be all right?"
Beverly turned to her husband and nodded.
"Yes, I think so, once we get her back to the Enterprise."
He nodded slowly, then very gently ran his finger tips down the baby's cheek.
"And you can repair everything?"
"Yes."
He sighed shallowly and whispered,
"They ruptured her hymen."
Beverly lifted the baby to rub her cheek against the infant's face.
"My poor little one…what have they done to you?"
She looked at her husband.
"I can repair it my love, she will never know."
Jean-Luc swallowed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Will she remember any of this?"
Beverly shook her head.
"I doubt it. If she had been fully cognizant, perhaps she may have retained deeply hidden, vague memories, but with the stupefying drugs…I don't think so."
Jean-Luc leaned forward and kissed the baby's forehead.
"But once they wore off on you, you remembered everything."
Beverly sighed.
"Yes, but I am an adult. She is a newborn, Jean-Luc. I don't think she's going to remember anything."
Beverly heard Jean-Luc's voice crack as he said softly,
"I desperately hope you're right."
He watched as Beverly gently lay the baby down and put a nappy on her. She then wrapped her in the soft blanket and put her back in the crib. Beverly then turned to Jean-Luc, her look uncompromising.
"I'm going to replicate some warm breast milk for the baby. In the meantime, I want you stripped to your briefs and lying on the bed, I need to treat you."
Attempting to stifle a cough and failing, Jean-Luc reddened as he brought up a small quantity of blood. He gave a rueful look and nodded before leaving Beverly and making his way to the bedroom.
Within minutes, Beverly was sitting beside him. Having scanned him, she was cleaning the lacerations across his chest, prior to closing them. Data stood by, awaiting instructions. To keep his mind off what Beverly was doing; Jean-Luc turned his attention to his Second Officer.
"Data, I want you to take the Calypso to the runabout and collect the boys. But there is something else. The aliens collected several eggs from the baby and, with the use of synthesised human hormones, brought them to maturity. They also managed to get a semen sample from me and with these genetic materials they have been successful in creating a human zygote."
Beverly gasped but Jean-Luc held up his hand, effectively silencing her.
"I want both the zygote and all of the collected genetic material destroyed. They must not be able to create another human being."
Data gave a curt nod.
"Yes, Sir, I will formulate a plan immediately."
As Data left the room, Beverly finished sealing the lacerations and spoke softly.
"Why the hell did they want to dabble in human genetics?"
Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Their main scientist decided it would be beneficial to their species to create an underclass of people to do the menial and dangerous work of their society."
Beverly hissed,
"They wanted a slave race?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"In effect, yes."
In silence, Beverly administered a local anaesthetic and swabbed an area low on his right chest.
"You are suffering a pneumothorax. I need to insert a tube into your chest cavity to drain off the air and blood to allow your lung to reinflate. Once we're back on the Enterprise, I can fix it properly."
Jean-Luc nodded silently as Beverly made the incision in his chest. He felt no pain as the tube was inserted, but the pain and pressure in his chest he'd been experiencing immediately eased. Beverly grunted softly as blood began to fill the bowl she held. As she watched the flow, she said softly,
"I take it you protested, that you explained the folly and immorality of trying to create a being from such closely related donors."
Jean-Luc grimaced.
"I did, but I was ignored. I also refused to be a donor, but they took the sample by force."
With a sigh, Beverly gently kissed his brow.
"I'm sorry, my love."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"As long as their creation and all of the stolen genetic material is destroyed, no harm will have been done."
They were silent for a while, before Beverly said softly,
"I can repair one of your broken ribs, but the other requires surgery. It's the same for your arm, but an immobilising cast will help. I'll keep up your painkilling medication, you should be comfortable, but there's nothing I can do about the pain in your eyes. I can tell you the nanites have done a significant amount of work, although surgery will be required to finish the job. How is your sight?"
Jean-Luc blinked a few times and summoned a wan smile.
"Not too bad at the moment. It comes and goes, but generally, it's functional."
He looked up at his wife and smiled tenderly.
"I must say though…you were a sight for sore eyes!"
Beverly chuckled and tucked the bowl against his side and stood.
"That was a very poor pun, Jean-Luc…I expect better from you."
He shrugged.
"It was all I could come up with under the circumstances…but…when I saw you I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought you were an angel…until I recognised you. I have never seen anyone so beautiful."
Beverly reddened and bent to kiss him. The contact was languid…almost passionate and it was Beverly who broke it. Looking down at her husband with smoky eyes, she slowly licked her lips and offered a sultry smile.
"I look forward to your recovery."
Equally enthralled, Jean-Luc muttered huskily,
"As do I."
The moment was broken by Data, calling from the cockpit.
"Captain Picard, we are about to land beside the runabout."
With his eyes glued to his wife, Jean-Luc replied softly,
"Thank you, Mr.Data. Doctor Picard will be with you shortly. Picard out."
Beverly looked down at her husband and smiled.
"I'm going to get the boys."
With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc disagreed.
"No, let Data go."
As she moved to the door, it was Beverly who shook her head.
"No, my love. They've been alone through a very trying time; I think it should be me that collects them."
Jean-Luc sighed shallowly.
"Very well."
She left the room to find Data about to get into an evac suit.
"Hold on, Data, I'll go. You stay here and monitor the Captain."
The android straightened and frowned.
"I do not think that is wise, Doctor."
Beverly shrugged.
"Perhaps, but that's how it's going to be, my friend."
Knowing her as well as he did, Data knew the futility of arguing.
"Very well, Doctor. Please allow me to help you into your suit."
Ten minutes later, as Beverly was about to enter the airlock, Data offered her the phaser rifle. She was about to refuse his offer when she looked into his golden eyes and saw his worry. With a sigh, she took the weapon and entered the airlock.
Even though the ships were only ten metres apart, the swirling green gasses were enough to obscure each ship from each other. Giving a quick look at her heads up display, Beverly frowned as a quiet alarm sounded in her helmet. Two aliens were at the outer hatch of the runabout.
She bent forward into the ever present high winds and went towards her children's ship. It wasn't until she was two metres away that she saw them. The aliens were attempting to open the outer hatch. Not wanting to kill unnecessarily, Beverly called her sons.
"Paul? Can you hear me?"
The youngster's voice was filled with tension.
"Mum! Someone's trying to get in!"
"I know, I can see them. Sit tight, I'll take care of it."
"Okay, Mum. Paul out."
Beverly took several steps forward and raised the rifle to her shoulder. Switching to her outside speakers, she called,
"Hey! Get away from that ship!"
The aliens reacted very quickly. One dived to the side, loosing off a shot from its weapon. It went wide and Beverly returned fire, catching the being in the leg. It rolled into the mists. The second alien continued to attempt to circumvent the security protocol Paul had instituted on the hatch. Beverly took aim and called,
"Move away or I will shoot!"
The alien froze, then suddenly spun, levelling a weapon. Beverly's reaction was purely instinctive. With the being already in her sights, she depressed the trigger. There was s bright blue flash of intense light and the alien ceased to exist.
She didn't have time to dwell on what she had just done. The alien she had wounded took a shot at her from its hiding place, catching her in the hip. She staggered and fell, but her fall saved her as another beam of pure energy flashed just past her helmet. She saw where the beam had come from and returned fire. The alien was flushed out and it took another shot at Beverly as it tried to find another hiding spot from which to snipe. Beverly caught the alien in her sights and fired. Like its companion, it disintegrated in a flash of blue light.
Climbing unsteadily to her feet, Beverly switched to her internal comm.
"Paul?"
"Here, Mum."
"It's okay, Paul, I've dealt with the aliens. I'm coming in."
"Right, I'll man the airlock."
Although it took only seconds to get inside, for Beverly, the wait was interminable. She stepped into the runabout, only to be accosted by her sons, each flinging his arms around her suited form. She staggered under the onslaught and chuckled.
"Hey…let me get my helmet off."
The boys loosened their grip on their mother and she took her helmet off. Many hugs and kisses later, Beverly sat down and asked what was on her mind.
"Right, how did the screen get cracked?"
She knew immediately by their reaction, that something was amiss. David lowered his head in characteristic fashion and Paul reddened. Beverly sighed and took Paul's hand.
"Come on…out with it."
The older boy sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Well an alien got in and there was a fire fight."
Beverly became very still, saying softly,
"A fire fight?"
Paul nodded, swallowing convulsively.
"Yeah. It fired at us and I fired back. I…I killed it, but one of its shots hit the screen and cracked it."
Beverly paled.
"You killed an alien?"
The boy nodded silently, sniffing quietly.
"How did you get a weapon? The weapons locker was sealed."
David lifted his head and said softly,
"If he hadn't done it, we would be dead now."
Keeping her attention on her older son, Beverly said quietly,
"Paul?"
He looked into her eyes and whispered,
"I hacked into the locking system and took a phaser rifle."
There was a moments' silence before Beverly asked,
"Was this before or after you knew the alien was there?"
In an even softer voice, Paul said,
"Before."
Letting go of his hand, an angry Beverly sat back and briefly closed her eyes.
"So after Data and I left, you decided to arm yourself."
The boy nodded silently.
"By hacking into the security system."
Again, all Paul did was nod.
"And with the weapon you took, you killed an alien."
Tears welled and overflowed his lids. Beverly sighed and took him into her arms and hugged him.
"Well it looks like you saved not only your own life, but that of your brother too."
Paul was trembling as he said,
"I wet my pants, Mum, I was so scared. I'm so sorry…I never meant to kill it, but even though I warned it, it wouldn't listen. It fired at us…I had to fire back. It was going to kill us."
David put his arm around his brother and looked at his mother.
"Paul fired twice. The first time, the rifle was on stun and the alien wasn't affected. While under fire he recalibrated the firing setting and got it on the next shot. All I could do was curl up on the floor. I was so scared."
Taking off her gloves, Beverly ran her hands over her son's faces.
"You both did very well, I have no doubt you acted exactly as you should have, but we're going to have to have a chat about hacking into secured systems."
Paul finally smiled and nodded.
"Fair enough."
The Doctor stood and limped to the cockpit, the boys following her.
"We're going to have to set the auto pilot. We can't leave the runabout here; it will have to follow us back to the Enterprise. While I set the controls, you two get into an evac suit."
Paul immediately left to do as he was told, but David hesitated.
"But, Mum, the suits are so big."
She sighed.
"I know that, but if you choose the smallest size, it'll be okay, you're only going to travel about twenty metres and I will be helping you."
Finally convinced, David nodded and left the cockpit. Beverly sighed and rolled her eyes.
While both boys were occupied, Beverly checked the wound on her hip. It was a nasty burn and of course, there was a hole in the suit. She stood and went aft to join her sons in putting on a new suit.

Data was seated quietly beside his Captain as Jean-Luc dozed. Although uncomfortable around sleeping people, Beverly had asked him to look after his Captain and that was exactly what he was going to do. The flow of blood through the chest tube was now little but a slow trickle and Jean-Luc seemed to be breathing much easier. He stirred in his sleep and opened his eyes. That was followed by a frown and a gravelly,
"Data? What are you doing here?"
Adopting a tentative smile, Data replied,
"Doctor Crusher asked me to monitor you, Sir."
"And you have to do that by sitting on my bed and watching me while I sleep?"
The android shrugged.
"I had no other duties to perform, Captain."
Jean-Luc sat up awkwardly, wincing at the pain in his chest. He blinked several times, then sighed when his vision refused to clear.
"I'm fine, Data. You can monitor me from the living area."
Rising to his feet, Data nodded.
"Yes, Captain. Before I leave, is there anything I can get you?"
Jean-Luc gave the question some thought, then shook his head.
"No, I don't think so, but thank you."
With an inclination of his head, Data offered,
"As you wish, Captain."
And left the room.
Jean-Luc lay quietly for a few minutes before he decided he needed to go to the toilet. He carefully swung his legs over the side of the bed, then grabbed hold of the bowl as he gingerly stood. He experienced a wave of dizziness, but it soon passed. He completed his task with a minimum of fuss and, after washing his hands, ambled out into the day area.
Data was in the cockpit, but his phenomenal hearing alerted him to his Captain's presence. He came into the day areas with a frown on his pale face.
"What are you doing, Captain?"
Jean-Luc looked up, slightly annoyed.
"I am about to go to the cockpit to check on my wife and children."
"That is not necessary, Sir. I have been monitoring them."
His eyes darkened and glittered, but he kept his anger under control.
"And?"
"There was a skirmish of some sort, but Doctor Picard and the boys are en route to our position and should arrive within the next five minutes."
Jean-Luc's artificial heart accelerated.
"A skirmish? Elaborate."
"Our sensors showed two aliens at the Calypso at the time Doctor Picard arrived. There was a fire fight. Only Doctor Picard's bio signs remained after the fight, I can only surmise she was successful."
"And now she and the boys are en route?"
"Yes, Sir."
With no further words, Jean-Luc rose and went forward to the cockpit. He wasted no time in establishing contact.
"Calypso to Beverly."
He breathed a sigh of relief when she responded,
"Beverly here, Jean-Luc."
"Are you all right? Data told me you were in a fire fight."
"I'm fine."
They were interrupted by David, who said,
"No she's not, Papa. She took a hit and is limping."
There was an ominous silence before Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Beverly?"
She sighed.
"It's nothing, really, just a nasty burn. I'm fine. And what are you doing out of bed?"
His voice took on the unmistakable ring of command.
"Never mind that! How close are you to the Calypso?"
"About ten metres away."
"Right, I'll man the air lock."
"Acknowledged."
It was only minutes before Jean-Luc looked through the window to see his family in the airlock. He smiled at Beverly, but then frowned at seeing how pale she looked. With a sigh, the inner hatch opened and Jean-Luc was able to help his family get out of their suits. The boys gave a leery look at the tube extending out from their father's chest and the bowl he held. Seeing their wariness, he smiled and said softly,
"It's all right, I'm fine."
Paul went to his father, gently fingering the cast on his arm.
"Just how badly injured are you, Papa?"
Jean-Luc smiled down at his son and wished he could hug him.
"Really, Paul, I'm fine. I have damaged one of my lungs and I have a broken arm, it's nothing really."
David came over and squinted at the bruise that decorated Jean-Luc's chest.
"I bet that hurts."
The man chuckled softly.
"I admit it can be a tad uncomfortable."
He looked up to see Beverly crouching at the humidicrib. Ushering the boys, the rest of the family went to join her. Paul peered into the crib and sighed.
"She's little."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes, she's a tiny tot, but she's strong."
David frowned, saying softly,
"She's really quiet."
Jean-Luc said gently,
"Do you remember how your mother was after the aliens had returned her?"
David nodded silently, his eyes large.
"Well we think the aliens have given the baby the same kind of drugs."
"Will she be all right?" asked Paul.
Beverly nodded.
"We think so."
She stood, pulling her hair back.
"She needs a new bag of breast milk."
Jean-Luc used his cast-encased arm to usher her to a seat.
"I'll get that, I want you to treat the burn."
Smiling up her thanks, Beverly waited while Paul retrieved a med kit. She scanned her hip and frowned. David, silently watching, immediately asked,
"What is it, Mum?"
She sighed.
"Oh, nothing really, it's just that the burn has charred the bone of my hip. It's going to require regen therapy."
Looking up from the crib, Jean-Luc frowned.
"Which we can't do here."
With a shrug, Beverly treated the surface burn.
"No, but it should be okay, as long as we don't take too long to get back to the Enterprise. Besides, Jean-Luc, I'm not the only one who needs specialised medical treatment."
Jean-Luc's eyes darkened as Paul looked at his father to say,
"Papa?"
Sighing, Jean-Luc lowered his head.
"It's nothing, really Paul. I need surgery to repair a broken rib and my broken arm also needs surgical repair."
Beverly chimed in with,
"He also needs regen treatment on a lacerated lung…which is still bleeding."
Now thoroughly alarmed, both boys moved closer to their father. It was David, who said, with a trembling voice,
"Papa?"
Jean-Luc knelt and put the bowl on the floor. He opened his arms but the boys hesitated. He sighed.
"Really, I'm fine…and I could do with a hug…as long as it's gentle."
Two relieved boys gently embraced their father, seeming to absorb his strength. Data, standing near the crib suddenly tilted his head and said,
"Quiet please."
Everyone turned to look at him as he stared at the baby. In the ensuing silence, they heard a small sound. Jean-Luc's head spun around, he too staring at the baby.
"Was that her?"
Data nodded.
"I think so, Captain, yes."
Beverly got up from her seat and together they all crowded around the crib. Jean-Luc hushed them and they waited with baited breath. They were rewarded when the baby made a small sound and slowly clenched her left hand. Then she slowly blinked. Beverly moved forward and gently picked her up, cradling her in her arms. As they watched, the baby lifted an arm before dropping her closed fist on her open mouth. In a hushed voice, Jean-Luc asked,
"Do you think she can suck?"
With a ghost of a smile, Beverly said,
"Only one way to find out."
She stood, taking the baby with her as she went to the nearby seat. Once settled, she bared one breast and offered it to the baby. Jean-Luc came and sat on the arm of the chair, saying softly,
"You still have milk?"
As the baby gently snuffled around the nipple, Beverly nodded absently, keeping her eyes on the child.
"Yes, I have been taking a drug to regulate the supply. All that is needed for normal supply is stimulation."
As they watched, the baby latched on to the nipple and began to weakly suck. Beverly smiled up at her husband and sighed.
"She really needs this."
Jean-Luc frowned, not fully understanding. Beverly saw his confusion and elaborated.
"The closeness, being cuddled while she feeds."
Realisation dawned and Jean-Luc smiled as he nodded his understanding. David and Paul, standing and watching, grinned. Paul said softly,
"I remember you feeding David."
The younger boy blushed and sighed.
"She needs a name."
Her eyes glued to the baby, Beverly nodded.
"Yes she does."
Looking up at her husband, Beverly smiled tenderly.
"The boys and I have discussed this. We think she should have a French name. What about Etoile?"
Jean-Luc frowned as he thought.
"Star?"
David grinned at his father.
"Why not?"
Jean-Luc had rested the bowl on the chair arm, leaving his hand free to ruffle his son's hair.
"Why not indeed! It's a lovely name. Etoile it is."
Data was quiet as he watched the baby feed. Jean-Luc sensed his wistfulness and asked softly,
"What is it, Data?"
The android tilted his head and sighed.
"Being an artificial life form, I have never known what it is like to have parents who care for me as you and Doctor Picard care for your children. As I watched Etoile suckle I was wondering what it must feel like…that bond…that closeness."
Jean-Luc turned his attention to the baby, but responded to Data's comment.
"You may not have experienced a childhood, at least not one an infant would have with parents, Data, but you have forged a bond with the friends you've made on the Enterprise."
Data nodded.
"It is true that I have found deep and sustaining friendships, Captain, but I cannot help but wonder what…"
He gestured to the baby,
"She must be experiencing now."
With a shrug, Jean-Luc smiled.
"It's pure speculation anyway, Data. Not many adults…or children for that matter, remember anything from their infancy."
"Perhaps not, Sir, but I wish I had been given the means to find out for myself."
Paul smiled up at the Second Officer and winked.
"I can tell you all you want to know, Uncle Data. What I don't remember of my own babyhood, I can tell you about David's."
The younger sibling glared at his older brother and shook his head.
"You really are a dweeb sometimes, Paul."
Knowing that an argument was brewing, Jean-Luc stood and gestured to the boys.
"Come on; let's get you out of those suits."
While the males were busy, Beverly watched as Etoile drifted off to sleep. She had only taken a little milk from one breast, but Beverly was happy, nonetheless. She gently rose with the baby in her arms and carefully put her back in the crib. Jean-Luc called softly,
"We should be going."
Beverly shook her head.
"Not until we've finished everything here. We need to destroy what the aliens have created."
Nodding his understanding, Jean-Luc turned to Data, about to issue his orders. But Beverly stopped him.
"No, Jean-Luc, I will do it."
The Captain spun around, consternation on his face.
"Beverly, that isn't wise."
Data came over and said quietly,
"Doctor Picard, you may not be aware of the fact that we are running low on oxygen cylinders. We do not have enough left for you to make the journey to the alien ship and back."
Tossing her head, Beverly lifted her chin pugnaciously.
"Then move the Calypso closer."
Data sighed.
"While that might alleviate the oxygen problem, it still poses a significant danger to you."
Beverly shrugged.
"How? We haven't detected any more aliens, most probably because they're all dead. Look, if we move the Calypso close enough, I can be in and out of the alien ship in mere minutes. I don't see the problem."
Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"Beverly, don't you think that it would be better if you and I stayed with our children? After all, Etoile is breast feeding now."
With a wave of her hand, Beverly dismissed the idea.
"I have never let my career, or my life be significantly altered just because we had kids…and you never asked me too. You aren't now suggesting I have to behave differently because I'm nursing, are you?"
Taking as deep a breath as he could, Jean-Luc strove to keep calm in the face of his rising anger.
"No, I'm not, but I cannot see why you are insisting on doing this, when it would be far better…and safer, if Data did it."
Beverly briefly closed her eyes and counted silently to ten. She then went to her husband, took his hand and spoke quietly.
"Jean-Luc, those alien bastards kidnapped and assaulted both my husband and my daughter to extract genetic material which they then proceeded to create a zygote. That life form they created is as much a part of me as it is of you. I don't want Data to be the one to destroy it, my love, it is something either you or I should do and, as you aren't capable at the moment, that leaves me. I have to do this, Jean-Luc…I have to see for myself that the zygote is destroyed as well as the remaining genetic samples."
The stoic Captain looked deeply into his wife's eyes and capitulated. His shoulders dropped and he sighed.
"Very well, I understand."
He turned slowly to Data.
"Move the Calypso to a position as close as you can get to the alien ship, Mr.Data."
The android frowned and inclined his head.
"Sir, that may not be impossible."
"Why?"
"Because between this ship and the alien ship, there is a subspace distortion. There is not enough room to land on the far side of the anomaly, nor is there room beyond the alien ship."
Jean-Luc gave that some thought, then offered a curt nod.
"Then can you position us on top of the alien ship?"
Data's frown deepened.
"I cannot land the Calypso on the surface of the other ship, Captain, however I can suspend our ship a short distance above it."
Beverly stepped nearer the two males.
"How close?"
"I would envisage one metre, but that is dependent on the alien ship having no shields or other defensive systems in activation."
With his dark hazel eyes glittering, Jean-Luc quietly muttered,
"Make it so, Mr.Data."
Within minutes, the Calypso lifted off.

 

 

They were lucky. No shields or any other kind of defensive mechanism was evident. Beverly had once again, suited up and was waiting in the air lock as Data positioned the Calypso one metre above the upper surface of the alien ship.
Once the outer hatch had opened, it was a simple matter for Beverly to jump the short distance to the other vessel.
The alien ship was somewhat larger than the Calypso, meaning Beverly had plenty of room to walk around, seeking a means to get to the ground. She eventually found a series of foot holds she could use, although they were widely spaced, obviously meant for a longer legged being. With her feet finally on firm ground, Beverly went around the ship until she found the hatch. With the use of her tricorder, she quickly decoded the lock and entered. The transfer of atmosphere took place quickly, leaving the Doctor inside the vessel for the first time since her abduction.
She turned slowly, her tricorder faithfully recording everything she saw. Vague memories surfaced, leaving her feeling very apprehensive. She sighed, giving herself a mental shake. With a determined straightening of her shoulders, she muttered,
"It's over, Beverly. Just get on with what you came to do."
To save oxygen, she turned off the flow and removed her helmet. Her eyes settled on the door she knew led to the surgical suite. Lifting her gloved hand, she closed her eyes briefly and pressed the door release. It whispered open and the sight of a dead alien made her gasp. She stepped cautiously into the room and shuddered when she saw the metal table. Stifling the terror she felt, Beverly proffered her tricorder, searching for the embryo and the other genetic material.
When a quiet alarm sounded on the device, she frowned, staring at the readout on the screen. She took a few steps in the direction of some medical paraphernalia when a coldly distant voice stopped her in her tracks.
"So, you came back to us, human?"
Swallowing to wet her suddenly dry mouth, Beverly slowly turned to see an alien she didn't recognise, slumped in a far corner. Although the being seemed to be disabled, there was nothing weak about the way it held its weapon. The Doctor took a steadying breath and tried to stay calm.
"You seem to be injured. Perhaps I can help you?"
Hitching itself into a more upright position, the alien sneered.
"Why the show of compassion, human? I know you are here to kill me, as you have killed the others."
With a shake of her head, Beverly leaned back against the bench.
"That is not true. I came here to destroy what you have created…and what you stole."
Hacking up a wet slippery mucous, the alien shook its head.
"But you don't deny you killed the others in our party?"
Beverly sighed.
"No I don't, but that was self defence. They were trying to kill us."
"So we should! You are a barbarous species…too primitive to understand our ways."
Her blue eyes glittered with anger.
"We understand you wished to enslave us!"
She waved her hand at the equipment around her.
"All this was meant to create a slave race, how dare you accuse us of barbarism!"
Its compound eyes shimmered in the bright light of the room. An odd, viscous fluid oozed from small holes in the alien's head. It struggled to stand, failed and slumped to the floor. Beverly saw her chance. She dived across the room, catching hold of the hand that held the weapon, and violently wrenched it sideways. There was a loud crack, the alien screeched and dropped the weapon. Beverly snatched it up and scuttled out of reach. Panting slightly, she climbed to her feet and took her phaser from its holster. The alien looked up at her and spat a glob of bright green mucous in her direction.
"We should have dissected you and your hideous infant when we had the chance."
With one weapon directed at the alien, Beverly cast wary eyes over the paraphernalia,
She scanned the equipment with her tricorder, until she found what she sought. With deft movements of her thumb, she set her phaser on kill and obliterated the dishes and tubes she had found. Another scan told her her quest had been successful. The embryo and the genetic material had been destroyed.
Turning to the alien, she offered a wry smile.
"I doubt you believe me, but I am willing to help you."
Seeming to consider her offer, after a few seconds, the alien nodded and held up one hand.
"I accept. If you would assist me to my feet?"
Beverly holstered her phaser, but kept the alien weapon in her left hand. She approached the being with caution, but it seemed genuine in its capitulation, so she bent down and allowed it to wrap its arm across her shoulders. Then, with an effort, she lifted the being to its feet. Just as they were nearly upright, the alien swung its right hand and raked its claws across Beverly's neck, opening the flesh in three deep lacerations. Blood welled and surged out of the tears, making Beverly cough and stagger. The alien attacked her again, delivering a solid blow to her midriff and snatching the weapon. As she doubled over, the being aimed a kick at her head, but she saw it coming and dropped to her right and rolled. The kick went wide and caused the alien to lose its balance. It staggered sideways and hit the bench, obviously causing it great pain, as it bent low and uttered a guttural groan.
Beverly groped for her phaser, frantically trying to pull it from its holster, as her other hand went to her neck to try and staunch the flow of blood.
The alien seemed to be having trouble breathing as more of the viscous fluid poured down its face. Her hand finally found the hilt of her phaser and she drew the weapon and trained it on her assailant just as it fired a hasty shot. It struck Beverly's left breast and she cried out in pain. She tried to speak but all that came out was a breathy whisper. The alien heard her and hissed before making a last desperate lunge for her. Beverly fired just as its hands met her throat. There was a bright flash of blue light, then nothing but the smell of vaporised flesh.
She was in desperate need of help, but her helmet was in the other room. Unable to walk, Beverly crawled out into the main area and slumped against the wall. She reached for her helmet and dragged it to her.
With hardly any voice at all, she croaked,
"Picard to Calypso."
She could clearly hear Jean-Luc's alarm when he responded.
"Beverly! What's wrong?"
"Help…send Data."
Her vision began to grey and the frantic voice of her husband faded away. As consciousness fled she slid sideways, her body coming to rest on the floor.

 

 

 

Data had heard the call for help and was quickly donning an evac suit. Paul and David hovered around their father, their eyes wide. Jean-Luc, having found that Beverly was no longer able to speak, watched as Data prepared to enter the airlock. As he did, Jean-Luc went to the locker and began to put on an evac suit. It was Paul who eventually decided to dissuade him.
"Papa? I don't think that's a good idea."
The man grunted, but said nothing else. Paul looked beseechingly at his brother, seeking his support. David gave a surreptitious nod and entered the fray.
"Papa, you should stay here, with us."
Jean-Luc paused, having trouble getting his cast-encased arm through the suit's sleeve. The tube from his chest was dripping blood from its end, but Jean-Luc ignored it. Paul came closer and tried to get his father to see reason.
"Papa, please. The last time we were left alone I had to kill an alien. I don't what to have to do that again."
Jean-Luc stopped what he was doing and stared at his son. When he spoke, his voice was soft, a sure sign of anger.
"You did what?"
Swallowing to wet his suddenly dry mouth, Paul squared his shoulders and looked his father in the eye.
"When we were left alone, while Mum and Uncle Data went to look for you and Etoile, an alien got into the runabout. I challenged it, but it fired at us. I had no other option but to fire back. My first shot hit it, but the rifle was only on a low setting and it fired back, cracking the runabout's screen, I returned fire on a higher setting and killed it."
The anger slowly left the Captain as he saw the anguish in his son's eyes. He sighed and shook his head.
"That was very brave of you, Paul. You must have been very frightened."
The boy snorted, blushing deeply.
"I wet my pants."
Jean-Luc offered a wry smile.
"I'm not surprised, but how did you come to have a rifle? Did your mother leave it with you? I would be most surprised if she did."
Paul's blush deepened and Jean-Luc clearly saw his nervousness.
"Ah. Well…she didn't. We were kind of worried about being alone, so I decided we should be armed, so I sort of…hacked into the weapons locker security and took a rifle."
Jean-Luc's eyes darkened and glittered dangerously. In silence he got out of the suit and slowly picked up the discarded bowl, putting the end of the tube in it as he slowly walked to a seat in the living area and sat. Beckoning the boys to stand before him, Jean-Luc was having trouble keeping himself calm in the face of his rising anger. In a deceptively soft voice, he said,
"You did what?"
Paul was beginning to tremble but David's pugnaciousness made him lift his chin and blurt,
"What would you have preferred? Us dead or Paul hacking the security system?"
David's bravado fled the second his father's eyes landed on him. He lowered his head and shut his mouth. Having silenced David, Jean-Luc returned his attention to Paul.
"Explain yourself, Paul."
Briefly closing his eyes, Paul thought with dread, that he may wet himself again. He took a shaking breath and began.
"Like I said, we were worried about being here with the aliens so close and us unarmed. I know we're not supposed to touch any weapons, and I also know I'm not supposed to hack into any secured systems, but Papa…can't you see that even though I did wrong, it was the right thing to do?"
Under his father's stony stare, Paul began to quietly cry. More than anything, he hated disappointing his father. With tears sliding down his face and with his lower lip trembling, he looked at his father and said softly,
"I'm sorry, Papa."
In the face of his son's distress, Jean-Luc's anger dissipated. He sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Paul there are reasons why your mother and I have forbidden you and your brother from handling weapons. At your age, it's just too dangerous. And as for hacking into a secured system, I can't say I'm happy about it, but as David said so eloquently, if you hadn't done it, you both may well have died…and where would I be then? I would have been devastated."
He took a deep breath and shook his head.
"I can't punish you for what you did, Paul, in fact if I could, I'd give you a medal. Come here, son, it's all right."
Paul sat on Jean-Luc's lap and gratefully sank into his embrace. He wept quietly for a little while as his father held him before he slowly sat up and wiped his eyes. In a hitching voice he said softly,
"I keep seeing the alien, Papa…the way it just…vaporised and the smell afterwards…I don't think I'll ever forget it."
Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes.
"No, that will be with you a very long time my son. It is a great pity that you have experienced something so awful at your young age."
He looked up at David who was sitting on the arm of the chair.
"I suppose you saw it too?"
With tears in his eyes, David silently nodded.
Sighing again, Jean-Luc patted his younger son's arm.
"When we get back to the Enterprise, I want both of you to talk to Aunt Deanna."
The boys nodded and Jean-Luc ruffled Paul's hair.
"All right, if I am going to stay here, we'd better get ready for your mother; I think she's been hurt."
David stood first.
"I'll get a med kit."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Good idea. Paul, you get the medical tricorder and meet me at the airlock."
The boy got off his father's lap, glad to have something constructive to do.
"Okay, Papa."
Within mere seconds, all three were gathered at the airlock. Now all they had to do was wait.

 

Data quickly found Beverly. He went down on one knee and gently felt her neck for a pulse. Finding a faint one, he attached her helmet, picked her up and strode to the airlock. Once outside he scrambled up the side of the alien ship and gracefully jumped up the one metre to the outer hatch of the Calypso.
He was in the airlock within seconds and inside the ship very quickly after that. He helped Jean-Luc carry Beverly into the bedroom where her helmet was quickly taken off. Jean-Luc said nothing when he saw the tears in her throat, but Data said softly,
"We need to close those as quickly as possible, then we need to get intravenous fluids into her, ASAP."
Grunting softly, Jean-Luc muttered,
"I'll close the wounds. You set up the IV line."
Paul and David hung back, having seen the wounds, they didn't want to get in the way as their father and Uncle worked on their mother. Jean-Luc had the wounds closed fairly quickly, but Data was having trouble raising a vein.
"With so little blood pressure, I cannot raise the vein."
The Captain turned Beverly's arm over and began to firmly pat the crook of her elbow. The skin slowly began to redden and the vein rose. Data slid the cannula into the blood vessel and began to squeeze the bag of fluids he held.
Beverly was deathly pale and barely breathing. While Data forced the fluids into her, Jean-Luc kept his fingers pressed to her neck, monitoring her pulse. At one stage, he lifted his eyes and said softly,
"Paul, I need the tricorder."
The youngster quickly handed him the device and Jean-Luc scanned his wife, his brows lowered. He sighed and offered the boys a smile.
"Her blood pressure is coming up."
David said softly,
"Is that good?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes it is."
Having emptied one bag of fluids, Data attached another and continued to squeeze the life giving liquid into Beverly's vein. Very slowly, colour crept into her skin and she began to breathe more strongly.
Half an hour and three bags of fluid later her eyes fluttered and opened. The first thing she saw was her husband looking down at her, worry in his eyes. She tried to talk, but all that came out was a husky whisper. Jean-Luc gently placed his fingers over her lips.
"Hush, my love. You have damaged vocal chords."
Beverly's hands came up to feel her neck. She grimaced as she remembered what the alien had done. Jean-Luc took her hands and held them.
"I have repaired the tears, Beverly, but you will require surgery to heal the internal damage."
She nodded her understanding and Jean-Luc looked up at Data.
"I want to leave as soon as possible. We will have to tow the runabout and I want to collect the used oxygen cylinders and the other humidicrib. I want nothing left here to show that we were ever here."
Data gave a nod.
"I believe we may be able to use the transporter. If we hover over each item, there should be no problem."
Jean-Luc grunted.
"It's a pity we were not able to use the transporters ourselves. It would have saved a hell of a lot of trouble."
Data nodded.
"Indeed. However I am only suggesting it now because we are going to transport inorganic articles."
"Understood."
Data left the room and within minutes Jean-Luc felt the ship lift off.
At Beverly's gesture, the boys came and sat on the bed. They each took one of Beverly's hands and were enjoying the peace and quiet, when a small cry broke the silence. Jean-Luc chuckled and stood.
"Someone wants a feed."
As he walked from the room, he suddenly staggered and held his head. Paul, who was watching his father, immediately went to him.
"Papa? Are you all right?"
Swallowing and taking as deep a breath as he could, Jean-Luc summoned a wan smile.
"Yes, I'm fine…just a little light headed, that's all."
He lifted his hands, only to find them trembling. With a snort of annoyance, he muttered,
"Perhaps you'd better get the baby."
Paul nodded, but kept a wary eye on his father as he picked Etoile up from her crib. Jean-Luc found he had to place a hand on his son's shoulder as they walked slowly back to the bedroom. Beverly had seen everything and was frowning as Jean-Luc sat heavily on the bed. She tried to talk, but Jean-Luc shook his head, saying softly,
"No don't, Beverly, you will only exacerbate your injuries."
Stymied and annoyed, Beverly took the tricorder and began to input information. When she had finished, he shoved it into Jean-Luc's hand. He gave a long suffering look, sighed shallowly and read.
"You are losing blood all the time, Jean-Luc. You need IV fluids."
He gave a nod and said quietly,
"Later, my love, when things have quietened down."
Beverly wanted to argue the point, but Jean-Luc and the boys were taking her evac suit off her. The material of her sweat shirt was burned over her left breast and Jean-Luc immediately scanned it.
"That's nasty Beverly, why didn't you say something?"
As she used the tricorder to type her words, Jean-Luc administered a painkiller. He took the tricorder when she offered it.
"It's nothing, really. Feeding the baby will help, my milk is coming back in."
Taking the hint, Jean-Luc changed Etoile then handed her to her mother. This time, when the Baby took the nipple, she sucked much stronger. Beverly smiled up at her watching family and nodded, letting them know all was well.
Jean-Luc had been hearing the periodic sounds of the transporter in operation. While Beverly was feeding the baby, he stood slowly and waited until the dizziness passed before quietly leaving to room and going forward to the cockpit. Data turned to face him as he sat down.
"Sir? Forgive me for saying so, but you look quite pale."
Waving the comment away, Jean-Luc asked,
"Have you beamed everything aboard?"
"Almost, Captain. There remains just two oxygen cylinders."
Jean-Luc nodded wearily.
"How soon?"
"Within the next ten minutes, Captain. Oh and Sir, could you please go the transporter pad and clear some of the items? It is getting a little crowded on the pad."
Patting Data on the shoulder, Jean-Luc nodded.
"Will do, Mr.Data."
"Thank you, Sir."
Jean-Luc walked very slowly to the aft pad. He was feeling very light-headed and slightly nauseous. He had cleared only some of the items when he had a coughing fit. Blood filled his mouth as he dropped to his knees, bent double.
Not wanting to spit the blood out, he swallowed it. He slowly caught his breath, but when he tried to stand, he toppled over. Another coughing fit saw him fall to his side, the blood he brought up almost gagging him. His vision began to grey and sweat covered his body. Once again he tried to rise but blackness enfolded him as he slipped into unconsciousness.

 

 

 

Will Riker was whistling as he strode the corridors of the Enterprise. Prime Minister Martin had been deposited, with the other colonists, on their new planet and the great ship was on her way back to pick up another load. The Prime Minister had refused to deal directly with Will, pleasing him immensely, however his head of Security was a vexed woman. Though a Vulcan, even one of her species had her limits and Hettie Martin had sorely tested her patience.
M'Rak had delivered her final report with a glint in her eyes. To reward her, Will had given her two days off, time he knew she would spend mediating to regain her equilibrium.
Now the tall man was on his way to his quarters where he knew his wife and son awaited him. Deanna had told him that her hybridism and breast feeding may cause her to enter a quasi-phase, a state where her libido increased dramatically. Her earlier call to the Ready Room had left no doubt as to her motive. She was very horny and required the presence of her husband. Immediately.
As Will approached his quarters, he picked up her subliminal message.
"Hurry, Imzadi."
He was semi hard as he hurried through the doors.
Deanna was waiting for him, standing near the doors clad in nothing at all. As Will entered, she threw herself into his arms and kissed him rapaciously. Knocked back a step or two by her onslaught, Will wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off her feet. Returning the kiss, he gasped as she infiltrated his mind.
"I want you Imzadi….quickly…now…"
He carried her into the bedroom, casting a wary eye on the bassinette in the corner. Through the fog of her arousal, Deanna vaguely felt his unease and spoke for the first time.
"It's all right, he's sound asleep, I've just fed him."
Shedding any pretext of control, Will almost threw Deanna onto the bed. She was quickly on her knees, tearing at his trousers, desperately trying to free his bulging erection. She managed to undo his pants and pushed them, and his briefs down his thighs.
Will covered her with his body and her legs wrapped themselves around his waist. Pushing her hips up, between savage kisses, Deanna panted,
"Yes, yes…now Will…quickly….quickly…"
He slid into her in one long, hard stroke. He covered her mouth with his as she cried out. If not for the material of his uniform top, her raking nails would have opened the flesh of his back. He knew exactly what she wanted. He plunged in and out of her, each powerful thrust pushing her up the bed. She clung to him in desperation, seeking the release that would ease her terrible tension.
Will knew he was at her mercy. Being a hybrid, Deanna's internal muscle structures were unlike a normal human. Inside her vagina were two rings of muscle which she could control. The first ring massaged him, gripping and releasing rhythmically, but the inner ring, if she chose, could constrict and hold him inside, unable to thrust. But Will had been experimenting and he found that when she contracted that inner ring, trapping him, he could push forward hard, getting her to relax it.
Their torrid sex was only minutes old when Deanna suddenly arched under him and constricted the inner ring. Will gritted his teeth as the hot silken trap held him fast in its delicious embrace. He relaxed and kissed Deanna languidly then, as she sighed into his mouth, he pushed into her firmly. There was resistance then a sudden popping sensation and he was free. He rose up on his arms and grinned down at her astonished face.
"You still want it, Dee?"
Licking her lips, she glared up defiantly and muttered sultrily,
"Hard and fast, lover."
His grin faded as he closed his eyes and began to pound into her. Mere minutes later he gasped,
"Dee, hurry…I'm going to come…"
His impending orgasm spurred Deanna to her release. Her small body went rigid, then shuddered as wave after wave of ecstasy radiated out from her sex. Will was dimly aware that she had climaxed as he buried himself deep inside her and came hard, calling out her name in a guttural cry.
As he was accustomed, his euphoria was heightened by their mental link. A back wash of her physical and emotional bliss washed through his mind and he concentrated hard, sending back the after images of his own ecstasy.
Their rigid bodies slowly relaxed and pounding hearts and gasping lungs began to calm. Will slowly became aware of a stinging sensation on his neck and groggily lifted his head. Sensing his concern and confusion, Deanna opened her eyes and gasped. Blood covered his neck and ran down his skin to darken the collar of his uniform top. Seeing her reaction, Will sighed and closed his eyes.
"You bit me, didn't you."
Deanna's voice showed her contrition.
"Yes…I'm sorry, Will."
He slowly rolled to one side and grimaced as his fingers came away bloody from his neck.
"What are you? Part vampire?"
Deanna giggled and rolled over to cover his body.
"I can't help it, Will. When I come I like to bite."
Will snorted.
"Okay, but why bite me? Try a pillow next time."
Deanna frowned, an edge creeping into her voice.
"Are you angry with me."
He sighed.
"No, just exasperated."
Deanna rolled off Will and sat up.
"Why? It's not like it's hard to fix."
Will reached for her, but she shrugged out of his grip. He sighed.
"I know it's a simple matter, my love, but the newly repaired skin reacts to my beard. I get pimples."
He looked so boyish, Deanna had to chuckle.
"Oh all right, I'll rub in an anti-acne cream."
This time, when he reached for her, she went gladly. She kissed him tenderly and sighed.
"I'm sorry, Will."
He shook his head.
"Don't be, Dee, I'm not complaining…not really."
She sat up, a look of pure mischief in her obsidian eyes.
"Good, because I will be needing you again soon."
Will grinned, but inside he rolled his eyes.
"My God…she's going to kill me!"
Deanna, unaware of his wry comment, went to check on their son.

 

 

 

It was David who went in search of his father. He had exited the bedroom and was on his way to the cockpit, when he glanced aft and saw his father's unconscious form lying on the floor. With a gasp and a cry of alarm, David ran to his father, taking his shoulder and shaking it.
"Papa! Papa, wake up!"
Data's exceptional hearing quickly alerted him to the trouble. He was out of his seat and running in mere seconds. Kneeling beside his Captain, Data said quietly,
"I need a medical tricorder, David. Get me one, but do not alert your mother."
While David went in search of the device, Data gently put Jean-Luc on his side and checked his airway, only to find his mouth full of congealing blood. Using his dextrous fingers, Data cleared away the gore and made sure his Captain was breathing freely.
David quickly returned and Data scanned Jean-Luc. Giving the tricorder to David, Data gently scooped up his Captain and took his to the bedroom. Beverly was just giving a sleeping Etoile to Paul when she looked up and gasped.
"What's happened?" in a husky whisper.
As Data laid Jean-Luc on the bed, he quietly explained.
"Captain Picard has lost consciousness due to low blood pressure. We need to give him intravenous fluids."
Kneeling on the bed, Beverly watched as Data went to the replicator to retrieve the necessary bag of liquid. She reached for the equipment as soon as he got back to the bed. It was the work of mere moments to slide a cannula into his vein and begin the flow.
She sat back, rubbing her forehead. In a broken whisper she said with exasperation,
"Dammit…I warned him about this!"
Data shrugged.
"I have noticed that Captain Picard disregards his health if he feels there are more important issues to deal with."
Shaking her head, Beverly sighed.
"I know, he's so bloody minded. I think all Starship Captains are. Tell me, Data, how was he when you found him?"
Data's golden eyes settled on his Captain as he said softly,
"He was lying on his side and his mouth was filled with congealing blood.
With a frown, Beverly snorted.
"So he must have lain there for a while."
David shook his head.
"I don't think it was that long, Mum. He left the bedroom only about ten minutes before me."
Data informed Beverly,
"It was David who found him, Doctor."
Beverly looked at her son and sighed, whispering,
"You must have got a fright."
The boy shrugged.
"Yeah."
He lowered his head and his voice broke when he muttered,
"I thought Papa was dead."
Beverly enfolded her son in her embrace and laid her cheek on the top of his head. Anger and anguish were in her voice when she whispered,
"This trip has been an absolute disaster."
David pulled free and shook his head as he wiped his eyes.
"No it hasn't, Mum. We found Papa and Etoile."
Ruffling the boy's hair, Tears glimmered in Beverly's eyes as she said,
"Yes we did, didn't we."
Just then, Paul came back into the room, carrying the baby. He looked worried.
"Mum, Etoile keeps trying to pull the tube out of her nose. She keeps catching her fingers in it."
Holding out her arms, Beverly gestured to Paul to bring the baby to her. Once she was settled, Beverly whispered,
"The nasal-gastric tube can come out now that she's feeding well. Data,"
Beverly looked up at her android friend.
"Could you get me some gauze and some steri-swabs please?"
With a nod of compliance, Data quickly did as he was asked. While the boys watched intently, Beverly gently eased the tube out of the baby's nostril. She coughed and gave a little cry, but soon settled. Paul sighed.
"Mum, will you be able to repair everything?"
Beverly nodded and smiled.
"Yes. The only problem may be ridding her of the electro magnetic residue left after what the aliens did to her. I was burned in the process. We will have to find another way with her."
Data cocked his head in a curiously cat-like gesture.
"I have been giving that some thought, Doctor. It may be possible to use the medical transporter to assist us in our endeavours."
Her blue eyes growing sharp, Beverly whispered urgently,
"How, Data?"
"If my calculations are correct, a being of her size and weight can be held without detriment in the pattern buffer for as long as fifteen minutes while we do an intensive scour at the molecular level. We should be able to rid her of the E-M residue that way."
Beverly nodded thoughtfully.
"And she would rematerialise with no physical or mental impairment."
"Yes, Doctor."
"Right, well, it's something to consider. Now, Mr.Data, are we free to leave this god forsaken planet?"
Data gave an amused nod.
"Yes, Doctor."
"Then do it! I am more than ready to go home."
As Data stood to go to the cockpit, Beverly asked,
"When can we contact the Enterprise, Data?"
He inclined his head.
"We will have to clear the sub space anomalies. I would estimate three hours, perhaps more."
Giving her acknowledgement in a nod, Data understood he was dismissed. Paul stood and followed his uncle from the room, asking,
"Can I help, Uncle Data?"
The android turned to the boy and smiled.
"Of course, Paul, I would appreciate your assistance."
As they entered the cockpit, Data said,
"We will have to connect to the runabout's computer for the lift off."
Paul nodded.
"Yeah, but once airborne, she should follow us, no problems."
Data nodded.
"Indeed."

 

 

In all, it was just on thirty minutes until both craft had lifted off and cleared the atmosphere. With the runabout in tow, the two vessels made their cautious way through the subspace anomalies and eventually into clear space.
Will was on the Bridge when the officer at tactical said quietly,
"Commander? There is a message coming through, from the Calypso."
Will turned in his seat and frowned.
"The Calypso? Nothing from Doctor Picard's runabout?"
"No, Sir."
He stood and pointed to Jean-Luc's office.
"I'll take it in the Ready Room."
"Aye, Sir."
He settled himself behind the desk and turned the monitor to face him. He was a little surprised to see Data.
"Hello, Commander Riker."
Will summoned a smile, but he couldn't keep the worry from his eyes.
"Hello, Data. Are the Picards with you?"
With a smile, Data nodded.
"They are, Sir, however both Captain and Doctor Picard require medical assistance."
Will stomach soured.
"I see. Are they all right? Is it urgent?"
Shaking his head, Data did his best to allay his Commander's fears.
"No, Sir, it is not urgent as such, however it would be beneficial if you could bring the Enterprise to meet us."
With a grim nod of his head, Will's mind began to make the necessary calculations to be able to help his friends. Softly grunting, he rubbed his brow. Data said softly,
"Will it cause problems for you, Sir?"
Summoning a warm smile, Will shook his head.
"Nothing I can't handle."
He looked up and raised his voice slightly,
"Con, do you have a fix on the Calypso?"
"Aye, Sir…in fact there are two ships, the Calypso and a class three runabout, Sir."
"Acknowledged. Set course for the ships and engage at warp five."
"Aye, Sir."
"ETA?"
"Six point three hours, Commander."
"Thank you, Riker out."
Will turned his attention back to the screen.
"Did you hear that, Data?"
"Yes, Sir. We will continue on our present course and speed. Rendezvous will be as stipulated."
With a curt nod, Will continued.
"What are their injuries?"
"Captain Picard requires surgery to repair a broken arm and a broken rib. He also has a lacerated lung and at present has a tube inserted to treat a pneumothorax. He is unconscious due to blood loss, however I expect him to regain consciousness soon. Doctor Picard suffered a severe laceration to the throat. We have treated the laceration, but the internal structure of her larynx has been damaged, necessitating surgical repair. She too has suffered a significant blood loss which we are treating. She also has a serious burn to her left breast, the result of a blaster hit. The baby has been the subject of medical exploration and has several open wounds, including the excision of her ovaries. She is responding slowly to maternal care and feeding."
Will nodded thoughtfully and scratched his beard.
"And the boys?"
"Both Paul and David are unharmed."
Will sighed.
"At least that's something. Okay, I'll alert Selar, we'll be waiting for you."
Data nodded.
"Thank you, Sir. Data out."
Will sat back, put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.
"Thank God they're all right and on their way home."
He smiled to himself and tapped his comm. badge.
"Riker to Riker."
Deanna giggled as she answered the hail.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to that."
Growling amusedly, Will muttered,
"You'd better get used to it, Mrs.Riker."
Deanna sighed and he could hear the sultriness in her voice when she purred,
"Can you come to our quarters…right now?"
He sighed, trying to keep the smug smirk off his face.
"You know I can't at the moment, I'm on duty, but I do have good news for you."
She was churlish as she responded.
"What?"
"The Picards have contacted us. They're on their way home."
Deanna brightened immediately.
"Oh, Will, that's wonderful news! When will they get here?"
"It'll be about six hours but I have to warn you Dee, both Beverly and the Captain have been injured and from what Data told me, the baby has been hurt too."
He clearly heard the alarm in her voice when she asked,
"How badly are they hurt?"
Will sighed.
"Data said it's not too bad, but all three of them need surgical assistance."
"Damn. Okay, I'll be ready when they arrive. Are the boys all right?"
That made Will grin.
"Yep, apparently they're unharmed."
"Okay, Will, I'll meet you in Sickbay when they get here."
"Understood, Riker out."
The big man stood and went back onto the Bridge.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc became aware of soft voices and he smiled, recognising his sons.
He opened his eyes and tried to say something, but his voice wouldn't work. With a frown he softly cleared his throat, the noise making the boys see that he was awake. David smiled at his father, saying softly,
"Hi, Papa, how do you feel?"
Jean-Luc tried his voice again, finding that it now worked, but was deep and husky.
"I'm fine, thank you, David."
The boy grinned.
"You always say that, Papa."
Jean-Luc frowned.
"Say what, thank you?"
That made David chuckle.
"No. You always say, 'I'm fine.'"
With his eyebrows raised, Jean-Luc smiled.
"Oh yes, I suppose I do."
Paul leaned over his father and offered him a drink of water.
"Mum says you might be thirsty."
He sat up slowly and took the glass, nodding at his son.
"Yes I am thank you, Paul."
He drained the glass, grateful not only for the deliciously cold water, but the opportunity to rid his mouth of the unpleasant taste of blood. Just as he finished his drink, Beverly came into the room, carrying Etoile. Jean-Luc smiled at seeing the baby waving her arms about in an uncoordinated fashion.
"She seems to be getting stronger."
Beverly sat on the bed and made herself comfortable before baring her breast whispering,
"Yes. When I was changing her she was very active."
The baby latched on and began to feed. Jean-Luc watched for a few minutes before asking,
"How long was I unconscious?"
Looking up, Beverly frowned.
"About an hour."
"I see. And why did I lose consciousness?"
Beverly gave him a look of frank incredulity.
"Blood loss, you idiot! I told you you were losing too much blood, but did you believe me? No!"
Jean-Luc sighed and tried to keep the exasperation out of his voice.
"I did believe you, Beverly, but there were more important things to consider than my health."
Beverly snorted.
"Bullshit! You always do that, Jean-Luc and it drives me nuts!"
Knowing that to continue in this vein was pointless; Jean-Luc instead changed the subject.
"I take it we are underway?"
Paul, seeing his father's tactic for what it was, grinned at the man and nodded.
"Yeah, we're in clear space, heading for a rendezvous with the Enterprise."
With a decisive nod, Jean-Luc went to get up. Beverly's sharp whisper stopped him in his tracks.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Sighing and trying to not sound too exasperated, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"I'm going to the cockpit to check on our progress."
Etoile had finished with the breast and Beverly was transferring her to the other. The Doctor speared her husband with an uncompromising look and shook her head.
"No you're not."
About to remonstrate with his wife, Jean-Luc's eyes darkened and his face became unreadable.
"Now look, Beverly…"
The red head would have none of it. She straightened her shoulders and said forcefully,
"As your Doctor, as your CMO and as your wife, I'm ordering you to stay in bed! We meet with the Enterprise in a few hours, Jean-Luc; it won't kill you to rest."
"But…"
She shook her head vehemently.
"No! You are bleeding into your lung, Jean-Luc, and nothing short of surgery is going to fix it. The more you exert yourself, the more you bleed. Stay in bed!"
He clamped his mouth shut and glowered, but Beverly was unmoved. He took a calming breath and summoned a reasonable tone.
"May I speak with Data?"
Smiling and offering a gracious nod, Beverly whispered quietly,
"Of course you can, my love."
Before he could call the android, Paul stood and said,
"I'll get him, Papa."
A little confused by his son's actions, nevertheless, Jean-Luc nodded and smiled.
"Thank you, Paul."
As the boy left the room, David confided,
"Paul likes to think he can fly the ship while Data leaves the cockpit."
"Oh."
David nodded.
"Yeah, he has this fantasy about being on the Enterprise Bridge and taking over during a crisis."
Jean-Luc frowned, and softly admonished his younger son.
"Should you be telling us this?"
The boy shrugged.
"Probably not, but you're not going to tell anyone, are you."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc wagged a finger at David.
"Nevertheless, I'm sure your brother wouldn't be very happy about you telling us. Have a bit of respect for his privacy."
David shrugged again, but said nothing more.
Data walked into the room coming to stand at the foot of the bed.
"Paul said you wished to speak with me, Sir?"
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Yes, Data. I have been informed we are on track to rendezvous with the Enterprise in a matter of hours."
Data inclined his head.
"Yes, Sir. I have been in contact with Commander Riker and he has agreed to divert the Enterprise to meet us."
Jean-Luc's brow creased in a deep frown.
"He's diverting? Did he say it would impact on his current mission?"
Data shrugged.
"No, Sir. He told me it would be all right. By the sound of his voice and the expression on his face, I would hazard a guess that he is very pleased to be able to assist in bringing you and your family…home."
With a grunt, Jean-Luc rubbed his brow.
"That may be so, Data, but diverting a ship from her mission for what is really nothing more than a simple pick up…I can't say I approve."
Data wisely stayed silent, but Beverly sighed and whispered,
"Jean-Luc you know how worried Will has been! The mission the ship is currently undertaking is not really all that important. I'm sure the colonists wouldn't begrudge us a few hours of the Enterprise's time."
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Still…"
Just then, Paul called from the cockpit.
"Papa?"
"Yes?"
"There's ship approaching at high warp."
Jean-Luc frowned and looked at Data.
"Is it the Enterprise, Paul?"
"No, Papa. It's another ship."
Data held up his hand.
"I will go and see what it is, Sir."
With an absent nod, Jean-Luc replied,
"Thank you, Mr.Data, keep me informed."
"Aye, Sir."
Minutes later, Data called from the cockpit.
"Data to Captain Picard."
"Picard here, Data, go ahead."
"Sir, I cannot identify the ship, nor is it answering our hails."
Jean-Luc rubbed his fingers over his lower lip.
"Time to intercept?"
"Two point four hours, Captain."
"Time to our rendezvous with the Enterprise?"
"Three point eight hours, Sir."
With his dark hazel eyes glittering, Jean-Luc's worried expression made Beverly frown.
"What is it, Jean-Luc?"
He turned to his wife and sighed.
"It could be that the aliens called for help."
Realisation dawned and Beverly gasped.
"Oh hell."
Jean-Luc lifted his head and said,
"Data, contact the Enterprise. Tell them to increase to warp seven."
"Aye, Sir."
Beverly placed Etoile over her shoulder and gently patted her back.
"Are you expecting trouble?"
Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly. He looked into Beverly's eyes and said softly,
"I hope not, but if their intent is belligerent, at least the Enterprise will be here."
Nodding absently, Beverly whispered,
"I thought we were home free."
Jean-Luc summoned a smile and took her hand.
"We'll be fine, I'm sure."
David moved closer to his father and shivered.
"If that ship is one of the alien's, we're going to be in deep shit."
Jean-Luc glowered at his son and the boy lowered his head and blushed.
"Sorry, Papa."
Beverly tried to divert her husband but he was having none of it.
"I will not tolerate such language from you, David."
The boy lifted his head long enough to see the anger in his father's eyes. He swallowed and tried to not tremble.
"I'm really sorry, Papa…I'm just scared, that's all."
Taking a deep, calming breath, Jean-Luc said softly,
"We're all concerned, David, but I think I understand your lapse. Just make sure it doesn't happen again."
David lifted his head again and smiled.
"Yes, Papa…thank you."
Jean-Luc turned his attention to his wife.
"Beverly, I'm going to the cockpit. Take this drip out please."
She saw the determination in his eyes, but still tried to dissuade him.
"But Jean-Luc…"
He shook his head.
"I won't be doing much more than sitting quietly, my love, but I need to be there."
She knew arguing would be pointless. With his family at stake, Jean-Luc would do anything to protect them. In silence, Beverly slid the cannula out of Jean-Luc's vein and looked at him as she whispered,
"If you get light headed, get back to me pronto."
He gave her a quick kiss and nodded.
"Understood."
He got up and slipped on a pair of trousers and a shirt. As he left the room, he said,
"David, I want you to stay here with your mother and sister."
The boy nodded solemnly.
"Yes, Papa."
He winked at the boy.
"It will be all right, David."
The boy summoned a wan smile.
"I know, Papa."
Beverly blew him a kiss and said softly,
"Good luck, my love."
He nodded and left the room.

 

 

 

On the Bridge of the Enterprise, the officer at Tactical frowned and rechecked her console before lifting her head and saying softly,
"Commander? There's another ship approaching the Calypso on an intercept course at high warp."
Will sat up and barked,
"Can we get a visual?"
"Not yet, Sir."
The First officer grunted.
"Hail them."
Scant seconds passed before the young officer shook her head.
"No response, Sir."
Will stood and glared at the viewscreen.
"I don't think this is a coincidence. Hail them again, all languages, all frequencies."
"All languages, all frequencies, aye, Sir."
The officer again shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Commander, there's still no response."
With his hands on his hips, Will snorted.
"Hail the Calypso."
Within seconds Jean-Luc's voice filled the Bridge.
"Picard here, Will. I take it you have detected the other ship."
Will smiled.
"Yes, Captain. They are refusing to answer our hails."
"Understood, we have tried too."
Will sighed.
"As per your order, we have increased speed, Captain, but we won't reach you before the other ship."
Will heard Jean-Luc sigh.
"I know, Will."
"So what do you think they want?"
Jean-Luc's voice grew deeper.
"To be honest, I don't know, but if it's retribution we'll have a fight on our hands."
Alarm filled the Exec.
"But, Captain…you only have phasers."
There was a trace of amusement in Jean-Luc's voice when he replied,
"I know."
Will couldn't help but grin at the man's quiet courage.
"Sir, drop the runabout and see if you can out run them. After all, the Calypso is capable of warp nine."
There was an episode of coughing before an out-of-breath Jean-Luc managed,
"I am aware of that, Number One, but I would like to see if I can talk our way out of this."
Knowing that his Captain would always prefer to negotiate rather than fight, Will nodded.
"Understood, Captain."
There was weariness in Jean-Luc's voice when he muttered,
"Wish us luck, Will. Picard out."
To the closed channel Will sighed,
"Good luck, Captain. I think you're going to need it."

 

 

 

 

Paul stood at the cockpit door and looked worriedly at his father's slumped form. Data hovered at his Captain's side, one hand resting on the older man's shoulder.
"Papa…are you all right?"
On hearing his son's voice, Jean-Luc straightened and cleared his throat, swallowing the blood in his mouth.
"I'm fine, Paul, just a little tired."
The boy came into the cockpit and stood by his father's side. Jean-Luc summoned a smile and ruffled the boy's hair.
"You should be with your mother."
Paul shrugged, never taking his eyes off his father.
"David is with her, she's okay."
Jean-Luc was about to say more when Paul said softly,
"You a very pale, Papa…and there is blood on your lips."
Wiping at his mouth, Jean-Luc stifled his dismay at seeing how worried his son was.
"Really, Paul, it's nothing. Why don't you go and help your mother look after Etoile?"
A quiet determination settled on Paul, his dark hazel eyes, so like his father's, darkened.
"I want to stay with you."
Making sure he kept his tone light, Jean-Luc smiled and said,
"I appreciate that, Paul, but this isn't really your place."
Ignoring his father's words, Paul glanced at the monitor.
"When will they reach us?"
Deciding to tell the truth, Jean-Luc said softly,
"In about thirty minutes."
The boy looked into his father's eyes.
"What do you think they will do?"
Jean-Luc shrugged.
"I don't know."
Paul sighed.
"But it's likely they will be angry with us."
"Yes."
Paul closed his eyes, making one tear slip free. Jean-Luc took him in his arms as Paul whispered,
"I'm frightened, Papa."
Jean-Luc had never lied to his family and he didn't intend to start now.
"I don't know what's going to happen my sweet son, but I can tell you I will do everything in my power to protect you, your brother and sister and your mother."
Paul lifted his head and the love that shone in his eyes made Jean-Luc's artificial heart miss a beat.
"I know, Papa and I will protect you."
They hugged in silence before Paul gently pulled back and wiped his eyes.
"Can I stay with you, Papa?"
Casting Data a sideways glance, Jean-Luc sighed and nodded.
"All right, but if things get serious, I want you to go back to your mother…and no arguments."
A ghost of a smile emerged.
"Okay, Papa."
He patted his knee.
"Uncle Data needs his seat. Why don't you sit here?"
The smile grew.
"Thanks, Papa."
The blip on the screen that was the approaching ship grew steadily closer.

 

 

 

Still on their course for the rendezvous, everything was quiet on the little ship. The first inkling of any trouble came when a blast of green energy flashed past their bow. Alarms sounded and Jean-Luc barked,
"Come to a stop."
It wasn't as easy as it sounded, with the runabout behind them. Instead of coming to a quick halt, they had to slowly decrease their speed until they stopped. Data frowned at the monitor, then said softly,
"Registering all stop, Captain."
Jean-Luc nodded once.
"Thank you Mr.Data. Hail the approaching ship."
There was a brief silence before a guttural voice was heard.
"You will prepare for boarding."
With a lowering frown, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Who are you and why do you wish to board us?"
"We are of the Gyerrin Alliance. You are guilty of killing one of our archaeology parties."
Briefly closing his eyes, Jean-Luc sighed shallowly.
"I admit we found it necessary to defend ourselves, but I assure you it was self defence."
"That is immaterial. You killed all seven of our number. You must pay."
Jean-Luc grimaced.
"As I said, our actions were taken in self defence."
The reply made his blood run cold.
"Prepare to be boarded!"
His voice low and deep, Jean-Luc said sharply,
"Shields up, ready phasers."
"Shields up, phasers ready, Captain."
"Data, retract tractor beam and put the runabout between us and the approaching ship."
With a curt nod, Data complied.
"Aye, Captain."
They had just taken up position when the runabout disintegrated in a bright ball of intense energy. Jean-Luc squinted in the vivid light and barked,
"Lay in a course to intercept the Enterprise and engage at warp nine."
"Aye, Sir."
As the little ship made the jump to warp, three deadly blasts of energy flashed through the space she had just occupied. Even through the warp field surrounding the ship, the back wash of the blasts rocked her.
Jean-Luc, his eyes glued to the viewscreen, gritted his teeth as the sensors showed the alien ship was in hot pursuit. He opened a channel to the Enterprise.
"This is Picard. Increase speed to warp nine!"
He heard Will's tense reply,
"Acknowledged, Captain, increasing velocity to warp nine. We will be with you in twenty three minutes. Riker out."
Data voice was soft and calm in the tense cockpit.
"The alien ship is at warp nine point five. It will overtake us in fifteen point four minutes."
Jean-Luc muttered darkly,
"Merde!"
He was about to say more when Data's tight voice said,
"They are firing!"
"Evasive manoeuvrers! Picard delta four!"
"Aye, Captain, evasive manoeuvrers, Picard, delta four."
Even though the inertial dampeners were at maximum, the occupants still felt the sharp turns the little ship made. The following torpedoes stuck to her flight path, regardless of her efforts to shake them. With his eyes still on the tactical display, Jean-Luc said quietly,
"Data, can you target the torpedoes with our phasers?"
The android nodded, but frowned deeply.
"Yes, Captain, but to do so we would have to fly for a short period of time in a straight line."
Jean-Luc sighed shallowly, then offered a grim smile.
"Thereby giving our adversary a clear line of fire."
"Yes, Sir."
"But we would be able to destroy the pursuing torpedoes."
"Yes, Captain."
Jean-Luc cast his Second Officer a speculative look and gave a single nod.
"Do it."
The Calypso ceased her convoluted course and straightened out in level flight. Data inputted some commands and said quietly,
"Incoming. Targeting now…firing."
The little ship was buffeted by the blasts astern. Jean-Luc watched the annihilation on the screen and nodded with satisfaction.
"That may make them think twice."
Data raised his eye brows and pulled down the corners of his mouth.
"Only until they are in phaser range, Captain."
Jean-Luc gave a weary sigh.
"I know. Open a channel to the alien ship, Mr.Data."
"Aye, Sir…channel open."
He took a steadying breath and set his jaw.
"Alien ship, this is the Calypso. Cease firing. Surely we can talk about this?"
The reply was a blast of columnated energy on the aft shields. She shuddered, the lights momentarily dimming. Jean-Luc growled and tried again.
"Alien ship, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise. I am sure you have my ship on your sensors. She will be here in less than ten minutes. Do you really want this to be a preamble to war between our peoples?"
There were several seconds of silence before the alien responded.
"Captain Picard, not only have you and your party killed seven of our number, you accuse us of pre-empting a war when it is you who have violated our space! Stand to and prepare to be boarded!"
Jean-Luc rubbed a hand over his head in exasperation.
"Alien ship, we did not know this was your space. All you had to do was ask us to leave and we would have obliged. We will not stand to, we have done nothing wrong."
"Then prepare to be destroyed."
Three more deadly blasts impacted on the aft shields. The little ship staggered and began to lose warp power. Five torpedoes flickered across space, Data managed to destroy four of them before the last hit with devastating force. The blue light of the port nacelle extinguished and the Calypso dropped out of warp. Jean-Luc, waving away the smoke that was filling the cockpit, coughed raggedly and gasped,
"Paul, go back to your mother. Data, keep the shields up. ETA for the Enterprise?"
"Eight minutes, Captain."
"Right. Have we impulse power?"
"Yes, Sir."
"Then take evasive action, Kirk, epsilon phi two."
"Aye, Captain. Evasive manoeuvrers, Kirk, epsilon phi two."
They were thrown about in their seats. Jean-Luc slapped his comm. badge.
"Beverly, obviously the inertial dampeners have been damaged. Hold on, it's going to get rough. Picard out."

 

 

 

Beverly got off the bed and went to the crib. She replaced the lid, sealed it and turned on the oxygen flow. Next she gestured to the boys to come closer and when they did she whispered,
"We need to shelter here, in the corner. Get the mattress and pillows off the bed."
They did as she asked and she used them to create a wall around them.
"Right," she whispered. "We hold on to one another…and hope for the best."
They snuggled together around the crib and Paul grimaced.
"I hope I don't wet my pants this time."
David offered a sickly smile.
"If you do, so will I."
Beverly gave a raspy chuckle and shook her head.
"If it gets that bad, I think we all will!"

 

 

 

"Get me a visual!"
The officer at tactical nodded and quickly brought up the images on the viewscreen. The Calypso was being hammered again and again by deadly blasts of bright green energy.
"Geordi, this is the Bridge. Can we get any more out of the engines?"
"No, Commander, we're at warp nine point seven. That's all I can give you."
Will scowled at the viewscreen and barked,
"ETA?"
"Eight minutes, Sir."
Will ran an exasperated hand through his short dark hair.
"Hang on, Captain…we're coming."

 

 

 

Not bothering with hygiene, Jean-Luc spat the blood from his mouth onto the floor. Thick smoke occluded his vision and his wracking coughs caused considerable pain as well as increased bleeding. He hung on grimly to his console as he barked orders to Data.
"See if you can get around behind them, Data, and target their weapons array."
"Aye, Sir, but with our inertial dampeners inoperative it will be somewhat…uncomfortable."
Another blast shook the little ship. Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and had to shout to be heard.
"Just do it!"
Despite his grip on the console, the violent manoeuvre threw him to the deck. He felt the tube in his chest dislodge and he grimaced in pain. Unable to regain his seat, Jean-Luc clung to the seat's base and smiled grimly as Data reported calmly,
"Direct hit on the aft weapons array. Significant damage inflicted."
Again spitting out blood, Jean-Luc gasped,
"Stay behind them, Data and see if you can target their plasma exhaust. If we can ignite it, we may be able to cripple them."
A violent explosion rocked the ship, dislodging Data from his seat. With remarkable agility, he regained his chair and said grimly,
"Life support has failed, Captain. We are venting oxygen and plasma. A warp core breach is imminent."
"Eject the core! Do we still have phasers?"
Data hung on as another blast impacted on their almost non-existent shields.
"Ejecting the core, Captain. Yes, we have phasers, but only at seventy-five percent of full power."
Finding it increasingly difficult to speak, Jean-Luc's eyes streamed in the smoke as he gasped,
"See if you can lure the alien ship close to the core, then hit it with our phasers!"
"Aye, Sir."
Again the little ship underwent tortuous manoeuvrers to lure their larger adversary close to the warp core. Jean-Luc's strength was waning as Data ground out,
"Firing phasers."
There was a vividly bright light as the warp core exploded. The alien ship was caught in the blast radius and rolled end over end. Data used his super human strength to grip his console while warning,
"Hang on, Captain."
The accelerating blast radius hit the Calypso like a giant hammer. The starboard nacelle was torn off and the hull fractured as the little ship was tossed like a leaf in a storm. With the inertial dampeners off line, there was nothing to stop the human occupants from being thrown about the interior of the ship. When she finally stopped rolling, she was filled with smoke and in complete darkness. Data managed to squeeze out from under his ruined console to find his Captain lying unconscious and bleeding near the door.
The android checked his Captain's pulse before making his way through the ship to the bedroom. There he found Beverly and the boys, all unconscious.
Utilising his enhanced night vision, he checked each person and placed them in the recovery position. He then checked the baby, finding her crying loudly in her crib. She seemed to be all right, so he left her to return to the cockpit.
Nothing was working, but the bright orange light of a Federation phaser lit up the blackness of space. The Enterprise loomed into view, crippling the alien ship with five well-placed phaser blasts.
Data tapped his comm. badge.
"Calypso to Enterprise."
It was Will who answered.
"Enterprise here, Data. We will tractor you into the main Shuttle Bay."
"Thank you, Commander, but you need to transport five to Sick Bay immediately."
"Understood, locking on now."

 

 

 

Beverly woke up and groaned. She knew instinctively that she was in the Enterprise Sick Bay, but her body hurt all over. She cracked her eyes open and lifted her right hand, only to discover her arm was encased in a cast. She detected movement and blinked to clear her vision. Selar gently lifted Beverly's head and offered a drink.
"Thank you."
The Vulcan nodded and placed the now empty glass on the bench.
"You will want to know how your family are."
Struggling to sit up, Beverly winced and nodded.
"Yes."
Selar clasped her hands in front of her and Beverly found her unruffled demeanour oddly calming.
"Captain Picard has undergone surgery and is at present sedated. He is receiving whole blood intravenously and, as well as the injuries to his arm and rib, the left lung was severely lacerated and both lungs received significant damage due to smoke inhalation. He also has a significant head injury, resulting in a sub dural haematoma. All his injuries have been repaired and I expect a complete recovery. I intend to keep him here in Sick Bay for at least three days."
Beverly tried to contain a smile a failed.
"I see. Well, I wish you luck! And now, my children?"
Selar raised one perfect eyebrow and sighed.
"Paul has two broken ribs, a broken ankle and a mild concussion. He has been successfully treated and can be discharged at any time. David has a broken right wrist, torn anterior ligaments in his left knee and, like his brother, a mild concussion. He too can be discharged at any time. Your infant daughter received no serious injuries. She has been treated for mild bruising and is awaiting a feed."
Beverly beamed.
"Fine, bring her to me please. And me?"
Selar actually summoned a small smile.
"You have a broken right arm, fractured pelvis and a mild to severe concussion. I have repaired the damage to your larynx; I foresee no ongoing problems there. You also have serious bruising to most areas of your body. I recommend you undergo full regen treatments."
Beverly's smile turned to a scowl.
"And how long will that take?"
With a twinkle in her eye, Selar said wryly,
"A few hours, Doctor, you already have had a long treatment."
Somewhat mollified, Beverly's face changed into a smile of tenderness as a nurse brought in her fussing daughter, followed by her sons.
As the Doctor took the baby in her arms, Paul watched as David sat on the side of Beverly's bed.
She looked them over and frowned.
"No casts?"
Selar shook her head.
"No, Doctor. Their breaks were simple ones. The osteo fuser was sufficient."
Beverly looked pointedly at her right arm. Selar sighed.
"Your break is not a simple one, Doctor. There was displacement of the bone and, because of your age, I felt a short time in a cast would be beneficial."
Beverly snorted, while her boys grinned.
"How long?"
"Twenty-four hours."
As the red head bared a breast and offered her nipple to her daughter, Selar quietly left the room. The family were silent for a while before Paul sighed.
"I'll look in on Papa, Mum. I don't like seeing him…well…you know."
Beverly smiled sympathetically.
"I know, Paul. I hate seeing him like that too."
David scratched his nose and asked,
"So what happened?"
Beverly shrugged.
"I don't know."
Paul raised his eyebrows to enquire,
"Can you find out?"
Sighing and rolling her eyes, Beverly lifted her head and called,
"Picard to Riker."
The reply was instantaneous.
"Riker here, Beverly. It's good to hear your voice."
Beverly smiled.
"You too, Will. So tell me…what's going on?"
"We are at present standing by to offer assistance to the alien ship."
With a frown, Beverly had to shush her fidgeting sons.
"Have they surrendered?"
She could hear amusement in Will's voice as he replied,
"Not exactly. Despite being dead in the water, they have warned us to deactivate our weapons and stand to as we are in their space and are considered belligerent intruders."
Chuckling softly, Beverly raised her eyebrows.
"What a cheek! Talk about attitude. Do you know if they've called for reinforcements?"
It was Will who chuckled next.
"They can't. We're blocking their sub space signals."
Laughing out loud, Beverly's blue eyes danced with merriment.
"Oh, I bet that went down well."
"Tell me about it! They have more chutzpah than the Klingons!"
Sobering slightly, Beverly sighed.
"So what now?"
"We wait and see. One thing's for sure, I'd like the Captain to talk to them before they repair their ship. One way or another, I think we should try to resolve this issue."
Nodding slowly, Beverly's eyes darkened.
"I agree, Will. They have to be made to understand that we did what we did due to self defence…and they should be made aware that they can't go around abducting people for their scientific experiments."
"Agreed, Doctor. So how are you and the boys?"
Beverly smiled at her sons.
"We're fine, Will."
"And the Captain?"
"Asleep at the moment, but he'll be okay."
"That's great, Beverly. I'll come down as soon as I can. Riker out."
As the comm. was closed, Paul smiled down at his little sister.
"She's feeding really well now, isn't she."
Beverly nodded, looking down at the baby with a tender smile on her face.
"Yes. Once we take care of her wounds she'll be as good as new."
She looked at her elder son and grinned.
"In fact….Picard to Data."
"Data here, Doctor, go ahead."
Her eyes once again on her baby, Beverly said quietly,
"Data, I think it's time we rid Etoile of the EM residue."
"Acknowledged, Doctor. I am on my way. Data out."

 

 

 

There was a moderate crowd surrounding the medical transporter. Beverly held Etoile in her arms as Data and Geordi inputted instructions into the computer. Data turned to Beverly to explain.
"As you know, the medical transporter differs from the ship's main transporter significantly."
Beverly nodded.
"Yes. Instead of being used to transport people and things from one place to another, the medical transporter is only used to transport objects out of bodies."
Data nodded.
"Yes and as such, it lacks the power of the main transporter. Also, it has no Heisenberg compensators because we are not trying to transport through moving space. However, the pattern buffers are both the same and it is with those that we hope to rid your daughter of the electro-magnetic residue."
Geordi finished his calculations and smiled at the Doctor.
"What Data has figured out is that we dematerialise your daughter and hold her in the pattern buffer while the computer analyses her molecular make up. It will identify and remove the EM residue based on the parameters I have set."
Beverly offered a tentative smile.
"And how long will it take?"
Geordi sighed and scratched his temple.
"Well…I don't know exactly, but because she's of little mass, I doubt it will be more than a few minutes."
Data nodded.
"I agree. In any event, we can safely keep her in the pattern buffer for as long as thirty minutes if we have to, but I doubt that will be necessary."
Beverly looked down at her sleeping daughter and sighed.
"So are we ready?"
Geordi nodded and pointed to the bio bed.
"Yep, just lay her down there."
Beverly gently lay her precious bundle down and stood back. Paul took her hand and David looked up and said,
"It's okay, Mum, Uncle Data and Uncle Geordi will fix her."
Sniffing back a tear, Beverly summoned a brave smile and nodded.
"All right…make it so."
Watching her daughter dematerialise was heart wrenching. Paul squeezed Beverly's hand as the wait began.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc knew where he was when he awoke, but instead of opening his eyes or moving, he opted to lie quietly so he could assess himself.
He felt the tell-tale soreness of repaired muscle and bone and he had a bad headache but generally he felt well. Knowing that any movement would trigger an alarm, he decided his first move would to sit up. As expected, as soon as he moved, the quiet alarm sounded. He was almost sitting up when Selar arrived.
"Captain Picard, I would like you to lie down."
His voice was deep and gravelly, but it held the unmistakable ring of command.
"That may be so, Doctor, but I wish to sit up."
A human may have showed their displeasure with the stubborn man, but being a Vulcan, Selar merely raised one perfect eyebrow.
"The regeneration beams work best if the patient is lying flat."
Jean-Luc looked around him and summoned a wry smile.
"There doesn't seem to be any regen beams on at the moment."
"You are correct, Captain, however you are due for a regen treatment now."
Jean-Luc held up one hand.
"Please, Doctor, first tell me how my family are."
Knowing he would not bend on this issue, Selar gave a curt nod.
"Your wife and sons have been treated for their injuries, which were not life-threatening and are due to be released from Sick bay. Your daughter is at present being treated to remove the electro-magnetic residue in her body. If successful, her surgery to repair her injuries will commence immediately afterward."
Absently rubbing his temple, Jean-Luc sighed. It was a small gesture, but Selar knew the man well enough to know it signalled he was in pain. She took a scanner out of her pocket and swept it around his head. She checked the readout on her tricorder and tilted her head.
"You have a headache, Captain."
Jean-Luc tried to wave her away.
"It's nothing, really."
His eyes were closed when the hiss of a hypospray caught his attention. He gave an enquiring look and Selar elaborated.
"That was an analgesic, Captain. You sustained a serious head injury, resulting in a sub dural haematoma. It has been successfully repaired, but the underlying brain tissue is still slightly bruised. You will be experiencing headaches for a few days to come. I expect you to seek medical intervention when they occur."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"I see. Is there anything else I need to know?"
Selar gave a nod.
"Yes, Captain. As well as the regen treatments, you will be receiving regular oxygen infusions. Your lungs were badly damaged by smoke inhalation. I have repaired the damage but lung tissue is very fragile. Until full integration of the tissue takes place, I will augment your lung function with oxygen therapy. I have also repaired your eyes."
With a sinking feeling, Jean-Luc realised he was going to be stuck in Sick Bay. Rather than argue, he sighed and asked softly,
"How long will I have to stay?"
"I envisage three days, perhaps more, depending on how you respond to treatment."
He scowled, but held his anger at bay.
"When can I see my family?"
Selar offered a slight bow.
"I will let them know you are awake, Captain."
She left the room and Jean-Luc looked at the ceiling, trying to stay calm. But he muttered darkly,
"Three bloody days! God…give me strength!"

 

 


Geordi's eyes were glued to the readouts as the procedure went ahead. Data manned the console that controlled the transporter while Beverly and the boys looked on. Selar quietly approached her boss and said softly,
"Doctor Picard, Captain Picard is awake."
Smiling at her fellow Doctor, Beverly said wryly,
"I suppose he's complaining already?"
Selar inclined her head.
"Although he has not voiced his displeasure, I am aware of it. He has asked to see you."
Beverly nodded, returning her attention to the transporter.
"I expected as much. I can't leave here at the moment, but I'm sure the boys would like to see their father."
Both Paul and David heard their mother and nodded. Beverly grinned at them.
"Okay, go, but be warned…your father may be a touch grumpy."
The boys wasted no time in speaking. Instead they both nodded enthusiastically and left. Beverly was about to ask Selar something when Data said quietly,
"I believe we have had success."
Geordi checked his screen and nodded.
"I think you're right, Data. Rematerialise."
The whine of the transporter was unmistakable and all eyes went to the bed as the tiny form of the baby coalesced into a solid shape. As she rematerialised, the sound of crying became evident. At a nod from Data, Beverly went to her daughter and gently picked her up.
"Now, now mon chou…all is well my little one."
Selar stepped closer and watched as Beverly offered the baby the knuckle of her finger to suck. When she had quietened, Geordi scanned her. Beverly watched as he checked the readouts on his tricorder. His wide grin showed their success.
"Is it all eradicated?"
The dark engineer nodded.
"Yep, Doc. She is clear of the EM residue."
Beverly turned her attention to Data and said softly,
"Thank you, dear friend."
Data smiled, his golden eyes twinkling. Selar said quietly,
"Do you wish to feed her before the surgery?"
Beverly shook her head.
"No, she will get more benefit and comfort from a feed afterwards."
Selar gave a curt nod.
"In that case, we will proceed immediately. Do you wish to assist, Doctor?"
Beverly smiled and she placed a gentle kiss on Etoile's forehead.
"Yes."
"Then follow me."

 

 

 

Although the pain of his headache had diminished, the general soreness throughout his body was making Jean-Luc irritable. He was about to call a nurse when the door chime sounded. Jean-Luc knew none of the medical personnel would sound the chime and he also knew neither would Beverly, so he assumed it was either his children, or some other visitor. He straightened his bedclothes and called,
"Come."
Paul and David came in, wide grins on their faces. They said in unison,
"Hi, Papa."
Jean-Luc couldn't help but smile with paternal love and pride. He held his arms out and the boys hurried into his embrace. They hugged and Jean-Luc kissed the top of each boy's head. Paul sighed and snuggled further into his father's embrace.
"I'm so glad we're home, Papa."
David nodded.
"Me too."
The boys sat up and Jean-Luc's eyes shone.
"I heard you were injured."
Both boys nodded. They told their father what injuries they had and Jean-Luc sighed.
"I'm so sorry you were hurt. That was never supposed to happen."
Paul shrugged.
"It doesn't matter, Papa, we're all right now."
David took Jean-Luc's left arm and turned it over to better see the cannula in his vein.
"Does it hurt, Papa?
Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Not at all."
"And are you all fixed?"
He smiled and nodded.
"Yes, although I have to undergo some treatments which will keep me in Sick Bay for a few days yet."
With the bluntness of his age. David asked baldly,
"Is that why Mum said you'd be grumpy?"
Jean-Luc sighed and briefly closed his eyes.
"While I am not happy about having to stay here, I don't think I've been grumpy…have I?"
David grinned and shook his head. His more considerate brother tried to smooth his father's ruffled feathers.
"We know how much you hate being stuck in here, Papa, it's okay if you feel grumpy."
Jean-Luc took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds before letting it out slowly. He enunciated slowly and very clearly.
"I...am…not...grumpy."
Both boys clearly heard the underlying warning and immediately shut up. Jean-Luc saw the change and sighed, deciding a change of subject was needed.
"Tell me, how are your mother and sister?"
Paul looked up at his father and smiled.
"Mum's okay, but she has to have a cast on her arm until tomorrow."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"I see. And Etoile?"
Paul frowned, trying to form his answer, but David beat him to it.
"She's stuck in the transporter."
It didn't come out quite as he intended and the alarm he saw on his father's face made him wish he'd left it to his brother. Jean-Luc's strained…"What?" made Paul hurry to explain.
"It's okay, Papa…really! Do you remember that Mum had trouble with her wound because of an electro-magnetic residue in her body?"
Jean-Luc nodded silently.
"Well Etoile has the same problem."
Jean-Luc sighed and rubbed his forehead.
"Your mother was badly burned in the process to eliminate the EM residue."
Paul nodded vigorously.
"We know. Uncle Data figured out a way to use the medical transporter to get rid of the EM residue in Etoile. He said holding her in the pattern buffer while the computer analysed her molecular structure would be the best way to do it. Uncle Geordi set the parameters and they were doing it when we left."
Jean-Luc held up his hand, asking for silence.
Picard to Doctor Picard."
"Captain Picard, this is nurse Elders. Doctor Picard is in surgery. Can I take a message?"
Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.
"No, thank you, Picard out."
He frowned in thought, then said quietly,
"Picard to Data."
"Data here, Captain."
"Would you and Geordi report to my room, please?"
"Aye, Sir, on our way."
Paul smiled.
"They must have finished."
Jean-Luc nodded and smiled but the children could see the worry in his dark eyes. The door chimed and the boys sat up straight. Jean-Luc smiled his thanks, then said softly,
"Come."
The dark engineer was grinning as he came in.
"Hello, Captain, it's good to see you, Sir."
Jean-Luc's smile was a warm one.
"Thank you Geordi, it's good to be back."
Data came to stand beside his best friend and nodded his greeting.
"How are you, Sir?"
Dismissing the enquiry with a wave of his hand, Jean-Luc speared the android with an intense look.
"How is Etoile?"
Data offered a small smile, but his eyes glowed.
"She is well, Captain, although at present she is in surgery."
Slightly exasperated, Jean-Luc struggled to keep calm.
"You have eliminated the EM residue?"
Data nodded.
"Yes, Captain."
Geordi turned and grinned at the android.
"It was Data's idea, Captain. It worked a treat."
Looking at Data with respect and admiration, Jean-Luc smiled and let out a long breath.
"Thank you, Mr.Data."
Understanding the emotion behind the gesture, Data felt a flood of warmth pervade his body. He smiled, feeling pride and affection for his Captain.
"It was my pleasure, Captain."
There was another chime from the door. Everyone turned to look as Jean-Luc said,
"Come."
Will Riker entered, his large bulk making the room crowded. Geordi gently gripped Data's arm, urging him towards the door.
"If it's all right with you, Captain, we'll be getting back to our duties."
Jean-Luc's face wasn't smiling, but his eyes shone with warmth.
"That's fine, thank you again."
Once the officers had gone, Will approached the bed and ruffled the boy's hair.
"You two have had an adventure."
David grinned, but Paul frowned.
"One I'd rather not repeat, Uncle Will."
David aimed a flick at his brother's head.
"You're such a scaredy cat, Paul. I can't wait to tell our friends about it…especially the part where you wet your pants!"
Paul hit his brother so fast no one could prevent it. Both boys slid off the bed and squared off. They ignored Will's efforts to diffuse the situation and it wasn't until Jean-Luc said with deceptive softness,
"Stop it."
That they lowered their raised hands and looked at their father. Jean-Luc pointed at David and said quietly,
"You will apologise to your brother."
Anger blazed in David's eyes, but he dare not disobey his father. He gave his brother a sullen glare and muttered ungraciously,
"Sorry."
Jean-Luc sighed and turned his attention to Paul.
"You will apologise for retaliating."
Outrage shone in Paul's eyes. He may have been the more quiet and studious of the two, but he would not tolerate injustice. Turning to face his father, he lifted his chin and looked boldly into his father's eyes. Will, watching quietly, was impressed, both by the boy's dignified courage and by how much like his father he was. Jean-Luc understood his son's feelings, but knew he had to make the boy see.
Paul struggled to keep his voice strong and steady as he said quietly,
"He started it, Papa. He should not have said what he did."
"No he shouldn't have, but neither should you have retaliated by hitting him. It only made matters worse."
Paul had begun to tremble and he strove to hide it.
"But Papa he humiliated me."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"Yes he did…and it was very unkind, but what good would it have done to get into a fight with him? Paul, violence solves nothing, it just breeds more violence."
Paul could see his father's point of view, but still anger burned brightly inside him.
"Then what am I supposed to do, Papa? Let my little brother humiliate me whenever he wants to?"
Jean-Luc smiled sadly and sighed. He then did something which at first confused Paul. He tapped his index finger against his left temple. Abruptly, Paul understood. A small smile appeared as he gave a nod.
"Use my intellect. I understand, Papa, thank you."
The boy turned to his younger brother, his face as unreadable as his father's often was.
"You are a dweeb, David, but I'm sorry for hitting you."
Suspicious, David shrugged, but he froze when his father's quiet voice reached his ears.
"David, you will not tell anyone about what happened when the alien got into the runabout. Your brother deserves his privacy."
When David looked at his father, all resistance fled. He swallowed and nodded.
"Yes, Papa."
Jean-Luc offered a small smile.
"Now I have to talk to your Uncle about ship's business. You may wait for your mother, or you may return to our quarters."
The boys looked at each other and shrugged. It was Paul who suggested tentatively,
"Home?"
David nodded, so Paul turned to his father and said,
"We'll go home, Papa."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"I will let your mother know."
The boys silently left and Will chuckled quietly.
"That's the first time I've ever seen them nearly come to blows."
Jean-Luc sighed.
"It's getting worse as they get older. David knows exactly how to provoke Paul and he indulges whenever he feels the need."
The man sighed again.
"It pains me, Will. My brother bullied me mercilessly and there was a time when I hated him for it. I don't ever what that to happen between my sons."
Will smiled sadly and shook his head.
"I don't think it will happen, Captain. The boys are a lot like you and Beverly…and let's face it, you and she have had some monumental arguments over the years, but it never stopped you loving each other."
Jean-Luc smiled at that but Will could still see the worry in his eyes.
"You have a point, Number One, but I think it's different with two boys. Paul is usually very slow to anger, whereas David has a very short fuse and I freely admit, that mirrors Beverly and me, but when you take into account testosterone and the male need for dominance…"
He sighed again.
"To use the vernacular, with the boys everything's becoming a pissing contest."
Will grinned and took a chair, turning it around to straddle it, as was his custom.
"Well maybe their little sister will be a peace maker?"
Jean-Luc chuckled and rubbed his eyes.
"Or perhaps she will take after her mother and we will be facing world war IV?"
Will laughed and sighed.
"I hear you named her Etoile. That's French, isn't it? What does it mean?"
Jean-Luc sighed wistfully.
"Yes, it is French. It means, 'Star.'"
Giving a thoughtful nod, Will smiled.
"I like it."
Jean-Luc smiled, but then his face fell into his command visage.
"How is my ship?"
Will lost his grin.
"She's just fine, Captain."
"We received no damage?"
Will shook his head.
"No, Sir, in fact it took only a few well-placed phaser blasts to render the alien ship dead in the water. Your ploy with the warp core paid dividends."
Jean-Luc grunted.
"At great cost, Number One. Were you able to salvage the Calypso?"
Will offered a bleak smile.
"Yes, Sir, but I'm afraid she'll have to go to a space dock for repair."
With a sigh, Jean-Luc gently rubbed his temple. Will knew his CO as well as Selar did.
"Are you in pain, Captain?"
Giving a snort of irritation, Jean-Luc nodded.
"A damned headache."
"Want me to call a doctor?"
Shaking his head, Jean-Luc sighed.
"No thank you. What is the status of the alien ship?"
Not convinced he shouldn't summon medical help, Will folded his arms and grunted.
"They're affecting repairs. They told us to disarm our weapons and stand to."
Jean-Luc's head snapped up.
"Did they now? It seems they have an attitude."
"Yes, Sir."
"Did you comply?"
Will sighed and scratched the tip of his nose.
"Well, Sir, they did say we were acting belligerently in their space. As a gesture of good will, I powered down the phasers, but we still have a weapons lock on them and our shields are still up."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Prudent, Number One. So…are we in their space?"
Will shrugged.
"We can't verify it either way, we know absolutely nothing about these people, but…Data says there is a good chance they may be right. He has made a correlation between the artefacts you found, the items the last survey team found, and what you learned from the aliens on Herros IV."
Gently rubbing his fingers over his lower lip, Jean-Luc hummed thoughtfully.
"Do they have a name?"
Will nodded.
"Yes, Sir. They are the Gyerrin Alliance."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Ah yes, I remember now. An Alliance? That suggests more than one species. I wonder how vast their territory is?"
Will sighed.
"Either way, we need to find out, Captain. If these people want to make a habit of abducting and experimenting on other species, we need to know where their territory is so we can avoid it."
"Agreed, Number One. Do you think they're going to just let us leave?"
With a shrug, Will shook his head.
"I honestly don't know, but if their attitude is anything to go by, I doubt it."
Jean-Luc grunted and rubbed his temple again.
"So it's another diplomatic mine field."
Will sighed.
"Pretty much, Captain."
Coming to his decision, Jean-Luc's eyes hardened.
"Very well. Once they appear willing to talk, put them through to me."
Will nodded.
"Yes, Sir."
Jean-Luc looked up tiredly.
"Is there anything else?"
Will shook his head.
"No, Sir."
With a smile, Jean-Luc muttered,
"Dismissed, Number One."
As Will went through Sick Bay on his way out, he stopped the duty Doctor.
"James, Captain Picard has a bad headache."
The young man nodded.
"I'll see to it straight away, Commander, thank you."
Will grinned.
"No problem."

 

When Beverly came out of the surgery suite with Etoile in her arms, she looked around for her sons. Noting their absence, she assumed they were still with their father. She made a bee line for his room.
The door opened automatically for her and she smiled at her colleague as he gave his CO a hypospray. Jean-Luc's scowl faded as the medication took effect. Beverly waited until the doctor had left, then she perched herself on the side of Jean-Luc's bed. The Captain smiled up at his wife and gestured to the bundle in her arms.
"How is our little girl?"
In response, Beverly laid the baby on the bed and undid the blankets. Etoile stretched and opened her eyes, emitting a little gurgle. Only clad in a nappy, Jean-Luc could see her wounds had been healed. He looked up at Beverly and smiled.
"All better?"
She nodded, moisture deepening the blue of her eyes.
"Yes, all better."
Gently picking up his daughter, Jean-Luc cradled her against his chest and tenderly kissed the soft down on her head.
"Her ovaries?"
"Back where they should be."
He sighed.
"There will be no problems in later years?"
With a shake of her head, Beverly gently rubbed her fingers against the baby's cheek. Etoile turned her head and opened her mouth.
"No. Before I repaired the damage I ran some tests on her ovaries. There fine, she's just missing half a dozen eggs."
Jean-Luc kissed his little daughter again and sighed.
"I wish there had been some way to get them back to her."
Beverly smiled sympathetically.
"She won't miss them my love, she has plenty more."
With a nod of acceptance, Jean-Luc looked into his wife's eyes and said softly,
"And her hymen?"
Beverly's smile faltered.
"All fixed…she will never know."
Jean-Luc took Beverly's hand and squeezed it.
"But we'll know, won't we my love."
Sniffing back her tears, Beverly muttered bitterly,
"Those bastards."
Both Jean-Luc and Beverly sat in silence for a few moments, each thinking about the assault on their daughter. It was Etoile who broke the quiet with a cry. Snapped out of her reverie, Beverly put her arms out.
"She wants a feed."
Jean-Luc handed her back, then watched as Beverly bared her breast and offered her nipple. The baby latched on and began to suck contentedly.
As the baby suckled, Jean-Luc sighed wistfully. Beverly, although concentrating on Etoile, looked up at her husband and frowned.
"What is it?"
Jean-Luc shrugged and rubbed a hand over his head.
"Children are so simple at her age. A change of nappy, a feed and a cuddle and they're happy."
Knowing her husband as well as she did, Beverly knew there was more behind the words than mere observation. She gave a thoughtful nod, then said quietly,
"What's on your mind?"
He sighed again and shook his head.
"The boys."
Beverly lifted her head and sighed.
"What have they done now?"
His eyes darkening, Jean-Luc shook his head.
"Oh, nothing much, although they nearly came to blows. As they get older their relationship becomes more…combative."
He sighed again.
"I know brothers often become competitive, but I had hoped our boys would be more…"
Beverly grinned.
"Loving?"
With a snort, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Well not overtly I suppose, but yes, at least caring of each other if not loving."
Etoile had finished with the first breast and Beverly transferred her to the other. She took the time to think. She sighed and looked up at Jean-Luc, her smile a tender one.
"They do love each other, Jean-Luc and I think once they mature they will share a profound bond, but at the age they are now, you can't expect them to be…loving…at least not towards each other. Too much is going on in their development and…we have to take into account their characters. Paul is like you and David is like me. It's like a match and a bucket of gun powder."
Jean-Luc laid his head back on the pillows and looked up at the ceiling.
"And we've yet to get to their teen years. Oh God…"
Beverly chuckled and looked down at the baby. Her voice carried both amusement and worry.
"I think you're forgetting Etoile."
Jean-Luc looked at Beverly and frowned.
"Pardon?"
Beverly's smile grew.
"Speaking of teen years…have you considered boyfriends?"
Shock crossed Jean-Luc's face as he gaped, then snapped his mouth shut. Beverly giggled and bent to kiss the baby's cheek. Jean-Luc sighed heavily.
"I don't suppose we can lock her up between the ages of ten and twenty?"
With a wry chuckle, Beverly shook her head.
"No, I don't think so."
Just then a call came from the bridge.
"Riker to Captain Picard."
"Picard here, go ahead, Number One."
"The aliens are hailing us, Captain."
Beverly left the bed and pulled a monitor over to where Jean-Luc could access it. He smiled his thanks as she sat back on the bed, out of sight from the monitor.
"Put them through to this terminal, Will."
"Aye, Captain."
The Federation logo on the screen suddenly gave way to reveal a dreaded form. Although this was not the face of those who had assaulted them, it was familiar enough to send a shiver down Jean-Luc's spine. However, being the consummate diplomat he was, nothing of his dread showed in his face or his demeanour.
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. To whom am I speaking?"
There was a sibilant hiss as the alien glared at the screen.
"I am Liege Lord M'Roz, First of the Talon."
Jean-Luc offered a small smile.
"I am honoured to meet you, Lord M'Roz. May I ask your intentions towards my ship and her crew?"
The alien lifted its head and coughed up some phlegm, before spitting it onto the floor.
"You and I both know you have me at a disadvantage, Captain. Your ship is superior in weapons and shields…it is I who must ask, what are your intentions?"
Jean-Luc softened his face and allowed his smile to grow a little.
"We are members of the Federation of Planets. We are not belligerent; we require nothing from you but safe passage from this sector of space, which I presume is part of your territory."
The being bowed its head.
"It is."
"May I enquire, how big is your territory?"
By the baring of its formidable array of teeth, Jean-Luc assumed it was smiling.
"Our holdings are vast, Captain."
"I see. And is it your species' habit to abduct and experiment on other species who encroach on your territory?"
Jean-Luc had made a concerted effort to keep the anger and outrage from his voice, but the alien detected it anyway. It rose up, seeming to tower.
"You would presume to tell us how to behave in our own sectors of space? How dare you!"
Realising matters could quickly escalate out of control, Jean-Luc held up a placating hand.
"My apologies, Lord M'Roz. To ensure there are no further…misunderstandings of this nature, perhaps you could send us the boundaries of your territory so we can warn others to keep clear?"
There was an ominous silence, broken when the alien spat again.
"Agreed. We do not want trespassers. We will transmit the information, then you must leave and never return."
Jean-Luc bowed his head.
"As you wish, Lord, M'Roz."
As Jean-Luc was about to close the channel, the alien spoke softly.
"And you will cease jamming our communications."
Jean-Luc offered a sympathetic smile, but his dark eyes glittered.
"We will, once we are well away from your ship."
The alien scowled and barked,
"Talon, out!"
Jean-Luc smiled wearily and lifted his head.
"Picard to Riker."
"Riker here, Captain, go ahead."
"Will, you should be receiving a transmission from the alien ship. Once you have it, contact Command and inform them that the space within the boundaries is now off limits to all Federation ships. Then please tell them my report will follow soon."
"Aye, Captain. I take it we may leave unmolested?"
Jean-Luc's smile grew.
"Yes, Number One, we may leave in peace, but I want you to continue jamming all their communications until we're well away from their ship."
"I'll see to it, Captain."
"Thank you, Will, Picard out."
Beverly, having finished feeding Etoile, stood and stretched.
"Well I suppose I should be getting back to our quarters."
Jean-Luc smiled up at his wife and nodded.
"Yes, the boys probably need an umpire by now."
With a snort, Beverly bent and kissed her husband.
"I'll come by later to see you."
He shook his head.
"Don't bother my love; Etoile needs to get into a routine, stay at home."
Knowing he was right didn't make Beverly feel any better.
"Well…if you're sure…"
He nodded decisively.
"I am. Off you go."
As the door closed, Jean-Luc sighed and let his head rest on the pillows.
"All things considered…it could have been worse…much worse."

 

 

 

The three days of Jean-Luc's recovery were tolerable and passed relatively quickly. Despite his suggestion, Beverly and the children were frequent visitors, but the day the family entered their quarters together, Jean-Luc smiled, wrapping one arm around Beverly's waist and saying in her ear,
"It's so good to be home."
Instead of replying verbally, Beverly kissed him. The kiss started out a tender one, but Jean-Luc pulled her to him and deepened the kiss until Beverly swooned in his arms. Paul, carrying Etoile in his arms, turned to his parents and let out a groan of disgust.
"Oh come on…you've only just walked in the door!"
David, turning to see what his brother was talking about, screwed his face up and blurted,
"Yuck!"
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and ignored his sons, but Beverly snorted and pulled away. Annoyed at losing the connection, Jean-Luc waggled a finger at his sons.
"There will come a time my boys, in the not too distant future, when you will wish to kiss your beloved. I can only hope you will do so without any derogatory commentary from your parents!"
Both boys were not completely sure how to take that. Was their father joking…or was he serious? As usual, they looked into his eyes and, seeing the warmth and humour in them, chuckled and shook their heads. Paul went into the nursery and put his little sister into her cradle. David wandered over to his mother and rubbed his stomach.
"I'm hungry."
With a sigh, Beverly grabbed him and pulled him over her knee.
"You're always hungry."
She tickled him while saying,
"Dinner will be in about an hour. Can you wait that long?"
Gasping and squirming in her hands, David managed,
"Yes!"
With his heart glowing with paternal love and pride, Jean-Luc caught Beverly's attention and pointed to his desk.
"I'm just going to catch up on a bit of work."
She nodded and used her chin to point to a stack of PADDs on the low table.
"I'm going to do a bit of reading. What do you want for dinner?"
With a shrug, Jean-Luc smiled.
"I don't mind…surprise me."
Beverly set David onto his feet and tapped the tip of his nose.
"Did you hear that?"
The boy nodded, a wide grin on his face.
"Well, like your father, I don't mind what we have either…so…you and Paul can have whatever you like for dinner…"
She held up a hand to forestall any whoops of delight.
"Provided it is at least vaguely nutritious."
David's face fell a little, then he grinned again.
"What about crepes with fruit and cream?"
Beverly was about to shake her head when David held up one finger.
"Come on, Mum…fruit is nutritious."
She let out a long breath and ruffled his hair, nodding with a wink.
"Okay."
David almost ran to his bedroom, knowing his elder brother was inside. Before Beverly could say anything further, he called over his shoulder,
"I know…homework first."
The door opened and closed, leaving Beverly staring at nothing. She heard a quiet chuckle and looked over at her highly amused husband.
"Actually, I have a nice Moselle that will go well with crepes and fruit."
Rising from her seat, Beverly sauntered over to the desk and insinuated herself onto Jean-Luc's lap. He sat still while she nibbled at his ear before whispering,
"And later we can have some fun with the fruit and cream."
He smiled, lowering his eyes to watch her nipples rise against the fabric of her shirt.
His voice was deep and mellifluous when he murmured,
"You want to play games, my love?"
She grinned saucily and purred,
"I want to devour every centimetre of you."
It was taking a concerted effort not to respond to her teasing. Nevertheless, he was finding his trousers were becoming uncomfortably confining. He slowly turned his head so he could gently bite the creamy column of her neck.
"And what then?"
Beverly sighed and closed her eyes and when one of his large hands covered her breast and tweaked her turgid nipple, she softly gasped.
"Then we will make love."
Jean-Luc gently bit her earlobe and softly growled, the sound sending a spike of desire straight into her aching sex, but when he muttered,
"I will make you scream with ecstasy."
She groaned softly and lowered her head to kiss him passionately. Jean-Luc's free hand was creeping up under her skirt when Paul emerged from his bedroom. Both boys understood their father's need to maintain an appearance of aloofness while on duty, they understood it and accepted it as part of his job, but they were quite used to seeing their father being demonstrably affectionate whilst in the privacy of their quarters and his love for his wife was often demonstrated with touches and tender kisses, again, in the privacy of their quarters, but Paul had never seen his parents so obviously indulging in an overtly sexual encounter. He stopped in his tracks, uncertain whether to immediately return to his room or not. Beverly was completely oblivious to his presence, but Jean-Luc's awareness told him he was being watched. As his body stiffened with tension, the fog cleared in Beverly's brain and she recognised something was wrong. She broke the connection as Jean-Luc removed his hands from her body. She remained seated; however, knowing Jean-Luc would want to hide his arousal from his son. Beverly smiled and beckoned to the boy. He came to them, albeit with hesitation.
"Sorry about that, Paul…Papa and I got a little carried away."
Paul looked at his mother, then at his father. Jean-Luc softly cleared his throat and said quietly,
"We have been apart for a long time, Paul."
The boy nodded, his frown giving way to a tentative smile. He sighed and slightly blushed.
"David and I know about sex…but we don't like to think about our parents…doing it."
Beverly chuckled and Jean-Luc rolled his eyes. Paul decided he really needed to leave the room.
"I only want to know if it's true. Are we having crepes with fruit and cream for dinner?"
Beverly nodded.
"Uh huh."
Jerking his thumb over his shoulder, Paul began to turn for his room.
"Then I'd better get my homework done."
He left the room and both adults breathed a sigh of relief. Beverly reluctantly got to her feet and offered a lopsided grin.
"Hold that thought?"
Jean-Luc reached for her hand and brought it to his lips, placing a kiss on each finger.
"Until tonight."
Beverly had taken but a few steps when she stopped and turned. With one eyebrow raised in mischief, she asked saucily,
"Do you think you can still work?"
Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes and sighed.
"If you stay on the other side of the room…and keep quiet, then yes, I think I can work."
She sauntered back, placed one hand on the desk, leaned over and traced the outline of his erection with her finger.
"What about that?"
He grabbed her hand and muttered darkly,
"You are a bloody tease, Beverly."
She stood upright and chuckled, but said nothing as she turned to walk back to her seat. Jean-Luc's eyes stayed glued to her behind. Once she was seated he shook his head and, with a wry smile, tried to devote his attention to his work.

 

 

 

Dinner that night was a very happy affair. The boys enjoyed their crepes, although they both ate far too much. After their meal the family left the table to rest in the living area. They boys watched a holovid while Jean-Luc and Beverly amused themselves watching Etoile as she lay on a soft rug on the floor.
At almost ten o'clock Beverly stood and scooped up the baby, saying softly,
"Come on boys, you've had a late night, it's time for bed."
As the boys reluctantly climbed to their feet, Jean-Luc stood and said softly,
"I'll see to the boys, you go and feed Etoile."
Smiling and blowing her husband a kiss, Beverly left the room as Jean-Luc ushered the boys to their bedroom.
While the boys changed into their pyjamas, Jean-Luc turned their beds down and lowered the lights. As usual, he saw to David first. Placing a kiss on his forehead, Jean-Luc murmured,
"Bon nuit, David."
The boy smiled sleepily up at his father and muttered,
"Bon nuit, Papa."
Jean-Luc rose and went to Paul's bed. As he bent to kiss him, Jean-Luc saw worry in his son's eyes. In a soft voice, Jean-Luc asked,
"What is it, Paul?"
Struggling to keep his tears at bay, Paul whispered,
"I don't want to dream about the alien again."
Sighing sadly, Jean-Luc sat on the edge of the bed.
"You have been having nightmares."
The boy nodded silently.
"Then tomorrow morning you and I will go and see Aunt Deanna. In the mean time, if you have a bad dream tonight, you come into our bed."
Paul frowned.
"But, Papa…I'm twelve. Don't you think I'm too old for getting into my parent's bed?"
Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.
"No I don't, Paul. I will tell you something…but you're not to tell anyone else, understand?"
The boy nodded, his eyes wide.
"Paul, I get nightmares too and it's only because your mother is there with me that I can cope. Before we were married, I used to have to suffer alone and I wouldn't wish that on anyone…so if you have a nightmare and you want to be comforted, you come to us…no matter how old you are."
Paul smiled and lifted his arms for a hug. Jean-Luc took him into his arms and they embraced, each giving and receiving comfort. As Paul settled back down Jean-Luc kissed him and whispered,
"There are many things to dream about my sweet son. As you fall asleep, think of what delights you most."
Jean-Luc straightened and Paul's eyes glittered with unshed tears.
"J'taime, Papa."
The man smiled tenderly.
"J'taime, Paul, bon nuit."
As he went to the door, Jean-Luc said softly,
"Lights out."

 

 

 

 

Beverly was just finishing feeding the baby. Jean-Luc couldn't help but notice his wife was naked. As he slowly undressed, Beverly rose from the bed and took Etoile into the nursery. While she was gone, Jean-Luc pulled the covers down the bed. He was laying spread eagled when Beverly returned. She stood at the foot of the bed, arms akimbo, her eyes wandering over his lean, muscular form, lingering on his impressive erection. Jean-Luc grinned at her and winked, saying sensuously,
"Like what you see?"
Beverly hitched one hip, frowned and tapped her teeth with her index finger.
"There's something missing."
That wasn't quite what he'd been expecting her to say. His grin faded and turned into a frown as he watched his wife amble over to the replicator. He couldn't quite hear what she ordered, but when she faced him, he saw two largish bowls in her hands. He remained still as she sauntered to the bed and knelt by his side. He swallowed and asked,
"What have you there?"
Instead of replying verbally, Beverly dipped her finger into one bowl and, before he could react, placed a large dob of cold whipped cream on the head of his penis.
He jumped slightly and Beverly grinned saucily.
"That's better!"
Jean-Luc recovered and growled softly.
"Oh that's right…you want to play games."
Beverly carefully placed the bowls on the mattress and crawled between his splayed legs. He lifted his head to watch as she locked her eyes onto his, took his penis in hand to lift it and slowly licked the cream off before engulfing him entirely. His head fell back on the pillows as he let out a long, sensuous moan. He gasped softly as Beverly let his penis slip from her mouth. In silence she moved up his body to straddle him. Leaning slightly to one side, she plucked an iced strawberry, dredged it through some cream, then suddenly squashed it against his left nipple. His breath hissed through his teeth as the sensation of cold spiked through his body. Before he could assimilate it, Beverly leaned forward and took his nipple into her hot mouth, gently nipping the hard nub. Arching his back, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and whispered hoarsely,
"Mon Dieu!"
Beverly sat up and wiped her mouth free of cream and crushed strawberry.
"Mmm, a new French dish, I think."
Jean-Luc looked up at his wife, his dark eyes smouldering. Getting control of his voice, he said softly,
"Move the bowls further away."
Instead of asking why, Beverly simply complied. As soon as she had completed the task, Jean-Luc grabbed her and rolled to his side, pinning her under him. Her giggles soon turned to moans of pleasure and desire as Jean-Luc's mouth attacked her neck and breasts. He grabbed her wrists and pushed her hands to the mattress.
"Now, my love…it's my turn to play. Hmm…where do I start?"
While he teased, Beverly arched her hips, grinding her mons against his hard penis. Distracted momentarily, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes and pushed down, forcing his penis against her. Beverly growled in frustration, making Jean-Luc grin wolfishly.
"Not yet my love…but my, don't you like to tease my little vixen?"
He rose to straddle her as he scooped two fingers through the cream. He held his hand over Beverly's chest, admiring the fire in her deep blue eyes. Holding her gaze, he slothfully spread the cream on her nipples, making her arch again. Taking both of her hands above her head and trapping them in his large hand, he slowly lowered his head until his tongue was just brushing her nipple. He teased for some moments before Beverly blurted,
"Oh God, Jean-Luc…"
He smiled and took the nipple into his mouth, lavishing it thoroughly. Once the cream was completely gone, he moved to the other nipple. Beverly squirmed under him, pushing her hips up, seeking contact for her swollen clit.
Jean-Luc knew exactly what she wanted. He let go of her hands, saying huskily,
"Keep you hands above your head."
As she nodded quickly, he moved down her body to kneel between her spread legs. He kissed and lapped his was down her heated skin, dallying in her navel, before arriving at her sex. Beverly lifted her hips, panting,
"Oh please, Jean-Luc…please…"
Her eyes were closed tight so she never saw him drag the bowls closer. He gently ran the tips of his fingers through her folds, carefully parting her labia. He drew in her scent, it made his mouth water. He looked over her body, noting the flush of desire staining her alabaster skin. He muttered,
"Exquisite."
Before his mouth descended onto her sex. He pushed his tongue inside her and lapped at her flowing juices. Beverly moaned loudly and pushed her hips up. Jean-Luc lifted his head, only to slide three fingers inside her. He teased around her clit with his tongue, but didn't touch it. Beverly's voice took on a pleading tone.
"Oh please, Jean-Luc…please…don't make me wait…"
He slid his fingers in and out of her, judging the moment to perfection. As she began to contract around his fingers, he quickly reached for a frozen strawberry, dredged it in cream, then savagely squashed it against her clit. Beverly's body rose from the bed as she howled. While she convulsed through her first orgasm, Jean-Luc bent and took her clit into his mouth, sucking it forcefully while his fingers continued to pump in and out of her.
His instructions forgotten, Beverly gripped his head, pulling his face hard against her as she climaxed again and again.
As she shuddered and flexed yet again, Jean-Luc suddenly came up her body and pushed his aching penis into her. Beverly cried out, her arms and legs lifting to embrace him. Throwing control to the winds, Jean-Luc thrust hard and fast, pistoning in and out of her with singular intent. Beverly's nails raked across his broad back as he grunted,
"I'm going to come…"
Her head pushed back, Beverly screamed as a final cataclysmic orgasm surged through her. Jean-Luc vaguely registered her climax as he shoved himself inside her as deep as he could and came hard. He lifted his head and a guttural cry was wrenched from his throat. For several minutes they stayed locked in a rictus of ecstasy before both of them collapsed.
Panting and softly moaning, Jean-Luc kissed Beverly's neck as he rested his head on her shoulder.
"Dear God, Beverly…that was…that was…"
Smiling wearily, Beverly placed both hands either side of his head and lifted so she could look into his eyes.
"I know…me too."
With their eyes locked, Jean-Luc said softly,
"I love you, Beverly."
Kissing him gently, Beverly nodded.
"And I love you, Jean-Luc."
He carefully rolled to his side and held up his arm, inviting Beverly to nestle beside him, her head on his chest. He smiled and Beverly could feel his contentment.
"It's a good thing you had this room sound proofed."
He chuckled and kissed the top of her head, muttering smugly,
"I told you I would make you scream."
Grinning, Beverly sighed.
"So you did."
Just as they were drifting off to sleep, Jean-Luc murmured,
"I'm going to take a few days off."
Beverly's eyes snapped open.
"You're going to take leave?"
He snorted.
"I didn't say that. I said I would take a few days off."
Now suspicious, Beverly rose on one elbow.
"Why?"
His smile faded and he sighed.
"I want to spend some time with my family."
Beverly nodded, understanding.
"It has been a harrowing time."
"Indeed."
They both lay quietly for a time, before Jean-Luc said softly,
"Beverly…what would you say if I said it might be a good idea to take a posting on Earth?"
Up on her elbow again, Beverly looked deeply into her husband's eyes and slowly nodded.
"I think it may be a good idea."
Giving a decisive nod, Jean-Luc smiled.
"How about we talk to the boys about it in the morning?"
Beverly smiled and kissed her husband.
"I think that is also a good idea. Now…sleep?"
Sitting up, Jean-Luc put the bowls on the floor before pulling the covers up. He settled down with Beverly in his arms.
"Yes my love, sleep."
As was her habit, Beverly fell headlong into slumber. In the quiet of the bedroom, Jean-Luc looked up at the streaking stars and sighed.
"I am blessed."

Finis.