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After Life (Part 6)

by Catherine Ellis

Chapter 20

So much depended on her message, she found it hard to begin. Emotional appeals would be of no use; if she threatened to kill herself he might agree to live but their relationship would be ruined. No, Jean-Luc prided himself on rational decision making, the only way to persuade him was to find a hole in his argument. Picking up the PADD she read through his message again, looking for a weakness.

Imagine you're not personally involved. Imagine he's some stranger who's been brought to life. What would you think of his argument?

Reluctantly she acknowledged his logic. Humans weren't Trill they didn't outlive their hosts' bodies. In frustration she banged her fist on the table. If she hadn't accidentally stumbled upon him, what would have happened? If Data had asked her whether he should activate this Picard, what would she have said? She sighed heavily and held her head. It was a question she could never answer and anyway what was the point? He was alive now, that was what counted.

Damn you, why did you have to be right? And why did you have to be so willing to make this sacrifice?

Somehow she couldn't imagine many others being willing to die in this situation. Jean-Luc's reasoning might be rational, but there was an emotional element in his desire to embrace death.

He wantsto punish himself. …But why? Is it Locutus? Does he need to atone for being assimilated? Does he think he should have killed himself rather than let it happen?"

Even after all those year together she never had fully fathomed the Borg demons that haunted his dreams.

At 4am Beverly had neither slept nor written her return message. In desperate hope of inspiration she headed over to see Data.

"Captain Picard is adamant that he does not wish to see you Doctor. Please do not ask me to break my promise to him."

"I wouldn't do that Data and anyway it is you I came to see. Can we go up to the roof?"

The first glow of dawn was lighting the sky. Beverly wished Jean-Luc could see it too.

Could anyone look on such a sight and wish it to be their last day?

"Data I'm sorry for shouting at you earlier. You have every right to experience emotion. I was so wrapped up in my own distress that I forgot you might be hurting too."

"Thank you for your concern but you have every right to be angry. In creating this body for Captain Picard I gave way to an emotional desire to recreate my friend. I put both of you in an impossible situation."

"You fell into the trap into which many scientists fall - you found you could do something and so you did it. I've done it myself. I've used my medical skills to prolong life only to discover the patient could not tolerate living with the result." She shivered at the memory of the Bolian who had killed himself when told he had an artificial heart.

"There is no need for you to attempt to make me feel better, Doctor. It is I who should be helping you. I wish I could find a flaw in his argument but I cannot."

"Neither can I Data but I'm not willing to give up yet. I want to try another approach."

She strolled over to the edge of the building and feasted her eyes on the view.

Life was good! Surely all Jean-Luc needed was an excuse that would allow him to keep on living.

"Data, what happened after I left? What led up to his decision to die?"

"He wanted to know how long he might live, so I carried out various tests. My calculations indicated he was capable of living for 600 years."

"600!"

"That was his reaction too. Shock and dismay."

"Outliving all your friends, their children and even their children's children is not a prospect most humans would relish."

"But will he not make new friends, just as I expect to do?"

"You've lived with that possibility all your life. He's confronting it for the first time."

"I see," Data replied.

Beverly rubbed her temples. Her head ached through lack of sleep.

"In his message to me he said he was capable of feats that were beyond ordinary humans. What did he mean?"

Data explained how Picard's speed and strength exceed those of a Vulcan and how his mental abilities included memory and calculation performance that only he, Data, could out perform.

"Then he is the 'super being' he spoke of."

Beverly let out a resigned sigh. Was there nothing she could do?

Or was there!

"Data, if your memory and personality were transferred into a human body, would the resulting person still be you? Just because this 'being' has Jean-Luc's memories does that mean he is Jean-Luc?"

"It is a debateable point, one I am sure he will feel obliged to consider."

Crusher did not appear encouraged by his reply.

"Excuse me Doctor, but I am puzzled as to why you do not seem pleased?"

"The argument may persuade him to live, but it means I have to reject him as Jean-Luc."

Chapter 21

Back in her apartment, Beverly requested a coffee from the replicator and sat down to write her reply. There was no way of gradually leading him up to what she had to say. If her idea was to work she had to hit him with it right from the start.

I read your message, she began, and I agree that we should not give human beings 'immortal' artificial bodies. However, I do not agree that this means you should die. There is a flaw in your argument, it is built upon an incorrect premise – you believe you are Jean-Luc Picard and you are not.

Data transferred Picard's memories to you, but that does not make them your memories, it does not make you Jean-Luc. Your mind was a blank canvas before the transfer, as a result you have only a few memories of your own but that will change with each day that you live. You must not confuse Picard's past with your past or his future with yours. They are two separate existences. You are not Jean-Luc Picard with an artificial body. Picard was human, without that body he no longer exists. You are a new person, a different person. One blessed with an extraordinary body and access to the knowledge and experience of a remarkable man. You have the potential to contribute positively to your society. Don't throw away this gift. Use it. Be yourself. Live.


There were no words of love or affection in her message. It broke her heart to be so cold, but it had to be that way. To have included any endearment would have undermined her argument.

"Please! Jean-Luc!" She begged him. "Use this escape route I'm offering you. Don't die out of stubbornness."

+ +

A dose from a hypospray helped her to sleep. At 08:00 the next morning she handed the PADD to Data at the laboratory door.

"Here’s my reply. I want you to read it before you give it to him. He may need your help coming to terms with what and who he is."

The android quickly scanned her text.

"I understand Doctor." He paused. "Are you sure you want me to give this to him?"

She took a deep breath. "Can you think of another way to persuade him to live?"

"No."

Beverly had already started to leave when she turned and called to him. "One more thing Data .."

"Yes Doctor?"

".. if he decides he still wants to die ... then don’t tell me about it. I'll want to pretend this Jean-Luc never existed."

+ +

Picard lay on his back trying not to think of anything. It didn't work, however hard he tried his mind kept coming back to the same topic – how would Beverly respond to his decision.

She will be angry, he was sure of that. She'll insist that life is precious and should never be thrown away, but despite that she knows some ideas are worth dying for. Surely she will see that this is one of those cases?

He was so engrossed in the argument that he hardly noticed Data leave and then re-enter the room.

"Sir?" The android touched his arm. "Dr Crusher has asked me to give you this." He held out her PADD.

"Already?" Picard sat up, for some reason he had expected Beverly to take the whole 24 hours he'd allowed.

"Shall I leave you to read her message alone?"

"Thank you Data, you're a good friend."

Picard's new body was just as prone to emotional responses as its human predecessor. He wanted to read her message and was afraid to do so both at the same time. Griping the device firmly, he turned it on and started to read.

. . . not Jean-Luc Picard . . .

Not Picard!

Her words stunned him. Of course he was Picard, who else could he be?

As he read on the logic of her argument began to sink in. What if the mind-transfer from the human Picard was in fact no more than the equivalent of a Vulcan 'mind-meld'? If that was the case then he – with his artificial body - was no more Picard, than Picard was Sarek after their meld.

Not Picard?

Not Picard?

The idea unnerved him. It meant letting go of everything he believed he was. Not being Picard meant losing his entire life, everything he'd known – his friends, his position in society ....Beverly.

He wanted to live, but was this a price he was prepared to pay?

Chapter 22

"Igor Shevchenko? I'm Beverly Crusher. I believe Admiral Kent told you to expect me."

From the way he eyed her figure Beverly guessed the Lieutenant liked what he saw. His manner, however, was far from complimentary.

"So you're the doctor who wants to become a ship's captain."

The sarcasm was obvious, Beverly suppressed an urge to kick him. Perhaps this was all part of the assessment process? A test to see how you respond to provocation?

"Correct Lieutenant." She replied politely. "Where do you suggest I begin?"

++

Eight hours latter she chucked her bag onto the sofa and collapsed into a chair. An ironic snort escaped her – she felt grateful to Shevchenko! If it hadn't been for his contemptuous manner she might not have spent the whole day studying and instead gone quietly insane. What other reaction was there when someone you cared about was considering suicide?

She looked at the clock - 17:50. If Data was going to call he would do so shortly.

When the buzzer sounded, Beverly hurried to the door.

His expression told her nothing.

"Good Evening Doctor."

"Yes, yes," she hurried him through the pleasantries. "Tell me what's happened."

"He wishes to see you."

"Then he's decided to live!" Her reply was almost a shout.

"He is still considering the point."

"Oh." She was disappointed, but at least this was an improvement on yesterday. "Did he say why he wanted to see me?"

"No."

"I see." In reality she didn't. Was it to say goodbye or was he testing her? Seeing if she really believed what she had written?

"When does he want me to come over?"

"Now, if that is convenient."

Data noticed her start the familiar anxious hand rubbing.

"Is that a problem?" He asked.

Her throat tightened. "I need some time to prepare myself. Tell him I’ll be over in 5 minutes … no , make that ten."

++

"This way Doctor."

Data pointed down the stairs.

"Aren't we going to your lab?"

"I had to move him to a basement store room. The other scientists were becoming curious as to why I would not let them into my area."

At the bottom of the stairs he turned left and left again finally stopping outside a door at the end of the passageway.

"This is it. Are you ready to enter?"

Beverly took three deep breaths. "As I'll ever be."

In the access panel Data entered a code and the door slid open.

"I will wait here in case you have need of me."

"Thank you Data."

She held his arm for a moment, then stepped inside.

The Being prepared himself for their encounter. Asking to see her had seemed the sensible thing to do. If he experienced her treating him as a stranger it would help him draw a line under his existence as Picard. He hoped it would also help Beverly, by leaving her with a less traumatic memory than their last awful meeting.

The door shut noisily behind her making her jump. A bright light illuminated the centre of the room making the surrounding area seem dark. It wasn't until her eyes grew accustomed to the conditions that she became aware of a shadowy figure standing against the opposite wall. As she watched the Being, he began to move towards her into the central area. When the light reached his face, Beverly let out an involuntary gasp.

How could she deny him! His looks, his manner, his gaze! He was her Jean-Luc. The urge to embrace him was overwhelming but somehow she forced herself to remain rooted to the spot. If you move, he'll die.

The Being swallowed hard. Reality wasn't playing out the way he had planned. He had failed to consider an important possibility, that whoever he was 'now' he might still be strongly attracted to her. If they said goodbye how could he avoid thinking about her, avoid wondering what she was doing, whether she needed his help? How would he cope if she found somebody else, if some other man ....

The strength of his own emotional and physical reaction alarmed him. Calm yourself. Calm yourself. Think your way out of this.

It didn't matter that she rejected him as Picard, he'd got used to that idea. What was essential was that he should continue to spend time with her, that she should value his presence. He had to come out with an alternative solution to parting and quickly!

For nearly two minutes they stared at one another without speaking or moving. Beverly felt her heart would break, she tried to memorise every centimetre of his face, to hold on to him for as long as possible. Then at last the Being broke the spell and turned away. For a few seconds he composed himself, then stood to attention and in a rather formal manner said, "Dr Crusher, I believe."

Beverly stared back, baffled. What was he playing at?

"Yes, that is my name." She replied tentatively.

"I do not have a name. If I were human my parents would have given me one. If you have no objection, might I request that you chose one for me?"

Almost immediately she guessed what he was up to. He wants to start again! To pretend we've never met!

Despite her excitement she managed to maintain an outward display of calm.

"All right, I’ll choose one for you."

She walked slowly round him as she considered various possibilities, stopping only when she reached his front.

"I think you should be called Jayell. J-A-Y-E-L-L. It would acknowledge your obvious link to Picard but it's not one he was ever known by."

"Jayell, Jayell." The Being rolled the name around his tongue. "A good choice. And what do you want me to do?"

"Do? What do you mean, do?"

"How do you want me to spend my time?"

She was taken aback.

"Aren't you going to decide that for yourself?"

"I could, but with my strength and knowledge I am likely to be seen as a threat. People may find me easier to accept if they see me responding to orders."

"I understand, but does it have to be me who directs you?"

"It needs to be a human, so not Data. Maybe I should ask Starfleet, I'm sure Admiral Maddox will find me fascinating."

As he had hoped Beverly didn't want to risk exposing him to that fate.

"There's no need for Starfleet," she replied, "I'll do it, at least to start with."

Jayell gave her a small bow in acknowledgement. "Then I await your orders Doctor."

For an instant Beverly thought she saw a gleam in his eye, as though obeying her orders was something he would particularly enjoy. The game had a certain fascination for her too.

"Very well then." She stepped closer. "Your first assignment is to explore your ability to learn. I want you to see how much of the Starfleet medical course you can master by this time tomorrow."

His jaw dropped.

"Medicine?"

"Yes, medicine. Is there a problem Jayell? Are you refusing your first order?"

"No ma’am." He stammered. "I’ll start my studies immediately."

"Good." She smothered an urge to smile at his subservience. "Then I think it's time we told Data what's going on."

++

Beverly decided to leave soon after. Everything was changing so rapidly. Upon reaching the street, she felt light headed, almost ecstatic. In the space of a few minutes, her life had turned upside down. Rather than saying goodbye, they were starting all over again! She was too excited to go home to the confines of her small apartment, instead she headed down to the shore to breathe in the sea air and share her joy with the waves.

++

Jayell was equally elated but his mood soon turned to one of guilt. This was supposed to be their last meeting yet here he was playing games with her, inviting her to order him about.

Was he breaking his own moral code? Was he pretending not to be Picard while believing he was?

"Are you all right Sir." Data asked.

The android's words snapped him out of his thoughts.

"You mustn't call me 'Sir', Data. My name is Jayell, remember, 'Jayell'. I'm not Jean-Luc Picard."

Chapter 23

That evening, Beverly entered the science block feeling both excited and apprehensive at the same time. During the day, her elation of the previous evening had been dampened by practical considerations. Could Jayell join her aboard the Pasteur? Was she hoping he would become a doctor? Was that why she had instructed him to study medicine? Would Starfleet allow him aboard? Would he want to be there?

"How is our friend?" She asked Data.

"He appears to find satisfaction in pushing himself."

"Have you made any progress in explaining his construction?"

"I can explain everything except how you managed to activate him. It would help if you told me exactly what you were doing just before he came to life?"

Beverly would rather have kept those moments private, but realised Data had to be told. She started with when she first approached the lifeless figure and ended with " ... as I moved away a tear of mine fell on his face. It was when I wiped it away that he awoke."

"Interesting. It is possible that the liquid enabled an enhanced electrical charge to pass from your body to his. I will investigate the possibility further."

While Data continued his studies, Beverly descended to the basement storeroom. She had been dismayed to think of Jayell being locked in there, but Data had reassured her by explaining that the lock was now controlled from the inside. After she entered the access code to announce her presence, there was a several seconds delay before the door finally opened.

This time Jayell was waiting for her in the middle of the room. His manner was still subservient but more withdrawn than the previous night. Beverly was disappointed, there was no hint of the flirtatiousness that had enlivened the previous evening.

"Good evening Jayell. Report you progress."

"I have now completed memorising all the material from the first two years of the Starfleet medical course."

"Two years! In ONE day!"

Her voice sounded annoyed rather than impressed.

Picard tried to placate her. "24 hours is a long time if you do not require sleep."

"That maybe true, but at this rate you'll be better qualified than I am by the end of the week."

He tried again. "My memory might be remarkable, but when it comes to learning physical actions I'm no quicker than an ordinary human. In the practical exercises it took me five attempts to reset a dislocated shoulder."

"So you're not perfect then?" She quipped.

"No Ma'am." He allowed himself a hint of a smile.

Beverly relaxed a little, perhaps the flirt was still there. She looked him in the eye. Was this the right time to tell him about the Pasteur?

"I've been doing some training exercises of my own today – bridge command." Her words sparked his curiosity. "Starfleet has introduced a new rule," she continued, "any command officer who's been shore-based for 2 years has to retake the bridge test before they return to ship duty."

Picard could contain himself no longer.

"Does that mean you have been offered a new posting?"

"Yes, as Captain of the medical ship, the Pasteur...I have to pass the test before it’s confirmed."

Anxiety gripped him. He had been fantasising about qualifying as a doctor and working along side her at some medical institute. But if she was to captain a ship? . . . What then? Would Starfleet allow him on board? Would she want him there?

He chided himself for not having foreseen the possibility. Hadn't she already been offered a ship soon after he became ill?

"You will make a good captain." He replied. "Your years of dealing with medical emergencies have prepared you for the demands of the bridge."

"Thank you. A pity Lieutenant Shevchenko doesn't see it that way."

Jayell lifted a quizzical eyebrow.

"He's been assigned to help me through the bridge test. I don't think he has a very high opinion of doctors."

"Sounds as if he's overdue for a tour of duty on a medical ship."

Beverly laughed. "Just as long as it isn't on the Pasteur."

A silence descended upon them. Beverly sensed his unease at her appointment. Should I say something to encourage him? She took the risk.

"How about you Jayell? Is medicine a topic that could retain your interest?"

He paused a moment, looking for the right words. "I was surprised to learn how much we still do not know about the human body, it's like an inner galaxy that has only been partly explored."

The analogy was supposed to reassure her and it did. "And how about patient care? Could you handle that as well as research?"

Jayell shifted uncomfortably. The emotional demands that patients might put upon him were not something he welcomed. He worded his reply carefully. "It's an aspect of doctoring I have yet to experience."

"I think you'll find reassuring patients has something in common with reassuring scared young crewmen."

"Thank you Doctor, I hope I can be as useful to you in your bridge training?"

"Helmsmanship was never my strong point, I think you could help there."

They gave one another a brief smile. This mutual support was something they were going to enjoy.

Beverly moved away from him and changed the subject. "We need to think about revealing your presence to the world. When do you think you'll be ready?"

Jayell looked uncomfortable.

"If you have no objection I would rather we left it awhile. My current situation is not one Picard ever faced so I don't have his experience to draw upon. I do not feel I 'know' myself fully yet. In some ways I'm still a child and like a child I'd prefer to develop in the company of my family before being exposed to strangers."

He held her eye and willed her to understand his message. You and I must get used to our new relationship before we act it out in front of others.

"I see your point." She replied. "Then perhaps we should start with a less radical first step – say leaving this building for an hour or two. Data could transport you to my apartment?"

She caught a look of alarm on his face.

"Is there a problem?"

"No. None." His lie was unconvincing but Beverly decided not to pursue it.

"In that case I'll ask Data, to beam you over in 10 minutes. I need to get some fresh food on the way home."

++

"Is it safe for me to transport?" Picard asked as soon as she had gone.

"Transportation always involves an element of risk, however I see no reason to believe it will be any more dangerous for you than for anyone else."

"I can't help remembering what happened to Picard on his last transport."

"Would you rather I told Doctor Crusher you will not be joining her?"

"No! No, I'll go. It would be foolish to give in to irrational fears. Besides, how can I go back into space if I'm not willing to transport."

Data considered his response.

"Does that mean you are hoping to join Starfleet?"

"The idea had crossed my mind, though it would have to be in a very different role than Picard’s."

"Do you think Starfleet would allow the two of us to serve aboard the same ship?"

Picard looked at his friend with fresh eyes. He had been so concerned about staying with Beverly that he had forgotten that Data was 'family' too.

"I hope they will Data, I hope they will."

In a rare display of affection he laid his hand on the android's arm.

++

Jayell materialised on the living room rug. The room was dark and the sudden drop in brightness came as a shock to his body. He stepped over to the control panel and raised the lights. The place looked familiar but something was different. It didn't take him long to spot what. All of Jean-Luc's belongings had gone - his archaeological artefacts, his pictures, his books – they were all missing.

Was it the same in the other rooms? He couldn't bear to look.

Anyone visiting the apartment now would see no evidence that Picard had ever lived there. It hurt him to think that his human counter-part had been so erased. For her it was weeks rather than days but had she so completely moved on that she wanted nothing of Jean-Luc's around her?

It had been a mistake to bring him over. Beverly knew it the moment she entered the apartment. Acting out their new relationship in a basement storeroom was one thing, pretending to be strangers in this place where they had so recently been lovers was quite another. From the look on Jayell's face he too was finding it difficult.

"I am .. trespassing on your home, Doctor. I think it would be better if I returned to the laboratory immediately."

His voice revealed his distress but also anger. Looking round the room she guessed the reason. He musn't think Jean-Luc is forgotten.

"I went away soon after the funeral," she explained casually, "I've only just got back. It was difficult being here with his things …". A lump formed in her throat. She swallowed hard, but could not continue. Neither of them said a thing for almost a minute, eye contact was out of the question.

Crusher finally managed to break the silence, though her voice sounded falsely cheerful. "The book he was reading is in the cupboard. Would you like to finish it?"

She didn't wait for an answer.

"You can read it now if you like, while I get changed." As she opened a cupboard Jayell caught sight of a pile of Picard's things.

"Here."

She came towards him holding it out. As she drew nearer he sensed the warmth emanating from her body. It took all his control not clasp her in his arms.

"Thank you." He bowed and took the book, taking care not to touch her as he did so.

Beverly cleared her throat theatrically.

"I'll get changed then."

Ten minutes later, she emerged to find a meal waiting for her on the table and Jayell seated on the sofa with his back towards her. He didn't seem to notice as she moved closer and looked over his shoulder. His hands were leafing through the book at a rate no human could possibly read.

"Can you capture the contents at that speed?"

Her voice startled him. He stopped and stood up.

"Yes Doctor, every word."

"I'm envious. No wonder you were able to get through two years training in one day."

A faint smile flickered across his face and was gone.

"Would you care to eat?" he asked, pointing to the table.

As she sat down Beverly struggled to find something to say. "Tuna salad – a good choice." Was all she could think of.

Jayell gave a brief nod but said nothing.

An awkward silence hung over them, how should they behave? She might be his commander but he wasn't her servant.

"Sit down, please", she ordered and without thinking pointed to Jean-Luc's usual chair. Jayell obeyed but chose another seat. She started to eat, hoping he would take the initiative and begin a conversation.

It was 20 seconds before a safe topic occurred to him.

"Though I have explored many of my abilities I still haven't check to see if I have a sense of taste. Do you mind if I try something?"

"Be my guest." She pushed the salad bowl towards him.

Picard selected a stick of carrot and took a bite. For several seconds he explored it in his mouth as if he were tasting a good wine.

"Carrot," he declared, straight faced, before discretely discarding the remnants." Definitely carrot and probably grown in south facing sandy soil."

Beverly grinned at his antics. He was still her Jean-Luc and able to cheer her up with his humour.

"Tell me more about your physical abilities?" She asked.

A while later their conversation was interrupted by the sound of singing and laughter from the street. They both turned towards the balcony.

"Have you looked outside yet?" She asked.

"Not yet."

"Go on then, have a look, but be careful nobody sees you."

Picard rubbed his hands nervously along his thighs, then stood up and made his way to the French windows. As he opened one of the doors a shaft of the evening sunlight struck his face. Beverly heard a sudden loud gasp.

"Jayell? What's wrong?"

When he didn't answer, she sprang up.

"Jayell!"

"It's all right." He assured her. "It's just the sunlight, I've never felt it before." There was real elation in his voice. "Would you mind if I removed my jacket?"

"Go ahead."

Beverly watched as he stood, eyes closed, savouring the sensation of sunlight on his skin. She was relieved to see he had a capacity for physical enjoyment definitely not an android. Moving quietly she drifted towards him, stopping only when she was within arms reach. From there she could see the fine soft hairs on his muscular arms. Instinctively she raised a hand to touch him, but stopped herself mid-way. The action turned into a folding-of-the-arms and she moved away again towards the table.

Remember Beverly! He is NOT Jean-Luc, you have no right to touch him.

"Jayell?" Picard opened his eyes. "I think it's time you went home."

He sensed immediately that something was wrong. He could see it in the way she avoided his eye.

"Very well Doctor." He picked up his jacket and went to the spot on which he had first materialised. "Do you wish me to continue with my medical studies?"

"Yes, and when you reach module 14 pay particular attention to the control of epidemics."

"Very well."

Nothing more was said while Beverly contacted Data to arrange his transport back to the laboratory. Only as he dematerialised did Beverly snatch one more look at him.


End of Chapter 23.

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