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After Life (Part 9)

by Catherine Ellis

Chapter 34

Beverly woke to find herself wrapped around a naked male body. She hurriedly checked to see to whom it belonged.

"Right man?" He teased.

"Definitely." She gave him a quick kiss. "Have you been lying awake for hours or did you have one of your 'sleep-type' unconscious periods? "

"I had one every time."

She blushed. "Sorry about that ... I kept getting this urge ...."

Jayell lifted himself up on his elbow and looked down at her. "Please don't ever feel you have to apologise. Anytime you get the urge just let me know." As he spoke he stroked a finger down between her breasts.

She smiled mischievously. "Does that offer apply even if I'm on bridge duty?"

He pondered a moment. "You'll be the Captain, you can declare yourself 'off-duty' whenever you like."

"And what should I do with my off-duty time?"

She ran her finger that ran down his chest ... and kept going. He grabbed it before she could cause more chaos.

Beverly struggled playfully against him. "Come on then. I'm off duty, what do I do?"

"You could ... order me to join you in your ready room."

"Oh yes? And then what...?"

"... you'd tell the computer to lock the door."

She rubbed her thigh along his. "And then ... ?"

He hesitated. "You could ... if it interested you ...."

"Yes?"

"... order me to strip for inspection."

"Really?" She laughed. "You'd like that would you?"

"Picard would." He replied, acting as if Picard was someone separate from himself.

"Go on?"

It was his turn to blush. "He had this fantasy about his annual physical ... in which ...in which you took advantage of him." He looked to see if she was shocked. "It was one of the reasons he avoided the 'real' examinations. He feared he wouldn't be able to control himself if your actions strayed anywhere near to the plot of his day-dreams."

"This is fascinating, what did I do to him?"

"Oh no! I'm not telling you that. I don't want you thinking you have to follow some script. You should do exactly what you want and no more."

"That sounds very selfish of me. Don't your desires matter?" She asked.

"You don't need to worry about them."

"But I do. Tell me."

"Beverly ... you'll have to believe me if I tell you that pleasing you is what gives me the most intense satisfaction."

She stared at him for several seconds, then raised a hand and stroked it gently across his cheek.

"Thank you." She whispered.

"No, thank you."

"Besides", he continued, trying to lighten the mood, "you could say that ensuring your satisfaction is now my 'duty'."

"That's true. And since I don't want to be responsible for you failing in your duty .... " Her hand was back on his chest and restarting its journey southward.

"Are you sure?" He gulped. "Don't you have the last part of your fitness test this morning?"

"Yes, but you have a talent for re-charging my batteries. I'm sure a little wrestling with you will improve my performance."

He smiled and rolled over her. "In that case, Ma'am, I consider myself 'at your service'."

++

The test supervisor rushed over to congratulate her. "That was amazing, Doctor. Well done!"

Beverly guessed why he was making such a fuss. Despite being the oldest person in the 5 kilometre run, she had only been beaten by one 32 year old man and that was only by 3 strides.

"We've checked the database and it seems you've set a new record time for a human woman aged over 60! Or more precisely you've beaten the over 40 record."

Oh no!

"Surely not. Someone must have made a mistake. Please check the time."

The last thing she wanted was a fuss and publicity.

Twenty minutes later she finally managed to get away by claiming to have an urgent appointment. It wasn't a complete lie, she did have one - with herself at the Medical Centre. She wanted to be the one who discovered how she had achieved such a fast time with so little training. It wasn't even as if she'd pushed herself that hard.

Once at the Centre she found an empty research station and set about analysing a sample of cells from inside her mouth.

Her fingers drummed nervously on the counter as she waited for the results to come up.

Had she inadvertently taken some kind of performance enhancing drug? And if she had why hadn't she suffered any of the side effects that normally accompanied their use?

The computer beeped and started displaying the results, first a chemical analysis then a set of microscope images of her cells. She zoomed in, enhancing the magnification 1000 times.

What she saw made her gasp.

"Nanoprobes? I have Borg nanoprobes in my cells?"

She stood staring at the screen, stunned by this result.

There had to be a mistake. Maybe her kissing of Jayell had left a minute residue in her mouth. She took two more samples, this time from different parts of her body.

The results were the same.

Nervously she started pacing the room. Her own infestation was worrying, but it was the implications for Jayell that really concerned her. If her nanoprobes came from him then Maddox would never allow him to roam freely.

But how was it possible she'd been infected? Hadn't Data been checking Jayell frequently? Hadn't his body always been stable along with his mass? But if Jayell wasn't the source then who or what was? And when did it start?

If she was truthful with herself, today's fast run wasn't the first indication she'd had of something unusual there had been her improved physique and her memory retention which was now almost flawless. Carefully and scientifically she worked back through the weeks recording how she had felt and noting any achievement which was unusual.

Two hours later she called the Voyager Doctor.

"There's a theory I needed to discuss with you urgently. It's a private matter."

Chapter 35

At 19:00 precisely Crusher arrived at Admiral Kent's office. His assistant was a friendly as usual.

"Go right in, Doctor, they are expecting you."

They? She hadn't expected to see anyone but Kent.

"Beverly! It's good to see you, do sit down."

Seated at the table where Shevchenko, Maddox and his assistant, Kendrick. Only Kent got up to greet her.

"Gentlemen." She nodded in their direction and sat down next to Kendrick. The man edged his chair away from her.

"We've been trying to contact you all afternoon, Doctor." Maddox said coldly.

"Really? Nothing urgent I hope?"

"I have your test results." Kent announced. "You did remarkably well in the bridge test, in fact better than any candidate has done before."

"Strange that, don't you think?" Maddox butted in. "That a medical officer should do better than candidates who've spent years on the bridge?"

"Not in this instance, no." She replied.

"Why is that?"

"Because the test situation I was given was particularly easy for someone with my medical background. I've treated Garadian patients before and the ruse about an infection aboard the ship is one we used several times on the Enterprise."

"And the biopacks? The Enterprise never had that technology, how did you know how to repair them so quickly?"

"They're not called 'bio' packs for nothing, Captain. And I am rather used to dealing with biological organisms."

"Doctor, Captain." Kent tried to calm them both down. Maddox ignored him.

"And how about your 5k run this morning? How do you explain your time?"

There was no point lying.

"I imagine the nanoprobes in my body had something to do with that." She looked round the table to see their reaction. "I only discovered them today, they seem to have a de-aging affect."

"Come now Doctor, do you expect us to believe that you hadn't noticed your own body had been infiltrated?"

She didn't have a sensible answer.

"Where is Jayell?" Maddox asked.

Her look of surprise wasn't faked.

"Isn't he at the laboratory?"

"Do you think we'd ask if he was? Where has Data taken him?"

"I don't know. He mentioned going to see Reg Barclay, but I thought he was going alone."

"I'm not sure we can trust you, Doctor. First you don't tell us about Jayell's existence, then you don't mention that he's infected you with his nanoprobes. Now we find Jayell and Data are both missing. You were supposed to keep him securely at the Science Block. Where is he doctor? Where are you hiding him?"

"I'm not hiding him. He has his own quarters in a storeroom in the basement. Have you looked there?"

Maddox turned to Kendrick. "Did you check the rest of the building?"

"No, Sir. I'm sorry Sir. It's a big place and our scanners couldn't detect him."

The captain cursed under his breath. "Stand up Doctor!" He ordered. "You're coming with us." Walking swiftly round the table, he grabbed her tightly by the arm. She could have freed herself easily but feared doing so would make her look guilty.

"Captain! " Kent complained. "I must protest. Doctor Crusher is under my command."

"Then perhaps you would care to accompany us while we search for Jayell."

It was humiliating being frog-marched out of the building. They could have transporter her to the shuttle, but Maddox seemed to enjoy parading her past her colleagues. As they walked, Beverly could heard Kent arguing with Kendrick that her behaviour was perfectly innocent.

"Are you prepared to take that risk Admiral? She's asked for both Jayell and Data to be assigned to the Pasteur. Do you want to be the person who puts a Starfleet ship in the hands of two artificial beings and a captain who's riddled with Borg nanoprobes?"

++

In Data's laboratory Data, Doc and Jayell were in a celebratory mood.

"May I offer my congratulations?"

"You may, Doc, thank you." Jayell bowed. "If we were human I would offer you both a celebratory drink. Do have any suggestions as to what we 'artificials' should do in these situations?"

"Personally I find a song is appropriate."

"That is an excellent idea, Doc." Data replied. "Which song did you have in mind?"

Jayell smiled at his two friends. Being an artificial being didn't seem so lonely in their company.

++

Beverly led then along the basement corridor with Maddox still holding on to her arm.

"This is his storeroom, Captain."

"Do you know the entry code?"

"Yes."

Both Kendrick and Maddox drew their phasers.

"That isn't necessary, Captain. He isn't going to attack you."

"Your faith is touching Doctor, you'll understand if I don't share it. Open the door."

The three of them were laughing when Maddox burst into the room. Jayell and Data weren't surprised by his behaviour, but Doc was offended.

"Didn't your mother teach you to knock?"

Jayell gestured to him to cease.

"Good evening gentlemen, welcome to my quarters. Is there something I can do for you."

The presence of the three artificial beings confirmed Maddox suspicion of a conspiracy.

"You can explain this, for starters."

Maddox squeezed Beverly's arm even harder and yanked her ahead of him. She winced at the treatment.

Immediately the three beings edged closer, ready to spring to her defence. Jayell managed to keep his voice calm and polite.

"Captain, is it really necessary to hold my wife's arm quite so firmly?"

"Your wife?" Kent was astounded. "You're married?"

"Admiral Louvois approved the registration yesterday."

"Very cleaver." Maddox commentated. "I presume you were trying to establish a legal right to her company. I'm afraid that rule doesn't apply to Borg Queens. Or are you going to tell me you didn't know her body was full of Borg nanoprobes?"

Jayell was shocked.

"Beverly? Is this true?" He moved nearer to her.

At the same time Doc step forward. "I can expl.."

His words were cut short by the sound of phaser fire and a cry of pain from Jayell.

Kendrick had fired out of panic. Controlling three angry powerful creatures was something he had never been trained for. The resulting chaos frightened him even more Jayell was clutching his abdomen and moaning, Doc was trying to help him, Kent was yelling at him. Just then Crusher stamped heavily on Maddox's foot causing him to cry out and release her arm. As she rushed forward to reach Jayell, Kendrick let off another shot. It wasn't aimed at anyone but found a target.

Beverly stumbled, then fell into Jayell's arms. The shot had hit the middle of her back severing her spinal column immediately. As she slid to the floor her eyes momentarily met Jayell's.

An awful silence fell over the room.

Jayell Picard cradled his wife in his arms, shaking with shock as he did so. Doc attempted to help her, but her injuries were too extensive. He backed away, not wanting to intrude on a private moment.

Kent hurriedly ushered Maddox and Kendrick out of the room. When they had gone Picard lifted his head and let out a wail of despair that echoed through the building.

Chapter 36

(Twelve weeks later.) At Starbase 4 the USS Titan docked to take on new crew members and pick up supplies. Amongst the items taken aboard was a large coffin-like container.

"Do you need any help?" Riker asked, as the box was delivered to Data's quarters.

"Not at present, Captain."

"If you change your mind, just let me know."

As soon as Riker had gone Data secured the door and open the container. Inside, a PADD rested on the contents.

"To Commander Data c/o USS Titan

From Captain Bruce Maddox, Cybernetics Research Centre, Jupiter.

Having completed my examination of this artificial life-form, I hereby return its remains to you in compliance with order SF/9543-5643c from Admiral Kent."

I was unable to detect any signs of life. It seems to have switched itself off soon after Dr Crusher's death. Either that or its existence was dependent on hers in some way. Borg drones have been known to die when detached from their hive; this creatures behaviour maybe a similar. The individual nanoprobes in its body are still functioning however, as shown by its skin's ability to heal itself after my exploratory incisions.

Data unwrapped the body and carried it over to his workbench. At least Maddox had had the decency to clothe him. There he carefully examined his friend. One finger of his right hand had been detached, but was lying next to him. Apart from that there were no obvious signs of injury. He quickly positioned the finger against the spot from which it had been cut and held it in place with a clamp. After which he set up a set of powerful lights and shone them on different parts of his body.

As he worked Data began to doubt his theory that Jayell might still be alive. It would have taken extraordinary willpower not to react while Maddox cut into him. Such determination, however, was not beyond possibility, hadn't Picard already endured similar treatment from the Borg?

With the lights in place he fetched a medical scanner and ran it over the prone body. His emotion chip neared overload as he waited for the device to complete its calculations.

When the results appeared Data let out a small grunt of satisfaction.

"In my previous studies of your anatomy I was able to identify the minute changes which memory acquisition produced. This latest scan shows those changes have continued during the last 12 weeks. I therefore deduce that you are alive."

Jayell made no response to this assertion. Data wasn't surprised. Deanna had warned him that Picard probably considered himself a threat to humanity.

" .... He'll also think he contributed to Beverly's death by infecting her with nanoprobes. Be careful if you leave him alone, he may try to destroy himself.."

"Jayell? While Maddox was studying you, did you hear anyone mention what Dr Crusher discovered on her last day? . . . She recorded a message for Counsellor Troi that afternoon. I am going to play that for you while go and speak to the Captain."

The recording started soon after Data had left the room.

"Deanna,

"This ought to be a wonderful day for me. I ought be looking forward to being promoted. Instead all I'm feeling is foreboding. Admiral Kent is very accepting of Jayell, but Captain Maddox isn't. In fact he's positively antagonistic. He can't see anything except Jayell's Borg ancestry. With what's happened today I think he'll see Jayell as even more of a threat. This morning I discovered there are Borg nanoprobes in my body. Maddox will assume they came from Jayell - so did I to start with until I stopped to think. Over the past weeks I've been de-aging, just as we did after exposure to the Baku metaphasic rings; only this time the effect is more pronounced. The important point is that my de-aging started before I even knew of Jayell's existence. I was while I was away in Darlang. Yes, the improvements been more dramatic recently but I'm sure it started earlier. Whatever Maddox might say I know Jayell wasn't the source of my nanoprobes. They came from Jean-Luc, the human Jean-Luc. I even know when and how the transfer took place. Do you remember my telling you about the holographic double Data made of me, and how I couldn't control it to start with? Data took a another DNA sample and recompiled the hologram's matrix, from then on I could control it. I acquired the probes between those two dates.

"I know, I can imagine what people will say, 'you were living with Picard for almost a year, why would you only have been infected in the last few weeks?' Well I am certain because it involved some rather intimate activity we hadn't enjoyed till then. I think my body welcomed the nanoprobes because it thought they were food. They had come from Jean-Luc remember; in his body they had developed an alliance with his natural defences. Why shouldn't they do the same with mine? I put this idea to Doc this afternoon and he thinks it's a likely explanation. While on Voyager he'd used probes from 7-of-9s body to heal other patients.

"There's also something else my theory helps to explain how I was able to bring Jayell to life by just touching him. That had always seemed like a scene out of a fairy tale, but what if the nanoprobes in my body awakened the ones in his! Unfortunately I can't prove this idea and there's no way of repeating it. Maddox won't be convinced. He'll argue the transfer was in the other direction. ... and I'll admit he's partially right in one respect. The stimulation I've felt from being touched by Jayell is far beyond anything I've experienced before. Also my physical and mental abilities have improved considerably since I brought him to life. It wasn't until four days ago that we touched one another again.

"Four days! Is that all! So much has happened since then. Jayell has now accepted that he's both Jean-Luc and Jayell Picard. He doesn't mind being called either, though 'husband' is the name he enjoys most. 'Husband'. 'My husband', it does have a nice ring to it. Fate had been so cruel in taking Jean-Luc away on the eve of our wedding, it's wonderful to have achieved it at last.

"Damn! I've just seen the time, I've got to go, I'm due at Admiral Kent's office at 19:00.

Deanna, please, can you and Will remember this - whatever happens over the next few days, whatever the authorities tell you, I don't believe Jayell is danger to anyone, I am glad Data created him, and I'm proud and happy to be his wife. Oh but why am I being so gloomy! Things may yet work out well. You never know, with by rejuvenated body Jean-Luc and I may end up spending the next 50 years together.

Goodbye.

Picard had born Maddox's incisions without responding but he couldn't bear listening to her message.

"Beverly!", he called out, then raised his hands to cover his face.

++

(In Data's quarters)

"If I'm to be worthy of her love and of the life I've been given then I need something useful to do. Existing only to be experimented on is no life at all. If I get sent back to Maddox I fear I may resort to suicide."

Deanna looked across to her husband. "Will?"

Riker shifted in his chair. "Jean-Luc, the Titan is on an unusual rescue mission, it's the reason Data is on board. A small remote colony has been stricken by a virus that's killed nearly all the adults. The only survivors are 5 elderly men in their 90s and 192 children. The children survived because they haven't yet reached puberty. Starfleet's had to quarantine the planet, of course, it's too dangerous to allow anyone to visit or to leave. We're is setting up a manned orbiting station to help them, but there are limits to what can be done from space, especially as the atmospheric conditions make transportation unreliable.

"We think Data will be immune to the virus so he's going down to help get their water and power supply going again, there's nobody left there who knows how to maintain the systems. He's willing to stay there a long time but there's a chance we might need him elsewhere."

"Besides," Data continued, "the children need more than technical assistance. They need someone who is able to be their guide, their teacher, their doctor for years to come. The older inhabitants are trying to cope, but they are frail and may not live long."

"I'll go." Picard offered without being asked. "But tell me, will the children all die when they reach puberty? I'm not sure I could bear it if that happened."

"Starfleet Medical believes there is a good chance a vaccine can be developed from the children's own immune systems. They have already been exposed to the disease and will have developed some of the necessary antibodies."

"That research would have to be done on the planet." Picard realised. "We couldn't risk sending samples anywhere else. I'd better start learning how to go about it."

He got up immediately and went to a work station. Around the table his three friends smiled at one another.

"One mission accomplished." Deanna whispered.

"We'll leave you and Data to get on with your preparations." Riker said. "If you need anything please get Data to request it. I don't think Starfleet will approve of me sending you down there so I'm not telling the rest of the crew beforehand. I'd rather not involve them in my disobedience."

Picard, turned and beamed at him. "Spoken like a true captain, Will. Now get back to your bridge."

++

Three hours later Jean-Luc let out a deep sigh. "It may take me months or even years to develop a vaccine. And even then it may not be good enough to lift the quarantine. You and I don't need sleep, Data, but there aren't enough hours in the day to care for the children and to quickly develop a cure. We need another helper. ... Is Doc available?"

"He is working on the other side of the galaxy at the moment. Also he has recently become engaged to a human woman."

"Really? Good for him. You're right, we shouldn't ask him. It might part him from her for years. A pity she isn't a hologram, the younger children would benefit from female company."

Picard turned away, and pretended to be busy as thoughts of Beverly flooded into his mind.

"Jayell, ... do you remember what I made you from?"

"Of course the nanoprobes from my human body, millions of medical nanites and Picard's memory pattern from the transporter buffer. Why do you ask?"

"You may not know this, but just after Kent and the others left your basement quarters, I transported the pair of you to my laboratory."

Picard's jaw dropped open. "You extracted her nanoprobes!.."

"... I was also able to capture her memory pattern as brain function did not cease for another 23 seconds."

Jayell was both excited and disturbed at the same time. "It took us months to create enough nanites for Lal's body. They're too complicated to replicate. We can't take time off to do that this time, we're needed down there on the planet."

"I already have the nanites."

"All of them! How?"

"Wesley Crusher arranged it. He visited the world where we had left the sentient nanites he accidentally created. They know of his role in their creation and were very co-operative."

Jayell chided himself for forgetting about Wesley, his mother's death must have hit him hard.

He stared at Data.

Should I ask him to recreate her? Would she want to exist as an artificial life form?

"How long would it take?" He asked, not committing himself either way.

"No time at all."

Data went over to the storage area and pulled open a large draw.

"Beverly believed she was able to bring you to life because of the nanoprobes in her body. If she was correct you might be able to do the same for her."

Picard was visibly shaken. He didn't dare look into the draw. Tactfully Data chose that moment to check out the equipment on their shuttlecraft.

When he had gone Picard nervously edged closer to the open draw. A lock of red hair came into view. Moving nearer he saw her whole face. She looked his age in her forties. He laughed uneasily "At last I'm not too old or too young for you." He was standing next to her now, looking down.

In her message to Deanna she'd said she was looking forward to the long life the nanoprobes might make possible. Would this be so very different? They might be forced to stay on the stricken planet for decades but would that be so awful? She'd like playing mother to children down there, he was sure of that, just as he was looking forward to being their teacher. Bringing on young minds would be every bit as interesting as exploring the galaxy. And then there was Wesley to consider, even if she was stuck on the planet she could still talk to him, maybe even to her future grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The arguments seem valid but still he hesitated.

Should I?

Can I? Maybe only a human touch to bring her to life?

There was only one way to find out.

Stretching out his hand Picard gently stroked it across her cheek.


The End

If you have stayed with this story all the way to the end then THANK YOU. I hope you have found it enjoyable and worth the time you spent reading it.

Feedback is always welcome, you can contact me at the email address below.


E-mail me at catherine_ell69@hotmail.com

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