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A member of the crew is found savagely beaten into a coma. Is this another case of a crewmember turned violent, or something a lot more sinister?
This episode is my darkest one to date, hence the title, and likely always will be. I've been planning this storyline for years, as well as worrying if I'll ever be able to tell the story at all. This notice is here as a warning that the episode will get a little "difficult" near the end, but to reassure readers that the series isn't going to continue in this direction. The episode has to be done though. I can't really say why the episode needs a bad warning like this, spoilers and all. Needless to say there was a time I was tempted to put similar warnings on Closing of the Eyes and Burnt Out And Falling when they were new, as I believed they'd be controversial. Dark Clouds however makes those two episodes look like Season One in comparison. I still recommend reading the episode, I just wanted to warn you that it'll be a rough ride.
8th July 2014
23rd February 2015
18th - 20th, 22nd, 25th May 2015
Up here she could see for miles. Here she could be alone, clear her head and forget all of her troubles. That's what she loved about this town, most of it was filled with lush green countryside and clean air. She was going to miss it.
Right now though it wasn't as soothing as it normally was. Something was missing, something important. Storm clouds lurked over the hills, they were approaching fast. The sky was already a dark grey as it was, rain spat across the fields before her. What she was looking for could be anywhere.
It was all her fault.
The constant stream of shrill beeps brought James out of his head. To one side of him there was movement, only slight. He turned his head to the opposite side across the room. For the third time since he went to bed he found himself walking over to the crib by the door.
That damn noise rang twice before he could look inside it. The volume seemed to be louder than the last time. He almost pushed his way through the doors, which opened just in time, to go towards the main door. It opened swiftly as soon as he arrived at it. "This better be..." he spat before spotting a sullen Craig on the other side. "What's the matter?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't think it could, no should wait," he stammered in response, his voice raw. "You need to see this."
Craig hadn't said another word since the pair had set off. James wondered silently what was so bad that he'd attempt to wake him in the dead of the night, but not tell him about it. He thought about asking again when they stopped outside of Sickbay. Craig inhaled sharply, yet sighed slowly. He looked nervous.
"Craig, you're starting to frea..." James said.
Craig nodded and stepped forward, opening Sickbay doors. James followed him with a worried frown on his face.
The first thing they both saw was the Doctor hovering over an occupied bed, although where he stood blocked most of their view of the patient. He heard them walk in and turned around to greet them somberly.
"Well?" Craig dared to ask.
The Doctor closed the tricorder in his left hand while glancing at his patient briefly. "I'm afraid it's not good. There's a lot of damage to her sku..."
"What's going on?" James demanded.
The two men grimaced slightly, Craig more so out of guilt. The Doctor walked over to one side so the patient could be seen. A young girl no older than fifteen, covered in bruises, her clothes torn. Medical devices sat across her forehead in a half circular pattern, the lower half of her face was covered by a mask that deflated everytime she took a breath. Before either of the new arrivals could say anything the Doctor gently covered her up to her shoulders with a grey sheet.
"Team Four were called to a guest quarters on Deck Eight. A member of the crew was already there, she could barely speak, she just pointed at the door," Craig tried to explain. "They went inside to find the whole place in a big mess, a girl lying next to a broken book case." He shook his head grimly. "They immediately called me and..."
James had been focusing on him while he had been talking, but when he hesitated he couldn't help but look back at the girl. Despite the bruises and technology across her face she seemed a little familiar to him. Then he noticed the alien features barely visible behind the wounds. "She's Erayan."
"Yeah, she'll be one of the refugees you and Lena saved," Craig said quietly.
The Doctor leaned over to hover a regenerator gently over her wounds. "You're just doing that now?" James wondered out loud.
"I wish this was the worst of her injuries," the Doctor sighed.
"You said there was damage to her skull," Craig said.
The Doctor nodded before straightening back up again. "Yes. It feels like it's becoming a regular thing but she's in an induced coma for the time being."
James noticed Craig's fists clench by his side. "What about the other... thing?" the younger man asked.
This vagueness and secrecy was starting to annoy James now, the sight of the young injured girl wasn't helping. "What thing? Why are you trying to hide stuff from me? You demanded I come with you."
"You're right," Craig's voice almost broke. He dared to make eye contact with him. "Because of the way she was found, the injuries, it was hard not to think of anything else."
"Allow me," the Doctor butted in to Craig's relief. James' attention went to him instead. "My initial scan confirms it. This is an attempted sexual assault."
Craig winced, his eyes shut tightly. James' face meanwhile turned dangerously pale and tightened. "You're wrong," he eventually said, throwing the Doctor off guard.
"I assure you, I'm not. The injuries make it very clear about the attacker's intent," he said.
James stared briefly at Craig, he was just as taken aback as the Doctor, then back at the patient. His head shook. "No. This kind of thing doesn't happen." He took a step back, Craig noticed he was starting to tremble. "Not here, not now." Craig and the Doctor stared after him with their jaws dropped as he backed out of Sickbay.
"I knew he'd be pissed but I didn't expect that," Craig said.
The Doctor nodded slowly. "If I hadn't seen it for myself, I'd agree with him. Humans have long since evolved past an assault as vile as this. It shouldn't happen."
"But it did, and we need to catch this guy before he tries again. I'll need James's help," Craig said. He hurried outside to run after him, he was surprised to see that James was only standing outside with his back against the wall. His gaze distant. "I... I wanted to make sure it was. We didn't know for certain, only the Doc would know. If I told you what everyone thought before we knew for certain..."
"We don't," James said plainly.
Craig's shoulders fell, he could understand his denial. "The Doc's never wrong. At least, and I can't believe I'm saying it, it's not as bad as we thought." James looked him straight in the eye in such a way that made him feel like he should get back to Sickbay. He soldiered on anyway, "an attempt, not an actual... Still bad, I know."
"She's just a kid, Craig. Worse yet a survivor of a race nearly wiped out. She escaped from the underground, where her life was constantly at risk by experimented on killing machines, only to come here and be beaten like that," James said, his voice raising every few words. He was practically shouting at the end. Craig winced as a result. "We promised her she'd be safe now," he said quietly.
"The Doctor won't give up on her. She'll be fine and we'll catch this guy, okay?" Craig tried to calm him.
James didn't look so sure, he scoffed to one side. "Sure we will. Cos guys like that are always brought to justice."
Craig wasn't quite sure where that came from, he tried to shake it off. "An attack like that will bound to have left clues. The Doctor will find blood, skin, finger prints... If he doesn't we've got a crime scene to work on. No use giving up before we begun, right?"
"Right," James muttered.
"What do you think? Do you think we should work on the crime scene together, or divide our efforts?" Craig questioned.
James didn't answer right away, his eyes drifted to one side. Craig assumed he was thinking about it. Finally he spoke, "is the Enterprise in transporter range?"
"Yeah but their shields are up, as ours are. Whoever did this should be on Voyager," Craig answered.
"Okay. I'll do the crime scene, you..." James trailed off as he walked away.
Craig knew better than to follow him this time.
Like every day, Neelix strolled into his kitchen to prepare breakfast, without even asking for the lights. He had been on Voyager long enough to avoid walking into anything in the dark. He had a great idea in mind, basically inspired by the numerous alien guests the fleet had at the moment. Since the Enterprise was operating on a skeletal crew he had told them he was more than happy to hurry over there with some of his food, before the Voyager crew started arriving in the Mess Hall. That's why he was here a little earlier. They seemed reluctant, obviously not wanting to put him out, but he wouldn't do anything less for them.
The idea he had for breakfast meant he had to stop by the recently moved Habitation Lab. He half expected to have to start from scratch as he imagined crops grown on Deck Thirteen would be talking sentient mutants, or at the very least poisonous. It didn't help that Tom had told him about a true story about an overgrown plant that liked to eat people. They had even made a holonovel about it, with singing and dancing. Neelix struggled to remember the name of it while he put the box down.
Since he hadn't memorised his ingredients he decided he had to switch on the lights now, so he did. When they activated he was shocked to see somebody standing, looking out the window. He was very glad he had not turned on the lights when he was handling a knife or hot food.
"Oh dear, I didn't expect anyone to be here so early," he whimpered.
The figure barely registered his presence. She kept on staring out the window.
"Kiara. It'll be a while before breakfast, I hope you can wait for..." Neelix said to her. Then the name of the program popped into his head, "Little Shop of Horrors."
The figure turned around, showing off her disturbed expression. "At least you're honest about it now."
Neelix was confused. "Honest about what?"
"That's what people call your kitchen, I'm sure," Kiara said.
That didn't ease him, he instead decided to shake it off. His morale officer mode was kicking in. "What's a young girl like you staying up so late? Shouldn't you be wrapped up nice and warm in bed?"
Kiara's eyes drifted to one side. "I wish I was."
"There's nothing stopping you," Neelix said warmly while he walked over to her. "Did you have a bad dream?"
Kiara's face scrunched up as she looked at him directly. "How old do you think I am?"
"Everyone has bad dreams," Neelix said defensively.
"Yeah but you said it in a tone you'd use on a baby," Kiara mumbled.
Neelix chuckled nervously, "I didn't mean it that way. Why can't you sleep?"
Kiara hesitated before turning her back on him, her gaze went back to the window. "I'd rather not. I don't want to talk about it."
Neelix was surprised to hear the Mess Hall doors opening again. People usually didn't arrive for another two hours. He had a peep over his shoulder to see who it was. "Craig, I haven't started breakfast yet..."
"Oh I'm not here for that. Ever," Craig commented.
Kiara tensed a little, Neelix noticed in the corner of his eye. "Is there a problem?" he asked as Craig approached them.
"With your breakfast? Where do I start?" Craig said in a blank tone.
Neelix huffed. Craig thought that finally he had said something that Neelix couldn't twist into a compliment about his cooking. Instead the Talaxian said, "you can't start yet. I haven't even prepared the ingredients yet." With that he scurried off, leaving Craig trying to figure out if anyone ever could insult him knowingly.
"I don't want to talk about it," Kiara said quietly.
Craig nodded lightly. "I know. Would it help if James talked to you instead?"
Kiara sighed and turned back around. "It doesn't matter. I don't want to talk about it."
"Please Kiara. We need to find out who did this and fast before..." Craig pleaded with her.
Kiara shook her head. "I don't know! If I did, I'd have told people by now."
From his kitchen Neelix looked over with concern on his face. Morale mode had turned back on. Any more outbursts from the girl and he told himself he'd go to her aid.
"I never said you did. It's just, we need to know everything, so we can catch him," Craig said as softly as he could. "Before he attacks again."
Kiara shook a little, her eyes shut briefly. "Does Lena know?"
Craig shook his head, "no, should she?"
"I don't want her to worry. She's been through enough," Kiara whispered.
Craig took a step closer, he lowered his voice. "Is she involved at all?" Kiara shook her head timidly. "Then she doesn't find out from me."
Kiara smiled weakly. Her legs felt a little weak from the trembling, so she walked over to sit down in the nearest seat. "We were... I was supposed to keep her company tonight while her dad was out. Sleep over."
"The girl's dad?" Craig mumbled to himself. He worried, he hadn't had time to check for any parents.
"On their planet he was some structural engineer. He volunteered to help, to repay us for rescuing them," Kiara said.
Craig sighed and nodded. "How did you two meet?"
"The Enterprise trip back through the anomaly," Kiara replied grimly while she stared at the table. "She's been through a lot. Her planet dying, her town being raided by monsters, hiding out in a horrible cave. I thought she could do with a friend. We are similar ages so..."
"She didn't look nine," Craig blurted out without thinking. Kiara gave him a very Janeway like stare. "Sorry. Has she met anyone else since arriving on Voyager?"
Kiara's next sigh was telling to him, her head bowed as she did it. He quickly sat down opposite her. "Pearl was very outgoing, friendly. She'd talk to anyone who'd listen."
"Why do I get the feeling there's more to what you're saying?" Craig said carefully.
"That isn't her full name. I couldn't even pronounce it. Pearl is just a shortened version of Perlash..." Kiara said meekly. She noticed Craig staring at her expectantly, it made her realise that wasn't what he meant. "You mean about the outgoing thing." Craig only nodded. "Her dad and her argued about it all the time. He told her to be careful, even on a ship like this."
"I guess some of the Erayans still don't trust us. That's understandable," Craig said.
Kiara shook her head. "No, her dad was very grateful. As I said, he volunteered to help out with his expertise. He just... I guess he wasn't sure how Humans would react to it."
"React to what?" Craig questioned.
"She had a rough time. Please don't judge her," Kiara said as she stared at him, pleading him with her eyes.
"Kiara, I wouldn't... what?" Craig stammered.
"She... she got along with other girls, no problem. With men though, she'd flirt badly with them until they responded, one way or another," Kiara said. Craig's face turned very pale, he could feel his skin prickling with the lack of blood flow. "Most of the time they'd reject her or walk away, and she'd yell at them. Sometimes though, they flirted back. Before anything happened, if it would at all, she'd scream at them for being perverts."
"Oh god," Craig could only say quietly.
Kiara stared at him, her eyes were intense. "She told me she saw people being ripped apart by those experiments, while she fled her town. Seeing something like that..."
"I wasn't judging her, I promise," Craig said quickly. "I'm just surprised no one reported it. And also surprised anyone would respond to a teenager's flirtation."
"I don't think they were taking her seriously anyway, at least from what I saw," Kiara said meekly. "Except that one guy."
"Which one guy?" Craig asked.
Guilt was all over Kiara's face in an instant, her shoulders slouched. "I don't know, I wasn't there. He was apparently mad when she did her pervert bit."
"If he didn't mean it, then I'm not surprised," Craig said.
"No, I think he did. He knocked on her door a few times when her dad was out. That's why I was staying over tonight. She was terrified of him," Kiara said, now trembling. "Please, she's not a bad girl. She's just seen some awful things. Who would take the slow destruction of their home planet well?"
"I know, I get it. Pearl didn't deserve this, not ever," Craig said. Kiara was still shaking but his words re-assured her, he could tell by her eyes softening. "We'll catch him. You've given us a lead, thank you."
Kiara nodded meekly. "Maybe. Maybe not. She never said what species he was, what he looked like. She just called him an old creep. Pearl was fourteen going on ten, to her most of the crew were old."
"It's okay. If he knocked at her door as often as you say, there'll be evidence of it. The computer should tell us who was around at that time, and in the middle of the night I doubt there was many. This should be easy," Craig said in a gentle tone to re-assure her further. Kiara gave him another nod, this one looked far more confident. He rose from the chair to leave.
"Craig," Kiara said once he was half way out of the room.
He stopped to look back towards her. "Someone on this ship beat her so badly I barely recognised it was her. I don't believe... It won't be easy."
Craig didn't know what to say to that. He let his gaze linger for a while. "James is... working the case too. I could stay if..."
"No. I want you and him to capture this excuse of a person," Kiara said angrily. "I know it's wrong but poetic justice would be nice."
Craig turned away from her to head back out again. "Not entirely."
A team of three walked through the open doors guarded by two Security personnel, each of them carrying a tool kit of some kind. Once they were inside they could be heard whispering quietly in disgusted and worried voices. The two Security officers looked sullen. Each of them likely wished they were anywhere else on the ship.
James stood a few metres away, staring towards the open door, silently wondering if there was anything he could do outside to avoid going in. One of the people who went in walked back outside with a small piece of wood. They were about to walk away in the other direction. "Wait!" he called out, stopping them instantly. "What's that?"
The startled crewman quickly steeled himself before walking over. "The Doctor asked for any biological evidence." James looked down at the wood in his gloved hands, now he could see a little blood on its broken edge. "It could be the victim's, you never know though."
James noticed one of the Security officer's flinch. "Who could do this?" she asked quietly.
"A monster, obviously," her partner said.
"Probably," James said. The two glanced at him startled as if they didn't expect him to hear them. "We're assuming someone in the crew did this." The weight seemed to lift as he thought it over. "No one on this ship would beat a teenaged girl into a coma. No one. Has to be a demon."
"But the Doctor said..." the crewmember with the evidence stuttered.
"He's wrong," James butted in. He walked over to the open doorway, but stopped just before he reached the opening. Instead he focused on the door panel beside it. "It's not broken. Probably has transport capabilities, some do."
"Don't we have a demon shield?" the female Security officer asked.
"A portal has to be trying to open to even power it, or be tricked into it by some idiot warlock. It wouldn't stop a demon trespassing if it was already around, so to speak," James said. He was about to tap the panel, he stopped himself at the last second. "Gloves?" he asked one of the guards. The male officer handed him a pair of clean gloves which he quickly put on. Then he was able to tap at the panel. "Has anyone checked this yet?"
"Yes sir. The only finger prints belong to the occupants of the quarters and a Kiara Janeway," one answered.
James nodded, then he did a double take at the name. The two officers cringed as he stared at them. "Kiara?"
"She was the one that found the victim," the woman said.
Before James could say anything else or do anything else, the man quickly spoke up as well. "There's no sign of any forced entry, other than hers anyway. The door will have opened for anyone fleeing the scene so..."
"We need a list of anyone who was on the deck at the time of the attack. Do we know that yet?" James asked.
"Anderson said he'd leave that one to you, as the attacker could have easily left their commbadge at home and you'd be able to figure that out," the woman replied.
James sighed partially in relief, his head threatened to turn towards the open door. He forced it back. "Fine, so what is he doing?"
"I believe he said he'd be questioning the witness and people the girl knew, after checking in with Sickbay," the man said with hesitation. "She has a father. I wouldn't want to be the one who tells him about this."
James didn't even want to think about that, at least not yet. The anger he felt at the situation was brewing under the surface. The last thing he wanted was to trigger it. For now he had something to distract him. At the very least it would distract him alone in his office, no one would be around to witness or be affected if it didn't work. He noticed the Security team and the man still looking at him, in his point of view they looked a little afraid of what he may do.
"Time of the attack?" he asked any of them.
"She was found at approximately 0140 hours. The Doctor estimates that she had been there for an hour when she was found," the Security man answered.
He wished he hadn't asked. "An hour?" James said, his voice strained as he tried his best not to lose his temper. His earlier suspicions were confirmed, everyone took a step back and their bodies seemed to tense up. It was enough to get him to calm down a little. "I'm sorry, it's no one's fault. I just... it's a long time for a little girl to be lying so badly injured on her own."
The first person to relax was the one who brought out the piece of wood. They gave him a sympathetic nod. "The attack will have rendered her unconscious. She wouldn't have been aware of the time she was alone."
"I've heard better silver linings," James mumbled to himself. He glanced at everyone one at a time, then he turned to go back the way he came. "Carry on."
Tom felt the strength in his legs give up along with his state of mind, he shakily sat down so he wouldn't collapse. Craig had finished talking five minutes ago, he decided to wait patiently as he understood how he was feeling.
"Suspects?" he finally said after a few more minutes silence.
"One so far. A guy was stalking her apparently," Craig replied.
Tom felt his eyes blink far more times than usual as his brain processed what he just said. "Stalking. A fourteen year old girl?" Craig nodded. "Who?"
"Dunno yet. I think James is looking up who was on that deck when the attack happened. I'll ask him to expand that once I'm done here," Craig replied.
Tom sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "I miss the good old days, you know? Evil clones of us who's most evil thing was a bit of kidnapping. Damien attacking us with rabbits. Holodecks gone wrong. Brainwashed celebrities."
"Demon portals that threaten to destroy the ship. Homicidal maniacs shooting random people. Everyone being brutally murdered by ghosts," Craig said. Tom frowned. "Those were the days."
"Okay maybe it wasn't all silly and mostly harmless, but now it feels like something awful happens all the time," Tom said. "What was the last thing that happened that we'd consider light?"
"Annika last week painting Damien murals in Astrometrics," Craig said.
Tom stared blankly at him. "You're defending this?"
"Well it was one of her less aggressive stalkings," Craig said. He said it so plainly Tom continued to think he was serious. At least until a small smirk threatened to appear. "I'm just trying to look on the bright side for once. It wasn't all nice and silly back in the old days, and it sure isn't just doom and gloom today."
"Are you sure about that?" Tom asked tiredly.
"Tom, not long ago you called me a self pitying idiot. What I got from that speech is moping around won't help solve anything. If we're going to figure this out, we're going to have to tackle it the way we normally do," Craig said.
"The last time we had to investigate an attack with an unknown assailant, you and James almost came to blows and it ended up being solved by Jessie," Tom said with a slight smirk on his face.
Craig sighed, "lucky for me it didn't. What's your point? I was a much bigger mess back then, I didn't want his help and I didn't care either. Now, I'm the one who asked for his help."
"I'm just saying that we shouldn't tackle it the way we normally do," Tom said. "Instead we should get master detective Jessie on the case."
"We would have solved it if we were working together. She only solved it cos she overheard us arguing," Craig said.
"Fine. You two have buried the hatchet, huh. Okay, who am I to doubt you?" Tom said in a teasing voice. "So he's looking at who was there at the time. The Doctor is running DNA tests on anything he can find. You're?"
Craig's shoulders slumped. Any good mood he had during this conversation was starting to slip away. He tried his best to keep it still. "I need to talk to her dad. He might know who the stalker was."
"No he won't," Tom said plainly, causing Craig to frown at him. "If he did, he'd do something about it. He's a father. At the very least he would have told Security. At the most, we'd be investigating a man being beaten instead."
"Someone still needs to tell him though," Craig said.
"Yeah," Tom sighed. "Maybe I should do it. Father to father, Captain to guest I've failed."
"Surely that's mine, no actually James' job," Craig said. He winced after saying that. "Yeah, you should do it."
Tom had to laugh despite the situation. "Why, it's not his daughter we're dealing with."
Craig's eyes had widened, "don't say that. Don't ever say that. His reaction to this girl was bad enough. He seemed to take it very personally, almost like she was his. I dread to know how he'd react if she was."
"I think we can imagine considering his past breakdowns," Tom said.
Craig shook his head. He remembered the time when he was forced to travel back in time to save Ylara and her brother. He had come face to face, or rather fist to face with a much darker Evil Slayer. His encounter with James' version a few years ago paled in comparison. He at least stopped to talk to him. The only reason he recovered was that what caused it was undone. What if this had happened to him and like Ylara's brother; couldn't be undone so it was left to fester? The thought of him turning into a similar case was terrifying.
"No, no you can't," Craig only ended up saying.
Tom had pulled himself to his feet and walked part way around the desk while he had been thinking. "We're all dragged into a case like this, I think. I'd be more worried if James didn't react at all to it. Just make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."
"Me, how?" Craig said bewilderedly.
Tom smirked and then laughed quietly. "Tell on him. Not even the mighty Slayer can go up against an angry wife."
"Are you speaking from experience? Sort of," Craig questioned lightly.
"Do you really have to ask that?" Tom said.
"Yeah, I'm already kicking myself," Craig said with a slight smile.
Tom patted him on the shoulder as he walked by him. "Just think, yours may be the mighty Slayer. Don't get married." He continued towards the exit, leaving Craig a stuttery and red faced mess.
"Wait, me and Lena? That's not happening," he eventually managed to get out.
Tom stopped at the door. "You're moving on? But James is already married."
"That's not funny," Craig said as sternly as he could manage.
"I think you're very wrong about that," Tom sniggered as he disappeared through the door.
Craig groaned. "At least I was right. Things haven't changed that much."
"Sickbay to Anderson."
Craig reluctantly tapped his commbadge, already dreading what he was going to be told. "Yeah?"
"Can you come back to Sickbay please, I've found something."
"Sure," Craig sighed. The dread was building up knowing that the Doctor only asked him to go to Sickbay. If he had wanted James to go, he would have contacted them both at the same time. It must be a bad something if only he was being summoned. He tried to tell his paranoia that he likely already called him or he was already there. It didn't work so well.
Despite his worry, he hurried out of the door towards the nearest turbolift.
"You really said that?"
Lena dragged herself away from the streaming stars view through the window. Her shoulders casually raised up and then down. "I don't remember it word for word, but yeah."
James smiled as he tried to picture it. For some reason it just made his chest feel heavy. The smile disappeared with it. "It's not a good month for parents."
"Oh? Something you want to tell me?" Lena questioned him.
"Okay, older parents," James said.
Lena started smirking at him, he didn't know why. "I heard about Jess and her mother. Do you two have anymore long lost parents we should know about?"
James couldn't help but laugh. "I can't guarantee anything."
"My dad, your dad. Either mum had terrible taste or we're very unlucky," Lena said.
"Hmm, yours is either the best liar in the quadrant or he's making it up as he goes along," James said. Lena inhaled deeply and nodded a little. "What do you think happened?"
"You don't want to know what I think," Lena said in a grim tone.
The computer at James' new desk got his attention briefly with a couple of beeps, his head turned towards it and back again. "Now I really do," he said while side walking towards the desk.
Lena rolled her eyes with a slight smile on her face. "No you don't. It's stupid."
"I won't know that until you share it," James said once he reached the desk. The computer was dragged forward, then rotated around so he could see it. Lena was still in the corner of his eye, at least until she started to pace.
"I could believe dad not taking mum's death well. I could believe him being mad for a bit. I can't believe dad would go so far as to resurrect her though, let alone in the way he did it," Lena said. "I also find it hard to believe that he'd use Damien as well."
James had a quick look at the list of names that appeared on the screen. He then turned around on his heel so he could face Lena again. "I think we all can agree on that. Why is that stupid?"
Lena smiled bitterly while exhaling through her nose, it sounded like a huff to him. "He wouldn't do it. He'd mourn her and he'd continue on in her place. Dad's far better than this... this imposter."
James walked over to stand beside her as her head dipped towards the floor. "Imposter?"
Lena nodded lightly. "Earth was under constant attack then. You haven't considered it?"
James didn't answer right away, he wasn't sure what she meant exactly. He had a nagging feeling what it might be, but he brushed that aside thinking that it wasn't possible. It seemed safe to say, "no."
"Cubes were landing all over, you were punished with cleaning up that mess. Apparently more cubes attacked after I was gone, one just like Manchester," Lena said.
"Newcastle, yeah," James nodded. "What's that got to do with your dad though?"
"Nothing, probably," Lena said too nonchalantly for his liking.
"Lena," he said, vocalising his distaste.
Lena shook her head before turning around to face him directly. "Mum dies, Jessie nearly dies, dad goes insane, I die, the Softmicron attacks. I don't like it."
"I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to," James said.
Lena's eyebrow raised. "You of all people taking me literally. I meant..." A smirk appeared on his face, cutting her off. "It stinks okay. Don't tell me you didn't once think that."
"Not long after I left Earth to see mum, a cube landed near my home town," James said quietly while staring out the window.
Lena cast her mind back to that time, then she remembered something. Her skin paled slightly, butterflies in her stomach appeared to do back flips. "A lot of the cubes were around your home."
"It's nothing new. Not to me," James muttered. Lena's eyes turned sharp, and a little dangerous. "I always thought what happened to Manchester was meant for me. I lived there for years. They probably didn't know I was gone." He turned his head slightly to look her in the eye. "That was long before your dad's personality swap."
Lena sighed. "Fine. Fine, dad's behaviour just doesn't sit right with me. It goes against everything I know about him, from both timelines. What on earth was so much worse, that what he did to mum was a rosy alternative? Was that what changed him? Is it really that simple?"
"Perhaps," James replied.
Lena felt her gaze gravitate back to the streaming stars. "I still think it stinks. I'm not the only one right?"
James barely shook his head. "No."
Lena back stepped away from the window, her attention eventually fell on the computer. "You were working on something. I hope it wasn't too important."
"Yeah," James sighed. Lena looked down at the floor, as if her head suddenly became heavy. He felt that way himself when he saw that, he quickly reached out to take her hand. "It could wait a few minutes. You're my sister. You come first."
Lena smiled weakly, then she started to laugh a little. "You can be so corny sometimes."
James laughed with her. "Well, it runs in the family."
"Which side, cos that ain't me," Lena continued to laugh.
"Suddenly I'm regretting my decision," James said not seriously. He walked away with an amused glint in his eye.
Lena followed him curiously. "So what's going on? It must be something interesting at this time of night?"
James tapped at the computer to attempt to scroll down the list. It didn't move though. "That's it?" He briefly glanced behind him. "There was an attack a few hours ago. I'm just looking at who was around at the time."
"Oh? We haven't had a mystery like this in a while," Lena said. "Change of pace from... well, everything. I shouldn't like that, should I?"
"Unfortunately no. The girl, she's one of the Erayans. Just a kid," James said awkwardly.
"Who'd attack a little kid?" Lena asked in distaste.
James stared at the list again. "Maybe one of these people. Or someone who isn't stupid enough to wear their commbadge. Or a demon."
"If it was one, what stopped it?" Lena questioned.
"I don't kn..." James blurted out without thinking. He then thought about what she said.
"She's not dead right?" Lena asked carefully and with a little worry tainting her voice.
"No, coma," James replied quietly. The dread he felt when he was told about this fell over him once again. He started looking at the list more intently. "You're right. Nobody interrupted, nobody came for an hour. A demon would have killed her, not... this."
Lena walked over to join him in front of the desk. The first thing she did once she got there was stare at the list of names. "Why don't we cut this list in half. I'll take one, you take one." She noticed James was still staring at it. A few seconds of studying his face told her he was actually just staring in that general direction, not at anything in particular. "We'll catch him or her. Yeah?"
"Him," James said plainly without moving any other muscle.
Lena forced a smile on her face. "Oh, so you know that. You want to save us some time and name him?"
James snapped out of his daze. He looked at her in surprise. Lena then wondered how long he had been in it. "I'll do it. You should go to Kiara."
"Why?" Lena asked slowly, her eyes showed off her worry. "You think this is a serial kid beater?"
"In a way. The thing is, the girl who was attacked was a friend of hers, she found her," James said a little reluctantly. The look of horror on his sister's face made him regret not being more reluctant. He quickly attempted to back pedal a bit. "I'd feel better if no one was alone until this guy is caught."
"You mean Perla?" Lena stuttered before he could say anything else. "Who'd want to hurt her? She's a cheerful and optimistic girl, despite what happened to her."
"Random attack, maybe," James mumbled. He sighed while closing his eyes, his head lowered without him thinking about it, so when he opened them again he was staring at the floor. "I shouldn't have told you."
"No, no you should. You know I don't like being kept in the dark. I especially hate being molly coddled, or whatever," Lena said. She didn't have to say it, her face said thank you all on its own. "If you need help with the case, just call okay? I want to catch him."
James only nodded in response. It made Lena hesitate before she walked away for the door.
"If it wasn't my daughter, I'd have stayed and helped. You know that right?" she asked.
James frowned, "of course I do. You don't need to tell me that."
Lena studied him carefully, it just made him frown all the more. She let out a sigh when she didn't get the answer she wanted. "I'm only saying it cos..." she hesitated while she tried to figure out how to put what she was thinking into words. "This isn't the same thing. It's not gonna end the same way either."
That made James even more confused. His head shake proved that to her. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Hmm, I hope so cos that means I'm just imagining it," Lena said with a warm smile.
"Seems that way," James said.
Lena's smile grew, she turned to the right slightly to walk away. "Keep your cool okay, big bro?" she said while heading for the door.
James was left even more confused than he was before. He tried to shake it off and study the list on his screen. First he had to make a few changes to it. A few taps took away the two female crewmembers, leaving only four remaining. The list was swapped out for a schematic of Voyager which then zoomed in around the saucer side of Deck Eight. A few dots appeared within the deck, some moving and some still. Text that appeared with it said Lifesign Signature Scan.
"I thought so," he whispered. Another few taps took some of them away until he was left with five. The list of four names was immediately brought back. This would be easy, all he had to do was match the lifesign signatures with the names, based on their commbadge location and he'd have one left. He'd still have the challenge of identifying the fifth one.
He then thought that all he'd done was confirmed that somebody was wandering on Deck Eight commbadge-less at the time. To identify him he'd need to do a ship wide version of this. A commbadge signal had to have a lifesign in the same place. However he knew all too well that some people would take off their commbadge, as well as their uniform, once their shift was over. It may be possible that some people will have forgotten to put it back on when they go back out to the Mess Hall, Holodeck or even just for a walk.
It was okay, he told himself. It still will narrow things down greatly. It didn't take long to match the names on the list with the lifesigns on the scan. Their commbadge and lifesigns matched their location perfectly.
Before starting on the new ship wide scan, he studied that fifth dot again. It did tell him something he didn't want to believe. The person that was wandering around Deck Eight without a commbadge while a girl was being horribly attacked was Human.
James still wanted to believe that whoever did this wouldn't show up in any of his results. That the mystery fifth person was just somebody that couldn't sleep and had decided to walk or run around the ship to tire themselves out. That hope spurned him into continuing his work.
The atmosphere on the Enterprise looked a lot lighter than Voyager's grim one, at least from what could be seen on the viewscreen. Harry even relaxed back into the chair.
"You did hear me right?" Tom questioned, just in case. "Until we find out who did it, only our Security chiefs are allowed to beam back and forth between the ships."
Harry nodded, "yeah Tom, it's hard to miss."
"Then, why aren't you more concerned?" Tom asked.
"Oh I am, but Security approved transports also means that Neelix can't bring his breakfast picnic over," Harry answered.
Despite everything, the bridge quietly chuckled to themselves. Tom couldn't resist a brief smile. "Lucky you. Has anyone been to the Enterprise in the last day?"
"I keep checking, and no. I asked Tira as well if she had any guests, she said her shields have been up the whole time," Harry answered.
Tom sighed in disappointment. "The Katane says the same thing. They're extra eager to solve this, I can't blame them."
"Can I add something?" Chakotay's voice said just off screen. He walked into it seconds later. Tom reluctantly nodded. "An attack of this nature should be quite simple. If you beat somebody half to death it's impossible to not leave behind any trace evidence; skin, hair, leather from your boot if you kicked them, finger prints. At the very least you can narrow down species."
Tom tensed up half way through his second sentence. Harry butted in before he could say anything, "I hope you're not pinning the blame on one of our allies."
"I'm not blaming anyone," Chakotay said defensively.
Tom climbed out his chair to at the very least loosen his stressed joints a bit. He ended up standing a little slouched with his arms folded. "What is your point? The Doc will know all this."
Chakotay stared at him quizzically. "Then it should be simple, but you're acting like it's complicated, and possibly abnormal. You described it as brutal, so I imagine your suspect list will be more supernatural than not."
"No, we already have a suspect," Tom said awkwardly. The two bridges noticed his discomfort. Chakotay eyed him suspiciously. "He just doesn't have a name or face yet."
Naomi shuddered, "eew, I wouldn't like to run into that guy."
Tom stared only at the back of her head as she was sat in front of him. "I don't mean literally."
"How can you have a nameless, faceless suspect?" Harry asked.
Tom's folded arms tightened, it looked like he was hugging himself instead. "I can't share the details of the case in such a public place. What if he knows we're on to him?"
"He?" Harry sniggered, his finger gestured casually around Voyager's bridge. Tom scrunched up his face and turned a bit to look around. He eyed one man at the back station suspiciously, not that he'd notice as his back was to him. So far he couldn't see any other man he could possibly be talking about. He ended up staring at the only one he'd seen, getting more suspicious by the minute.
Chakotay groaned. "I think Kim is suggesting that..."
Harry shushed him, "no, no, he'll get it."
Tom walked over to the back of the bridge. By the time the man noticed he was being stared at, Tom was already in his face giving him narrowed eyes.
"Uh, can I help you?" he said irritably as the Lieutenant was more than violating his personal space by this point.
"Don't get snippy with me, boy-o. I'm onto you," Tom snapped.
Most of the bridge, and the Enterprise's, snickered as quietly as they could. Chakotay looked to Harry expectantly. "Maybe not," Harry sighed. "Tom!"
Tom quickly waved him off, "I got it."
"You're worried about a male attacker finding out that we know what he's done, when only one guy is on your bridge," Chakotay said.
Tom didn't react at first. Everyone assumed he was thinking it over. Then he laughed nervously and patted the man on the shoulder. "Ha, got you. You can go for your break now. Kay? Thanks for being a good sport."
"Are you on something?" the man asked.
Tom continued to laugh, "oh you. Get outta here." He tried to shove him towards the turbolift. Once he was gone he forced a smile at all who was sniggering at him, which was everyone. "You guys are so easy. I'm not that daft. Sheesh."
"Okay Tom, you're not," Harry patronised him.
Chakotay sighed a little impatiently, "so your suspect is a man? Anything else we should know?"
"Nope, that's it," Tom lied.
"Wow, this case solves itself," Harry quipped.
Chakotay wasn't buying it though. "Why is your suspect a man?"
"Trust me, you don't want to know the details. Just, don't let anyone on or off your ship without Security permission," Tom said in his commanding tone.
"So why did you kick that cute ass guy out?" Danny whimpered from Tactical. "I liked him."
"You like every guy," Harry pointed out.
Danny laughed in his direction, "yeah you wish."
Craig expected to find the Doctor still with his patient when he arrived. That wasn't what he found. Before he had even entered he noticed half of a Security team was guarding the door. Once he did he found the other half standing on opposites ends of Sickbay. Nikki stood near the victim, studying a tricorder.
"Doc?" Craig said while taking another step inside.
"In here," the Doctor's voice called from his office.
Craig turned his head to the left, and sure enough there he was. He hurried inside, silently hoping that the Doctor had solved the whole thing. The look on his face told him that it was likely he didn't, or he was about to put a spanner in the works.
"What is it?" he asked.
The Doctor sighed in frustration. That wasn't a good sign, Craig thought to himself. The source of the Doctor's frustration seemed to be the computer as he rotated it around so Craig could see it. Not understand it though. To him it looked like a garbled mess.
"I've never seen anything like this," he said.
"What?" Craig stuttered. He was leaning on the put a spanner in the works side, but he was still surprised by the Doctor admitting this. "Like what?"
"This is supposed to be DNA sequences," the Doctor explained, pointing at the screen.
Now that Craig knew what he was supposed to look at, he stared at it again, hoping it would look far less garbled. It didn't. All he could determine from it was that it was a very busy and chaotic set of DNA. Since the Doctor was baffled about it, he knew that wasn't normal. "So, it's an alien? Maybe?"
The Doctor forced a laugh, "if it is, it goes against everything I know about genetics. This, shouldn't be possible."
"Apart from it looking like its been put through a blender, what's the matter with it?" Craig asked.
"That's exactly what's the matter with it," the Doctor replied.
Craig felt oddly relieved, but only because he felt like such an idiot staring at it. The relief was overshadowed by the thoughts about what that may mean. "Maybe this is what demon DNA looks like." The Doctor stared at him as if it was something he had already considered, and was already disproving. A horrible thought came to Craig, which he blurted out right away. "Softmicron? They're shapeshifters. Maybe a shift gone wrong?"
"Interesting theory but I don't think that's the case," the Doctor said. He pointed at a few parts of the DNA sequence. "This, and this are fairly consistent with humanoid DNA. The rest... I have no idea."
Craig was even more confused than before, and that was saying something. "Um. So he could be Human. I thought..."
"If he was, he'd be dead by now. Some of the sequences that should be there, have strange ones that don't fit in their place. Some are empty. It's, as I said, shouldn't be possible," the Doctor said.
"So we're ruling out a half Human?" Craig said meekly. The Doctor nodded quickly. "Then what is he?"
"I wish I could tell you," the Doctor replied.
"What makes you so sure it isn't demon?" Craig asked.
The Doctor pulled the computer back over to him with a sigh. "It wouldn't explain the Human sequences. Only a vampire would explain that, however the samples couldn't have come from one." Craig scrunched his face in disgust. He didn't want to know. The Doctor made sure that he would anyway, "blood. Vampires are dead. They shouldn't bleed."
"They still have blood though," Craig pointed out. "Where did you find it?"
"Under her finger nails. She must have scratched him," the Doctor replied. "I'm still looking but the amount of it tells me the attacker bled from her attack. I'll keep an open mind."
"No, maybe not. A vampire wouldn't have left her unconscious," Craig said. He sighed deeply, they were back to square one. Or at the very least back to square stalker. "Maybe there's further DNA evidence that won't be all... dodgy. There could be something wrong with the scanner, the sample was compromised."
The Doctor stared at him, slightly bemused at his suggestion. "Dodgy?" Craig smiled awkwardly. "I have already considered that. Which is why I called you here."
"Oh?" Craig wasn't sure whether to be worried or not.
"While I was treating her wounds I had to scan for DNA evidence as well as scan in casts of them. You understand that?" the Doctor said, and not in an insulting manner.
Craig thought about it, then nodded. "Treating the wound will erase the evidence. Casts are a copy, right?"
"Yes," the Doctor said, sounding a little relieved. "I have the awful task of cataloging them, so I can determine when they happened and how. Also hopefully by who. The scan revealed that one of the wounds was inflicted on a previous one. The second one cracked her jaw..." Craig cringed at the thought of that. "And bruised the area around it, mostly obscuring the original one."
"Oh god," Craig verbalised his disgust. "I really hope there's a point to this."
The Doctor understood what he was feeling, he felt it too. "The second attack left skin traces behind. It's one of the many samples with the strange DNA. However, the first attack left us something far more useful." He walked over to the wall panel nearby. One button press brought up a hand print. Craig's eyes widened hopefully. "Finger prints."
"Doc, you just solved it," Craig said quickly.
The Doctor didn't look as convinced. "I checked the prints in our database, and once I did I compared their DNA with the garbled ones we found. There is a 0.12% match."
"Meaning?" Craig said, his hopes quickly fading.
"Normally I'd say it was a different attacker, a different species even," the Doctor replied. "With these strange DNA samples, I'd say all bets are off."
"It's a start. Thanks Doc," Craig said. "Who is it?"
Most of the Engineering team were huddled around B'Elanna, nearby the warp core. Every now and then she'd stop talking and some of the team would pipe up. The ones not apart of this were busy manning different stations.
Tom quickly looked at them first. He shook his head as none of them were who he was looking for. Reluctantly he walked over to the group. B'Elanna spotted him first in between the gaps in the crowd. The look on his face told her to wrap it up.
"Okay, split into teams. Report your results every half hour," she ordered. The crowd soon dispersed, leaving only her standing there.
Tom approached looking apologetic. "I hope I wasn't interrupting anything important."
"Well, just a few semi important things. Nothing they shouldn't be able to do without me. I hope," B'Elanna said. "What's the matter?"
"I'm looking for the Erayan specialist. His name is Yutan," Tom answered.
B'Elanna looked around at her team dispersing, she quickly pointed towards one of the side stations. Tom turned his head to look in that direction. A team of four had just reached it, they were talking quietly amongst themselves. One of them was a middle aged Erayan man with gentle features and a friendly smile.
"He's a structural engineer. He apparently was a part of the Tower project," B'Elanna said matter-of-factly.
Tom's head swung back around, making his neck click in protest. He ignored the brief pain for now. "I'm sorry, what?"
B'Elanna laughed, "relax. He's not one of them. The Erayan towers were built by normal people, tricked into thinking they were harmless power plants. He wasn't involved in the planet draining side of it. Just the design of the building. He'll know their weakness better than anyone."
"God. No wonder he offered to help," Tom said grimly. "Imagine being unwittingly involved in the destruction of your planet. That's a lot to live with." That thought alone made the reason he came here even more unsettling.
B'Elanna seemed to sense his discomfort, she stepped closer to her husband and put a hand across his arm. "You didn't know about this and you still want to talk with him? What's happened? Do you want me to..."
"No, Captain's prerogative. It's not something you can delegate," Tom said through a lump in his throat.
B'Elanna sighed. "If you need help. Give me a sign."
Tom nodded gratefully. "I will." With a heavy heart he started to make his way over to the team. They didn't notice until he joined them. They looked at him expectantly. "Yutan?"
"Yes?" the alien said politely with a smile. Then he noticed the uncomfortable look on the Lieutenant's face. "Is there a problem?"
"I'm afraid so," Tom answered carefully, just as the Engineering doors opened again. "Perhaps we should speak alone."
"All right," Yutan said warily.
His eyes moved to one side, just over Tom's shoulder. Tom assumed he was uncomfortably hinting where he would walk to. Tom turned around and found himself face to face with Craig. He wasn't alone either, four Security officers stood behind him. Each of them armed.
"Craig? I told you I'd handle it," Tom said.
Craig seemed pained but firm, he gestured for him to step aside. Tom shook his head, mouthing no. He didn't want to believe it. Finally he did step to one side, all the while staring at B'Elanna in dismay. She had no idea what was going on, but shared his expression anyway.
"What is happening?" Yutan asked in a stutter.
"I'm placing you under arrest," Craig answered him as firmly as he could.
Yutan's mouth dropped in shock, and he wasn't the only one. "For what? I didn't do anything."
Craig hesitated slightly. Then he looked behind him to gesture to his team. They walked forward to surround the scared alien. "Just come with us, we'll discuss it in the Brig," Craig said.
"Are you sure?" Tom eventually stammered. By the time he did, two of the Security officers had clutched each of the man's arms. The other two stood behind him. Craig just nodded his reply. "But..."
The Security team lead the alien man away, all the while he stuttered his innocence and struggled in their grips. The rest of Engineering looked on in shock.
Unlike Voyager's and more like the Leda's, the Enterprise's brig had more than one cell. Six in total, paired off into separated rooms, each cell opposite the other. One lone console sat in between the two cells, manned by two personnel.
The room Craig was in only had one prisoner inside. Despite his crime, he didn't want more people knowing about it, especially when he knew two more Erayans were being imprisoned on the ship too. Child kidnappers were the last kind of people he wanted knowing about this.
"I swear. I didn't know what the towers were really for. I wish I did," Yutan protested.
Craig approached the forcefield in between them. "That's not what you're here for."
"Drawing the plans for that monstrosity is my only crime," Yutan said firmly despite his worry.
"Where were you at 0040 hours this morning?" Craig asked.
Yutan stared at him blankly. "I... don't know what that means."
"It's a time. Forty minutes passed midnight, 12:40 am. Didn't anyone tell you about this when you started working with us?" Craig asked.
"Oh, zero hour. My terminal was set to remind me a short time before zero hour to report to Engineering. Your time system is confusing to say the least," Yutan said, still in a nervous tone. "I imagine by the forty that I was already there. It doesn't take long to get to your engine room. In fact today I left early."
Craig caught on to that right away, he didn't like it. "Why?"
Yutan was offended by the accusation lurking in his question. He responded in kind. "That's personal," he said firmly.
"I wouldn't talk like that, not when you're the top suspect in a crime like this," Craig said.
"I still don't know what you're accusing me of!" Yutan snapped.
"At approximately 0140 hours, a friend of your daughter's visited her. She instead found her beaten and unconscious," Craig answered him, the words made him feel sick. The look on the other man's face didn't help. The complexion in it whittled away, his eyes even paled as well. His jaw started to tremble. Craig wondered if he was just a good actor, it was certainly convincing.
"No... my little girl," Yutan stammered, his voice barely above a whisper. Anger soon took over, his eyes glazed over. "You're accusing me of this!?"
"Yes, your finger..." Craig started to explain.
Yutan's anger made him step too close to the forcefield. It didn't put him off either. "I wouldn't hurt her. It's the last thing I would do. Just because a few characters in my race staged a kidnapping, doesn't mean we all beat our children."
"I never said that," Craig said, slightly taken aback. He then noticed his own voice was shaking along with him. He breathed in to try and tame it.
"Then don't waste your time on me. Find the brute that did this to my sweet daughter!" Yutan snapped.
Craig took in another deep breath before continuing. "Your finger prints were on her face. It looked like she had been slapped there first before being punched."
"How dare you," Yutan growled. "I love my daughter. Why would I want to hurt her?"
"You tell me," Craig said without thinking.
The doors to the brig opened sharply. Craig briefly looked to see who it was. He wasn't expecting anyone, least of all James. He took one look at the prisoner before walking the rest of the way over to Craig.
"Tom told me what happened," he said.
Craig looked at him and got the feeling that he had messed up, or was getting in the way. He tried to brush it aside. "The Doctor found his finger prints on a wound."
"Absurd. I'd have no reason to hurt her," Yutan butted in.
"What about her flirting with the whole ship," Craig asked, immediately regretting it. Yutan's eyes flashed with horror. Craig averted his own, briefly noticing James staring at him. He still felt like he was being belittled. "Did you find anything?" he asked aggressively.
"Don't start with that again," James said coldly.
The tone of voice made him stand down, at least for now. Craig tried to calm himself. "There's evidence that he hit her. He admitted to changing his schedule. What happened to her was awful, I guess I... it makes me sick."
"I know, me too," James said in a more friendly tone. "Do you want me to handle this?"
"No, it's fine. I'm fine," Craig answered. Now he was calmer he turned his attention back on the prisoner. He had since turned away from them to pace, while stuttering words to himself. "Yutan."
"No!" Yutan belted out as he swung back around. "My daughter is my everything. What you are accusing me of is disgusting. I want to know who really did it."
"Then co-operate. Being evasive and lying is wasting our time too," Craig said.
Yutan stared at him harshly for a moment. He seemed to agree with him and his anger was redirected internally for now. "You want to know why I left early?"
"Yes," Craig nodded.
"We had an argument," Yutan answered reluctantly.
"About?" Craig asked.
Yutan shook his head in disgust, "she's a teenager, damaged by what happened. I thought it was best to not encourage it further, so I left her to calm down. Me as well."
"Do you know anyone that can back that up?" James asked. Craig glanced at him briefly, annoyed that he was likely trying to take over after all.
"I went for a walk. I didn't pay any attention to anyone else," Yutan said, his voice riddled with regret. "If it helps, I walked around my deck, joined someone in the lift and I entered the same deck they did. I didn't bother to ask their name. There was a window, I watched the stars go by. Then I thought I should go to Engineering as I'm not used to your time system. I didn't want to be late."
"The one in the lift. Can you describe them?" Craig asked.
"Um, he was in between your heights," Yutan answered, gesturing towards both Craig and James. "Dark hair, beard. Skinny. Um, he wasn't wearing a uniform. I do know it was late so he was probably off duty."
"Was he wearing a commbadge?" James asked. Craig was about to protest this time, but James looked at him to hint it was important.
"I think so. Most of you people do," Yutan replied. "Why?"
James shook his head, then gestured to Craig. He assumed he meant that he could continue with his questions. "How did you leave your daughter?" Craig then asked.
Yutan scoffed, "certainly not with a hand print on her face. She was angry, she went to her room."
"Was the argument about her interactions with men?" Craig asked.
James flinched at the question, it however was a trigger for Yutan to get angry again. "What are you implying?"
"Dad's are very protective of their daughters," Craig said as vaguely as he could.
"You're young, so you must remember being a teenager, right?" Yutan said plainly to hide his anger for now. "They rebel against everything. If you tell them to do something, they won't even if they agree with it. She's my little girl, but sometimes I forget she's growing up. Dad's baby their daughters too. That's all I did."
"So you argued with her, you left her to cool off before your alarm. Do you know how long before it?" Craig questioned. Yutan meekly shook his head. "Do you know of anyone who would want to hurt her?"
"No," Yutan answered quickly. A little too quickly for either of their liking. "I'm included. I'm the last person who would."
"Yes but the hand print..." Craig said.
"Do you have any children, Mr...?" Yutan asked.
"Anderson, no," Craig replied.
Yutan nodded, "I thought so."
"I don't need to, to know that child hitting is wrong, and sick," Craig said with a sigh at the end.
"That's true," Yutan said. "But you know nothing about raising children."
James' eyes narrowed slightly and suspiciously. "Considering we were talking about a girl being slapped, that point can't be used against him. Unless there's something else you want to tell us."
"Any moron knows you don't hurt children. However once a person has a child, the thought of it becomes far more repulsive. Your job is to protect them," Yutan said.
"Still. Craig doesn't need to have kids to get that," James said.
Craig glanced at him briefly, he quietly thanked him with a nod before looking back. "Explain to us how your finger prints got on her face. Then maybe we'll be able to stop wasting our time with you."
"I don't know. Before the argument we were getting along fine. She gave me a hug, we had a little cry about our planet. Perhaps I touched her cheek. Nothing malicious about it," Yutan replied.
Craig didn't look so sure, but he sensed James bought it from the corner of his eye. "They were directly above a wound. Somebody slapped her, hard enough to leave an imprint. That doesn't sound malicious?" Craig asked.
Yutan trembled in anger, his eyes were drowning in sadness though. "I don't beat my daughter. We're very close. She'd talk to me about everything, unlike most kids her age she didn't hate spending time with me. Her teenage tantrums are rare, once they're over she gives me a cuddle to apologise every time. Why would anyone want to hurt a girl like that?"
"That's not true," Kiara said.
James blinked a few times towards nothing in particular, then looked her in the eye. "Which part?"
Kiara shuffled in her seat, clearly uncomfortable. Lena looked on from the sofa with a worried look on her face. "They used to be like that, before they left Erayas. That's what she told me."
"What was her relationship really like with her dad then?" Lena asked.
"Best word is strained," Kiara replied.
James straightened up in his seat, his arms lightly folded. "Was it a teenager and parent kind of strained?"
"You mean like Lena and me back in the old days?" Kiara asked.
Lena cleared her throat, but decided against saying anything.
"You're still not a teenager, so no," James replied.
Kiara looked over at her mother with an apologetic look on her face, "I didn't mean anything by that."
"No, it's okay," Lena said quietly.
James glanced at her briefly, catching an expression of guilt as she turned towards the window. "I challenged everything my mum... sorry, Susy did. I just wanted to be difficult. I'm probably not a good example as I was an extreme example of pain in the ass teenager." He smirked a little, "not much has changed."
Kiara looked on thoughtfully. "I guess it's kinda like that. She had good reason though."
"What she went through," James nodded.
"No," Kiara said, surprising both of them. Lena turned back to join them. "It's what he went through. He drank, a lot. She thinks he blamed himself for what happened."
"Why would he?" Lena asked.
Kiara glanced down at her lap, her hands entwined together. "He helped build the towers. When he was told that they were what caused the problems on the planet, he apparently got hammered. Ever since then..." She trailed off with a throat clearing.
"He seemed perfectly sober when I talked to him," James said.
"Pearl suggested supplying Voyager with information, hoping that would help ease his guilt. I guess it did. He'd sober himself up before going to work, come home and wallow. Rinse and repeat," Kiara said. She briefly looked at Lena behind her. "She never told me, but I think the reason she acted out the way she did was to give him a wake up call."
"A cry for attention," James muttered. Kiara nodded and smiled weakly. "Sounds familiar."
"Acted out how?" Lena questioned.
Kiara bit her lip nervously. "Pearl was a daddy's girl. It should have got his attention more than anything else." She noticed James' eyes divert back to the desk, his posture slumped back into the chair. She started to tremble, "please don't tell me you think he's responsible for this. He was not that kind of drunk and he adored her."
"No, I don't," James answered.
Lena was surprised at this, "so why are we talking about him?"
"Unfortunately we need more than my gut feeling," James replied hesitantly.
"Did Craig tell you what I told him?" Kiara asked desperately. Both Lena and James easily noticed the fear in her voice. "About the stalker?" she tried again.
"He said something about her flirting with men, but that's it. I assumed that's what you meant before at the wake up call part," James said. He cringed quite a bit, "remind me to never drink too much and or ignore my girls when they're teenagers."
Lena couldn't help but smirk. "I don't see that happening, but will do."
"Great thanks, so stalker?" James said quickly.
"Lets just say he didn't take her flirting as a joke like everyone else did," Kiara answered.
"I assume you never met him or you'd have told us who by now," Lena said. Kiara nodded grimly. "Seems like prime suspect."
James looked a little annoyed to say the least. "Why didn't he tell me? The rejected idiot is a far better suspect than a traumatised dad."
"Did daddy know though?" Lena asked.
Kiara shook her head timidly. "I doubt it. That would have been more of a wake up call for him. From her stories about him before, he reminded me of both of you. Fiercely overprotective."
Lena laughed nervously while James didn't react at all. "When was I ever like that with you?" Lena asked.
"Even when you blamed me you always stuck up for me. Don't be like that," Kiara said with a little anger in her voice. It made Lena feel a little guilty for saying anything. "He knew she was flirting, he caught her once. Only he was still in his drunk hours."
"He wouldn't slap her for this, would he?" James felt awful but he had to ask.
"God no. Would you?" Kiara said, but not really asking, she knew the answer.
James actually shuddered in revulsion. "No. I'd probably slap the boys around though." Lena sniggered to herself. "Once they were adults, I mean," he said, quickly clearing his throat.
"We got it," Lena said, still amused.
"You said he caught her doing this once. Were you there?" James asked. Kiara shook her head. "We may get lucky and find that he caught her flirting with the stalker. I doubt it but it's worth a try. He was avoiding the subject though. I guess I don't blame him."
"Seriously, what are you going to do when Sasha, Amy and er... have you given her a name yet?" Lena questioned.
James responded just by narrowing his eyes in her direction.
"Never mind, there's my answer," Lena teased.
"Right, like you'll be nice and calm if Kiara decides to date," James said.
Kiara glanced up at her mum, just catching her scowl in response. "Yes," she eventually said unconvincingly.
"Good one," James said. He rose out of his chair. "I should go talk to him again. I may as well let him out. There's no way he did it."
"You arrested him, or did Craig?" Kiara stuttered. James' sigh told her the latter. "Why?"
"Yeah, you're right I can't let him out," James said quietly. The two girls looked confused. "There's still another question he's refusing to answer."
"Maybe he just couldn't handle it," Craig said.
James stopped walking alongside him, he stared after him with a disgruntled expression. Craig quickly turned and double backed a few steps.
"You said he was a drunk. Maybe he forgot he even did it. I don't know," he continued.
"If you don't know, why are you so certain it was him?" James asked.
Craig stared blankly at him. Then he shook his head. "His finger prints were in the slap wound."
James continued walking, his head shook as he did so. Craig stared after him, his eyes wide in disbelief. He hurried after him.
"I think you're forgetting that he went to his duty shift around midnight. She was attacked afterwards," James said.
"It was only an estimated time," Craig said.
James groaned as he turned the corner leading to the crime scene. Two new Security officers guarding the door stared at him bewilderedly until Craig arrived as well.
"I doubt the Doc would get it wrong, do you?" James said.
"I don't want it to be this guy anymore than you, but it doesn't explain the evidence the Doc also found," Craig argued.
James shrugged, "not yet. That's why we investigate things."
"This is starting to sound familiar," Craig groaned while rolling his eyes.
"Yeah, once again you're taking it personally whenever I disagree with you," James said. "I'm just suggesting we should investigate further. If we focus on only the dad we may miss something."
"Okay fine. I'm all for the dad not being an asshole," Craig said, his voice hinting that he'd let it go. "Did you find anyone suspicious on the deck at the time?"
James nodded. He walked over to investigate the door panel again. One officer knew he'd need it, and handed a pair of gloves to him. "One guy was wandering around without a commbadge on him. A Human guy."
"I take it you haven't figured out who?" Craig stated.
"He wasn't the only one. Eleven men were doing the same thing elsewhere. I'd have to dig deeper to figure out which one was where," James replied. Instead of pressing the controls on the panel, he tried to open it carefully. The gloves made it a bit difficult.
"Maybe we should listen to Lena. Divide them up, six each," Craig suggested.
"It's on my to do list, I just don't want to tip off the one who did it," James mumbled while he continued trying to open the panel.
Craig didn't seem bothered about it, "why not? Make him sweat and he won't do it again, in fear of being caught."
"Or he might attempt to cover his tracks," James said. He grunted as his finger slipped over the crack in the edge of the panel. He rolled his eyes, being careful wasn't working. This time he went to open it, he didn't even try. Everyone cringed when the panel didn't just open, it took some of the wall with it. James didn't seem to care at this point, he immediately started poking around the circuitry inside.
"We already know no one forced their way in. What are you looking for?" Craig asked.
"There's always a way around these things, some not easily detectable," James replied.
Craig folded his arms, a slightly bemused look on his face appeared, pushing both his eyebrows up and his lips to tightly push together. "I think we may have noticed a hole in the wall."
"I'm sure you could," James said in a patronising tone, normally a one used on a naughty kid. Craig didn't take offense at it, he saw it as him trying to lighten the mood. "You could short circuit the door, trick it into opening. Adjust your commbadge to make it think you're someone else."
"That sounds like stuff only people like you would know," Craig said in distaste. "Who else knows this stuff?"
James briefly glanced at him, his own eyebrow raised. "People like me? Anyone who knows anything about the ship's systems and wiring, which is most of the crew, will be able to come up with the first one." He shook his head. "There's always the simplest one, and it's normally that."
Craig scoffed, "what, ringing the door chime?"
James again looked at him, "exactly."
Craig blankly stared, his mouth slowly dropping open. He groaned into his hand before his jaw reached its limit, "of course. Kiara was going to stay with her. The victim answers the door, thinking it's her and it isn't. It's so simple an idiot should have thought of it. An idiot didn't."
"If it makes you feel any better, the dad wouldn't need to break in so this probably doesn't matter," James said, not seriously. He turned away from the panel, staring at the part that was pulled off in distaste. He tossed it to one side like it was garbage.
Craig mockingly scowled at him. "I didn't say it might be him cos I want him to be, or because I like to disagree with you. Or piss you off either. I just can't get my head around the slap evidence."
"I know," James said lightly.
Craig groaned at him. "Fine. Did you find anything?"
"No short circuit, there's been no tampering. There's nothing wrong with it," James replied.
"So the guy either rings the door and she can't stop him getting inside, or it was the dad," Craig said. "We're no further forward. At least we've narrowed down the how."
James nodded while he thought about it. "You said that you can't stop thinking about the slap."
"Yeah, but you said we shouldn't focus on one person," Craig said.
"We both shouldn't," James said. "He was going on and on about you not understanding cos you're not a dad. Let me talk to him."
"But you don't think it's him," Craig said.
"Any one of us can talk to the twelve men on my list. Lena offered to help. I can always join you after I talked to him," James suggested.
"So much for not tipping him off," Craig smirked.
James smiled back, "I liked your idea better. Make him sweat."
It was strangely quiet on board ship today, too quiet. It was creepy. The only conversation Jessie saw on route to the Mess Hall was whispered. Something must have been going on, but the hushed voices didn't give her a clue as to what.
When she finally reached her destination, she found it eerily similar. People were either keeping to themselves while they ate or drank, or they were whispering to the person next to them.
Before she could even think to find someone to ask, Neelix hurried over looking a little too keen. That was never a good sign.
"Ah Jessie, how's the little one doing today?" he said, just about to crouch down beside her.
Jessie instinctively pulled the little baby seat carrier up and then over to her other hand. "She's fine. What's with the creepiness? Has something happened?"
Neelix's good mood threatened to slip away, he tried his best to keep the happy morale officer mask on. "You haven't heard?"
"No, but I assume it's Security related as I found James had already gone when I woke up," Jessie said.
"Well you know this ship. News travels fast and it can be jumbled. All I know for certain is that a poor Erayan girl was attacked in her quarters," Neelix answered.
"I didn't think that was something people could jumble up," Jessie said.
Neelix stepped closer and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Her father was arrested in Engineering." Jessie's eyes widened. "I find it hard to believe as well, but their world did have Soft spies on it. Maybe it wasn't her father, if you get what I mean."
Jessie's eyebrow slowly raised, her wide eyes instead judged him. "So, the reason the bad news keeps becoming more rumour like is cos you're saying crap like that?"
"No," Neelix replied in an offended tone. "I just thought of it. It's better than the other theories being swapped around."
Jessie groaned and walked away. Neelix hurried after her. "Walking away means conversation's over, Neelix," Jessie called over her shoulder, on route to the replicator.
Neelix stopped part of the way there, looking a little insulted again. He then decided to go find someone else to talk to.
"I hate this ship sometimes," Jessie muttered. The person in front of her at the replicator looking behind him, he gave her a nervous look and hurried away without grabbing his food. "What?" At least she could use the replicator sooner, so she shrugged it off and ordered her drink.
When he entered the first thing to get his attention was the dramatic difference between the man Craig arrested barely an hour ago, and the man now sitting, slumped over his own legs in the Brig. His hands were in his hair, fingers clutching it so tightly he could easily rip it out if he moved them. He barely looked up, almost as if his head was far too heavy now or he had lost the strength to do so.
Yutan definitely looked like a man who's world had come tumbling down. It wouldn't be easy to fake.
"Do you think..." he said in such a low voice it came out as a croak. He paused for a few seconds. "That I didn't see enough violence, depravity, fear while my planet was slowly crumbling away?" His hands did move from his head, a few stray hairs went with them. His arms fell onto his lap.
"No," James answered.
"Is it guilt? Am I just an angry regretful man in your eyes?" Yutan barely muttered.
"I don't know what happened yet. That's why I'm here," James said.
A bitter smile appeared on the alien's face. James could only just make it out as his head was still lowered towards his lap and the floor. "You have no idea... What it was like to witness what I did, knowing that if you had done nothing, it wouldn't be happening. That you survived it and others didn't."
"I do have an idea," James said, resulting in the other man to scoff in disbelief. "I was there, I saw the damage. I had that moment where a decision could mean the difference between life and death for others. Many times. I've lost count. I have no choice, I can't not make that decision and then I must live with it. That's my burden, my life, it's not yours."
The man lifted his head in attempt to look at him. He didn't say anything but his eyes certainly wanted to.
"Your decision didn't kill your planet. If you'd said no, they'd have just found someone else. It would have made no difference to what happened..." James said.
"Aren't you the one who helped us escape?" Yutan interrupted him.
"My sister is who you really want to thank for that," James answered.
Yutan lightly shook his head. "You're lecturing me on guilt and our impact on things, and then you say that to me. Interesting."
"What?" James asked while frowning.
"I think what you said, told me more about you than it did about me," Yutan said. "I understand your point even so. It's something I've been thinking about since I arrived on Voyager. Those towers were always going to be built. I didn't have to help them though. If I didn't, my conscience would be clear. Until today I suppose."
James briefly glanced behind him at the two guards to see if they were listening. They barely were paying attention at all. He stepped closer to the forcefield anyway, and lowered his voice. "Are you admitting to something?"
"Your sister's daughter has been a wonderful friend to my little girl. She needed somebody to be there for her, not her self pitying fool of a father," Yutan said. James didn't take that as an answer to his question, so he waited for him to finish. He assumed he was right as the man continued talking. "I only saw the real her from a distance. Smiling, laughing. The girl has no bad bone in her body; so sweet and gentle. I could never imagine anyone wanting to hurt her."
"What do you mean from a distance?" James asked.
Yutan thought about the question, then laughed. It wasn't a nice laugh, it was hateful and full of self resentment. "You're not a father either, I assume."
"Actually, I am," James said.
Yutan's expression didn't change. "Just boys?"
"No," James replied.
Yutan nodded and stood up. "Then she or they are still young clearly. I bet they're at that age where daddy is perfect, someone they always want to be around." He noticed the brief downward glance to the floor James did after he finished. He sighed knowingly. "How old?"
"My eldest daughter is three. Why?" James mumbled his answer.
Yutan smiled, it didn't seem genuine, it seemed almost jealous. "Do me a favour. No, do all of us fathers a favour." He got a frown as he expected. "Cherish this time. Your daughters will worship you, you'll be the first they come to. Unless you've somehow managed to skew their view of you already."
"I don't understand where you're going with this," James said.
"I think you do," Yutan said. "You and I it was different. We don't have a previous perspective. We were teenage boys, not girls. Girls they... slowly start to see their father for who they really are the older they get. The biased view they have fades away. You become a burden, an embarrassment. Sometimes a hindrance."
"I'm sorry but you're not exactly convincing me of your innocence here," James had to say before he continued.
"I know," Yutan said grimly. "It was just my daughter and I, her mother died when she was a baby. We were inseparable. I dotted on her, she always looked up to me with such pride. I wasn't lying when I said what we were like. Emphasis on the word were. As soon as a cute boy comes along old dad is no longer the number one man in her life."
James didn't like where this was going, he didn't notice that his face reflected what he was thinking. It was scrunched in disgust. "Didn't you think it was the alcoholic who she didn't like to be around? Ever think of that?"
"Hmph," Yutan grunted. "Where did you get that from?"
"It's called doing my job," James answered bluntly. He ignored the annoyed look he was getting in return. "You think that you can sway me by claiming we're similar, that what happened to you will happen to me too. Convince me that you're the dotting father. You'll have to do better than that."
"Do you think it'll be all cuddles and daddy's in ten years time? Will they be still pleased to see you then, or will you get an eye roll?" Yutan said. His tone of voice didn't have any malice in it, only regret and sadness. "You won't be her hero anymore, just someone in her way."
"So? I'll just have to learn to deal, as that's the point, it's normal," James said irritably. "Yeah I'm not ready for that now, but I will be. This isn't about me anyway, so stop changing the subject."
Yutan laughed somberly, "I'm not though. That's the sad part."
"What?" James immediately said, confused at what he was trying to imply. "Are you suggesting I did it, or you?"
"No. The boy I caught her with. That fresh faced teen. I was that guy back then," Yutan rambled on with intent. "We all were though, weren't we? Any pretty girl walks over and we're instantly weak. If we couldn't get her we'd go crazy."
James' eyebrow raised higher than normal, he resisted a judgmental head shake. "Speak for yourself."
Yutan looked at him as if he felt sorry for him. "You think you can convince me that you're that highly evolved? Human, Slayer... whichever, I doubt it."
"I'm only suggesting that you don't speak for us all. Not all of us are mindless animals who think girls owe us attention," James said, his voice harsher than he intended. He figured that was just his natural tone everytime someone was whining about a girl not liking him.
"I'm sure someone like you wouldn't understand rejection. I do," Yutan said, ignoring that.
"Someone like me?" James said slowly.
Yutan felt he had to scoff, "most claim they're independent and whatever, but they still fawn over the strong types. The ones that'll look after them."
"Oh god, enough," James groaned, rolling his eyes in disgust. "If I wanted to listen to this crap, I'd have visited the I hate women warlock club in Voyager's brig."
"I never said I had any problem with women. That's not what I'm implying," Yutan said angrily. "I played the field when I was young, I was good at it. It didn't mean I never got rejected though. I just got used to it. In the early days I was like all those boys that you claim to think talks crap." He noticed the other man's eyes narrowing a little. "I'd get angry."
"You didn't?" James asked not so carefully.
"No, of course not," Yutan groaned. "The worst thing I did was make a rude comment. I just mean some guys can go further. They, as you say, think they're entitled to the girl they like. One of them probably was told no by my baby girl. He did this."
Despite the awkward conversation they were in, James thought that he was most likely right. He really didn't think it was him. Or he hoped at least. James wondered if it was such a good idea for Craig to tell him the full details of the attack. It was clear the man was a wreck from finding out. Some things he shouldn't know. Then he thought he'd want, no need to know if it had happened to one of his daughters. He visibly shuddered at that thought. It made him angry, he had to push it out of his head.
"It changes everything you are," Yutan was still talking, James realised a little too late. He had no idea what he had said before to set him off, there were tears in the man's eyes. "When you have a daughter. Suddenly you understand, you're on the other side of the fence. You remember all the other girls in your life before, you think of what their dad's went through. You think, I couldn't do that, I can't let them go. You hope your girl will be the exception... that she won't be interested."
James understood that fear a little too well. He didn't dare vocalise it though.
"I'll admit, I still treat her as my little princess. Babied her. She saw it as disrespect, no doubt. I know that," Yutan mumbled. His head lowered towards the floor. "You were right. My drinking was the trigger. She was trying to get my attention, my help. She was in trouble and I didn't see it, no, all I saw was my selfishness."
"So, she didn't tell you about the man following her?" James asked, hoping for not only a return to the case but a distraction from these new worries he had.
"No," Yutan said with self hatred. "I had caught her with that boy, Byan or something."
James seemed a little surprised, "Bryan?"
Yutan nodded. "In hindsight it was nothing, innocent even. A little hair flip there, excessive blinking. He seemed more bemused than anything."
"Yeah, Bryan's five years old," James said to the prisoner's surprise. "He just looks older than he is, and he probably was... some sort of mused."
Yutan laughed bitterly and a little painfully. "When she got home we argued about it. Kiara had warned me, I didn't believe her, I saw it for myself. Only a few months ago this girl was playing with toys and playing chase with other kids down the street. I refused to believe she had changed that quickly. I was probably right. Kiara's really nine, Brayan five." James shook his head at the wrong name again. "My daughter was always younger than she was, probably because of my treatment of her."
"I'm sorry, but is this the argument that you had last night?" James reluctantly asked him.
"Yes. I told her that she had plenty of time for boys later, that she should have more respect for herself," Yutan said, grimacing at the last part. He started to stutter. "She said I never listened to her, that I was just a drunken fool. I..." He had turned pale. James picked up on it, he was about to pursue it but Yutan wasn't done. "I usually sober up before going to Engineering, but after seeing her flirting the first thing I did was have a few drinks. I shouldn't have. Oh I shouldn't have. I lead him right to her, didn't I?"
"What..." James also stuttered while the alien's face was now whiter than the walls. "... Do you mean?"
"We'd been on tenterhooks ever since our rescue. None of it was her fault, she tried to help me," Yutan stammered. James heard disgust in his voice. He had a feeling where this was going, he didn't like it. "I'll never drink again. I destroyed everything in that... that one thing."
"What thing?" James said.
Yutan looked away, he turned his body away too. "It was over in a second. She looked at me like I was one of those experiments. Before I could apologise she ran to her room crying. I... I should be locked up in here. I left her alone like that, I ran away like a coward. He got to her after that. I deserve what's coming to me."
James closed his eyes tightly while he cringed. He shook his head to get rid of it. "So you did slap her?" He noticed a slight nod. "Why?"
"If you get an answer through anything I said, you'll tell me, won't you?" Yutan didn't answer. The guilt in his voice was obvious. "Don't repeat my mistake either. Learn from it."
"You're... you can't be serious?" James snapped. "Your daughter flipped her hair in front of a boy and you slapped her. How can I make the same mistake as you if I don't understand it?"
"I hope you never do," Yutan said sincerely. He dared to glance back at him, "I apologise. I assumed we were alike in some ways, you seemed to understand. I must have been wrong."
James stared at him blankly, his eyes were cold. "Yes, you were." He turned his back on him to leave. While he walked away he couldn't shake the thoughts in the back of his mind, the ones telling him that could be him someday. It made him sick to the stomach.
Craig blinked a few times, his face filled with disbelief. "You're kidding aren't you? Even after all of that, you still think..."
"I'm not defending the guy. Never," James muttered. The Doctor glanced at him after staring towards Craig before while he talked. He sat at his desk while the other two stood in front of it. "But everything after the slap wasn't him, I know it."
"You didn't think he even slapped her. You may be wrong again," Craig said. The Doctor looked to him again, he immediately turned his head back to James. To his annoyance Craig continued as James was rendered speechless for now, he turned his head back. "Look, you said he was talking about being annoyed his daughter didn't put him first anymore. You were creeped out, you said. I wasn't quite sure it was him until you said that."
James shook his head. "No, he's just an idiot dad who doesn't want his daughter to grow up. The thought of her dating and more was terrifying and I..."
Craig sighed, "oh no, don't do that."
It was James' turn to stare blankly and blink more frequently. "Do what? Talk?"
"You're not him. I mean yeah you're overprotective, and I think everyone on the ship that knows you has imagined you smacking potential boyfriends at least once," Craig said quickly. The Doctor sighed and nodded. "That doesn't mean you'll take it out on your girls. I think in the end you'll come through for them, cos unlike that moron, everything you do is for them and Duncan. Right?"
James didn't know what to say again. The Doctor looked impressed at this, he gave the younger man a nod of approval. Craig didn't take it though, he just winced a little. He noticed James' head shake a little.
"Ok, not everything. If that were true you wouldn't be so impulsive and Slayer-y, right?" Craig said nervously. "But you know what I mean. I know you're better than that drunken twat."
"Right. My daughters will probably never dare to bring a boy home. I'll probably not be invited to the wedding in case I go on a killing spree," James muttered, his eyebrow raised. Craig sensed even the tiniest bit of humour in his voice. He looked to the Doctor to see if he saw that. He had the same look on his face so he still wasn't sure.
"Perhaps at the very least they could remove the giving away of the bride part, just to be safe," the Doctor ended up saying to lighten the mood.
Craig couldn't help but laugh briefly and he felt awful for it. He looked to James to say sorry but he seemed to have a small curl in the right of his lips.
"I don't want to be that dad. I naively did when I was new at it, when we had Sasha. I didn't want them to resent me, like I did with both of my mums when they gave Jess a hard time," he said eventually.
"See," Craig said.
James sighed as if he said something stupid. "It doesn't mean I will be able to do it though. I still don't think anybody would be good enough for them."
"That's normal," the Doctor commented.
"Look, worst comes to the worst and you do end up being that dad. You won't handle it by slapping your kid," Craig said.
"So you do think that's all he did?" James said.
Craig and the Doctor shared a disgruntled look. Craig got rid of it before he turned back to James. "The problem is you think he didn't. We don't know enough, we should keep an open mind," the Doctor said.
"No. Sometimes people do snap and in that split second they slap someone. Before their hand even goes back by their side they're regretting it," James stuttered.
"Sounds like you speak from experience," the Doctor said grimly.
James briefly glanced at him before continuing, "but they don't beat up their own daughter so badly that no one recognises her. They certainly don't try to..." He couldn't finish, it made him feel sick again.
Craig didn't understand, he had thought that multiple times and enough was enough. "Correct me if I'm wrong but weren't you a punching bag for your own father?"
James' eyes widened as they focused on him. His whole body had tensed, his fists slowly clenched. "What?"
The Doctor meanwhile cringed, "I think this is going off topic."
"I'm sorry but you're the last guy I expected to naively say oh dad's don't hit their kids," Craig said regrettably. "Cos you're living proof that they do."
His fists had fully clenched, they were tight enough for them to whiten. His jaw had clenched too. "Don't..." James warned.
"I'm saying this for your own good. Maybe you think what happened to you was a one off, or you hope. The Doc's right, we need to keep an open mind. You said that we can't focus on one person, but I say excluding one person on a gut feeling is just as dangerous," Craig said.
The Doctor thought he had to step in before he had another patient. He quickly climbed to his feet. "Or maybe your suggestion that a father committed this crime brought up awful memories. It's normal for James to dismiss the accusation, it keeps his mind from it."
Craig turned to him, his eyes a little wider than normal. James was still staring at him, he was suddenly nervous now after what the Doctor had said.
"Perhaps one of you should continue to investigate the stalker angle," the Doctor suggested.
Craig seemed relieved at the suggestion, his whole demeanour perked up. "Oh, your missing commbadge list. While I was talking to some of them I thought there's a quicker way to narrow it down further."
"Really?" James was also a little relieved, and now a little curious.
"Well I say quicker, but it's probably six and two three's," Craig admitted begrudgingly.
James shook his head, "that's okay, if you have a better idea then let's hear it."
Craig inhaled through his gritted teeth before he responded. "It does mean adding more to it first."
"Someone should tell you the meaning of the word narrow," the Doctor remarked with a smile.
Craig timidly laughed, "it will eventually. Okay, we know the time frame it happened, we also know the attacker has to share some of that DNA sequences the Doctor found..."
"Um, that is easier said than done. Further samples have different sequences. It's almost like it changes every time I look at it," the Doctor butted in.
It didn't deter Craig though. James meanwhile seemed a little confused at what they were talking about. "You said there was Humanoid ones in there, even tiny ones. Were they also different in every sample?"
"Not always, but yes," the Doctor answered. His eyes lit up, "you're suggesting that we look for any of the sequences in the suspect list's genes."
"Yes. But that's not all," Craig said quickly as his excitement built up. The thought they were likely going down the right path with his help, it made him a little giddy too. "It may not narrow the list down at all, so I thought of something else. Someone who snaps and attacks a girl who's rejected them will have a record. Something even minute like a nasty argument, family issues, in their file that a suspect of a crime like this would have."
James gave him a look that said he was on board and he agreed with him, but unknown to Craig deep down he was still thinking about his outburst earlier. He tried to push it back for the moment. It wasn't relevant. "You mean like abandonment, mother issues... that sort of thing." Craig nodded towards him. "If only I knew when this original meeting with the stalker took place and where. We could compare the commbadge list with that."
Craig shrugged, he didn't let that put him off. "Only Perlash'na knows that. This is all we have and it's not bad." He looked a little guilty after that, "I hope I pronounced her name right."
"I don't think we'll be hearing from her anytime soon," the Doctor said grimly, instantly killing the mood. "I know very little about Erayan physiology, and unfortunately none of the refugees have medical training that can help me. If she were Human I'd know how to treat her brain injuries, but I don't want to risk it."
"I'll get started on the list then," Craig said. He was about to walk away when James held out an arm to stop him. "What?"
"Who did you question?" James asked.
"I mostly started at the beginning. Brown, Jenkins, I stopped at Grahams," Craig said. James pulled a puzzled face. "Jenkins was closer than Grahams. If you're wondering they all seemed mortified about what happened. Brown was in his quarters, the other two were playing hoverball in the Holodeck to work off their evening shift. Despite having to wake them both up they were more than happy to talk, you know."
"No, that's not what I was confused about," James said. "You went alphabetically, but there was an A on that list."
"Oh, well..." Craig said awkwardly. "We both know him, he wouldn't do this." The Doctor looked at them both with interest. "I was leaving him until last anyway, I can't give him anymore special treatment than that."
James nodded in agreement. "Good, I was going to take him off the list anyway."
Craig was more than surprised, his jaw dropped a little. He shook his head to force it closed. "You can't do that."
"I can. You're going to exclude him anyway when you go through their personnel files. I'm just saving you some time," James said.
The Doctor was back to turning his head towards the speaker, with a helpless look on his face. He had to sigh at the situation.
"Why, what's in his file?" Craig asked.
James' hid his clenching hands behind his back while his eyes shut tightly. "You know already. He's told you on multiple occasions."
Craig wasn't sure at first, then it occurred to him. "You mean his girlfriend dying when he was a kid?" The sigh he got from James made him think he was wrong, but dangerously wrong. "That's all he's ever told me."
"She wasn't his girlfriend," James snapped. The Doctor and Craig were both taken aback by his outburst, they didn't dare provoke him any further. James tried to calm himself down with a few deep breaths. "She was my sister, and his best friend."
"Oh," Craig said while the colour drained from his face. He started to stutter, "yes... I remember now, I'm sorry."
The Doctor was still confused and a little worried though. "Still in the dark here. I don't even know who you're talking about."
"Nathan," Craig said quietly.
James' shoulders fell, his eyes focused on the floor. "He's not a suspect anymore than I am. Take him off the list." He walked out without looking back up.
Craig and the Doctor shared a look of worry. "Are you going to listen to him?" the Doctor asked.
Craig felt guilty and he hadn't even done anything yet. "No."
"Why not?" the Doctor questioned.
"You think I should?" Craig was surprised. He tried to appear more confident after everything that had been said, his sullen posture let him down. "I like Nathan and all, his past and that shouldn't mean we should exclude him. He was still walking around without a commbadge."
"Or he could have been in his quarters like Brown," the Doctor said. "As James said, you're going to exclude him anyway when you look at their files."
Craig winced, "that's just it. Something like that would mean I'd actually keep him on the list."
The Doctor was dismayed at the suggestion. He turned to his computer and started tapping at it, making Craig frown at him. "I'm assuming that this is why the girl's attack is a more personal case for James, and I think we should try to avoid anymore shouting matches. Don't you?"
"What are you doing?" Craig asked.
"None of the DNA sequences matches Mr Andrews," the Doctor said, sounding a little relieved. Craig just frowned at him. "That's one less thing for the two of you to argue about."
Craig sighed in response. "Oh there's plenty more where that came from, I assure you."
Outside people would walk by with their heads down, or together in silence. The atmosphere through the door was far different. A couple of children ran right by him, the one at the back was trying to reach for the other. Both of them were laughing and carefree. The rest of the children were happily absorbed with their toys or their drawings.
The other adults in the room didn't know what was happening everywhere else on Voyager, or they weren't showing their thoughts about it like everyone else. The teacher Jacqueline spotted James standing at the door, she hurried over to join him.
"Here again?" she greeted him in a friendly manner.
James' head moved down a little, the woman took it as a nod. The worried look in her eyes proved she did know about what was happening, but was keeping it from affecting her work.
"You don't think there's a danger?" Jacqueline asked.
"No, the Security outside is just because of the... previous incident," James answered quietly.
"Daddy?" Sasha's voice called for him. In a matter of seconds she was standing in front of him, staring up with a sweet smile on her face. Normally that was enough to make him smile back, however the conversation with Yutan was still playing in his mind. He felt oddly guilty for being in the same room as her. "We're making play doh cookies, do you want to help?"
Jacqueline smiled down at her. "I thought your group already learned that it's not a good idea to make them look like food." She briefly glanced toward James, "Scott thought the purple muffin would be a lovely present for Holly. It didn't go down well."
"Mmm hmm," Sasha squeaked with a nod. "He tried to give me it but I ran."
James focused on the last word more than the others, it made his heart skip a beat for a reason he didn't know or remember. "You what?"
Jacqueline noticed the two kids running around, one was Scott and his face was covered with a sticky blue and green substance. "Oh he's doing it again. Excuse me." She hurried off towards them.
"Amy's sad, her and Miral aren't friends anymore," Sasha said sadly. She showed her dad something in her hand. The first detail he noticed was that it was a bright red. It just fit into the palm of her hand, round with a large hole in the centre of it. Sasha pushed her other hand through the hole to let it hang on her wrist. "Thought would cheer her up."
James was finally able to smile. He crouched down in front of her to gently push some of the hair dangling by her cheek to behind her ear. "Amy will love it. That's very sweet."
"It's red, she likes red," Sasha said, her voice hinted to him she wasn't pleased with it yet. "I wanted to make it less boring, put something on it. Whatever I make looks bad."
"I doubt that," James tried to reassure her. Sasha just let out a little sigh in response. "What about something you like, to show its from her big sister."
Sasha stared at him curiously, then her eyes sparkled. "Strawberries. They're red too."
"Good idea," James said. The little girl looked happy, a little excited to have a plan in her head. He expected her to run off to do it. Instead she ran forward to give him a hug. As he hugged her back the words Yutan spoke popped into his head.
"Do you think it'll be all cuddles and daddy's in ten years time? Will they be still pleased to see you then, or will you get an eye roll."
James tried to ignore it, but it must have distracted him for a moment anyway, as the next thing he knew his daughter was staring at him. Her eyes showed she was worried about him. He tried to smile again to stop that, he meanwhile wondered when his previous one faded away.
"Let me know what she thinks of it, okay?" he said.
Sasha nodded. "Okay. But what's wrong, daddy?"
"It's okay," James shook his head while keeping the smile on his face. "It's just a bad day at work."
"That why you weren't at breakfast?" Sasha asked. James gave her a brief nod. "I'm sure you'll figure it out or fix it, daddy." Before she hurried away she stepped forward to give him a peck on the cheek.
"I hope you're not blaming yourself again," he heard when he walked back outside.
James stared ahead blankly, "Jessie?"
He got a conflicted smile directed towards him; warm but concerned. He glanced to his right and then left, quickly realising that the guards had left them alone.
"It's all around the ship now. The teenaged girl beaten almost to death, the suspects being her own father and a love sick stalker," Jessie said sadly. She looked into his eyes to see if anything she said triggered anything. Unfortunately she was right, his eyes would shift around to avoid hers. The pain in them was obvious, to her at least. Her hand reached forward to hint for one of his. "Lets take a break."
"I can't," James said, shaking his head. "Whoever did this is out there, he could do it again."
"I know you. I was afraid that you'd take this personally, and I see you already are," Jessie said. He wasn't budging, so she clasped his hand. "I know this case looks similar, but it isn't. I understand why you'd want to solve it so badly. You need to take a step back, maybe let Craig take over from here."
"Similar? I don't know what you mean," James said as plainly as he could. He knew it was a lie, he knew Jessie would see right through him too. As he expected she just shook her head. To her credit she didn't get mad at him for the lie. "I'm fine. I just wanted to check on our kids, I do that every day."
"Oh believe me, I know that. The teachers tell me," Jessie said with a sigh. "I talked to Lena, Craig I bumped into when I left. They're worried too. Craig told me he made a mistake bringing you in..."
James flinched at the last sentence. "He did? We always argue, what's the big deal?"
"He didn't know, or he didn't remember," Jessie answered softly and carefully. "James, he said if he remembered he wouldn't have told you at all. He's sorry."
"He doesn't have to be. A girl was beaten, almost raped. Of course I'm going to be mad. Who wouldn't? This has got nothing to do with me," James said quickly.
Jessie looked a little pale, she took in a deep breath. "Raped? Nobody told me that part."
James groaned while he covered his face with his free hand. "I shouldn't have said that. We were keeping that quiet."
Jessie reached for that hand too, bringing it down so both hands were side by side. She kept a firm grip on both while her eyes appeared to be pleading with him. "James please, leave it to Craig, come home, take a day or two off. You shouldn't be investigating this."
"I have to," James said.
"I understand, but obviously I'm not the only one seeing the parallels here," Jessie said, her voice a little strained now. "She's not Debbie." James finally stared at her directly, the pain in his eyes was unmistakable now. "She's not. You don't have anything to prove, and you certainly won't get your answers by solving this case."
"Jess," James barely whispered.
Jessie shook her head stubbornly, "I was scared before I knew the full details of this attack. Now that I do, I have this awful feeling that something..." She had to breathe deeply to calm herself, her body had started to tremble. "I don't want to lose you," she whispered.
"How... you won't," James stuttered.
"I'm not talking literally here. You kept her very existence from me for most of our lives. You never talk about her," Jessie said quickly, and almost rambling. Her body still shook so that didn't help. "I know for so many years you blamed yourself. The fact that you'll never know what happened makes it worse. It's only natural to get a case like this that mirrors what happened to her, and think that figuring it out will make you feel better."
"I just want to catch the guy who could do things like this. This doesn't have anything to do with my sister, please believe me," James tried to convince her.
Jessie briefly glanced down at their hands and the floor. "I want to." Her eyes then stared directly into his. "But I know you too well. Maybe you've convinced yourself that you're only doing this to solve a horrible incident. Which is okay, it's normal. Deep down I think you know the real reason, and you'll destroy yourself before you'd admit to it. That's what I'm afraid of."
"Jess, I'm not that guy anymore. You know that. I've been working hard, getting better. I don't hide things anymore, I don't charge in to every bit of danger without thinking," James was also trembling. Unlike Jessie he didn't know why.
Jessie bit her lip briefly, her eyes studied him carefully. She took a step closer so there was barely any space in between them. "I know, I'm the one that's been telling everyone. I'm very proud of you."
"There's a but, isn't there?" James mumbled.
Jessie meekly nodded. "But that's not what this is about. Maybe Nathan was right, maybe it's time we talk about her. You can't spend another thirty years not mourning her, not accepting it. I've made it worse by protecting you from it. You can't solve this case while comparing it with Debbie's murder."
"I'm not though, and we will... I just, not yet," James stuttered.
Jessie's shoulders slumped as guilt started pushing down on them. "This is the problem, I didn't want to push or nag you. I wanted you to talk to me on your own time." She sighed loud enough for the nursery occupants to hear her. "And you are comparing it. Craig tells me you refuse to believe the father could be a suspect."
Any fear and sadness he was feeling was washed away when he heard that. He was angry again. "What's that got to do with my sister? My father liked to hit kids, didn't he? If I was comparing, I'd..."
"Unless there's something else I don't know, you're excluding the dad because your dad didn't kill your sister," Jessie said.
James groaned, he resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "No, it's not that. I just don't see him doing something like that. The evidence so far backs me up."
"Or maybe you want to believe that nobody else could do what he did," Jessie said quietly and a little meekly.
James shook his head, "no, no. My father hated me, blamed me for everything. Her father loves her. I mean he's an asshole for slapping her, but that's the real one off here."
Jessie reacted as if he told her he was dying; her body slumped, eyes shut tightly. James had no idea why, it worried him. "It's bad enough that this case is just like your sister's. Now you're identifying with one of the suspects. You're coming home with me, now."
"What?" James said, his eyes widened a little. "Where did that come from? I never said anything."
"Lena told me. Yutan is overprotective, he has or had a close relationship with his daughter. He feels guilt for a tragedy that he couldn't avoid. You won't admit the possibility that he could have beaten his own daughter in a drunken rage," Jessie explained in a shakily angry voice.
"Jessie, that's not what is happening here. I think he's disgusting for the slap, I think he's weak for feeling sorry for himself while his daughter lies in Sickbay. I'm not him, I never thought that," James argued.
Jessie smiled sympathetically. "Are you forgetting who you're talking to? He's what you're afraid of becoming. That hasn't changed the entire time we've known each other." The grip on both of his hands tightened, she pulled them closer to her. "Craig has almost got the case solved. Leave it with him. You come home with me and spend time with our new daughter. Put all of this horror in the back of your head for a moment. It won't kill you."
"Where is she anyway?" James asked.
Jessie's smile grew, "yeah, change the subject." Her head shook as his expression didn't change. "I left her with Lena. After I saw you I was going to go back. We both will."
"I can't. I can't relax knowing that a fourteen year old girl is lying in a coma, with her attacker roaming free," James said to Jessie's disappointment. She expected it though. "I know this has nothing to do with my sister. I just want to catch a monster. It's what I do, right?"
"Literally a monster?" Jessie sighed. "So if we can't compare it to Debbie, we can pretend it's Slayer related."
"No, not literally. Are you really suggesting I'm making excuses?" James said, a little offended by her remark.
"What about a compromise?" Jessie questioned. "If you must be involved in this, let me help."
James couldn't help but smile weakly. "You want to keep an eye on me, you mean?"
"Yep," Jessie replied in an innocent tone, her eyes sparkled a little.
"Do I have a choice?" James asked.
"Nope," Jessie said with the same voice and look in her eye. She narrowed her eyes and pretended to scowl, "you mean you don't want to spend time with your wife? You'd much rather hang out with Craig?"
Finally he laughed, even if it was briefly. "Oh you know me so well."
All four occupants had managed to fit on the small sofa, only just. Jessie was trying her best not to laugh at the one sitting on the other side of the baby seat, it was distracting her from the PADD in her hands. It seemed like the baby girl inside it was having the same trouble, her bright eyes watched the person as if they were nuts. James meanwhile looked to be tuning it all out by staring at the computer on his lap.
"Um, goochy goo," Lena said as if she was reading from a script, while shaking a little toy in the baby's face. She gave a smirking Jessie a confused look, "what does that even mean anyway?" Jessie was too busy trying not to laugh out loud at her, she squeezed her lips so they wouldn't, all the while shaking her head. "Look, it's alive, aaah," she said in the same tone.
The baby squeaked. Jessie assumed she was trying to say something like what the hell? It just made her snigger some more.
"Tough room," Lena muttered before returning to sitting back in her seat.
"What were you trying to do?" Jessie giggled.
Lena stared at her blankly, she looked a little mad in her eyes. "That's what people do around babies, right?"
"Sure, okay," Jessie said before bitting her lip again.
"What's so funny?" Lena asked.
Jessie shook her head in an effort to calm herself down. "If you're trying to bond with her, just be yourself. That's why Duncan and Sasha were so fond of you. Okay?"
"Really?" Lena said, her eyebrow raised. "I thought Duncan just liked me cos I hit people."
"Meh, that too," Jessie said with a shrug.
"So, Amy. Should I hit people in front of her?" Lena asked seriously.
Jessie couldn't do it anymore, she laughed and immediately tried to hide it behind her hand. "I think you're taking the cool Aunt role a little too seriously."
Lena leaned forward so she could look over at James on the other side of the sofa. He looked a few thousand light years away with the computer. She and Jessie could have been fighting like the old days and he wouldn't notice. She noticed Jessie check on him too, they both glanced at one another afterwards.
Jessie gave his leg a tap to get his attention. It took a few seconds for it to register, and even then he only briefly looked at her. "I'm getting nowhere with these crew files. None of them scream I'm a sexist asshole. How are you doing?"
"I thought I'd look at the injuries," James replied. Both Jessie and Lena stared in shock at him, he seemed to sense it and looked over at them. "I don't mean I'm looking at pictures or anything, just the casts the Doc made."
"How... why? Isn't that the Doctor's job?" Lena asked.
"Craig's talking to the people left on the list, you're reading their files. What else is there to do?" James said defensively.
Lena shrugged, "what about the crime scene?"
"I already have. There's nothing there. He was accidentally invited in, he attacked her and walked out," James said. He briefly glanced between them and the computer again. "I've been in many fights in my time, I just thought I could figure out what happened from them. Find out who or what we're up against."
"Okay, maybe someone else should do that though," Jessie said uncomfortably. She reached over to take a hold of the computer, James kept a firm grip on it though, making her sigh. "James, please."
"I'm fine. Look," he stuttered while pointing at the screen. Jessie reluctantly followed his finger. Lena tried but she was too far away, instead she got up to walk over to his other side. The two of them watched as his finger kept pointing at different points on a body map, which luckily didn't have a face or anything recognisable on it. It was just quite literally a shadow of a person with coloured marks on various parts. "The face, the back, here on the arms, the middle of the stomach..."
"Yeah?" Lena said warily.
"Excluding the skull injury, all of them are not in vital areas. They're scattered," James said plainly. Jessie briefly eyed him with worry, then looked back at the screen. "I think she struggled, he was trying to subdue her."
"Well, considering the attack that's obvious," Lena said.
James shook his head, "no, I think it started as the creep holding her still. She struggled, making him more enraged. Even still, he avoided life threatening injuries."
"If he was trying to er... force himself on her, that makes sense," Jessie said.
"If he was angry he wouldn't care, he wouldn't be thinking. I don't think this is just a coincidence," James said.
Lena pulled a face as she focused on the red mark on the shadow's head. "He still knocked her into the coma, threw her into a book case. Maybe he didn't start out angry but he ended up that way."
James' eyes shifted to one side for a second. Jessie noticed him fidget at the same time. "He probably expected her to give in. She fought back," he said.
"Didn't you say she inflicted some damage on him? The Doc wouldn't have treated him or he would have said something. Someone must have seen him hurrying around with scratches on his face," Lena pointed out.
Jessie nodded, her face lit up for a moment. It faded immediately, "it was late. Not as many people around. He probably treated himself at home."
James stared at the same place Lena focused on before, he did it so intensely it started to blur. It wasn't only his eyes, his mind then drifted elsewhere as the thought of the young girl getting said injury flashed through it. What brought him out of it was the sound of his baby daughter crying nearby.
"Oh, maybe that's why she was pulling that face," Lena commented while she pinched her nose.
Jessie smirked at her briefly before scooping up the baby. Her head gestured to a bag lying nearby. "Can you pass me that?" Lena walked over to pick it up, then hand it over still with her nose pinched. "Be right back."
As Jessie hurried off into the nearby door Lena sat down in her seat, while keeping a close eye on her brother. Eventually he noticed it and gave her a stare back. "Okay, this is what I don't get. The theory is the guy was mad he was flirted with and yet didn't get the girl. The underage girl..." she said.
"Yeah, lets not go there," James muttered.
Lena shrugged, "he went over there to chat her up, maybe. She answers the door thinking its Kiara, he forces his way inside. If he was just mad at the rejection, it would be only violence but it isn't. He went there to sleep with her, whether she wanted to or not."
James groaned, "you went there." Lena kept staring at him, which made his eyes roll. "This matters because? The guy was a sick, perverted excuse of a Human. Why waste time thinking about his motives?"
Lena was more than confused. "You were doing the same thing with these injuries. I was just filling in the gaps."
"No, I wanted to know what kind of guy he was, physically. Was he strong, tall, skinny? Does he know how to fight? Was he really trying to do what the Doctor said?" James said.
Lena smiled, "ah ha!" James gave her a bemused stare. "So figuring out his motives helps. You don't want to believe this was that type of attack."
"Don't you?" he muttered.
"No, I don't want to either. I think it's sick. I also think you're not really helping her by ignoring it though," Lena said honestly.
James' shoulders fell, his whole body seemed to sink along with his mood. He climbed up, all the while dumping the computer in his old spot. "I only want to know who he is. I don't care about what he wanted to do. He deserves nothing."
"Oh, I think he deserves something and you know it," Lena said with a weak smile.
"I don't get it. Every guy this kid, repeat kid, flirted with didn't take her seriously. This guy though followed her around as if she owed him something. Why didn't he let it go?" James said while he began to pace. "How come nobody saw him following her, or even the first incident itself?"
"You know what I don't get the most," Lena said. "Why when he knocked her out, leaving her half dead, did he just leave her?" James' head swung around to stare at her, his eyes wide. "Wasn't the point to get what he wants? She wasn't fighting back anymore. Why choose then to run?"
James nodded, his stare was again distant. "You're right."
"I am?" Lena said quizzically
"This isn't the same thing. It's different," James said quickly.
Before Lena could respond he hurried out without another word. She quickly leapt to her feet to follow him, then stopped to look at the door Jessie went through. "Crap. Should I follow?" she sighed.
The Doctor was engrossed in the console in the centre of the room when James burst in, horribly startling him. He was thankful he was a hologram at that moment.
"Doc..." he started to say.
"I really ought to put a lock and chime on that door," the Doctor breathed. James stared at him with his brow furrowed. "Yes?"
"Your patient, she's still in a coma?" James asked.
The Doctor resisted scoffing and making a sarcastic comment. "Yes, why?"
"Are you doing anything right now?" James asked.
"No, what's this about?" the Doctor replied impatiently.
James walked around him to head for the occupied biobed. The sight of the girl brought all of the anger and upset back. He tried to avert his eyes. "Only she and the attacker knows what happened. The attacker still eludes us."
"Yes, Craig did say he wasn't having much luck matching the odd DNA sequences with the list of suspects," the Doctor said with a nod.
"If we can't find him, we can ask her," James muttered.
The Doctor frowned intensely. He grabbed a nearby tricorder and slowly made his way over to him. "Perhaps you should take a break." He raised the tricorder to scan him, at the last second it was swiped away to the floor.
"Don't do that, I'm fine," James groaned.
The Doctor sighed and walked away to retrieve his tricorder. "We can't talk to her, you know what being in a coma means."
"I might be able to though," James said.
"How?" the Doctor asked.
James forced himself to look at the patient, his eyes glazed over as they focused on the innocent face. "Her memories will still be in there. The coma should make it easier to see them."
The Doctor's jaw dropped, he stomped over to intervene and or protest. James didn't look at him, he just gestured his arm back to hint he should stop. "You can't. Her brain is damaged, that's why she's in the coma. You..." During his protests he failed to notice James tapping a few commands into the panel by the bed.
"Shh!" James hissed at him. "It won't take long."
"No. It's not just the patient I'm worried about. You have limited experience with telepathy. If you initiate a telepathic link with a coma patient, you could damage your own mind," the Doctor protested. He went forward anyway, immediately running into a forcefield. He looked on in shock. "Don't do this. There's got to be another way."
James continued staring at the girl despite how difficult it was. He tried to blur out her face to make it easier, instead another one took its place. He had to shake his head to return to normal.
"James!" the Doctor shouted at him. He rushed over to the main console to try to lower the forcefield. A thought occurred. He instead went to his own program. He was dismayed to find access to his own system was denied. All he could do now was tap his commbadge and call for help.
TO BE CONTINUED
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