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The yearly medical physicals uncover a secret which sparks tension amongst a few crewmembers. However they must put it aside when the baron planet Voyager is heading to turns out to be secretly habited.
16th, 18th, 24th May 2018
9th June 2018
9th, 10th, 15th - 19th July 2018
5th August 2001
27th February 2005
20th October 2017
The Doctor sighed as he walked into his office. He looked toward his desk to add yet another commbadge to the metre high pile. The impact knocked a few off balance, they slid down and clattered onto the floor.
"How strange. No one seems to be wearing a commbadge but Annika and Vorik," the Doctor mused aloud.
He sat down in his chair, then a thought occurred to him. "I know, I'll just wait until somebody comes in because they're ill. It is almost dinner time."
Kathryn walked onto the Bridge through the turbolift. Besides from Tuvok, the place was empty.
"Commander, where is everybody?" Kathryn asked.
"According to the computer, the entire crew minus two are in Sickbay," Tuvok replied.
Kathryn smiled as she glanced down at her commbadge-less uniform. "Oh, so people are cottoning onto it now. Took them long enough."
Tuvok's eyebrow raised a smidgen, "if you are implying that they are avoiding the yearly physicals, it doesn't explain not coming to duty. Should I investigate?"
"Not everyone is as smart as you and I, I'm sure..." Kathryn said, trailing off when she noticed Tuvok's commbadge. She let out a little awkward cough as his eyebrow raised. The pair heard the sound of the turbolift doors opening. Kathryn smiled, "there, that'll be them escaping now."
Despite what she said, only Chakotay stepped out of the lift. Kathryn's face slightly stiffened at the sight of him. "You're late, Commander."
"Yes I know," Chakotay said impatiently as he took his seat.
Kathryn's shoulders tensed slightly. "I hope you told the Doctor not to drag people in at the start of their shifts."
Chakotay's face scrunched up as if she had told him to drink her coffee for her. "That defeats the object of attaching my commbadge to one of Kiara's old discarded teddies, doesn't it?"
The Doctor studied the latest object on his desk with a bemused look in his eye. With its mostly torn off floppy ear and missing eye, it looked very sorry for itself. Something about its furry face and golden fluffy head made him smile though. He picked it up to put it on his shelf.
"I'm going to name you Seven," he said with great affection.
Kathryn's upper body trembled as she tried in vain to contain her temper. "So, if you weren't there, why are you late?"
Chakotay sighed impatiently, "missed a turbolift, brushed my teeth for a little longer than usual, longer shave, thought I had time to finish that last bite of breakfast, misplaced boot? I dunno, you'd be surprised how easy it is to lose a minute."
That did it, Kathryn's expression hardened into deathglare shaped stone. "My Ready Room, now." Chakotay didn't argue, he followed her into her office, leaving Tuvok once again all alone.
It didn't last, the turbolift arrived once more to drop two more people off and not who he expected.
"Woah, did Doc actually do it? Is it safe to enter?" Morgan asked warily, stepping back into the turbolift's door frame.
Tuvok frowned, "to what are you referring?"
Morgan forcibly laughed with her eyes widening. "Do you not remember last year? Doc said if we all dodged his physicals next year he'd flood the bridge with sedatives and get us that way."
Both of Tuvok's eyebrows were back in the Alpha Quadrant by the time she was finished. "I am positive he was joking. Now, why are you both here?"
It was Craig's turn to look confused, he wandered over to lean on the Commander's station. "You said you wanted to discuss my annual security review in your office." He instantly looked worried, "oh, I didn't make it did I? I'm fired, that's why you're not there."
"No, I checked your location earlier and surmised that you were either ill or being examined by the Doctor. I tried to contact you but I see there was a misunderstanding," Tuvok said, noting the no commbadge on the young man's chest.
Morgan snorted into giggles, then gave Craig a meek looking bump in the arm with her elbow. He yelped and cradled it protectively. "You idiot. Have you seen the morons you work with? Why would you go before them?"
Craig was too busy whimpering in pain to reply. Tuvok thought to chime in anyway, "it's nothing to be concerned about Lieutenant. I suggested to the Captain that you'd benefit from training in another field. It is ultimately up to you if you want to remain in Security or not."
"So..." Craig said, then breathed in to tame the throbbing pain, "I'm not fired but you'd prefer I was somewhere else? I dunno if that's better."
"It's nothing personal, Vulcans do not discriminate," Tuvok said. Morgan laughed and walked off to his confusion. "It's not only you. Ensign Taylor will be offered an alternative too, if he shows up anyway. The Captain was more than eager to shake up the Team One dynamic. Or as she liked to call it, the take the mick. Whatever that means."
Morgan brightened up as she hurried back over. "Oh that reminds me. James asked me to give you a message."
"Yes?" Tuvok said, but he knew what it would be.
"He said that he and Jess aren't coming in today. She's still sick," Morgan said.
Tuvok shook his head. "Perhaps it's time for an intervention. Crewman Rex hasn't been to duty all week. She should see the Doctor."
"Now that's just cruel, it's not her fault she's ill," Morgan grumbled.
"Morgan, the Doctor is just going to treat her. He's not a prison officer," Tuvok said.
"Sickbay to Tuvok."
Craig chuckled, "speak of the devil," he whispered as quietly as possible.
"I've brought forward your appointment since an earlier slot is free."
Tuvok tapped his commbadge with silent judgement from the two beside him. "What time, Doctor?"
"Now. Or more accurately ten minutes ago. If there's anyone else there, the now slot is also free."
Morgan and Craig fearfully shook their heads at the Commander. He almost sighed in frustration. "Very well, I'll get someone to cover for me."
Morgan waited for him to tap his commbadge to raise her hand eagerly, "I'll do it."
"No," Tuvok replied hurriedly. Morgan huffed at the offense. "Mr Anderson, take Tactical and inform the Captain or Commander when they return of my whereabouts. "Miss Morgan, please inform Taylor that his excuse will not fly this time and..."
"Oh?" Morgan said with growing interest, "you're accusing him of using Jessie as an excuse. This'll be fun."
"You misunderstand. Taylor does this every year to avoid his security review. Now I don't doubt Rex is ill, but if she is ill enough to require his care, she should be in Sickbay. Knowing Taylor, I doubt he'd encourage her to avoid going, so logically she has a minor ailment and they don't want the Doctor finding out and..." Tuvok said.
Morgan giggled, "so you're accusing James of using a sick Jessie as an excuse to skive his am I fit for Security test that I'm sure even Naomi would A+ judging by your teams. Even better. I'm on it." She hurried out before Tuvok could argue further, passing Tom and Harry on the way.
"Woah, ghost town," Tom commented as he made his way around the banister.
Tuvok gestured to his station, then wandered across the bridge to use the other lift. Craig took over from him with an uneasy expression.
"Yeah, not even Janeway or Chakotay are here," Harry said on taking his own station. "Did the Doc nab them?" he said toward Tactical expecting Tuvok still, but recoiled when he saw Craig.
"Not sure. They weren't around when I got here," Craig replied.
Tom winced through his gritted teeth, "uhoh. I hope the old arguments aren't brewing up again. I thought it was settled."
"Or, Janeway's getting her tenth morning coffee. As usual you're making stuff up," Harry muttered bitterly.
"Oh, so you automatically assume that it was my fault based on what? You're so perfect!" Chakotay's voice drifted through the walls. Everyone cringed, even Tom who was feeling a little smug but figured he'd save it for later.
"Lets see. Based on, you and those stupid headboards. Oh lets give up hope and live on this godforsaken planet together forever, googley eyes. Massage, hand holding. Warrior speech..."
"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realise you had no agency or free will. I'll stop my years ago interest in you that you had to reciprocate, your helplessness."
Tom winced at the unintelligible noise that followed after that remark. "So, that locking them up intervention didn't last."
Harry stared at his best friend with a blank face and head tilted to one side. "No, who'd have thought?"
For once Tom noticed the sarcasm in his tone and only responded with a mimed mutter while pulling a face.
"Maybe if we leave them to it, they'll make up like they always do," Craig suggested.
Tom shook his head, "nah. This is more than just a little disagreement over command decisions. You don't fix a drunken life changing mistake after a cool down and chat. We're gonna need something bigger."
Morgan hurried out of a turbolift with a grimace, leaving behind two arguing crewmembers. She made her way to one of the doors further down the corridor and pressed the chime. Once she heard the come in she stepped inside.
"Let me guess," James sighed on seeing her.
"Yep," Morgan smirked in response, "she goes to Sickbay, and you go back to work, you skiver."
James rolled his eyes and turned away to grab a cup from a nearby table. "I think the next message I send might need to be censored."
"Please, I'm sixteen, I think I can say bloody without getting grounded," Morgan scoffed.
"That's not..." James started to laugh, then thought better of finishing that sentence. "No it's okay, I'll tell him myself."
"I hope you enjoy your time in the brig. Mum's chucking anyone for anything in there lately," Morgan said.
James shrugged and sipped on his drink. "It wasn't that bad the last time, I'll manage."
"You've been in the brig?" Morgan laughed. "What did you do?"
James looked up at the ceiling and paced, apparently deep in thought. "Lets see. First time I think was because of a, disagreement with Tom. Then there was the impression of Janeway and Chakotay Jess and I did, which would've been fine if I hadn't said something like sorry mum to her."
"You called her mum? I'm not your bloody sister. And when did this happen?" Morgan asked.
"Oh, years ago," James said while shaking his head. "I think they gave up putting me in there, made no difference. Though it was a bit stricter back then."
Morgan walked over whilst folding her arms, eyes narrowing, "oh so is that why you pretty much do what you want. Untouchable huh? You didn't need to use Jessie to skive, did..."
James' face stiffened, "I'm not skiving. Jessie hasn't felt well for a few weeks now, mostly bed bound. I'm not going to leave her just to make Tuvok's version of happy."
"What about Sickbay, or call the Doc?" Morgan said, a small smile formed, "you know he'd be eager to see someone today."
"She doesn't want that, she thinks it's only a stomach thing from something she ate back on shoreleave," James sighed. "I want her to get better yeah, but it's not up to me."
The door chimed, making James' shoulders tense to Morgan's confusion. "What?" she whispered.
"Hellooo, housecall," the Doctor's voice called from the other side of the door.
Morgan shook her head. "I didn't call him," she whispered.
James' eyebrow raised, "uh, I wasn't thinking that. Now I am."
"Hmph," Morgan grunted. "Tuvok went to his physical. He probably told him then."
"I can hear people whispering," the Doctor's voice said.
"Er, the door's jammed. Everything's fine though," James said. Morgan looked at him in deadpan, he shrugged pathetically. "I panicked."
The door opened anyway, allowing the Doctor to stride in cheerfully with his medical gear. "It seems fine to me. Now, which room is the patient in?"
James cringed, "oh god, she's going to kill me."
"If she does that while bed bound, she's my new role model," Morgan snickered.
The Doctor though frowned, "oh, why? Because you weren't the one who called me about your sick friend and roommate?"
James wasn't impressed with that remark, Morgan noted his clenching fists going behind his back. "Jessie doesn't want any help, she said not to let you in if you came by. Apparently, it's not that bad," he said the last bit, not fully convinced.
The Doctor smiled, "well you didn't. I let myself in, emergency medical override. So which room is hers?"
James looked torn for a moment. He was about to gesture to one side of the room when one of the doors opened to a very pale looking Jessie with what looked like bed hair. She groaned at the sight of the Doctor. "Oh no, no, no. I'm fine, I just throw up sometimes. It'll go away." Her hand flew to her mouth and she doubled backed to where she came from.
The Doctor sighed sympathetically, "ohno, she wasn't fooled by Neelix's perfectly edible cookies, was she? I have one crewmember who I had to put on a hypo-drip two months ago, and they're still on it."
Morgan pulled a few choices faces, "they tasted like toothpaste." She got a few bemused glances so she quickly turned on her heel to leave.
"I'll be seeing you at 1100 hours for your physical, Morgan," the Doctor said.
"Crap," Morgan muttered and she ran out of the room.
"So, what's been the symptoms?" the Doctor asked as he picked up a tricorder.
James glanced toward the door Jessie had gone through. "Throwing up mainly. Only actually, she never told me anything else."
"I see, anything you've observed? Does her movement seem stiff from pain, low energy levels?" the Doctor asked.
"The last one I guess, after the sickness blows over. She spends the rest of the day in bed," James replied.
"Hmm," the Doctor looked concerned. "So this has been going on for a couple of weeks? Why would she refuse medical intervention? Seems like something I could fix in five minutes."
Jessie stepped back out, this time with a sweaty face. She groaned again, "ugh, I don't want to go anywhere. It's okay."
"I'll be the judge of that," the Doctor said while hurrying over to her, waving the tricorder in front of him. He noticed her mouth a fine so opened it up to begin his scan. He looked puzzled at the readings he was getting. "I'm afraid, you'll have to come to Sickbay for a more detailed scan."
"Is this just a way to get me to go through that stupid physical?" Jessie groaned.
"What a good idea," the Doctor cheerfully replied.
"Janeway to Taylor. Get to your duty shift now!" Kathryn's voice screamed over the entire ship.
The Doctor's jaw dropped, while Jessie cringed more at that than the Sickbay trip. James though found it hilarious, "yeah, maybe tossing my commbadge outside wasn't the best idea after all."
"Indeed," the Doctor grumbled bitterly.
With Tuvok back at Tactical and Craig demoted to Jessie's usual station, the day shift were able to get to work. Most of which were extremely eager to, the atmosphere around the command chairs was approaching Pluto's winter temperature, and so no one dared speak a word. Even Tom was keeping his thoughts to himself.
To Harry's horror his station picked up something he had to report. He swallowed the lump in his throat, "Captain, I'm sorry to disturb you but sensors are picking up a planet nearby with dilithium deposits."
Kathryn seemed to be disgusted when she looked across at him. "Sorry to disturb me? This is a bridge. What if we were about to blow up in a few seconds, we'd be dead before you finished." She noticed Chakotay rolling his eyes, souring her mood once more.
"I... I'm sorry," Harry whimpered.
Kathryn groaned and climbed to her feet to walk over. Poor Harry started to shake so badly it hurt his chest. "Never mind. What I want to know is why Seven of Notice Me never reported this earlier." The thought of chewing Annika out made her smile, the atmosphere immediately went up to almost livable levels. "No matter. Set a course Paris... oh wait, is this planet habited, in somebody's space, anyone or thing around?"
Harry sighed in relief, "no to all, Captain."
His relief was short lived when that didn't pacify the Captain one bit. "Hmm, that's suspicious. Still, get us there and keep the shields up."
"Yes ma... Captain. My Captain," Tom badly improvised, kicking himself internally. "Oh god, this can't get anymore tense."
Jessie sat on a bio bed waiting for the Doctor to come back out of his office. Finally after two minutes he did. He had a worried expression on his face as he approached.
"Can I go now?" Jessie asked.
"There are some things I need to discuss with you about your condition," the Doctor replied.
To his dismay Jessie stood up and walked towards the door. "That's nice, maybe later." He hurried to stand in front of her, blocking her from leaving with a panicked expression on his face. It worked but she wasn't happy. "I know already. Plenty of fluids, bed rest. If you must eat, dry foods only."
"No, that's not what I was going to say. You don't have a stomach bug or anything at all wrong with your digestive system," the Doctor said.
Jessie didn't look convinced, still she stayed to his relief. "I'm throwing up meals I don't even eat. How can my digestive system be okay? Am I dying?"
"No, there's nothing technically wrong with you at all," the Doctor replied hesitantly.
"So if I'm fine, can I go now?" Jessie said impatiently.
"Well, I suppose I can't stop you as it's not going to effect your..." the Doctor replied. As he expected she walked around him. He had to be quick to stop her, "you're pregnant."
It did that a little too well. She did stop, but ended up on the floor. The Doctor hurried over to gather up and gently place her back on the closest biobed. A quick scan showed she only fainted. He gave her a mild sedative for her sudden fall. It didn't take her too long to come back around.
"What a weird dream," Jessie mumbled groggily. Once her eyes were fully open she noticed she was in Sickbay and tensed. "It was, wasn't it? I fell asleep waiting for you to tell me I've got a stomach bug. Yeah?"
The Doctor smiled awkwardly, "I'm afraid not."
"But..." Jessie started to stammer very nervously. "That's not possible. How could this happen?"
"It's simple.." the Doctor eagerly replied.
Jessie's resulting face froze the hologram in a block of ice, "no! No!" She clambered off the bed and stomped randomly around the room while the Doctor thawed. "I'm not seeing anyone and so I haven't slept with anyone. I don't sleep with random people for fun, that's just not me..."
"Okay," the Doctor said as soothingly as he could to calm her down. "You don't have to explain anything to me, it's none of my busi..."
Jessie swung around to glare at him once again. If he were human he figured he'd be a puddle of panicking goo on seeing it. "I can't be knocked up, a virgin can't get pregnant!"
"Ah, I see. This is a mystery," the Doctor stuttered.
"Your tricorders are broken. Find one that isn't and try again," Jessie snapped.
The Doctor tried his best to find a tone that wouldn't annoy her. His database said there was none, so he tried soft, "I used several, as well as the biobed scanner, remember? I wouldn't have told you if I wasn't 100% certain."
Jessie was shaking by that point, he wasn't sure if it was anger or fear. He assumed both. "But... I told you. I haven't done it with anyone. It's not possible."
"Well," the Doctor said warily as a thought occurred to him. Once again he was searching his database for a delicate way to voice it. "After the events of a month ago, it's possible you don't remember."
"Don't remember, what?" Jessie stammered with fire in her eyes.
"The pirates, they fired the love spell beam at the hotel as well as Voyager, but in a less concentrated setting. The effects would've been shorter, but stronger," the Doctor said. He trailed off when his words weren't relieving the confusion on her face, it was making it worse. "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
"No," Jessie groaned slowly. "What kind of stupid weapon is called a love spell beam? I don't remember anything that..." She turned pale, "wait, don't remember. Love spell beam is a code name right. Not literal."
For a split second the Doctor considered deactivating himself to get out of the conversation. He soldiered on, cursing himself. "It's purpose was to distract us while they stole the ship. It made the infected fall for the nearest person so they'd be too, busy with marriage proposals, writing love poems, or worse..."
"No, no, no... not that," Jessie stuttered and once more started to pace erratically.
"No, not that," the Doctor repeated, puzzled. "The worst that was reported was a couple kissing too much. They passed out from not coming up for air." Jessie stopped to stare at him in disgust. He shrugged meekly. "Everyone forgot what happened during, but were disoriented since they lost many hours and sometimes were in a different place. You don't recall that? It would've been during your time in that resort before you reboarded the ship."
Jessie shook her head dismissively, "no. Normal. We were stuck in that hotel, we had a few drinks. I woke up with a hangover."
"So you remember the entire night?" the Doctor questioned.
Jessie thought about it, so sure she was right. Her face lost all colour again. The Doctor quickly grabbed a little container in case she threw up again. All she did was shake. "I... don't remember going to bed. Not that I woke up in one. Oh... oh god."
The Doctor gestured back to the bed, hoping she'd sit down again. She didn't, she stood and trembled. "Why don't we go sit down in my office. I'll get you a drink, we can talk about it or..."
"No," Jessie said weakly before turning to look at him. "You're sure?" He nodded gently. "Great, this... I didn't want it, not like this and it could be any one of those four."
"Four what?" the Doctor said at the same time he understood what she meant, "I see. Would it help if I did a paternity test? It's still early though so it might not be 100% accurate, it could definitely narrow one or two down depending on..."
"Okay... no, I dunno," Jessie mumbled. "I don't want it to be any of them. It doesn't matter."
The Doctor frowned, "why wouldn't it matter?"
Jessie burst into insincere laughter, "right, do you see me trying to raise Paris Junior? Or adding to Chakotay's growing list of not remembered making kids? Oh god, don't even get me started on Craig."
"Hmm," the Doctor only said to delay voicing his reply, "and James?"
He regretted that immediately. Jessie's face hardened enough it looked like stone. "Oh yeah sure, that won't ruin anything at all. Happy ever after, wedding bells and shit."
"How did that get by the so called censor system?" the Doctor muttered to himself.
Jessie ignored him and continued ranting, her cheeks turning bright red with anger. "You have no idea what you're talking about. Oh you're super close with a guy, make out already. You're just as bad as everyone else."
"I didn't mean it like that. I only meant that he would be a better result than the three you mentioned," the Doctor said without really thinking.
"Are you glitching or something? Even if I was hoping for that result, doesn't make it so, you utter prick!" Jessie snapped.
The Doctor laughed nervously and stepped back, "I'll go over the scans and see... check things. Other things." He hurried off.
Jessie followed him though, "oh fine, go ahead. Nose around in my personal affairs. Everyone else does."
The Doctor froze on the spot between his desk and the doorway. "I won't check without your permission. I promise."
"I'd believe it if you weren't hiding with your back to me," Jessie said. The Doctor turned to face her. He didn't say anything, then walked over to the chair on the opposite side of the desk, hinting she sit in it. She reluctantly did so after a few minutes of silence, then she sighed shakily. "I don't want to know, but I don't want to not know either. It doesn't matter, but it kinda does. I'll know that I was with one of them, but not which. It creeps me out."
"Is that a request for the test?" the Doctor asked gently. He waited a few more minutes for her to nod lightly. He brought his computer to go through the test results he ran earlier. He opened crew files and began to program a new scan.
"It's not better you know," he heard Jessie very quietly mumble. He looked up at her to see her staring into her lap solemnly. "I mean yeah, Tom would be the worst thing to happen ever. Craig would squick me out, he's like a kid. And Chakotay, his family life is drama enough and he, no."
The Doctor sensed she wasn't done and waited patiently for her to continue while watching the computer screen.
Jessie sighed. "He would be the best result out of a bad situation, but it'd still be the worst."
One of the personnel files were denied from the test. The Doctor lightly smiled, "it's definitely not Chakotay, there's very little matchi..."
Jessie covered as much of her face as she could with her hand. The Doctor thought that it'd be best to watch over the scan in silence until he had the results. It didn't take very long for it to spit out the next two in rapid succession, leaving one. He stared at the screen, musing over how to tell her as the match percentage steadily continued to rise. When it stopped and bleeped, he noticed her watching him tiredly.
"Well, um... there's a ninety nine percent chance, and like I said it's still early but..." the Doctor said awkwardly.
"Whoever it is, I've still got a kid via an alien drug rape beam, so just tell me," Jessie mumbled.
The Doctor sighed, "James."
Jessie stared at him blankly to his surprise, "run it again."
"It'll be the same result," the Doctor stammered. "The others were too low of a percentage to consider a re-scan. Ninety nine percent compared to something like..." He glanced briefly at the screen, "ten, there's little doubt."
"Oh," Jessie said plainly. The Doctor knew not to let his guard down. As he expected she slammed both hands on the desk and paced heavily side to side, mostly keeping her back to him. "That's just bloody great. Everything is ruined."
"Um, lets try and calm down and think for a moment. How is anything ruined?" the Doctor tried to say calmly. Jessie swung around and stared with wide eyes in his general direction. "Sure, you didn't plan for it but you two are friends. That'll make..."
"Were," Jessie snapped, throwing him completely off. "We won't be friends after this. No. I know."
Thoroughly confused, the Doctor stood up to approach her. "This is the twenty fourth century. You don't need to marry him to look after this baby."
Jessie scoffed and turned away. "That's not what I meant. I just know this'll drive us apart. I can't bear to go through it, not again," she ended up stuttering.
"Again?" the Doctor's voice and eyebrow raised quizzically.
Since she only had her back to him, he only noticed her shoulders tense up. He heard her sigh impatiently. "Walked into that one," she muttered. "We've fallen out before, years ago, and..." Another sigh, this one sadly, "it's taken us years to return to what we had before."
"Strange, I didn't know," the Doctor said.
Jessie turned to face him armed with a frown. "Why would you?"
"Well, I figured a fall out between you two would have been noticed, and gossiped about, by many," the Doctor said a tad nervously. He got an eye roll in response. "Why do you think this will happen again here? He's not going to blame for you for this. I know it'll be uncomfortable and difficult, but..."
"Uncomfortable? Best friends who live together knowing that they had a night together they don't remember, raising the kid from said night. Sure, uncomfortable's the perfect description for this mess," Jessie said mockingly.
The Doctor shook it off. "I know but it doesn't automatically mean you'll fall out. Even if you do, it's just something you work on and continue, like all friends do. I know you two are close and it'll seem like the end of the world, but it's not," he said, blind to the tensing cheeks and sharpening eyes pointed at him.
"I'm not bloody talking about some little argument about leaving socks on the floor, or a disagreement over meeting plans. You're a moron if you think what I was talking about was the only argument we had, and that it was some ickle thing," Jessie snarled at him. "I'm talking about stuff that threatened the entire nature of our friendship, an incident that left me re-evaluating everything we had, who he was, who I bloody was, until all that was left was anger. I hate everything I was then. And even more, I hate everyone who treats our relationship as some big joke. They don't know how much it hurts when they do."
Her voice had raised to a near shout and she was trembling with her chest heaving. She took in a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. All it did was lower her voice to a whisper, "this'll bring it all back to the surface again. I don't want to lose him."
"Then you won't," the Doctor said with a weak smile.
Jessie rolled her eyes, "you're naive. You have no idea."
"Actually, I have a general idea what you're talking about," the Doctor said very carefully. To his relief she didn't react, she stared vacantly to the right. "Having a drunken one night stand baby with someone you have feelings for and or been involved with..." that got her attention, her head swung around fast to look at him with wide almost bulging eyes, "will make for a tense conversation, I get that. I still think..."
"Woah woah, you can't assume... I didn't say... I was involved with him. Why did you say that?" Jessie angrily stammered.
The Doctor nervously shook his head, his brow furrowed. "Did I misunderstand what you said? I'm sorry if I did."
Jessie blinked furiously, "well er, I..." She felt her cheeks burning and it angered her once again. "No you didn't, but it's not that. I'm not, I can't."
"It's okay. It's none of my business, I won't tell anyone. It's also nothing to be embarrassed about," the Doctor smiled warmly.
It did the opposite of what he intended, she started to shake again and look away again. "I'm not, I just... it's more complicated than that. There was this alien ceremony we volunteered for."
The Doctor frowned, confused once more. "I was following you until this point. I understand that you'd be worried about telling an ex who's still your close friend about an accidental pregnancy, anyone would. But what's a ceremony got to do with... anything?"
"The last rite," Jessie said as if it would answer his question. "Wasn't really a rite but... The alien told us we'd have to consummate the ceremony, otherwise everything we did was wasted. James wasn't happy at all with this. He thought it was inappropriate, it was too soon for..." She cleared her throat and clenched her jaw as if angry with herself. "We argued, we made up and for some time I thought things were okay."
"I... I see," the Doctor said sympathetically.
Jessie looked over her shoulder back at him, "I was blind. I didn't see, or rather didn't want to see it coming. When it did, I was... I really hate myself for how I acted. Pathetic really."
"Sounds like you're being too hard on yourself," the Doctor said. Jessie shook her head timidly. "You're both stronger having gone through that, clearly, because you're still good friends. If you go in thinking it's going to go wrong, it will. Talk to him, explain it. If he cares, and we both know he does, he'll help you."
"No," Jessie said firmly, her eyes closed. "I'm not going through with it. I want an abortion."
The Doctor's eyes widened quickly, "what, but..."
Jessie turned to stare directly at him, "but what? Last time I checked I was the one who was pregnant. It's my choice."
"Well yes of course, I just don't think you've had time to really think this through. You're acting impulsively," the Doctor stuttered.
Jessie grimaced while her eyes darted to the right and back straight ahead, "so? That's my problem. When can you do it?"
"Well I..." the Doctor said while he tried to think of a way to stall her. "Come back in two days. I'll be finished with the crew physicals by then."
"Fine, I'll pop by after my shift," Jessie said, her shoulders once more visibly tense. "I don't have to tell you, no one hears of this."
"Of course," the Doctor nodded.
Harry desperately tried to dab the torrent on his forehead. It wasn't his day so far. He cleared his throat, hoping this time his voice wouldn't betray him. "Captain," he squeaked.
"Yes Mr Kim?" Kathryn asked in a neutral tone.
"Uh," Harry once more attempted to clear his throat, "internal sensors are picking up an energy fluctuation in the hull plating."
Chakotay glanced across looking concerned, "where?"
"Everywhere," Harry answered.
"Damage?" Kathryn said in Tuvok's direction.
Tuvok worked quickly, "negligible. I am detecting a minuscule distortion in our warp field, likely due to a dust cloud we flew through a few minutes ago."
Tom's ears perked up, "what dust cloud? That wasn't there before." He felt Kathryn's eyes bore into his back, causing him to shiver. "I swear, our course was clear."
"Energy levels have returned to normal," Harry said with relief, more due to Tom getting the blame than whatever was happening being over.
"Even though there was no damage to Voyager, permission to investigate?" Tuvok said.
Chakotay nodded while also staring into Tom's quaking back. "Granted."
"Oh, I forgot. I'm meant to be on paternity leave. Ciao," Tom stuttered, getting up. A hand grasped his shoulder midway, freezing him on the spot.
"Before you go, double check the course you set," Kathryn said far too sweetly to be genuine. The squeezing hand was also a tip off. Tom couldn't swallow the lump in his throat.
"Hey, that's actually quite cool," Danny said excitedly.
Jessie did a double, then triple take while her jaw dropped. "Cool? Why's it cool?"
"Well I was going to wait until I told Ian, but it seems right. I found out the other day that I'm two weeks pregnant. We can be pregnant together," Danny replied, almost giddy.
"Did you miss the abortion and love spell parts?" Jessie icily said.
Danny gasped as if she had, "no, ohno don't do that. It'll be fun. That kid would be so cute, and we can have play dates, our kids hanging out." She gasped again, this time more excitedly. Jessie continued to grind her teeth. "We could be sister in laws."
Jessie was speechless for a few minutes. Danny didn't notice, she continued to ramble. "Your kid isn't even born, and you're already marrying them off?" Jessie snapped, cutting her off.
"Well if yours is a boy or a gay girl, I don't want Kiara snatching them first. And then there's Tom's kid..." Danny tried to say seriously, but her lips were threatening to curl.
"Tom's kid?" Jessie managed to say through enraged twitching.
Danny burst into mischievous giggles, then she patted her friend's shoulder. "Oh, I can't keep this up. You're so easy to tease."
"I'm not in the bloody mood funnily enough," Jessie grumbled. "You haven't a clue how much I'm freaking out about this, do you? If you did, you wouldn't joke. Or if you do and still, then maybe you're not my friend at all."
Danny's face fell quickly, "ok ok, I'm sorry. I didn't start out teasing, I thought the idea of us having and raising our kids together would soften you to the idea. I liked the sound of it, I kinda lost it."
"Only kinda?" Jessie groaned.
"You've only just found out. Why don't you think it through? Talk to James," Danny suggested.
Jessie sighed impatiently. "Doc said that too. The answer's still gonna be the same. And James never finds out about this." Danny looked shocked at the last sentence. "What? Why tell him that he had his consent violated because some weirdo aliens wanted to nick the ship? I wasn't too keen on hearing it but I had to, he doesn't. Why put him through that?"
"Yeah but, remember when you almost stole a chip off his plate last month, but chickened out before you touched it. You told him as if you gobbled his whole meal and blamed it on Morgan," Danny snickered for a reason Jessie wasn't sure of. "And you expect to keep a massive secret such as having an awesome fun night with him and aborting his baby, for the rest of your lives?"
Jessie only frowned at her, Danny shrugged casually. "Good luck," she said flippantly, "he'll know by the end of the day."
"After I said that he laughed, as of course he would. Do you think he's going to find this funny?" Jessie said. Danny winced. "We'll argue, we'll fall out and I'll only see him during awkward meetings. If I'm aborting, why bother telling him and risking that? If it helps avoid losing him, I'll have no trouble with never telling him."
"Why would you argue and fall out permanently?" Danny asked.
Jessie looked at her as if she was an idiot, "really? You were there when it nearly happened the last time."
"Yeah but..." Danny stammered. She shook her head stubbornly, "that was years ago, you both have changed a lot since. He doesn't seem as rash and easily pissed off ish, which was a big part of the problem."
"Don't, it wasn't just him," Jessie said as she looked down glumly at the table.
"Well fine, but I said you both," Danny shrugged. "I can't imagine why you'd have a spat over this big enough to worry you. Are you concerned he's gonna be happy when you're halfway telling him, before you drop the A bomb."
"Happy? No, not likely," Jessie cringed and raised her eyebrow.
"Then what?" Danny questioned.
A cup was placed on the other side of their table, they both looked up in that direction. Danny quietly winced while Jessie once again tensed her shoulders.
"Oh... sorry, should I...?" a very awkward James said while pointing his thumb to one side.
Jessie glanced at Danny who she thought looked like she was ready to say yes. Jessie shook her head before she could. "It's fine."
James still had the same unsure look on his face as he sat opposite them, especially when he spotted Danny point her grimace toward Jessie. "Okay... um, did the Doc help you out?" he asked.
Jessie lightly nodded. Danny turned her stare at the new arrival and gave him a smile. "Don't mind her. I think she's a little thrown that I beat her to the knocked up goalpost," Danny said.
Her smile turned into a mischievous grin as James' eyes shot wide open just as he placed the cup at his mouth, while Jessie turned her head to glare at her.
"What are you doing?" she quietly hissed.
Danny shrugged and winked, "now you have a general idea. You're welcome."
"You're gone," Jessie said, eyes narrowing.
"Gone," Danny snickered whilst standing up. She hurried over to the nearest replicator.
"Is she... was she joking?" James asked, still hovering his drink at chin level just in case.
Jessie groaned into her right hand, "I have no idea with her anymore."
James put down his cup and looked at her with a worried frown. "You still don't look well. I hope the Doc didn't just drag you to Sickbay for a medical and toss you out."
"What? No," Jessie stuttered, her eyes widening slightly. "He gave me something, but it's not instant. I didn't understand it all, it's something like a mix of a stomach bug and motion sickness."
"I see," James said, although he didn't sound convinced at all.
Jessie tried to smile as if nothing was wrong, "so, how was work?"
James looked more bemused than worried, an eyebrow slowly raised. "Uh, funny you ask that today. Tuvok's re-assigned me to work in Engineering."
"Oh, what's that like?" Jessie said a little too eagerly. If it were anyone else they would've fallen for it, but James was briefly taken aback.
"It's a bit like the Mess Hall was when Neelix locked himself him in his bathroom for two days," James answered once he collected himself. "He wants me to shadow B'Elanna when she gets back. For now, I gotta try and uh, he said manage them but..." he laughed awkwardly, "no way."
Jessie nodded, "yeah," she stopped when she noticed he had no more to say about it. Her throat cleared, "so, what are you going to do tonight?"
James looked at her again with a bemused, then blank expression. "What's happening here?"
"Huh?" Jessie laughed nervously, "what do you mean, we're talking."
"Like crewmembers who feel like they have to make small talk in the turbolift," James said. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Jessie blurted out and tried again to smile.
James' face was even more worried than before, making it so much harder to keep the smile up. It didn't help that she spotted Danny by the replicator with an armful of snacks in one arm giving her a wink. She had to really strain herself not to scowl, because of the forced smile earlier she looked to James like she was in agony. He looked over his shoulder in time to catch Danny walking out while stuffing her face with crisps.
"Is this because of what Danny said?" he asked in a hushed voice.
Jessie's attention snapped back to him so fast, it left her with a twinge in her neck. "What, no, don't be daft."
"Excuse me," B'Elanna's voice cut in from beside both of them. They both looked to find her standing next to the table holding her newborn son in her arm. Jessie immediately cringed and looked down at the table. "Sorry, but can I sit here? There's no spare tables."
James nodded, "yeah sure." This time he noticed Jessie's brief wince in the corner of his eye, he gave her a concerned frown she didn't see.
B'Elanna sat down in the chair Danny had previously used. "Thanks, I figured I'd ask you guys first since I hear Tuvok suckered you into replacing me."
"Suckered doesn't seem like a strong enough word," James commented.
"Oh so you know," B'Elanna sighed, she smiled in relief. "He whined to me that he couldn't find anyone who knew what they were doing and could keep those idiots in line. He suggested Seven and well, I'm still in too much after birth pain to put up with being insulted like that. I said you don't need somebody as smart as me in there to run the place, you just need someone who doesn't take any of their crap, so I suggested you."
James' eyebrow rose pretty high, "normally I'd say thanks, but after what I saw I'm not so sure."
"You're welcome," B'Elanna smiled sweetly as her baby stirred in her arms. She gave his nose a little tickle which made him gurgle happily.
Jessie meanwhile fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat and averted her gaze.
"How is he anyway?" James asked, unaware of it.
B'Elanna beamed proudly at the baby before looking back up, "he's amazing. I thought since he was Tom's son, I'd have a lot of crying over nothing, but he's usually good as gold."
James laughed, a little relieved, "are you sure he's the dad?"
Jessie inhaled sharply a little louder than she would've liked, but still kept her gaze elsewhere. James though heard her and eyed her curiously.
"I suppose we'll have to wait until he learns to talk to find that out," B'Elanna chuckled. She returned her attention to the baby and so changed her voice to a cutesy kind, "we don't want another meddling daddy, do we." The baby squeaked and smiled in response.
"Oh for god's... can you please talk about something other than babies for one sodding minute!" Jessie snapped, leaving her trembling fiercely. By the time James, B'Elanna and pretty much the entire room looked at her in shock, she had already buried her head into her folded across the table arms.
B'Elanna's eyebrow twitched, "what the hell's your problem?" she grumbled.
James then heard muffled sobbing and so he quickly switched to a closer chair. "Jess, what's the matter?" As soon as his hand barely brushed her shoulder, she rolled it back as if to push it away. He recoiled from it as if he were slapped in the face. Meanwhile the sounds of crying encouraged B'Elanna's baby to join in.
"Oh no no, don't do that," Jessie's muffled voice whimpered. She lifted her red face up so the table could only see her eyes and tip of her nose. "Please, shut the damn thing up, I can't..." With her head back down only James heard her stutter, "I can't do this."
"Damn thing?" B'Elanna hissed. "He's my son. How dare..."
"Hang on," James quickly said, prompting an eye roll from B'Elanna. He spotted her mumbling of course as he once more focused on Jessie. "Jess, what's the matter? What can't you do? Is there anything I can do to help; go somewhere and talk or..."
"No, no," Jessie groaned painfully. "You can't help me. It'll only make things worse."
B'Elanna shrugged and bitterly stared at James as they briefly made eye contact. He looked like he literally had been slapped this time, he tried to shake it off. "What do you mean, did I do something...?" he asked.
Jessie once again groaned, angry at herself. To her tablemates though, she seemed angry at them. She lifted her head up only to try and avoid both of their gazes, so ended up looking straight ahead. "No, I'll just... go. Get it over with," she muttered and pushed her chair back.
"Wait, no. If I've done something to upset you this badly, I don't want..." James stuttered.
B'Elanna exhaled loudly enough to interrupt him, "she yells at my baby and you're blaming yourself. Huh, I was wrong, maybe I'd be better off with Harry taking my place."
Jessie shook her head, "I'm sorry but I can't deal with... First Danny, then you. It's like someone's trying to torture me."
"That's the worst apology I've ever heard," B'Elanna muttered.
"Wait, what does Danny and B'Elanna have in common that'd get you so upset?" James asked, earning B'Elanna's wrath being pointed in his direction. He looked a little worried but not about that.
Jessie thought to say something before he figured it out, "look believe, trust me. You don't want to know."
"If it's making you this upset, I don't care what I want," James said, his voice cracking a little from the worry. "Do you want to go home and talk about it?"
"No," Jessie replied quickly while closing her eyes. "Danny was right, I can't do this. I'm already ruining everything. I wish I was dead," she whispered so quietly only he heard her.
Naturally he panicked and reached for her hand, she also flinched from that. "Jess, it's okay, it's gonna be okay." He was put off briefly by her scoffing sadly in response. "Don't do this, you know I'm always gonna be on your side, no matter what. Why don't you want any help?"
"Not after this you won't be," Jessie said, fighting back further tears. "If you forget it, nothing's wrong."
"What?" James said, more confused than anything.
B'Elanna looked between them both suspiciously, then settled on Jessie. "I saw Danny this morning pouring crisps into her bowl of milk. You were talking to her, and now you're flipping out because I brought a baby over and James asked me about him." She noticed James flinch from her remarks at the edge of her sight. Coupled with Jessie tensing she felt convinced of what she was thinking, so she lowered her voice and leaned toward Jessie. "Do you want me to go somewhere else, or him to sod off so you can tell someone who is not gonna flip the table?"
James frowned, "you know, I can still hear you. Why would I flip the table? You got it all wrong, you don't understand..."
B'Elanna blinked a few times toward him, then shook her head in disgust. "Oh, don't I? Please mansplain it to me."
"What? That's not... what?" James stuttered, more confused than ever.
Jessie grasped the table with both hands to stop from snapping.
"I wasn't patronising you. I was just saying that what's wrong isn't what you I think have assumed, because I know her better and it's something we only know, you don't," James said irritably.
B'Elanna sighed, "okay I don't need her answer to my question then. Go away before I break something, you possessive meathead." The look on her face rivalled a coffee-less Kathryn, her poor son seemed unnerved by it.
James though stared back with a similar one of his own. "You are not helping. Stop assuming that it has to be one thing only because you're too close minded. Doing so is going to make her feel worse."
Jessie gave up and slammed one of her hands on the table. "Oh god enough! You're both right, so just stop it please."
James' eyes widened in shock, while B'Elanna didn't look surprised, she seemed somewhat smug. He ignored that and focused on Jessie, "what do you mean, you know what she was implying?"
B'Elanna angrily groaned again, "dear god, if I wasn't carrying a baby..."
"I know," Jessie nodded grimly. "Can't believe I'm doing this," she whispered. "During that love spell thing at the hotel, I... there was, something happened that I don't remember."
"What love spell thing?" James asked, he sounded unsure that he even heard her right.
"It was what we nicknamed the weapon those pirates shot at us," B'Elanna said. A realisation hit her and she was suddenly worried, "Tom was at the hotel too."
Jessie shuddered in disgust, "no, thank god." B'Elanna was offended but relieved. James was still utterly confused. "It apparently makes the infected fall in love with the nearest person. I was infected, drunk too, and now..." she trailed off very nervously.
"Now..." James said, glancing briefly at B'Elanna.
"Now," Jessie moaned, "I'm pregnant."
B'Elanna winced, not from the news, that didn't surprise her, but she expected fireworks from the other side of the table.
James looked shaken, he struggled to even just say, "what?"
"I tried to warn you to get out," B'Elanna sighed. She cringed slightly as she looked toward Jessie who preferred to stare at the table again, "apart from Tom, there were three men there. Are you..."
"Tom?" James stuttered, visibly twitching.
Jessie cringed, "it's not him."
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes briefly in his direction as a warning, then turned back to Jessie. "I can still get rid of him, one way or another."
"No," Jessie shook her head timidly.
James tried to stop himself from shaking, but it only left him with anger. "Who did this to you?"
Jessie cringed again, B'Elanna mumbled a still could before glaring at him. "Very sensitive of you," she said in a threatening manner.
"I know, I'm sorry but..." James said quickly, "a love spell, being drunk. It all sounds very... I don't want to say the word, so I'll just use creepy even if it's not strong enough."
"I agree but it's not like she was the only one infected and the guy took advantage of it," B'Elanna scolded him. "See, this is why you shouldn't be here. Any excuse to overprotect her, you're nothing but a sexist hothead looking for trouble."
Jessie shook her head, "he's not, I'd be mad too if it were..." She laughed insincerely at herself. "That's why I didn't want you to know."
"Because you figured I'd blame Craig or Chakotay and I'd..." James tried to say, but saying their names did nothing for his temper, anything he'd say after would be a lie. B'Elanna eyed him knowingly. "Make things worse, like you said. You're right, whoever it is, has nothing to do with me. And I'm sorry," he stuttered.
Jessie looked in his general direction but couldn't make eye contact, the guilt weighed her down. "It does have something to do with you. That's the problem."
B'Elanna even looked surprised at hearing that, no more so than James who looked like he was about to pass out. "It's... me?" he stuttered quietly.
Jessie regrettably nodded and looked away while whispering, "yes." It left James speechless for once for quite a few awkward minutes.
"I thought it'd be anyone but him cos of what you were saying," B'Elanna said quietly. "Should keep my mouth shut."
"It's okay," Jessie said, "you don't have to do anything. I'm not keeping it."
James' shock at the news turned back into his earlier confusion. "But I figured you'd..." he said while he tried to de-muddle his thoughts. He couldn't so it left him a little annoyed at himself. All he had left was, "why?"
"You know why," Jessie said quietly to sound neutral but it sounded bitter.
"No, no I don't. I thought the opposite, I don't get it," James nervously stuttered. A thought occurred to him that left a lump in his throat, "is this why you didn't want to tell me?"
Jessie sighed and closed her eyes, hoping that if she opened them she'd wake up. She avoided doing so and replied with, "I didn't want to risk, this," she said gesturing between the two of them. "I don't want us to fall out, and ruin what we've had over the years."
"So you thought keeping a massive secret was the way?" James sounded shocked, "and you'd abort just so we wouldn't argue? I get this even less."
"Please stop, don't you think this is hard enough already," Jessie snapped at him.
James felt his whole body tense as his throat throbbed, he shook his head. "I can't believe you'd do something like this, and for what, because you think I'm going to hurt you. Is that how little you think of me now?"
Jessie's jaw dropped in horror as he stood up, "no, that's not what I meant. I just..."
"If you didn't trust me anymore, why didn't you tell me that years ago?" James said with his voice cracking. He stormed off before his burning eyes betrayed him.
Jessie shook while suffering the same symptoms he was. Only now everyone were looking toward her, curious as to what was going on. She couldn't stand it and so escaped the Mess Hall via a different door, leaving B'Elanna behind to regret her part in it.
Harry ducked down knowing it was utterly pointless, but it was his natural instincts that were in full control, and so he stayed there hoping this would pass.
Kathryn though remained fixed in front of Opps, glaring straight through it and directly at him. "Remind me again Mr Kim, what I asked about our destination before we set a course."
Harry whimpered fearfully, "if it were in someone's territory."
"Mmmhmm, and?" Kathryn growled.
"Habited?" Harry squeaked.
"And what was your answer?" Kathryn asked with a dangerous smile on her face, which he didn't need to see, he could feel it. The only answer she got was further squeaking.
Tom chuckled to himself, "well you didn't believe him anyway. Good thing we came prepared."
Next thing Tom knew the Captain was standing behind him, glaring into his skull. He felt his temperature drop.
"Captain, there is something far more curious about this planet than what Mr Kim reported," Tuvok said.
Kathryn made her way toward him slower than she did to Tom, staring warily at him. "If you say anything with the words anomaly or temporal in them, I'm going to do an eyebrow-ectomy."
Tuvok forced his eyebrow to remain where it was while she was staring at him. "Negative Captain. Not only am I detecting lifesigns in what appears to be a metropolis, but I am also detecting several ships in the system. All of them have Starfleet signatures." The whole bridge froze, except Harry who's ears perked up. "The majority of the populace are Human, Captain."
Kathryn had stopped when she was within a foot away from Tactical to Tuvok's relief, still with the same annoyed expression. "How the hell didn't we notice a Starfleet colony until we were almost on its doorstep? And how come they're so far out here?"
"Well, if you think about how many shortcuts we've taken, we must be in the Alpha Quadrant by now, just still far out in the borders. It's not too out there for a colonisation ship or two to have come here and settled in the few years we've been gone," Chakotay said.
Kathryn pointed her narrowing eyes towards her indifferent first officer. "You're suggesting that in five years Starfleet have travelled almost twenty thousand lightyears, built a city, dropped off civilians and brought a few regular starships to patrol it?"
"No," Chakotay sniggered, "I just wanted to see how you'd react."
Steam rapidly rose from Kathryn as she clenched her jaw. "I'd expect that sort of stupid optimism from Lieutenant Squeaky over there. I'll not even entertain the idea that those ships have transwarp or slipstream capabilities. Something is very wrong here."
"Actually, I do detect residual slipstream tunnels, although I cannot scan the ships themselves to see if they have the engines that can generate them," Tuvok said.
Kathryn shuddered, "and why not?" She didn't wait for an answer, "because there's something not right about any of this. Keep our distance, we don't want them spotting us until we're absolutely sure."
"So what do we do?" Tom dared to ask.
"Squeaky, see if you can find a blind spot in transporter range," Kathryn barked towards Opps which still looked empty. She saw a tuft of black hair peep over the controls. "If you can't, we'll have to sneak a shuttle down."
As she expected she heard a giddy laugh come from helm, "I know just the man for the job."
"Great," Kathryn smiled, "if we need him, you'll let him know, won't you?" Tom's shoulders and spirit fell.
Morgan strolled through yet another corridor, trying her best to restrain a massive yawn. It didn't work at all, it was so big she for a few seconds couldn't see where she was going once she hit a junction. When her eyes opened she noticed James detour around her from another corridor, then walk in front of her. The fact that he didn't stop or even look at her riled her up, so she picked up her own pace to follow.
"Hey, wait up. What's up your butt?" she complained.
She noticed him shake his head, but he didn't slow down until he got to the turbolift at the end. This allowed her to catch up to him. She was about to pretend to scold him when she noticed his tense expression.
"What's the matter with you?" Morgan asked as gently as she could.
James didn't answer, his hand reached out to press the turbolift panel. It wound Morgan up further.
"Look if someone's pissed you off, I'm free for an ass kicking. I got nothing better to do," she said with a smile.
James sighed a little impatiently, "no."
Morgan continued to smile, "ah ha, gotcha. So are you mad at someone or something?" She stared at him, waiting for some sort of response. Just before the doors opened he rolled his eyes away from her and she thought she heard him mutter a few words. They shocked her, leaving her a little squeamish. "Eeew, you did what?"
James' head darted in her direction, looking very confused again, "excuse me?"
"You and Jessie, oh my god," Morgan chuckled and yet still managed to look grossed out.
James stared at her blankly, blinking more than usual. He then noticed the turbolift had arrived and was thankfully empty, so he pointed to it and stepped inside. Morgan got the hint but didn't budge.
"I'm not going to be victim number two," she laughed.
The doors started to close between them, James put a hand out to grab one of them and stop it. "Yeah very funny," he said in deadpan, his head gesturing once more for her to follow him.
Morgan tried to get a straight face back as she stepped inside. As soon as the doors closed she said, "you forgot I was recently telepathic, didn't you?"
James rolled his eyes again, "you have no right to be using it anytime and on anyone you want though."
The comment slapped the girl in the face, so she pouted. "I can't control it. Why would I ever want to hear your thoughts, you talk far too much anyway and you annoy me."
"Hmm," was all James said in response, and quietly. Morgan glanced over to see him mulling something over, this time she didn't hear it. "Don't tell anyone."
"Who do you think I am? Of course I won't," Morgan said. She saw him nod, then look away tensing his jaw. "I didn't know you two had gotten together..."
"We didn't," James said abruptly, cutting her off. He looked down apologetically, "sorry, it's just... this is all sudden, I don't know what I'm doing."
Morgan frowned but nodded anyway, "okay. Sounded pretty bad in my head."
"Yeah," James barely said at the same time the intercom chirped.
"All senior officers report to the bridge," Kathryn's voice rang around them.
Morgan smiled and shrugged, "okeydokey. Bridge," she ordered. The turbolift sprung to life. James tiredly stared at her with the smallest of frowns. "What, you're a senior officer aren't you?"
"And you are...?" James said.
"Bored, duh," Morgan replied with a smirk on her face.
When the turbolift arrived the smirk was ancient history as she was greeted to the sound of her parents exchanging insults.
While James stepped out, she hesitated. He turned towards Tuvok, "I thought it was no longer my job to break up catfights?"
"Indeed," Tuvok's eyebrow raised, almost sounding annoyed.
It also annoyed the command duo who turned their scorn towards James instead. He smiled politely at them before walking over to what he assumed was an empty Opps station. With the argument over, Morgan felt a bit better about stepping out onto the bridge.
"What's up then?" she asked carefully.
Kathryn then noticed she was there and tried to melt her icy demeanour. "We're in transporter range of a planet that went from baron to colonised by Starfleet in a space of an hour. I want to send an awayteam to investigate, however..."
Chakotay sighed, "I'll lead it if you want, but I think we should be far more cautious. If you're right, we're putting an awayteam into danger when we could just as easily continue on our way as if we haven't seen anything."
"And if I'm wrong, we could miss out on communicating with Starfleet and since they managed to get here, a hitchhike home," Kathryn said irritably.
"Come on, you don't believe that. It's the one thing I'm agreeing with you on, this whole thing stinks," Chakotay said.
Kathryn shrugged and walked off, "and if us agreeing on something isn't fishy, I don't know what is."
James bumped into something on getting to opps, so he peered down to find Harry sitting on the floor, hugging his legs. "Shh," he whispered fearfully.
Chakotay groaned and began to head for the turbolift, "I'll take two teams, just in case. Paris," he then pointed toward Opps, "Taylor, Kim. You're up."
Harry clambered to his feet so fast it surprised James enough to make him double check if he were still on the floor. "Hurry up," he said eagerly with his eyes wide. James shook his head and stepped away from the station, Harry scampered past him.
Chakotay reached the turbolift and almost got knocked off his feet by the rushing Lieutenant. He shook his head and tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Rex, transporter room two."
"Have you forgotten that she's ill?" James warned him on approach.
"That's not what the Doctor said," Chakotay sniped back. He stepped into the turbolift just in time to avoid a glare, at least until James joined him and the others in the turbolift.
"Uh Commander, if it's two teams, they're not exactly even," Tom reminded him.
Chakotay looked ready to throttle the helmsman, "Jessie just grab the first person you see on your way. Chakotay out."
"As long as it's a girl, this team is a real sausage fest," Tom commented, prompting blank stares from the entire turbolift. He laughed nervously, "god, nobody has a sense of humour anymore."
Harry laughed to his relief. "Oh, I'm so telling Jessie that." Tom immediately started to sweat nervously.
The awayteam dematerialised in a quiet back alley. They could hear the telltale sounds of a normal public street only a few metres away. Chakotay slipped a tricorder out of his pocket but kept it discreetly by his thigh as he glanced at it.
"Okay, according to sensors there were two areas of the city that didn't match typical Starfleet schematics; a large building to the west, and a tower at the northern edge of the city that was generating a signal we couldn't identify. My team will investigate the tower, see if it's harmless or something that might be casting an illusion, anything out of the ordinary. Harry, your team will scope out this building but do not enter it. We'll report back here in an hour. Understood?"
He got mostly nods. Only a confused looking Tom got his annoyed attention. "Yeah um, I'm not exactly sure what we're looking for. Aliens with bad human make up on, a sign saying this is totally human stuff, honest? And also why is Harry leading a team and I'm not?"
"I think the first question answers the second," James commented.
Tom looked even more confused, he scowled at him, "they have nothing to do with each other, you idiot."
Harry laughed quietly to himself, "okay, can I pick my team first? I pick anyone but Tom."
Chakotay groaned, "fine, but I'm only agreeing because I have a feeling this mission will need some fodder."
"Hey," Tom whined.
"On a totally unrelated note, I'll bring the girl who on her last mission stabbed somebody annoying in the back. Come on," Chakotay said, walking off.
Emma grinned and followed him, "wait, can we bring Harry too then the team's perfect."
"Hey again," Tom complained half-heartedly. He followed them muttering angrily.
Harry sighed in relief, "okay, so that's a lot less stressful. Let's go team." He then noticed his team members didn't look thrilled, and were clearly avoiding looking at each other. "I knew it was too good to be true," he sighed again.
Both teams soon found they had to get through an extremely busy market no matter which way they went. Harry was a little relieved that he didn't have to be discreet with his tricorder or else he'd get lost, since he passed a few uniformed humans wearing similarly shaped devices on their belts.
Chakotay was less than relieved when he overheard Emma asking one stall, "hey do you sell chainsaws?" He backtracked and grabbed her to pull her with him.
"I thought you'd know how to be discreet in a place you didn't belong," he scolded her.
"What? No harm in asking," Emma said innocently and with puppy dog eyes. Chakotay groaned.
Harry's team were still within the market when they could see the building Chakotay was talking about. At first glance nothing seemed out of the ordinary about it, it looked like a typical modern Starfleet building; tall and metallic with far too many windows. Harry tried to scan it, this time discreetly but strangely nothing showed up at all, raising suspicions.
"Maybe we should attack this on all sides," he said. "I'll have a walk around it, you two stick around here and eavesdrop a bit."
"Why don't I do the looking around," James suggested, making Jessie wince and look down, "I was in Security before."
Harry also flinched as he noticed Jessie's reaction. "Um, okay sure. You're right. Just be careful."
"Hmm," was James' only reply as he headed off towards the building.
"Okay, that was cold," Harry said apologetically toward Jessie. She looked at him blankly, "I wish I knew sooner, or I would've took Emma instead of one of you."
"Don't worry about it. I don't care," Jessie said, clearly lying. She began to wander around nearby stalls, pretending to be interested in them.
The further Chakotay's team walked, the crowds seemed to thin. Only a few odd people would pass by them when they could finally see where they were heading. A tinted light blue metallic skyscraper, barely a couple of metres squared in depth, standing amongst what appeared to be an industrial area. Completely vertical until the final few metres, where the walls closed in on each other to form a sharp tip which flickered a white light occasionally. Tom likened it to a massive needle and gave himself a cold shudder.
The team kept close to one side of the street, dividing their attention between that and the shop windows, hoping that'd be enough to fool the public. Just in case it didn't, Chakotay walked directly beside Tom to block anyone's view of the tricorder. Emma lingered in the back until she spotted something in a window and double backed.
"I dunno what to make of this. It looks like a transmitter, a real fancy one," Tom mumbled.
"Fancy? A transmitter sounds pretty clear about what it does, so what's so fancy?" Chakotay asked.
Emma glanced over her shoulder to look at them, then back again.
"It's not using any of our usual communications frequencies. Doesn't help that the tricorder can only detect that it's a structure and won't give me any details," Tom answered.
"Sounds a lot like the Shadow Tower," Emma muttered while eyeing up a few blunt objects in the window. Even still she noticed the two men looking at her gormlessly. "You know, like a cloak only for dumb people. You know?"
"No," Tom meekly replied. Chakotay tried not to laugh.
Emma sighed impatiently, "we didn't want our technology to be nicked by twenty first century humans, so the Shadow hid the entire island we lived on from old fogey scanners. You guys might have spotted it if you got close to it though since you have modern scanners. Plus like this one you can literally see it once you were within its range."
Chakotay nodded as if he understood, and yet he still ended up frowning as if he were confused. "So Starfleet must've invented the same thing but... why would they ever need to use it? There's no one else here."
Emma shrugged, "I dunno, maybe there were cave people on the planet first."
"Who we also didn't detect an hour ago, and for some reason I doubt had any kind of scanners besides tossing a rock or lighting a fire and watching the smoke," Chakotay said with a smile. Emma turned back to the shop window and smiled as well, he wasn't sure if it was his comment had anything to do with that. "Something is definitely strange about all of this."
Tom brightened up, "oh you mean the Ligers' tower on the AU Gravett Island?" Emma pointed a look straight ahead of her, not at Tom himself, as if to say what else you idiot. Tom of course took offense. "I saw it and worked around it, it's not the same. Your tower hid by jamming frequencies all around, we couldn't even see our own lifesigns when we were near it. Here I can scan everything but that, and it's right there, standing out a mile for all to see while yours was camouflaged in the grassy mountains. It's not trying to hide, the tricorder can't find anything about it in its database, as if it doesn't exist."
"Yeah, exactly," Emma said, sounding disinterested as she peered over at the neighbouring shop window.
Chakotay looked pained, "I hate to say it but he has a point. We haven't been separated from Starfleet that long. You said that the Shadow's point was to hide it from less advanced species. Starfleet couldn't have advanced so far that our tricorders can't figure them out."
Tom smiled mostly out of relief. "Yeah, and it isn't just this. We had the same trouble with the ships floating around the system. The type of signal, what the building's made of, which seems to block my scans so I can't see what's inside it."
"Is it one of yours Emma? This could be a Liger colony we've mistaken for Human," Chakotay asked, turning to where Emma was for confirmation. She was nowhere that he could see, making him groan.
Tom hadn't noticed yet, "but they were definitely Starfleet vessels, just different classes with fancier shields than ours. What are the odds that Emma's people from an alternate dimension to ours have the same basic ship design?" He turned around and also noticed their missing teammate. "Do you think that's a yes?"
Chakotay only hmm'd in response.
James meanwhile took his time to circle the building he had to scan, all while trying not to seem obvious. Occasionally he checked the tricorder in his pocket. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. That was until he was about to reach the front again, he noticed the air around the roof looked a little blurry as if it were surrounded by a forcefield. He waited for the people behind him to overtake before he could slow and stop, then got out the tricorder again. It once more said there was nothing there where the building should be, but once he pointed it quickly upwards and brought it back he noticed a spike in energy levels.
He returned to where he started, this time quicker after seeing that. He looked around for his team. Once he spotted Harry, somebody from a nearby stall pretty much shoved a strange device in his face.
"Hey there, good day sir. You look like someone who would benefit from my amazing, state of the art personal shield!" a man shouted so loudly it left his ear ringing.
James pushed the device and arm out of his face and continued walking.
That still didn't deter the salesman, he followed. "At only 33,000 you can protect yourself from phaser blasts, sharp accidents and even a fist to the face."
James firmly grit his teeth and rolled his eyes. "No thanks."
"But what'll protect you and family & friends from murderous people the next time you hit the town?" the man pretended to sound concerned. James intended to ignore him until the salesman made the mistake of grabbing his arm.
James swung around, sharply pulling his arm out of his grip. "I'll tell you what, put that on you and let's see if it works."
The salesman's eyes were wide, he started to shake. He ran off with his tail and device between his legs.
Unknown to James, Jessie was at a nearby stall and had seen everything. She decided to walk over before he threatened anyone else. "James..."
"The building's shielded. Pretty advanced wise too. Where's Harry?" James said flatly.
Jessie didn't look impressed with his tone, but she shrugged it off and turned towards a building on the opposite side of the street. With tables and chairs outside, most occupied by people slugging pint glasses, it seemed obvious to them both what kind of building. "I saw him go in there."
"Of course," James groaned. He focused on the tricorder once again and turned slightly as if to walk away.
Jessie briefly grasped his arm as a hint to stop. "We still have half an hour until we have to meet Chakotay's team. After we update Harry, can I have five minutes to explain?"
"Now, here?" James asked hesitantly, and to her relief without any of the previous attitude. He sounded more worried than she expected.
"We can't work together, or at all, like this," Jessie said, gesturing toward the earlier salesman returning to his stall.
James followed her glance, then shrugged. "He'd have pissed me off any day." When he looked back again, he noticed her look glumly down while biting her bottom lip. "Okay, sure."
Without anymore words, they made their way across the street to the bar. As soon as they stepped inside they bumped into the crowds already inside. James grumbled something Jessie didn't hear due to the noise, and without much hesitation he pushed his way through to a quieter part of the pub. Jessie followed in his wake, avoiding some of the people's annoyed glances in their direction.
Even in the quieter parts of the pub, neither of them could see Harry anywhere. Jessie felt her stomach turn so turned around to look for an unoccupied table. It took a few minutes before James noticed, as she had been behind him. He hurried over to join her at the table which had two long and soft benches on either side. "You alright?"
Jessie breathed in deeply and out. "Yeah, the Doc said the nausea drug might not work as well if I'm tired. I'll wait here if you want."
James sat opposite her. "I'll get you a drink first at least," he said while looking for the bar, which wasn't easy to do with all the people everywhere.
"Listen um. I'm sorry. I didn't mean what you thought, back in the Mess Hall. I just... this news, I wasn't expecting it either, it..." Jessie stuttered, but hesitated when James looked back at her. "It's scared the hell out of me, and I don't know what I'm doing."
"It's okay," James' gaze briefly met the table, "I overreacted."
"The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you, you know that right?" Jessie stammered.
James grimaced and looked down, nodding. Jessie recognised that as one of many of his feeling guilty expressions. "I know. I'm sorry too."
A woman approached the table holding a little padd like device. "Hi, welcome to the Ashfault. Can I get you some drinks?"
"Just some water for me please," Jessie replied as she absentmindedly placed a hand on her stomach. The woman nodded and tapped the padd.
"Do you do Long Islands...?" James started to ask but he noticed Jessie's eyebrow raising in judgement. "I'll have a white coffee please."
"Right away," the waitress said with a smirk. She walked away.
"We are on duty, remember?" Jessie couldn't help but laugh.
James cleared his throat, "yeah. So what are we..."
Shouting nearby overwhelmed his voice and cut him off, they both looked across to see Emma arguing with a couple of men who looked like bouncers.
"What do you mean, I'm old enough. I'm older than you pricks!" she shouted. One of the bouncers reached to grasp her arm, but that only gave her an opening to snatch a bottle from a nearby table and run off into the crowds. The two gave chase.
Their own table was quiet until their drinks were delivered. Jessie thought over what to say as her fingers tightly grasped the glass. The silence went on too long for her taste so she blurted out, "do you want it?"
"What?" James said.
Jessie cringed, "I mean; do you want this baby?"
James looked very nervous, "nuh uh, I don't want my answer to influence your decision or anything. Whatever you decide to do, I'll support you. The way I acted before, it's out of my system."
"I don't know though, not anymore," Jessie said to his surprise. "I didn't want to resort to something so drastic but there's so much that can go horribly wrong, and it will, I know it. It's a massive chance to take, and I can't decide it on my own."
"We have time. It's okay," James tried to say reassuringly.
Jessie's shoulders tensed, "until then, people may find out. If we decide to keep it, everyone will know. Pregnancy via a drunken one night stand is embarrassing enough. Then you add a love spell and everyone I told you so'ing, I dunno if I can stand it."
"Everyone? Tom yeah, Danny maybe. Hopefully no one else cares that much," James said, wincing slightly. Jessie eyed him with an eyebrow raise. "I know, but if you decide to keep it, Tom making jokes occasionally is only going to be a little annoyance, right?"
Jessie's face softened a little and she nodded. "I guess. And Tom making jokes isn't exactly a new thing. Should be used to it by now."
Only a few tables away Harry squeezed around a group of women wearing hen night apparel, cheering on the bride chugging two bottles at the same time. Harry headed for where he remembered the exit being, only he spotted Emma at a table on the opposite side to where James and Jessie's table was, sipping a pint glass.
"Aren't you a little young to be..." he said, quickly snatching it away from her. Emma grabbed it back immediately. "Why are you here?"
"Why are you?" she asked while trying to look serious and firm. That made her burst into hyperactive giggles.
Harry glanced around for anyone who may be eavesdropping. "Saw someone with a strange device, looked dangerous. Followed her in. Thought she was going to shoot up the place."
Emma peered up curiously, "oh?"
Harry's face flushed a bright red, "it dyed her hair in an instant, she just fired it at her own head. I thought..." Emma snickered so much her chest hurt, Harry meanwhile tried not to look like it bothered him. "Good thing this is a bar. Easy to play being drunk."
"Well, as a Voyager you certainly would be able to pull that off with no effort," Emma teased.
"Yeah," Harry said slowly with his eyes narrowing in the direction of her collection of glasses. "Starfleet's science department have been extremely busy the last few years. So much here is so... out there."
Emma nodded, "I know. I thought for a minute that we found a Liger colony. We're not far from the dimensional portal thing so..." She grabbed another drink, this one tall and golden. "Thought I'd celebrate."
Harry seemed confused to her, he blinked and stared blankly. "You thought? You mean it isn't?" Emma scoffed and shook her head. "I never considered it but since you put the idea out there, it makes sense that it would be. But you're saying it isn't, why not? It'd explain why we didn't spot anything until we got close. And why they'd even be hiding at all."
Emma tried to scowl menacingly at him but she almost wobbled out of her chair. "We're not pansies like you. We only hid on Earth to stop you guys from stealing and invading us. Outside of Earth and the solar system, we do things normally. No reason to hide here. Plus!" she burped and laughed, "our ships are so much more less dreary than those hanging around up there." She pointed up just in case he didn't understand here.
She figured she was right when Harry raised his eyebrow. "So much more less? Okay, you need to be cut off."
"Make me," Emma said while leaning forward on the table, smiling darkly at him with her eyes wide. Harry wasn't sure if she was threatening him or flirting, he nervously laughed it off either way.
"You're right," he said, his voice a pitch higher than usual. "What little we got of those ships were Starfleet in design. They were just out of our..." he slowed down as he came to a realisation, "league, oh god."
Emma perked up, Harry assumed she was on the same page. "Oh I like this song!" She ran off to an open area between the tables and the bar, where many other people were dancing.
Harry groaned. "I best find the rest of your team, okay? Good, glad you agree. And mine," he muttered to himself. He headed for the exit to meet up with his team, thinking they'd be waiting outside for him impatiently. Only he walked right by without seeing them.
TO BE CONTINUED
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