Celebrating almost two weeks on the Juno, Nicole was enjoying the small gathering the crew had put on in the mess hall. With a small glass of a fruit punch, which she was sure had vodka in it, she was moving around the room when she caught the eyes of her fellow cabinmates. Ensign Abigail Cornwell, who was her bunkmate, was the Juno’s nurse, sitting on one of the rounded tables. She held a similar glass to Nicole’s with the punch in it too. Not alone, Cornwell was surrounded by other crewmates including the two others that shared their spartan like cabin: Crewmembers Christopher McKinnies and Andrei Rykova. McKinnies was the ship’s historian while Rykova was a member of the engineering department. They were all smiling and enjoying each other’s company, it was Cornwell who called Nicole over with a wave of a hand.
“Well Nic, I’m glad I’m not the only one who was brave to try the chef’s punch!” Abigail mentioned as she clinked glasses with Nicole’s. Abigail was almost the same size as Nicole. She had dark brown hair, which was dyed blonde at the ends. She kept her hair tied up in a bun. Coming from New York city, she had a very friendly, calm and open-minded approach to all situations. It was what, as Nicole had observed, made her such a great nurse. The two of them had instantly became good friends once they had found out they were bunkmates (Nicole sleeping on the top with Abigail on the bottom). It also helped that they both shared an interest in baseball. Nicole being a San Francisco Giants fan and Abigail being a Yankees fan, they would end up watching games together.
Smiling at Abigail’s comment regarding the punch, Nicole took a sip from her glass. It was extremely strong, whatever was in it. “Who would have thought we would have survived two weeks?”
Christopher grinned, “Here’s to another two weeks then!” He raised his glass one more time and quickly took a large gulp from his glass. Christopher, just like Nicole and Abigail, came from the United States too. Born and bred in Bakersfield, California – he too shared some of Nicole’s interests, especially with music. He was a violin player, just like her. In fact, he played a number of instruments, including the piano and guitar. The two of them had agreed to find other musically talented crewmates and attempt to put a ship’s orchestra together. He was quite the confident young man; he was a couple of years younger than her. His thick, almost black hair was curly on top and swept backwards on the sides. His boyish charm gave him a sense of naivete when he was dealing with some situations, however he was an extremely bright man and knew his field of expertise.
Nicole winced at the moment he watched him swallow the contents of his glass. She wasn’t as brave or as gutsy as Chris was. On the other hand, she had found that Chris normally got his fearless side by the encouraging words of his new best friend, Andrei. The Russian engineer, who was of a similar age to Chris, had grown up in Minsk and had one of the thickest Russian accents that Nicole had ever known. He was average size, had sky blue eyes that almost sparkled and shared a similar boyish grin like Chris. He too was an excellent engineer but did not have the qualifications to attend Starfleet Training Command to become an officer. He wanted the experience of being out in space and found himself enlisting and not wanting to be waiting around to leave Earth any longer than he wanted to.
Nicole had enjoyed spending time getting to know them. They were quickly forming a tight group, one she hoped would last for the rest of their time on the Juno.
Before Andrei was able to say anything, he was interrupted by the ship-wide intercom going off. Captain McCragg’s voice soon followed. “All hands prepare for warp jump.”
The crew all braced themselves as the Juno leapt to warp. Once it had completed its jump, everyone looked at each other. Nothing had been shared about any scheduled warp jump while they undertook their patrol of the Alpha Centauri system. The ship had been assigned to assist in research and exploration of the Nyrian Pyramids on Alpha Centauri IV. Nicole and Chris had only returned that afternoon with one of the landing parties who were assisting a number of civilian scientists, especially archaeologists and geologists, in understanding their natural formation.
“Dis is not a planned trip?” Andrei remarked to the group after letting go of the arms of his chair once the ship had passed the warp barrier.
Again, they were interrupted by the voice of Captain McCragg. “Aw senior staff report tae th’ situation room at once.”
Nicole looked around the room and noticed the ship’s first officer, chief science officer and her superior officer, the chief armoury officer all leave. “Something is up.” She said with a concerned expression.
“Why do I get the impression this party is about to end?” Abigail said as she highlighted the sudden change of the mood in the room.
It wasn’t long before the captain’s voice was heard again over the intercom. “Aw hans tae battle stations!”
Hoping she hadn’t drunk too much of whatever was in the punch, Nicole put her glass down and left the mess hall with her shipmates. Something serious was happening and now the crew would be tested.
She headed down the deck and towards the main armoury, however she had received a call from her department head to report to the launch bay. Making her way she soon entered the launch bay and was slightly shocked to see Commander Ellen Hammond, the ship’s first officer and chief engineer, waiting for her along with Lieutenant Josh Cregg (her department head).
“Ensign Levesque,” Hammond spoke as she saw Nicole entered the room. “We’re heading over to the ECS Polaris, they’ve been attacked by pirates and we’ve picked up their distress call.”
“The Polaris?” Nicole repeated with shock and a sense of worry, “That’s my aunt’s ship.”
Cregg nodded in acknowledgement, “I thought you would like to be one of the first over there Nicole. Is it going to be a problem?”
Nicole quickly shook her head. “No sir, not at all.”
“Hang on! I’m coming!” A familiar voice said from the other end of the launch bay.
Nicole turned around and was grateful to see her friend, Abigail, carrying her medical kit, making her way over to them. “Sorry sirs, Doctor Young wanted to ensure I had everything I would need.”
Hammond ushered them all into the shuttlepod, “Not to worry Ensign Cornwell, we’re just leaving now.”
The shuttlepod flight over to the Polaris happened quickly the moment the Juno dropped out of warp. Captain McCragg had given them the all clear to depart. Nicole had taken in a massive gulp the moment she had seen the old freighter adrift with scorch marks all over its body. She could see a considerable amount of damage had been sustained to the ship’s outer hull, especially around its cargo modules. She had whispered a prayer to herself, hoping that she didn’t find anyone over there she knew dead. Hammond had piloted the shuttlepod over and within a blink of an eye they were docking with the ship.
ECS Polaris ECS-1839
Nicole, knowing the access codes for the Polaris, hastily opened the hatch once the Juno’s shuttlepod had docked and led the team onto the ship she had known as home for a few years.
“Oh my god, Nicole! You’re a sight for sore eyes!” said a familiar voice from down one end of the corridor.
Turning to look towards the direction of the voice, Nicole almost ran towards her aunt. “Aunt Teresa,” She said as she grabbed the older woman in her arms. “Am I glad to see you.”
“Likewise.” Teresa said after letting go of her niece, “I would say let’s have a catch up, but we’ve got wounded who need help and a ship to stabilise.” It took almost a second for Nicole to completely witness what was happening around her. The ship that she had spent an earlier part of her life on was almost wrecked beyond belief. She barely recognised it, and she barely recognised her aunt. Her clothes were ripped in a few places and she was covered in dirt. Her hair, which was normally tidy, was a mess. Aunt Teresa looked like she had been through hell and back. A sudden wash of guilt and sadness filled Nicole, she tried hard to ignore it. She had a job to do and she wanted to impress the woman who had encouraged her to explore the stars.
“Aunt Teresa, this is Commander Ellen Hammond, Juno’s first officer and chief engineer. Commander Hammond, this is Captain Teresa Johansson of the Polaris.” Nicole said abruptly after realising in that moment she had not introduced her superior officer and the leader of their landing party to her aunt yet.
Hammond extended her hand out towards Nicole’s aunt. “I wish we were meeting under better circumstances ma’am.” She said, trying to sound supportive.
“Thank you commander, and welcome aboard the Polaris. I promise you the ship has never looked this bad in its life.” Aunt Teresa said in a more formal tone. “I hear you Starfleet types are pretty good at your jobs, so my crew and ship are in your capable hands. I would appreciate any help you can provide!”
“We’ll sort this out ma’am, I promise.” Hammond assured. “Ensign Levesque, if you and Ensign Cornwell assist with the injured then I’ll head to engineering. Lieutenant Cregg please liaise with Captain Johansson in securing the Polaris so we can dock the Juno for easier access.”
A round of aye ma’ams followed and Nicole smiled one more time with her aunt before she joined Abigail in helping those who were hurt. She had not expected this, especially with her aunt’s ship. However, she had been told through her training to expect the unexpected and to be rushed into a dangerous situation at the drop of a hat. It certainly would be a moment in her career she would not forget.
Saturday, October 5th, 2155
Tel Aviv University, Israel, Earth
The private waiting room that they had given Nicole was very clinically looking, in her opinion. It was mainly white: white walls, a white carpet while the furniture was a white sofa with a glass coffee table in front of it. A potted plant sat in the corner while glass walls and a door gave her a view of the corridor from one end and at the opposite end of the room was a large oval shaped window that gave her a view of the campus.
Nicole had decided to use the spare time she had before her appointment with Professor Lin took place. This time she had come alone, even with Claudia insisting she came, Nicole needed some head space of her own. She loved her family a lot, but she enjoyed her own company sometimes. While she waited for Ben-Ami’s mentor to arrive with the results of her tests, Nicole had decided to write her letter to request a transfer from off Challenger. It wasn’t an easy one for sure. She had spent the day before, while everyone was out of the cabin to do some research on what she could do that wasn’t on a starship. Eventually she was interested in two posts. One was a professorship at Starfleet Training Command in San Francisco, while the other was a bit more of a risky one to apply for. Starfleet Science were looking for a new deputy director. She had pondered about the latter, could she do it and be a single mother raising three children at the same time? While the professorship would be the more logical choice as she imagined it to be less paperwork, the idea of helping shape the future of Starfleet and its research within the scientific community excited her. If she was not going to be on the bridge of a starship making a difference, then she wanted to make an impact elsewhere.
She looked down at the data tablet in her hands as she sat on the sofa. She kept on reading her opening paragraph, explaining her reasons to Lloyd for the request.
Dear Captain Burton,
Over the last year or so, it has been an honour to serve with you as your First Officer and Chief Science Officer. I’m deeply grateful that you placed your trust in me to be your right-hand and, I hope, your closet confidant. You have allowed me to be a first-hand witness to historic events that have befallen our ship, I wouldn’t change any of it. On the Challenger, leading the science department has been a joy. It is staffed by the most intelligent, dedicated and loyal people I know. The same can be said for the rest of our crew. In my years as a Starfleet Officer, I have never witnessed a group of people who started with a tragic loss to quickly form such strong family ties with one another.
I set certain goals for myself when I accepted this job. I’m proud that in my first year I accomplished most of them. Sir, I deeply regret this, but as you are fully aware of my current status, I do not feel I can no longer serve this ship, it’s crew and captain. Therefore, I formally request for-
“Commander Levesque, it’s so good to see you.” Professor Lin said, intruding on Nicole’s thoughts. “I do hope you’ve not been waiting too long.”
Nicole looked up after switching off her tablet. “Professor,” She greeted warmly as she stood up and shook the older woman’s hand. “No, not at all.” She added, replying to Lin’s concern.
“Kefira is just collecting the results and will join us in my office. I think it’s best we go there as it is more private.” Lin suggested.
Nicole was a bit worried. “Should I be concerned that we need to talk privately?”
Shaking her head profusely, Lin calmed Nicole’s nerves down with a simple “No,” she led the way out of the waiting room and down the hallway. “Call me traditional, but I prefer to speak to my patients in a place that is less, well public. Plus, this is quite an interesting topic, one that if it got broadcasted could cause some concerns.”
Understanding her point, somewhat, Nicole followed the Malaysian medical professional towards her office. Once they were in and the door was closed behind them, she had offered a hot beverage to Levesque who politely declined. While they waited a bit longer, Lin had started to remark to Nicole how she envied the opportunities that she and Kefira had on board the Challenger. Asked why she didn’t join Starfleet herself; Lin had replied that in her day it wasn’t as glamorous as it was now. However, she did not support the notion of war with the Romulans.
“The need for us to be getting involved in galactic politics is beyond me.” Lin had said, just as Kefira walked in.
“Sorry I took my time,” Challenger’s CMO said as she made her way in. “Some of the technicians who should have been on duty were not there and I had to ask someone else from the laboratory to help me.”
Lin rolled her eyes. “That’s because a majority of the student body and a good number of the faculty are on the other side of the campus at this stupid war rally.”
“War rally?” Nicole questioned.
Lin nodded in acknowledgement. “There’s a number of rallies taking place across the planet at higher education institutes.” She explained. “Originally, they were started by those who were against the war, but some fanatics who follow the Isolationist Party, have made it a bigger thing. That said, there’s also those on the opposing side who are supportive of Starfleet and the Coalition’s efforts to stop the Romulans.”
“Well I must say, the lack of people in the corridors gives the university a spooky feeling.” Kefira remarked as she sat down in the armchair next to Nicole’s and opposite to Lin’s desk.
“Let’s get down to business,” Lin said, trying to change the subject of conversation.
Nicole welcomed the change with a smile. She had enough of thinking about the war and the politics behind it. “Please do, is everything okay with the babies?”
Kefira, who passed the data tablet over to Lin, just smiled. Lin switched on the device, quickly scanned it and nodded again. “Absolutely Nicole. One-hundred percent everything looks good with you and the boys who are growing in there!”
Giving out a sigh, Nicole did her best not to cry with joy. “That’s great news.” She paused, “did you get to speak to Lloyd then?”
Kefira answered that question. “He returned from Mars only a day ago, but I was able to convince him to swing by for the scans.”
“Is he okay? Does he know the results?” Nicole shot out with.
“Captain Burton is a healthy young man and we haven’t shared the results. We felt it would be best for you-” Lin was stopped from talking when a humongous explosion erupted from behind her.
The professor was pushed from her chair forward, across her desk as the glass from the windows behind her were smashed inwards into pieces. A shockwave had hit the building, knocking everything over including both Kefira and Nicole out of their chairs. Automatic alarms went off and the fire-suppression system was activated.
Dazed from what had just happened, Nicole who had landed on her back tried to get up from where she was, however her eyesight was completely blurry. She couldn’t distinguish between shapes and colours. Her mind began to go dizzy further, she looked over to where Kefira had been and saw her lying on her back, presumably unconscious.
Trying to call out to her fellow shipmate, Nicole couldn’t tell if she was screaming or whispering as the ringing in her ears was excruciating. Wincing further, she looked to where the professor had been. She was now on the floor, by Kefira’s feet while a ceiling beam had crushed on top of her desk and another fell a second later in front of the door. Attempting to reach into her jacket pocket, she did her best to pull out her communicator. She was in so much pain, she couldn’t tell if she was holding it at first. She flipped it open and pressed the red button on the side. Instantly it activated her distress beacon, she hoped someone in Starfleet Communications would pick it up and find them. Before she lost consciousness, she placed her right hand over her stomach and prayed that her unborn children were safe.
Sunday, October 6th, 2155
Starfleet Medical, San Francisco, California, United States of America, Earth
Fluttering her eyelids sluggishly, Nicole took in a deep breath and within a shot tried to get up but was pushed back down by warm hands on either side of her shoulders. She tried to resist however she didn’t have the energy.
“You’re safe.” Said the friendly voice again.
The calm, soothing tone was familiar to Nicole, yet she could not work out who it was or where she was. All she recalled was lying on the floor of Professor Lin’s office and then she remembered nothing. Attempting to prop herself up, Nicole found herself being helped up by the same hands that had just prevented her from getting up so quickly.
“Where am I?” She requested as she started to see a bit more clearly.
“Starfleet Medical.” Was her answer. “It’s good to see you Nic, but I wasn’t expecting a reunion to be in this manner.”
Instantly, Nicole remembered who that voice belonged to and smiled as she soon saw a face that she hadn’t seen for almost seven years now. “Abigail?” She mumbled out.
“The one and only.” Came the cheerful response from Abigail Cornwell. “And that’s Doctor Abigail Cornwell, now Commander Levesque.”
Nicole smiled; it was good to know she was in capable hands with an old friend. “What the hell are you doing here?” She said as she tried to get herself more comfortable as she looked around the unfamiliar room.
Abigail pulled a stool over to sit next to Nicole. “I was part of the Starfleet search and rescue team that rescued you shortly after you activated your distress beacon. You, Doctor Ben-Ami and Professor Lin were all brought here.”
Like an asteroid hitting a planet at full speed, a wave of panic overwhelmed Nicole and her hands (which were connected to a nearby life-support system that was monitoring her vitals and injecting her with pain relief of some sorts) soon moved to be on top of her stomach.
It was like Abigail could read her mind and Nicole was grateful for it. Five years together, they had built up a strong bond so when she assured her it was a welcoming sign. “They’re okay, I promise.” She whispered.
“You know?” Nicole asked.
A simple affirmation with her head was all Abigail answered with. “I would say congratulations are in order. I picked them up when I did a scan of your vitals. Also, I was asked by Starfleet Security to review one of the data tablets they found by you that had your latest medical examination on it. An examination that hadn’t been shared with Starfleet yet.”
“Please, don’t start Abigail.” Nicole said, feeling guilty that she had yet to inform Starfleet of her pregnancy.
“I’m not and I haven’t shared it with them as it’s privileged doctor-patient information. Nonetheless, I’m assuming the reason why you and your Chief Medical Officer were with one of Earth’s leading physicians was to get a better understanding about it all?” Abigail asked for clarity.
Abigail leant over and picked up the tablet. “The tablet was pretty badly damaged and from what Starfleet Security told me, that once they got rid of some of the rioters away from the office…”
“Rioters, from the office?” Nicole enquired to understand.
Abigail nodded, “The rally had turned violent and somehow the protestors had got into the university. Instead of helping you, they started to trash Professor Lin’s office. Starfleet Security had turned up in time to prevent them from trying to kidnap Professor Lin.”
Nicole tried to sit up further. “Is she okay? Is Kefira okay too?”
Abigail assured her again and took hold of Nicole’s hand. “Yes they’re okay. The security team were able to apprehend the rioters by stunning them. Our teams moved in to assess you all before you were moved here. Kefira suffered a concussion while Professor Lin has a few broken bones. Both of them are recovering now.”
“Do they know why they were after Lin?” Nicole asked.
“From what I’ve been told, she had been receiving death threats for some time now from groups who were associated with Terra Prime due to her close ties with the Interspecies Medical Exchange.” Cornwell answered. “She’s under protective custody at the moment.”
Sighing heavily, Nicole shook her head in disbelief. “Has the whole world gone crazy while I was away?” She asked rhetorically.
“Unfortunately, it has just a bit.” Abigail replied, knowing that Nicole didn’t want to hear such things right now, but she had always been upfront and honest with her friend. “The most important thing is that you are all safe. If you hadn’t sent that signal, well God only knows what state you would have been in.”
“So, you’re a doctor now?” Nicole said, smiling faintly at her friend.
“And a lieutenant commander now.” Abigail acknowledged, showing off the three pip-insignia on her right shoulder.
“Congratulations.” Nicole replied. “I didn’t realise you were posted here. I thought you were still on the Viking?”
“Nah, I left Captain Hammond after she finally married Chris and Andrei’s off about two years ago. When she made Chris her chief science officer and Andrei her chief engineer, I knew she was in safe hands and I could try something different. I had enough of being out in space.” Abigail answered. “Who would have thought these two would have passed their officer training?”
“Captain McCragg insisted on it with them both and several others.” Levesque remarked. “Is it true my first department head is now the skipper of the Murray?”
Abigail nodded. “Shortly after his short tenure as Hammond’s first officer on the Viking, Cregg was offered the Murray. He attempted to take Andrei with him, but Hammond put her foot down and said no.”
Trying not to laugh, as it would hurt her, Nicole instead grinned at that revelation.
Abigail cleared her throat before she spoke further. “You should know your folks and the billion brothers and sisters you have visited. I’ve kept them in the loop of your condition.”
Nicole gradually grabbed Abigail’s hand to say thank you to her old friend. “I apologise now if they gave you a hard time! They mean well!”
“Are you kiddin’ me?!” Abigail returned with. “I love your mother; I’m considering sending her to the front line to fight the Romulans. They may actually consider surrendering once they’ve faced against her determination to do whatever she deems right in her eyes. I finally see where you got your strong convictions from!”
Chuckling a bit more, Nicole enjoyed the light heartened reply from her old friend. “She is a force to reckon with.”
“You also had another visitor,” Abigail said in a more serious tone. “Your skipper.”
Bobbing her head in as a reaction, Abigail spoke up. “He seems really nice. I can see why Starfleet Command speaks so highly of him.”
Agreeing with her friend, Nicole replied. “You know he’s the father?” She inclined her head downwards.
Looking almost sheepish in knowing, Abigail shared what she knew. “I read Professor Lin’s notes and it didn’t take much to work out. I have told him that what happened to you both needs to be updated in your records, but he was more bothered about you and the babies. He’s a keeper, Nic!”
Shaking her head in defence, “We’re not together like that Abigail.”
Abigail shrugged her shoulders, “Well I may be becoming an old spinster who loves her cats and dogs perhaps a bit too much, nevertheless I’ve never known any commanding officer to sit by the bedside of their injured first officer holding their hand.”
“What?” Nicole said confused and unsure what Abigail was implying about Lloyd.
Abigail stood up and let go of her friend’s hand. “All I’m saying Nic, is when he was told about the attack, he was quick to get here to see you and was with you and your family. He even slept by your side last night.”
Embarrassed, worried, nervous – were all the emotions that Nicole was now feeling after hearing all of that. “Oh, dear god,” She responded. “Is he still here now?”
“No, he got called away to Starfleet Command Headquarters.” Abigail pulled Nicole’s covers further over her. “Now, as your attending physician I am ordering you to sleep as it is late,” She indicated to the small window behind her right shoulder that showed the darkness of the San Francisco nightline, “Rest tonight and we can talk more in the morning.”
Nicole couldn’t argue with her. She was exhausted and her eyelids felt heavy. “Thanks Abigail.” Eventually sleep swept her away, her last thoughts were over how embarrassing it must have been for Lloyd to meet her family while she was unconscious. It wasn’t how she wanted him to meet them, but then fate had made that choice without her.