Hearing the muttering of more than one conversation, woke Nicole up from her deep sleep. Once her vision was clear, she slowly sat up in her bed. Like a flash of bolting light, her sister Claudia (who had been talking to a tall silhouette that Nicole couldn’t quite workout who it was) moved to help her sister.
“She’s awakes!” Claudia said in her normal jovial manner.
Smirking at her sister’s attempt at keeping the atmosphere light, Nicole appreciated her sister being there. “It’s good to see you too.” She threw back.
“Oh honey, we were worried.” Her mother said from the other side as she moved across the room, her father just behind her smiling down at his daughter.
“I’m fine.” Nicole reassured her family.
“Oh, then you could report for duty!” The silhouette spoke with a familiar voice.
Almost instantly, Nicole’s smirk turned to a smile. It was Lloyd that her sister had been talking to. Inwardly she was worried about what they had been talking about (knowing her sister, she was probably sharing an embarrassing story) but was pleased he was here. “Not yet sir.” She answered back as he stepped away from the window where he and Claudia had been standing. “Is everything still okay?” She asked her audience.
“The world hasn’t ended.” Her father answered, he now stood at the end of her bed with his hands in his pockets. Still he smiled, showing his daughter that he was not worried and was pleased to see his middle daughter healing.
“And we haven’t surrendered to the Romulans yet.” Lloyd added, trying to lift the mood.
“We won’t need to surrender.” Anneliese remarked.
“Not if President Littlejohn follows Doctor Cornwell’s advice of sending you to the frontline mother.” Claudia joked further.
A round of chuckles came from the small group. Nicole appreciated the light humour. She didn’t feel the same pains she had from the day before, but she knew she wasn’t one hundred percent either. Could that be from her injuries or pregnancy or both? She didn’t know.
“Doctor Cornwell said you could go home tomorrow.” Her father said.
“Oh, that’s good news.” Nicole replied with. She wasn’t a big fan of staying at Starfleet Medical any further, but she hated that this was impacting so much on everyone around here.
“You can move in with Mack and I while you recover.” Claudia said flatly. She leaned her head against her mother, who was sat on the edge of Nicole’s bed now. “We’ve already discussed who you’ll live with and I won flat out! Plus, with Cooper leaving soon, I’d appreciate the adult company.”
Anneliese gave out a typical motherly sigh while Anthony chuckled slightly to himself. It was obvious that whatever had taken place between them must have been comical to witness. Nicole could imagine her sister telling her mother that however much they all loved her, Nicole would be best suited relaxing in her house then with her parents. On some level, Nicole would have loved staying with her parents but then she could imagine her mother being overly protective and overly caring and that would have annoyed her slightly. But knowing her mother, Nicole was sure that Claudia had to compromise on the fact that their mother would be allowed to visit on a daily basis.
“That sounds great, thank you Claudia.” Nicole said.
And just on cue, her mother spoke up. “Your father and I will visit daily to see you and we can get you anything you need.”
Still smiling at the generosity of her family, Nicole took hold of her mother’s hand and gripped it gently. “Thanks mom.”
“Anytime sweetie.” Anneliese leant forward and gave her daughter a kiss on the forehead. “Anything for my next set of grandchildren!” She looked up at Lloyd and gave him a smile and a wink.
Clearing his throat, Anthony moved to be behind his wife. “Honey, why don’t we leave Nicole to catch up with her captain?”
“Yes, yes of course.” Anneliese got the hint, got off the bed and picked up her coat and bag that was draped over a nearby armchair. “We’ll go get a coffee.” She suggested and then hinted at Claudia to join them.
Claudia got the hint and began to follow her parents out. As she approached the door, she turned to look at Nicole and gave her a cheeky wink, a thumbs up as she indicated that she approved of Lloyd. Nicole only rolled her eyes at her sister’s teasing.
As they left, Lloyd perched on the edge of Nicole’s bed and chuckled a bit at Claudia’s antics. “Your family is a great bunch.” He said once they were alone.
“They’re something.” She answered back as she sat up further in her bed.
Lloyd, who was not in his uniform and in civilian plain clothing looked different. He was wearing a navy-blue sweatshirt, with a white top underneath it along with black jeans and black shoes. Appearing more at peace since she last saw him, Nicole was pleased to see the former Lloyd she knew before he heard the news of his father’s passing.
“How are you doing?” Nicole asked him.
Wobbling his head somewhat, he answered her. “Better thanks. I got some closure over my dad.”
Nicole grabbed his hand and gripped it. “I’m glad to hear that.”
Appreciating the support, Lloyd put his other hand over hers. “Thanks Nicole. It gave me some time to think about things.” He said, remarking towards where their children were growing in her.
“The last few days have given me time to think about that and everything else too.” Nicole stated. “And,” She paused as she let go of his hand and placed it over her forehead as she tried to work out how to say what she was about to say. “The thing is Lloyd, with everything going on…well I just don’t know if…”
“It’s okay.” He said, taking her hand away from her forehead. “I got the message.”
Perplexed, confused, puzzled, Nicole looked at Lloyd. “What do you mean? What message?”
“Well, part of your message.” Lloyd answered with. “I got your request for a transfer. It must have been sent by mistake after the university attack.”
“Oh my god.” Nicole said, almost instantly she regretted starting it there. “I’m so sorry Lloyd. I wanted to talk to you first before I sent it. I just needed to write a draft first and get how I feel into words.”
Lloyd raised his hands to show it was all okay. “Nicole, it’s fine. I totally understand.”
“Are you mad? Angry?” Nicole questioned.
“Oh god no!” Lloyd quickly replied. “I get it.”
“And listen, I don’t expect you to give up the Challenger for me.” Nicole rapidly said. “I’m happy to give birth to the boys and raise them here on Earth. You can be involved as much and still be a Starfleet captain.”
Lloyd smiled at that. “I do appreciate that. I’ve not quite yet worked out what I’m going to do next, but for the moment I do want to remain with the Challenger. In fact, I need to.”
Nicole wondered if something else had happened to Lloyd, but she didn’t want to pursue it. She had a nagging feeling in the back of mind that there was more to his words then he was sharing but she didn’t want to push it. “That’s fine Lloyd.”
“And take your time in recovering and making your decision on what you want to do next. None of the crew need to know this until you’re ready. Michael can step up as acting first officer for a while.” Lloyd said, assuring her.
“That’s the thing Lloyd, I want to apply to become the deputy director of Starfleet Science.” Nicole shared. “I’ll need a letter of recommendation from my current Commanding Officer.”
“Then you’ll have it.”
“Thank you.” She answered with relief. “I think living back on Earth would be the best thing for me and the boys.” She rubbed her belly a bit. “You’ll always be a part of their lives. I promise. I just know I can’t raise them on a starship or be pregnant while on the frontlines.”
“Well actually, I think now that Starfleet Medical knows you’re pregnant, they would have put pressure on you to take a re-assignment elsewhere.” Lloyd remarked. “It won’t be the same without you.” He added with a sad smile.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you find a new science officer and first officer.” Nicole offered. “Well in fact, I think you should offer it to Michael. Don’t make him an acting first officer.”
Lloyd smiled further. “I appreciate the input and picking someone to replace you to head up our science department won’t be an easy task.”
“Find someone off from the ship.” Nicole said. “Don’t promote internally, unless you have no other choice.”
Lloyd laughed a bit. “Thank you Commander Levesque, but let’s not worry about this at the moment. You need to rest and not worry about your successor.” He took hold of her hands one more time. “Focus on getting yourself better so you can look after the three newest members of the Burton clan you’re carrying.”
“You mean the newest members of the Levesque tribe?” She threw back with a smile. “You’ve met my mother; she won’t have it any other way.”
“Wait ‘till you meet mine. She’s exactly the same.” Lloyd countered with. “Maybe we should hyphenate?”
“Burton-Levesque does sound regal.” Nicole mentioned.
“It sounds perfect to me.” Lloyd said, he leant in and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll let you rest and I’ll come see you before you move in with Claudia.”
Nicole smiled at that promise. “Thanks Lloyd.”
Lloyd stood up, walked over to another armchair and picked up his black leather jacket that had been sitting on the chair. As he put it on, he smiled one more time at her. “We’ll make this work. I promise.”
“Definitely.” Nicole said, feeling more confident and happier with their situation.
He smiled one more time before he left the room. Sighing to herself as she looked out of the window at the sunny view of San Francisco, Nicole relaxed knowing that as long as the planet wasn’t invaded by the Romulans she could start the next chapter of her life without any major issues.
So she hoped…
Walking into the small office just down the corridor from where he had left Nicole, Lloyd was met by Doctor Cornwell who was talking to Doctor Ben-Ami and Professor Lin. Both women who had been involved in the same attack as Levesque, looked a lot better than his first officer. The office itself was almost box-shaped with a small square window looking out at the city of San Francisco. There were no artificial lights on, so the only source came from the natural sunlight.
“How is she?” Kefira instantly asked.
Nodding to answer, Lloyd spoke up. “In good spirits.”
“That’s good to hear.” Cornwell said. “Moving in to be with her sister is the right move for her.”
“And she knows nothing else about the attackers?” Lin asked.
He shook his head. “I didn’t bring it up. She only knows what Abigail told her.”
“Good, because if she found out what Starfleet Security told us about their motives then she would freak out.” Cornwell remarked.
“Indeed.” Kefira agreed. “We need to keep how she became pregnant a secret for the moment.”
Lloyd shook his head in disbelief. He took a seat in one of the armchairs. “I can’t get over how they got their hands on all of this.”
“It would seem this splinter group of Terra Prime are a lot more organised than we thought.” Spoke a familiar voice behind Lloyd. The voice’s owner had remained in the corner, listening in on the conversation. “Along with everything else that Starfleet has to deal with, a political activist group is one stress we could do without.”
Lloyd looked over his shoulder towards the spot the voice came from. “You think you can protect her, Alexa?”
Commander Alexa Hanson walked forward and stood to the side of the captain. “The new team that Admiral Hathaway has given me will work hard to do so. We’ve already identified suspects who got wind of Commander Levesque’s condition and how she became pregnant.”
“I’m still horrified that I have members of my faculty who are members of such a group. The whole concept of doctor-patient confidentiality is a sacred one. It goes against everything I’ve ever taught” Lin added. “I’m so sorry, I should have done more to protect her records.”
Kefira spoke up, “Professor you did everything above and beyond of what is expected, especially in dealing with such an unusual case. I should have done more too in how I secured her records on the Challenger.”
“Look, we all could sit here and point blame at many things. The important thing is we move forward.” Cornwell stated.
“Agreed,” Hanson said. “Can we trust her family to keep this within their inner circle?”
Nodding twice, Lloyd answered for Nicole’s family. “I believe so. Her father is a former sheriff, and her mother is highly protective of the family. It’s a done deal.”
“I’ll finish briefing her brothers and sisters about the situation and issue the paperwork for them to sign the secrets act, just like Professor Lin.” Hanson shared.
The room went quiet before Kefira spoke. “If your team hadn’t found Nicole’s records on Mars and the subsequent scans we had taken in Tel-Aviv then who knows what would have happened.”
“God only knows.” Cornwell remarked. “But I still don’t understand why this splinter group is being aided by rogue Starfleet officers. And what impact would it be if they had shared Nicole’s pregnancy to the public?”
Lloyd glanced up to Alexa before shrugging his shoulders. “As you said, God only knows.” He stood up. “I just want to say I appreciate everyone’s help and matter with this.”
The three doctors all replied with a round of “your welcome”.
“I’m going to head back home,” He looked over to Hanson, “Alexa do you need a ride?”
Hanson took her cue and nodded. “Yes, that would be great, thank you Captain Burton.”
Lloyd smiled at the others and said his goodbyes along with Hanson. Walking out of the Starfleet Medical complex, the two Starfleet officers made their way across the courtyard until they approached the small car that he had hired to use while he was back in San Francisco. Once they had got in and no-one else was in earshot, he spoke further to the security officer.
“If Section Thirty-One are really trying to come after me, to somehow shame me and smear my reputation in a public way, then they’re a lot more dangerous than we thought Alexa.” He hadn’t even turned the car.
Hanson nodded in agreement. “I do not believe finding Commander Levesque’s medical records at Utopia was not a fluke. I think it was calculated, possibly put there to scare you off. A warning perhaps.”
“Or revenge for disrupting their plans on Utopia.” Burton countered with.
Hanson shook her head at that. “I don’t think so, you said it yourself sir. Captain Karim is a clever woman. She must have known before you arrived on Mars that you two would eventually meet. It seems all too well played out that we ended up discovering their base. I feel we are missing a piece to this puzzle, but this move that Karim or whoever is running this operation has made is definitely a warning. Not only to you, but to us all.”
“You sound so certain of that, Alexa.” Lloyd said, almost sounding worried at her strong conviction.
“If they truly believe in doing whatever it takes to protect the state, then I believe they will follow through by doing whatever it takes. That almost means scaring off those who are after them. Using the Terra Prime splinter group as a third party to do their bidding was a show of their force and ability. We shouldn’t underestimate them.” Hanson replied.
“Well Agent Minerva, I hope you have a good enough team helping you bring them down. Humanity has fought too hard to survive and to reach the stars to have a group try and bring it down.” Lloyd said.
“Or maybe they’re trying to help humanity achieve its dreams.” Hanson stated. “We can’t just assume they’re the enemy sir. Who knows what else they’ve done to protect the human race? Especially against the Romulans.”
Lloyd understood where Alexa was coming from. He just wondered if by hiding this from Nicole to protect their sons would be enough. Starting the engine up he drove them away and only wished he could be back on Challenger and far away from dealing with this Pandora Box that he and his siblings had now opened.