Two doctors are caught up in a movement to find the cure for a devastating disease.
Written by Alicja Sara Maria
Edited by SaRa
Produced by SaRa, MaquisKat and Coral
Released 14 Nov 2002
The bindings were well done, holding them securely in place. Although restricting, they were not too tight, letting their hands hang almost freely behind their backs.
The Doctor was not satisfied with the situation. Grumbling, he pulled at the ropes, but that resulted in nothing except forcing them harder into his body. Were he flesh and blood, the Doctor would have felt considerable pain. As it was, he only grumbled more, not paying attention to the ropes tightening around his wrists as he pulled at the bindings some more.
"Don’t do that, Schmullus "
His head jerked up at her whisper. "What? Why?"
"Don’t worry," came Danara’s quiet reply.
He only growled again at the ropes that did not seem to agree with him. "I don’t take well to being kidnapped," he ground out finally, still tugging.
The bright blue sparkles disappeared from his field of vision and he cast a brief glance at the ensign on transporter duty. He was about to give the brunette a curt nod when a sudden movement to his right caught his attention.
He turned around slightly, just in time to see Ayala step down from the pad, hand already reaching for his commbadge.
"Ayala to Tuvok."
"Commander, the Doctor has been kidnapped. While in command of Voyager, you do not perform the duties of Chief of Security. Request permission to take charge of the search?"
‘Permission granted, Lieutenant. Please make sure to report your findings to me.’
"Will do, Commander. Ayala out."
He was not even aware of his eyes narrowing. Nor did he notice the defensive stance he had taken. This Lieutenant had not even checked what his opinion was on the matter. He had just gone and ‘requested permission’ from the Vulcan, disregarding completely his own position on this mission.
And it was also not the first time such treatment had turned against him. Far from it. The whole of Voyager seemed to have forgotten all about ‘conduct becoming an officer’ and other such things.
Had he not been too proud to do so, Ashcroft would have growled in frustration.
The small shuttle landed noiselessly and soon the back door opened, admitting a burly Vidiian inside. He said nothing, a curt nod his only greeting, and approached the tied twosome.
The Doctor briefly found it strange that the newcomer did not seem to have any weapons by him, but that thought left his mind as the man knelt behind Danara and quickly untied her.
She stood up, rubbed her wrists a bit and murmured, "Thank you".
Again, the man only tilted his head towards the EMH. At Danara’s slight nod, he bent down again, releasing the Doctor from his binds.
Confused, his gaze kept switching between the two Vidiians for a few moments before it finally settled on the woman.
"Danara?" he questioned.
She bowed her head a little, then looked straight at him. "We needed to meet with you in private."
Watson in tow, Commander Ashcroft strode down the steps leading to the command level of the Bridge, paying no notice to the looks aimed their way. Seeing both command chairs empty, he looked towards the young man at the ops station.
"Is Commander Tuvok in the Ready Room?"
With a slight nod for the ensign, Ashcroft was already headed for the office.
The door slid open to reveal the Vulcan sitting at the desk, an eyebrow raised slightly at the human.
Pulling himself to his full height, he looked straight forward, just like Starfleet had taught him, determined to show what indeed an officer should behave like.
"Commander, owing to the recent developments on Vidiia, I believe continuing the diplomatic talks on Voyager would be preferable to returning planet-side. I request permission to proceed with the talks on board?"
There was a brief silence and Ashcroft lowered his gaze to Tuvok’s face. To him, the expression on the Vulcan’s face was as Vulcan as possible. Had any of the old Voyager crew seen Voyager’s acting captain at that moment, they would have been amused to notice the slightest hint of irritation in his eyes. It was, after all, not everyday that a Vulcan was annoyed by the use of overly formal words and phrases.
Tuvok did not let the mask slip any further, however, and he nodded curtly to Ashcroft. "Permission granted, Commander."
The Doctor stared at her wide-eyed, once again in shock.
"The resistance? You, Danara? But "
He wanted to say that it was not like her, never mind he had only known her just over a fortnight. He wanted to ask how it was possible, convince her that a doctor should not join such a movement. He wanted to tell her so many things, ward her off the road she had chosen, ask her what kind of a joke she thought this was
His gaze came to rest on the Vidiian who had freed him from the binds mere minutes ago. There was something familiar about him, the Doctor thought. Something he had already seen somewhere else
Light brown hair, bluish eyes, a straight nose, thin lips, and the typical ridge No, nothing there. Tall, well-muscled, straight as a board Nothing specifically characteristic there, either. One came across people like that every day on a starship. They were called security, for good reason also.
A cinnamon shirt with an umber vest over it, a dark, almost black belt hanging around his hips, leather pants
Well, not the Maquis, he corrected himself. But as similar as possible, he supposed, if you considered that they had never met the Maquis in full uniform. And besides, from what he had seen up to then, he knew the Vidiian sense of fashion, while not completely different from Terran, had quite a few differences.
Still, this Vidiian was dressed in Maquis look-alike clothes.
Again, the Doctor blinked.
Could it be possible ?
The Maquis were a resistance movement also, but while many in Starfleet had thought ill of them, to say the least, he, along with the rest of the Voyagers, knew better. Their cause was righteous and more than sensible.
Could this also be the case here?
Frowning slightly as he thought of the possibilities, he faced Danara again. "What’s the reason?" he asked cautiously.
She sighed slightly, glad that he was willing to at least listen to her, but at the same time finding herself strangely unwilling to explain.
While Commander Ashcroft took care of moving the talks onto Voyager, his younger partner took the time to watch the Voyager crew at work. Standing in a remote corner of the Bridge, she took note of everything that happened there. When she had first stopped, choosing not to follow the Commander into the Ready Room, there had been a slight silence. Soon though, after a few seconds of consternation amongst those manning the consoles, they had accepted her presence and went back to what they had been doing.
Ayala, though sitting at the helm, was obviously in command. Why, Vela had no idea, as the also present on the Bridge Lieutenant Kim, as a senior officer, should be entitled to that. But she could not sense any feelings of even remote resentment among those around her as Ayala gave question after question.
"Harry, check the sen-"
"Already checked. There’s nothing there."
With an acknowledging nod, he turned to look at tactical. "Arthur, what about the-?"
"Nothing there either, Mike. No shuttles have left the planet."
The science station was next. "Ensign, have you tried calibrating-"
"No positive results, Lieutenant."
"I’ve tried everything I could think of. Nothing worked."
Kim looked at the woman working at the Engineering console. "What about a tre-?"
"Won’t work either. I’m still trying to "
Watson shook her head, following the fast-paced exchange of suggestions and opinions. They were as close to reading each other’s minds as non-telepathic beings could get, she realized.
And then it hit her.
It was really no wonder that they worked liked this, and that they were so determined to fight for each other over the past several years.
These people were not just a crew, but a team. Not just colleagues, but friends. Not only a community, but also a tightly knit family.
Fascinated, she continued to watch the interaction with a smile.
"The phage? But the Think Tank I mean, you were cured, weren’t you?"
"Not all of us," Danara stated with a sad shake of her head. "The lower classes still suffer from it. They still die from it "
"But- why? As far as I know, there should be no problems with reproducing the cure once you had a sample of it?"
"Unless the government is corrupt," was the grim answer.
He stared at her wide-eyed. "Surely nobody would willingly subject members of their own species to such a sickness?"
"Everybody they needed to be healthy – and that includes ‘leading medics’ and a good portion of the population – was cured. The others " Pel shook her head again, "The mines, they used to have people of other races in them. They’re worked by lower class Vidiians now. They’ve promised to cure twelve people each month, one out of every community. They’re chosen based on their efficacy in the mines. The person who works the best gets the prize. In some regions, they fight among themselves for the cure. And when somebody is finally cured, they have to go, leaving behind their family, friends "
Reading between the lines, he asked quietly, "How many become infected every month?"
"At the best of times, under forty."
There was a silence as he considered the implications. She let him think a moment before she quietly continued.
"I’m sorry I kidnapped you, Schmullus."
That got his attention. "You? You organized all this?" At her affirmative nod, his eyes narrowed slightly. "What exactly position do you have in this resistance?"
"It’s hard to explain. I’m not in charge, but they respect me and my opinions."
"I was hoping you’d help us," Danara admitted. "I I didn’t know you’d be on Vidiia. The plan was to ‘kidnap’ one of your old crewmates."
"Yes," she nodded, "He would have been captured had you not come. I was so happy to see you at the sikelt then. Not only the " she blushed slightly, "Personal reasons, but it would also cut down on the amount of operations we would have to perform. I could speak to you directly, without adding a third person to the picture."
Voyager’s Doctor, who had tensed slightly when she had said she had been happy to see him, relaxed at her further confession. Of course it all made sense. He nodded slightly, asking her without words to go on.
Danara shrugged, glancing over his shoulder for a moment before stating, "We need your help, Schmullus. I’ve tried everything I could think of to get the cure from the government, but they won’t give it to me. The rest of the population, all cured, knows nothing of all this. We’ve tried informing them covertly, without the government knowing, but they won’t believe us. I tried to research it by myself, then with other doctors from the resistance, but we can’t do it "
"What went wrong?"
She sighed, "We don’t have the medical instruments we need."
"What’s the chance of devising a cure with them?"
"Big. I’ve seen the cure, and I remember a part of it. With your help, we could manage to find it in a week, possibly even less."
Again, he nodded, and she bit her lip before going in for the kill. "I I know what the Prime Directive says, I remember what you told me about it all those years ago, but " she trailed off, then restated her question. "As a Doctor to a Doctor, I’m asking you would you help us?"
The painful hope in her eyes tore at his heart and he quickly revised all he knew. Finally, he answered in an equally quiet voice, "I might not be a flesh and blood doctor, but I’m still obliged by the same oath as other Federation doctors are."
"The Hippocratic Oath. It embodies the duties and obligations of physicians. Every doctor takes it before first entering upon the practice of medicine. Its roots reach almost three thousand years back in Earth’s history. Hippocrates, the pledge’s original author, is known as the Father of Medicine."
"What does it say?" Danara questioned, still unsure as to the Doctor’s final answer – would he help or not?
"There’s a specific passage in its original, ancient form that explains the spirit in which it was written." Closing his eyes briefly in a human gesture to recall the exact words, he cited, "’I will use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment; I will abstain from harming or wrongdoing any man by it.’"
Once again the two teams of diplomats settled down in their chairs, the lack of two of their number disconcerting to a few. Those glanced around at the others, trying to decipher their thoughts on the matter whilst not showing their own.
The table, polished clean just the other day, reflected the gentle light from overhead and that of the stars outside the window. To the accustomed ear of Ayala, the hum of Voyager’s engines could be heard just above the sound of chairs being moved closer to the conference table.
When everyone was seated, he looked around as if to see if someone intended to speak. No words forthcoming from the others, he took the initiative clearing his throat to draw their attention towards his question.
"Have you disbanded the work camps?" he asked, remembering full well the state his Klingon friend had been in after a visit to one of those. She had not told him what had happened, but the strange, almost haunted look in her eyes she had had for a few days was enough to tell him that those work camps were nothing but trouble.
As could be expected, Kalani was the one to answer. "We’ve disbanded most."
"Most?" Mike asked, fists tightly clenched against his lap.
"Yes, Lieutenant, most. Like I’ve already said, our economy is not at its best. We’ve reformed the camps we kept, mostly mines, got rid of-"
Both Kalani and Emorin winced at the phrase, leaving only the Security General impassive. Maeno soon recovered, however, and answered almost swiftly, "Yes, that too. But what I meant was that the conditions are better than they used to be."
Noticing the Mar seemed to be less sure of himself with each coming topic, Watson wondered briefly what his reaction would be to what she knew Commander Ashcroft had in store for his next question.
He walked half a step behind Danara, unconsciously letting her lead the way through a series of dim corridors to where her people were. Were he indeed kidnapped, he would be taking note of his surroundings to try to figure out a way to escape. As it was, he merely glanced around to familiarize himself with the environment.
After several minutes of walking they finally reached a door which Danara promptly opened. Stepping in first, she waited for the Doctor to follow her into the cave they had come to.
He did so promptly, and immediately gasped at the view before him.
The room was enormous, considering it was an underground facility, possibly the size of ten or so cargo bays. There were stony walls in some places, as if dividing the big area into smaller caverns, but they were sparse enough for them to look like nothing more than columns.
The whole area seemed to be similarly equipped, mostly with beds placed side by side, although here and there stood a table with several chairs around it. The lighting, dim due to the room’s subterranean location, could not do much to raise anybody’s spirits in there, and yet none of those things bothered the Doctor.
What bothered him were the people. Huge masses of people sitting, lying in the beds, moaning with the pain, by now unable to move any more than a limb at a time, centimeter by painful centimeter. Each and every one hardly dealing with the terrible sensations of their own flesh rotting, and yet at the same time feeling the stench of the skin of those around them in a similar state.
He did not need to look to his left where Danara stood to know of the pained look in her eyes as she regarded her people suffering like this. And it was no wonder, he reflected. Five years ago the view before him would have been an effect of an incurable virus. Now, the pain and loss these people had to live with was completely unnecessary, the cure no doubt held safely in some top-secret vault in one of the governmental buildings, maybe even the sikelt itself.
Wordlessly, Pel stepped forward and the EMH followed her across the room, trying not to stumble over any of the beds.
It was obvious these people had chosen not to take advantage of the ‘herano’, fighting the disease as well as they could. Instead of taking more lives in an effort to prolong their own existence, they trusted their doctors to devise a treatment for them. And still, even though those last ones were far from successful, as they walked through the crowd the ill Vidiians seemed to look up at Doctor Pel, silently showing their respect and gratitude.
She swiveled around and with a quick look saying ‘I’ll be right back’ hurried between the pallets, almost immediately having placed the voice with the patient. With Danara occupied with a compatriot who seemed to be nearing death, the EMH let his gaze settle on a cot not two steps away from him, then approached the young man sitting there.
"What’s your name?"
With an acknowledging nod, the doctor pulled out the medical tricorder he was always equipped with, especially on away missions. "How are you, Taramek?" he asked, looking at the man while scanning him.
"I’ve seen better days."
"Without doubt," the medic continued, taking the attempt at humor – or was it sarcasm? – as a good sign. "What bothers you most?"
He seemed to consider this for a moment before answering, "The others. I could live with this if only I knew my family was safe. Father is healthy for now, but he’s been exposed That’s my mother and younger sister," he said, nodding to the two beds to his right where a teenage girl and a slightly older woman lay sleeping. "My elder sister "
Seeing Taramek swallow as he trailed off was all the Doctor needed to know about that sibling’s fate. Sighing, he placed a hand on the Vidiian’s shoulder, gently so as not to cause him more pain.
"I can’t pretend to understand that, but I meant the physical."
"The rotting, of course. And the smell, I suppose. You wake up and for a moment you think it was all a bad dream. Then, even before you open your eyes, you feel the smell." Taramek shook his head, "You can’t forget about it for longer than that split second right after you’ve woken up "
The answer, full of quiet suffering, proved more than the Doctor had bargained for and he eyed the young man. With the deformed face, the missing ear and the heavy odor of decaying flesh hanging in the air, it was not strange at all that he, along with all those surrounding him, reminded Voyager’s Doctor of a leper. The thought that a cure for leprosy had finally been discovered two centuries earlier was a comforting one, and he sighed as his tricorder finished taking the readings.
"We’ll find a cure, Taramek," he promised the man in hushed tones, then, giving him a pained yet sympathetic smile, he rose.
Right before him stood Danara Pel, a curious look in her eyes as she regarded him.
"Danara? What’s wrong?" he asked, immediately concerned.
She shook her head, "Nothing, it’s just "
She shrugged slightly, "When I last saw you taking care of a patient, you were " she paused, as if unsure how to finish the sentence without hurting his feelings.
The Doctor helped her out with a smile. "I had a terrible bedside manner?"
"I wouldn’t call it terrible," she countered diplomatically. "But It wasn’t quite what I just saw either."
He nodded, his gaze sweeping over the hundreds of people around them before it rested on her. "It’s been a while since we last saw each other. I guess I must have taken the crew’s advice over the years, although I can’t say I remember a definite break-through. It was just One day, I just realized what they all meant, and that it made sense." He frowned slightly, looking over at Danara in slight bewilderment as he shook his head. "I only remember the day I had correlated my discoveries with something in the oath."
"The Hip Hippo "
"The Hippocratic Oath, yes."
"What does it say about this?" she asked, the second time that day interested in the strange pledge Voyager’s Doctor spoke of so fondly.
Like before, the medic closed his eyes as, word for word, he recited, "’I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.’"
Danara smiled at the Doctor, placed a hand on his arm, and commented softly, "You’ve grown, Schmullus."
In the middle of tidying up her quarters, Sam Wildman stumbled across a photograph taken quite a few years earlier. Picture in hand, she sank to her bed to think about times past.
Somehow, despite the constraints of such an old-fashioned medium, they had all fit in the frame. The whole family was there, desperately trying to maintain their equilibrium while the picture was being taken.
In the middle stood two people whom the rest considered the clan’s parents. She with her head thrown back in laughter, holding onto his elbow to keep her balance, and he with barely concealed mirth in his eyes as he regarded her and the widest grin Sam remembered seeing on him in those days.
Following their lead, almost everyone else was laughing as they struggled to keep vertical. Still, it was obvious the young blond in the front had just made some comment that had sent the others into even more peals of laughter. The young man’s best friend and future wife flanked him and, seemingly undecided whether to shake their heads at his antics or laugh along with the rest, resorted to doing both at the same time.
A stoic older man stood behind the trio, choosing to raise an eyebrow in response to the proceedings in a very familiar fashion. Finally, a young blonde laughing freely at the camera was accosted from both sides by the balding medic and, as a direct opposite, the longhaired chef.
Not far away from the middle, indeed just to the right of the blonde girl and her two mentors, stood a younger Sam Wildman, her attention divided between the camera, keeping her balance and taking care of the child in her arms.
How old had Naomi been then? Two or three? Yes, she had been three. Her birthday had been not two weeks earlier. With a smile, Sam remembered the laughter at the party held then. She had been so little then – it had only been a year earlier that she had thrown a piece of her cake at Tuvok, giggling when the security officer was hit straight on the forehead. On her third birthday she had chosen to play with her toys, the plush polar bear from the Captain already among her favorites.
And now, Sam thought with tears in her eyes, her little baby was becoming a young lady.
Oh, how fast they grew
Shaking her head to avoid thinking about the family she had left back on Earth, Sam smiled as she looked over the other faces in the photograph. Remembering those who did not make it as far as she had, like Jetal or Carey, and their loving families in the Alpha Quadrant. Remembering Neelix and Kes, who had both left the Voyagers to pursue other things in their lives. Remembering the relationships that built over the years. Remembering the parties and the funerals, the good and the bad. Remembering times past.
Which was not to say that she was not happy now. No, she was. But those times then, when they had all been together as one close-knit family, were dear to her heart.
Just as this photo was dear to her, she thought, placing it on her night table almost reverently, similarly to where other copies of the picture stood, unbeknownst to her, next to other beds around the ship.
With a sigh, she went back to tidying, only to be stopped again.
"Doctor to Wildman."
She quickly tapped her commbadge and matched her tone to be as quiet as that of the medic. "Doctor? Where are you, are you all right?"
"Yes, don’t worry, ensign. I’m quite all right," came the unperturbed, possibly even slightly amused answer. "I remembered from the duty roster that you were off duty now and was hoping you would be alone. Are you?"
"Er, yes, Doctor, I am."
"Good. I need you to go talk to Tuvok for me."
Sam frowned, "Shouldn’t you just call him? I mean, Ayala said you were kidnap-"
"Actually, it appears our kidnapping was all a ruse to get us away from the other diplomats. It was actually Danara that captured me."
I’m sure she did the unbidden thought brought a smile to her lips and she nodded. "Very well, what should I know then?"
"In short, Sam, the Vidiian government is corrupted, and the lower masses haven’t been given the cure to the phage. There are hundreds of sick people around me right now. Danara has asked that I help in discovering the cure again. The Vidiian doctors lack the instruments they need to finish their work. With Voyager’s help it would take under a week."
Nodding as she ingested the information, Sam asked the final question, "Okay, I got that. What’s your question for the Commander?"
"I request permission to beam up to Voyager with Doctor Pel and continue the research without the Vidiians’ knowledge. I also ask that Tuvok let you help us, should such help be necessary. You used to be my assistant sometimes back then and are the only person on Voyager at the moment that has had any contact with the phage. It would perhaps be better if all but the most necessary people were kept in the dark with this "
Thorne to Nosher. Young love.
Harry sighed. Monitoring communications was not the most inventive pastime, in fact most of the time it was downright boring, but it was standard procedure to check the data when a crewmember had been kidnapped.
Tran to Chell. Probably another complaint about the food.
Bradley to Ayala. A report on the kidnapping, no doubt.
With the task as dull as it was, Harry had to resort to other ways of entertaining himself. While guessing the topic of each conversation was not perhaps the most elegant way of doing that, it was the only idea he had. He had, for a moment, wondered if what he was doing was not perhaps an example of Paris influence, but dismissed the thought just as quickly.
Dovean to Celes. Definitely pillow help. With the young Bajoran finally having gotten her feet under, helping Dovean was now a task she prided herself in.
Ayala to Tuvok. A verbal update on the search.
Worton to Lynk. Hmm, an agreement for a date?
Doctor to Wildman. Some medical conversation.
Nicoletti to Vorik. Engineer-
Wait a second, he thought, rereading the previous information.
Doctor to Wildman.
But the Doctor had been kidnapped. Why would he contact Sam and not the Bridge?
Blinking, Harry considered what he knew of the Doctor. Finally, he shook his head minimally.
He must have had a good reason not to call the Bridge directly. He would store the information, but would ask Sam what this was about before reporting it to Tuvok or Ayala. For now, though, he would have to maintain the pretense of still looking through the data.
Might as well make it more interesting, he decided with a sigh, resolving to allow the more outlandish ideas also.
Bradley to Ayala. Security matters, of course. But she already called him a few moments ago, had she not? Come to think of it, Bradley was quite pretty
Chipman to Sendors. Having problems finding each other on the holodeck, maybe?
As they waited for Sam to call back with word from Tuvok, the two doctors checked on a few more patients, quietly inquiring about their condition, offering a comforting word and soothing hand where news of a treatment would be more welcome. The Vidiians accepted them gladly however, looking up to both doctors with hope in their eyes.
The EMH, having just finished yet another conversation, stood up to look around for Danara.
He found her quickly enough, kneeling next to an older patient as she took his vitals. The flicker of pain in her eyes as she checked the readings was enough for him to know this was another man who would not make it.
With a sigh, he watched Pel finish talking with the man and walk over to where he stood. Together, they silently made their way over to the medical bay where the doctors had their equipment and, frequently, beds.
As he glanced at her sideways, it was all too obvious to the Doctor that she was desperately trying not to let any tears fall. Still, a single one had escaped and was now sliding down her cheek slowly.
He sighed. One would think a doctor got used to realizing someone would die soon, but it never got any easier. Even if one had a computer and ethical subroutines instead of a brain and heart. It never got any easier.
As they reached the secluded bay Pel stopped, turned around, and lifted her head to him. He ached to pull her into his embrace just for a moment, to protect her from the world around, and decided to open his arms in a silent invitation. A quiet gasp tore from her lips as she let him wrap his arms around her, but after that all was quiet. Danara gaining strength from his presence, and he gaining strength from hers.
Finally, she stepped away reluctantly, and he looked down at her with concern.
"How are you really feeling, Danara?" he asked in a quite voice. "Not Doctor Pel, but Danara?"
"Fine," she answered with a shrug. Seeing him about to protest, she continued, "I’m doing everything I can to help these people, Schmullus. It’s far from enough for them, but it does help me on the way." Glancing back at where the cots stood side by side, she tilted her head to look at the Doctor. "How do you feel when you’ve saved a life?"
He frowned, not understanding what the woman was getting at, but answered her in compliance. "If I’ve cured someone, whether or not the condition was life-threatening, I’m always "
"Happy?" she supplied with a smile.
"Yes, happy. Glad. And grateful that I could help."
"And on the days you lost a patient?"
"Guilty, pained," was his immediate reply.
"As do I. These people here don’t die just like that, Schmullus. Death is preceded by long months of torturous pain. I feel guilt that very last day, but every single day before it, the thought that my presence might bring a little happiness to their lives, a little hope for them that they may survive this, is enough to get me going. Did you see how they look at me, Schmullus?" she finally asked quietly.
"They love you."
"And I them. Schmullus they have faith in me, in all the doctors here. As much as it hurts to know they misplaced that faith in people who can’t help them, it also gives us all strength."
Voyager’s Doctor nodded at her words, and she smiled back at him sadly, glad that he understood.
His hand strayed to her face, thumb brushing away the tear that had crept down her cheek, then gently caressing her soft skin. Her eyes, so wide at that moment with surprise and, he hoped, delight, gleaming like precious jewels. Emeralds, he had once called them in his mind. And emeralds they were, even in the cave’s dim light. Emeralds that, to him, were the most precious jewels he had ever seen.
Unsure how to respond, she bit her lower lip while gazing at him. Finally, she lifted her head and let her eyes drift slowly closed.
The Doctor’s soft voice drifted to her, "You haven’t changed a bit, Danara."
"Oh?" she asked noncommittally.
"It’s been almost seven years since we last saw each other, and you still look like you did then."
"Ah, so you’ve noticed," she grinned, looking at the EMH who was giving her an ‘of course I have’ look. "What if I said the holographic version of my body was a few years ahead of my age?" she teased.
"I’d say you must have been a teenager in that case."
A slight laugh and she shook her head, "Thank you, Schmullus. And I see you’ve been getting better at your compliments."
"I certainly hope so," he quipped. "Now, the looks? You look like you haven’t aged a day."
She smiled, "One of the advantages of being cured. Vidiians have always been long-lived. We’ve no idea how, but the phage managed to shorten our lives to up to a fourth of our natural lifespans. Those who have been cured have regained that characteristic."
"Ah," he nodded with a smile, filing away the information for future use. Again he was taken by the green depths gazing up at him in quiet laughter. So beautiful
Her smile faded and she let her eyes droop closed, instinctively feeling what was about to come. His hands wrapped around her gently, pulling her nearer to him and he lowered his head just as she raised hers in a silent offering.
"Mommy, mommy! You’re back!"
Letting the door slide closed behind her, she looked around briefly. Her young eyes made out the familiar figure in an instant and a bright smile spread across her face. Like lightning, the little girl made her way across the room in joyous bounds, scrambling over the few empty beds that were in her way, respectfully rounding those with sick people on them.
Her voice rang loud and clear as she headed straight for the secluded bay on the other side of the cavern.
His breath was warm on her lips and she parted them slightly, sharing her own breath with him as his mouth moved inch by agonizing inch nearer hers.
"Mommy, mommy! You’re back!"
Pulling back at the last moment, Danara let her head rest against the Doctor’s chest with a sigh, "Vallia "
Just then, the bundle of energy burst into the bay, ran to Pel and latched onto her leg. Eyes shining and cheeks rosy from the effort, the girl looked up at Danara with a smile.
"I missed you, Mommy."
"Oh, sweetness " Forgetting for a moment about the Doctor, she stooped down to pick up the girl. Balancing her on a hip, one arm wrapped securely around the small body, she looked back at the man standing close-by.
It did not slip her attention that he had made a small step away from her while she was lifting the girl, and from the look in his eyes she quickly figured out what the reason was. Nevertheless, choosing to play it calmly, she smiled at the Doctor, while nodding to the girl in her arms.
"Schmullus, meet Vallia. Vallia, this is the doctor I told you about."
"Pleased to meet you," was the answer, but Danara could see his heart was not really in it as he shook her daughter’s hand. "You never mentioned you had a daughter."
Lowering her head in apology, she nodded, "Yes, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you would meet her. I- I was planning to, honestly! I just thought I’d tell you later on, when we didn’t have so much work left to do."
"When the cure was found and you didn’t need me anymore," the Doctor summed up quietly, turning to look at the hundreds of people suffering in the rest of the caves.
"Ye-No! Schmullus, it’s- it’s not what you think."
"Oh?" he asked, looking back at her, "And what do you think I think?"
"That I forgot about you, that I fell in love with another and Vallia is his daughter." She glanced at him. "Am I right?"
"Yes," he admitted grudgingly.
Tipping up Vallia’s chin to look at her face, she smiled, "She has your eyes."
"What?" He rushed forward and looked at the girl gazing back at him, a mixture of surprise and confusion in his own eyes.
She peered up at the Doctor over the child’s head, she whispered, "Black eyes are rare among Vidiians, Schmullus. Every time I look at her, I think of the days we spent together."
"But- but-" As touched as he was by her admission, he still did not understand one thing. "But- she can’t be my- I never- I mean, we never-"
"She isn’t yours, Schmullus." Her reply, while stopping some of the confusion in the Doctor’s mind, would start even more. "Biologically, she isn’t mine either."
"Then how ?"
"Her father died of the phage three years ago."
"Her mother, though healthy, passed on the following month," she explained, pulling the girl closer to her in a protective embrace. "I’d been the family doctor ever since her husband fell ill. When Rodara asked me to take care of Vallia, there was no way I could have said no."
A slight sniff could be heard from the child in her arms, and then she turned to look up at the Doctor, piercing him with her eyes. Tilting her head to one side, she eyed the man for a moment before resolutely saying with a smile, "You’re a nice dotter."
He returned the smile, this time his gaze taking in what the girl looked like. Her black hair flowed down her back in soft curls, kept in place with a blue ribbon. The fringe falling over her typically Vidiian forehead and pale skin somehow reminded the Doctor of a younger Naomi, while the black eyes looking back at him were well, they were his, in a way, but the innocence in them was one only a child could have.
"And you’re a very pretty girl, Vallia," he responded in kind, patting the child’s head as she grinned up at him.
"Doctors, is Vallia free?" came a call from somewhere in the room. "We could use her help here."
"Of course, Doctor!" Danara answered, quickly setting the girl down. "Run along, dear."
"Bye-bye, Mommy!" she called as she skipped off to where they had called for her from.
The Doctor stared after her, then looked back at his companion. "Help, Danara? But she’s barely six!"
"Actually, she just turned five. But she can be-"
"Wildman to the Doctor."
"Doctor here," he called, slapping his badge.
"You’re both clear to beam up."
"Tuvok to Ayala."
Slapping his commbadge, Mike answered the hail, "Ayala here."
"Lieutenant, please report to the Ready Room."
"On my way, Commander," he spoke, already making his way across the Bridge. The door slid open before him obediently, admitting the helm-turned-security officer into the CO’s sanctum.
With a slight nod of his head, Tuvok greeted the younger man, motioning to the chair opposite his. "Please be seated, Lieutenant." He paused a moment, then, once Ayala was settled, continued. "I called you in here as the Doctor has been found."
"Really?" was the response, as Mike rose slightly out of his chair. "Where is he?"
"At the moment, I believe he is still on Vidiia. He will be beaming up to the laboratory in several minutes."
"That’s good news. How did you find him?"
"He called Ensign Wildman and informed me through her of the situation."
Mike frowned. "Sam Wildman? Why not the Bridge directly?"
"In short, Lieutenant, our Doctor was not truly kidnapped in the first place. Danara Pel needed to talk to him in private, and that is why it happened as it did."
"Somehow, Commander, I don’t believe a personal conversation could be so important for Doctor Pel to resort to such measures."
"Indeed. It was not a personal conversation. It appears the Vidiian government is corrupt. Whilst they show us all positive aspects of their culture, the truth is far from what you have doubtless seen planet-side."
"How so?" Ayala questioned when Tuvok had paused for a moment.
"You know of the cure for the phage, and are aware of how it came to their possession, do you not?"
"I do," he confirmed.
"From what the Doctor has told us, it appears a part of the Vidiian population has not been treated."
Mike stared at the Vulcan. "You mean some of them still suffer, and die, from the phage?"
"That is precisely what I mean."
"But why haven’t they been treated?"
"Those who have not been treated work in the mines. We can only surmise that it is easier to maintain rigor if the prize for hard work were such a cure."
"They do that?"
Struggling not to react too violently, Mike shook his head before finally asking, "What does this have to do with our Doctor?"
"As you have no doubt already guessed, Doctor Pel is on the side of those still infected. She is in need of the Doctor’s help to devise a cure, as the medical facilities on Vidiia are much less advanced than ours are."
"And you granted permission?"
The short answer somehow told Ayala Tuvok was unwilling to share any more information on that particular topic, so instead Mike nodded. "What do you expect of me?"
"I would prefer if our guests were not alerted of the situation. Keep scanning and searching for signs of both doctors on the planet as you have until now. The negotiations are to proceed as they would have usually, although slowing them down would be prudent in this case."
"’Our guests’," Mike repeated with a slight smile. "I assume you don’t mean just the Vidiian ones?"
Tuvok raised an eyebrow in a gesture that, for a human, could be interpreted as ‘would I mean something like that?’, then continued, "I also assume you will be able to keep the news of the doctors’ safety secret. While they will both be onboard, Ensign Wildman and the two of us should be the only ones cognizant of the true situation."
"I’ll see to it."
"Very well then, dismissed."
The doors slid closed behind Ayala and Tuvok let an almost imperceptible sigh leave his lips as he settled back in his chair. Steepling his fingers in a typically Vulcan fashion, he considered his recent decisions.
No matter how he looked at it, however, he always came to the same conclusion.
Since Voyager had already been involved through the Think Tank, and, indeed, even several years earlier, the Prime Directive did not apply here.
Curing the rest of the population gave the Vidiians a chance to overthrow the corrupted government and build anew. The policy of the new government could be very well one the Federation would accept, thus offering a possibility for a true alliance between the two powers sometime in the future.
Apart from that, although he tried not to think that way, the knowledge that Kathryn Janeway would do the same thing was quite welcome also.
All in all, it was only logical that he decide as he had.
He hoped Starfleet would see it that way too.
It was almost perfectly quiet, the low, usual hum the only sound to be heard. With nobody in sight the lights were down, leaving the room to be illuminated only by the small diodes flickering on various instruments strewn across the room. They created a myriad of colors, bright reds and greens dancing merrily as they reflected off the mirror-like, polished surfaces. Where the waltzing did not take place, a slight, yellowish luster could be seen, while blue spots lined the displays of several of the instruments.
The quiet and darkness of the room was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of two bright forms in its center, coalescing finally into two beings.
"Computer, lights," the male stated immediately, and with a acknowledgment tone from the ship’s computer the room was flooded with light, revealing a laboratory full of various instruments and devices. Lifting a hand in an encompassing motion, the man looked over at his companion. "Welcome to Voyager, Danara."
She frowned slightly. "I don’t remember this laboratory." She was pretty sure she should have seen it during her two weeks’ stay.
"This is Voyager-A, Danara. The original is back on Earth, a museum to our eight-year long trek."
"Ah, that explains that," she said with a smile, taking in all the machines. "I take it it’s much more advanced than the previous one then?"
"Advanced, yes. She’s the most state of the art ship in Starfleet. But sometimes seems she still lacks something Voyager had."
He nodded with a smile. "You could say that. It’s appearing, but slowly. I guess you could say it’s like with me. When I was first activated, I was just a computer program of a holographic doctor. Now, I like to think I’m much more than that."
"You are, Schmullus," she agreed softly, then noted with a smile, "You’re all very attached to the original Voyager, aren’t you?"
"That we are. This " he paused, then shrugged. "It’s like a whole new world. I still can’t get used to my new office, and we still call some of the rooms by their old names. I hear a few of the crew even get lost on their way to their quarters from time to time."
"It’s understandable. You lived there quite a bit."
He nodded with a smile, then lifted the small medical case he was carrying. "How about we get started?"
She took the container from him, placing it carefully on a flat surface nearby. Opening it, she took out of the many small vials it contained and showed it to the Doctor. "This is the virus."
"Let me see." He activated one of the few instruments that had not been working overnight and placed the ampoule in the sensor range. As he waited for the first scan, he glanced over at the Vidiian woman. "So what’s the story with Vallia helping the doctors?"
She grinned. "She’s a very good assistant, despite her age, and she loves the job. She knows most of the names of the medical instruments and brings them over when they’re needed. Besides, she loves to run. Her speed rivals that of the older generation, so she carries messages and medicine across the caves."
"I can see how that’s useful. A nurse on roller skates."
He shook his head ruefully. "Sorry, Tom Paris has rubbed off on me over the years. Roller skates were a kind of shoe with wheels in Earth’s twentieth century. In time, some stores equipped their assistants with them as a way to ensure speed."
"A good comparison," she agreed with a nod, then continued, "First and foremost though, Vallia’s a light of hope for us, sick and healthy alike. Her laughter Her laughter is so bright and joyous. When she smiles, she brings a bit of happiness into our lives. We look at her, and forget about the situation for a moment, gathering our hope from those sparkling black eyes "
The soft way she spoke the child’s name brought a smile to the Doctor’s lips. He was happy she had the girl. Even judging only by her voice, one could not help but notice how very proud Danara was of her adoptive daughter. Yes, apart from all the good she did as a medic, Danara Pel was also a very good mother.
Lunch was served, and Vela glanced around curiously. For some reason, Ayala had insisted that they eat in the Mess Hall, rather than in the Conference Room. It was a prudent idea, the short walk to the lower deck a good way to stretch after the long hours spent negotiating, and the diplomat lieutenant gladly took any such opportunity.
Sitting down at a table, she dug in to her food, glad that Voyager’s energy reserves let the crew replicate whatever they wanted to eat. There was still a cook, supposedly a habit left over from the original Voyager, but it was always nice to know that if you did not like the food you could eat something else instead. The fact that there was no leola in storage was nice, too – many people wondered what the infamous root tasted like, but Vela was in no hurry to find out. She had heard enough about it to know she was lucky not to have to eat it, and the strange way some of the crew exhibited when talking about the hated food was chalked up to nostalgia after days long gone.
Again, she looked around the room. Across from her sat Lieutenant Ayala, wordlessly eating his meal. With Emorin and Cadock at another table in equal silence, it was Ashcroft’s conversation with Kalani that drew her attention. Noticing the looks sent their way by various crewmembers, Watson soon realized that the corner table they were discussing the alliance at was the one the crew always left free for the Captain and Commander Chakotay.
She sighed. She had no doubt Ashcroft knew about this little fact and had chosen the table for that very reason. When would he learn?
Shaking her head, she continued her perusal of the Mess Hall. It wasn’t too full, with only about twenty crewmembers currently having their lunch, but all the tables that were taken had four, sometimes five people sitting around them. Heated conversations took place at most of those, and without trying to Vela overheard part of the discussion.
"So, are you going this evening, Denel?"
The ensign in yellow shook his head. "I don’t think so. I’ve got to finish a report for Nicoletti. I might stop by later on if I’m done though. What about you three?"
"Definitely going. Anette?"
"Depends. Paul might have planned something else. Joan?"
"Of course. Gotta get my breaking better before the masters come back!" She winked at the others who broke out in laughter.
"I wouldn’t hope for any victory if I were you, Joan. You’d have to have a lot of luck to win with either Paris or the Captain."
Turning around to face them, a Bolian from the next table commented, "The way they’ve been practicing lately, I’d say Torres and Chakotay are quite the threat too."
"True," the others agreed unanimously.
"Takes a bit out of the fun, knowing one of those four will win the tournament in the end."
"Maybe," Anette conceded with a grin. "But watching Janeway and Paris sparring in the finals isn’t exactly boring either."
Again, they all laughed.
"Well, I don’t know about you guys, but whoever wins in the pool tournament, I’m glad Tom set up Sandrine’s again."
"Yeah, it’s a nice touch."
"Like the good ol’ days," one of the men intoned in a slightly cowboy accent, loud enough for smiles to break out on the faces of officers sitting at adjacent tables.
"Get a few minutes rest, Danara."
She shook her head distractedly, checking the results of the latest scan. "No, not yet."
He sighed. "You need to take some time out, Danara. You know as well as I do that your body needs at least a few minutes break from work."
Finally turning her attention away from the research, she looked up at Voyager’s Doctor. "You want me to rest? Fine. I’ll rest. But so will you."
This time, he groaned. "I’m a computer program, Danara. I don’t need rest."
"No, Schmullus. You’re not just a program. We both know that. You’ll think better after you’ve had a few minutes rest." Still, he did not seem convinced in the least, so she added, "Besides, we still have over three years to catch up on."
"You win," he finally said with a shake of his head, sitting down in one of the chairs.
She followed his lead, making herself comfortable in another chair, and smiled at the Doctor. "So, last we finished, you mentioned having daydreams ?"
Her companion coughed at that, clearly embarrassed by that particular memory, but he nodded. "I’d wanted to experiment with daydreaming, but it got a bit out of hand."
"How much out of hand?" she asked with a grin.
"Quite a bit," he admitted ruefully. "It all started-"
"Wildman to the Doctor," came the call, interrupting his story.
"I might have found something. I’m heading down to the lab just now."
"We’ll be waiting, Sam," he answered with a smile.
It was only the following day that the negotiations finally continued in the manner both teams were used to. The previous evening had been spent simply talking in groups of two or three, getting to know the other side. Now, with the coming of a new day and all their strengths rebuilt thanks to the restful night, the six diplomats sat once again in the Conference Room, the table separating the two parties.
"Right," started the human Commander, after a quick glance at a PADD. "I guess we’re down to the last question." Noticing Kalani shift uncomfortably in his chair, Ashcroft prompted, "The weapon?"
"Run that test again, will you Sam? I’d like to double-check the results."
"Danara," he continued, glancing to the workstation to his left. "Did you manage to stabilize the cell suspension?"
"It’s getting along. I should be finished in a few more minutes. Any luck with the dialyzable leukozyte extracts?" she asked in turn.
"Testing, but I’m hopeful."
"That’s good," she nodded with a smile before turning back to her research.
They worked in silence several minutes, searching and comparing, scanning and testing. Finally, a quiet beep from Wildman’s side of the laboratory made Voyager’s Doctor to look up.
"And?" he asked expectantly.
"Same as the last results."
His eyes narrowed slightly and he called the room’s third occupant. "Danara? Are you done with the agglutination?"
"Almost " Quickly entering a few more things into the device before her, she tapped her finger on the table as she waited for the computer’s answer. When it came, she wordlessly glanced at the other doctor, smiling as she stood up to join him.
The next five minutes were spent in a flurry of activity, the three researchers exchanging data between themselves at a rapid speed before finally Danara raised a hand.
"I think I’ve got it!"
"Let me see," Wildman said, taking the information from the Vidiian woman and crossing over to one of the machines. Inputting the data, she glanced back at the two doctors as she waited for the result. They were looking at each other, both with hopeful looks in their eyes as Samantha grinned. "We’ve got it!"
"We do?" Danara asked, staring in surprise at the blonde.
"Yep, we do," she repeated with a bright smile. "We’ve got the cure."
She had thought she would cry to the world when the day came. She had thought she would grab somebody and dance across the room. She had even thought she might collapse from the shock.
Throwing her head back, she laughed.
It was a clear, happy sound that left her lips as her heart sang its joy out to the world. Eyes closed in the relief of having a treatment for her people, she threw her hands out sideways, letting her happiness be seen outwardly.
She felt free. Free of the burden she had taken upon herself those many months earlier, free of the pain she had felt since then as she watched her kin die unnecessarily. Free of the responsibility that she felt was hers.
She still had to administer the treatment, but one truth stayed in her mind. She was free, and her people would be safe.
Again, she laughed, shaking her head in her mirth.
"Finally." Opening her eyes, she brushed away the tears from her cheeks. "Finally," she repeated in a whisper.
The crew may still dream of their old ship, but the fact remained there. What would have taken under a week on the original Voyager had taken barely two days on its namesake.
They had the formula.
The Vidiians would be cured.
The Vidiian Mar sighed. "There’s not that much to say. You know the technical side of it all, I assume." Seeing the affirmative nods from the Federation trio, he shook his head. "We were just trying to save the galaxy with the best method we could offer."
"The only method we could offer," Emorin added quietly. They all knew the Vidiian fleet was not that powerful; their race was primarily a race of scientists, not warriors.
"We know. And that’s a good thing," Watson assured them. "It’s not your intents, but your method that is questionable."
"We were conscious of that. But when you’re faced with ultimate destruction " Kalani trailed off, then looked up at Ashcroft, pleading with him with his eyes. "It’s the same as with the organs. We would have used a different method had we known of one, but we didn’t, and wanted to keep our race, and others, alive."
Ayala glanced at his two partners with a sigh. "It’s the same thing now, only on a bigger scale."
Vela nodded. "History repeating itself," she whispered.
"Lieutenant Ayala," they greeted him. Though still hiding from the rest of the crew, they had both decided they wanted to meet with the officer before beaming down.
"It’s good to see you both again," he said with a smile. "I understand your research was successful?"
"Very," Danara said with a smile. "We’ll be beaming down to Vidiia with the cure in a moment, but we wanted to ask you a favor first."
"Of course, doctors."
"With the government corrupted, you cannot trust them. We’d be grateful if you could find a way to stall the talks. We don’t want the Federation to ally itself with Vidiia as it is right now."
He gave a short nod. "Tuvok’s already asked that of me. Could you tell what the position on the matter is of those three we have to deal with?"
"Kalani and Cadock know all about what’s going on. They’re both very near the top of the ladder."
"Kalani is the Mar though?" he noted with a frown.
"There are others, unknown to the population," she explained. "Emorin is being used though. They’re threatening to infect his family to make sure he’ll listen to them."
"That explains his quietness around them." Nodding again, Mike continued, "I’ll try my best. Don’t worry about them, just get that cure to your people. Is that all?"
"Yes, it is. Thank you, Lieutenant," Danara said, smiling.
Giving her a look that meant ‘no problem’, he watched as the pair slowly dematerialized from the Laboratory.
They had spent their days hoping for a cure, looking up to their doctors with faith in their abilities. Loving life, unwilling to part from their families and friends, they sat in their chairs and lay in their cots, struggling to survive yet another minute.
Their greatest wish was many years of health and joy, free of the excruciating pain they experienced every waking hour. They held on to those dreams through their sleep, where visions of happiness came to them, bringing them strength to get through the next day.
Now, it would all finally come to an end.
"Right, there you are. Next please." Looking up, the Doctor came face to face with the young Vidiian he had spoken to what seemed like weeks earlier. Motioning for the volunteer to sit down, he smiled. "And how are you today, Taramek?"
Taramek smiled back as the medic injected him with the cure. "If this works, I’ll be happy to say this is the best day of my life."
"Not only yours, Taramek," the Doctor answered with a nod. "Okay, you’re done. We should be seeing the first results in a few minutes."
"Thank you, Doctor."
With a slight smile, he rose from his crouching position and walked over to Danara.
"Anything?" he asked in a hushed voice.
She shook her head with a sigh, "Not yet."
"Have faith, Danara," he whispered, a gentle hand on her shoulder. "It’ll work."
She nodded and leant against him, suddenly tired. "I just wish it were already working," she sighed.
Bringing his arms around her, he pulled her closer to him. "Hush, Danara."
He glanced back at where those who had volunteered to test the treatment were sitting. "Yes?"
"I feel strange."
A murmur of agreement passed through the small group, causing the two medics to immediately cross over to them, tricorders in hand.
The scanning went quickly enough, the dozen or so people complaining of a slight dizziness and aching, but of nothing more severe. Finally, the pair glanced up at each other, comparing their readings.
The Doctor sighed. If the cure had started to work, they would begin mass vaccination immediately. If not back to the drawing board. Just as Danara, he would not give up so easily if this attempt turned out to be a failure.
The hopeful look in her eyes told him what he needed to know and he nodded in return before turning to Taramek. A hand on the young man’s shoulder, he smiled down at him.
"Your sister and mother will be fine."
He was stalling, she noticed with a slight frown.
Why was he stalling?
Why all the strange questions, the objections, the odd ideas coming once in a while from him?
As she concentrated, her frown changed slightly, giving air to puzzlement. Didn’t he trust them? Why not?
It was no secret that negotiating sides did not trust each other fully, but this did not seem quite the same.
Again, as she had done many times in her life, she cursed her luck; having a bit more telepathic skills would have been very nice.
And again, another question, more surprised looks from the other diplomats. He seemed to know what he was doing, letting them off the hook at just the right time and leaving them to calm down before asking something else.
Why was he stalling? What did he want to achieve that way?
Frowning in concentration, she looked at the man out of the corner of her eye.
The Doctor stood and moved towards Danara as he finished administering his last round of the inoculations to the Phage victims. She was sitting quietly, watching intently as the lesions on her patients face began to take on a more healthy color. The texture of the once necrotizing flesh changing. He held out his hand and helped her to stand. "That’s the last of the victims here, Danara. Reports are coming back from the other encampments that the treatment has been as effective there," he paused for a moment, his face showing his sorrow at his next line of thought, "with the exception of the most advanced patients."
"Without you, Schmullus, there would be many more dead and dying." Danara cupped his face gently, "It’s no one’s fault that the cure didn’t come in time. We can only grieve for their loss."
A harsh voice sounded from behind the Vidiian doctor. "Unless of course, the only reason he’s here helping is to make it palatable for his government to make the alliance with the current government. Then he’s as guilty as they are." A large Vidiian dressed in the Maquis-like clothing glared at the Doctor, his gaze boring into the Voyager officer like a drill.
"Joakin Voyager and Schmullus are here to help. I know they didn’t come in time to help your family but they’re doing their best " Danara tried to speak out but something in the man’s stance prompted the Doctor to step in front of her.
"The Federation would not aid and abet such abominable treatment of any sentient lifeform. While we may not be able to prevent such behavior, we certainly will not be signing any alliance with a government who allows such atrocities to happen." The Doctor kept his tone even, maintaining eye contact with the distraught man in hopes to diffuse the situation, but he continued to keep his body as a shield between Joakin and Danara, knowing there was very little that could be done to him.
"Of course, if the Phage is gone before the talks are over then there’s no proof of what they did is there? That’s really why you’re here and it’s why you’re going to pay " A flash caught the Doctor’s attention as the light caught the edge of the blade that Joakin pulled from its sheath. A momentary distraction that allowed a strike, lightning fast to hit the Doctor’s arm. The Doctor pulled back in shock, as the visual representation of his program rippled. Obviously, he had underestimated the amount of damage that a deranged individual could do to him given a chance.
Again Joakin lunged, this time an underhanded strike meant to slide between the ribs and pierce the heart of the opponent. The blade met with no resistance as the emitter’s presser fields had been taken offline with the first strike. The Vidiian stumbled forward, his eyes widening as he passed through the holographic Doctor, the knife biting home into the soft flesh behind him.
Spinning around the Doctor could only see Danara’s green eyes wide in pain and shock as her assailant pressed to the knife into her side, a red stain growing in her tunic. "Danara " He reached out to hold her, but his arms flashed through her body, further evidence of his damaged emitter.
"Mommy!" A squeal of horror and fear came from Vallia as she rushed to her mother’s side.
The Doctor held out one hand, beckoning Vallia to him. "Stay close to me, Vallia. We need to get your mother to my ship so I can help her." The little girl nodded and bravely moved to the Doctor’s side, her trust in him evident in her eyes. "EMH to Voyager, three to beam up, the two females in closest proximity to me and transfer my program directly to Sickbay."
"Aye, Sir." The voice of an unfamiliar Ensign filled the chamber as the sparkling glow of the transporters filled the air. As they disappeared, Joakin dropped to his knees, moaning in disbelief at the consequences of his actions.
Holding the small form of Vallia close to him, the Doctor watched the monitors tracking Danara’s life signs closely. His programming told him she would be fine. Robby Dayton, despite their difficult beginnings, had had the Doctor’s full confidence when the Doctor had requested that he perform the surgery to save Danara’s life. The Doctor smiled slightly as he remembered the look on Dayton’s face when he realized the extent of why the Doctor was requesting he perform the surgery. The words, "Don’t worry Doctor, she’ll pull through," still echoed in his mind. The ethics of doctor – patient relations was something that given their constant contact with Starfleet, the Doctor did not want to run a foul of.
The damage had been extensive, although not critical. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should stay and watch just to be certain. Vallia shifted slightly in her sleep, and clung tighter to his body. He bent down and kissed her hair softly, stroking her back to sooth her.
A soft voice pulled his attention away from the child in his arms. "Vallia Schmullus " He stood quickly and, careful not to disturb Vallia in her sleep, settled her back on the chair and pulling the blanket he had acquired from one of the biobeds over her tiny form, before moving out into the middle of the bay.
The Doctor pressed a gentle hand to Danara’s forehead ridge and smiled at her. "Vallia is sleeping and I’m right here." His hand slowly slid down her face, cupping her cheek tenderly.
Danara nodded slightly, still unfocused from the medication and the stress on her body, then leaned into his hand, comforted by his steady presence, allowing herself to relax once more. "Your emitter "
"Is much more easily repairable than you are, Danara." The Doctor’s voice became slightly sterner as the fear he had felt for her came to the surface once more. "In fact, Lt. Nichols already notified me I could pick it up from Engineering at any time. However, according to Dr. Dayton, you will need a day or two to heal."
"You didn’t " Danara looked at him questioningly.
"No," the Doctor paused uncertain how to communicate to her all the reasons he stepped aside in her treatment this time, "I wanted to I didn’t want your life in anyone’s hands but mine, but I also didn’t want there to be any question Nothing to complicate "
A small pale hand cupped his cheek, "I understand, Schmullus."
The Doctor’s expression softened and he leaned into her hand this time. "Please don’t ever do that to me again "
"I won’t. I promise." Danara smiled brightly as they held each other’s gaze.
The hiss of sickbay doors opening pulled both of their attention away, only to reveal Commander Ashcroft and Lt. Watson behind them, their expressions demanding explanations before they could even speak.
"Convince me that this isn’t confirmation that every rumor I’ve heard about Voyager’s complete disregard for Starfleet protocol and the chain of command is true, Doctor." Ashcroft fixed the hologram with a glare the Doctor supposed the Commander thought was intimidating. Ashcroft had obviously underestimated the effect of serving with Captain Janeway; a glare of this intensity only conveyed mild annoyance to the hologram.
As Danara struggled to right herself the Doctor began to encourage her to remain in her prone position, but the look she gave him evoked a soft sigh from him and he supported her as she sat up. "Commander, I enlisted the Doctor’s help. It was imperative that you and the others continued to negotiate with the current regime in good faith to draw their attention away from the work we were doing. The government is corrupt, leaving part of the population sick and dying to fund its own greed. The average citizen has no idea what is going on and anyone who has the knowledge and is against what they’re doing is kept in line with threats of infection. If they had known what the Resistance was doing, they would have insisted that you had left, withdrawn their offer of alliance just to protect their own power base and you would have been forced to leave."
"Which is precisely what should have happened." Ashcroft glared at the Vidiian medic. "Instead we’ve become embroiled in an internal conflict that the Federation should never have been a party to."
The Doctor’s brow furrowed and he stepped forward, "With all due respect, Commander, whether we were here as a diplomatic mission or on an errand of mercy, it is within the Federation charter to provide medical aide where needed and necessary."
"When requested by the reigning governmental body " Ashcroft interjected.
"So because these people had no voice in their government, they should have been left to die? Somehow I find it hard to believe that that is what the founders of the Federation had in mind when they formed the United Federation of Planets." The Doctor moved forward and held the Commander’s gaze. "If you wish to put a complaint on my file, so be it, but when I was programmed to be an emergency medical hologram, Dr. Zimmerman included the Hippocratic Oath as part of my programming. It is the guiding basis for all of my medical treatments. I may be more than the sum of all my subroutines, but it still holds as true as it did when he originally added knowledge of that oath to my matrix. I could no more ignore their pain and suffering as I could that of a member of my own crew. I was beholden to help them the instant I became aware of their suffering."
Ashcroft stepped back to consider the hologram as Tuvok and Ayala made their presence known. "Indeed, while not strictly in line with the letter of Starfleet protocol, I believe the Doctor is correct in his assessment that he was obligated to assist the Vidiian people. If it had been an outside power such as the Devore that was inflicting such treatment on the Vidiian people, then the Federation would not hesitate to assist them. It is illogical to assume that because the abuse of power is internal that Starfleet and the Federation is any less obligated to assist." Tuvok concluded his statement and moved to stand behind the biobed that held Dr. Pel.
"You were assigned to Vidiia to consider a request for an Alliance, the Doctor had a request made to him in his position as Chief Medical Officer of Voyager for a medical errand of mercy. Missions which are an obligation of every Starship to respond to, unless in violation of a standing treaty or the Prime Directive. Two separate missions, Commander. I believe Captain Janeway made it quite clear that Voyager’s internal command structure was its own." The unsaid statement that Ashcroft was not a part of that command structure was left hanging in the air. "Since this was a request to Voyager and not an official request through a governmental agency, I believe it fell within the realm of an internal Voyager matter." Ayala grinned as he moved to stand beside Tuvok, his application of Maquis logic leaving Commander Ashcroft no less infuriated.
Ashcroft looked from Pel to the Doctor to Tuvok and finally focusing again on Ayala, before turning to Watson. Expecting unconditional support from his fellow diplomatic officer left him open to a large surprise when Watson nodded solemnly. "I believe Commander Tuvok and the other officers were correct in their assessment of the situation." She met Ashcroft’s gaze evenly, "Besides the fact that they would have had to have been completely inhuman to allow sentient beings to continue to suffer from a disease like the Phage when it was within their power to prevent it. In fact they’ve brought to light some evidence that will now have to be weighed in against the Vidiian request for an alliance."
The Commander’s eyes widened as he once again took in each individual in the medical bay with disbelief. As much as it stung his pride to have been left out of the loop for such an import revelation, he too could understand the logic of what Voyager’s staff had done. Turning on his heal, he marched towards the sickbay door before throwing his hands in the air and exclaiming, "The god damn Vidiian race deserves itself, and as far as I’m concerned it can have it."
Vallia perched on the side of Danara’s bed as Danara read softly to her. The Doctor leaned against the doorway of his office, watching them interact before approaching slowly. "How is my favorite medical staff today?"
Vallia hopped from the bed and moved to hug the Doctor’s waist. "Momma is feeling much better."
"Well, it would seem that Dr. Dayton agrees with your diagnosis, Vallia, and suggested some light exercise." The Doctor focused his attention on Danara, his voice becoming softer, less assured as he gazed into the green depths of her eyes. "I was wondering if you’d like to go for a walk with me in the holodeck. I have a lovely forest program we could use."
Danara beamed. "That sounds lovely, Schmullus." Her eyes darted to Vallia then back to the Doctor.
"I’m certain Vallia will love it. I co-opted some playmates for her from one of the Captain and Naomi Wildman’s favorite holoprograms." The Doctor moved forward to help Danara down from the biobed, but kept hold of her hand afterwards. "Do you think you’d like to see the holodeck, Vallia?"
"Please Mommy " Vallia looked at Danara with wide eyes.
Danara smiled widely and squeezed the Doctor’s hand. "Well, it is what the Doctor ordered." Then her smile grew as Vallia took the Doctor’s other hand as well.
Original Voyager crewmembers smiled as the trio passed them, the little girl bouncing along side the adults on their way to the holodeck bringing back memories of Naomi. Even new crewmen couldn’t help but grin at the seemingly happy family as they moved down the halls. As they arrived at the holodeck the Doctor took a few moments to call up the program, then they stepped through the doors into a lush, green tranquil paradise. The sunlight filtered through the leaves and dew to cast tiny rainbows in their path. "It’s beautiful, Schmullus."
"Isn’t it?" The Doctor pulled Danara closer as they began to walk down the path. "It reminds me of your eyes."
Danara stopped, her breath caught slightly from the Doctors words, then she moved closer still to the hologram, leaning her head against his shoulder. A sudden rush of color from out of the branches announced the arrival of Flotter and Vallia giggled loudly at the sight as he tumbled helter-skelter in front of them. "Vallia, this is Flotter." The Doctor introduced formally as Flotter bowed deeply and stumbled forward, collapsing in a heap on the grass. "I thought you and he could play." The Doctor drew Vallia in close to him, conspiratorially. "You’ll have to keep an eye on him He once convinced the Captain to help him flood the forest."
Vallia giggled even louder, the idea of a Captain flooding a forest seemed awfully silly to her but she nodded solemnly. "I promise."
Danara smiled, "Then go and have fun." As Vallia scampered off into the underbrush after the holocharacter, she turned her attention to the Doctor. "Captain Janeway helped him flood the forest?"
The Doctor smiled, "It’s more interesting if you don’t mention she was a young girl at the time." Danara laughed, the musical lilt joining the bird song and the rustle of the leaves in the wind. "Would you care to dance?"
Danara nodded almost shyly and stepped into the Doctor’s arms, swaying gently to the soft sounds of nature that surrounded them.
All was quiet in the room, its only occupant staring wordlessly out the viewport. Having left Sickbay in frustration, Ashcroft had immediately retired to his quarters, and had been there ever since, contemplating the present situation.
With what he had learnt of the government, he would have to deny Vidiia an alliance with the Federation. They could not allow themselves a treaty with a race such as that.
The door chime broke into his thoughts, startling him. Calling for entry he turned around, only to see his long-time assistant standing in the corridor.
"May I come in?" she asked with a pleasant smile, and he found himself nodding. "I came to ask what your decision on the alliance would be."
"I had thought you would," he answered, motioning for Watson to take a seat, then sitting down across from her. "The Federation cannot accept Vidiia as an ally."
"Is that your final decision, Commander?" He glanced at her, surprised at the question, and after a moment of hesitation, she charged on, "As I see it, if the Vidiians were to get rid of their present government, an alliance with us would be good for both sides."
She shrugged slightly. "We both know that with the politics of the Delta Quadrant as they are, Vidiia is in need of a strong ally to fully revive. On our side, a connection with the Delta Quadrant would be a valuable asset for the Federation."
"True, but overthrowing a government " he trailed off as she stood up from her chair.
"I know, it’s quite a drastic measure, but with the Vidiians cured, I’m sure they’ll spread the truth to those who were uninformed. If they don’t give over their rules peacefully, they might have an uprising on their hands."
Nearing the door, she glanced back at her superior officer. "I only ask that you think about the possibility, Commander. Goodnight."
With that, she walked out of his quarters, leaving him alone to contemplate her idea.
"There you go," he said, downloading the last datachip into the mini computer. "That should be enough reading material to last you a decade."
Danara nodded with a sad smile as she looked over the data. "What exactly did you put here?"
"Cultural data on most of the Alpha Quadrant species, works of literature and music from all parts of the Federation, recipes, games " He shrugged, "Most everything that was both interesting and not forbidden to give. Medical knowledge doesn’t constitute technology either, so there are a few files on that too."
He grinned ruefully, "Much of Voyager’s database."
"The oath?" she asked with a smile.
"It’s there. All the versions that are known of, its history, and anything else we might have about it."
"Thank you. From what you’ve told me, I think it might try to start a similar tradition on Vidiia."
"’Primum non nocere.’"
Danara glanced up, "What?"
"’First, do no wrong’," he explained, then quoted, "’As to diseases, make a habit of two things – to help, or at least to do no harm.’"
"Yes. Another of his writings." he motioned to the computer. "It’s all there."
"Thank you, I appreciate it. I’ll enjoy learning about your cultures."
"There you are. I think that’s it." Putting away the chip, the Doctor glanced at his companion. "We should be going now."
"I know." She sighed, looking back to the main room. "Vallia?"
"Coming, Mommy!" The little girl bounded into the Doctor’s office, a bright smile on her lips. Immediately running up to her mother, she hugged her leg. "Are we going home now?"
"Yes, we are, honey."
With a nod, the child looked up at the Doctor. "Are you coming with us?"
Crouching down, he patted her head. "Yes, I am, Vallia. But I won’t be staying long."
"Well, I’m needed here, and your Mommy is needed on Vidiia."
"Oh, right." Was it his imagination, or did she seem a bit saddened by that piece of information? Presently, she was looking up at him with hopeful eyes. "Will you come back some time?"
"That’s enough of that, Vallia," Danara spoke.
The Doctor stepped in gently, walking over to the door with the computer in hand. "Come on, we’ll go to the Transporter Room."
With a sharp nod that erased her previous sad look, Vallia ran out of Sickbay, Danara following her out in a slower gait.
Side by side they crossed the corridors to the turbolift, Vallia happily skipping in front of them. A few of the crew passed them, each smiling at the trio.
With a sigh, Danara slipped her hand into the Doctor’s. He glanced down at her in surprise, but she just smiled. Returning the gesture, he squeezed her fingers gently as a form of reassurance.
It was late afternoon on Vidiia when they beamed down. The sun, a reddish tinge at this time of day, was visible just above the horizon as the trio walked across a small, terran-like garden.
Vallia held onto their hands as she skipped between the couple, her joyous mood infectious. Sharing a grin, the two doctors raised their arms, lifting the child high into the air.
She laughed gleefully, landing on the sandy path with a slight thump. "Again!"
They complied readily and once again Vallia leapt up, the sky above her suddenly seeming a bit closer. "Again!" she asked, giggling.
And so passed the next few minutes, the medics playing with the girl as her parents would have, were they still alive.
With every passing minute, they felt the bond tighten until finally they looked up from Vallia. Their eyes locked and they simply stared at each other, wordlessly communicating their thoughts.
"Again, Mommy, Dottor!"
With a lingering gaze the couple shared a smile before reverting their attention to the little girl.
Her cheerful laughter could be heard from far away as Vallia once again was lifted towards the sky, the two adults taking delight from the happy moment.
The Doctor hummed softly as he and Danara looked up into the Vidiian night. The air was sweet and warm, the stars twinkled in the heavens and the music that seemed so bittersweet echoed through his mind. He pulled her closer, reveling in her warmth beside him.
"What’s that you’re humming?" Danara looked up at him curiously.
The Doctor looked down at her, committing her features to memory. Her gentle expression, the soft cheeks, tender lips, the deep emerald depths like cut gems he fell in love with. "A song a song from an opera I sang once." He cupped her chin gently, "A song that reminds me of you Of us."
Her hand ran against his jaw, as though she was committing him to memory as much as he was her. Slowly he bent, capturing her lips with his, soft and tender, drawing the kiss out, adding another memory to the ones they already shared. Slowly they pulled apart and gazed at each other in silence.
"Sing it for me?" Danara asked quietly, breaking the spell around them.
The Doctor smiled sadly, "It’s not very "
Danara’s finger traced his lips, "Sing it for me, Schmullus."
The Doctor nodded and looking into her eyes found his voice for the song.
"E lucevan le stelle
ed olezzava la terra "
Danara sighed and closed her eyes as the translator did it’s job, yet she would have had no problem understanding the words meanings simply from the feelings his voice evoked.
"stridea l’uscio dell’orto
e un passo sfiorava la rena.
Entrava ella, fragrante,
mi cadea fra le braccia."
Never before had the words of this opera expressed his feelings so well. The Doctor felt every fiber of his being supporting the words, giving them meaning beyond what simply singing them could.
"Oh! dolce baci, o languide carezze,
le belle forme disciogliea dai veli!"
Every word was filled with emotion, meant for her alone. It was almost unbearable to have found this once more only to have to see him go.
"Svani per sempre il sogno mio d’amore
L’ora e fuggita
e muoio disperato!
E non ho amato mai tanto la vita!"
As the final words fell from his lips, their eyes met once again. Their hearts pounding in unison, their hands clenched together, the joy and sorrow they felt echoing in one another. This time the Doctor broke the silence, but didn’t break the spell. "I love you, Danara." His voice was soft as he gave voice to the truth that both held now in their hearts.
Danara laid her head against his chest. "And I love you, Schmullus."
He sighed. Putting them on report for their actions would have seemed to him the best course of action only weeks ago, but now Ashcroft only shook his head.
Neither Tuvok, Ayala, nor the Doctor would have any negative comment in their files from him. They had all done what they believed was for the good cause, and none of them had really broken any law or protocol. In fact many would agree with their assessment that they were obligated to render assistance.
Besides, he reasoned. Being overly strict would not do wonders for his reputation either. That captaincy was long overdue, and he did not intend to ruin his chances for it by putting on report three people who had, essentially, not done anything wrong.
Glancing over the information on the PADD that he held in his hand, the Commander shook his head.
There was no way he could decide about this by himself. He would have to ask back at Headquarters what their choice was; to ditch the alliance altogether, or wait until a new Vidiian government was created?
Personally, Ashcroft found himself leaning to a possible future with Vidiia, but he figured that choice could turn out to bend the Prime Directive too much for the President to allow it.
Time would tell, he decided with a sigh.
Hand in hand, they slowly crossed the garden, unwilling to part yet. Their reunion had been so brief
"Well, I guess this is goodbye then," she murmured quietly.
"No. Not goodbye." Turning Danara to face him, he continued with a quiet determination, "Just until we meet again." Her eyes widened in surprise and he lay a finger on her lips to still any questions. "I’ll be back, Danara. I promise."
Through her tears, she smiled at him. "I’ll be waiting." She turned her cheek into his touch, kissing the palm of his hand. "I’ll miss you."
Taken by her quiet confession, he cupped her chin to tilt her head upwards. Ever so slowly, he lowered his own until his lips touched hers softly.
Long moments later, he backed away to trace the contours of her face one last time. "I love you, Danara."
"And I love you, Schmullus," she whispered back as his fingers came to her mouth.
Finally, he stepped away from the woman until once again they were only holding hands. With a sigh, he touched his commbadge. "Doctor to Voyager. One to beam up."
"Acknowledged, stand by."
His fingers slipped from hers as the sparkles of energy appeared around him. Focusing on the brilliant green of Danara’s eyes, he smiled at her softly.
His voice was a bit muted when he repeated his earlier words just before disappearing.
"I promise "
Note: The lyrics within are from Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ – E lucevan le stelle.
And the stars were shining
the earth smelt sweet
the garden gate creaked
and a footstep brushed the sand.
She entered, fragrant,
and fell into my arms.
O soft kisses, tender caresses,
while I, all a-quiver,
unveiled her lovely features!
Vanished forever is my dream of love
That time has fled
and I die in despair.
Never have I loved life so dearly!