Hoshi walked next to Quellata as they made their way to exercise. She spoke, “Is it forbidden for me to ask you questions?”
“I am under a nondisclosure agreement with my clients,” Quellata replied, “But it doesn't cover every single imaginable topic. Ask. I might even answer.”
“All right. Uh, where are you from?”
“Oh. That I will answer. My planet is in what you refer to as the Delta Quadrant. It's called Dawitan.”
“Oh, thank you. Uh, what's the ultimate purpose of all of this? Why do you want so many babies of different species?” Hoshi asked.
“That is definitely under the nondisclosure,” Quellata said, “Ah, here we are. You know what to do, slime molds,” she departed.
Lili was pushed in front of the tall Andorian. Jennifer was behind Dayah. They began to walk around.
Lili said, “You're Leveqa, aren't you?”
“I was told not to talk to you.”
“That's probably wise,” said the Andorian.
“When someone is being shunned, you don't inquire such things of them.”
“You have marks like a Calafan,” Leveqa pointed out.
“Yes, I have tattoos,” Lili said.
“Keep quiet!” yelled a guard.
Malcolm walked in front of Emmiz, “Do you know how to handle a medical emergency?”
“Emergency?” asked the young Xindi.
“Yes. What if there's a problem while in the cell? Can our captors be reached?”
“Yes. You can pound on the wall near where it opens on the left. I had to do that when Rellie gave birth. She was my first and I didn't know what to do. Now I'm experienced,” he said a bit proudly.
“Oh. Interesting. Thank you.”
“Which one is yours?” asked Emmiz.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Your partner. See mine? She's in front of the orange-haired human. See?”
“Oh. She's rather, uh, there's a significant age difference.”
“It doesn't matter. She's my fourth. My best! It's funny. We came here; we were grabbed from the Betar Colony. I was a student of course. She was a government functionary of some sort. We never would have met. And even if we had, she's old enough; I could have been her grandson. Funny how things turn out.”
“So, which one is yours?” Emmiz asked again.
“Oh. The one with the very, very light hair.”
“Ah. She's very fat.”
“She's expecting a child!”
“Ah. You must work very fast, then.”
“It's not, it's not my child. She was pregnant before we got here,” Malcolm said.
“Do you like her?”
“I, I'd rather not say,” he said, keeping in mind that Doug wasn't too far behind him. But he smiled to himself. The morning had been excellent. Every moment seemed to be an improvement over the last.
Jennifer walked around, miserable. Then she began to notice something. There were small gestures. Andorian antennae would waggle, very slightly. Xindi fingers would crook. Vulcan eyebrows would be raised slightly, or heads would nod. Klingons would sneer or shake their heads. Her fellow humans would nod just a tiny bit. Wave a little, too.
It happened when they saw the men. It would be a small look here, a tiny movement there. Tripp winking at Hoshi. Hoshi looking down, then up, making eye contact. Lili reddening a little. Jonathan smiling slightly. Deb tugging on her ear.
Jennifer kept walking. The gestures stopped when the men were out of view.
There were more movements as she turned again. A small wave from the Xindi to each other, the woman in front of her waved at a very young Xindi man who waved back. If Jennifer blinked, she'd have missed it, it was so subtle. A Vulcan woman coughed slightly, and a Vulcan man responded in kind. Doug narrowing his eyes. Melissa chewing on a fingernail for just a second. A Klingon tossing his hair. A Klingon woman responding by flaring her nostrils.
Travis just looked straight ahead. So did Jennifer. There were no messages being passed between the two of them.
But the others, they all were saying the same things, Jennifer could tell.
I miss you.
I love you.
I can't wait to see you again.
Just wait until I get you ...
This wasn't home. The Enterprise
wouldn't have been, for much longer, either. Not for Jennifer. She and Frank would be apart for a while as she finished out her tour. But then she'd move to Enceladus, and they'd be together, and would start a family. The children would, she had hoped, take after Frank – his dark eyes and hair, his silly snorting laugh.
But that dream was a million light years away and, seemingly, a thousand years old. It was gone, dead, DOA.
And Jennifer instead saw her future in the holding center. She saw the people in front of her, the Xindi woman, an Andorian, Lili, another Andorian, a Klingon, Melissa, yet another Andorian, a Vulcan, a Klingon, but, in her head, they transformed. A child with Travis. Then one, perhaps, with the Captain. Then Tripp. Doug Beckett. Malcolm Reed. And then back to Travis. Over and over and over again, until her body wore out. She would be a brood mare, nothing more, breeding, perhaps, champion racehorses or prize heifers for some unknown alien clientele. It was an endless, shuffling line of despair.
There was no way out. No hope. No way to fix it.
The decision was made in a split second. She didn't weigh the options. She didn't have to. You don't have to, when it's your only option.
She ran at one of the guards, yelling and screaming. And the guard began to shock her with the stick.
The men saw it, and they stopped walking, until they were prodded along themselves. But something was horribly wrong.
Dayah broke ranks and ran to the fallen Jennifer.
A Klingon yelled, “Get medical help! Now
Jennifer was convulsing. Dayah finally got her to stop and leaned over her. Quietly, the Xindi said, “I know how you feel. And not one of us hasn't wanted to do that. You may hate your man. But if you care at all about any of your fellow humans, you'll stop this foolishness. Otherwise, you'll ruin it for all of them.”
Jennifer didn't answer and just stared into space.
Lili held her own belly.
Kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
Quellata burst in with the vet, who was of her species. The vet went to work. Quellata went up to one of the Imvari, “You're not supposed to shock them that much! We need this stock! Now get them moving again!”
They had been walking for a while, trying not to look at Jennifer, lying in the middle of the floor and being administered to.
“This is reminiscent of two years ago,” Leveqa finally said, behind Lili.
“What happened two years ago?”
“It was November. I think. It seems like it was a November.”
“What happened in November?” Lili asked.
“She was so very, very small. They all are. Newborns. It doesn't matter what type. Vulcans, Andorians, Kreetassans, Calafans, Xindi. Humans are, too, I suppose.”
“Yes, definitely. My son was helpless for a long time, even though he was a big baby,” Lili said, holding her belly.
“It was, it was easy,” Leveqa said.
“What was easy?”
“It. It was easy. Serin will deny it, but he was a part of it. We decided it together.”
“Tell me only what you want to,” Lili said.
“Serin will say it was only me. He's a coward sometimes, and it's hard to be shunned. I do understand that. But he had a role in this, as well.”
A few minutes later, Leveqa spoke again, “He didn't want to name her. Said she was so small, she'd never survive. It seemed pointless, like it would hurt. But I didn't listen. I named her Erell.”
“Oh. And they took her?” Lili asked.
Kick Kick Kick
“It was easy. I nursed her. We held her. We looked at her. She looked up at us, antennae moving a little. Newborns don't have good control, so their antennae only move a little. And they moved, just a little.”
“It must have been hard for you to give her up,” Lili said.
“It was ...,” Leveqa paused for a second.
“Only tell me what you want to,” Lili repeated.
“We decided. It had been maybe an hour. Serin pinched her nose closed. And I put my hand on her mouth. And we held ourselves there until she stopped struggling. It was only a few minutes. She was such a tiny thing. It didn't take long. It was ... easy.”
Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
“Oh Gawd,” Lili whispered.
“Erell will never be hungry. She will never have her heart broken. And she will never work for, or breed for, the Witannen or their clients. Never.”
Lili put her hand behind her back and opened it, “I don't know if this helps. I know this helps us.”
Leveqa took her hand and gripped it, “It helps us, too.”
Exercise ended, and the men went to cleansing.
“Captain, you should know, Lili-Fl–, uh, Lili, she was able to, she feels, make contact with the Enterprise
last night,” Malcolm said.
“What? How is that even possible?”
“It's a type of Calafan dream state,” Malcolm said.
“Yes,” Doug added, “She can do that. I kinda can, too, but she's better at it than I am. I tend to ignore the signals more these days.”
“If she can contact T'Pol, she'll need every bit of information we've got. Everyone, tell Malcolm anything you know. And I mean anything, any little bit. You might think it's not important, but it can be,” Jonathan commanded.
Doug hung back while the others talked to Malcolm. When they were done, Quellata returned and they were being herded back to the cells. All he said to Malcolm was, “I'm watching, Reed. Don't think I'm not. You're not off the hook.”
“Are you all right, Jennifer?” Travis asked.
“Huh? Oh, not too bad,” she said, “But sick to my stomach,” she refused the tube of paste he offered her.
“I don't want you to get hurt.”
“We're gonna get out of here,” he assured her, “Don't worry.”
“Too late for that,” she sighed.
“It’s pretty horrible what happened to Jennifer,” Melissa said.
“She okay?” Doug asked.
“I think so. She walked out under her own power.”
“Well, that's something at least.”
“She must've been pretty desperate,” Melissa said.
“She's a strong girl. A little confused, I think.”
“Aren't we all?”
Tripp said, “This isn't feelin' like too much fun anymore. No offense.”
“None taken. Tripp, she was trying to kill herself.”
“I know. How, uh, how long we been here, would you say?”
“Over a week, I think. I feel like I'm losing contact with reality, with the outside.”
“I think that's the idea. I talked to a few of 'em as we were going around.”
“Yes, the endless Dante circles of hell,” Hoshi said.
“Yep. The meaningless journey. Well, they almost – and this was a Klingon and a Vulcan, but maybe they aren't all like this. They kinda seemed like they almost had sympathy for the Witannen. They kinda identified with Quellata, and wondered why Jennifer would be so, well – they said it, not me – inconsiderate
“It's like Stockholm syndrome,” Hoshi said.
“Yeah. No wonder they don't try to escape.”
“We'd better make our move pretty soon,” she said, “before we get too comfortable here.”
“Deb, when you next see Lili, tell her anything strategic you've got. Make sure the other women do, too. After exercise – you'll have some semi-private time when showering.”
“Yes, of course. Anything else, Jonathan?”
“Yes. Smile just a tiny bit. It's been a helluva day. I just want to see a little something good.”
She felt the same frisson of excitement as before, “Whatever I can do for you, tell me.”
Kick Kick Kick
Lili held her belly again. Malcolm came over and put his hand over hers, “Here, let me help you with that,” he said.
“Thanks. A little better. It's been a little tough for me to calm down.”
“Understood. Here, let's sit,” he sat behind her and put his arms around her, “Any better?”
“Malcolm, I talked with one of the Andorians. They had told me not to speak with her. But I'm stubborn Irish so I did it anyway. And it turns out, Gawd, it's awful. She, um, she and her partner – they smothered their own baby rather than turn her over to Quellata,” Lili started to cry a little.
“Oh my. Shh,” Malcolm whispered in her ear, “Shh. Weep if it makes you feel better,” he kissed the top of her head. She leaned against his chest and cried.
She finally stopped, “I don't know if I could do that.”
Kick Kick Kick
“I will, I will do what, whatever you wish,” he said, “I'd rather, rather not harm him,” he took a breath, “But I will do whatever you think is best.”
“I don't know what decision I'll make.”
“No need to decide right now. You're how far away?”
“It's gone over to four months away,” she said, “If I'm counting the days right.”
He did a quick calculation in his head. Four months plus a few – three? Then another nine, and possibly as many as another three. A year and a half together. Maybe, “When the time comes, we'll handle it together. And we'll be together, as long as possible. I don't know what I'll do when they separate us.”
“I don't want to think about that right now. Malcolm, did you ever want children? Marriage and a home? Tell me, one way or the other. I just want to talk about something else.”
“Well,” he said, moving his hand back to her belly, “Do you remember, during the Xindi War, there was this time when we met up with another Enterprise
? Kind of a strange thing. A ship being manned and piloted by the descendants of the crew.”
“Yes. I recall that. And I agree that it was strange.”
“Well, I was the only senior officer to die a bachelor,” Malcolm swallowed, “It's bothered me a little bit ever since. But I don't know how I'd ever have a family. It's not like I'm ever at home.”
“You must've had someone. I know all the women were taken. Was it Major Jay Hayes, by chance?”
“That would have been poetic justice,” she said, “But, no. It was actually José Torres.”
“That very tall chap in Engineering?”
“The very same. We had a daughter, too. Maria Elena.”
“So am I too short for you?” Malcolm asked.
“No, of course not.”
“Why didn't you try to pursue things with José?”
“Well, I'm a good decade older than he is. And I think I was the least desirable woman on the ship. I doubt he would have gone after me if I wasn't, literally, his last option,” she said.
“I don't think so. I know you're not, by any stretch. And, at the very least, you can say you were loved a little bit,” he said wistfully.
“You can say the same.”
There was a hissing sound.
“That damnable gas,” Malcolm said.
“Now I know they're not listening in,” Lili said, “Otherwise they'd have figured out by now that we don't need it.”