Phlox arrived in the shuttle bay, “You look like you've been in a riot,” he said.
“Doctor,” Lili said, forming an idea in her head, “can you give me an examination first? I want to be sure the baby is all right.”
Jonathan nodded, “I need to get a debriefing together anyway. Executive level staff – we won't even bother changing. Main conference room. Now.”
“I guess I'm free to go,” Jenny said, still tentative.
“Here, let's get to quarters. I know I wanna shower and pass out,” Deb said.
Doug looked at Lili for a second, “I'll take Joss back to quarters. Spend some time with him.”
“We can talk, uh, later,” Lili said. She couldn't help it, but her eyes did follow a certain person on the Executive level staff as he filed out with the others, “I just want to make sure Petey is all right.”
“Of course,” Doug said tightly. So this was how it was going to be? He departed with Yimar and Joss and Lili could hear him ask, “What's today's date, anyway?”
Sick Bay was its usual mayhem.
“You are in perfect health. Mother and baby are doing splendidly,” Phlox said, “You’re about four and a half months along or so. It’s hard to tell with the placenta getting in the way of everything.”
“Doctor, I don't want to tell you your business.”
“I don't understand.”
“It's just; I think you should, uh, examine the women next. The other four who were in captivity. And, um, I think you should give them all pregnancy tests.”
“Oh?” Phlox arched an eyebrow. This would require a little fancy footwork, given privacy regulations. He could cover it, initially, with just a request for examinations. But if there were findings, it would get trickier. He also knew – given the pay grade and rank differences among the ten who'd been held captive – there could be sexual harassment issues. He was not looking forward to this.
The debriefing contained a call from Admiral Gardner.
“Go ahead,” Jonathan said.
“You all look a bit tired,” Gardner said.
“None the worse for wear.”
“Still. Maybe we'll do the real debriefing later. But I do have some interesting news that may come out of this.”
“Oh?” said T'Pol. She was the only one in the room who was in uniform.
“This rescue involved an unprecedented cooperation among species. The Andorians, Vulcans and Tellarites were particularly helpful. Starfleet has taken the liberty of opening up negotiations with them. Once the Earth-Romulan War is concluded, we think this alliance should become more permanent. It just seems best to have our allies somewhat on call when we need them. Vice versa, of course, too.”
“Might mean more work for me,” Malcolm said.
“Or different work,” Travis stated.
Hoshi yawned, “Sorry. It's just been a long day. Uh, month. Uh, two months?”
“It is August twenty-sixth,” T'Pol said, “You were held captive for about three weeks.”
“That's all, eh?” Tripp said, “It sure felt longer. Like a lifetime,” he glanced over at Hoshi for just a second.
“We should adjourn, Admiral,” Jonathan said.
“Very well, Gardner out.”
“T'Pol, can you excuse us for just a minute?” Jonathan asked.
“I'll be on the Bridge,” she left.
“What are we gonna tell them?” Jonathan asked, “I am open to suggestions that don't involve out and out lying.”
“We were prisoners,” Malcolm said, fingering the cuff just a little bit. It had been more than that.
“Yeah, but the rest of it,” Travis said.
There was a communications chime. It was Phlox, “Ensign Sato, may I give you an examination now?”
“On my way,” she left.
Jonathan looked at them. Travis, Malcolm and Tripp – they all had good careers. Providing too much detail could blow it for any of them, let alone himself.
“The rest of it,” Tripp said, “is gonna be a lot trickier. What are we supposed to say about our private lives? About a married woman, and another one who's about to git married? How do we get that into Starfleet's official records without, well, without hurting people's feelings?”
“Or their careers,” Travis said, “I mean, Jennifer wasn't exactly, uh, willing,” he gulped, “She could sue me for harassment.”
“But she wouldn't, right?” Tripp said, “Right
“We have issues with the rank differences as well,” Jonathan said, “My own imbalanced, uh, relationship, is obvious. Travis, you and Jennifer at least are both Ensigns. But Tripp – you have the same issue with Hoshi. At least the Becketts are civilians now, otherwise we'd be seeing the same imbalance with both of them. He was a Lieutenant Commander when he retired – she was an Ensign when she quit.”
Phlox let Hoshi go. He stared at the four tubes in front of him. Each of them had a stick in it. He had already told who he needed to tell. He sighed and hit the Communicator.
“Phlox to the Main conference room.”
“Yes?” It was Jonathan's voice.
“You should have Mr. Beckett join you,” Phlox said, “What I need to say concerns him as well.”
Lili was back, and she sat with Joss and read to him, “And the big, bad wolf said, 'I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!' See, like this,” she demonstrated and Joss laughed.
There was a communications chime. Doug answered it, “Uh, okay,” he said, “Beckett out. Lili, they want me to go to the debriefing. I'll, uh, be back soon.”
“Okay,” she said, and then went back to the story.
Doug got to the Main conference room and looked around. He found a seat across from Tripp, “Okay, what can I help you with the debriefing?” he asked.
“This isn't about that. Doctor, tell him what you just told us.”
Phlox said, “Sperm has met ovum. I cannot go into more detail at this time.”
“Oh,” Doug parsed that out in his head. Someone was pregnant, “Who?”
“We have strict privacy regulations,” The doctor said, “Therefore I am not even able to tell you how many of the women are pregnant. We will do it this way, if there are no objections. Each of you will come to Sick Bay. You need to be examined anyway, so that will be the cover story. My understanding is that the pairings were monogamous, is that correct?”
“Y-yes,” Jonathan said.
“Very well,” Phlox continued, “You will come to Sick Bay. And I will still examine you. And you will also ask about one woman – the one you were paired with. No others
. The answer will be, of course, a positive or a negative. And the woman – or women – like I said, I am not even able to give you that as a particular – will be contacted. And you can decide how you wish to proceed as, well, as a couple. I suppose that's the right word.”
“Why all the mystery?” Travis asked.
“Privacy. Starfleet is very strict about this. Oh, and don't just flat out ask the women, please. As you can well imagine, this news is rather unsettling. Please follow directions and do as I ask.”
“Okay, um, Tripp, you go first,” Jonathan said, “Then Travis, then Malcolm.”
“No, sir,” Malcolm said, “It's a physical impossibility. I was paired with Mrs. Beckett. She can't get pregnant while she already is.”
Doug shot him another look.
“Of course that is true,” Phlox said.
“You are excused,” Jonathan said, “Doug, when do you want to, um, get examined?” His mouth tightened.
“I can go last,” he said, “I guess I need to have a talk.”
“We probably all do,” Jonathan said, “Phlox, you'll be discreet?”
“That is my oath as a physician. I have pieced together some of what happened, from the women's accounts. Clearly, this is not something you would wish to share with too many others. I will be here. Phlox out.”
“I guess I'm up first,” Tripp said.
“We're adjourned,” Jonathan said, “I'd wish you all luck, but, ha, getting lucky is what got us into this in the first place.”
Jennifer contacted Chip, “Can I talk to Frank Ramirez, on Enceladus?”
“Sure thing. And, welcome back. You can make it to your church on time,” he paused, “Ah, go ahead.”
Melissa then reached Chip, “Can I talk to Leonora Digiorno, on Ceres?”
“Righto. Just a sec.”
Doug got back to quarters, “Yimar, can you take Joss?”
“Sure,” she said, getting up from the desk, “Let's go see the puppy again.”
“Doug, we just got back here. We should spend time with him,” Lili said.
“No. We need to talk. Right now
Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick
There was a message on Malcolm's PADD. There were several, but he only wanted to read one.
The mining disaster turned out to be not quite so disastrous after all. Plus – Gawd – boring doctors trying to hit on me.
Anyway, I'll be on Earth a day early. So would you like to meet me at my hotel on the twenty-seventh? I'm at the Hotel Nikko.
I have all sorts of surprises. And I think you'll like the dress I've picked out for the reception. You'd call it fetching but you should really call it ravishing – and then be the one to do the ravishing, my knave.
See you then.
He punched the communications button, “Reed to Harris. Chris, can I get a shuttle ride to San Francisco a day early? I'll clear it with the Captain, of course.”
He got into the shower, wearing nothing but the cuff, “I don't know what I'm doing,” he said as the water rushed all over him, “I don't know my own mind, or my own heart, at all.”
Phlox and Tripp sat down to have a long chat while the first physical examination went on.