In the main briefing room, Captain Limis was in a teleconference with Admiral Temlek, who appeared on the left half of the screen and Admiral Jellico, appearing on the right half of the screen. Despite all the efforts to avoid the Romulan patrol, word had still gotten out to their military command about the Lambda Paz
’s rogue mission. Limis certainly knew that had to have been the case when ships identified as Romulan fighter shuttles opened fire on her ship, although the chances that their pilots would send out word that got all the way to Temlek seemed remote. But now that such an outcome was the case, Jellico was certain to come down on her.
“This is an outrage,”
Temlek spat, wagging his forefinger at the viewer. “I made it perfectly clear on behalf of the Romulan Star Navy that no Federation vessel was to enter that system. I can assure you in no certain terms that we will lodge a formal protest with both the Senate and the Federation Council.”
“You should be careful how you word that protest,” Limis offered with a grin. “Or you run the risk of revealing classified Tal Shiar activities, especially considering two Romulan interceptors opened fire on us as we were making our escape.”
“As I said before,”
Temlek insisted with a sigh, “we have not conducted any covert operations inside the Dyson Sphere that you have just disabled. Any vessels of our design were crewed by individuals acting without our authorization.”
“Let us not lose sight of the fact,”
Jellico chimed in, “that Captain Limis was not acting under Starfleet orders.”
While she could understand that Jellico was trying calm Temlek, Limis still could not help but be offended that Jellico appeared willing to throw her under the air tram, lending more credence to her suspicions that Section 31 had made some special arrangement with the Tal Shiar, and that the secret bureau was setting Limis up to be their fall person.
“Whether Captain Limis was obeying or disobeying orders is of no consequence to us,”
Temlek replied. “This action will not go unchallenged.”
“In other words,” Limis offered, “you’re willing to make a fuss about a violation of territory that will more than likely go back to the Federation after the war is over-- territory that’s now useless to the Tal Shiar.”
Temlek grinned devilishly and sat back in his chair. “You are a skilled negotiator, Captain,”
he said. “I will grant you that. And that is why we will hold off on filing an official complaint until after the war. You still violated an agreement our two powers signed in good faith.”
And before anyone could respond, he signed off.
Limis scoffed at Temlek’s obvious falsehood, even as Jellico still wanted a few words with her.
“I’m sure that eventually the Council will put enough pressure on the Romulan Senate to admit to this Tal Shiar operation,” Jellico plainly stated. “But that hardly makes up for your actions in this matter, Captain.”
Limis immediately knew where this was going after her last confrontation with the admiral. He was determined to find some excuse to have her court martialed after some incriminating evidence had been uncovered. “If you want to court martial me after the war, go right ahead,” she said jovially. “At least I can live with the fact that we have a better chance of winning that war.”
She quickly cut the transmission before Jellico could respond. Alone with her thoughts now, she suddenly wasn’t so sure she could live with the possibility of going back to the Jaros Two penal colony. And even worse, she’d certainly get an earful from Temporal Investigations if word ever got out regarding her use of advanced technology from seven hundred years in the future.
This was becoming part of the daily routine ever since Aurellan Markalis had discovered that Shinar sh’Aqba was pregnant. Markalis was, herself, in uncharted territory in terms of dealing with a pregnancy that the Andorian shen
could not carry to term. This case was also uncharted territory for the entire Starfleet medical community with interspecies pregnancies being a rarity among Andorians.
Aurellan was now in the process of prescribing Shinar various medications. And both of them were holding in amusement that they had not interacted with one another, despite having been shipmates for almost two years, until more recently.
“Take this estrogen and progesterone cocktail once a day,” she explained to her patient, handing sh’Aqba two hyposprays. “I’ve also prepared an isratropine derivative to reduce blood pressure. It won’t be as effective, but it’s a necessary drawback during your pregnancy and because of the immuno-suppressant you’re taking. As for further relieving stress, I’d suggest one of many meditation programs. And I cannot say this enough…”
“I know. I know,” Shinar interrupted with a nod of embarrassment. “I should lighten my workload. Easier said than done.”
“You’re going to have to find a way to delegate amongst your staff,” Aurellan warned her firmly, while trying her best to sound caring towards the patient and her unborn child. “The Andorian medical databases have very little on interspecies pregnancies.”
“I completely understand.”
“If you have any other questions,” Aurellan said with a few slow backward steps towards the main entrance, “you know where to find me.”
Aurellan excused herself and headed out of sickbay. She passed by Tarlazzi on her way out and greeted him with an annoyed nod, their heated exchange still fresh in her mind.
Shinar could barely hide her embarrassment, as once again her lover was paying her a visit in sickbay. Of course, sooner or later, she was going to have to reveal the true reason behind her frequent trips to the medical ward.
“A recurrence of the ‘Turrelian fever’, I assume?” he said with a slight grin.
“Erhlich, I haven’t been entirely honest with you,” Shinar stammered while taking a few nervous breaths. She craned her neck towards the empty office, motioning for Erhlich to follow her there. Once inside the office, she took a seat in one of the guest chairs, and he followed suit.
“I’m pregnant,” she earnestly continued. “And you’re the father.”
Tarlazzi arched his head downward and breathed slowly, trying to fane surprise. But sh’Aqba saw right through it, lowering her head to the same eye level he was on.
Erhlich arched his head backward and let out an embarrassed sigh. “Okay, I suspected,” he conceded. “I didn’t want to believe it even after I read up on the major symptoms of Turrelian fever. But I’ll support any decision you make about involving me in the child’s upbringing.”
Shinar exhaled slowly at having heard those last two words. “I don’t want to think about that right now,” she said, hoping to calm the overwhelming feelings rushing through her mind. “I’m more concerned with eventually finding a surrogate.”
“Oh, yeah, that,” Erhlich said with a chuckle, as he recalled certain idiosyncrasies unique to Andorian sexes. “I never thought this would happen to us. How foolish of me. I know I’ve said this before many times, but you don’t have to face all of this alone.”
Those kind words almost moved Shinar to tears. Maybe the elevated hormones were causing that, she had hoped. She smiled and leaned closer to Erhlich, resting the palms of her hands on both his cheeks. “I’m glad to hear it,” she told him. “You can never say it enough. Whether we raise this child together or what we have right now doesn’t last, I hope you can be part of this child’s life.”
She felt her abdomen, hoping to establish some sort of mental bond, even though the embryo’s brain had not yet formed. For the first time, this other lifeform inside of her felt like a real person rather than a compilation of newly formed cells. She and Erhlich moved their heads closer and kissed on the lips.
As Erhlich wrapped his around Shinar’s shoulders and stroked her white hair, Q appeared in front of him gave an approving thumbs-up. Still certain that Q hadn’t given this news out of the goodness of his heart, Erhlich just gave him a wide-eyed stare of disapproval.
Aurellan and the EMH had gotten together for another evening of dinner and dancing. But within a few seconds of holding each other in their arms, they were locked in a passionate embrace. As they were kissing, they took long steps towards the sofa. The hologram slowly slipped both his hands up to her shoulders and slipped off her translucent midnight blue wraparound. He then slipped one hand down her back and touched the zipper of her strapless dress with his thumb and forefinger.
Aurellan’s eyes widened in shock, and she took her hands off the EMH’s hips and pulled her lips away from his. They had never discussed including a sexual component in their relationship, but here he was, trying to undress her during just their third date. “What are you doing?” she asked.
The EMH took his hands off her while looking similarly confused. “This is the third date,” he matter-of-factly explained. “That’s when couples first have sexual intercourse.”
Aurellan scoffed and picked up her wraparound off the floor, as she turned away from the hologram, not sure how to respond to that statement. “Where did you hear that?” she asked. Of course, she had recalled reading various treatises on romantic partnerships. But those were all by authors who had differing opinions on the appropriate time for couples to start having sex and who had no legitimate scientific credentials whatsoever.
“I downloaded some new data on the subject of courtship into my program,” the holographic innocently declared. “After the last date, I felt like I was doing everything you wanted. I had hoped to be… better prepared.”
Aurellan stared at a wall and felt a chill on her skin, prompting her to drape the wraparound back on her shoulders while still looking away from the hologram. She was not sure whether to be flattered by his desire to be “better prepared” or creeped out at the idea that he researched literature on having sex.
After the uneasy feelings passed, she sighed and looked back at the EMH. "We really need to communicate these rather sensitive issues,” she said. “It still feels premature. For that matter, who decided the standard first date is dinner and a movie? We don’t have to do what everyone
else does. What matters is how we feel about each other. That we care about each other and accept each other in a way no one else does. That’s what love is. When there’s that one person who distracts you from your work, the person you can’t stand to be separated from. We don’t necessarily need to validate it with a sexual liaison.”
“I think I understand,” the EMH replied, noticing that Aurellan was still keeping her distance from him. “Of all the people on this ship, you are certainly the most fascinating. And while I don’t succumb to distraction, you are in a figurative sense an integral part of my life… or program. I have grown accustomed to your sensory input patterns as much as you have to mine.”
Aurellan chuckled and held a hand to her mouth while fighting back tears at the same time. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me,” she said. “And I was worried I was moving this relationship too fast.” She took two quick steps towards, and they shared a long open-lip kiss.