A Leap of Faith
by Becky Ratliff -- Part One
Rating: PG (language, violence)
DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations of the TV program "SPACE: Above and Beyond" are the creations of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Fox Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Likewise, the characters and situations of the TV program "Star Trek: the Next Generation" are the property of Paramount Pictures, and have been used without permission. Again, no copyright infringement is intended.
This is the second part of a cross-over series between "Space: Above and Beyond", and "Star Trek: the Next Generation", begun by Mike Lee in "A Requiem for Leonidas." That story should be read first.
Beverly Crusher made her way through a milling crowd of travellers as she stepped off the transporter dias. Debarking gates closed behind her as a group of people waiting to board the liner that had brought her here stepped up to their places for transport. When she got to the customs desk, a smiling female clerk welcomed her to Starbase Nine, and asked her to state her name and the purpose of her visit for identification purposes.
It had been six months since her retirement from Starfleet, and civilian clothing was still no more comfortable than civilian rituals like going through customs. Crusher smiled politely and replied to the voice authenticator, "Dr. Beverly Crusher, Medical Research."
"Do you have anything to declare?"
She shook her head, and held up a finger for the customs officer to take a drop of blood. When the test indicated that she was not a Changeling, the customs officer smiled and gave her a small padd locating her quarters and containing other information that she might find useful. She said, "Should you need anything during your visit, please feel free to ask the assistance of any of the station's staff. Have a pleasant stay!"
Crusher picked up the small grav-sled carrying her belongings from the next counter down, and like an obedient little dog it followed her at heel as she entered the station proper.
Her host, Dr. Alec Kellemeyer, was waiting on the concourse. Since the last time she had seen him twelve years before, his hair had gone completely white, and there were deep lines around his warm hazel eyes. He greeted her with a hug. "Beverly, it's so good to see you again!"
"Alec. Likewise. How are you?"
"Fine! Have you had breakfast?"
"Yes, aboard the ship," she replied.
"Then let's drop off your things and get right to work!" Kellemeyer suggested, with his typical enthusiasm. Crusher picked up her pace to keep up with his businesslike stride. When they reached her quarters, she opened the door, motioned the grav-sled inside, and paused only to collect her lab coat from one of her bags.
"Beverly, why the interest in brain-stem glioma? It's a very rare form of brain tumor, there isn't a lot of research going on."
By now, she had the story well-rehearsed. "Personal reasons, Alec. A friend was diagnosed with it. In this case, the usual surgical treatments are not an option. The research you're doing with chemotherapy may be his only chance."
"We've had the drugs for years. The trouble with that has been delivering the exact dosages needed with pinpoint accuracy, so that we kill the tumor without the highly lethal side effects that would otherwise result. Any techniques we've had to do that before, well, when you got in close enough to do that, you'd might as well take the damned thing out and be done with it. Then we made the acquaintance of the borg. Let me show you what I mean."
Beverly followed his gaze to a wall screen. "Have you done any reading on how the borg assimilate a victim?" He asked.
"Nanotechnology," she replied. "I'm sure it would be an intriguing field of study if I could find the scientific detachment that would be required. I'm sorry, Alec, but I can't."
Alec chuckled. "It helps that I've never seen a live one, Beverly, much less faced one over a phaser. My borg research has been confined to holomodels and dissection of cadavers. But nanotechnology is the operative word. What we've done here is to steal their use of nanomachines and turn it to our own purposes, in an extremely limited way." He directed her attention to a wall screen. "Computer. Play back the factory sequence."
The screen came to life, revealing a classic dissection of a brain stem glioma. The view zoomed in to show just a few cells of the tumor near a blood vessel.
Alec said, "Now watch this."
A tiny machine smaller than one of the cancer cells travelled along the vein. When it came to the cancer cell, it latched onto the capillary wall and began to chew its way through. Sacrificing just one cell in the capillary wall, the nanomachine reached the tumor's surface. Soon it was joined by others of its kind, and they linked to form a larger machine, destroying tumor cells as necessary to make room for themselves. As Crusher watched, the little machine -- still far too small to be seen by the naked eye -- began to collect raw materials from the blood stream and convert them into the powerful drugs needed to combat the glioma. At first a few cells at a time, but then in increasing numbers, the tumor cells died, leaving surrounding brain tissue unharmed.
"Alec, that's amazing! I can think of a hundred uses for this technology!"
"And there are probably a hundred researchers working on it. For obvious reasons, though, it isn't wise to say the word 'borg' too loudly -- people tend to get paranoid. We prefer to stick to nanotechnology or just plain chemotherapy around here. But in just a few years I can see this technology reshaping the whole face of medical technology as we know it." Kellemeyer directed her attention back to the screen. "That was only a tiny part of the glioma, as small as it is. When the nanomachines finish their work, they separate, return to the bloodstream, and patrol until they find more tumor cells. Then the process repeats itself."
"So... no matter how often the glioma recurs... it can't reach dangerous proportions."
"That's correct. In theory, the last few cells should be the hardest to find, but eventually the nanomachines should get it all."
"How long do they stay operational?"
"Under normal conditions, three or four hundred years," Alec grinned. "That's assuming that the patient subjects them, and himself, to the stupidest combination of pollutants and radiation that he could find without killing himself outright. It could be indefinitely for a patient with common sense. It isn't shown here, but damaged nanomachines are collected and recycled."
Crusher realized her mouth was open and made herself close it. It was a moment before she could ask, "How specific are these things?"
"Very. They have to be designed to recognize the type of cancer cell that they're to destroy."
"Is there a problem with rejection?"
"No, the nanomachines appear to the immune system to be normal cells, so they aren't attacked. That's something else we stole from the borg, at the same time that we're working on a defense against it. You see, if we can cause the immune system to recognize and destroy borg-injected nanomachines, then we can effectively create a vaccine against assimilation. But that's T'Rana's project at the Science Academy. Would you like to visit some actual patients?"
"Would I ever!"
In a lot of ways, having the cure was worse, because there was still no way to get it to Ross' universe. Crusher could do little now except watch Giordi La Forge work on the problem.
La Forge was staying at his San Francisco apartment while the Enterprise was in drydock. It had taken a lot of delicate work to repair his cybernetic eyes, and Crusher had made sure he hadn't worked too hard on the refit immediately following his release from the hospital. He'd gone back to studying the Prospero data on his own during that time, to keep himself distracted from the inaction. She just didn't understand that he was used to working twelve hour days, and if she restricted him to one four hour watch each day, he had to fill up the remaining eight hours with something! It had been a humbling experience, as well, to realize that his junior engineers could manage perfectly well without him hanging around ... in fact, they thought they got more work done when he wasn't underfoot. So ... he had decided to challenge Beverly's windmill in his own way.
He ran his hand through his short hair and studied the data in front of him. It was starting to look like the windmill might have to give a little ground. "Computer, monitor all subspace frequencies in bands gamma and epsilon apparently originating from the wormholes on list 17. Eliminate all signals from verifiable sources." He thought again. It wouldn't really help their purposes to monitor chig transmissions, though someone might later be interested in that. "Document the remaining signals. Display only those signals transmitted in Human/English. Put on audio."
What he got was a cacophony. He shut it off and smacked his forehead. He'd forgotten the time differential. "Computer. Adjust playback for the temporal offset."
Now the voices came through clearly. He whooped loudly enough to scare the neighbor's cat as it prowled for birds outside his window. After the extensive study at the Guardian of Forever, study of radio signals from other places and times was not a very romantic field of study any more. Too many other scholars had already been there and done that. But in this case... "Computer. Can you give me coordinates for that signal?"
He was expecting general, astronomical coordinates.
What the computer gave him were transporter coordinates.
Giordi sat down hard.
A few days later, La Forge and Crusher studied the results of his discovery. "You're sure about this, Giordi? You can transport someone onto one of their ships?"
"Yeah, but it's a one way trip. There would be no way to get a lock on the person to bring them back. You see, when those ships activate their Eckerly drive to make transit, they essentially create their own tiny wormhole. Wormholes interact, that's what creates the moire patterns that you see."
"That's how Glen got pulled into our universe in the first place."
"More or less." Giordi licked his lips. "The difference is that these man-made wormholes are obviously manufactured. We can home right in on them."
"Enough to get a transporter lock."
"To send," he emphasized. "You know basic transporter theory. To transport, you need to have a lock on the area at the other end, and the pattern of the person being transported. Obviously, if you're sending someone, you have his pattern. What you need is to be able to land him safely. That's why for any number of reasons sometimes we can't beam down. Beaming up, on the other hand, you know the area -- of course -- your own transporter platform! The trick is to get a lock on the person wanting to beam up. We use our communicators and the ships' sensors for that." He took a deep breath. "All we know about these ships' universe comes from their radio transmissions and from the signals they produce in transit. For a brief period of about sixty to ninety seconds, we can get a very good fix on the ship itself. We can beam down. But I can't see any way to get any kind of a lock on a person inside to beam them back up. Whoever goes isn't coming back."
Crusher said, "I'm going."
"You're going to spend the rest of your life there." He shook his head. "It's crazy."
"Giordi, Glen saved all our lives. Now he is going to die without my help. Is there really anything else to consider?"
"Yeah. Who should go."
"Someone who has very little here to keep her, when you think about it. I have no family. I have no job responsibilities right now. I'm free to go where ever I want."
"You have friends who care about you. Friends who don't want to see you spend the rest of your life in some godforsaken hole of a primitive little dictatorship--" Giordi cut that off abruptly.
Beverly reached across the table to take his hand. "It can't be like that. Do you know of any primitive little dictators who would allow a man like Glen Ross to command a ship of the line? They may not always see things the way we do, and their society certainly is more restricted. But I cannot believe they don't hold most of the same values that we do. There's a lot of bad right here at home, if you want to go looking for it."
Giordi sighed. "I can't put the genie back in the bottle, can I?"
"Nope. If you'd never taken it out, I would have found another bottle. I trust you to get me there safely."
San Francisco Bay was calm this morning. The sun had not yet risen high enough over the mountains to burn off the morning mist, and there was a chill in the air. There was always a hush in this hallowed place, even during the day when there were crowds here. Now, alone with only the white marble walls rising like spires to the blue sky, Crusher thought it felt like a cathedral. She smoothed the lines of her uniform, the last time she would wear it.
These walls bore the names of all the Starfleet personel who had died in the line of duty. She went first to the panel where she knew her husband's name was. Many times over the years she had come here, she knew exactly where it was located. She ran her fingers over his name, the rest of the names of the Stargazer's crew. She would not be back here to remember again. They hadn't planned it this way ... she remembered when Wesley had been born, how happy they had been. They had thought they would grow old together and hold grandchildren in their arms .... There was still an emptiness after all these years, but by now she accepted that it would never be filled. There might be other loves but nothing would ever take the place of that one.
She walked on down the line of memorial stones. So many, many names of people lost to the borg. She paused here and there when she passed a name she knew.
The last stone still felt new. It still wanted the rain and the wind and the sun to weather it, to give it the timeless aura of its fellows.
Will. Deanna. Together forever in death as they had never found a way to be in life. That Betazoid word ... imzadi ... that meant so much Deanna had never been quite able to translate. Crusher's grief for them was no worse than for any of the others, but it was newer, still raw and fresh. At last the tears came.
People came here and honored their dead in so many ways, prayers said and incense burned to gods whose names she did not even know, songs sung in languages from all across the Federation. Beverly was not sure how to say goodbye, this last time she would ever come here. In the end, as the sun set the graceful lines of the Golden Gate bridge alight and dispelled the shadows between the stones, she chose to remember the good and happy times she had shared with those gone before.
Some time later, she was aware of a presence nearby. Jean-Luc. Not unexpected, certainly welcome. After a long moment, the two of them turned toward the UFP flag flying where the waves met the sand, came to attention and saluted sharply. They walked back to the shelterhouse near the entrance to the park.
"I thought I might find you here, Beverly."
"I couldn't leave without saying goodbye.... How is the refit coming?"
"We'll be ready to sail in ten days."
Beverly nodded. "There's always an Enterprise."
Picard asked, "Beverly, are you sure this is what you want to do?" He took her hand in his. "You know there won't be any way back. Whatever happens, you'll be marooned there, and it sounds like a terrible place."
"Jean-Luc, I could never live with myself if I didn't try." She looked into his eyes and saw understanding there. Understanding, and yet another sorrow. "Oh, my dear friend, don't look at me that way! How can I explain? It's ... a leap of faith. Whatever happens, for once I'm sure I'm doing the right thing. I'm at peace with that."
"You know, I always thought that someday you and I...." He let his voice trail off, but he was smiling.
"So did I...."
"Are you in love with him?"
She watched the waves roll in as she tried to find an answer. After a time, she said quietly, "He probably won't even know me. I only knew him for a few hours, under extraordinary circumstances. But ... my heart says yes."
"I gave up grand adventures when I took on my choice of responsibilities, Beverly, but I still hear their siren call. I envy you this chance to sail out into the great unknown. I wish you well, my friend, and I will miss you."
After all these years, after everything that they had come through together, it was so easy and natural to come into each other's arms. This farewell was the hardest one. "Goodbye, Captain ... and godspeed."
McQueen tapped at Ross' hatch. "Enter." He was surprised to find Ross messing with something on a drawing pad instead of playing his guitar. Curious, he walked around to see what his friend was doing. At Ross' nod, he glanced at the computer screen. Neither one of them had any artistic talent to speak of, but with a good interactive art program and a little patience, anyone could turn out a drawing that looked more or less like what was intended. Ross was doing a portrait of a beautiful woman about their age. He had drawn her with her hair shorter than most women wore it. Her eyes had a kind expression, gentle and caring.
"Who is she?" McQueen asked finally.
"Damned if I know, but I've been dreaming about her. It started during the battle of Ixion." He laughed. "You're gonna think I'm crazy, Ty. I call her my angel. Seems like when something's heavy on my mind, she shows up in my dream, and I know that things will work out somehow. She's probably just a figment of my imagination."
McQueen studied the image on the screen for a moment longer. "She's one hell of a good-looking hallucination, sir."
Ross laughed and clicked a couple of commands to make the art program darken the woman's eyes a shade or two. He still didn't have the color exactly right. And her hair, he admitted, should have just a little more gray in it around the temples. "That she is, my friend. That she is indeed." He saved the file and put the drawing pad back in his desk drawer.
Crusher looked around nervously. For all the build-up, the transport had gone just like any other. She was really here, with all her bridges burned behind her. This universe was going to be her home from now on!
She could feel a deep vibration through the metal deck plates that must be the engines running. The air had a stale, canned, chemical smell. The passageway she was in felt narrow and cramped, nothing like the wide, brightly lit corridors on the Enterprise. Everything was painted the same dark gray. She could hear noises all around her, the everyday hum of an inhabited ship that she knew so well, and other sounds that were completely strange to her ... mechanical things that were the Saratoga's pulse beat.
Approaching footsteps sent her scurrying for a hiding place. The first two hatches she tried didn't open when she waved her hand in front of the pad on the facing. Then she spotted the card slot, but didn't have time to try to figure that out. She ducked through the first open hatch she came to, which happened to be a small galley of some sort. There was nowhere in there to hide. She heard voices from the passageway.
"Watch out, Joe, we're right on top of the intruder."
"How the hell could an intruder get in here?"
"Damn AI, had to be."
Two no-nonsense Marines came through the hatch, rifles at the ready. When they told Crusher to freeze, and then to get her hands in the air, she wasn't inclined to argue with them!
Maurice Nordstrom knew an opportunity when one came knocking at his door. He didn't know how the spy had got aboard the Saratoga, but that didn't matter. She wasn't going anywhere, and the company could appropriate her from military custody whenever it pleased. He was less concerned with the spy herself than with the contents of the innocuous little makeup case she'd been carrying. Lipsticks didn't give off energy readings. He hadn't been surprised to find a container inside. If it was an explosive, it had to be a hell of a powerful one to be that small. He suspected it was something else ... something that was going to be worth a lot of money to Dr. Maurice Nordstrom.
It would be too dangerous to try to get a call out from the Saratoga. They weren't far from a wormhole that led to a company facility at Freya. Nordstrom decided that it would be better to figure out what he had, then report in from there.
Beverly Crusher settled down onto the bunk in the small cell and pulled her knees up to her chest, lacing her fingers around her ankles. The sour expression on her face daunted the young Marine guard who had been tempted to give her a hard time, one glare at the snippy little blonde sent her back to her station where she belonged.
Crusher had to admit that she wasn't really mad at the guard, she was angry at herself for getting herself locked up in the first place. She should have been able to gather from her conversations with Glen that this wasn't the Federation, it was a police state, and she should have seen this coming! Why should she expect them to do something reasonable, like hear her out, or call the ship's counselor to find out if she might just possibly be telling the truth...? No, they'd thrown her right in the brig. She decided that if they were going to put her up in front of a firing squad, she didn't want a blindfold, and she wasn't going to smoke any damned cigarette.
She heard the hatch open and looked out curiously. A tall silver-haired man in a black uniform was talking to the guard. They were apparently discussing her-- anyway, the guard pointed back to her cell-- but Crusher couldn't quite hear their conversation. The man came back there and stood glaring at her long enough to make her very nervous. His name was McQueen. She tried to remember what his insignia meant from her military history classes back at the academy, but that had just been too many years ago.
God. What if they thought she really was an enemy spy. If they'd already made up their minds about that, then she and Glen were both already as good as dead.... What if they wanted information from her about the enemy? What had Glen called them -- chigs? She wouldn't know one if she fell over it, but she couldn't expect them to believe that! Looking at the man on the other side of the bars, Crusher was suddenly very aware that she wasn't in the Federation any more and none of the rules applied. She might be in for a very bad time if she didn't come up with some good answers right away! She tried to remember when the Geneva Convention had been, in her history ... and when anyone had actually started paying attention to it. With a sinking feeling, she thought that it was probably sometime well after the First Contact!
He was direct and to the point. "Who are you and what are you doing aboard the Saratoga?"
"My name is Beverly Crusher. I'm a doctor." She looked her interrogator in the eyes. All right, McQueen, I'm going to have to trust someone, and it had might as well be you! She took a deep breath and launched into her story, pitching her voice too low for the guard to hear. She told him the whole thing, from the time the Enterprise had found Ross at the Prospero III research facility, until she had followed him here. McQueen listened to her with a minimum of interruptions, just a few questions here and there.
When she got to the end of it, McQueen looked at her for another long moment. "Why would you take a risk like that for someone you don't even know?"
Crusher said, "Because he saved our lives at Prospero III. Everyone on board the Enterprise would have been killed if it hadn't been for his good thinking. And what's more than that, he handed the Klingons a defeat that probably prevented a war and saved hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides! We owe him for that -- we owe him far too much to let him come back here and die for nothing, when we have a way to help!" She crossed to the bars and looked him in the eye, almost pleading now. "You may not understand, but I'll wager Glen does. Something he said to me before he left ... he said he and a friend of his were talking about impossible situations. That sometimes it's necessary to do what you know to be the right thing, even if you know it will cost your life. Glen didn't have to stay and fight with us. We could have sent him home before the Klingons reached Prospero III. But he decided to stay and fight and die with us if he had to, because he refused to abandon us there to die alone. I could not leave him here to die alone for the same reasons! He won't remember me -- but if you will just ask him, I'm sure he will remember that conversation with his friend!"
She nearly fell over from shock when McQueen's severe expression softened into something that was almost a smile. "I'm certain he will, Dr. Crusher. You see, I was the friend he was talking about, and to my knowledge no one else was privy to our discussion about Leonidas. There's no way that you could have known about it unless Commodore Ross told you." He entered a series of numbers into his commlink. "McQueen here. Could you meet me in the brig?"
Ross' rich chuckle came over the small speaker and washed over Crusher like cool water. "Do I need to bring my debit card to bail you out?"
That actually got a short chuckle from McQueen. Crusher suspected that Ross might well have been called upon to bail this guy out of jail at one time or another. "You aren't going to believe this, sir, unless you see it with your own two eyes."
"All right, Ty, I'll be there in a little while."
Dr. Walker typed a couple of commands to put Ross' scan up on the wall viewer. "Glen, I'm sorry. Dr. Crusher is absolutely right about your condition. The tumor is there, exactly as she described it to me."
Ross felt McQueen's hand close over his shoulder, silently lending comfort and strength. "What's the prognosis, Brian?"
"With this kind of a tumor, it's hard to say. It's very small. At this stage we would have missed it if we hadn't known what to look for. It could grow very slowly, it might be years before you have any symptoms at all. Even then, there are drugs that will slow the growth of the tumor."
"But you can't operate?"
"No. I wouldn't recommend the attempt, Glen. You'd be throwing away whatever time you have left, and with cancer treatments that we have available now, it can be good time. I'm not saying you're going to drop dead tomorrow! You can finish your career, or -- I'd be a damn fool to try to talk you into getting out before the end of the war -- but after that, if you want you can take a medical and spend a few years doing whatever you have planned. You won't see a hundred. But you might see fifty-five or sixty, if you take care of yourself and treat this aggressively. Thanks to Dr. Crusher, it's been found very early, and that means a lot. We can treat the headaches, and any other symptoms that come up. Your quality of life should be normal until the last stages of the disease." Walker's voice was heavy, it wasn't easy to give that kind of news to a friend.
"Life surely does throw us a few curves, doesn't it, gentlemen? I never expected to die of old age, but it never occurred to me it would be something like this." Ross let McQueen's strength carry him over for a moment longer while he gathered his composure. Then he stood. "I think we had better get that lady out of the brig before she has us all up before a court-martial for false arrest," he said.
"I'll attend to it immediately, sir."
Out in the passageway, Ross said, "McQueen, don't start the wake yet. I do not believe that lady took the risk of coming here without a plan, however hairbrained it might have been. She's been right so far. I'm not going to make any changes in my will until I find out if she's right about the rest of it. Bring her up to my office after you get her sprung from the brig."
Crusher felt a lot more comfortable when she emerged from the head wearing her own clothes. She dropped the bundle of prison garments on the desk and glared at the guard. "I'd appreciate the return of my belongings, please!"
The guard unlocked a safe and pulled out a large ziplock bag. Crusher spread out comb and mirror, pen and pad, other miscellaneous things she'd had in her pockets. "Where's the little blue case?"
"There was a little blue case. With a zipper. About this big." She held up her hand to indicate something vaguely the size of a cigarette lighter or a deck of bridge cards. McQueen saw that her hand was trembling, and her face had gone white.
The guard glanced at McQueen, then got a log. "Apparently Dr. Nordstrom examined your belongings while you were being put in your cell. He's the only one who's had access--"
Crusher turned to McQueen. "We have to get that case back!"
McQueen got on the line and gave orders for Nordstrom to be found and held. Presently, though, it was reported that Nordstrom had left the ship aboard his transport. Immediately McQueen gave orders for the ship's patrol squadrons to locate the transport and return it to the Saratoga. He headed for the bridge so fast that Crusher almost had to run to keep up with him. He informed Ross of this development on the way.
Ross met them on the bridge. Crusher faded into the background. She had spent a great deal of time on the bridge of a starship, she knew how to stay out of the way of people who were working until her opinion was requested. Both Ross and McQueen almost forgot about her presence until Vansen reported in that they had chased the Aerotech ISSCV to a wormhole and the Aerotech vessel had gone through. "Request permission to follow, sir!"
McQueen asked, "Where does that damn wormhole go?"
"Freya, sir, there's a minor agro colony listed there. It's Aerotech, sir."
"Permission granted, Captain Vansen."
Crusher said urgently to Ross, "Glen, I have to talk to you."
"My office," he said shortly. As he handed off the conn, he ordered, "Notify me immediately as soon as there's any word about that Aerotech transport."
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Once the hatch closed behind them, Crusher said, "Glen, we have to get the case back. The nanomachines are in a vial that keeps them in a state of stasis. Once they're injected they'd get the fuel and raw materials they need from your bloodstream. But if Nordstrom opens the vial the clock starts ticking, they'll run out of power in twenty-four hours. If that happens, I won't have any way to restart them!"
McQueen looked at Ross. "By the time they go through the wormhole and travel to Freya, they'll be nearly twelve hours out. We could be putting a fine edge on it, sir."
Ross grinned. "It's a hell of a lot easier to apologize than to get permission, Colonel. Ready my launch for a ... routine maintenance flight. And tell the XO I need to see her right away." He looked at Crusher. "Ready for a little counterspying, Doctor Crusher?"
She found herself grinning back. "What the hell, I've already got arrested once as a spy today."
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