By Carol Sandford


Chapter 25


"It's just one element that's missing, professor. I just can't seem to find it. It's so frustrating. We're so near, and yet we might just as well be a million miles away. Damn it!"

Beverly was exhausted. she hadn't slept for near on twenty four hours. Her hair was matted, her eyes were bloodshot and she was being unbelievably cranky with everything and everyone.

Professor Jagla gently squeezed her shoulder and pulled her eyes away from the telescope that she was resolutely staring into, seeing everything, but nothing except failure. "I can't stop now," She wailed. "We're so close. So, so close."

He pulled her further away from the bench where they were working with determination. "Come and have a cup of tea with me. Fifteen minutes won't hurt, either way, and you need a break, my dear."

Jagla tugged her along like a petulant child towards her office, not letting her go until she sat in her chair, making sure that she was not going to move before he went to the replicator and ordered up two cups of sweetened tea and a giant sticky bun for them each to eat.

"He lowered himself into the chair opposite her and sighed with satisfaction as he picked up the sweet delicacy. "I have so missed this kind of luxury. I've been dying to sample the delights of your technology ever since I stepped off your transporter pad." And without further ado, he sank his teeth into the cake, closed his eyes and chewed with unashamed abandonment.

Beverly chuckled wearily as she watched him from across her desk. Slowly she began to break of delicate bits of her own bun and joined him in companionable quiet as they enjoyed the respite. But it wasn't long before the burning questions that ate away at her surfaced. "What can we do now, professor? Where else can we look for an answer? There simply has to be one. Something that we just haven't considered."

Staring with surprise into his now empty cup, Jagla got to his feet and promptly ordered another tea. As he lowered himself back into his chair, determined that they were not going to step back into the lab for at least an hour, he answered her. "Well, let's look at what we do know. We know it's an antibody that is needed to halt the degeneration of the disease, and we know that the foetus's own antibodies that it has developed in it miserably short life is the answer - almost. We've just need to find the missing link."

"We know all that, professor," Beverly snapped with impatience. "But what is the missing link?"

Unperturbed and unoffended by his colleagues cranky behaviour, he held his palm up to her. "I'm getting there." He soothed. "Let's go back to the beginning. We know that the Lanaarians are partly reptilian but mostly humanoid. The foetus that we tested has, we assumed, been a mixture of its parent. What if, just maybe, it is more reptilian than human. What if, over time, the race is changing; becoming more reptilian on a more baser lever. What if it is the humanoid factor that is the missing link."

Beverly Crusher was speechless as she considered what the man was telling her. Could it really be that simple? Could a simple human gene be the missing component that they so desperately searched for?

Beverly felt excitement surging through her veins as the possibilities filled her mind. Could it really be that simple? She made to stand but a sharp reprimand from the man opposite her had her quickly sitting again. "You are NOT going to move from that seat, doctor until you have had a rest."

"But!" she protested.

"But, nothing, Beverly. We've waited this long, we can wait for another half an hour, or so. Chill."

Beverly laughed outright. "Chill! Why, Professor Jagla, wherever did you hear such a term?"

The professor laughed right along with her. "Oh, I don't know. Somewhere, I guess. It is a good concept though, isn't it? Do an old man a favour and just do it for me, okay?"

Smiling, Beverly settled back into her chair and picked her cup again, taking a sip of the soothing drink. "Okay. I guess a little longer won't hurt." But even as she desperately tried to push the image of yet another Lanaarian dying down on the planet, she knew that if Jagla's latest theory didn't work, the entire Lanaarian race was going to die anyway.

Three quarters of an hour later the team were back in the lab and as they both stood with their hands in their pockets and surveyed the organised chaos that lay before them, it was Beverly who stated the obvious question. "So, where are we going to get a human gene from?"

Taking a deep breath, Jagla said, "Let's try one of us first, shall we. I'll be the guinea pig." He took of his white lab coat, rolled up his sleeve and held it out to the woman beside him. "Go right ahead. I promise I won't cry."

Chuckling, picked up the necessary tool and held it against his forearm. "I'll have you know I'm a very good doctor. I don't make my patients cry. Well, not anymore anyway." She added just for fun.

But moments later all traces of humour was gone as they began the laborious task of separating the much needed components of Jagla's sample to begin testing. One hour later they sighed with frustration once more. "It didn't work!" Beverly moaned.

But Jagla was less put off. "No, but that was just our first attempt. Now it's your turn. Come on, sleeve up."

Beverly stared at him for a long moment, not quite believing him. But even so, she did as she was asked, removed one arm of her blue lad jacket and held out her arm to him. Jagla took the sample and as before, they tested it.

And as before, they failed.

"It's no use!" Beverly cried again. It isn't the answer. It's not going to work."

This time when Jagla responded to her cry of despair their was anger in his voice. "Giving up already are you, doctor? I thought you were made of sterner stuff than that! We've not lost yet. We just need to..."

"Need to what, professor? Try a dog next, or Data's cat maybe. Maybe they hold the damn key!"

"Hold right up there, young madam! I've heard enough of that talk. We must be missing something obvious; something so simple that it's staring right at us. Come on, think, Beverly. Stop having hysterics and think, girl!"

As tears of frustration poured down Beverly's face she spun on heals at the old mans harsh words. Okay, maybe she was being a defeatist, and maybe she was so tired that she could no longer think straight. And maybe, just maybe, there really was no cure for the Lanaarian race.

Her feet did not take her very far. As she reached the lab door she forced herself to stop. Her beloved sickbay lay before. Her trusted staff continued their duties as quietly as they could, even though it was obvious by their posture that they had heard the heated words.

Guiltily, Beverly's eyes fell upon the sole resident of the sickbay and met the dark eyes of her friend as she sat up resting upon one arm watching her with sorrow. Beverly silently studied her, quickly noticing the pallor of her skin, the dishevelled state of her long hair, and the way that her free hand rested tenderly upon her barely swollen tummy, reminding Beverly that Deanna wasn't supposed to be subject to the level of stress that must be overwhelming her senses. Her baby's senses, too.

Beverly watched as Deanna pushed herself to a seated position, her eyes never leaving Beverly's. Slowly Beverly pushed herself away from the door frame and walked over to her. By the time she had reached her side, the tears were falling again. "We failed, Deanna. We can't save them."

Deanna reached for Beverly's hand and held it tightly. "You're exhausted, Beverly. You should be in this bed resting, not me. I should be doing what I'm on board this ship to do. Counselling. I should be helping you through this, Beverly. Not laying here, pregnant and useless."

Beverly swiped at her wet face with the back of her hand. "I'm sorry," She murmured. "I shouldn't have done that to you. I just..."

Deanna tugged gently at her hand, her voice was firm but still held the soothing quality that made her who she was. "Talk to me, Beverly. Let me help, if I can."

Beverly gave up the fight and sunk to the chair besides Deanna's bed. The same chair that she had last slept in. "You can't help, Deanna. Nobody can. We thought we'd found the answer using a humans antibody to complete the chain, but it didn't work. It was our last hope."

"Who's tissues did you use?" Deanna asked.

"My own and the professors. Either one should have held the answer, we hoped. They didn't."

"I heard you were you were using a Lanaarian's unborn baby to find the cure. Is that true?"

Beverly squirmed in her seat, reluctant to pursue the delicate situation, especially knowing that Deanna was expecting a child of her own. "Yes, but it's mother was already dead, otherwise we would never have..."

Deanna reached for Beverly's hand again, gripping it even harder than before, shaking it to force Beverly to meet her eyes. "You did what you had to do, Beverly. Don't ever feel guilty about that."

Deanna could only sit and watch as the tears continued to stream down Beverly's cheeks. After a few moments, Deanna's eyes rose to meet the professors as he came up behind Beverly, gently resting his aged hands upon her shoulders with an gesture of comfort.

As Deanna watched the scene for a while until she felt another sensation filter in between the solace. Curiosity. "What is it, professor?" Deanna asked.

But he directed his question at the woman beneath his kneading fingers. "What if the samples were too old, Beverly?"

"The tears stilled with a sniff. "What do you mean?"

"We're working with..." He looked up at Deanna briefly before continuing. "Juvenile material. What if our samples didn't match because they were too old."

Deanna felt and saw both sets of eyes fall to her stomach region, hidden beneath the silky sheath that covered her. Instinctively, her hand drifted to it as her eyes met the professors. "What are you saying?"

Before he could answer, Beverly pushed herself to her feet and turned on him. "No! I will not allow it."

"Allow what?" Deanna cried, a feeling that she knew what they were arguing about was already forming in her mind. But the pair had forgotten she was there.

"You know it's our last chance!"

"I will not allow her to be used, no matter what the cost!"

"It won't harm it. You know it won't, Beverly. Be reasonable!"

"No, absolutely not!

"Then all our work has been for nothing!"

"We'll find another way! I will not permit this to happen, professor. Deanna is my best friend!"

"Does someone want to tell me what all this ruckuss is about?!"

With a started gasp, all three occupants turned to face the captain who now stood in the open doorway with a look of utter disbelief upon his austere face.

Neither of the warring duo saw as Deanna slipped out of the bed and came to stand beside them. "They want to use my unborn baby to test to see if it is compatible for the cure. Only neither one of them has yet had the decency to ask me if I even want to help."

Captain Picard stepped further into the room and came to a halt before the three of them. He glanced at each of them in turn, his gaze staying a little longer on Beverly's before finally settling on Deanna. "And do you want to help, counselor?" He asked, with his heart in his throat.

All their eyes all dropped to Deanna's tiny waist as she settled her hand once more upon her child, she could only murmur brokenly, "Yes. Yes, I do, sir, no matter what it takes. I want to help the Lanaarians."

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