Joelle laid down on the examining table so Dr. Crusher could run some more tests to figure out what was in her brain. Joelle felt a bit nervous, not knowing what the doctor might find. She looked over at Data who looked relaxed.
“Do not worry,” Data said, noticing her concerned look. “Dr. Crusher will find out what is wrong and help you.”
“I’m not sure I can, Data,” Dr. Crusher said, looking at the computer screen. “But I will find a way. It looks to be some kind of parasitic alien.”
“I have an alien in my brain? Where did it come from?” Joelle asked, looking at the screen. “Do you think I got it from time travelling?”
“I believe that whoever abducted you, planted the parasite inside of you,” Dr. Crusher said with a pause. “As a tracking device.”
“But why would they want to track me?” Joelle said. “I saw their ship explode.”
Dr. Crusher shrugged. “Just another added mystery. I’m going to find a way to remove this parasite from your brain. In the meantime, I recommend taking it easy and don’t get yourself worked up.”
“That might be a bit difficult to do,” Joelle said, a small chuckle. “I’m a nervous wreck.”
Dr. Crusher chuckled. “I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out, with the help of Data.”
“Yes, of course. I am very good at keeping one’s mind busy,” Data said, a slight smile.
“Well, you two have fun with whatever it is you will be doing. In the meantime, I will get started on finding out a way to get this thing out of you,” Crusher said, getting busy with her duties.
Joelle slid off the table, losing her balance. Data caught her just in time. They locked eyes and he titled his head curiously as he noticed a different way she was looking at him. Maybe it was all in his head or maybe it was so.
“I guess I’m a little shaky from what happened,” Joelle said, her face beet red with embarrassment. “I’m a bit unsteady.”
“I can carry you if you need me to,” Data offered, helping her get her balance.
She shook her head. “I’m okay.”
“Ms. Carter,” Data said, as they walked out of sickbay. “I have something I would like to show you. I believe it will put your mind at ease and comfort you.”
She nodded and followed him to his quarters. As soon as the door opened, he stepped aside to allow her to enter first. Joelle made a face and shook her head.
“I’m not sure I want to…” she said, taking a peek inside.
“I will enter first,” Data said, taking a few steps and waiting for her.
She figured he wasn’t going to take no for an answer so she followed him inside hesitantly. Joelle looked around his quarters curiously. It looked like a normal living space.
“Please, make yourself at home,” Data said, disappearing around the corner that led to a bedroom.
As soon as she sat down on the sofa, Data returned with a feline in his arms. Joelle’s eyes grew big as he laid the cat in her lap who happily made herself comfortable where she was laid.
“Such a beautiful creature,” Joelle said gleefully. “I love her.”
“She is not the only beautiful creature here,” Data said, as if he didn’t think about it.
Joelle shot a glance at him, not knowing if he was talking about her but he was looking at her. He had never taken his eyes off of her after he said that.
“Data, I’m…” Joelle began but he interrupted her.
“You are very interesting to me, Ms. Carter,” Data said, laying his hand on top of hers. “I have been trying to understand you from the first time we met. Although you have not told me much about yourself, what I have gathered is simply from admiring you.”
“You admire me?” Joelle asked, not believing what she was hearing coming from his mouth. “I’m nothing special.”
“On the contrary,” Data said. “There is so much to admire, but it takes strength to go through what you are going through right now and still manage to smile and laugh. You also throw me off sometimes which makes you even more curious to me.”
“I don’t think I understand what you’re trying to say, Data,” she said.
“I am trying to say that I…” he was cut off by the alert on the ship going off full blast.
Data stood up quickly and pushed the pin on his chest. “Captain, what is the problem?”
“Data, we need you on the bridge,” Captain Picard said, sounding stressed. “We are under attack.”
Data made his way to the door and turned to face Joelle. “Please stay here.”
She nodded. Her mind was on what he was trying to say. There was no way he was going to admit to having feelings for her. He wasn’t capable of falling in love, was he? Joelle stroked Spot’s fur, a far off look on her face as the alarm continued to go off. The ship jolting brought her back to reality.
“What’s going on…?” she asked herself, standing up to go to the door. “He asked me to stay here… But when do I ever listen?”
Joelle stepped out into the hallway, where there were a lot of people running back and forth in a panic. One of them collided into her, causing her to fall back against the wall. She rubbed her back and found the elevator.
“Joelle, you shouldn’t be up here,” Captain Picard said, as soon as she stepped out of the elevator.
Joelle didn’t say a word. She was staring out of the large window on the bridge at a large spaceship that looked very familiar. Every few minutes the enemy ship fired lazers, causing the Enterprise to jolt. Joelle braced herself on the back of Data’s seat.
Data looked up at her in surprise. “Ms. Carter, you shouldn’t be up here. It is very dangerous.”
“The entire ship is going crazy. I doubt anywhere is safe,” Joelle said, not breaking eye contact with the enemy ship. “What ship is that?”
“It is a Cardassian battleship,” Riker said. “They’ve been enemies of the United Federation of Planets for a long time. We just happened upon them.”
“Correction, Commander Riker, it happened upon us,” Picard said. “As if it had been tracking us the whole time.”
Everyone grew quiet and looked at Joelle as if knowing how they found them. Joelle’s face grew pale.
“So, the parasite I have is from the Cardassians?” Joelle asked, stating the obvious. “I’m the reason the Enterprise is under attack. You should release me over to them.”
“No,” Data said, standing up and placing both hands on either shoulder. “We will not give you over to them. We have a promise to keep.”
“Data, bring Ms. Carter to her room and off of the bridge,” Picard said.
“Aye, sir,” Data said.
Suddenly, a sharp pain that felt more tortuous than the last time rushed from her brain through her entire body making her collapse to the floor. Joelle cried out in pain as she laid helplessly on the floor. Data rushed to her side.
“Sir, we’re being hailed from the enemy ship,” Lieutenant Warf, a Klingon said.
“Open frequency,” Picard stated, a disquieted look on his face.
“I am the captain of this battleship,” the Cardassian said. “You have something we want. If you turn it over to us, we will let you live.”
“What is your name Captain?” Picard asked. “I am Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the U.S.S Enterprise. You are attacking a StarFleet Federation ship.”
“Give me what I want and we will leave. You have one hour,” the Cardassian said, then hung up.
Captain Picard turned his attention to Joelle, who was still on the floor in pain. Data locked eyes with Picard and stood up shaking his head.
“Don’t worry, Data, we’re not turning her over to them,” Picard said, waving his hand. “Picard to sickbay… any news on how to remove the parasite, Doctor?”
“I need more time, Captain,” Dr. Crusher said. “I assure you, I am working frantically.”
“You have one hour, Dr. Crusher, make it so,” Picard said, sternly. “Picard out.”
He turned his attention back to Joelle, who was being lifted by Data to a sitting position. Her pain had seemed to have subsided. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Joelle rested her head on Data’s chest out of exhaustion.
“Dr. Crusher is working on a solution, Joelle,” Picard said in a reposeful tone. “Don’t worry, she is a brilliant doctor. Perhaps you should go rest in your quarters.”
“But, I feel like I should be here,” Joelle said. “It’s my fault they’re attacking your ship.”
“It is not,” Picard said. “How did anyone know that it was the Cardassians who planted the parasite?”
“Why do you think they planted it in my brain? Why did they abduct me from my time?” Joelle asked, getting a bit worked up.
Data pulled her close, laying her head on his chest and rubbing her back gently. “You must rest, Ms. Carter. Come with me.”
He helped her to her feet and asked to leave the bridge. Once given the go ahead, he took her to his quarters. Once they arrived, he helped her to the bed and went to look for his cat in hopes petting her would calm Joelle down.
“Data, just hand me over to the Cardassians,” Joelle said, once he returned with the cat. “You all will be better off that way.”
“I strongly believe that it is the parasite they wish to have, not you,” Data said. “Dr. Crusher will find a way to remove it from you. Patience is key.”
“What if she can’t find a way to remove it? What if they want me as well as the permanent host for what parasite this is?” Joelle asked, petting Spot.
“We will find another way, but they will not have you,” Data stated with confidence.
Joelle shook her head. “Data, sometimes we can’t control what happens in life. If I’m meant to be this thing’s host and the Cardassians are supposed to have me in their custody, then I don’t see a point in fighting them.”
Data thought for a moment. “There is a high chance that whatever is growing in your brain is illegal. They are known through the Alpha Quadrant for being extremely ruthless. They hate species they do not understand, which is probably why they abducted you.”
“To study me?” Joelle inquired.
Data nodded. “Possibly to destroy the human race. I am led to believe that the parasite they have placed inside of you is a sanguinary way to experiment to see what will kill off the human race as quickly as possible.”
Joelle sighed. “Nice way to lay that information out there, Data.”
“I am sorry, I thought you wanted to know,” Data apologized.
“I didn’t expect it to be such a harsh explanation,” Joelle shook her head and rubbed her temple. “I think I need to lie down for a minute.”
“Are you feeling alright?” Data asked, feeling her cheeks with the back of his hand.
“Just feeling really dizzy,” Joelle said, swaying back and forth.
“I believe I should take you to sickbay,” Data said, steadying her and keeping her from falling forward.
He scooped her up in his arms, her left arm resting across her midsection and her right arm dropping beside her. Joelle’s head rested on his shoulder and her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Data rushed to sickbay at once. Being afraid was a tough, tough emotion, which was something he hardly felt at all. But if fear was feeling as though you are being threatened or someone you care about it being threatened and there is nothing you can do about it but sit and watch, then this is what he was feeling.