By Naina Tomar
Joelle had another strong episode of pains starting from her head and running through her entire body. Dr. Crusher was working frantically to figure out a way to remove the parasite and to get her stable enough to run tests. Data stood by watching, not knowing what to do to help.
“Dr. Crusher, perhaps you could,” Data began.
“Data, why don’t you return to the bridge and figure out another way to remove this thing from Joelle with Captain Picard,” Dr. Crusher said, in an irritated manner.
Data looked at Joelle for approval. Once she nodded her agreement with the doctor, Data rushed to the bridge. Dr. Crusher was finally able to concentrate easier without Data breathing down her neck.
“He means well,” Joelle said. “He’s just worried.”
Dr. Crusher smiled. “I know. I’ve never seen him like this before, worried about someone so much like he worries about you. It’s quite shocking.”
Joelle smiled. “I’m flattered to know that I’ve triggered something inside of him to make him feel this new emotion. But I’m also worried. What if I don’t make it…?”
“Don’t think like that,” Dr. Crusher said, sternly. “You will make it and we will get this thing out of you. Then we will figure out how to get you home.”
Joelle grew quiet with thought. She was contemplating what she had thought of earlier; what if she didn’t want to return home?
“Dr. Crusher, what if I don’t want to be sent back home?” Joelle asked. “What if I wanted to remain here?”
Dr. Crushed gazed at Joelle bewildered. “What made you think like this? And to answer your question, we can’t force you back home if you want to stay. But, Joelle, you don’t belong in this time. There is no telling what is happening in your time on your lifecycle with your absence. There might be unknown changes that are occurring that could be catastrophic.”
“I understand,” Joelle said.
She felt a little heartbroken to hear this, but Dr. Crusher could be right. Her being here this year might be causing unknown events in her timeline. She might not even exist at this time at all.
Back at the bridge, Captain Picard was trying to negotiate with the Cardassians. The captain of the battleship wasn’t going to be easy to negotiate with.
“By the end of the day, the host will be dead,” the Cardassian captain said with a cruel laugh. “So she will be useless to you. Hand her over and we will leave you be.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Captain,” Picard said, sternly. “I have a duty to uphold as a StarFleet officer. I must protect not only my own species, but all life that is being threatened.”
The Cardassian snarled and closed the communication. Picard rubbed the back of his neck and took his seat with a heavy heart. Data stared at him looking for answers on what to do next.
“What now, Captain?” Riker asked.
“We wait for Dr. Crusher,” Picard said. “It’s up to her now.”
The crew on the bridge sat there feeling agitated. They weren’t sure what the status was with Dr. Crusher regarding the parasite within Joelle. Not knowing was very troubling to Captain Picard. He was at a loss of what to do now.
“Sickbay to bridge, this is Dr. Crusher,” the doctor sounded very excited over the intercom. “We have removed the parasite.”
There was an uproar of applause from the crew as Dr. Crusher related the news. Data watched as everyone hugged each other out of excitement. Picard pumped his fist halfway in the air and told Dr. Crusher that she did a great job.
“And how is the patient, Doctor?” Riker asked.
“She is well and stable. A bit exhausted, but other than that, she’s very happy at the moment,” Dr. Crusher said, clearly smiling. “She’s asking for Data.”
“Data, go to sickbay and see Joelle, make sure she’s doing better,” Picard said. “I have an idea for the Cardassians.”
“Aye, sir,” Data said, leaving the bridge.
He felt eager to see Joelle. Even though it had only been a short while since he had left the bridge, it left like a few hours had gone by. As soon as he set foot in sickbay, Joelle had her arms wrapped around his neck.
“Thank you, Data,” she whispered in his ear. “Thank you for believing that this creature can be removed when I couldn’t.”
Data wrapped his arms around her waist in a gentle embrace, drawing her closer and laid his head on top of hers. Dr. Crushed did a double take and smiled. There was nothing but pure joy in the room, and finally Joelle could relax.
“What are you going to do with the parasite?” Joelle asked Data, as they stood over the creature that was confined inside a glass jar. “I vote we kill it.”
“We have to wait for the Captain’s orders before we do anything to it,” Data said, getting a closer look. “Intriguing. This creature is most definitely alive, for now. It must have a host to survive.”
In a few seconds, Picard walked through the door with Riker. They both approached the creature and Riker gave Joelle a small hug with a grin.
“I’m very happy to see you well and free of this thing,” Riker said. “Captain, now that it’s been removed, what are we going to do with it?”
Picard stood up straight and crossed his arms. “We will approach this manner in a civilized way first. If they cannot see reason, we move on to plan B.”
“What is plan B, sir?” Data asked.
“We bring this to StarFleet’s attention and see what they want to do with the creature,” Picard said.
“I still vote to kill it,” Joelle said. “It’s going to die anyway without me as its host.”
Picard rested his hand on her shoulder and smiled fondly. “My dear, we cannot stoop down to the Cardassian’s level. This is a living creature, therefore we must take the civil approach.”
Joelle growled but nodded. This thing ruined her mentally, she thought. She wanted to see it burned before it harmed someone else. Joelle would have flashes of creatures and death when that parasite was attached to her brain. No words could describe how she felt right now since Dr. Crusher had it removed. Maybe she could get back to normal and enjoy her time here on the Enterprise, and with Data.
“Joelle, let me and my crew handle this situation with the Cardassians,” Picard spoke up after a short moment of silence. I don’t want them knowing you’re safe right now. Data, take her somewhere safe and out of range of their life sensors.”
“Aye, sir,” Data nodded.
Joelle slipped her hand in his arm as they made their way to the Holodeck. “Data, I think I’m ready to go inside of the apartment now and see my parents.”
Data gave her a slight smile and nodded. He typed in the information in the database and the doors opened. He looked through the opening and at Joelle.
“Are you sure you are ready?” Data asked.
She nodded and grasped his hand and led the way to the apartment. It was clear that Joelle was overwrought as the house came into view. She tightened her grip on Data’s hand.
“You can change your mind if you want,” Data said, patting her hand with his free one as they walked up the stairs to the front door.
“I have to see them,” she said, using the knocker to rap on the door.
There were loud voices from the other side of the door followed by footsteps. The door flung open, revealing a man in his mid-forties. His dark brown hair was a mess and his eyes were as piercing as ever. He held a scowl on his tan face as her looked Joelle up and down.
“Joelle,” he said, his voice raspy. “Glad to see you finally decided to return home. Might as well come in and say hi to your mother and introduce this boy you’ve brought with you.”
Joelle became rosy-cheeked after he said that and looked at Data with a timid look. They followed her father inside and he led them to the kitchen, where Joelle’s mother was, cleaning dishes.
“Look who decided to come home,” the man said.
Joelle’s mother turned around to look her daughter up and down. She knitted her brows and puckered her lips with a shake of her head.
“Another boy I see, Joelle,” he mom said, continuing with her washing. “How many times are you going to bring them boys home? You’re not worthy of any kind of love from men. And if that boy of yours was smart, he would leave you before his heart gets broken.”
Data tilted his head at this comment. “I assure you, I am not stupid.”
Joelle’s mom and dad glared at him and her father chuckled. Her father got closer to Data and squinted his eyes to get a better look at him.
“Why does your skin look like that, boy?” the man asked.
“That doesn’t matter,” Joelle said, before Data had a chance to reply.
Her father glared at her and pointed a finger. “I was asking the boy, not you.”
Data stepped forward in Joelle’s defense. “I do not believe you should be speaking to your daughter like that, sir.”
Joelle’s father glared at him too. “You’ve got the nerve to talk to me like that in my own house, boy.”
“And you have the nerve to talk to Joelle like that,” Data shot back. “It is my understanding that a father and mother should cherish their child, encourage them. Parents should not belittle them and make them feel humiliated. I do believe you should treat your daughter better.”
Joelle’s mother stood there in shock, her mouth slightly hanging open. Her father gave off an irate energy as he started moving closer to Data. Joelle stepped in between her father and Data, spreading her arms out to keep her father from getting too close. The outraged man raised his hand and struck Joelle on the cheek. He raised his hand again but Data caught it.
“I suggest not doing that again, sir,” Data said, giving his wrist a slight squeeze. “Ms. Carter, I think we should leave now. This is not worth your time and tears.”
Data took Joelle by the hand and led her out of the house and into the hallway of the ship. She rubbed her cheek, teary eyed.
“That felt so real. I had forgotten what his strikes felt like,” she said.
“He has always been this way?” Data asked, shocked. “Why would you want to go back home to that?”
Joelle looked at her feet. “I don’t want to go back home, Data. I want to stay here.”
She practically had a hypothetical book of what hurts her the most and her own tear was the ink. Data could tell now that she needed a sanctuary of nurture and love. He watched her as they walked without a destination, her gravity-drawn shoulders painting a picture in his mind of the truth of her home life. But what could an android do for a human to make her feel better? He wondered.