Greetings! How good to see you again. I’m going to let you start this holonovel in just a moment, but first, some brief words.
This story is set in 2356, twenty-five years before events in SimTrek’s USS Strangelove RPG and a little over thirty years before Mothers and Daughters.
Program complete – enter when ready!
Captain Irina Alekseyevna Ivanova was sitting on the sofa in her quarters, sipping her inevitable cup of rooibos tea. It was getting late, and she knew she ought to be going to bed if she wanted to be sharp and alert in the morning – but she also knew there wouldn’t be much point in it. For the past few weeks, sleep hadn’t come easy, and when it finally did, it was always troubled. During the days, it was easy enough to shut off her thoughts; there were always a million things that needed her attention, a million things she could focus on… but at night, there was nothing to distract her. Nothing to stop the thoughts from starting to spin in her head.
Only two other people knew about it at this point: her Chief Medical Officer, Dr Miranda Ritter, because there really hadn’t been any way to keep it from her, and her Executive Officer, Commander Richard Upton, because she trusted him and he had needed to know. Irina still hadn’t been able to muster up the courage to contact the final party involved in it all, Rear-Admiral Patrick O’Neill – but on the other hand, she tried to defend herself, he hadn’t contacted her, either. She knew he was on a classified mission to oversee the delivery of an important vaccine to the Coremma System, but it still smarted just a little that she hadn’t heard from him. Then again, he wouldn’t know there was anything he needed to contact her about… but she knew. She had known for weeks.
She had suspected it even before she had gone to see Dr Ritter, but she hadn’t wanted to really believe it. She had tried to convince herself that she had got the dates mixed up, that she was imagining the signs and that even if she weren’t, there could be a million reasons for them other than that. And she refused to believe that she could have been so thoughtless, so stupid, that she most likely had derailed her own career just as it was taking off.
She could remember every detail of that day four weeks ago, when she had finally worked up the courage to go and see Dr Ritter. She knew that she could just as easily find a medical tricorder and check things herself, but she didn’t quite dare – and besides, if things were as she suspected they were, Miranda would need to know anyway. So she had been on pins and needles all through her shift – because no matter how compelling the reason, Captain Irina Ivanova did not leave the bridge in the middle of a duty shift, thank you very much – and had then bolted from the bridge the second the Beta shift appeared, even before the surprised Andorian shift commander could formally relieve her. She knew it would raise eyebrows, especially from Commander Upton, who usually had to drag his Captain from the bridge, but for once, she didn’t care. Because she had to know for sure.
Dr Ritter was in her cubicle in Sickbay, as usual peering into a microscope and also as usual with those impossible gold-rimmed glasses she insisted on wearing nested in her equally impossible blond curls as she made notes on a PADD in her completely illegible handwriting. Richard Upton had once said it looked like a cross between Klingon and Cyrillic, but Irina didn’t agree; she could read both languages, but she definitely could not read Miranda Ritter’s scrawl.
When Irina cleared her throat, the doctor looked up with a perplexed look on her face, as if she had no idea where she was or why she was there… but then she brightened and flashed her Captain a welcoming smile.
“Captain, what a pleasant surprise… or is it?” she added with a frown when she noticed the look on Irina’s face.
“I need to have a word with you, Doctor. In private?”
Still with a slight frown on her face, the doctor nodded towards the visitor’s chair as she got up and pulled the door to the cubicle shut. Then she looked at Irina.
“So. What can I help you with, Captain?”
Irina closed her eyes for a moment as she took a deep, trembling breath. Then she forced herself to meet Miranda’s eyes. “I… I think I might be pregnant.”
A consummate professional, Miranda Ritter didn’t even bat an eyelid. She simply nodded, and took a medical tricorder from her cluttered desk. “Well, let’s find out then, shall we?” She flipped the tricorder open. “If you’d hold still for a moment…”
Even though she knew it was only seconds, Irina felt as if the scan took forever. She tried to read every flicker of every muscle in Miranda’s face, but the doctor’s visage was impassive. Then, finally, Dr Ritter closed the tricorder with a disgruntled, “hmph!”
” ‘Hmph?’ ” Irina echoed. “What’s that? What does ‘hmph’ mean?”
“It means you still have a slight iron deficiency,” the doctor told her sternly, “which you wouldn’t have if you had followed my instructions regarding your diet!”
“I haven’t had the time to-” Irina began.
“Well, then you’d better start making time, Captain!” Dr Ritter snapped. “It won’t get any better in the months to come, and it certainly won’t get any easier. Yes,” she went on in a softer voice, “you are pregnant. You’re about six weeks along. But I think you already knew that.”
Swallowing hard, Irina closed her eyes again. Her head was spinning. Yes, she had known… but she had still hoped Miranda would tell her something else, anything else.
“Now what?” Her voice was shaky, and she was disgusted with herself for it.
Miranda leaned against the edge of the desk.
“Well, now you have some decisions to make.”
Somehow, Irina managed to keep her voice steady. “You mean if I’m going to keep it?”
Miranda nodded. “That’s one of them, yes – and the sooner you make it, the better.”
Ever since she had started to suspect how things were, Irina had known what her decision would be if her suspicions indeed proved to be right, but she still found it difficult to say it out loud. Once she had said it, her life would never again be the same.
“I am.” It was hardly more than a whisper. “I am keeping it.”
“You’re sure? Well,” Miranda went on when Irina nodded mutely, “then you’ll need to decide – and this is in no way as urgent, but you’ll need to decide if you’re going to tell the father. Who I assume is Rear-Admiral O’Neill?”
Irina stared. “What? How would you know that?”
Now Dr Ritter looked slightly amused. “Well, for one thing, I can determine the date of conception very closely. And it was quite obvious that there was something going on between the two of you while the admiral was here.”
Irina blushed furiously. “So much for being discreet,” she muttered.
“Oh, you were – but I’m a doctor, paying attention to details is part of the job description. Also, I know you wouldn’t fraternise with a subordinate, and that kind of limits the options.” Then she once again became serious. “But no matter whether you tell Admiral O’Neill or not, you’re going to have to tell Commander Upton. As your second-in-command, he needs to know.”
“And I assume you’re going to have to tell your superiors at some point as well; if nothing else, they’ll need to know you’ll be out of commission for a bit some thirty-two weeks from now.” Miranda frowned slightly. “I don’t need to pry, but… did you know him before he came aboard? Admiral O’Neill, I mean?”
“By reputation.” Irina looked straight at the doctor, daring her to actually say what Irina knew she must be thinking. “But I had never met him before, no.” Despite herself, she smiled wryly. “And trust me, there isn’t anything you can say to me that I haven’t already told myself, a number of times.”
Dr Ritter smiled back. “You’re a grown woman, Captain; how you spend your free time and whom you choose to spend it with is no concern of mine. You’re quite capable of making your own choices.”
“And mistakes,” Irina muttered. “Good grief, how could I be such an idiot!”
“There were two of you involved, weren’t there?” Miranda Ritter reminded her. “You’re hardly the only one to blame – if blame should indeed be passed around.”
“All right, then we were both idiots.” Irina snorted. “I can’t believe it! Two intelligent adults, and neither of us stopped to think about the possible consequences of our actions even for one second! No,” she corrected herself. “Neither of us stopped to think, period.” She grimaced. “But I’m the only one who’ll have to live with the consequences.”
The doctor firmly shook her head. “No, Captain. Not the only one. You’re not alone in this. Even if you don’t tell Admiral O’Neill, you are not alone. I’m here for you, and so are the Uptons. And the crew will support you as well. Granted, they might be a little… surprised at first, but they will support you.” She smiled. “They’ve got a very good Captain, you know, and they’re very loyal to her.”
Irina grimaced. “I’m not sure I deserve it, given what an abysmal lack of judgement I’ve shown.”
“You’ve shown that you’re human,” Miranda disagreed. “Even starship captains are allowed to be, you know.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Irina muttered. Then she started to get up from the chair – only to be stopped quite firmly by the doctor.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
Irina looked completely nonplussed. “But I… aren’t we done?”
“Oh, we’re nowhere near done.” Miranda positively smirked. “And since I’m the only person on the ship who can give you an order, I suggest you just sit down and relax; I’ll tell you when you can go.”
“You’re going to be like this for the next eight months, aren’t you?” Irina asked suspiciously as she reluctantly did as the doctor had ordered.
Miranda grinned. “Oh yes! It’s not every day that you have a perfectly valid reason to boss your Captain around!”
“Since when do you need a reason for that?” Irina snorted.
“You’re right, I don’t – but now you can’t complain about it. I’m not doing this for you, you know,” Miranda claimed, trying and failing to look innocent when the captain glared at her, “I’m doing it for your little-” Then she bit her tongue so hard, Irina could actually hear her jaws snap together.
“What? My little what?” Irina repeated when the doctor stubbornly kept her lips pressed shut. “You were going to say which sex it is, weren’t you? But you can’t possibly know that already… can you?”
“The set of chromosomes has been in place from the moment of conception, and the scans I took automatically mapped it – including the 46th one.” Miranda smiled. “So yes, I already know. The question is – do you want to know?”
Irina hesitated. Did she? After considering it for another few seconds, she nodded.
“Yes. Yes, I do. I do!” she repeated when Miranda just smiled and didn’t say anything. “Well?” she demanded when Miranda kept smiling. “Are you going to tell me?”
But Miranda just kept smiling.
“Doctor,” Irina warned, “if you don’t want to be transferred to a Ferengi garbage scow, effective immediately, I strongly suggest you tell me, now!”
Now Miranda grinned. “You know, I was going to ask if you’ve been having mood swings, but I think we can scratch that.”
“All right, all right!” Miranda chuckled. “If all goes according to plan, in approximately thirty-one weeks and four days, you are going to have a little baby girl.”
“A girl?” Irina repeated. Not fully aware she was doing it, she placed a hand on her abdomen. “It’s a girl?”
Miranda nodded. “She’s going to have brown hair and brown eyes, just like her mother.”
“A girl,” Irina breathed in amazement. “Alyona…”
Slightly confused, Irina looked up, at first not aware that she had spoken out loud. “Alyona,” she repeated. “It’s the diminutive of Yelena – Helen, to you. She was my aunt. My father’s younger sister.”
“She was my best friend when I grew up – she was more like an older sister to me than an aunt, really. She was a scientist, an astrophysicist; my conservative grandfather was violently against it, but she persisted…” Irina smiled. “She showed me the constellations, told me about stars and galaxies and nebulae. And she taught me physics, chemistry… and never to stop being curious, never to stop wondering why and how the world works.”
Irina’s smile turned wistful. “She died in an accident when I was ten, but it was still because of her that I joined Starfleet. And I’d promised myself that, if I ever had a daughter, I’d name her in my aunt’s honour. I’d name her Yelena.”
Miranda smiled. “Yelena,” she repeated. “I like that name.” Then she went right back to business. “Now. The first thing we’re going to do is start you on some pre-natal vitamins – and from now on, you are going to follow my dietary instructions – and after that, you should…”
* * *
Snapping back into the present, Irina shook her head as if to clear it. That had all been four weeks ago. Since then, she had told her exec Richard Upton – a father of three who, to her relief and irritation, hadn’t been at all surprised but instead had told her he had suspected it – but nobody else, not yet. She had decided to wait another month with that; she wasn’t superstitious, but she didn’t want to get too many people involved too early, just in case… well, just in case.
As she so often found herself doing these days, Irina unconsciously folded her hands over her abdomen. To a casual onlooker, she still looked slim, but Irina could tell that her waist was getting thicker, that her uniform was getting tighter. She would probably have to start using a more loosely cut one soon, she though – and that frightened her. Maybe it was because it was evidence, tangible evidence in a different way than mood swings and morning sickness, that there really was a little thing growing inside of her. She didn’t regret her decision to keep the baby, but the thought of becoming a parent and of raising a child – a child whose father she still hadn’t decided if she was going to tell he was going to be just that – scared her almost senseless some days. And some days, she could barely wait to meet that little girl with brown hair and brown eyes. Her daughter…
Irina grimaced with irritation. Those idiotic hormones, making her mood shift every thirty seconds… you’d think modern medicine would have found a way to deal with that by now, but of course not! God forbid that doctors did something useful with their time instead of just lecturing their patients on work hours and eating habits and-
A chirp from her computer announced an incoming subspace signal. Irina muttered angrily as she got up; whoever had the gall to call her at this hour had better have an incredibly good reason! She had expected to see a familiar face – “maybe it’s Patrick?” a small, hopeful voice inside her whispered – but the face that appeared when she activated the computer screen was that of Bolian, a lieutenant-commander by the insignia on his collar, that she had never seen before in her life. What in the Universe…?
“Captain Ivanova? My name is Harl Bors; I’m aide to Rear-Admiral Patrick O’Neill. I’m afraid you and I need to talk…”