Alathea glanced at the concubine, who sat in the surgical bay behind a force field, under the watchful eye of a security officer. Nearby, Menthat Bojan sat outside the force field, next to the security officer, his head leaned back and eyes closed. Captain had agreed to allow him and the Suk doctor to observe the procedures, after prolonged screaming by Beli, who insisted that she would trick him. Menthat was here now, taking his turn while the Suk doctor slept in the brig. Alathea grinned as she watched the snoozing man. His loyalty towards the Duke was degrading every day.

“She appears innocent,” the captain remarked, drawing Alathea’s attention.

“She’s not. Those women are trained. And not only in the ways of pleasuring but also in combat. It’s a necessary part of being in the harem,” Alathea explained.

The concubine looked at them with a mixture of apprehension and defiance. “I’ve been here for five days already. Are you going to go through with this, or was it all just a pretense to humiliate my lord?” she challenged.

Alathea turned to the captain. “See what I mean? She’s trained and far from innocent,” she said, lifting her eyebrows and sporting a crooked smile. It was getting easier and easier to see through the Duke’s people's manipulation. Are they even trying?

“I’ve already outlined the procedure to you,” the Doctor asserted calmly, his tone exuding authority. He stepped through the force field with a medical scanner in hand, proceeding to scan the concubine’s lower abdomen. “I have now suitably prepared your uterus,” the Doctor asserted calmly, his tone exuding authority. “A few additional steps are remaining, but the implantation will probably occur today.”

The Doctor exited the secure area, the force field enclosing it behind him, and positioned himself before the Captain and Alathea with an unmistakable air of authority. “I require your immediate attention,” he stated firmly, his tone leaving no room for argument.

They followed him through his medical office to the lab behind it. He pointed at the glass shell containing a small elongated petri dish with three little round indentations. Alathea approached and examined the middle one, the only one with liquid, but she couldn’t discern any cells. How could there be a baby there?

“We have a problem. The blastocyst divided into two embryos,” the doctor explained.

“Two?” the captain echoed in surprise.

“Yes,” the doctor confirmed.

“Twins?” Alathea inquired.

“Yes,” the doctor confirmed again, his tone grave.

“You’re suggesting that this tiny space holds two babies?” Alathea exclaimed incredulously.

The doctor approached the glass shell and activated the control pad below it. The screen above the shell illuminated, displaying a magnified view of the petri dish. Now Alathea could discern two distinct clusters of cells, each floating slowly in the fluid.

“See? Embryo one and embryo two. They are both boys, and both are perfectly healthy. This phenomenon, known as monozygotic twinning, occurs in human pregnancies in up to five cases per thousand,” the doctor explained.

“But historical records mention nothing about twins,” Alathea pointed out, puzzled by the discrepancy.

“I can only implant one. Or only one will survive the implantation process. Yes, we have mastered this procedure to achieve a 99% success rate, but there’s always that 1% risk of rejection,” the doctor explained solemnly.

“Alathea, are you certain you wish to proceed with this?” the captain inquired. “You keep referring to the embryos as babies.”

Alathea glanced from the captain to the screen displaying the two clusters of cells. Why did she keep calling those cell-clusters babies? They didn’t resemble babies at all. In natural conception, through sexual intercourse, only 40% of fertilized eggs typically survive and develop. Her gaze remained fixed on the screen, shifting between the two clusters of cells. Yet, those two were her babies, her boys.

“We could choose to give up, you know,” the captain’s voice was barely a whisper.

Alathea closed her eyes, a wave of memories flooding her mind. She recalled the devastation caused by the falling tower on Terra in the future, an act ordered by the same man who had fathered these two clusters of cells. History showed that Leto III wasn’t much better than his father, carrying the same cruel streak. While not as monstrous as Beli, he wasn’t exactly kind either.

“Doctor, what do your studies say about inheriting cruelty?” Alathea asked.

“It is possible. The size of the amygdala determines psychopathic tendencies. However, even with a small amygdala, much depends on the upbringing of the child. We have documented cases of individuals with clearly psychopathic brains who ended up being decent human beings simply because they grew up in loving, supportive families,” the doctor explained.

“So you’re suggesting that if the child grew up here, it might not be cruel, but if it grew up in the Empire, it could be?” Alathea questioned.

“I don’t know. Are there loving families in the Empire?” the doctor countered.

“I’ve never encountered one,” Alathea admitted.

“Seriously, we could just give up. I could transport the Duke and his people back to their ship and we could leave. They wouldn’t be able to follow us,” the captain suggested, her tone resigned.

Alathea’s heart skipped a beat. If only it were that simple. She turned to the captain and opened her eyes. “They wouldn’t just let us go. He would head straight for the Terra coordinates and destroy Earth. That’s what would happen. And I can’t allow that. We need to ensure he returns to his universe and the wormhole collapses behind him. And that will only happen if he gets his baby,” she explained, fighting to keep a calm voice.

“I can put one embryo in stasis and implant it into you after all this is over,” the Doctor offered.

Alathea stared at the Doctor, feeling her heart leap in her chest. She tried to swallow, but her throat constricted. She could have her baby, be normal, be just like everyone else on Voyager. If only she could somehow rid herself of Beli and his imperial forces. The Doctor’s image blurred in front of her, and she blinked away the tears that threatened to spill.

“He cannot have two babies. Only one,” Alathea insisted, pointing at the left side of the screen. “That one.”

“And what do you wish me to do with the second embryo?” the Doctor inquired.

“What you said, put it in stasis. Perhaps I will survive all of this, and maybe there will be a chance for that one to grow up kind and normal,” Alathea replied, her voice wavering slightly.

“Are you certain?” the captain questioned.

“We need to ensure that Beli leaves our universe. This is the only way. A cluster of cells is a small price to pay,” Alathea affirmed resolutely.


After a few days following the implantation, Captain and Alathea accompanied the concubine back into the brig, where Suk-doctor examined her in front of Beli.

Suk doctor straightened up, finishing his examination of the concubine.“She is with the child.”

“How can I be certain that’s my child in there?” Beli snarled.

“Your doctor was monitoring every step of the process.”

“But not consistently. You were shuttling him back and forth here all the time,” Beli countered, his tone sharp with accusation.

“You know, I’m tired of you. I will tell my Doctor to abort this pregnancy and just let you go,” Captain Janeway said in a flat emotional voice. She turned around and headed towards the exit of the brig.

Beli fixed his gaze on the Captain’s back, waiting till the brig door opened before her. “No,” he said suddenly. “There’s no need. I trust you,” he declared, offering a faint smile. “Allow me to contact my people so that the second phase can commence.”

Captain Janeway nodded solemnly as she turned to face Menthad Bojan. “Very well.” She gestured to the ensign behind the console, who activated the holoprojector, displaying a string of coordinates. “Here are the coordinates where we need to be transported.”

Menthad Bojan frowned, confusion clear on his face. “That’s not the location of Terra in this space-time?”

“We don’t wish to go to Terra,” Captain Janeway explained calmly. “There’s nothing there we want. Most of my crew is not from Terra, anyway. This is closer to our home.”

Beli turned to his menthat. “Where is that?” he inquired, nodding towards the holographic coordinates hovering in the middle of the brig.

“In a wholly separate spiral arm of the galaxy, nearer to the galactic edge, far from the Terra coordinates,” Mentat said.

Beli squinted at the holographic coordinates. “So, those are the coordinates you wish to pursue,” he remarked, his tone betraying a hint of suspicion.

“Yes.” Captain's face was calm. 

Alathea maintained her composure as well. Captain had made a calculated decision not to lead Beli to the Federation at all; instead, the coordinates she provided him led straight into the heart of the Klingon Empire, a staunch ally of the Federation and formidable warriors in their own right. Alathea had seen images of these aliens in battle, and they were every bit as skilled as the legendary Feydakins.

Beli grinned. “Works for me,” he replied nonchalantly.

Captain touched her com badge. “Open communication to the Empire.”

“Communication open,” the ship’s system acknowledged.

Captain nodded towards Beli, indicating that he could speak.

He grinned, then spoke into the communication device. “This is Duke. Prepare for our arrival. Once the ship is inside, jump to coordinates 60564,586,1254. Await further instructions,” he commanded, his voice firm and authoritative.


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