Enjoying the time with her family was an absolute godsend for Nicole. They arrived earlier in the day and spent the whole afternoon enjoying the facilities that were on offer on the lake. They had taken the children off on water-skis, had hired a powerboat and now they sat on the shoreside watching the sunset as they toasted marshmallows on an open fire. Wearing a hoodie, along with jeans and a knitted black poncho she had pinched from Claudia, Nicola made her way back to the cabin to grab more food for them to share with the children. If today had been any other sign for her to definitely want to be a mother, she didn’t know what else she needed to convince her otherwise. Watching her nieces and nephews have so much fun, laugh and enjoy one another’s company had ticked all the boxes for her.
Entering the seven-bedroom lake house cabin (cabin was perhaps the wrong word to describe it, it was more like a villa), she made her way through into the kitchen and found her father pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
“Dad, you okay?” She asked after him as she approached the cupboard that they had stored different snacks in.
He looked up as he heard his daughter. Placing the bottle down, he picked up his glass and walked over. “Absolutely fine my dear. How are you?”
“Exhausted, however I didn’t realise how much I needed this break.” She replied smiling as she picked up bags of snacks. He offered to take a couple of them from her.
“You think this is exhausting? Just wait until you’re rushed off your feet by those three little guys!” He remarked, gesturing towards her stomach.
She smirked at his comments. “How did you and mom deal with us five?”
Giving out a small belly laugh, Anthony Levesque smiled before replying in his French accent, “Patience et persévérance.”
Nicole smiled further at his answer. She enjoyed it when her father reverted to his native tongue of France, it was rare to hear him do that in his later years. He was born and raised in France, just outside of Lyon, for most of his early childhood before his parents moved to the United States. They had settled in Napa and he ended up growing up enjoying the Californian sunshine. He had returned to France to study international law, before returning back to Napa. He and her mother had met early on in their lives when he had returned to Napa through his sister. And the rest was history for the Levesques.
As they walked out of the house and back down to where the rest of the family were, Anthony spoke up. “Seriously though Nicole, your mother and I worked together on raising you all. We knew that teamwork was going to be the only way we would succeed, and I am proud of you all.”
“Even Claudia?” She mocked back with.
“Even Claudia.” He asserted with a chuckle. As they went down the small path, her father looked at her, “But between us, and I will indubitably deny this in front of the others, I am particularly proud of your achievements.”
Nicole, who was just in front of her father, paused and looked at her father with a smile. “Thanks dad,” she replied, “That’s nice to hear.”
“Your mother still thinks you being in Starfleet is the worst decision you’ve made and be prepared to hear that now you’re carrying three of her grandsons!” He threw back. “However, where credit is due – you definitely deserve it.”
Nicole placed the snacks down on the floor and gave her father a hug. He returned the gesture by embracing her back and giving her a kiss on the cheek. “You’ll be a wonderful mother; you’ve got nothing to worry about.” He whispered into her ear.
“Thanks dad!” She said again.
As he let go of her, Anthony continued talking. “However, we want to meet this Captain Burton fellow, I want to know what his intentions are with my daughter and my soon-to-be grandsons.”
Nicole groaned inwards, “Dad, I’ve told you before we’re not ‘together’ like that. Neither of us was expecting this.”
Anthony continued to walk and indicated for Nicole to follow. “Yes, I get that Nicole, but you two need to seriously consider the lives you’ll be providing for these youngsters.”
“We will, I promise.” She assured him. “I don’t need mom and you trying to scare him off. The man has just lost his father.”
Anthony looked up at that fact, it had been something that Nicole had not shared with everyone — except Claudia. “Well, that is very sad.” He remarked quietly. “I’m sure right now he may be feeling lost. Losing a parent is something you’ll never get over.”
Nicole nodded. “I’ve never seen Lloyd like that before. Only slightly did he show signs of being lost when he unexpectedly took command of Challenger.”
“Well, you’re already showing me the man has signs of strength of character.” Anthony stated. “If he can be thrown into chaos and only show a slight sense of weakness in front of those he leads, then he is someone to trust. I don’t trust people who can’t show their humanity to the rest of the world, to be human is to have feelings – we’re not like those goddamn green-bloodied goblins: the Vulcans!”
“Dad!” Levesque quickly snapped at him with the offensive statement about Vulcans. “Vulcans are not goblins and you know mom and the others would not appreciate you coming out with such slurs in earshot of your grandchildren!”
“And at one time you agreed with me about Vulcans holding humanity back.” Anthony countered back, remaining calmer than his daughter and keeping his charming manner present. “Anyway, none of my grandchildren are nearby.”
“Three of them are.” Nicole said, gesturing towards her stomach.
Anthony just mumbled something under his breath, it sounded something along the lines of Nicole being like her mother when it came to nagging him. “Who would have thought it though?”
Nicole looked confused as they slowly approached the family, “What do you mean?”
“That when we sent you to stay with your aunt on the Polaris that you would carry on with your adventures out in deep-space? Your mother and I had hoped it would make you rethink it all.” He remarked, “Your mother still regrets it to this day!”
“It was certainly an adventure!” Nicole said, remembering the good memories she had when she was on the Polaris.
Wednesday, July 5th, 2130
ECS Polaris ECS-1839, orbiting Earth
“Now this Nic is the bridge.”
Nicole Levesque had just turned nine years old and as a ‘birthday present’ her parents had arranged for her to stay with her Aunt Teresa. Secretly they had hoped that by seeing that life in space wasn’t as exciting as she thought it was, Nicole would reconsider her views on it all. Teresa Johansson was Anthony’s sister and was also Nicole’s godmother. When his older sister had returned home, she had witnessed how eager Nicole was about space travel. She had jokingly said that if Nicole had joined her for her next run to Vega colony, at a slow speed of warp one point five, she would see that it wasn’t glamorous at all. Almost the next day Anthony had seen her to discuss the idea further. She had explained that it took almost two years to get to Vega and two years back to Earth. Even though both Anthony and Anneliese did not want to miss four years of their daughter’s life, they knew that she would be safe with her aunt, that she would carry on receiving an education and it may finally help calm her down and make her become more responsible.
Entering the bridge of the J-class freighter, Nicole Levesque was surprised and excited at the same time. This was the first time she had explored a starship and every moment was magical. “Oh wow, this is amazing Aunt Terri!”
Not having children of her own and recently divorced, Teresa Johansson enjoyed her niece’s every reaction so far. She felt glad she was able to help out her brother, especially as they had just their fifth child. By taking Nicole with her she hoped that it would give them some room to be able to deal with their two teenage children and their two youngest ones. Even though Nicole had described the bridge as amazing, in Teresa’s mind it certainly wasn’t. It was a very cramped room, by chance though Nicole had joined the ship after it had just received a major overhaul, refit and numerous repairs. The ship was six years old and needed a revamp after its last journey. As such the time it took for the engineers at Jupiter Station to undertake the refit had given Teresa time to visit her brother and his family. Sadly, her parents had passed away in recent years and she had not been home for either of their funerals, so she had used the time to visit the graves and spend as much time with her brother – the newly minted law enforcing sheriff in their hometown of Napa. Getting to meet the latest arrivals to the Levesque clan had also been another reward for her vacation. She had missed the birth of Caitlyn and Elijah; however, her brother had sent her numerous letters, photos and videos of the children. Teresa had considered having children of her own, however her ex-husband had never wanted that. He had become bitter at the length of time they spent apart, even though she had tried to work it so she could have him on the Polaris, he refused to live his life as he called it: “stuck in a tin can” – Teresa had thought that perhaps she should have got him to talk to Nicola about the subject of life in space, however that wouldn’t have gone down well with her brother who had threatened to arrest the man that broke his sister’s heart.
Seeing Nicola remain excited about their adventure ahead of them was exactly the distraction she needed, she knew that her niece would fit in well with her crew. “Nic, let me introduce you to my first officer and chief pilot: Alicia Boseman.” Teresa said, pointing to the tall, African American woman, who appeared to be in her late twenties, standing by the helm.
Without hesitation, Nicole walked up to the woman and extended her hand. “A pleasure to meet you Miss Boseman.”
Boseman, who had long black hair that curled upwards by her shoulder and deep brown eyes, smiled at the friendly child before her. She knelt down to get to Nicole’s level. “It’s a pleasure to meet with Nicole and please call me Alicia.” She shook the young woman’s hand back.
“Nic, you’ll be happy to hear that Liz has promised to teach you. She used to be a teacher herself.” Teresa stated.
Nicole looked from her aunt and back to the other woman. “How come you don’t teach anymore?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Alicia replied. “Because sometimes in life you need to see what is out there first before you make a commitment to something. So that’s what I’m doing here.”
“Do you enjoy it?” Nicole asked flatly.
Teresa had informed the crew why Nicole was here, so Alicia was careful with how she worded her response. “It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it exciting sometimes.”
Alicia stood up when another woman entered the bridge, the two of them exchanged smiles, before Alicia introduced her. “Nicole, this is Beverly Lockhart. She’s our chief engineer.”
“And chief science officer as well as cook!” Beverly added before smiling down at the youngest addition. “Welcome aboard Nicole!”
Nicole smiled back at the lady, who appeared to be the same age as Alicia. She had shorter blonde hair, a strong mild-mannered New York accent and a very generous personality. Nicole looked up at her aunt, “Aunt Terri, are all the Polaris’ crew women?”
“Not yet!” Replied a deep masculine voice coming through the same doorway that Lockhart had just walked through. A younger man, who looked very similar to Boseman walked in and smiled too at Nicole.
Teresa soon introduced him. “Nic, the last member of our senior crew. This is Charlie Boseman, Alicia’s brother and our ship’s quartermaster as well as master gunner.”
“Gunner?” Nicole repeated, appearing confused at the title.
“I’m in charge of keeping the ship safe, especially from the pesky asteroids that get in our way. I get to blow them up!” Charlie explained, attempting to calm the young girl down.
Nicole just smiled and nodded, trying not to appear scared at the idea of the ship fighting someone else.
Charlie, who had his hands behind his back, looked at Teresa. “Captain, that package you wanted has arrived.” He said, inclining his head backwards towards whatever was in his grasp.
“Ah, excellent. Thank you, Charlie!” She replied and took the package out of his hands. She looked at Alicia and gave her a nod. Alicia tapped a button on the side of the wall and a whistling noise appeared around the room and it sounded like it had echoed across the ship. “Attention all hands, this is the captain. First off, welcome back home – I hope you all enjoyed your time off. The Polaris is ready to return to the stars, however before we do that, we have a new member of the crew joining us. Please make sure you give Nicole Levesque, my niece, a warm-Polaris welcome as she takes up a new position that I have created especially for our ship. I hereby promote her to being Captain’s Assistant. She will be familiarising herself with this ship, her crew and the nature of all of our work.” Teresa looked at Nicole with her well-known warm smile and handed her the present that Charlie had just given her. It was her own grey field jacket with the Polaris’ mission patch stitched on to the right shoulder, her first initial and surname was placed just above the left breast and her new job title was underneath it. All in crystal blue. Quickly she put the jacket on and found it to be a bit bigger than her, but she didn’t mind at all. Her aunt continued to give out orders. “Departure stations please everyone. Prepare to take us out!”
Nicole, now with her new jacket on, watched her aunt take her seat in the big chair in the middle of the room while everyone else took their stations. Teresa signalled for her to join her where she was. Immediately Nicole did as she was told and went over to her aunt, who picked her up and placed her on her lap.
“Alicia, engage!” Teresa ordered once the ship had left Earth’s orbit and the Polaris went to warp.
Monday, September 30th, 2155
Lake Berryessa, Napa, California, United States of America, Earth
“What are you two laughing about?” Anneliese asked as she saw her husband and daughter walk back to the large circle their family was currently sitting in around a massive bonfire.
Anthony calmed down as he approached his wife. “Just reflecting over decisions that you and I made as parents.” He leant in and kissed his wife on the top of her head. She smiled back as he sat down next to her and placed his arms around her.
Snuggling into her husband she wondered what he meant by that answer. “The good or the bad ones?”
“So, you admit there were bad ones?” Elijah mocked from the other side of the fire.
Anthony laughed at their youngest son’s quip which was followed by a slight nudge from his wife. “They’re only bad ones if you don’t learn from the mistakes you made!” He stated and then looked at Nicole, who was now sitting on one of the other benches next to Claudia. “Anne my darling,” He started by referring to her shortened name, he only did this when he was being overly affectionate to her in front of others. The typical Levesque charm! “Remember that time we sent our dearest daughter Nicole off with her aunt in an attempt to persuade her to avoid life in space?”
Anneliese snorted and laughed slightly at that question. “Which category of decision making did we put that one in?”
“The best one!” Claudia threw out.
Both Hadrien and Elijah laughed at their sister’s quick response which made Nicole snigger too.
“Daddy, was Auntie Nicole really naughty then?” Léonie, the youngest granddaughter, asked Hadrien.
Adele, his oldest, soon spoke up too. “I can’t imagine Auntie Nicole being that bad she got sent away!”
Hadrien continued to laugh at his daughters’ comments. “No, she wasn’t naughty.”
“She was too adventurous for nan and grandad!” Elijah added.
The grandchildren all looked confused at that point. Mack, who was sitting on his father’s lap, looked at him. “Daddy, will you send me on a Starfleet ship if I’m too adventurous?”
Cooper chuckled at that question. “Never!” He said and pressed his son further into him with a tighter hug. “I’m never letting go of you little man!”
“Sadly, for nan and grandad, your Auntie Nicole had the best time of her life!” Claudia added.
“Why was it sad for them?” Léonie asked.
“Because sweetie, when Nic was your age she got the chance to leave with Great-Aunt Terri on her ship, the Polaris, for four years.” Hadrien answered.
“That sounds awesome!” Spoke Gabriel from where he sat on the sand with his cousin Luke in-between his legs.
Behind him sat Luke’s parents and Gabriel’s uncles, after his comment Elijah ruffled his hair before speaking. “It does, but back then spaceflight was awesome compared to how it is today.”
“Amen to that. She returned home safe and sound with no regrets.” Anneliese said, raising an empty glass that had been full of red wine only moments ago.
Thomas, who had not heard the story about Nicole’s adventures, was amazed just like his nieces and nephews. He turned to his husband, “You never told me that Nic had been in space as a kid. Did you get sent off as well?”
Claudia, just like Claudia would, interjected almost at warp-speed. “No way did he go, he was just a little cute, adorable baby when Nicole left us.”
Laughing at the exchange between her aunt and uncle, Adele spoke up. “I can’t imagine Uncle Elijah as a baby!”
“Oh, believe it, he was a cute baby!” Claudia told her niece.
“You all were cute babies.” Anthony added. “In fact, Adele I have a great picture of your father in your uncle’s cot — your dad had got up during the night and heard Elijah stirring so he went into his room and took him out to sooth him. The next morning your nan called me into your father’s room and there before us was our big boy, who had somehow moved the cot out of our room and into his, snuggled up with his baby brother. Both fast asleep!”
The children all laughed at that story along with the others, besides Hadrian and Elijah who just shook their heads in embarrassment.
“Hey, I was being the caring sibling — especially since one of your daughters was off gallivanting around the cosmos!” Hadrian said in his defence.
“I would have looked after Elijah, if I had been around!” Nicole stated. “But he always wanted his big brother when he was first born!”
“And continues to want to be like his big brother as he got older!” Claudia included as she took a mouthful of melted marshmallow that had just come out of the fire.
Elijah threw his arms outwards in surprise, “That is certainly not true!”
“You copied his hairstyle for almost ten years, Elijah.” Claudia lovingly argued back. “I’m surprised you haven’t copied him now with the odd silver highlights he has coming through!”
More laughter filled the family around the fire.
Gabriel looked over at his Aunt Nicole, “So was it scary being away from home for that long?”
Nicole shook her head gently and answered her nephew. “Not really, at first it was a bit daunting. I had the smallest cabin on the ship which had the smallest window too. But I filled my days getting to know everyone, exploring every part of the Polaris and seeing some of the most amazing wonders.”
“She certainly did see some great things out there.” Anneliese stated. “Your aunt wrote to us every day by keeping a daily log. In it she explained everything she had experienced.”
“Did you enjoy reading it nan?” Adele asked her grandmother.
Nodding vigorously, Anneliese replied. “Absolutely my darling, twenty years ago subspace radio wasn’t as efficient as it is now. It would take about a week for most of her logs to reach us, so your grandfather would collect them and on a Friday night we would sit down after dinner and listen to your aunt’s recordings. As they got closer to Vega, they became letters. We would take it in turns reading them.”
“Do you still have them?” Gabriel queried.
Anthony took over the conversation. “Absolutely as well as the pictures she sent us. Several of them are hanging in my restaurant.”
Nicole smiled at how fond her parents spoke about her letters and was pleased to hear that her father still kept her pictures up.
“Didn’t you do that painting of the Vega sunset based on one of Nicole’s photographs mom?” Hadrien asked.
Nodding, Anneliese replied. “The one in the hallway? I sure did.”
Gabriel looked up at his aunt, “So what was the best thing about your trip?”
“I don’t think there was ever one particular best thing from it all.” Nicole answered. “The journey there and back was fun, as the ship’s science officer had rigged up a telescope in the only science lab on the ship. This particular lab was on the top deck, it had one dome like shaped window and when we passed by different celestial bodies, she would take me down there to observe them. I would spend ages in her lab, along with the ship’s first officer finding out about the different stars and planets we travelled by.”
“Was that where you got your love for stellar science?” Thomas asked.
“You know, I think it was.” Nicole acknowledged, smiling fondly again about her time discovering space for the first time.
Wednesday, August 27th, 2132
ECS Polaris ECS-1839, approaching Vega system
“Captain’s assistant personal log; August 27th, 2132 – encoded for transmission to Earth.
Hi Mom, Dad, Hadrien, Claudia, Caitlyn and baby Elijah! I hope this message finds you well. You would not believe how exciting today is! Today marks the day when we finally reach Vega colony. Aunt Terri states that we would have been here sooner, however when the EPS manifold on C deck failed last month, it took several days to fix. Some of the crew appear happy to be reaching Vega at long last. I’m bursting to step on to a brand-new world. Aunt Terri said I could go with her on the first trip to the trading outpost. End log and transmit.”
Nicole stretched her arms out after she finished her log entry and watched as the computer sent it to the subspace radio ready to be sent in the next data stream back to Earth. Alicia had told her that now they were at Vega they would be able to use the subspace amplifiers stationed around the planet to send their messages to Earth as they would get there a lot quicker compared to using the Polaris’ transmitter. She had encouraged Nicole to get plenty of pictures to send to her family back home before they left Vega. Standing up in her cabin, which was barely big enough to move in, eleven-year-old Nicole Levesque picked up her duty jacket that finally fitted her. She had also picked up her baseball cap that had the ship’s emblem on it too and put both items of clothing on. Leaning across her small desk, she picked up her camera and placed it in her jacket’s pocket.
Stepping out into the corridor, Nicole made her way towards the crew’s mess hall. It was only a few metres away from her room, something she enjoyed especially in the mornings. The mess hall was one of the biggest rooms on the ship, it had a few tables dotted around with a number of chairs. At one end was a food dispenser and an area where a small buffet of food was laid on every morning, lunchtime and evening for meals. If no-one liked what was on offer, they would have to eat a nutri-pak. However, in the last few weeks, Polaris’ food stores were starting to become depleted (as it was expected) and most mealtimes were filled with nutri-paks – or mystery meals as the crew called them. Picking up a bowl of porridge and covering it with strawberry jam, Nicole made her way over to the table with Alicia and Beverly sat.
“Good morning sweetie.” Beverly said, greeting her in her calm manner. “Don’t you fancy a mystery meal today?”
She shook her head; Nicole spoke as she sat down. “I got an extremely sweet blueberry muffin yesterday that wasn’t as nice as I thought it would be.”
Both women laughed in between what they were eating and drinking. Beverly was drinking a mug of coffee while she was reading something on a data tablet while Alicia was tucking into scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast.
“So, we’ve got some news to share with you Nicole.” Alicia said after she finished her last mouthful and dabbed her lips with her napkin. “We’ve decided to get married.”
Nicole smiled at the news as she put her bowl of porridge down. “Oh wow, that’s great news!” It was no secret that Alicia and Beverly had started to date since the ship had left Earth. Her Aunt Terri had told her that she had suspected that they were seeing each other secretly before then but hadn’t told anyone to prevent Alicia’s brother, Charlie, from finding out. Nicole didn’t understand why he would have a problem with it, her aunt had just told her that she thought that he liked Beverly as much as his sister did.
“In fact, we plan to do it while we are here on Vega colony.” Alicia continued, “Beverly got news today from Earth that she has been accepted to attend Cambridge University when we return home to complete her doctorate and become a researcher.”
“That sounds cool!” Complimented Nicole. “Who will take over here on the Polaris?”
“Most likely Charlie, but I’m also planning to leave the ship too.” Alicia stated.
“Oh, how come?” Nicole asked.
“I’m planning to join Starfleet.” Explained the first officer.
Nicole continued to smile at the news. “Wow, is Aunt Terri okay with you leaving as well?”
“She’s very happy for us both.” Beverly said as she stretched out to hold Alicia’s hand. “And she will be leading our ceremony, so she also gave her blessing for us to ask you a special favour?”
“Oh?” Nicole replied as she carried on eating.
“We would like you to be our bridesmaid, would you do that for us?” Alicia asked.
Nicole put her bowl back down and nodded furiously. “Yes! Yes!” She answered with and leant in to hug both of them. “Thank you!” She added.
During their quick embrace the ship started to shudder, then the intercom went off, followed by Nicole’s aunt’s voice. “All hands, if you’re near a window on the port side you’ll be happy to see we’ve finally arrived at Vega. Prepare for landing procedures.”
After letting go of Alicia and Beverly, Nicole ran over to the large bay window to see Vega for herself. She couldn’t believe how much the world looked like Earth. Its star was a bright blue cobalt colour that seemed to radiate across the entire system. Without realising it, in her haste to get over to the window, she had dropped her camera. Both Alicia and Beverly joined her to see the view with Alicia bringing over her camera.
“Here,” She said, handing it back to the eleven-year-old. “Get some pictures to send back home.”
Quickly, Nicole switched the camera on and began snapping as much as she could. She wanted to get these sent off back home before they left. She looked up at the two women and smiled, she had enjoyed every moment of her journey here to Vega with them and the rest of the crew. Even though it was hard work and, in some areas, frustrating, she was glad they finally reached their destination and could not wait to explore this new world.
Monday, September 30th, 2155
Lake Berryessa, Napa, California, United States of America, Earth
“So, when you were on Vega, did you meet any other aliens?” Adele asked her aunt as she began to stuff her mouth with more than one marshmallow.
Nicole, who had just finished one herself while she re-told her story from being on the Polaris, nodded at her niece. “I met my first Denobulan and Draylaxian on Vega.”
“A Draylaxian?” Gabriel asked, confused at not hearing that name before.
“They’re a humanoid race from the planet Draylax,” spoke Hadrien. “They have leonine faces and golden hair.”
“Do they eat you like lions do?” Mack asked his dad.
Hadrien, Cooper and Nicole all laughed at Mack’s question.
“No, they don’t bud.” Cooper answered.
“So, seeing Vega was what made you want to join Starfleet?” Gabriel continued with his questioning.
Shaking her head, Nicole felt like she was being interrogated by her oldest nephew and nieces. “No, it was the time on the ship.”
“I thought you said you didn’t like it?” Léonie questioned.
“Being in one small cramped place for such a long time wasn’t the greatest experience, but it was the people I was with. In fact, it was Beverly Lockhart who encouraged me to pursue my interests in science and her wife Alicia’s decision to join Starfleet that inspired me to return to the stars.” Stated Nicole. “When you’re on a starship it’s just like having a great family around you. You get to know everyone so well that a day doesn’t go by when you don’t bump into each other more than once. Everyone is in it together and when I joined Starfleet to be an explorer, I got to do it with some incredible people that I will never forget.” Nicole smiled, fondly of her sentiments about her time in Starfleet. “As nan said earlier, I didn’t regret going.”