Jessica bolted upright in her bed with a shout, nearly tossing Justine off the bed from where she was sitting next to her. For a few panicked moments Jessica looked around her quarters in confusion, her breathing heavy and her body still aching from her injuries.
Justine gripped the sheets tightly, watching silently as Jessica finally turned her head and locked eyes with her friend. “Where’s Bridget?”
Justine winced, shaking her head. “Jess…what are you-“
“Where’s Bridget? She was just here, standing over me with…”
“Jess, you were dreaming.” Justine took in a deep breath, looking down at her lap. “You sounded like you were in a lot of pain and…”
“You woke me up.” Jessica shook her head. “God, it was so real. Bridget was ok and I…” She trailed off, blinking away the tears that were threatening to roll down her cheeks at any moment. “It was so real.”
Music was the only sound she could hear. The deck plates and the bulkheads reverberated with the noise, shaking the couch in the small ready room. Jessica was laying comfortably on it, staring out the viewport at the innards of Starbase 39 as worker-bees and shuttles flew among the ships moored inside.
Just as the music began to quicken, building up to the climax…it was silent.
Jessica twisted around on the couch, glaring at the man who had invaded her sanctuary. “What is it, Dossu?”
Obruz Dossu stepped forward, offering a PADD for the young captain to review. “Latest ship report, as requested.” He stopped a step from the couch, looking down at Jessica as she took the PADD and started reading it.
She quickly scrolled through the contents, not reading a word of the report before she handed the device back to her first officer. “Thanks.” She turned her head to look out the window again, expecting him to leave her in peace.
“Is that it?”
Jessica turned toward him again, frowning. “What?”
“Jess, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Jessica laughed, turning her body so that she was sitting with her feet on the floor, facing her first officer. “I feel like I did.” She shook her head, glancing down at the deck.
Obruz sat in one of the chairs facing the couch, leaning forward. “Bad dream last night?”
Jessica sighed. “Dossu, have you ever…” She trailed off, biting her lip. “I have no idea what I’m trying to say.” She smiled a little, shaking her head again. “I had this…incredibly vivid dream, Dossu. We were back at Vega, but Bridget and Justine were on the Rafale. I didn’t take command when the Merveille was attacked.”
Obruz raised an eyebrow. “I certainly hope I didn’t die.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “I don’t know. Like I said, I didn’t take command…I had no reason to. Bridget though…she wouldn’t run away.” Jessica laughed. “She stepped up, took charge, saved your ship. It wasn’t surprising in the least.”
“So I wound up with Kinsley as my captain instead?” Dossu laughed a little. “I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.”
“She was nothing like me, that’s for sure.”
“So what happened to you, then, if you weren’t the hero of the story?”
“I…” She looked up, her expression pained. “I was sitting next to a wall panel in engineering when a conduit blew behind me and…”
An uncomfortable silence descended on the room. Dossu finally coughed, clearing his throat. “It was just a dream.”
“I know that. I just..." Jessica's voice trailed off again, and she felt her face grow hotter as she blushed. "I'm not bothered by the fact that I died."
"Something is bothering you, though?"
Jessica nodded. "She'd be alive. Justine and she would be happy right now. And all because they were on the Rafale. Because they knew I was coming here."
Dossu bit his lip and shook his head. "It's been almost a year, Jessica. Nothing can change what happened."
Jessica waved off the comment. "I know that. I'm not stupid." She sighed, looking back out the window. "I just can't help thinking what it would have been like if they had known."
Obruz frowned, sitting back in his chair. "You didn't put in for the same assignments out of the academy?"
Jessica shook her head, turning back towards him. "No; I graduated a semester before them. Two parts 'I forgot' and three parts 'I was busy with school' led to 'I forgot to tell you my assignment.' They didn't bother asking, either. By the time I did get around to telling them, it was too late; they'd already been tapped for the Merveille."
"Why did you pick this assignment?"
Jessica smirked, leaning back on the couch and staring at the ceiling for a moment. "That is a very good question, Dossu." She tilted her head forward again, still smiling, her face turning a dark purple as she blushed in embarrassment. "It was silly, honestly. It was the same reason there are ships in Starfleet with crews that are mostly Human, or all Vulcan or Andorian even. I could do a ton of studies on this theory; humanoids tend to migrate towards what is comfortable and known, and create bonds of commonalities. Skin tone, home, race. We cling to others that are similar to us."
Dossu looked confused, so Jessica continued, her face getting hotter. "Wirstowx. Wirstowx is why I chose Rafale."
Obruz nodded, understanding. "He's from Andromeda, like you."
"Exactly. It was silly, but I thought if I was assigned with someone else from there, I'd maybe learn a little more about where I'm from." She sighed, shaking her head. "I wish I hadn't felt so embarrassed at the time; I probably would have just talked to them about it. And then they would be on the Rafale.”
"Jessica, it was a dream. It wasn't real." Dossu frowned in concern. "You can never know what would have happened. You have to let this go; there was nothing else you could have done."
"I know." Jessica nodded, looking down at the deck. "I know. I just wish...hope...Things could have been so different. Couldn't it? Couldn't one question have changed...everything?"
Obruz stood, shrugging. "There is no way of knowing, Jessica. It's not ours to know. But, please, as your friend and your first officer, please stop focusing on this. It was a dream; it wasn't life." Dossu took the PADD from where Jessica had set it on the couch and moved towards the door.
Jessica turned back towards the window. "Thank you, Dossu," she called as he walked out the door. She smirked, shaking her head. "But so much could be so very, very different."
She sat in silence for a moment before laughing out loud, remembering the last few words Dossu had said. She started humming, before finally singing softly.
"Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily..."
"...life is but a dream."
The woman at the viewport turned around, smiling sadly. Her cheeks were stained from the small trickle of tears that she quickly wiped off her face. "'Row, Row, Row Your Boat.' I was just reminded of it." She turned back to face the window, the view dominated by the interior of the starbase where the Charger was docked.
The yeoman nodded, holding her PADD to her chest. "Something on your mind, Commander?"
The blonde haired woman nodded, not bothering to turn again. "I just had a crazy dream. I dreamt I was on a different ship at Vega. My friend took over the Rafale to save my ship. She lived through it and took command of the Rafale."
The commander dipped her head, taking a steadying breath. "I died instead of Jessica and Justine."
"I'm sorry, Commander Kinsley."
Bridget shook her head, laughing a little as she wiped fresh tears off her face. "It's alright; it wasn't a terrible dream. It was good to see Jessica again, and for her to take command like that instead of me. It was surprising." She turned around again, straightening her uniform. "I was proud of her."
The yeoman nodded again, offering the PADD to the commander. "It was just a dream, sir."
Bridget laughed, shaking her head. "I know, Yeoman. It's just... In the dream, I wasn't on the Rafale because I never asked where Jessica was assigned; that's the only reason Justine and I put in for that assignment. To follow her around." She pressed her thumb to the scanner on the device and handed it back, acknowledging the reports. "Always strange to think how different our lives could have been if one thing had or hadn't been said..."