Fight For Love.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard straightened slowly and placed his hands in the small of his back, stretching and bending backwards, grimacing as his spine complained. He'd been bent over minutely excavating some pottery shards for the last three and a half hours and his body had begun to complain. He rotated his head slowly and noted the tight muscles in his neck and shoulders. Sighing, he bent once more and picked up his tools and the bucket, his attention again drawn to its contents. A satisfied smile crept across his stubbled face and he looked around the cavern in which he'd been working these last few days, wishing, not for the first time, that he'd arrived earlier. The voice of the expedition's leader drifted to him, echoing through the tunnels. He waited patiently and soon he was joined by his friend.
"Jean-Luc how have you been going? Find anything interesting?"
Proffering the bucket and gesturing to a rock ledge, the two men seated themselves and began to sift through the contents of the bucket.
Doctor Lars Ebsen, the chief archaeological expert on the dig grinned and looked up at the Captain with undisguised warmth.
"These specimens are superb! Look at the inscriptions on that one…you can see the marks made by the engraving tool."
He sighed and clapped Jean-Luc on the shoulder.
"You must be pleased."
Jean-Luc smiled ruefully and directed his eyes to the items in his hands.
"I am happy, yes…but I wish we could have got here sooner. This dig is so huge…and impressive…it will take years to uncover it all. I had hoped to be here two weeks ago, but it's difficult for us to juggle our leaves to coincide with each other."
"I understand completely. I'm just happy you could come at all…I know it's not easy for Starship Captains to get leave and to obtain the services of a Doctor…your CMO no less…well we're delighted."
Jean-Luc laughed softly and shook his head.
"So tell me, what is my CMO doing at the moment?"
"Well I can't say exactly, but when I left the campsite she was cooing the baby and spoiling her rotten."
Nodding, Jean-Luc chuckled.
"That sounds like Beverly. You must be pleased to have your wife along with you."
"Yes. She's writing a thesis on this dig…we waited until the baby was eight months old…the truth is I couldn't keep her away. When this site opened up and the Urallians gave permission for us to excavate it…well you can imagine our excitement. She wouldn't have stayed at home in any event. What about Beverly? I didn't know she was interested in archaeology."
Jean-Luc sat up and wiped his dusty hands on his trouser legs.
"She isn't really, it's just that we wanted to be together on this leave."
"I see. So you're...?"
Jean-Luc smiled but left the question unanswered. Instead he stood and hefted the bucket.
"It's getting late…we should be making our way back to camp if we want to catalogue all these specimens."
Giving the Captain a sidelong look, Lars climbed to his feet and let Jean-Luc lead him out of the cavern. They entered a tunnel that gently sloped upwards and lead to a series of vaulted rooms, each heavily festooned with stalactites and stalagmites. Many millennia of seepage had created magnificent forms, some stunningly beautiful, some grotesque, most hidden in the inky blackness beyond the suspended lights. They traversed the trail between the formations and crouched down to crawl through a chute almost seventy metres long. Having successfully covered the distance, they found themselves at the base of a sheer cliff. A metal ladder had been fastened to the face and they ascended carefully, the sound of more archaeologists drifting down to them. As they crested the wall, bright lights met their eyes and they squinted, allowing their sight to adjust.
The main cavern was a hive of activity. Tables were set up against the walls and computer monitors glowed eerily in the shadows cast by the people. Already a sizeable amount of artefacts were displayed, most catalogued, some still awaiting that task. Across the floor, Starfleet issue matting was laid in an attempt to keep down the insidious dust. It got into everything, making some jobs difficult. Jean-Luc couldn't remember when he'd last had a cup of tea or meal that wasn't gritty. Spotting the telltale flash of vibrant red, Jean-Luc handed the bucket to his companion and cast him a smile.
"I'll be back in a minute."
He sauntered off and Lars grinned to himself.
"Oh yes…you're definitely a couple."
As he approached his best friend he noticed she was treating a technician's arm. He drew close, but refrained from distracting her from her work. Instead he quietly took the opportunity to watch her doing what she did best. She was applying an auto fuser to a nasty gash on the woman's forearm.
"Now listen to me Estelle…no more putting your arm down holes that haven't been thoroughly checked. Who knows what could've been down there."
"Yes Doctor."
"Well at least we know that particular kind of shale can be razor sharp. There, all finished. The new skin will be a little tender for a couple of days…keep it out of the sun. Off you go."
The woman slid from the trestle table and flexed her arm. She grinned at the Doctor and turned on her heel, soon lost in the comings and goings on around her.
He approached as she put away her instruments. He looked around and ensured no one was watching them before slipping his arm around her waist and kissing her softly on the neck. He drew back and watched as she continued with her task. He did note, however, the colour rise up her neck to her face, staining her alabaster skin dusty red. Jean-Luc slid his hands into his pockets and moved to her side. He turned around and sat on the table, extending his legs before him, crossing his ankles. He tilted his head and said sotto voce,
"You look utterly delectable when you do that."
Her hands stilled and a grin just appeared through the curtain of her hair.
"Jean-Luc…"
"Shh my love. I'm going to talk to Lars for a little while then I'm going to have a shower. What say you meet me in our tent in say…forty-five minutes."
Keeping her head down she answered,
"Ok. I'll go and shower now. I'll be waiting for you."
"Excellent…and Beverly…be in the bed…and be naked."
She chuckled quietly and said saucily,
"What…you don't want to…unwrap me?"
He growled under his breath, his one word reply sending a thrill down her spine.
"No!"
He stood up and made to move away, but he altered course and, as he passed her, he surreptitiously brushed his hand over her buttocks and gently squeezed. Her hands gripped the edge of the table and she let her head raise back as she gasped with fast rising desire. She quickly looked over her shoulder but he was walking away from her. Nevertheless, she watched his retreating behind with appreciation, subconsciously licking her lips, her eyes hooded. She left soon after.
Jean-Luc rejoined Lars as promised and they spent some time dating his finds and placing them in the chronological timeline they had created. When he thought it permissible, Jean-Luc left his friend and went to the shower block where he had already placed his toiletries and clean robe. He found that if he prepared ahead of time he could avoid the crush of people who wanted to shower before the evening meal.
Taking off his peaked cap, he allowed a wry grin at his appearance. Covered in red dust, the top of his head was clean…startlingly so. He sighed and set about undressing, putting his clothes straight into the auto cleanser. They would be ready for him when he finished. His boots he knocked and gave a brush before putting them in a small cabinet that would clean them thoroughly. He then stepped into a cubicle and turned on the shower. Usually digs such as this relied on sonic showers, but this expedition was funded by the Urallian government and they spared no expense.
The dust stuck to his body tenaciously, requiring plenty of soap and scrubbing to remove it. He emerged from the shower, his skin glowing pink. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he quickly shaved and donned his robe and sandals.
The short journey to his tent was traversed carefully, stepping only on the duriplast boards making up the paths between the tents. He again congratulated himself on the position of their tent. Situated apart from the main body of the settlement, it afforded a modicum of privacy, something for which they were both appreciative. Entering his code, the tent flap parted and he stepped in, his eyes closing as he detected Beverly's distinctive scent. A mixture of the perfume she chose and her own clean womanly odour, he felt himself begin to harden. Jean-Luc opened his eyes and his breath caught in his throat. Beverly was where he'd asked her to be. In their bed, naked, with the covers folded at the foot, she watched him with sultry eyes and beckoned to him slowly.
"Come here Jean-Luc."
He walked up to the bedside and slipped the sandals from his feet. He shrugged off the robe and Beverly suddenly sat up and caught his hands as they were about to strip off the towel.
"Uh uh…that's mine."
His hands dropped to his sides as she admired the considerable bulge in the towel. Lifting her hand, she trailed her index finger over his length and smiled when he hardened further. Kneeling she undid the towel and let it drop to the floor. She leaned forward and gently gripped his hips, pulling him closer. He too a small step forward and groaned softly when she took the head in her mouth. She lifted him and sucked lightly, delighted when he swelled in her mouth. His hands lifted to her head and he tangled his fingers in her hair and groaned again as she released his hips and allowed her hands to join her mouth. One hand gently massaged his testicles; the other rhythmically squeezed the base of his penis. His hands soon left her head and drifted to her shoulders where he gently pushed her back. She released him and lay back on the bed. As he knelt on the inflated mattress, it squeaked softly and they both smiled. He leaned down to her ear and whispered,
"We'll have to be quiet…"
Beverly nodded then gasped when he descended to her breast and took a nipple in his mouth. She arched up to him as the bud pebbled and he gently grazed it with his teeth.
Usually he liked to spend a long time with foreplay. He preferred to bring her orgasm several times before he entered her, but such was their desire they were both in somewhat of a hurry.
His hand slid down her side and down to her mons to boldly stroke her labia. Finding her wet and hot, he dallied only a moment before he rolled her onto her back and covered her with his hard lean body. She opened her legs and he settled between them, quickly finding his place in her. He entered her slowly, something they both enjoyed, and growled softly when she bit his shoulder. He reciprocated by gently biting her earlobe and her hands went to his buttocks, urging him to move. He didn't disappoint, thrusting slowly at first, but quickly building up to a frantic rhythm. She began to cry out and he covered her mouth with his, kissing her passionately and swallowing her noise. Her fingernails raked his back and he screwed his eyes shut while he slid his hands under her buttocks and lifted her to his thrusts.
She peaked first, arching under him as her internal muscles gripped him. He held his ground and kept pumping vigorously in and out of her bringing another and yet another climax to her before he suddenly stiffened and ground himself against her as he found his own ecstasy.
They lay panting, eyes closed tight, bodies trembling. Jean-Luc's head rested on Beverly's shoulder and he winced when she stroked his back. She opened her eyes and took his face in her hands, gently lifting it. In a soft whisper she said,
"I've done it again, haven't I?"
He smiled and kissed her tenderly.
"It doesn't matter."
"Well at least let me get an auto fuser and heal them…"
"Later my love. For now let's just lie here and enjoy the afterglow."
She sighed and nodded, then mewed as he nuzzled her neck.
"I love you Jean-Luc. Even in this dusty God-forsaken mud ball of a planet where I don't see you from dawn til dusk…I still love you."
He sighed and gently rolled to his side, taking her with him. He slipped from her, making them both gasp, and then grin sheepishly.
"And you must know Beverly…I love you too. With all that I am. I'm so happy you decided to come with me…I would've been so lonely…"
"Hush. Kiss me Jean-Luc."
He wrapped his well-muscled arms around her and pulled her close before tilting his head and nudging under her nose. Their lips met softly, caressing and plucking. His tongue requested entry and she granted it joyfully, opening to him like a flower in bloom. She ran her hands up his back and he twitched in her embrace. She broke the kiss and looked at her hands to find them covered in blood. Sitting up abruptly she frowned down at her lover.
"God Jean-Luc I really gave it to you this time. You lie here on your stomach and I'll heal them."
He sighed and made himself comfortable as Beverly left the bed to retrieve her instruments. She soon returned and the mattress complained when she knelt at his side. He chuckled softly and said,
"I don't recall hearing the mattress…do you think we made enough noise to be heard?"
"God I don't know. To be honest we could've been invaded by the Borg and I wouldn't have known."
She studied the deep, long scratches down his back and gently touched the torn skin. He flinched but said nothing as she went about repairing the lacerations. When she was finished she took a moistened swab and began to clean the blood from his skin. Thoughtfully she said,
"It's your own fault you know."
"My fault?"
"Uh huh. If you weren't such a damn good lover I wouldn't be driven to doing this. You make me mindless…I've never done it to anyone else…"
He turned his head and smiled.
"All finished?"
She nodded and he rolled over, taking her hands and pulling her down to him.
"Listen to me my lovely. I don't care what you do to me as long as you are happy. If I though for one moment you weren't enjoying what we do…"
Her fingers touched his lips silencing him. She slowly eased her hand away and kissed him, softly, lovingly…imparting all her love and wonder. He sighed and returned the kiss, his heart swelling in his chest. They were interrupted by a chime from their tent flap. Jean-Luc sat up and called out,
"Who is it?"
"It's Lars Captain. We're gathering for a briefing before dinner. Will you be joining us?"
Jean-Luc looked at his lover and she nodded then smiled and kissed his nose.
"Yes Lars. I'll be there shortly."

 

 

 

 

 

The main experts on the dig were assembled in the large tent in the middle of the settlement. Long conference tables, which doubled as dining tables at meal times, ran the length of the tent at this time covered with computers and PADDS. Lars looked up from his scrutiny of a specimen and grinned as Jean-Luc made his way over to him.
"Jean-Luc, glad you could make it, we've had something of a breakthrough. Doctor Adamson has found something I think you'll find intriguing."
The two men moved down the table to a group of four people gathered around a computer. Mary Adamson was asking for opinions.
"So if we accept this glyph as being indicative of manned flight…what do we make of this?"
She held up a large nearly complete platter. On its surface a scene had been etched, depicting several manned flying craft surrounding an obscured image. They all seemed to be facing in the same direction, but unfortunately the scene was missing a piece. The side of the platter was broken off, thereby truncating the picture.
Lars and Jean-Luc moved forward to get a better look and the Captain noticed some incomplete glyphs along the edge of the break.
"It seems something of importance was represented there. For the image to have its own glyphs…a religious icon perhaps?"
Mary looked up and smiled, moving close enough to him to have their shoulders touch.
"Maybe but generally they seem to have had a secular society. I wish we could get a better look at this obscured image…here in the centre."
Jean-Luc tried to put some distance between them but she maintained the contact. She urged him to bend closer to study the picture and, as he did, she bent also. With their faces very close, she turned to him and purred,
"I'd value your opinion Captain."
Jean-Luc cleared his throat and straightened as more people crowded in to view the enigma. He was about to ask Lars a question when he felt someone gently pinch his behind. His head quickly turned to Mary but she kept her eyes and at least one hand on the artefact. He reddened slightly and moved away from the table, but not before he caught a sly grin from the pretty archaeologist.
He made his way to the main computer and was immersed in his work when Lars joined him.
"So Jean-Luc…what do you think?"
The Captain sighed and checked his screen.
"It could be anything, but I do think it's significant. It's the first time we've seen the flying objects in conjunction with anything else that's been given the same, or more important status. I wish we knew what those missing glyphs were."
Lars turned the monitor to face him and entered some commands.
"We're cross referencing all known glyphs and that obscured image…we hope to discover what that is by comparing some earlier finds with what we have. We might get lucky."
Jean-Luc nodded and looked around to ensure their privacy.
"Lars…Mary Adamson…what's her status?"
Lars chuckled softly and dug Jean-Luc in the ribs.
"She fancies you! She spent all morning plying me with questions about you."
Jean-Luc scowled deeply.
"Like what?"
"Oh you know…are you married, what do you like to eat, how old are you…and who is your companion and what is your relationship with her?"
Jean-Luc groaned and rubbed his face, slowly shaking his head.
"Oh God…"
Lars smiled and waggled his eyebrows.
"You old dog Jean-Luc...she's quite a catch you know. Her father is Karl Adamson, the noted philanthropist and major contributor to the Federation Archaeological Guild. She's unmarried, pretty, well connected and brilliant. You'd be hard pressed to do better."
Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head. To his friend he said,
"Lars I'm already in a stable, loving relationship and I don't want that to change. Will you tell Mary…thanks, but no thanks?"
Lars sighed expansively and shrugged his shoulders.
"I'll tell her Jean-Luc but I doubt it'll make any difference. She's accustomed to getting what she wants."
The two men noticed the entry of the cooks and shifted to help them clear the tables in preparation for the evening meal. Chairs were brought in and soon many tasty dishes were displayed for the personnel to choose from. They entered singularly and in groups, Jean-Luc gratified to see Beverly enter with Lars' wife, her attention on the baby, which the red head had perched on her hip. Jean-Luc sauntered over to her and delighted the Doctor when he tickled the little girl under the chin. He was rewarded with a burbling giggle and a drool. Grimacing, he surreptitiously wiped his fingers on his trousers and scowled at Beverly who was only just withholding a giggle of her own.
"My intrepid Captain…"
He shook his head in exasperation a grin slowly creeping across his handsome face. He was about to suggest she surrender the child when a sultry voice reached his ear.
"Captain Picard you simply must taste this vegetable medley…it's divine."
He turned to find Mary Adamson very close, holding up a fork loaded with the said vegetables. As he opened his mouth to decline, she pushed the laden utensil into his mouth. He could either spit it out or chew. He chose to chew.
"Mmm."
He raised his eyebrows and reached for Beverly's elbow, dismayed to find she'd moved off with Julie, Lars' wife. Mary stepped closer and tilted her head, making her bob hairstyle shimmer.
"Is it true what they say about Starship Captains?"
Jean-Luc swallowed, his mind racing.
"Err…what is that?"
She raised one finger and ran it down his shirt to his belt.
"That they're always ready…for anything?"
Feeling very uncomfortable, Jean-Luc gently took her hand and moved it from his body.
"Ms. Adamson…"
"Oh no…call me Mary please…and I'll call you Jean-Luc."
He lowered his head and sighed. Gathering his wits he tried again.
"Ms. Adamson…Mary…I think you've got the wrong impression. I…"
He was interrupted by Beverly.
"Jean-Luc? Are you coming to the table?"
She immediately noticed his discomfit and transferred her attention to the young woman with the predatory look.
"Hello, I'm Doctor Beverly Crusher."
She held out her hand and Mary shook it diffidently. Jean-Luc found his tongue.
"Ah yes! Beverly this is Doctor Mary Adamson, one of the site directors. Mary, Beverly is the CMO on my ship and my…partner."
Mary's eyebrows rose and she made a show of looking Beverly up and down.
"Are you now? Lucky you."
Barely concealing an amused smile, Beverly endured the rudeness and casually slipped her hand into Jean-Luc's.
"Aren't I just? Well Jean-Luc dinner's getting cold and you how I am with my appetites."
He hid a frown beneath a smile and took a large breath.
"Yes we really should be getting to the table."
They moved off, hoping the confrontation was over. Their hopes were dashed when they sat only to find Mary taking the seat to Jean-Luc's left. He was effectively sandwiched between the two women. Hoping to keep things on a normal footing, Jean-Luc reached for a plate and was highly embarrassed when his arm brushed Mary's breast as she leaned forward deliberately. He couldn't help but notice she'd undone the top buttons of her shirt, exposing a tantalising amount of flesh. Their eyes met and she smiled sweetly. He was about to apologise when he felt a firm pinch on his thigh from the other side. His head spun around to find Beverly glaring at him. His mouth opened to protest when his hand was enclosed by another. He closed his eyes and frowned before turning slowly and re-opening his eyes. Mary gently squeezed his hand and he began to sweat. Abruptly pushing his chair back he rose to his feet and firmly placed his serviette on the table.
"If you will excuse me ladies."
Mustering all of his considerable dignity, he squared his shoulders and left the room. He felt their eyes on his back and didn't stop until he was safely outside, where he took a deep breath and wiped his brow.

 

 

 

 

 

He was seated at the makeshift desk reading when Beverly returned to their tent sometime later. She carried a bundle in her hands and Jean-Luc's eyebrows rose with curiosity.
"What have you got there?"
She grinned and placed the bundle on the desk and slowly began to unwrap it.
"Well seeing as how you made such a strategic early withdrawal…I thought you just might be hungry."
She uncovered a plate warmer and Jean-Luc's mouth watered when she took the lid off. He leaned forward a sniffed appreciatively.
"Smells delicious."
"It was. Here, you'll need these."
She gave him his utensils and he sighed with pleasure before tucking in to his meal. Beverly stayed silent while he ate, content to just watch him. He was a graceful man whose every action, even something as mundane as eating was undertaken with economy of movement, his well muscled lean body oozing power and poise.
Finishing his repast, he wiped his mouth and sat back, a satisfied grin on his face.
"Thank you Beverly that was kind of you."
"You're welcome. Do you want to talk about it?"
His smile faded and a frown appeared.
"It's damned embarrassing."
Beverly carefully tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and sniffed.
"She wants you, you know."
"Beverly…"
"No I'm serious! We had a little…chat after you left."
His head shot up and he blushed.
"What?"
"Uh huh. She asked me exactly what you meant by partner."
Jean-Luc rubbed his face in irritation and huffed.
"It's none of her damned business!"
"Oh I agree with you, but she was…insistent."
He looked up, a worried frown marring his features.
"What did you say?"
Beverly took her time, drawing one leg up under her and tidying the items on the desk.
"Beverly…"
"I told her we're in a long term relationship and that she would be better served if she went looking elsewhere."
He let out a breath and tilted his head.
"And what did she say?"
"She asked…rather pointedly…if we were married. I told her the truth."
"Merde!"
"Exactly. As far as she's concerned if we're not married…then you're fair game, but to be honest I don't think she really cares. She'll be after you in any event."
Jean-Luc spent some moments studying his hands, thinking.
"She won't be put off?"
"Nope."
"Oh God. I'm sorry Beverly. Look I'll make it clear to her tomorrow. I'll…"
Beverly stood and came around the desk to insinuate herself between his legs.
"She's quite pretty…in a avaricious sort of way. Are you sure you…?"
"Beverly!"
He stood suddenly and took her in his arms, crushing her to him and kissing her passionately. She remained stiff in his embrace only a moment before melting into his arms. She returned the kiss and moaned when his tongue entered her mouth to plunder her depths. He kissed her thoroughly, until she was weak at the knees. Only then did he taper his assault, easing back and gazing deeply into her sapphire blue eyes.
"My sweet Beverly…never…never doubt my love for you. My heart…my soul are yours and yours alone…no one else's. I have eyes only for you and it has been that way for nearly half my life."
In response Beverly reached up and slowly undid the buttons of his shirt.
"Make love to me Jean-Luc…slowly…sweetly…as only you can."
He kissed her again and whispered softly to her,
"Anything my love…anything you desire."

 

 

 

A half an hour later Mary stealthily approached the tent and glowered at hearing the soft rhythmic squeaking of the mattress. She tarried, tempted to activate the call button on the tent, but eventually retreated, her ears burning with the gentle sounds of passion coming from the shelter.

 

 

 

 

Early the next day, after breakfast, the researchers split up into teams and entered the caverns. Beverly accompanied the Captain only as far as the ladder. As was his habit, he intended to explore on his own, stopping where he chose to excavate. He turned to his lover and took her hand.
"Are you sure you don't want to come? Some of the calcium formations have to be seen to be believed."
She chuckled and used her free hand to straighten the strap of his knapsack.
"No Jean-Luc you go on. I'll man the medical station, there's always someone needing help with this many people."
He sighed and glanced about, ascertaining their privacy.
"Very well. I'll be back for lunch."
He leaned in and kissed her tenderly and she whispered in his ear,
"Thank you for last night…it was wonderful."
He smiled softly and ran his fingers down her face to caress her lips.
"For you…anything."
She stepped back from the cliff and watched as he settled his load and swung onto the ladder. Their eyes met and they smiled as he disappeared. Beverly sighed and made her way back to the first aid station in the main cavern. Already there were two people waiting.
"So? What have we here?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc had been an hour at his last site, extracting two more sizeable finds. Further digging revealed a paved section and he followed it, carefully digging and sweeping, as the stones were uncovered. He'd bared four and a half metres before he stopped and took out his tricorder. Getting his bearings, he mapped the path and looked up, lifting his hand to adjust the light on his cap. The beam split the darkness and he saw that the path was descending down another tunnel. He was about to move forward when he heard approaching footsteps. Thinking Lars was about to join him, he called out,
"Down here Lars. I think I've found something interesting."
He saw the flash of light before he saw the person behind it. The beam flicked across his eyes, momentarily blinding him. He stood still, mildly annoyed at the breach of etiquette. He wasn't prepared for the voice he heard.
"Sorry about that Jean-Luc…I just had to look at you."
His jaw clenched spasmodically and he closed his eyes.
"Ms. Adamson. You're a long way from the control centre."
He smelled her perfume, as she stood too close to him. His eyes still starred, he lowered his head and concentrated on the dirt beneath his feet.
"Oh you know how it gets when you're in command. I like to get amongst the workers…get my hands dirty…I'm sure you understand?"
"Ah…of course. I was just going to return to the cavern, would you like to accompany me?"
She moved closer, so close he could feel her body heat. Her hand drifted up to gently squeeze his bicep. The light on her cap spilled down his body.
"Nonsense Jean-Luc. What was it you were just saying…you've found something interesting? I like interesting things…you'd be surprised…"
Nervously shifting out of her grasp, Jean-Luc swallowed and turned to the uncovered pavement. He made the mistake of bending.
"Yes…well as you can see here…"
His voice stilled in his throat as her hand gently caressed the back of his thigh up to his behind as she bent beside him. He straightened immediately and spun around. Unfortunately that put her hand over his groin.
"Oh my! I'm so sorry."
Despite her apology, her hand remained where it was. Jean-Luc gripped her wrist firmly and removed her hand. She raised their hands and, whilst staring into his face, kissed the back of his fist.
He sighed and shook his head.
"Look Ms. Adamson…I'm not…"
"Now Jean-Luc I thought we'd got past all those stuffy formalities. It's Mary."
He paused and tried again.
"Please Ms. Adamson, I really don't appreciate your…attentions. Don't misunderstand me, I'm flattered, very much so, but as you already know, I have a partner, whom I love dearly. I'm simply not interested in your advances."
He stood still while Mary walked slowly around him, the beam from her lamp undulating across his body.
"That could change."
"No, no it won't."
She came to stand once again facing him. She reached up and caressed the back of his head whilst leaning in and kissing him softly. He stood absolutely still, his hands by his sides, not responding in any way. She ended the kiss and sighed, her breath washing over his face. She allowed her fingers to trail down his cheek and across his lips.
"Very well…Jean-Luc, we shall see…I do so love a challenge."
They stood nose to nose and she half turned. Jean-Luc was about to sigh with relief when she turned back and picked up his hand. She slowly lifted it to her mouth and deliberately sucked his index finger into her mouth suggestively, her eyes never leaving his. Just as he was about to protest, she abruptly expelled the digit, turned and left. He waited until her footfalls echoed into silence before he sat heavily on the ground and swore.

 

 

 

 

Beverly was cataloguing her instruments when Julie wandered over with the baby. She laughed when Beverly shut the lid of the container firmly and promptly sat on it. Holding her arms out, Beverly settled the little girl on her lap and cast a sympathetic eye over her new friend.
"Want to talk about it?"
Julie grimaced and shook her head.
"Is it that obvious?"
"Only to those of us who've been there."
Julie looked at Beverly with surprise.
"What do you mean?"
Taking time to wipe the baby's chin, Beverly replied,
"I completed my final year of medicine with a baby in tow. I know what it's like."
Julie's shoulders slumped and she held her hands up.
"I feel like such a failure! I thought I could write my thesis and take care of Ruby…but…"
"It's not that easy."
Julie shook her head and Beverly sighed.
"You have to learn to delegate kiddo. Can you organise some of the technicians to help? I'm sure some of them would volunteer to mind Ruby, she's such a sweetie."
The woman frowned and said crossly,
"But I wanted to do everything. I don't see…"
Beverly smiled inwardly and patted the agitated woman on the arm.
"Get used to the idea. You can't do everything! You're human, with all the frailties and insecurities that come with it. Trust me, it does get better, but you have to learn to be kind to yourself."
A silky feminine voice entered the conversation.
"Now that's good advice in any situation."
Beverly looked over Julie's shoulder to see Mary standing, hands behind her back and a sly grin on her face. The young mother smirked at Beverly knowingly and gathered up her child. Beverly wasn't in the mood to be kind.
"Here you go Julie. I'm sure Mary would be delighted to baby sit for you."
The archaeologist's face screwed up in distaste.
"Babies? I don't think so!"
Beverly stood, warming to her task.
"Oh come now Mary, Ruby's an adorable child. What's a bit of drool and the odd dirty nappy between friends? I'm sure you've gotten your hands dirty…sometime?"
Julie looked on with rising fear as Mary's face hardened.
"Oh yes Doctor…I don't mind a bit of dirty work…as long as I get what I want. I usually do you know."
Beverly stood, attaining her full height and looking down at the vexed woman.
"Well I wish you luck, although sometimes a wiser person can see when that task is hopeless."
Looking up at her adversary, Mary stiffened her back.
"Perhaps, but I like to think that's when I'm at my best…when the competition makes it all worthwhile. There's nothing quite like the sweet taste of victory…is there Doctor?"
With that, Mary stalked away and Julie turned to see Beverly watching the retreating woman with a hawk-like intensity. Cuddling her daughter to her breast, Julie made a hasty exit.
For the next two hours Beverly had difficulties keeping her mind on her work. That she was annoyed was an understatement…she was livid. When the lunch break was called, she threw down the PADD she'd been reading and walked quickly over to the cliff, pacing up and down the edge, her anger overriding her fear of heights. She twice checked the chronometer and was about to descend the ladder when she heard his distinctive baritone. She was almost tapping her foot when he appeared.
"Jean-Luc where the hell have you been? Lunch was called ages ago!"
He frowned as he extinguished his light.
"Beverly? What's wrong?"
She stopped fidgeting and pinched the bridge of her nose. Forcing herself to be calm, she altered her tone.
"Sorry my love…bad morning. Come on let's go and have lunch."
Jean-Luc dusted off his hands on his pants then slid an arm around her waist. Ducking in quickly, he stole a kiss and Beverly couldn't help by smile at his roguish look of triumph. She rested her head on his shoulder as they walked in the now empty cavern, but was saddened when he distanced himself as the approached the long tent. He opened the tent flap and stood back with gentlemanly good manners as she preceded him inside. They had gone only a few steps when they were joined by another.
Sliding her arm through his, Mary leaned close and chuckled.
"I'm told your family owns a rather prestigious vineyard on Earth. What's a vintner's son doing traipsing about the galaxy…or sniffing in the dirt for that matter?"
Jean-Luc carefully disengaged her arm and conjured up a wan smile.
"I chose not to pursue my family's business, my interests lay elsewhere. As for archaeology…it has long been a passion of mine."
As soon as he said it he cringed.
"Oh God why did I say passion?"
She moved closer and batted her eyes at him coquettishly.
"Yes…I would say you're a very passionate man…"
Beverly slipped her hand into his and squeezed it reassuringly.
"Oh he's passionate alright…you've got no idea…"
Hearing quite enough and not wanting to prolong his embarrassment, Jean-Luc quickly towed Beverly away and over to the tables. In silence he retrieved two plates and handed one to her. When she didn't take it, he looked up to see her smiling apologetically.
"Sorry…I couldn't help it…she's such a bitch."
He shook his head and muttered,
"More like a cat on heat…she visited me this morning on site."
"She did?"
"Uh huh."
Beverly looked around and made a show of putting some sandwiches on her plate. Jean-Luc did the same.
"What did she do?"
Jean-Luc reddened slightly and cleared his throat.
"Let's just say she was…free with her hands."
Beverly nearly dropped the plate.
"She touched you? Inappropriately?"
He nodded and sighed.
"And kissed me."
"What?" she hissed, her eyes darkening.
Alarmed, Jean-Luc recognised the Howard temper rousing.
"Nothing happened…I didn't respond, in fact I told her that her advances were unwanted."
"Oh really? And what did she say?"
"Look Beverly it's..."
"What the hell did she say?"
"Beverly…for God's sake keep your voice down! She seemed to give in, but she did say she liked a challenge."
Jean-Luc wisely chose not to relate the experience with the finger sucking. Beverly was fuming.
"That bitch!"
"Forget about her Beverly, she will only upset us if we allow her to. Listen to me…I love you! You know that and I know you love me. Let's just ignore her and enjoy our leave."
Taking a large breath, Beverly mentally counted to ten and consciously relaxed her body. She looked at her lover with gratitude and squeezed his hand. Nodding, she picked up her plate and moved to the urn to pour a cup of tea. Jean-Luc breathed a sigh of relief but froze as he looked over the table. Mary stood nearby, a wicked grin marring her pretty features.

 

 

 

 

The next day Jean-Luc spent many rewarding hours at his site, exposing more pavement and delving deeper into the tunnel. Time there was fortunately Mary free and he soon forgot her, his absorption with his work almost absolute. It was well into the afternoon when he realised, with a sinking stomach, that he'd missed lunch. Sighing, he straightened his aching back and looked around him at the many artefacts he'd gathered. Knowing there were too many to take back in one go, he decided to bring Lars back with him the next day. It was time he showed him the pathway anyway. He had a suspicion it was important, or at least leading to something of importance as he found five articles with similar glyphs to the platter. He bent and gently picked up the clearest representation, carefully placing it in his knapsack. Shining his lamp once again around his site, he was satisfied all was in order. He turned and retreated into the inky blackness of the tunnels.
Beverly had waited around the ladder for ten minutes, but when he didn't appear, she sighed and went to the dining tent knowing he was probably engrossed in his work. As on the Enterprise, he was often so absorbed in his work, he forgot to sleep or eat. She smiled to herself as she nodded to her companions, he would return in due course, probably hungry…and with a sore back.
Mary avoided Beverly, something for which the doctor was grateful, and the red head noticed that the woman took her lunch to her tent. Shrugging her shoulders, Beverly sought out Julie and Lars, laughing when they were surprised at Jean-Luc's absence.
Later that afternoon she was administering an analgesic for a stubborn headache when she noticed some people gravitating to one of the tables near the cliff. Finishing with her patient, she wandered over to see what the fuss was about and was stunned when she heard her lover's mellifluous voice.
"See here Lars…more of the flying machines and, if I'm not mistaken, a clearer glyph of that central figure on the platter."
Beverly moved closer to him and smiled softly at his concentration. Tiny lines creased between his eyes, and his gaze was piercing as he expounded on his find. She had seen him like this so many times, usually on the Bridge of his ship, but his aura of Command was unmistakable, and the people around him responded appropriately, ceding authority to him unconsciously. Her admiring introspection came to an abrupt halt when Mary pushed through the crowd and stood at his side, their bodies touching. At first Jean-Luc ignored the intrusion, thinking it was just an enthusiastic onlooker, but when she spoke he stiffened and made an effort to put some space between them. Her eyes travelled over his face, a seductive smile appearing.
"So Jean-Luc…you have been busy! Tell me…are there any more like this?"
She reached and gripped his shoulder, her hip pressing against his.
"Ah yes…I've managed to uncover several pieces…this was the most startling example, I intended to take Lars with me tomorrow to retrieve the rest."
"Nonsense! I'll go with you, well have them deciphered in no time."
He again attempted to move away from her, but she followed his every action. He sighed and frowned at her.
"I'm sure that's not necessary Ms. Adamson, you're needed here. I'll take Lars."
She smiled sweetly at him, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
"I wouldn't hear of it Jean-Luc! Anyway, as head archaeologist, I reserve the right to see all the newest finds…in situ. Now let's put an end to these tedious arguments and get to cataloguing these relics."
The people started to drift away but Mary stayed at Jean-Luc's side. Leaning too close for his comfort, she said huskily,
"I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to working with you…Jean-Luc."
Her correct French pronunciation of his name surprised him and she smiled again seeing it. Chuckling to herself she turned to come face to face with Beverly.
"Oh Doctor Crusher, I didn't know you were here."
Beverly kept a smile plastered on her face and looked down at the artefact the woman carried.
"Another conquest Mary?"
The smaller woman laughed gaily and shrugged her shoulders.
"I'm not sure…it's a bit too early to tell."
"Well you'd better run along and check…hadn't you."
One could almost see the electric energy passing between the women. Jean-Luc watched with rising interest as Mary lowered her eyes and grinned to herself. She stepped around Beverly and made a show of exaggerating her sawing hips as she sashayed away.
"That woman!" Beverly hissed.
Jean-Luc took her hand in his and tenderly held over his heart.
"Beverly…remember what we agreed. Ignore her."
"If she touches you again I'll ignore her…with my fist!"
He chuckled and she glared at him in defiance.
"I mean it Jean-Luc! Who the hell does she think she is? And she's so bloody blatant about it…showing off in front of everybody…what was it you said? A cat on heat? You're not wrong!"
"Hey come on…calm down, forget about her. I've got to go to the stores tent to get some supplies…want to come?"
She smiled at him, pushing anger aside.
"Ok. By the way…where were you at lunch?"
He stopped in his tracks and shook his head.
"Ah yes…lunch. I'm sorry about that…I got entrenched in what I was doing and I sort of…forgot."
She sighed and gently slapped his shoulder.
"Well it's not as if you've never done it before. Are you hungry or can you wait for dinner?"
He grinned and pulled her to him.
"I'll wait. Good things are always worth waiting for…like you."
She giggled and blushed. Taking his hand she tugged him into walking.
"Come on let's get these supplies."
Their walk to the supply tent was uneventful, but a little long. The tent was situated quite a distance from the main settlement for safety reasons. Although on a peaceful planet, weapons were stored, along with a quantity of explosive materials, sometimes needed in their work. As befitting his rank, Jean-Luc had the code for the lock and the two officers entered and he turned on the lights, only to be surprised when Beverly shut them off.
"Beverly? What?"
"Shh Jean-Luc."
In the semi-darkness she backed him up against a stack of crates and kissed him passionately. He resisted initially, his hands going to her shoulders to gently urge her back, but when her tongue invaded his mouth he capitulated and fell headlong into the spell of sexual tension she was weaving. Her hands travelled down his body to boldly stroke him through his trousers. He grabbed her buttocks and pulled her to him, trapping her hands between them. She eased away from him and began to undo his fly. He broke the kiss and in a rough, strained voice he muttered,
"Here? But…"
She knelt in front of him and reached into the opening of his pants. As she wrestled his erection free, she looked up and whispered,
"Shh."
Not satisfied with her efforts, she opened his pants further and pulled them down to his thighs. She looked at his throbbing penis lasciviously in the dim light, but soon frowned.
"The bloody dust…God it gets in everywhere! Stay right where you are."
She rose to her feet and disappeared into the dimness.
Jean-Luc's frantic whisper went unanswered.
"Beverly! Where the hell are you going?"
He jumped when she returned and gripped his erection.
"I told you…hush! Now this may be a little cool…"
He gasped loudly as a cold wet swab slid over his penis. Normally such a cold shock would've had a deleterious effect, but Beverly quickly fell to her knees and added her mouth to the action. He hardened in her mouth and he immediately forgot the swab as she began to suck and lick him, sliding her mouth up and down his veined shaft. He braced his legs apart and leaned back on the crates as she gently massaged his testicles. His hands went to her head and he began to thrust gently. Beverly released his sensitive orbs and ran her fingernails up his groin and over his stomach, all the while sliding him in and out of her sucking mouth. He began to push harder, his fingers gripping her head and she tasted his first droplet. Easing her hands behind him, she squeezed his buttocks then ran her hands down the back of his thighs before sliding her fingers up the insides of his thighs and behind his scrotum. Keeping up her oral cadence, she judged the moment perfectly. She glanced up to see him watching her intently, his mouth open and panting. Suddenly his head snapped back and his whole body stiffened. Beverly quickly pressed the knuckle of one finger into the reactive bundle of nerves between the scrotum and anus and gently inserted another finger slightly into his anus.
He literally exploded in her mouth. She heard his roar of liberation and she felt his body jerk and tremble as he pumped his semen deeply into her throat. He remained in a rictus of ecstasy for some moments his hands almost painfully gripping her head before he ever so slowly started to come down. Gradually he softened and she very gently let him slip from her mouth, causing him to shudder. As she stood, she pulled up his pants and hitched them on his hips, leaving them undone. She took him in her arms and waited while he regained his breath. He slowly lifted his head and rested it on her shoulder while his arms encircled her. When he had recovered somewhat he nuzzled into her neck.
"God Beverly…what possessed you?"
She smiled and drew in his scent, their recent activities releasing a musky odour.
"Oh I just thought you looked a little…tense."
He chuckled and planted open mouth kisses under her chin.
"I see. But why here? Anybody could've walked in…"
"Oh I don't know…the mood took me and I decided to act."
He smiled and lifted a hand to caress her breast.
"Hmm, I like the way you think."
He kissed her and growled at her taste. Deepening the kiss he let one hand descend to her behind as the other kneaded her breast. Neither heard the door open, but the lights coming on startled them. Jean-Luc broke the kiss and grabbed Beverly's shoulders, keeping her in front of him, as his pants were still open, his genitals on display.
Mary Adamson's hand flew to her mouth to stifle a gasp. Her eyebrows rose suggestively and she slowly stepped closer.
"Jean-Luc…Doctor…I didn't expect to find you here."
The Captain cleared his throat and carefully lowered his hands to gather the front of his trousers. He surreptitiously eased himself inside his briefs and slowly zipped up the fly, but had trouble with the top fastening. He was getting desperate until Beverly's fingers pushed his hands away. As Mary slowly approached Beverly expertly slid the recalcitrant clip home, did up his belt and managed to tuck in his shirt. When Mary stopped but a few steps away, Beverly turned and smiled sweetly at her rival.
"We just came in to get some supplies for tomorrow."
Mary frowned and looked at the ceiling.
"With the lights off?"
Beverly grinned outright and took Jean-Luc's hand.
"We were just testing our night vision…you never know when you'll be needing it."
Mary looked sceptically at the couple and nodded her head.
"Yes I can see how it could come in handy, what with working in the dark all the time…"
"Yes! Well Jean-Luc we'd better get our supplies."
The mute Captain nodded and diverted his attention to the crates behind him, noticing that several had been pushed off centre. With Beverly at his side, he collected the needed items and, with their arms full, they exited the tent leaving a highly bemused woman behind. When they were out of earshot Beverly burst out laughing.
"Did you see her face? What a hoot!"
"Beverly…testing our night vision? She didn't believe you for a second. She knows damn well what we were doing."
Beverly's laughter grew sardonic.
"So what? We're consenting adults and it's none of her Goddamned business. She's only jealous anyway."
They walked on in silence for a while and as they neared the main tent Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.
"This will make her more determined you know. She well may see this as a challenge of some sort."
"So what?"
He stopped in his tracks and looked aghast at his lover.
"You forget I've got to take her with me tomorrow."
Beverly stopped too and grinned back at her Captain.
"What…are you scared?"
"Beverly…she's avaricious! She doesn't take no for an answer…in fact she takes it as encouragement!"
"So…take Lars or someone else with you. Don't be alone with her."
He shook his head and muttered under his breath,
"Easier said than done."

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast the next morning was a little tense. Jean-Luc was almost sullen and Beverly soon tired of trying to cheer him up. He looked morosely at his empty cup and sighed heavily. Pushing his chair back, he cast his lover a look and she frowned.
"For God's sake Jean-Luc, you look like a condemned man. Lighten up."
He smiled weakly and watched as the scientists drifted into their teams. He caught Lars' attention and the big blond man walked briskly to their table.
"Good morning Jean-Luc, Beverly."
"Good morning Lars. Will you be joining me today?"
Lars frowned and looked at his feet.
"As a matter of fact no Jean-Luc. I have to stay to meet the Urallian delegation, they've come for a looksee."
The Captain closed his eyes briefly and pursed his lips.
"Well your assistant perhaps?"
The archaeologist shook his head and shifted uncomfortably.
"No, he's joining the date line group. That piece you brought back has them scratching their heads. They…"
The Captain's quietly insistent voice interrupted him.
"She's delegated everyone hasn't she?"
Lars grimaced and looked sympathetically at his friend.
"I'm afraid so Jean-Luc."
His 'I told you so' look to Beverly caused her to harrumph.
"Well I'll go with you then."
Lars cleared his throat and gained Beverly's attention.
"I don't think so Beverly. The Urallian Consul's second wife is suffering from a chest infection and the Director has offered your expertise."
Beverly's jaw clenched and she lifted her chin.
"Has she now? Well it would've been nice to be consulted! I don't know all that much about Urallians."
The blond man had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"Um…the Director has left a PADD at the medical station with all you need to know. You just have to…"
"Dammit…she's thought of everything!"
Jean-Luc stood and held his lover by the elbows.
"It's all right Beverly…I won't go."
The Doctor looked deeply into his dark hazel eyes and came to a decision.
"No Jean-Luc…damn her! I trust you implicitly and if you can withstand her attempts to seduce you, it might just finally get the message across. Go my love…show her it's futile."
He sighed and squeezed her arms.
"You're sure?"
She nodded and quickly stepped forward to kiss him. He surprised her by prolonging the kiss in the presence of Lars, seemingly uncaring at being watched. Her hands rested on his hips, his on her shoulders. When the kiss ended he stayed close and whispered, his breath caressing her lips.
"Just remember I love you…with all that I am."
She nodded again and he turned and walked away. Lars watched him go and shook his head.
"I don't envy him."
Beverly sighed and hugged herself.
"Neither do I."
Jean-Luc spent some time packing his supplies into two backpacks and hefted one over his broad shoulder, the other he carried in his hand. He found Mary waiting at the ladder, adjusting her cap. He gestured to the free backpack and she shrugged it over her shoulders. They hesitated self-consciously at the ladder head, until Jean-Luc stepped back and waved her on. She smiled and swung onto the rungs, Jean-Luc noticing her pants were very tight and that her blouse was open at the top, exposing a lot of cleavage. He waited until she'd descended several rungs before making his own descent, startled when she reached around him when his feet touched the bottom. She worked her fingers under the strap and untwisted it. With her face very close to his she said breathily,
"There that should be more comfortable."
He nodded his thanks and stepped away from her, gesturing towards the chute. They crawled in silence, Jean-Luc keeping his eyes on the floor, the view of her firm behind in front of his face disturbing his thoughts. Covering the distance through the caverns they ducked into the tunnel and soon emerged at his excavation site.
Shrugging off the backpacks and putting them to one side, the two slowly turned their heads, letting the beams from their cap lamps slice through the darkness.
Although spoken softly, her voice reverberated through the area.
"Show me where you've been working."
He stepped forward and, flipping open his tricorder, picked up the exposed paving. He pointed down, then raised his head so that his lamp showed the extent of his excavations. She moved ahead of him and squatted down to get a closer look at the intricately laid stones. Utilising her own tricorder, she scanned the area and stood slowly, intent on her instrument. Over her shoulder she asked,
"Where did you find the artefacts…the ones with the glyphs?"
He walked to one side and knelt on one knee.
"There were two here, the others were on the over there, on the opposite side."
She began to hum and Jean-Luc found her voice pleasant.
"Do you think they were placed randomly, or deliberately?"
He thought about that and came to his answer.
"Deliberately I think. They were all facing in the same direction, with the central figure aligned with the tunnel. They were also raised on one side, the soil packed under them, hard on one side, soft on the other."
She turned to face him, careful to keep her beam from his eyes.
"I see. So what do you think? Sacrificial or ceremonial perhaps?"
He stood and raised his beam down the tunnel again.
"Hard to say, but if I had to guess…I'd say ceremonial. I've seen no evidence of sacrificial behaviour. No altars, no significant vessels…either way, I think the answer may be down this tunnel. The further I've been, the more I've found."
She snapped her tricorder closed, the sound sharp in the utterly silent blackness.
"I agree with you Jean-Luc." Sweeping her hand forward, she said grandly,
"Shall we?"
They worked together for over two hours, Jean-Luc surprised and pleased when she made no obviously seductive moves. Although their bodies touched frequently as they dug, she kept her mind on the job and left him alone.
The path reached a lowering of the tunnel roof and the diggers had to kneel to keep up their excavations. The further they dug, the lower the roof got. Jean-Luc sat up and retrieved his tricorder. He frowned as he scanned, unaware that Mary kept digging.
"The path drops at an angle of 18 degrees. It seems to follow the inclination of the tunnel roof."
The Director sat up and bent her head to aim her beam at the narrowing gap.
"If we clear the soil down to the stones, will we fit through?"
Jean-Luc consulted his instrument and nodded.
"Yes. It opens again approximately twelve metres ahead. The ceiling must have lowered over the years."
Mary brushed her hand over her thighs and sniffed.
"Well we'd better get going then."
She leaned forward onto her stomach and Jean-Luc's beam momentarily highlighted her behind. He swallowed and shook his head, picking up his hand spade and joining her. They worked methodically until they came across a large rock. It sat squarely in the middle of the tunnel and Jean-Luc sat up to scan it. Crouching, he wiped the dust from the screen.
"It's free of any other debris. If we can loosen it, we may be able to roll it out of here."
"Right. Let's do it."
On their sides and stretched full length, they dug around the rock, the soil raining down on them. Mary coughed heavily and Jean-Luc stopped his actions.
"Are you all right?"
She didn't answer and Jean-Luc frowned.
"Ms. Adamson?"
When she didn't reply he dropped his spade and slid over to her, pulling her back and rolling her onto her back.
"Ms. Adamson!… Mary!"
He gently shook her shoulders and she coughed again. Her arms suddenly came up and encircled his head, pulling him down quickly and kissing him soundly. Her tongue entered his open mouth and he felt a corresponding tingle course through his body. He tensed and pulled her to him in a reflexive action, his eyes drifting shut. Gathering his wits, he shook free and gripped her arms firmly.
"Stop it!"
She was panting, the beam from his light full on her face.
"Jean-Luc you know I want you…and I think you want me. Come here…let me kiss you again, let me show you how much I want you. You won't be disappointed."
He scrabbled out of the confined space and spent some time getting his respiration under control. When he felt her hand on his thigh, his head came up sharply and he growled,
"Get your hand off me!"
She reluctantly lifted her hand, but moved closer.
"Come on Jean-Luc…we're all grown up. Who's going to know?"
He glared at her and hissed,
"I would! Listen to me Mary…I love Beverly! She has my heart, my soul…everything I am is hers. I do not want you, or your attentions. When will you get that through your head?"
Mary tilted her head and smiled slyly.
"Good speech Jean-Luc…almost convincing…but you responded when I kissed you. Or will you try to deny that too?"
He sighed and lowered his head. In a roughened voice he said,
"Dammit Mary…I'm a Human male. You're a very beautiful woman and, as I've said before, I'm flattered by your interest but I insist…you must stop. Please stop…my heart belongs to Beverly."
"Ok…what about your body? I can do things Jean-Luc…things that might change your mind."
He smiled softly and lifted his head.
Be that as it may…I'm happy to remain ignorant thank you."
She lifted her hand and, careful not to dazzle him, cast some light over his face. Her eyes tracked her fingers as they trailed down his face, her fingers touching his lips in a feather-like caress. She sighed and leaned in to gently kiss him. Sitting back, she smiled wistfully.
"Very well…but you really don't know what you're missing."
Jean-Luc took her hand and allowed the light to spill onto her upturned face.
"Perhaps, but it's the way it must be."
She withdrew her hand and turned to the dig. Stopping she said over her shoulder,
"I'll let it go for now Jean-Luc, but you should know…I never give up."
He watched her pick up her spade and he sighed in resignation. He soon joined her and together they continued their digging.

 

 

 

With the rock out of their way, they progressed quickly, the loose soil and detritus swiftly carried back to a dump behind them for later analysis. They broke through into a nearly perfectly circular chamber, the walls of which were ornately decorated with mosaics and painted murals. The two Humans looked about them in awe. Jean-Luc turned slowly in a circle, his voice soft and reverent.
"My God look at this."
Mary came and stood at his shoulder adding her light to his. Raising her hand, she pointed out some glyphs.
"That's the central figure again. Look…all the figures, everyone depicted is facing the same way."
"Yes! And some of them are pointing…and over there…they're kneeling, perhaps in supplication?"
Mary stepped forward and aimed her light on one particular glyph.
"Jean-Luc there seems to be something under it's hand. What do you think?"
He moved closer and took a soft brush out of his back pocket. With gentle strokes, he removed the dust of millennia and squinted as he studied the image.
"It's a domed object. It seems to extend up from the ground."
"Uh huh. What do you think it signifies?"
He shook his head and sighed.
"Unknown. It could mean anything. Let's concentrate on the other glyphs. We may uncover something there."
Nodding Mary took her own brush and went to the wall nearest the entrance they'd made. Jean-Luc chose to widen the area around the central figure and they worked in silence for some hours. It was Mary's stomach which broke the silence. Chuckling, she turned to the Captain and looked at her chronometer.
"We've missed lunch."
He laughed gently and shook his head.
"For me that's normal, but I do have some sandwiches and tea in my backpack."
"Enough for two?"
"Uh huh. I'll go and get it, we might as well eat in here."
She smiled sweetly at him and he couldn't stop the blush that crept up his neck to bloom across his face. Without further words, he fell to his knees and crawled into the tunnel, pleased to be getting away. He reached the packs and spent a moment using his hands to feel the shapes within, trying to decide which one held the food. He'd just identified the thermos when he heard approaching footsteps. Knowing that the topside crew were all busy, he was curious to know the identity of the nearing owner of the footfalls. The beam of a cap light slid across the floor and stopped at his feet. It climbed slowly up his body and stopped at his chin. His own light did the same and he grinned widely at his discovery.
"Beverly!"
She giggled and they moved to each other, embracing and kissing.
"What are you doing here? I thought you had to be Doctor Crusher today."
She smiled and kissed him again her hands sliding over his back.
"The delegation left about an hour ago and I thought I'd come down and see you."
He took her shoulders and gently pushed her back.
"You mean you came to check on me. There's no need you know, I'm quite capable of fending off her…advances."
Beverly tilted her head and frowned.
"And have you?"
"Have I what?"
"Fended off her advances!"
He lowered his head and chuckled.
"Yes my love, I am unsullied."
She gently punched his in the shoulder, making him hold the affected part and groan. She laughed and kissed him again, before asking what he was doing.
"I came out here to get lunch. I've been rather forcibly reminded that we missed the meal."
Beverly chuckled and shook her head, making her lustrous hair dance in the light.
"Now why aren't I surprised?"
She turned to put down her own backpack and yelped as Jean-Luc slapped her behind.
"What was that for?"
He looked imperiously down his nose and adopted his Captain's mask.
"For being cheeky to your superior officer."
"Superior…why you…"
He laughed and caught her before she could utter another word. His mouth descended on hers and he kissed her until her body relaxed against him. He was about to caress her behind when another feminine voice reached them.
"Come on Jean-Luc…I'm starving!"
He parted from his lover and sighed. Beverly scowled and whispered,
"I don't suppose you've got any ground glass sandwiches have you?"
He shook his head and took her hand. Leading her over to the backpacks, he picked up the right one then gestured to the tunnel opening.
She turned to him and frowned.
"Through there?"
He nodded and gently pushed her forward.
"Off you go."
Mary was still carefully brushing the walls when Beverly's head appeared. Hearing the scuffling, she turned and froze. Beverly wriggled the last few centimetres and slowly stood, reaching her full height and brushing off the loose dirt and dust. Jean-Luc soon emerged into the suddenly chilly atmosphere and nervously cleared his throat.
"Ah Ms. Adamson…it seems we have a visitor."
Mary lowered the brush and rested her hands on her hips.
"I don't recall needing a Doctor."
Beverly chuckled and placed her backpack at her feet. Casually undoing the flap, she removed a tricorder and proffered it.
"I could scan you if you like…see if I can locate a heart…"
The smaller woman blanched and took a step forward.
"How dare you!"
Jean-Luc stepped between them, his hands up placatingly.
"Now ladies, there's no need for antagonism. Why don't we just have our meal and settle down…eh?"
The women glared at each other, but bent to Jean-Luc's suggestion. Jean-Luc turned to Beverly and explained,
"We have sandwiches and tea. I think we can stretch the meal…"
"No need Jean-Luc. I brought enough…for everybody."
He smiled at her and mouthed,
"Thank you."
In silence the three people sat on the dusty floor and ate their meal. The Captain became uncomfortable with the continued iciness so he decided to make conversation.
"Beverly, what do you think of this room?"
Sipping her tea, the Doctor looked around for the first time. Her eyebrows rose and she got to her feet. Getting closer, she examined the artwork minutely, before turning to her lover.
"It's exquisite Jean-Luc. Do you have any idea what it all means?"
He shook his head, but Mary interrupted.
"Jean-Luc while you were away, I spent more time on the central figure. If you look closely, behind the figure, you can just make out a representation…of this room."
With a look of surprise, Jean-Luc got to his feet and strode to the area. He bent forward and studied it carefully. After some minutes he turned to Mary and said incredulously,
"My God I think you're right! That means…"
Mary stood and methodically put her cup away. She brushed off some crumbs before joining him at the wall.
"It means, my dear Captain, that domed shaft is somewhere in this room."
Beverly wandered over and put her hand possessively on his shoulder.
"What object are you talking about?"
Jean-Luc cast her a quick glance and she could see the excitement in his eyes.
"Here Beverly look. In this picture…see the central figure? He has his hand over a domed shaft that seems to be coming up from the floor. Now look behind the figure. What do you see?"
She peered at the image and gasped.
"It's here! This room. What does it mean?"
The Captain grinned at the red head and swept his arm in a wide circle.
"Like Mary said, it means that mechanism is somewhere in this room."
Beverly looked squarely at the smaller woman, a challenge in her eyes.
"Have you got a spare shovel?"
Mary lifted her chin and tossed her spade to the Doctor, effectively accepting the challenge.
"Here have mine. Jean-Luc you have another don't you?"
He grinned lopsidedly and fossicked in his backpack, triumphantly withdrawing a collapsible spade. He tossed it to the director and both women moved to his sides. He sighed and gently nudged them both to a safer distance. Hefting his utensil, he grinned at Beverly.
"Shall we?"

 

 

 

They dug carefully for over three hours. Thinking that the centre of the room was the most obvious place to start, they began there and radiated out, each working on a portion and digging down half a metre before moving out towards the wall. They took turns in taking loads of soil through the tunnel to keep the area clear. Some time, very late in the afternoon, Mary stood and stretched. She watched the other two for a while then walked over and tapped Jean-Luc on the shoulder, gaining his attention.
"Enough."
He straightened and looked about, rolling his weary shoulders and softly calling to Beverly.
"Hey Beverly, stop. We've done enough for today."
Mary deployed her tricorder and made a broad sweep of the room. Jean-Luc watched as she wrinkled her nose and shook her head.
"Nothing. Damn, I'd hoped something would register."
The Captain studied the instrument and shrugged his shoulders.
"Nothing will show if it's inert. We just have to uncover it."
"If it's here."
Beverly wandered over and toed the dirt on the floor.
"How deep was the path?"
Jean-Luc rubbed his whiskery chin and looked back at the entrance.
"It varied a little, but mostly a metre, give or take a bit."
Beverly squatted down and picked up a fistful of dirt. Letting it trickle through her fingers she said,
"Well, we've got a way to go then, haven't we?"
Jean-Luc sniffed and turned to Mary.
"We should bring Lars down here tomorrow."
That brought an immediate shake of her head.
"No! I don't want anyone down here but us until we find something worthwhile."
"But this room…"
"It's not enough Jean-Luc. Without that domed object we've got nothing. That, and only that, will tie together all the glyphs, all the ceremonial artefacts we've found. I don't want anyone poking about in here until we're ready."
Beverly laid her hand on her lover's shoulder and spoke.
"Does that mean I can come tomorrow too?"
Jean-Luc turned to her and was about to say yes, when he was interrupted by the Director.
"I suppose Doctor, although you were on this dig as a medical officer. If you can be spared, I guess it would be all right."
Beverly pursed her lips and lifted her chin.
"How magnanimous. Thank you."
Mary was going to remonstrate with the Doctor when Jean-Luc cleared his throat and moved to his backpack.
"Come on, it's late and we should be getting back."
The women glared at each other, but moved to pick up their packs and joined Jean-Luc at the tunnel entrance. He waved Mary through first, then Beverly, the red head almost yelping when he gently pinched her behind.

 

 

 

After half an hour's traversal of the tunnels they emerged at the top of the ladder to find dinner preparation well under way. Lars saw them and made a beeline for them. Mary squeezed Jean-Luc's arm and whispered in his ear,
"I'll handle him."
The Captain nodded and took Beverly's arm to lead her from the tent. They went to their tent and gathered their toiletries and robes before making their way over to the ablution tent. They had to wait for some showers to empty before they could avail themselves but soon they emerged scrubbed and clean. As Beverly exited her shower, she grinned while she watched Jean-Luc shave. Clad only in a towel around his waist he was an alluring sight. It was something she always found fascinating. On the ship he used an isorazor, but here he actually lathered up and ran a blade across his skin. It was something she found very sensual and she walked up behind him and told him so.
His eyes studied her in the mirror, a slight frown of confusion on his face. He eventually shrugged his shoulders and continued. Beverly, noticing they were momentarily alone, rested her hands on his hips and moved closer, so that her body was in contact with his. He hesitated and glanced at her. She smiled sultrily at him, making him grin.
"If you don't desist, I'm not going to get this finished."
Beverly sighed and leaned forward, resting her face on his bare broad back. She felt his muscles undulate as he shaved and closed her eyes as she breathed in his scent. He finally ended with a flourish and bent forward to wash his face. Patting his cheeks dry, he held up his aftershave and raised his eyebrows in question. Beverly stood up and nodded, delighting in watching him apply some of the liquid to his hands, rub his hands together, then pat the solution on to his cheeks. She gripped his shoulders and turned him, closing her eyes and letting the subtle fragrance enter her senses. She sighed and opened her eyes to find him doing the same thing. His eyes opened and he smiled tenderly.
"Roses."
She nodded and picked up his robe, holding it up for him to put on. He shrugged into the garment and watched as she knotted the tie. He cast a wary look about them, and satisfied they were alone, leaned in and wrapped his arms around her waist, gently pulling her to him. She came willingly and sighed when he kissed her slowly and passionately. Her arms drifted up and encircled his head, her fingers trailing through the short bristles at the back of his head. He tapered the kiss and released her, but not before raining soft kisses all over her face. Colour had risen to stain her milky skin and he growled his pleasure at seeing it. She laid her head on his shoulder and he held her, time seemingly standing still.
Their tranquillity was broken by some scientists coming in so they gathered their things and left for their tent.

 

 

 

 

 

They were a little late for dinner but nobody seemed to notice. Jean-Luc noted that Lars and Mary still had their heads together and he smiled inwardly at what she might be telling him. He and Beverly found some seats and were soon engrossed in their meal. Hungry, they ate well and enjoyed an after dinner cup of tea with Julie. Jean-Luc was amused to watch Ruby gnawing on a rusk, although he wasn't all that pleased when she threw the saturated morsel at him. It landed on his chest, the amount of drool making it stick. A mortified Julie immediately swept into action with a moistened cloth and repaired the damage thereby restoring the Captain's dignity.
Once the food was cleared away, the computers came out and many activities were undertaken. Some people played games, some went over data and some sent messages to distant posts. Jean-Luc used his terminal to send the Enterprise an update, as they were well out of communicator range. Beverly watched over his shoulder as he typed.
"You know Will doesn't read these. Either Deanna or Data will let him know it's there, and he'll ask them to read it to him."
Jean-Luc harrumphed and kept on typing.
"I don't care…it's standard procedure and as Captain I have certain standards that must be kept."
Beverly snorted and peered at her own terminal. With fingers poised, she typed out a short missive to Deanna.
Having completed his message, Jean-Luc leaned back in his chair to watch Beverly. He chuckled and gently gripped her shoulder.
"You're no better. We're both mother hens."
Beverly hit the send key and sat back sighing. She lifted one hand and rubbed her neck. Jean-Luc noticed and asked,
"Sore?"
"Hmm, just a little. I don't often do that much digging."
He chuckled, a rich sound that made Beverly smile.
"No I don't suppose you do. How about we go back to our tent and I give you a massage. I think I have some of that sandalwood oil you like."
Her soft smile was all the answer he needed. Rising from his seat, he, with his customary good manners, drew her seat back and helped her to her feet. He then surprised her by holding her hand as they exited the tent; in fact he held it for the entire journey to their quarters. He lowered the lights and spent slow minutes divesting her of her clothing. When she was naked, he bade her to lie on the bed. This she did, making herself comfortable while he procured the oil. Lying face down, she felt the mattress dip and giggled at the protesting squeak. That earned her a gentle slap on the behind.
"Hey! Not fair!"
"Hush woman. Now this oil may be a little cold…it's not like in my quarters on the ship…I can't heat it."
Having said that, he drizzled an amount down her spine and she squirmed on the bed, gasping.
"Shh, I'll soon warm it."
She waited as she listened to him wringing his hands, coating them with the oil. Her anticipation grew as he admired her body, drawing first one finger, then another down her sides.
"So beautiful…"
She heard him sigh then sighed herself as his large warm hands splayed across her back. He worked his hands up to her shoulders, his fingers seeking and releasing the tight muscles. Up and down her arms, he kept up a steady pressure. She could feel him on her buttocks as he rocked back and forth and closed her eyes, letting her imagination furnish the image of his face, the look of intense concentration he got when he applied himself to something wholeheartedly. He worked down her back and spent some time kneading the globes of her backside. As he moved down her legs, she began to feel lethargic, the rhythmic massage reaching deeply into her brain, relaxing her. She barely heard him say,
"Over."
She turned over slothfully and he quickly left the bed to strip down to his briefs. He was sweating slightly and, as her sleepy eyes roved over him, she felt the beginnings of desire. He moved to straddle her hips and she reached for him. He shook his head and took one arm in his re-oiled hands and began to slide his fingers over her muscles. She closed her eyes and gave herself to him. He worked her arms until they were limp then moved to her torso. At first he avoided her breasts, but when he started to make ever-decreasing circles over them, she sighed and lifted her chest to him, asking for more.
His strong fingers gently tweaked her nipples and she bit her lip. He kneaded her breasts, alternatively squeezing and gently pinching her swollen nipples. Suddenly he moved down her body and she felt his hands roam over her stomach, She expected him to move to where she was warmest, but he shunned her sex and moved down her legs, his fingers finding tight muscles that gave up as he massaged them. Right to her feet he probed with his hands, each toe getting his special treatment. As he moved back up her legs, he gently parted them and kneeled between them. As she opened to him, she heard him whisper,
"Exquisite…tres belle."
He trailed his fingers up the inside of her thighs and she whimpered as he gently slid his fingers over her folds. She felt both of his hands part her lips and he softly skimmed one finger along her length. She arched her hips and he obliged by sliding first one, then two thick fingers inside her.
She cried out and he abruptly ascended her body and kissed her, leaving his fingers inside her.
"Hush my love, we must be quiet."
Unable to speak, she screwed her eyes shut and nodded. As he moved down her body, he stopped and took her nipples one at a time into his hot mouth. He sucked and swirled his tongue over them making her shiver with need. He left her breasts and settled himself between her legs, slowly pumping his fingers in and out of her. She started to writhe and he watched as her fists gathered up the sheets. With calculated calm, he increased the rhythm and bent forward to add his mouth to the act. When his tongue feathered over her clitoris she strangled a cry and clenched her jaw, her heels beating on the mattress. She began to thrust up into his face and he upped the pace. When he felt her begin to contract around his fingers, he sucked hard on her pearl and swiped his tongue over it. The result was spectacular.
In silence she arched up from the bed, her head straining back on her neck. Her legs shot out straight and she pulled the sheet up from both sides of the bed. He softened his assault and slowly stilled his hand. As his tongue gave the last few laps she jerked and whimpered and she shuddered when he withdrew his fingers. He slowly stretched out beside her and took her in his arms, shushing and caressing her.
When she'd regained her breath, she snuggled into him and sighed. He nuzzled into her neck and whispered,
"How are you muscles now?"
"Mmm…I feel wonderful! But, speaking of muscles…"
Her hand slid down his chest to gently squeeze his erection, straining in his briefs.
"How about your muscle?"
He mouthed his way to her mouth and descended for a lengthy kiss. When he retreated, he raised up on his elbow and quirked his eyebrow.
"Are you game?"
She chuckled and wrapped her arms around him.
"Come here and see."
As he kissed her again, her hand slipped under the waistband of his briefs and tugged them down until she could reach them with her foot. She completed the manoeuvre and grinned as he pressed his throbbing penis against her hip. Her smile disappeared when his mouth closed over her nipple, her gasp only marginally louder than the complaining mattress. His passion surging, he rolled her onto her back and stretched out over her. Her legs came up and she hitched them over his hips. Raising himself up, he watched intently as he entered her slowly, his desire spiking as she arched her head back and bit her lip.
Closing his eyes he started to thrust, one hand gripping her hip as she rose to meet him.

 

 

 

 

Mary was bored. She'd watched the couple in the main tent as they went about sending their messages and she sneered when the Captain had tenderly rubbed the Doctor's shoulder. That they were so relaxed with each other vexed the jealous woman; how she wished he would show her that kind of gentle affection.
With nothing better to do, she checked her chronometer and, finding it still decently early, decided to pay the pair a visit. She had already showered, but she brushed her shining hair anyway and re-applied her most seductive perfume. Satisfied with her tight pants and revealing blouse, she left her tent and set a course for the Captain's.

 

 

 

 

She heard them before she was many metres away. His soft grunting and her stifled moaning accompanied the squeaking mattress. The Director scowled and blushed with anger and envy. She turned on her heel, then abruptly turned back. With a malicious grin marring her face, she approached the entrance and stood a moment, letting the sounds wash over her. Her hand raised and her finger poised over the call button. One particularly loud moan made up her mind. Her finger stabbed down and the shrill sound pervaded the tent.
They didn't hear it the first time. The sounds of passion went on unabated and Mary angrily pushed the button again, holding it down for some time.

 

 

 

Beverly's nails raked down his back and he knew she was close to her orgasm. He reached down and hooked his hand behind one of her knees and lifted it higher, deepening his rapid thrusts. She cried out and gripped his buttocks then suddenly stilled. He immediately noticed the change and stilled himself. Panting raggedly, he asked,
"What is it? What's wrong…did I hurt you?"
She shook her head and gasped…
"Listen!"
They both held their breath and heard the shrilling of the door annunciator. Jean-Luc growled.
"Fuck!"
Raising his voice, he called,
"Who is it?"
Barely containing her glee, Mary answered sweetly,
"It's me Jean-Luc…Mary. I wanted to go over tomorrow's schedule with you."
The couple closed their eyes and Jean-Luc swore again.
"I'm a bit busy right now. Perhaps we can meet at breakfast."
"Um, I don't think so, there's an awful lot of things to discuss."
Swearing yet again, Jean-Luc tried to keep his considerable anger under control.
"Very well. I'll meet you in your tent in say…half an hour?"
Holding her hand up to smother a giggle, Mary replied,
"Ok. See you then Goodnight Beverly."
The Doctor refrained from replying, but only because Jean-Luc had his hand over her mouth. When they were sure their protagonist had gone Jean-Luc sighed and released his angry partner.
"That bitch…that mean spirited, cold hearted bitch! Is there nothing she won't do to interfere with our…"
"Hush my lovely. There's something more important to discuss."
Beverly swallowed her angst and looked up into his lovely hazel eyes. A soft smile graced her face as she asked,
"And what's that?"
He gently thrust into her and nuzzled her neck.
"Do we continue?"
She stretched under him and clenched him internally, making him growl.
"Oh yes…I think so…"
Starting slowly again, he steadily built up his pace and, as they regained their passion, they soon found themselves back at the brink of ecstasy. Jean-Luc endured the scratching of his back and Beverly guided his hand to her leg, urging him to again lift it. He did, by now pounding into her. He reached his release first, grinding himself hard against her, his entire body stiff with physical and emotional bliss as a guttural cry was torn from his throat. His coarse pubic hair squashed against her distended clitoris sent her over the edge. She rose under him and shouted out, her hands gripping his buttocks, pulling him even closer to her.
Spasming through the aftershocks, the lay panting in each other's arms, neither capable of movement.
It was Jean-Luc who eventually broke the blissful spell.
"I have to get up."
Beverly kissed him softly and just avoided rubbing his back.
"Hang on a minute…I've got some repair work to do first."
He smiled down at her and couldn't resist kissing her again. She sighed, letting her eyes drift close. Sleepily she gently pushed at his chest.
"Come on lover…let me up."
He grunted as he rolled to his side, the sensation of slipping out of her unsettling. Beverly rose on unsteady legs and gathered up her med kit. She sat on the noisy mattress and studied the wicked scratches running the length of his back. There were more than usual, thanks to the interruption and she frowned and she sealed the wounds.
"Jean-Luc I so sorry…I…"
His deep rumble was a balm to her soul.
"Hush my love. I've told you before many times… it doesn't matter."
"But I don't want to hurt you!"
Waiting until she finished, he turned on to his back and took her hands in his.
"My wonderful Beverly…you don't hurt me. At the time all I can feel is being inside you…so tight and hot and silken…it's so overwhelming…nothing else exists."
Beverly frowned wishing to believe him but knowing he must, at some level, feel her lacerating his back.
"I don't know Jean-Luc…"
He pulled her down and kissed her.
"Well I do! Now forget it…please."
She rose up and grinned lopsidedly at him. He wriggled out from under her and began to search for his briefs. He found them and slipped them on, earning a chuckle from his lover as he positioned himself.
"What?"
"Nothing…I just like watching you do that."
He grinned back and said playfully,
"You can do it for me next time if you really want to."
She laughed outright and lay back on the bed, gaining an appreciative look from him.
"Do you think we'd progress any further than your undies?"
He laughed and shook his head.
"Knowing you and your insatiable appetite…probably not."
"Well there you go. Best you do it and let me watch."
"Agreed."
She lolled on the bed admiring his body as his muscles flexed whilst he dressed. He sat to put on his boots, stamping his feet to settle the stiff material. He finished with the laces and stood, looking heatedly down at his sated lover.
"You will behave until I return?"
Donning her most innocent look, she raised a hand to her breast and tweaked a nipple.
"Who me?"
He groaned and came to kneel on the mattress. He took her head in his hands and kissed her soundly, not releasing her until she relaxed in his hands.
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
She smiled tenderly up at him and whispered,
"Remember Jean-Luc…resistance is not futile."
Giving her a final smile, he left.

 

 

 

 

Mary reacted to him the moment he entered her tent. Although he'd been by the shower block and washed his hands and face, he still smelled unmistakably of sex and the Director was incensed by it.
As he entered she stiffened and stepped around him, shutting the tent flap forcibly. With a flip of her hand, she motioned him to a seat, but she stayed on her feet, prowling about the tent, brushing up against him often. At one stage she spread out an old fashioned map and leaned down next to him, affording him an uninterrupted view of her breasts. Without a bra, they jiggled as she paced, her erect nipples pushing at the sheer material of her shirt. He studiously ignored her seductive posturing and applied himself to the business at hand. She stood beside him and rested her hand on his back; her thumb making small circles on his newly repaired skin. Feeling uncomfortable, he moved in his chair and she took it as an invitation to sit with him. The seat was barely big enough for both of them so she boldly sat on his lap. He scowled at her and stood, his anger just under the surface. It soon became obvious the meeting was a ruse and he sighed as she continued to try and make some sense of the drivel she was expounding. Having had enough, both of the bogus meeting and of her attempts at seduction. He stood and excused himself.
"If you don't mind Mary…I'm rather tired. I think I'll go back to my tent…we have to be up early tomorrow."
She shot him a glare and seethed,
"Yes well, if you weren't up so often maybe you wouldn't be so tired."
Biting his tongue, he left her tent and was glad when he reached his own. He entered to find Beverly asleep and a note on the desk.
"Wake me when you come in…I want to cuddle you 'til you fall asleep."
He smiled as he undressed and slipped into bed. Switching off the low light, Beverly turned over and snuggled into his embrace. In a sleepy voice she asked,
"How did it go?"
He sighed and burrowed into her arms.
"You don't want to know."
"That bad?"
"Worse."
It was her turn to sigh.
"That woman…honestly, won't she ever give up?"
Feeling sleep creep over him, Jean-Luc slothfully kissed Beverly's neck.
"I don't know…and at the moment I really don't care."
They slipped into sleep seamlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary was annoyed the next morning when Beverly kept them waiting an hour while she treated three patients. She eventually arrived at the ladder flustered and out of breath. Jean-Luc gave her a soft smile of welcome, Mary scowled at her.
"Well it's about time!"
Swallowing her rising anger, Beverly held up her hands and apologised.
"Sorry I had patients to see."
The Director huffed.
"Perhaps you should stay Doctor…you may be needed here."
"Oh no I don't think that's necessary. Two of your staff are trained in first aid. I'm sure they can handle any small emergencies that might crop up."
Casting a disdainful look over the Doctor, the smaller woman sniffed and pointed to a full backpack.
"Very well, that's yours. We should be going."
Jean-Luc helped Beverly heft the pack over her shoulders and stood back as the two women descended the ladder. At the bottom, Mary took the lead and before long they wriggled back into the mysterious room. Mary picked up her spade and stepped into the centre of the room. Jean-Luc hesitated then undid his pack and retrieved two pairs of gloves. Offering one pair to Beverly, he winked and said,
"It'll be easier on your hands."
He had intended wearing the other pair himself, but sighed when Mary stepped over to him and took the gloves from his hand.
"Thank you Jean-Luc…how thoughtful."
Beverly cast him a sympathetic look and he surreptitiously shrugged his shoulders. With no further conversation, the three started to dig.
Four hours later, Beverly was excavating near the main figure when her spade suddenly struck something hard. The others heard the noise and stopped what they were doing. Jean-Luc reached her first and sunk his spade into the soft soil. He also struck something and he fell to his knees issuing instructions.
"Mary go outside and bring in three small hand shovels. They're by the rock ledge. Beverly come here and start digging with your hands."
The women went about obeying him and Beverly whispered as she knelt by his side.
"What could it be?"
He looked up, training his lamp on the mural on the wall.
"We're directly under the main figure. We might just be in luck."
Jean-Luc sifted his fingers through the soil and felt rock just under the surface. Beverly copied his actions and felt the same thing. By the time Mary returned they had discovered a semi-circular ring of rock approximately two metres in diameter and ten centimetres thick. With the smaller spades, they excavated the ring and, once they had it unearthed, they concentrated on digging out its centre.
Very soon they encountered a solid surface. With careful scrapes, Jean-Luc shifted the soil and exposed a reddish dome. Casting his spade aside, he gently brushed off the remaining dirt and sat back, a look of incredulity upon his face. It was Mary who spoke in a soft whisper.
"This is it! This is the dome."
The three dug around the dome and slowly exposed the shaft underneath it. Jean-Luc got his brush and carefully swept the dust off, revealing two recessed squares on the surface of the dome. They also discovered the dome was intricately embossed with florid designs. Once the artefact stood free of the soil that had encased it for so many years, the three sat back and peered at it.
Without being asked, Beverly retrieved a tricorder and handed it to her lover. As he began his scan, Mary took up her own instrument and joined Jean-Luc. Suddenly the dome began to glow dully and the area around the column started to tremble. The excavators shuffled back in alarm and the tremor subsided. When they moved closer, it started again. Beverly gently gripped Jean-Luc's arm.
"What do you think?"
"I'm not certain…Mary scan it again."
As the Director scanned the dome, Jean-Luc added his tricorder. Immediately the tremor started.
"Stop!"
The closed their instruments and the shaking ceased. Jean-Luc frowned and looked at Beverly.
"It's the tricorders. Somehow they're activating it."
Mary scuttled across the distance to grip his arm.
"Then we should proceed and see what happens."
The Captain shook his head and looked sharply at the woman.
"That's a foolish idea…we've no idea what will happen. We need to bring personnel and equipment down here…"
"No! I expressly forbid it! We take this investigation as far as we can…right now."
Jean-Luc lowered his head and sighed.
"But Mary…"
"No. I won't hear any objections! If you haven't the guts to do this Captain then leave and I'll do it alone."
Faced with her determination, Jean-Luc decided to stay, if only to protect her.
"Very well…what do you propose?"
He ignored Beverly's sharp intake of breath. He knew she'd stay with him and that he was effectively placing her in danger too.
Mary bit her lip and retreated in thought. The other two waited patiently and the Director eventually came up with a plan.
"I say we activate our tricorders…yours too Doctor…and we place them around the base of the shaft. Then we get out of the way and watch what happens."
Jean-Luc nodded, but asked,
"And where, exactly do we go?"
Mary looked about and pointed to the tunnel.
"Over there, close enough to get out, but near enough to see what's going on."
The Captain looked at his lover, not encouraged when she shrugged her shoulders.
"Ok by me."
He faced Mary and opened his tricorder.
"Very well."
The three people activated their instruments and placed them equidistant around the base of the column. The trembling started immediately and they shrunk back to the tunnel mouth, watching fearfully.
At first nothing happened. Then suddenly there was a sibilant hissing and the dome began to rise, the dull colour giving way to a more vibrant shade of red. The shaft was made of gleaming metal, giving off a translucent blue sheen. The artefact rose until it stood one and a half metres tall, then it stopped and the tremors ceased. The watchers waited a few minutes before approaching it and slowly picked up their tricorders. Jean-Luc studied the screen.
"I'm picking up low radiation and electrical impulses. Beverly how about you?"
"The same and…there seems to be a quantum field forming around the dome."
Mary stepped forward and held out her hand.
"I can feel radiant heat. Can we determine what the energy source is?"
Jean-Luc frowned over his read-outs and entered several instructions.
"No…it could be thermal though."
Mary stood over the dome and scanned the two recessed areas.
"I wonder what these do?"
Without further consultation, she pressed first one, then the other.
There was a blinding flash and the people were thrown against the room's walls forcefully. Jean-Luc shook his head and tried to force air into his depleted lungs. He searched for Beverly and found her not far away, on her hands and knees coughing. Realising his lamp was no longer needed he stripped off his cap and crawled to his lover. He reached her and lifted her chin to see that she was all right. She nodded to him and looked over her shoulder to locate Mary. She found her sitting in front of a shimmering oval, so big it took up all the space at one end of the room. Bright light emanated from the phenomenon, making them squint. Beverly turned to Jean-Luc and saw he was bleeding from a wound at the back of his head. She tugged on his sleeve and, when he looked at her, she pointed to the injury. He ran his fingers over the cut, grimacing and shaking his head.
Together they went and sat with the Director, their ears still ringing. Jean-Luc looked over her shoulder at her tricorder and noted the energy readings were off the scale. He tried his voice and was pleased when the others responded to him.
"We should leave."
Mary shook her head vehemently and grabbed his arm.
"No this…"
He angrily pointed at the tricorder.
"Look! See for yourself…it doesn't know what it's scanning. This is unknown technology. Who knows what you've activated. You may very well have set in motion a event we have no way of understanding. We need help!"
She abruptly stood and shoved her arm into the shimmering light.
"Mary!"
She withdrew her arm and flexed her fingers, allowing Beverly to scan the appendage. To Jean-Luc's enquiry, she shrugged her shoulders and reported,
"It seems fine…no abnormal readings."
Jean-Luc was livid.
"That was a foolish thing to do! Anything could have happened!"
Mary laughed harshly and stepped up to him confronting him nose to nose.
"But it didn't!"
She turned to gaze at the phenomenon, her eyes fiery.
"I'm going in…"
"No you're not!"
The Captain grabbed the woman's arm but she shrugged out of his grip. Seeing her mind was made up, Jean-Luc stepped towards Beverly, intending to leave to get help. Without warning Mary lunged at Jean-Luc, grabbed him and threw both of them into the gaping maw. There was a blinding flash of light and Beverly screamed. She stood motionlessly for a few seconds then dived headlong into the wavering light.

 

 

 

 

Beverly saw nothing of her passage. She emerged still travelling forwards and tumbled, head over heels, down a steep grassy slope, coming to a rolling halt at the bottom. Before she could take stock of her surroundings, she was wracked with severe pain, making her curl up and groan piteously. Her entire body, right down to her very bones resonated in agony. The sudden upheaval of her stomach only added to her misery. As she lay retching hideously she didn't see the portal begin to undulate and strobe. It flared briefly then abruptly winked out of existence. Wherever they were, they were abandoned. Beverly took one last breath and succumbed to unconsciousness, the oblivion bringing blessed relief.
Back in the room, the oval went through a similar quaking, before it too blinked out. The dome ceased to shine, becoming once again a dull red and the column slowly subsided to its former resting place. In the black silence it waited as it had already done for many millennia.

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon on a distant planet, three inhabitants neared the shrine where they were to place their offerings. As they did each time all three moons were ascendant in the daytime sky, they carried the platters on their heads, something their people had done for so long, it had become an integral part of their culture. On this day, as they broke through the bush that surrounded the clearing, they halted abruptly, staring open mouthed at the figures lying at the base of the ceremonial mound.
The shortest of the three, a female, bent to lower her platter to the ground but was stopped by her companions. A brief discussion followed and an accord reached. Skirting suspiciously around the unconscious figures, the three climbed the mound and reverently went about placing the platters strategically around the obelisk. They genuflected several times then knelt and chanted softly, their hands raised in supplication. When they'd finished, they carefully climbed down and took a closer look at the senseless creatures.
The only similarity the two species had was baldness. All three inhabitants had not a hair on their heads. Their bodies were stocky, barrel-chested and immensely powerful. Thick dark brown hair covered their frames and they stood approximately two metres tall. Bare footed, they wore a leather loincloth and carried a knife in a scabbard at their sides. The female of the group came forward and toed Jean-Luc's body, wrinkling her nose at the acrid odour of the vomit. More discussion ensued and eventually the female left with one of the males, leaving the other to watch the mysterious creatures. He moved off a few metres, took his knife from its scabbard and squatted on the ground, his keen violet eyes never wavering from his source of attention.
His companions returned in half an hour. He heard them coming, their excited chatter announcing their impending arrival.
The leader of the group, a magnificent male a head taller than the rest strode over to the bodies and bent to turn Mary over. There was a ripple of comment as they observed her obviously female form. The same thing happened when the leader pulled Beverly's arm, dragging her inert body closer to the others. When he turned Jean-Luc over, the group hissed as one, pressing closer for a better look. The big man growled low in his throat and they all retired a few steps. He stood upright and beckoned to a brightly painted member of the group. Bedecked in strings of animal trophies and with a head painted bright yellow, his body hair was striped with colours and his loincloth was sewn with beads. He carried a staff the top of which was festooned with claws and feathers. At his chief's request he bent low and, with a crooked finger, sifted through the vomit of all three people, sniffing and inspecting everything he found. Seemingly satisfied, he straightened and lifted his head. From his mouth emitted an eerie wail, answered by a collective grunt from the gathered people.
Issuing more instructions, several people came forward and proceeded to divest the somnolent ones of their clothing, leaving them dressed only in their briefs. The clothing was placed at the feet of the chief and he lifted a boot to inspect it minutely. Picking at the laces, he unthreaded one and held it up to his people. He called forth a member and gave it to her. She touched it to her brow, bowed and retreated. Such was the way the clothing was distributed. None of it was worn, the garments were torn up and the remnants used for decoration. One of the boots ended up atop the shaman's staff, the others tied around member's waists to dangle at their sides.
The big man nodded and the senseless people were lifted and held securely. The group left as a whole, the younger members scampering at the front, sneaking looks at the strangers.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc woke first, his pounding head making him groan. Slowly lifting his hands, he pressed the heels of his palms against his temples and clenched his jaw. The sickening pounding abated a little and he became aware there were bodies lying alongside him. He winced as he turned his head and gasped as he saw Beverly, seemingly naked. Frowning he looked to the other side to see Mary in a similar state of undress. He swallowed and took a steadying breath before tentatively sitting up. He had to cradle his head in his hands for a few moments to let the headache settle, but when he opened his eyes he saw both women had their panties on, but nothing else. A quick inspection showed him he was clad the same. He saw a fire gently smouldering in a pit off to one side and, as his vision adjusted, he ascertained they were in a circular hut of some sort. Looking up he could see a sturdy frame and woven grasses making the roof. The walls appeared to be of packed mud and the door was an animal skin stretched over a frame.
He gently gripped Beverly's shoulder and softly shook. In a low voice he said,
"Beverly? Beverly can you hear me?"
She grimaced and groaned, one hand going to her head. Jean-Luc eased his hand under her head and lifted.
"Come on see if you can sit up…it seems to help."
A very groggy Doctor sat up slowly and suddenly retched weakly. Jean-Luc rubbed her back until her stomach settled. She slowly lifted her head and looked at her lover, her eyes taking some time to focus.
"Jean-Luc? What happened?"
He frowned and cautiously shook his head.
"I don't know. I think perhaps…"
Mary's croaking voice made itself known.
"Transporter."
Turning to the Director, Jean-Luc asked,
"How do you know?"
Slowly sitting up and holding her head, the smaller woman took a steadying breath.
"The quantum field that was forming around the dome. That and our present physical difficulties. I'd say a phase shifting device."
Beverly rubbed her temples and nodded.
"That would be consistent with our symptoms…but where the hell are we…and where the hell are our clothes?"
Mary looked down at herself and then cast a quick look at the other two. Sighing she said sarcastically,
"Well so much for modesty."
Beverly cast her a wry look and was about to say something arch when the Captain cut her off.
"There seems to be some wood by that fire. What say I build it up and we get ourselves warmer? I don't know about you ladies, but I find it somewhat chilly."
Beverly gave him a rueful smile and squeezed his shoulder.
"I'll help you."
Together the snapped some of the larger pieces of wood and coaxed the fire to life. Mary watched their efforts for a while before opting to help. It wasn't long before they were sitting beside a cheery blaze. When the door slapped open, Jean-Luc sprang to his feet.
"Get behind me!"
Beverly and Mary were quick to obey him, peering around his legs. Two beings entered carrying some bowls. They cautiously approached, but stopped a safe distance from the alert Captain. Never breaking eye contact, they sat the bowls on the floor and began to back away. Jean-Luc stepped forward and raised his open hands.
"Wait. Who are you? Where are we?"
The male quickly unsheathed his knife and brandished it menacingly.
In a gentle voice Jean-Luc took another step forward.
"We mean you no harm. Please lower your weapon."
The female flicked out her knife and barred her teeth, both of them growling. The Captain halted and lowered his hands. He heard Beverly's warning.
"Leave them Jean-Luc…I don't think they want to talk."
They watched warily as the beings straightened and shuffled backwards out of the hut. The door slapped closed and Jean-Luc heard hammering as a chock of wood was driven into the doorframe, effectively locking them in.
Frowning, The Captain knelt down beside the bowls and peered in the dim light. Over his shoulder he informed the women,
"It's food and water."
The women joined him and they picked up the bowls and carried them over to the fire. Four in all, one contained water; the others cooked vegetables and meat.
Beverly sighed.
"I wish I had a tricorder."
Jean-Luc lifted a bowl and sniffed.
"It smells all right and I must admit…I'm hungry."
Mary selected a bowl and gingerly hooked out a piece of green and white vegetable.
"Me too. Well here goes."
She opened her mouth and took the morsel in. She chewed suspiciously for a moment before smiling and nodding. She swallowed and gestured with her free hand.
"It's good. Have some."
Beverly glared at her and growled,
"It's that attitude that got us here in the first place. You don't give a damn about consequences, you just charge in and to hell with everything else!"
Mary shrugged her shoulders and flicked her hand at the irate Doctor.
"Well at least I won't die wondering."
Beverly was incensed.
"You selfish bitch! You weren't satisfied in risking your own life…you deliberately dragged Jean-Luc in with you! I've a good mind to…"
Mary stood and glared down at the angry red head.
"To what? I'm not one of you subordinates Doctor…you can't tell me what to do. So I involved Jean-Luc…so what? I bet he'd rather be at the pointy end of this investigation rather than at some desk staring at a computer terminal."
Beverly stood also and lifted her chin defiantly.
"You don't get it do you? We're stranded! We don't know where we are or how to get back. Tell me…please…how are we going to get out of this? Hmm?"
Mary sat imperiously and picked up the bowl.
"I'll think of something and in the meantime I'm going to eat. I suggest you do the same."
Beverly looked exasperatedly at Jean-Luc and he shrugged his shoulders. He sank to the floor and picked up a bowl, warily picking through the contents.
"It seems innocuous enough Beverly and, as we've no idea how long we'll be here, I think we should eat."
Beverly glared at her lover but sat and dragged over a bowl. She peered inside it and reluctantly picked up a blue vegetable. Wrinkling her nose, she bit it and was pleasantly surprised to find it tasty and firm. Jean-Luc fished out a strip of meat and ate it, raising his eyebrows in appreciation. Their initial misgivings allayed, they ate all there was and shared the water. They soon found the headaches abated completely after they'd eaten. They stacked the bowls and after a short rest, Jean-Luc went to the door and gave it a testing push. It didn't budge so he hit it firmly with the flat of his palm, calling out,
"Hey! Let us out!"
He kept it up for some minutes before the chock was suddenly knocked aside and the door abruptly slapped open. Jean-Luc froze as a lethal barbed spear end pricked him under the chin. He slowly raised his empty hands and tried to regulate his breathing. Blood trickled down his neck and onto his chest from the wound and he felt the pressure increase. The spear holder growled at him and Jean-Luc took a slow step backwards. Keeping the spear embedded in Jean-Luc's throat, the being forced him back into the hut until he stood with the women at the fire. With a jerk, the spear was withdrawn and the being backed away. He was out the door quickly and the chock was driven home.
Beverly immediately sought to inspect the wound, her strong fingers lifting Jean-Luc's head while she pressed the cut to stem the bleeding.
Mary looked at the door with a frown.
"It would seem they want us to behave."
Beverly scowled at the wound, muttering,
"What the hell do they want with us?"
Jean-Luc's hands came up to gently grip hers and he lowered them, looking deeply into her eyes.
"We just have to be patient. They wouldn't have housed and fed us if they meant anything sinister. I'm sure if we just wait a little longer, they will come to us and make contact."
Beverly looked down at the track of blood that wended through his chest hair and ended at his navel. She sighed and rested her forehead on his.
"God I hope so Jean-Luc…I hope so."
With the light fading, they realised night was approaching. They put more wood on the fire and Jean-Luc encouraged Beverly to lie next to the pit as he lay at her back, thereby keeping her warm. Mary huffed and stood, hands on hips, breasts jutting and demanded to know where she should sleep. Jean-Luc raised a lazy hand and pointed to the other side of the fire. Beverly only just stifled a giggle as the jealous woman slumped to the ground and curled up next to the flames. She sighed and grinned as Jean-Luc's arm came around her and pulled her securely into his body. He whispered into her ear,
"Sweet dreams." And she lifted their joined hands and kissed them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lars Ebsen was a worried man. The evening meal was well under way and the three people hadn't yet returned from their work. Standing at the head of the ladder, he called his assistant over.
"Joel go and get two caps with lamps will you."
His helper soon returned and Lars gave one cap to the young man.
"Here put this on, you're coming with me."
It took just on half an hour to reach Jean-Luc's site. Lars quickly noted the piles of dirt placed around the cavern and his light picked up the excavated paving. Lifting his head slightly, the archaeologist saw the tunnel and got down on all fours to inspect it. He called out,
"Jean-Luc? Doctor Adamson? Are you there?"
They were greeted with utter silence. Gesturing to his assistant to follow, the lanky man crawled through the tunnel and emerged in the decorated room. He straightened slowly, his mouth opening as his light illuminated the artwork. He turned in a small circle and stopped dead when he saw the domed object. His aide's beam fell on it and together they stepped forward tentatively.
"Doctor…what is it?"
Lars' foot hit something and he looked down to see a tricorder. He picked it up and activated it. Two things happened. A slight trembling started in the floor and Lars saw the last readings on the instrument. Snapping the device closed he muttered,
"We've got to get out of here!"
As he turned, Joel's foot kicked another instrument and they took the time to pick it up. Lars swept the floor with his light and found the third tricorder near the far wall. He gathered it up and the two men left quickly.
Their journey back to base was undertaken in silence, both men engrossed in their own thoughts. When they crested the ladder, most of the staff was seated for dinner. Lars went to the middle of the room and called for silence.
"Ladies and gentlemen we have a situation that requires outside help."
Peter Beales, another leading archaeologist stood and called out,
"What is it?"
Lars went to the man and handed him one of the tricorders. To the rest of the gathering he said,
"Three of our people have disappeared. We have just been in a previously unexplored room and found these tricorders."
He gestured for Joel to hand out the remaining instruments.
"As you can see the readings are off the scale…and the instruments cannot give any information on what caused those readings. Bearing in mind the status of the missing personnel, I propose calling the Starship Enterprise. They can assist us in analysing the data as well as searching for their missing officers."
A gasp went through the assemblage and a voice called out…
"Who else is missing?"
"Doctor Adamson."
The chatter became loud as the people all voiced their concern. Peter left the table and joined Lars.
"People! Please…we need to stay calm. I suggest the area involved be quarantined for the interim, at least until the Enterprise gets here. In the meantime perhaps we should download all the relevant information from the tricorders. At least we can attempt to make some sense of it."
Lars nodded and gripped his fellow's shoulder.
"Peter's right. I'll put the call through to the Enterprise now and I'll update you all when I know more. For now, please finish your meal and go about your business."
The two men left immediately for the communications tent. The person on duty was somewhat surprised when they entered, but quickly surrendered control to Lars. He sat at the console and opened a channel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fire had burned down to a bed of gently smoking embers by morning. Jean-Luc smiled sleepily as he basked in warmth…that was until he realised he had warm bodies on either side of him. Starting awake, he saw his own arm protectively hugging a sleeping Beverly and frowned as he looked down to see another arm snaking over his hip, the fingers of the hand just under the waistband of his briefs. Gently taking his arm from Beverly, he grasped the hand and extricated it. Holding it up in the air, he considered where to put it, deciding eventually to see if he could lay it on the body of the owner.
Mary mumbled in her slumber and snuggled closer to Jean-Luc, making him scowl. He was in a difficult predicament. With Beverly's behind nestled tantalisingly into his groin, he had an erection…and he needed to relieve himself, rather urgently. Unwilling to wake his sleeping companions, he debated what his options were. Obviously he would prefer they didn't see him in his present state, at least not Mary, but his need to urinate was becoming pressing so he sighed and carefully started to sit up.
Beverly muttered and moved closer to the fire, but Mary reflexively slid her arm around his waist and snuggled closer, seeking his warmth. He grimaced and gently took her arm and, whilst holding it up, managed to sit up, then kneel. He was sweating slightly as he gingerly gained his feet but still found a grin of amusement as Mary wriggled over to Beverly and wrapped her arm over her. That mission successfully completed, he still had to find somewhere to relieve himself. He looked at the door, but quickly remembered the pain of the spear tip. In desperation he picked up one of the bowls and went as far away from his companions as he could. He had to wait some time before he subsided enough for success but he sighed expansively when he finally emptied his bladder. He placed the bowl as discreetly as he could against the wall and moved back to the fire, rubbing his arms in the chill morning air. He was steadily building up the fire when Mary woke.
"Now there's a handsome sight."
Jean-Luc glanced up and swallowed as he saw Mary stretch. The Director smiled slyly and deliberately kept her hands above her head and turned to present her profile to the watching man. She slowly stood and made a show of seductively stretching out the kinks of sleep, her supple body very pleasing to the eye. Beverly's unexpected dry comment made Jean-Luc chuckle.
"Mind you don't sprain something. Self-aggrandisement can be injurious to the health."
Mary glared down at the smirking Doctor and hissed,
"Well I just hope that when I'm your age I can still turn heads."
Beverly's smile faded and she slowly stood.
"When…and if you reach my age, I just hope you finally learn some humility!"
Her hair tousled and fiery Jean-Luc let his eyes wander appreciatively over her lissom body. He was mildly shocked by her forthright question.
"Jean-Luc I need to pee. Any suggestions?"
He reddened only slightly as he pointed over to the bowl. Beverly's eyebrows rose and she grinned at her lover.
"I see…been there done that?"
He nodded and gestured for Mary to join him at a respectable distance, keeping their backs turned. When Beverly rejoined them, Mary sniffed and muttered,
"My turn."
As the two officers waited patiently, trying not to listen to the tinkling, Beverly slipped her hand into Jean-Luc's. She leaned over and whispered,
"Good morning."
He risked a quick kiss and Beverly giggled, raising a hand to gently finger his stubble.
"Good morning to you too. Did you sleep well?"
Beverly glanced over her shoulder and smiled.
"Oh yes…and I felt you this morning…you sexy rogue."
As Mary was approaching he cleared his throat and quickly squeezed Beverly's hand before releasing it. He saw the amusement in her eyes as they went back to the fire and chose to ignore it. He wasn't in the mood to be the butt of her wicked and libidinous sense of humour.
Over the next two hours they sat and discussed the transporter that had delivered them to the planet. They conjectured on the range of such a device and tried to guess how far they'd travelled. When they heard the chock being knocked away, they stood and faced the door.
Two males, armed with spears came it and gestured for them to exit the hut. They nervously left their shelter, their eyes squinting in the full light of day. Four more males, all armed, waited outside and took up positions around them as they were herded towards the centre of a largish village. They went without protest and soon found themselves in a sizeable circular area, ringed with people. They were ushered into the centre and the headman called out, bringing an eerie silence. Standing next to the chief were six males, each adorned in paint and feathers. The chief tapped one of the males on the shoulder and he slowly approached the party of three and stood before Jean-Luc. The Captain had quietly positioned the women to stand behind him and the male looked around the Captain to stare at Beverly. He reached for her arm and Jean-Luc grabbed his hand and shook his head saying forcefully,
"No!"
The male wrenched his arm free and grumbled at Jean-Luc. He then stalked back to the chief and reached into the press of beings behind him. Grabbing a female by the hand, he pulled her free and dragged her across the circle and pushed her in front of the Captain. Grunting, he again reached for Beverly, and again Jean-Luc prevented him.
"No! You cannot have her!"
The male scowled and pushed the female into Jean-Luc. The woman was clearly terrified, but Jean-Luc gently pushed her aside and shook his head.
"No I won't trade."
The male turned and lifted his head. His howl raised the hair on the Human's necks. The chief clapped his hands and two males came and grabbed Beverly and Mary before Jean-Luc could react. The native woman ran into the crowd and the Human women were pulled to one side. The aggrieved male adopted a defensive crouch and began to circle the Captain. He made a quick lunge at Jean-Luc which he swiftly sidestepped. Jean-Luc tried to reason with him.
"Look I don't want to fight. Stop this…"
He was cut off by another attack. The watching population remained silent but the tension was palpable. The male darted in and feinted left, only to sweep his right leg under the Captain tipping him off his feet. Pressing home his advantage, he leaped onto the Human and wrapped his bear-like arms around him and began to squeeze. Pain shot through Jean-Luc's chest as the stronger being climbed to his feet and arched his back. lifting Jean-Luc off his feet. Breath was forced from Jean-Luc's lungs and his vision began to grey. In desperation he brought his forehead sharply down on the bridge of his assailant's nose. He did it three times before the male grunted and loosened his hold. Taking a much-needed breath, Jean-Luc wriggled free and kicked his opponent in the groin; surprised and shocked when it seemed to have little effect. The male scooped up some dirt and again circled the Captain, warily watching his prey. Jean-Luc could hear Beverly calling out encouragement, but when she yelped in pain he turned in her direction. Quickly his opponent ran in and threw the dirt in his eyes. Blinded, Jean-Luc spun to face his adversary when a clubbing blow struck his head. He fell to the ground and grunted as he was kicked viciously in the ribs. He rolled and stood shakily trying desperately to clear his eyes. The kick to his groin was devastating. He fell to his knees, his hands going to protect the injured area. He was struck again in the head and he fell backwards. His assailant lunged forward but Jean-Luc got his feet up and placed them firmly on the male's chest, lifting and guiding him over his body, letting the momentum carry him through the air. There was a loud crack and a thud and his opponent lay still. Through teary eyes, Jean-Luc turned and looked at his enemy. He was suddenly grabbed from behind and forced to the ground. The chief stepped over to the body and lifted the head. Sightless eyes stared up and the headman grunted. The shaman came forward and inspected the body, demonstrating to the onlookers the obviously broken neck. He cackled obscenely and daubed blue paint over the bare head of the dead male before grabbing his foot and dragging him from the circle. The males holding Beverly and Mary released them and they ran to Jean-Luc's side. He was also released and the women helped him to his feet. The chief barked some instructions and they were herded at spear point back to the hut.

 

 

 

 

With the women helping him, Jean-Luc was half carried into the hut where he collapsed onto the floor. Curling up on his side, his hands cupped his genitals and he groaned in a deeply distressed fashion. Beverly knelt beside him and rubbed his shoulder, unable to help him. Mary's comment brought a scowl to the red head.
"He should've let him have you."
Beverly's head snapped up and she growled,
"Shut up! If you've got nothing constructive to say then keep your mouth shut."
Mary squatted beside the stricken man and inspected the bruising about his face.
"Look at him! They would've left him alone if you'd just gone with that male."
Beverly closed her eyes and counted slowly to ten.
"And what about me? Do you think I would willingly be…mated…to one of them? Who knows what that would entail?"
She looked down at the suffering Captain and gently pushed on his shoulder.
"Jean-Luc…see if you can roll onto your back. I want to check for fractures."
He took a large breath and ordered his body to relax. Slowly and with obvious pain, he uncurled and straightened before gingerly turning onto his back. Beverly winced at seeing the swelling around his left eye and his split lip. His right ear was swollen and bruising was developing across his chest. She tenderly pressed different areas with her fingers, expertly identifying regions of damage. When she'd finished with his face and torso, she looked up at Mary and requested,
"I want to check his genitals…and I think he would appreciate some privacy."
The Director hesitated but stood with a sniff and stalked to the fire.
When Beverly was sure her attention was elsewhere, she gently eased down Jean-Luc's briefs and frowned at the swelling in his testicles. His right testicle especially was distended and tight. She pulled up his underwear and lovingly stroked his face. He opened his right eye and summoned a lopsided smile, wincing when his split lip opened and oozed blood.
"Mary…could you help me please?"
The smaller woman looked up and frowned with irritation.
"What do you want?"
Beverly sighed and shook her head.
"I need you to help me move Jean-Luc closer to the fire."
Mary huffed and stood.
"Very well."
She came over and between them they gently got the Captain to his feet and manoeuvred his bowed form to the fire. As they carefully lowered him, Mary pointed out,
"Our hosts have been in here while we were gone. There's more wood and food…and they left a bucket over by the wall."
Beverly looked over at the bucket and shook her head.
"Probably annoyed with us for using a food bowl as a toilet."
Mary sniffed and tilted her head.
"Well it's not as if we had a choice."
"Hey I agree with you, but think about it. How would you feel if someone urinated in something you used for food?"
The Director wrinkled her nose and grimaced.
"I see your point. They must think we're savages."
Beverly nodded and gently cradled Jean-Luc's head in her arm.
"Exactly. Jean-Luc? How is the pain now?"
The Captain took a tentative breath and frowned, his hands going to his chest.
"Sore…hurts to breathe."
"You may have cracked a few ribs my love. What about your…?
She nodded towards his groin and he grimaced.
"Throbbing…hurts like hell."
"I bet it does. Do you feel up to eating?"
He thought about that a few moments before slowly nodding. Mary, overhearing the exchange, gathered up the bowls and put them by his side. She peered over the food and said,
"It appears to be fruit and grain…and there's more water."
With some help, Jean-Luc sat up and the three ate what was there. The water was clean and fresh, Beverly saving some to wash the cut on his lip.
Mary collected the bowls and set them aside before opening a new discussion.
"What do you think that was all about?"
Jean-Luc sighed painfully and grunted.
"I would've thought that was obvious. That…native…wanted Beverly and when I wouldn't accept his offer of trade, he was prepared to fight me for her."
"To the death?"
Jean-Luc's head shot up.
"What?"
Beverly gripped his hand and stared into his face.
"He died Jean-Luc…his neck was broken in the fall."
Sighing Jean-Luc shook his head.
"I couldn't see…my eyes…"
He stopped in thought, his next words upsetting them all.
"So that contest was a fight to the death? Beverly there were six males with the headman! My God…am I expected to fight them all?"
The three Humans sat in stunned silence as they digested the question. Beverly spoke first.
"Hey…maybe it won't come to that. Who knows what they want. Let's just wait and see."
Silence again descended the worried people lost in their own thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

Commander William Riker, Will to his friends, turned in his chair and questioned his officer.
"What did it say?"
Ensign Mike Atkins shifted his feet and reread the message.
"It's from the archaeological dig on Fremmis Sir. It says Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher are missing, with another member of the team and they urgently request our assistance."
Will faced the viewscreen and rubbed his dark beard.
"That's what I thought you said. Ops how quickly can we get to Fremmis?"
The young officer checked her console and answered,
"Three days at maximum warp Sir."
Will glanced at his companion and nodded.
"Set course and engage at warp nine point five."
"Aye Sir, course set."
"Engage."
The mighty Starship accelerated flawlessly, though many years of service aboard allowed Will to detect the miniscule changes in her. He turned to his lover, Counsellor Deanna Troi and tilted his head.
"What do you think?"
She shrugged her dainty shoulders and gazed at him.
"Who knows…it could be anything."
Will rubbed his thighs and peered at the viewscreen.
"Well knowing those two…it's probably something interesting."
Deanna chuckled and gripped his hand.
"We'll soon see."

 

 

 

Lars looked incredulously at his companion and almost shouted.
"What? A quantum field…how is that possible?"
Peter gestured to the computer terminal.
"See for yourself…I certainly can't explain it."
"But it doesn't make any sense! And what about these radiation levels? Where the hell did that come from?"
Peter shrugged his shoulders and swept his hand over the three tricorders.
"They all give the same readings. There was a massive power surge…the output was off the scale…and the residual radiation and quantum dissipation. Other than that... we're in the dark."
Lars spent some moments scanning the computer data then turned to his friend.
"Wait a minute! When I activated the tricorder in the room, there was a slight tremor. I wonder...?"
"Wonder what?"
"Well what if the energy emitted by the tricorder set something off? Maybe all three instruments were used at the same time…"
Peter pulled his mouth down and tilted his head.
"Well that could account for some of this…but a quantum field? I don't think so."
Lars gripped his shoulder.
"I don't either. How long until the Enterprise arrives?"
"Two days."
"Dammit I hoped we would have more for them…"
Peter turned the monitor to face him.
"Don't worry…I'm not finished with this yet."
Lars clapped his friend on the back and picked up one of the tricorders.
"The answers are here... we just have to find them."

 

 

 

Sometime in the afternoon Jean-Luc had recovered enough to get to his feet to avail himself of the bucket. The women busied themselves to give him privacy, but when he started to urinate a sharp pain lanced through his groin. He gasped and Beverly heard him.
"Jean-Luc is everything all right?"
He stifled a groan and muttered,
"No…something hurts…badly."
"I'm coming over…ok?"
He nodded and Beverly rose to go to him. He was standing holding the bucket with one hand the other holding his penis.
She patted his shoulder and asked,
"What is it?"
"I can't pass urine without quite severe pain."
She gently pressed the area of his groin and he winced, bending at the waist.
"Hmm…you may have a tear of the urethra."
"What can you do?"
She shook her head sadly and rubbed his back.
"Absolutely nothing…but you must urinate, it would be disastrous if you don't"
"But…"
"You have to my love…even though it hurts."
He sighed and lowered his head. Beverly squeezed his shoulder giving him the encouragement he needed.
As the stream began his body tensed and he groaned, clenching his teeth and screwing his eyes shut. By the time he finished he was sweating. Beverly took the bucket from him while he made himself comfortable and inspected the liquid. Sighing, she put the pail down and escorted him back to the fire.
"You're bleeding Jean-Luc. There was blood in the urine."
"Is that bad?"
She frowned and sat beside him.
"Depends on what's bleeding and from where. There wasn't a lot…it may stop of its own accord."
He stared at her, trying to divine her thoughts.
"And if it doesn't?"
Her sympathetic look caused a rush of irrational anger.
"Bloody hell!"
He would've said more, but the door suddenly opened and their guards came in. With curt gestures they were ushered through the door and back to the circle.
As before the chief stood with five males and clamped his hand on the shoulder of the nearest. The big man stepped forward and, lifting his chin and, flexing his considerable physique, strode boldly to the Captain. Without preamble, he pushed Jean-Luc aside and grabbed Beverly's arm. She growled and struggled and was being pulled forwards when Jean-Luc put his hand firmly on the male's chest. Shaking his head, he shouted,
"NO!"
The male released Beverly and barred his teeth at the Captain, emitting a menacing growl. The Human women were grabbed and pulled aside as the two men circled each other. In a sudden frontal assault, the male charged Jean-Luc, his head slamming into the Captain's stomach and driving the breath from his lungs. Jean-Luc grabbed the bigger man around the waist and heaved with all his strength, lifting his feet from the ground. The male loosened his grip and Jean-Luc drove him head first into the dirt. Grunting, the native rolled to one side and regained his feet with athletic ease. Opening his arms wide, he circled Jean-Luc, looking for an opportunity to entrap him in a crushing embrace. When he lunged, Jean-Luc was ready for him. He quickly sidestepped and landed a punishing blow to his opponent's stomach as he passed. The male whirled around, but not before Jean-Luc smashed his doubled fists on the back of the male's neck. He staggered and Jean-Luc stepped closer, intending to utilise his Starfleet training to render the man unconscious. As he lifted his fists to strike, the bigger man suddenly swung and hit Jean-Luc's stomach with a thudding blow. The Captain gagged and dropped to his knees. The male kicked his head and followed it up with a full-bodied blow to his right kidney. Jean-Luc's back arched in agony and the male grabbed his head and pulled it back sharply, exposing his unprotected throat. As he bent to rip out Jean-Luc's throat, the Captain, in desperation, clawed at his eyes. He felt his fingers sink into the soft orbs and the male cried out, releasing his prey to wrestle the Captain's fingers away from his bleeding face. Jean-Luc staggered to his feet and, using a violent upsweep of the heel of his palm, struck the male under his nose with all the strength he could muster. The bones of the nose broke with a sickly crunch and two of the shards of bone were sent forcibly into the brain with a catastrophic effect. The male suddenly stiffened and remained motionless for some seconds before his eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped to the ground. Jean-Luc promptly fell to his knees and vomited painfully. He soon sensed Beverly by his side.
"Take it easy Jean-Luc…come on, take big slow breaths…"
On all fours, he hung his head as the shaman came to claim the corpse. The surrounding people shuffled to one side as the Captain slowly climbed to his feet and the three were escorted back to their hut. Once inside, Mary and Beverly helped Jean-Luc to the fire and Beverly repeated her examination of his many injuries. He brushed her hands away and groaned.
"Leave me alone…I just want to lie here for a while…"
She tenderly stroked his bare pate and bent to his ear.
"Ok you rest, I'll stay with you."
He curled up on his side and closed his eyes, the swelling around his left eye oozing blood. The women sat quietly until he seemed to find sleep, then they re-stoked the fire and sat together, discussing his injuries.
"How bad is it?"
Beverly looked over at her lover and shook her head.
"It's hard to tell. Those blows to his stomach could've done some significant damage and he simply can't continue to be struck in the head…and God knows how his kidney is…"
Mary looked at the sleeping man with sympathy.
"Beverly there's four more of those males…"
The Doctor threw some wood on the fire, sending a shower of sparks up towards the roof.
"I know Godammit! And I also know he can't keep this up. It's only a matter of time before his injuries handicap him completely and one of those brutes kills him."
Mary turned one of the logs and said thoughtfully,
"I wonder what would happen if we fought?"
Beverly looked speculatively at her companion and shrugged.
"Indeed."

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc slept for some hours, in fact is was night when he awoke. Groaning, he rose up on one arm and shivered. Beverly was at his side instantly. She rubbed his back and found it wet with sweat. She felt his forehead and was dismayed to feel his elevated temperature. Getting the water bowl, she wet her hand and wiped it over his face. Speaking in a soft voice she said,
"Lay down Jean-Luc…try to go back to sleep."
He groaned softly and took her hand.
"Hurts…bad pain…"
"Where Jean-Luc?"
"My back and stomach. God Beverly…"
He retched and clutched his midriff, his face screwed up in a grimace of pain.
The Doctor felt Mary move beside her and heard her soft enquiry.
"Is there anything we can do?"
Beverly shook her head in frustration. She coaxed the Captain to lie down but the agony continued. He writhed on the floor and all Beverly could do was hold his head.
Some two hours later he finally settled and slipped into a restless sleep. The Doctor wet her fingers and gently cleaned the fresh blood from around his eye and wiped at her face as a tear slipped free. Mary gripped her shoulder and offered a wan smile.
"If it's any help…I'm sorry I got us into this. I really am. The last thing I wanted was to see Jean-Luc hurt."
Beverly shook her head and sighed.
"Well for what it's worth…I'm here of my own volition. It was my choice to jump into that damned thing."
Mary tilted her head and looked under Beverly's brow.
"Why did you?"
The Doctor looked tenderly down at her lover and smiled wistfully.
"I wanted to go with him…to keep him safe."
"Are you talking about the transporter…or this leave?"
She chuckled softly and shook her head.
"Very perceptive. Both actually, archaeology really isn't my thing, but when the opportunity came up and it became evident that we could coincide our leave, well I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be worth it just to see him happy."
The Director sighed and rested a tentative hand on Jean-Luc's chest.
"You really love him don't you?"
Beverly nodded and whispered,
"For more years than I care to admit."
"And he loves you…with the same depth…the same commitment?"
"Uh huh…for over thirty years."
"Wow. You hear about it you know, read about it…but I've never seen it, not until now."
She sighed and absently stroked the Captain's arm.
"You're a very lucky woman Beverly. He's very…desirable."
"Oh I know…believe me I know. I resisted him for years, although he was never obvious about how he felt. He let me know, then waited…with more patience than I thought possible."
Mary's eyebrows rose incredulously.
"But if you knew why the hell didn't you...?"
"It's a long and involved story Mary, there's a lot of history between us…I guess I had to be ready. Thank God he waited."
Mary blew out a soft breath and cast her eyes over the sleeping man.
"Well anyway I'm sorry I…pursued him. I can see now it must have caused you both pain."
Beverly shrugged and smirked.
"To be honest I could see your side. You're right he's incredibly sexy and, as a man in a position of both power and prestige, he exudes a powerful attraction. I can't say I blame you."
"Yeah well I'll back off now. I can plainly see what he's been trying to tell me. Again, I'm sorry."
Beverly flipped her hand and shook her head.
"Well he seems to be resting…finally. What say we try to get some sleep too?"
Mary nodded and moved to the other side of the fire, earning her a wink from the Doctor. They made themselves comfortable and waited for sleep to claim them.

 

 

 

 

When Jean-Luc woke he felt stronger although he was still in considerable pain. Beverly coaxed him into drinking some water, but he refused the food that had been brought in. The Doctor sighed and sat with him, gently rubbing his back.
"Are you sure Jean-Luc?"
He nodded and grimaced.
"Oh yes Beverly I'm sure. The last thing I want to do right now is eat."
Mary moved closer and looked sympathetically at him.
"So…how do you feel?"
He summoned a wan smile and shook his head.
"I've been better."
She grinned and lowered her head.
"I'm sure you have. What are you going to do if they come for us again?"
Jean-Luc sighed, wincing and rubbing his chest.
"I don't see that I have any choice."
Beverly snorted and remonstrated with him.
"That's nonsense Jean-Luc! You can't fight anymore, to even consider it would be…"
He gently gripped her hand.
"What's the alternative? Let them take you and Mary? I don't think so, there's no telling what would happen to you."
The women looked at each other, arousing his suspicions.
"What?"
Beverly looked into his eyes and took a deep breath.
"We've been talking Jean-Luc and we've decided to fight."
He looked dumbfounded at the Doctor before slowly shaking his head.
"No. No I don't think so. They wouldn't…"
"We don't know what they'd do…that's the point. They might be so shocked they may just call off the whole thing."
Jean-Luc scowled and shook his head.
"And they might be so angered that they spear us all on the spot! No Beverly, I forbid such a foolhardy action. It makes no logical sense."
Beverly was rising to her feet to argue when the door quickly opened. She looked down at her friends and muttered,
"Well we're about to find out."
Once placed within the large circle, a male was selected and he came forward with a female, carrying a woven basket. She put the basket on the ground and the male removed the lid. He then proceeded to place several items on the ground in front of the Captain. There were decorative beadworks, armbands, loincloths and a headband; some leather pouches the contents of which were a mystery, two knives and a charm. Jean-Luc took time to inspect all the items, and when he seemed satisfied, the male repacked the basket, placed it in the woman's arms and gently pushed her into Jean-Luc's hands.
The Captain sighed and shook his head. With gentleness he pushed the woman back and said,
"No."
The male turned to the chief and uttered several short barks. The headman grunted and stamped his foot. The male turned to Jean-Luc and pointed at Mary. He stepped forward to grab her and Jean-Luc shifted to stand in his way. The Human women, instead of standing behind him, came to his sides, a look of clear defiance on their faces.
The male grunted and again reached for Mary. The Director growled, stepped forward and slapped the native across the face. He stopped, a look of shock upon his face. Growling, he issued a staccato command and two large males came forward to grab the women. Although they struggled, they were overcome and pulled aside. The native woman placed the basket on the ground and ran into the crowd. The male thumped his chest and shouted at the Captain. Jean-Luc watched warily as the protagonist worked himself up into a fury, sweat starting to run down his body. The charge, when it came was unexpected. He was in the middle of a war cry when he suddenly lowered his head and bowled straight for the Captain. Jean-Luc moved but not fast enough. The male's head caught him in the side, spinning his around and causing him to loose his footing. Slowed by his injuries, Jean-Luc was regaining his feet when the male rushed in and hit him squarely on the jaw. Jean-Luc saw stars and fell to his knees. The kick to his stomach made him fall forward and begin to crawl. His assailant rained blows down on his back, pummelling his kidneys and kicking his ribs. Jean-Luc vaguely heard Beverly's voice and risked a quick glance. She was shouting something and pointing to the basket.
He understood immediately and slowly crawled in its direction all the while being beaten unmercifully. A particularly savage kick knocked him onto his side, but not before he'd reached the basket and pulled it over. The lid dislodged and the contents spilled out. As Jean-Luc scrabbled vainly for a knife, he was kicked in the head and his vision blurred. He felt consciousness begin to fade just as his hand closed over the knife handle. With a Herculean effort he kept conscious and rolled to one side, bringing the knife up to meet the descending foot. The bone blade sunk deeply into the instep and the male screamed. He hopped away, the knife still embedded in his foot. Jean-Luc turned and sifted quickly through the items and located the other knife. He picked it up and climbed shakily to his feet, blood streaming down his face.
His assailant faced him and howled with rage. Despite the knife in his foot, he charged the Captain, intent on killing him. Jean-Luc grabbed his outstretched arm and pulled him forward…onto the knife. It cleanly separated the skin and muscle, slipped between the ribs and sliced deeply into the male's heart. He jerked to a stop and grabbed Jean-Luc around the throat. His grip was tight at first and Jean-Luc struggled to breathe but as his blood flowed from his body, his grip lessened and he slowly fell to his knees before pitching forward onto his face and twitching. Jean-Luc looked down to find his arm coated with blood up to the elbow and bloody streaks down the length of his body. Tiredly he turned to Beverly and held out his arm. She shook off the restraining arms and ran to him, supporting his battered body. Mary soon joined them and Beverly lifted her head to shout at the headman,
"Enough! He's been through enough, leave us alone!"
The chief coughed and spat on the ground. Beverly swallowed a cry of pain when a spear tip jabbed into her thigh. Keeping her chin defiantly high, the two women helped Jean-Luc back to the hut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"How long now Mr. Data?"
"Entering orbit now Sir."
"Very good. Contact the dig and put them on the viewscreen."
"Aye Sir."
A few minutes passed before Data informed Will,
"I have them now Sir."
Will faced the screen and introductions were made. Lars Ebsen scratched his head and said apologetically,
"Well we don't exactly know."
Will frowned and stood, pacing in front of the screen.
"You don't know anything?"
"No. We found where they'd been working and we found their tricorders and backpacks but as to where they are, or what happened to them…well I'm afraid we're in the dark."
Will stroked his beard and came to a halt.
"Have you any data? Anything from the tricorders?"
"Actually yes, although we've been having a little trouble deciphering it."
Will turned to Data and nodded. The android second officer moved to the science station and said over his shoulder,
"Doctor I will patch into your computers and upload the information."
Lars nodded and addressed Will.
"I'm sorry we can't be of more help Commander. The staff member that's missing with your officers is our head Director…Mary Adamson. Perhaps you've heard of her?"
Will frowned and shook his head.
"No I don't think so, but archaeology really isn't my thing. Captain Picard…"
"Sir." Data interrupted,
"I have the information."
"Very good Mr.Data. Doctor Ebsen once we've analysed the download, we'll come down and have a look around."
Lars nodded and smiled.
"I'm so glad you're here Commander. Ebsen out."
Will turned to find Data emersed in the science console and decided to leave him to his work. Instead he called Engineering.
"Bridge to Engineering."
"Engineering here."
"Geordi come up to the Bridge will you. I want you to help Data."
"Aye Sir, on my way."
Deanna stood and calmly took up a position beside her lover. He turned and looked down at her, his eyebrows raised.
"Can you sense them?"
She frowned deeply and concentrated. Sighing she shook her head making her curly hair bounce.
"No Will, nothing. It's as if they're not there…or…"
"Don't say it. We'll find them."
She looked at the viewscreen, at the planet slowly turning beneath them and sighed again.
"I hope so Imzadi…I hope so."

 

 

 

 

Three and a half hours later Data and Geordi called Will to the science station.
"What have you got?"
Data gestured to the terminal and cocked his head.
"It would seem that a massive power surge has been generated."
Will placed his foot on the pedestal and stroked his beard.
"How?"
"Unknown, however the tricorders have recorded a shift in the surrounding atmosphere."
"Can you define it?"
Data sighed in a very Human way and shrugged his shoulders. Geordi hid a smile.
"We almost missed it. The instruments have been almost overloaded, if it wasn't for this one being further away from the anomaly than the others, it wouldn't have registered."
Will stood up straight and tugged down on his uniform, a gesture no longer necessary with the new design.
"Ok. I want you two, Deanna and a security detail to go down and examine everything you can. Be thorough gentlemen, I want our people back."
Geordi nodded and Data said, "Aye Sir."
As they moved to the turbolift Deanna saw Will beckon to her. She smiled and followed the two officers into the lift, giving her lover an encouraging wink. He frowned as the lift doors closed and muttered,
"For God's sake find them."

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the guards came again Beverly stood in front of the supine Jean-Luc and growled at them.
"No! Go away…he's too sick to fight."
She made shooing gestures with her hands and one of the guards entered and prodded her with a spear. She withstood the assault and breathed a sigh of relief when Mary joined her.
"Piss off! Go on…go to buggery!"
The big male hesitated and, looking back over his shoulder at his companion, grunted and abruptly left. Beverly immediately fell to her knees next to Jean-Luc and held his head as he shivered. Mary dropped to one knee and, keeping an eye on the door, asked,
"Why has he got such a high fever?"
Beverly stroked Jean-Luc's head and shook her head.
"Infection…probably internal, I can't see anything obvious externally."
"What, the torn urethra?"
"It could be any one of several injuries. He may have ruptures…tears…breaks…who knows."
Mary heard the desperation in her friend's voice and gently squeezed her shoulder.
The door slapped open and four guards came in, their bulk blocking the light. They went straight to Jean-Luc and initially ignored the women's efforts to fight them off. Eventually Beverly was stopped with a blow to the head and Mary was held by the throat until her knees buckled. With both women incapacitated Jean-Luc was dragged out of the hut and hauled to the circle. Beverly and Mary followed at a distance, each struggling to overcome the effects of their injuries. The chief waited until the two women were present before clutching a male on the shoulder. The native bent down and picked up a club, tossing it to the kneeling Captain and picking another up to heft. He waited silently as Jean-Luc struggled to his feet and lifted the club. With a howl, the male slowly approached the injured man, menacingly swinging the club around his head.
Only able to see out of his right eye, Jean-Luc endeavoured to keep his adversary on his right. The male saw this and kept moving to his right, blindsiding the Captain. The big male suddenly began to rush in, but at the last moment stopped, dropped to his knees and swung the club in an arc. The hard wood crashed into Jean-Luc's shins and he cried out in agony as his legs went from under him. The male rose up to deliver a crushing blow to the Captain's head. Jean-Luc saw it coming and rolled, taking the blow on the shoulder. His arm immediately went numb all the way to the fingertips. Dropping the club involuntarily, he rolled in the opposite direction and scrabbled with his left hand to recover the weapon. His assailant swung again just as Jean-Luc grabbed the club. He rolled again and the blow missed. He climbed to his feet, his right arm hanging uselessly by his side. The male stood to his full height and growled low in his throat. He stepped forward and lunged with the club, catching Jean-Luc in the ribs, the Captain, groaning in pain, hefted his weapon and brought it down forcibly on the male's head. He grunted and stood back, shaking his head, pink blood trickling down his face. The sight of his own blood seemed to enrage the male. He howled and raced at Jean-Luc, heedless of the danger the weakened man still presented. The Captain suddenly threw his club between the male's legs and he came crashing to the ground in a heap. Before he could recover, Jean-Luc fell on him and turned him over, seeking and finding his throat. With no other option, Jean-Luc bit into the sinewy neck and sank his teeth as deeply as he could into the flesh.
There was a bubbling scream and the male's hands came up to claw at Jean-Luc's head, but he persisted. The clawing became blows, punishing, hard punches that skewed the Captain's vision and threatened to knock him senseless. Still he held on and, as he felt his enemy slowly start to weaken, he turned his head violently, tearing and gouging. The male's efforts slowly subsided and he finally stilled. Jean-Luc sat up, his face covered in gore. He turned his head and spat out a mouthful of blood and flesh. He was still on his knees when Beverly and Mary got to him. Barely able to walk, they practically had to carry him back to the hut.
When they had him lying by the fire he said weakly,
"Water…"
Mary got the bowl while Beverly held up his head. He took a mouthful, swirled it around and spat it out. He then took some more, this time swallowing the precious liquid. Beverly coaxed him into several more sips but he ultimately refused any more. He sighed painfully as she laid his head back down and whispered,
"My arm?"
With tender fingers, Beverly examined the shoulder, trying to ignore his groans of distress. Finished, she sat back and stroked his face.
"Your shoulder's broken."
He swallowed and frowned deeply.
"I can't feel anything…nothing at all right down to my fingertips."
Beverly tilted her head and gently brushed his arm.
"Nerve damage. Hopefully just severe bruising."
He looked up at his lover and reached up with his good arm.
"And you? I saw that guard hit your head. How are you?"
The Doctor chuckled wryly and smirked.
"I've got the headache from hell, probably a mild concussion, but all in all, I'm fine."
He turned his head and regarded Mary.
"I saw what happened to you too. Are you all right?"
Mary's hand went involuntarily to her throat, but she smiled nonetheless.
"Oh I'm ok Jean-Luc. I think we should really concentrate on you."
"Agreed." Nodded Beverly decisively.
"If they stay true to form, they'll be back this afternoon. What we have to figure out is…how to stop it."

 

 

 

 

 

Lars led the detail of Enterprise officers through the circuitous route to the hidden room. Once there he showed the personnel where the tricorders were found and demonstrated how the ground trembled when one of the devices was activated. He then left them to it. Data and Geordi were intrigued. Utilising the equipment they had brought, they spent some time setting up the instruments and calibrating their computers. When they were ready, Data received the go ahead from Geordi.
"Do it Data."
Data activated a tricorder and immediately started to scan as the ground beneath their feet began to shake. Geordi flipped open another tricorder and nodded for Deanna to do the same. Guessing, as had the people before them, they approached the low red dome and placed the tricorders equidistant around the artefact.
They stood back in wonder as the trembling grew and the dome rose, hissing and glowing to its full height. Data approached it and scanned it thoroughly. Motioning to his friends, they stepped forward and looked upon its shining embossed surface.
"Geordi there is Human DNA on those two recessed areas. It would appear they were pressed."
"Wait a minute Data…I'm reading a quantum field building. How about you?"
Data consulted his instrument and nodded.
"Yes Geordi. Also there is radiant heat and evidence of…I believe a phase shifting device is awaiting activation."
"Phase shifting? Ok, can you decipher in what order to press those buttons?"
"I believe so."
"Ok. Deanna you and I better get in the tunnel. Data…will you be all right?"
Data rechecked his tricorder and nodded.
"Yes Geordi."
"Right."
Data waited patiently as Geordi and Deanna took shelter in the tunnel. At Geordi's call, Data pressed the buttons.
As before, there was a blinding flash of light and a severe disturbance in the surrounding atmosphere. Even though they were safely out of the area, the two in the tunnel still coughed and felt the pressure of the blast. It was Deanna who heard Data's call.
"Geordi, Counsellor? You can come in now."
They scrabbled quickly into the room to find it bathed in bright light. They extinguished their lamps and stood in awe before a large shimmering oval of brilliant light. Data stood calmly recording, his computer and tricorder showing massive amounts of information being downloaded.
"Data?"
"We were correct. It is a phase shifting transporter, although one of ancient origins. I do not yet understand the mechanism, I will have to study the information in some depth, however I can tell you that three beings have used this device recently.
Geordi stepped forward and ran his hand just centimetres away from the light.
"How can you tell?"
"Like our transporters, it has a trace pattern encoder. In effect it has recorded the most recent use."
"Do we know where they went?"
Data turned to his friend and looked apologetic.
"I will endeavour to ascertain that from the information we have downloaded, but even with my enhanced abilities, it will take some time."
Geordi took one more look at the phenomenon and turned to the Counsellor.
"Can you sense them?"
She shook her head sadly and shrugged her shoulders.
"It doesn't mean anything though. They may simply be too far away for me to reach them."
Geordi gazed at the gleaming light and asked Data,
"How long will it be active?"
"I do not know. It may…"
The three companions gasped as the phenomenon began to undulate. It wavered briefly then abruptly blinked out, leaving them standing in utter blackness, their eyes starred with after images. They heard the dome gain its former resting place then there was silence.
"Well I guess that answers that. Did you get the final readings?"
Switching their lamps back on, Data studied his tricorder.
"Yes Geordi. I will be able to make a full analysis with the aid of the Enterprise's computer."
"Ok we'd better get back to the ship."
The three left the room and met with Lars and the others in the main tent. Geordi promised to allow them to access the information as soon as they'd assimilated it.

 

 

 

 

True to form, later in the afternoon, six guards entered the hut and stood over the suffering man. They easily pushed aside the protesting women and grabbed the Captain by the arms and dragged him out into the sunshine. Beverly and Mary followed as they lifted Jean-Luc to his feet and assisted him in walking to the circle.
This time the chief came to stand in front of Jean-Luc, another contestant by his side. He shoved a spear into the Captain's hand and grunted. Jean-Luc shook his head and tried to hand back the weapon, but the chief slapped the Captain's chest and gestured to the large male at his side. The native showed his pointed teeth and looked at Beverly. He jutted his chin forward and barked at her. She shook her head and gently gripped Jean-Luc's arm. The male turned his attention to Mary, repeating the chin pointing and barking. She too shook her head and gripped Jean-Luc's other arm. Both the headman and the male scowled and stamped their feet. The chief strutted back to his customary place and the rival walked around the circle, brandishing his spear. Beverly said softly,
"For God's sake watch him Jean-Luc…he…"
She was roughly pulled aside, as was Mary and the contest began.
Jean-Luc divided his attention between the spear and the male's eyes. The native moved close and feinted a few moves, easily parried by the injured Human. Taking the spear in both hands, the male moved in and, using it as a staff, swept at Jean-Luc's head. He ducked and only just avoided the point as the male lunged at his midriff. Jean-Luc retaliated with a lunge of his own, but being handicapped with only one useable arm, he was at a severe disadvantage. Every step he took caused pain to lance up and down his badly bruised shins. Slower than his counterpart, he watched as best he could through his remaining functioning eye as the male sized him up. Another feint to his head missed, but not the lunge to his stomach. The wickedly barbed tip sank deeply into Jean-Luc's flesh and he twisted in agony as it was savagely torn out. He heard Beverly call out and he staggered to avoid another strike. He wasn't prepared for the sweeping blow to his legs, the pain blooming and threatening to send him to his knees. He realised his assailant had withdrawn and raised his head to see the male lifting his arm in readiness to throw the spear. He shakily raised his own arm but the male released his spear and it flew with sickening speed and lodged in his breast on the right side above the nipple. Jean-Luc cried out and fell to his knees, his hand dropping his spear to grab the shaft of wood protruding from his body. The male raised his arms and walked around the circle to the cheers of the assemblage. Jean-Luc bent over and picked up his spear, but the native sauntered over and casually kicked it out of his hand and out of reach. He then saluted the crowd again before turning to the Captain and growling. He lowered his head and charged. Jean-Luc quickly tore the spear from his own flesh and anchored the butt on the ground. The male's momentum was unstoppable. He loomed over the Captain and Jean-Luc aligned the spear. It sank into the neck of his rival, just under the chin, the point exiting at the back of his head. He was dead before he hit the ground. His body crashed into Jean-Luc's and pinned him to the ground as the last spasms passed through it. The women were released and they ran to Jean-Luc, Beverly crying in fear. They pulled the cadaver from his battered body and gasped at what they saw.
"Jean-Luc can you hear me?"
Blood flowed freely from two dreadful wounds, one in his stomach, one in his chest. The underlying muscles were clearly visible in the chest wound, some of the tissue hanging out of the terrible injury. With incredible fortitude, Jean-Luc raised his good arm and weakly gripped Beverly's hand. She turned to the chief and screamed,
"This must stop! Can't you see he can't go on?"
The headman walked over and toed the suffering man. He pulled both women to their feet and called over the remaining two males. When they were standing beside him, he pushed the women into their arms. Both women reacted the same, pulling away and shaking their heads.
"No!"
The chief shrugged and toed Jean-Luc again. Before he could turn away, Beverly grabbed his muscled arm. The crowd gasped and shrank back, the two close males taking up a defensive posture around the chief. Beverly released him but kept his attention.
"Look there must be some other way!" She gestured to Mary. "Let us fight." She pantomimed fighting and further gasps were heard. The headman flicked his head and pushed Jean-Luc with his foot. He beckoned two guards to come over and barked some instructions at them. They immediately picked up the battered man and carried him back to the hut, followed by Beverly and Mary.
When they were situated by the fire, they were joined by two native women who brought in extra water and broad orange leaves. The women, both obviously frightened, cleaned Jean-Luc's wounds and tied the leaves around the injuries. They left but soon returned with food. Once they had gone Beverly was able to talk to her lover.
"Jean-Luc can you lift you head?"
He nodded and with Mary's help gingerly raised his head. Beverly encouraged him to drink but he grimaced, his hand going to his stomach. Through clenched teeth he muttered,
"No more. I feel sick."
Mary studied the multitude of deep bruising coming out all over his body.
"What the hell are we going to do? They can't possibly expect him to fight again."
Beverly sighed and tenderly lifted one of the leaves.
"It seems pretty obvious what they want. Either we concede to them and become mates to those males, or Jean-Luc has to fight for us."
"But…"
"I know!"
Mary shook her head and sniffed.
"What if he refused? What if he just lay there and…"
"Then they would kill him just the same. We have to get out of here…somehow."
Jean-Luc squeezed her hand and she bent to hear him.
"You and Mary go. See if you can find where the transporter put you down."
She gently trailed her fingers down his battered face and shook her head.
"No Jean-Luc. If we go we all go together."
He slowly shook his head and tried again.
"I think they will look after me…it seems I have been elevated in their eyes…at least their trying to treat my injuries. You go…see if you can bring back help."
Beverly gripped his hand and struggled to hold back her tears.
"Jean-Luc you need medical help…desperately. No leaves are going to make any difference. If we don't get you to a medical facility soon…"
He nodded and tried to sigh. Grimacing he closed his good eye.
"I know, but that doesn't mean you have to stay by my side while I die. Beverly you must try to escape, it may be your only hope."
"NO! Stop talking like that…I won't hear it! We've got until tomorrow morning to figure something out and I intend to do just that."
Jean-Luc's body suddenly spasmed and he rolled onto his side and vomited. Bloody water was expelled and Beverly knew he was in desperate trouble. He was right, if something wasn't done…and soon, he would surely die.

 

 

 

 

 

It took seven and quarter hours for Data to finish his analysis of the transporter. Geordi was working a double shift, as were the other senior staff, and he stifled a yawn as Data launched into a scientific dissertation. He gently placed his hand on the android's arm and shook his head.
"Data we haven't got time for all that. Just tell us…can we sustain its function long enough to retrieve the Captain and Doctor Crusher?"
"Yes Geordi."
"And do we know where they are?"
"Yes Geordi, I believe so."
The Engineer turned to the console and tapped in some commands.
"Ok where are they?"
Data joined his best friend and called up a chart from a distant system.
"The coordinates were quite clear. They were transported to the Beta Rammi system, specifically to the fourth planet, designated Rammi IV. It is a class M planet, populated with a primitive culture of humanoids on the Southern continent in several large villages."
Will entered the conversation.
"So we'll have to keep the Prime Directive in mind."
Data nodded and gestured to the screen.
"Yes Sir. I would advise surgical alteration to…blend in…as it were."
Will straightened and stroked his beard.
"Once we activate the transporter, would it be possible to beam them back through the other system?"
Data frowned and shook his head.
"I do not think so Sir. It would be best if we programmed it to stay open for a specific time to go and retrieve the missing people. Once we are on Rammi IV we can use tricorders to detect Human bio signs. It should be a simple matter to find them."
Geordi tilted his head his ocular implants dilating.
"You know these phase shifting devices cause all sorts of physical problems. I think that Data may be the only one who could pass through unaffected."
Will frowned and looked at his Chief Engineer.
"You mean the missing people may have been adversely affected?"
"Yep, but I don't know how long the effects would last. This is an ancient machine…very powerful…anything could happen."
Will was silent for a while as he digested the information. He turned to his Second Officer.
"What do you think Data?"
"I agree with Geordi Commander. I should be the one to go."
"Right! How soon?"
The two officers looked at each other and it was Geordi who spoke.
"Well by the time Sickbay has finished with Data, I should've got the programming sorted out. Say three hours?"
The big man nodded and turned slightly. Looking back at his friends he said,
"Make it so."

 

 

 

 

 

It was late in the night and the two women huddled against the wall furthest away from the door. They had managed to break one of the bowls and were digging under the wall. They had progressed well, but had to stop periodically to help Jean-Luc who continued on his downward spiral. The vomiting increased and blood flowed feely from his wounds. With nothing with which to wipe him, Beverly used her hands as best she could and rationed their water to help clean the wounds. She'd folded his bad arm across his chest but it kept falling as he rolled to vomit. She wondered what damage was being done to the broken edges of the bones.
They helped Jean-Luc settle and went back to their digging. Silent in their efforts, they kept at their task with stony determination. Fingers bleeding, they dug almost a metre down, then dug back, allowing a sloping entrance. They took it in turns to lie in the depression and dig under the wall another metre before slanting upwards. It took hours, but eventually, while Mary was digging, she broke through to the outside. She wriggled backwards and excitedly gripped Beverly's arm.
"We're through!"
Beverly bent low and peered in the darkness.
"Right! We have to make the hole big enough to be able to drag Jean-Luc through. I'll dig for a while."
Mary nodded and winced when she curled her fingers. Her nails ruined, she smiled ruefully.
"So much for my recent manicure."
Beverly dug for over an hour when she suddenly stilled. Someone was walking close by and she froze as they passed by only a few metres away. She heard the nightwalker cough and then heard the unmistakeable sound of someone urinating. She waited, holding her breath, praying that the person would soon go back to bed. The stream stopped and the native coughed again. They walked back into the night and Beverly let out her breath. She had only a little more digging to do before she decided it was enough.
She scrabbled back into the hut and gestured for Mary to meet with her by Jean-Luc's side.
"Ok we're ready. I'll carry his shoulders…can you handle his legs?"
"Uh huh…but we're going to leave a trail of blood. They'll follow it easily."
Beverly took the time required to re-tie the leaves to his wounds and, momentarily satisfied, moved to pick him up.
"Ready?"
The women picked him up as gently as possible, but he still groaned loudly. When they reached the tunnel, Beverly bent close to his ear.
"Jean-Luc we're making our escape and we're taking you with us. We'll have to pull you through a tunnel we've made…can you be quiet? I know it will hurt but…"
He nodded weakly and tensed as his body spasmed. The women waited until it passed then Beverly went into the tunnel backwards, pulling the Captain with her. Mary lay flat and pushed his legs and between them they got him through. He was sweating and groaning softly as they looked around the outside of the hut. Beverly could just make out the edge of bush nearby and she gestured silently to Mary. Receiving her nod of understanding, they picked up the Captain and made for the trees.
It was very difficult in the dark, but the women persevered and got further away from the village. Soon they found a path and set Jean-Luc down on the ground while they caught their breath.
Mary was concerned.
"Why do you think there were no guards?
Beverly shrugged in the darkness.
"Probably though we couldn't do anything without Jean-Luc."
A soft snicker was heard.
"Boy won't they be surprised!"
Beverly nodded and stood up.
"Come on we have to cover a lot of ground before morning."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Data stood before the glowing oval, his features now unrecognisable. His bald head shone pinkly in stark contrast to his heavily haired body. His loincloth was plain and the knife unadorned. Only an armband decorated his body and he slipped the tricorder into a pouch inside his loincloth.
Geordi slapped his friend on the back and chuckled.
"Well my friend, are you ready?"
Data nodded, his eyebrows raised. Will gripped his arm and said,
"Now remember it will be mid morning and you have four hours. Will you be able to regulate the passage of time?"
"Yes Sir. My internal chronometer should be unaffected."
"Right, well off you go then. And Data…good luck."
Data nodded once and stood before the oval. He stepped in and the remaining officers shielded their eyes as the light flared. When their vision cleared, he was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly guessed they had travelled two kilometres when they came across a creek. They sank into the water, thankfully bathing their injured hands. Jean-Luc was placed on the bank, the women both using the water to wash him. Beverly looked speculatively at the flowing stream and came to a decision.
"We should stay in the water. It's flowing away from the village and it will disguise our tracks."
Mary nodded.
"Good idea. I think it may help with Jean-Luc's temperature too. He's very hot."
"I know it's the damned infection. We'll stop frequently to bathe him…it should help."
Gently hefting the semi-conscious man, they stepped into the water and continued their flight.
Throughout the remainder of the long night they continued their escape. As dawn broke, they found themselves in a rocky gully, the steep sides of which rose high on either side. The creek had grown into a small river and the women heard the unmistakable sound of a small waterfall nearby.
"We should stop here and rest."
Mary nodded her teeth chattering.
"Good idea, I'm freezing."
They left the water and picked their way carefully around the rocks, climbing some metres above the running stream. Jean-Luc was gently laid on a soft bed of sand and Beverly untied the leaves. Blood trickled freely from his wounds and he groaned piteously. The Doctor took one leaf and went down to the water, catching some of the precious fluid in the cupped leaf. Carefully negotiating her way back to her patient, she nodded to Mary to gently lift his head. She dribbled some water into his mouth and he swallowed before gasping and coughing. Rolling to his side, he clutched his stomach and cried out in agony. The women held him as the pain coursed through his body, unable to do anything but support him.
He slowly settled and they gingerly rolled him onto his back. Beverly stroked his face and he cracked open his eye.
"Hey there…it's morning."
Confused, his eye darted about, a frown marring his handsome face.
"What?"
"We escaped Jean-Luc…last night."
He stared at his lover, clearly addled.
"Escaped? From where?"
Beverly cast a glance at Mary and shook her head.
"Never mind Jean-Luc, you just rest."
He tried to sigh and failed. Grimacing he caught Beverly's hand.
"I'd better get to Sickbay Beverly, something's wrong with me…there's terrible pain…can you stop it?"
She gently squeezed his hand and said soothingly,
"Soon Jean-Luc, soon…you just rest."
He seemed satisfied with that and closed his eye, his body relaxing. It was some minutes before Beverly realised he'd lost consciousness.
Mary rubbed his shoulder and stated the obvious.
"He's hallucinating…he thinks he's on the Enterprise."
The Doctor nodded sadly and sighed.
"It's for the best probably, he'll more than likely deal with his pain better if he thinks he's going to Sickbay."
"How long Beverly…until…?"
Beverly sat back and drew a large breath.
"How long until he dies? I don't know exactly…I can tell you he's fading fast, but he has a strong will and an indomitable spirit. I wouldn't write him off too soon. He has a habit of defying the odds."
Mary looked down at the unconscious man and pointed to his underwear.
"Um Beverly…he's…"
Beverly looked down to see that he'd voided his bladder. She sighed and slowly eased down to strip off his briefs. Mary had the good grace to turn her head as Beverly went to the river to wash the garment. She returned and had him dressed again in minutes.
"With his body heat raging, they should be dry again soon."
Mary nodded and inspected her sore hands.
"You once insinuated that I never got my hands dirty."
She lifted her hands, turning them.
Beverly chuckled and shook her head.
"I stand corrected."

 

 

 

 

 

Data's eyes automatically adjusted to the bright sunlight as he took his tricorder and scanned the immediate area. Finding himself alone, he broadened the scan and noted the village. Making sure no Human bio signs were evident, he turned slowly and froze when a quiet alarm sounded. To the southwest, eight kilometres away, were three Human signs. He narrowed the scan and found that the life signs of one of the targets was low, in fact it was fluctuating alarmingly. Data scrambled down the steep mound and set a course. He settled into a loping run, a gait he knew would cover the ground quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

Four guards entered the hut and stood, dumbfounded, to find themselves alone. One of the muscular males went over to the far wall and got to his knees, sniffing the ground. He quickly stood and shouted at his companions. Two raced off as the remaining two inspected the bloodstains by the fire. When the chief imperiously entered, the males straightened and pointed to the tunnel. The headman ambled over and looked disdainfully down, before sniffing and flicking his hand. Back out in the light of day, the chief called his people together. His barked commands assembled a group of eight armed males. He swung his arm in a circle and the men ran off in pairs, each two to a compass point. The chief then called for two more males and took them around to the hut wall. Standing at the exit of the tunnel, he pointed down and the males dropped to their knees to sniff the ground. Having got the scent, they stood and howled loudly. The chief clapped his hands and the armed men ran off in the same direction the escapees had taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the heat of day wore on, the two women eased their hunger by drinking. They moved under the shelter of an overhanging rock ledge and Beverly spent her time waving away the myriad of insects that strove to infest Jean-Luc's wounds. The afternoon advanced and Beverly stood and stretched.
"Come on it's time we got moving again."
Mary rose and gently took Jean-Luc by the knees. Beverly gripped him under the arms and the lifted. The movement roused the Captain and he shouted,
"No! I will not! I will never yield!"
His scream was ear splitting. The women immediately put him down and Beverly hurried to the water to gather a handful of liquid. She rushed back and splashed the fluid on his face. He gasped and shook his head.
"Beverly!"
She sank quickly to her knees.
"I'm here Jean-Luc it's all right. You were dreaming that's all."
He panted and sweat ran down his stubbled face.
"What?… A dream?"
"Yes my love but you're awake now."
"Oh God Beverly…it hurts! Can't you…?"
"Hush Jean-Luc…we're going to take you someplace safe…but you have to be quiet. It's very important Jean-Luc…can you be quiet…for me?"
He nodded, swallowing and panting raggedly. The women again picked him up and he groaned low in his throat. They carefully made their way back to the river and entered, the cold lancing up their legs.

 

 

 

 

 

As Data ran he periodically looked at his tricorder. When he saw that his targets were moving he altered his course to intercept them and quickened his pace. Time was running out.

 

 

 

 

 

The males who'd been sent out to the compass points were heading for neighbouring villages. Their message was that the escapees belonged to them and were not to be taken in. They would also ask the chiefs if more men could join the search. The two who were tracking the fleeing Humans had reached the creek and crossed it, travelling some distance before realising there was no spore to follow. They backtracked to the watercourse and entered the water, guessing the captives had chosen to follow the stream away from the village. With nothing to follow except the flowing water, they made good time and were drinking not far from the three when they heard Jean-Luc's scream. Raising their heads together, the sniffed the air and grunted before setting off again this time at a quicker pace.

 

 

 

 

The women were tiring fast. With no food and their bodies shivering with cold, they carried their burden slower and slower. They had settled Jean-Luc on a long flat rock midstream in a straight stretch and were drinking to stave off their hunger when Mary looked upstream and froze. Beverly saw her look of fear and spun around. Advancing cautiously down stream were two armed males, their spears levelled directly at them. They approached to within three metres and stopped. The bigger one grunted and pointed to Jean-Luc. Beverly stood protectively in front of him and growled back. The males straightened and thumped their chests, brandishing the spears. The woman jumped alarmingly when a quiet voice spoke behind them.
"Don't move Doctor I will handle this."
Although intensely curious to see the owner of the voice, Beverly stood rigidly as their saviour waded past. She gasped at seeing another native, before her logical mind kicked in.
"The natives don't speak Federation Standard."
Mary chanced a glance at the Doctor and received a surreptitious shake of the head.
"Do nothing."
The single male advanced slowly towards the two with the weapons. They growled and comically stamped their feet, sending water in all directions. The single male kept approaching and one of the villagers suddenly lunged forward and attacked. The single male was almost too quick to see. He easily parried the lunge and applied a pinch to the nerves at the base of the neck. His attacker went limp and he held him upright with ease. The remaining male howled and swung the spear in a deadly arc. The rescuer held up his free arm and the wooden shaft broke cleanly as it struck his forearm. Left with a shortened piece of wood, the male still sought to attack. He ran in and stabbed with the shaft, but the lone male grabbed it and wrenched it out of his hands with blinding speed. He then brought the wood down sharply upon the male's neck and caught him as he passed out. Dragging both senseless bodies to the bank, he made sure they were safely out of the way before facing the two startled women.
"Greetings Doctor Crusher."
Beverly gasped.
"Data?"
"Yes Doctor."
He waded to the Captain and scanned him. Beverly took the tricorder from his hands and shook her head.
"Oh God it's much worse than I thought. Where is everybody Data? We need help."
"Because of the deleterious effect of the transporter, it was decided I should come alone. We have five kilometres to cover to get back to the gateway and we only have two hours to do it."
Mary lifted her head.
"What? Five kilometres? We're barefooted! How the hell do you expect us to cover the distance with nothing on our feet?"
He tilted his head and considered the question.
"Stay here."
He left the river and disappeared into the surrounding bush. He soon emerged, his hands filled with bark and thin vines.
He called to them.
"Leave Captain Picard there and come to me."
Mary left immediately, but Beverly hesitated.
"Please Doctor, time is of the essence."
She swallowed her worry and waded over to the android. He quickly tied the bark around their feet and then went to retrieve the Captain. Once again rejoining the women, he nodded to Beverly to activate the tricorder. This she did and he showed her the direction they must take.
"I will carry the Captain but we must hurry."
Beverly gripped his bicep and said softly,
"Be gentle Data he's very badly injured. Any sharp movement…"
"I understand Doctor Crusher."
He nodded at the woman and set off at a fluid jog, his arms acting as suspensors keeping the shocks from travelling through Jean-Luc. The women followed him.

 

 

 

 

 

"How long Geordi?"
The Chief Engineer consulted his tricorder and tapped out some instructions on the computer.
"Another forty minutes."
Will paced in front of the shimmering oval, his impatience palpable.
"Where the hell are they?"
Deanna gripped his hand as he passed, bringing him to a stop.
"Steady Imzadi. If anyone can bring them home it's Data. Give him time."
Will frowned and turned to Geordi.
"What happens when the time elapses?"
Geordi shrugged and looked at the apparatus.
"It'll close."
"And how long until we can open it again?"
Geordi sighed.
"Well according to our analysis…an hour…maybe and hour and a half."
Will scowled at the light as if he could force it to stay open with sheer belligerence.
"And how long then? Another four hours?"
Geordi stood up and joined the Commander at the light.
"To be honest we don't exactly know...we haven't got that far."
Will snorted.
"Dammit Geordi! We need this thing to stay open!"
"I hear you Commander but…it's mostly out of our hands, at least until we know more."

 

 

 

 

 

They ran as fast as they dared. As they got within a kilometre of the mound, Beverly suddenly barked a warning.
"Data! There's approaching life signs…eight natives…coming this way."
They came to an abrupt stop and cast about, looking for a hiding spot.
Mary spotted some fallen trees.
"Over there…quickly!"
With alacrity, the four people rushed for the greenery.
Once secreted, they watched fearfully as the armed party emerged into the surrounding bush. They trotted past, seemingly unknowing until one suddenly stopped and sniffed the air. He stilled his feet and grunted loudly bringing the others to a standstill. The leader of the group conversed with the male and quickly sent his team out in search of their prey. Beverly heard Jean-Luc whimper softly and quickly put her hand over his mouth. His body spasmed and he vomited, the bloody liquid squirting through her fingers. Data saw what was happening and turned the Captain onto his side as Beverly struggled to clear his mouth before he choked. The acrid odour drifted up from their hiding place and the native closest to them promptly turned in their direction. He cautiously approached and Data waited until he was almost on top of them before suddenly standing and confronting the hunter. Alarmed, the male raised his head to howl but Data was too quick. With blinding speed, the android stepped in and brought his fist down upon his neck, rendering him instantly unconscious. Data caught his body and lowered it gently to the ground. Seeing that the others were searching off to one side, he gestured to the women to follow him. He picked up Jean-Luc and together they stole away.
It seemed they'd made their escape, that was until the Captain suddenly shouted,
"Red alert! Shields up!"
Running next to Data, Beverly tried to cover his mouth but the shouting went on.
"Load the torpedo bays and ready phasers! Come to heading two eight point…"
Data pinched the nerves at the base of his neck and he went limp in the officer's arms. Without slackening their pace they ran through the undergrowth, the sounds of pursuit behind them.
Beverly heard the alarm on the tricorder. She glanced down and felt her stomach drop.
"Data!"
She showed the running officer the instrument and he slowed to a trot.
"We have run out of time."
Mary looked frantically forward and said brokenly,
"But isn't that the clearing up ahead? Can't we make it?"
Data shook his head and stoped all together.
"No. The alarm was to coincide with the destabilising of the transporter matrix. We cannot travel through it."
Beverly, bent over and puffing, said through her gasps,
"How long then 'till it re-activates?"
"I am uncertain Doctor. Geordi was working on that when I left."
Mary, also panting, wiped sweat from her brow and grunted.
"So we have to stay somewhere close and wait for it to come on line again?"
Data nodded and frowned as Jean-Luc suddenly began to shake. His body stretched and flexed before contorting.
"Put him down Data…he's convulsing!"
"Doctor we would be better served trying to find cover. Our pursuers are getting closer."
Torn between caring for her lover and bowing to common sense she chose the latter. The three ran towards the cover of a tall rocky outcrop, the bush growing haphazardly through the boulders. Data monitored the direction of his feet while he apportioned some sensory input to watch the Captain, who had lapsed back into unconsciousness. Blood oozed from Jean-Luc's open mouth and drool slid down his chin.
They climbed quickly, easing between the boulders, seeking somewhere safe. Pushing behind a large rock, Mary hissed at her friends.
"In here…I've found a cave!"
They ducked in one at a time, Beverly helping Data with his burden. Gently depositing Jean-Luc onto the floor, Data took the tricorder and scanned the cave while Beverly examined her Captain. Mary squatted by her side.
"How is he?"
"Bad. He's losing too much blood and his temperature is off the scale."
"Why did he convulse?"
Beverly frowned and wiped away some of the blood.
"It may have been febrile, caused by his temperature…or it may be an undisclosed head injury, or a combination of both. Either way it's bad news."
Data returned and hunkered down with the women.
"We have entered an extensive cave system. We should be able to elude our pursuers adequately."
Mary grabbed his forearm and tilted her head.
"What about the transporter? We can't see it from here."
Data afforded her a small smile and showed her the tricorder.
"I will set the sensor to alert us when it re-activates. All we will have to do…is get to it."
Mary looked back at the cave entrance and shivered.
"That's easy for you to say!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

The officers in the room all gasped in unison when the oval wavered then blinked out. Before the column could subside, Geordi fed some commands into his computer and boosted the output of the surrounding tricorders. There was a deep groaning resonating from beneath their feet and the dome emitted a loud hissing. The blue metal shaft glowed and an ear-piercing whine pervaded the surrounding air. The personnel winced and covered their ears but the sound grew in intensity, forcing them to their knees. Their mouths opened and they began to shriek with pain. Deanna was overcome with a wave of intense dizziness and toppled over. Will tried to help her but, as he curled up on the floor, the sound abruptly ceased. Deanna recovered first, going to the men and helping them to their feet. Will was angry. Shouting, he said,
"What the hell was that?"
With shaking hands, Geordi checked his computer and swallowed, trying to get his hearing on line.
"It didn't like our efforts to keep it active…but I think…yep we've done it! It will have to cycle through its subroutines but it should come back into the grid."
Will, poking his fingers into his ears and shaking, opened his mouth wide.
"How soon?"
"That I can't say…but it shouldn't be too long. I hope."

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly wiped the drool from around Jean-Luc's mouth and frowned as blood trickled out. She gently opened his mouth and groaned as she saw his mangled tongue. Mary gasped and shook her head.
"How the hell did he do that?"
"Probably when he convulsed."
"Can you stop the bleeding?"
The Doctor sighed and shook her head sadly.
"Nope. As with all his other injuries, all I can do is sit and watch."
Data offered the tricorder and Beverly scanned the unconscious Captain, shaking her head in frustration.
"Dammit he's got breaks, ruptures…he's haemorrhaging internally and the bloody infection is the icing on the cake!"
Data gently touched her forearm and stared into her eyes.
"Doctor Crusher how long...?"
"I don't know Data! He should've succumbed by now…he's so sick…"
The android was silent a moment then squeezed her arm.
"You do realise Doctor…the passage back through the transporter will be…traumatic?"
Beverly dragged her eyes up from the Captain and groaned.
"Oh God Data…he can't take any more!"
"Nevertheless Doctor the effects of transporting through a phase shifting device are well documented. How did you feel after your last excursion?"
The two women looked at each other and shrugged. Mary answered,
"We woke up with a four alarm headache and an upset stomach."
Data processed the information and offered,
"You lost consciousness?"
Both women nodded and Beverly added,
"By the taste left in my mouth, I'd say we vomited too."
Mary nodded in agreement.
"Yes, I think so too. I distinctly remember the headache…wow it was terrible."
Data looked at the Captain and questioned Beverly.
"Do you think Captain Picard has any underlying brain injuries?"
Frustrated, Beverly sighed.
"This isn't a medical tricorder Data, it doesn't scan that deeply…but if I had to guess, judging by his convulsions, I'd say there was every possibility."
"Then going through the transporter may be dangerous for him?"
The Doctor nodded and gently brushed her fingers down Jean-Luc's face.
"Is there any other way?"
"No Doctor there is not."
Beverly tenderly stroked his head and sighed. Almost to herself she whispered,
"Poor Jean-Luc…you're damned if you do and damned if you don't."
Data's tricorder sounded an alarm and Mary grabbed his arm.
"Is it the transporter?"
"No Doctor…our pursuers are getting closer. We should move further into the caves."
He bent and carefully picked up his Captain and turned to the blackness at the rear of the cave. Beverly shivered.
"I wish we had more light."
Data turned his head and informed her,
"Not only does the tricorder contain an adequate lamp, my eyes will adjust to the darkness with remarkable efficiency. Fear not Doctor Crusher I will lead you surely."
Beverly patted his shoulder and smiled.
"I never doubted you Data. How far should we go?"
Data cocked his head and offered his opinion.
"Not far Doctor. We need to be close to avail ourselves of the transporter when it re-activates. With the amount of caves and tunnels to choose from, I hope to confound our pursuers indefinitely. After all, they cannot search each and every one."
Beverly thought about it for a moment then asked Data,
"Can we get closer to the clearing? Do these caves interconnect?"
Data considered her query and answered her.
"When we are safe I will consult the tricorder. Until then we had best get going."
Following his lead, the travellers went deeper into the system. A small stream snaked its way through one cave and Data chose to follow it upstream. The water was icy cold and the women's teeth were soon chattering. Selecting another branch of tunnels, they went off at an angle and covered over three hundred metres before Data cast about, looking for a comfortable place to put Jean-Luc down. Finding a flat section of smooth rock, he gently lowered the battered man to the floor. Beverly was by his side immediately and Data watched a few moments before he scanned the surrounding area with his instrument. Jean-Luc moaned and turned onto his side, attempting to curl up. He trembled violently and gasped when his body spasmed. Blood flowed slowly across the rock, pooling in a small indentation. Beverly had given up on the leaves, his wounds now open and uncovered. Along with the blood, matter oozed from his stomach wound and Beverly could clearly smell putrification.
Data returned to the women and squatted down with them.
"You were right Doctor. The caves do have an entrance near the clearing. If we continue in this direction for another fifty metres, then veer right for a short distance, we should find ourselves overlooking the clearing on the east side effectively behind the obelisk."
Mary listened carefully.
"How far from the transporter?"
"No more than fifty metres."
"And we can approach from behind?"
"Yes."
The women looked at each other, a smile creeping across their faces. Beverly nodded decisively.
"Ok. We should move now and settle to wait. I want Jean-Luc to rest as much as possible…all this jostling must be very painful…not to mention dangerous…for him."
Data nodded and stooped to lift Jean-Luc. The Captain gasped and clutched at his stomach with his good hand, his head lolling. Beverly gently lifted his head and placed it on Data's chest. She nodded to the officer and they set off.
It took only fifteen minutes to gain access to the small cave overlooking the clearing. They hung back from the entrance, but stayed within the periphery of light spilling in.
Beverly requested Data lay the Captain in the sunlight, hoping to ease his rigor. Although his temperature still raged, he was shivering violently. He lay quietly for ten minutes then began to twitch and cry out. Incoherently shouting commands, Data quickly silenced him with the nerve pinch. He lost consciousness but his body still jerked and spasmed.
Mary sat near the entrance and sniffed tiredly.
"I wonder how long it will take to re-activate?"
Beverly, who had been staring fixedly at Jean-Luc's blood that covered much of Data's torso, sighed and shrugged.
"If it doesn't happen soon it'll be too late. He's failing fast; the tricorder has detected cardiac arrhythmia. If we don't get him back to the ship, the organ will fail."
Mary frowned.
"Can't you apply cardiac massage?"
Beverly shook her head.
"Jean-Luc has an artificial heart. I would need a cardio inducer to augment it…I can't do it with my hands."
Mary stared at the Captain and blew out a breath.
"There's so much about him I don't know. When did he lose his heart?"
"He was a young man, just an Ensign. He got into a fight with three Nausicaans. One of them stabbed him through the back and the knife impaled his heart."
"Three Nausicaans? My God what was he thinking?"
Beverly sighed and looked tenderly down at her lover.
"I don't think he thought at all. He was rather impulsive in those days."
Mary smiled and tilted her head.
"Did you know him then?"
Beverly shook her head and grinned.
"No, but I learned…through his close friends…what kind of a young man he was. Brash…cocky…quite the ladies man…up until he lost his heart he wasn't what you'd call an ideal Starfleet officer."
"But?"
"But after the accident he settled down…started to take things more seriously. I think that brush with death was a wake up call for him. By the time I first got to meet him he was a Captain and deadly serious. In fact I thought he was a bit of a stiff. It took me a while to find the gentle…sensitive man beneath his command exterior. He doesn't let people get too close…except me. I consider it a privilege to love him…and to be loved by him. He's a remarkable man."
The three settled into silence as the sun began its descent to the horizon.

 

 

 

 

"Well Geordi?"
The dark Engineer sighed and closed his tricorder with a snap.
"I just don't get it! Everything says it should be activating…yet it's not. I don't know what's wrong Commander…I wish Data were here."
Deanna went to the distressed man and squeezed his arm.
"We do too Geordi. Is there anything we can do? What about linking the device directly to the ship's computer?"
The Engineer lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"It may work Counsellor, but I'm reluctant to expose the ship's computer to something we know so little about. Anything could happen. What would we do if the ship were disabled just when we needed it to save our people? We really can't take the risk."
Deanna plexed whilst walking slowly around the room Will and Geordi watched her and waited as she thought.
"All right, why don't we go back to square one?"
Will lifted his head and frowned.
"What do you mean?"
"Shut it down completely, then restart it the way we did before."
The men looked at each other and Geordi shrugged.
"Why not? It's a shot in the dark…but it's the only shot we've got."
Will stood and pinched his lower lip.
"Ok…how long will it take."
Geordi looked at the domed shaft and mentally calculated.
"An hour tops."
Will nodded curtly.
"Do it."

 

 

 

 

Mary chanced a look outside and reported to her friends.
"It's getting dark."
Beverly rubbed her arms and shuddered.
"And cold. Data I don't suppose we could light a fire."
Data tilted his head and grimaced.
"That would be inadvisable Doctor. For obvious reasons…"
"Ok I get the message."
She looked down at the Captain and came to a decision.
"Right! The warmest thing in this cave is Jean-Luc. Come on Mary, we need to lie close to him."
Data frowned and protested.
"Won't that raise his already morbidly high temperature?"
"Not if we don't get too close. We can feel his radiant heat without compromising him, don't worry Data…I would never do anything to harm him."
The android nodded and gave a small smile of reassurance.
"I know Doctor."
The women positioned themselves and Data went to the entrance to keep watch. With his enhanced hearing and eyesight, he was the perfect sentry.
Despite her worry Beverly soon found herself beginning to doze. It was Mary's frightened voice that shattered her sleep.
"Doctor…he's not breathing!"
Beverly sat up immediately and leaned over Jean-Luc. Her fingers pressed into his neck as she frantically searched for his carotid pulse. Barely detectable, she felt the faint throb and almost sobbed with relief. She placed her cheek over his mouth and just registered his exhalation. Data joined them and watched carefully while scanning the man.
"Doctor Crusher I detect life signs, although they are very weak."
Beverly wiped absently as the tears trickled down her face.
"Hang on my love…hang on."

 

 

 

 

 

Geordi stood before the glowing dome and turned to Will and Deanna.
"Ok this is the tricky part. I have to press these two recessed areas and that should activate the transporter, but it's going to cause a big atmospheric shift. You'd better shelter in the tunnel."
Deanna stepped to him and frowned.
"What about you?"
The Engineer shrugged and looked back at the apparatus.
"Somebody has to do it Counsellor."
Deanna looked up at Will, trying to think of a better way. He made the decision for her when he gently grabbed her arm.
"Come on Deanna, the longer we wait…"
She sighed and nodded. Giving Geordi a look of encouragement, she let Will lead her to the tunnel.
"Be careful Geordi."
He smiled and waited until they were safely within the rock. Then he pressed the buttons.
There was a thunderous whoosh and the occupants of the tunnel coughed convulsively. Will tugged on Deanna's sleeve and they shakily made their way into the room. In the blinding light they couldn't see Geordi at first. It was a groan that made his presence known. Deanna rushed to him.
"Geordi! Are you all right?"
The Engineer slowly rolled over and got to his knees. Blood trickled down his cheek and he closed his eyes tightly as he shook his head.
"Whew that thing sure packs a punch! I feel like I've been kicked by a plasma injector."
Will stood in front of the shimmering oval and called over his shoulder,
"How long will it stay open?"
Getting slowly to his feet, Geordi checked his tricorder.
"Well if I did everything right we should get an hour…maybe more. It's really hard to tell Commander."
Will clasped Geordi's shoulder and squeezed.
"You did great Geordi. It's up to Data now."

 

 

 

Now too frightened to leave Jean-Luc's side, Beverly shone the tricorder's light over his body and swept her hair back distractedly. The bleeding had slowed, but the pus and serum continued unabated. She was doing yet another scan when the instrument suddenly trilled quietly in her hand. She jumped and almost dropped it. Data came instantly and took it from her, turning and widening the scan of the outside.
"The transporter has re-activated."
Mary sat up and grinned.
"It's about time!"
Data looked worriedly at his Captain and spoke softly to Beverly.
"We must go now Doctor."
She looked up at her friend and brushed at her tears.
"Data…if we move him…"
"I understand Doctor but we have no choice. We must leave this place…it is the only hope he has."
She nodded numbly and Data very gently picked up Jean-Luc. His body limp in his arms; the officer looked down at him and shook his head.
"Fight Captain Picard…keep fighting."
They left the cave and, following Data, carefully picked their way through the rocks and bush that covered the slope. They smelled smoke and when they began to climb the mound, they saw a group of sixteen natives surrounded by flaming torches all on their knees, bowing towards the obelisk. It wasn't until they crested the rise that they realised the inhabitants were bowing to the shimmering transporter. Whispering to Data, Beverly said,
"You go first with the Captain. Tell them he needs to be taken immediately to Sickbay. We'll follow as soon as we can. Give the tricorder to Doctor Selar."
Data nodded and took one final look at his Captain. He straightened his spine and stepped forward. There was a glaring flash and a sucking pull of air.
There was a collective cry from the assembled people below. They looked up in awe, seeing the two women and falling again into their bow.
Mary extended her hand and Beverly took it. Squeezing tightly, the women looked at each other and Beverly smiled.
"Ready?"
Mary nodded and together they stepped into the light.

 

 

 

The three officers in the room were not prepared for Data's arrival. There was a brilliant flash of light and their hair was tousled by the wind that blasted them. Squinting their eyes, it was Data himself that got their attention.
"Quickly Commander! Captain Picard is critically injured. He must be transported immediately to Sickbay."
The unconscious man was retching ineffectively in Data's arms. Data stepped forward just as the two women appeared. They fell to the floor in a daze and quickly started to vomit. Will called for a beam out for everyone in the room, directly to Sickbay.

 

 

 

 

The well-oiled system of the medical facility swung into action. Data gently laid his Captain on a biobed and Doctor Selar, the Vulcan second in command of Sickbay, went to his side with a medical tricorder open and scanning. Without hesitation, brisk orders were issued and Jean-Luc was whisked off to surgery within moments of arrival.
Beverly and Mary lost consciousness as they materialised on the floor. They were carefully placed on biobeds and thoroughly scanned. Drugs were administered to settle their systems and the myriad of minor injuries were healed. They were bathed and dressed in Sickbay gowns before being placed on diagnostic beds and allowed to wake naturally.
Jean-Luc was not so lucky. Severely injured, his body had reached its limits and had begun the inevitable slide to death. Selar placed him on life support as she worked frantically to save his life. Twice his heart stopped and they had difficulty replacing his blood loss. He indeed had a deep brain injury and the Doctor fought hard to isolate and treat it. He had broken ribs, his shoulder was shattered and his shins split. His face had several fractures and he'd lost the fluid from his damaged eye. His right kidney had ceased functioning and his stomach was perforated, as was the large intestine. His testicles were damaged and the urethra torn. The liver was only just functioning and was severely bruised. The infections, both within and without infiltrated his blood, carrying it throughout his body. Organs not normally affected were compromised and Selar struggled to find an appropriate treatment. His temperature raged unabated, so much so that after eight hours of exhaustive surgery, he was placed in a cool bath in an attempt to bring it down.
Both Mary and Beverly had woken before Jean-Luc's marathon surgery ended. Beverly chafed at being confined to bed, but under the circumstances, it was the wisest course of action. When Selar finally came to see her she had to contain her impatience.
"How is he?"
"Captain Picard is seriously ill."
"What have you done so far?"
The Vulcan clasped her hands in front of her body and stared down at her boss.
"He has had extensive surgeries. We repaired many broken bones and damaged organs, however in his weakened state, and with an unidentified infection compromising his immune system, his condition is perilous."
Beverly pulled at her lower lip and swung her legs off the bed.
"What about his brain? Was there an injury?"
"Yes Doctor. There was a significant area of damage, which we isolated and treated. I do not expect it to be troublesome."
Beverly stood and wavered slightly, prompting Selar to take her arm.
"Doctor Crusher you should remain in bed."
"Like hell! I want to see him."
"At present he is deeply unconscious. There would be no point."
Beverly closed her eyes in exasperation, both against her lingering nausea and her fellow's intractability.
"Selar…please, it's very important to me."
Selar regarded the Doctor implacably before coming to a decision.
"Very well Doctor, you may have ten minutes with him."
"Ten minutes? But…"
The Vulcan shook her head and said mildly,
"You are my patient Doctor Crusher. You will accede to my wishes."
Beverly huffed in an irritated fashion but subsided nonetheless.
"Ok."
Picking up her robe and putting it on, Beverly followed her Doctor from the room and was lead into the Captain's private suite. Surprised at not seeing him in the bed, Beverly was lead into the bathroom and gasped when she saw him.
"God, how much weight has he lost?"
Selar consulted a PADD and said softly,
"Seven point five kilos."
Beverly dropped to her knees beside the bath and tenderly brushed her fingers over his repaired face. She took time to scrutinise him minutely, noting the reddened scars of both injury and surgery. He had a cover over his left eye and she saw that his right testicle was still swollen. An intravenous drip was connected to his arm, the bags of blood and fluid suspended above. Turning her head, Beverly said absently,
"What's wrong with his eye?"
Selar sat on the side of the bath and answered,
"The globe had been punctured resulting in the fluid being lost. We have repaired the damage, but he will need further surgery before the eye will function properly."
"And his testicle?"
"I intend to place him in an extensive regeneration field once we get his temperature down. That should rectify the remaining damage to the organ and any other lingering injuries he has."
Beverly reached into the cool water and gently picked up his hand.
"What about the nerve damage in his arm?"
Selar allowed an uncharacteristic sigh before she answered.
"The entire shoulder joint was shattered. We re-constructed it and grafted some new bone, however it will be some time before the nerves recover, it was a devastating blow. For the interim we will rely on the regen fields and, when he is able, physiotherapy."
They were silent a while then Beverly asked.
"And the infection? Are you any further advanced in isolating it?"
The Vulcan shook her head.
"No Doctor Crusher."
"Why don't you...?"
"Doctor Crusher it is time you went back to bed."
"What? No really Selar, I'm fine."
The stoic Doctor stood and reached down with a strong hand, gently pulling Beverly to her feet.
"You cannot help him Doctor. Please go back to bed now…or I will sedate you."
Defiance briefly crossed Beverly's face then she realised Selar was deadly serious. Sighing she nodded and left.
Once safely ensconced in her bed, Beverly set her agile mind to the problem of Jean-Luc's insidious infection. Answering her summons and with Selar's permission, a nurse give her a PADD containing the Captain's notes. Beverly piled up her pillows and concentrated on the information before her, determined to help her lover.
Selar, after checking again on the Captain, noted that his temperature hadn't reduced sufficiently. In a quiet voice she ordered a transfusion device to be brought into the room.
Lowering the level of the water, she extracted his free arm and connected a large cannula to his vein. She then attached a cannula to an artery in his groin and instituted a circular transfusion. The blood was circulated through a machine that cooled it before returning it to his body. A nurse retrieved a chair and the Doctor availed herself of it as she watched the unconscious man carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

From her room Beverly could hear some rather rambunctious conversations. Frowning at the disturbance, she slid from her bed and wandered out into Sickbay proper. What she saw made her grin.
Mary was holding centre stage, surrounded by an admiring group of male nurses and orderlies. Beverly gently cleared her throat and was completely ignored. However her…
"Gentlemen!" gathered their attention. They swiftly acknowledged her presence and some had the good grace to blush. Mary shot her a look, beaming radiantly. Beverly sighed.
"Gentlemen, this is a medical facility. I suggest you return to your duties…and keep the noise down, there are sick people here!"
They nodded and drifted off to their stations, each giving Mary a gentle smile. The Doctor sauntered over to her bed and grinned wisely.
"I see you have no shortage of admirers."
The pretty Director laughed and shook her hair.
"Hmm. I must say it feels good…after what we've been through. Tell me…how's Jean-Luc."
Beverly's grin faded rapidly.
"He's very sick Mary. The Doctors have managed to repair most of his injuries but he has a terrible infection that's running rampant through his body. With his immune system so low, he's not fighting it too well."
Mary sat on the edge of her bed and slid her feet to the floor. Taking Beverly by the hand she squeezed reassuringly and looked into her blue eyes.
"Why don't we go and see him?"
"I'll have to ask Selar."
Mary frowned and looked over her shoulder.
"Is she the Vulcan…the one who doesn't smile?"
Beverly chuckled and nodded.
"That's her."
The Director huffed.
"What a sour puss! She said I had to stay in bed all this morning…AND she said I needed more fibre in my diet. Suggested I eat prunes!"
Beverly laughed outright at that.
"Well if Selar says you need more fibre…believe it. One thing about being without a sense of humour…you know she's deadly serious, all the time."
Mary sniffed and tilted her head.
"I don't believe you! Nobody…not even Vulcans are without are totally bereft of humour."
Beverly took a moment to think and eventually smiled and nodded her head.
"You're right, but you do have to work hard to see it. Come on, we'll go and see her."
When they reached the Captain's room, Beverly bade her friend to wait as she went in to see Selar. Her eyes travelled over the transfusion device and her jaw clenched.
"You can't lower his temperature any other way?"
The Vulcan stood and cast her eyes down at her Captain.
"No Doctor. I felt if we did not lower his body temperature, his system might have started to fail. Also we have to bear in mind his brain injury. Morbidly elevated temperatures could severely compromise his ability to heal."
Beverly nodded and noted how sallow his skin had become.
"Doctor Selar my companion from the planet is outside…she wishes to see the Captain. I told her it would only be with your permission."
The Second in Command cocked her head and devoted some minutes to her reply. She knew simply because her boss had asked, that it was important to both women. Her answer reflected this.
"Yes Doctor Crusher, that will be acceptable, but please make the visit brief."
Beverly gently squeezed the Vulcan's arm and left to get her friend.
"Mary? You can come in…for a little while, but I have to warn you…he's connected to a blood transfusion machine and he's lying naked in a cool bath. He's helpless Mary."
The Director nodded and gripped Beverly's hands.
"I'm not a voyeur Beverly. That man saved our lives…I just want to let him know I'm there for him too."
Beverly closed her eyes and two tears trickled down her face. Frowning, she irritably wiped at them, annoyed at her lapse.
Mary waited patiently as Beverly regained herself and together they entered his bathroom.
The first thing Mary noticed was his frail looking frame. That he'd lost a significant amount of weight was obvious. Dark smudges stained the skin under his eyes and the red marks of both injuries and surgery marked his body. His cheeks had hollowed and given his face a skeletal look. The dark red tubes that snaked across his limbs only accentuated his pallor. She knelt at his head and trailed her fingers gently over the fevered skin of his face.
"Oh Jean-Luc…what have I done to you?"
Beverly sat on the bath side and rested her hand on Mary's shoulder. The Director sniffed back a tear and shook her head.
"If it wasn't for me…I'm so sorry Jean-Luc, this whole damn business is my fault. I want you to know that Beverly and I will stay by you…we'll wait for you Captain, you just have to get well."
Tears slid down her face and she wiped at them distractedly. Beverly gently urged her to her feet and ushered her from the room. Once in the bedroom, Mary covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
"Oh God I'm so sorry Beverly…will he ever forgive me? Can you?"
Beverly took her into her embrace and held her as she cried. It was the first time she'd shown any kind of real remorse and Beverly was relieved. When the sobs subsided, Beverly held her at arms length and looked under her brow.
"I know Jean-Luc better than anybody and I can safely say he will forgive you…and so will I. It's over Mary…at least it will be when he recovers. Time to move on. Ok?"
Mary was about to reply when Will's voice gently interrupted them.
"Beverly?"
The Doctor turned and shot Will a smile. She stood back from Mary, affording the Director her first look at the Commander. She immediately wiped furiously at her face and plastered a simpering smile on her face.
"Well hello there…I don't believe we've met."
Will reddened slightly, amusing both women.
"The name's Will Riker. Actually we have met. I beamed you to Sickbay when you returned. Unfortunately your attire was…let's just say I saw more of you than was intended."
It was Mary's turn to blush.
"Oh I see. Well it seems you have me at a disadvantage, perhaps you'll allow me to equal the score."
Will's mouth fell open then snapped shut. A devilish grin appeared and he appraised the small woman standing before him.
"Ah…perhaps not."
Turning to Beverly he became serious.
"How is he?"
Beverly shook her head and absently picked up the Captain's robe.
"He's very sick Will. He has a terrible infection and we're having trouble getting his temperature down."
Will looked around in confusion.
"Where is he?"
Beverly pointed to the bathroom.
"In there."
Will's eyebrows rose in question.
"We have him in a cool bath and we're recycling his blood to cool it."
"Is there anything I can do?"
Beverly shook her head and squeezed his arm.
"No Will, except pray."
He frowned and stared at her in shock.
"That bad?"
"Uh huh."
"Shit."
The three stood in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. It was Beverly who broke it.
"Well I'm going to study the latest readouts. Why don't you escort Mary back to her bed?"
Will smiled and offered his arm, secretly pleased when the pretty woman slid her arm through his. She looked up into his face and gave him her most disarming smile.
"My…you're a big one, aren't you?"
His eyes twinkling, he gestured with his free hand.
"Lead on."
Watching their departure with amusement, Beverly picked up Jean-Luc's most recent scan results and settled into a chair. She didn't move for over two hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the alarm that startled her from her study. She tossed aside the PADD and rushed into the bathroom to find Selar and a nurse trying to put a rubber dam in Jean-Luc's mouth as he convulsed violently. Water sloshed over the tub as his body contorted. His head lifted and slammed back on the bath edge and Beverly quickly fell to her knees to hold his head to cushion any further blows. One of the bloodlines was wrenched free and bright red blood flew across the room, splattering over the occupants. Selar ran from the room and returned quickly with a hypospray. She injected the Captain in the thigh and his body immediately relaxed. She grabbed his arm and re-applied the cannula to the vein, before using an auto fuser to close the torn skin.
Three orderlies were called to clean up the ensuing mess. Selar straightened and watched as Beverly tenderly laid his head back on a rolled pillow. She picked up a tricorder and scanned the unconscious man. Beverly waited patiently for her to finish.
"What was it?"
"I believe it was a febrile convulsion. He cannot maintain this high fever. We must find a way to bring it down."
"Have you got any further isolating the infecting pathogen?"
The Vulcan shook her head.
"No Doctor…in fact I am tempted to ask one of our staff to go back to the planet and retrieve some samples."
Beverly looked at her companion aghast.
"You're not serious? Do you have any idea what that would entail?"
Selar nodded.
"Yes Doctor I do. Mr. Data would be the only one able to perform the task and I believe he would be agreeable."
"But Selar…"
"Doctor Crusher if we don't stop this infection the Captain will succumb to it. It is inevitable."
Beverly just stood gaping at her fellow Doctor, her mind working furiously. She blinked several times and came to a decision.
"Right we'd better move fast. Have you contacted Data?"
No Doctor."
"Well I will. You stay here and monitor the Captain…and Selar? I'm back on duty…ok?"
The Doctor paused only a second before nodding decisively.
"Agreed Doctor."
Beverly left the room and replicated herself a uniform in Jean-Luc's bedroom, then left and situated herself in her office. Her first call was to Will.
"Crusher to Riker."
"Riker here."
"Will I need to see you in Sickbay right now."
"On my way."
"Crusher to Data."
"Data here."
"Data will you come to Sickbay please?"
"On my way Doctor."
As it turned out it was Data who arrived first. He waited patiently with Beverly until the big First Officer came briskly into the room.
"You called Beverly?"
"Yes Will. Look this is very important. We need Data to go back to the planet…the one we were transported to…and retrieve some samples. The Captain's infection is out of control and he can't survive much longer as he is."
Selar entered the room and answered Beverly's unspoken question.
"Doctor Pierce is watching him."
Beverly nodded and was about to speak when Data interrupted.
"What sort of samples do you require Doctor?"
"Well let's see. He was hit with wooden objects…a club and a spear…he had dirt thrown in his eyes…we travelled some distance in a stream, although Mary and I didn't contract the infection…"
Selar said thoughtfully,
"It could be blood borne."
Beverly's head shot up, her eyes squinting.
"Yes! He used his teeth to tear out the throat of one of his assailants and another bled copiously all over his body, into open wounds. Yes that's definitely a possibility, they may well carry it in their blood streams."
Data cocked his head in a curiously cat-like gesture and said quietly,
"It would seem I have a lot of samples to collect. How do you envisage I obtain the biological specimens?"
Beverly stood from her chair and came around to Data's side.
"Go at night. The whole village sleeps, but they do get up to relieve themselves. You would have to sedate one of them quietly and extract a sample of blood. As to the weapons, I think they're stored near the central circle."
Data absorbed this information and computed his chances of success.
"I would, of course, have to be cosmetically altered."
"Yes."
"Then I see no reason to delay."
Will stood and said sotto voce to Beverly…
"He tore a man's throat out…with his teeth?"
She smiled wanly at him and whispered,
"I'll tell you later."
He looked down at her and gave a grim smile of his own.
"You'd better."
Data left with Selar to begin his transformation and Will contacted Geordi. Beverly went out into Sickbay to tell Mary she could return to the dig. The Director seemed somehow disappointed, but smiled graciously and went to replicate some clothing. She emerged from her room some minutes later to be confronted by a worried Will.
"Oh Commander…I was jut leaving. I must thank you for our rescue it was very brave."
"Ah it's Data you should thank Doctor."
"Oh yes, of course. Well I'll be going. Why don't you come down for a visit? I could show you some very interesting things."
Will swallowed and stood up straight.
"As a matter of fact I'm just on my way there. I have matters to discuss with our Chief Engineer."
"Oh well we can go together! How expedient."
Will nodded, a fine sweat breaking out on his brow. Deanna's arrival did not make him feel any better.
She walked up to the couple and raised her eyebrows.
"Doctor Adamson I believe? I'm Deanna Trio, ship's Counsellor."
Mary stared briefly at the extended hand and gave it a perfunctory shake. She then threaded her arm through Will's and purred,
"Shall we go…Will?"
Will closed his eyes and sent Deanna a subliminal message.
"It's all right Imzadi…I can handle this."
She stared briefly up at him then stood to one side so that they may pass. She watched the woman's swaying behind and sent her lover a message of her own.
"Be very careful my love…she'd hungry!"
She saw his shoulders straighten and smiled to herself. Her next stop was Beverly.
She found the red head placing medical supplies and scanners in a duriplast case. To her gentle enquiry, Beverly explained Data's mission.
"And you think you can find the infective agent?"
"Well we certainly hope so! God Deanna if this doesn't work…"
The Counsellor felt the rise in anguish and fear in the Doctor and sought to allay it.
"He's survived so far Beverly…have faith in him."
Beverly looked sorrowfully at her best friend, tears welling in her eyes.
"Deanna this is his last hope. If we don't find the pathogen…he will die."

 

 

 

 

 

Two hours later Data stood once again, appearing as a native. His bald pink head innocuously stood above a heavily haired body, his modesty maintained by his loincloth.
A plaited woven bag had been supplied and Beverly was busy transferring the medical supplies to it as she explained their use to the android. He remained stoic, listening with only a part of his remarkable positronic brain, while computing the necessary plans to successfully complete his mission. Finally finished, Beverly stood back with Deanna as Data centred himself on the transporter platform.
"Good luck Data."
Deanna slipped her hand into Beverly's as the Second Officer disappeared in a sparkle of blue light.

 

 

 

 

He rematerialised in the mysterious room. Luckily, the Enterprise's transporters had no trouble beaming through the rocks surrounding them. Will and Geordi stepped back and looked him over from head to toe.
"God Data, your own mother wouldn't know you."
Data tilted his head and offered a small smile.
"That is inconclusive Commander. As you know, my mother is an android. I feel sure she would recognise me even in this form."
Will sighed and moved forward to take Data's arm. Leading him to stand before the dome, he cast a glance at the bag slung over his shoulder.
"Do you have everything you need?"
Data nodded, also looking at the bag.
"Yes. Doctor Crusher was most forthcoming in her instructions."
Geordi activated three tricorders and waited patiently as the shaking ground disgorged the rising dome. When it reached its zenith, he turned to the Second Officer.
"Ok Data it would be best if you activated the transporter. We'll wait in the tunnel."
Data nodded and waited stoically while his friends took shelter. When he heard Geordi call,
"Right Data…do it!" He pressed the buttons.
By now accustomed to the atmospheric shift, Will and Geordi quickly exited the tunnel and shielded their eyes against the glare. Data turned to look at his friends then stepped boldly into the light. After the flash, Will stepped up to the oval of light and said over his shoulder,
"How long?"
Geordi joined him and checked his tricorder.
"The same as before…a maximum of four hours, although we can shut it down sooner if need be."
Will nodded decisively and looked back at the tunnel.
"Right. I'll go back to the main cavern you monitor things here. Any problems…no matter how small, you contact me."
The Chief Engineer nodded and busied himself with his instruments. Will left him and made the trek through the tunnels to the nerve centre.
When he crested the ladder he was greeted by Lars. The blond man helped him with his light and directed him to the bank of computers along one wall.
"Would you like to see what we have so far?"
Will smiled and nodded. He was leaning over a terminal when he became aware of another person standing very close to him. He turned his head to come face to face with Mary.
"Why hello Will. Come to see how we've been getting on?"
He straightened and cleared his throat.
"As a matter of fact yes. Lars was just about to show me…"
The Director stood up and sent Lars a look. He quickly found something else to do, leaving Will alone with the scheming woman.
"As you can see Will, we've managed to decipher quite a lot of the glyphs and pictograms. It would seem that the ancient inhabitants of this planet transported to Rammi IV to secure acolytes to serve in the temples. Although we first thought this was a secular society, we now believe they had an entrenched deity belief system, requiring the regular infusion of…new blood…shall we say? Their appearance on Rammi IV was seen as God-like apparitions to the local natives and so the balance was maintained."
Will frowned and watched the information scrolling before him.
"Did they indulge in sacrifices?"
Mary shook her head and took the opportunity to move even closer to the big man.
"We don't think so. The acolytes were either used as court staff, or for interbreeding. It's still not clear to us exactly what their role was, except that the…abductions…took place whenever the three moons were in ascendance in the Rammi sky, something that doesn't happen all that frequently."
Will nodded and pointed to a star chart that appeared.
"So they had intimate knowledge of the star systems between here and there?"
"Uh huh."
"Were they warp-capable?"
Mary shook her head.
"Not that we can verify. They had overcome powered flight, but as for star travel…we don't know. Certainly they knew about matter transport, the phase shifter is proof of that, but much remains a mystery about these people. We don't know, for instance, what happened to them? Where did they go?"
As Will moved to put some distance between them, Mary sidled up to him and gently clasped his arm.
"We have many fine examples of their pottery. Why don't you come to my tent and have a look at what I've got?"
The tall Commander reddened slightly and pulled his arm free.
"Ah…I'm a little busy right now…the mission and all…"
"Oh I see. Well perhaps later then?"
He nodded and breathed a huge sigh of relief when she moved off to another group of scientists. He slapped his combadge and called Geordi.
"Anything yet?"
No Sir, I'm still waiting."
"Ok, keep me appraised."

 

 

 

 

 

Data appeared as before on top of the mound. Finding himself happily alone and in the dark, he descended and quickly picked out the track to the village. As he neared the settlement, he covertly scanned the area and ascertained his safety. Carefully putting the tricorder in his secret pocket, he slid like a shadow between the huts making for the central circle. He found it easily enough and went to its centre to collect a sample of the soil. Placing the specimen in a container and labelling it, he went to the far side and systematically searched the empty huts until he found one containing the weapons. Leaning against the walls, an assortment of clubs and spears were evident. Using a sharp scraper, he took samples of each one, studiously noting and cataloguing as he went. Satisfied with his booty, he exited the hut and made his way back to the cluster of units holding the sleeping villagers. He settled in the darkest of shadows and waited.
His first subject appeared fifteen minutes later. A young female wandered by, rubbing her eyes. She went past him and he debated wether or not to sedate her. Fortunately his decision was made for him when the child's mother appeared out of the darkness. She took the youngster's hand and led her to a pit off to one side. They made themselves comfortable and returned, unaware of Data's presence. He re-attuned his senses and began his vigil again. Half an hour passed before a large male walked by. Data rose silently and crept up behind him. The android waited as the male relieved himself and, as he turned, applied the hypospray to his neck.
Nothing happened. The male gasped in shock and threw his hands up defensively. He raised his head and began to howl. Data was lightning quick. He stepped in and pinched the nerves at the base of his neck, while at the same time covering his mouth with his hand. The sound was cut off and the male sank quietly to the ground. Data dragged him into the deep shadows and waited to see if the alarm had been raised. All remained quiet so the officer removed the hypo syringe and extracted the needed blood sample. He turned the male onto his side and made him comfortable before deploying the tricorder and scanning the area around him. Eighty metres away, three people were moving and he waited until they re-entered their huts. Finally finding himself alone, he crept through the village and soon found himself back on the track leading to the transporter. He climbed the mound and checked the contents of his bag. Satisfied that he'd completed his mission successfully, he stepped into the light.

 

Geordi was bent over a computer when Data rematerialised. Holding his hands up to shield his eyes, he grinned at his friend and helped him step down from the oval.
"Geordi it would be expedient if you shut it down now."
His friend nodded and entered some commands into the computer. The tricorders terminated and the shimmering oval of light started to fluctuate wildly. In a final burst of light, it promptly winked out, causing after glare in Geordi's optical connections. Knowing his friend was momentarily blinded; Data reached up and switched on his cap lamp.
Geordi nodded his thanks and watched as the dome subsided. He then tapped his combadge.
"Enterprise one to beam directly to Sickbay."
He quickly passed his badge to Data and observed his friend dematerialise into nothingness. Sighing, the Engineer prepared to make his way back to the main cavern.

 

 

 

 

 

Data's arrival in Sickbay caused a flurry of activity. Beverly and Selar came to him and relieved him of the bag. Over her shoulder Beverly called,
"Have any trouble?"
"No Doctor. Everything went according to plan, although I can report that the sedative is ineffective against them. I resorted to a nerve pinch to subdue my target."
Beverly was by now in the serology lab, extracting the samples.
"That's fascinating Data. Why don't you let Doctor Pierce restore you and we'll talk later?"
He nodded, watching as she lifted the blood sample to peer at it in the light.
"Very well Doctor."
It took two hours to return Data to his normal appearance…it took five hours to find the pathogen. It was a virus and it was in the blood.

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly's fingers kneaded her lower back as she hunched over the microscope.
"I don't get it Selar! The sample data brought back doesn't match what we took from the Captain."
"It has mutated."
"I know that! But look at it…why does it attack the red blood cells only? It has the capability to spread much more efficiently than that. The very fact that it's attacked his organs shows how adaptable it is. Why do the samples act so…inert? What is its purpose? How does it spread?"
The Vulcan physician tilted her head and thought at some length.
"We know it does not affect the native population adversely. It would be advisable to understand why they carry it."
Beverly frowned deeply and hit her combadge.
"Crusher to Riker."
"Riker here."
"Will have you found out why the transporter was there…what it was used for?"
"Mary thinks it was used to bring back people to act as acolytes…or to breed with."
"To breed with?"
"Yes. Apparently there's evidence of interbreeding."
"Do you know what happened to the civilisation?"
"No why?"
Beverly stood and began to pace.
"Is there a descendant population?"
"Hold on Beverly…I'll ask Mary."
He was gone some minutes before his voice was heard again.
"Beverly? Mary says the Urallians are the closest living relatives…but it's a tenuous line."
"Ok Will, thanks. Crusher out."
Beverly looked at her fellow Doctor and lifted an eyebrow.
"It's only a hunch…"
Selar gestured to the monitor.
"Your hypothesis is as good as any we have."
Beverly lifted her head.
"Crusher to Data…are you on the Bridge?"
"Yes Doctor."
"Good. Contact the Urallian government and put them through down here."
"Yes Doctor."
The two physicians went to the office and waited only a few minutes before Beverly was talking to the Consul's secretary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selar came quietly into the Captain's bathroom and watched as Beverly tenderly sponged his face. Now being fed a constant dose of muscle relaxant, the convulsions were under control, but he remained deeply unconscious and teetering on the brink of oblivion. The bath had been emptied to allow his skin to dry out. Cold gel packs covered his body and his blood continued to be cooled mechanically. The Vulcan's quiet enquiry broke the silence.
"How long until they get here?"
Beverly looked up at the computer's chronometer and sighed.
"At least another six hours."
Selar came to sit on the bath edge.
"I have synthesised another variation of the antibiotic. Shall I try it?"
Beverly shrugged her shoulders.
"Why not?"
Selar leaned forward and injected Jean-Luc into his arm. Both women watched the monitor keenly…wishing…hoping to see a change for the better. His heart rate increased momentarily, then subsided to its previous weak beating. Beverly bowed her head and pushed aside a wayward strand of hair.
"Dammit! Nothing works! We might as well shake bones at it!"
An alarm quietly sounded and the women tuned their attention to the monitors. Beverly stood quickly.
"He's in renal failure! We need to get him on life support now!"
Help was summoned and Jean-Luc was moved onto a biobed in Sickbay proper. His body was connected to the machines necessary to sustain him and more chilled gel packs were placed over his fevered body. The cooling transfusion continued and Beverly cursed the chronometer for the umpteenth time.

 

 

 

 

 

The young Urallian male who materialised on the transporter platform was in the prime of his life. Tall and muscular, his skin glowed bronze with good health. His startlingly white robe accentuated his physique and he looked imperiously down at the Transporter Chief. Deanna stepped forward and offered a slight bow.
"Prince Eddik welcome to the Enterprise."
His broad grin showed perfect teeth and his eyes twinkled. He stepped down from the platform and extended his right hand. His deep resonating voice sent a thrill through the empath.
"Thank you. I am indeed honoured to be here."
Deanna raised her head and gingerly took his hand.
"I believe it is a Human custom…this shaking of hands?"
"Yes Sir, it is."
She stood to one side and gestured with her hand.
"If you will accompany me?"
"Ah yes, I believe it is a matter of some urgency."
"Yes Sir."
Beverly was scrutinising Jean-Luc's readouts when the Prince arrived with Deanna. She didn't look up until Deanna tugged her sleeve.
"Prince Eddik this is Doctor Beverly Crusher, CMO of the ship. Beverly…His Royal Highness Prince Eddik."
Beverly's eyes widened and she smiled.
"Thank you so much for coming Sir."
The Prince settled his hands behind his back and cast a look at Jean-Luc.
"Is this the man?"
Beverly nodded and watched as the Urallian slowly walked around the biobed. His deep voice was soft.
"You realise what you ask of me has never been requested before? Had it not been for my father's urging I would not be here."
Beverly stood straighter and pushed her hair back; acutely aware she'd not showered for some time.
"I understand."
"Tell me why you need my blood?"
"Sir we believe your family has a direct line of descent from the original inhabitants of Fremmis. The archaeologists on Fremmis discovered a phase shifting transporter that linked the past civilisation with that of Rammi IV. They have proof that the bloodlines of the two peoples were mixed many millennia ago. During an accidental transport, our patient found himself on Rammi and while he was there, he was infected with a blood borne virus. We cannot cure him, but we think that maybe...and it is admittedly a slim chance…you might carry antibodies in your blood."
He stood to his full height and looked down his aquiline nose.
"And what, exactly, is required of me?"
Beverly took a deep breath and plunged on.
"We want to take a sample of your blood and test it. If it contains the antibodies, we hope to synthesise them and use them to treat Captain Picard."
"But my blood is Royal! You cannot use it in a commoner."
Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and swallowed her anger.
"Sir…you are our last hope. Would you withhold what may well save the Captain's life…for the sake of ten millilitres of blood?"
The tall man sniffed and looked again at the Captain. He tilted his head and grinned at the Doctor.
"You know…I've never met a woman with red hair before."
Exasperated, Beverly frowned.
"Sir…"
He lifted his hand and nodded.
"Very well. Take your sample!"
Beverly was quick to move. She seated the Prince on a chair and extracted the required amount of precious fluid. Engrossed, she turned and left him, making her way straight to the serum lab. A somewhat surprised Prince watched her go. He turned to Deanna and frowned.
"Where is she going? I haven't dismissed her."
Deanna hid a smile and offered her apologies.
"I'm sorry Sir, but she is deeply involved in her work. She meant no offence."
He sniffed again and peered at the Counsellor.
"You are very attractive. Are you mated?"
Somewhat shocked, Deanna answered,
"Ah yes Sir I am."
He nodded and looked over at the lab.
"And the Doctor…is she also mated?"
"Yes Sir."
"I see. Can you have more than one mate?"
Barely withholding a giggle, Deanna replied,
"With Humans it's usually one at a time."
He sneered and looked down his nose.
"How antiquated. We are obviously a more advanced people."
They were not prepared for Beverly's whoop of triumph. She barrelled out of the lab and rushed to Jean-Luc. Taking a hypo syringe in her hand, she extracted some blood and disappeared back into the lab. Selar stayed at the monitor as Beverly introduced the recovered antibodies into the sample of the Captain's blood. They held their breath; in fact Beverly briefly closed her eyes, when suddenly Selar's calm voice invaded her senses.
"Doctor? I believe we have success."
Tears of joy slipped down Beverly's face as she gripped Selar's arms.
"Right! Start synthesising the antibodies. We have to manufacture a stable batch for the first infusion."
The jubilant Doctor breezed out of the lab and rejoined her guests. Bowing gently to the Prince, she beamed at him.
"It worked! You did carry the antibodies we needed and they very efficiently killed the virus. Thank you Sir…thank you so much!"
Eddik looked admiringly at the glowing woman and was about to ask her something when Selar's urgent voice stopped him.
"It is not working."
Beverly whirled around and grabbed the Vulcan's arms.
"What do you mean it's not working?"
"We cannot synthesise the antibodies. They die immediately if they are removed from the surrounding blood."
The Prince stood and looked down at the fretting women.
"What is wrong?"
Beverly held up her hand and silenced him, bringing a glare from the man. She thought furiously for several moments then set her blue eyes on his turquoise ones.
"You have to donate a live sample…a sample large enough to do the job…directly to Captain Picard."
The outraged Prince stepped back and raised his hands.
"I will not! It was bad enough that you took Royal blood for you test, but to expect me to be some sort of donor…of my blood…it is unthinkable!"
Beverly was beyond reason.
"Then he will DIE! Are you prepared for that? Your world wants admittance into the Federation doesn't it? Well let me tell you…killing Starfleet's most respected Captain will not further your cause! I will personally see to it that…"
Deanna grabbed her arm and pulled her away.
"Beverly! You can't force him."
Tears coursed down the Doctor's distressed face.
"But Deanna he holds Jean-Luc's life in his hands!"
"I know Beverly…I know."
Eddik's deep voice broke through her sorrow.
"I wish to speak with my father. Now!"
Deanna released Beverly and gestured to the Prince.
"Of course Sir. If you will follow me?"
She led him into the office, instigated a secure channel then left him to his privacy. When she returned to Beverly, she found the Doctor gently stroking Jean-Luc's face.
"So close Deanna…we were so damned close."
Fifteen minutes later the women were joined by Eddik. He glared at Beverly and deliberately addressed Deanna.
"My father the King instructs me to comply. I must stress it is against my wishes, but the King will be obeyed. Perform your tasks and make it quick!"
Beverly swung into action. A biobed was placed alongside Jean-Luc's and the Prince encouraged to lie on it. His arm was placed in a pressure cuff and his blood siphoned into a machine that would make it compatible with the Captain's. When they had collected and treated a litre of the precious fluid, it was shunted into Jean-Luc's body. Beverly stood between the two men, monitoring both bio signs.
"Sir we will only take what is absolutely necessary. You will not be harmed in any way."
Eddik studiously ignored Beverly, turning his head and staring at Deanna instead.
"Tell her that the harm is already being done! It is an insult to my ancestors."
Beverly sighed and watched Jean-Luc's monitor. For several agonising minutes nothing happened, then the virus started to retreat. It left his liver first, then his kidneys. Soon all his organs were liberated and his heartbeat strengthened for the first time in days. His temperature wavered and dropped half a degree and Beverly wiped away a tear of happiness.
Without thinking she squeezed the Prince's arm.
"It's working! You've saved his life."
He shrugged his arm firmly.
"You will not touch me! How dare you!"
She released him immediately and tried to apologise.
"I'm terribly sorry Sir…I didn't mean…"
"You are an undisciplined woman. Who is your mate? I would speak with him."
Deanna stepped forward and said gently,
"Captain Picard is the Doctor's mate."
Eddik's mouth snapped shut and he screwed his eyes shut. Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly and turned his head to Beverly.
"So! Now I see why you were so motivated in this matter. I forgive you your…mistakes…and hope that you learn from them."
Beverly summoned a small smile and bowed her head.
"Thank you Sir. I will try to do better."
The Prince huffed and asked,
"When will this procedure be over?"
Beverly checked the monitor and drew another sample of Jean-Luc's blood.
"I'll tell you in a minute."
She disappeared again into the lab to be joined by Selar. Together they ran their analysis and Beverly emerged smiling. She stepped between the men and terminated the transfusion.
"We have enough now to complete our treatment. I would like you to lie down and drink some fluids before you leave…you might feel a little light headed."
The tall man nodded and grinned at Deanna when she offered him a cool drink.
"Thank you lovely one. Are you sure you don't want another mate?"
The Counsellor smiled and shook her head.
"No thank you Sir. One is quite enough for me."
"Ah well, no harm in asking is there?"
Deanna laughed, enamoured by his capriciousness.
"No Sir…none at all."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two hours later Eddik had departed and Jean-Luc lay free of medical paraphernalia. His temperature continued to slowly decrease and he could finally be placed under the healing regeneration beams. Beverly had him dressed in pyjama pants and was just pulling up a blanket to his waist when Will strode in.
He stood beside the happy Doctor and gazed down at his Captain and friend.
"So Beverly…how is he?"
She gently ran her hand down his whiskered cheek and sighed.
"He's going to be fine. It was a very near thing though Will. He so nearly died…"
The First Officer gripped her shoulders and turned her into his bear-like embrace.
"It's ok Beverly…you said it yourself…he's going to be fine."
She relaxed against his broad shoulder and listened to his strong heartbeat. Sighing she stepped back and checked Jean-Luc's temperature. Will looked over her shoulder.
"When will he wake up?"
"To be perfectly honest…I don't know. He's been through so much; I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was unconscious for days yet. It's ok though…his body will continue to heal, in fact it's probably for the better."
Will nodded and frowned down at the Captain.
"How much weight has he lost?"
Beverly shook her head sadly.
"Nearly nine kilos. His high temperature just melted the weight right off him. He's going to be so cranky with me when I start to nag him about eating."
"I'm just thankful he'll be alive to be cranky."
Beverly smiled and squeezed his hand.
"So tell me…how are you getting along with Mary?"
Will reddened and Beverly couldn't contain a giggle.
"That woman…God she's…unstoppable!"
"Tell me about it! She had her sights firmly set on Jean-Luc for a while there."
Will's eyes widened.
"What? What did you do?"
The Doctor ran her finger down his tunic.
"I let her know…in no uncertain terms…that he was mine!"
"Did it make a difference?"
Beverly guffawed.
"Nope! Not in the least. When that woman wants something…woe betide anyone who stands in her way."
"Oh God Beverly what am I going to do? Deanna will kill me!"
Still laughing, Beverly slapped his chest.
"Oh come on now…a big boy like you should be able to handle a little archaeology director."
Will scowled.
"It's not funny Beverly! She won't take no for an answer."
Beverly's laughter increased.
"I know!"
Somewhat miffed. Will spun on his heel and left, but not before firing over his shoulder,
"Some friend you are!"
Beverly was still chuckling half an hour later.

 

 

 

 

Will, Geordi, Data, Lars and Mary were seated around a table discussing the transporter. Will was having trouble convincing the archaeologists to seal the room.
"But Commander this is a find of high significance! Just think what we could do…"
Will shook his head.
"I know Lars but we have to protect the inhabitants of Rammi IV. The Prime Directive…"
Mary leaned to him and squeezed his thigh…too high up his leg for his comfort. He shifted in his seat and tried to put his legs together.
"But Will we're not bound by the Prime Directive. We're a private consortium, funded mostly by my father. He…"
Will squirmed as her hand insinuated itself between his thighs.
"I know that Doctor Adamson, but your consortium is under the auspices of the Federation Archaeological Council and they are bound…hand and foot. We simply cannot allow transport through that phase shifter…it's not an option."
Silence settled and Will began to slowly sweat as Mary's fingers traced random patterns on the inside of his thigh. He reached under the table, gripped her questing hand and removed it. She cast him a sly smile and leaned her head on his shoulder. Data watched the byplay fascinated as always with the intricacies of Human interaction. His concentration was broken when Lars offered,
"What if we make the transporter inoperable? We could still study the room, the artefacts, the dome…just not the oval."
Will looked over at Geordi, his eyebrows raised in question.
"Well Geordi, could you do it?"
The Engineer shrugged and consulted his PADD.
"I don't think so Commander. We know so little about it…I would be working in the dark…tampering with things I don't understand. The best thing to do would be to seal the room and quarantine the area…probably for good."
Will watched as the scientist's faces fell. Mary sat up and squeezed his forearm.
"At least let us have a few days to study the room and the dome. If we give our solemn word we won't activate the transporter, will you grant us that?"
Data offered his input.
"Commander perhaps if I were to accompany the team that analyses the room, I can help them in their endeavours whilst keeping them safe. It would also afford us the opportunity of expanding our data banks concerning this planet."
Will turned to Mary and tilted his head.
"How about that? Would Data's suggestion be acceptable?"
Mary and Lars looked at each other and grinned in unison.
"Done Will! That is a brilliant solution. Now…why don't we go and have a drink and I'll show you those goodies in my tent?"
Will stood quickly, dislodging the hand that had been snaking between his thighs.
"Actually Doctor…now that my Second Officer is going to be planet side…I have to be getting back to the ship. I'm in charge until Captain Picard is well enough to resume command and I have a lot to do."
Mary stood and ran her finger down his arm, dallying at his hand.
Ah yes…Jean-Luc. How is he? I hear it was a close call."
Will frowned and took a step back.
"Yes it was. If not for the intervention of the Urallian Prince he would've most certainly died. We were very lucky."
"I bet Beverly's happy."
Will grinned at that, seeing in his mind's eye the beaming Doctor.
"Yes she is. Well if you'll excuse me?"
He was surprised when the pretty woman slid her arm through his.
"I think I'll come with you. I'd like to see both Beverly and Jean-Luc."
The tall man swallowed and smiled wanly at the seated observers.
"Geordi? Aren't you coming back now?"
The Engineer grinned evilly and shook his head.
"No Sir, I'll stay here for a while longer and help Data get set up for his stay."
The uncomfortable Commander stood to his full height and tucked in his chin.
"Right! Well then Doctor…we'd better be going."
Mary looked up and batted her eyelashes at him.
"Really Will…call me Mary, there's no need to be so formal. I want us to be friends…close friends."
As they turned to leave, Will closed his eyes and offered a silent plea.
"Oh God…keep me safe!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beverly was in her office two days later when a quiet alarm sounded on her terminal. She rose and went immediately to Jean-Luc's room and noted that he'd turned in his sleep. Now lying on his side, the regen beams were off target and she frowned as she gently coaxed him onto his back.
"Come on my love…over you go."
He sighed and lifted a hand to his face. Beverly froze and waited as his eyes slowly opened. Unfocussed, they rolled in his head as he strived for consciousness. His hand rubbed at his temple and a low groan escaped his mouth.
"Jean-Luc? Relax Jean-Luc everything's all right."
As soon as she spoke he stilled. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, holding it for some seconds before letting it out slowly. The next time he opened his eyes he managed to focus on his lover. His lips moved but no sound emerged. Beverly smiled down at him and rubbed his face.
"I'll get you a drink…you're a little dry I think."
She retrieved a tumbler with a straw and gently lifted his head, directing the straw to his mouth. He closed his eyes a he sipped, the cool water sliding deliciously down his throat. When he'd had enough, Beverly carefully lowered his head and sat on the bed.
"Hey there…welcome back."
His eyes cracked open again and a slow smile crept across his face. Beverly's eyes filled with tears and she sighed happily.
"How do you feel? Any pain?"
Still locking his eyes on hers, he nodded but the smile never left his mouth.
She laughed and shook her head.
"Where?"
Not using his voice, he raised a hand and touched his head, then let his hand drift down to his testicles. Beverly watched and nodded.
"Ok I can fix that. I'll be back in a minute."
She rose to leave but his hand softly gripped hers, effectively stopping her.
"What?"
Not breaking eye contact he gently pulled her down until her face hovered just above his. He pursed his lips and she grinned saucily.
"You want a kiss?"
He nodded minutely, his eyes drifting shut. When her lips grazed his, he sighed, the smile returning. He let her straighten and watched as she left the room. He was still staring at the door when she returned moments later, carrying a hypospray.
"Now let's get rid of that pain shall we?"
He nodded and she injected him into his neck. As the pain receded he relaxed and laced his hands over his chest. Beverly grinned down at him and ran her fingers down his cheek.
"Are you going to talk to me or are you going to persist with the silent treatment?"
He cleared his throat experimentally and offered,
"What would you have me say?"
His voice was rough and very deep, making Beverly shiver.
"Oh I don't know…how about…how am I?"
"All right…how am I?"
Beverly laughed and squeezed his arms.
"Well the short story is…you're going to be fine, but it's going to take a while for a complete recovery."
His eyebrows rose and he asked,
"How long?"
"A few weeks. You'll have extensive physiotherapy on your shoulder and the regen treatments will be ongoing for a good while. You had a lot of damage Jean-Luc…in fact you almost…died."
He saw how distressed she was and sought to help her.
"Hey…it's all right. As you said I'll be fine. Come on let me see you."
She lifted her head, sniffing as she wiped at her tears. She saw the love shining clearly in his eyes and she found her solace. She leaned down to him and wound her arms around his chest. His arm encircled her and they clung to each other, each giving to the other the strength they both needed. After a while, the Doctor straightened and stood from the bed. As she set about realigning the regen beams, Jean-Luc asked,
"How did we get back?"
Beverly paused in her work and looked at her lover.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
He thought about that for a while before his face lit up.
"You were talking about escaping! I tried to get you to leave me."
"Do you remember the escape?"
He shook his head, frowning.
"No, not at all."
Beverly was silent as she completed her tasks and, when she was satisfied, she sat once again on the bed.
"Mary and I dug a tunnel out of the hut. We took you, got out and high tailed it into the bush. We came across a creek and got into it, using it to cover our tracks."
"Were you carrying me?"
"Uh huh. We went down stream for a ways then sat out the heat of the day under a rock ledge. You were by this time, terribly sick from a blood borne infection. You'd become delirious and started hallucinating. You thought you were on the Enterprise at one stage."
Jean-Luc frowned and grunted.
"I hope I didn't do anything…"
Beverly chuckled and rubbed his arm.
"No you were innocuous enough. Anyway soon after we'd started back in the river, we were confronted by a couple of natives. We were terrified…didn't know what to do, then all of a sudden this calm voice says 'don't worry Doctor, I'll take care of this!'"
Jean-Luc's eyebrows shot up, an incredulous look on his face.
"It was Data! He looked like one of the natives, loincloth and all. He dispatched our pursuers and we made a mad dash for the transporter, but we didn't make it. We were so close…God we could see the clearing. Anyway we hid in some caves and waited until Geordi reactivated it. Then we simply stepped through and Will beamed us to the ship."
"What about the tribe? Surely they were looking for us?"
Beverly fiddled with his blanket and frowned.
"Well yes, we did play hide and seek with a party of armed warriors, but we eluded them."
"How did the track us?"
"They didn't need to."
"Why?"
Beverly rubbed his arm again and sighed.
"You were delirious remember?"
"Uh huh."
"Well you…shouted some commands. It kind of gave us away."
Jean-Luc closed his eyes and grimaced.
"Oh God…I'm so sorry. What did I say?"
Beverly chuckled and patted his thigh.
"Oh you know…the usual stuff…red alert!…shields up!…that sort of thing."
"How did you shut me up?"
"Data gave you a nerve pinch."
Jean-Luc scowled and shook his head.
"I don't remember a thing. What about coming back through the transporter? Did it make us sick again?"
Beverly frowned at the memory, her hand involuntarily drifting to her stomach.
"It most certainly did! Do you know…even with medication the nausea lasted for two damn days?"
"And the accompanying headache?"
She shook her head.
"No we were able to defeat that…thank God."
"Good. How…"
A smooth feminine voice interrupted him.
"It's about time you woke up Jean-Luc."
He looked around Beverly and summoned a smile for Mary.
"Hello Mary. I take it you're none the worse for wear?"
She sidled into his room and insinuated herself onto his bedside.
"I'm fine Jean-Luc…simply overflowing with good health. I came to see you a couple of days ago but you were…incommunicado. It's good to see you finally awake."
Jean-Luc grinned and slipped his hand into Beverly's.
"Believe me it's good to be awake."
Mary took his free hand and lifted it to her breast.
"Jean-Luc…I'm sorry. What happened was my fault…you very nearly died because of my actions. Can you find it in yourself to forgive me? Please?"
Feeling somewhat embarrassed that his hand was nestled in her bosom, Jean-Luc ordered a smile onto his face and cleared his throat.
"Of course Mary…think no more about it. It's over as far as I'm concerned."
He pulled at his hand and she reluctantly released him. She tilted her head and ran a finger down his arm.
"I must say Jean-Luc…your First Officer is a fine specimen. He's been very helpful to the dig…offering technical support…allowing us to thoroughly analyse the room and the dome before sealing it all off. Yes I would say he is an outstanding fellow!"
Jean-Luc plainly saw the avaricious look creep over her face.
"Mary…he's in a stable, loving, long term relationship. Leave him alone."
Huffing Mary crossed her arms and glared down at the Captain.
"Is there anybody on this ship not in a stable, loving, long term relationship?"
Jean-Luc looked at Beverly and they shared a companionable grin.
"Have you tried Data?"
Not amused Mary slid to her feet and shook her finger at the grinning man.
"That's not funny Jean-Luc!"
Beverly stood and whispered in her ear,
"He's fully functional you know."
Mary reddened and looked at the Doctor aghast.
"But he's an android!"
Tilting her head, Beverly sighed.
"Still…he's available…and skilled in multiple techniques."
Jean-Luc looked on in amused silence as the women parried. He loved watching Beverly exercise her rapier-like wit…as long as he wasn't the target. He knew Mary had dismissed the idea when she made a cutting gesture with her hand.
"No! I won't hear of it. There's over a thousand people on this ship, I'm bound to find somebody…"
With that she spun on her heel and left. Beverly giggled and turned to the smiling man in the bed.
"I wonder if we should ever tell Data how close he came to being…devoured?"
Jean-Luc laughed gently and lifted his arm.
"Come here."
Beverly joined him on the bed and allowed him to take her in his arms. She noticed him grimace as his shoulder rotated and she sat up.
"How would you like a shower, a shave and a meal?"
He smiled and cocked his head.
"A shower and shave sounds good…but a meal?" he grimaced. "Perhaps not."
"The part about a meal wasn't a question Jean-Luc. You've lost over nine kilos…most of it muscle tissue and your body needs nourishment to rebuild. Let me put it this way. The longer you refuse to eat…the longer you will stay in Sickbay."
He grunted and scowled.
"That is underhanded. You don't play fair!"
"Be that as it may…how about it? Will you eat?"
"Oh very well…under sufferance!"
Beverly grinned and pulled back the blanket.
"So noted Captain. Now wait here and I'll get Steve and Mike to help you in the shower. You're going to find yourself a little weak for a while."
He sighed but waited patiently until his aides arrived. Together, they helped him to his feet and escorted him into the shower where they undressed him and assisted with his ablutions. With their help, he managed to shave and don clean pyjama pants and was pleased to find Beverly waiting for him when he emerged from his bathroom. By the time he was back in bed, his entire body was trembling with exhaustion. He glared at the tray Beverly placed across his thighs and wrinkled his nose when she took the lid off the bowl.
"Oh come on Jean-Luc! It's my Grandmother's vegetable soup you like so much…and here a warm crusty roll, just as you like it."
He faltered as he picked up the spoon and Beverly's hand covered his.
"Do you want me to help you?"
He watched his shaking hand and knew there was no way he could safely transport the soup to his mouth without making a mess. Tiredly he nodded and gave up the utensil.
"Ok let's make you comfy first."
She raised the back of the bed and fluffed several pillows, arranging them behind his back. She then smoothed the covers and re-sited the tray.
"All right here try this."
She lifted a spoonful of soup and he obediently opened his mouth. Holding his breath, he was surprised at how good the soup tasted. He smiled as he swallowed and quickly opened his mouth for more.
"There now…it's not so bad?"
He shook his head and sniffed the heady aroma of warm bread as Beverly broke the roll. She dipped it in the soup and offered it to him. He bit off the sodden end and sighed with pleasure as he chewed. Thoughtfully, his brows knitted as a question surfaced. Beverly noticed and paused.
"What?"
He swallowed and asked,
"My right testicle is swollen. What's wrong with it?"
Beverly resumed the feeding and sighed.
"Mostly severe bruising but the epididymis has been damaged. We think it will rectify itself with regen treatments. If that fails we may have to take a more aggressive approach."
He swallowed again and frowned.
"I see. Will my fertility be compromised?"
"No not at all. In fact you could loose a testicle and still be adequately fertile."
He nodded thoughtfully and chewed the next mouthful.
"You said I had an infection…blood borne?"
Beverly popped the last of the roll into his mouth and filled the spoon.
"Uh huh. You contracted it during the fights. The natives carried the virus…seemingly without any problems and when their blood came in contact with yours…you became infected."
"Was it hard to eradicate?"
She waited until his mouth was full again.
"Oh yes…you've got no idea. Everything we tried failed and you got sicker and sicker. Your temperature was sky high…you were convulsing…you were placed on full life support…we'd reached the end of our rope when I had an idea."
"And that was?"
"I made a connection between the population of Fremmis and the natives of Rammi IV. As it turned out we found out that the Urallians are descendants of both races…and they still carry antibodies to the virus."
Finished with the meal, Jean-Luc watched as Beverly went to the replicator and returned with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea.
"What did you do?"
"I requested a representative of the longest bloodline to allow us to test their blood. You'll never guess who they sent."
His raised eyebrows spoke volumes.
"Who?"
"His Royal Highness Prince Eddik!"
Jean-Luc grunted.
"That pompous young pup! I've had the misfortune to have met him on more than one occasion. Talk about arrogant!"
"Oh I know, but you might want to…alter…you opinion of him seeing as how you're carrying about a litre and a half of his Royal blood inside you."
"What?"
Beverly sniggered and urged him to drink his tea before it cooled.
"It turned out we couldn't synthesise the antibodies…we had to have a live donation. He resisted, but his father had the final say and he was forced to help. So you my fine Captain are now a member of the Royal Family."
Jean-Luc scowled and grunted.
"What a load of codswallop! As if blood…"
"Look frankly I don't care! The bottom line is that it saved your life…and I couldn't have been happier when I saw that damn virus release you. You've got no idea…"
He reached for her hand and they sat for a time in silence. She knew his mind was ticking over when he absently rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand.
"What is it?"
He had the good grace to blush slightly but asked his question anyway.
"When can I be released?"
She had known the enquiry was coming and was ready for it.
"You'll be in Sickbay for at least another six days, maybe more, depending on how you heal. Once I'm satisfied the damage is rectified you can be released to your quarters."
"And my return to active duty?"
"I can't give you that information Jean-Luc because I don't know. It's dependant on too many variables. Just be patient, ok? I won't keep you off duty a moment longer than is absolutely necessary."
He smiled ruefully and nodded, squeezing her hand.
"Right my Captain! Now that you're clean and fed, how about you get some rest?"
He nodded again and sighed as she lowered the bed and removed some of the pillows. Lowering the lights she bent low and kissed him tenderly.
"Call me if you need me."
He whispered, "I will." And allowed his eyes to drift closed. As Beverly turned to leave, he caught her sleeve and pulled her down.
"I love you."
She smiled and brushed her fingers down his smooth face.
"And I love you. Sleep well."
He was asleep before she left the room.

 

 

 

The next few days passed quickly for the Captain. His days were filled with treatments and therapy and when he wasn't being the subject of medical procedures, he was encouraged to either eat or sleep. When Will strode into his room on the third afternoon, he was delighted.
"Number One! Am I glad to see you!"
The big man grinned and turned a chair to straddle.
"Hello Captain, it's good to see you too Sir. How are you?"
Jean-Luc grinned and flexed his good arm.
"Fighting fit and eager to be away from this…" he looked through the open door and lowered his voice.
"…this den of iniquity."
Will laughed and folded his arms on the back of the chair.
"If Beverly hears you…"
Jean-Luc held up his hand and frowned.
"No need…I'll never confess. Now…how is my ship?"
The First Officer lifted his chin and smiled.
"Just as you left her Sir. We'll be in orbit for two more days then we depart for Starbase 187 where we will take on new crew and upgrade the aft sensor array."
"Starbase 187? That's what…eight days away at…warp five?"
Will's eyebrows rose at his Captain's quick calculations.
"Ah yes Sir. You know Captain…there's a little bistro on the base that's renowned for its authentic French cuisine. If you're well enough, how about I treat you and Beverly to a meal?"
Jean-Luc studied his subordinate friend and wondered, not for the first time, where the fresh-faced young officer had gone. In his place was a competent, confident, dynamic man he was proud to serve with.
"That sounds grand Will, I look forward to it. How are things progressing at the dig?"
Will shook his head and smiled ruefully.
"Those archaeologists are a single minded lot aren't they? Since we made Data available to help them, they've been head first buried in that small room, scouring it with a fine toothed comb."
Jean-Luc frowned and tilted his head.
"What about the transporter?"
"They gave their word they wouldn't activate it. We've allowed them to raise the dome but that's as far as they can go. In twenty-four hours time the room will be permanently sealed."
Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.
"It's a pity, but I think it's for the best. What with the Prime Directive issues and the sheer magnitude of the device…well let's just say I think we would've bitten off more than we could adequately chew."
"Agreed Captain. Tell me Sir…have you made a report of your experiences yet?"
The Captain frowned and gestured to the computer.
"I was just about to. I suppose you're looking forward to reading about our little…adventure."
"Well I've read Beverly's account. I must say Sir…you were damned lucky to survive. Beating four fit young natives in single handed combat…not bad at all."
Jean-Luc grinned lopsidedly.
"For an old man?"
Will shook his head.
"No Sir not at all! Captain…you tore a man's throat out…with your teeth?"
Jean-Luc stared at his hands and sighed.
"I had no choice Will. It was either that or be on the receiving end myself. Believe me…if there were any other way…"
Will could plainly see how saddened the Captain was and changed the subject.
"Did Beverly tell you I was on Mary Adamson's menu?"
A bright smile emerged on his Captain's face, his eyes twinkling.
"As a matter of fact she did Will. Tell me how did you fare?"
Will lowered his head, shaking it slowly.
"God Sir she won't take no for an answer will she? Sitting next to her is like being seated next to an octopus. Her hands were everywhere."
Jean-Luc chuckled and lowered his voice.
"She cornered me deep in the caves you know. We were alone and she attempted to seduce me…to the point of kissing me and sucking on my index finger."
Will gasped, his eyes wide.
"She what? My God what did you do?"
"Well I'd already told her I wasn't interested…she, however, had other ideas. She did retreat, but launched another assault later."
Lowering his own voice, Will looked over his shoulder at the door.
"What about Beverly? How did she handle it?"
Jean-Luc sighed.
"At first she was angry and dismayed, but then we decided to ignore her and enjoy our leave. By and large we were successful."
"So when did she give up?"
Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head.
"I'm not sure exactly, but it was sometime while we were on Rammi IV. She was responsible for my being there you know."
Will nodded, stroking his beard.
"Yes I know. Beverly's report stated that she grabbed you and pulled you in. It was a stupid thing to do."
Jean-Luc nodded.
"Oh I agree with you whole heartedly Number One. Is she still bothering you?"
Will frowned and shook his head.
"No…it's weird. About two or three days ago she just stopped. We're still on good terms, but she seems to be casting her web elsewhere."
"Well be thankful Will. You made it through…unscathed."
The big man chuckled and stood, turning the chair and putting it back.
"Is there anything you require Captain?"
Jean-Luc thought for a moment and grinned slyly up at his First Officer.
"Yes Will. Would you direct the ship's running operational reports to this terminal? Beverly's been restricting my access and it's driving me to distraction."
Will frowned and shook his head.
"You realise what will happen to me when she finds out?"
Jean-Luc looked up at his younger friend and put on his most disarming look. The Commander huffed and pulled down his mouth, raising his hands.
"All right! But you've got to help when she comes after me."
"Done!"

Three days later, Beverly stood in the doorway watching as Jean-Luc exercised his injured shoulder. He was facing the wall in the physiotherapy room, feet braced apart, pulling down a weight with a straight arm. He was stripped to the waist, his lower body clothed in light grey sweat pants. He was barefoot and the Doctor noted his slow weight gain. Sweat trickled slowly down his spine and she was suddenly enthralled, watching the trail of moisture the droplet left on his skin. Feeling the easy ascent into desire, she licked her lips and sauntered over to him, stopping just behind him and drawing deeply his masculine scent. He sensed her presence and tensed, the muscles in his back clearly defined.
"Don't stop."
His only acknowledgement was to slightly bow his head. Beverly checked to ensure they were alone and moved closer as he resumed his workout. She trailed her fingernails up the skin of his back and around his chest to lightly scrape his nipples. He did his best to ignore her, closing his eyes and settling his grip on the weight. Her kiss to the base of his neck caused him to falter, but he regathered himself and continued. He was not prepared when her tongue lapped up the length of his spine, devouring his sweat. Her hands drifted down to his groin and lightly caressed him through his pants.
"Computer lock doors to the physiotherapy room, authorisation Crusher Omega two eight."
Jean-Luc began to turn but she held him in place.
"Put both hands on the wall."
He released the weight and complied, resting his upper body on his arms. He felt his pants slowly slip down to his ankles where Beverly lifted his feet one at a time to divest him of them. Her hands travelled sinuously up his legs, her nails grazing and sliding over his skin. She reached his growing erection and cupped him, feeling the weight of his genitals. He lifted his head and closed his eyes as she grasped his swelling penis and rhythmically squeezed.
"I think it's about time we tested that testicle my love."
He lowered his head and watched as she slid her fingers into the waistband of his briefs. With her hands flat against his thighs, she pushed down and he groaned deeply when his penis sprang free. She stripped the underwear off and gently took his testicles in her hand. Avoiding any discomfort, she very carefully massaged him, her free hand stroking his hard length. He shifted his feet further apart and groaned as she slid her thumb across the head, spreading the bead of pearl and tenderly caressing the underside of the glans.
"Beverly…"
She released his testicles and used both hands to stroke him. He started to thrust and pant, his mouth open.
"Turn around."
He complied and she dropped to her knees and took him into the hot wet depths of her mouth. He allowed his body to rest against the wall as he gripped her head and thrust into her. Groaning softly he gasped when she reached up and tugged gently on his left testicle.
"Beverly!"
His fingers tightened in her hair and his body stiffened. His penis suddenly swelled and his orgasm overtook him. Stretching up onto his toes, he arched his back and spilled himself in her, an inarticulate cry torn from his throat. She gripped his hips and sucked, prolonging the sensation for him. His face a grimace of ecstasy, his hips continued to thrust involuntarily as he spasmed through the aftershocks.
She waited patiently for his muscles to release their rictus before she gently let him slip from her mouth. He slid down the wall until he was sat on the floor. Beverly leaned forward and took him in her arms, encouraging him to rest his head on her shoulder.
Still slightly panting he wearily wound his arms around her and pulled her close.
After he'd recovered somewhat, she sat back and smiled tenderly at him.
"How was it?"
He grinned tiredly and shook his head.
"You have to ask? I would've thought it was obvious. It was…wonderful."
"Any pain?"
He shook his head and looked down at his naked body, a wry grin on his face.
"No my love, I felt only ecstasy. Tell me Beverly…is this part of my regular therapy?"
She playfully slapped his thigh and giggled.
"I would say not! That was a special examination by a concerned physician."
"Oh I see. And can I expect more of these…examinations…in the near future?"
Beverly gently brushed her fingers down his cheek.
"Yes I would think so. This Doctor is very thorough. She may also insist that you take a more…active …part in your therapy."
"Hmm, yes I can see how that would be beneficial. Tell me…will these…sessions…always take place in Sickbay?"
Beverly smiled and picked up his briefs.
"Oh no…didn't I tell you? I'm releasing you to your quarters this afternoon."
Gesturing for him to stand, she gave him his briefs and picked up his pants as he put on his underwear. After he'd positioned himself, she grinned saucily and ran her hand over him. He smiled and snuck in for a kiss. As he kissed her, his hands liberated his pants and he managed to put them on without breaking contact with her lips.
Laughter bubbled up between them and they parted, staring into each other's eyes.
"Come on lover I'll walk you back to your room, it's time for your lunch."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten days later Jean-Luc entered his cabin at 1800 hours, tired after his first full day back on active duty. The sensor upgrades were proceeding on schedule and he'd been up to his armpits in crew rotations with Will. Although they were gaining several new crewmembers, they were also losing some and Jean-Luc was determined to farewell each of the departing officers personally. The anticipated dinner on the Starbase was arranged for the following night and the Captain was well satisfied with his first full day's work.
His mood was further buoyed when his nose picked up the scent of dinner. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
"Let me guess. Beef Stroganoff on a bed of steamed rice."
Beverly giggled and moved to stand before him.
"Correct my clever Captain…you win. Want to collect your prize?"
He nodded and opened his eyes watching intently as Beverly closed the distance between them. She wound her arms around his head and nudged in under his nose. His eyes drifted shut as she kissed him softly, sucking his lower lip into her mouth and gently nipping it. He groaned and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close and crushing her to his body. He kissed her passionately, his tongue insinuating itself into her mouth. Her knees weakened and he took her weight effortlessly. Picking her up, he carried her to his desk and used an arm to sweep the desktop articles onto the floor. Sitting her on top, he broke the kiss long enough to blaze a trail down her neck to her collarbone. As he tongued her suprasternal notch, his busy hands were undoing her uniform top. She helped him, tearing at the garments in her rush to take them off. Once she was bare to the waist, he descended to her breasts and lavished each nipple with broad strokes of his tongue. His hands boldly kneaded the flesh as she arched to him, her hands holding his head. He suddenly broke contact and stood up, gently pushing her down to lie across the desktop. She attempted to rip his clothes off but he held her hands and shook his head. She lay back and he quickly divested her of her trousers, socks, shoes and panties. Now lying naked before him, he stared down and growled his appreciation. His hands travelled to her breasts, moulding and tweaking before his mouth again found her nipples. She arched on the desk and gripped its edge, her legs parting as he stepped closer between them. He soon left her bosom and kissed his way down the flat plain of her stomach. He dallied in her navel and smiled to himself as she mewed impatiently. Slothfully, he lapped his tongue to her mons and used his fingers to spread her open. Her moisture glistened and his mouth watered. He descended slowly, his tongue slipping over her heated folds as his fingers began probing her depths. As his fingers pushed in and out of her, his mouth rhythmically opened and closed over her lips, his tongue questing and darting, making ethereal touches to her engorged clitoris. She began to writhe, gasping and pleading.
"Oh God yes…Jean-Luc please…oh God please…"
He started to curl his fingers inside her as his tongue found and swirled over her pearl. She shrieked and bucked on the desk as she climaxed her hands grinding his face to her sex. He waited as she shuddered through her bliss then slowly stood. As his fingers continued to slide within her, his free hand undid his pants and freed his erection. Pushing his trousers out of the way, he stepped close to her and withdrew his fingers, replacing them with his throbbing penis. He could feel the residual contractions and smiled as she groaned and arched up to him. He gripped her hips and used his hands to help with his thrusts. Pulling and pushing, he slid within her as she climbed back to the heights of physical and emotional bliss. He watched himself plunge in and out and felt his own release approaching. Releasing one hand, he made broad strokes over her bud with his thumb and she cried out and contracted around him. He felt the waves of her climax resonate through her body and he grunted heavily as his own orgasm surged through him. He pulled her hard against him and flexed his hips, burying himself as deeply as possible inside her.
Some time later he pulled on her hands and helped her sit up. Still joined he kissed her tenderly and held her head against his chest. She encircled him with her arms and sighed a shaky breath.
"I think dinner is cold."
He closed his eyes and smiled.
"Don't care."
She lifted her head and lazily kissed his neck.
"Hey…how's your back?"
He chuckled and flexed his shoulders.
"Unscratched."
"Hmm, good. I suppose that's why you kept your uniform on?"
He kissed the top of her head and hugged her closer to him.
"Actually I had intended taking us both to the bedroom and divesting myself of my clothing, but I got…waylaid."
"That's not like you Jean-Luc…you're usually quite single minded…not easily distracted."
He chuckled and kissed her again.
"Let's just say recent event have encouraged me to embrace my opportunities as they present themselves."
Beverly pulled back and grinned up at him.
"You mean you don't intend to look a gift horse in the mouth?"
He closed his eyes and feigned deep thought.
"Um…I suppose, although I wouldn't describe you as a gift horse"
She laughed and ran her hands up his chest.
"Why don't we go and have a shower, then see if we can salvage dinner?"
He nodded and kissed the tip of her nose.
"Agreed. And Beverly? I love you."
She sighed and snuggled into his embrace.
"And I love you Jean-Luc Picard. You are my champion…always."
.