The Satisfaction Of Wanting.

 

 

                       Doctor Beverly Crusher settled into the soft sofa, toed off her boots and planted her feet on the low table, crossing her ankles. Emitting a long sigh, she sipped her cabernet sauvignon, leaned back and closed her eyes.

Her companion watched with a developing frown, however he sighed softly, raising his eyebrows and shaking his head, an amused ghost of a smile gracing his classical features.

Of all the people on his magnificent Starship…nine hundred in all, no one but Beverly Crusher would even consider putting their stockinged feet on his coffee table. His smile growing slightly, he sat back and sipped his wine, resting an arm along the back of the couch, his eyes resting on the beautiful red head beside him.

“Long day?”

The Doctor guided the glass to her lips and took a long sip.

“Hmm.”

He sighed and closed his eyes.

“Me too.”

They were silent for a while before Beverly stirred.

“What’s for dinner?”

He grinned in silent amusement; Beverly’s appetite was the stuff of legends. How she could put away such enormous amounts of food yet stay so tantalisingly slim was a mystery.

“When I can be bothered to get up, I had intended to order fillet mignon with scalloped potatoes and young beans in a hollandaise sauce, followed by a light lemon sorbet.”

Beverly arched her back and settled further into the cushions.

“Mmm, sounds delicious. So when did you say you’d order?”

Chuckling, Jean-Luc Picard leaned forward, swallowing the remainder of his wine. He placed his glass on the table and got wearily to his feet.

“I take it if I don’t replicate immediately, you’ll pass out or something.”

Her eyes cracked open and she raised a lazy hand and beckoned with her finger. Intrigued, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise leaned down to his CMO, his eyes warm and twinkling.

“Actually I won’t pass out…but I may bite you. There are parts of you that look absolutely delectable.”

Clearing his throat, he straightened and snorted.

“You, my dear Doctor, are incorrigible.”

Beverly snickered and sipped again, closing her eyes and contenting herself to listen as he moved to the replicator.

She heard his deep gentle baritone as he placed the order then sighed as he began to put the dishes and accoutrements on the table.

She smiled softly when he said gently,

“Are you coming to the table, or shall I bring your meal to you over there?”

Adopting Jean-Luc’s actions, she drained her glass and rose, picking up both glasses and the bottle and sauntering over to the dining table. She took a moment to admire the tasteful setting and bestowed a warm smile on her companion as he ushered her into her chair with gentlemanly good manners.

They ate in companionable silence and, over dessert; Beverly decided to bring up a rather contentious subject. Taking a mouthful of sorbet, she swallowed and pointed with her spoon.

“Thirty-eight hours Jean-Luc.”

He looked up and frowned.

“I beg your pardon?”

Giving a look of disbelief, Beverly elaborated.

“I leave in thirty-eight hours. There’s still time for you to change your mind.”

He frowned and devoted his attention to his dessert. Not fooled in the least, Beverly risked his displeasure by pursuing the matter.

“Why don’t you come with me Jean-Luc? You know you want to.”

He lowered his head and placed his spoon beside the bowl with great deliberation. Taking a large breath, he gathered his patience and looked up.

“You know as well as I how difficult it is for me to get away, and considering you’re going for five weeks…it’s virtually impossible.”

The Doctor’s lips thinned and she snorted.

“That’s bullshit and you know it! You’re the Captain for God’s sake. If you want to take leave…take it! I know for a fact you’ve got innumerable days owing…it’s about time you availed yourself of a few.”

He shook his head and wiped his mouth with his serviette.

“It’s out of the question! I told you the first, second and third time and I’m telling you again…I’m not going.”

Beverly sat back and folded her arms defiantly.

“You can be so bloody minded! Tell me why.”

Exasperated, he threw down his napkin and rose, going to the replicator. Over his shoulder he barked,

“I already have…several times!”

He ordered a pot of coffee and two mugs. Picking up the tray, he walked stiffly to the sofa and sat, hoping that was the end of the matter. The problem was he did want to go, but such was his intense love for Beverly, he couldn’t trust himself to be in close proximity to her for any extended time…and ensconced in a remote cabin on an out of the way planet was a recipe for disaster. He had offered to take their already deep friendship to a more intimate level and she’d turned him down. A proud and sensitive man, he was not about to leave himself open for more hurt by pursuing something she didn’t want. The trouble was if he was alone with her on the planet, that's probably what he would do. He couldn’t help it, he’d been in love with her for thirty years and he knew his heart would overrule his head. No, it was better this way, painful, but infinitely better than risking losing her friendship, something he cherished dearly.

However Beverly was not cognizant of all that…or was she?

She rose from the dining table and walked slowly over to the sofa, her eyes trying to gauge his mood. She sat next to him and remained silent as he poured the coffee. He sat stiffly, blowing on the brew before taking a tentative sip and closing his eyes in appreciation. She refrained from picking up her cup; instead she shuffled closer to him, one hand coming to rest on his thigh. He stiffened even more and cleared his throat.

“Come on Jean-Luc…it’ll be fun.”

He shook his head brusquely.

“I don’t think so.”

With her free hand, she stroked his face.

“Come on…we could go on long walks and swim or maybe just sit by the fire and read. Maybe we could…fool around.”

He’d had enough. His feelings for this woman were too deep to allow her to mercilessly tease him. Slamming his cup down and spilling the contents, he stood abruptly and glowered down.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Jesus Beverly you cannot keep playing with me like this. I offered you something more and you turned me down…why do you persist with these cruel games?”

She stood and fisted her hands on her hips.

“You arrogant, pompous blow hard! Did it ever occur to you that after all these months I might have changed my mind? How is that a man reputed to be so intelligent can be so bloody obtuse? I’ve been giving you hints for weeks!”

His eyes blackened and his face hardened.

“Hints? You mean all your snide innuendoes and smutty gibes? I’ve been putting up with that for years from you. How the hell was I supposed to tell the difference? And anyway, why is it that I am now to run to your beck and call the minute you snap your fingers? Did it ever occur to you that it might be too late, that your ice-maiden routine may have finally put my fire out?”

Her mouth agape, Beverly stepped back, the force of his anger buffeting her.

She lowered her head and stared hard at the floor, his pain filled, angry eyes too much to bear. In a small voice she uttered,

“I’m sorry Jean-Luc…I had no idea.”

She gathered her wits and brushed past him.

“I’ll trouble you no further.”

Just as she got to the doors, his anguished voice carried to her.

“Beverly! Don’t…”

Whatever else he had to say was lost as she went through the doors and they closed. She stood momentarily still, her mind reeling. With a choked sob, she turned and ran to her quarters.

Jean-Luc stared at the doors, numb with shock.

“What have I done? Why did I say those things? She was offering…what? A chance at a new relationship? Intimacy?”

He sat heavily on the sofa and slowly lowered his head into his hands.

“Oh Picard you fool! You damned stupid fucking fool!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Once in her quarters, Beverly went into her bedroom, undressed and donned a nightie. She then sat at her dressing table and brushed her hair, her mind trying to come to grips with what had just happened.

“He doesn’t love me anymore. I’ve finally pushed him too far. I turned him down, then I teased…but that was all in good fun, wasn’t it? He always laughed…blushed…he’s such fun to tease…oh God why didn’t I see what it was doing to him? Why did I play so damned hard to get?”

She replaced the brush by feel, her eyes staring off into space. With absent movements she went to the bed, turned down the covers and slid between the sheets.

“Lights off.”

In the darkness tears welled in her eyes.

“I can’t believe this! He waited so long and now I’m ready only to find my own nasty tongue has soured him. Oh God…what am I going to do now? I want him…so badly…”

She turned over and grabbed the second pillow, hugging it to her breast.

“I am such a bitch.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc made his preparations for bed in a similar manner. He went through his routine, undressing, putting on his satin shorts before going to the bathroom. He washed his hands and crawled into bed; amazed at how desolate his voice sounded when he ordered the lights off. He sighed and turned onto his side, scrunching the blankets.

“She’ll never forgive me. Somehow I’ve got to learn how to live without her in my life. Mon Dieu c’est impossible! I will die inside.”

He closed his eyes and two tears slipped free. Sleep would not occur this night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The next morning, before going on duty, Beverly sat at her desk in her quarters and recorded a message. Downloading it onto an isolinear chip, she stood and tossed in thoughtfully in her hand.

“If this doesn’t work I’m damned. Computer, location of Counsellor Troi.”

“Counsellor Troi is passing junction 2E, deck five saucer section.”

Nodding to herself, Beverly was tempted to call the Captain, but she knew he wouldn’t want to hear from her so she clenched her jaw and exited her quarters.

 

               Jean-Luc sat at his dining table staring at its bare top. He was freshly showered and shaved; his uniform was crisp and clean yet he felt like hell incarnate. Without his usual breakfast companion he had no appetite. That, on top of his sleepless night made his eyes scratchy, his body weary and his heart heavy. He pushed away his melancholy thoughts and savagely suppressed his aching heart. He was on his feet and out the door before he even realised it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Deanna Troi, ship’s Counsellor and best female friend of Beverly Crusher, had just sat at her desk when her office door chimed. Her empathic senses told her who was outside, but the turmoil, and the desperate attempt to conceal it, distressed her.

“Come in.”

Beverly entered and smiled wanly.

“Good morning Deanna.”

The Counsellor frowned and stood.

“What’s wrong Beverly?”

Closing her eyes, Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose. In a quiet voice she said,

“I don’t want to go into it Dee. Will you do something for me?”

Knowing the futility of trying to get Beverly to talk about something she didn’t want to, Deanna nodded.

“Of course.”

Beverly stepped up to her and reached for her hand, turning it over and placing the chip on her palm.

“I leave at fourteen hundred tomorrow. After I’ve gone, will you give this to the Captain please?”

Deanna nodded solemnly, her free hand closing over Beverly’s. She knew something of significance had happened, something bad, but until Beverly was willing to talk about it she would be in the dark. She allowed her mind to stretch, seeking the thread of consciousness that was Jean-Luc Picard. What she sensed made her wince. He was tightly closed, cold and full of despair. Her sympathetic black eyes settled on her friend.

“Is there anything I can do?”

Beverly smiled sadly and shook her head.

“No…just look after him while I’m gone. He’ll try to shut you out and shun everybody…don’t let him Dee. I caused this and when I get back I hope to fix it, but for now I think it better we left things alone.”

Deanna nodded and opened her arms, taking Beverly into her embrace. The Doctor allowed the comfort then drew back.

“I’ll see you in the Shuttle Bay tomorrow.”

Deanna frowned.

“What about your send off in the lounge tonight?”
Beverly grimaced.

“No…I don’t think so. Tell Will and the others thanks, but I’m just not up to it. Okay?”

The Counsellor nodded and sighed.

“All right but Will’s going to be really disappointed. He had plans.”

Beverly snorted.

“I’ll bet…usually involving real alcohol and loud jazz. Tell him some other time.”

Deanna went up on tiptoes and kissed Beverly’s cheek.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   The Captain spent an hour in the command chair on the bridge before retreating to the Ready Room. For the entire time he was on the Bridge he was sullen and withdrawn. Will Riker, sensing something was wrong, waited until his CO was absent before putting a quiet call to his lover.

“Riker to Troi.”

“Troi here.”

“Deanna I know you have appointments this morning, but can I see you for a few minutes?”

“Yes Will. Give me fifteen minutes. Troi out.”

The big bearded First Officer sat back and scratched his cheek.

In due course Will pressed the chime outside Deanna’s office. Her warm call made him smile.

“Come in Will.”

He grinned as he entered, seeing Deanna had two cups on the low table, coffee for him and hot chocolate for her. He pointed at her drink and shook his head.

“It’s a little early for that isn’t it?”

The Counsellor smiled enigmatically and sipped her drink, sighing with heady appreciation.

“It’s never too early for chocolate. Now…what is it?”

Will frowned and stared at his hands.

“When Captain Picard came onto the Bridge this morning he was not his usual self. He was brusque, morose and withdrawn. Do you know why?”

Deanna sighed and shook her head.

“Not exactly, although Beverly came to see me this morning and she was upset too. Something’s happened between them and my guess is it’s not good.”

The exec ran a hand through his hair.

“But Beverly leaves tomorrow…for five weeks. Surely they won’t part under these circumstances? Look I know we all speculate just as to what is the exact nature of their relationship, but besides all the scuttlebutt we know they’re dear friends. If they’ve had an argument I can’t believe they wouldn’t settle it before Beverly leaves.”

The Counsellor folded her hands in her lap and sighed.

“I’m not so sure. Beverly gave me a chip to give the Captain after she leaves. She said to me that what has happened was her fault and she intended to fix it when she returned. She asked me to look after Captain Picard while she was gone.”

Will stood and paced in front of the table.

“Dee I’m not happy with this at all. In the mood the Captain’s in…if he stays true to form, he won’t eat properly, he won’t get much sleep and he’ll spend most of his time brooding in the Ready Room. He’ll ignore the rest of us and immerse himself in work. There’s got to be something we can do.”

Deanna stood and gripped Will’s elbow, stopping his restless pacing.

“Will you know him as well as me. If he won’t let me help him then there’s absolutely nothing I can do…that is unless his work suffers, then I have the option of either ordering him to Sickbay or relieving him of duty.”

The big man snorted.

“Hell Dee…it won’t come to that! Do you think it would do any good for me to talk to Beverly? She knows him better than all of us…she must know what he’ll do in her absence if they part like this.”

Deanna shook her head.

“No Will it would be best if you left her alone. She’s really upset…she doesn’t even want the send off tonight. Let the dust settle…maybe the chip will have something the Captain needs to hear. Perhaps after he’s heard it things might settle down.”

Will nodded and chewed his cheek.

“Okay but I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a very trying five weeks.”

Deanna reached up and took his shoulders, turning him towards the door then gently slapping his behind.

“Off with you Will Riker. I’ll see you tonight.”

His chuckle hung in the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    That night was not easy for either Beverly or Jean-Luc. The Captain had stayed on duty until oh three thirty before giving in to sore muscles and straying concentration. He made his way to his quarters, replicated a sandwich and fell asleep on the sofa, the meal half finished.

Beverly too worked until late, retiring only when Deanna, suspicious of her habits, called down and all but ordered her to her cabin. Both people had an unpleasant rest, uneasy and fractured.

Jean-Luc was on the Bridge at oh eight fifteen and Will sighed at seeing the dark circles under the man’s eyes. Beverly had the day off so she packed and spent some quiet time in the arboretum, trying to settle her churning emotions.

At ten minutes before the given hour, Beverly made her way to Shuttle Bay two and loaded her bag aboard. She spent some moments doing a pre-flight check then sat in solitude, her eyes on the chronometer.

At precisely fourteen hundred hours she paged the Bridge.

“Bridge this is shuttle Curie requesting clearance to launch.”

Will’s cheerful voice responded.

“Curie this is the Bridge you are clear to go. Have a good time Beverly.”

The Doctor grinned.

“Thank you Bridge. Curie out.”

As she powered up the little vessel, she glanced out the port screen and saw Deanna standing in the bay. Beverly smiled and waved, receiving a grin and a wave in return. As the shuttle exited the great ship, Deanna blew a kiss.

“Stay safe my friend.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Jean-Luc sat at his desk in the Ready Room, the communication system open. He listened to Beverly’s departure, his face a stony mask. Once he heard the order to close the bay doors he closed the channel and turned, rising to gaze out his viewport, his eyes soon picking up the tiny ship and he watched as it swung gracefully away from it’s gargantuan parent and set course. He raised a hand and pressed his fingers against the cool, clear aluminium.

“Adieu mon coeur.”

The Enterprise made an effortless leap to warp speed and the shuttle disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Three hours later Deanna came up to the Bridge. She was just going off duty, but she had a service to perform. Will’s eyebrows rose as the petite woman sat beside him and looked worriedly at the Ready Room doors.

“He’s still in there.”

Will sighed.

“Yep. Hasn’t emerged all day. I was kinda hoping he might’ve gone to the Shuttle Bay to see Beverly off, but no luck.”

Deanna frowned and shook her head.

“Have you seen him at all?”

Will stroked his beard.

“Oh yeah, this morning. He spent an hour in the big chair then retreated to his lair. Deanna…he looks like hell.”

The Counsellor pressed her lips together.

“I’m getting very little from him…he’s closed up almost completely.”

“Are you going to see him?”

Deanna looked her lover in the eyes and lifted her chin.

“Yes. I have something to do for Beverly and I think it’s time I tried to get him to talk to me.”

Will raised his eyebrows and puffed out his cheeks.

“Good luck…I’m glad it’s you not me.”

Smiling and trying to exhibit confidence she didn’t feel, Deanna rose and walked over to the Ready Room doors. Over her shoulder she mouthed,

“Wish me luck.”

Will nodded and gave her a ‘thumbs up’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Jean-Luc ignored the first chime. He was staring at the computer screen, not really seeing it; his mind was light years away. The second chime broke through and he scowled, barking,

“Come!”

Deanna entered, respectfully coming to attention in front of his desk. He kept his eyes glued to the monitor, willing his visitor to leave. When she didn’t, he glanced up and said coldly,

“Yes, what is it Counsellor?”

Adopting a parade rest stance, Deanna stared over the top of her Captain’s head.

“Sir I have something for you.”

He sat back and stared icily at her.

“Well?”

Holding her arm out stiffly, she offered the chip.

“Doctor Crusher asked me to give it to you after she left.”

He took the chip and tossed it disdainfully onto the desk.

“Is that all Counsellor?”

Swallowing and fortifying her mental barriers against his cold anger, Deanna shook her head.

“No Captain.”

He placed his hands on the desktop and lowered his already deep voice.

“I am rather busy Counsellor. State your business quickly, then leave.”

Deanna relaxed her stance and looked into his eyes for the first time. What she saw shocked her.

“Captain it is plainly obvious something has happened between you and Beverly and you are very upset. Judging by your appearance and your reactions to past problems with the Doctor, my guess is that you’re not eating or sleeping sufficiently. Although it is my duty to monitor your health, I would like to offer you the opportunity to talk privately about what’s troubling you before it becomes necessary for me to become involved in a professional capacity. I wish to remind you Sir, I will order you to Sickbay if I feel it’s called for and I won’t hesitate to remove you from duty if I see the need.”

He looked down at the desk and fisted his hands.

“So you’re giving me an ultimatum? Talk to you privately or suffer the consequences? May I remind you Counsellor that I am still the Captain of this vessel and I will not be dictated to by you or anyone else. Whatever has occurred between Doctor Crusher and me is my business and I’ll thank you to mind yours. If and when I feel the need to talk, I’ll let you know. In the interim I would ask you to attend to your duties and leave me alone. Is that clear?”

Deanna frowned down at her Captain and gritted her teeth.

“Perfectly Sir.”

His dark glittering eyes never leaving hers, he said quietly,

“Dismissed.”

Once back out on the Bridge, Deanna took a large breath and caught Will’s questioning eye. With a shake of her head, she left the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   It took Beverly two days to reach Kalara II. She landed the shuttle and exited with her bag, the bright sunshine making her squint. She made her way into the reception area and registered with her thumbprint. After a short wait, an aide welcomed her and guided her to a hover car. She took her seat and waited while her bag was loaded then the vehicle took off for a three and a half hour journey to her accommodation. The aide noted her silence and stifled his glib spiel, allowing her to doze. It was the gentle bump of landing that woke her and she smiled as her eyes cleared. Before her was a chalet made of native timber, glass and stone. Nestled against a rock bluff, it faced the east and consisted of walls of glass interspersed with wood and stone. Beverly rose from the hover car a little stiffly and slowly pirouetted, taking in the snow-peaked mountains, the nearby river and the thick bush that grew up to the cleared area of the dwelling. Her patient aide picked up her bag and gestured grandly. They entered the chalet and he showed her around, explaining the features and showing her all the hidden technology. When they walked out onto the back deck, Beverly leaned against the railing looking down into the bluest pool she’d ever seen. Her aide grinned.

“It’s heated.”

Beverly smiled and the aide held out his hand.

Here’re your codes. If you need anything simply contact the reception building. As I explained, in case of emergency, press any one of the red buttons situated throughout the chalet and someone will transport to your location immediately. Have a nice stay Ms. Crusher.”

Beverly thanked the young man and stayed on the deck until she heard the hover car take off. Then she ambled into the living area and stood still, listening to the silence. Sighing, she went to unpack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Three days after Beverly’s departure Jean-Luc still hadn’t played the chip. It sat now on the desk in his quarters, ignored. The trouble was Jean-Luc didn’t want to listen to it…he was afraid of what he might hear. Did she intend to resign? Was it castigation for his behaviour? Was it to tell him she never wanted to see him again?

He sat in his favourite chair and cast a wary glance across the room. Grunting with discontent, he turned his attention back to his meal. The light chicken salad felt like sawdust in his mouth but, although he had admonished his Counsellor, he was under no illusions as to her determination to carry out her threats. To that end he decided the only way to forestall her was to eat and sleep to her satisfaction, at least as best he could under the circumstances.

As it was quite late, after he finished his meal he disposed of the remains and went to change for bed. In minutes he was under the covers but struggled to find sleep. After an hour and a half of tossing and turning he threw back the quilt and brusquely exited his bed, stalking into his living area and finding himself standing over his desk, staring at the damned chip. With an irritated sigh…and some trepidation, he sat down and loaded the chip into his computer. When Beverly’s face appeared, he closed his eyes in pain.

 

 

“My dearest Jean-Luc…where do I start? You and I have been friends…best friends for more years than I care to admit. I remember clearly the first time we met, after Jack had inundated me with stories about his illustrious Captain and I expected you to be quite different to what I found. You were not the hard, calculating Starfleet officer I thought you’d be, although you did try to project that sort of image…no, you were, under the carefully constructed façade you hid behind, a sensitive and gentle man, dedicated to your career and Starfleet and totally bonded to my husband. For two men who were not related…my God you were like brothers and I was so happy Jack’s Captain was such a good friend. Then slowly, over a period of time I became your friend too. It came as a shock to me on Kess Prytt to find that you fell in love with me almost from the first time we met, but now, in the fullness of time, I realise I harboured deep feelings for you too. After Jack died and we drifted apart I still thought of you, there was always a place for you in my heart and when I joined the Enterprise so many years later those feeling s were still there.

“Jean-Luc when I said we should be afraid I was speaking from a position of uncertainty. I was in love with you then, as now, but I was confused. I know my acid tongue has caused you pain and I deeply regret that, as I’ve told you, you’re not the first to suffer from my particularly poor sense of humour.

So what am I trying to say? First I’m sorry. Sorry for not trusting you with my heart and for hurting you. And second I want you to know I love you and if you could find it in your heart to forgive me, then when I get back, perhaps we can try to find out just where our hearts will lead us.

That’s it my love.

I will think of you constantly until I return.

Beverly.”

 

 

 

Jean-Luc slowly blinked away his tears and reverently touched his fingertips to Beverly’s image.

“Mon coeur there is nothing to forgive.”

Standing abruptly, he strode to his bedroom and proceeded to dress in civilian clothes. He was about to embark on a very important mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Jean-Luc stopped outside his intended destination and rested his bag at his feet. He asked in a soft voice,

“Computer what is the time?”

“Two fifty eight hours.”

He sighed and briefly closed his eyes. Lifting his hand, he pressed the chime.

Both occupants in the bed stirred and the man grunted.

“Was that the door?”

His companion hummed and lifted her head. Sleepily she asked,

“Computer who is at our door?”

“Captain Jean-Luc Picard.”

Will sat up and was half out of the bed when Deanna’s hand gripped his arm.

“He might be here to see me.”

The naked man grunted and stood, reaching for his robe.

“And he just as likely wants to see me. We should both go.”

In silence Will waited for Deanna to don her robe then they both walked into the living area, calling for lights as they went. At the door, Will cast a look at his lover and, receiving a nod of consent, opened the door.

“Captain.”

Jean-Luc looked from one officer to the other and lowered his head. Softly he said,

“I apologise for waking you both but I needed to see you Number One.”

Deanna slipped her hand into Will’s and gently squeezed it.

“I’ll go back to bed.”
Jean-Luc offered a brief smile as an apology and waited until the Counsellor left.

Will noticed the packed bag at the Captain’s feet and raised his eyebrows.

“Going somewhere Captain?”

Jean-Luc sighed and nodded. Will turned back into his quarters and gestured for Jean-Luc to follow him. Both men sat in the lounge and Will curbed his curiosity while the Captain gathered his thoughts.

“Will I’m taking some leave, effective immediately.”

Will simply nodded and Jean-Luc continued.

“I’m taking the yacht and I’ll be gone four weeks…if I’m lucky. If not I’ll be back in eight days. The Enterprise will be charting the Ferris expanse for the next six weeks so there should be no problems with my absence, however if you need me, I’ll be on Kalara II.”

Will sat back, hiding his triumphant smile. Keeping his voice even and an innocent look on his face, he asked casually,

“Kalara II? Isn’t that where Beverly went?”

Jean-Luc’s cold stare sobered the younger man. He sat up and adopted a more professional approach.

“Very good Captain, I’ll amend the logs and change the roster to reflect the change. Would you like me to detail a crewman to ready the Calypso?”

With a shake of his head, Jean-Luc stood.

“No that won’t be necessary. Who has command of the Bridge at this hour?”

Will frowned and scratched his beard.

“Ah that would be Lieutenant Farrund.”

Jean-Luc offered a small smile.

“And I take it the Lieutenant will be able to handle my departure?”

Will chuckled.

“Well she’ll be a little shocked, but I think she can handle it Sir.”

The Captain nodded and turned for the door.

“Very good Commander I’ll be off. Take care of my ship; I’ll rendezvous with you within the expanse on my return. I’ll send the coordinates at a later date.”

Grinning slyly behind his Captain’s back Will couldn’t resist one small dig.

“Yes Sir…Beverly was going to do the same thing.”

Jean-Luc paused momentarily in his step but recovered and exited Will’s quarters. As soon as the doors closed, Deanna came out and sidled up to her lover.

“Well?”

Will’s grin widened.

“He’s off to find Beverly.”

Deanna smiled, her black eyes sparkling.

“Thank the Gods…it’s about time. Did he say anything?”

Will shook his head, but the grin remained.

“Nope but he’s very preoccupied. My guess is there may be some fireworks, but if he plays his cards right, this may all come out all right.”

Deanna took his hand and led him back to the bedroom. Over her shoulder she said,

“Well I certainly hope so…they’ve waited long enough. The attraction between them has been so obvious for so many years…and the sexual tension they exuded, by the sacred chalice of Rixx, you could’ve reignited a dead star! How on Earth they resisted it is a mystery.”

Calling for the lights to extinguish, the couple doffed their robes, climbed into bed and settled down. Will’s soft chuckle caused Deanna to rise on her elbow.

“What’s so funny?”

“Maybe they didn’t.”

“Maybe they didn’t what?”

Will turned onto his side and stared up at the Counsellor.

“Maybe they didn’t resist the urge. What if this trouble they’ve had is about sex?”

Deanna sighed and gently slapped Will’s chest.

“They haven’t had sex, believe me I’d know. Not only would I sense the change, but Beverly would’ve eventually told me. One of her greatest curiosities is how the Captain would be in bed. Her theory is that a man possessed of such deep passions and legendary control would be a consummate lover. She often wondered what it would take for him to lose his control.”

Will snorted and put his hands behind his head.

“Why is it you women always take a romantic view. I don’t think he’d be that good, hell, he’s so out of practice; I mean when was his last time? Nella Darren? That was months ago. No…he’s such a bloody gentleman he’d probably ask permission to put it in. He’ll never satisfy Beverly, she needs someone with hot blood.”

Deanna huffed and flopped down beside him.

“You’re forgetting something Will…he’s French. They’re renowned for their sexual abilities.”

Will made a rude noise and rolled over, pressing his body down on the petite woman.

“So what? I don’t believe that bullshit about the French anyway. Everyone knows for real satisfaction you require an Alaskan man.”

Deanna sniggered and bit his earlobe.

“And why would an Alaskan man be better at sex than a Frenchman?”

“Because…”

He kissed her passionately and grabbed her hands, pinning them to the pillow.

“…we have to spend so much time indoors. You have to amuse yourself somehow.”

Deanna’s laughter turned into a moan of desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc went through the pre-flight check then called the Bridge.

“Bridge this is Captain Picard aboard the Calypso requesting permission to launch.”

There was a momentary silence before a female voice responded.

“Captain Picard there is no launch scheduled for the Calypso Sir.”

The Captain sighed.

“I am aware of that Lieutenant. Check your board, I have lodged my flight plan.”

Again there was a hiatus, quickly followed by,

“Aye Captain. Helm bring us out of warp. Sir you are free to launch.”

Smiling with grim satisfaction, Jean-Luc replied,

“Thank you Bridge. Picard out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Beverly woke, but lay still, keeping her eyes shut. The filtered light from the drapes crossed the room, straddling the bed in a stripe. Relying on her sense of smell, the Doctor concentrated on ‘seeing’ her environment through closed eyes. She could smell the wood of the building, the still smouldering ashes in the hearth, the dregs of sherry in the small glass on the side table and the selection of fresh fruit sitting in a bowl atop the dining table in the lounge.

Smiling to herself, she stretched and yawned. With some reluctance she opened her eyes and slowly rose, leaving the bed and spending twenty minutes doing a series of limbering exercises on a rug on the floor of her bedroom. After a leisurely shower, she emerged in a bathing suit and short silk robe, sauntering into the kitchen where she prepared a simple breakfast of assorted fruit and coffee.

While the morning sun warmed the air, she settled onto a lounge beside the pool with a book, intent on reading. She dozed off within the hour.

The short nap was ended by the noisy bird life. Now the sun was higher, the temperature increased exponentially and creatures of all sorts were making use of the warmth. Strange furry animals descended from the trees to forage, causing the riotously coloured birds to complain loudly.

With great amusement, Beverly watched the antics of the wild life before dropping her robe on the lounge and diving into the pool. She swam a few laps then floated, completely relaxed. As was often the case when she allowed her mind to wander, it went to thoughts of Jean-Luc Picard.

“What are you doing now? Have you listened to the chip?”

With a slight loss of equilibrium, water encroached over her face. She took a large breath through her nose and regained her buoyancy.

“I wonder if you’ll accept me my Captain? Will you forgive me? Will you let me into your life…share yourself with me, without reservation? Will you ever let down your guard completely…let me see your heart, your soul? Because if you can’t, if you won’t give all of yourself to me it won’t work. If you’ll have me, you’ll get all of me, I’ll hold nothing back, but one of the things that’s always scared me about you is that you’ve always hidden behind a carefully constructed façade, built to protect yourself from hurt. But you can’t be open to love while taking shelter within a walled heart. It has to be all or nothing my Captain…can you do that? Can you love me that much?”

After another ten minutes of relaxed floating, the Doctor exited the pool and wandered inside to find some lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Having set the course and speed and activating the autopilot, Jean-Luc retreated to the sumptuously appointed lounge of his private craft. He played the chip again then sat back in his comfortable chair, allowing his mind to wrestle with the implications.

“So…Beverly loves me.”

He smiled wistfully and sighed.

“I wonder how she’ll take me turning up? She might be happy about it, after all she did want me to accompany her…but on the other hand she might not be ready to see me. She may need some time to settle her thoughts.”

His smile faded and he crossed his legs, folding his arms across his chest.

“However…if she is happy to see me, and I can stay…what then? How will this work? How does one instigate an intimate relationship with one’s best friend?”

He abruptly stood and began to slowly pace, the fingers of his right hand gently rubbing his lower lip.

“What does she want from me? Something casual? A lifetime commitment? And for that matter, what do I want? What do I expect from her?”

With distracted exasperation he ran a hand over his bald head.

“Oh God…this could be so complicated.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

               The elegant Calypso entered orbit around Kalara II and Jean-Luc paused in his piloting to consider his options. He knew someone in the planetary administration would soon be contacting him and he had to make up his mind as to what direction he should go. In reality he had only two choices. Either try to book a cabin close to Beverly’s…unlikely seeing she’d chosen something in a remote region…or refuse offers of accommodation and scan for Beverly’s comm badge and transport down to her location. He sighed and sat back, shaking his head.

“Well fortune favours the brave”,

He muttered.

He nodded and was inputting directions in the computer just as the planet hailed him.

“Ship in orbit, please identify yourself.”

His eyebrows rose and he debated quickly whether or not to reveal his true identity. He knew his name was well known and he wished to avoid any fuss. Tabbing open a channel, he keep his voice even.

“Kalara this is the private yacht Calypso. I intend to beam down to visit a friend.”

The man facing him on the monitor screen was unimpressed.

“This is Mark Webber, director of interstellar traffic. To whom am I speaking?”

Frowning at his efforts to avoid that particular question, Jean-Luc gritted his teeth.

“This is…John Packard.”

“I see. And tell me Mr.Packard…just who do you wish to visit?”

Bristling slightly, the Captain glared at the monitor.

“May I ask what business is that of yours?”

The smile on the director’s face was unctuous.

“We guard our guest’s privacy well Mr.Packard. It would be inappropriate for you to simply…beam down. If you would let me know who you wish to visit, I will contact them and perhaps gain permission.”

Jean-Luc lowered his head and sighed. Knowing he would have to tell the truth, he looked up and ruefully smiled.

“Mr.Webber you have me at somewhat of a disadvantage. My name is not Packard…it’s Picard, Jean-Luc Picard.”

Webber nodded sagely, his eyes twinkling.

“Do tell…Captain Picard. Did you really think I wouldn’t recognise Starfleet’s most famous Captain?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes briefly and decided he could use this bumptious man to his advantage.

“I apologise Mr. Webber, you are obviously too clever for me. The truth is I’m on official business and I need to speak with one of my officers…someone who is holidaying on your fine planet. Now you understand I cannot divulge their name, that would compromise their cover, however if you would let me scan for them, I can surreptitiously beam down and no one would be the wiser. Of course I would have to rely on your collaboration and discretion.”

Swelling with pride and self-importance, Webber looked around and lowered his voice.

“Secret business…Mr.Packard?”

“Ah…yes.”

Sitting up, the director nodded and adopted a serious demeanour.

“Very well. I will inform my superiors that your visit is sanctioned. You may proceed with your scans and I will direct our probes elsewhere.”
Jean-Luc breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

“Thank you Mr.Webber. I may be here some time, do you wish me to report to you when I leave?”

Lifting his chin and stroking his wispy moustache, the thin man shook his head.

“No Mr.Packard, I’m sure your efforts to keep our galaxy safe are none of my business. Go about your mission, you’ll get no interference from me.”

Jean-Luc lifted his hand, rubbing his chin to disguise his smile. With difficulty he adopted a serious face.

“Thank you Mr.Webber, your efforts in defence of the Federation will not be forgotten. Packard out.”

The monitor blinked off and Jean-Luc sat back and chuckled, shaking his head.

“Beverly’s going to love this.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The scan took exactly three minutes. Once he had a location he inputted the coordinates then went aft, picked up his packed bag and made his way to the small transporter pad.

“Computer maintain orbit and initiate security level five. Inform me immediately if anyone tries to board this vessel. Energise.”

He rematerialised in a cleared space in front of the impressive chalet. He turned a small circle, taking in the exotic tall tress, the towering mountains and the nearby river. Inhaling deeply, he blinked in the bright sunshine and looked at the imposing front door.

“Well…no time like the present.”

He strode up to the door, raised a hand and rapped his knuckles on the wood panel. Nothing happened. He could plainly hear the noise of his knocking echoing throughout the rooms, but nobody came to the door. Frowning, his clenched his fist and pounded on the door itself, but still no one answered.

Leaving his bag, he ventured around the side of the dwelling and found he had to climb a rock wall, then scale a wood and wire railing to gain access to the back deck. He took the time required to admire the view of the bluff and the tantalising pool, before going the large glass doors and peering in, his hands surrounding his face to lessen the light. He saw nothing. He knocked and called out, but it was obvious…nobody was home.

Ten minutes later he was back at the front door. He looked forlornly down at his bag, sighed deeply and sank to the ground.

“Oh well, she has to come back sometime. Might as well get some sleep.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Beverly was humming softly as she followed the track through the filtered light of the bush. With a posy of wildflowers in her hand, she ambled along somewhat tired and hungry but happy nonetheless. She’d been walking most of the afternoon and was looking forward to a meal and a long soak in the hot tub. As she entered the clearing, her eyes picked out the form slumped against her front door. She stopped and frowned.

“Now who the hell is that?”

Taking cautious steps forward, she squinted and then smiled.

“I’d know that bald head anywhere.”

With quiet steps she approached the sleeping man and stood so her shadow fell across his face. He slept on and Beverly smiled wider. She squatted down and gently stroked his face.

“Hey.”

He jumped and gasped, scrambling to his feet and backing up against the door. Beverly held up her hand and spoke softly.

“Jean-Luc it’s all right…it’s just me.”

He swallowed and blinked several times, steadying his breathing.

“Ah…yes, Beverly…I…I was dreaming. You startled me.”

She smiled and tilted her head.

“So it would seem. Are you okay now?”

He took a large breath and squared his shoulders.

“Yes…yes I’m fine, thank you.”

Beverly nodded and looked down at his bag.

“Are you planning to stay?”

The Captain lowered his head, flushing slightly and pushing his hands deep into his pockets. His voice was low and very deep.

“Actually…that’s up to you.”

Beverly pursed her lips.

“I see. Am I to understand you left the Enterprise and galloped across the sector to see me?”

He looked up and shrugged.

“Yes.”

The Doctor turned and paced slowly in front of the nervous man.

“You simply up and left?”

“Uh huh.”

She stopped her pacing and faced him.

“But wait a minute…it took me two days at maximum warp in the shuttle to reach Kalara. When did you leave the ship?”

Jean-Luc shuffled his feet and looked decidedly uncomfortable.

“Yesterday…early.”

Beverly shook her head.

“Then how the hell..?”

The Captain lifted his head and clenched his teeth.

“I took the Calypso.”

Beverly’s mouth gaped.

“You took the Captain’s yacht? I don’t believe it! You never take the yacht. What did Will say?”

Now becoming somewhat annoyed, Jean-Luc fisted his hands in his pockets.

“Nothing. It wasn’t his place to say anything. I exercised my prerogative as Captain and decided to take some leave. You of all people should be happy with my decision…as my Doctor of course.”

Beverly smiled enigmatically.

“Of course. So…what are your plans?”

Taking his hands out of his pockets, Jean-Luc clasped then in front of himself.

“Well…I was hoping I might, if the offer is still open, spend my leave with you.”

Beverly brushed the toe of her boot through the dirt, lowering her head to hide her smile.

“I see. Well you’re here, I suppose you might at least come in.”

She stepped past him and entered her code. The door swung open and cool air rushed out.

The couple entered and Jean-Luc sighed, gently running a hand over his head and wincing. Beverly heard him and turned, a smile creeping across her face.

“You’re burnt.”

He scowled and shook his head.

“I forgot a hat, but in my defence I didn’t think I’d be sleeping uncovered in the full sun.”

Beverly gestured to a chair and said over her shoulder,

“Take a seat, I have a med kit here somewhere.”

Jean-Luc placed his bag on the floor and sat staring appreciatively around the room. The vaulted ceilings and glass walls allowed a feeling of airiness and space he liked. Beverly soon reappeared and sat on the arm of his chair, a tissue regenerator in her hand.

“Keep still.”

He complied and it took mere seconds to heal the burnt skin. He sighed and looked up at his best friend.

“Thank you.”

Beverly stood and walked into the kitchen.

“No problem.”
Jean-Luc rose and followed her, stopping in the doorway to watch as she went to the cooling unit and took out a jug of clear liquid. She placed this on the table then returned to the unit, retrieving several salad items and cold meat. The Captain ambled over and stood at the table.

“May I help?”

Beverly turned, sucking something from her thumb. She pointed to the cupboards and mumbled around her digit,

“Plates and cutlery.”

While she busied herself making the salad, Jean-Luc searched and found what he wanted. Gently placing his prizes on the table, he returned to the cupboard and found two tall glasses. Pouring from the jug, he lifted his glass and sipped. His eyes widened and he coughed.

“What the hell is this?”

Beverly smiled, while chewing some celery.

“Vodka martini.”

Jean-Luc cast a suspicious look at his glass and frowned.

“What…neat vodka?”

The Doctor shrugged and went on with her preparations.

Once the salad was ready, Beverly placed some cold meat on each plate then gestured for Jean-Luc to serve himself from the salad bowl. As he did this she asked,

“Do you want rolls?”

He shrugged and smiled.

“If you like.”

Nodding absently, Beverly went to the replicator and ordered some crusty Italian rolls and butter. Jean-Luc waited to see where Beverly wanted to eat their meal and was surprised when she sat at the kitchen table. He seated himself and began to eat.

After a while Beverly waved with her knife.

“Keep an eye on the window…we may have a visitor.”

Jean-Luc nodded, but his mind was on his companion. As always he was entranced, her beauty and elegance capturing his attention. When a loud tapping occurred he jumped, turning his head sharply towards the window. There sat an outlandishly coloured bird, studiously pecking at the glass. Beverly rose, opened the window and held out her hand, some breadcrumbs offered. The bird cocked its head and observed her with a wise expression, its clear black eyes sparkling with intelligence. The Doctor remained still and cooed,

“Come on I know you’re hungry.”

The bird’s eyes darted to Jean-Luc and he made sure he kept still. Beverly understood and encouraged the life form.

“He won’t hurt you…come on this bread is yummy.”

The bird seemed to come to a decision. It hoped onto Beverly’s hand and pecked gently at the crumbs, not stopping until her hand was empty.

“There you go. That’s enough now…you go and find some natural food now.”

The bird sat up and ruffled its feathers before suddenly taking off with a raucous squawk. Beverly laughed and turned to her Captain.

“It’s been coming by this time every afternoon. It’s tame isn’t it?”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Indeed it is.”

Beverly refilled their glasses and flicked her head.

“Come on let’s go sit out on the deck.”

Jean-Luc stood and nodded.

“You go, I’ll just be a minute.”

Beverly smiled and wandered outside, settling in one of the comfortable deck chairs. When Jean-Luc joined her he was wearing a broad brimmed hat. Beverly chuckled and nodded.

“Very wise. It’s hot now, but once the sun goes down it gets down right cold.”

Jean-Luc sat and toed off his boots. Sighing he leaned back and tentatively sipped his drink.

After a companionable silence Beverly asked,

“How did you get to my location? The resort director assured me I would have absolute privacy.”

Jean-Luc chuckled and described his run in with the redoubtable Mark Webber. Beverly sat up, her face a study of frank disbelief.

“Whoever you are…show yourself and give me back my Captain.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“I beg your pardon?”

Beverly took a hefty sip and wagged her finger at him.

“You can’t be the Jean-Luc Picard I know.”

She counted on her fingers.

“One…you up stakes and took leave. Two…you took the Captain’s yacht…and three…now you’re telling me you lied to a planetary official to pursue a private matter. Like I said…who the hell are you and what have you done with Jean-Luc?”

He scowled but couldn’t maintain it. His face crumpled into a grin and he shrugged.

“You’re right I suppose, but you know what? It feels good to do something different!”

The both laughed and settled again into silence. Finally finished his potent drink, Jean-Luc placed the glass on the deck and sighed. His voice when he spoke was very soft.

“Beverly?”

She stretched languidly and replied,

“Hmm?”

“I’m very sorry for what I said…I didn’t mean it.”

She turned her head and watched him.

“What didn’t you mean Jean-Luc?”

He sighed again and closed his eyes.

“That I didn’t love you any more…that I wasn’t aware of your…hints.”

Beverly sat up and caught her hair in her hands, pulling it back over her shoulder.

“You’re not the only one who should apologise Jean-Luc. My behaviour these last months has been reprehensible. I knew what I was doing, but not what it was doing to you. I should have simply told you how I felt and allowed us to see where it took us. Instead I baited you, I teased you unmercifully and in the process I hurt you. I’m sorry Jean-Luc…can you forgive me?”

He stood slowly and went to stand at the railing, his back to her. Beverly rose and came to stand behind him.

“Jean-Luc?”

His hands gripped the timber capping and his head was lowered. In a deep husky voice he managed,

“There is nothing to forgive Beverly. There never was.”

Her hands settled on his hips and she rested her chin on his shoulder.

“Then why are you so sad?”

He turned slowly and looked deeply into her eyes.

“Because I have been such a fool. Beverly you have been a precious jewel in my life for so many years, yet I allowed a moment’s frustration to jeopardise our friendship. I lashed out and attacked you…venting my pain and almost ruining what we have. Can you forgive me?”

Beverly slowly raised her hands and cradled his face. Closing her eyes briefly, she shook her head.

“Oh Jean-Luc what fools we’ve both been. Of course I forgive you…for God’s sake it was my fault it happened! Look it’s really quite simple. Do you love me?”

He nodded solemnly.

“Yes…with all that I am.”

She smiled, her eyes sparkling.

“Well I love you with equal measure. All we have to do now…is work it out.”

He sighed and frowned.

“Work it out? I’ve been thinking about that. It could be very complicated Beverly.”

She grinned.

“It needn’t be. We’re both adults…two people who know their own minds…surely we can work out a simple thing like a relationship?”

He snorted and shook his head.

“A simple thing? A relationship between you and me? Simple?”

Beverly stepped back and fisted her hands on her hips.

“Yes!”

Seeing her annoyance he sighed.

“Beverly have you given this any thought? How the hell does one make love to one’s best friend?”

The Doctor stepped further back and frowned.

“Well you…you…Christ Jean-Luc I don’t know…you just do it!”

He stepped up to her, a sardonic grin in place.

“See? Not so simple.”

Beverly rubbed her brow and scowled.

“Why the hell do you have to be so bloody complicated?”

With that she turned and stalked back into the chalet. Jean-Luc watched her, shaking his head.

“Simple? Not on your life Beverly.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 He stayed outside for another half an hour before venturing inside. Beverly was nowhere to be seen although he spotted her posy sitting in a small vase in the lounge. Taking the opportunity to explore, he wandered through the rooms, avoiding the closed door of Beverly’s bedroom. He was disturbed to find hers was the only bedroom. He went back to the living area, opened his bag and extracted a book. Settling into a comfortable chair he began to read.

An hour later, Beverly finally emerged. She was dressed in a light blue jumper and leggings, her feet covered by sheepskin slippers. Her hair was wrapped in a soft towel and her skin glowed pink, courtesy of the long soak in the hot tub. She stood in the doorway of her bedroom watching the reading man.

“This may prove to be very interesting…and pleasurable.”

She sauntered into the lounge and sat in her favourite chair, picking up her book from the low table. Jean-Luc looked up and smiled but said nothing, returning his eyes to his book.

Beverly read for a while then put her book down and stared absently into the cold hearth of the fireplace.

“Would you like to start a fire?”

The Captain looked up, somewhat startled.

“Pardon?”

Smiling knowingly, Beverly stifled a chuckle and pointed to the hearth.

“A fire Jean-Luc…it’s going to get cold soon and although we have central heating that comes on automatically, the fire is lovely.”

Flushing slightly, Jean-Luc turned his attention to the hearth and took in the pile of kindling and the stack of wood. He turned back to his companion and smiled.

“It would be my pleasure.”

Beverly’s smile widened and she watched with frank appreciation as her Captain left his chair and proceeded to light the fire. Soon there was a cheery blaze growing and Beverly curled her legs under her.

“Would you like to shower before dinner?”

He turned from the fire and nodded.

“Yes that would be nice.”

She pointed over her shoulder.

“My room’s over there, there’s a very well appointed en suite. Help yourself. While you’re gone I’ll programme the replicator for our dinner…any requests?”

He shook his head and smiled.

“No, anything will be fine.”

He bent and retrieved his bag, idly wondering to himself if he would be presumptuous enough to leave it in Beverly’s bedroom.

Beverly waited five minutes before rising and wandering into the kitchen. She programmed the meal but held off on replicating it, opting instead to see if her companion would rather wait a little longer. There was a well-stocked wine rack and she took her time selecting a blended merlot and uncorked it. Taking two glasses, she went back into the lounge and sat, waiting for Jean-Luc. He came silently out into the living room and placed his bag on the floor.

“That feels better.”

She turned and smiled, seeing he was dressed in dark blue trousers and her favourite emerald green shirt. She was amused to see he wore only socks on his feet. She also noticed he’d shaved.

“I didn’t replicate the meal yet…do you mind waiting?”

He shook his head and smiled.

“Not at all, I’m not that hungry.”

Beverly nodded and poured the wine. Jean-Luc picked up his glass and sniffed experimentally. He swirled the liquid and took a small sip, rolling the wine in his mouth. Through all this, Beverly watched, curious as to what his verdict would be. He swallowed and nodded, smacking his lips.

“Not bad…not bad at all.”

He picked up the bottle and studied the label, his eyebrows raised.

“This label has improved. I will keep an eye on them in future.”

Beverly settled into her chair and sipped, her eyes never leaving her companion.

The Captain was content to sip his wine, watching the fire. Over an hour they finished the bottle with very little conversation. Beverly eventually rose and stretched.

“Where would you like to eat dinner?”
Jean-Luc looked across the room and spotted the dining table.

“What about over there?”

The Doctor nodded and smiled.

“Want to give me a hand?”

He was on his feet immediately.

“Of course.”

Together they walked into the kitchen and between them, brought the dishes to the table. Jean-Luc selected another bottle of wine, this time a cabernet sauvignon and carried it, an opener and two fresh glasses to the table.

Beverly had chosen lamb steaks with seasonal spring vegetables and baby potatoes. Jean-Luc poured the wine and shook out his serviette, placing it over his thigh.

“This looks delicious Beverly, thank you.”

She nodded silently and began to eat. Her continued reserved attitude was troubling Jean-Luc but he decided to let her set the tone. He knew she would tell him what was on her mind…eventually.

After the main meal Beverly rose and went back into the kitchen, soon returning with a tray. Instead of coming to the table, she went to the lounge suite by the fire.

“I thought we’d have dessert over here.”

Jean-Luc joined her and smiled warmly when she invited him to sit with her on the sofa. She handed him a bowl and spoon and Jean-Luc couldn’t contain a chuckle when he saw just what his dessert was.

“Crème caramel. You remembered.”

Beverly grinned and took a spoonful, slipping it into her mouth and closing her eyes with pleasure.

“As long as I’ve known you, your favourite dessert has been crème caramel.”

He sighed and tasted his own.

“Mmm. It’s my mother’s fault. She found I had a soft spot for it and she made a superb example of it, so whenever she wanted me to do something I wasn’t particularly keen on, she’d bribe me with it. Needless to say, I became hooked at an early age.”

Beverly sighed.

“You’re so lucky that your mother cooked. I don’t remember my mother very well, but my grandmother used to tell me she loved to cook. After my parents died, when I was growing up we didn’t have much and when we finally did find our feet, grandma was so busy we relied on a replicator.”

Jean-Luc snorted and frowned.

“Yes my mother cooked and I think she enjoyed it, but it wasn’t by choice, it was my father’s stubbornness. He refused to allow her a replicator; something my pig-headed brother Robert also denied Marie.”

Beverly sighed.

“Families. We can’t do with them and we can’t do without them.”

Suddenly realising what she’d said, she winced and reached for his hand.

“Sorry Jean-Luc…that was very insensitive of me.”

He offered a small smile looked down at their joined hands.

“It’s all right Beverly, it’s not your fault. We’re both on our own now…but I’d like to think of you as my family. At the very least I know I’m not lonely with you in my life.”

Beverly smiled warmly, her eyes glittering suspiciously. Unable to speak she just nodded.

They finished their dessert and lingered over the wine, both settling down with their books. Late into the evening, Beverly uncurled and stretched.

“I’m going to bed Jean-Luc. Are you going to join me?”

There. She’d said it and Jean-Luc was unsure what to do. He put down his book and frowned.

“If it’s all the same to you I’ll stay out here a while longer.”

She nodded and rose slowly, watching him with a certain amount of confusion.

“Okay. Goodnight.”

He summoned a smile and responded.

“Goodnight.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Several hours later Beverly woke from a restless doze. Turning over she realised she was still alone and threw back the covers, exiting the bed and padding barefoot out into the living area. By the glow of the dying fire she could see Jean-Luc, seated on the sofa, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands in the otherwise dim room. She approached slowly, keeping her voice soft.

“Jean-Luc?”

His head rose but otherwise he was still and silent.

“What are you still doing out here?”

She came to stand in front of him and he swallowed as his eyes took in the cut off T Shirt and skimpy panties she wore. He stood slowly and faced her, so close he could feel the warmth of her body. When he spoke his voice was deep and rough.

“I think it would be best if I spent the night on the Calypso.”

There was a moment’s silence before she asked quietly,

“Why?”

He sighed and resisted the urge to touch her face.

“Because I don’t know what to do.”

Beverly shook her head and stepped away.

“I don’t understand.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his forehead and took a large breath.

“Look Beverly…we’ve been best friends for years. I’m having trouble…”

Beverly came to a stop and whirled around, confronting him.

“Listen to me damn it! We love each other…right?”

He nodded.

“Okay. Do you want me…do you want to make love to me?”

He closed his eyes briefly and gritted his teeth.

“Oh God yes.”

Her voice rising, Beverly shouted,

“Then for Christ’s sake do it! You know how don’t you?”

Her acerbic tone made anger surge.

“Don’t take that sarcastic tone with me! You know damn well I know how!”

She stalked back to him and poked him in the chest.

“Then hear this. I’m going back to the bedroom. If you’ve got any balls you’ll follow me and do what I know you’ve wanted to do for years…and were always too frightened to admit!”

She got four metres away before the incensed man moved. With surprising speed he caught her by the arms and pushed her against the wall. His dark eyes glittered with anger and his voice was low and husky.

“You want balls Beverly? Try this!”

He grabbed her T Shirt and ripped it open before taking her head in his hands and kissing her savagely, pressing his body hard against hers and mimicking the actions of his thrusting hips with his tongue in her mouth. Beverly moaned with escalating desire and grabbed his buttocks, pulling him even closer. She tasted blood and was about to tear his shirt from him when he suddenly broke the kiss and stepped back, a look of consternation on his face. Lowering his head and wiping the blood from his mouth he muttered,

“I’m sorry Beverly…I shouldn’t have done that.”

Beverly’s anger spiked. She stepped up to him and fisted her hands in his shirt, screaming at him.

“For fuck’s sake what does it take for you to lose control? Why the hell can’t you just give in to your feelings for once?”

He grabbed her hands and tore them loose. Maintaining a vice-like grip on her wrists he shouted,

“Because I can’t! When I lose control…when I make mistakes there are consequences! People die!”

Beverly leaned forward, her voice still shrill.

“You’re not the bloody Captain now! This is just us! I want you Jean-Luc…my body burns for you but I’ll be damned if I’ll accept second fiddle to your over developed sense of duty. There are times my dear Jean-Luc when you have to be just a man and now is one of those times!”

She quickly wrenched her hands free of his grip and grabbed his shirt, tearing it down the front.

“Do you want me?”

He stepped closer, growling,

“Yes damn you! I ache for you!”

Her voice suddenly soft, she leaned forward until her lips hovered just above his.

“Then take me.”

Something inside him snapped. He gripped her shoulders and kissed her passionately while dragging her to the floor. While he ravaged her mouth he made short work of the torn shirt and panties. Beverly pulled his shirt from him and undid his trousers, slipping her hand inside and freeing his stiff erection. He suddenly left her mouth, descending to her breasts where he took a nipple into his mouth. The Doctor arched under him, her hands rising to grip his shoulders. Driven past the point of restraint, Jean-Luc pushed down his pants and briefs and took his throbbing penis in his hand. Beverly lifted her legs and wrapped them around his waist, panting,

“Yes…now…quickly!”

He entered her in one hard thrust and proceeded to pound into her, for the first time in his life, out of control and seeking nothing more than physical and emotional release, the product of years of repressed sexual tension.

Beverly writhed under him, her nails opening the skin of his back. He rose up on his arms and took her hands, pinning them to the floor by her head. Staring down sightlessly, he felt his orgasm rushing over him and quickened his thrusts. Beverly stiffened and shrieked. He was unaware of her climax. With his back whipsawing, he plunged into her and held himself deeply embedded while he jerked and convulsed through his orgasm.

As the sensations waned he collapsed, trying to regain his breath.

After several minutes he raised his head and looked down at his partner. With his voice trembling he called softly,

“Beverly? Are you all right?”

Her eyes opened and she smiled lopsidedly, nodding wearily. In a breathless whisper she managed,

“Wow.”

He had to smile, it was just too absurd.

“Wow indeed.”

She ran a hand over his back and he winced.

“Oh hell…I’m sorry. I’ll fix it for you, want to help me up?”

He sighed.
”I suppose lying here on the floor for the remainder of the night is out of the question?”

Beverly giggled.

“Ah…yes. Come on get up and give me a hand.”

He rose slowly until he was kneeling between her legs. He climbed stiffly to his feet and offered a hand, pulling his lover upright. While he stripped off his remaining clothing, Beverly disappeared and by the time he was wandering to the bedroom, she reappeared and took his hand, leading him to the bed. She encouraged him to sit while she climbed onto the bed behind him. He felt the warmth of the tissue regenerator and sighed with relief as he rolled his shoulders.

“Thank you…now it’s your turn.”

Confused, Beverly frowned.

“What?”

He half turned and took the instrument.

“Your lip…it’s split.”

Beverly’s fingers went to her mouth and she gently probed until she found the injury. Wincing, she smiled and winced again.

“Stop that, you’ll only make it bleed. Now stay still.”

It was repaired quickly and they sat quietly, staring at each other. Beverly smiled and leaned forward to kiss him tenderly.

“See, I told you it was simple.”

He snorted and shook his head.

“You’re unbelievable. Come on let’s take a shower and go to bed.”

She nodded and allowed him to lead her into the bathroom, a contented smile on her lips.

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Sometime later, lying quietly on his back in bed, Jean-Luc sighed and frowned. Beverly, sensing his unease, turned over and rested her head on his shoulder. In a sleepy whisper she asked,

“What’s wrong?”

Letting out a deep breath, the Captain opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling while absently stroking Beverly’s hair.

“Why did you do that to me?”

Beverly rose up on her elbow and looked down into his glittering eyes.

“Do what?”

“Push me over the edge. We could’ve taken our time…explored each other and made the experience more…”

“…romantic?”

“Well yes.”

Beverly sighed and lay back down, snuggling close to his body.

“That’s a little clichéd don’t you think?”

His voice registered his annoyance.

“Perhaps but I’ve been fantasising about making love to you for more years than I care to admit…and nowhere in those very elaborate fantasies was there a situation where I dragged you to the floor and fucked you like a crazed animal. In fact I find my actions repugnant.”

Beverly reached up and gripped his face.

“You really don’t get it do you?”

He growled.

“Get what?”

The Doctor released him and rolled onto her back.

“It was about more than the act Jean-Luc. What I was looking for was an honest reaction…an untainted emotional catharsis…the sex was almost irrelevant…a means to an end if you will.”

She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair.

“I had to find your centre Jean-Luc, the deep private part of you that’s never been let loose…I had to know how you really felt about me.”

He sat up to and gripped her elbow.

“By using mindless, meaningless sex? I don’t understand.”

She turned to him and shook her head.

“It wasn’t meaningless Jean-Luc! I already knew you loved me and I also knew you wanted me, but I needed to know just how much…if I could goad you into losing control, stripping away the urbanity and self imposed standards…and the romantic ideals, maybe I would find out if you really wanted me…all of me, not just a part time lover to assuage your inherent loneliness…and your guilt.”

He let go of her arm and pulled away.

“What guilt? What are you talking about?”

She stared at him and sighed.

“Jack.”

That one word hit him like a hammer. In a strangled whisper he hissed,

“How dare you!”

Beverly rubbed her forehead and shook her head.

“Oh I dare Jean-Luc, in fact I’m the only one who can. Why do you think you were having so much trouble coming to my bed?”

He closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“I told you…you’re my best friend and I was worrying just how to…”

Her voice was soft.

“Bullshit my love. It was Jack; it’s always been Jack. You still blame yourself don’t you.”

His voice was just audible.

“I was his commanding officer…he was my responsibility.”

The Doctor gently lifted his head.

“Did you kill him Jean-Luc?”

He looked into her eyes and shook his head.

“No, not directly…but…”

“No. You didn’t kill him my love it was an accident…you were not to blame and it’s time you started to believe that.”

He sighed and nodded mutely.

“And then there was your guilt over loving your best friend’s wife…even after he died. Don’t you think we’ve grown beyond that? Surely if I can love you without guilt or restraint, then so you can love me the same. Jean-Luc we’ve waited an awfully long time…life’s too short to stuff this up now.”

The Captain slowly reached for her hand and lifted it, gently kissing the inside of her wrist.

“Beverly I want to spend the rest of my life with you…every minute I have left and I’m willing to give you all that I have…are you willing to do the same? Or do you want something different, less…intense?”

Beverly sighed and shook her head.

“I knew if we started an intimate relationship it would be all or nothing Jean-Luc. If you’re willing, I’m in this for the long haul…everything, warts and all.”

He took her into his arms and kissed her tenderly.

“I will make you happy mon coeur, I promise.”

Beverly smiled and stroked his face.

“I’ll hold you to that.”

They settled back under the covers and slipped into sleep, still entwined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Early in the morning, with the first light of dawn creeping in through the drapes, Jean-Luc gently caressed his lover’s breast. She had her back to him and he spooned against her, nuzzling into her hair. She sighed and mewed softly, lifting her hand to cover his as it gently kneaded her breast.

“That’s nice.”

He softly bit her shoulder then sucked the skin.

In a hushed whisper he asked,

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve dreamed of waking up like this with you? In my arms…in my bed.”

He gently pushed his hips against her and she felt his erection. She slowly turned over and sighed as he immediately attacked the column of her neck, kissing and nibbling as he eased her onto her back. He worked his way to her ear and ran his tongue inside it. With a warm breath he informed her,

“I am going to do to you what I’ve fantasised about almost every morning for the past thirty years. I’m going to make love to you and I’m going to take my time. Any objections?”

She gasped as he gently bit her neck and shook her head.

“No…none.”

He smiled and descended to her breasts.

“Splendid.”

By the time he left her swollen, protruding nipples, Beverly was arching and moaning. Lazily he kissed his way down her stomach, dallying at her navel before slothfully tonguing and nipping the soft skin of her lower belly. Beverly restlessly squirmed, opening her legs and lifting her hands to his head, trying to guide him to her throbbing, wet sex.

Jean-Luc sat up and moved to kneel between her legs. While watching her carefully, he gently slid his fingers over her folds, his eyes glittering as she responded with a long moan. Parting her labia, he bent forward and swiped his tongue over her, at the same time slowly pushing two fingers deep inside her.

Beverly’s hips pushed up from the bed and she pulled his head closer.

He teased and tantalised, always careful to keep her on the edge, delighting in her sensuality as she writhed and articulated her desire with moans and sighs.

After several minutes of this exquisite torture he suddenly stopped and sat up. He removed his fingers and Beverly’s eyes snapped open, her hands fisting the sheets.

In a breathless plea she gasped,

“Oh God…don’t stop!”

His eyes travelled from her sex to her face, a smile evident.

“Patience my love.”

He leaned over her, placing one hand on the pillow next to her head. His other hand gripped his erection as he slowly pushed it through her folds. The Doctor lifted her hips, her hands caressing his back.

“Hmm…yes…oh yes…”

Her sultry voice made him close his eyes as he slowly sank into her. Beverly gasped and wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him closer and deeper. He kissed her passionately and started to gently thrust. With answering movements of her own they quickly established a sensuous rhythm, Jean-Luc employing long deep strokes.

Twice Beverly approached her climax and each time Jean-Luc stopped and contented himself with kissing her while she withdrew from the brink. Many minutes later he began to quicken his thrusts and Beverly followed him. He rose up on his arms and bent his knee in an effort to deepen his penetration. Beverly’s voice was one long wail as she began the ascension to euphoria. Jean-Luc felt his body prepare for release when suddenly rough hands grabbed his shoulders and arms and pulled him violently backwards. He was wrenched from his lover and propelled from the bed. Before he could assimilate what had happened he was struck a savage blow to the head and he descended into oblivion, his body lying senseless on the floor in a slowly spreading pool of blood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Beverly’s scream was truncated by a calloused hand across her mouth. A sharp pain in her temple stilled her panicked movements. A low menacing voice permeated her senses.

“Can you feel that?”

The pain in her head intensified and she nodded.

“That’s the business end of a disruptor. It’s set on ‘disable’ but at this range there’s no telling what it might do to you. Now when I remove my hand from your mouth, you’ll stay quiet and offer no resistance…understand?”

Blinking rapidly, Beverly nodded. The hand was removed and the pain in her temple diminished. She slowly sat up and pulled the sheet up, trying to cover her nakedness. With her heart pounding, she peered into the gloom of the room and saw four hooded, black-clad figures. One was bent over something out of her sight on the floor at the foot of the bed. The figure that had spoken to her addressed one of the others.

“Who the hell is he? She was supposed to be alone!”

The bent figure shook his head.

“I don’t know…I’m scanning him now.”

The leader turned his attention back to Beverly.

“I will allow you to get dressed. Behave or you will be punished.”

The Doctor swallowed and nodded, sliding carefully from the bed and quickly dressing. As she was putting on her shoes she heard,

“Oh the Gods have smiled on us!”

The leader went to the one who had spoken and grabbed his shoulder.

“Why?”

“Because that…”, he toed Jean-Luc’s unconscious body, “Is Captain Jean-Luc Picard.”

The leader stiffened.

“Is he alive?”

On hearing that query Beverly gasped and quickly moved to the foot of the bed. What she saw made her cry out. The naked form lay motionless, blood haloing his head.

“Jean-Luc!”

As she moved forward her arm was grabbed and the disruptor shoved savagely into her stomach.

“Silence!”

Tears welled in her eyes and she looked pleading at her anonymous assailant.

“Please…let me go to him…he’s hurt.”

The slap to her face made her see stars.

“I said silence!”

He turned back to his assistant.

“Answer me…is he alive?”

The man straightened and nodded.

“Yes.”

The leader rubbed his jaw through the fabric of his hood.

“This alters things somewhat…to our advantage. Give me the PADD.”

One of the others pulled a backpack from his shoulders and retrieved the requested item. He handed it to the leader and he gestured to another to guard Beverly while he sat on the bed and inputted new information into the device.

Five minutes later he was finished. He stood and tossed the PADD onto the bed, then pointed to Beverly and nodded. One of the beings moved quickly and slid a hood over her head. Her hands were pulled roughly behind her back and manacled. When she next heard the leader’s voice it was very close.

“Now listen carefully Doctor Crusher. You will accompany us. You will not struggle, attempt to escape or make a sound. If you cause us any concern whatsoever you will be punished and just so that you understand me, I will not hesitate to return to kill your Captain. Do I make myself clear?”

Beverly nodded, her mind reeling. She was grabbed roughly and shoved towards the door. As she stumbled forward her mind kept furnishing images of her lover sprawled naked and bleeding on the floor.

“My god Jean-Luc…be all right…please be all right.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Beverly was ushered outside and bundled into a vehicle. As it rose from the ground she settled into her seat and said quietly,

“Why are you doing this? What do you want with me?”

She felt the jab of the disruptor barrel and flinched. The voice of her abductor was so close she could smell his breath.

“I told you to be quiet. Are you going to do as you’re told…or am I going to have to convince you?”

In silence Beverly lowered her head and nodded.

“Good. All you have to do is behave yourself and this will be over soon. Now that we can enlist the help of your Captain…things might progress faster than we thought. Oh...by the way…I’m sorry we interrupted your…activities, although I wasn’t aware you were that…close to the Captain.”

The laughter that flowed around the interior of the hover car made Beverly glower and flush, but she remained silent.

 

 

                   The Doctor could only estimate the time she was in the hover car, but it seemed like it was some hours before it finally touched down. She listened carefully, trying to gain some clue as to where she was. The hatch opened and she was grabbed and hauled out, stumbling and falling to her knees. Strong hands lifted her and pushed her forward. She knew they had entered a building as the light dimmed and the sound echoed around her. Her abductors remained silent as she was ushered through several rooms then halted. A rough voice said,

“You’re about to go down several flights of stairs. Take your time.”

With hands gripping her arms on both sides, she felt her way with her feet and descended five flights before coming to a halt. It was dark and cold and she could hear water dripping. She was guided forwards until her shins met something solid. Yelping in alarm, she was roughly turned and pushed. It was with some relief that Beverly fell onto a soft surface. Hands lifted her feet and twisted her around until she was lying full length on her back.

“You will be kept here for the duration. There will be food and water brought later, in the meantime you will stay quiet and behave yourself. Understand?”

Struggling to sit up, two strong hands pushed her back down.

“No. Don’t move until we’re gone.”

She relaxed and listened as the footsteps retreated. With one final try she said,

“Wait!”

There was a moment’s silence until she heard,

“What is it?”

“Tell me what you want. I may be able to help you.”

The laughter was cruel.

“Oh you’ll help us make no mistake. Rest Doctor, if all goes well it will be over soon.”

Beverly was about to say more when she heard a door slamming shut. Then came the sounds of a bolt being shot. In the ensuing silence, in complete darkness, Beverly sent a prayer for deliverance, for herself and her lover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Jean-Luc became aware of a dreadful pounding in his head. He groaned softly and tried to open his eyes, finally succeeding when he managed to roll onto his side. In a weak voice he called,

“Beverly?”

Then louder,

“Beverly…are you there?”

When no answer was forthcoming he lifted one hand and gingerly felt the site of most of the pain on the back of his head. His fingers found a large lump and a gash some six centimetres long. He closed his eyes, took a large breath and slowly sat up. Immediately he was hit with waves of dizziness and nausea. Lowering his head, he breathed slowly through his nose trying to control the queasiness and spinning. With little success he knew he was going to vomit. Opening his eyes, he crawled towards the bathroom but didn’t make it.

The upheaval of his stomach left him trembling and weak. He collapsed onto his side and closed his eyes again, the spinning images and his double vision only serving to make matters worse.

He was not sure how long he lay on the floor, but it was coldness that stirred him.

Avoiding the mess on the floor, he rose to his knees and took some steadying breaths before slowly climbing to his feet. He stood still for several minutes attempting to overcome the giddiness. Unsuccessful, he walked unsteadily to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. Although his vision was disturbed, he could make out blood covering half of his face. He ran the taps and washed the gore from his skin, paying particular attention to the gash. When he thought he was clean, he wet a cloth and pressed it to the injury for a minute or two before bringing it to his face for inspection.

He grunted,

“Still bleeding, but not too bad.”

Next he tottered back into the bedroom and searched for his bag, finding it just inside the door. He dressed slowly and, while sitting on the bed putting on his boots, he found the PADD.

With great frustration, he found he was unable to read it. With his double vision and the spinning still evident, he had to get to a computer. Unwilling to use the chalet’s system, he picked up his communicator, stood and took a gentle breath.

“Computer one to beam up.”

He was disorientated when he materialised on the Calypso and staggered off the platform, stumbling to his hands and knees. He felt the trickle of blood either side of his head and rose slowly, going to a locker and retrieving a med kit. He took out some gauze and pressed it to the wound. When he felt able, he moved to the lounge and placed the PADD next to the on board system.

“Computer access PADD at this station and supply reading, audio only.”

The chirps of compliance were the only sounds as Jean-Luc sank gratefully into a chair.

“Ready.”

“Play.”

“Captain Picard I represent the Antarra Alliance. We have taken Doctor Crusher hostage to facilitate our demands. If you comply, she will remain relatively unharmed. Failure to accede will result in her slow death…piece by piece. We require you to deliver weapons and medical supplies to these coordinates.”

The computer supplied the coordinates and Jean-Luc frowned.

“That’s in the Gaorrn expanse.”

The computer continued.

“I will deliver to the chalet evidence of our unshakable determination to succeed in this venture Captain Picard, I hope it speeds your inevitable capitulation.”

“End of text.”

Jean-Luc sat back, still holding the gauze to his head.

“Oh God Beverly…where the hell are you?”

 

 

                 Several hours after Beverly was locked up, she was dozing when the bolt was suddenly released. The door opened and the Doctor felt the influx of clean air.

“Sit up.”

She complied slowly and gasped as her hood was abruptly removed. In darkness she made out a shadowy figure.

“What do you want?”

“I have some food and drink for you. Open your mouth.”

Frowning, Beverly obeyed and the rim of a cup was placed on her lower lip. She tilted her head back and drank greedily. When the cup was empty, the voice spoke again.

“Here…some food.”

She opened her mouth and some bread was put inside. Chewing thoughtfully, Beverly asked,

“Why won’t you tell me what you want? It’s obvious I’m being held hostage for something…maybe I can help? At least I could tell you if you’re going to succeed, which I might add, is very doubtful. I…”

The hand that closed over her mouth was rough and cold.

“Shut up. I’m here to feed you, not listen to your nonsense.”

Before she could say anything further, a piece of meat was pushed into her mouth. Over ten minutes she was fed then suddenly the hood was replaced. Without a word her captor left. Beverly lay back down and sighed.

“How are you my love? Just how much damage did they do to you?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Approximately two hours later the door opened again. Beverly sat up, her senses attuned. Rough hands pushed her around and the manacles were released. Her right hand was grabbed and forced onto a cold hard surface and her fingers separated.

“This will be quick Doctor…I suggest you keep still.”

Beverly stiffened, her heart accelerating.

“What..?”

There was a sharp chopping sound and a burning sensation at the base of the little finger of her hand. Beverly gasped and tried to pull her hand back but a strong hand held her wrist.

“I said keep still.”

Stifling a sob, Beverly heard hissing and coolness pervaded the burning. Soon a growing numbness crept over one side of her hand.

“I have removed the small finger of your right hand. If your Captain is smart and accedes to our demands, that’s all you’ll lose. I have applied a clotting agent, an analgesic and a web bandage. I suggest you leave it alone.”

Her hands were once again manacled and the assailants left. Stunned and in shock, Beverly sat on her cot, tears sliding down her cheeks.

“Dear God…help me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Jean-Luc staggered into the cockpit and established a channel to his ship.

“Enterprise this is Picard.”

The reply was almost instant.

“Captain this is Riker.”

“Number One I need you to bring the Enterprise to my location immediately. Doctor Crusher has been kidnapped and threats made as to her well being. I will activate the Calypso’s transponder. You are cleared to exceed warp five, in fact I order you to maximum warp. Get here Commander…and quickly.”

“Aye Captain, we’re on our way. Riker out.”

With approximately seven hours to wait, Jean-Luc went back to the lounge and activated the computer again. He called up the coordinates and instructed the computer to give an audio read out of the system.

“The inputted coordinates refer to a planet within the Gaorrn expanse. The Starfleet designation for this planet is G337. The Starship USS Supply visited the area eight point two standard years ago and noted four separate industrialised colonies on the planet, each apparently autonomous and non-aligned. Due to the absence of warp technology, the prime directive was instigated and contact was avoided. The next scheduled visit to the planet is not for another fifty five standard years.”

Jean-Luc frowned and sat back, wincing at the pounding of his head.

“Computer access any information on the Antarra Alliance.”

“Accessing.”

The Captain closed his eyes and waited.

“There is no information under that name.”

“Damn!”

He sat forward and cradled his head in his hands.

“Merde! I’m in the dark.”

 

 

 

 

 

                Several hours later Jean-Luc found himself slumped sideways in the chair. The gauze had dried to the back of his head and the thumping headache continued. A persistent chirping roused him and he sat up groggily, momentarily confused.

“What?”

Taking a deep breath he regained his senses and rose, staggering to the cockpit. Slapping off the chime, he accessed the computer.

“Attention Captain Picard, the Enterprise is approaching your position. Deactivate transponder.”

Growling low, Jean-Luc tabbed off the unit and opened a channel.

“Enterprise this is Picard.”

“Riker here Captain…we’re about eight minutes away.”

“Excellent. Establish a high equatorial orbit, I’ll beam up immediately.”

“Aye Captain.”

Jean-Luc started to rise but a wave of dizziness had him collapsing in the seat. Holding his head, he groaned and gritted his teeth.

“I don’t have bloody time for this!”

He lurched to his feet and staggered to the transporter pad.

“One to beam to the Enterprise. Energise.”

Will was waiting for his Captain when he materialised. The older man staggered again and stumbled forward, falling into his startled Exec’s arms.

“Sir! You’re hurt!”

As Jean-Luc tried to regain his feet, Will spoke to the Lieutenant on duty, while stepping back onto the pad.

“Two to beam direct to Sickbay.”

Before the Captain could protest, they disappeared in a shimmer of blue light.

 

 

 

 

 

                The effect of two quick transports was too much for the injured man. He pulled free of his First Officer’s arms and fell backwards, rolling onto his knees and heaving wretchedly as his already empty stomach rebelled at the dizziness. The hiss of a hypospray heralded a cessation of vomiting. Jean-Luc took a deep breath and attempted to stand. Strong hands prevented him.

“No Captain Picard. Please stay still while I scan you.”

About to remonstrate with the Doctor, his words were cut short by his Exec. Knowing his CO, the big man sought to mollify him.

“Hold still Captain it won’t take long.”

Jean-Luc scowled and sat back on his haunches. The Second in Command of Sickbay, Doctor Selar watched her tricorder intently then closed it and grabbed Jean-Luc under his arms.

“I want you on a bio bed Captain.”

He gritted his teeth and tried to extricate himself from her grasp.

“I can assure you I’m fine Doctor.”
He turned to Will.

“Initiate a scan of the planet…see if you can locate Doctor Crusher. It’s a long shot but she might have secreted her communicator on her person.”

Will cast a look at Selar and sighed.

“Aye Sir, but I don’t think you’ll be leaving Sickbay just yet. I’ll keep you informed.”

About to argue, he was stopped by Selar’s dispassionate voice.

“Captain Picard you have a skull fracture, a sub dural haematoma and a severe concussion. I require you in surgery. Now.”

Jean-Luc shook his aching head and began to step away.

“No. I will rest when we’ve found Doctor Crusher…not before.”

He didn’t hear the hypospray that sedated him but his First Officer caught him before he hit the floor. Under Selar’s direction, he was put on a gurney and taken to surgery. Over her shoulder the Vulcan Doctor said,

“I will inform you when we are finished.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Will stepped onto the Bridge and went straight to the Science Station. Issuing the Captain’s orders he watched as Data, the android Second in Command, inputted several commands into the ship’s computers.

“The sensors will scan now Sir. We should know soon if we can find her.”

Deanna Troi, ship’s Counsellor, came and stood by her lover and gently gripped his arm.

“She’s down there Will. I have a vague feeling…a sense of fear…it’s definitely her.”

Will turned to the petite woman and stared down at her.

“Can you pinpoint her?”

Deanna shook her head.

“No. All I know is that she’s somewhere on the planet.”

Just then there was a call from Tactical.

“Commander we are being hailed.”

Will nodded and strode to the Command Well.

“On screen.”

A thin moustachioed man stared imperiously at the screen.

“Please identify yourselves.”

Will smiled and bowed slightly.

“I am Commander William Riker of the Enterprise. We have urgent business here.”

“I see. Who is the Captain of your fine vessel?”

Will frowned and tilted his head.

“Why do you want to know?”

The little man looked both ways and leaned closer to the screen.

“I have had recent contact with…Mr.Packard.”

Will raised his eyebrows and scratched his beard.

“Oh. And who would he be?”

The official sat up and waved a hand dismissively.

“You know perfectly well who he is!”

The First Officer cast a glance at Deanna who had joined him.

“Ah…actually no I don’t, Mr.?”

Rolling his eyes theatrically, the obsequious man sighed.

“I am Mark Webber, head of interstellar traffic. I met with your…Mr.Packard of the Calypso some days ago.”

Will’s confused face cleared.

“Ah yes…Mr. Packard. I understand. He’s aboard our ship at the moment…we have…business to attend to.”

The officious little man smiled unctuously and wiped his moustache. With a ridiculous wink, he nodded.

“I understand completely. You are cleared for orbit, I will trouble you no further.”

The screen went blank and Will blinked slowly.

“What a complete idiot!”

Deanna caught his hand and looked up into his eyes.

“What if we can’t find her Will? What’s this all about?”

Will took her hand and brought it to his lips.

“Once the Captain’s out of surgery I’m sure he’ll bring us up to speed. In the meantime all we can do is carry out his orders.”

Deanna nodded and sighed.

“How badly is he hurt?”

The big man smiled.

“It’s nasty, but nothing Selar can’t fix.”

The Counsellor turned to look out the viewscreen, watching the lazily turning planet below.

“Stay well Beverly…we’ll find you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Three and a half hours later Selar was having a very one-sided argument with a groggy Captain.

“Sir I cannot let you go yet. Not only are you still under the influence of the anaesthesia but you will experience intermittent pain and vision disturbances for some time yet”

He struggled into a sitting position and scowled.

“Give me a stimulant.”

The Vulcan shook her head.

“Sir I would be negligent in my duties as your physician if I…”

At the end of his shortened fuse, Jean-Luc barked,

“Look Doctor the life of your CO hangs in the balance and I hold the only pertinent information about her abduction. I need to get to the Bridge. Now I’m ordering you to give me a stimulant and supply me with a uniform. Now.”

The Doctor maintained his glare then inclined her head.

“Very well Captain I will do as you order, however I wish it understood that I do so under protest.”

Jean-Luc nodded brusquely.

“So noted.”

The stimulant was administered and a uniform supplied. Within minutes Jean-Luc strode out of Sickbay, ignoring the ache in his head and the occluded vision in his left eye.

Selar contacted the Bridge and told Will of her actions and protest. She also informed the Commander of the Captain’s state of health.

Jean-Luc strode confidently onto his Bridge and knew immediately that Will had been talking to Selar. His worried, concerned face spoke volumes. Squashing his annoyance and anger, Jean-Luc issued his orders.

“Data access the Calypso’s computer and download all information it has from a PADD I uploaded this afternoon. Transfer the data to the Science Station and analyse it. Will I want you to accompany me down to the planet. Bring a security detail…I want the chalet scoured for clues. Data join us dirtside when you’re finished here.”

Will straightened and nodded.

“Aye Sir…but may I speak with you Captain…in private?”

Glaring at his Exec, Jean-Luc turned on his heel and stalked into his Ready Room. Will followed and stood to attention as his Captain seated himself behind his desk.

“What is it Commander?”

Will looked down sympathetically.

“Captain I know you’re not well. Why don’t you stay aboard and let me run this investigation? Selar says that you…”

Jean-Luc fisted his hands on his desktop, his dark eyes glittering and his deep voice deceptively soft.

“What Doctor Selar has to say is irrelevant! I will lead this investigation and you will not question my abilities again. Is that clear?”

Will clenched his teeth.

“Yes Captain.”

“Good. Now kindly execute my orders.”

“Aye Sir.”
Will left the Ready Room and Jean-Luc closed his eyes.

“I’m coming my love…hold on.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Lying on her side, the pain of her amputated finger slowly became evident. At first a dull ache, it soon grew to a throbbing pain that interfered with her ability to sleep. With a sigh of resignation, the Doctor sat up and tried to ease the discomfort in her hand.

“Dammit it bloody hurts!”

She stood and slowly shuffled across the small chamber, using her feet as guides in the complete blackness. With a bump, her right foot hit the far wall. Turning her face, she pressed her cheek against the stone, feeling its coldness through the fabric of the hood, and shuffled sideways until she found the door. With a sharp kick she shouted,

“Hey! I need to go to the toilet!”

She kicked again and again, yelling and calling until she heard the bolt being undone. She stepped back and waited.

The rush of air as the door opened made her step back further but she wasn’t prepared for the rough hand that grabbed her arm and propelled her backwards to the cot.

“Shut up!”

Indignation rose quickly.

“Don’t you tell me to shut up! I need to relieve myself.”

She was suddenly swung around and pushed face first against the wall. Her captor gripped her injured hand and squeezed.

“Ah! Stop…it hurts!”

“It’ll hurt more if you don’t shut your mouth.”

Panting in pain, Beverly gasped,

“What the hell am I supposed to do…wet my pants?”

She was roughly turned and pushed onto the bed.

“Someone will come to take care of your needs. In the mean time…shut up.”

His footsteps receded and the door slammed. Beverly rolled onto her side and curled up into a ball.

Ten minutes later the door opened again. As Beverly began to sit up, she was grabbed and hauled to her feet. Rough hands undid her pants and tugged them, and her underwear down. The frightened Doctor struggled and twisted but two more hand held her shoulders.

“Stay still or we will hurt you!”

With her pants pushed down to her knees, Beverly pleaded,

“Don’t…please don’t…”

One of the voices softened.

“Don’t worry Doctor we don’t intend to rape you.”
She heard something placed on the floor behind her. The hands on her shoulders pressed down, forcing her to sit. She found herself seated on a bucket. When nothing happened, a voice said brusquely,

“Hurry up, we haven’t got all day.”

Under the cloth of her hood, the embarrassed Doctor reddened. Gritting her teeth, she willed her body to relax and finally convinced herself to empty her bladder. Once finished she was lifted to her feet and her clothing restored. She saw light through her hood and watched as it receded to the door.

In desperation she asked,

“Don’t go! Tell me what you want from me…what are you asking for my ransom?”

One of her captors laughed.

“A lot more than you’re worth my dear Doctor, but judging by your…closeness with Captain Picard, we’re betting he’ll pay what we want to get you back.”

She shook her head.

“You’re wrong. He won’t pay and neither will Starfleet. We don’t give in to the demands of terrorists.”

She gasped as a strong hand gripped her face.

“Then your life will end very soon.”

The footsteps retreated then paused.

“Oh and Doctor…what you were frightened of before? We will take our pleasure with you before you die and unlike your Captain…we won’t be interrupted.”

The door slammed and Beverly slowly sat on her bed, willing her tears to remain unshed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                The party of eight officers materialised in the living room. Jean-Luc led Will and three security staff into the bedroom and pointed to the mess on the floor.

“The blood and vomit are mine. I never saw my assailants but I assume they took Doctor Crusher from the bed. We need to scan this room and all the entrances to this building. I want to know where and how they got in.”

Just then a Lieutenant entered the room and stood to attention before his Captain.

“Sir there’s something you should see in the foyer.”

Nodding to Will who began to issue his orders, Jean-Luc followed the young man out to the front door. There on the floor was a small box with Jean-Luc’s name on the lid.

“Have you scanned it Lieutenant?”
”Aye Captain. It contains organic matter.”

Jean-Luc bent and picked it up.

“Any DNA residue…finger prints?”

“No Captain.”

He eased off the lid and blanched.

“Mon Dieu!”

He turned abruptly and called Will.

“Commander Riker!”

The big man came quickly and Jean-Luc showed him the contents of the box.

“Oh my God…that’s a finger.”

Jean-Luc nodded and noticed something under the lid. Prising it free with his fingers, it was a folded piece of paper. He opened it and read.

“Captain Picard by now you will have realised what is at stake. You will accede to our demands or the next time it will be two fingers, then three and then the hands. We can continue this indefinitely…after all how many body parts can be amputated before the body fails?

You have twenty four hours to comply.”

Jean-Luc clenched his jaw and handed Will both the box and the note.

“Get them up to the ship and analyse them. I want irrefutable proof that’s Beverly’s finger, then have it put in medical stasis. There is a chance it can be reattached.”

“Aye Sir.”

The Captain strode back into the bedroom and picked up his bag. Calling an Ensign, he instructed his belongings to be transported back to his quarters. As the woman was doing his bidding, Data came into the room. Jean-Luc turned and said,

“Report.”

“Captain as you know there is no reference on our computers of the Antarra Alliance. However I have contacted Starfleet and requested all relevant information on planet G337. It appears the world is in the grip of civil war. A Vulcan science ship visited the planet seven months ago and scanned thoroughly. My supposition is that the Alliance is one of the warring factions. How they came to be aware of Starfleet…and Doctor Crusher is a mystery, however the general feeling at Command is that the Ferengi have been interfering with the planet for obvious mercantile gain, most probably weapons dealings.”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“If that is so, why would they want weapons from us?”

Data tilted his head.

“Because Captain, this way they get them for free. It is well known the Ferengi always make a handsome profit from their dealings.”

Jean-Luc crossed his arms over his chest.

“So they want weapons and medical supples? Have any other factions made any requests of anybody? Do they seem to be aware of Starfleet?”

“Not to our knowledge Captain.”

The older man rubbed his fingers over his lower lip.

“So we’re dealing with a rogue element. Somehow they found out about us and…for whatever reason…chose Doctor Crusher as their pawn.”

Data nodded.

“Yes Sir, but what about you? Were you meant to be part of this or was it mere fortunate happenstance? Judging by the severity of your injury, I would hypothesise that they didn’t expect you to be here. Else why would they risk your life?”

Jean-Luc looked at his Second Officer and frowned.

“All very good questions Data. Hopefully we’ll have some answers soon.”

Will strode into the room and reported.

“Captain, Selar has confirmed it…the finger is Beverly’s. It’s the little finger of her right hand. It was amputated without anaesthetic with a sharp metal blade.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and swallowed, suddenly suffering a wave of dizziness and nausea. He lifted his head and stepped back, but stumbled. Will quickly went to his side and gripped his upper arm.

“Captain maybe you should sit down.”

Jean-Luc nodded and allowed Will to lead him to the bed where he sat and lowered his head.

“Are you all right Sir?”

He nodded.

“I’m fine Will, just give me a minute.”

After a while the Captain took a deep breath and raised his head.

“Data I want you to go to the Calypso and retrieve the PADD I found. Analyse it thoroughly and let me know what you find.”

“Aye Captain.”

He then spoke to Will.

“Number One when the team has finished here, have some crew clean up this mess. I don’t want the resort authorities getting wind of this. I will be speaking with the interstellar director…he may have some information, you never know.”

Will grinned.

“Do you mean Mark Webber…Mr.Packard?”

Jean-Luc looked up and frowned.

“You know about that?”

“Yes Captain. While you were in surgery we were contacted by Mr.Webber and I had the dubious pleasure of talking with him. He’s very…oily.”

The Captain nodded.

“That he is but he has a very overactive imagination and a over developed opinion of his own importance. With a little manipulation he may be forthcoming with information.”

“Very good Sir. And now? What do you want to do?”

Jean-Luc stood a little unsteadily and sighed.

“For now I’m returning to the Enterprise and putting together a little ruse for our mystery Alliance.”

Will watched as his Captain slowly walked from the room and sighed. Calling for an Ensign, he assigned the duties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge scratched his head and frowned.

“Yes Captain we can do it but it’ll be a little tricky.”

“How so?”

Geordi stepped up to the monitor and brought up a schematic.

“Well Sir if you want these containers to disintegrate as soon as anyone attempts to open them, we have to do it in such a way as to avoid injuring people…that is I assume you don’t want any casualties?”

Jean-Luc stared down at the screen and nodded absently.

“It would be best Commander. How will you do it?”

Geordi smiled with a conspirator’s enthusiasm.

“A self-activating phase overload. In essence the trigger will cause the container and the others to vaporise from the inside out. Hopefully the only way anybody could be hurt is if they managed to get their hands inside as it goes off and that’s unlikely with the elapse time between activation and annihilation is less than a second.”

The Captain nodded and ran a hand over his head.

“And it won’t adversely affect the weapons? There won’t be any explosive reactions?”

“No Sir. All the weapons will be deactivated. Same with the medical supplies. There will be nothing that can react with the overload.”

Closing his eyes against the insidious pain in his head, Jean-Luc summoned a smile and tabbed off the monitor.

“Splendid Geordi, well done. Let me know when the containers are ready and I’ll arrange to have them transported to the Calypso.”

“Aye Sir.”

                   After talking with Geordi, Jean-Luc retired to his Ready Room. Sitting at his desk, he activated his computer and tried to concentrate on the words appearing on the screen, but the growing pain in his head made it impossible. Tabbing off the monitor, he stood and walked unsteadily to the sofa, stretching out and closing his eyes, his hands holding his head. For fifteen minutes he lay quietly, but the dizziness and rising nausea made him sit up and take several deep breaths. Opening his eyes, he groaned as the light lanced in, his now blurred vision unable to cope.

With an abrupt upheaval, his stomach rebelled and he staggered to his feet and lurched towards the bathroom. He got just inside the door when the pain in his head spiked and his legs gave way. The floor rushed up to meet him as he collapsed senseless on the carpet.

 

 

 

 

 

                    Will arrived on the Bridge to find Data in Command. With a raised eyebrow, he silently asked the android the whereabouts of the Captain. Data nodded to the Ready Room door.

“Captain Picard is in the Ready Room Sir.”

With a nod of thanks, Will went to the doors and pressed the chime. The expected reply wasn’t forthcoming. Frowning, Will pressed the chime again and looked over his shoulder to Data.

“How long has he been in there?”

“Two point three hours Commander.”

“Have you heard anything from him?”

“No Sir.”

Will faced the doors and addressed the computer.

“Computer open Ready Room doors, authorisation Riker Gamma Delta three eight.”

The doors hissed open and Will stepped cautiously in, his eyes roaming around, trying to spot the sole occupant.

“Captain?”

Silence greeted his soft call.

“Captain Picard?”

Nothing. The big man looked again around the room before venturing into the private bathroom. There on the floor sprawled the Captain, a small puddle of bile near his slack mouth. Will crouched by his CO and checked his pulse while calling for help.

“Medical emergency in the Ready Room! Captain Picard is unconscious.”

“On our way.”

While he waited for the medical team, he checked Jean-Luc’s airway and eased his head to a more comfortable position. Very soon the doors opened and Selar appeared at his side. Will watched as a tricorder was deployed and a diagnosis made.

“There has been further bleeding on the brain. I will transport the Captain to Sickbay.”

Will stood and nodded.

“Very well, I’ll be down shortly.”

The team and its patient disappeared and Will went back to the Bridge.

“Data Captain Picard is ill. Do you know what he was doing?”

“Yes Commander. He was waiting to hear from Geordi as to when the bogus containers would be ready for transport to the Calypso.”

Will frowned.

“Bogus containers?”

Data stood and invited Will to precede him to the Science Station. Bringing up the relevant schematic, Data explained.

“Captain Picard has no intention of acceding to the abductor’s demands, but he does need to buy some time. To that end, he has elicited Geordi’s expertise in creating containers filled with deactivated weapons and non-specific medical supplies that will vaporise as soon as anyone tries to open them. The hope is that the ruse will afford us the time needed to locate and liberate Doctor Crusher.”

Will nodded and scratched his beard.

“Ok I can buy that, but how was the Captain going to get the containers to the coordinates?”

Data’s eyes left Will and went to the floor.

“I believe he was going to take the consignment himself, in the Calypso.”

“What? That’s insane! All he’ll achieve is giving them another hostage.”

The android shrugged.

“Perhaps Commander but I feel that Captain Picard is highly motivated in the matter.” He dropped his voice and said softly,

“Did you notice Sir, the abduction took place in the only bedroom, early in the morning and both the Captain and the Doctor were present? Also analysis of the bed shows DNA from both of them. Does that not suggest a…romantic liaison?”

Will’s eyes hardened and he frowned at his friend.

“What has that to do with anything?”

Keeping his voice soft, Data elaborated.

“It is well known that Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher have been close friends for many years and for some time there has been boisterous speculation as to whether or not they had become intimate. If this has happened the Captain would be even more determined than usual to find Doctor Crusher…and punish her abductors. It is my understanding that love, including the physical manifestation of the emotion can be a powerful binding factor. The Captain is not only looking to find his friend, but his mate and lover. Surely that makes his actions understandable?”

Will’s frown dissipated and he smiled.

“It does indeed Data. How much time do we have.”

“Eighteen point three hours. I am expecting Geordi’s call soon and the yacht is capable of covering the distance to G337 in the time available.”

The First Officer nodded decisively.

“That it is but it won’t be the Captain at the helm…it’ll be me.”

The Commander turned towards the turbolift.

“You have the Bridge Data, I’ll be in Sickbay. Let me know when Geordi calls.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    The medical facility was quiet when Will arrived. Seeing that the Captain was in surgery, Will went to Beverly’s office and made himself a cup of coffee and settled into the chair in front of the desk. An hour and a quarter later he was woken from a light doze and sat up, knuckling his eye.

“How is he?”

Selar sat at the desk and clasped her hands. She looked dispassionately at her Commander.

“Captain Picard is resting comfortably. The bleed has been stopped and the area repaired however this time I will insist that he stay long enough to properly recuperate. I will relieve and sedate him if necessary.”

Will nodded and sighed.

“Agreed. Is he conscious? Can I see him?”

“I regret Commander, Captain Picard is unconscious and will remain so for some hours. You may see him if you wish.”

The First Officer stood and shook his head.

“No that’s not necessary. I will be off the ship for a while Doctor, kindly make your reports to Commander Data.”

“Yes Sir.”

As Will left Sickbay he got a call from the Bridge.

“Data to Riker.”

“Riker here.”

“Commander Geordi reports the containers are ready for transport.”

“Acknowledged. Commence transport. I’ll contact you again from the Calypso. Riker out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Beverly had been left alone for several hours. She had slept restlessly, waking each time her body pressed on her manacled hands, the pain from the amputation flaring and throbbing constantly. She sat up slowly and backed against the wall, pulling her legs up and resting her chin on her knees.

“Did they hurt you badly my love? Where are you now? Are you all right? Have you contacted the Enterprise…or did you go straight to Command? I know you won’t accede to their demands…but I don’t mind admitting I’m frightened Jean-Luc. They hurt me too and threatened more if you won’t deal with them. I know you can’t…and I know this must be tearing you apart. If anything happens and I don’t come home to you, know that I love you Jean-Luc and my last thoughts will be of you.”

She sighed and sniffed softly. The bolt rattled sharply and Beverly tensed. The door opened and she heard two sets of footsteps.

“Ah, you’re awake. Good. We have some questions.”

Beverly lowered her legs and sat up, straightening her back and lifting her chin defiantly.

One of the voices murmured something and she felt someone sit beside her.

“What can you tell us about the Federation?”

Keeping her voice steady, Beverly replied,

“What do you want to know?”

“Is it true that you have a rule that forbids you from interfering with cultures that are less technologically advanced than you?”

“Yes, it’s called the Prime Directive.”

The voice growled,

“That’s a bit arrogant and selfish isn’t it? Surely you must have come across instances where your intervention could’ve prevented large-scale loss of life? How could you stand idly by and watch people die and not help?”

Beverly sighed and shook her hooded head.

“Believe me it’s not easy and there have been times when I’ve argued against the Prime Directive, but over all it is a sound policy. We found, through some disastrous mistakes, that introducing technology to people who are not ready for it can cause more trouble than it’s worth. We learned the hard way to not interfere.”

The person sitting beside her rose and began to pace around the small room.

“We have been told that the Federation exploits those worlds that join, that the populations are subjugated and the planetary resources are stripped. Is that true?”

“Unequivocally no! The Federation of Planets is a unifying organisation dedicated to the betterment of all those who join. We share our technology and protect each other both in times of peace and conflict. Indeed, Starfleet has many Federation species within its ranks and is richer for it. Where did you get your information? It’s completely wrong.”

The footsteps stopped.

“That is not your concern. You mention Starfleet. Is it not a military organisation? Are not its vessels ships of war?”

Beverly sighed deeply.

“Starfleet is modelled on a military basis, that is there is a chain of command and an oath taken to obey our superiors but that is necessary when living and working in deep space. Starfleet was originally formed for exploration but over the centuries, as we learned there are belligerent species, we came to the inevitable conclusion that we had to be ready to defend ourselves. Recent conflicts with very determined and powerful enemies have forced us to build deadlier ships but we live with the hope we will one day be able to return to our first principle and that is exploration.”

“I see. So the Federation is a vast collection of similarly technologically equal planets, spread all over the quadrant, protected and serviced by Starfleet. You hoard your technology and ignore those who may desperately need your help. How am I doing so far?”

Beverly growled.

“That’s a rather jaundiced view but basically correct.”

The voice came closer and Beverly swallowed, resisting the urge to shrink from its nearness.

“Well Doctor Crusher I find you much vaunted Federation abhorrent! Do you realise my people have been at war for years? If we had your assistance the killing could have been stopped ages ago, saving thousands, if not millions of lives. If not for the intervention of our new friends we might never had found a way to end the bloodshed and through them we found an even easier way…and you my dear Doctor will be the catalyst. How does it feel, to be the fulcrum of a mighty blow, being the motive for the Federation’s inadvertent intervention?”

The voice laughed.

“To think, my backward little world…forcing Starfleet’s hand!”

The voice receded.

“It will be a great day.”

Beverly raised her shaky voice.

“I’ve already told you, neither the Federation or Starfleet will accede to your demands. The smartest thing you could do is release me and forget about your plans. They won’t help you.”

The Doctor suddenly gasped as a strong hand gripped her throat.

“Well then your life will be worthless. Do you have a God Doctor? Because if you do you’d better pray as your time is running out!”

The hand squeezed harder and Beverly began to feel light headed. With a hard shove, she was pushed backwards, striking her head on the wall. The hand released her and the men left, slamming and bolting the door behind them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Will Riker sat back in the pilot’s seat and stretched. Having been under way for twenty minutes, he sighed and raised his head.

“Computer, ETA at G337?”

“At current speed, eight point seven hours.”

He stood and ambled back into the living area, coming to stand in the middle of the room, his eyes unfocussed and his mind far away. Shaking his head, he strolled into the sleeping quarters, toed off his boots and shed his tunic. Once stretched out in the tastefully appointed room, he said softly,

“Computer wake me in seven and a half hours.”

As he drifted off to sleep, his thoughts went to Deanna Troi. In slumber he smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           Data was seated in the Command chair when a report came up from engineering.

“Bridge this is LaForge.”

“Bridge here Geordi.”

“I have the analysis of the PADD…there’s nothing there Data, it’s clean.”

The android tilted his head.

“Understood Geordi. What of the box? Was it transported in?”

“We think so but somehow the transporter trace has been eliminated, but I’m still working on it…I have a few ideas.”

Data nodded.

“I thought you might. I think it prudent I remind you that the Ferengi have been involved somehow in this situation and they have access to technology we may be lacking.”

The Second officer heard his friend sigh.

“Yeah I know…that’s what’s got me curious. If you can, come down and join me Data I could use your help. I’ve a few experiments to run, I’ll keep you informed. Engineering out.”

Data sat back and devoted more of his phenomenal brain to the puzzle.

“I will see you soon my friend.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Hours after his most recent surgery, Jean-Luc’s eyes opened sluggishly and he grimaced as his throbbing head made his stomach sour. Raising a shaky hand he covered his eyes and awaited the inevitable arrival of a medical practitioner, alerted to his wakefulness by the silent alarm.

Duly Selar entered and stood beside the Captain, stoically inspecting the readouts on the biobed monitor. He lay still, regulating his breathing and trying to ignore the dizziness and associated symptoms of pain and nausea.

The hiss of the hypospray was welcome and he relaxed as the worse effects of his injury subsided. Quietly he said,

“Thank you.”

Selar administered another drug and gently took the Captain’s hand and lowered it to the bed. Jean-Luc opened his eyes experimentally and sighed

“What happened?”

Her voice dispassionate, Selar tilted her head.

“You experienced another episode of bleeding in the brain. Because of your insistence on being released and your subsequent refusal to recuperate sufficiently, a combination of exhaustion, stress and anxiety caused a breakdown in the delicate cerebral tissue of the injury site manifesting in a bleed.”

Jean-Luc nodded slowly.

“And it is repaired?”

“Yes Captain.”

“Prognosis?”

“Provided you rest properly this time and give the injury the time it needs to heal sufficiently, I envisage no long term problems. However I will not entertain releasing you this time Captain Picard. In the absence of Doctor Crusher I am acting CMO of the ship and as such I will exercise my prerogative of keeping you in Sickbay until I am satisfied you have made a satisfactory recovery. Please understand I will sedate you and relieve you of duty to enforce my decision.”

Jean-Luc resisted the futility of showing his anger and despair. Instead he sighed softly and nodded.

“Very well. And the residual symptoms?”

The Doctor clasped her hands in front of her and arched one perfect eyebrow.

“You have endured two haemorrhages and two surgical procedures on your brain and although the injury has been repaired, there is bruising and swelling that is best left to settle with as little intervention as possible. You will continue to experience pain, nausea, vertigo and mild vision disturbances for a few days. I will endeavour to treat these symptoms as they appear and you should be assured you will be comfortable for most of the time. Captain Picard I understand your reluctance to stay here in Sickbay but I must remind you that we, that is the medical personnel, are reliant on your compliance with your treatment. I hope you cause us no problems.”

Irritated with her presumed air of superiority, Jean-Luc turned his head and glared, an action completely futile when aimed at the emotionless Vulcan.

The Doctor inclined her head and stepped back.

“I will leave you now. An orderly will be in shortly with a meal and if you experience any symptoms that require treatment do not hesitate to call either myself or any other duty Doctor.”

In silence and maintaining his glacial glare, Jean-Luc watched as the woman left. His eyes travelled back to the ceiling and he gritted his teeth.

“Dammit…I’ve got to get out of here!”

Aloud he said,

“Picard to Bridge.”

The reply was instant.

“Data here Captain.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Where is Commander Riker?”

“He is on the Calypso Sir, en route to G337 to deliver the containers.”

Jean-Luc struggled to sit up, once again triggering the alarm.

“What! Who authorised his departure?  When did he leave?”

Data frowned.

“He authorised his own departure Captain and he left six point nine hours ago.”

Selar entered the room and immediately remonstrated with the agitated man.

“Captain Picard lie down. You must…”
Jean-Luc held up a hand and silenced her with a brusque shake of his head.

“Data have you been in contact with him since he left?”

“No Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened.

“Open a channel. I want to talk to him.”

“Aye Captain.”

Selar gently gripped Jean-Luc’s shoulder and began to ease him down. He glared, grabbed her hand and removed it.

“Not now Doctor!”

Data’s voice sounded again.

“Channel open Captain.”

Jean-Luc waited but nothing happened. He frowned and said,

“Picard to Riker!”

There was a snuffling sound followed by a muffled curse. A sleepy voice responded.

“Riker here Captain. How are you Sir?”

The tense man dismissed the query.

“What the hell are you doing? Who authorised your current actions?”

Will took a large breath and as he began his answer, Selar approached the Captain with a hypo. He saw her coming and grabbed her hand.

“NO! You will not sedate me, this is too important.”

He returned his attention to his Exec. Selar quietly called for assistance.

“I didn’t get that Commander. What did you say?”

“I had to Sir we were running out of time. You were unavailable so I took matters into my own hands.”

The Captain closed his eyes and gritted his teeth.

“Very well, what are your plans?”

“Well Sir I thought I’d transport the containers down to the coordinates then sit back and watch with surveillance until they’re collected. I had an idea I might try to beam up whoever turns up.”

Two nurses entered and spoke quietly to Selar. Jean-Luc ignored them.

“That has possibilities Will but you’ll have to be very careful, these people are ruthless. I suggest…”

Two sets of hands grabbed the Captain while Selar administered the sedative. Jean-Luc had enough time to gasp before losing consciousness. He was gently lowered to the bed and Selar spoke to Will.

“Commander Riker I have just sedated Captain Picard. He will be unresponsive for some time.”

Will sighed.

“Understood. Will he be all right?”

The Vulcan tilted her elegant head.

“In time Commander, yes he will make a full recovery.”

“Fine, thank you. Riker out.”

The Doctor covered her patient with a blanket and dismissed her helpers. Looking down at the Captain she shook her head.

“Such illogical behaviour.”

 

 

 

 

 

             The Calypso entered orbit around G337 and Will scanned the coordinates thoroughly. With no viable contacts, he shrugged and set the computer to beam down the containers. He waited patiently and within half an hour his vigilance was rewarded. Three contacts appeared and approached the containers. Will watched on the monitor as one tall cloaked being took a tool from his belt and tackled the locks on one of the crates. The lid eventually sprung up and all three beings moved forward to look in. There was a bright glow and that container, quickly followed by all the others abruptly disintegrated. Will took advantage of the resulting confusion, ordering the computer to beam up the beings. One of the rebels had flung himself backwards and the lock was lost. Will stood ready as two forms materialised on the pad in the small cargo bay.

One man dropped to the floor, rolled and fired a blast form a disruptor. Will was moving quickly to his left and fired his phaser, hitting the man and stunning him. Rolling to his knees, he took aim on the second man but was a fraction too late. There was a loud report and Will was hit a hammering blow to his upper right chest. Slammed back against the bulkhead, he slid to the floor and saw, out of the corner of his eye, his assailant crawling through the door into the living area. Ignoring the roaring pain in his body, Will followed and crept around the open door, only to have another shot just miss his head. Taking note of his attacker’s position, the big man worked his way around the furniture and settled his shaking hands.

“You can’t escape. Throw down your weapon.”

The answering shot was very loud and Will flinched. The cloaked man stood and dashed towards the cockpit, affording Will an uninterrupted view of his retreating back. The sustained burst of orange energy hit him and propelled him forwards, sending him sprawling unconscious to the floor.

Taking only enough time to get a med kit and apply some gauze to his bleeding wound, Will soon had his captives manacled and hobbled. He dragged them to a sitting position against the wall and then made his way to the cockpit. Just as he sat, the computer alarm sounded.

“Proximity alert!”

Will stabbed his fingers over the console.

“Elaborate!”

“There is a vessel approaching. It has raised shields and armed weapons.”

The First Officer’s fingers danced quickly over the controls, bringing the yacht around and plotting her new course.

“Raise shields!”

Just as the little ship prepared to jump to warp there was a sickening blast on her aft port quarter. She lurched sideways but managed to attain warp speed, an alarm blaring loudly.

“Computer damage report.”

“There has been significant damage done to the port nacelle and plasma is being vented. Hull integrity is holding and shields are at seventy three percent.”

“Can we make it back to the Enterprise?”

“Not at this speed. Reduce velocity to warp five. Self-activating repair is in progress.”

Will groaned and placed a hand over his wound.

“ETA at reduced speed?”

“Fourteen point nine hours.”

“Damn!”

He complied with the computer’s suggestion then went back into the living area. With painful slowness he doffed his tunic and vest and inspected his wound. The projectile had entered his chest but not exited. The tissue surrounding the dark hole was bruised and red, blood trickled freely when he removed the gauze. He administered an analgesic and a broad-spectrum anti biotic and dressed the wound as best he could. He was putting his tunic back on when the first of his captives groaned and shifted sluggishly. Will grabbed a chair and dragged it over to the rousing man, sat and levelled a phaser in his face.

“It’s about time you woke up. We need to talk.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Beverly was rudely awakened by the door slapping open. Before she could sit up, three pairs of strong hands grabbed her and hauled her upright. Her hands were unmanacled and her right hand was stretched out, the fingers splayed.

“NO!”

The first blow was sickening, the second sending her into shock.

“You won’t be needing these fingers Doctor. You were right; your Captain has been very foolish, trying to interfere in our plans. Perhaps this little…demonstration will change his mind.”

Shivering in shock and with rising nausea, Beverly heard the hiss of the dressing and analgesic. Her hands were re-manacled and she was shoved back onto the bed.

“You had better hope he comes to see reason Doctor. You’ve got plenty of fingers, but I think your hands might be next.”

The footsteps receded and the door slammed. Beverly rose to her knees and bent forward, her stomach rebelling. The vomit splattered on the floor and she chocked back a sob.

“Oh dear God…help me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Geordi scratched his head and chewed his lower lip.

“I don’t get it Data. How could they so completely erase the transporter trace? If what Deanna says is true, and Beverly is somewhere on the planet, then we’re not looking at a great distance. How did they do it?”

The android cocked his head.

“If the Ferengi have been selling technology to the alliance, perhaps they have come across something we are not aware of. I will check the database on any experimental transporter techniques, perhaps there might be something there.”

Geordi nodded.

“Good idea. In the mean time I’ll run the neutrino series again. I have a hunch.”

With Data’s phenomenal speed, the check took only minutes. He turned to his best friend only to see Geordi snap his fingers.

“Data I think I have something.”

Data stood and went to the Engineer, his own information ready to be told.

“Geordi I believe you are right about the neutrinos. Apparently there have been some experiments with phased shifting employing dissipated neutrinos by the Cardassians. Although in its infancy, the technology shows great promise however it has not been used on sentient beings yet as far as we know.”

The dark engineer nodded.

“That would explain the lack of trace. Now that we know how…we can be ready for the next time.”

The android frowned.

“There will be a next time?”

Geordi scowled.

“I think so Data. Once the Captain’s ruse with the containers gets back to the ringleaders, they’re gong to be pretty pissed. It’s my guess Doctor Crusher will bear the brunt of their displeasure.”

“Then had we not alert Sickbay?”

Geordi clasped his friend’s shoulder.

“Yes Data we should.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The man on the floor shifted uncomfortably and glared up at Will. The First Officer rested his arms on his knees and sighed.

“I want some information and you’re going to give it to me.”

The spittle hit Will’s chest. Ignoring it, Will adjusted his phaser to a very narrow beam and fired once at the man’s shoulder. The stench of burning flesh made him wince, the recipient of the burn yelped.

“That was on setting four. Want to try six?”

The man’s voice was guttural.

“What do you want?”

Smiling without warmth, Will sat up.

“What is your leader’s name?”

“Why should I tell you?”

Sighing, Will aimed the phaser.

“Because if you don’t I’ll cut you arm off.”

The sullen man grimaced.

“Juzz D’Ran.”

“Good. Now where on Kalara is he?”

“I don’t know.”

The beam lanced out and the man screamed.
”You can’t do this to me! You are Starfleet!”

Will sighed.

“Actually at the moment I’m a man with a hole in his chest and a lot of questions that need answering, so forget about Starfleet and concentrate on answering me. Where is D’Ran?”

“I don’t know! I was supposed to contact him when we had the weapons and supplies. That’s all I know.”

Will nodded.

“OK, how were you going to contact him?”

“Subspace relay to a echo system in orbit.”

“When?”

The man scowled.

“It’s already too late. By now our fellow members will have reported your duplicity and he will act accordingly. You are doomed.”

Will smiled.

“Perhaps. Do you know the hostage?”

“No. I only know it is a Starfleet officer of some rank.”

“And how was the hostage chosen?”

The man shifted and grunted.

“We chose Kalara because of its close proximity to Hirrun, our planet. We knew, from information supplied by our…friends, that Starfleet personnel frequented the resort…we only had to wait for a suitable candidate.”

Will leaned forward and caressed the phaser.

“And how did you get the information from the planetary authorities?”

The man snorted.

“Our friends supplied us with the services of a Deltan female…one in heat. It was a simple matter to find a bureaucrat who wanted two nights with a Deltan in that condition.”

“I see. Tell me, did the director of interstellar traffic have anything to do with it?”

The man nodded.

“Yes. He wasn’t willing to impart the information we needed, but he put us in contact with someone who did.”

Will sat up.

“Ok one more thing. Who are your…friends? Who’s been helping you?”

The man turned his head just as his companion began to rouse. He muttered something and Will frowned.

“What was that?”

“The Ferengi! They have supplied technology, weapons and all the information on your corrupt organisation! They have told us everything we need to defeat you.”

Will smiled and stood.

“Well you’re greatly mistaken, but I’m sure you’ll be enlightened soon. I’ll leave you to think about your situation.”

He walked stiffly into the cockpit and opened a channel to the Enterprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 It was oh three eighteen when Jean-Luc woke His head was aching and he felt slightly dizzy, but generally he felt better. He sat up slowly and rubbed his face, slowly counting. He got to fifteen when a nurse came in.

“Captain Picard…how are you Sir?”

He nodded and yawned.

“I’m fine.”

“Any pain Sir?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Yes, a slight headache.”

The nurse smiled and retrieved a glass of water.

“Well you just drink this and I’ll get a Doctor. I won’t be long Captain.”

With nothing to do but obey, Jean-Luc downed the cool water, relishing it thoroughly. The duty Doctor came in with a hypospray and administered the analgesic. She checked the monitors and was about to leave when Jean-Luc stopped her.

“I would like to get out of bed.”

The medico turned and frowned.

“That is inadvisable Captain.”

Keeping his irritation in check, Jean-Luc summoned a smile.

“Perhaps, however I would like to access a computer to see how the current mission is progressing. Surely that would do no harm?”

The Doctor held his gaze and sighed.

“Very well Sir, but please don’t tax yourself. I will check on you later.”

Nodding with satisfaction, Jean-Luc slid out of bed and went to the desk in the corner of his private room. He only stayed at the monitor for a few minutes. He rose and went quietly to the door, looked out and, seeing the empty Sickbay, slipped out without being seen. He was in his quarters within five minutes. Going straight to his bedroom, he dressed quickly while calling Data.

“Picard to Data.”

The reply was instant.

“Data here Sir.”

“Any news Data?”

“As a matter of fact yes Captain. Commander Riker is en route back to the Enterprise with two prisoners. He has managed to extract some interesting information and I am in the process of analysing it.”

“Understood. Are you in your quarters?”

“Yes Captain.”

“I’m on my way. Picard out.”

Within minutes Jean-Luc was at Data’s door. The android admitted him and they spent some time going over Will’s report. The call from the Bridge was unexpected.

“Bridge to Commander Data.”

“Data here.”

“Sir something has just materialised on the Bridge. It’s a box with Captain Picard’s name on it.”

The two officers looked at each other, Jean-Luc blanching.

“We’re on our way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         When Jean-Luc and Data arrived on the Bridge, two officers were scanning the small box. They stood and faced their CO.

“It contains organic matter Sir.”

The Captain nodded and lifted his head.

“Engineering there has been an unauthorised transport to the Bridge. Can you trace it?”

“This is Styles Captain, we’re on it. Give me ten minutes Sir.”

Data knelt and scanned the box.

“There does not appear to be any fingerprints or DNA traces Sir.”

Jean-Luc nodded, holding out his hand.

“Give it to me.”
Data complied and Jean-Luc levered off the lid. His eyes closed and he took a deep breath.

“More fingers. Data get these down to Sickbay for immediate analysis then report back to me.”

Data nodded and took the box, hesitating.

“Captain? There appears to be a message.”

Jean-Luc turned and took the offered piece of paper.

“Picard you are a bigger fool than I thought. Did you honestly think your scheme would work? The evidence of our resolve is in the box. Next time it will be a hand. It is up to you. The demand is the same. We want weapons and medical supplies. Comply or your officer will pay the price of your stubbornness.”

Jean-Luc brusquely shoved the paper into Data’s hand.

“Go over it Data.”

“Aye Sir.”

Just then Engineering called.

“Captain Picard we have coordinates. Routing to Tactical now.”

Jean-Luc spun on his heel and barked,

“On screen!”

A section of the planet appeared and everyone on the Bridge peered, trying to discern anything. There was nothing but a view of a heavily wooded area.

“Tactical…anything? Any energy readings?”

“Negative Sir.”
Frustrated, the Captain scowled.

“And what of the echo station? Have we found that?”

“No Sir, although it may be cloaked.”

Coming to a decision, Jean-Luc strode towards the turbolift.

“I’m taking a shuttle and going down to those coordinates. Keep looking for the echo station and when you find it…destroy it.”

The reply was lost as the lift doors closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    As he strode into the Shuttle bay, the Captain tapped his combadge.

“Picard to Data.”

“Data here.”

“Any news?”

There was a moment’s silence followed by,

“Yes Captain. The fingers are from Doctor Crusher. And Sir…Doctor Stevinn requests your immediate return to Sick bay.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“That’s not possible at this time. Data I’m going down to the surface via shuttle. I want you on the Bridge. Find that echo station and destroy it, we must limit their communications abilities.”

“Understood Captain but Doctor Stevinn is quite adamant about you returning to Sick bay Captain. Perhaps you should…”

“No. I’ll contact you from the surface. Picard out.”

Five minutes later the little craft was making its descent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc circled the coordinates and searched for somewhere to land. Spotting a small clearing two hundred metres from the point of interest, he set down and armed himself. As the hatch opened he deployed a tricorder and scanned the area, noting nothing of any importance. Trudging through the thick bush, he felt his headache returning and grimaced.

“Dammit! Not now.”

After twenty minutes of struggle he emerged at the coordinates. There was nothing to see. He turned in a small circle scanning, a deep frown on his face. Tapping his combadge, he called the ship.

“Picard to Enterprise.”

“Data here Sir.”

“Data are we sure about the coordinates? I’m here and there’s nothing…no transporter, no pad…nothing.”

“Please wait Captain.”

While he waited, Jean-Luc inputted new parameters and scanned again. He was frowning over the results when Data’s voice was heard.

“Captain Picard reset your tricorder. Scan for dissipated neutrinos with specific attention to phased singularities.”

Doing as his Second Officer suggested, Jean-Luc said,

“You think it’s cloaked?”

“Aye Captain. There should be a shift at the quantum level.”

Jean-Luc scanned again and smiled coldly.

“I have it Data.”

Taking several large steps backwards, Jean-Luc raised his phaser and set it on maximum. Using the tricorder to illuminate his target he took aim and fired. The resulting blast knocked him off his feet. Flung violently backwards, his breath was knocked out of his lungs and stars shot through his sight. It was Data’s concerned voice that brought him back to his senses.

“Captain Picard! Are you all right Sir?”

He sat up slowly, nausea and dizziness warring within his body.

“I’m fine Data. I’m going back to the shuttle…I want to scan this area again, my suspicion is that the abductors might not be too far away.”

“Very well Captain. Data out.”

It took over half an hour to get back to the shuttle. Tiring quickly, Jean-Luc collapsed into the cockpit seat and took several moments to settle his aching head. When he spoke his voice was rough with fatigue and distress.

“Computer initiate a scan of this area, encompassing a five kilometre radius. Report any structures or sentient life forms.”

There was a wait of only a few seconds.

“Scan complete. No structures or sentient life forms within scanned area.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his face.

“Merde!”

The communication to the ship opened.

“Data to Picard.”

“Yes Data?”

“Sir we have found and destroyed the echo station. As with the transporter, it was cloaked.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.

“Excellent Data. I’m returning now and I intend to interview Mark Webber. See if you can gather any information about him will you…anything at all could be helpful.”

“Aye Captain.”

As his craft lifted off, Jean-Luc watched the receding land with melancholy.

“I’ll find you Beverly…and I’ll make them pay!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Beverly was curled up on her side dozing when rough hands grabbed her and dragged her off the cot and across the floor. She left her cell and tripped up the stairs as she was pushed rudely forwards, ascending three flights before being shoved into a chair. She heard something scrape across the floor then her hands were released. Her right hand was forced onto something hard and cold. Shaking with fear and dread, the Doctor shook her hooded head.

“No…please no…”

A rough hand gripped her throat.

“Your lover has gone too far! He has destroyed one of our transporters and our orbiting communication device. I think it’s time I showed him I’m running out of patience. Hold her!”

Strong hands gripped her shoulders and arms. Beverly heard the whispering descent of something and her nerves registered the blow to her wrist, but the enormity of what they’d done took several seconds to be fully realised. Her body stiffened and she attempted to recoil, away from the blooming pain. A thin wail emitted from her throat. Something tight and warm was put on the stump of her wrist and the truncated limb was raised.

As if from a great distance, Beverly heard voices.

“Take this back to the chalet then meet us at the alternative site. Grazz take her out to the hover car, I’ll joining you shortly. Feb, I want to send a message to Picard on his ship. Set it up then be prepared to evacuate immediately. Right? Go!”

Footsteps clattered and Beverly was hauled to her feet. Disorientated, she staggered as hands pulled at her arm, dragging her outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc’s shuttle had just cleared the atmosphere when a call came through.

 

“Data to Picard.”

“Picard here.”

“Sir we have a message for you from the abductors.”

“Understood, route it to this terminal.”

“Picard I have left something of interest to you at the chalet. My patience is wearing thin. Failure to accede to my demands will be met with further actions I’m sure you wish to avoid. If you value your officer…as I’m sure you do, you will want her to remain in relatively good health. If you fail me the consequences will be dire. Think about it Picard.”

Jean-Luc glowered and barked,

“Where did it come from Data? How did they transmit to the Enterprise?”

“Unknown Sir.”

“Well find out! I’m going to the chalet; I’ll contact you from there. Picard out.”

The journey took fifteen minutes and Jean-Luc barrelled into the building, his tricorder scanning. He didn’t need it. There, lying on the middle of the living room floor was Beverly’s right hand.

The Captain took off his combadge and attached it to the severed hand. Activating the device he called,

“Picard to Data.”

“Data here.”

“Lock onto my combadge and beam up the object to Sickbay. I’m going to scan the chalet…”

“Captain! There are significant disturbances in the deep forest eighteen kilometres south west of your position. We read four hover cars rising from seemingly nowhere. Reading…nine alien life forms…and one Human female.”

Jean-Luc stood and sprinted for the shuttle.

“Carry out my orders. I’ll investigate.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Will Riker’s breathing was becoming difficult. He sat back in the cockpit seat and clenched his jaw as his captives kept up a tirade of abuse. He stood slowly and wandered into the living area, staring coldly at the two beings.

“Why don’t you shut up?”

The larger of the two men shouted,

“I demand you release us! You have absolutely no right to treat us like this!”

Will tried to sigh but the pain in his chest made him wince. Keeping his voice low, his blue eyes glittered dangerously.

“Last chance. Shut up.”

The black-clad being thumped his feet on the carpeted floor.

“How dare you!”

With slow deliberation, Will raised his phaser and set it on heavy stun. The blast of energy silenced first one, then the other and the big man nodded with satisfaction.

“That should keep you quiet for a good while.”

He ambled back into the cockpit and called the Enterprise.

“Data here Commander.”

“What’s happening Data?”

“There have been some developments Sir. Captain Picard is at present investigating a possible lead on the planet and we have received another part of Doctor Crusher’s anatomy, specifically her right hand.”

Will sat up and scowled.

“What? Are you telling me those bastards cut off her hand?”

“Yes Sir. They also removed a total of three fingers.”

“Shit Data this is serious. How is the Captain?”

The android frowned.

“I would have to say he is still not fully recovered. Also Commander he absented himself from Sickbay against the explicit orders of Doctor Selar and refused to return when requested. I would hazard that he intends to ignore his orders in an effort to find and rescue Doctor Crusher. I do not think he will listen to reason.”

Will rubbed his face and tried to find a more comfortable position.

“Understood Data. Try to keep an eye on him will you? My ETA is four hours or so. Have a security detail in the shuttle bay when I arrive…and a Doctor. I managed to get injured.”

Data’s voice easily showed his concern.

“Do you require us to meet you Commander? How serious is your injury?”

Will waved his hand dismissively.

“No that won’t be necessary Data, I’m fine. I took a projectile in the chest. I’ll hold out until I make your position. I’m going to get some rest but I want to know if anything happens. Keep me posted will you?”

“Aye Sir. Data out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc was fast approaching the disturbance area when his targets simply disappeared. He frowned over his instruments, rubbing his blurry eyes and swiping at the sweat that beaded his brow.

“Where the hell did they go?”

He stopped his craft at an altitude of eighty metres and hovered, scanning continuously. The small rocket that arched up at him was astonishingly fast. The proximity alarm sounded and Jean-Luc had only enough time to begin an evasive manoeuvre when there was a sickening blast and the little ship lurched, rapidly losing height.

Struggling with the controls, Jean-Luc managed to get the nose up but couldn’t control the spinning. The shuttle plunged into the trees with devastating speed, flipping and coming to rest upside down, wedged between two enormous trunks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Juzz D’Ran punched his compatriot in the shoulder.

“Good shooting! He’s down… disengage the cloak, let’s get out of here.”

The hover car rose from the trees and turned to flee.

Beverly, seated in the back seat and with her arms free of restraints, lifted her hood and looked back over her shoulder, seeing a thin column of smoke rising through the trees. Sitting beside her was a small metal box. She took the hood off and lifted the box, hefting it. With her one remaining hand, she gripped the makeshift weapon and swung it at the pilot’s head with all her strength. There was a loud crack and the man slumped at the controls. The hover car slewed sideways and the other front passenger twisted in his seat in an attempt to subdue his prisoner. Beverly, running solely on adrenalin, clouted him twice with the box, smashing his eyebrow and bloodying his nose.

Without a pilot the car dropped like a stone. D’Ran struggled out of his seat and lunged at Beverly, grabbing her throat and squeezing. She brought the box down on his head but he was unfazed. With her vision clouding, Beverly dropped the box and groped with her hand for the man’s genitals. Their rapid descent suddenly stopped in a loud bang and everything went black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Acrid smoke was burning Beverly’s throat. Coughing and gagging, the Doctor forced her eyes open and winced as she tried to move. She was lying on a heavily canted floor, a body resting across her mid section. Down her right side heat was building and beginning to melt the material of her shirt. She wriggled her left forearm between the body and her chest and heaved, at the same time pushing with her legs. Gradually she freed herself and pulled away from the heat, rubbing her arm with her other forearm. Waving her hand, she peered through the smoke to see the pilot draped awkwardly at the controls, his head at an unnatural angle. Beverly shook her head and stared down at the body of her abductor. She scrambled over him and tried the door mechanism, finding it non-responsive. With a growl she kicked at the door until it sprang open. She was half way out when she hesitated. Turning back, she leaned into the car and felt for any life signs from the body. She detected a faint pulse and cursed. Grabbing his collar, she dragged him free of the car and let him drop the two metres to the ground. She then used their elevation to get a sight on the column of smoke not too far distant. Having got a bearing, she exited the car. Her own descent was more careful, however she still twisted her ankle.

Hobbling off in the direction of the smoke, she got ten metres when there was a whump behind her as the hover car burst into flames. Debris was hurled in all directions and she dropped to the ground, but not quickly enough. Several small pieces of heated metal struck her in the back, some imbedding themselves in her flesh. Wincing, she reached back with her left hand to feel the spread of blood.

“Dammit!”

Again on her feet, she pressed on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc woke to pain. His head was pounding and he was having trouble breathing. He opened his eyes and groaned as everything spun slowly, his upside down perspective making things worse. He closed his eyes and reached up with his hands, trying to find what was preventing him from gaining an upright position. What he found made him scowl. His right leg was trapped, held fast between a collapsed bulkhead and the back of the cockpit seat. His fingers detected the telltale wetness of blood but there was little pain, the pressure being enough to disrupt the nerves. With his head pounding, Jean-Luc tried to push the seat with his left leg but it was impossible. The wisp of smoke that curled around his head made him cough, the agony in his head blooming in response.

Clenching his jaw against the pain, he reached for his combadge only to remember he’d used it to beam Beverly’s hand to the ship. He growled in frustration and twisted his body, desperately trying to free himself. It was no use. As the smoke thickened he shook his head and grimaced.

“Not like this…it can’t end like this!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Data turned to Tactical and raised his eyebrow.

“Would you repeat that please?”

The Ensign frowned and re-checked the board.

“They’re gone Sir. One minute the shuttle and four hover cars were on scanners then they just…disappeared.”

Data left the command chair and rounded the aft stations. He checked the read outs himself and frowned.

“This is most odd. Engineering this is the Bridge.”

“Engineering here. What can we do for you?”

“Geordi we have an anomalous situation with the sensors. While tracking five objects on the planet, we have inadvertently…lost them. Can you offer an explanation?”

“Understood…give me a minute Bridge, LaForge out.”

The android went back to the command chair and sat, his unique positronic brain creating, then discarding one possible scenario after another, but coming no closer to the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Beverly spent a moment beside a small creek to wash her face and take a much-needed drink. She had heard voices in the distance behind her and knew that soon her abductors would be looking for her. Rising to her feet and ignoring the pain of her many injuries, she pushed onwards through the thick bush.

Her arrival at the crashed shuttle took her by surprise. Had it not been for an amount of debris on the forest floor she may not have seen it, although it was only three metres off the ground. Wedged between two enormous trunks, it was upside down and slowly burning. The Doctor sighed and took a large breath.

“Can you hear me?”

There was no reply so she tried again, a little louder.

“Any body…can you hear me?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Sweating heavily, Jean-Luc coughed uncontrollably and choked as blood flooded into his mouth. He expectorated and tried to take a deep breath, groaning as the sharp pain of broken ribs curtailed his breath. He had been trying unsuccessfully to free himself when he though he heard something. Stilling immediately, he listened carefully and heard someone calling. He also recognised the voice.

“Beverly?”

He breathed. Then louder…

“Beverly!”

The Doctor gasped and felt the thrill of excitement.

“Jean-Luc! Are you all right?”

The Captain grimaced.

“Not exactly. I’m trapped…can you help?”

Beverly frowned and looked at the tree trunks. One was devoid of branches but the other had a few handholds. She gripped the highest and, using her feet, managed to hitch herself up to the level of the shuttle. The external access panel had been exposed, but seemed to be on line as its lights were functioning. Inputting the correct code, Beverly was disgusted when the aft hatch popped but didn’t open. Closer scrutiny revealed a large crack in the hull. Looking around, Beverly spied a likely looking branch hanging precariously just above her. Wrapping her injured arm around the tree, she reached up, grabbed the branch and tugged. It came loose abruptly and Beverly grunted as she took its weight. Re-adjusting her grip, she shoved one end into the crack and pushed. Smoke was building and kept wafting around her. As she worked she talked to the trapped man.

“So you’re trapped? How?”

His voice was muffled, but Beverly could hear his distress.

“I’m upside down near the cockpit. My right leg is jammed between the bulkhead and the back of the cockpit seat.”

“I see. Is it bleeding?”

“Yes…but I don’t know how much…I can’t see too well, everything’s spinning.”

Beverly was pondering that when the hatch suddenly released. Smoke pored out and the Doctor saw flames crawling up one side of the little craft. With tentative actions, Beverly manoeuvred herself into the shuttle, dragging the branch with her. She found Jean-Luc quickly. She noted the laceration over his brow and the blood on the floor. Standing gingerly, she wedged the branch above his leg then gently gripped his shoulder.

“Jean-Luc I’m going to try and jemmy the seat back. Do you think you can pull back with your leg?”

He was panting but he nodded.

Beverly gripped the branch and heaved. The wood bowed but it held and Jean-Luc felt the pressure ease. Placing his good foot against the seat, he pushed with all he had and his trapped leg slowly slipped free. He fell the short distance to the floor and grunted as he lay trying to regain his breath. Beverly’s hand gripped his head.

“We have to get out of here. Can you stand?”

He nodded and with Beverly’s help, got to his feet. As he did, feeling started to flood back into his leg and he groaned, leaning on his lover and gasping. Beverly slipped an arm under his shoulder and led him aft, to the open hatch.

“There’s a tree Jean-Luc. Lean forward and grab it, there’re small foot and hand holds.”

He shook his head.

“No…I can’t open my eyes, everything’s spinning.”

Beverly scowled.

“It might be better now you’re up the right way. Have a look.”

He attempted to do as she suggested and immediately shook his head.

“No…it’s no good.”

The Doctor frowned.

“Right. I’ll go out first. Take my hand.”

He did as she requested and soon found himself leaning out over the drop.

“It’s not far Jean-Luc. Keep coming, I’ve got you.”

With blind faith, Jean-Luc stepped out into nothingness. He soon felt the tree and wrapped his arms around it.

“Okay that’s good. Now I can’t help too much…I only have one hand, but if you feel with your hands and feet, you’ll make it down okay. Like I said, it’s not far, only a few metres.”

Jean-Luc nodded and tried to calm his rapid breathing.

“All right but you go first.”

He heard her scramble down and slowly made his own way to the forest floor. As soon as his feet were on the ground, knowing hands began to examine him. He leaned against the trunk and wiped at the sweat and blood trickling down his face.

“Right. You’ve a bad laceration of the upper right thigh, possibly a fracture of the femur as well. There’re broken ribs and, going by the blood around your mouth, probably a lacerated lung. How am I doing so far?”

Jean-Luc nodded and lowered his head into his hand.

“I am having trouble…pain, nausea and vision disturbances. Selar said I had a fractured skull and a sub-dural haematoma. There’s a possibility it has not fully healed.”

Beverly frowned deeply and gripped his shoulder.

“But she would’ve repaired all of that. What aren’t you telling me?”

He sighed and was about to reply when they both heard voices in the distance. Beverly eased Jean-Luc away from the tree and slipped her arm under his shoulder.

“Come on we have to get away from here.”

They had only gone a few metres when the shuttle suddenly fell and began to burn brightly. Hastening her feet, the Doctor urged Jean-Luc to hurry.

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Data stood beside the Ensign at Tactical and watched the scans as he talked with Engineering.

“So you believe it is more of their cloaking technology?”

“Yes. The disturbances in the sub space field suggest quantum rifts. How soon after you detected the missile did they disappear?”

Data cocked his head and frowned.

“Almost immediately. We noted the shuttle’s descent and were about to beam the Captain off when it simply vanished. We have been unable to find it since.”

“Okay I think I can help. I’ll come up to the Bridge. LaForge out.”

Data took one more look at the scans then returned to the command chair. He was waiting when Geordi arrived. The Engineer went to the aft station and activated his schematics. Data stood and joined him.

“See Data…what we have is an area of nothingness. Where we should be seeing forest and the contours of the land there’s a blank. What we have to do is penetrate that blank.”

Data nodded.

“I see. And how do we do that?”

Geordi tapped in a few commands and sighed.

“That my friend is what’s stymieing me. No matter what I try, our sensors can’t punch through.”
Data frowned and entered some information.

“What about using the deflector dish to initiate a quantum phase inhibitor? Perhaps that might work?”

Geordi sighed.
”Maybe, but I don’t want to tip our hand. If the rebels know we can see, they may become even more violent and now that it seems the Captain’s stuck down there I want to limit their knowledge of what we can do.”

The android processed that and sighed.

“I understand. Keep on it Geordi.”

The dark Engineer nodded.

“I’ll do that Data.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Will propped himself up in the cockpit and struggled to stay conscious. Tapping the console, he opened a channel to the Enterprise.

“Data here Commander.”

Swallowing and taking as big a breath as he dared, Will grimaced in pain.

“Data I’m bringing the Calypso in on automatic pilot. When I’m close enough, use the tractor beam to dock her.”

“Aye Sir. We will beam you off as soon as you are within range. Are you sure you do not want us to meet you sooner?”

“No Data just transport me as soon as you can. Riker out.”

The bearded man listened to the whistling and gurgling coming from his lung and scowled.

“Not good…not good at all.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        The undergrowth was making their flight very difficult. Scratched and covered with twigs and leaves, the two officers made as much haste as they dared, moving in a straight line away from the downed shuttle. They had travelled three hundred metres when they suddenly burst into clear space and the ground disappeared beneath their feet. Beverly cried out and clutched at Jean-Luc as they plummeted ten metres straight down and into a fast flowing river.

The water was icy cold and Beverly struggled to hold her breath as she sank down in the torrent. Jean-Luc, his eyes firmly closed, felt the current grab him as he sank and whisked him along, his shoulder making solid contact with a submerged rock. The joint popped out of alignment and the Captain gritted his teeth.

With the pain of her severed stump lancing up her arm. Beverly kicked strongly and clawed her way to the surface. Heaving a big breath, she searched frantically for Jean-Luc, the swirling waters carrying her along at a brisk speed. Rushed into a dip in the water, she suddenly rose over a rock and caught a flash of red not far in front of her.

Furiously kicking her feet and stroking with her good arm, she angled across the current, keeping her target in sight.

Jean-Luc coughed uncontrollably, blood and water spewing from his mouth. Disorientated and dizzy, he couldn’t see which way to swim to find safety. The river suddenly descended through a series of rapids and the Captain was tossed around like a limp rag doll, at the mercy of the torrent. Twice submerged rocks pummelled him, further damaging his already broken ribs and exacerbating the tears in his lacerated lung. The current pulled him under without warning and he flailed with his arm, trying to reach the surface. Just as he was beginning to think he would surely drown, a hand gripped his fingers. He kicked convulsively and struggled upwards, aided by the hand that was pulling him. He broke the surface, coughing and vomiting. The hand let his fingers go and grabbed the back of his collar. Over the roaring of the water he heard Beverly’s voice.

“Just kick Jean-Luc…I’ll get us to the bank!”

Still coughing and gasping, he complied and Beverly allowed the current to carry them as she moved diagonally across the flow. They rode the water for over seventy metres before the river suddenly calmed and deepened. Now able to make progress, Beverly towed her burden the nearest bank and stumbled as her feet hit the sandy bottom. She turned and grabbed Jean-Luc under his arms but when she hefted him, he cried out in pain. The Doctor looked down and saw the grotesquely dislocated shoulder. Altering her grip, she dragged Jean-Luc up onto the pebbly drift and collapsed beside him, her chest heaving. Jean-Luc rolled onto his side and vomited again and again before writhing as he was wracked by a coughing fit. Blood and water left his mouth and Beverly gripped his arm.

“Try to relax Jean-Luc…take smaller breaths.”

He nodded, his eyes clenched shut. Within five minutes he was calmer and Beverly helped him to sit up.

“I’m going to put that shoulder back. I’ll be as quick as I can.”

He could only nod as he felt Beverly grip his elbow. The sharp jerk caused a flash of blinding pain and he cried out. The Doctor folded his arm across his chest and encouraged him to rest his hand on his shoulder.

“Keep it still. The pain should subside soon.”

Panting and shaking his head, Jean-Luc gasped,

“We have to find somewhere to hide. How is your injured arm?”

Beverly looked down at her stump and grimaced.

“The dressing is gone but it’s not bleeding. It looks clean.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“And the pain?”

Beverly smiled without mirth.

“Don’t ask. What about you…can you see?”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes experimentally and groaned.

“Oh God…everything’s still spinning.”

He swallowed with haste as his stomach rebelled. Beverly saw his distress and gently pushed his head down.

“Keep your breathing even…in through the nose and out through the mouth.”

Unable to take deep breaths, Jean-Luc concentrated on not vomiting. When he felt under control again he nodded.

“Can you see anywhere we can hide?”

The Doctor looked up and scanned the surrounding bush. When she answered her voice was tight.

“Not around here, but if we make our way back upstream a bit, there’s a rocky escarpment we might find helpful.”

Jean-Luc nodded and held out his hand.

“Right. Can you help me up?”

He felt her grip his arm and between them, he gained his feet. Beverly slung one arm under his good shoulder and sighed.

“I’ll take it slow but you’d best feel with your feet.”

The Captain nodded, grunting as he took some weight on his injured leg.

“If we can, move away from the river. As long as we stay near, we’ll never be able to hear anything but the rushing water.”

Beverly nodded.

“Will do.”

Together they picked their way along the bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Data alerted Doctor Selar.

“Sickbay this is the Bridge. We are about to beam Commander Riker directly to your facility. Are you ready to receive him?”

Selar’s voice showed no trace of stress.

“We are ready Commander. Do you have any information about his injury?”

Data frowned.

“No Doctor.”

Just then Tactical announced,

“The Calypso is within range Commander.”

“Thank you. Transporter Room, energise. Security prepare to meet the Calypso when it’s docked. Remove any prisoners and incarcerate them in detention cells two and three.”

The android ignored the acquiescence of his orders and turned to Lieutenant Ford.

“Lieutenant I will be first in Sickbay, then the brig. You have the Bridge.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Deanna Troi stood in Sickbay willing herself to be still. With her hands fisted at her sides, she waited as the form of her lover materialised on a biobed. He was immediately surrounded by medical personnel and Deanna frowned as her empathic senses picked up the residue of the unconscious man’s pain.

Minutes later Will was being taken to surgery. Selar approached the Counsellor and arched a perfect eyebrow.

“Commander Riker has been shot with a projectile weapon. The projectile is lodged in his upper thoracic region and has damaged his lung. There has been significant blood loss, however there should be no impediment to a complete recovery from this injury as Commander Riker is fit and in excellent health. I will inform you when surgery is complete.”

With that the Vulcan spun on her heel and walked away. Deanna briefly closed her eyes and swallowed, the urge to wring her hands almost overpowering.

Knowing she had time to kill, the Counsellor turned to enter Beverly’s office when Data arrived. He went straight to her and adopted a sympathetic look.

“How is he Deanna?”

The Counsellor repeated what Selar had told her and Data sighed.

“That is good news. I must see to our prisoners. Will you be all right here?”

Smiling at his gentle concern, Deanna nodded.

“I’ll be fine Data. I’ll let you know when he’s out.”

The android nodded and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       The large duranium doors to the detention cells trundled open and Data strode briskly in, his keen eyes not hampered by the subdued lighting. In each of the two occupied cells, medical personnel hovered over somnolent beings stretched out on the utilitarian bunks. Data waited patiently while the examinations took place and cocked his head when the nurse approached him.

“Report.”

Offering a PADD, the nurse shrugged.

“They are both unconscious Sir. They have been the recipients of a phaser blast…heavy stun would be my estimate of the level used. They’ll be out to it for some time yet.”

Data nodded curtly.

“Thank you Lieutenant, please report back to Sickbay.”
He beckoned to a nearby Ensign.

“Post guards within and without the detention area and inform me immediately as to when they regain consciousness.”

“Aye Commander.”

Taking one final look at the captives, Data left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Once again on the Bridge, Data said mildly,

“Tactical open a channel to the resort. I wish to speak with Mark Webber.”

“Aye Sir.”

Data sat and composed himself. Moments later the ubiquitous interstellar traffic director appeared.

“This is Mark Webber, how may I be of assistance?”

Data clasped his hands in his lap and kept his voice soft.

“I wish to talk to you about the Antarra Alliance.”

Webber’s face paled and his mouth twitched.

“Pardon?”

Data stayed glacial.

“The Antarra Alliance. I have reason to believe you have had dealings with them.”

Webber’s eyes darted restlessly.

“To whom am I speaking?”

“I am Lieutenant Commander Data, Second Officer of the Starship Enterprise.”

“I see. And just who says I’ve had dealings with the alliance?”

Data tilted his head.

“Actually Mr.Webber I do.”

The thin man tugged at his collar and looked over his shoulder.

“Well you’re sadly mistaken. Now I am a busy man so if there’s nothing else…”

Data crossed his legs and casually flicked at some non-existent lint on his trousers.

“Unfortunately there is Mr.Webber. I have reliable information that you have had direct contact with Juzz D’Ran. In response to his request you supplied the name of a fellow worker who in turn supplied information about Starfleet personnel. Are you aware you have committed an offence?”

The nervous man wiped his brow and squinted at the screen.

“What do you want from me?”

“I seek the answers to two vexing questions. What is the name of your colleague? And what is the name of the Ferengi Daimon who is aiding and abetting the rebels?”

Webber covered his face with his hands and trembled.

“What’s in it for me?”

Data allowed several seconds to pass before saying quietly,

“I might be convinced to make a note of your…generous help…in my report. Such a note would be viewed favourably by the authorities.”

The director sat back and slumped in his chair. Sighing in defeat he seemed to shrink.

“The man you want is the director of chalet allocation…Nathan Pilger. The Ferengi is Daimon Muzz. He was here about ten days ago, but I don’t know where he is now.”

Data nodded silently.

“I see. Tell me, have you had any communications from D’Ran recently?”

The frightened little man shook his head.

“No. Once I gave him Pilger’s name he dropped me like a stone.”

“And what did you receive for your information?”

Webber closed his eyes and sighed.

“One hundred and fifty bars of latinum.”

Data nodded.

“You can expect a visit from the authorities. Data out.”

The Second officer stared at his boots for several seconds before saying quietly,

“Tactical open a channel to Nathan Pilger.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Beverly tried to ignore the throbbing ache in her wrist but the pain dogged her, gradually eroding her strength. Jean-Luc leaned heavily on her, his steps faltering as he stumbled along at her side. The Doctor brought them to a halt and was about to suggest they rest when the Captain suddenly dropped to his knees and heaved. With his empty stomach rebelling, he began to cough. Clutching at his chest, he brought up a quantity of bright blood and gasped as he tried to regain his breathing. Beverly knelt beside him and rubbed his back.

“Steady…try to relax.”

As he struggled for control, Beverly noted the laceration in his thigh was still bleeding. She looked around and spotted a small cleared area to their left.

“Jean-Luc can you stand?”

Still panting, he nodded slowly.

“Okay I’ll help you up.”

Once he was on his feet, Beverly led him to the clearing and encouraged him to sit on the ground. Jean-Luc was shaking and Beverly could see he was in the early stages of shock.

“I need to get your vest. Do you think you can help me take your tops off?”

He nodded and between them they slowly divested him off his upper clothing. Having got the vest, Beverly then helped him put his wet clothes back on.

“Right. Now do you think you can tear the vest in half?”

Saying nothing and with his eyes firmly shut, he held out his hand. Beverly put the garment in his hand and he gripped it with both hands, feeling until he found the top. Risking pain in his damaged shoulder, he held the vest up and exerted the necessary power required to tear it in half. Beverly’s hand covered his and she smiled.

“Thank you. Now I need you to drop your trousers down to your knees.”

He lay back and obeyed. The Doctor winced at seeing the mottled, bruised flesh and the sinister gash than ran across his thigh. She wrapped half of the vest tightly around the muscle and tucked the end in. Throughout the procedure Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and endured the associated pain

“Okay you can pull your pants up now.”

He slowly complied and lay quietly, his face showing his distress. As the Doctor wrapped the remaining rag around her stump, she stroked his temple and said softly,

“Tell me about your head injury.”

His voice was rough and very deep.

“As I told you I had a fractured skull and a sub-dural haematoma. There was also some intra-cranial bleeding. I was taken to surgery and treated but I didn’t stay in Sickbay to recuperate. I went back on duty and suffered another bleed. That landed me back in Sickbay, this time under orders to stay until the injury healed completely. I ignored the order and left medical as soon as I could. Judging by what I’m experiencing now, I can only assume I’m bleeding into my brain again.”

Beverly sighed and shook her head.

“Why so stubborn? You don’t usually flout the authority of your Doctor.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Selar is not my Doctor…you are.”

Beverly grew impatient.

“That’s nonsense and you know it! In my absence Selar is acting CMO and she was perfectly correct to insist you stay in Sickbay until you healed properly. Do you have any idea just how dangerous your condition is? Jean-Luc there could be repercussions…damage that we might have trouble fixing. Why were you so willing to take such a terrible risk?”

He reached for her hand and she gave it, feeling how cold he was.

“Beverly I couldn’t lie in Sickbay while you were being held captive somewhere. We had received your finger, then two more and finally your hand. D’Ran’s threats were becoming more dire and I chafed at our lack of progress. I had to do something…anything to find you.”

Beverly said nothing. Instead she felt across the hem of his tunic, searching for the hidden pocket that contained a personal phaser. Finding it empty, she sighed.

“Your phaser’s gone.”

He grunted and slowly sat up. Beverly looked up at the sky and tugged on his arm.

“It’s going to get dark soon. We need to find somewhere to hide for the night.”

Having gained his feet, Jean-Luc groaned and lifted a hand to his head. Beverly strengthened her grip on his arm and asked,

“Headache?”

He nodded and leaned forward as his stomach threatened to heave. The Doctor waited until he calmed then began to lead him into the bush.

 

 

 

                Deanna was seated beside Will’s sleeping form, watching as his chest rose and fell. Her eyes widened and she stood, going to his side and taking his hand. Her empathic senses had detected his rise to consciousness and she waited patiently as the big man’s eyes fluttered then opened. He stared unfocussed at the ceiling, a slight frown creasing his brow. Deanna leaned forward and spoke softly.

“Will can you hear me?”

He swallowed then opened his mouth, nodding slowly. The Counsellor placed her hands either side of his face and looked deeply into his eyes.

“Look at me Will…I’m here.”

The frown deepened and his eyes sluggishly moved until they found his lover. As Deanna watched they cleared and a smile emerged. His voice was husky.

“Hi.”

Her face glowing with happiness, Deanna sighed.

“Hi. How do you feel?”

“I’m okay. How long have I been here?”

The Counsellor kissed his forehead and sat on the edge of the bed.

“A little over seven hours.”

His eyebrows rose and he pouted.

“That long? What’s the damage?”

Deanna left him briefly and returned with a small dish. Picking something up from the dish, she held it between her fingers close enough for Will to see.

“This was removed from your chest. It had lodged in your lung causing quite a lot of damage. You lost a lot of blood but everything’s been repaired.”

He reached up with a shaky hand and took the object, frowning as he inspected it.

“It’s not very big.”

Deanna snorted.

“It’s big enough.”

He sighed and shook his head.

“What’s been happening?”

The petite woman frowned.

“Data has been interrogating the planetary officials and the Captain is missing on the surface. We…”

Will gripped Deanna’s hand and struggled to sit up.

“What? How did that happen?”

Wishing to calm her suddenly agitated lover, Deanna tried to ease him back down onto the bed. Will brushed her hands aside and growled,

“Deanna! What’s going on?”

Sighing in resignation, Deanna lowered her head.

“The Captain left Sickbay against orders and took a shuttle down to the surface. We had a transmission telling us something was waiting for us at the chalet. The Captain found it and had it beamed up to the ship.”

Will frowned.

“What was it?”

Deanna grimaced.

“Beverly’s right hand.”

Will closed his eyes and swore softly.

“Then what? How did the Captain get stranded?”

Deanna sat on the bed and continued.

“We sent information of several hover cars, one containing Human female bio signs had taken flight not far from the chalet. He went to investigate and the shuttle was attacked. It went down but before we could beam the Captain up to the ship, the entire area became invisible to us. Geordi and Data have been trying to negate whatever it is that’s blanking out our sensors but so far…no luck.”

Will growled.

“So we don’t know if the Captain’s all right?”

Deanna shook her head.

“No.”

The big man pushed the covers down and slid from the bed.

“I need a uniform. Go and get Selar will you Dee.”

Knowing it was useless to argue, Deanna left his bed as the Commander approached a replicator. By the time Selar met with him, Will was pulling on his boots.

“Commander Riker I do not recommend you leave Sickbay.”

Will nodded curtly.

“I understand Doctor, however circumstances dictate otherwise.”

The Vulcan raised one eyebrow.

“Commander I have already had my orders ignored by the Captain. Are you going to repeat his actions?”

Will stood to his full height and looked down at the stoic woman.

“Doctor Selar I am leaving Sickbay with or without your blessing. I am aware of your objections and I will note them in the log, but I hope you understand…I must go.”

Selar cast Deanna a look of resignation then settled her unruffled gaze back on the Commander.

“Very well. If you experience any debilitating symptoms I expect you to return immediately.”

Will nodded once and stepped past the Doctor.

“Understood. Counsellor come with me.”

The two officers strode out of Sickbay, Deanna having to almost trot to keep up. They entered a turbolift and Will barked a single word.

“Bridge!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Data was slowly pacing back and forth in front of the viewscreen, his hands clasped behind his back.

“So your defence is that you had always wanted to know what sex with a Deltan was like?”

The obese, sweating man on the screen squirmed in his seat.

“Well yes. Everyone knows how incredible sex with a Deltan is…I just wanted to find our for myself.”

Data nodded and ceased his pacing. Facing his quarry, the android lifted his head.

“My information tells me that you requested a Deltan who was in oestrus. Why?”

His face flushing a deep red, the fat man shifted again.

“I heard…that is I think I read some where that when Deltans are on heat they are at the optimum for sex. I heard they become insatiable and very…compliant.”

Data’s eyebrows rose.

“I see. And was the experience all that you had hoped for?”

“Yes.”

Data nodded.

“I would hope so because that dalliance is going to cost you dearly. Why did you choose Doctor Crusher? Surely there are other Starfleet personnel staying at the resort.”

Wiping sweat from his face and neck, the frightened man closed his eyes.

“She was the highest ranking officer staying. When I saw her name and the fact she was a Doctor, I accessed her profile and found she was a Commander.”

Data’s head snapped up.

“You accessed her profile? How?”

About to hear the answer, Data was interrupted by Will’s arrival. He held up his hand, silencing the director and signalled Tactical to mute the sound.

“Commander what are you doing here? You should be in Sickbay.”

Will grunted and pointed at the screen.

“Who’s that?”

“Nathan Pilger. He is responsible for allocating accommodation for the resort. Our information is that he supplied details about Doctor Crusher to the alliance in return for two nights with a Deltan in oestrus.”

Will’s eyebrows rose and he blew out a long breath.

“Wow! Has he admitted his guilt?”

“Yes Sir.”

Will nodded.

“Good. I’ll wait until you’ve concluded the interview then I want an update.”

Data frowned and shook his head.

“But Commander Riker, you should be in Sickbay. I…”
Will scowled.

“No way.”
He pointed again at the screen.

“Finish this.”

Data closed his mouth and turned back to the screen.

“Aye Sir. Tactical open channel.”

“Channel open Sir.”

“My apologies for the unavoidable interruption Mr.Pilger. I believe my question was…how did you access Doctor Crusher’s profile?”

The large man swabbed his streaming face. He closed his eyes and screwed up his face.

“I really would rather not answer that.”

“I am sure you don’t but I need an answer Mr.Pilger and I will not cease until I have one. Of course I can always have you beamed aboard…my security department is very good at extracting information from reluctant people. Did I tell you our head of security is a close personal friend of Doctor Crusher?”

Unwilling to submit to the threat, Pilger sagged.

“All right! I have a contact at Starbase 557. Her name is Sally Gilbee. In return for free lodgings here twice a year, she supplies me with information on visiting Starfleet personnel. Under normal circumstances I use it to tailor the individual’s holiday…make it a more…intimate experience. When the offer of a Deltan on heat came from D’Ran I couldn’t help myself.”

Data nodded and returned to his seat.

“I see. You have broken several laws, both civil and Starfleet. You can expect a visit from the authorities and I will contact you again if I require any additional information. Enterprise out.”

The android stood and addressed tactical.

“Please send a copy of this interview to Commander DeSota at Starbase 557 with my compliments. Inform him of the activities of Sally Gilbee and request he forward the outcome of the resulting investigation.”

“Aye Sir.”

Will stood and went to the engineering station. He called up the latest scans and scowled.

“We’re still in the dark.”

Data joined him and nodded.

“I am afraid you are right in two ways Commander. Not only are we still unable to penetrate whatever they have used to cloak the area, but night has fallen on that area of the planet.”

Will growled.

“Can we transport through it?”

Data shrugged.

“Unknown Sir.”

The big man ran a hand through his hair. Coming to a decision, he lowered his head and said softly,

“Data I’m taking a shuttle and a security detail down there. You have the bridge.”

The Second Officer frowned deeply.

“Commander I cannot allow this. With Captain Picard missing you have command of the ship. Let me go Sir.”

Will’s hand was warm on Data’s shoulder.

“No my friend this is something I must do.”
Deanna rose from her seat and raised her soft voice loud enough to be heard.

“Data’s right Will. Your place is here, on the ship.”

Will shook his head.

“No! Look we don’t know what happened to Captain Picard, he may be injured, captured…anything could’ve happened and we still don’t have anything on Beverly other than the fact that she’s missing her right hand. Who knows what may have been done to her lately. I have to do this…they’re my friends!”

Deanna and Data shared a look and Data sighed.

“Very well Commander but I must register my disapproval at your actions. It is against standing regulations.”

The big man grinned.

“So noted Data.”

He went to the Counsellor and took her hands.

“Can you sense them?

She closed her eyes and frowned.

“No. Since the area blacked out I’ve sensed nothing.”

“Okay keep trying and signal me if you sense anything. Data I’ll be in regular contact. Have a security team meet me in Shuttle bay four.”

“Aye Commander.”
Will stepped into the lift and smiled at his friends. Deanna said softly,

“Find them Will…bring them home.”

He nodded as the doors closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The hunted officers found a rock overhang that afforded a modicum of shelter. Jean-Luc was lying on his side and although his eyes were closed, sleep eluded him. With the pounding in his head, the pain in his leg and chest and the ever-present dizziness and nausea, he lay quietly, trying to ease Beverly’s worry. The Doctor was seated beside her lover, cradling her throbbing arm. Earlier, in the waning light of the day, she had inspected the raw stump and found the beginnings of putrification. The terrible wound was weeping pus and serum, the surrounding flesh an angry red. Feeling tired, cold and feverish, Beverly leaned back, intending to see of she could at least doze. When her back made contact with the rough rock, she gasped and sat up, arching her back as pain shot through her muscles. The Captain heard her distress and sat up. He kept his voice low.

“What is it?”

Beverly swallowed and screwed her eyes shut.

“Nothing. Go back to sleep.”

He felt blindly for her good arm and finding it, squeezed it firmly.

“Don’t be so bloody condescending! What’s wrong?”

The Doctor quelled her rising anger and sighed.

“My back is injured and I just forgot and leaned back on the rock wall. It hurt.”

Jean-Luc let go of her arm and felt for her hand.

“How is it injured?”

“When the hover car I was in crashed it started to burn. I got away but it exploded and I was hit but some small metal shards. Some of them are still in my flesh.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“What are you wearing?”

“A long sleeve shirt and slacks.”

The Captain scowled.

“That’s it? You must be cold. Help me get my tunic off.”

Beverly’s voice was softly amused.

“Why?”

His voice was devoid of humour.

“Because you can wear it…I have my shirt underneath.”

He felt Beverly stroke his face.

“No need my love, I’m running a temperature and I’m only going to get hotter. The best thing will be to keep me cool.”

There was a moment’s silence before Jean-Luc asked,

“Why are you running a temperature?”

Beverly sighed.

“Because my stump is infected.”

The Captain grunted then said,

“Take off your shirt.”

A startled Beverly frowned.

“Why?”

Jean-Luc lowered his head.

“I might not be able to see Beverly but I can feel with my hands. Perhaps I can remove some of the metal in your back.”

The Doctor thought about it for a full minute. Jean-Luc gave her the time she needed and was gratified when she said,

“Okay.”

He heard her remove her shirt and she turned so her back was to him.

“Ready.”

He lifted his hands and very gently felt from her shoulders to the top of her buttocks. With delicate care, using his fingers and nails, he prised out several pieces of metal, feeling Beverly flinch and blood trickle down her skin. It took over an hour and at its end Beverly was exhausted. She slowly put her shirt back on and Jean-Luc took her shoulders in his hands, turning her.

“Lie down with me.”

Trembling in pain and shock, Beverly sank to the ground on her side and allowed Jean-Luc to take her in his arms.

“Sleep my love, I’ll hold you.”

It took some time but she eventually drifted off. Jean-Luc stayed awake, content to stand guard over his lover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  With Will and the security team of five officers on board the shuttle was heavily loaded. It skimmed down to the last known coordinates and ran an extensive scan…and learned exactly nothing. Whatever was producing the dampening field was doing a superb job.

Will angrily tabbed open a channel and called the ship.

“Riker to Enterprise.”

“Data here Sir. Have you anything to report?”

Will snorted.

“No Data nothing. I’m going to initiate a search pattern of ever increasing circles. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

“Understood Commander. At your present altitude we have you on sensors. I suggest you stay at that height to maintain your safety.”

Will smiled grimly.

“Acknowledged Data. Riker out.”

He turned to his team and addressed them.

“I want all of you looking out the ports. Look for smoke, breaks in the forest…anything that might give us a clue as to where our people are.”

The officers nodded and there was a quiet chorus of “Yes Sir.”

Will inputted the search pattern and squinted out the front screen, the powerful lights of the shuttle illuminating a wide area. For over half an hour they searched when suddenly one of his officers shouted,

“Incoming! Starboard side…it’s coming up fast!”

The alarm sounded and Will slammed his hand down on the console but not fast enough. The missile blasted into the craft and it slewed sickeningly, smoke and flames billowing from the damaged side. With the interior filling with smoke, Will struggled to keep the shuttle aloft. He fought a losing battle as the little ship plummeted to the forest below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Data stood and spun to Tactical.

“Beam them off now!”

The Lieutenant’s fingers danced over the console but she gasped and lifted her head.

“It’s too late Sir, they’ve disappeared!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Will had just enough time to shout,

“Brace for impact!”

There was a deafening crash and the shuttle was violently thrown about as it descended through the trees. The cacophony ended abruptly as their ship met the ground with a deadly impact.

Miraculously upright the shuttle shuddered as an explosion blew out the starboard side. Three bodies spilled out and lay lifeless on the ground. In the darkened interior Will groaned and lifted his head. Blood covered his eyes and he winced as he raised his hands to wipe his face. As his hearing returned he heard pitiful sounds coming from the aft section. He slid out of his seat and crawled aft, finding the first officer lying on the floor. Will grabbed her arm and dragged her with him. The second victim was also on the floor, but sitting upright holding an obviously broken arm. He helped Will with his burden and they exited the ruined craft as quickly as they could.

Will and his helper, an Ensign, got clear of the burning shuttle and took stock.

“Can you walk?”

The Ensign nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

Will nodded slowly.

“And you still have your weapon?”

The young man hefted his phaser and nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

The Commander unholstered his own weapon and checked the charge.

“Right. We move the bodies clear and treat our wounded as best we can. Then you and I are going to continue our mission.”

The Ensign swallowed and nodded.

“Aye Commander.”

Will tapped his combadge.

“Riker to Enterprise.”

There was no reply.

“Riker to Enterprise respond please.”

Nothing, just static.

Will scowled.

“What is your name?”

“Thomas Phillips Sir.”

“Okay Tom, we’re on our own. Let’s get to it.”

Between them they dragged the three deceased crewmen clear and treated the unconscious woman as best they could. Will and Tom both took backpacks from the dead and checked the contents. The Ensign reported,

“I have rations, field dressings, a palm beacon and a tricorder Sir. How about you?”

Will grunted.

“The same. Take out the palm beacon and tricorder, we’ll be needing them.”

Tom nodded.

“Yes Sir…Commander will you let me treat your head wound?”

Will wiped at the trickling blood and shook his head.

“No there’s no time. Have we a spare tricorder?”

Tom checked and found one with the injured crewman.

“Yes Sir.”

Holding out his hand, Will took it and inputted some commands.

“I’ve set the automated locator. If we can find and destroy whatever’s cloaking this area, the Enterprise can send down help. Can you cope with your arm?”

The Ensign glanced down at his broken forearm and nodded.

“Aye Sir.”

Will stood and offered his hand, helping his companion to his feet. The big man deployed his tricorder and swept the area. Studying the results he sighed.

“I’m not getting much but there’s something on the ground about a kilometre from here. We should investigate.”

Tom settled his backpack and looked up at his Commander.

“Ready when you are Sir.”

Will smiled at the young man and activated his torch.

“Right. Let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc was dozing when he suddenly began to cough. He released his hold on Beverly and rolled away from her the pain in his chest searing. Blood filled his mouth and he allowed it to flow out, trying desperately to catch his breath. He felt Beverly grip his shoulder and her voice sounded near his ear, low and tense.

“Jean-Luc…quiet! Listen.”

Gasping softly, Jean-Luc quelled his coughing with difficulty and eventually held his breath. Nearby he heard the sounds of someone moving through the bush. Light arced across the foliage and Beverly tugged on his tunic, whispering urgently,

“We have to move deeper into the rocks. Can you get up?”

Letting out his breath, he gasped and nodded. The Doctor helped him to his feet and gripped his arm as she led him away from their hiding place. Fat drops of rain hit them and a low rumble of thunder heralded an impending storm. The wind picked up and Beverly stopped to whisper again.

“This is good, the sounds of the storm will cover our movements.”

Jean-Luc nodded and Beverly urged him onwards, blindly making her way through the bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Geordi scratched his head and glowered at the screen.

“I don’t know! Look if I could figure this out I would but so far it’s defeated me.”

Data looked at his friend with sympathy and gently laid his hand on Geordi’s shoulder.

“I know you are doing your best Geordi, I did not mean to put excess pressure on you.”

The Engineer sighed.

“You didn’t Data but with Commander Riker and the team down there…and with us not knowing anything…well it’s frustrating. I…”

The Enterprise lurched to starboard as a blast impacted on her side. Alarms sounded and Data yelled,

“Red alert! Shields up! Tactical what happened? Who fired on us?”

The Lieutenant frowned, then gripped his station as another explosion rocked the ship.

“I don’t know Sir! There’s nothing out there. Sensors show clear space.”

The aft Science station erupted in a shower of sparks as yet another impact raked the saucer section. Data strode to the Command seat and barked,

“Helm evasive manoeuvres, Picard delta epsilon. Engage.”

The enormous ship executed a graceful roll and headed for space in an elegant arc. Once clear of the planet, she rolled to port and then climbed rapidly, jumping to warp five.

Data’s voice was tight.

“Are we being pursued?”

Tactical shook his head.

“I can’t tell Sir, there’s still nothing on my sensors.”

The Second Officer tilted his head.

“Helm come to a full stop.”

“Aye Sir.”

In silence the Bridge crew waited. After five minutes, when nothing happened, Data called to Geordi,

“Any thoughts Commander?”

The Engineer frowned, his blue ocular implants dilating.

“If that was a cloaked ship, it can fire while cloaked. We’ve not come across that before and I really don’t like the implications.”

Data pulled down the corners of his mouth.

“Indeed. I will send a report to Starfleet immediately.”
He turned to tactical.

“Damage report?”

“Impulse drive is off line and we have a hull breach starboard side, saucer section. Shields at eighty six percent and the port nacelle coupling is failing. Three dead and thirty nine injuries so far.”

Data nodded.

“Estimated time for repairs?”

“Five hours Sir.”

Geordi caught Data’s eye.

“I’d better get to Engineering.”

Data nodded and turned back to the screen.

“I wish to review the sensor logs. Please route the information to the Ready Room.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Soaked to the skin for the second time, the shivering pair climbed over the rocky terrain, blindly feeling their way in the dark. Intermittent flashes of lightning allowed Beverly to plot her course and she spotted a likely hiding place not too distant. They were making slow progress to their haven when a light from a torch swept close by.

The Doctor pulled Jean-Luc down with her and whispered,

“There’s someone near. We have to be quiet.”

Jean-Luc nodded and tried to regulate his ragged breathing. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to take a breath, the pain and congestion forcing him to take shallow gasping breaths.

Beverly gripped Jean-Luc’s arm and began to crawl towards some boulders. They reached them and she pulled the Captain behind the straggly undergrowth. He felt her lips at his ear.

“There’s not much cover here. If we can avoid our pursuers, I think we can make a break for the rise. There’s a lot more cover there.”

Jean-Luc nodded and suddenly doubled over as his stomach heaved. Beverly held his shoulder as the upheaval brought on ragged coughing.

“Shh! Please Jean-Luc we have to be quiet.”

With his face screwed up in distress he managed to nod and savagely suppress his coughing. The blood he spat out mixed with the rain and soon disappeared.

A beam of light swept by and both officers distinctly heard,

“I’m telling you I heard something!”

Another guttural voice sounded annoyed.

“Where?”

The light lanced back and darted haphazardly around their hiding place.

“Over there somewhere.”

The rough voice grunted.

“Well you can go look, I’m staying out of the damned rain.”

The hiding officers heard the sounds of footsteps and disturbed foliage as someone cautiously approached. Beverly pulled her wet hair from her face and felt around for something to defend themselves with. Her hand found a good-sized rock and she picked it up. Jean-Luc whispered,

“What are you going to do?”

“If he comes too close I intend to attack him. If I’m quick enough…and lucky…he’ll be out cold before he knows what hit him.”

Jean-Luc frowned in the darkness, his defective vision never more so lamented.

“Do you think that’s wise? His compatriot is nearby.”

Beverly sighed.

“Do you really think we have a choice? I…”

She suddenly tensed as a flash of lightning showed the hunter rounding their boulder. Fortunately he was looking the other way. Beverly stood and flattened herself against the rock, raising her weapon and holding her breath. The tall man stepped closer and swung his head around, the light attached to his hat hitting Beverly full in the face.

Momentarily blinded, she reacted quickly, lunging forward and bringing down the rock where she knew his head would be. There was a satisfying hollow crack and the man staggered backwards, his hands going to his head. Unfortunately he cried out. Beverly pushed him hard and he toppled, the blaster in his hand flying out into the darkness. The Doctor fell to her knees and struck him again, putting all her strength into the blow. His body went limp and Beverly tore the light from his bleeding head. Switching it off, she was dragging his body into the boulder’s overhang when another beam of light suddenly picked out his boots. Beverly dropped him and retreated, but a loud report made her drop to the ground. The whine of a ricochet and falling fragments of rock told the officers that the remaining hunter had a projectile weapon. Beverly looked around frantically then scuttled sideways into the thicker bush. The lone gunman rounded the boulder and shined his hand-held torch on Jean-Luc.

“Well what have we here? Get up and put your hands above your head.”

Jean-Luc rose slowly and said quietly,

“I can only raise one hand, my shoulder has been injured.”

The hunter stepped closer and shone the light in Jean-Luc’s face.

“I don’t care…do as you’re told! And open your fucking eyes!”

The Captain shook his head.

“I can’t.”

The man growled.

“Oh really? Well I’ll just have to give you some encouragement!”

There was a moment’s silence then Jean-Luc was hit a full-blooded blow to his stomach. He dropped to his knees and retched. A rough hand grabbed him by his collar and hauled him back to his feet. Something hard pushed against his teeth and foetid breath washed over him.

“Open your damn mouth.”

Jean-Luc complied and cold steel invaded his mouth.

“You do as you’re told or I’ll blow your fucking head off.”

Although it caused great pain, Jean-Luc raised his hands above his head and opened his eyes. With everything spinning he tried to steady himself but groaned piteously. He heard a sinister click as the weapon was cocked and the metal was slowly withdrawn from his mouth.

“That’s more like it. Now I’ll let you in on a little secret. I wasn’t overly fond of my companion, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let you get away with what you did. I’m going to put my torch down and you’re going to remain still.”

The light descended until it illuminated Jean-Luc feet. The voice was low and deadly.

“Right. Now I’m going to teach you a lesson.”

The hulking man took a step forwards and Beverly came out of her hiding place and attacked him from behind. She brought the rock down on his head and he staggered, yelled in outraged anger and spun around, bringing the pistol to bear. Beverly dived to her side as the gun fired and rolled once, coming to her feet and darting around the rock. The hunter raised a hand to his head and roared at feeling the flowing blood. He swung back to confront Jean-Luc to find him gone. Grunting with frustration, the big man picked up the torch and aimed it at the scrub, bending to peer through the low branches.

Beverly, who had climbed the boulder, launched herself and landed on his bent body. He was driven to the ground and lost his grip on the torch. The Doctor landed another blow with the rock but the huge man struck back, bringing the grip of the gun down on her neck. Seeing stars, Beverly rolled free and attempted to stand. Her feet were swept from under her and as she hit the ground, a shot glanced off the rocky soil close to her head. Her assailant lunged forward and kicked her savagely, connecting with her jaw. Beverly curled up, dazed and shocked, trying to protect herself. He took several steps back, aiming the gun at her and trying to find the torch. He spotted the beam in the scrub and moved towards it, bending down while keeping the pistol trained on his victim. As his fingers closed on the torch, he was kicked in the head and fell onto his behind. Jean-Luc staggered from the bush and kicked him again as he scrambled to aim the gun. The Captain dropped to his knees and gripped the gun hand. The man grunted and punched Jean-Luc with his free hand but the Captain hung on, forcing the weapon to the ground. Three times he was punched in the head and he held on but the man altered his attack, landing a savage blow to Jean-Luc’s broken ribs. With a cry of agony, Jean-Luc pitched forward and the man wrestled the gun free and brought it down viciously on the back of the Captain’s head. His body went limp and the hunter pushed him off. As the brute struggled to his feet he was again struck on the head, this time by the metal torch. He went down on all fours and Beverly grunted as she hit him again and again, not stopping until he lay motionless on the muddy ground.

With the rain pelting down, Beverly knelt by her lover and used the torch to inspect the wound on the back of his head. It was bleeding freely and her tears mixed with the falling rain on her face.

“Oh God no…Jean-Luc…please no…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Will grunted as he wiped the rain from his eyes and scanned the derelict hover car. Ensign Phillips was scanning around the periphery of the wreck as Will completed his survey. Stooping low, he exited the car and called his companion.

“Tom over here.”

The Ensign appeared and Will gestured to his tricorder.

“There’s a body inside and DNA traces all over the car and one of them is from Doctor Crusher. Have you found anything?”

The young man nodded.

“Yes Sir. There is blood on the ground near the left side of the car and someone, I think the owner of the blood, was dragged some distance into the bush. Rain has all but erased the traces but they’re just visible. The trail ends about fifteen metres over there then it simply disappears.”

Will nodded.

“Can you identify the DNA?”

“No Sir…nothing on file.”

The bearded man sighed.

“Well at least it’s not Doctor Crusher.”

He inputted new parameters into his tricorder and slowly turned three sixty degrees, scanning as he went. Suddenly stilling, he backed up and intensified the scan before grunting and looking up at the Ensign.

“We have another target two and a half kilometres south east of here. Are you up to a little more bush bashing?”

Tom grinned and nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

Will returned the grin, his appreciation and respect for the youngster growing.

“Right let’s get going.”

Aiming his palm beacon, Will pushed into the bush, silently praying that his friends were all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Data, Deanna and Geordi were seated in the Observation Room going over the available information. Data looked to Deanna and sighed.

“I have gone over the sensor logs and I cannot explain how we didn’t detect the cloaked ship. There was nothing, no spatial disturbances and no emissions of any sort to give them away.”

Geordi unclasped his hands and used them to give form to his words.

“We know we can detect Klingon and Romulan cloaked ships with tachyons so obviously this is technology we’ve not seen before. Data did you inform Starfleet about what happened?”

The android nodded.

“Yes Geordi. They advised me that they were looking into it. I am expecting a communiqué from them at any time.”

Deanna sat forward.

“Wait a minute. I know we were unprepared for the attack but how do we know this isn’t a new Romulan device?

Geordi smiled.

“For some time now, all Starfleet vessels have incorporated a low intensity tachyon burst in the sensor grid. In effect, every time we scan anything, the surrounding area is saturated in tachyons. If it were a Romulan ship…or Klingon for that matter, we would know.”

Deanna sat back and frowned.

“Data is it possible the Ferengi Daimon who’s aiding the alliance could have obtained new technology we don’t know about?”

Data shrugged.

“Anything is possible Counsellor, in fact judging by the technology employed in the echo relay, I would say it is more than likely.”

Geordi suddenly sat forward and placed his hands on the table.

“Data we found that relay by the sub sonic displacement it emitted. What if that was part of its cloaking device?”

The Second Officer tilted his head, his eyes darting back and forth as he accessed information.

“The sub sonic displacement only occurred when it was relaying communications. If indeed we are dealing with a cloaked Ferengi ship then unless they open communication channels and transmit they will remain invisible to us.”

Geordi grinned, sat back and took a large breath.

“You’re forgetting something my friend.”
Data frowned and raised his eyebrows.

“Geordi I do not forget anything.”

With a smug smile, the Engineer folded his arms across his chest.

“Really? Then tell me Data, what would happen if we were to broadcast a low frequency resonate pulse?”

Data’s eyes sharpened.

“Ah I see. Such a pulse would, in theory, cause a sonic shadow to develop around anything in its path. Also, again in theory, it would have the propensity to cause any sub sonic equipment to activate.”

A predatory smile grew on Geordi’s face and he nodded.

“Damn right. The only problem is how to approach the area without getting our nose bloodied.”

Data frowned.

“You are assuming the mystery ship is still in orbit around Kalara II.”

Deanna answered.

“It makes sense Data. If Muzz is in on this with the alliance he would have a vested interest in keeping us away.”

The android nodded.

“I agree. Have you any ideas about how we can approach the planet undetected Geordi?”

The Engineer’s ocular implants contracted.

“As a matter of fact I have.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Nearing exhaustion and with her head throbbing, Beverly managed to drag Jean-Luc into the shelter of a rock overhang. She laid him down and scooped up some soil to rest his head on. Next she gently felt along her jaw, wincing when her fingers discovered the displaced bone. Now with two torches, she placed one on her head and used the other to inspect her stump. In the confusion of the fight the makeshift bandage had been torn loose and the raw flesh was bleeding sluggishly, but it was the insidious red lines that snaked up her arm that caused the Doctor to sigh. The flesh around the terrible wound was an angry red and pus caked the exposed area. Shuffling forward, Beverly stuck her arm under a small cascade and, turning on her head light, used her now free hand to wash the wound. The pain was almost unbearable and she sobbed quietly until she heard Jean-Luc groan. Quickly by his side, she gripped his arm and spoke gently.

“Can you hear me Jean-Luc?”

He swallowed and opened his mouth to gasp. His voice was ragged.

“Yes.”

“Do you remember what happened?”

He raised a hand to his head but Beverly grabbed it and held fast.

“Jean-Luc?”

He grimaced and slowly shook his head.

“No. Where are we and why am I wet?”

Beverly closed her eyes and sighed.

“We’re on a planet called Kalara II. I was kidnapped and you came to rescue me. Both our transporters crashed and we’re stranded in the bush, hiding from my abductors. You were already badly hurt, but during a fight just a little while ago, you were hit on the head and rendered unconscious.”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and moaned loudly, immediately shutting his eyes again.

“Oh God…what’s wrong with me?”

Beverly released his hand and gently stroked his brow.

“You are suffering from bleeding in the brain. It’s causing the vision disturbances, nausea, dizziness and pain. Now you can add a severe concussion. We have to find help Jean-Luc.”

Jean-Luc suddenly gripped Beverly’s arm and rolled to his side. The coughing fit resulted in more blood being brought up and Beverly could do nothing but hold his shoulder and wait until he calmed.

Once again on his back, he panted raggedly, his hands holding his head.

“Mon Dieu…the pain…”

The Doctor closed her eyes.

“I know my love…I’m so sorry I can’t help you.”

He shivered and Beverly sighed.

“We were caught in the rain, it’s been pouring for hours now.”

The Captain frowned and tried to get enough breath.

“What about the ship? Can we contact them?”

“Nope. There must be something preventing them from finding us Jean-Luc otherwise we’d be home and dry by now.”

Jean-Luc’s hands left his head and covered his stomach.

“I feel sick.”

The red head frowned. Being unable to help her lover was the epitome of her worst nightmare. Striving to take his mind off his misery, Beverly asked,

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

The Captain frowned, his hands gently rubbing his midriff. After a minute or two his eyebrows rose.

“Swimming?”

He then shook his head.

“No wait…I was drowning! You…you saved me. I remember now. I discharged myself from Sickbay and took a shuttle. It was hit by a missile.”

Beverly smiled.

“That’s right. So you can’t remember anything from after we fell into the river?”

He scowled.

“No, nothing.”

“Well basically we’ve been on the run. We found a hiding place but the bad guys flushed us out. We got to here but we were discovered. There was a fight and between us we got rid of our pursuers.”

Jean-Luc gasped.

“Your hand! How are you?”

Wishing to allay his concern, Beverly’s voice was light.

“Oh it’s okay…a little sore. Once we’re back on board the Enterprise I’m sure Selar will have it fixed in no time.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes, we were careful to put both your hand and fingers in stasis so they can be successfully reattached.”

The Doctor smiled.

“Good thinking.”
Jean-Luc raised one hand and groped for her arm. Beverly took it and squeezed affectionately. Jean-Luc smiled and tried to sigh.

“I do remember our time at the chalet…I love you.”

The Doctor kissed his cheek.

“I’m glad you remember Jean-Luc…I love you too.”

“Have we anything to defend ourselves with?”

Beverly smiled widely.

“As a matter of fact yes. She turned and picked up the pistol, gently pressing it into Jean-Luc’s hand.

“I liberated this from one of our assailants. The other man had a blaster but I can’t find it.”

“And what of these men? Are they still a threat?”

Beverly sighed.

“Maybe. The one who hit you is dead but the other is unconscious.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“I see. Have we anything with which to immobilise him?”

The Doctor shook her head.

“Unfortunately no.”

“Then we need to get away from here.”

Beverly took the gun and slid it under the waistband of her trousers.

“I agree but you really shouldn’t be moved.”

“We seem to be running out of choices Beverly. If we stay here we’ll most certainly be found.”

The Doctor sighed.

“You’re right of course. Do you think you can stand?”

The Captain grunted and held up his hand.

“If you’ll help me.”

Taking it slowly, Beverly helped Jean-Luc to his feet. He swayed dangerously and groaned softly but he steadied himself and nodded.

“All right, lead on.”

As they moved from their shelter into the rain Beverly commented,

“At least we can see where we’re going now.”

Jean-Luc advised,

“Keep the light aimed low. We don’t want to attract attention.”

“Good idea. I’m heading up the escarpment. It may be difficult for you, but there’re many more places to hide up there.”

Jean-Luc clenched his teeth and remained silent, concentrating on keeping his breathing as even as possible.

With Beverly’s arm around him, he ignored his pain and gave her his trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Will and Tom found the ruined shuttlecraft and stood with deep frowns as they scanned the remains.

“There’s blood inside Commander…Captain Picard’s blood.”

Will grunted.

“Yeah there’s some out here too as well as some from Beverly. Going by the tricorder they climbed down this tree and spent some time here on the ground.”

Will gave his head a sharp shake, sending drips flying. Tom wiped at his wet face and shook the water off his tricorder. Shining his palm beacon over to his left, he walked over to the thickening bush and scanned extensively.

“Commander? There are DNA traces on the underside of this foliage consistent with both Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher. It seems they went in this direction.”

Will nodded.

“Yep and there’s evidence they were followed. I’m picking up more DNA and cellular residue from six sources.”

Tom grimaced and shook his head.

“It seems pretty obvious they’re both injured…we have to find them Sir and quickly.”

“I know. The only up side is that they’re together. Come on, I’ll lead, you stick close to my back and try to protect your arm.”

The Ensign smiled.

“Thanks Commander.”

Lightning flickered as they pushed into the bush, followed by the muttering of thunder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Deanna sat in the Command chair, Data at her right. Geordi was at the aft Engineering station and they waited patiently as he worked on his calculations. The Counsellor sighed and briefly closed her eyes.

“What do you think of Geordi’s idea Data?”

The android tilted his head and turned to face her.

“Geordi’s suggestion has an eighty nine point four percent chance of succeeding Counsellor.”

Deanna sighed again.

“Yes but it’s risky isn’t it.”

Data hesitated then nodded.

“There is a significant risk involved, yes, however I do not think anything else would work as well.”

Deanna crossed her legs and rubbed her forehead.

“So let me get this straight. We’re going to use the unusually strong magnetic field around Kalara’s south pole to mask our approach, which will be at warp four. We drop out of warp only fifty-two kilometres above the planet and come to an emergency stop…hoping that the computer has calculated the distances and speeds correctly. Then we sit within the magnetic field and emit the resonate pulse towards our previous coordinates.”

Data smiled.

“Correct. If we are quick enough…and fortunate in the extreme, we will detect the cloaked ship and hopefully disable it before it is aware of our presence.”

Deanna snorted.

“That’s provided we don’t plough straight into the planet, or get caught too low in the atmosphere. It’s a hell of a gamble Data.”

The android shrugged.

“While I agree there is a modicum of luck involved I still believe the plan has a good chance of succeeding.”

The Counsellor looked deeply into his eyes and swallowed. Geordi’s voice broke the spell.

“Well we’re as ready as we’ll ever be.”

Deanna sat up straight and addressed the Ensign seated at the Helm.

“Helm do you have all the information you need?”

The nervous young woman nodded.

“Aye Sir.”

“Then engage and allow the computer to take control.”

With a trembling hand, the Ensign carried out her orders and watched the viewscreen as the mighty ship turned on her axis and made the effortless jump to warp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    D’Ran snarled at the diminutive Ferengi standing before him. With savage fury, he gripped the lapels of the little man, hoisted him to eye level and marched across the Bridge, shoving the Ferengi hard against the wall.

“And I’m telling you we have to find Picard and Crusher! Don’t you understand that without them we lose everything?”

Muzz gripped the man’s hands and kicked ineffectually with his feet.

“Put me down you cretin! Don’t you realise that the Enterprise will be back? The flagship of the Federation is not going to be content with being run off. Their Captain and Chief Medical Officer are missing and now…thanks to your stupid, trigger happy compatriots; there are more Starfleet personnel on the surface. It’s only a matter of time before they discover the cloaking generators and once they take them out we will lose our advantage.”

D’Ran abruptly released the Daimon and he fell awkwardly to the deck. With as much dignity as he could muster, the little alien stood and strode to his command chair. The alliance leader followed and stood beside the Daimon, chewing the inside of his mouth.

“You’re wrong. The Enterprise won’t endanger their missing crew and they have no idea where Picard and Crusher are. If we find them first we will maintain the upper hand…in fact I will be in a position to threaten Starfleet itself.”

Muzz’s jaw flapped open and he stared. His high-pitched voice shrieked.

“Are you completely insane? Starfleet won’t deal with you…they’ll destroy you and me with you! We have to leave! And do I have to remind you of the secrecy of this technology…and the fact you haven’t paid for it yet? If Starfleet get their hands on the cloaking device there will be trouble and you my friend will take the brunt.”
D’Ran sneered down at the little Daimon.

“Yes you’d do that wouldn’t you…you little troll. You’d wash your hands of everything just to make a profit.”
Muzz smiled avariciously.

“What do you think I’m here for? I do not share your lofty ideals of war and autonomy for your people! I agreed to help you for nothing but latinum and, may I remind you, the third payment is overdue.”

D’Ran lazily leaned over and wrapped his hand around Muzz’s throat, squeezing until the veins stood out on his neck.

“You’ll get your money Muzz…when we get Picard and Crusher.”

He let go and Muzz collapsed forward, his hacking cough ringing around the Bridge. One of his crew suddenly barked,

“There is a ship approaching at high warp Daimon!”

Muzz straightened, his eyes streaming. He croaked,

“Is it the Enterprise?”

The crewman studied his console then suddenly shook his head.

“I…it has disappeared Daimon, but the warp signature matches the Enterprise.”

Muzz did not hesitate.

“Prepare to leave orbit.”

D’Ran grabbed his collar and shook him.

“No! We must stay.”

About to argue, Muzz was silenced by a disrupter pointed in his large ear. D’Ran hissed,

“You will stay and find my prizes or I will vaporise you.”

The Ferengi swallowed, sweating heavily.

“You do realise we can’t raise shields with the cloak engaged?”

D’Ran smiled evilly.

“Don’t worry my little friend, they’ll never see us.”

 

                  Jean-Luc was becoming increasingly distressed. With the pain in his head reaching unbearable proportions, his feet stumbled over the rocks as they slowly climbed. Unable to continue he groaned softly and fell to his knees, gripping his head and falling forward. Beverly grabbed his shoulders, her voice urgent.

“Jean-Luc what is it?”

His reply was strained.

“I can’t go on Beverly. You go…find some shelter…leave me.”

The Doctor strove to keep the panic from her voice.

“Come on Jean-Luc it’s just a little further, you can do it.”

He retched ineffectually and groaned, shaking his pounding head. Beverly tried to lift him.

“Jean-Luc we’re exposed out here, we need to find somewhere to hide. Come on my love…”

To his credit he did try to rise but abruptly cried out and fell to the wet ground, his body shuddering and twitching. As Beverly fell to her knees beside him his body lost it’s rigidity and he lost consciousness. Frantic with fear, Beverly risked discovery by turning on her head torch and rolling the Captain onto his back. When she examined his head, she was shocked to see blood trickling from his right ear.

“NO!”

Now beside herself with fear for her lover, the Doctor gently pulled Jean-Luc into a sitting position then knelt in front of him, holding both his hands in her surviving hand over her shoulders. With a heave she hefted his weight and staggered to her feet. Unable to use the hand-held torch, that was shoved into the waistband of her pants. By now uncaring of the danger, she used the head torch to light her way as she struggled upwards, frequently falling to her knees and tearing the skin.

When she finally spotted a likely hiding place she was quietly sobbing. The ever-present rain pelted down adding to her misery. It took the last of her meagre energy to cover the remaining metres to the small cave she’d seen. By the light of her torch, she quickly inspected the cave before entering and dragging Jean-Luc after her.

She placed the Captain in the recovery position then lay beside him, exhausted and sick, her injuries throbbing and the insidious red lines on her arm now almost reaching her armpit. Her transition to sleep went unnoticed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Will was frowning over his tricorder and stopped, almost causing a collision. Tom backed up and shifted his backpack.

“What is it Commander?”

Will let out a frustrated breath.

“I’m not sure. I’m getting screwy readings…what does your tricorder read?”

Tom reached into his tunic and retrieved his instrument, deploying it and running a scan. He frowned and shook the running water from his eyes.

“Same here Sir. As far as this is concerned, the track goes for another twenty-seven metres then…stops.”

Will grunted.

“That’s what I get, but what’s after that?”
Tom shrugged.

“I’ll go and have a look.”

The First Officer grunted again and moved so Tom could get past. The Ensign had only gone a few metres when Will called,

“Hang on I’m coming too.”

With their eyes glued to their instruments, neither was prepared for the sudden drop. Tom fell, his yelp of fright alerting the Commander. Will lunged forward and grabbed Tom’s backpack. The weight of the young man pulled Will from his feet and he was dragged face down to the edge in the slippery mud. His foot caught in a shrub and he halted, gasping and straining to find something to grab with his free hand.

After several seconds Will steadied himself and called,

“Are you all right Tom?”

The youngster’s voice shook.

“Yes Sir.”

“Okay just hang on…I’m trying to find a way to pull you up.”

“Understood Sir.”

Having dropped both the tricorder and palm beacon, Will’s eyes strained in the dark. In the gloom he made out the shape of a shrub and stretched his arm, grunting with satisfaction as his hand made contact with the trunk. He rolled onto his side and anchored his feet in the small tree that had arrested his slide.

“Tom?”

“Yes Sir?”

“I’m going to pull you up now.”

There was no reply as Will applied himself to his task. Centimetre by centimetre Tom was hauled up. Soon both men were laying in the rain each giving thanks in his own way. Will eventually sat up and looked around, spotting the palm beacon nearby. He rose and picked it up and by its light, soon found the tricorder. Will heard his young officer chuckling and went to him, his voice amused.

“What’s so funny?”

The Ensign’s laughter gave way to a quiet sob.

“Dammit Commander that was close…and will you look at this? I still have the tricorder and palm beacon!”

Will snorted and went cautiously to the edge of the drop, using his light to peer into the darkness.

“Don’t get too excited Tom. It’s a drop of about ten metres but there’s a river down there. Chances are you would’ve survived.”

The Ensign joined his Commander and used his light to verify Will’s words. With a grunt, the young man left Will’s side and scanned the surrounding foliage.

“Sir? There’s DNA from both Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher on this bush.”

Will turned and began to scan.

“I know. Scan around the area…see if they went left or right.”

Ten minutes later Tom’s quiet voice broke through Will’s concentration.

“Commander? I have found DNA from the six pursuers, but nothing of our targets.”

The beared man sighed.

“I agree.”

Tom went back to the edge and looked down.

“Do you think they went over?”

“Seems like it.”

Tom took a large breath.

“What now?”

Will aimed his torch to the right and pushed back some bushes.

“We get down to the river and check the banks.”

Tom nodded and followed his CO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                “We have them!”

Deanna leaned forward and barked,

“Shields up, red alert! Are the weapons on line?”

“Aye Sir.”

“Lock on phasers, full intensity and load the forward torpedo bays with quantum charges.”

She turned to Data and nodded.

“I would appreciate your input Data.”

The android nodded.

“Now that we have their profile we have the opportunity to render them helpless. However I think it expedient to issue a warning.”

Deanna nodded, pursing her lips.

“Agreed. Tactical, open a channel.”

“Channel open Sir.”

The Counsellor stood and fisted her hands on her hips.

“Ferengi Vessel this is the Starship Enterprise. Drop your cloak and prepare to be boarded. You have five minutes to comply.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Muzz watched his display with hawk-like intensity. Slapping his thigh in frustration, he swivelled in his chair and said querulously,

“Where is it?! A ship that size cannot simply disappear!”

The hapless crewman at the console bent lower, as if getting closer to his screen might disclose the answer.

“I don’t know Daimon! They approached so fast and didn’t do anything to avoid the planet. Perhaps there was a malfunction and they crashed into it?”

Muzz sneered.

“And perhaps my mother fed me for free! They didn’t crash you slug, they are hiding. Find them!”

D’Ran crossed his arms and sighed theatrically.

“I’m telling you we’re safe. They can’t see us.”

Muzz turned and stared.

“Considering you were seriously injured when you came aboard, you show an astonishingly blasé attitude towards your continued good health. We are facing the most lethal Federation Starship there is! Do you really think their disappearance is a coincidence? I think we should…”

The man a Tactical took a step back and shook his head.

“Daimon! Our communication system has just self-activated. We are broadcasting!”

“What! Shut it down fool!”

“I can’t. I…”

Just then the message came from the Enterprise. The beings listened and Muzz groaned.

“I knew it! Prepare to drop the cloak and raise shields. As soon as possible, jump to warp at any heading away from this cursed planet!”

D’Ran grabbed Muzz’s collar and brandished the blaster.

“Stop! Before you raise shields, beam me down to the planet! Now!”

Muzz waved a hand and snarled,

“Go! I will return for my payment D’Ran, never think I won’t.”

The rebel glared down at the Ferengi as he disappeared in a swirl of blue light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Deanna watched the viewscreen as the Ferengi ship shimmered into shape. Before she could hail them, the ship blasted into warp and fled. She spun on her heel and snapped,

“Pursuit course! Engage!”

The Enterprise turned and elongated in a sustained surge of incredible energy as she took up the chase.

 

 

 

 

                    Will looked up at the lightening sky and sighed. The rain was easing and the first light of dawn was pinking the heavens. Tom was peering down at his tricorder.

“As far as this is concerned, the cliffs go on for over two kilometres Sir. If they went into the river and survived, then it’s most likely they made it to the opposite bank.

Will nodded.

“Agreed. We need to get down there and cross the river. Do you think you’re up to it?”

The young man grinned and nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

“Right. Scan for a suitable place to climb down.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly felt a tickle on her cheek and brushed her hand over her face. She sighed and shifted slightly before the tickle disturbed her again. With an annoyed sigh she again brushed her hand over her cheek only to encounter something large and with numerous legs. With a cry of alarm, the Doctor sat up and flung whatever it was away from her head. A large sooty black spider-like creature righted itself and hissed, rearing up and exposing two wicked fangs. It rushed at the red head and she yelled in fear and swiped at it. It baulked then lunged, sinking its fangs deeply into Beverly’s hand. Horror swept through the Doctor as she raised her hand and brought it down sharply, squashing the creature in a gory mess on the cave floor. Turning her head abruptly, Beverly closed her eyes and shuddered, concentrating on settling her stomach. When she felt in control, she turned on her torch and swept the little cave with light. She saw no more spiders and breathed a sigh of relief. Next she turned her attention to Jean-Luc. With the light illuminating his prone form, she re-examined his head. More blood had flowed from his ear and blood was seeping from his mouth, his breathing laboured and gurgling.

Gritting her teeth, she called softly,

“Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc can you hear me?”

He was unresponsive. In desperation Beverly picked up one of his hands and beseeched,

“Squeeze my hand Jean-Luc…please squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”

Nothing. Very gently Beverly lifted his eyelids and shone the torch in his eyes. The left pupil reacted but the right was dilated and fixed.

“Oh God we need help!”

Chewing her lip, Beverly looked to the cave entrance and saw the light for the first time. She crawled out and raised her head, noting that the rain had finally stopped. She stood on unsteady legs.

“Dammit I need to find help…but I can’t leave him! What the hell can I do?”

As she turned to re-enter the cave she was overcome with dizziness and lost her balance and fell. A strange taste invaded her mouth and her vision skewed. She moaned and closed her eyes.

“No…the damned spider…venom…I must…”

She opened her eyes and watched in fascination, as everything turned grey. Her loss of consciousness was seamless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Deanna paced in the command well.

“What is their speed?”

“Warp nine point five Sir.”

The Counsellor looked to the Second Officer.

“Do you think they’re at their maximum?”

Data nodded thoughtfully.

“From what we know of Ferengi vessels, yes, I think they are at their limit.”

Keeping her eyes on the viewscreen, Deanna said quietly,

“Increase speed to warp nine point eight.”

The reply was nervous.

“Aye Sir.”

Tense seconds passed before Tactical muttered,

“We’re catching them Commander.”

Deanna’s smile was grim.

“Hail them.”

The Counsellor took her seat in the command chair and raised an eyebrow when Tactical reported,

“They’re answering Sir.”

Composing herself, Deanna said firmly,

“On screen.”

The Ferengi facing them smiled and bowed.

“I am Daimon Muzz of the Franchise. How can I be of help?”

Deanna smiled in return and tilted her head.

“You can drop out of warp, lower your shields and come to a stop.”

The alien frowned and shook his head.

“Not possible I’m afraid. I have urgent business and I cannot be delayed.”

Keeping her smile in place, Deanna sighed.

“That’s a pity because if you don’t accede to my requests I will be forced to open fire on you…and I won’t stop until you are dead in the water.”

Shock registered on Muzz’s face, his hands raised in horror.

“You would attack my ship without provocation? What are you…pirates?”

Deanna’s smile widened and she contemplated her boots.

“You know full well who we are…and we know what you’ve been up to. I will ask you one final time Daimon, come to a full stop and lower your shields.”

The little being jutted out his chin and sneered.

“I do not listen to females!”

The viewscreen reverted to the image of the fleeing ship and Deanna pinched the bridge of her nose. Sighing, she lifted her head and said quietly,

“I want two torpedoes to detonate in front and two immediately behind that ship. If that doesn’t bring him to his senses, target their engines and weapons and fire with full phasers and torpedoes on my command.”

The reply was subdued.

“Aye Sir.”

The entire Bridge crew watched the screen as blasts exploded fore and aft of the Ferengi vessel. When it showed no inclination to stop, Deanna closed her eyes and swallowed.

“Fire.”

It was over in five minutes. Muzz returned fire but he was at a significant disadvantage. The Enterprise’s quantum torpedoes shattered his shields in three hits and the following phaser strikes destroyed his weapons. Two strategically placed torpedoes rendered the engines inoperable and the Franchise shuddered to a halt, as Deanna promised, dead in the water.

The Counsellor turned to her Exec and ordered,

“Take an away team and secure that ship. Bring Muzz to me, we’ll put a tractor beam on the Franchise to tow it back to Kalara.”

Data stood and nodded.

“Understood Commander.”

 He started to walk to the aft turbolift when he stopped and faced the Counsellor. His voice was soft.

“Well done Sir.”

Deanna was still smiling when he left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Will looked over at the cliff edge then refocussed on his tricorder.

“Right, they went in here.”

He gestured over to the cliff.

“That’s the spot. I’m assuming they were carried downstream a bit…we should scan as we walk along the bank.”

Tom nodded then winced.

“Sir? If they were in the water and went over those rapids…”

Will sighed.

“I know. Still, they’re both strong swimmers, all we can hope is that their injuries weren’t too severe.”

The two men proceeded to traverse the bank, scanning as they went. Seventy-three metres downstream Will stopped.

“Tom! I’ve got something.”

The Ensign came to his commander and watched as Will walked a little way into the surrounding bush. He was soon back at the river.

“It’s them. They exited the river here and went a little way into the bush before heading back upstream.”

The young man grinned.

“Then they’re okay?”

The Commander shook his head.

“No. There’re traces of blood from both of them. Come on I’ve got a feeling we need to hurry.”

The sky slowly cleared and by mid-morning bright sunshine bore down on the searching officers. Now mostly dry, they came across the site of the fight and discovered the body of the dead rebel, hidden in a shallow grave. With grim determination Will and Tom pressed on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             D’Ran assembled his compatriots and outlined his plans.

“They can’t be far. From what we know they’re both injured and if Benock’s report is true, Picard is virtually blind.”

Benock, the brute who had fought with both Jean-Luc and Beverly grunted.

“My report is accurate! Picard cannot open his eyes and has an injured arm…”
He grinned evilly.

“And we know Crusher has only one hand.”
There was an undercurrent of cruel laughter before D’Ran sneered.

“That didn’t stop them from killing Heddon and rendering you unconscious you fool.”

He turned to the eight men that surrounded him and lowered his voice.

“Look we’re dealing with highly trained Starfleet officers. They won’t give in without a fight, but hear me. I want them alive! Do what you have to to subdue them but if any of you kill either of them, I will take your life in return. They are vital to our plans. Understood?”

The men grumbled their obedience and D’Ran looked down at his screen.

“Very well. We will use this hover car as our base. I want you to fan out in pairs…I know our instruments are hampered by the cloak, but it should be a simple matter to find them. I will wait here. Remember…I want them alive!”

The men checked their weapons and left the area. D’Ran sat on a stump and absently ate some dried meat.

“Soon…soon I’ll have you then we’ll see about my demands.”

 

 

 

 

 

                   Deanna listened carefully to Data’s report.

“That’s fine Data. Secure the Franchise’s crew in the detention cells and make sure Muzz is kept separate. I’ll come down to interview him as soon as I can.”

“Aye Commander, Data out.”

The Counsellor directed her next question to the Con.

“How is the tow progressing?”

The Ensign turned and smiled.

“No problems Sir.”
”Good increase speed to three quarters impulse.”

The Ensign frowned.

“Sir that will put a significant strain on the connection. The recommended maximum speed for towing is…”
Deanna stood and gave the young woman a hard stare.

“I am well aware of the recommendations Ensign. Carry out my order.”

Blanching, the Ensign turned back to her station and inputted the relevant instructions. The sound of the impulse engines changed and a shudder ran through the ship. The officer at Tactical said quietly,

“Shearing forces have exceeded tolerances.”

Deanna turned and said with steely resolve,

“Can we maintain this speed?”

The Lieutenant checked his console and nodded slowly.

“Yes Sir, I believe we can.”

“Good. ETA at Kalara II?”

“Three point two hours Sir.”

The Counsellor stood and nodded.

“Very good. You have the Bridge Lieutenant, until Mr.Data returns. I will be at the detention cells.”

“Aye Sir.”

Deanna plexed as she rode the lift. Exiting at the appropriate deck, she walked through the large doors to be confronted by a yelling Ferengi. Data stood impassively outside the cell, staring blankly at the captive.”

Coming to stand at the Second Officer’s side, she gently tugged his sleeve and gestured for him to move to the far side of the cavernous room. Over the sound of Muzz’s strident voice, Deanna said,

“Data Lieutenant Briggs has the Bridge and things are a little tense up there. I have ordered us to increase speed to three quarters impulse. The Franchise is still with us but…”
Data held up his hand.

“I understand Counsellor. You wish to return to Kalara as quickly as possible. I will monitor the tow closely and if necessary, I will make appropriate adjustments.”

Deanna smiled, her eyes warm and sparkling.

“Thank you. Now just what is Muzz complaining about?”

Data sighed.

“As you are most probably aware, he insists he is innocent of any perceived crimes and is adamant in his wish to lodge a formal complaint with both Starfleet and the Federation.”

Deanna sighed.

“Well that’s fairly predictable. All right Data, you go, I’ll handle him.”

The android nodded and left the room. Deanna walked slowly over to the still ranting Ferengi and stood quietly, content to simply watch him.

Muzz shouted and gesticulated but no matter what he said or did, the stoic woman remained unimpressed. Finally he quietened and stood defiantly silent.

Deanna pursed her lips and kept her voice deliberately soft.

“How long have you been involved with the Antarra Alliance?”

Muzz folded his arms across his chest and tilted his head.

“Who?”

The Counsellor smiled coldly.

“We have independent witnesses who implicate you in several crimes against Starfleet and the Federation. It would be in your best interests to drop this façade of ignorance and answer me.”

Muzz’s eyes glittered, his mouth sneering.

“Listen to me female. Who I choose to do business with is none of your concern. You would be better served devoting your time to rounding up real criminals…the Orions for instance, now they break laws!”

Deanna clasped her hands in front of her and lowered her head.

“We know that D’Ran is the leader. What did you charge him for your help? So far we have established that your assistance included supplying weapons, transport and a very interesting cloaking device.”

The Ferengi spat on the floor and said sullenly,

“You’ll get nothing from me.”

The Counsellor sighed.

“Very well, but I feel I should remind you that we have specialists on your ship as we speak, and their sole purpose is to study your cloaking device. Once I have their report I’m sure there will be more questions for you.”

She turned and left the incarcerated alien and, as she reached the doors, Muzz shouted,

“You won’t get away with this woman! I will see you cashiered.”

The doors trundled open and Deanna left, a frown marring her classical face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Will and Tom, following nearby energy readings, came across a hover car and beside it, resting on the ground was an alien device of moderate size. Will scanned it thoroughly and grunted.

“The tricorder is having trouble analysing this, but with what it can process, I’d say it was some sort of generator.”
Tom walked around the metre and a half square box and nodded.

“I agree Commander. Do you think it has something to do with the cloak?”

Will scratched his cheek and blew out a frustrated breath.

“My guess is yes. It’s activated whatever it is. How about we see if we can turn it off?”

Tom grinned, his eyes dancing.

“Now that sounds like fun Sir. Where do we start?”
Squatting down on his haunches, the big man studied the control panel and tentatively pressed a button. The cover of the panel abruptly closed and the device began to hum. Intrigued, Will touched the cover only to suffer a jolt that threw him backwards, leaving him on his rear two metres away.

Tom ran to his side and grabbed his arm.

“Commander Riker! Are you all right Sir?”

Will shook his head and rubbed his hand.

“Yeah I’m okay.”

He stood slowly and unholstered his phaser. Tom swallowed and looked back at the device.

“You’re going to destroy it?”

Will grunted as he set his weapon on maximum. He muttered,

“Protect yourself Tom.”

He took aim and fired.

Both men expected an explosion but what happened was completely unexpected. The device glowed and expanded, then suddenly collapsed silently into a smouldering wreck, wisps of smoke rising lazily into the air.

The men approached cautiously and scanned the remains, Will snorting with satisfaction.

“If I’m right we just opened a hole in the cloak.”

He tapped his combadge and called,

“Riker to Enterprise.”

The response made the big man smile.

“Enterprise here. Are you all right Commander?”

“I’m okay Data but Ensign Phillips is injured and we have two dead and one badly injured at the crash site.”

“Understood Sir. Have you located Captain Picard or Doctor Crusher?”

Will sighed.

“Not yet but I think we’re getting close. Can you lock onto us?”

Will could hear the regret in Data’s voice.

“I am sorry Sir but we cannot. We are presently en route back to Kalara after a battle with a Ferengi vessel. We have the Daimon and crew in custody and their ship under tow. Our ETA is two hours, providing we can maintain current speed.”

The Commander frowned.

“Understood Data. We will continue with our search but it’s most likely we will be re-entering an area covered by the cloak. I will contact you again if I can. Riker out.”

Tom hefted his backpack and pointed up at the escarpment.

“The last readings indicate they went up there Sir. Shall we?”

Will grinned and nodded.

“After you Ensign.”

 

 

 

 

                    Beverly awoke dazed and confused. Her left hand was grossly swollen and numb up to her elbow. The rest of her body tingled unpleasantly and it took almost ten minutes before she remembered where she was. Groaning, she rolled onto her side and struggled up to her feet. With faltering steps she made her way to the cave, dropped to her knees and slowly entered. She picked up a torch with difficulty but had to employ her teeth to turn it on. Jean-Luc was deathly pale and barely breathing. Blood had settled around his head and the Doctor softly cried as she completed her examination.

“Oh dear God…we’re running out of time!”

She was trying to make Jean-Luc more comfortable when she heard movement outside. Silently she picked up the pistol and checked to see how much ammunition she had left.

“Seven shots.”

As she pondered her options, a gruff voice said from surprisingly close at hand,

“You in the cave…come out with your hands up.”

Beverly remained silent. The voice, after waiting a few moments said,

“We know you’re both injured. Come out or we’ll come in…and we won’t be gentle.”

Beverly cocked her weapon and shouted,

“Leave us alone!”

There was laughter from two people.

“Leave you alone? You’re what we’re looking for! Look, we can help you. We know Picard is injured and you must be in a lot of pain. Why not come out? We’ll take you to our base and treat you both.”

Beverly looked down at her desperately ill lover and screwed her face up in worry. He needed urgent medical care and she was unable to help him. With a sigh, she realised she had no option but to accede. She called out,

“All right, I’ll come out but someone will have to come in for Captain Picard. I am unable to move him.”

The voice muttered,

“Fine, just throw out any weapons you have.”

Beverly stared at the pistol with regret before shuffling to the entrance and throwing the gun outside. As it was still cocked, it discharged as it hit the ground. There was a shout from the two men as they took cover. Beverly gasped and shouted,

“Sorry, that was my fault! It was cocked and I forgot.”

An angry voice replied,

“You’d better not forget anything else Doctor! Are there any more weapons?”

“No.”

“Right, come out with your hands up.”

Dizzy and with her body tingling, Beverly felt her tongue beginning to swell. She swallowed with difficulty and shuffled out of the cave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Will had just crested an outcropping of rock and was helping Tom scale the last bit when he suddenly straightened and lifted his head.

“Did you hear that?”

Tom nodded.

“Yes Sir. It sounded like gun fire, and close too.”

Will grunted.

“Yeah. I think things are going to get interesting.”
He slapped his combadge.

“Riker to Enterprise.”

Nothing.

“Okay we seem to be cut off again.”
He scanned with his tricorder.

“No life signs as yet, but there is a direction for the shot. Are you ready?”
The Ensign nodded.

“Aye Sir.”

Will jerked his head.

“Right come on then.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Deanna was seated in the Command chair, Data at her side. The Counsellor had been devoting deep thought as to how to get Muzz to admit his guilt. The android Second Officer cast her a sidelong look and sighed.

“Counsellor we will achieve orbit around Kalara II in forty-five minutes. What are your orders?”

Deanna sat up and faced her friend.

“I can’t see how we can help any of our crew on the surface. It would be better if we devoted ourselves to defeating the cloak. Tell me Data, would the sub-sonic pulse help?”

Data tilted his head and pulled down the corners of his mouth.

“Without the emptiness of space as a background, we would not be able to create the ‘shadow’ that revealed the Ferengi vessel. However, a sub-sonic pulse may cause any cloaking generators to malfunction, that is assuming such generators are used. We must bear in mind this is unknown technology we are dealing with.”

Deanna nodded.

“How much longer do the technicians on the Franchise need?”

“I am expecting their report within the hour.”

Deanna sighed.

“And do we know what area Will contacted us from and if it has been re-cloaked?”

“No Counsellor.”

Deanna stood and pursed her lips.

“I see. Well we have much to do. I’ll be with Muzz, let me know when we’ve achieved orbit.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The man who approached Beverly did so with a weapon trained unwaveringly on her. He was slightly built but well muscled and alert. Having got to the Doctor, he grabbed her right forearm and dragged her clear, allowing a bigger man to enter the cave. As he stooped, Beverly said,

“Captain Picard is very badly injured. Please be as gentle as you can, especially with his head.”

The man grunted and disappeared inside. He soon reappeared, coming out backwards and dragging Jean-Luc by his collar. Beverly was relieved to see that one of the big man’s hands was cradling the Captain’s head. Having got to Beverly’s side, the man stopped and gently laid Jean-Luc’s head on the ground. Beverly looked the man in the eye and said softly,

“Could you roll him on his side please? Not only is the back of his head severely damaged, but he’s bleeding into one of his lungs. Being on his side will help him to breathe.”

The man looked at his companion, frowned and sighed gruffly.

“Very well.”

He stood and gestured to his mate. They walked a short distance away and began to talk in muted tones. One of the men removed a small device from his jacket and spoke into it. He was just receiving a reply when two bright orange beams of light speared out from the surrounding bush and caught them both, holding them briefly in the concentrated energy beams before ceasing and allowing the men to collapse unconscious on the ground.

Will and Tom emerged and traversed the rise to Beverly and the Captain. The Doctor looked up with tears in her eyes. With difficulty she spoke.

“Will thank God! Quickly have the Captain beamed up to Sickbay!”

Will squatted down and grabbed Beverly’s shoulder.

“We can’t Beverly. There’s a cloaking device that’s covering this area. All I can do is take you back to where we know the cloak is down. Can you walk?”

Stifling her anguish, the Doctor nodded.

“I think so, but I’ll need some help. Will the Captain is severely injured. We really shouldn’t move him, but…can you carry him? Is it far?”

Will sighed.

“About two and a half kilometres. Tom will help you and I’ll carry the Captain.”

Beverly turned and smiled at the young Ensign.

With her tongue swelling further, talking was becoming increasingly difficult. She proffered her right arm and raised her eyebrows. Tom gently took her arm and placed it across his shoulders, his arm encircling her waist. Will moved to Jean-Luc’s side and eased his hands under the unconscious man, rolling him into his embrace as he stood. Jean-Luc’s head lay comfortably against Will’s shoulder. The Commander caught Tom’s attention.

“Ensign if anything happens and we get separated, take Doctor Crusher back to the hover car we found. If communications are down, use the car to get out of the cloaked area. Stay at treetop level and watch for any retaliation from the bush. As soon as you’re clear, land and have the Enterprise beam you both up.”

The young officer frowned.

“Okay Sir, but what about you?”

Will looked down at his CO and sighed.

“My responsibility is to protect the Captain. If I don’t make it back to the hover car I expect you to carry out my orders…we’ll be counting on you to get back to the ship Tom.”

The Ensign straightened, his youthful face settling into a look of resolute determination.

“Aye Sir, you can depend on me.”
Will smiled and the four officers began their slow journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Deanna and the Ferengi Daimon stared at each other, one with speculation, the other with overt hostility. After several minutes of silence, the Daimon snorted and retreated from the energy field barrier and went to sit on his bunk, lowering his eyes and ignoring the Counsellor.

Deanna sighed quietly and lifted her head, keeping her voice soft.

“Daimon Muzz what do you hope to achieve by your continued belligerent attitude? You are incarcerated and without any means of escape. Surely you can see that your situation can only be exacerbated by your obstructive behaviour. It’s only a matter of time before we capture D’Ran and I’m sure he won’t hesitate to implicate you and anybody else who helped him. Face it Muzz, you’re on your own.”

The Ferengi sighed and looked at his boots, scratched his left ear and yawned expansively. After a leisurely stretch, he sauntered over to the barrier and folded his arms across his chest.

“Tell me…what is your name?”

“Commander Deanna Troi.”

Pursing his thin lips, the little alien looked surprised.

“A Commander? Interesting. Well Commandeer Troi what can I expect for my cooperation?”

Deanna clasped her hands behind her back and smiled inwardly.

“While I cannot speak for the judiciary, I have the power to inform them of any help we receive from any sources, including from the perpetrators. However I must warn you, the charges are dire. Abducting and assaulting a Starfleet officer is a serious offence and we still don’t know what happened to our Captain or the away team sent to find him and Doctor Crusher.”

Muzz scratched his chin, seeming to consider her words.

“And if I admit to helping the Alliance…what then?”

Deanna frowned.

“That is a difficult question. The planet designated as G337 is not a member of the Federation, therefore any actions you took with the Alliance is technically none of our business, having said that however, since D’Ran’s actions have involved Starfleet personnel and your use of alien technology against us in acts of belligerence have brought you into direct conflict with us, that brings you and the Alliance under the auspices of federation law.”

The Daimon raised his hands and whined,

“I am not to blame for D’Ran’s actions! Look I admit I aided the Alliance by supplying weapons and technology, but I warned him against taking his war to the Federation! I haven’t even been paid!”

Deanna smiled coldly.

“Well I would suggest this little venture is going to cost you more than latinum Muzz. How do we deactivate the cloak on Kalara?”

The Ferengi shrugged.

“I cannot help you with that. The units that make up the grid are powered by a bio-cellular matrix interface. Once programmed, it will only recognise one individual and that’s D’Ran.”

Deanna’s eyebrows rose.

“Bio-cellular? Living tissue?”

The Daimon nodded.

“Yes. The makers use their own cells and clone enough to do the job. Each grid is tailored to the individual who intends to use it.”

Deanna sighed.

“Very Well Muzz I will make a note of your cooperation. That is all for now.”

She turned and left abruptly. As she exited the room, a call came from the Bridge.

“Data to Troi.”

“Troi here.”

“Counsellor we have achieved orbit around Kalara.”

“Understood Data, I’m on my way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Tom was growing increasingly worried about Beverly. She was very pale and sweating and he could feel heat coming off her, causing him to stop and ease her to the ground. Behind him, Will stopped and with a soft grunt, sank to his knees and laid his burden on the soft earth. The Ensign gestured to his CO and the two men moved off a little.

“Commander I’m worried about Doctor Crusher. She’s very hot and, although her mouth is open, she’s having trouble breathing.”

Will wiped the sweat from his brow and nodded in agreement.

“It’s the same with Captain Picard. There’s blood coming from his ear and mouth and he struggles to take a breath.”

Tom looked over at the resting officers and then turned back to Will.

“What do we do?”

With grim determination, Will gripped Tom’s shoulder.

“We get them back to the ship as soon as possible. We should…”
There was an explosion of dirt as an energy blast struck the ground beside Beverly. Will and Tom dived to their charges, drawing their phasers and peering into the surrounding bush. Will pointed to a thick trunk and Tom nodded, gathering Beverly and helping her to take shelter. Another blast stung Will into action. He grabbed his Captain under his shoulders and dragged him off to the left, heading for a jumble of large rocks. As he rounded the cover, a blast shattered the side of a boulder sending splinters of rock in all directions, some embedding themselves in Will’s side. He grunted, made sure his Captain was safe and returned fire. Tom’s voice was remarkably steady. From several metres away he called,

“Commander are you all right?”

Will got off two more shots before he replied,

“We’re fine.”

There was a fusillade of concentrated fire from at least three blasters hammering the rocks that sheltered Will and Jean-Luc. The First Officer returned fire at the hidden snipers and called out to Tom.

“Follow your orders Ensign. Good luck!”

Tom hazarded a look around the trunk and noted the fire was directed at Will’s hiding spot. Taking a silently protesting Beverly, he led her quickly and efficiently into the bush.

Will climbed up the rocks for a better view and caught some stone chips to the face, cutting his brow and cheek. He did, however see one of his attackers. Taking aim, with energy beams lancing in around him, he squeezed off a shot and was gratified to see the man hurled backwards, his blaster flying free from his senseless hand.

The big man scrambled back down, holstered his phaser and picked up his Captain. Using the rocks as a screen, he melted into the bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Deanna strode onto the Bridge and sat in the Command chair.

“Report Mr.Data.”

The android turned to face her.

“We are at present in a high geo synchronous orbit directly above the cloaked area. Our scans detected one small section that was free of the cloak, however in the last three point seven minutes, it has since closed.”

Deanna nodded.

“I see. Are we ready do saturate the area with the sub sonic pulse?”

“Yes Commander.”

Deanna sat up and peered at the screen.

“Then by all means do it.”

Data issued the appropriate orders then devoted his attention to his monitors. Several minutes passed before he sighed.

“I am afraid we have met with no success Commander. Apparently this cloak differs in some way to the one on the Ferengi vessel.”

Deanna chewed the inside of her mouth.

“Muzz told me that the cloak uses a bio cellular matrix interface. Does that help?”

Data tilted his head and frowned.

“I am unfamiliar with that technology when used in cloaking devices. I will require time to consider the ramifications.”

The Counsellor sighed.

“Take whatever time you need Data but bear in mind what’s happening on the planet. By the way, when you reported to Command, did you mention what was going on here? Did you tell them of the abduction or the extortion attempt?”

The Second Officer has the good grace to look embarrassed.

“No Deanna I did not.”

The counsellor looked deeply into his golden eyes and said softly,

“Why Data?”

He sighed.

“I reasoned that if Captain Picard wanted Starfleet involved he would have contacted them as soon as this started. Instead he took it upon himself to lead the investigation, then go as far as to go down to the planet to search for Doctor Crusher. I came to the conclusion that he wanted to keep this…’in house.’”

Deanna smiled at her friend and patted his arm.

“I agree with you Data, but if this goes on too much longer, we’ll have no choice but to inform Command and accept their handling of the situation.”

Data nodded and sighed.

“Yes Sir.”

Deanna looked back at the screen.

“Go down to Engineering and join with Geordi on getting the cloak down. Have you got the technician’s report?”

“Yes Commander.”

“Fine. Incorporate what you need and you may interview Muzz if you think he could supply any more information.”

Data nodded and stood.

“Aye Sir.”

He walked a few steps then turned and said softly,

“We will get them back Deanna.”

She smiled up at him and watched as he left the Bridge.

 

 

 

             Will moved as quickly and as quietly as he could through the thick foliage. His pursuers followed at a distance, the occasional energy beam streaking by, but it was obvious the hunters couldn’t see him.

Coming to a fast flowing creek, Will stepped into it and proceeded to wade downstream, casting anxious looks down at his senseless burden. Jean-Luc was in serious trouble and without medical intervention soon, was facing a very uncertain future.

The creek wended and shallowed, slowing Will as he negotiated the rocky bottom. Seeing a likely place to exit, the burly Commander left the watercourse and pushed into the dense bush, finding a suitable place to gently put his Captain down. Checking to make sure he had a good field of fire, Will lay down and covered himself with leaf litter as he waited for his quarry.

After five tense minutes two men appeared cautiously coming down the creek, weapons raised. Will took a steadying breath and pressed the trigger. One man fell immediately; the other dived to one side and, remarkably, got off a shot. It went well wide, but Will returned fire, searing the man’s boot as he disappeared into the bush on the opposite bank.

With the chuckling creek the only sound, Will kept absolutely still, attuning himself to his surroundings in the hope of sensing his opponent. The odd strained gurgling from nearby made him frown in confusion, momentarily unable to identify the source. With a sudden gasp, he realised the sound was coming from his Captain. Backing out of his hiding spot, he crawled quickly to the stricken man to find him struggling to breathe. Will put his phaser down and gently lifted Jean-Luc’s head, and grimaced as blood dribbled from the Captain’s mouth.

The Commander was placing Jean-Luc on his side when the sounds of dreadfully laboured breathing abruptly stopped. Will gripped Jean-Luc’s arm and said urgently,

“No! You will not die…not while you’re with me!”

He rolled Jean-Luc onto his back, took a deep breath, pinched the Captain’s nose and forced his breath into Jean-Luc’s one functioning lung. Blood welled in the Captain’s mouth, causing Will to spit when he took another breath. He established a rhythm and was settling into it when an energy blast struck him in the shoulder. He was flung off his knees and sent sprawling. With one arm numb from the shoulder to his fingertips, Will reached for his phaser, only to find he’d left it on the ground beside the Captain. He scrambled to his left, just in time to avoid another blast, this one aimed at his head. Once under the cover of the undergrowth, Will knelt and tried to move his numb arm, the smell of burned flesh nauseating, more so because he knew it was his own.

The sniper, believing Will had retreated, stepped into the little clearing and stood over the suffocating man on the ground. He toed Jean-Luc disinterestedly and pushed the Captain’s head to one side with his boot, watching emotionlessly as blood flowed from the Captain’s mouth. The man sniffed loudly, hitched up his pants and bent to pick up Will’s phaser. The Commander saw his chance. He launched himself from his hiding place and knocked the man over. Will was on his feet first, but the hunter swung his blaster up. In desperation, Will kicked the hand that held the blaster and was gratified when the weapon flew from his hand. Pressing his attack, Will aimed a kick at the man’s head, but he rolled and jack knifed, his legs sweeping Will’s feet from under him. As he hit the ground, the man pounced on him and Will struggled as hands closed tightly around his throat.

With only one functioning arm, Will forced his hand up until it covered his attacker’s face. His fingers found the man’s eyes and he gouged deeply as his own vision began to grey.

The man howled in agony and the deadly pressure on Will’s throat disappeared. The First Officer rolled to his side, dragging in deep lung fulls of air. His vision cleared and he rose to his feet as the hunter crawled helplessly, his hands feeling the ground around him, searching for a weapon. Will stepped over him, picked up his phaser and shot the alien at point-blank range. He was back at Jean-Luc’s side in seconds. Will’s fingers detected a very faint pulse in Jean-Luc’s neck, but he wasn’t breathing. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his throat, Will re-commenced resuscitation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Tom checked the readout on his tricorder and urged Beverly to keep going.

“Just a little further Doctor.”

Her strength rapidly failing, the Doctor ordered her feet to keep moving as Tom took most of her weight. Ten minutes later, he cautiously pushed some foliage aside to reveal a hover car.

Without hesitation, Tom went to the car, opened the hatch and eased Beverly into the front seat. He then tapped his communicator.

“Phillips to Enterprise.”

There was no reply. He shook his head and entered the car, frowning over the controls. He snorted and said absently,

“Well it’s a little different to what I’m used to, but I think I can manage to fly this thing.”

When there was no sound from the Doctor, he cast her a look and swore softly. Beverly was slumped sideways, unconscious. He checked her pulse and noted her very shallow breathing. With his one good arm, he activated the craft’s systems and inputted the appropriate instruction to lift off. They rose to the treetops and he gripped the yoke, steering for the chalet. Once under way he increased speed to maximum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    The Ensign at Tactical was beginning to feel tired. The tension on the Bridge had been high for some time and the young woman’s concentration was waning. She stifled a yawn and, as her eyes filled with tears, a telltale light blinked on her console. She blinked rapidly and checked her readings before looking up and reporting.

“Sir we have a hover car emerging from the cloaked area. Scans identify the combadge of Ensign Thomas Phillips, one of Commander Riker’s party.”

Deanna stood and said tightly,

“Hail him.”

“Aye Sir. Enterprise to Phillips.”

The reply was instant.

“Phillips here Enterprise. Request immediate assistance. I have Doctor Crusher and she requires urgent medical attention.”

Deanna frowned.

“Tactical can we beam them up now?”

“No Sir. That would cause the hover car to crash, thereby endangering anyone in the area. I suggest they land and exit the vehicle.”

The Counsellor lifted her head.

“Did you hear that Ensign?”

“Yes Sir. I’m looking for somewhere to put down now. Stand by.”

Seven tense minutes passed before tactical reported,

“They have landed and left the vehicle.”
Deanna barked,

“Transporter room, lock onto Ensign Phillips’ combadge and beam up two people, directly to Sickbay.”

“Aye Sir.”

The Counsellor nodded to the Lieutenant at the Con.

“You have the Bridge Lieutenant, I’ll be in Sickbay.”

The reply was ignored as Deanna hurried to the lift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Tom sighed with relief as medical personnel relieved him of his burden. As he watched Beverly being put on a bio bed, Doctor Simon Katich gently gripped his shoulder and led him to another bio bed. He was sitting quietly as his broken arm was repaired when Deanna entered the facility. Noting the intensive activity around Beverly, she made her way to Tom and waited patiently until Doctor Katich nodded to her. With a gentle smile on her face, she stepped forward and spoke quietly.

“Report Ensign.”

Tom spent several minutes describing what had transpired. Deanna, upon hearing how badly injured her Captain was, kept her face neutral but when she learned how Tom and Will had been separated, she frowned and shook her head.

“You couldn’t help him?”

Tom sighed and shook his head.

“I wanted to Counsellor, but he gave me a direct order then reminded me of my duty. I had no choice but to obey.”

Deanna closed her eyes briefly and nodded.

“And when you left him, he was facing three attackers armed with blasters?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Did you detect him with your tricorder when you got to the hover car?”

Tom shook his head.

“No Sir. We found we only got sporadic readings while within the cloak. We could pick up the energy signatures of technology but bio signs were iffy at best.”

Deanna nodded.

“I see. You say Captain Picard was bleeding from his ear and mouth and his breathing was difficult. Did he deteriorate any further while you were with him?”

Tom shrugged.

“That’s hard to answer Counsellor. I was looking after Doctor Crusher…Commander Riker was caring for the Captain. But Counsellor, from what I saw, Captain Picard is in serious trouble. Have we found a way to penetrate the cloak yet?”

Deanna smiled encouragingly and patted the Ensign’s arm.

“Not yet but we will. After you’ve finished here I want you to go to your quarters and rest. I want a full report, but tomorrow will be soon enough, however if you think of anything that you believe is important, contact me immediately. All right?”

Tom nodded.

“Aye Counsellor.”

As Deanna turned to leave his bed, Tom frowned and lifted his head, calling Deanna back.
”There is one thing Counsellor. When Commander Riker and I found the hover car there was some sort of generator nearby we decided was involved with the cloak. Our tricorders couldn’t identify the technology and we decided to destroy it. The Commander used his phaser on the highest setting, but oddly, the device didn’t explode as we expected. It expanded, glowed then seemed to…collapse. It was weird. Anyway as soon as it was destroyed a small hole appeared in the cloak and the Commander was able to contact the ship.”

Deanna smiled, her obsidian eyes glittering.

“Thank you Ensign, I’ll relay you observations to Engineering.”

Leaving Tom, Deanna moved to Beverly to listen as Selar issued her orders.

“Nurse Ogawa prepare Doctor Crusher for surgery. Lieutenant Garvan monitor the amount of toxin in the blood and call me if the infiltration reaches eight point five.”

Receiving compliance from her nurses, Selar stepped away from the bed and turned to face Deanna. With stoic calm, the Vulcan raised one perfect eyebrow.

“You wish to know Doctor Crusher’s condition.”

Deanna nodded.

“She has several injuries that will respond well to treatment. However she appears to have been bitten by something with potent venom. To treat her successfully I will need either a specimen of the creature or antivenom from a medical facility on the planet. I will treat her injuries but until I have something with which to treat the venom infiltration, she will be kept in stasis.”

Deanna sighed and nodded.

“I understand. Do you want me to contact the planet, or do you want to do it?”

Selar tilted her head.

“If you don’t mind Counsellor, I will do it. I am acquainted with the director of the resort’s main hospital.”

The Counsellor smiled and bowed her head.

“Very well, do so at your convenience.”

Her voice softened and she lifted her head.

“Tell me Selar, what about her severed hand and fingers? Do you think you can re-attach them?”

Both of Selar’s eyebrows rose.

“Under normal circumstances I would have said such a procedure would be fairly straightforward, however the venom has interfered with the nerves, muscles and mucous membranes…it has even compromised the pulmonary functions. I would not even consider the procedure until we have either eradicated or negated the toxins in her system.”

Deanna sighed and nodded.

“Very well I’ll return to the Bridge. Please keep me informed as to her condition.”

Selar bowed her elegant head.

“Of course Counsellor.”

Deanna left Sickbay, worry and fear dogging her steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               D’Ran punched the door of the hover car and growled,

“Crusher has escaped! M’Barok gather the rest of the men, something has happened to Karrin, Huss and Sutto. Their last transmission had them pursuing Picard and another officer. I will go with you, it’s imperative that we find them.”

The rebel nodded but hesitated.

“Do you think it wise D’Ran? Shouldn’t you stay here and monitor the cloak? What if they manage to open another hole?”

The leader shook his head brusquely.

“No I am growing tired of this little game, it’s high time we ended it. We may have lost Crusher but with Picard I will maintain my leverage. Use the bio sensor Muzz sold us, it should be able to find them.”

M’Barok frowned.

“But didn’t Muzz say there was a danger of radiation spill if we used it within the cloak?”

D’Ran shrugged.

“We will only need it for a short time, don’t be such a coward M’Barok. We’ve faced deadlier things together.”

The rebel scowled and turned on his heel, contacting the other members and calling them to their position. He bent low into the car and liberated a small instrument.

D’Ran bit off a piece of dried meat and waved his hand.

“Don’t use that until everyone’s here.”

M’Barok shook his head and sat sullenly on a stump.

 

 

 

            Selar’s voice was expressionless as usual as she called the Bridge.

“Selar to Troi.

“Troi here.”

“Counsellor I have been in contact with my colleague and she assures me there is only one venomous creature on Kalara, an arachnid common in the forested areas. She has antivenom specific for human administration and is in the process of transporting up sufficient quantities for Doctor Crusher’s treatment. I will inform you of her progress after I have administered the applicable dosages.”

Deanna sighed and briefly closed her eyes.

“Understood Doctor, thank you. Troi out.”

The Counsellor had just read the latest output from the computer when she was again hailed.

“Data to Troi.”

“Troi here.”

“Counsellor would it be possible for you to join me in Engineering please?”

Her eyebrows rose and she nodded.

“Yes Data, I’m on my way.”

She stood and said quietly,

“Lieutenant you have the Bridge.”

Minutes later she was with Data and Geordi. The android turned to her and gestured to a monitor.

“Counsellor we believe we have a solution to the cloak.”

Deanna smiled, her fathomless black eyes glittering.

“Well done! What do we have to do?”

Geordi held up his hands and frowned.

“What we’re going to suggest is a little radical, but hear us out. We target the cloaked area and hit it with a broad phaser blast.”

Deanna’s mouth opened and she shook her head.

“Geordi…we can’t…”

The dark man smiled.

“It’s not as bad as you think. We couldn’t figure out how to tackle this until you passed on Ensign Phillips’ report about what the phaser did to the device Commander Riker and he found. Then we realised what we were dealing with. It’s living tissue Counsellor and it will react the same way as any living tissue when hit with the right intensity of phased energy. If we calculate this right, every living thing within the target area will be stunned. And once the tissue is inactive the cloak should drop.”

Data lifted his hand and gestured, his actions showing his enthusiasm.

“Once that is achieved we simply scan for Human and other bi-pedal life signs and beam them all up to the ship. We deactivate all weapons in transport and sort the rebels from everyone else while they are unconscious. If by chance we beam any innocent parties aboard, we can simply return them before they regain consciousness. They should awaken none the wiser.”

Deanna rubbed her forehead and sighed.

“How accurate can we be and just how powerful will the blast need to be?”

Geordi and Data glanced at each other and Geordi shrugged.

“We still have to do the calculations but I’m confident we can deliver a shot that will do the job nicely.”

The Counsellor looked her friends in the eye and came to her decision.

“Very well go ahead. Make your calculations, programme the firing sequence then contact me when everything is ready. I’ll be on the Bridge.”

The two officers nodded, their faces solemn.

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The six rebels gathered around D’Ran and watched as he activated the small scanner. He swept it left and right before suddenly stopping, a sly grin of triumph on his cruel face.

“We have them! Two point three kilometres to the northeast. Check your weapons, I want the stun settling only. As I’ve already stressed. I want Picard alive. Understood?”

There was a grumble of agreement and the party set off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Will’s frustration was growing by the minute. As he applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the Captain, his mind frantically searched for a solution to his problem. As long as he was tied to his CO, providing life-giving oxygen, he was unable to find a way to get them back to the Enterprise. He knew by the amount of blood coming from the Captain’s mouth that soon resuscitation wasn’t going to be enough. If he didn’t get them up to the ship soon, the Captain would bleed to death.

Every so often the big man would pause in his efforts to tap his combadge to call the ship. So far there had been no replies.

His mind narrowed in focus, concentrating solely on his friend. Time became meaningless as the rhythm of his actions took over and his existence fine-tuned into the monotony of breathing into the Captain’s mouth, watching his chest expand, then turning his face to take another breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                D’Ran silently signalled his men to halt. Stepping forward, he eased some foliage aside to watch Will as he knelt beside Jean-Luc. Smiling with predatory glee, the rebel boldly walked into the little clearing and said quietly.

“Get to your feet and put your hands up.”

Will’s body flinched but he hesitated only a second. Not breaking his rhythm, he said calmly.

“No.”

D’Ran scowled and stepped up to Will, pressing his blaster into Will’s back.

“Do it or I will shoot you.”

Between breaths, Will’s voice had a trace of resignation.

“If you do that, the Captain will die. I take it you don’t want that?”

D’Ran growled and placed his foot on Will’s back. With a hard shove, the First Officer was pushed off his knees. The bearded man looked up at the rebel and shook his head. With calmness he didn’t feel, he got back to his knees and resumed his resuscitation. The rebel’s arm arced down and backhanded Will on the back of his head. The Exec ignored the assault and doggedly continued. D’Ran was incensed.

“What are you doing to him?”

Will breathed steadily into the Captain before saying,

“I am breathing for the Captain as he is unable to do it himself.”

“Why?”

Will frowned.

“He has lung damage and is bleeding into one or both lungs. If I don’t get air into him he will drown in his own blood.”

The rebel called over one of his men and gestured to the stricken man. The alien scanned the Captain, grunted and showed D’Ran the result of the scan. The two men talked quietly for a while before one of the waiting men was called. He carried a knapsack and D’Ran showed him the scan. The alien nodded, opened the knapsack and took out a small package. To Will D’Ran said,

“I believe we can help your Captain. Keep doing what you need to.”

A rebel knelt beside Will and nudged him to move up Jean-Luc’s body. Scowling, Will acquiesced and watched out of the corner of his eye as the alien took a sharp blade and cut Jean-Luc’s shirt and vest, opening the fabric and baring his chest. He then used the same blade to cut deeply into the side of the Captain’s chest. Will stopped and protested only to earn a savage kick.

“Don’t stop!”

The alien then took a small tube and pushed it into the incision. Blood dribbled from the tube and the rebel left his place to go the Jean-Luc’s opposite side to repeat the manoeuvre. He looked up at D’Ran and nodded, withdrawing with a gesture from his leader.

“That should help.”

Will grunted and closed his eyes.

D’Ran knelt beside Will and watched what he was doing with interest.

“What is your name and rank?”

Between breaths, Will replied,

“Commander William Riker.”

D’Ran grinned.

“A Commander? And what are you Commander of?”

“I am the First Officer of the Enterprise.”

The alien laughed coldly.

“Oh this is too much! I have here the Captain and First Officer of the Federation flagship!”
He turned to his men and raised his arms.

“The Gods have smiled on us! Make a litter, we will leave immediately.”

Will closed his eyes and growled,

“Are you insane? Look the Captain is bleeding into his lungs and he has a severe head injury. If I don’t get him to medical aid soon he will die. Lower the cloak and let us transport to our ship.”

D’Ran stood and moved behind Will and unholstered his blaster. He sighed and pointed it at Will’s broad back.

“You are beginning to bore me.”

He then shot Will and reached down to grab Will’s collar to haul his unconscious body off the Captain. Over his shoulder he said,

“Make another litter.”
He then pointed to one of his men.

“You…continue doing what he was doing and keep Picard alive.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Data and Geordi exited the turbolift and strode onto the Bridge. Geordi went to the aft Engineering Station while Data took his place at Deanna’s right.

The Counsellor looked at the android and smiled.

“Report Data.”

“We are ready Counsellor. The intensity has been calculated, the target identified and the firing sequence inputted.”

Deanna nodded and looked at the viewscreen. In her soft lyrical voice she said,

“Tactical are you prepared?”

“Aye Sir.”

“Then fire when ready.”

As the Ensign pressed the appropriate key on the console, she sighed,

“With pleasure Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 D’Ran sniffed as two of his men lifted Will onto a makeshift litter. Jean-Luc was already suspended between two aliens, while another man awkwardly applied resuscitation. The leader bent to pick up the knapsack when the area was suddenly bathed in bright orange light. He had enough time to scream,

“NO!”

Before he, and all the others, fell to the ground unconscious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Deanna sat forward, the tension of the moment making her frown. In silence all the Bridge crew stared at the screen before a quiet beeping alerted the Tactical Officer.

“Sir! The cloak is down.”

Deanna stood and lifted her head.

“Troi to Transporter Room.”

“Transporter Room Two. Lieutenant Henson speaking.”

“Lieutenant as per your instructions, beam all Human and bi-pedal life forms directly to Cargo Bay four. Lieutenant Martin are you and your team ready?”

“Aye Sir. We have restraints and holding cells available.”

“Good. Doctor Selar are the med teams standing by?”

“Yes Counsellor.”

Deanna nodded decisively.

“Right! Transporter Room, energise.”

She turned to her officers and gestured to the lift.

“Data, Geordi, you’re with me. Lieutenant you have the Bridge.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Selar pushed past the security detail and knelt by the Captain. After a quick scan she stood and turned to her colleague.

“Assess everyone. I will transport Captain Picard straight to Sick Bay.”

She stood and lifted her head.

“Transporter Room, two to beam directly to Sick Bay.”
They were gone by the time Deanna arrived with Geordi and Data. The Counsellor went to Will’s side and winced as she saw the stone shards embedded in his side and the cuts on his face. She asked the attending Doctor,

“How is he?”

Doctor Katich smiled.

“It’s not too bad Counsellor. Unfortunately he’s taken a blaster shot at point blank range…he’s going to be very sore when he wakes up.”

Deanna smiled and nodded.

“Understood. Are there any other injured?”

Katich nodded.

“Yes Sir. The aliens all appear to have been exposed to Narron radiation. They will require Fessyn treatments.”

Deanna looked around her as security personnel pulled the alien’s hands behind their backs and applied restraints. They were thoroughly searched and a growing pile of assorted weapons stood in the middle of the room. Data, who had been questioning the staff, came to stand at Deanna’s shoulder.

“It would seem we have not beamed up anyone we should not have.”

Deanna nodded absently as she watched Will being taken to Sick Bay on an antigrav bed.

“Thank you Data. Do we know when everyone will wake up?”

The android tilted his head.

“The intensity of the phaser blast should render all life forms unconscious for at least two hours.”

Deanna turned to her Second Officer and smiled.

“Fine. Send an away team down to the planet and retrieve all the cloaking generators. You have command, I’ll be in Sick Bay.”

Data smiled.

“Understood Counsellor.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Will groaned as he woke up, his entire body aching. His eyes cracked open and he was delighted to see his lover standing by his bed. His first attempt at speaking was a dismal failure and Deanna smiled as she gently gripped his hand.

“Hold on Will, I’ll get you a glass of water.”

She returned quickly and lifted his head, placing the straw in his mouth. He drank greedily, his eyes closing as the deliciously cold liquid flowed down his throat. He settled back down and smiled. His voice was rough.

“How am I?”

The Counsellor sighed and stroked his brow.

“You’ve had some minor surgery to remove pieces of rock from your side and the facial lacerations have been repaired, but the blaster shot you took is going to take a while to fade. How do you feel?”

He sighed and grimaced at the pain that caused.

“Actually I feel like I’ve been hit by a shuttle at warp five. How is everyone else? How is the Captain?”

Deanna frowned.

“Captain Picard is in surgery. Ensign Phillips is fine and the Ensign you left at the crash site is going to be okay. We also retrieved the dead. Beverly has been treated successfully and Selar hopes to re-attach her hand and fingers tomorrow morning. As for the rebels, they were exposed to Narron radiation and are undergoing Fessyn treatments. The whole lot of them are in the detention cells.”

Will swallowed and nodded.

“Dee we’re going to have to get some help with this. We’ve too many people to handle, what with all the Ferengi, the rebels…it’s way too much.”

Deanna sighed.

“I know. Data told me he’d refrained from telling Command about what’s been going on out of respect for the Captain’s wishes, but I agree with you, it’s grown too big for just us. I’ll contact Command and request another ship to rendezvous with us. At least we can off load some of our prisoners.”

Will grunted.

“As soon as I’m able I’ll table my report. Will you be okay ‘til then?”

The Counsellor grinned.

“Yes, I’ll be fine.”

Will sighed softly.

“Dee…the Captain…it’s bad isn’t it.”

Deanna’s face fell and sorrow filled her expressive eyes.

“I haven’t seen Selar since she took the Captain to surgery, but Simon told me it’s serious. Will…I can barely sense him…he’s only just hanging on.”

The big man closed his eyes and frowned.

“Does Beverly know?”

Chewing her lower lip, Deanna’s eyes slid over to Beverly’s bed on the other side of the room.

“She knows enough to be very frightened Will. I intend to inform her of anything I’m told about Captain Picard, I think not knowing is worse for her at the moment.”

Will nodded.

“Agreed. Let me know what Selar says will you? I may be stuck here, but I don’t want to be kept out of the loop.”

Deanna bent and kissed his brow.

“Rest assured my love, you’ll be kept informed. Now I have to get to the Bridge. I’ll be back after shift.”

Will smiled and watched as his lover left. He sighed and looked up at the ceiling, his thoughts centred on his Captain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 “Data open a channel to Command and route it to the Ready Room.”

“Aye Sir.”

Deanna entered Jean-Luc’s office and took a seat behind his desk. She turned the monitor towards her and waited patiently until she heard,

“Channel open Counsellor.”

The face that appeared on the screen was friendly.

“This is Captain Brett Lee.”

Deanna smiled.

“Hello Captain this is Commander Deanna Troi, acting Captain of the Enterprise.”

The man’s eyebrows rose.

“May I ask where is Captain Picard?”

Keeping her voice steady, Deanna replied,

“Captain Picard has been severely injured. The First Officer, Commander William Riker has also been injured, necessitating me to assume command.”

The Captain frowned.

“I see. What can I do for you Commander?”

Deanna sighed.

“We have a problem Sir.”

“Go on.”

Deanna spent the next ten minutes describing all that had occurred since Jean-Luc first called for assistance. She ended by asking,

“Captain Lee, we require another ship to help us with this.”

Lee nodded, a rueful grin on his face.

“I would say you do. Look I need to take this to a higher authority; I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Lee out.”

Deanna sat back from the desk, rubbed her forehead and sighed heavily. Lifting her head she called,

“Data would you come in please?”

The android entered and stood before the desk. Deanna smiled tiredly up at him and gestured to the seat. He sat and the Counsellor clasped her hands on the desktop.

“Data as you know I’ve contacted Command. I’ve told them everything and requested the help of another ship.”

The Second Officer sat quietly; the only movement was from his eyebrows, which rose.

“I see Counsellor. Have they offered any reaction?”

“Not yet. I spoke to Captain Brett Lee. He said he needed to speak with a higher authority. I hope to hear back from them soon.”

Data nodded.

“And do you think this will impact deleteriously upon Captain Picard?”

Deanna sighed.

“I don’t know. Technically speaking Captains have a great deal of latitude in how they handle certain situations. It’s a matter of personal and professional experience that guides their decisions. It may be argued that Captain Picard was within his rights to pursue this matter on his own, even though he involved the Enterprise, but the collusion of the Ferengi and the overt actions against Starfleet by the Alliance muddies the waters. I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait and keep our fingers crossed that Command takes a lenient view.”

Data looked at his hands and frowned.

“Which fingers should I cross Counsellor?”

Deanna chuckled.

“None Data it’s a metaphor.”

“Ah.”

Deanna stood and Data came to his feet.

“Counsellor, if I may ask, when will Commander Riker be back on duty?”

Deanna stretched and arched her back, kneading her fingers into her lower spine.

“Probably the day after tomorrow.”

The android nodded.

“I see. Then may I suggest you get some rest? You have been on duty for three continuous shifts.”

The Counsellor smiled warmly.

“I will Data, as soon as I hear from Command.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Deanna was dozing in the Ready Room three hours later when the call came. Sitting up, she pushed her hair back and blinked away her sleepiness before activating the monitor. She was confronted by an Admiral. The stern woman nodded brusquely.

“You are Commander Troi?”

“Yes Admiral.”

“I am Admiral Monika Roitinger. How is Captain Picard?”

Deanna kept her voice even.

“He is still in surgery Admiral.”

The woman scowled.

“I see. Prognosis?”

“Unknown Sir.”

The Admiral sat back and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“This has come as quite a surprise Commander. Captain Picard would be the last officer we would expect to get tangled up in something like this.”

Deanna stayed professionally neutral.

“It is unusual Sir.”

“Can you tell me why he decided to attempt to solve this problem on his own?”

Deanna offered a small sigh.

“He was highly motivated Sir…personally motivated.”

“How?”

“I’m sorry Sir but I’m not at liberty to divulge that information.”

The Admiral’s eyes darkened.

“Why?”

“I am the Enterprise’s Counsellor and as such, Captain Picard is one of my patients. I must invoke patient confidentiality.”

The vexed woman sat up and glowered.

“I see. May I ask if this situation has compromised Picard’s ability to command?”

Deanna shook her head, a frown on her face.

“Unequivocally no Sir. His ability to command, his objectivity and balance were unaffected.”

There was silence as the two women regarded each other. The Admiral pursed her lips and nodded.

“Very well. The Perth is en route to your position and will rendezvous with you in eighteen hours. I want a full report from you as soon as possible. Roitinger out.”

Deanna smiled grimly at the Starfleet logo. Having already completed most of her report, she spent the next half an hour finishing it and sent it with an unkind thought for the officious Admiral.

“I hope you choke on it you old bat!”

She rose stiffly and walked out onto the Bridge, waving Data back into the Command chair.

“I’m going to my quarters Data. The Perth will rendezvous with us in about seventeen hours. Contact them and bring them up to speed.”

The android nodded.

“Aye Sir. Goodnight.”

Smiling tiredly, Deanna left the Bridge and boarded a lift. Having stated her destination, she called Sick Bay.

“Troi to Sick Bay.”

“Doctor Lah here Counsellor.”

“Any news on Captain Picard?”

“No Counsellor…wait…Doctor Selar has just come out of surgery. I’ll get her for you.”

Deanna waited a few seconds before she heard the calm Vulcan.

“Counsellor Troi I have completed the surgery on Captain Picard.”

“How is he?”

There was an uncharacteristic short silence.

“Counsellor perhaps it would be best if you came to Sick Bay. My report is rather…disturbing.”

Deanna swallowed and set her jaw, savagely quashing the panic that welled.

“Very well, I’m on my way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 When Deanna arrived in Sick Bay she was directed to Beverly’s office. Inside she found Selar quietly dictating her report to the computer. The Vulcan paused her recording and nodded to the Counsellor. Deanna took a seat and steeled herself.

“How bad is it?”

“It is very serious Counsellor. Captain Picard’s head injury is beyond my abilities to repair. I have done all that I can, but I cannot do much more than remove the excess blood, drain off the extraneous fluid and stabilise him. There are fragments of bone embedded in his brain I am loath to disturb and the brain tissue itself has been severely traumatised. The initial injury was bad enough but he sustained another blow to the same area and the effect has been catastrophic.”

Deanna lowered her head and covered her face with her hands. Selar waited patiently while the Counsellor gathered her composure.

“Prognosis?”

“Unknown. All I can do is recommend you get Captain Picard to a medical Starbase as soon as possible. He needs specialist neurological treatment.”

Deanna frowned.

“We will have to stay here at least eighteen hours. Will he be all right?”

The Vulcan nodded.

“Yes. He is in stasis now, I expect his condition to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.”

“What of his other injuries?”

Selar offered a PADD.

“All other injuries have been healed, although it is highly likely I will have to clone a new lung. I doubt the repairs will hold as the organ was significantly damaged. I have taken some cells and initiated the process; the new lung should be ready for implantation in seven days. He is undergoing deep regeneration on several parts of his body and is being transfused to replace serious blood loss. He is profoundly unconscious.”

Deanna sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“And what of Doctor Crusher? Will you go ahead with the re-attachment of her hand and fingers tomorrow?”

Selar nodded.

“Yes Counsellor, she has responded very well to her treatment. There should be no impediment to the surgery tomorrow.”

Deanna stood, her face weary.

“Very good, proceed as planned, but Doctor…don’t tell Doctor Crusher about Captain Picard…I think it might be best if it came from me.”

Selar nodded.

“As you wish Counsellor. And Commander Riker?”

Deanna sighed.

“Tell him in the morning.”

“Very well Sir.”

Deanna left Sick Bay, her heart heavy.

 

 

 

 

 

                      The next morning Deanna approached Beverly slowly, noting the stasis cast on her right hand. The Doctor was sitting up in her bed, her eyes closed. Once at Beverly’s side, the Counsellor watched her friend and focussed her empathic abilities to sense her mood.

Worry and irritation swirled in equal measure causing Deanna to smile.

“You’re awake.”

Beverly grunted and opened her eyes. The Doctor sighed and gave Deanna a speculative look.

“You can stay on one condition.”

“And that is?”

“That you tell me what the hell is going on. I’ve been asking anyone who comes close enough about Captain Picard and no one will give me a straight answer. So it’s like this. Unless you tell me everything you can leave…now.”

Deanna pursed her lips and gently took Beverly’s left hand.

“It’s not good news Beverly.”

The red head’s eyes widened in alarm and Deanna noted her increased heart rate.

“Tell me.”

“You know that the Captain had sustained a serious head injury before he came looking for you?”

Beverly nodded.

“Yes he told me he’d suffered a skull fracture, a sub dural haematoma and bleeding in the brain. I saw the effects of that on the planet.”

Deanna sat on the bed and sighed.

“Well the blow he took to the head later was over the same site. There has been more bleeding into the brain, excess fluid build up and Beverly…there are bone fragments embedded in the brain tissue.”

There was several seconds of silence while Beverly stared unseeing into Deanna’s eyes. She lowered her head and blinked rapidly.

“What has Selar done?”

“She has removed the blood and fluid but she can do nothing about the bone fragments or the traumatised tissue. Captain Picard is in stasis and Selar’s advice is to get him to a medical starbase as soon as possible.”

Beverly freed her hand from Deanna’s and ran her fingers over her lips.

“And his other injuries?”

“All successfully treated although Selar thinks he will need a new lung to replace the damaged one. She doubts it will sustain the repairs she made.”

Beverly nodded absently, her eyes fixed on the bed.

“That would make sense. The alveoli are very fragile, I’m not surprised they wouldn’t stand up to aggressive reconstruction.”

Deanna frowned at Beverly’s distant attitude. She gently gripped her hand and called softly,

“Beverly…”
The Doctor shook her head.

“We need to contact Professor Matthew Scarlet. He’s the leading neurologist in the Federation. Have Selar send Jean-Luc’s file and request he meet us at medical starbase 775, that’s the best for this type of injury. Tell Will…”

Deanna’s voice rose.

“Beverly.”

The Doctor looked up and frowned.

“What?”

“Would you like to see him?”

Beverly’s eyes drifted down to her hand and she shook her head. Her voice was soft and brittle.

“No.”

That surprised the Counsellor.

“Why Beverly?”

Not meeting Deanna’s eyes, Beverly said quietly,

“I would like to be alone now.”

Deanna tried once more.

“Beverly…”

The red head shook her head.

“Please Deanna. Go away.”

Hesitating only a few seconds, Deanna reluctantly left. She crossed the large room and stood by her lover’s bedside as Selar finished her examination. The Vulcan snapped her tricorder closed and stepped back.

“You are sufficiently recovered Commander. You may be discharged to your quarters to rest for two days.”

Will grunted and threw off his covers, swivelling on the bed and sending Deanna a quick grin.

“Doctor I intend to return to duty…and yes, I’m aware of your objections, however under the circumstances I feel it’s necessary.”

Selar pocketed the tricorder then clasped her hands behind her back.

“Due to your previous early discharge from Sickbay I have taken a conservative view of your recovery Commander. I too am aware of your predilection of ignoring medical advice and to that end I am willing to allow you to return to duty. I am however disappointed by your cavalier attitude to medical opinion. In future I would appreciate it if you would take my advice more seriously.”

Somewhat chastened, Will had the good grace to look embarrassed. He lowered his head and sighed.

“My apologies Doctor I will endeavour to be more compliant in future.”

Selar nodded curtly. Turning to Deanna she said,

“I have informed Commander Riker of Captain Picard’s condition. I must reiterate we need to get the Captain to a medical Starbase with all haste.”

Deanna nodded.

“Agreed. Doctor Crusher has recommended Professor Matthew Scarlet. She advises we contact him, send the Captain’s file and request he meet us at Starbase 775.”

Will, listening with interest said quietly,

“Computer estimate time of travel from current position to Starbase 775 at maximum warp?”

“Estimated time of travel is seven point four days.”

Will ran his hand over his beard. Looking down at Deanna he said softly,

“That’s a hell of a distance. Isn’t there a medical Starbase closer?”

Deanna sighed.

“Beverly said 775 is the best facility for injuries like the Captain’s.”

Will slid his eyes to Selar.

“What do you think Doctor?”

The Vulcan raised one eyebrow.

“I would acquiesce to Doctor Crusher, she has greater knowledge in these matters than me. However I must point out that with an injury as severe as Captain Picard’s, he needs the best care available. If that means extra travelling then so be it.”

Will nodded.

“Doctor will you contact the Professor and send the file?”

“Of course Commander, I will do so immediately.”

As Will and Deanna watched Selar’s retreating back, they looked at each other.

“We need to get to the Bridge.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

               In due time the Perth arrived and Will met with her Captain in the Ready Room. After several minutes of discussion, Will sighed.

“So you can see Captain, we need to get to Starbase 775 as soon as possible.”

Captain Brown nodded.

“Yes I can see that. All right, we’ll take the Ferengi crew and impound their vessel. Have the planetary authorities charged the staff from the resort?”

Will nodded.

“Uh huh. There’re also charges pending from Starfleet. The two men are being held on remand until the investigation is complete.”

Fraser ran a hand over his bristly hair and grunted.

“And this alien cloaking technology…any idea where it came from?”

Will shrugged.

“As far as we can tell, somewhere in the Delta quadrant. Muzz knows but he’s playing his cards pretty close to his chest. He hopes to trade information for leniency. Watch him Sir, he’s as slippery as an eel.”

Brown laughed humourlessly.

“Show me a Ferengi that isn’t. Well Commander, I’ll get back to my ship and start the ball rolling. I’d say you’ll be free to leave within the hour.”
Will grinned and offered his hand.

“Thank you Captain we appreciate your help.”

As Captain Brown left, Will called Deanna to join him. Once seated on the sofa, Will sat beside her and took her hand.

“We’ll be on our way soon. D’Ran and his men will be staying with us. Do you think you can get any information from him?”

Deanna sighed.

“I don’t know. It’s not that I can’t sense him; it’s just that he exudes aggression and single-minded dedication to his cause. It tends to overwhelm me.”

Will smiled tenderly and allowed his eyes to soften.

“I understand my love but will you try anyway? It’s important.”

Deanna smiled bravely.

“Of course.”

The Commander gently squeezed her hand then sobered.

“Deanna what can you feel from the Captain?”

The Counsellor’s face saddened and she sighed.

“Not much Will. He’s hovering…barely there. I’m so frightened Will, it would take so very little to make him slip away.”

Will leaned forward and enveloped his lover within his arms. After a gentle silence he said softly,

“And Beverly? How’s she coping?”

Deanna sighed sadly.
”Not very well. She’s concentrating on his injury, but she won’t see him. I think she’s blaming herself somehow. She’s very fragile right now.”

Will nodded.

“How is her hand?”

“Actually it’s doing well. Selar told me there’ll be a five-micron difference in the length of the arm as a result of the amputation, but the prognosis is excellent. Of course there’ll be extensive therapy, but not for too long. If all goes according to plan, Beverly will have a fully functional hand in about two weeks.”

Will pulled back slightly and smiled.

“Well that’s good news at least. I’ll be pretty busy until I finish my shift, but I intend to drop by to see her. I take it she’s been discharged?”

Deanna nodded.

“Uh huh. I’m going to see her this afternoon. I’ll let you know if I think she’s getting any worse.”

Will stood and helped Deanna to her feet.

“That’s fine Dee. I’ll see you tonight.”

He kissed her brow and watched as she left. Sighing, he went back to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

                 With the mighty ship on her way, Deanna arrived at Beverly’s quarters and took a moment to centre herself. Pressing the chime, she waited patiently.

A tired doctor answered the door and sighed.

“Hello Dee. What can I do for you?”

Plastering a sunny smile on her face, the Counsellor clasped her hands behind her back and rocked on her heels.

“I thought you might like some company.”

With a dubious frown, Beverly grunted.

“I don’t think so.”

Deanna’s smile faded.

“I think you need to talk to somebody.”

Now Beverly’s eyes darkened in anger.

“And I suppose you think it’s you?”

Deanna winced inwardly and bolstered her mental barriers against the waves of anger coming from her friend. Keeping her voice soft and her face sympathetic, the Counsellor replied,

“You have been through a terrible experience and Captain Picard lies badly injured in Sickbay. It would be a miracle if you didn’t need counselling and yes, I think it should be me, but if you would prefer someone else…”

Beverly grimaced and shook her head. Raising her left hand, she gently gripped Deanna’s forearm.

“No Dee…I apologise. Of course I need to talk to you…it’s just that I really don’t feel ready.”

Deanna sighed and smiled sadly.

“I understand, but putting it off isn’t going to help. How about I come in and we both have a cup of tea? We can talk about anything…it need not be about what happened.”

Beverly stared at her friend for several seconds before sighing expansively, turning and gesturing for the Counsellor to follow her into her quarters. While Deanna took a seat, Beverly replicated some hot drinks then joined her friend on the sofa. At first nothing was said, both women sipping their drinks, but after a while Beverly snorted and rubbed her forehead. In a resigned voice she muttered,

“I can’t help but feel it was all my fault.”

Deanna, sensing how fragile Beverly was, kept her voice soft.

“Why?”

The Doctor wrapped her hand around the mug and sighed.

“If I hadn’t pestered Jean-Luc to join me…if I’d just left sleeping dogs lie…”

Deanna huffed.

“That’s nonsense and you know it. Look, from what the Captain told us, it seems you made some very important steps forward in your relationship with him. All the nastiness aside, surely that’s worth something?”

Beverly sighed again and stared out into the vast blackness of space.

“I suppose but look at what’s happened. I get myself kidnapped and Jean-Luc is dragged head first into a civil war and ends up brain damaged, all because of me.”

Deanna closed her eyes briefly and concentrated on staying calm.

“Rubbish! Did you injure the Captain?”

“Well no…”

“No. Look Beverly the rebels never intended to involve the Captain, it was just bad luck that he was there when they came for you. If you want to blame someone, blame D’Ran. He orchestrated the whole thing and showed particular bloody mindedness to boot.”

Beverly grunted.

“He’s a cold-blooded bastard that’s for sure. I think he was the one who chopped off my fingers and hand.”

Deanna nodded.

“That would be consistent. Was it he who injured the Captain?”

“The first time I don’t know…I was in a state of shock and I didn’t see who hit him. The second time it was one of his men.”

Deanna placed her empty mug on the low table.

“When they came for you at the chalet…were you asleep?”

Beverly reddened and Deanna felt a wave of embarrassment.

“No.”

Somewhat confused at her friend’s demeanour, Deanna took her hand.

“Beverly?”

Beverly absently rubbed her lips, the blush persisting.

“Actually we were making love.”

Deanna’s soft gasp made Beverly smile crookedly.

“And their timing was appalling. Jean-Luc was hauled bodily from me and dragged off the bed. I heard the blow to his head but I didn’t see it. D’Ran had his hand on my mouth and was telling me what would happen if I struggled or made a sound. I didn’t see Jean-Luc until I was being taken away. He was lying on the floor at the foot of the bed, naked and with blood all around his head. I’ve never felt so bloody helpless.”

The two women sat in silence for a few minutes before Beverly asked,

“What happened to him later? I know about his injury and how he discharged himself early but I don’t know what happened after I was taken away.”

 Deanna shook his head.

“After he regained consciousness he beamed up to the Calypso and downloaded the information from the PADD D’Ran had left. He was experiencing severe difficulties with his sight and balance and he knew he needed help, so he called the Enterprise. We came immediately.”

Beverly rubbed her face and sighed.

“He is so single-minded. I can imagine what a pain he must have been in Sickbay.”

Deanna chuckled.

“Twice actually. I wouldn’t be surprised if Selar refuses to treat him in future.”
Then her face sobered.

“You know Beverly Selar would be within her rights to report the Captain for ignoring her orders. He could be in trouble over this.”

Beverly grunted.

“That’s the least of his worries. If he recovers completely, I’ll bet he has to answer to Command over his decision to involve the ship and not report his actions.”

Deanna’s silence drew a questioning look from the Doctor.

“What?”

The Counsellor sighed.

“I’ve already been contacted by Admiral Monika Roitinger. She wants to know why the Captain acted as he did.”

“What did you tell her?”
Deanna scowled.

“I told her he was personally motivated and when she asked how I invoked patient confidentiality.”
Beverly winced and sighed.

“That took some guts.”

“Not really. Until we know what the prognosis is for the Captain and until he can speak for himself, I’ll protect and defend him.”

Beverly smiled and squeezed Deanna’s hand.

“Thank you my friend.”
The Counsellor tilted her head.

“Tell me Beverly…why haven’t you been to see him?”

The red head grimaced and shrugged.

“Maybe I don’t want to see just how badly injured he is. Reading the reports is one thing…seeing it for yourself is quite another. It somehow seems unreal as long as I don’t actually see him.”

“Is that fair? To either of you?”

Beverly shrugged again.

“I’ve no idea. I just can’t help but feel that after all this time…all the years we’ve waited…we finally commit to each other and this happens. It’s all my worst fears come home to roost.”

The Doctor speared Deanna with her sad eyes.

“I finally told him I loved him and now he might…”
Tears welled and Deanna took the distressed woman into her arms.

“No Beverly…don’t think like that! He will recover, I’m sure. Right now he needs you. He needs you to be with him and he needs you to be strong, because right now he can’t.”

Beverly shuddered through several breaths before pulling back and sniffing.

“I know what you’re saying Dee, I’m just not sure I can do it.”

Deanna felt her withdrawal and sighed.

“Okay but give it some thought. Will you be all right now?”

The red head nodded and wiped her eyes.

“Yeah. I’m going to have a light meal, a soak in a bath then I’m going to try and get some sleep.”

Deanna stood and looked down at her friend.

“Okay. I’ll see you in Sickbay tomorrow. You have therapy after breakfast.”

Beverly scowled.

“I know.”

She then brightened.

“See you there.”

Deanna left, deeply troubled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   D’Ran lay in his bunk in the cell, silent and angry. Since he’d been incarcerated he chafed at his inability to take control of his situation. When Deanna arrived and stood at the energy field that separated them, he ignored her, intent on maintaining his rage.

The Ensign on duty watched with interest as the Counsellor remained still and silent, her obsidian eyes never leaving her subject. D’Ran endured her scrutiny but after several minutes began to sweat, his eyes screwing shut in an effort to make his watcher disappear. Deanna stayed calm and relaxed, her mental barriers fortified against his waves of aggression and anger.

Suddenly D’Ran sat up, came to his feet and, with remarkable speed, approached the force field, standing so close he made it hum loudly. Deanna steeled herself and resisted the urge to flinch as the tall man glared at her, his eyes filled with murderous intensity.

“What do you want woman?”

With casual nonchalance, Deanna folded her arms and smiled.

“I want information.”

The rebel’s barked laugh was harsh.

“Do you now? I do not understand you people! You say you want information yet you…a mere fragile woman are sent to get it. Ha! I am offended by your stupidity.”

Deanna kept her voice soft and even.

“I take it you would employ more…aggressive…means of extracting information.”

D’Ran leaned forward until energy spikes washed close to his face.

“If our positions were reversed”,

He smiled coldly,

“You would be screaming by now.”

Deanna’s smile never wavered.

“We have other methods, equally effective, but more…civilised.”

D’Ran’s menacing smile faltered, his eyes growing wary.

“What do you mean?”

The petite woman turned and paced thoughtfully, her studied silence vexing the prisoner. His voice grew in volume.

“I said…what do you mean?”

She stopped in front of him, her face inscrutable. With slow deliberation, she lifted a hand and tapped her forefinger against her temple. The rebel frowned and took two steps back.

“What are you saying?”

Deanna clasped her hands in front of her and sighed.

“I don’t need to torture you D’Ran. I can see into your soul.”

The harried man raised a fist and shouted,

“How dare you! You have no right!”

Deanna’s voice hardened.

“What about Doctor Crusher’s rights? Were you thinking of her rights when you amputated her hand and fingers? Were you respecting Captain Picard’s rights when he was attacked and severely injured?”

“They were victims of war! It was unavoidable!”

Deanna’s voice rose.

Your war! You deliberately involved Starfleet personnel in an effort to gain a tactical advantage in your civil war, knowing full well that the Federation would not interfere no matter what you did. You gambled with their lives! You involved Federation citizens in your scheme and prostituted a Deltan female. Rights? How dare you speak of rights!”

D’Ran scowled and waved his hand dismissively.

“How could you possibly understand?”

Deanna calmed herself and took a large breath.

“When did you form your partnership with Muzz?”

The rebel sat on his bunk and snorted.

“That little devil has been waiting near our planet for some months. When he established that we were gaining the upper hand he contacted me and offered…for a substantial price, weapons and technology. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse but even so, it was barely enough to tip the balance. It was his idea to kidnap a Starfleet officer.”

Deanna frowned.

“Muzz was the mastermind? I find that hard to believe.”
D’Ran grinned, his eyes sparkling.

“No, you are quite correct, he wasn’t the…mastermind, I was. His idea was to kidnap a Starfleet officer to extract tactical information. New battle tactics, strategies, things like that. It was me who saw the potential for greater gain. When we received Doctor Crusher’s profile we deduced your Captain would value her life highly, after all, she’d served on his ship for many years. Of course when we found them together, joined in the act of love, I knew I had something I could not have dreamed of. His identity was soon established and everything fell into place. All I had to do was threaten her and he would respond. What I didn’t envisage was his determination to find her…that and his stubbornness in refusing to accede to my demands.”

He chuckled tiredly.

“He’s quite a Human isn’t he?”

Deanna frowned and lowered her head in thought.

“What do you think will happen on your planet now that you’ve been detained here?”

D’Ran shrugged.

“Someone will take my place. The struggle will continue.”
Deanna sighed.

“The war will continue…people will continue to die needlessly.”

The prisoner raised his hands.

“Whatever. Eventually there will be a winner and peace will settle.”

Deanna shook her head.

“Do you really care?”

D’Ran shrugged again.

“Only that my side wins.”

Deanna stared uncomprehendingly at the rebel then turned abruptly and left. D’Ran’s voice followed her.

“At least I’ve chosen a side woman.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Deanna entered the Ready Room to find Will doing some stretches. She stood silently as her lover, his back to her, groaned softly and sighed.

“Will?”

He stopped what he was doing and turned slowly, a self-conscious smirk on his face. Flushing, he gestured to the sofa.

“Have a seat Dee. What do you want to see me about?”

Not deflected at all, Deanna smiled indulgently, took her seat and clasped her hands in her lap.

“You’re sore aren’t you.”

Will shrugged and came to sit next to the Counsellor.

“A little.”

“You should’ve listened to Selar and taken a few days off. I’m quite capable of assuming command.”

The First officer sighed and lowered his head.

“I know Deanna but I feel so damned helpless. As long as the Captain lies in Sickbay so seriously ill, I need to at least try to do something to help.”

Deanna smiled and patted his knee.

“I understand Will but you have to look after yourself. You’ll be no good to anybody if you succumb.”

Will’s irrepressible grin made Deanna gently slap his shoulder and shake her head in exasperation.

Sobering, Will took her hand.

“You’ve been to see D’Ran?”

The Counsellor nodded.

“Uh huh.”

“And?”

Deanna shrugged.

“He didn’t really have anything new to say. He admitted collusion with Muzz and told me that although it was Muzz’s idea to kidnap a Starfleet officer, it was his idea to use extortion to aid his cause. As we thought, he never intended to involve Captain Picard but once he found him at the chalet…and made the connection between Beverly and the Captain, he quickly altered his plans to fit.”

Will frowned and shook his head.

“But how did he know about Beverly and the Captain?”

Deanna briefly closed her eyes and sighed.

“Because they were having sex when D’Ran and his men found them.”

Will’s eyebrows rose.

“Oh. You know, Data told me that they’d found DNA from both Beverly and the Captain in the bed, so we kind of knew they were intimate…but to be caught in the act? Bloody hell the Captain would’ve been mortified.”

Deanna grimaced.

“I doubt he knew too much about the intruders Will. Beverly told me he was dragged from her without warning and viciously assaulted. The blow to his head was so savage Beverly clearly heard it. Her last sight of the Captain was of him sprawled naked on the floor with blood surrounding his head. It must have been hell for her.”

The big bearded man grunted.

“Bastards! Was D’Ran responsible for torturing Beverly?”

Deanna nodded sadly.

“Yes and he fully expected us to do something similar. He is a violent man, he knows nothing else…a product of his life’s experiences.”

Will scratched his whiskered cheek and sighed.

“Well I suppose as long as we have him he can’t hurt anyone else. Is there any point to further interrogation?”

Deanna shrugged.

“Probably not. There are details to fill in but I think they will emerge with time. The person we should be concentrating on is Muzz. We need to know if he’s spread any more alien technology throughout this sector. If he has, we need to find it.”

Will nodded thoughtfully.

“Agreed. I’ll contact the Perth and relay our concerns. Now, how’s Beverly?”

The petite woman stood and paced slowly in front of her lover.

“I saw her last night and I must say her attitude is uncharacteristically defeatist. She is feeling responsible for what happened to the Captain and is hiding in denial by refusing to see him. She told me that as long as she doesn’t see him, she can pretend that he’s not so seriously injured.”

Will frowned.

“She told you that? But doesn’t that mean she’s aware of what’s going on?”

“Oh yes make no mistake she knows, but she’s rejecting the truth Will and as long as she keeps herself separated from Captain Picard she can continue to delude herself.”

Will stood and took Deanna’s arm, halting her restless pacing.

“Can you help her?”

The Counsellor sighed and shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

Will lowered his head and sighed.

“Okay, do what you can.”

Deanna kissed him softly and left the Ready Room. Will turned and stared at Jean-Luc’s fish, swimming lazily in its container.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Two days later Beverly was lying in her bed late at night unable to sleep. With the increasing use of her hand, she was experiencing sensitivity that caused tingling, something that annoyed her. As sleeplessness dogged her, her mind began to wander as she lay in the darkness.

“Professor Scarlet will want extensive scans…I suppose Selar will be prepared. The occipital cortex is most likely damaged; the depth of the infiltrating bone fragments will be crucial if there’s to be no permanent loss of sight. Selar will want to implant the new lung before the neurological surgery…he’ll be weak…blood oxygen will be critical.”

She turned over and sighed.

“This is so unfair…and so bloody typical! I knew it…I knew the minute we became lovers something would happen. I’m cursed, doomed to forever remain single and lonely. Why? Oh why did I weaken and admit my feelings? If I’d only stayed strong he would be all right now, not lying in Sickbay desperately ill. And I can’t even help him! With this bloody hand I’m useless. So much for being able to treat him if he came to me hurt. God, that was always my worst fear…but to have caused all this…oh shit!”

She pulled a pillow to her chest and sniffled as tears slid down her face.

“Oh dear God…what have I done?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Selar was in the Captain’s private room when Will entered, the big man standing quietly while the Doctor completed her scan. She inputted some data and checked the intravenous feed before turning to her visitor.

“Commander.”

Will nodded and stepped closer. His anguished eyes took in his Captain’s frail form. Dressed in Sickbay pyjamas and with a blanket pulled to his chest, his head was raised off the bed by anti-grav beams, the damaged area bathed in a stasis field. A tube exited the injury and the gentle susurration of the respirator only added to the grim scene.

Will sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“How is he?”

Selar arched one perfect eyebrow.

“There has been no change to his brain injury. We continue to draw off blood and fluid from the injury, but there has been no further deterioration since he was stabilised. His right lung however has failed and I intend to remove it this afternoon, as it is no longer viable. He will be adequately ventilated with one lung until we can transplant the new organ.”

Will nodded and pointed to the respirator.

“Can he survive without that?”

Selar shook her head.

“Not at present Commander. Captain Picard is profoundly unconscious and, with the damage to his lungs, is unable to breathe for himself.”

The big man rubbed his forehead and sighed.

“Okay. We will be arriving at the Starbase in fourteen hours. Is Professor Scarlet ready?”

“Yes Commander. He has gathered a team, reviewed Captain Picard’s file and is monitoring his condition remotely. Once we reach the Starbase the Captain will be transported over to their Sickbay where he will be installed in an intensive care room. The Professor agrees with me that he should wait until the Captain’s new lung is implanted before he attempts the neurosurgery. It will be difficult, not only in itself, but with the Captain’s precarious physical state.”

Will ran his fingers through his beard.

“Would you care to hazard a guess at his prognosis?”

Selar’s eyes travelled to her CO and she tilted her head.

“It is difficult to say Commander. Medically speaking I am not confident of a complete recovery, but Captain Picard is a determined individual who has shown the propensity to survive against the odds. It is cases like this that challenge my adherence to logic as they sometimes defy all logical thought. If you want a definitive answer I cannot give you one, but I will offer this. Despite my teachings I advise you to keep your faith in the Captain and trust he continues to defy fate. He may yet surprise us all.”

The First Officer’s grin was slow in emerging but that took none of the warmth from it. He lifted a hand and squeezed the Doctor’s shoulder.

“That’s probably the most profound thing you’ve ever said to me Selar. Thank you.”

The Commander took one final look at his Captain before exiting, leaving a bemused Vulcan in his wake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Beverly was in her quarters that night. She knew they would be arriving at the Starbase in an hour but the dread that filled her made her curl up in the sofa and shudder. All that night she had stayed on the sofa, staring out at the prismatically elongated stars as her mind furnished the worst-case scenarios of Jean-Luc’s upcoming surgery. Eventually she could stand it no longer. With the almost certainty that her lover would die, she decided the least she could do was say goodbye to him. She rose stiffly from the lounge and left her quarters, her short journey to Sickbay taken in a daze.

The night staff noted her arrival and the head nurse discreetly put in a call to Deanna. Beverly ignored the staff and made a beeline straight for Jean-Luc’s room. She hesitated briefly at his door then pressed on, the closing doors shutting her off from the rest of the facility. She allowed her eyes to adjust to the dim light and savagely repressed the urge to weep at seeing her lover so terribly injured. She walked slowly to his bed and stood silently, the tears she tried so desperately to stop sliding down her cheeks. Her voice, when she spoke was a ragged whisper.

“Oh my poor, poor love…what have I done to you? I’m so sorry Jean-Luc this is all my fault. If I could take it back I would…I’d do anything…anything at all to protect you…but I couldn’t protect you from me.”

She sighed and wiped at her tears. Picking up his hand, she gently lifted it to her face.

“You were doomed from the moment I told you I loved you.”

The doors opened and Beverly closed her eyes.

“Go away.”

Deanna came to her side and said quietly,

“It’s good that you came to see him…he needs you.”

The Doctor slowly shook her head and sighed.

“No Deanna I’m the last thing he needs. I’m responsible for this.”

Deanna frowned.

“Then why are you here?”

Beverly’s reply was so soft Deanna had to strain to hear it.

“To say goodbye.”

The Counsellor closed her eyes and struggled against the waves of despair emanating from her best friend.

“No Beverly there’s no need, I have every faith in the Captain and Professor Scarlet. I’m sure…”

Beverly lowered Jean-Luc’s hand to the bed and appeared to study his fingers.

“He won’t make it.”

Deanna frowned and shook her head.

“How can you say that? He will be in the best facility, under the care of the finest neurologist and Captain Picard is a fighter…he won’t give up, why the hell should you?”

Deanna was puzzled to see a sad smile on Beverly’s face.

“Because I cursed him.”

Now becoming angry with her friend, Deanna grabbed her arm.

“That’s bullshit! You’ve got some preconceived idea that you somehow bring about calamity to the men you love but I’m here to tell you that’s a load of hogwash.”

Beverly turned, her eyes flashing.

“Is it? Well I don’t agree and since it’s me that’s borne the brunt of the consequences I humbly request you to keep your opinions to yourself. You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Deanna struggled to keep her voice down.

“All right here’s a challenge for you. I bet you the Captain comes through this, in fact I think he’s got a good chance for a hopeful recovery and if he does my challenge to you is to resume your new relationship with him in defiance of your so-called curse.”

The Counsellor watched as Beverly’s eyes narrowed.

“Well? Are you going to take me up on it?”

Folding her arms across her chest, Beverly frowned.

“You said it was a bet. What do I get if you lose?”

Deanna sighed and shook her head.

“You’re so certain? All right, if I lose I promise to leave you alone to deal with the consequences on your own, provided you promise to come to me if it gets too bad.”

Beverly turned and looked down at her lover. Her voice was soft and tired.

“Okay you’re on, but I don’t think you truly understand what you’re asking of me.”

Deanna squeezed her hand.

“I know Beverly, believe me, I know. This is for him as much as it is for you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The Enterprise docked at the Starbase and the transfer took place without mishap. With Deanna’s urging, Beverly stayed with Jean-Luc and gained permission from Professor Scarlet to have some input during his treatment. For two days not much happened until the new lung was ready for transplanting. It was a straightforward procedure although Jean-Luc’s weakened state made the operation dangerous. What would normally take an hour and a half, took almost four hours and it was with some heartfelt relief that he was eventually returned to the intensive care room.

Over the next twenty-four hours Jean-Luc’s blood chemistry was carefully monitored and he was scanned regularly for any signs of pulmonary failure. As his body adjusted to the improved lung function, the left lung was able to heal quicker, thus affording him a stronger physical state. The compensation of the correct oxygen balance meant that many of his body’s systems found improved functioning. Three days after the transplant Professor Scarlet announced he was ready to operate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Beverly, gowned and gloved, stood beside her lover, staring down at the back of his head. Face down on the operating table, Jean-Luc’s scalp had been incised and peeled back, exposing the area of shattered skull. With her therapy well advanced, Beverly flexed her hand and sighed with frustration at her inability to assist. She was grateful to be allowed to attend and she knew the level of expertise necessary for the coming procedure was beyond her; she nonetheless chafed at her enforced inactivity.

At a signal from Scarlet, Jean-Luc’s head was bowed forward and an operating microscope was sited over the injury. With the assistance of a powerful computer, the neurosurgeon began what was to become an arduous task. First the larger pieces of bone were carefully removed. Bit by bit the inner surface of the brain was exposed. Once an elliptical area was cleared of bone, the delicate task of locating, then painstakingly removing the shards of bone began. All went well until the deeper fragments proved to be dangerously embedded. Scarlet sat back from his eyepiece and rubbed his face. His worried expression caught Beverly’s attention.

“What is it?”

The Professor sighed and pointed to the microscope.

“We may have a problem here. There are fifteen very small fragments that have been pushed deeply into the occipital cortex. I’m not sure I should attempt to remove them.”

He gestured to the eyepieces.

“Would you like to see?”

Beverly nodded and once Scarlet had made room, she peered into the device and frowned.

“Oh God.”

Scarlet snorted.

“Exactly.”

Beverly straightened and looked down at her seated colleague.

“What happens if you don’t remove them?”

The neurosurgeon frowned and lowered his head.

“He would still recover but he would most certainly be blind.”

Beverly closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Unacceptable. What are the risks in removal?”

Scarlet shrugged.

“Same prognosis. If I inadvertently damage any of the surrounding tissue…that’s assuming the bone fragments haven’t already done that…he’ll lose his sight.”

“Irrevocably?”

“Yes.”

Beverly reached over her mask and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Do you think you can do it?”

Scarlet looked up at the red head and swallowed.

“Yes, but I’m not so sure I should.”

Beverly sighed.

“I take it once the fragments are removed you’ll be relying on deep regeneration treatments to restore the damaged tissue?”

Scarlet nodded.

“Yes.”

With determination she didn’t really feel, Beverly made her decision.

“Then do it. If the result is blindness anyway I think Captain Picard would opt to try. He’s got nothing to lose.”

The neurosurgeon stared at Beverly then nodded once.

“Very well.”

He turned back to the microscope and began the most intricately delicate surgery Beverly had ever witnessed. It took three and half hours before the last fragment was removed. Scarlet stood from his seat and arched his back, his fingers kneading his lower spine.

Sighing expansively, he smiled tiredly at Beverly.

“It’s done.”

Beverly returned the smile and looked down at her lover.

“What now?”

As both Doctors watched the staff remove the microscope, Scarlet answered Beverly’s question.

“He goes back into intensive care, the operation site stays open. We clone a new bone piece to fit the opening and he undergoes deep regen treatments for the next five days. There will be some swelling, that’s unavoidable and possibly some oedema…there will be a drainage tube inserted and appropriate drugs administered to reduce fluid build-up and to keep him unconscious. After the five days we isolate the site and see if he’ll wake up. If that occurs he goes back in to surgery to remove the tube and implant the skull piece.”

Beverly folded her arms and nodded.

“And then?”

Scarlet pursed his lips and shrugged.

“We assess him thoroughly. He will undergo a full neurological work up and judging by his results, we’ll know how successful we’ve been.”

Beverly closed her eyes and sighed.

“So it’s a matter of keeping our fingers crossed over the next five days.”

Scarlet smiled and stepped closer to his colleague, gently gripping her shoulder.

“It’s a little more than that, but have faith Doctor, his chances of a full recovery aren’t all that bad.”

Beverly summoned a wan smile and shook her head.

“You don’t know my friend.”

Over the next hour the tube was inserted and Jean-Luc was returned to intensive care. Still face down on his bed, a regeneration unit was sited and activated, the sparkling blue beams reaching inside his brain. The intravenous line was checked and he was re-connected to a bio waste unit. As the blankets were drawn over him, Beverly stepped closer and gently laid her hand on his back. In a sad whisper she said,

“For what it’s worth I’ll be here Jean-Luc, you’re not alone.”

Scarlet came in and made a final check before nodding with satisfaction. He gestured to a nearby chair.

“I take it you’ll stay?”

Beverly smiled and nodded.

“For a while yes. I’ll go back to the Enterprise later.”

The neurosurgeon nodded and pointed to her right hand.

“I heard about what happened. How’s the hand?”

Beverly lifted it and made a fist.

“Coming along…not as fast as I would like, but all in all I’m grateful I still have it.”

Scarlet nodded.

“Prognosis?”

“I’m expecting a complete recovery.”

Scarlet’s eyes drifted to his patient.

“Well hopefully Captain Picard will share your good fortune. I’m going to shower and get a meal. I’ll be back in a hour.”

Beverly smiled.

“Okay, I’ll probably still be here.”

The neurosurgeon took one last look at Jean-Luc and left. Beverly let her head rest on the back of the chair and closed her eyes.

“Well my love, it’s just you and me.”

Her sleepless night caught up with her and she drifted off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Over the next four days Beverly divided her time between the Enterprise and the Starbase. She found sitting quietly next to Jean-Luc somehow calming. There were, as yet, no expectations, no pressures; he wasn’t due to come off the sedating drugs until the next day. She could afford to ignore her morose feelings and concentrate instead on his chances of recovery and her hand.

She sighed as she sat in her chair, her exercise taxing her concentration. In front of her was a tray and on the tray were an assortment of very small articles. Her therapy was to use the fingers of her re-attached hand to pick up the items one by one and put them into a cup. It was exacting and tedious, her exasperation emerging as the seemingly simple task proved to be more difficult than she expected. She had just placed the last item in the cup when a quiet alarm on Jean-Luc’s monitoring computer sounded. Immediately on her feet, the Doctor went to his side and scanned the redouts. She frowned and tapped her combadge.

“Crusher to Scarlet.”

“Scarlet here.”

“Captain Picard is showing signs of hypertension.”

“I’m on my way.”

Beverly picked up a tricorder and scanned the unconscious man, her mind trying to understand why it had happened. When Scarlet arrived he went to the computer and spent several minutes reading the available information. With a soft grunt he scratched his chin.

“This shouldn’t be happening. Has he shown a tendency to hypertension before?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No in fact he’s always been in perfect health.”

The Professor frowned and inputted some instructions to the computer. It supplied the requested information and Scarlet growled.

“It looks like an imbalance in the brain chemistry. I’m going to take a small sample for analysis.”

The procedure was simple and quick. Scarlet left and Beverly frowned worriedly down at her lover.

“Come on Jean-Luc…there’s no need to make this any worse than it already is.”

She laid her hand on his back and noticed he was trembling. She quickly looked up at the monitor and gasped softly.

“Crusher to Scarlet.”

“Scarlet here.”
”Professor I’m reading erratic neurological electrical activity and I believe he’s experiencing a mild seizure.”

“Right. Are you willing to treat him?”

Beverly closed her eyes.

“Yes.”

“Okay, administer five cc’s of Epilan.”

“Will do.”

“I’m almost finished here, keep a close eye on him, I’ll be with you shortly.”

The red head nodded decisively.

“Understood, Crusher out.”

Within seconds of the drug’s administration, Jean-Luc’s trembling stopped. As Beverly watched, the electrical activity in his brain quietened and he seemed to settle. The Professor returned and gave Beverly a PADD. She read the information and sighed.

“An enzyme imbalance?”

Scarlet nodded.

“Uh huh. There’s also a slight hormonal fluctuation. With the proper medication he should be fine.”

Beverly looked on as Scarlet delivered the appropriate doses of drugs then watched the monitor as it registered the drop in blood pressure. She sighed and again gently placed her hand on her lover’s back.

“Will this be an ongoing problem?”

The man shook his head.

“No I don’t think so. It’s probably been caused by the surgery and his body’s reaction to the drugs we’ve been using. Once he wakes up and we can withdraw the medications he should be fine. The body and the brain in particular have a remarkable knack of restoring itself once left to its own devices. Sometimes the best treatment is no treatment at all.”

Beverly nodded, a smile of understanding gracing her face.

“That has been my experience as well.”
The Professor grinned and noticed the tray with its cup of little items. He chuckled and pointed.

“Practising our fine motor skills are we?”

Beverly scowled and summoned a mock glare.

“We are.”

Scarlet folded his arms and softened his grin to a sympathetic smile.

“Frustrating?”

Beverly sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“You don’t know the half of it!”

The neurosurgeon tilted his head.

“But you’re improving?”

Beverly smiled and nodded.

“Yes. My worst enemy is myself, I want instant results. Since the gross motor skills were mastered so quickly I expected the fine ones to be as easy. It’s really dumb you know. As a Doctor I’m fully aware of how these cases go…God I’ve overseen so many of these rehabilitations…you’d think I’d be better prepared, but no…I want immediate results and I’m finding it hard to contain my impatience.”

She sighed expansively.

“What is it they say about a little knowledge?”

Scarlet laughed and put his hands in his coat pockets.

“In your case I don’t think your knowledge…little as you erroneously describe it…is a dangerous thing. I would hazard a guess you have a lot on your mind and you find it very frustrating to be handicapped, even temporarily. It’s pretty obvious you have deep feelings for Captain Picard. This situation must be driving you nuts.”

Beverly’s eyes glittered as she looked directly into his eyes. Her initial reaction to his words was anger, followed by the desire to deny his observation, but ultimately she sighed and gently blushed. In a hushed voice she said,

“It’s obvious is it?”

Scarlet nodded and resisted the urge to grin.

“Oh yes. You may not realise it Doctor, but your eyes give you away every time you look at him. What I don’t understand is the also obvious sadness. Worry and fear I can understand…but sadness?” He shook his head in confusion. “Want to talk about it?”

Beverly closed her eyes and lowered her head, giving it a gentle shake. Her voice was soft.

“No.”

Scarlet shrugged.

“Okay, fair enough, but if you need someone to unburden to I’ll be around.”

Beverly lifted her head and summoned a tired smile.

“Thank you. By the way, my name is Beverly.”
The neurosurgeon grinned and stuck out his hand.

“Matthew.”

They shook hands and Beverly wiped at her damp eyes. With a large breath she glared at her cup of bedevilment.

“Well I suppose I’d better resume my torture.”

Scarlet chuckled.

“That’s the spirit. I’ll be back in about an hour to check on the Captain. Will you be okay?”

Beverly nodded.

“I’m fine Matthew.”

The man grinned and left. Beverly’s eyes drifted to her lover and she sighed.

“So it’s obvious is it Jean-Luc? Maybe Deanna was right.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 The next day the sedating drugs were withdrawn and Beverly settled down to wait for her lover to regain consciousness. It happened late in the afternoon. Jean-Luc’s body stiffened and he softly groaned. Beverly was by his side immediately.

“Jean-Luc it’s all right, try to relax.”

Matthew had activated a stasis field over the surgery site and Beverly knew there would be no pain, but she also knew her best friend would be confused and disorientated. She gently took his hand and bent to be near his ear.

“You’re in a Sickbay and you’ve had surgery. Just relax and let me look after you.”

Jean-Luc attempted to talk but his voice failed him. Beverly stroked his back.

“Hush Jean-Luc everything is going to be all right. In a little while it might be possible to allow you to turn onto your back but until then we need you to lie quietly, okay?”

He squeezed her hand and Beverly smiled. She heard someone clear their throat and looking up she saw Will. She smiled and beckoned him in.

“He’s just woken up.”

The big man nodded. Keeping his voice low he asked,

“How is he?”

Beverly straightened and sighed.

“So far so good. His specialist will be here in a moment, we’ll know more then.”

Will nodded silently, his eyes settling on the open wound on Jean-Luc’s head. Grimacing, the Commander pointed.

“When will that be closed?”

Beverly glanced at the ghastly site and shrugged.

“As soon as we know it’s safe to do so. A new piece of skull has been cloned, we’re just waiting.”

Will bent next to his Captain and sighed.

“I’m glad to know you’re awake Sir…we’ve all been very worried. The ship is docked and waiting for your return.”

Jean-Luc grunted and Will frowned. Beverly gripped his arm and smiled.

“It’s okay, he’s not up to talking just yet.”
Will stood and frowned.

“But he will be ok?”

Beverly nodded.

“We hope so.”
Just then Scarlet arrived and Will stood back from the bed. The neurosurgeon looked up at the big man and smiled.

“One of Captain Picard’s staff?”

Will grinned and nodded.

“Yes Professor.”
He introduced himself and Scarlet shook his hand.

“Well I’ve very glad to meet you Commander but unfortunately we have work to do. So if you don’t mind?”

Will shook his head.

“Not at all Professor.”
The First Officer looked at Beverly, his face earnest.

“You’ll let me know?”

Beverly smiled softly and nodded.

“Of course.”

Will left and Beverly turned to see Scarlet examining the wound. He’d deactivated the regen beams and was scanning with a tricorder. Beverly waited patiently until he finished. The Professor straightened and smiled.

“Well that’s not bad…not bad at all. The tissue seems fully repaired and there’s minimal fluid present. I think the Captain is a very lucky man.”

Jean-Luc made an inarticulate sound and Scarlet raised his eyebrows.

“I take it you want to speak with me Captain?”

Jean-Luc grunted and Beverly chuckled.

“He’s been trying to speak ever since he woke up.”

Scarlet nodded.

“Right then! How about we turn him over and see what’s preventing him from speaking?”

Beverly grinned and nodded.

“That Matthew is a very good idea.”

With the help of three nurses and the application of anti grav beams, Jean-Luc was gently turned over. He lifted a shaky hand and knuckled one eye as Beverly scanned his throat.

“Hmm…a little swelling of the larynx. Some anti inflamatories and a cool drink will help.”

While the appropriate drug was administered, Beverly retrieved a cup of water. With a bent straw, she encouraged Jean-Luc to have a drink. His first swallows were obviously uncomfortable for him but he quickly closed his eyes in relief as the cool liquid slid down his throat. When he was finished Beverly smiled down.

“Okay try now.”

Jean-Luc cleared his throat experimentally and spoke in a husky baritone.

“What happened?”

Beverly took his hand and frowned.

“What is the last thing you remember?”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes, his face a mask of concentration.

“I was in the ready Room…you’d just left.”

Beverly kept her dismay well hidden.

“You mean I’d just left for my holiday?”

The Captain frowned.

“Yes…why…what’s wrong?”

Scarlet moved nearer to Jean-Luc and cast Beverly a look, effectively silencing her.

“Captain Picard my name is Matthew Scarlet and I’m the neurosurgeon assigned to your case. You have experienced a series of traumatic injuries to your brain, amongst other things, and at this time I think it best if you devote your time and efforts to your recovery. We will, in time, allow you full access to the logs of the time that has elapsed since your injury, but until then there are some tests we have to run.”

Jean-Luc frowned deeply, his eyes darting between the two Doctors. He settled his vision on Beverly but she avoided his silent plea. He sighed and closed his eyes.

“Very well.”

Scarlet picked up an ophthalmoscope.

“Right then. Open your eyes Captain and look straight ahead.”

Jean-Luc endured the examination and grunted softly when it was over. He was rubbing his eyes when Scarlet asked,

“Captain Picard are you experiencing any vision disturbances?”

There was a moment’s silence before Jean-Luc softly replied,

“Yes.”

“Describe them to me.”

“There are areas of blackness…like small holes in the vision of both eyes.”

Scarlet nodded.

“I see. Any dizziness…pain?”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“No pain but there is a slight disorientation when my eyes move. It’s as if it takes a second for my vision to catch up with the movement.”

Scarlet pursed his lips and nodded.

“Although some residual anomalies can be expected after a surgery as extensive as yours, I would like to conduct a series of deep scans as well as the tests. I want you to rest while we prepare, I will come for you later this evening.”

Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes.

“Very well Doctor.”

Matthew cast Beverly a sympathetic smile and left. Beverly busied herself by straightening Jean-Luc’s blankets and refilling his cup. Jean-Luc opened his eyes and watched her silently. Eventually he spoke.

“I’m sorry.”

Keeping her eyes on her hands, Beverly stilled.

“What for?”

“For the things I said that night in my quarters. I didn’t mean it.”

The Doctor swallowed and grimaced.

“Forget it Jean-Luc…it’s water under the bridge.”

He lifted his hand and softly said,

“Beverly?”

The Doctor clenched her jaw and raised her head.

“Look Jean-Luc…I have to return to the Enterprise for a while. I’ll come back when you’re due for the tests…okay?”

She was at the door when his hurt voice stopped her.

“Beverly tell me what to do to make this right.”

Her back stiffened but she didn’t turn. With her heart pounding she left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Within five minutes of her returning to her quarters, Beverly’s door chimed. The Doctor grimaced, knowing full well who was at her door. She debated ignoring her caller, but shook her head and sighed. Pushing aside her irritation, Beverly stalked to the door and pressed the release.

Deanna had to hastily stiffen her mental barriers as waves of anger and sadness washed over her. Faced with an obviously upset woman, the Counsellor schooled her features and asked softly,

“May I come in?”

Beverly really didn’t want company and she specifically didn’t want to be the subject of Deanna’s probing mind, but she knew her friend would not leave her alone until she had an explanation for Beverly’s emotional turmoil. The Doctor grunted and spun on her heel, walking briskly to the viewport and wrapping her arms around herself. Deanna followed cautiously; ever mindful that if she pushed too hard Beverly would clam up and insist she leave. Keeping her voice soft she asked,

“Will told me Captain Picard has regained consciousness.”

Beverly remained silent.

The Counsellor approached slowly until she stood close behind her friend.

“What has happened Beverly?”

The Doctor’s sad sigh and slumping shoulders told Deanna it was something serious. Beverly turned slowly and looked the petite woman in the eyes.

“He doesn’t remember us…he’s…oh dammit Dee he’s got no idea what happened between us.”

Deanna gently took Beverly’s arm and led her to the sofa. Both women sat and the Counsellor picked up Beverly’s hand.

“What does he remember?”

“His last memory is of me departing for my leave. The poor man apologised…again.”

Deanna frowned and tilted her head to see under Beverly’s brow.

“Apologised? For what?”

Beverly groaned softly and rubbed her eyes.

“Not long before I left we shared dinner in his quarters. A few months previous I had realised my feelings for Jean-Luc had deepened…deepened to the point that I finally understood that I was in love with him, but I didn’t know how to broach the subject. Some time ago…directly after Kess Prytt, he offered to take our relationship further, into intimacy…and I turned him down. So you can imagine how tentative I was about telling him I now wanted what I’d spurned. To break the ice…so to speak…I’d been dropping what I thought were playfully suggestive hints, you know…employing my brilliant sense of humour and witty intelligence.”

Beverly grimaced and sighed.

“All I did was hurt him. I underestimated the depth of his love for me and his reaction to what must have been very confusing signals. Anyway, this night in his quarters I tried to cajole him, yet again, into joining me on my leave. He refused of course but I misunderstood why. I pushed…too hard, and he finally snapped. There were some pretty heated words and we parted acrimoniously.”

Deanna closed her eyes as the waves of sadness and regret surged over her.

“Of course I instantly regretted my actions but by then it was too late.”

Deanna squeezed Beverly’s hand and sighed.

“That’s why you recorded that message and asked me to give it to the Captain after you left.”

Beverly nodded.

“Uh huh.”
The Counsellor frowned and shook her head.

“But I don’t understand. The message worked. Not long after you left the Captain took the Calypso and followed you. All you have to do is get him to re-read the message and tell him what happened afterwards.”

The Doctor growled and abruptly stood, stalking angrily around her living area.

“No Dee. Don’t you see? I have a chance to end this here and now. If I don’t tell him what happened between us I can protect him! As long as he doesn’t know I love him, he’ll be safe.”

Deanna lowered her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. Taking a deep breath she raised her head and struggled to keep her voice even.

“That has to be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard you say! For God’s sake Beverly why would you seek to deny the happiness that awaits both of you? Do you honestly think Captain Picard will let this drop? Even if he never regains his memories of what you shared, he thinks he’s hurt you. Your friendship with him is very precious Beverly. If you love him as you say you do, then why do you want to cause him further pain?”

Beverly halted her stalking and glared down at the Counsellor. Her voice was angry and loud.

“I don’t want to hurt him dammit…I want to protect him! Bloody hell Deanna can’t you see that? You know damn well what happens to the men I love. Do you think I want that to happen to Jean-Luc? I have the opportunity to save him!”

Deanna stood, shaking her head.

“No! As altruistic as you make it sound you’re full of crap! You’re scared! You finally admitted your feelings and entered into a deeper relationship with the Captain and at the first sign of trouble you’re pulling the plug. Where’s your love now?”

In three quick steps Beverly was standing toe to toe with her friend. Glaring down into her eyes she hissed,

“How dare you! You have no idea what it’s like to be responsible for your lover’s death.”

Staring unflinching back at the incensed woman, Deanna snarled,

“Oh please! How many times do you have to be told? It wasn’t your fault! Not this time and not in the past. If you go ahead with this insanity all you’ll do is hurt both the Captain and yourself.”

Deanna gripped Beverly’s arms and pleaded,

“Please Beverly…reconsider. Don’t do this…don’t throw away your chance for happiness…don’t do this to the man you love…he doesn’t deserve it.”

Beverly wrenched her arms free and lifted her chin defiantly.

“Get out.”

Knowing at this point she would tolerate no further discussion, Deanna sighed and withdrew. At the door she turned and said softly,

“He is a gentle, sensitive man Beverly and he will continue to love you despite what you’re going to do. I can only hope you care enough for him to help him through the pain you’re about to inflict.”

The doors sighed open and Deanna left. Beverly shook her head as tears slid down her face, desperately trying to ease her aching heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Despite her assurances to Jean-Luc, Beverly did not return to the Starbase. He was waiting for her when Matthew entered in the company of two nurses.

“Well Captain…are you ready?”

Jean-Luc held up his hand.

“Wait Doctor…Beverly isn’t here.”

Scarlet frowned and tapped his combadge.

“Scarlet to Crusher.”

There was a slight pause before she answered.

“Crusher here.”

“Doctor Captain Picard is ready for his assessment. Are you going to join us?”

Another hesitation made Jean-Luc frown. Raising his voice slightly he called,

“Beverly?”

She gave no indication she’d heard him. When she spoke her voice was hard.

“I’m rather busy right now Professor. I’ll call you in the morning. Crusher out.”

A troubled Doctor faced his patient.

“I’m sorry Captain.”

In silence Jean-Luc shook his head. His soft voice was husky.

“Let’s get this over with.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Three hours later Jean-Luc was taken to a different room after the tests had ended.  He looked up at his Doctor and Matthew smiled.

“You don’t need to be in intensive care any more Captain…in fact you’ll only be in this room until noon tomorrow.”

 Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.

“May I know the results of the tests?”
Scarlet sat on a nearby chair.

“Of course. Generally speaking I’m pleased. As I said before, your surgery was extensive and the vision disturbances you’re experiencing are to be expected, however I am pleased to tell you they will subside with time. I fully expect you to recover completely in about ten to fourteen days.”

Jean-Luc’s fingers came up to gently rub his lower lip.

“I see. And I can return to duty after that?”

With a wide grin, Matthew nodded. The Captain lifted his hand and felt around the injury site.

“And this? When will it be repaired?”

“Tomorrow morning. We’ve cloned a new piece of bone but for tonight I want one last deep regen treatment. The bed you’re in can accomplish that while you sleep, the anti gravs will keep your head off the bed.”

Jean-Luc nodded and sighed.

“One more thing Doctor, my memory…when will that be restored?”

Scarlet stood and folded his arms.

“That might prove problematic Captain. In cases like yours there’s no hard and fast rule about memory disruption. It may recover in a few days, weeks or months…or…”

“It might not recover at all.”

Matthew nodded.

“I’m afraid so. Look tomorrow I will make available the logs from your ship concerning the time you’re missing. Perhaps familiarising yourself with what transpired might jog something.”

Stifling his dismay, Jean-Luc settled his hands in his lap and summoned a warm smile.

“Thank you Doctor.”

Matthew smiled and turned to the door. He halted and turned his head.

“Will you be able to sleep Captain? I can give you something…”
Jean-Luc shook his head as a nurse came in to activate the regen unit.

“No thank you, I’ll be fine.”

Scarlet nodded and left. As the nurse silently went about her business Jean-Luc asked softly,

“Do I have voice access to the computer?”

The young woman smiled.

“Yes Captain.”

He said nothing more and after she left he sighed. Looking up at the ceiling, he closed his eyes and called,

“Picard to Crusher.”

When he received no reply he called again, this time with a different request.

“Picard to Troi.”

The answer was quick.

“Troi here Captain.”

“Counsellor I know it’s getting late, but could you come and see me please?”

“Ah…yes Captain…I’m on my way.”

“Thank you, Picard out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Deanna slipped back into her uniform as Will folded his arms. His grumbling voice was loud in the otherwise silent quarters.

“This is about Beverly isn’t it.”
Deanna looked up as she flicked her hair back.

“Probably.”

“Can you help?”

The Counsellor grunted softly and shook her head.

“I’ve no idea.”

“How much will you tell him?”

This time Deanna paused and shrugged.

“That I can’t tell you because I don’t know. I’ll have to play this by ear…I have to protect Beverly’s privacy in this.”

The big man ran a hand through his hair.

“What a perfect little mess.”

Deanna stepped to him and caressed his cheek.

“At the moment yes, I agree with you, but I’m determined those two should be together and if it’s humanly possible…or any other species for that matter…I intend to make it so.”

As she walked through the doors she heard Will’s deep chuckle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Deanna entered the Captain’s room and saw him lying under the soft glow of his bedside light. She moved to him to find him with his eyes closed. Not sure if he was asleep, the Counsellor gently cleared her throat. The Captain didn’t open his eyes but he did acknowledge her.

“Good evening Counsellor.”
She smiled down at her CO and sat beside his bed.

“Good evening Captain.”

Jean-Luc raised a hand and gently rubbed his eyes before opening them and squinting at his visitor.

“I take it you know why I asked you here?”

Deanna’s face sobered and she sighed.

“Yes Captain, I think so.”

Again Jean-Luc rubbed his eyes and Deanna frowned.

“Captain are you experiencing discomfort?”

Unable to move his head, he sighed.

“No Counsellor. I have vision disturbances that are quite annoying. I’m told they will dissipate with time, but in the interim I’m stuck with them.”

Deanna nodded silently and waited for her CO to broach his concerns.

“Deanna what the hell has happened? My last memory is being on the Enterprise the afternoon Beverly left for her leave.”

The Counsellor shook her head and clasped her hands in her lap.

“Well Captain quite a bit happened but I was under the impression that your Doctor doesn’t want you to be burdened with the details until at least tomorrow.”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“What are a few hours Counsellor?”

“All right Captain what exactly do you want to know?”

Jean-Luc sighed and closed his troublesome eyes.

“Well for starters where the hell am I?”

“Starbase 775.”

The Captain frowned.

“Starbase 775? That’s a medical Starbase…and a very long way from where we were. Who authorised this?”

Deanna swallowed and frowned deeply.

“Captain you were very badly injured…too badly injured for Selar to attempt to treat you. She…”
Jean-Luc’s eyes snapped open and he scowled.

“Selar? Why wasn’t Doctor Crusher treating me?”

“Because Beverly had been injured too, however it was on her recommendation that we travel to this Starbase and to contact Professor Scarlet to be your specialist. Without his expertise you might not have any sight at all.”

The Captain ruminated about that for a few moments then asked,

“How was Beverly injured?”

“She was kidnapped from her accommodation and held in a cloaked dwelling. You were contacted and demands were made against her well being. To accentuate the commitment of the kidnappers, they severed first her little finger, then another two fingers and finally her right hand. These acts were to intimidate you into compliance with their demands.”

Jean-Luc clenched his jaw and swallowed.

“What did I do?”

Deanna smiled grimly.

“Well you didn’t give in, I can tell you that. You organised a trap to buy some time then went to the planet’s surface to search for Beverly. The kidnappers shot down your shuttle but Beverly had managed to escape and you both met in the forest. You eluded your pursuers until you were both captured. Will and Ensign Tom Phillips found you soon after and liberated you. Tom got Beverly back to the Enterprise but we couldn’t find you and Will. Data and Geordi worked out a way to locate you and you were beamed up.”

Jean-Luc’s voice was soft and very deep.

“I’ve seen Beverly’s hands…I take it her re-attachment surgery was successful?”

Deanna smiled warmly.

“Yes Sir. She has ongoing therapy, but Selar expects a complete recovery.”

The Captain rubbed his eyes again and opened them.

“And how was I injured?”

Now approaching the tricky bit of her discourse, Deanna surreptitiously crossed her fingers.

“Actually Captain you suffered two very similar injuries, both at the hands of the kidnappers. You were struck on the head and it caused a fractured skull, a sub dural haematoma and bleeding into the brain. You were successfully treated but you insisted on returning to duty too soon. There was further bleeding into the brain and you were readmitted to Sickbay. The injury was treated again and you were ordered to stay in Sickbay until you were completely healed, but you were too worried about Beverly to stay. You left covertly and took the shuttle to the surface. You were injured again when the shuttle crashed and while trying to avoid your pursuers, you were involved in a fight. Unfortunately the being you fought with struck you with a metal pistol in the same area as your previous injury, causing tremendous damage. I have read your medical report Captain…you were dangerously close to death when you were beamed aboard.”

The Captain mulled over the information then scowled.

“That doesn’t explain why Doctor Crusher is avoiding me. She was quite friendly, her usual warm self, then suddenly she turned cold and it was after she asked me what was the last thing I remembered. Counsellor I can tell you that Beverly and I had words…unpleasant words, some hours before she left for that leave. I have apologised but she ignored me. What’s going on Deanna?”

The Counsellor lowered her head and sighed.

“Forgive me Captain but I cannot tell you, to do so would be to compromise Beverly’s privacy.”

Jean-Luc’s voice grew hard.

“Very well. Is there anything you can tell me?”

Deanna looked up at her Captain, sympathy and sadness warring for dominance.

“Yes Captain. Although things may seem somewhat grim at the moment, I think if you pursue this matter you might find an answer to your questions.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.

“I see, thank you. Tell me…the kidnappers…were they captured?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Very well Counsellor, dismissed.”

Deanna stood and gently gripped Jean-Luc’s arm.

“I’m sure it’ll work out Captain.”

He said nothing as she left. Once alone he sighed and called softly,

“Lights off.”

 

 

 

                    Jean-Luc was again in Deanna’s company as he entered his quarters on his ship. With his affected vision, Matthew had insisted on him being accompanied during his transfer and although annoyed, Jean-Luc acquiesced. Deanna resisted the urge to guide him as he walked confidently across the living area and took a seat in his favourite chair. The Counsellor went to the replicator and asked softly,

“Would you like an Earl Grey Captain?”

He sighed, rubbed his eyes and nodded.

“Yes please.”

Deanna soon joined him and watched as he pressed a thumb and finger into his closed eyes. She reached across the space between them and gently took his arm.

“Don’t Captain.”

He grumbled, but lowered his hand.

“It’s damned annoying Counsellor. There are holes in my vision.”

She smiled sympathetically.

“I know Sir. Be patient…I’m sure your sight will rectify itself soon.”

He grunted and squinted as he reached for his tea. Seeing he was settled, Deanna rose to her feet.

“Well Sir I’ll leave you now. I suppose you want to catch up on the logs?”

He looked up at her, frowning with irritation at his faulty vision.

“Yes Counsellor…it would seem I have holes in my memory too. I’m hoping the logs might jog something.”

Deanna smiled, then her face sobered.

“Captain…after you listen to the logs there’s a chip you might want to access. It’s from Beverly, she gave it to me and asked that I give it to you after she left for her leave.”

Jean-Luc’s head shot up and he struggled to see clearly.

“Do you know what it contains?”

“No Sir, but I do know that after you read it…you left the Enterprise to be with her.”

He was on his feet immediately, his dark hazel eyes glittering.

“What?”

Deanna gently gripped his forearm and softened her voice.

“Captain I can’t elaborate, all I can do is steer you in what I think is the right direction. Listen to the logs Sir, then listen to the chip. What you do after that is up to you.”

She left then, Jean-Luc stood motionlessly before lifting his head, concentrating on keeping his voice even.

“Computer play all senior staff log entries from star date 4332.6 to current date.”

He sat slowly as the computer began the playback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                An hour and a half later he rubbed his face and shook his head.

“Deanna was right…quite a lot has happened.”

He rose stiffly and stretched his muscles before walking to his desk and beginning his search for the chip. He eventually found it in his safe. Frustrated by his occluded vision what should have been a simple task proved annoyingly difficult. Even slotting the chip into his terminal was frustratingly hard. Finally feeling the chip slide in, he activated the computer and sat back and sighed. He squinted and hit the play key.

Minutes later he shook his head in stunned amazement, his deep voice incredulous.

“She loves me!”

His first instinct was to go to her, but even as he rose to his feet, his mind overruled his heart and made him hesitate.

“But wait a minute…if she loves me…what happened to sour that? Data’s log states that both our DNA was found in the bed. That would seem to indicate we were intimate. All right…maybe it didn’t work out, maybe I did something wrong. Could it be that I pushed her into it? She had said in the past she was afraid…shit!”
He took a large breath and strove to calm himself.

“What the hell could it be? And where was I when she was kidnapped? Surely I would’ve fought…but none of the logs indicate that…how the hell did it happen?”

With an angry jerk of his head, the Captain called,

“Picard to Riker!”

“Riker here Sir.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and scowled.

“I need to see you in my quarters immediately Commander.”

Will’s reply was guarded.

“Aye Captain, I’m on my way.”

The wait was a short one. Will entered to his Captain’s call and stood in the living area, watching his CO pace slowly back and forth. The Commander endured the silence until Jean-Luc stopped and faced him.

“I have some questions Commander, questions I want honest and frank answers to.”

On hearing the tension and seriousness in his Captain’s voice, Will swallowed and stood straighter.

“Of course Sir.”

Jean-Luc folded his arms and closed his eyes.

“When Doctor Crusher was kidnapped, where was I?”

Will felt his heart accelerate.

“You were with her Captain.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“I was with her? Did I fight? Did I offer any resistance?”

Sweat was beginning to develop on Will’s brow.

“No Sir.”

Jean-Luc opened his eyes and speared Will with an intense look.

“Why?”

Lowering his head and reddening, the Commander cast about for an escape.

“Ah…with all due respect Sir, perhaps that is something you should ask Beverly.”

Jean-Luc’s voice rose.

“I’m asking you Commander!”

Will rubbed his forehead and shook his head.

“Captain…it’s very personal…I’m sure…”
Jean-Luc’s voice dropped deceptively soft and he unfolded his arms, fisting his hands at his side.

“Out with it.”

Summoning his courage Will faced his Captain.

“Sir at the time Doctor Crusher was kidnapped…you were making love to her.”

Jean-Luc blinked and his mouth opened slightly. There were a few second’s silence before he quietly said…

“Go on.”

“Neither you or Doctor Crusher were aware of the kidnappers until you were dragged from her and assaulted. Beverly was forced to dress and was taken soon after. The last she saw of you, you were lying naked on the floor, unconscious and bleeding.”

Jean-Luc relaxed his tense body and ran a hand over his head. Will sighed and shook his head.

“I’m sorry Captain.”

The older man waved a hand and rubbed his eyes. When he spoke he sounded very tired.

“Will can you think of any reason why Beverly would be angry with me?”

Surprise registered on Will’s face.

“Angry Sir? No not at all.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Very well.”

He opened his eyes and smiled wanly.

“I appreciate what you just did was difficult Will and I’m sorry I put you in such an uncomfortable situation, but I had to know.”

The big man smiled and sighed.

“No problem Captain. Are you all right?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“I’m fine. That will be all Will, thank you.”

Once out in the corridor, Will tapped his combadge.

“Riker to Troi.”

“Troi here.”

“Deanna we have to talk.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  The Counsellor was well aware of her lover’s approach, his turbulent emotions carried before him like a wave. She was facing the door of her office when the chime sounded.

“Come in Will.”

The big man strode in and came to a halt in front of the small woman.

“Dee I just had a very uncomfortable conversation with the Captain.”

Deanna sighed and gestured to the sofa.

“What was it about?”

Running a hand through his hair, Will grimaced.

“He wanted to know where he was when Beverly was kidnapped and why he offered no resistance.”

Deanna lowered her head.

“Oh. What did you tell him?”

Will grunted.

“The truth.”

Deanna’s soft gasp made Will shake his head.

“I know! How do you think I felt telling him that when the rebels broke in he was having sex with Beverly?”

The Counsellor covered her face with her hands and moaned softly.

“How did he take it?”

Will took a large breath and let it out slowly.

“He was understandably shocked but over all he weathered it quite well. What I don’t understand is why he asked me if I knew why Beverly is angry with him. What’s going on Dee?”

Deanna stood and went to the replicator, soon returning with two hot drinks. She gave one to Will and sipped hers. The Commander waited patiently. Deanna’s expansive sigh told him she was ready to speak.

“Are you aware of Beverly’s past history with men?”

Will shrugged and shook his head.

“Well not all of it, obviously I don’t know her that well, but I know about her late husband…and Odan…these last few years I kinda thought she was keen on the Captain.”

Deanna nodded.

“You’re absolutely right about Captain Picard, Beverly’s been in love with him for some time…it just took her a long time to admit it. As for past lovers she hasn’t had many but there has been an unfortunate series of coincidences that have convinced Beverly that she is somehow dangerous to any man she falls in love with. Apparently they have all met with ill health…or death.”

Will raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

“But that’s ludicrous! How could an intelligent woman like Beverly even consider something so absurd?”

Deanna lifted a hand and rubbed her forehead.

“Oh she’s convinced alright. She actually told me she’s cursed. Will she’s utterly certain that what happened to the Captain was her fault and I’m having hell’s own delight trying to convince her otherwise.”

“But Deanna…”

Will looked into his lover’s eyes and sighed.

“Okay…it’s weird but I believe you. So why is she angry with the Captain?”

Deanna frowned.

“She’s not. When she found that he didn’t remember what happened, including her telling him she loved him, she took it as an opportunity to end their relationship. She thinks that if he doesn’t know she loves him, she can protect him…avoid any harm befalling him again.”

Will scratched his head and frowned.

“But he knows…at least I think he does.”

The Counsellor smiled grimly.

“That’s what I’m counting on. If he knows how she really feels I’m hoping he’ll confront her…make her admit her feelings and, hopefully, prove to her once and for all the her notion of being cursed is utter rubbish.”

Will rubbed his face and sighed.

“That might be a big job Dee…she can be very stubborn, especially when she thinks she’s protecting the Captain.”

Deanna nodded slowly.

“I know, but remember the Captain can be just as stubborn. He’s loved her for years Will…and he now knows that they began a new relationship. If he can discover the root of her fear I believe he can win her again, he just has to be persistent.”

Will looked down at his lover and frowned.

“You won’t tell him?”

Deanna shook her head sadly.

“I can’t, I have to honour Beverly’s confidence.”

Will blew out a long breath and briefly closed his eyes.

“This could get very ugly.”

The Counsellor nodded.

“Yes, there’s bound to be a lot of tension before this is settled, but with the stakes this high it’ll be worth the effort, especially with those two.”

Will stood and ran his fingers through his beard.

“Right I’d better get back to the Bridge. You’ll keep me posted?”

Deanna stood and gently pulled him down for a tender kiss.

“Count on it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc was standing in his quarters, facing the viewports, however his eyes were closed, his mind furnishing the image of the stars by memory. With his hands deep in his pockets, he said quietly,

“Computer location of Doctor Crusher?”

“Doctor Crusher is in Sickbay.”

“Is she on duty?”

“No. Doctor Crusher does not return to duty for another three days.”

Jean-Luc sighed and absently rubbed his eyes before opening them and blinking rapidly. He wasn’t certain, but he had a fleeting impression that his vision was worse.

“Computer inform me when Doctor Crusher returns to her quarters.”

“Acknowledged.”

With the beginnings of a mild headache, Jean-Luc went back to his desk and spent some minutes replaying Beverly’s message. He sat back and rubbed his temple, his voice a whisper.

“Why are you angry with me?”

His attention was drawn to an incoming message.

“Riker To Picard.”

Sighing and closing his eyes, Jean-Luc answered.

“Picard here.”
”Captain we have been cleared for departure from the Starbase. Professor Scarlet has handed your case over to Doctor Selar and sends his best wishes. Command has ordered us back to Kalara, ETA eight days.”

“Very well Number one, make it so.”

“Aye Sir, Riker out.”

Years of experience told him when his ship made the jump to warp. Feeling tired and somewhat unwell, Jean-Luc went to his favourite chair and sank into its depths deep in troubled thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly had not been in her quarters long. She’d toed off her shoes and seated herself on her sofa, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. The door chime made her scowl.

“Computer who is at my door?”

“Captain Jean-Luc Picard.”

Muttering expletives under her breath, she raised her head and called,

“I’m busy Captain.”

His deep voice echoed slightly in the otherwise silent room.

“Beverly I need to see you.”

The Doctor rubbed her forehead and sighed in exasperation.

“Look Captain I’m tired…it’s been a very long day. I’m going to have a meal and a bath and then I’m going to bed.”

His reply was curt.

“Beverly please…”

She hesitated a few seconds, her mind racing to come up with an excuse he would accept. Drawing a blank, she growled softly, rose to her feet and stalked to the doors. She stabbed at the release, exhibiting her anger in short bursts.

Jean-Luc resisted the urge to take a step back when confronted by the obviously angry woman. He summoned a smile and tilted his head.

“May I come in?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No.”

The Captain frowned He decided on another approach.

“How long have we been friends?”

Beverly folded her arms and lifted her chin defiantly.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

With an effort, Jean-Luc kept his faulty vision on Beverly’s face.

“Answer the question.”

Now clearly furious Beverly snapped,

“Why the hell should I?”

 Before turning and striding into her quarters. The Captain took the opportunity to follow her before the doors closed. When Beverly realised what he’d done, she spun on her heels and shouted,

“How dare you!”

Jean-Luc came to a stop in the middle of the room and lowered his head, absently rubbing his eyes. His voice was low, the hurt easily discerned.

“Are you listening to yourself?”

Beverly let out a huff and threw herself onto the sofa, curling up in the far end. Jean-Luc opened his eyes and slowly approached her, seating himself at the opposite end.

“Beverly…seeing as you won’t answer me, I’ll furnish you with the information you seem to have forgotten. Thirty years Beverly…thirty years of mutual support, respect…and more recently…love.”

The Doctor’s head shot up and she glared at her friend.

“I found the chip Beverly. I know how you feel.”

Lowering her head into her hands, Beverly’s voice was soft and tired.

“Damn you Jean-Luc.”

The Captain sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

“Why? Why damn me Beverly? What happened? Why are you avoiding me…why are you angry with me?”

Beverly rose quickly and stood facing the stars, her back to her lover. Her soft voice only just carried to the waiting man.

“I want you to leave Jean-Luc.”

Jean-Luc’s voice was equally soft.

“If I leave now I will return tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon and the next day and the one after that. I know we made love Beverly and I also know how deeply you must have felt to do that with me. Now I don’t remember the kidnappers, however I do know what happened. It must have been very traumatic for you, but it wasn’t my fault. If our relationship…in fact if our years of friendship mean anything, you’ll tell me what’s wrong because I can assure you I won’t let it rest until I know.”

Beverly’s back stiffened and she lifted her head as she slowly turned to face her lover. Her knew immediately she was going to ignore his implied threat.

“I’m asking you to leave. Don’t make me call security.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes, lowered his head and rubbed his temple.

“Very well Beverly, but I promise you this isn’t over.”

He stood then turned and walked from her quarters, his back straight, shoulders square.

Beverly collapsed onto the sofa and wiped angrily at the flowing tears.

“It’s for your own good my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Jean-Luc returned to his quarters and spent several hours sitting in deep thought in the living area. In complete darkness he closed his eyes and tried to ignore the gentle throbbing in his head.

“What is it? Was it the brutality she suffered? Does she blame me for that? Could it be that she thinks I should’ve been able to resist the kidnappers?”

He raised his hands, pressing the heels of his palms against his troublesome eyes. The pressure he exerted eased the pain in his head and he leaned forward, cradling his head in his hands.

“Shit I’ve waited years for her…she’s right I am damned!”

He sat back and leaned his head on the cushions.

“I wouldn’t mind betting Deanna knows what’s going on. The thing is…can I get her to tell me? For that matter Will probably knows too. Hmm, perhaps I might have another avenue to explore.”

The pain of his headache was beginning to irritate him so he concentrated on clearing his mind and descending into a calm, almost glacial state of being. Three hours later he roused himself and went into his bedroom, changing into his shorts and sliding into bed. He turned onto his side and pushed one hand under his pillow. With eyes closed he relaxed his body, but despite his meditation his mind refused to shut down. After ten minutes he sighed and turned onto his back. There would be no sleep this night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Over the next two days Beverly avoided Jean-Luc. She stayed away from her quarters, only returning late at night and leaving early in the morning. The Captain tried to pin her down, to continue his quest to find the reason for her attitude, but his failing vision and escalating headache eventually had him staying in his quarters.

On the morning of the third day Jean-Luc woke after a fractured sleep. Groaning and rubbing both his eyes and his temples, he rolled onto his side and clenched his teeth.

“Oh God…this damned headache is getting beyond a joke!”

He sat up gingerly and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Opening his eyes, he gasped and lifted his hands, pressing his fingers into his eyes.

“I can barely see! Bloody hell…this wasn’t supposed to happen!”

He rose unsteadily to his feet and suddenly gripped his head as the insidious headache pounded sickeningly. He waited until the pulsing agony abated and staggered into the bathroom, visiting the head then showering with some difficulty. He shaved by feel and by the time he dressed he was feeling nauseous and weak. Breakfast was ignored and the stricken man took a seat in the living area deeply troubled.

“I need to report this…but I’d prefer Beverly to treat me.”

Keeping his eyes closed, he lifted his head and said softly,

“Computer when does Doctor Crusher resume duty?”

“Doctor Crusher resumes duty today at oh eight thirty hours.”

“Computer what is the time?”

“The time is oh six eighteen.”

Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his aching head into his hands.

“Over two hours…merde!”

He sat back in the chair and lifted his head, laying it back on the cushions. With intense concentration he attempted to meditate but the calm he needed eluded him. He was annoyed by his door chime. He barked,

“Come!”

And lifted a hand to his eyes, rubbing them brusquely.

Deanna Troi entered, going straight to his side.

“Captain you are in considerable pain!”

He sighed, quelling his rising anger.

“It’s nothing Counsellor, just a troublesome headache.”

Deanna was unconvinced.

“Sir with all due respect, I could feel the pain from my quarters. Let me help you to Sickbay.”

Unwilling to shake his head, the Captain instead curled his lip.

“That will not be necessary Counsellor. I’m sure, with a little rest and a hot cup of tea, it will subside.”

“But Captain…”
He raised a hand and shook his head anyway, immediately regretting the action as the pain surged. Deanna staggered backwards and slapped her combadge.

“Medical emergency in…”

Jean-Luc’s voice was harsh.

“Belay that! I told you Counsellor I do not require any help!”

Deanna bit her lip and sat opposite the vexed man.

“All right Sir. Will you let me get you a cup of tea?”

Jean-Luc sighed softly.

“No I can manage thank you, but if you really want to help me you’ll tell me why Beverly is avoiding me. I know you’re aware of what’s going on.”

Deanna swallowed and noticed the Captain was keeping his eyes closed.

“You are correct Captain but you must know I can’t compromise Beverly’s privacy. Have you seen her? Have you confronted her?”

Jean-Luc rubbed his eyes again and sighed.

“Yes.”

“And?”

“All I managed was to make her angry and order me from her quarters. She’s made a damn good job of avoiding me since.”

It was Deanna’s turn to sigh.

“I’m sorry Captain. All I can say is that my advice is to persist. Ignore her anger, it’s her way of shielding herself…protecting her inner self from hurt.”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“I don’t want to hurt her dammit! I love her Counsellor, and I know she loves me! All I want is to go forward in our relationship, as I know we did on Kalara.”

He jumped slightly when Deanna took his restless hands.

“Then don’t give up! She has her reasons Captain…I don’t agree with her and I think if you persist she’ll weaken.”

Jean-Luc gently extracted his hands from her grasp and nodded slowly.

“Very well Counsellor, I will heed your advice. Thank you.”
His subtle dismissal wasn’t lost on Deanna. She stood and looked down at her Captain with a deep frown.

“Sir you will go to Sickbay?”

He sighed in capitulation.

“Yes Deanna I will go to Sickbay, but at a time of my own choosing.”

With her frown still creasing her forehead, Deanna nodded.

“Thank you Captain.”

She left and Jean-Luc sat forward, gripping his pounding head.

“Mon Dieu this must stop…I can’t go on like this!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Two hours later Jean-Luc was about to leave his quarters and proceed to Sickbay when his door chimed. Stifling a sigh, he called softly,

“Come.”

Will entered and frowned at his Captain. Jean-Luc sighed with protracted inevitability and bowed his head.

“You’ve been talking to Counsellor Troi.”

Will stepped up to Jean-Luc and tried to see under his brow.

“Yes Sir, she told me you’re in significant pain. I was wondering if I could help you to Sickbay.”

The Captain lifted his head and rubbed his closed eyes, struggling to keep the irritation from his voice.

“As I told the Counsellor…I will go to Sickbay when I see fit…not before.”

Will straightened and tucked in his chin.

“Aye Captain but if I may Sir…you don’t look well.”

Taking the risk of gently shaking his head, Jean-Luc waved a hand and tried to deflect his First Officer.

“It’s nothing Number One, merely an annoying headache, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Tell me Will…in your conversations with Deanna…has she told you what is bothering Doctor Crusher? I only ask because sometimes these things get bandied about between friends and my position as Captain often precludes me from being cognizant of such discussions.”

Will reddened slightly and took a large breath; heartily glad his Captain couldn’t see him.

“Ah actually she did Captain but I’m really not in a position to discuss it. Please understand Sir under normal circumstances I would, but in this case I would be breaking a confidence. I’m sorry Sir.”

Jean-Luc folded his arms and concentrated on not allowing the agony he was experiencing to show.

“I see. Well I can only hope she will eventually confide in me because I’m at a loss to understand why she’s acting the way she is.”

Will summoned a sickly smile.

“Oh I’m sure she will Captain, but you know Beverly, she feels things quite strongly about things…right or wrong.”

Jean-Luc sighed, nodding thoughtfully.

“What’s our ETA at Kalara”

“Four days Sir.”

Jean-Luc lifted his head and forced his eyes open.

“Fine Will, thank you.”

Hearing the subtle dismissal, Will turned reluctantly and made for the doors. He hesitated and Jean-Luc said softly,

“No Will.”

The big man nodded once and left. Jean-Luc closed his now blind eyes and took several deep breaths, trying to quell the quickly rising nausea. With abrupt certainty, Jean-Luc knew he was going to vomit. He made his way to the toilet and spent several agonising minutes heaving, the pain in his head reaching unprecedented levels. When his stomach finally ceased its rebellion, he staggered from the bathroom and wiped the sweat from his face. He made it to the doors and they sighed open. Lurching into the corridor he stumbled twenty metres before he collapsed. Two crewmen coming from the opposite direction came around the bend to find their Captain slumped against the wall, unconscious. While one woman went immediately to his side, the other called,

“Medical emergency, deck nine, section G7. Captain Picard is unconscious.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Beverly had been back on duty half an hour when the call came through. The second she heard who was ill her heart seized and her mouth went dry. Operating on automatic, she was out the door with a med kit in her hand before the call had finished.

With two nurses in tow, the three medics ran through the ship, coming across the huddled group very quickly. The two crewmen moved aside as Beverly deployed her tricorder. The scan took only seconds.

“Intracranial pressure is going through the roof, so is his blood pressure!”

She slapped her combadge.

“Transporter Room, four to beam directly to Sickbay!”

The medical personnel, with their patient disappeared just as Will’s voice sounded over the com system.

“This is the Bridge. Report on medical emergency.”

Lieutenant Stella Farrugia glanced at her companion and nodded.

“Lieutenant Farrugia Commander. We found Captain Picard unconscious. I called for help and Doctor Crusher has beamed the Captain back to Sickbay.”

“Understood. Bridge out.”

Stella looked at her companion and shrugged.

“Do you think the Captain will be okay?”

Lieutenant Rosemary Wing sighed.

“I haven’t a clue…I suppose it depends on what’s wrong with him.”

Stella nodded.

“Well at least he’s got Doctor Crusher to look after him. She’s the best.”

Rosemary nodded, a smile tugging at her lips.

“From what I hear our Captain is very happy to be in Doctor Crusher’s hands…in fact he’s probably been in more than her hands…if you know what I mean.”

Stella chuckled and elbowed her friend.

“Shame on you! Still…lucky Doctor Crusher, Captain Picard’s gorgeous.”

Rosemary sighed.

“You can say that again. He can order me to do anything he wants…anytime.”

The two women were still laughing as they resumed their duties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                “There’s oedema around the injury site…it’s interfering with the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid! Selar I want a deep intracranial scan…I want to know exactly how much damage has been done. Alyssa prepare him for surgery.”

The medical personnel swung into action, Selar saying dispassionately,

“You are going to release the pressure?”

Beverly grunted.

“There’s not much choice, if I don’t there will be irreversible damage. I’m also going to administer kalopen to bring his blood pressure down.”

Selar looked up sharply.

“But Doctor that will compromise his endocrine system.”

The red head shook her head.

“I know but he can’t wait while I open him up, we have to bring the hypertension under control.”

The stoic Vulcan nodded before turning to the monitor.

“Doctor Crusher I think he will benefit from the impending surgery…the damage seems to be confined to the original injury site.”

Beverly watched as Jean-Luc was taken by grav bed to the operation suite. She was re-reading his scans when Will arrived.

“How is he?”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Beverly sighed.

“Not good but not as bad as we first feared.”
She turned to the big man and scowled.

“This must have been coming on for some time…did you know?”

Will rubbed his face and grunted.

“I only found out this morning. Deanna went to him early…she sensed elevated pain levels but in his usual fashion, the Captain put us off.”

Beverly clenched her fists and savagely pounded the bed.

“Dammit! Why the hell is he so bloody pig headed?!”

The Commander gently gripped Beverly’s arm and led her to her office. Once inside he looked into her eyes.

“Beverly what I’m about to say is going to make you angry, but it needs to be said. If you hadn’t been avoiding the Captain you would’ve seen what was happening to him and maybe stopped it before it came to this.”

Beverly’s eyes glittered and she stood toe-to-toe with the big man, her index finger poking him in the chest to accentuate her brittle words.

“Now you listen to me Will Riker! Mind your own damn business. Don’t you ever think you can tell me how to run my private life…you don’t know me that well!”

Will glared back at the incensed woman and nodded.

“Okay Beverly but think about this. If anything happens to the Captain and you’ve neglected to set him straight about how you feel about him…once and for all…then you will have thrown away the only chance you’ll probably ever have at being truly happy. Deanna told me why you’ve shut him out, but I ask you…in all honesty…did he deserve to be treated like that? He’s a good man Beverly and he loves you…for God’s sake, give him a chance.”

Before the Doctor could respond, Will turned and strode out, passing Alyssa Ogawa on the way. The petite Asian woman said softly,

“Captain Picard is ready for you Doctor.”

Beverly stared vacantly at her head nurse then snapped into action.

“Right, let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             The surgery took four and a half hours. When a very tired Beverly came out of the recovery room, Deanna and Will were waiting. She ignored Will and smiled tiredly at her friend.

“He’s going to be all right.”

The relief on the faces of both officers made Beverly sigh.

“At the moment he has no sight and his blood pressure is a little unstable, but we were able to drain off the oedema and repair the traumatised tissue.”

Deanna nodded and guided Beverly to her office. Once they were all seated, the Counsellor asked,

“Why did he suffer hypertension?”

Beverly sat back, lifted one knee and rested her chin on her clasped hands.

“The oedema interfered with the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, causing the massive headache and an uncontrolled rise in blood pressure.”

Will sat forward and rested his hands on the desktop.

“And his sight?”

Casting Will a cold look, Beverly returned her gaze to Deanna.

“He already had vision disturbances from the previous surgery, but it was felt it would rectify itself. This latest incident has caused further damage, but again I feel with rest and regen treatments, he should regain all of his sight.”

Deanna nodded and rose to go to the replicator. Beverly and Will sat in silence while the Counsellor retrieved three hot drinks and they each sipped before Deanna said softly,

“And why did he develop the oedema? Surely if there was any chance this could happen he should’ve stayed at Starbase 775?”

Beverly shrugged.

“As far as Professor Scarlet was concerned this wasn’t on the cards, otherwise he wouldn’t have discharged him.”

Will snorted.

“Then why the hell did it happen?”

Beverly glared at the big man and sneered.

“How the hell do I know? Why is the sky blue? Look it was probably stress related…that and the fact that our Captain simply refuses to rest when he should.”

Will returned the glare and lifted his chin.

“Stress related? Well you’d know all about that!”

Deanna grabbed Will’s forearm and spoke softly.

“Will there’s no need for that, I’m sure Beverly…”
The Doctor lowered her leg and sat forward, her blue eyes spearing the Commander.

“I’ve already told you once…mind you own bloody business!”

Will shook off Deanna’s hand and stood. Looking down at the angry woman, he sighed.

“I hope you can live with yourself Beverly. You were totally wrong in your assertion that you caused the original injuries to the Captain, but you sure as hell caused this one.”

Beverly gained her feet and yelled harshly,

“How dare you! Get out!”

At the door Will turned and shook his head, his voice soft and deeply sad.

“Have a real happy life Beverly.”

Deanna watched Beverly carefully as the outraged woman sat in her chair and picked up a stylus, rotating it restlessly in her hands. As the Counsellor was about to speak, the Doctor threw the instrument across the room. Her eyes slid up to meet Deanna’s and she grimaced.

“And I’m not interested in anything you have to say either!”

The Counsellor rose slowly and bowed her head. She left the office deeply troubled, but her empathic senses soon picked up the distress coming from her lover. She found him standing by the Captain in the recovery room. Slipping her hand into his, they stood silently for a while, both watching the rhythmic rise and fall of Jean-Luc’s chest. Eventually Deanna’s soft voice broke through Will’s concentration.

“You were very hard on Beverly.”

He sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

“She deserved it. My God Dee…she could’ve prevented this.”

Deanna sighed.

“That’s not really fair Will…we don’t know that. What Beverly said about the Captain is quite true…he doesn’t look after himself.”

Will nodded.

“Granted but if stress played a part then Beverly has to recognise she’s at least partly to blame. Captain Picard has been in purgatory since she decided to give him the cold shoulder…you know him Dee, he would’ve been experiencing lack of sleep and probably not eating while he worried about what had gone so horribly wrong.”

The Counsellor sighed and squeezed his hand.

“You’re right but it’s not that simple and you know it. These two are very independent, highly intelligent people completely absorbed by both their positions and responsibilities. It was never going to be easy for them.”

Will turned to his lover and shook his head.

“I do know Dee, but it’s so unfair! He’s completely in the dark…he hasn’t got a clue why she dropped him. He knows she loves him, he knows they made love and when he first regained consciousness on the Starbase Beverly was fine, but as soon as she realised he didn’t remember what happened she started treating him like a pariah. How the hell do you think he felt?”

Deanna looked down at her CO and sighed.

“Confused, angry, hurt…all perfectly understandable under the circumstances but we can’t interfere Will. Beverly and the Captain have to sort this out on their own. Trust me, if this is to resolve itself the last thing they need is outside intervention.”

Will grunted and sighed.

“I suppose you’re right…we are talking about the two most private people I’ve ever known.”

Deanna extricated her hand and gently caressed Jean-Luc’s face. Will was touched by the tenderness of the gesture.

“He’s going to be all right Dee.”

She smiled up at the big man.

“I know. Come on take me back to our quarters…we can come back tomorrow.”

Beverly watched from her office as the two officers exited the recovery room and left Sickbay. She propped her elbows on the desk and lowered her head into her hands. With a deep sigh she struggled to contain her welling tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Jean-Luc woke slowly, awareness seeping in through the fog in his mind. The gentle throbbing of his head made him frown and lift a hand to his temple. A quiet alarm sounded and footsteps sounded as someone approached. With his eyes closed, the Captain concentrated on clearing his sluggish thoughts and flinched when a hand touched his arm.

“It’s okay Jean-Luc, it’s me.”

He sighed softly at hearing Beverly’s voice and took a deep breath before attempting to speak. His voice was very deep and rough.

“What happened?”

Beverly’s reaction to his query was guarded.

“What do you remember?”

Jean-Luc frowned and swallowed.

“I…I wasn’t feeling very well…I had a terrible headache and I couldn’t see. I left my quarters to come to Sickbay…but…I…”

He wiped his fingers over his lips and scowled.

“I can’t…”

Beverly gently gripped his shoulder.

“It’s all right. You collapsed and lost consciousness. Two crewmen found you and called for help.”

There were several minutes of silence while Beverly consulted the monitor above his bed. Even in his slightly confused state, Jean-Luc could sense her coolness. He sighed and said softly,

“Why did it happen?”

Beverly’s tone was purely clinical.

“You developed oedema around the injury site and it caused your loss of sight and the headache as well as some ancillary problems. We operated to remove the fluid and repair the compressed brain tissue and we also aggressively treated your elevated blood pressure, another side effect of what you experienced.”

He shifted slightly and grimaced. Beverly looked up at the monitor and sighed.

“You’re in pain.”

Jean-Luc grunted.

The Doctor took a tricorder and scanned him.

“Tell me Jean-Luc.”

After a defiant silence Jean-Luc sighed.

“I have a mild headache and soreness in my neck, armpits and groin.”

He heard the tricorder snap closed.

“The headache is understandable and treatable. The other discomforts are enlarged glands. We had to use a potent drug to combat the hypertension and it has upset your endocrine system I would prefer it settled on its own.”

Jean-Luc slowly opened his eyes and sighed.

“I can’t see.”

“To be expected. I think you’ll regain full sight, but it’ll take time. You had vision disturbances before this happened?”

Jean-Luc agreed.

“Yes, there were black holes in the sight of each eye.”

Beverly loaded a hypospray.

“Well that will return as your eyes adjust to your rate of healing but it will dissipate as you improve. With regen treatments and complete rest I fully expect a complete recovery.”

The Captain nodded.

“I see, thank you. When can I be released?”

Beverly’s voice was flat and cold.

“You can’t.”

Jean-Luc frowned and closed his eyes, resisting the urge to rub them.

“What? Why?”

He flinched at the anger in her voice.

“Because you stubborn fool, you have clearly demonstrated that you cannot…or will not take proper care of yourself when left to your own devices! If you had listened to Selar at the very beginning this wouldn’t have happened.”

Jean-Luc clenched he teeth and opened his sightless eyes.

“I beg your pardon? Must I remind you to whom you are speaking? You will keep a civil tongue in your head…”

Beverly snorted derisively.

“Get off your high horse Captain, you can’t intimidate me. You will stay here in Sickbay until I’m satisfied you’re well enough to leave.”

Jean-Luc glowered and lapsed into outraged silence. Beverly administered the hypospray and muttered,

“That should ease your headache. I’ll be back to check on you later.”

He heard her footsteps move away and he summoned his voice, stopping her at the door.

“Tell me Doctor, why are you treating me and not Selar?”

Beverly’s voice was sarcastically amused.

“Like I said, you can’t intimidate me Jean-Luc…I’m wise to all your arrogant obstructive behaviours.”

The door sighed shut and Jean-Luc scowled.

“Marvellous…just bloody marvellous!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc lay silently fuming for over an hour. His attempt to rise from the bed brought an immediate response. The door whispered open and the masculine voice was cautious.

“Captain Picard what are you doing Sir?”

Jean-Luc grunted and continued to struggle upwards.

“I wish to go to the toilet.”

“Very well Captain. I will assist you.”

The older man scowled and shook his head.

“That will not be necessary I assure you I can manage.”

The young man moved forward and gently gripped his CO’s arm, causing Jean-Luc to angrily pull it away.

“I said I don’t require any help!”

The nurse bolstered his courage.

“That may be so Sir, nevertheless I have my orders and they include assisting you to the bathroom.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and lowered his head. With a deep sigh, he capitulated grudgingly.

“Very well.”

The hand returned to his arm and helped him to stand. He took a moment to wait as he experienced light-headedness, his aide increasing his grip.

“Are you all right Sir?”

Jean-Luc nodded slowly and together the two men made their way into the bathroom. The nurse, a Lieutenant JG named Collin Banks, led his Captain to the toilet and placed one of his hands on the nearby rail. His voice was soft.

“I will wait outside Captain, please call me when you’re finished.”

Jean-Luc grunted and waited until his minder left. He completed his task and flushed the unit before turning and placing his hand against the wall. With shuffling steps he made it to the door and opened it. He scowled as the hand returned to his arm.

“The basin is close Captain…I’ll help you wash your hands.”

This was completed in silence and the frosty atmosphere continued as Collin led the Captain back to his bed. Once Jean-Luc was settled Collin softly cleared his throat.

“I have been assigned to you for your stay here Captain. Please feel free to call me anytime.”

Jean-Luc sighed and rubbed his eyes deciding it was pointless to vent his displeasure on this kind young man.

“Thank you..?

“Lieutenant JG Collin Banks Sir.”

The Captain summoned a small smile.

“Thank you Lieutenant. Tell me, would it be possible to raise the bed so I can sit up?”

Collin smiled.

“Yes Captain I’ll do it now.”

Jean-Luc only just heard the imperceptible hum as the top half of the bed rose. With practised gentleness extra pillows were placed behind him and the Captain sat back, making himself comfortable. He was unaware of Beverly’s scrutiny until she softly spoke.

“Thank you Collin that will be all.”

“Aye Doctor.”

Jean-Luc listened as the Doctor moved around his room, the familiar noises of processing computers giving some clue as to her activity. Attuning his senses, he smelled her perfume as she approached him and he identified the sound of a scanning tricorder.

“How is the headache?”

He kept his tone noncommittal.

“Fine.”

“And the gland soreness?”

“Tolerable.”

The tricorder silenced and he heard the replicator activate. He was ready when the weight of a tray pressed on his thighs.

“There’s a bowl of vegetable soup, a warm roll and a cup of Earl Grey. Do you want any help?”

His obstinance was second nature. With his arms folded across his chest, he lifted his chin defiantly.

“I’m not hungry.”

Beverly’s irritation was obvious.

“I don’t care. If you won’t feed yourself I’ll have Collin come in and do it for you.”

Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and shook his head.

“This is ridiculous Doctor. You cannot treat me like this…I insist you…”

The Doctor’s voice rose and the coldness in it rattled the Captain.

“For God’s sake shut up! This is my Sickbay and you will obey my orders. Now are you going to feed yourself or not?”

There was silence as the battle of wills ensued. Beverly smiled grimly when she saw Jean-Luc’s hands feel for the spoon. She watched him successfully take some soup before she turned to leave. Jean-Luc’s voice was bitter.

“I don’t know what happened to make you hate me so thoroughly Beverly, but there’s absolutely no need for you to humiliate me.”

The Doctor’s heart squeezed and the urge to go to him was almost unbearable. Keeping her voice steady she replied,

“I don’t hate you Jean-Luc, nor is it my intention to humiliate you, I’m just determined to make sure you make a full recovery.”

The hurt man looked up, his sightless eyes glittering suspiciously.

“At any cost?”

Beverly swallowed and briefly closed her eyes.

“Yes. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

The sneer on her lover’s face was so uncharacteristic, Beverly lowered her eyes to avoid it.

“I see. Professional pride or sheer vindictiveness?”

Against her will her feet moved towards him. With a soft voice she entreated,

“Jean-Luc…”

He shook his head, denying her plea.

“No Doctor. You have made your feelings abundantly clear.”

Beverly’s face screwed up in anguish and tears threatened. Before she lost control she turned abruptly and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              It was oh three twenty and Beverly was sitting on the sofa under the viewports in her quarters. Unable to find sleep, the bereft woman curled her legs under her and gazed unseeing at the passing stars, her mind churning with sorrow and anguish. The door chime went unheeded the two times it called, but on the third Beverly jerked her head and frowned.

“Come in.”

The light spilling in to the darkened rooms from the corridor hid the visitor and Beverly squinted, raising one hand to shield her eyes. The mystery caller stepped further into the room and the doors closed. The soft lyrical voice made Beverly sigh.

“Lights up twenty-five percent.”

As Deanna’s eyes adjusted she stood still, waiting for the angry order to leave. When it didn’t come, the Counsellor walked slowly over to the sofa and sat next to Beverly, following the Doctor’s gaze out into space. After a few minutes silence Beverly grunted.

“I suppose I’ve disturbed your sleep.”

Deanna refrained from answering, instead sitting back, crossing her legs and settling her eyes on her best friend. Beverly ignored the gentle scrutiny and wrapped her arms around her curled legs. Deanna frowned and shook her head.

“You’re experiencing some very dark emotions. Want to talk about it?”

Beverly snorted gently.

“Not really.”

“It might help.”

The Doctor slowly turned her head until she locked eyes with the Counsellor. Deanna could easily see her friend’s pain.

“He’s very angry with me.”

Deanna pursed her lips.

“Do you blame him? He must be very hurt and confused.”

Beverly nodded absently then grimaced.

“But it’s for his own good Dee! I’m trying to protect him.”

Deanna gently took Beverly’s hand and squeezed it softly.

“Beverly listen to me. By adopting this attitude with the Captain all you’re doing is causing unnecessary pain and anguish for both of you. After all he’s been through recently he needs you, he needs you as a doctor but most of all he needs you as his friend…his closest friend. You are the one he loves. He relies on you for so many things, Beverly…what you’re doing is so very unfair. Can you honestly tell me that you can stand idly by why he suffers at your hand?”

Beverly withdrew her hand and covered her face. When she spoke there were tears in her voice.

“But Deanna…what can I do? If I don’t shun him, if I don’t convince him that I no longer love him he’ll be doomed.”

Deanna sighed.

“If you continue to let him believe you don’t love him any more he’ll be doomed anyway. Beverly can’t you see? He’ll die inside…and so will you.”

“But…”

“Beverly this is all so very unnecessary. All you have to do is tell him you love him, tell him why you acted as you did and give him the opportunity to prove you wrong.”

Beverly’s trembling form shuddered and she gulped. Lifting her tear-stained face she cast tragic eyes on her friend.

“You’re asking me to kill the man I love.”

Deanna smiled tenderly and shook her head.

“No I’m asking you to save him.”

Deanna stood and left without another word. Beverly gasped and hiccupped, ineffectually wiping at her flowing tears.

Her head turned back to the stars and she closed her eyes.

“Oh dear God…what do I do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Over the next five days things improved for Jean-Luc, at least physically. His glands subsided, the headache slowly abated and his sight gradually returned, albeit with the ubiquitous black spots, but even those weren’t as bad as they had been. The enforced bed rest was taking its toll however; the Captain was both bored and irritated. He had regular visitors from his senior staff but his underlying anger made the visits uncomfortable for all.

Beverly saw him twice a day, once in the mid morning and again during the afternoon. He underwent three regeneration treatments a day, the process requiring him to lie face down on his bed while the regen beams were aimed at the back of his head. His day nurse, Collin Banks continued to offer support and care and Jean-Luc made an effort not to vent his growing displeasure at the young man.

The nights were long and somewhat lonely. His night nurse, Ensign Kerry Waghorn had little to do. She was aware her CO wasn’t sleeping very well, but as he’d refused sedatives and didn’t want company, all she could do was keep an eye on him and report her observations to Beverly at hand over.

On the morning of the sixth day Beverly entered Jean-Luc’s room to find him squinting at a PADD.

“What are you doing?”

His eyes stayed on the screen, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“What does it look like?”

Beverly sighed and came to his bedside.

“You know you shouldn’t be doing that. Until you vision clears…”
He looked up sharply, his dark eyes glittering with suppressed anger.

“And just what do you think I’m supposed to do with my time? Lie here twiddling my damned thumbs?”

Beverly bit her lip and briefly closed her eyes, struggling to keep her own anger at bay.

“I understand your boredom Jean-Luc. Tell you what, how about I give you access to the computer, audio only.”

He grunted and Beverly sighed again. Raising her head, she spoke to the computer and authorised her request.

“There that should keep you busy.”

Jean-Luc grumbled inaudibly then lifted his head, dropping the PADD on the bed.

“When can I be discharged?”

The Doctor folded her arms and stood silently, the seconds ticking by as she studied her patient. Jean-Luc endured the scrutiny with irritated forbearance, knowing any complaint would fall on deaf ears. Beverly’s voice, when she replied was tentative.

“Four more days and then only if your vision is improved.”

Jean-Luc shook his head and growled.

“Four more days? Dammit Doctor you know full well my sight is improving. There’s absolutely no reason to keep me here!”

Beverly’s exasperation had reached critical levels.

“Now you listen to me Captain! As long as you’re my patient you’ll stay until I deem you well enough to be discharged to your quarters. And I don’t give a damn about how that makes you feel!”

Fisting his hands, he glowered up at the angry woman.

“Fine! I want another Doctor. You are dismissed.”

Beverly’s mouth snapped closed and she scowled.

“Very well I’ll tell Selar to take over your case.”

As she stalked from his room she heard his clipped voice order,

“Computer what is the ship’s status?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               That afternoon Deanna came to see the Captain. She knew about his change of Doctor and was worried about how wide the rift was between the warring pair. When she walked in, Jean-Luc was sitting up in bed, Collin massaging his neck and shoulders.

“Good afternoon Captain.”

With his eyes closed, he grunted. Deanna frowned and concentrated on discerning his emotions. As usual he was shielding himself, but the Counsellor still picked up the underlying anger and bitterness.

She waited patiently until Collin finished and gave the Lieutenant a warm smile as he left. In silence she retrieved a chair and brought it to Jean-Luc’s bedside, sitting and composing herself. The Captain studiously ignored her, lying back on his pillows and seeming to relax in preparation to sleep.

Deanna covered an exasperated sigh and said softly,

“I hear you’ve changed Doctors.”

He grunted. Deanna continued.

“Do you think that’s wise?”

He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling.

“Wise?”

“Yes Captain. Beverly has been your Doctor ever since she came aboard. I would’ve thought you’d want no other.”

Jean-Luc pulled down the corners of his mouth and shrugged brusquely.

“Recent events, coupled with a less than harmonious atmosphere made me reconsider.”

Deanna sighed.

“You’re angry and hurt Captain. Do you really think changing Doctors is going to help?”

Jean-Luc’s deep voice softened.

“Probably not Counsellor, but I felt I had no other choice.”

He then turned sad eyes on the woman.

“Have you spoken to her?”

Deanna shook her head.

“No Sir, not yet.”

He nodded and returned his gaze to the ceiling. Sighing, he said,

“It would be a great help if you’d only tell me what’s wrong Deanna.”

The Counsellor lowered her head, her voice dropping to a whisper.

“I can’t Captain…I’m sorry.”

Sighing again, his voice became flat and hard.

“I would like to be alone now.”

Deanna rose and briefly took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“I’ll come back tomorrow Captain.”

As she went through the door, she just heard his tired,

“Don’t bother.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Deanna waited until after her shift ended before going to Beverly’s quarters. When she pressed the chime she was greeted with a curt question.

“Who the hell is it?”

Sighing and rubbing her forehead, Deanna said softly,

“It’s me Beverly.”

The reply was equally brusque.

“I’m busy!”

The Counsellor raised her head and lifted her voice.

“Come on Beverly…let me in.”

There were a few second’s wait before the doors suddenly parted. An angry woman fisted her hands on her hips.

“What do you want?”

“Beverly…we should talk.”

The Doctor turned on her heel and stalked back into her cabin. Over her shoulder she called,

“I’m past talking!”

Deanna entered and frowned.

“Beverly, what are you doing?”
Around the living area there were boxes and crates, Beverly’s possessions strewn on the floor.

“What does it look like? I’m packing my things.”

Deanna strode to her friend, took a firm grip on her elbow and led her to the sofa.

“Tell me…what the hell’s going on?”

Beverly pushed at her unruly hair with irritation and snorted.

“I’m leaving.”

“Oh. Why?”

The red head scowled.

“Because there’s no point in me staying. Jean-Luc has dismissed me as his Doctor and I can’t stand by and watch him suffer while I squirm in pain. It’s utterly pointless and I think if I put some distance between us, we can both recover from this disaster.”

Deanna sighed and shook her head.

“Beverly you bloody fool! You’ve already put the distance between you, that’s the problem! Why, for God’s sake, won’t you tell him?”

Beverly stood and turned to the stars.

“Because I can’t! I love him too much.”

Deanna sat back and sighed.

“You realise of course, what your leaving will do to him…what it’ll do to both of you?”

Beverly turned abruptly and scowled.

“Yes Dammit!”

“Then why..?”

“Because I must!”

Deanna stood and stepped close.

“So what…is this going to be a leave of absence or are you seeking reassignment…or are you contemplating resigning?”

The Doctor shrugged and rubbed her eyes.

“I haven’t decided. All I know is I’ve got to get away.”

Deanna nodded slowly.

“Running Beverly? That’s not like you. You usually face trouble head-on. Why run?”

Lifting her hands, Beverly ran her fingers through her hair in exasperation.

“I’m not running dammit! I just need some time and space.”

The Counsellor sighed.

“Are you going to tell him, or are you just going to sneak away.”

Beverly’s blue eyes glittered dangerously and her voice hardened.

“You watch what you say Deanna, you’ve got no idea what I’m going through.”

Deanna nodded.

“You’re probably right, but I do know what the Captain’s going through. I never knew you could be so cruel.”

Beverly turned back to the stars.

“I’ve got nothing more to say and, as I said, I’m busy. So if you don’t mind…”

Deanna stared at her friend’s back before sighing and turning for the door.

“I used to envy you Beverly…not any more. In fact I think I pity you.”

The doors opened and closed and Beverly wrapped her arms around herself.

“I am doing the right thing!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

               At oh eight thirty the next morning Beverly left the Enterprise in a shuttle. Having gained permission for an extended leave, she set the coordinates for her destination and left the cockpit to sit in the lounge. She picked up a medical journal and did her best to forget the last few weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Doctor Selar stood next to Jean-Luc’s bed and raised one perfect eyebrow.

“Captain your request is illogical. My orders are for continued bed rest.”

The Captain suppressed his anger and sighed.

“Look Doctor I just want to get dressed and sit in a chair. Where’s the harm in that?”

Clasping her hands behind her back, the Vulcan tilted her head.

“Given your past ignoring of my orders concerning your treatment I intend for you to comply this time. To that end, you will not leave this bed until you are fully recovered.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and rubbed them, earning a soft rebuke.

“Captain Picard please refrain from rubbing your eyes, it does not help.”

He snorted and opened his eyes, slowly shaking his head.

“Tell me Doctor, have you ever had vision disturbances?”

Selar shook her head.

“No Captain.”

Jean-Luc sighed.

“Then may I point out, with respect, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

There was a gentle knocking at the door and Jean-Luc raised an eyebrow in enquiry. Selar nodded and the Captain called softly,

“Come.”

 Will entered quietly and smiled at his CO. Selar nodded her greeting then turned back to her patient.

“Captain I must reiterate, you are to stay in bed.”

She left and Jean-Luc scowled at her departing back, making Will grin. The big man grabbed a chair and, turning it around, straddled it and laid his hands along its back.

“Trouble Sir?”

Jean-Luc snorted.

“No not really just more of the same draconian attitude. Honestly Number One, you’d think I was some sort of an escapee.”

Will’s grin grew.

“Well Captain that might not be too far from the truth. You did give Selar the slip…twice.”

Jean-Luc grumbled and he shifted in the bed. He sighed and cast his eyes on his Exec.

“Tell me Will, has Deanna seen Beverly yet?”

At the mention of Beverly’s name, Will’s face fell. Jean-Luc noticed and his voice dropped.

“What?”

Will took a deep breath and lowered his head.

“Captain…Beverly left the ship this morning.”

Jean-Luc sat up and gasped.

What? Why?”

Will sighed.

“She didn’t say Sir. She’s taking a leave of absence…we don’t know when she’ll be back.”

Jean-Luc collapsed back on his pillows and rubbed his hand over his mouth.

“Did she say where she was going?”

Will nodded slowly.

“Caldos.”

There was silence as both men contemplated the ramifications of the news. Jean-Luc eventually muttered,

“When do we reach Kalara?”

“Two hours Captain. And Sir? Admiral Roitinger has requested an interview with you as soon as we achieve orbit.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Why wait until then? She can contact me anytime.”

“Because she’s on the Perth Captain. Apparently she hitched a lift on the Supply and has been involved in the investigation with the rebels. She’s been waiting to see D’Ran too.”

Jean-Luc groaned softly and rubbed his face.

“Oh God…this just gets worse doesn’t it?”

Will nodded.

“I’m afraid so Sir.”

Suddenly Jean-Luc stiffened.

“But what about Beverly’s testimony? Surely the Admiral will want to see her too?”

Will shrugged.

“As far as I know, Beverly got the Admiral’s permission before she left. Maybe she left a statement with security?”

Jean-Luc snorted and sat back on his pillows.

“All right fine. Inform me when we achieve orbit.”

“Aye Sir.”

Once again alone in his room, Jean-Luc absently rubbed his eyes.

“Why the hell did you run?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Jean-Luc made sure he was shaved and in clean pyjamas when the inevitable call came from the Bridge.

“Riker to Picard.”

“Picard here.”

“Sir Admiral Roitinger is beaming aboard. She will be with you in minutes.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and sighed.

“Acknowledged Number One, thank you.”

He sat up in his bed and straightened the blankets. When the formidable Admiral Roitinger entered his room, the Captain was calm and composed.

“Good afternoon Admiral, please forgive me for not getting up.”

Roitinger waved a hand and shook her head.

“No need to apologise Captain, I’ve seen your medical report.”

The tall, grey haired woman seated herself next to Jean-Luc’s bed and activated the PADD she carried.

“This has been a very interesting few weeks Captain.”

Jean-Luc bowed his head.

“Indeed it has Admiral.”

“It’s not often Starfleet is dragged into the domestic problems of non-aligned worlds. This situation with the Antarra Alliance has proven to be quite troublesome. With the involvement of the Ferengi and the introduction of unknown alien technology…it could have been disastrous.”

Jean-Luc held his tongue, opting instead to nod. The Admiral read from the PADD and sighed. Keeping her eyes lowered she kept her voice even.

“I must say Picard I was disappointed with some aspects of this whole situation. Your involvement, your decision to bring the Enterprise into an unknown situation, your disobedience of direct orders…these are not the actions of a respected and experienced Captain of your standing. What have you got to say for yourself?”

Jean-Luc frowned and lifted his hands.

“Admiral I was caught up in a situation that escalated very quickly. In my position as Captain I decided it was in the best interests of Starfleet to investigate and solve the problems as they were presented. That necessitated my involving the Enterprise. As for my disobedience, I felt that I would be of greater use if I was on duty and again, as Captain I took a unilateral approach and absented myself from Sickbay. Considering how things turned out, I believe I did the right thing.”

Roitinger pursed her lips and scrolled further down the screen.

“I see. Captain I have heard things…unsubstantiated rumours admittedly, but I’ve heard them often enough to require some answers. Exactly what is your relationship with Doctor Beverly Crusher?”

Jean-Luc swallowed and resisted the urge to scowl.

“Admiral with all due respect…”
Again the woman held up her hand.

“No. This pertains directly to your actions Picard. Answer the question.”

Closing his eyes briefly, Jean-Luc sighed. When he spoke his voice was soft.

“At the time of the incidents we were in the beginnings of a relationship.”

Roitinger nodded slowly.

“I see. Do you think your subsequent actions were influenced by your feelings for the Doctor?”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“No Sir, I would have done the same for any member of my crew.”

Monika Roitinger smiled and clasped her hands on her lap.

“Oh come now Picard. I remember how it feels, the first bloom of love, the intensity, the rush of emotions…you’re not going to tell me that you weren’t motivated to find and save your lover?”

Jean-Luc couldn’t stifle the glare. To stop it he closed his eyes and lowered his head.

“Captain I do understand but I have to balance your actions…and that of your crew against how things might have been handled had you contacted Command.”

The Captain frowned and lifted his head.

“My crew? Their performance has been exemplary.”

Lifting the PADD, Roitinger accessed some information.

“Actually Captain Commander Riker may have charges to answer. By his own admission he tortured helpless prisoners in direct violation of Starfleet tenets. I hardly think that should be overlooked.”

With a sigh, Jean-Luc rubbed his eyes.

“Commander Riker was in a desperate situation requiring innovative actions. Without the information he gathered we may have lost Doctor Crusher and, may I add, he was badly wounded at the time.”

Roitinger nodded.

“I understand that Captain and I fully appreciate all the actions taken by you and your crew, but I must look at the big picture. We can’t have a precedent set here. All Captains have to be aware that they can’t take matters into their own hands just because they’ve been personally motivated.”

Jean-Luc nodded silently, keeping his own counsel. Roitinger deactivated the PADD and placed it on her lap.

“I have interviewed the Ferengi crew and I’m transferring the rebels from the Enterprise to the Perth. Unfortunately there will probably be little we can do about punishing them. Both groups have demanded to be repatriated back to their home planets and, as we’re not in the business of playing judge and jury over non-aligned species, it’s most likely that is exactly what will happen. However the staff on Kalara and the Starfleet personnel involved will be punished severely.”
This time Jean-Luc couldn’t hide the scowl.

“I’m sure Doctor Crusher will be overjoyed to hear the animals who tortured her will get off scott free.”

Roitinger shrugged.

“Space is a dangerous place Picard, I’m sure she realises that as should you.”

Jean-Luc bit his tongue and lowered his eyes. The Admiral sighed.

“So tell me, how is your sight?”

The Captain summoned a small smile.

“Much better Admiral. With each day it improves.”

“How much longer will you be in Sickbay?”

Jean-Luc shrugged.

“Hopefully only a few more days Sir.”

The Admiral stood and nodded.

“Good. I will interview the rebels and make my report. If you’re wondering I would say you’re going to get a formal reprimand. Consider yourself lucky.”

Jean-Luc looked up and asked worriedly,

“And Commander Riker?”

Roitinger scratched her cheek.

“I’ll have to think about that, I’ll let you know.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Thank you Sir.”

“Very well I will leave. Contact me when you’ve been discharged.”

“Aye Sir.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Late that evening Will came to visit his CO. Knowing the man would be awake, Will negotiated his visit with the duty Doctor and grinned when he gained entry into the Captain’s room. He poked his head through the open door and said softly.

“Captain?”

In the subdued lighting, Jean-Luc’s voice was soft.

“Come in Number One.”

Settling himself in a chair, the big man sighed.

“I hope you don’t mind me coming by so late Captain.”
Jean-Luc chuckled.

“Not at all. I can’t sleep anyway. What’s our status?”

“Everything’s fine Sir. Our orders are to maintain orbit until we hear from Admiral Roitinger.”

Jean-Luc grunted.

“Did she give you a hard time?”

Will shrugged.

“Oh the usual, you know.”

“She’s not very happy.”

Will grinned.

“I thought that was a permanent state for Admirals.”

Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.

“I’m serious Will. What happened between you and the prisoners isn’t being seen in a very kind light. You may suffer for your actions.”

Will scowled and raised his hands.

“Captain I did what I thought was the right thing at the time. Under the circumstances I felt that if I didn’t get the required information, and quickly, Beverly could well die. I had no choice Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s dark hazel eyes softened.

“I understand Will it’s just that I might not be able to protect you. I’m not that popular at the moment either.”

Will chuckled.

“Not to worry Sir, I’m sure we’ll be fine. After all it was resolved satisfactorily.”

Jean-Luc nodded and both men lapsed into silence. Eventually Jean-Luc sighed.

“Did Beverly give you any idea why she left?”

Will shook his head.

“No Sir. All I can tell you is that she was in one hell of a hurry. Deanna tells me she packed up the things in her quarters but she didn’t take them with her.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his face and shook his head.

“I don’t understand this at all. What the hell is wrong? We were happy…I know that, but dammit all I can’t remember what happened!”

Will grimaced, his gut wrenching at his Captain’s heartache.

“Captain…”

Jean-Luc’s voice dropped.

“For God’s sake Will…please…tell me.”

Will looked deeply into his Captain’s eyes and came to his decision.

“She thinks she’s protecting you Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes darkened.

“Protecting me? From what?”

Will sighed.

“From her.”

Jean-Luc frowned deeply.

“What? I don’t understand.”

The First Officer rubbed his face and lowered his head.

“Captain she thinks she caused your injuries…that they happened because she told you she loves you. She believes she’s cursed…that every man she’s ever loved has either been badly injured or died. Her thinking is that if she can convince you that she no longer loves you, she can save you.”

Jean-Luc blinked several times, his mouth ajar.

“But that’s… that’s…utterly ridiculous! How could an intelligent, free thinking, independent woman like Beverly even consider such…lunacy?”

Will shrugged.

“That’s something both Deanna and I have been asking her Sir.”

The Captain shook his head.

“But that doesn’t explain why she ran.”

Will sighed.

“It was pain Captain…yours and hers. Ultimately she couldn’t stand to see you hurting and her own pain became too much to bear. She thought you would be both better off if she put some distance between you.”

Jean-Luc closed his eyes and lowered his head.

“Oh God what a mess.”

Just then the door opened and the duty Doctor came in.

“I’m sorry Commander but Captain Picard must get some rest.”

Will nodded and stood.

“Okay. I’ll come back in the morning Captain.”

Jean-Luc nodded absently and sighed. Once Will left the Doctor approached Jean-Luc with a hypospray. The Captain frowned.

“What’s that?”

“A sedative Sir. Doctor Selar has noted your insomnia and ordered me to administer this if you were still awake at oh two hundred hours.”

Jean-Luc scowled and shook his head.

“I can assure you Doctor it is unnecessary.”

The Doctor smiled apologetically.

“Perhaps Sir, but I have my orders.”
The hiss of the hypo was loud in the quiet room and Jean-Luc immediately felt his body relax. Striving to keep his mind on line, he sighed in exasperation as the fog descended and sleep claimed him. The Doctor pulled up the blankets and ordered the sidelight off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                Will entered his quarters quietly and noted the lights were off. Surmising Deanna was asleep, he was walking softly across the room when her quiet voice stopped him in his tracks.

“You told him.”

Will sighed and lifted his head.

“Computer lights up twenty-five percent.”

He spotted his lover on the sofa and he went to her, sitting and laying his head back on the cushions.

“Will didn’t we agree to keep out of it?”

The big man closed his eyes.

“Deanna he was hurting so much…he practically begged me, I had to put him out of his pain.”

There was silence for a few minutes, broken by Deanna’s sigh.

“Well what’s done is done. Did he say what he’s going to do about it?”

“No, he was too flabbergasted to think clearly. Anyway he’s still confined to bed.”

Deanna snorted.

“If I know our Captain he’ll come up with something. He loves her Will…he’s not going to let her fears ruin what they can have.”

Will grunted.

“I think you’re forgetting just how stubborn Beverly can be. She may well refuse to see him if he follows her to Caldos. She has the protection of the Governor remember.”

“Yes but the Captain has determination and strength on his side. Time will tell I suppose, but if nothing else it’ll be very interesting.”

The First Officer ran a hand through his hair and slowly let out a large breath.

“Can we go to bed? I’ve had enough for one day.”

Deanna stood and took his hand.

“Come on lover, I’ll even tuck you in.”

A grinning man stood and took his lover into his arms.

“I love you Dee.”
The Counsellor sighed and closed her eyes.

“And I love you. Lights out.”

                  Three days had passed and Jean-Luc was sitting expectantly as Selar examined his eyes. Curtailing his excitement, the Captain struggled to sit still as the thorough woman went about her duty. Finally she lowered the ophthalmoscope and stood back. Jean-Luc looked at her steadily and the Vulcan nodded.

“I can detect no anomalies Captain. The man grinned and sighed.

“As I told you, my vision is clear.”

The Doctor arched an eyebrow.

“You have been pain free for some time now.”

The Captain nodded.

“Your blood pressure is normal and your glands have subsided.”

Jean-Luc let out a short breath and nodded once.

Selar clasped her hands in front of her and maintained eye contact with the agitated man.

“Very well Captain Picard, I will discharge you to your quarters.”

Jean-Luc frowned and briefly closed his eyes, striving for calm.

“Why can’t I return to duty? I am completely healed.”

“I would prefer you spent the next three days resting Captain. In addition I will require you to present to Sickbay once a day for scans. I am determined you should not experience any residual problems associated with your injury. I think Captain, you underestimate just how serious your injury was.”

Knowing arguing was pointless, especially with his recent record with this particular Doctor, Jean-Luc sighed and bowed his head.

“Very well Doctor. May I leave now?”

“Yes Captain. You may dress and I will summon Lieutenant Banks to escort you to your quarters.”

Jean-Luc hid his scowl and the protest teetering on the tip of his tongue. Instead he merely nodded.

“Thank you Doctor.”

Half an hour later both men were standing in the corridor outside Jean-Luc’s quarters. The Captain looked fondly at the plaque and turned to his companion.

“I must thank you Lieutenant, for all the care you’ve given me. I appreciate it very much.”

Collin grinned, pride and affection welling.

“Think nothing of it Captain, I’m just happy you’re well.”

Jean-Luc nodded and stepped forward. The doors opened and he entered alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     Will was in the Ready Room when the door chimed. Not looking up from the monitor he was studying, he called absently,

“Come on in.”

The visitor entered and Will waved his hand, keeping his eyes on the screen.

“Take a seat, I’ll be right with you.”

The tight voice felt like ice in his ears.

“I don’t think so Commander!”

Startled, Will looked up then came immediately to his feet.

“Admiral! My apologies Sir.”

Roitinger sniffed and shook her head.

“Sit down Commander.”

As Will sat rigidly in his seat, the Admiral seated herself and took a moment to stare at the nervous man.

“I have completed my report.”

Will remained silent.

“How long have you been a Commander?”

Will swallowed.

“Fifteen years Sir.”

The Admiral pulled down the corners of her mouth and lifted her head.

“I see. And in all that time, have you ever questioned Starfleet law?”

The First Officer frowned.

“Ah…I suppose there have been times when I had cause to question the laws Admiral. It happens to everybody once in a while.”

The elderly woman nodded.

“Indeed, but do you agree with our laws?”

Will nodded.

“Yes Sir, I do.”

Folding her arms, the Admiral tilted her head.

“Then why did you flout them so flagrantly? Torture, Commander is expressly forbidden…under any circumstances.”

Will lowered his head and sighed.

“I know Admiral, but at the time I felt I had no other choice.”

There was silence as the Admiral stared at Will. To his credit he endured the scrutiny with equanimity. Roitinger snorted.

“You’re the second officer on this ship that has exhibited atypical behaviour and I find it very disquieting that such actions were taken by such senior officers. Did you give any thought as to how your actions may be viewed by junior officers? The senior staff are supposed to set the standard, be the examples to follow.”

Will sighed.

“Admiral the senior staff on this ship have served together for many years…we’re family. There could be no higher motivation than to fight for a ship mate, especially one held so dear.”

Roitinger pinched the bridge of her nose and grunted.

“I understand Commander, really I do, but this is a very serious matter. If it were not for the fact that the people you were dealing with are so venal and callous, I would be considering demoting you and insisting on a transfer.”

The Admiral huffed and closed her eyes.

“Normally an indiscretion such as yours would necessitate you attending a board of enquiry, but I do think there has been extenuating circumstances.”

She sighed again.

“I cut your Captain some slack…it’s only fair I extend to you the same. Commander Riker I am administering a formal reprimand. It will be permanently recorded in your file.”

Will stood, coming to attention.

“Thank you Admiral.”

The woman stood and studied the man before her.

“We will be releasing the Ferengi back to their ship and escorting them back to their home planet. Then we will repatriate the rebels. In ten days this will be mostly over. Command informs me that your next mission will be a scientific one. Try and keep out of trouble.”

Will stifled the grin that strove to break free.

“We will Admiral.”

Roitinger nodded once, turned and left. Will sat down and let out a large breath as his hands ran through his hair.

“Phew!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Roitinger’s next destination was the Captain’s quarters. When the chime rang he was sitting in his favourite chair, a book in his hands and soft classical music floating around him. He lowered the book and turned his head to the doors.

“Come.”

On seeing the Admiral, he rose to his feet.

“Admiral.”

Roitinger nodded and came to stand before him. She gestured to the seat and Jean-Luc nodded, his face an inscrutable mask. Once settled, the woman speared him with an intense gaze.

“I understand you’ve been discharged from Sickbay.”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

The Admiral pursed her lips.

“But you’re not on duty?”

Jean-Luc looked at his chair and the stern woman nodded. He sat and sighed.

“I am required to spend the next three days resting in my quarters.”

Roitinger frowned.

“I take it you are fully healed?”

The Captain nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

“Then why are you confined to quarters?”

Jean-Luc lowered his head and ran a hand over his pate.

“It would seem my past indiscretions with my current Doctor have elicited a rather cautious approach to my treatment.”

The Admiral snorted.

“In other words you put her nose out of joint and now it’s pay back time.”

A ghost of a smile graced Jean-Luc’s face.

“You could say that, although considering she’s a Vulcan, perhaps we might be doing her a disservice.”

Roitinger waved a dismissive hand.

“Nonsense! I’ve never met a Doctor that didn’t revel in retribution. So. Three days eh?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes Sir.”

The woman’s eyes softened and she tilted her head.

“What then?”

Jean-Luc frowned.
”I’m not sure I understand the question Sir.”

The Admiral sighed theatrically.

“I’m neither deaf or blind Picard. I have heard the scuttlebutt circulating about you and Doctor Crusher. From what I gather, she’s left you in an unresolved situation and I hardly think a man like you will sit idly by and let the wounds fester.”

Jean-Luc’s face became stony, his dark eyes glittering. In a soft voice, indicative of repressed anger, he said,

“With all due respect Admiral…”

Roitinger shook her head.

“You tried that once Picard. It didn’t work then and it won’t now. I was the one who granted her leave and I can tell you the Doctor was very upset when she requested it. Her first choice was for a transfer but I managed to talk her out of it. She settled on a leave of absence only because I assured her I would give consideration to her transfer request. I don’t know what’s upset her Picard…maybe you do, but if you feel strongly about her you better do something about it or this ship will lose its CMO and you will lose your best friend.”

Jean-Luc held her steady gaze before lowering his eyes and sighing. With a nod he asked,

“Would it be possible for me to take a leave of absence?”

When he was greeted with silence he looked up to find the Admiral smiling at him.

“If you hadn’t asked I was going to suggest it. As it turns out, Command is less than happy with you at the moment. Although they are in agreement with the formal reprimand, there are some who think you got off lightly and if not for the fact that this whole mess has provided our scientists with some very advanced technology, you would be facing a very uncomfortable future. A leave of absence at this time would be very fortuitous. It will keep you out of the picture while the dust settles.”

Jean-Luc shook his head and grimaced.

“Forgive me Admiral, but politics leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I am ready and willing to face the consequences of my actions…I don’t need to hide.”

Roitinger smiled ruefully.

“Spoken like a true hero…foolish, but well intentioned. Look Picard, take my advice, if not for my reasons then for your own. Go to Crusher and sort this out and when you’re both ready, return to the Enterprise and get on with what you do best.”

Jean-Luc tilted his head and looked at his CO with speculation.

“May I ask you something Admiral?”

The erudite woman sat back and folded her arms.

“If you wish.”

“Why is it that I get the impression there’s a hidden agenda here? What aren’t you saying?”

The Admiral’s eyes blazed briefly and her jaw clenched. With a heavy sigh she lowered her head.

“Many years ago…more than I care to admit, I was in love with a fellow officer and I let my job come between us. We parted acrimoniously but I had the opportunity to go to him, to mend the rift…”

She sighed again and shook her head.

“I didn’t do it Picard, I let him slip away and I’ve regretted it for the rest of my life. I just don’t want to see the same thing happen to you two. Life’s too short and you might not get another chance.”

There was silence then as they both contemplated the deep emotions swirling around the room. Roitinger recovered first, sitting up and tugging down on her tunic.

“So. Am I granting you leave?”

Jean-Luc looked up and smiled in defeat.

“Aye Sir.”

The woman stood, bringing Jean-Luc to his feet.

“Very well. I suppose you’ll have to spend your penance in your quarters over the next three days, so I’ll make your leave effective from when the Doctors clear you for duty.”

Jean-Luc bowed his head.

“Thank you Admiral.”

Nodding once the Admiral turned for the door, but hesitated.

“When you see Crusher, tell her from me to listen to her heart.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“I’ll do that Sir.”

With a warm grin, the Admiral left. Jean-Luc sat back down and turned his gaze to the stars.

“Well my dear Beverly…how will you react to this?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Deanna was on the Bridge while Will was in the Ready Room, receiving their next assignment from Command. He eventually came out, a relaxed smile making his blue eyes crinkle. With amusement the Counsellor watched her lover as he assumed command and issued the orders that would take the ship away from Kalara. Once they left orbit, Deanna asked,

“Where are we going?”

“The Dorius cluster. There’s a dwarf star undergoing some changes and Command wants a full scientific study. We could be there a month or more.”

Deanna nodded and ran her hands over her thighs.

“It’ll do the crew good to have some quiet time. Has Admiral Roitinger gone?”

Will nodded.

“Uh huh. She went to see the Captain and left immediately afterwards. We are now free of unwanted prisoners and brass.”

Deanna chuckled.

“And don’t you love it.”

The big man grunted.

“You bet.”

The Counsellor stood and smiled tenderly down at her lover.

“I’m going to see the Captain.”

Will grimaced.

“Are you mad at me?”

Sighing, Deanna shook her head.

“No but I think he needs to talk about what he now knows.”

Will scratched his beard and pursed his lips.

“You’re probably right. Let me know how he is.”

With a nod and a smile she left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 Deep in thought, Jean-Luc scowled when his door chimed. Being interrupted twice in quick succession annoyed him. His barked,

“Who is it?”

Made Deanna wince. Adopting a quiet, calm voice she replied,

“It’s Counsellor Troi Captain.”

Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes and sighed.

“I wish some solitude Counsellor.”

Deanna sighed.

“I know Captain but I really think you should talk to me. You must have a lot on your mind.”

Jean-Luc raised his hands and rubbed his face. Swallowing, he said quietly,

“Come.”

Deanna entered to find her Captain predictably sitting in his favourite chair. Dressed in civilian clothes he cut a handsome figure and his dark eyes bored into her as she crossed the room. At his gesture she sat and relaxed.

Silence settled before Deanna smiled softly.

“Where do you want to start Sir?”

The Captain snorted.

“I don’t want to start anywhere Counsellor. I’d rather not have this conversation.”

Deanna smiled ruefully.

“Yet you let me in.”
Jean-Luc shook his head, a mock grimace in place.

“You weren’t going to take no for an answer.”

The Counsellor crossed her legs and clasped her hands on her lap.

“What did you feel when Will told you about Beverly?”

Jean-Luc sighed and sat back, laying one arm along the arm of his chair, the fingers of his other hand were employed in rubbing his lower lip.

“At first I found what he said to be totally unbelievable. I mean it was preposterous…a woman like Beverly, a scientist…highly intelligent, independent…it was simply too ludicrous to believe.”

“And then?”

Jean-Luc sighed heavily.

“And then I realised Will was speaking the truth. It was the only explanation that made sense. Her behaviour towards me had been completely at odds with what I knew of our relationship and I knew whatever it was that precipitated it was serious.”

Deanna nodded.

“So what now Captain? What do you intend to do?”

Rubbing his hands together, Jean-Luc lowered his head.

“Well I can’t let this go Counsellor. She’s totally wrong in her thinking and somehow I have to prove that to her.”

“And how do you envisage doing that?”

His head lifted and his dark hazel eyes glittered.

“I intend to go to Caldos. I have been given permission to take a leave of absence.”

Deanna smiled softly.

“That’s probably a good idea Captain, but have you given any thought as to how you’re going to approach her? Beverly can be very stubborn and Governor Maturin will guard her tenaciously if he knows she doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

Jean-Luc stood and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. Turning to the viewports he stood in silence for several minutes seemingly content to watch the elongated prismatic stars as they passed at warp. Deanna sat quietly, concentrating on sensing his emotions. With a frustrated sigh she shook her head.

“Captain why are you blocking me? I only want to help.”

Jean-Luc turned slowly and shrugged.

“Sometimes Counsellor I simply require privacy. This is one of those times.”

Deanna stood and smiled sympathetically.

“I understand Captain. May I ask when your leave commences?”

Returning her smile, Jean-Luc’s head lifted.

“At the end of my enforced…rest. Two more days I hope.”

“Shall I inform Will?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes and you can tell him I’ll taking the Calypso. I need something with more speed than a shuttle. I will see him before I leave.”

Deanna nodded.

“Very well captain. If you find you’d like to talk, please don’t hesitate to call me.”

Jean-Luc smiled warmly and nodded.

“Thank you Deanna, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Once out in the corridor Deanna shook her head in frustration.

“That’ll be the day!”

Inside his quarters, the Captain turned back to the viewport and devoted his considerable intellect to the problem at hand.

“Now how do I handle this? What do I have to do…what do I have to say to let me get close enough to prove to you that you’re wrong? And how the hell do I get past Maturin?”

He sighed and sat heavily in his chair, his fingers once again going to his lower lip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Two days later a bored and fidgety Captain sat on a bio bed as Doctor Selar finished her extensive examination.

Snapping her tricorder closed, the medico took time to scan the readouts of the main computer, scouring the monitors before stepping back and spearing the Captain with a steady gaze.

“You have healed satisfactorily Captain, your recovery is complete.”

Jean-Luc summoned a tight smile.

“Thank you Doctor. Am I to understand I am no longer under your care?”

The Vulcan bowed her head.

“That is correct Captain.”

The man nodded.

“Then I take it you have no objection to me taking a leave of absence?”

“None whatsoever Captain.”

He slipped off the bed and straightened his back.

“In that case I will return to my quarters to pack. Again, thank you Doctor.”

As he turned to leave the woman’s quiet voice halted him.

“If I may Captain, if you find yourself in need of medical help in the future, I hope you will not hesitate to avail yourself of it. I would hope these recent events have shown you the folly of ignoring your health.”

Keeping his irritation and embarrassment to himself, Jean-Luc gave a curt nod. He brushed past the Doctor and made a beeline for the exit, not slowing his brisk pace until he entered his quarters. He went into his bedroom and checked the bag on his bed. He had already packed; in fact his bag required only one more item before he closed it. As he walked back into the living area, he lifted his head and called,

“Picard to Riker.”

“Riker here.”

“Could you drop by my quarters Number One?”

“Aye Captain, I’m on my way.”

The Captain went to a low cupboard, opened it and reached inside. He retrieved a bottle of glowing green liquid. Standing, he hefted it and sighed.

“Authentic Aldebaran whiskey. If this doesn’t do the trick, nothing will.”

He was in his bedroom closing his bag when his door chimed. He called for the visitor to enter as he walked back into the living area.

“Come In Commander.”

Will grinned and pointed to the bag.

“Finished packing already Captain? I thought you’d still be in Sickbay getting the all clear.”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“I took the opportunity of packing before I reported to Sickbay. You never know with Doctors.”

The First Officer’s grin widened.

“I know what you mean Sir…still, it was damned good thinking.”

Jean-Luc bowed his head at the compliment.

“I thought it wise. Now Number One, I’ve been over the next mission and I can’t see any problems…it seems pretty straightforward. I take it the Counsellor has informed you of my plans?”

Will sobered.

“Yes Captain she has, including your decision to take the Calypso.”

“Good. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be back Will, all I can say is that I hope that when I do return, Doctor Crusher will be with me…and I’ll be in one piece.”

Will’s warm grin and twinkling eyes made Jean-Luc’s heart swell. The gregarious big man stepped closer to his CO and extended his right hand.

“Safe travels Captain and good luck…just remember when to duck.”

Jean-Luc shook the offered hand and nodded.

“Indeed. Take care of my ship Will.”

The First Officer strode to the door, tossing over his shoulder,

“I will Sir. I’ll treat her as my beloved.”

The doors whispered closed and Jean-Luc snorted.

“I wonder what Deanna thinks of that?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Twenty minutes later Jean-Luc was in the Captain’s yacht going over his pre-flight check. Having already lodged his flight plan he was waiting for clearance to launch. The great ship came out of warp and the comm came to life.

“You are cleared to launch Captain. Bon voyage.”

“Thank you Bridge. Picard out.”

In seconds the Calypso fell away from her docking ports and moved a safe distance from the Enterprise. As Jean-Luc watched, the elegant giant glowed and made the effortless jump to warp, disappearing in the blink of an eye. Sighing wistfully, Jean-Luc inputted his course and retreated to the lounge. He sat and picked up a book. It would be a long five days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

              For the past eight days Beverly had kept to herself. Apart from Governor Maturin, nobody else in New Edinburgh knew she was on Caldos. Her meeting with the Governor had been brief but intense. The intuitive man had easily sensed Beverly’s disquiet and gently asked what was wrong. Being a very private person she didn’t elaborate, all she did do was request privacy. The Governor had been a great friend of her late Grandmother and his feelings extended to Beverly as well. Assuring her he would guard her privacy, Beverly thanked him and quickly made her way to the cottage, settling in and establishing a routine that was meant to calm her, but in reality did little to quieten her seething mind.

If she kept busy, weeding the garden or cleaning the house, she could keep her thoughts at bay, but when she was quiet…at night or first thing in the morning, her mind raced with thoughts of Jean-Luc and when that happened her heart swelled with sorrow and pain. It became a war of attrition and she knew she was losing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Jean-Luc’s journey was uneventful and he arrived at Caldos late in the planet’s afternoon. Having been contacted by the appropriate authorities, he attained permission to establish orbit and put in a request to see Governor Maturin. The Governor’s office replied quickly and, after identifying himself, the Captain was granted an interview. He beamed down to the Civic chambers, the Aldebaran whiskey in his hands.

He had only minutes to wait before the Governor’s secretary beckoned him into the main office. Behind a large, ornate wooden desk sat the Governor. He rose and extended his hand.

“Captain Picard it is a pleasure to see you again.”

Jean-Luc smiled and took the hand in a warm shake.

“And for me as well Governor.”

Maturin gestured to the well-padded seat in front of his desk and the two men sat. Jean-Luc put the bottle of whiskey on the desk and noted the Governor’s eyes strayed to it before settling on the Captain.

“To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit? Are you here on a personal matter or business?”

Jean-Luc smiled and waved his hand to emphasise his civilian attire.

“I am here on a personal matter Governor.”

The wily old man sat back and clasped his hands across his chest.

“And would this personal matter have anything to do with Beverly Crusher?”

Jean-Luc’s face adopted a hard façade and his dark eyes glittered dangerously. His deep voice was low and soft.

“I am not at liberty to say Sir.”

Maturin smiled and sighed.

“I think perhaps you are, but your ingrained sense of privacy prevents you from being open. I take it you are aware of my desire to protect Beverly?”

Jean-Luc stiffened and nodded.

“Yes.”

“And you are also, no doubt, aware that I will rescind your permission to stay on Caldos if I think you’re an unwanted visitor?”

The Captain pursed his lips and nodded.

“Good. Then you must agree that it’s in your best interest to tell me why you’re here.”

The two men stared at each other, one with implacable determination, the other with resolute strength. Eventually Jean-Luc sighed and lowered his head.

“Very well Governor, although I must say you have me at a distinct disadvantage.”

The older man chuckled.

“I know.”

The Captain lifted his head and took a large breath.

“Beverly and I are in love. Recently there have been problems and Beverly decided to try and convince me she no longer loved me. She did this to protect me; she is under the belief that I will suffer if our relationship continues. We parted under less than happy circumstances and I have come here to try and mend the rift and to prove to her that her beliefs are patently wrong.”

Maturin ran his hands through his thinning hair and sighed, shaking his head.

“Ah…the Howard curse.”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“Pardon?”

The Governor sat forward and rested his hands on the desktop.

“The Howard curse…I take it Beverly never mentioned it?”

When Jean-Luc shook his head, Maturin continued.

“Her Grandmother Felicia told me about it. Apparently the Howard woman are supposed to be cursed in matters of love. Any man that they love either falls ill or dies. Apparently it’s been a blight on the family for centuries.”

Jean-Luc ran a hand over his face and sighed.

“Governor please don’t tell me you believe in that…poppycock?”

Maturin smiled, shaking his head.

“No I don’t Captain, but the point is, Beverly obviously does.”

Jean-Luc grunted softly.

“Well I intend to break the damned curse once and for all!”

Maturin sat back and studied the man before him. With an imperceptible nod, he came to his decision.

“Very well Captain, you have my permission to stay, but be warned. If Beverly Crusher requests your removal from Caldos I will grant her wish without hesitation. Is that understood?”

Jean-Luc nodded solemnly.

“Yes Sir.”

The Governor smiled then pointed to the whiskey.

“May I ask Captain…is that Aldebaran whiskey?”

Jean-Luc smiled knowingly.

“Yes it is.”

“I see. And why is it sitting on my desk?”

Jean-Luc leaned forward and picked up the bottle, holding it up to the light and admiring the warm green glow.

“Actually Governor I brought it as a sweetener.”

Maturin barked a sharp laugh.

“You were going to bribe me?”

Jean-Luc frowned.

“I think bribe is a little strong…I prefer to think of it as…encouragement.”

The Governor sighed, his expression wistful.

“Well you know I can’t accept it.”

The Captain studied the bottle before smiling.

“Then why not consider it a gift from Starfleet? Something you can use to facilitate your daily work. I’m sure there are times when a gentle libation can ease a reluctant petitioner or interplanetary delegate?”

Maturin’s eyes brightened and he stood, bringing Jean-Luc to his feet.

“Under those circumstances Captain I accept. Thank you…on behalf of Caldos.”

Jean-Luc grinned and handed the bottle over. He bowed and turned for the door, hesitating at Maturin’s soft words.

“Be patient with her Captain, treat her like a delicate flower…easily bruised.”

Jean-Luc nodded and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 It was early evening and Beverly had lit the fire. Bustling about the kitchen, she was preparing her dinner when there was a soft knock at the door. She wiped her hands on a tea towel and walked to the door, sucking some sauce from her thumb. She placed her hand on the latch, but hesitated, frowning.

“Who is it?”

The tentative voice that answered made her heart skip vigorously.

“It’s Jean-Luc.”

Beverly closed her eyes and rested her brow against the door. Summoning her voice, she had to struggle to keep it even.

“What are you doing here?”

His reply was soft.

“I came to see you.”

A single tear slipped free and slid down her cheek.

“I don’t want to see you Jean-Luc.”

When he spoke again, she could hear the pain in his voice.

“I don’t believe you.”

The Doctor stood away from the door and savagely wiped her eyes.

“Go away Jean-Luc.”

“No.”

Beverly took two steps back and shouted,

“Get it through your head Jean-Luc…I don’t want to see you. It’s over!”

The pounding on the door made her jump. Jean-Luc’s voice rose dramatically.

“It’s NOT bloody well over and you damned well know it! Open this bloody door Beverly…for God’s sake I need to see you!”

Beverly’s anger rose.

“How dare you! Who do you think you are? You can’t order me to let you in damn you!”

His reply was surprisingly soft.

“Beverly I love you and I’m not going away, even if it takes all night. Please…please let me in.”

Confused, frightened and angry, Beverly took two quick steps, gripped the latch and wrenched the door open. Her trembling voice showed her pain.

“You son of a bitch!”

He stood in the gathering darkness, his eyes glistening.

“Am I Beverly? Are you really that angry with me…or are you angry with yourself?”

Her breath hissed through her teeth and she made to slam the door in his face, but he was too quick for her. His large hand shot out and gripped the door edge, preventing her action. They stared at each other before Beverly abruptly turned and stalked into the living room. Jean-Luc quietly closed the door and cautiously followed the Doctor, watching as she bent to put more wood on the fire. She straightened, but kept her back to him, her voice a tired whisper.

“Why are you doing this Jean-Luc?”

He wanted to go to her, to take her in his arms, but he daren’t. Keeping his voice soft and low he said,

“Beverly I know what’s troubling you…I know about the Howard curse.”

She turned slowly and his heart clenched at seeing the sad tears streaming down her face.

“Then can’t you see? In order to protect you I have to let you go.”

He took a step towards her and she backed away. He stopped and lifted his hands.

“Beverly I don’t believe in the curse and neither should you. What happened was sheer bad luck…it had nothing to do with you.”

The Doctor shook her head, pulling her hair from her face.

“No you’re wrong! Every time I’ve come close to telling you how I felt about you, every damned time, something bad happened to you. I won’t risk your life Jean-Luc…not for anything.”

Frustrated by the distance between them, Jean-Luc ran his hands over his head.

“All right I admit we’ve been stymied in our relationship, but Beverly that doesn’t alter how we both feel.”

He took a small step froward and was gratified when she stood her ground.

“Look it’s really quite simple. Do you love me?”

Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.

“Yes damn you!”

Jean-Luc smiled ruefully.

“Well I love you. Surely that’s enough?”

Beverly closed her eyes, fisting her hands.

“No it’s not enough dammit! Loving each other is the bloody problem!”

The Captain sighed softly.

“All right let’s look at this another way. How long have you loved me?”

Beverly snorted.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Just answer me.”

The agitated woman flapped a hand.

“Oh God…years.”

Jean-Luc’s smile grew.

“And I have loved you for thirty years. If the curse was real I should’ve died a long time ago…don’t you think?”

Beverly’s head came up and her mouth opened but no sound emerged. A deep frown developed and she shook her head. Jean-Luc stepped closer.

“We have loved each other for a very long time, the only difference is we didn’t tell each other. Now I can’t believe any curse can be so arbitrary as to differentiate between spoken and unspoken love.”

He was so close she could smell his subtle aftershave. Confused and deeply troubled, Beverly covered her face with her hands.

“I don’t know.”

When his hands gently took hers, she allowed him to lower them. He looked into her eyes and said softly,

“You have much to think about. I’ll return to the yacht, but I’ll be back in the morning.”

He leaned forward and softly kissed her cheek. He was almost at the door when she spoke.

“I do love you Jean-Luc.”

He turned and smiled tenderly.

“I know mon coeur and it’s our love that will see us through this. Have faith.”

He had been gone several minutes before Beverly turned and made her way back to the kitchen, deep in thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     The Doctor was showered and dressed, sitting at the kitchen table staring despondently at the coffee dregs in her cup. When the soft knock came, she closed her eyes, her stomach souring. When she was with Jean-Luc he made the fears lessen but during the long sleepless night they had risen again crumbling her fragile hope.

She rose slowly and went to the door, taking a deep breath before opening it. Jean-Luc smiled tenderly, the smile he reserved for her only and his soft, deep,

“Good morning”

Made her smile despite herself. They stood motionless, their eyes locked for several minutes, the spell broken when Jean-Luc lifted a hand and gently traced his fingers down her face. Beverly frowned and turned abruptly, abandoning her best friend.

He sighed and entered quietly, closing the door and following her into the kitchen. Noting her pale features and the dark smudges under her eyes, he asked gently,

“Did you get any sleep?”

Keeping her eyes averted, she shook her head, her voice small.

“No. You?”

Jean-Luc smiled ruefully and shook his head.

“No.”

To busy herself, and to put some distance between them, Beverly went to the bench and retrieved a mug. Over her shoulder she asked,

“Coffee?”

“Yes thank you.”

She heard him pull out a chair and when she turned he was seated at the table, his hands folded on the top. Placing his mug before him, she poured herself a cup and sat opposite, her eyes still downcast. They sipped in silence, the tension slowly becoming oppressive. Jean-Luc’s expansive sigh told Beverly he was having difficulty knowing how to approach her. Eventually he softly cleared his throat and put his mug down.

“Have you given any thought to what we discussed last night?”

Beverly nodded, not quite trusting her voice.

“Would you care to share your thoughts with me?”

When she didn’t answer, Jean-Luc said gently,

“Beverly…please don’t shut me out.”

Raising her head, she looked at him and sighed.

“I can’t do it Jean-Luc. What you ask is too much.”

The Captain frowned and reached for her restless hands, but she pulled them away and hid them on her lap. Pain flashed briefly in his eyes and he bowed his head.

“Beverly the only way I can prove to you that the curse doesn’t exist is to love you unreservedly and hope that you will reciprocate. I’m not asking you to do anything new or unusual, you’ve already admitted you love me…can’t we go forward from that and put this…curse…to rest for good?”

Beverly frowned deeply, her shoulders slumping. With tears in her eyes, she struggled to speak.

“What if you die?”

Jean-Luc scowled and shook his head.

“Dammit Beverly that may happen anyway, we’re mortal for God’s sake and the profession we’ve chosen isn’t exactly conducive to long life. We work in deep space, you know as well as I how quickly things can become extremely dangerous.”

He placed his hands palm down on the tabletop and calmed his voice.

“Look I can’t guarantee I won’t die prematurely and neither can you, but if it did happen wouldn’t you be happier knowing we had some time together rather than not trying and never knowing just how good it could be?”

Beverly rubbed her face tiredly and sighed.

“You make it sound so simple Jean-Luc and when I’m with you I almost believe you, but the reality is you’re asking me to put your life in danger and I don’t know if I can do that.”

He leaned forward in his seat and looked intently into her troubled eyes.

“That’s not the reality Beverly. The reality is we love each other and I refuse to let you be swayed by some nonsensical curse. I’m telling you my love, once and for all…it does not exist!”

The Doctor looked deeply into his dark eyes, his resolute conviction clear. Confused and frightened, she was jolted by his next words.

“Come for a walk with me.”

She frowned and shook her head.

“Where?”

He shrugged.

“I don’t care. Up into the mountains or into the village, you choose.”

Beverly studied the man before her, but couldn’t glean what was on his mind.

Throwing her hands up, she snorted.

“Oh hell, why not?”

Once outside and suitably rugged up against the chill, they stood at the roadside in silence. Jean-Luc knew if they went left, they would find the village. Right and the road petered out after a kilometre and a half and became a track that meandered up into the mountains. He smiled inwardly when she turned right. After a hundred metres he took her hand and entwined their fingers. Beverly sighed, but allowed the contact.

For three hours they walked, mostly in silence. The track had found its way to a small creek and as they climbed it became faster until they came to the base of a small waterfall. Stopping to admire the cascade, Jean-Luc spotted a grassy area close by and gently tugged on Beverly’s hand. She allowed him to lead her to the patch and watched as he sat, unable to stifle a smile when his eyes silently pleaded with her to join him.

When they were both seated on the grass, Jean-Luc leaned back against some rocks, closed his eyes and sighed. Somewhat nonplussed by his behaviour, Beverly copied his actions and, despite herself, relaxed. After some minutes of gentle peace, Jean-Luc’s soft voice invaded her senses.

“Can you feel it Beverly?”

She frowned slightly and replied, keeping her eyes closed.

“Feel what?”

“The tranquillity…the contentment.”

As she concentrated on his words, a small smile appeared.

“As a matter of fact yes, I can.”

He opened his eyes and turned to her, marvelling yet again at her elegant beauty.

“I can only ever feel this way when I’m with you.”

She opened her eyes and turned her head, breath taken by the love that shone so clearly in his eyes. Her heart swelled and he saw the deep love swirl in the blue depths or her eyes. He leaned to her and very softly, kissed her lips. Before she could respond, he eased back and resettled, closing his eyes again and sighing happily. Almost overwhelmed by her intense emotions, Beverly feathered her fingers over her lips and tried to stop the trembling of her body. Swallowing, she adopted his restful pose and concentrated on slowing her frantically beating heart.

They stayed at the waterfall for half an hour before reluctantly being forced to retreat down the mountain as rain clouds gathered. In rapidly darkening skies they hurried along, but couldn’t avoid the downpour. By the time they reached the cottage they were soaked.

Hurrying inside, Jean-Luc busied himself lighting the fire while Beverly rushed upstairs for a quick shower. She returned in twenty minutes warmly wrapped in a soft thick robe, her hair wrapped in a towel and gave the shivering man a robe.

“The bathroom is on the left at the top of the stairs. Put this on and I’ll get your clothes dry.”

Through chattering teeth, Jean-Luc offered,

“There’s no need Beverly, I can beam up to the Calypso and get changed.”

The Doctor frowned.

“Nonsense. You need a hot shower and a warm drink. Go on scoot…Doctor’s orders!”

He hesitated only a few seconds. With a curt nod, he took the robe and disappeared upstairs.

By the time he returned, Beverly had added more wood to the fire and was in the kitchen making some salad sandwiches. Fresh coffee was brewing and Jean-Luc took the opportunity to stand quietly in the doorway to watch her as she worked. Sensing his presence, Beverly glanced up and smiled.

“Feeling better?”

Jean-Luc grinned and nodded.

“Uh huh, much. Can I help?”

The Doctor shook her head.

“Nup I’m almost finished. Why don’t you go and sit by the fire, I’ll be with you in a minute.”

Somewhat reluctantly the Captain drifted into the lounge and did as Beverly suggested. True to her word, Beverly appeared within a short time carrying a tray. She settled the tray on a small table, poured two cups of coffee and, after giving Jean-Luc his drink, offered him a small plate upon which was a sandwich. They ate silently, both gazing into the fire. When they finished their late lunch, Beverly attempted to rise from her seat on the floor, intending to return the tray with its load of dirty dishes back to the kitchen but Jean-Luc caught her sleeve and smiled.

“I’ll do it later Beverly. For now sit in front of me and I’ll give you a shoulder rub.”

The Doctor’s eyes hardened and she shook her head.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea Jean-Luc.”

The Captain took a large breath and briefly closed his eyes. His tone gently admonishing he said quietly,

“I’m not going to seduce you Beverly. You’ve been very tense for some time and I know what that does to you. Please, let me help.”

His warm dark eyes showed the honesty of his words. With a small smile, Beverly acquiesced.

“Okay.”

Jean-Luc moved to the edge of his chair and Beverly settled between his legs. When his large warm hands gently gripped her shoulders under her robe she had to stifle a moan. With expert technique he found her knotted muscles and kneaded the tension out of them. The Doctor closed her eyes and gave herself to him, knowing his actions were guided by love. She slipped into a light doze but awakened when he gently removed the towel from her damp hair. Beverly shivered slightly as Jean-Luc ran his fingers slowly through her tresses and when he picked up the brush she habitually left by the chair, she sighed with happy anticipation.

With long steady strokes, Jean-Luc brushed out her hair until it shone softly. He continued until it was dry and Beverly found herself wishing he would continue. Instead, he returned the brush to the table then gathered her hair in his hands. He gently lifted it to one side and kissed her bare shoulder. The Doctor gasped softly and turned to look at her best friend. He kept his eyes on her hair as his hands arranged the soft locks on her shoulders. His voice was barely audible.

“I’m so glad you let it grow and return to its natural colour. Your hair is beautiful Beverly.”

Turning her head back to the fire, Beverly smiled as she leaned back against his legs.

“I love having my hair brushed, it’s something Nanna used to do every night when I was little.”

In the cosy warmth of the room the couple slowly slipped into sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                  Beverly woke with a start. Her backside was numb and her face was resting on the soft material of Jean-Luc’s robe and she reddened as she realised the garment had parted and she could see his genitals. Careful not to wake him, she lifted her head and pulled the fabric to cover him. He snuffled and mumbled something unintelligible. Without warning he shifted in the chair and the robe parted again. Beverly gritted her teeth and was again attempting to cover him when his eyes suddenly snapped open. She had a fistful of robe in her hand, which was almost touching his exposed genitals. His eyes darkened but he said nothing. Beverly cleared her throat and continued with her task. While her face flamed, Beverly rose stiffly to her feet and grimaced as she stretched out the kinks in her muscles. Jean-Luc took the opportunity to straighten his robe and when Beverly turned to face him she was controlled once again.

“It’s nearly dark. Would you like to have dinner here or shall we go to the village pub?”

The Captain pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows.

“The pub sounds nice. What is the food like?”

“Traditional, nothing fancy, but you get plenty and it’s all cooked by hand.”

A smile spread across the handsome man’s face.

“Sounds wonderful.”

“Did you put your wet clothes in the dryer?”

Jean-Luc nodded.

“Yes.”

Beverly scratched her nose.

“Good. You go upstairs and get dressed and I’ll contact the pub to make sure we get a table and I’ll order a ground car to pick us up. It can get a little crowded at dinner time and it may rain again.”

Jean-Luc rose and rolled his shoulders. He stepped towards Beverly but she moved away. He frowned and sighed.

“I won’t be long.”

She didn’t reply.

Half an hour later they were sitting in a ground car on their way to the pub.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                They didn’t linger at the pub. As Beverly predicted, it was crowded and noisy. Their stomachs full with stew and potatoes, they sat quietly in the ground car as the driver negotiated her way through the rain. Arriving at the cottage, the couple made the dash to the front door, quickly entering and shaking off the rain. While Jean-Luc stoked the fire, Beverly retrieved two glasses and opened the bottle of wine purchased at the pub. Taking the same seating positions as earlier, Jean-Luc on the chair and Beverly on the floor, they sipped their wine as the fire slowly revived. After several minutes of silence, Beverly sighed and said softly,

“Have you got your memory back yet?”

The Captain frowned and shook his head.

“No, although I am aware of everything that happened.”

Beverly half turned, her look speculative.

“Everything? And just how have you managed that?”

Jean-Luc frowned down at her and lifted a hand.

“I read all the reports of course.”

Beverly smiled cryptically.

“Ah yes…the reports. Did it occur to you that not all that happened was in the reports?”

Jean-Luc took a large sip of his wine, swallowed and kept his voice even.

“Are you referring to us making love?”

Beverly frowned deeper.

“Ah yes, you know about that don’t you.”

He nodded.

“It made me very happy to think that we did that…it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. The fact that I can’t remember it is frustrating, but I’m hoping it will come back to me.”

Beverly turned back to the fire and when she spoke Jean-Luc had to strain to hear her.

“How many times do you think we had sex?”

Somewhat confused, Jean-Luc replied,

“Once. I was told we were making love when you were abducted.”

The Doctor shook her head.

“That was the second time.”

Jean-Luc sat forward and gently gripped her shoulder, encouraging her to face him. She turned reluctantly and sighed.

“We had sex the first time the night before…on the floor in the living room.”

The Captain’s mouth opened and he frowned. This was definitely not what he would’ve thought their first time would be like. For decades he had harboured fantasies of making love to Beverly and although some of those fantasies included sex on the floor, he was certain their first time would’ve been in a comfortable bed.

He shook his head and asked in a husky voice,

“Why on the floor?”

Beverly sighed and smiled ruefully.

“Because I goaded you into it. You were having difficulty with the concept of having sex with me and you were actually going to return to the Calypso. I got mad and said a few things that angered you and then I deliberately pushed you too far. You ripped off my shirt, wrenched off my panties and fucked me…on the floor.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes glittered and his face registered his disbelief and outrage. His deep voice was deceptively soft.

“I would never…fuck you.”

The Doctor snorted and rose to her feet.

“Wouldn’t you? Not even with thirty years of sexual frustration behind you? Look Jean-Luc I did what I did deliberately and I learned quite a lot from it. Face it my dear Captain, you’re just as capable of mindless lust as the next man.”

Anger simmering, Jean-Luc glared up at his companion.

“You make it sound like some kind of experiment.”

With a sigh, Beverly drained her glass and then filled it again.

“In a way it was. I wanted to see beneath your control Jean-Luc, beneath the urbanity, the cultured exterior…and beneath your romantic vision of me. I wanted raw emotion…and I got it.”

The Captain silently digested her words and she saw his anger abate. He closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek.

“I didn’t hurt you?”

Beverly shook her head.

“No…surprised me, yes, but hurt me? No Jean-Luc I know you’d never do that, even when your mind let your body have its way.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose and he frowned again.

“You were surprised? How?”

He caught the sly smile as she bowed her head.

“You were very powerful Jean-Luc. Virile, potent…and totally out of control. As much as I’d fantasised about it, the reality was…toe curling.”

Jean-Luc lowered his head, shaking it slowly.

“But still…I can’t say I’m very happy about what you’ve told me Beverly. I love you, I have loved you for almost half my life and I want our lovemaking to reflect that, although I do admit there have been times I’ve contemplated fucking you, that was more the product of sexual frustration than anything else.”

Beverly shrugged, a small smile gracing her features.

“So what does it feel like to find you’re Human after all?”

He scowled up at her, his eyes hardening.

“I fail to see any humour in this.”

She drained her glass and placed it on the ingle nook.

“Too bad. It happened Jean-Luc, live with it.”

He watched as she walked to the base of the stairs.

“I’m going to bed, it would probably be best if you went up to the Calypso. See you tomorrow.”

Without a further word, she ascended the stairs. Jean-Luc looked at his glass before gulping down the wine. Silently containing his anger and frustration, he stood and retrieved his communicator from his pocket.

“Computer one to beam up.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Jean-Luc tossed restlessly, a light sheen of sweat coating his lean body. Dressed only in satin shorts, the sheets dampened as he arched his hips, his hand going to his groin to slip under the waistband of his shorts to grip his straining penis.

Visions of Beverly writhing under him made his eyes screw shut and his jaw clench. His free hand pushed down his shorts and he woke, groaning with building tension. With increasing speed, his stroked his erection as his mind furnished the visions of Beverly on the floor as she’d described. Her skin was flushed and her hair spread around her head in a fiery halo. She was bucking under him, begging for release.  Feeling his climax approach his free hand gripped his testicles and squeezed gently as his hips arched up, his body flexing in ecstasy. His semen anointed his hand and lower belly, leaving him in strong hot spurts. As the orgasm waned he relaxed his body and swallowed several times, wetting his dry mouth. After some minutes he slowly exited the bed and went to the bathroom, running the shower and stepping in, closing his eyes and sighing heavily.

“Damn you Beverly. This has been going on for too many years. How many more times must I resort to this?”

The shower completed, he dried himself and went back to his bed, changing the sheets before sliding back under the covers naked and angry.

His sleep for the rest of the night was fractured and distressing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   At six forty-five Beverly woke highly aroused and frustrated after a long night of disturbed sleep. With an exasperated groan she rolled onto her side and curled into a ball, hugging a pillow to her breast. She closed her eyes with a determined huff and concentrated on something else…anything to dispel the vision she had of Jean-Luc making love to her. Try as she might her mind refused to let the images go. Over her, he looked down with his intense dark eyes as he slothfully slid in and out, his thick long penis filling and stretching her as he ignored her pleas for him to hurry. She writhed under him, biting and scratching but he remained implacable, slowly thrusting as she wept in frustration and begged for release.

Letting out an angry cry, Beverly threw back the covers and stalked out of her bedroom, entering the bathroom as she shed her nightie and underwear. Once under the shower she took her body lotion and lathered herself but the sensation of the warm slippery water was too much. Her hands went to her breasts and she gasped as her already erect nipples reacted to her touch. Her right hand descended to her sex with haste and, as her fingers slid through her slick folds, she arched her hips and groaned loudly.

The first orgasm was quickly upon her but, such was her arousal, she didn’t stop her intimate caress and soon three more climaxes had swept through her body. With one hand braced against the shower wall, she withdrew her other hand and stood on trembling legs, panting and shaking her head.

“Goddamn you Jean-Luc!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       Beverly was sitting on her bed, dressed and drying her hair when she heard the knock at the door. She took a deep breath and stood, casting a quick glance in the mirror before she went downstairs to let her caller in.

She grinned at Jean-Luc as rain drops slid down his bald head.

“It’s raining Jean-Luc…why didn’t you beam inside?”

The Captain sighed and ran a hand over his head raising his eyebrows in query. Beverly gestured for him to enter and he took off his jumper to shake the rain off as he made his way to the fire.

“I didn’t wish to intrude. Tell me, does it ever stop raining on this damned planet?”

The Doctor crossed her arms defiantly over her chest and raised her chin pugnaciously.

“Of course it does! It just so happens it’s the growing season and the crops need plenty of water.”

Jean-Luc muttered under his breath and shook his head.

“Haven’t the farmers heard of irrigation?”

Beverly snorted.

“Irrigation? Tell me Jean-Luc, do the vineyards of France…or anywhere else for the matter…rely on irrigation or seasonal rain?”

The man snorted and stood with his back to the fire.

“That’s different and you know it! They’ve been growing grapes that way for centuries. Now that Earth has a weather grid the risk of drought or flood has been removed. It makes for far better farming practices.”

Beverly’s lips thinned and her fists found their way to her hips.

“And you would deny Caldos the same opportunities? You know damn well we have a weather grid here, in fact the Enterprise worked on it last time we were here. Caldos has become a major exporter of naturally grown produce, just how do you think that can be achieved without regulated seasonal rain?”

Jean-Luc looked at his best friend and raised his hands in defeat. In a softly amused voice he said,

“All right, I acquiesce, it’s just that with this…”
He indicated his bald head,

“Rain becomes somewhat of a problem. You’ve no idea how bloody cold it is.”

Beverly flapped a hand dismissively.

“Then wear a hat!”

The Captain tilted his head, his voice dropping low.

“I’ll take that under advisement.”

Beverly stared a moment longer then turned on her heel. Over her shoulder she called,

“Have you had breakfast?”

Jean-Luc followed her into the kitchen.

“As a matter of fact, no.”

The Doctor turned and looked at the man, frowning as she saw him in better light.

“You look tired Jean-Luc.”

He surprised her by flushing and rubbing his forehead.

“I ah…I had a restless night.”

Beverly felt her own face redden as she said softly,

“Me too.”

Jean-Luc caught her eye and grinned ruefully.

“Looks like we’re as bad as each other.”

Her chuckle made a warm surge suffuse his body. He closed his eyes briefly and basked in the heady emotion. Beverly watched him with curiosity but said nothing. Her next words brought him back.

“Toast and tea?”

He nodded and pulled out a chair.

“Yes that would be nice. Have you got any orange marmalade?”

Beverly frowned and tapped a nail against her teeth.

“Hang on I’ll have a look.”

She went to the pantry and searched for some minutes before stepping back with a triumphant grin.

“Ta da!”

Jean-Luc took the jar and read the label. He grinned up at his delightful companion.

“This is my favourite brand Beverly. How did you know?”

As she moved to put the kettle on, she chatted while she continued to get breakfast together.

“I noticed you liked a particular type of marmalade so I went to the replicator files and found what you used for the base comparison.”

Jean-Luc graced her with a rare full grin, but he shook his head.

“You’re incredible. Is there anything you don’t know about me?”

Beverly turned from the bench and leaned back, crossing her legs and gripping the edge.

“Actually there’s quite a lot Jean-Luc.”

His grin faded and his look became speculative.

“Such as?”

The toast popped and she turned, busying herself with putting the toast and butter on the table. Jean-Luc allowed the silence, taking some toast and buttering it. Eventually Beverly sighed and looked him in the eyes.

“Past lovers.”

Caught spreading the marmalade, the Captain froze momentarily before resuming his task. His voice was low and cautious.

“Why that?”

Retrieving more toast, Beverly made a pot of tea before sitting and pouring. Once both of them had toast and a steaming cup of tea she took a deep breath and answered him.

“Because it’s relevant.”

He looked up from his cup and frowned.

“To what?”

Beverly stilled her hands and lowered her head.

“To our future.”

His tone became defensive.

“Why?”

Beverly took a bite of her toast and shrugged.

“Look Jean-Luc I need to know if you’re capable of holding on to a relationship…making it a long term commitment. If you really want me to set aside my fears, to risk your life, then I need to know you’ll be there…in a week, a month…a year…”

Jean-Luc put down his cup firmly and huffed loudly.

“Dammit Beverly I can’t see into the future but I can assure you I’ll never leave you voluntarily. Yes something may befall me…or you, but I intend to be by your side for the rest of my life, however long that may be.”

Beverly sat back and sighed, closing her eyes. Jean-Luc left his seat and came to kneel by her side.

“Beverly I love you with all that I am. No past lover has ever reached my heart or ever affected me as you do. Those relationships were doomed to failure because I loved you…they simply couldn’t compete.”

Beverly opened her eyes and looked down at this most extraordinary man. She sighed and ran her fingers down his face. He stood and bent down to her, kissing her softly before going back to his seat.

They ate in silence for some minutes before Beverly sighed.

“Let’s go somewhere.”

Jean-Luc swallowed his toast and licked an errant dob of marmalade from the corner of his mouth. He frowned and gestured to the window.

“Beverly it’s pouring.”

The Doctor shook her head and flapped a hand.

“I don’t mean here on Caldos…let’s go somewhere else.”

Jean-Luc stood and poured them both more tea. All the while his mind was seeking an appropriate place. He sat and raised his eyebrows.

“Have you anywhere in mind?”

Beverly ran her fingers around the rim of her cup, an enigmatic smile on her face.

“You have the Calypso in orbit haven’t you.”

Jean-Luc nodded silently.

“And it’s a lot faster than my shuttle.”

He nodded again. When she remained silent he sighed.

“Your point?”

“We could make Pacifica in what…five days?”

The Captain mentally calculated the distance.

“We could do it in five days but that would be pushing it…six would be better.”

Beverly smiled and nodded.

“Pacifica then?”

Jean-Luc pursed his lips and nodded.

“Agreed, but tell me, why Pacifica?”

Beverly stood and began to clear the table.

“On the southern continent there is a massive botanical garden. It takes up eighty hectares. At this time of the year, most of the plants are in bloom…and they have a herb exhibit that’s second to none. I’ve always wanted to see it.”

Jean-Luc rose and helped her with the dishes. As he dried he considered what she’d told him.

“Well it sounds…fascinating. Neither of us is under any time constraints so we can take however long we wish to completely explore the gardens.”

The Doctor flashed him a smile and wiped down the draining board.

“I’ll go upstairs to pack. Why don’t you dispose of all the perishables?”

He nodded, but went to the pantry and liberated the marmalade.

“If you don’t mind, we’ll be taking this with us.”

Beverly’s laughter hung in the air after she left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     They had been under way for seven hours and the slowly building tension was eating at Jean-Luc’s patience. From the moment she’d come downstairs with her bags, he knew she was up to something. Provocatively dressed in a tight short skirt, sheer silk blouse and open cardigan, his eyes roved over her and his mouth went dry. Once on the yacht, the woman had continued to openly tease him, offering glimpses of her lacy bra and she made good use of her long dancer’s legs, posing and taking every opportunity to show them off. Seemingly engrossed in her research, Beverly had spent some time accessing information about the gardens on Pacifica then napped a while before making herself some lunch. Jean-Luc had joined her but he found, as always, being in close proximity with her eroded his carefully maintained friendly façade. His recent dreams kept intruding and, as the sexual tension grew, he became ever more frustrated.

Feigning nonchalance and ignoring his discomfort, Beverly settled down with a book, making matters worse by doffing her cardigan and revealing in full the sheer silk blouse she wore underneath.

As her body adjusted to the temperature, her nipples peaked, pushing against the fabric in a tantalizing display. Jean-Luc, seated nearby found he couldn’t stop looking at her, his eyes devouring her breasts and legs. With a deep sigh he forced his eyes closed and stood abruptly. He strode to the rear of the craft where he’d installed a small but very well equipped gym. He entered the area and opaqued the glass, reasoning that was enough to ensure his privacy. He took off his jumper, tossed it over some equipment and picked up a weighted barbell. He closed his eyes and concentrated on putting Beverly out of his mind.

An hour later he was stripped to his briefs, sweating profusely and approaching his limit. He had quickly increased the weights he used and his body was trembling with fatigue. With his back to the door and over his own panting and soft grunting he didn’t hear the door open, but the touch of Beverly’s finger as she traced his spine made his body go rigid.

His ears were touched by her soft sultry voice.

“What an alluring sight.”

He turned slowly and took a deep breath.

“I didn’t hear you come in. I should’ve locked the door.”

Beverly stepped very close and tilted her head.

“Why? Then I would’ve missed seeing this.”

She leaned forward and, with the tip of her tongue, lapped a rivulet of sweat from his neck.

Jean-Luc stood his ground, closing his eyes and swallowing.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Her lips closed on his Adam’s apple and she sucked lightly before breaking contact and staring into his eyes.

“What do you think I’m doing?”

Anger simmered deep in his eyes. He stepped back and placed the weights on the floor.

“Don’t play with me Beverly.”

The Doctor closed the gap between them and trailed her fingers through his wet chest hair.

“Who says I’m playing? Did I tell you I had a dream this morning Jean-Luc?”

Watching the seductive woman intently, Jean-Luc raised an eyebrow and shook his head.

“A dream? No you didn’t tell me. What was it about?”

Beverly smiled sultrily and gathered a droplet of sweat on her forefinger and brought it to her mouth, transfixing the Captain as her tongue appeared to take it.

“Oh my…it was very erotic Jean-Luc. Shall I tell you who was in it?”

Jean-Luc nodded mutely.

Beverly chuckled and leaned forward to nuzzle his neck. With her mouth near his ear she whispered,

“It was you and me and we were making love…but you were teasing me…you wouldn’t let me come…”

In a sudden burst of energy Jean-Luc grabbed Beverly’s shoulders and kissed her with unleashed passion. His tongue forced its way into her mouth and he plundered her depths, seizing and claiming her as his own. Beverly moaned into his mouth and gripped his head. He abruptly ended the kiss and pushed her backwards across the room until her back met the wall. His dark eyes glittered with surging desire and his deep baritone was husky.

“I find it quite a coincidence that you should dream of that mon coeur because I too had an erotic dream about us, only in my dream I was fucking you on the floor.”

His large hands gripped her blouse and slowly pulled it apart, the buttons flying off in all directions.

“You’ve been teasing me ever since we came aboard…ignoring me…displaying yourself…I’ve a mind to punish you for that.”

Beverly, panting with need, was stunned by the implications of his words. She gasped as he removed her ruined blouse and tugged off her bra. His eyes feasted on her breasts and the peaked nipples. The Doctor swallowed and, in a shaky voice, asked,

“What are you going to do?”

His eyes travelled to her face and she moaned at seeing the unveiled passion in their depths.

“I’m going to fuck you Beverly…here against the wall.”

His mouth descended on hers and she moaned with heady need as his hands undid her skirt and pulled it down, quickly followed by her panties. Her own hands went to his briefs, but before she could touch his straining erection, he grabbed her hands and pinned them next to her head.

“Oh no my wanton wench…you’re mine to play with.”

He lifted her hands above her head and gripped them in one hand. With his free hand he teased her sex, sliding his fingers through her folds while his mouth found her nipples.

Beverly writhed against the wall, her feet freeing themselves of her clothing. She parted her legs and Jean-Luc growled deep in his throat as he slipped two fingers inside her. His thumb swiped over her swollen clitoris and Beverly cried out, lifting her hips and shaking her head.

He released her nipples and nuzzled her neck, all the time teasing her with his incredible voice.

“You’re so wet Beverly…do you want it? Do you want to come my love?”

Beverly bit her lower lip and nodded vigorously. Jean-Luc chuckled and pushed his thumb over her pearl again while his fingers slid slowly in and out.

“Tell me Beverly…tell me how much you want to come.”

The Doctor gasped and screwed her eyes shut.

“Oh God Jean-Luc…please…please…I want…I need…please…”

He suddenly released her hands and fell to his knees. As his fingers continued to slide inside her, his tongue found her clitoris. Beverly yelped and grabbed his head, pulling him close. He feathered his tongue over her but as she approached her orgasm he stopped his oral caress and pulled his head away, looking up at her as his fingers kept her at the brink. Beverly’s hands flew to her head, tangling in her hair. Tears overflowed her eyes as she pleaded,

“Jean-Luc…please...please…don’t leave me like this!”

He stood slowly and curled his fingers inside her as he pushed his briefs down with his free hand. His mouth found hers in a searing kiss as he withdrew his fingers and gripped her thighs, lifting her.  Understanding his intention, Beverly wrapped her legs around his waist and he slipped his hands to her buttocks. He entered her in one powerful stroke and Beverly cried out at being filled so suddenly. Jean-Luc gave her no time to adjust. He immediately started to thrust hard and fast. Beverly gripped his shoulders, lost in sensory overload, unable to do anything but hold on.

Her first orgasm was almost instantaneous. She shrieked, her nails tearing the skin of his shoulders. If her release affected him, he didn’t show it, he kept pounding into her, mindlessly seeking emotional and physical bliss.

By her third orgasm Beverly was spent, yet still he thrust into her, but he was nearing his limit. As her residual contractions milked him he growled and bit her neck as he buried his penis to the hilt and shuddered as his climax surged through him.

With a heaving chest, his eyes tightly closed, Jean-Luc gave himself to the sensations coursing through him. Beverly’s body surrounded him and he was deep inside her and he was savagely happy.

Minutes passed before his trembling body slowly succumbed. He sank to the floor, Beverly following him until he was seated with her on his lap. The Doctor rested her forehead against his and sighed, her voice showing her incredulity.

“My God Jean-Luc.”

He lifted his head and smiled tenderly at his lover.

“I concur.”

The Doctor kissed the tip of his nose.

“You’ve wanted to do that for a long time haven’t you.”

The Captain sighed and nodded.

“Yes it was one of my fantasies, but still…it wasn’t what I thought our first time would be like.”

Beverly tilted her head, her blue eyes twinkling.

“It wasn’t our first time.”

With a soft kiss he reminded her,

“It was for me.”

Beverly bowed her head.

“And yet you put aside your romantic visions and took me against the wall? Why Jean-Luc?”

He grinned ruefully and shrugged.

“It seemed the thing to do at the time.”

They kissed languidly and Beverly sighed.

“Okay it appears we’ve broken the ice. What say we have a shower and I’ll give you a massage? You’re bound to have some stiff muscles after your…workout.”

He squinted his eyes and tiled his head.

“Wench!”

She was still chuckling when they entered the bathroom.

 

 

 

                 Wiping the oily residue from her hands after the protracted massage, Beverly smiled tenderly down at the naked sleeping man. Face down and spread-eagled on the bed, his soft snores amused the watching woman, making her shake her head.

“So you snore Jean-Luc? We’ll have to see about that.”

She rose from the bed and dressed in his robe. Sitting in a nearby chair, she contented herself by gazing at him, admiring his compact well-muscled body, but her restless mind soon encroached on her serenity.

“What the hell am I doing? I can’t do this to him…yet I seem to be unable to let him go. And what the hell was I thinking…deliberately teasing him like that?”

Her mind went back to their intense lovemaking and she sighed deeply.

“Dear God…he certainly knows how to push my buttons. Maybe it was the dream this morning…or perhaps my hormones are running rampant at the moment?”

She snorted and shook her head.

“Bloody hell Beverly…listen to yourself! You’ve always been attracted to him, emotionally and physically…and you have the advantage of already knowing what sex with him is like. You wanted him and you went after him…the poor man never had a chance, although he didn’t fight very hard. In fact I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. Hmph…trying to purge me with physical exercise…Jesus I wonder how many times he’s done that?”
Her chuckle was wicked.

“No wonder he’s got such a nice body!”

Her amusement faded and she lowered her face into her hands.

“I mustn’t do this…I can’t endanger him like this! But how the hell do I stop loving him? How on Earth am I going to be able to put some distance between us when it causes such pain to be parted from him? My God...it’s impossible! He is the centre of my existence…I would cease to be without him. What the hell am I going to do?”

With an anguished sob, Beverly stood and looked tearfully at the door leading to the living area, but her teary eyes settled on her lover and she sighed in capitulation. She went to the bed, took off the robe and carefully climbed over the somnolent man, snuggling into him and drawing up the blankets. She knew sleep wouldn’t come, but she took comfort at being in contact with him and being able to feel the even beating of his heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   Jean-Luc turned over and smiled in his sleep as the warm body next to him adjusted to his new position. His mind registered the arm across his chest and the hand resting over his heart. The smile broadened and he rose to wakefulness, delighted when he felt their entwined legs. His eyes opened and slid sideways to see two cerulean eyes watching him. He attempted to roll to his side, but the hand on his chest pressed him down. Beverly’s voice was a whisper.

“No…just lie still.”

Jean-Luc smiled tenderly and sighed. He swallowed and softly cleared his throat.

“You know I told you about the serenity…the contentment I feel when I’m with you?”

The Doctor nodded, her expression guarded.

“It’s back.”

When Beverly didn’t react to his words, he turned his head and looked into her eyes, dismayed when he saw sadness and despair.

“Beverly? What is it?”

Tears welled in her eyes and overflowed the lids.

“Jean-Luc…this is madness…I can’t…I mustn’t do this to you.”

This time he ignored her attempts to keep him on his back. He rolled over and covered her with his body, holding himself up on his arms. Beverly closed her eyes, not wanting to see his anger, however when he spoke his voice was soft and tender.

“Look at me my love.”

Screwing her eyes shut tighter, Beverly shook her head. His kiss was gentle but insistent. She resisted at first but he persisted and he imparted so much tenderness and love she sighed and returned the kiss. He tapered the kiss then withdrew.

“Please Beverly, look at me.”

She reluctantly opened her eyes and fat tears tracked down her face. He stared down at her, allowing her to see into his very soul.

“I will not give up Beverly. If you leave I will follow, if you shun me, I will persevere. I love you and I know you love me and I refuse to abandon the hope that we will have a loving, satisfying and eternal life together.”

He smiled ruefully and Beverly sighed as his eyes filled with tears.

“Face it Beverly, we were destined to be together.”

He slowly bowed his head and kissed her again and her arms went around him instinctively. Lowering one arm he rested on his elbow as his free hand delicately traced his fingertips over her face. His voice dropped to a husky whisper.

“You are the most beautiful, fiery, sensual, maddening woman I’ve ever known. I want to make love to you Beverly.”

He pressed himself against her and she mewed at feeling his erection trapped between them.

“Would you like that?”

In reply she smiled up at him and gently pulled his face closer until their lips were mere millimetres apart.

“Yes my love.”

As they kissed, Jean-Luc’s hand went to her breasts, gently teasing her nipples. He took the hardening buds in his fingers and rolled them then kneaded the surrounding flesh, his desire heightening as Beverly responded ardently, her soft moans spurring him on. As the kiss continued, Beverly insinuated her hand between them and took his stiff, hot penis, gently squeezing him and spreading the bead of fluid over the head. He groaned into her mouth and gently thrust into her hand. Beverly broke the kiss and gasped as his mouth went immediately to her breasts as his hand descended to her folds where his fingers opened her lips and slid over her, teasing her clitoris before sliding inside her.

Holding his head as he sucked and nipped her nipples, Beverly called softly,

“Now Jean-Luc…I want you inside me.”

He raised his head and stared with intense dark eyes, feasting on the stunning woman beneath him. He kissed her again while he withdrew his fingers and took hold of his penis, sliding it through her wetness. Beverly arched under him, hitching her legs around his waist and urging him to enter her.

He did so slowly, sinking into her with a low moan of sensuous delight. Once fully immersed in her tight silken heat, he seemed content to be still, savouring the sensations, but Beverly needed more. She contracted around him and he gasped, clenching his teeth and closing his eyes.

“Beverly…”

With her heart swelling with love, the Doctor lifted her head and kissed her lover with all the tenderness she could muster.

“Love me Jean-Luc.”

He returned the kiss and began to thrust, slowly establishing a gentle rhythm. Beverly sighed and fell into his cadence, her hands feeling the flexing muscles of his body. Lost in their sensuous delight they kissed and caressed as they made love, each of them wanting to make it last as long as possible.

It took a long time, but Beverly found her need was building and she required more of her partner. She flexed under him and gently bit his shoulder. Jean-Luc lifted himself on his arms and increased the frequency and power of his thrusts. Beverly cried out her appreciation and met his actions, her orgasm fast approaching.

With his own climax close, the Captain struggled to control himself. Beverly suddenly gripped his upper arms and gasped, her face contorted in a rictus of ecstasy.

His body betrayed him by giving in to his towering need. With a guttural cry he buried himself deep inside his lover as his body convulsed through the most potent orgasm of his life. As Beverly felt the flooding warmth invade her she came again, a drawn out cry issuing from her mouth.

Jean-Luc collapsed, trembling and gasping as Beverly shuddered beneath him. It took many minutes before they’d recovered enough for Jean-Luc to roll to his side, taking Beverly with him. Still joined they kissed softly and allowed sleep to take them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 In the morning they were quiet, almost shy with each other and for the remainder of their journey they spoke little, but spent their time with each other, touching, kissing and caressing; yet not making love. They slept at night in each other’s arms, content and happy.

Their accommodation on Pacifica was within the gardens and Beverly gasped as she walked out onto the small balcony of their cabin.

“Jean-Luc…come and see.”

She was joined by her lover and smiled as he came up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. His soft nuzzling of her neck made her sigh.

“Jean-Luc…as nice as that is…look at the view.”

He growled and gently bit her.

“I am.”

The Doctor realised he was looking down the front of her blouse. She chuckled and reached behind her, tickling him mercilessly. He stifled a guffaw and jack-knifed backwards. Beverly turned and wagged a finger at him.

“Let that be a lesson to you! No ogling.”

His look of contrition made her heart melt.

“What…not even a peek? That’s not fair! You wear provocative clothing and I’m supposed to ignore it?”

Beverly’s smile became sultry.

“No, not ignore it…appreciate it by all means, just be subtle about it.”

Jean-Luc sighed and ran a hand over his head.

“Subtle?”

Beverly folded her arms.

“Yes, subtle.”

He scowled, his voice a deep rumble.

“That’s not going to be easy.”

The Doctor stepped up to him and drew ever-decreasing circles on his chest with her index finger.

“I’m sure an accomplished diplomat like you will have no problem figuring out how to ogle me without being obvious about it. Think of it as part of your Captainly demeanour.”

That brought a wry chuckle.

“I’ve been doing that for decades Beverly. You, my dear Doctor are incorrigible!”

Beverly snorted.

“Yes I am…and you love me.”

His eyes darkened and he kissed her tenderly.

“Yes I do.”

Her eyes sparkled and she returned the kiss.

“And I love you, now come on, let’s go and explore.”

Jean-Luc sighed and took her hand.

“Very well, but you should know…I don’t think Captainly is a word.”

They were still chuckling as they began their exploration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    That evening they dined in a restaurant attached to a planetarium. Finding a secluded table in the atrium, the couple ate well and lingered over a bottle of red wine. Beverly had been quiet for some time, but Jean-Luc knew she would speak when she was ready. She sipped her wine then placed the glass on the table and idly ran her fingers around the rim. When she spoke her voice was soft.

“Jean-Luc…what do you have in mind for us?”

Keeping his own voice low, he replied,

“What do you mean?”

The Doctor frowned and stared into the depths of the wine.

“Our future together. How do you see that?”

The Captain sighed and took a large sip of his red.

“I hadn’t devoted a lot of thought to it lately. Of course my fantasies have been very elaborate about us, but the reality is I’ve been too tied up in trying to get you to give up the curse. What happens next is in the lap of the Gods as far as I’m concerned.”

Beverly nodded then raised her eyes to his.

“But what do you want to happen?”

Jean-Luc returned her steady gaze but his heart was pounding.

“Truth?”

“Always.”

He sighed and bowed his head.

“I hope, after a suitable courtship, you will marry me.”

Beverly’s eyebrows shot up and she stifled a gasp. Recovering quickly, she hid her emotions.

“And then? Do we stay on the Enterprise?”

The Captain frowned and took another deep pull at his drink.

“Ah…well…considering phase two, it might be better if we went back to Earth, perhaps to the vineyard.”

Beverly tilted her head and frowned.

“Phase two?”

Jean-Luc lifted his head and caught her eyes in a penetrating gaze.

“Yes. Children.”

This time the Doctor gasped, a hand going to her mouth.

“You want to have children with me?”

Bowing his head, Jean-Luc closed his eyes and nodded mutely. Beverly’s voice was incredulous.

“My God Jean-Luc…how long have you been thinking about this?”

He looked up, sadness and fear in his eyes.

“More years than I care to admit. But what about you Beverly? What do you have in mind for us?”

With her mouth slightly agape, Beverly took a large breath and shook her head.

“I…I…I suppose I thought we’d live together on the Enterprise unto you were forced to take an Admiralty, then we’d settle somewhere on Earth.”

Jean-Luc nodded, a small smile on his face.

“And did you envisage us staying in Starfleet?”

Now scratching her head, Beverly shrugged.

“Well yes…I suppose.”

Jean-Luc’s smile grew.

“Am I to gather from this, that you’re willing to commit to a relationship with me?”

Beverly blinked twice before she smiled.

“Yes.”

“And the curse?”

That brought a deep frown and a sigh.

“Jean-Luc I’m caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand, I want to protect you but to do that I have to let you go. On the other hand I find I can’t live without you in my life, so I have to make a decision, one that scares me half to death, because if I’m wrong and anything happens to you, not only will I never forgive myself…I will die inside. My life won’t be worth living.”

Jean-Luc lifted his arm and took her hand.

“Beverly…”
She scowled at him, shaking her head.

“No Jean-Luc. This is my own private little hell…you can’t help.”

The love in his eyes and his deep voice was like a balm to her soul.

“But I can Beverly. I can love you…unreservedly, eternally, with every fibre of my being. You will want for nothing my love and if death takes me from you know that I will watch over you from the heavens. There is no curse mon coeur, take your love for me and revel in it as I revel in you.”

Beverly blinked away her tears and watched as her lover stood and offered his hand.

“Let me walk you home where I will make love you until dawn.”

She rose gracefully to her feet and smiled.

“This is going to be interesting isn’t it?”

Jean-Luc chuckled and kissed her softly.

“You’ve no idea.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The next morning Beverly stretched languidly, making the man beside her mumble in his sleep and tighten his hold on her. She smiled wistfully as she remembered the passion of the previous night; Jean-Luc had been as good as his word, making love to her for most of the night. As he spooned against her back, her eyes filled with tears and her body trembled. The Captain felt the tremors and woke, immediately concerned. His sleep-roughened voice was deep and husky.

“Beverly? What is it?”

The Doctor slowly turned in his arms and smiled crookedly.

“It’s nothing my love.”

Unconvinced, Jean-Luc wiped at her tears with his thumb. He kissed her softly and tried again.

“Beverly tell me please…what is it?”

The Doctor laughed brokenly and shook her head.

“I’m so happy.”

With a confused frown, Jean-Luc rose up on his elbow.

“You’re happy? Then why are you crying?”

Beverly’s fingertips feathered over the stubbly cheeks of her lover and she committed his image to her memory.

“It’s been so long Jean-Luc…so long since I’ve been truly happy…it feels…it feels…oh God it feels so wonderful!”

His face broke into the most tender smile she’d ever seen. He kissed her again and took her into the warm embrace of his arms.

“Me too Beverly, me too.”

They wept softly together for some minutes before Beverly pulled back and wiped her eyes. She smiled radiantly up at her lover and impishly bit his lower lip.

“How long do you want to stay here?”

Jean-Luc, intrigued by her manner, tilted his head.

“On Pacifica?”

“Uh huh.”

He shrugged.

“I don’t care. We’ll stay as long as you like.”

Beverly rested her head on the pillow and chewed her lower lip.

“Well…I want another look at the herb gardens, but after that…”

Jean-Luc watched her intently; curious as to what she would say.

“I want to go back to the Enterprise.”

He was somewhat surprised.

“You want to go back to the ship? But Beverly we can take as much leave as we want, we’re under no pressure to return.”

The Doctor grinned and gently tugged at his chest hair.

“I think you’re forgetting something.”

He frowned.

“And what is that?”

Her fingers tweaked his nipple.

“You said that after a suitable courtship, we’d get married. I want to get married on the Enterprise, with all our friends in attendance.”

His incredulous look gave way to one of seriousness.

“I haven’t asked you yet.”

Beverly pouted and batted her eyelashes, making Jean-Luc chuckle.

“Oh very well. Beverly Crusher, will you marry me?”

Beverly placed a finger to her lips, as if considering his proposal. When he sighed with exasperation, she giggled.

“Yes!”

He kissed her with unbridled passion, making her moan. He rolled over her and pushed his erection into her folds. Beverly parted her legs and he slipped inside her, filling and stretching her. She looked up at him and panted,

“What about the courtship?”

He gently bit her neck as he started to thrust.

“Consider it a whirlwind romance.”

Further talk was impossible as their mutual need took them quickly to the brink. Jean-Luc attempted to slow, to prolong the act, but Beverly gripped him inside and out and he lost all control. With several quick, hard, deep thrusts his body stiffened as his orgasm surged through him, his mind registering Beverly’s climax as he spasmed through the aftershocks.

Minutes later Jean-Luc rolled to his side and Beverly curled against him. After a peaceful silence, Beverly whispered,

“How many?”

The Captain lazily turned his head and opened his bleary eyes.

“Hmm? How many what?”

Beverly smiled dreamily and buried her hand in his body hair.

“Kids.”

His breathing stopped momentarily and his head came up off the pillow.

“Beverly?”

The Doctor rose up on her elbow and softly kissed him.

“Two…three? How many Jean-Luc?”

He lowered his head and forced his body to relax.

“As many as you’re comfortable having.”

Beverly nodded thoughtfully.

“Okay, that’s fair. And you want to live at your family home?”

Jean-Luc nodded, his eyebrows raised.

“Yes, but only if you want to too. Beverly…these are my fantasies…you don’t have to…”

She silenced him with a kiss.

“I want to Jean-Luc. While we were making love last night I came to a decision. I’m going to walk away from my family baggage…the curse, the implications. I want this life with you Jean-Luc. We’ve been offered a chance few people get and I intend to take it with both hands.”

The Captain smiled and sighed.

“So it’s a case of full steam ahead and damn the consequences?”

Beverly’s eyes glittered.

“Not damn them my love. If the consequences are marriage, children and a long happy life with you, then I embrace them whole heartedly!”

Jean-Luc took Beverly into his arms and kissed her.

“I love you Beverly.”

The Doctor sighed happily.

“And I love you Jean-Luc…and it feels so damn good to say it.”

They drifted off to sleep, two lost souls finally home.