HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

 
 

By Carol Sandford

 
 

Chapter 01

 
 

~~~~~~~
Will reclined into his sun lounger, letting the heat of the sun radiate throughout his tired, battle-worn body. As his head touched the cushion, he sighed with a fatigue that only the crew of the Enterprise D would understand. Tired beyond belief, his eyes drifted shut, but barely seconds later, they flew open again when the image that plagued him constantly, reared it's ugly head.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Receiving orders from Starfleet command, the Enterprise D and it's crew altered course from it's original destination and headed for the much feared, Breen space. Days before, the Science vessel, Caprica had been sent to charter the still unknown, Black Cluster, and had been attacked as they approached on the outskirts of Breen's space, creating an explosion in it's engine rooms, leaving the small craft severely crippled and only able to drift aimlessly. Unable to steer it clear of Breen's territory, the small crew of 45 had abandoned ship.

Starfleet had called on the Enterprise to retrieve the disabled ship, using it's tractor beams then tow it to Starbase 9, picking up the stranded crew along the way.

**//**

Captain Jean-Luc Picard stared ahead, his voice as low as a whisper, "Take it slowly, Mr. Data. I don't want to give the Breen any cause for alarm. We all know that they do not need much of an excuse to attack."

Will watched the screen worriedly, looking for anything that might indicate a cloaked ship. "Is there really no other way around this god-fore-saken hell-hole, sir?" he asked, tension forcing his voice an octave lower.

The Captain glanced at his second in command, answering him with equal strain. "No, number one, there isn't, it will add days on to our time. We are scheduled to reach Starbase 9 two days from now, but unfortunately it's on the other side of Breen's space. They'll blow us out the sky if we even step, one foot as it were, in it. All we can hope for is that they won't think that another ship would approach this area so soon after the last, and let their guard down just long enough for us to sneak in, and sneak out again."

The bridge crew became silent again as they continued staring at the giant view screen, and after several minutes, the Captain barely whispered to the counselor, "Deanna, can you sense anything out there?"

Concentrating hard, she shook her head, whispering back, "No, sir, nothing. I cannot sense the Breen's thoughts, but I feel...apprehension, sir, in here, and out there. It's very eerie."

Picard nodded, letting go the breath that he had been unconsciously holding. Relaxing a little, he settled back in his chair.

But barely a moment later, Data's almost panicked voice suddenly broke the uncomfortable silence, "Two ship's uncloaking, sir, 100 kilometres straight ahead. They are preparing to fire torpedoes."

Picard jumped to his feet, the terror in his voice audible as he barked, "Red Alert! Evasive manoeuvre's, Data, Get us out of here, warp speed, NOW!" "Christ!" he cried with anguish, "they're not even bothering to find out why we're here."

But before they could move, a torpedo hit them with full impact, rocking the giant ship violently to one side, throwing every occupant and loose object across the floor. Quickly righting himself, Data's steady and unemotional voice broke through the chaos. "They have disabled us, Captain, and they are preparing to fire again."

Picard had no choice but to throw back what the Breen were firing at them, "Mr. Worf, return fire!"

But before the photon torpedoes could leave their bays, two more of the Breen's missiles hit the Enterprise with such force, an explosion was heard throughout the ship, once more throwing the crew to the floor, the gravitation force causing them all to be catapulted to the rear of the bridge.

Getting unsteadily to his knees, Picard asked with an aprehensive dread, "Report, Data."

"Sir, the Breen have blown a hole approximately 50 feet in diameter, on decks 32 and 33. I have activated the gravitational field to secure the area, sir."

Picard turned to Worf, his eyes steeled with anger and hatred for the barbaric race that had just blown god knows how many of his staff into oblivion. "Locate and fire, Mr. Worf, maximum volley."

Checking his consul, the mighty Klingon looked back to his superior officer. "They have left the area, Si..."

Worf's eyes caught a movement on the view screen, shock reflecting on his usually unreadable harsh features. The other members of the bridge crew turned their attention back to the view screen to see what had halted Worf's words. Outside the massive screen, debris was scattered as far as the eye could see, slowly rotating as it went on its journey.

It was then they spotted a body, floating, getting further and further away, lifeless. Deanna gasped with horror, instantly recognizing the poor souls features before it turned away. "It's Ensign Healey."

All eyes turned to each other before turning new eyes to the floating particles, seeing what they'd missed before. Unmistakable shapes, life-forms, crew members, sucked out from their rooms to their instant deaths.

Mesmerized, Picard asked sadly as he watched the slowly swirling bodies float by, "How many, Data?"

Data's voice dropped low, his horror as aparent as his comrades. "The computer has acknowledged that are 26 members of the crew missing, sir."

He became silent again as his amber eyes focused on another body floating barely 20 feet from the view screen, completely oblivious of Deanna's screams, as a child of about two years old and disfigured beyond recognition, drifted into view.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Managing to get all but two of the bodies back on board for a proper burial, including the child, along with her parents, the Enterprise limped back to Star base for major repairs.

The entire crew suffering from shock, had been given R & R whilst the repairs were being carried out to the ship. Deanna had headed to Betazed, needing the comfort of home - and her mother. She had begged Will to go with her, but he had already decided to go to somewhere less...quieter.

Will had realised that it was the ideal opportunity to resume the romance with Deanna, but he wasn't ready. He never seemed to be ready. He often wondered if he would ever be. But after what had just happened to them all, Will felt he had to delay their reunion even longer.

The Captain and Beverly had gone home to Earth. Picard had been as deeply traumatised by what had happened to his lost crew as the rest of the occupants of the bridge at the time of the tragedy. Beverly had desperately wanted to be there for him, and he had gladly agreed, recognizing the need for understanding companionship. So they had headed for the only place Picard knew they would get some peace of mind. France, back to the vineyards, and back to his roots.

Will had headed for Risa. The need to be around happy people and a sunny climate, along with beautiful women, had suddenly become paramount to his well-being.

The urge to be around a race that oozed security, and a lack of inhibitions, and the, 'not a care in the world' sort of attitude became of the utmost importance to Will as he tried to justify his choice of vacation to his closest friend. Deanna had been dismayed at his destination, and then had become angry, and jealous, when she had envisaged the scantily clad women draped over him at every opportunity that arose, and she made a huge misjudgement about Will when she told him so.

"How could you Will Riker? How could you think about your own selfish needs and desires after what has happened to the crew? How could you lay there, being seduced by one, or more of those women, when we've just watched whole families, children, members of our ship, die!?"

Will stared silently at her in the dazed stupor that had become almost normal for him and the crew. Deanna hadn't even tried to understand, and for the first time in his life, Will realised he didn't even care what she thought of him, which frightened Will even more. Deanna Troi was the only woman in the whole universe that did matter to him. But not right now, and he hoped to god that the planet below could bring him back to the land of the living, and eventually back to her.

Deanna felt his misery, and for the first time since she'd known him, she sensed that Will didn't care. His body and mind almost pulsated with his own personal distress, and she knew, this time, she wasn't going to be the one to help him through it. But what she didn't know was that it was her who was giving Will the worst of his nightmares. It was Will's own dreams that scared him. That scream, that look in her eyes, and the image of her floating out there, in space.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Several of the planet's beauties had approached Will more-or-less from the moment he arrived on the surface, but backed off when he sadly shook his head at them, along with an apologetic smile. The planet's magic hadn't even started to heal his mental wounds yet, but he was content enough to watch the other guests enjoying all the pleasures that Risa had to offer, knowing that eventually he would be ready for some of those pleasures himself, before too long.

After a few days, Will had begun to watch the girls in earnest, mainly to see how long it was before they left with a visitor like himself for more, private surroundings. Most of the guests at his resort were men, and all were of similar age to him, and they were all looking for the same thing as he. To forget.

The resident girls there outnumbered the men three to one. Plenty to go around. And if Will had been in a different frame of mind, he would have barely left his room as the girls would have been queueing up for him. But for now, he was just content to watch.

Three days later, Will came out from his room late into the afternoon. He had taken to napping frequently as it had become the only way he had managed to get any sleep at all. Medication had made the situation worse, for once they had knocked him out and the dreams came along, he wasn't able to wake himself to break free of their torment. At least without the medication he could wake himself up.

Deanna's screams still made sure his nights remained as an ongoing nightmare, and he had all but given up on even going to bed. He usually found himself in the resorts casino's, content for a while to just watch rather than play. His expertise as a poker player seemed to be a lifetime away, and he could not bring himself to have a go, no matter how much the other players nagged at him. His mind and heart just was not in it. But he was confident that he would play eventually, when the time was right.

Later that night, Will had been watching a poker game and had noticed a new guest arrive at the table. He had seen her a couple of times soaking up the sun by the swimming pool, but she'd had that same, 'leave me alone' aura that had surrounded him. Large sunglasses and even larger floppy hat gave her the privacy that she had obviously craved.

Intrigued, Will watched her play. He had sat at a position that offered him full view of her hand, and was quietly impressed at her composure as she played, more so because she almost had the art of bluffing perfect. Will had been playing long enough in his lifetime to know women were very easy to read, and he could tell when one was bluffing a mile off. This lady was very gifted.

Will had caught her quick glance a couple of times, and she had thrown him a small smile once or twice. But it wasn't until she laughed that Will really stopped and took stock of just how pretty she really was. Her hair was long, very long. It swung just past the top of the stool that she was perched on, and she could have quite comfortably sat on it. But it was the colour that Will marvelled. It was a deep, rich chestnut, the colour reminding him of when he was a kid collecting conkers, opening the prickly shell to find the beautiful nut inside.

Her mouth was tiny, made smaller by the shape of her lips. Perfect cupid bows. And when she laughed, he had spotted brilliant white pearly teeth. But it was her eyes that made his heart race. He had never seen a colour like it. His only comparison was two bright, translucent emerald chips, and it was these that gave away her alien heritage. No-one on Earth would have ever had that colour eyes.

Will began to wonder where she came from, and he tried his hardest to catch her accent, but when he did, he almost fell off his chair. It was definitely Betazoid, but much higher pitched than Deanna's low seductive tone. Now his intrigue was totally piqued.

Will felt a rush of adrenalin course throughout his body. The dormant feelings and emotions that had been shoved as deep as he could possibly shove them, had finally found a reason to re-emerge. Now he felt an urgency to know this mysterious woman.

She had known all along that she was being watched. But in the last few moments, her mind had been assaulted with the tall, bearded mans excitement. She had felt his shock when she had spoken. He had obviously recognised her accent and now she was curious, but only to know who he knew on her home planet. He was without a doubt, Federation, and she found herself beginning to wonder about him. Was he a captain? she wondered to herself, and would he be able to get her home?

Will saw and felt her sigh, he knew that she was now aware of him, but he wasn't sure if she'd sighed because she thought he was going to try and hit on her, or whether something else was bothering her. He continued to watch her play, but her heart wasn't in the game anymore. She finished her hand and stood to leave.

Will's eyes followed her every move. When she stood to her full height and turned towards him, their eyes met and locked. For several moments they simply stared. Neither blinked, and neither spoke. Intent on speaking to her, Will found himself slowly coming to a stand, but as another guest passed through the gap between them, the spell broke. Carleena quickly looked down, turned and hastily walked away, and she didn't look back.

Will watched her go and he was torn between the desire to run after her, or to call, but he became frantic when he realised he didn't know her name. Before he had even realised he'd done it, Will had called to her in his head, Please, don't go!

Carleena halted her steps when she heard him call her. His plaintive cry of 'please don't go' filtered through enough to know that he'd sent to her, despite her limited empathic abilities. She swung her head around so quickly to face him that her hair fanned out like a cape, eventually coming to rest over her shoulder and draping itself down her front.

Will watched it fascination and longed for the day when he could see that same hair contrasted against her naked creamy skin. Once again they stood and stared at each other, and the air sizzled with an invisible current, passing within the hungry eyes that begged each other, and then he heard her hesitant reply, Tomorrow. Meet me tomorrow.

She turned once more and carried on out of the room. Will's heart-beat returned to it's normal pace, and for the first time in...he didn't know how long, he began to see the light at the end of his dark tunnel.

 
     
  Book index   Next chapter