By Carol Sandford


Chapter 32


"Fill me in, Captain. I want to know everything - and I mean everything."

Leaving a more than competent pilot to fly them home, Captain Bill Traverse sat opposite the visibly exhausted man, but even so, he was never happier to see anyone alive as much as he. He studied Will‘s face, as much as he could through the grime and dried blood that caked his skin. But even though exhaustion poured from his being, nothing could defuse the steely regard in his cobalt eyes. The man wanted to know what was happening with the Sindareen, and he wanted to know now.

Only Bill wasn‘t too keen on telling him - not all of it anyway.

"The Sindareen attacked Betazed, Sir." Shock still tinged his words as he looked Will straight in the eye, holding his gaze steady as Will digested the news, inwardly startled that he didn‘t seem surprised to hear his bad tidings. When Bill was confident that the crummy news had registered, he ploughed on. "We think they deliberately set us up in order to get some of us away from the city."

Will‘s face creased in puzzlement, "Why? What on earth were they trying to achieve? We left behind more than enough military to protect Betazed. They couldn't have got through." But even as he said it, Will realised that it sounded stupid. Of course they could get through. Nothing was impenetrable, least of all a docile citizen that wouldn‘t recognize a bad guy if he come and slapped him across the face.

But Will continued to study the Captain‘s face and instinctively knew that his assumption was wrong, and worse than that, there was more to hear, the fearful look upon Traverse‘s face told him that. He swallowed noisily before adding, "Carry on."

"They took hostages, Sir." he said warily, half expecting the giant man to leap up and punch him for allowing it all to happen. For not doing their job properly. For not protecting those that had come to serve.

And then Will knew; knew that his beloved was one of those captured. Somehow things that had flashed through his mind. The screams, the cold hand of death gripping his heart as he lay waiting to be picked up. It all made sense to him now. "Deanna." He murmured distractedly, the same cold hand tightening its grip on his heart again, hurting him, reminding him that there was more at stake here than the woman he loved, his eyes widening with the horror that his instinct, his feelings had been correct. "Deanna‘s been taken, hasn‘t she?"

Will reeled back as he watched Captain Traverse slowly shake his head, his eyes dropping away as he tried to mask his horror and dispel the image at what he‘d witnessed. "No, Sir," he said slowly, sadly, "Miss Troi is dead. I‘m sorry, Si..."

He started as Will leapt to a stand, instantly filling the ships small confines already greatly reduced because of Tang‘s prone body on the cot laying between them all, the shock of Bill‘s news not only slamming him in the midriff, but emitting a similar gasp of shock from the other members of Will‘s remaining team. Traverse cowered back as Will reached down and grasped the front of his tunic, forcibly lifting him off his seat. "No! no, she‘s not! Deanna isn‘t dead. I‘d know. I‘d feel up here," letting Bill go with one hand so that he could tap his temple, accentuating his point, "I‘d know if she was dead, and she isn‘t."

He felt a tug on his pant leg and with wild eyes he turned his attention downwards, to Tang‘s damaged face, to the man that knew that what he was saying was true but even so, he felt he had to say something, prepare him, question his senses, knowing that the mind was a powerful machine that could will anything that you wanted to see. "Will, it was hours ago that you said you‘d heard Deanna. She might be dead by now. Accept that it may be true, Son"

Freeing Traverse‘s clothing, absently brushing the clothing down as he turned to his fallen friend, Will shook his head, denial wreathed his features, "No, I‘d know, Tang, I‘d know" he swore with such conviction that Tang nodded wearily, completely accepting affirmation for what it was, his eyes slipping closed once more as he continued with his painful struggle to stay alive.

He‘d welcomed the pain medication with a mixture of relief and dismay. More than aware that now they‘d been rescued, he was effectively out of the game and that he‘d be shipped straight off to a med-unit as soon as they touched base, and that his war was over. Hell, his career might be over and that wasn‘t even worth contemplating. He‘d been a Starfleet officer all his adult life, and he‘d been so close - so close to being pensioned off, that his health had begun to suffer with the knowledge of being, ‘set free‘. He didn‘t want it. Hell, what was he gonna do, out there in the real world. Sit and read a book? Go fishing!?

Hell, no!

But it didn‘t look like he was going to have any other choice now. Damn it! So lost in his drug-infused meanderings he didn‘t quite catch most of Traverse‘s next words, but he sure as hell caught the tail end of them.

"...I saw her myself, Sir. I...I remember the jumper that she used to wear when she worked at the base, it was a pretty kind of yellow." He swallowed, turning paler as he plucked up courage to continue. "I...She...wasn‘t recognizable, Sir, she‘d lost her..." He couldn‘t continue. He didn‘t have to, the picture he‘d painted was more than enough. Too much.

Numbly, Will shook his head, not only denying his head to fill with the image that tried to over take his mind, but also wanting to dismiss the information that he was hearing. He could only reiterate his previous confident reply. "She‘s still alive, Bill. Trust me." He pleaded quietly. Bill could only nod. What more could he do? He hoped with all his being that the tall man was right.

Turning his gaze out of the ship‘s front screen, Will watched as they approached Betazed. One could not fail to see the numerous dark plumes of smoke that rose from the still smouldering buildings, the air of chaos blanketing it like a heavy, dark shroud, and as the ship landed back at the base, Will was already hovering impatiently for the door to open, and as soon as it did, he leapt free as soon as he could safely do so. Will set off towards the worst hit part of the city, his feet barely touching the ground as he raced on, his heart pounding in his chest, preparing him for what he was about to see.

Even though Will was confident that he wasn‘t going to find his Deanna amongst the dead that would surely be laying in the make-shift morgue by now, an ounce of him - one tiny ounce of him wondered if he‘d gotten it wrong - that the intense love he felt for her was over-shadowing the truth.

Will was sure that he‘d heard her, seen her in his dreams, and held her silently in his embrace. She was scared senseless, but she was okay, he could feel her. And somehow, he knew then even more so, that her life was connected to his. That they were bonded by a force that he wasn‘t sure he‘d ever come to grips with. He rolled the word through his mind again, unconsciously reaching out for her, Imzadi Testing it‘s power, hoping above all hopes that she was out there, alive, waiting for him.

He almost slipped to the ground as he felt the feint ripple of her voice, and her fear, trickle through his frazzled mind.

Help us. Oh, God, Imzadi, help us!

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