By Carol Sandford


Chapter 17


The tall man stood looking down at the woman sleeping and his smile was tender as he watched her. Deanna Troi-Riker was beautiful awake, but asleep she was ethereal; Perfect even as her ebony hair fanned out across the silken pillow and Will couldn't resist as he gently twisted his finger around one curl, watching it spiral. But he couldn't keep himself from watching her face; Her eyes, willing her to wake.

He ached to touch her, to talk to her, but most of all he needed to hold her. God, he wanted so much to hold her in his arms, just for a minute. But he was conscious of the woman standing a few feet away from him. He was still very weak on his legs, but nothing, nothing could have stopped him coming to see his wife, nothing. Short of sedating him, Beverly knew better than to stop William Riker from doing what he wanted, even it did half kill him.

But as she stood watching the united couple, she was glad she'd relented; Glad that she had allowed them a few moments to reinforce their unique bond. They both needed it, now more than ever.

Will's quiet voice broke the quietness, "How much longer is she going to sleep, Doctor?"

"Not much longer, Will. Deanna's been through a lot and her mind was close to being deeply traumatised. It was the safest option while were still in Lanaarian space. When we leave here, she'll be fine, Will. I know you're worried about her, but she IS okay. I promise." Beverly took a step towards him, reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Come on, you need to get back to bed. Deanna needs you to be strong for her when she wakes and this is doing neither of you any good now. You're exhausted, Will."

Will nodded dejectedly, knowing that she was right as even he could feel his body and mind protesting, but he didn't want to leave her. They had come so far together; Taken so long to become one that Will felt like he was leaving behind his very soul. He lifted the lifeless hand to his mouth and gently kissed her fingertips. Placing her hand back upon her chest, Will took one last look at his beloved wife before turning painfully away to leave her in peace.


"We've got to get through to him, Geordi, there must be a way."

But it was Worf that answered his captain's plight. "We should torture the alien, Sir, It's the only course of action left to us."

As all eyes turned to stare unbelievingly at him and Worf squirmed with the intense scrutiny. Picard eventually sighed, exasperated with not only Worf's desire to, 'get at' the prisoner, but with the entire situation. Miraculously, only two crew members had been killed and numerous injured, but they all were exhausted.

The last wave had been over two hours ago and the crew of the Enterprise were relieved to see that only half the amount of portals had opened emitting smaller groups of enemy. But Picard was conscious that whilst his crew were rotating their shifts, the aliens appeared to be sending fresh new groups each and every time.

They were beginning to lose the battle. Time was running out and they needed an answer, and they needed it now.

"That is not an option, Mr. Worf, I will not even consider it. Please refrain from continually thinking that way. These are primitive people, with primitive ways and you of all people should understand their cause...whatever that may be. Any other suggestions anyone?"

Geordi's dark brow furrowed deeply as he thoughtfully chewed his lower lip, "What if we release him and attach a homing device, then at least we would know where they are coming from. I can get a gadget on him without him, or anyone else even knowing."

Worf piped up with another, more sensible suggestion. "We could send a probe into one of the portals, sir."

Picard nodded thoughtfully, "Yes, yes, both good ideas, but I really wanted to know about ~them~. There must be a way to communicate..."

"Maybe I can be of some assistance, Jean-Luc."

Picard didn't know whether to groan with relief or despair as Lwaxana Troi came and took centre stage - her favourite position.

"Tut, tut, Jean-Luc. You know, you really should value my friendship and my expertise. I think together we could become quite a formidable couple. "

Picard balked at what she was suggesting, that was until he saw the twinkle in her eye and realised he was being goaded. "Mrs. Troi, as much as I appreciate your very generous offer, it is your daughter that needs you at this present time."

He didn't get any further. She dismissed his statement with an energetic wave of her wave, "Oh, Pooft, Jean-Luc. Deanna is fast asleep and even I, her mother, can't do anything for her at this moment in time. Now, I am a valued member of the Federation and I consider it my duty to assist in any way that I can."

She had made up her mind and nothing Jean-Luc Picard could do, or dare to do would change that. He sighed dramatically. Lwaxana Troi was possibly the last person he wanted to rely on, but with his counselor out of action and Worf's failure, he didn't have any other choice. "Very well, I will allow you access to our prisoner. But Mrs. Troi, I cannot allow you to put yourself in any danger. If you, or I suspect that you are having difficulties, I will remove your presence from his immediately. Is that understood?"

She took a deep breath, puffing up her ample chest, a move that Picard desperately tried to avoid acknowledging and, with relief, somehow managed to successfully shut his mind off from the almost mesmerizing vista just at the critical moment before Lwaxana would have known his thoughts. He consoled himself that he was only human after all, and she was...she was a rather vivacious and reasonably attractive woman.

But he knew he'd failed when her eye caught his as they moved towards the turbolift. Even he had to smile a little at the ridiculous situation. There was only one person more frustrating than Lwaxana Troi and that was Q. Picard looked over his shoulder briefly, half expecting the irksome omnipotent to be there, laughing at his discomfort. But right now, laughter was the last thing on his mind.

He needed an answer and right now, the woman leading the way in front of him was his only option, and he was not happy about it, at all. He was even less happier when on reaching the brig where the alien was being held, Lwaxana Troi demanded to be put inside the cell with the creature, and despite all his authoritative bellowing at the relentless woman, she still won.

They all held their breath as she stepped beyond the invisible screen into the lair of the savage. The savage who upon seeing his quarry, instantly bared his teeth and assumed the posture that could only mean one thing to those watching on in horror.


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