By Carol Sandford


Chapter 20


The scene was surreal. Two women, both flamboyant in their own unique ways, equally both silent and intent and both relentless in their joined assault on the alien general as they sat opposite him in the holding cell.

He was an ugly figure of a creature. Even though the previous hostage had been more primitive, the General was as much so but he included an evil edge to him, hence why he was securely fastened to his seat as he sat opposite the seated women.

The occasional grunt and growl emanated from his throat, the sound raw and brutal. The race clearly did not use verbal communication of any kind and the Enterprise crew wondered who was pulling their strings. Someone had to be. Someone had to be out there and the two women interrogating him were going to find out, one way or another.

Picard, Geordi, Worf and Riker watched with fascination. The two seated women's backs were to them and they could clearly see the general fighting against their silent assault. His large misshapen head weaved from side to side as he fought against their intrusion.

It was a long time coming but when it did, the roar of frustration that tore from the aliens throat culminated with him rearing to his feet and lunging at the two startled women. Within seconds he lay slumped on the floor, the laser blast that Riker hit him with now emitting a foul stench of burning flesh as the plume of smoke rose from his head.

Trembling with shock, Picard and Geordi held onto the women as they led them from the holding cell.

"My God!" Lwaxana exclaimed, horror etching her ashen features as she lowered herself to the bench that Picard had guided her to. "He was going to kill me! The brute!"

Picard struggled to soothe her very ruffled feathers at the same time as trying to tactically find out if they had gained any usable information about their foe.

"You were never in any danger, Mrs. Troi. We had the best marksmen on board the Enterprise covering you. He would never have got to you, that I promise you."

Lwaxana puffed her chest agitatedly, clearly still upset at how close they'd gotten to be molested. "Yes, well, it got a little too close for comfort." she turned her head to face Will. "We both thank you, Mr. Riker. Considering all that must be on your mind, I'm glad to hear that duty still comes first."

The invisible gasp of horror rented the air but even as all eyes turned on to Will they knew that she had blown it.

"My mind, Mrs. Troi. What exactly IS on my mind?" Will's eyes slowly went from person to person, finally settling back onto the Betazoid matriarch. "What's going on here. Is there something that someone wishes to tell me. Mrs. Troi? Captain?"

Picard took one look at Lwaxana's opening mouth and jumped in head first. "There is absolutely nothing wrong, Will. Mrs. Troi is clearly referring to Deanna's current ill health. We are all worried about her, as I am sure you are too, Will, and I'm sure once all this mess with the Lanaarians is sorted out, your wife will be back to her normal self. Isn't that right, Mrs. Troi?"

Lwaxana looked into Picard's steady gaze and wavered between telling her son-in-law the truth or keeping him in the dark, a fact that rankled her deeply. Why the man couldn't be told that he was to become a father was beyond her comprehension. But the steely stare that she was receiving told her to think otherwise. "Yes...yes, of course. That's all I meant, William. I'm sorry if I said anything out of turn."

For a long moment Will's gaze from one person to another as he sized up the situation. Her rather insincere apology didn't ring true to Will's ears but the expectant look on his comrades faces pleaded with him to drop the inquisition and that made him all the more uneasier. His eyes finally settled upon his much admired captains and grudgingly he relented. "Then let's get back to the matter at hand, shall we?"

He turned his full gaze onto the Betazoid woman. "Mrs. Troi, Guinan, did you find out anything more from the creature?"

Will felt rather than saw the sigh of relief that left everyone's lungs and vowed to get to the bottom of the mystery - after they'd sorted out the mystery that lay beneath them on the dying planet of Lanaaria.

Guinan had kept very quite up until that point and as Lwaxana went to speak the El-Alurian gently rested her hand upon her forearm, effectively halting her response. "Mrs. Troi. If I may?"

Somewhat startled, Lwaxana regarded the dark woman before relenting graciously. Perhaps the startling news would be better coming from a ships colleague.

Guinan pushed herself to her feet and came to a stand before her crewmates. One by one she slowly looked to each of them, but eventually her eyes settled upon the huge Klingon. "Worf, you were right. The aliens are Klingon, but from long, long ago. They are still very early in their evolutionary cycle, that much I'm sure that you know."

For some unknown reason, shame slammed through Worf. To know for sure that it was his own kind that were killing the poor inhabitants down on the planet ate at his gut and he quietly growled with frustration. His captains hand upon his shoulder halted the roar of rage from leaving his lips.

"This is in no way your fault, Mr. Worf. Remember that, please.

Worf turned hurt eyes to his captain, gratified only to see sorrow in his and not shame. His curt nod allowed Picard to carry on. "Continue please, Guinan."

She took a deep breath. "However, it is an intelligent Klingon that is responsible for the carnage that is happening now."

This time there was no stopping the roar that erupted from Worf as he quickly turned and slammed his fist against the bulk head. Without turning back to his fellow officers he spoke to the wall. "Who. Who is it. Who is doing this? Tell me."

Guinan stepped forward slowly and lay her hand on his tense shoulder. "Worf, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. Although it is true, it is a Klingon leading these creatures, it is not a Klingon of our times."

All eyes were upon her and she suddenly felt very small against all those that towered above her waiting for the answer to the riddle. But her answer was aimed at one person only. Her captain. "He's from the future, Jean-Luc."

Their shock was evident in their widened eyes as they continued to stare at her, but it was only the captain who spoke as they all tried to digest the news. "The future? Are you sure, Guinan? Lwaxana, is this true?"

For the first time since since the revelation the crew remembered the Betazoid who remained seated. Now she had been acknowledged, she rose regally to her feet and addressed them all. "I'm afraid so, Jean-Luc.

Turning to look at the creature that still lay dead on the floor of its cell, she grimaced. "Could we all retire to the ready room, please? I'd like to remove myself from this...thing!"

Gathering his wits, Captain Picard said hurriedly, "Of course." Turning to the ensign that stood at the doorway he spoke to him. "Ensign, kindly take this...creature to sickbay and have Doctor Crusher examine him. There may be something on him, or in him, that we can use. Have her report to my ready room when she's done. Thank you."

As the party moved away from the brig the ensign looked at the still smouldering creature with disgust, his response to the order unheard as they left him to his grizzly task. "Aye, aye, sir."

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