Surrender The Light
The first thing that the away team became aware of as the familiar tingle of the transporter left them was the darkness. It was pitch dark. They first wondered if perhaps the transporter had deposited them in the wrong place. They were supposed to have been in the heart of a thriving science station. Or at least one that had been thriving in the very recent past.
The Enterprise had been dispatched to investigate a recent cessation in communication from the newly established science station on Draa-Shapiro 9. It had been the first station to be entirely conceived and operated under the new Command/Sciences and Science/Engineering divisions of Starfleet. It was because of that fact that the Enterprise had been the ship chosen to investigate its sudden lapse in communication. The Enterprise had onboard the most successful and longest standing new system departments in all of Starfleet. The Command/Operations department had done a particularly noteworthy job, its supervisor even earning a commendation for her very first mission aboard. So it only seemed correct that the investigation of this most baffling mystery fell to the Enterprise.
They had really expected to find nothing out of the ordinary. It was not an uncommon occurrence for a science station, particularly one this far into deep space, to have difficulties with their communication grid when it first came on line. In truth, the Enterprise crew had expected to beam down in the midst of much hustle and bustle as the small staff worked to repair the malfunctioning system. They certainly had not expected what they did find.
Darkness. Sheer and utter darkness. There was not so much as a blip from a panel to let them know that Starfleet had ever been there.
Hello...IS anyone here? Were from the Enterprise! Commander Riker called out at the top of his voice. His only answer came in the form of a squeak from Ensign Carson, who had immediately whipped out her tricorder and begun scanning.
Sir, she told him, her hesitation clear in her voice, Sir, Im not reading any life signs
Are you sure, Adrienne? Lieutenant Pearson grilled. Carson held her tricorder out so the lieutenant could read it.
Its right here, sir. Whoever was here... lets just hope they escaped.
Certainly beats the alternative, Geordi commented from the rear of the group.
What the hell happened here? Riker asked, mostly to himself, taking his emergency light from off of his belt and shining it around the empty room.
I dont know, Lieutenant Pearson answered him, also activating her emergency light. but were not going to find out in the dark.
Right, Riker answered her, Geordi, Lieutenant Dalmm, try and get us some lights. Pearson, you and your people come with me. The small team broke into factions and deftly tiptoed across the room to various and presumably important points throughout the station.
Deanna, you havent made a single decision. Beverly exhorted. The two women were pacing back and forth across a holodeck simulation of a Betazoid wedding chapel. The room was shaped like a large trapezoid and its high walls were garishly bare and white. Deanna shook her head.
I dont know, Beverly. The vines...computer- vines, Deanna began. The computer complied, covering the chapel walls with lush greenery. The vines are inevitable. Theyre probably already growing them, knowing my mother. Deanna chuckled. Beverly laughed with her. It was true- ever since they had begun to plan Deanna and Wills wedding they had gotten daily, sometimes hourly updates and quizzes from Lwaxana Troi concerning the particulars.
Okay, Beverly began again, vines. Vines and... Deanna looked around.
I liked the orchids, she suggested.
Computer, orchids- Betazoid purple orchids, Beverly ordered. The computer obediently filled nearly every bare spot in the room with flowers. They were dozens of shades of purple, and they smelled divine. Like this? Beverly asked.
I dont know, Deanna said again. I just cant make up my mind.
Well, Beverly asked, What does Will want? Deanna looked at her friend and shook her head.
You havent heard? She asked, Will just wants to get married. Thats his pat answer for every question I ask him. He says the rest is just detail and that the details dont really matter. He told me that all he needs to know is where to be and what time.
Men really arent any help are they? Beverly joked. Deanna slumped down on the nearest available bench.
I dont blame him, she conceded, this really is beginning to be a pain.
Have you decided anything? Bev quizzed.
Not anything new, Deanna admitted. Right off we decided that we would have a traditional Betazed ceremony with a few Earth touches thrown in.
And which Earth customs have you decided to incorporate? Beverly asked, plopping down to sit indian-style next to Deanna.
Well, for starters, Will wants a bachelor party.
Just make sure he does it a few days before the wedding, Beverly insisted.
Do you have any idea what goes on at those things?
Not really, Deanna admitted, I never thought to ask.
Well, I remember Jack the morning after his, Beverly recollected, And he was so hung over he couldnt even stand up straight. Deanna couldnt help but chuckle.
At the very least I cant say you didnt warn me, she chortled.
And what other Earth customs have you decided to include? Bev prodded.
To tell you the truth, Beverly, Im really not sure. The unity candle sounds nice.
Oh, thats one of my favorite parts, Bev confirmed, And Deanna, you absolutely must throw a bouquet.
Doesnt that symbolize that the person who catches it is the next to get married?
Thats right, Beverly told her, Oh, you should have seen it... when all of my friends were getting married- just after medical school mostly- we would fight like hell for the bouquet. Deanna laughed a little harder.
And I suppose you would like me to throw this one directly at Amanda? She asked, half serious.
If only it were that easy! Beverly exhorted. Wesley told me that she said that he might as well give up on the idea.
Did she say why?
Wesley didnt go into the particulars, Beverly answered, He just told me that he asked and that she said no.
Just no? Just like that?
No, not just like that- she told him not to bring it up again- ever.
I wish I were. She just outright refuses to talk about it. It drove Wesley crazy the entire time he was here. Beverly got up fro her seat on the floor and began to fiddle with a bow at the end of the front row of benches.
Have you heard from him? Deanna asked, also standing.
Not in a few weeks. Amanda actually heard from him last- just before he left Starbase nineteen for Tau-Alpha C. I still cant believe hes been gone for a month already.
I know. It was nice having him here. Deanna commented.
Oh, youre telling me. I had forgotten how nice. I think having him here for so long just makes me miss him more now that hes gone again.
Hows Amanda taking it? Deanna asked, readjusting some vine behind the altar.
You know her- shes taking it. Beverly replied, I know she misses him. In fact, I know she hasnt been sleeping very well, but she refuses to talk about it. Ever the stalwart soldier...
Shell talk about it when shes ready, Deanna consoled. Shes had to keep a lot of things bottled up. Im sure its been difficult for her. She thought Wesley was dead for almost five years. And then suddenly he was back in her life. As joyous as that had to have been, it was also probably very difficult to reconcile those feelings.
Im sure youre right, Deanna, Beverly confirmed. So, the doctor continued, changing the subject, Have we decided? Do the orchids stay? Deanna turned and crossed her arms. She studied the room from one side to the other and then nodded,
Yes. Definitely the orchids.
Commander, I cant see a thing, Lieutenant Pearson sighed from her obviously uncomfortable position underneath a console. She slid herself out from under the thing and sat up a little too quickly, bumping her head on the edge of it as she did. She frowned up at Commander Riker who then called out,
Geordi, howre we coming with those lights? It was apparent that the away teams small emergency lights were not enough to navigate the pitch black abandoned station.
Were working on it, Commander, Geordis voice sounded over the hum of the instruments he and his small team were using to try and restore power to the derelict station. I cant get a handle on these controls. This was supposed to be a new and experimental configuration. Ive never seen a setup quite like it.
Progress, Lieutenant Pearson sarcastically observed, pulling herself to her feet.
Itll be the death of us yet, Riker mumbled in response, half-joking.
Geordi, you want me to look at it? Pearson called, stepping a few feet toward where the Engineering team was working. I was in on the feasibility study for most of these designs. It was five years ago, but I might remember something.
Lieutenant, Geordi answered, smiling, knock yourself out. Pearson stepped quickly and deliberately across the large room. She shined her light into the open access panel that seemed to have been the focus of the most commotion. She peered inside and nodded her head.
I voted against this design for just this reason, She commented. She poked her head back out of the hole shed just stuck it into. The way the power is routed in this station was an awful idea. The main energy converter works well enough, but the energy is distributed into thousands of low-level conductors. It takes a hundred or so of these to power any one access panel. Sounds good in theory, one, two, ten if these goes offline, the station still functions. Unfortunately they forgot to solve the problem of emergency power configurations, counting on their brilliant new system to keep them from ever being necessary. My advice, she turned and looked at Commander Riker, who had made his way to a vantage point just behind her, would be just to bring down a power coupling from the Enterprise. We could probably get the main power back up if we just had some lights, but it would be a lot easier to do if we operated this stuff under our own power for a while.
Alright, Lieutenant, the Commander agreed, Sounds like the best idea Ive heard all day. Weve got quite a mystery to solve down here and were not getting anywhere without any lights.
With your permission, Ill go now, sir, she told him.
Very well, Lieutenant, make it so, Riker answered her. She nodded and tapped her communicator.
Pearson to Enterprise, she called into the air, One to beam up. She had hardly finished her sentence when she was claimed by the shimmering beam of the transporter and disappeared.
As many mistakes as the new system has made, Geordi said, turning to Riker, I dont know what we would have done without Pearson. Riker nodded.
I wasnt to thrilled at the whole idea, Riker answered, new system... it even sounds dangerous. But youre right. Im glad we got Pearson. Although, I have a feeling shed have wound up with us even if there was no such thing as Command/Operations. She doesnt know it yet but I've just approved her promotion to full lieutenant. Geordi leaned down and , with his tricorder, started to scan inside the conduit that Pearson had just examined.
Just dont start any pomp and circumstance without telling Wesley first, Geordi laughed. hes still kicking himself for having to leave halfway through her last commendation ceremony. Riker laughed as well.
I dont know if it can wait, Will chuckled, But then again, Im not entirely convinced that Im going to be able to slow her down for long enough to pin her insignia on.
She certainly does keep busy, Geordi affirmed, frowning at the hodgepodge of signals his tricorder was picking up.
Shes even helping plan my wedding, Will added, shining his light in a direction he had not yet explored.
Well, Commander, Geordi turned to him, You can be sure that no detail will be overlooked. Both men nodded through chuckles as they continued to examine the lifeless station.
Lieutenant Pearson had her feet propped up on the desk when she heard her office door chime ring. She quickly scrambled into a more dignified position before calling,
Come in. She didnt look up from the PADD that had held her full attention until her visitor asked,
What are you doing? Amanda looked up,
Oh, Deanna, she said, then she shook her head and gestured to the PADD in her hand I always wind up with the fun jobs. We have no idea whats going on down there. The crew is just- gone- and we cant get the power grid online to so much as turn on the lights. I thought we could just send down power couplings from the ship, unfortunately, the configurations dont match up with the experimental configurations on the station. Luckily- I remember the old research from when Starfleet thought they would be converting existing power units to this configuration instead of building all new ones, which they eventually did. I managed to find what dark corner of the experimental database they hid this stuff. And now, I m writing the instructions to reconfigure the power couplings so we can turn on the lights down there. She finally set the PADD on her desk and looked up. So whatd I miss? She asked.
Not very much, Deanna admitted, seating herself in a chair. We definitely decided to go with the orchids, she added.
I thought we had already decided on the orchids, Amanda challenged, what else?
How do you feel about bridesmaids dresses? Deana asked. Amanda looked at her oddly,
Bridesmaids dresses? then it connected, Oh you mean for the reception... Deanna nodded. What was it my aunt Marjorie used to say? Amanda thought for a second before answering herself, The bridesmaids dresses should match the punch. She looked very seriously at Deanna, Are you serving punch? Deanna looked completely overwhelmed,
Should I be? she asked, sounding very nervous.
Im really not the one to ask, Amanda qualified. You forget, my home planet is very old-fashioned. You still cause a coup if you walk down the aisle to anything other than Wagners wedding march; although Ave Maria and the canon in D have been making steady progress into the mainstream for about the last hundred years. Deanna laughed.
Well, thats one Earth tradition Ill have to forego, she giggled. Although, she added, I have decided that Im going to throw the bouquet. Amanda shook her head,
Just dont let me catch it in front of Wesley, he might start getting ideas again, Deanna giggled at that but then said,
You dont want to marry him? Amanda shook her head and then answered,
Deanna, its like this; I couldnt live with myself if he were to give up what hes doing to settle down and be with me. And hes come right out and said he would be willing to. Well, thats just not an option. I could never, in a million years, forgive myself if he did that. Think about it, Deanna, he is the one person in the history of all humanity who was chosen to explore these-other plains-. I love him too much to take that from him. And I jut cant fathom the idea of being married to someone whos hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of light years away. I just think our making that commitment would reinforce how miserable I am when hes not here.
That I can understand, Deanna confided, And youre sure hes going to be here for the wedding? Amanda smiled at her,
Are you kidding, he says hes been waiting half his life for this to happen. The driving force of his existence right now is getting back here in time for the bachelor party. Deanna laughed,
That certainly has been a popular topic of conversation lately. Amanda laughed a little too,
I have a feeling its going to get pretty wild. I remember one that Wesley went to our junior year. The next morning the guys had to call me to come and take care of him. He had gotten so drunk he couldnt stand up. Deanna shook her head,
I know, its entirely out of character, but Im telling you, theres something about a bachelor party that brings out the crazy in the best of us.
So youve been to one? Deanna asked.
Oh no, Amanda answered, Women at bachelor parties are strictly taboo; unless of course you count the naked Zetli dancers who tend to proliferate at such functions.
Youre kidding, Deanna challenged. Amanda laughed out loud,
Dont worry... Im sure Commander Riker will behave himself. Amanda got up from her seat and walked around her desk, toward the door. Im going to have to excuse myself now, She said to Deanna, who had also stood up from her chair, I have a date with a field converter.
Were all ready up here, Commander, Lieutenant Pearsons voice sounded through Commander Rikers com link, loud enough for every one in the dark room to hear.
Lets hope this works... Riker answered, signaling to Geordi a few feet away.
Lieutenant, keep a eye on the variation patterns. This is likely to get very tricky, Geordi instructed. Back on the Enterprise, Pearson just called,
You got it. Geordi reached to the back of a rather clumsily assembled temporary power converter and flipped the switch. Like magic, overhead lights immediately blinked on and previously inoperable computer stations sprung to life. The crew on the surface had to wait for their eyes to adjust before even looking around. There was, however, an audible cheer from all present when it worked. Hows that? Pearson asked, knowing what the answer would be.
Looks great from down here. How does it look from up there? was Geordis response.
All sensor levels are reading within normal parameters Pearson answered proudly.
How long is this power going to last us? Riker sounded, asking anyone who might know. It was Pearson who chose to answer him.
This had ought to last for at least a couple of days, provided we dont run the power twenty-four hours a day.
Well, how long can we use the power, at a stretch, without running into trouble? Riker asked. This time it was Geordi who piped up,
I wouldnt recommend any more that about six hours- eight would be pushing it, he said.
Maybe we can get the stations own power system up and running before that becomes a consideration, Suggested lieutenant Dalmm, who was already examining the stations main power unit to try and discern why it had failed. Commander Riker nodded,
Ill agree that would be best, he encouraged, But I also think it would be in our best interest to try and get our information together as fast as possible, in the event that we cant make it work and were going to be back in the dark in three days.
Dalmm, you think you can fix this? Geordi asked, gesturing to the derelict power core.
There is no way to be certain, the lieutenant answered without looking away from what he was doing. but the next logical step would be to try. Riker nodded in agreement.
You go right ahead, lieutenant, and use any available manpower to help. And see if you can figure out how it went offline in the first place while youre at it. Dalmm nodded and replied,
The rest of us should fan out and see what we can find there may still be survivors down here. The away team nodded and slowly began to move away fro the center of the room where they had been congregated. Pearson, Riker called into the air, Is there anyplace on this station we ought not go? anyplace still in the dark?
Not that Im aware of, sir, she answered, The readings Im getting suggest that there is at the very least minimal emergency power functioning in all areas of the station. But if you find a place thats still too dark to do us any good, let me know and Ill see what I can do about re-routing more power to that area.
Thank you , lieutenant, the Commander answered, Riker out.
Mother, I think the invitation looks fine, Deanna confirmed, but does it really have to list your entire title?
Well, is there any reason why it shouldnt? Lwaxana Trois voice challenged over the vidcom.
Mother, Deanna answered, Its just that after Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth house, Holder of the sacred chalice of Riix, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed invites you to attend the celebration of the marriage of... its like Will and I are an afterthought.
Nonsense- nonsense, little one, Lwaxana assured her. Itll be fine. And besides, the invitations were your idea.
And thats another point, mother, Deanna added, The invitations were sending arent even for the actual wedding. Theyre invitations to the reception on Earth just before the wedding. I dont think all this pomp and circumstance is really necessary.
Of course it is! Lwaxana countered, My little Deanna is getting married, there couldnt be enough pomp and circumstance.
If you say so, Deanna conceded.
I do say so. And, incidentally, have you and William finalized the guest list for that little soiree yet?
No, we havent. But its almost five months away- we have plenty of time.
Five months? Is that all? Lwaxana sounded panicked, Oh my, how quickly these things creep up on you. really, Deanna, you have to stay on top of this or itll absolutely bury you. Well, I have about a million things to tend to here. So you call me when you finish that guest list.
Yes mother, Ill talk to you soon. The screen went blank. Deanna had barely caught her breath when she heard the doors to her cabin slide open. She poked her head out her bedroom door and smiled when she saw it was Will.
Youve been talking to your mother, he surmised, grinning at her.
How can you tell? she asked, leaning back in her chair.
Your eyes, he answered, they crinkle at the corners. She laughed a little Oh, is that all? she countered. She stood up from her seat and walked the few steps to where he was standing. She leaned into him until her head landed on his chest with a quiet thud. Do you think we could just run away and elope? she whined. He placed his hands on either side of her face and kissed the top of her head before answering her,
Just say the word and Ill steal us a shuttle craft. She leaned her head all the way back to look up at him.
If it were only that easy... she exhorted. She stepped back from him and took both his hands in hers. She led them both to the couch where she plopped herself down. I didnt expect you back so soon, she said to him, changing the subject, How are things going down on the station?
Weve shut things down for the night, he told her, Were having a hard time keeping the temporary power grid online. Its becoming a real pain, but I guess its better than trying to work in the dark.
I could see that. Deanna concurred. Any sign so far of what happened to the crew?
Nothing yet. We spent most of today just trying to get the lights on down there. Well get a fresh start in the morning.
The morning? Deanna quizzed, scooting closer to him on the couch. Does that mean I get to keep you until then? Will smiled mischievously at her.
Mm-hmm, he nodded, leaning toward her. Wanna fool around?
Deanna skittered through the door to Beverlys quarters hoping to slip in without notice. It hadnt worked. Beverly and Amanda, who were already well into their second cups of coffee, rolled their eyes at her and grinned. Sorry Im late, she apologized. Beverly and Amanda looked at each other as Beverly retorted,
No youre not.
No, really, Deanna defended, We got started on the guest list,
Among other things, Amanda interrupted with a giggle. Deannas face turned bright red. Beverly got up from the table and crossed to the replicator, trying to stifle her laughter. Its okay, Deanna, Amanda encouraged, your head doesnt have to explode. Beverly, turning around from the replicator, carrying a steaming dish, added,
Weve got to get our vicarious thrills somewhere. All three women laughed at little at that. Hell, Amanda was late this morning, too- seems she got a twenty-minute vid from Wes.
Oh, and what did Wesley have to say Deanna asked, placing her napkin in her lap and glad to be changing the subject.
Mostly more of the same, hes having a blast in Tau-Alpha C, he misses me, cant wait until the wedding- that sort of thing. But then he went off on this tangent.... Hes apparently had some sort of amazing breakthrough with the barriers between parallel dimensions or something of the like. He spent ten minutes outlining a formula to me that he was just sure I would be able to understand. I cant. Im not even sure I want to try. Im having enough trouble keeping the lights on down on Draa-Shapiro 9.
How is that going? Deanna asked , Will is having a mild panic attack over the whole thing.
I dont blame him, Beverly chimed in. We dont know what became of an entire station crew, and until we do- I wouldnt want to be down there in the dark either.
Well, its not going to be dark down there for much longer, Amanda assured them. It worked yesterday, and as soon as the whole crew gets together we'll get it started up again. Hopefully we can have some answers later his morning."
" That would be a relief," Beverly commented, sipping her coffee. She reached over and put a large serving spoon into the dish she had set in the center of the table.
"All senior staff report to the observation lounge," Commander Riker's voice boomed through the cabin. All three women pushed their chairs away from the table.
"I just hate it when that happens" Beverly editorialized as they walked out of the room.
The Captain couldn't seem to relax. He was pacing incessantly back and forth across the conference lounge and it was visibly raising the tension level of the rest of those present. Looking out the window, they could see the USS Camden as it closed on their position.
"Tell me again why we need their help," Riker insisted, his tone becoming short under the growing pressure.
"I wish I could, Number One," the captain told him, taking a momentary pause from his pacing. "I wasn't even aware they were coming until an hour ago. But, as it is, Commodore Trazka insists upon having his people down there." Lieutenant Pearson scowled at that last remark. Captain Picard immediately noticed and acknowledged her. "Lieutenant," he said.
"Did the Commodore happen to say WHY he wanted his people on the station?" she asked. The Captain shook his head.
"Is there something we had ought to be concerned about?" Riker chimed in.
"My first reaction would definitely be to say yes," Pearson answered. "Commodore Trazka was the most adamant and the most vocal opponent of the new command system from the very beginning. He and 'his people' challenged the curriculum before it went into effect. And when he was over-ruled, he made it his personal mission to tear down the new system any way he could. He personally challenged my promotion and all of the other new system lieutenants, too. He just keeps getting more and more bitter as he loses these petty arguments. I'm almost certain he's only here because something went wrong with a station manned entirely by new system personnel and he could smell blood from clear across the quadrant."
"Well, lieutenant," Captain Picard responded, "if that is the case, and something has gone horribly wrong down there... we' re just going to have to beat them to it." Riker pushed his chair back from the table.
Permission to return to the surface, sir? He asked the captain. Captain Picard nodded. Riker was getting up from his chair when Lieutenant Pearson interrupted him.
Uh, sir? She said, You might want to wait a few minutes. Riker looked at her quizzically. Its still dark in there, she qualified. Riker smiled.
I assume you plan to remedy that situation, Lieutenant? he asked, standing. Pearson smiled and nodded.
Just give me a minute, sir, she answered, Ill see what I can do.
Very good, Lieutenant, dismissed, added the captain, nodding his permission to leave.
Commander, youd really ought to take a look at this. Geordi tapped Commander Riker on the shoulder and spoke softly in his ear. After the warning they had received during the staff meeting, the Enterprise crew had chosen to keep their observations between themselves and out of earshot of the independent team from the USS Camden. Riker turned and followed Geordi as nonchalantly as possible across the room. The two men bent down and Geordi picked up a tangle of wires from underneath a console. Look at the way these are frayed, Geordi instructed. there is no way this just happened. And there is no degree of incompetence that could account for this. Riker wrinkled his brow.
Are you suggesting sabotage? he asked.
Im not suggesting, Commander, Geordi corrected him. Whoever did this- did it on purpose. And they knew what they were doing, too. Riker cocked his head to the side and leaned closer to Geordi. These six wires were the first router to every major system on the station. Cutting them would not only have cut of power to the entire station, but would cause a power flow interruption large enough for the power cores emergency override system to shut things down completely.
But why? Commander Riker asked.
Thats a good question, Geordi replied, and until we find the answer, I suggest we keep this on a need-to-know basis. Riker nodded. Both men looked sternly in the direction of the Camden team members.
And I have a sinking feeling thats going to be easier said than done, Riker sermonized.
Ensign Carson drummed her fingers on her station, Nothings happening, she sang in annoyance, pointing a scowl at Lieutenant Pearson.
Adrienne, the lieutenant reproached, Thats a good thing. Pearson crossed the few steps to sit down in her chair at the center of Command/Operations. If theres nothing happening, she continued, theres nothing wrong. Ensign Carson shrugged her shoulders. She had no response to that.
Pearson tapped her com badge, Pearson to Commander Riker, she called.
How are things looking down there? she asked.
Bright, he replied happily. Pearson smiled.
Excellent, she commented.
How long do you think you can keep this up, lieutenant? he asked her.
From the readings we got this morning, seven hours will be pushing it. Best try and have your people wrap things up in six.
Very well. Youll keep me apprised if the situation changes?
Aye sir. The com link chirped closed. Pearson got up from her chair and told her small staff, Ill be back in a little while.
You didnt even consult me! Deanna Troi yelled at the distorted face of her mother on the vid screen in her office. You sent out the invitations without even letting me see one?!?
Well, little one, you sent me the guest list, so I ...
I sent you the guest list so you would stop badgering me. I never dreamt you would go ahead and send the invitations without my approval. Could you at least send one to me so that Will and I can see them?
Deanna, calm down! her mother insisted. You and I agreed on the invitation weeks ago. Just because YOU had a little problem with the wording...
I had a LITTLE problem with the wording? I had a problem? Mother- Its MY wedding! I should not have a problem with anything!
Deanna, Lwaxana called over her continued ramblings. DEANNA! Deanna stopped her pacing and turned to the screen. She heard the doors swish open behind her as she answered,
Yes, mother, Deanna turned her head to see Lieutenant Pearson standing in the door. She turned back to the screen, happy for the reprieve. Well discuss this later, she told her mother as she punched the button to close the channel. Deanna flopped down on her office couch and sighed heavily.
Did I come at a bad time? Amanda asked, stepping inside. Deanna shook her head.
No, you rescued me, Deanna told her visitor. This wedding is driving me nuts.
Dont give me that, Amanda told her, You wouldn't have it any other way. Deanna frowned at her.
I hate it when youre right, the counselor said, pulling herself out of her seat and lumbering over to her replicator. Hot chocolate, she ordered, Two of them, she added, turning to her guest. The replicator obediently placed two steaming cups of hot chocolate in front of her. She picked them up ad went back over to where she had been sitting. Dont ever get married, Deanna laughed as she handed a cup to Amanda. Amanda hung her head at that and Deanna immediately realized she may have hit a sore spot.
I, um, dont plan to, Amanda feigned a smile in return.
You know I didnt mean that, Deanna qualified.
I know. Amanda set her cup down and looked Deanna in the eye. Do you think Im making a mistake? she asked, You know, telling Wesley I wont marry him....
I think love has a way of working things out, Deanna told her. It took Will and I half a lifetime to figure out what we knew all along. I think you and Wesley have a lot to deal with; the separation being only a part of it. Theres a lot of history youll both have to overcome, but Im confident things will work out in the end.
I miss him, Amanda confessed, Sometimes so much I want to take him up on his offer to give up his traveling and settle down here. Does that make me an awful person? Deanna couldnt help but chuckle.
Amanda, what that makes you... is completely normal. Amanda smiled at her. And if you do decide to tell him that you want him here, remember its his decision ultimately. If you want to get married, tell him. Its obviously what he wants. Amanda nodded,
He sure asked me enough, she affirmed. But how will I know if Im making the right decision?
Theres really no way to know.
Youre not helping.
All I can say is this: whatever you choose to do, as long as your motive is love, its the right decision.
You make it sound so simple, Amanda commented.
Believe me, its not, Deanna contended, but it does get easier.
I wish it had never gotten this complicated to begin with. Sometimes I wish Id never met him. But most of the time...most of the time I just wish things had gone according to plan. I wish we had graduated together, gotten married, gotten posted together here, had a few kids, you know- our perfect little life.
I had one of those, Deanna told her, I was going to run away from home and marry Will. He was going to break Jim Kirks record for the youngest Captain in Starfleet history and I was going to follow him to the ends of the Universe. And Id have done it, too,
What happened? the younger girl asked.
Life happened, Deanna replied. Careers, priorities, all those unexpected things that get in the way of that happy ending you plan for. But its all worked out for Will and me, and I think it will work out for you and Wesley. A teacher once told me that our dreams always come true, but rarely the way we dream them. Amanda smiled as her com badge tweaked,
Lieutenant Pearson to Engineering! shouted the voice of Ensign Irby over the com badge. Pearson, hearing the urgency in his voice, leapt to her feet.
Im on my way, Amanda called. She turned to Deanna, We still on for girls night?
Wouldnt miss it, Deanna called after her as she charged out the door and down the hall.
All of the sudden it was very bright. Unnaturally bright. Disturbingly bright. It was particularly disturbing considering the struggle the team had gone through to get any light at all working on the lifeless Draa-Shapiro 9 science station. It was even further unsettling that the meddling crew from the USS Camden had just unceremoniously departed the station without so much as a parting snicker.
As much as the Enterprise crew couldnt help but notice the marked change in illumination, they could not be bothered to care. It took them a moment to adjust their vision to the unnatural degree of light which had suddenly flooded the room, but none of them thought to be too suspicious. Had they cared to assign blame, they would most likely have looked at the Camden crewmen, perhaps they had meddled too much with the newly installed power-converter. But the secretive and standoffish crew had not so much as gone near the hastily-rigged generator. Those who chose to question at all the abrupt boost in power to the lights most likely attributed it to some deliberate tinkering on the part of an over-diligent Enterprise crew member.
It was not until they began to notice a low hum emanating from the field converter that anyone thought to be suspicious. And still it was very little to be concerned about. the eleven-member crew on the surface knew full well that the power situation was being monitored by Lieutenant Pearson and her more than competent staff.
A crackle added itself to the hum, and an odd smell began to permeate the air. Still, the crew took little notice and continued with whatever it was they were doing. The few who were closest to the power converter would later say they thought they had heard the signature ringing of a transporter beam just before the explosion.
Lieutenant, there are some very unusual readings coming from the main power coupling. Should we contact Commander LaForge?
No, Irby, not yet, Lieutenant Pearson answered the junior engineer. Lets see if we can figure out what it is before alerting the team on the surface. We shouldnt interrupt them over a few strange readings. The lieutenant had just come in to engineering when Ensign Irby approached her with the unusual energy patterns. Show me what were talking about, she instructed him. Irby led her over to a large layout on the other side of main engineering that had been serving as temporary headquarters for the power flow to Draa-Shapiro 9.
You see, Irby started, pointing at an unusually active sensor cluster, The energy feedback levels are all wrong. Theyre way too high, and I cant figure out whats going on.
Well, Pearson answered him, It does look strange, but nothing else looks out of order. It could just be the sensors. You forget, we had to reconfigure every piece of equipment were using down there. It may very well be that the sensors just arent set up properly to read energy signatures in this form. I dont think it's anything to worry about. But, just in case, Im going to go and take a look at the converter; see for myself if anythings the matter before alerting the crew. But I also know better than to ignore it. If these readings really are correct the whole place could explode.
It seemed as though everything went up at once. The largest fireball was most definitely the result of the violent explosion of the main power converter. From there came a domino effect of smaller yet equally devastating explosions. It was over quickly. The charred cinders which were all that was left of the station were falling around the ears of the startled and injured Enterprise crewmen. Small fires still burned at random intervals around the station and the few conscious crewmen couldnt help but notice that the fires were beginning to compromise the ceiling of the structure. It was nearing collapse already when Geordi managed to tap his com badge and call out,
Away team to Enterprise! Theres been en explosion! Heavy casualties! Eleven to beam directly to sickbay!
Captain Picard was wearing a scowl when he walked into sickbay. He crossed directly to a frazzled-looking Beverly Crusher who was tending to the wounds of an equally haggard Geordi LaForge.
Everyone accounted for, doctor? he asked her sternly. Beverly nodded.
All eleven crewmen made it out, she answered, Burn injuries and mild concussions mostly, she added, Commander Riker was the hardest hit. Hes still unconscious, but Ive managed to stabilize him. The captain nodded and turned to Geordi.
Do we know what might have caused the explosion, Mr. LaForge? Picard asked. Geordi shook his head slowly.
No sir, he told the captain, It seemed to originate at the power converter. And the light had gotten very bright just prior to the explosion. But Lieutenant Pearson had been monitoring the power flow, and she would have alerted us if anything was wrong. Geordi frowned and then swatted his communicator, La Forge to Lieutenant Pearson, he called. When he didnt get an answer, the captain frowned and then tried himself.
Picard to Lieutenant Pearson. Still no answer. The captain did not look amused. Computer, locate Lieutenant Amanda Pearson, he called rather loudly into the air.
Lieutenant Pearson is not on board the Enterprise.
Will, Deanna whispered as she leaned down over his sleeping form. Will, can you hear me? His drowsy blue eyes fluttered open and he managed to half-smile up at Deanna. How do you feel? she asked. He groaned a little and rolled his eyes.
What happened? he asked her. She took a deep breath.
How much do you remember? she asked.
We were doing our survey of the station, he recalled, The crew from the Camden had just beamed out. The lights got really bright, and then I woke up here.
The power converter exploded, she explained to him. Theres practically nothing left of the station. Engineering is trying to figure out what went wrong.
The away team? he asked. Deanna smiled. Will was ever the responsible leader, immediately wanting a report on the status of the crew.
Everyones fine. You were the closest one to the converter when it exploded. You broke a few ribs and your left leg. You had a pretty bad concussion and second-degree burns. But youre going to be just fine. Her eyes began to tear up as she described his injuries. Will squeezed the hand he was holding.
Youll stay with me? he asked. She nodded,
Imzadi, she replied, Im not going anywhere. She bent down and kissed his forehead just as Beverly came in. She smiled grimly at Deanna as he passed her tricorder slowly over Wills injured leg.
How long until I can get out of here? Will asked the doctor as she studied her tricorder readings. Beverly shook her head.
Well, that depends, Commander, the doctor replied. If you promise to get some rest, I can release you this afternoon. That is IF Deanna agrees to take care of you. All three of them smiled. Will and Deanna knew that Beverly was only half-joking. Deanna squeezed Wills hand and smiled,
I dont think that will be a problem, she said to Beverly.
There was some sort of commotion in the next room. Nurses and orderlies were literally shouting at one another. Beverly heard someone call her name and darted out he door without another word. Deanna was almost sure she heard Beverly scream as she ran into main sickbay behind her.
Geordi, Data, and Lieutenant Dalmm sat around the conference table as Captain Picard stared at the screen behind him.
Sabotage? the captain asked, are you certain?
Not yet, Captain, Geordi answered him, That is, we cant prove it yet, but there is definitely evidence to support that whatever happened on Draa-Shapiro 9 was no accident. Geordi shook his head, That is, there WAS evidence, until the station exploded. Were not sure whats left down there, and we cant go back until all the fires are out.
There fires arent out yet? the Captain quizzed.
The atmosphere on Draa-Shapiro 9 has an unusually high concentration of methane gas, Data interjected, When the integrity of the station was compromised, the methane began to fuel the fires. It is highly unlikely that the burning will cease before the entire station is destroyed.
And with it all the evidence, Geordi added. Is there anything we can do to put out the fires from up here?
It is theoretically possible, Data hypothesized, to use our tractor beam to surround the station with a high density forcefield and therefore starve the fire; effectively suffocating it.
Make it so, the captain insisted. He turned to face the crewmen and tugged absently on his jacket.
Is everything alright, Captain? Geordi asked as he and the other crewmen stood from the table. Picard shook his head.
I'm afraid not, Mr. LaForge, the captain answered. Ive just received some very bad news.
Deanna tiptoed lightly through the dim stillness of Wills quarters. It was very late. She had left him to rest several hours before, after the doctors had reluctantly released him from their care in sickbay.
Deanna was exhausted. She had thought twice about spending the night in her own quarters so as not to disturb Will, but had decided against that option if for no other reason than her fierce desire not to be alone. She slipped off her jacket as she crossed the threshold to the bedroom. To her surprise, she looked over and saw Wills blue eyes open and looking at her.
I wasnt sure you were coming back tonight, he whispered to her. She crawled up onto the bed beside him and placed a soft kiss on his temple.
You were sleeping, she defended, You should have called me when you woke up, I would have come straight here. She snuggled up next to him.
I should have, he affirmed, I missed you. He kissed her lightly on the top of her head. So where were you until all hours?
I was with Beverly, she whispered in response, her head still lying on his chest.
More work on the wedding? he asked jovially. She suddenly went rigid in his arms. She slowly withdrew from his embrace and, when he finally got a fix on her eyes she looked puzzled. Deanna, what is it?
You dont know? it was more a revelation than a question. You were in sickbay, and then you were here, and... Gods- you dont know.
What? he quizzed. Deanna began to shake. She sat all the way up and pulled her knees to her chest. She couldnt bear to look him in the eye when she gave him the news.
Will, her shaky voice began, Amanda Pearson is dead. Will was silent. She could hear him sucking in a deep breath as she continued, the transporter log says that she beamed down to the station approximately eleven seconds before the explosion. A preliminary examination of her body shows that she was less than a meter from the converter when it exploded. A full autopsy will tell us more but Beverly insists on performing the examination herself, and right now, shes in no condition...
God... was the only word Will could manage to form; and then, after
a second, How is Beverly?
As well as can be expected, was Deannas tentative reply. I finally talked her into taking something- so she could sleep. We have a lot do tomorrow.
Wesley... Will exhorted. Deanna nodded.
Were going to try and contact him. Hes at Tau-Alpha C, or at least he was this morning. Amanda got a vid from him before breakfast. Will let out a shaky breath.
Did she have any family? he asked. Deanna turned her teary eyes to look at him.
She has a sister... an identical twin. But Candace is serving aboard the Titan, and theyre patrolling the Bajoran sector. Itll take at least three days to get a message to her via subspace. Were going to try and get her on a secure relay channel tomorrow- maybe we can tell her on a live line instead of just sending her a message.
God, Deanna, this is awful, Will commented. Deanna lay back down beside him and tucked her head into the crook of his neck.
Its worse than awful, Will, she told him. I dont know how were going to tell Wesley. Deanna sighed heavily. Sometimes I dont want to be the counselor, she confessed. Sometimes I just want to stay here in bed with you.
You know Id like nothing better, he encouraged, stroking her hair. But we also know that youd never do it. Youre too sensitive to people needing you not to be there.
Youre right, she confessed, snuggling up even closer to him. But still its a comforting proposition.
You can stay here as long as you want, he reassured her. He pulled her closer still. I wont let go until you make me.
It was ominously and sickeningly dark when the doors parted to allow him entry. He took the first tentative step inside as he felt himself beginning to shiver. He hesitated in calling for the lights. The darkness seemed somehow fitting for his mood and for the circumstance.
He tread lightly across the carpet, as though in fear of waking the person who should have been sleeping in the next room. He was painfully aware that she wasnt there. But still he tiptoed. It was as though his silence were to him a sign of reverence. He stared blankly at the still field of stars outside the giant window straight ahead of him.
There had been a time that he had gazed at those same stars and seen his future. Now, all he saw was the vast emptiness of the vacuum he was floating aimlessly through- alone. For the first time in his recent memory, he felt totally and utterly alone. The last time he had walked through the doors just behind him, he had been leaving for a life that promised many happy returns to this very room. He was leaving a life he knew in his heart he could always choose to come back to.
And now that life had been ripped out from under him. All that was left was the expanse of space and a profound and unshakable emptiness inside of him. He wished fervently to hide from the emptiness. He wished heartily that this had all been a bad dream. But this night was real. The deepest part of him told him so. She was gone, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Hed had his opportunity to save her life, and he had risen to the occasion admirably. But this time death would offer him no reprieve. His universe had been irrevocably damaged: depleted of its most valuable resource. He silently cursed the stars outside for their constancy. He wanted to curse out loud. But she would never approve. She had a marked distaste for coarse language and he would not go against her wishes- even now... especially now.
When the stars had sickened him to a great enough degree, he turned to face the door to the bedroom. He gingerly paced toward it, again, some part of him hearkening to the person who should be sleeping there. He had to force himself to enter, knowing it was empty.
It had been scarcely over a month since he himself had laid his head there as well. It was still all too familiar to him to be empty. He glanced around the darkened chamber.
Everything was just as he remembered. All of her things were just where she had left them, everything in its place. Her hairbrushes were still lined up on her dresser and the last bunch of flowers he had given her was still tacked over the closet door, where she had hung them to dry. Her perfume bottle was situated just so- atop her dresser and next to her porcelain music box. Everything was as it should be; except for the most important thing. She was gone. She wasnt laying curled up under her down quilt. He couldnt crawl into the bed next to her and spend the rest of the night, or the rest of a lifetime.
She was laying in the Enterprise morgue; cold and alone. He felt equally cold and alone. And scared. The possibility of facing his future without her was not one he had even momentarily entertained. He felt as though he couldnt breathe as he took the few steps over to her dresser.
He reached over and opened her tiny porcelain music box. A little holographic ballerina twirled to the delicate sound of an ancient lullaby. He couldnt help but lose himself for a moment if the chiming of the tune. He stared at the ballerina as she twirled; constantly, obliviously. His emotions got he best of him and he reached out and slammed the lid down. He hadnt known his own strength. The top of the tiny porcelain object hit the base so hard a chip came flying from it. He was suddenly very angry at himself for his outburst.
His violence toward the little box had also jiggled open the base of the thing. He knew what it was. It was the secret drawer he had always hoped he would never have to open.
Years ago, she had confided in him that drawer was where she had hidden a special message for him in case anything ever happened to her. At the time he had dismissed the action, actually rebuffing her for being morbid. But still the drawer was not empty. He pulled the yellow isolinear chip from its hiding place and stared at it. he clenched his hand into a fist around it and fell backward onto the bed.
My darling Wesley, if youre watching this- that means Im not coming back. Its hard to think about. In fact, I must confess I hadnt thought about it- not in a long time... until recently. Wesley, as Im recording this youre asleep in the next room. Well be leaving Starbase nineteen in the morning, and you wont be coming with us. I hate the thought of having to be away from you now that weve had these four months together.
I love you, Wesley. I wish I could say that to you a million more times. But I cant. I wish I could be there to hold you right now, but I guess if I could you wouldnt be watching this.
I want you to know that; if I died serving Starfleet, it was the way I wanted to go. And I want you to know that I died loving you. No matter what else I may have been doing, I loved you with every breath, including my last.
I wish I knew what else I could say that would be a comfort, but I cant think of much. I had the singular experience of losing you once, and there was nothing anyone could have said to make it better. But I do remember one thing; it does get easier.
It wont be easy, Wesley, Im not going to lie to you. But someday, one day- youll be able to think of me without any tears coming to your eyes. And until then... its okay to cry- dont let anyone tell you any differently. And dont feel guilty when that day comes. Its okay not to cry, too.
My people believe that the soul exists on two planes, and that when the body dies, the soul simply reunifies on that other plane. If that really is the case, then who knows... maybe well run into each other one day on one of those other planes of existence youre out there exploring.
But unless, or until that happens, try to be happy, Wesley. If you find someone to love you, hold on to it. If I cant be there to love you, my Wesley, its okay if you find someone who can. Dont ever think youd be betraying me by finding happiness. All I want in the Universe is for you to be happy.
I guess thats everything I have to say. If I dont come to bed soon, youre liable to wake up and catch me at this. Just remember I loved you- from our first kiss until my last breath I loved you. And my love for you can and will live forever, even if I cant.
The screen went black. So that was it. That was the message he had so dreaded watching. He wiped the moisture form his swollen face and wondered what to do next.
Computer, the time? he managed to say, leaning far back in the chair where he had been sitting.
The time is 0700 hours exactly, the computers pleasant voice answered him. Before he could register another thought the doors swished open. Wesley saw his mother standing in the door and he instinctively shot out of his chair and ran to her.
Beverly Crusher clutched her son as though he were a tiny child. He looked that helpless and forlorn as he sobbed openly on her shoulder. Beverly, too was sobbing. Neither one could speak. They were silently holding one another when they heard the claxon for a shipwide address come over the com system. The Captains voice sounded shaky as he began his diatribe.
My fellow crewmen, he began. This is your captain speaking. It is my sad duty to inform you that a member of our crew, Lieutenant Amanda Pearson, has been lost in the line of duty. She was one of the finest officers I have ever had the privilege of serving with: a young woman of exceptional abilities and strengths. Her absence will surely be felt by all aboard the Enterprise. This evening at nineteen hundred there will be a brief memorial service held on holodeck two .
Wesley was shaking uncontrollably, Why? he managed to whisper. Beverly just shook her head. She didnt have an answer. She kept both arms around her son as she walked him over to the couch in Amandas quarters and sat them both down.
Shhh, she comforted, rocking him back and forth and trying to fend of her own tears. It'll be alright. She hoped she was right.
Geordi could feel the involuntary tapping of his heel beneath the table where he sat. He glanced around the room at the red eyes of Ensigns Garner, Stewart, and Carson. He could tangibly sense the tension coming from the captain.
Captain, Geordi finally began, Youve got to let us go back down there. Picard turned sharply and faced him.
No, was Picards stern answer. I will not risk the lives of my crew until we can be sure that there is no further threat of explosions on that station.
Sir, Data added, it is reasonable to assume that the once the fires have all been extinguished, the risk to the crew would be minimal.
What makes us so sure that the second we drop the forcefield to allow for transport, the whole thing wont explode? Ensign Carson interjected.
We dont, Geordi admitted. he turned to Picard, but Captain, its a risk Im willing to take. Picard shook his head again.
Commodore Trazka contacted me this morning. He and the crew of the Camden extend their condolences and have offered to take over the investigation. I am inclined to allow them to.
Like hell we will! The voice came from Commander Riker as he stood in the doorway which had just opened to allow him entry.
Commander, Picard observed. I was not aware that you had been cleared for duty so soon.
I havent been, Riker answered, striding across the room and sitting at the conference table. Now, ask me if I care. He looked at the serious faces of the crewmen around the table. Were not going to let this get swept under some rug. Were going to find out what happened down there. WE are going to uncover what happened to that science crew and WE are going to find out what it was that caused the explosion that killed Lieutenant Pearson. He looked up at Captain Picard, who was nodding in concession to the adamant wishes of his first officer. All around the table were nodding in agreement.
Very well, the Captain conceded. He turned to Riker, Number One, he said, I want you and Lieutenant Dalmm to examine the sensor records from the moment we got here. Lieutenant Pearson obviously saw something that concerned her or she would never have gone down there. Mr. Data; youll lead an away team back to the station- see if you can finish transferring the records from the station and transmit them back to the Enterprise for analysis. Ensign Garner; Im giving you temporary command of your department, you and the rest of the Command/Operations staff will sort through whatever records the away team is able to retrieve. Lieutenant Dalmm, I expect you and your team in Tactical /Engineering to reconfigure some sort of power source for the away team to use while theyre down there. Everyone at the table nodded and pushed the chairs away from the table.
Captain, Commander Riker called as he rose from his chair. Captain Picard turned to face him. I hope I wasnt too insistent back there, but I cant just sit in my quarters and let somebody else handle this.
I understand your need for action, Number One, the captain replied. We all feel the same way, Im sure. But Im not sure that our efforts wouldn't be better spent elsewhere.
With all due respect, sir, Riker countered, This was our mission to begin with. And Pearson was suspicious of the Camden from the start. I think we owe it to her to find out whats going on here..
Earlier, Geordi came across evidence of sabotage. Deep down, I cant help but wonder if maybe the explosion that killed Lieutenant Pearson was no accident.
Indeed, Number one, if any of your suspicions are even partially correct then it would be in the best interest of Starfleet for us to stay here and conclude our investigation. Captain Picard turned to leave,
Sir, the captain turned again to face Will. Sir, will you be attending the memorial this evening? Picard nodded. I got word from Starfleet this morning. Her promotion came through. I was hoping you would present it posthumously at the service.
I would be honored, Number One, Picard answered warmly. Riker turned to leave the room.
Thank you sir. I'll be in Engineering, he told the captain as the turbolift doors shut behind him.
Will, Deanna stroked his hair as they lay on the couch in his quarters. Its only natural to try and make sense out of a tragedy. I just dont think its healthy for you to be inventing conspiracies.
Its just too damned unlikely to be a coincidence is all. The new system science station is sabotaged- that we know for a fact. Were sent to investigate. Commodore Trazka and the Camden -conveniently- show up to help us investigate. The minute we get close to having some answers, the station-conveniently- blows up.
Im not saying its above suspicion, Will, Deanna corrected, but do you have any hard evidence?
Not yet, but I intend to find some.
I just dont want you to go off half-cocked accusing a superior officer of tampering with the investigation, much less sabotage or murder. Youre very emotional right now, Will, we all are- and with good reason. Just be careful where you let your accusations fly until we know more, okay? He turned sideways on the couch so that he was facing her.
Okay, he told her. He put his hands on either side of her face and kissed her firmly on the forehead. Tears began to well up in her eyes as he did. She wrapped her arms around his neck and drew herself even closer to him.
I want answers just as badly as you do, she whispered to him. But we have to brace ourselves in case those answers dont come. Will could feel moisture on his own cheeks as he nodded and wrapped his arms tightly around her. She clung tightly to him for a few moments and then withdrew entirely from their embrace and stood up. I have to go, she told him as she wiped a wayward tear from her face. I have to meet Beverly. Get some rest, she instructed him. Youre not well yet. Ill be back in time for the service.
Alright, he agreed. He stood from his seat and kissed her lightly. Ill see you in a little while.
Deana met Beverly in the hallway just outside of Amandas quarters. The two friends put an arm around one another as they took the last several steps toward the door.
Have you tried to reach Wesley yet? Deanna asked. Beverly turned to face her.
Wesleys here, Beverlys shaky voice answered. Hes asleep in her bed right now. Deannas mouth unconsciously formed itself into the shape of a round O. It seems, Beverly continued, that whatever this intrinsic connection they share... shared- he knew.
Oh Gods- how is he?
Not well. Beverly answered firmly. And its about to get worse.
How is that? Deanna quizzed.
Ive just completed the post-mortem examination. Beverly stopped dead in her tracks and faced Deanna as her face contorted into a grimace. Deanna, she was seven weeks pregnant.
Oh, no, was all Deanna managed to say as her own fresh tears began to fall.
I dont know how Im going to tell him, Beverly confided as the two women embraced.
Well worry about that later, alright? Deanna encouraged. Beverly stepped away from her and nodded as she wiped her face. She sniffled loudly as they approached the door, which obediently slid open to allow them entry. The ships computer, in its technological coolness, now listed these quarters as unoccupied- since the filing of the death certificate the night before. Beverly hated that the doors now opened to anyone who might choose to enter.
The two women walked into the dim cabin together. Deanna instantly noticed a red light flashing on the vidcom on Amandas desk, signaling a message. She hesitantly walked over and punched the button- whoever it was, they were going to have to tell them sooner or later.
Onto the screen popped the image of who could only be Amandas twin sister. The girl looked identical to Lieutenant Pearson save the hairstyle and makeup. Her bubbly smile was in stark contrast to the moods of the women watching. And then she spoke,
Hi Sis! Just me... I cant believe I missed you- AGAIN. My ship finally comes close enough to a relay station that we could actually TALK and what are you doing? Three guesses and the first two dont count- right? What- do you work 24-7 now? Gheez, Mandy- youve got to slow down sometime. Have a little fun- maybe?
Speaking of work, though- I have news. You are looking at the SENIOR helm officer aboard the USS Titan. Im pretty sure my elevation in stature has something to do with the fact that Commander Hampton is incessantly hitting on me.... Not that thats a bad thing- actually hes kind of cute- in a more powerful than thou sort of way; ya know.
Listen to me rambling about random hook-ups when what I really want to know is- have you told Wesley youve changed your mind yet? And dont you dare tell me youre re-thinking your decision- again. You two were meant to be together , get over it and get on with your life.
Ooh- and I heard a rumor about who our next Captain is gonna be- youre likely to find interesting. Ill tell you later. Anyway I guess thats it. If you get this message in the next couple hours, try me back- never know... we might still be in range. T-T-F-N - ta ta for now!
Deanna turned to Beverly, The message was sent half an hour ago, she told her. We may can still get in touch with her.
Let me, a weak voice from behind them asked. The two women turned to see Wesley standing in the threshold of the bedroom.
Wesley, Beverly began, how long have you been awake?
Long enough to hear Candys vid. Let me tell her mom, please. Shes the one person in the Universe I need to talk to most right now. Beverly and Deanna both nodded
We have things to do for the service, Deanna mentioned.
Well be back in an hour, Beverly added. The two women turned slowly and left the room.
It had been more than an hour when Deanna and Beverly finally returned to Amandas quarters. They walked in to find Wesley sitting on the couch, staring blankly at a photo PADD. Beverly walked over and out her arm around her son. She looked down at the image on the PADD. It was a picture shed seen before.
The picture was of Wesley and Amanda. They had their arms around one another and the both of them were wearing giant smiles, and a great deal of thick, brown mud.
Where was this taken? Beverly asked. Wesley turned a little to face her.
In the mountains, he answered. Just before the start of senior year. A bunch of us got a cabin up there for a week. His eyes began to glass over as he continued. We had gone on a- hike- sort of. It had rained really hard that morning and the ground was slick . We were holding hands and I slipped; dragged both of us down in to the mud. He chuckled a little through his tears the memory. She was furious at first. She didnt like to get dirty. Candy laughed at her, so she picked up a big gob of mud and flung it at her. Candy threw back. Next thing we knew, we were having a mud fight. We all got covered. Then Candy took this picture.
Did you talk to... Deana interjected. Wesley nodded.
I dont think its sunk in yet, he observed. She didnt even cry. He looked up at his mother and then back at Deanna, She gave me some instructions. Deanna walked the few steps to sit next to Wesley on the couch.
Anything we need to do? the counselor asked. Wesley sniffed loudly as he nodded and continued.
We need to take her body home, to Tarra 6, so she can be buried next to her mother. Theres some ritual, I dont know exactly. Candys going to get in touch with the family they have there- theyll make the arrangements. And Candy wants her music box, and the pictures. There are a few other things, too. we can ship them to the Titan. The quilt on her bed, he continued, his lower lip beginning to tremble, Candy says shed want me to have it. He sobbed loudly and collapsed his head into his hands. I cant do this! he whispered, I cant.
Deanna and Beverly each put an arm around him and held him as he cried. The three of them were still huddled together on the couch when the doors opened to reveal a tired and disheveled- looking Commander Riker. He stepped lightly into the room.
Its almost time, he told the three of them. We should go. They nodded. Slowly, Deanna and Beverly helped the still sobbing Wesley to his feet.
The service was somber, yet crowded. It seemed as though the entire ships compliment had turned out for the memorial. Wesley was doing his best just to stay standing.
He remembered feeling hurt, and just a little bit angry when Amanda had confided in him that she hadnt attended his memorial service at Starfleet Academy when they mistakenly thought he had died on Dorvan V. He now wholeheartedly forgave her. He now completely understood. He would not have wished this torture on her.
And torture was exactly what it felt like.. He was fighting with every ounce of strength he could muster not to collapse into a screaming. blubbering heap on the floor. He wept openly and didnt care who was watching. He didnt have the strength to fight back his tears, too.
The setting alone was enough to make him cry. It was her garden. She had re-created for the holodeck the garden at her grandmothers house on Tarra 6 where she had played as a child. Amanda, not being very adept at using the holodeck, had never even attempted to design another program. They had spent many hours together in this place while he had been aboard the ship just a little over a month ago.
And then there was the music. Data had managed to learn some of her favorite songs and performed them flawlessly on his violin. One of them had been the first song they had ever danced to- she had talked him into it at a fancy cotillion at the Academy. The music kept yanking him back to that memory.
She had begged him to go. He hated such stuffy events, but she was required to be there by the Student Academic Advisory Council. He remembered asking her what she was wearing to the party and how she had made a big deal out of not telling him. He hacked into her garment replicator to see the dress so he could match the ribbons to her corsage. Somewhere, in his things, he still had ribbons from that corsage.
He kept picturing her in that ice blue dress; smiling at him the way she had that night when they had danced. They hadnt been together long enough for her to even know how much he hated to dance, and yet he had told her he loved her for the first time that night.
And this night he would have to tell her he loved her for the last time.
Wesley snuck through the darkness in main sickbay. He felt it was the only thing to do. He was as reasonably certain as he could be through the cloud over his brain, that he wasn't supposed to be doing this. He slid stealthily through the unmarked doors at the back of the room, silently grateful that his mother had not thought to lock them. An eerie blue light provided all the illumination and the air in the room seemed colder than it should have been, and still. He could feel the stillness in every part of himself.
And then he saw her. She was laid out on a flat table, covered by a flimsy green blanket, with an inoperative bio-scanner pushed down to just past her feet. He wanted to look away, he couldnt stand to see her like this, but still he couldnt manage to tear his eyes from her still form.
He crossed slowly to where she lay, his eyes taking in this last image of her. Her eyes were closed, her face still smudged with the soot and grime the explosion had deposited there. Her long hair was mussed and lay in tousled bunches on either side of her head. He reached down and ran his fingers through her tangled tresses. His touch was careful as he smoothed the hair that lay next to her face.
He gently brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. He recoiled at its coolness. He could feel himself beginning to shake as he caressed her face, running his fingertips gingerly over her cheeks and eyes. He ran his fingers along the length of her arm and picked up her hand from where it lay. He couldnt get over how cold she was.
He looked away for a second and spotted a stray towel laying on a table nearby. he placed her hand just where it had been and took a the few steps to pick up the towel. He then turned to the replicator on the near wall. He heard his own shaky voice ask for,
A bowl of warm water. There was a soft whirring sound from the computer as it complied with his request. He picked up the bowl and went carefully back to where Amandas body lay. He set the bowl of water down at her waist and dipped the end of the towel in to it. He wrung the excess water from the towel and began to gently wipe away the smudges of dirt from her face.
He found it odd that he didnt feel like crying as he delicately washed the soot from her face and hands. In fact, he felt almost guilty that he wasnt crying. But he also felt like he might not have any tears left.
He silently studied each of her features as he reverently ran the damp cloth across her face until it was clean. He wanted to remember every detail of her. The dirt had covered a large bruise on her forehead and burns on her left palm and arm. Most of her injuries had been tended to by his mother during the post-mortem examination, Wes could tell there were freshly regenerated areas of skin all over her.
He delicately and methodically wiped the dirt from each of her fingers. He was so wrapped up in his task that he didnt notice when the doors to the room opened. His attention never wavered from her lifeless face until he heard his mother call to him,
Wesley, he looked like a frightened animal when he looked up at her, but still his hands kept at his task. when you werent in your... her quarters, she began, taking a tentative step toward him, I thought I might find you here. She came closer to him and looked inquisitively at him as she tried to make sense of what he was doing. He felt hot tears spring into his eyes. His voice cracked loudly as he told his mother,
She hates it when her hands are dirty. Beverly nodded in understanding. She walked slowly around to the other side of the table to where Wesley was standing and put an arm around him. He was actually prepared for a mild scolding when she turned to him and said,
You come and find me when youre finished here, alright? Wesley, a little stunned at his mothers tender tone, just nodded. Beverly kissed her son on his temple before tuning away and retreating from the room.
By the time she reached her quarters after the service, Deanna was physically leaning on Will for support. She was exhausted; every fiber of her told her that. Her eyes were barely open as they reached the door.
Once they were inside, Will let go the arm hed had around her for the entire evening and took hold of her hands. He led her slowly into her bedroom and motioned for her to sit on the bed. She complied without hesitation. Her head fell, her chin to her chest, as she sat, fighting the urge to fall over asleep right then and there. He then knelt at her feet and pulled her shoes and socks off for her. He stood and crawled upon the bed behind her. He slipped her jacket from her tired shoulders and massaged them gently a few strokes.
He reached over to the nightstand and picked up her hairbrush. He ran the brush through her dark locks several times, working through the knots the past few days stresses had left there. He then dispatched with the hairbrush and ran his fingers through her soft hair, lifting it off her neck far enough for him to plant a tiny kiss at her hairline. he leaned around and whispered in her ear,
Want me to run you a bath? Her answer came in the form of a soft,
Mmmm, and a single nod of her head. He kissed her earlobe lightly before bounding off the far side of the bed and into the bathroom.
Deanna heard the water beginning to run into the tub. She took a deep breath as she stood and untucked her shirt from her pants. Will came up behind her and caught hold of her shirt tail, pulling her top over her head. She raised her arms obediently as he lifted her shirt off her body and flung it to the floor. She turned around to face him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
He pulled her to him, fully encircling her in his embrace.
I got word from Admiral Neychaev today, he told her. She wanted to RSVP to our wedding party. Deanna looked up at him with her eyes, never breaking their embrace. And she says she thinks theyll be offering me another command in six months or so. Deanna stepped away from him and took his hands. She walked a few steps toward her bathroom s she asked,
And what did you tell her? He pulled her back into his arms as he replied,
I told her that I would have to discuss that with my beautiful bride. Deanna smiled up at him.
Its what youve always wanted, she reminded him.
Its entirely up to you, he told her. She took a deep breath and nodded her head.
I think we should go, she said.
I love you, he whispered, holding her still tighter.
Imzadi, she whispered. He kissed the top of her head gently. I dont know how Im going to be as a captains wife, she confessed, But youre already doing a great job at being a counselors husband. He chuckled as he rubbed her bare arms with his hands.
Come on , Mrs. Riker, he teased, stepping back from her , Your bathtub awaits.
The low roar of activity in cargo bay one was an unusual assault on Commander Rikers ears. He charged through the doors with a determined stride and a perplexed Commander Data in tow. Teams from nearly every department aboard the Enterprise were swarming about the charred remnants of the power converter that had just been beamed there from Draa-Shapiro 9.
Commander LaForge! Riker hollered in to the group. Geordi came darting through the sea of blue and yellow uniforms to where the commander was standing. Geordi didnt have the chance to so much as utter a salutation before Riker ordered,
Geordi, I want you to assemble all of your team leaders, collate your data, and meet me in the conference lounge in fifteen minutes. Riker sounded very insistent, almost panicked.
Is everything alright? Geordi inquired. Riker shook his head. He clenched his jaw before revealing,
Ive been over the sensor logs, Geordi. The energy feedback levels from just before the station exploded were off the charts. Thats what Pearson went down there for. Ensign Irby said she was afraid it was just a sensor problem; that the sensors might be picking things up incorrectly because of the unusual configuration of the power grid on the station. I had Data download Starfleets specs on the experimental systems and Lieutenant Pearsons notes on how she put this particular one together. Theres no explanation for why we were getting feedback levels like we were. According to Pearsons notes and Datas calculations, the sensors should have been able to read the levels just fine.
You mean the explosion was... Geordi began to extrapolate,
Intentional, Riker finished his sentence for him. Geordis mouth fell open.
We had uncovered evidence of what looked like sabotage on the station, but everything blew up before we could prove anything.
Exactly, Riker answered him. I have a sinking feeling that whoever knows what happened to the station is also responsible for the explosion.
To... cover their tracks? Geordi bean nodding, things were beginning to fall into place.
We were getting too close to finding out the truth, Riker added, So the party responsible had to return to the scene of the crime and effectively destroy the evidence.
But who could possibly have known we were getting close? Geordi asked. Riker just squared his jaw and cocked his head. Commander, youre not accusing...
Im not accusing anybody of anything, Riker cut him off. Yet, he finished. But Im operating on the hypothesis that the Camdens arrival here had more to do with the failure of this station that even Pearson suspected.
I dont know what to say, Geordi was shaking his head, dumbfounded.
Just say youll have your team leaders ready to brief Captain Picard in fifteen minutes. I want to present him with this evidence before Commodore Trazka has the chance to make a run for it. Ive also got Lieutenant Dalmm and Ensign Irby retracing our automatic sensor sweeps to see if we can get any indication of unusual power flow coming from the Camden around the time of the explosion. I know its a long shot, but I want every piece of evidence available to take to the captain. Geordi folded his arms, tucking the PADD he had been holding under his arm. He nodded as he assured Riker,
Well be ready Commander. Riker nodded once and then turned on his heel and headed out the door.
Will Riker was being trodden upon by a million emotions at once when he found his way into ten-forward. Deanna was with Beverly, packing Lieutenant Pearsons personal affects to be sent to her sister, and Will didnt want to interrupt. He looked across the room to where the windows stretched across the back wall, and at the stars outside. His eye was caught by a solitary figure standing off to one side, also staring out the window into the expanse of space. He strode slowly and purposefully toward the other man.
Wes, he said softly when he had come up just behind him. Wesley turned to him and feigned a polite smile as he sunk into the nearest chair.
Hi, Wesleys quiet voice said in return. Will sat himself in the chair just opposite Wes.
You look like you could use some company, Will observed. Wesley nodded as he stirred the contents of his glass.
Actually, Wes admitted, I came up here because Guinan always seemed to have some appropriate wisdom to impart, but shes not here. Will nodded,
It was the strangest thing. One day, she came up to the bridge, said
goodbye to Picard, and then she just...left. Nobody seems to know where she
Thats too bad, Wes whispered, sniffling a little, I could use a little wisdom right now. Will leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers over his beard.
Im sure you could, Wes, he said, I wish I had some to give you. Wesley brought his face up to look Riker in the eye.
Its like its still not real, he whispered, I mean, I saw her... last night... I snuck into sickbay and saw her-body. I touched her, but it's still not real. I... I wake up in the morning and shes supposed to be there. But then shes not- and I have to remember why, and... I just cant let it be real.
I can only imagine how youre feeling, Wes, Will told him. But I know this has to be awful for you. Wesley took a long drink from the mug in his hand. His eyes were downcast, seemingly staring into it. Wesleys stare couldnt help but draw Rikers eye. Will cocked his head and asked,
Is that a...tea bag? Wesley smiled grimly, still staring into his glass, and answered,
Yeah. He closed his eyes, fighting back fresh tears. Amanda... he began, She...refused- to drink tea from the replicator. She said it never turned out right; not even the Captains recipe. So she keeps... she-um-kept... a cache of these tea bags in her dresser. I came across them when I was helping mom and Deanna... Wes fell silent. Will exhaled loudly.
You know what the worst part is? Wes asked, totally changing the subject. Then, before giving Riker a chance to respond, he continued, I know... that no matter what happens from here on out; nobody is ever going to love me like she did. I never knew people fell in love like that in real life- I thought it was just something you read in books- you know? She... he looked down in to his glass as his hands began to shake. She made me tea... and she tucked me in, took care of me when I got sick.... She was...she was my smile. And Ill never find that again.
I wont lie to you Wes, Will reasoned, You probably wont find that again. Love like that doesnt just happen every day. In fact; some people go their whole lives and never find that kind of all-encompassing, life-changing, true and undeniable love. Those of us lucky enough to have someone like that just need to realize how fortunate we are to share our lives with that person for whatever time we have. You know, they say, tis better to have loved and lost... Wesley tensed up as he rose abruptly from his chair, he looked Will square in the eye as he challenged,
Ever try it? before turning and leaving the room.
Commander Riker was still slumped in his chair in ten-forward, contemplating the gravity of Wesleys last statement when his introspection was interrupted by the familiar tweeter of his com badge. He tapped it mindlessly as the Captains voice called to him,
Commander Riker report to my ready room. Will responded dryly,
On my way, as he pulled himself out of the chair and made his way to the exit.
By the time he reached the captains ready room, Wills head had almost cleared. He walked into the room and glowered at the sour faces of the two people who met him there. Deanna was standing in the middle of the room with her arms wrapped around herself. She was looking at Captain Picard, who was sitting in his chair. They were both shaking their heads.
Have a seat, Commander, the captain instructed. Will complied, taking several steps to sit across from Picard. Will spun the chair around to face Deanna, he looked at her, clearly concerned. She responded to him by closing the distance between them and taking hold of his hand.
Whats going on ? Will asked, unable to stand the silent tension any longer. The captain exhaled loudly and then began,
Ive just gotten off subspace with Commodore Trazka, Picard explained. I presented him with the evidence of sabotage you brought to me. I had asked the counselor to witness the conversation in hopes that she could offer some insight into his reaction.
You were right, Will, Deanna interjected, squeezing his hand. He looked up at her as she continued, He is responsible. I could sense that he knows much more than hes telling us. And he wants us to fail, that was clear. Riker ran his free hand over his beard.
So whats our next step? he asked. Picard sat back in his chair as he replied,
We have to tread very lightly, Will. Im not sure we have enough evidence to present to Starfleet that would prove conclusively that Commodore Trazka was responsible for the destruction of that station. Were looking into his whereabouts when the science team was last heard of, as well as continuing our investigation into the direct cause of the power surge that caused the explosion.
We cant just let him get away with it, Will challenged.
Im not suggesting letting him get away with anything, Number One, Picard rebutted, But Im also not going to present incomplete evidence to Starfleet. If were not thorough enough, a board of inquiry may find theres no proof of wrongdoing and close the case without further investigation. All Im suggesting is that we bide our time and wait until we can prove beyond doubt that he is behind this. Will nodded his head. Deanna let go of his hand and sidled up next to him, sliding her arm across his shoulder.
Captain, Deanna started, Captain, I know its against procedure, but might we ought to ask Wes Crusher to aid in the investigation? He has a lot emotionally invested in this, and his... special abilities might be a substantial help. Picard nodded, crossing his arms over his chest.
Counselor, the captain answered, You have my permission to request Mr. Crushers participation in this investigation. He may very well have insights that will be of invaluable help to us. Deanna bit her lip.
Captain, she replied, with all due respect, I think you should be the one to ask him. Picard frowned, but nodded.
Very well, counselor, he agreed. A loud voice suddenly broke through the somber mood in the ready room,
Garner to Commander Riker, the frantic voice called, Please report to Command/Operations ASAP. All three of them shot out of their chairs and into the turbolift.
Beverly Crusher crept softly into her quarters. She felt drained. She felt exhausted. And she felt her heart breaking as she looked at her son; his chin propped on the back of her couch cushions, staring out into space. Hi, Wes, she whispered. Wesley turned halfway around to look at her and answered,
Hi mom. Beverly went to a cabinet under a shelf where sat a picture of Wes and Amanda from an Academy Annual. She bent down and pulled a decanter from the cabinet as well as a pair of glasses. She poured the rust-colored liquid from the bottle into the two glasses and walked the short distance to hand one to Wesley. He accepted the glass and took a pronounced drink of its contents. His face contorted into a sour grimace as he swallowed it. Beverly was situating herself on the couch next to him when he asked,
What is this? Beverly shrugged her shoulders and answered,
Guinan gave the bottle to me just before she left, for a rainy day.
Do you think she saw this coming? Wes asked. Beverly took a stiff drink and ten a deep breath before she responded,
I dont think anyone could have seen this coming. She reached over and took her sons hand. How are you holding up? she asked, turning her body slightly to face him.
I dont know the answer to that, mom, Wes admitted. One minute, I think Im going to be okay, but the next... Im in a panic, or Im so scared I cant think straight. And sometimes Im so numb that its like Im not even here. And sometimes... sometimes it feels like someone has just reached into my chest and ripped my heart out. Beverly nodded her head.
I remember that feeling, she told him, choking on her own voice. And you feel so alone because you know the only person who ever could have understood is the person youve lost. And youre not sure how youre supposed to keep on living. And you hate every single person who tells you itll be alright because its not alright. And its not fair. And you want to yell and scream and throw things, but you dont even have the will to get up out of bed. Wesleys shoulders had slumped over and he was nodding his head. Ive been through it, Wes, Beverly added.
Dad, Wesley whispered. Bev nodded.
Yeah, she answered, it was a long time ago, but I remember how it felt.
Does it ever get any easier? Wes asked. Beverly managed a slight smile as she said,
A little. She set her glass down and put her arm around her son. I wont lie to you, Wesley, she told him, This isnt something youll ever get over. But its something you can and will get through. And theres a difference. It took me a long time after your father died to reclaim a semblance of my life, but I did. And, eventually, I was able to look back and be happy that I had the time with him that I did. Itll be the same for you, I promise. One day, and Im not saying this will come soon, but one day youll be able to just be grateful that you ever had her in your life. She was a special girl, Wes, and she loved you so much.... You two were lucky to have had each other. Wesley took another drink from his glass.
I know, mom, he affirmed, scooting closer to her, I know.
When Ensign Garner met Riker, Troi, and Captain Picard at the turbolift in Command/Operations, he was positively jittery. What is it, Ensign? Riker asked as the three stepped form the turbolift toward where the young man was standing. Garner began walking across the small room as he began to explain,
Well sir, you see...
Spit it out, son, the Captain ordered. Garner jumped a little and then continued walking and talking.
Carson and Stewart were under orders from Lieutenant Pearson to perform a thorough scan of the planets surface. And, even after all thats happened, they felt compelled to carry out her orders. He stopped in front of a display screen on the far wall of the room. And its a good thing they did, he added. On the far side of the planet, here, he pointed to a flashing square on the screen. They came across a pattern of well-organized carbon and water molecules, not indigenous to this planet... sirs- it could only be,
Human remains, Riker finished, looking sternly at the captain. Picard nodded in agreement.
But, that isnt all, Garner injected. Commander Data managed to upload nearly all of records of the station, including their transporter log. Sir, theres no way the team was transported from the station under their own power. Their transported just didnt have that kind of range. And they couldnt have gotten that far any other way. They didnt have any sort of ground transport that could have gotten them there, and even if they had, there was no sign of mechanical wreckage anywhere near these coordinates. They couldnt have survived out in those conditions for more than a few minutes, sir. The only answer is that they had to have been transported off the station by a ship in orbit.
Trazka, Picard growled.
Pardon, Garner quizzed.
You may have just confirmed our theory for us, Ensign, Riker answered.
Is there any way we can beam them aboard? asked Deanna. The captain exhaled loudly.
Agreed, counselor, Picard said. Ensign, youll take these coordinates to the transporter chief personally. See what we can do about getting them beamed aboard without giving up anything to the Camden.
Aye sir. Garner answered, turning and charging toward the door. Picard turned to his first officer,
Youll keep me informed, Number One, he instructed. I have some, he looked at Deanna, business to attend to.
When the chime rang, Beverly got up from her seat on the couch and went to greet whomever was there. She smiled when she saw it was the captain standing there as the doors parted. Jean-Luc, she greeted, Please, come in. The two of them walked a few steps in to the cabin.
Wesley, Jean-luc regarded the young man still seated on the couch.
Captain, Wesleys soft voice responded.
Wesley, Picard began, taking a few steps toward him. I have a matter to discuss with you... a matter of some delicacy.
Ill be... Beverly began, in an obvious attempt to give the two men some privacy.
No, doctor, Picard countered, stay. Beverly nodded. She went over to the couch and took her earlier seat beside her son.
Please, Captain, sit down, she encouraged. Picard nodded and walked the remaining two steps to sit in a chair jut to Wesleys right.
Wesley, Im afraid weve kept a few things from you, the captain admitted. Not intentionally, he qualified, but still, there are things you had ought to be told.
Sir? Wesley quizzed.
Wesley, I know you and Lieutenant Pearson were...involved, Picard began. Wes nodded.
Yes sir, he affirmed.
Well, Wes, it seems as though the circumstances of her death have come into question.
Yes, Wesley, the captain answered. It seems that we have reason to believe; that is... we have evidence that suggests that the explosion on Draa-Shapiro 9 was the result of sabotage.
Sabotage, Beverly chimed in, Jean-luc, are you sure?
No, Beverly, he replied, were not sure. Not yet.
Who could have... Wesley began, I mean, who could possibly...
The evidence points to Commodore Trazka.
Trazka?!? Wes exclaimed, hopping off the couch and turning to the window. He pointed at the Camden, orbiting nearby. Is that whos on that ship thats out there? He turned back to face the Captain, Is that why theyre here? he asked, getting obviously ruffled.
Yes, that is Commodore Trazkas ship, why?
Sir, Wesley answered, beginning to pace across the room, showing the first real signs of life hed shown in days. Sir, Trazka hated Amanda. He hated the whole new command system. I was at a hearing once, when they were approving the new curriculum. I thought the two of them were going to come to blows. Hes hateful, and spiteful and closed-minded... and, quite frankly sir, Amanda made a pretty big fool of him at that hearing. Wesley smiled at the Captain, She could argue like no one Ive ever met.
So what youre saying, Wesley, Beverly began,
What Im saying is; if you think he was responsible for this- he was. I wouldnt put it past him. Wesley clenched his fists at his side. Im gonna kill him.
Hold on, Beverly instructed, standing up to look Wesley in the eye. Youll do no such thing. She turned to the Captain, still in his chair. You say you have evidence, Jean-luc?
Yes, Beverly, Picard responded, rising from his chair. Evidence that cannot be entirely proven. Were working on retrieving what we think may be the remains of the stations crew. Weve also begun analyzing our own sensor logs to try and find any additional evidence that would point to Trazkas involvement. Wes squared his shoulders. He turned slowly to the captain, his face deadpan, but his eyes alert and determined. In an even and professional tone, he asked,
What can I do?
No, here.. Wesley was huddled with Ensigns Carson and Garner around a small display screen in Command/Operations. He pointed at a small readout on the console. Look for unusual deflector activity, he instructed, or a surge in their shields, or unusual particle decay patterns. If I wanted to hide a power transfer, thats where Id put it. And look at the stations logs, too. That power converter had a continuous readout. If we can pinpoint when a transfer took place, maybe we can trace it back to the Camden. Just dont leave any stones unturned. The most innocuous looking abnormality may be the clue were looking for.
The two ensigns nodded as they began re-configuring their sensor grid to do just as he said. Wesley took a step back from the screen and sighed heavily. Ensign Carson turned her chair around to look at him.
Its good to have you here, Wes, she commented, smiling. Amanda would have wanted you to be the one to get to the bottom of this. She let the smile fall from her face as she continued, And we ARE going to get to the bottom of this.
Thanks Adrienne, he replied. I know we will. He added, We have to.
Captain, Ive examined their bodies, Beverly asserted, and I can say with complete certainty that they were alive when they were put there. They died of exposure to the conditions on the planet. The captain and the doctor were sitting in her office in sickbay as she briefed him.
Has the team in Command/Operations come across any additional evidence
as to how they got there? he asked her, leaning back in his chair.
No, Jean-luc, they havent, Beverly answered, crossing her arms over her chest. There is no indication that they got there of their own volition, if thats what youre asking.
That is what I was asking, the captain confirmed. Im going to contact Starfleet with our preliminary findings. Admiral Cipra was a champion of the new system, I think she would be intrigued by these latest developments.
Im sure she would be, Beverly affirmed. But do you think our case is strong enough? I would hate for Starfleet to tell us to drop this investigation just because we came forward prematurely.
We cant wait any longer, Beverly. he challenged. Only an Admiral could order the Camdens logs examined. If we get the records and they dont show any evidence of wrongdoing aboard the Camden, I will be prepared to eat my share of crow. But unless or until we see evidence to the contrary, Im operating on the hypothesis that Commodore Trazka was directly responsible for what happened on that station, the deaths of the science team, and the explosion that killed Lieutenant Pearson. Picard stood from his seat. On his cue, Beverly also stood.
Im going to check on Wesley, she told the captain. Im worried about him, she confided.
Beverly, Jean-luc began, his tone noticeably softer, you know, if theres anything I can do...
I know, Jean-luc, Bev answered without his having to finish. She took a step to him and the two of them shared a brief embrace. But Im okay right now, she assured him. I can distract myself, by taking care of Wes. And Im glad youre letting him help with the investigation; maybe he can distract himself. His eyes were almost clear when he left for Command/Operations this afternoon. It was the first time hes had any life in him since he got here.
Hell be alright, Beverly, the captain reassured her. Its just going to take some time, thats all. Beverly nodded slightly as she looked him in the eye.
I hope youre right, Jean-luc, she told him. I sure hope youre right.
Deanna! Will called into the darkness of his quarters. The computer had told him she was in here, but upon entry, the room appeared deserted. Deanna? he called out again.
Im in here, her voice called from the far side of his cabin. He crept through the blackness in his living room toward the sound of her voice. He came in to his bedroom to find it, too, was pitch black. The only light in the entire place came in the form of a tiny, flickering sliver escaping from underneath the bathroom door. He went to the door and a mischievous grin crossed his face as it slid open.
Beneath a mound of bubbles, and illuminated by several odd-shaped candles, Deanna smiled at him from the bathtub.
Whats all this? he asked, still grinning from ear to ear.
As if you have to ask... she teased.
Youre taking a bubble bath, he observed, in the middle of the afternoon.
Correction, she injected, WE are taking a bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon. And then WE are getting into bed and not so much as coming up for air until morning.
But what about... he began to protest, suddenly not believing his own ears that he was arguing about this.
Your shift is over, she informed him. If you check the duty roster, Commander, you have been relieved of duty for the remainder of the day. Exhaustion. Counselors orders. He chuckled.
And is the bubble bath counselors orders too? he asked, cocking one eyebrow.
A therapeutic necessity, she assured him, smiling.
Any other therapeutic necessities I need to know about counselor? he asked, pulling his tunic off over his head. Deanna giggled as she scooped up a handful of bubbles and blew them off her hand directly at him.
Youll see, Commander, she assured him. Youll see.
Commander Riker was smiling when he walked through the door to the tiny office. The miniscule space had been the private work area of Lieutenant Pearson during her stay aboard the Enterprise, and now, Wesley Crusher was sitting behind her desk, a most peculiar expression on his face.
Commander, we found it, Wes informed him as he took the few steps to the chair facing the desk.
We found it, sir, Wes reiterated. We found exactly what we were looking for. Wes spun around the small display unit on the desk and told the commander to, look, here. Will did as he said, looking closely at the image on the screen.
Its really ingenious how they did it, Wes observed. They hit the converter with several, slowly graduated bursts of energy from their deflector and shield grids simultaneously. Anyone watching would have dismissed the energy readings as normal deviations in energy output. But, on closer examination, these pulses were far too regular and way to focused to be random pattern fluctuations. The energy was being directed straight to the station-straight to the power converter. We were able to triangulate every one to the exact spot where the power grid was set up. But even with that evidence, Trazka may have still had some plausible deniability. But not when you add this. Wesley punched a button on the console and the display changed. The highest level of energy transfer, the one that triggered the explosion, occurred simultaneously to the team from the Camden transporting off the station.
They masked an energy beam in their transporter signal? Riker asked, knowing the answer.
Exactly, Wes confirmed. From that moment, the circuits were overloading. The station was doomed from the moment those people transported out. Did you notice the lights getting really bright, or a hum just before the place went up? Riker nodded,
The lights did seem awfully bright just before...
Right after the Camden team beamed out, Wes affirmed. If we could examine the Camdens tactical and transporter logs, Im sure they would confirm everything weve found.
Im sure it would, Wes, Riker agreed. And, he added, you just may get your chance. Captain Picard is briefing Admiral Cipra at Starfleet Command as we speak. Were hoping shell see fit to open a formal inquiry, and order full disclosure of the logs from the Camden.
Its hard to believe, you know, Wes commented, slouching in his chair.
You mean that a Starfleet Commodore would go so far as to destroy a science station, wiping out its entire compliment,
How many people were on that station? Wesley interrupted.
Twenty-six, Will answered.
And Trazka just scooped them up and deposited them on the far side of the planet?
Looks like it. And when we came to snoop, he had to get rid of the evidence. Im sure he never dreamt we would find the science team. Im sure he never imagined we would choose to stay after he so gallantly offered to take this investigation off our hands. As far as I can figure, and Deanna agrees, he got desperate. He knew he was about to be found out, so he did the only thing he could think of not to get caught. He tried his best to destroy any evidence that might lead us to him.
He could have gotten away with it, Wes observed.
He almost did, Riker agreed, What I guess he never figured on was that explosion killing anyone. He also gambled on our not being able to put out the fires as fast as we did.
Do you think he knew she was down there? Wes asked, his voice a little less even. Will shook his head,
He couldnt have, Wes. The transporter log has her beaming to the station just eleven seconds before the converter exploded. The whole thing had already been set into motion before she ever got there.
Do you think she knew it was about to blow?
Ensign Irby said she was afraid that might happen. But she thought the readings could have been a sensor glitch, so she beamed down to take a look for herself before disrupting the mission.
That was Amanda, Wes asserted, Always putting the mission first.
She was a good officer, Will told him. Wesley sat back in the chair and whispered,
Yeah. Wesley bit his lip and inhaled slowly. He crossed his arms over his chest as he added, She deserved better. Will nodded. She deserved better than to die at the hand of a superior officer; thats for damn sure. And she deserved better than for me to be off exploring the farthest reaches of the galaxy.
You shouldnt feel guilty about that, Wes, Will consoled him, She never blamed you for leaving.
I know, Wes confessed, I offered to stay... the last time I was here. Things were so great, I couldnt stand the thought of leaving again. I asked her to marry me probably a dozen times before she finally told me not to bring it up again. She thought, if I stayed here, I would somehow be selling myself short. I shouldnt have listened. I should have been here...
Wes, Will asserted, Do you think that your having been here would have changed what happened? Do you think you could have stopped her form going down there? Wesley shook his head.
An army couldnt have stopped her from going down there if she thought she needed to go, he affirmed
She was proud of what youre doing, Will continued. And shed be proud of what youve done here. Wes smiled grimly.
She would be, he agreed. Wesley stood from his chair and looked Riker in the eye. We had really ought to show this to the Captain. Will nodded as he stood up and followed Wesley toward the door.
Jean-Luc, Im ordering all records of the USS Camden opened for your inspection, sounded the confident voice of Admiral Cipra over the vidcom in the captains ready room. I expect a full report when I arrive tomorrow morning at 0900 hours. She pursed her lips and shook her head. I hope youre wrong, Jean-luc, she told him. For all our sakes, I hope youre wrong.
The screen went dark just as the ready room doors swished open.
Captain, Commander Riker greeted as he and Wesley made their way intently across the room.
What have we come upon? the captain asked.
I think weve got him, sir, Wesley answered.
Mr. Crusher and the team in Command/Operations have come across conclusive evidence of Trazkas culpability in what happened on that station. Riker told Picard.
Conclusive? Picard quizzed. In what way? Riker clenched his fists at his side as he replied,
They have been able to detect targeted energy bursts aimed directly at the power converter we installed. These bursts would have slowly overloaded the unit, eventually causing it to explode. They might never have been detected, but it seems they got impatient.
Either that, or our away team was way too close to figuring something out. Wesley added. He may have thought they were running out of time, so they concealed a high-level energy transfer in the transporter bean that took the Camden team off the surface. It overloaded the converter in less than a minute.
I we get authorization to examine the transporter and tactical logs from the Camden, we should have all the proof we need to implicate Trazka and convene a general Court Martial, Riker asserted.
Well, Number One, Picard replied, rising from his chair and walking around the desk to where the other two men were standing. Ive just gotten authorization from Admiral Cipra to do just that. She will be arriving at 0900 tomorrow morning and she insists on a full report of our findings as soon as shes here.
Well get right on it, sir, Will affirmed, turning to leave.
Thank you, sir, Wesley added as the three of them left the ready room.
I know I have to tell him, Deanna. Beverly was pacing back and forth across the counselors office as she imparted her inner conflict. I just dont know how I can bring myself to do it.
Beverly, Deanna said, Dont you think hell take it better coming from you than if he chances across it in the official report? You know hes bound to read it.
Of course, Deanna, Beverly agreed. It would be ten times worse if he found out that Id kept something like this from him.
Well, then, let that be your motivator, Beverly, Deanna encouraged. He needs to hear it from you.
Youre right, of course, Beverly conceded, collapsing into the nearest chair. I just cant get comfortable with telling my son that not only has he lost the love of his life forever, but she was carrying his child and didnt even know it. Beverlys eyes began to tear up. Its going to break his heart all over again.
I know this has been hard, Beverly, Deanna empathized, On Wesley, and on you, she added. Its not an easy thing to deal with. But you have each other, and you can draw strength from that. You both need each other.
I just cant get this maternal instinct out of my head to protect him from bad news.
I know, Beverly. I can feel how conflicted you are.
Hes going to be devastated, Beverly asserted.
I dont doubt that, Deanna agreed, but you can get through this together. Youre all he has now, Beverly. He needs you. And he does deserve to know.
I just dont know how to tell him... I mean- I cant even think of what to say.
Ive always found it works best to just tell him outright. Just spit it out. Then give him a minute to process what youve said. Hes going to be upset. And hes going to need to know that youre upset, too. Tell him how you feel about whats happened. It will help him to know that hes not alone in his grief. Beverly nodded in acceptance of her friends advice.
I was almost a grandmother, Beverly commented, a tear sliding down her cheek. I cant get the image out of my head of what almost was... of Wes and Amanda and having a baby around. Beverly shook her head and wiped her cheek. It would have been perfect, she added.
Get some rest, Beverly, Deanna encouraged, Youve been through a lot. And Wesleys going to need you to be strong for him. Beverly stood and squared her shoulders.
Alright, Deanna, she said. Im going to do just that. I am going to go to my quarters and have one of those hot milk toddies the captains aunt Adele taught me to make. Im going to get a good nights sleep, and Im going to talk to Wesley first thing in the morning. Deanna nodded as she, too stood up. They took a few steps toward the door. The two women embraced as the doors parted.
Call me if you need anything, alright? Deanna said as Beverly began to walk out. Beverly smiled and nodded her head.
I will, she whispered. Deanna turned back into her office and took a deep breath, flopping down onto her couch as she exhaled. She hadn't so much as had the time to adjust herself in her seat when she heard the familiar, annoying bleeping of the vidcom signaling an incoming message. She thoughtlessly punched the receive button and then mentally kicked herself for doing so when she saw the smiling face of her mother pop up on the screen.
Hello, mother, Deanna greeted in monotone.
Well, hello little one, Lwaxanas voice chimed in return. What in the Universe has been going on with you, Deanna? she asked, I havent heard from you in three days. Two whole days, Deanna! Youd think this wedding didnt matter a thing to you. Oh- youre not still mad about those invitations are you? That was just a silly little misunderstanding, Deanna- you certainly cant still be angry with...
Mother! Deanna interrupted.
Well you dont have to get all huffy, Deanna, Lwaxana retorted.
Mother, would you let me get a word in edgewise? Deanna insisted.
Goodness sakes Deanna, what is it? her mother quizzed.
Mother, Im sorry I havent been in touch with you, Deanna apologized with just a hint of sarcasm in her voice. Ive been having to deal with a very difficult situation for the last few days.
Difficult? Ill tell you whats been difficult, Deanna: I told the tailors lilac- I insisted on lilac, and yet when the drapes and tablecloths came yesterday- they were positively lavender- Ill tell you, Deanna, it is simply impossible to find good help these days. As if I, Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth House, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, wouldnt be able to tell the difference between lavender and lilac. Well I never... Lwaxana paused when she noticed a somber look on her daughters face. Come now, Deanna- she began, changing her tone entirely. Tell mother whats bothering you. Deanna sighed heavily. She hate being the bearer of bad news.
Mother, Amanda Pearson was killed in an explosion three days ago. Weve been investigating the cause, and it seems to have been intentional.
Intentional? Well... I had no idea. Im sorry I was cross with you, Deanna. Ive just been so distressed, I mean- lavender indeed. Lwaxana shook her head. Im sorry little one, there I go again, wrapped up in wedding minutia when you have bigger problems to deal with. She smiled again, Well, just remember, youre getting married in five short months. Just try and concentrate on your own happiness. Everything will be fine in due time.
Im sure youre right, mother, Deanna patronized. But right now, all I want to concentrate on is a hot bath and a good nights sleep.
Just dont neglect that fiance of yours, Lwaxana advised.
I promise I wont mother, Deanna assured before adding, goodbye. She punched off the vidcom and shook her head. Troi to Commander Riker, she called, tapping her com badge.
Yes, Deanna, his voice called back.
Meet me in my quarters in ten minutes?
Im already there, he told her, Ive been waiting for you to get off duty.
Bubbles? she asked, hopefully.
Mm-hmm. he answered, And candles, and chocolates, and soft music...
Im on my way.
Will, Will awoke to the sound of Deanna's whispered voice in his ear. She ran her fingers across his forehead and places a soft kiss on his earlobe. Its time to get up, she finished. He opened his eyes and smiled up at her.
What time is it? he asked, stretching his arms above his head. She leaned down and hissed his cheek.
You have a meeting in half an hour, she told him. He nodded his head and groaned.
Thats half an hour, he teased, winding his arms around her. he pulled her into the bed next to him. That leaves us twenty-nine minutes. Deanna giggled. She ran her fingers through the hair on his chest.
Twenty-nine minutes is not enough time, imzadi, she told him. She put her hands on either side of his face. And besides, she added, well have plenty of time for that later. Captain Picard told me yesterday that were all going to have a week or two of shore leave as soon as this investigation is over. She leaned back and looked him in the eye, So why dont you get up and eat some breakfast, and go to your meeting- so the investigation can be over and we can have all the time we want. She got up from the bed and looked back at him. He sat up and pushed the covers aside. He looked her in the eye as he stood up.
Were going to nail that bastard, Deanna, he told her. She nodded.
I hope you do, she replied. You know Im not a vengeful person, she qualified, But I want to see Trazka get what s coming to him. Will walked over to where she was standing and pulled her to him.
Me too, he confided. He kissed the top of her head. And were going to, he assured her. Were going to see justice done- I promise you that.
Beverly tiptoed through the dim living room of Amandas quarters, careful not to trip over any of the sundry cases and crates that littered the floor. She saw Wesley sitting on the edge of the bed. He was dressed, but he looked uncharacteristically disheveled. His hair was tousled and his face bore a dark five-oclock shadow. He was staring straight ahead, at nothing.
Wesley, she called softly. He turned his head to acknowledge her, but he said nothing. Slowly, she continued walking toward him as she asked, Wesley, what is it? he did not look at her again, but continued to stare straight ahead as he spoke.
I had the most vivid dream last night, he told her. Amanda was here. She was right here and she was trying to tell me something. But I couldn't understand what she was trying to say. Tears began welling up in his eyes as he continued. I could touch her- she was here, right next to me- and she was so real. But I didnt understand what she was saying. I tried... he looked his mother in the eye, I tried so hard- but I couldnt understand. And then she was gone again. He began to shake all over as he reiterated, Shes...gone.
Beverly put her arm around her son. He leaned his head on her shoulder. Wesley, she whispered. Wesley, theres something I have to tell you. he picked his head up and looked at her. Wes, she continued, Theres something weve been keeping from you. She slapped her thighs and rubbed her hands back and forth across them a few times. She balled her hands into fists and stood up. It wasnt anything intentional, she added, I just... I couldnt think of a way to tell you. She took a few paces across the room and then turned to face him.. She squared her shoulders and exhaled forcefully. Looking him square in the eye, she made her point. Wesley, Amanda was- Amanda was pregnant when...
Wesley looked as though she had just punched him in the stomach. His whole body tensed and she could hear the air escape his lungs like it had been sucked out by an outside force. He allowed himself to recoil for a second and then uttered the only syllable that he could muster,
Oh... Beverly, her hands still in fists, crossed her arms over her chest and sighed heavily. Wesleys glistening eyes looked up at her as he began to ask, How... Beverly closed her eyes and answered what she knew his question was.
Seven weeks, she told him, fighting her own emotions in order to keep a clear head.
She... Wesley whispered, she didnt... his words were labored, she didnt tell me. Beverly shook her head as her face began to contort.
She didnt know, Beverly told her son. She couldnt have. I didnt find out about it until the -the autopsy. Wesley began to nod his head as silent tears streamed unchallenged down his unshaven cheeks.
Was it... twins? he asked. Beverly shook her head slowly. She closed her eyes in defiance of her tears as she answered,
A son, Wesley's shaky voice managed. He looked his mother in the eye, Jack Wesley Howard Crusher. At the sound of what would have been the childs name, Beverly let her tears go. She took two steps toward Wesley, who stood up and allowed her to hug him. I would have loved him so much, Wesley sobbed. Beverly rubbed her hand up and down his back.
I know, she told him. After a minute, Wesley stepped away from her. he wiped the moisture from his face with the back of his hand and took a deep breath. Are you going to be okay? Beverly asked, wiping away her own tears.
No, Wes answered, very matter-of-factly. I dont know that Im ever going to be okay, mom, he admitted. But I can be better, he added, And the only way I can think of to make things better is to go to that meeting and help see to it that Trazka is punished for what he did; what he did to her, what he did to me, to our son, he choked on that word, but continued, and what he did to the twenty-six people on that station. Beverly nodded. She put her hands on his shoulders.
Well do whatever it takes to see that happen, she assured him. He turned and began to walk away from her.
Ive got to get ready, he told her, I have a meeting to attend.
The tension in the room was palpable. The Enterprise senior staff sat, stone-faced, around the conference table. Commodore Trazka stared smugly at each of them in turn as he half-listened to the questions being asked him by Admiral Cipra.
I have no knowledge of that, he answered over and over again. His tone was aloof, unaffected.
Counselor Trois eyes were wide, her face bore a pained expression and her hands wrung incessantly in her lap. Her foot was furiously tapping the deck plate beneath her. Her shoulders were visibly tense and her brow furrowed every time Trazka gave his automatic response. Commander Riker turned his head to the side and looked at her. He immediately sensed her tension and signaled the captain that it may be time for a recess. Picard took the hint. Standing from his chair, he announced to all present,
I think it would be in everyones best interest if we were to adjourn for the moment. Admiral Cipra nodded intently.
Agreed, she answered. She also stood before addressing Trazka. Commodore, she began, You have been assigned quarters aboard the Enterprise. You are to be confined to those quarters pending the outcome of this inquiry. She turned to a security officer at the periphery of the room, Take him, she ordered. The security man. along with another officer, crossed the room and each took hold of one of Trazkas arms. He looked angry, but did not audibly protest as he was led from the room.
Captain, Deanna called as soon as the doors were closed. Captain, he was lying. He knows what happened down there. And he thinks hes going to get away with it. He thinks he already has. He personally deleted the tactical and transporter logs form the Camden, I could sense that as profoundly as if he had been projecting it to me. Without those logs, we may have no tangible proof of what he did. he knows we cant make a case based solely on circumstantial evidence. Riker stood from his seat and walked around to behind Deannas chair. He placed his hands on her shoulders and began to knead gently as he implored the Admiral,
Do you think our evidence is strong enough to warrant a case even if were not able to retrieve any of the logs from the Camden? The Admiral took a few steps away from the table and then turned back to Riker and answered,
I cant say for sure, Commander. She folded her arms over her chest as she began to pace slowly. She continued, What you have here is very compelling evidence, but I would feel more confident if we had something more concrete.
Wesley Crusher, who had been sitting silently through the entire meeting, staring at his hands which were folded on the table, picked up his head and regarded the Admiral.
Sir, he asserted, I may have a suggestion.
Come, called the gruff voice of Commodore Trazka in response to the door chime. The doors swished open to reveal the cowering figure of Wes Crusher standing in the hall. Wes took a few steps into the cabin and allowed the doors to shut behind him.
Well, Trazka sang as Wes made his way in to the room. If it isnt Wesley Crusher, Starfleets prodigal son. Wes recoiled at his remark.
You remember me? he asked.
Of course I do, Trazka answered. Its not often a promising cadet such as yourself takes it upon himself to resign before he gets the chance to wash out. Wesley took a deep breath and fought off the impulse to punch the smug s.o.b. square in the jaw. I suppose you didnt come her to make a social call, Trazka surmised.
No, Wes answered him. I didnt.
So why are you here?
Do you really think youre going to get away with this? Wesley asked him point-blank. Trazka chuckled. He looked the younger man square in the eye as he said,
I already have. Wesley was stunned by his forthrightness. Trazka continued, Theyre never going to be able to prove I was involved in anything, he asserted. The logs from the Camden have all been erased, and beyond that, all Cipra and her bureaucratic lackeys have to go on is conjecture. This will all be swept under a rug within weeks. Wesley took a step toward him.
Whyd you do it? he asked, his hands beginning to shake at his sides.
Why? Trazka challenged, Why do you think? Wesley shook his head. Those green new system know-it-alls were bound to screw up. That stations entire existence was endangering everything Starfleet was built on- everything weve stood for, for hundreds of years was being threatened by the infiltration of this new command system. They had to be stopped.
And you thought it was your place to stop them?
Somebody had to. Somebody had to see past the revolutionary thinking of the stuffed suits up at Command who were too busy patting themselves on the back for coming up with the whole system and show the powers that be just what a bad idea theyd had.
If they were so sure to screw up, why didnt you just wait until they did to pounce in them? Wes challenged.
I couldnt wait that long, Trazka told him. The longer I let this new system go on- the longer it was polluting the fleet. I couldnt watch Starfleet go down the toilet while I waited for those kids to make a mistake big enough for Command to take notice.
So you transported twenty-six people out into nowhere, where you knew they could never survive.
Pretty ingenious plan, if I do say so myself, Trazka bragged. A few more days of exposure to conditions on that planet and there wouldnt have been remains for your pesky team to find.
But we did find them, Wes reminded him, and we found evidence of sabotage on the station. We were getting too close to finding out what had gone on down there, thats why you blew up the station.
Yes. Trazka sounded annoyed. And we did so brilliantly, dont you think? Wesley couldnt believe how proud Trazka sounded of what he had done. Your ship didnt even pick up the energy transfers as we sent them, we were too stealthy. We had you fools completely outfoxed. And I must say, I couldnt believe our good fortune.
Good fortune? Wes asked, We put out the fires, he contended, you werent able to cover your tracks like you thought you would.
True, Trazka conceded. There was more left than we had hoped for. But certainly not enough to provide you with any evidence tying me or my crew to any wrongdoing. The thing is, I had only hoped that blowing up the station would destroy evidence; killing that insubordinate twit, Pearson, was just a bonus. Wesley could feel his face getting hot and he had to restrain himself from flying into a total rage.
You evil son of a bitch! Wesley shouted. Youre going to pay for this. Theyre going to lock you up for the rest of your miserable little life! Trazka laughed in his face.
On what evidence? he challenged. Because of what I said to you? He sat himself in a chair across the room and leaned back. Hearsay! he announced. And besides, he added, Who do you think Starfleets going to believe anyway: a Commodore who rubs elbows with Admirals, or you... Academy dropout, drifter, bereaved lover?
Wesley squared his shoulders as he answered, Youre right, sir. He took two steps toward the door and then added, Im sure Command is going to believe every word that comes out of your mouth. Then he allowed a tiny smile to cross his lips as he tilted his head a little toward the ceiling and called loudly, Commander Riker, did you get all that? Will Rikers voice answered back,
Loud and clear, Wes, I heard every word.
And so did I, Admiral Cipras voice sounded as well. Good work young man. Wes turned back to look at Trazka. His eyes were wide and he looked as though he was about to faint.
Commodore, Wesley regarded before turning and walking, confidently, out the door.