Title: Feel the Fear
Rating: Probably the whole thing will be PG-13 by the time I'm done with it
Time: Between Insurrection and Nemesis
Feedback: Please, pretty please, with sugar on it?
Paramount owns them, I don't. Ok?
?"Well, want to let me in on the secret?" Crusher asked Riker
as she joined him at a table in Ten Forward.
The First Officer looked at the doctor, the picture of
innocence. "Secret? What secret?"
Crusher gave him an exasperated look. "Don't pull your
poker face on me, Will Riker. Deanna says you have been driving
her crazy for the past two days, hinting at something. She says
you're even blocking her so she can't read you to get any clues."
Riker grinned. "Really?"
"Really. Now, are you going to let me in on what you're
plotting? Is it what I think it is?"
"Beverly, how should I know what you think? Besides, if I
tell you, it'll just be a matter of time before Deanna finds out,
and I want to let her in on it in my own good time."
Crusher shook her head. "Will Riker, you are enough to
drive someone crazy!" Her expression softened. "But if it IS
what I think it is . . . I am very happy for the two of you."
Riker's grin melted into a genuine smile. Before he could
say anything, Captain Picard's voice came over the comm. "Senior
officers to the bridge."
"Duty calls," he quipped, getting out of his chair.
"Saved by the Captain is more like it," Beverly replied as
she followed him.
They both took a turbolift to the Bridge. Picard turned to
them as they entered. "Number One, Doctor."
Riker went to his usual seat, giving Deanna a quick smile as
he passed. She returned it. "What's the situation?" he asked.
Data answered. "We have detected a temporal disturbance on
the planet in the next system. There are also indications that
there may be Borg in the area."
"Borg?" Riker turned to the Captain, who confirmed the
observation with a nod. "We are going to check it out, but I
want us prepared for the worst."
"Aye sir. Red Alert!" Riker commanded.
Picard nodded approval. "Take us in, Mr. Data."
The Enterprise glided into the next system at full alert.
All eyes on the Bridge straining to see what was ahead. They
reached the planet quickly, and Data began his scans.
"There has definitely been a temporal event of some kind
here," he reported.
"Borg?" Riker asked.
Data continued to scan. "I am not reading any life signs,
sir. But I did note a Borg signature earlier."
"Recommend I lead an Away Team to the site, Sir," Will said.
Picard nodded. "Agreed. Have the Transporter Room keep a
lock on the team at all times."
"Aye sir," Riker stood. "Worf, Data, you're with me."
The three officers left the Bridge. On the way to the
Transporter room, Worf ordered two members of Security to join
them. After everyone had assembled in the Transporter Room,
Riker gave some last minute instructions while Worf handed out
phasers. "No heroics here. We are just going to check things
out. If one of the Borg down there so much as twitches, we are
getting out. Everyone understand?"
All nodded, and stepped onto the platform. In a few minutes
they were on the planet surface.
The planet resembled dozens of worlds Riker had set foot on
in his long career in Starfleet. They had materialized in a
clearing, tall bluish-green trees standing all around them. Data
began scanning, then pointed into the trees. "I'm getting
readings of a craft in this direction."
"Lifesigns?" Riker asked.
"No sir. I am detecting signs that the vessel I am reading
may have crashed. There are a number of small fires in that
area, and electrical emissions are low."
Riker drew his phaser. He noticed Worf and the security
team had already done so. "Okay, let's head over there."
They walked into the woods, hearing dead leaves crunch under
their feet. Riker noted there were no sounds one associated with
animals in the area. He didn't know if that was because no
animals lived on this part of the planet or the crash had
frightened the wildlife away. Soon he noticed that the tops of
some trees had broken off. Data stopped. "The ship is just
"Still no life signs?"
"It could be a trap," Worf growled.
"We'll have to risk it. Be on your guard," Riker ordered.
They stepped into another clearing. The craft had crashed
nose first into the ground, creating a small crater around
itself. Seams in the ship had popped open, and several Borg
drones were scattered in the area like broken rag dolls.
Riker looked down at the Borg at his feet. The drone was
obviously dead, considering the angle of his neck. One blue eye
gazed sightlessly up at Riker. Something about the drone made
the First Officer uneasy. He tore his attention from it as Data
said, "The ship is displaying chronitan particles. It almost
certainly was involved in the temporal anomaly we scanned."
"And the drones?" Riker asked. He noticed Worf and the
security guards had set up a perimeter, scanning the surrounding
forest for threats.
Data came up to Riker, his gaze still on his tricorder.
"All dead, sir. Checking for chronitan particles now." He
shifted his gaze to the drone at Riker's feet, and froze.
"Data?" Riker asked.
Data swallowed. "Forgive me, sir, I have my emotion chip
activated . . . it probably was not wise to do so." He began to
scan the drone closely.
"Data, I didn't realize the sight of a Borg drone could
evoke an emotional response in you. It's hardly the first one
Data looked at Riker in surprise. "You did not notice,
Riker began to feel uneasy again. "Notice what?"
"The drone sir - it bears an uncanny resemblance to you."
Riker dropped his gaze down to the drone again, feeling a
chill in the temperate air. Now that Data had mentioned it, he
was surprised he had not noticed the similarity himself. Perhaps
he had, subconsciously. He slapped his commbadge. "Riker to
"Report," responded Picard.
Riker continued to stare at the drone that had his features.
"We've found something that doesn't make sense - a dead Borg
drone that looks just like me."
"Are you certain?" Picard asked.
Riker swallowed. "Yes sir."
Data broke in. "Captain, I am detecting chronitan particles
from this drone and a ship we found that crashed here. According
to my readings, they come from the future."
After a moment's silence, Picard inquired, "Is the drone a
danger to the ship?"
"I do not believe so, sir," Data answered.
"Very well. Have Dr. Crusher beam the drone to Sickbay. We
need some answers. Picard out."
Data made arrangements for the drone to be sent to Sickbay
while Riker continued to stare at it. He did not move from the
spot until the drone had been beamed up to the ship.
?Picard allowed his eyes to scan each face sitting at the table in
his Ready Room. Three faces - Beverly's, Riker's, and Troi's -
showed especial distress. After Will's preliminary report, the
Captain could understand why.
He decided to deal with the worst of it head on. "Dr.
Crusher, your report."
Beverly looked at the PADD in her hands, and then swallowed.
"The first drone that was beamed up is . . . Commander Riker."
"Beverly, are you certain?" The question came from Deanna.
"Could it be Tom?"
Beverly shook her head. "I'm sorry Deanna. I did check for
that possibility. It's not just that the drone's DNA is a
perfect match for Will. I compared the body to my medical
records for him. It matched." She faltered for a moment, then
her professionalism took over. She turned to the Captain.
"There was evidence of chronitan particles. This drone is from
Picard nodded, catching Beverly's eyes and trying to
encourage her. "Can we tell when this drone came from?" He
grimaced at the awkward wording. No one had come up with an easy
way to talk about time travel yet. As often as it had occurred,
one would think that a grammar would have been invented by now.
Beverly shook her head. "Unfortunately, the detection of
chronitan particles is a recent development. No one has found an
accurate way to measure them."
Picard nodded. He had expected as much, but he'd had to
ask. He turned to Data. "What about the craft?"
"It is a Borg Shuttle. It is identical to other shuttles we
"Then it can't be from the distant future, can it?" LaForge
Data considered the question. "One would think that the
Borg would make continual improvements to their technology, so
your theory is not without merit. On the other hand, it is
possible that the Borg will be stymied in their attempts to
assimilate other races in the future, so that their spacecraft
will not show much improvement."
"Thank you, Data," Picard said. "What about ship's logs?
Can you access them?"
"Very well. That will be a priority for you and Mr.
LaForge. We need that information to assess the potential threat
to ourselves. Beverly - examine the drones. See if you can come
up with any clues."
His people nodded. Picard let his gaze sweep the room once
more. "Very well. Dismissed. Number One, a moment, if you
Riker had sat throughout the meeting silent, his gaze fixed
on a point at the center of the table. When the captain spoke to
him, he started, then straightened himself up in his chair. As
Deanna rose, she had placed a hand comfortingly on the First
Officer's shoulder. He did not react to her touch. She appeared
to be hurt, but squeezed his shoulder before leaving the room.
Picard looked at his First Officer. Riker met his gaze.
"You wanted to speak to me, Sir?"
Picard nodded. "Yes, Will. I know this must be a shock for
Riker's mouth twisted. "It wasn't exactly the future I was
"It may not BE the future," Picard countered. "We both know
how time can be manipulated. There may be a way to set this
"Yes, sir. Will that be all?" Riker asked.
Picard swore at the First Officer. "Will, you don't have to
accept this! You're a fighter - decide to fight this!"
"How?" Riker asked. "How do I fight this? We don't know
what happened, or even when it happened! All we know is that
it's going to happen at some point!"
"'Might' happen. We do not know if this can be changed."
Will sighed. "That's the problem, isn't it? We just don't
know. But it looks like this is the most likely fate at the
moment, doesn't it?"
Picard rose from his chair. He sat next to Will, forcing
the younger man to meet his eyes. "Will - it isn't like you to
simply give up."
"I know," Will admitted. "It's just that . . . to see that
THING, and know it's waiting for me, sometime in the future. . ."
Picard nodded, remembering when he himself had become such a
thing. "I think you ought to speak with someone concerning
"Not Deanna," Will said.
"Agreed. She might not be the best choice. But Will, you
do need someone to help you put this into some kind of
perspective." Picard said.
Will nodded. "Yes sir. Thank you, sir."
As they rose, Picard clapped his First Officer's shoulder.
"We'll beat this, Will. We won't let it happen without a fight."
Riker nodded and left the room.
Deanna had been watching for him, of course. Riker used all
he had learned from her to block her from his mind. "Will?" she
Will looked down at her, seeing the concern in her eyes. "I
can't talk now, Deanna. Maybe later."
She nodded. "All right. Perhaps at dinner tonight?"
Dinner . . . tonight . . .
"Deanna, I'm going to have to cancel tonight. You
understand, don't you?" Riker concentrated on blocking his
emotions from her until his head throbbed.
Her face showed that she clearly did not understand. "Will
. . ."
He shook his head, but allowed his hand to brush a lock of
hair from her face. "Not tonight, Deanna. I'm sorry."
He strode to the turbolift. As he turned to face the
bridge, he saw Deanna, her face a mask of hurt, and Worf, glaring
at him from his station.
?Riker sat in his cabin, his shoulders slumped. He fingered an
object in his hands while he allowed his eyes to roam his cabin.
It looked so different tonight.
He had called for full lights a few minutes before. They
showed, among the usual items in his cabin, the dining table set
with a white lace tablecloth, silver candlesticks with white
tapers, and a bouquet of Betazed flowers in the middle. He had
replicated the plates and cups with pictures of the Jalara Jungle
pressed into them. Silverware gleamed.
He remembered setting the table just that morning. He had
been so excited about his plans, he couldn't wait to do it later.
He wanted everything to be perfect for this evening. And then,
they had found the drone.
He lowered his eyes to the object in his hands. He tossed
it from one hand to another, as bitterness crept up from his
heart. He ignored the chime to his cabin door, wanting to be
alone with his thoughts, but whirled around when he heard the
Worf strode in. He glowered at Riker.
Riker stood, angry. "You have a lot of nerve, Worf. What
gives you the right to override security on my door?"
Worf did not back down. "I wish to speak to you."
"Get out!" Riker ordered.
"After I have spoken to you."
"This is none of your business, Lieutenant! Now I order you
to get out!"
Worf advanced on the seething First Officer. "Because of
the relationship I once had with Deanna, I am MAKING it my
Riker cursed at the Klingon, and flung the object he was
holding at him. The instant it left his hand, he realized he had
made an error. The small box struck the Klingon's chest, then
fell to the floor.
Worf bent to retrieve the item. "Give that back!" Riker
exclaimed. It was too late. The box had sprung open when it hit
the floor, and the sparkling ring it held was exposed.
Worf studied the item for a moment, then looked up at Riker.
"Is this what I think it is?"
Riker sighed, feeling defeated. He sank into a chair. "If
you are thinking it is a Terran engagement ring, then yes."
Worf came over to sit next to Riker. He looked again at the
ring. The band was brushed gold, with a hint of pink to it. The
stones in it were diamonds and sapphires that looked like stars.
Riker took the box from Worf. He gazed at it as he spoke in
a low voice. "I was going to give this to her tonight, Worf. The
ring was my mother's; I had my dad send it to me. I was going to
ask her -" He couldn't finish the statement. He sighed. "Well,
so much for that," he said, snapping he box closed.
Worf studied him. "Because of the drone we found today."
Riker nodded. "Because of what my future holds, yes." He
got up and began to pace, suddenly wanting to say what had been
on his mind these past hours. "What kind of future can I give
her now, Worf? Knowing at some point I don't just die, I become
some sort of - of monster!"
Worf stood up, blocking Riker's pacing. "We may find a way
to avert that future, Commander."
"What if we don't?" Riker snapped. "Worf, I don't mean to
be callous, but you never had the mental link with Deanna I have
with her. What will it do to her, sensing my being a drone?
Sensing the Collective through me?" Riker clenched his fists.
"How will your not marrying her prevent the link, if you
have it now?" Worf countered.
Riker felt frustration wash over him. "I don't know! I - I
want her to find someone else. Maybe someone on Betazed can help
sever our link. Worf, she has no future with me! I can't give
her anything but heartache now!"
Worf looked at Riker, disappointment clear in his
expression. "Is it possible that you truly do not know the woman
"What is THAT supposed to mean?" Riker asked, exasperated.
Worf scowled. "Deanna is not some fragile female, ready to
fall apart at trouble or disaster. She may have an overfondness
for emotions, but her heart is the heart of a warrior. I could
not have loved her otherwise." Worf narrowed his eyes. "She will
fight for your relationship. Apparently, she will fight harder
for it than you are willing to." With that, he spun on his heel
and left the room, leaving Riker to stare openmouthed after him.
The following morning, Deanna was eating her lonely
breakfast when Riker came to her door. "Will," she said,
surprised to see him standing there.
"May I come in, Deanna?" he asked. There were dark circles
under his eyes, as if he hadn't slept the night before.
"Of course," she replied, stepping back to let him enter.
Riker walked into the cabin, noting the hot chocolate and
chocolate covered donuts on the table. Deanna was indulging in
comfort food. He had a feeling he was to blame.
Deanna came up beside him. "Can I get you something? Some
"Coffee would be great, thanks." He watched as she walked
over to the replicator. She got the coffee and carried it over
to him, her face neutral. He took it from her, letting their
fingers brush for an instant. "Thanks." He sipped the hot
"You're welcome," she answered. "Would you like something
to eat?" She sat down at the table and took a large bite of
Will sat down and reached over for one of the sticky
pastries. "I wanted to talk to you before we went to the bridge.
I'm told I'm not treating you fairly."
Deanna's eyes narrowed. "Who told you that?"
"Worf," Riker mumbled through a mouth of donut.
"Worf?!" Deanna exclaimed. Her eyes traveled up and down
his body in concern.
Riker chuckled faintly. "Relax, he didn't lay a hand on
Deanna felt a mixture of emotions from Will. Some faint
amusement, but also some fear and concern. "How does Worf
believe you are being unfair to me?"
"He believes I shouldn't be shutting you out right now."
"He's right," Deanna replied. "Will, I know this is a
difficult time right now, especially with you wanting our
relationship to move forward -"
Riker stared at her in shock. "How did you know? I was
blocking you, I know I was!"
Deanna sighed. "Will, do you think that I know you only
thru my empathic senses? Surely you give me more credit than
that. And then yesterday - I sensed a feeling of loss from you.
That you were letting go of something very precious to you.
Perhaps I was being vain, but I thought that thing was me."
Will shook his head. "You weren't being vain, Deanna." He
paused, then let his cup down with a soft thump on the table. "I
just don't know what kind of a future I can offer you now."
"The same kind of future you could offer me before, Will,"
she replied, taking one of his hands in hers.
"No. This is different. We know I'm going to be
assimilated by the Borg," he countered, withdrawing his hand from
"That is a possible future, yes. But it was possible even
before our discovery. As your hero Jim Kirk said, 'risk is our
business.'" Deanna argued.
Will stood and began to pace, his hands draped behind his
back. "That's true, I guess. But until yesterday I figured we
were going to win over that. We've gotten through so many
difficulties, so many crises, I thought there was nothing that
could beat us." He stopped, and turned to stare at Deanna. "But
it could happen. We know that now. Is it fair to you for me to
take you as my wife, knowing the grief it may ultimately cause
Deanna rose and went over to him and put her arms around his
neck. "Is it fair to deprive me of whatever time we might have,
out of fear? I love you, Will. Nothing we discovered yesterday
He kissed her. Then he looked deep into her eyes. "I need
some time, Deanna. Let's learn more about this. I want to give
myself to you without fear, and I can't do that now."
"Will, I will admit, I AM afraid. I have been since
yesterday. But I still want us to be together, and I won't let
fear come between us." She kissed him again.
After a few minutes, Will pulled back. "We need to go to
"I know," she said, but kept her arms around him. "You're
not getting rid of me this easily, Will Riker."
He managed a grin as he freed himself from her arms.
"Noted, Deanna Troi."
?After checking in with the Bridge Riker went down to the
Shuttlebay, where Geordi, Data, and some engineers were crawling
all over the Borg shuttlecraft.
"How's it going?" He asked Geordi, who was making some
notations on a PADD.
"We've found the ship's logs, but haven't been able to get
into them yet. Data thinks he might be able to hook himself up
to the shuttle's computer and download them, but I'm worried
about the risks to his positronic brain."
Riker nodded. "Any other clues?"
"The transwarp drive is fried. We haven't quite figured out
why yet. No marks on the hull other than what we figure the
crash caused, so we don't think they were in a battle before they
"Any idea how they got here?"
"You should check with Data about that," Geordi looked up
near the top of the shuttle where the android was perched. "Hey,
Data! Come down here a second!"
Data glanced down and saw Riker standing next to LaForge.
He jumped off the top of the spacecraft to land easily beside the
pair. "Good morning, Commander. Are you experiencing less
anxiety over our discovery?"
Riker couldn't believe what he had just heard. "What?"
"I am continuing my studies of human emotion. I have
determined that humans often have a need to discuss their
anxieties and fears. I thought I might participate in such a
discussion with you in order to further my studies."
"Ah, maybe later, Data. I need to know what you've
discovered about how the ship got here in the first place." Riker
said, making a mental note to stay far away from the android the
rest of the day.
"Oh," Data said, clearly disappointed. He gave himself a
little shake, then continued in a normal tone of voice. "I was
in Astrometrics last night scanning the sector where we first
noticed the temporal anomaly. There have been no further
abnormal readings. I am forced to consider that it was some sort
Riker was not happy. He had hoped for a clear idea of the
ship's origin. "Any chance we'll be seeing more ships anytime
"It is impossible to determine whether or not other ships
will follow this one, since we have no knowledge of how it got
here in the first place," Data answered. "However, we cannot
neglect the possibility that a Borg ship detected the anomaly and
the Borg signature we did."
"If they did, they'll come running," Geordi said, looking up
from a PADD that an ensign had handed him.
Riker nodded. "I'll brief the captain. Let me know if you
come up with anything else." He left the shuttlecraft bay,
wishing he had been given more solid answers.
Later that day, Riker was called to the bridge. When he
entered, he noticed Data was at Ops, and Worf and Troi were in
their places. Picard stepped out of his Ready Room. "Report,"
"There are signs of another temporal anomaly," Data stated.
"Another Borg ship?" Picard asked as he seated himself.
"Unknown, Captain. I am monitoring the anomaly."
"Red Alert!" Riker commanded. He felt himself tensing.
What else was coming at them?
Long minutes passed. Finally, Data spoke up. "A ship is
"Borg?" Picard asked.
"No, sir, it does not appear to be. Scanning..." a few more
seconds of silence. "Captain, it appears to be a Federation
"On screen," Riker ordered, leaning forward. Data obliged
and the shuttlecraft appeared. It seemed to be out of control.
"Scan -" Picard began, only to be interrupted by a strangled
gasp from Deanna.
The Captain and First Officer looked at the Counselor. Her
eyes were wide, and she jerked as if she was receiving electric
Riker started towards Deanna, but suddenly froze. A voice
sounded in his mind, a cry of despair.
- Imzadi, where are you? Where are you?-
Suddenly, he felt a surge of joy from the entity - joy that
swiftly changed to alarm. He heard Data say "It appears the
shuttle will crash onto the planet."
Deanna cried out, "Her life support is failing! We have to
"Who?" Picard asked, but Riker already knew. He slapped his
combadge. "Riker to Transporter Room! There's a shuttlecraft
heading towards the planet! Lock onto the pilot and beam her
directly to Sickbay!"
Picard looked from his First Officer to his Counselor,
knowing something was happening between the two of them he didn't
understand. "Number One, are you mad? That could be a Borg!"
"It's not, Captain. I'm almost certain of it!"
"Confirmed," Data said. "It is -"
He was interrupted by Beverly Crusher's voice. "Crusher to
Captain Picard!" Her voice shivered with anxiety.
Picard frowned. "Doctor, are you all right?"
"Yes, but - but - what happened to Deanna?!"
"Deanna!" Picard stared at Troi, who had stopped shaking,
but was still pale. "Counselor Troi is here on the bridge."
Riker spoke up. "Doctor, check your patient for chroniton
Realization flooded Picard's face and he was not surprised
to discover they had another visitor from the future.
?There was no doubt that the unconscious woman on the biobed
was a duplicate of Deanna Troi.
There was the same thick, dark mane of hair. The same
aristocratic features. The same slender body.
But it appeared that this Deanna Troi had not been exploring
the galaxy at the side of her Imzadi. Instead, this woman had
been traveling through her own personal version of Hell.
The dark hair was matted and tangled. The body was
painfully thin. And the face was aged with lines that only
sorrow and stress could produce.
Will shook his head as he looked at her, his eyes traveling
to the gold band around the third finger of her left hand. He
put his arm around a trembling Deanna. "You really shouldn't be
here," he told her.
"She might need me," Deanna replied. This was not the first
time they had discussed this; Riker had tried to talk her out of
coming to Sickbay while they were still on the Bridge. Picard
had overruled him, and sent them both down to see the patient
after warning the couple to tread carefully.
Beverly came up to the biobed, hypospray in one hand,
medical tricorder in the other. "Deanna, are you all right?" she
asked, as she injected the unconscious woman.
"I'm fine. How is she?"
Beverly sighed as she scanned her patient yet again. "She's
malnourished, and suffered a few minor injuries when her ship
started breaking apart. As to her mental state..." she shrugged,
then looked up at the counselor. "Can you sense anything?"
Deanna shook her head, but before she could voice a reply,
the patient on the biobed began to moan. Beverly examined her
patient, and then looked up as Deanna staggered back to a nearby
bed, leaning on it for support. "Deanna?!" Beverly asked.
Will turned around in concern. Deanna shook her head.
Will started toward her, but was stopped by a whisper from
the biobed. "Will?"
He turned, responding to the voice. He looked down on the
bed to see this Deanna's eyes open, staring at him.
The eyes that bored into him were similar to those of the
woman behind him, but here too was a difference. These large
eyes had a haunted, hungry look. They stared at him, wide,
filling with tears. Then she cried "IMZADI!" and the next thing
Will knew she had flung her arms around him, repeating his name
over and over. In his mind, he heard her voice. -Imzadi, I
thought I'd lost you forever...-
Will was at a loss. He tried to gently disengage her from
his body. "De-" he started, but found he couldn't call her
Deanna. He looked at her face. She was staring over his
shoulder. He realized he was staring at Deanna, still behind
"Who..." her fingers began to dig painfully into his arms.
"Who IS she? Will, what's going on? What's happening?!" her
voice started to rise in panic.
Beverly put her arm around her patient. "Please, calm
down," she said in a soothing voice.
The distraught woman's gaze traveled from the doctor to Will
to Deanna. "Where am I? Is this the Enterprise? How did I get
here?" She stared at Deanna. "Who ARE you?"
Deanna stepped up to the biobed, and gently pulled one of
the woman's hands from Will's arm so she could hold it. Her gaze
never leaving the other woman's face, she said, "I am Counselor
Deanna Troi. You are on the Enterprise. What is the last thing
Will saw how much effort it cost Deanna to stand there, and
was proud of her. He patted the other woman on the back,
reassuring her. "It's OK."
The stranger replied, "I was following a ship - a Borg
shuttle. It entered some strange kind of anomaly. I entered
"What kind of anomaly?" Will asked. "Did you scan it?"
She shook her head. "I'm sure my ship was taking readings,
but I didn't care. You were on that Borg shuttle - I would have
followed it to Hell itself." She frowned, staring at Will and
Deanna. "You...you aren't "my" Will, are you?"
Riker would have given anything to have been able to tell
this woman he was who she had sought, but he couldn't. "No...no,
I'm not. We're not sure, but we believe you have traveled
Crusher shot Riker and angry gaze at his revelation, but he
didn't care. The doctor began to gently push her patient down
onto the bed. "That's enough now. You've been through a lot,
and you need to rest."
The patient resisted her. "Please - have you seen a Borg
shuttle? Where did it go? Do you know?"
Will bit his lip. This time, he didn't need Beverly's
warning glance. "No," he said. "No shuttle."
The dark eyes that gazed at him smouldered. "Do you really
think you can lie to me, "Will Riker?" She turned and stared at
The Counselor's eyes widened, and she gave a moan. Will,
alarmed, grabbed her by the shoulders. "Deanna? What's wrong?"
"She's...she's in my mind, Will, she knows my mind!"
Will turned to the woman on the bed, opening his mouth to
yell at her to stop what she was doing, but the cry died on his
lips as he saw her face. The color was draining from it, the
eyes growing larger, and filling with a horror too monstrous to
believe. But she had to believe it.
"DEAD?" she shrieked. Beverly snatched at a hypospray as
the woman began to scream. She injected her patient and scanned
her as she collapsed in sobs.
Will felt Deanna begin to collapse. He turned in time to
see her eyes roll up in her head as she lost consciousness.
"Doctor!" he barked as he swept his Imzadi up in his arms.
Crusher looked up. "Put her on that biobed."
His heart hammering with fear, Will did as he was told. He
looked at Deanna with deep concern as she lay still. Soon
Crusher was by his side, scanning her friend.
"Will she be all right?" Will asked.
Crusher was silent as she studied her readings. Then she
picked up a hypospray, adjusting the settings. "Her brain's
nerutransmitters are way off - I think there must be a link
between her and her counterpart. It was overwhelming for her."
As she injected Deanna, she continued, "This should help. GO do
your job, Will. She needs to rest, and you need to find some
answers - for both of them."
Will would rather have stayed in Sickbay, but he knew the
doctor was right. He let his gaze rest on both women for a long
moment, then went to check with Data and Geordi on their
?Picard called a meeting of senior officers to discuss the
progress his people had made in learning about their visitors
from another time. Deanna Troi was noticeably absent from the
At Picard's inquiry, Beverly explained, "Deanna and her
future self seem to have some kind of link. I have had to damp
down the empathic abilities of both of them. Deanna is resting
in her quarters. I suggest you leave her there for now."
Picard nodded. "And our...visitor? Can she tell us
Beverly shook her head. "I strongly advise we not stress
her. I believe she isn't..." Beverly paused, finding it
difficult to finish her statement, "mentally stable."
Will frowned. He leaned forward, caught Beverly's eyes.
"Can you help her?"
Beverly made a frustrated noise. "Will, I don't know.
Apparently she's been through a tremendous amount of emotional
stress. I would normally have Deanna work with someone like her,
but..." she made a helpless gesture with one hand.
Will nodded. He tried to imagine how he would feel if he
lost Deanna. "Doctor, should I see her? Maybe I could..."
Beverly shook her head. "Will, no. I don't know HOW she
would react to you. I think it could make things worse. Just
stay away from Sickbay for right now."
Will clenched his fists and wanted to protest her decision,
but Picard broke in. "Number One, we have other concerns. For
now, I suggest we listen to the Doctor."
Riker sighed. "Aye, sir."
Picard nodded briefly, then turned to LaForge and Data.
"What have we learned about the anomaly?"
"I am afraid we have learned little more, Captain," Data
replied. "We did take some readings when the anomaly reappeared.
However, we were only able to get a partial download of the
shuttlecraft's logs before it was destroyed entering the planet's
"We have enough information for a hypothesis, but no way to
check it out," Geordi added.
"That is not exactly true, Geordi. There is one way," Data
LaForge leaned back in his chair, clearly unhappy. Will
picked up on the engineer's mood. "Are you referring to linking
yourself up to the Borg computer, Data? Isn't that risky?"
"Yes, sir. However, we may be without any other options."
Picard pondered this news for a moment. "Commander LaForge,
do you have any alternatives to Data's plan?"
LaForge chewed his lip. "No, sir, but I don't like it. We
have no idea how the interface could effect Data. We could lose
"I believe we can reduce the risk considerably, Geordi. I
also can deduce no other way we can get the information we need.
And to ascertain if our hypothesis is correct, we do need more
Picard sighed. "Very well. Make your preparations, taking
all due precautions. Number One, see to it." Acknowledging the
nods of his three officers, Picard turned to Doctor Crusher.
"Beverly. See what you can learn from your patient, but be
"Yes, sir," Beverly answered. Once Picard dismissed the
group, she stopped by Deanna's quarters to check on her. Seeing
that she was resting comfortably, Beverly returned to Sickbay.
Once she got there, she found her patient trying to sit up.
"Hello there, De..." she stumbled over the name.
"My name IS Deanna," the woman replied testily.
Beverly adopted a soothing tone. "I know. It's just that
with our own Deanna here, it's a little confusing. How about a
Her patient considered the suggestion. "Well, I suppose I
understand. I guess a nickname would make things easier, as long
as it isn't" and she flashed a ghost of a smile that reminded
Beverly of her Betazoid friend, "'little one.'"
Beverly nodded. "How about Dee?"
Dee nodded. "Well, since that's what everyone starts to
call me anyway..." She eased herself off the biobed.
"Whoa there," Beverly said, putting a steadying hand on her
patient's shoulder. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I want to see Will," Dee replied.
Crusher tried to choose her words carefully. "I don't think
that's a good idea now, Dee. Besides, he's busy doing something
with Geordi and Data."
Dee gave her an odd look. "You don't understand. I want to
see MY Will."
"Oh!" Crusher said. She winced. "I don't think THAT'S a
good idea either..."
"Beverly," the woman's voice was soft, pleading. "You of
all people should understand. How can I accept that he's gone?
How can I believe it, unless I see him with my own eyes? Please,
Beverly, please do this for me."
Crusher considered it. She did understand; she had voiced a
similar sentiment to Jean-Luc long ago, when she had gone to see
Jack's body. Crusher knew that doing so could provide closure
for a grieving person. "All right, but I'm going to stay with
you while you are there."
Dee nodded, and followed the doctor to the morgue. Beverly
paused by the place where she had put the drone's body. She
looked at Dee; she was pale, and trembled. "Are you certain you
want to do this?" Beverly asked.
Dee nodded, her eyes locked on the storage compartment.
Keeping her eyes on the Betazoid, Crusher activated the
compartment. The drone's body slid out into view.
Dee drew in a sharp breath. Crusher was at her side at
once, ready to lead her out of the room at the first sign of
hysteria. But Dee did not collapse. She stared for a long time
at the drone. Then she reached out and tenderly stroked the
"Imzadi," she whispered. Tears streamed down her face, but
Beverly knew these were the healing tears that came with grief,
not the hysteria from before. As Dee continued to stroke the
drone's cheek and weep, Beverly placed a comforting arm around
her shoulder and prayed she would never have to do this for
?Will Riker was neither an android nor an engineer. So he could
only stand and watch as Geordi and Data made preparations for
attempting to access the Borg ship's logs. Since he was
physically inactive, he could not prevent his mind from turning
over the situation between himself, Deanna, and the woman from
the future that Beverly had named Dee.
Beverly's brief report about her patient had come while
Riker was at the Borg ship, watching Geordi move from console to
console while Data sat at one panel. Riker had been surprised
that the doctor had allowed Dee to see the body of his own
counterpart. Beverly insisted that it had been helpful to Dee
and might be a step towards helping her achieve healing.
Still, Riker couldn't forget Beverly's pronouncement that
Dee wasn't mentally stable. It seemed that losing her Imzadi to
the Borg had damaged her mentally, leaving her a shadow of the
woman she had been. Will had to ask himself again if he truly
wanted to put Deanna through something like that. Seeing the
results it had wrought on Dee, he wasn't sure he did. But he
didn't know how to prevent it, other than shut Deanna out of his
life forever. And he knew he didn't want to do THAT either.
Riker started and realized that it was the second time that
LaForge had addressed him. "Sorry, Geordi, I was woolgathering."
Seeing Data begin to furrow his brow, he quickly added, "That's
an expression, Data. It means I was thinking."
"Ah," Data said. "I assume you were considering the
situation with two Deanna Trois onboard."
"Something like that," Riker said. He stared at the
android. Wires came out of the right side of his head, where his
scalp had been removed to reveal the circuitry underneath. Data
seemed rather stiff in his chair. Geordi's next words explained
"I was telling you, Commander, that we are ready to start.
We took the precaution of disabling Data's motor functions. Just
Riker nodded. "I agree. It's a wise precaution." He
caught the worried expression on Geordi's face. "Geordi, if there
were any other way..."
"I know," LaForge said, his tone resigned. He turned to his
friend. "Data, if you run into any kind of trouble, get out
fast. I'll do what I can here, but I don't know how much help I
can give you if something happens."
"I understand, Geordi. I am ready when you are."
Geordi sighed. "I'm never gonna be ready for this, buddy.
But here goes..."
Geordi turned to another console and began to punch in
commands. Riker tensed, his eyes not leaving the android.
Data's eyes became unfocused, as if he were doing some
woolgathering himself. He began to speak, giving a running
commentary on his progress.
"First level security....breached. Accessing....
accessing... downloading data. Second level security...breached.
Accessing... accessing... downloading data."
"So far, so good," Riker thought. Out loud he asked, "How
many security levels, Geordi?"
Geordi shrugged. "I don't know, Commander. This is
uncharted territory as far as we are concerned. Data? How's it
"I have breached a third level of security. Proceeding with
downloading...I believe I have found the data we are seeking.
Abruptly, Data fell silent. Riker felt a chill crawl up his
Geordi, who had turned back to his console, whirled around
to look at the android. "Data!"
Data began to speak again. To Riker's horror, the android's
voice had been replaced with one that was familiar - and
terrible. "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.
Resistence is futile."
"Geordi!" Riker shouted. He didn't need to finish the
order - LaForge understood Riker wanted him to DO SOMETHING.
"Data! Get out of there!" LaForge said to the android.
There was no response from Data, but a panel began to beep for
the engineer's attention. LaForge turned to it, and began to
swear. "He's trying to reenable his motor functions!"
While Geordi started pounding orders into the console, Riker
lunged towards Data, with the thought of finding his off switch.
As he reached for it, he was distracted for a second by a flash
from a panel and a cry of pain from Geordi. Then Data - or
whoever was controlling him - slapped Riker's hand away.
Fortunately, he had not yet achieved full control of his limbs,
and Riker's arm was not broken by the impact. It still was
enough to knock him off-balance and send him tumbling to the
As Riker scrambled to his feet, he saw Geordi grip the wires
that attached Data to the Borg system. With a yank, he jerked
the wires free from his friend's head. There was another flash,
this time from Data's skull. He froze again, one arm suspended
in the air, his face blank.
"Data!" Riker was in front of the android in an instant,
snapping his fingers in his face. "DATA!"
Geordi, wincing, was scanning the android. Riker noticed
the burns on the engineer's hands, probably from the panel. Will
hit his commbadge. "Riker to Crusher! Medical emergency,
shuttlebay! Geordi, sit down!"
"Commander, I'm all right," Geordi said, though a tremor in
his voice said otherwise."
Riker took a long look at Data. "What about Data?"
Geordi looked worried. "I don't know. He took quite a jolt
when I yanked him off the interface. He's shut down. It'll take
some time for me and Doctor Crusher to assess the damage."
"Will Data be all right?"
Geordi looked upset. "I wish I knew."
Riker stared into the synthahol he'd gotten out of the
replicator when he'd gotten to his quarters that evening. This
had been a horrible day in his book. And tomorrow didn't look
all that great, either.
There was still no word about Data. Crusher and LaForge
were still working on him, having moved the android to his lab.
Beverly had finally told Will that she and Geordi would work
faster without him looking over their shoulders. They would
notify him and the captain when there was news. Riker himself
had told Picard what had happened. The captain had absorbed the
news, then told Riker to take a break. "Why don't you visit
Counselor Troi?" he'd asked.
Will wanted to see her. But first he wanted to get his
thoughts in better order. She was going through enough without
having to put up with the chaos his emotions were at the moment.
So he had tried to settle down with a glass of synthehol. It
His door chimed. Thinking it might be Geordi with a report,
or maybe even Deanna checking on HIM, he responded. "Come!"
The door swished open, and Dee walked in. She gave him a
tentative smile. "Hello, Will."
"Dee!" He got up quickly, the liquid in his glass sloshing
over his fingers in his haste. "Um, Dr. Crusher released you
Dee shook her head. "Dr. Crusher is busy with Data. I just
couldn't stay there another moment." Her eyes traveled around
the cabin, finally focusing on the dining table, still set for
the dinner Will had planned. She walked over to it, her fingers
gently brushing the edge of a plate.
"That night, the night you asked me to marry you...that was
the happiest moment of my life." Her voice was soft. "Until we
were married, of course."
Will didn't know what to say. "Dee...I'm, I'm sorry for
Dee shook her head. "I remember...it was an away mission,
like so many you'd gone on...then, I felt your fear...I felt
them...I felt them ASSIMILATE you..." her voice cracked.
Will put his glass on the table and placed steadying hands
on her shoulders. "Dee, shhh, don't think about it right now..."
She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling with tears, but a
smile on her lips. "I'm so grateful I have a second chance. To
be with you again." She slipped her arms around his neck and
pressed her body into his.
Will tried to gently push her away. "Dee -"
"My name is Deanna. And we are Imzadi." She pulled his
mouth down to hers.
She kissed hungrily, insistently. Her hands began to stroke
his body, her mind was in his. "Imzadi..." Riker felt himself
beginning to respond to her. His arms tightened around her, he
began to return her passionate kisses. He began to answer her in
her mind...but then another mind intruded.
It was Deanna. She couldn't fully sense what was going on,
but she was there. And that realization hit Riker like cold
water. He forced himself to lift his head away from the woman in
front of him, forced himself to stop her hands. "Dee...I - I
can't. I'm sorry."
"Will," she said, "I NEED you."
Will swallowed. This was so hard. "Dee, there's Deanna to
"No!" Deanna argued, her arms still around him. "She never
married you. She doesn't NEED you like I do. Please, Will,
It was very rare for Will to turn away from this woman, a
woman he loved with all his heart. But his heart told him he had
to. He disengaged himself from her embrace. "Dee, this - this
isn't a good idea. Please. I don't want to hurt you."
She stared at him, then turned her back to him, her hands on
the table. He saw her shoulders begin to tremble. Feeling
horrible, he reached out, not quite touching her shoulder. "Let
me take you back to Sickbay..."
She straightened up, and turned to face him. "Don't bother,
Commander. I know the way." She turned on her heel and stalked
Will let his unhappy gaze fall to the table, thinking this
was as bad as the day could get. Something nagged at him as he
stood there. It took him a few precious seconds to realize what
he was seeing and then it hit him. A knife was missing from the
place setting. Will's eyes went to the door she had gone
through, and he was afraid.
?Deanna Troi took a long swallow of her hot chocolate,
letting the warm sweet liquid fill her mouth and slip down her
throat. Hot chocolate was an evening tradition with her; it
helped her to relax, especially after a difficult day.
It wasn't having it's usual success tonight. She leaned
back on the pillows of her bed, closing her eyes and trying to
release the tension that had built up that day. It didn't help
that her empathic abilities were damped down. She felt as if she
were wrapped in cotton; she couldn't even sense Will with any
degree of reliability. She thought she had sensed eroticism from
him moments ago; it had been strong enough to affect her
Deanna sighed. She missed Will. She missed his arms around
her,his mouth on hers. She missed his laughter. She missed
simply talking to him about what was going on.
She drained her cup of cocoa and contemplated replicating
another one. Or maybe simply tossing on a robe and knocking on
Will's door. He surely wouldn't turn her away again, would he?
She heard her cabin door swish open. She swung her feet out
of bed, and went to the doorway of her bedroom. "Will?"
It wasn't Will. Dee stood there in the middle of the room,
looking pale and disheveled. At this close proximity, Deanna
could sense a rush of emotion from the woman; sorrow,
desperation, and something terrible: the beginnings of madness.
"Dee? What's wrong?"
Dee trembled. "I'm sorry...I need him...but you...you..."
she raised her hand and Deanna saw the knife.
"Dee," Deanna worked to keep her voice calm and soothing;
she took a cautious step back towards her bedroom. "You don't
want to hurt me."
"DON'T TALK TO ME THAT WAY!" Dee screamed, startling Deanna.
Then Dee leapt at her twin, knife upraised.
Deanna had frozen for an instant when Dee screamed; now she
stumbled back into her bedroom, and slammed her hand on the door
But Dee was moving quickly. She was at the door and opening
it before Deanna could engage the lock. She swiped the knife at
the empath who barely avoided the blow.
Deanna backed away, and reached up to activate her
communicator. Her hand only found the fabric of her gown. Of
course she wasn't wearing her communicator. Then her legs hit
the bed behind her and she fell back. "Troi to - "
Dee was on top of her before she could finish speaking. The
knife came flashing down. Deanna twisted, and instead of
stabbing her in the heart the knife sliced along her arm. Deanna
kicked in desperation, trying to dislodge the crazed woman from
on top of her. She struck at Dee's knife hand. Dee slapped her
hard, then dug a hand in Deanna's throat.
"DEE!!" cried a voice.
Dee turned at the sound of that voice. Will stood behind
her, a phaser aimed at her.
"Will!" She took a step to him, arms outstretched. "I have
to kill her - then we can be together!"
Will's jaw tightened. "No, Dee. I can't let you do that."
She stared at him, then shook her head. "You'll see." She
turned back to Deanna, who lay dazed on the bed, and raised the
Will looked anguished, but he didn't hesitate. He fired the
phaser, enveloping Dee in it's light before she dropped upon the
bed on top of Deanna.
Will rushed over to the bed and rolled Dee off. "Deanna?"
Deanna looked up at Will, tears streaking her face. She
held a hand over the knife wound in her arm, blood oozing between
her fingers. Will swallowed hard, and then hit his communicator.
"Riker to Security."
Riker stood in Sickbay, taking in the scene before him.
On one bed, Dee lay heavily sedated. If he squinted, he
could see the sparkle of the force field that restrained her. In
his mind's eye he could still see the phaser beam striking her,
and her body falling.
He shifted his gaze over to another biobed, where Deanna sat
while Nurse Ogawa fussed over her and treated her the cut in her
arm. Deanna looked pale, her gaze occasionally shifting to her
twin on the other bed.
Riker dropped his head, massaging his temples as a headache
pounded. This was all so wrong. And worse, he didn't know how
to fix it.
"It's not your fault."
Riker snapped his head up. Deanna was looking at him.
Ogawa patted her on the shoulder. "I'll let Dr. Crusher know how
you are." She moved away, giving the two of them some privacy.
Riker stepped over to where Deanna was sitting. "How's the
She moved it, wincing slightly. "It will be all right."
She gazed at him, holding him in her dark eyes. "I meant what I
said, Will. It isn't your fault."
Will couldn't help looking over at Dee. "Are you sure? I
seem to remember that I was the one who shot Dee. Oh, and let's
not forget that I shot her while she was trying to kill you
because of me."
"You are not responsible for Dee's madness, Will," Deanna
argued. "Her actions are her own choice, not yours."
"She's mad because of what happened to me - what WILL happen
to me. That wasn't her choice, Deanna."
Deanna reached out and touched Will's face, forcing him to
look at her again. "Will, we both know that future is only one
Will shook his head, tearing his eyes from hers. "I don't
know if I want to risk that particular future."
Will lifted a hand, silencing her. "Deanna, wait. Hear me
out. I've been giving this some thought...and I don't want this
- I don't want HER - to be your future."
"Who are you to decide my future for me?" Deanna demanded.
"Someone who loves you," Will shot back. "Deanna, I'm
thinking - all those years we were apart, the link - it wasn't
working then, was it?"
"What are you trying to say?" Deanna demanded.
"I'm saying, maybe it's time for me to move on. The new
ship - The Titan?" At her nod, he continued. "I've applied for
the captaincy. I was going to tell you before, but - "
"Will, that's wonderful!" Deanna said. "You always wanted
to be a captain. I know the Titan will be a good fit for you.
But what does that have to do with our link?"
Will took a deep breath. "You won't be coming with me."
Deanna's eyes widened. "What if I want to?"
"If you try, I'll use my prerogative as Captain to deny you
permission." Will's heart twisted at the pain in her eyes, but
looking at the other biobed strengthened his resolve. "Deanna, I
love you - and because of that I'm going to get as far away from
you as I can. I don't want to make you go through that."
Deanna shook her head in denial. "Will, please don't do
Before he could answer her, Beverly Crusher entered Sickbay.
She made a beeline for the two of them, scanning Deanna as soon
as she was in range. "How are you feeling?" the Doctor asked.
Deanna gave Will one last pleading look, then turned to her
friend and physician. "I'm fine. Nurse Ogawa repaired my arm
and it barely hurts."
Beverly nodded in approval. "It looks good, but you should
go easy on it for a day or two." She continued to focus on the
tricorder. "And your empathic sense? Still suppressed?"
Deanna sighed. "Yes, but I wish it weren't. It's very
frustrating not to have it," she complained, shooting a pointed
look at Will as she did so.
Will ignored her look, concentrating on Crusher. Something
was bothering her. "Beverly? Is something wrong?" A horrible
thought entered his mind. "How's Data?"
Beverly's jaw tightened. "He's going to be fine. Geordi
and he are running diagnostics on his positronic brain right
Deanna and Will exchanged worried looks. "But...?" Riker
Beverly sighed. "He's going to be fine because his emotion
chip absorbed most of the damage. Geordi says it is completely
Riker exhaled sharply. He knew how Data had cherished the
ability to feel emotions after a lifetime without them. To lose
it again was a tragedy.
Deanna touched the doctor's arm. "Beverly, you did all you
"I know," Beverly answered. "But Deanna, if you are up to
it, you should talk to Geordi. He feels terrible about it and
thinks its his fault."
Deanna nodded. "I will speak to him. And Data will help
him understand as well."
"I'd better go talk to them," Riker said abruptly. "They
may have been able to get some information from those ship's
logs." He began to stride from Sickbay.
"Will," Deanna said. He stopped and turned around, meeting
her eyes. "We still need to talk."
Will allowed himself to sink into those dark orbs for a few
seconds, then without another word, turned and left Sickbay.
Riker took another gulp of coffee as he sat down in the Captain's Ready Room. He was one of the last to arrive - the captain was already there, at the head of the table. Deanna gave him a wan smile as he took his seat next to her. It took all his self-control not to wrap an arm around her. He managed to return her smile and then turned his attention to Data and Geordi, who both were standing in front of the room's viewscreen.
Picard nodded at Riker and Worf, who was the last to be seated. "Very well. Let's begin. Mister Data, on behalf of your shipmates, let me express our condolences for the loss of your emotion chip."
Data nodded. "I understand, sir. But, as I was telling Commander LaForge, if he had not disengaged me from the Borg interface, I would likely have caused substantial damage and loss of life to the ship and crew. The loss of my emotion chip seems to be a small price to pay in retrospect."
The captain was silent for a minute, then nodded. "Indeed. Well, let's continue with our debriefing."
"Of course, sir." Data activated the viewscreen, which showed a familiar sight - the anomaly a Borg sphere had created when they traveled back in time in an attempt to change Earth's history.
Riker frowned. "Data, what does this have to do with our current situation?"
"Sir, after reviewing the files I downloaded from the Borg shuttle we recently encountered, I have determined that what occurred with the Borg during this encounter was an early experiment with time travel. The Borg did not continue to pursue this particular method because it limited the size of the ship that could make use of it. It would not remain stable enough for something the size of a Borg Cube to implement - this is the reason the cube itself did not attempt the maneuver."
Geordi spoke next. "Apparently, our hypothesis was correct: the Borg are now looking for ways to allow a fleet to travel through time - perhaps to make another attempt to interfere with First Contact, or simply to send back improved weaponry."
Riker felt a chill creep up his spine. He looked around the room and saw similar reactions from everyone else in the room. The Borg were bad enough now. If they somehow managed to import advanced technology from the future, technology the Federation had no defenses against...
Worf then snorted. "If that is the case, they do not seem to have made such progress."
"I concur that it does not appear to be successful as yet," Data agreed. "However, given what they have found on this planet, success is no doubt a matter of time."
"Why? Picard asked, leaning forward. "What have they found?"
Geordi changed the picture on the viewscreen. It now showed the planet. "According to the records Data downloaded from the shuttle, they have found a device on this planet that facilitates time travel."
"A device?" Riker asked. He shared a look with Picard, thinking of the Guardian of Forever, a time travel device the first Enterprise encountered years ago. He couldn't bring it up however - he and the Captain were the only ones in the room cleared for knowledge of that artifact.
"Apparently the device is not calibrated correctly. This explains the damage to the two ships that came through the anomaly. The Borg are in the process of correcting the problem," Data explained.
"How are they calibrating it?" Crusher asked.
"They are working to set up the future device correctly. Once that is accomplished, they will calibrate the one from our time. Once both devices are set up correctly, the Borg believe they will be able to freely pass between the two time periods, and perhaps others as well," Data concluded.
Silence reigned in the conference room for several minutes. Then Riker asked, "What can we do?"
Geordi answered. "We need to destroy the device on our end. If we do, Data and I believe it will set up a chain reaction, destroying all such devices in all the timelines."
"How is that possible?" Deanna asked.
"The devices seem to have some sort of link with each other, or so the Borg believe," Data answered. "The link is apparently necessary for time travel to be possible. The Borg have the device in their timeline guarded heavily. They apparently plan to set another guard on the device here - Geordi and I suspect that is what the crew of the first ship was going to do, if they succeeded in their travel."
"Worse, we think maybe the Borg of our time have received the message their future counterparts have sent about the situation here. Which means we could be having company before too long," Geordi added.
Picard grimaced. "I already have the Bridge scanning for Borg signatures. Do you have any idea where this device is?"
"We've been having a little trouble pinpointing it," Geordi confessed. "It's masking it's signature to a certain extent." He adjusted the viewscreen, which now displayed a schematic of the planet below them. An area of the planet flashed in red. "This is the area we've managed to narrow it down to. Data and I think an away team can search this area and find the device, and destroy it."
"I'll head the away team, sir," Riker offered.
Before Picard could answer, the intercom chirped to life. "Bridge to the Captain."
"Picard here," the captain replied with a grimace. His expression told everyone in the conference room that he suspected what news the Bridge had.
"Sir, we're picking up a Borg signature. It looks like a cube is headed this way."
Picard sighed, exchanging grim looks with the rest of his officers. "Estimated time of arrival?"
"Three hours, sir."
"Very well. Maintain position, stand by for orders. Picard out." Picard folded his hands in front of him and stared at them. "Well, it looks as if we have very little time."
"Sir, I believe I should take an away team and go find this device and destroy it, if possible," Riker repeated.
"Captain, I am not sure if Commander Riker should be on this away team," Deanna interjected.
"What?!" Will asked.
Picard lifted his head up and stared at the Counselor. She colored but did not lower her eyes. Finally, Picard said, "Mr. Data and Mr. LaForge, see if you can discover any more information about that device that would help the away team. Worf, prepare the ship for a fight with the Borg. Dismissed. Counselor Troi and Commander Riker, please remain."
Once the room was empty except for Picard, Riker, and Troi, the captain turned to the Counselor. "All right, I'm listening. But you will have to make your argument quickly."
"Captain, we know that in another time line Commander Riker was assimilated by the Borg while on an away mission. It is possible he will still be on the planet when they arrive."
Picard looked as if he were about to say something, then he turned to Riker. "Commander, what do you say to that?"
"I say I can't be wrapped up in cotton like some antique doll, sir!" Riker replied. He turned to Deanna, and took a deep breath; part of him was angry at what she had done, but another part understood her motivations. "Deanna, I'm the best qualified to do this. The ship needs Data, Geordi and Worf on board if the Borg attack."
"And the ship doesn't need you?" she asked, her voice trembling a little bit.
Riker took her hands between his own. He gazed deeply into her eyes. "Deanna, I know you'd do anything to keep me from harm. I KNOW. But you can't do that. Not with the life I've chosen - that WE'VE chosen." He paused a minute, then cupped her face in one hand. "If the Borg come here, there will be no place safe. Someone has to try to keep them from acquiring this technology. I want to do this. I HAVE to do this."
She stared at him silently for long moments. Then she asked, "May I join you on the away team?" Before Riker could object, she added, "If I can't keep you from going, I can at least share the danger with you. And don't say you don't want me to go - you have no more right to demand that than I do."
Riker thought a moment, then turned to Picard. "Captain, request that Counselor Troi join me on the away team."
Picard regarded them for a moment, then sighed. "I suspect I would find
it difficult to prevent her from doing so. Report to LaForge and Data to get
what information you can."
Ensign Moye entered Sickbay and made his way to his counterpart, Ensign Gar, who leaned against the wall with a bored expression. Moye glanced over at the woman laying on the biobed nearby. "How's our charge?"
"Out like a light," Gar replied. "This is incredibly boring duty. I'm so glad my shift is over."
"That's right, rub it in," Moye groused. "Here we are, about to battle the Borg, and I'm stuck in Sickbay with a crazy woman."
"Hey, at least it's safe," Gar chuckled. He stretched. "Besides, the Borg aren't exactly a fun race to fight."
"I know, but this is useless. I mean, I even would take being on Commander Riker's away team over this. Even though I bet he and the Counselor want some 'private' time," Moye smirked.
Gar looked apprehensive. "Keep your voice down, idiot. If Doctor Crusher or another officer hears you talking like that, you'll have a lot worse detail than guarding a helpless woman."
Moye looked annoyed, but lowered his voice. "Ok, ok. I'm just speaking my mind, that's all."
"Just be careful," Gar warned. He yawned. "Well, I'm gonna get some shuteye before it gets crazy around here. Have fun."
"Yeah, yeah," Moye griped as he took his place next to Dee.
It had taken all the self-control Dee possessed to continue to feign sleep while the security officers talked. She wanted to scream. She wanted to give in to hysterics. But the part of her that was still sane, still a Starfleet officer, knew she had to be in control if she was going to get out of Sickbay.
And she had to get out of Sickbay. Will was in danger - he was on an away mission, and the Borg were coming. She had lost him to them once - she would not lose him that way again.
She struggled until she found her center, then slowly opened her eyes. She yawned, then let her eyes fall on the bored security officer. "Oh, hello. You're not the same guard that was here earlier, were you?"
"No ma'am," he responded. He didn't seem too interested in her, and that was good. She needed him to see her as someone he didn't need to pay much mind to.
As she lay there, trying to look nonthreatening, she used her muffled empathic sense to try to see who else was in Sickbay. She wanted to be alone with this guard if possible. She wasn't sure, so she had to ask, "Is Doctor Crusher here?"
Moye craned his neck as he looked around Sickbay. "I don't see her. She might be in her office. Want me to check?"
"No, that's all right," she replied. Well, she'd have to chance it. She was grateful that Crusher had decided to remove the catheter from her earlier that day; it made her plan all the easier.
She began to groan slightly. "Ooohh...I have to go to the bathroom..."
Moye looked annoyed. "Now?"
"Please..." she moaned, trying to look as if she were in pain.
"Ok, ok," Moye said. He released the force field, and aimed his phaser at her. "Go on, but I have my phaser on you."
She moved unsteadily, and began to totter towards the head. She sensed the guard moving close to her, ready to catch her if she fell. She hid a smile. Perfect.
She waited until she was almost to the head, then suddenly turned to face him. She grabbed the hand that held the phaser, pushing it back behind the security guard and twisting. She drew her hand back, and the guard had an instant to realize she was holding his phaser before she stunned him.
She caught him as he fell, and dragged him into the head. She allowed herself a smile as she regarded the phaser. Will had taught her that move one rainy afternoon on Betazed; he claimed that he learned it from an old Earth movie called "Rush Hour." She had the feeling he would have been proud of her.
She stepped out of the head to see Beverly Crusher round the corner. "Did I hear phaser fire?"
"Yes," Dee answered as she stunned her friend. "Sorry."
After moving the doctor back into her office, Dee checked to see if the corridor
was clear, then left Sickbay.
Riker examined his tricorder then pointed to the left. "This way."
Deanna nodded and followed him, scrambling up the rocky slope. Riker reached a ledge, then turned to offer her a hand up. She took it and came up beside him. She took advantage of Riker once again scanning the area to catch her breath. "How much time?" she asked.
Riker checked the tricorder as he moved about in a circle. "About an hour before company. Hopefully, it isn't much farther." He shifted the bandolier of explosives he carried over a shoulder.
Deanna nodded. Then she reached out to touch his arm. "Will...we need to talk."
Riker's mouth quirked. "We're sort of on a deadline, Deanna. I'm not sure we have time for a heart to heart."
"This may be the best time - it may be the only time we have," Deanna said. She gave a slight smile at Will's raised eyebrows. She took a step closer to him, and placed her hands lightly on his chest. "Will, I still believe we can avert this future that Dee represents. But I need you to say something out loud - what is it you truly fear? The Borg?"
Will lowered the tricorder, looking deep into her eyes. She was so beautiful. He thought a minute before speaking. "I AM afraid of the Borg - but I'm not, too. I'm not afraid to die - or even be assimilated - in service to Starfleet," he paused, placing a hand in her thick hair. "I AM afraid of destroying someone I love more than life itself. A beautiful woman who taught me to want something beyond a career among the stars. Before I would hurt her, I would give up everything - including my life."
Deanna turned her head and kissed his palm. "Will, if you love me, don't stop being afraid - but don't deprive me of a moment of being with you, a moment of your love, or your touch. A philosopher once said, "feel the fear - but do it anyway." She looked up at him tenderly. "I love you, Imzadi."
He bent down to kiss her, when the tricorder in his hand suddenly began to beep. The sound made them both jump. Deanna started to move back, but Will put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to his side, turning the tricorder so they could both see the readings.
Deanna frowned as she studied the tricorder. "The signal's getting stronger."
"Yeah, and we haven't moved," Riker added.
No sooner had he said that, their comm badges chirped. "Enterprise to away team."
"Will," Picard stated in an ominous voice, "Data has reported a temporal disturbance. It is possible that there is another vessel from the future paying us a visit."
Riker exchanged a grim look with Deanna. "Acknowledged, Captain. We are nearing the location of the device."
"Commander, it may be best if you and Counselor Troi return to the ship."
"Captain, we are very close to the device. We have an opportunity to disable it. Request we stay and complete our mission," Riker replied. He looked down on Deanna, who nodded. "The Counselor and I are willing to take the risk."
On the Enterprise, Picard considered Riker's request. So much of him screamed to get his team out of there, but he knew as well as Riker did the device had to be destroyed.
His thoughts were interrupted by Worf. "Captain, there has been an unauthorized transport to the surface."
Picard turned to face the Klingon. "Who?"
"Scanning the planet surface," Data said from Ops. "The temporal anomaly is making it increasingly difficult to conduct scans...we may soon lose the ability to transport the Away Team."
"Riker to Enterprise. Sir, is everything all right?"
"Apparently, you have company on the planet, Number One."
Riker and Deanna traded looks. "Borg, sir?"
"No, Number One. Stand by."
"Sir, we probably should continue our search for the device," Riker said. He gave Deanna a quick squeeze before releasing her. He pointed in a direction, and she nodded, unholstering her phaser and walking with him.
Picard paused. Data turned to face him. "Sir, if we are going to beam up the team, we will need to do so in the next two minutes."
Picard nodded. "Do you know who beamed down to the surface?"
"Captain!" Worf rumbled. "It seems that Dee is missing from Sickbay. One of my security officers discovered her guard and Dr. Crusher unconscious in Sickbay. The guard's phaser is also missing."
Picard sighed. "Well, I think we know who is on the surface now." He addressed the Away Team. "Will, Dee has apparently beamed down to the surface. Try to find her while you take care of the device. And - please be careful, Number One."
Riker and Deanna stopped walking at this news. Riker frowned. "Acknowledged, Captain. Riker out." He gave Deanna a worried look. "Can you sense her?"
Deanna concentrated. "No. But our abilities have been muted - I may be able to sense her as time passes or she gets closer to us."
"Time isn't something we have a lot of right now Deanna," Will answered. He glanced down at his tricorder, then indicated the mouth of a cave a little ways above them. "We'd better keep moving."
Picard sat in his command chair, every muscle tense. He was never easy when he was going up against the Borg. Unconsciously he rubbed his hand over the right side of his face, where the Borg had once put implants. "Worf, are we ready for them?"
His security officer grunted. "As ready as we can be, Sir. I suggest we dispatch them quickly before the Borg of our time show up."
Data spoke up from Ops. "The vessel is almost through the anomaly - it appears to be a Borg shuttle."
"Red Alert!" Picard barked. "Data, on screen."
A minute later, the Borg shuttle blasted out of the anomaly. It began to make a beeline for the planet, then seemed to notice Enterprise.
"The vessel appears to have suffered less damage than the other ships that have passed through the anomaly," Data reported.
"Sir! They have fired on us!" Worf reported.
The ship shuddered under the impact of the Borg weapons. "Return fire!" Picard ordered, holding his seat.
Phaser beams lashed out, splashing harmlessly on the shuttle's shields. "Ineffective, sir!"
"I am attempting to rotate the frequencies of our phasers to compensate, sir," Worf said.
The two ships exchanged fire for a few minutes. At first the Enterprise took the worst of it - damage reports came from all over the ship. Gradually, Worf's tactics began to succeed, and finally the ship's phasers broke through the shuttle's screens.
The Borg vessel burst apart in a bright shower of pyrotechnics. Picard allowed himself a brief sigh of relief. "Damage report!"
"Sir," Data interrupted, "I detected transporter activity before the Borg ship was destroyed. I believe some Borg have transported to the planet's surface."
"I thought you said transporters weren't working," Picard said, coming to Data's station.
"Our transporters could not penetrate the effects from the anomaly. The Borg transporters have apparently adapted."
"Raise the away team, Worf. We have to warn them."
"Communications are down, Captain," Geordi reported. "I'm trying to get them back up."
Picard's relief dissolved into dread. "Data, can we scan the surface?"
Data shook his head. "I can scan portions of the planet, but cannot locate the Commander and Counselor. They may be close to the device and so their lifesigns may be masked at this time."
Picard clenched his fist and swore. "Mr. Worf, prepare an away team and get a shuttle down there!" As Worf left the Bridge to comply, the Captain could only hope for the best.
Riker and Troi had found the device. It stood a little taller than Riker himself, and appeared to be a hodgepodge of flashing lights and buttons embedded in stone. They stared at it a minute. Then Deanna tilted her head. "It almost looks like a sculpture of some kind."
Will shook his head as he pulled the explosives off his shoulder. "That's what I love about you Deanna - you can see art in just about anything, even a device that can destroy our way of life."
He handed Deanna a pair of explosives and together they began to attach them to the device. Deanna looked uneasy. "This is a lot of power Will. Is it necessary?"
"It's hard to get an accurate reading of the makeup of this thing. We need to be sure to knock it out of commission."
Deanna gave it a nervous glance. "Are you going to set it off by remote?"
Will shook his head. "Geordi and Data weren't sure if a signal would work. I'm setting a timer," he held up the timer for Deanna to see before he attached it to the device. "I have it set for 10 minutes. Plenty of time to get away." He stood up, brushing his knees off, extending a hand to Deanna. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Deanna let him pull her to her feet. They hadn't taken ten steps out of the chamber that held the device before the sound of transporters filled their ears.
Will yanked out his phaser. "Get behind me, Deanna!" They stood back to back, phasers out, as four transporter beams coalesced into Borg drones.
Will took down one drone before he could take more than a step. He heard Deanna's phaser whine, and the crash of a body. He turned slightly and sent another drone flying back into the rock wall with a blast from his weapon. He turned completely to see Deanna fire at the final drone. A force field sprang to life around the Borg, and he moved toward them.
"He's adapted!" Deanna warned. She was trying to recalibrate her phaser even as Will pulled her behind him. He was also adjusting his weapon, but the drone was too close. As Will raised his weapon, it batted it away and raised its other hand. Will shoved it up and away from him, then kicked the drone in the chest, sending it staggering back. It hit the device and fell.
Will turned and shoved Deanna in front of him. "RUN!" he shouted. He wanted Deanna away from the drone. He turned back towards the chamber.
"Will! What are you doing?" Deanna asked.
"I have to make sure that Borg doesn't undo what we've do-"
Phaser fire lit up the rock corridor, sending Riker down on the ground. Deanna dropped to one knee and tried to fire back. Another shot missed her but struck the wall next to her. It exploded from the impact of the beam. The blast threw Deanna flat on the ground, where she lay, stunned.
Will rolled forward, catching the drone in the legs and sending him down in a tangle of arms and legs. Will gripped the drone's wrist with all his strength, trying to force it to release the phaser. He twisted hard; he felt bones give and the phaser fell from the drone's fingers.
But the move cost him. The drone rammed his head into his face, stunning him. Will fell back, and the drone was on top of him, pinning him to the ground.
As if time had slowed to a crawl, Riker saw the drone raise his fist, ready to inject him with the nanoprobes that would change him into a Borg. He struggled to keep the hand away from his throat, but it bore down on him inexorably.
This is it, he thought. The future is coming true. Deanna, Imzadi, I'm so sorry...
The drone on top of him suddenly jerked as energy crackled
through it. It fell on top of Riker. Will shoved the body
off him and looked over. Deanna was sitting on the ground,
looking dazed. Dee stood over her, a phaser in her hand. She
looked at Will, her eyes wide with fear.
"Dee," he looked from her to the lifeless drone. He
swallowed. "I think...I mean, if you hadn't..."
Relief flooding her face, she ran to Riker and threw her
arms around him. "Imzadi! I've saved you! I've saved
She began to kiss his face.
Will placed his hands on her shoulders, even as her mouth
found his. He gently moved her away from him and could not
miss the hurt in her eyes as he did so. He couldn't think of
anything to erase the pain he saw, so said nothing as he moved
to Deanna, who was pushing herself to a sitting position.
"Are you all right?" he asked, his eyes sweeping over
"I'm fine. Just a little shaken up." She looked at him,
and he saw the fear in her eyes. "Will - you almost - that
It's ok," he assured her, pulling Deanna into a tight
embrace. "I'm ok, thanks to Dee." He turned to
acknowledge his rescuer, and at once saw they had another problem.
Dee had gotten to her feet. Now, she stared at the two
of them, the phaser wavering in her hand. Her eyes were wide
as she gazed at the two of them, and her mouth hung slightly
open. She shook her head. "Her...you...you're
Imzadi...but...me..." The phaser kept moving, first to
Deanna, then to Will.
"Dee," Deanna began.
"Shut up!" Dee yelled. "You didn't save him! *I*
saved him! He's MY Imzadi now!"
Will pushed Deanna behind him as he got to his feet,
making sure he blocked any shot Dee might have at Deanna. He
forced calm in his voice. "Yes, Dee. You saved me. And I
will forever be in your debt because of that." He took a slow
step towards the distraught woman. "But, we are not Imzadi."
She shook her head in denial. "No! We are! I felt our
connection before, we ARE Imzadi!"
Will took another step, his eyes never leaving Dee, ready
to step back if she spooked. "Dee, we are not Imzadi. Your
Imzadi - " He started to say, "is dead," but caught
himself and softened the statement, "- was a Will Riker from your
Tears spilled out of her eyes. "But he's gone. And
"Yes, Dee, I am. But my soul belongs to another."
"But we can get rid of her!" Her voice was pleading.
"We can get rid of her, and then we can be together!"
He took another step. He couldn't risk turning around to
check on Deanna, and could only hope that she was keeping him
between her and her twin. "Dee, we can't do that. I
won't LET you do that. If you want to kill Deanna, you will have to
kill me first, because I will fight you with all I have."
Dee shook her head in denial. "No..."
"Yes," Riker said, taking one step closer. He spread his
hands out, opening himself physically and mentally. "Search
my mind, Dee. Search me and know the truth."
She hesitated a second, then he felt her flood his mind.
It took a conscious effort on his part not to flinch from the
barrage. This was not the gentle, loving sharing he and
Deanna shared in their link; this was an onslaught from
someone who urgently sought information and was determined to
get it whatever the cost.
Memories flickered like a strobe light. He felt as if he
was caught up in a fast moving river, tossed and turned by the
current. Will grit his teeth and endured it, concealing
Finally the sensation faded. Will found himself gasping
for air, his hands on his knees. Dee stood frozen in front of
him. For a moment, he wondered if the sharing had been too
much for her.
Then, with a cry of despair, she dropped the phaser and
covered her face with her hands. Weeping, she fell to her
knees on the ground. Will scooped up the weapon, but was at a
loss at how to calm Dee.
A shrill whine from the chamber that housed the time
device interrupted his thoughts. He ran into the chamber.
One look at the device showed nothing wrong at first. Then
his eyes fell on the timer. He swore and ran back out, nearly
colliding with Deanna. "What is it?" she asked.
"The timer's running faster. Something to do with the way
the device deals with time maybe. We have to move!"
Will knelt by Dee, who was still crying. "Dee? We have
"Leave me here! I don't want to live!" Dee wailed.
Will groaned in frustration. "We don't have time for
this!" He grabbed Dee by the arm and hauled her to her feet.
Deanna reached out a hand to help, but Dee flinched from her
"I've got her, Deanna! RUN!" Will shoved his Imzadi in
front of him and began to drag Dee down the corridor. She
stumbled at first, then began to run with him as he continued
to pull her along.
The walls of the passage flashed by them, Will praying
they would get out into the open before the thing blew. He
almost got his wish.
The blast knocked the three of them off their feet. Will
bounced off a wall and got his feet tangled in a rock on the
floor. He tried to catch himself but his foot caught on the
rock and he heard the snap of bone as his ankle gave in to the
He rolled to check on the women. Deanna was slowly
pushing herself to a sitting position, blood streaming from
her head. Dee, who appeared to be uninjured, rose to her feet
and began to reach for him, worry on her face. A rumble made
The wall next to Deanna was shuddering with the force of
the explosion. It began to tumble, rocks and boulders heading
towards the Counselor. She looked up, but was slow to react.
Will tried to get to his feet. His ankle gave way and he
sprawled to the ground. He reached out toward his Imzadi:
"DEANNA!!" he screamed.
For the second time that day, time slowed for Will Riker.
He saw Dee look from him to Deanna. She looked at him one
more time. Then she sprinted towards Deanna, who was
struggling to get to her feet. She grabbed Deanna by the
shoulders and shoved her towards Will. Before she could save
herself, Dee disappeared under the rain of stone.
Deanna screamed. Will gritted his teeth and pulled
himself towards her. Deanna was clawing at the stone, crying.
"She's still alive! Will, I sense her..."
Together they dug and pulled rocks away until they found
Dee. Her breathing was labored, and blood trickled from her
nose and mouth. Will took her in his arms. "Dee? Dee, it's
going to be all right. Riker to Enterprise!"
There was no answer. Will struck his communicator again.
"Riker to Enterprise!" When he could not raise the ship, he
Deanna was scanning her twin. She also tried to contact
the ship, with no success. She took one last scan, then her
eyes met Will's. Tears spilling down her face, she shook her
"No!" Will shouted. He bent his head lower towards Dee's
bruised face brushing it with his fingers. "Dee?"
Her eyes opened. She looked deeply into his. "I
couldn't do it," she murmured. "I couldn't take her
away from you. I sensed how you felt about her...you both are truly
Imzadi. Just as he and I were -" a moan escaped her.
Will tightened his grip on the dying woman. "Dee,
I'm...I'm so sorry..."
"Say my name," she begged him. "Let me hear his voice
say my name one last time..."
"Deanna," he said softly, fighting to keep his voice
steady. "Imzadi," he brushed her lips with his.
She rewarded him with a small smile. "Do you - do you
think my Imzadi is waiting for me? Will we finally be
"He's waiting for you," Will told her. "I would
Her smile grew a little. Then she drew one last breath
and the light left her eyes, though her lips stayed fixed in a
Will gently closed the dark eyes as he lowered Dee to the
ground. Then he reached over and gathered a weeping Deanna
into his arms.
Captain's Log, Stardate 1231.8: We were able to retrieve the away team and conceal ourselves in the sun's chromosphere before the Borg arrived. We have been monitoring them for the past several hours. So far, it seems that they have not yet been able to reactivate the device.
The doors to the Bridge opened, and Will and Deanna entered. Will still limped slightly, though Beverly had repaired his ankle with her usual skill. She had forced the couple to rest in Sickbay for a while before Will's constant complaining had compelled her to eject them from Sickbay "to get you out of my hair!"
Will looked over at Deanna as they took their seats. Her eyes were still slightly tinged with red, evidence of the tears she had wept over Dee's death. Dee's body now lay in stasis. Will had his own emotions to deal with over his alternate Imzadi's death, but for now he locked them into a compartment in his brain. He had other worries at the moment, and they were focused on the Borg vessel out there.
"Welcome back, Number One, Counselor," Picard said.
"Thank you sir," Deanna said, her voice so soft Will had to strain to hear her.
Will nodded. "Sir, anything on the Borg?"
"Data?" the Captain asked.
"The Borg are still orbiting the planet. However, scans of surrounding space appear normal."
Riker forced himself to breathe normally. Had they done it? Were they successful in keeping the Borg from accessing this timeline?
Deanna looked over to him. He felt her reaching out to him in spite of the grief she was feeling, offering support to him. He smiled over to her, thanking her.
A few minutes later, Data reported, "Sir, the Borg have left the planet's orbit."
"Any sign they've detected us?" Riker asked.
"No sir. They are leaving the system."
"Data, is the area around the planet showing any abnormalities?" Picard asked.
Data scanned for a few minutes, then shook his head. "The space around the planet remains normal."
Picard nodded. "Let me know when the Borg have left the planet, then we will ensure that the machine is truly destroyed."
Later, Riker and Troi once again stood on the planet's surface. They were accompanied this time by Geordi, Data, and Worf with a full security team. They spent two hours scanning the area, finding that they were no longer hampered.
The chamber had been completely buried. The Borg had managed to tunnel to the chamber itself, but had apparently been unable to salvage the device. Will saw a piece or two of it in the debris, but Data and Geordi confirmed that the device was beyond reconstruction.
"It appears that you were successful in destroying the Borg's attempt to travel through time using this method," Data said.
Will nodded, lost in thought. He turned to speak to Deanna, and found she was missing. A little concerned, he searched for her. She was further up the passageway, kneeling at the spot where Dee died.
Will took a deep breath. He knelt beside the Betazoid, and placed an arm around her. "Deanna? We're almost done here. It's time to go."
She nodded, but did not speak for a moment. Under Riker's gentle urging, she got to her feet. Then, she seemed to come to some kind of decision. "Will, do you think the captain would be willing to give us some brief leave?"
Will's brow furrowed. "I think he'd be happy to, Deanna, but why?"
She looked at him, sad yet determined. "There's something we need to do."
The Janaran Falls on Betazed were known throughout the Federation for their beauty. Many lovers came to visit the falls, taking hovercrafts out to experience their breathtaking beauty.
Will and Deanna stood on such a hovercraft above the falls. He looked out on them, hearing their thunder, watching the water cascade down to a rainbow colored mist. He and Deanna both held small boxes made out of a Betazed wood that reminded Will of cedar. They were designed to fit together without glue or metal fasteners; others had done what they were about to do.
Deanna took a step over to the rail of the hovercraft. She wore a white blouse and a skirt festooned with colorful flowers that billowed in the wind. Riker had given her the skirt a long time ago, and he was touched that she had chosen to wear it today.
"Ready?" she asked.
He nodded, and stepped up beside her. Together they opened the boxes. Inside one box were Dee's ashes; the other contained those of the Riker drone. At a signal from Deanna, they both tipped the boxes over the edge, spilling the ashes out over the falls.
The ashes fell and mingled together, caught up in the breeze. They sparkled in the sunlight as they drifted down into the water at the base of the falls.
Will and Deanna let the boxes fall. They would break up below and decompose in the water, with no elements to harm the water or fish that lived there.
Deanna took a deep breath. "They are together now."
Will stepped behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He rested his chin on the top of her head, and gave himself up to the grief and regret he had held in.
"I couldn't save her," he said, his voice heavy with regret.
Deanna shook her head. "That's not true."
Will looked down at the top of her head. "Deanna, she's dead."
Deanna twisted her head so she could look up at him. "Will, she was mortal - she would have died someday. But you saved her in a way that's far more important."
Will cocked an eyebrow. "Go on."
She smiled and turned so that she faced him. Her hands on his chest she said, "You gave her back something of who she was. A loving, caring person who wouldn't take something away from someone else. Someone who wouldn't kill."
Will shook his head. "It doesn't seem to be enough."
She tilted her head. "What would have been enough? You gave her love and comfort in the end. You helped her to see the truth."
Will looked out over the falls. He squinted to see if he could catch a last sparkle of the ashes they had sent out. "I think she helped me to see some truth too."
Will looked down at Deanna. He took her hands in his. "The truth about how much you mean to me. And what an idiot I've been to think I could live some kind of life that didn't include you."
Deanna stared at him. "Will?"
He reached into a belt pouch, his eyes never leaving her face. She felt something cool and hard slip on her finger, and she looked down. The diamonds and sapphires glinted in the sun.
She looked up at Will, speechless.
Will cupped her face with his hands. "Imzadi, I can't promise how long of a future we will have. And I won't tell you that the possibility of it being cut short doesn't scare me. But I don't want to spend any of it, long of short, without you. Will you marry me?"
Tears began to spill from her eyes. Will was confused for a moment, then realized they were tears of joy.
"Oh, yes, yes, yes, Will, I will marry you!"
He bent down and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He puller her off her feet, crushing her to him. She broke the kiss, laughing.
He smiled down at her, her joy sweetening his. And he sent a mental thought to the woman who had given everything for him to have this moment: Thank you, Dee. Safe journey to you and your Imzadi.