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This story is not intended to infringe on any copyright, and is written
for the fans information and interest.
CIRCLES IN THE SNOW
Captain's Log, Stardate 48082.4:
The Enterprise is proceeding at warp five to the planet Denali Two,
where the Federation colony is reporting unusual seismic activity.
Denali Two's strategic location has proven valuable in monitoring
Cardassian activity, and the Federation would strongly prefer to remedy the
situation than abandon the colony.
Jean-Luc Picard studied the faces of his senior staff as they sat around the
polished wood conference table. "Denali
Two. What do we know about this
place?" Picard asked.
Two is a cold temperate to tundra world," answered Lt. Commander Data. "At the equator, where the colony is located,
temperatures average four degrees celsius, with 1270 mm annual precipitation.
Woody vegetation is dominated by retomus camalas, similar
to pincea glauca of earth, and ---"
twitched around the table. The
gold-skinned android had never quite learned to gauge which details may or may
not be pertinent to a given situation.
Data," Picard broke in, "let me rephrase that question.
What do we know about the geology of Denali Two that might help us get
to the bottom of this problem?"
Commander Geordi LaForge spoke next. "Parts
of the inner core of Denali Two have shown instability in the past, but
nothing ever on this scale. Denali
Two has only one major land mass and the west coast of that continent, where
the colony is located, has been experiencing landquakes and glacial slides. The colony is in a coastal valley, and that makes it
William Riker leaned forward, frowning. "The
colony numbers eight thousand people. Evacuating them will be more than a ten
minute job --- if the Enterprise has to do it alone, it'll take a good eight
hours. Besides that, neither the
timing nor strength of quakes can be predicted with perfect precision.
I recommend we contact all ships in the sector and put them on stand by
for relief efforts."
nodded in agreement. "Has
the scientific staff of Denali Two learned anything about the cause of the
increased seismic activity?"
theories center around greatly accelerated tectonic movement.
They have requested assistance in evaluating that theory," Data
Two was established for primarily strategic, not scientific purposes,"
Lt. Worf interjected. The Klingon
continued, "Evacuating the colony would significantly decrease the
Federation's defenses in the quadrant."
hope that won't be necessary," Picard replied.
He turned to Beverly Crusher. "Doctor,
I gather sickbay is on alert for any probable emergencies?"
as always," came the red-haired physician's crisp reply.
we are entering standard orbit around Denali Two," Ensign Ro Laren's
voice broke in from the bridge.
well, Ensign. Standard orbit. Picard out." Then,
turning to Riker, "Number One?"
instantly, Riker motioned to the chief engineer and operations officers.
"Data, LaForge, arrange whatever technical assistance you need,
and meet me in transporter room two, twenty minutes."
Turning to Deanna Troi, Riker continued "Counselor, I want you
along, as well. An earthquake can
give anybody a good case of the shakes."
the smiles, snickers, and very bad pun, Picard dismissed his staff.
Riker gazed at his surroundings: Evergreens,
mountains, and snow, so much like his native Alaska, complete with frost
sparkling on pine needles and the thunder of pounding waves in the distance.
They had beamed into the open square in front of the colony's research
laboratories, partly to give the away team a quick initial opportunity to see
the area, and partly as an excuse, Riker admitted, to give them all a chance
to breath some cool, crisp, unrecirculated air.
The colony's buildings were a perfect blend of beauty and
functionality; although they had been constructed of standard Starfleet
prefabricated units, someone had taken time to choose colors and an
arrangement that fit with the surroundings as much as the native evergreens
and gray rock outcroppings that dotted the landscape.
within a kilometer of the ocean, Riker thought to himself.
I can smell it, the cool, salty breeze, the moisture that never leaves
the air. Growing up in Alaska had
given him a strong appreciation of the outdoors, and he remembered the
camping, hunting, and fishing expeditions of his youth.
Sure, his father wasn't the most understanding person. But at least he introduced his son to rugged forms of
recreation that still were part and parcel of Riker's life. Maybe that's why I work out with a Klingon, Riker smiled to
himself. Batlith practice makes a
good substitute for scaling the walls of ice caves.
it wasn't for this mission, I'd probably find myself a good climbing cliff,
Riker mused. But wanting to
stretch a few muscles isn't the only reason I'd like to get away right now, he
confessed silently. LaForge had
enlisted the assistance of Ro Laren as part of the away team and, frankly, he
felt distinctly uncomfortable whenever he, Troi, and Ro were all in close
proximity. No one to blame but
myself, he thought in disgust. If
I hadn't gone totally berserk and mixed up Eris and Aphrodite when that
Sutteran zapped all our memories ---
people emerged from the science center and strode up.
One of them Riker recognized as Commander David Urdu, the ranking
officer of the base. Urdu stood
well over two meters tall, and Riker found himself in the unaccustomed
position of looking up at someone during a face-to-face conversation.
However, Urdu's manner provided a direct contrast to his imposing
frame. The colony's commander was
soft-spoken and, allegedly, the possessor of a playful sense of humor.
Urdu introduced his companions as Lt. Commander T'Paren, a Vulcan
science officer, and Lt. Thalok, the colony's Andorian security chief.
After introducing LaForge, Data, Troi, and Ro, Riker and his team
followed Urdu and his officers into Denali Two's science center.
couldn't help smiling as she fell into step behind the group.
Will's so excited about seeing real snow, but he still gets nervous
whenever he has to deal with Ensign Ro and me at the same time, she thought.
Maybe we shouldn't have been so hard on him.
Monogamy, after all, never has been one of his talents.
But, goodness knows, he did deserve our ganging up on him, and probably
science building was like the others surrounding the square, modern but not
sterile, three stories high, and soft moss green in exterior color.
Troi found herself likening the pitched roofs to the mountains rising
against the distant horizon.
they approached the science center, Troi shifted her empathic abilities to a
more professional stance. She
felt a sense of urgency from Urdu and Thalok; even T'Paren showed some ragged
edges to her orderly Vulcan emotional control.
They were obviously exhausted, but Troi sensed that Urdu and his staff
were maintaining their mental focus. Within
the science center, the staff was understandably tense, and the halls were
filled with hurried, concerned scientists.
The air of anxiety was apparent even without using her empathic senses.
conference room doors parted. Troi
staggered as if she'd been slammed in the stomach.
Overwhelming emotion --- terror, rage, shame --- pounded through her.
Vaguely, she was aware of Ro and LaForge supporting her from each side,
and Commander Urdu bending down over her.
he asked, "Counselor, are you all right?"
strong emotion," Troi gasped, her lungs hurting from trying to catch a
breath. "I'll -- I'll be
all right, just -- just a minute."
Not for a millisecond did she doubt the source of the pain.
There was only one human alive that she had bonded to enough to forge a
link of this clarity and intensity. But
She let them help her the rest of the way into the conference room and
she sank into a chair. Gathering
herself, she saw Will Riker kneeling in front of her, his face blanched white.
he spoke slowly and deliberately, "I'm sorry.
Maybe you should go back to the ship.
This might not be the best place for you right now."
she replied firmly, looking directly into his eyes.
"It is my duty to help these people through this situation."
And you through yours, whatever this is all about, she added silently.
moment of silence followed, then Commander Urdu turned to the other two
scientists who had been waiting in the conference room:
An engineer, Lt. Stephan Booras, and a civilian named Helen Sedna, a
former geology professor on Earth before she "retired" to the
combined roll of elementary school teacher and geologist for the colony on
ensuing conversation centered on LaForge, Data, T'Paren, Booras, and Sedna,
who took turns firing and shooting down theories for quieting the rumbling
planet's core. Troi carefully
thinned her mental shielding, again feeling Will's pain and something else ---
fear, but she was unable to pinpoint the source.
Too many strangers in one place, Troi concluded in frustration.
harder, Troi attempted to mentally focus on each of the Denali Two personnel. Urdu, tall, dark human who carried himself with a easy air of
authority. A quiet man, who
leadership was never challenged. Thalok,
antennae twitching, a bit impulsive, but creative and confident.
T'Paren, impeccably Vulcan, yet carrying a dry sense of humor
noticeable to everyone but herself. Sedna,
over sixty human years old but showing no signs of slowing down, somewhat
motherly in demeanor, experienced not only in geology but also in humanoid
nature. No real "peaks" of emotion sticking up anywhere, except
possibly a bit of sexual interest from Booras, who was managing to keep his
considerable intelligence and youthful energy focused on plate tectonics, in
spite of his human male hormones. The
fear remained in the room, but Troi was no closer to isolating its source.
the meeting concluded, Commander Urdu suggested Troi team up with the colony's
psychologist, a human woman named Maria Ramirez, whose office was in the
education center. Urdu stated
that Dr. Ramirez was facing quite a challenge in dealing with colonists'
emotional responses to the environmental crisis and would probably welcome
Troi's help and insight.
approved of Urdu's Ramirez/Troi strategy and then directed LaForge, Data, and
Ro to continue working with the local science team.
Riker stated that he was going to update Captain Picard on the
situation, rose, and headed out of the room.
eyes followed his departure. Why
was he so anxious to get away? Since
when did mission reports require total privacy?
education center, like the science complex, was a prefabricated, gable-roofed
structure situated on the central square.
As she approached, Troi noticed how a retractable roof could be
extended over the square during Denali Two's frequent rain and snowfalls.
Ramirez was competent, creative, and fiercely-devoted to her clients.
But with three landquakes, a near tsunami and two glacial slides in the
last two weeks, her caseload had grown from challenging to overwhelming.
Ramirez had always maintained an "open door" policy, and
people dropped in on her all the time. However,
her crisis-induced workload had forced her to become more formal in her
scheduling, and Troi wasn't sure who was having more trouble adjusting ----
the colonists or Ramirez. The
psychologist wanted to be available whenever a client needed her, but lately
she was having to say no to many of Denali Two's residents for the first time.
Ramirez, I am sincerely impressed with your ability to guide these people
through a very stressful situation."
Deanna settled back in her chair.
Please call me Maria," Dr. Ramirez urged.
"I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I'm barely keeping up
with it. I could use all the help
you and the Enterprise could provide."
that instant, the door slid open and a small boy, breathless and excited,
burst in. "Dr. Ramirez, Dr. Ramirez!" he spouted.
"Somebody threw up out by the woods.
There's a big pile of puke, and none of the kids know who did it!"
it's okay," Ramirez assured him. "If any of the children are sick,
they will tell their parents, and the rain will wash the mess away.
I know it's scary finding something like that, but it'll be all
little face brightened a bit. He
nodded and was gone.
gave Maria a soft smile. "Nice
job, Counselor. I need to check
my appointments before I can set up a definite schedule with you.
Can we meet again at 14:00?" she asked, standing.
soon as possible." Dr. Ramirez returned the smile and saw her colleague
to the door.
minutes later, Deanna Troi was out of the building and heading for the forest.
cold. It's cold.
It's cold," Deanna exhaled as she trotted across the now-vacant
playground to the woods' edge. It
was vomit, all right. Will,
please tell me what is wrong. I
have never felt you so disturbed.
Riker threw snow over his face and collapsed against a dead stump.
His thoughts were still spinning too fast to think clearly.
Don't panic, he told himself. Live
through this, and everything will be back to normal.
Just calm down. You're
just feeling a little sick. A
touch of the flu. Vaguely, he
remembered getting sick like this a few times as a child.
And the shadowy memory only intensified his terror.
he heard rustling in the trees and the beat of running steps.
"Will? Will, where
are you? Come out. It's safe, I
want to talk!" The voice was
froze. "Go away!" he
hissed, and then dropped his head in frustration.
He had forgotten who he was dealing with.
His mental outburst would give away his location as surely as a ground
flare. Why was he so ashamed?
Why did he feel he had to be alone?
The footfalls closed in and stopped.
looked up and saw Troi, about four meters away.
She rubbed her cheeks with her fingertips.
Tears, no doubt.
she pleaded, "I've never seen you in this kind of pain. Please tell me what is happening. I'm your friend. I
want to help."
can't do anything about this, and I don't want you to be hurt.
Please --- detach and stand clear.
It's probably just the flu, or something. I'll be all right."
His tone was very controlled and determined.
reach out to you, and all I sense is a wall.
What could be so terrible that you cannot share it with me?"
you respect me, you won't intrude."
Will turned and marched out of the woods, leaving a confused Deanna
alone in the frozen pines.
is wrong, Jean-Luc Picard concluded as he listened to his first officer's away
team report. Riker sat across
from Picard in the captain's ready room, discussing the Denali Two crisis as
they had discussed so many other missions before.
But this was different. Picard
leaned back in his comfortable chair. There's
definitely something's wrong with Will. He's
too controlled, too short in his explanations.
Not rude, certainly, but far from the gregarious first officer's usual
and Commander Urdu and I gave the science team 48 hours to come up with
last question, Number One?" Picard asked gently.
He continued at Riker's nod. "Are
you all right? Is anything
sir," Riker replied stiffly. "Have
you noticed any problems in my job performance?"
a rising defensiveness in the younger man, Picard tried to keep the inquiry
casual. "No, not at all.
But I care about my officers on a personal, as well as a professional,
level. I respect your privacy,
but I'm also willing to listen."
captain nodded and Riker departed. Picard
rose, went to the window and stared at the green and white globe that was
Denali Two. He let out a long,
slow sigh. The thought of a
silent, withdrawn Riker bothered him almost as much as the landquakes still
rumbling the planet below.
that night, Riker paced his quarters, tense, concentrating.
He stopped abruptly, turned to the closet, dug in a drawer, and pulled
out an old white polar bear. Most
of the fur had been worn off the bear's body.
Riker held the bear for a minute, and plopped it down on the table near
it was he was feeling, it wasn't going away.
Hopelessness, fear, shame, and a feeling of being trapped.
Even two rounds with a holographic ambo-jitsu partner hadn't eased his
tension. And why was he afraid to
go to sleep? Was something
terrible lurking behind his own closed eyes?
what would you do?" Staring
at the bear, Riker nodded. "Good
idea, lock the door, and try to get some sleep."
the time Troi got back to her quarters, it was 22:15 hours and she knew she
was exhausted but too keyed up to sleep.
The perfect night, Deanna reasoned, for a few chocolates and a chapter
from SAGEBRUSH CITY, her latest bedtime western.
villain was threatening to kill his first hostage when Troi snapped back to
reality. She had sensed momentary panic, followed by a somewhat
frustrated relaxation. A
combination somehow familiar ---
hit the combutton on her bedside table. "Will,
are you all right?"
did you just have a nightmare?"
A second later, "Yes. But
---" Troi began.
out," came the decisive reply, with the sound of the closing
communication link proving an abrupt end to the conversation.
forced her mind back to Sagebrush City.
next two days were filled with meetings, computer simulations, and contingency
plans as Data, LaForge, and the Denali Two scientists struggled to find a way
to stop the quakes. Troi divided
her time between the Enterprise and the colonists, while Riker, Worf, and
Thalok coordinated an evacuation and relocation plan just in case one would be
the second afternoon, Riker was walking alone outdoors on the planet.
He had intentionally beamed down a half hour before his scheduled
update with Urdu, hoping to air out his brain and shake the feeling of
impending horror that still filled his soul. He was less than thirty meters
from the complex when he felt the unmistakable rumble of a quake.
Not a bad one, but enough to rattle equipment and stomachs.
Hurrying to the center square, Riker found himself intercepted by a
stained the child's face. He
couldn't have been more than eight years old.
"Mr. Officer, Mr. Officer, it's my fault, I'm sorry, but it's my
a minute." Riker squatted to
the boy's eye level. "What's
wrong? Is somebody hurt?"
no. But this is all my fault.
She told me if I was bad, something bad would happen to everybody.
I'm sorry, it's my fault!"
your name?" Riker quietly
urged. "Who told you
Carrilian, and I'm sorry!" Sobbing,
the child spun away, losing himself in the crowd scurrying about the square.
and horrified, Commander William Riker stared at the child's retreat, feeling
alone and lost in a great mass of people.
hundred meters away, Troi released her white-knuckled hold on her makeshift
desk and drew a deep breath. Another
quake, she thought, and the understandable fear and confusion it brought. Suddenly, she snapped to attention as a second, more focused
wave of pain hit her. "Will?"
she whispered slowly, and froze for a second, pondering. Decision made, she tapped her communicator.
"Enterprise, one to beam up."
and LaForge stood facing Picard in his ready room.
T'Paren's initial theory appears to be the most plausible," Data
explained. "The oceanic
plate is slipping beneath the continental shelf at a rate approximately 4.7
times the historical average. The
accelerated tectonic subduction has, in all likelihood, produced the highly
unstable seismic patterns. Constant
low-grade tremors are being recorded just off the continental shelf."
rose and moved out from behind his desk.
"What can we do?" Picard asked.
Booras' staff has been working with us, and we think we have an idea,"
LaForge answered. "We could
plant depth charges about 500 meters below the surface, just off the
continental shelf. Once in place,
we could detonate them with an energy beam modified from the forward phasers. If we can stop it, we'll have inertia on our side, and
hopefully that will be enough."
about danger to the colony's population?" was Picard's next query.
is a 17 per cent chance that this plan will produce a quake up to 3.8 times
stronger than the most destructive yet to strike the colony," Data
replied. "However, of the
options available, this plan clearly has the highest probability of
Riker has worked out a safety plan with Commander Urdu.
Denali Two's buildings were constructed with the best anti-quake
technology available. The people
should be all right, Captain," LaForge added, caution and confidence
mixed in his voice.
is Commander Riker?" Picard queried.
not sure, Captain," LaForge returned.
"He's been working by himself a lot lately."
took in LaForge's statement, trying to show no outward response.
"When can you be ready?"
and I will have to rig the energy beam, and we'll have to work out the
placement of the depth charges. Give
us twelve hours." La Forge
handed Picard the information disk for him to examine.
captain watched their exit and settled back in his chair.
Twelve hours. Plenty of
time to attempt another talk with Will. Picard
was weighing Riker's need for privacy against a captain's need to assure
competence in his senior staff when his communicator beeped.
do you have a minute?"
can you come to the ready room?."
I'll be there right away."
Crusher entered the captain's ready room, her face a mask of concern.
I'm disturbed about Will."
dropped his chin to his chest. Slowly
he lifted his face, gave Crusher a sad smile, and motioned for her to take a
seat. Crusher settled herself on
the sofa. Coming out from behind
his desk, he sat down beside her. Beverly
had been a constant friend and confidant during their time together on the
Enterprise. He could always trust
her perceptions, as well as her candor.
am I," Picard finally replied.
came and talked to me. She was very
concerned. She knows Will better
than anyone and is sensing emotions --- chaotic emotions --- that she has never
felt in him before. She likened it
to hitting a cold patch of water when swimming in a warm lake.
It startles you, it's uncomfortable, and you don't understand why it
should be there. She said Will had
made it apparent that something was bothering him, but made it equally clear
that he wanted to handle the problem himself."
either of you seen any actual changes in his behavior?"
shook her head. "Hard to say. With the Denali Two mission, everyone is tense and working an
abnormal schedule. Will canceled
the poker game last night, but the announcement was probably academic.
No one could have made it, anyway."
you are worried."
Crusher replied. "I know
Deanna. She's my friend and not
given to exaggeration. She
sincerely thinks something is wrong."
Crusher's expression shifted. "Why,
have you noticed something, Jean-Luc?"
seemed reluctant to reply. "Yes,
he's not himself. Too reserved.
Too - well - antisocial. He's
spending an uncharacteristic amount of time alone."
squared his shoulders. "If it
isn't affecting his duties, we must respect his privacy.
However, I intend to instruct Counselor Troi to report any aberrant
behavior, and I'll expect the same from you, Doctor."
leaned one elbow on the Ten Forward's bar.
Commander Riker has been quiet lately, he observed.
It is one's right to have solitude when one wishes.
However, he is my friend.
moved across the room to Riker's table, where the first officer silently downed
do you wish to be alone?"
was the curt reply.
sat wordlessly for ten minutes, until Riker suddenly asked, "Worf, what do
the Klingons do to a adult who -- goes after -- children?"
eyes met Riker's. "The usual
punishment is immediate and painful execution."
silence continued ten minutes longer, until Worf's communicator summoned him to
Troi paced her quarters, trying to put this together without Will's help. This began, she reasoned, when Will entered the Denali Two
conference room. What had happened
there? There had been no negative
reaction to Urdu, T'Paren, and Thalok; it had hit when they met the other two.
Will's emotions were terror, panic, and shame.
If either Sedna or Booras had shown any instant or unusual reaction to
Will, Troi realized, she would have missed it, overwhelmed as she had been with
Riker's own emotions.
Service files: Lt. Stephan Booras, engineer, and Helen Sedna, teacher and
geologist. Current assignments
Booras' records came up on Troi's computer screen first.
Studying them, she found nothing unusual, simply the history of young and
rising Federation officer.
Correlate service records, Lt. Stephan Booras and Commander William
Riker. Did these two officers, at
any time, serve at the same location?"
joint assignments" replied the pleasant female voice.
Dr. Helen Sedna's record." Troi
scanned Sedna's service record. She
had taken a position as a Starfleet civilian scientist some five years earlier,
and worked on Rana Six until two years ago, when, at her own request, Dr. Sedna
was transferred to Denali Two. Nothing in her time with Starfleet seemed significant.
Riker certainly hadn't been to Rana Six in the last five years, and Troi
knew this was the Enterprise's first mission to Denali Two.
Personnel records. Show me Dr. Helen Sedna's pre-Starfleet biography."
Troi whispered. Wide-eyed, she
studied the information before her. "Professor
of geophysics, University of Alaska-Anchorage, former residence Valdez.
Resigned Stardate 42206. Will,
she lived in your hometown! But you
left when you were only fifteen --- she must be thirty years older than
the connection? What's the
connection?" Troi muttered to
herself. Then, full voice,
"Computer: Biographical scan,
Dr. Helen Sedna and Commander William T. Riker.
Direct output to computer monitor. Other
than past residence in Valdez, Alaska, Earth, is there any connection between
these two individuals?" Immediately,
the incredible words began to imprint themselves across the screen.
Troi forgot to breathe as she attempted to assimilate what her
computer was telling her. Dr. Helen
Sedna's emergency contacts were listed as Sandra Swenson and Kyle Thomas Riker.
Kyle Riker, Will's father. "Will,"
Troi gasped. "You must know
resumed her pacing. Given:
Will knows Helen Sedna, and recognized her in the science center
conference room. Their association
was limited to Will's childhood. And
somehow, the mere sight of her invokes deep fear and shame.
Enough fear and shame to drive him into isolation.
Will wasn't this frightened facing the Borg, or even facing his own death
via those vines on Surata Four. The
emotions are like, Troi silently concluded, the feelings of a tortured terrified
child. A child.
A child. Like the child he
must have been when he knew Helen Sedna ----
ship's counselor, she had a responsibility to monitor the mental state of the
crew. As a friend, she wanted to
help. And as Imzadi, well, she
could never just let go, even when reason told her to forget and move on.
Medical override, Ship's Counselor Deanna Troi.
List all items dispensed from the food replicator station in Commander
Riker's quarters, in the last 48 hours."
whiskey synthahols, four brandy synthahols."
shook her head. "Computer: Locate Commander William Riker."
Riker is in holodeck three."
she was out the door.
moss and lichens look so real, Will thought.
He was sitting next to a cold stream, birch and spruce towering overhead,
and white mountains in the background. He
had set up the program during his first month on the Enterprise and had often
retreated to this holographic forest in times when he needed solitude and time
to think. It had been a few months
since his last visit; the last time had been during those tense days when he was
waiting for Starfleet's decision on his involvement in the PEGASUS cover-up.
In that case, Starfleet had declared him "not guilty".
If only he could pronounce the same verdict on himself now.
at the small dome tent, Riker wondered if the nightmares and lack of sleep
showed on his face. Maybe they can
see more than exhaustion in my eyes. Maybe
they know. Maybe she knows. Riker took a deep breath and squelched the thought.
Shut it off, simply think about something else.
Maybe he'd sleep better here tonight.
The safety plans were finished, and he couldn't add anything to Data and
Geordi's efforts. It was worth a
do I hate myself like this?, he thought, trying to shake some of the tension out
of his shoulders. Why?
Why did it have to happen back then?
And why did he have to remember it now?
Why couldn't the whole thing have stayed buried, dead?
Riker's thoughts turned to the little boy on the planet.
He could still see the pain and fear on the child's face. Was that how he once looked?
Did it all really happen? Maybe
it really didn't --- it was all so unclear and if it was real, why couldn't he
remember more? It was like his
fantasies of his mother, thinking she wasn't dead, just gone away, and soon to
come back. He had felt so alone
as a child. Alone, and unwanted.
Maybe he had wanted the attention, asked for it.
Maybe he had no one to blame but himself.
No one to blame but himself.
dug in his knapsack, producing a multiplex knife and a small piece of walrus
ivory. Slowly he began carving the ivory, seemingly mesmerized by
the white, smooth surface. What
should I try to make this time? he pondered.
How do you form a piece of dead tusk into regret and guilt?
Was it my fault? I should have been able to stop it. Why didn't I? His
blue eyes filled with rage. Then he
stopped, and holding the ivory in his open palm, he drew the blade across his
fingers, and closed his bloody hand over the sculpture, staining the pure white
Pain! Deanna nearly screamed as she rocketed down the corridor.
Searing pain, both physical and emotional.
Gasping, she reached the holodeck entrance.
open up. It's me, Deanna!"
Medical override, Ship's Counselor Deanna Troi!"
stood motionless, his back to the door. Not knowing what to expect, Deanna moved
around him cautiously. One of his
hands held a knife. He was clutching something white in his other fist, and
blood oozed from between his fingers.
voice was both sensitive and deliberate. "Will,
put it down. It's going to be all
right. Just open your hand, and put
the knife away."
he spread his fingers and Deanna plucked the carving out of his one hand and
drew the knife out of the other, folding it up and tossing both aside.
continued to stare at his hand.
grabbed a towel out of the knapsack, and gently wrapped it around the bloody
fingers. He still hadn't moved.
Slowly, she guided him to a sitting position on a nearby rock and settled
herself nearby, not touching, but close.
did you hurt your hand?"
Riker said softly, "we've known each other a long time. When I came on board the Enterprise, and found you here, I
didn't know if we could be friends. But
now you're the best friend I've ever had. In
a lot of ways, we're closer now than we were together on Betazed.
I don't want to lose you."
will never stop being your friend. No
matter what, not ever," Deanna
encouraged. She chose her next
words truthfully but carefully, ready to monitor any reaction.
"Nothing in your past will ever make me stop loving you."
response was strong and immediate. A
torrent of hurt and shame, cut off almost as abruptly as it had started.
Troi breathed in and out slowly, calming her own racing pulse.
She felt she had only one alternative left.
"You know her. Why didn't you tell me?"
swung away from Deanna, his weight falling back against a birch trunk.
"I told you not to interfere!"
are trying to cover your fear and pain with false anger toward me.
Can't you trust me more than that?"
time his voice was pleading. "Deanna,
please ---don't. I believe you are
my friend. Please, just
haven't eaten in two days, and you've had at least six nightmares in the last
sorry," he replied. "I
was afraid you'd pick up on something."
didn't come here to make you feel guilty. I
want to understand, I want to help."
whirled to face her, eyes blazing. "What's
the matter, with me, anyway? Is
there a sign on my back or something? We
should be leaving Denial Two tomorrow. Drop
it! You'd never be this intrusive
with anyone else!"
Denial? Denali? Troi's
lips moved soundlessly. Instantly,
feelings and thoughts and years of knowing the man before her all coalesced into
a terrible conclusion. "W--Will"
she stammered, "when you were little, she tried to touch you, she tried to
He was backing up, crouching as if expecting an attack.
tell me the truth! How many
stood, frozen for a long moment. Troi
kept contact with the blue eyes, refusing to back down.
Suddenly, he went limp and dropped to his knees, shaking all over.
The reply was a bitter whisper. "How
many times? Try how many
soft breeze floated through the holodeck, providing a bittersweet contrast to
the storm of a few minutes earlier. Riker
sat, leaning against a tree. Troi
curled herself into his side, arms locked around him, trying to comfort him with
her physical closeness as well her words.
hired her as my sitter when I was seven. When
I turned ten, I persuaded Dad to let me stay alone, with just the neighbors
looking in on me."
your father know?" Troi asked gently.
I don't think so. God, I hope not. No, he was so tied up in his career, traveling all the time.
He thought he had a child sitter he could trust.
I doubt he gave it a second thought."
Riker pulled in another breath. "I
didn't want it. I would run out
into the woods behind the house, but it was deadly cold and dark, and I just
didn't have any other place to go. Eventually,
I had to return to the house."
you are not to blame. SHE did this
to YOU." Troi let some of the
intensity out of her voice. "Have
you ever told anyone about this?"
shook his head no. "I didn't
think anyone would believe me. I
didn't even really believe it myself --- it was like it had happened to someone
else and I had just read about it somewhere ... I didn't want you to know. I like to think that the first time you were with a man was
really beautiful ---"
touched his cheek. "You know
that it was."
--- and I never wanted you to know what my first time was like."
glad I know. So much makes sense
now." She noticed Riker's
quizzical expression, grateful that he was pulling away from his memories enough
to make contact with the present. "Why
it was so easy for you to be close physically, and so difficult for you to trust
me emotionally. Why your resentment
for your father ran so deep. And
why it was so important for you to always be in control, in 'command mode', even
when the situation was a personal one."
father!" Riker hissed. "He
doesn't deserve anything but hatred from me.
And if I'm in control, then at least I know who to blame when something
felt his rage melting to sadness and took his hands in hers, feeling the icy
cold of his fingers.
a hopeless shrug, Riker continued. "And now, look --- the blood's on your
glanced at her stained fingers. "I
thought I made it clear to you long ago: I'm
willing to live with your joy and your pain."
silently watched as Riker wandered around the campsite.
So much makes sense now, she thought, echoing the words she had just said
to him. The neglected and abused
child, who through wit and charm became the life of the party, trying to conquer
loneliness. The neglected and
abused child, who through hard work and courage became a leader, trying to
conquer vulnerability. So much that
she had never seen until now. Had
love motivated her blindness, or had the memories really been buried that deep?
turned to meet Troi's intent gaze. For
the thousandth time, he felt the eerie sensation of those black eyes seeing
through to the back of his head and into the innermost part of his soul.
And for the thousandth time, he felt the closeness that scared him and
somehow attracted him as well.
to his emotions, Troi replied softly, "Will, does not the greatest security
come from realizing that the person who knows you the best is also the person
that loves you the most?"
paused a moment longer and then sighed. "Where
do we go from here?"
are going to get your hand fixed, eat, and sleep," Troi answered firmly. "Everything else can wait until tomorrow."
head dropped. "There's a
little boy --- Joey Carrilian --- on the planet.
I think she's ... doing this ... to him."
is Helen Sedna still on the Enterprise?"
stood and took Riker by shoulders, shaking him gently until he looked up. "The science team is still meeting.
The boy will be home with his parents.
He'll be safe tonight. It
can wait until tomorrow."
have to stop her from doing this to anyone else."
pulled him into a firm caring embrace, resting her face against his chest,
listening to his heart slow to a normal beat and his breathing calm.
were in sickbay, Riker was sure of that, but somehow the whole ship seemed
strange and unreal. Troi stood by
his side as Alyssa Ogawa mended his hand, telling the nurse something about a
careless mishap on the holodeck, another one of Will's endless list of
accidents. Fortunately, Beverly
hadn't been on duty when they arrived. She
might not have accepted Troi's half-truth so easily, and the last thing Riker
wanted to do was explain, or talk at all, for that matter.
Everything is different now, he concluded. Would he be able to do his job, his duties in Starfleet?
And what about Deanna? Right
now, he didn't want her out of arm's reach, much less out of sight.
How would this affect their relationship?
they were alone, in the security of his quarters.
Still half-dazed, Riker slumped into a chair and dropped his head into
his hands. After an indeterminate
length of time, he sensed Troi standing over him and looked up. He saw her gentle smile, and the big bowl of split pea soup
she held out before her.
it's time to eat," Troi coaxed. "Come
over to the table. Try to eat
didn't want to move. He looked into
Troi's onyx eyes, and then let his own fall shut again.
Troi placed the soup bowl down and returned to Riker's side, putting her
arm around him and guiding him to the table.
Riker sighed, and picked up the spoon.
Slowly, he downed the whole bowl, realizing he felt warm inside for the
first time since he entered the science center conference room.
half hour later, he settled into his bed, tucking the big red quilt under his
chin. He had reluctantly consented to let Troi sleep on his couch,
after both the attempt to get her to her own quarters and his offer to vacate
the bedroom were rejected. She had
concluded, simply, that he needed a familiar bed and a friend close by.
always gives me more than I deserve, he reflected, and then gave in to the
exhaustion pulling him into sleep.
eyes flew open as she shot upright on the couch.
One more nightmare. She
darted to the bedroom door, but he was already awake, sitting up in bed.
His breath was coming in short, strained gasps.
sorry I'm keeping you awake," he said immediately.
"Can't you just detach or something?"
filled her eyes. "No, I've
tried. More times than I can count.
You are Imzadi. I just can't let go."
She felt his total frustration and helplessness.
dropped back on the bed. "You
can't stand guard over me forever." He
shivered and pulled the quilt back over his shoulders.
she moved across the room, pulled back the covers, and slid into bed next to
him. "It is the only way
either of us will sleep," she whispered.
this how you handle all your clients?" Will asked, halfway between tears
course. I'm always jumping into bed
with Geordi, and the captain. Worf,
pulled her close and Troi nestled against him, curling around him.
She opened one eye, and spotted the beat-up stuffed polar bear.
"You haven't introduced me."
Troi, meet Josie, an old friend."
after your mother?"
They gave her to me at mom's funeral."
another shift in emotion, Troi looked up at Riker's face.
Silent tears flowed down his cheeks.
Her own eyes were moist as her fingertips gently brushed his face.
"Will, in all the years I've known you, this is the first time I've
ever seen you cry."
voice was unsteady, choked. "Nobody's
ever laid down next to me and just held me before."
Troi rubbed her cheek against his chest. "I
am so sorry I didn't know about all this. So
many times, I would have been content to just hold you."
took one last deep breath, reached down inside himself, and directed a thought
at this special, precious person beside him.
"I love you."
second later, his heart felt her soft, musical voice.
"I know, Imzadi. I love
you, too. Sleep now."
woke, alone in the bed, stretched, and headed for the other room.
Will, still in his pajamas and robe, was seated at his desk, crouched
over a computer padd. He didn't
notice her until she was less than a meter away.
--- good morning," he said a bit uncertainly.
smiled. "Mind showing me what
you've been writing?"
moaned. "It's really bad.
You know I'm lousy at this. It
sounds like something Data would write."
want to see it."
this sort of thing had never worked before, and certainly not in the last few
days. He held out the padd.
in the snow
snows of long ago.
remember the white and crusted woods
day I stood in the snow
swore I would survive this pain,
and one day grow.
time I learned to trade a grin
a hollow sort of closeness.
far is lonely, too close is fear
so I ran when I felt you near.
never wanted you to know
the circles in the snow
the wounded child within
you still love me, if you ever met him?
was genuinely embarrassed. "It's
not done. I'll probably never
finish it." His face clouded. "Deanna, it will be a long time before it's really
finished, won't it?"
knelt beside his chair, taking his hands in hers, her soul feeling his scars
from the night before. "It
won't be all right tonight or even tomorrow.
But at least it's out in the open now.
At least you've started." She
smiled. "Come on, let's get
dressed. We've got a planet to
bridge crew was tense, focused, and leaning forward at their stations.
LaForge, are the depth charges in place?" Riker asked.
turned away from the engineering station. "Best
as we can tell."
Urdu," Picard addressed the viewscreen, "are your people ready?"
sir," Urdu replied, "and, Captain, whatever comes from this, we all
want to thank you."
Mr. Worf, target depth charges and activate energy beams, fifteen second
blast." And no one on Denali
Two or the Enterprise took a breath for those fifteen seconds.
Data, assessment!" Picard ordered.
scanned his console. "Preliminary
results indicate momentum is decreasing and plate interface is cooling.
The tremors have slowed by eighteen per cent. I project they will cease within the hour."
He turned in his chair to face Picard.
"It appears we were successful."
thunderous roar went up from the command center on Denali Two, with Urdu, Thalok,
Booras, Sedna, and crew all cheering and slapping backs, and T'Paren --- was she
slid a glance across to Troi. One
more duty still to perform. "Commander
Urdu, may I have a word with you, sir? Privately?"
tried to slow her breathing. Air
slowly in, air slowly out. She used
her carefully trained mental discipline to calm her heart rate and focus her
thoughts. She would need all her
skills to see Will through the arraignment hearing.
Picard sat at the head of the conference room table, with Dr. Ramirez just to
his right. He's not looking forward
to this business, Troi thought. She
and Riker had filled the captain and Maria Ramirez in on the situation, and, as
ranking officer present, it fell upon the captain to preside over the hearing.
He had expressed his concerns to Troi.
It would be difficult for even a consummate diplomat to remain impartial.
for her part, was dealing with her own guilt as well as a fierce desire to see
justice done. The thought of this
abuse going on, among the people she carried for, had both enraged and deeply
horrified the colony psychologist.
escorted Helen Sedna into the room and stepped back out into the corridor.
Sedna kept her sight on Picard, not making eye contact with Riker or any
of the others.
rose, and motioned her to a chair. She
remained standing, somewhat defiantly, as the captain formally spoke.
"Dr. Sedna, has my security chief informed you of your rights and
the purpose of this hearing?"
came the reply, a touch of annoyance in her voice.
scared, Troi perceived. She's
scared and trying to cover it.
continued, "And I understand you've waived your right to legal
of course. I have nothing to
drew a deep breath. "Dr. Helen
Sedna, you are being charged with sexual assault to a minor child.
You will now hear the testimony against you. Upon hearing that testimony,
I will decide if sufficient evidence exists to bind you over to the Judge
Advocate General for trial. We will
hear the testimony against you at this time.
Commander Riker, please state the purpose of this hearing, the events you
explained to me earlier."
was in the corner of the room, as far from Sedna as space would allow.
His fear and pain felt like a certain multiplex knife in Deanna's heart.
can't hurt you now, Imzadi. Say the
truth. You can do it.
started slowly. "When I was a
child, this woman looked after me, at my father's request."
He took a deep breath. "And
sometimes, --- many times, at night, she'd, she'd --- Riker turned to Sedna,
defiance blazing in his eyes. "You
know what you did!"
did I do?" Sedna sounded
genuinely hurt and confused.
me a break, Troi thought in disgust.
glanced at the ceiling, but continued resolutely.
"I am referring to what happened when I was a child.
What you did to me."
shook her head. "I knew your
father, of course, and you. That's
a matter of record. I helped your
father take care of you for three years. I
don't understand what this is about, Willie."
felt Riker's resolve slipping. Don't
drop it, Will. Don't back down. Get through this.
stared her in the eye. "Do I
have to spell out all the gory details? You
would come into my room at night and ---"
Sedna took a couple of steps toward him. "Willie!"
she gasped. "What are you saying? Why
are you doing this?" She
paused. "I remember that about
you. You always did let your
imagination get the best of you."
sensed something snap in Riker. His
eyes fixed on Dr. Sedna. "You
mean like Joey Carrilian? I suppose
he's imagining the landquakes are his fault?
Just like my mother's death and dad being gone so much being my
moment of quiet followed. The room
crackled with tension.
sensed Sedna's fear escalating to panic. The
woman approached Riker until she had him cornered.
"Will, you were a lonely little boy.
I don't understand. You
liked it when I held you. With your
mother dead and your father gone, you needed someone."
Sedna's voice was soft and soothing.
felt Riker backing down again. Come
on, she silently urged. You can do
it, Will. You know you're right.
stared at the floor. He was
trembling, head to toe, but Troi wondered fleetingly if anyone else could see
it. "NO!" he exploded. "No, that's not going to
work! You can't convince me of that
charged at her and she backed away, retreating behind Picard's chair. She turned
to the captain, demanding, "If
I am in the hands of the law, let things be done in the legal way. I should not be subjected to the insults of this
grown up!" Riker whispered, his voice harsh and dangerous as he fought for
control. "Joey Carrilian might
not know how to fight you, but dammit, dammit, I do!
Tell me nothing happened with that boy!
I talked to him. I saw it
written all over his face and I damn well know who wrote it!"
room was deathly still. No one was
Sedna slowly sank into a chair and sat motionless, expressionless, at the
stood by the windows, watching, while Riker circled the room, rage pounding out
of every syllable, as he pulled the words from a throat raw with suppressed
emotion, "And I don't want to know how many there were between me
and that boy. But I do know this:
You will never, ever, ever, do this to anyone else, ever again."
moved over to Troi, his neck and shoulders limp as he faced away from the stars
and buried his face in his Imzadi's hair.
spoke again, low and threatening. "You
can't prove anything."
turned to Ramirez. "Doctor?"
Ramirez stood and gave an account of her interviews with Joey Carrilian and his
parents. Riker kept his face hidden
in Troi's ebony tresses, trying to close his ears and mind to the Denali Two
psychologist's words. Quietly,
Ramirez finished her report and returned to her chair.
broke the silence. "Dr. Helen
Sedna, based on the evidence presented here today, you are to be bound over to
the Judge Advocate General, to stand trial for child assault on Joseph Anthony
Carrilian. Computer, end
testimony." Then Picard tapped
his communicator. "Mr.
Klingon appeared in the doorway, took Sedna by the arm, and silently led her
out. Picard and Ramirez quietly followed.
slipped behind Will, wrapped her arms around his waist, and whispered,
"It's going to get better now."
for the first time, deep inside, he knew she was right.
was the Greek goddess of love, and Eris was the Greek goddess of strife.
Sedna was the name of an evil goddess of the ancient Eskimos.
When wronged or angry, she produced storms.
I would like to dedicate "CIRCLES IN THE
SNOW" to three special friends of mine (they know who they are) whose
courage and determination in overcoming the effects of child abuse provided the
motivation for this story.