CODES: R/T (Imzadi) Alternate Universe??? Set sixteen years after Nemesis.
Disclaimer: The Startrek series in all its forms belongs to the powers that
be at Paramount. I am just a bedbug biting at them while they lay on that
big, cushy, bed and think up new adventures for the treks. I claim my own characters, though, and ask that you not borrow without permission.
“What do you think happens…when we die?”
Surprised blue eyes met serious brown ones. “You’re the philosopher. You tell me.”
“I’m a student of psychology, not philosophy.” A long rope of reddish hair fell into her face. She tossed it back.
There came a shrug. “I only know that whatever happens, I hope to hell it’s good because life, so far, has definitely not been what I’ve been
There came a giggle. “You’re only sixteen. How can you know that life is definitely not what you’ve been looking for? What are you looking
After a pause, there came an answer. “A place with roots. A place where we’re not constantly moving or in danger. That, and…” A wicked
smile lit the blue eyes. “A girl with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a great body.”
The comment was accompanied by the soft thud of a pillow against his face. He was grateful. If Ariana had meant to hit him hard, she would
have. His sister may have looked delicate, but she had her father’s combative will and the musculature of a young tiger. She could kick his ass at almost
any workout program on the holodeck. It mortified him as much as it pleased him. After all, their father couldn’t be there to teach his sister to fight.
“Ari,” he said softly to get her attention. “Why did you ask me that?”
She sighed, reached over for the pillow, and hugged it to her body. Her chin trembled and her eyes filled. She couldn’t speak without
blubbering, and she hated to blubber. So, she looked into her brother’s eyes and thought, ‘What if Dad’s dead?’
‘Dad’s not dead, and you know it,’ he thought back to her and reached for her hands that clutched the pillow so tightly.
‘He’s been gone so long,’ she thought back. ‘Mom’s worried.’
“Of course she’s worried, Ariana,” he said aloud and rose to pace his sister’s pretty lavender room. “If she wasn’t worried, you’d be
worried about that. You’re just like her. You worry too much about Dad. He doesn’t do what he can’t handle.”
Ariana looked at her brother incredulously. “He doesn’t do what he can’t handle? Caleb, half of what he does is so dangerous that he can’t
even tell us about it!”
“That’s why Mom’s on Earth, Ari. She’s going to find out where Dad is and why he’s been gone for so long.” Caleb stopped pacing and looked
over at his sister. ‘Stop worrying, Ari. You’re going to drive me crazy if I have to listen to those thoughts of doom and gloom day and night.’
“Then quit listening,” she said. Her eyes darkened. “Go find Miral and leave me alone.”
Caleb’s eyebrows arched as he considered his sister’s offhand suggestion. An entertaining spat with Miral might be just what he needed to get
his mind off his sister and their parents, but the sensible part of his mind warned him that it wasn’t smart to keep needling the daughter of an admiral…
an admiral on whose station he and his sister were currently living on. The better part of him won out, and he grinned at Ariana. “I think I’ll do that.
What are you going to do?”
“What else?” She gave him a watery smile. “Sit here and worry.”
“Go to the holodeck…load a workout program and work off some of those frustrations, Ari. You’ll feel better.”
She shrugged. ‘I’ll think about it,’ she thought to him as he left their most recent quarters.
Being the children of Starfleet officers was difficult, to say the least. Being the children of the head of Starfleet Counseling services and
an admiral who supervised Special Ops, yet participated more than he supervised, was harder that almost anything. Ariana reached across her bed and picked
up a family hologram from when she was very young. It was her family at their lake house on Betazed. She was five years old, Caleb was seven, and her
father had just been promoted to the rank of admiral. She smiled sadly. For nine years she had lived this uncertain life, and at the tender age of fourteen,
she believed in the dark side of life. She, the daughter of a Betazoid, did not embrace peace, nor did she seek out serenity, because she knew that life was
dangerous, hurtful, and at times, brutal. It wasn’t easy growing up on the front lines of the Federation. It made children lose their innocence quickly,
and Ariana had lost hers a long time ago.
The lush beauty surrounding Starfleet Headquarters never failed to remind Deanna of the home she hadn’t been to in nearly ten years. Her
position in Starfleet kept her traveling from starship to starship, base to base, and planet to planet. It was her monumental task to head Starfleet Counseling
Services, and part of that job was to supervise counselors. That part of the job kept her traveling more than she liked simply because it took her from her
children and husband, or took her children from their father when they accompanied her on her trips. Officially, she was based on Earth, but for the
record, this was the first time she had been in San Francisco in nearly two years. Her second had the nice desk job that kept her on Earth while Deanna traveled
until she forgot where she was or where her family was.
The thought of her family made her eyes
fire. It irked her to no end that she was forced to travel to Earth,
leave her children with good
friends all to find out where the better part of her was this week in the galaxy. Yet, a part of her mind niggled with the worry that her daughter loved to
surround herself with. Her request for a face-to-face with Admiral Janeway had been granted far to quickly and easily. The only two things she was certain of
were: Something was desperately wrong, but Will Riker was still alive.
The lush beauty surrounding Starfleet Headquarters never failed to remind
Deanna of the home she hadn’t been to in nearly ten years. Her
position in Starfleet kept her traveling from starship to starship, base to base, and planet to planet. It was her monumental task to head Starfleet Counseling
Services, and part of that job was to supervise counselors. That part of the job kept her traveling more than she liked simply because it took her from her
children and husband, or took her children from their father when they accompanied her on her trips. Officially, she was based on Earth, but for the
record, this was the first time she had been in San Francisco in nearly two years. Her second had the nice desk job that kept her on Earth while Deanna traveled
until she forgot where she was or where her family was.
The thought of her family made her eyes fire. It irked her to no end that she was forced to travel to Earth, leave her children with good
friends all to find out where the better part of her was this week in the galaxy. Yet, a part of her mind niggled with the worry that her daughter loved to
surround herself with. Her request for a face-to-face with Admiral Janeway had been granted far to quickly and easily. The only two things she was certain of
were: Something was desperately wrong, but Will Riker was still alive.
She stood outside in the warm sunlight, watching the rays reflect off the water, when she sensed a person behind her. It took her soul only a
moment to recognize the person. “How did you know I was here?” She asked without turning around.
“Your second knew you were coming in…and, Caleb sent me a head’s up.”
“My son is far too nosy.”
“Your son loves you.” A slender hand with long fingers rested on Deanna’s shoulder. The tension in Deanna’s shoulders lessened with a
squeeze from that hand. “He’s worried about you…his sister…his father. Much more so than any sixteen year old should be.”
“Caleb’s not a normal sixteen year old,” Deanna replied absently as a gust of wind had her brownish hair floating around her shoulders. “You
should know that, Beverly.” Deanna covered the hand on her shoulder with one of her own. “I’m glad you’re here.”
No words came. A second, and longer, squeeze was the only communication the two needed.
“Miral!” Caleb jogged to catch up with the blonde Klingon beauty stalking through the promenade. Her pace never slowed, but it wasn’t hard
for Caleb to catch up. Miral’s quick gait was no match for Caleb’s long stride.
“What do you want, Riker?” She asked, never breaking stride, never looking at him.
“Dangerous question, Paris. Could lead us into some freakish Oedipal conversation.” His quip had Miral snickering. Caleb Riker was good for
few things, but he could always be counted on for a laugh. “So, where you off to this fine afternoon?”
“It’s evening, Riker, and I’m going home. If I’m not home in five minutes, the general’s going to send Security after me.”
Caleb raised his eyebrows. “In trouble with B’Elanna again?”
Miral stopped and glared at Caleb. She had enough definition in her forehead ridges to make her look formidable when she tried. Caleb only
grinned at her. Miral might be a year older, but he knew exactly what buttons to push since they had grown up together on the Titan until her father was
promoted when he was eight and she was nine. The close friendship their parents’ developed meant the children spent time together even with the families on
“I’m sure she thinks the same thing about you, Miral,” Caleb said as she started the near running pace. He lingered behind, but not so far
behind that when Miral reached her quarters that he was out of earshot when the doors opened and B’Elanna blasted her daughter.
“You were supposed to be here ten minutes ago.”
“Foot traffic,” was Miral’s off hand reply.
“Miral,” B’Elanna’s voice had a murderous edge. “So help me, I …”
“Actually, it’s my fault Commander Paris,” Caleb said, stepping into the doorway. Miral fought back a groan. “I didn’t know Miral had to be
home when she said she did. I thought she was just saying that to get away from me. I apologize for keeping her.” He smiled winningly at B’Elanna, who
took a step over to him, smiled dangerously at him, and then glared.
“You two have been tag teaming me since you were old enough to speak. You drive me to distraction. Both of you,” she said, pulling Caleb into
the quarters so that the door closed. “You, homework,” she said to Miral. “Now,” B’Elanna snarled when Miral opened her mouth. “Your father will be
off duty in an hour. We’re going to the promenade for dinner.” Miral stalked off to her room. B’Elanna turned to the boy she thought of as her surrogate
“Where’s Ariana?” B’Elanna asked, sitting on the couch and motioning Caleb to do the same.
He shrugged. “In our quarters worrying, probably. That’s what she was doing when I decided to harass Miral. And, just so you know, it was
“Because you were probably driving her crazy,” B’Elanna returned. “Computer, locate Ariana Riker,” she called out.
“Ariana Riker is located on Holodeck 3,” was the monotone reply.
“Thank the gods,” Caleb said. “I told her to go work some of her frustration out.”
“She better not be running one of your father’s Klingon battle simulations without you or Tom there.”
“Hell, B’Elanna, Ari can kick my ass, Tom’s ass, and my dad’s ass in those simulations.”
“She’s only fourteen and doesn’t need…”
“Nice, considering I was working them at fourteen…so was Miral…so were you.”
“When I was fourteen, I was training for Starfleet Academy.”
“Only to get kicked out,” Caleb said with a winning smile.
“Awfully cocky, aren’t you, Riker?” B’Elanna’s eyes may have been dangerously dark, but there was no heat in her voice. “Just like your
father.” Then, B’Elanna got in her own dig, “Except, not as many girls hang around you.”
Caleb snickered. “Yeah, well, they don’t hang around Dad anymore, either.”
The mention of Will sobered B’Elanna’s mood. She worried for Deanna and the children as much as she worried for Will. “Tom’s concerned.
Have you heard from your mother, yet? I’d love to have something to tell him.”
“Haven’t heard anything,” Caleb told her with a shake of his head. “Dad’s fine. He’s just on a mission. I don’t know why everyone is
freaking out. Hell, he’s been gone longer than this before.”
But, he’s never been out of contact that long, B’Elanna thought to herself before realizing who she was in the room with. Caleb caught both
thoughts and smiled. “It’s okay. I’ve thought that, too, but Dad’s a fighter. I’m not worried,” Caleb lied. He was worried, but he was the man of the
family, and it was his job, for the moment, to keep his head and not to worry about things. He had Ariana to do that for him.
“Want to stay for dinner?” B’Elanna broke
through Caleb’s thoughts. She reached over and touched his
shoulder. “You know your mother asked
us to keep an eye on your two.”
Caleb smiled at her and nodded his head. “Yeah, I’ll go get Ari,” he said and began to stand, but B’Elanna’s hand kept him from standing.
Confused, he looked at her.
“I’ll go get Ari. Stay and harass my daughter,” B’Elanna said, stood, and left.
“Deanna! So good to see you!” Admiral Kathryn Janeway rose as Deanna entered her office. The women embraced quickly. Kathryn still felt
some debt of gratitude to Deanna for her minor participation in the Pathfinder project, which had brought Voyager contact from Earth when lost in the Delta
quadrant. “Have a seat.” Kathryn gestured to one of the overstuffed white chairs in front of her desk. “What can I do for you?”
“Where’s Will, Kathryn?” Deanna asked as she sat down.
“Deanna, you know I couldn’t tell you even if I knew.” Kathryn perched on the edge of her desk. “Why would you even assume I know anything?”
“Because you do, I can sense you’re lying to me.” Deanna saw no sense in beating around the bush. “I know Will does dangerous work, Kathryn,
and I know he believes its important to the security of the Federation, but he’s never been out of contact this long. He’s still alive. I still feel him.” Deanna took a deep breath and placed a hand over her heart. “Kathryn, please, tell me what you know. No one will know I heard it from you.”
“Deanna,” Kathryn sighed. “I don’t know much.” She moved off the side of her desk and walked to a window. After being lost for long in the
Delta Quadrant, the beauty outside her window never failed to make her breath catch. “Why don’t we take a walk?” Kathryn suggested, looking meaningfully
at the walls. Deanna nodded and rose.
Outside, Kathryn went slowly to the rose garden. Deanna walked silently beside her. They walked off the path into the thicket of bushes. “These are lovely.” Kathryn leaned down and sniffed a fragrant bloom. “He’s been taken, Deanna. He’s alive, but members of his team have been killed. They’re afraid to do something to such a senior member of Starfleet, but so far, none of our extraction teams can get near compound where he’s being held.”
Deanna’s heart thudded in her chest. “Where is he, Kathryn?”
Janeway shook her head. “That’s the kicker, Deanna…they keep moving so by the time an extraction teams gets near the compound, they’re
already on the move. They don’t communicate, and we don’t know why they took Will and his team. They were doing basic recon on a pre-warp society that had
recently acquired antimatter reactors. Will and his team were trying to find out who was supplying the planet with technology they were ill equipped to use.
We think the suppliers are the ones that took him.” Kathryn looked up with a frown. “That’s all I know.”
“Can you keep me informed? I’m staying on Jupiter Station with Tom and B’Elanna.”
Kathryn nodded. “I’ll do my best. Tell B’Elanna to look for coded messages from me. She’ll know what to do.”
“Thank you, Kathryn,” Deanna said with a small smile. “I owe you.”
“No, you don’t,” Kathryn said as Deanna walked quickly out of the thicket, onto the path, and in the direction of Starfleet Medical.
The light was bad, the air was rank, and the heat was atrocious. All in all, it was one of the worst situations Will Riker had found himself
in since leaving Alpha Team. The gash on his leg oozed blood and throbbed, but the pain it gave him was nothing compared to the pain that radiated from his
shoulder to his face. His shoulder had been dislocated, put back in place, and then, because they could, his captors had taken a wood cub and smashed his
nose with it. Consequently, his nose was broken, his eyes were nearly swollen shut, and his right cheek had a gash on it that rivaled the oozing one on his
leg. For two months he had been at their mercy, and he had just about had enough of their hospitality.
“Human,” a raspy voice said with enough derision to make Will roll his eyes. Of course, since they were nearly swollen shut, no one could
tell. His visitor kicked him in the ribs, and a sharp pain with through Will’s side. ‘Perfect…broken ribs,’ he thought to himself, and wished he could see
his visitor just so he could kick him back. “Human, you will come with me.”
“Sure…soon as hell freezes over,” Will mumbled. The swelling made it difficult for him to speak.
“What is hell?”
‘Here,’ Will thought as his arms were grasped and he was yanked to his feet. “What now?”
“You will come with me.”
And, that’s all the visitor would say.
The program on the holodeck was nothing like what B’Elanna expected to find the youngest Riker running. Ariana was more like her father than
her mother. Instead of sitting around reading or thinking or studying as her mother had done at Ariana’s age, Ariana tended to refine her talent with
martial arts by challenging her brother and father to games of punzo-gai-roku, a game at which her father excelled. She played poker, studied flying, and fought
in Klingon combat simulations. Ariana was as opposite from her mother as she could be, while Caleb embodied the best of both his parents. So, when B’Elanna entered the holodeck, the last thing she expected to find was a lush field of fragrant flowers, a sparkling blue stream, and the slightly pink tinted sky
of Betazed. B’Elanna’s raised her eyebrows and started through the field towards the blue stream.
“Ariana?” B’Elanna called, looking as she walked. Betazed was one of the few planets B’Elanna hadn’t visited in her travels with Starfleet.
What she saw of it in Deanna’s pictures or holodeck creations was very pretty. “Ariana Elise Riker!” B’Elanna yelled. She stopped, placed her hands on
her hips, and she waited before it dawned on her that there was a simple way to locate Ariana.
“Computer, end program,” B’Elanna called and the lush landscape of Betazed disappeared and the yellow and black grid of the holodeck
reappeared. Off to the side, Ariana stood. “Hey, didn’t you hear me,” B’Elanna tried to sound kind, but it came out slightly irritated.
“Sorry…I was walking around. What’s up?” Ariana tried her best not to roll her eyes.
“Dinner. Our quarters. You and Caleb are joining us.”
“Mom still on Earth?” Ariana asked, although she knew the answer. “Forget it…I know she’s still on Earth.” Ariana walked towards the
holodeck doors. “She oughta just give up.” Although Ariana spoke softly, B’Elanna heard her, and caught up with Ariana just as she rounded the corner of the holodeck.
“Ariana, why would you say such a thing?”
“Because Dad is dead!” Ariana exploded with tears flooding her brown eyes. “He would have come home or contacted us by now! Face it, he’s
dead!” The last came out on a sob as tears flowed down her face. “He’s dead!”
“Ariana,” B’Elanna sighed and pulled the girl to her. She ran her hands over Ariana’s hair and back in soothing circles. “If your father
was dead, your mother would know it. There would be no sense in her going to Earth. I know this is hard, Ari, but your father is not dead. He’s not,” B’Elanna emphasized. She patted Ariana’s back and pulled back from her and tilted the girl’s chin up. “Your parents love you, Ariana. They love you very, very much. I know this is hard for you and Caleb, and I know you think no one cares and you’re on your own, but you’re not. Your parents, Caleb, Miral, Tom, and me are all here for you. All you have to do is open up.”
“Opening up gets you hurt,” Ariana said miserably, wiping the moisture from her eyes.
“Closing up gets you hurt…Ariana, trust me, I know better than anyone.” B’Elanna gripped Ariana’s shoulders so tightly it almost hurt. “You
’re taking classes in psychology, and you should know the psychological effects on a person that intentionally closes themselves to their world. If you won
’t trust me, trust yourself. Trust what you know, Ariana.” B’Elanna released Ariana and stepped back from the girl. “When you’re ready, dinner will be
waiting for you,” she said simply and walked away.
After B’Elanna entered a turbolift, presumably to return to her quarters, Ariana walked slowly down the empty corridor of the holodeck. Her
thoughts jumbled together in her mind. Intellectually, she knew it was wrong, even harmful, to close yourself off, but emotionally, she wasn’t sure how much
more she could stand. I’m only fourteen, she thought miserably. Life shouldn’t be this hard. It just shouldn’t.
“Ready to talk, human?”
Will raised his head and tried to see through the slits he had for eyes. All he could make out was a vague shape. The heat in the room was
intense…sweat began forming on Will’s forehead and ran into his eyes. He desperately wanted to wipe the sweat away, but the rational side of him reminded
him that if he touched his battered face, he would know an agony worse than the symphony of pain currently paining him. He tried to glare at his still
unknown-to-him captors, but at best, it made his eyes slit even more.
“Sure. William T. Riker. Serial number SC 231-427.”
A moment passed, and then breath hissed through his clenched teeth as a back handed slap across his battered cheeks took the symphony of pain
to a timpani level. He clenched his hands into fists, and had he not been secured, he would have killed whoever stood in front of him.
“That is not what I want to know.”
“What do you want to know?” Air came through short, sharp gasps as he fought to overcome the pain. “Know, though, I will not cooperate until
I speak to members of my crew and send a message to my commanding officers.”
Another slap sent Will into oblivion, so he was not aware of being dragged from the interrogation room to his cell. Nor was he aware of the
ensuing physical torture ordered on him, but when he regained consciousness, Will knew one thing: If he didn’t find an escape soon, he was going to die.
“What’re you still doing here?” Miral asked
grumpily as she came out of her room and saw Caleb sprawled on the couch in the
“Just waiting to torture you, babe,” he said off-handedly as he stared at a data PADD in his hand. His focus was on the story he was
engrossed in and not on the slightly miffed Klingon behind him. Had his full concentration not been on the PADD, he would have sensed Miral come up to the end of
the couch where his head rested before she snatched the PADD out of his hands.
“Hey!” He sat up. “Dammit! I was reading that!”
“Torture?” Miral’s eyes went deeply dark. “If you think you torture me, Riker, you think too highly of yourself. You’re nothing more than
a pest to me…an annoying little pest with nothing better to do than torment others,” she said with a haughty tone that would have made her mother proud.
Tossing the PADD back on the couch and turning her back on Caleb Riker was where Miral made her mistake, though. Like a cobra, Caleb made his strike on Miral
with no warning. Before she knew it, he stood in front of her, blocking her path with heat in his blue eyes.
“Pest?” He said in a deadly soft voice. Pure male satisfaction gleamed in his eyes at Miral’s reaction to him. “You forget too easily that
I know you better than you know yourself. I see and feel the things in you that you refuse to acknowledge…those fears that torment you in the night…those
longings that linger teasingly at the back of your mind…the arrogance that you use as a shield to protect you. I feel those things, Miral.” His eyes went
exceptionally blue. “I feel those things that you feel for me and don’t want to,” he whispered, inches from her lips. “After all, I’m an annoying little
pest, and worse, I’m a Riker. That’s enough to annoy you right there…the golden child, the son of a Betazoid heiress and a famous human…your worst
nightmare because we’re so much alike. You, the golden child, daughter of a disgraced Klingon that only found acceptance after she betrayed everything she knew,
who fell in love with a disgraced Starfleet officer who found acceptance only with her…the disgraced heir apparent of the Paris’. We’re as close as you
can get to royalty on Earth, and yet, we’re both completely out of place, in search for our true selves. The difference between us, you deny who you are…I
accept myself, faults and all. You, you believe you have no faults, and those that you recognize about yourself, you deny.”
“You arrogant, self-serving, son of a bitch.” Miral tried to pull out his grasp but found his grasp surprisingly one of iron. “How dare you
make such assumptions about me!” She tried shaking him lose. “Dammit! Let me go!”
“Assumptions are made by one who doesn’t know, Miral. I know,” he said with such assurance, Miral desperately wanted to slap him, but as his
face drew closer to hers, her breath caught.
“Let me go,” she whispered as his lips descended to hers, caught, and held them in a sweetly gentle caress. A tingling traveled through
Miral, raising goose bumps on her arms. The iron grip Caleb held her in loosened into a light embrace as she slipped her arms around his neck. She pressed
herself to him and he groaned as he pulled away.
Horrified, Miral turned and pressed a hand to her heart as it jack hammered in her chest. Caleb opened his mouth to speak, thought better of
it, and walked to the opposite side of the room from her. He had expected an intense encounter, but that encounter was more than intense…it was potent…
almost violently so. He took a few minutes to center himself and catch his breath. Then, when he spoke, his voice was modulated and quiet. “Tell your mother
and father that I decided to have dinner alone with Ariana…I want to talk to her about some things.”
Then, he left.
“Deanna?” Beverly walked into her spacious quarters inside Starfleet Medical and found her best friend standing in front of the enormous
window in her living room that stretched the entire length of the room. “What are you doing?”
“Thinking,” Deanna answered, almost needlessly, as she was always thinking lately.
“Did you find anything out?” Beverly walked over near her and sat in a chair that provided a breath taking view of the bay.
Deanna nodded her head. “Kathryn claims Will has been taken by unknown hostiles. She knows he’s alive, but had no idea where he’s being held.” She sighed. “Sometimes, I feel these…these sharp needles of pain, and I know it’s Will. He’s being tortured, Beverly, and I can’t help him.” Deanna turned her tormented gaze to her friend. “I can’t help him, and I certainly don’t know how to help our children. I’m a trained psychologist, the head of Starfleet Counseling Services, and I can’t help my own family. I’m the
shoemaker who won’t provide his family with shoes.” A tear rolled down Deanna’s face.
Shaken, Beverly stared at Deanna, uncertain of how to proceed. Knowing that the obvious was usually the best approach, Beverly began with the
statement that bothered her the most. “Deanna, what’s the matter with Ariana and Caleb?”
With a sardonic half-smile, Deanna walked over and sat in the chair next to Beverly. “Where do I begin…with my daughter who doesn’t trust me
and thinks her father doesn’t love her, or my son who thinks he knows it all?”
“Caleb’s a sixteen year old boy, Deanna…of course he thinks he knows it all.” Beverly smiled nostalgically. “Wesley certainly did at that
“Caleb is covering his emotions, Beverly. He covers his worry, his anxiety, and his feelings of inferiority with arrogance. Ariana worries
too much, believes no one can understand how she feels, and refuses to open up to anyone because she thinks if she opens up, she’ll get hurt. She doesn’t
think I know this, but she’s my daughter, Beverly…how could I not know how my daughter is feeling?” Deanna raised sad eyes to her friend. “I love my
children, Beverly, but I don’t know how to help them.”
“Is that why you left them on Jupiter Station with Admiral Paris and his wife?”
Deanna nodded. “Caleb and Miral, Tom and B’Elanna’s daughter, have been close since Tom was Will’s first officer on the Titan…I think he
needs that right now, and if anyone can convince Ariana to open up, it’s B’Elanna. Ariana identifies with her so much more than me.” A sad smile played
around her lips. “She’s so much like Will, Beverly.”
“I remember when she was born.” A thoughtful smile came to Beverly’s lips. “Will took her in his arms, wriggling and angry, and I knew from
that moment, she would have him wrapped around her little finger.”
“And, she does…she just doesn’t believe that.” Deanna smiled at the shared memory. “When he found out we were having a girl, he was so
terrified. He didn’t know how to handle a daughter…thank the gods for Tom. Without him, I’m not sure Will would have done more than stare at her as if she
were glass. Once she was old enough to swing a Bat’leth, though, and he noticed she had some talent with it, she became much more his daughter than mine.
She wants Will’s approval so much more desperately than mine, and ever since Will was promoted, she feels like she’s lost her direction…lost her father. I
don’t know how to held that, Beverly, and Will can’t if he’s not here to know what’s going on.”
“You think he doesn’t know what’s going on?”
Deanna nodded. “I doubt it…I’ve done a pretty good job of hiding it…I was waiting for him to get back from this trip and then let him and Ari
battle it out.” Her eyes grew watery. “What if he never gets that chance, Beverly? What if he never comes back?”
With a sigh and a shake of the head, Beverly reached over for Deanna’s hand. She said nothing to her friend, for the last thing she wanted to
do was make false promises that might never come true. There was an idea that floated at the back of her mind, but she kept her mouth closed.
It was nighttime, and the stars twinkled
brilliantly in the purple sky. Pink streaks added to the surrealism Will
felt as he looked around at
his surroundings. For a moment, he was disoriented, confused, as he looked around at things that were oddly familiar, yet he could not place them. He sat
up and the satin amethyst comforter slide to his waist. The window across from him, which gave him, the glimpse of the sky and teal waters of a lake was
from floor to ceiling. Will’s forehead furrowed. He began to swing a leg off the bed when a soft hand rested warmly on his back. “Where are you going?”
came his wife’s sleepy voice. “It’s the middle of the night…the kids are asleep.” She sensed them, safe and happy in their dreams. Her hand crept up his
back to his neck and squeezed. “Lie back down,” she murmured sleepily as her hand fell away. He twisted around and saw Deanna lying there on the cream
colored satin sheet.
“Deanna?” His voice held such a note of disbelief that she laughed lightly.
“Who were you expecting?” She asked as he leaned over her. “Another one of your wives?” She asked teasingly as his lips crushed hers. There was such intensity to the kiss that her mind sought his. ‘Imzadi,’ she thought as the kissed ended. With his face inches from hers, she brushed back a wayward lock of hair from his forehead. ‘Such turmoil…what is it.’
He touched her as if she were crystal, lightly and caressingly. ‘Just let me hold you,’ he thought back as his lips caught hers again. ‘I’ve been away for so long…’
“Wake!” A hard jolt in his side brought Will from his dream. “Wake!” A more forceful jolt brought him fully conscious.
“Where am I?” The dream left Will dazed, but the return of overwhelming pain reminded him of where he was. A swift kick to the back brought
his agony to a nauseating level, and Will heaved where he lay. The alien made a noise of disgust. Hands grabbed at Will, bringing him to his feet. His
knees gave out, so they drug him back to the same room he had been in the day before. At least he thought it was the day before.
Once inside, he was placed in the same chair, his hands secured behind him, and his feet secured to the floor. His chin lolled to his chest.
The dream had left him so disoriented. For a moment, he had been back on Betazed, in the lake house that he and Deanna loved so much that they still kept
it even though they hadn’t been back to Betazed in nearly ten years. He made it out of this alive, he promised himself a nice long shore leave to that lake
“Human,” came the voice again.
“I told you last time, I will not cooperate until I speak to my crew and send a message to my commanding officers.” He cringed, waiting for
the blow that was certain to come.
“Your crew is dead. I took the pleasure of killing them before we moved you the last time.” The voice had a note of pleasure to it as waves
of guilt washed over Will, but the blow he expected never came. “As for you, you have outlived your usefulness.”
“So kill me,” Will retaliated. “It’s better than the hell you have me in.”
A smirk came across the alien’s face that Will could not see. “
We have decided to let you live. We will leave you here. You will either be rescued and survive or die before you’re found. Either way, it is of no
matter to us. We have what we need.”
The voice was moving farther away. Will struggled against his bonds. “What does that mean?” He called, but there was no answer. “What does
B’Elanna walked into her quarters and found her husband and daughter sitting on the couch laughing at some shared joke. She smiled in pleasure
at the sight and looked around for their visitor. “Where’s Caleb?” She asked, putting her hands on her hips.
Miral shrugged and avoided looking at her mother. “He said he needed to go find Ariana.”
“Ariana’s coming here.” Confusion grew across B’Elanna’s face. “I just saw her on the holodeck.”
“All I know is he said he need to talk to Ariana and they were going to have dinner in their quarters.”
B’Elanna looked at Tom, who echoed his daughter’s shrug. “He wasn’t here when I got here. Want me to go get him and Ariana?”
“No. If they want to stay with us, they know where to find us.” B’Elanna sighed and looked meaningfully at her husband. He inclined his head and patted his daughter’s knee.
“Miral, I need to talk to your mother…why don’t you go into your room or something for a few minutes.”
With a long suffering sigh, Miral rose to her feet and walked slowly to her room…slowly enough to almost have her mother snarl at her. Once
she was in her room, B’Elanna collapsed on the sofa beside Tom and laid her head on his shoulder. “Find anything out?” She asked, trying to relax.
Tom shook his head. “Only what Kathryn already told me…She talked to Deanna today and told her what she knew. I think it’s time they send
another recon crew out and find him.”
“Got me…They act as if this is just one of those things that happens.”
B’Elanna snorted. “They’re crazy if they think Deanna is just going to sit there and take this without a fight. As long as she thinks Will
is still alive, she’ll look for him.”
“And we’re stuck with their kids,” Tom joked as B’Elanna lightly punched him. “I’m just kidding. Caleb and Ariana are good kids, but I
think Caleb’s got a thing for Miral.”
B’Elanna’s head came up. “Define thing,” she said.
“Thing…feelings, whatever the hell it’s called nowadays. I don’t think he’d been gone long when I came in.”
“Because Miral was still breathing hard,” Tom said with eyes twinkling.
“What!?” B’Elanna jumped to her feet. “Miral!” She called.
“B’Elanna,” Tom cautioned his wife, but it was too late. Miral came to the door of her room and cocked an eyebrow at her mother with enough
arrogance to make B’Elanna’s blood boil.
“What’s going on with you and Caleb?” B’Elanna asked matter-of-factly.
Miral went intentionally vague, and she knew she blushed, but it was dark enough in their quarters and her skin was dusky enough to hide the
slight reddening. “Nothing…Do you think we had a fight because we didn’t. He just wanted to be with his sister. That’s all.”
“I think you were making out with him,” Tom interjected, grinning the entire time. “I think you were making out with him and he bailed
because he’s scared of me.”
“No one’s scared of you, Dad,” Miral said with an affectionate grin. Then, she looked back to her mother’s hard face and sighed. “He kissed
me, okay? That’s all, though. There’s nothing going on…it was just a stupid moment that won’t happen again if Caleb wants to keep his arms attached to
his shoulders.” She stared at her mother for a long moment and cocked both eyebrows. “Is that all?”
B’Elanna sighed and nodded. Miral went back into her room, and B’Elanna turned to her husband with exasperation. “You had to be a smart ass?”
“It’s what I do,” he replied with a wicked smile.
“Doesn’t it worry you?’
“Miral and Caleb?” Tom laughed. “Not at all…Caleb has more honor than to do anything ‘dishonorable’ to our daughter. I think her honor is
B’Elanna sat down heavily. “He’s Will Riker’s son.”
“Son…Not Will. Will’s son. I think that’s a distinction that needs to be emphasized, B’Elanna. At Caleb’s age, Will already had a
reputation for being a ladies man. Caleb doesn’t. He may be Will Riker’s son, but I think he’s more his mother’s son than his father’s.”
“You think so?” B’Elanna looked deeply into her husband’s light blue eyes.
“I think so,” he told her, and then he kissed her lightly. “Let’s go eat. Miral! Get your ass out here! Time for food!”
B’Elanna shook her head and groaned. Caleb may be his mother’s son, but Miral was most definitely her father’s daughter.
“Ariana?” Caleb called towards Ariana’s room
in their quarters. “Come out…I know you’re in there.” Caleb collapsed
onto the couch. ‘I need to talk to you. Now,’ Caleb thought to
Ariana, knowing that she was incapable of ignoring thought casts. Sure
enough, Ariana came out of her room with wide eyes.
‘What?’ She thought back, staring at him.
“Sit,” he said aloud. “We need to talk.”
“About what?” She asked, sitting down across from her brother.
Caleb winced from the sudden intensity of Ariana’s thoughts. “Stop that, Ari,” he said, rubbing his temples. “I can’t take it when your thoughts do that.”
“Sorry,” Ariana said contritely. Being only slightly empathic, it slipped her mind that Caleb’s mental powers were significantly more
developed than hers. Sometimes it irked her that being the oldest it seemed as if he had gotten everything, but she didn’t envy his slight telepathy. She had no
desire to know what others were thinking. She barely wanted to know what others were feeling. “What is it, Caleb? Why aren’t you at Tom and B’Elanna’s?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” Caleb smiled at her. “I decided I needed to spend time with you, one on one, more than we needed a family dinner.”
Ariana gave him an appraising look, cocked an eyebrow, and let a fairly offensive thought float from her mind into her brother’s. She kept her
eyebrow cocked until he choked on a laugh. “If Grandmother heard you think that way, she’d find a way to wash your mind with soap.”
“She’s not here,” Ariana said, her good mood evaporating. Her grandmother was on Betazed with Ariana’s uncle. She hadn’t seen them in
nearly ten years except in communiqués from Betazed. “Anyway…you have a thing for Miral and you think no one knows.” Ariana smiled knowingly. “I know. I
sense it,” she said with a note of pride. “Your feelings have to be pretty damn strong for me to pick up on them.”
“Watch your mouth,” Caleb said off-handedly. “And, if I have a thing for Miral, it’s none of your business.”
Ariana rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” She flopped down on the couch beside him and lolled her head on the back of the couch. “So, you need to
spend some time with me,” she said sardonically. “That is such crap, Caleb. You’re avoiding Miral.”
“Just like you’re avoiding me,” he countered with a smile.
“I am not avoiding you,” she returned heatedly. “I just don’t like you.” Ariana smiled. “You annoy me.”
“I’m your brother. I’m supposedly to annoy you.” He looked over at her. “Ariana, you asked me what I think happens when you die because
you think Dad is dead, right?”
Ariana swallowed hard and nodded her head. “Don’t you?”
“No,” Caleb said slowly after some thought. “If he were dead, I think Mom would have told us, and I think I would feel it, too. So would you.”
“I’m empathic, not telepathic,” she reminded him.
“Telepathy’s got nothing to do with what I’m talking about, Ariana,” Caleb said tolerantly. His patience came from his mother. Her patience
was legendary. After all, she was a counselor and a mother and a wife to a man with an intensely stressful job. Patience was paramount for her life. He
sighed and closed his eyes. “I’m talking about that knowledge you have deep inside of you that knows when someone close to you is hurt. Do you feel Dad?”
“Caleb, this is such crap!” Ariana exploded. “You told me earlier that Dad’s not dead because you knew it, Mom knows it, and Mom wouldn’t
have gone planet side if she thought Dad was dead. So, maybe he isn’t dead, but that doesn’t mean he’s coming back.”
“Are you serious? You think Dad would leave Mom for someone else?” Caleb snorted out a laugh. “You’re an idiot, Ari…you really are if you believe that. Dad loves Mom.”
“How do you know?”
“How do you not know?” Caleb countered, looking at his sister with incredulity. “God, Ari, do you think that the stories we hear from Aunt
Bev or anyone else are fiction?” He stared at Ariana until she shrugged. “You’re serious? You don’t believe they have a connection?”
“We all have a connection Caleb. You just illustrated that point.” Sarcasm dripped from Ariana’s words.
“I’m talking about a connection of souls, Ariana.”
“That doesn’t exist,” she said quickly.
“It does,” Caleb said quietly, and it was a more effective statement because of the quietness of his reply.
Ariana rolled her eyes, and Caleb knew. She just didn’t believe him and never would. She would have to see it for herself.
Night fell slowly on Earth. Deanna
stood with her arms wrapped around her waist, clad in a thick wool sweater, and
leaned on the wood fence.
It was have been so much more practical for her to stay with Beverly. She would be within walking distance to Starfleet Headquarters, but she needed to
feel close to Will. She should have returned to Jupiter Station to be with their children, but she couldn’t face their questions, their hope, their fears.
For once, Deanna needed some time for herself. She needed solitude, and the home Will’s father had left him in Alaska was the perfect place for solitude.
It was isolated and private, rustic and wooded, modern and accessible despite its rural appearance.
Even though it was near two in the morning, Terran Standard
Time, Deanna stood bathed in a dim light, not from the moon, but from the
constant sun that was
part of Alaska this time of the year. It was chilly, and she knew she needed to go inside, yet she couldn’t. She kept waiting for Will’s arms to slide
around her waist from behind her as he had done countless times during their tumultuous courtship, the early blissful days of their marriage, and the months
when she carried their children. A tear streamed down Deanna’s cheek and she quickly wiped it away. In the cold, it would freeze on her face.
With a sigh, she turned and walked into the cabin where there was a roaring fire in the fireplace. She curled up on the couch and fell into a fitful sleep
full of dreams of a dark place, of excruciating pain, and of deep sadness. In her sleep, she whimpered as if she were the one in pain, but she was in no
pain. It was the dreams her mind had tuned into, and she couldn’t be certain if they were dreams or reality.
Thousands of light years away, Will’s head drooped on his chest. It had been about a day and a half since his captors had abandoned him. His
parched throat screamed for liquid, his battered body shrieked for medical treatment, and his mind sought escape. Escape from this hell, escape from this
pain, escape from this world.
His hands wrestled uselessly against his restraints. His ankles were raw from attempting to get them free. Will was certain that if he didn’t
find a way to free himself, he was going to die there. His eyes burned, not just from the heat, but from tears he absolutely refused to shed. He closed
them and did as his Starfleet training had taught him to do: Concentrate on better times…so he did. And, as he did, his soul, too long separated from its
mate, sought the comfort of its mate. In dreams, what she thought were dreams, he touched her mind. Briefly, ever so briefly, her mind saw what his mind
saw, her body felt what his body felt, and for the first time in over two months, he felt hope. If she could figure out where he was, she could save him. She
had saved him so many times before with less than what he tried to give her to work with. Hope grew within him.
Gasping, Deanna sat up and ran a hand through her hair. Her mind tried to sort through the jumble of her vivid dreams. “Computer! Time?” She
asked in a raspy voice brought on by deep sleep.
‘Over two hours,’ she thought with some disbelief to herself. She took a few deep breaths to regular her heart. It pounded fiercely in her
chest from the intensity of her dreams. She closed her eyes and saw the montage again. A dark room…titanium looking walls…a chair…searing heat…and a desk
with a data pad on it. Her forehead furrowed as her mind saw the insignia on the back of the data pad. Then, her eyes flew open and her face grew white.
“Computer, open communication to Admiral Jean Luc Picard.”
A series of beeps signaled the communication system was opening a line. Deanna walked over to the communication station on the far side of the
living room. She paced until she heard her the grumpy voice she wanted to hear.
“This better damn well be important,” Picard said as he sat in front of the station in his bedroom.
“Jean Luc, I need your help,” Deanna said with a note of desperation in her voice. She leaned forward. “I know where Will is.”
Later that morning, on Jupiter Station, Caleb
walked sleepily out of his room to find Ariana sitting on the couch reading a
PADD. She stuck
out a foot to trip him. Caleb wasn’t at his best in the mornings, and outside of a holodeck where a Bat’leth was required, this was the only chance she got
to best her brother, and like any little sister, she took the shot.
Caleb tripped without falling and managed to hit Ariana on the shoulder without looking back. She giggled as he stumbled to the replicator. “Milk. Chocolate. Now,” he said as the glass materialized. He titled it back and swallowed in one long gulp.
“Functioning normally now?” Ariana asked. She had been up for hours. Her early rising habit baffled her parents as neither one of them were
“No,” Caleb said, sitting down on the couch. “Move over. You’re taking up the whole damn couch.”
Ariana rolled her eyes, stood up, and tossed the PADD on the couch. “Take it…I’m getting dressed and going out,” she told him as she started
towards her room.
“Where you are going?” He called after her. No answer came from Ariana until she came back out of her room. “You’re not wearing that.”
“You’re not Dad,” she retorted and sashayed out of their quarters in a stoplight red tunic that fell sexily off one shoulder and tight black
slacks. Caleb groaned and lay his head against the back of the couch. There were things he just didn’t know how to deal with, and a sister hell bent on
disaster was one, so he put it on someone else. After all, he was only sixteen, and it wasn’t his job to parent his sister.
“Riker to Paris,” he said without realizing his page would go to all three Paris’. A few seconds went by before B’Elanna replied.
“Caleb, if you want Miral, you’ll need a Bat’leth in hand when you come wake her up,” B’Elanna said lightly.
“You’ll do,” he said crankily. “My sister just walked out here dressed like some Risa party girl in training. I don’t know…” Caleb raked a
hand through his hair and scowled at the ceiling in a gesture so similar to one that his father made. “I don’t…”
“I’ll take care of it, Caleb,” B’Elanna reassured him. “Paris out.”
Caleb sighed and closed his eyes. Some things just weren’t going to be his worry today.
“Where are you going so early?” Tom reached across their bed and touched B’Elanna’s back as she pulled on her boots. “Aren’t you off duty
“Um-hum,” she murmured, pulling on her other boot. “Go back to sleep. I’ll be back before you or Miral really wake up…there’s something I
need to handle.” She lay across their bed and kissed her husband swiftly. “I’ll be back soon…I promise,” she said, and then she stood up and left their quarters.
“Computer, locate Ariana Riker!” B’Elanna called as she walked towards a turbolift. It seemed as if she did little besides call the computer
for the location of the youngest Riker.
“Ariana Riker is in Tavola Calda,” the computer replied, and the reply brought B’Elanna’s eyebrows up on her forehead. Tavola Calda was a
constant running program on the holodeck. It drew the less respectable clientele that populated Jupiter Station occasionally. B’Elanna squared her shoulders
and prepared to play not only an angry mother but an angry Starfleet officer if the human proprietor of Tavola Calda had allowed a fourteen year old girl in.
The Picard estate of in the east of France was
breathtakingly beauty with the lush green grass, tall old trees, riotous
flowers, and thick vines
of fat grades. Deanna walked slowly through the vineyard with her former captain. They strolled silently. No words were needed between the two. After
years of serving together, their silence spoke for them. Picard’s doubts went unspoken. He chose not to give voice to them. Instead, they strolled almost
peacefully through the wild vines.
Deanna felt Picard’s doubts, and she was grateful that he kept them silent. She could work through his doubts as long as he still trusted her,
and it relieved her that she felt no distrust from him. She could convince him that his doubts were misplaced.
“How are the children?” Picard asked, breaking the silence as he stopped to study a particular cluster of grapes.
“Caleb is…” Deanna paused to choose her words and smiled softly. “He’s holding his own…steady. He reminds me very much of me at that age.
Although, I’m sure it would greatly concern him to hear me say that.”
Jean-Luc smiled and continued down the row. “As it would concern any sixteen year old boy who fancies himself to be more masculine than any
sixteen year old before him. And, Ariana?”
Deanna stopped and sighed. “She’s so much like Will, Jean-Luc,” Deanna said as he turned to face her. “I didn’t understand Will when I first met him. He wasn’t too much older than Ariana…maybe ten or twelve years…I didn’t understand him then, and I wouldn’t have understood him if he were younger, and I don’t understand our daughter. I just don’t understand Ariana, and I don’t know what Ariana needs. She’s made it clear, though, that she doesn’t need me.”
“Deanna.” Picard took a step to her and put a hand on her shoulder. He squeezed. “I’m sure she may think that, but you are a good mother.”
Deanna shrugged and he squeezed her shoulder again. “Ariana will come to realize that, Deanna. She’s fourteen. No fourteen year old girl wants to admit
they need their mother. They’re supposed to be more hip than that.”
“Hip?” Deanna cocked an amused eyebrow.
Picard smiled. “I hear it around the bistros.”
Deanna nodded. “Ah,” she said. “Well, as true as that may be, she doesn’t share the same connection she does with me as she does with her
father and brother. To Ariana, I’m an afterthought.”
“She’s rebelling Deanna,” Jean-Luc said wisely. “All teenagers do.”
“Spoken like someone who’s raised teenagers.”
Jean-Luc cocked an eyebrow. “I saw Wesley through those teenage years, and I saw Beverly endure them with him. They’re not easy…even to an
“I know.” Deanna fingered a grape cluster. Then, she took a deep breath, went to the topic that had brought her to France. “Jean-Luc, I know
you doubt what I said to you this morning, but I believe I know where Will is.”
“Deanna, I just don’t believe that…”
“Why not?” She challenged him. “They’ve done this before to other personnel members.”
“But, this is no ‘personnel’ member, Deanna.”
“You think I don’t know that?” She returned softly. “Jean-Luc, I want to be wrong. Believe me, I want to be wrong, but if I’m right…” she purposely let her voice trail off.
“It would be a scandal.”
“A scandal?” Deanna’s eyebrows rose. “It would be more than a scandal, Jean-Luc. It would be a nightmare for the Federation.”
Picard nodded slowly. “I still have some contacts, Deanna. Let me do some veiled espionage. I’ll see what I can find out.”
“Are you sure? Jean-Luc, I don’t want you to get in any trouble.”
Jean-Luc chuckled. “Don’t worry, Deanna. I will do what I can, and I will let you know. Go back to Jupiter Station with the children…bring
them home and spend some time with them and let me do some searching. I will find answers, Deanna. I promise you that.” He trailed his hand down her arm
to her hand and squeezed her hand tightly. “I promise.”
Deanna smiled gratefully and squeezed his hand back. “ Thank you, Jean-Luc. I will be on the station for a few days, and then I think you’re
right. I’ll bring the children home. It’s been a few years since they’ve spent any real time planet side…planet side on their home planet.”
Jean-Luc nodded, and then motioned for her to follow him back through the vineyard. There were other things to admire before she left and for
as long as he could, Picard would do his best to keep her mind off her troubles with her children and her husband. Then, he would find her husband. He
owed her that much.
It took B’Elanna no time to stalk into Tavola Calda. She stood in the entryway for a moment with her arms folded angrily across her chest and
scanned for the curly reddish brown hair she was used to seeing on Ariana. A part of her highly resented having to play mother to this rebelling, hurt
child, but another part of her sympathized with Deanna and knew if the situations were reversed, Deanna would play this role with Miral without question or
resentment. B’Elanna knew what it was like to be a rebellious teenager, and it was probably better for Ariana and Deanna that she be the one handling Ariana.
She knew what worked and what didn’t.
She scanned the room again and still failed to see Ariana. For a moment, B’Elanna wondered if maybe she had missed Ariana, but then she saw a
young woman that set off warning bells in her head. Her hair was straight, but there was something in her stance that made B’Elanna know that the young
woman she was looking at was Ariana. She set her mouth in a firm line and stalked over to the bar where Ariana sat laughed at something the man next to her
said. His hand rested on her arm just a bit too familiarly for B’Elanna’s comfort.
“Ariana.” B’Elanna nearly snarled the child’s name. With a mother’s sixth sense, she knew without seeing Ariana’s face that the girl had
rolled her eyes. “I want to speak with you. Now.”
The man talking to Ariana looked over at B’Elanna, noted her rank, and raised his eyebrows. “You her mother?” He asked, taking a swig of the
electric blue drink in his hand.
“Then, this isn’t your concern.”
His dismissal of her made B’Elanna’s blood boil. With one hand, she pulled him off his barstool and to his feet. “I don’t believe I asked
for your opinion, and if you want to stay on this station for however long your assignment is, I suggest you not only watch your tone but your words,” she
said coldly. “Now, I need to speak with Ariana, in case you didn’t know her name, and don’t need your help.”
“Maybe she does.” He looked over B’Elanna’s shoulder at Ariana and smiled winningly. Then, he winced as B’Elanna grabbed his hand and bent
his little finger back almost to touch the top of his hand. “In case we haven’t met, I am Commander B’Elanna Torres Paris. Paris,” she repeated. “As in Admiral Tom Paris, my husband. As in Fleet Admiral Paris, my father-in-law. You want to keep your commission, I suggest you leave before you say something really stupid. We understand each other?” She kept the near paralytic pressure on his finger until he nodded. Then, she released his finger, and he yanked his hand to his chest with a wince. With a regretful glance at Ariana, and a fearful glance at B’Elanna, he hightailed it from the bar.
With a sigh, B’Elanna sat on the recently vacated barstool next to the seething young girl. “Ariana, what in the hell are you doing here?”
She asked quietly, and it was a more effective question for the quietness of her voice. The bartender stepped over to B’Elanna, but the glare she gave him,
sent him scurrying from her.
Ariana said nothing, but B’Elanna felt the anger radiating from the girl. Anger was good, in B’Elanna’s opinion. It showed real emotion, and
that was something Ariana loathed to show lately. “This is the second day in a row I’ve had to hunt you down because your brother asked me to. I don’t
like this, Ariana. I don’t like the path you’re on, and if you were my daughter, I’d make you change, but you’re not my daughter, and I can’t make you
change. I can give you some advice, though.”
“I don’t need your advice,” Ariana said seething. She tossed the amber liquid in her glass down her throat. For Synthehol, it still
scorched. B’Elanna’s eyes narrowed and she snatched the empty glass from Ariana. With one sniff, she knew exactly what the girl had been drinking. “Harvey!” B’Elanna yelled, jumping off her barstool and grabbing the surprised bartender by the collar at the end of the bar. “Why in the hell are you giving a minor Synthehol?”
“A minor?” He scoffed with a look at Ariana. “Please, she’s at least eighteen or twenty…Terran years.”
“She’s fourteen,” B’Elanna hissed. “She’s also Admiral Riker’s daughter, you idiot. Believe me, Admiral Paris is going to find out about this.”
“Commander…,” the barkeep pleaded, but her attention had already turned back to Ariana. She pointed a finger at the girl. “You, let’s go. Now.”
Ariana considered arguing, just for the sake of it, but the note of warning in B’Elanna’s voice make the rational side of Ariana know that
arguing would be the only excuse B’Elanna needed to shoot Ariana with a phaser set on stun just to knock some sense into her. She swung her legs round and
hopped off the stool with grace. Then, she gave a swing of her straightened hair, a suggestive smile to another patron, and followed B’Elanna into the
hallway. The second the archway closed, Ariana found herself snatched close to B’Elanna’s face. “I don’t know what game you think you’re playing, little girl, but these kind of games are the kind that get girls hurt. Badly. You may think you’re old enough to know what you’re doing, you may even like what you’re doing, but what you’re doing something that’s going to get you into a place you’re too immature to handle.”
“I am not immature!” Ariana said heatedly and tried to wiggle away from B’Elanna. She wasn’t used to being dealt with on a physical level.
Her parents preferred lectures and dealing on an emotional level. When they were angry, she knew it from their eyes and their silence. With B’Elanna,
anger emanated from her entire being. She practically shook.
“Not immature?” B’Elanna cocked an eyebrow with amusement. “Let me tell you something, if I ever catch you in that lounge again without your brother or parents, I will make sure that your life isn’t worth living for a few weeks. As is, it’s not worth living right now. I want your stuff packed and in my quarters within the hour. I want you changed into clothes that doesn’t look like some hooker on Risa would wear, I want your hair washed, and I want your make-up tamed down. If you even think of arguing with me, Ariana, it
will be a choice you regret. You have exactly one hour, and if you’re not there, I will set security on you. Don’t play games with me. You’re not
dealing with your parents.”
“You’re damned right I’m not! You have no right to tell me what I can and can’t do or where I have to be and when, and you can’t tell me
where I can and cannot go. My parents are the only ones that can do that and they aren’t here!” Ariana raised her chin defiantly. Her eyes sparkled and she
toss back a section of her hair with arrogance that turned to surprise when B’Elanna reached out and grabbed Ariana’s chin so that it was impossible for Ariana to look anywhere except at B’Elanna’s angry face.
“You will do exactly what I tell you to do Ariana because your mother left me in charge of you and your brother until she can get back to this
station. You will either do as I tell you to do or you will find yourself on a transport to Betazed and you can stay with your grandmother or your uncle.
Either way, you are not going to act like this.” Ariana yanked her chin from B’Elanna’s grasp and stepped out of her reach. “You think no one loves you, fine, think that. You think no one cares for you, fine, think that. It you believe that, though, you are a fool…an arrogant, selfish, little fool,” B’Elanna hissed. Then, she turned and walked away. When she reached the turbolift she turned around and called back to Ariana. “One hour. Don’t test me.”
Ariana stood staring, dumbfound, as B’Elanna disappeared into the turbolift.
“Jean-Luc, my god, what are you doing
here?” Fleet Admiral Constance O’Malley half-rose, half paused in
shock. He gave a wave of dismissal, and she returned to her seat.
He sat across from her and gave her a smile. “Connie, I need a favor,” he
“Anything, Jean-Luc. What do you need?”
“Be careful how easily you offer your assistance, Connie,” Picard advised her. “This favor could get you in deep.”
She leaned forward with a sharp smile. “Jean-Luc, we’ve known each other for what…forty years? God,” she grimaced. “I could use a bit of
adventure, Jean-Luc. I’m old…hell, we’re old. What is it that you need?”
“Oh hell, Jean-Luc.” Constance sat back in her chair with a flop. “Why don’t you just ask me to hand over the Klingon High Council? That
would be easier.”
Shock spread across Jean-Luc’s face. “My god, Constance. It’s true?”
“How do you know any of this, Jean-Luc?”
“I just do. When did Starfleet begin to take her own officers hostage for no reason?”
“It’s not for no reason, Jean-Luc,” Constance said with a sigh. “He found out something.”
“What?” Jean-Luc leaned forward. “Dammit, Constance, Will Riker is not just a friend of mine…he’s almost family to me. Tell me.”
“I can’t!” Constance ran a hand over her salt-and-pepper hair. “I don’t know. Hell, Jean-Luc, if I knew what Riker found out, do you think I’d still be here? I’d disappear just like he has.”
“Does the Federation Council know Starfleet is disposing of her own officers now?”
“Doubt it. Jean-Luc, please stay out of this. You’ll go missing, too,” Constance pleaded as Picard rose to his feet.
“I can’t, Connie. I owe Riker’s family better than this. Be sure, I will get to the bottom of this.” He gave her one more look and then
left. His quick gait took him three decks down and into Admiral Janeway’s office. He knew the younger woman only by reputation, but he also knew that she was friends with Deanna and Will. He also knew that she had given Deanna the information that Will had been taken by unfriendly hostiles.
The aide at the reception desk outside Janeway’s office gave Picard a surprised glance as he breezed by her. She opened her mouth to speak, but by the time she got out a startled “Sir!,” Picard was already into Janeway’s office.
With her mouth half opened, Janeway almost rose from her chair. He waved at her with the same nonchalant wave he had given the other admiral. Janeway stood fully and stared as Picard sat down in the chair in front of her desk as if they were old friends.
“Please, Admiral, sit,” Picard said as if this were his office. He smiled at her, a thin smile that would have told anyone who knew him that
he was just barely holding onto his temper.
“Admiral Picard…I…We…we haven’t met.” Kathryn rarely found herself stumbling over words, but she stumbled over them as she stared at the
former head of Starfleet Command. “What can I do for you?” She asked as she sat back in her chair.
“First of all, I’m retired…for the moment,” he added. “Secondly, I’m well aware that we haven’t met. As far as this meeting goes, we still
haven’t depending on what kind of bullshit you feed me like you did Deanna Troi-Riker.”
“Admiral…” Janeway began.
“Might I suggest that you keep quiet,” Jean-Luc said rather pleasantly. “At least until I’m finished…then, you can add whatever fantasy you
want to add. I know that Starfleet is holding Will Riker, and I know you told his wife that unknown hostiles had taken him. My question is…how deeply into this are you?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Admiral,” Janeway said with true bewilderment to her voice. “What do you mean Starfleet is holding
“You really don’t know,” Picard said after studying her for a long, intense moment. He sagged back in the chair. “Well, damn.”
Kathryn let him stew for a moment before she spoke again. “Admiral Picard, I told Deanna what I was told when it was reported that Riker and
his team had gone missing. I told her what I believed to be the truth. Are you telling me that Starfleet is holding Will Riker against his will?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
“That’s against all our beliefs…everything Starfleet holds as true,” Kathryn said slowly. “You’re asking me to believe that Starfleet has
violated its first and most sacred rule?”
“I’m not asking you,” Picard said, leaning forward with a pirate like smile. “I’m telling you. It’s up to you whether you believe it or not.”
Kathryn sat there and stared at him for a long moment before she settled back in her chair. “All right, Admiral. Tell me what you know.”
“Will, please don’t go on this mission with the team. I have a bad feeling about this,” Deanna pleaded with him as he packed the night before
his team was scheduled to depart. He looked over at her with annoyance in his eyes. Their eyes locked and, in his opinion, began to play dirty. ‘Imzadi, please,’ she implored to him mentally. ‘Something about this doesn’t feel right. I know you feel the same. If it doesn’t feel right, then why do it?’
“Because I was ordered to,” Will spoke, sitting down heavily on their bed. He sighed and looked at her unhappily. ‘I have to go. You know
that,’ he thought to her.
“You just came home. Will, we need you here. Surely, you can feel the animosity that Ariana has for both of us right now. I need you here.
I can’t deal with this on my own.” Tears brimmed on her eyelashes. The look she sent him always cause part of his heart to break. “I just can’t do this
on my own anymore,” she said softly, sitting down on the corner opposite from him. She looked down at her hands and interlaced her fingers. “Will, I’m going to resign as head of the counseling services. Caleb and Ariana need me, and I need to be with them.”
“Deanna…” Will’s voice held a note of surprise. He reached over and placed his hand over hers. “Are you sure?”
“Will, can’t you see how much it hurts them when we’re not here? When they’re left on their own. They’re just teenagers. They aren’t old
enough to be on their own, and you know that. Look how it affected you when your father abandoned you as a teenager.”
“We don’t abandon our children, Deanna. We’re doing our jobs,” Will told her, but his tone was less than convincing because he barely
believed what he said. He knew she was right.
“Starfleet is our job, Will. You’re right,” Deanna said soberly. “But, Caleb and Ariana…they’re our obligation. We knew that when we had
Caleb, and then decided to have Ariana. We owe them better than what we’re giving them. You know that, Will.” She looked at him. ‘You know that,’ she thought to him.
He nodded. “I know that, Deanna…are you asking me to resign my commission? Is that what you’re going to do?”
“I would never ask you to resign your commission, Will, but yes, I am going to resign mine. I am asking you, though, not to go on this
mission. Dammit, you’re the head of special ops. You’re not special ops, yourself. Let someone else go. Hell, let Tom go. He’d get a kick out of it.”
“And, the B’Elanna would get a kick out of me, literally,” he said with a small smile. Then, he sighed and squeezed Deanna’s hands. “
Deanna, I have to go on this one. I was ordered to by Admiral O’Malley.” A tear slid down Deanna’s cheek, and Will closed his eyes. ‘Don’t do that, Deanna. It’s not fair. You know I can’t stand that,’ he though to her, reaching over with a finger and catching the tear. “I’ll make you a deal,” he told her with a smile. “This is the last mission I’ll go on.”
“Ever?” Deanna grinned and her voice held a note of laughter in it. “Will Riker, there is little I’ve learned about you over the years, but
I do know that the chances of you never going on another mission is slim to none.” She unlaced her hands and cupped his face in her hands. “I love you,” she said softly, and then kissed him slowly and deeply. His hand crept to the back of her head and held her against him for a long, long moment. Then, she pulled back slightly. “I know you’re going to go. Be safe. Please,” she whispered before kissing him again.
A beep signaled someone outside their bedroom door since they had it on lock. Deanna drew away from Will and sighed as Will called, “Come in!”
“Dad, you have to talk to Caleb,” Ariana fumed, stalking into her parents’ bedroom. “You have to,” she emphasized, flopping into a chair. “He’s horrible.”
“He’s your brother, Ariana. He’s supposed to be horrible,” Will told his daughter with an indulgent smile. She glared at him and Will
sighed. “What did he do?”
“He’s just horrible!” Ariana exploded. “He said that you’re going on another mission and Mom’s going to Earth and we’re staying with Tom
and B’Elanna on Jupiter Station. I’m tired of him lying to me. You guys promised that we were going to spend the next couple of weeks together.” Ariana saw the look her parents exchanged and felt the uncertainty between them. Her eyes narrowed. “He wasn’t lying, was he?”
“Ariana,” Deanna began, reaching towards her daughter.
“I can’t believe you two are going to do this to us again? Gods, Tom and B’Elanna are more our parents than you two are, lately! You two are
so damned busy saving the stupid universe that Caleb and I may as well not exist. Your lives would be easier if we didn’t!” She yelled and leaped to her
“Ariana,” Will said with censure to his voice. “You will not speak to your mother like that. Sit down.” Will’s eyes narrowed as Ariana
toyed with defiance. “Sit down,” he said softly. When Ariana sat…more, slumped, into her chair, Will spoke again. “Your brother is right, Ariana. Sort of. I have been order by a fleet admiral that I have to go on this mission. I have no choice. If I ignore the order, I could be thrown in the brig. Your
mother is going to Earth for one day. You’ll be with Tom and B’Elanna for one day while your mother resigns her commission.”
“What?” Ariana looked at her mother with disbelief in her eyes. “You’re leaving Starfleet? Why?”
“Because it’s time,” Deanna said simply. Ariana stared at her with disbelieving eyes. “Ariana, I’m telling you the truth. I know you don’t
trust me right now, but believe that I’m telling the truth now.”
Ariana stared at her mother for another long moment, and then she shifted her gaze to her father. “How long will you be gone?”
Will shrugged. “I don’t know, baby.”
Ariana nodded slowly, stood up, and left their bedroom without another word. Deanna watched her go with sad eyes. “She’s so angry with me.”
“Yes, she is.” Will nodded in agreement. He pulled Deanna to him and held her tightly. “She’s fourteen, Deanna. All fourteen year old
girls hate their mothers. Didn’t you?” He smiled and rested his chin on the top of her head as she snorted out a laugh.
“No…at fourteen, I was still doing exactly what I was told. I rebelled and came to hate her when I met you.”
Will laughed softly. “Good, then when Ariana meets a boy that you can’t stand, maybe she’ll like you again and hate me.”
Deanna laughed against his chest. “I love you, Will…Come back to me safely,” she whispered against his chest. He nodded again and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Whispered through her mind, she heard his promise, ‘I will.’
These memories whirled through Deanna’s mind as she took the short shuttle trip to Jupiter Station. She wiped the quick tear away from her
eyes and tried to figure out what she was going to tell her children…Tom and B’Elanna. Hell, what she was going to tell herself tonight as she tried to sleep about the organization she worked for. At one point in her life, she had believed that serving Starfleet was the most noble thing she could do, and that by serving Starfleet she honored the memory of her father who had died serving Starfleet. Now, she wondered how she could convince her children that their father had gone on this mission believing that he was serving a greater good. Instead, the greater good was serving a larger evil. She had to convince her children that it was her responsibility to find this evil. Her eyes closed as she imagined their reaction, and she knew it would not be pleasant. Not that she could blame them. She wanted to rage like she knew her youngest would, and she wanted to hate like she knew her oldest would, but it was up to her to be an example to them. Not all of Starfleet was evil…was it? That thought crept into her psyche and she sighed heavily because it was a question she could not answer with any certainty. She just couldn’t.
"Are you sure?" Tom sat heavily onto the
couch beside B'Elanna and stared at Deanna. As soon as her shuttle had
docked at Jupiter Station, she
had practically run to Tom and B'Elanna's quarters. Her children were momentarily at the Federation academy on the station with Miral. The adults had
maybe an hour or more to themselves before the children were through with their classes.
Deanna looked at Tom with incredulity. "Do you think I would make something like that up?" She sighed and paced their tiny living room. "Tom,
good gods, I serve Starfleet just as you do. You think I would make something like this up? It's insane! I know…But, I know what I saw."
"Deanna, I don't doubt your connection with Will, but are you sure you were seeing through his eyes?"
"Yes," she said adamantly. "I saw that data pad with the Starfleet insignia on it. Starfleet is holding him. Somewhere."
"And you told this to Admiral Picard?" Tom asked.
"Yes. He said he still had connections and would find out what's going on."
Tom pressed the side of his hands to his mouth below his nose in a pyramid shape. "I know only two people in the 'fleet with the ability to
order something like that. Jean-Luc Picard is one of them."
"Jean-Luc would never do something like that." Deanna said in a vehement voice. "Tom, I know few things with absolute certainty. The fact
that Jean-Luc would have nothing to do with this is one of them. I know that."
"Tom," B'Elanna laid a hand on his arm. "Who else?"
"Lead Fleet Admiral…" Tom's voice trailed off as he thought. "That would be Constance O'Malley if memory serves. I don’t know her." Tom
looked over at Deanna. "Do you?"
Deanna raised her eyebrows as she thought. Then, she shook her head. "I've never heard of her."
Tom pursed his lips and shook his head. "Did you see any details that would indicate where he's being held?"
"No." Frustration began to course through Deanna. "If I were a damned telepath, I might be able to figure it out, but I'd have to be an
incredibly strong telepath…And, I'd probably need another one to link with me to send out a thought cast that broad."
"Deanna," B'Elanna said after some silent thought. "What if it doesn't require a broad thought cast." Her eyes met Deanna's. "What if Will's
being held on Earth. Wouldn't make sense that you'd be able to tap into his dreams because he was in a fairly close proximity to you? I don't know a lot
about the link you share with him, but it isn't strong enough for you to tune into his dreams if he were in..say, the Delta Quadrant."
Deanna stared at B'Elanna with slightly squinted eyes as she mulled the idea over in her mind. "I never thought about it, necessarily, but
yes, he probably would have to be in fairly close proximity." With sudden energy, Deanna leapt to her feet. "I need to get back to Alaska…I was in our cabin
when he reached out to me." She paced frantically again. "Tom, what's Starfleet's most secured area?"
Tom thought for a moment. "Section 31 used to have a secured area over on the African continent. Some bunker deep in a rain forest. Don't
know the location, though."
"But, I bet Admiral Picard does…or did," B'Elanna interjected. "Deanna, you have to contact him."
She nodded. "I know…but, first I have to talk to my children." She looked at Tom and B'Elanna. "They have to know. I can't…I won't hide
this from them. I promised Ariana that I was going to Earth for one day to resign my commission. I've been gone for two and I'm still in Starfleet. I owe my
daughter an explanation."
"There's some things you need to know about Ariana's behavior over the past two days, Deanna," B'Elanna spoke suddenly. "She's gone slightly
out of control."
"Out of control how?" Deanna's eyes narrowed.
B'Elanna waved her hand. "The usual teenage stuff. Acting out."
"B'Elanna." Deanna began losing her patience.
With a sigh, B'Elanna began to tell Deanna of Ariana's escapades for the past two days. As she spoke, Deanna's face grew paler and paler until
bright spots of anger appeared on her cheeks. Tom watched from the safety of the couch with a grin slowly spreading on his face. Will had once told him
that to know when Deanna was truly angry was by the color of her face. The paler…The angrier. And, for a Betazoid, Deanna had one hell of a temper when
finally sparked to light. From the look on her face, her daughter's escapades had sparked Deanna's angry to full flame.
"Unbelievable." Deanna stared at B'Elanna for a moment when B'Elanna finished. "I am so sorry. I would never have asked you to…"
"Deanna," B'Elanna interrupted. "You would have been there for Miral. The children will be home in a few minutes."
"I'm going to go meet Ariana on her way here. Will you tell Caleb to remain here until I return with Ariana?"
"Absolutely," Tom piped. Deanna smiled in thanks and walked out of their quarters. "That is one angry mom," Tom said to B'Elanna after the
"She has every right to be. Tom, do you really think Will is being held against his will? Do you know what his mission was?"
"I don't. I swear, but I know that Will wouldn't stay out of contact with his family this long knowing what was going on with his children.
We need to learn more. Can you contact anyone?"
"Who? I don't have any connections. You do."
"I don't trust my father," Tom spoke slowly. "I don't trust anyone that far up in Starfleet right now."
"Tom, in case you've forgotten, you're an admiral."
"Yeah, but I'm not a fleet admiral. I think, for the time being, it may be best to stick with what little we know and who we know we can
trust. If Starfleet is taking her own, it's too dangerous to attract attention to us…that we know something."
B'Elanna nodded in agreement. She opened her mouth to continue their conversation, but the moment she said Tom's name again, Caleb and Miral
came into the quarters arguing bitterly. B'Elanna wiped her thoughts clean and smiled at the children.
"School go okay?"
"Yeah," Caleb responded. "When'd my mom get here?"
"About an hour ago. You're to stay here until she gets back with Ariana. Go finish any homework you have. We'll talk later," she said, both
to the children and to Tom. The children grumbled but disappeared into Miral's room. Tom nodded knowingly at B'Elanna who sat on the couch beside him and
waited for Deanna to return or for any sounds of battle from Miral's room.
"Little One, you owe me an explanation," Deanna began as she and Ariana walked slowly toward the arboretum. "I know I was gone longer than I
said, but there is no excuse for your behavior."
Ariana crossed her arms as she walked and kept a sullen expression on her face. She said nothing to her mother, hoping that her silence would
force her mother to leave her alone. What she didn't take into account was her mother's anger. Ariana had never seen her mother truly angry, so she didn't
know that she was about to be on the receiving end of her mother's wrath.
"You have nothing to say for yourself?" Deanna paused and looked at Ariana who kept walking. 'Ariana, if you even think about walking away
from me again, it will be the last step you take for a long while,' Deanna thought to her daughter. She lifted an eyebrow as her daughter turned around with a
'Anger, Mother?' Ariana thought loftily. 'Anger isn't the peacefulness that Betazoids ascribe to.'
'You forget that I'm also part human,' Deanna thought, her anger growing. 'I have had it with your attitude, Ariana.'
"Oh please," Ariana said out loud and turned her back on her mother.
Deanna closed her eyes and did something she never thought she would do to another person besides Will. She collected a small bit of her anger
in her mind, mentally made it into a ball, and threw it into her daughter's mind. She opened her eyes and saw Ariana pause. When Ariana turned around,
she saw the shock on her face. "Now, Little One, you have an idea of just how livid I am with you right now, so crossing me isn't the brightest idea you've
ever had. I have had two ridiculously hard days, and I come back to the station and find out that my daughter has been acting like a selfish, spoiled brat.
That is unacceptable to me and to your father. You know that, and that's why you're acting this way. You think that if you act just bad enough, your
father will come home. Ariana, in case you don't get it, your father is in real danger and he's not coming home unless someone can help him. Otherwise, he's
dead. Your worst fear…your father dead and you stuck with me. I cannot help your father if I am worrying at every turn what stupid thing my daughter is
doing behind my back. Get it through your thick Riker skull Ariana Elise, your father needs me just as much as you do. The difference right now is your life
isn't in danger from anything except me. His is. If I can't help him…If Tom and B'Elanna can't help me help him because we're all too worried about you,
your father will die. Mark my words Little One. But, I'm not going to leave you here to act out your wildest fantasy of teenage-dom. I can't handle this
right now, Ariana…I just can't. I told your father that before he left and he left anyway. You have to take some responsibility for yourself. You are
fourteen. You may not be an adult, but you are sure as hell not a baby anymore, and I shouldn't have to be giving you this lecture. Do you understand me?"
Deanna hardened herself against the tears rolling down her daughter's face. 'I love you, Ariana, more than you will ever know. You are the most special gift
in my life…you and Caleb. Caleb was planned…your father and I worked hard for him,' Deanna thought with a smile on her face, 'but you,' she continued,
'you were the icing on the cake that we weren't looking for. We weren't trying to have another baby, but we weren't doing anything to prevent it, either.
When I knew I was carrying you…a daughter, I wanted to give you the world…I haven't been able to do that, Ari, and I'm sorry. I know I haven't been the best
mother to you, but you don't make it easy. You're too much like your father to make loving you easy on me. I am begging you…Please, help me help your
father. I can't help him without your help. Do you understand?'
Tears rolled down Deanna's face as well as her daughter turned around and practically threw herself into Deanna's arms. Deanna wrapped her
arms tightly around Ariana and held the shaking teenager tightly and she wept all the tears she had kept bottled inside since her father's disappearance. She
cried until Deanna's uniform front was wet and her throat was raw, but it made no difference to Deanna. For the first time in a long time, she knew that
she finally had her daughter back.
'We need to go talk to Caleb, Ari. I need to tell him…and you, the rest of what's going on. Can you do that now?' Deanna thought to her
daughter. Ariana pulled away from Deanna and nodded. With a smile, Deanna brushed her daughter's hair back and kissed her forehead. Then, arm around Ariana's shoulders, she lead her daughter to the turbolift, and then to Tom and B'Elanna's quarters where Caleb waited.
Caleb looked at Miral from the corner of his
eyes. She was intently studying the data pad in front of her as she lay
on her bed. He rolled
his eyes and rolled over onto his back on the floor. "This blows," Caleb muttered just loud enough for Miral to hear him. She rolled her eyes and ignored him, which irritated Caleb even more than trying to study while waiting for his mother. He pulled himself to a sitting position, looked around for something to do, and found nothing to do. So, he stood up and paced Miral's small room until she sighed angrily and put her data pad down. "Stop pacing," she ordered, watching him go across her room and back. "I'm trying to study."
"No, you're anxious." Miral scooted herself back until she was in a sitting position. "Caleb, relax."
"Can't," he said, stopping in front of her bed.
"Sit down," she said with another sigh. He stared at her for a moment and she glared. "Sit!" Her voice took on an exasperated note, so Caleb complied. He didn't particular want to get into an argument with her, but when her hands slid onto his shoulders, he couldn't help his startled jump or his reaction. "What the hell are you doing?" He jerked himself away and turned his head around to look at her over his shoulder.
"It's called a therapeutical massage." Miral raised her eyebrows. "You're tense, Caleb. Relax," she said soothingly, scooting closer to him. Her hands flexed on Caleb's shoulders. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on relaxing instead of the other images running through his mind…namely that involved Miral…without clothes.
She increased the pressure as she rubbed his shoulders, and then his neck. There was something between them…Miral knew it. She sensed it. She knew he was attracted to her, and she was attracted to him, but neither made any move towards each other except for that one stolen kiss that had made her skin tingle.
For a moment, she stilled her hands and considered making a move, but before her lips could descend to the exposed kiss of his neck, the door to her room beeped, and both teenagers jumped guiltily to their feet. "Come in!" Miral called, picking up her data pad and casually placing it on her desk.
Deanna walked in, looked at the two teenagers, smirked and said, "Miral, I don't mean to impose, but can I use you room to talk to Caleb and Ariana? Your parents want to talk to you, anyway."
Miral nodded, confused, and walked out of her room as Ariana walked in and sat on Miral's bed. Caleb stood where he was, and Deanna stepped farther inside the room so that the door would close. Then, she took a moment and looked at her children. She smiled softly before she sighed. "Caleb, sit down. Please."
"Did you find Dad?" He asked abruptly.
"Not exactly." Deanna shook her head. "I did find out some things that are…disturbing."
"Disturbing how?" Ariana absently fingered the fringe on one of Miral's pillows. She avoided her mother's gaze.
"There is evidence to suggest that…that Starfleet is holding your father."
"What?" Both teenagers exploded, fury in their voices. "How can Starfleet hold him?" Caleb asked as Ariana asked, "Where are they holding him?"
"Right now all we know is that I had a dream the night I was on Earth where I saw what your father was seeing. The only way he could have done that was if he was being held on Earth. I was told by an admiral, whom I trust, that they knew your father was being held by unknown hostile. I believe that the 'hostile' is Starfleet."
Caleb and Ariana sat and stared at her as if she had grown horns. She smiled reassuringly at her children. "We're going to find your father. I promise you that."
"So, what do we need to do?" Caleb asked after taking a deep breath.
"I need to go back to Earth…back to the cabin in Alaska. You guys are coming with me. We need to be together, and honestly, Caleb, with your telepathic activities, your father might, might, be able to contact you and give you more information than he could give me through that dream. I need you guys with me." She held the gazes of each of her children. "Tom is coming to Earth as well. He thinks he can help."
"Mom," Ariana spoke slowly as she thought. "If they've taken Dad, what's to stop them from taking you…Tom…everyone that we know? What if you guys know whatever it is that Dad knows?"
"Ari, if we did, we would have already been taken." Deanna walked over to where Ariana sat and laid a hand on the top of her head. 'Ari,
you're safe,' she thought to her daughter. Then, she looked to Caleb and waited until his eyes met hers. 'Caleb, I need your help, but I will not let anything happen to you. I promise,' Deanna thought to him. He inclined his head to acknowledge his mother's thoughts. "Whenever Tom's ready to leave, we'll leave. I left my stuff on Earth. You guys go pack."
Caleb and Ariana looked at each other, obviously exchanged thoughts that their mother could not hear, and then nodded their heads. "Caleb has stuff to get, but my stuff is already here," Ariana said sheepishly. "B'Elanna made me stay here after…"
"Fine," Deanna cut her off. "Caleb?"
"I don't want to pack, Mom. Can't I just replicate stuff when I get there?"
"Credits do not grow on trees, Caleb." Deanna crossed her arms.
"Fine…Can I replicate one outfit when we get to the cabin and have B'Elanna ship me the rest of my stuff?"
"That's not B'Elanna's responsibility. Caleb."
'I don't want to go alone,' Caleb thought frantically to his mother. 'Please. Ari will make my life worthless if she knows I don't want to go
A smile spread across Deanna's face and she inclined her head. "Fine, Caleb," she said in a put-upon voice. "As soon as Tom's ready to go, we're shipping out."
"Mom." Ariana's voice trembled. "Are you sure that Dad's still alive?"
"As sure as I am standing here."
Ariana and Caleb nodded. Their mother's assurance was enough for them.
While Ariana and Caleb chatted animatedly about returning to Earth, Tom and Deanna stood in a quiet and intense conversation. His head
inclined slightly towards hers so that they could continue their intimate conversation without alerting Ariana and Caleb, who were so concentrated on what they
would do when they got to Earth, their senses were distracted. Just in case, Deanna had erected a mental block so that neither of her children could sense her
emotions or her thoughts. If they intercepted Tom's, there was nothing she could do about that except keep the children busy in hopes of keeping their
"I've made an appointment to see Xander," Deanna said quietly as they boarded their transport for the short trip to Earth.
Tom eyed the children in the next seat. "Why?"
"Xander was the last person Will talked to before leaving on his mission. I want to know what they talked about." Deanna kept her eyes on the
children as well. They seemed happy, for the first time in awhile. She planned on keeping it that way.
"Hasn't he been involved in the peace talks?" Tom shifted his attention to Deanna. His eyes narrowed. "Isn't he for the peace treaty with the
Deanna shrugged. "He was, but he seems to be wavering, or so Mother told me in her most recent communiqué. I haven't talked to him since Will
"Your brother is an influential member of the council, Deanna. Many of them are going to follow his direction."
"I know." Her eyes, if possible, darkened. "Something's different about him. He's conflicted, or so Mother says."
"He's a member of the Federation Council," Tom repeated. "If he wasn't conflicted, something would be wrong. Especially, if he wasn't
conflicted about this."
"Tom, what do you think about the peace talks?"
He shrugged. "I don't know…I haven't thought about them since we realized Will was missing. Aren't they getting ready for the vote?"
Deanna nodded. "Pretty soon, I think. Some of the council members have been asking questions, which is stalling the vote. You've got to
admit, this is a huge step for the Federation."
"The President has been working towards this for awhile. With the new Romulan proconsul, this was coming." Tom relaxed slightly in his seat.
"Honestly, I see the pros and cons. Doesn't matter what I think, though. It's up to the Federation Council, Starfleet Intelligence, and the Romulan
Senate to approve the peace treaty. Really, we're just peons to them," he said with a smile. What should have been an ironic smile, but what he didn't know was
how interesting just some people were in the Federation…especially to some members of Starfleet Intelligence.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Constance O'Malley sat in her office looking over a few data pads with information on them that few other people would
ever see…if any. Some of the information on them could cost Constance her position in Starfleet, but that was the beauty of being quiet and in the background…
no one ever suspected you of doing anything wrong. However, O'Malley felt what she was doing was justified, even necessary for the continuation of the
Federation. There were certain things in the galaxy that were constants, and the animosity between the Federation and the Romulan Empire needed to stay a
The end of the Dominion War had brought about an uncertain time that still continued, nearly twenty years after its ending. The Federation and
the Romulan Empire owed each other for certain acts during the war. The Romulans had liberated Betazed from the Dominion, much to Constance O'Malley's
regret, and Starfleet had liberated most of Cardasia with the help of other Federation members; however, with Cardasia's proximity to Romulus and Betazed a
member of the Federation, an uneasy alliance had been forged between these two super powers of the galaxy. Many believed it was time for the two to become
allies, but others, others still held to the old ways. Romulans were not to be trusted. Under any circumstances, no matter how benign they might appear.
On those pads that Constance skimmed were estimations, projections, and suggestions about the upcoming vote by the Federation Council to
approve the proposed peace treaty between the Romulans and Federation. The estimations, projections, and suggestions were not about the likelihood of the success
of the treaty, but they were about the need to stall the treaty…to cause the treaty to fail.
Her office door buzzed. "Come," Admiral O'Malley called. She looked up as her assistant walked in just far enough for the door to close behind her.
"What can I do for you, Cecily?" O'Malley asked with a pleasant smile. She rather liked the young woman who did the grunt work for her.
"You have a visitor, ma'am."
"Send them in," O'Malley said with a quizzical smile.
"It's Admiral Ross."
O'Malley rolled her eyes and sighed. "Send him in, anyway, and Cecily, take your lunch break. I'll deal with Ross."
"Yes, ma'am," she said as she walked out of the office and motioned Ross into O'Malley's office.
"Constance," Admiral Ross said as O'Malley stood. She inclined her head at him.
"William, what do you want?" Constance wasted no time getting to the point.
He smiled at her and sat in one of her comfortable chairs. "How goes things with 'plugging the leak'?" He asked as she resumed her seat.
She gave him a catlike grin. "I'm afraid I don't know what you mean, William."
"Like hell," he responded. "Have you taken care of the issue with Riker?"
"More or less. He's neutralized. Momentarily."
"Momentarily?" Ross leaned forward. "Constance," he began with a dangerous tone to his voice, but she cut him off before he was able to
"Don't worry, William. We won't have to concern ourselves with Riker for awhile."
"And his family? His wife may present a significant problem."
Constance rolled her eyes. "Please. Deanna Troi-Riker is no threat to anyone. She's a weak, inconsequential, pathetic woman."
"She's also a commander, a Daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, has a brother on the Federation Council, and a mother who is a retired
Constance raised her eyebrows. "And?"
"And, I think you're giving her too little credit, Constance.
Between the link she shares with Riker, that's been documented, and her children who would be able to sense their father, we may be playing with fire."
"Link? What link?"
It was Ross' turn to sigh and roll his eyes. "You're an idiot, Constance," he muttered. "Apparently, Riker and his wife share a telepathic
link. Some Betazoids are able to forge this telepathic link with their mates if they share strong enough feelings. Riker and his wife have had this link for
over twenty years…closer to thirty, if I had to wager a guess. They met when she was doing advanced studies on Betazed…Riker was assigned to a security
detail there. Things got…heated…between them when a Sindareen raider kidnapped her. He was on the security team that found her. Actually, he was the
security team that found her. They forged a link together when he rescued her. It allows them to communicate telepathically with each other and with their
"How strong is this link?" O'Malley's eyes wrinkled at the corners. Her forehead wrinkled in concern.
"Fairly strong from what I understand. Holding him here on Earth may not be as smart as we thought now that Deanna is back on Earth. He may
be able to contact her if he concentrates enough."
"Then, we'll have to ensure that he's unconscious," she said after some thought. "I'll attend to that personally."
Ross nodded and linked his fingers together. "Also, we have another little problem involving Riker…indirectly."
"Deanna Riker has scheduled an appointment with her brother's assistant. She wants to see him."
"So? Let her."
"She's empathic, Constance. She'll know that the man she's seeing is not her brother."
"But he is her brother," Constance said patiently. "Just not exactly." Her eyes twinkled with amusement. "William, yes, she will sense that
something's not right with him, but he's a member of the Federation council. He has to hide some things from her. She'll be used to that."
"Talking to him, though, is what set Riker off."
"And we got to him," Constance reminded Ross. "No one has to know what's going on, William. All we have to do is stall for a few more weeks.
Then, Riker is free to go and all will be well with the Federation again. William, we're protecting the Federation."
"That's what Riker said, Constance."
Her eyes twinkled again. "Yes, but unlike us, he didn't and doesn't have the means to protect the Federation. We do." She leaned forward on
her desk, her blue eyes intensely locked on Ross'. "Now, if that's all, I need to attend to this little issue with Riker, which means I'm going to have to
take a small trip. If you're so worried about Deanna Riker meeting with her brother, have her followed, listen in on their conversation, do whatever you
feel is needed besides kidnapping her, too, unless that becomes unavoidable." Her smile faded. "After all, I'd hate those two children to be parentless."
Admiral Ross nodded and rose to his feet. "Let me know how things go. I'll need to pass the information along to the rest of our operatives."
Constance said nothing as he left her office. She merely picked up a pad and tapped it against her desk. Then, she touched a button, left a
quick message for her assistant, and then left to make her unscheduled visit to see Riker.
Liquid touched his lips. His tongue greedily
lapped the stingy drop. His lips cracked and began to bleed, and he could
not suppress the moan
that came from the deep disappointment and need of his body for liquid. There came a satisfied cackle and another drop of liquid on his lips.
"Want more?" Came the familiar voice.
"Go to hell," Will managed to whisper.
"Ah, my dear Admiral, haven't you realized you're already in a hell of your own making?" Another drop touched his lips. "You see, I can
torture you like this for years. No one knows where you are…your poor wife is distraught. Whiny little Betazoid. Of all the races in the Federation, the
Betazoids annoy me the most. They're useless…except for their telepathic abilities." There was a groaning of metal as his visitor sat down near him. "Of
course, your pathetic wife has no telepathic abilities, and her empathy won't help her find you." The visitor gloated.
'The connection,' Will thought to himself frantically. 'They don't know about the connection I have to Deanna.' This information was critical
to Will. If he could contact Deanna again, she could find him. Maybe. If he knew where he was.
"But, your children are a problem," the woman said with a disappointed sigh. "The girl isn't an issue. Like her mother, she is weak with no
remarkable mental abilities. Really, quite ordinary for your daughter. Nothing like your son. He, however, represents a huge risk." The voice became
sarcastically droll. "I'm afraid we'll have to do something about him."
"Touch Caleb and I'll break every bone in your body. You're idea of torture will be nothing compared to what I will do to you if you so much
as mess up a hair on that child's head." Will managed to lift his head and open his still swollen eyes. The intensity of his voice took his visitor aback.
"I wouldn't be making threats, Admiral. Especially when you are in no position to follow through on those threats. If I wanted your son dead,
all I would have to do is snap my fingers. No, I don't want your son dead…just removed from the equation. Temporarily. Perhaps it's time for him to
speak some time on Betazed with his grandmother. Somewhere that he wouldn't be able to pick up on you if you were in proximity to him."
If Will's forehead could have wrinkled in confusion, it would have, but his face was still too swollen. 'How could Caleb sense me unless I'm
on Earth?' Will thought to himself. Will changed tactics. "You know, if I'm going to die…I'd like to know what exactly I did to warrant this."
There came a chuckle. "In time, William…In time," the amused voice replied. "We have other issues to attend to, thought. I would hate for
your entertaining wife to interfere with our plans, and I'm afraid this little bond you share with her might cause problems."
'Damn,' Will thought. He heard the chair groan again, the click of boots on the floor, and then a sharp jab into his neck. A hypospray
depressed before Will had any chance to jerk away. "What the hell?" He rasped as his vision blurred. He wasn't sure if it was whatever it had been injected
with, the lack of food and water, or simply his still screwy vision. His answer came a moment later when he felt the rest of his body began to grow heavy. It
was whatever he was injected with, and it was making him feel numb.
"We don't want you dead, Will," the voice said again, almost sympathetically. "You're just too much of a liability right now, and we can't
risk having you around right now. The vote is too close."
"Everyone is going to find out what you're doing." His voice came out slurred as oblivion took him. Oblivion was a relief. The nagging need
to for food and water, the overwhelming stab of pain, and the irritating fear for his life were things of the past.
As soon as he was unconscious, O'Malley grimly unclasped him from his chair, went out into the hallway, and ordered a young many who waited
nearby to move Riker to the sickbay area with the rest of their detainees. She stayed to oversee his transfer, and then she left to return to her office at
Starfleet Headquarters. She had things to do. Important things to do.
'Xander!' Deanna thought to her younger brother as she walked into his office. He looked up with a smile, rose, and walked over to her with
hands outstretched. He kissed her cheek and squeezed her hands tightly. 'How are you?'
"It's been too long," Xander said aloud. Deanna's brow furrowed momentarily. Then, she smiled as he released her hands. 'It has,' she
thought to him.
"How are Caleb and Ariana?" He asked, again aloud. Deanna's brow furrowed again as she sat in the chair across from Xander's desk as he sat
behind it. She sighed and finally spoke. "They're okay. Honestly, they've been better."
"Understandable." He steepled his fingers. "How are you?"
She snorted. "Definitely been better."
"I assume you haven't heard from Will?"
"I wouldn't be here if I had," Deanna responded, crossing her ankles. "Xander, when Will saw you before he left, what did you two talk about?"
She wasted no time getting to the point.
"Don’t give me the Federation bullshit that you can't tell me. Xander, I know you're busy with peace negotiations, and I know making time to
see me was difficult, but I need to know what you know."
"I couldn't begin to tell you what I know, Deanna," Xander said with a gleam to his deep brown eyes. A smile came to his face. "I can tell
you that I had nothing to do with Will's disappearance."
"I would never think that, Xander!" Deanna was taken back by Xander's sudden declaration. "That's not why I'm here," she said in a gentler
voice. "Xander, please, tell me what you and Will talked about."
"I can't do that, Deanna." Agitated, Xander rose and stalked over to the window.
Deanna frowned at his back and gently probed his psyche to read his emotions. She found a tangled jumble of confusion, anger, and something
else that she couldn't quite identify. "If you think of something that you said to him to set him off or that might mean anything, I'll be at the cabin in
Alaska with the children. Good luck with the peace talks, Xander. I know how much you want them to go through."
"Actually, I don't," he said so quietly it was almost as if it were an afterthought, but it stopped Deanna cold in her tracks. She spun around
and looked at her brother's back.
"Xander, you told me months ago how much you were looking forward to signing that treaty," she said with bewilderment to her voice. "You told
me that you owed the Romulans your freedom."
"So what? They liberated Betazed before the Federation could." His hands were clasped behind his back as he continued to stare out the
window. "That doesn't mean we should become allies."
"Xander." Now, there was censure to Deanna's voice. "We've had open trade with them for ten years now. If they were going to attack us, they
would have done that by now."
"That's not the point, Deanna," Xander replied. "Why would they attack us when they're getting revenue from us? But, a peace treaty? That's
a bit much."
"Why?" She walked towards her brother. "Xander, what's happened to you?"
"Nothing…I've just re-thought my position."
"When? Mother said you were acting odd, but nothing like this."
"Mother?" Xander turned to face his sister. "Please, she thinks I’m acting funny if I don't talk to her three times a week."
"This doesn't feel right, Xander…you don't feel right."
"Of course…use your empathy, Deanna, to try and get what you want." He glared at her.
"Dammit, Xander, that's not true and you know it!" Her voice rose. "You know what, when you want to talk to me, contact me at the cabin."
Then, Deanna, uncharacteristically, stormed out.
Xander turned to face the window again with a slight smile. After all, he couldn't tell his sister what he didn't know, and to the best of his
knowledge, he and Will had never talked. And, that was the truth.
"Caleb? Ariana?" Deanna
dropped her bag on the floor and walked into the living room of the
cabin. She put her hands on her hips and surveyed
the empty, yet trashed, living room. With a snort and a smile, she went about quickly righting the mess that two teenagers managed to make just by walking
in the room. As she walked into the kitchen, Tom Paris walked out of her study.
"When'd you get back?" He asked as she put snack food where it went.
"About twenty minutes ago. I knew you were here. Where are Caleb and Ariana?"
Tom grabbed an apple and bit into it. Then, he spoke around bites. "Went back to Jupiter Station…said they forgot something."
"You let the two of them go back by themselves? Tom, they could have gone tomorrow. You could have gone with them."
"Caleb is very capable of taking care of himself and Ariana, Deanna. Besides, I don't think they're in any trouble…at least not any trouble of
their own makings."
"Tom, why are you here?" Deanna leaned against the counter and crossed her arms.
"Because I need some more information, but I can't get it on my own, you're not telepathic, so you can't get it, so I need someone with hacking
"Ariana's a fair hacker. She doesn’t think I know that, but I do."
"I need someone with more sophisticated skills than a fourteen year old." Tom raked a hand through his still dark blonde hair. "Deanna, what
did Xander say when you talked to him?"
The abrupt change in topics took Deanna slightly by surprise, but she quickly adjusted. "Nothing, really."
"Nothing about Will?"
"No. Xander swears he didn't speak with Will before he left."
Tom's brow furrowed. "I know damn well Will was with Xander before he left. Will told me something that's been bothering me."
"What?" Deanna stared intently at Tom.
"I caught him just before he left, and he told me that something was going on with the Federation Council. I asked him what he meant, and he
told me that something was wrong with Xander…that Xander had changed his position on the peace treaty."
Deanna nodded. "He told me that today, too. I thought it was odd, but Xander's always been odd."
"Well, be that as it may, I did some checking around today. Out of the two hundred members of the Council, fifty of them have changed their
votes from affirmative to negative on the peace treaty."
"So fifty of them are wavering. Please, the vote's still several weeks away. Of course they're wavering."
"Deanna, we're talking about fifty very influential members of the council." Tom began pacing the kitchen. "Fifty members who could sway the
vote either way. They've caused the council to go back into deliberations, Deanna."
"Tom, are you suggesting some sort of mind control?" Deanna's eyes narrowed.
Tom took a deep breath. "Maybe. I need to get into Intelligence's files. They're encrypted, and as good of a hacker as I am, I can't hack
their files. If you want Ariana to take a spin at it, we can wait for them to come back from Jupiter, but I think we're wasting our time, Deanna. We need
someone with better skills."
"Seven of Nine. I sent her a communiqué after we landed."
Deanna sighed, walked into the living room, and sat down wearily on the couch. "Why would she help us?"
"We're friends, for one," Tom said as he followed Deanna back into the living room. "And, she doesn't tolerate mind control. Says it's too
much like the Borg. Intelligence would have files on this stuff, Deanna. You know that."
"I know that, Tom, but I don't think that's what's going on."
Deanna picked up a pillow on the couch and let her fingers worry the fringed edges of it. She needed something to keep her hands busy. "Tom, when I spoke
with Xander, I got the feeling that he barely knew who I was."
"He barely knows you, Deanna. You're over twenty years older than him," Tom said good naturedly.
Deanna glared at Tom who smiled back angelically. "That's not what I meant. When I walked into his office, I thought several things to him.
He refused to communicate with me that way."
"I don't think it was so much of a refusal as that he couldn't."
"Couldn't?" Tom's eyes wrinkled in confusion. "He's Betazoid, Deanna."
"I don't think it was Xander, Tom," Deanna said slowly and after several moments of thought.
"Who else would it be?"
Deanna threw her hands in the air in frustration. "How the hell would I know? I just know what I felt, Tom, and I know that wasn't my
brother, and I know my mother didn't have twins!"
Tom nodded his head and sat in thought for awhile. "Deanna, I don't have a clue what that means or how it fits in with all this."
"Tom…" Deanna's fingers increased their worrying with the fringe. "What about cloning?"
"What about it?" He leaned back with an amused smile. "Eugenics War outlawed cloning."
Deanna nodded. "I know…it was the only thing I could think of. It's silly."
"Yes, it is," he assured her. "Look, I'm going to go back to San Francisco and see if I can't track down Seven, and then we'll get some
answers, Deanna. If the information is in the computers, Seven will find it."
"If she'll help," Deanna muttered as Tom walked towards the door.
"She will," Tom said with assuredness as he opened the door. "We'll get some answers, Deanna. Then, we'll find Will. I promise."
"I know." She smiled at him.
"Caleb and Ariana should be back in a few hours. Don’t stay here and worry, Deanna. It won't do you any good. Get out…go walk…do something,
but don't sit here and worry. I'll contact you tonight," he said as he shut the door.
Deanna stared at the door for a few moments. Then, she rose and walked over to her communications station. She needed to have a conversation
with her mother…face to face.
"You know, I find it highly wrong that
your father goes missing and so does mine," Miral announced from the door
to Caleb's room in Rikers' old
Without looking up, Caleb continued to throw clothes into a bag. After thinking about it, replicating things on Earth that he already had on
Jupiter Station was stupid. Plus, it gave him the opportunity to come back and harass Miral. He sensed her come farther into the room. With a smirk, he
thought, 'Why are you here?' to her and waited for her reaction.
It was worth the wait.
She kicked him, not hard, in the small of his back. "I hate it when you do that," she said to him with another kick. "I hate hearing your
voice echo through my head like that."
"Yeah right," Caleb said, placing the last few things in the bag and zipping it closed. Then, he straightened and eyed her. "Look, Miral, I
find it highly wrong that you come to my room simply to harass me." He gave her a cocky smile and hefted the strap of the bag onto his shoulder. "I can't
help it if your father feels obligated to help mine. They're friends, Miral. That's what friends do."
"Only if your mother begs them to help," Miral retorted with an equal smirk.
Before Miral knew it, Caleb had her backed up against the wall of his room, anger flashing in his eyes. "At least my mother knows how to ask
for help," he hissed at her as the bag slipped off his shoulder and onto the floor. "You have no right to insinuate things about my mother, Miral. If
you're pissed that your father went to Earth, pack up some clothes, take the next transport, and stay at your grandparents' estate in California. Amazingly,
your father would be within transport range. On the other hand, my father may be dead. Do you get that? Dead! It's really cruel of you to be such a bitch
right now, even when I'm used to it, but sometimes you really manage to surprise me with your bitchiness. Like now." His words were razor sharp whispers
inches from her face, but it was anger coursing through his veins, not desire. He gave her another hard look before he stepped away from her and picked his
bag back up.
Miral's chest heaved from a few deep breaths as Caleb walked towards the door. 'I'm sorry,' she thought, not sure if he could intercept her
thoughts, but unable to say the words aloud.
Caleb stopped just inches from the door's automatic sensors with a defeated sigh. 'If you hate my voice echoing through your head, why do you
think things to me?' He thought back to her.
'I don't know,' she thought back as he turned to face her. 'How am I even able to do this?' She thought back.
"Not to echo you, but I don't know," he said walking back to her.
He reached out and fingered a lock of her burnished blonde hair. "You know, I don’t think I've ever seen a Klingon with blonde hair."
"I'm mostly human…like you," she said as her breath caught. "Dammit, Caleb, I can't do this." She laid a hand on his chest to stop him from
moving closer to him. "We're just kids."
"Fair enough," he agreed, stepping closer to her. "So were my parents when they met."
Miral laughed. "Your mother was in her twenties."
"Early twenties," Caleb emphasized.
"Caleb, stop." Miral's voice came out in a laugh.
"I can't," he said, penning her against the wall again. "I can't stop. Out of all the craziness of the past two months, you're the one thing
that I can't stop thinking about…when I wonder if my dad's dead, I think about you, and things get better." He shoved a hand into her blonde hair again.
"We're kids, Miral, you're right, but we're also almost adults, and I'm old enough to know what I feel for you, and it's more than what I'm supposed to at
this age." His lips descended to hers and caught them in the lightest of embraces. "That's why I can think things to you and why you can think them back.
We're connected, Miral. Surely you can feel that," he told her as his lips captured hers again.
Her response was a murmur against his warm mouth that shamelessly plundered hers. She angled her head and allowed him to deepen the kiss. Her
hand slid from his chest to his neck. Her other hand slid around to his back and allowed her to press her full length against him. He groaned, placed his
hands around her back and pulled her even closer. She laughed against his lips and tentatively touched her tongue to his lips. It was like fire. He
remembered, faintly, his mother's message about playing with fire, and pulled away from her with a groan. "Miral, we have to…I can't…" He rested his forehead
against hers and tried to catch his breath.
Miral hand her fingers through Caleb's hair as he struggled to catch his breath. She knew he wanted her. She could feel it…the obvious
reaction and the emotional reaction. She could feel him…with her mind, and it scared her. "Caleb," she said softly enough to cause him to raise his head and
meet her eye to eye. "I want you to…I want to," she said softly, causing Caleb to groan again and lower his forehead to the top of her forehead. "I do to,"
he whispered. "But, this isn't the time or the place, and you know that."
'When is?' She thought.
Caleb smiled and stepped away from her. 'Later,' he thought back to her with a smile. He picked up his bag, again, turned his back, and
walked out the door. In the hallway, he stopped, with a smirk, and thought to Miral, 'See ya on Earth, Blondie.' Before he walked to the shuttlebay, he waited
for a few seconds for Miral's reaction. Her thought back to him made him burst into laughter as he walked to the turbolift destined for the shuttlebay.
"I require more information, Tom," Seven
of Nine said as she stalked across Tom's small office inside Starfleet Headquarters.
"This isn't exactly the best place to talk, Seven. I could have met you at your place."
Seven cocked an eyebrow at him. Years of experience with humans had helped her create and perfect a look that made someone feel stupid and
inadequate without a word. Just a look. It took all of her Vulcan-like abilities to repress her emotions to keep from laughing at Tom. He was trying his
damnedest not to squirm. She gave him her look for a few more seconds before she sighed. "I need somewhere with security access off base," she informed him.
"I know. I can do that."
"From where?" She sat uncomfortably in a chair near his desk.
"From Jupiter Station, from my apartment, from the Rikers' cabin. Take your pick, Seven."
"Why is this important to you? So important that you're willing to risk your career? Your freedom…your family? What does B'Elanna think?"
Tom refused to think of his wife or daughter. "They don't know anything about what I'm doing other than helping Deanna find her husband. They
don't know anything else, and I'm trusting you and Chakotay to keep your mouths shut." Tom gave Seven a hard look, and had she been more human, she would have rolled her eyes. Instead, she merely stared back at him.
"My secrecy should not be doubted, Tom. As for Chakotay…My participation in this is none of his business."
It was Tom's turn to cock an eyebrow. "That's your call, Seven. We need to do this quickly…quietly…but quickly."
Seven sighed deeply. "I will come to the Rikers' cabin tonight. Chakotay is off world at the moment, so he will not suspect anything. Make
sure that Commander Riker is aware of this, Tom."
Tom blinked and confusion for a moment before it dawned on him that Commander Riker was Deanna's official title. He nodded and steepled his
hands. "Thank you Seven…more than you know."
Seven harrumphed. "We shall see, Tom. Tonight. 0100 hours."
"Why so late?"
"Less to arouse suspicious."
"The commander has teenagers," he warned Seven as she stood to leave.
"Good. I may need help," she returned as she left.
Tom took a deep breath, held it, and released it in a whoosh. Whatever happened…whatever they found tonight could change everything as he knew it, and he wasn't sure he was ready for the total annihilation of his little world, but things had been set in motion and there was nothing he could do to
stop them. Not that he really wanted to…not for his sake, but he hoped, for Will's sake, they were on the right track."
"Will, wake up. Come on, whatever she gave you can't be that strong." Hands shook Will incessantly. He groaned and rolled to his side. His head
felt as thought it weighed a ton. His eyes were still swollen, so he couldn't see out them well, much less open the lids to more than slits. He made out a
shadow of a man crouched beside him. The voice was familiar, but the sedative was making Will loopy.
"Will, come on." The shaking came again. Harder. Will rolled onto his back and coughed. "Damn," the shaker whispered at the sight of Will's
battered face. "She really did a job on you. What'd you do to piss her off so much?"
"Who is she?" Will managed to ask.
"Admiral O'Malley is my guess. She's the last person I remember seeing." The man gave Will a quick one over and took stock of his many
injuries. 'The way you're breathing…broken ribs?' He thought to Will.
The thought burst into Will's mind and brought him to a sudden sitting position. "Xander?" He said, reaching out and touching his
brother-in-law's face. "What the hell are you doing here? Where is here?"
"Got me," Xander said, squatting next to Will. "The last thing I remember is you leaving my office and Admiral O'Malley coming in. The next
thing I knew, I was here." Xander gestured at the steel walls. "Wherever here is."
"Oh hell," Will swore in a whisper. "She really is doing it."
"Doing what?" Xander helped Will stand. "I'm not the only one here. There are fifteen other council members here, Will. Why are we here?"
"She's replacing you," Will whispered, looking up at Xander.
'She's replacing members of the Federation Council,' he thought to Xander. 'I knew something was going on, but I had no idea it was something like this. My God, Xander, she's trying to keep the peace treaty from happening.'
'How?' Xander's thought sounded controlled, but the look on his face was pure shock.
'I don't know, but I know that's what's going on.' Will began to stalk the tiny area. 'Xander, how long have you been here?'
Xander shrugged. "I don't know…a few weeks, maybe."
"Your mother sent Deanna a communiqué saying that something was off about you. That's why Deanna was so insistent that I come see you before I left for my mission, which I never left on, by the way."
"Will, that was over two months ago."
"I know!" He raked a hand through his hair. "Do you get what I'm telling you, Xander? Two months! The council has got to be getting close
to the final vote. What do you do if you don't want something approved?"
"Convince the Federation Council that it's not in the best interest of the UFP."
"Exactly." Will stuck a finger on Xander's chest. "And, if you can't convince key Council members?"
"You eliminate them," Xander answered in a whisper. "But, we're still alive."
"And, you're still on the council, too," Will told him. "Somehow…you're here and there."
"Like twins," Xander realized.
"Or clones." Will's voice had a note of shock to it. As much as he had considered the possibility, he had never believed it to be real.
"Clones?" Xander scoffed. "Will, cloning is outlawed."
"I know that. I also know that I was cloned."
"Without your knowledge," Xander discounted. "A Federation Fleet Admiral creating clones is a different story. How could she do that?"
"Section 31," Will said tonelessly, sitting down against the steel wall. He leaned his head on the back of it and closed his eyes. "Section
31," he repeated and sensed Xander sitting beside him.
"What's Section 31?" He wanted to know.
Will laughed despondently. "The best kept secret in the Federation," he answered, confusing Xander more than ever, but offering no more
information. As far as he was concerned, there was no sense in saying anymore than that. There was nothing they could do…no escape…nothing. They were as good as dead.