One Q Too Many
Troi watched as the Enterprise shuttle
Sakharov came to a standstill on Risa.
She was rather surprised that the captain had bothered to send a shuttlecraft,
but when the door opened, and two important admirals exited, she realised why.
The Klingon transport ship that was to have taken Deanna back to the Enterprise
had already gone, and she was just as pleased to have missed the Klingon’s
noxious food, as she was to see the shuttle.
her surprise was even greater a few moments later as Commander William Riker
emerged from the shuttle, and gave her his charming grin. “Surprise!” He walked towards her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Deanna exclaimed, grasping his arms and looking up into his face. “Been
demoted to shuttle pilot in my absence?”
looked offended, but Deanna knew him well enough not to be fooled. “Really,
Counsellor, how could you even suggest such a thing? Captain Picard had to send
the best shuttle pilot he had to bring the top brass back. And since you needed
a lift, how could I refuse?” He gestured to the shuttle. “Shall we?”
Deanna linked arms and they walked towards the craft. “How was shore leave?”
smiled demurely, and refused to meet his eyes, saying nothing.
“That good, huh?” Riker said, obviously impressed.
log, Stardate 56437.3. We are awaiting the return of our shuttlecraft bringing
Commander Riker and Counsellor Troi from Risa. Our short tour with the two
admirals went well, and they seemed pleased with the running of the ship. We
have been told to look out for a group of Ferengi raiders, who are sacking every
planet they can manage. They are as slippery to hunt through space, as they are
to pin down when face-to-face. However, our main mission, as always, is
exploration, not police work, and I do not expect to encounter the Ferengi. We
should rendezvous with the shuttle in a little over five hours from now. The
time will be spent finishing the survey of the remains of the supernova we
looked around the interior of the shuttle. “It looks the same as the old Sakharov, doesn’t it?” she commented.
looked across and grinned. “Sure does. Handles much the same, too.” He
leaned back in his seat, appraising Deanna. She returned his gaze without
blushing. “You look well. The vacation must have done you good.”
you, I think. That could mean that I looked dreadful before I left.”
fish for compliments,” Riker teased. “You know I was being sincere. Anyway,
you did look a little tired. We all do after a while. Heaven knows, we only have
our own problems to deal with, but you have the whole ship’s.”
sort of. But lets not talk of that now. How is everyone?” Deanna laughed.
“Listen to me. You’d think I’d been gone for years, not just two weeks.”
things are ticking over. There have been no major crises for a while. Peaceful.
But there’s bound to be something happen before long.”
shuddered. “Will, you should be grateful for the peace. Don’t wish yourself
into trouble, especially while I’m on board.”
wasn’t wishing myself into trouble,” Riker protested. “I was just stating
a fact. Out here, things happen."
long as they don’t happen to us.”
Riker turned back to his instruments, and silence fell. It was a completely
comfortable silence, and Deanna could feel Will’s warmth towards her, and knew
that he was still her imzadi, a
Betazoid word meaning ‘beloved’. Although they were no longer lovers, Deanna
knew that every man she looked at had to measure up to Will, and the same
situation applied to him. Every woman was compared to Deanna, usually
unfavourably. Perhaps one day, they would settle down together, or perhaps they
wouldn’t. Deanna was content to let the future unfurl itself. Que sera sera,
she thought recalling something her father used to sing to her.
couple of hours later, Riker contacted the Enterprise. Picard answered. “Ah,
Number One. Making good progress home?”
Sir. We expect to rendezvous in three hours.”
Number One. What is your current position?”
glanced at his console and gave their co-ordinates. “We are passing quite
close to Cappella IV.”
IV? That’s the topaline capital of the universe, isn’t it? Well, that’s
familiar territory. We have your position plotted, and will see you soon. Picard
closed the channel. “Well, at least we have someone to talk to if we get fed
up with each other.”
you so much,” Deanna murmured. The next instant, the shuttlecraft lurched, and
a warning buzzer began sounding.
began pressing pads furiously, his casual demeanor gone.
“What is it?” Deanna asked.
firing on us!” Riker exclaimed, disbelief in his tones, even as the craft
lurched again. “The shields are weakening already,” he muttered tersely. He
hit a pad. ”Sakharov to Enterprise. We are being fired upon by an unknown assailant. Our
shields are down to 60%. We require assistance.”
shuttle seemed to stagger, and Riker groaned. “They’ve hit our right warp
nacelle. Its gone. Trying to compensate.”
He fought with the console, doing everything he could to evade their
attackers. The enemy ship swooped past them, going into a tight turn to get the
shuttle back within its sights once more. Riker gasped. “Enterprise,
we are being attacked by a Ferengi marauder, repeat, the Ferengi!”
is Picard. There isn’t another
ship closer than us. We are coming full speed. Try to hang on.”
Riker could acknowledge, the shuttle lurched again. Deanna was hanging onto her
seat nervously. She shot a glance at the console, but Riker told her the
problem. “Enterprise, we have lost
our shields. The shuttle is going down. I repeat, we are going down. Guidance
systems are failing. I hope to make a landing on the planet Cappella IV. Do you
was the start of a reply, and then the system failed. Riker spared Deanna a
glance. “Brace yourself,” he said, grimly.
Riker! Respond!” Picard was on his feet, pacing the bridge, staring out at the
peaceful starfield in front of him as if he could see his stricken shuttle.
“Mr Worf, are they still transmitting?”
Sir,” Worf rumbled. His anxious gaze clashed with the captain’s.
Picard snapped, returning to the command chair, “warp nine to the last
co-ordinates of the shuttlecraft. Engage!”
and speed laid in, Sir,” the ensign at the helm replied. “Engaged.”
the android swung round from his position at ops. “ Sir, even at warp nine, we
will not arrive at the shuttle’s position for 30 minutes.”
curbed his irritation. “I know, Mr Data, but what else can we do?”
pondered that for a moment, recognised it as a rhetorical question, and swung
back to his console. Picard was grateful. The Ferengi! It was too much of a
coincidence that they had been warned to look out for the Ferengi, and the
shuttle was attacked. It had to be the same group. And around Cappella IV –
they must be after the topaline.
to Sickbay,” he said.
here, Captain.” Beverly sounded quizzical.
shuttlecraft containing Commander Riker and Counsellor Troi has been attacked,
and hopefully made a controlled landing on Cappella IV. Please have someone
standing by to beam down to the planet surface when we arrive in approximately
30 minutes.” He hesitated. “We have lost contact with the shuttle.”
Captain. Crusher out.” Beverly sounded concerned. She wasn’t alone.
drifted slowly back to consciousness, aware only that she ached all over. For
several minutes, she lay still, eyes closed, waiting for her body to tell her if
it was seriously hurt, or just shaken up. When the ache remained constant, she
cautiously opened her eyes, and looked around. She was lying on the floor of the
shuttle, behind the command chairs, and for several moments, she did not know
where she was. Then, with a jolt, she recalled the attack. “Will!” she
murmured, and crawled to her knees.
left hand side of the shuttle was caved in, and a very large tree branch had
shattered the side-window. Riker lay along the floor, in front of the command
chairs. His back was to Deanna, and for a ghastly moment, she thought he was
dead. Then Deanna saw that he was breathing, and edged forward, between the
chairs, to touch him. Riker groaned, but didn’t move.
hard, Deanna fought with Riker’s chair, which had come loose on impact, and
was tilted over at a crazy angle. Eventually, it was tilted over the other way,
and Deanna had room to gently turn Will Riker onto his back.
wasn’t as badly injured as she had feared. The
only obvious injury was a deep gash across his forehead. It had been bleeding,
but was stopped now. Deanna vaguely wondered how long they had been unconscious.
When she tried to ask the computer, she discovered that the whole system had
crashed. She had expected as much.
on board, there might be a medical kit, and Deanna was pleased to find a very
basic one among the supplies. She quickly scanned Riker, and was relieved to
find nothing too serious. There were no broken bones, and, relieved, Deanna
settled back to wait for Riker to regain consciousness.
patience was rewarded. Riker groaned a couple more times, and a few minutes
later, opened his eyes. Clarity leapt into them when he saw Deanna. “Are you
okay?” he asked, pulling himself upright. “Boy, my head aches.”
fine,” Deanna replied. “Take it easy. We’re down, and more or less in one
piece. That was some piece of flying.” She managed a smile, but it was shaky
around the edges. “Don’t try to move too much. You’ve banged your head,
but it doesn’t seem too bad.”
nodded. “But we have to get out of here. The Ferengi might send a landing
party to look for us, and the last thing we want is to be trapped inside the
shuttle.” He hauled himself to his feet, and his ankle began to throb. It must
have been twisted when he was thrown from his seat. His head stopped spinning
after a few moments, and his ankle would have to do. He extended his hand and
helped Deanna to her feet.
was quite a struggle to get the hatch door opened, but brute force managed it in
the end. Riker eased out for a look, and discovered they were resting on a
hillside, a couple of metres above the ground.
Carefully, so his weight wouldn’t disturb the balance of the shuttle,
Riker eased out, and swung down to the ground. His landing, on rocky, pitted
ground, wasn’t good, and he had to bite back a cry of pain as his injured
ankle folded underneath him. But he hid his pain from Deanna, and helped her to
the ground. Deanna had brought the two phasers from the shuttle, and Riker took
one from her. “Let’s find some shelter, where no-one can creep up behind
they clambered over huge tree roots and boulders, Riker found it impossible to
hide his limp from Deanna. She became more and more concerned, as he finally had
to stop and catch his breath. “Will, perhaps we should stop here. The Enterprise won’t be long before it gets here, and they can beam us
up. There doesn’t seem to be anyone following us.”
a slight snag with that,” Riker said, wiping his face and wincing. “My comm.
badge hasn’t survived the crash. O’Brien can’t get a fix on a broken
looked at the mangled remains of Riker’s comm, and wondered how she could have
missed seeing it, and then she wondered how it had been so badly damaged, and
Riker had escaped serious injury. “But we’ll be together,” she protested.
“As long as he can get my signal..”
might get separated,” Riker said, baldly. “We don’t know what is going to
happen You’re a bridge officer, Deanna; I don’t need to tell you what you
have to do, if the need arises.” Riker’s voice was harsh, and he was sorry
blanched. “I know.” She said it very quietly. “Let’s hope it won’t
come to that!”
Riker agreed. “Come on, let’s get moving again.” He muffled a groan as he
got to his feet.
put out her hand to support him. “Your foot is really bad, isn’t it?” she
said. “You can’t go on.”
must,” Riker replied. He put his weight onto his injured ankle, and it
collapsed underneath him. Riker
plunged to the ground, dragging Deanna along with him. It was fortunate that he
did, as a blue flash sizzled over their heads, and vanished. Riker grabbed
Deanna and rolled with her into the fragile cover of a large rock.
was that?” Deanna gasped.
Ferengi whip,” Riker answered, bleakly. “They send a bolt of plasma, and
they are really nasty.” Riker shuddered. Deanna recalled that he had faced
these weapons once before. “Most of the Ferengi don’t use them any more. A
phaser is quicker.”
flash passed over their heads, and Riker peered round the rock to return fire.
“Try the Enterprise,” he ordered,
ducking back. “Keep trying!” He
popped up again, fired, and ducked back. He did this several times as Deanna
tapped her comm badge, vainly trying to raise the Enterprise.
Then he gasped as one of the bolts hit him. His phaser dropped from nerveless
fingers, and he fell backwards onto the ground, exposed to enemy fire.
scrambled to cover him, and try and drag him back to safety, but Riker was a big
man, and although still conscious – just – he couldn’t help her. Another
bolt flashed past and hit him, and Deanna realised that she was on her own. She
touched her comm “Enterprise, beam
us up!” She hoped they would be near enough to hear her.
have you locked on to them?” Picard demanded.
Sir, beaming them aboard now.” There was a pause, then O’Brien reported,
Mr. Data, follow that Ferengi ship. Don’t let it get away. You have the
bridge.” Picard strode briskly to the turbolift. “I’ll be in sickbay.”
thoughts were grim as he walked the corridors. They would follow the Ferengi to
their base and arrest them, but he couldn’t figure out why the Ferengi would
want to steal a mineral that was now extremely common, and less valuable than it
had been seventy or eighty years ago.
doors of sickbay hissed open, and he saw Commander Riker lying on the
examination table. Counsellor Troi was sitting on one of the beds, protesting
that she really ought to be on the bridge. Beverly Crusher, the chief medical
officer, was paying no attention.
Picard greeted her. “How are they, doctor?”
fine,” Beverly assured him, “And Will will be too. The gash on his head is
superficial, but his ankle is a mess. It would be easier to heal if he’d
broken it. But he’s torn all the ligaments from ankle to knee, and they take
their time to heal.” As she spoke, Beverly pressed a hypospray to Will’s
neck, and his eyes fluttered open.
Seventh Cavalry,” he said, and smiled at them. Then his various aches hit him,
and the smile faltered and vanished.
it easy, Will,” Beverly told him. “You’ll be here for a few hours until
your ankle has healed.”
there any way to speed up the process?” Picard asked. “I really need him on
frowned. “Well, long ago, they used to put on a plaster, that held the limb
immobile, and the patient used crutches to get around. Stasis is quicker, but if
you need Will that badly, we could try it.”
looked at Riker, who nodded. “Sure, I’ll try it.” He looked at Picard.
“What about the Ferengi?” he asked.
ones on the planet were beamed aboard their ship moments after we brought you
up. We’re going to follow them until we get some answers from them. They are
wanted by the Federation anyway.” Picard broke off and stared in amazement as
Beverly Crusher appeared carrying wet plaster of Paris and a pair of crutches.
is going to be very heavy,” she warned Riker, as she started to apply the
plaster. “And it might take you a bit of time to get accustomed to the
crutches. I’m told they’re quite unwieldy.”
she tells me,” Riker groaned. He looked down in amazement as Beverly began to
cut away his uniform leg. The sickbay staff crowded round to look.
cleared his throat. “I must go back to the bridge,” he said. “As soon as
possible, Number One.”
Sir,” Riker said, sparing him a momentary glance, his eyes drawn to the
extraordinary process that was happening to his leg. Picard gestured to the
door, and Deanna resigned herself to missing all the fun. She preceded the
captain out of the door.
relinquished the command chair as soon as Picard came onto the bridge, and
resumed his seat at ops. “We are still after the Ferengi,” he reported.
“We have hailed them on all channels, but they are ignoring us.”
you, Mr Data,” Picard said. He glanced at the readouts on his chair arms, and
back, Counsellor,” Data said.
you, Data,” Deanna replied, smiling warmly at him. “Its nice to be back.”
gave his quizzical half-nod, as he did when puzzled, and turned back to ops.
lift door opened several minutes later, and the entire bridge staff gaped at
Commander Riker as he awkwardly crutched himself out of the turbolift and down
the ramp. He eased himself into his seat, and disentangled himself from the
an entrance, Number One,” Picard commented. “Perhaps I should use crutches
to gain the crew’s attention. You seem quite proficient with them.”
you, Sir,” Riker replied. “Beverly tells me I’ll get better with practice.
But lets catch the Ferengi so I can get rid of this cast. It weighs a ton!”
Ferengi are slowing, Captain,” Data reported.
are hailing us,” Worf added, disgust in his tone.
screen,” Picard ordered, getting to his feet and tugging down his uniform top.
“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.
viewscreen flashed to life and two Ferengi faces peered at them. “Captain
Picard? We are honoured. I am DaiMon Kolk. Why were you chasing us?”
bit back his first response. “DaiMon, we were chasing you because you attacked
our shuttlecraft and forced it to crash, and then attacked our crew members.
That is a direct violation of the agreement that exists between the Federation
and the Ferengi Alliance! Prepare to be boarded.”
DaiMon looked at his companion. “You must have the wrong ship, Captain,” he
replied, his tone obsequious. “We are simply returning to the Ferengi home
world after a peaceful trading mission.”
face hardened. “I am not mistaken. Prepare to be boarded!”
push your luck, human,” The Ferengi warned.
“We can damage your precious ship in a battle, and we do not want you
on our ship. You have no right!”
have every right!” Picard declared. He gestured to Worf to cut communications.
“Mr Worf, prepare your team!”
next moment, the Enterprise rocked and
the shields came on automatically. Picard
reeled, and caught himself. “What on earth?” he gasped.
turned. “The Ferengi ship just exploded,” he reported.
senior staff gathered in the observation lounge half an hour later. “What have
we discovered about the Ferengi ship?” Picard asked, coming straight to the
was the first to speak. “We have not had time to do a full analysis of the
debris from the Ferengi ship,” he reported, “but the debris pattern matches
a warp core explosion. At present, it is unclear if this was a warp core breach,
or the result of weapon fire. Both seem unlikely, however,” he continued,
“as there were no signs of a breach prior to the explosion, and we detected no
enemy ships in the vicinity.”
nodded. “All right, so what did happen? Theorize, Mr Data,” he ordered,
cutting off Data’s next remark.
LaForge took up the story. “There is the chance that the Ferengi activated
auto-destruct, Captain. Or, whomever ordered them to Cappella IV had set the
computer to destruct if the ship was stopped, and its possible that the Ferengi
didn’t know that.”
Data?” Picard questioned, looking at the android.
is possible, Captain. It seems unlikely that the Ferengi would try to plunder
Cappella IV, and all those other planets, without someone stronger backing up
their behaviour. Therefore, I think that we should be trying to find out who was
working with them.” Data blinked, as though checking that he had said
everything relevant to the situation.
Picard said. “I suggest that we head back to Cappella IV once our analysis is
complete. We may find some answers then.” He looked around at the faces of his
senior staff. “That will be all.” As they all rose to their feet, Picard
added, “Number One, perhaps you ought to return to sickbay and get Doctor
Crusher to see to your leg. You can’t lead an away team in plaster.”
once, sir,” Riker replied. “Thank you!”
shimmer of the transporter died away, and the away team reached for their
phasers. Satisfied that they were secure for the moment, they holstered the
weapons and Data opened his tricorder. Riker looked with distaste at the crashed
shuttle, and unconsciously flexed his ankle. There wasn’t even a twinge.
is a structure of some kind in that direction, Commander,” Data said, pointing
off to their right. “There are no life signs, but there appears to be an
energy source there.”
go,” Riker ordered. “What kind of energy?”
peered at the tricorder more closely. “It would appear to be a wood fire,
Commander,” he answered. “Curious. The inhabitants of Cappella IV are very
technologically advanced, so why would they be burning wood?”
romance, Data,” Geordi answered. “Log fires are special.” Data looked
puzzled. “There’s nothing nicer than sitting in front of a roaring fire with
someone you love,” Geordi went on.
if it’s snowing outside,” Riker added.
Data commented. If he had been human, Data’s voice would have been loaded with
skepticism. As it was, the android was simply perplexed, a common state when it
came to human emotions. Worf, who had so far remained silent, grunted
disdainfully. Riker and Geordi exchanged amused glances.
few metres further on, they arrived at a medium-sized hut.
It was in a man-made clearing, and smoke trailed out of the chimney. All
four had been smelling it for a few minutes. Riker halted them at the edge of
the trees, and looked at Data. “Any life signs?” he asked quietly.
scanned the area. “Negative,” he replied.
looked around again, and then nodded. “All right, let’s go in,” he
door swung quietly open at Riker’s touch, and he went in, gaping around in
amazement. The inside of the hut was very primitive, furnished with antiques.
They could see no sign of any modern technology, and the antiques were all from
Earth. “Analysis,” Riker said.
already had his tricorder out. “They are all genuine articles, Commander,”
he reported. “Mostly circa 1800 –1900. However, I am receiving an anomalous
reading from this wall here.” Data walked over to the back wall, and swept the
tricorder down the wall. “It is made of a duranium alloy,” he continued.
“There is a faint charge coming from it.”
was feeling the wall, and grasped at the surface, which pulled smoothly away to
reveal a large metallic door. There was no visible handle.
at that!” Geordi breathed. He ran his hand lovingly over the polished surface.
“How do we get in?” he asked.
rubbed his beard. “Open sesame?” he suggested. Data opened his mouth to
speak, but Riker forestalled him. “I’ll explain later, Data.”
Sir,” the android responded.
is something, Commander,” Worf rumbled. He pointed to a small shiny sphere on
the wall. “Perhaps this opens it,”
it,” Riker agreed, and Worf pressed it. Silently, the door slid back to reveal
a dark space beyond.
searched long and hard for lights, but found nothing. Riker touched his comm.
“Away team to Enterprise.”
Number One,” Picard responded.
have found a hut and despite all its primitive look, it had a wall made of a
duranium alloy of some kind. We’ve got it open, but we need hand lamps.”
you any idea what might be in there?” Picard queried.
way of telling, Captain,” Riker said, peering into the gloom once more. “I
can see a couple of steps, but it’s really black in there.”
send down lamps, but keep an open channel.”
Sir,” Riker responded. A few moments later, the lamps appeared, and they all
took one. Riker stepped forward. “I’m going in now,” he said, and stepped
through the door.
lamp lit up a huge space below him, and Riker walked down several steps before
stopping and looking around. “There are several boxes down here, Captain. Do
you want me to open them?”
was no response. Riker looked at Data, who also tried his comm badge. It, too,
seemed dead. Worf was at the top of the steps, and his badge worked. They
discovered that the vault must be shielded against communication. Picard was
concerned. “I don’t want all of you going in there together,” he decreed.
“We must know what is going on.”
Sir,” Riker said. “Data, you come with me. Geordi, Worf, I may get you to
change places with Data once we know what’s going on.”
looked disapproving, but nodded without saying anything. Riker and Data entered
the vault again.
proportions were really tremendous. The stairs led down thirty steps or more,
and the room opened out before them. They flashed their lamps around. The boxes
that they had seen from above were large crates made of the same alloy as the
door. Data scanned every one, but there were no readings to be gleaned through
no dust,” Riker commented, running his fingers along the top of a crate.
Sir,” Data agreed. “There is no change in the air temperature, either, and
one would expect that it would be colder this far underground.”
right,” Riker agreed. “What do you think this is, Data?”
do not have enough information to hazard a guess, Commander.”
you reading any energy sources?”
Data answered, “But they could be shielded in the same manner that this vault
stopped and looked around. “Its certainly huge,” he commented. “Let’s
split up. You go over to that side, and I’ll look over here.”
dutifully set off, his tricorder to the fore. There was a sudden flash of energy
registered, and Data immediately called Riker’s name. There was no reply.
Concerned, Data turned around, and saw Riker standing about 10 metres away.
“Commander?” Data called again.
beckoned to him. Data studied his body language, and decided that Riker was
excited. He hurried across. Riker said nothing, simply pointed. Data directed
his lamp in the direction indicated, and saw a figure sitting a few metres away.
here,” Riker said, starting to move.
Data said, catching his arm, “there is no life-form registering on my
tricorder. This could be a trap of some kind.”
But I can sense someone’s mind.” Riker was still leaning towards the distant
figure, seemingly unconscious of the fact that he was pulling against Data’s
was alarmed. Without letting go, he turned his head and shouted for Worf. The
Klingon was by his side in a minute. The entire time they were waiting, Riker
strained against Data’s hand. Data had gently increased the force of his hand,
while being careful not to injure Riker.
is it?” Worf rumbled. He peered at the figure ahead. Data gave him a quick run
down of events, and Worf grunted. “I sense no presence.”
“Thou wouldst not sense my presence in the same manner as thy Commander,
Klingon. Thy senses are different.” The voice seemed to speak out of the
very air around them. It was low-pitched, pleasant and female.
voice was suddenly heard. “Are you lot okay down there?”
Geordi,” Data shouted. “Contact the ship. Tell them that we have
Geordi replied, sounding confused, as well he might
Data said, gently, “Please come away from here.”
didn’t appear to hear him. He was no longer simply
straining against Data’s hand; he was actively pulling against it.
“Thou must release him, android. Thou hast no right to restrain thy
beg your pardon, whoever you are, but I have every right.” Data was ever
polite, and once more tightened his grip on Riker.
get out of here,” Worf suggested, gripping Riker’s other arm. He got no
further than that, because an energy force hit him in the middle of the chest,
knocking him off his feet. Data was hit by a similar
force at the same moment. He, too,
was knocked over, but unlike Worf, he did not lose his grip on Riker. Riker was
dragged to the ground.
was still in the thrall of the energy force. It battered at him until his
positronic network closed down. His hand opened. Riker struggled to his feet,
and walked, stiff-legged towards the figure. Worf regained his feet and dived at
Riker, knocking him to the ground. Again, the energy blast hit him, and Riker
was fighting him, too. Summoning the last of his energy, Worf punched Riker in
the face. Riker’s head snapped
back, and he passed out. Worf slumped down.
“Thou hast not won yet, Klingon. He will be mine!”
teams were beaming down as fast as the Enterprise could manage it.
Geordi led them into the building, trying to contain his anxiety about
his friends, yet perplexed as to what had happened to them.
handlamps that the away team had been carrying were spilled on the floor and
cast odd shadows on the wall. The
Enterprise crew could see the three men lying on the floor. Worf appeared to be
sprawled on top of Commander Riker.
they drew nearer, an energy bolt flashed towards them from the darkness. The
security teams ducked and scattered. One ensign was hit and fell, groaning to
the floor. Geordi alone had spotted the source of the bolts, purely because of
his VISOR. Glancing round, he realised that no-one
else had seen it. “Fire your
phasers at the same place as mine!” he yelled. Without waiting to check that
the others had heard him, he began firing.
other phasers sprang into life, and a glowing spot appeared on a distant wall It
glowed hotter and hotter as the other phasers joined in, and suddenly exploded
in a shower of sparks. Some of the
tension went out of the atmosphere, but Geordi was suddenly aware of a presence.
It made him distinctly uncomfortable. “All right, lets get out of here,” he
ordered, and watched as his fallen comrades were carried to safety.
do not fuss,” Worf said, irritably, to Nurse Alyssa Ogawa. “I am fine.”
smiled at him and continued to work on his broken ribs. The Klingon sat stiffly
on the bio-bed, looking offended.
lay on the next bio-bed, unconscious, his face bruised and bloody from the blow
Worf had given him. A nurse was checking his vital signs with some concern.
Being punched by a Klingon wasn’t a recipe for good health.
lay on the examination table, with Geordi and Beverly working over him. All
this, Picard observed from the doorway. Even as he watched, Data sprang back to
life as Geordi cleared the last over-loaded circuit. Picard crossed to his side.
“Report, Mr LaForge?”
shook his head. “Captain, I’m not exactly sure what happened.” He looked
at Data. “I found Commander Riker, Commander Data and Lieutenant Worf
unconscious in the vault. We were
attacked by an energy blast and one ensign was hit.” He indicated the crewman.
“We destroyed the source of the energy blasts, then beamed back.”
Data?” Picard questioned, nodding his thanks to Geordi. Data told Picard the
whole story until the point that his circuits overloaded. Then Worf finished
off. Then, poker straight, he added, “Sir, I want to report that I struck a
senior officer. That is a court martial offence, and I am ready for your
looked at him gravely. “Indeed, Mr Worf, that is a serious offence. But under
the circumstances, I can see that you had no other course of action open to you.
If you had not struck Commander Riker, none of us can foresee what might have
happened. I want to hear no more about a court martial.”
Sir,” Worf replied, with only the faintest trace of relief in his tone. His
ramrod stance relaxed fractionally.
frowned slightly in the direction of his first officer. “I must speak to
Commander Riker, doctor,” he said. The nurse was still by Riker, but no longer
nodded, brushing her red hair away from her face. “Give me a couple of minutes
to fix that broken nose, then he’s all yours,” she replied. She crossed to
Riker’s side, and began work. Five minutes later, Riker was conscious and
sitting up in bed.
definitely felt a presence before we heard the voice,” he explained. “Then,
as we drew nearer, I began to feel as though I had to go closer; like I was
consumed with curiosity. I didn’t feel as though there were any danger. I
didn’t think about Data or Geordi or Worf.” Riker frowned. “The only
thought in my mind was that I was in command.”
what do you feel now?” Picard questioned, frowning also.
looked a little startled. “Same as always, I guess,” he said, doubtfully. He
shot a sideways glance at Worf, and his devilish grin appeared. “Except my
face hurts!” He swiftly sobered as he looked at Picard. “Sorry, Sir.”
had as good a sense of humour as the rest, but the levity annoyed him.
“Perhaps I should take that remark as proof of your well being, Number One,”
he remarked, dryly. “Nevertheless, I think that Doctor Crusher should run some
tests and then you should talk with Counsellor Troi. We must get to the bottom
of this. Senior staff meeting in one hour.” Picard turned and strode from the
senior staff were seated in their customary places in the observation lounge
when Picard entered. He got right down to business. “In light of the report
from the away team, we must now suppose that this being is responsible for the
behaviour of the Ferengi ship, which attacked our shuttlecraft. The question is
now, how do we proceed?” He glanced around the table and his gaze went from
Riker to Beverly. “Doctor?”
the tests I did on Commander Riker were normal,” Beverly reported. “Whatever
it is left no physical trace.”
nodded and flicked his gaze across the table to Deanna. “Counsellor?”
leaned forward. “I could detect no emotional residue from the being, so I
placed Commander Riker under hypnosis. I managed to get his sub-conscious
impressions of the being. It is ancient and very powerful.” Deanna shuddered.
”I sensed that it is looking for something, or someone.” She took a
steadying breath. “I would guess that it probably is female, but took on a
human female form to attract Commander Riker. It may have been skimming the
surface of his mind to find a lever to use against him.”
Picard said. “Is Commander Riker still at risk from it?”
was silent for a moment, while she considered the matter again. “I would say
that we are all at risk, Captain. Certainly, I think the less emotionally driven
members of the crew are at a lesser risk, but there is still a risk.” She
glanced at Will, who was trying not to look self-conscious, and succeeding quite
well. But Deanna could sense the unease coming from all the senior staff.
Picard said, curtly. He hated situations like this. Under the Prime Directive,
they must tread very carefully, and any situation that put his crew at risk made
could lead the away team,” Worf rumbled.
must go back and try to talk to this being, Captain,” Riker said, leaning
forward. “Worf would be a good choice to lead the away team, but for one
thing; the being is already interested in me, probably because I was in command.
It may think that the ship is mine. If I can get it to tell me what it wants,
then we’ll have a better idea how to proceed. “ Riker looked at the others.
“Once I leave the Enterprise, and
until you are certain that my mind has not been subverted by the being, I think
you should revoke all my command privileges.” Riker met Picard’s gaze.
“That way, it doesn’t get in by the back door.”
thought it through. “The same restrictions would have to apply to all senior
officers on the away team. But it does seem workable. Anything else?”
would suggest only the smallest away team,” Deanna said. “Although the being
was only interested in Will last time, it might try everyone if it felt
thwarted. I wonder if it did offer
something to the Ferengi.”
think perhaps the Ferengi managed to evade the being after agreeing to –
something,” Riker said. “Perhaps the being tried to brain-wash them, and it
didn’t hold. After all, the Ferengi brain has four lobes. You can’t read
them, can you, Deanna?”
shook her head. Geordi spoke up. “That sounds feasible, Commander. I wonder if
the figure you saw was used to lure the Ferengi, too. They are powerfully
attracted to human females. I didn’t see a figure, but my VISOR works
differently from your eyes, and perhaps the being planted the image on your
leaned on his chair arm and stroked his beard thoughtfully. “The away team
should consist of three member,” he suggested. “Myself, Data and Worf. Then
we aren’t exposing another crew member to unnecessary danger.”
nodded, then looked at Beverly. “Is there any way to protect the away team,
shook her head. “I don’t think so, Captain. A neural suppressor could place
them in real danger by slowing down their thought processes. I’m not happy
with the risk Commander Riker is taking,”
am I, Doctor,” Picard said, “But I don’t see that we have much choice. All
right. The security teams on the surface will stay in place until this is
over.” He paused to look at his senior staff again. “Make it so,” he
rose to their feet. There was only one more thing to do. “Computer,” Picard
said, and paused for the chimed response. “Withdraw command privileges from
Commander Riker, Lieutenant Commander Data and Lieutenant Worf until further
notice. Authorize Picard Alpha3.”
computer chimed again. “Acknowledged.”
met Riker’s sober gaze and nodded. It was done. As soon as his executive
officer left the ship, the command codes would be changed. Then even Data, with
his voice mimicking abilities, would be unable to take over the ship.
vault was unchanged. The men had the impression that it was unchangable and had
looked the same for decades or longer. They walked forward together, warily.
Riker put up his hand to signal a halt. There was total silence. Feeling rather
foolish, Riker spoke. “I am Commander William Riker, of the Federation
“Thou hast no need to tell me thy name, Riker. I know that thou art in
command of a space vessel. I am known as Guinevere.” At
the slight in-take of breath, controlled but audible, the voice continued, “Yes,
even yon Guinevere that thou thinkest of as a legend. I canst not explain how I
arrived in this place. I know not the words to make thee understand. Know only
this; thou art as my beloved Arthur was, and I await thy arrival at my side with
bated breath. Come, William Riker, and take thy destiny in both hands.”
appeared dazed. He glanced at his companions in amazement. Worf frowned,
appearing puzzled. “Who,” he mumbled quietly “is Guinevere?”
was the legendary Queen of England and ruled beside Arthur Pendragon. Their
kingdom was supposed to be charmed and Arthur had a supposedly magical sword
called Excalibur.” Data sorted through the various legends of Arthur and
added, “Arthur was to return to protect his lands from great danger, but to
date has never returned despite Three World Wars….”
recall the legend now,” Worf interrupted. Data subsided quite amiably. He was
accustomed to being interrupted. “What does she –it- mean about your
destiny, Commander?” Worf asked.
shudder to think,” Riker replied. “But if it speaks the truth, Deanna was
right about it being ancient. The Camelot legend is dated to the 5th century or
thereabouts. No-one has ever proven the existence of Arthur.” They were
conferring in an undertone.
“Dost thou doubt my existence,
beloved?” the voice asked, sounding
hurt. “Come closer, and I will prove
myself to thee.”
took half a step forward, then stopped. Data made a movement, but Riker slightly
raised his hand and the android stepped back. “How can I come closer when I
can’t see you?” Riker asked, warily. He held his handlamp steady, but its
beam revealed nothing. Even the figure they had seen before was absent.
art not looking in the correct place, beloved. Come and we shall talk about
whatever thou desirest, my lord.”
was out of his depth. By their expressions, so were Data and Worf. Yet he had to
do something. The compelling need to go to the voice was beginning to filter
into his mind, almost unnoticed. There was something new this time, too.
Riker’s mind was suddenly filled with images of command – command of
thousands of men, who lived and died at his whim. He could almost taste the
power. He took another step forward. "I still can't see you," he said,
as his final try at resisting.
“Then look, Lord,” Guinevere’s voice was suddenly closer. A
female figure appeared, surrounded by a glowing nimbus of light. It was walking
hastily drew his phaser. Data followed suit. But they had no chance to use their
weapons. There was a blinding flash of light.
it faded, Riker was gone!
tensely on the bridge, Picard was startled by a sudden flash of light. Turning
his head, he was appalled to see Q, dressed in a Starfleet uniform, sitting in
Riker’s command chair. “Jean-Luc!” Q exclaimed. “You look well. Tell me
all the gossip.”
lipped, Picard looked away, but not before noticing that Q word the pips of a
full Commander. His heart sank.
do you want, Q?” Picard demanded,
striding into his ready room. As he had expected, Q was there before him,
sprawled insolently across the couch.
Jean-Luc is that any way to treat a friend?” Q drawled, knowing full well he
was annoying the Captain.
gave him a flat stare and said nothing. He sat down behind his desk and simply
waited. Q swung his legs to the floor and gave Picard a smile. “Don’t get in
a snit, Jean-Luc. I’ve actually come to help you, though for the life of me I
can’t imagine why. You haven’t exactly welcomed me with open arms.” He
crossed the room, took a chair, reversed it and straddled it. The gesture was
Riker’s. Picard was even more annoyed.
his irritation, Picard said “And in what way do we require your help?”
frowned. “I ought to leave you to flounder around on your own! Don’t you
even care that your first officer has disappeared? Look, I even came as a
commander to replace him. Oh, just until you get Riker back – supposing that
you ever managed to find him.”
are you talking about?” Picard demanded. Before Q could answer, Data’s voice
to Enterprise.” At the Captain’s
answer he continued, “Captain, Commander Riker has disappeared.”
senior staff were again gathered in the observation lounge. Q was there, too,
seemingly oblivious of all the unfriendly glances he was receiving. Worf and
Data had returned from the planet’s surface, and gave a report on all that had
happened. When they had finished, Q was smiling smugly.
Picard snapped. He was irritated beyond measure that Q was sitting in Riker’s
seat. Knowing Q, he was certainly doing it on purpose.
Q drawled, “you are dealing with another member of the Q Continuum. We have
been playing hide and seek with her for about 1000 years now. But now that you
have so conveniently found her for us, I can take her back with me. Simple,
was a flat silence. Q looked round the faces and sighed. “I’m smitten to the
heart by your unbelief,” he declared.
wish,” Worf mumbled, looking away. Worf was angry with himself for letting
Commander Riker down.
glared at the Klingon, but for once let the remark pass. Geordi spoke up
quietly. “Perhaps it’s simple for you, Q,” he commented. “But what about
Commander Riker? Is he alive? Will this other Q have harmed him?”
course he’s alive,” Q scoffed. “If I know Guinevere, she’s probably
making voracious love to him right now. Or at least,” he amended “Teaching
him how to make fabulous love to her.” He shot a glance at Deanna. “Does
that disturb you, Troi? Knowing that your imzadi
is so faithless?”
did not rise to the bait. “You haven’t told us how you aim to retrieve your
errant Q, or Commander Riker.”
simple, really. I’ll arrange for your sensors to be able to read inside the
vault. That way, you have somewhere that you can beam down to safely. Then, with
your phasers, you can blow the vault to kingdom come, and that will be the end
Commander Riker?” Picard asked, making his voice cool. He thought it was a
wonder that the crew were not pulling back from him, so great seemed the heat of
his anger. “You are only giving us half answers, Q.”
perhaps I exaggerated the simplicity slightly. Riker is in danger. Guinevere
will use him up and then kill him. Getting him back will be very difficult, or
even impossible, depending on how strong his mind is. If he has submitted to
Guinevere, then it’ll be too late. And there is only one person who can get
him back, alive and in one piece, and that person is…” Q paused dramatically
and grinned at Picard. “..Deanna.”
was a chorus of exclamations from around that table. The only person who did not
comment was Deanna herself. She sat there, white-faced and looked at Q. Q met
her gaze and for once forbore to make a smart remark. “I shall help you,” he
said, gently. “But only you can do it, because only you have an emotional tie
to him that goes beyond the norm. Guinevere will be able to sense that tie. It
is the only thing that will save Riker. And if it is too late, then you must be
the one to kill him, as his tie to you will prevent Guinevere from claiming his
immortal soul, and resurrecting him.”
reached out and took Deanna’s hand, squeezing sympathetically. “Surely, Q, you are over-stating the danger,” she
I, Deanna?” he countered.
Deanna said, shakily. “No, he’s telling the truth. For once, I can sense his
thoughts. “ She swallowed, took a deep breath and looked at Picard. “I’m
ready. When do we leave?”
Riker sank down wearily on the grass. He had no idea where he was or how he had
got there. His clothing – soft boots, hose, long tunic – seemed strange to
him. Even the sword he carried didn’t seem right. He knew his name was Will,
but knew nothing else. He was in a forest, and had so far fought off three
different men trying to murder him. The shield that had doubtless saved his life
lay on the grass beside him, but Riker was sure he’d never seen it before.
had escaped serious injury – more by luck than judgement – but was bruised,
and had twisted one knee so badly that walking was becoming increasingly
difficult. He rubbed his knee gently, keeping a wary eye on his surroundings. At
a rustling in the trees, he raised his sword, but it was only a deer, that
panicked when it saw him.
scream rang out through the trees. Riker reacted swiftly, coming to his feet,
and limping towards the sound. A small voice in his mind was urging him that
this was not right, but he could not stop walking. The scream came again. Riker
burst into a clearing, and saw a stunningly beautiful young woman being ravished
by a tall, ragged man. Even as
Riker dashed forward, his mind was saying ‘oh yeah?’ But he could not stop.
was a long bloody fight. This man was much Riker’s own height and weight. He
obviously knew more about sword fighting than Riker. They circled and feinted,
thrust and parried. Soon, they were both bleeding from numerous small cuts and
the end, when it came, was as much a surprise to Riker as it was to his
opponent. Riker’s sword slid down his opponent’s with a nasty clashing
sound, and then, seemingly of its own volition, slid between the man’s ribs.
The man gasped, staggered and fell. Riker wrenched his sword clear and stared,
appalled, at the dead man at his feet.
the woman exclaimed, and threw herself into his embrace. “Thank God thou art
disentangled himself. “I’m sorry, who are you?” he asked.
girl gasped. “I am Guinevere,” she said. “Thou art my betrothed. Dost thou
not recall?” she looked into his face, catching both arms. The
sudden movement caught Riker off balance, and he almost fell. “Thou art injured,” Guinevere gushed. “Come, and I shall tend thy
wounds.” Riker took a step forward, and suddenly several armed men charged out
from the trees. Too stunned to lift his sword, Riker was felled by a sliding
tackle. His head hit the ground, and he blacked out.
course I’m ready,” Q drawled. “Could we just do this?”
turned from the engineering station on the bridge, and addressed Picard.
“Everything checks out, Sir. Ready to fire on your command.”
you, Mr LaForge. Mr Worf, have the phasers locked on target, and standing by.”
Sir,” Worf said. “Sir, the authorities on Cappella IV are hailing you.”
frowned. He had already notified them of the situation. “On screen,” he
ordered, and got to his feet, unconsciously tugging down the top of his uniform.
“Prime Minister,” he said, politely.
humanoid on the viewscreen looked agitated, but the Cappellans always did.
“Captain Picard, how much longer are you going to take to resolve this
situation? The delay is intolerable.”
took a deep breath and stifled his irritation. “As I told you earlier, Prime
Minister, we are working as fast as we can. Exactly how long this will take is
difficult to say, but perhaps another couple of hours.”
two hours?” he repeated, sounding incredulous. “That’s ridiculous! You are
Starfleet officers. Surely it can’t take that long.”
summoned a placating smile. The Cappellans were an infuriating race to deal
with. “I’m sorry, Prime Minister, but I’m afraid that it will take that
long. I’ll let you know as soon as we are ready to destroy the vault.”
another thing, Picard,” the Prime Minister interrupted. “I don’t know if
you should be destroying this vault without letting us see it first. The Cabinet
might want to preserve the vault. It may be useful to us for storing topaline.”
Minister,” Picard said, in his firmest tone, “that vault is probably the
most dangerous place in the universe at the moment. We have had help in
configuring our phasers to destroy it, and that is precisely what will happen.
Now, if you will excuse me, I am extremely busy.” Picard turned his back and
indicated to Worf to end the transmission.
The Prime Minister was cut off in mid-protest. “I want no more hails
from Cappella IV, Mr Worf.”
Sir,” Worf said. Worf admired Picard’s ability to remain civil towards such
an irritating person. He would have snarled at the Cappellan Prime Minister, and
there would have been serious repercussions.
was looking bored to death, leaning casually against the bulkhead. “Well,
now that that little performance is over, Deanna and I will be on our way. We
don’t want to delay too long. So long, Picard.” There was a flash of light,
and Q vanished. Moments later, Worf confirmed that Q and Deanna had beamed down
to the vault. Picard nodded and sat down. Knowing that Q was in charge made him
Riker came to, his head was clearer. He knew his full name now, and he knew that
he didn’t belong in this world. He was also very angry. He realised that his
hands were bound tightly behind his back, and he glanced down to see that his
ankles were tied with a leather thong. He struggled frantically against his
bonds, but only succeeded in tearing his wrists raw. His injured knee was
swollen to twice its usual size. He shouted, his voice bouncing off the stone
walls of the room he was in. No one came.
was actually dozing when the door finally opened. He jerked awake and glared at
Guinevere, who stood in the doorway. “Art thou feeling better, Will?” she
he demanded, “What kind of game are you playing, lady?”
gave him a spurious smile. “So thou hast regained at least some of thy memory.
“ She nodded, and he remembered everything in a rush. But as Picard’s face
came into memory, Will repressed it, suddenly recalling that he had to protect
his ship at any cost to himself. “Thou
art a challenge, William Riker,” Guinevere said, softly. “Breaking you will
give me great pleasure.”
can try,” Will grated. “You can try.”
took Riker’s chin in her hand and forced his head up. She was surprisingly
strong. “I will break thee, Riker.
Thou wilt submit to me in the end. I can show thee pleasures undreamed of. But
first, I will break thee.”
brought his eyes up to meet hers, then let them glaze over. He was immediately
aware of her fury as her nails dug into his skin. She dropped her hand and made
a gesture. Two large men entered the room. They crossed to Riker. One cut the
bonds on his feet, and they dragged him to his feet.
“Beg, Will,” she said. “Beg, and I will be merciful.”
shiver ran down Riker’s spine, but he said nothing. Even had she meant to kill
him there and then, he could not have spoken. Guinevere’s gaze hardened, and
she gestured with her head. Riker was dragged out.
walked uncomfortably beside Q through a forest of breath taking beauty. Her
clothing was unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable and she felt very
self-conscious, which was unusual for her. Q, of course, seemed unconcerned by
the fact he was wearing hose and tunic. But then, who knew what Q would usually
had encountered several armed men, but Q had made them disappear with a single
gesture. “Rather like a holodeck programme,” Q said, airily, “But a trifle
Will still alive?” Deanna asked, more to break the silence than from a desire
to learn that he might not be alive.
but he may not be much longer. Guinevere is rather turked with him right now.”
Q laughed as Deanna quickened her pace. “Slow down, Counsellor. There are one
or two things that you should know. You must confront Guinevere alone, but I
will help you. First off, you must tell her that Riker is yours. Demand his
return. Stick pretty much to the truth. After that, I’ll tell you what to
waved his hand, vanished, and when Deanna glanced around, she saw that he’d
changed her location, too. She was standing in a small, primitive town. An
enormous amount of noise was coming from an area just in front of her, behind a
building. Deanna circled round it
and entered the town square.
stood on a dais, watching gleefully as Riker dodged around a small arena, his
hands still bound, trying to avoid the long whip that another man brandished. He
was not succeeding very well. Riker was limping heavily, his clothes were torn
here and there, and one eye was swollen shut.
was instantly furiously angry. She pushed her way through the crowd, and no one
tried to stop her. Reaching the edge of the crowd, she ducked under the rope
fence and shouted, “Stop!”
froze, gasps of horror coming form all around. Guinevere stepped forward, but
did not relinquish her height advantage. “Who art thou, that thou dost
lifted her chin. “I am Deanna, daughter of the Fifth House, Heir to the Holy
Rings of Betazed, and Keeper of the Sacred Chalice of Riix. This man, Will, is
my imzadi. I demand that you return
him to me.”
have not heard of the Holy Rings, Sacred Chalice or Fifth House. Yet, it seems
to me that you are telling the truth.” Guinevere
paused and Deanna spoke quickly.
kind of you to say so.” She realised that she was not in control of her words.
“You have abused my imzadi and I
demand his return and reparations.”
laughed, but it was a sound lacking in mirth. She came down from the dais, and
crossed to stand across from Deanna. She was much taller than Deanna. “Thou
art a child. How couldst one such as thee keep a man as virile as this?”
could you not keep him?” Deanna asked. “Return him, or I shall show you my
power.” The watching crowd gave a horrified murmur at this, and they began to
back away. Deanna hoped that Q knew what he was doing.
on, then,” Guinevere said, “Use your power.”
raised her hand negligently and the villagers vanished. The background noise
stopped. The man with the whip began to back away, and Deanna nodded in his
direction, and he, too, disappeared.
was staring at Deanna incredulously out of his one open eye. Deanna ignored him,
keeping her attention on Guinevere. It was as well she did, for Guinevere threw
a flash of pure energy at her.
didn’t even flinch, though that was purely down to Q’s control. He flung up
a shield in front of Deanna, and the energy rebounded towards Guinevere. She
absorbed it soundlessly, and gave a mirthless smile. “So,” she said.
was edging closer to Deanna, step by painful step. He didn’t understand what
was going on, and half-feared that Deanna was simply an illusion, but he decided
to get closer to her anyway. He almost expected Worf and Data to materialise
from behind Deanna, and save them both. But Riker’s movement attracted
Guinevere’s attention to him, and with murderous intent, she bombarded him
with pure energy.
glowing shield appeared around Riker, and the energy was absorbed into it. Riker
was obviously unharmed, and looked stunned.
was no longer beautiful. Her face was contorted with rage. She lifted both hands
and threw everything she had at Riker’s shield. It began to flicker, then
voice spoke in Deanna’s mind. “Quickly, Counsellor, Thrust this knife into
Riker’s heart. Do not hesitate.”
knife appeared in Deanna’s hand, and she walked swiftly to stand in front of
Riker. He had fallen to one knee, and looked at her despairingly. “Deanna,”
he pleaded. She hardened her heart, and plunged the knife into his chest. “Imzadi!” she cried.
as Riker sank, lifeless, to the ground, Deanna realised, sub-consciously, that
the body she was stabbing had no substance and the blood rushing over her
fingers had no heat. She pulled the blade out of the body and held it up. Blood
dripped to the ground, but her fingers were not sticky, as they ought to have
been. Wherever Riker was, he was not lying dead at her feet.
illusion was perfect, however. Guinevere screeched with rage as she saw all the
blood. “What hast thou done?” she raged. “Thy act hast robbed me of mine
consort! With his help, I could have regained my rightful place as ruler of the
out of thin air. “Oh, really?” he mocked. “Do we have to put up with all
the thees and thous? What was so attractive about that era on Earth? It was all
Guinevere gasped. “NO!”
come, Guinevere,” Q said. “You didn’t really think that we wouldn’t find
you again?” He shook his head. “Getting a starship wouldn’t have made you
queen of the galaxy, you know. We wouldn’t have allowed that.
The Continuum wants you back where we can keep an eye on you.”
drew herself up to her full height. “I’ll come,” she said, with the little
dignity she had left. She turned her gaze on Deanna. “Q protects you now, but
if we ever meet again, you are dead!”
took a step back, her face chalk-white. Q had gone from her mind now, and she
was profoundly shaken by Guinevere’s venom. She did not doubt that Guinevere
meant every word. Q and Guinevere vanished, and Deanna was left alone with only
a corpse for company. She had no idea how to get back to her own time.
Q’s head appeared in mid-air. “I forgot,” he apologised. There was the
customary flash, and Deanna suddenly found herself in the vault, Will Riker,
alive, kneeling at her feet. Next instant, the transporter shimmered around
transporter room seemed full of people. Picard, of course, was there. Worf,
O’Brien, and Beverly Crusher. Two further security people. Deanna didn’t
know who to acknowledge first.
dashed forward and ran her tricorder over Deanna and then Riker. Worf was
immediately behind her. He freed Riker’s hands, and then helped Deanna from
the transporter platform. Still slightly dazed, Deanna did as she was bid, and
then understood as Riker and Beverly were transported directly to sickbay.
beckoned to Deanna, and they left the transporter room to walk quickly to
sickbay. Deanna swiftly told Picard all that had happened. Picard listened in
near silence, grunting now and then to show he was listening. “Counsellor,
I’m indebted to you. Without your help, and Q’s, we might not have survived
this. Now all we have to do is destroy the vault and placate the Cappellan
government.” Picard eyed Deanna. “You must be exhausted. Why don’t you
smiled gratefully. “I am pretty tired. I’d like to see Commander Riker
first, then I’ll change.”
nodded, then gestured for Deanna to enter sickbay before him. They could
scarcely believe the scene that met their eyes.
stood on the examination table, her eyes glittering with anger. Riker crouched
protectively over Beverly, as flashes of lightning danced around the room. Riker
looked up, his face still puffy and bruised. “Get out, Deanna!” he yelled.
was too late for that. The doors had hissed shut, and refused to open again.
Guinevere laughed. “Now I have you, child. Now will I redeem my promise and
kill you! Then I will have Will for my consort.”
tried to speak, but was forestalled by Riker, who struggled to his feet and went
to stand in front of Guinevere. “I will submit to you willingly if you leave
Deanna alone,” he said.
lightning stopped. Guinevere looked thoughtfully at Riker. “Very well. Prove
it by kneeling to me as a supplicant. Then I will let her live.”
looking Guinevere directly in the eye, Riker knelt awkwardly before her.
Guinevere smiled. “Put your hands up to beg me for the woman’s life!”
Will!” Deanna cried. She stepped forward, but was met by a burst of energy
that knocked her off her feet.
beg you for Deanna’s life. I submit to you willingly,” Riker said, his voice
steady. He held his hands out in front of him.
jumped down from the table and touched Riker’s hands. His arms were suddenly
encased in a heavy metal mesh from wrist to elbow. Riker gasped at the sudden
weight, and his arms dropped. “You are mine!” Guinevere crowed and a metal
collar with a chain leash appeared round Riker’s neck. It, like the mesh on
his arms, had no visible join. Guinevere grasped the chain, twisting it round so
that the collar forced Riker’s head up painfully. “Now this ship is mine!”
heard Deanna draw in a sharp breath. He couldn’t see how this rigmarole was
helping them at all. Riker had no command privileges and Picard, who had, was
trapped with them in sickbay. Riker had sacrificed himself for nothing.
have no command over this ship,” Riker said, quietly.
lie!” Guinevere shrieked. “Order the ship to do as I want!”
say I didn’t warn you,” Riker said, choking the words past the collar.
“Computer, set course for Earth.” The computer chirped.
denied. Command privileges withdrawn,” the computer said.
No!” Guinevere was beside herself with rage. “You tricked me! You can’t do
that!” With a single gesture, Guinevere wrapped a metal band around Riker’s
chest and upper arms, and several more around his legs. The sudden, appalling
weight drove him to the floor.
didn’t lie,” Riker gasped, for Guinevere still held the leash tightly. “I
said nothing. But its too late now, isn’t it? You’ve committed yourself to
me, as I did to you. I can give you nothing. Goodbye, Guinevere. You must go
back into the Continuum, and they will punish you as you deserve.”
all of you!” Guinevere snarled and gestured. Nothing happened. With an animal
shriek, Guinevere vanished.
several seconds, no one moved, then Riker groaned. Beverly was at his side in
moments, seeking helplessly to release him from his bonds. Picard and Deanna
were by Riker’s side, too. Deanna was groaning, as she took his pain into
popped into being at Beverly’s side. “Oh blast! Why do I have to keep
helping you people out?”
because we help you,” Riker grated.
gave him a glare, then relented and removed the shackles. “All right, Riker. I
couldn’t have done it without your help. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
always nice,” Riker responded, as Beverly and Picard helped him to his feet
and onto the examination table.
frowned at Q. “What exactly is going on, Q? I thought you had taken Guinevere
back to the Continuum. How did she end up here?”
gave an exaggerated sigh. “We had to let Guinevere commit herself to one
person, because when that happens, she was reduced to the same level of power as
Riker. How else were we going to keep her in the Continuum? Now, she is
powerless to leave and can concentrate on have babies.”
you told Will what to say?” Deanna asked.
Q replied, peering interestedly over Beverly’s shoulder. “Would you like me
to do that? He asked. “It would be so much quicker.”
can manage,” Beverly said, tartly. “Is Guinevere tied to Will forever?”
she is, but since Will didn’t genuinely submit, he isn’t tied to her. Nice
touch, eh? But just to make sure, perhaps Will had better say that he no longer
submits.” Q was still watching Beverly. “Are you sure…?”
sure,” Riker responded. “I no longer submit myself to Guinevere. Why did she
transferred his gaze to Riker’s face. “She was
Guinevere, Riker. Why else? Arthur was another such as you, but he submitted
after only a glance at her and Guinevere was so entertained by the Camelot
scene, that she didn’t meddle too much.” As Beverly groaned at the damage
done to Riker’s knee, Q sighed, and healed it. “I must say, your mind is
easier to direct when it’s in pain, Riker. You are so stubborn.”
you,” Riker replied, but whether he was thanking Q for a compliment or the
healing, no one asked.
Jean-Luc, its been a pleasure,” Q said. “It isn’t often that your purposes
and mine co-incide. Get the Klingon to put a couple of photon torpedoes into the
vault, as well as the phasers. Tidies everything up neatly.” Q patted Picard
familiarly on the shoulder, and then wandered over to peer at Riker once more.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Beverly. Let me.” Riker was bathed in light.
“There, all done.” Q disappeared.
always, when Q had been around, Picard felt as though he had been left with egg
on his face. He tugged down his uniform top rather self-consciously. “As soon
as you’re back in uniform, Number One, I’ll expect you on the bridge.”
Sir,” Riker said. He swung himself off the table as Picard exited sickbay.
and Riker walked back to the bridge together. “I really thought you were going
to kill me,” Riker commented.
thought for a moment that I had killed you,” Deanna responded. “I suppose
that it wouldn’t have convinced Guinevere if I hadn’t believed it too. But
if Q hadn’t been in control, I couldn’t have done it.”
gave Deanna a loving smile, which she returned. “Quite an adventure,” he
turbolift doors opened onto the bridge. They walked decorously to their chairs.
Picard nodded to them both. “Fire!” he ordered. A salvo of torpedoes and
phaser fire sped towards the planet and they saw the explosion. “The vault has
collapsed,” Data reported.
Picard replied. “Ensign, set course for..”
we are being hailed,” Worf reported. “The Prime Minister of Cappella IV, and
a Ferengi ship.”
groaned. “Cappella first,” he responded. The viewscreen sprang to life and
the Prime Minister said, “You could have warned us that the explosion would be