William Riker could not believe what he was hearing. He sat in his
Captain's Ready Room along with Jean-Luc Picard and Deanna Troi.
"You're sure about this, Counsellor?" Asked Picard, anxiety flagged
his voice and was etched into his face.
"It was a direct order from Starfleet Command and the High Council
of Betazed, sir." She replied, her voice was soft and slightly
accented. "My Mother has asked not to be involved in any
negotiations for awhile."
"May I ask why, Counsellor?" Asked Picard, slightly shocked by Mrs
It was highly unlike Lwaxanna to be away from her work. He watched
as Deanna smiled widely and her cheeks blushed slightly.
"My mother gave birth to a son two days ago."
"Counsellor, that's wonderful! Why did you not inform us sooner?"
She shrugged again.
"Yes, that's wonderful, Deanna." Will said, without much
feeling. "But, Deanna, going to Cardassia during a war?" Will shook
his head, unable to say more.
"It's a diplomatic mission, Will."
"It's a suicide mission!" He snapped back at her.
Deanna took a frustrated breath and exhaled calmly trying to block
the tension of the room from her mind.
"What would you have me do, Will? I've been ordered to join the
"I know, Deanna. I'm just not sure about it, that's all."
"If it's any consolation, Will, nor am I." She shrugged her slim
shoulders. "I'm not convinced that all Cardassians are willing to be
at peace with the Fedreation. There may be dissonant groups of
rebels or terrorists that would try to stop the negotiations at any
The silence, after her comments, hung like a cloud over them.
"The U.S.S Hood will be arriving in two days to take you and the
other representatives to Cardassia." Picard smiled, breaking the
silence. "I believe that should give us ample time to prepare a
"Captain, I should only be gone two months at the most!"
"I know that, Counsellor." He stood, still smiling widely. "If
you'll excuse me?" He said, and then left the room.
As soon as Picard had gone, Deanna's professionalism disappeared.
"Will, do you think we can do this?"
"What do you mean Deanna?"
"Do you think the Federation can reach an agreement with the
"It's possible, why? Don't you think it's possible?"
"Yes, but…they could turn on us in an instant and we'd have no help
Will walked over to her chair and knelt beside her. He opened his
arms and enveloped her slim body.
"Everything will be fine. Don't think anything else, Imzadi."
"Deanna, come on, we'll be late!" Came Beverley Crusher's voice
Deanna's living quarters. Deanna did not hear her, she was lost in
though in her bedroom.
"Oh!" She jumped, as Beverley's hand touched her shoulder, bringing
her back to reality.
"Are you alright, Dee?"
"Yes, I was just thinking."
"Well, that's enough thinking for you! Come on, everybody will be
waiting for us."
Deanna stood beside her best friend. In a very sisterly gesture,
Beverley pushed a lock of Deanna's hair behind her ear. Deanna, at
the request of Will Riker, had styled her hair in the way he loved,
so that it fell in thick ringlets around her shoulders. Her dress
was black, brining out her pale skin and dark eyes. The bodice
hugged her torso like a second skin and was made from crushed
velvet. The satin skirt flowed outward like a ballroom gown and
shimmered as she walked. Deanna smiled and noticed how Beverley's
blue, ankle-length Chinese dress emphasised her eyes and dyed blond
hair. The two women smiled one last time and then left the
Deanna Troi and Beverley Crusher entered the `Ten-Forward' lounge to
a chorus of cheers and applause. The room had been decorated with
sparkling silver and purple balloons, ribbons, streamers and lights.
The middle of the lounge had been cleared to make a large dance
floor. Along the walls were banquet tables full of food. Deanna
Troi's eyes stopped at one table in particular- the dessert table.
On it was the biggest, gooiest chocolate cake Deanna had ever seen.
"Hey, instead of admiring the chocolate, you should be looking at
whose admiring you!" Giggled Beverley, as Jean-Luc Picard, dressed
in the new white dress-uniform, saddled up to her. Deanna looked
across the dance floor and saw Will Riker looking directly at her.
He too was dressed in the new dress-uniform and he really did look
`You look stunning, Imzadi!'
Deanna closed her eyes, smiled and sighed as his thoughts floated
into her mind, feeling like a cool breeze washing over her warm
skin. Her eyes opened again to the melody of `Nightbird'. Will
stepped forward into the centre of the dance floor and held out a
`Shall we dance, Imzadi?' Came his thoughts once more.
Deanna too stepped onto the dance floor and took Will's hand. They
began to waltz and after a few moments other couples began to join
The evening was winding to a close and the last song ended to the
sound of applause. Glasses of champagne were passed around the large
crowd and then Captain Picard tapped his glass. The crowd fell
silent and turned to face him.
"We have been gathered here this evening to say goodbye to a very
good friend and college, Deanna Troi. For those of you who do not
already know why she is leaving, it is, because she has been chosen
to represent Starfleet and Betazed in peace talks with the
The murmurs rose and fell.
"No one knows the length of this mission or what the outcome will
be, but we do know that we will miss you deeply, Deanna."
He raised his glass to her.
"May you succeed and return safely to us. To Deanna."
The crowd raised their glasses and chorused,
As people left they said their goodbyes to Deanna. Soon it was only
the senior staff left. Geordie LaForge hugged Deanna and kissed her
lightly on her cheek.
"Good luck, Ambassador." He smiled, putting emphasis on her new, but
Data copied Geordie's actions.
"I have enjoyed working with you, Counsellor. I hope you will return
to us soon."
They left. Beverley and Picard, hand in hand, faced Deanna Troi.
Beverley came forward and hugged her best friend. Deanna kissed her
friend on the cheek.
"I'm gonna miss you, Dee." Beverley said, tears already streaming
down her face.
"I'll only be gone a little while. I'll be back before you even
notice I've gone."
"It just won't be the same!" Wailed the Doctor. "You call me you
Deanna nodded and then offered her hand to Picard. He took it, but
to her surprise, he did not shake it. Instead he brought her into a
fatherly embrace. When they parted Deanna smiled at him.
"You take care, Counsellor and come back to us safely."
Picard and Beverley smiled one last time at their friend and then
left. Deanna felt his eyes on her back, so she turned to face him.
"I'll miss you, Deanna." He admitted.
"And I, you, Imzadi."
She walked to him and they embraced. As he wrapped his arms around
her, he said,
With a beep, the score of `Nightbird' filled the empty room, but
this time when they waltzed, they were alone. They stayed like that,
dancing in each other's arms, all night and it felt like an eternity.
At 10:00 hours the next morning, Picard, Crusher and Riker stood,
dressed in the new dress-uniforms, waiting in Transporter Room 3,
for Counsellor…Ambassador Troi. She walked in, actually it looked
more like she stumbled in, she looked rushed and her bags were placed
awkwardly in her hands and under her arms. She also carried a number
of bouquets of assorted flowers,
"Sorry, I'm late. I was bombarded by the crew on my way here."
Riker took her bags and the flowers and placed them in the middle of
the Transporter pad. Deanna and Beverley hugged once more and Picard
shook her hand. Deanna straightened her dress-uniform and was about
to extend her hand, professionally, to Will Riker. When he took her
hand, however, he did not shake it. He pulled her forward and kissed
her fully. When they broke away he winked at her.
"Just something to encourage you to come back."
"I don't think I could refuse that." She said, blushing and smiling
shyly at this first public show of affection.
Beverley and Jean-Luc shared a smile, as they stood behind the
couple. Deanna stepped onto the Transporter pad and nodded.
"Energise." Ordered Picard.
The Transporter Chief did as instructed. As the blue beam began to
take hold of Troi's body, she waved one last time at her friends.
`I will always be with you, Imzadi, no matter what happens.' Came
her disembodied thoughts.
Two Months Later…
"Are you sure, Admiral?"
"Yes, Jean-Luc. I'm sorry. Command out."
The screen in his Ready Room turned black, reflecting his own mood.
How was he going to explain this to Beverley, Will and the other
senior staff? He tapped his commbadge,
"Picard to Senior Staff. Please report to the Conference Lounge,
He walked onto the Bridge and already saw the replacement staff
taking over. He stepped into the Lounge and was met by the smiling
faces of his senior staff, sitting at the table. He sat down at the
head of the table.
"Captain, before we start the meeting, I thought you'd like to know
that all the arrangements for Counsellor Troi's Homecoming have been
"Thank you, Mister LaForge, but I'm afraid that won't be necessary."
"Captain?" Came Riker's stricken voice.
"Jean-Luc, what do you mean?" Questioned Beverley Crusher, in shock.
"I received a communication from Starfleet Command." He looked to
his computer PADD. "I'm afraid the Peace talks have broken down
completely and several members of the negotiation team have gone
missing, including Deanna."
Even though the shock was evident in their faces, those around the
table said nothing.
"They've been missing for two weeks and no one's been able to find
any trace of them. Counsellor Troi and the three others have been
declared M.I.A. Command has sent a search team to Cardassia, but you
all know…" he trailed off.
"Yes, Jean-Luc, we know." Said Beverley softly. "The team has two
weeks to make up the month before the M.I.A's are officially
Jean-Luc Picard nodded numbly.
"If you'll all excuse me? I must contact Mrs Troi and let her know
The other officers left in silence, but when Picard turned to the
door he saw Riker standing there.
"Sir, may I join you?"
"Of course." Picard answered, smiling wanly, pleased that he did not
have to face Lwaxanna Troi alone. "Computer, patch in communications
to the Troi household on Betazed."
"Communications connected." Came the automatic voice.
The screen blinked on and Lwaxanna Troi's face appeared.
"Jean-Luc, William it's lovely to see you!"
A new-born cried in the background.
"Lwaxanna, let us start by congratulating you on the birth of your
"Thank you, Jean-Luc and you too Will. I'm sure Deanna's pending
arrival is as much relief to you, William, as it is to me." Her face
fell, seeing Riker's face pale, involuntary and his emotions became
chaotic. "What is it?"
"Lwaxanna, it's Deanna." Picard answered.
"What is it? Is she sick?" she interrupted.
"No. She's been reported M.I.A, I'm sorry."
"She and three other Ambassadors went missing two weeks ago." Came
By his tone, Lwaxanna Troi, even if she hadn't been a telepath,
could tell that he was trying hard not to admit to the pain he felt.
"They've sent a search team and we'll let you know any news as soon
as we do." Said Picard.
"Thank you, Jean-Luc and you too William."
"Enterprise out." The screen turned black. "She took that a little
too well don't you think, Number One?"
"I guess so, Sir." He sighed. "I just hope they find them before the
two weeks are up. What do you think happened to them?"
"According to reports, Deanna and three other ambassadors were
invited to meet one of the Cardassian ambassadors for a casual
meeting." Said Picard, looking back to his PADD. "Unfortunately,
they never came back. When the rest of the Ambassadors began asking
questions the Cardassians insisted that there were no records of the
reported names on the Cardassian government. The Ambassadors
immediately sent a communiqué to Starfleet HQ and they've updated
their reports each day until today when the peace talks broke down."
"Deanna knew something would go wrong."
"Yes, I seem to remember that the Counsellor had her doubts about
this particular mission. There are growing reports that a dissident
group has been formed." Picard stroked his chin in thought. "It's
possible they kidnapped the M.I.A's and blamed it on the Federation-
Friendly Cardassians in order to break the Peace talks."
After a few moments silence, Riker spoke up.
"Do you believe she's dead, Jean-Luc?"
"No, Will, I don't, but we must keep in mind that the Cardassians
are a brutal race."
Riker nodded glumly in agreement.
Nine Days Later…
"Has there been any word from Cardassia, sir?" Asked Will Riker,
he took his chair on the Bridge of the Enterprise-E.
The Commander's face was unusually pale and drawn from many
sleepless nights. Nightmares of Deanna calling to him had plagued
his mind every time he closed his eyes.
"Only that they've been ordered to abandon the search mission."
"What?! You can't be serious?!"
"The violence on Cardassia has escalated, Will. It's too dangerous
to keep them there."
"Sir?" interrupted a voice from the front of the Bridge.
"Yes, Mister Data, what is it?"
"Long range sensors are detecting a Neketti vessel on a rendezvous
course with us."
"Not for another two minutes, sir."
"The Neketti don't usually enter Federation space on their trade
routes, do they?" Asked Riker.
"No, sir. They do not. They inhabit a system very close to the
Cardassian system, but remain neutral from both the Federation and
"They're a very secretive and private race, Number One. Not many
people have had contact with them." Continued Picard. "They've
learnt a little of the standard Federation language, but they're
mostly a telepathic race."
"Captain, the Neketti are hailing us." Came the confused voice of
Lieutenant Johnson at the tactical station.
"This is also strange, Captain. In all recorded contact with the
Neketti the Federation has always been the first to begin the
"On screen, Lieutenant."
"Audio only, sir." Came his reply.
The Captain nodded his acknowledgement.
"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.
How may we help you?"
"We are of…Neketti…We hold…one of your own…"
The voice was very alien and judging from the pauses in mid-sentence
did not know the language very well.
"Your own is…unwell…close to…no life…Picard, Captain…must take…own…
The communications were severed from their end. Before Picard could
say anything more a transporter beam appeared at the front of the
Bridge, by the viewscreen. In its place was a small figure curled
into a foetus-like position. Data reached down to the figure and
turned it over.
"Captain, I believe you should see this."
Picard made his way over to Data. He jumped back in surprise at what
"Captain?" asked Will, coming closer and then recoiling at what he
saw, "Oh, my God!"
He whispered as he knelt down beside his Captain. He took the hand
of the woman that, despite the injuries to her face; he recognised
as his beloved, his Imzadi, Deanna Troi.
"Picard to Sickbay. Medical Emergency on the Bridge."
"On my way." Came Beverley Crusher's voice, but neither Picard nor
Riker heard her reply.
The right side of Deanna's face was covered in plasma burns. A long
black robe that was ripped and tattered covered her nude body. The
parts of her skin that were visible were covered in cuts and bruises
that had been left untreated.
"Deanna?" Asked Will.
She did not move or wake up.
"Deanna, can you hear me?"
Again, there was no reply. Beverley Crusher and two orderlies
arrived on the Bridge and immediately made their way over to the
three kneeling men and the figure lying on the floor. When she had a
clear view of her patient, she recoiled slightly, but quickly got
shock. Scanning Deanna Troi, she quickly turned to her orderlies,
"Cortical Stimulator and Respiratory Support now."
The Cortical Stimulator was placed just above Deanna's left breast
and the Respiratory Support mask covered her mouth and nose.
"Set both for full and continuous support." Commanded Beverley.
The Orderlies did as instructed.
"How is she?" asked Will, the desperation a gleam in his pale blue
"I won't know her exact condition until I get her to Sickbay, but I
can tell you whoever got her to us did so just in time." She turned
her attention to Picard. "Jean-Luc, I'll need more information about
how she came to be like this."
"Lieutenant," said Picard standing and moving over to the Tactical
Station. "Hail the Neketti."
After a few moments Johnson shook his blonde head,
"I'm sorry, sir. They're refusing to reply."
Behind Picard an alarm rang out at Data's station. The Android
quickly moved back to his post.
"Captain, the Neketti vessel is moving away."
"Pursuit course." Picard commanded. "Lieutenant Johnson, continue to
hail the Neketti, extend our thanks and peaceful intent, but inform
them of the information we need."
Picard turned his attention back to Crusher, Riker and Troi.
Beverley tapped her Commbadge,
"Crusher to Transporter Room 2."
"Transporter Chief responding, Doctor."
There was a pause, as Will Riker touched Beverley's arm, silently
asking her to let him stay with Deanna.
"Five to beam directly to Inner Sickbay."
Picard watched as the group disappeared in columns of blue light and
"Captain, the Neketti vessel will enter Cardassian Space in
approximately three minutes." Reported Data, as Picard sat back in
the Command chair.
"Any luck, Lieutenant?"
"No, sir." He shook his blonde head once more. "They continue to
maintain radio silence."
"Increase speed, Helm. Mr Data, once in range, lock a tractor beam
on that ship."
"Aye, sir." Replied the gold-skinned Android.
"Speed increased to full Impulse, sir." Came the voice of Ensign
Lovette, assigned to Helm Control.
After a few minutes the Enterprise-E shuddered as the tractor beam
locked onto the smaller Neketti vessel.
"Captain, the Neketti are now hailing us." Came Johnson's voice.
"Finally." He said, smiling slightly. "Audio only?"
"Picard, Captain…you must…let us…go! We must…go home!"
"I understand your urgency, but we need more information on how my
officer came to be in your possession."
"She was…only one…left."
"I don't understand."
"We…found…Cardassian ship…broken…no one left."
"They were all dead?"
"Do you know what happened to the Cardassian ship?"
"No…can give you…where it is."
"Thank you, that would be helpful." He turned to Tactical. "Johnson,
release the tractor beam."
"Aye, sir. Tractor beam released."
"Captain, we have the co-ordinates." Reported Data.
"Excellent. Neketti Vessel, we extend our thanks to you in helping
"No…thanks needed…she speaks…as we do…she is kin."
"Good journey. Enterprise out." He smiled. "Data set course for the
"Aye, sir. Course transmitted to Helm."
"Helm, maximum warp. Engage." He sat silently for a few moments. "Mr
Data, you have the
Bridge, I'll be in Sickbay."
Picard entered Sickbay and was met in the outer offices by Doctor
"Deanna's in Intensive Care, Will's with her."
"Can I speak to her?"
"Jean-Luc." She led him to a chair and sat him down in it. "She's on
full life support and I can't wake her."
"Coma?" Asked Picard.
"Probably, if not something very similar." She shook her
head. "Before you see her, I need to let you know that we're having
to feed her intravenously. We're also having to circulate her blood
in the same way."
"Alright." He said, hoarsely, moving away from Beverley.
Even in the Twenty-Fourth Century, needles and tubes still needed to
be used in certain medical emergencies and procedures. Many people
still felt squeamish at the sight of them, including Picard. As
Picard neared the door to the Intensive Care room, he heard Will
Riker's voice. He stopped…
"Nothing much has happened since you've been gone. It's been pretty
routine, you know, mapping missions, escorting supply carriers. I
bet you had more fun sitting in a conference room than I did string
at stars for hours on end waiting for something to happen."
He turned back to face her and sat on the chair next to her bed. He
took her pale, limp hand in his own, trying with all his strength
not to give into the urge to cry and shake her roughly till she woke
up and said something to him. He remembered another time she'd been
similar situation. She had been `Mind Raped' by a Ullian called Jev.
She had been in a coma for hours and Will had spoken to her whenever
he had had the time.
"Deanna, please, I need you. I've never realised how much you mean
to me. What happen during the Ba'Ku mission wasn't just the effects
of the planet, it was real, Deanna…I love you."
He chuckled to himself.
"Funny how I can't say that when you're awake, when you're able to
live on your own, without all these machines."
She didn't respond. She couldn't respond.
"I don't even know if you can hear me…"
She moaned beneath her mask. He gripped her hand tighter and put his
hand to her forehead.
She continued to moan.
At the sound of that word, she ceased moaning and was peaceful again.
"Come on, Imzadi. Wherever you are, come back to me, please."
He took a frustrated breath.
"I'm sorry, okay!? I should have done more to protest you leaving! I
should have told you that I really thought the peace process would
break down and that no one should have been sent there. If you're
doing this to get back at me, Deanna, I'm sorry. Please come back to
With all his emotional energy spent, he laid his head on the
mattress, still holding her hand tightly.
"Please, don't do this to me." He whispered.
Picard, hearing Will fall silent, entered the room. Picard was met
with a sight that made him pale. It wasn't so much that she was
extremely pale; it was more that embedded into her right arm were
two thin tubes. Through one of them a pale orange liquid ran into
her bloodstream and through the other tube ran a red liquid that was
clearly blood. Just above the sheets, that covered her nude body was
the Cortical Stimulator that Beverley had put on her on the Bridge.
She still wore the mask that covered her mouth and nose. The sound
of artificial breathing came from it, with every forced rise and
fall of her chest.
Will felt a firm hand rest on his shoulder. He raised his head to
look at Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
"How are you holding up, Will?"
"Not too bad, sir, although I'm feeling frustrated. Nothing Beverley
or I do makes a difference, she just won't wake up."
"Difficult, I know, but you've coped once before when she was in a
similar situation." Picard said, reminding Will of the Ullian
situation he had been thinking about only minutes before hand.
"Have you spoken to Beverley, sir?"
"Only very briefly, although I've not had a full report to the
extent of Deanna's injuries. Can you tell me anything?"
"Let me see…severe trauma to the head, three cracked ribs and a
pierced lung, not to mention the fact that she was on the verge of
death when we got her here."
Picard shook his head,
"It could have been a lot worse."
"True." Commented Riker.
Though neither men really believed it, but each of them got some
comfort from the fact that she was with them.
"Did you find out anything from the Neketti?"
"Yes, they came across a damaged Cardassian Fighter, but Deanna was
the only survivor.
"She barely survived." Will pointed out.
"True. We've got the co-ordinates and we're on our way there."
At that moment, Deanna, stirred and moaned behind her mask, as if
trapped in some nightmare unable to wake up. Will touched her
"Shh, it's alright, Imzadi. I'm here. You're safe now."
Once again her stirring ceased at the sound of his voice and, again,
Picard rested a hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"Take all the time you want off. Spend it with her, it may help the
"Alright, but promise me you'll let me know what you discover on the
"Will do." Replied Picard and left.
"Captain, I'm detecting the Cardassian vessel on long-range
sensors." Came Lieutenant Johnson voice from the tactical station.
"Excellent. Time to intercept, Mr Data?"
"Five minutes, sir."
Picard tapped his Commbadge,
"Picard to Riker."
"Just to let you know that we'll be reaching the Cardassian ship in
five minutes, Number One."
"Thank you, sir."
"How is Counsellor Troi?"
"The same, sir."
"Ok, I'll keep you posted, Picard out."
Time passed quickly and soon Data had a full report from the sensors.
"The damage was caused by a plasma bomb explosion, detonated from
the one of the cargo holds. It would be logical to assume that this
is the work of terrorists, sir."
"Or maybe even the prisoners in the ship's brig." Commented Johnson.
"Casualties?" Asked Picard, still in thought.
"Three hundred Cardassians all dead, as well as, seventy prisoners
of a variety of species in the brig. Life support seems to have
failed, sir." Continued Johnson.
"They all suffocated?"
"Could Counsellor Troi have been involved in the sabotage?"
"It is probable, sir. However, it would have been a difficult for
her to complete such a task, as most of her injuries were sustained
before the timing of the explosion." Answered Data.
"How long has the ship been drifting?"
"Approximately two days, sir."
"Any sign of the other three Ambassadors?"
"They could be anyone of the seventy prisoners, sir, but I can take
a small team to find them."
"Very well, Mr Data. I will be in Sickbay when you return."
Data nodded, contacted his team and then left.
Two Hours Later:
When Data arrived back on the Enterprise and entered Sickbay, he was
met by raised voices in Deanna Troi's private room.
"I won't allow it!" Came Will Riker's angry voice. "I can't believe
that you'd even consider it, Beverley!"
"You know the regulations, Will. I can't keep her like this for much
longer." Answered Beverley more calmly than she felt. "I don't want
to have to do it Will, but if she doesn't start, at least, breathing
on her own in two days, then I have to stop the treatment.
"You'd kill your own friend!"
"She's more than a friend to me, she's like a sister, but I can't
allow my personal feelings into this!" she sighed. "Will, look at
her! She would have been declared dead days ago in usual
Beverley tore her gaze from Will's stricken face to look at her best
friend's pale face.
"God knows how much she's suffering. You saw the full extent of what
they did to her, maybe she wants to go."
Picard looked into the eyes of his First Officer, his friend, and
saw the pain etched into them.
"I'm sorry, Will. I've no authority in medical matters."
Data made his entrance.
"Captain, I am afraid my report is not good."
"Proceed." Picard answered, nodding his head slightly.
"We have located the bodies of the other three ambassadors in
another section of the ship. The room appeared to be some sort of
"I see. Can you provide us with any more information, Mr Data?"
"The timing of the ambassadors' deaths are consistent with the
timing of Counsellor Troi's injuries. It is safe to assume that the
ambassadors and Counsellor Troi were tortured and then, in a final
effort to extract information from her, the Cardassians executed the
other ambassadors in front of Counsellor Troi."
"And the flight path?"
"The main computer indicates that the Cardassian's were on their way
to a prison camp in the Renius sector. We were unable to extract any
other information or logs. They seemed to have been deleted."
"Alright. There's nothing we can do now. I'll make a full report to
Jean-Luc Picard walked sullenly away from the private room, to the
Bridge of the Enterprise-E.
Five hours later, Will Riker entered the `Ten-Forward' lounge and
was surprised to see it full, but unusually quiet. He made his way
to the bar, where Guinan was doing nothing, and sat himself down.
"What's going on here, Guinan?"
"Most of the crew have heard about Deanna, they're all really
worried about her. But there's one person I think you should talk
She said pointing to one of the tables by the corner window. Riker
made his way over to a hunched figure and soon realised who it was.
"Oh, hi Will." She said looking up and quickly wiping her eyes.
"I'm sorry about what I said earlier…" he began as he sat opposite
"Don't worry about me, Will. I know you're just trying to protect
Deanna." She interrupted.
"I know, but I shouldn't have been so harsh on you."
"How are holding up anyway, Will? Other than the obvious of course."
She said with a slight smile.
He simply shrugged his broad shoulders unable to put his emotions
"And you, Bev, how are you holding up?"
"I'm mostly frustrated, I mean, I'm a Doctor, the `Healer of All
Ills'." She shook her head. "And I can't even help my friend, as
she's slipping away from us."
She began to sob and Riker took one of her hands in his own.
"At least you can try, what can I do? I'm supposed to be her
`Imzadi' and I can do absolutely nothing except watch her die."
The two friends held each other's hands in silence, thankful for
each other's company.
"Sickbay to Doctor Crusher." Came a voice from Beverley's commbadge,
breaking the silence between them.
She tapped her commbadge.
"Ma'am, there's been a slight change in Counsellor Troi's condition.
I believe you should be here."
"I'll be right there, Crusher out."
She turned to Riker.
"I don't know if this change is good or bad, but I don't think you'd
let me go without you, would you?"
"Not a chance." He said with a slight smile, as they left the Lounge.
The Head Nurse met Doctor Beverley Crusher and Commander William.T.
Riker in the Outer Offices of Sickbay.
"Report." Commanded Crusher.
"We believe she could regain consciousness any moment, but her vital
systems are still extremely weak." The younger brunette woman
addressed her two Commanding officers.
"But is she still on full support?" Asked Beverley, taking a
computer PADD from the woman in front of her and reading Deanna's
"Yes, she is."
"Alright, take a break. I'll take over for now."
"Yes, Ma'am." Answered the brunette and left.
Riker and Crusher made their way towards Deanna's room.
In the private room, a young male nurse was checking the equipment,
but he left politely, as the C.M.O and First Officer entered.
Beverley then checked Deanna's vital signs and the other readings on
the various computer screens. Will simply watched the pale woman
fighting silently for her life and hoped against hope that she would
be all right. How would he go on without her, especially now that
they had rekindled their bond?
"How about some coffee?" suggested Beverley.
"Sure." He answered.
The C.M.O left and Will sat beside Deanna's bed and took her limp
hand in his own once more. It had seemed like Beverley had been gone
for hours, but Will knew she was just letting him have time alone
with Deanna. Suddenly, Deanna's fingers tightened weakly around his
hand. He looked up at her face and saw that her eyes had opened and
she was staring straight at him. He slapped his commbadge hard, but
he didn't notice the slight stinging effect on his chest.
"Riker to Crusher, Bev she's awake!"
Moments later, Beverley Crusher and three nurses entered the room
and immediately began working on Troi. Thought he had moved away
from the bedside so they could work, he never took his eyes from
Deanna and she continued to stare at him. After what seemed like
forever, the nurses left and Beverley took Riker to one corner.
"Though she's awake and we've been able to removed the intravenous
tube for her circulation and the Cortical Stimulator, she still
needs assistance with her breathing. She's not `out-of-the-woods'
just yet and she's still weak, but she's obviously a lot better."
The blonde woman stole a glance at the brunette and then turned back
to the tall man beside her.
"Stay with her as much as you can. I've got to see Jean-Luc and let
him know of Deanna's progress." Without another word, she left.
He walked nervously back to Deanna's bedside and sat down. Her eyes
shone with happiness at the sight of him. He took her hand and she
squeezed it once more.
`Don't you talk to me now that I'm awake, Imzadi?'
Her voice sounded in his mind and the tears filled his eyes.
"I missed you so much, Imzadi!" he cried, as the tears spilt down
`I missed you too!' came her thoughts, as she began to cry with him.
He gathered the woman before him in his arms and though the embrace
was enough to squeeze the artificial breath from her, they held each
other as if their arms were the only things keeping her in this
life. Together they cried, great heaving sobs, of two people and
their pent- up emotions. When they released Will immediately wished
he could kiss Deanna, but seeing the mask on her face reminded him
that she still could not breath on her own. He kissed her forehead
instead. As he sat back down he took her hand again.
`Thank you for staying with me, Imzadi. For talking to me.'
"Don't think anything of it, Deanna." He smiled, loving the sound
and feeling of her mind touching his own, though he knew she was
only communicating that way, because she was still too weak to talk
any other way.
`How can I think so little of it? You saved me, Will. I was ready to
leave, I just wanted everything to stop, but then I heard you. It
was faint, but I heard your voice and gradually it brought me back.'
A tear slipped from her eye and she tried to move her hand to wipe
it away, but as she moved the pain shot through her arm and for the
first time she noticed the intravenous tube and its flowing pale
`Hmm, new addition, eh?'
Will felt the laughter bubble out of him, as her laughter echoed in
his mind. For a few moments they sat in silence, just basking in
each other's presence. The door to the room slid apart and Picard
and Crusher entered.
"Counsellor, could to see you with us at last."
Deanna looked at Will and sent,
`You're going to have to help me here, Will. Tell the Captain that I
can understand and hear everything he says, but can only answer
Picard saw Will nod at Deanna. Then Will explained the situation to
Picard and Crusher.
"Ah, I see. Well, I'm sure you would like to rest Counsellor, but is
there anything you can tell us now about what happened to you and
the other Ambassadors?"
Once more Deanna looked at Will.
`Most of my memories are hazy, but I know that four of us were asked
to meet one of the Cardassian representatives. When we arrived at
the agreed location, they turned on us. I believed we were drugged.'
She paused allowing Will to tell the tale to the others.
`When we woke up we were on a ship, I know that much. We were in a
cell with many other prisoners; there must have been about seventy
or eighty of us. The journey was long, but that gave us time to plan
our sabotage- a plasma bomb. The plans went on for days, but then,
as we were getting ready to carry out our attack, the guards took
the other three ambassadors and myself to another chamber. They
began questioning us, beating and shocking us if we didn't answer.
As the only woman of the group, the Cardassian's immediately assumed
I would break easily, but when the other ambassadors began to weaken
first, they were shocked. Even though there were times when I would
have told them anything to stop them from causing the others' so
much pain, I knew I couldn't do that. The Commander began to weary
of us and decided to use one last attempt. In the state we were in
after three days of continuous interrogation, I was sure one of us
were about to break. They injected us with the pain inducers and
began to turn up the pain level gradually and at random. When that
work, he took out his disrupter and shot the Ambassadors execution-
Again she paused, to rest from the surging memories and emotions.
"How did you survive?" Asked Beverley.
`Only by chance did I survive. As he was about to fire his disrupter
the other prisoners detonated the plasma bomb, which we had hidden
in one of the Cargo Bays. Of course all hell broke loose, the
Commander left, but the two guards stayed behind long enough to beat
me up again, so I was left coughing up, and spluttering in, my own
blood, alone with three dead bodies. They forgot about me and
executed the prisoners, I felt that much. Then the air began to
thin, I knew something had gone wrong with the detonation at that
point. As I
began to blackout my mind automatically began to call for help. I
woke up once and was surrounded by the most beautiful creatures, I
honestly thought I was in the afterlife, but then gradually I
realised that they were a telepathic race called the Neketti. I told
them to get me to any Starfleet vessel. After awhile my mood and
outlook became pessimistic and my injuries began to get the better
of me. I began to loose hope of ever getting back to the
My condition worsened, I finally began to let go and then I blacked
out. I can only make assumptions about the events that led up to my
being here. But I'm glad to be home.'
The whole room seemed in awe of this woman and what she had gone
through to survive this far.
"We were contacted by the Neketti about nine days after we were told
that you were missing, but by the time Command had told us, you and
the other Ambassadors had been gone for two weeks. You've been here
about a day." Explained Will, breaking the silence that had ensued
after he had voiced Troi's tale.
"We have the Cardassian vessel in our tractor beam. Mr Data had been
able to make up most of what had happened aboard." Continued Picard.
`When I'm strong enough I want to go aboard.'
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea."
`Will, Imzadi, please. I need to say goodbye to my friends and see
what went wrong with the detonation.'
Will, releasing an annoyed breath, turned to his Captain,
"Deanna, is requesting permission to visit the ship to pay her
respects, when her health allows it."
"I'm sure, Counsellor, that that will be very possible, but only
when Doctor Crusher has given you the all-clear."
Deanna smiled under her mask. The older man smiled back at her, then
made his way towards the door. The doors slid open and he looked
back at her.
"By the way, Counsellor, it's good to have you back."
Deanna inclined her head in thanks and Picard walked out.
It was the following morning and Doctor Crusher had had a good and
full night's sleep for the first time in a long time. She made her
way down the corridor, towards Jean-Luc Picard's quarters, greeting
the crew that passed her. Most of them had asked about Counsellor
Troi. She pressed the door chime and waited as it rang.
"Come in!" Came Picard's voice.
She did as instructed and was pleased to see that, as promised, Jean-
Luc Picard had prepared a traditional French breakfast for them
both. Beverley sat at the table and patiently waited for Picard to
do the same. As he sat opposite her he said,
"How's Deanna this morning?"
"A lot better."
She took of tea and savoured the heat and sweat taste as it slid
down her throat.
"I think we should be able to remove the respiratory support in a as
little as two hours."
"Well, that's certainly good news."
"Yes. It also means I can get rid of a certain First Officer, I
literally had to throw him out last night." She answered with a
Picard had no comeback to that, but laughed at the idea of Beverley
throwing out a protesting Will Riker. Breakfast continued as normal.
"Now, Deanna, if you feel faint or overwhelmed, please come straight
back to the Enterprise and to Sickbay."
"Alright, Bev, but I should be fine, I mean, Will and Data will be
with me." Answered the small Betazoid, as she stepped onto the
transporter platform with Riker and Data.
The transporter whirred and within seconds the three officers stood
in the eerie silence of a ghost ship.
"I will be on the Bridge, Commander, if my assistance is required."
Said Data, as he moved away.
"Where do you want to go first?" Came Will's voice from behind
"One of the panels on deck 12, outside the Cargo Bay. I can access
whatever's left of the bomb and see if I can determine what went
"Okay, lead the way."
They walked quickly along the corridors, both of them not wanting to
stay in such an unnaturally quiet place. After climbing up several
access ladders they finally found deck 12 and after a short walk
down a blackened corridor, Deanna identified the access panel, or
more precisely what was left of it. Deanna Troi reached into the
gaping hole and grabbed a blackened piece of circuitry. After
scanning it with a tricorder, she sat back on her heals and sighed.
"What is it?"
"Someone wired this to cut out life support. Someone had had enough
of the Cardassians." She shook her head. "Dan wouldn't have done
this, but maybe Kal'Ton…" she thought aloud.
"Dan and Kel'Ton?"
"Oh, yes, sorry, Will. Dan was the ringleader of the escape plan. We
were only going to disable parts of the ship, so we could use it to
get to Federation territory, but Kal'Ton, another prisoner thought
we should just target the whole ship. He believed that if we died it
wouldn't matter as long as we took the Cardassians with us."
"Ah, I see. So why didn't you just ban him from taking part in any
"He was the only one of us who knew anything about Cardassian
computer systems, so we couldn't. We needed him."
She shook her head sadly again and stood up.
"I'm going to the Brig, come if you want, but Data said that it was
a gruesome sight."
"Even more reason for me to be with you then."
With Deanna in the lead once more, they made their way to the bottom
deck of the ship; it became very obvious that this area of the ship
was a death trap. There would have been no chance of escape for the
people here, had the need for evacuation arisen.
The sight that befell the two Enterprise officers was more than
gruesome. Bodies lay scattered across the floor; no one had bothered
to move them from where they had fallen. The floor had been stained
a deep crimson colour from the streams of blood of the Cardassian's
victims. Needless to say, Deanna Troi immediately felt nauseous. She
stopped at the doorway, Will was so mesmerised that he almost walked
into her. Knowing she was distressed, he took her shoulders in his
"Deanna, maybe we should go?"
"No, I need to see him."
Deanna walked away from him and began the arduous task of searching
for her friend, Dan amongst the bodies. It did not take long for
Deanna to find his body and when she did she wanted to cry and
scream at anyone and anything. Will was the only one there and so he
got the full brunt of her anger.
"You Bastard! Why weren't you there? Why? If the Enterprise had been
with us, this would never have happened! They would still be alive!"
She beat her fists against his chest, as he grabbed her wrists.
"It's alright, Imzadi. Everything will be fine." He soothed,
pressing her further into her chest. She began to sob.
"You never came! I called to you, but you never came!"
"Shh, I'm sorry, Imzadi."
He continued to stroke her hair.
"I'm so sorry."
The guilt he felt was almost palpable. She was right, as Imzadi he
should have been there to protect her. She had called to him, and
why hadn't he responded? Because he thought it had been a dream. He
had dreamt about her, because he had missed her all those weeks and
when her call came he dismissed it as a dream, his imagination. She
had called to him through her pain and fear and he had ignored it as
a dream. What type of an Imzadi was he?
The bodies had been transported to the Enterprise morgue after the
autopsies had been performed by Doctor Crusher. Now the Enterprise
and her crew, with the Cardassian fighter in tow, made their way to
It had been three days since her visit to the Cardassian Brig and
now Deanna Troi was back on limit duty. She made her way to her
quarters in between Bridge shifts to read up on reports made by her
replacement Counsellor about certain cases she had been working on
before she had left. The dim lighting was welcoming to Deanna when
she entered her quarters, but she noticed that something wasn't
right. Someone had lit lavender scented candles on her coffee table,
along with a box of chocolates and a bunch of flame-coloured roses
in a vase.
"Hello? Is someone there?"
She knew someone was there, but for some reason she couldn't sense
exactly who it was. From her bathroom emerged Will Riker.
"Will, what are you doing here? What's all this in aid of?"
"Well, it's mostly to say sorry…"
She asked suspiciously, as they sat together on her sofas.
"What could possibly have done to have to say sorry in this way?"
"It's not what I've done, it's what I didn't do."
She felt a deep guilt build inside of him.
"I don't understand, Imzadi."
"In the Brig, you said that you called for me and that I didn't go
He stopped and looked at Deanna.
"Yes." She nodded. "I remember."
"It's because I thought I was just dreaming that you called to me."
"Will, I haven't called to you in years, over a decade, it's not
your fault that you mistook it for a dream."
She took his hand in her own.
"Don't for one second think that I need an apology from you."
"No buts. No regrets." She whispered, as she leaned closer to
him. "What's done is done."
He saw something in her eyes, heard it in her voice. He leaned
forward and took her mouth in his own. As the passion built, Will
lifted Deanna into his arms and carried her into her bedroom.
Days later; Deanna Troi left the main office of Starfleet Command
and made her way into a sunlit glass tunnel on the Academy compound.
The Earth sunlight warmed her face, as she walked past other
officers and cadets.
"Deanna!" Came a call.
She turned to face a group of people coming towards her from the
opposite direction. Will Riker, Beverley Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard
greeted their comrade.
"How did it go with Admiral Osan, Counsellor?" asked Picard.
"I've been granted permission to resume my full duties aboard the
Enterprise and he gave me this…"
She opened her palm to reveal a glistening gold six-point star
attached to a deep purple ribbon. The Starfleet emblem was engraved
into the middle of the star.
"Jesus, Deanna, that's, that's…" stammered Will.
"The Star of Bravery and Dedication." Completed
Picard. "Congratulations, Deanna. It's the highest award given to a
"I know, sir." She smiled. "The other three ambassadors' families
were given the awards on behalf of their loved ones too."
Beverley hugged Deanna.
"It's good to have you back with us."
"It's good to be back. I have to say that going through
psychological evaluation for two days is not the most enjoyable
thing. When we get back remind me to make some suggestions to the
Picard looked towards the sky in an unconscious move and tapped his
"Picard to Enterprise. Four to beam up."