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Money For Souls. Captain Jean-Luc Picard had been awake for some time, but lay quietly, his eyes closed, savouring the tranquillity of post-coital bliss. His lover lay entwined in his arms, her head upon his shoulder, her hair splayed across his chest. He sighed softly and swallowed letting his mind furnish the images of their lovemaking. She’d been insatiable, riding him, cajoling him and finally begging him for more, which he gladly supplied. In truth he couldn’t get enough of her. After loving her from afar for over thirty years she had finally allowed her significant fears to take a back seat to her burgeoning love for him. Eight months…it had been eight glorious months and he was convinced he couldn’t have been happier. Which led his mind to their current position. They were in a beachside bungalow on the southern continent of the planet Arrgas. Situated in an out of the way constellation, Arrgas provided privacy, beauty and solitude. For the past two weeks it had been just the two of them. He found himself so relaxed he’d allowed Beverly to talk him into skinny-dipping that very afternoon. It had been glorious, watching her lithe body in the surf, letting the exceptional sexual tension build between them. They had shared a leisurely dinner and walked on the beach before returning to the bungalow to make the most extraordinary love. His hand travelled up and he slowly threaded his fingers through her hair. He was thinking about waking her with a kiss when he thought he heard something. Opening his eyes, he held his breath and listened and there it was again. A tiny noise…in the living room. Thinking that perhaps a native animal had ventured in, he debated whether or not to get up, not wanting to disturb his sleeping lover. Eventually however, his curiosity got the better of him and he gently eased out of her embrace and slid from the bed. He stopped only long enough to put on his sleep shorts and walked out of the bedroom, his hand reaching for the light. He saw, briefly, a figure move in the darkness but, before he could react, his hand was gripped and he was swung up against the wall, his arm twisted up his back, a rough hand across his mouth. Close to his ear, a low voice warned, “Not a sound Captain…your life and the life of the Doctor depend on it.” He twisted his head trying to get a look at his captor, but gasped when his arm was wrenched higher. The man hissed, “Keep still!” The hand momentarily disappeared from his mouth to be quickly replaced by a gag. It was tied tightly around his head and he felt his lip split. His hands were brought together at his back and tight manacles were applied. He was then pulled away from the wall and pushed roughly into the bedroom. There he saw three figures standing at the foot of the bed. One leaned forward and pulled off the covers, causing the naked Beverly to growl and grope for warmth. “Jean-Luc…what…?” One of the figures moved around the bed and roughly grabbed a handful of her hair. Lifting, he dragged her upright and groped at her breast.

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Enraged, Jean-Luc threw himself forward and head butted her assailant, earning him a savage blow to the neck. He fell to the floor stunned and waited until the stars cleared in his head. The leader of the group pushed Jean-Luc over with his boot. Sneering down at the stricken man he spat on him and grinned. “Very unwise Captain. If you want you and your…woman to get through this uninjured, you’d better behave yourselves. Understand?” He punctuated his question with a kick to Jean-Luc’s ribs. He then turned his attention to Beverly. “You! Put something on.” Her captor released her and she grabbed for her nightie, which was on the floor beside the bed. Hastily donning it, she cast her eyes to Jean-Luc as he climbed unsteadily to his feet. He gave a surreptitious shake of his head, letting her know to take no action…yet. They were pushed into the living room where Beverly’s hands were manacled behind her back and she was gagged. Forced to kneel together on the floor, the lights were turned on and the couple get their first look at their assaulters. They were Orions. Known throughout the galaxy as slave traders, they dealt in people and, on occasion, weapons. They were ruthless and uncompromising, needing little provocation to kill their captives if they proved too troublesome. The leader stepped forward and squatted in front of them. “I will tell you this only once. Give no trouble and you will survive. If you cause me any heartache, I will punish you…severely.” Jean-Luc lifted his head and raised his eyebrows. “You wish to speak Captain? Unfortunately, that’s not something you’re allowed to do. Now, we’re going to take you to our scout ship, where you will be taken to our orbiting vessel. You will not resist or try to make any foolish attempts to escape. I will…punish the other for the sins of the partner. Do you understand?” The couple looked at each other and Beverly saw the acquiescence in Jean-Luc’s eyes. Nodding, they were dragged to their feet and pushed towards the door. The man who held Jean-Luc’s arm suddenly shoved him face first against the wall and caressed his buttocks. “You’re a tidy specimen Picard…I’ve been waiting for this…” The man was roughly jostled aside as the leader remonstrated with him. “Not now fool! There’ll be time for that later.” Jean-Luc’s lecherous assailant spun him around, leaned in and placed one hand against the wall He then ran his tongue up Jean-Luc’s face. Breathing his foetid breath over the Captain, he leered, “Later then…Captain.” They were pushed out into the night and started on their journey through the bush.

By the time they reached the scout ship they were bloodied and bruised. Barefoot, their captors made no provision for them as they struggled through the undergrowth.

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They fell to their knees regularly, often hitting their faces on the ground as their hands were still manacled behind their backs. When they finally broke through into the clearing, they fell to their knees, exhausted. Rough hands dragged them to their feet and shoved them forward as the hatch slowly opened. They were forced into the craft and told to kneel on the floor as their manacles were fastened to chains on the deck. At all times there were at least two men guarding them with disruptors in hand, levelled at their bodies. Jean-Luc was fairly certain they were set on stun, but he didn’t want to test his theory…the threat of punishment to Beverly for his actions stilled his mind. Soon they lifted off and ascended quickly, the docking instructions given in Orion, a language neither officer was familiar with. Unable to see what was going on, they waited with trepidation as the short ride to the mother ship ended with their arrival. They felt the small craft settle and the hatch opened to the loud voice of another Orion. “Fragg! You did it!” The leader lifted his arm and pumped his fist. “Did you doubt me Urdon?” “Never comrade! Come, a glass of ale awaits you.” Fragg turned to his men, pointing to two individuals. “Take them to a holding cell and restrain them, then come and drink with us. We have much to celebrate!” As the prisoners were led away, Urdon came forward and clapped his hand on Fraggs’s shoulder. “You realise…this could make us rich!” Fragg grinned, exposing his broken rotting teeth. “When will you let him know?” “Soon. These two will start a bidding war the likes of which we’ve never witnessed before. Just think of it. We have, in our custody, the Captain of the Federation flagship… and his woman, the Chief Medical Officer. There’s no limit to the amount of latinum we can ask.” Fragg rubbed his filthy green hands together and eagerly accepted the goblet of ale that was pressed into his hands. “But what about him? It was he who wanted them in the first place.” Urdon wrapped his arm around his compatriot’s shoulders and whispered conspirationally, “We get the bidding as high as we can…then we add a hefty slice…then we contact him and tell him the price.” “But will he pay it?” “Oh yes…he’s made that quite clear…money is no obstacle.” “Gods Urdon…we’ll be rolling in latinum…who will you contact first?” Urdon ran his hand over his bristled chin and frowned. “Now with that we’ll have to be careful. We don’t want the Federation getting wind of it. I’d say the Ferengi… and the Romulans of course and possibly the Breen…we’ll see. But for now come and feast…we must toast our good fortune!”

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Jean-Luc and Beverly were led through the dark corridors of the ship and eventually shoved into an untidy room about three metres square. At each end of the room a pole extended from the ceiling to the floor, anchored at both ends and unmoveable. Their shackles were connected to the poles allowing them to sit or stand, nothing else. Their captors left them but fortunately left the light on. Jean-Luc looked at his lover and grunted to get her attention. Her head came up and he was alarmed at how scared she appeared. With the gag still covering his mouth, he looked at her intently and slowly blinked his eyes, hoping to show her his determination and love. Her chin came up and the wanted look of defiance crept over her face. Jean-Luc smiled, making his eyes crinkle. Beverly recognised the look and sent back a grin of her own. He nodded and slowly slid to the floor, crossing his legs and moving his tongue against the gag, trying to dislodge it. They were left alone for over two hours and, as they sat on the floor, they wondered what was in store for them. When the door burst open, they both jumped, alarm skittering across their faces. The man who’d fondled Jean-Luc stepped into the room and stood over him, a lascivious leer on his features. He grabbed Jean-Luc by his upper arms and hauled him to his feet. Standing a head taller than the Captain he placed his face close to Jean-Luc’s and leered, “I’m going to enjoy this.” His hands left Jean-Luc’s arms and roughly pulled down his shorts. As his hand rudely groped the Captain’s genitals, his other hand tugged down the gag and gripped JeanLuc’s face as his mouth descended on Jean-Luc’s in a coarse kiss. In a reflex action, Jean-Luc’s knee lifted and struck him firmly in the groin. The Orion grunted and pulled away, his hands going to the affected parts. He glared up at the Captain and growled, “You’ll pay for that Human!” He came at Jean-Luc and punched him in the stomach, then the head. As Jean-Luc struggled to stay conscious he was hit again and again and again. The blows rained down on the defenceless man until he sagged in his bonds. His manacles were unfastened from the pole and he was thrown face down on the floor. The Orion straddled his legs and cut his shorts from his body. “I was going to be gentle…but seeing as how you like it rough…” Barely able to function, Jean-Luc heard him undo his belt and trousers. He felt the rapist’s hands grip his buttocks when the door suddenly opened and his assailant was pulled from his body. “You idiot! What have you done to him?” The assaulter pulled up his pants and stood sheepishly. “Nothing…yet.” The newcomer dragged Jean-Luc to his feet and held him against the wall. “Look at him you fool! Fragg wants them unharmed. You’ll have to answer to him…I’m not going to take the blame for this!” “Don’t! He’ll kill me!”

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“You should’ve thought of that before you decided to take your pleasure with him. Get some water and clean him up. I’ll get Stett he’s the closest thing we have to a Doctor.” Pointing to Jean-Luc he hissed, “And leave him alone!” Beverly called out trying to get their attention. “You shut up…or you’ll get the same treatment.” Immediately silenced, all Beverly could do was look at the semi conscious man who was her best friend and lover with compassion. Jean-Luc was re attached to the pole and the Orions left. They were alone for only a few minutes. The rapist, Jiss, returned and threw a bucket of cold water over the Captain. He gasped, his head lolling. With another bucket of water, Jiss grabbed a stiff rag and wiped the blood and water from Jean-Luc’s body being particularly rough with his genitals. Jean-Luc moaned and fell forwards only to be pushed hard against the pole. “Stand up Human! And stop your moaning or I’ll finish what I started.” Opening his swollen eyes, Jean-Luc managed a glare, which earned him a painful gripping of his testicles. “Don’t push me Captain…I’m not finished with you yet.” “Let him go Jiss! Go and play with one of your boyfriends and leave him alone.” Jiss reapplied the gag and backed away from Jean-Luc releasing him. He turned to the speaker and spat on the floor. “You’ve got a smart mouth Stett. One day it might just get you killed.” Stett chuckled and wiped his hands on his pants. “Well one has to die of something.” Snarling, Jiss stalked out of the room and Stett walked over to Jean-Luc. Taking his head in both hands, he raised it and looked into the Captain’s eyes. “Ah…there’s life there I see. Well let me look at you.” He let go of his head and his hands travelled over Jean-Luc’s body. Humming to himself, he ignored the Captain’s distressing groans as he probed and pushed his many injuries. Finished, he stepped back and picked up the rag that Jiss had left. He tied it around JeanLuc’s waist and nodded with satisfaction. “Well you’ve seen better days, but it’s nothing that’ll kill you. You’ll survive.” He turned and left. Jean-Luc stood only a moment longer before he sank to his knees. Beverly made an alarmed sound and all he could do was shake his head.

Urdon and Fragg sat in Urdon’s quarters deep within the bowels of the ship. The voice over the communicator whined in the particular tone all Ferengi used when they were bargaining. “No one is worth that much…you must be mad!” Fragg sat back and grinned as Urdon leaned forward. “You’re forgetting who they are! Just think of what he carries in his mind. You could pass on the cost to a third person…with a substantial profit. All I want to do is off load

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them…I have no interest in politics. And remember…Human women are very hotblooded. Surely a Ferengi of you stature would want a Human woman…especially this woman…did I say she had red hair?” “Red hair you say? How intriguing. How tall is she?” “Oh she’s tall and lissom…a beautiful specimen.” “Still one thousand bars…each…” “A bargain!” “I’ll get back to you.” “Well don’t wait too long…I have other interested customers.” Alarm crept into the Ferengi’s voice. “One hour! Give me one hour!” Urdon winked at his companion. “You can call…if they’re still for sale we can talk. Urdon out.” “Wait…” The communication was cut and the two men sat back laughing. Fragg leaned forward and slapped Urdon’s knee. “I’ll bet he sweats!” Nodding Urdon placed another call, this one to the Romulan Empire. “Yes that’s right, I want to speak to Turok, Commander of the Obsidian Order. Tell her it’s Urdon of Orion calling. Yes, I’ll wait.” Within minutes the stern face of the dreaded Commander appeared on the screen. “What do you want Urdon?” Without preamble, Urdon addressed her. “If you had your choice of acquiring a Federation prisoner or two…who would you choose?” The woman snarled. “I’ve no time for your games Urdon. State your business or close this channel!” “Very well. I have, in my possession, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Doctor Beverly Crusher of Starfleet’s flagship. What would you give me for them?” The Romulan’s eyes widened then hardened. “What do you want?” “What…no pre-emptive posturing Commander?” “Out with it Urdon…what is the price?” Urdon smiled and sat back in his chair. “A bargain really…fifteen hundred bars…each.” “I see. Have you contacted anyone else?” “Oh just a few…customers of mine…valued customers Commander.” “When do you require my answer?” Sitting up, all geniality gone, Urdon peered at the screen. “Soon Commander. Time is running out. I don’t want the Federation on my tail, the sooner I can off load them the better…that’s why they’re so cheap.” “Cheap?” “Yes Commander, cheap!” “Very well, I’ll contact you soon. By the way…what condition are they in?” “Excellent! Don’t I always provide matchless merchandise?” “We shall see. Turok out.”

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The two Orions sat back and breathed a sigh of relief. It was never easy dealing with the Obsidian Order. One had to watch one’s back. Fragg rubbed his hands on his thighs and licked his peeling lips. “Right now…the Breen?” “Perhaps. They’re a skittish lot…we don’t want to frighten them. We’ll play the Ferengi off against the Romulans and when they reach their limit, I’ll put in a call to the Breen.” “And what about him?” “Patience Fragg. We only approach him when we’ve exhausted all other bidders.” “Damn but you’re good!” “I know.”

For two days Jean-Luc and Beverly stayed shackled in their room. Occasionally they were allowed to use a bucket as a toilet and they were fed periodically, but they were never permitted to talk to each other, each being fed one at a time. Jean-Luc suffered with his injuries and Beverly knew, despite Stett’s proclamation, he was in trouble. He seemed to doze a lot and was unable to stand for any length of time. He slowly began to not respond to her calls and she worried fiercely as to what she could do. One afternoon, as she was being fed, she chanced her luck and spoke to her captor. ”I want to see the Captain of this vessel.” “Shut up and eat!” “Look Captain Picard is very ill. What will your Captain do if he dies?” The Orion took the time to carefully place the bowl and spoon on the ground. He then held Beverly’s face with one hand and calmly slapped her with the other. “I said…shut up.” Biting back her tears, she pleaded… “For God’s sake look at him!” The Orion sighed, but turned and cast his eyes over Jean-Luc. What he saw disturbed him. The Captain was slumped forward on his knees and blood dripped slowly from his gagged mouth. “Damn!” He rose quickly and went to the Captain, using his hand to hold up his head. He left soon after and Beverly realised he’d forgotten to re-apply her gag. Gently she called to her friend. “Jean-Luc! Can you hear me?” He didn’t respond. Louder she pleaded, “Jean-Luc come on…it’s me, Beverly…Jean-Luc…wake up!” She nearly cried with relief when his head lifted. He turned to the sound of her voice and she gasped. His eyes were swollen shut and blood covered most of his face. “Jean-Luc I think they’re going to help you. If I can, I’ll see if I can talk them into letting me treat you…they don’t seem to have a real Doctor on board.”

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He nodded slowly, the action seeming to cause him pain. He sat back on his behind and gently eased his legs out from under him. Beverly could see the livid bruising to his torso and knew he was suffering. “Hang on Jean-Luc…” The door suddenly opened admitting Urdon and Fragg. They both went straight to JeanLuc and lifted his head. “Will you look at him! Fuck! Who did this?” Beverly cleared her throat. “It was a man called Jiss. He tried to rape him.” “Fragg get Jiss down here now!” Fragg left and Urdon squatted in front of Jean-Luc. Shaking his large green head he was inspecting the bruising when Beverly spoke again. “You know I’m a Doctor?” “What of it?” “He needs to be treated by a Doctor…a real Doctor.” “Shut up woman!” Beverly shifted in her bonds and leaned forward. “What if he dies?” With frightening speed, Urdon swept across the room and gathered his fists in her nightie. “I said…shut up!” Fragg came back in, dragging Jiss by the collar of his tunic. Urdon released Beverly and rounded on the man. Pointing at Jean-Luc he hissed quietly, “You did this?” “He asked for it…he kneed me in the balls!” “Because you were trying to fuck him!” “Urdon…please…” With deliberate slowness Urdon unholstered his disruptor and casually checked the setting. Raising it, he aimed it at Jiss’ head. “Give me one good reason not to kill you.” “NO! Urdon please I beg you…he asked for it…” The blue light of the disruptor was bright in the room. Jiss screamed but it was cut short as his body disintegrated. The smell of vaporised flesh hung heavily in the air as Urdon holstered his weapon. He sniffed and hitched up his sagging pants and turned to Fragg. “Give her anything she needs to treat him. If he dies, so do you.” Fragg’s mouth flapped open then snapped shut. He turned on his heel and left the room leaving Urdon to contemplate the Doctor. “You’d better save him woman, or you will follow in Jiss’ path.” Beverly nodded and breathed a sigh of relief when he left. “Hang on Jean-Luc…hang on.”

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Fragg returned with Stett. As Stett once again examined Jean-Luc, Fragg went to Beverly and roughly began to re-apply her gag, stopping at Stett’s behest. “No wait, I need to talk to her.” Grunting, Fragg backed away and watched as Stett crouched in front of the sitting Doctor. “You know how to treat him?” Beverly nodded, watching him closely. “What do you need?” “First I want to examine him…properly.” Over his shoulder, Stett instructed Fragg, “Unshackle him and lay him out on the floor, then come and free her.” Without a word, Fragg did as he was requested. Soon Beverly was kneeling beside the Captain, running gentle hands over his body. “I need a tricorder, a bone knitter and an auto fuser…also a tissue regenerator. Do you have any drugs?” “You mean besides recreational?” “Uh huh.” Stett thought for a moment then lifted his head. “I believe Urdon has some antibiotics in his cabin…” ”Get them and some pain killers. Some of these wounds are mildly infected.” Turning to Fragg, Stett was curt. “Watch her.” Beverly felt Fragg’s eyes roam over her as she assessed Jean-Luc. He lay quietly, his eyes closed, but she knew he was conscious. Leaning forward she said softly, ‘”It’s going to be ok Jean-Luc, I’ll have you better in no time.” He swallowed and reached for her hand. Beverly jumped when Fragg moved forward and slapped his hand away. He glared at Beverly and she gulped with nervousness. “Please…he only wants to hold my hand…” ”Shut up woman! You just do what you’re supposed to do and make it quick.” The three of them were silent then until Stett returned. In his hands was a bag, which he placed on the floor. He pushed it towards Beverly then sat back and watched. With more confidence than she felt, Beverly opened the bag and breathed a sigh of relief when she recognised the requested instruments. The tricorder was an old model, but still adequate for the task. She scanned Jean-Luc thoroughly and noted the broken jaw, nose, fractured eye socket and broken ribs. His internal injuries weren’t too severe; mostly bruising although his liver was extremely tender, she was confident she could heal him. It took half an hour to properly fuse the broken bones and another twenty minutes to seal the cuts to his face and body. She insisted they remove the gag and she sighed when she saw his split lips. It took but a moment to heal them and as she did, she remembered how tenderly he’d kissed her when they last made love. Her last task was with the tissue regenerator. As she passed the instrument over the affected areas, the livid bruising faded and he breathed easier. Before long he lay quietly on the floor feeling much improved. Without taking her eyes off her lover, Beverly asked, “Where are the drugs I requested?”

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Stett sniffed noisily and pointed to the bag. “In there.” Beverly opened the bag and peered in. She saw two short bottles and a pouch. She retrieved the pouch and opened it and was astonished to find a hypodermic syringe and needle. “No hypospray?” “No!” Shrugging, Beverly sighed and looked closely at the bottles. She dimly recalled the names on the labels as being for antibiotics and analgesics. Not exactly overjoyed by her lack of choice, she nonetheless fitted the needle to the syringe and drew up a quantity of each liquid. “Is there anything to clean his skin? A swab of some sort?” Fragg came and stood over the pair, bent over and spat on Jean-Luc’s leg. “Try that.” Showing no outward emotion, Beverly used the rag around the Captain’s waist to remove the spittle. She then gently urged Jean-Luc to roll onto his side. He did and she quickly injected him into his buttock. As she withdrew the needle, she tenderly rubbed the area and pressed it firmly to stop any bleeding. To Jean-Luc she said softly, “It won’t act as quickly as a hypospray, but you should be pain free soon.” He nodded; pleased his eyes were no longer swollen closed. It made his heart swell to look into the eyes of his best friend. He was about to speak when Fragg interrupted. “Are you finished?” Beverly nodded and was about to suggest that he be allowed to lie flat for some time when Fragg stooped over and gripped Jean-Luc’s upper arms. “No wait! He needs…” The slap to her face was sharp in the quiet room. “I’ve told you…shut up! I say what happens here, not you!” With effortless power, Fragg hefted Jean-Luc to his feet, manacled his hands behind his back then connected him to the pole. He roughly pushed his head up and applied the gag. “There Captain Picard…all better! Now you woman…” After he’d manacled Beverly’s hands behind her back, he pushed her against the pole and fastened her to it, then gagged her. He stood back slightly and, with a leer, lifted his hands and mauled her breasts. When he saw her tense her legs, he gripped her chin painfully and forced her to look at him. “Oh no woman. You’ll not do to me what the Captain did to Jiss…I’m much too clever for that, but I will tell you, if you manage to hurt me…I will hurt your Captain. Understand?” With no other option but to acquiesce, she nodded and dropped her eyes. He fondled her breasts again and let one hand drift lower to graze her mons. When he heard Jean-Luc’s growl he laughed and turned. “Hey Stett…look at this. Our intrepid Captain is manacled and gagged, but he still wants to fight!” Fragg wandered over to Jean-Luc and gripped his face tightly.

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“I’ve got some interesting news for you Picard. Jiss had a lover who’s really pissed off with you. If he wants to come down here and finish what Jiss started…I’d have no objections…as long as he didn’t damage you…too much.” He winked lecherously and kissed Jean-Luc on the forehead. Laughing, the two Orions left the room, turning off the lights as they went.

Fragg entered Urdon’s cabin to see him finishing off a call. Urdon gestured for Fragg to refill his goblet with ale and he complied, also filling one for himself. He took a seat opposite his leader and waited eagerly. Urdon took a long draught and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Fragg sat forward, almost shivering with tension. “How much? What is it up to now?” Urdon grinned and sat back in his seat. “Five thousand bars each!” “Five thousand? Gods….Gods that’s…” “Yes it is and it’s going to get bigger. I just spoke to the Cardassians, they’re interested too.” “And the Breen?” Urdon scowled and sniffed wetly, hawking back some mucous into his throat. “Those bastards are out of the running…so are the Ferengi. They’re too worried about the Federation.” Fragg frowned and scratched his crotch. “We’ve had them what…three days? How long can we afford to keep them?” “Not much longer. I hear their ship has begun a search.” “Their ship? The Enterprise? Urdon we’d better off load them soon…” Urdon stood abruptly and paced around the room. “I know that fool! But we have to have enough time to close the deal. I didn’t go to all this effort not to make a killing.” “Still…” “Enough! If you don’t have the balls to see this through then get off my ship!” Fragg jumped to his feet, spilling his ale. “No! I’ll stay Urdon, I’ve invested too much also.” Nodding Urdon clapped Fragg on the shoulder. “Good. Have faith Fragg, just a little longer and we’ll be rich beyond our wildest dreams.”

Commander Will Riker stood in the living room of the bungalow holding his Captain’s clothing. At his side were Counsellor Deanna Troi and Lieutenant Commander Data. They were talking to the resort’s manager. Will looked down at the harried man. “And they left no word? Nothing to suggest they were leaving?”

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“No Commander. When they didn’t return the pass chip I sent one of my employees down here to see if they had decided to lengthen their stay. He found the bungalow as you see it.” Deanna’s lilting voice was heard next. “Have you instigated a search?” “Yes Ma’am. As far as we can tell, they’re not on the island.” Data was holding the Captain’s shirt. “Commander Riker, all of their belongings are here. Why would they leave them?” Will shook his head and sighed. “I don’t know Data, but I intend to find out.” Tapping his comm. badge, he called his ship. “Riker to Enterprise.” “Enterprise here Sir.” “I want a full scan of the island I’m on. Search for human bio signs and if you come up empty, extend the search to all landmasses on the continent. We’ll verify any human bio signs you find.” “Aye Commander.” Dismissing the manager, Will turned to Data. “My friend I want you to go over this cabin with a tricorder. Look for DNA, cellular debris…anything that might shed some light on this mystery.” ”Aye Sir.” As Will turned to Deanna to issue more orders, a call came through from the Enterprise. “Enterprise to Riker.” ”Riker here.” ”Sir we’ve scanned all the other landmasses and there are only three human bio signs. I contacted the central government and they’ve supplied all relevant details. They check out Sir, it’s not Captain Picard or Doctor Crusher.” “Damn. Ok Enterprise. I want you to check the interstellar traffic over the past week. We need to know who’s been visiting.” “Aye Sir. Enterprise out.” “Deanna…” Just then Data, who had been scanning near the door, called out to his Commander. ”Sir I believe I have found something.” ”What is it Data?” “There is DNA on the wall here inconsistent with the Captain or Doctor Crusher.” “Can you identify the species?” ”One moment Sir.” The officers stood in tension as the android second officer went about his task. Frowning he re-checked his readings. “It is Orion Sir.” “Orion? Oh damn.” “Will, you don’t think…” Holding up his hand he silenced the Counsellor and again called his ship. “Enterprise this is Riker. “Enterprise here Sir.” “Concentrate your scans to look for the ion trail of an Orion ship.”

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“Aye Sir.” They only had to wait a few minutes. “Commander Riker?” ”Yes Lieutenant.” “We have it Sir. Two…no three days ago. A class Broud ship.” “Data is there any evidence of transporters being used?” ”No Commander.” “Right! They must have had a shuttle. Enterprise scan the immediate area and look for a landing site for an Orion shuttle craft.” “Yes Sir…Sir approximately two kilometres from your position. I’m sending the coordinates to Mr. Data’s tricorder.” “Data?” “I have them Sir.” “Ok let’s go!” The three friends exited the bungalow and, following the tricorder’s directions, soon covered the distance to the landing site. They stopped periodically as Data detected DNA traces of the missing officers. As they stood in the clearing, Will ran his hand through his beard. “Ok we know who and how. Now we need to find out where. Let’s get back to the ship.”

Urdon sat back in his chair and drew deeply on the smoking glass container in front of him. Fragg waited patiently as his leader closed his eyes and exhaled. “This is good, very smooth. Where did you get it?” Laughing, Fragg took his turn and prolonged the breath considerably. “I ‘borrowed’ it from one of the crew…he won’t need it any more.” Urdon raised his eyebrows and snorted. “Ah our friend Jiss I take it?” Fragg nodded with closed eyes. “Fool. He could’ve taken his pleasure and no one would’ve known. What does Fertrule think?” “He wants to avenge his lover obviously. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t pay the Captain a visit.” “Well make sure he knows not to damage him too much. I’ll not hesitate to kill him if I loose money because he’s ruined my goods.” “Already done.” They smoked for a time growing more mellow with each puff. Eventually Urdon stirred himself and tapped Fragg’s knee. “It’s time we made a very important call.” ”You mean…?”

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“Yes. I’m going to call him. I’ve gotten the bidding up to seven thousand bars each and I’ve reached the end. They won’t go any higher.” “Fragg frowned and leaned forward. “How much will you add?” Urdon grinned slyly and squinted his eyes through the smoke. “Three thousand…each.” “Three thousand! That makes…ten thousand each! Gods Urdon…” Urdon waved his hand at his standing compatriot. “Sit down Fragg, sit down. He will pay, don’t you worry. Remember he’s wanted them for a long time.” “But why? Why would a man…any man be willing to pay twenty thousand bars of gold pressed latinum for two Humans? Even given their positions…twenty thousand?” “I don’t know and I don’t want to know, it’s not my business. All I care is that he pays! Now…I’ve heard their ship has left Arrgas, no doubt on our trail. We have one, maybe two days to get rid of them. I’ll make the call now and we’ll see what he has to say. You, my dear Fragg, may leave. This is between him and me.” Fragg stood and grinned down at the large green man. Taking out his dagger, he wiped it on his thigh and brandished it through the thick air of the cabin. “Twenty thousand bars! Yes!”

Jean-Luc got slowly to his feet; his internal injuries still a little tender. He took a steadying breath and looked over at his lover, finding her vibrant blue eyes already on him. He grinned behind his gag and nodded his head. Beverly shook her hair back and grinned back, pleased that he was keeping his spirits up. When the door slowly opened they expected a crewmember with either the toilet bucket or some food. Earlier they had been visited by Stett who gave them a cursory examination and left, but he left the light on, delighting the occupants. The man that came in put them immediately on alert. He was a big man and his face wore a scowl. In his hand was a dagger. After he secured the door, he came fully into the room and stared at Beverly. He cocked his head and walked to her, his hand taking a lock of her hair. Raising the dagger, he sliced through the lock and held up the severed remains. “See how easy that was? You make any fuss and I’ll slice you just as easily. Understand?” Beverly nodded, closing her eyes and expecting the worst. She was surprised, however, when he left her and stepped up to Jean-Luc. His voice was low and deadly. “You…you little Human are responsible for the death of my partner! I have come to finish what he started.” Jean-Luc shook his head in a futile gesture as Fertrule gripped the rag around his waist and pulled it free. He raised his knee and the dagger was at his throat in a flash of steel.

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“No Human. You will accept me or I will injure your companion. I don’t care about the repercussions…you killed my lover and I want revenge.” He freed the chain from the pole and pushed Jean-Luc into the middle of the room. With his hands still restrained behind his back, there was nothing he could do. “Get on your knees and put your forehead on the floor.” Jean-Luc stood still, his mind racing. His assailant’s low voice garnered his attention. He turned to find him running his blade down Beverly’s face. A thin line of blood welled and ran down her face, dripping from her chin. “Do it!” His heart hammering in his chest, Jean-Luc dropped to his knees and slowly bent forward. He heard the man move behind him and he closed his eyes, outraged, disgusted and frightened as to what was about to happen. The man forced his legs apart and fondled his buttocks. He heard the man undo his belt and pants, then his hands were on Jean-Luc’s hips. He felt the pressure and then searing pain as he was penetrated. He moaned and retched behind his gag as the assault went on, the pain etched into his very soul. Beverly cried silently as she witnessed the violation, unable to do anything but watch in horror as her best friend and lover was brutally raped. The rapist growled and grunted loudly signalling an end to the assault. Fertrule climbed to his feet and placed his foot on Jean-Luc’s rump. Pushing sharply, he shoved Jean-Luc onto the floor then stood over him and spat deliberately on his head. He hoisted JeanLuc’s limp body roughly to his feet and re-fastened his manacles to the pole. He pulled down the gag and gripped his face firmly, leaning in he kissed the Captain, his tongue rudely invading his mouth. He stepped back and grasped Jean-Luc’s testicles. “There now Human…that wasn’t so bad was it? I can tell from experience the more you do it the better it becomes. And Human…I’ll be back to see you…later.” He squeezed Jean-Luc painfully, then replaced the gag, and left abruptly. Jean-Luc fell to his knees, tears streaming down his stubbled face. Beverly stared at him intently and noticed blood on his legs. She wondered what internal damage had been done.

The Enterprise entered the Goran expanse and reduced speed to one-quarter impulse. “Tactical, full sensor scan.” “Aye Sir…but it will be limited. The expanse has unstable neutrinos and ionic radiation. It will limit our sensory ability.” “Can we follow the Orion signature?” “I don’t know Sir.” “I see. Riker to Engineering.” “Engineering here.” “Geordi we need to tweak the sensors. Apparently the expanse has…” ”I’m already on it Sir. If I dump some of the warp energy into the forward sensor array, we should raise efficiency by a factor of twelve…about 75%. Not full, but close to it.”

15


“Thank you Engineering. Let me know when we can continue.” ”Aye Sir.” Deanna rose from her seat and stood looking out the forward view screen. The expanse stretched before them, a swirling multi-coloured hotch-potch of gasses and rubble, the leftovers of a cosmic cataclysm. “Can you sense them?” The raven-haired beauty turned to her lover and sadly shook her head. “No. It could be the interference or they may be too far away…either way, I feel nothing.” “Well the Orion ship entered the expanse twenty four hours ago and they’re our only lead. We’ll find them…even if we have to use a white cane.” Deanna turned and took Will’s hand in hers. Looking up into his troubled blue eyes, she whispered, “Have faith Will.” He nodded resignedly and took his seat in the Command chair.

Fragg entered Urdon’s cabin cautiously, peering into the dimness and spotting his Captain sitting at his desk, seemingly asleep. Stepping further into the room he ducked his head and studied Urdon, tentatively inching his hand toward the PADD that rested near his right hand. The dagger sliced effortlessly through the back of Fragg’s hand pinning it to the desk and bringing a cry of pain from the man. “Tsk, tsk Fragg…you should have more patience!” Fragg, gripping his wrist and groaning through his teeth, stared at Urdon and eventually got his penitence. “Oh here…I’m sorry.” He wriggled the dagger free and wiped the green blood on his trouser leg. Fragg cradled the wounded hand against his breast and summoned a glare for his Commander. “Why the hell did you do that for? I was only…” ”I know what you were trying to do Fragg and it won’t work. You were trying to get a look at things that are, quite frankly, none of your damn business!” “Well fuck Urdon there was no need to stab me!” Urdon let his head fall back, his ponytail draping down his broad back. A hearty laugh broke from his chest. “I didn’t stab you fool! That was just a pinprick! Now stop your whining and listen carefully. He has agreed! We meet with him near Dellos V in four hours. We, my friend are going to be rich.” The pain in Fragg’s hand faded as he closed his tangerine eyes and dreamed of his impending wealth. “Will you meet with him alone?” Urdon chuckled and cocked his head.

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“Do you think I’m a complete fool? No my friend you will come, well armed and with some strategically placed crewmembers. I have every intention of living to enjoy my prosperity.” Fragg nodded as he absently wound a rag around his hand.

The next time an Orion came in with the bucket, Beverly called out inarticulately and caught his attention. With facial gestures she aroused the crewman’s curiosity and he slowly approached her. Cautiously he reached up and slid the gag from her mouth. “We need Stett…quickly! My companion has been raped.” The man laughed crudely and strode over to the hunched Captain. Using his foot, he pushed against Jean-Luc’s chest and watched as his head lolled. Growing concerned, and aware of his standing orders concerning the prisoners, he left quickly. Beverly stretched her jaw and managed to lower the gag even further. “Jean-Luc…are you all right?” Too ashamed to look at his lover, he shook his head, tears again flowing down his face. “Jean-Luc Stett is coming. He’ll allow me to treat you, I’m sure of it.” Blood was now smeared all over Jean-Luc’s legs and he lay on his side, occasionally moaning. Stett entered with a snarl and walked straight up to Beverly. “You woman, have interrupted my meal. What is it now!” “The Captain has been raped!” “Yes I know! Fertrule has been bragging about it. What of it?” “He’s been injured…possibly badly.” “Nonsense. He’ll just have a sore arse, nothing important in that.” “No you don’t understand. Humans and Orions differ in many ways…physically and, usually, it’s a traumatic thing to be anally raped by anyone.” Stett cast a casual glance at the captain and frowned at what he saw. “You say he’s damaged?” Beverly nodded and held her breath as Stett considered his next decision. “Well there’s nothing to do. Fertrule will undoubtedly be back for more…we might as well wait until he looses interest, I’m not going to bother my Captain with your problems.” “But…” He spun with startling speed and slapped Beverly across the face. He then re-applied the gag and sneered into her face. “I will tend to him when Fertrule has finished with him…not before!” As he left he switched off the lights. Jean-Luc’s quiet moans were the only sound in the room.

17


The Orion ship entered orbit above the third moon of Dellos V and Urdon looked over his men. “Now remember I want you on your toes. I’m not sure what we’ll encounter down there, but your main job is to protect me. If anything happens to me, you don’t get paid. Understand?” The men shuffled and grumbled their agreement. “Right. Get into the runabout and take your stations.” Fragg stayed at his Commander’s shoulder as the surly men positioned themselves. Only when they were seated did the two remaining men board the little ship. It took only ten minutes to pilot the craft to the surface. At the pre-arranged coordinates, they landed and the men deployed around the shuttle in a defensive phalanx. The communication device in Urdon’s hand crackled into life. “To your right, one hundred and fifty metres, you will see a tunnel. Go to it and enter. I will send a guide once you are inside.” The men trudged across the misty surface, the atmosphere only just supplying enough oxygen to sustain them. The found and entered the tunnel, meeting the promised guide within minutes. A tall shrouded and hooded figure gestured for them to follow. The floor of the tunnel gradually became a steep decline and the men felt their ears pop as they descended. The reached the branch of four tunnels and the figure unerringly chose the middle one. That was the first of many junctions they traversed, all the time descending. Eventually, after a tortuous trek, they found themselves in a vaulted room, lit from above with strips of light the like of which none of the Orions had seen before. There were many tunnel entrances around them and they raised their weapons in suspicion. A voice from the darkness allayed their fears. “I take it you have what I asked for?” Urdon bobbed his head and shielded his eyes against the glare with his hand. “If you mean Picard and the Doctor, then yes, I have them.” “And they are?” “Safe and sound on my ship.” “I see. How did you envisage the…sale…taking place?” Urdon laughed nervously. “Well…I envisage…you giving me the latinum and me returning to my ship and sending down the goods.” “That would involve a modicum of trust.” “Yes it would, wouldn’t it.” “I’m not accustomed to that level of trust…it is, after all, a very large amount we’re talking about, isn’t it?” Urdon spread his hands and grinned winningly. “Perhaps, but with goods like these…very rare…and highly prized…” “Oh I understand…completely. I also understand how you played the Breen, the Ferengi, the Cardassians and the Romulans off against each other, inflating the price until you finally called me. Just how much did you add Urdon? For your services.”

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Urdon swallowed convulsively and cast a glance at Fragg. The men were beginning to shift nervously and the tension inched higher. “Oh really! Look I’m a businessman! If I don’t make a healthy profit there’s no point in the venture. I had to go to a lot of effort to secure your goods, it wasn’t easy to arrange you know…AND I’ve got the Federation flagship breathing down my neck. I put a lot on the line for you.” “No doubt, however I have a suggestion.” “And that is?” “You take half the payment, the balance received when you deliver the…goods.” Urdon took but a moment to digest the proposal before coming to his decision. “Done!” He strode toward the voice with his right hand extended only to be stopped by a shrouded figure who placed his gloved hand squarely on his chest. “I would prefer it if we had no physical contact Urdon. I hope you understand?” Urdon nodded, his attention altered when an antigrav appeared out of one of the tunnels, piled high with crates. He swaggered boldly up to it, stopping its operator. He unsheathed his dagger and prised the lock on the top crate. The lid sprang up to reveal the gleam of bar upon bar of gold pressed latinum. His grin widened when he repeated the actions on several more crates. “Excellent! You have made a bargain…you will not be disappointed!” “I sincerely hope not. Show them out.” The draped figure stepped forward and indicated the way out. Pushing the antigrav before him, Urdon had trouble calming his racing heart. As they neared the surface he whispered to Fragg, “We’re almost there…just an hour more and we’ll be rich.”

Beverly heard Jean-Luc stand, his chains making a metallic tinkling on the pole as he rose. She imagined her lover, head bowed, his noble face a mask of pain. Unable to see or speak to him, she felt the rising frustration and fought her bonds, only making her wrists bleed. When the door suddenly opened and the lights switched on, she was momentarily blinded. She did, however, recognise the voice. “Well Captain…are you ready for me again?” Beverly blinked her watering eyes as she watched Fertrule free Jean-Luc from the pole. In blind terror, the Captain lashed out with his feet, only receiving a savage blow to his kidney for his troubles. “Have you forgotten Captain, what I will do to your woman if you resist?” His head lowered in defeat and his body was slammed against the wall. A large hand went around his throat and squeezed. Jean-Luc struggled to breathe, lights dancing in his eyes. As his vision started to grey, he was thrown face down on the floor and felt his assailant push between his legs. He tensed his body and tried to roll but the man was too

19


strong. With an evil laugh he stuck Jean-Luc’s head against the floor and, as the dazed Captain tried to recover his wits, he was raped again. When Fertrule pulled away there was bright blood on his body. He wiped at it with disgust and kicked the suffering man who lay whimpering on the floor. “Look at what you’ve done Human…Gods what a mess!” Picking up the rag from the floor, he wiped himself clean and pulled up his pants. “With a bit of luck I’ll see you again later…Captain.” He dragged Jean-Luc over to the pole and brutally twisted his hands up his back to fasten the manacles to the iron shaft. With cruel hands he wrenched Jean-Luc’s head up and spat in his face. “Be ready for me…and remember my lover!” With that, he slammed Jean-Luc’s head against the post and left, leaving the lights on. Beverly screwed her eyes shut, willing away the tears of anguish that ran down her face. She looked over at her Captain to see a broken man. He was slumped awkwardly at the base of the pole, seemingly uncaring that his arms were strained up his back. Bright blood was pooling under him.

“I’ve got it Sir. It’s faint, but I think…with a little luck…there!” Will strode to the science station and stood beside the Lieutenant on duty. “Good work Myers. Feed the coordinates to the con.” “Aye Sir.” “Con when you’re ready, engage at half impulse and follow that trail. And for God’s sake, don’t loose it!” “Yes Sir!” Will regained his seat and glared at the swirling gasses that had been stymieing their efforts for the last three hours. Deanna, as always, sat serenely by his side. He felt her presence brush his mind. “Patience Will…” He turned to her and smiled, slowly nodding.

Urdon and Fragg hurried through the dark corridors of their ship, intent on securing the balance of payment. They burst into the cell and stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the Captain. “Not again! Fragg can’t your men control themselves at all?” Pointing to Beverly, Urdon motioned for Fragg to remove her gag. “What happened?”

20


“He’s been raped and beaten…twice!” “So? What damaged him?” “The rapes! It’s not the same for Humans…we’re different…” “Fuck! Fragg get Stett in here!” Soon a nervous Stett stood before his enraged Captain. “You knew?” All Stett could do was nod. “He was already damaged and you allowed Fertrule to have him again…causing more damage?” “Well…I didn’t see the point of healing him when it was obvious Fertrule hadn’t finished with him. How was I to know that…” “Because I told you!” Beverly seethed with anger. “I told you he was badly injured and you did nothing!” The flicker of metal was almost too fast to see. Stett raised his hand to catch his severed ear as it fell, the cry of shock dying on his lips when his Captain said, “If you weren’t needed for you medical knowledge I would kill you as you stand! As it is you’ll have to do without your ears.” With a flick of his wrist, Stett’s other ear fell from his body. “Now Stett, you will assist the woman in repairing his injuries…and be quick about it!” The chagrined Stett left immediately to return quickly, his head comically swathed in a bloody green bandage. He carried the same bag as before and Urdon and Fragg looked on as Beverly was released to tend to her comrade. With Stett’s help they set him free and laid him out on the floor. The cuts to his head were quickly sealed but the internal damage was extensive. The inner and outer flesh was torn and bruised, bleeding badly. Beverly looked up at her captors and asked. “I don’t suppose you have any coagulants?” “What are they?” “It’s a drug that helps the blood to clot.” Urdon looked at Stett who shrugged his shoulders. “No…we don’t need it.” “Ok then we have to repair the torn muscles. I need the tissue regenerator.” Stett handed her the instrument and watched in amused silence as Beverly pushed it firmly against Jean-Luc’s rectum, causing him to groan loudly. “Shh Jean-Luc it’ll be over soon.” She held the device against his tender flesh for some minutes and slowly the bleeding stopped. She next sealed the torn exterior areas then concentrated on the deep bruising. In all it took nearly an hour to repair the damage and Beverly wasn’t fully convinced she’d got it all. Without the benefit of surgery, she couldn’t be certain. She was surprised when Urdon tied the rag around Jean-Luc waist and re-applied her gag. Instead of fastening her to the pole, she was manacled and Jean-Luc was dragged to his unsteady feet. They were then pushed out into the corridor. Fragg stopped them and lowered his voice. “Now listen to me, both of you. It’s the same as on the planet. You behave and everyone is happy. Try anything foolish and I will punish you. Understand?”

21


Beverly nodded for both of them and allowed Jean-Luc to lean on her. Hoods were placed on their heads and they were roughly shoved through the ship and into the Launch Bay. The ride in the runabout was fairly brief and they felt the changed atmosphere when the hatch opened. Pushed out, they stumbled and fell, only to be dragged to their feet and urged forward. They didn’t see the shadowy guide in the tunnel, but the felt the descent and heard the echoes of their passage. Beverly’s heightened senses picked up on the larger room when they entered it and she heard Urdon chuckle and rub his hands together. “I take it it’s all there?” “Of course…do you doubt me?” “No. No of course not. Well it’s been good doing business with you. Call me any time if you have any other needs…” He was greeted with silence so he and his men surged forward and took possession of the antigrav. They were gone in minutes. The voice called to his men. “Take them to a holding cell and keep them manacled.” The men nodded and moved to take Beverly and Jean-Luc. Beverly struggled and turned towards the voice. “Stop you struggles Doctor Crusher. Here you answer to me. Take off their hoods.” The light made them both blink, their eyes watering. The man stepped out of the shadows and stood before them. A hand slowly came up and removed the low cowl. Jean-Luc gasped and fell to his knees. “Madred!” he moaned in his mind, the name sending tendrils of terror through his body. “Run Beverly…run!” he beseeched, but it emerged as a low moan. Madred knelt on one knee in front of the terrified man and lifted his chin. “I can’t tell you how happy I am that we’re together again Jean-Luc…you and your… friend.” He stood and spoke to his men. “Take them!” Three burly men came forward and hoisted Jean-Luc to his feet. They then gripped their arms and led them off into a maze of tunnels until the entered a small cell. They were chained to the wall and the guards left. Beverly’s heart raced. The Cardassian she’d just encountered was a brutal torturer who had tormented Jean-Luc in the past. ‘Why?” she asked in her mind…”Why him?” They were in the cell for a little over three hours. Unable to sit or converse, they tried to rest and when the guards came back, they straightened and tensed. Two large men went to the Captain and pulled the rag from around his waist. The now naked Jean-Luc was unchained and led from the room. Beverly closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for him.

22


“It seems to be some sort of dispersal technique.” ”Clarify Mr.Data.” “The trail has…dissipated into several equally strong components. The computer cannot decipher which of the traces is the one to follow.” “Could this have occurred naturally?” “I do not believe so Commander. More likely, it is a ploy…utilised to put us off the scent…as it were.” “How long will it take to sort out this mess?” “Unknown Sir. All we can do for now is follow the trails until we can be sure they are not the ones we seek.” “Dammit! That could take days!” Data said nothing, choosing instead to watch his Commander intently. “All right we may as well start. Pick one Data and follow it, but in the meantime, assign the computer to extrapolate a course based on their last known flight path.” “Aye Sir.”

Urdon grinned as he stepped onto his Bridge. Slapping the back of his chair he addressed his helmsman. “Brinn I want to be at Lycos 8 in two days. Set a course and proceed at maximum speed!” “Yes Captain.” Fragg stretched and moved closer to his Commander. “I take it our cargo is safely stored?” “Indeed!” “Have you counted any of it?” ”Not yet. I’m in the mood for a feisty woman. First we…indulge ourselves on Lycos then we can worry about paying off the crew and dividing what’s left.” Fragg eagerly rubbed his crotch and guffawed. “Ah a woman! That sounds like a good idea. I considered our red headed passenger...she was beautiful…” “But?” “To be honest Fertrule put me off. Men are fine if there’s nothing else, but I prefer a fiery woman.” ”Ah yes, Fertrule. Call him up here Fragg, we have unfinished business with him.” Fragg moved to the intercom as Urdon asked his helmsman, “How far are we from Dellos?” “Eight light years Captain.” “Excellent! I can’t get far enough away from that miserable rock.” The men laughed uproariously. It was the last sound any of them made. The Orion ship seemed to shudder as, from deep within its interior, an inexorable force tore through its

23


guts. The hull glowed momentarily as a catastrophic blast erupted atomising the vessel and all it held and flinging the microscopic remains into the surrounding void.

“Hold him!” Jean-Luc struggled ineffectively as his manacles were taken off and reapplied at the front of his body. His arms were lifted and a dangling chain attached to the cuffs. Once fastened, two Cardassian soldiers went to the wall at the rear of the room, grasped the chain and pulled. The Captain was unceremoniously hoisted off his feet and left to hang, his toes just brushing the floor. A sinister, silky voice spoke from the shadows. “I take it you remember how that feels?” Despite his terror, Jean-Luc found defiance. “What do you want Madred?” “What do I want? But that’s too easy Jean-Luc! How many lights?” Four blinding white lights glared into existence behind the voice. “You remember Jean-Luc?” Squinting, Jean-Luc shook his head. “This is pointless. There are four lights.” “Really Jean-Luc? I see you haven’t learned.” Jean-Luc heard footsteps as Madred approached him. As he came into the light, Jean-Luc could see he carried something. “Do you know what this is?” Blinking in the strong light, the Captain focussed on the object and swallowed convulsively. Unable to find his voice, he could only nod slowly. “Yes I thought you might. It’s a Klingon painstik. When applied to the body it produces the most unbearable pain…I think we should try it, don’t you?” The Cardassian moved forward and brushed the tip of the instrument over Jean-Luc’s torso. “Now where do we start?” His gaze roamed over his captive’s body and a pronounced frown appeared as he looked at Jean-Luc’s legs. “You’re bleeding. Why?” He slowly walked around the suspended man and stopped at his back. Parting his legs he grunted. “You are bleeding from your anus. Why?” He came around Jean-Luc and shook his head at the Captain’s silence. “Now Jean-Luc this won’t do. You remember how this goes. I ask the questions…you answer them. Now I ask you again. Why do you bleed from your anus?” Jean-Luc raised his gaze from the floor and muttered quietly, “There are four lights.” The tip of the painstik pressed savagely into the soft flesh of Jean-Luc’s pubis. His head snapped back as a gut-wrenching scream was torn from his throat. Madred kept the

24


instrument in place as his victim writhed in the air. Sensing the escape of consciousness, he ended the assault and watched as the trembling man whimpered in distress. “Why do you bleed?” “Four…lights…” Madred ambled around Jean-Luc, dragging the tip of the instrument over his sweating skin. Halting at his back he suddenly pressed it over his right kidney. Again Jean-Luc screamed, his voice raggedly faltering at his larynx spasmed. Once again facing the stricken man, Madred lifted his chin. “Jean-Luc?” With scant control, Jean-Luc slowly shook his head. Sighing Madred pushed at his flesh, seeking tender spots. As he pushed over his liver, an involuntary moan escaped and the painstik was immediately applied. Jean-Luc’s body arched and quivered, his scream truncated by the loss of consciousness. Madred stepped back and wiped the droplets of Jean-Luc’s sweat from his tunic. Gesturing to the guards, he said, “You wake him up. You two go and get the woman.”

Beverly moaned and wished she could cover her ears. With each of her lover’s screams she cried out and fought her bonds. Blood smeared her hands and covered her nightie. Never had she heard such an anguished sound. It bored into her soul and she feared madness if it didn’t cease. When the guards came in and released her she attacked them fearlessly, only stopping when a blow to her head threatened to bring senselessness. She needed to be conscious in the faint hope she could help her best friend. They dragged her into the room and she was quickly divested of her clothing and gag and hoisted up off the floor. Only a metre from her lover, she cried as she looked at his limp form. A large Cardassian guard was slapping him and tossing cold water into his face. Livid burns marked his beautiful body and blood dribbled slowly down his legs. A rough hand gripped her face and turned it to the front. A leering Cardassian faced her. “Doctor Beverly Crusher, CMO of the Enterprise and current lover of Jean-Luc Picard.” Beverly spat in his face and hissed, “You bastard! What have you done to him?” Madred nonchalantly wiped the spittle from his face and smiled disarmingly. “Really Doctor…a little decorum please. Jean-Luc has been a little…reticent…with me. I’ve been encouraging him to be more forthcoming.” “How?” “With this.” He proffered the painstik and a moan of anguish tumbled from her mouth. “Oh God…” “My dear Beverly didn’t you know? God doesn’t exist here.”

25


Lieutenant Commander Data frowned at the screen and tapped out some commands on the console. Will’s shadow crossed his vision and he turned to his Commander. “What have you got Data?” “I am not certain Commander, but I believe we can discount these two streams as being false. Since we have already checked and dismissed three other trails, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that this stream is the one we should follow.” “How certain?” “Ninety eight point two five…” “Ok! So we can forget about those and follow this one Does that tie in with the computer?” ”Yes Sir. Based on the previous flight path, the computer came up with two predicted routes. This is one of them.” “Right. Feed the course to the helm and begin an analysis of all ‘M’ class planets along the trajectory.” “Do you suspect the Orions will stop at a planet?” Will straightened and scratched his beard. “Orions are slave traders. Keeping their prisoners on board isn’t very cost effective…they have to be fed and cared for. They need to sell them quickly and I’m guessing…hoping really, that they’ve got a buyer in mind. It’s just a hunch, but I think that buyer is planet side.” “Very well Sir, I will begin the analysis.” Will strode down to the con and placed his foot up next to the crewman manning the station. “You have the course laid in Ensign?” ”Aye Sir.” “Then engage at full impulse. Let me know when we’re about to leave the expanse.” “Yes Sir.”

Beverly watched with sick fascination as Madred gently brushed the tip of the painstik over her sweating skin. His eyes followed its path, an expression of concentration on his cruel face. In an almost introspective tone, he asked, “Tell me Doctor…are you as stubborn as you lover?” Gritting her teeth, Beverly raised her eyes and stared fixedly at the ceiling of the cave, ignoring her tormentor. “What a pity. You see I have a question for you…one I would rather Jean-Luc answer… but he’s…resisting. Are you going to resist too Doctor?”

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His free hand slid over her chest and harshly squeezed one breast. His fingers closed over the nipple and he pinched painfully, twisting and pulling, making Beverly bite her lip. “It’s a simple question really…one you are eminently qualified to answer. I simply want to know why Jean-Luc is bleeding from his anus?” Beverly’s eyes left the roof and descended to the face of her captor. She summoned a glare and hissed, “Go to hell Madred!” The painstik was applied over her heart. The agony permeated her body, infiltrating into every nerve and echoing throughout her brain. She shrieked and contorted, her bladder voiding in a noisy splatter. At the sound of her agony, Jean-Luc dragged himself up from his oblivion and called out to her. The guard hit him squarely in the stomach, driving the air from his lungs. As he painfully drew breath, he vomited, the guard enraged when the foul mess hit him in the chest. Several savage blows landed on his unprotected body before the guard was satisfied. Madred allowed Jean-Luc to recover enough to hear him when he softly called his name. “Jean-Luc.” The Captain’s head slowly came up and he watched the grotesque Cardassian deliberately place the painstik on Beverly’s right nipple. His grinned and winked as he pressed the instrument into activation. Her shriek sliced through his very soul. He cried out in rage and frustration as his beloved Beverly writhed and screamed. The smell of her burned flesh found his nostrils and tears of hate filled anguish flowed down his face. “Stop it! Please I beg you…stop!” Madred cocked his head to one side and considered the plea. With suddenness, he withdrew the device and Beverly slumped at the end of the chain, moaning incoherently. The torturer snapped his fingers and a burly guard stepped forward and administered a stimulant. Beverly’s stomach heaved and Madred stepped back quickly as she vomited weakly onto the floor. When she was sufficiently recovered, he moved to her and used a finger to raise her chin. “Are you ready to answer me now Doctor?” She focussed teary eyes on him and whimpered, Jean-Luc called softly to her and she awkwardly turned her head to see him. Summoning all the tenderness he could find, he said softly, “I love you.” A smile crept across her face as tears flowed copiously down her cheeks. “How touching, but I will demonstrate a very valuable lesson to you both. Your love for each other will be your undoing.” He raised the painstik and Beverly cried out in panic. He drifted it up her torso then abruptly left her and stepped up to Jean-Luc. “Are you sure you don’t want to answer me Doctor?” Before she could utter a word, Madred pushed the prod into Jean-Luc’s testicles and activated it. The stricken man roared in agony and twisted so violently in his manacles that he fractured his wrists. Blood from the broken skin flowed down his arms and on to his heaving chest. Madred withdrew the device and repositioned it on the Captain’s right temple. “Watch this Doctor…it should prove very interesting.

27


He savagely applied the painstik and Jean-Luc’s body went rigid before contorting grotesquely. Curls of smoke drifted up and around his head and he started to shake violently as blood dribbled from his eyes and ears. Madred stopped the assault but the convulsions continued. Jean-Luc’s bowel and bladder emptied before he slowly slipped into a boneless unconsciousness. “Revive him! That was all your doing Doctor. One simple answer from you and we could have avoided that…display.” Beverly swallowed painfully and tried to free her swollen tongue. She mumbled and Madred had to lean in to hear her. “I hate you Madred.” “Of that I have no doubt, but it’s rather beside the point, isn’t it? For now you are mine to do with as I wish…and what I wish is that you answer my questions. Now, unless you want me to insert this into his body…or yours…you will tell me what I want to know.” All effort to talk depleted, the only thing Beverly could do was shake her head. “Very well Doctor. We wait until he regains consciousness then we will begin again.”

“Commander Riker…we’ll be exiting the expanse in three minutes.” “Thank you Con. Data what have your analyses come up with?” “There are several class M planets along the flight path Sir, but I think we can rule out some on the basis that they would not allow Orions to enter their space.” “Agreed. Their reputation is enough to put a lot of people off. Ok, discounting those planets, how many does that leave?” “Four Sir.” “Good. Begin…” “Commander sensors are picking up the residue of a very large explosion in this sector.” “An explosion? Where?” “Five parsecs Sir.” “Any clue as to the source?” “No Sir, but it was not of natural origins.” Will sat in the Command chair and crossed his long legs. “Well we’d better investigate it. Helm, set a course and engage at full impulse.” “Aye Sir.” Within half an hour they arrived at the blast site. Sensors were used to scan the debris, the conclusions fed to the computer at the science station. “Well Data?” “It is hard to say Sir. The components have been reduced to microscopic proportions, but I would hazard a guess that it was once a ship.” “Hazard a guess?” “A gut feeling Sir.” “Based on what?”

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“Although the particles are miniscule in appearance, there is enough to deduce a significant amount of duranium.” “How big a ship?” “A moderate size.” ”Broud size?” “Perhaps.” “Damn. Can we retrace its course?” Data turned to the console and inputted some instructions. He waited patiently for the result. “Yes Sir, I believe we can. “Do it Data!” “Aye Sir.”

Jean-Luc’s hearing came back first. There was a roaring in his ears and he tasted the salty tang of blood in his mouth. He tried to lift his head but lancing pain behind his eyes made him groan and give up the attempt. The fingers that gripped his face were harsh and unyielding. “Come now Picard…time to wake up!” Pain slithered through every muscle, tendon, sinew and joint. Everything echoed in a cacophony of agony, every breath an episode of torture. His head was lifted and the voice commanded, “Open your eyes Picard!” Jean-Luc summoned his will and concentrated on obeying. Slowly his eyes cracked apart and Madred hissed with undisguised interest. “Doctor…look at this.” He cruelly twisted Jean-Luc’s head and Beverly gasped at his appearance. All the blood vessels in Jean-Luc’s eyes had burst colouring the sclera dark red. As he slowly blinked, red tears ran down his cheeks. “Well enough of curiosities. Time to begin again! Now I want to know why Jean-Luc is bleeding from his anus. Who will tell me?” He walked slowly around Jean-Luc and insinuated the painstik between his legs and rested the tip against his anus. “Can you imagine, Jean-Luc, how it would feel to have this device activated inside your body?” He left the prod there and rotated it slowly. “Or perhaps I should concentrate on the lovely Doctor Crusher.” He withdrew the device and wandered over to Beverly. Gripping her thigh, he parted her legs and touched the device against her vulva. “And you Doctor? What does your imagination furnish for you? Hmm? Can you imagine it inside you?” “Please…don’t…”

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“Then answer my question! You exasperate me, both of you! I don’t like doing these awful things to you…really I don’t, but you give me no choice.” Jean-Luc worked his mangled tongue and formed some words. “Let us go Madred.” “Let you go? After all I went through to get you? Do you know what the military did to me after you were taken from me? They demoted me and took away my subjects! After years of faithful service they repaid me with shame and humiliation! And it’s your fault Picard! You escaped me once, but not again. You will bend to me Picard or you will die…and so will your lover!”

“Commander we have identified the plasma trace. It was the Orion ship we were hunting.” “You’re sure Data?” “Yes Sir.” “Where does the trace emanate from?” “A small moon orbiting Dellos V.” “How far?” “Eight light years Sir.” “Con is the course laid in?” “Yes Sir.” ”Then get us there now…best speed.” “Aye Sir.” The mighty ship leapt to warp in a flash of elongated blue light. It took only minutes to cover the distance. “Entering the Dellos system now Sir.” Will stood and paced across the room. “Slow to one quarter impulse and put us in synchronous orbit around the moon of Dellos V. Tactical, scan the moon.” “Aye Sir.” Will waited impatiently as the scans were run. The sigh of the turbolift doors barely reached his troubled mind. Deanna entered the Bridge and sought out her lover, a frown on her face. He felt her presence and raised his eyebrows. “Do you sense anything?” She shook her head, making her lustrous curls dance. “Not specifically, but there’s a general unease…if I had to put a name to it, I’d say something was wrong.” “Sir? We’re picking up multiple life signs, twenty five, all Cardassian.” “Cardassian?” “Yes Sir. They’re in a system of underground caverns. Well fortified.”

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“I see. Any Human bio signs?” “Inconclusive Sir. We can’t penetrate all the caves, the rock contains irumite. It interferes with the scanners.” “Harris I want a security team of fifty heavily armed people on that moon in twenty minutes. I’ll join you in Transporter Room three. Data, you’re with me.” The two officers answered with a crisp “Aye Sir.” as Will left the Bridge to Deanna.

Madred withdrew the painstik from Beverly’s vulva and lazily ran it up her abdomen stopping at her breasts. He took time to position it on her left nipple and abruptly activated it. Beverly shrieked as the tender flesh bubbled and blistered. The intense agony radiated out through her nerves and she jerked spasmodically, her eyes rolling in her head. Madred stopped the assault and watched as the suffering woman gasped for oxygen. “Where next Doctor?” She mumbled and he leaned forward to hear. “What did you say?” “He… was… raped.” “Was he now? See Doctor that wasn’t so hard, was it? Is there anything you want to say to Jean-Luc?” With great difficulty, Beverly lifted her head and mustered her voice. In nothing but a rough whisper she managed, “For God’s sake give in Jean-Luc…please, I beg you…I can’t take it any more.” Her head dropped to her chest and tears flowed freely down her ravaged face. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and swallowed. When he reopened them, Madred was standing in front of him. “Well Jean-Luc?” His eyes brimming with bloody tears he ground out, “There are four lights.” Madred gritted his teeth and gripped Jean-Luc’s face. “You will suffer for your stubbornness Picard.” He pushed the painstik against Jean-Luc’s anus and pressed. The device activated and Jean-Luc’s head snapped back as his body danced at the end of the chain. As he screamed his larynx ruptured and a strangled gurgling broke forth from his throat. Madred stopped the torture and yelled in Jean-Luc’s ear. “I will continue this forever Picard! You and your woman will know nothing but an eternity of agony. Do you want that? Do you wish that for her?” He slowly shook his head, bloody drool sliding off his chin. “Then tell me Picard…how many lights are there now?” With his voice ruined all he could do was whisper. Madred leaned in and said seductively, “Tell me Picard.”

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“…Five…” Madred straightened and caressed Jean-Luc’s bald head. “I can’t tell you how happy you’ve made me Jean-Luc. Guards! Take the woman down and remove her. You can have her to use as you see fit. She is of no further use to me.” As the leering guards came to do their master’s bidding, Jean-Luc raised his head and shook it slowly. Seeing his lips moving, Madred leaned in to hear him. “Madred…please…don’t…I…beg…you…please…” “Hush Jean-Luc you’ve got more important things to worry about. I want…” They were interrupted by the arrival of an alarmed guard. “Sir a large group of Starfleet soldiers has just materialised on the moon. They are massing at the tunnel entrance.” Madred stepped around Jean-Luc and began issuing orders. “Man the defensive positions. Make sure the false imagers are functioning at all tunnel intersections. Contact the Launch Bay and tell them to prepare the shuttle for immediate departure. You there, leave the woman and go with the assault teams. Fall back slowly and meet me at the Launch Bay in one hour.” A chorus of “Yes Sir!” was heard as the men deployed. A barely conscious Beverly was left crumpled on the floor and Madred took his position in front of Jean-Luc. “You needn’t think you’re going to be rescued Picard. I’m going to take you with me, you’re much too rewarding to leave behind, but for the interim you’ll have to excuse me, I have a defence to mount.” The oddly delicate caress to his pate was made again then Madred left.

Will tapped his communicator. “Enterprise do you read?” “Yes Sir.” “I want you to scan for any launch facilities…anything that can contain a shuttle big enough for thirty people. If you find anything, target it with full phasers and call me.” ”Aye Sir.” Turning to his troops, he gathered them around him. “Ok. We have reason to believe Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher are being held within these caves. The caverns are guarded by at least twenty-five Cardassian soldiers and they will most probably resent our intrusion. Our mission is to locate and free the prisoners and, to that end, you are permitted to use deadly force. Break into groups of five and follow me.” They started forward cautiously, Data watching the readout on his tricorder. Descending rapidly, they came to the first junction. Will sent a group to his left and Data suddenly called out, “Take cover!” Crew flattened themselves against the rock walls and waited tensely. Nothing happened. “Data?” “I have a reading of multiple bio signs down each tunnel.”

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“Travers hand me a stun grenade.” Will primed the weapon and tossed it down the nearest tunnel. The concussive blast reverberated through the air around them, bringing down a fine shower of sand. Will nodded to the nearest group and they ran down the tunnel in a crouching run. Tense minutes followed as they waited, the reappearing crew shaking their heads as they emerged. “There’s nothing there Sir.” “Data?” The android frowned and moved to the tunnel wall, scanning it minutely and altering the information input on his tricorder several times. Eventually he stood back and folded the instrument. “False imagers Sir. They’re embedded in the walls, giving incorrect information to the tricorders.” “Dammit this is going to slow us down!” “That is precisely their purpose Sir.” Ignoring the remark, the scowling First Officer walked in a small circle. “Is there any way we can tell which is the right tunnel to take?” “One moment Commander.” Data again proffered his instrument and spent some slow minutes scanning the walls of all three tunnels. He paid particular attention to the rough protrusions of the rocks. “I believe this tunnel is the most likely suspect Sir.” “Why?” “There is more Cardassian DNA collected on the surface than the others suggesting more prolific use.” “Good enough. Right make sure your weapons are fully charged and set on ‘kill’. Let’s go.” With their phaser rifles held in front of them at the ready, the party fell into their groups and entered the tunnel. They had covered approximately two hundred metres when the first disruptor blast took out one of their party. “Return fire!” There ensued ten minutes of fierce fighting. They killed four Cardassians before the remainder fled down the tunnel into the darkness. Quickly at their heels, the Starfleet officers chased them and nearly blundered into a deadly crossfire. At another junction, the fleeing Cardassians ran down one tunnel while two groups of snipers waited in the other adjoining tunnels. As the Starfleet personnel emerged from their tunnel, the green light of disruptor beams lanced across the space, taking two more men. Concussive grenades were utilised and the threat nullified. The unconscious soldiers were manacled and left to be collected later. The fighting grew more intense the deeper they penetrated the tunnels. More Cardassians were confronting them and their well-disciplined defence made the job of defeating them that much harder. For over forty minutes Will and his men won metre by grudging metre and the death toll of the Cardassians grew. In a sudden lull, Will deployed some of his crew to outflank a pocket of resistance in a large room. He saw a group of four enemy escape down a tunnel and ordered Data to track them.

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Madred knew he was fighting for his life. After setting up a last ditch stand in the cavern behind him, he called his most trusted henchmen to his side and made his break for freedom. As they ran pell-mell down the tunnel, Madred sought to go to the prisoners. His Lieutenant, Brok grabbed his arm and shook his large grey head. “No Sir leave them!” “But I must have Picard! It took so much…” “Sir we don’t have time! If we stop for them we will be caught. Do you want that?” Madred took a precious second to look into the man’s eyes and knew in that instant he spoke the truth. Angrily he shook his arm free and checked the charge on his weapon. “Do we have time to kill them?” “No Sir. Come, we must hurry!” Curtly nodding his head, the four men turned and ran down the blackened tunnel, heading for the Launch Bay.

The first call on his combadge was nearly lost under the sounds of a pitched battle. Will darted from his position, flung himself on the ground and rolled. Shards of rock flew around him as a marksman tried to pick him off. The big man completed his roll and came up firing. The Cardassian got off one more shot before Will’s blast hit him in the head. His body stilled as it vaporised, his disruptor clattering to the floor. Will heard his combadge and flattened himself against the wall. Tapping the instrument, he shouted, “Riker here!” “Sir we’ve detected a small vessel. It’s powering up.” “Destroy it!” “Aye Sir.” Within seconds, Will and his party heard and felt the blasts from the orbiting ship. Four tremors shook the caves making dust and pebbles dislodge around them. “Now you bastards…time to pay the piper.”

When the first phaser strike hit the Launch Bay the four Cardassians bolted from the doomed craft. They made it as far as the blast doors when the subsequent bolts obliterated the shuttle and the surrounding bay. Blown off their feet, a dazed Madred climbed to his feet and looked around him. Of his three companions, two were dead, their mangled bodies twisted obscenely. Only Brok remained alive. “Can you walk?” The tall guard nodded and slowly regained his feet. With his master’s arm under his shoulder, they re-entered the tunnel heading for the prisoners.

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Having finally defeated the last of the defenders, Will gathered his men. He tapped his combadge and called Data. “Data where are you?” “Not far Commander. Take the middle tunnel and progress fifty-eight metres, then bear left. I will meet you.” ”Understood.” The men, now numbering thirty-two proceeded as instructed and met with the Second Officer. “Report Mr.Data.” Four Cardassians retreated down here. Since the phaser blasts from the Enterprise, I have detected movement down that tunnel.” Pointing to his left, Data looked at his tricorder and cautioned his compatriots. “They are approaching.” Will gestured to his men to back up around the bend and flatten against the walls. Nodding to Data, the two men secreted themselves and waited tensely. Out of the darkness two figures emerged, one assisting the other to walk. Will stepped away from the wall and shone his palm beacon in their faces. “Halt and drop you weapons!” The injured man immediately raised his disruptor and Data quickly shot him in the chest. The body disintegrated, the dissipating weight throwing his companion off balance. As he staggered, Will quickly stepped in and grabbed the disruptor, wrenching it from the man’s grip. “Stay where you are!” Motionless in a crouched position, the Cardassian slowly raised his hands and straightened. Will called for his men and, in the light of many torches they confronted their enemy. “Where are Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher?” The prisoner sighed and lowered his head. His hands were roughly manacled behind his back and hobbles were placed on his ankles. Will turned to his crew and issued his orders. “Spread out and search every tunnel, every cave. Report any findings to me.” The men dispersed and Will called the ship. “Enterprise this is Riker.” ”Enterprise here.” ”Scan for Human bio signs. Have Commander LaForge adjust the sensor array. And keep an eye out for approaching vessels. I want to know in advance if we’re going to have company.” ”Aye Sir.” Taking their captive by his manacled hands, Data and Will proceeded back the way they had come, deducing that was the direction the Cardassians had been taking. When they reached a small chamber, Will stopped and took Data’s tricorder. Using the palm beacon as a light source, he took and image of the prisoner and called the Enterprise.

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“Lieutenant I want this man identified if at all possible. Sending image now.” “Aye Sir.” The reply took only minutes. “Commander Riker?” ”Riker here.” ”Sir that image has been positively verified. It’s Madred Sir.” Will gritted his teeth and gripped his phaser rifle tightly. Turning to the man in question, he grabbed his tunic and pulled him close. “You low life bastard! What have you done to them?” Madred lifted his chin and smiled. His wink nearly broke Will’s control. “Enterprise calling Riker.” Through clenched teeth, Will answered. “Riker here.” “Sir we have a bare reading…two hundred and fifty-seven metres from your position in a north easterly direction. Two Human bio signs…fading life signs.” “Understood! Data bring that piece of shit with us.” As the three men made their way through the dark tunnels, Ensigns Sally Martin and Bruce Devlin were searching each cave they came to. They would cautiously poke their heads in, shine their palm beacons around then progress to the next room. Sally sighed as she approached the entrance of yet another cave and peeked around the entrance. Slowly she brought up the torch and scanned the room with the bright light. She yelped in fright as the beam passed over the naked Human body suspended from the roof. “Bruce get in here!” Her companion rushed to her side and gulped as his torch joined Sally’s. The woman rounded the figure and gasped in shock as she recognised the face of her Captain. “Oh God Sir…Bruce call Commander Riker quickly! Hold on Captain Picard, I’ll get you down.” He shook his head slowly and Sally noticed his lips moving. “What is it Sir?” In barely a whisper he said, “Doctor Crusher…beside me on the floor…” He turned his head slightly and Sally swung the beam, the light sliding over Beverly’s still form. “Oh no…”

Will severed communication and broke into a run. They were soon met by Ensign Devlin and led to the chamber. Taking one look at his friends he barked, ”Get him down!” Bruce went to the chain attached to the wall and struggled to undo it. Frustrated, He took the strain in one hand and, using his phaser with the other, sliced through the metal. Settling his weight against the load he gently lowered his Captain until he was prone on the floor. Jean-Luc vaguely heard Will calling for medical assistance but all he could

36


think of was Beverly. Gentle hands cradled his head as Will bent low to hear his Captain’s strained words. “Beverly…” “I’ll check Sir.” Will tenderly laid his friend’s head on the ground and moved to Beverly. His heart constricted in his chest as he saw her injuries but he felt her pulse and checked her respiration before reporting back to his Commander. “She’s alive Sir and help is on the way.” Jean-Luc painfully nodded and coughed up some bloody mucous. Will stood and went to their prisoner. “Data search him thoroughly. I want the control for the manacles.” Nodding, Data quickly completed his task and handed Will a small touch pad. The First Officer glared at the Cardassian then went and knelt by his Captain’s side. “Here Sir, let me take those off.” He activated the control and, after a few abortive attempts, the manacles clicked open. With great tenderness Will eased the metal cuffs off Jean-Luc’s hands and winced at the mutilated skin and obviously broken bones. He was gently pushed aside as the medical teams arrived and started to treat their patients. After he’d assisted in freeing Beverly’s hands, all he could do was stand back and watch. Data issued the necessary orders to finish their mission. Prisoners had to be collected and the dead and wounded retrieved. He ordered his men to return the surface and await transport from the moon. Debriefing would take place on the ship. Madred went with the crew, his immediate destination, the brig. After some minutes of silent introspection, Will turned to his Second Officer. “How did the med teams get here so quickly?” Data allowed a small smile. “Geordi was able to augment the transporters. The team beamed down in the main chamber.” “Remind me to thank him.” ”He was…motivated. How bad is it Commander?” Will sighed and faced his friend. “I don’t know…bad. I’m worried how they will cope with this, especially Captain Picard. Once in Madred’s hands was bad enough, but twice? And with Beverly being tortured too…I only hope we can get them through this.” Data cocked his head and turned his attention to the working med teams. “Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher have many friends who care a great deal for them. Will they not seek help?” “It’s hard for them Data, they’re ultra private individuals. When was the last time you heard either of them talk about anything personal?” Data pondered this, creating then deleting computations at a breathtaking speed. “You are correct. I know that the Captain had…difficulties…regaining his perspective after Madred’s last assault. Will this event hinder him further?” “I think so my friend.” “What can we do to help?” “Just be there for them Data…and pray.”

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Data refrained from asking to which deity. Instead he directed his attention to the med teams, ready to act if they required him.

Selar, the Vulcan Doctor and second in command of Sickbay frowned over her scanner as she observed the slow trickle of blood emanating from Jean-Luc’s anus. Seeing the internal damage, she administered a coagulant and a powerful analgesic before stabilising his broken bones. The multiple burns she put in stasis and he was draped in a warming thermal blanket. Finished for the moment, she watched as Tom Johnson, another Sickbay Doctor finished his treatment of Beverly. They stood together and Selar ordered the deployment of the stretchers. They were assembled and placed beside each patient then, with great care, they were gently lifted and settled on the apparatuses. Will pushed himself off the wall and gestured to Selar. “Follow us.” They soon arrived in the chamber and transported back to the Enterprise. Deanna was waiting as they rematerialised. She stood back as the med teams made their way to Sickbay and Will watched until the doors closed. Deanna plucked at his sleeve and he looked down at her. “How bad?” “Bad. Madred had them.” Deanna nodded. “I know. I ordered him strip-searched. He’s now dressed in overalls and occupying Detention Room two.” “Have you been down there?” Deanna shook her head and crossed her arms. “No I thought you might like to be the one…” ”You bet I would! I had the opportunity to vaporise that bastard and I resisted but hear me Deanna…this time that scum will pay!” “Are you going to contact his government?” Will nodded decisively. “First order of business. I’m going to the Ready Room to put in the call right now. You go to Sickbay and keep me appraised. I’ll be down as soon as I can.” Deanna nodded but caught his arm before he left the room. “Steady Will. Centre yourself before you confront Madred.” The big man took a deep breath and found a smile for his lover. “You are my rock Deanna.” “I know.”

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In Sickbay Jean-Luc was gently placed on the surgical bed and neural inducers were attached to his temples. Bloody tears slid from his eyes and he couldn’t stop them, try as he might Selar bent low over her patient and spoke softly. “We are going to operate on you now Captain. We will repair all your internal damage and fuse your broken bones. Your burns will be treated and when you wake you will pain free and in the recovery room. I am going to take some cells from your larynx and begin the process to clone you a replacement. As a result you will not be able to talk for some days. Do you understand Sir?” He nodded and frowned as the tears persisted. Selar retrieved a tissue and gently wiped his eyes. “Relax now Captain.” The inducers were activated and Jean-Luc’s world faded to black.

Beverly coughed painfully and tried to talk. What came out was a hoarse whisper and another cough. Tom came to her side and gripped her hand. “Doctor Crusher please stop trying to talk. You have damaged your vocal chords and they need rest to heal.” She shook her head and persisted. “I need to talk to Selar.” “Doctor Selar is in surgery.” Beverly digested that information then changed tracks. “What are my injuries?” Tom sighed and tried to placate her. Big mistake. Ignoring the pain it caused, she raised her voice. “I said Doctor, what are my injuries?” Straightening, Doctor Johnson picked up the PADD with her notes. “You had damaged the nerves in your hands, shoulders and neck. There was significant ligament and muscle trauma to the arms and shoulders. You had several deep burns to your body requiring intensive regeneration treatments. There was bruising to your face, an incision of your right cheek and you were significantly dehydrated. Most of these injuries have been successfully treated and the regen therapy will commence shortly.” “Fine. I want to see Selar the minute she’s out of surgery. Understood?” “Yes Doctor.”

Will sat back in the Ready Room chair and waited as his call to the Cardassian government was put through. His mind drifted to his friends in Sickbay, his memory furnishing visions of their ghastly burns and his Captain’s red eyes. “You’ll pay this time Madred…I swear!”

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The monitor on the desk displayed the Cardassian crest and the image of the Under Consul appeared. “I am Urvok, Under Consul. How can I help you Commander?” “Thank you for talking to me Urvok. We have just rescued our Captain and Chief Medical Officer from Dellos V. They were being held captive…and tortured by Gul Madred. Were his actions sanctioned by your council?” A look of shock, followed by a sneer of distaste crossed the Cardassian’s face. “Let me assure you Commander…Madred is no longer a Gul and does not have the accordance of the council! After the last…unpleasantness regarding your Captain, he was demoted and reassigned to a distant outpost. Even his wife left him. Please Commander, I can’t be more implicit…he acted alone.” Will sat back and picked up Jean-Luc’s crystal shard and turned it slowly in his fingers. “He had twenty-five fully armed Cardassian soldiers with him.” Urvok frowned and looked down at his PADD. “When he was our chief…investigator…he engendered a certain amount of respect. Some of the men who served with him most likely wished to stay with him. Loyalty is not confined to our species as you well know.” ”It appears he organised the kidnap of our officers through an Orion intermediary. Do you know anything about that?” “An Orion? One moment Commander.” The screen went blank and Will turned his attention to the crystal, remembering the many occasions he’d seen the Captain draw comfort from handling it. His musings were cut short by the reappearance of Urvok. “Commander…it seems that in times gone by…not for some time you understand…we did use an Orion Captain for certain…covert…operations.” “Does he have a name?” “Captain Isan Urdon. He has a Broud type ship called the Sturn. He has a collected group of…compatriots…loosely affiliated with him by the chance of bounty. His Second in Command…Lurs Fragg is wanted throughout the sector for rape and kidnap. A band of brigands to be sure.” “And you haven’t used their services for some time?” ”No Commander, we no longer do such things.” “We have reason to believe that Urdon and his entire crew were killed along with the destruction of their ship about two days ago, near the Goran expanse.” ”Well I doubt anyone will mourn their passing. Commander Riker I must pass on the profound apologies from the council on this distasteful matter. It is most unfortunate.” Will nodded and sat forward. “Yes it is Urvok. Thank you for your input. Enterprise out.” Will touched the console and the screen reverted to the Starfleet logo. He sat back in his chair and slapped his combadge. “Riker to Troi.” ”Troi here.” ”How are they?” “Captain Picard is still in surgery and Beverly’s very quiet Will…I’m worried about her.” ”I’ll come right down.” “Ok, see you then.”

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Beverly turned on to her side and tried to ignore the presence of the empathic Counsellor. Her first regen treatment had been completed and she waited impatiently for news of her lover. Free of pain, she struggled to push her vivid memories aside as the disturbing visions crowded into her tired mind. Deanna pulled her seat closer and settled her hand gently on the forearm of her best friend. “Beverly…” Shaking her head, Beverly screwed her eyes shut and whispered, “Not now Deanna. I don’t want to talk to anyone.” “Beverly you’re in pain and the only way to ease that pain is to talk to me. Let me help you!” “I can’t! You don’t understand…just leave it alone!” Tears seeped from under her eyes and tracked across her face to wet the pillow. Deanna centred herself against the waves of pain and anguish that radiated from her friend and resolved to stay, silent if need be. Will arrived and stood beside the two women, a look of deep concern on his face. Gesturing to the Counsellor, they met in Beverly’s office. “How is she?” Deanna shook her head and sat down. “She’s in pain Will, terrible pain and she won’t let me help her.” ”Why?” “I don’t know! Every time I try to reach her she shuts me out. Something’s happened to them, something catastrophic…each time the Captain’s name is mentioned she shrinks away as if it causes her physical pain.” Will turned a chair and straddled it, resting his chin on his folded arms. Deanna sighed. “We know they were both tortured, maybe Madred pitted them against each other.” “Perhaps but I would’ve thought their love for each other would have sustained them, not caused them further pain.” “Will think about it. Of all the things you could use to break Captain Picard, what would give you the greatest leverage?” “Oh my God.” “Uh huh. Could you stand watching me being tortured?” Will shook his head, a scowl appearing on his face. “What an absolute bastard Madred is.” “He knew Will. Do you remember reading Captain Picard’s report of his previous experience with Madred? He was offered freedom…Madred said he would get what he wanted from ‘the female’…Beverly. The Captain didn’t know if he had her or not, yet he chose to stay with him and let the torture continue to protect her. Madred recognised this as Captain Picard’s one weakness, so he orchestrated this kidnap to get both of them. His intention all along was to use Beverly to break the Captain and he didn’t care how he did it.” Will stood and placed the chair back by the desk.

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“So Beverly must feel, at least partially, responsible.” “Yes.” Will walked around the desk and propped his backside on the edge, crossing his long legs at the ankles and folding his arms. “Well how can we help her?” Deanna took a moment to ‘plex’, tapping the bundle of nerves below her ear. Calmed, she looked up at her lover and took a large breath. “We can’t do anything until she opens up to us.” “But Deanna…the Captain will need her!” “I know Will, I know.” Five and a half hours after he entered the surgical suite, Jean-Luc was wheeled into recovery as the staff went about connecting him to the monitors and positioning the regen beams. His eyes were bandaged and a regeneration beam was focussed on them. His numerous burns were also under the bright blue light of the regen therapy and he was connected to a bio waste unit. His unconscious body was gently massaged to relieve muscle soreness and the small casts around his wrists were put in stasis. When the medical teams were finished, orderlies dressed him in Sickbay pyjama pants and covered him with a thermal blanket. Selar stood by and watched as each procedure was carried out and, satisfied that he was resting comfortably, went to see Beverly. As Selar approached Beverly’s bed, she noted that the Doctor was curled up in the foetal position. Thinking that perhaps she was asleep, Selar stood by her bed only a moment before turning to leave. Beverly’s fingers gripped her coat sleeve. “How is he?” Turning back to her patient, Selar raised a perfect eyebrow. “Captain Picard is resting comfortably.” “Is he awake.” “No, not yet.” “The…internal damage…how bad was it?” “Considerable. The rectum was torn in several places and there was a small rupture of the lower bowel. We have repaired the trauma but he will be connected to a bio waste unit for a few days. He will be unable to pass any solid waste until then. I am curious Doctor…how did he sustain the injuries?” Beverly’s contracted silence troubled the Vulcan but she said nothing. Instead she informed Beverly of Jean-Luc’s many injuries. “Captain Picard had broken both wrists. He had sustained three broken ribs and there was extensive heavy bruising to his stomach, liver, pancreas and intestine. His kidneys showed signs of considerable trauma and an area of his right temple exhibited damage to the underlying meninges. He has deep burns to many parts of his body, all of which are being successfully treated with regen therapy.” “What about his eyes?” “We have applied a healing matrix, bandaged them in a bio-web film and placed them under a strong regen field. I feel confident the blood vessels will heal in approximately ten hours. His sight should be unimpaired.” Beverly sighed and closed her eyes.

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“Good.” “Do you want to see him Doctor?” There was a long silence before Beverly shook her head. “No…that won’t be necessary.” “But Doctor…” “I said NO Selar! Dammit haven’t you got something better to do?” With both eyebrows raised, the Vulcan physician gripped her hands behind her back and abruptly left the angry redhead. She met Will and Deanna coming out of the office. Will tilted his head. “The Captain…how is he?” ”Captain Picard is resting comfortably.” “Prognosis?” “Physically he will recover fully.” “And mentally?” Selar lowered her head a moment and gathered her thoughts. “He has been through a severe trauma, one that will bring up unpleasant memories. Undoubtedly he will require Counsellor Troi’s professional help…they both will.” Will nodded and placed his warm hand on Deanna’s shoulder. “I’m on my way to the brig. I’ll let you know how I get on.” Deanna smiled up at the big man and caught his hand. “Stay steady Will…don’t let him get at you.” He winked at the women, causing Selar to raise an eyebrow and Deanna to chuckle. She watched his broad back until the doors closed on him.

The large room containing Detention Room two was dark, except for the lighted cell. The hum of the powerful force field was the only sound as Will strode in and came to a halt in front of the cell. Madred sat on his bunk, his hands folded on his lap, his head bowed. Sensing Will’s presence, his head slowly came up and a spark of recognition travelled across his eyes. “So! Have you come to gloat?” “Shut up Madred. I ask the questions here.” “Really? And who are you?” “Not that it should concern you, but I am Commander William Riker, First Officer and second in command.” “I see…Jean-Luc couldn’t make it?” “Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher are both in Sickbay recovering from injuries you inflicted.” Madred said nothing so Will continued. “You arranged for their kidnapping from Arrgas?” “I might have.” “You used Orions…Urdon and Fragg.” “Did I?” “How much did it cost you?”

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Madred’s cruel laugh echoed around the room. “Oh Commander you are too amusing! What did it cost?” I’m in your gaol am I not?” “What was their price?” Madred drew one leg up and clasped it with his hands. “If you must know, they asked for twenty thousand bars of latinum.” Will’s eyes opened wide. “And you paid?” “I think not.” “You didn’t pay?” “Let’s just say…they thought I paid and leave it at that.” Will paced slowly back and forth in front of the holding cell. “Their ship was destroyed with all hands. Did you have anything to do with that?” “I might have…my memory’s not as sharp as it used to be.” “How did you do it?” “I might have placed a small thermo nuclear device in their…payment. But then again, maybe I didn’t…who knows. Space is a dangerous place.” “Why did you want Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher?” Madred yawned expansively and turned to stretch out on his bunk. Placing his hands behind his head, he chuckled. “You know…I like this kind of interrogation! It’s very…civilised.” Swallowing his anger, Will tried a new track. “Your government has told me that after your abortive attempt to break Captain Picard you were demoted and sent to a distant outpost. They said even your wife left you. How is you daughter Madred? What was her name…Jel-Ora?” Madred moved to his feet with liquid speed that surprised Will. He stepped up close to the force field making it hum louder. “Shut your mouth Human! You’re not worthy to speak her name!” “Out with it Madred! You failed the first time and were humiliated for it. You decided to exact revenge by kidnapping and torturing Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher to satisfy your own damaged pride!” “And what if I did? All you can do to me is try me in one of your insipid courts and incarcerate me in a penal colony where I, after undergoing remedial therapy, will emerge none the worse to go on my way. I bet it won’t be so easy for my…subjects.” “You’re a low life sick bastard Madred, do you know that?” Madred’s laugh rankled Will, causing him to turn and leave the room. The Cardassian’s voice rang out. “Tell Jean-Luc I’m thinking of him.”

The warmth of the regen fields worked through his consciousness. Sighing JeanLuc stretched experimentally and winced at the soreness he felt. A gentle hand rested on his shoulder and he recognised the voice of Alyssa Ogawa. “Stay still Captain. I’ll get Doctor Selar for you.”

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He nodded and frowned when the tears started again. He tried to raise his hands to his eyes but found he couldn’t move them. Concern started to build as he tested the strength of the bonds that held him. He stilled immediately when Selar spoke. “Captain Picard please refrain from moving. Your wrists are in casts and have been placed in stasis to assist healing. You cannot talk but I will endeavour to allay your concerns. You have a bio-web film around your eyes to facilitate healing. It will be removed in three hours and I envisage no complications. Your body was extensively injured and you had several deep burns. They are being treated by regen therapy and your internal injuries have been healed. However you are connected to a bio waste unit and will remain so for a few days. Due to the nature of your internal damage, you will be unable to pass solid waste for the interim. I do expect a full recovery. If you have any questions, I will allow you to whisper.” He nodded slowly and she bent forward to hear. “Doctor Crusher?” “She is progressing well. Her injuries have been healed and she is currently undergoing regen therapy.” “Can I see her?” Selar didn’t know what to say. The CMO’s rejection of him had been emphatic. “Perhaps later Captain.” He nodded again and Selar checked the monitors. “I see you are in discomfort Captain. I will administer an analgesic. It should last you for several hours.” He felt the cold nozzle of a hypospray touch against his neck and heard the characteristic hiss. His body relaxed as the pain faded away, his disquiet about Beverly didn’t fade however. Something was wrong.

Will went to the Bridge and sat in the Command chair fuming with pent up rage. Deanna came up to the command centre after feeling him from decks away. She stood before him and gestured to the Ready Room. He rose slowly from the chair and nodded to Data. “You have the Bridge Mr.Data.” “Aye Sir.” When he entered the Ready Room Deanna stood in front of him and gripped his arms. “Let it go Will!” “I can’t! That bastard planned this whole thing because his fucking pride was dented! He killed a whole shipload of Orions and sacrificed the lives of his men to see through a plan of revenge. God Deanna what I wouldn’t give for ten minutes alone with him…” “Will! Calm down. You can’t help anyone in this state. Why don’t you go to the Holodeck and take it out on an ambo-jitsu opponent?” Will puffed out a breath and looked down at his Counsellor. “When did you get so wise?” Deanna slapped his chest and chuckled. “Just remember it won’t be Beverly that mends your broken bones. Concentrate!”

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“Yes Ma’am.”

For two days Beverly resisted all efforts to get her to visit the Captain. Once her regen therapy was completed, she discharged herself from Sickbay and took to her quarters, seeing no one. Deanna tried unsuccessfully to talk to her, but she either shut her out or became unreasonably angry. On the morning of the third day, Deanna was with Jean-Luc. “Well Sir it looks like being a big day for you. The casts come off you wrists, the regen therapy is finished, and you’ll be disconnected from the bio waste unit. How do you feel?” His face a stern mask, he shrugged and cast a distasteful glance at the bio waste unit. Deanna leaned forward to hear him. “Where is Beverly?” “She’s in her quarters Captain.” “Deanna…why won’t she see me?” The Counsellor frowned and held his hand, noticing that it was hot. Slightly alarmed, she raised her hand and felt his forehead. “Captain…you’re running a temperature.” Before he could say anything, Deanna left his side and went to find Selar. She found her in the office. “Captain Picard has a temperature.” Selar stood and retrieved a PADD. “His temperature was slightly elevated as of 04.30 hours. I will come and check him.” The two women re-entered Jean-Luc’s room and Selar scanned him with a tricorder. She frowned and checked the monitor before picking up a hypospray and selecting a vial of drugs. She injected him them re scanned his lower abdomen. Deanna was growing concerned. “What is it?” Speaking to the Captain, she said clinically, “You have developed some abscesses in your rectum and lower bowel. Your temperature is at 40C. I do not understand why this has happened but we will endeavour to treat it.” Seeing that her Commander wished to speak, she leaned forward to hear him. “Can I still be disconnected from the bio waste unit?” “Yes Sir. I think the area could do without the intrusion. You will be given drugs to liquefy your waste, making it easier to pass.” Over the next hour, Jean-Luc was freed from his medical restraints. Soon he was lying free on his bed, not connected to anything. He was listless however and only nodded when he was told he could get out of bed. With the help of an orderly, he went to the

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bathroom to shower and shave. The orderly reported to Selar that his Captain had a vivid rash on his torso. Selar devoted her time checking the databanks for a diagnosis. Deanna had a better idea.

Standing outside Beverly’s quarters, Deanna pressed the door annunciator again and sighed. About to use her override, the doors hissed open and an angry Doctor demanded, “What the hell do you want?” Swallowing her own ire, Deanna looked directly into Beverly’s eyes. “Beverly the Captain’s sick and getting sicker and Selar doesn’t know how to treat him.” Beverly frowned and lowered her head, retreating into her cabin. Deanna followed her. “What are his symptoms?” “He has internal abscesses…in his rectum and lower bowel…he has a high temperature and a rash has recently developed on his torso.” Beverly sat heavily on the sofa, holding her head in her hands. “Oh God…no.” Deanna sat with her and took one of her hands. “Beverly what is it?” In a small tear stained voice, she said, “Tell Selar to scan for Orion venereal diseases.” “What? How…?” “Oh God Deanna…he was raped! Twice…and I could do nothing! I just stood there and watched as the most noble, gentle, loving man I know was brutalised and humiliated. Oh Deanna it was dreadful…” “Come with me Beverly. Come to Sickbay and see him. He’s been asking for you every day…” “I can’t! I can’t face him!” “Why? He’ll understand. He must know you couldn’t have done anything.” “It’s not that Deanna…it’s much worse than that.” Deanna slid off the sofa and knelt in front of the distraught woman. Holding both her hands she beseeched her. “Tell me what it is Beverly! We can handle it together.” Shaking her head, Beverly stood and left Deanna kneeling on the floor. “I think you should go Counsellor. Go and tell Selar what she needs to know.” “But Beverly…” “GO!” Then in a softer voice, “Please go Deanna…you can’t help.” Bewildered Deanna rose slowly and walked to the door. She tried one more time before she left. “Beverly please…talk to me…” The Doctor stepped away from the door sensor and the portal whispered shut. Deanna stood staring at the closed doors then turned on her heel and made her way quickly to Sickbay.

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Selar was in the office pouring over the medical database. Deanna went in and took a position in front of the desk, garnering Selar’s attention. “Yes Counsellor?” “I have just been to see Doctor Crusher. She suggests you scan for Orion venereal diseases.” The Vulcan’s eyebrows rose and she swivelled her chair. “That would be highly unlikely.” ”Not if the Captain had been the victim of multiple rape.” “I see. That would also explain the internal damage…and the reluctance of Doctor Crusher to discuss it. I will scan him immediately.” Picking up a tricorder, she inputted some commands and entered the Captain’s room. She emerged shortly and met with Deanna in the main body of Sickbay. “Doctor Crusher was correct. Captain Picard has a type ‘D’ infection. We can treat it with an organism specific antibiotic. He should be free of the infection in four days. The abscesses will heal quickly once the virus is eradicated.” “Have you told him what he has?” “Not yet. I though it would be expedient if you were there.” Deanna nodded and looked to his door. “Well, shall we?” Jean-Luc was lying quietly, trying to read, but his high temperature was making him restless and he couldn’t concentrate on the words. He was almost glad to see Deanna. He smiled, but it faded upon seeing the concerned looks on their faces. Selar spoke first. “Captain Picard we have discovered what has caused your abscesses and sickness.” His eyebrows shot up and he raised himself up from his pillows. “You have contracted an Orion venereal disease.” A look of shock passed over his face and settled into disgust. His face reddened and he turned his head trying to distance himself from the two women. Deanna came forward and took his hand. “It’s all right Sir…we know what happened.” His head snapped around and he glared at the Counsellor. In a ragged whisper he commanded, “Get out!” Deanna tried to placate him. “Captain please…” “I said get out…both of you!” They had no alternative but to obey him. As the reached the door, Selar turned and said, “I will return shortly to administer the first of your drug therapy.” He turned his face and scowled. The tears returned.

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After Selar had administered the first treatment, Jean-Luc lay in his bed seething with rage. The tears flowed unhindered down his face and he savagely wiped at them. When Will came to his door, he turned his face and ignored him. “Captain? I just came down to give you my report.” Jean-Luc sniffed and again wiped at his tears. Reluctantly facing his First Officer, he was relieved when Will ignored his distress. In a rough whisper he managed, “Report.” “I have contacted the Cardassian government Sir. They have disavowed any knowledge of Madred’s actions. They insist he acted alone, without the sanction of the council. I interrogated Madred and…” “You what?” “I interrogated Madred Sir.” “When? Where?” Will frowned at his Captain’s agitation. “Yesterday…in the brig Sir.” Jean-Luc’s breathing stopped and his heart accelerated. “He’s here? On board?” “Yes Sir. Until Starfleet tells us where to take him…” Jean-Luc held up his hand, silencing the officer. His whispering voice showing the strain, he asked, “Which cell?” “Detention Room two.” Closing his eyes, Jean-Luc let out his breath and waved Will away. “Very good Commander. You’re dismissed.” Not convinced his Captain was all right, Will hesitated. “Sir?” Hard eyes glared at him followed by a curt shake of the head. “Dismissed!” “Aye Sir.” Will left and sought Selar who was in the microbiology lab. “Doctor I’ve just been to see the Captain. He seems a little…agitated.” Selar glanced around to ensure their privacy then enlightened the First Officer. “We have recently found Captain Picard was the victim of multiple rape. As a result of those assaults, he contracted an Orion venereal disease. He has not received the news very well.” “Oh my God…what else will he have to bear?” “His treatment is straight forward and he should recover in four days. The stigma attached however, may take significantly longer to dispel.” “Shit! This is just too much! How did you find out?” Selar put down the PADD she’d been consulting and cocked her head. “Counsellor Troi got the information from Doctor Crusher.” Nodding, Will turned to leave. “Call me if you think he needs to talk.” ”Very well Commander.”

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Jean-Luc lay in his bed, his mind whirling in thought. Throwing off his blankets, he donned his robe and slippers and carefully left his room. With nobody noticing, he surreptitiously exited Sickbay and made his way to the turbolift. “Detention cells.” The lift hurried to its destination and Jean-Luc left slowly. Looking up and down the corridor, he ascertained he was alone before approaching the brig’s doors. They sighed open and the Ensign on duty got to his feet when he recognised his Captain. Gesturing with a finger over his shoulder, he dismissed the young man and slowly walked up to the force field. Madred was lying on his bunk and soon realised he was being watched. He turned his head and a slow grin slid across his face as he slothfully rose to his feet. He ambled up close to the energy field and clasped his hands behind his back. “Well Picard it’s about time! I was beginning to think you were ignoring me.” Jean-Luc said nothing. He just stared at the captive. “So tell me Jean-Luc how are you? All mended? And what of the lovely Doctor Crusher? I take it she’s been…repaired?” Still saying nothing, Jean-Luc frowned as a single tear escaped and flowed down his cheek. Madred saw it and laughed cruelly. “Oh come now Jean-Luc! You can do better than that. Haven’t you anything to say to me? You were full of defiance not long ago.” Another tear appeared and Jean-Luc wiped at it distractedly. Enthralled, Madred asked softly, “What’s the matter Jean-Luc? What is it you Humans say? Has a cat got your tongue?” Jean-Luc stepped back from the force field and lowered his head. Madred laughed again. “Don’t tell me you’re having psychological problems Picard! Well you can’t blame me; I only did to you what was destined to happen. You are a toy Jean-Luc! A toy for me, a toy for the Orion who raped you, a toy for your government to manipulate…you have been at the mercy of your superiors for years Picard. Didn’t you know?” A shard of pain stabbed at his heart. In his mind he felt his father’s distain and his brother’s cruelty, then the years of torment at the Academy as bigger and older classmates mercilessly teased him. He tried to settle on Beverly, believing their love was unassailable. Madred’s words sinuously slipped through his defences. “Even your lover Jean-Luc…she used you didn’t she? What did she say? Give in JeanLuc. I can’t take it any more?” In a sudden blinding rage Jean-Luc stepped rapidly to the weapons locker and removed a phaser. He positioned himself at the force field controls and deactivated the field. Then he slowly levelled the phaser at Madred’s head and set the weapon on kill.

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The young Ensign Jean-Luc had dismissed was unsure exactly what he should do. His Commanding Officer had relieved him, but the Captain was in Sickbay attire and, as far as he knew, off duty. Deciding to err on the side of safety, he called Will. “Ensign Firth to Commander Riker.” ”Riker here.” ”Sir Captain Picard has just come down to the detention cell and relieved me. I’m not sure what to do Sir.” “Stay where you are Firth, I’ll be right there.”

Tears slowly coursed down Jean-Luc’s face but his hand was rock-steady. Madred stood perfectly still as the tension rose. Testing Jean-Luc’s resolve, Madred again baited him. “Did you enjoy it when the Orion raped you? Did you resist? Or were you forced to accept what happened to protect your lover? I told you Jean-Luc…your love for each other would be your undoing.” Jean-Luc slowly lowered the phaser as more tears poured down his haggard face. Seeing his opportunity, Madred pressed home his advantage. “You’re nothing Picard…just something to be used at the whim of others. Tell me what does it feel like…to be so utterly worthless?” Jean-Luc’s eyes settled on the phaser and he slowly raised it until it pointed at his own head. “That’s it Jean-Luc. Think of how much better you’ll feel.” Will arrived at the detention cell and the large doors parted. He was confronted with a desperate situation. Quickly he shouted, “Computer deactivate all weapons and restore force field in Detention Room two!” As he shouted his orders, Jean-Luc pressed the trigger. Nothing happened. He pressed again and again, only stopping when Will’s large hand closed over his. “Easy Captain. Let me have it now.” Madred’s harsh laughed punctuated the tense silence. “Oh what a pity! Things were just getting interesting.” “Shut your mouth Madred or I’ll shut it for you!” As Will shouted at the prisoner, Jean-Luc looked uncomprehendingly at his First Officer. His eyes darted about, a look of confusion on his face. The tears continued. Will wrapped his arms around his friend and called to the computer, “Two to transport directly to Sickbay.” Just before they dematerialised, Madred’s voice rang out. “How many lights Jean-Luc?”

Sickbay was a hive of activity when they rematerialised. Selar came straight to them and immediately realised something was very wrong. Will had his Captain in a bear

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hug, a phaser in one of his large hands. Will allowed two nurses to ease Jean-Luc from his embrace and lead him to his room. While they encouraged him to get into bed, Will took Selar to the office. He slammed the phaser down onto the desk and swore bitterly. Selar waited patiently. “He tried to kill himself!” “Explain Commander.” “When I arrived at the brig, Madred was talking to him. The force field was down and the Captain was pointing the weapon at his own head. I deactivated the phaser just as he fired. When it didn’t discharge, he tried again and again, in fact he didn’t stop until I took the damn weapon from him.” “I see. Do you know what it was Madred was saying?” “No.” “Very well. I will discuss this with Counsellor Troi. In the mean time I will sedate him.” Jean-Luc watched as the nurse pulled up the blankets in her efforts to make him comfortable. In a dream-like state, he grabbed the covers and pulled them down as he swung his legs off the bed. “Sir? We need you to settle in bed.” In his rough whisper he said, “I need to go to the bathroom.” “We can take care of that here Sir.” He summoned a glare and ground out, “I want to go to the toilet!” The young nurse was sufficiently intimidated and stood to one side as he brushed past. He left the room and looked about, spying a tray of instruments nearby. Altering his course, he slipped by and picked up a scalpel. He entered the toilet and locked the door. Sitting on the bowl, he pushed up his sleeve and made a fist, then calmly ran the blade deeply from wrist to elbow, opening the ulnar artery. He dispassionately changed hands and repeated the operation on the other arm. Dropping the scalpel, he leaned back against the wall and sighed, closing his eyes. Two tears slipped free.

Selar entered his room and addressed the nurse. “Where is Captain Picard?” ”He went to the bathroom Doctor.” Selar went to enter his private facility when the nurse interrupted. “Sir, he went to the one outside.” With raised eyebrows, the Vulcan went to the main bathroom and knocked on the locked door. “Captain Picard do you require any assistance?” Silence greeted her enquiry and she registered the arrival of Will.

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“What is it?” “Captain Picard is in here. The door is locked and he is not answering me.” Will stood up to the door and raised his voice. “Sir? It’s Will Captain. Open the door please Sir.” Nothing. Selar went back into Sickbay and retrieved a small device. Returning, she eased past Will and placed the instrument against the door lock. A green light came on and the latch slid open. Selar slowly opened the door and quickly called for assistance. “Commander help me!” Will barged into the room and stifled a gag at the gory sight. Together they laid the Captain on the floor as medical personnel rushed to give aid. Tourniquets were placed around his upper arms as plasma was forced into his veins. His unconscious body was placed on a gurney and taken straight to surgery. Will savagely threw an absorbent gel pack on the floor and called Deanna.

“Slow down Will. Tell me what happened.” The tall First Officer sighed out a frustrated breath and paced the confines of the office, his hands cutting through the air, giving form to his words. “About half an hour ago I got a call from the Ensign on duty in Madred’s cell. The Captain had relieved him and he didn’t know what to do. I went straight down and when I arrived, Captain Picard was aiming a phaser at his own head and the force field was down. I ordered the deactivation of the weapon and the reinstalment of the force field, but the Captain fired anyway and when the weapon didn’t discharge, he continued to fire. He didn’t stop until I took the phaser from his hand.” “What was Madred doing?” “The bastard was baiting him! Taunting and laughing.” “Then what happened?” “I had us transported here, to Sickbay and while I was telling Selar what had transpired, the Captain left his room, picked up a scalpel and locked himself in the main toilets. By the time we got the door open he’d opened the arteries in both arms. God Deanna I can’t believe it. Jean-Luc Picard attempting suicide? What the hell’s going on?” Deanna sat quietly absorbing all the information. She plexed and thoughtfully looked at her lover. “We need to talk to Beverly.” Calling Alyssa Ogawa over, Will explained their impending absence and requested to be kept informed of the Captain’s condition. They soon left Sickbay, their minds determined to get through to the sullen Doctor.

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Beverly ignored the first trills of her door chime. Curled up on her sofa, she hadn’t slept or eaten since she’d been back aboard. Her hair was a tangled mess, her eyes red and swollen from the insistent tears. The second call from her door roused her and she glared in the door’s direction. Quietly she addressed the computer. “Who is at my door?” “Commander William Riker and Counsellor Deanna Troi.” Raising her voice she called, “Go away. I don’t want to see anybody!” From the speaker overhead, Deanna’s voice filtered through. “Beverly it’s very important. We need to speak to you.” “Look Deanna…” Will’s deep voice interrupted her. “Beverly it’s the Captain…He…” “I’m sure Selar can deal with anything that…” ”You don’t understand Beverly. He tried to commit suicide.” ”What?” Deanna’s worried voice stunned her. “Beverly he tried twice and damn near succeeded. He’s in surgery as we speak Please, let us in.” “Her soft command was heard by the computer. “Come in.” The doors sighed open and the two officers entered, trying not to react at seeing Beverly’s appearance. Deanna sat beside the Doctor; Will seated himself in front of her. Silently Beverly raised her head, a look of shock marring her features. Quickly Deanna related what had happened. Beverly listened and directed her first question to Will. “In what way did he cut his arms?” Will pushed up his sleeve and demonstrated with his finger. “From wrist to elbow…both arms.” “Oh God.” Deanna cast a glance at Will and took Beverly’s hands in her own. “Beverly…what happened in the caves?” Beverly closed her eyes freeing tears, which flowed down her face. She lowered her head and allowed a sob to escape. “Deanna…” She shook her head and Will settled on his knees in front of her. He gently gripped her arms and pulled her head to his shoulder. She resisted only a second before resting her head and sobbing quietly. They allowed her the time she needed to cry and eventually her sobs trailed off to sniffles and gasps. She raised her head of her own accord and Deanna gave her some tissues. When she’d regained her composure, she stared down at her hands, twisting restlessly in her lap. Haltingly she began. “You know… about the rapes?” The two officers nodded, saying nothing. “He was forced to submit without resistance. Each time the rapist came to him, he threatened me with violence if Jean-Luc tried to defend himself. He was completely helpless, his hands were manacled behind his back…he was naked…it was dreadful…

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humiliating and agonisingly painful…and I could do nothing! I couldn’t even scream my anger at them. Later, I was permitted to treat his injuries but he was too badly hurt for me to completely heal him. After Madred had us, Jean-Luc started to bleed anally again and Madred wanted to know why. Neither of us would tell him so he tortured us in the hope we would break. Jean-Luc resisted, but I failed. I simply couldn’t take it any more and I begged Jean-Luc to give in. He withstood one more bout of torture before he succumbed. He’d been so strong…at one stage he told me he loved me…it gave me such a powerful surge of defiance…but it was all for nothing. I capitulated and brought him down with me. The most noble, brave, loving man I’ve ever known was defeated and it was my fault.” Deanna took her hands and tried to calm her. “Beverly…” “No Deanna! Don’t you see? Madred’s won! He’s subjugated Jean-Luc to the point where he could cajole him into attempting suicide! And it’s MY FAULT! I’ve destroyed the man I love.” Will looked at the Counsellor; his eyes brimming with unshed tears. His voice strained he gripped her arms. “Beverly right now you’re the only one who can bring him back from this insanity. These past few days…all he’s done is ask for you. Don’t you think, if he had anything but love for you, that he would ask for you so fervently?” Beverly’s tear filled eyes sought out Will’s and she shrugged her shoulders. Just then a call came through from Sickbay. “Selar to Riker.” ”Riker here.” ”Commander Captain Picard is out of surgery. The repairs were successful and he is in recovery under guard and confined within a restraining field.” “Is he conscious?” “No Commander he is heavily sedated and will stay so for some time.” “Understood. Riker out.” Will lifted Beverly’s chin and looked deeply into her eyes. “Beverly if you love him half as much as I think you do…don’t give up on him. He needs you, now more than ever.” Beverly’s eyes drifted down to her lap and she sighed expansively. Her small voice was just audible. “I’d better go and get cleaned up.” She stood unsteadily and Deanna held her elbow. “I’ll help you.” Casting a ‘wait here’ look at her companion, the two women made their way to the bedroom and entered. Will stood and faced the viewports, watching the elongated stars streak by.

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Half an hour later the three officers were ready to leave Beverly’s quarters. Her appearance was much improved, although she was very pale and her hands trembled. Their journey to Sickbay was taken in silence and Selar greeted them at the Recovery Room door. “Doctor Crusher, how are you?” Beverly dragged her eyes from the door and faced her fellow physician. “I’m fine Selar. How is Captain Picard?” “Physically he will make a complete recovery. There was damage to the nerves of the forearms as well as the complete opening of the ulnar artery in both arms, but we have successfully repaired the damage and replaced the significant blood loss. He is, at present, on intravenous fluids and heavily sedated.” Beverly nodded and asked the next questions somewhat tentatively. “You mentioned a guard and a restraining field?” “Yes Doctor. As you know in cases such as this it is standard procedure to restrain the patient and have them under constant watch.” Beverly’s mind furnished the phrase. Suicide watch. “But Selar…surely…this is Captain Picard…” The Vulcan straightened and clasped her hands behind her back. “Nevertheless Doctor, he attempted, twice, to take his own life. He must be treated in accordance with standard procedure.” Beverly nodded slowly and looked again at the door. “May I see him?” “Of course Doctor.” Her proximity to the door sensor triggered the switch and the door whispered open. Beverly, Will, Deanna and Selar all entered and stood around the man on the bed. He was dressed in pyjama bottoms, his chest bare. A blanket was pulled up to his waist and from his neck to his feet, the shimmer of the restraining field could be seen, its gentle hum the only noise in the room. To one side, an armed Lieutenant from Security stood rigidly, his eyes never leaving his Captain. Beverly noted the intravenous line connected to the crook of his left arm and winced as she saw the fading red lines that snaked up his forearms. At Selar’s request, chairs were secured for Deanna and Beverly and they seated themselves, resigned for a lengthy wait. Will and Selar left the room, Will returned to the Bridge, Selar to her patients.

Seven hours after he was placed in the Recovery Room, Jean-Luc’s eyes opened sluggishly. At first confused, he tried to move and came up against the implacable strength of the restraining field. Momentarily panicked, he whispered, “No!” Beverly started from her doze and stood immediately. She called to her lover in an attempt to calm him. “Jean-Luc it’s all right…everything’s ok. Just relax.” He shook his head and tears slipped from his eyes.

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“No…I shouldn’t be here…I…I…I want to die!” Frustrated at being unable to hold him, Beverly placed her hands either side of his tossing head and tried to reach him. “No my love…no you don’t. Relax Jean-Luc, come on…look at me.” Despite the pain it caused, he attempted to shout. “NO! Leave me alone…I shouldn’t be here…” “Jean-Luc…” He screamed, his ruined larynx tearing further, causing him to cough, bringing up bloody mucous. Selar entered and applied a hypospray to his neck and he subsided instantly, his eyes closing in senselessness. Beverly stood motionlessly, her hands covering her face. Deanna guided her to a seat and gently pushed her down. “Beverly…” “Dear God what has Madred done?”

Later that afternoon they shifted Jean-Luc to his private room. It had been decided that when he next awoke he would be given a mild sedative. If that failed, and he remained suicidal, he would be rendered unconscious and moves made to transfer him to a psychiatric facility at the nearest starbase. Deanna had finally gotten Beverly to eat and they were seated in Jean-Luc’s room, talking quietly. The guard remained in the room, the restraining field in place. “Beverly you must realise this has nothing at all to do with you.” “I’d like to believe you Deanna…you’ve got no idea how much, but…” “No Beverly listen to me! This is all Madred’s doing. Somehow he’s managed to get inside the Captain’s head and convinced him that death would be better than the alternative.” ”And what is the alternative?” “Living Beverly! I don’t know how, but Madred has destroyed Captain Picard’s will to live.” “So how can we stop it?” “We have to re-establish all the things he cares about. Convince him that living is better than dying.” “And if we can’t?” “Then he will be admitted to a psychiatric facility and treated. He will lose his Captaincy and probably Starfleet as well.” “Oh God.” Beverly looked at her lover and tears welled in her eyes. In a whisper she said, “How.” Deanna sat forward and took her hands. “The early stages will be critical. We need him to tell us what Madred said…how he convinced the Captain to seek suicide. If we can achieve that, we will have something to fight with, something to base our defence on. If necessary, I will hypnotise him whilst he’s sedated. That way he won’t be able to resist me.”

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“Don’t you think he’s had enough of people taking things from him against his will?” “It may be the only way to save him.” Beverly shook her head slowly. “I suppose…” “Did Selar say when he’ll be likely to waken?” Beverly consulted a chronometer and sighed. “Another two hours.” Deanna nodded and sat back in her seat. Beverly stood and walked over to the unconscious man. She raised her hand and gently stroked his face. “Where are you my love?”

Approximately two hours later Beverly was standing by his side, a hypospray in her hand. His eyes slowly opened and there was a momentary look of confusion before his entire body tensed and he opened his mouth to yell. The hypo hissed against his neck and he relaxed considerably, a frown creasing his brow. Beverly clasped her hands either side of his face and spoke sternly to him. “Jean-Luc! Look at me!” His eyes listlessly found hers and he sighed, his voice a ragged whisper. “Let me go.” “No Jean-Luc. I want you to talk to me.” His eyes drifted closed, only to have Beverly say sharply, “Open your eyes Jean-Luc!” Against his will, his eyes torpidly opened and he stared at the intense glare of his lover. “Listen to me Jean-Luc I will not let you go! Not now, not ever! Now tell me, what did he say to you?” Jean-Luc tried to turn his head but she wouldn’t let him. Tears flowed from his eyes and he gasped for breath. “Tell me!” “He said…I was a toy, meant for the use of others, with no say in what happened to me. He said I was worthless and it’s true…I am.” Beverly closed her eyes and frowned deeply. Deanna came to her side and spoke gently to the suffering man. “Why do you think you’re worthless Captain?” “All my life I have failed those whom I’ve loved. My father, my brother…even you Beverly…” “No, no my love, you’ve never failed me!” “Yes I have Beverly. First there was Jack…I failed to keep him safe…then there were all the times I let you believe that I didn’t love you and the final betrayal was your capture

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with me. Do you think you would have been taken but for your involvement with me? You suffered because of me Beverly…” “No…no my love, the one to blame is Madred! He’s twisted your thinking. Your life has been a triumph! You’re the most respected Captain in Starfleet…your career has been stellar with success and our love for each other could never be sullied by such a detestable creature as Madred. He’s used your noble spirit against you Jean-Luc. You’re not to blame my love. Please, oh God please come back to me…I need you…” Deanna wrapped her arms around the distraught Doctor and led her to a chair. She returned to Jean-Luc and watched as tears flowed freely down his cheeks. “Captain do you love Beverly?” He nodded, unable to speak. “Do you realise what your death would do to her?” His lips moved and Deanna leaned closer to hear. “She would be better off…” “No Captain…she would be destroyed, utterly defeated if you died. Do you want that? Could you do that to her?” He slowly shook his head and gasped as more tears flowed. “Then fight Captain! Don’t let that bastard win, he’s already taken far too much from you.” They all rested for a while and Selar came in to administer more treatment for the venereal disease. She checked Jean-Luc’s vital signs and noted that he was much calmer. The guard was relieved by another and the day wore on. Beverly and Deanna continued to talk to Jean-Luc, reminding him of his friends, the highlights of his life and the deep love he shared with the brilliant red-haired Doctor. Gradually he started to emerge from his induced depression and, as the evening approached, he showed the first signs of defiance. His voice still nothing but a ragged whisper, he uttered, “I was going to kill him you know.” Deanna sipped her Valerian tea and cocked her head. “Was that why you had the phaser?” He nodded and Beverly noted that his tears had slowed somewhat. “Yes. He made a remark about our love for each other bringing our downfall and I became enraged. After all he’d done to us…he still strove to hurt us…at that moment I wanted nothing more than to vaporise him on the spot.” “But you didn’t.” “No. I wanted to…my God how I wanted to…” “And then?” “He taunted me about the rapes, how I had no say in what happened to me, that I was a toy, my purpose to be at the whim of others. How I’d been used by him…by Starfleet and Beverly and for some reason it all made perfect sense to me. It became crystal clear what I had to do to stop it…to end the violation.” Beverly came and sat beside him and stroked his face. “You decided to take you own life?” “Yes. It all seemed so simple.” Beverly’s eyes filled with tears and she could barely speak. “And in Sickbay? What were you thinking when you used the scalpel?”

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“I just wanted it to stop…to finally find peace.” “Oh my love…”

Selar came in again and treated him once more. At Deanna’s request, the restraining field was removed and the bed raised, allowing Jean-Luc to sit up. He was also, in company with his guard, permitted to use the bathroom. When he emerged, Beverly had a cup of Earl Grey for him and they all sat silently sipping their drinks. Deanna came and sat on the side of the bed. She took his empty cup and placed it on the side table then took his hands in hers. “Captain tell me about your time in the caves.” His eyes drifted shut and he swallowed painfully, a grimace marring his careworn face. “From the moment I saw him, I knew what was in store for us. He knew from our previous encounter that I was willing to undergo more torture to protect Beverly. Now that he had her too…I must admit I faltered initially. I didn’t know how I was going to resist him if he hurt her.” “Yet you did.” “Yes.” Beverly came and sat on the other side of the bed. She reached up and caressed his face, tears brimming in her eyes. “When you told me you loved me…it helped so much. A huge uplifting of my spirits… defiance…thank you my love.” She leaned forward and, despite there being others present, kissed him softly on his lips lingering and expressing her love for him the only way she could. His hands slowly came up to cradle her head and he sighed, closing his eyes. When she retreated, his eyes slowly opened and a small smile, the first they’d seen since he’d returned aboard, crept across his mouth. She gently traced his lips with her fingers, a frown settling on her sad face. “Jean-Luc I’m sorry…so sorry I asked you to give in. I…” He took her hands in his and whispered, “Beverly no…you mustn’t blame yourself. You’d reached your limit, I understand and I don’t hold you responsible. As a matter of fact I also reached mine soon after. I simply couldn’t take it any more. I would’ve done anything…said anything to make him stop.” In the face of his confession, silence settled. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and, after some minutes drifted off to sleep, the sedative helping him to relax. Leaving him, the two women entered Sickbay proper and sought Selar. “How is the Captain doing?” Beverly gestured to the office and, as the women walked, she answered her colleague. “He’s sleeping restfully.” “He must be exhausted.” “Yes…so much has happened. Selar when will the new larynx be ready?” The Vulcan went to the desk and turned the monitor to face her. Activating it, she entered the request and the information instantly appeared. “The cloning process should be completed by tomorrow afternoon. I would envisage the transplant would take place any time thereafter.”

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“Good. Deanna I think tomorrow morning we should encourage the Captain to leave Sickbay for a while…a trip to the Arboretum perhaps. Considering he’s facing more surgery, albeit minor, I just think he could do with a new perspective.” The Counsellor pursed her lips and took a seat, deep in thought. “I agree. He needs to see that life is going on around him and that he has an integral part in that life. Yes, that’s a good idea Beverly.” Smiling, the red head turned to Selar. “And you Selar, do you agree?” The Vulcan nodded slowly. “Captain Picard has already progressed further than I though possible. If a sojourn away from the confines of Sickbay would be beneficial, I see no reason why he should not partake of it.” “Do you mind if we stay here tonight? It’s quite likely he will start to experience nightmares and I think we should be here to help him.” “Of course Doctor. My intention is to maintain the mild sedatives for the interim. What are you thoughts on this matter?” Beverly hitched her hip onto the desk and frowned. “I agree. In his relaxed state he can see clearly how he was manipulated without the accompanying stress. My opinion is that you continue sedating him for at least the next few days.” Selar nodded and clasped her hands behind her back. “I will instruct the staff to set up two cots in his room. Doctor Crusher I would like to scan you.” “Selar that’s not…” ”Now Doctor.” Fuming, Beverly rose and stalked out of the office followed by Selar and Deanna. She seated herself on a biobed and resigned herself to the inevitable. Selar retrieved a tricorder, extracted the probe and initiated the scan. It was a lengthy procedure, the Doctor taking her time. Beverly started to fidget and Selar cast her a longsuffering stare. Sighing exasperatedly, Beverly quietened and closed her eyes, only opening them when the tricorder silenced. “Well?” “Doctor Crusher despite your recent meal, you are still very low on blood sugar. Also you are somewhat dehydrated and two of your burns require a short regeneration treatment. I suggest we treat the burns now and you can have a substantial meal and fluid whilst you wait.” Beverly huffed and scowled at her physician. “How long?” “I predict thirty minutes.” Deanna stepped close and held Beverly’s elbow. “You get ready and I’ll replicate you a meal and a drink.” Beverly tried to glare and failed miserably. “This is a conspiracy!” Deanna laughed and left the Doctors as Selar was helping Beverly down from the biobed. As soon as Beverly had changed and was lying on a bed in a private cubicle under the blue glow of the regen beams, Deanna came in bearing a tray.

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“Here you go. A hearty vegetable stew, a large piece of lemon meringue pie…with whipped cream and a large chocolate milk shake.” “Oh God Deanna, I can’t eat all that!” “Beverly! I’ve seen you eat twice as much and ask for more. You’ll eat this or I’ll have security come and force you at phaser point!” Beverly’s mouth hung open a moment before a giggle emerged. Deanna lost her fearsome visage and her face crumpled into a grin. “You had me going for a minute there.” Deanna chuckled and pointed at the tray. “Just eat Beverly.”

Three hours later the two friends were lying in their makeshift beds in Jean-Luc’s room. The guard had obtained permission to stand her watch outside the room, something for which the two women were grateful. They talked quietly for some time before drifting into silence, Beverly concentrating on the soft rhythmic breathing of her lover. She soon slipped into slumber. Sometime during the night the women were woken by Jean-Luc’s frightened whimpering. Before they could rise he sat bolt upright in his bed and screamed. It emerged from his mouth as a protracted gurgle. Holding his head, he strained his neck back and clawed and his temples, gouging the skin with his nails. Beverly reached him first and gripped his hands, pulling them from his head. Blood ran freely down his face and Deanna stood to one side as the Duty Doctor came into the room. “Doctor Crusher?” “A nightmare Paul. Have you got the sedative?” ”Yes Doctor.” She nodded and the young medic stepped forward and injected the Captain in the neck. Jean-Luc’s body lost its tension and he took an enormous breath. His hands loosed themselves from Beverly’s and he gripped the side of the bed. “Jean-Luc?” He slowly opened his eyes and tears slipped down his face. “It’s all right Jean-Luc, you had a nightmare. You’re awake now.” The Doctor handed Beverly some gauze and she wiped the blood from his face. He then passed her a tissue regenerator and she quickly closed the wounds. “There now. Why don’t you lie down and I’ll stay with you.” The tears still sliding down his cheeks, he nodded slowly and Beverly noted how lost and frightened he looked. “It’s ok Jean-Luc. You’re in Sickbay and you’re going to be fine. Just rest now, I’ll be with you.” In a distracted state, he lay back slowly and grabbed Beverly’s hand. His grip was strong and Beverly could feel the trembling.

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“That’s it Jean-Luc…relax now…everything’s ok…go to sleep.” She saw his jaw clenching and the tears continued. With her free hand she gently stroked his face and found herself humming. It was a tune she used to sing to her son when he was small and she watched as the tension melted from his face. His eyes drifted shut and he sighed once before yawning. He was asleep again within minutes. Deanna stood by her shoulder and spoke quietly. “Are you all right?” She nodded and sighed. Turning to her fellow Doctor she smiled and nodded. “Thank you Paul I think we’ll be ok now.” He nodded once and left, the guard also leaving the doorway. “Are you going back to bed?” Beverly shook her head and watched the sleeping man. “No I’ll stay with him for now. I think it’s going to be a long night.” “Why was he clawing at his head?” Beverly grimaced at the memories the enquiry brought up. “Did you see his eyes when he came aboard?” “No. By the time I came down he was in surgery. His eyes were bandaged after that.” “Madred used a Klingon painstik on us. At one stage he activated it against Jean-Luc’s temple. You can imagine the pain it must have caused, but more than that, it caused convulsions and the rupturing of all the blood vessels in the sclera of his eyes. When he looked at me they were dark red and bloody tears fell down his face. It’s an image I will remember for the rest of my life.” Deanna lowered her head and gripped Beverly’s arm. “I’m sorry Beverly…” Deanna stayed by Beverly’s side for the rest of the night. Twice more nightmares wrenched Jean-Luc from sleep and each time his friends were there to help him. During one particularly terrifying dream he lost control of his bladder and the women had to ease him from his terror before they could change his clothing and bed. In his sedated state he seemed to be oblivious to what went on around him. He did, however, find comfort in Beverly’s touch. He calmed almost immediately as soon as she made contact with him. The tension would leave his body and he would still, slowly relaxing as she crooned to him. To Deanna it was a remarkable thing to witness. The strength of their love…their bond was profound and she knew eventually it would be that very depth of love that would heal both of them.

The next morning Beverly sat beside the Captain and encouraged him to eat a light breakfast. The drip had been removed but only under the proviso that he ate. True to form he scowled and shook his head, Beverly however wasn’t fazed. She picked up the fork, pushed some scrambled egg on it and lifted it. “Now look Jean-Luc, either you eat this or I will feed you.” His eyes shifted in his turned head and he caught the look of determination on her face. Sighing, he faced her and took the fork, placing the contents in his mouth. “Good. Now eat the lot and drink your tea, you’re going on an outing.”

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“His eyebrows rose as he chewed, a protest forming. “Oh no you don’t. You need to get out of Sickbay for a while…just to the arboretum, nothing too taxing. You’re going to get your new larynx this afternoon and we thought you could do with a change of scenery. How about it?” He looked into her delightful blue eyes and crumbled. He never had been able to refuse her, why would now be any different?” Between bites he whispered, “All right but I insist on being dressed…and not in Sickbay attire.” “Agreed. While you finish breakfast I’ll go up to your quarters and get you some clothes. Have you anything particular in mind?” “No just something comfortable.” ”Ok.” She smiled tenderly down at him and, when he paused to gather some more egg on his fork, she bent low and kissed him softly. “I love you Jean-Luc…don’t ever forget that.” “I won’t…I love you too.” Just after Beverly left Selar came in with two hyposprays. Jean-Luc eyed her suspiciously. “Captain Picard I am here to give you treatment for your infection and to administer a light sedative. As you will be leaving Sickbay this morning I have tailored the dose of sedative accordingly. However if you begin to have any feelings of anxiety or stress you are to report back here immediately.” Jean-Luc nodded and tilted his head as the doses were injected into his system. “I believe Doctor Crusher has informed you about the transplant this afternoon?” He nodded again and she continued. “I foresee no complications as it is an organ cloned from your own cells. Have you any questions?” In his rough whisper he asked, “When will I be able to talk?” “I would think that three or four hours after your surgery you will be able to make simple sounds. It will most probably take until tomorrow before the new organ has fully integrated itself into your system. Full speech should occur within two days.” Nodding, he offered his appreciation and she left. He was sipping the last cooling dregs of his tea when Beverly returned. A soft smile graced his features. “Here you are. I’ve brought your tan slacks, the silk emerald shirt, socks, underwear and those soft leather shoes you like. Now why don’t you go shower and shave and I’ll have everything laid out for you?” Grinning he slid from the bed and went to embrace his lover. His good humour evaporated when the guard stepped into the room. He raised questioning eyebrows at Beverly and she sighed. “I’m sorry Jean-Luc but he has to go to the bathroom with you.” The eyebrows settled into a scowl and he glared at the Doctor. “Jean-Luc it’s standard procedure in cases like this. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules…” He turned on his heel and stalked into his private bathroom. The guard followed him and took a position just inside the door.

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Jean-Luc was mortified…and humiliated. He knew Beverly was right and he also knew his own actions had brought the situation about but it rankled him nonetheless. Choosing to ignore the guard, he stripped off his pyjama pants and stepped into the shower. As the hot water hit his chest he closed his eyes and tried to forget the previous days. He soon came back into his room, guard in tow. To his immense relief, the guard exited the room and stood outside affording him at least a modicum of privacy. Beverly cast her eyes critically over his body, noting the fading scars on his arms and torso. To offset her scrutiny she reached up and trailed her fingers down his now smooth cheeks. He stood before her dressed only in a white towel wrapped around his trim waist. She sighed, a look of clear desire heating her eyes. “I always did like this particular look on you.” He reddened slightly and took her hands in his. Slowly he lifted her hands until he could kiss her fingers. Each digit was caressed with his lips and she smiled softly at the sweet gesture. “I’ll wait outside…you get dressed.” He nodded and watched her leave, a sigh escaping.

The journey to the Arboretum was short and incident free. The crewmembers they encountered greeted their Captain with concern and respect and Jean-Luc was gratified to feel their good will. In his relaxed mood they entered the greenery of the Arboretum and met Deanna. She directed them to a bench and they sat, admiring the exhibits around them. Deanna stretched out her legs and crossed them at the ankles. “Doctor Selar says you will have your transplant this afternoon.” Jean-Luc nodded, a vague smile on his lips. “You must be looking forward to speaking out loud again.” He sighed and whispered, “Oh yes. Although I’m kept pain free, my throat is still damned uncomfortable.” The two women’s thoughts were immediately drawn to his strangled screaming through the long night. Deanna tilted her head and asked softly, “Do you remember your dreams Captain?” His breath caught in his throat and he screwed his eyes shut. Lowering his head he gasped, “Yes.” “Do you want to talk about them?” He vigorously shook his head and began to rise. Beverly caught his hand and persuaded him to sit. “It’s all right Jean-Luc. We know how hard this is for you, just take your time.” He swallowed hard and grimaced at the pain it caused. The women had to listen carefully to hear his words. “There were many scenes. I was suspended in chains and Madred was torturing me. He…” Jean-Luc lifted his hand to his temple and gently fingered the area. “He activated a painstik here…”

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His hands drifted across his chest and descended to his groin. “And here…” Beverly took his hands in hers but he freed his hands and rubbed his face. “And then we were on the Orion ship and I was kneeling with my head on the floor while he…it was so painful…I couldn’t…I…” “Captain open your eyes.” His eyes snapped open and Beverly was dismayed to see the tears flow. “They used me…they all used me…” Beverly wrapped her arms around him and gently rocked him. “Shh my love it’s over now.” It took some minutes for him to regain himself. The women waited patiently, allowing him the time he needed. When he felt more in control, he lifted his face and sighed expansively. Shaking his head he whispered ruefully, “I seem to be doing that a lot lately.” Beverly grinned lopsidedly and gave his shoulders a squeeze. “Well it’s all for a good cause. Feel like walking?” He nodded and the three officers rose and ambled through the proliferation of plants. One variety of orchid caught the Captain’s eye and they spent some time discussing its propagation with the head botanist. Before long Beverly gripped his hand and got his attention. “Is it time?” She nodded and they made their way to the doors. Jean-Luc paused at the entrance and looked back over his shoulder. “Jean-Luc?” He shook his head and sighed. “It’s so peaceful here…” “We can come back…any time you want.” A small smile crept over his face and he straightened his shoulders. They made their way to Sickbay and Selar was ready for them when they arrived. “Captain Picard if you will come with me…” Jean-Luc turned to his companions and smiled softly. Beverly lifted his hand to her lips and kissed him, lingering and making the caress last. “I’ll be here when you wake up.” He nodded and raised his fingers to gently touch her face. Selar quietly cleared her throat, making him frown slightly. Beverly chuckled and gave his shoulder a gentle push. “Off you go.”

Two hours later Jean-Luc regained consciousness and opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was his lover and he couldn’t suppress the smile that graced his face. “Hello there, how do you feel?” He swallowed experimentally and was pleased to feel a great improvement in his throat. He opened his mouth, but Beverly quickly placed her fingers on his lips.

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“No Jean-Luc…no talking just yet.” He frowned and then raised his eyebrows. “What?” “Can I whisper?” Beverly laughed and slapped his arm. “You just did!” He tried to frown again but it turned into a grin. He caught her hands in his and pulled her gently down until she was lying on his chest. He then encircled her in his embrace and nuzzled into her hair. She sighed and relaxed in his arms her own hands caressing his chest. The opening doors stilled them, but Jean-Luc refused to let her up. “Captain Picard?” Reluctantly, Jean-Luc released Beverly and levelled his gaze on the Vulcan Doctor. “How do you feel Sir?” He nodded, whispering, “Fine thank you.” “Are you in any discomfort?” He shook his head and sighed. “Very good. In approximately two hours a speech therapist will visit to start you on therapy to strengthen your voice. In the interim, would you like to get dressed and have something to eat?” He nodded and Beverly moved to get his clothes out of the wardrobe. “What would you like to eat Sir?” He thought for a moment and came to a decision. “Beef stir fry with vegetables, hokkian noodles and green tea.” “Very well Sir, I won’t be a moment.” Selar left and the guard, who had been waiting outside the door, put her head around the frame and cast her eyes over the Captain. He glared at her and sniffed. Ignoring his irritation the Ensign, satisfied all was well, once again took up her position outside. “Beverly…is it still necessary for me to be guarded?” Beverly looked sympathetically at her lover and came to sit on the bed. “Jean-Luc you’ve come a long way since your crisis, but…until you can look more objectively at what happened to you without the sedation I’m afraid we would be doing you a disservice if we were to stop monitoring you too early.” “But still…a guard?” “I’m sorry Jean-Luc. We took a risk removing the restraining field…just be patient a little longer. You’re doing well…really well.” “But I have to have someone…you, Deanna, Selar…the guard with me at all times?” Beverly nodded and was dismayed to watch his face harden in a stern grimace. “Very well if that’s how it has to be I will accept it…but don’t expect me to like it!” He threw back the covers, slipped from the bed and picked up his trousers. Raising his eyebrows at Beverly in an obvious challenge, she sighed and stood. “I’ll wait outside.” He nodded curtly and huffed. Ten minutes later Beverly re-entered his room and had to stifle a growl of appreciation. Although he’d lost some weight during his ordeal, he was still devastatingly handsome and the clothes he wore accentuated his lean muscular body. She was about to step up to

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caress him when he turned and she saw the still lingering look of irritation in his eyes. Stilling her hand, she motioned to him to sit as she’d seen Selar approaching with a steaming tray. Once occupied with his meal, his testy attitude melted away as he enjoyed his food. Beverly replicated herself a chicken salad and tea and together they sat quietly eating.

As Jean-Luc went through the therapy with the speech specialist, Deanna met with Beverly in the office. The Doctor was full of praise for her lover, expounding on his abilities to recover from his ordeal. Deanna listened for a while then changed the subject. “What about you?” “What?” “Come on Beverly! You’ve pushed aside your problems to care for the Captain, don’t think that by ignoring them they won’t come back and bite you on the arse.” “Deanna! Really. I don’t think…” ”Well I do! You’ll have to address you’re problems…and soon.” Beverly looked long and hard at her best friend, an acerbic remark teetering on the tip of her tongue. Deanna’s next words robbed her of her angst. “If you fall in a heap…who will care for the Captain?”

By now Madred had learned the shifts of his guards. As no one came down to see him, he amused himself by baiting the sentries, seeing if he could raise a response. One Ensign in particular was beginning to react to the badgering. Twice the young man had been flustered enough to threaten Madred with physical violence if he didn’t shut up. Madred stored this information away and waited until the youngster again came on duty.

The next day Will finally obtained the orders he’d been waiting for. Madred was to be ferried to Starbase 446, there to be sent by transport to Earth to face charges of instigating kidnap, causing grievous bodily harm and attempted murder of Starfleet officers. He had been appointed a legal representative and the trial date had been set. All that was needed was his presence. It would be a five-day journey to the Starbase and Will left the Ready Room, on his way to deliver the news to his Captain. He nodded to the guard and poked his head around the door. “Sir?”

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Jean-Luc’s head came up from the book he was reading and he mustered a smile for his First Officer. Beverly rose from her seat and bent low to his ear. “I’ll see you later.” He nodded, his hand gently clasping hers as she left. Still whispering, Jean-Luc beckoned Will into the room. “Come in Will. How’s my ship?” Will grinned widely at hearing his Captain sounding more like his normal self. ”Just as you left her Sir, ship shape and Bristol fashion.” “Splendid. What are our orders?” “That’s why I’m here Sir. Starfleet has just sent me our next assignment. We’re to ferry Madred to Starbase 446. A transport will take him to Earth, where he’ll be tried.” “I see. When?” “Three weeks.” “Will Beverly and I…” “Yes Sir, both you and Beverly will be required. Starfleet though it would be better to get him off the ship as soon as possible…under the circumstances.” Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully, a frown appearing on his brow. “Will…what about the Orions? They kidnapped us…assaulted us…are you any closer to tracking them down?” Will swallowed and grabbed a chair. Turning it around, he straddled it and gathered his thoughts. “Sir the Orion ship was destroyed with all hands, some time before we rescued you. I believe Madred was responsible, but he won’t admit it…at least not outright.” Jean-Luc paled and shook his head. “Destroyed with all hands? How?” ”A thermo nuclear device. Apparently it was secreted in the payment.” “Merde!” “Sir?” Savagely shaking his head, Jean-Luc struggled to reign in his escalating anger. Will noticed his trembling fists and clenched jaw. “Captain what is it?” “They won’t pay for what they did!” “Sir…they’re dead.” “I know that dammit…I just want…I need justice for what those bastards did to me! Death is too easy. I want them to acknowledge what they did was wrong!” Will was speechless in the face of the Captain’s anguish. He lowered his head and tried to think of something to say to ease his pain. “Well Sir, they won’t ever hurt anyone again.” Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes. “No Number One, no they won’t…may they rot in hell.” Wishing to change the subject, Will asked, “How’s the voice Sir?” “What? Oh my voice. Selar tells me I might be able to talk normally tomorrow. I’m whispering now only as a precaution. I’m having extensive speech therapy.” “And how is that going?” Jean-Luc cast an amused glance at his First Officer.

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“Will you’re making conversation. Go back to the Bridge and fly the ship.” Grinning, the big man stood, returned the chair to its spot and stood over his Commanding Officer. Ok Sir. Call me if you want anything…anything at all.” Jean-Luc nodded, making a ‘shooing’ action with his hand. He was only alone for some seconds before Beverly breezed back in. She sat on the bed and took his hand in hers. “How’s Will?” “Fine. Beverly…did you know that the Orion ship had been destroyed with all hands?” Her mouth gaped open, her eyes wide. Mutely shaking her head she managed, “How?” “A thermo nuclear device, secreted onto their ship in the payment.” “My God! Is there no end to Madred’s duplicity?” Jean-Luc sat up straighter and looked earnestly into her blue eyes. “Beverly aren’t you angry…that they won’t pay for what they did to us?” “Jean-Luc they’re dead…I think that’s payment enough.” “But don’t you need to hear them admit that what they did was wrong, that they’re sorry?” Beverly shook her head and looked at her lover incredulously. “Jean-Luc do you honestly believe they would? They were the worst kind of mercenaries…kidnapping to order…raping…they didn’t care what they did, as long as they got paid. I think they got exactly what they deserved.” “Still…” Gripping his hands firmly, Beverly stared into his eyes. “Let it go Jean-Luc. They’re gone and good riddance to them!” Jean-Luc nodded doubtfully and sighed, a deep frown on his face. “Come on, you’re going on an outing.” That got his attention. “Oh? Where?” “Well,” she paused as she injected him with the sedative and antibiotic, “There’s a stellar nursery coming up on our course and I though you might like to see what Astrophysics has downloaded.” He though just a moment before a grin emerged. “Lead on!”

That evening Beverly settled onto her cot and watched as Jean-Luc drifted off to sleep. She and Deanna still stayed with him, the nightmares still haunting his sleep. She snuggled into her pillow and felt the grip of sleep take her, her resistance useless. Three and a half hours later she sat up and screamed. Tearing at her nightie, she tangled in her blankets and didn’t feel Deanna, Jean-Luc or the guard who’s come in alarmed at the noise. She wrestled against their hands, biting and kicking, not calming until the duty Doctor arrived with a sedative. She applied the hypospray and Beverly subsided, a groan

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escaping from her bloodied lips. Jean-Luc gripped the Doctor’s hand and whispered quietly, “How long will she sleep?” “Several hours Sir.” They straightened her body and covered her with the blankets. Jean-Luc tenderly positioned her head on the pillow, squatting down beside her and caressing her face. Deanna took his arm and encouraged his to stand. “You’d better go back to bed captain.” He sighed and looked down at his sleeping lover. “Why? It’ll be my turn soon.” “Sir…” He shook his head and pulled a chair over to be close to the red head. “I’ll stay with her Deanna, you go back to sleep.” “But Captain she will sleep for…” “Counsellor! It’s the least I can do for her after all she’s…both of you…have done for me.” “Aye Sir.” In the morning the sleeping Doctor missed Jean-Luc’s final therapy and his emancipation from whispering. He’d showered, shaved and dressed, all with the accompaniment of the guard and was eating breakfast when her eyes sluggishly opened. “What?” Jean-Luc put his empty tray aside, left his chair and hunkered down beside his lover. “Hey there. Just lie still Beverly everything’s all right.” She looked dreamily up at him and blinked slowly. A smile graced her face and she was reaching up to him when she suddenly gasped. “Oh my God! I…” “Steady Beverly…it was just a dream. You’re safe in Sickbay…it didn’t happen.” She shook her head, tears welling to spill down her face. “Yes it did! It happened and I couldn’t stop it! You…” He gathered her into his arms and held her close. “No Beverly! Let it go…it’s over.” She clung to him, her frame trembling with effort. Deanna came in and squatted down beside her, rubbing her back. She looked at the stricken Captain, a frown marring her face. He caught her eyes and shook his head. He didn’t want to talk. When Beverly calmed, Jean-Luc released her and helped her to sit up. “Deanna would you get Beverly a cup of chamomile tea?” Nodding, Deanna rose and left. Jean-Luc brushed his fingers down the Doctor’s face. “All right?” She nodded and swallowed, closing her eyes. Finding her voice she asked tentatively, “How about you? Did you have any…” ”No my lovely. I sat up with you.” “Jean-Luc…you need your rest. I…” “Stop Beverly. I only did for you what you’ve been doing for me for days. It’s no wonder you suffered, it’s a miracle you’ve gone this long…” Abruptly climbing to her feet, she wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered. He stepped up to her and slowly embraced her.

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“Shh…it’s over.” Deanna came in and between Jean-Luc and the Counsellor, they got Beverly to sit down and drink her tea. It seemed to calm her and she took Deanna’s suggestion of a shower, stepping into the bathroom with relief, pleased to be away from their concerned stares.

Ensign Collin Orford was beginning to sweat. He stood outside the doors of the Detention Cell and fingered the phaser he wore at his side. “He can’t hurt me…he’s a prisoner. I just need to ignore him.” The Ensign knew he should have reported his misgivings about the prisoner, but he didn’t want to make a mess of the first really important job he’d been assigned. His immediate superior, Lieutenant Sykes was a stickler for detail and Orford feared he would be seen as failing if he made his concerns known. Having only been aboard for two months, Orford relished the chance to show he was competent in carrying out his duties. So, with much more confidence than he felt, he approached the doors, triggering their opening. He stepped into the darkened room and stepped up to the desk, noting that the Ensign he was relieving had a look of worry on his face. In a small whisper he said, “Boy am I glad you’re here.” Casting a thumb in Madred’s direction, he muttered, “He gives me the creeps!” Ensign Orford swallowed and mustered a sickly smile. The change over took place and Collin watched enviously as his counterpart left. The silence settled and Collin shivered as Madred shifted on his bunk. The monster stood and ambled over to the force field. “Ah Ensign Orford! So glad you’re back.”

“There Captain, that completes your antibiotic treatment. I will scan you now.” Selar took the probe from the tricorder and waved it over Jean-Luc’s torso. Watching the screen intently, she inputted some instructions and scanned his lower stomach. Finished, she put away the probe and closed the tricorder. “You are now free of the venereal disease. The abscesses are reduced in size and I anticipate they will be completely healed within four days.” A blushing Captain lowered his head and cleared his throat. “Thank you Doctor. Tell me…am I…infectious?” “No Captain, not as such, but I would counsel against sexual activity until the abscesses are healed. It is better to err on the side of caution.” Nodding, the Captain asked his next question. “And when may I be discharged?” Clasping her hands behind her back, the Vulcan cocked her head. “Captain Picard you are still under supervision.”

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“I know that…but that could take place at my quarters just the same as here.” “Perhaps. I will liase with Doctor Crusher and Counsellor Troi. I will have an answer for you later.” Not fully reconciled with the outcome, Jean-Luc nonetheless acquiesced. He was reading when the three women came in to see him. Beverly, the nominated spokesperson, came forward and sat on his bed. “Selar has told us you want to be discharged.” He nodded, saying nothing. Beverly looked at her companions and smiled at her lover. “We’ve decided that you can, effective this afternoon.” He sighed and smiled softly. “And the guard?” Again Beverly cast a look at her fellow medics. “We think you can do without the guard now Jean-Luc. I’ll be staying with you off and on during the day and all night.” He nodded thoughtfully, only keeping a grin of triumph from his face with difficulty. “I take it Deanna will be a frequent visitor?” “Of course. Both of us will be needing her services.” “Agreed. Thank you…all of you.” Deanna smiled and said softly, “You’re welcome Captain, but you must realise your work has only just begun.” “Oh yes Counsellor…I know, believe me I know.” That earned a chuckle from Beverly and they spent the next ten minutes deciding what to have for lunch. Selar left and dismissed the guard, the room’s occupants celebrating with hot tea and soup with rolls.

Jean-Luc surprised Beverly by holding her hand during their journey to his quarters. As was his usual habit, he refrained from showing her affection whilst on the ship, but as he was off duty, and the circumstances extenuating, he made an exception. It was difficult for Beverly to keep the silly grin off her face as crewmembers smiled and raised their eyebrows at seeing them together. Although eight months into their intimate relationship, the only crew privy to the fact were the senior staff. Scuttlebutt however was rife and seeing the Captain and Doctor walking hand in hand only served to fuel already boisterous speculation. They arrived at his quarters and, after they entered, Jean-Luc stood quietly in the centre of his living area reacquainting himself with his sanctuary. Beverly stood at his side, her head on his shoulder. “How does it feel?” He sighed expansively and lowered his head. “It feels…wonderful…like I’ve been away too long.” “Hmm. Would you like some Earl Grey?” “Yes that would be lovely.”

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He wandered around the room, stopping at artefacts and curios, occasionally picking up a piece to inspect it. Beverly placed his tea on the low table and waited patiently. He eventually made his way over to his chair, but hesitated and changed course, sitting instead with his best friend on the sofa. They enjoyed a moment’s silence before Beverly asked, “What are you going to do with your afternoon?” “I don’t know…read I suppose. Deanna is coming soon…that’ll be fun.” Beverly sighed and leaned on his arm. “I know exactly how you feel. She’s seeing me later too.” Jean-Luc shook his head and pursed his lips. “I don’t know how she does it. God, the things she hears…” “I know. How the hell she copes…?” Jean-Luc finished his tea and encouraged Beverly to sit back with him. They rested their heads on the cushions and closed their eyes. He put his arm around her and she snuggled into his warm embrace. Drifting off to sleep, they were startled some time later when the door annunciator sounded. “Come.” The doors whispered oped and Deanna entered. “Hello Captain, Beverly.” Jean-Luc sat up and rubbed his face. “What time is it?” “1430 Sir.” “Damn, we must have been sleeping…” “It’s all right Captain, I can…” ”No Counsellor, we have an appointment I believe.” Beverly stood and stretched, earning an appreciative glance from the Captain. Looking down she smiled knowingly and winked at him, making him grin. “I’ll be in my quarters Deanna. See you soon.” Deanna waved at Beverly’s departing back and settled on the chair facing the Captain. “Was your sleep restful Captain?” “Yes it was…at least there were no nightmares for either of us.” “Good. I’ve been talking to Will and he told me you were…upset…when you learned of the demise of the Orions.” “Yes. So?” “Have you had a chance to give it any more thought? What are your feelings now?” He lowered his head and clasped his hands between his knees. He was silent so long Deanna thought she would have to prompt him, but he raised his head, a look of harshness on his face. “I would be lying if I said I was happy with the outcome. I wanted them to be made accountable for what they’d done to Beverly and me. I wanted justice.” “You wanted your pound of flesh?” “NO!” “Are you sure Captain?” He lapsed into silence again, his jaw muscles flexing. Deanna noted his hands had curled into fists.

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“It’s reasonable to want justice in cases like this! We were kidnapped, violated and sold. Why wouldn’t I want retribution?” “Retribution can take many forms Captain. Some might say what Madred did was retributive.” “What?” He spat. “You are comparing what he did to us to me wanting justice? How dare you!” Gathering her barriers against the buffeting of his anger, Deanna pressed on. “Think Captain. He wanted revenge for what happened to him after you were freed from his clutches. You want revenge for being kidnapped, raped and sold. What’s the difference?” Jean-Luc stood abruptly and paced restlessly around the room, his hands cutting the air. “The difference Counsellor is that I don’t want to harm anybody! I just want…I want…” He spun around and tears flowed down his cheeks. “I just want justice!” His voice broke and he collapsed on the sofa, his head in his hands. Deanna came and sat with him, close, but giving him his space. “Captain it’s all right to want justice, just as it’s all right to want revenge. You will have to accept the deaths of the Orions and come to terms with the fact that they will never personally pay for what they did to you.” He nodded and sighed, leaning back on the seat, his eyes closed. Deanna let him regather himself, then asked, “How do you feel about Madred being on board?” His voice a low rumble, Deanna heard the bitterness nonetheless. “I would’ve thought that was obvious after my last actions concerning him.” Deanna got up and went to the replicator, returning with two hot drinks. She set them on the low table and regained her seat. “If you mean attempting to kill him…I would say that was perfectly understandable, given the circumstances.” Jean-Luc opened his eyes and stared at the Counsellor. “You mean his manipulation?” “Yes.” He sighed and wiped the remaining tears from his face. “I must admit I’m worried how my actions may affect the trial. It could be said that I tried to take matters into my own hands.” “I don’t think so Captain. Will heard him baiting you. In the fragile mental state you were in…and your subsequent attempts to commit suicide…I think the court will see that you acted under duress and judge it accordingly.” He nodded and sighed before picking up his tea and thoughtfully sipping the fragrant brew. “And now Captain, how do you feel knowing he’s but a few decks away?” “To be honest I try to not think about it. He’s already taken too much from me. I don’t think I’ve any more to give that bastard.” “You have no desire to see him?” He shook his head firmly. “No. Not at all.”

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“Good. Well Captain we’ll call it a day for now. I want you to rest…relax as much as possible. Beverly will be here soon and, if you have nightmares…well I’ll hear you.” He smiled lopsidedly and clasped her hand. “Thank you Counsellor. Your help is, as always, appreciated.” When she left his quarters, Jean-Luc was standing at the viewport, hands in his pockets, deep in thought.

Deanna returned to her cabin and spent half an hour meditating, clearing her mind of the Captain’s angst. Feeling relieved, she left and made her way to Beverly’s quarters, activating the annunciator when she arrived. “Come in.” Beverly had showered and changed and was sitting on the sofa reading a journal. “You look relaxed.” “Hmm. That nap with Jean-Luc did wonders. I feel…” When she hesitated Deanna went and sat with her. Taking her hand, she looked into her eyes and opened her empathic receptors fully. “Tell me Beverly…how do you feel?” The Doctor held her gaze only a moment before lowering her eyes and sighing. “Truth? I feel like a piece of twisted wire. Every time I see that look of sadness cross Jean-Luc’s face it’s like I’m being stabbed. I really don’t know how we’re going to get through this.” Deanna tilted her head to look under Beverly’s brow. “Beverly you know as well as I that we’ll get through this one bit at a time…and we’ll do it together. You’re not alone.” The red head smiled ruefully and sniffed, her eyes welling with tears. “Oh Deanna…they hurt him so much. First the Orion, then Madred…how will he cope?” “Captain Picard will heal Beverly. It will take time, but he will get through this. It’s you I want to concentrate on right now. What was your dream about?” Beverly turned her head and tried to break Deanna’s hold on her hand. The Counsellor held on and insisted. “Beverly…” “It was Madred! He was torturing Jean-Luc and I couldn’t stop him. It went on and on…I told him everything I thought he wanted to know, but he just laughed and continued to… oh God Deanna…it was…” “Then what?” “Then it was me! I was using that damn painstik on him and all he could do was scream and tell me he loved me! But I couldn’t stop…I used it again and again, burning and twisting…” “Beverly!” With a gasp, the Doctor opened her eyes and stared at the Counsellor. “Why Deanna? Why would I dream such a dreadful thing?”

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“You were helpless, being tortured by a man who cared nothing about you. He used you as a tool to get at the Captain and in your mind you relived your capitulation and the subsequent breaking of the Captain. You feel responsible.” “You’re damn right I am! If I…” “No Beverly! You heard the Captain himself. He said he broke of his own accord; it had nothing to do with you. You feel responsible for him…and he feels responsible for you. Neither of you is right, both of you are wrong. The one responsible is Madred! He orchestrated the kidnap, he set up your imprisonment and HE tortured you both. No one else…just him. He had his own agenda, his own motivations…that he’s obsessed with the Captain is obvious, you Beverly were caught up in that obsession. If there is any blame here, it’s his and his alone.” Beverly stilled her trembling and frowned. “Maybe Jean-Luc had the right idea.” “How’s that?” “Perhaps a phaser isn’t such a bad suggestion.” Relieved that Beverly was regaining her perspective, Deanna allowed a chuckle to escape. “Well it’s not a technique I’d sanction…” The two women sat back on the sofa and breathed deeply. Deanna opened her eyes and noticed a hypospray on the coffee table. Digging Beverly in the ribs, she gained her attention and pointed to the instrument. “What’s that for?” “It’s Jean-Luc’s sedative. I’ll give it to him when I get back to his quarters.” “How much longer will he be on it?” Beverly frowned in thought and pursed her lips. “I don’t know really. There’s a very real chance he’ll need it for the trial.” “You’re not serious! He would never allow it.” “I’m not so sure Deanna. Think about it…what he’ll have to relive in his testimony…” “Still…” Beverly sat up and picked up the hypo, turning it in her elegant hands thoughtfully. “We’ll see.” Patting the Doctor on the thigh, Deanna rose and looked down at her friend. “Well that’s it for now. If I sense any disturbances during the night I’ll come straight away.” Beverly reached up and gripped the Counsellor’s hand. Nodding she mouthed, “Thank you.” Deanna smiled and left. Beverly sat in thought for a moment or two, then rose and went to pack a few things she would need. She left her cabin ten minutes later. When she entered her lover’s quarters she was surprised to find him at his desk going over the ship’s logs. Arms akimbo, she summoned a glare, which he studiously ignored. “Jean-Luc…” “No one said I couldn’t keep an eye on things.” Sighing in exasperation, Beverly went over to the desk and turned the monitor, effectively breaking his concentration. “Beverly!”

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“Jean-Luc you were told to relax. You told me you were going to read…” ”I am reading.” Beverly closed her eyes and mentally counted to ten. Gathering her patience, she took a deep breath and tried again. “Books Jean-Luc…poetry, Dixon Hill, Shakespeare…anything except ship’s business.” He sat back in his seat and petulantly folded his arms across his chest. Lifting his chin he muttered, “I was only catching up…I wasn’t going to do anything.” Gesturing with her head, Beverly encouraged him to join her on the sofa. He rose slowly, but was happy enough to sit with her. From her pocket she withdrew the hypospray. His eyebrows rose. “Is that…?” “Your sedative.” She gently pulled down the collar of his shirt but his large hands stopped her. Frowning, she looked up at him to find him shaking his head. “No Beverly…no more.” “But Jean-Luc without its calming influence you’ll be at the mercy of…” “I know but I’ve got to face it Beverly…I can’t hide. Besides, you’re not using it.” She was silent while he took the hypo from her hand and laid it on the low table. When he leaned back she placed her hand on his chest. “What about the nightmares?” He frowned and shook his head. “I can tell you…from personal experience…they will get better. Slowly but surely they will subside until they are but a dim memory.” ”And in the meantime?” “I have you and Deanna. And what about you?” Beverly looked deeply into his eyes looking for and finding the love she knew was there. Slowly raising her hand, she trailed her fingers down his face and whispered, “I have you” During the long night that followed, they were stricken with nightmares, each of them experiencing the terror. Sleep abandoned, they sat and talked quietly with Deanna for some hours, exploring their fears and pains, the time spent with the Counsellor therapeutic for them both.

At 1045 the next morning, Collin Orford sat at his station in the Detention Room, clenching his hands into fists and sweating as Madred’s silky voice permeated his hearing. He lowered his head and shouted to himself… “Don’t listen!”

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Beverly had left the Captain’s quarters and was ensconced in her office in Sickbay. Although still off duty she, nonetheless, attempted to do what she’d caught the Captain doing the night before. There was nothing she hated more than falling behind in her reports, so she took her down time as ample opportunity to catch up. Selar had questioned her about it, but Beverly had forestalled her concerns and was happily immersed in her work.

Collin had had enough. Rising abruptly from his chair he drew his phaser and stalked to the force field. “Shut up!” “Or what?” The trembling Ensign wiped at his brow and nervously cleared his throat. “Or I’ll lower the field and stun you into silence!” Madred grinned slyly and cocked his head. “You wouldn’t dare! You haven’t got the…balls.” With an angry stabbing of his fingers on the control pad, Collin deactivated the field and raised the phaser. “I’ll show you balls…” When questioned later, Collin would not be able to recall seeing Madred move. He was that quick. In a blur of motion The Cardassian lunged forward and snatched the phaser from the startled young man’s hand. In shocked silence he watched as the prisoner raised the weapon and sneered. “You understand of course…” The discharge was brief and the unconscious Ensign was dragged into the cell. With quick precision Madred reinstated the force field and cautiously approached the doors to the room, hefting the phaser. They rumbled open and he stuck his head out into the corridor to find himself alone. Seeing the turbolift, he made for it and, once safely inside asked, “Where is Captain Picard?” “Captain Picard is in his quarters.” “Take me there.” The lift deposited him on deck six and he followed the lighted wall strip to Jean-Luc’s cabin. Standing outside he gently caressed the plaque displaying the identity of the occupant. He pressed the annunciator and grinned at hearing the distinctive voice call, “Come.” Jean-Luc was sitting in his favourite chair doing what he’d promised Beverly he would do. Read a book. He raised a hand and gestured the caller to enter before placing a marker in his book and slowly lowering it. His hands froze when he heard the voice. “Hello Jean-Luc.” His head spun around to find himself staring down the barrel of a phaser. “Don’t make a sound! One word and I’ll vaporise you where you sit.” His eyes wide, Jean-Luc rose slowly to his feet and turned to face his nemesis. “Well Jean-Luc you look…restored. Tell me, how is the Doctor?”

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Unable to speak, Jean-Luc felt the beginnings of tears. He shook his head and frowned. Madred stepped closer and placed the phaser at his chest. “Oh come now Picard, you can do better than that.” He leaned forward until his breath puffed in Jean-Luc’s face. “Tell me Jean-Luc…how many lights?” Something broke in the Captain’s mind. In a surge of blind fury his fist slammed into the side of Madred’s head and a howl of rage was torn from his throat. The phaser jolted from Madred’s hand as the Cardassian fought back. He punched Jean-Luc savagely in the face sending the Captain reeling back to fall on the low table, smashing it to pieces. The larger man grabbed Jean-Luc by the shirt and wrenched him to his feet. Jean-Luc took the opportunity to deliver a powerful blow to the Cardassian’s midriff, driving the air from his lungs. Mindless with wrath Jean-Luc pounded his enemy with his fists, but Madred was also in a stupor of rage. He caught Jean-Luc a stunning blow to the head and followed it up with a punishing strike to the stomach sending the Captain to his knees. The Cardassian’s hands went around Jean-Luc’s throat and squeezed, lifting him to his feet and bringing him close to Madred’s face. Through bloodied lips, Madred snarled, “I want to watch you die Human!”

Selar stood before Beverly’s desk and waited patiently for the Doctor to notice her. Beverly eventually sensed the presence and looked up to be greeted by the stern countenance of her fellow physician. Hands behind her back, the Vulcan said quietly, “Doctor Crusher you have worked long enough. I advise you to go to your quarters and rest.” About to remonstrate with her companion, Beverly had an idea. “How about I take a medical tricorder and go scan the Captain’s abscesses?” Sighing Selar nodded. “If you wish Doctor, as long as you rest afterwards.” Grinning broadly, Beverly took up a tricorder and breezed out of Sickbay. She soon arrived at Jean-Luc’s cabin and frowned when he didn’t grant her entry. “Computer where is Captain Picard?” “Captain Picard is in his quarters.” “Is he asleep?” “Inconclusive.” Alarmed, Beverly again addressed the computer. “Open door to Captain Picard’s quarters. Authorization Crusher gamma three eight.” The door obediently opened and Beverly screamed. Madred had Jean-Luc by the throat and she could plainly see the Captain was unconscious; his body limp in the Cardassian’s hands. “Security to the Captain’s quarters!” She ran into the room and picked up the fallen phaser. With practised ease she checked the setting and yelled at the assailant.

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“Madred stop! Let him go!” Madred ignored her and squeezed harder. “Die you puny Human!” Beverly pressed the trigger and a bright orange beam lanced out, striking the big man squarely in the chest. His hands left Jean-Luc’s throat as his arms flew outward. His body lifted from the deck and sailed backwards, falling amidst the debris of the broken table. His head snapped back and was skewered by the upright shard of the table’s leg, entering the back of his head and exiting, protruding from his forehead. His body twitched and jerked before becoming still. Beverly dropped the phaser and ran to Jean-Luc who was lying inert on the floor. As she rolled him to his side and checked his pulse, three security officers entered the cabin, weapons drawn. Upon seeing the Cardassian, a team from Sickbay was summoned and they surrounded their officers protectively. Will arrived soon afterwards and squatted down beside the worried Doctor. “How is he?” “I don’t know. Hand me the tricorder…I dropped it over there somewhere.” She pointed to the other side of the room and Will soon found it. She was scanning the Captain when the medical team arrived. Three went to the fallen Captain, one to the Cardassian. Beverly frowned over her instrument. “He has three broken ribs, facial fractures and a broken hyoid bone. Have you brought an antigrav bed?” “Aye Doctor.” “Good. Let’s get him to Sickbay.” The medic who had gone to check on Madred reported to Beverly. “He’s alive Doctor.” “What?” “There has been extensive brain damage and some other injuries, but he’s alive.” Her medical training kicking in, Beverly said automatically, “Place his head in stasis and have him removed to Sickbay…under guard.” “Yes Doctor.” Will helped Beverly to her feet and they watched as Jean-Luc was gently placed on the antigrav bed. They followed him to Sickbay.

Selar was waiting for them when they arrived. Beverly and the Vulcan surrounded Jean-Luc as he was gently lifted onto a biobed. Two fellow Doctors attended to Madred when he came in and guards were placed around his bed. With a painful gasp, Jean-Luc regained consciousness and his hands lifted to his throat. Beverly caught them and held tightly whilst softly calling to him. “Jean-Luc you’re in Sickbay. Lie still while we treat you.” He relaxed the moment he heard her voice. She placed his hands by his sides and ran a tricorder once again over his body. With Selar watching, Beverly took up an osteoregenerator and began to fuse the broken bones. The Vulcan used a tissue fuser to close

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the cuts to his face and the abrasions to his hands and, lastly, they employed a tissue regenerator to heal the significant bruising, both external and internal. Analgesics were administered and soon Jean-Luc was lying pain free and healed on the bed. As Beverly read the screen on her computer, he gently caught her sleeve. She looked down at him and smiled. After an experimental swallow, Jean-Luc found his voice. “Madred…where is he?” Beverly took his hand and sat on the bed. “He’s here Jean-Luc…in Sickbay.” Closing his eyes, Jean-Luc couldn’t stop the ensuing trembling. Seeing his distress, Beverly took him in her arms and whispered close into his ear, “He’s badly injured Jean-Luc…I don’t know if he’ll survive.” “How?” “I shot him with a phaser and he fell on the broken table. One of the shattered legs pierced his skull…there’s been massive brain damage.” Beverly pulled back from him and watched as he raised his hands to his face. “Oh God…will it never end?” She took his hands and held them to her breast, concerned as tears flowed down his face. “Jean-Luc he can’t hurt you any more…he will never hurt anyone again.” The Captain sighed and sniffed gently. Beverly retrieved some tissues for him and he blew his nose. He wasn’t surprised when Deanna appeared at his side. She placed her hand gently on his shoulder. “How are you Sir?” Instead of answering, his face crumpled and more tears flowed. He turned onto his side away from the women and sobbed quietly, too shattered to care. He never heard the hiss of the hypospray as it delivered its load of sedative. He slipped into sleep seamlessly. Beverly stood by his bedside, her own tears flowing freely. Deanna insinuated her hand into hers and led her to the office. Once seated, and hot drinks in hand, Deanna addressed her friend. “What happened?” Beverly took a steadying breath and sipped her tea. “When I got to Jean-Luc’s quarters he didn’t answer the door so I asked the computer where he was. It said he was inside, but when I asked if he was asleep, it said the information was inconclusive. I panicked and used my override. I saw Madred choking an obviously unconscious Jean-Luc so I picked up a fallen phaser and shot him.” “What setting?” “Heavy stun.” “Not kill?” “No…I checked…I couldn’t, even after all he’d done to us…I couldn’t just kill him…” “And then?” Beverly frowned at the memory the question provoked. “Madred fell back on a broken table and was impaled through the skull.” “Is he dead?” “No.” “Prognosis?” Beverly shrugged.

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“I don’t know. The staff are still treating him. Deanna how did he escape? Do you know?” Will’s voice interrupted them. “He somehow got the guard to lower the force field and overpowered him. I’ve yet to speak to the guard or his supervisor…all we know is that the Ensign was found heavily stunned and incarcerated in the cell. How’s the Captain?” Beverly motioned for him to take a seat. “Not well. We’ve treated his injuries, but he’s not taking it too well. He’s shattered Will. That bastard went to his quarters to kill him! How do you think he feels?” Before Will could comment, Doctor Gersh appeared at the door. “Yes Steve?” “I have the report on Madred Doctor.” Beverly took the PADD and spent a moment in silence reading it. When she was finished she sighed and gently placed it on the desk. “Well he’ll never hurt anyone again.” Will looked at Deanna and cast his eyes over the red head. “Beverly?” “The brain damage has been extensive, but curiously localised. In effect, Madred has been lobotomised. He will recover…to an extent…but his personality will be irrevocably altered. There may be some paralysis and definitely a significant lowering of intelligence. My guess is that he will be confined to a medical facility for the remainder of his life.” Will shook his head and muttered, “It’s too good for that bastard!” Beverly’s eyes hardened and she squared her shoulders. “While I agree with you Commander, that doesn’t alter the fact that he will survive. What we have to do is help the Captain come to terms with what’s happened. He’s our main concern right now.” Will looked up and met her gaze. “This will alter things with Starfleet.” ”How so?” “Well there’ll be no trial now. I’ll have to submit a detailed report to Internal Investigations, they’ll decide what, if anything, will happen.” “What’s at stake?” “The Captain’s ability to command.” “What? But Will none of this was his fault! Madred...” Will held up his hands to placate the irate Doctor. “I agree with you, but you said it yourself…he’s not taking it too well. I suppose it’ll depend on how he recovers and how long it takes.” Beverly leaned forward and cradled her head in her hands. Her voice was soft but her friends heard her nonetheless. “Who heads Internal Investigations?” “Admiral Alynna Nechayev.” “Oh God.”

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Two hours later Beverly was quietly, but insistently arguing with Selar. “Look I’m not suggesting full reinstatement to duty…I just want to be his primary physician.” ”I understand Doctor, but that does not alter the fact that you are still relieved of duty and under my care.” Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and took the Vulcan by the arm to lead her to a quiet corner. Looking about to ensure their privacy, she lowered her voice and informed the Doctor, “Selar…you know that the Captain and I are…close?” ”Yes Doctor.” “Do you know how close?” The Vulcan’s eyebrows rose and she tilted her head. “No doctor Crusher, I am not cognizant as to the depth of your relationship with the Captain.” Taking a deep breath, Beverly stared into her fellow medic’s eyes and admitted the truth. “We’re lovers Selar…bonded mates. We have been for eight months now.” “I see. And you feel this entitles you to be his primary physician, despite your off duty status?” Beverly nodded, her fingers surreptitiously crossed. The Vulcan considered the request and came to a decision. “I must take into account the fact that you have already been treating Captain Picard in a limited fashion for some time now. I condone your request Doctor, as long as you remain under my care.” Letting out a long breath, Beverly squeezed her compatriot’s arm. “Thank you Selar. Now I think what the Captain needs right now is uninterrupted rest. I intend to apply neural inducers to achieve dreamless sleep…for at least twenty-four hours. It should allow his body to recover and his mind to assimilate what has happened without the trauma of nightmares.” Selar nodded slowly. “I concur Doctor. Do you require assistance?” Smiling Beverly nodded. The two Doctors gathered up the needed equipment and made their way to Jean-Luc’s room. He lay on his side still and the women gently rolled him onto his back. Placing the inducers on each of his temples, Beverly aligned them with the computer and activated them. Small green lights came on and Jean-Luc’s breathing deepened as his mind and body entered a deeper form of sleep. The doctors then attached him to a bio waste unit before covering him warmly with blankets. Selar watched as Beverly drew up a chair and seated herself next to him. “He will not waken.” Beverly sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “I know…I just want to be near him.” Cocking her head, Selar opined, “Your bond with him is strong.” Without taking her eyes off her lover, Beverly smiled tenderly. “Oh yes…very strong.”

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Early next morning Beverly was roused from a doze. A nurse had come to report that Madred had responded to stimuli but remained unconscious. Steeling her resolve, Beverly left her lover and slowly walked to the Cardassian’s room, looking at him for the first time since Jean-Luc’s quarters. His head encased in the blue light of a regen beam, the patient was lying on his back, his body within a restraining field. The irony of the field and guards came to stab at her heart. “Now it’s your turn you bastard.” She stood silently looking down at him, studying the man who had wreaked such heartache, such anguish. It would be so easy to kill him, just as it had been in Jean-Luc’s cabin, but Beverly was defined by her profession. She was a healer first and foremost; it wasn’t within her to take a life…even his. Deliberately relaxing her body, she looked at the disabled patient objectively and sighed. In her mind she reinforced her prognosis. “No…you won’t hurt anyone ever again.” She returned to Jean-Luc’s room, a weight having been lifted from her shoulders.

Beverly stayed by the Captain’s side until he began to waken the next day. The neural inducers had been removed and he entered REM sleep, twitching and occasionally gasping. She sat on the bed and gently stroked his face, her fingers relaying the sensation of his prickling stubble. He calmed immediately and sighed, his hand creeping up to find hers. He wrapped his fingers around hers and brought her hand to his lips, tenderly placing a kiss on the back of her hand. Beverly smiled and said softly, “Open your eyes Jean-Luc.” His shaking head surprised her. “Why not?” A sleep-roughened voice answered her. “Because in my mind I can see you…nothing else, just you. I don’t want to spoil it.” “Yes well if you open your eyes you’ll see me. I’m right here.” He sighed and a smile crept across his face. “True, but I’m still in Sickbay aren’t I?” “Uh huh.” “Then I’ll see things I’d rather not.” “Like what?” He frowned and sniffed slightly. “Monitors…waste units, connected to me…instruments…Sickbay stuff.” Beverly grinned and leaned very close so that her breath caressed his face.

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“Open your eyes Jean-Luc.” She felt a welcome tingle of delight as his dark hazel eyes opened and focussed on her. His hand released hers and his fingers came up to skim over her face. He smiled as she crept closer and closed her eyes. Their lips met softly as they gently kissed, his own eyes drifting closed as a sigh escaped. He was about to tangle his hands in her hair when she slowly pulled back and grinned at him. “Hello you.” He returned the grin and replied, “Hello yourself. How long have I been asleep?” Beverly pursed her lips, tempted to deflect his enquiry. He saw her hesitation and frowned. “Beverly?” She took his hands in hers and held them to her breast. “A little over twenty-four hours.” His eyebrows rose and his breathing stopped. “So long…” “I used neural inducers allowing you to sleep dreamlessly. It also gave your body a chance to heal properly.” He took a large breath and settled his gaze on her. “And Madred?” She increased her grip on his hands and steeled her nerves. “He’s still here Jean-Luc. He survived.” “Oh God…” ”No! Listen to me Jean-Luc…he’s been brain damaged…lobotomised…he will be a totally different person. He will be under medical care for the rest of his life…he won’t hurt you or anyone else ever again…he simply won’t be able to.” Jean-Luc screwed his eyes shut and whispered hoarsely, “Have you been treating him?” “No my love, but I have been to see him, although he’s still unconscious. I must admit it was hard…part of me contemplated killing him…but I couldn’t do it. Despite what he’s done to you…to us…I couldn’t take his life. Not for me…or you.” Jean-Luc opened his eyes to see Beverly’s brimming with tears. He released her hands and held his arms out wide. She slowly descended into his embrace and her tears wet his neck. They were like that when Deanna arrived. She took one look and withdrew; going to the office and replicating herself a hot drink instead. Waiting ten minutes, she finished her drink and once again approached the privacy of the Captain’s room. This time when she peeked in she saw the occupants smiling lopsidedly and wiping at their tears. She cleared her throat and hid a smile as the Captain tried to attain a composed visage. “Hello Captain, how are you today?” With Beverly’s help, he sat up in the bed and the Doctor arranged some pillows behind him. Focussing his attention on the Counsellor, he answered, “I’m well thank you Deanna.” Deanna smiled and turned to the red head. “Beverly, why don’t you get some lunch for the Captain while we talk?” Nodding, Beverly left her lover, but not before planting a gentle kiss on his lips. “I’ll be right back.”

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He nodded, a smile displayed fleetingly. Once they were alone, Deanna faced her Captain. “What do you remember?” Jean-Luc studied his hands, frowning. “I was in my quarters reading and the door chime sounded. I bade the caller entry but I didn’t look up. I heard his voice first and I froze…in terror.” “What went through your mind?” “I began to panic…I thought not again and when I looked at him, he was pointing a phaser at me and telling me to be silent.” Deanna drew up a chair and sat beside the agitated man. “What did you do?” “Nothing at first. Oh I stood and faced him, but at that point I began to withdraw. I felt tears forming and I shook my head…I couldn’t believe it was happening…not on my ship…in my quarters. I felt so…bloody helpless…” “And then?” “He stepped closer and started to ask questions. I didn’t react until he asked me…” Jean-Luc lapsed into silence and stared fixedly at his hands, his eyes unfocussed. “Captain? What did he ask?” In a whisper Deanna had to strain to hear he said, “How many lights?” The Counsellor closed her eyes and stiffened her barriers against the anguish and anger radiating out from the man beside her. Jean-Luc’s hands gripped the blankets and tears slipped down his face. His voice breaking, he managed, “I snapped…something inside me broke and I lashed out blindly, hitting him in the head.” “Do you remember how that felt?” Jean-Luc nodded a sardonic smile on his face. “Oh yes Counsellor…I remember. It felt fucking wonderful! I hit him with everything I had…I’ve never hit anyone as hard as that before and when my fist made contact I relished the sensation. It crossed my mind I may very well lose the fight, but at that point death seemed…inconsequential. I simply took the opportunity to fight back. It was fundamental really.” “And Madred…what did he do?” “He dropped the phaser and fought back with equal vigour. We traded several blows but eventually he overcame me and the last thing I remember was him picking me up by the throat and yelling at me…though I don’t recall what it was he said.” “That was when Beverly arrived.” “Yes I suppose it was…thank God.” “Captain you realise this means there won’t be a trial?” His head snapped up, a look of surprise on his face. “What?” “Sir Madred will never be mentally able to stand trial for what he did.” “But…but that means no one will…” “No Captain.” His frown deepened and he lowered his head. “Has Will contacted Starfleet?”

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“Yes Sir.” “And?” Deanna reached forward to take his hand, but he withdrew his hands and gripped the sides of the bed. “He’s not heard yet Captain.” “It will be with Internal Investigations.” “Yes Sir.” “Admiral Nechayev.” Deanna didn’t comment as Beverly returned and frowned at seeing the Captain so morose. She cast a look at the Counsellor, receiving a surreptitious shake of the head from the Betazoid. The Doctor placed the tray she carried on a table and came to sit on the bed. “Jean-Luc?” He didn’t reply, instead he closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the pillows. Beverly noticed his hands were tightly fisted. Deanna rose and exited quietly; Beverly ran her hand down his arm. “Hey…I’ve got your favourite. Chicken with salad and a hot cup of Earl Grey. Why don’t you…” He shook his head brusquely and Beverly gently took his clenched hands. “Jean-Luc please…don’t shut me out.” With his eyes still closed he whispered roughly, “He won’t pay…none of them will…” “You mean Madred?” He nodded and Beverly frowned. “Jean-Luc Madred is irretrievably brain damaged…don’t you think he’s paid?” His initial reaction was to vehemently deny her but another calmer Jean-Luc emerged. He sighed and made a concerted effort to relax. Opening his eyes, he nodded and allowed her to unfold his fingers. “I suppose I’ll have to content myself with the fact that our tormentors are no longer able to harm anybody.” Beverly smiled and tilted her head. “Would you like to be disconnected from the bio waste unit?” He nodded and she rose from the bed. “Ok I’ll do that, then you can eat your lunch…then have a shower. How’s that?” He summoned a smile, but Beverly noticed it didn’t reach his eyes. He lay quietly as she went about her task, soon finishing and placing the tray on his thighs. He stared at the plate and picked up the knife and fork, pushing the salad around aimlessly. The Doctor gently closed her hand over his, stilling his movements. “It will be all right Jean-Luc…just give it time.” He nodded and continued to stare at his meal. His question nearly escaped her. “When can I be discharged?” Beverly sighed and released his hand, recognising his withdrawal. “After you’ve eaten and used the toilet.” He nodded and started to feed himself in a mechanical manner, obviously not tasting the food. Beverly soon became exasperated and left the bed to lay out his clean clothes. “When you’ve had your shower, I’ll scan you…we’ll see how those abscesses are doing.”

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She was greeted with silence and she looked up to see him drinking his now cooled tea. Noting that he’d finished his meal, she took the tray and he quickly exited the bed and walked slowly into the bathroom. The door closed on him and Beverly stayed by the portal until she heard the sound of the running shower. Sighing, she went and sat in his room.

Towards evening Jean-Luc and Beverly slowly walked through the corridors leading to his quarters. True to her word, she’d discharged him and was now wondering how to bring him out of his self-imposed isolation. “What do you want to do tonight?” He shrugged, his head staying low as he watched his feet. “Well there’s my new play…you haven’t read it yet. How about I get it and you can give me your opinion?” They stopped at his door, just shy of the sensors. He lifted his head and nodded without enthusiasm but Beverly was encouraged and squeezed his arm. “You go in and I’ll be right back.” He watched her go then stood staring at his doors. Sighing, he stepped forward triggering the sensor and the doors whispered open. He entered and stood in his cabin, noticing that all evidence of the fight had been removed. A new coffee table replaced the broken one; even the bloodstains had been expunged. He closed his eyes as the memories flooded back. His body tensed and his hands curled into fists as the tension in him built. The door chime broke the cycle of escalating anxiety and he turned abruptly to face the door, an unwarranted fear settling in his belly. He had to summon his voice. “Come.” The door opened to reveal his First Officer, PADD in hand. “Hello Captain. I’ve got a communiqué from Starfleet I thought you’d like to see…if it’s not inconvenient?” Jean-Luc swallowed and gestured for Will to enter, still not trusting his voice. The two men sat and Will handed him the PADD. Doing his best to disguise the tremor in his hands, Jean-Luc activated the device. Will watched as his Captain and friend read and noticed as his body seemed to wilt. Becoming concerned, Will gently called to his Commander, “Sir…are you all right?” Jean-Luc closed his eyes and did his best to compose himself. Gathering his voice he asked, “Have you read this?” “Yes Sir.” The Captain nodded and Will offered, “It’s good news Sir…don’t you think?” “Yes…yes it is Will. I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to be alone.” The big man stood and smiled down at his Captain.

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“Of course Sir. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.” Jean-Luc nodded absently as the Commander left, his attention eventually turning to the streaking stars. He was still there when Beverly returned. She saw the PADD on the table but ignored it going to her lover instead. He sat in his chair; his eyes fixed at a far point outside the ship, his fingers gently rubbing his lower lip in a preoccupied fashion. She knelt at his feet and ran her hand up his thighs. “Hey.” It took a moment, but he turned his head and rested his eyes on her face, his hands coming to rest on the arms of the chair. Beverly put her PADD on the floor and trailed her hands up his chest. “Do you want dinner?” He shook his head and Beverly glanced at the PADD on the table. “What’s that?” “What? Oh…Will came by. It’s a communiqué from Starfleet…Admiral Nechayev in fact.” Beverly frowned and looked back at her lover. “May I?” He nodded and she picked up the device and quickly scrolled through the contents. When she finished she smiled up at her best friend. “This is wonderful news Jean-Luc!” He nodded and ran a hand over his cheek. Beverly found it difficult to gauge his reaction. He still seemed painfully withdrawn. “Jean-Luc? Aren’t you happy?” He nodded, pursing his lips. “Of course I am.” Flat…unenthusiastic. “Well you sure don’t act like it! Why…” He stood abruptly and took a few agitated steps. His voice was harsh. “Why aren’t I happy they’re not going to rescind my command? Because I’m not so sure!” Beverly slowly stood and turned to face him. “What do you mean?” “Oh God Beverly…face it! At any time I could be the subject of someone’s vendetta and you’d be dragged into it by your association with me! I’ve been thinking of all the people who have a genuine grievance with me…and you know what? There’s plenty! Over the years I’ve managed to make quite a few enemies…some very powerful. It’s only a matter of time before…” ”Stop it Jean-Luc! This self-castigation must cease here and now. It’s over!” “Is it?! Then why do I feel constantly frightened? Why do I dread being in my quarters on my own? Why do I have to rebuild my fucking life again?” His voice broke raggedly and he collapsed to his knees, the sob wrenched from his throat. Beverly was with him in an instant holding him as he broke down and cried. She cradled his head in her arms as the sobs wracked his body, shaking his lean frame. He cried as a young child would, great heaving sobs and heart wrenching cries, his hands gripping the front of her clothes. She stoically weathered the storm, rocking him and humming the tune that came to her lips.

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An hour later Beverly was helping Jean-Luc settle in bed. When he was lying quietly, she changed into her nightie and slipped into bed beside him, calling for the lights to lower. He gently gripped her arm and she rose up on her elbow to look at him. “Can we leave the lights on…dimmed?” “Of course. Computer set lights at ten percent.” In the dim light she saw Jean-Luc sigh. He shifted his head on the pillow and closed his eyes, his body slowly relaxing. Beverly lay beside him and placed her head on his shoulder, smiling to herself as his arm curled across her shoulders. She concentrated on his breathing and noted when it evened out in sleep. She closed her own eyes thinking, “He must be exhausted.” They slept for over two hours before Jean-Luc’s roar of rage woke Beverly with a start. He sat up and tilted his head back, yelling incoherently and raising his fists. Beverly grabbed his fists and was thrown across the bed by his strength. He attempted to free his hands but Beverly hung on doggedly. “Jean-Luc!” she yelled sharply. “Wake up!” Her voice permeated his mind and he stilled momentarily. Before he could descend again into the nightmare, Beverly released his hands and took his face in hers. “Come on Jean-Luc…open your eyes.” Slowly his eyes cracked open and he moaned in a deep rough voice. His trembling hands came up to cover Beverly’s and tears welled in the hazel depths. “Beverly?” “Yes Jean-Luc it’s me…its all right you’re safe. It was a nightmare, that’s all.” Beverly heard the faint sigh of the main doors opening and Deanna soon stood beside the bed. Jean-Luc closed his eyes and allowed his head to rest on Beverly’s shoulder. The Doctor cast a glance at Deanna and nodded gently to let the Counsellor know all was well. She nodded in return and left quietly. Beverly wasn’t sure that Jean-Luc knew she’d even been there. Beverly waited some minutes until Jean-Lu’s breathing settled and the ragged gasps stopped. She lifted his head and spoke softly to him. “Lie down Jean-Luc.” He did and Beverly left him briefly to retrieve a dampened cloth. His sweat soaked torso was exposed to the air and he gasped slightly when the cool cloth made contact with his heated skin. “Shh I’m just going to clean you up.” With tender wipes, she soaked up the sweat and gently sponged his face. On the spur of the moment, she leaned down and kissed him lightly, surprised when he responded ardently. She broke the kiss and used her fingers to caress his face. His eyes opened and her breath held at seeing the desire evident in his gaze. Leaning down to him again, she kissed him, but he soon took over the kiss, deepening it and urgently requesting admittance for his tongue. Opening to him, she closed her eyes as his tongue plunged into her mouth, laying claim to everything therein. His hands came up to tangle in her hair and she couldn’t contain a moan of passion. She laid herself alongside him and he half rolled

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to partially cover her. His hand left her hair to caress her breast, but he suddenly stopped, withdrew his hands and rolled onto his back. Beverly was confused. “Jean-Luc?” He shook his head brusquely, only piquing her curiosity. “What is it?” He slowly took her hand and closed his eyes. In a rough whisper he admitted, “I can’t get an erection. I haven’t since I’ve been back aboard.” Raising herself up on her elbow, she looked worriedly down at her lover. “There’s more isn’t there?” He nodded and frowned. “Well?” He rubbed his face and let out an annoyed breath. “When I was raped…both times…I got an erection.” Beverly took his hands and spoke urgently to him. “Jean-Luc look at me!” He reluctantly opened his eyes and faced the red head. “That was a purely physiological response. Whenever the prostate is stimulated an erection is the result. It doesn’t mean…Look, relax and concentrate on what I’m going to do to you.” He began to sit up, dislodging the Doctor. With some strength, she pushed him back down and straddled his hips. “Oh no you don’t. You’ve got it into your head that you’re somehow less of a man because your body responded to what that bastard did to you! Well I’m going to prove you wrong. Now close your eyes and concentrate!” He grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes. “What about the abscesses?” A devilish smile appeared. “Didn’t I tell you? They’re healed.” His eyes held hers a moment longer before he rested his head back on the pillows and sighed. Taking that as her cue, Beverly began by tracing her fingers lightly over his chest. In ever decreasing circles, she honed in on his nipples and noticed as his breathing deepened. When she brushed the nubs he pushed his chest up into her hands and sighed. Encouraged, Beverly slowly scooted down his body, trailing her fingers across the hair of his chest and lower, down his stomach to the waistband of his shorts. Chancing a glance upward, she saw that he still kept his eyes closed and his jaw clenched. “Relax Jean-Luc”, she purred…“just feel…” Pushing the covers down, she slipped her fingers under the elastic and slowly drew his shorts down and off, discarding them on the floor. She moved slothfully up his legs, dragging her nails tantalisingly up the insides of his thighs. He rewarded her by opening his legs and she knelt between them, frowning when he still showed no response. “Jean-Luc…” His eyes opened and he watched as she seductively stripped her nightie off. She leaned forward and dragged her nipples over his flaccid penis, then sat up, staring at him. His eyes ranged over her nude body, settling on her perfect breasts. Of their own volition, his hands rose and cupped her bosom, his fingers unerringly finding and

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tweaking the nipples to hardness. Moaning sultrily, she covered his hands with hers and slowly rubbed her vulva over him. His eyes closed again and she was annoyed to see the frown return. Disengaging his hands, she moved down his body until she was again positioned between his legs. She took his soft penis in her hand and gently squeezed it rhythmically, her free hand carefully massaging his testicles. He groaned and shifted on the bed, encouraging her to increase her ministrations. She kissed the insides of his thighs and moved higher, until she could lick the bottom of his scrotum. Gently sucking, she drew one of the sensitive orbs into her mouth and hummed softly, the vibrations travelling up through his body and causing him to moan again. She released his testicle and, kissing and licking, traversed the length of his shaft to the head, where she took it into her mouth and swirled her tongue over it. In her hand and mouth, he slowly began to harden. She redoubled her efforts and, as he stiffened, took more and more of him into the hot wet heat of her mouth. As one hand gently massaged his testicles, the other stroked his penis as her mouth rose and descended on him and he delighted her when he began to thrust into her mouth. She rose until he almost left her orifice then abruptly descended almost to the base, sucking and lavishing him with her tongue. Her fingers rhythmically squeezed the base as her mouth pumped over him and she soon tasted his first droplet. She looked up and smiled inwardly as she noted the frown had disappeared, to be replaced by slack-jawed, sweating concentration. His chest heaved as he thrust into her, his hands quickly leaving the sheets and entangling themselves in her hair. His heels pressed into the mattress as his knees slightly bent and she knew he was approaching his release. Gasping, his moans became continuous and his body suddenly stiffened and his hips burst up from the bed. His penis swelled in her mouth and she took all of him in as he spurted his semen into the back of her throat. Again and again he pumped his essence into her, grunting and gasping, until he slowly started to relax. His penis began to soften and Beverly let it slip from her mouth before tenderly kissing it and moving up his body to lie beside him. It was some time before he was capable of speech. “Beverly?” “Yes my love.” “Thank you.” “You’re very welcome, but you should’ve told me sooner. How long have you been worrying about it?” He was silent so long, Beverly feared he wouldn’t answer, but he eventually turned onto his side to face her. “Ever since the rapes.” “But surely Jean-Luc…” “You don’t understand. The second time…while he was…I…I ejaculated. I was so confused…it was so painful yet I…” Beverly reached up and gently wiped the tears that trickled across his face. “Jean-Luc it was a purely physical reaction! Any man under the same circumstances would’ve…” He placed his fingers over her lips, silencing her. “I knew that in my mind…but after, when I found I’d contracted the venereal disease as well…it just made me feel…emasculated somehow. And there was the fear of passing it to you…I just thought I’d never make love to you again…that I’d been ruined for you.”

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Beverly’s eyes brimmed with tears and she wound her arms around his chest. “Oh my poor love…what you’ve been through.” His whispered, “It’s all right” made her bristle. “It most certainly is not! Jean-Luc you…” His mouth descended on her, effectively bringing silence to the bedroom. His hand drifted to her breast and she sighed as the carefully banked desire suddenly surged to the forefront. Prolonging the kiss, he deepened it and his tongue leisurely entered her mouth as his hand and fingers worked their magic on her breast. She moaned wantonly into his mouth and his hand left her breast to drift down her body, dallying at her navel before swirling through the copper curls of her mons. Rolling her onto her back, he urged her legs apart and fleetingly ran his fingers over her labia before employing two fingers to part her lips to allow his fingers to explore her folds. Breaking the kiss, he tongued his way to her breasts and took first one, then the other nipple into his mouth, swirling his tongue and gently scraping his teeth over the tight buds. Her hands went to his head, holding him at the station, silently begging for more. He slipped out of her grasp and lazily kissed his way down her torso, dipping his tongue into her navel as his fingers entered her vagina. She gasped and thrust up from the bed, the penetration bringing her to the brink. He rested his head on her thigh as he watched his fingers slide wetly in and out of her, deeply breathing in her uniquely musky scent. Grinning, he cast a look down at himself to find his erection returning and sat up to kneel between her legs. While his fingers slowly pumped in and out of her, he took his hardening penis in hand and gently tapped her clitoris with the head. She jerked and called out his name, opening her eyes and watching him as he watched them. He changed the tempo suddenly when he leaned forward and feathered his tongue over her swollen clitoris. She cried out and gripped the sheets, thrusting up into his mouth. Understanding her need, he swirled his tongue firmly over the pearl and was rewarded with a shriek as she climaxed. Her internal muscles gripped his fingers and a rush of lubricant glistened over his hand. He didn’t stop, but pursued another release, quickly bringing her to the edge again. When he felt her begin to contract, he quickly withdrew his fingers and slid his now hard penis inside her, keeping the fingers of one hand busy caressing her clitoris. She came again, powerfully, crying out and reaching for him. He supported himself on one arm and started to thrust into her fast, his own need spiralling out of control, despite his recent orgasm. His fingers still urging her on, she pushed her head back into the pillows, exposing the column of her neck. He leaned down and sucked the tender flesh, concentrating on the suprasternal notch. She arched under him, closing in on another climax. He recognised this and began to pump in and out vigorously. Her nails raked his back and he lifted his head to growl. Teeth clenched, he opened his eyes and watched as she was carried away on a wave of ecstasy. She writhed under him and shrieked his name, causing him to loose himself in her. He suddenly ground himself as deeply as he could in her and came hard, a guttural cry torn from his throat. His arm gave out and he collapsed on her, panting and moaning. They stayed like that for some time, until Beverly took his head in her hands and raised it. Kissing him softly all over his face, she finished by tenderly kissing his mouth. His eyes opened and he managed a smile. “Oh Beverly…God that was…wonderful.” “Hmm. Don’t ever question it Jean-Luc…you’re all man…and then some.”

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He grinned and slipped to one side, pulling her with him. He reached down and pulled up the blankets and, still joined, they drifted off to sleep.

The next morning the lovers were at the table enjoying their usual croissants and coffee when the door chime sounded. Jean-Luc raised his head and frowned, but called, “Come.” Deanna sidled in and asked permission to join them. Receiving a nod from her Captain, she sat with them and accepted the cup of coffee from the Doctor. “I know it’s not your usual brew, but Jean-Luc programmed a new blend and I think you’ll like it.” Blowing tentatively on the hot liquid, Deanna sipped and after an initial frown, grinned broadly. “It’s very nice.” Jean-Luc sat back in his chair and gazed at the Betazoid. “And to what do we owe the pleasure?” “Will has just received orders concerning Madred.” The Captain frowned and lowered his head. “And you thought it better you tell me rather than him?” “Yes Sir.” “I see. What are the orders?” Deanna sighed and moved forward in her chair. ”We’ve been ordered to take him to Earth Sir. All crew will be given extensive shore leave while a new communication array is installed at McKinley Station.” Jean-Luc slowly placed his serviette on the table and made a show of brushing nonexistent crumbs from his lap. “Down time?” “Two weeks.” He pursed his lips and cast a glance at his lover. “Very well. How long until we reach the Sol system?” “Ten days Sir.” He turned to Beverly and raised his eyebrows. “And where will the patient stay?” The Doctor reached for his hand, but he withdrew it and clasped both hands on his lap. Beverly sighed and picked up her coffee instead. “He will be staying in Sickbay. He’ll be under guard and within a restraining field.” “I see.” Deanna cleared her throat and caught the Captain’s attention. “How do you feel about that Captain?” He frowned and tilted his head. “I can’t but help see the irony. Not so long ago it was me, held under the same circumstances.”

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“Have you come to terms with the fact there will be no trial?” He sighed and slowly turned his cup around on its saucer. “Yes…I suppose.” The two women looked at each other, both frowning. The Counsellor enquired, “Captain what are your feelings concerning the recent communiqué from Admiral Nechayev?” He shifted in his seat and crossed his legs, bringing his hands up onto the table. “I wasn’t so sure they’d made the correct decision.” “Why?” He frowned and fiddled with his serviette. “Although the continuance of my command aboard this ship is welcome, it is dependant on my recovery…specifically on how long it takes. Will has command now…and he will continue in that position up until such time as I can relieve him. I, however, have reservations about my recovery.” Deanna tilted her head and frowned. “But surely Sir, you realise that it’s my recommendations they will adhere to…and I think you’re doing very well. Even this morning, you’re displaying a level of relaxation I wouldn’t have thought possible a few days ago.” Jean-Luc reddened slightly and smiled tenderly at his lover. “Counsellor, I have Beverly to thank for that. No doubt she will fill you in on all the… details…not in my presence I hope…and you will see why I’ve been a little…tense.” It was Deanna’s turn to blush. Being cognizant to their emotional emanations, she was well aware of what had occurred during the night. Privately she’d been delighted. Professionally she was curious to know what had happened to allow him to break through the depression he had been in. He was right…she would be talking to Beverly…and soon. “I’m glad you’re feeling better Captain. Tell me, how are the nightmares…for both of you?” The lovers looked at each other and this time Jean-Luc allowed Beverly to take his hand. She answered for both of them. “It’s been a little rough…more so for Jean-Luc than me, but we’re both afflicted.” “Hmm. I think I can teach you a technique for directed dreaming. Captain you’ve had experience with this already, you can help Beverly.” He nodded and stretched, Deanna catching the subtle signal of dismissal. “Good. Well I’ll be going. Please see that your down time is filled with distractions. The last thing I want to hear is that you’re both bored.” Deanna stood and smiled down at her friends. Beverly reached up and squeezed her hand, earning a wide grin from the Counsellor. She left and Beverly spent a few minutes clearing the table and sending the leftovers to the reclimator. Jean-Luc sat back in his seat and watched her appreciatively. When she came close to him to wipe down the table, he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her down onto his lap. He kissed her before she could protest and the kiss quickly became deeply passionate. She twisted on his lap until she straddled him and growled into his mouth when she felt his hardening penis. With characteristic grace and strength, he rose from his seat with Beverly clinging to him and walked into his bedroom. They didn’t emerge for over an hour.

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For the next three days they kept themselves busy. With Beverly’s permission, Jean-Luc started to involve himself in ship’s business, albeit only via the computer, he nonetheless kept his finger on the pulse and was invaluable to Will. Neither officer talked overly about what had happened to them. They had therapy session with Deanna, separately and together and slowly they gained a perspective about their experiences. Deanna learned of the sexual dysfunction Jean-Luc had endured and concurred with Beverly that the problem had been met and resolved. On the fourth day Beverly was reinstated to duty and cleared medically. Jean-Luc had been medically cleared also, but until Deanna gave her approval, he remained off duty. The crew became used to seeing their Captain strolling through the ship, turning up at different departments and generally keeping himself up to date with his ship’s business. Beverly had gently suggested he visit Madred, but it was something he refused to do. Deanna felt he was holding on to his anger by remembering Madred, as he was, not as the helpless being under guard in Sickbay. Knowing how important it was for Jean-Luc to have closure, and to accept that the incident was indeed over, she decided to mount a campaign to get him to acquiesce. She also knew she would have to be clever.

It was evening and the two lovers lay entwined, basking in the bliss of lovemaking. Jean-Luc was idly drawing patterns over Beverly’s back as she gently nuzzled his neck. As the sweat cooled on their skin, Beverly occasionally lapped at him with her tongue causing residual tremors to pass through his sensitive body. “Hmm, that’s nice.” She chuckled and buried closer to him. “You taste yummy.” “Yummy?” “Uh huh…why, don’t you like the thought of being yummy?” He sighed delighting Beverly who rode the rising and falling of his broad chest. “Well…as a connoisseur, I would’ve appreciated a more descriptive term. Well seasoned perhaps.” “Well seasoned? Nup…you’re yummy. Live with it.” He sighed again and grinned in the darkness. “Very well.” Beverly rose up on her elbow and ran her fingers over his ribs, enamoured when he writhed and chuckled. “You’re ticklish!” “Now Beverly…” Beverly caressed him again and laughed outright when he guffawed, lifted his knees and made a grab for her hands.

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“I’ve got my very own ticklish, yummy sex toy!” “Stop you wench!” “Or you’ll what?” “Or I’ll suck that spot…you know the one that makes you…” “All right! At least for now, but there is something you can do for me…something very important.” He noticed that the humour had left and she was serious. “What?” “Come to Sickbay with me Jean-Luc.” He sat up and stared into the darkness. “Why?” “To see Madred.” “NO!” “Jean-Luc…” He threw the blankets back and stalked into the bathroom. Beverly heard him use the toilet and, by the spilled light, watched his shadow as he washed his hands. He re-entered the bedroom and scooped up his robe as he passed the bed. Realising he wasn’t going to come back to bed, Beverly rose and donned her robe and entered the living area to find him at the viewport. Leaving him to his introspection, she replicated some hot drinks and went to the sofa, where she sat and placed the mugs on the low table. She waited patiently and knew he was ready to talk when his head lowered and he sighed. “Want to talk about it?” He came and sat beside her, hands deep in his pockets. “No. Yes. God, I don’t know.” He withdrew his hands from his pockets and rubbed his face, a sure sign of indecision. Beverly moved closer and took his hands in hers. “What are you afraid of?” He sighed and closed his eyes. “That’s the worst part.” “Why?” “Because I’m afraid I might kill him.” She let go one hand and rubbed it up his arm to his shoulder, which she squeezed. “He’s under guard and you’ll be unarmed.” He held up his hands and curled them into fists. “There’s always these.” Beverly sighed and gently laid her head on his shoulder. “You wouldn’t do it.” “Wouldn’t I? I’m not so confidant Doctor.” Beverly sat up and cupped his chin, turning him to face her. “I know Jean-Luc. If I had any doubt…any doubt whatsoever, I would never have suggested it. You need to do this Jean-Luc. Not only do you need the closure, you also need to see for yourself he’s not a threat anymore. Not to you, not to me, not to anybody ever again.” He sighed and lowered his head. In a quiet voice he asked, “Will the nightmares stop?” “I don’t know…maybe.”

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“It would be worth it, if only for that.” “Then you’ll do it?” He nodded, but Beverly clearly saw the uncertainty in his eyes. She rose and held out her hand. “Come on lover, come back to bed, there’s something I want you to suck…” His grin was irrepressible.

The next morning Jean-Luc found himself meandering through the corridors of his ship. Ostensibly on his way to Sickbay, he found his steps slowed and many detours beckoned. He had to really apply himself to the task at hand, not something that usually bothered him. Soon he found himself outside the main Sickbay doors and he hung back, just short of the sensor, annoyed with himself at the growing anxiety. Sweat rolled coldly down his back and he wiped his trembling palms down his trousers to dry them. The door suddenly opened and he found himself faced by a flustered Doctor Crusher. “Jean-Luc! I was just coming to find you.” “You could’ve called…” “No! That is I…we…umm…” “Beverly?” “Come in Jean-Luc we have to talk.” They crossed Sickbay and entered the office, both taking their customary chairs. Beverly flicked her hair back off her face and Jean-Luc noticed how distracted she was. “Beverly what is it?” The Doctor sighed and reached for his hand, which he gladly gave. “Madred has regained consciousness Jean-Luc.” “Oh I see.” “We didn’t expect it…he needs extensive surgery, something we’re not able to provide here. We’ve been keeping his wounds in stasis until a neurologist on Earth can deal with it.” “Does he understand…?” “No Jean-Luc. He’s still heavily sedated and quite confused. I doubt he understands anything.” Jean-Luc nodded thoughtfully and Beverly held her breath after she asked, “Will you still see him?” He rubbed his fingers over his lower lip, a gesture Beverly knew to indicate deep thought. He sighed and raised his head, squaring his shoulders. “Yes. I’ve come this far.” Grinning lopsidedly at her lover, she came around the desk and held out her hand. “Come on then.” She registered the damp appendage and the trembling but said nothing. They crossed the room and stood at the door, the guard coming to attention. Jean-Luc’s distracted,

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“At ease.” Caused the young Ensign to look at her Captain. Beverly smiled encouragingly at Jean-Luc and squeezed his hand. He took a large breath and stepped forward, triggering the sensor. They stepped into the room and Jean-Luc faltered. On the bed in front of him lay his most dangerous enemy. Naked to the waist, the grey skin of the Cardassian seemed to glow dully in the light. His head was held in the sparkling sheen of stasis and blue regen beams bathed his forehead. The shimmering restraining field went from neck to toes and his hands were also clamped to the bed, as were his legs. With Beverly’s encouragement, Jean-Luc approached the bed and looked down at his nemesis. Just then the Cardassian’s eyes opened sluggishly and rolled in his head. JeanLuc gasped and stepped back, Beverly gently pulling on his hand. “It’s ok Jean-Luc.” He stepped forward again and watched as Madred tried to focus his eyes. In a whisper, Jean-Luc asked, “Can he talk?” Beverly stood beside her lover and shook her head. “No my love. He has no control over his body, his brain is too badly damaged.” “How much can they repair?” “Quite a bit actually. Eventually he’ll be able to communicate…maybe walk, perhaps have control over bodily functions…it’s hard to say.” As Jean-Luc watched the helpless man on then bed, the tension slowly began to dissipate. His heart slowed from its frantic rhythm and he regulated his breathing to a more normal level. He glanced at Beverly to find her smiling gently at him. “I can see it now Beverly. He will never harm anyone again. We can go now.” They wandered from Sickbay and found themselves in the lounge. Guinan brought over some drinks and retired, her presence ethereal as usual. “Beverly…what about his government?” She sipped her chamomile tea and sighed. “They’ve washed their hands of him completely. They disavowed any of his actions… they don’t care what happens to him, one thing’s for sure, they don’t want him back. He’s a major embarrassment to them.” Jean-Luc drew some patterns in some spilled Earl Grey and grinned when Guinan appeared to wipe up the mess. “So he’ll be resident on Earth for good? He’ll never see his daughter or wife again?” “I suppose, although with the new treaties there would be nothing stopping them from coming to Earth to visit him.” Jean-Luc nodded, a deep frown on his face. “It’s not likely though…is it?” Beverly shook her head, making her lustrous hair dance. “No, no it’s not.” “So he’s lost everything…whereas I have everything…everything I’ve ever wanted. I have you, my ship, my Captaincy…” “Uh huh.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair, his eyes going as always to the stars. “I won.” “Yes you did.”

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His eyes slowly drifted from the stars and settled on his lover. “Then why don’t I feel…elated?” Beverly tilted her head and reached for his hand. “Maybe because there was a terrible price to pay…for both of you. Jean-Luc I know you, probably better than you know yourself. You could never be happy over the suffering of another being, regardless of the history between you. It’s just not …you.” He snorted and shook his head, eventually allowing a small smile to creep across his face. Beverly was gratified to see it reached his eyes. They sat in silence for a while, until Deanna came to join them. “I heard you’ve been to see Madred Captain.” He nodded and the Counsellor beamed. “Well then It’s my pleasant duty to restore you to active duty, effective tomorrow morning.” His eyes wide, he barely heard Beverly’s shriek. “What? Why?” Captain I’ve been waiting for you to take this step. It’s been your last hurdle, the last seemingly insurmountable object. That you’ve accomplished it and are calm enough to come and sit here quietly with Beverly speaks volumes about your state of mind. Tell me…how do you feel?” He looked at Beverly and saw her gently nod. Facing the Counsellor, he gathered his thoughts. “Actually Deanna I feel…sad…a little deflated even.” ”As you should Sir. It’s been a very rough ride for you but you’ve come through it marvellously. I will still see you on a weekly basis, but to all intents and purposes, you’re recovered.” She stood then and addressed the Doctor. “I’ll see you later.” Beverly nodded and again they were alone. “So Jean-Luc…back on duty.” He grinned and nodded. “I must admit the thought fills me with happiness.” “Good. Are you going to tell Will?” “Uh huh, but not just yet.” ”Oh? Why?” He grinned slyly and surreptitiously took her hand and leaned close to her ear. “Because I was hoping a certain Doctor might accompany me to my quarters for some… extra-curricular activities.” Beverly giggled and blushed. “You mean you want to go fool around?” “Uh huh.” “Now?” “Yes!” “Ok.” They left the lounge quickly, only just resisting the urge to run. Guinan polished the already immaculate bar and smiled to herself. “He’s back.”

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Money For Souls  

1 By the time they reached the scout ship they were bloodied and bruised. Barefoot, their captors made no provision for them as they struggl...