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Secrets In The Dark. Picard lay quietly, trying to ascertain where he was. Slowly he turned his head; searing pain shot through his body. “My God what…?” His thoughts were drowned in the cacophony of agony. Everything was on fire. His head wanting to burst, ribs and stomach, a sea of unremitting agony and his legs…an ominous deadness. He drifted in and out of consciousness, gratefully accepting the periods of senselessness. His name…someone called his name. With great effort he concentrated, the action causing a fresh wave of agony. “Jean-Luc.” Almost a whisper. “Jean-Luc…” Again his name. Forcing his one good eye open, he tried to focus. “Beverly…” he croaked, barely able to make any sound at all. “Stay with me Jean-Luc.” “How bad?” he managed. “Nothing to worry about, we’ll have you as good as new in no time.” He slowly shook his head, ignoring the dizziness. “Beverly please, how bad?” Silence. Not a good sign. “Jean-Luc you have multiple injuries. Two fractures of the skull, several broken ribs, some crushed vertebra and both legs are broken. There is also internal bleeding. If we can get back to the Enterprise there will be no problem, but I must tell you, the communicators were taken from us and the emergency beacon doesn’t seem to work in here. Too much mirridium I think. It’s in all these rocks, and the tricorder isn’t functioning properly.” “What the hell happened?” “It would seem the Scinnar took exception to you dancing with one of the lower caste at the celebratory dinner. You were deemed to have insulted the Natural Balance and I was considered an accomplice in this indiscretion as I had encouraged you to dance with her, thereby causing the affront. Our communicators were removed and we were taken from the banquet room and bundled into a shabby office of sorts. We were left alone for about fifteen minutes, then an official came in and informed us that the ‘sentence’ would be carried out immediately. I tried to protest, but the gagged me and I was restrained in a chair. Five guards came in and, as you tried to make them listen, one of them his you with a heavy baton. They all had them Jean-Luc. They beat you, they kicked you, they didn’t even stop when you were obviously unconscious. It went on…I don’t know. I had gotten to my feet, but the official hit me. When it was over they moved some furniture and opened up a trapdoor. No one checked us, nothing was said, they just dragged you across the floor and pushed you over the edge. I went next. “Jean-Luc I have no idea how to get out of this.” At this admission, Beverly began to weep. “It all happened so quickly…it’s still a confused blur in places.” “Are you all right?” “Oh yes. A sore ankle; my cheek hurts, nothing serious.” “We’ll just have to wait for the Enterprise to find us. It shouldn’t be too long.” Beverly sighed and took a deep breath.

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“Jean-Luc I don’t think they know we’re missing.” “Does the tricorder give any information as to where we are? Can we use it to find a way out?” Raising her head and wiping her hands over her eyes, Beverly once again opened the instrument and scanned the surrounding area. “I think so. There’s a stream flowing nearby that exits this cave system about a kilometre to the south of us. But Jean-Luc, you can’t be moved. It would be best if we just stayed here until Will realises something’s wrong and raises a search party.” Silence. “Jean-Luc?” Quickly switching modes on the tricorder, Beverly ran it over Jean-Luc’s inert body. Unconscious and with a slowly falling blood pressure, Beverly knew she had to get help…and soon. They were in total, utter darkness, the only light coming from the multi-use tricorder she had placed in her uniform as an afterthought when transporting to the planet. Its updated slimline shape was the only reason it wasn’t detected. Using the light now, she swept the cave. Dull foreboding walls, riven with irregular fissures, a large gaping hole in the ceiling, inky black and leading back to the chambers above and a rubble strewn floor was all she could see. With a shudder, Beverly recalled the terrifying slide and drop as she and Jean-Luc were unceremoniously shoved into the open trapdoor after the dreadful assault on the captain. Beverly rose unsteadily to her feet, wincing as she put weight on an obviously sprained ankle. Had she not landed on him, she may well have been seriously injured. Dread washed over her as she checked his vital signs. They were bad and getting worse. Beverly was torn. With Jean-Luc’s condition worsening all the time she needed to stay with him, but they wouldn’t be rescued unless she could get out of the caves to use her tricorder as an emergency beacon. In the meantime she decided to make her way to the stream. At the very least she could clean Jean-Luc’s wounds and further assess his condition. In short it was an uneventful walk, the only obstacle being a tight narrowing of the tunnel she was in, resulting in her having to crawl some fifteen metres. Having reached the stream brought a dilemma. She had nothing with which to carry the water. The tricorder had passed the water as fit for drinking and she knew that Jean-Luc would need water soon, so she did the only thing she could think of at the time. She removed her uniform pants and, after ripping them in two, soaked them in the water. By the time she reached Jean-Luc there were but a few drips to wring out above his dry lips, but the moisture seemed to revive him and she was rewarded to see his good eye slowly open. He could do nothing but wearily nod his gratitude. “I’m going to clean your face and some of your wounds. I’ll be as gentle as I can.” Again a nod. After ten minutes Beverly sat back on her haunches to survey the damage. ”Well Jean-Luc, I’ve seen worse, but not much. How are you holding up?” Jean-Luc tried unsuccessfully to speak, the effort making him cough. The pain this caused was obvious. Pearls of sweat beaded his face and his pallor worsened. “Wait Jean-Luc, this will help.”

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Beverly used a clean piece of cloth to gently squeeze some water into his mouth. After nodding his thanks, he whispered, “Hard to breathe…dizzy…much pain.” The effort seemed to exhaust him, his eye closing. He lifted his hand and when Beverly took it, he squeezed it weakly. Keeping his eye closed he said, “Leave Beverly. Find a way out, get help.” She knew his advice was sound, but she was loathe to leave him. She removed her uniform top and, with great care, placed it under his head. Using the back of her hand, she tenderly stroked his face. Feeling the heat there and knowing his fever could only get worse, helped to give her the resolve she needed to leave him. “Jean-Luc?” A gentle sigh let Beverly know he could hear her. “When I leave I will have to take the light with me, but before I leave I will go back to the stream and bring back as much water as I can. There is a small depression in the floor, near your left hand. I’ll fill it with water and leave the cloth soaked beside you. The tricorder shows the stream, but doesn’t show clearly how it flows. If I can get out I will, if not, I’ll return and we’ll think of something else.” Again he squeezed her hand. “Take care Beverly…don’t worry about me.” It took three visits to the stream to sufficiently fill the depression and supply Jean-Luc with the wet rags. Tenderly lifting his head, she helped his to sip a little water and, as she settled him, placed a soft kiss upon his lips. “Jean-Luc…we will get through this. I’ll be back soon, I promise…and Jean-Luc…I love you.” Without further goodbyes, she left.

Reaching the stream through the now familiar tunnel, she consulted her tricorder and set off downstream. Within twenty metres the rock walls on either side became sheer, eventually tapering until no shelf remained to walk on. Placing first one foot into the frigid waters, then the other, she steeled herself against the biting cold. Giving up her uniform pants and jacket had seemed logical at the time, now she wasn’t so sure. At least the cold was numbing her injured ankle. As she gingerly walked on she soon discovered the streambed was not even. Indeed, it was littered haphazardly with both rocks and potholes. Whatever was interfering with the tricorder’s signal was also beginning to slowly discharge the instrument’s power cell. It was after Beverly’s fourth stumble that she noted the stream was getting deeper and she was getting colder. Checking her instrument once more and using the precious inbuilt light, she could just make out the roof of the tunnel sloping down to almost meet the water. Shivers began to wrack her body. With a psychological shake she pressed forward. By the time she had entered the water tunnel, she realised the amount of air available was rapidly becoming difficult to use, the water now lapping her chin. With her head tilted back, and placing the tricorder in her mouth, she felt her way forward.

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The boulders and potholes she navigated with her feet, her hands some six centimetres above her head, following the contours of the ceiling. Feelings of dread and panic began to swell. In her mind’s eye she saw herself becoming trapped and drowning. A lonely, horrible death, totally alone and in absolute blackness. Beverly rallied her fortitude, pushing her fears aside. She continued on.

Jean-Luc was in a terrible predicament. Everything gave off unremitting bursts of agony. His one functioning eye could not see anything but inky blackness. For the twenty minutes since Beverly left he had drifted in and out of consciousness. Upon waking suddenly he knew he was going to vomit. He tried valiantly to roll onto his side, but the blinding pain made it impossible. Instead the contents of his stomach emptied over his chest and right arm. He almost chocked with the inability to clear his throat. Further coughing and gagging ensued. The result of all this physical action caused overwhelming agony and he blessedly passed out. Some time later he regained his senses, only to wish he hadn’t. If anything, the pain was worse. Breathing was becoming a struggle and his legs had started to throb so badly, he again vomited. All around him was the velvet, suffocating blackness. He knew he was totally alone and before long he found himself quietly weeping. The sound of his helplessness echoed gently around the walls, but there was no one else to hear.

Beverly could only guess how long she had been in the stream. With the tricorder firmly between her teeth, she continued onward. Suddenly she stepped into a huge pothole and was plunged into the bitingly cold water. The pressure of the flowing stream pressed Beverly against the pothole wall and it was a number of fearful seconds before she could rise out of the hole and back up to the ceiling of the stream chute. After she’d gotten her breath back, her next vital concern was the tricorder. She cautiously opened it to be greeted with the comforting sound of a functioning instrument, although the power was dropping alarmingly. Checking, and finding the emergency beacon was still not penetrating the caves, she moved on. The shivering was intensifying and Beverly knew that hypothermia was beginning to overtake her. Nevertheless she placed her feet one after the other, all the while thinking of Jean-Luc.

The captain was unsure as to where he was. He lay quietly, trying to remember, trying to understand what could’ve happened to him. In the palpable silence he could hear his own breathing, short and gasping…and that odour… Slowly raising his right arm he touched his chest only to find the remains of his stomach contents. “Oh mon Dieu, non.”

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As time passed, he remembered what Beverly had provided for him. Searching with his left hand he found the rock depression containing the water. Wetting his hand, he brought it to his mouth. Even the few drips were welcomed. He had begun to feel cold, but whether through blood loss or concussion it mattered little, so he did all he could to relax. It was at this time that he recalled what Beverly had said to him. Not the instructions, not the goodbyes, but those three wondrous words…’I love you’.

With the help of her instrument, Beverly estimated she had approximately twenty-five metres to make the outside, wherever that may be. Thankfully the roof had begun to gain some height, the water level also dropping, allowing Beverly to ease her aching neck and shoulder muscles. A noise stopped her dead. “What the hell?” She was making her way over some large boulders when she discovered the source of the noise. There, close by, was the exit from the caves. Wonderful light was lancing through green foliage and vines, spray filled the air. “A waterfall!” Very carefully, Beverly approached the natural archway only to reel back in horror. The exit was gushing out of an almost sheer cliff at least three hundred metres above the valley floor. With the floor of the cave extending beyond the roof, Beverly was able to look up and see the distance to the top of the mountain. Fortunately, it was only 150 metres or so, but it was heavily covered with undergrowth, most of it thorny. There was very little in the way of purchase to try to climb around the cave mouth, however Beverly found some vines had grown down from the summit. Testing a vine with her weight, she tied one securely around her waist and began the ascent. By the time she reached the top she was spent. Nasty cuts and abrasions covered her bare arms and legs; her hands were cruelly blistered and raw. If not for the fact she still had her shoes, she doubted she could’ve made it.

He was hiding between the rows of grape vines and Robert was searching for him. Jean-Luc knew if his big brother caught him he would be doomed. That afternoon he had ventured into Robert’s room and was fascinated by all the treasures he saw there. Unable to help himself, he picked up one of Robert’s favourite things, a cluster of beautiful clear crystals. The unthinkable happened. It slipped out of his hands and shattered with an explosion of dust and shards at young Jean-Luc’s feet. He stood motionlessly, a single tear running down his cheek. The sound of the kitchen door closing down stairs heralded Robert’s return home, and it was all that was needed to send Jean-Luc into panic. Racing down the stairs, he avoided his brother and ran out the front door. “Where you going sprout?” called Robert at Jean-Luc’s back, then the door closed, cutting Robert off.

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Fear lent wings to Jean-Luc’s feet and he made it to the vines in record time. His speed, however, did not muffle the sound of Robert bellowing his little brother’s name. He had found what was left of the crystals. It wasn’t often Jean-Luc was grateful for his small stature, but this was one of those times. Crouching low, he weaved in and out of the vines, continually casting glances over his shoulder. If he could avoid Robert long enough, his anger may cool…at least he hoped so. Just when he thought he’d eluded his angry brother, he rounded a row of vines and ran straight into Robert, knocking them both flat. Jean-Luc was on his feet fast, but not fast enough. Before he could escape his brother grabbed him by the foot and tripped him up. “How many times have I told you to stay out of my room you little runt?!” Having said that Robert began to hit Jean-Luc. Again and again the blows rained down. Jean-Luc curled himself into a tight ball there on the ground. The pain was frightening. He called to Robert to stop. “Stop, please stop. No more!” The captain gasped and felt a wave of pain engulf him. “Robert?” he croaked. “So black…cold…hurts…please stop Robert. I won’t touch you things again.” It was only when he tried to turn onto his side that he remembered where he was. He knew he was dying and the thought frustrated him. “I have so much more I want to do. Surely I wasn’t destined to die like this…alone and in the dark…the victim of a breech of protocol? And Beverly. Oh my love. Do you know Beverly how long I’ve waited to hear you say those words? I have loved you for twentyfive years and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of you. Please Beverly, hurry back.”

Beverly straightened and peered down at the tricorder. “Come on people, listen!” The instrument’s power cell was almost dead. All Beverly could do was set it and hope for the best. She was so absorbed in what she was doing; she didn’t hear the soft footfalls behind her. “Nice outfit for hiking.” Startled, Beverly whirled around to find herself confronted by a large man in some sort of military uniform, a weapon slung over his shoulder. His eyes slowly travelled up and down Beverly’s body, a leer and an unpleasant smile appeared on his stubble-covered face. “Well my lovely, you’re definitely not from around here. You’re one of them ’Off worlders’ everyone’s been makin’ all the fuss about?” “I’m a Starfleet officer. Another of our officers is badly injured and trapped within the cave system of the mountain. If you would be so kind as to help me contact my ship, I would be very grateful.” He grunted.

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“From what I heard you’re common criminals…but I will tell you something…you’ll be grateful alright.” With deliberate steps he advanced on Beverly. “Stay back! You will be in real trouble if you harm me.” “Who’s gonna know, hmm? Now you just be a good girl and come here.” Beverly had backed up as far as she could. Behind her was the drop to the valley floor, in front of her was a man who intended to rape her. Taking her assailant by surprise, she lunged forward, hoping to unbalance him and escape when he fell. This was not to be. He deftly stepped aside, surprisingly agile for a man his size and grabbed Beverly by the hair as she flew past. “So, she wants to play? I’ve got just the game for you.” Picking her up bodily, he slammed her down on her back and, after loosening his clothing, proceeded to tear Beverly’s underwear off. Beverly struggled, but it only seemed to inflame him. As he covered her body with his, she sank her teeth deeply into his neck. Enraged, he lifted himself up and struck Beverly viscously across the face. His fist was raised for a second blow when Beverly heard the unmistakable sound of a transporter beam. In seconds she was freed, the rapist stunned into oblivion. She ran to a startled first officer. “Beverly! Are you all right? Did he…?” “No Will, you came just in time. Will, you must hurry. The captain is trapped in a cave underneath the government buildings in the central city. He’s critically injured and I had to leave him with no light. He’s alone Will, you must…” He gripped her arms gently. “Beverly, it’s ok. We sent Data and Worf to the complex. We picked up the communicator signals and found they were not with their owners. We exerted a little pressure and the capitulated. Captain Picard is being rescued right now.” “Will I said I’d come back. I must go to him.” “Beverly look at yourself. You’re practically naked and you’ve been injured. Let’s get back to the ship, you can be treated, get cleaned up, and then you’ll be able to help Selar with the captain. Ok?” Beverly sighed, tears in her eyes. “Ok Will.” “Ready? Enterprise, two to beam up.”

Jean-Luc was flying. His arms were outstretched and he was soaring effortlessly above a vast lake. He could feel the sun on his back and his sight was keen. Nothing was a mystery now, he knew everything. He would stay here, gliding above the lake, to wait for Beverly and when she came he would take her in his arms and tell her of his love. He would kiss her and caress her, he would make love to her and afterward they would lie peacefully together sated and content. Dimly Jean-Luc understood what was happening to him. Blood loss, shock and the severity of his injuries were slowly robbing him of his life. That his last thoughts were of

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Beverly brought him joy, though it was tinged with sadness as he realised he would never have the opportunity to bring his dreams to reality. So he lay there. Alone, cold and slowly passing away into the darkness.

The appearance of Data and Worf caused quite a stir. No one had ever just ‘appeared’ in the sacred chamber before. Data, polite as always enquired as to the whereabouts of the captain. When no answer was forthcoming, Worf went to the nearest person, who happened to be the northern Premier’s son, and, after taking two hands full of the lad’s clothing, hoisted him up to eye level and growled. “The captain is my commanding officer and my friend. If we do not find him VERY soon, I will become VERY angry! Do you understand?” With no further encouragement required, the two officers were led to the room with the trapdoor. “I will require some form of illumination please. I do not think the tricorder will be sufficient for my needs.” As an underling scurried off to find a lamp, Data scanned the rock. “ There are high levels of mirridium. It will interfere with the transporters. Data to La Forge.” “Here Data.” “Geordi I will require three pattern enhancers. Please beam directly to my coordinates. Data out.” The aide was just returning with the lamp as the enhancers appeared. “Mr.Worf, there is a drop of ten point four metres. I suggest you arrange a meeting between the premiers and commander Riker, and then beam back to the ship. I will tend to the captain. “Aye commander.” Data landed gently and immediately went to his captain. After checking his vital signs, he wasted no time in setting up the enhancers. “Transporter chief, two to beam directly to sickbay.” Jean-Luc was not aware of Data. He didn’t hear the beam out. He didn’t hear anything at all.

The next few hours were hard for all concerned. After Beverly had been treated for her injuries, she made her way to critical care to assist doctor Selar in working on Jean-Luc. His injuries were worse than had been previously reported. The malfunctioning tricorder had missed the massive damage to his internal organs. As he was placed on a diagnostic bed, the cardiac alarm went off, indicating Jean-Luc’s heart had stopped. Frantically the medical staff swung into action. Neural inducers were placed on his head and electrical pulses were passed through his heart. After several agonising minutes, Jean-Luc’s heart was restarted. An immediate transfusion was instigated to replace his blood loss; his punctured lung was drained and reinflated. Having established his breathing, of more concern were the skull fractures. A blood clot had formed beneath one of the fractures

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and was exerting pressure on Jean-Luc’s brain. No one was surprised when his body suddenly started to convulse, stiffening in an obscene rictus, and then rhythmically shuddering. The doctors had to stop the seizures before they could treat the blood clot...not an easy task, but one they eventually succeeded in. After tending to the most serious injuries, the doctors turned their skills to the damaged internal organs and the broken bones. Some hours later, when they were finally finished, they placed Jean-Luc in a stasis healing unit, connected him to the biological waste system, lowered the lights and wearily left a heavily sedated, but stable captain to sleep. He was not out of the woods yet, but for the time being, he was holding his own.

Both doctors were in Beverly’s office when Will came down. “How is he?” “He’s in for a protracted battle, but he’s a fighter...he’ll make it. There will be therapy and he’ll be staying here for a week or so, but all in all, we’ll get there.” Will smiled, then sighed. “Good work doctors. Beverly, I thought you’d like to know your ‘friend’ from the planet has been charged by the local authorities. It seems he’s been convicted of rape before. The policy of the local courts is no trial for a second offence; the culprit goes straight to jail. He did try to plead that since you were a criminal, his actions weren’t illegal. Fortunately it didn’t hold up. Also there will be a briefing with the two premiers from the planet to find out why we weren’t informed about important local customs. Since we’ve explained that we didn’t know we were causing offence, they have begun to see this whole mess from our standpoint. We received an apology an hour ago and a ‘Formal Document Of Regret’ will be issued tomorrow. “The premier of the southern continent has expressed a wish to see the captain. What do you think?” “What do I think? I think they should all be blown out of the nearest airlock. Fools, the lot of them! Aside from that, the captain may be well enough in a week or so, we’ll see.” Rising gracefully to her feet doctor Selar turned to Beverly. “Doctor Crusher it is my opinion that you be relieved of duty for twenty four hours. Please return to your quarters, I will visit you there later.” Beverly stared incredulously at her colleague. “I really don’t think that’s necessary...and besides, I want to stay and look after the captain. I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine...really.” Selar’s face showed not a trace of emotion when she replied, “You are my patient and my orders are for you to rest...in your quarters. Captain Picard will receive excellent care during his stay and you know as well as I do, he will be unconscious for many hours yet. My order stands.” Beverly turned pleading eyes on Will. “Hey! Don’t look at me. If I were you, I’d skedaddle of to my cabin.” With that, he bowed elegantly and tossed over his shoulder as he left, “Good bye doctors.”

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Beverly found herself at a loose end. She grudgingly admitted Selar was right in her assessment and she did feel dog tired after her shower and light meal, but so much was rattling around her head. All that had transpired...the journey through the stream, (she still shuddered at that), the assault, Jean-Luc...oh Jean-Luc! She finally told him. Not after a romantic evening or after a lovely picnic she had imagined so many times...strolling arm in arm, happy in each other’s company. It had just come out. No romance, no finesse, just ‘I love you’, and then she’d left him, desperately ill and alone in the cold darkness. She took the light and his only chance for survival with her. She’d gambled and won, but at what price? Wasn’t this exactly what she’d always wanted to avoid? Loving the man, then having his life placed in her hands? Dreading every mission...every delegation, which one would bring the call that he’d been injured...or worse? She lowered her head into her hands. “My God what was I thinking?” She released her head and leaned back on the sofa. Her last thought as she drifted of to sleep was...”Maybe he won’t remember...” Awareness came slowly to Jean-Luc. As he began to waken he became aware of sounds which at first he couldn’t identify. “Where am I? What happened?” Fragments of images came to him. Pain...dreadful pain and sadness. “Think Picard!” Piece by piece his memory sluggishly came on line. Beverly was there. Yes...we were at a dance and we...no, I danced. “We’re in trouble” “Don’t worry Beverly, I’m sure we can straighten everything out, after all, all I did was dance with one of the staff.” Then what happened? The premier came...he won’t listen! What have I done? More people...men in uniform carrying batons... “Please there’s been a misunderstanding. I’m sure we can...Oh God! Pain, blinding pain! My shin...he hit my shin...I’m on the floor...they keep hitting, kicking...I can feel my bones breaking...my stomach... “Beverly!...Mon Dieu stop!...please stop...No more, I can’t...please...” Now there’s pain everywhere...agony...overwhelming...a final explosion of devastating pain...my head! Jean-Luc’s hands flew to his head, he body writhing with pain. Sensors triggered alarms, bringing staff at a run. Selar snapped out her orders. “Anopropaline, STAT!” The hypospray emptied into Jean-Luc’s neck and immediately he began to relax. “I want a cranial scan. Look for neural degradation.” Selar then turned from her patient and watched the bio readouts. “Doctor, there’s a break in the pathways...he’s...” As the nurse spoke, Jean-Luc screamed, blood streaming from his nose and ears. “Neural inducers! Tricordrazine! Trepan!”

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Within seconds, vital drugs were coursing through his body and a small hole was lasered through his skull to admit a probe, which set about repairing the new damage. Anxious moments passed, all eyes glued to the readouts as the healing progressed. The bleeding slowed and eventually stopped. The tension in Jean-Luc’s tortured sweat soaked body dissipated. Gradually His vital signs settled into safer levels and the crisis abated. Selar nodded to her team. “Lieutenant Ogawa please attend to captain Picard, I want someone with him at all times. Alert me to any deviation of his readouts. I will be in doctor Crusher’s office.” Once inside the office Selar contacted Beverly and informed her of what had transpired. “I’m on my way.” ”That is unnecessary doctor. The crisis has passed the situation is under control. Your presence is not required.” “I’m coming anyway Selar. I...” “I’m afraid I must insist doctor Crusher. My order stands, you are relieved of duty. It is illogical for you to be here. The captain is unconscious and will remain so for some time. There is nothing you can do here. If you come, I will have you removed.” Beverly slammed her hand on the console, severing the link. “Damn, damn, damn! Hang in there Jean-Luc.” Jean-Luc was kept sedated for the next three days, and then slowly brought to consciousness over some hours. Scans and tests showed favourable results and by the fifth day he was sitting up and beginning to take small meals. Beverly had been allowed to make brief visits and was generally pleased with his progress, but she had an uneasy feeling that all was not right. The captain was irritated and restless. Never a good patient, Beverly still sensed he was hiding something, but when she broached the subject, he became reticent. Eventually she gave up, deciding he would tell her when he felt able to. Then there was the therapy. Three times a day Jean-Luc underwent physical therapy to regain full use of his legs. It was hard and painful and not made any easier by his underlying anger, but he progressed and things settled into a routine. Commander William Riker was not a happy man. Trying to maintain a smile, (and his diplomatic demeanour), was becoming increasingly difficult. For seven days now Premier J’Kar had been pestering the commander as to when he could visit the captain. No matter how many times he was told that the captain was resting and not receiving visitors, he still persisted with his requests, the reason being, that having delivered the Document of Regret, all unpleasantness was passed as if it never happened. The injuries sustained by doctor Crusher and the captain was regrettable but unavoidable at the time and should not be referred to again. The Document of Regret was sort of a universal pardon for all concerned. With that in mind, the premier could see no reason why the captain wouldn’t be happy to see him.

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Will entered the private room quietly. If the captain was sleeping, he wouldn’t wake him, but as it turned out the captain had just had a light meal and was sitting, propped up with pillows and happy to see his first officer. “How are you today sir?” “Better each day Number One. If I could only get Selar to release me to my quarters, I would be a happy man.” Will laughed and stroked his beard. Sir I have a slight problem.” “Yes commander?” “Premier J’Kar has been insisting on seeing you and will no longer be put off. He won’t tell me what it’s about. All he will say is that it’s between you and him.” “I see. And he won’t take no for an answer?” “No sir.” “Well then I’d better see him. You might as well bring him up, now is as good a time as any.” “Are you sure you’re up to it sir? I have no idea what he wants.” “We’ll soon find out Number One.” Within minutes premier J’Kar was standing beside the captain’s bed. He looked imperiously at Will. “You are dismissed!” Before Will could react, captain Picard said in a mild tone, “My first officer is not to be ordered about like some domestic staff member. He will stay and I will consult with him on any matters you raise.” Jean-Luc’s quiet but commanding tone combined with eyes that brooked no argument convinced J’Kar to back down. “Of course my dear captain, no offence intended.” “None taken premier. I am somewhat tired, what is it you needed to speak to me so urgently about?” “About? About? Why it’s about Denna!” “Denna?” “Yes, Denna!” Picard sighed. “Premier perhaps if you could just tell me...” “Oh don’t act as if you don’t know that your declaration for Denna wouldn’t be taken seriously?” “Declaration? Who’s Denna?” “Captain please, what do you take me for? When a highborn requests physical contact with a low caste it can only mean one thing. She is mine. What do you offer me?” Realisation slowly hit Jean-Luc. “Physical contact? Are you referring to the young woman I danced with? The dance that caused me and my CMO to be assaulted the discarded like some unwanted dross?” Jean-Luc was incensed. “You nearly kill us, issue some useless, meaningless document by was of apology, then you come to me and demand that I purchase an innocent woman because I danced with her? You sir are a bigoted, fatuous fool! If not for the fact that you wish to join the Federation, which you won’t, by the way, I would quarantine the planet and forbid any

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passing ships to give you so much as a hail. You and your ruling ‘classes’ are ignorant, boorish and beneath contempt! I will have nothing further to do with you and if I find Denna has been disadvantaged in any way, you will be held personally responsible! “Now get off my ship.” After Will had left with the ashen faced, quaking premier, Jean-Luc took a deep breath and tried to relax. “Wonderful diplomacy Picard...yes, one of your better efforts.” The truth was he had been on edge for some time. He was worried about Beverly. They had so much to talk about, but all she seemed interested in was his recovery. Jean-Luc hadn’t noticed Deanna entering the room. “Captain?” she said gently. Jean-Luc jumped, then smiled. “Ah counsellor.” “I ‘heard’ you five decks away. Care to talk about it?” “Oh it was nothing really, I just became somewhat irritated with a fool and made the mistake of showing it.” Deanna sat beside his bed. “Mistake captain? Sometimes showing what we feel can be a very liberating experience.” “Hmm.” “So how do you feel?” “I’m fine counsellor, just fine.” “I doubt that captain, but I will tell you you’re not the only one feeling a little tense.” Jean-Luc looked deeply into Deanna’s obsidian eyes. “Beverly?” “I will ask doctor Selar if she will release you to your quarters this afternoon. What you do with your time is up to you, but you are off duty until further notice. After what you both went through it’s recommended you take the time to properly recover. Perhaps you would like to discuss your thoughts with Beverly.” He sighed. “I doubt that she would want to talk with me counsellor.” This whispered and the lowered head told Deanna all she needed to know. “Go to her captain, let her in.” Jean-Luc raised his head and tried to smile. “I’ll try.” “Good. I’ll see you tomorrow. It’s time we had a talk about what happened.” He nodded, pursing his lips in thought. “Until tomorrow then.” Deanna went to Selar and, after considerable discussion secured the captain’s release. Rather than being seen walking through the corridors in his night attire, Jean-Luc opted to be beamed directly to his cabin. After showering and dressing in casual clothes, he settled down to read, but peace was not forthcoming. He found himself reading the same paragraph twice, then three times, his mind kept wandering back to those words... “I love you.” Putting the book down, he rose and began pacing. His thoughts kept chasing each other around in his mind; always back to the same place. “What do I do now? Computer, location of doctor Crusher?”

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“Doctor Crusher is in holodeck four.” Deciding to strike while he still had the courage, Jean-Luc left his quarters.

Beverly stretched out fully on the floor of the dance studio. Placing her forehead on first one knee then the other, she gradually eased out the kinks and aches she had accumulated over the past few days. This was one of her favourite programs. Based on an existing studio she had spent time in as a teenager, she often came here to relax and think. The sound of the holodeck doors opening didn’t disturb her. Thinking it was Alyssa bringing an update, Beverly called out, “Be with you in a minute Alyssa, just let me finish these stretches.” Jean-Luc remained silent. He was entranced, watching the lithe movements and liquid grace. “God, but you’re a thing of beauty.” He thought wistfully. Finishing the last of her stretches and rolling onto her back, Beverly was shocked to see Jean-Luc standing quietly, a far away look in his eyes, just inside the doors. “Jean-Luc! Why didn’t you tell me it was you?” “What? Oh, um, I wanted to watch. Beverly…you’re so lovely, so beautiful…I…” “You what! You have to spy on me?” You heard what I said, you should’ve said something.” Jean-Luc’s shoulders sank, his head lowering. With a sigh of resignation he said, “I’m sorry I disturbed you Beverly, goodnight.”’ As he turned to leave he had to side step to avoid Alyssa Ogawa who had finally made it with the update. “Good evening sir.” Picard didn’t hear her as he walked slowly away.

Beverly was fuming. “You idiot! He comes to you and what do you do? You YELL at him. Accuse him if spying! Damn! What did he say? You’re lovely…beautiful…Dammit! Why did I have to be so adversarial?”

It was very late in the ship’s night cycle. Jean-Luc lay on his sofa unable to sleep. He kept replaying the scene on the holodeck. “What on earth did I do? I should’ve told her I was there, but that couldn’t be it. Why is she so angry with me?” Frustrated and angry, he entered his bedroom and eased himself onto the bed. Although almost healed, he still experienced pain in his legs and head. The physical therapist had told him to expect this, yet the symptoms annoyed him. Unable to find a comfortable position, he rose from his bed and wandered aimlessly about his cabin. It was two hours before he finally found sleep.

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As Jean-Luc was pacing his room, Beverly was busying herself with minor tasks to take her mind off what had happened. She finally got to her orchids and was working on the absentmindedly. Too late she realised she had snipped off a healthy shoot, laden with unopened flowers. She stood and stared at the fallen sprig. “What am I doing? Think Beverly do you really want this? Do you want to take this relationship one step further? Could our friendship survive such a move? Dammit! This is driving me nuts!” The more questions she asked herself, the more confused she became. She threw her clippers across the room where they struck the wall and fell to the floor, a sharp metal object on the soft carpet. “Computer, where is captain Picard?” “Captain Picard is in his quarters.” “Computer, what time is it?” “The time is 0332 hours.” Beverly went into her bedroom and emerged putting a robe over her nightgown. “Enough. This time I’m going to really talk to him. No more fear. No more recriminations.” She went straight to the captain’s cabin. It took three activations of the door chime to rouse Jean-Luc. The doors opened and he stood staring at Beverly. “Beverly, what are you…is there something wrong?” “Jean-Luc I’ve come to apologise for my grumpiness earlier. I was way out of line; you didn’t deserve to be treated like that. And Jean-Luc…we need to talk.” They stood, eyes searching each other, each holding their breath. It was he who spoke first. “Come in and have a seat. I’ll just go and put a robe on.” While she waited, Beverly was chasing her thoughts round and round. “Now Beverly, think about this. Make yourself clear. Tell him how you feel…no fear!” Going to the replicator and ordering tea for both of them, Jean-Luc seated himself next to her. Beverly didn’t know where to start, so she chose a safe topic. “How is your therapy going?” “It can be a bit tedious, but all in all it’s coming along just fine. “Just fine…that’s your answer for everything isn’t it? How do you FEEL Jean-Luc?” “Dammit Beverly, what do you want me to say? It hurts, it’s humiliating and I loathe it and it would be a damn sight easier if you were there to help me! Why are you avoiding me?” When Beverly didn’t answer, he stood and glared down at her. “Tell me Beverly.” “Oh Jean-Luc why must it be so difficult being in love with you?” His mind raced. “She said it again, my God, she said it again.” Aloud he said quietly, Beverly why do you think these are emotions only you feel? Didn’t it ever occur to you that I love you too? I’ve loved you since the day Jack introduced us and there hasn’t been

15


a day go by that I don’t think of you, of holding you, of making love to you. Why is it that you think you’ve got a monopoly on love? “Why did you tell me in the cave? My God Beverly did you think I would die and you would have a clear conscience? Why didn’t you come back for me? I waited Beverly, I hung on and waited, you have no idea what it was like.” Tears were forming in his eyes. “It was so dark Beverly, and the cold and the pain…” She bowed her head. “I know Jean-Luc, I know, but by the time Will found me, Data and Worf had already beamed to the location of the communicators. I decided that I would be more use in sickbay. I’m so sorry Jean-Luc. I’ve treated you badly and I don’t know what to do about it. “Jean-Luc…on Kespryt you said your feelings had changed, that you were no longer in love with me. I knew that to be a lie, I could ‘hear’ you perfectly, but I was so afraid. When we returned and the implants were removed you asked me if we could take our relationship a step further and, like the fool I am, I turned you down. I know I hurt you deeply and I’m so sorry I did that to you. “I’m here to tell you I’m ready now. No more fears, no more recriminations, no more second guessing…just us…if you’ll have me.” Jean-Luc was stunned. He moved away from Beverly and went to stand in front of the viewports. “No doubt you’ve thought this through. What about your previous misgivings? Are you strong enough?” Coming quietly across the room to stand behind him, she slipped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. “We’ll just have to find out.” Jean-Luc turned in her embrace and looked deeply into her eyes. “I love you Beverly Crusher.” Beverly ran her hands up his chest and wound them around the back of his neck. Staring intently into her eyes, he lowered his mouth to hers with deliberate slowness, and when their lips met it sent waves of tingling sensation throughout their bodies. He kissed her with such tenderness she almost swooned. Wrapping his strong arms around her, he pulled her tightly against him. The kiss deepened and Jean-Luc’s eyes drifted shut. Everything became superfluous, time seemed to stand still and the only thing the lovers could hear was the pounding of each other’s heart. Finally breaking the kiss, Jean-Luc took Beverly’s hand and led her to his bedroom. Turning her to face him, he undid the tie at her waist and removed the robe she wore. He lowered his face to hers and began kissing her forehead, cheeks, eyes and finally, her mouth. Another delicious, languid kiss followed before he slid his lips along the line of her jaw, down her neck and across her collarbone. To her credit, Beverly remained standing, though her legs felt weak. Her heart was racing and a heat was growing rapidly over her body. Remembering her own hands, she eased his undone robe off his shoulders. Sliding her hands down his sides, she took the material and lifted his pyjama shirt up and over his head, letting it fall to rest with the robes.

16


His arousal was clearly evident and he moaned seductively when she gently brushed him with her hand. Kneeling in front of him, she slid her hands around him to caress his buttocks whilst she gently rubbed her face over his straining erection. Beverly look up and was treated to the sight of Jean-Luc Picard, his head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth open, adrift in a sea of sensation. Beverly slowly rose, kissing and nibbling his body as she did. When he looked at her she could see the desire, the heat and the love swirling in his dark hazel eyes. Placing his large hands on her shoulders, he gently pushed her to sit on the bed. Kneeling before her, he placed his hands, one on each leg and began to caress her thighs. After a short while, kisses were applied to the soft inner thigh, lazily travelling higher. Supporting herself with her hands on the bed, she arched her back, opening her legs further as she did. She allowed her head to loll back and pushed gently with her hips, encouraging him. Pausing only long enough to divest her of her nightgown, he returned to his ministrations. Jean-Luc was in no hurry. Occasionally he would reach up and caress a breast or roll a nipple between finger and thumb, all the while moving his tongue closer and closer to his goal. Soon he placed a hand on the small of her spine, while the other joined in the exploration of his lover. As he slowly slid a finger into her body, his tongue found her engorged clitoris. Her orgasm was almost instantaneous, his caresses bringing a subsequent climax soon after the first. Removing his fingers and lifting his face, he slowly kissed his way to Beverly’s mouth, stopping to tease her nipples on the way. He lay on his side, head cradled on one hand, the other travelling softly over her quivering body. “You’re so beautiful Beverly.” When she’d regained her senses she sat up. With a little help from Jean-Luc, his sleep shorts were removed. They lay together each giving pleasure to the other for some time. Beverly looked intently into Jean-Luc’s eyes. Holding his gaze she reached up and dragged her nails through the softly curling hair of his chest. Leaning forward, she took one of his flat nipples in her mouth and gently bit it. She was rewarded with the sharp intake of his breath. While her mouth was gainfully employed, her hand moved slowly down his taut torso, resting momentarily to dally in the thick pubic growth. She slid her hand past his heavily throbbing penis to caress his testicles with a featherlike touch. A deep moan escaped his lips when Beverly ran the tip of one finger up the underside of his penis and it twitched at the sensation, eliciting another breathless moan from Jean-Luc. After wrapping her hand around his shaft, she stroked him gently. Releasing his nipple and delighting in its puckered hardness, she kissed her way down to his swollen manhood. As she continued to caress him, she slid her mouth over him, applying her tongue lavishly. Soon after this Jean-Luc began to tense, his already rigid member getting harder. Jean-Luc ran his hands through her hair, entangling his fingers and raising her head. She straightened to lie beside him and they shared a searing kiss. As they kissed, Jean-Luc took Beverly and rolled her onto her back. Then he gently covered her body with his. Caressing a breast he kissed her deeply and, as he did, entered her slowly. He remained still a few moments then began a maddeningly slow thrusting. Beverly though she would go insane with the sensations passing through her. “My God Jean-Luc…please…”

17


“Patience my love…soon…” With Beverly writhing beneath him, he quickened his pace. He was lost in her, there was nothing else but the two of them and the love they were making. Just when she thought she could take no more, an orgasm ripped through her, arching her back and making her shout in ecstasy. It was all Jean-Luc needed. He thrust hard four more times, called out her name and with a shudder reached his peak, sending his essence pulsing deep inside her. As he spasmed through the aftershocks he lowered his head to rest on Beverly’s shoulder. Sleep claimed them Wrapped in each other’s embrace the universe and all its wonders passed them by. Nothing intruded, nothing mattered. It was as if the cosmos was giving approval to these two souls who had waited so long to be one.

Beverly awoke to the delicious sensation of being snuggled up close to Jean-Luc. She stretched, the motion causing him to roll onto his back. Re-arranging the pillows, she was content to lie and watch her lover sleep. He was totally relaxed, the creases and lines softened as his beautiful chest rose and fell. Her gaze travelled down his extraordinary body, a wicked smile gracing her face as her gaze paused on his resting penis. All the way to his toes and back again, she committed his image to memory. Unable to resist, she gently kissed his lips, making them purse. His eyes opened and glistened in the darkness of his bedroom. “Beverly.” It was all he said. They melted into each other’s arms and made love again the sounds of their passion making a mockery of the silence in the cabin.

A week later, Jean-Luc had been passed fit for duty and was seated in the command chair talking about the next mission with Will Riker. “Crusher to Captain Picard.” “Picard here.” “Captain could you come to sickbay please? There’s something I think you might be interested in seeing.” “On my way, Picard out.” “Well Number One, it seems Beverly wants me in sickbay. You have the bridge.” “Aye sir.” As Jean-Luc entered the turbolift, an amused glance passed between Riker and Troi. “Who’s he kidding?”

18


Jean-Luc was finding it increasingly difficult not to do two things. Grin from ear to ear and run full tilt through the corridors. His quick stride brought him to sickbay in no time, almost too fast for the doors to react to his presence. “You called doctor?” he said in his best captain’s voice. “Yes sir. If you will come with me to my office please.” Leading the way, they strode in a business like fashion to the office. Once inside Beverly said, “Computer, engage lock and privacy screens.” Simultaneously, the door was locked and the windows became opaque. They fell into each other’s arms, a heated kiss followed. “Ohhh how I’ve missed you Jean-Luc!” “And I you Beverly. Has it only been seven hours?” “Seven long hours and three to come.” “Three? We go off duty an hour from now.” ”Yes my love, but I have to prepare for tomorrow’s vaccine transport. It will take three hours, provided there are no hiccups.” ”Oh.” “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Here, this should tide you over.” They kissed passionately, only parting reluctantly. ”Ogawa to doctor Crusher.” “Crusher here Alyssa.” “Doctor we have to start cross-matching the vials.” “Be there in a minute. Crusher out.” Another quick, deep kiss. “See you soon Jean-Luc.” “ Umm, do you mind if I stay here a moment?” “Of course not…but why…” A delightful blush reddened Jean-Luc’s face, reaching the tips of his ears. Looking down his front and seeing the cause of his embarrassment, Beverly couldn’t help but smile mischievously. “Oh my! I love you too Jean-Luc. Take all the time you need.” With a parting giggle, she left the office. Jean-Luc quickly regained his composure and, after checking all was in order, he left for the bridge.

The next day found the Enterprise in orbit around Terath II A particularly nasty bacteria had affected large numbers of the population and, as luck would have it, a vaccine was available and the Enterprise had sent down medical teams to administer the drugs and to render any aid as needed. However, finding the source of the bacteria was not that easy. Water and soil samples were taken, animals checked and a flora scan showed nothing of interest. It was summer on the planet and Beverly had asked Jean-Luc to visit her. When he beamed down he was met by a radiant doctor. “Thank you for coming Jean-Luc, I’ve missed you!”

19


Mindful of the prying eyes of his crew, Jean-Luc didn’t embrace his CMO. Instead he acknowledged her then requested she show him the facilities and the progress that had been made. The tour was an extensive one and when it was over, Jean-Luc found himself strolling with Beverly through a beautiful inner city park. Arm in arm they wandered aimlessly, content to be with each other. After a while Beverly sighed. “This is how I meant to tell you.” “Tell me what?” “That I loved you.” Jean-Luc was silent for a moment. “You envisaged a setting such as this to tell me you loved me?” “Uh huh.” “I had dreamed of taking you to the crystal forest on Velot.” “To tell me you loved me?” “Yes.” “I’ve never been to Velot. I’ve heard about the crystal forest…who hasn’t? Is it as breathtaking as they say?” “Oh yes Beverly.” She turned to look at him only to find him lost in thought. They walked on in comradely silence; Jean-Luc was obviously troubled. “Beverly why didn’t we do this a long time ago? We’ve wasted so much time. When I’m with you I’m so deliriously happy and contented. Sometimes I think the times we aren’t together are pointless, at the very least, stultifyingly boring. I wake up each day with you in my arms and I don’t want to get up. I seem to spend the entire day doing nothing else but counting the hours till we can be together again. Is it a form of madness?” She laughed and rested her head on his shoulder. “If it is Jean-Luc then I’ve got it too. As for the past we can do nothing about it, but we can treasure every second we have together. I don’t know what the future will bring JeanLuc, but I can tell you that as long as we’re together, I don’t care.” He gazed into her beautiful blue eyes. “I love you Beverly.” Their lips found each other; their arms encircled their bodies. Time stood still.

The Enterprise technical crew had been planet side for a week and were still no closer to finding the cause of the illness. Blessedly, the vaccine had worked on the sick and the government had instigated a program of inoculation for the population. The danger was that the bacteria could mutate and re-infect everyone. Finding its source was vital. Day after exhausting day the Enterprise tech crew worked at testing and cataloguing every specimen brought to them. Beverly and Jean-Luc saw little of each other, a quick glance, a gentle caress and the occasional stolen kiss was the best they could do. Just when it seemed they would never crack the mystery, came the breakthrough. By sheer luck a lowly ensign had noticed bubbles rising from an old water filled quarry. He

20


secured a boat and was amazed to see insects rising inside the bubbles. He was trying to trap one for analysis when the insect released a small spray from underneath its wings. Within twenty-four hours, the ensign was desperately ill. The symptoms were identical to the illness on the planet. He was given the vaccine and recovered quickly. With the risk to humanoids too high, Data volunteered to collect a sample insect for study. It was a simple task for him and he was back aboard the Enterprise in under an hour. Sure enough, the analysis showed the spray emitted by the bug contained the bacteria. Enquiries were made and it was discovered that the quarry had once been used as a toxic waste dump a century ago and it was determined the containers were leaking. The insects were similar to Earth’s diving bell spider. The bugs of Terath II rose to the surface to collect oxygen, then swam back to the floor of the lake where they built an air filled nest. Further investigation found the nested amongst the old waste containers. Over a period of time they had mutated with the toxins and produced the deadly spray. The remedy was to drain the lake and treat the water, recover the waste containers and destroy the colony of insects. The Enterprise stayed long enough to render assistance in disposing of the toxic waste then broke orbit for their next mission.

That evening Jean-Luc and Beverly were enjoying a late dinner in the captain’s quarters. “Jean-Luc…I’ve been thinking. Where do you want to take your next leave?” ”I haven’t given it much thought. I don’t usually take leave.” One look at Beverly’s face changed his mind. “Of course I could put myself down for a few days.” Their dinner finished, Jean-Luc rose from his chair and, taking Beverly by the hand, led her to the sofa. “Do you know the most wonderful thing about our relationship?” Beverly responded with a small shake of her head. “I can spend the rest of my life perfecting it.” Tears welled in Beverly’s eyes. “I love you Jean-Luc.”

21

Secrets In The Dark  

1 2 3 The captain was unsure as to where he was. He lay quietly, trying to remember, trying to understand what could’ve happened to him. In...

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