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Two Miles To Nowhere. It was with great satisfaction that Captain Jean-Luc Picard looked over his assembled senior officers. “Now that we’re all here, I can tell you all of our next, rather prestigious mission. The Federation has ordered us to proceed to Garvan IV to witness the ascension of Ti.” An excited babble of voices immediately began around the conference table. Picard leaned back in his chair and watched as his command staff chatted excitedly. Tapping his index finger on the obsidian tabletop, Picard won their attention. “People, people…we can talk about this some other time. However, you may all take pride in knowing the Enterprise was chosen. You’ve all earned the excellent reputation we enjoy; it’s a pity only two can attend. Mr.Data what can you tell us about Garvan IV?” “Sir I regret to inform you I am not completely current in my information. I have not inputted any new data on the planet for two months.” “I see Mr.Data. Well, perhaps you could divulge what you do have and get up to speed later.” “Aye sir. As I am sure you all know, Garvan IV is a class M planet, the fourth planet in a system of eleven, orbiting a red gas giant. The system was named for David Garvan, an Australian astronom…” “Mr.Data…” “Yes sir. Little to nothing was known of the Garvans until first contact was made by the USS Artemis under the command of Captain Jennifer Beales, seventy years ago. Whilst undertaking a routine geological survey on one of the outer moons, life signs were detected and first contact was initiated. The ‘Garvan Eight’, as they became known, were happy to be transported to the Artemis and, after a period of three point two hours, useful dialogue was accomplished. All proceeded according to established guidelines until captain Beales suggested a visit to the planet. The reaction was absolute. The crew of the Artemis were forbidden to set foot on the planet. The only explanation given was that it would be an affront to Ti. It has since been established that Ti is a living God. Although the technology of the planet was comparable to ours and the Garvans had warp capabilities, no further contact was invited. ”Nothing more was heard until eight months ago. The planet was in the grip of a famine. The major grain crop had failed. Inexplicably, the grain had somehow developed a self-terminating gene. The grain would germinate, but it would perish before it could produce the grain. The Garvans sent a subspace call for aid from the Federation and the USS Aurora, under captain Mark McKee was dispatched to render assistance. Investigations revealed a disturbing tie to a Ferengi daimon and four crew who had shown up and claimed to have a miraculous cure for the grain. Fortunately, their assistance was refused. With the Aurora’s help, a remedy was found and the famine ended. The Tikara, as they refer to themselves, were still reluctant to have the Aurora crew beam down, but relented and invited captain McKee and his command staff to a formal dinner. Their report makes interesting reading. Apparently…” “Is that all Data?”

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“Yes sir.” The captain pulled his uniform jacket down. “Well I can tell you that the Tikara have indeed invited two representatives to witness the ascension of Ti. As Data told us, Ti is a living God, similar to Earth’s Dali Lama. When the chosen one approaches death, a new infant is selected. The child is sequestered in a royal palace and, at the age of ten, ascends the celestial throne. It’s a time of great joy and celebration. As the most senior officer, I will be one delegate and I have chosen Dr. Crusher to be my companion. Dr. crusher, as well as your diplomatic duties, I would like your assessment on the health of the Tikarans. Their ability to recover from the famine so rapidly could be of interest to Starfleet.” He looked around the table. “There is one item of information which is of great importance. There is to be no….absolutely no technology allowed during the nine days of the ascension. No tricorders, no communicators, no transporters, nothing. It is of the utmost importance that we abide by this request. It would be disgraceful if this mission failed due to a diplomatic faux pas.” Worf growled and shifted in his seat. “But sir…” “I know Worf, and I sympathize, but the order stands. This is an agrarian society. They utilize technology, but it doesn’t rule their lives and if they wish to have these ceremonies technology free, so be it. “Will, I have something interesting for you. I want you to reel in those Ferengi. They’ve something to do with all this and the thought that they’re flitting around the galaxy causing famines and then trying to extort the populace makes my blood boil. Bring them to heel Will. “If that’s all people, we have research to do. Dismissed.”

Jean-Luc sat in his ready room, leaning back in his chair waiting. The door chimed and he looked at his chronometer. “Five minutes! Hmmm. Not bad Beverly, almost a record… Come.” Beverly breezed in and strode right up to his desk. Placing her hands flat upon it, she leaned in and looked Jean-Luc straight in the eye. “You have got to be joking! This is ridiculous Jean-Luc. How can I assess a population without using technology? What would you have me do? Toss runes in a bowl? Make smoke appear from my fingertips? I know…pull a rabbit out of a hat!” “Beverly calm down. I’m not asking for miracles. What I want can be done with nothing more than astute observation. These people aren’t tyrants Beverly. When they realized they were in trouble, those in power asked for help. All I ask is that you watch and analyze. Are the children happy? Do the people seem to have confidence in their government? Is there enough food now? Simple things. You know, there are some advantages in having on board the best doctor in Starfleet.” Beverly smiled and winked at her captain.

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Harrumph! Flattery. All right, but I can tell you I’m not looking forward to nine days of ceremonies. I may have to slip us both a stimulant.” “You’ll do no such thing! Actually Beverly… and don’t you dare tell Will, the ceremonies only last two days. The rest of the time, everyone is encouraged to express their happiness with whatever takes their fancy.” Beverly’s eyes narrowed. “What have you got in mind Jean-Luc…?” “Well, um, some time ago I came across some archaeological papers that mention Garvan IV. I’ve since learned there are extensive ruins not all that far from the city we’re going to. If I can gain permission, I thought I’d take a look. “And what am I supposed to do while you’re off exploring? Surreptitiously watch for somebody to sneeze? He smiled and took her hand. “Would you like to accompany me?” “Hmmm. Grubbing around in the dirt isn’t really my kind of thing, but I suppose someone has to keep an eye on the captain. If you can get permission, then yes, I’d love to go with you.” Beverly left the ready room a lot happier than she entered, the difference not lost on Will Riker.

For the next eight days the Enterprise cleaved her way through the darkness of space at a leisurely warp five. As she forged her way her crew were making their first enquiries as to the whereabouts of the Ferengi they were hunting. Will, Worf, Data and Geordi were in stellar cartography charting the course of four Ferengi marauders that had been reported in the area. “All the same….I do not like it!” Will sighed. “I know Worf, and if I had anything to do with it, it’d be you, not Beverly to accompany the captain, but my hands are tied.” “Dr. Crusher is not trained in matters of security. It poses an unacceptable risk!” Will sighed again. “Look what’s done is done. We’ll just have to grin and bear it.” “Grin and bear…?” “Later Data. Geordi how are we going with these charts?” “Sir I have plotted the course of the four Ferengi ships. Two left in company for sector 997, one engaged in trade with an Orion freighter and one is unaccounted for.” “Ok, let’s find that bogie.” “Bogie sir?…Yes sir, later.”

Jean-Luc and Beverly were in the ready room when the call came from Will that contact had been made with the Tikara.

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“Put it through here Worf.” The screen disclosed a humanoid of impressive physique. Broad shouldered and heavily muscled, his skin had a bluish tinge and appeared somewhat leathery. A magnificent plume of midnight blue hair sprouted from the top of his head and cascaded down the length of his back. The absence of ears drew attention to his mesmerizing amber eyes, the oblong pupils expanding and contracting rhythmically. “Captain Jean-Luc Picard, welcome to Tika. May the One who is holy shine on you! I am Arteen El, please call me Arteen. A shuttle is on it’s way to you. Have you been thoroughly briefed on the non-use of technology?” “Indeed Arteen. Rest assured we will not offend your beliefs in any way. My companion is Dr.Beverly Crusher, my chief medical officer. We are ready to accompany you.” “Excellent! Your pilot is Lojop Os, our finest. Please enjoy your trip.” “Sir, the shuttle is approaching bay four.” “Very well Mr.Worf.” The couple exited the ready room and faced the first officer. “Well Will, the ship is yours. Find those Ferengi and please…bring my ship back in one piece.” With an exchanged smile, the captain and the doctor made their way to the shuttle bay and thence to the planet’s surface.

The first thing that hit Beverly and Jean-Luc was the riot of colour. Everywhere, everything was festooned, painted draped or bejeweled. Although late in the afternoon, the weather was warm and the sun shining. Beverly was delighted, pirouetting with her arms upraised. “Oh Jean-Luc…isn’t it glorious!” Ordinarily he wouldn’t condone such behavior, especially from a command officer, but it was indeed beautiful and Beverly looked so happy that, in reality, he had to agree with her. The people they saw were happy and everyone seemed to have a jib to do. Everywhere people carried goods, pushed handcarts filled with food or were up timber ladders hanging more gaily coloured bunting. Adults and children alike were intent on their tasks, taking little notice of the visitors. “Welcome esteemed guests!” “Thank you Arteen. It seems so busy…can we be of any assistance?” “No captain, but thank you for the offer. No matter how often this ceremony takes place, there always seems to be last minute things to do.” Jean-Luc laughed. “That is something we have in common.” Laughing, the party made their way to a large building about five minutes walk from the shuttle pad. They were shown to a suite of rooms and given the clothing they would wear for the next nine days. After arranging to collect them in the morning, Arteen left them to settle in.

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“What lovely rooms Jean-Luc. Look at the balcony…I bet there’s a breathtaking view.” Jean-Luc had been watching her, completely captivated by her joy. “Which room do you want?” *Yours.* “I don’t mind, you choose.” “Well, let’s see. This one is green and that one is lavender….I’ll take the lavender one. Shall we see what there is to eat?” “By all means.” “Hmmm. Looks like fruit, cheese and wine. Yum. Shall I make a plate for you?” Jean-Luc started to laugh. “Beverly…anyone would think you’d never been on leave before.” “It’s just so beautiful Jean-Luc. It makes me happy, that’s all.” “And I’m very glad to see it.” They ate their dinner in a comradely fashion and talked about the mission for a while, retiring early.

The Enterprise had been busy with her investigations. After many subspace messages were sent and received a pattern of sorts began to emerge. It became apparent that the nefarious Ferengi had employed their ruse with far different results. Choosing non-aligned small planets, they had reaped a fortune in latinum. Unfortunately, the Ferengi were unwise enough to try their scheme on Cardassian and Romulan aligned planets. If nothing was done soon, a very ugly incident could arise “Mr.Data where would the Ferengi get this mutated gene from? I couldn’t have been an easy thing to come by.” “I am waiting on a reply that may well answer that commander. The only facility known to be working on grain is the Pasteur Institute on Avalon.” “Avalon?” “A class Z planet five parsecs from starbase 482. It was chosen for the institute because of its inhospitable atmosphere. Helium, methane and constant acid rain make it a difficult place to live, but perfect for a research facility.” “Keep me appraised.” ”Aye sir.”

The representatives of the Federation were woken by a gentle tapping at the door. Picard made it to the door first, wrapping a soft robe about him, to be greeted by Arteen. “Good morning captain, doctor. Would you please dress and come with me?”

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Not wasting time with questions, the pair dressed in the loose fitting clothes supplied, their feet clad in soft leather sandals. Beverly quickly ran a brush through her hair and joined Jean-Luc at the door. He thought she’d never looked so lovely. As they walked with Arteen, Jean-Luc put some queries to rest. “Arteen, are we expected to do anything in particular?” “No captain. You and the doctor will be given seating befitting your status. We will partake of a light meal, and then you will be given sacramental wine. All you have to do is drink the toasts with everyone else. This is a time of great joy for us captain. Just enjoy it.” True to his word, Jean-Luc and Beverly were seated at the front of a vast stage upon which was spread food of all descriptions. The officers were served by brightly clad children and chose whatever they liked to try. This was followed by glorious singing. The words were unimportant as the voices of hundreds lifted up in praise. The wine was served and, as each group called in unison, toasts were drunk. The wine was free flowing and delicious. Suddenly there was an eerie silence. Softly at first, then gaining volume, deepthroated drums began to pulse. Louder and louder they grew until the throbbing beat could be felt within everyone’s body. People were swaying with the beat, some with their arms above their heads. In a burst of light and colour a huge Tikaran stepped onto the stage holding in his arms the boy who was to become Ti. The child seemed to be asleep and as the Tikaran held his little body at arms length, the masses shouted…”Ti! Ti! Ti!” The boy awoke and turned to sit in the arms of his protector. Raising his arms, the boy lifted his head and started to sing. One by one the crowd took up the words until there was nothing but the joyous cacophony of sound. Jean-Luc and Beverly had never witnessed anything so beautiful. More wine was served and the remainder of the day passed in a sea of happiness.

Will Riker strode from the ready room looking for his android officer. “Data, what have you got for me?” “Ah sir. I believe the captain would say…the plot thickens. I have a reply from Avalon. It would appear a theft was undertaken by a Dr. Pomard Zute almost twelve months ago. He stole the mutated grain, but his reasons remain unclear. The doctor I spoke to at the Pasteur Institute was not very forthcoming with information. He seemed most unwilling to elaborate. He did, however, indicate that we should talk with captain Brooks at starbase 482, as Dr.Zute was taken there before being transported to his home planet, Kona.” “Well done Data. Mr.Worf, set course for starbase 482 and Mr.Worf, I want to talk with someone who knows Zute on Kona…a fellow scientist perhaps. Put it through to the ready room when you have it.” The Enterprise elongated into a brilliant blur as she jumped to warp, heading for starbase 482.

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By the time she reached the starbase, Will had had his chat with Zute’s co-worker and had a clearer picture of the man and what drove him in his head. Receiving permission to dock, the mighty starship settled to her tether and Will went to meet with captain Sandra Brooks. “Good to see you commander, what can I do for you?” “We’re on the trail of some greedy Ferengi and we think their schemes have something to do with the theft of the mutated grain from Avalon But what we don’t know is why Dr.Zute stole the grain.” “I don’t envy your mission commander. Zute is an arrogant cuss. He maintains it was his discovery to mutate the gene. It was a Federation funded experiment to develop a grain that would generate fast growing crops in harsh climates, without taking over native grasses. He even bragged that it took us six months to find that it was him who took it. You’ll need to hold your temper if you get to talk to him. Who are you seeing on Kona?” Will stroked his beard. “I haven’t got that far. Do you have someone in mind?” “Let me make a few calls and I’ll get back to you.” With that Will made his exit and returned to the Enterprise. Data have you any information as to the whereabouts of that Ferengi marauder?” “I believe so sir.” “Good. Keep an eye on them Data. We’ll be going to Kona and then perhaps it might be time to spread our net.”

Jean-Luc and Beverly left the great hall and walked arm in arm along a beautiful tree lines avenue festooned with flags and bunting. The sun was setting; the birds calling their final songs before night settled. “Do you realize Beverly, all we saw was done by hand. All the food, the decorations, the wine…all produced by the hands of these remarkable people. I’ve had a wonderful time, I’m so glad you could share it with me.” “Oh jean-Luc! Hasn’t it been amazing? I couldn’t…” Beverly’s hiccup took them both by surprise. “You, my dear doctor, are drunk!” “I most certainly am not! Well…”, she giggled, ”Only as drunk as you.” “Picards do NOT get drunk!” Beverly giggled again. “Then why can’t you walk straight?” “Because I’m holding you up!” “Hmm, good point. What were you saying?” More laughter. Jean-Luc shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know.”

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They walked until they came to their quarters then almost dissolved in giggles as they tried to enter through the door two abreast. Finally managing, they stood weaving slightly. “Which room captain?” “Mine.” Negotiating the door, they burst into the room and overbalanced, falling in a tangled heap on the bed. Jean-Luc looked down and realized his body was covering Beverly’s. He made to get up, but Beverly took hold of his shoulders. They stayed frozen for long seconds, Jean-Luc looking deeply into her eyes. Then, with agonizing slowness, he lowered his head until their lips were just grazing each other. The heat of his breath, the feeling of his aroused muscular body and the featherlike touch of his lips started a heat in Beverly she had thought would not be re-kindled. She could see the passion, the desire in his eyes and she sighed with anticipation. Jean-Luc began to kiss her. He started so gently, trying to convey all the tenderness and love he could muster, but his need was almost overpowering. As his passion grew, so did Beverly’s. The kiss deepened and became ardent. They began to struggle to rid each other of their clothing, the need building quickly. He had wanted this first time to be gentle and romantic as all his fantasies had been, but their first joining was urgent and laced with fire, leaving them breathless and shocked by their passion. Later, and again through the night they made love. Giving and taking, sharing and loving until, in the small hours of the morning they finally slept, sated.

Commander Will Riker had received the information he wanted from captain Brooks. Setting a course, the Enterprise left the starbase and made her way to Kona. Captain Brooks’ contact had proven very interesting and Will felt well armed when he made his request to visit Pomard Zute at the correctional facility. “Who are you and what do you want?” “I am commander William Riker, first officer of the Enterprise. I have some questions for you regarding the theft of the mutated grain from the Pasteur Institute.” “It was not theft! It was my discovery! I mutated the gene and what did it get me? A chance to get my name in a scientific journal. No thank you! I’m really not at all interested in you or your questions, I’ve better things to do with my time.” Will nodded and pursed his lips. “Actually I know why you stole the grain. All I want is the name of the Ferengi you sold it to.” “This is an outrage! Get out! Get out at once!” “Come now doctor, you and I know both know you sold the grain to raise enough latinum to get out of this sector.” Zute started to pace in his cell.

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“You’ve been talking to Arkon, haven’t you? How very thorough of you commander. What did he tell you?” “He told me your wife was having an affair with Dr.Stennis Culp and that you planned to save your marriage by taking your wife and family to the most remote sector you could find. All you needed was the latinum to do it.” Zute stopped pacing. “Ombed would never do that to me! She was duped by Culp and deceived by Starfleet. Anyway it was all their fault. If they’d only let Ombed and the children come and live with me at the institute none of this would’ve happened. But no. Their policy is six weeks on and six weeks off, no families allowed. Stupid rule. It’s no wonder Ombed strayed.” “What is the name of the Ferengi, doctor?” Pomard Zute was a defeated man. With a deep sigh he said, “Daimon Tarl.” “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” “I’ve said enough. Just go.” Having passed on his gratitude to those that helped him, Will beamed back on board the Enterprise. “Mr.Data, we have a name. Daimon Tarl. Input that and see what the computer has to offer. Are we still tracking the Ferengi ship? Yes? Well let’s jump the gun a little and move quietly into range of that ship. Gently Worf. We want to sneak up on them. “Sir…jump the gun?” “Later Data.”

Jean-Luc awoke and stretched languidly. He looked down at his lover with awe. Somehow he thought the night had been a dream. Unable to help himself, he softly gathered the loose strands of her stunning red hair and put them behind her ear then leant forward and reverently kissed her cheek. Taking a deep breath, Beverly turned to face him and kissed him good morning on the tip of his nose. Looking deep into his eyes, Beverly lifted her hand and ran her fingers from his temple to his chin. “Jean-Luc…do you know how much I love you?” “About as much as I love you? He took her in his arms, holding her gently and covering her face with kisses. “Jean-Luc…we were drunk last night.” Jean-Luc looked intently at the woman who had stolen his heart so long ago. What was she going to say? “Yes we were.” “Well why don’t we have hangovers?” A very thoughtful frown settled on Jean-Luc’s face. “I think we have more questions for Arteen.” She smiled at him and ran a finger down his face.

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“I’m glad we were drunk last night.” “So am I. You know, we should see about breakfast.” She wound her arms around him. “I’ve got a better idea.” As she spoke, her hand was slowly moving down Jean-Luc’s torso. “Beverly…it really wouldn’t do to be late.” “Oh I don’t know…I think the Tikara would approve, after all we’re not using any technology, just technique.” He sighed. “You’re incorrigible.” Despite her actions, Beverly knew that he was right and soon they were dressed and eating a light breakfast of fruit and bread when Arteen came for them. “Arteen may I ask you something?” “Of course doctor.” “That wine we were drinking yesterday…why doesn’t it give a hangover?” He frowned and shook his head. “Hangover? I don’t understand.” “It’s a physical reaction to ingesting too much alcohol. It can be quite debilitating.” “I don’t profess to understand your physiology, but I can tell you there is nothing on this planet that will harm you. We discussed this at length with Starfleet medical. The last thing we wanted was to inadvertently poison our esteemed guests. “I trust you are ready for the Culmination?” “Yes, we’re looking forward to it.” ”You may be surprised. Today’s rites are very solemn and they take approximately three hours, after which you are free to do as you wish.” Jean-Luc pricked up his ears. “Arteen, is it true that there are some archaeological ruins not far from this city?” He nodded. “Would the doctor and I be allowed to visit them?” “I will have to ask the elders, but I doubt they will object. They want you to see as much of our way of life and our surroundings as you can. It was confirmed last night that we will be making a request to join the Federation.” The captain gripped Arteen’s arm warmly. “It would be for our betterment.” “Very good. I will have some brenn saddled and pack brenn loaded. It’s a twoday journey by brenn through some beautiful countryside. Well, I’ll see you at the great hall in one hour. Remember please, no technology.” Beverly nearly laughed out loud, only just managing to disguise it with a cough. Jean-Luc shot her a warning glance and she lowered her head, feeling another giggle coming on.

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“Can you extrapolate a course Data?” “I believe so sir.” “Then let’s go! Helm, Mr.Data will be feeding you coordinates. When you have them, engage at warp five. How long to intercept?” “Four and a half hours sir.” He nodded with satisfaction. “Very well, call me when we’re closing in. I’ll be in engineering.” A short turbolift ride later, Will strode into engineering. “Geordi I need an ace up my sleeve and I need you to provide it.” “What did you have in mind commander?” “When we catch up with the Ferengi, they are not going to be pleased to see us. I need to disable them and take out their phasers and shields in one devastating shot. We won’t have time for a second go. I want to get aboard and search that ship for the infected grain. We have four hours. Any ideas?” Geordi frowned for a while then a smile crept onto his face. “One or two. Let me work on it, I’ll get back to you. The Enterprise continued on her way preparing for a hopefully short battle.

The great hall was a very different place. Although all the decorations remained, a somber feeling pervaded. This was indeed a solemn occasion, the boy being led naked to a throne and slowly dressed in the regalia of his position. After each item was placed upon him, a song of praise lifted skyward. A group of male and female Tikara stood to one side chanting a mantra and bowing collectively after each pronouncement by the protector. True to his word, the ceremony concluded in a little over three hours. As the crowd dispersed, the captain and the doctor found themselves talking to Lojop Os, the shuttle pilot. He explained the history of the ascension rites and what each element meant The officers found it both moving and fascinating. Before long Arteen caught up with them and told them how to get to the brenn holding pens. Jean-Luc and Beverly were pleasantly surprised to find the brenn were not all that dissimilar to Earth horses. Taller, and with a greenish hue the animals were more muscular. The equipment was comfortingly like English tack to be familiar. The ostler approached the intrepid pair. “I’ve drawn a map on this skin, it should be easy to follow. I’ve highlighted the landmarks, the only place you have to be careful is here It’s on a mountainside and it gets a bit narrow. It would be best if you dismounted and walked the brenn until the track opens up again. I’ve packed some oilskins…the forecast isn’t too good, but the valleys are sheltered. Use the ropes I provided to form enclosures and turn the brenn lose in them at night, they will happily graze. All right then, I bid you safe journey. May the God that is All guide your feet.”

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Geordi had done some very sneaky things with the Enterprises’ phasers in the past and this was no exception. Calling up a schematic of a Ferengi marauder, he showed Will how the super tuned phasers would be able to take out engines, shields and all weapons in one fell swoop. The supercharging would only last for one shot, but if all went according to plan, one shot would be all they needed. “With our shields at maximum there’ll be nothing they can do.” “Excellent Geordi, well done. Mr.Data, time to intercept?” “Forty eight minutes commander.” “Good. Keep…” “Commander, they’ve seen us and are going to warp!” “Pursuit course! Worf, hail them.” “No reply sir.” “Well, if it’s a game of tag the want we’ll give it to them. Data can we overhaul them?” “I believe so sir. My comparisons show the Enterprise has superior speed, although the marauder may have a slight advantage in manoeuvrability.” “Where are they running to?” “Their course will take them to the Brekta cluster. The accumulation of dust and debris will slow us and interfere with our sensors.” “Then we’ll just have to head them off at the pass. Maximum warp Data. Overtake them.”

Jean-Luc and Beverly had been riding for approximately three hours, the brenn covering the ground at a surprisingly fast pace. They had left the outskirts of the city far behind and were following the course of a beautiful river upstream. “Jean-Luc…how about lunch.” “We had lunch before we left.” “That was hours ago. I’m hungry.” He chuckled at that. “You’re always hungry.” “I’m talking about food.” “Beverly!” It was her turn to laugh. “Oh come on Jean-Luc, loosen up. It’s a beautiful afternoon on a stunning planet; you’re riding…with me…on your way to an archaeological site. What more do you want?” Jean-Luc halted his brenn and gazed at Beverly, a rare full grin slowly growing on his handsome face. Throwing his head back he laughed out loud.

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“Well I suppose we could have afternoon tea.” They dismounted and secured the four brenn in the shade of a grove of trees. With the river running clear and fast nearby, it was the perfect place to stop. Jean-Luc took a blanket from the pack whilst Beverly gathered some fruit and pastries. Sitting in the shade they ate their fill, drank from the sweet river and soon found themselves lying side by side, Beverly playfully tickling Jean-Luc with a grass stem. “If you continue to do that I will be forced to exact revenge.” “Oh really. And what, pray tell, would you do?” “This!” Quickly grabbing Beverly by the wrists Jean-Luc rolled her onto her back and kissed her deeply, holding her hands above her head. The kiss ended and Beverly looked lovingly into his hazel eyes. “Make love to me Jean-Luc.” ”Gladly.”

Will Riker had executed some daring moves in his time, but none gave him the satisfaction of seeing the Ferengi marauder come to such a complete stop. The two ships hung in space nose to nose, each almost quivering with suppressed tension. “They’re powering weapons!” “Red alert! Shields up! Geordi are we ready?” “Aye commander. Fire at your pleasure.” “Mr.Worf target weapons, engines and shields. Full phaser spread. Fire!” The marauder shuddered as the deadly orange beams lanced out from the great starship. Again both ships faced each other. “We are being hailed.” “Thank you Worf. On screen.” “What is the meaning of this? Are you mad human? I will report you to your own Starfleet! This is an outrage.” Will straightened his tunic and stepped closer to the screen. “To whom am I speaking?” “I am daimon Tarl. Who are you?” “I am commander William Riker of the Starship Enterprise. I have reason to believe you are carrying mutated grain sold to you by Dr.Pomard Zute.” “And what if I am?” “The grain was stolen by Dr.Zute from the Pasteur Institute on Avalon.” “So? What has that got to do with me?” “I have received information implicating you in the use of the grain to extort money from aligned and non aligned planets.” “And what has that got to do with you?” “I’ve been ordered to apprehend you and to take you back to answer for your actions. I’ve no doubt the Romulans and the Cardassians would be eager to

13


speak with you also. Some of your victims have friends in very powerful places. Now tell me…who would you rather talk to…the Federation or the Cardassians and Romulans?” “I…I…” “Perhaps some of my officers could beam over and relieve you of the grain, since it’s causing you so much trouble.” The daimon was sweating freely. “Yes…that may be a good idea after all. You will, of course, be sure to tell the Federation how helpful and cooperative I have been.” “Of course.” At that Will ended the transmission. “Worf take a detail and remove the grain from our ‘helpful’ Ferengi friends.” It took just under an hour for the grain to be transferred to the Enterprise and the Ferengi crew to be installed in the brig. Taking the Ferengi vessel in tow the Enterprise began her journey back to Avalon to drop off their guests, hand over the grain and then head straight for Garvan IV at maximum warp.

Much later that afternoon, Beverly and Jean-Luc had resumed their travels. The terrain had slowly started to climb and it was decided to camp for the night on a large plateau, sparsely covered with trees. While Picard made a yard for the brenn, Beverly began to organize the camp. The tent was primitive but functional, made of a canvas like material, obviously hand woven. There was much laughter as they worked out how to set it up. It was nothing like the modern tents they were used to. It even had wooden pegs to secure the sides. They had warm wool like blankets, which they spread inside and when they had finished, it did look inviting. Tired from the day’s activities, they enjoyed a light meal and retired for the night. As they drifted off to sleep Jean-Luc cradled Beverly’s head and thought he’d never been so happy. The morning dawned a little overcast, but the intrepid pair took little notice. Sharing a quick breakfast they soon broke camp and after packing and saddling the brenn, continued their journey. All day the trail rose eventually leaving the trees and entering an area of low shrubs and wildflowers. They stopped only for meals and to occasionally rest the brenn. The gentle animals were easy to care for and Jean-Luc found himself becoming attached to the one he rode. As the afternoon began to draw in they reached the saddle of the mountain they had climbed. Seeing the trail wend its way down, the travelers decided to try and make the valley floor. The weather was becoming ominous and they wanted to reach the shelter offered by the valley. A stiff breeze had sprung up and the temperature was dropping rapidly, necessitating the donning of warmer clothes and the oilskins.

14


The warning about the trail was timely, as soon they had to ride single file, each leading a pack brenn. The wind was stronger and thunder began to mutter and grumble. Rain was imminent as they reached the narrowest part of the trail. Jean-Luc dismounted first and gestured for Beverly to do the same. Taking the reins firmly in their hands, the two officers began their perilous traversal of the treacherous path. With the sheer rock wall to their left, a steep drop fell away to a ledge some fifteen metres below on their right. The brenn were getting frightened by the worsening weather, but there was no choice but to descend. Just when Jean-Luc thought he could see the trail widening a huge bolt of lightning seared their eyes. It was immediately followed by a violent crash of thunder directly overhead. Too much for the brenn, Beverly’s beast lunged forward colliding with the animal in front causing a domino effect. When the jolt reached JeanLuc’s animal it reared, tearing the reins from his hands. Then disaster struck. In its efforts to escape the terrifying storm the brenn shot forward knocking JeanLuc over the edge. He tumbled head over heels and came to a perilous stop on the ledge. He felt himself slipping and grabbed a small shrub. Beverly had the presence of mind to flatten herself against the rock wall as the spooked brenn rushed past. She saw Jean-Luc go over the edge and got to the lip just as the small bush he had grabbed uprooted. He seemed to hang for seconds then he suddenly disappeared. The last thing she saw was the stricken look in his eyes. With no thought for her own safety, Beverly scrambled and slipped to the ledge and looked over the edge. What she saw made her scream.

“This so frustrating. I keep wanting to send the captain a subspace message telling him of our success. Damn this technology ban.” The Enterprise, due to dock once more at starbase 482, was two hours from its destination. Although pleased with the success of their mission, the crew was restless. Two senior officers were absent and the mood of the ship was one of discontent. Will had spent some time interviewing the Ferengi, but all he got for his efforts were lectures on the rights of all Ferengi to make profits. How this was done was open to a lot of interpretation. Finally Will gave up, musing that the intelligence bureau would have better luck. At last the Enterprise docked at the starbase and Will was able top offload his passengers. He thought Starfleet would be happy to poke about in a Ferengi marauder, at least until they would have to give it back. With a satisfied sigh Will directed the con to return them to Garvan IV.

15


“Jean-Luc! Can you hear me?” The captain was lying spread-eagled on the ground. His left leg was bent at an unnatural angle and blood was already pooling under his head, but what made Beverly scream was the three pieces of wood impaling him. He had fallen directly onto a dead shrub, the sharp branches having no trouble piercing through the tough materials of his clothing or the skin and muscles of his body. One branch protruded through his upper right chest, eight centimeters above his nipple. Another stood bloody and straight through his left side, the third through his right thigh. As she looked at her lover she slowly realized the brenn had bolted in terror and she had nothing with which to help him. Tears welled in her eyes just as the rain began to pour down. Wasting no more time Beverly gingerly began her descent. There was little to hold and although the drop was only four metres, she was shaking by the time she reached him. Moving to his side, she immediately checked for life signs. Relieved that he still lived, her next priority was to stop the bleeding. With nothing else but the clothes she had on, she managed to tear some strips from the bottom of the vest she wore. Very gently lifting his head she discovered a terrible wound on the back of his head. Again, very gently, she used one of the strips to bind the wound. The two wounds on his torso were not bleeding heavily, but the damage to his staked leg was bleeding profusely. Beverly had no choice but to apply a tourniquet. The rain was coming down in torrents creating small waterfalls as it poured over the ledge above them. She knew she had to get him to shelter soon. With great care, Beverly rolled Jean-Luc onto his side and broke away the remaining timber. Then taking Jean-Luc by slipping her arms under his, she slowly made her way to the bottom of the scree. At first she thought the surrounding trees would offer some shelter, but they were too small. They had descended almost to the valley floor and Beverly knew the trees would be bigger, however she was not sure she had the strength to make it that far. She was also aware that if he regained consciousness it would be too painful to move him again. Beverly had no idea how much harm she was causing by moving him but she knew they needed shelter. It was when she had almost gotten to the last of the rock formations that she spotted a cave. With careful haste she dragged Jean-Luc into the cave and took the time needed to catch her breath.

On the Enterprises viewscreen Garvan IV looked like a tiny milky white pearl floating in the blackness of space, but the graceful ship was soon dwarfed as she entered orbit around the planet. “This is driving me nuts! I want to talk to the captain…I can’t. I want to scan to make sure they’re all right…I can’t. I want to hail the Tikara to ask them about

16


the captain and Beverly, but I can’t. I don’t like this…I really don’t like this at all.” “Will there’s no point in worrying over things you can’t change.” “I know Deanna, but still…” “Look, the ceremonies have only been going for three days. We have six days to wait. Why don’t we use the time constructively? Those crew evaluations won’t get themselves done and I know you and Worf want to continue the calisthenics program. I know it’s hard, but we just have to be patient.” “Can you sense anything from either of them?” “I haven’t tried. They both deserve some privacy Will and I intend to give it to them.” “You’re right of course…it’ just that I have this bad feeling…” “Hey, that’s my line.”

Once Beverly recovered she took her and Jean-Luc’s oilskins off. The wet weather gear had done its job, leaving them mostly dry underneath. With nothing to cut the fabric and wanting to get it done before the captain awoke, she gingerly lifted the heavy material of his top up and over his head. It was difficult to get the stakes free but she persisted and eventually had the garment off and, folding it, placed it under his head. That left the vest which she removed and tore more strips from its lower hem. Beverly examined Jean-Luc thoroughly. Dark angry bruises were forming on his chest and the side of his face. Moving down to his legs she found that dragging him had straightened the obviously broken leg. If she could find appropriate wood, she could splint it. With a struggle, she rolled Jean-Luc onto his side and winced at what she found there. The flesh was torn and grazed, a mass of blood and splinters of embedded wood. Along with severe bruising, she found at least three broken ribs. She carefully set him onto his back and tried to formulate some sort of strategy. Feeling the need to relieve herself she left the cave and walked a little distance to a small stand of trees. She was delighted to find a lively creek flowing nearby and began to cast about looking for something to carry water. Her search led her to the stand of trees where she happily found some huge fallen fruit. Looking like giant acorns, it was no effort to break them in half and scoop out the rotting pulp. After thoroughly washing two, she filled them and made her way back to the cave. Taking some torn material in her hand she began to wash his many wounds. Rolling him again she worked at cleaning the lacerations and removing as many of the splinters as possible. As she gently rolled him back she heard a deep groan. “Jean-Luc? Jean-Luc can you hear me?” “Yes.” He whispered. “Jean-Luc you fell and you’re injured. Try and lie still.” “Beverly?”

17


He raised a shaking hand. “Beverly I can’t see.” “We’re in a cave Jean-Luc. It’s dark and you have blood in your eyes. Wait a minute and I’ll clean them for you.” Gently wiping his eyes with the cloth, she sat back. “How’s that?” He opened his eyes and glanced about trying to focus. “I can’t see Beverly…I’m blind.” Beverly began to feel panic rising. She had nothing, not even rudimentary medical supplies to treat him. No antiseptic, no analgesics, no bandages, nothing, just the clothes they wore. As she cast about, trying to find something to offer comfort, his body began to tremble. “He’s going into shock!” she thought. “Jean-Luc listen to me! You’ve been badly injured and you’ve lost a lot of blood. I don’t know why you can’t see, maybe it’s the head wound. I will stay with you but you’ve got to try and stay awake…Jean-Luc?” He whispered, “I hear you.” “Good. That’s good. Here, hold my hand.” She gently lifted his hand and took it in hers. He squeezed weakly. “What happened? I remember the path…we dismounted, but after that…” “The storm frightened the brenn. Yours reared and knocked you over the edge. They bolted Jean-Luc; I’ve no idea where they are. They had the packs JeanLuc; we have nothing but the clothes we wear.” He was silent a while, then spoke again. “It’s not so bad. The brenn will return to their stables. When they do the Tikara will know something’s wrong. They will look for us, I told Arteen where we were going. We just have to sit tight. It’ll be alright Beverly.” “Jean-Luc I think it’s me that’s supposed to be comforting you.” A weak smile. “Are you injured Beverly?” “Not a scratch.” “That’s good. Beverly, what’s this?” Jean-Luc’s other hand had crept up and found the timber protruding through his side. Beverly took the hand and placed it back at his side. At the end of your fall you landed on a dead shrub. Some of the braches have impaled you. There’s one in your chest, that one in your side and one in your right thigh. “Can you remove them?” “I don’t want to, it could cause hemorrhaging…it would do more harm than good.” “I understand. How long have we been here?” “It was almost dark when you fell and it’s fully dark now…about an hour and a half.” He shifted slightly. “Has the storm abated?” “I think so, there’s just rain now.” “Good, the brenn will start back.”

18


“Don’t talk anymore Jean-Luc, rest.” He closed his sightless eyes, some of the tension leaving his battered body. “Talk to me Beverly, I love the sound of you voice.” “Gladly.”

Commander Will Riker sat bolt upright in his bed drawing a huge breath. “Computer Lights!” His quarters were immediately illuminated, but it brought no comfort. Wiping his sweaty brow he made his way to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. He was about to page Deanna when the door chimed. “Come in.” “Imzadi what’s wrong?” “Deanna I had a dream…a nightmare…Deanna something’s wrong. Please, can you sense the captain or Beverly?” “Will…” Deanna looked closely at her friend. On the spur of the moment she decided to acquiesce. She centered herself and then reached out with her mind searching for the familiar signatures of her friends. Almost immediately she gasped and collapsed onto the floor. “Deanna!” “Will the captain…something…he’s hurt, great pain. Weak…” “What about Beverly?” “She’s with him. Worried, desperate…Will we have to hurry!” “Come to the bridge with me.” The night watch was not prepared for the entrance of the two officers. Both dressed in their night attire, they paid no heed to the startled glances they elicited. “Open a channel to the planet.” “Sir we are receiving an automated message informing us of the technology blackout during the ascension of…” “Override dammit! I want to speak with someone now!” Within minutes a disgruntled Tikaran appeared on the screen. “Enterprise I hope you realize…” “This is an emergency. We have two officers on your planet. One of them has been badly hurt. Where are they?” “I know nothing of this. Please wait, I will summon Arteen El. He is the liaison officer.” More precious time ticked by as the Enterprise crew waited impatiently. Finally Arteen’s face appeared. “Commander how may I…” “Arteen our captain is injured. Where is he?” “Injured? I know nothing…are you sure?”

19


“Our ship’s counselor is half Betazoid. She can sense the emotions of both the captain and the doctor and I can assure you there is something dreadfully wrong.” Arteen looked carefully at Will and Deanna. Seeming to come to a decision he nodded. “Your officers left yesterday to explore some ruins to the southwest. We are not expecting them to return for some time. If you like I will send some riders to make contact with them. “I would like permission to scan for them.” “I would rather you didn’t commander. It would contravene our agreement not to use technology. This transmission is bad enough. Please don’t think me unreasonable commander, but I must obey the laws of my culture and I hope you will too.” Will ran a frustrated hand through his dark hair. “Arteen I’m in an unenviable position. I don’t wish to offend you, but I must protect my captain. I will give you three hours. If you don’t have anything positive by then I will scan for them and beam them up when found.” “I hope that won’t be necessary commander.” “So do I.”

Beverly was running out of conversation. She had talked about Wesley, her time at the academy, medical school, even her childhood. She was thoroughly sick of the sound of her own voice. Every now and then she would gently wipe Jean-Luc’s face and cheeks. He was febrile and slowly getting worse. She released and reapplied the tourniquet frequently, but the colour and coolness of the leg told its own story. His head wound continued to bleed despite the bandage and his breathing was becoming ragged. In short, she was losing him and couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Through it all, Jean-Luc lay quietly. Often, when gripped with unbearable pain he would squeeze Beverly’s hand and a low groan would escape his clenched teeth. He was fighting his battle as best he could yet still he grew weaker and weaker. He slowly opened his eyes and lifted his hand, dropping it again after a few moments. “Can you see?” “No.” “You will Jean-Luc. It’ll come back.” “Is it still dark?” “Yes.” “I never realized the night could be so long.” Silence once again enfolded them, each deep in their own thoughts. After a while Beverly gently wiped his brow.

20


“Beverly, if I don’t make it…” “Oh no, don’t you start that! We’ll be rescued, just hold on.” “Beverly please…if I am to die then there are some things I want you to know.” The force with which he said those words and the effort it took shamed Beverly into silence. He took the quiet as a signal to continue. “You know I have loved you for a very long time. I once told you that my feelings had changed with the passage of time. That was a lie. I love you now as much as I have ever loved you. I have never stopped loving you. Finally taking that last step with you was the most incredible, joyous and wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. You make me complete and I want you to know you are the most extraordinary woman I have ever known and the only one I have ever truly loved.” The effort exhausted him and he lay quietly holding Beverly’s hand. She looked down at him, tears coursing down her face. With a light touch she traced the contours of his noble face then turned to the cave entrance. “The sun is coming up Jean-Luc. It’s a new day.”

It was with some surprise that the call was received from the surface. “It’s only been half an hour Arteen, what…” “I received a message from the stables. The brenn have returned carrying all the supplies, but without their riders. Under the circumstances you have my permission to use whatever means you find necessary to find your officers.” The Enterprise swung into immediate action. The day watch had started and Data promptly started a scan of the area to the southwest of the city. “Sir I am having some difficulty. The caste topography is interfering with the scanners. I cannot pinpoint the exact location…” “Will tricorders work?” “No sir.” “Deanna could you find them?” “I think so…” “How close can you get Data?” “Within half a kilometer sir.” “Right. Deanna, Worf you’re with me. Sickbay, med team report to transporter room two.” Six forms shimmered into existence on the planet’s surface. Looking about, Deanna once again sent her mind out looking for her friends. Turning slowly she suddenly stopped. “This way!” They followed a small stream up a slowly rising valley, Deanna becoming more and more agitated. “We must hurry Will! The captain’s life signs are weakening rapidly.”

21


They increased their pace, scrambling over rocks and through the low lying scrub. Reaching the top of a small hillock, Will called out. “Beverly! Beverly where are you? Deanna where…” “This way, we’re close.” Beverly had lay down beside Jean-Luc, cradling his head gently in her arm. She could not stop the tears that ran down her face. He was dying and she couldn’t stop it. Not with her skill, not with her love. They had waited so long for each other. She loved him with a depth that frightened her and it was that fear she had finally overcome. He spoke of wonder and joy, of being complete. She knew her heart was breaking. She knew that when death took him it would take her too, for she would never be truly alive without him. A noise…barely registered. Again a noise…what?” Will! “Will! In here Will! Hurry…oh God please…please…please…” Strong arms…Will! Deanna? Help… Beverly looked down. The med team was working frantically, trying to stabilize Jean-Luc. Terse commands, instruments flashing, urgent readings, a blur of sight and sound. Minutes passed…waiting…please God, please…Will’s strong arms. “He’s ready for transport. Enterprise four to beam directly to sickbay.” The familiar shimmer, then they were gone. “Will I must go…” “Steady Beverly, we’ll all go together. Enterprise four to beam to sickbay.” They rematerialized and turned to see a group of medics working on the captain. Will and Deanna stayed back as Beverly went to join them. She approached her colleague. “Selar?” “I have no report to make yet doctor. Do you wish to be of assistance?” “Yes!” “Then by all means doctor…” Something clicked in Beverly’s mind. Gone was the lover, the distressed woman. The doctor took over and for the next five hours the battle was joined. Jean-Luc’s pitifully battered body was slowly healed bit by precious bit. The wicked stakes were removed, organs regenerated, bones knitted. Hour after gut wrenching hour his life signs hovered, barely detectable. Twice his bruised brain went into synaptic shock, each time he was willed back by the dedicated staff. An unexpected hemorrhage nearly took him, but they resisted. He wouldn’t give up and neither would they. Finally, his body connected to monitors and heavily sedated, they withdrew. Through it all Will and Deanna had waited patiently. Beverly could see them as she crossed the room, but that was the last thing she saw. Her brain chose that time to shut down. She knew she was falling, but could do nothing about it. She never felt Will catch her.

22


Will returned to the bridge. “How are they sir?” “Doctor Crusher is sleeping in her quarters, counselor Troi is with her. The captain has been very badly injured. He has survived surgery and is now in stasis. We should know more in a few hours. With childlike innocence Data looked at the first officer. “I honestly don’t know Data. It’s bad. Worf, hail Arteen please.” “He is standing by.” “Arteen I understand what you did for us and I would like you to know how grateful we are. Your kindness may well have saved the captain’s life.” “How is he commander? I understand he was very badly injured.” “He’s holding his own. It’s too early to be sure yet.” “If we can be of any further assistance, please let us know. Our prayers are with him.”

Beverly had been asleep for thirteen hours. She woke slowly, initially confused. She looked around her bedroom trying to dispel the growing sense of unease she felt. Her agitation brought Deanna to her side. “Deanna, what…Jean-Luc! Where…I…” “Beverly look at me.” With the gentlest touch, Deanna brushed Beverly’s mind instantly calming her. “He’s in sickbay, still heavily sedated. He’s alive Beverly, he’s alive.” Beverly could hear the conviction in her friend’s voice. As she thought, she remembered the fight to save his life…his fight. “Tell me Beverly.” “Oh Deanna it was so beautiful. We went to the ceremonies…so much happiness…we got drunk…we made love…he loves me Deanna, so much…it was all so beautiful. Through the night we made love and the next day too. I never knew, never dreamed I could feel such happiness. We went on a trek to some ruins, just the two of us. He…we were so happy. Then a storm hit and the brenn bolted with all our gear and he fell…and the branches and the rain and his head and he…he nearly…” Beverly lowered her face into her hands and sobbed. She thought her heart would break. So close. She had come so close to losing him. Deanna held her friend and rocked her in the time-honored gesture of comfort practiced throughout the universe. She slept for a short while and when she awoke the panic was gone. Deanna knew instantly that Beverly had righted herself. “Come on, let’s go to sickbay.” They stood beside the sleeping captain watching the monitors carefully. Beverly was heartened to see stronger readouts. Taking a tricorder, she passed the sensor around Jean-Luc’s head. Seeing her friend frown, Deanna asked,

23


“Something wrong?” “I’m not sure. There’s a slight pressure building. I’ll see Selar about it.” The two women made their way to Beverly’s office. Selar greeted her boss. “Doctor Crusher, how are you?” “I’m fine thank you Selar. Are you aware of the pressure building in the captain’s cranium?” “Yes doctor, we’ve been monitoring it for some time. I administered Quoramine and it stabilized, but we are unsure exactly where the fluid is coming from. Due to the nature and severity of his head wound I was reluctant to treat it too aggressively. I decided to see if it would abate of its own accord.” Beverly nodded and smiled at her colleague. “I agree. It will probably settle, but I would like you to set up a Richart monitor just to be on the safe side.” “Very well doctor.” Deanna turned to her friend and asked, “Beverly have you any idea when he will regain consciousness? I’ve been fielding queries all day.” “Soon I should think. He’s only lightly sedated now. We tend to withdraw as many drugs as possible to stimulate the body’s capacity to heal itself. I intend to stay with him now, I’ll call you when he wakes up.”

The hours passed slowly and Beverly was pleased to see Will stride through the doors. “Any change?” “Not yet.” “Would you like me to watch him while you get something to eat?” “No thanks Will. My staff is taking good care of me.” They sat in companionable silence for a while watching the rise and fall of JeanLuc’s chest. “Deanna told me what happened. Apart from the captain’s injuries, I’m really happy for you. You both waited a long time. “Yes we did, God knows why. All those years wasted…I was such a fool. I kept running and running and all I managed to do was chase my own damn tail. He knew. He knew all along we were meant for each other. He tried to tell me but would I listen? Deanna tried to tell me, you tried….how could I have been so stupid?” Will sighed and gripped her shoulder. Beverly hindsight is twenty- twenty vision looking backwards. You have him now, make sure you make the most of it.” “Oh I will, don’t you worry about that.” “Now Beverly would you mind telling me why you were both off gallivanting around the countryside on brenn-back when you should’ve been at the ascension?”

24


‘Oh that. Well you see the official ceremonies only lasted two days. After that you can do pretty much whatever you want.” He pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “Did you know that before you left the Enterprise?” ~Damn! He wasn’t supposed to ask that.~ “Yes…” “And the captain knew…?” “He’s the one who told me.” “And the captain knew about the ruins?” “Yes…” “I see. We’re going to have to have a little chat about safety and the sharing of information, aren’t we?” “I suppos…Yes. Of course.” Feeling somewhat mollified, Will bade the chastened doctor good evening and left sickbay. He managed to hold his laughter until he was almost to the turbolift doors. The lift doors opened to reveal two startled ensigns. It wasn’t often one saw the first officer weak with laughter, at least not while he was on duty.

Beverly had been lightly dozing when she heard her name whispered. Coming immediately awake, she was overjoyed to see Jean-Luc’s eyes open. “Jean-Luc…” The doctor gently stroked Jean-Luc’s face causing him to flinch but it went unnoticed. “Jean-Luc you’re on the Enterprise. You were badly hurt but you’re going to be fine.” He lifted a hand to rub his temple. “Are you in any pain?” “Headache…bad headache.” “I’ll give you a drink then we’ll tackle the headache.” Taking a cup from the nightstand, Beverly carefully raised Jean-Luc’s head and brought the cup to his lips. The captain tried to drink too early and spilled some of the liquid down his front and when she removed the cup, he moved his head from side to side. A sudden realization gripped Beverly. “Jean-Luc look at me.” His eyes darted to and fro, his head turning ineffectually. “You can’t see can you.” With a deep sigh, he shook his head. She left him momentarily to retrieve a hypospray and was stopped in her tracks by the alarm sounding on the Richart monitor. She rushed to his side to find him desperately holding his head, tears streaming from his eyes. His body suddenly arched up and became utterly rigid. Alarms were sounding as one by one they registered his distress.

25


He began to make a keening sound, one of undeniable agony, as he proceeded to contort grotesquely. Staff came at the run and, in the space of a few minutes, had diagnosed the problem and with alacrity, started to treat it. Such was his writhing that he tore open some freshly sealed wounds. Beverly felt as if she were in a nightmare. She functioned as the dedicated doctor she was, but inside she was terrified. “We will have to lessen the pressure. Set up a deep cranial probe, I want to know the exact spot…we can’t afford to off so much as a micron.” Sedating Jean-Luc and putting him in a restraining field, the doctors initiated the probe, watching the monitor as the probe was manoeuvred skillfully through his brain. Suddenly another alarm triggered and upon inspection, showed that he’d lapsed into a coma. It took almost an hour to guide the probe and finally identify the problem. A blood clot had formed deep inside his brain and the resulting swelling had brought about the ensuing convulsion and pain. It was also discovered the expanding brain had put undue pressure on the optic nerves causing his blindness. Once a diagnosis was made, specific treatment alleviated the symptoms, although he stayed deeply unconscious. The emergency over, Beverly found herself once again at Jean-Luc’s bedside. Deanna arrived and offered to watch the captain while Beverly got some sleep, but she declined, wishing to be there when he woke. She slept in the chair restlessly; frustrated she could do no more than wait. It was eighteen hours later when he again opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was his lover. “Hey lovely.” The sound of his voice, still rough from sleep brought her awake. “Hey yourself. How are you? Are you in pain?” “A slight headache, some aches and twinges, but all bearable. How long have you been here?” “Oh you know…off and on, a bit here, a bit there. Can you see me?” “A little blurry, still you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, blurry or not.” At that a crooked smile graced her face that made his heart sing. All he could do was gaze into the bottomless blue pools. “When can I get out?” “No you don’t! You are going to stay here until you’re fit enough to leave and not a second sooner! And I’ll make it an order if I have to.” Somewhat taken aback, Jean-Luc demurred, bowing to the fact that she was upright and undamaged where he was flat on his back and rather worse for wear. “Yes sir.” She nodded curtly then smiled. “Hungry?” “Not really.” “Well, you’ve got to eat. How about some broth and a slice of bread?” “If I have to…”

26


“You have to!” Beverly left and soon returned with a tray in her hands. “Right, bon apetit.” With a characteristic sigh Jean-Luc reluctantly made his way through the meal, Beverly watching his every move. “Well done. Now you may have a reward.” A cup of hot Earl Grey tea appeared bringing another satisfied sigh. “What do you remember Jean-Luc?” He thought hard. “The storm, the brenn…a cave, you were there…here, bad dreams…pain, overwhelming pain, more dreams…floating…it’s all vague…disjointed.” “You had a pretty rough time, we nearly lost you several times.” He smiled and held her hand. “One thing I do remember with absolute clarity is loving you…making love to you.” Beverly felt herself reddening and lowered her head to mask it. Just then Will and Deanna arrived. Deanna cast Beverly a knowing look and broke into an enormous grin. “Hello captain, how do you feel?” “All things considered Number One, I feel remarkably well.” “I’m glad captain. Sir, if you don’t mind there’s something I want to straighten out.” “By all means, go ahead.” “Sir why is it you knew you were only required for two days of the ceremonies and didn’t tell your senior staff…namely me?” “I…that is…err…I didn’t think anyone would mind if the doctor and I wanted to have some time off. It seemed the perfect opportunity.” “Of course sir, you’re entitled to take leave whenever and wherever you like, but I think it would be prudent to inform your staff, don’t you?” “You realize you have me at a disadvantage. You are castigating me at a time when I can barely defend myself.” “With all due respect sir, there’s nothing you can defend.” “Yes well…I will consider myself upbraided. Thank you for your concern.” Will recognized the subtle dismissal. Nodding to his captain and CMO, he turned on his heel and left sickbay looking every inch the Starfleet officer he was.

The next few days were a frustrating time for the captain. He grew stronger every day and with each passing moment he chaffed to be released to his quarters. Therapy three times a day helped him regain the full use of his left side, which had been weakened by the blood clot episode. If it wasn’t for Beverly’s encouragement and perseverance he wouldn’t have progressed as fast as he did. As for Beverly, she displayed patience she didn’t know she had.

27


Finally, after nine days, he was released to convalesce in his cabin. Beverly walked him through the corridors leading to his domain, their arms linked. JeanLuc stepped into his quarters and took a deep breath. He was happy to be at last back in his own territory. “Sit down and I’ll get you a cup of tea.” “No thank you Beverly, I have other plans.” He approached Beverly from behind and startled her by sliding his arms around her. “Beverly, would you give me a physical…a full physical?” She turned to face him, the laughter evident in her incredible blue eyes. “And you said I was incorrigible!” Taking her hand, he led her into the bedroom and proceeded to make up for all the lost time.

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Two Miles To Nowhere  

1 2 Jean-Luc and Beverly were in the ready room when the call came from Will that contact had been made with the Tikara. 3 4 The representat...