written by Andra Marie Mueller
Captain’s Log, Stardate 45835.2
The Enterprise is en route to Starbase 145 in the Marizian System, where it will undergo a few days of maintenance work, giving the crew a chance to enjoy some much needed leisure time.
“The planet does not show on any charts of this system, Captain,” Data reported. “It is almost as if it does not exist at all.”
“Well, we certainly know it exists, Mister Data,” Jean-Luc Picard responded. “The ship’s sensors picked it up the moment it came into range.” He turned to his chief security officer. “Mister Worf, are you receiving any life signs from the planet?”
The Klingon checked his computer panel. “No, sir.”
The turbolift doors opened, and Deanna Troi walked onto the bridge. As she took her place between Picard and Riker, the captain motioned to the planet on the viewscreen. “Counselor, we’ve just encountered a planet which does not appear on any existing charts of this system. Can you sense anything?”
Troi concentrated for a moment. “I sense something down there, Captain, but it’s very faint, and the emotions of the crew are interfering with my concentration.”
Picard turned to Riker. “Number One, I want you to take Counselor Troi and an Away Team down there and find out anything you can about this mysterious planet.”
Riker, surprised by Picard’s order to include Troi in the Away Team, gave the captain a questioning look, but the inquiry remained unspoken. Instead, he said, “Aye, sir. Data, Worf, let’s go.”
Worf and Data took out their tricorders and began scanning the planet for life, while Riker and Troi looked around. Riker studied the barren landscape but saw nothing that would indicate the presence of life. Shaking off an ominous feeling of foreboding, he called out, “Data, are your sensors picking up any sign of life at all?”
“Negative, Commander. With the exception of some sparse vegetation, there appears to be no life on this planet.”
“Counselor?” Riker questioned next.
“I sense nothing here,” Troi responded.
Riker tapped his communicator. “Riker to Enterprise.”
“Picard here. Go ahead, Number One.”
“Captain, we’re not picking up any signs of life at all. Both Commander Data and Counselor Troi confirm that there’s nothing here.”
“The planet’s composition appears to be nothing but rock and dirt,” Worf added.
“In that case, Commander,” Picard replied, “prepare to beam back. We’re scheduled to be at Starbase 145 in three hours.”
“Aye, sir. Transporter Room...”
“Four to beam up.”
Before O’Brien could respond, Troi called out suddenly: “Commander...”
“Stand by, Chief,” Riker told O’Brien, then turned to Troi. “What is it?”
“I’m not sure. I thought...I felt something.”
“Was it the same thing you felt on the ship?” Riker inquired.
Troi sighed. “I don’t know. Whatever it was, it’s gone now.”
Riker gave her a questioning look. “Are you sure?”
Troi nodded, and Riker reached for his combadge. Before he could tap it, however, there was a sudden loud rumbling sound. Ignoring the sudden chill that traveled up and down his spine, Riker asked, “What was that?”
As if in answer to his question, the ground suddenly began to shake violently.
“Earthquake!” Worf shouted.
Before anyone could react further, there was a loud crack, and all four officers turned to see the ground suddenly split open, with molten lava beginning to seep out of the crack. Riker was the closest to the crevace, and as the ground continued to quake, he fell and began sliding toward it, causing Worf and Deanna to call out simultaneously.
Data was the closest and quickly ran over to pull Riker out of harm’s way just as Worf arrived to help. Troi, however, was so busy watching Riker that she didn’t notice that she, too, was dangerously close to the ravine. When the ground gave a final heave, she fell into the opening.
The others rushed to her aid, but it was too late. The earthquake had stopped, but the ravine had closed in on itself, and Troi had disappeared without a trace.
Back on the Enterprise, Picard assembled the remainder of the Away Team in the observation lounge for their reports.
“What happened, Number One?”
Shaken by Troi’s disappearance, Riker replied, “I don’t know, sir. We were preparing to beam back to the ship when Deanna said she thought she felt a presence.”
“What kind of presence?”
“She wasn’t sure, so she dismissed it as nothing. That’s when all hell broke loose.”
“The earthquake?” Picard prompted.
“Precisely, Captain,” Data responded. “As we were preparing to return to the Enterprise, there was a loud rumbling sound, and then the ground began to quake. The force of the tremor caused the ground to split open and form a large ravine, which was emitting molten rock. Commander Riker fell and began sliding toward the ravine, so Lieutenant Worf and I ran over and pulled him to his feet, at which time the ground beneath Counselor Troi also split open, and she fell into the ravine. Then the earthquake stopped, and the ground closed in on itself.”
“Couldn’t you have reached her before she fell into the ravine?” Picard asked.
“No, sir,” Worf answered. “Even if we had not been preoccupied with rescuing Commander Riker, the swiftness of the accident would have prevented us from reaching Counselor Troi in time.”
Picard frowned, then tapped his communicator. “Bridge.”
“LaForge here, Captain.”
“Have the sensors picked up any sign at all of Counselor Troi?”
“Negative, Captain. There’s no sign of Counselor Troi or anything else alive on the planet. There isn’t even any indication that there was an earthquake. It’s almost as if the whole thing never happened.”
“I wish that were true,” Riker mumbled to himself.
Picard shot him a sympathetic glance, then said to LaForge, “Keep scanning, Commander, and let me know the minute you find something. Picard out.” He turned back to his men. “Well, gentlemen, I’m open to suggestions.”
Riker spoke first. “Captain, I’d like to take the Away Team back down to the place where Counselor Troi disappeared. Maybe we can find something the ship’s sensors missed.”
Picard shook his head. “No, Number One. It’s too dangerous right now. I don’t want to risk losing any more members of my crew if there should be another mysterious earthquake. We’ll wait until we have more information on the planet’s seismic activity.”
Riker, the disappointment evident on his face, said nothing. There was silence for a moment, then Picard spoke: “Commander Data, you said that when the ravine first appeared, it was emitting molten lava?”
“Yes, sir,” the android replied.
“Would that indicate the impending eruption of a volcano?”
“That is a possibility, sir,” Data replied. “I could conduct a geothermal scan of the planet’s interior, analyzing the seismic activity within the planet, and determine how eminent such an eruption might be and what form we can expect it to take.”
“Make it so.”
Data left, and Picard turned to Worf. “Mister Worf, contact Starbase 145 and inform them of our situation. Tell them we will be remaining here until we know for certain if Counselor Troi is still alive.”
Worf stood. “Aye, sir.” He exited the observation lounge, leaving Picard alone with Riker.
“As for you, Number One, once you’ve cleaned up, you can meet me on the bridge.”
Riker looked down at himself and, noticing his uniform was covered with dirt, nodded. “Certainly, sir.”
Picard’s voice stopped him at the door. “Will...”
“I know you’re concerned for Deanna, but I’m sure we’ll find her very soon, alive and unharmed.”
Riker gave Picard a half smile. “I hope so, sir.” He left the room.
Hours later, Data reported the results of his analysis to Picard in the captain’s ready room. “Your theory regarding an impending eruption was quite correct, Captain.”
“Then it was volcanic pressures which caused the earthquake?”
“Yes, sir. According to the computer, the planet’s surface is approximately eight feet thick and consists of sixteen separate plates of tablerite.”
“It is a type of igneous rock that is similar in composition to granite but about five times as dense. Beneath the plates of tablerite, the planet consists almost entirely of molten lava, which is constantly pressing against the surface plates, causing shifts and eruptions that create earthquakes, fissures, and occasionally volcanoes.”
“So even if Counselor Troi did manage to survive her fall through the tablerite fissure, she would not have survived upon reaching the inner core.” Picard’s response was more of a statement than a question.
Nonetheless, Data replied: “It is unlikely, sir. The heat alone would almost certainly prove fatal, even if she were to land in an underground cavern both free of the lava and containing sufficient oxygen for survival.”
Picard nodded grimly. “Thank you, Mister Data; that will be all.”
Data left, and Picard leaned back in his chair, thinking. After a brief moment, the captain was interrupted by the beep of his communicator. He tapped it lightly. “Picard here.”
LaForge’s voice responded, “Captain, we’ve found something you’d better have a look at.”
“On my way.” Picard exited the ready room and crossed the bridge to where LaForge and Riker were hovering over the computer. “Did you find Counselor Troi?” he asked.
“Not exactly,” LaForge answered. “We’ve located a signal that is transmitting from almost the exact spot where she fell into the ravine.”
“Can you tell what is sending the signal?” Picard asked.
“It’s hard to say. The seismic activity within the planet is interfering with the signal.”
Picard was silent for a moment, then turned to Riker. “Number One, you and Mister Worf beam down to the location where the signal is coming from and see if you can locate its source.”
“Aye, sir.” The first officer nodded at Worf, and they headed for the turbolift, but stopped when the captain called to Riker.
Riker turned to face Picard, his calm expression betraying none of the emotional anxiety he was feeling inside. “Yes, Captain?”
Picard hesitated a moment, then said gently but firmly, “Do whatever you can to try and locate Counselor Troi, but at the first indication of another earthquake, I want you and Worf beamed back to the ship immediately.”
“Understood, sir,” Riker replied, then entered the turbolift with Worf.
Riker and Worf materialized on the planet, then immediately began scanning for the signal the Enterprise’s computer had picked up. Not seeing anything, the commander tapped his combadge. “Riker to LaForge.”
“Yes, Commander?” came the instant reply.
“Geordi, are you sure this is where the signal is coming from? There’s nothing here.”
“Yes, sir,” the engineer confirmed. “According to the computer, you’re practically on top of whatever is sending the signal.”
Riker mumbled to himself, “Then where the hell’s Deanna?”
A few feet away, Worf bent over to pick something up. “Commander...”
Riker turned to face him. “Did you find something?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve located the source of the signal.”
Riker quickly walked over to the Klingon. “What is it?”
“This,” Worf answered, and placed an object in the Human’s hand: Troi’s communicator. Riker stared at it silently for a moment as his last hope of finding Troi alive began to fade. A word flashed through his mind—Imzadi...Beloved—but the thought was gone as quickly as it came. Closing his fist over the communicator in his hand, Riker tapped his own. “Riker to Enterprise.”
A familiar voice responded, “What did you find, Number One?”
“Captain, the signal the computer was picking up was transmitting from Counselor Troi’s communicator. Worf found it on the ground at the same spot she fell into the ravine.”
“But there’s no sign of the counselor?”
“No, sir,” Riker answered softly.
“Very well then, Number One, prepare to beam back. Chief O’Brien, lock onto the Away Team and beam them up.”
“Aye, sir. Engaging transporters.”
Picard stood and slowly walked to the front of the bridge. “Mister Data, contact Starfleet. Inform them we have concluded our search for Counselor Troi, and based on all the present evidence, we are forced to conclude she is dead. Tell them I will personally contact her mother on Betazed when we reach Starbase 145. Then contact Starbase 145 and tell them we’re on our way.”
“Aye, sir,” Data responded.
“Ensign Craig, lay in a course for Starbase 145, Warp Four.”
“Course and speed laid in, sir.”
Picard sighed heavily, and, with a slight flick of his wrist, said, “Engage.”
Captain’s Log, Supplemental
I have informed Lwaxana Troi of her daughter’s fate, and she has asked that when time permits, the crew join her on Betazed for a private memorial service. The majority of the crew has been using the time during our stopover at Starbase 145 to deal with their grief over the loss of Counselor Troi, but I am beginning to wonder if Commander Riker will ever be able to come to terms with her death.
Picard was on the bridge with Worf supervising the officers doing the maintenance work on the computers when he received a page from the chief engineer. He tapped his communicator. “Picard here. What is it, Commander?”
“Sir, is Commander Riker with you?”
“No, I haven’t seen him all morning. Is there a problem?”
“I’m not sure, Captain. He was supposed to meet me in Data’s quarters for a game of poker over an hour ago, but he never showed up, and he’s not answering my page.”
Picard exchanged surprised looks with Worf, then replied, “I’ll take care of it, Mister LaForge. Picard out.” Addressing the computer, the captain said, “Computer, locate Commander Riker.”
“Commander Riker is in Holodeck Ten,” the disembodied female voice replied.
Picard turned to Worf. “You have the bridge, Mister Worf. If you need me, I’ll be in Holodeck Ten.”
“Aye, Captain,” the Klingon responded as Picard left the bridge.
Riker was alone on the holodeck. His program was that of a mild day at the beach, with no sounds save that of the waves lapping at the shore. Deep in thought, he was staring out at the water and did not hear Picard enter. The captain watched his friend in silence for a moment. What can I say to him that hasn’t already been said? I know what he’s feeling, or at least how I would feel, but nothing I say can lessen his pain. Walking over to the first officer, Picard gently placed a hand on his shoulder. “Will...”
Riker jumped. As he turned to face the captain, Picard said, “I didn’t mean to startle you, Number One.”
“That’s all right, Captain. I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Thinking about Counselor Troi?”
Riker managed a small smile. “Am I that obvious?”
“Of course not. I just know you wouldn’t miss a poker game unless your mind was occupied with something important.”
“I was wondering why you came looking for me. Did Geordi page you?”
“He’s concerned about you, Will. So am I.”
“I appreciate that, Captain, but I’m fine.”
“That may work with the others, but I know you, and I know you’re grieving for Deanna. She’s dead, Will; you have to accept that.” He paused for a moment, then added, “I’m here as your friend, Number One; talk to me.”
Riker sighed. “Logically, I know she’s dead and that I have to release her, but emotionally I can’t let go. Every time I walk onto the bridge, I expect to see her sitting there. I hear a woman’s laugh, and for an instant, I think it’s Deanna. I still remember the sweet smell of her perfume, the sound of her voice, the way she made me feel simply by being near me.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I miss that feeling...more than I expected to.”
Picard was silent for a moment, then said, “It’s difficult to lose someone you love, Will, but it is something we all go through at some point and have to accept.”
“I’m trying, Captain,” Riker said quietly, “but it’s not easy.”
Picard eyed his first officer sympathetically for a moment before replying, “Maybe this will help. Computer, access Deanna Troi farewell program.” He turned to Riker. “Among Counselor Troi’s personal things was this computer program addressed to you. I took the liberty of having Mister LaForge put it into the computer.”
“What is it?” Riker asked.
“Why don’t you run it and find out?” Picard suggested, then exited the holodeck.
After a moment’s hesitation, Riker said, “Computer, run program.”
A holographic image of Deanna Troi appeared. Dressed in a dark blue gown and wearing her hair completely down, she looked more beautiful than Riker had ever seen her. As he smiled at her image, the image spoke:
“Hello, Will. If you are seeing this, then it means that I am dead; hopefully my death had some purpose.
“You and I have been friends a long time, and at one point, we were more than just friends. I want you to know that I treasured the time we spent together, both before and during our assignment on the Enterprise. You made me laugh, and you made me cry, but most of all, you made me feel loved. You were always there when I needed you, both personally and professionally, and I thank you for that.
“Our relationship has had its ups and downs, Will, but I never stopped caring for you. From the moment we met, there has been a bond between us that even death will not sever. I never loved anyone the way I loved you, Imzadi; know that I’ll always love you, and I’ll always be with you.”
The message ended, and the image faded out. Riker stared at the empty space where Troi’s image had stood only moments before, and, his clear blue eyes glistening with unshed tears, said softly, “Rest in peace, Imzadi.”
As Riker and the others continued to grieve for her, Deanna Troi slowly awakened in a cavern beneath the surface of the planet. Looking around, she saw nothing but rock walls. Grimacing at a sharp pain in her head, she placed a hand on her bruised temple and gave it a quick rub. Slowly standing up, she lifted her hand to activate her communicator, but to her dismay, it was not there.
“Great, no communicator.”
Walking over to the wall, she ran her hand along the rock in hopes of finding a tunnel or hidden passage of some sort. When the search proved unsuccessful, Troi decided to concentrate her energies on finding a way to contact the Enterprise. While she was thinking, she suddenly sensed the same presence she had felt just before the earthquake ten days earlier. Desperate, she tried to communicate with it.
“Is someone here?” she asked aloud.
“There’s no use hiding; I can sense your presence.”
There was a loud rumble, and a voice spoke. “Explain how you can sense my presence when I have not shown myself to you.”
Relieved that she could community with the Entity, Troi responded, “I am a Betazoid. My people can sense the feelings of other beings.”
“So, you are a telepath.”
“Empath is the correct word. Where am I?”
“You are in a cavern fifteen feet below the surface of the planet.”
“How did I get here? The last thing I remember is falling into a ravine full of molten lava during an earthquake.” Her eyes widened at a sudden thought. “Am I dead?”
“No, you are alive.”
“Then how did I survive falling into the lava?”
“You never fell into the lava, because there was no lava there to fall into. It was merely an illusion I created so your shipmates would think you were dead and leave you here.”
“How can that be? I felt the heat of the lava as I was falling?”
“Although there is much lava within this planet, I created a safe passageway through it, and this cavern for your protection. It is rather drab, however. Perhaps you would prefer something more aesthetically pleasing.”
As it spoke the words, the rock walls seemed to dissolve, and the cavern became a room similar to Troi’s quarters on the Enterprise. In shock, she asked, “How did you do that?”
“By thinking it,” the Entity replied. “I am capable of doing anything I want by merely thinking about it happening.”
“So you are telekinetic?” Troi probed.
“For lack of a better word, yes.”
Troi took a moment to absorb this information, then asked, “How long have I been here?”
“By your concept of time, almost ten days,” the Entity answered calmly.
“Ten days! My crewmates must be worried about me. Are they here looking for me?”
“No. Your ship and the people on it left shortly after you fell down here.”
Troi sat down on the edge of the bed. “Then they must think I’m dead,” she said softly.
“That is correct.”
“I have to find a way to contact them. They have to know I’m all right.”
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that,” the Entity responded matter-of-factly.
“You are my permanent guest here. I will not allow you to leave.”
“Then I’m your prisoner, not your guest.”
“Call it what you will, but you will not leave this place. You will remain here for as long as I find you interesting, and when I grow tired of you, I will seek a new guest.”
“What will happen to me then?”
“I will remove you from this place.”
“You mean you’ll return me to my people?”
“No. I had something more permanent in mind.”
Troi ignored the Entity’s threat and asked, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“It is not personal,” the Entity assured her. “You were just the one to fall into the ravine. I had selected your leader, the tall, bearded one, to stay with me, but your warning prevented me from taking him, so I took you instead.”
“Why did you want Will?”
“As a leader, he would have made a most interesting companion. But you are a telepath.” It ignored her explanation of the difference between empath and telepath. “You may prove to be even better. Tell me, are there others on your ship like you?”
“Other empaths? No, I am the only one.” There was a moment of silence before Troi spoke again. “Why can’t you use your powers to leave this place and join others of your kind?”
“There are no others of my kind. I am the only one.”
“What are you?”
“I cannot tell you that.”
“Then show me,” Troi challenged.
“I will when I am ready. Why does the prospect of remaining here distress you so? I will provide you with food and water; you will want for nothing.”
“Except my friends.”
“Is being with others of your kind so important to you?”
An image of Riker flashed across her mind, and ignoring the sudden pang in her heart, she answered with a simple, “Yes.”
The Entity had no response for her, so it remained silent as Troi lay down on the bed and closed her eyes. After a few moments of silence, it asked, “What are you thinking?”
Frustrated with her situation and the lack of privacy it presented, Troi snapped, “You’re the all-powerful Entity; why don’t you tell me?”
“Unfortunately, my powers do not include telepathy.”
“So you cannot read my mind?” Troi asked carefully.
“No,” the Entity answered impatiently. “Now, tell me what you were thinking.”
An idea slowly forming in her mind, Troi evaded, “I wasn’t thinking; I was resting.”
“Of course; my apologies. You must be tired after all that has happened. Sleep now; we have all eternity to talk.”
With that, the Entity fell silent, and Troi felt its presence leave. Once she was alone, she again closed her eyes and began to form a message in her mind.
“Will, if you can hear me, I need your help,” she said softly, then projected, Help me, Imzadi...
Deep in concentration, Troi silently repeated the same message over and over again, praying her empathic powers and the bond they shared would somehow enable her plea for help to reach Riker.
On the Enterprise, Riker was deep asleep when he suddenly woke. Frowning, he sat upright and cocked his head slightly, as if listening for something. When there was nothing but silence, he sighed and called out, “Computer, what time is it?”
“Zero six hundred hours.”
Shaking off the last vestiges of sleep, Riker stood up and headed for his shower when he suddenly heard his name in his head.
Will...Help me, Imzadi...
The voice was faint, barely a whisper, but there was no mistaking who it belonged to, and Riker said aloud, “Deanna...”
He waited, as if expecting an answer. But when none came, and the plea was not repeated, Riker passed it off as his imagination and continued his morning routine.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 45845.7
It has now been ten days since Counselor Troi’s death on the planet we have named Mysteria. Having completed our maintenance work at Starbase 145, the Enterprise is now headed for Betazed, where we will join Lwaxana Troi for her daughter’s memorial service.
Worf, Data, Picard and Riker were all on the bridge, monitoring their course to Betazed. Addressing the ensign at Ops, Picard asked, “Ensign Craig, what is our estimated time of arrival at Betazed?”
“At our present speed of Warp Four, we will reach Betazed in six hours, sir.”
Picard nodded in acknowledgement and turned to Riker. “Number One, as long as things are quiet, why don’t you gather the personal items Counselor Troi left for her mother? We can deliver them when we reach Betazed.”
“That’s a good idea, sir,” Riker replied. He crossed the bridge and entered the turbolift. “Crew quarters,” he said. “Deck twelve.”
Picard stared at the closed doors a moment, then stood and crossed to the turbolift. “Commander Data, you have the bridge.”
Beverly Crusher was in her office going over a file when she received a surprise visitor. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” the captain said quietly.
The CMO looked up and smiled at him. “Well, Jean-Luc, this is a surprise.”
Picard returned her smile and sat on the other side of her desk. “A pleasant one, I hope.”
“Of course. What can I do for you?”
“If you have a minute, I’d like to speak with you about Commander Riker.”
Crusher’s expression became one of concern. “Is there something wrong with Will?”
“Medically speaking, no.”
Crusher frowned at the captain’s evasive comment. “I don’t understand.”
Picard sighed. “Normally, this is a problem I would consult Counselor Troi about, but, as that’s impossible, I came to you.”
“What is it?”
“Will seems to be having an exceptionally difficult time accepting Deanna’s death. He has spent the majority of the past ten days by himself, grieving for her, and has avoided all unnecessary contact with the rest of the crew.”
“Is it affecting his work?”
“Of course not. He’s too fine an officer to let his emotions interfere with his professional responsibilities. But, as his friend, I can see that he’s in pain. He’s a different person now than he was ten days ago, Beverly; I’m worried about him.”
“People deal with grief in different ways, Jean-Luc, especially when they’ve lost the person they cared for the most. Give him some time; eventually he’ll work through his grief and return to his old self.”
Picard disagreed. “If it were anyone but Commander Riker, I would have to agree with you. But you know him as well as I do, Beverly, and we both know how deeply Will feels things, both personally and professionally, when it comes to Deanna. I’ve tried talking with him, but I don’t think anything I said made a difference.”
Crusher paused a moment before responding. “I know what he’s feeling, Jean-Luc, and I empathize with what he’s going through, but I don’t know what you think I can do for him.”
“Talk to him,” Picard prompted, “and try to get him to talk to you. He may be more willing to open up to a friend than to his captain.”
Crusher looked at Picard for a moment. “It’s worth a try. Do you know where he is?”
“He’s in Counselor Troi’s quarters.”
“Then that’s where I’m going.”
Riker was sorting through Troi’s things when the door chimed. “Come in.”
The doors opened, and Crusher walked in. “Hello, Will. Do you have a minute?”
“Certainly, Doctor. Have a seat. Is this a personal visit, or a professional one?”
“It’s about Deanna, isn’t it?”
“With the exception of the captain, you haven’t spoken more than five words to anyone since her death. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Talking about what happened won’t bring her back,” he said bitterly.
“No, but it might help you come to terms with her death.”
Riker sighed and ran a hand over his face. “It should have been me that fell into the ravine, Beverly, not Deanna. I’m the one who should be dead.”
“Deanna’s death was an accident, Will; it wasn’t your fault.”
“Wasn’t it?” Riker shot back. “If she hadn’t been concentrating on warning me, Deanna would have noticed the ravine before she fell in.”
“You can’t be certain of that, and by blaming yourself for what happened, you’re only going to cause yourself more pain. Let her go, Will...”
“I miss her, Beverly, so much. I just can’t accept the fact that she’s gone.”
Crusher’s blue eyes met Riker’s turquoise ones, and seeing the pain in their depths, the doctor responded gently, “When Jack died, I felt like I wanted to die, too. The pain was so strong, it was almost tangible. But I had Wesley, and he needed me, and eventually we were able to overcome our grief and go on with our lives.”
But what if I don’t want to go on without Deanna? Riker thought. The question remained unspoken, though, and he said aloud, “Deanna and I don’t have any children, Beverly; we weren’t even married.”
“No, but you have your memories. Don’t dwell on her death, Will; Deanna would want you to remember the happy times and the feelings you two shared. Eventually the pain will lessen, and you’ll be able to remember her with smiles, not tears.”
“’Time heals all wounds?’” Riker replied sarcastically.
“Not without leaving scars,” she answered honestly.
Hearing the pain in the last statement, Riker mentally berated himself for his attitude. She’s the one person on this ship who can really understand what I’m feeling. Fifteen years ago, she was in my place. Smiling apologetically, he said, “Thank you for the advice, Doctor. Deanna was lucky to have a friend like you.”
Crusher smiled in return. “Thank you, Commander; the feeling is mutual.”
With that, she left Riker alone with his thoughts.
Having prepared Troi’s things for delivery to her mother, Riker was now sitting at the bar in Ten Forward, nursing a drink. Lifting his glass, he had it halfway to his mouth when he once again heard Troi’s voice in his head.
Will...Help me, Imzadi...
Riker set his glass down, his hand shaking slightly, and tried to decipher what he heard. Guinan approached. “Are you all right, Commander? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Riker half-smiled. “Heard one would be more appropriate.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Guinan,” Riker began, “what do you think happens to people when they die?”
Her eyes widened slightly, the only indication of her surprise at the question. “I’ve always felt that when a person dies, a part of their soul lives on in those they loved and left behind.”
“Do you think that once a person is dead, they can no longer communicate with living beings?”
Guinan eyed Riker curiously. “Why the sudden interest in life after death?”
Riker hesitated before answering, unsure of whether he should tell Guinan what he had been experiencing. Finally deciding he needed to tell someone, he said, “This is going to sound like I’m losing my mind, and maybe I am, but I’m certain that I’ve been hearing Deanna talk to me in my mind.”
“What is she saying?” Guinan asked, unfazed by his confession.
“She’s asking me to help her,” Riker answered, relieved that Guinan was taking him seriously.
“Help her how?” Guinan probed. “Is she in pain?”
Riker shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“How many times have you heard it?”
“Three. The first time was early this morning, while I was sleeping. It woke me up, but when I didn’t hear it again, I thought it was a dream. A few minutes later, when I was getting ready to take a shower, I heard it again.”
“The same thing?”
“And you’re sure it was Troi’s voice?”
“You said you heard her three times,” Guinan pointed out. “When was the third?”
“A few minutes ago.”
Guinan was silent a moment, then asked, “What did the captain say when you told him?”
“I haven’t. He’ll either pass it off as grief causing an overactive imagination, or he’ll check me into Sickbay and have me get a complete psychiatric evaluation.”
“Are you sure?”
Riker’s blue eyes widened slightly. “You don’t agree?”
“I didn’t say that,” Guinan responded. “I’m merely suggesting that, given your connection with Deanna, maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to pass these voices off as imagination.”
“So what do you suggest I do?”
“Do what your heart tells you to do.”
Riker looked at her for a moment, then genuinely smiled for the first time in ten days. “I think I will.” He stood up and tapped his communicator. “Riker to Captain Picard.”
“Yes, Number One?” came the cultured reply.
“Sir, if you have a moment, I need to talk to you about something. It’s quite important.”
“Certainly, Commander. I’ll meet you in my ready room in ten minutes. Picard out.”
As Riker completed his description of his contact with Deanna Troi, the expression on the captain’s face showed he clearly doubted his first officer’s story. “Voices, Number One?”
“I know it sounds strange, Captain, but I’m not imagining things. I honestly believe that Deanna is somehow still alive and trying to contact me.”
“What is she saying?”
“She’s asking for my help.”
Picard sighed inwardly, unsure of how to force Riker to accept Troi’s death. After a moment, he said gently, “Will, I know how much you cared for Deanna, and I know the two of you shared a bond that went beyond friendship. But don’t you think that maybe you’re creating this theory of the counselor projecting her thoughts into your mind as a subconscious way of avoiding having to deal with her death?”
Riker silently groaned in frustration, then tried a different approach. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“Captain, if I thought the voices in my head were my imagination or a subconscious denial of what happened to Deanna, then I would be talking with Doctor Crusher instead of you. But I don’t, so I came to you. In the entire time I’ve served on board the Enterprise, I have prided myself on the fact that I have never let my personal feelings interfere with my professional judgment, and as long as I am a Starfleet officer, I will abide by that code of ethics. But if you never believe another word I say, then trust me when I tell you that Deanna is alive, she’s out there, and she needs our help.”
Riker finished his speech and fell silent. Picard silently studied him, searching his first officer’s face for any sign of doubt, any flicker of indecision. But the only thing he could see in Riker’s eyes was his determination to find Deanna Troi at any cost. After what seemed an eternity, Picard slowly lifted his hand and activated his communicator. “Picard to the bridge.”
“Mister Data, contact Mrs. Troi on Betazed and inform her there will be a slight delay in our arrival, then lay in coordinates four three six mark one five five. We’re going back to Mysteria.”
“I appreciate your faith in me, Captain,” Riker told Picard.
“You’ve never given me reason to doubt your judgment before, Will; let’s hope you don’t start now.”
“Slow to impulse power and establish orbit, Mister Data,” Picard ordered as the ship arrived at Mysteria.
“Are you picking up anything?” the captain asked.
“Yes, sir. According to our sensors, the planet is not what we thought it was.”
Picard and Riker exchanged puzzled looks, then the captain stood and walked over to stand behind Data. “Explain,” he demanded.
“The readings show that although the planet’s crust is made of solid tablerite, the interior is not completely molten lava as we originally thought, but contains hollow pockets.”
“Hollow?!” Riker exclaimed and walked over to stand next to Picard.
“If the planet is hollow, then maybe Counselor Troi did manage to survive her fall through the tablerite,” Picard observed, then turned to Worf. “Mister Worf, can you detect any lifesigns?”
Worf checked his computer panel and answered, “Yes, sir. Sensors indicate a lifeform at almost the exact spot where Counselor Troi disappeared, but it is located fifteen feet below the surface of the planet.”
“Below the surface?” Picard repeated. He thought for a moment, then turned to Riker. “Number One, beam down to the surface with Worf and see what you can find.”
“Aye, sir,” Riker replied. He nodded to Worf, and they headed for the turbolift as Picard added, “Doctor Crusher, meet the Away Team in Transporter Room Four. If Counselor Troi is alive, she may require medical assistance.”
“On my way, Captain,” came Crusher’s reply.
Picard turned to Data. “Continue scanning the area beneath the surface where the sensors picked up the lifeform. I want to know what the hell is down there.”
While her friends were preparing to beam down to the planet, Troi was once again being questioned by her captor. “Are you comfortable?” asked the Entity.
“I’d be more comfortable if I were back on my ship,” Troi retorted.
Ignoring her complaint, the Entity asked, “Are you hungry? Do you require sustenance?”
“The only thing I require from you is to be left alone,” Troi replied impatiently.
“If you will answer one final question for me, I will leave you to yourself.”
Troi sighed in frustration. “What is it?”
“Who, or what, is ‘Imzadi’?”
In shock, Troi asked, “How do you know that word? I have never spoken it aloud, and you told me you’re not telepathic.”
“I am not telepathic,” the Entity responded, “but I am aware of everything that you do, and you spoke the word aloud while you slept. What does it mean?”
“It is a term of endearment in my language; it means ‘my beloved.’”
“And your Imzadi is on your ship?”
An image of Riker’s smiling face flashed through her mind, and Troi answered softly, “Yes.”
Before the Entity could respond, Troi suddenly sensed something and said, “Someone is here.”
“I was wondering if you would be able to sense their presence.”
“Yes,” the Entity confirmed. “The bearded leader and two of your shipmates have returned. Are they looking for you?”
“They can’t be,” Troi protested. “They left me for dead ten days ago?”
“They why have they returned? Did you find some way to contact them?”
“No,” Troi answered, then hesitantly added, “unless it worked, and he actually heard me.”
“I will not let them take you,” the Entity warned.
“Are you picking up anything, Worf?” Riker asked as the three-member Away Team searched the surface of Mysteria for some clue to Troi’s continued presence there.
“Yes, sir,” the burly Klingon answered. “There is definitely something alive beneath the surface, but it is uncertain whether it is Counselor Troi.”
“Commander,” Crusher said. “If it is Troi’s signal we’re picking up, how are we going to contact her? She doesn’t have a communicator.”
Before Riker could answer, there was a loud rumble, and the Entity spoke to them. “Why have you come here?”
“I’m Commander William Riker of the Federation Starship Enterprise,” Riker declared. “We’re looking for a crewmate of ours who disappeared here several days ago.”
“The Telepath,” the Entity responded.
Riker and the others exchanged surprised glances, then Riker answered, “Yes. Do you know where she is?”
“She is somewhere safe where she will remain until you have gone. She is my guest here. I will not allow you to take her.”
“You may not have a choice,” Riker retorted.
“Think again.” As the Entity spoke, Riker suddenly doubled over in pain and fell to the ground. Crusher rushed to help him as the Entity spoke again. “Do not give me orders, Human,” it warned. “I don’t like it.”
Down below, Troi tensed as she felt Riker’s pain, and cried out, “Imzadi! Please, leave him alone!”
Honoring Troi’s request, the Entity released its hold on Riker. “As Worf helped him to his feet, Crusher asked, “Will, are you all right?”
“I’m fine. What was that?”
The Entity answered before Crusher could. “That was an example of what happens when you make me angry. It is a waste of your time to try and take your crewmate away from me. I will kill her if you try.”
“I thought she was your guest here?” Crusher pointed out.
“There are billions of your kind in existence,” the Entity responded. “She is easily replaceable.”
“If she’s so ‘easily replaceable,’ why won’t you let us have her back?” Crusher asked.
The Entity answered the question with one of its own: “Why would you return for her even though you believed her to be dead?”
“Because where we come from, other living beings are not considered ‘easily replaceable,’” Riker answered.
“You are the one the Telepath calls ‘Imzadi,’ correct?”
“How did you know that?” Riker demanded.
“It does not matter. Why is she so important to you?”
“She is special to me,” Riker replied. “I care for her, and I want her back.”
“Even if it costs you your life in return?”
“You care for her that much?”
“Yes,” Riker answered simply. “I do.”
As Riker finished speaking, there was a low hum, and Troi appeared a few feet in front of him. As she rejoined her friends, the Entity addressed Riker. “It is settled then. I will let your companions return safely to your ship, and you will remain here as my new guest.”
“Agreed,” Riker replied, and turned back to the others. “Get back to the ship, and tell the captain what’s happening.”
“Commander,” Worf protested. “Under the circumstances, I don’t think leaving you here alone is a wise decision.”
“I’ll be all right, Worf,” Riker countered. “Just get the doctor and Counselor Troi back to the ship. That’s an order.”
Worf reluctantly obeyed, and the three officers beamed back to the ship. Once on board, Crusher returned to Sickbay, while Worf and Troi headed for the bridge.
Picard was sitting in his chair, thinking, when the duo walked onto the bridge. He stood up as they approached. “Counselor, it’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you, Captain, but—”
“Where’s Commander Riker?” he demanded before she could finish her sentence.
“He’s still down on the planet, sir,” Worf answered.
“What’s he doing down there?”
“The Entity that was holding me captive agreed to release me in exchange for Will,” Troi explained.
“Entity?” Picard asked in confusion. “What kind of Entity?”
“I don’t know, sir; I never saw it. I was only able to hear it and sense its presence, but when it spoke to me, there was something familiar about its voice.”
Before Picard could comment, Data spoke up. “Captain, there has been a sudden increase in the planet’s seismic activity.”
Picard took a step toward Data, but stopped when Troi suddenly called out Riker’s name “Will...”
Picard quickly walked to her side as she grimaced and doubled over in pain.
“Counselor, what is it?” he demanded.
“It’s the Entity, Captain. It’s attacking Will.”
Picard quickly tapped his comm badge. “Transporter Chief, lock on to Commander Riker’s signal and beam him up immediately!”
“O’Brien here, sir,” came the response. “I can’t get a reading on him. Whatever is happening on the planet is blocking the signal.”
Before Picard could respond, Data spoke again. “Captain, the planet appears to be disappearing.”
“On screen,” Picard snapped.
The image of the planet appeared on the viewscreen, but it suddenly faded, only to be replaced by a familiar green-skinned humanoid face.
“Nagilum,” Picard said in recognition. “What are you doing here?”
“Greetings, Captain Picard. I’m pleased you remember me.”
“What have you done with Commander Riker?” Picard demanded.
“So emotional, Picard,” Nagilum taunted. “Emotion seems to be a common weakness among Humans; it makes you place such unnecessary value on your lives. Riker and I made a deal, Captain I would spare the Telepath’s life in exchange for his.”
“An agreement you had no right forcing him to make,” Picard shot back.
“I did not force him; it was his decision.”
“Are you telling me that he’s dead?”
“I did not say that.”
Picard swirled around to face Troi. “Counselor?”
Troi shook her head. “I don’t feel anything, sir.”
Picard returned his attention to Nagilum. “I’m tired of these games, Nagilum,” he said angrily. “If Commander Riker is alive, I want him returned to this ship immediately, unharmed.”
“You’re in no position to make demands, Picard,” Nagilum responded calmly. “But, since I have no further use for him, I will return Riker to you.”
There was a low hum, and Riker materialized on the bridge, dirty and disheveled, but unharmed.
“Are you all right, Number One?” Picard inquired.
“I’m fine, sir. What happened?”
Nagilum responded before Picard could. “You fulfilled your part of our agreement honorably, Riker; I admire your courage. I have never encountered any being willing to die for another.”
“Nagilum,” Riker said. “I should have known.”
Ignoring Riker, Nagilum addressed Picard. “I’ve learned what I wanted from your people, Picard. I leave you now to your own simple existence, and with a promise that you have seen the last of me.”
With that final comment, Nagilum disappeared. Troi, seated in her chair, spoke first. “It’s gone, Captain. I can no longer feel its presence.”
“What was that all about?” Riker wondered aloud.
“I don’t know, Number One,” Picard answered. “Perhaps it was just another one of Nagilum’s experiments.”
“Do you really think we’ve seen the last of it?” Riker asked.
“I doubt it,” the captain replied. “Judging from its past behavior, I find it hard to believe that Nagilum’s curiosity has been satisfied. I’m sure we’ll meet again.” He paused a moment, then smiled and turned to Troi. “Well, Counselor, I think you should have Doctor Crusher take a look at your head. That’s a nasty bruise.”
“Yes, Captain.” As she headed for the turbolift, her eyes met Riker’s for a brief moment as she passed him. Noticing this, Picard commented, “Number One, why don’t you accompany Counselor Troi to Sickbay? I’d like to make certain Nagilum’s little experiment didn’t cause you any permanent damage either.”
“Certainly, sir.” Riker walked over to join Troi in the turbolift, but just before the doors shut, Picard called to him. “Oh, Commander, one more thing, and this goes for you, too, Counselor.” They turned their attention to the captain, who smiled and said, “Welcome home.”