The Eye Of The Dragon
An Imzadi Fairy tale
R/ an adult fairy tale<g>
1 of 15
Spookysgirl with her mind in its simplest mode. Since my RL is nothing but angst lately and is killing my time to write I pulled this very simple story up yesterday. It's one of the many finished, but unedited stories I have on my hardrive (when I say unedited I mean the entire screen is highlighted in blue when I hit spell-check;-) so I thought I keep my hand in R/T fic by playing with this instead of making Same Breath my swan song as I told Pam. Hopefully that end can be expected in a mailbox near you over the weekend--assuming my own angst doesn't interfere with my captains <g>
I'd write a disclaimer but the sprits, nymphs and sylphs that befriend "Captain Justin Saber" have promised to protect me from the Gods atop mount Paramount;-)
Captain Jean Luc Picard eased the white knuckled grip he had on the seat at ops and spun to face his second officer.
"Report Mr. Data," he barked, his blue eyes moving erratically over his bridge, the panels at all the stations falling to black.
Commander Data's eyes raised from the screen in front of him as it blipped a vivid yellow then faded to black, " I do not believe that will be of any help."
Behind his golden eyes Picard could practically see the androids boyish curiosity brewing... Curiosity however was not what he was feeling, and the dormant bridge with only the shallow lightening and the hollow rumble of the engines has she hung like a near shell in space amplified the anger and concern he held tightly inside himself.
His hands playing over one of the dormant controls he tossed an impatient look to Data before again testing the ops panel.
"My sensors seem to be unaffected, but I have ascertained that all but basic systems are off-line."
"Really Mr. Data, " Picard replied dryly, wishing at times like this he could flip a switch on the android, force him to skip the useless and the obvious, and move directly to the pertinent, "Could you tell me why?"
"Negative Sir.... The ship's sensors picked up nothing anomalous before the systems shut down, it is quite curious, my sensors are also reading nothing out of the ordinary."
"Well, my eyes are reading quite the opposite Data, and curiosity is not what I'm feeling.... See if you can establish communications with the planets surface, contact Commander Riker, find out if something happened on the surface that may have caused this."
"Will, what is that?" Deanna Troi stepped back, her eyes wide, shifted between her commanding officer and the creature on the cliff face.
"It's an ugly damn thing," Will responded under his breath, using one hand to unclip his phaser and the other to move Deanna behind him.
Taking slow, unthreatening steps he backed away from this beast, never allowing his eyes or his phaser to waver. The creature stared back with scarlet eyes, its partially opened mouth displaying two rows of sharp teeth that still dripped with the blood of the victim it held under its razor sharp claws.
1"Just keep backing away, don't make any sudden moves."
The creature lifted his densely furred head; its nose raising into the air it took several sniffs and tightened its grip on the carcass under his paw. Riker raised a slow hand to his chest, taping his Comm badge.... Dead air.... He repeated his action, waiting, and backing away. Behind him he heard Deanna attempt to activate her own communicator....
Once, twice, the third time he cast a glance over his shoulder and shrugged, breaking eye contact with the creature. A thunderous roar fractured the silence and echoed ominously over the craggy rock formations that surrounded them.
Riker's phaser fired, Deanna's beam followed, the simultaneous blasts striking the beast squarely in the chest. It staggered only slightly before lunging forward bearing its blood stained teeth.
"Run!" Riker ordered, following behind her, stumbling over the rocky ground, firing his phaser continuously behind him.
"Into the cave!"
Increasing the setting on his phaser even as he fired he waited for Deanna to edge through the narrow opening in the rock face. Hearing the high pitch whine, and feeling the increased heat of the phaser in his hand he hurled it forward, watched it fall a few feet in front of the beast, then followed Deanna inside.
The ground trembled under his feet as the phaser exploded, granular dirt rained down on them from the ceiling of the cave, he covered Deanna with his body, and his head with his arm.
The ground settled, and for a moment he thought they were safe. He eased his hold on Deanna and squinted his eyes through the narrow slit in the cave. A fine mist of red-brown dust filtered up from the floor and down from the ceiling, dimming the trace sunlight that filtered through the opening.
"You all right?" He choked, then coughed, wiping the film of dirt away from his mouth.
Deanna nodded, "Do you think it's dead?"
"I hope so, and I hope it doesn't have too many friends...we've only got one phaser left."
He stood up, offered her his hand and helped her to her feet.
"Wonder why we couldn't reach the Enterprise," She asked, turning in a full circle, checking the tiny cave, then looking up at him.
"Could be int......" Riker's reply stuck in his throat, another angry roar filled the cave and came simultaneously with the sound of claws as they raked against the rocks outside.
"Shit," he snapped, grabbing Deanna's phaser from her hand just as a piece of the rock entrance fell away.
Black claws, adorned with jagged spikes scratched through the enlarged opening, digging at and through the rock as if it were sand.
"Get back against the wall...try the Enterprise again," He hissed, firing at the paw that reached further inside. The claw jerked back as the burst hit. The howl of the beast echoed through the chamber, drowning Deanna's attempts to reach the Enterprise. Another roar followed, louder, angrier, he tossed a look over his shoulder and felt his pounding heart stop.
"Deanna!" He called, squinting through the dust, moving back to where she'd been only moments before.
The cave rumbled and brightened as the desperate claws of the wounded animal tore the entrance away. Riker aimed, fired and stumbled back with a crack against the cave wall.
"Give me the emerald."
Riker heard the order and felt the tingle of cold metal against the back of his neck. Instinctively he raised his arms and dropped the unfamiliar weapon he gripped in his gloved hand.
"Where am I," he said, a crack of uncertainty sounding in his voice, a profound feeling of confusion coursing over him.
"Don't play with me Captain!"
<Captain? > He thought, trying to orient himself, remember how he got here, and figure out where here was.
"You must have me confused with someone else," he said, the attempt he made to turn towards his captor halted by the increased pressure of the weapon aimed at his neck.
"I don't think so, it's not as if we haven't danced this dance before...Now, give me the emerald."
The voice was familiar, the only thing familiar in this place.... He knew he was on a ship, the gentle vibration of the engines under his feet assured him of that, but this ship was like nothing he'd seen before. Black chrome, worn and scarred framed the flashing terminals and the unusual weapon displays of her systems...Beside him a huge silver panel pulsed, flashed with odd symbols, highlighted by colors he'd never seen.
"Turn around slowly Captain."
Riker obeyed, hands raised beside his head, he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflective panel on his right. His eyes returned to it, he shook his head at the familiar, but unfamiliar image that stared back at him. His hair was long, as black as midnight and pulled into a ponytail at the base of his neck. His beard, just as dark, was unkempt and accentuated the dark and dangerous look in his indigo eyes. His clothes were also strange, a black shirt fell just below the waist band of his black pants, a knife sheathed in silver casing hung over his left hip, a holster, empty, hung low over his right and was strapped securely around his thigh.
"My patience is waning."
Riker felt his memories spin, jumble.... Some becoming clearer, others fading away, floating just out of his minds reach.
He narrowed his eyes at his image and turned towards the insistent voice.
"I'm afraid you're too late lady, your precious emerald's already been delivered." A nasty smile curled his lips, his eyes following the lean curves of his captor's body they fell to rest on the smooth swells of her breasts.
"How can such a bitch have such a perfect body," he asked smugly, drawing his eyes to hers.
Her icy black stare, potent even from behind the glittering face covering she wore over her nose and eyes met his.
"If you don't turn over the emerald captain, my perfect body may be the last thing you see."
Riker chuckled, a genuine chuckle, unaffected by her threat, her weapon, or the two oversized men that flanked her. He'd had enough of the pretty lady's interference in his quest to retrieve the jewels of Dagda, her insight and uncanny ability to reach inside the heads of others was going to end right here and now.
"I told you Jaena, It's been delivered, you're too late.... Go tell your king the kingdom of Tasnir is one step ahead of you."
He clouded his mind, filled it with darkness, enjoying the momentary look of confusion that touched her lips. She recovered quickly and stepped closer, locking him with her gaze.
"Your body is quite tempting as well Captain," She finally said, stepping back, a smile tugging at her lips, "In fact I think it's looking even bigger and better then normal." Her gaze dropped.
Riker buried his smile.
"Always this big, and always good," he said.
"Take off your pants or I'll cut them off," She ordered, dropping her blaster, targeting the bulge in his pants.
"That won't be necessary, I'm always willing to oblige an eager woman." With a quick jerk he unclasped his pants and tugged them off.
"Don't flatter yourself Captain, the only jewel I'm interested in is this one." Without a thought, without blinking, she reached into his shorts and pulled out the lavender pouch he'd hidden.
"I feel so used."
A dry burst of laughter escaped her; she tossed her head, and dropped the pouch between her breasts.
"I'm sure we'll meet again Captain Saber," She whispered, firing one shot at the console of his ship, and disappearing on a spiral of silvery light.
"Bitch," Riker said, tugging on his pants and cringing as a puff of ivory foam fell from the ceiling over his ship's controls and doused the flames.
"Stupid bitch." He amended, wrapping a hand around the handle of the mug beside his chair. For a moment he stared at the muddy liquid inside, then tilted the mug and dumped its contents slowly over the deck, snagging Dagda's emerald before it hit the floor.
'Bout time I won one." He whispered, clutching the stone tightly in his hand
Riker brought his ship in over the crystal clear waters of Lake Zordan, he looked out the portal at his side as the belly of his ship skipped over the churning blue, the foamy white spray falling like tiny jewels on his view port, he smiled to himself.
"Too bad all jewels aren't so easy to come by." He said to himself, easing back on the ships throttle, pulling her up before he again lowered her onto the landing strip beside the lake. He waited until the ship stopped trembling beneath him before grabbing his jacket, and opening the hatch.
A few steps brought him out onto the planet he'd decided to call home, Tasnir, an incredible place, a tropical paradise filled with fragrant flowers, sensuous women, and a queen that insisted on keeping him in the lap of luxury. Well, not keeping him exactly, but providing all his needs for as long as he chose to fly her missions, return her the Jewel's of Dagda.
He returned the wave of the water nymph that sat perched provocatively on a large flat stone on the shore. Her hair held the colors of the most vivid sunset, long and full it fell like a silken rainbow over her rich dark skin, the soft tropical breeze revealing only a hint of the perfection that was hidden beneath. He backed away cautiously, not willing to sacrifice himself just to smell the intoxicating fragrance, or feel the tantalizing touch of her beguiling beauty.
He squinted his eyes against the dual suns that set over the castle in the distance, he considered forgoing his trip to town, heading directly to the queen, presenting her with the emerald. He shook his head at the temptation and veered down the road that would take him into town. The Eye of the Dragon would be Queen Oranda's next request, he had every intention of being prepared, more prepared then Jaena.
Jaena, the thought of her made his blood run hot. For months she'd been more of a phantom, a ghost that swept in out of nowhere and beat him at his own game. But not anymore, the sultry voice he'd been hearing finally presented herself as he'd battled for the black sapphire ...and in his most decadent fantasy he'd never come close to doing her justice. Matching wits with her had become more satisfying to him then any sexual game he'd ever played, but still there were times, he had to wonder what it would be like to work beside her, instead of against her.
"Hey Saber!" His head snapped towards the voice, a grin spread over his face, but fell off quickly as he stared at the man's disheveled appearance.
Philip Gunner was a friend or as much of a friend as you could have in this business, total trust was never an option, but if he had to pick anyone to watch his back, Gunner would have been his choice. The young man had never fit in with the others that frequented The Raising Star, well groomed, well educated, a native to this tropical planet, he'd never understood how he'd gotten involved with Pirates, mercenaries and bounty hunters. But right now he was far from perfectly groomed and looked liked he'd had a run-in with one of the swamp-dragons that lived on the far side of the planet. His wavy blond hair hung like muddy cords over his shoulders, blood dripped over his clean-shaven face, his clothes were torn, revealing more blood and dirt on his legs and chest.
"Well, you look like someone who could use a drink, or is this an act to avoid explaining where in Gandad you were when I needed you to fly out with me."
"Yea, that's it Saber," He answered, slapping Riker on the shoulder, "You know how much I love to bleed, and how I crave pain." He cocked his head towards the entrance of the Raising Star and headed towards the large door.
Riker waited for an instant then followed behind, his long strides bringing him to the door before Gunner.
"You gonna tell me what happened to you, why your pretty clothes are all messy."
Gunner shook his head, "I'd like to pal, but I can't...But then I don't see you begging to tell me about your little quest," He pushed the steel door open with his shoulder, and motioned Riker inside, "Did she toast your chestnuts again?"
"I wouldn't say she toasted em." He answered, waggling his brows and turning away, hiding his self-satisfied grin.
Riker pushed his way through the pub, nodding greetings, sharing several vengeful looks and finally sitting down in a booth, his back to the wall, a view of the front door.
Gunner settled in the chair across from him and tilted his chair back, "If she didn't toast em, can I assume she at least scorched em a bit."
"Not quite, there was a burn, but it sure wasn't painful," Riker smirked, nodding to the barmaid across the room, "Let's just say she couldn't resist the Saber jewels."
"No, I didn't, but she thought I did."
"You mean, you got her to believe...You son of a...I can't believe you did that.... I can't believe you beat her!" Gunner thrust a clenched fist in the air.
"Had to happen eventually," Riker said, smiling mischievously at Darla the barmaid as she set their drinks on the table, "It was becoming a bit of a chore to steal something, and then have to steal it again.... I think I've got her nailed now."
"I'll believe that when I see it," Gunner said, downing his drink, and wiping the foam off his mouth with his dirty sleeve.
"You should clean up, you're kinda scruffy." Riker suggested, "I'm meeting someone and it'd be best if you weren't here anyway."
Gunner's grin faded, "Not Aleit, I hope."
"Why.... What happened?" Riker fisted his hands under the table, already assuming the worst; the bitch had second-guessed him again.
"He was...detained on the Lotus Moon, something about insufficient manifests for cargo."
Riker cursed in several languages and pressed back in his chair, deliberately hitting his head against the stone wall behind him.
"I'll bet he's not on the Lotus Moon anymore, I'll bet he's in the custody of King Jardan, and spilling his guts to Jaena."
"Your loyalty to Captain Saber is admirable, if not misplaced." Deanna smiled and ran her hand gently over Aleit's round and flushed cheek; her smile broadened as he relaxed against her palm. "An alliance with us could be very profitable for you," she added, hoping that like most of Justin Saber’s ‘friends’ he could be bought.
"Maybe," he said, his voice low and rough, his breath ripe with the vile scent of the myen weed he always kept between his bottom lip and teeth. "But I’d rather be poor and bust my ass to survive then have Captain Saber as an enemy. No offense pretty lady, but compared to Justin Saber your a pussy cat."
She’d heard rumors about Captain Saber, his violent temper and his retaliation on those that crossed him, she’d found them intimidating herself until she’d met the man, rooted through his mind and learned about the true soul that lie beneath the nasty front he portrayed.
Letting her hand fall from the stubby little man’s cheek she considered proving him wrong, showing him how cruel she could be if the need arose, but instead she laughed; a light intoxicating laugh that turned Aleit’s frown into a wide grin. "I’d like us to be friends Aleit and I would hate for our friendship to be generated out of fear."
Aleit’s smile faded, his bloodshot eyes hardly visible under his thick lids as he narrowed his eyes.
"I’ve heard rumors that you like women." She paused and ran her index finger thoughtfully over her bottom lip. "Zadaran women.... Is that true?"
His narrowed eyes grew wide; he pressed his body tighter against the wall behind him as if he could break through the mortar. "You wouldn’t?"
"Not if we can be friends I wouldn’t, but," she said shaking her head, feigning disappointment, "you seemed to have already decided that Captain Saber’s consequences will be worse then mine." She sighed and began to walk away. "You’ll enjoy them...Until they’ve tired of pleasuring you."
His call to her came after she’d stepped through the door, after she’d already begun to think he was going to die for the Captain. She turned back slowly; leaning against the metal door she’d been about to close.
"What do you want Jaena?"
"I’ve told you, anything you know about the Dragon’s lair. You’re the only one in the quadrant that has ventured into the cylinder and come back alive."
"But I turned back, I didn’t get through."
"I understand that, but even your help in bypassing the first snare would put my kingdom ahead of Tasnir."
His fear, not of her, not of her threat, but of the repercussions he’d face from her advisory was almost a tangible barricade she had to push through. She found herself questioning her own judgment of the Captain; perhaps he was more evil then her senses had led her to believe.
"I’ll tell you what I k.."
His cooperation, the corporation she’d been working on for hours was cut off by the angry bellow of her king, her own fear manifested itself has a sick pang in the pit of her stomach. She turned away from Aleit before it showed on her face.
"I’ll be back," she called without turning, trying to keep her steps towards the angry voice calm and assured.
Riker stopped at the split in the path that led to the castle and glanced at the jagged path of stones that crossed the lake. They twinkled like a hundred stars under the glistening moonlight... inviting and tempting they’d get him home in half the time, assuming the Nymphs didn’t feel the vibration of his steps. He exhaled a deep breath; the anger that still burned in his stomach made the breath stagger from his lungs.
"Your a dumb-ass if you do this Saber," he whispered to himself, taking a half step towards the tree laden path that hedged the lake and would definitely getting him safely home if not an hour or so later.
"I’ve been waiting for you." The deep antagonizing voice hit Riker after he felt the uneven metal of a blaster against his neck.
"Are we going to do this again, it’s getting boring." Ignoring the weapon, he turned to face the little cretin that happened to enjoy Darla's company as much as he did and shook his head in disgust. "I haven’t touched her since our last run-in Dex, she must be craving pleasure badly by now." He curled his lips and chuckled.
"She’s my wife Saber."
"Because you bought her." He back stepped onto the first stone spit. "Not because she wanted a little troll for a husband."
He wasn’t one to fight for a woman, any woman, and it wasn’t a woman he was fighting for.... Possession of another being was wrong, he hated it, almost as much as he hated those that thought of women like Darla as less then human.
He back stepped again; grinding his boots against the stones as the jerk in the heat of his misdirected anger followed him. He only hoped when the nymphs came it would only be one and he hoped for a certain one.
"You going to shoot me or what?"
"I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to rid you of your most valued body part."
"Hope it was good for you the last time because—" Dex’s smile displayed brownish teeth. "—It WAS the last time."
Riker lunged, dodging the first shot by plunging into the deadly water. Three blaster shots penetrated the surface illuminating the cloudy blue with yellow-orange streams of wavy light. He dove deeper, twisting away from the shadows of movements that seem to lurk behind every rock, every snarl of weeds he past. His ability to hear the hollow crackle of stones above him was damned by the thunderous pounding of his heart, the demanding cry of his body to breathe. He snagged a rock just below the surface and pulled himself up, gulping a breath before his eyes met with the barrel of Dex's blaster. He heard the weapon hum as it charged and heard a splash, low and empty. His predator had no time to react, only his eyes widened before he was swept beneath the surface.
Riker's arms scratched across the jagged stones as he struggled to pull himself out before whichever one of the bewitching beauties that was called for reinforcements. Breathing heavily, he pushed himself to his knees and then to his feet, looking behind him and in front of him to gauge which direction would get him off the lake faster. The air bubbles that breached the surface shuddered and finally fell away; he inwardly cringed before running on water heavy boots towards the castle.
"We’re even now Saber." The throaty voice, enough to get off on by sound alone stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Cela." He bent over and rested his hands on his knees, catching his breath as eyes he trusted stared back into his. "I’m sorry I crossed, I know I promised."
"You’re human, promises mean nothing." Her arms engulfed his waist to support him, but her kinetic touch propelled him to pull away.
"It’s not me you should fear Justin." He’d never heard a nymph speak without a sexual overtone in her voice and yet her voice at this moment chilled him to the bone.
"What, what do you know Cela." he began to walk towards the shore.
"I know that your sister was seven when she died in King Jardan’s cell."
"So, I probably told you that.... What does that mean?"
"It means you should check the dungeon of your queen or have a child’s blood on your own hands." He felt her hands again slip around his waist, but the sensual tingle it induced was dulled by his own memories.
As quickly as the painful memories invaded his thoughts he suffocated them and eyed Cela carefully. Unfortunately he knew her, and what she’d just told him had already gone beyond the relationship humans shared with her and others like her...She wouldn’t say anymore.
"Thanks Cela." Stepping onto the sandy shore eased his fear of her friends, but his eyes still dipped over the rippling blue. "I will listen," he assured.
"You’re a good man for a human," she said, brushing a kiss against his bearded chin that caused him to shudder with pleasure. "The Fire Drakes are tending her." Cela sank back into the inky blue water then reemerged. "Do the right thing Saber, don’t let greed blur who you are."
"I won’t," he answered, but his answer was spoken too late, after she’d already returned to her home under the water.
"Her highness is in the Solar Captain, she’s been waiting for you." The young guard stationed inside the shimmering bronze yett gestured with a limp hand to the widow’s walk above him as if Riker planed on climbing up the trellis.
"Thanks." Riker snickered and slid a disapproving eye over the guard dressed as Queen Oranda's insisted. "You look very pretty tonight Roman," Riker chuckled, flicking his finger over the ruffled collar of the guards shirt before picking up his pace towards the Castle entrance.
He barely heard the guards grumbled curses behind the call of the nightbirds and the whispered gurgles of the sculptured water fountains that set off the thick gold entrance to the castle with refracted waves of moonlight.
Pressing the palm of his hand against the ID sensor embedded and hidden in the castle wall he waited for the doors to open. He glanced past the fine mist of water that blurred his view of the walkway that led to the dungeon and leaned to the left to take a step towards it. The hum of the doors as they muted, appeared to liquefy and finally disappeared persuaded him to step into the great hall, not ruin what he had going for himself here by getting involved in Oranda's affairs.
His boots still damp from his swim in the lake thudded a loud hollow echo through the great hall as he moved up the marbled stairs. He patted his jacket pocket feeling the irregular bulge of the emerald he’d hidden there and nodded to himself; satisfied he’d made the right decision. Without another thought he pulled the burgundy cord that would announce his presence and raked a hand through his disheveled hair.
The doors evaporated and Riker stole a smile from the Queen’s attendant before her silver-blue eyes dropped to the floor, her indigo hair in tangled curls falling over her face, almost concealing the jewel embedded above her brow; The ruby markings of a servant.
"Where have you been?" The rustling of Oranda's heavy velvet robes sounded through the chamber before her voice, and before the poised and striking woman appeared in the doorway. "I was concerned you’d changed alliance."
"Not likely," Riker said, dropping down on one knee and bowing his head until Oranda took her place in the chair against the arched window.
"Stand up Captain and tell me you got it."
"Of course I did." He presented the stone before he stood, smiling a lopsided and self-satisfied smile. "Jaena didn’t know what hit her."
"Jaena will no longer be a problem." Oranda's translucent blue eyes, always cold and deadly grew even more so, her frigid and satisfied gaze sending a chill up his spine, a chill he mask behind an equally cold chuckle.
"Is she dead," he asked, further masking the unusual panic he was feeling by staring out the large window at the bitter stars that flickered in the blue-black sky.
"She may be once her king finds out his granddaughter is our guest." She waved a loose lily-white hand towards her new and very beautiful attendant.
"She’s only a child." He failed to keep his revulsion from his voice and focused on the young woman as she pulled the etched chest from the aumbry and handed it gently to Oranda.
"The advantage she’ll bring us far outweighs the morals you seem to be struggling with. Your quest to retrieve the eye of the dragon will be difficult enough without interference." She opened the small chest and let the emerald tumble from her hand; it clattered as it joined the other stones he’d brought her. "You should be thanking me Justin. Without Jaena nipping at your heels you’ll be granted the wealth and power I promised you much sooner."
He matched her smile and bowed halfheartedly.
"Rest Captain, you’ll need it."
Riker bowed his head as she stood and left the chamber, an unwelcome feeling of contempt twisting like a serpent of warning around his heart.
"You were duped by Captain Saber!"
Deanna stood rigidly at the bottom of the three carpeted steps that led up to her King’s throne, attempting to cover up her hatred and fear behind a stunned and innocent gaze. "I don’t understand your highness, I sensed no deception."
He stood composedly, the veins that pulsed in his temples and neck betraying his understanding masquerade. Deanna raised her chin, preparing for the blow and tensed even further when the blow she’d expected became only a caressed cheek. She willed herself not to pull away.
"I’ll retrieve it, don’t worry," she said softly.
"I am worried," he responded, "worried that perhaps you’ve fallen victim to Saber’s bewitching charms...It’s very hard for me to believe that someone with your powers could be outdone by a common man."
<He’s not a common man, > she thought, thinking quickly of an excuse for her mistake. "There are rumors that Captain Saber befriends the Nymphs and Sylphs, perhaps they helped him."
"Perhaps," he answered warily, dragging his hand roughly over her cheek, the ragged stone of his ring cutting through her skin. "Retrieve the Dragon’s Eye and Kaya’s kidnapping and the other jewels Oranda has acquired will mean nothing."
"They took the princess!" Shocked that he hadn’t mentioned it before she took a quick step towards the door. "I’ll assemble a rescue party."
"No!" His voice boomed through the cool chamber, his emotions vile and raw rattled with the same force through her mind. "Retrieve the jewel as you were order."
"But she’s only a child."
"A child that has been a noose around my neck since her mother died.... I will not lose what I’ve worked for." He fell back into his chair with an angry thud, the emotions she knew he was deliberately projecting to her severing the sting of the cut on her cheek and forcing her to double over from the impact.
"Do as you were ordered or return to the stable."
He withdrew the force of his thoughts and feelings; She lifted her eyes slowly and only nodded an agreement, wondering if it was pain or the explosive hatred she felt that had caused her vision to blur.
Through the open window in Riker’s chamber cool air dusted tantalizingly against his sweat slicked skin, the opposing sensations intensifying his need, magnifying the contracting moist heat that surrounded him.
The voice below him, rich and sultry begged him for more, he thrust harder and deeper, his body shivering and rippling with pleasure as it took custody and control. Whoever she was wanted more, and his name erupted in warm bursts and tumbled over swollen lips each time he pulled away and thrust into her.
"Let me feel it again." Rough and demanding he moved his hand between them and only grazed her swollen clit, she exploded on command...her body devouring him like a hungry beast, taking him deeper with each contraction. If he’d known her name he’d have screamed it as his body followed hers into an euphoric abyss that swallowed him alive.
"Shit," he said on panted breaths, untangling his hand from her hair and falling sated on top of her.
Her legs trembled, the powerful grip she had on him eased and he rolled off her. "Holy shit," he amended on a long deep breath, "That felt damn good."
"Yea," was all she said. He brushed a few strands of her silken hair away from her eyes and spiraled an affectionate finger around the jewel embedded above her brow.
"Do you have a name," he asked, studying her more closely then he had when she'd climbed into his oversized bed. Her skin, smooth and unblemished was only lightly kissed by the sun, her nails, neatly manicured accentuated her delicate hands, hands as smooth as the rest of her perfect body. "Well?"
"Summer," she finally answered, stroking a tongue over her pale pink lips and smiling a dewy smile.
He sighed inwardly and flopped to his back; interlacing his fingers he slid them under his head.
"Is this how you greet all the new servants?"
"I like people to feel welcome," he chuckled distractedly, replaying the musical sound of her voice in his head.
"Who are you," he asked as she settled against his chest and traced the back of her nails over his stomach, "You sure as hell aren’t anybody’s servant." He turned over to his side, knocking her head from his chest.
"The voice of your conscious." Her eyes glistened like a light summer rain; he watched the glints of light that played over them and groaned suddenly.
"Ah shit." He sat up and slapped his feet hard against the carpeted floor. "Why do you people do this?"
The bed dipped as she shifted her position, he turned suddenly when he felt her cool breath against his still heated skin. "Do you have any idea how disconcerting it is to make love to someone that’s naturally only about seven inches tall."
The hand she’d rested on his shoulder trailed over his back as he stood up, he heard her infuriating laughter and stabbed her with an angry glare, portraying an anger he didn’t really feel.
"Try not to think about it...Sylphs have the same needs as humans."
He rolled his eyes and tried to look unimpressed as the sheet that covered her slipped away and she moved gingerly towards him.
"Don’t hand me that, your desires have nothing to do with it...You want something...What?"
"I want you to do the right thing." She opened the double doors that led to his balcony and stepped out, perfectly naked and perfectly perfect.
"Couldn’t you just fly through the window like a good little fairy and ask for what you want instead of giving me nightmares for a month." He tugged on his pants and snapped his shirt off the foot of the bed. "And don’t think for a second that I’ve even noticed how the moonlight is magically highlighting your best features."
She laughed lightly and began to step back inside.
"Don’t come in," he warned, zipping his boot and holding the other up in the air, "My boots bigger then you are."
"You really are stuck on that one aspect aren’t you, most human men would die to be where you just were." She waggled indigo brows and smiled playfully; he snarled in return.
"State your business and flutter away Autumn."
"Whatever," he retorted, "Just tell me what’s so damn important that you felt it necessary to kill my sex drive for a month."
"Shit, I can’t believe I’m doing this," he grumbled to himself stopping in front of the third Nachda web he’d encountered. Like woven black silk it interlaced over the narrowed corridor, he checked it very carefully before breaking through it and wiping the remains on his pants. He shuddered outwardly; thankful he was alone. The big, ugly eight-legged arachnids weren’t deadly, unless you’d fallen into a nest of them when you were ten, Riker was certain if he ever had to face the vile little mothers again he’d die of fright. So far he’d been lucky, he had no intentions of tempting fate right now and barreling like an idiot through the vague globe lighting of the dungeon walk.
He’d managed to put mental pictures of the gold, jewels and yenom coins the queen had paid him with out of his mind, the thought died completely at the faint sound of sobs he heard in the distance. He lightened his steps as the rancid smells of the dungeons main chamber filtered to his nose, he wrinkled it slightly already tasting the vile combination of smoke, rancid flesh and stripping oil on the back of his tongue. The burning oil crackled and snapped, the smoke's eerie shadows twisting and curling like dark phantoms against the gray-black slate walls.
The guards chair was empty, the simple convenience heightening his apprehension and inspiring him to draw his blaster from its holster. Shouldering the splintered door on his left it creaked open and he stepped inside, the stone floor replaced by bloodstained mud. This wasn't the first person he'd helped escape from Oranda's claws, but it was the first time every nerve in his body screamed that he was being setup. Why nagged at him and grew more powerful with every step. He'd already surmised that it was Gunner that had kidnapped the princess, and although he understood why he'd follow his queen's orders it still bittered the taste in his mouth. Yet Gunner wouldn't set him up. The immortals on the other hand might derive a pleasure from it.
"No," he mumbled under his breath, the only people in this tangled little life he led that would endanger a child were King Jardan and his own queen. He nodded to himself, the whispered why still crawling through his mind reminding him there wasn't a person in the entire universe he could really trust.
Tugging on his gloves he squatted down and peered through the crack in the mortar, he squinted his eyes into the fire lit cell and then squinted them further as if he was seeing a mirage. The young princess, possibly ten years old hardly fit the standard characteristics of the Janier people. He’d always thought of the Janier as a cutout society, raven hair, charcoal eyes, harsh features and deep olive skin, but the princess was quite the opposite. From what he could see of her skin from underneath the snarled ringlets of yellow curls that fell of her face, it was fair and soft, the large eyes that flickered in the firelight reflected a vivid blue. He sat back on his heels and reconsidered taking her out; with the ugly and prejudicial beliefs of the Janier she might be safer here. He almost smiled thinking about how Jardan must have reacted to having a mutant as a granddaughter.
<She’s still just a kid, > he thought, checking one more time for the missing guard before pressing the soul of his boot against the pseudo stone he’d placed years ago.
She startled when the stone dropped with a dull thud on the floor and pressed closer to the bars of her cell as he stepped through.
"Hi," he whispered, noting that one of her wrist was bound to the bars beside her with a stasis cuff, it struck him as strange and he stopped his movement towards her. "I’m going to take you home," he promised in spite of the nasty glare she was holding him with.
"You’re Justin Saber aren’t you?"
"The one and only," he said, bowing deep at the waist, but studying the clean dusting of sand and sawdust on the floor.
"That’s a blessing for the universe."
He lifted his eyes to her flip little remark and her matching grin. "Your pretty smug for a short shackled princess. Nobody likes a smart-ass ya know," he added, waggling a finger in front of his face.
"I guess that explains the galaxy's aversion to you then doesn’t it?"
"If you know me so well," he said, following the connect lines for the shackle she was wearing with his eyes, "Then you must know my reputation, sometimes I step on little children for pleasure." His evil laugh lost something toned down to a whisper, but her eyes widened.
"Kiss my ass Captain."
"Watch your mouth.... You little shit," he mumbled under his breath, taking cautious steps to the L-line that linked into the cell’s lock. He eyed the octagon key sitting conveniently on the guards chair and turned back to face the obnoxious little spitfire. "Who put you here?"
"The bad guys," she said without missing a beat, "Your renegade friends."
"Did they shackle you right away?"
"What are you, security, what the hell difference does it makes?"
"No difference to me, but the next person that unlocks this cell is going to turn you into toast." This time her cocky little demeanor faltered, even the hand she’d planted on her hip fell limply to her side.
"Some guy came in here about an hour ago and installed the cuff...I don’t know who he was, blond hair, big chest, nice clothes."
<Gunner, > he thought, <Why, who were they expecting to open the cell? > The muffled voices coming down the corridor jolted him from his thoughts and caused the princess’s wide blue eyes to grow even wider.
<Great, the larger version of an obnoxious smart-ass. > He drew his blaster and considered diving back into the hole he’d crawled out of, he shook his head, disgusted with himself when he fried the key on the chair instead.
"We meet again!" He called out his greeting before Jaena’s long leg stepped through the doorway.
"Saber." In spite of the fact that he’d targeted the princess with his gun and held the little girl close to his stomach Jaena still leveled her blaster at him. For a moment he wondered if this black oil slick he’d learn to place on his thoughts had failed him and she knew he wouldn’t kill the little girl.
"Are you all right Kaya?"
Riker’s brows raised, his eyes moved back and forth between the princess and his buxom opponent. He wasn’t sure how he’d describe the tone she’d just used, but it was soft and sweet and did something unusual to his senses, it took a concerted effort to stop the crooked smile that begged to break over his steady expression.
"I’m fine. I don’t think he’s as big of a bastard as you think." Kaya’s head bobbed against his stomach, nodding positively to Jaena.
It was hard to tell in the dim lighting, but he almost thought he saw Jaena's eyes soften too, he looked closer, past the shadows of the oversized guard she’d probably entranced. Yep, they were softer, possibly even glistening; the smile he’d tried to hide slipped over his mouth.
"Is something wrong Captain?"
"No, I was mentally undressing you." It didn’t take long for him to recover his insolent expression, just as it didn’t take long for her soft kitten-like eyes to revert to the onyx steel he knew too well.
"I’m sure your mind doesn’t haven’t the capacity to fathom or even imagine the perfection."
"Actually I was trying to pinpoint how far they’d droop once I took the sties out of that thing that’s lifting em up." He caught her with that remark; unfortunately the princess fist in his stomach interrupted his enjoyment of it.
"Do either of you think this is the time for this?"
He rubbed his stomach, scowled at the kid then tipped his head to the cell lock. "Check the lock, explain to me why anyone but me would want this kid dead...and keep in mind that myself and my renegade friends—" he dropped his eyes to the small hand that had replaced his in massaging his stomach, "—could have accomplished it much less elaborately."
Jaena had this ice-princess bravado that seldom slipped; it had already faltered once, he was surprised to see it crack again as she rubbed her thumb over the carved slot of the lock.
"How did you get in there?" The surprise he’d seen was gone as soon as she lifted her eyes, but unlike most of the questions he’d received from her this one wasn't punctuated with a jab from her weapon.
He cocked his head behind him, but wasn’t about to share the complex labyrinth of passageways it took to get there. She frowned or maybe it was a glare, either way he only shrugged and smiled.
"I’ll take her out don’t worry. Go back to your kingdom of ice and I’ll drop her off."
"You don’t expect me to trust you?" Her laugh was hard and sarcastic but lacked conviction, besides he’d already seen her weakness when it came to the princess.
"Not sure you’ve got much of a choice...Of course you're welcome to try and find your way in." He was a bit stunned when the little smart-mouth beside him giggled, but pleased at how much it dug into Jaena.
"I could kill you."
"And her," he reminded her, grinning down at Kaya who seemed to be deriving some sort of comfort resting against his stomach.
"I’m not an ordinary woman."
"I won’t argue that,’ he answered quickly and calmly swallowing past the rumors he’d heard about her uncanny and very painful mental abilities. "An ordinary woman would be more concerned about the child then proving her manhood."
The guard dropped almost before he’d finished his sentence, holding his crotch and withering in pain. Riker didn’t know what was happening to him, only where and that was enough to make his composer shake a bit.
"OK," he said, keeping the princess easily in front of him and firing a fine beam on the cuff chain, "My manhood can’t take this...we’re out of here."
He dragged the little girl through the hole in the wall before Jaena could gather the mental powers she was exerting on her victim. Her angry scream rattled through the passage; strangely enough Kaya was grinning and staying willingly at his side.
"She can be bitchy sometimes," Kaya whispered, "But I have a feeling she likes you."
Riker did a doubtful double take and chuckled softly. "Must really suck if she hates you then."
"Stay put," Riker warned, tucking Kaya under the ledge of one of the large sculptured rocks that lined the East Side of the landing strip. Morning mist rose off the muddy soil distorting the eerie daybreak and a clear view of his ship. Maybe it was because he knew Jaena was here, probably back at the castle stealing his emerald or maybe it was the nasty feeling he had in his gut about Gunner, but running like a bat out of Gandad to his ship wasn’t happening.
His feet slapped in the mud, sinking deeper as he moved closer; behind the murky landing bay lights he could make out two ships, his own and Dex’s slave freighter. Everything looked quiet, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, that something was out of place about his ship. Ignoring whatever had just crawled out of the mud and up into his boot he did a mental rundown of his shutdown procedures and his set-down coordinates. That was it, the flight path, he’d come in over lake Zordan, but the tack lights on the port side of his ship were muddied. He took a step back as if his ship had somehow betrayed him and back-stepped to where he’d left Kaya.
"OK your highness, new plan." He helped her out but she stumbled over the muddied hem of her gown. "I know someone that will help us and maybe be able to find you something a little less royal to wear."
Aside from the sneer she flipped him when he chuckled at her clothes, she agreed quickly and took his hand, flashing a smile dripping with trust. He’d never been one to engender that particular emotion, his inner caution of everyone but himself kept most people at an arms length. He found himself smiling down on her, the simple gesture warming a forgotten place in his heart.
"Darla loves kids, but hates profanity," he warned her, pushing aside the fine tangles of moss that hung from the trees that canopied over the path. "You seem to struggle with that habit."
"You can hand over the princess now." The familiar voice and the familiar sensation of Jaena's shaved blaster against his neck came in unison.
"She's really startin to irk me," he mumbled to Kaya, recovering his unaffected presence and smug grin before following the grinding order to turn that she was placing on his neck. "This is a little reckless, don't ya think." He gestured behind himself to the open path to the city and then behind her to the flight bay. "Not everyone on this planet is as forgiving as I am...revenge on you keeps a lot of people in this town up at night."
"I'm not concerned Captain, about you or your renegade friends. I have what..."
"You're lying Jaena." Kaya thrust a small accusatory finger upward towards Jaena's face. "You are afraid...what of?"
"Be quiet Kaya!" Jaena's sharp reprimand and the protective stance the princess had taken in front of him caught him off guard; his momentary edge was lost before he could draw.
"I appreciate your help though Captain." She smiled snidely and tipped her head to him.
"I don't think the princess will be going anywhere." The voice like an angelic whisper on the breeze sounded before the woman appeared and well before Jaena had time to react.
Riker took a step back, the princess's shoulder tucked safely under his palm and smiled as first Jaena's blaster and then the woman herself went down in the mud. He squatted down without looking away and picked up the gun, dodging the droplets of mud that flew towards his face.
"Aren't you going to do something?"
"In a minute," he chuckled, fascinated and pleased to see Jaena meet her match with the five-foot nine version of a sylph.
"But she's a Sylph."
"Shut-up kid, I've wanted to see your buddy there go down for a long time...give me the moment."
He smiled at the frigid onyx steel of his enemies eyes, eyes that flashed anger and perhaps a bit of helplessness as Summer pinned her under a hold worthy of a swamp dragon, cursed a few times in her native tongue and flipped her to her back, pinning one struggling arm behind her head.
Riker moved around her, returning Summer's satisfied smile before squatting down. "Now see Jaena, that's why it pays to never get cocky." He wiped some of the mud from her cheek and neck. "If you promise to behave I'll..." His finger grazed the metal implant on the back of Jaena's neck, the clasp for a collar...the collar of a concubine. "Let her up Summer...let her up now."
Hardly noticing Summer's confused and angry stare he helped Jaena to her feet, cautiously keeping her blaster gripped tightly in his hand. "I know people—" he hesitated as her glare darkened and her hand smacked his away from her neck, "—You don't have to live with that."
"My life is none of your damn business Captain."
"Your life," he challenged, easing the guard he'd put on his emotions at least enough for her to understand, "His life you mean?"
No matter how hard she tried to hide it, the fear and unwanted vulnerability smoked the glint of confidence in her eyes with puffs of blue-black ashes.... Memories he assumed that would always haunt her.
"Scars can heal," he finally said when she either refused or was unable to answer him, "They can't start to until you take his control away." He shot a quick glance to Kaya; his eyes lingering on the penetrating gaze the little girl was fixing on Jaena. She seemed unaffected by her grandfather's indiscretions, his lack of respect for females...Maybe she'd been hardened to it or maybe Kaya had something else on her mind.
"Captain Saber's right Jaena."
He heard Summer's encouragement and Jaena's sharp reply about not needing any advice from a Sylph. He ignored them both.
"Kaya." Wide blue eyes looked up at him for an instant then returned to Jaena. "What are you thinking?"
"Ask Jaena what she's thinking." She said it without looking away from her target and he watched Jaena's eyes meet the princess; he also heard Summer breathing increase beside him. He turned to her in time to steady her, watch her silver-blue eyes dull and shadow.
"Get out of here Summer." More then curious what was going on between Jaena and the princess, his concern for Summer took precedence. "I'm fine, you can leave...NOW!" His voice elevated, loud and urgent it brought both Jaena and Kaya to his side.
"Don't you die for me," he warned, imprinting bruising fingers against her arms.
"What's wrong with her?"
"Nothing." He answered Jaena, but studied only Summer's eyes.... His distraction, his panic that Summer would die had obviously vanquished whatever emotional battle had been going on between Kaya and Jaena; Summer's eyes regained their focus, her ashen skin regained its color and the lines of pain that had marred her face eased.
"You've done enough Summer...go," he whispered once he saw the glittering jewels that adorned her eyes begin to sparkle. She smiled, a smoky and provocative smile and exhaled a deep breath of relief.
"Thanks Justin." She nodded knowingly and began to close her eyes. He stopped her before she could continue.
"Wait...I can't watch." He turned his back on her, unwilling to watch her revert to her natural state, magnify the nightmares he knew he'd been having. He watched Kaya's eyes widen and heard Summer's intoxicating laughter behind him. It faded into the distance and his attentions returned to Jaena.
"What was that all about?"
"That's not important." He shrugged nonchalantly, unwilling to share the secret of the Sylph.... A secret he only knew because he'd watched another die for him. "I'm more interested in you lady...The kid seems to think you have something you should share with us. Tell me or you can take a swim in Zordan." He tipped his head towards the ice-blue water of the lake, hopeful that Jaena understood Nymphs had no particular sexual preferences.
She focused on the prismatic halos that rippled over the diamond tides, her expression pensive and unthreatening he still found his eyes moving into the shadows of the forest as if her cohorts were hiding amongst the vines.
"Fine," she finally said, a muddy hand brushing the caked mud from her cheek, "I'll tell you—alone. Not in front of the child."
The small shanty that was home to Darla and the late slave trader Dex was far off the beaten path, miles from town and hedged on all sides by the white-water current of the dual streams that fed lake Zordan. A perfect hideaway for anyone but him at the moment.
The wicker bench beneath him squeaked as he leaned forward on his knees, he massaged his thumb thoughtfully against the palm of his hand and watched the dusty storm clouds roll over the forest.
"You can't stay here." Darla's bare feet hardly made a sound as they moved around him. "If you're right about Gunner, this will be one of the first places he looks."
"I know." He snagged one of the small hands that dangled loosely at her side and tugged her to his lap. "Dex is dead." Just saying it seemed the only way and although he knew she'd be pleased he also knew after all this time she'd learned to depend on him.
"How—how do you know." He brushed a strand of her tangled hair away from her sun-weathered skin, wrinkling his brows to further enhance his curiosity.
"It doesn't matter Justin." She kissed his bearded cheek, her nose crinkling as she drew away. "and I'll be fine...thank-you. But you won't if you stay here." She stood up. "You don't have to face Gunner."
"Oh yea I do. I need to face him and kill him." A low rumble of thunder punctuated his promise; the scent of the storm that blackened the sky infused his need.
"Why Justin...because of the princess, because when you see a child you think of Tess?"
"No, for that I'd only flog him." He took three slow steps to the pebbled bank that lined the stream, using his anger to subdue the images of his sister—the wicked images his mind presented him since how she'd died was still a mystery. "Jaena says the lock on the princess cell came from her kingdom. It's King Jardan that wants the princess dead."
"I don't know and I don't care. I do know that if Gunner set the trap it means he's playing both sides of the fence. I don't like to be double-crossed." He watched her eyes widen and then lower to the ground.
Intimating her wasn't his objective; with a gentle touch to her cheek he raised her head. "You'll be safe and so will they." He tilted his head towards the cottage. "I'm sending you all to the Loust moon."
"I don't think so Captain Saber."
"You'll do as you're told Jaena." His hand already raised in objection, the stones under his feet crackled as he pivoted to face her. "This is my fight."
"Again," she said, her voice still groggy from the painkillers Darla had used to remove her implant, "I don't think so. I may not be willing to kill you anymore, but never, at any time will I do what I'm told."
"Great." He rolled his eyes towards the angry gods of thunder that rumbled over his head. "I've unleashed a monster...Darla put the implant back, I've got a collar in my ship."
He flashed a smile to Darla; one that fell away as his eyes returned to Jaena and the rigid no nonsense stance she'd taken. Not often if ever had anyone that was playing on his team had the courage to challenge his decisions, strangely now that it was happening he found it somewhat enticing...Allowing Jaena to see that however was not in his agenda. He took a few steps closer to her, physically reminding her that no matter how rigid her posture or how stern her expression he did and would always have the upper hand.
She looked up at him without flinching, without so much as a shadow of self-doubt on her face. "The way I see it Captain, you have two choices. One, we all go to the Lotus moon and find a safe house for the princess or two we all stay here and waste time fulfilling your manly need for revenge."
"Or three," he countered, "You go your way and I'll go mine. I'm not looking for an overbearing copilot and a foul-mouthed second officer." Even as he pivoted away from her, watched the threads of deep mauve light seep through the blue-black clouds he felt a tug of regret that he'd chosen to alienate her.
He gulped a breath of the energy charged air to destroy the unlikely sensation, repeated the process and finally turned back to her, surprised to find her standing so close to him.
"You're going after the eye of the dragon, aren't you?" Her arms folded under her breasts, her eyes flashing with as much electricity as the bolts that fractured the sky she tipped her head and looked at him as if he was the greatest disappointment in her life.
"Knock it off Jaena," he said, damning the pang of guilt he was feeling, "Just because your leash is gone, doesn't change who you are. So don't look at me like I'm betraying some all mighty power for putting myself before you or the little princess. I've already stuck my neck out a lot further then I should have--you've got balls of steel and I have every confidence that you can take care of yourself and her highness."
"A simple yes or not would have been sufficient Will."
Provoked by the smug little grin she was making no attempt to hide it took a second for her words to move past his irritation. He hesitated, replayed her last sentence through his mind and exchanged anger for confusion.
"What the hell did you just call me?"
"Report Mr. Data!" Picard's shield of composure had visibly cracked; he inhaled a breath to weld the fracture before repeating, more calmly, his call to the surface.
"Enterprise to Commander Data." He drummed his fingers lightly over the back of his second officer's chair. "Mr. Data...Answer please." He cursed under his breath.
Averting the eyes of his bridge crew he stepped closer to the view-screen and glared at the dusty brown planet below them, reminding himself that sending a shuttle to the surface had been his only option in retrieving his first officer and ship's counselor.
"Enterprise to Commander LaForge...Geordi can you hear me?"
Another lag, another infuriating lag that brought another curse to his lips; one only partially verbalized before the enthusiastic response came in.
"Commander," The burn across his shoulders cooled only slightly. "I'm unable to establish communications with Data."
"Yes Sir, we've been having the same problem Sir. My readings are showing sporadic seismic activity. The bursts are creating small pockets of Menitic waves, I'm not sure why yet."
Picard relaxed slightly. "And Commander Riker, Counselor Troi."
"Nothing Captain. It is possible the waves are also interfering with our tricorder readings. Data reported large animal tracks just before we lost contact...My readings aren't showing anything of that size on the planet or for that matter any warm blooded animals." There was a long pause and Picard could hear the low warble of Geordi's tricorder. He sighed impatiently.
"He's not here Sir. I've reached the coordinates Data relayed, but no Data."
"Tricorder malfunction again Commander?" He interrupted Geordi's calls to his second officer.
"I don't think so Captain, I'm not picking up Menitic waves anymore either. In fact Sir, if you ask me now I'd never be able to detect that they were ever here. It seems they've vanished exactly like the commander, Data and counselor Troi."