Rated R....language, situation....theme.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns them all.....thanks to paramount for giving me some toys to play with....
Using the height of a metal ladder that was leaning against a brick building, the handsome Will Riker surveyed the huge crowd.
At last he saw Deanna, waving with hands above her head attempting to get his attention, she was trapped in the midst of the throng of people. Displaying a huge grin and giving her a wave in return, he jumped off of the ladder and quickly forced through the thousands of bodies as he made his way to her.
"I’ve been looking all over for you." Riker had to yell above the boisterous voices of the people as they cheered and screamed, celebrating the coming of the Betazed New Year. She sensed his relief as he spoke, "I thought I’d lost you for good."
"I have no idea how we got separated." She yelled her response, "One minute you were standing beside me and the next you were gone."
They exchanged smiles and then embraced one another, both happy to be reunited again.
"Will, we’re in public." She yelped, breaking their embrace.
"What?" he asked through squinted eyes.
"You just grabbed a handful of butt flesh that’s what." She teased, with a smile.
"I didn’t…Grab…." he stated confused, this voice changed suddenly to one of urgency, "Come on." He ordered, taking his wife firmly by the hand and herded the both of them through the congested throng of citizens, until they both stood outside of the boisterous crowd.
Suddenly the enormous thundering sounds of fireworks exploding filled their ears, followed by the oohs and ahhhhhs from the crowd. The Betazoid sky was suddenly filled with a rainbow of colors, all dazzling and magnificent as they happily danced across the sky.
"Happy New Year!" she yelled, flying into his arms. He held her as tightly as she held him and they captured each other’s lips in a deep passionate kiss.
Somewhat dizzy from the kiss, Riker inhaled and finally spoke…"Happy New Year." He smiled. "We should have done this years ago."
"Come here to celebrate the New Year?"
"No…gotten married. If I knew you were going to kiss me like that on New Years I would have married you years ago."
She simply smiled in return and he sensed her love, it was over whelming to him as if it was tangible and he could touch it. Lifting her chin up with his finger he bent down to kiss her again, their lips were only millimeters apart when:
"Deanna!" a voice called from the crowd. She snapped her head to the side, searching for the sound of the familiar voice.
"Thomas!" Deanna cried joyfully, she was already running towards him…leaping into his arms, throwing her head back, and laughing wildly.
Riker watched Thomas as he spun his wife around in his embrace, and it didn’t take an empath to realize that his duplicate seemed just as elated and overjoyed to see Deanna, as she was to see him. Pushing aside an instant flash of jealousy, he smiled as he walked towards the two reunited friends.
"Will. Look who’s here, its Thomas!" Deanna stated gleefully, as she stepped away from Thomas immediately sensing Riker’s jealousy. She didn’t want the two men to quarrel.
"Thomas." Riker nodded as he extended an arm in greeting.
"Long time no see, brother." Thomas Riker returned an identical smile, gladly shaking brother’s hand. Thomas noticed the gold band that was on his brother’s third finger and his face transformed to one of amazement.
"I’m on a rescue mission." Thomas yelled above the loud explosion of fireworks. "I need to find my wife."
"You’re wife?" Riker mouthed the words in amazement.
"Yeah, somehow we got separated in this sea of people." Thomas yelled as he surveyed through the crowd.
"What does she look like?" Deanna yelled the question.
"Human. About five foot six, long strawberry blonde haired woman…" he answered again as he surveyed through the hoard of people. "Hold on…." Grabbing Deanna’s hand he began to weave through the crowd. Riker followed, and soon all three were united with Thomas’ bride.
Will recognized his so-called sister-in-law immediately and for a moment he just stared at her wide-eyed. Standing before him, hugging his brother was an old lover of his. Her name was then Jeannie Brighton and they had spent many nights in each other’s arms and beds while they were both stationed at the academy. He was in love with her; at least he thought he was at the time. Their relationship was severed when she ran off and joined the maquis. An act she did out of rebellion against her father, who happened to be no a nonsense, pompous assed Starfleet admiral at the time.
There was a sudden loud explosion, as a huge firework display lit up the Betazoid sky. Riker jumped out of his own thoughts as flashing instant shadows spread across the crowd and shades of reds, blues and yellows illuminated the night sky.
"Can we leave and go some place more quiet?" Deanna yelled into her husband’s ear.
Giving her a silent nod, he grabbed his wife’s hand and motioned for Thomas to follow. The four hand in hand began to weave through the mob of celebrators’.
"Four coffee’s." Riker requested of the waiter as the four sat down in the small café, located just off of the park where the holiday festivities were taking place.
"I remember as a child coming down here every New Year with my parents." Deanna said, smiling at the memory. "It didn’t seem so populated or chaotic as a child though."
"There definitely are a lot of people out there." Thomas looked out the huge plate window of the café.
"I suppose that is why I did not sense your presence in all of the chaos, I closed my mind to the thoughts of most of the people."
"Yeah, I guess it would be difficult to focus when you’re surrounded by thirty-six thousand intoxicated mind readers." Will said with a lopsided grin, directing his statement towards his wife.
She shot him a scolding look. "I’m not even going to reply, Mr. Riker."
"You’re Betazoid?" Jeannie Riker asked.
"Only half, I was born and raised on Betazed…My father was human." She smiled at her new strawberry blonde, very attractive sister in law. "My name is Deanna, Deanna Troi…and this gentleman sitting beside me is my husband, Will Riker."
"We’ve met." Jeannie stated with a smile and an extended hand towards Will. She didn’t see any reason to lie to her, and then she added nervously. "We were stationed at the academy together."
"Oh so the two of you…." Deanna began and then in an instant understood, "are old friends." Jeannie was a product of a love affair with the same man, just as she had been.
"Congratulations on your marriage. You make a stunning looking couple." Thomas and Will knew that Deanna would of course go out of her way to make this woman feel at ease and welcome her into their little groups with open arms.
"Thank you." Jeannie Riker replied with a warm smile, wanting to leave the awkward moment, she excused herself by saying, "Now, if you would please excuse me, I need to locate the ladies room."
"So do I." Deanna said, as she slapped her hands on her knees. She sensed that Jeannie wanted to talk to her in private, "I’m sure I look a fright." She began to stand, both men stood simultaneously and in a gentlemanly manner excused the ladies. They watched as the women walked towards the facilities.
Riker’s attention then turned to his duplicate, as he sat back down in his seat. "So Thomas what brings you to Betazed? Are you here to visit my lovely mother in law, Lwaxanna?" Will made the statement on purpose wanting to make it clear that Thomas knew he and Deanna were now married.
Thomas waited until the waiter sat down the four cups of coffee and left their table before he answered his brother’s question.
"Lwaxanna? Not likely." He laughed at the thought. "We just thought we’d do something different, that’s all…and I knew it was the time for the Betazed New Year. So we ventured out." He lied; he had come here with one specific mission, to find his brother and to ask for his help. Seeing that Will was married now. He was beginning to renege on his decision. It was far too dangerous and he had no desire to make Deanna an early widow.
"You’re lying, dear brother." Riker stated suspiciously. "I’ve seen that look before and you’re full of shit."
"Lying?" Thomas attempted to sound appalled.
"Through your teeth." Riker stated with certainty, he wasn’t about to back down.
"Damn." Thomas lifted up his cup, and gently blew the hot liquid before taking a sip.
"So are you going to tell me what the two of you are up to?"
Thomas looked at Will over the rim of the coffee cup; he took another sip of the hot liquid and then slowly placed the cup in the saucer before approaching the subject again.
"All right. I am lying." He confessed and their eyes met and held, "I came here to find the two of you and covey congratulations on your marriage." His face transformed into a huge grin. "No hard feelings?" he asked. "I mean we both married women that we loved, right?"
"I suppose we did, I know I damn well have. And to be honest, Tom… I would have had some hard feelings, if you had been the one who married Deanna, but…since you didn’t…" Riker added, "No, I don’t have any hard feelings."
"You have more time invested in Deanna…After all, even an asshole such as yourself deserves to be happy. And I’ll be forever grateful to you for taking such good care of Deanna for me. I on the other hand spent my time with Jeannie; she was the one who ordered my release from prison. She worked for years protesting, going before parole boards, convincing and then finally using both of our father’s influence in Starfleet to get my release. I owe her a lot."
"She’s a good woman." Riker agreed. A mischievously evil grin appeared on his face as he added, "Damn good if memory serves me right."
Thomas flashed Will an obscene gesture with his hand.
"Thank you for your congratulations on my marriage allow me to extend mine on yours." Will duplicate the same gesture with his hand.
"I’m going to try very hard to believe that, that is sincere, Captain Will."
"I certainly hope you do. But neither one of us can elude the fact that you are still lying, Captain Tom."
"Really, Will…. I have no hard feelings towards your marriage…I’m happy for the both of you." Thomas stated pretending he hadn’t a clue as to what his brother was talking about. "I’m happy with Jeannie, very happy."
"Thomas, did I activate your dumb ass switch? You know what I’m talking about."
"All right." Thomas swallowed hard; knowing that Will Riker wasn’t going to let this go. "No matter how much of an arrogant bastard that you are dear bother, you are the only person in this whole universe that I can truly trust."
Will was shocked at Thomas’ confession and he secretly felt the same way about his duplicate, although he’d be damned before he admitted it. "I’m listening."
"Good." Thomas looked across the room and noticed the girls walking across the floor towards their table. "Listen later."
Riker shot his brother a silent look of understanding both men stood as Deanna and Jeannie approached their table. "So what were the two of you talking about, while we were gone?" Deanna asked.
"Thomas congratulated us on our marriage." Will answered hoping she would buy it.
The look in her eyes informed him that she didn’t, but she chose to ignore his lie and not say anything. Shrugging it off she knew that Will would probably tell her later and now was not the time, "Thank you Thomas." She gave him a warm friendly smile. He gave her a polite.
Later that evening, Will Riker crawled out of bed, and quietly got dressed, not wanting to wake up Deanna. He had made arrangements with Thomas to speak with him at one of the local bars, after the women were asleep. Just as he was getting ready to open the door, he heard her voice. "Tell Thomas it isn’t polite to suggest one’s husband sneak off in the middle of the night."
"Hard Ball" Chapter 2
"Caught." He thought, and he slowly turned around. "Deanna…I’m…I’m sorry." He began to apologize, now feeling like a total imbecile. "Thomas wanted to talk…in private." He practically stumbled over his own words.
"And the two of you thought you could just sneak off? Keep all of this from an empath?" she asked and before he could answer, she asked one more, "From me?"
"Deanna…. I was going to tell you." He slowly walked towards her.
"I know…I do, and I forgive you." She bent over and planted a kiss on his forehead, then her voice took a sudden change, "This time." She teased.
Their eyes met as he held her face gently in his hands, bending his head down their lips met and he kissed her, lingering on their softness. "You should go now." She whispered lovingly as the kiss slowly broke. "Go to Thomas, find out what is troubling him."
"I love you." He said, as he traced her lips with his thumb.
"Go…." She whispered, kissing the pad of his thumb. "Before I change my mind."
"I shouldn’t be long." He smiled, giving her one last quick kiss he turned and walked out the door.
She heard his footsteps as he shuffled down the long stairway of his mother in laws mansion. The last thing she heard was the shutting of the heavy front door. She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly and headed back towards the bed. Deanna Troi knew that the only way, Will and She climbed into the huge bed, snuggling under the silk blankets as she drew them under her chin, "Good night, Will Riker." She whispered.
"You want to do WHAT!" Riker exclaimed in disbelief.
"Yeah, and why don’t you say it just a little bit louder." Thomas’ angry gaze pierced across the table at his brother’s federal blue eyes.
Will Riker quickly downed the shot of whiskey, slamming the shot glass on the table. Gods he hated the taste of this stuff. It was synthohol.
"Close in ten minutes." A strong voice sounded from across the room.
"Let’s get out of here." Thomas said as he stood up from their table. Both men then walked to the bar; "Can I have a bottle of Whiskey to go?"
"Make that two bottles." Riker suggested, indicating with two fingers held up in the air.
"Two." Thomas repeated to the bartender with a roll of his eyes.
They had found a nice secluded spot in the middle of the park under a huge towering tree. Sitting down using the tree trunk to support his back, Will opened the bottle of whiskey. He took a huge gulp of the liquid and swallowed hard.
Sitting down by his brother, Thomas Riker exhaled, "What does it taste like?" referring to the whiskey.
"Toskarian beetle juice. Toskarian beetle piss…Synthahol is the equivalent of Toskarian beetle piss, Captain Tom."
"Hey, I hate it too. But, it’s all we have…" Thomas took the bottle from his duplicate, swigging down a huge mouthful and quickly passed it back.
Riker tilted the bottle to his lips and took another huge swig. He swallowed hard and took another huge gulp of the liquid. Wanting to get drunk fast…. After all what Thomas Riker had just told him, he needed it. And his duplicate was the only human that could match his drinking abilities.
"Do you mind? Would you please pass the beetle piss this way?"
Riker handed the bottle to his brother. "Tom?"
"Why is it that every time I get around you my profanity intensifies?"
"Hell if I know…" he took a drink from the bottle before passing it back to his duplicate. "Mine does too…."
"I think you just bring out the nasty in me." Lifting the bottle to his lips, he downed a mouthful and swallowed hard.
"Fuck you, Captain Will." Thomas reached over and snatched the bottle out of his brother’s hand.
"There you go again." Riker wiped the back of his mouth with his hand. "If Jeannie could hear you now." He sounded motherly.
"Jeannie would be sitting here under this tree out cussing and out drinking us both, where do you think I learned to do this shit?"
"Not Jeannie?" Riker was astounded, he remembered Jeannie as soft spoken and almost shy.
"Yes, Jeannie." Thomas confirmed soundly, "She’s changed a lot since she’s joined the maquis." Holding up a drunken finger, he continued. "Now, Deanna…It’s Deanna that scares the hell out of me. Now if she were to show up…."
His statement made Riker’s eyes open wide, with a lopsided grin he admitted. "Deanna scares the hell out me sometimes too."
"Deanna’s really small…. We shouldn’t be scared of her." Thomas teased, "I bet you I could beat her up with one hand tied behind my back."
"I tried that already…." Riker laughed, "And I was defeated."
"So… why did you finally marry her?" Thomas asked seriously.
"Because Lwaxanna turned my proposal down."
"I walked right into that one, didn’t I?"
"Are you going to help me?" Thomas was referring to their earlier discussion in the bar.
"I’d have to tell Deanna. You do know that?"
Thomas swallowed the foul tasting liquid hard and shook his head no. "It’s too dangerous. She can’t go."
"Agreed." Riker quickly stated with a nod, and then added with a lopsided grin, "I’d be honored to let you be the one to tell her that, Captain Tom."
"Oh you’re good brother, you’re damn good. But," he added, "She’s your wife, and that specific duty falls in your lap." Thomas stated taking a drink of the Synthahol.
"Coward." Riker stated, opening the new bottle of alcohol.
"That’s yellow bellied coward, Captain Will."
"She’d insist on going with us Tom."
"I know." Thomas agreed his voice was low.
"So we’ll leave tomorrow night?"
"Yeah." Thomas agreed. "Why did you marry Deanna?" He repeated his earlier question, not willing to let this one die.
"To be honest. I simply got tired of chasing vapors…. I always pursued the greater cause, giving it one hundred and ten percent of myself, willing to sacrifice everything for it… Which I believed at that time was Starfleet and unifying the universe as a whole. I finally removed my head from my ass and came to the realization that within my own self my universe as a whole was Deanna Troi."
Thomas looked at Will and knew immediately what he was talking about. Riker’s always had to have a cause, a greater purpose…Will had his career in Starfleet, and Thomas’ was now the maquis. Thomas knew with an absolute that he was William T. Riker who had been shifted off in his career and his life by eight years. He could have pursued the ships counselor and stayed on the Enterprise, but he chose not to…He chose to chase after his career…just as his duplicate had all those years ago. He thanked the Gods for Jeannie, but his one true love, his Imzadi…He pushed away.
"That’s deep." Thomas said, he took a drink from the bottle; wanting to drown the sting of his brother’s words.
"I’d better get back." Will said as he began to rise to his feet. "Damn it!" he sounded angry as he straightened his posture.
"I doubt if you’re angry because you have to leave me." Thomas teased as he stood to his feet. "Whoa…I know what you mean." He agreed, standing at his full posture of six foot four. "I’m sober."
"This stuff is worthless." Riker stated throwing the bottle of replicated alcohol into the nearby river.
'HARD BALL' CHAPTER 3
"You’re back early." Deanna stated in a sleepy groggy slow voice, as her husband sat on the edge of the bed untying his shoes.
"Yeah." Riker smiled.
"And you’re not drunk?" Her voice appeared more alert.
"We tried, believe me…" he grunted as he took off his shoes. He concentrated on how to tell his wife that he and his brother were about to go on a mission that would land them smack-dab into the center of a wormhole. An unstable one at that, many Starfleet personal referred to as "Bouncing on Satan’s knee" only to be landing, if they survived the wormhole… on the other side on a basic unexplored planet best described as "Satan’s backyard." Their chances of returning would be very slim if any. Let alone returning safely with some run away brother of Jeannie’s. Jeannie who just happened to be his ex-lover and was now serving a life sentence as Tom’s wife.
"When do we leave?" Deanna asked bluntly, sensing her husband’s thoughts.
Her question made him close his eyes slowly, and when he reopened them he spoke, "Thomas and I are leaving tomorrow night."
"Just you and Thomas?"
He slowly found the courage and looked at his wife. "You can’t go Deanna" he whispered as he reached for her hand, "It’s too dangerous."
"We don’t even know if where we’re going is stable."
"And what isn’t dangerous or stable that you and Thomas ever do?" she laughed as she removed her hand from his. "It’s either you asking him for assistance or vice-versa…. And everytime it involves some sorts of danger or risk. The heaven’s know when the two of you get together, you don’t think properly…so." She added; hopping out of the bed, "I’m going." Stating as an absolute.
Riker drew a deep breath of frustration and stood to his feet. "I don’t want to have an argument with you over this Deanna. I really don’t…but you have to understand, I’m only looking out for your safety." Deanna sensed by his tone of voice that he was tired.
She stood on her tiptoes and cradled his face in her hands and gently kissed his mouth. "So don’t argue with me."
"Deanna!" his voice was tinged with anger as he withdrew her hands from his face.
"Do you honestly believe that I would just sit here and allow you to go off into space, on a mission to only the Gods know where?"
He glared at her, saying nothing.
"If the situation were turned around would you allow me to go, without a fight?"
He still didn’t answer her.
"And would you be satisfied to just sit here… and have tea with my mother every morning?" Her voice was rising as the anger inside of her began to build.
"Imzadi." she stated as she looked directly into his eyes. "It took years for us to finally get together. Let’s not do this, please. You leaving me again, going off into space, me not knowing if I will ever see you again or you me. If you’re going to do this thing, let’s do it together." He was certain now that he had just lost the argument. All the reasons why she shouldn’t go flew out the window. "I would rather die beside you in space, than spend one day without you on earth." Her words began to soften his heart, he was crazy about her. Anything she wanted him to do, he would do for her at this moment.
"I’ll admit I’m a bit over protective but not an ogre." He chuckled softly. "I wouldn’t want anyone to have to sit and have tea with your mother." Taking his finger and lifting up her chin he bent down and gently kissed her lips. "Since I’ve just lost this argument, Counselor." He stated softly. "Would it be all right with you if we got a couple of hours of sleep before the three of us approach this subject again."
"The four of us." She corrected him, standing on her tip toes to kiss his nose.
"Going?" she finished his question. "Yes, she is." She was already headed towards the bathroom.
"How come that doesn’t surprise me?" he asked no one in particular as he climbed into their bed.
"I hate Toskarian beetle piss," he grumbled to his pillow as he fluffed it.
"I’m going Thomas!" her words were an unexpected explosion. She jumped out of bed and angrily grabbed her robe throwing it across her body.
"Like hell you are!" His blue eyes determined.
"I cannot believe you! He’s my brother and I’ll be damned if I stand by and do nothing."
"Do you have any idea of where we are going? You know what people call that territory?" he practically yelled his question.
"I don’t care what they call it…He’s my brother and I’m going!"
"Why do you have to be such a…"
"Why do I have to be such a bitch? Is that what you were going to say?"
"I’m sorry." He apologized shamefully. He had never cursed his wife and he was ashamed of himself for attempting it now. He had known a lot of ‘bitches’ in his life and Jeannie Riker definitely wasn’t one of them.
Ignoring his apology she continued to rave in anger. "I mean it Thomas Riker if I don’t go with you…then I swear by my father’s grave, I’ll go by myself!" His face turned to stone as he heard her words.
"You hated your father." He smirked, it was all he could think of to say.
It was the wrong thing to say, and Jeannie attacked his words like a mad hornet. "You’re a vicious cold hearted ass hole." her voice ice cold.
"I can’t believe your mouth."
"You believed my mouth when it spoke and debated for years to get you out of that prison you were in…you believed my mouth when I said I would marry you…You believed my mouth when I said, till death do us part. Well, believe my mouth now when I say, I’ll go! With or without you, Thomas Riker I will go!"
Thomas Riker didn’t have a prayer in winning this fight.
"I hate Toskarian beetle piss!" Thomas grabbed the pillow off of the bed and hurled it across the room.
She stood and looked at him confused, her head slightly tilted. "I don’t know what that means… But, I’m sure you know what this means?" She proclaimed angrily. Picking up the pillow off of the floor, Jeannie whirled around and stomped towards the living room and slammed the poor pillow on the couch. "You can sleep in here." She ordered.
Thomas tried one more time to reason with his stubborn wife. He wanted to explain how dangerous the mission would be. "Jeannie be reasonable. We’ll be going through a wormhole, an unstable one at that. And if we make it through, we will land on a planet called Satan’s backyard."
"Thomas." it sounded more like a request, than calling for his attention. He stood with his head slightly inclined waiting for her next words; then he flinched when her voice exploded in anger "I married Satan!"
Chapter 4 "Hard Ball"
"Jeannie? Jeannie." Thomas Riker knelt down beside the bed, nudging his sleeping wife gently on the shoulder.
She opened her eyes and then when she saw his face she frowned, "What?"
"Do you regret doing those things for me?" He asked unsure. He was referring to the days, the weeks and the months that she continually debated, and protested, and fought non-stop….Her body at times almost collapsing from exhaustion and then… finally getting him released from that barbaric prison.
She looked at him for a moment before answering; knowing exactly what he was talking about. His eyes were imploring, seeking an answer, and desperately wanting a peace that only she could give. She suddenly felt and overwhelming sense of compassion for him and it touched her heart profoundly. Thomas Riker was brave and strong, perhaps the bravest man she had ever known… not afraid of man nor beast. And yet at times like this he seemed so insecure and unsure of himself. He had a boyish charm, along with a tender heart that was so pure and giving. That is why she fought so ferociously to get his release. And she would do it again, and again and again. She loved Thomas Riker with all of her heart, body, and soul.
"No Thomas, I’ll never regret that." Her voice was soft and low spoken.
"All right, then please don’t make me regret these words, ‘I want you to go with me.’" He reached out and cupped her face with his hand, "Because, if anything were to ever happen to you…I’d…." Thomas Riker’s words trailed off, as he swallowed the huge lump that was now beginning to form in his throat.
He didn’t have to finish his sentence; his wife raised up suddenly and wrapped both of her arms around his neck, smothering his words with her mouth, guiding him into the bed with her.
That morning the four friends had agreed to meet in the café for breakfast and to discuss strategies.
Will and Thomas exchanged looks. Both knowing that the other one had lost their battle in insisting that their wives stay behind.
"I lost the argument… Because of the Toskarian Beetle piss." Will whispered to his brother as they followed the women to their table. Thinking he could blame it on the whiskey, yeah that sounded good. Blame it on the whiskey.
"Likewise, if it had been real whiskey." Thomas whispered back, "My wife would be phaser dust right now."
Riker flashed him a lopsided grin as they continued to follow behind their wives.
"We’ll all meet at seven hundred hours in the morning…" Will Riker instructed, "Then we can get the ship that will take us out.
"Steal the ship you mean." Jeannie added. All heads turned towards the fiery strawberry blonde with the green sparkling eyes. She was speaking the truth, and none of them really wanted to hear it out loud.
"We’ll…"Borrow"…the ship that will take us out." Riker corrected himself and her. "This is how Deanna and I will get it."
All four huddled closer in together and discussed their plan.
The next morning, Will and Deanna were standing in the cargo bay. Thomas and Jeannie were leaning against a far wall, facing one another…. And they both waited, pretending to be a couple conversing in private conversations.
Quickly glancing over at Thomas, Riker nodded giving his brother a silent cue. "Deanna, you ready?" Will asked in a low whisper against her ear, as he held her against his body. Both he and Deanna stood in the middle of the floor near the guard.
"Yes, I think so… but I am a bit nervous. Acting is your calling not mine." She whispered in return.
"You’ll do fine…" he held her closer to his body. He knew she needed the encouragement to help her relax. "Ready?"
"Yes." She whispered against his lips, pretending to be kissing him. As if on cue, he instructed her. "Now." She heard his whispered order.
She pushed his body violently away from hers and yelled, "I despise your arrogance!" Deanna was ad-libbing the whole scene, and Riker thought she was actually rather convincing.
"I admire aristocratic pride, especially in a beautiful woman." Will smiled, finding her little act amusing.
"Pride!" she yelled. "You treat women as if they were born to serve only for your pleasure."
"I’ll show you pleasure." He suddenly grabbed her and began to force kisses upon her face.
Deanna struggled to push him away, "STOP!" she cried, making sure she yelled loud enough to get the guards attention.
"You’re enjoying this." He yelled, hoping that he and Deanna could lure the guard to them.
"STOP IT!" she screamed louder, struggling against him.
The security guard recognized the squabble and looked toward the couple…. She screamed even louder, "HELP ME!"
Riker paid no heed to her cries, as he continued force kisses upon her.
"Hey!" The security guard called out, they had really gotten his attention. "What is going on here?"
"Help me, Please!" Deanna cried.
The guard was tall and lanky and using his long legs as an advantage quickly made his way to the two quarreling lovers. "Please, sir. Let the lady go." He said, it was more of a suggestion than an order.
Troi and Riker both knew he would rather solve the problem peacefully instead of using force.
"As you were Lieutenant." Riker ordered with a sneer. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Thomas and Jeannie run towards the shuttlecraft and quickly slip inside.
"I’ll ask you again, let the lady go. Sir." The long lanky guard requested a bit more firm this time.
He now stood at full attention, in a threatening manner directly in front of the young officer, using his size to block the guards view from Thomas and Jeannie. "That’s an order!" He barked.
"No please!" Deanna cried. "You’re hurting me!" she struggled trying to free her wrist from Will’s bogus grip.
"Release the woman." The lanky lieutenant repeated a little more forcefully this time. He was not to be intimidated by this huge officer…whoever in the hell he was. His hand slowly reached for his weapon.
"I admire your dedication to Starfleet son, but…" Riker drew back, using all of his weight he landed a Herculean punch, making direct contact with the young officer’s jaw. The security guard staggered backwards from the powerful blow and both Deanna and Will watched as he fell to his knees, his eyes rolled slowly into the back of his head and he fell face down on the hard space dock floor.
"Oh my gods, Will…" Deanna gasped as she ran towards the unconscious guard, and crouched down beside him. "Did you kill him?"
"I hope not." He stated fanning his knuckles. Perhaps he did hit him too hard, the throbbing pain in his knuckles had to be an indication that he had.
"He’s not dead." Deanna sighed a sigh of relief, placing her fingers against the pulse point on his neck. "Why did you hit him so hard? Sometimes, you’re….. Just you’re just a bully." she sounded irritated.
"A bully? Damn it, Deanna…. What did you want me to do?"
"You didn’t have to hit him so hard!" Deanna snapped, looking up at him.
"The next time I’ll let you hit him all right?" Will stated sarcastically.
"Riker! Come one!" Thomas yelled from the cockpit of the ship.
Will snapped his head towards his duplicate and then reached down and grabbed Deanna’s hand, lifting her to her feet. "We’ll argue later okay…. Let’s get out of here before every man in the fleet is after us."
They ran towards the ship and quickly got inside. "Strap down." Riker instructed, as he strapped himself in.
"Course laid in. Eight-one-nine-mark-zero-five-two." Thomas reported.
"Full impulse. Engage." Riker ordered.
Pushing the controls as fast as his fingers would allow him, Thomas soon had the shuttle out of the space dock.
"Warp capability ready, Captain Will." Thomas reported.
"Good. Let’s get the hell out of here."
"Aye Sir…" Thomas said with a smug grin, his index finger touched the smooth glass covered console, and the shuttle immediately warped into space.
Chapter 5 "Hard Ball"
After they had traveled a safe distance away from Betazed, they decided to slow down their pace to save fuel.
"Warp disengaged, impulse engines only." Thomas reported.
"Are you okay, Deanna?" Riker asked, twisting his body to view the two female passengers in the back of the small shuttlecraft. He knew Deanna well enough, to know when something was wrong with her, and she was definitely uneasy about something.
"I’ll be fine." She stated exhaling, and then added, "When I get rid of the millions of butterflies that are swimming inside my stomach." Her eyes lit up with an anxious little girl glow, "But, it is rather exciting. I don’t believe I’ve ever stolen anything before?"
Thomas swiveled his chair around and gave Deanna a lopsided grin, "Stick with me kid. I’ll have you stealing ships like a pro in no time. I remember this one time on Deep Space Nine…."
"Tomm-mmaas." Jeannie interrupted him with her rebuke. Thomas’ mouth immediately shut, his shoulders fell, and he swiveled back around towards the view screen.
Riker couldn’t control his grin.
Thomas noticed the grin and flashed his brohter an obscene gesture with his hand. Instead of returning the gesture, just as he had always done, Riker’s smile simply grew larger.
"You hit that lieutenant rather hard Will." Deanna said concerned. "I hope he’s all right."
"Yeah, Deanna and I hope he has a speedy recovery, and remembers everything…. And just to show him it wasn’t personal. I guess, I should have left him a box of candy, or a written apology signed lovingly with our names, rank and serial numbers so that he could turn us all into Starfleet."
She hated it when he spoke to her in that tone of voice. It was saucy and it made her want to just…just throw something at him. But instead of throwing, she gave him a slight incline of her head and calmly said, "You called me aristocratic."
"You called Deanna an aristocrat?" Thomas stated in wonderment. "That was dumb." He chuckled.
Riker shot him a look. "It was ad lib." His voice had a defending tone.
"It was dumb." Thomas returned using the same defending tone.
"Tom?" The strawberry blonde-haired woman’s voice was heard again, and Thomas was sure he was going to be chastised. "We’re being hailed." She warned as her eyes concentrated on the console in front of her.
Thomas quickly turned around and read the instruments in front of him. "Scanners are picking up a vessel on the port side." She informed the crew.
"Who is it?" Riker asked in alarm.
"I’m not sure." Jeannie answered.
After exchanging glances, and coming to a silent agreement. Both men ordered in unison, "On screen."
A handsome, tall dark eyed Captain’s bust appeared on the view screen, he possessed a rugged charm, and spoke in a deep commanding voice. "This is Commander Gregory Madden of the CHALLENGER."
"This is Thomas Riker." Thomas introduced himself flatly.
The face on the screen scowled, it was apparent the two were about to lock horns.
"Gregory?" Jeannie’s voice interrupted as she came up towards the screen.
"Jeannie? Jeannie Brighton?" Madden’s face suddenly transformed into one of a pleasant surprise. He straightened his shoulders, and stood at full command mode and commanded his crew. "Transfer transmission to my ready room."
"We’re on a private line, Jeannie." He said as he looked at the monitor on his desk. "Are you all right?"
"I’m fine, no one here is going to hurt me, Greg. You can stand at ease." She answered with a chuckle and a slight blush.
She saw his shoulders fall slightly, "It’s been along time. How are you?" She greeted politely, giving him a warm smile.
"I’m no worse for wear. What brings you way out here?"
"We’re scouting for signs of my brother."
Both Riker’s shot each other a look, what in the hell was she doing?
"Oh yes, I heard of his disappearance." He stated, and then with a sly smile he added, "And of the theft of a Starfleet shuttlecraft."
"Really." She attempted to sound shocked. "What kind of idiots would try a stunt like that?" She teased. Both men relaxed apparently she could trust this man, Thomas didn’t like the way he was smiling at her with his all too handsome face. He had used that smile on too many women and he knew a flirtatious gesture when he saw one.
"Sounds like maquis to me." He returned the tease. "We haven’t seen a thing." He lied, he was going to cover for her. "Have you found anything yet." The commander asked, referring to Jeannie’s brother.
"No…. Not yet." She stated sadly. "I think we’re going to stay out here for a bit longer and re-evaluate the area…it would just make me feel better."
" I understand." He quickly interrupted, not wanting to cause her anymore pain than what she had already been through. "Well, I must say…you’re as beautiful as you ever were." he flashed a brilliant smile, "We need to get together…. For dinner, perhaps?"
Thomas shot the Commanding officer of the CHALLENGER a look, and then his attention moved towards his brother, and whispered. "Do we have photon torpedoes?" His face twisted with jealousy.
Will rolled his eyes.
"Perhaps." she stated, blushing just a bit more.
"You’re all right then?" Thomas could tell that the Commander’s concern for his wife was genuine, and he didn’t like it.
"She’s fine." Thomas quickly snapped as he answered for her.
The Commander of the Challenger had been around enough to recognize a dangerous man when he saw one, and this blue eyed hulk of a man on his computer view screen was just that, he wouldn’t want to fight him. Although he was prepared to, if it meant saving Jeannie Brighton.
Jeannie shot Thomas a scolding look. Her face transformed into that of an angel as she spoke, "I promise you Greg, everything is fine." She smiled, and then she added as an absolute, "And I would love to join you for dinner."
"What the hell is she doing?" Now it was Will’s turn to whisper towards Thomas.
"Torpedoes ready? I’m going to blow this suave bastard out of the sky." Thomas whispered angrily.
"Excellent!" The handsome Commander’s smile couldn’t be disguised. "But, I insist you sleep in my quarters." He teased, apparently it was an inside joke that none of the other crew knew about.
"Oh most definitely…. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else." She laughed. "Although you and I never seemed to get any sleep."
"Give me your phaser Will." Thomas whispered, "I’m going to kill her."
Will rolled his eyes again at his duplicate.
"Then it’s a date." The Commander of the Challenger stated as an absolute. "Take care and don’t stay out here too long." The handsome dashing maquis commander gave her another brilliant smile. "I speak of my favorite cousin often, and I want to continue to speak of her in present tense."
"It was good seeing you again, Greg. I love you and thank you." She replied.
"And I you." He nodded and then the screen went black. "But, get the hell out of federation space, they’ve got scout ships all over this vicinity"
"We’ll do that."
"Madden out." And then the screen went black.
All four watched as the huge starship began to turn and head back towards federation space. It hit warp speed and in less than an instant was gone.
"It’s not registering on long range sensors…" Deanna reported. "Looks like it’s gone."
"Please hand me your phaser, William…." Jeannie asked pleasantly, "I’m going to kill your jealous brother." she was tired of his jealousy. He constantly scared all of her men friends away.
Will took the phaser from his belt and offered it to Jeannie. "I’ve set it on maximum." Her emerald green eyes widened at the sight of the phaser. William was just as impossible as his duplicate. She looked at Will, who sat there with the phaser in the palm of his hand, his eyes eager for her to take the weapon, and his face displayed a lopsided grin.
"There may be two of you. But, you operate on one brain cell!" She huffed, as she whirled around and headed towards the back of the ship.
"What did I do?" Will yelled the question at her. "Damn." He cursed in a low voice as he snapped the phaser back onto his belt.
Thomas warped out of Federation space and towards the neutral zone…Deep into the bowels of space.
Sixteen days later, the two men were in the back playing poker. "What have you got?" Riker asked.
"Eighteen aces and the seven of spades." Thomas quipped, "Make your bet and then I’ll show you my cards."
"I’ll take your bet and raise you ten."
"Oh my gods…." They all heard Deanna exclaim in a low dread filled voice.
"What?" Riker’s head snapped towards her, his voice full of alarm.
"There…it’s out there." She stated wide eyed.
"On screen." Thomas Riker ordered, as Will scrambled to his seat at navigation.
All four watched in amazement at the sight that was now before them. It was a huge horizontal tornado. The opening was gigantic and you could see inside the tunnel as it whirled and gyrated around, slowly spinning non-stop. It was truly the most beautiful and magnificent thing that any of them had ever seen in all of their travels in space. The effect it had on them as it slowly spun around was almost hypnotizing silently inviting them to enter.
"What is that?" The tall strawberry blonde whispered in wonderment. Standing directly behind her husband, she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder; he flinched at her touch bringing him out of his own stare upon the magnificent space anomaly.
"That is, ‘Satan’s knee’. He answered, placing a reassuring hand upon hers.
"We aren’t suppose to arrive here for another four hours." She whispered, gripping his hand tighter.
"That thing is full of evil, Will." Deanna warned quietly, her dark eyes growing wide. She had a firm grip on Will’s shoulders. "It’s destructively evil."
"No worse evil than what sensors are picking up."
Looking down at the console Thomas cursed under his breath. "It’s Cardassian."
"And they’ve got three battleships. No one brings in three battleships for a friendly chat." Riker observed.
"I don’t know about you guys. But, I’ve seen enough Cardassian’s in my life." Thomas remarked and then he ordered. "Raise Shields! Man your battle stations." The two women quickly took their seats, and strapped themselves in.
"They are readying their weapons, Tom." Jeannie reported as she watched her terminal.
"They’ve locked onto our signal!" She reported more urgently.
"We don’t stand a chance if we stay here and fight them." Thomas thought out loud.
Riker looked over at his brother; he’d never known a Riker to back away from a fight. Both being excellent poker players Thomas and Will knew when it was time to fold. Riker had to agree that this was definitely a time to fold.
There was a silent agreement between the two bothers as their federal blue eyes locked on to one another for only an instant.
"Hang on, Ladies!" Riker ordered as he strapped himself in. "We’re about to ride on Satan’s knee."
Both women quickly glanced at one another at the sound of his words. Neither one knowing if they would ever see the other one alive again.
The small ship immediately darted off into the center of the wormhole. After three minutes inside the swirling tunnel type cylinder it was Riker who broke the silence. "Long range scanners aren’t picking up anything." He reported.
"Cardassians are just mean bastards. They’re not stupid." Thomas retorted as he focused on the readings in front of him. "They won’t follow us in here."
The ship began to buck, slowly at first and then at a more rapid violent speed. "Help me hold it steady, Thomas!" Riker ordered.
After several seconds of the ship bucking, it became calm and navigation returned to normal.
"Warp through this thing." Thomas ordered.
But before Riker could carry out the command, the ship instantly whip- lashed back, and then just as violently lashed forward. Tearing Jeannie out of her seat and throwing her against a nearby wall. Her head landed with a thud against the ship. Crawling she grabbed onto any thing that she could use as a rail to assist her back to her command post.
"Manual control." Yelled Riker, knowing he could no longer steer the ship automatically.
It rocked violently forward throwing Deanna with such force she slammed the side of her face into the back of Riker’s chair. "We’re loosing it!" Riker yelled as his grip tightened around the manual steering control stick, "I can’t hold…" he grunted as he fought the onslaught of abuse that was now hurled upon the small craft.
An unseen force at an untold speed rocketed the small ship forward then walloped it with a mighty blow sending it just as fast backward. They felt a series of violent jolts and jerks as the ship began to spin wildly out of control.
Thomas was thrown forward and Riker heard the thud of Thomas’ head as it smacked into the console.
Another spine chilling slam hit the right side of the small ship.
Jeannie was violently ripped out of her chair, but Riker who was desperately trying to control the vessel hadn’t noticed how his brother’s wife frame plunged forward and laid unmoving under his feet.
And yet another violent jab, as the small vessel began to spin around and around at speeds Riker thought was virtually impossible. Resisting his urge to vomit, he swallowed hard, and held tight to the manual stick attempting to keep the vessel inside and in the center of the huge tunnel. Knowing that if they would hit the sides of the tunnel the small craft would be torn to shreds.
Thomas crawled on his hands and knees and grabbed onto the control stick and with their combined strength, both Riker’s found it hard to control the small vessel against the raging, thrashing wind storms of the tunnel.
A loud explosion in the back of the ship, followed by a dark cloud of smoke. The black smoke began to filter through the air. "Jeannie put out that fire!" Riker commanded in true Starfleet fashion as he and his brother fought the silent forces of the tunnel.
"She’s been knocked out!" Deanna yelled, "But she’s alive." as she half ran half-crawled towards the ship fire extinguisher. There was an instant cloud of white that mingled with the black smoke, fogging the small vessel.
*** BOOM! ***
There was yet another loud explosion and Deanna’s small frame was thrown like a rag doll across the ship.
"Deanna!" Riker yelled. As he saw his wife’s unmoving body on the deck of the ship. There was no response, not even a moan. His head began to throb, torn between wanting desperately to run to Deanna, and wanting to stay at his post manually steering the ship.
"Deanna!" There was still no response, their only hope for survival was to stay at his post.
"All right you son of a bitch." Riker’s eyes flashed with newborn anger. "We’re tired of playing by your rules." With a vengeance, he pulled to the left, all of his strength focused on the control stick. The ship began to immediately tumble to the left towards the center of the vortex.
"Pull Thomas!" Riker grunted.
Thomas’ grip was so tight on the throttle that his knuckles began to turn white. Huge beads of sweat profusely ran down his face, as the muscles in his arms began to constrict, revealing huge biceps from the amount of strain he was forcing upon them.
The small spacecraft began to shuffle and buck, but both men were determined to hold it steady. They had to…for all of their lives.
Then just as soon as it began it stopped.
There was a sudden calm, they had made it through…now all they had to do was land on the planet.
"I’ll see to the girls." Thomas said with urgency as he rose from his chair.
"Oh…shhhhitt!" Riker exclaimed, his blue eyes widened at the sight before him.
Thomas spun around and looked through the huge glass shield and immediately sat back down. "Tie those women down…brace for impact!" He ordered. It was the planet and they were landing…
Will didn’t question his brother’s order, he immediately obeyed as he pulled the unconscience body of the Starfleet counselor and the marquis lieutenant towards him. He held them in a firm embrace, using his body as a shield. Not knowing if they were dead or alive, his brain in a whirl. All he knew to do was protect, holding firmly onto their bodies, he braced for impact.
"In Ten seconds!" Thomas yelled.
"Oh…Shhhhiittttt!" Was the last thing Will heard his brother say before all hell broke loose.
Thomas felt the sudden impact of the landing and the ship skidded as if on ice, along the planet’s surface at a phenomenal speed, mowing down anything no matter how big or small in its path. It felt as if he were riding the waves on a mighty ocean in a small ship.
Then it began to tumble and he felt as if he were in a barrel.
The shuttlecraft came to a sudden stop as it tumbled one last time.
Dazed and confused from the crash it took Thomas several seconds to gather his thoughts and his equilibrium.
Releasing the chest harness that held him securely in his seat…. He flung it to the side. "Will!" He called out. His whole body ached, and his head was bleeding. He braced the arm rest of his seat and attempted to stand when a sudden loud explosion jolted the spacecraft once again, throwing him to the floor.
"Will?" Thomas winced his brothers name. He couldn’t control his coughing as he crawled through the thick black smoke, making his way to the hatch
"Yeah." Riker grunted his reply.
Thomas threw open the hatch and black smoke began to pour out of the small spacecraft.
Thomas was the first one out; he stood by the hatch and grabbed Jeannie as Riker lifted her limp form through the dented doorway. He ran with his wife in his arms, to a safe distance and placed her gently on the ground, relieved to find that she was still breathing. Riker lifted Deanna next, and Thomas placed her beside Jeannie. He ran back towards the ship, knowing he had to retrieve the medical kit.
Riker moving as fast as he could began throwing packs and supplies out of the ships doorway.
"Get the hell out of there!" Thomas yelled, as he ran back towards the now burning shuttlecraft. "It’s going to blow!"
Riker jumped out from the doorway, darting off as fast as he could towards the girls.
Both men ran at full speed towards the two women. The massive explosion from the ship sent their large bodies plummeting through the air, finally landing on the ground with a hard thud.
Thomas rolled over with a loud moan, his face distorted from the pain that shot up his spine and through his entire body, slowly he focused his eyes.
Will opened his eyes and crawled on his hands and knees towards his brother. "You all right?" he winced in pain.
"Are you dead?" Thomas forced the words out, through his pain.
"Yeah, I think so…." Riker breathed, his whole body hurt like hell.
Thomas’ eyes immediately opened wide as if he was suddenly frightened, "Jeannie!" he said. Scrambling to his feet, he hurried towards his wife.
But Riker was one step ahead of him as he darted off towards Deanna.
He quickly began to run a tri-corder over Deanna, scanning her body for injuries. Riker passed the medical instrument to Thomas…And Thomas ran the small device alongside his wife, praying that there were no serious injuries.
"She’s all right." Thomas breathed the words of relief. "She’s got a broken leg and a couple of laceration’s." He stated. "Hand me the knitter."
"Deanna’s going to be all right… she’s got a nasty bump on the back of her head, and a few electrical burns on her arms." He reported, as he reached in the medical kit for the hypo-spray. "Are you okay?" he asked. He injected the pain medication into the side of her neck, knowing that it would dull the pain considerably when she woke up. Reaching inside of the medical bag he removed a skin regenerator, making sure the settings were appropriate for his task of healing the burns.
"I’ve been through worse." Thomas said as he slowly ran the medical bone knitter over his wife’s injured leg. "You did good up there."
Riker looked up at his brother and smiled, "So did you." He acknowledged.
"It’s kind of weird isn’t it?"
Thomas stopped what he was doing for a second, and looked at his duplicate. "That you and I, in all honest really like one another."
"Yeah it is."
"I don’t think we should tell our wives, do you?" There was a mischievous grin that spread across his face as he spoke the words.
"Are you kidding?" He looked over at Thomas and gave him a lopsided grin. "They’d never let us live it down. Plus, " he shrugged, "I don’t like you that much."
"I don’t like you that much either."
"You’re an idiot, Thomas."
"You’re an arrogant bastard, William."
"Will, don’t talk to your brother like that." The soft voice of Deanna was heard.
"Hey." Will whispered as crouched beside his wife, noticing her eyelids fluttering attempting to wake up. He tenderly helped her sit up, bracing a strong arm behind her back. "How you feel?"
"I’m not sure?" She answered groggily, she couldn’t sense Will or Thomas. She couldn’t sense anything. Everything was void to her. "I can’t sense anything."
"It’s probably just this planets surface, your abilities will come back." He smiled down at her, reassuring her.
"Probably so." She reached out and placed her hand on top of his. "Are you all right?"
"Oh yeah." He smiled warmly, "takes more than a wild ride in a worm hole to get this Riker down."
She winced slightly touching the back of her head with her fingertips.
"That’s going to be sore for awhile. You had a nasty bump on your head."
"Jeannie, and Tom? Are they all right?" Her eyes suddenly grew wide with concern.
"Yeah…. We’re still alive." Thomas answered softly.
"Where in the hell are we?" Thomas asked, as he surveyed the surroundings of the planet…. It was a deserted wasteland, the air was arid, and the ground was dry and cracked. The perfect environment for a dust storm he thought. Although to the far left was a lush green forest, full of greenery and exotic flowers, none of it made sense, the planet in its self had two climates.
He looked back at the now burning shuttlecraft and wondered how in the hell they were going to get out of here. At least if he did have to spend the rest of his life here, Jeannie was with him.
"In the middle of damn nowhere." Will answered as he folded the tri-corder and snapped it onto his belt. "The tri-corder isn’t picking up anything, no life signs…nothing. The damn thing is useless here. I think the atmosphere around us is affecting it."
"Nothing works here anymore." Thomas attempted to read the small instruments in his hand and tossed them back in his back pack. "Our radar’s even zapped of enery."
"Thomas, I do still have a human side you know. Relying only on instinct I would have to conclude that, that was directed towards me."
"You’re instinct is remarkable, Miss Radar…." He teased.
"That’s Mrs. Radar." Will corrected him, as he scanned the area with is eyes.
Thomas fired his laser and it fizzled out with only a clicking sound. "Now I can’t even protect Will from all of the women who are constantly after constantly in pursuit of him." He looked over towards Jeannie and winked. "I may need your help wife."
Jeannie rolled her eyes. "Oh good grief, Thomas."
Riker tossed a back pack towards his chest, "Shut up and walk Thomas." Riker took off walking towards the forest area.
Thomas caught the backpack and tossed it over his shoulders. "I guess we go that way."
Jeannie took a step forward and wobbled slightly. Thomas grabbed onto her arm to help steady her.
"Hey." His gentle soft voice was mixed with concern and alarm.
"I’m just a little sore that’s all…I’m all right." Jeannie gave him a warm smile. The planets sun had made her strawberry blonde hair glisten with red-golden highlights. Her green eyes looked tired.
"Really, I’m fine." She answered, but the look on his face revealed that he wasn’t really convinced.
"Hang onto my belt loop, and stay close." He guided her hand towards the back loop of his pants.
The four trudged through the desert, the winds of the desert stinging their skin. They were able to see the outer edge of the forest. The trees and the lush greenery looked to be about two thousand feet away. It seemed as though the sun had purposely chose the four and intensified its rays upon them showing no mercy.
It was Deanna who broke the silence. "Let’s sing." She said in a cheery voice.
They came to a sudden halt and all six eyes gawked at her.
"You got hit on the head pretty hard eh…Deanna?"
"No Thomas. I’m fine." She looked at him sharply. "I just thought it would make the hiking more enjoyable. I can’t sense what you are feeling, and it is my job as counselor to raise moral."
"Raise moral?" He stared at her as if she had lost her mind. "You want to make walking thought a place called Satan’s Backyard more enjoyable? Then how about giving us to have a landrover…Or a phaser that works, or…"
"Thomas!" Riker interrupted. "Take a look."
Thomas glanced over the horizon at the stirring of dust, his brain immediately sensed danger. It was a caravan of men, some walking, and some on horseback.
"What do you make of it?" Will asked with a nod of his head towards the fast approaching dust cloud.
"Scavengers." Thomas answered without emotion. Thomas had heard stories in prison of the inhabitants of this planet. He seriously doubted if anyone had ever made it through the wormhole alive, so he didn’t take the tales serious. From what he could remember… they were heartless, cold-blooded cut throats, that were exiled from their own home worlds as punishment. He had heard that they would purposely find women and use them for their own lustful pleasures, only to trade them off to other scavenger’s who would most likely do the same. One man who claimed to be a survivor of the planet, told him that life in a prison camp was better than life on the planet known as ‘Satan’s Backyard.’
"Scavengers?" Jeannie questioned in a low horrified voice.
"Rapist." Thomas clarified flatly without looking at her. He stared at the approaching dust cloud, watching how the images of the men became larger. Totally unaware of who he was speaking to, he concentrated on a plan. What in the hell were they going to do without weapons? He had to think fast.
Riker immediately grabbed Deanna’s arm and placed her slightly behind him to protect her. He straightened his shoulders and stood to his full height.
"When I say run. You run as fast as you can towards those trees, Jeannie." Thomas instructed her, his eyes never leaving the fast approaching dust cloud.
"No way in hell am I…" Jeannie began to protest, but Thomas cut her off.
"Don’t argue with me." Thomas quickly snapped. "When I say run." He hissed though clenched teeth, squeezing her arm painfully to indicate that he meant to be obeyed. "You’d better goddamn run!"
Riker crouched down, "Looks like its going to be hand to hand" Their lasers were useless. He figured he would kill one and then grab his weapon and use it to fight the others. "Deanna get ready to run." He instructed her. "We’ll hold them off as long as we can."
Deanna nodded. She didn’t want to leave either, but she knew that if they made it to the forest they could at least find some sort of club or weapon to help their husbands. Or maybe prayerfully their weapons would work in the forest.
"Run." Thomas ordered. "Run!"
Both women took off running as fast as they could towards the forest of trees. Jeannie who’s leg was still painful, hobbled slightly as she ran. Deanna grabbed Jeannie by the hand and was determined to make it to the trees. She heard the scream of a man, and it echoed behind her. She wanted desperately to look back to insure her own self that Will was all right. Yet, she knew she didn’t dare.
Fear gripped her body as she ran towards the forest, both women ran as if all of the demons of hell were chasing after them, and for all they knew, they were.
"Over there!" Deanna pointed towards an opening in the forest.
Both women ran into the thicket of the forest.
Huge hands came out from behind the trees and immediately grabbed Jeannie, a hairy forearm across her throat, and fingernails bitterly digging into her shoulders. She felt hot breath on her neck as her captors drug her roughly further into the forest of thick trees and bushes. Her struggling and kicking was to no avail against this giant of a man. She could see out of the corner of her eye, more men wrestling with Deanna.
"Thomas!" she screamed as loud and as shrill as she could. A big dirty callused hand immediately covered her mouth smothering her next scream.
After she had been abducted and drug well into the forest. Jeannie was suddenly swung around by the shoulders, she looked up and staring down at her was a huge set of blood-shot bulging bull dog eyeballs that glared with evil and lust. The scavenger snarled and snorted as if he were satisfied with what he had just captured, he smiled a yellow-rotten toothed grin as he threw her to the ground, straddling over her.
Raising herself up on her elbows, she began to crawl backwards, frantically searching around looking for a weapon, a stick, a rock…. Anything. She heard Deanna’s muffled scream in the distance, how had they gotten separated? Her mind flashed the horrific thought of Deanna being brutalized and raped just as she was going to be if she didn’t think fast. She knew immediately that they had been set up for an ambush. There was a small band of scavengers that were still in the desert fighting with the men, while the others captured the two women.
"We don’t have time for that!" Another scavenger’s gruff voice snapped, halting the man’s progress of raping her. "Let’s move!" He ordered. "You can have her all you want when we get the hell out of here."
The huge ugly rotten toothed scavenger let out a disgusting growl and glared at the man behind the voice, but he obeyed and backed off. Jeannie assumed the man giving the orders was the leader of the barbarian monsters. The leader then reached down and grabbed a handful of strawberry blonde hair and he stood her roughly to her feet. He held her close to him in an iron gripped embrace, "We’ll toy with you later." He snarled. He then forced her further into the depths of the forest.
Deanna was grabbed from behind and drug into the forest just as Jeannie was. She struggled against the huge scavenger with all her might, but her tiny body had no affect on her abductor. After they were well into the forest, the huge burly man that held her captive threw her to the ground. She quickly rose to her feet and began to run, not knowing which way to go…. She blindly ran in a panic. Her legs were being scratched by the brushes and the rough terrain. A hand grabbed her shoulder, she whirled around and immediately kicked her attacker in the groin area with her boot as hard as she could, and the scavenger doubled over and screamed in pain.
A shot was fired and her attacker fell over dead. Deanna whirled around, still blinded by terror. A ray of instant hope flashed through her body. Her hope was instantly dissolved as another huge body, with huge callused hands grabbed her from behind. "Will!" she screamed as loud as her lungs allowed her to.
"I told him I get you first…. The bloody bastard." The new abductor growled. To Deanna’s horror, the two scavengers had been fighting over her as two hungry dogs would fight over food. Deanna struggled, hitting him in the chest with her fist. "Let me go! Let me go!" she screamed.
"I love a lady with spirit." He grunted with a snarl of his lip. Using his leg he wrapped his leg around hers making her lose her balance and fall to the ground. He was uglier and bigger than her first captor. Deanna struggled against him, squirming constantly, clawing at his eyes with her fingernails. He grabbed her hands with one of his own and held them above her head, his weight on top of her body was crushing, confining her every movement. "Little wild one ain’t ya?" He growled lustfully. He found her struggles erotic and it fueled his sick passion. She tossed her head from side to side, frantically searching for something, anything she could use as a weapon. All she could see was the lush greenery of the forest.
Reaching down he clutched his massive dirty hands onto her uniform ripping it off, then using his knees he forced her legs apart and got into position. With one hand still pinning her arms down, he began with the other hand to loosen his pants pulling them down past his buttocks.
Her brain was frantic now. This was insane! This can’t be happening! Oh Imzadi help me! Her mind screamed, frantically trying to reach out to him. Her eyes wide with terror, she didn’t need to rely on her senses to see the hungry lust and black evil that was now filling in his eyes.
She knew that she couldn’t fight against him or his powerful, crushing weight that seemed to be confining every move she made, and that in a matter of seconds he was going to forcefully invade her body. She was terrified knowing that in the end she would have no choice but to submit.
Struggling for what she thought would be the last time, Deanna inhaled deeply. She prayed that someone would here her, and Deanna Troi screamed as loud as she could.
The sound of a gunshot was heard, and the scavenger instantly froze. Deanna watched as his blood-shot eyes rolled towards the back of his head, and he slowly fell forward, landing flatly on top of her. He felt the hardness of his erection hit against her leg. She screamed. The weapon had hit him in the back of his head. She screamed again in horror, as the blood from the fatal wound, splattered on her face and neck. She heard the man’s throat let out on last rattled breath as the air escaped from his lungs, his face nuzzled inside of her neck. The dead weight of the bloody two hundred and fifty-pound corpse lay on her like a heavy boulder. She felt the warmth of his blood as it oozed down her neck.
"Deanna!" She heard Will call out from a distance. "Deanna!"
She couldn’t scream, nor could she call out. The corpse’s weight was crushing her chest, and fear had gripped her vocal cords. She struggled against the dead weight of the corpse, attempting to push it off of her. She was too small and the corpse wouldn’t budge.
Will was running towards her now, not yet realizing her dilemma. "Holy Gods!." He said upon discovering the horrific position in which the naked Deanna and the half-naked dead body was entangled in. Will’s eyes were full of rage, as he grabbed the dead scavenger by an arm and a leg and flung it with all of his might, it landed with a hard thud several feet away from Deanna.
"Deanna?" He whispered gently, as he squatted down besides her. Her face and upper torso was covered with blood, and it looked as if someone had butchered her. He brushed his fingers across her face and was relieved to find out that the blood wasn’t hers. He gently helped her to sit up. Deanna latched onto his body wrapping her arms tightly around him.
Deanna looked at him wide eyed, not yet being able to find her voice; he let out a sigh of relief as he pulled her close in another embrace and she released heart wrenching sobs. "I’m here, Deanna…. It’s all right." He whispered lovingly. Riker began thanking the Gods that she was still alive and grateful for the release of her fear through the tears she was shedding. "You’re safe now. No one’s going to hurt you." Stroking her hair with his strong hands, he whispered comforting words, reassuring her that she was now indeed safe.
Despite her tears, Riker’s protective instincts kicked in. He had to get her to shelter, to a safer position. They were out in the open, and he had no idea of who or what was watching them. He gently picked her up, cradling her in his strong arms, and carried her to a nearby secluded area and sat down with his back against a tree. He sat with her cradled inside of his lap. The image of the half naked scavenger straddled on top of Deanna burnt into his mind. He didn’t want to, but he had to know. "Did he hurt you?" he asked in an exhaled breath speaking into her hair. Praying to the Gods that she hadn’t been raped, and a silent fury running through his veins if she had been.
"No." she whispered between sobs. And as they held onto each other, she gaining strength from him, and he thanking the Gods for her. All he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her, and love her. At that moment they were the only two people in the forest.
Thomas in the meantime was on the trail of the scavengers that held his wife. He was dashing through the woods like a determined mad man. His body pumping with adrenaline that was now vastly transforming into a savage rage, he closed in on his wife’s abductors. Swearing to himself that if they harmed her in anyway, he would make them pay dearly.
After Deanna’s breathing became more even, and her body stopped convulsing from the sobs. Will lifted her face with his finger under her chin, and gave her a warm smile. Her uniform had been ripped almost to shreds by the scavenger, and her lower half was exposed. "You need to get dressed. We wouldn’t want you to catch cold." He whispered against her forehead. She nodded and he removed a fresh set of clothing out of his backpack. They both stood on their feet, and he gently helped her dress. He reached out and embraced her again, pulling her body into his.
Her bottom lip was trembling, as she raised her head out of his chest and looked into his eyes. "Jeannie. Will, they’ve got Jeannie." Her eyes wide with horror as she spoke the words.
Will’s heart suddenly flipped as panic coursed through him. Knowing Thomas the way he did, he knew that his duplicate would follow them straight into hell to get his wife back, and then he wouldn’t stop until everyone of them had been destroyed. "Can you travel, Deanna?" He asked, knowing he had to help Thomas, yet not wanting to leave his wife. She seemed so small and helpless right now.
"Yes, I think so." Deanna stated, attempting to find her courage.
After reassuring him self that she was indeed all right, he asked gently. "You ready?"
She nodded. Hand in hand they headed off further into the woods, both praying that Jeannie and Thomas was still alive.
Thomas had been tracking them down for almost an hour….constantly taunting and teasing, by throwing rocks or producing distant sounds….he was making his eerie presence known. Never staying in one place too long and he had yet to be seen by them.
There were two scavengers, he observed…One was holding Jeannie and the other smaller one trailing alongside. "We’re been chased by Satan himself, he’s come straight from hell to play with us." The smaller man panted his eyes full of fear, as his head thrashed from side to side in panic. He was most definitely spooked by whatever or whoever had been trailing them. They had tried every evasive maneuver, and yet their tracker stayed one jump ahead of them, constantly teasing them.
"Shut up! Billy!" the leader barked. "You and your superstitions."
"It’s not superstition! My old man…He talked about the devil, how he would taunt you and tease you…and then finally kill ya in ways a man can’t even imagine."
"Shut the hell up, before I kill ya myself!" The leader warned. What had started out for the scavengers as a simply kidnapping was soon turning into a nightmare. "Keep moving." He ordered.
Thomas took the knife he had gotten from one of the dead bodies and with perfect marksmanship whizzed the knife through the air and speared the smaller scavenger in the chest. Jeannie heard the man’s agonizing scream and watched him fall. Her heart filled with hope, knowing that Thomas was close enough to throw a weapon.
Coming to a dead halt, the leader whirled around and yelled out into the forest, "I’ll kill her!" He held his knife close to Jeannie’s rib cage. She noticed how his voice was tinged with a nervous fear for the first time since she had been captured.
"You kill her. I kill you." Thomas echoed his warning to the scavenger leader. The man snapped his hand to the right and fired his gun towards the voice.
"You kill her. I kill you." The identical voice from the right now echoed from the left.
Jeannie let out a sigh of relief as she immediately recognized Will’s voice, knowing that her husband’s brother had probably rescued Deanna and she was at least safe now. This knowledge gave her a new sense of courage. "He’ll cut your wee little penis off and stuff it down your throat." She dared, not being able to hide the victory from her voice.
"Let her go!" A threatening voice called from the left, sounding closer than before.
"Let her go!" A threatening identical voice then threatened from the right.
Totally ignoring Jeannie’s insult, the scavengers eyes grew wide in confusion as he snapped his head from the left and then to the right, not understanding how one man could be in two places at once.
"How many are there?" he growled into Jeannie's neck, poking the knife tip further into her ribs. The stench of his foul breath filled her nostrils and her stomach began to churn. She swallowed hard and fought the urge to vomit.
"Only one." She lied, attempting to move away from the sharp tip of his weapon. She remembered the smaller scavenger speaking of torture, so she began to ad-lib her words, trying to sound convincing. "He’ll not stop, he’ll forever track you down…and then when he finds you. He’ll make you suffer, in ways you can’t imagine!" she declared with newfound courage. "He’ll stuff your balls in your eye sockets. He’ll cut off your foot and shove it in your mouth! He’ll cut off the other one and shove it up your fat ass!"
Her voice and the determination in her voice told the scavenger leader that she was speaking the truth. His own brain flashed with a sense of panic, whoever or whatever was tracking him down was indeed evil.
"I may die…but I’ll do it with a women in my arms." He suddenly clutched her breast and clamped down with an iron grip, squeezing unmercifully. The pain surged through her body, Jeannie felt her knees buckle as she began to fall, he forcefully held her up against him.
"Not so mouthy now, eh bitch?" he snarled as the other hand rared back and he drove the knife into her side.
The steel from the blade felt like a branding iron as it penetrated her body. She could feel her eyes roll back as her body slowly began to descend to the ground. The last thing she heard was Thomas’ distant war like scream and then everything went black.
Thomas witnessed the brutal stabbing of his wife, and a scream of horrific rage flooded out of his lungs. His horror was instantly transformed into a form of insanity. His federal blue eyes became black and like a possessed man, he rushed forward, darting in and out of the forest, shooting his weapon from his hip, targeting anything that moved.
Years of living in Alaska had prepared him for the terrain, and years in a Cardassian prison had prepared him for the rage filled insanity.
Riker slung the medical kit off of his back. "Stay here and stay covered up." Riker ordered Deanna, quickly covering her body concealing it under loose brush. He took off running, using his long legs as an advantage, darting in and out of the trees, firing his weapon in the same fashion as his duplicate.
The scavenger became more confused as he watched two identical men dart in, and out from behind trees…firing on him. He took off running, away from the lifeless body of Jeannie. Not knowing which shot made the hit, the leader whirled around sending his weapon soaring through the air. The scavenger leader felt a burning sensation in his left thigh as the blood burst like a display of fireworks that had just exploded. Then another bullet hit his right knee cap, sending him to his knees. He stared blankly out into the forest, and slowly closed his eyes. When he opened them, he looked up from his kneeling position unable to move he saw the face and the eyes of death staring down at him.
"Deanna, bring the medical kit!" Riker yelled over his shoulder as he ran towards Thomas.
Thomas stood in front of the wounded scavenger.
Thomas held a huge bowie knife firmly in his grasp. Reaching down with his other hand, he grabbed a handful of the scavenger leader’s hair, lifting his head and exposing his neck.
Riker felt his heart as it pounded hard inside his chest.
"Thomas! NO!" Riker yelled as he barreled down the slight slope towards his brother.
As if in a private hellish world of his own, unaware of Will’s shouting Thomas spok in an even icy tone as his deadly stare penetrated through the scavenger’s soul, "It’s time to play Hard Ball." Those ice-filled words made the scavenger leader believe that his smaller companion could have been correct in saying that ‘Satan himself had come out to play with them.’ Standing before him wasn’t a man. It was a demon, and that demon was going to kill him.
Suddenly with an angry forceful swipe of the huge blade, Thomas decapitated the scavenger and then with a victorious scream he soared the dismembered head by the hair into the air, just as an Olympian would throw a shot-put.
Riker had heard that Thomas had developed a dangerous, violent temper but had no idea it would extend to the degree that he was witnessing. "Stand down, Thomas!" Will ordered, it was the voice of a superior officer. The only voice Will prayed that his duplicate would respond to.
As if in a dream, Thomas slowly turned his head towards this brother, his hand still clutching the handle of the huge now bloodied blade.
"Stand down, Thomas!" Riker ordered with the authority of a Starfleet officer.
Both men were breathing hard, and their eyes locked.
Will Riker recognized something in Thomas Riker’s eyes. It was something he had never seen before. Death. Death mixed with pure demonic evil. His brother had learned to kill without remorse.
Thomas’ shoulders fell and he dropped the knife, it landed with a thud.
"What the hell did you do?" Riker asked through squinted eyes, as he approached the dismembered corpse, that lay at his brother’s feet.
"Thank the Gods." Deanna whispered, as she placed two fingers on the side of Jeannie’s neck, relieved to find a pulse. "Will!" she called out towards the two men. "She’s alive! Come help me! She’s alive!"
Later that evening, Thomas and Will had found a place to rest for the night inside of an abandoned cave, believing it would be safer for the women instead of out in the open, where more Scavengers may have been lurking.
Deanna sat silently beside Jeannie who still lay unconscience from the stab wound. Deanna diligently watched over her, nursing her, keeping the wound clean and changing the bandages as they needed to be. Jeannie gave a soft moan. Deanna gave a silent shudder at the thought of just how close Jeannie had come to being killed. "It’s all right now…You’re going to be fine." She cooed as she gently wiped the sweat from her friends brow. The two women hadn’t really had a chance to get to know one another, but even without her empathic abilities Deanna felt a closeness to Jeannie that she couldn’t explain.
Thomas came over and knelt beside his wife and tenderly brushed the side of his hand against her cheek.
"She’s going to be just fine, Tom. But, she needs time to rest." Deanna whispered reassuringly, as she placed her small hand on Thomas’ arm.
He nodded in relief and then his eyes met the counselor’s. "Are you all right, Deanna?" He asked the dark eyed Betazoid.
"Yes…I think so." She answered with a warm smile as she exhaled. Her face looked tired and haggard.
"You need some sleep. Go lay down with Will." He stated gently. She had been through a lot. "I’ll stay with Jeannie."
"No, I don’t want to leave her." Deanna protested with an over protective motherly concern.
"If she has any problems I’ll call you, all right?"
"I’ve never lied to you yet, have I?" He stated the question with such gentleness, it touched her heart profoundly.
"Rest well, Thomas." She stated with a gentle squeeze of his hand.
He then lay down on his side next to his wife, resting a hand on Jeannie’s shoulder and slowly closed his eyes. "Throw that blanket over us, will ya?" He asked softly, as fatigue overtook his voice. He smiled to himself thankful for the gentle sounds of his wife’s breathing.
Deanna covered them both up with the thermal blanket of the sleeping gear. She stood and walked towards Will, who was now sound asleep on the other side of the small camp fire.
Deanna raised up the thermal blanket and crawled in beside her husband, as if by reflex Riker raised an arm inviting her inside of his sleeping bag, draping his arm protectively around her waist, pulling her closer to him. "You warm enough?" he asked, half-groggy with sleep.
"Umm hmm." She smiled, as she spooned against him, tightly closing the gap between their two bodies. She felt the rise and fall of his chest against her back. His hand gently cupped one of her breast. She knew he needed to hold her this way, for reassurance that his wife was indeed beside him. Slowly closing her eyes, she felt safe and secure. She also knew that Jeannie would be safe with Thomas nearby. Deanna slowly fell into a peaceful slumber alongside her husband.
Will Riker awoke before anyone in the camp. Deanna was sleeping peacefully as he slowly crawled out of the sleeping bag, not wanting to wake her.
He sat and stared at the fire as he drank his coffee.
"Care for company?" The whispered voice of Thomas was heard above him.
"You’re up early." Riker stated.
"Want some coffee?" Riker offered.
"Yeah." Thomas sat down in front of the fire.
Riker handed his duplicate a cup of the hot coffee, looking towards both women to insure that they were indeed still asleep. "How is she?" He asked in a low voice, directing his question concerning the condition of Jeannie.
"She’s going to be okay." Thomas breathed a sigh of relief. "Deanna does a great job playing doctor."
"I guess having Beverly Crusher for a best friend paid off."
Thomas took a sip of the hot liquid, swirling it around in his mouth.
"We shouldn’t have brought them…" Riker sighed regretfully. "Deanna came too damn close to being assaulted today. The son-of a bitch died on top of her, with his pants down for Chrissake." his eyes flashed with anger at the memory.
"Did he…did he rape her?" Thomas hated asking those vile words. He looked over towards the sleeping body of Deanna, and his heart went out to her.
"No…. She said he didn’t." Will took a drink of coffee, "apparently I killed him just as he was about to…" Riker searched for the correct words, "force penetration." His voice suddenly became angry at the thought of Deanna’s tiny body pinned under that bastard. "And Jeannie…gods she got stabbed, for Chrissake." He quickly added, wanting to change the subject and make his point across to his brother about how wrong it was to bring them.
He did. A new sudden burst of anger rushed through Thomas’ veins as his brain flashed back to the horrid memory of the scavenger driving the knife into his wife’s body.
"We were wrong…we were dead wrong, for bringing them. Thomas…. We came too damn close to losing them."
"Gods how I know that."
"I almost failed Deanna. I thought I could protect her, but I almost failed. She came so damn close…." His thoughts trailed off as he invisioned Deanna’s ordeal in his mind. Riker was ashamed and angry with himself for doing such a stupid thing, but how did he know? How could they have known, that it would be so brutal? How could he have known that it was going to be an ambush? How could they have known that more scavengers awaited in the forest?
"Well," Thomas quickly dismissed his own thoughts from his mind. "It doesn’t do any good for us to sit here and castigate ourselves. They’re both here. Nothing we can do about it now." Thomas stated flatly. "And we sure as hell can’t send them back."
Riker knew what Thomas had just said was the truth. The women were here to stay, hell for all he knew after their shuttle exploded so was he.
They both sat in silence and drank their coffee, as they stared at the small fire.
"I don’t regret it." Thomas said breaking the silence. "I regret decapitating that bastard." He stated bluntly.
Riker stared at his brother. Killing the man, Riker could relate…. Hell, he would have done the same thing. But, to decapitate a man? To lose control like that. To have that much hatred running through your veins, that was way out of Riker’s league. Will, when he spoke again, spoke softly never losing his brother’s gaze, he was serious when he stated, "That’s what scares me Tom."
Thomas shot his brother a look. Will didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. How his life had been inside of that Cardassian prison, it was ruthless, bitter, cold hearted and cruel. He had witnessed so many inhumane tortures. Tortures that would make the bravest and strongest of men crawl on their hands and knees and beg for death as a merciful relief.
Thomas Riker had learned to be just as cold, and just as barbaric as the Scavengers of this planet. He had wanted the scavenger leader to suffer. He had wanted to torture him. But at the same time, he also knew that Will or Deanna would never allow it. Yes, the scavenger leader had the good fortune of dying a quick and painless death, nothing like the son of a bitch deserved.
"I don’t ever want to see it again, and I sure as hell don’t want Deanna to see it." Will Riker declared soberly, he was referring to the look in Thomas’ eyes he had witnessed earlier that day and Thomas knew it.
Riker then tossed the remainder of his coffee onto the small burning pile of wood. Thomas watched as the liquid sizzled and boiled and then finally evaporated.
Will stood to his feet and straightened his clothing.
"We’ll stay here for a couple more days. I think the women time to rest." Riker said in his usual Starfleet commanding tone.
"Whatever you say." Thomas replied through piercing eyes that were now fixed on his brother. Riker had no idea what was going through Thomas’ mind. His eyes had an unspoken determination. Riker turned and walked away.
Something had changed between the two men on that early morning, although neither one of them knew exactly what it was.
Jeannie insisted that she was fine and strong enough to travel, after only two days. Although Thomas never left her side, constantly assisting her in ambulating, holding her arm to help her through the rough terrain of the forest.
Riker had witnessed Thomas decapitate a man. Now watching the same man who, only three days later…tenderly urged his wife with warm smiles and gentleness. After hours of walking through the forest, never once did Thomas loose his patience with Jeannie, or speak in a rough tone as he helped her ambulate across the forest terrain. Even when she would loose balance, he was there to catch her. Telling her it was all right…wondering if she was all right? There were times when she would wince slightly from her wound and he would insist on her resting for awhile, and then Deanna in a motherly manner would check the wound to see if it was healing properly. Jeannie of course thought that they were making too much of ado.
It was hard for Riker to distinguish between the angry barbarian he had seen just days earlier and the tender, giving spirit he was witnessing now. How could this be the same man? It confused the hell out of him.
"Thomas?" Jeannie asked. "That smaller scavenger thought you were Satan."
"He’s not the first." Thomas chuckled, "You told me you married him, remember?"
She rolled her emerald green eyes at him, ignoring his sly remark. She flipped her long strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder. "Right before you killed him. He truly believed that Satan had come out to play with them."
"He did, did he?"
"Yeah, he talked about how the devil would taunt and tease a man and then kill him?
"Is that so?" he remarked with a lopsided grin, taking her hand and helping her cross a small pile of brush.
"I told the big ugly one, you’d never stop tracking him down…And then I used some rather colorful language, and described what you would do to certain body parts."
She was proud of herself for standing up to Scavenger and showing no fear.
"I can imagine." he said in amusement. He took her hand and helped her cross the rough terrain.
"I think telling him those things made him furious."
"Next time…Don’t talk."
"I don’t want there to be a next time, Thomas." He stopped and looked at her and then a wide grin flashed across his face and he laughed at the expression on her face, and she laughed with him.
"Thomas?" Jeannie asked her voice taking a sudden seriousness to it.
"Do the scavengers lurk around in the forest?"
He laughed slightly. He normally didn’t like questions. Thomas Riker was not a man of many words. Especially in front of others. But today he rather enjoyed it. It proved to him that his wife was still alive, and gods he loved her…. He loved her with all of his being. Especially the way she analyzed people and situations. He loved the way she talked, which at times seemed constantly.
"Apparently they’re afraid of some sort of forest spirit, and they stay out in the dry lands awaiting for other bands of scavengers to trade goods."
"Goods?" she questioned, as she took his hand and he gently helped her step up and over a pile of brush. "Like females?"
"Something like that." He answered, being very evasive towards the subject. "Watch your step. There’s a lot of pot holes in the ground."
"Thomas, let’s sing." She said with a smile and a wink towards Deanna.
"I’ll sing anything you want. And I’ll even do it naked." He stated jokingly. "Grab on." She wrapped her arms around his neck and he picked her up carrying her over a huge tree trunk that had fallen on the ground.
He held out his hand for her to take as they continued to hike. "Thomas! Stop pampering me." She slapped his hand away. "I can do it my self." She was determined to walk without any assistance from him.
"Fine, suit yourself." He laughed holding his hands up in surrender. He took off walking slightly ahead of her, but still making sure he would be there is she needed any help.
"Listen." Will alerted the group. His steps coming to an abrupt halt.
Thomas became immediately alert as he stood protectively front of his wife. He heard the rustling sound of leaves.
"Deanna?" Riker whispered.
Deanna attempted to focus on the approaching life forms. "I can’t tell."
"Jeannie?" Thomas said as he removed his gun from his side and cocked it back, standing at full alert.
"You’re nuts if you think I’m running off into that forest again, Thomas Riker." She whispered urgently.
"Shhhh." Thomas hushed her.
The tension in the air was mounting, and the noise became louder…. It was hoofs, maybe horses. Maybe men.
Suddenly a family of deer came out from behind a huge pile of brush. The animals looked wide eyed at the foreigners and then took off running at full speed further the depths of forest.
Thomas lowered his gun and exhaled.
"Well…" Deanna inhaled and exhaled, releasing the tension that had built up inside of her. "I guess I am truly human on this planet. I can’t seem to focus." She was beginning to feel somewhat inadequate for not being able to sense the family of deer.
"This planet is governed by instinct, Deanna." Riker returned his gun to his side. Noticing her distress, he kissed her gently but briefly on the lips, "Be glad you’re human." He led her by the elbow through the forest.
"Stop right where you are!" A deep distant voice interrupted, calling from out of the trees. "We’ve got you surrounded."
Will whirled around, and scanned the forest, there was no movement anywhere. He thought if they were scavengers he would protect Deanna with every ounce of strength in him. "Stay close, Deanna." He whispered.
Deanna nodded without hesitation. The thoughts of what had happened to her just a couple of days before flooded through her mind.
"We don’t want any trouble. We just want the women!" the gruff voice called out. Will and Thomas shot each other a look.
"We’ll trade you for them." The voice behind the trees attempted to bargain. "We have weapons and food supplies."
"The women are not for trade." Riker yelled into the forest. The tone of his voice made it clear that this discussion was over.
"Is that so?" A man behind the voice made himself visible as he and a scraggy looking band of others stepped out from behind the thicket of trees. "Well, what if we just take them?" he threatened.
The group of four was soon surrounded by about fifty armed men, all ready to fire at command.
"You could try." Riker glared, never letting down his guard.
The man, who was the leader looked to be in his late seventies. He had a salt and pepper colored thinning hair and was of a fat stocky build, and a thick neck, probably the thickest neck Thomas had ever seen. He wondered how long it would take him to break it.
The old man’s face was hard and well worn. Riker concluded from his attire which consisted of leather and animal fur cloaks it was probably from the years of hard living.
His black as coal eyes had a sparkle of gentleness to them.
He eyed the small group of travelers thoughtfully and his gaze rested upon Deanna. He started to walk towards her. Riker felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. If the old man had intentions of taking her, he wouldn’t get to her without a fight.
"That’s far enough." Riker warned.
Another man stepped forward and reached out and grabbed a lock of Jeannie’s long straw-berry blonde hair, feeling its silkiness between his fingers. Jeannie yelped in fright at the stranger’s touch.
Thomas was there instantly. Restraining him with his arm across the man’s throat and with the other hand he quickly unsheathed the huge bowie knife and held dangerously against the man’s face.
"Let go of her." Thomas growled. The man’s eyes became wide and he tried to swallow hard but Thomas was cutting off part of his oxygen and the lump clogged his throat. The other men in the band cocked their weapons, and targeted Thomas. But Thomas showed no fear, and the tip of the blade caused a trickle of blood to run down the man’s face.
The old man watched the whole scene and then said, "Steely let go of the lady’s hair." Steely instantly let go of Jeannie’s hair.
"Nobody touches my wife." He warned, Thomas gave Steely a hard shove causing him to tumble into the crowd of men. Steely gasped and held his throat, coughing and sputtering trying to regain his breath.
"You two are either the bravest or the dumbest sons of bitches, I’ve ever run onto." The old man said in amusement. "We found a headless body a ways back, I’d say you’re the one who did that considering the way you handle that knife."
Thomas sheathed his knife just as fast, and stood protectively in front of Jeannie.
Deanna stepped out from behind Riker and took a step towards the old man. Riker grabbed her arm halting her steps. "It’s all right, Will." She reassured him, "They don’t want to harm us."
"Well, I’ll be damned." The old man burst out laughing, holding onto his fat round belly as he laughed. "At least someone here has some brains."
His laughter died, and then he focused on Thomas and then his gaze moved to Will."
He studied Deanna for a moment intensely. Both Riker’s had been around Betazoids enough to know when someone was probing a mind and apparently the old man was probing Deanna’s. Finally the old man asked her. "And he’s you’re husband?"
"And I take it that’s you’re husband?" He turned his attention towards Jeannie. After she gave him a nod, he laughed out loud again. "Twins. Well I’ll be damned. What’s your name, boy?"
"My name is Hyde." Thomas answered showing no emotion or fear. "His name is Jeckyll."
"Jeckyll and Hyde, eh?" The old man’s eyes sparkled with merriment. He looked at one Riker and then to the other.
He turned his attention towards Deanna. "Thank you for the mind read, ma’am." He gave a wrinkled face wink in return. "You’re abilities may or may not come back, this planet has a way of making a man motivate on instinct alone. I can’t send anymore, but I sure as hell can probe another Betazoid. You can put your block down now, boy." He directed his statement towards Will.
Then he waved his arm and summoned his men. "Lower you’re weapons boys."
"I have to admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a red haired woman. No wonder oh Steely was curious. You can relax ma’am, you ain’t got nothing to fear from me." The old fat man spat on the ground. "That one standin’ beside ya, Mr. Hyde…was it? Well he’d sooner cut my heart out than look at me."
"I’ve got some extra rider ponies…so you folks don’t have to walk." He opened his bag and pulled out some clothes. "We need to get out of the forest before them scavengers, find there’s women in these parts. I’d feel better if you would put these clothes on. That way from a distance you’ll look like one of us."
All four had changed clothes, the attire dressed in primitive attire of suede leather pants, with fur laced tops. Moccasins on their feet.
"You ladies need to put these on, he handed each of them a wool cloak. If they gut Jeckyll and Hyde over there. Hell ain’t no big deal." He spat on the ground again. "I never cared for that book anyway."
They were each given a horse to ride, and the old man called out to the men. "If there’s any signs of trouble. I want groups of twelve to surround the women and don’t let nothing get to them." He turned his fat little thick neck towards Deanna and stated shyly. "I’d feel mighty awful if you or your female friend got hurt."
"Let’s ride!" He called out with a wave of his hand.
As they rode out of the forest and beyond the desert, the old man told Deanna that his name was Wallace Cornelio Gutheridge, but most people just called him "Gooch." He was full blooded Betazed and the atmosphere had affected his born abilities. He also commended her on her bravery for handling her loss so well.
He said that he had been on this planet for over thirty years, and that his ship landed here after being sucked into "Satan’s knee."
She told him of the Betazoid New Year, and the latest developments of their home planet.
He was thoroughly enjoying their conversation and he broke out in a jolly laugh and his crinkled eyes sparkled as she spoke.
He was also very impressed when he found out that she was the daughter of Lwaxanna Troi. He knew Lwaxanna and had even remember seeing Deanna as a baby.
"We’ll camp here for the night." He told one of his men, who relayed it to the others.
Everyone stopped and Will dismounted and helped Deanna dismount from her horse. "I think that old man really likes you." He chuckled softly. His hands were on her waist, and he slid her body slowly down his as he stood her on her feet.
"I think this old man does too." She smiled, kissing her husband lightly on the cheek.
"There’s a cavern pond over yonder, if you two ladies would like to wash up." The old man said. "You can wipe off the dust of travel." Sensing the women’s apprehension he added, "You’ll be safe and have total privacy. I promise you."
"That would be nice." Deanna stated shyly.
"Shorty, you and John John! Take these ladies to the waters in the cavern and by Gods if ya even take a peek." He yelled, "I’ll turn lose this mean son of a bitch on the both of ya’s." He was referring to Thomas, and Thomas knew it.
Riker and Thomas watched protectively as the women were escorted to the cavern.
"I promise you two. We won’t hurt your wives." He reassured the two men. "I may be old. But, I’m not stupid, and I’d kinda like this old head to stay on my shoulders for awhile."
Gooch poured himself a cup of water and took some bread out of his sack. "You two better sit down and have something to eat." He stated not looking at either one of them. "What brings you to these parts?"
"We’re looking for someone." Thomas answered.
"My brother in law…. Brighton, Stephen Brighton. He’s been missing for over a year. We were informed that he could be here."
"If he’s here. He’s either dead by now…Or a Scavenger. He sure the hell ain’t one of us."
"Gooch?" Will asked as he sipped his drink. "Where are we going?"
"To my village, just over that hill. We should be there by noontime tomorrow." He stated flatly, never looking up at the strong commander. "It’s the safest place for the women, and Miss Jeannie won’t survive out here much longer, she’s hurt…. She’s hiding her pain well, but she hurtin’."
"What do you mean hurting?" Thomas quickly began to stand to his feet.
"Sit down." The old man ordered in a fatherly tone. "That’s a recovery pond I sent her to. The water’s will speed up the healing process." Thomas sat down, his face covered with concern. "This old planet." He spat on the ground. "It does have a few good things…. Now Eat!" He ordered.
Riker had a gnawing feeling deep in his gut. It was something in Gooch’s eyes when he looked at him. In his tone of voice when he spoke to him, figuring he had nothing to lose he asked, "You don’t like me do you?"
"Nope." The old man answered. "I can’t respect any man hates his wife."
"Just wait a goddamn minute!" Riker snapped, and his eyes flashed with fury. The old man was pushing his luck, what in the hell did he mean hates his wife. He has loved her since the day he met her. He sacrificed a lot for her, and he would damn well do it again. Without hesitation.
"You abandoned her!" The old man interrupted with a harsh snap to his voice, "And in my book, that’s the same as hating her."
"Like Hell!" Riker exploded, throwing is coffee cup down. Standing to his feet he walked away, he had to…or he would tear the man apart with his bare hands. Who in the hell did this old man think he was? To judge his love for Deanna. That old bastard didn’t know Deanna. And he sure as hell didn’t know him. Riker didn’t owe him an explanation…he wasn’t about to tell him about the Ba’ku home planet and how the two of them got back together. He didn’t owe him anything. Except maybe a thank you for being so kind to his wife…but he didn’t owe him an explanation as to why he had left her on Risa all those years ago.
"Accuse him of not loving his Imzadi again old man and he’ll make my actions appear to be child’s play." Thomas stated with an absolute.
Thomas stood up and went to his brother. He knew Will needed to vent, drink, or fight.
They finally arrived at what the old man Gooch proudly referred to as "Goochtown. Several boys around the age of eleven or twelve ran out excitedly and greeted the men as they strolled into the small village.
Other riders were greeted by their wives. Some women held babies, others having smaller children that ran towards their papas. Deanna watched as the men scooped the smaller children up in their arms, whirling them around, happy to be home again.
"You two can stay over there." Gooch instructed Will and Thomas, pointing towards an empty cottage. "The ladies will stay with me and my wife in my cottage."
"The ladies stay with us." Thomas said bluntly.
"Not till the two of you are properly wed. We’ve got enough female brutalizin’ on this planet."
"We are properly wed." Thomas protested. "Jeannie, you’re staying with me." He stepped forward, gently grabbing Jeannie’s arm bringing her close to him.
The old man glared at the defiant young Tom.
"Now either you boys marry these women by the laws of this village or you don’t." Gooch spat on the ground. "Makes no difference to me." Then added sternly, "But you ain’t beddin’ no one till you do."
Riker let out a disgusted sigh. "I don’t believe this." He said with a roll of his eyes.
"He’s only attempting to install morals in the community, Will." Deanna stated softly, trying to explain the old man’s actions.
"And I suppose you’re on his side?"
"Really Will…. It isn’t too much to ask. We have to abide by their laws, it wouldn’t hurt us to get married again." Deanna as always, attempted to be the calm in the storm.
Riker’s head was beginning to throb. The old man was apparently insane, and he was dragging Deanna and Jeannie behind him. And, hell the Gods only knew what Thomas’s problem was.
"Deanna," Riker began…but Thomas cut him off…
"Hey, Will." Thomas interrupted. "Maybe these two women want to get married again just to make sure the knot is really tied." And then he added sarcastically, "Around our balls!"
Riker couldn’t agree more.
"Our marriage wasn’t legal Thomas." Jeannie retaliated. She wasn’t about to allow Thomas Riker to intimidate her or anyone.
"Wasn’t what?" he asked confused turning his head towards her. "What do you mean not legal? As I recall, you insisted on a church wedding."
"It was a Lutheran Church." She said, not really knowing where that came from. She knew it didn’t make sense, she knew the minute it came out of her mouth, but it was all she could think of to say at the moment.
"Just what in the hell does that have to do with anything." He snapped, finally loosing his patience with her and the situation.
Jeannie moved in closer, her face was only inches from his. "I’m not Lutheran!" She screamed, he flinched at the sound of her voice, just as he had always done. She whirled around, her long strawberry blonde hair swinging with her, slapping him in the face.
"You’re not a Goochvillian either!" He yelled towards her as she stormed off. "Son of a bitch!" he swore lowly to himself and kicked his foot against the ground. He wanted to hit something but the nearest thing was Will and hell, he had enough troubles of his own.
"What would it hurt, Will!?" Deanna asked. But before he could answer, she ran towards Jeannie who was walking through the small door of Gooch’s dwelling.
"Now it seems to me like those two ladies could do better than the likes of you two." Gooch spat on the ground turned and walked away.
Gooch was still leery of Thomas, and gave them whiskey as a peace offering. Thomas promised not to kill everything that moved or burn anything down and the old man, being satisfied with the deal, handed Thomas a bottle of his "best brew."
"What is this stuff?" Thomas asked, staring at the bottle of clear liquid. He and Will were inside their dwelling. It was a small one room clay lodge, scantly furnished, with a small fireplace.
"Gooch said it was his favorite brew."
"It’s got one hell of a kick to it." Thomas said, as he passed the bottle to Will. "We should be obnoxious in no time."
Riker took a swig of the alcohol. It burnt like the fires of hell going down, and it landed with a boom at the bottom of his stomach. His face became distorted as he swallowed. Never before had he tasted something so awful in his life. "If it doesn’t kill us first. This stuff tastes like Klingon vomit." He passed the bottle to Thomas, who was sitting across from him on the floor.
"Klingon vomit, eh?" Thomas tipped the bottle and took a hefty swallow. Will watched his brother’s face twist in an inhuman shape as Thomas swallowed. Thomas then spoke, "To get married." he squeaked as if he had just swallowed helium. Thomas cleared his throat and began again in a normal tone, "To get married, now what is it we have to do?"
Riker laughed out loud at his brother.
"We have to mutilate our bodies." Riker answered, quickly grabbing the bottle away from Thomas.
"Oh yeah…that’s right." Thomas nodded is if he were recalling something. "That shedding of the blood thing. We’re supposed to let them take this big knife and slice the hell out of our bodies. Just so we can prove to the them that we love our ladies, right?"
"That’s what I gathered." Riker tipped the bottle and took a big, hefty drink filling up his cheeks. He swallowed hard and his lungs convulsed, grabbing for air. "What the hell is this stuff?" Riker choked the question out.
Thomas chuckled, "You gonna do it?" He asked, trying to focus on his brother.
Will looked at Thomas giving him an ‘are you crazy’ look. "No, and hell no again." The whole idea of someone whacking at his body with a knife seemed absurd.
Thomas grabbed the bottle from Will. "Me either." He said, taking a huge swallow of the stiff homemade brew, his face contorting as he swallowed.
"Let some witch doctor carve me up…there’s no woman worth that."
"None I’ve ever met." Thomas agreed. He switched his position and laid on his back and stared up at the ceiling, his brain was becoming fuzzy….but still he thought of his wife. Questions swirled around in his brain at a rapid speed. What she was doing? And how he’d wish she were with him.
Riker snatched the bottle from his brother and took another hefty drink of the liquor.
"Our marriage wasn’t legal, Thomas." Tom mocked his wife in a high pitched condescending tone. He sat up with a grunt, and snatched the bottle from Will.
"What would it hurt! Did you hear her? She said…What would it hurt, Will?" Riker repeated Deanna’s last words as if Thomas really cared. "Me…how’s that for an answer Deanna…ME!!" He shouted towards the ceiling as if someone was there. "IT WOULD HURT ME!!!"
Thomas looked up at the ceiling, searching for what Will was talking to.
"And only God knows what Gooch tells that demon with a blade, to cut out or…. OFF! That old man hates me." Riker cringed and grabbed the bottle from Thomas. "Probably carve into my forehead like it was some sort of…of tree trunk. No doubt leave one of those nasty puckered up kind of scars that will forever read, ‘DUMB SHIT.’"
"Not just cut you up…carve you like a Christmas turkey…." Will continued to talk, he was drunk now. "Using this monstrosity of a knife."
"And I thought Klingon weddings were brutal." Thomas grabbed the bottle away from Will and took a drink.
"Worf would do it! Worf would be honored to be schliced to ribbons." Will slurred his words as he talked.
"Deanna was with Worf?"
"I wanted to iron out his crinkled head with my fist." Will took the bottle from Thomas.
"Time for Hard Ball." Thomas took the bottle from Will.
Riker had no idea of what Thomas was talking about, so he shrugged it off. "Nope. No woman worth that." Riker was attempting to convince Thomas, as well as himself.
"Jeannie’s worth it." Thomas said without realizing it. He shrugged, at his brother’s stare. Thomas held up the bottle and took another huge swig of the drink.
"You’re really happy with Jeannie aren’t you?"
"Nope." Thomas answered teasingly. "You happy with Deanna?"
"Not at all." Riker played along.
Thomas sent forth a huge burp.
"My sentiments exactly." Will retrieved the bottle and toasted to the burp.
There was period of silence between the two as they both concentrated on their situation.
"Deanna said she would kill me if I appeared at our wedding drunk. Well, there’s no way in hell I’m going to this one sober. She can get as mad as she wants, but I’m not going to this one sober." Riker staggered as he stood to his feet, his body swaying back and forth.
"What? Where you going?" Thomas’s eyes grew wide.
"To get married, damn it!" Will answered, struggling to focus on his duplicate. "She’s wurth…she’s wurrt…. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her, Tom."
Will took a step forward and landed squarely on his face.
"Come on." Thomas laughed as he helped his brother to his feet. Riker gave his duplicate a nod and then tossed the bottle in the fireplace. An explosive huge ball of flame flashed out of the small cavity towards the two men missing them by only inches. "Red Alert!" Riker exclaimed diving to the floor, taking Thomas with him.
They both raised their heads slowly as if they were peering out of a foxhole.
Thomas looked over at Will and wagged his thumb towards the small fireplace. "What in the hell was that stuff?"
"Damn we’re drunk." Riker laughed out loud, as he staggered to his feet.
"Best bachelor party, I’ve ever had." Thomas chuckled. "Want to be my best man?"
"I can’t. I’m gonna be the cake." Riker slung a drunken arm over his brother’s shoulder. "Let’s go get this over with."
The marriage ritual was to be taken in place inside of the witch doctor’s lodge. There were heads of tiger looking creatures, wolf type animals, and every sort of wild beast you could think of…and one Will thought looked a lot like his mother in law. Each one was handsomely displayed on the wall.
There were homemade knives of every shape and size placed neatly on a nearby table.
Both men staggered around the empty room.
"Hey! We’re here to get…. To get…" Thomas struggled with the words, pushing them out of his mouth. "We are here to get… MARRIED!"
A man, who had to be at least three hundred years old, came out from behind a wool curtain. His white straw looking hair hung way down past his shoulders and his face was painted with red and green paint. Yellow paint encircled his small dark eyes. He resembled a rat, with beady eyes and a long tipped nose.
The rat doctor’s long, bony, fingers reached out and tossed a handful of powder in the fireplace, producing a flash of red smoke that immediately fogged the room.
"I don’t think he’s Lutheran." Thomas said, fanning the red smoke out of his face.
The old man then chose a huge sword. The witch doctor held up the glistening silver blade.
The white haired man brought the huge sword towards him. He ever so slowly ran his wrinkled thumb over the edge of the blade, testing its sharpness.
He eagerly smiled with a curl of his thin lip, indicating that indeed the blade was razor sharp.
Gripping the handle tightly, his eyes sparkled with anticipation. He slowly approached the two drunken men.
"This isn’t going to be pretty, Tom." Will murmured.
"Man and Man in mirror." Put arms behind back." The old man instructed them flatly.
"Which one of us is Man?" Riker asked attempting to focus on the old man. "And which one of us is Man in mirror?" Now all he wanted to do was stall for time.
"I knew it would be the chest." Thomas whispered, "It’s always the chest."
Both men clasped their hands behind their back, their brains rejoicing in the fact that they were drunk.
The old painted man immediately whirled around in a circle. He blew a puff of green smoke and powder out of his mouth into their face.
The old man chuckled in quiet laughter.
"Why, you demented little rodent!" Will coughed and sputtered, wiping the green powder out of his eyes.
"You husbands now." The old man said in broken English. "Go get new wives. They wait for husbands in lodge of love."
"What about the shedding of blood?" Thomas asked, wiping his face off. "To prove our love?"
"Awww…me play joke on you." The old witch doctor laughed. "Me hate sight of blood."
"A joke?" Will questioned in disbelief. "You…you call this a joke?"
"Me laugh. That make it joke."
"Will, I’m sober…I’ll be damn, just like that…. I’m sober."
"So am I."
"How’d you do that?"
"Me not tell secret." The old man said. "Me tell you this…. If man is stupid enough to get butchered for woman. His heart belong to her."
Later that night evening, Riker stood in front of the window of their lodge and stared out into the darkness.
"Do you think we’ll find Jeannie’s brother?" Deanna asked quietly breaking the silence.
"We’ll try." He said, turning around slowly. She was standing there and she looked so small and helpless dressed in the calico dress that the women of the town had given her. He wanted to run over and hold her, kiss her. He wanted to feel her bare flesh against his, and run his hand against the smoothness of her thigh. He wanted her, gods he wanted her….it had been so long since they had done anything. He remembered what had happened to her just a few days before and he thought she needed time to forget. If he made love to her right now he would be no better than the bastards that tried to rape her. No he would hold off and let her heal, let her forget the nightmare that she had been through.
"I guess we should go to bed."
"Yeah. You go ahead, I’ll be there soon." He said with a half hearted smile, turning back towards the window.
"After all, it is our honeymoon."
Her tone of voice made him turn around and look at her puzzled. The look on her face told him that she understood and she knew. She knew what was going through his mind…she knew what he was feeling. How it was all he could do to stop himself from running to her and ripping her clothes off and wanting so desperately to make love to her. She knew that he only wanted what was best for her, and how her needs came ahead of his. "Will, it wasn’t you fault." She whispered with understanding. "You had no idea that it was an ambush."
"Deanna you just came so close…So close to being…." He choked the words out, as he walked towards her. "So close to being violated." He whispered.
She raised her arms and wrapped them around his neck, laying her head on his bare chest. "We have to Will. If we don’t…. We’ll never get over this, the two of us will never heal. We have to make love, to wipe out those horrid images from our minds."
"Is that you’re medical opinion, Counselor?" he whispered teasingly into her hair, as his hands began to explore her body.
"Opinion?" she began to plant kisses on his bare chest. "No…Order?…Yes." She slowly traced one of his nipples with her tongue, as her hands began an exploration of their own, loosening his pants.
"Aye, sir." He whispered, closing his mouth over hers.
He had never been so gentle in his life with her as they made love, treating her as if she were a virgin and this was her first time. He constantly whispered loving, reassuring words into her ears and into the hollow of her neck. Then when he couldn’t prolong the inevitable any longer. At that magic moment when his body entered hers, he knew that all was right in their universe.
Deanna had rolled over onto her side with her back to him and he could hear the soft rhythm of her breathing. They would always lay arm in arm at night and talk of the days events or just to relish in the aftermath of their lovemaking. He knew that when Deanna was ready for real sleep she would simply kiss him and wish him a "goodnight." And then roll over with her back to him, it was her favorite sleeping position. He lay awake in the darkness and a smile etched across his face as he thought of his duplicate, if Thomas was enjoying his own so called honeymoon. Knowing Thomas and Jeannie…They probably were still enjoying it…. Over and over again. He quickly dismissed the thought as silly. Riker rolled over towards his wife and nuzzled up to her in spoon fashion, he felt the roundness of Deanna’s smooth buttocks pressing against his lower torso. "I love you." She whispered with a sigh. Deanna knew that this was her husband’s favorite sleeping position and that he would drift off to sleep soon. "And I you." He replied softly kissing her bare shoulder. Using his arm that was around her waist, he brought her in tighter against his body. He cupped his hand around one of her breast, and together they slowly drifted off to sleep.
Thomas Riker stiffened up, grasping his wife’s hips and with a groan, he released himself inside of his wife. He collapsed underneath of her and she on top of him.
"Oh my gods." She was breathing hard when she spoke. "Thomas that was fantastic."
"Just fantastic?" He teased, wrapping his arms around her back. He felt her breast as they rubbed against his chest, and he gently kissed her neck.
She raised her body up and looked down at him still straddling his body. "Yes, just fantastic. The first time, now that was awesome." She said as if she were recalling their earlier love making.
"Want to try for awesome?" he asked with a sparkle in is eye as he reached up and gently took a lock of her long strawberry blonde hair, wrapping it around his finger.
"I’m hungry." She stated suddenly hopping off of his body. "Do we have anything to eat?" She asked as she searched through the back packs. "All they gave Deanna and I was this liquid drink… kind of co-co-nutty concoction…. They called it…" she paused as if she were remembering, "po-tu?……that’s what it was, po-tu."
Grabbing one of the rations from their back packs, she ran back over to Thomas and playfully jumped in the bed. "Scoot over." She instructed him.
He made room for her lifting up the blanket….she sat straight up in the bed with the ration tray on her lap. She had the blanket wrapped securely around her chest area, anchoring it in place with her elbows.
"You’re really going to eat that?" He asked amazed as he sat up in bed beside her.
"I’m starving." She answered with a mouthful of food. He noticed how her emerald green eyes sparkled against the light of the fireplace. God’s he loved her, when she was like this. Happy and playful and full of life.
"You always were a little glutton, even back at the academy." He teased as he snatched the bite of the food off of her fork.
"Yep." She agreed, digging into the food ration again.
"Thomas?" She asked in between bites of food. "When did you start a relationship with Deanna?"
The sudden question took him by surprise. "What?"
"How did you meet Deanna? The two of you fell in love, didn’t you?"
"I was stationed on Betazed, as a junior officer. We met then." He answered. He switched his position and lay on his back, with his hands behind his head.
"You loved her didn’t you?" she asked, her tone of voice wasn’t jealous. It was more of a curious tone.
"Yes. Jeannie yes, I did…." He answered, he saw no reason to lie to her. But for some strange reason he was feeling guilty, guilty for ever loving anyone else…. Guilty because his heart, body and soul… belonged to the woman he was in bed with now. "I’m in love with you now."
"I know that, silly." She stated playfully. She offered him a bite of her ration, but he turned his head away refusing it. She shrugged and took the bite herself.
"Do you realize…" she was wagging the eating utensil at him. "That both Deanna and I have slept with the same man, and married the same man even though…you aren’t really the same man."
He simply looked at her without answering.
"We fell in love back at the academy, and then, " she continued, "we parted, went our separate ways. You met Deanna, and I met Charles, and then……"
"Charles?" he interrupted her. "Who in the hell is Charles?" His voice tinged with jealousy.
"I never told you about Charles? Charles Wilmington…The fourth." She added.
"The fourth? Sounds like a Borg to me." He grumbled.
Jeannie ignored his rather sarcastic remark and continued. "He was so handsome…. And his body….oh gods…Thomas he had the best…"
"Hey!" he interrupted her abruptly, "Do you mind?"
"Sorry." She stated casually, although she didn’t sound very sorry. She took a bite of food before she continued. "All I’m saying is…. I like Deanna, a lot. And I’m glad that she was a part of you’re life and still a part of her life…And I’m also glad that I’m still a part of Will’s life. We were in love at the academy, you know."
"I know." He smiled, quickly noticing that she was referring to Will in past tense. Jeannie had no problem in separating the two men. That was another thing he loved about her. "And I know that he loved you too." Thomas found it amusing the way she analyzed people and every situation she encountered.
"Don’t you get it?" she asked, bending over and placing the plate of food on the floor beside the bed. She turned and was facing him as she sat up in the bed. "There were these two women who desperately loved this one man, and the man in return loved these two women. And maybe the man wished that there were two of him, so he could love both of the women. And maybe your transporter accident, wasn’t really an accident…it might have been just an answer to a prayer, a wish come true. And if that were the case…."
"Uh?" she looked at him wide eyed, waiting for his words. She shrieked, as he suddenly pounced her, laying his body on top of hers.
"I just know one thing…." He whispered as he began to plant kisses on her neck, lowing his attention towards her breast, he caught one of her nipples in his mouth and the gentle sucking motion made her squirm underneath of him. He raised his head, happy with her response from his caresses, "I’m hungry." He lowered his kisses and his lips and tongue was making their way past her belly button and beyond the small triangle of reddened hair.
"Thomas." She gasped as his mouth found her most sensitive spot.
She forgot all about their small conversation, and there was no more need for words or analyzing.
Thomas made his way out of his lodge and was headed towards the center of the small village. It wasn’t quite daylight yet and he wanted to survey the small village.
"Hello." Thomas heard a female voice beckoning him. Turning around he noticed a small young teenage girl and she was carrying a bucket of water.
"Hello?" Thomas answered with a warm smile. "Here, let me help you with that." He offered, taking the heavy bucket away from her.
"It goes over there." She said indicating a trough that was near the horses. Thomas carried the water towards the designed destination and emptied it then placed the empty bucket on the ground.
"Thank you. I’m Alayna." She said, wiping her hands on her apron, extending a hand in greeting.
"Riker. Thomas Riker." He answered taking her hand and shaking it. "Do you live here?" he asked referring to the small lodge that was beside the trough.
"No…I live across the village. I’m the water girl." She answered. She was small and petite, with short cropped dark hair, her eyes reminded him of Deanna’s and she had nice white even teeth. She looked to be in her early, early teens. She was the kind of girl who you wanted to be a friend to. Yet, she still had a fire in her eyes that told you she didn’t take any kind of nonsense.
"Water girl?" Thomas asked puzzled.
"I carry water to the horses every day…" she explained, "It’s my job."
"Well, you do your job well." Thomas complimented her, and smiled slightly as he noticed the blush across her young face.
"Are you married?" the young girl asked bluntly.
Taken back by her boldness, but suddenly realizing that this girl was fast developing a crush, Thomas answered softly without being too harsh. "Yes, I am."
"Oh darn it!" she mumbled.
She then looked over and noticed Will walking towards them. His face revealed a huge smile.
"Who’s that?" she asked Thomas.
"My brother Will." He smiled.
"Will Riker, Alayna…. Alayna Will Riker." He introduced the two in a most gentlemanly manner.
She stared at Will who knew what she was thinking. He simply held out his left hand and wiggled his fingers displaying a gold wedding band.
"Ugh." Alayna growled in disgust.
"How old are you, Alayna?" Riker asked.
"I’m fourteen." She said it like it was a great accomplishment.
"That’s pretty young to be thinking about marriage." He told the young girl.
"No it’s not! In a year I’ll be old enough to marry." She declared proudly.
"A year?" Riker said in confusion. Standing before him was a baby; she was just a little girl.
"We all marry…the girls have to be at least fifteen and the boys have to be at least eighteen…. Gooch says that we need to populate the planet with good people…. so we can eventually wipe out the bad people."
"Gooch the mayor. He says that does he?"
"Mayor?" Alayna asked confused at the foreign word.
"Leader. Captain." Riker explained. "The one in charge."
"Oh yes, he’s our leader…our mayor." she answered quickly, delighted that she had just learned a new word.
"What is beyond that ridge?" Thomas asked indicating a distant hillside.
"Scavengers." Alayna answered with a frown. "They come in and steal our food, and burn our village. They kidnapped my mother and my sister last spring…Papa found their bodies a few days later. They raped and beat them to death, my sister was only twelve at the time." There was sadness along with anger in her eyes as she recalled her mother and sister’s horrific tragedy. "I was small and mother hid me under the soap kettle, but I remember one of the men calling out his name. The man that took them was named Brighton."
"Brighton?" Thomas quickly glanced towards his brother. Brighton? That was Jeannie’s maiden name, could this be the one that they had come to rescue. Could this monster be Jeannie’s brother? "Did you hear his first name?" Thomas asked Alayna, he wanted to make sure that it was his brother in law.
"Alaaay-naa" The sound of the male voice calling her name made the young girls head turn towards the sound.
"Papa." The girl called out, waving her arm wildly in the air. "I’m over here."
The man that looked to be the age of Riker came running towards the girl. "Alayna." He smiled down upon her. There was relief in his voice that he had found the girl and that she was safe. "It is time to come home now."
"I’d like you to meet my friends, papa." She stated cheerfully, "This is Will and Thomas Riker…Their twins."
"I see that." The girls father chuckled, placing a loving hand on his daughter’s shoulder. The man looked up at the men and thanked them for being so kind to his daughter and then the two of them walked towards their small dwelling.
"Do you think this Brighton is one in the same?" Will asked, once the two villagers were no longer in hearing range of the conversation.
"For Jeannie’s sake. I hope not…" Thomas’ voice was full of dread.
Thomas recalled the young girls words as she told them the horrible fate of her younger sister. What kind of man would harm children? The kind that had to die he concluded within himself. "But no matter who he is. The sick bastard deserves to die."
Riker couldn’t argue, in all actuality he couldn’t agree with his brother more. "Well, there’s only one way to find out if it’s him. Be ready to ride in the morning."
"I’ll be there."
"You said…I could go with you." Deanna spat the words at her husband.
"No…. Not this time, Deanna." Riker stood firm. "You’ll be safer here."
"And what about you?" she was angry. How dare him leave her? He had told her she could go…. And now he was backing away from his word.
"Thomas and I are going alone." He said, his tone of voice dared her to argue.
She took his dare and argued. "Like hell you are!" she stomped.
He snapped his head and glared at her. She had never cursed before, and the expression on his face was very clear to her that he didn’t care for it.
"You’re not going." He repeated in a normal tone. Then he said something stupid, he knew it was stupid when it came out of his mouth. "That’s my final word."
"You’re what…Your final word?" she was furious now, and she was screaming. "How dare you, treat me like I’m some sort of……of……property that you can order around! Or use at you’re convenience."
"Deanna….be reasonable…." He tried to reason with her, "We both know what almost happened to you just a week ago…."
"You’ll be there to protect me." She cut him off in anger. "Or have you grown tired of doing that?"
"You know me better than that." He answered calmly.
"Is Jeannie going?" she asked, he could of swore there was a tinge on jealousy to her voice.
"Nope." He answered. He realized that Deanna was grasping for straws. He knew she wasn’t jealous of Jeannie. She had no reason to be. He calmly continued to get dressed. "And I’d bet Thomas is going through the same hell that I am right now." He thought as he struggled with his boots.
"You can’t order me around. This isn’t Starfleet."
"You’re not going, Deanna." He was adamant.
"Imzadi…Please." She implored. "What if the scavengers come here? What if they come to the village again?"
Her question made him look at her, she had a point…. What if they came to the village? What if she was in more danger here than with him? No he couldn’t take the chance of allowing her to come with him. He was willing to take risks with himself, but never Deanna. The land was uncharted and the people were savage. She'd never survive if something happened to him. She would be safer here, he was sure of that. "Gooch told me he would take care of you while I’m gone…I’ll be back in a week maybe two." He answered.
"You want to leave me." Now she was being stubborn, and throwing anything she could to hurt him.
"Deanna…you know that’s not true." he grabbed his weapon and strapped it around his waist.
"Isn’t it? You said we would stay together and you…you lied to me!" she threw the words at him as if they were angry darts.
He stood to his feet and glared at her. She was pushing him and she knew it. He was getting tired, this argument had started almost half an hour ago. Why did she have to be so stubborn? Couldn’t she see reason? Why couldn’t she understand that he was doing this for her own good.
"You lied to me." She screamed at him, she had never raised her voice to him in such an accusatory manner.
"Yes, I did. I lied and I’m sorry…" he apologized, although he wasn’t all that convincing. "Now get over it." He snapped.
"Just like I got over your lie about Risa."
Riker flinched at the harshness of her words. It wasn’t in Deanna’s personality to be cruel and what she had just said to him was cruel.
Deanna immediately saw the pain that surged through his soul and homesteaded in his eyes. She had done it, she had hurt him…her words had torn into his heart and reopened a wound that he thought was long ago healed then she covered that tender wound with salt.
That did it! "Goddamnit!" he snapped. He lunged out and grabbed her by the forearm bringing her body forcefully into his. He was squeezing her arm painfully, as he growled at her, "Deanna so far I haven’t done anything to hurt you…..But, I swear…." His eyes flashed with rage and his words dripped with venom.
She thought he was going to strike her at first, but he didn’t. She had never witnessed this side of him before, and she was frightened. The fear was evident on her face and he recognized it in her eyes; but it didn’t phase him as he continued his threat. "I’ll shoot you in the leg my self to keep you here."
She had known that Will Riker was a strong, passionate human being and he could be violent when tempted but never had he lashed out in anger at her like he was doing now. She was truly afraid of him, and her normally gentle eyes were now filled with fear.
"You’re hurting me." She cried, referring to the punishing iron grip he had on her forearm. "Will…you’re hurting me."
His voice was ice cold when he responded, "That was my intention." He released her arm roughly, shoving her away from him.
He hated doing this to her but it was all he knew to do. At least if she was mad at him she wouldn’t try to follow, and if she never wanted to see him again…Well, hell, he’d cross that bridge when he came to it.
"Get out!" she was crying now.
"I’m going." He said dryly. He grabbed his back pack, and angrily slung it across his shoulder.
Before he stepped through the archway of the door he turned to look back at her. She was standing with her arms wrapped around her body, tears trailing down her cheeks. Her hand was rubbing her forearm where he knew he had probably left a bruise. She looked so helpless and so small, so vulnerable…. He wanted to run to her and embrace her in his arms and tell her he was sorry. Tell her just how much he really loved her. Tell her that he never meant to hurt her. How he truly didn’t want to leave her, but it was the only thing he knew to do.
She looked up and realized that he was just standing there, staring at her. "Get out and don’t ever come back." She stated lowly, her eyes full of tears.
As Riker stepped out into the crisp morning air, he looked up to the sky and whispered, "Please forgive me." He inhaled and exhaled slowly and made his way towards Thomas’ dwelling.
"Hey! Let’s get the hell out of here." Thomas ran out the door. "She’s throwing things."
A vase came soaring out the door behind him. "Damn…having trouble with your wife, there Tom." Riker laughed, as he dodged the pot that soared past his head in the doorway.
Thomas quickly hoisted himself up on his horse and took off at full gallop. Riker mounted his horse and kicked the animal in the flanks, following at full speed after his brother.
"Ooh, I hate him!" Jeannie said as she stomped through Deanna’s door, and plopped herself down on the bed. "Just who in the hell does he think he is?" Jeannie was outraged, her green eyes flashed with anger. "Telling me a woman’s place is in the home. Of all the nerve, how pig headed and stubborn…and chauvinistic can one man get? I hope he gets eaten by a bear!" she continued. "I should have left him in that prison!"
"You don’t mean that." Deanna tried to reason with her friend.
"Oh yes I do." Jeannie glared at her new friend. "Deanna, I married one of the most stubborn, arrogant bastards that the universe has ever seen. And I thought my father was an asshole…Well, let me introduce you to Thomas Riker. He makes daddy look like Prince Charming."
"So the two of you had words?" Deanna asked as she sat down on the bed beside Jeannie.
"Words! That’s putting it mildly." She rolled her eyes. "Our fights consist of two hits…I hit him…he hits the floor." She was teasing of course. Deanna’s eyes were puffy and swollen from crying, and she wanted to make her new friend feel better.
"You didn’t?" Deanna asked in wonderment.
"I just threw vases and jars at him, and anything that wasn’t anchored down."
"I used to do that…." She smiled at the thought of Will dodging her soaring objects, that she would rocket through the air at him.
"You didn’t throw anything?" Jeannie was excited now and wanted to hear about Will and Deanna’s argument. "Thomas and I screamed at each other, it helps to vent sometimes…Then when I started to throw things he ran out of the house…. I think I scared him." Jeannie chuckled at the thought of big, strong Thomas Riker running out the door.
"I didn’t throw anything. I didn’t want to ruin our good china." Deanna smiled as she held up an old clay water pot. "Will and I just had words."
"What kind of words?" Jeannie asked with excitement.
Deanna shrugged, "Just words."
"Hey, are you going to be right?" Jeannie Riker’s voice changed to one of concern.
"I accused him of lying."
"Yeah, well…I did the same to Thomas…And he did, he did lie! He said that we would stay together and he lied. That ass hole."
"No I brought up our past."
"So." Jeannie said it like it was no big deal.
"Something that happened over twenty years ago." Deanna admitted, not really knowing if she should bring this up. After all she was talking to the wife of the man she was at one time engaged to.
"Look Deanna…. If you’re talking about…I mean," she paused for breath, "I mean before the transporter accident…It’s okay…You don’t have to tell me…if you feel awkward about it."
Deanna looked at her and smiled, she was beginning to really like this woman. "I suppose it does seem like an odd thing to talk about."
"Look, I love Thomas and I know he loves me. Hey…even when I can’t stand Thomas he knows that I still love him."
Deanna laughed through her tears. And then she stated seriously. "I just brought up something that I swore to myself that I never would. Something I thought was buried a long time ago."
"When we’re mad we say things we don’t mean." Jeannie said, not really prying, allowing Deanna the choice to continue.
"I did mean it." Deanna looked at her friend, "I wanted to hurt him…I was so angry…and he wasn’t going to change his mind about me going with him." She paused to wipe the tears from her eyes, and then slowly continued. "You see, Will and I were engaged to be married, while he was stationed on Betazed."
"You mean you and Will…" And then the thought hit her as her eyes widened, "Tom? You two were engaged? To be married?"
"They were the same people then." Deanna answered, "We had agreed to meet on Risa to be married. It never happened." Deanna continued, "Shortly after that, the transporter accident occurred."
"What do you mean never happened?"
"Will chose his career over our marriage. I went to Risa but he didn’t show up." The tears trailed down her cheeks, as she told the heartbreaking story of her past. "Will Riker stood me up at the altar."
"He stood you up?" Jeannie asked in wonderment. And then she became angry, "That asshole! I married an ass hole. I knew it…I knew it!"
"No…no…. Thomas didn’t stand me up…Will did." Deanna clarified quickly. "Thomas was stranded on Nervala IV for eight years. It wasn’t Thomas’ fault."
"Does Thomas know that Will did that?"
"Yes. I first met Thomas on the Enterprise eight years later, when our ship rescued him. He and I tried to rekindle our relationship, but…he and Will never really saw eye to eye and Thomas couldn’t stay onboard the same ship alongside of Will. He wanted me to go with him but, I couldn’t leave…. I told him I wasn’t ready to give up my life, but in all actuality I didn’t want to leave Will."
"Thomas still wanted to marry you?"
Deanna shook her head yes.
"Deanna, I told you I was married to an ass hole!" She stood to her feet abruptly, her arms waving about as she spoke. "He expected you to leave your job. Your ship, and your friends to go off with him into the far regions of space." She looked around the room, "If he were here, I’d throw that vase…right there." Jeannie pointed towards a vase on a nearby table. "And I’d aim, right for his thick head." Jeannie looked up at Deanna and smiled, "Any story you tell me right now…the end result will be the same. He’s an ass hole."
Deanna smiled. "I told Will he lied to me…. And he told me to ‘get over it’. I snapped back at him and said, ‘just like I got over your lie about Risa?’ I hurt him Jeannie. I hurt him deeply, I couldn’t sense it, but I saw it. I saw it in his eyes. He’s very sensitive on that subject and I know that. For years he punished himself for breaking my heart on Risa."
"I never thought he would be so rough with me. I suppose I’m still in shock."
"He’s an ass hole too."
"He was so angry, Jeannie."
Jeannie thought for a moment and then calmly replied. "If Will was rough with you, Deanna. He did it for a reason, to make a point. He’d never hurt you. I know he loves you. And so do you. Chances are he wanted to piss you off enough to make you stay here. He figured if you were angry with him, you wouldn’t follow."
"He did threaten to shoot me." Deanna laughed, as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
"Is that all?" Jeannie laughed. "Thomas threatened to gag me, tie me up and leave me in the desert for the scavengers."
Deanna laughed out loud. Jeannie had made her laugh, and Deanna began to feel better.
"One time at the academy, Thomas…Will? Well anyway, I’ll just refer to him as Thomas. I was waiting outside of his classroom for him in the hall. There was this guy named Stephen, he and I were talking and Stephen bent down and kissed me on the cheek…. And Thomas witnessed it. Thomas marched over and slugged the poor man right in the mouth." She laughed at the memory. "I remember, I was so angry with him for doing that…. The tall lanky jealous lout hadn’t a clue that he had just attacked my brother. Not only attacked him but knocked him out cold. Every story I tell you, the end result will be the same. Thomas is an…Ass hole."
"He can’t be that bad, can he?"
"Tom is basically a good man…. He’s ninety percent good and then there’s that ten percent ass hole that pops up once in awhile." She paused for breath, "Right now, all I want to focus on is that that ten percent."
"I know a few…*Ass hole*…stories too." Deanna admitted with a little girl charm. The profanity sounded strange as it rolled off of her tongue.
"Really?" Jeannie’s eyes lit up with the excitement of a little girl. "Okay…Talk!"
Jeannie was in her bed sleeping when a knock on the door brought her out of a deep slumber. Not knowing what time it was, she eagerly rant to the door to open it, thinking it was Deanna or perhaps Thomas had decided to come home early.
"Stephen?" Jeannie gasped. "Stephen."
"Yeah. It’s me." He smiled.
She threw her arms around him and hugged him fiercely. "Oh my gods, Stephen."
He embraced her just as tightly and whispered, "Jeanetta Jane." He was the only one that called her that. He was the only one beside Thomas of course who knew that was her true given name, and she had threatened her husband with death if he ever referred to her in that manner.
"What are you doing here?" she asked loosening herself from his embrace. "They say you killed women. They say you’re a scavenger."
"Jeanetta Jane, I’ll answer all your questions later." He said as if he were paranoid that someone was following him. "But now you have to come with me."
"Some place alone, where we can talk."
"I can’t Stephen. I can’t leave, Thomas said that I should stay here while he’s gone."
"Jeanetta, I can’t stay here." He said with urgency. "The town’s people will hang me if they find me. You know that."
Her face suddenly became serious. "Did you rape those women?"
"No. I didn’t." He answered with the same urgent paranoia. "Are you going to come with me or not?"
It took her only an instant before she agreed, "Let me get my coat first."
"Okay, but hurry up."
Once they were out of sight of the villagers, Stephen hoisted Jeannie on the back of his horse, riding behind him and they were gone.
They had traveled for a while and Jeannie was holding onto her brother by the waist as she rode behind him. He had to hold on tightly he was galloping though the land, as if he was being chased by something or someone. She began to worry about going too far and she thought of Deanna. What if Deanna came over and found her missing? She would surely be worried about her. "Stephen this is far enough. I need to get back to the village." She spoke into his ear, trying to talk above the clopping sound of the horse’s hoofs.
"Okay, there’s a cavern just over there." He yelled over his shoulder. "It’s where I’m staying."
They stopped in front of a small cavern that looked to be some sort of hide-away. Stephen dismounted his horse and helped his sister down.
"In here." He said as he took the horse by the reins and guided it into the cavern. Once inside he covered the opening with a brush camouflage.
There was a small campfire going, and there was a mumbling of voices in the deeper recesses of the cavern.
"Stephen…wait." Her voice was tinged with fear now and he sensed it immediately.
"Don’t worry." He smiled. "I won’t let anyone hurt you." He tugged on her hand. "It’s okay."
They walked into the center of the cavern, and sitting around the camp fire was a group men. Jeannie silently counted them, there were eighteen Scavengers, and they were all laughing and talking.
"Hey!" One scavenger called out as he stood to his feet and approached the two. He eyed Jeannie up and down and then sneered. "What have we got here…ooh a pretty one, she is. Looks like you brought in a good one Stephen." He reached out and grabbed a lock of her long strawberry blonde hair and twirled it around his finger. His upper lip curled, and his rotten blackened teeth became visible. Jeannie cringed and grabbed onto Stephens arm.
"Hand’s off, Spignessi." Stephen slapped the man’s hand from her hair. "She’s my sister and if you or anyone else touches her." He warned. "I’ll kill you myself."
There was a grumbling and mumbling of voices as they all sat back down. They once again focused their eyes on Jeannie and she felt as if they were undressing her with their stares.
"Let’s go over here." He led her towards another cavern hallway.
They finally came to a stop and he threw down his gun. "Have a seat." He gestured with his hand towards a pile of blankets and furs that were nestled on the floor. He added some more wood to the small fire he had in the center of the room.
Jeannie sat down and examined the walls and the atmosphere. It was very secluded and quite beautiful. The walls had what appeared to be glitter on them and they sparkled magically from the lights from the fire.
"You live here?" Jeannie asked casually.
"Sometimes." He answered quietly, almost ashamed
"Did you rape those women, Stephen?" Jeannie asked bluntly.
He sat down beside her. "Jeanetta Jane." He exhaled and held her hand. "I don’t know what you’ve heard but, I’ve never raped anyone in my life." Stephen was lying, he had learned to lie on this planet, and he was good at it.
"Why did you come after me? And what are you doing with these vile men?"
"I got word that you were in the village and I wanted to see you. What are you doing here? Didn’t you get my message?"
"I got a message telling me you were kidnapped?" She answered somewhat puzzled.
"I wasn’t kidnapped."
"Why didn’t you tell me you had company Stephen?" A deep voice spoke, breaking Stephens sentence. Both of their heads turned toward the sound. "Let me introduce myself. My name is Hampton, Bryce Hampton, and I’ve heard a lot about you." He tipped his head, and walked further into the cavern. He was tall, and thin, probably from the lack of the proper foods Jeannie thought. He held himself proudly. His dark chocolate colored hair was below the shoulder in length, and kept in place neatly in a pony tail. He sported a mustache that ran across his upper lip. His eyes were dark brown and as he walked closer towards the light of the fire, it was hard for Jeannie to believe that anyone, who held himself so gallantly could ever be a Scavenger.
Stephen stood up and offered her his hand, she took it and he pulled her to her feet. Turning her head towards Stephen she asked, "What are you talking about Stephen? What do you mean you weren’t kidnapped?"
Hampton turned towards Jeannie and began to explain. His demeanor was cool and collected, "Please allow me to explain. Your brother and I figured that if we left a ransom message with one of our colleagues, you would join us." He smiled at Jeannie, "In due time."
"You came here willingly Stephen?" Jeannie asked him wide eyed.
"Yes." His eyes glimmered with evil, and then he added, "Just like you came to our campsite willingly. Very unwise move, by the way."
"You lied to me." She glared at her brother. "You lied about coming here. You lied about those women. You are what they say you are, a rapist and a murderer."
He stared at her coldly.
"You’d make some one a nice wife, you’re really quite intelligent." Bryce said. Jeannie noticed the look of lust that was in his eyes.
"I’ve already got a husband." She hissed. "And when he finds out you’ve taken tricked me into coming here. He’ll hunt you down! He won’t rest until he does and you know that Stephen. You know that!"
"He won’t find out for awhile, and by then we’ll be long gone." Stephen stated with a calm. "Plus," he added with a limp evil grin, "Bryce is glad you’re married."
"And why is that?"
"He hates virgins." He said with a slyness, then he turned his attention towards Bryce. "Just as we agreed, she’s yours. Let me warn you though, she can be a little wildcat when provoked, she'll scream too." He said coolly to Bryce, as he began to walk out of he cavern and then added over his shoulder. "They always do."
"Will." Thomas warned his duplicate, as they drank their morning coffee.
Will stuck his nose up into the air slightly and listened, Thomas was right it was quiet. It was an eerie sickening type of quiet.
"We’re about to have company." Thomas said in a hushed voice.
Riker heard the rustling of the trees and the faint hooves of horses. "Just keep talking. " Riker instructed, "when I give the cue head for those trees and find cover."
Both men waited for a moment.
"Ready?" Riker asked and waited for Thomas to nod. "Now!" Both men lunged for the cover of the forest. To their surprise there were no shots fired at them.
"I’ll be damned." Thomas said from behind a huge log he had chosen for cover. "They didn't shoot at us." he said as he checked his gun for ammunition.
"You complaining?" Riker asked who was nearby, as he shooed the horses away.
"Riker?" A distant voice called out from inside the forest. "Thomas Riker?"
Both men shot each other a look. "How in the hell does he know you?" Will asked, crawling on his belly towards Thomas.
Thomas simply shrugged.
"It’s me Stephen!" The voice identified himself. "Stephen Brighton! I’ve got Jeannie with me!"
Thinking it must be a trick, Thomas yelled out into the forest. "If she’s with you let her call out!"
"She can’t! She’s hurt!" The voice yelled.
Riker noticed how silent concern flashed across his brother’s face.
"She’s been raped." Stephen called out from behind a tree.
They still didn’t respond.
The voice called out again, to confirm that he was Stephen. "I've got Jeanetta Jane!"
"Oh Gods." Thomas whispered, closing his eyes tightly and throwing his head back. Jeannie’s brother was the only one who called her that. Thomas wasn’t even allowed to call her by her real name. It had to be Stephen, or was it?
Thomas brain began to spin with questions. What in the hell was Jeannie doing out here? He had forbid her to follow. She wouldn’t purposely go against his demands, would she? She had never done anything against his wishes. Was she that angry that she felt she had to prove something to him? She wouldn’t do that? Would she? But who in the hell really knew what went through a woman’s mind? Especially someone like Jeannie.
The story that Alayna had told them flashed through his mind. If he truly did have Jeannie chances were that he had kidnapped her. Kidnapped his own sister? None of it made sense.
Thomas heart began to pound hard in his chest, then the thoughts of his wife’s broken body flashed through his mind. His confusion was soon replaced with anger. He’d find the bastards who did this and rip their hearts out.
Thomas was on the edge of being out of control. Riker sensed it and he had to think fast, "He’s bluffing." Will grabbed Thomas’ arm and whispered, "Jeannie’s not with him, Tom."
The voice called out again. "Put down you’re weapon…and I’ll bring her to you."
Thomas looked at his brother and then out to the voice and then quickly back to his brother. "How do you know?" He hissed his whisper through clenched teeth. "Why in the fuck did he say her name? Her full name? How in the hell does he know her?"
"I don’t know…I just know he’s bluffing…if he really had her, he’d be bringing her out by now. It wouldn’t matter if we were armed or not."
Thomas pondered on what Will had just said, and reason soon replaced confusion. "Brother, I promise you this. If this is some kind of sick joke. I’ll gut that son of a bitch." Thomas swore.
Riker didn’t doubt his brother, by the expression on Thomas’ face, and the flash of rage that radiated in those blue eyes, Thomas was more than capable of carrying out his threat.
Suddenly a shot rang out and a bullet whizzed past their heads. The two men parted, Thomas diving towards the right and Will diving to the left.
"Let’s play you bastard." Thomas said as he fired his weapon into the forest.
Suddenly there was gun fire from all directions. Riker and Will both took cover behind a rock, a tree anything that they could find…. Constantly moving so that the enemy couldn’t trace the sound of their guns.
Riker fired and heard a distant death scream, knowing that he had targeted one. "Hope you’re dead, and not just wounded." He said as he reloaded his weapon.
A man ran blindly through the forest. Thomas appeared out of nowhere and using his rifle as a club slammed the Scavenger in the mid-section, he heard the cracking sound of several ribs. The man clutched over in pain and fell to the ground. Thomas crouched down beside the injured man and studied the man for only a second, watching how he slowly slithered on his backside to get away. Thomas slowly unsheathed his bowie knife, quickly and cleanly he slit the man’s throat from ear to ear. "You’re dead now." he said as he wiped the knife off on the bleeding man’s shirt and stood up from his crouched position, running towards the sound of Will’s gunshots.
"I’ll kill her!" A voice different from the first called out.
"Cheaper than a divorce!" Riker yelled as he targeted the voice and fired.
"Who’s damn side you on Riker?" Thomas hissed as he rolled past his brother. He fired at a rustling sound of some leaves.
Riker fired again and targeted another man, who was dashing in and out of the forest. The man clutched his gut and tumbled to the ground.
Thomas and Will heard a frantic, terrified woman’s piercing scream, that flooded their veins with an icy chill as it echoed through the forest.
Both men instantly froze.
And then silence, a stomach churning silence.
With the shout of a war cry Thomas took off at full speed towards the scream, firing at anything and everything that moved. He was like a mad man, crazed with rage; fearlessly he dashed through the forest.
"Oh God!" Riker said to himself as he took off after his brother, covering him the best he could with his weapon.
Thomas let out another cry of agony as he stood over her body. She lay face down on the cold hard ground, in a puddle of blood. Her long strawberry blonde hair matted with her own blood. Thomas was panting hard, and his eyes were blank, dull, and lifeless as if he were possessed by all of the demons of hell.
Riker heard the sounds of horse hooves hitting the hard ground the fourth Scavenger was getting away.
Riker slowly walked towards the woman and crouched down beside her. Thomas stood frozen in place, with his eyes straight ahead, his body trembling uncontrollably. Riker couldn’t tell if his brother’s tremors were from anger, grief, or fright.
And then it hit him; his brother was afraid, afraid to see the face of Jeannie. He didn’t blame him. He wouldn’t want to see Deanna, not like this… broken, raped, and mutilated. Riker knew that no matter how brave or courageous his brother was or had been. Thomas couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Jeannie’s emerald green eyes not sparkling with life.
And in that instant Will Riker knew beyond any shadow of doubt that Thomas’ Riker had loved his wife with all of his heart, body, and soul.
Riker gently turned the female over; her face was covered with matted hair. He closed his eyes slowly, dreading the next thing he had to do.
He gently brushed the hair away from her face, and huge mass of matted hair lifted away from the head in his hand. Riker let out a startled curse, and slung the mass of hair quickly to the side.
Riker get a hold of yourself it was a wig…just a damn wig, he thought. He had to take several breaths to slow his heartbeat down. Riker quickly glance up at Thomas who was still frozen in place, and his eyes were staring straight ahead. Riker closed his eyes slowly and when he opened them he looked down at the woman’s face, "It’s not Jeannie." He whispered in relief, silently thanking the Gods.
Thomas stood unmoving, as if his duplicate’s words hadn’t registered in his mind… Riker stood up from his crouched position and repeated. "It’s not Jeannie."
Thomas didn’t flinch or react, taking his brother firmly by the shoulders he repeated more soundly, "Thomas…. It’s not Jeannie!"
Thomas said nothing, nor did he look down. He simply turned around and walked away.
Thomas went into the deepest part of the woods where no one could hear him and sobbed.
Riker buried the poor woman’s body in a shallow grave, securing it in place with rocks, to insure that the wild animals wouldn’t desecrate the gravesite. He made a make shift marker out of tree bark. "Rest well." He stated soberly to pile of rocks. He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly and headed back towards their camp.
"Wha…tha…" Will whispered in shock, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Riker had seen many horrors in his lifetime, but nothing compared to this.
Thomas had taken the three corpse of the scavengers, and had gruesomely displayed them.
One body was sitting up against a log with its severed head resting firmly in its lap. Another one was hanging upside down from a nearby tree; it had been gutted like a large animal. And the third one lay on its back with its limbs removed and the severed body parts were placed neatly in a pile beside it’s bloodied torso.
As if in a dream Riker turned his head and stared blankly at his brother who was casually washing the blood from his hands with a canteen of water. "What did you do?" he asked more sternly.
Thomas continued to wash his hands, never looking up or acknowledging his brother.
"What in the hell is this Thomas?" Riker demanded.
Thomas dried his hands on the thigh of his bloodied suede pants. He looked up at Will and answered, his voice ice-cold, "Hard Ball."
"Thomas, what is wrong with you?" Riker asked in disbelief. "I don’t want any part…of…. of this!" He was shocked by all of it, the bloodied bodies, the blood puddles on the ground along with other things, and Thomas was splattered with it.
Thomas shrugged, "Suit yourself." He turned on his heels and mounted his horse and took a firm grip of the reins. "Me, I’m going after them." He kicked his horse and took off galloping through the forest.
A wide grin spread across Bryce Hampton’s face as he stood there staring at Jeannie, soon his eyes fastened onto the low cut bodice of Jeannie’s dress.
Seeing the direction of his stare, she quickly pulled her dress up tightly around her. Bryce then walked slowly towards her.
"You had better stop right there!" she ordered, holding the palm of her hand out. Her emerald green eyes glistened with anger and fear.
He stopped, and smiled. "My what a brave little kitten you are." He chuckled, "I like a spirited woman." He reached out for her and she immediately flinched away.
"If you touch me, it won’t be my spirit that hunts you down." She threatened. "It will be my husband." She couldn’t help it but her bottom lip began to quiver in fear, gods she wished Thomas was here. She wanted to run, but there was no where to go.
""I’ll leave rape to your brother, he seems to have dibs on that." He stated sarcastically. "Lady, I’m taking your ass home."
She stood staring at him dumbfounded. Was he truly a gentleman? She doubted it.
"Let’s just say." He spoke with a slyness. "I don’t like Hard Ball."
"Hard Ball?" She had heard Thomas use the term once or twice, but never quite understood what he meant.
He clarified. "The Cardassians, they’re known to be brutal. I’m sure you’re aware of that." She nodded once and he continued, "Cardassians take great pleasure in torturing and mutilating, they have a word for it, hard ball. Those that survive hard ball become just as monstrous as the Cardassians. Riker was a cold-blooded murderous savage. You’re over protecting husband as you call him, would gut a man and then sit down and eat dinner beside the empty carcass. I’m sure he has many stories of his life in prison, stories he would love to tell your children." He paused for breath, "And personally, I have no desire to piss him off."
Jeannie caught her breath. Could he be serious? Would he truly take her home? Was he a potential rescuer? Was he afraid of Thomas? But, take her home, to what? To Thomas, a man with blood on his hands. A brute? A torturer? The questions whirled around her head in a matter of seconds. She stood silently, her eyes staring blankly at him. Afraid to say anything. Too shocked and dumbfounded to say anything, everything was happening so fast, first Stephen had lied and betrayed her and now this.
"How do you know Thomas?" she asked under her breath, not really wanting to know the answer. "How do I know you’re telling the truth?"
"Get your things." He ordered, evading her questions.
"What…what about Stephen?" She mumbled attempting to focus.
"What…?" She asked none of it made sense.
He suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders, pulling her roughly to him, he turned her face up and made her look at him, "I said scream." He repeated, then his voice took on a deadly threatening tone, "You either scream or I’ll rip off your clothes and take you right now. Riker be damned."
His mouth smothered her scream, he pushed his lips hard against hers. His tongue raping her mouth, probing, forcing, his mouth crushing hers. She attempted to beat him on the chest, but he simply grabbed her fists with one of his bigger hands and continued to punish her mouth with his lips. Fear over took her, she thought that he would take her against her will. She tried to scream but her voice could only make squealing sounds as he continued to punish her mouth with his. His hand with one mighty snap of his wrist, ripped the front of her dress, exposing her breast. Fear enveloped her, she was going to be raped.
Finally he raised his head and shoved her away.
Jeannie tasted her own blood.
"You bastard." She hissed as she brushed away the blood from her swollen upper lip.
"Consider yourself raped." He hissed. "Never speak of tonight or leave with your brother again. If you do. I’ll kill you myself." He turned on his heels, and snatched up her cloak tossing it at her, "Is that understood?"
She simply nodded, wide eyed. She straightened her dress and quickly put on her cloak.
Will and Thomas rode into town just after sunset three days later. They were both exhausted and hungry. Thomas spotted Jeannie and quickly dismounted off of his horse and ran towards her. He picked her up by the waist and swung her around, she wrapped her arms around him tightly and laughed, planting kisses all over his face. Thankful that the bruise on her lips had healed. Thankful to be home again and thankful for Thomas being home. All of the thoughts that had consumed her about Thomas’ past totally forgotten for the moment. She felt truly safe in his arms, as she wrapped her arms tighter around his neck.
Will watched as Thomas reunited with his wife. It had taken a lot of talking and a lot of cussing to convince Thomas to come back to the village.
Riker looked around for Deanna, she was nowhere to be seen and he let out a sigh. Riker unsaddled his horse and walked towards their small lodge.
He breathed in deep and slowly opened the door.
Eventually Deanna had put the whole silly argument out of her mind. She had told herself that he became so angry for a reason. She was learning new things about Will Riker every day. Perhaps she was being unreasonable, and she had said so many cruel things to him. She had told him never to come back, and the longer he stayed away from her, the fear of him never returning would soar through her like ice water.
Riker noticed how she was stirring something in a pot over the fireplace. She apparently hadn’t heard him come in. He stood silently in the doorway and watched her.
Deanna felt a cool night breeze as it circulated gently through the house and looked up, standing before her was Will. His heart thumped hard against her chest. "Hi there." She greeted him, and then she bent over the small black kettle, stirring its contents. "You’re dinner is ready." She spoke casually and continued on with her household duties.
"Thank you." He answered nervously sitting his pack down on the floor. What the hell was going on? He thought she would at least run into his arms and tell him she missed him? He down deep had expected a greeting like Thomas had gotten from his wife. But Thomas hadn’t grabbed his wife and threatened her in anger before he left. Riker wanted to tell her he missed her and that he was sorry. But he didn’t, he just stood there feeling like a total idiot. Waiting for her to throw something at him and run him out for what he had done. He could deal with her loving him or hating him. But this neutral ground? This was confusing and making him nervous as all hell.
"Are you hungry?" Deanna asked with a cheerful voice, as she headed towards the cupboard.
"A little." He shrugged.
"Did you and Thomas find anything?" she walked across the room and set the table, never looking up at him.
"Not really." Riker sat down in the nearest chair. It was good to be home again. Even though he didn’t know how long Deanna would allow him to stay. Damn his feet hurt, his body ached, and he wanted to remove his shoes. But, he didn’t dare in fear that she would throw him out at anytime and this tense situation was beginning to make his head hurt. So far, so good, he thought.
"I like Jeannie, she’s become a close friend."
"That’s’ good." He answered. She’s playing some sort of head game with me, he thought.
"You can only speak in two word sentences now?"
"Guess so." He answered with a shrug.
"How’s this?" Deanna asked with a lopsided smile.
"How’s what?" He asked almost fearful, expecting her to strike out at him in any moment.
"Two words." she said with a playful twitch of her nose.
He looked at her confused.
"Your game." She shrugged.
He stood to his feet and asked. "Is it?"
Riker began to walk towards her.
"I’m staying?" He asked hopefully, he was close enough now to hold her face in his hands, and he wanted to but he hesitated slightly.
"That depends." She stared at him with those large kitten eyes. She reached up and brushed aside a lock of hair, that same bang that always hung stubbornly across his forehead.
"I’m sorry." He apologized, his voice full of remorse. Gods she was so beautiful and he loved her so much.
"Me too." A tear trailed down her cheek and he wiped it away with his thumb.
He bent down and kissed her lips tenderly. His lips met hers again, and as the kiss grew deeper her felt her arms wrapping around his neck. He wanted her Gods how he wanted her. His hands began to explore her body…and he cupped her bottom with his hands and drew her closer to him.
"I shouldn’t have said those awful things." She whispered into his neck.
"Oh Gods, Deanna I’m so sorry" He confessed as he held her against him. "I was worried sick that I hurt you. You have to believe me I didn’t know what else to do. I’d never harm you."
"I believe you."
His lips met hers again and he kissed her with such passion that she thought she would collapse in his arms. His tongue gently probed the inside of her mouth, searching and seeking out her tongue. His hand slid down her back and he held her even closer to him.
Later that night Will began to drift off into slumber. He spooned up against Deanna, bringing her body tightly against his. He cupped one hand around her breast possessively and fell into a much needed hard sleep. Deanna listened to the even sound of his breathing. She knew that it was the sleep of a satisfied lover, and she slowly drifted off nestled beside him.
Will and Deanna were sitting at their table drinking coffee, after spending most of the morning in bed enjoying one another’s bodies. They decided it would be best to at least get up and have some coffee, for appearance sake.
"I’m getting rather accustomed to my human side."
"Really?" Riker stated with amusement.
"Gooch told me that he doubted if my abilities would come back while we’re stranded on this strange planet. I’ve concluded that you’ll just have to suffice with a human wife. One that you can camouflage your feelings to, lie to…." She twitched her nose and added, "Be a real Riker to."
"Deanna I’ve never lied to you." Will quickly defended himself.
"You’ve never had the chance…I’ve always had the upper hand remember? And in you’re words…. As I recall you said, quote and unquote….’ We’re equal now…you’ve always had the upper hand.’ You see Mr. Riker this should be an adventure, you’ve never had a human wife."
"Are you prepared to be human, Deanna? We could be stuck her for a long time. Living within these primitive means, hunting for food….. cooking in a fireplace over a real fire, no replicators….no warp drive."
Deanna shoulders suddenly fell when she thought about it and added, "No chocolate."
"No new clothes, except those that you make yourself that is."
"No Betazed tea." She began to get more depressed.
"Hey, I didn’t mean to depress you. There is a bright side." He said as he reached across the table and held her hand.
"No Lwaxanna Troi."
Deanna shot him a look and he laughed at the expression on her face.
"No birth control." She retaliated.
His face turned to stone instantly. "Ohhhh dammmn…" he mumbled to himself, he felt as if the whole universe had just landed on his shoulders. She was right. There was no birth control on this planet and their inoculations wouldn’t last forever.
"You know what, Deanna?" He said after awhile.
She sat silently and waited for him to speak.
"You still have the upper hand."
She leaned over and kissed the tip of his nose. "I know." She teased.
There was a loud impatient pounding on the door.
"Deanna! Deanna!" The voice behind the door screamed out, it was a woman and she was in a panic. "Please, please let me in!"
Riker shot Deanna a look and then ran to the door and opened it. Standing out side of the door was a dark eyed woman. She was white as a ghost and the front of her dress was covered with blood.
"Rhodie!" Deanna yelled as she rushed to the door.
Riker quickly scooped Rhodie up in his arms and laid her on their bed.
"Go get the doctor, Will!" Deanna told him, as she began to remove the young girls bloodied clothes.
Riker shot out the door and took off running towards the doctor’s cottage.
"It was Brighton…" the woman cried.
"Shhhhh…. Don’t talk now." Deanna comforted her, attempting to stop the bleeding from her stomach. She wished desperately that the medical instruments would work, but they were of no use here.
"It was Brighton…he did this." Rhodie cried in pain. The wounded woman reached up and clutched onto the bodice of Deanna’s dress with a claw like grip. "Brighton." She repeated between breaths.
Thomas ran inside of the cottage, there was blood everywhere.
"Stephen Brighton" The woman breathed in deep and then let out her last breath and her body slightly.
Checking for a pulse and finding none, Deanna pried the woman’s fingers from her dress and looked over towards Thomas, and shook her head sadly. "She’s gone."
Thomas came over covered the woman with a blanket, he reached out and brought Deanna in his arms, gently guiding her head to rest upon his broad chest. He comforted her while she wept for her friend.
Will and the Doctor came rushing in, both coming to an abrupt halt, looking first at the covered body and then to Thomas and Deanna.
Jeannie was down at the stream gathering water, she thought about Bryce and wondered why he had let her go. Why did he bring her home? Her own brother was going to actually give her to him, as payment? Stephen was just like her father, she thought, he would stop at nothing to gain power. Even sell his own sister. Thankful that Bryce was frightened of Thomas, she shuttered at the thought of coming so close to being violated. And then there was Thomas? Had he done those things? Had he gutted a man like an animal, without a second thought? He was always so gentle and kind, she couldn’t image him being what Stephen had said.
Jeannie walked inside of her cottage, lost in her own thoughts, when Thomas grabbed her arm, saying grouchily, "Where in the hell have you been?"
"Getting fresh water from the stream." Surprised that he was upset with her.
"All this time." He glared angrily. "You scared the hell out of me. I was just getting ready to ride out and look for you."
"I…. I’m sorry."
"Never mind that. There’s been another rape." He said, letting go of her arm.
"Wh…who?" she asked weakly. The thoughts of Stephen and his men flashed through her mind.
She felt as if all the blood had just rushed from her face, and he knees became weak. "Where is she? Where is Rhodie?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"She’s dead." He said without emotion, his eyes full of rage. Jeannie didn’t know what it was, but there was something in Thomas’ eyes that she had never noticed before.
Her brain suddenly began to whirl, she had visions of bloody, mutilated bodies and Thomas standing over them with blood on his hands.
"Thomas…. tell me you didn’t do it." She asked in a whisper, her eyes wide.
He thought she was talking about Rhodie, "Tell you what?" he asked. "That I didn’t rape and kill Rhodie?"
She stood there her emerald green eyes focusing on him.
"What in the hell do you think I am?" He snapped, his ice blue eyes glimmered with anger.
He locked his eyes with hers, and was immediately sorry for talking so harshly to her.
"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to….." He reached out for her hand, but she suddenly flinched it away from him. Taking steps backing away from him.
Her defensive action stunned Thomas for a second, "Jeannie, what is wrong with you?" he asked. She acted as if he was going to hurt her. "I’m not the enemy here."
"Aren’t you? She asked quietly. "Did you butcher those men, Thomas?" she asked.
She found her answer in the expression on his face.
"What could have possessed you to…" Jeannie began.
Thomas shrugged, "It was something that had to be done."
"Had to be done?" she whispered in anger.
He simply stared at her. He wasn’t proud of himself. He wasn’t proud of the things he had done in prison. The only survival in hell is called "Hard Ball." He spent years in an atmosphere where only the strong survive. He had learned to be just as ruthless, hateful, barbaric, and cruel as the Cardassians were.
Displaying those Scavengers in the forest in such a horrid way, he thought was again something that had to be done. He had done it as an attempt to scare the enemy off. To prove to them that he wasn’t afraid. Simply a silent communication that crudely proclaimed: Don’t fuck with me!
"Why Thomas? Why?" she asked.
Thomas Riker stood in silence.
Jeannie Riker knew that the conversation was over from the look on his face. Riker’s were known to raise invisible shields and Thomas definitely had his up now. She decided to let the subject drop for the time being, "I really need to be alone right now."
Thomas’ mood suddenly changed and he relaxed somewhat, "Until we can set up guards around the village. Don’t go anywhere by yourself."
She looked up at him.
"Is that understood?" He said it in that tone of voice that claimed he meant to be obeyed. She hated that tone. It was the type of tone that made her want to throw something at him.
"Aye, Captain." She replied dryly.
He inhaled deeply and exhaled, with a nod he turned and walked out. Part of him was relieved that he was no longer under her microscope or her onslaught of questions. Part of him hating Stephen for what he had done to Rhodie, but mostly he hated himself because he couldn’t bring himself to tell his wife the truth. He knew down deep that he never would be able to. He didn’t want to hurt her anymore than she had already been hurt by her own family.
Jeannie lay in bed awake for most of the night; she couldn’t get the images of bloodied bodies out of her mind. The words Bryce had said to her repeated themselves in her mind, his deep seated fear of Thomas.
She had to think. She needed some air.
Slowly and quietly climbing out of bed, she grabbed her clothes and began to get dressed.
"Jeannie?" Thomas stirred from his sleep.
"Go back to sleep, it’s okay. I’m just going for a drink of water." She said in a hushed tone, breathing a sigh of relief when Thomas rolled over.
Looking around the village all was quiet, except for the small insects that sang in the background of the forest. She looked up at the stars and noticed their brilliance. Finding a small wooden bench close to the well, she sat, just listening and absorbing the sounds of nature.
Jeannie jumped up at the sound of his voice, she hadn’t a clue as to how long she had been sitting there. Standing before her was Thomas Riker, his blue eyes glittering in the moonlight. He was barefooted, bare chested, and his now long hair was slightly ruffled.
"I didn’t mean to startle you." He stated nervously, combing a hand through his hair.
He reached out and took her hand, "Are you all right?" he asked with concern after she hadn’t said anything. "You’re freezing." He brought her in close to his body and held her, rubbing his large callused hand up and down her shoulders and upper arms attempting to warm her up.
He raised her face upward so that she had to look at him. "Better?" He asked, smiling down at her, it was a brilliant smile, his eyes gentle, full of tenderness and love. They’re eyes met and held, he bent his head down slowly, his lips only meters from hers.
But all she could see were the bloodied images. She abruptly pulled herself out of his arms, pushing herself away from him.
"I can’t do this Thomas." She said as she brushed past him and ran towards their cottage.
"What was that all about?" He asked as he shut the door behind him in the cottage.
"You know what it’s about."
"Did Will tell you?" He was referring to the incident in the forest.
"No, Bryce Hampton did." She said in Will’s defense. The words flew out of her mouth before she could stop them.
His head snapped towards her. "When did you see Bryce Hampton?"
"It doesn’t matter." She stated coolly. "What matters is that you tortured and murdered those men in prison. Bryce said that you would gut a man and then sit down and eat dinner beside the empty carcass. He’s scared of you Thomas."
"Bryce told you that?" He asked casually.
"Yes, he did." She stood erect. She wasn’t going to cry, damn it she wasn’t going to cry.
Thomas reached for his suede vest and began to get dressed. "I never really cared too much for Bryce. He was always full of shit."
"It’s over Thomas." Jeannie stated bluntly.
Her words made him look at her. "You don’t mean that." Extending a hand out to touch her, but she flinched away from him.
"Don’t touch me!" She hissed though her teeth, "And I do mean it! I do! You’ve…. You’ve got blood on your hands. Don’t you touch me, don’t ever touch me again! You’re a killer…. You’re…. You’re a…" Tossing her long strawberry blonde hair behind her shoulder, she declared, "You’re a savage!"
"A savage?" Thomas said in disbelief, "You think I’m a savage?" he laughed at the thought.
"For god’s sake, Jeannie. Think about what you’re saying, and who you’re saying it to. I would never hurt you; you should know that by now. I’m not the enemy." His voice took a change and transformed into bitter sarcasm, "You’re Brother, Stephen and his band of infidels reign terror on this planet with their murder, rape and violation of innocent children. And your own father pulverized anyone who stood in his way to fame at Starfleet."
He stared at her momentarily and then added, "Use your head for Chrissake." He began to put on his boots.
"I am using my head! That is until you cut it off!" She was on the verge of hysterical now. "I want a divorce! I hate you!" She cried, "I hate what you are. I hate what you’ve done! I can’t stay with a man that I’m frightened of. I can’t! And another thing I wont!"
Thomas didn’t know whether to laugh or to curse. Jeannie had never spoken to him in such a manner before and she was usually a woman who knew what she did or did not want. And she had just made it perfectly clear she didn’t want him. Well, damn it. He wasn’t an idiot and he sure as hell wasn’t going to stay where he wasn’t wanted. He grabbed his boots and began to put them on. His blue eyes turning dark from the bitter memories of the events in the forest and of all he had done in prison. That was the reason why she had turned on him, and hated him so, it was because of his past. Well hell, he thought you can’t change your past, sooner of later it catches up with you. He grabbed his knife belt, attached it around his waist, and fastened it.
Thomas took the bowie knife from its sheath that hung at his belt. He studied the huge knife for a moment and ran his thumb over the sharp edge of the blade, his face unreadable. He took a few steps and stood in front of her.
She gulped hard, tears of fear trailed down her cheek. She kept telling herself over and over again, ‘he’s never hurt you before. He’s never hurt you before.’ Those words helped her to find courage. She looked at him and whispered in a shaky voice, "Wh…What are you doing?"
He stood silent for a moment. Then suddenly he grabbed it by its tip and with a quick snap of his wrist sent it end over end into the wall behind them.
She gasped in horror.
Thomas walked over and pulled the knife out of the wall by its handle, and slowly sheathed the huge deadly blade. "You are right about one thing, Jeannie." He said as he turned and walked towards the door. He stopped in the doorway and added, "You shouldn’t be with a man that frightens you."
He picked up the rifle that was standing at the door. He squared his shoulders and stated half heartedly, "See ya around."
She heard Thomas slap his horse, followed by the sound of horse hooves as they clopped steadily against the hard ground slowly fading away.
It was silent and still.
Thomas Riker was gone.
When Jeannie woke up Thomas was gone. He was gone, and she was glad. Let him stay gone, she thought. She scolded herself for even marrying someone as barbaric as Thomas. How could she have been so naive? How could she have been so blind? He probably only used her to get out of prison. How could she have stayed with a man with such a vile temper? She couldn’t believe that she had actually fell in love with a man could purposely torture another humanoid, and she cringed at the thought of Thomas disemboweling someone.
There was a knock on the door, thinking that it was probably Thomas she frowned.
Inhaling and exhaling deeply Jeannie went to the door, and opened it. Standing before her was Deanna Troi.
Thomas rode through most of the night heading towards that mountain ranges. He figured that the snow capped peaks would be the best place to homestead. He’d stay there for awhile, give Jeannie time to cool off and then make some sort of attempt to speak to her, help her see reason. Why hadn’t he told her? He didn’t want to hurt her, but then again if he had told her, maybe she would have understood, and not hate him as much as she did right now. Oh well, he thought there’s no good in dwelling over what ifs and should haves, what was done was done. Nothing he could do about it now.
Suddenly he heard an arrow as it whizzed past his head. Thomas quickly retrieved his rifle from the saddle bag but, before he could fire, he felt the sting of the second arrow. He screamed out in pain, the force of the small spear sent him flying backwards off of his horse and onto the cold ground. His body landed with a thud, he thought of Jeannie, then his world went black.
"Whooohoooo!" A triumphant voice from behind a pile of rocks sang out. The Scavenger bravely came out from beyond his hiding place and hurried towards his new victim.
He slowed his pace as he approached Thomas stared down at the man, he kicked the limp form and when it didn’t respond, he smiled in victory. He crouched down by Thomas’ body and studied the victim’s face for a moment. He then lifted the huge bowie knife from the body, "Guess you won’t need this anymore will ya?" He asked. The scavenger began to search thought his shirt pockets. He noticed the silver wedding band on his victim’s finger and twisted it off. "This may be worth something." He said with a rotten toothed smile. After stripping Thomas of his weapons, his clothes, including his boots, anything that was of value or useful, the nasty looking scavenger mounted himself on Thomas’ horse, "Goodbye Mister."
A shot rang out.
The scavenger flanked the horse and took off.
His rescuer quickly dismounted his horse and crouched beside Thomas. His hand ran across his head wound and his fingers came away sticky with blood. "Damn." He whispered to himself, taking a bandanna he wrapped it around the head wound.
Grabbing Thomas by an arm he lifted him up and slung him over his shoulder. With a grunt he then roughly hoisted the limp body across the saddle of a horse, Thomas’ head banged up against a saddle bag and he let out a groan. "Sorry about that lad." The man said, securing the unconscience body down with a rope.
He walked over and took Thomas’ horse by the reins, and mounted his own horse and headed further into the mountains.
Thomas woke up slowly, attempting to focus on his surroundings. His head hurt like hell and his body felt as if he had been hit by a shuttle bus, he winced in pain when his hand reached up and touched the gash across his forehead. Looking over he noticed a small fire that was used mostly to make coffee and take the chill out of the small cavern that he was in, sitting beside the fire was a dark figure of a man, his face a shadow.
"Bet you’re head hurts like hell." The voice said.
Thomas suddenly looked around for his weapons.
"You’re weapons are over here." The man said, "And by the way, you’re welcome."
"What are you doing here?" Thomas asked, damn his head hurt. He was glad that the man wasn’t any threat right now.
"I have to talk to you, seeing how you left on unfriendly terms with the little woman. Plus." He stated casually and then paused, "You were being robbed by some Scavenger who took everything, that is except your boots." He was quiet for a moment and then asked, "You want something to eat?"
"Suit yourself." Gooch shrugged.
"How’d you find me?" Thomas grunted, sitting up slightly.
"It wasn’t hard. After you live so long on this planet you learn to do a lot of things you never thought you could." Gooch answered with a twinkle in is eye. "I track down rabbits in my spare time, I can’t eat em, but none the less I enjoy tracking them down. And you’re tracks are a hell of a lot bigger than a snow rabbit." Gooch stood up and walked towards Thomas, "You were going through these mountains pretty slow paced. Slow enough to be targeted. If I didn’t know any better. I’d say you wanted someone to find you."
"Damn…." Thomas winced in pain as he stood to his feet. How could he have been so stupid to let his guard down like that? That’s what happens when a man falls in love, he lets his guard down.
"Here drink some of this, it will take away some of the pain." Gooch handed him a bottle of his whiskey. "May even kill you, either way…you won’t feel nothing’."
Thomas grunted a thank you, and took a hefty swig of the home made brew. It burnt like hell going down and landed in the pits of his stomach with a thud. "It still taste like Klingon vomit."
Gooch let out a short laugh. "Oh yeah, this belongs to you." He handed Thomas his knife, "that scavenger dropped this. You’ll find some extra clothes in my saddle bag."
"Kind of stupid to hand a man like me a knife, aren’t you afraid that I’ll kill you." Thomas asked.
"Oh I thought about that, and you won’t." Gooch said with confidence.
Thomas studied the knife for a moment. His mind drifted towards Jeannie and how she was frightened that he was going to hurt her. Thomas huffed out a breath, and sheathed the dangerous weapon. He was still dizzy and his head hurt like hell.
"You best lay back down." Gooch said. "Give that wound a couple of days to heal."
"I’ll be fine."
"Maybe you will, maybe you won’t." Gooch said as he drank his coffee, "I want to make a deal with ya, young fellow."
"What kind of deal."
"Since I saved you’re life, and if I give ya a case of my finest brew and a good horse to travel on. Will you promise not to burn our town down, and kill all the men folk?"
"Yes." Riker agreed damn his head hurt and this old man wasn’t making it any better. He couldn’t believe this.
"And I promise not to burn your town down and kill all of your men."
After three days the wound on his head was practically healed, he still had occasional headaches, but Thomas figured they would fade away in time.
"Riker." Gooch called out. Thomas turned around and waited for him to speak. "I won’t tell none of them that I saw you. We’re even now, and we made an agreement. You’ll go your way, and leave me and my town alone? I got you’re word you’ll never show your face in my town again?"
Thomas nodded, turned, and walked out of the small cavern.
"Rolly what in the hell are you babbling on about?" Bryce asked the scrawny little scavenger.
"I killed me this man in the mountains, shot him dead with an arrow I did." Rolly bragged, "I got his guns, his horse, his clothes, and this fine silver wedding band." Rolly held up the ring and flashed it in front of the other men’s faces.
"Let me see that ring." Bryce said as he took a step towards the nasty little scavenger.
"Not so fast Hampton." Rolly squinted suspiciously, "How do I know that you don’t want to rob me of these fine goods?"
"You don’t." and in an instant, Bryce fired his weapon and hit the little man squarely in the chest, knocking his small body backwards with a force.
"He could have just said, okay." Bryce shrugged. Walking over to the dead body of Rolly he pried the ring from the dead man’s hand.
Bryce studied the ring, and read the engraving, ‘Thomas Riker.’ He read out loud. Looking down at Rolly he exclaimed, "Damn you were telling the truth." Bryce was now certain that Thomas was truly dead, he took out the silver wedding band and twisted it onto his finger, his lips smiled a thin lipped smile, "Now all I’ve got to do is comfort his poor little widow."
Stephen squared his shoulders and called out to his men, "Round up boys, we’re going to town."
"Town?" One burly scavenger asked.
"Well, I figure you boys need some women company and it’s been awhile since you’ve gotten to do any killing…. So what the hell, why not?" Stephen said with a deadly laugh.
"There’s a lady there with long strawberry blonde hair, she’s my whore and if any of you touch her." Bryce warned, "You’ll end up like Rolly here." He looked down at the dead man at his feet for only a second; "You got that?"
With their eyes full of hungry lust and the zeal of demons the scavengers mounted their horses.
A shot rang out in the middle of the night.
Then another and another, soon a hail of rapid gunfire rang out over the small village.
"Get to the shelter in the forest." Will urgently instructed his wife as he scrambled to his feet and hurriedly began to get dressed.
Deanna jumped out of bed and got dressed just as fast as her husband. "What about you?"
"I’ll be fine." He said as he grabbed his gun, "Now get Jeannie and Go!" he ordered. An instant later there was an earsplitting explosion from the outside and huge flash of flame illuminated the house. Deanna screamed. Will dove for his wife, covering her body with his. A second explosion exceeded the first, and then a bombardment of rifle fire blasted throughout the town.
"Get the hell out of here, Deanna!" Riker yelled as he helped her to her feet, he turned and ran out the doorway, with his guns blazing.
Deanna took off running across the village square. The renewed blare of gunfire blasted inside of her ears and over her head. The scavengers were everywhere, running throughout the village killing men, setting houses, and barns on fire. Animals were running rampant, as they screamed and bawled their protest. Deanna saw out of the corner of her eye one scavenger lunged towards her, but she artfully dodged him, and continued to run. She had never run so fast in her life. But, all she could think about was getting to Jeannie. She had to get to Jeannie; with Thomas gone no one was there to protect her.
"Deanna!" She heard Jeannie call out to her. "Look out!"
Deanna whirled around, the monstrous image of a Scavenger appeared as he lunged out towards her. Jeannie targeted the gun and hit the man squarely in the chest sending his bloody body flying backwards.
"Let’s get the hell out of here." Jeannie yelled, beyond the screams and cries of the villagers. They heard as bodies thudded against the ground, and homes burned with crackling and popping sounds. Babies were screaming, and children were being drug by the arms roughly by their parents desperately seeking shelter and safety.
The two women ran through the small village, the smoke so thick that it was burning their eyes. One scavenger was trying to rape a poor girl right there in the village square, Jeannie aimed and fired killing the would be rapist instantly. Deanna ran grabbing the babbling screaming frantic young girl by the arm, she quickly hoisted her to her feet. Shocked momentarily to see that it was Alayna the water girl. Jeannie shoved the small panic stricken young girl forward, screaming behind her, "Run! Run Alayna! For God’s sake Run!"
The town’s guards were quickly mowed down by a hail of gunfire. Deanna heard Will let out a cry of pain and quickly whirled around on her heels, she saw her husband fall to his knees, and then flat onto his face, he had been struck with a bullet from behind.
"Willlll!" she frantically screamed with all of the strength in her lungs, but her scream only caught the attention of four scavengers that were now running with eyes full of lust, targeting the two women.
One scavenger quickly lunged towards Deanna tackling her to the ground. Deanna screamed and Jeannie fired the rifle; Jeannie's heart skipped a beat and she wanted to cry, the rifle was empty.
One scavenger suddenly backhanded Deanna, spinning her small body with such force she fell into a pile of fire wood. He then grabbed her roughly by the arm and hoisted her small body over his shoulder.
"Let her go you, bastard! Let her go!" Jeannie screamed, lunging towards the burly scavenger.
"Grab the women and burn it down!" Stephen called to his men. "Make sure all of the men are dead!"
"Stephen!" Jeannie screamed as she struggled with the huge fat burly scavenger.
"Well, well…. What have we got here?" He said with an eerie interest.
"Stephen let Deanna go, please…. Let her go! You can have me…. Let her go!" Jeannie begged her brother.
"You mean that one?" He said pointing to the dark haired woman that was being carried off by a scavenger.
"Yes, Yes. Stephen please make him let her go!" Jeannie begged her eyes full of tears, "I beg you, on our mother’s grave…. Please let her go! You can’t let this happen to her! You can’t!" She pleaded with all her might.
"She means that much to you." Stephen asked, as he gently wiped away a tear from his sister’s face. Suddenly his mood transformed instantly, he grabbed under her chin and looked at her through squinted evil eyes. "Alright little sister, she won’t be thrown to the wolves. She’ll be my whore…and my whore only."
"Fat Man! Bring the winch to me." Stephen ordered. The huge scavenger obeyed. "I claim her!" He roughly snatched the screaming fighting form of Deanna from the fat burly scavenger.
"Tell the men, it’s time to ride out. They can have what women they can carry and let’s get the hell out of here." He ordered the fat man.
"I want the one with dark eyes." The fat man protested.
Stephen knew he couldn’t even begin to combat this giant of a man, "You can have that one." He said indicating towards Jeannie.
"Nooooo! Stephen, Please!" Jeannie begged. The huge man roughly grabbed a handful of hair and began to drag her off. She protested in screams and kicks, then with one quick snap of his wrist he slapped her. Jeannie Riker saw stars flash before her eyes and then fell to the ground in an unconscience heap.
"You always were a fighter, little sister." Stephen said as he hoisted himself onto his horse. One of the men handed him the fighting form of Deanna and he secured her in his arms. "Let’s get the hell out of here." He ordered his men.
The fat man went his way with Jeannie and Stephen went his way with Deanna.
Both women were at the mercy of murdering lunatics.
Jeannie Riker came to slowly she was tied with her back against a tree and gagged with a dirty bandanna that smelled of sweat and body odor. She felt her stomach churn from it’s stench.
A huge fat man, with a scraggly beard and long matted hair, walked over to her and roughly untied the bandanna, causing her to let out a breath of relief. "Why am I tied to this tree?" she asked defiantly.
He said nothing, just grunted. "What…what are you going to do with me?" she asked.
She was answered with the heaviness of his breathing.
"What are you going to do with me?" she asked again more bravely. Thinking it worked with one scavenger she decided to try it on this one. "My husband will hunt you down, and he won’t stop until he finds you." She threatened.
The fat man looked over at her and laughed. "Lady, you’re husband is dead."
Could Thomas be dead? No Thomas knew how to handle himself, that much she was sure of. "He’s not dead!" she protested.
"Believe what you want." He shrugged his fat shoulders. The fat man stood to his feet and covered her up with a blanket, tucking in the sides. "You’d better stay covered up. It gets cold in these hills."
"Why do you care?" she snapped.
"I don’t." he laughed, and his fat belly shook. "It’s not good to take a sick woman to the trade farm."
He heart leaped in her chest, what did he say? Trade farm, surely he wouldn’t trade her. But for what? She swallowed the huge lump in her throat and asked, "What is the trade farm?"
"You’ll see." He said smoothly. "A woman with hair like that and those green eyes will merit a man a lot of weapons and supplies." He eyed her body up and down, his stare landing on her breast.
Gods all she wanted to do was pull up the bodice of her dress, but with her hands tied securely she couldn’t. "Are you going to rape me?" she asked quietly. Scared of his answer.
He stood up and walked over to her slowly, she heard him unzip his pants. "Oh please no…please don’t." She whispered her plea, her brain filling with horror.
Grabbing her by a handful of hair he ordered her to look at him.
"Look!" The fat man ordered gruffly. She opened her eyes, shockingly he had exposed himself to her. She was forced to see that he was a eunuch. "This is what happens to men who sleep with Bryce or Stephen’s whores." He roughly shoved her head back against the tree. "I plan to sell you." He turned and zipped up his pants. "Now, go to sleep. I’ll feed you in the morning." He turned, and walked away.
"Where in the hell is she?" Bryce asked urgently. All of the women were ordered to stand along the wall of the cavern, yet none of them were Jeannie.
"The fat man took her." Stephen said with a calm.
"He knew she was mine." Bryce demanded with a fury.
"I told him, she belonged to you and he told me to tell you to go to hell." He lied rather convincingly.
Ignoring Bryce’s anger, Stephen grabbed Deanna by the arm, quickly brought her beside him, and announced, "Let it be known to all, this is my whore." Stephen grabbed Deanna by the face and kissed her roughly, "Now we’re married!" The crowd of men cheered with him, their laughs full of sneers and snickers. Deanna struggled to get away from him, but it to no avail.
"You’re turn to pick one Bryce." Stephen directed his attention towards his friend. Bryce’s eyes filled with anger, he reached out and grabbed a woman randomly. Hampton was furious and Deanna knew that his victim would pay dearly for that anger. The poor woman was frantically screaming and crying in protest, he paid no attention to her screams and pleas and drug her off into his cavern room.
"All right boys you’ve earned it…. Enjoy! The rest of these women are yours." Bryce called out. There was a huge cheering and the men lunged eagerly at the poor frantic women.
Stephen looked at Deanna and his lips covered hers, she attempted to scream but all that came out was a muffled squeal of protest. He broke their contact and smiled, "Oh what’s wrong honey? You still angry with me for killing your father, you’re brother, or maybe that was your husband?" He sneered. "I believe it’s time for our honeymoon, sweetheart." He said his eyes full of anger. Picking her up he hoisted her over his shoulder and took her into his cavern.
Stephen pushed Deanna forcefully onto the bedroll and laid his full weight on top of her; unable to move all she could do was struggle and squirm. Her cries and screams mingled with the other women in the cavern. As if crazed with lust he began ripping off her clothing. Her struggles were futile, forcing her thighs apart with his leg, he forced himself inside of her, he was hurting her, pushing himself inside of her. All she could do in the end was submit and cry. It was over with just as quickly as it had started. He stood to his feet, and straightened his clothing.
"You are my whore." He said breathing hard. "You fight me again and I’ll kill you." He turned and walked out, leaving her sobbing.
Riker slowly rose to his feet; his shoulder hurt like hell and it was stiff. The putrid smell of burning flesh filled his nostrils and he felt like vomiting. The town was in ruins; bombs had gone off everywhere.
"Hey, you’re alive." Gooch exclaimed as he ran towards the strong Starfleet officer. He placed his hand on Will’s shoulder and it came away sticky with blood, Riker winced in pain at the old man’s touch.
"Deanna." Riker asked Gooch, "Where is she?" He babied his wounded shoulder by holding his arm in place as he followed Gooch. Looking all around him he noticed that the village had been almost totally destroyed. Villagers scrambled frantically to put out fires, to retrieve bodies, or find loved ones.
He was led to a designated area, where the fatalities were taken, to be identified by their survivors. Riker scanned the victims and noticed the body of Alayna the little water girl and that of her father as they lay lifelessly side by side. "Oh Gods." He whispered, he felt his stomach begin to churn again.
"You need to go see the doctor, Will." Gooch said, grabbing onto Riker’s good arm.
"I need to find Deanna and Jeannie." Riker insisted.
"If they’re not here. They’re gone."
Riker heart jumped into his throat, "What the hell do you mean gone?" he insisted. Fearing the worse, with each new body carried to the area; he held his breath hoping it wouldn’t be Jeannie or Deanna.
"They were abducted by Stephen and his men."
Riker’s anger was now smothering all the pain he had felt from the gunshot wound.
"You can get pissed off later. Right now, the doctor needs to remove that bullet." He said guiding Will away from the bodies. "You aren’t any good to anyone wounded."
The very next day Will Riker woke up and by some miracle his wound was healed, he head felt like a bowling ball and his vision was blurry. He focused hard on his surroundings, he fell back on the bed, and he was in that crazy rat looking witch doctor’s tent.
"Man you healed." The old witch doctor said, "Now you get."
"How did you do that?" Riker asked amazed at this man’s ability to heal so quickly.
"Me not tell secret." He said, "Me tell you this. You need Man in mirror to fight bad men. Man cannot be whole unless he has man in mirror. Man do same thing as man in mirror."
"I don’t even know where Thomas is." He said gruffly.
"You not find man in mirror, he with you all the time." He said in broken English. "You find woman who lives in your heart in the mountains. You got there now, before bad men do and wait."
With a blinded fury and a determination, Riker set out as soon as possible for the mountains. He swore to himself, if it took all the strength he possessed and he would use whatever means he had to. He would get his wife back.
Stephen, Deanna, and three other scavengers had set out and were riding up the steep mountain ranges.
"You’re my whore now." Stephen said as he rode rein with Deanna. "Now I promised my sister I’d take care of you…and I’m a man of my word."
"That’s hard to believe." Deanna stated sarcastically, it didn’t take an empath to figure that the man had just kidnapped her was a liar.
"The way I see it. We’re heading for my cabin in the mountains. I won’t rape you my dear, you see…if you don’t give yourself willingly I’ll simply kill you."
"You won’t kill me." Deanna said in defilement.
Stephen laughed, "What makes you say that?"
"I’m an empath." She said, "I can read your thoughts." She lied, but on this planet she had to motivate on instinct alone, and she was attempting to bluff.
"You’re an empath? From Betazoid? Well, I’ll be damned." He chuckled, "Now, I know you’re lying, the gifts of telepathy don’t operate on this planet."
"I never said I was telepathic. I said I was an empath. I’m only half Betazoid, my other half is human."
"So tell me Miss Empath, what do you sense from me?"
"You’re death." She stated bluntly. "You’re cold cruel death."
He stared at her in disbelief.
"The atmosphere around you, do you sense it?" She said, pretending she knew what she was talking about.
"You’re bluffing." He said. She noticed that there was a nervousness to his voice.
Suddenly as if God had heard her. A rock was hurled out of the sky in slingshot fashion, hitting one of the Scavengers squarely in the head with such force the man tumbled off of his horse dead.
"What the hell?" Stephen exclaimed, he glanced quickly over at Deanna and then ordered his two remaining men. "Don’t shoot, these mountains will come down upon us. Dismount and use the horses as cover." The men obeyed reluctantly and dismounted. Cautiously they continued to walk up the mountain range. Stephen grabbed Deanna and tore her off of her horse. "I said, dismount." He hissed.
They walked for about half a mile along the narrow ledge. The severed arm of human came rolling down a small mountainside.
"Oh my gods. What in the hell?" One of the men gasped as he stared at the bloodied limb.
Deanna held back her horror and calmly stated, "It’s Thomas. Thomas Riker. You’ve walked into his trap."
"You shut up whore or I’ll shut you up." Stephen ordered, wide eyed.
Then a severed leg came flying off of the mountain and landed at one of the men’s feet.
"What the hell kind of demon is this, that butcher’s a man?" the man asked his voice full of horror and wonderment. Rocks suddenly came bulleting through the air, hitting one of the men in the head. He screamed grabbed at his bleeding head wound and stumbled backwards loosing his balance his body plummeted over the mountain ledge. The scavengers voice echoed as he fell thousands of feet to his death.
"What the hell is he?" The remaining Scavenger asked Stephen.
"He is rather angry and he won’t stop until you are all dead." Deanna stated with newfound hope and courage. She was proud of Thomas he was scaring the men so much that they couldn’t even think; they couldn’t form a plan.
Suddenly another human body part came flying down the mountain. This time it was the torso of a human, the limbs removed. "I’m getting the hell out of here." The remaining man said as he hurried back down the mountain edge.
"Mack you coward!" Stephen called furiously to the fleeing man. Both Deanna and Stephen watched as the man hurried to get away.
"Come on!" Stephen ordered as he grabbed Deanna by the arm. "We’ll make it to the cabin, and kill that maniac."
"Scared of a little Hard Ball?" Deanna taunted.
"Shut up or I’ll kill you." He warned grabbing a handful of her hair; he tugged with such force Deanna’s head snapped backwards. "Just keep moving." He hissed.
"Going somewhere?" The deadly voice asked as he stood on the ledge blocking the path.
"Riker?" Stephen asked in wonderment.
"I normally don’t participate in pleasantries when I’m about to kill a man." He said in an ice cold tone.
"You won’t shoot me." Stephen sounded confident. "This mountain will come down on all of us."
"A little snow never hurt anyone."
Grabbing Deanna tighter and bringing her to her almost to her knees by her hair, Stephen threatened, "I’ll kill her, Riker!"
Riker studied Stephen for a moment, and then glanced towards Deanna. He noticed the look in her eyes. She was being brave, trying not to show fear. Stephen was sure that Riker would back off, he smiled with a thin lipped snarl.
Then something that neither Stephen nor Deanna expected happened. "Can your man watch?" Riker asked, lifting a decapitated head by the hair.
Riker slung the head at Stephen like it was some sort of ball, hitting him squarely in the chest. "Now Deanna." He instructed her. Stephen suddenly yelped and jumped back, releasing Deanna. He gasped in horror and his arms flew out releasing the gun in his hand, hurling it over the cliff.
Deanna didn’t have to be told twice, she quickly dashed around Stephen and stood behind Riker. God’s she wanted to hug him, to kiss him, to thank him for coming to her rescue.
"Thom…Thom…Thomas." Stephen stammered, backing up against the mountain wall. Riker’s eyes glittered with hatred and revenge, instantly Riker had his rifle cocked and loaded at his side. He walked and stood menacingly in front of Stephen. "I hit you once for kissing the woman I loved on the cheek. Remember?"
"That was…that was a long time ago." Stephen stammered looking for an escape but there was none. "Hey, she was my sister."
"Yes, it was." Riker said in an even deadly tone, "How much worse for you to violate the woman I love."
"She’s safe…she wasn’t hurt, Thomas." Stephen tried to bargain, "Tell him Deanna…you weren’t hurt." He was half scared out of his wits. Standing before him wasn’t a man, it was an angry demon and he was it his mercy. Stephens’s brain couldn’t help but vision tortures, wondering if Thomas was going to make him die a slow death.
"Let’s get two things straight." Riker said with an intense steady glare, "I’m not Thomas. I’m Will." Instantly he plunged the huge knife into Stephens gut, the knife went deep into Stephens body, clear up to the handle. Stephen’s eyes grew wide as saucers and he stared blankly at Will. Riker clutched the handle tighter, and in a deadly tone, his voice dripping with venom. "And my wife is no man’s whore." He yanked the blade upward with a mighty tug and cut Stephen wide open to his sternum. Stephen let out a gurgling sound and Riker stepped aside pulling out the knife, and pushed the body off of the cliff.
Wiping the huge blade on the snow, he sheathed it slowly. Riker inhaled and exhaled deeply. Turning around slowly he faced Deanna; she stood in silent shock. He said nothing; he simply stood there and stared at her waiting for her to speak.
She finally broke the silence with her soft request, "Would you…?" Deanna pointed daintily at the severed head.
"Oh yeah. Sorry." Will said, quickly kicking the head with his foot, causing it to roll off of the cliff.
"You don’t have anymore do you?" she asked quietly, locking her eyes with his.
"Anymore what?" he asked confused, afraid to move, afraid she might shun him for his crude barbarism, he had just displayed.
"Body parts." She said with a twitch of her nose.
"None that I can throw off a cliff." He smiled a lopsided smile.
She gave him a huge smile and ran and jumped into his arms, planting kisses all over his face. He felt the warmness of her tears as they washed the side of his face.
"Oh gods, Deanna…I was so scared." He said, embracing her just as tightly as she was him.
"The fat man took Jeannie." She said there was a sadness in her voice. Will recognized it immediately. "Bryce wanted Jeannie. If it hadn’t been for Jeannie I would have been…I would have been gang raped and killed. She begged for Stephen to let me go. But he wouldn’t, he said he did me a favor by claiming me as his property. We’ve got to help her Will." There were tears in her eyes as she begged, "We’ve got to."
An anger surged through Riker’s body. Even though Stephen was dead, he wanted to kill him again and again and again. But, he had to push his anger aside, for Deanna’s sake. What was done was done and it sure as hell couldn’t be undone, not now. Not ever.
Riker embraced his wife and promised, "We will Deanna. We will."
Wiping the tears away with his thumbs, he kissed her reddened, frozen nose. "Come on the cabin is just up ahead. We’ll get you warmed up, fed and together we’ll establish on a plan to get Jeannie back."
"Will?" Deanna said as she rode her horse along the ledge of the cliff. They were moving slow due to the danger of an avalanche.
"Hmmm." Will answered, he was watching the mountains with caution. He wasn’t for certain, but he would stay on guard just in case there were any more Scavengers lurking about.
"Where we going?"
"To the cabin."
"How long have you been up in these mountains?"
"Just a couple of days."
"How did you know that I would be here?"
"That crazy rat looking witch doctor from the village told me."
Deanna laughed at his remark about the village doctor, then she asked. "Those bombs that went off in the village, what were they?"
"I don’t know really. Gooch says that they were liquor bombs."
"Yes, Deanna?" he smiled. Gods he thought it was good to hear her voice, she reminded him of a child who would ask and endless amount of questions and it touched his heart profoundly.
"Will you teach me how to make those bombs?"
"As soon as I learn how to make the whiskey. Why not?"
"I’m freezing, and I’m hungry." She complained.
"The cabin is about ten minutes away. We’ll be there soon."
"You want me to shut up now."
"That’s not my choice of words."
They rode a little longer.
"Are you all right, Deanna?"
"I’m cold and hungry."
"No. I mean are you all right?"
"I will be." She answered softly. Knowing he was referring to her kidnapping and rape. "It’s amazing what we can do as human beings." She answered, "What we will endure to survive. What we will do to be reunited with our loved ones. None of us can fathom what we are capable of in order to achieve these goals when pushed."
"I suppose Thomas knows that better than all of us, doesn’t he?"
"Yes, he does. And what about you?"
"I’m prepared to play Hard Ball, Deanna." Riker said soberly. "It's the only way any of us will survive this planet."
Deanna said nothing, but Riker knew she silently agreed with him.
When they approached the cabin area at the top of the mountain, Riker noticed that there was smoke emitting out of the chimney. The place was occupied definitely occupied. "Stay here, and stay down." He instructed Deanna, as he quickly cocked his rifle.
"No, Will…What if it’s Thomas?"
"If it’s Thomas he’ll slit my throat before I ever get the first shot." He said with certainty.
"Hold it right there." A voice called out. Deanna whirled around and saw a mountain man dressed in animal furs. His gun cocked and ready.
"Thomas!" she yelled in delight. Deanna began to run towards him. Suddenly a shot rang out and Deanna fell instantly to the ground face first.
"Don’t let that son of a bitch get away, Thomas!" Riker yelled as he ran towards Deanna.
Thomas knelt on one knee, aimed and fired, hitting the Scavenger in the ankle, "Orders received……" he said. The scavenger grabbed his now shattered ankle and tumbled to the ground, screaming in pain like a wounded animal. Thomas stood to his feet. "….and brought about, sir."
Deanna lay face down in the snow, "Oh gods no." Riker whispered as fear wrapped its ugly self around his heart. "Not now…oh gods not now."
Riker slowly lifted Deanna up, supporting her back with his huge arm. He was relieved and surprised to discover that there was no blood, but yet her face was etched with pain. "Deanna?"
"I tripped. I think I hurt my ankle. It's difficult for me to ambulate in the snow." She said, he couldn’t tell if her cheeks were red from embarrassment or from the coldness of the snow.
"I thought that scavenger shot you." Will’s voice sounded full of relief.
"She must have tripped just as he fired his gun." Thomas said, looking up towards the now squeeling would be assassin.
Looking over in the distance, Deanna noticed the wounded scavenger who was struggling to get onto his feet. "That’s Mack. He’s part of Stephen’s gang. Mack became frightened and ran off, when you began to throw the body parts down the hillside."
Thomas looked a Will with confusion. "What body parts?"
"Would you be a gentleman and help me up, please?" Riker reached down and pulled Deanna to her feet.
Riker noticed that the scavenger was only wounded and was trying to hobble away. "Just don’t let that bastard get away, Thomas." Riker instructed as he led Deanna into the cabin. "I’ll take Deanna to the cabin."
"He’s not going anywhere." Thomas said grimly. Taking careful aim, he fired again and shattered the hobbling man’s other ankle. The scavenger was stopped dead in his tracks, his body tumbled to the ground.
After Deanna was safe in the cabin. Will went over to where the injured scavenger lay bleeding in the snow and stood beside Thomas.
"So what do you want to do with him now?" Thomas asked his brother. "Decapitate him? That face is too damn ugly to stay on that body."
"You’re insane." The man sounded off loudly, his eyes wide with both resentment and fear.
"Ever play Hard Ball, Mack?" Thomas asked with a slyness to his voice. The scavenger looked up at him, his eyes wide with fear. Mack was at the mercy of what he believed to be two identical demons.
"Deanna said this guys name is Mack. He was part of the gang I rescued Deanna from."
"Rescued Deanna?" Thomas asked confused. "What are you talking about?" Suddenly his voice became urgent and he demanded, "What the hell do you mean? Where’s Jeannie?"
"The town was raided by scavengers a few days ago. She and Deanna were kidnapped." Riker explained. "Stephen’s dead and this slug knows where Jeannie is."
Thomas focused on the scavenger. "Where is she?" Thomas demanded his voice dripping with venom. "Jeannie, the long haired woman."
Mack the scavenger looked up at both Riker’s and shrugged.
Thomas exploded in anger; he reached forward and grabbed the scavenger by his collar, and instantly lifted off of the ground, to his feet. "You tell me where my wife is." Thomas’ demanded his voice ice cold.
"I don’t know." Mack said with a sneer.
"You know." Riker stepped forward; his voice was just as cold as his brother’s. He drew his bowie knife from his belt. "You know, and you’ll tell us."
It didn’t take Mack long to figure out that this huge man in suede leather pants could be just as wretched and torturous as his twin the mountain man, who was clad in furs. "The fat man took her. To the trade lands." Mack the scavenger squealed.
"Where’s that?" Riker’s blade dripped with Mack’s blood.
"On the other side of the planet…. Yeah, due East. On the other side of the planet." His eyes focused on the sharp pointed blade as Riker brought it closer to the scavenger’s body. "He’s going to sell her as a whore in exchange for weapons and supplies." He told them.
"A whore!" The voice was that of Thomas.
"I’m done with this worthless bastard." Riker told Thomas. "I’m going back to the cabin, we can set out in the morning." He glanced at the bleeding scavenger with loathing; Riker’s well shaped lips drew back and he gave a nod to Thomas. Riker then turned and walked away back towards the cabin.
Thomas’s smile grew wide in a grotesque sort of a way, and his face distorted somewhat, as he drew his own blade from his belt.
"Are you…are you…you going to kill me?" Mack asked, his voice full of fear.
"Maybe?" Thomas said with a deadly calm. "After we play a little Hard Ball."
The fat man was chewing a mouthful of meat as he talked, "You best be eating." He told Jeannie, as she sat on the ground near the small camp fire.
"You go to hell." Jeannie glared at the fat round man.
He snapped a twig off of a nearby tree and began to clean his teeth. He stood there and stared at her in silence, studying her with small beady eyes.
Suddenly, he grabbed her by the arm and yanked her to her feet, holding his knife up to her throat.
"Touch me if you dare. Stephen is my brother." She sounded determined, trying to bluff her way out of this one. "And my husband will kill you like the pig you are."
"Shut your mouth." He warned. Suddenly he backhanded her sending her body almost into the fire.
"You bastard!" she lunged forward. Her nails became claws as she aimed at his eyes. The huge fat man simply batted her away as one would shoo away a fly, sending her body backwards. He stood there and laughed, holding his fat jiggling belly.
"I’ll take her off your hands now." An approaching voice sounded.
Jeannie’s heart leapt with joy, perhaps this would be rescuer would help her. Her joy was short lived, as the form of Bryce Hampton entered their small camp. He slid himself off of his horse and told the fat man with a casualness, "I’ll trade you for her, Fat man."
The fat man glared. "This one is a wild cat, that’s for sure. She’ll be what every man wants in bed. What the hell have you got that I’d want?""
"Her dead husband’s wedding ring." Bryce said, as he twisted the gold ring from his finger. He held it firmly between two fingers. The sunlight’s reflective rays hit the band, causing it to sparkle and glare and become that much more of a temptation.
Jeannie recognized the ring immediately. Her heart skipped several beats and panic gripped her soul. What if Thomas was dead? What if he had been killed? The fat man was telling her the truth. How else would Bryce have gotten Thomas’s wedding band? Tears began to form in her eyes as the realization of her husband’s death soaked into every pore of her body. She stood paralyzed unable to move, all she could think about at this moment was the fact that Thomas was dead.
The fat man’s eyes focused on the golden band. Bryce teasingly pulled it back, out of the fat man’s reach. "No…we trade first. This ring for her." He bargained. He knew that he had just won the woman by the look in the fat man’s eyes. But, of course he would gloat later.
"She’s yours." The fat man said with urgency. He immediately snatched the gold band from Bryce’s hand.
Jeannie stood in shock, unaware that she had just been traded for a band of gold. All she could focus on was the death of her husband. Tears fell down her cheeks, she had totally forgotten about her plight. The only thing that registered in her brain was that Thomas was dead
Bryce watched as the Fat Man rode away, satisfied with his new trade. He slowly turned and glanced at Jeannie, "Let’s see if you’re what every man wants in bed." He smiled his eyes full of evil lust.
Jeannie looked up at him, in shock. "You stay away from me." She whispered, slowly backing away from him.
"Or what?" Bryce smiled as he walked towards her. "You’ll tell Thomas?"
Jeannie looked around frantically looking for an escape. "Thomas is dead!" Bryce snapped. "One of my men killed him up in the mountains."
"You’re lying." She said, backing away from him. She whirled and began to run, frantically she ran not knowing which way to go or where to turn. Bryce was on her and tackled her to the ground.
"You are what every man wants aren’t you?" he pinned her under his body weight, as he unfastened his pants.
"Get…off…of….me! You…you bastard!" she struggled and squirmed underneath of him. She fought him with all of her strength, but to no avail. In the end he had his way with her.
Thomas sat crouched down in front of the fireplace. It was ironic. He thought. That Jeannie would call him a savage, only to be kidnapped and probably raped by a gang of animals whose leader was her own relative. He knew what was happening to her, from what Will had told him happened to Deanna and from what he had remembered from Alayna, these scavengers were animal’s who took pleasure in raping a woman. He sat and concentrated on the fire, and thought of Jeannie and what she much be going through now, wondering, hoping and praying she was still alive.
Will sauntered over to the fireplace and handed Thomas a bottle of whiskey. Thomas grunted a thank you and took a swig.
"Is Mack dead?" Riker stated quietly.
Thomas straightened his shoulders and rotated his neck attempting to release built up tension. "Yeah. It was a quick death."
Riker sat on the floor beside Thomas and stated, "I found a whole case of this whiskey over there."
"Gooch gave it to me." Thomas told him the story of how Gooch saved his life, and in return Thomas wouldn’t show his face in the village again.
"We will get her back!" The promise spurted from Riker’s lips.
"If she’s alive." Thomas answered, without looking up. "Jeannie will fight until the death." Then he let out a nervous laugh, "She’s too damn mouthy not to."
"I don’t want to believe in any false illusions. Both of us know that she’s been raped by now."
"That don’t mean shit to me." Thomas said as he tossed a drink down his throat, and wiped off his mouth with his sleeve. "Nothing that they could ever force her to do, could effect my love for her."
Riker sat silently for a moment; he of course felt the same way about Deanna that Thomas did about Jeannie. He glanced over towards Deanna who was over by the case of whiskey, out of hearing range of the men. "That bastard, Stephen raped her." Riker voice turning bitter with the memory of killing Stephen. "I split his gut wide open, and I don’t regret it." Will stated honestly. "I’d do it again, Thomas."
Thomas took a swig of the whiskey. When he spoke again, spoke softly never losing his brother’s gaze. He was serious when he stated, "That’s what scares me Will." He said with the same tone that Riker had said to him when they first arrived on the planet.
Will caught his brother’s tease right away and smiled. "Give me that damn bottle." He snatched the bottle from his brother’s hand.
"I’ll be right back. I’m going to step outside for a second." Deanna said as she stood to her feet.
"Don’t be too long." Riker said, she nodded and walked out the door.
Suddenly there was an earsplitting explosion, and the cabin instantly flashed with illumination. The massive explosion nearly shattered the windows of the small cabin.
"Holy shit! What was that?" Thomas asked as he stood abruptly to his feet.
"Deanna!" Riker exclaimed as he darted out the door. His heart racing. Oh gods he thought, where is she? "Deanna!" he yelled out into the night. No answer, his brain almost near despair. He made a mad dash further out into the snow.
"Deanna!" he yelled, unaware of any danger. All he wanted to do was find Deanna.
"Will!" he heard her call out. "I’m over here."
Thomas whirled around his rifle ready. He saw Deanna walk slowly out from behind a snow bank.
Riker was on her in an instant. "What in the hell are you doing?" He demanded as he grabbed onto her arm and swung her around.
"Making whiskey bombs." She answered casually, dusting her hands off. "I think I put too much liquid in that one."
"What!" he yelled in disbelief. "Are you crazy? You almost blew this whole damn planet up. You could have been killed." he yelled, irritated as hell with her. "What were you thinking?"
Deanna stood firm, her eyes locked with her husbands. She abruptly yanked herself out of his grasp. "I was thinking." She yelled angrily at him. "If one of those bastards attempt to touch me again. I’ll blow his ass straight to hell, Will Riker!" Deanna stood on her tiptoes and yelled in his face, "Do you have any objections!?"
He flinched at the sound of her voice.
"I didn’t think so. Now move!"
He moved aside and let her pass.
Both men stood speechless and watched as the small Betazoid stormed off.
"Did she just……?" Riker asked in amazement. He had never seen Deanna so determined, or so eager to rise up against an enemy.
"Hard Ball." Thomas said, as he walked over and placed a hand on Riker’s shoulder and began to guide him back to the cottage. "Only the strong survive. I'd say our little Betazoid is going to be a survivor."
Riker looked over at him and smiled. What Thomas had just said was true. Deanna Troi was definitely going to be a survivor.
"Why are we stopping?" Jeannie asked.
"Take off your clothes." Bryce said with twisted grin, as he slid from his saddle.
"No, not here." She stared at him defiantly. They were in the middle of nowhere and out in he open.
"You don’t like it in the daylight?" He asked, his voice had a tinge of amusement to it, as he walked towards her.
Grabbing her roughly by the arm he ripped her out of the saddle. "Take off your damn clothes or I’ll rip them off of you." He hissed.
She reluctantly obeyed and stood naked in front of him.
"Now come here." He growled lustfully. His eyes full of want and desire. Jeannie slowly walked towards him, her stomach beginning to churn at the thought of what she knew would happen next. He brought her down to the ground and began to run his hands over her, her body stiffened at his touch. He was on top of her; his mouth found her breast. Oh god…. No…. She thought, but she knew in the end he would have his way. He always got his way. He had made that clear from the first night they were together when he had so savagely raped her. She felt him enter her, roughly pounding into her and her mind drifted off into places far, far away.
She realized that in order for her to survive, she had to give him her body this way. Jeannie’s mind wandered towards Thomas, just as she had always done when he took he like this. She was beginning to understand Thomas not only as the gentle, sensitive lover but, Thomas as the powerful killing machine, who would survive at all costs. The man, who played what was, referred to as ‘hard ball’ in times of crisis.
Jeannie missed Thomas intolerably and when Bryce took her she even tried to pretend it was Thomas, but she couldn’t. Bryce was an animal, cold and cruel and she was at his mercy. She began to understand Thomas and what he had meant when he told her, ‘it had to be done.’ Her allowing Bryce to violate her had to be done. She was determined to survive. At least until she could figure some way of escape. Jeannie clenched her teeth and endured his sexual assault; he released himself inside of her with an animalistic grunt and rolled off of her.
Jeannie dressed in silence, wiping away her tears with the sleeve of her garment. Praying that Thomas would rescue her, and when he did she prayed he would forgive her.
They had been traveling for six days, following a trail that Thomas thought a child could follow. The sun was beginning to set, and they needed to make camp soon.
Thomas called for a halt and sat wearily in his saddle, a large elk like animal on the opposite side of the small running stream, stared at him for a moment, the animal snapped his huge head towards the side apparently frightened by something, and then frantically ran off.
A sign he didn’t like. "Will, stay alert. There’s tracks all over this place." His senses alert to the apparent danger. "Listen." He said, his nose in the air.
"We’re one step ahead of you." Will responded glancing over at his wife.
They heard the cries and frantic scream of a woman in the distance. And from the sounds of it, the men were finding pleasure in their unwilling victim.
"It’s one of the women from the village." Deanna said.
A ray of instant hope flashed through Thomas; perhaps Jeannie was that woman. Thomas’ face hardened to the reality of the screams, "If that’s Jeannie. I’ll rip their effing heads off." He cursed.
"You didn’t cuss, you must be going soft Tom." Riker said, quickly noticing Tom’s curb in his language.
"Not in front of Deanna." Thomas replied dryly, he was in no mood for Will’s humor.
Riker frowned. Thomas was exhausted from both traveling and worry. He looked over to his brother and his heart went out to him. The look on Thomas’ face was mingled with both fear and hope all enveloped with a pained angry look to his face. "Let’s head for cover in those rocks." Riker said, as he retrieved his rifle and with a snap of his wrist had it cocked, and ready. Glancing over at his wife he instructed her, "Deanna. Stay close." Gently flanking his horse they began to move forward stepping into the stream of ice cold water.
A shot rang out through the air, breaking the silence. Thomas’ horse let out a scream of pain and plunged forward into the water, sending Thomas over its head with a huge splash.
His animal had been targeted, and was hit in the chest.
"Let’s get the hell out of here!" Riker quickly reached down and grabbed his soggy bother by the arm and with strength he didn’t know he had, hoisted his duplicate onto the back of his horse, he kicked the animal and took off at full speed towards the other side of the stream.
Once on the other side of the water and behind the safety of the huge rocks. "God damnit, that was my favorite horse!" Thomas cursed as he ripped off his wet shirt and slapped it angrily on the side of a boulder.
Another shot rang out through the air; the sound of the bullet pinged off of the side of their cover.
"Damn." Thomas said as he quickly loaded his rifle. "I think some one is trying to kill us."
Riker glanced over at his brother. "Who on this damn planet doesn’t want to kill us."
"We’ve got you surrounded." A voice from beyond a rock called out.
Both men shot each other a look.
"It’s the fat man." Deanna whispered her voice full of dread. "He’s the one who took Jeannie."
With his face hardened, Thomas instantly snapped off a shot and then mumbled spitefully. "Roast in hell with an apple in you’re mouth and a carrot up your ass."
"No cursing in front of Deanna, eh Thomas?" Riker said with amusement. It was ignored.
"How many are there?" Riker asked, he was barely able to get a shot.
"Seems like two thousand." Thomas said as he reloaded. "I think we’re outnumbered."
"You two keep them busy." Deanna said, she whirled around and was gone.
"Keep them busy!" Thomas sounded off sarcastically.
"Deanna! Get ba…." A shot rang out and sent the huge man diving for cover behind a rock, followed by an onslaught of gunfire.
"What in the hell is she doing?" Riker asked angrily. Rapid gunfire continued, pinging bullets off of the side of the boulder. Both men ducked immediately.
"How should I know?" Thomas’ eyes narrowed, as he fired off a shot, and then immediately ducked for cover. "She’s you’re wife."
"And that’s suppose to mean……" Riker fired his weapon and then dove for cover.
"It means we’ll both die like my horse, if you don’t shut up and kill more of these bastards."
An instant later there was an earsplitting explosion and huge flash of flame came from the nearby mountainside. Dust and fragments of rock exploded everywhere, soon followed by a huge cracking sound and the tumbling of rock boulders.
Thomas and Will watched as the mountainside began to shake and tumble. Deanna came running back towards the men.
"It’s an avalanche!" They heard someone call out.
"This was your plan!?" Thomas yelled, grabbing onto Deanna bringing her into cover. "To crush our asses under a pile of rocks!"
"Yeah, I did good didn’t I?" She answered proud of her achievement.
"Holy Shit!" Riker sounded, looking up they were about to be showered with falling rock. "Let’s get the hell out of here!" Grabbing onto Deanna, they took off running towards the stream.
When all of the rock and dust had settled, the three came out of the knee deep stream, weapons cocked and ready. Deanna had a whiskey bomb in her hand ready to throw it at any thing that moved.
"Deanna, will you put that damn thing down?" Thomas demanded, as they walked towards the fallen rock and debris.
"It wasn’t Jeannie, Thomas." Deanna answered. "It was Rosarita."
"You saw her?" Thomas asked, his voice hopeful.
"Yes." Deanna answered; her mind flashed to the woman who they had coldly and cruelly shot in cold blood. "They executed her."
"Bastards." Riker whispered a hiss as he ambulated over the fallen rock. "Their bodies should up over that fallen ridge."
"Just put that thing down, Deanna." Thomas repeated, as he helped her ambulate across the fallen rock. "You make me nervous."
"Well, well, well, what have we got here?" Riker said with deceptive softness.
Coming out of the rubble half dazed and covered with dust was the fat man. His head was bleeding as he wiped away the blood from his face. The fat man saw the three and raised his arms up in surrender.
"It’s the fat man." Deanna answered.
"Ready to meet your God, fat man?" Thomas said gruffly, as he reached for his knife.
"The way I’m thinking." Bryce said as he got dressed. "We’ll make it to the trade lands within the next hour or so."
"That’s where the big boys trade, my dear."
"And you’re going to trade what?" she asked suspiciously, "Me?"
"Maybe. If you don’t start showing some more life in bed." He answered sarcastically. "Damn woman, for someone who looks like you. It’s beyond me why you’re not very responsive to sex."
She glared at him. How dare he? He had raped her, threatened her and was now complaining that she wasn’t responsive to his forced advances. His touch was disgusting to her.
"For someone who looks like you." She returned with defiance. "It’s beyond me why you choose to rape a married woman, you callous bastard."
He withdrew his hand and backhanded her, sending her body flying. Her head landed hard on the ground with a thud, soon her face lay in a puddle of blood.
Bryce walked over and stared down at the limp form, that lay unmoving.
"Damn." He cursed to himself. "You would have made a fine whore."
"Ready to meet your God, fat man?" Thomas said gruffly, as he reached for his knife.
Thomas slowly menacingly walked towards the fat man, the blade of his knife glistening. "Wait." Deanna said, pulling him back.
"For what?" Thomas asked cocking an eyebrow at the small Betazoid.
"Tie him up, and put whiskey bombs on him."
Thomas and Will exchanged and look. Finally Riker said in disbelief. "Deanna?" Was this his prim and proper little Betazoid wife who wouldn’t harm another living soul?
"Evil little empath isn’t she?" Thomas asked with a sly grin.
"Yes, she is." She said with an anger tinged voice. "When these…. These…. These cowardly bastards…." She stammered for lack of better words. "Murder women in cold blood. They kidnap and rape…at such a horrific loss. And no matter how much of an asshole you two were when you were younger, neither one of you ever forced a woman to have sex with you…." Deanna glanced at Will. "The two of you just manipulated them into it."
"Is that what being married to Will does to you, Deanna?" Thomas said as he sheathed his knife. "Bring out the nasty in you? It’s understandable if he does. He brings out the nasty in me too."
Riker offended by Thomas’ comment snapped, "Shut up, Thomas!" then flashed him an unspoken gesture with his hand.
Thomas simply looked at him and smiled.
"Your herd of swine are all dead." Deanna said as she deadpanned the fat man. "All dead." She reiterated. "And so are you if you don’t tell us where Jeannie is."
Both men cocked their guns and targeted the fat man as Deanna approached him. "Not too close." Thomas warned keeping a protective eye on Deanna. "If you so much as blink, I’ll shoot you between your little piggy eyes." He warned, his eyes flashed with vengeance. " And hang you’re ears on my belt."
"You think one or two bombs, Will?" Deanna asked casually as she stuffed a piece of her dress into the bottle using it as a wick.
"I don’t know." Riker grunted as he pulled the knot tighter around the fat man’s ankles. "He’s pretty big. Do you want him in recognizable pieces, or unrecognizable?" Will asked as he tied up the fat man.
"You can kill me but it won’t bring your woman back." The fat man said in retaliation, his chin held high.
"I’ve got my little woman, right here." Riker said with a lopsided grin. "I’d like to introduce you to my wife, Deanna, also known as the Blow your balls off, Bomber from Betazoid." He said as he tugged on the last knot.
"You must be referring to his wife." Deanna said, placing the deadly bomb under her arm for a second and thumbed towards Thomas.
"Blow that son of a bitch up now." Thomas ordered his eyes flashed with vengeance and evil. "Or I’m going to slice his toes off and then work my way up."
"I’ll give you this!" The fat man stammered. He had no desire to be tied up and blown to bits, or mutilated by some mad man.
Thomas eyed the fat man with loathing. "Where did you get this?" he demanded as he snatched the golden ring from the fat man’s hand.
"I got it from Bryce, I think." The fat man stammered.
"You think? Maybe this will jar your memory." Riker said as he nudged the bomb between the man’s tied legs. "Got a light?" he asked the other two.
"It’s definitely going to take two, Will." Deanna said as she began to get another bottle.
"Damn, Deanna how many did you use on that mountain?"
"One of your bombs did all that damage?" he asked in amazement. He glanced at the fat man and smiled, "Yep, definitely two. Maybe three?"
"Wait, wait…. It was Bryce…. Bryce Hampton." The fat man stammered. "He traded for the woman. He’s going to turn her into a whore in the trade lands." He glanced down at the second bomb Riker was nudging between his legs. "But…but…. Hampton’s never made it to the trade lands with a woman. He usually ends up beating them to death before he gets there."
"You’d better light that son of a bitch!" Thomas spoke with venom, as he unsheathed his knife.
"You best chose you’re words carefully, fat man." Deanna whispered. "He’s getting antsy."
"He’ll kill her! She’s a mouthy one. He hates women that fight him, or sass back. If you find her, she’ll be dead on the trail somewhere. Due East of here. The trade lands are a good four days ride."
"Mount up." Thomas said with a coolness. His eyes glittered with evil.
"Thomas what about…." Deanna started, she really had no desire to kill the fat man, and all she wanted was information.
"I said. Mount up!!" Thomas demanded with a shout, his eyes locked onto the fat man. His voice was the tone of that of a Starfleet officer who meant to be obeyed. All that Thomas could think of was Jeannie being raped, and beaten. He was sick with worry and grief and now this scavenger was telling him that she was being forced into the life of a whore?
"Come on, Deanna." Will said, as he took his wife by the elbow and lead her towards the horses. Thomas had snapped, and Riker could tell by the tone of his voice that Thomas wasn’t joking around. There was "hard ball" in his eyes and his in stance. "Just make it quick." Riker said as he patted his brother on the shoulder, but he doubted if Thomas heard him.
Thomas at six foot four towered over the fat man, his eyes cold and callous. He slowly crouched down beside him and glared. "I’m going to untie you, to give you a fair chance." He said as he slit the ropes with one quick swipe of his knife.
Soon Thomas was rein to rein with Will and Deanna, who were waiting down by the stream. Thomas was riding the fat man’s horse. Deanna noticed the stolen wedding band on his hand it glistened in the sun. He was silent and his eyes fixed ahead of him, his jaw set.
There was a loud explosion and Deanna flinched suddenly as if someone had thrown a bucket of red paint on the wall of the huge rock. She knew it wasn’t paint it was blood, guts, bone and brain fragments. "Thomas did you?" She asked looking back at the gruesome sight, afraid of the answer.
"No." he answered her dryly. "He had a fair chance. I gave him another option…I guess he chose the bomb."
"What the hell was his other choice?" Riker whispered his question in disbelief, as he handed his brother the gear out of his saddle bags that he had retrieved from his slain animal.
Thomas grunted a thank you and answered. "You don’t want to know." Thomas turned his horse around, and flanked it taking off at full speed towards the East.
Jeannie woke up slowly, her head pounding. She rolled over onto her back and felt the side of her face. It was sticky with blood. She let out a painful groan. Where was she? Why was she lying on the ground, the last thing she remembered was Bryce striking her. Bryce! Her eyes suddenly flew open, where was Bryce? Sitting up, she noticed that she was alone. Both horses were gone; he had apparently abandoned her, left her for dead. "Ass hole." She whispered to herself as she slowly rose to her feet, a wave of dizziness swept over her and she sat back down.
She sat there and regrouped, and then frowned. The sun had changed its position. It was beginning to become dark.
She thought about her situation, alone on a hostile planet, a planet that had earned its name rightfully so, and Satan’s backyard. So here she was she concluded without any form of weapon, or food.
She knew one thing for certain; she had to find someway to make it back to the village. But where was she?
"In the middle of damn nowhere." She said to herself as she looked at her surroundings. Now what? Her mind was reeling with conflict. Part of her wanted to just go home and be satisfied with just being alive. But another part of her wanted to find Thomas to tell him she was sorry, to beg his forgiveness.
Tearing off a piece of her dress she secured it around the small gash in her head, wincing in pain as she did so.
"I need to find some shelter before nightfall." She said as she drew a breath and began to walk towards the forest.
The weather had suddenly taken a change, forcing the three to find shelter in a nearby cavern. A warm fire burned brightly in the small cavern, while the rolling sounds of thunder roared and brilliant flashes of lightening illuminated outside of their cavern. Thomas was crouched down beside it.
"Hi." Deanna said softly as she sat down beside him.
Thomas somewhat startled by her simple remark, smiled and returned the word to her.
"It’s coming down hard." Thomas said awkwardly, for lack of anything else to say.
The thunder boomed, followed by a flash of lightening that exploded outside of the cavern.
"She’s still alive Thomas." Deanna quickly blurted out, as if she could read his thoughts.
"Are you sensing this?" He asked suspiciously, there was a wave of hope that rose inside his soul.
"Call it woman’s intuition." She smiled, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Thomas what you did in prison…." She began, "those things that you did to those other prisoners."
"Deanna if this is a lecture…" Thomas began to protest.
"No, it isn’t." She quickly cut him off. "I just wanted to say that I understand. And no matter what you did, or what happened. There’s nothing Will wouldn’t do for you, Thomas." She reminded him. "It took him years to grasp onto that fact. I suppose all I wanted to say is, I love you Thomas, and I always will."
Thomas said nothing just simply sat silently staring at her.
"And…" she continued, "I know that Will loves you too."
"You were doing great until you said that." Thomas teased. Uncomfortable with the conversation.
"Well, I have to keep you on your toes." She smiled, brushing back a piece of stubborn hair from his forehead.
Thomas smiled. Reaching over her brought her to him and gave her a warm hug. "Thank you, for being a friend." He whispered as he kissed the top of her head.
"I’m not a friend." Deanna chuckled slightly, "I’m family."
"Jeannie sees me as a killer. Or a cold blooded murderer, and as some sort of monster, Deanna." Thomas stated truthfully as he embraced the small Betazoid in his arms.
"She sees you as someone who protects his own, no matter what the cost." Deanna answered, raising her head from his chest. "None of us really know what we are capable of, when we are pushed, Thomas."
Thomas didn’t answer; he simply held her close. "My abilities may not be quite up to par, but I do know that she loves you, Thomas. Just as you love her." Deanna relayed her thoughts. "And she is disciplining herself to the hardships of the land, just as we all are."
"We came here to rescue Stephen." Thomas recalled. "Seems as though we’ve botched that up."
Deanna stiffened at the sound of the name. Her brain flashed back to Stephen as he raped her. Thomas felt her body stiffen. He knew immediately why, and embraced her tighter.
Damn, Thomas thought. He never wanted to make her feel uncomfortable and he had done just that. "I’m sorry Deanna." He whispered. "I’m so sorry, that that happened to you." He was sincere in his words and his voice was gentle and full of understanding. Right now it was hard for Deanna to distinguish between the two sides of Thomas, the gentle loving passionate man and the hard ass, that wasn’t afraid of man nor beast. She felt safe and secure. She knew beyond any shadow of doubt that Thomas Riker would never hurt her or anyone that he truly cared for.
"Am I interrupting something?" Riker said as he approached the small fire. Surprising to all his voice held no jealousy.
"Don’t you always?" Thomas mumbled, gently releasing their hug.
Riker shot him a look, and Thomas flashed him a smug grin.
"Will." Deanna jumped at the sight of him. "Look at you. You’re drenched." She said with the voice of an overprotective mother. "Where have you been?"
"Outside." He answered simply, as the rain dripped off of him leaving a puddle at his feet.
"That’s apparent." She snapped. "Here, get out of those wet clothes and dry yourself off." She instructed handing him a cloth to dry himself. "What were you doing?" and without missing a beat she added, "Counting rain drops?"
His white teeth flashed a grin. Holding back a quick and witty remark, he decided to answer her truthfully. "I was checking on the horses. The storm spooked them and I brought them into the cavern for shelter." He removed his shirt and handed it to her. "There’s a wicked storm out there, Deanna."
"Time for one of Deanna’s bombs I’d say." Thomas said, as he stirred the fire with a stick, the fire snapped and cracked and came more alive.
"I’ll leave you two alone with you’re whiskey." Deanna excused herself; gently grabbing onto Will’s upper arm she reached up and kissed him gently on the lips. "Good night."
"You’re not going to join us?" Thomas asked, quickly rising to his feet.
"No." she answered politely over her shoulder and kept walking. She was already reaching for the bedroll before he sat back down.
"Face it, Thomas." Will said as he glanced towards Deanna and then back to Thomas. "No one likes to drink with you. I don’t even enjoy it. You’re a nasty drunk."
Will came staggering to bed much later. "It’s cold and you’re hogging all the blanket." He mumbled. Deanna moved over and made room for him, he slid in beside her. Spooning her body close to his, he nuzzled his face into the back of her neck. He cupped one of her breast protectively with his hand.
"Will, try not to breath." She said making a face at the smell of the sour whiskey fumes that were emitting from his breath.
Riker chuckled softly, "It’s Thomas’ fault." He muttered. He pulled her tighter against him.
"Deanna, we’ve got to find Jeannie." Riker whispered into her hair. "We’ve got to. Thomas is hurting. He’s hurting bad. And if anything happens to her. I’m afraid he’ll forever be locked into that ‘hard ball’ mode."
"I know." Deanna agreed glumly. What her husband was saying was true. Thomas was hurting. More than he wanted to admit, more than he ever could admit.
Jeannie’s head hurt like hell and yet she walked. Her legs were numb to the rough terrain and mechanically she continued to put one foot in front of the other. It had been four days since Bryce had left her and she hadn’t eaten, the food was sparse in the mountains. Thank goodness for the rain, she at least had water. She dared not go to the open prairie, that was where the scavengers traveled and she had no desire to encounter them. Rubbing the sweat from her forehead, she noticed that she was burning up with fever. Looking up she saw buzzards as they circled around her; Jeannie frowned at the thought of her bones being picked to pieces by the ugly meat hungry birds. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself; she was freezing inside, even though her body on the outside was burning up with fever.
Was she going to die like this? She stumbled ahead forcing one foot in front of the other. Her head throbbing and her ears began to ring inside of her head, holding back tears she prayed for Thomas. What if she did die? Thomas’ last remembrance of her was a fight in which she so childishly kicked him out. Told him she couldn’t live with him. Right now all she wanted was Thomas; he had become her driving force for survival. She had to survive for his sake. And when and if she saw him again, she would apologize.
What was the use, she thought. Her mind fighting within itself as the fever began to overtake her. She would die here on this horrible planet far from civilization and far from Thomas. The birds would eat at her flesh and no one would recognize her body.
"Stop it, Jeannie!" She rebuked herself. "You’re going to live." She weakly told herself as she trudged forward.
She heard the faint sounds of horse hooves as they approached and her eyes became wide. Was it scavengers? Was it Thomas? What if it was Bryce, he would surely kill her. Her mind ran frantically rampant with thoughts that were clouded by the fever. She licked her dry parched lips and swallowed hard. She squinted her eyes and attempted to focus on the approaching caravan of riders. Was there three? Six? More? She couldn’t trust her eyesight. She quickly became alerted to danger as one lone rider had spotted her and was running his horse along the hillside towards her. Exhausted and weak from traveling she scrambled up the sharp craggy hillside, ignoring the deep cuts and lacerations that the rocks produced. Her fevered brain panicked.
The lone scavenger, probably a stalker she thought, caught up with her and dismounted his horse. He stood silently in front of her, studying her. She recognized the horse as that of a scavenger, and her brain froze in terror. He was a scavenger! The man began to slowly walk towards her; all she could see was the white of his smile. Her eyesight fuzzy with the fever and her brain disorientated with exhaustion. She grabbed a rock and held it defensively as if it were a weapon and lobbed it towards the tower of a man, he easily dodged it and continued to approach her.
She was going to die, looking frantically for an escape. She knew there was none and her heart gave up hope. She had survived the town being attacked, Bryce, and the elements of the planet only to be raped and murdered by a gang of scoundrels? It was too much for her weaken state to bear.
Jeannie’s body began to collapse in a dead faint.
With instant reflexes the mountain man who was clad in fur, lunged forward and caught her in his arms before her body fell onto the hard stony mountain pass.
The mountain man scooped up the frail body of the woman, he frowned at the touch of her body, she was burning up with fever.
He inhaled and exhaled slowly, holding her against him with a firmness. He turned and headed towards the icy mountain stream.
Jeannie’s screams echoed through the mountain side as The mountain man slowly submerged her burning body in the ice cold water. She felt as if thousands and thousands of needles were sticking her all at once. She cursed him, and fought the old man, lost in delirium from the fever.
"What the hell is that?" Riker yelled out, alerted by a woman’s screams and protest.
"It Jeannie." Deanna said with urgency. "I know that’s Jeannie."
Before she finished her sentence, Thomas had flanked his horse and took off towards the sounds of the screams.
"It’s coming from the stream." Riker said. "Come on." He flanked his horse hard.
Thomas was shocked to see a mountain man with a very much protesting woman as the old man submerged her into in the middle of an icy stream of water.
"I could use a hand here!" The mountain man called out towards Thomas. "It’s You're wife! She’s burning up with fever!"
Thomas recognized the mountain man immediately as Gooch, and he had never been so happy to see anyone in his life.
"Yeah." Thomas said, flanking his horse leading it into the stream of cold water. He quickly dismounted from his horse and ran towards the old man. "Damn, this is cold." He cursed as he walked in the knee deep stream.
"Where did you find her?" Thomas asked in joy and concern. He noticed that Jeannie’s eyes were wild and burning with fever.
"She found me. Help me hold her. She’s delirious with fever." Gooch said, "I’ve got to undress her." Both men struggled with the woman in his arms. He began to as he undressed her. "Then we’ll cut her hair."
"What’s this we, shit?" Thomas asked confused. He didn’t know exactly what he was thinking. Here was Jeannie with Gooch, and he was undressing her, dipping her into an icy cold stream.
"She’s got an ugly head wound that’s all infected. I think that’s what’s causing the fever." Gooch answered.
"I’m sure as hell not cutting her hair." Thomas said. Part of him wanting to hold Jeannie in his arms, and thank the Gods for her being alive, and part of him not believing just what the hell was going on.
"Fine. Then you hold her. Keep her body in the water and don’t for God’s sake drown her." Gooch warned, handing the naked woman to Thomas. "I’ll cut it!" Jeannie had stopped struggling somewhat and was still rambling on and on deliriously from the fever.
Gooch whacked off a chunk of the waist length hair and tossed it down the river. Thomas watched in horror as the old man began to cut and chop off Jeannie’s hair. "
"I thought we had a deal." Gooch said dryly, as he whacked off another chunk of Jeannie’s hair.
Thomas stiffened up. "I’m not in town." He answered defensively. He held Jeannie submerged in the water, while the old man continued to chop off tresses of hair. "Why are you doing this?" Thomas asked as he watched the handfuls of hair float down the stream.
"I have to." Gooch said, whacking off another chunk. "It was matted with blood and it’s the only way we can properly clean the wound. If you want to cut my fool head off then go ahead." He said as he cut off another lock of hair. "If it takes a beating from you to save her life then I’ll take it." He said matter of factly.
"There." Gooch said as he sheathed his knife. "You hold her while I wash her hair and take a look at that wound."
"What hair?" Thomas thought in disbelief, as he struggled to keep Jeannie in his arms, being careful not to submerge her face.
"Where…. Where am I?" Jeannie slurred sleepily, her body still racked with the fever and her brain still groggy.
"You’re safe now." A woman’s gentle voice answered, "here drink this." The voice instructed. She felt an arm brace her back and lift her forward. He held the cup against her dry cracked lips. "Not too much…you’ll get sick again." The woman’s voice said as she removed the broth from Jeannie’s mouth. Jeannie let out a small moan and rested her head on the pillow of fur.
"Thank you." Jeannie whispered, slowly closing her eyes. Once again sleep over took her body.
"How is she doing?" Will asked with concern, handing Deanna a canteen of fresh water. Deanna moistened some rags and placed them gently on Jeannie’s fevered forehead.
"She’s still feverish, but she’s chilling at the same time." Deanna answered. "Although her head wound is cleaned." They both heard the chattering of Jeannie’s teeth as she lay shivering under the piles of heavy fur, and Deanna tucked Jeannie into the blankets more snuggly. "I think Gooch might have saved her life by submerging her into that water when he did."
"She was pretty wild, and delirious from the fever. That’s for sure."
"She doesn’t appear delirious. Just slightly disorientated." Deanna said as she swabbed Jeannie’s face with the cool cloth. "I think she’ll be fine, with the proper rest." Deanna said. Then looking at Will she asked, "Where is Thomas?"
"He’s outside talking to Gooch." Will answered, as he crouched down beside his wife. Deanna rested her head on is shoulder and let out a sigh. "Deanna, I’m sorry that you’re here." Riker apologized as he held her in his arms.
Looking up at her husband, and smiled. "There isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be, Will."
"Really?" he asked in amusement.
"No, I’m lying." she chuckled. "That small café on Betazed where they have the most beautiful salads and the most scrumptious chocolate deserts comes to mind."
"I could go for some desert." He said as he tilted her head up towards him and kissed her passionately on the lips.
"Thank you." Thomas said, as he approached the old man who was leaning up against a huge bolder. "I owe you Jeannie’s life."
The old man spit on the ground and looked at Thomas with one eye closed. He studied him for a moment before speaking. "You love her don’t you?" the old man asked bluntly.
"She’s my wife." Thomas answered dryly. He had no desire to get to personal, with this crotchety old mountain man.
"She’s been raped, beaten, and half starved to death and she’s pregnant. The two of you been separated for quite some time. Chances are the baby’s not yours." The old man said. He spat on the ground again and waited for Thomas’ response.
The old man’s words hit Thomas with stunned force, and he reeled backwards. Jeannie pregnant, by Bryce? Or God only knew who else? Had she been raped by one, two, or a dozen men? All Thomas cared about now was that she was alive, he was thankful to the Gods that she was alive. "That doesn’t mean shit to me." Thomas said to the old man soberly. "Nothing that those animals forced upon her…" he declared, "could make me stop loving her. If she is pregnant." He said, "We’ll work through it."
"You’d take the bastard child and raise it as your own?" Gooch asked suspiciously.
"If that’s what Jeannie wanted…" Thomas vowed looking the old man straight in the eyes. "Yes."
Gooch spat on the ground again and eyed the young man standing proudly before him, and then he spoke. "I'm lying. She's not pregnant. I just wanted to see you're reaction." He said dryly. The old man spat on the ground, turned, and walked towards his saddle bags. He retrieved a small blue bottle from his saddle bags and walked back towards Thomas.
"Give her this and make sure she drinks the whole bottle. The witch doctor gave it to me and said it would heal the strawberry blonde."
"What is it?" Thomas said as he held the small bottle in his hand.
"Beats the hell out of me." Gooch shrugged.
"Thank you." Thomas said gratefully as he clutched the bottle of potion and then put it in his pocket.
A shot rang out.
Gooch let out a scream and fell forward. He had been hit from behind a direct hit to the back of the head.
Thomas scrambled for his rifle and began to shoot from his hip, making his way back to the cavern. He saw the sun reflect off of hundreds of rifles and immediately thought of an ambush.
"What the hell!" Will said as he scrambled to his feet, charging for the weapons.
"We’ve got company. Lots of it!" Thomas said backing his way into the cavern. His weapons still firing from the hip.
"What about Gooch?"
"Dead." Thomas replied dryly as he let off another shot.
Deanna knowing that the scavengers were now in front of the cavern, quickly put a whiskey bomb together and threw it as hard as she could towards the cavern entrance.
"Run!" she screamed.
"God damn it, Deanna!" she heard Riker call out just before he tackled her to the ground, covering her body with his. Thomas let out a yelp and dove for Jeannie, who lay oblivious to the whole thing.
An instant later a thunderous explosion that rang their ears boomed and the entrance to the cavern was blocked by tons of rock and debris, leaving only a cloud of dust.
"Get…get off of me." Deanna suggested playfully as she lay under the body of her husband. Riker looked down at her smiling, "I think you might have used too much liquid in that one, Deanna?" He teased. She laughed at him; he quickly kissed the tip of her nose, before raising himself off of her. He held out his hand for her to take it and she automatically took it and he pulled her to her feet.
"You okay?" he asked, fanning the dust from his face.
"I think so." She said with a nod, "Are they gone?"
"No." he said with a smile. "They’re still out there, underneath all that rock. I doubt if they pose a threat though."
"If you’re asking if we’re trapped in this damn cave, the answer is yes." Thomas said as he stumbled to his feet, the only light was the ember from the once blazing campfire. "Why in the hell did you do that Deanna?" he asked it was evident that he was irritated with her.
Riker re-lit the fire, illuminating the small enclosed area.
"I told you I’d blow them all to hell if they tried to come near me again, didn’t I?" She answered sternly. "You have no idea what it’s like, Thomas! So don’t go telling me how to do my job."
"You’re job is ship’s counselor!" he sounded, "Not the Mad Bomber from Betazoid!" he yelled, "You could have killed us all."
"Thomas, leave Deanna alone." The voice was Jeannie’s.
"Jeannie?" Thomas asked, his attentions turned towards his wife. "Jeannie." He repeated his voice full of hope. He crouched down and took her hand and held it firmly. His heart pounded wildly in his chest at the sound of her voice. "Hey." He whispered softly. "How you feel?"
"My ears are ringing." She gave him a weak smile, squeezing his hand with a weak grip.
"Yeah, that makes two of us." He shot Deanna a look. Looking back down at Jeannie he noticed that she was still groggy. She slowly closed her eyes. He gently touched her forehead with the back of his hand, and frowned. "She’s still feverish."
"Drink this." Thomas said as he raised Jeannie up with his arm. "Gooch said for her to drink a sip of this. He said that the witch doctor gave it to him."
"What is it?" Deanna asked.
"Beats the hell out of me." Thomas placed the small bottle of potion against his wife’s lips. "Jeannie drink this." He stated softly as he poured the potion into her mouth. Jeannie drank the liquid; she coughed twice and then collapsed into a deep sleep. Thomas placed her head gently on the fur pillow and covered her up with the blankets.
"She’s too weak to move." Deanna said as she wiped Jeannie’s forehead.
"We can stay here for awhile. There’s plenty of oxygen in here." Riker said. "And it apparent nothing is coming in here."
"Or going out." Thomas mumbled.
"I wonder if there’s a way out of here?" Deanna asked.
"There used to be." Thomas said sarcastically. "That is until you blew it all to hell."
"Where am I?" Jeannie asked, her brain still fuzzy from the fever.
"You’re safe." Thomas spoke softly. He carefully reached for her hand. He brought it up to his mouth and kissed it. He had stayed with her faithfully, refusing to leave her side. Even when Deanna insisted that he get some rest, he still refused to go to far away from her.
"Can I have a drink of water?"
Thomas placed a steady arm behind her back and gently assisted her with sitting up. With his other hand he guided the cup of cool water holding it up to her lips. "Don’t drink too much." He instructed. "Take sips."
"Help me to sit up more." It was more of a request than an order.
"Sure. Lean on me." He said as he held her up, supporting her back with his chest.
"Thomas, I’m so sorry." She began to apologize. "I was wrong in getting angry with you." Tears fell down her cheeks as she began to castigate herself for ever being angry, for kicking him out and for thinking he was a monster. "You’re not a savage, or an enemy and I was wrong. I was so wrong. Stephen and Bryce they are the real savages. They’re nothing but ruthless killers. I’m so sorry."
"Shhh." he hushed her, laying her head back upon his chest. "It’s all right. All that’s behind us now."
"Is it?" She whispered hopefully.
"It is if you let it."
"Can you ever forgive me?"
"I forgave you a long time ago, Jeannie." Thomas held her closer to him, wrapping her arms around her torso. "I love you. Nothing can ever change that. I thought you knew that."
"I do and I love you too." She smiled. "I guess I just never realized how much, until we were apart."
"I was worried sick about you." He confessed. "I left the house that day, to give you time to cool off. And then when I heard that you had been kidnapped." He paused to inhale. "I thought I’d never get to see you again, and for the first time in a long time, I was scared." He spoke with a gentle tone. He felt a sudden surge of remorse that he hadn’t been there to protect her from Bryce. Now he seemed to be fighting back his own tears as his emotions ran amuck inside of his large body. The thought of living without Jeannie, for her to vanish out of his life forever was too much for him to take.
"Thomas, I understand now what you mean when you said, "It had to be done."
Thomas thought of Gooch’s words about her being raped. "Jeannie? Did they hurt you?"
"I mean, did they use you as their whore?"
Jeannie blinked slowly and found her courage to answer. "Bryce raped me, Thomas. He was the only one." She paused for breath. "He had plans on taking me to the trade lands and selling me as his personal whore. But," she added, "I suppose I ticked him off, when I kept insisting you were alive. I remember him backhanding me, and I hit my head on something. The next thing I knew I woke up here."
A surge of anger flashed through his veins at the thought and he held her tighter. She felt tension in his body and asked, "Does it bother you? That I was with someone else?" She asked. Suddenly her brain froze and the thought of Thomas not wanting her anymore. Why wasn’t he talking to her? What if he thought of her as an adulterer? She swallowed hard, and asked, "Does it matter to you?"
"If you’re asking does it affect my love for you. No. You did what you had to do in order to survive. I understand that completely." He answered tenderly, kissing her on top of her head. And then his voice became serious and his eyes filled with anger. "If you’re asking, if I ever see that son of a bitch, will I kill him? Yes."
"No, Thomas. You can’t…you can’t kill him." She whispered. He voice took a sudden change and became hard. "I want to. It’s my turn to play ‘hard ball.’ I want to blow up those trade lands, and all of those bastards in it."
Thomas was silent for a moment. Jeannie had learned how to be a survivor. Just as Will had done and just as Deanna was doing. "All right." He reluctantly agreed.
Suddenly Jeannie pushed away from his embraced and yelped, "Oh my gods!" Her eyes wide with terror.
"What!" Thomas exclaimed, his defensive reflexes alarmed to danger by the sound of her voice. He instantly cocked his gun and aimed at nothing.
"My hair." Jeannie felt the top of her head; it was only about two inches long all over. "Oh my Gods! My hair!" Her eyes flashed with anger, "You’ve cut off my hair!" she shrieked quickly turning around to face him. Her green eyes wide and the look on her face displaying that of total shock.
"Jeannie, I didn’t…" He began to explain, hoping to calm her down. "Gooch did. He said he had to, to properly clean you’re head wound."
"Gooch! I’ll kill him." She declared in anger. "Where is he?" she demanded.
There was a sudden pause in their conversation, and she found her answer in the expression on his face. "Gooch…. Gooch is dead?" Jeannie asked her bottom lip began to tremble and tears began to form in her eyes.
"Yeah. About a week ago. We were ambushed by scavengers and they had a fairly clear shot at him." Thomas answered. He hated to tell her like this, but he felt as if she had to know. "He saved you’re life Jeannie. He was the one who found you in the mountains and when I came along he was bathing you in the stream trying to get the fever down. That’s when he cut off your hair." He placed his hand under her chin and raised her head, forcing her to look at him. "Besides, I think it looks good on you. It reminds me of when we first met back at the Academy. You had short hair then, remember?"
Jeannie blushed slightly and smiled, her smile soon turned into a frown as she thought about his words. "I’ve been asleep for a week?"
"On and off."
"Hey." The voice was that of Deanna Troi. "You’re awake."
"Deanna." Jeannie exclaimed, her eyes lighting up at the sight of her friend. Deanna made her way to Jeannie and both women embraced each other tightly.
"I want to stand up." Jeannie said.
"You don’t have to prove anything Jeannie." Thomas said, he could tell that she was still very weak.
"I want to walk." She sounded persistent.
Thomas placed both hands around his wife’s waist and stood her to her feet never letting go of her waist. A wave of dizziness ran through Jeannie’s brain and she began to sway slightly, but Thomas was there to catch her. "Maybe you should sit back down." He instructed her.
"No, no I’m fine. It will pass, I’m sure." Jeannie said reassuringly.
"Jeannie you’re still weak." Deanna said with apprehension as she stood on one side of her friend. Totally secure in the fact that Thomas wouldn’t let her fall.
Jeannie took several steps. She felt her body began to fall to the ground, and she faintly called out to Thomas who had never let go of her waist. He quickly scooped her up in his arms and gently laid her back down on the bed. "I think that, that’s enough walking for one day." He smiled, "You need to rest now."
Jeannie didn’t argue she simply took a deep breath and closed her eyes. The walking had taken a lot of energy and strength, and she was exhausted. Jeannie slowly closed her eyes, drifting back to sleep. Thomas crouched down beside her and tucked her inside of the blankets; he smiled lovingly and kissed the top of her forehead.
Turning his attention towards Deanna, he asked. "Where have you been?"
"Will and I went exploring." She answered with a smug grin.
Riker walked into the small cavern room, and he was combing his hair with his fingers. He had the look of a man who had just been satisfied sexually. He and Deanna had wandered off, and one thing led to another as it always had. Their lovemaking had been fast and hard and totally satisfying for the both of them. After all they were laying on a hard bed of rock. "We’ve been exploring." He agreed with his wife, displaying the same smug grin.
Thomas decided not to pursue the issue. Hell, he thought, it wasn’t any of his business what they did. Holding back his crude remark he stated instead, "Jeannie should be strong enough to travel in the next few days." Thomas informed them, "We’ll find a way out of here then."
"Sounds good to me." Deanna smiled.
"Well, I’m turning in for the night." Thomas said, he turned and climbed into the bedroll beside Jeannie. Soon he was nuzzled in next to his wife and was soon fast asleep. His body drifted off into a much needed deep sleep.
"Do you think he believed us?" Deanna whispered, wrapping her arms around her Will’s waist, resting her head on the back of his shoulder.
Will reached behind him and placed his hand on her head and brought her in closer. "Sure. Betazoids don’t lie remember?" His voice sounding amused.
"Want to do it again?" She whispered, kissing the back of his neck.
She never saw the huge grin that spread across his face.
Both jumped to their feet, quickly grabbing their bed gear they headed off, like two anxious children, back towards their secret spot in the cavern. With their intense desire to mate far behind them now, they united again sexually, only this time more slowly, taking thier time enjoying one another.
Day by day Jeannie gained more strength and she was soon ambulating on her own. She and Thomas were alone a lot, which Thomas was silently thankful for. Will and Deanna had discovered their own little secret spot in the cavern and they spent most of their time back in its recesses.
Finally it was time to move on.
"I’d say we go this way." Riker said as he tossed the backpack across his shoulder. "It should lead us out of here. Once we reach the surface we can figure out our way back to Goochville."
"We’re not going to Goochville." Thomas informed him, shooting Jeannie a look and then glancing back at Riker. "We’re going to the trade lands."
"What are we going to do in the trade lands?" Riker asked, pretending he didn’t already know the answer.
"Play some hard ball." Thomas replied dryly. He took the backpack from Jeannie, scolding her with his eyes for even attempting to pick up the heavy bag and threw it over his shoulder. "You carry this." He smiled, handing her the lighted torch.
"You’re going to find Bryce and kill him aren’t you?" Riker asked.
"Wouldn’t you?" Thomas deadpanned his brother with an intense stare. Bryce was going to die, either by his hand or by the hand of Jeannie but either way, the now new ruler of the scavengers was going to die.
Riker stood silent and met his brother’s stare. He couldn’t argue, as a matter of fact he couldn’t do anything but agree with Thomas. He glanced over at Deanna and she nodded.
"Time for some Hard Ball." Riker stated flatly, as he led the four through the cavern.
All four walked at a calm gait through the dark caverns, the women followed religiously behind their husbands as they led the way with the torches. After several meters, they came to a forked area in the underground cave. "Which way?" Thomas asked, looking to the left and then to the right.
"Left." Riker said, as he pivoted around his brother, taking the lead. Pretending he knew where in the hell they were going.
"Left." Thomas mumbled, shaking his head. He followed his brother. "I’m traveling with a Starfleet Captain, and a bomb throwing Counselor, and all he commands is ‘left’." He continued to mumble as he walked, "Deanna you better save one of those bombs to drink. I have a feeling we’re going to need it."
"Thomas?" Jeannie said, coming to a complete halt.
He recognized the fear in her voice and snapped his head towards her. "What is that?" she asked quietly nodding towards the ceiling of the cave.
"Don’t wave that torch around." He whispered. Hanging on the ceiling of the cavern, just above their heads were thousands of bats, some flapping, some resting. All looking angry and definitely not wanting to be disturbed.
"Is that what I think it is?" Riker questioned quietly, squinting his eyes just to make sure they were focused. After realizing what he was seeing was real, he stated with disgust. "Bats."
"Right." Thomas answered.
"I thought so." Riker squared his shoulders and stepped protectively in front of Deanna.
"No, you idiot! I mean, we should have gone right." Thomas snapped, in a whispered voice.
"If I didn’t have to be quiet." Riker swore. "I’d kick your smart ass –right—now Thomas."
"You fight loud?" Thomas retaliated.
"No. I don’t." Riker answered sarcastically. "But, you’ll scream like a girl."
"Stop it. Both of you." Deanna warned. "We have go to get out of here. You want me to blow them up?"
"No." Both Riker’s answered in unison.
"Just back up slowly." Thomas said as he guided Jeannie slowly out of the cavern back towards the fork. He knew one thing for certain, they couldn’t go any further into the cavern. His prior experience with bats told him that much. "Don’t make any sudden moves. They won’t bother you if you don’t upset them."
"I hate bats." Riker said as he slowly backed away from the infestation of flying creatures of the night. His heart pounding heavily in his chest. "When I was a boy." He stated quietly, his eyes never leaving the ceiling, where the nest of bats hung. "I’ve always wanted to be an explorer, so I went exploring in a cavern in Alaska and got covered in…."
"Bat shit." Thomas finished for him, as he felt his boot slide slightly across a patch of the feces.
"Yeah. I’ve hated bats ever since. That was the day, I decided Starfleet was the only way for me." Will said as he walked cautiously backward, his weapons drawn. He didn’t want to fire, that was the last thing he wanted to do. But, the memory of being covered in bat shit was just too much.
"No bats in space that’s for damn sure." Thomas agreed, as he slowly walked in reverse.
All four released a breath as they exited from the bat infested cavern. "Is everyone all right?" Will asked. His question was answered with a nod from the women. "We go right." He said with certainty.
"Right." Thomas agreed, shooting Riker a look. His face hardened by the harsh light of the torch. Grabbing Jeannie gently by the elbow, he led her forward.
At last they were out of the confines of the cavern, and sitting firmly on the mountainside. All four sat quietly and enjoyed the fresh air, and the daylight.
"Where are we?" Jeannie asked as she surveyed her surroundings. All around her was mountain sides and rocky forest areas. "Shouldn’t the prairie be around her somewhere?"
"We’re going to stay clear of the prairie." Thomas answered, as he unscrewed the cap back on his canteen of water and handed it to Deanna.
"Which way do we go?"
"Considering the sun is over there. I’d say that way is East." He answered, rubbing a nervous hand down the side of his beard. Standing to his feet, he glanced over at Riker and Deanna. Riker nodded and stood to his feet.
"Let’s move out." Riker ordered, taking the lead.
After traveling for a while, Jeannie broke the silence with her question. "Thomas?"
"Will you make me a sling shot?"
Thomas stopped dead in his tracks and looked at his wife through squinted eyes. "A what?" His brain wondering what she was up to.
"A sling shot." She answered innocently. "Daddy took Stephen and me to slingshot tournaments when we were children and I soon became quite an ace."
"You telling me you were a slingshot master?" he teased, as he helped her cross the craggy hillside.
She gave him a look that exclaimed that she didn’t appreciate him making fun of her, and jerked her arm away from him. "I was thinking, with all of these rocks around here. Why not?"
"You’re going to stone them to death." Riker joined into the conversation, his voice full of amusement.
"If I meet Stephen again. I’d like to shoot him right on his fat head."
"Jeannie…" Thomas began, he hated to do this to her, but he felt as if she had to know the truth. "Stephen…..Stephen….he’s dead."
"Dead?" She turned and asked in shock. "How? When?"
"I killed him." Riker said flatly, without remorse. His eyes full of resentment and anger. He looked and quickly noticed the sadness in her eyes and his anger began to melt. "I know he was you’re brother, and I’m sorry for that, Jeannie. I truly am, sorry." He glanced over at Deanna who stood silently, the memory of her being raped flooded his body and his face became hard, and his voice was like a rock when he stated, "The bastard deserved to die for what he did to Deanna."
Jeannie glanced over towards Deanna and knew immediately what Will was talking about. Stephen had raped Deanna, she could read it all over Deanna’s face. Looking to Thomas, and then to Will and then towards Deanna, her gaze finally fell upon Will. She walked over to him slowly, and kissed him on the cheek. "I forgive you, Will. You did what you had to do." She glanced towards Thomas, and stated, "Just like all of us have." Jeannie turned, and walked away to grieve for her brother in silence.
Thomas was on her heels, stopping her by grabbing her arm. "Hey, are you all right?" he asked, his voice full of concern.
"Yeah, I will be." She answered soberly, her eyes full of tears. "I’ll miss him. He was my brother. He was an asshole, but none the less my brother." Then she laughed and cried at the same time. Her voice suddenly became serious. "Are you going to make me a slingshot or not?"
Taken back by her sudden change of subject, Thomas stood and looked at her. Knowing that she had been through a lot, and he would do anything to make her happy. She reminded him of the girl he had met back at the academy with the pixy style haircut, and it melted his heart. He laughed out loud, "I’ll make you whatever you want."
Suddenly gun fire pinged off of the hillside, Thomas dove for the cover of the rocks taking Jeannie down with him. The only thing that flashed through his mind was to protect her. He had to protect Jeannie. He let out a scream as he fell to the ground.
"Oh Gods, Thomas you’ve been hit!" Jeannie cried. Her voice frantic, "You’ve been shot!"
Suddenly gun fire pinged off of the hillside; Thomas dove for the cover of the rocks taking Jeannie down with him. The only thing that flashed through his mind was to protect her. He had to protect Jeannie. He let out a scream as he fell to the ground.
"Oh Gods, Thomas you’ve been hit!" Jeannie cried. Her voice sounded frantic; "You’ve been shot!"
"No. I haven’t been shot." Thomas barked, mostly out of annoyance. Gods he hated these bastards, and he wanted to cut everyone of their damn fool heads off. He quickly loaded his gun, and fired off a shot. "It just hurt like hell when I fell."
"We’ve got to get out of here." Jeannie informed him, as he fired his weapon and then quickly ducked for cover.
"No shit." Thomas answered, raising himself up; he fired off another shot and then ducked.
Jeannie screamed when a bullet pinged off beside her, small chunks of gravel spat angrily towards her.
Jeannie raised herself up, exposing her head. Thomas placed the large palm of his hand on top of her head and roughly pushed her back down. "Stay down." He barked.
"I am down!" Jeannie snapped as she yanked his hand off of her head.
"Where in the hell is Will?" Thomas asked from his crouched position. He had to think and he had to think fast. They were out numbered, and they couldn’t stay holed up in the mountains forever. Their ammunition wouldn’t last that long. And there was Jeannie, she wouldn’t survive another abduction, he was certain of that. He had to think of a way to get the hell out of there.
Riker and Deanna came running towards Thomas and Jeannie, as if they were scared to death, both ignoring the numerous amounts of bullets pinging off of the sides of the rock spraying rock fragment everywhere.
As if sliding into home plate, Riker slid in beside Jeannie and Thomas dragging Deanna right along with him. "Fire in the hole." He panted his warning.
"Oh shit." Thomas said, as he abruptly and roughly grabbed Jeannie, covering her body with his.
They waited for a minute and nothing happened. No explosion. No thundering of the mountains, just and eerie silence. The enemies rapid gunfire was getting closer as the scavengers approached.
More than likely Thomas thought they were under the impression that he and Riker had decided to retreat, since they weren't returning gunfire.
Riker rose his head and asked Deanna "What in the hell happpened to your bomb? Was it a...." he was going to say dud, but his sentence was interrupted by an earsplitting thundering explosion that shook the whole mountainside.
Thomas heard the roaring sound of the mountain scream out in anger. "Let’s get the hell out of here!" he yelled, as he scrambled to his feet, instinctively grabbing Jeannie bringing her abruptly to her feet.
"What?" Jeannie yelled above the rumbling, booming noise of the angry mountain.
"Landslide!" Thomas yelled. He was already dragging her across the craggy, rocky terrain.
"Thomas look out!" Jeannie yelled.
With split second timing and a snap of his wrist, Thomas had unsheathed his knife and soared the huge bowie knife at the scavenger that had targeted him with a gun. The knife landed with projected accuracy in the man’s chest. The scavenger grabbed onto the foreign object that was lodged in his body and tugged with the last of his strength to remove it. He let out a cry of agony and collapsed to his knees, landing with a thud onto the hard flat rock. Quickly kicking the body over Thomas retrieved his weapon.
With another snap of his wrist Thomas wiped it on the injured man’s shirt, cleaning off the fresh blood. Jeannie stood in amazed horror, as fast as Thomas had drawn the blade, he had sheathed it again.
"Thomas, he’s not dead!" Deanna said, as she stared at the wounded man. The scavenger was struggling to his feet, attempting to raise himself, while he held onto his wounded chest.
"He will be." Thomas answered as a matter of fact. Looking up he noticed that the landslide had begun and they had to move fast to escape its wrath, and there was no way the wounded man could move fast enough. It would be only a matter of seconds before he would be crushed to death under piles of angry rock. "Let’s move." He said, pulling Jeannie behind him.
They heard the not so distant scream of the wounded man and Deanna knew then that the wounded man had been crushed to death.
"I’ve got a slew of these bastards on my tail." Riker said, as he fired his weapon bringing one of the scavengers down.
"Run for the forest!" Thomas instructed Jeannie. "I’ll be right behind you."
"No." Jeannie protested. "I’m not leaving you!"
"Now is not the time for a spousal dispute." Riker said as he fired his weapon, at the fast approaching enemy.
Thomas had no desire to fight with his wife, in a matter of minutes, either the scavengers that were chasing after them would kill them all or the whole mountain side was going to come down. "Damn-it!" he growled.
"We do this together or not at all!" She screamed her protest. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was adamant and her jaw set.
Rolling his eyes, he quickly gave in to her protest. "I don’t have time for this." He sounded annoyed, turning his attention towards Deanna he asked, "Deanna, do you have a bomb with a short fuse?"
"Yeah, I thinks so."
"Let me have it." He turned to Riker and said, "We’ve got about ten, maybe eleven seconds before this mountain comes down on us after this second bomb. When I say, run. We all run like hell."
Quickly tossing the live whiskey bomb towards the scavengers it landed practically on top of them, before they could react and throw it back, it exploded, blowing their bodies up into the air and splattering them on the sides of the mountain.
"Run!" Thomas yelled.
All four took off running as fast as they could go. Deanna could barely keep up with Will; her shorter legs were no match for this longer ones. But she refused to let go of his hand, and she was surprised of just how fast she could run when her adrenaline was active.
Thomas and Jeannie were both showered with falling rock; Jeannie screamed and fell to her knees as a large rock landed squarely on her back. Thomas dove and covered Jeannie’s body with his. His back and head took a beating from the angry rocks, they bounced off of his back, and he gave a painful grunt with each painful pelting blow. "Stay under me!" He ordered, using his body as a shield.
His brain flashed to the floggings he had taken in the Cardassian prison and his body stiffened up. As if by reflex he automatically began to ignore the pain, his eyes grew darker and all he could think of was Hard Ball. He had to endure the pain; he had to endure the pain. Thomas Riker clenched his teeth as the falling debris of the mountain top, as his back became a target for the angry boulders of rock.
When the showering rock had subsided, all that was left was a cloud of dust. Thomas stood to his feet, totally unaware of his surroundings and who was with him. He let out a war cry, and instantly had his huge knife in his hand. He screamed at the top of his lungs in violent anger, "You son of a bitch." it was a scream that possessed the ability to frighten all of the demons of hell.
"Thomas!" Jeannie grabbed onto his arm, when she got no response she yelled again, squeezing her long nails into the biceps of his arm. "Thomas!"
As if in a dream he turned his head slowly and looked at her, with blank dark evil eyes. He was looking at her without looking at her, as if she were a ghost. She gasped suddenly and fear overtook her for a brief second, but for only a second. She knew then, that he was reliving the horrors of the Cardassian prison. In an instant she knew that he had been beaten. His body had been battered and beaten with the falling rocks and he was bleeding from the back of his head. She noticed as huge whelps began to rise across his bareback. Her heart went out to him in that instant.
"It’s all right." She stated calmly. "Thomas, it’s all right."
The sound of her voice made him blink twice and he snapped out of it. He inhaled deeply and let out his breath slowly. Somewhat embarrassed, he knew what had happened and Jeannie had witnessed it.
"I understand." She said, her voice full of sympathy, understanding, and love. "I understand, Thomas."
There was a moment of silence between the two. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly. Not being able to search for better words.
"Yeah, are you?"
Thomas brain suddenly flashed towards Will and Deanna and he squared his shoulders. He didn’t know if it was from alarm or from fright. "Will? Where’s Will?" he asked urgently as he scanned the pile of rock.
Jeannie gasped at the thought of Will and Deanna. They weren’t beside them; they were nowhere to be seen. "Oh Gods, no." She whispered.
Thomas took off running fearlessly towards the cloud of mountain dust. His brain frantic with fright, and his chest pounding.
"Will!" Thomas yelled almost frantic. "Will! Deanna!"
Riker and Deanna emerged from the huge cloud, both coughing and gasping for air.
"I thought you were dead." Thomas exclaimed, then mostly out of relief he reached out and hugged his brother.
"Not dead. Practically stoned to death, but not dead." Riker laughed, returning the embrace. "It would take a hell of a big rock to crack this head."
"I don’t believe this." Deanna said, interrupting the two brother’s. "You two actually like one another."
Both men immediately broke the embrace. "Don’t push your luck, Deanna." Will stated flatly, as he walked around Thomas and headed off towards the forest.
"We’ve got to cross today." Thomas said, as he stood to his feet, tossing the remains of his coffee on the smoldering camp fire. It had come the time that all four had dreaded. The prairie was dangerous with little or no protection. They were all four on foot and it would take at least two days to cross, that is if they lived through it.
"Damn. No shelter. Nothing but the bare elements." Riker grumbled.
"You know a better way?" Thomas glared. "If you do. I’m open to suggestions."
"We can’t go into the prairie." Deanna said as if hypnotized, her eyes fixed straight ahead. "They are expecting us."
"What?" Riker asked, touching her arm so lightly that she barely felt it.
"They’re out there Will." Deanna looked at him with those huge frightened kitten eyes. "I sense it."
"You sense it?" Riker asked in wonderment. Had she truly gotten her abilities back? Perhaps on this side of the planet, the atmosphere was different.
"Yes." She said quietly.
"Thomas, try the tri-corder." Will told his brother, if his hunch was right, it should be working.
"I’m following you." Thomas said, totally understanding what Riker was getting at. He reached inside of the back pack and retrieved the instrument.
"It’s almost out of power, but it’s working. Picking up life signs…. Damn, there’s a lot of life signs." Thomas said, as he read the small instrument, his body turning in circles as if he were guiding a compass. "Over there." He said, he pushed the power button on the small handheld, shutting off its power.
Riker took out the map that he had retrieved from Stephen’s gear and began to study it. With a finger traveling across the yellowed material, he advised. "We could travel along base of the hills. We can enter Trade town, right here." He advised, as Thomas watched his finger ambulate over the map. "It may be our only means to strangle any plans that they have to ambush us. The only fall back that I can see is that it will take about four days longer than what we had originally planned."
"That’s four days longer that we get to live…works for me." Jeannie chirped in.
Riker rolled up the map and put it in his backpack. "Let’s move out. We’ll travel along the base of the hills." He said with a nod of his head, taking the lead the other comrades followed closely behind.
"They’re close." Deanna said, coming to an abrupt halt.
"Regular little blood hound aren’t you?" Thomas teased the Betazoid as he walked around her, tri-corder in his hand.
"Thomas." Jeannie scolded her husband.
Will’s eyes fell upon his wife. His only response was the pointing of her finger out towards the prairie. His eyes followed her index finger. Looking out into the distance, he noticed travelers. They were clad in fur skins and suede as they rode their horses proudly.
"Traders." Thomas answered, as he read the reading on the small hand held instrument.
"Traders?" Jeannie asked.
"Scavenger’s who have found new vocations as whore masters." Riker answered, "They transport women to the trade lands." He said never taking his eyes from the traveling band of riders.
Deanna focused; her mind rested on one individual. "Bryce."
Thomas felt as his anger began to rise, at the sound of the man’s name. This was the same bastard that had raped and beaten his wife and then left her for dead in the forest.
Deanna sensed the evil that was beginning to rise up in Thomas’ soul. It was strong…. So strong and powerful. She was aghast. Suddenly through his eyes she saw and felt the pain, the loneliness, and the isolation of his soul. She witnessed the horror and the animalistic tortures that he had been forced to endure and forced to relay upon others. She reeled in horror as the images suddenly flooded her being. Deanna heard the agonizing screams of the victim prisoners and then suddenly counteracted with a sense of wicked satisfaction from the Cardassian prison guards. She saw the blood; there was so much blood. Covering Thomas’ hands, his face, his feet. She saw the dismembered body parts flash before her eyes in a terrifying instant. She saw Thomas in puddles of blood, totally surrounded by decaying body parts. Parts that he had purposely hacked or removed himself. She reeled in horror at the sight of her brother in law, totally unaffected by the morbid surroundings. Then, she witness as Thomas sat totally naked in the puddles of blood, all alone, away from the guards, away from anyone. His body wracked with sobs, she witnessed as his body shook from the uncontrollable sobs. She felt the grief, and the intense pain that he had felt, and it was over powering. Her head began to swim and she felt her knees begin to forsake her.
"Deanna." Riker caught her before she fell to the ground, overcome be the emotions that were soaring through her brain.
"I saw it, Will." Deanna clung onto her husband’s vest. Her eyes wide with fright.
Riker glanced up towards Thomas’ and knew immediately what she was speaking of; he saw it in Thomas also. He saw the hate and the bitterness as it began to rise within his brothers soul. "Shhhh…it’s all right, Deanna?" He cooed, as he held her close to him.
"I saw it. It was horrendous and barbarian." She cried. "I saw it." Her pain filled voice matched the look in her eyes. "I saw it. I saw Hard Ball." She sobbed, burying her face into his chest.
Riker shot Thomas a look and his eyes narrowed. "What the hell did you do to her?" Riker asked through clenched teeth, his own anger rising.
"She saw the truth." Thomas answered; there was an eerie sharpness to his voice. "And that’s something you’ll never understand."
There was a dead silence that passed between the two, before Thomas spoke again. His hand went for his knife. With eyes that glittered of a man possessed, he spoke with deceptive calm, directing his statement towards Riker. "Stay here with the women."
Jeannie startled by the tone of her husband’s voice ran after him, grabbing and clutching at his arm. She knew that he was going after Bryce alone. And that he would probably be killed in the process. "No Thomas." She cried running after him.
Thomas jerked away from her and continued walking. "Thomas, please listen to me!" She cried frantically, trying to hold him back with all of the strength that her body possessed. "You can’t do this! They’ll kill you!" She grabbed onto the back of his shirt, but yet he continued to walk, "Thomas, please listen to me!" She pleaded frantically, clutching onto his shirt sleeve. Yet he ignored her and continued to walk. The knife positioned dangerously in his hand.
Knowing that her pleas were getting no where, Jeannie let go of her husband’s arm and withdrew her weapon.
"Stop or I’ll shoot." She threatened.
Thomas halted his steps and slowly turned around to face her. Jeannie was standing with a gun in her hand, the same gun that he had given her for protection that she had hidden in her dress pocket.
"You’ll what?" he asked through squinted eyes.
"I’ll shoot." She repeated her voice unsteady, just as her hand was that held the small gun.
"Then do it." Thomas informed her daringly. "But, you’ll have to shoot me in the back." He turned and began to walk towards the travelers.
Jeannie blinked back the tears and shut her eyes tightly. She slowly squeezed the trigger of the small gun.
"Are you all right, Deanna?" Riker asked as he crouched down and held his wife.
"Yes, I will be." Deanna wiped the tears from her eyes. "I was suddenly flooded with images."
Deanna’s eyes opened wide and she clutched onto her husband’s vest. "Don’t be angry with him." Deanna pleaded Thomas’ case. "He isn’t an animal, or a cold blooded murderer. He had to do those things. He had to. He isn’t a bad man, Will."
"Bad…No. A lunatic, most definitely." Riker stated, still holding his wife. "I thought we came to that understanding."
"He was trapped in a world of cruelty, a dog eat dog environment." Deanna explained, "He had to do those things to survive."
"I think we’re in that same kind of world, Deanna. On this god forsaken planet."
"There is so much about Thomas that you don’t understand."
"I’m not sure I want to." He said, as he stood to his feet. He reached down and offered his wife a hand; she automatically took it and stood to her feet.
Both Will and Deanna flinched as the sound of a single gunshot rang through the air.
"Then do it." Thomas informed her daringly. "But, you’ll have to shoot me in the back." He turned and began to walk towards the travelers.
Jeannie blinked back the tears and shut her eyes tightly. She slowly squeezed the trigger of the small gun.
Jeannie purposely missed her husband, firing only at his heels.
Thomas spun around; instinct taking over and he drew back the knife, ready to soar it in her direction. He saw Jeannie standing there, with the smoking weapon, his protective instinct over rode his need to defend himself. Looking at his wife he glared, "Damn it, Jeannie!" he barked in disbelief as he lowed the weapon.
"What in the hell are you doing?" He asked as he walked towards her and snatched the gun out of her hand. "Trying to kill me?!"
"It sure as hell seemed that way."
"I was only trying to get your attention."
"Anyone that tries to kill me tends to gets my attention, damn quick Jeannie!"
"I didn’t try to kill you." She defended herself. "I said, "Stop or I’ll shoot.’ I didn’t say you!"
"And I thought my head was fucked up." Thomas mumbled to himself as he sheathed his knife.
"Plus, it’s just a little bullet! To match that brain of yours!" she snapped. "You aren’t in a Cardassian prison anymore! We’re a team, and you can’t go around bullying people."
"I’m not a bully." He chuckled sarcastically. "You’re the one shooting the gun."
"What you did to Deanna was unfair and cruel, Thomas."
"I didn’t do anything to Deanna." He informed her, never flinching a muscle, his jaw set. "She saw, what she saw, and I sure as hell didn’t invite her inside of my head."
"You didn’t block her either!"
"How would you know…."
"I know! I know all about the bond, Thomas!" She shouted, cutting him off.
"You never came across as the jealous type, Jeannie." his eyes met hers. "Don't start now."
That's it!! Give me back my gun, Thomas!"
"Why? So you can not kill me again."
Her green eyes sparkled with anger. "This doesn’t have anything to do with jealousy! You imbecile! "
"Hell no! You thick headed idiot! You honestly believe that I’m jealous because she can feel what you’re thinking? Because the two of you shared something?" She stared at Thomas and then exploded in anger. "So What! Big deal!" Her voice leveled out and she smiled with a lopsided grin. "Believe me, that twisted, warped brain of yours is the last place I want to be."
Her voice took on a serious tone. "You owe Deanna an apology, Thomas. And you owe me one too."
"For throwing all of that crap on Deanna, and for trying to abandon me."
"I didn’t abandon you!"
"You were ready to run off, crazed with anger after Bryce. I thought we were in this together, Thomas."
He couldn’t argue, and Jeannie knew she had just won the battle.
"I’m sorry, Jeannie." He finally said. "You’re right, we’ll all do this together."
They both headed off towards Will and Deanna. Thomas concentrating on his apology to the Counselor.
"Jeannie, take this." Thomas handed his wife a small wooden object.
"A sling shot." Jeannie’s eyes beamed with excitement. She snapped back the rubber band, trying out the new weapon. She quickly ran around the area and began to pick up pebbles.
"It doesn’t take much to make her happy does it?" Thomas stated with a playful roll of her eyes.
"No, it doesn’t." Riker chimed in. "I realized that the instant I met her husband."
Thomas flashed Riker an unspoken gesture with his hand.
"Hold it right there!" An unfamiliar voice called out. The heard the clicking sound of a gun being cocked.
Riker took a protective stance in front of Deanna; his hand slowly making it’s way to his side arm.
"I wouldn’t if I were you." The scavenger instructed, as he stepped out of the shadows, revealing a scruffy looking man who stood about five foot ten, small in frame, and not possessing massive weight. Riker knew if given the chance he could overtake him, easily.
"Well, I’ll be damned there’s two of them."
Thomas and Will stood side by side. They both knew by the expression on the man’s face that he was confused.
"How can this be?" The men voiced his question a loud. "There’s two of you?"
"Maybe more." Riker stated flatly, using his best poker face. Apparently this man wasn’t too bright, and did not recognize twins.
"What have we got here?" The man said, his eyes falling on the dark eyed Betazoid. He smiled a yellow toothed smile, and Deanna’s stomach churned.
Riker felt his wife’s ill at ease and responded in a low threatening voice, squaring his shoulders, Riker glared, "Leave her be."
"Or What? In about five minutes you’ll be dead." He smiled a thin lipped smile. He suddenly reached out and snatched Deanna, bringing her to him. He slowly raised and held his weapon to the side of her head. "Then this little lovely will be mine to toy with, won’t you darlin?"
"You threaten the spawns of this planet." Riker said, pretending he knew just what he was doing.
Thomas shot him a look. But Riker continued, without expression. "I’m sure you heard of stories of demons that all look alike."
The man’s eyes flew open and fear spread across his face like wildfire; he was as Riker thought a coward. The small man’s forehead frowned at Riker’s words.
He looked at Thomas and then at Will. Could these two men be the Devil? They had eyes that glittered, as if they were demons. He had heard the stories, had these two come to the planet straight out of hell? And why were there two of them? How could one operate look so much like the other? Same built, same stance, same voice, and the eyes, the eyes were identical, in an eerie kind of way, how could this be he wondered?
The man’s total confusion was the only thing Jeannie needed. An instant later, They heard the man scream loudly, and flop to the ground in a withering heap, desperately clutching his bleeding forehead.
Riker slowly walked over and stood menacingly over this man.
Thomas knelt down on one knee, and silently studied the injured man. "Damn, she’s good with that thing isn’t she?"
"Give me your knife, Thomas." Riker requested, with a deceitful calm.
"What…. What are you going to do?" The man asked, as he glanced from the wicked blade back to Riker and then back to the blade.
Riker’s voice was soft, "Carve a coward."
The man watched in horror and squealed in fright as sharp glistening blade made its way towards his leg.
"Will?" Deanna’s voice and her hand on his shoulder snapped him back into reality. "You can’t do this, Will. Not in cold blood." Her voice calm, almost pleading with him.
Riker stood to his feet and let out a breath. She was right, he couldn’t slowly kill a man, dismember him limb by limb. But, Gods he wanted to…Gods how he wanted to. This bastard deserved to die.
He lowered his weapon and glanced down at his boots, knocking some dirt from the soles of his boot by tapping them with the deadly blade.
Unexpected by anyone, in a micro-second, with a flip of the wrist he flung the knife towards the Scavenger. The deadly bladed soared through the air at warp speed. It landed upright, rending through the man’s chest, making direct contact with the heart. The man flopped like a fish out of water and then lay motionless. Riker took one step forward and removed the deadly blade from the dead man’s chest; he then cleaned the blade on the corpse’s shirt.
Riker flipped the blade in his hand, catching it by its tip and handed it back to Thomas, walking around his brother, he said flatly. "Let’s head for Trade town, find Bryce, kill him, and find a way home."
"I’ll say it again." Thomas stated under his breath. "And I thought my head was fucked up." He said to himself as he followed behind the others.
Thomas stopped short. His eyes narrowed, and his nostril flared. Will could see that his brother was alert to impending danger.
"Deanna?" Will whispered instantly un-slinging his rifle from his side. Something that had become a constant companion since he had been on this planet. He stepped in front of Deanna as if his body could protect her.
A single shot rang through the air.
"Jeannie, Get Down!" Thomas yelled as he dove, taking her down with him, her body landed on the ground with a loud thud. An instant later he had his weapon ready.
Riker whirled around and immediately began to fire his weapon; he then hit the ground bringing Deanna down with him.
"You bastards. Let’s play." Riker cursed. There was a gang of fast approaching scavengers. Riker noticed at least a dozen of them; all on horse back all charging.
"Either they want to play or they’re a piss poor shot." Thomas said, as a bullet pinged over his head.
Deanna crawled past Will as fast as she could, her brain recalled the tri-corder. "Oh Gods, let this work." Her mind screamed out. Setting the futuristic weapon to kill she fired at a scavenger. She felt the impact and knew that she had hit one. She wanted to jump up and down and cheer as she watched the man disintegrate into nothingness. She targeted another one and missed him by a mile. She wanted to cry at her misfire, and waste of energy of the weapon.
Riker was beside her in an instant. "Give me that thing." He snatched the weapon from her hand, and began to fire. This was more like it, he thought as he began to mow down the charging scavengers with the weapon that he was most familiar with. "Give the other to Tom." He said kneeling on one knee. He effortlessly targeted one scavenger and then another. It flashed through Deanna’s mind how easy Will made it appear.
"Thomas!" she called out, after getting his attention, she tossed the futuristic weapon towards him. He smiled slightly as he caught the phaser, and began to fire, sending deadly beams of red light across the prairie.
The gun fire and laser fire ceased. The realization of just how hard Thomas had thrown his wife down instantly flashed through his brain. He sucked in a lung full of air, and let it out in a silent whistle. "You all right?" he asked, not knowing if she was going to hug him or kick him.
"No I’m not…you damn bully…. The next time…." She grumbled then as if a flip had been switching in her head, she snapped her head towards the prairie and exclaimed. "The horses, Thomas. The horses!"
"Round up time." He said with the excitement of a little boy, as he scrambled to his feet.
"Thomas…. You can’t just…" Jeannie yelled, but he was already gone.
Riker knew immediately what his brother was doing, "Stay put." He instructed Deanna, handing her his rifle. His eyes holding the same boy like challenge of his brothers. "Cover me if you have to." He took off running towards the riderless horses.
The four now had horses and it felt good. No doubt it sure beat the hell out of walking.
They caught sight of what was called Trade Town. Thomas came to an abrupt halt. Just over the hillside was where they had wanted to be; except what he thought would be a town looked more like a fort.
"So that is Trade Town?" Riker asked, coming up rein to rein with his brother.
"Guess so." Thomas answered, there was a wooden high post, fencing all around it, and it had a strong timbered gate. "It looks more like a stockade." Thomas thought either keeping poachers and scavengers out, or the women in.
"I’d say, equipped with plenty of armed guards." Riker agreed, as he automatically placed a hand on his rifle.
"How in the hell do we get in there?" Thomas whispered to no one in particular.
"There’s something else there, Will." Deanna said, bringing her horse up beside Will. "A way home."
Both men shot her a look and said in unison, "A way home?"
Deanna looked at them and smiled, nodding her head yes.
"You mean…real home?" Jeannie asked hopefully, riding up alongside of Thomas.
Deanna nodded her head in agreement.
"I want you to stay close." Thomas instructed his wife. "I have a feeling Hampton is in town."
"Probably lodged up in some brothel." Jeannie added dryly.
"I’ll go get him." Riker volunteered a little to eagerly.
Deanna shot her husband a look, her eyes daring him not to flank is horse.
"Oh come on, Deanna…" Riker looked at her in disbelief. "You don’t think that I would…. I’ll just be going in there to negotiate."
"Negotiate?" Thomas questioned, with a laugh. "Sure would beat the hell out of those recent man to hand negotiations Deanna’s forced you to participate in, wouldn’t it Will?" He asked with a raise of his brow.
"Negotiate this, ass hole." Riker scowled, giving his brother an unspoken gesture with his hand.
"That’s original---Captain." Thomas emphasized the rank.
"All right, then you go." Riker dared his duplicate.
Thomas was about to say something, and then glanced over at Jeannie. Her eyes told him what he needed to say, what he better say. He looked over at Riker and simply stated, "No."
"Well then we better think of another way…" Riker said. "Because, we sure as hell can’t stay here all night."
"If you two idiots would stop playing with each other for a while, and think." Jeannie said, rather impatiently. "I’m tired, dirty, and hungry and I would like to get the hell out of here."
"We need a plan, boys…. And we need to take a bath." Deanna suggested, as if she already had a plan in mind. The corners of her mouth turned up, and her eyes began to sparkle with the brain storm she was having. "And I know of the perfect place to get one." Deanna suggested as if she had a plan in mind, she flanked her horse took four steps forward.
"Yeah." Jeannie agreed her eyes sparkled at the revelation, as she did the same to her horse.
"Yeah, what?" Thomas stared blankly at brother, totally clueless as to what the two women were speaking about.
Riker simply shrugged.
"You and I could pull it off, Deanna…" Jeannie talked as if she and Deanna were the only ones there. "It’s the only way to flush Bryce out."
"Like hell it’s the only way." Thomas flared, bringing his horse up to theirs. Not knowing just what they were talking about…but knowing there was no way he was going to allow the two women to go into town alone.
"It may work." Deanna agreed with Jeannie, pretending Thomas didn’t even exist.
"I’ll draw Bryce out. He knows me…." Jeannie said. Thomas simply stood there and gawked, not believing his ears, and then she paused for breath, "so to speak." She added looking over at her wide-eyed husband.
"He also thinks he left you for dead, Jeannie." Deanna reasoned. "It would be at our advantage to let him believe that. We could use it as an element of surprise."
Jeannie simply nodded her head in agreement.
"I’ll masquerade as a prostitute, and lure Bryce into a room at the brothel." Deanna spoke the strategy of her plan. "Just as I attempt to seduce him, you…."
"Like hell!" It was Riker’s turn to flare now and bring his horse up to the others. He couldn’t believe these two women. His eyes locked with Deanna’s. "You’re not going to masquerade as anything---TROI!" Riker thundered.
"Will, if I can masquerade as a Romulan…."
"It’s not the same thing." He interrupted. "And you know it!" He said, as if his last sentence could put an end to the conversation.
"Will…." Deanna implored, trying to make him understand.
"Back off, Deanna!" Riker snapped in no uncertain terms. She did, glancing over at Jeannie, she silently asked for help.
"Will…" Jeannie said, it was her turn to make him see reason, or at least try to. "You’ll be with her."
"Wait. Wait! Wait!!!" Thomas spoke up, rather impatiently. "You expect him to stand there and watch while his wife, who’s posing as a whore….I might add… seduces another man?!" Thomas was defending his brother; his abrupt words made all take notice. "What in the hell is wrong with you two?"
"I think their plan to ‘flush’ Bryce out has over ridden their—usual-- good sense." Riker stated with a stare directed towards his wife.
"Will…" Deanna placed her hand on his forearm. She had to make him understand. "It won’t get that far. I won’t allow anything to happen."
"I know it won’t, Deanna. I believe you, because…" Riker stated with a loving tone, as he placed the palm of his hand on her cheek. His voice took on a sudden turn and his eyes flared with anger, "You’re not going! So that pretty little head of yours better think of another plan, because this one shoots right up my ass, and it’s not going to happen."
"Your ass?" Thomas chuckled. "They’re trying to shove it up both our asses."
"Good gods. Thomas, think!" Jeannie debated. "The two of you will be there. You’ll be our…." Jeannie debated.
"Whore masters?" Thomas finished her sentence with disgust.
"Do you have a better plan, Captain Tom?" Jeannie retorted.
"It’s a trade town…We know what that pertains to." Deanna stated, once again trying to be the calm in the storm.
"It doesn’t pertain to you!" Riker argued, tossing her calm demeanor out the window. Deanna rolled her eyes and huffed in anger.
"We have a plan, a good plan." Jeannie argued, "And you’re pissed because the two of you didn’t think of it first."
"She’s kidding, right?" Riker said in disbelief, rolling his eyes towards his brother.
"Jeannie, look." Thomas was exasperated. "I don’t care whose plan it is, but this one…. It isn’t feasible…Will and I can’t just stroll into town and hand you over to those men."
"Please, Will." Deanna looked at her husband imploringly. "It’s the only way, we’ll make it into town alive…you’ve got to masquerade as a whore master. Any other way, they’ll kill you. You’ll die, Will…I just know it. And if you die…" her words trailed off. "If you die…. Where does that leave us?"
Thomas frowned. As much as he hated to admit it, she had a point.
Will frowned. There was no way in hell he was going to allow his wife to be a prostitute, he was certain of that. But on the other hand, she was convinced that if they did go to Trade town in any other guise, both he and Thomas would be killed. And where did that leave Deanna? Or Jeannie, fated to spend the rest of their days as unwilling prostitutes? Will thought it over. It may work. He was strong, and he knew he could protect her. It would be hard on her to be alone with Bryce, and he would be there…if Bryce made one wrong move, he’d kill him where he stood. Having decided that. He turned to his brother, waiting for the agreement.
Thomas gave a curt nod. Riker knew that Thomas thinking along the same lines as he was.
So, Riker reluctantly agreed.
The smile on the women’s faces was contagious as they glanced towards one another.
But it wasn’t enough to convince the men that they had made the right decision.
HARD BALL"Who is it?" A voice from behind the strong timber gate rang out.
"Travelers, we’ve got…." Riker flashed a look towards Deanna and pushed the next words out of his throat. "Whores."
The huge door opened up only a crack. Sure enough the travelers were telling the truth, tied to the saddle horns of the horses were two women.
"You may enter." The guard said as he nodded towards the other guard and the door slowly began to swing open.
"Halt." The guard warned, as they entered the fort. The huge doors swung closed behind them. "Let me get a look at them." He said, referring to the women.
Riker and Thomas un-mounted and Thomas walked over towards Jeannie and swung her down from the saddle, his eyes never leaving hers. She stood with her hands tied and glared at the guard.
The guard approached her; he had a seedy-look to his eyes. His teeth were yellowed, and his eyes hungrily rested on her chest, "Come here and let me feel, girly." He taunted as he reached out to touch her. Jeannie immediately flinched as he hand became dangerously close to her breast, appalled by the burning lust in his eyes.
Thomas was there in an instant, standing in-between the guards hand and Jeannie. The thought of how much this little ass-hole would benefit from a severe blow to his head flashed through his mind, choosing not to react on his impulses, he stated instead. "Hey…" he warned grabbing the man’s hand, stopping his progress. "No free samples."
The guard looked up at Thomas and knew that this wasn’t an individual he wanted to tangle with, this buckskin clad would as soon slit his throat as look at him. The guard laughed nervously and lowered his hand. He sauntered his way towards Riker, but came to an abrupt halt the moment he looked into the cobalt eyes that dared him to touch his property.
"The trading post is over there." He said, pointing a finger. Both men followed his arm and the tip of his finger and their eyes landed on a small building, with bold letters that boldly read, "WHORE TRADER" Riker glanced over at Thomas and rolled his eyes, he couldn’t believe the brazenness of this planet.
"The horses stay here, until your ready to leave." The guard stated, hoping that the two strangers would agree. He had no desire to get killed today.
Giving the guard a nod, Thomas grunted a thank you and shoved Jeannie indicating he wanted her to walk to the trading post. She lost her footing and fell to the ground, letting out a wince of pain as she landed hard on the dirt, and dust filled ground. He simply bent down, clutched underneath of her shoulder and brought her to her feet abruptly, his face hardened, and he was showing no signs of remorse for being so rough with her. She shot him a look, flinched out of his grasp and proceeded forth.
When they were out of earshot of the guard, Jeannie complained, "You didn’t have to push me down, Thomas."
"I’m ad-libbing, Jeannie." He said with a hardness to his voice shoving her shoulder, herding her forward. "This was your idea, and don’t blame me. I’ve never been a whore master before."
"You could have fooled me." She stated under her breath.
"Hey, Thomas…. Lighten up." Riker said, knowing that Thomas was just about to loose it. And the last thing he wanted or needed was Thomas screaming that ungodly war whoop of his and start massacring the whole damn fort single handedly.
"Yeah, well…I’m tired of messing with these bastards." Thomas hissed. "We came here to rescue Stephen…both of our wives have been kidnapped and raped in the process, and the whole mission fucked up anyway. Now we’re on a collision course with Bryce and his men. And our wives are posing as whores, and we’re the whore masters." He grumbled.
"Thomas." Jeannie began, turning around to look at him.
"Eyes forward!" He snapped. There was a tone to his voice that she knew she didn’t want to cross. Jeannie obeyed her husband immediately and turned back around, walking ahead of him.
"With these walls, I feel as if I’m in prison all over again…. And I know it’s going to end up in a messy game of Hard Ball."
Riker looked around and Thomas was right, there were guards posted everywhere. The place was more like a prison than a town. Apparently the women were brought here for the men’s pleasure only. He cringed at the thought of Deanna partaking in any of it.
"If it takes Hard Ball to get out of here, then by God, we’ll do it together Thomas."
Thomas stared at his brother for only an instant, and then regretted his sudden outburst. "Excuse me for being paranoid, there’s times when I can’t help it."
"Paranoid, my ass." Jeannie mumbled, "You’ve got bastard running through those Riker veins."
Thomas shot Will a look and then a twisted smile enveloped his face. "I’m sorry Jeannie, for pushing you down and for snapping at you." He apologized quietly to his wife.
"If I talk to you are you going to bite my head off?" she asked, her eyes still straight ahead, not turning back to look at him.
"No…I won’t bite your head off." He chuckled.
"Good." She slowly turned around and in an instant later belted him in the mouth with her fist, Thomas’ head snapped to the side from the force of the blow. Deanna gasped, she couldn’t believe it, not that Thomas didn’t deserve it, and he was being rude. Thomas tasted the blood on his lip and wiped it off with the back of his hand. "What the hell was that for?" he asked through squinted disbelieving eyes.
"I’m adlibbing, Thomas." She panted. "Don’t blame me. I’ve never been a whore before. And let me tell you something else…" she pointed an angry finger at him. "The next time you push me down, I’ll…do more…than…."
"Well, well, well." They heard a voice as it walked across the dusty road. "What have we got here?"
The man approaching the four was definitely a scavenger. His apparel told them that much. He was big, muscular and displayed a huge gap in-between his teeth when he smiled.
"Looky, here…two for the price of one." He snarled, eyeballing the two women. He ran a hand over his unshaven face, as if he were thinking; his eyes sparkled with evil.
"Two for the price of two." Riker squared his shoulders, eyeing the man. Without thinking, he stepped protectively in front of Deanna.
"The little red-head’s got some spirit…." He said, having witnessed Jeannie slamming her fist in Thomas’ face. "She yours?" he asked, nodding his head towards Thomas.
"Spirit this, you ugly fat Bastard!" Jeannie spat, showing no fear
The man with the gap tooth, blinked. Then he recovered himself and let out a loud bellowing laugh. "Well, I’ll be damned…. Looks like we got a little wild cat, boys." He said to his fellow scavengers as they began to crowd around the out of towners. Roused by the comments and jeers of those around him, he reached out a huge grubby paw towards Jeannie.
"Hey." Thomas stepped forward. "You don’t buy, you don’t touch."
The big man growled at Thomas. "In this town, it’s share and share alike." The man hissed, as he grabbed Jeannie and brought her abruptly to his chest. "And there’s enough of this one here, to go all around…" then he yelled, "Eh boys?" The men all around them taunted and jeered.
"Hey, Roy. I want the dark eyed one." One of the scavengers chuckled and nodded towards Deanna.
"Take her. It’s the red-head I want." He said, clutching Jeannie’s shrinking form tighter to his chest.
"I suggest you let her go—Roy." Thomas stated with a deceptive softness.
The tone of Thomas’ voice made both Will and Deanna snap their heads towards him.
Oh shit. Thought Riker. He knew by his brothers voice, Thomas was preparing
for Hard Ball.
"I suggest you let her go—Roy." Thomas stated with a deceptive softness.
The tone of Thomas’ voice made both Will and Deanna snap their heads towards him.
Oh shit. Thought Riker. He knew by his brothers voice, Thomas was preparing for Hard Ball.
"And if I don’t?" Roy asked, the gap in his tooth glistened.
"Don’t be a fool, Roy." Riker stated, he spoke quietly but as one with authority. "That is…any more than what you already are." Riker casually spat on the ground, in a split second Riker had his phaser drawn, and targeted the phaser against Roy’s forehead.
"What kind of toy is that?" Roy asked nervously looking up at the weapon that now pressed against his forehead.
"The kind of toy that makes your brain fry…. Ever watch human flesh sizzle Roy?" Riker hissed his deadly whisper. "It’s not pretty. Now call your dogs off…and let the woman go. I assure you it will be one of the smarter decisions you make today."
Thomas’ hand placed dangerously on his bowie knife. Roy noticed how Tom’s eyes were as hard as steel; he had a look of evil that made him feel uneasy. And Roy had the instinct impression that this fellow knew how to use it. Roy eyed the two men, first Thomas, and then Will. Their resemblance was remarkable, and he suddenly felt as if this twin, who held the gun against his forehead was potentially more dangerous than the one that had held the red-head.
"You guys back off." Roy ordered. The scavengers around him immediately began to lower their weapons.
"We came to trade…and one things for damned certain." Riker stated, with an even deadly tone. "We don’t share."
Tom’s cold blue eyes flickered towards Roy, as his fingers clutched the handle of his knife.
Roy definitely didn’t like the sound of that. "Now…see here, fella’s…. We was just…just…." The big man began to jabber and squirm. He let go of Jeannie and she out of instinct ran and stood behind Thomas. "We were just funnin’…. No harm intended."
Roy gulped, when Riker lowered his weapon. His attention was drawn towards Thomas. "Who are you?"
Thomas stared at the man coldly measuring him up.
Riker rolled his eyes, and let out a long breath, this was it. Thomas was going to snap; he had to do something fast. Grabbing Deanna by the arm, he herded her forward. "Come on, you." He growled. "The sooner I sell your ass, the sooner the boys here get to play."
Roy looked over at Riker and grinned. He suddenly seemed to like the way the elder Riker thought. The gap in his teeth, more evident now than ever, all Riker wanted to do was fix his teeth, with his fist.
"You coming?" he threw over his shoulder to his brother.
Thomas took the cue and followed behind, dragging Jeannie with him.
"So much for feisty." Will stated lowly when they were out of earshot of Roy and his men. "You okay?" he directed his statement towards Jeannie.
"Thomas Riker!" A voice in the crowd called out.
"Oh shit." Riker said, with a roll of his eyes. "What now?"
Thomas said nothing; he just slowly turned around. His hand again reached dangerously for his weapon.
Coming towards the group was Bryce Hampton accompanied by three other goons.
"It’s Bryce." Jeannie whispered.
"I thought I’d see you…. Sooner or later." Bryce stated with a calm as he approached. "Didn’t think I’d see you again though." He directed his statement towards Jeannie, as he reached out to touch her. She flinched taking a step back towards Thomas. "Oh is that big strong husband of yours going to save you ---Jeannette?"
"Let her be." Riker warned stepping forward.
Bryce glanced first at Thomas and then at Will. His eyes immediately noticed the resemblance of the two. "And who the hell are you?" He asked in an evil laugh.
"I’m her husband." Riker’s voice was ice cold.
"You’re Thomas Riker!" Bryce exclaimed. He quickly glanced at Thomas and then at Will, he was momentarily confused.
"Oh screw this." Thomas said with disgust and a roll of his eyes. With one quick swipe of the deadly blade, he slashed through Bryce’s throat; producing such an ugly gash it nearly toppled the man’s head off his shoulders. Bryce for an instant stood stunned as if he couldn’t believe what had just happened, and his eyes began to bulge out of his head. He desperately clutched at his throat, before he fell to his knees and lay in a bloody heap in the street.
Riker raised his weapon and with one quick cock of his rifle, fired…targeting three of the onlookers skulls, the impact of the bullets, instantly sending the scavenger’s grungy bodies flying backward sprawled out onto the dirt street.
Thomas immediately spun around, his knife dripping with fresh blood.
There was a mumbling of voices, "He just killed Bryce." Someone shouted. "Let’s hang em!" Another voice rang out. "Get him boys!" The crowd yelled, as they ran towards the out of towners.
Thomas quickly slit the ropes that held Jeannie’s wrist together. "Run!" he yelled, grabbing her by the arm.
Riker began to fire his weapon from the hip, trying to keep the angry mob at bay.
Finding the nearest shelter, they dove into what looked to be like a goods store. Slamming the door behind him, Riker leaned up against it.
"Nice going, Thomas!" Will blurted out, attempting to catch his breath. He ran over to a window and busted it out…. Firing at the angry mob of scavengers.
"Me! You and that damn rifle…" Thomas exploded in anger, quickly slicing the ropes that bound Deanna’s hands together. He spun around on his heels and found another window and began to shoot at the scavengers. "Macho ass-hole." He mumbled.
"Hard ball, bastard." Riker mumbled, as he re-loaded his gun.
"There’s got to be away out of here." Jeannie said, as she surveyed the small room. The crowd outside was getting more unruly and it would only be a matter of time before they demolished the door and barged in.
"I’ve got an idea." Deanna said.
"Are you nuts?" Riker asked in disbelief, after realizing what his wife was doing.
"Nope." She said as she lifted a whiskey bomb out of her backpack.
"I can’t believe you tried to confuse him." She stuffed the wick inside of the bottle. "Thank you for the input, Counselor." Riker stated with sarcasm, as he held the angry mob at bay.
"That was really dumb, Will."
"I’m glad those are going to be the last words I hear --- before I die!"
"Give me your phaser." She said, crawling over to him on her hands and knees.
"You’re going to blow us all to hell with that thing, Deanna!" Thomas shouted. His attention was immediately drawn back to the angry mob as he fired out the window.
"Not us." She said with certainty. "Just them."
"Wait!" Jeannie exclaimed. "Let me use the sling shot."
"Will you stop them!" Thomas demanded of his duplicate, he was referring to Jeannie and Deanna. "They’re going to get us both killed."
"Who would you prefer kill us!?" Riker snapped, dodging the flying bullets that soared past his head. "Our wives, or those bastards out there?"
"Stand back, Tom." Jeannie shouted a warning, as she targeted the whiskey bomb. She snapped back the wooden slingshot.
"Holy shit! Will, get down!" Thomas yelled, at the sound of Jeannie’s warning. A whiskey bottle came soaring past his head and out the window.
An instant later there was a huge explosion followed by the screams and the dismemberment of the mob. Bodies were everywhere, running and yelling in total chaos towards the small building known as the "Whore Trader."
"Oh my gods, it worked…." Jeannie whispered in wonderment. "Deanna it worked!" Jeannie shrieked excitedly, as she wrapped her arms around the Betazoid. "Quick, give me another one!"
Deanna quickly scrambled for the backpack. Within less than a minute Jeannie’s slingshot was loaded, and she stood beside another window. "Target locked in." She stated with more confidence this time.
"Fire!" Deanna ordered, in Starfleet fashion. Looking over at Will she stated with calm, "I’ve always wanted to say that."
An earsplitting explosion thundered throughout the fort. It echoed and re-echoed as it shattered the glass of the surrounding buildings.
The whole town was now in chaos. The scavengers were used to easy prey, that of only women and children. They were totally taken off guard by the barrage of bombs that rained upon them. The majority of them were too busy trying to save their own lives than to have any set organization or strategy.
The women captives were running towards horses making their way to the gate.
"Will, lets move out of here!" Thomas shouted against the ringing of his own ears. The roof of their shelter was beginning to smolder the fire was spreading. "I’ll make a run for the horses."
"Let’s go! Riker yelled as he herded the group out of the door. "Go!
"Re-load that damn thing, Jeannie." Will ordered the women, once they were out in the street. "We’ll cover you Thomas. Aim at the gate, Jeannie." He told her, "Thomas needs a distraction."
A scavenger came running towards Will, and using his rifle as a club. Riker slammed the scavenger in the gut sending him instantly to his knees.
Jeannie aimed the whiskey bottle and with a snap of the wrist the fire bomb soared through the air, landing in the center of the gate. Scavenger’s scattered like roaches, all running for their lives.
In no time Thomas was riding full at full speed on his horse in the midst of fire, and flying stray bullets. Men scrambled right and left attempting to escape from the onslaught of gunfire and bombs. He was holding the reins of the other horses that trailed behind him, bringing his horse to an abrupt stop. "Mount up." He yelled, handing the reins to his comrades.
Will looked wildly around for the quickest way of escape and soon he saw the glimmering light of something in the distance, across the wide streets of the fort. He reefed his horse around to face the light.
"No, Will!" Deanna yelled. "Over here."
Knowing better than to question Deanna’s intuition, they all nodded and flanking their horses took off at full speed towards the opposite end of town.
"There’s a ship!" Deanna exclaimed, pointing towards a shuttle craft.
"It’s Stephens!" Jeannie exclaimed, recognizing her brother’s identification numbers.
"What do you think?" Will asked, standing rein to rein with his brother.
"What I think?" Thomas asked his eyes never leaving the blinding light. He glanced back at Jeannie who simply nodded her head in the affirmative. "Anyplace is better than this place." With that Thomas Riker flanked his horse hard and took off at blinding speed towards the ship.
Riker smiled to himself for only an instant, "Heee-aaaaah" he yelled and did the same.
An instant later in the onslaught of chaos a shot rang out and Tom’s body toppled backward over the butt end of his horse and landed with a thud on to the ground.
Thomas, who was half stunned, slowly began to raise to his knees. The bullet had grazed the side of his shoulder, and he grunted in pain.
Jeannie and Deanna let out a startled scream, immediately turning the animals around.
"Thomas!" Jeannie yelled. "Oh Gods no." She said flanking her horse, and took off at a dead run towards her husband.
"You see…even the strongest are brought to their knees with the right weapon…" Roy stated with a sense of achievement, the excitement of the hunt was on his face. His weapon then targeted the other Riker. "Now for the other bear." But before he could pull the trigger, a red beam of light soared through the air at warp speed; targeting Roy. He let out an agonizing scream just before his molecules vanished into nothingness.
"Get the hell out of here!" Riker yelled, as he looked up and saw a group of scavengers making their way towards them. "This whole place is going to hell!" Riker shouted. "I’ll get Tom. Go! Go!"
Riker took off at full speed towards his brother. Leaning down using the horse as leverage he rode almost on the horses side and grabbed Thomas by the nape of his vest. He hoisted up his brother, behind the saddle surprised at his own strength. He heard Thomas let out a grunting sound, followed by a low growl of cursing.
It wasn’t until the women saw that Thomas was secure on Will’s horse did they flank their horses and take off towards the shuttle craft.
"Hang on Tom." Riker said, taking off at a dead run towards the shuttle craft.
Arriving at the craft without further opposition, the four out of towners entered it cautiously.
"Deanna, take the helm!" Riker ordered, seeing that it was unsecured by guards and strapped himself in.
"NO. I’ll take the helm." Thomas yelled. "I ain’t drunk enough for this!" He said strapping himself in. "Deanna pass me a bottle and DON’T for God’s sake light it."
Thomas poured the bottle of whiskey down his throat and then rinsed out the wound on his shoulder, letting out a war hoop of pain. He looked over at Riker, with gritted teeth and declared. "Listen here, you pig-headed bastard."
Riker’s jaw dropped as Thomas eyes turned to steely rage, without pausing for breath Thomas continued, "We’re flying this thing…. You and me, Will! And damn it we’ll get out of this place just like we got in!"
Riker snatched the bottle out of Thomas’ hand and took a hefty drink. "If you’re gonna take the helm, then I ain’t drunk enough."
Thomas ignored his brother; he swiveled his chair around towards the console.
the last chapter.
Thomas poured the bottle of whiskey down his throat and then rinsed out the wound on his shoulder, letting out a grunt of pain. He looked over at Riker, with gritted teeth and declared. "Listen here, you pig-headed bastard."
Riker’s jaw dropped as Thomas eyes turned to steely rage, without pausing for breath Thomas continued, "We’re flying this thing…. You and me, Will! And damn it we’ll get out of this place just like we got in!"
Riker snatched the bottle out of Thomas’ hand and took a hefty drink. "If you’re going to take the helm, then I’m not drunk enough.”
Thomas ignored his brother; he swiveled his chair around towards the console.
“All systems ready for take-off” Riker reported to his twin.
“Strap in and let’s get the hell out of here ladies!” Thomas said, with a devilish grin. “I hope your brother doesn’t mind us taking his ship, and if he does . . . ” Thomas said, “Tuff shit.”
“He doesn’t.” Riker stated curtly, knowing that he, himself had killed Stephen, Jeannie’s brother.
Deanna and Jeannie gave each other a look, and pulled the harness strap around their chest.
The small ship immediately rose into the air darted off in a blinding flash of light.
After a couple of minutes it was Riker who broke the silence. “We’ve left the atmosphere.”
Thomas snapped rolling his eyes, “Wasn’t that the idea?”
“Kiss my ass, Thomas.” Riker retaliated.
”Long range scanners aren’t picking up anything.” Jeannie added, trying to regain control of the two brothers.
The ship began to buck, slowly at first and then at a more rapid violent speed. “Help me hold it steady, Will!” Thomas Riker ordered.
After several seconds of the ship bucking, it became calm and navigation returned to normal.
“What the hell was that?” Riker asked.
But before Thomas could answer the question, the ship instantly whip- lashed back, and then just as violently lashed forward.
“Manual control.” Yelled Riker, knowing he could no longer steer the ship automatically.
It rocked violently forward throwing Deanna with such force she slammed the side of her face into the back of Riker’s chair. “The son of a bitch is falling apart!!” Riker yelled as his grip tightened around the manual steering control stick.
Jeannie looked over at Deanna and stated, “I’m sending out a distress signal.” He hands began to move quickly across the glass surface of the console.
An unseen force at an untold speed rocketed the small ship forward then walloped it with a mighty blow sending it just as fast backward. They felt a series of violent jolts and jerks as the ship began to spin wildly out of control.
Thomas was thrown forward and Riker heard the thud of Thomas’ head as it smacked into the console.
Another spine chilling slam hit the right side of the small ship.
Thomas Riker was violently ripped out of his chair.
And yet another violent jab, as the small vessel began to spin around and around at speeds Riker thought was virtually impossible. Resisting his urge to vomit, he swallowed hard, and held tight to the manual stick.
“Where’s Jeannie?!” Thomas yelled as he slowly crawled back into his seat, he had no sooner gotten into his seat when his body suddenly began to dematerialize.
“What the hell!!!” Riker exclaimed, “Thomas! Thomas!!”
A loud explosion in the back of the ship, and then the small ship belched a huge puff of black smoke, filling up the small aircraft.
“Will!” Deanna yelled, “We’re on fire!” Quickly releasing her seat harness, she half ran half-crawled towards the ship fire extinguisher. The small aircraft belched another cloud of thick black smog.
*** BOOM! ***
“Deanna, take the helm!” Riker yelled. As he saw his wife’s molecules begin to dissolve, and her form vanished before his eyes.
The small spacecraft began to shuffle and buck.
The last thing Riker heard was the sound of the ship, being ripped to shreds.
Then just as soon as it began it stopped.
It was calm, the next thing Riker knew he was standing on the bridge of a federation starship.
“Glad you could join us Commander.” Riker saw the dazzling white smile of the tall dark eyed Captain; it was Gregory Madden, Jeannie’s cousin.
“Welcome to the USS CHALLENGER, I am Commander Gregory Madden, I believe we’ve met earlier.” He smiled, “Your wife is here and she’s fine.” He straightened his shoulders, and stood at full command mode and commanded into the air. “Let’s get the hell out of here, before we run into some cardassians.”
“Aye, Sir.” Came the reply.
“If you’d follow me, Commander, I’ll take you to your wife.”
“What about Tom and Jeannie?” Riker asked, as they entered the turbo lift.
“The two maquis officers?” He asked, with a raised brow. “Last I heard they were killed aboard your little ship. ” He lied; he was going to cover for Thomas and Jeannie. “I always try to keep tabs on my cousin, she’s somewhat of a rebel you know. We just happened to be in the vicinity when we received the distress signal. I was hoping that we could save the four of you, but what the hell saving two is better than none. He smiled, “It’s tough. I’m sure going to miss her.”
Will rolled his eyes. “Killed uh?”
“Blew up, as I recall.” The handsome dashing commander gave her another brilliant smile, a shit-eating grin, kind of smile. They stepped off of the turbo lift, “Sick-bays this way.” After looking at the questionable expression on Riker’s face, he added. “Starfleet standard procedure.”
“Is it Starfleet standard procedure to let two marquis officers go free?”
“They never boarded this ship, Commander.”
“Will.” The voice of Deanna Troi greeted him, wrapping an arm around his waist.
“You okay?” he asked, placing an arm around her.
“We’ll contact the nearest Star base and drop you off there.” Madden stated. “The doctor would like to look the two of you over first.”
“Strange to Commander Madden.” A voice cut into the conversation.
“Madden here.” Madden stated, tapping his com-badge.
“We’ve lost the marquis ship, Sir.”
“That happens, Lieutenant. Someday it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.” He stated with a wink directed towards Riker. “It’s been one hell of a long day. Right now our priorities lie with the two survivors we have picked up. Set coordinates for the nearest Star base.”
Riker knew for sure his brother and his sister in law, just happened to be on that Marquis ship.
He smiled as he thought about his brother and the cussing the ships doctor on the marquis ship was probably getting right now.
He also knew that he would hear from Thomas Riker and his wife Jeannie again, perhaps not today, not tomorrow, but again in the near future.
<<“They’re alive Will, both of them.” >> Deanna sent wrapping her arm around his.
Riker looked down at his wife and nodded, and she knew he had heard her, “We’ve got to go to sick-bay.”
With a nod, Deanna Troi herded her husband forward down the long corridors of the ship.
They were going home.