By: R. Dreamer
""I did not create these characters or the incredible universe in
which they interact....I only strive to go where they've avoided going
Feedback is welcome, as is constructive criticism ~ flames will be forwarded to my dark side....You may choose, but choose wisely;-) Seriously, this is my first imzadi story......so I revoke the right to ban flaming <g>
Will Riker, first officer of the enterprise D still found himself
questioning his captain's decision. Tossing another log into the fire, he looked over at Counselor Deanna Troi and ask himself again why in hell she had been chosen for this away mission.
The king of the small world of Moen had been abducted from his planet,
somehow the federation and the enterprise had been called to respond.
Actually now that he thought about it, that probably made less sense then sending Deanna to this cold barren planet.
"Will you relax Commander, I'm just as suited to this mission as anyone
else." She met his serious face with a flirtatious smile. He shifted under her scrutiny...... That was another thing that was causing him discomfort, why was she acting so weird.
They'd been on this planet for two days, and for the last thirty eight hours she had made more sexually suggestive remarks to him then she had in six years on board the enterprise. If she weren't so young he might have suspected the phase, but she had been fine until they touched down on this bleak frigid rock.
He knew she was still looking at him, moving her eyes over him like he was a triple chocolate valdarian twist.
He continued tending to the wound on his leg, it still hurt like a son of a bitch, but focusing on his pain would cause him a lot less problems then allowing his hormones to override his command.
"Are you ignoring me imzadi?"
She was beside him now, and he was fairly sure she had made it a point to whisper her words so they blew in hot steamy waves over his ears and neck.
He put a bit more pressure on his wound, hoping the pain would remind him that he was on duty, and Deanna had lost her mind.
"Of course not counselor." He grunted, taking out the frustration he was feeling on his wound.
Deanna leaned closer to his calf, inspecting his injury, "Hum, that's pretty ugly bite."
There was nothing the least bit erotic about what she had just said, but from the way it had literally purred out of her, he was finding it more and more difficult to stay on target.
He shuttered slightly as she scrapped her teeth over the inside of his knee before she looked up at him. "You know what's good for keeping your mind off of pain."
She flipped her leg over him, propping herself on his lap and waiting for a reply.
Well, there was no way he was going to hide his arousal now, if he ever
*really* ever had.
"This is a little ........" He looked away from the dark eyes that veritably shimmered with possibilities, and grabbed her shoulders.
"Stupid, this is stupid ...it took us years to get to this place....well, not this place..... you know what I mean."
He was fairly confident his protest had only stimulated her more, her mouth grazed over his throat and neck, working his flesh with the expert touch she'd always had. A piece of him enjoyed it, the heat of her mouth moving over him, but this other part, the one he wished he didn't have right now, vied to dominate his response.
"Deanna, stop it." He rolled his eyes at himself, the crack in his voice not exactly validating what he was trying to say.
She moved her hands over his chest, focusing her attentions where she knew they would matter most while she lazily moved her hips against the one part of him that didn't think this was a bad idea.
Oh great, now he found he had to stop his protest to moan in response to her perfect knowledge of his body. She pressed her lips against his, he was good, he didn't respond, well at least not right away. But when her tongue slipped from her mouth almost begging him for entry, rational thought quickly became a thing of the past. Right now in the frigid cold his body was heated well beyond the boiling point, his daydreams and night dreams for the last thousand years were being fulfilled, finally allowing him to act on his sequestered feelings....
<<Tomorrow's another day.>> he thought <<We'll deal with it then.>>
A low groan escaped him, his body surrendering to the electrified
fingers that moved over his sleeping form. His hips moved against the hand that captured him, tortuously slow strokes causing him to move faster. His body hovered in this place, unwilling to allow his conscious mind to gain control of this incredible dream. The air was cold, amplifying the hot breath, or was it a tongue that moved over him, it didn't really matter.....the important thing was it felt great and had it's mind set on sampling every inch of him. He shuttered at the sensation, in his mind he reached out for this temptress, a whimper escaping her as he teased his hands over her.
"Imzadi" The word literally trembled from his lips, her hair falling like an ebony curtain over his face as she brought her lips to his. His mind still held onto the cobwebs of sleep, but his body accommodated her, flipping her to her back and melding into her. His hopes for a painstakingly slow revenge on her was stilled almost instantly, her body shuttering in response to his meager ministrations.
Moving towards his own release, he looked into the dark eyes beneath him, passion and innocence, and he could swear a piece of himself glistened in their depths.
"I love you Deanna." The words escaped his lips, his body pulling him over the edge with an earth shattering force.
He fell limp beside her, gathering her in his arms and pulling her head to his chest. He stroked her hair, listening to her breathing as it changed from hungry breaths to satisfied sighs.
His breathing on the other hand remained erratic, his heart still pounded against his ribs....The sunlight streamed through the small opening in their enclosure, signaling tomorrow had arrived......He rolled his eyes at himself, this was not the plan he had in mind when he had decided to throw caution to the wind last night, No, this was definitely going to rewrite the map a little.
He moved his eyes down to look at her, she seemed perfectly content, god, she
was practically purring. It surprised him really, she was the empath, she must
be aware of this battle he had waged on himself.
Maybe she hadn't hear it, maybe the arousal in his voice had made it
inaudible . .....No, he tossed that possibility out quickly, women zero in on those words....he'd learned that along time ago, never blurt out the L word in the heat of the moment.... it was an unwritten law, like making promises in foxholes....And one of the first lessons he'd learned in manhood 101.
He lazily spiraled his fingers over her shoulder, admitting to himself that he did love her, he always had.....but love wasn't always the issue. Loving her did not necessarily mean he was willing to change his life for her, he was sure of that, which was why he had avoided falling prey to this place he was in now.
More then anything he knew he never wanted to hurt her again, though at this moment it looked like he'd set himself up to do just that.
"Will" Her voice shook him from his thoughts, he stiffened as she brought her eyes up to meet his. He raised an eyebrow instead of speaking, deciding he'd done more then enough talking for the day.
"I was thinking about what you said..earlier....while we were...enjoying each other." She arched her brows, another of her tantalizing smiles whispered over her lips.
A response, well more like a grunt of acknowledgment left his
mouth......Deanna ignored it, continuing with her thought. "I love you also Will, but...."
But, a but.....he was never so thrilled to hear the word. "But what Deanna?"
"But I don't think it's a good idea for us to go back .......I'm just not ready, I was hoping we could just have a little fun."
That statement from any other woman would have been almost as good as sex itself, but somehow it didn't sound right coming from Deanna. In the heat of the moment, or moments as it were, he had almost forgotten how concerned he'd been about her behavior since they arrived on this planet. They had made love before, but never had it been like this, or never had she been like this. He nodded an understanding, wishing he could see what was going on behind her dark, and mysterious eyes.
The chirping of his comm badge pulled him from his mind probe, he tapped it distractedly.
<<Picard to Commander Riker>>
Their captain's voice sounding over the comm causing both of them to cover themselves with their sleeping bags and shoot to attention.
"Riker here Sir, go ahead."
<<We'll be able to initiate deactivation of the force field in one
hour....are you in position?>>
"Aye Sir, we crossed the ravine late yesterday, our camp is only a few
hundred yards from the entrance." Will pulled the sleeping bag tighter
around himself, feeling a bit odd chatting with the captain while he was buck naked.
<<Very good....stand by and we'll alert you when we begin the process. I hope the cold didn't stop you from getting a good nights sleep, you'll both need all your energy to pull this off.>>
"Actually Sir, I'm finding the cold very stimulating." A lopsided grin broke over his face, Deanna biting down on her sleeping bag to stifle her giggles.
<<Must be that Alaskan blood, Commander. I hope Counselor Troi is finding the climate just as arousing>>
"I think she is Sir." He cleared his throat hoping to hide his own
amusement, shaking his head in mock disgust at the giggling counselor.
"Don't worry captain we'll be ready.....Riker out."
Wedging Deanna under the ledge of the rock they had chosen for cover,
he felt his body's internal need for adventure kick into overdrive. He would have felt a lot better about the situation if he knew he wasn't leading Deanna into the lions den. There were too many unknowns behind the blue surge of the force field that blanketed the cave opening, and too little time to explore them. It had taken he and Deanna over two days to get to the opening, leaving them only a twelve hour window to move in, get the king, and still be able to beam back to the enterprise. The limited timetable wasn't what bothered him, it was that unknown that was laying in wait. Until the abduction of King Amoret this planet and the cave dwellers were thought to be only a primitive race still in the very early stages of evolution. Of course the advanced tactics of the kidnappers had proven star fleets records
His worse fear was that the legends of a race of hybrids; half Bajoran, half Romulan could be true, if that were the case, this would definitely not be a walk in the park. A combination of these two species would make for a formidable foe, and one he hoped was only a piece of someone imagination.
He shivered as Deanna's hands slipped around his waist, pulling herself
against his back, for warmth he assumed.
"Won't be long now Deanna"
He patted her hands, wishing there were some way he could order her to stay outside the cave while he moved in. He had tossed the idea around, but he knew he was going to need back up in there, and if he couldn't have eight huge Klingons, he would have to settle for one tiny Betazoid.
"I've been thinking about Ensign Young."
He turned to look at her, shocked and more then a bit annoyed that first of all she hadn't even thought to lower her voice, and that she had found it necessary to bring her up at all.
"I know you've been sleeping with her."
"Keep your voice down Commander." Speaking softer then a whisper
punctuated his order with a glare of reprimand.
"Are you going to deny it!" Her voice had elevated well above normal, her dark eyes narrowed into a venomous sneer.
It was a struggle to keep his own voice down, his concern over her behavior was quickly being replaced by anger, and the fact that if she didn't shut up she was going to get them both killed.
"No, I've had enough!"
The smack of her hand over his cheek was the last straw, he didn't have time for this, if she wasn't going to follow a verbal order, he'd shut her up physically. Wrapping one arm around her chest he held her arms and body still, and using his other hand he covered her mouth, diminishing her protests to only muffled cries.
Her struggles to free herself were fruitless, he was quite confident she couldn't get away....but then there was the little problem of this mission, he couldn't very well run in with Deanna tucked under his arm.
"This is insane" He thought, wishing he had taken Deanna's odd behavior more seriously before it had escalated into this. He knew he had to contact the enterprise and abort this attempt at rescuing the king, but he couldn't do that. The magnetic curtain that veiled the planet had allowed them only a seventy two hour window, if he aborted now, it would be another week before the Enterprise could attempt this again.
Her struggle to free herself from his grasp stopped abruptly, and came
simultaneously with the tingle of cold metal against the back of his neck.
Easing his grip on Deanna, he straightened his shoulders and turned around to face their captor, and the weapon that was only inches from his face.
Olive green skin, blanketed with scales gripped the unfamiliar weapon that held him in place, eyes; dark and cold peered at him through a glassy covering.
He exposed his empty hands and raised them in surrender, fixing his eyes on the steady pulsing of the flaps of skin that hung off his captors throat.
The voice, low and hollow barked the unfamiliar order, the command tumbling over thin, almost invisible lips.
Will glanced at Deanna, serene, and unaffected, her eyes dark, and distant.
Same word, this time punctuated with a distinct gesture from his
captor......a gesture that suggested to Will it was his weapon he wanted.
Keeping one hand raised in the air, he used his other to unzip his heavy jacket, his eyes pinned on the overeager hand of his captor, his dull green hand tightening on the trigger of his weapon.
A growled request, directed at Deanna, and explained by a tilt of his ugly head towards Will's phaser.
Deanna immediately cooperated, reaching into Will's belt, unsnapping his phaser and tossing it into the snow.
Same order again, and again directed at Deanna.
Will waited for her to follow his example and relinquish her weapon, his jaw tightened when instead she knelt at his feet, and removed his hidden weapon from inside his boot.
Will watched her through narrowed eyes as she stood up and placed his phaser into the outstretched hand of the alien.
"Maybe she understands the language," he thought to himself, his
spinning with explanations, none of which made a hell of a lot of sense.
Another nod from the olive skinned man moved Deanna to tear Will's
communicator from his chest, and evoked sweat to break over his brow.
The frigid wind lashed through his open jacket, the cold meshing with the heat of his sweat soaked uniform caused a shiver to course over him, in turn causing his captor to strengthen his hold on his weapon.
Spat like venom from the small mouth of his captor.
Will's already rigid posture stiffened as he watched Deanna move slowly and calmly towards the unfamiliar life form, holding her open hand out to him.
The life form snapped again, drawing a blade from beneath a heavy flap of his skin.
Deanna took the curved blade from him without hesitation, raising the
glistening metal above Will's chest.
A desperate plea to reach beyond the muted stare that loomed in her glazed eyes.
He moved his eyes upward, stormy blue, locking on the milky covering that hung over his captor's jet-black eyes.
He swallowed hard, his captors weapon now targeted on Deanna, not him,
tranquilizing any ideas he may have had of stopping her from stabbing him.
Deanna gripped the blade firmly in both hands, a sensual smile touching red lips contrasting the haunted look in her eyes.
His breath locked, the cold blade slicing into his chest, followed by the hotness of his blood as wept from the wound.
His knees buckled, another encounter with the cold steel of the knife came down on his shoulder, his body crumbling forward, the icy snow kissing the wound, numbing the pain of the attack, but not the pain of who attacked him.
He raised his face from the snow, a distorted image of Deanna disappeared into the blinding whiteness.
His cry came from deep within him, but never left his lips.
Through hooded eyes, he watched the perfect whiteness he lay in tarnish with deep streaks of crimson, his head fell limply into the snow, pure white replaced with only blackness..
"Picard to Riker. Commander Riker, respond please."
Behind calm blue eyes, a storm raged, a storm created by the image on the view screen and the baneful warnings of his crew.
"Enterprise to counselor Troi."
His most recent attempts to make contact with his senior officers, met again with only the gentle hum of the ships engines and the murmurings of his crew.
Slow and controlled steps moved him closer to the view screen, through
narrowed eyes he watched the dense gray curtain swallow the alabaster
"The magnetic field has enveloped the beam out point!"
Casting a vengeful look to the planet below, he turned back to the faces of his crew.
"The planet will be completely eclipsed in twenty three minutes, sir,"
Commander Data offered the observation as he rose from the first officer's chair.
Picard brushed a frustrated hand over his bald head, "Suggestions Mister Data?"
Leaving Riker and Troi stranded for a week on the frigid planet with only limited provisions, would be signing their death warrant, that was assuming it hadn't been signed already.
"I am certain I could pilot a shuttle to the surface before the haze
completely covers the planet. I could provide the supplies they will need to survive until the haze dissipates."
Picard creased his brow, studying the androids unaffected features, "Have you been able to ascertain how, or if, the chemical emissions from the planet will affect your positronic matrix?"
"Negative Sir, but there is a ninety percent possibility that I would not sustain any damage."
"Not good enough, I'm afraid."
Picard shook his head, unwilling to risk another of his crew to the deadly elements of the icy planet.
"With all due respect Captain, I believe it is good enough. I have only a ten percent chance of failure, but left on the planet, Commander Riker and Counselor Troi have only a ten percent chance of surviving. To quote Commander Riker; odds are for gamblers and cowards," Cocking his head he added, "No disrespect intended Captain."
Picard suppressed a smile and allowed Data's option a moment of silent
Shaking his head at his own decision, he drew in a deep breath.
"Make it so, Mister Data."
Deep in the confines of darkness, hushed voices, a bittersweet flavor,
and a fiery warmth beckoned him. He pulled himself towards the sensations, the inky darkness that had enclosed him, slowly replaced by shadows of white that painted peculiar shapes behind his closed eyes.
He struggled against the heavy weight of his own eyelids, cool fingers
brushed against his cheek, the bitter flavor intensifying, forcing more
awareness of his surroundings. The closer he moved to consciousness, the more severe his pain became, not only the throbbing sting that burned from his wounds, but a more profound ache, deep in his heart.
He vied to speak through dry lips, finally pushing the weight of his eyelids upward, he watched an unfamiliar and distorted world unfold in front of them.
"M...wh..re, mm, I?"
He felt the vibration in his throat, and assumed the words had actually left his mouth, but only the sound of fire crackling answered him.
Clenching his teeth, he pushed himself up with his right arm, his left hung loose and numb at his side.
Supporting himself with his strong arm, he struggled to swing his feet off the bed, a creak, followed by a rush of cold air, and an unknown voice stilled his endeavor.
Soft cool hands gently grasped his shoulders, forcing him easily downward before he was able to turn towards the source.
"Who are you?" He choked the question as his keeper moved in front of him.
Under ebony lashes, deep green eyes studied him as her fingers traced the outline of his lips.
"Who are you?" He asked again.
The woman's green eyes shut tightly, her fingers still stroking gently
across his lips. He watched her in silence, her head tilting from side to side, her reddish golden hair swaying with her movements.
"I am Mirari, and you shall not speak."
Her voice was low and throaty, and under different circumstances he would have found it extremely sexy.
"I'm Commander William Riker," He said, ignoring her command, "I need to get out of here."
"You may not, " She shook her head, "Your wounds must heal."
She reinforced her order by pulling the dressing from his wounds and
inspecting them closely. Will struggled weakly against her, "You don't
"It is too late for her, and if they find you alive you will fall victim as well," She raised her eyes from her ministrations, "You were lucky."
"I don't feel lucky," He grimaced, "And I don't believe it's too late."
"This will hurt."
He stiffened, the icy cold liquid felt like fire as it burned over his
wounds, his skin bubbling beneath it, before it again fell into a steady dull ache.
"You are mending well. We'll keep you safe until your star ship can come for you."
Will screwed up his face, this woman knew far too much for him to relax and trust her.
"How is it you know so much?"
He searched her face, her pale young skin tarnished with lines of concern, that deepened as she frowned at him.
"You are incapable of silence?", she asked, raising an auburn brow, "I have encountered others like you, and I only know what you have told me."
"I haven't told y....." His objection cut short by a deep voice that
sounded through the small room, before the wooden door crashed open.
Mirari shot to her feet, speaking to this intruder in his own tongue, her sultry voice transformed into an urgent shout.
Will managed to sit up, pushing to his feet, Mirari leapt towards him, hand extended, "You must take this now!" Her fist opened to reveal a deep lavender leaf, "Eat this now!"
"Why, what is it?" Will questioned.
"It will deadened your pain, if I cannot stop him from entering, you must flee out the back," She gestured towards the rear of the room, "Go to the ice caves and hide, I will come for you."
She pushed the leaf towards him, the urgent ranting of the older man in the open doorway heightened.
Maybe this was a mistake and he was being taken in by emerald eyes, and a sexy voice, but he took the leaf from her hand and swallowed it.
"Blah," He shuddered at the bitter taste.
"Watch from the window, if he heads towards the shelter, move quickly to the caves."
She was out the door and closing it behind her before she had finished her orders.
Will positioned himself so he could see through the small opening without revealing his presence. Mirari and the older man appeared to still be exchanging words as they moved away from the dwelling.
Both of their postures becoming rigid before Will could see what had quieted them, the man stepped back a few paces, Mirari held her ground..
Will squinted his eyes over the blinding snow as what appeared to be two life forms, heavily cloaked, approached on the back of a monstrous creature he was unfamiliar with.
Beneath the heavy fur cloaks, it was impossible to distinguish the
identities of the visitors, he could only assume they were the same as the one he'd encountered with Deanna.
The larger of the two slipped off the back of the beast, using the creatures shaggy white fur to slow his decent to the ground.
Mirari balled her fists at her sides, the life form pushed his hood from his head, revealing the same reptilian features Will had encountered earlier.
There appeared to be an exchange of words, the creatures vile face twisted with rage, Mirari stood firm, if she was at all intimidated by this guy, she sure as hell wasn't showing it.
Will released the breath he was holding as the life form appeared to be
turning to leave, it caught in his chest again as his exit was halted
abruptly by the other life form, still cloaked beneath heavy white fur.
A brief exchange of words, and all eyes moved towards the dwelling, Will's cue to move.
He set himself immediately into motion, heading towards the rear exit as fast as he could, moving quickly but cautiously out the back door.
He'd only stepped one foot into the dense snow when the hauntingly intimate sensation crept through his mind.
<<You can't escape......Imzadi.>>
There was no reason for him to turn back, he knew who'd betrayed him now, and who was hidden beneath the white fur cloak.
He pushed past his confusion and fear, and tried to shield his mind from her.
Gulping the cold air to soothe the burning lump in his throat, he ran like hell towards the ice caves.
How much time he'd spent sitting on the chilly floor of the ice caves
seemed irrelevant, as did the pain that had returned to his wounds.
He'd had two things in his life that he'd always thought would remain
constants; the eternal bond he shared with Deanna, and the fact that she'd never betray him.
Pulling his knees tightly against his chest, he rested his forehead against them, admitting both had proven to be only fallacies .......There was something in the universe that was stronger then what they shared, and whatever it was, had taken his best friend and transformed her into his greatest enemy.
As quickly as the thought entered his mind, he thrust it away. Until he
could find out what had happened to her, distancing himself from her seemed to be his only hope of survival.
He raised his head slowly, the sound of footfalls drawing his eyes to the entrance of the first chamber he'd come to.
"You must move deeper into the caves to ensure your safety." Mirari's
breathless order hardly reaching his ears before she was struggling to help him to his feet.
"Is your friend a witch?"
Will looked down into the eyes that sparkled like jewels in the tiny streams of light that sparkled through the translucent blue of the caves.
"Not usually, but she is an empath."
" Empathy does not explain how she was able to see beyond my trick, when Murack could not."
She didn't bother slowing her twists and turns over the slippery floor, the pain it was causing Will left him unable to answer her question until she had apparently arrived at her destination.
He slid down the wall with a groan and watched her light the odd shaped
lanterns that were affixed to the cave walls.
"Who is this Murack?"
She turned to face him, the soft golden glow cast by the lights taming the harsh lines of distress on her face, lines that should never be present on one as young as she seemed to be.
"He is the leader of the Maneeze, and one to be greatly feared."
She brushed a golden copper curl away from her cheek, where it fell into place among the mane of hair that hung below her shoulders.
For the first time since Deanna had left him, he felt a smile come to his face, "You certainly didn't look like you feared him."
Her pale cheeks flushed, glowing red in the light, "Murack wishes me as a lover, a lover who is not a victim of the venom, but one who would give herself freely to him."
Her body shivered with revulsion, the thought causing unshed tears to
glisten in her eyes.
"Tell me about this venom?" Will requested softly, the trace of
vulnerability that had shown through Mirari's tough exterior, quickly tucked away.
"Your friend is a victim, she will spend her life tending to the needs of the Maneeze."
Will felt a wave of nausea at the mention of Deanna serving the needs of the vile creatures, known as the Maneeze.
"What kind of needs?"
A question he wasn't entirely sure he wanted answered.
Mirari knelt in front of him, offering another of the lavender leaves before settling beside him to explain.
"Some are only servants; used to bath, feed and clean up after them, others are used as pawns to further the cause, and still others are used to satisfy the the Marneeze intense desires for enjoyment."
Will swallowed over the nausea that had pushed its way into his throat, and as if Mirari knew what he was thinking, she spoke again.
"Your friend was very beautiful, but her witchery may protect her from the perverse sexual needs of the Maneeze. Her powers would be more useful to the cause."
Will overlooked Mirari's use of the past tense when referring to Deanna, instead trying to pick only one of the thousands of questions that whirled through his mind.
"You said she was a victim to the venom, how?"
"The venom is released from the glands at the sides of the Maneeze throats, inhaled by the female of any species, it instantly mutes their brain functions, creating only a vague state of self-awareness."
The word zombie played through Will's mind, until the obvious question came to him.
"But you're female."
"My species has developed an immunity to the venom," She wet her lips and continued, "It took hundreds of years, and only a small amount of us remain, but over time we stopped falling prey to them."
Will studied her closely, wondering if a smile had ever broken over her full perfect lips.
"If your kind are immune, then it must be possibly to create an anti
"Only the Maneeze have the technology to accomplish such a feat, they are highly evolved, and possess technology that far surpasses any you have ever seen."
Will scrunched up his face in disbelief, he found it hard to believe a
culture that lived on this barren icy rock had the technology Mirari spoke of.
Again she answered his thoughts before he had spoken them, "Their looks are misleading, and once they have completed their metamorphosis they will be able to leave this planet and rain havoc on the galaxy." Her lip quivered as her fears were expressed aloud.
Will cupped his hand and traced the back of his fingers over her cheek, she instinctively flinched, before closing her eyes to the feeling.
Opening his hand, she leaned into its warmth, Will enjoying the tranquil look on her face, her dark lashes brushing against her ivory cheeks.
"Mirari?" He whispered, her eyes opening slowly to meet his, "Have you ever loved someone?"
Her green eyes darkened and fell to her lap, her yes was spoken softer then a whisper, but still the pain in her voice carried to him.
"Then you understand why I can't give up on Deanna. I can't imagine living without her, but I know I couldn't live at all if I didn't try everything in my power to get her back."
Her eyes lifted slowly, the tear that slipped over her cheek telling him she was all ready suffering the destiny he was dreading.
"Will you help me?" He asked, brushing the fallen tear away with his thumb.
She studied him for a long time, tortured green eyes moving over his face as if she were searching for something more then an answer to his question.
"Yes, I will help you." She answered, her hand moving to his face
brushing softly over his beard.
She seemed almost hypnotized by the sensation, Will got the distinct
feeling, somewhere in her mind it was not his bearded chin she was touching.
"Once he had similar hair on his face, it was golden like the sun, but it tickled my fingers, just as yours does."
She was a million miles away, her words not directed at him, but to an inner memory her mind was generating.
"What happened to him?"
Will reluctantly broke her trance, "Is he dead?"
"No," She shook her head briskly, "He still lives, but as Murack
Her eyes, dark as an Alaskan evergreen, generated a profound compassion to wrap itself around his heart, a compassion that ran so deep it caused him pain.
Offering his outstretched arm, she fell easily under it, resting her head softly against his chest.
"Tomorrow I will take you to her," She murmured, her hot tears penetrating Will's shirt and burning like acid against his skin.
Will eased himself into the conscious, the warmth of Mirari's body replaced with a dense fur covering that still smelled of its owner. He pushed the dark mahogany fur aside and rolled his stiffened shoulder, loosening his muscles and finding a lot of his pain had diminished.
"Mirari!" He called hoarsely to her, running his tongue over his dry lips.
He listened for a reply, only the hum of the tiny lanterns and the creaks of the ice shifting and cracking in the caves answered him.
Flexing his leg muscles a few times to limber them, he forced himself to stand, ignoring their spasmodic protests as he put his weight on them.
His few unstable steps towards the arched opening in the chamber came to an abrupt halt, a deep metallic rendition of what he presumed to be the Chattanooga Choo Choo, echoed through the caves.
Poking his head out the exit, his mouth gave way to a crooked smile; a very serious and annoyed Mirari moved closer to him, her weapon trained on the singing android.
Mirari's brows raised in surprised, Data stopping his singing only long
enough to acknowledge his commanding officer.
"Data?" Will interrupted him, Mirari's trigger finger flexing tighter around her weapon.
Will held up a calming hand to Mirari, her shoulders relaxing only slightly in response.
"Are you all right, Data?"
"Negative Sir, I have proven that my positronic matrix would in fact be
affected by the emissions of the planet. In this particular equation, the odds have proven to be correct."
He immediately resumed his singing, this time incorporating a little dance into his performance.
Mirari sidestepped closer to Will, never losing sight of her targeted
"I believe he's been bitten, his skin has already distorted, and his eyes have begun their transformation."
"Bitten?" Will asked, making a mental note to find out more about
later, "He hasn't been bitten, he's an android, he always looks like that."
Will's admission did nothing to relax Mirari's posture, "He's a robot?!" She asked, finally pulling her narrowed eyes from Data to Will, "Can you turn him off, or at least down?"
The somber expression on her face, combined with the exasperation that
shined in her eyes, freed the chuckle he'd held in his throat, and
intensified Mirari's glare.
"No I can't shut him off," He lied, "But I might be able to quiet him."
Will raised his eyes to Data, "Data are you still capable of obeying
"Of course Sir."
"Then shut up!"
Data fell silent at Will's request, the silence bringing a sigh of relief from Mirari.
"You can lower your weapon."
He felt Mirari's shoulders relax as he slipped his hand under her hair and lightly massaged the back of her neck.
He waited until her hand fell loosely to her side before speaking again, "I think I'd like some answers to some questions before we venture into the lions den."
He'd felt confident he knew enough about the Maneeze to venture through the tunnels into the inner sanctum of their domain.
But now as his journey had begun, he was beginning to question his decision, and his choice of companions. A woman he hardly knew, but felt drawn to from the moment she brushed her hand against his cheek, and a malfunctioning android who could break into song any moment.
Feeling the gradual temperature change in the tunnel, he shrugged off
logical thoughts. This was Deanna he was fighting for, and if that meant walking blind into a civilization of hungry, barbaric oversized geckos, then that's what he would do.
Mirari's breathing increased the warmer their environment became, whether it was a physical response to the stagnant, rancid odors that wafted through the tunnel, or her silent fear manifesting itself he wasn't sure.
He saw her shift her position ahead of him and slide downward until she
disappeared from his sight. Reaching the spot, he peered down the narrow shaft before following Mirari's example and lowering himself inside.
He looked down through the narrow lattice covering they stood on; Mirari hadn't exaggerated when she'd said the Maneeze were technologically advanced. An entire city sprawled out below them, panels danced with sparkling lights, vehicles like he'd never seen passed over the metal courtyard, there occupants carrying menacing weapons at their sides.
Mirari kept moving, keeping her body pressed tightly against the back wall, and sending occasional looks to the world below.
Up ahead Will could see a shift in the lighting, the brilliant white,
defusing to a soft golden glow....he recognized the smell, and the moans of pleasure, and choked back his own revulsion, searching the entangled bodies for Deanna.
Releasing a shaky breath of relief, he raised a finger of warning to Data, silencing his attempt to speak.
Mirari had moved well ahead of them, again the color of the light shifted; icy blue shadows perverting his view of her.
Pushing closer, his brows raised in surprise. "What are you doing?"
The look she threw him only made him realize how stupid a question he'd
asked; it was obvious what she was doing, removing her clothes.... why,
would have been a much better choice. There was a clear look of warning in her eyes, and as she removed her last layer of clothes, his question proved unnecessary.
"You're not going down there by yourself!" He protested, eyeing the teal green fabric that draped itself over her perfectly proportioned body.
"Well, unless you plan on growing breasts and wearing a dress you wouldn't make it past the first Maneeze you encountered."
Her mind was made up, a vengeance all her own burned deeply beneath her
crystal clear eyes.
Will closed his eyes and shook his head in defeat, cool fingers brushing across his heated forehead prompting him to open them.
"You can monitor my movements through the floor grate." Her whispered words caused her sweet breath to tickle over his cheek, he swallowed the guilt ridden pleasure it generated in him, and nodded an agreement.
Will and Data followed Mirari's movements, Will's mind dwelling on the
sudden and unlikely feelings he felt for her. He rationalized them as
natural under the circumstances; he was emotionally and physically drained, battling against an unknown race in an unknown place......She had befriended him, taken care of him, it was only natural he would feel drawn to her. But no matter how hard he tried to deny it to himself, he knew it was something more then that.....he saw a piece of himself in her, and when she looked at him, he was certain she felt the same thing.
He pushed it away, he loved Deanna, he'd always loved Deanna, of course
Deanna had tried to kill him. And in all these disturbing thoughts, that one reached out and grabbed him by the throat. Rationally he knew she wasn't responsible for her actions, unfortunately rational did nothing for the ache it induced in his heart.
Muttered voices pulled him from his thoughts and urged his eyes downward. He unsnapped his phaser, gripping it tighter then necessary in his sweaty hand.
Mirari was putting on a wonderful performance for the Maneeze, allowing his
scaled hands to tour her body, his long tongue to dart over her bare neck.
Will's own skin crawled for her, he sent a sidelong look to Data, making sure the android was prepared to act if it became necessary.
A roar of pain filled the chamber, the Maneeze going down as Mirari's knee met squarely with his groin. Unfortunately her blow wasn't enough, he was on his feet and wrestling Mirari to the ground before Will had time to think.
He whispered the order to Data before sliding down through one of the small openings in the back edge of the grated floor.
"Get off of her!"
He leveled his phaser and pushed it hard against the back of the reptiles neck.
The Maneeze responded, releasing his grasp on Mirari's wrists, Mirari
squirming out from under him quickly.
She massaged her wrists, deep blue bruises already rasing to the surface of her fair skin.
Will fingered his weapon, intensifying the stun setting and aiming it
squarely at the lizard's chest.
"That would not be wise.......Imzadi."
The gentle voice filled the chamber.
Shifting his gaze in the direction of the sound, the hostile and hardened expression on the face of Deanna negated the term of endearment, and the gentle tone..
He had no reason to doubt that she'd kill him, he only hoped this new life she was leading hadn't improved her aim.
He began a gesture of surrender, instantly contradicting it by firing on the Maneeze dropping to the ground and rolling away from the surge of Deanna's weapon.
He felt the heat of the next blast as it whistled past his ear, he saw
Mirari out of the corner of his eye scramble for the Maneeze weapon that had fallen from his belt.
Darting out from behind the pillar he'd lunged for, he drew Deanna's fire away from Mirari, and wondered how long it would be before the entire city was alerted to their presence.
Readjusting his phaser settings, he prepared to fire on her, his attempt stilled as Mirari targeted the Maneeze weapon on Deanna.
"No!!!" He screamed, diving at Mirari, knocking her back, and driving her blast into the ceiling.
"I would have given you more credit then that Will."
Deanna's voice came simultaneously with the cold steel of her weapon against the back of his neck. He lifted his eyes to Mirari, the look of disgust and anger in her eyes, just as painful as the pressure of the weapon Deanna held against him.
He flinched at the sound of phaser fire; the weapon against his neck fell away, snapping him around to see Deanna laying on the floor, and Data dropping from above him.
"Counselor Troi is acting quite bitchy, is she not?"
"I'm not sure Counselor Troi is even in there anymore."
Will's answer to Data's observation spoken through tightly clenched teeth.
He reached down and picked up her limp body, slinging it over his shoulder he gestured to the ladder, avoiding any eye contact with Mirari.
Sending intermittent glances over his shoulder, he waited until Mirari and Data were safely up top before starting his ascent.
Stopping on the third to last rung, he waited for Data to lift Deanna from his shoulder before completing his climb. A cold hand wrapped around his ankle, a powerful jerk pulling him downward, sending him to the ground with a thud..
He struggled under its weight, snapping his face out of the way just in time to avoid the sharp yellow teeth that lunged at him. His next attempt came too late, his failure resulting in needle sharp teeth tearing into his flesh.
Data's phaser fire drowned out his agonizing scream, and stilled his
assailant, but not the excruciating pain of the bite.
The unmistakable sensation of a hypo spray against his neck penetrated
his faint state of awareness.
Will forced his heavy lids away from his eyes, knowing he was back in the ice caves, but having no memory of how he got here.
A cloudy image of the android filled his vision, the effects of the
stimulant he'd been given gradually clearing up his sight and restoring a semblance of reality.
"How is she?"
He looked past Data to the still form of Counselor Troi. Now, in her present state of sleep, she looked as she always had, peaceful, and beautiful, a ghost of a smile on her moist red lips.
He held on to the picture, forcing his mind to replace the hardened image of her he'd encountered too often in the last few days.
"She is well, Sir. I have given her a tranquilizer to deaden the pain of the her stun wound. How is your pain?"
Will looked to the ugly bite wound on his shoulder, he could tell Data had attempted to heal it, but it continued to fester, tiny red ulcers blistering the site.
"Hurts like a son of a bitch."
He coerced a grin and straightened himself against the wall, his bloodshot eyes searching for Mirari.
His attempt to sit up any further halted by the firm golden hand of the
"She has gone to retrieve more provisions from the shuttle......It appears the planets emissions do not affect my positronic matrix while in the caves."
Data appeared to have anticipated Will's next question, answering his
concerns as to why Mirari had left instead of him, before he'd been
"How long until we can contact the enterprise?" Will asked, accepting yet another hypo spray from Data.
"Three days, four hours, twenty-seven minutes and......"
"Too long." Will interrupted, "Have you been able to find out anything about the venom that's affecting Counselor Troi?"
"I was able to extract a sample of the poison from the outer layer of your bite site, unfortunately there are several elements I am unfamiliar with."
"Mirari said her people had become immune to the venom."
"Yes Sir, I have already combined her sample with the venom in hopes of
isolating the antibody that she possesses."
"Very good Mister Data."
Will's attentions had already falling back to Deanna, a stern look of
reprimand stilling the androids attempt to stop him from going to her.
"Deanna, everything will be all right."
He brushed his hand through her ebony curls before pushing the heavy fur blanket aside, visually scanning her for injuries.
Her skin was as flawless as the ruby red satin that draped from her
shoulder, he released a breath of relief at the sight. After seeing how
brutal the Maneeze could be with their woman, her unblemished skin held the promise that she hadn't been violated.
He straighten the folds of her dress, an unfamiliar shape protruded from beneath them. Reaching his hand inside the overabundance of satin, he brought the unknown into his view. His heart steadily increased as he turned the oddly shaped crystal in his hands, it's purple hue catching the light in the cavern, and causing the walls to dance with speckles of color.
"That is an unusual shaped amethyst?"
"Not as unusual as you would think."
Will answered Data's comment without looking up, recovering Deanna, he
finally pulled his eyes from the mesmerizing shape.
"When I was a little boy, " He began, propping himself against the wall, "I found a stone similar to this one at my bedside. The color was different, the most vibrant blue I'd ever seen, but the shape was identical. My father said its color was exactly as my mother's eyes, and that fairies had left it to me so I could always remember." He pressed his head against the cold wall, noting the look of concern on Data's face, "Of course I knew better then to believe what my father had said, but for some reason I've always kept it with me."
"A fond childhood memory, which unfortunately does not shed any light on why Counselor Troi would be in possession of a similar stone."
"Perhaps not," Mirari's soft voice carried through the room, "But for as long as the memory lasted, it brought complete peace to Commander Riker, did it not?"
A smile actually curved Mirari's lips, Will returned it with a nod of his head, admiring how only the whisper of smile softened her face.
"Do you know what this is?" Will held the stone up to Mirari, feeling a loss as her smile slipped from her lips.
"I believe it is one of the crystals needed to complete the Arkah, the dome of metamorphosis that will allow the Maneeze to free themselves from the planet. They will seek to retrieve it, as well as her." She tilted her head to Deanna, her eyes filling with sadness as they rested on her.
Her eyes lingered for a moment before raising to meet Wills. "Can you walk?"
"Sure." Will answered, using to the wall to push himself to his feet.
He took one wobbly step, the second sending him stumbling forward, his fall stopped by Data and Mirari's steadying hands.
"You could have just said no." She scolded, raising a perfectly arched brow, "For someone that holds the position of authority that you do, you certainly make a lot of lame brain decisions."
He prepared to fire off a retort, but Mirai's eyes had already shifted to Data, "I will take him to the oasis of the sun, it is thought to slow the degeneration."
Will furrowed his brow and watched Data nod an agreement to Mirari.
"Hold on!" Will bulked, "I hope you two aren't suggesting that this tiny little bite is going to transform me into the creature from the black lagoon." Noting the all to serious looks on Data's and Mirari's faces, and the fact that Data hadn't even bothered to access his reference to the old earth horror film, he added, "We're not really buying into this, are we Data?"
"We are Commander. I performed a tricorder scan on the Maneeze that attacked you, his DNA was that of King Amoret."
Will cocked his head at Data's words, King Amoret, the reason they'd ended up on this frigid rock in the first place.
Mirari tugged on his waist, pressuring him to move out; he louched his
shoulders and walked unsteadily beside her.
Will stopped upon entering this oasis of the sun, ignoring the pressure
of Mirari's hands urging him forward.
He slipped out of her hold and inhaled the hauntingly familiar aroma; it was sweet and tantalizing, and the flavor of the air seemed to linger on his tongue. The sound of the water as it churned and bubbled over the jagged rocks, mimicked the giggles of children; the sounds and scents muting reality and stirring his mind to drift.
"I know this place." He finally whispered, resting his eyes on Mirari
"And more importantly...... I know you."
"That's ridiculous," She answered with a wave of her hand, Will stopping her hand's progress and grabbing it with his.
He turned her wrist over in his hand, brushing his lips against the soft flesh, inhaling the scent of her skin.
"Why did you go away?"
"I don't know what you're talking about!" She answered, jerking her arm from his grasp.
He knew who she was, but as her hand jerked free of his grasp the memory became impossible to retrieve. He closed his eyes to recapture it, recreate the vivid images that had spun through his mind with her scent, but it was gone.
He opened his eyes to look at her, her green eyes dark with fear, her hands
trembling from the same emotion. To Riker her fear was almost tangible, it stroked
tantalizingly over his skin and provoked a need in him. He grasped her wrists
in his hand, forcefully pulling her against him. Her breath was hot and erratic,
her fear intensified, fueling him, arousing him, propelling him to throw her
to the ground and cover her with his body. She struggled beneath him, her resistance
only forcing him to grind against her harder and clamp his mouth over hers.
And now he could taste it, smell it, the single emotion causing shivers of pleasure
to ripple through his body. Holding her wrists firmly above her head, he used
his other to explore more of her. His hands consumed her smooth rich curves,
his mouth grazed over the pebbled peaks of her breasts, tearing through clothing,
his ravenous appetite gorged
itself on the dripping heat of her center, until his body demanded he enter her.
A moan came from deep inside her, not a moan of fear, but a moan of
pleasure, it drew Riker's dangerous eyes to hers and opened a small window in the fog that had closed in on his mind.
"I understand now," Will's voice was harsh, and still saturated with lust.
Mirari faltered for a moment, her emerald green eyes black as onyx, "No, you're insane." She answered, closing her eyes.
He could feel her fear rising to the surface again. He tried to fight it, fight what he seemed to need to survive, but he couldn't, the poisonous emotion pulling him to her like a starving animal.
"Get away from her!"
The voice sounded like a distant echo in Riker's mind, his primal need
overriding any rational thought.
Mirari struggled more powerfully against him, her fearful emotions shifting to deceit and cunning.
"Data, help me!"
Her shift in emotion clarified Will's sense of awareness slightly, he pulled himself off Mirari, staggering back with the dizziness that rushed through his head.
"It's all right Data."
It was his voice he heard, but he couldn't remember calling up the words, he continued back, stepping away from Data.
"Will," He blinked his eyes together tightly, looking past the android to the woman behind him.
A coherent moment cut through whatever was happening to him, in that instant he knew it was her, and he could feel her emotions stretching out to him.
Concern, love, sympathy, all positive and good, all causing him physical pain, his stomach cramped, his muscles tightened, he thought he would die from the pain that gyrated through his head.
"Get her out of here!" A voice that was not his own emerged from deep in his chest.
"Commander Riker. Stop!"
Data's phaser was trained tightly on him, but Will knew far enough away that he could still roll out of the way of the blast.
Will held on to Mirari's eyes, the onyx fear replaced by vibrant green
sweetness that propelled him back until he stumbled into the steaming water, saving himself from the detrimental emotions.
Data!" Deanna's plea was urgent, and thrust Data into the deep blue water.
"What happened?" Deanna narrowed scornful eyes at Mirari.
"He's begun the degeneration, soon he'll be one of them." Mirari's
glistened with unshed tears, her emotions reinforcing her sadness.
"But the robot saved you, how?"
Deanna had no reason not to trust what Mirari had said, aside from jealousy there was nothing to base her suspicions on, and yet she had an unsettlingly feeling that Mirari was not what she seemed.
"He's gone Counselor." Data emerged from the water, and moved closer.
"I'm sure instinctively he's moved into the caves, he'll remain in seclusion until the degeneration is complete." Mirari folded her arms across her chest, offering the information to Data, but never taking her eyes off Deanna.
"We have to find him Data. If you were able to counteract the venom in me, you can do the same thing for Will."
Data cocked his head, eyes darting between Deanna and Mirari, "I am afraid that is not the case Counselor. You were not actually infected by the venom, but a toxin that hangs heavy in the air of this planet. A toxin that appears to mute the senses, personifying negativity, and shadowing logic. It is why you were able to attempt to kill Commander Riker, your distorted reality did not allow your brain to process your actions."
Deanna massaged her hands against her arms, even in the heated spring, she felt chilled at the almost dreamlike memory of what she had tried to do to Will.
"I don't understand Data, why can't we help Will."
"Commander Riker is in a state of metamorphosis, just as the others calling themselves Maneeze. My scan on Mirari showed why she was not affected as other females, her brain does not register smell. I believe after hundreds of years it is how her kind adapted to survival against the poisonous atmosphere. I merely eliminated your sense of smell, once it was eradicated, so was the toxin."
Deanna inhaled deeply, she hadn't noticed with her senses focused so tightly on Will, she couldn't smell, nor was there any taste from the scent of the spring on the back of her tongue.
"I learned something while I was used by the Maneeze," She pulled
crystal from her jacket pocket, "These crystals are what they live for, to complete the dome again seems to drive them."
Deanna noticed that Mirari's bravado slipped for an instant as she held up the emerald jewel, "What can you tell us about the crystals Mirari? I'm sure after all this time your people must have learned something?"
Mirari picked up her venerable innocence right where it had fallen off,
shaking her golden-red hair, and releasing a heavy sigh.
Data broke between the mutual glare the two woman were holding each other with, Deanna acknowledged Data with a nod of her head.
"When you mentioned the dome, you said again. Am I to conclude that it was once completed and then dismantled?"