Title : 2 Degrees of Separation
Series : TNG
Author : Sarajayne
Rating : Angst factor nine
Disclaimer : They own the characters and premise, but we sow the seeds
of imagination to improve our enjoyment ;-)


Before we start I'd like to thank Leanne for all her help,
encouragement and for deleting all those extra 'n's in Lwaxana ;-) And
to all my other eternal buddies out there. Thanks for the laughter and
smiles ;-D


= ONE =

Ever had a bee buzzing your ear? How about imagining it trapped
within your brain and stinging with all its might. Well right now, Will
Riker knew exactly what it felt like. And the buzz in his head wasn't
going to budge, neither was the cause of the sharp electric pain that
was skewering his mind.
“Stop! Please stop!” he screamed.
Tears burned hot trails down his cheeks. It had felt like hours
since she’d started drilling through barrier after barrier of flimsy
“Never!” The daughter of the fifth house spat. “You touched my
daughter. Defiled her with your terran body. Think I would turn an eye
to that?”
Burning deeper into the core of his mind, she began ripping apart
memory after memory of the girl who'd released his heart.
“Let me go. I'll stay away!”
He writhed on the cool tiles, wishing for their temperature to
freeze the fire in his head. Flashing visions of pictures and smells
flew through his mind before dissipating into a black abyss of nothing.
Voids of emptiness clanging into place. Regardless of the whimpers,
Lwaxana grew more determined to teach him a lesson, to keep him on his
“That's it Terran, beg for your life, beg for my forgiveness. But do
it quickly, before I burn out your mind.”
She gave a satisfied smile as the male began to plead, bowing his
head, shame deeply imprinted on his neural pathways. He grunted when
she let him go, letting him drop to the floor in a puddle of flesh; a
reprieve for just a few moments to keep him on edge.
Gasping for air, glad to feel its sweetness refreshing his body, Will
lay there feeling the holes in his mind. Gaping chasms that reflected
nothing but a new rawness and a longing for something he couldn't quite
remember. His heart screamed for its loss, a loss that he couldn't
recall; something was gone. A sharp kick rolled him painfully onto his
back to view the local guards reaching down to collect him, to put him
back where the Daughter of the Fifth House believed he belonged, to
work with the rest of the non-telepathic filth, in the fields and
gardens. The clean white shirt he'd been given by someone dear was
ripped from his back, and he was soon forced to his unsteady legs by
the roughened hands of her guards. But before he’d blissfully exited
the room, Lwaxana Troi cleared her throat.
“On second thoughts, have him terminated. And make sure the bond is
severed completely, I’d hate to return to that repulsive mind.” She
ordered, and a heavy hood was placed over his eyes.


Blackness became light as Will Riker ordered the lights on full, and
immediately regretting the action, closed light sensitive eyes; holding
a hand to his beating chest. The sharp electric shrill of the morning
alarm blearing its insistent call, did nothing to steady his nerves
“Computer. Time.” He said with a shaky breath, the alarm now silent
with his request.
“Time is 23:20.” The computer droned.
The unique likeness of the computers voice brought back the dream in
frightening reality. Shivering in recognition, he ran nervous fingers
through his hair and beard before moving aside the bedding and
standing. Taking a deep breath, he soon moved to a wobbly stance,
trying to coax some mobility back into his body.
“What the hell is wrong with me?” He muttered as he viewed the
goosebumps peppering his bare chest.
Knowing he was going to look worse for wear, an inane curiosity
struck him to search out a mirror and see. A staggered walk brought him
to the bathroom, and face to face with porcelain features, a perfect
match to his white shaky hands. Why he felt so unnerved had him
completely baffled, but the intensity of the dream was no doubt part of
the reason, and so was something else. A slight tingle in his mind
brought another gasp from his lips. Remnants of the nightmare stood in
reality, freezing him to the spot. Trembling, he leant over the
washbasin, ignorant of the first buzz of the door signal, till it
buzzed again. Someone was there, but he found himself still routed to
the spot; trying to subdue the imminent panic attack.
“Will?” A voice called from the living room.
He swallowed hard, breaking a little out of his funk before
“In here.” He whispered, knowing it was Deanna, but still too shaken
to move.
He continued to lean over the basin, knowing it was the only thing
that kept him upright, as his legs fought diligently with gravity. A
small hand gently hovered over his shoulder before finally making
“What happened?” She asked, face taught with worry.
This was not the commander she knew. More like a shell shocked
“Bad dream.” He breathed. “A recurring one by the sounds of it.”
A query flashed across Deanna's face prompting him for more.
“It seems your mother will be back to finish the job. She wants to
take me apart in chunks.”
He tried to stand tall and let go of the bathroom facilities, but
his legs weren’t in a position to agree, finally depositing him
suddenly onto the cool tiles; regardless of how Deanna struggled to
keep his head from hitting them.
He lay dazed for a moment until Deanna placed her hands to one side
tracing the purplish bruise there. Her tender touch drew a gasp of
panic from his lips, speeding up his already erratic heart beat.
“It's from the dream.” He murmured, looking to her eyes with fear
swirling in his.
His pounding fear was smothering to her empathy, shocking her at its
“I'll call Beverly. It was just a dream Will. You probably went
sleep walking last night and collided with something. Just relax
What happened next, was beyond belief to Deanna. He screamed. The
one word that usually infused him with its heavenly essence, seared
deep into his neural pathways and cut him raw.
“Troi to Crusher. Medical emergency in Commander Riker’s quarters!”
“On my way Deanna.” Crusher’s voice blurted.
Will Riker’s moans had no doubt spurred the good doctor on, as she
soon came running through the doorway, and dropping to the side of her
casualty on the bathroom floor. Beverly took one look at his naked
body, shivering and shaking in a fetal position, and administered a
round of painkillers right away. Now with Will in Dr Crusher’s care,
Deanna was able to leave him momentarily to gather up something warm
for him. As she picked up the shaggy blue blanket from the floor of his
bed, she felt a familiar tingle at the back of her mind. Her mother was
calling, or trying to, more like an indiscriminate broadcast though. A
groan from the bathroom broke her contact and she moved back to cover
the trembling man.
“Any idea as to what caused this?” Beverly asked.
Deanna shook her head, looking down and gently running a hand gently
through his hair while he continued to keep to his protective curl.
“He said something about a bad dream concerning my mother. And then
when I mentioned a certain Betazoid word he was instantly filled with
Deanna had now pulled back to cross her arms tightly around herself.
“How could one word of endearment hurt somebody like this,” she
brokenly gasped trying to keep her eyes tearless.
Beverly was diligently scanning Will with her tricorder, even when
she placed a comforting hand to Deanna’s forearm, its lights twinkling
harder when she approached his brain.
“Elevated neural activity. Inflamed neural paths. Low cellular
regrowth.” She snapped shut her tricorder. “Time to get you down to
sickbay Mister,” she said as she stepped over to look him in the face.
His eyes were squeezed shut and he was still breathing in short
sharp intakes. Sweat peppered his face, turning the rebellious lock of
hair on his forehead damp. Deanna whispered quiet words to steady him
as the doctor hit her communicator and ordered a beam out to sickbay.
“Please don't let her near me.” Will whispered before his atoms were
scrambled, leaving Deanna alone and shocked.


= TWO =

Captains Log 2389.7. We are currently on our way to the Legong
Cluster to pick-up a few familiar diplomats. Lwaxana Troi is one of the
delegates who has recently been negotiating successful trade talks in
this region. Hopefully it'll be a welcome reunion between mother and
daughter. Counselor Troi though, has been off duty now for two days.
Her services being put to good use into working out why my first
officer is in considerable pain. Doctor Crusher hasn't been able to
halt the agony that my officer is currently going through. Commander
Data is currently filing the position of Executive Officer until the
Commander is fit enough to return to duty. I only hope we find and
solve the cause soon. End log.


Picard entered sickbay, seeking out one of the private ICU rooms at
the back. The quick glances from the medical staff and the concern they
radiated, made it easy to determine which room it was. Within the
glassed off section he soon found the majority of his senior staff.
Data was currently in charge of the bridge, but by the selection of
officers now present, one would have been excused for thinking that
this was the command post instead. With Will Riker entombed in the clam
shell, covered with small blinking devices; Deanna, Dr Crusher and
Geordi worked unaware of Picard’s presence. Their aim to ascertain what
was spearing Will Riker’s grey matter, with deadly accuracy, was more a
concern than officer protocol. Beverly glanced up and gave a weak
smile, a small shake to her head, answering his question. She soon
went back to Geordi pointing at various instruments, and speaking in
hushed tones. Urging the engineer to retune some of the equipment for
higher neurological bandwidths and compression signatures. Deanna, sat
beside Will’s bedside oblivious to the Captain, cradling his head in
her arms as he writhed on his side, soft whimpers of pain continually
breaking the silence until suddenly they were gone.
As all three stood and watched, the tense rigid body before them
finally relaxed. Fingers unclenched, jaws relaxed and limbs became
limber again as the pain magically left his mind. The only sound now
was the beep and tweak of diagnostic panels settling back into normal
patient levels and a sigh of relief from both Deanna and Beverly.
Will carefully opened his eyes and looked straight into
Deanna's…and cringed. His hands flew up and tried to push the clam
shell out of the way, but his arms were weary and the relaxants in his
system debilitating.
“Will? What's wrong?” Beverly asked, moving Deanna aside and filling
her space.
Will's hands were still trying to break out of the clam shell. The
obvious distress of being near Deanna seemed to be the all consuming
reason. But still she needed to ask. To verify his bizarre reactions.
“I need to go to the bathroom.” Was his only answer.
His strength was returning, but it still took the combined effort of
both Beverly and Nurse Ogawa to get his rubbery limbs to keep him
upright, as they took him to the facilities.
Taking his cue, Picard walked Deanna outside into the main sickbay,
gaining a little insight into the previous hours findings.


It wasn’t long until Will was staggering back into the room. He was
shaking, but his impervious commander pose was sliding into place,
trying to deny that he needed medical help.
“I'm OK. It was just a bad headache.” He muttered as he tried to
convince Beverly to let him go back to his quarters.
The irritated swish of her red hair made him close his eyes; for the
onslaught he knew was coming.
“Fine? You call inflamed neural pathways just a headache? Will
Riker, I'm sure you've knocked some of that sense out of your head with
all those ‘fine’ accidents you keep having.”
She tapped his head gently to get her point across.
“Please can I just go back to my quarters? I just need to get some
sleep, and with all this…” he pointed to the equipment around him
“…here, there's no chance of that.”
A sincere expression plastered his tear stained face. She sighed and
then gave her OK, smiling as Will Riker gave one of his own.
“OK mister ‘fine’. Let me get a few things together and I'll walk
you back to your quarters.”
He nodded in agreement, and Beverly wandered off to collect her
As Ogawa tied his dressing gown tighter around his waist, she gave
him a comforting squeeze on the arm and a small wink. Where Riker was
concerned, she'd always been Dr Crusher's right hand nurse, and she'd
pretty much witnessed all of his medical history unfold before her.
Ogawa just wrote this one down as another one of those historical Riker
moments. “How to get out of sickbay in five words or less.” Ogawa mused
about writing a book on the subject; god knows he'd accomplished it
many times.
It wasn’t long until Beverly came back into the ICU room with a
medikit over one shoulder, and a handful of hypos.
“Something to keep me walking?” He queried as he struggled off the
bed and onto heavy feet.
“Something to get you to sleep,” he answered sliding her arm around
his own and directing him to the door.



“I'm worried about him. He won't answer my calls and he's changed
his access code on the door. He just won't let me see him.”
Deanna speared another chocolate chip on her sundae, causing it to
submerge under more of the melting ice cream.
“He's probably just embarrassed about it. But I can tell you, he is
a lot better. He's still getting a few twinge like headaches but not
suffering as before. Not sure what caused it though. The area that was
being bombarded was to do with long term memory. I've never seen a
headache do that before.”
She looked to Deanna who was lost in her ice cream, eyes downcast
and unsure about something.
“Are you OK?” Wondering if she was sensing something about Will.
“I think mother's unwell. I keep getting this tingly sensation at
the back of my mind like she wants to speak to me about something, but
I can't figure the words out. I first felt it while in Will's cabin,
but when I contacted her on the planet via subspace she seemed well,
angry about something, not unwell.”
She dug deeper and rescued the chocolate chip that she'd drowned
“Relax. She'll be here in about an hour, then you can see for
yourself.” Beverly advised. “So…changing subjects, how's Ensign Bughen
Deanna blushed and Beverly moved forward with all intentions of
getting to the bottom of this one.
“I've consoled him into why I'm not a good match for him. And about
the transference of feelings that can happen with some patients towards
their counsellors. But it didn't work. Not until I mentioned how
jealous Commander Riker was.”
“You didn't!” Beverly asked, surprised she'd use her best friend as
a scapegoat.
“I did. It was the only way I could shake him. I'd tried everything
in the text books and even some untried theories. In the end the
Commander was my last card, which, thank the deities, worked,” Deanna
“Poor Ensign. Crushed so young,” Beverly gave a wistful tone to her
voice, jibing her friend.
This wasn’t the first time some poor young Ensign straight from the
Academy had tried to become her admirer.
“You really think I should’ve taken him up on his offer of dinner?”
Deanna asked exasperated.
“Well…” She began
“No way. If mother had such a bad time accepting Will, I certainly
don't see her accepting…”
“Counselor Troi, please report to transporter room three.”
Lieutenant Davies’s Irish lilted voice, filtered down to inform her,
via the communications array of above.
“On my way.” she replied. “Mother.” Deanna sighed.
“It's not that bad. Perhaps she can help Will with his bad dreams.”
“More bad dreams?”
She halted for a moment.
“You should’ve told me Beverly,” Deanna stressed as she and the
doctor walked out of ten forward.
“Sorry, patient confidentiality. And the answer is no. I've been
keeping him dosed up at night. No way he can dream with that much
sedative in his system,” Beverly replied sadly.
Deanna smiled at her apology and took a left in the corridor
intersection to head for the transporter room.


Picard was garbed in his dress uniform along with Data and
surprisingly enough, Commander Riker as well. He still seemed a little
pale and nervous as the transporter pads flared to life. Deanna moved
beside him, watching as his fingers fidgeted behind his back and he
slowly grinded his jaw.
The first beam in contained the majority the diplomats that they wee
shipping to their destination. Picard advanced and welcomed them all,
introducing each of his staff present as per ships protocol, before
Data asked them to follow him to their designated quarters. This was
normally Commander Riker’s duty, but Picard had deemed the Commander
unwell to chaperone the diplomats for now. And Picard had another
reason as well. Knowing that the next beam in would contain someone,
who could possibly help to alleviate the suffering Riker was barely
coping with. The room empty now except for the transporter chief,
Picard, Troi and Riker.
“Two more diplomats asking to come aboard sir,” the transporter
chief announced.
“Energise.” Picard replied with a smile on his lips, knowing full
well who was in the next load.
The beam in started. And curiously, Riker moved back a step,
cringing as Lwaxana solidified on the pad. Picard, tried to block out
Riker’s reaction and moved forward to greet her.
“Ambassador Troi, welcome aboard…”
Lwaxana pointed at Riker with such vehemence that he stepped back
further till his hunched shoulders made contact with the cool duranium
Deanna moved forward. Performing an excellent blocking manoeuvre to
protect Will from the hot furnace of anger, lashing at his feet.
“Why is this filth still here? And with my daughter no less! Answer
me!” She demanded of Picard who was just as dub struck as Deanna.
They both looked to each other and then to Riker who was now shaking
against the wall with his eyes firmly glued to Lwaxana.
“Commander Riker is the first officer of my ship. His place is…”
“Not by my daughter’s side. Has this foul creature touched you my
dear daughter?”
The aristocratic Betazoid dismissed all others within the room, all
but Deanna and the man she had her eyes pinned too.
“No mother.”
Knowing this was the only answer to give to keep her in control. To
halt her from burning out Will’s mind right there and then.
“Lieutenant, please return to your other duties.” Picard instructed
of the transporter chief.
Something was wrong and Will Riker didn't need an audience. The
lieutenant ducked out as fast as he could, knowing a frying pan analogy
when he saw one.
“You thought you could use her to rise up from the dirt you came
from. For a terran you’re not very smart. I know your schemes.” She
said tapping her head. “You've defiled her in so many ways. The heir of
the Fifth House's duties lie on Betazed, not on a ship of lying,
cheating terran males. You coaxed her here and then used her till you
grew tired of her.” Lwaxana continued as she moved closer to the
cowering officer against the wall.
“Mother please! What are you talking about! It was my choice to join
“But he planted the seed when he took your body. And for that, I'll
take his mind.”
Lwaxana brushed past Deanna and immediately placed her hands on
Will's forehead. He simultaneously screamed with pure agony. Pulling
Lwaxana aside, Picard broke her physical contact with Will. But still
she continued to mentally strip his mind, layer by layer. Will was no
longer vocal, but his face and body screamed agony. Regardless of the
pleas from her daughter, who gripped Will within her arms, Lwaxana
continued on.
The door whooshed open and in sped Doctor Crusher. Will's medipatch
had alerted the doctor the minute his heart rate had sky rocketed with
Lwaxana’s transport on board. What she found once rushing through the
doors though, was like a view from Alice in Wonderland. Pure chaos.
Picard was holding Lwaxana back, the woman fighting his grip and
snarling every Betazin word she knew for executing disloyal subjects.
Deanna’s white rabbit muttering of “she’ll be here soon, it’ll be
alright, she’ll be here soon.” was bizarre to say the least. And the
ball of human flesh that Deanna was clutching onto was shrieking like a
mad mime.
“Doctor! Sedate Lwaxana immediately and give Will something to block
her thoughts!” He commanded, struggling to maintain his hold, without
injuring her.
Lwaxana continued to yell at him to let her finish her duty.
Scratching his hands, securely wrapped around her waist. That was until
Beverly shot home 20mg of sedative into the Betazoid Ambassador. Moving
next to the other victim of this outbreak of madness, Beverly planted a
hypo to Will’s neck and soon the room stilled. But a small smattering
of whimpers still came from Deanna's arms. Beverly opened her kit and
placed a small device on each of Riker’s temples, watching as the
lights flashed, seeing the lines of pain softening out into relief. A
sure sign that the neural blockers were active and working to some
extent. Deanna uncurled him and laid him flat on the ground, even as he
still continued to twist under tremors of shock and pain. Wiping away
the tears from her eyes, she turned to view her mother within Picard’s
arms, with Mr Homm watching quietly from the transporter padd.
“How is he?” Picard asked as he watched such a strong and determined
man like Will Riker, twist and turn from Lwaxana’s wrath.
She still continued to delve further into his mind, regardless of
the sedative that laced her body, ripping up neural paths as she went.
“Beverly. Please hurry. Mother's still reaching him. Will can't
block her, and even with my help through our bond I doubt I could stop
her,” Deanna cried.
Her Imzadi’s mind and essence was dissolving through her grasp, bit
by bit.
Acknowledging that his life signs were as stable as they were going
to get, Beverly slapped her communicator and ordered an immediate beam
out to sickbay; leaving Picard to watch over Mr Homm as Lwaxana
disappeared within the molecules as well.


= FOUR =

“The neural blocks aren't working. I'm going to have to find another
way to block Lwaxana's probes.” Beverly said throwing down another
padd, scattered the other proposed theories already littering her
The doctor swung her chair around and stared out of her office
window to view Deanna still beside the restless Will Riker. He was
still murmuring pleas of forgiveness in his half delirious state.
“I thought Lwaxana was sedated?” Picard asked, as he fished through
the pile to retrieve her latest discarded padd, skimming the latest
results himself.
“She's a pretty talented telepath Jean Luc. A little sedative
doesn't go a long way. Not unless I increase the dose to dangerous
level and then…I just end up choosing between who lives and who dies,”
she sighed heavily enough to blow a stray hair away from her porcelain
features, her eyes never leaving her two best friends.
“So what has caused Lwaxana's sudden hatred towards Will? Not more
than two months ago she was practically doting on him to marry Deanna”
He mused, feeling like he was missing something.
Beverly smiled at the memory. The crimson cheeks on both her friends
had truly been a delight to rib them about for days. Lwaxana, in front
of the whole of Ten Forward, had demanded that they hurry up before it
was too late to procreate. But now, the thought of children between the
two of her best friends, was looking near impossible. The comforting
touch of Picard’s hand on her arm brought her back to the present, an
ugly present that was refusing to budge. Giving a small smile, she
picked up one of the many padds and handed it over to the Captain.
“It’s a form of Betazoid neural infection. It alters a person’s
perception of a certain event or person in their mind. Like switching
truths with untruths. And I guess Will was the one person she switched
perceptions with.”
“I take it you've found the cure? Or is that just pure hope on my
part.” Picard said raising a hopeful eyebrow.
But before either could utter another word a deep-based yell make
its way across the sickbay floor. Both of them proceeded towards Will’s
side as he suffered at the wrong end of the Betazoid virus.
“The cure to this Betazoid virus? It exists?” Picard pressured as
Beverly hovered over the readings, and administered another hypo to
soothe Will’s burning mind.
“I'm treating her now, but the effects will last a few more hours.
In the meantime, our only hope is to stop the deterioration of Will's
memories, is to place him in stasis.” Beverly said as she ran her
fingers over the various readout padds.
“How long?” The quiet voice of Deanna Troi entered the conversation.
She had been maintaining a trance to help with shielding his mind,
to hopefully absorb some of Will's penance.
“Until your mother calms down. And we can reason with her to stop
what she's doing.” Beverly gave a sympathetic smile. Who could only
guess at what her friend was going through. “Hopefully we will be able
to convince her in about nine hours at most.” Doctor Crusher moved a
cleansing pad under Will's bleeding nose, it had become a frightening
habit. “But until then, we just have to hope that stasis will keep
enough of him in tact.”
Beverly continued looking down to her patient and watched as Will’s
eye lids fluttered with activity. The vivid red of blood trailing from
his nasal cavity dictated that it wasn’t just a dream. This truly was
becoming a fight to the death between Deanna’s mother, and her Imzadi,
William Thomas Riker. And the prize? Six inches of grey matter.


The persistent beeps of the computer intoned every second that Will
Riker spent in his silent prison. Hands tightly clasped together,
Deanna stood outside the stasis chamber, watching his pain creased
features frozen in time. He had two hours till he had to be removed.
Two hours to convince her mother that she was wrong about Will Riker.
Lwaxana was still sedated, but reachable telepathically, and although
Deanna was only empathic, she could still communicate with her mother
directly as if she were a full telepath. She'd pleaded for hours, only
to continually hear her mothers reply that he wasn't good enough, and
how he'd warped her mind. After hour upon hour of trying to break
through her mother’s determined mind, Deanna had to give in, the pure
emotional stress exhausting her well beyond her limits.
Beverly had called an end to the attempt, afraid to lose more than
what was already being gambled on the table. The good doctor had been
the counselor’s only aid throughout the process. Whether as a witness
to the rivers of tears she spent, or supporting her physically when
she’d briefly collapsed out of sheer exhaustion. No matter her job
description, Beverly was also witnessing Deanna’s choices grow slimmer
and slimmer.
Who to choose? And if she made that decision, and it was the wrong
one, who would die because of that choice? Will? Her Imzadi? Or her
mother who could destroy what she enjoyed about the most about Will
Riker with a snap of her fingers? No matter how many times she thought
about it, Deanna always ended up shaking her head and screaming
internally at how unfair this all was.
“Deanna?” A light hand gently touched her shoulder. Lost in thought
she hadn’t heard her newest consort approaching.
“Sorry. I was light years away.” She smiled, trying to hide her
worry from the Captain.
She sensed his liquid emotions stirring up her own. His worry and
support for her, the weighty dose of compassion for Will Riker, and a
layer of disbelief over this whole event.
“I'm sorry to bother you but Beverly thinks she can cure your mother
quicker than first thought. Something other than the conventional
therapies.” Picard said, unsure whether he was giving her false hope or
Looking through the glass, he viewed the static display of Will
Riker, bare except for the thermal blanket draped over his stomach and
“I’m sure he'll be fine for a few moments if you would like to come
with me?” He prompted, waiting for her to pull her hand from the
“Thank you Sir.”
Deanna gave a small smile and released her grip for the first time
since arriving. Would it be easier to part company to save him?
Following her captain she began to wonder if leaving his side right now
wasn’t symbolic of the choice she might just have to make.
“Hold on Imzadi, help is coming, hold on,” she whispered before she
stepped through the doorway and back into the bustle of sickbay.


= FIVE =

“See this?” Beverly asked holding up a pointer to the latest brain
scan of Lwaxana Troi.
The dark rings around her eyes magnified under the stringent
lighting of sickbay.
“I'm sorry Beverly, but what am I supposed to be looking at?” Unsure
of the magnified grey matter spread before him, Picard pursed his lips
and waited for the medical garble he was sure to never understand.
“Her para cortex is inflamed,” Deanna answered for him.
“Uh huh. Correct,” Beverly said before turning off the display and
moving to beside Deanna's sedated mother. “Normally the treatment used
to cure this virus just destroys the virus and allows the brain to heal
naturally. But if we destroy the virus and treat the inflamed areas,
her higher reasoning should come back online sooner. And hopefully halt
her slaughter of Will's memories.”
Beverly held a small vial of blue liquid between her fingers. An
impressive smile on her face.
“And that's the answer?” Picard asked as Deanna looked down upon her
mother’s beatific face and held her hand.
“Yes. But I wanted Deanna's permission to use it first. It's
experimental and could either heal Lwaxana or make her worse.”
Beverly's eyes sought out Deanna's dark ringed orbs. A mirror of her
own. Beverly had already discussed the option hours earlier, while
under going pre-testing. She’d had time and had been weighing up the
choices ever since.
Deanna stood silently for a while, re-evaluating her decision before
answering with a quick nod and a silent, “yes.”
Beverly called over Nurse Ogawa, and together they began taking
readings, before and after the hiss of the hypo marked the contents
penetration into the bloodstream.
“Blood pressure increasing, now lowering to normal levels. Increase
of brain activity. Inflammation decreasing and virus content 40% and
reducing,” intoned Ogawa as Beverly waited patiently.
Over the next 20 minutes all four watched and waited as the virus
dissipated. Until finally…
“Virus content 0% and inflammation is nil.”
The joy lacing her final read out, encompassed the young nurses
face, and Beverly soon dismissed her with silent praise.
“She'll be alright?” Deanna asked, knowing already that her mother
was starting to wake, from the familiar warm tingle that her mother’s
praise always gave.
“She'll be annoying the captain in no time.” The doctor smiled
seeing the Captain grimace. “But for now, it’s time we left. She needs
to rest and recover while I go check on Will. I'll need to release him
in another hour, and for his sake, I truly hope your mother has changed
her point of view.”
They all began to move off, but Deanna lagged behind.
“How bad is the damage to Will?” Deanna asked with fear lacing every
Beverly turned back to Deanna, waiting for the Captain to leave
sickbay before she proceeded.
“We're not sure. But we can say there is some memory loss in
comparison scans, but we don't know what until he's conscious. I'm
sorry Deanna.”
She rested a light hand on the tiny Betazoid's shoulder, hoping to
bring some comfort to her friend.
“You've done all you can Beverly, and for that I'm grateful, I only
hope that this nightmare ends soon,” Deanna replied before turning back
to her mother to await her awakened consciousness.


Lwaxana sat up on her biobed looking less than proud of her latest
movements. She'd awoken to Beverly's kind face, but had also read the
good doctor's distress. After a few tests and some kind words, Beverly
had left her alone with Deanna. Both had said nothing verbally so far.
And seeing as Beverly had requested that Lwaxana halt any telepathic
usage for the time being, Beverly knew the Ambassador was still mulling
over what to say to her dear daughter. What should one say when you’d
nearly killed the man your daughter was bonded so closely too. A man
she considered as her son in law.
“Poor William,” she cried quietly as she searched for the Commander,
to find nothing but a blank wall, a mixture of medication and the
stasis field working in tandem. “Oh Deanna! What have I done to the
poor boy?” she cried as her daughter came ever so slowly and calmly
towards her.
“Mother?” Deanna’s quiet voice shook the woman from her dread,
relieved that her actions had not broken the love and understanding of
mother and daughter. Then moved to sit beside Lwaxana and grasp her
hands within her own. Steadying both their fidgeting. “Doctor Crusher
said you’re well enough now to move around. But she wants to keep you
under observation for a bit longer, before allowing you back to your
quarters.” Deanna said, changing subject.
“Tell me how he is Deanna, please, I can still see him pleading in
my memories.”
To see the daughter of the fifth house reduced to tears like this,
was something she’s hoped never to see again. Not since her father had
died. Unable to hold back any longer, Deanna broke down before her,
letting her tears to drop for every scream Will had made.
“Beverly's bringing him out of stasis now. We don't know how bad he
is yet. But the brain scans show some damage.”
Deanna turned away, unable to look at Will’s aggressor in the eye.
The damage had been done. Lwaxana knew this. She also knew by
tentatively reading her daughter’s mind, that she didn't fully hold her
mother to blame, but still was unsure if it was truly safe for her
precious Imzadi to arise from the safety of stasis.
“You felt it. You felt every little piece of him flighting away,
didn’t you little one?”
She spoke quietly as she rubbed a hand up and down her daughters
shaking spine. Her quiet sobs receding as her mother ushered forward
feelings of calm and comfort.
“He was so afraid. He couldn't hide from you. I could feel the pain
as you burned a trail through his mind. I've never felt him so scared
before,” she whispered, looking down again to her mother’s fingers as
she gripped them tightly. “Will you help restore him?” she asked.
Lwaxana smiled.
“If he'll let me,” she sighed sadly. “The poor boy. I'll do anything
I can to reverse what I did. Sickness or not, I should never of done
that to him. The counsel of daughters will have to hear of this. There
is bound to be a punishment for my crime.”
Deanna's head shot up at this last statement.
“But it wasn't your fault, you weren't yourself!”
Lwaxana placed two fingers to her daughter’s mouth, using Will’s own
silencing gesture, as her own.
“I should’ve seen someone when I first felt unwell. Regardless of
ill health, I did something that no Betazoid has been allowed within
our society for millennia. Not even a Daughter of a Royal House should
be excused of a heinous crime such as this. I'll be fine little one,
but I believe you should go see Will now. Let him know that I harbour
no ill will against him. Please Deanna, do this for me?”
A tired looking lady sat where only a few moments before had lain
the regal Lwaxana, Daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed. Would the
holder of the Holy Rings of Betazed and Sacred Chalice of Rixx, soon be
no more?
Deanna nodded sullenly and left as she felt the tingling of
another's mind clawing for help.
“I'm coming Will,” she called back to the sender, verbally than
mentally, in fear of frightening him.

= SIX =

“It's alright Will, you’re safe now. You can wake up and give me one
of those big cheeky Riker grins,” coaxed Beverly as she stood next to
his bed within the stasis chamber.
The field had been turned off and her patient seemed more relaxed
than when he'd first entered the room. Though the constant shivering of
limbs still revealed the panic and shock he was still dealing with. As
the effects of stasis wore off he started to return to a sub level on
consciousness. Extremely vulnerable and disorientated, he groaned and
called for her help. Unaware that it was Beverly and not Deanna by his
A moment later and a breathless Deanna ran into the room, taking
Beverly's place as the doctor passed over the warm cloying hands and
moved out of her way.
“He's all yours counsellor,” Beverly said swapping relieved smiles
with her best friend.
“Thank you. I had to do some motherly comforting first, but she is
sleeping a little sounder now.”
Deanna’s gaze was directed to the bare chested beauty below her,
rather than Beverly as she spoke. But the red haired doctor was not at
all worried. She was more interested in watching Will's long dark
eyelashes flicker as he struggled to embrace consciousness. Deanna
finally looked up to her closest friend.
“How bad? Or do we have to wait?” she asked moving closer to sit
beside him on the stasis bed.
“It's up to Will to wake and tell us. He'll be disorientated for a
while, but we should know the quantity of damage once the swelling of
his brain goes down.”
Beverly took a few more scans and then packed away her medicorder,
looking back to Deanna as she whispered quiet words to Will.
“He’s over the worst now Deanna, it’s just the road to recovery
ahead of him now.” Beverly sympathetically squeezed her friend’s
shoulder and packed up her equipment. “Let me know when he wakes will
you? We'll need to move him back to sickbay later. And I'd prefer him
Deanna's nod was all she needed to leave them alone. Deanna sat with
him for an hour before he began to show signs of returning to the real
world. The blink blink of eyelids, yielded a slit or two of baby blues,
until he sat up abruptly, nearly wobbling off the bed itself. At first
she thought he’d just turn to her and grin his usual sickbay sheepish
grin, but this time he whimpered as the bright lights startled his wide
Slamming them shut, he dropped Deanna’s comforting hands to cover
his face, and cried out “No!” and recoiled into a frightened ball.
After a moment, he calmed to feel the soft rubbing of a hand across
the curl of his spine. Once he realised that the pain was no longer
piercing his mind; of which he'd expected upon waking. He opened his
eyes and relaxed his hands away from his face once more to view a woman
sitting next to him on the bed. A soft beeping echoed within the room,
along with the chemical smells that he remembered; the smells that
chased away sickness. He took a deep breath and smiled at the dark
haired lady with black eyes, hoping she wasn't going to hurt him. But
as his awareness of his surroundings widened, so did the memory of the
agony he had undergone. Images flashed and he moved backward on the bed
when he realised how much she looked like the angry one. The same
similar flash of dark eyes and dark curly hair caused him to stumble
off the bed before she could stop him.
The hard smack of flesh hitting the floor, alerted Beverly to come
running, finding a butt naked Will Riker face down on the floor crying
out for forgiveness. Kneeling down to Will’s side she gazed up to see
Deanna standing by the bed, motionless and distraught.
“What happened?” Beverly asked breathlessly as Will suddenly
launched himself at her waist and hung onto her for dear life.
She struggled to get a bit more air into her lungs from his bracing
hug as he clambered up her to press his head into her chest.
“Recollection perhaps?” Deanna said, unsure of what to do next.
In all Will's previous accidents, she'd been able to use their past
experiences to bring him back, but now in his current state she had no
base to start with.
Beverly turned back to look down to the brown mop of hair that was
trying to become one with her chest.
“Always the first place to run to Will,” Beverly muttered shaking
her smiling face.
He was cold to the touch, as Beverly placed a hand on his back and
began to rub it to comfort him. Deanna soon draping a blanket over his
form, before Beverly had to say a thing; she too had seen the marching
goosebumps covering his bare skin.
“I’m sorry Deanna. Can you get Ogawa in here for me? Will's covering
up my communicator,” Beverly asked.
Her request was two pronged, one to keep Deanna busy and two to
remove her in aid of calming Will down. She hated doing it, but she
knew Deanna would understand her reasons. Deanna’s quiet footsteps
retreated and louder hurried ones returned as Ogawa moved to her side
with a complete medikit.
“10cc's of Calmitrine, Alyssa, he needs to relax a little so I can
get him to unclench from around me. Let me breathe again.”
Alyssa smiled at the situation the doctor was now in. A naked
patient, with a mother need.
“I’m just going to give you something to help you. It won’t hurt,”
Beverly announced to the brown mop, hesitant to do anything without his
prior knowledge.
Waiting for a few minutes, she then applied the hypo. His usual jerk
from the hiss of a hypo missing. His limbs soon became heavily relaxed,
she slowly unwound his arms from her, to lift him back to bed with the
aid of Ogawa and a med tech.
“Do you know who I am?” Beverly asked, looking into the sleepy blue
She watched him swallow hard and attempt to form the words, his sore
vocal cords eventually pronouncing the name ‘Beverly’.
“Good. And your name?” she prompted with a smile.
“W…W...Will.” He stammered, as he struggled upwards, letting the
blanket slide to his hips.
Beverly smiled and took a medicorder from Alyssa.
“We just had to give you a relaxant to calm you down Will. You'll be
fine soon.” She looked into the slowly blinking eyes and sighed. “You
do understand that I won't hurt you. Don't you?” she asked further.
Will nodded slowly and then turned a wide smile in her direction,
before turning his gaze back to his blanketed lap. Placing a hand on
his shoulder he lifted his gaze once more.
“This is Alyssa, she’s going to be helping me to look after you. You
can trust her too.”
He nodded sleepily once more before lying back down. His eyes
drifting shut. Beverly looked to see Alyssa smiling too.
“He's still a little shell shocked. Get some supplies and clean him
up, but let him stay in here. I don't want to be changing environments
on him so soon,” she said before squeezing his hand and exiting the



A light knock on the frame and the captain moved to take the spare
seat before her padd covered desk.
“Any news?” He sat expectantly.
Beverly mused at a time when that rapping on the frame habit,
belonged to Will Riker. A small smile graced her face as she pondered
how positive a force Will Riker was to everyone upon this infamous
Picard’s query drew her back to the harsh present.
“Sorry, it’s been a long two days,” she apologised. “He's awake, but
he's still looking like a frightened animal,” she said stretching as
she leaned back into her office chair.
“Lwaxana does that to me at the best of times, let alone when she's
this determined to exact revenge,” the captain confessed.
“His reaction to Deanna wasn't good either. I spent quite a bit of
time trying to extricate myself from him. Her similar features probably
reminded him of Lwaxana.”
She shook her head at the memory of Will’s horror.
Looking back through the office window, Picard scanned the main
sickbay for the people in question.
“So where exactly are the trio?”
“Lwaxana is in her quarters now. Deanna's with her making sure she
doesn't spiral further into depression. And Will is still in the stasis
ward. Alyssa's making him presentable.” She smiled, rallying them off
on her fingers in order.
“Can I see him?” Picard asked. Beverly’s hesitation drew him to sit
forward, raising his hands in surrender. “Nothing confrontational. I’d
just like to what these reports are saying in person.”
Her concerns were more directed to the man before her. The captain
and first officer worked as a team, a well oiled machine, but was one
of the cogs out of alignment? And how would Jean Luc cope in such an
awkward moment?
“I’m sorry Jean Luc, I’m still a little protective of him I guess.
But I think a small visit might help in dictating his awareness
She led the way, wandering the short distance to the specialist
ward. Accessing the door release panel, they soon came upon Alyssa, as
she exited the glassed cubicle’s threshold. Holding open the door for
her senior offices, Alyssa re-adjusted her cleaning wares, nodding to
the Captain.
“You can enter now Sir. He's all crisp, clean and ready for a friend
or two.”
“Thanks Alyssa,” Beverly said chaperoning the captain in first as
she watched Alyssa move off to finish her other duties.
Picard entered the cavernous room, a section of the ship that he’d
hardly stepped foot in, nor needed too. Glancing around the interior,
he spied Will sitting up and clothed in the usual sickbay shorts and
t-shirt, warily watching this new visitor to his small world. His hair
was still damp and spiked from Alyssa’s ministrations, and the signs of
distress hung under his eyes in darkened rings. The flash of his
bio-monitor, attached to the underside of his wrist, was the only
detail that hinted that the stasis field was turned off. Will still sat
rock still, watching his new visitor. As he sat waiting for Picard’s
next step forward, the monitor continued relaying data to the ship's
medical computer, checking his health with every rapid heart beat.
“Number One…” The captain cleared his throat and changed his
greeting as curiosity flashed across Will's face. “I’m sorry…How are
you feeling Will?”
Will looked first to Beverly and then the captain before answering.
“Fine. Where am I?” he asked shakily.
Picard turned back to the doctor, his eyes demanding that this was
only a temporary ailment. Beverly gave an apologetic look before
answering Will's question. The man himself had begun to shrink back
from the deathly quiet.
“You're in sickbay Will. The captain wanted to see how you were
doing,” she said, noticing how he relaxed within her proximity.
In the past few days, Beverly had been his only relief from Lwaxana,
courtesy of her bag of drugs. No wonder he looked to her for help.
“What do you remember?” Picard asked, searching for more of the man
he knew.
“Pain. My head still hurts,” Will answered the captain, sensing that
deception was not his aim, only an air of authority that bade him to
answer truthfully.
He then started to look around at his surroundings, curiosity
flashing across the pale features, until Picard cleared his throat. If
it was at all possible, Will Riker seemed to fold into himself at the
Captain’s scrutiny of him. The doctor took this pause to bring some
comfort to her captain.
“His neural pathways are still inflamed. We’ve administered a series
of hypos already, but only time will tell as to the total amount of
memory he’s retained. “
“Very well Doctor, keep me informed.”
He gave one last look back to the cringing man and gave a wistful
look in his direction before turning on his heel and heading for the
comfort of his bridge.
“I've done something wrong haven't I?” Will spoke.
The captain's intense presence still hung throughout the room.
“No Will. He was just hoping you'd be a little bit better by now.
He's concerned about you. Don't worry, you'll be fine in a few days
time, and we can both make the captain happy,” she said as she helped
Will lie back down. “Get some rest. I’ll check in on you later.”
She smiled as she mothered his errant hair lock back into place. Her
mind was churning, as to how to settle Will. She sighed heavily as she
coded the glass doors closed. Counselling patients after injury was
Deanna’s job, but were they both ready for another meeting? She felt
helpless as it was, to give the best benefits to Will right now. Making
the hard decision then and there, she slapped her communicator and
located the counsellor before heading out of sickbay.



“He's terrified of me,” Deanna cried as Lwaxana hugged her child. “He
ran to Beverly for help, not me!” she blurted for the sixth time in the
last hour.

Lwaxana sat quietly, rubbing her daughters back, and realising the
mess she had created. Deanna and Will Riker were Imzadi. Not that they
indulged that often in the wonder. For the last few years, they’d
distanced themselves from each other, being ‘just friends’ as Deanna
called it. But an underlying love for each other was slowly digging
away at their celibate barriers. In fact, Lwaxana was sure that at this
moment, if it hadn't been for the virus, she could have been discussing
engagement plans. She sighed and begged for the sacred followers of
Rixx to spare her daughter of this rift she had torn through their

“Probably just an unbalanced reaction my dear. He was still no doubt
woozy. You did say he’d been sedated a long time,” she comforted Deanna
until the door buzzed for their attention.

Breaking her repetitive explanations, to divulge the caller into
their presence, she commanded ‘enter’.

Doctor Crusher entered the Ambassador's quarters, noting the omission
of both attendants, and headed for the bedroom to find Deanna curled up
in her mothers embrace.

“Sorry to bother you Ambassador, but could I talk to Deanna alone?”
Beverly asked.

“I'm not moving,” Deanna murmured between sniffs.

“Fine,” Beverly said as she entered the room and took up residence on
the chair beside Lwaxana's bed.

“Will needs your help,” she stated, bringing Deanna's head up
quickly, revealing her red swollen eyes.

“That's not what he said before.” Deanna blurted, her lower lip
warbling as she tried to keep her tears under control.

“He mistook you for your mother.”

Beverly paused as she heard Deanna's scoff.

“You do have the same hair and eyes, my dear,” Lwaxana said softly.
“I told you he was still muddled from being in stasis. The poor boy no
doubt saw the same wonderful qualities I have in you, little one,"
Lwaxana shook her head in sorrow and held her daughter at arms length.

“For my sake Deanna, I need you to help him, put aside his fear and
bring out his bravery.” She rallied.

Deanna sniffed again and looked first to her mother then Beverly.

“He does need you Deanna. I can't help him, it's not my area, and I'm
afraid I could make him worse,” Beverly professed.

Deanna put on a pale smile and moved from the bed. Pressing out
imaginary creases in her uniform.

“Then I'd better go then. My Imzadi needs me.” She smiled, one corner
wavering, and ready to crumble.

“He does Deanna, he truly does,” Lwaxana encouraged.

And with a deep cleansing breath and a brief readjusting of her hair,
Deanna left the room to face her biggest fear, her fear of loss, and to
fight for what she had worked for so long to have. Will Riker.


Deanna moved cautiously into the large sterile room, heading towards
her goal, passing her fingers through her hair. Ever since her mother's
comment of how much alike they were, she'd been self conscious of her
image towards Will, to the point that she had detoured to her quarters
and re-style it to hopefully bring about a different reaction from Will
this time.

A steady breathing synchronised with the rise and fall of the
blanket, and a sense of comfort emanated from him, as she silently
approached his sleeping face. She paused, a hand above his shoulder,
hovering with indecision to wake him, or to gently comfort him in
slumber. Part of her also kept her hand in place in case he should
start. He sighed deeply and rolled to one side. His body readjusting to
his new position, but senses more alert, he started to wake to her
presence. When she placed a steady hand on his shoulder, he woke
further, eyelids twitching and mouth grimacing. She watched and waited
as he stirred enough to open his blue eyes, melting her with their
innocence, as they shone with muted awareness. But as Deanna moved
forward to gently pry the hair out of his eyes, he moved back out of
arms reach, teetering on the edge of the bed, that is until she moved
back herself allowing him the comforting feel of space between them.

“I'm Deanna.” She smiled. “Do you remember me?” she urged.

Will moved back to the middle of the bed and sat up, swinging his
legs over the edge and stared back at her with mild curiosity.

“Sure. You're one of the medical staff,” he replied in a cheeky manor.

Looking down to her blue uniform top, she smiled back.

“No Will. A proper answer. No guesses. Who am I? I need to discern if
there's any memory loss,” she prompted by raising an eyebrow.

He took a deep breath and allowed a frown to wipe the smile from his

“I don't know, you tell me,” he sighed and dropped his hands to play
with the corner of the silver blanket. “None of the medical staff of
late would answer any of my questions. And the one short bald guy, with
too much concern to be just a ‘commanding officer’, waltzed in and left
pretty quick smart when he discovered I wasn’t ‘my old self’ so to
speak,” he shrugged nonchalantly, his nature way too wrong to be the
‘whole’ Will Riker.

Deanna began to be concerned. She'd assumed his first answer was to
jibe her. But now she was seriously considering a major loss of memory
as a true reality. Moving forward again, she took the chair that had
been placed beside his bed, and decided to ask some closer to home
questions to make a start.

“Do you know what ship we're on?”

She sat back and waited for his reply. He seemed peaceful. Not at all
frightened as he had been on their first meeting. He moved his head to
the left and smiled.


“Correct.” She smiled back. “Full name and rank?”

This request drew a bit more of a challenge, as he paused for a
while, even beginning to bite his lower lip in concentration.

“Ah...William...William Thomas Riker.”

He sat looking proud, almost as proud as Deanna until the next thing
he said, brought Deanna's happiness crumbling down.


He immediately added a crooked smile as he watched her eyes sadden.
He knew he'd said something wrong.

“Will. You’re not a Lieutenant anymore, you’re a Commander. Think
hard. Is this true?” she asked watching him start to loose his easy
going nature.

Distress was starting to take over. He began mumbled facts and
figures to himself, trying to piece together enough information to make
a worthy answer to her question.

“I was on the Hood, but I was also on....what was it
called?...Enterprise... yes... now think back...” He struggled with the
holes in his thoughts, fighting for some clarity. “Pegasus... then the
Hood...then Enterprise. I must be a Commander or at least a Lieutenant
Commander by now.” He looked Deanna straight in the eye and proclaimed,
“Commander Riker.”

She nodded.

“You had a little help from me, but yes, you are Commander Riker. Do
you know your position on this ship?”

“You seem familiar?” he said, ignoring her last question.

Following his lead, she prompted him further, “how so?”

“I don't know, just a feeling, like... like you’re familiar,” he said
going round in circles.

“Will. Tell me something your can recall, anything, just let it
flow,” she urged.

“Forests. Snow. Ice fishing. Starfleet Academy. A beautiful woman
from Jernius IV who can pour the best sumarian jintz cocktails this
side of Fornax,” he smiled then and waited for her reaction, knowing
for some reason that she'd hate it.

“Now that's more the Will Riker I know,” she replied knowing a bait
when he dangled one.

He smiled and slipped off the bed to shuffled his way around the
room, beginning to pace out a pattern to help him think. To Deanna, it
at least showed that he still had his habitual prompts, a good sign.

“Think Beverly will be mad if she catches me out of bed?” he winked
and watched as her mouth gaped in shock.

“So you know who Beverly is?”

“Yeah. Me and doc go way back. Seven...eight years now. Same
with…some mechanical guy...and a Klingon. In fact…I command them don't
I?” he asked as clarity improved, to each and every new thought he
expounded upon.

“Yes Will. You’re the executive officer of this ship.”

He smiled, satisfied that he’d somehow managed to get her to answer
her own question earlier.

“But I don't know you? Where are you from?”


= NINE =

“But I don't know you? Where are you from?”

He gave a sheepish look, seeing the hurt in her eyes.

“From Betazed...”

The immediate gasp from his lips, permeated the air, and brought
Deanna running to his side in no time.

“Hurts!” he yelled, pressing his hands tightly to his head.

He was panting as the already scared neural pathways flared up once
more. Deanna immediately slapped her communicator, calling for help,
and moving to embrace him. Calmly whispering his name over and over
again, until he uncoiled and tuned into her voice, allowing her to take
his hands away, replacing them with her own.

What seemed like years, but truly only seconds later, Beverly burst
into the room with Ogawa. Spying her patient sitting on the floor, with
Deanna coaxing him to concentrate on her words.

“What happened?” Beverly asked scanning him before and administering
a painkiller.

As the drug raced around his heightened system, Will visibly relaxed
and slumped into Deanna's embrace.

“We were reviewing his memory, when he asked where I was from. The
brief mention of my home planet's name sent him immediately into
seizure.” She shook her head. “Oh mother, what have you done?” she
whispered as she cradled Will against her.

His muffled breathing the only sign that he was still in pain.

“Let's get him back to bed first, then we'll see what Lwaxana's...”
Beverly was cut short by another cry from the shrunken commander.


Another whimper broke through, and Beverly witnessed Will's pain
flash across Deanna’s petite Betazoid features. Deanna gripped him
tighter, swallowing hard at realising that even her own presence was
the cause of his distress.

“I'm alright. Let me up, please,” a quiet voice wheezed.

As Beverly stood up and offered a hand to Will, he slowly held up his
head and glanced at Deanna warily, before quickly turning his watery
eyes away. He took Beverly's hand and unsteadily stumbled back to the
bed, turning his back to them all.

“Where's her mother?” Will asked nervously.

“Shhh Will. Just relax. She's not here. You're safe from her.”

This comment brought relief to Will, shown only by the drooping of
guarded shoulders. Beverly pulled the covers back over Will's form, and
produced two small devices that she attached to his temples with
Ogawa’s help.

“This is to help soothe your brain Will. It's been through a lot the
last few days and we need to help it repair itself. You'll feel a
little sleepy, so feel free to get a little rest.”

She smiled, watching as Will returned hers with a sleepy countenance,
his eyelids closing in slow motion.

“Goodnight Will.” She whispered, before leaving the Commander to
dream, walking out the door with Deanna in tow.


“Alright. We now know that the mention of your mother's name, and
‘Betazed’ causes him pain, but they may only be due to association with
punishment from Lwaxana. We'll know more by tomorrow, the amount and
permanency of his amnesia,” the doctor announced, as she progressed
through her latest scan results.

Beverly and Deanna we're both in her office now, sorting out their
patient's details and future treatments.

“From what mother has told me, she literally began tearing up past
memories that included the both of us. What she couldn't tell me was
how far back she went. But my talk with Will, earlier on, showed he
didn't even recognise me.”

Beverly butted in trying to comfort her friend, “I'm sure it's only
temporary. Lwaxana didn't erase as much as she thought. I checked his
brain scans, and yes, he's lost about 10 percent of his cellular
memory, but you've both known each other for so long that there's no
way Lwaxana could’ve purged everything about you.”

Her hand rested on Deanna's, showing support for her friend, trapped
in the middle of a bizarre love triangle. She needed to counsel Will
Riker, her job demanded it, but this was near impossible seeing as she
was part of the cause.

“So we wait then,” she gave a weak smile.

“Uh huh. We let the little boy in there sleep off most of the
sedatives in his system and review his memory again later tomorrow. But
in the meantime, I need you to get some sleep counselor. Will is going
to need you tomorrow, and I want you rested for the emotional barrage
he may pass onto you.”

Beverly stood and made a shooing gesture. Deanna stood and complied,
knowing Beverly was right, and she hadn't the energy to disagree, she
was nearly asleep on her feet.

Beverly watched her leave before grabbing her padds to make her way
to Jean Luc's quarters to give him an up-date on his first officer.


“I feel like such an idiot,” groaned Will as he sat-up after eighteen
hours of sleep.

“Oh. And why is this?” asked Beverly as she peeled the devices off
his forehead and gave him a quick scan.

“I know who Deanna is. Why on earth didn't I remember? I may as well
of stabbed her in the heart for all intent and purpose.”

He dropped his hands heavily into his lap and stared at them before
raising his head a little to look at Beverly through a swath of lose

“She knows you wouldn't hurt her on purpose Will. I think she was
more distraught about what her mother had done to you than her own

She moved his hair back from his face, remembering doing it to her
own son a few times, in fact Will Riker could sometimes look just like
a young kid when he wanted to. The only thing missing was a pouting
lip. She smiled inwardly and moved away from his bedside.

“You can get up and go to your quarters if you like, but I do want to
check-up on you twice a day. And Deanna will need to see you this
afternoon as well.”

He nodded and slowly untwisted the sheets from around his long legs
and got down from the stasis bed.

“Walk with me? I still feel a bit unsteady,” he confessed.


She smiled and linked an arm through his and guided him out of the
stasis chamber, towards home.


= TEN =

Soft snores where the first sounds Deanna heard as she stepped
through the doors to Will's quarters. She'd used the door chime a
couple of times, until she realised that he was probably zonked out on
Beverly’s meds to sleep through it. Moving quietly, she followed the
source of the snores in the half light. The Enterprisewas orbiting
Klernough III to pick up resources and a few travellers from the mining
colony, so the planet's glow reflected throughout the room enough to
allow a heavily shadowed view of her destination. Half on and half off
the couch lay her patient and Imzadi. Lifting an arm, she brought part
of his body back onto the couch, making him shift further from her
touch. He mumbled something into the couch, and then rolled onto his
side, eyes still closed, but his face no longer flattened into the

“Good morning sleepy head,” Deanna whispered as his eyes twitched
slowly open, adjusting to the gloom and to the glowing face before him.

He forced his eyes open wider, realising he'd fallen asleep, and
struggled into an up-right position.

“Hi,” he smiled sheepishly and stifled a yawn.

“Hi yourself. Feel like a drink?” she offered as she read him, seeing
him become more aware of his surroundings minute by minute, in the half

“Sure. Coffee thanks. I need something to stimulate life back into
this body,” he grinned, placing a version of his usual trademark smile
upon his face, but it failed to erase the strain around his eyes.

As the steaming cup of Columbian coffee and the hot chocolate made
wild passionate love with their twisting columns of steam, rising from
the surface of his coffee table, Will gazed into their steamy dance
until a question popped into his mind.

“So...I suppose you want to know what holes I have in here?”

His awkward question brought her eyes down to the steam trails, no
long brave enough to look him in the eye.

She took her time answering, “First, I'd like to apologise for...”

“Whoa.” Will’s hands shot out to catch her in case she ran. “Wait a
minute Deanna, don't apologise to me. It wasn't your fault. Your mother
may have had a rather nasty point of view about me, recently, but there
was no way you could’ve stopped it or any sooner.”

Will had broken into her apology, knowing that this whole episode was
hurting her deeply.

“Firstly, I'm having trouble remembering how we met. But I do
remember bits of our tour on board both Enterprise’s, although they're
pretty sketchy with a few blurred holes here and there. As for anything
else...I can honestly say that I have no idea.”

“And secondly?” Deanna prompted, realising that his session had
already started before she'd initiated it.

“Secondly, that I still love you.” Will watched as his words cause
her eyes to water. “Besides, who wouldn't pass up the opportunity to
dance with a mystery woman as gorgeous as you?”

At this, Deanna threw him a dirty look, knowing that Beverly would
disapprove of a pillow fight with her patient.

“Sometimes Will Riker, I wish I knew how your head works. But then
there are times I prefer the mystery, and the left field comments. It
keeps me on my toes.”

She lent forward to clasp one of his hands in her own, only to find
herself pulled in tight to his chest. With Deanna struggling back away
from him only moments later.

“Problem?” Will asked, worried that he'd done something wrong.

“No. But your chest hair did tickle my nose. Can't you contain it?”
Deanna jibed knowing that he knew she loved running her fingers through

“Sorry. It's got its own mind. Plus you could blame Beverly,” he
continued, drawing Deanna into further mystery.

She could see a flicker of humour haunting his eyes, but was unsure
of its content.


“Yeah. She's the one who gave me these sickbay clothes to wear, not
to mention the medication she's been pumping into me, left me too tired
to get changed before becoming one with the couch.”

He fell back heavily into the couch and Deanna leaned in once more,
careful to keep her nose chest free.

“You know...I shouldn't be working like this. It's against all
medical rules about counsellor/patient ties,” Deanna said as she sat
listening to his wonderful heartbeat.

“Who's going to tell? I'm not.” He grinned and pulled her in closer,
relishing in the way she made him feel as one, although not sure why.
“So tell me how we did meet. Perhaps we can fill up these holes just by
talking about it,” he suggested.

“No Will. Sorry, but we have to let your memories filter back in
first, then if all else fails, we can fill you in. Beverly thought it
would be best. Besides, maybe my mother can help.”

She felt Will cringe at the suggestion. It gave her a chance to gauge
his level of trust where her mother was concerned, knowing it was too
soon for him to meet, let alone let her walk through his mind.

“I won't ask my mother until your request it, Will,” she assured him.
“You need to feel confident and relaxed before I'll allow it.”

Deanna felt him nod his head and made a mental note to ask him for
his permission each step of the way. This wasn't the old Will Riker who
dashed blindly into any situation if it benefited him or others, this
was the new Will Riker who had become wary and needed to face the facts
before leaping into oblivion.

They stayed that way, curled into each other, a few questions here
and there for her own use and for the records, until the chime keened,
requesting entry for Doctor Crusher. Will gave the command and the
doors opened, with Beverly squinting into the half light after the
harsh lighting of the corridor.

“Do I need to call Geordi or are you having a romantic dinner?” she
queried about the lights.

“Come in Beverly. It's time I left Will so I can get some of my other
work done,” Deanna said starting to get up from the couch, but Will's
hand circled her waist and brought her back to his lap.

“But you haven't finished counselling me yet. Surely that's a breach
of regulations in the world of counselling,” Will jibed as she
continued to untwine his hands and stand up away from him.

“Now, now, Commander. I said no strenuous activities,” Beverly
chastised him by shaking a finger to his pouting face. “And no
excuses,” she added as he moved to open his mouth once more.

Deanna smiled back at them before thanking her friend for the rescue
and exiting Will's quarters.

“I see you've made up quite nicely,” Beverly said as she sat next to
Will, who was draped casually on the couch, the medicorder tweetering
as she ran it over his body.

He shuffled upright a bit, then smiled.

“I feel like I need to make up for my losses.”

“Just don't wear yourself out Will. This memory loss needs gentle
persuasion to aid total recall. Pushing it won't work,” she admonished
as she opened her medikit and produced a hypo.

“More hypos?” Will whined.

“In a few moments. But first I want you to take a shower and replace
those sickbay clothes with something a little more comfortable,”
Beverly indicated to his blue wrinkled garb with her hypo. “Have you
eaten yet?” she badgered, noticing the sheepish look he gave her as a

“Alright Will Riker. Here's what we'll do,” she said guiding him
upright and towards his bathroom. “You're going to clean yourself up
and I'll organise something light for you to eat before we give you the
kiss of sleep here,” she continued, waving the hypo in his direction
once more.

“Yes Captain.”



“Yes Captain.”

His wisecrack accompanied with a wide grin, earned him a good prod in
the back to get moving. Beverly watched him amble past the door frame,
and waited for a few moments until she heard the sound of water
running. She smiled, remembering Deanna's comments about Will's
preference for water showers rather than the efficient sonics.
Something to do with wild terran men, Deanna had whispered, when Will
hadn't produced a suitable reason. Musing over his obvious tastes,
unsure of what to order him for lunch. She took a chance. Hitting a few
buttons, a plate materialised from the replicator, in the form of a
light lunch of salmon and salad. Checking the time as she laid out the
table, Beverly moved into the bedroom to stand at the bathroom's
threshold, making sure Will was alright. He’d already been in the
shower for sometime now.

Catching movement behind him, Will turned his head from the water in
her direction, bracing himself against the wall, trying to keep the
blackness at bay.

“Dizzy spell?” she queried, grabbing a towel and leaning into the
cubicle to turn off the water pressure to a final few drops.

“I'm fine.”

He shrugged her concern away until black spots swam in front of his
eyes for the second time in only a few moments.

“No you are not,” she helped wrap the towel around his waist “your
blood sugar is low. Let's get you dressed and fed shall we?” and
steadied him until he was able to amble his way back to the bed.

“Thanks Beverly,” he said meekly. “Wasn't expecting it to happen so

“Don't worry. It's nothing serious, you’re out of sync with your body
clock due to the recent stay in stasis. We just need to get you back
online. Here...put these on,” Beverly said as she grabbed some clothes
out of his wardrobe, unconcerned about fossicking through his
clothes. Will Riker was like a brother, and at this moment in time, a
younger brother who needed help from his big sister. “I'll be out there
keeping your lunch company if you need me,” she added before leaving
him alone to replace the towel with something a little more decent.

A cleaner version of a tall broad male sauntered back into the living
room, clad in a fresh pair of black ‘fleet shorts, and an old academy
T-shirt over his shoulder.

“Feel better?” Beverly asked, admiring the view.

Will nodded and moved over to the proffered chair, seating himself at
the table with Beverly sitting opposite, tea in hand.


Hoping to hide the creased forehead that was proclaiming in large
letters that his head was throbbing with pain. That was until a pain
started to throb behind his left eye ball. He sat heavily and rubbed
the irritated eye, unaware that he’d groaned lightly.

“Have something to eat and we'll fix that head of yours afterwards,”
Beverly suggested, pouring herself another cup of tea.

He complied after dragging the t-shirt over his head, slowly taking
cutlery in hand, prodding the various pieces of his own meal, till her
gaze encouraged him on.

“You know that Deanna will get jealous if she catches us lunching
together,” he jibed, watching Beverly smile over the rim of her tea

“Just eat Will Riker, before I pull rank.”

Moments later and Beverly was finishing up her scans, ready to check
his test results, as Will stretched after a rather long yawn.

“Let me guess. Time to rest my weary bones,” Will said as he placed
the various lunchtime clutter on the table into the replicator.

“Correct. I suggest we move to the bedroom and get you comfortable.
This is going to knock you out for a while, and pretty quick at that.
You've still got a little inflammation in the forward lobes that we
need to soothe with a little R and R.”

Nodding in agreement, Will stood up and swayed a little before making
his way to his bed. Resting his weary body beneath the covers before he
fell down. Unsure if he should admit it to Beverly.

“Your balance will be off a little due to the inflammation, so don’t
worry about the drunken swagger. This gift of sleep should help.”

She smiled and administered the hypo, watching as Will's blue eyes
slowly unfocused themselves before his eyelids covered them.

“Thank you,” he murmured before his head wobbled sideways.

Pulling up the covers, Beverly settled a blanket on top of his dozing
form, and gave him a light squeeze to the arm before picking up her
equipment to leave him to his dreams. Dreams she hoped that would aid
rather than distress.


The view screen diagram snapped off with the press of the padds
sensitive membrane, and Beverly settled down to give her verbal

“We've run all sorts of tests so far, and his physical aspects are
all in the clear, apart from a few errant headaches.”

“But his mental aspect?” Picard asked as he refilled each of their
tea cups from the large porcelain pot.

Curls of Earl Grey steam scented the room like an old friend, a calm
reminder that sometimes all could be well with the universe. A
comfortable feeling that Beverly had come to love. Though right now,
the tea wasn’t working its usual benefits. Taking a sip of her tea
before continuing, using the time to her patient’s advantage, she
milled over the right words in her mind, structuring the right thing to

“He is still missing certain areas, dear memories, that quite frankly
are like they were skilfully severed. Deanna and I have run memory
tests which he's passed a hundred and more percent, but when it comes
to certain events that contain Deanna, he's completely baffled.” Blue
eyes flashed in anger, although she tried to hide the hurt that had
been done to her friend, he still knew when she looked his way. “They
were like an over friendly couple before, and now, he doesn't know how
he should react around her, because he can't rely on past experiences.
It's tearing Deanna to pieces every time he asks how they met. It was
supposed to be the most fairy tale-like meeting, a beautiful part of
their memories. Now all he has is the present.”

She blew away an errant strand of hair and clenched her cup more

“Have you started replanting his memories?”

Picard had been reading up on various treatments and it was the most
simplistic, a way of rebuilding his past by discussing past events with
friends and family. A last resort used by many victims of amnesia or
other such tragedies where a recent or past memory had been lost. From
their earlier discussion, Beverly has ruled any chance of
neurologically rebuilding them within sickbay, seeing as there were no
threads to tie.

“No. I still believe that Lwaxana may be able to bring them back.
There are some parts missing, but generally most of his memories are
hiding. It's almost like a treasure hunt, we just have to find the map
to fit the trail, and that's still Lwaxana as my best bet,” she

“Would Will allow her to do this?” Picard questioned, unsure of the
current relationship between the Ambassador and Riker.

“I haven't asked him yet. He still shivers, although he pretends he
doesn't, when I mention her. Deanna's working on a plan to get him to
trust her again. Could take a while, but it's the better choice.”

She’d placed the cup back down to the ready room desk, playing with
the handle absentmindedly.

“Even with this loss of memory, does it still declare him unfit for
duty, as I would like to fill the rather large hole in my senior
staff,” Picard requested.

Pouring himself another cup of tea, he looked to Beverly as she sat
in normally Will's place. He'd had more meetings with the doctor over
the last few days than he'd had with Will over the last few months. Not
that that was a bad thing, it was just a pity that Will was injured,
for their benefit to be finally alone in one another’s realm. Her voice
brought him back to the reality of now, as he caught himself

“I'd prefer to keep him off duty if I can,” she said. “If I can,”
adding a smirk.

“Fine. But it's your responsibility to contain him, when he gets
restless. No blaming me when you find he's crept onto the bridge,”
Picard decreed before pouring the last few drops into her cup, ready to
perhaps have a more personal conversation, now that ship's business was
out of the way.



A gentle shake disturbed his sleep once more. It had become a regular
occurrence to find Deanna by his side when he woke. She was always in
uniform though which seemed to upset him a little. Wondering whether
he'd ever woken up beside her he couldn't help but ask.

“Morning,” he murmured before letting his tongue get him into
trouble. “Isn't it time I woke up with you out of uniform?”

A light slap to his wrist, as he played with her sleeve was his
reward as Deanna stormed out of his bedroom, in tears.

“Deanna! I didn't mean it...I meant...I meant oh I don't know what

He moaned as he struggled out from under the blankets, letting
unsteady feet guide him as he stumbled into the living room to find
Deanna crying on the couch. Tears streamed down her face as she looked
up to his approach.

“I'm sorry Will,” she sniffed trying to dry her eyes as she felt his
weight settle into the couch beside her.

“No I am. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just felt that this was all
wrong,” he pointed to her uniform. “As if I'd somehow awoken with you
beside me before, in a more intimate capacity,” he said. “Hit me again
if you like, I know I want to,” he muttered to himself for being such a

“No. It’s just my emotions running unchecked Will. It's been a little
stressful with mother here on board of late.”

Deanna moved into Will's embrace, running her fingers subconsciously
through the neck line of his t-shirt, to entangle in his chest hair. To
Will, holding each other seemed too natural to be just friends, as if
they were more than just once together.

“How is she?” Will asked, changing his line of thought.

A splash of genuine concern filtered through Will's emotions, making
her stir from her own miserable thoughts.

“Upset about what she did to you. She wants to help, but she’s afraid
to see you. In case she hurts you again.” Deanna looked up into Will's
blur orbs. “She does want to help Will. And in fact it would probably
bring your memories back, at least the majority of them. But you'd have
to trust her again, like you did before this episode,” she prompted.

This was the moment she'd been waiting for. A chance to finally
broach the scary subject of Will meeting her mother, and to encourage
regrowth in their once trusting relationship once more.

Will took a deep breath and unlocked himself from Deanna arms.

“I don't know Deanna,” he said quietly, embarrassed for feeling this
worried about meeting Lwaxana.

Geez, she was only a Betazoid, whose daughter he was in love with. It
couldn't be that bad, could it? He chastised himself internally. He
looked up to Deanna's onyx orbs to see her watching him. Waiting for
him to make his own move. He was still fragile in terms of mentally and
physiological norms, but he was still Will Riker. A man who sometimes
needed to make the big decisions himself.

“OK. If you’re sure your mother won't parboil my brain again...” He
suddenly held up a hand to halt her next comment, allowing him to
continue “…or pamper me crazy for something she wasn't directly at
fault for.”

Deanna smiled at the last part, knowing that Will was in more danger
of a subservient Lwaxana than the maniacal one he'd unfortunately run
into a few days ago. Her enthusiasm prompted her to reply at warp

“It’s the right thing to do Will. I promise to run interference if
she even tries something you don't feel right about Will. It is the
best way to proceed. Especially with...”

“A huge gap in my memory,” he finished.

He took another deep breath and rubbed the bridge of his nose gently,
trying to chase away the demons hammering his forehead, from an
evolving migraine.

“When did you last take your medicine?” she asked, knowing that she
should be calling Beverly immediately.

“Before I went to sleep which is...about ten hours ago,” he said as
he re-checked the chrono, amazed he'd slept that long.

“Got a hypo in reserve?” she asked getting up to search for it as he

“In the bathroom on the basin cabinet.”

He stood shakily himself halfway before deciding that gravity had a
better idea and sat back down again. Deanna returned, hypo in hand and
concern etched across her face.

“Do you want me to help you back to bed?” she asked, waiting for the
hiss to finish as the hypo fired its shot into his neck.

“No. I'll let this clear first. So when are we visiting your mother?”

Deanna knew he was trying to change subject, just to hide how bad his
headache had gotten since waking. But she could see a change in the way
he held his head and the shiny glint in his blue eyes. It was now
dulling down to a light dull thud thanks to the medication.

“Damn those inflamed neural pathways,” he joked lightly when he knew
she wasn't going to leave this particular topic alone until he was well

Taking his hands in hers, she knelt down before him, and smiled

“I'll talk to mother first and let her know that you’re ready to meet
with her. She's just getting over this whole incident herself, so she'd
probably appreciate a little warning before we both barge in there,”
Deanna suggested.

Will nodded in agreement and slunk further down into the couch. He
could just see Beverly chastising him for bad posture. Pity he couldn't
remember Deanna doing it.



“You don't have to do this right now Will,” the doctor said watching
all the classic symptoms of fear slowly spreading out from inside of

They were dawdling down the corridor now. They'd started at a
leisurely pace, but now she feared a toddler could walk faster than
their present gait. Will gave a nervous smile and tightened his hold on
Beverly's hand.

“I know but I feel I need to clear things up a bit here. It's getting
damn embarrassing not knowing who I'm talking to, not to mention the
looks I've gotten from half the female crew. It's like they see me as
easy prey,” he shivered.

Beverly smiled. She'd seen the response his injury had had on women.
The poor little boy scenario was working wonders for their dreams of
seducing him.

“They just want to help,” she answered, before hitting the next comm.
plate they came to.

The doors opened and Beverly gently squeezed Will's arm before
walking him inside. The interior was darkly lit, only the flicker of
candlelight illuminated enough for him to discern certain shapes and
figures. But still he had to squint into the shadows while waiting for
his eyes to adjust. He self-consciously pulled on his black t-shirt,
unaware of the habit, still frozen in step merely beyond the threshold
of the doors shadow.

“Come in William. I won't hurt you,” a gentle voice summoned, and his
heart skipped faster at the sound of Lwaxana's voice.

Deanna felt him struggling with his fear, he somehow knew her mother
was telling the truth, but recent memories made him want to curl into a
ball and roll away. So she placed a hand on one arm, startling him, but
holding him true before he could step backwards. Bevery followed behind
as Deanna whispered to him to move forward, gently running her hands up
and down his arm, comforting him. He took a seat opposite his
once-aggressor in the form of a very haunted Betazoid. Sorrow filled
her eyes, no longer the daggers of hate from before.

“Hi,” Will said meekly trying to keep eye contact with her.

Deanna sat beside him, to his left, tried softening his fear with
waves of calm from her own self, as Lwaxana rose before him and flowed
to the couch to sit beside him. Will's immediate instinct said to run,
making him start to rise, but both Lwaxana and Deanna carefully held up
their hands, like seducing sirens, asking for him to sit back down and
stay a while. Running a hand roughly through his hair, he sighed
nervously and took his place again, but starring at the floor between
his knees.

“You have reason to fear me William, but not today. Today I'm here to
hopefully put back the knowledge you have lost and to help repair any
damage I may’ve done,” Lwaxana spoke surely, letting each of her words
sink in to the distressed man.

“I’m sorry,” Will murmured, raising his head, and drawing deep from
his inner self to face her.

“No William. I am sorry. What I did should not have been done to you.
I was unwell and treated you with such disrespect, especially as my
daughter's Imzadi. Please, relax, and let me mend our rift.”

Her voice flowed and soothed the fear that threatened to tear Will's
chest apart. He swallowed a few times and gave a nod of understanding.

Beverly moved into Lwaxana's previous position, opposite the couch,
with medicorder in hand. There was no way she would allow his bio signs
raise any higher than they were now. One more bip and he was back in
sickbay, in her mind.

“I need you to relax William and close your eyes. I will gently enter
your mind and help heal those areas that have been forcefully blocked
or hidden. It won't hurt, but you may recount various visions as I move
them back into place from their current locations.”

She urged him to lie back, and let the softness of the couch pervade
his thoughts as she began to slowly immerse herself into the labyrinth
of his mind.

Will lay back, stiff as a board, into the couch’s soft countenance.
His memories were still there, but unattainable. Some, he was told,
could possibly be lost forever, burnt to cinders, but the majority of
thoughts, memories, past traumas were minimally damaged and soon to be
easily rebuilt. But it wasn’t as easy, seeing your life being sorted
and plied together again eternally. Will jolted and flinched as scenes,
new and old, slotted back into order.

Beverly meanwhile, scanned his neural pathways, the lights and scans
flailing at immense speed as they swelled with development. Both good
and bad times taking root amongst their rightful places. But the soft
whimpers and uneven breathing were now the only sign that Will Riker
wasn't just dozing on the couch.

That was until the images became darker. His eyelids flickered and
his lips moved slowly and silently, earning a small tightening of
Deanna's hands around his own tight fist. One particular sight flared
brilliantly in his mind, reeking of fear and distress, crashing into
his senses and jolting him up right from his semi-relaxed posture on
the couch. Wild eyed, Will sat quietly from Lwaxana's broken contact,
breathing rapidly in heavy gasps. Swallowing hard he looked up at the
concerned face of Beverly across from him, and closed his eyes tightly.

“Will? What is it?” Deanna asked from beside him, sensing turmoil of
some sorts. Fear, disgust, failure?

Will shook his head, and threw off her hands to stand away from them,
but still with his back to them.

“Will? Are you alright?” Beverly began to rise as he unsteadily moved
around the room.

Half aware of their presence, his mind replayed the last chunk of
memory that had reappeared from some dark recess of his mind. Staring
into space. The three women watched as fear and revulsion flashed
across his face, followed by a scream of terror as he sunk to his
knees. White fingers clenching a handful of hair each side of his head.

Deanna flashed a distraught look to her mother before moving to
Will's trembling side.

Lwaxana looking a little puzzled herself, suddenly gasped, “Oh my
Deanna, I think I've disrupted something I shouldn't of,” she said
watching the frightened man reliving the darkness behind the block, on
his knees.

“What do you mean?” Beverly asked dialling up a larger than normal
dose of sedative. His bio signs wailed from the tricorder, his heart
thrashing madly inside his rib cage, alerting her to possible heart
seizure if she didn't calm him down right then and there.

Deanna gripped onto his torso with immense strength, trying to soothe
his emotions personally, but suddenly found herself being knocked back
from the terrifying force of his despair. If she hadn't of been sitting
by him, she too would of dropped to her knees from the powerful sense
of loathing.

“Mother?” Deanna whispered through her own clenched teeth.

“There was a rather large block in the way. Nothing like my own.
Something alien to his own abilities, I’m sure. I broke through.
Something I shouldn’t have done.” She shook her head in remorse. “I
felt and saw something rather frightening, yet familiar. I feel this is
what he's experiencing now. The backlash of what has been hidden from
him for so long,” she tuttered at the result her tamperings had
created, relaxing only as the sedative culled his cries to soft

“Poor boy,” Lwaxana added before shakily standing and moving to the
replicator to order some herbal tea.

Strange as it seemed for the Ambassador to be so calmly offering
drinks, Beverly knew better and took the offered tea cup from her
hands, placing its edge against Will’s trembling lips until he drank
more than she spilled. Seizing the moment of calm, Beverly hit her
communicator, ordering a direct beam out to her sickbay. The
combination of sedative and tea leaving him drowsy enough to relax, and
slipping into a semi-dream state.

Soon two figures dematerialized, leaving both mother and daughter
astounded by the violent ending of their session. A new onset of
further queries for sure.



“Don't feel so good,” Will admitted as he struggled into an upright
position on Beverly’s bed of torture.

One hand held him vertical and the other ground into an eye socket to
block the sharp pain that was trying to exit that same eyeball.

“Not surprised Will. Your life signs skyrocketed there for a while.
But we've almost returned them back to a reasonable level for your
current physical level.”

She gave a smile as he grimaced when she took his hand away.

“Here. Have some tea. ”

He drank on command until the cup was empty and his stomach grumbled
from the exotic contents.

“So what do you remember?” she asked watching the glassy blue eyes
trying to focus.

“Apart from intense pain?” he asked her, waiting for her nod to
proceed. “Something I certainly don't remember from before. Something I
don't really want to know at all. Urgh!” his stomach kicked in with
another grumble. “That tea's horrible. What is it?” he said now holding
his stomach.

“Not sure. Some kind of Betazoid herbal extract. Lwaxana said it'd be
perfect you for. Seems she's right too. It helped your cerebral
functions to slow and relax, enough to calm that beating heart of
yours,” she said reading his temperature with the palm of her hand
against his forehead.

Will nodded. His mind somewhere else briefly until he flew off the
biobed, stumbling as quickly as his wobbly legs could, into the
bathroom unit close by. An all too familiar sound of retching reaching
emanating from the unit. Curious as to his health and well being,
Beverly soon entered to find Will hunched over the basin, white and

“Did she also forget to tell you how much my stomach hates that
stuff?” Will’s voice trembled from the recent vile eruption.

“Hates? I take it you've drunk it before?” she asked handing him a
damp towel and a steady hand.

He nodded and smiled.

“Sure. She played unsatisfied future mother-in-law when I first met
Deanna. Gave me a whole pot of this stuff, questioning me to death
about my future plans with her daughter, that is until my stomach

He groaned again and settled back to the biobed, thanks to two
orderlies, as Beverly counteracted the tea’s side effects with a shot
or two from her hypo.

“So apart from this shocking truth, I need to know what's been fixed,
and does anything seem missing in there?”

Beverly placed a hand on his head to steady him, and shone a light
into one eyeball, earning her a push from his own hand.

“That hurts,” he intoned, rubbing the socket again with his thumb

“I think the tea's made you a little light sensitive. Lie back and
get some sleep commander. We'll check you out again tomorrow.”

Beverly collected her equipment and left Will to his thoughts. Little
did show know, but Will's thought were still churning from his session
with Lwaxana earlier. What he'd seen, he was now sure was real. It
wasn't something Lwaxana had created, or a side effect of too much tea,
and it certainly fit in with a chunk of time he'd always been missing.
Instead of remaining calm, his body began to stress with the recent
memory. Taking several deep breaths, and even trying Deanna’s flexing
method, Will tried to settle his heart beat. The last thing he needed
to do was to set off the medical alarms attached to his wrist and
chest. With the absence of staff and the silent biobed alarm, Will was
sure that he'd managed to have stalled Beverly and her medical troupe
once more, their last to stick probes into him. Gently shaking his
head, trying to blank away the buzzing snapshots Will Riker lay back
hoping to seek a healthy sleep, one that would prove his recent viewing


At first there was one hand, then a second, and a third holding him
down…and then an almighty scream. The worst part of it? It was he
himself that was making the vocal announcement, not the team of masked
officials nor the onyx eyed man holding his temples steadily between
his commanding palms. It was him. Will Riker. Screaming like a girl, as
the man before him moulded his mind into one big inhuman lie. This was
wrong, why were they doing this to him? A voice whispered his name,
breaking his concentration momentarily. Who was that? Chasing the voice
he ignored the grip on his mind, both physically and mentally and began
to float within himself. Himself? Who was he? He was muddled, his
identity discarded and fractured into many versions of what these
people wanted him to be. What was he? Who was he to be?

“Will,” the ghostly voiced called, significantly increasing in
distress each time it called.

He floated towards it, leaving behind his earlier query. Chasing the
bodiless voice, through to lighter levels.


He could almost see a face now, encouraging him forward, closer and
closer. Hoping the blurred vision would answer all. But the closer he
gained, the tighter the hands holding him gripped. The shorter the
distance to his goal, darker and more vivid emotions arose. He’d been
here before, he’d just left here. Those eyes. Those black fathomless
eyes, boring deeply and calling his name. With all his might he threw
himself forward to unshield his eyes, waken them from the dream he was

He sat up screaming. His heart hammering from inside his ribcage. And
a pair of onyx eyes slid into his filed of vision. Those same black

“….so we don't have….” Another voice murmured. It’s tone mercilessly
grinning at his position. Terrified he dodged one person, clipping them
with a right hook, the other staying rigid and poised. He slid down
from the bed, now free of their clutches, but still cornered by the
wall at his back. He had to get away, he couldn’t stay here. In one
fell swoop he swung out as hard as he could and stumbled for the exit.
He heard his assailant crumple to the ground, calling his name. But he
couldn’t turn around, he couldn’t take the chance of them condemning
him to oblivion again. He had to get away. And no one was going to stop



Deanna held her hand to her stinging cheek. He’d hit her, but her
defences had swung into action, softening the blow. But he had still
lashed out.

“Deanna?” Beverly crouched down, holding a hand out to help her up.
She’d already called security. Informing them of Will’s unstable
condition. “You alright?” she asked, concerned for the counsellors
silent pose.

“He’s terrified,” she shook her head at her friend’s query. “No, not
like the last time. This is more instinctive.”

“Is he in danger?” Beverly prompted, helping her to lean against one
of the biobeds.

Deanna held off her hand, as she held a small dermal regenerator near
the reddening glow of her cheek.

“He feels he is.” She paused and shook her head, grimacing briefly.
“No! Beverly we have to stop him!” she blurted. “He’s going to leave
the ship!”

Within seconds of Deanna’s accusation, the red alert sirens blared.

“Security to shuttle bay one, unauthorised lockdown sequence engaged.”

Beverly turned to gaze into Deanna’s widen eyes.

“We’re too late,” she whispered.


“Security to shuttle bay one, unauthorised lockdown sequence
engaged,” the computer’s voice repeated, as the Enterprise’s Chief
Security Officer pounded down the long corridors.

He’d been shocked by the Captain’s orders to locate Commander Riker
and subdue him into Dr Crusher’s care. But after hearing of the two
injuries already to fellow crew members by the Commander himself, he
was now firmly focused on his orders.

“Worf to Bridge. I’m on route to sub-section B9, Deck six,” Worf's
voice boomed throughout the ship as he raced to the bay himself, the
alarms signalling an unauthorised take off in synchronicity with the
pulsing red alert panels.

“Laforge to Worf!” his communicator called out, just as he skidded
around to section 24’s intersection, narrowly missing another security
team on route to bad up their chief.

“Worf here,” he breathed back as he headed down the last corridor to
his target, now amongst a sea of yellow, as the other security officers
joined his side.

“We're locked out of the shuttle bay, he’s jammed the lock somehow.
Hold your position and we'll transport you in there before he even
thinks about diverting the force fields,” the engineer ordered as he
set up his coordinates.

“Awaiting transport. Energise when ready,” Worf answered back,
gathering air into his lungs, ready for the next trick his quarry would
undoubtedly produce.


Swirls of gold dust formed into four security officers and one angry
Klingon. Just as the high pitched whine of a shuttle’s engines keened
around the bay, Worf spied the Commander ducking into the El Baz.

“Commander!” Worf bellowed.

Catching sight of the fear and confusion flashing across Will’s face,
he paused, holding out his hands, palm up in a calming manner, all the
while slowly manoeuvring himself closer. Will Riker, wild eyed and
still dressed in a light t-shirt and pyjama set from sickbay, watched
him warily before scurrying inside, hitting the pre-op sequence to make
his escape.

“Commander! Wait! “ Worf bellowed, taking a leap for the slowly
closing hatch.

But Will had already punched up the engines, swerving the shuttle
sideways inline for the exit field, forcing Worf to roll out of the way
for safety. The door seals clicking into place and securing the fleeing
man inside. Punching the floor in disgust, Worf snarled as the force
field flickered, the nose of the shuttle already heading out into the
depth of space.

“Worf to bridge. The shuttle is exiting the bay field now. Awaiting
new orders,” the Klingon growled, having lost his prey.

He was not at all happy, but accepted a fellow crewman’s hand to
stand, a quick nod of thanks given as he adjusted his sash.

“Stay where you are Lieutenant, we're attempting a tractor beam now,”
Picard's voice echoed around the now empty bay in parallel to the sound
of the door opening.

A flushed Dr Crusher sprinted into the bay, realising that the way
Worf's men where standing around, that her patient was no longer

“Damn,” she spat watching as time and time again, via the open
shuttle bay, the tractor beam missed the weaving shuttle.

A few seconds later and a brilliant blue flash of warp light
announced the shuttles escape. He was gone. Will Riker was gone. No
more aboard as his casual easy going self. Beverly carefully placed her
fingers over the small bruise to her cheekbone where she'd struggled
with him shortly after he’d woken from his nightmare. Woken? Now there
was something she wasn’t sure of. Was he still living a dreadful dream?
He'd run like a frightened child, vowing not to be tormented any more.
Were Starfleet's doctors to blame? He’d never had a good patient
disposition. Something she’d thought had grown out of his father’s
tirade of never admitting pain.

Crusher shook her head and waited for Picard to call down to them.
She knew there would be a meeting, and she knew he'd want answers. But
what answers were there to give, but more questions.

The call came, the crowd removed itself from the empty shuttle bay
and the turbolifts carried its two senior crew into a room full of


“He was petrified with fear Jean-Luc. All I did was utter the phrase
‘we should clone you so we don't have to keep putting you back together
so often’ when he basically jumped off the bed,” Beverly told her
story, unsure of what it meant.

“And that's when he then left sickbay?” Picard asked with steepled

The doctor nodded.

“He backed away from me, and when I moved to his side, he tried to
deck me. That's when he turned and ran out of sickbay. You know the

She gave a small smile of apology.

He straightened his uniform tunic and took a deep breath.

“I've alerted Starfleet to our missing first officer. And I can say
they are not the least bit impressed. In fact, they are already sending
out one of their own officials. As of this time, Starfleet has ordered
that all information is to be handled via their agent upon arrival, and
is not to be discussed outside of this room, or with other members of
the senior crew. Understood?” Picard asked watching the nods around the

“Dismissed,” he commanded, and the room cleared for all but Beverly,
Deanna and Jean Luc.



With the door’s self sealing sound issued forth from behind the
senior crew’s retreating backs, Jean Luc began to pace, waiting for the
remaining two officers to inform him of their current theories. What
had just happened aboard his ship to cause his first officer to run

“Sir, my mother reported nothing different from the normal healing
channels she has performed before on others with similar afflictions,
except for some strange blocks that lay across her healing path,”
Deanna offered.

“And did she view beyond these ‘blocks’?” Picard asked, pausing to
take in Deanna’s pale form.

“No sir. Part of any Betazoid’s actions while healing is never to
pry. I know my mother is normally not one to old back on her probes,
but in this case, the last thing she wanted to do was to pry and lose
Will’s trust once more. So when she released these unusual blocks, she
had no right to view their contents. But I must say, we all noticed a
strange look upon Will's face shortly after she'd remove the barriers.
Mother passed it off as to perhaps something extremely personal.
Something that he’d forgotten, or pushed away, perhaps traumatic from
the past.”

Deanna looked down to her tightly clenched fingers, viewing beyond to
glimpse her own distressed face in the surface of the reflective table

“Then we'll just have to wait until this ‘operative’ arrives so we
can finish this merry dance the commander has led us to. In the mean
time....get some rest, both of you. I know you want to keep working on
this but I need you both fresh for when Starfleet security arrive. No
doubt they'll spend the first few hours debriefing each and every one
of us for possible clues. Dismissed.”

Picard waited for them to leave before doing the same himself.
Heading towards the bridge, he paused at the tactical ring, and glanced
down to the empty first officer’s chair. Where was he? Changing his
mind about waiting out his time in full view of his crew, he gave
command to Data, and quickly diverted to this ready room.

Once there he commanded the computer to bring up Commander William
Thomas Riker's files up on screen. A dance of information soon
flickered across his hazel eyes. Will Riker certainly had a long
service record, but a sketchy background. The files only took a minute
to ride across the glowing display.

“Nothing unusual there,” Picard muttered to himself, feeling slightly
edgy delving into one of his closest officer's past.

Knowing defeat when he saw it, Picard returned back to the service
record, skimming through his time on Betazed, other individual
appointments to bases, stations, and the various ships he'd served on.
Looking back to the Betazed listing, he drew a small smile to his face,
knowing who Will Riker had met there.

The Pegasuswas now listed. Starfleet had released the information since
the inquiry a few years back. Pressman was still incarcerated at some
penal colony, while Will Riker, had been released back to service.

‘Loyal Will Riker. What would turn him afraid of his colleagues? What
kind of knowledge has he come by after Lwaxana's meddling?’ Picard
mused quietly until his eyes moved to another significant moment in his

The cold hard shrill of the intercom rang around the room destroying
Picard's previous thoughts.

“Data to Picard.”

“Yes Data.”

“A small Starfleet ship is approaching at Warp nine, Sir.”

Picard's eye brow's raised at the speed.

“You did say small commander?”

“Yes Sir. I believe it is a new stealth warp ship. Estimated arrival
in ten minutes.”

Data waited for the Captains next question only to find the ready
room doors opening and expelling his conversational companion.

“They have transmitted the correct codes for boarding,” Worf stated.

Picard paced the bridge for a moment first, finally looking up to the
viewscreen just as a blur of light approached, formulating into a sleek
battle black craft.

“Guide them into shuttle bay three Mr Worf,” Picard ordered, waiting
for Worf's signified nod, before heading off to the lift with Data and
Worf in tow.


The black ship glided into the bay. Smoothly halting as directed by a
small contingent of bay crew, now exiting as per Worf’s orders, the
ship powered down. The craft was as compact as a normal two person
shuttle, but with larger engines to produce the high speed of warp it
required while in service. The whole ship was a sleek pointed triangle
much like the angled shape on a communicator pin. No doubt the shape
enabled a more comfortable ride for such a small ship under great
speed, and atmospheric landings. A side portal opened, expelling a tall
dark shape that dropped to the ground from the last few steps. His
silhouette extremely familiar, especially the swagger as he made his
way over. The figure trimmed in full leather trousers and jacket,
approached with his knee high, thick, boot heels clanging as he walked.
A black helmet covered the operative’s face that was until halfway to
Picard's welcoming party he unlatched the neck strap and removed it
with a flourish. The back of Picard’s neck prickling in tension.

“Captain Jean Luc Picard.” He smiled. “Commander Thomas Riker at your

The dark goatee'd face appeared, followed by the light whack of the
heavy dark plaited pony tail that now swung over one shoulder. Removing
his gloves he proffered a hand to Picard.

“I believe you called?”

The flashy grin gave Picard a small shiver down his spine. Meeting
Thomas was always an unnerving experience. He was so identical to Will
in some ways and totally opposite in others, but in a sense still the
same man with a different path in life.

“Commander.” Picard shook his hand. “I take it you remember my other

“Certainly. Who could ever forget Worf and Data?”

A slight hint of animosity could be heard in his voice, something
left over from his initial arrival on board years ago. Worf still
believed he was a spy, a clone, something to destroy his honourable
superior commander's service record.

“If you would follow Commander Data, he'll show you to your
quarters...” Picard began before being interrupted by a shake of
Riker's head.

“Sorry Captain. We need to find the Commander ASAP. He's AWOL and
fleet want him back in one piece in a flash. I believe your observation
lounge, complete with senior staff would be the best place to start,”
Thomas stated before leaving his chaperones behind for a few moments as
he strode out of the shuttle bay.

“He is nothing like Commander Riker,” Worf spat.

“Unfortunately he is all we have of the commander right now Worf,”
Picard spoke before quickening his pace to catch the tall dark



The replicator hummed and a cool headed ale formed in the alcove. Its
amber colour reflecting the change of light in the room as Picard
entered, finally having caught up to Thomas Riker.

“Sorry Captain. Been a long couple of hours cramped into that ship,”
he apologised as he took a deep draught of his ale, its syntheholic
qualities still refreshing to its imbidder.

“Understandable. But if you....” Picard halted as Geordi breezed
through the doors with Data and Worf behind.

“...latest technology. They sure make 'em fast and fine now,” the
engineer beamed, having noticed the new ship docked inside his other
mechanical delight, the Enterprise.

“Glad you like it,” Thomas beamed as he watched Geordi double take at
their new visitor.

Geordi didn't have a chance to ask more as the doors opened again to
allow the doctor and her companion inside. Beverly, still rubbing sleep
from her eyes, stopped grumbling to Deanna about ship's hours when she
lightly collided with the counsellors stiffened back just inside the
doors. It was then that she noticed who Deanna was gob smacked about,
enough to turn to impenetrable stone.

“Well, well, well, Lieutenant Riker,” Beverly crowed “You’re the

“Well we are talking about finding me. I figure that's pretty
special,” Thomas replied before placing his ale on the conference table
and turning to the stunned Betazoid.

“I’m sorry for the discomfort Deanna. I know you thought I was Will
for a moment.” Thomas made it more of a statement rather than a
question as he read the look on her face.

Disappointment had watered her eyes once more until she felt his hand
grasp hers, pulling into a large bear hug that absorbed her into his

“Hey. Cheer up. If anyone can find me, it's...well…me,” he grinned,
watching as she reflected back a poor image of his own.

“Shall we take our seats?” Picard hinted, hoping to move the
discussion along.

Will Riker was still out there, and moving further away for every
second they sat here waffling.

Thomas Riker immediately took the head of the table, Picard's usual
position instead of where the commander's twin usually sat. Leaning
back in the chair, Thomas pulled his long legs up till his booted feet
lay upon the table's surface. The frown projected by Worf was almost as
intimidating as the Captain's as they watched Thomas relax into a pose
far from officer material.

“Firstly I’d like to thank you for your time. I know we’ll all be a
lot happier once Will is back on board and under our care,” Picard
started, but before he could continue Thomas waved his hands and
resettled himself, sitting now upright in his chair.

“Don’t thank me until I’ve briefed you Captain. From now on in, what
I will tell you is confidential, senior officers only material. Or
heads will roll, mainly mine,” he smirked uncomfortably. “Let me start
by telling you, that your precious Commander is as wrongly placed in
this universe as I am. Or was, to be correct. The thing is, he never
new until a few days ago,” Thomas intoned as he laid back in the
conference chair regardless of Picard's raised eyebrow.

“Just what exactly is ‘it’ that he now remembers? Or are you not
obliged to tell us?” Picard asked ignoring the twin’s relaxed pose.

“Oh I am obliged to tell you, but only a snifter of what I’d really
like to reveal. I am in fact already breaking my orders by allowing all
of you present. But in my opinion the minds of the many will help over
the few,” he jibed with one of the Riker's trademark grins, forcing
Picard to keep his annoyance hidden, refusing to let this man shake him
from his intended goal.

“I think we'd all be better off finding out what you know now, rather
than forcing you to stay here for longer than you'd like, Mr Riker,”
Picard stated watching the grin slide off the black leather clad man
who finally, taking a moment to fish within his jacket, removed a small
info chip that he flicked to Data.

“Alright. Background info that I'm allowed to let you view is on
there. Anything else is off limits, unless necessity requires it,”
Thomas stated to the small group, but avoiding Deanna's gaze on
purpose; he could never say no to her.

The isolinear chip now within Data's grasp glistened like a lost
sapphire, as Thomas deepened his voice and struck a command pose for
the first time since his arrival.

“As of now, I Commander Thomas William Riker am in charge of the
Enterpriseuntil further notice. Any queries, feel free to peruse that
chip in Data's hand or consult me directly,” he added a small
understanding smile to his lips.

“And via whose authority did this order filter down from?” Picard
enquired, more than aware of Thomas’ tricks in the past.

One of major importance, the Defiant. That had earned him a few years
imprisonment care of the Cardassian’s.

“Sorry Captain, but your first officer clearly ran off on your watch,
and Starfleet doesn’t appreciate having its recruitment poster boy
performing randomly without orders. Your ship has been transferred
momentarily into my Command, as they assume, being of the same blood,
I’m bound to know his moves better than any of you,” he paused and
added another grin. “You see, I have a little experience in AWOL
tactics,” a joking glint in his eye, one Will would only have used in
poker, certainly not to his captain in these same circumstances.

Picard maintained his calm, and prompted Thomas to keep going.

“Each senior staff member has already supplied Fleet with a record of
duty. Do I take it that you require further meetings in person?”

Nodding, Thomas continued on with his briefing, leaning forward,
hands clasped together upon the obsidian table’s surface.

“Yes. I just need to verify a few small details, then I'll need to
talk to you all individually afterwards. We require as much information
you can pertain to as soon as possible.”

“Certainly Commander, but what does Section 31 have to do with our
First officer? Will is not and never has been under their security
banner,” Picard added.

“Well yes and no to that captain. Section 31 is involved, mainly due
to the information Will holds up here,” he said taping his temple. “In
the state he’s in right now, he’s vulnerable to any kind of scum out
there. And the Fleet and Section would prefer to keep all that
unprotected information safe. Hence the reason for Section filing this
incident under a more official investigation rather than a simple
exercise in brother hunting. ”

“And they have an idea as to why he’s disappeared?” Worf demanded an
answer, he was still shocked at how Will Riker had thought he’d harm

“Correct. And I guess you’re wondering just what it is that sent Will
running off into space,” he replied.

“And of course the big question... where to find him,” Beverly added.

He nodded, giving her a congratulatory smile.

“Well it's simple.”

He leant forward and grabbed his ale, taking another swig before
launching a rather large question in their direction.

“How old do you think Commander William Thomas Riker truly is?”



“What do you mean by how old he is? He's the same age as you,”
Beverly jumped in first.

By the look on her face, Thomas' comment had almost brought her to
the point of laughter.

“Uh uh. I asked what his true age is. You see, Will is a little bit
younger than me. About twenty-four years to be exact.”

Thomas' cockiness was soon forgotten after his last statement.

“Are you insinuating that Will is the duplicate and that you Thomas,
are the original Riker template?” Data entered the foray with his calm
clinical voice.

“I’m not insinuating anything Commander Data,” Thomas' tone gave away
that he was annoyed with their disbelief. “Your Commander Riker is the
true duplicate of me. And unfortunately he's just discovered it and
gone into hiding. But…” taping the side of his head, “…he can't hide
with me around. We want him back and in working order like the good
little duplicate he was.”

“Do you have any evidence?” Picard leaned forward slowly in his seat
next to Thomas.

“There is evidence, but only available to your CMO, ship's counsellor
and yourself. No one else has permission to know the full extent of
Will's duplication.”

Thomas stretched back further in the chair and sat quietly, awaiting
the next barrage of questions.

“Then I believe it is time, Mr Data, to analyse those details the
Commander has handed us. Please report back to me later with any

As Data took leave, Picard then dismissed two other officers, Worf
and Geordi, until only four people remained in the room. The four who
had authorisation to delve deeper into Will’s past.

Thomas looked at his hands for a moment and a serious facade
overlapped his features, as he waited for the final hiss of the doors
closing on the observation lounge.

“I'm not obliged to tell you all this, but I feel it may help in
retrieving him. What you know of the Nervala incident was not truly
what happened. Starfleet covered up some of the evidence and concocted
other parts. I believe you are all fully aware of the Pegasusincident?”
He waited as the nods around him, gave him an OK to continue. He
swallowed hard before moving on. “With the cover up. My ass, and just
about everyone else’s who survived, was basically under the chief of
security's grasp. I continued to do my job, moved round from planet to
planet, wherever they wanted to dump me until they were sure I wouldn’t
spill the beans. Luckily, Betazed being one of them. A huge test for
me. How do you hide a Federation cover up while working on a planet of
telepaths? Visiting had two benefits,” he smiled to Deanna. “Finally I
received a placement on the USS Potempkin. Little did I know that one
of the particular set of orders, issued before leaving dock, was to
visit a strange planet that had a group of colonists soon to be trapped
upon it.”

“Nervala IV” Picard confirmed.

Thomas nodded with a sedate grimace. “As you know last minute escape
plans were put into motion, but what you didn't know was that Starfleet
were fully aware at the moment of duplication.” He paused there and got
up to order another ale from the replicator.

The silence was deafening as the small group realised the

“You mean they left you down there on purpose?” Deanna finally spoke
up, her belly tightening in fear as to what Thomas might uncover next.

“And deprive the women of the universe from two Rikers?” Thomas
jokingly mirthed, breaking some of the intensity that had settled
around the room. “No. As soon as they found out there were two of us
they had us locked away in sickbay. Only the transporter officer, the
Captain and the chief medical officer knew of the accident. Oh and of
course the chief of security,” he added.

Picard frowned at first, contemplating what to say to the real Will
Riker beside him. His fingers steepled in thought.

“So the chief of Security ordered you to stay? Or had the window
already closed?” Picard asked, confusion now deepening his frown.

Tom shook his head. “We were poked, jabbed and stuck under just about
any cellular scanner you could find. Not exactly the best of
experiences. Especially when you know you’re the original and nobody
believes you.” Deanna’s eyes evading his gaze, as she sank into his

“Wait a minute. How do you know you’re the original?” Beverly butted

“Because the tests proved it. There is a slight increase in our cell
division. Very small but enough to tell us apart if you spent long
enough looking at it,” Tom replied.

“But it was the first thing I scanned for when we picked you up from
Nervala. We have the newest of medical equipment onboard. Certainly
years more developed than what would of been on the Potempkin.”

Beverly Crusher was sure she'd checked this area a hundred times
during his arrival on board. It was a first year must, to check for
cloned cells, during her medical lessons at the Academy.

“When we first appeared it was there, since then his cell mutation
has caught up for some reason.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Starfleet
tagged us, kept us apart and basically made sure they knew the exact
whereabouts of each clone and original at the drop of a hat.” He sighed
deeply, anger lacing his next words. “They dropped us off, at Starbase
Sixty-four, to their medical labs before separating us further. Willy
boy out there,” he stabbed outward through the windows to the darkness
of space, “is the product of Starfleet mistreatment. The real reason he
took off.“ Beverly cursed, pausing Thomas momentarily in his speech to
the free. He got up to pace the room, his shoulders bristling with the
urge to hit something. “His hatred of all things medical is
understandable after the treatment he received. Like a lab rat they
tested and probed, till they eventually reprogrammed him, not to
remember but to be the model officer I was supposed to be.” He stopped
to thump the transparent aluminium windows with the palm of his hand,
his anger overboiled.

“Makes sense why he always avoided sickbay. His subconscious must’ve
remembered something about the overload of testings,” Deanna added,
mumbling to herself.

Even if Will had been standing there, she couldn't have sensed him,
Tom's anger and distaste was blocking everything out. He wasn't
shielding his internal barrage like Will used to. In fact she was being
suffocated within a wall of emotion that she was only just holding back

“I didn't see Will after our separation. But I heard about the
esteemed officer who was beating all Kirk's records, raising through
the ranks. Starfleet had decided to keep it all a deep secret, with me
out of the picture. I was drafted into Security while he was sent to
the Hoodas first officer. They had his career all planned out for him.
Except he didn't keep to the white line. He strayed, got caught up in
love and then never proceeded past first officer status on the
Enterprise. Annoyed the hell out of Admiral Nickless.” Thomas smiled
and shook his head lightly.

“Nickless was the head of security at the time?” Deanna asked.

“Yep. The bastard was locked away after the Pegasus incident was
revealed, and my status was lifted back to Commander after all these
years under his threatening thumb.”

“He was blackmailing you?” Picard asked.

“Well. A little. In a way he was doing me a favour. I wanted
something better than the day to day grind of shipping diplomats left
right and upside down so I took his offer of entering under his secret
security division which you all now know of as Section 31,” Thomas

“But what about Nervala IV. What were you doing there when we
arrived? Or more to the point how did you get back down there?” Picard
asked, placing the bits of shattered puzzle pieces together again.

“I was sent back to look for a few items we'd left behind.
Experimental and highly confidential. I had a device on my ship that
managed to slip me through the orbital soup of the planet. Got me
through but something overloaded and the ship blew up. I was only down
there for about a month until the Enterpriseturned up, and my identity
was once more revealed to the outside world.”

He gave a small smile of relief. He’d hated cowering in the shadows,
of constantly being mistaken for his ‘brother’. It had been a hard life
of deceit to Thomas, hearing of Will’s great deeds, and not being there
to share them with him.

“So all the injuries I picked up during your first scan were from
previous security assignments, not from Nervala IV?” Beverly pressed,
memorising facts to check her medical files with later.

“Perfectly unscathed, except for the verbal thrashing Nickless gave
me for not completing my mission,” Thomas smiled. “Since Nickless has
been incarcerated, the truth has been alerted to the head of Starfleet.
And boy do they handle me with kidd gloves now,” he smiled, his eyes
sparkling like he'd stumbled across a field full of diamonds.

“So Will's blocks were in place from Starfleet medical to stop him
remembering what exactly?” Picard asked.



“So Will's blocks were in place from Starfleet medical to stop him
remembering what exactly?” Picard asked.

“Torture would be the best way to describe it. He was the clone. And
as you know clones are illegal and have no rights. So they performed
test after test on him. I saw some of the footage, which quite frankly
turned my stomach. I'm not surprise that he's terrified of us, I’d run
off too if I’d been subjected to the torment he received from the one
group of people I thought I could depend on. I'd say right now that
he's headed back to Nervala IV to look for evidence.”

“How so?” Picard asked.

“He's me. And I'm damn interested to find out the truth as to whether
the accident was a set-up right from day one of those orders being cast
or a true accident of modern day science. Wouldn’t you like to know if
you'd been created on purpose?” he asked the question and left it
hanging for a few moments before calling for Data. “Starfleet has no
records specifically, they’re probably scattered far and wide, but if
you searched closely enough in the right locations you might just find
the prime answers,” he added, just as the doors swished open to admit
Commander Data.

With his head cocked to one side awaiting his orders, Riker couldn't
help but grimace. A ship full of android's he thought, or a ship full
of clones, what was the difference in anyone’s eyes. He sat back
solemnly in his seat, thinking of his programmed brother.

“Set course for Nervala IV, full warp,” he commanded.

Data looked to Picard first, awaiting an agreeing nod before
confirming the Commander's orders.

“Aye Sir. Nervala IV. Full Warp.”

Data exited the observation lounge, and soon the deck plates beneath
Thomas' feet gave off a rhythmic hum, corresponding with the flash of
stars as the Enterpriseleapt after its quarry. As Riker collected his
long legs from the table and stood, he gave a glance to all present.

“I know him. He'll be fine. But he'll need a lot of help and
understanding from his closest of friends. And of that I'm sure he'll
be in safe hands once he’s back on board the Enterprise,” he stated
before making his unexcused exit.

The closing of the doors behind him drew an annoyed growl from Worf,
as he entered the observation lounge, padd in hand with the latest from
Starfleet command.

“He does not want to help his brother at all,” he scowled, watching
the door from which he had seen the vanishing back of Thomas.

“Not true Lieutenant. He has given us some important leads. Anything
missing I presume is to protect his and Will's future. Something I can
now understand. We all have secrets, and sometimes it is better to keep
them covered. Even from those we trust,” Picard said.

“We should consider ourselves lucky that we have someone else who
knows Will inside and out,” Beverly added giving a small smile in
Deanna’s direction.

The small Betazoid was still focussed elsewhere, her red rimmed eyes,
downcast and searching.

“In the meantime, we'll follow Thomas Riker's suggestions, and try to
piece together enough back-history as we can while on the trail for our
missing friend,” Picard said before standing himself and dismissing the
remaining officers.

Moving onto the bridge and heading for his ready room, Deanna
followed the captain, in search of seclusion from the eyes of the
bridge crew. Since the Commander's sudden flight, many of the crew had
kept the ship’s grapevine saturated with curiosity, and the emotions it
had evoked had eventually driven the emotionally overloaded counsellor,
into hiding. Picard knew she appreciated his candour, in not mentioning
her hermit like living style for the past few days.

“Counsellor? What do I owe your presence too? Thomas Riker perhaps?”
he began directly, and knew instantly that he'd hit the mark by the
bowed head she dropped before him. “Please take a seat Deanna,” Picard
offered before ordering Earl grey tea for himself, and the counsellor’s
favourite, as she took her place upon the couch that lined his ready
room wall. She grasped the cup in her small white hands.

“I'm sorry Captain, but I can still remember Will's intense fear...of
us,” she hesitated on the last part, finding her own comment strange,
but that's exactly what she had felt as he'd bolted.

And what she was still feeling of him, although his distance was
affecting the bond, was even more confusing as Thomas’ feelings over
welled what she could always call Will’s uniqueness.

“I too am worried about him Deanna,” the captain announced. “But I
believe we will soon be able to dissolve his fears, by bringing him
back home to us.”

His words of encouragement brought a small smile to her own lips, as
she watched him accessing his terminal. It wasn’t long until Picard
swivelled it enough for Deanna to see as she moved to the chair
opposite Picard's own. Data had already viewed the chip Thomas had
handed over, but a few sections of the directory had been sealed for
Captain’s eyes only, and he'd felt obligated to share it with the
petite Betazoid, once she had entered his ready room doors.

“Download complete. Access codes requested,” it intoned, blinking its
command every second.

“Picard Omega Theta Nine one Four Prime,” Picard commanded.

“Access granted. All comprised data is for Captain's eyes only.
Senior Command Staff acceptable under strict orders of security from
Captain Jean Luc Picard Captain USS Enterprise NCC1701-E. Index as

The computer shut down to silent running and awaited the Captain’s
prompting for a specific chapter. Nine chapters outlined mission and
medical logs. All dated around the time of Will's ‘birth’ into the
world. Various sections coded red, for confidential purposes.

“Let's start at the beginning shall we?” Picard suggested awaiting
Deanna's small nod before hitting another command code to unlock the
first chapter.


“I am so sorry Thomas,” Deanna said starring at the broad back that
stood before the observation windows. “I should’ve been able to tell.”

She watched as Thomas dropped his forehead to the cold transparent

“I can’t fault your love for the new improved version. He sure does
do things the way I wish I had. Except for the ten year old first
officer thing,” he wore a small smile that highlighted one of his
dimples as he turned back to her.

His last comment had been aimed directly at his brother. Thomas had
always felt better about the cards they had been dealt by ribbing his
brother of that one thing, his desire to stay put due to love of a
woman he hadn’t told. In a way it made everything feel right, as he was
sure he would’ve done the same thing. Starring into those pools of
black desire had always softened his heart, but right now, her eyes
were elsewhere.

“Besides, I've had an interesting life so far. A messed up one, but
one that kept me on my toes.”

The soft squeak of leather announced his arrival to her bowed head.
She gave a soft laugh and raised her face to his to see the mixed
feelings swimming in his eyes. She could feel his relief in finally
telling his hidden past, and the relief in announcing to the world, who
he truly was.

“So is this leather a Riker thing, or the uniform of section 31?” she
merrily asked.

“You don't like my new style?” he raised an eyebrow.

“Well...not dislike, but it's something I never thought Will would
parade around in,” she answered as she raised a hand, placing it over
his beating heart.

“I am Will, Imzadi. Don't forget. They knocked his lust for settling
down out of him. I'm the real Riker with the real feelings for you,” he
whispered to her, wrapping his arms around her, drawing her closer.

Deanna accepted his warmth for a moment before pulling free and
moving to the other corner of the room to gather her thoughts.

“I'm sorry. But Will and I...we've just started to form a new
relationship and...”

“And you’re worried that he'll need your help rather than being
dumped when he returns,” he snarled. “That's OK Deanna. I can cope with
being pushed to the back of the Riker queue. I've done it enough times

With that he stormed out of the lounge leaving a frail Betazoid.

“I always loved you Imzadi...both of you as much as one,” she
whispered to herself as the man in the corridor beyond refused to



The Captain perused the records in front of him, not hearing the door
signal once it let out a shrill reminder a few moments later.


Picard leant back in his chair and watched as the doors revealed his
CMO. Deanna had left hours ago after their first perusal. But Picard
had felt compelled to read them once more, to find the hidden clues he
was sure lay there.

“Beverly. What can I do for you?” he asked.

“A few questions answered,” she said as she advanced upon his
computer, twirling it to her side.

Picard sighed and turned if back to himself.

“If you want answers you only have to ask. But some things are still
off record Beverly.”

“Like Will's torture?” she bit back, anger flashing across her eyes.

“To Starfleet medical, they thought he was just a clone. We all know
that clone's are illegal. They figured an illegal clone had no rights.
Plus the unusual circumstance of his arrival peeked many more questions
that did need answering,” Picard defended via the material before him.

“And you still think that's alright? Jean Luc! He's your friend. One
of the closest to get into that hard outer shell you carry around.” Her
red hair flashed in a tight arc as she turned her back on him and
contemplated his lion fish. “I suppose the story would be different if
it'd been your Livingston,” she remarked.

Picard looked at her strangely and let a small smile grace his face
at her comment.

“Beverly, I don't condone what happened. I'm only reviewing what was
logged. In my mind I believe that our Will Riker has the right to be
damn terrified of us now. He was treated as if he was less than human.”
Picard shook his head and stood from his chair. Taking Beverly’s balled
up fists into his hands, he began to gently rub them till they
unclenched into his own warm fingers. “I will personally make sure that
he is treated no less than the decorated man he is, once he's returned
to the ship,” Picard promised, giving all but his artificial heart.

“But what about afterwards? Surely Starfleet aren't just going to let
him wander around now that he knows what they did. He may not even want
to come back!”

She took her hands from the Captain’s and sat down on the couch.

“Under chapter eight, it lists that any ability to remember the
occurrence would lead to Starfleet medical enlisting the help of their
cerebral facility, to rebuild the blocks that were originally placed
there. In short, they'll build walls and hide the info from him.”

“And us I suppose?” Beverly added.

Picard humpf’d slightly, realising that they too would either have to
keep the truth from Will or be mentally tampered with as well.

“I guess so. From what I know of the covert group known as Section
31, they don't like loose ends.”

“So why did Thomas join them? After all he and his brother went
through?” she asked herself.

“Thomas told us it was due to the past Head of Security who had him
blackmailed to join. But I guess in the end, Thomas probably enjoyed
the experience,” Picard surmised.

“Jean Luc!?! I can’t believe you said that.”

“Realistically Beverly, our Commander has always had the spirit of
an adventurer. Only on board the Enterpriseit's more sanctioned and
corralled by rules and regulations. Perhaps Thomas preferred the more
carefree undercover method,” he shrugged his shoulders and ordered a
cup of tea to evade her bewitching eyes.

“I've got to admit he does look good,” Beverly winked in the
Captain’s direction.

“I just hope that half my crew compliment don't end up visiting his
quarters. I had ensigns practically drooling in the corridor earlier
today talking about him,” Picard smiled.

“I guess the tight leather and smile does it,” Beverly grinned
evilly, peering through the steam of his hot tea. “I’m just hoping he
doesn’t end up in my sickbay from groinal strain,” she chuckled as she
gave him a comforting hand on his shoulder before heading towards the

“Beverly?” He waited till she'd turned around. “So what did you come
in here for?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Just making sure that you were still on Will's side. And if push
came to crunch that you'd stand by him if Starfleet decided to play
hooky with his future again,” she said before exiting the doors to the

Picard took a deep breath as he watched the door snap shut.

“That I certainly will Beverly. That I certainly will,” he murmured
to the steam.



The cool darkness did nothing to remove his fear, but it did give him
the feeling of control over his life. If he wanted to hide in the dark
then it was his choice and no one else’s. He shivered once more as a
cold drip echoed through the deserted corridor before him. The old
facility was still in reasonable use for the bare necessity of living
and only that. He'd already used up most of the emergency rations from
the shuttle before he'd redirected it on a circular heading.

“What the hell am I doing here?” he whispered to himself.

The light splayed onto the surfaces before him tremored slightly, as
he shivered, the small searchlight attached to his wrist. His uniform
was already damp from the underground dew that'd formed streams from
the cracked ceiling. ‘His uniform’. He’d ordered one up care of the
shuttle’s onboard replicator. Something he’d felt calmer in than the
sickbay pyjama set he’d escaped in. Wiping away another drop of water,
as it splashed onto his cheek, he carried on further along the passage

“There's got to be evidence. What I remember can’t be a dream or can
it?” he argued with himself.

A large door broke his current path, it's refusal to open
automatically testament to the lack of power. Wiping off the algae off
the door plaque, he viewed the lettering with his wrist beacon and
added a smile to his cracked lips. ‘Transporter Room One,’ it read.

“Well, well, well. Long time no see,” he murmured before attaching a
small black device and punching a few buttons.

The door ground half open before ending its hopeful life with the
dying sound of electronics fizzing. Pushing it further aside with a
grimace, Will flashed the light around the room quickly at first before
then giving it a another wide, but slow recount of it's innards.

“Let's get down to a little investigating shall we?” he asked himself.

His bravado was all he had left, no friends he could trust, no family
that was truly his. If it wasn't for the great conversation he was
having with himself he would’ve given up long ago. Sat and waited, for
whoever was most probably on his trail. His fated end.

He'd already spent the first few hours of his journey down here,
working out who’d they send to wipe him out. For some reason he was
sure that Starfleet wasn't going to let him run around loose. Look at
Thomas. He must’ve put a foot wrong when they'd dropped him in to the
Cardassian’s holiday retreat. What would they do to him? A mere
replica? He shook himself from his self pity before insanity took is
grip once more, and moved into the darkened room till he found the
transport console.

“Where's Geordi when you need him,” he chastised as he viewed the
jumble of circuitry half in and out of the device. Someone had wanted
to cover their past discretions. Or was this from Thomas’ earlier
abandonment? “Guess I'd better start with engineering 101 then,” he
replied as he sat down on the dirty ground, uncaring of his once
pristine uniform, and got to work repairing the main info bays inside
the controls.

As he worked he reviewed the past few days or weeks. He still didn't
know how long it'd been since Lwaxana had played Dabo with his brain.
The flash of past hidden memories had frozen him at first. Beverly
thinking it was only shock from the post op repairs. The more he'd lain
in sickbay, the more he remembered about something that he was sure was
never there before. But as he viewed the distressing past, uncovering
scarp upon moment, his body urged him to flee, to escape. Even Deanna
had sensed something. By the way he looked at the medical staff, the
way he flinched when she approached.

“Damn Betazoids,” he muttered. “I should’ve known why I never enjoyed
their presence.”

Flashes of dark orbed eyes burning into his mind, bricking up and
moulding his mind into something of a sham. He shook his head as his
spine tingled with a shiver.

“Concentrate Riker, we don't have long. They'll be here soon and then
they'll eat your brain again just like strawberry ice cream at a
children's party,” he chastised his failing body.

Three days on limited food and a throbbing headache from sickbay was
not a good recipe for adventuring alone. Not to mention thirst. The
scummy water dripping from the ceiling taunted him for the lack of
fresh that no longer filled his own empty water bottle. His dried lips
were cracked from the salty rations, that did nothing but make him
dream of drinking the Pacific Ocean, that is if he ever got back to
Earth. He shivered again and jumped back as a loose connection gave off
a burst of sparks.

“Damn it!”

He blew on burned fingers before attempting to steady his fingers
once more to attempt the tricky connections. Focussing, he soon had the
right connections buzzing with power, and a loud hum and whirring
brought half-light to the once darkened room, directly from the console
above him.

“Success my lord,” Will bowed to the console in good humour, a smile
curling his lips at his own joke, until realisation of finding an
answer was that much closer.

Getting up off the mildew covered floor, he blew off the dust from
the console and coughed as it found a new home in his lungs.

“Well, shall we see what delights of future past I can find?” he
asked before keying a few buttons and watching the diagnostic chart
come to life.

Rows of command signatures and bio-filter scripts floated past,
reflecting off his pale face.



A few hours later he was still reviewing logs and personnel files
left by the previous long gone operators. Fatigue was starting to set
in and everything beganto blur after a few more moments. Heavy leaden
eyelids started to lose contact with the world. That was until one
element flashed past and threw Will into full alert. Skipping his
fingers over the console’s touch sensitive pads he brought the new and
intriguing info to the forefront.

“Operative bypass?” he mimicked as he read the listing. “Let's see
what kind of rodents I can shake out of this one,” he said unaware that
his voice was bouncing to someone else.

“Just make sure you catch them all won't you?”

At first Will was beginning to think he’d been talking to himself too
long until he realised that it really was himself, but in another part
of the room.

“Hello Thomas. Or should I say Will?”

He looked up from the console into Thomas' bright light as he flashed
it on, dazzling his orbs, hiding that which Will wanted to know. Did he
have a weapon pointed at him?

“Keep it simple. Me Tom you Jane,” he replied before moving closer,
dipping the light.

“You alone or have you brought the rest of the army to drag me away?”
he asked as he let his face drop back to the data flashing by at his
finger prompts.

“Alone. Well…for the moment. Your family's up there worried about
you,” Thomas pointed to the ceiling indicating the Enterprisecircling

“Guess Deanna's mad as hell,” Will said, ignoring Thomas' advancement
to the front of the console.

“Mad, worried and in love with the clone,” Thomas said spitefully.

Will looked up into his own eyes, studying them for a moment before
he dropped his own back to the console.

“Not my fault I was deceived into thinking you were the left over
bits from my magnificence.”

Thomas snorted with laughter before adding a grin to his bearded

“At least I don't have as many bits as you,” he bit back humourously,
always the first to comment of Will's well lived body.

“So doesn't Section 31 feed you well enough? Must have taken some
fasting to fit into those pants,” Will jibed at Thomas' leather clad
body, the familiar jibing of old, relaxing Will somewhat.

“At least I can fit into them without endangering the Riker family
line,” Thomas threw back, taking another few steps forward to stand
before him.

“I wouldn't brag about that,” Will smiled back finally lifting his
smiling blue eyes to Thomas' own cocky replicas.

“What's to brag about, seems most of the female crew onboard that
ship of yours didn't think I was unendowed,” he grinned before slapping
Will on the shoulder only to see his brother grimace.

“You OK?” Thomas asked.

Will took a deep breath and steadied himself.

“Yeah. Got a dash of dizzy down here earlier and tripped over some
stuff. Just bruised my shoulder a little, nothing to worry about. But
thanks for the concern.”

“Section 31 want you back Will,” Thomas said with an apology on his

“I know. But what kind of shape will they press me into this time?”
Will said as he continued to flick through the options flashing
repeatedly under his finger tips.

Thomas dropped his light, and rubbed his beared chin uneasily with
his other hand.

“I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. I…”

“Hey relax Thomas. I don't blame you one bit. Nickless had you by the
balls and I was just a clone. I'm just sorry that it was covered up and
you got the raw deal,” Will spoke truthfully.

“What makes you think I finally got the raw deal?” Thomas’ eyebrows
rose, was there something Will knew that he didn’t?

“So you like squeaking around the alpha quadrant in the dark do you?”
Will enquired.

Laughter erupted from his twisted mirror image.

“I do now. No rules, well a few, but no major prime directives to get
in the way of a mission, and no pompous diplomatic functions to hamper
my intelligence,” he smiled and moved to Will's side of the console.
“So what have you found out?” he asked.

“Depends on whether you’re on my side or not,” Will replied.

“Well I am next to you, and not in front of you with a fully charged
phaser,” Thomas supplied.

“True. But are you here for evidence on our real emergence into the
world or just to help me across the road so you can earn another badge
on that bad ass uniform of yours?”

Will looked Thomas straight in the eye, watching and waiting for the
slightest hint that he should get himself out of there pronto.

“Hmm I was hoping for another badge but I figure I haven't got any
more room for it,” Thomas shrugged his shoulders and held out a hand in
friendship. “I'm here for the same thing as you Will. Evidence.”

Will watched Thomas for a few more seconds and then took his hand and
clasped it in welcome.

“Fine, how long do we have?” Will indicated upwards with a raise of
his chin.

“I told them to give me a few hours. Transporter and communication
signals can't get through without activating this lovely little

Thomas held up a small orb that began to actively hum once he coded
in a series of pressure pads, flashing an indicator light in the semi

“Then don't drop it. I don't want to be found in another four years
during the shield break with another bunch of clones on the way,” Will
cautioned as he viewed his only way out.



Getting in had been fine once he'd adjusted the confinement beam on
his transporter, but getting out was a dead end except for Thomas'
presence. He’d known before beaming down that he’d be stuck, but had
hoped to find a way out within the evidence he was now perusing.

“Me? Fumble fingers? I think that's you,” Thomas pointed out as he
gently touched Will's injured shoulder to see him draw in a deeper
breath this time.

“When you’re quite finished torturing me would you like to view the
real reason there are two of us?” Will said, hoping to redirect the
conversation from his swelling shoulder.

“Lead on,” Thomas ordered.

“It seems that this little bit of info here has the answers we're
both looking for. See these readings and the previous settings from the
last beam out?” Will pointed out both sides of the divided screen.

“So these are the settings from the last transporter user?” Thomas

“Yep. Which means that because we were transported via linking of the
Potempkin's transporters with this one, these settings caused the
misalignment that then bounced back creating two Rikers,” Will said
waiting for Thomas to catch on.

“So who entered the last settings?” Thomas peered over the panel
looking for the command codes it would require to perform such an

“Well someone with level two clearance. These settings just can't be
bumped up by a drunken finger or two. I'll access the codes through a
parallel search through the bypass outlets,” Will said before stifling
a yawn.

“How long has it been since you've slept Will?” Thomas asked
concerned, knowing just how often he himself went without sleep when
mysteries were to be solved.

“Too long. Couldn't afford the luxury with you guys on my tail,” he
smiled back at Thomas trying to hide the dark rings around his eyes
with mirth.

“Maybe I should do this? Wouldn't want you to trip on something and
clear it all,” Thomas offered.

“I'm fine Thomas. I know what…wait! I've got it!”

Will grabbed a padd from his pack on the floor and began copying some
codes from the console. He handed the padd to Thomas and smiled.

“Work out whose codes these are and we've got the bastard,” Will

“What makes you think it wasn't just an officer trying an alternative
way to get out of here? An accident?” Thomas asked before viewing the
padd, knowing how often he went off half cocked.

“The last two command digits belong to a command officer from the
Potempkin. Come on Thomas! You know as well as I do that all command
codes incorporate the ship registration at the end,” Will cuffed Thomas
across the head lightly before grimacing from moving his shoulder so

“So it was a Starfleet thing.”

Thomas paused and watched Will compose his pain filled face.

“Looks like it. And unfortunately you’re going to have to take me
back up there to find out whose code it is. Only the Enterpriseis going
to give us those answers,” Will said.

“Why the Enterprise?” Thomas queried as he packed the padd into his
own jacket for safe keeping.

“Because Jean Luc Picard has many friends, and many friends have a
bigger chance of tracking down this bastard than our clearance would.
Besides, someone's probably waiting for us to make a move. They see our
access codes attached to this query on any computer and they'll scarper
as fast as they can from the scene of the crime,” Will said gently
rubbing his injury.

“Figure you can trust him though? You're the one who ran first and
asked questions later,” Thomas reminded his rather unkempt reflection.

“Now I've had time to arrange my mind into something better than
alphabet soup, sure. It was before their time, and level of Command. I
doubt even Deanna knew.” Will stopped and considered his Imzadi for a
moment. The look that had crossed her face as he’d slammed into her.
“Guess she's mad at me huh?” Will added.

“More so at Mr Codeman here,” Thomas replied before grabbing Will's
pack from the floor and directing him out of the transporter area.

Will stopped before walking over the threshold to glance back into
the gloom, the console still projecting limited light onto the
transporter padd.

“Just think Thomas. It all started here.”

Thomas grabbed his uninjured arm and dragged him back through the

“And this is where it'll end if we hang around here any longer.
There's an ion storm coming. If we don't move soon, we'll have to wait
a little longer than I think your system can cope with,” Thomas smiled
as he took in Will's haggard appearance.

“Guess I could do with some water,” Will smiled and hurried down the
slightly slanted corridor after his leaner self.

“In more ways than one my dear brother,” Thomas said comically
holding his nose.


“We're getting a signal from Commander Thomas Riker Sir,” the
communications ensign announced to Picard, as he sat waiting in the
command chair onboard the hovering Enterprise.

“Initiate transport on his signal Mr Data,” Picard ordered as he
watched the swirling of green gases glide and curl over the barren

“Aye Sir,” Data replied. “Transport complete Sir. Two patterns,
indicating the arrival of Commanders Will and Thomas Riker Sir,” he

“Excellent, Mr Data make sure they report to Dr Crusher first. I want
to make sure both Commanders are well from their trip to Nervala IV.”

Data nodded, awaiting the next order he was sure Picard would make.

“You have the Con Commander. I'll be in sickbay,” Picard ground out
the command, after his feet had already started to travel their way to
the lift doors.

He was eager to see what shape his errant first officer was in before
Command heard of their retrieval.



Sickbay was a hive of activity as Picard entered Beverly's domain.
Will Riker was whining like his old self, with Beverly trying to keep
him down as gently as possible on the biobed.

“I'm not going to hurt you Will. Now sit down and keep still before I
get Worf to tie you down,” she chastised, soon regretting her use of
words as Will eyed her suspiciously while the captain approached.

Picard viewed the other occupant, Thomas Riker. He sat guarding his
brother a biobed away and was just as unruly under Dr Selar's care.

“Gentlemen, if you could follow the doctor's orders, the quicker you
can leave here and fill me in as to what you've both been doing
planetside,” he interrupted.

A double of mumbles filled the air, signifying their unwanted
agreement to Picard's bargain. Will groaned lightly as Beverly helped
his jacket off to reveal the black bruises now covering his left

“And you said you just slipped. What were you doing? Cleaning the
floors with your shoulder?” Thomas chastised.

“Near enough,” Will grinned before changing face as Beverly
approached with hypo in hand.

Distrust flashed across his face once more as he considered the
consequences of being sedated. Beverly read his features and halted her
hypo approach.

“I'm only going to administer a pain killer Will, nothing more. You
can check if you like?” she offered.

He looked into her eyes and saw only concern, no duplication, and
finally acquiesced to her ministrations.

“I fell through an old section in one of the corridors down there. I
guess the structure’s really feeling the effects of the heavy ion
storms,” Will supplied before the doctor had a chance to pry into his
accident report.

“That's why I kept the shield generators so high, when I was down
there all those years ago. You could practically see the walls melt in
some places where the shields didn't reach,” Thomas agreed.

“Well Mr Adventure, you’re fine. Just some deep bruising to the
shoulder muscles and a couple of stretched ligaments, but we'll have
you fixed in a minute. But in the meantime we'd better get some food
into you Will,” she said reading the medicorder as it beeped at Will's

“Something without salt?” Will pleaded as Beverly stuck another hypo
into him.

“No salt Will. But here's another one for dehydration while were at
it too,” she said as he flinched under another jab.

Picard moved forward to stand before his first officer.

“Counsellor Troi will be down in a moment to help evaluate your
fitness for questioning later.”

“Am I under arrest?” Will asked, flinching as Beverly straightened
his shoulder.

“Well that's for Commander Riker over there to assess,” Picard
indicated to Thomas who was sitting cross legged on the biobed with a
smug smile on his face.

“Forgot to tell you Will, I'm in command of the Enterpriseuntil this
is all settled. Guess your ass is mine brother.”

With that he got up and stalked out of sickbay.

“That man needs a serious kick up the ass,” Will ground out between
clenched teeth as the muscular regenerator hummed its way across his

“So do you if you keep jamming yourself into debris,” Beverly warned.

“Yes doctor,” Will complied dragging his hair out of one eye and
rubbing a tired hand across his forehead.

“So how are you Will?” Picard asked now that Thomas had vacated the

“Confused and still slightly dizzy from the images that keep
appearing in my head. It's kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Every now and
then a flash of memory comes back and whacks me in the face. And I mean
whack. Some of these things aren't exactly children's programs,” Will
answered while Beverly finished up.

“So you know about the cover up then?” Picard asked.

“I do now,” he replied before the doors swished open to reveal a
rather harried Deanna Troi.

The second in line daughter of the Fifth House and Sacred Holder of
the Chalice of Rixx certainly didn't look like Betazoid royalty as she
appeared flushed and grateful at Will's side.

“In a hurry counsellor?” he joked earning him a flash of anger as she
pushed aside a heavy lock of hair.

“You, Will Riker, are doubly in trouble,” she retaliated.

Her rumpled appearance no doubt caused by sleeping awkwardly in said
uniform. Her concern for him now forgotten as she bumped into one of
his playful attitudes.

“What did I do now?” he whined.

His response almost like his old self, a faux hurt expression
complete with a glint of humour in one eye.

“Nothing Will. You’ve just twisted the universe upside down and
converted Starfleet into something reminiscent of the Cardassian’s at
play,” Beverly added.

“Sorry. Blame the transporter,” he groaned before giving an apology
that needed to be said regardless of Picard's understanding.

“Captain, I'm sorry for running away, but not long ago everything was
just a damn mess inside my head. I had no way to tell who was friend or
foe, that is until I spent a little time on the shuttle figuring out
the right puzzle pieces. And then I needed to check something first, to
confirm it all.”

Will got up off the biobed once Beverly had finished, only to sway
back onto it a moment later.

“Easy Will. You’re a little under the weather still. Sit down for a
few moments more and then we'll see if you’re ready for the
counsellor’s wrath,” Beverly suggested, worried when Will nodded in
agreement and settled more into his seated position.

Deanna continued to stand and watch Will quietly from the sidelines.
She wasn't just starring but observing him inside and out. His emotions
were swirling in all directions at the same time. Anger, fear, hatred,
sadness, inquisitiveness all churning inside.

“So I guess Nervala IV was the place to start?” Picard continued.

“Yeah. First stop. The land of OZ to visit the wizard,” he smiled
trying not to look at Deanna, knowing that his ease was all show.

Underneath he was barely holding it together, in fact he just wanted
to run and hide again.

“Well. Perhaps we'd better leave you with Deanna for a few moments
before we move to the observation lounge?” Picard suggested.

“Thank you Captain. Will and I won't be long. Perhaps at 16:00
hours?” Deanna suggested without taking her eyes off her patient.

“Excellent. 16:00 hours it is.”

Picard followed Beverly out of the examination area, the doctor
giving Deanna a look that said ‘treat him kindly’ before exiting the

“I guess they don't want to see the damage you’re going to make of
me,” Will squirmed on the biobed as she stood silently, starring
straight at him.

Her next words flooded the room with all she’d been rehearsing since
he’d left.

“Will, I'm not here to hurt you, chastise you or throw balls of fire
at you. But I do know that you didn’t tell me everything that you were
bottling up inside yourself. And that just ticks me off. I want to help
Will. But you keep on hiding from me. Why don't you want to talk? This
whole mess could have been solved in better ways than running away. If
only you had consulted me. I’m not just your Counsellor Will, I’m your



She paused, waiting for him to make the first move. Her body feeling
refreshed as she’d spewed forth her anger in a calm, controlled manner.
She knew it was wrong. He didn’t need this now, but he needed to know
that she was on his side, and fooling him with niceties right now
wasn’t going to indicate that.

“I didn't know if you were part of it,” he quietly answered, so quiet
that Deanna wasn't sure she had heard him correctly.

His heart was drenched with sorrow, his emotions hanging heavily in
the air as he regretted his actions.

“I wouldn’t hurt you Imzadi,” she answered moving to sit beside him
as he dangled his long legs over the edge.

Taking a hand in hers, she squeezed it gently until he looked up from
his feet to her onyx orbs. A memory flashed and he jolted slightly,
nearly extricating his hand from hers. Deanna frowned slightly.

“What’s wrong Will?” she asked still holding his hand in hers.

“They used Betazoids to block....” he swallowed hard.

Deanna’s mouth dropped open in shock.

“Oh Will. I'm so sorry.”

She grabbed his other hand and held both together as she lent forward
to lean against his shoulder. He looked back down at the floor, knowing
it was the easiest way to talk to her for the time being.

“I'm sorry, but I keep getting mental flashbacks. I'm not sure of
everything yet, some pieces are still missing, but I do know the gist
of what happened,” he paused, building up courage as his body began to
shake. “They basically pulled me apart and put me back again. And I
felt it all.” His voice wavered and Deanna dragged him tighter to her
chest as she felt him give in to the tears that had been held back
since she'd arrived. “I'm not real Imzadi. I'm a manufactured soldier.”
She heard him add between sobs.

“Not true Will. You’re here right now in my embrace. As real as any
human being. And I still love you Imzadi, no matter who you were or
weren't,” she soothed until his shaking body stilled.

They sat for over half an hour, rocking to and fro, before he pulled
himself from her grasp and wiped his hand over now dry cheeks. Red
rimmed eyes still belayed the pain he'd released moments before.

“Thank you,” he said, still avoiding her eyes.

Deanna gently placed her fingers against his scruffy bearded chin and
turned it up to face hers, watching his big blue eyes swing away until
she kissed him. Lightly at first to get his attention, and then a
second time harder, to tell him she’d meant every single word that she
loved him.

<Imzadi> breathed through Will's mind before he let go of the
crushing kiss.

He looked back at her caring face and smiled before reaching for her
hands this time and squeezing them for comfort.


“So, what does it say?” Will queried as he paced Thomas' quarters.

“Nothing yet. Picard's still asking for some favours to be called in.”

Thomas accessed the replicator and ordered another ale before
swinging back to the couch opposite Will. His long plait whacking the
back of it as he sat heavily.

“Ever thought of a hair cut and a real job?” Will questioned.

Thomas raised an eyebrow.

“I'm not going to even bother giving that a sensible answer,” Thomas

Will grinned. Whether from the excess of Ale Thomas had been sharing
with him or just exhaustion from his recent trip, Will couldn’t help
but relax and enjoy the sheer excitement of ribbing the twisted mirror
image before him.

“You got a problem with style?” Thomas asked.

“No, but I never figured myself jaunting through space looking like a
pirate,” Will passed back.

Thomas sighed, figuring it was time to change subject.

“So how many favours does this Captain of yours have? Surely he's
used them all up by now?” Thomas queried.

“Funny you should ask that. Seems that he's always calling in
favours. I hope for our sake, he hasn't run out. Especially now.”

Will stretched out his long legs and slumped into the cosy couch.

“Well at least the meeting went well. He seemed to believe both of
us,” Thomas said as he too mirrored Will's posture.

“Either that or he's just called the head of psychology back on
Earth, letting them know that he's got two live ones on the way,” Will

Thomas watched Will for a moment while leisurely drinking his ale.
The mild fizz of the bubbles within his tall glass, and the bitter tang
of the sytheholic beverage clouded his mind for a moment. His brother
was looking better since sickbay, even if he was about to join the land
of nod, his eyes fluttering open and closed in short intervals. As
Thomas had left sickbay, he’d passed Deanna, as she approached her
patient in waiting. She'd smiled at him, and uttered a small thank you
for bringing his brother home, but he'd known to let her go, to let her
pass on her way. Will was her first priority now, and he was in need of
it in more ways than himself. By Will’s earlier jibes, Deanna’s
presence obviously had helped.

“Deanna seems to have helped. You should never knock her back Will,
we both need her more than we know,” Thomas spoke, forcing Will's
eyelids open once more.

Will raised his head slightly and smiled tiredly before dropping it
back down to the back of the chair.

“I love her, did you know that?”

“We both do,” Thomas smiled. “And we’re both afraid to tell her,” he

Thomas paused and waited for a reply, one that didn’t come.

“You know. I always figured you got the better deal. Deanna. The
Enterprise. But now I'm not so sure. The way I figure it. The suffering
you went through and the knowledge you now hold isn't worth jack shit
against the good things is it?” Thomas asked draining the last of the
ale before making another frothy ring on the glass table.

“Depends on how much you remember and how much you leave in the past
Thomas,” Will slurred sleepily. “I know it happened. I know I'm a copy,
but I've made my own life since then and passed it by. It's history. I
just have to make sure it doesn't happen again. What's in front of me?
Maybe the chance to command a ship of my own with Deanna by my side or
maybe nothing at all but a dark cell. But I do know that I have a
family onboard here and that's what counts. Friends and family. I
figure it was worth it in a strange sort of way. I'm just sorry that my
existence has taken your chance to be in my place.”

Will gave a deep sigh, his eyes having closed halfway through the

“Don't worry Will. I'm happy. OK you got the girl. But I'm free to do
my pirate thing as you called it,” he replied with mirth coating each
word, watching Will's breathing deepen into slumber. “I would’ve loved
Deanna as much as you, but I'll just have to hope you'll do the job
well enough for me,” Thomas said knowing Will was well away with the
fairies, not to hear him.

Getting up he made his way to the replicator and ordered something
stronger to wash away his betraying emotions.



Stiffness of the neck was considered by some as payback for the
treatment of one's body. But in Will Riker's case it was downright
annoying. Will awoke to a headache that was drilling in perfect tempo
with his heart and it wasn't helped by the tightness surrounding his
shoulders and neck. Finally achieving some movement, he looked down to
the blanket that was laid over his chest and lap.

“Thomas?” Will’s scratchy voice called into the empty room.

He was still lying on Thomas' couch in his quarters. The various
empty glasses littering the table in front of him was enough to remind
him of how he'd gotten here. And why he was so stiff. Thomas had
obviously drunk a little longer after he'd nodded off. There were what
looked like scotch or whiskey glasses next to last night’s ex-ales,
testament that his ‘brother’ had stayed a little longer to watch over
him. Memory flashed before his eyes, and Will even remembered waking
once during the night to Thomas' concerned blues.

“You Ok?” his voice floated into the room before his body arrived
around the edge of the couch. An exact repeat of Thomas’ question last

“Yeah, I think.” Will rubbed his shoulders harder to get the
circulation going. “Did I wake you last night?” Will asked.

“Didn't wake me. I was here watching, but you damn well scared me
when you broke off into out of tune screaming. You sunk back into la-la
land as soon as I shook you into a semi-conscious state.” Thomas gave a
concerned smile before heading toward the replicator. “Breakfast? Or
are you due with the counsellor this morning?” he asked checking the
time. “It is 9:00 hours.”

Will groaned and lent forward to drape his aching head in his hands.

“Yeah, but I'm not hungry.”

“Sure?” Thomas' face took on a mother hen frown.

“Yep. Just let me lie here for a couple of minutes and I'll be fine,”
Will said as he drew his feet up onto his surrogate ‘bed’ and folded
sideways into the back of the couch.

“Headache? Backache? Stomach ache?” Thomas pushed only to receive
silence and an uneven deep breathing from the other side of the

“Well I guess it's just me for breakfast then,” Thomas spoke to
himself, ordering up an omelette and other various condiments, followed
by a strong cup of Columbian coffee.

Sitting himself down, he swung the table terminal around so he could
eat and read at the same time. Soon entering his code, and downloading
his current list of messages. A couple of messages from Lana, his
commanding officer, surfaced through the rest of the directed news
broadcasts. Part of Thomas' job involved keeping up to date with the
latest news, lies, deals and everyday business. Homework. He usually
moaned to Lana personally each morning during briefings when she dumped
this stuff on him. Today, he'd have to sub space that moan if he wanted
to let her know how much he hated this side of it all. Hitting the
first message brought her deep green eyes firing back at him. Nothing
unusual in the message except for an update request on his current

“Is the rabbit in the bag?” she intoned.

“Yeah but I'm not travelling ‘til I really know what's going to
happen to him,” Thomas murmured back to her video image.

He took another mouthful of omelette and chewed while she continued
his orders. Thomas, glad she wasn't real time, smirked as he thought of
her pet hates. Lana was a nutrition junkie, and abhorred some of the
things he ate, then again she'd probably hate his brother more, he
thought with a devious smile. Thomas lost in thought, suddenly raised
his head with her last statement. Hitting the reverse function on the
keypad, he replayed her order.

“...as ordered. No excuses Tom. I know he's your brother but Greigson
wants him back now and in the chair. We've gotta work out whether to
wipe him or his mind asap and the same goes for anyone onboard that
ship you've told. Which I guess would only be Picard and Crusher? Call
me back pronto Tom. We need to move fast on this. Lana out.”

The screen cut to black and then flashed back to the main index.
Thomas took a deep breath.

“Sloppy work Tommy. Sloppy work,” he muttered as he rubbed his
eyeballs and finished chewing his last bite.

This meant that virtually the whole senior staff was going to be mind
wiped. But what of Will?

“Damn!” he slammed his hand down hard onto the desk, shaking the fork
onto the table top.

A deep groan from behind, brought him upwards and forward as he
remembered Will was still behind him on the couch. How much had he
heard? Moving around to face Will, he found his brother still curled up
facing the couch back but half hanging out of the blanket. Will groaned
again before thrashing out at Thomas as he carefully placed a hand to
his shoulder.

“Whoa!” Thomas cooed.

Dodging the energetic arm, he placed a hand to Will's forehead,
instantly feeling the scolding sting of a high temperature.

“Thomas Riker to Crusher. I need you in my quarter’s now,” he barked
to the ceiling before grabbing a towel from the bathroom and soaking

He placed it onto Will's searing face just as his door buzzed.

“Come!” he called out, watching as Dr Crusher rushed in. “Will's got
a temperature hot enough to fry eggs,” he informed her before backing
out of her way, only to return as she asked, to help remove some of
Will's clothing.

Perspiration clung to Will’s skin like pearls as his respirations
rose, his anxiety level moving higher by the minute.

“Bad dream. Seems like he can't shake it,” Beverly said as she
administered a couple of relaxants and pain killers.

“He slept on the couch all last night, with only a couple of bad
dreams,” Thomas supplied.

Beverly looked up into Thomas' face and held back her smile as she
saw the concern etched on his face turn into anger.

“Damn it! Why couldn't this have been someone else's job?” he mumbled
as he stormed off to grab his cooling coffee.

“You mean counselling?” Beverly asked as she sat back on her heels,
scanning her restless patient.

“No. Retrieval. Always easier when it's someone you don't know.”

The Alaskan bear paced the room, swigging back the remains of his
frigid coffee with distaste, before calling for Data.

“Aye Sir?” Data replied.

“Set course for Earth, warp nine, pronto Mr Data,” he commanded in
his deep based voice.

“Aye Sir, warp nine for Sector 001,” Data confirmed before cutting
the connection.

“Going home?” Beverly inquired, one hand still resting over Will’s

“We all are, unfortunately,” he said quietly, more to himself than to

“What is it that you’re so worried about?” a quiet voice ventured
from the darkness of the doorway.



“What is it that you’re so worried about?” a quiet voice ventured from
the darkness of the doorway.

Thomas turned and shook his head for not realising her entry partway
through his call to the bridge.

“Nothing,” soon changing his answer knowing that he'd never deceive
her, “Will,” he confessed. “Things aren't going to plan.” Thomas rubbed
the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes to think.

“Well he's going to be fine after a couple of hours of true rest.
Without synthehol,” Beverly perked up from the living area. “Same with
you I figure,” she eyed Thomas with her diagnosing eyes.

“Well Will's going to need it more than me,” he replied before moving
to the couch, pushing aside the blanket, and lifting Will up to his
chest with a grunt.

“What are you doing?” Beverly growled as her patient was hoisted
about a metre higher than the couch, her vibrant hair bristling with

“Putting him somewhere where he'll get a better rest than on my
couch,” Thomas said straining from his brothers weight. “God damn it he
eats too much,” Thomas spat as he jerked him higher, for a better grip,
and started for the door.

His mistake was not knowing the Ire of Beverly as well as Will did.

“Thomas Riker. Stop right there! You'll take him nowhere but your own
bedroom,” Beverly ordered. “For the time being he'll be better here
under your constant care than sickbay or alone in his own quarters. We
can assign some help, but you know him better than us to help him
through all this.”

Beverly stopped her tirade and waited for Thomas to make the next

“Fine,” he resigned, staggering over to his bedroom, to lay his heavy
burden down on the covers.

The two sirens of his quarters soon moved past him, tricorders and
blankets in hand. Deanna placed a hand to his forearm.

“He needs us all Thomas. Don’t forget that,” she strongly stressed,
as if she’d known he was in a quandary of what to do, before passing by
to access her snoring charge.

Thomas growled inwardly.

“I can't play nurse all day. First and foremost, I've got a couple of
private matters to work out with your captain,” he said, trying to find
a better excuse, but failing.

“Thank you. I know this whole thing is hard but he really will be
better with you,” Beverly said as she continued her scans, ignoring
Thomas’ complaints, while Deanna pulled the covers up over Will’s
semi-naked body.

“I'll stay while you’re with the Captain if you like,” Deanna offered
and watched as Thomas nodded his accent to her.

She’d still been watching him, sensing his emotions through every
crack he let slip open.

“Thanks,” he mumbled before reaching for his leather jacket from the
bed end, pulling it on over the black t-shirt underneath. He paused to
look back at Will, worry gnawing at his lower intestine. “I won't be

Striding through the living room, he halted by his terminal display,
the last message was still unopened from Lana.

“Later,” he grumbled as he aimed for the off key, reminding himself
to read it under more private of conditions.

The door slid shut and Deanna moved out into the living area,
watching where Thomas' back had retreated to, her eyes soon moving to
the semi-blank terminal.


As he took his first conscious breath, Will's nose wrinkled with the
faint smell of leather permeating the room. Swallowing hard on a dry
parched throat, he soon gathered up enough courage to open one eye, for
a sporting chance of finding a glass of water close by. Light spiked
through his head, but unlike before it was bearable, the illumination
low enough to highlight the various objects within the room. A figure
sat, just out of reach of his peripheral vision, cloaked in shadows.
But Will smiled, he knew who it was.

“You do know that you’re becoming very easy to find just by a sense
of smell,” Will croaked out to the shadowed man.

“I think you've mistaken me for the wrong person Will,” Deanna's
voice sweetly laughed.

“And you've just confirmed it,” he smiled with both eyes now closed
to the light, as it notched up a few percent, the pink hue of the light
shinning through his eyelids. “I can still smell leather though.
Where'd he go?” Will squinted, sitting up slowly to take stock of the
room. “And before you answer that, why am I in different rooms each
time I wake up?”

“Checking your ability to cope with sudden change,” Deanna jibed
sitting down beside him on the bed and placing the back of her hand
against his forehead. “Well you've finally cooled down. Guess it's time
we visited the Captain now that you’re better. After a shower that is.”

“Mmm. Good idea,” said Will, rubbing an eye socket, and immediately
feeling the grime from two days of sleep.

Stretching lightly after he peeled back the sheets, he wobbled up
from the bed and headed for the bathroom.

As soon as the shower began running, Deanna moved to the replicator
and ordered up a few clothes for him, placing them on the bed end for
when he'd finished. While the steam curled out of the bathroom, Deanna
moved into the living area and perused the blank monitor once more.

A few moments later she nearly jumped out of her skin when Will
tapped her on the shoulder.

“Clothes are on the bed,” she said before he could utter a word.

By the way he was dripping over the floor dressed in only a white
towel, it was pretty easy to know what it was he was after.

“Thanks,” she heard from the other room, along with a loud smack of
the sodden towel hitting the tiles, soon followed by a rustling of
fresh clothing.

Smiling, she made a note that she was truly going to have to rid him
of that bad habit.

A few moments later and Will strode back into the room, fully clothed
in a loose T-shirt and trousers.

“Bit casual don't you think?” he queried.

“Fine for a sick little boy, if you ask me,” she replied and then
stuffed a piece of toast into his mouth, before he could
complain. “Time to go,” she added.

He munched quickly, popping the last of the crusts into his hungry
mouth as she thrust her own arm around his and towed him out of Thomas'
cabin. All the while wondering what had made her so jumpy before hand.



The lift rose up to the observation lounge, depositing the two
officers, one off duty by his definite casual appearance, and the other
wholly consumed by something.

“So what was so engrossing on Thomas' terminal?” Will asked as they
exited the lift doors in section 2a, avoiding the bridge by a more
direct route, and headed down the short corridor to the observation
lounge's doors.

“I just contacted my mother to make sure that she'd arrived safely
back on Betazed. The Daughters of the House of Betazed still want to
discuss her attempt on your mind. But she says it should go well.”
Deanna gave a soft whimsical smile. “She asked how you were.”

Will raised his eyebrows.

“I have a feeling your mother is going to be amazingly kind to me
from now on,” he grinned.

She smiled back and pushed him through the doors first.

“Welcome back to the living,” Thomas greeted from the end of the
table, legs crossed and feet balancing on the polished obsidian surface
of the table once more.

“And what a welcome... the smell of dead cow,” Will replied with a

“You've really got a hang up with my clothes haven't you?” Thomas
chided. “But before you upset me further we have a few answers to some
of the questions we were angling for down on Nervala,” his eyebrows
wiggled with delight.

Will sat down quietly and waited for his brother to take centre
stage, as he slowly removed his legs from their inclined position, and
stood up to face Deanna, Will and Captain Picard. The buzz from his
discovery, electrifying his blue eyes with intensity.

“The command codes that were used to change the transporter
operations on the planet have been matched perfectly to an officer on
board the Potempkin. Something both Will and I agreed upon before our
retrieval by the Enterprise,” Thomas reviewed. “What we know now thanks
to Captain Picard’s resources, is who exactly that officer was. The
bizarre thing is that from my memory, this officer was never on board.”

This information brought Will's head up quickly to frown at his
brother’s comment.

“Commander Ivan Tolson. Chief of Security,” Thomas stated.

“Never heard of him. Lieutenant Fazon was Chief of Security on the
Potempkin. At least that’s what I remember,” Will entered the fray.

“Exactly. Turns out though that Fazon was actually Tolson undercover
for Nickless,” Thomas revealed with a grin.

A grin, that Picard could only describe as a winning smile. Thomas
had hit the jackpot and was about to get even with their aggressors.

“So what now?” Picard asked. “Can we locate this ‘Fazon’ or ‘Tolson’?”

The Section man nodded, with a sadistic smile.

“Oh I know where he is, or at least suspect I do. While you guys
continue on to Earth, as per my standing orders, I’ll head off after
him and bring him in for questioning.”

“Why do I need to go back to Earth?” Will asked, unsure if he really
wanted to know the truth as Thomas deliberately removed his eye contact
from Will before speaking.

“You’re to be taken back and re-wiped. The same goes for anyone who
now knows of Nickless’s little experiment,” Thomas announced quietly
before turning and facing the window to watch the stars streak by,
flying as fast as his heart beat.

“No! Those bastards are not going to touch me again,” Will spat as he
stood up from his chair and backed away from Deanna's hand, looking to
Picard for support, a silent plea lay within his eyes, a wish to be
protected from becoming Starfleet’s automaton.

“I'm sorry Will. But it's either a few new blocks or they'll wipe you
completely,” Thomas continued, peering out to the darkness.

“What do you mean by wipe completely?” Picard asked, the Captain now
standing along with Deanna, and a ready-to-run Will.

“My orders were to bring Will in for re-wiping of his mind or
possible disposal if retrieval wasn't possible. I'm sorry Will, but I
figure wiping is better than a dead end.”

Will stood very still, his mouth partially open in shock as he
watched Thomas' stiffened back.

“They wouldn't! He's a decorated officer Tom, and you!” Deanna almost
screamed at him.

“They would Deanna and you know it,” Will said. He looked her
straight in the eye. “You knew. That's why I frightened you earlier in
Thomas' cabin when I disturbed you at the terminal.”

Thomas turned at this information.

“What exactly were you looking at?” he asked venomously.

“I turned your terminal back on and read the file you'd been reading.
You'd forgotten to log out with full security protocols,” she answered
straight to his face, proud to be one up on Thomas’ arrogant attitude,
and to have the chance of protecting Will.

“You shouldn't have done that Deanna. It's classified info.” Thomas
shook his head. “What else did you delve into?” He waited, Deanna
silent. He knew she was hiding something. “Alright, so what made you so
fearful for our dear Willy over there?” he tried another track.

Deanna took a deep breath.

“I accessed the other message you hadn't opened yet from Lana Helden.”

“And?” he prompted.

“I think you should read it Thomas. Now. Here,” she answered.

Thomas shook his head at the tiny Betazoid.

“Sometimes I'm sure you only get away with it because you’re so
beautiful,” he added. “And the keeper of my heart strings,” he grumbled
quietly, heading over to the desk and heavily punching in a few
commands to bring up his messages.

The second one was no longer flashing, having been accessed by Deanna

“Voice activation engaged,” the computer supplied.

“New orders for Commander Thomas Riker. All is not well with your
hunting into tainted territory. Ditch your brother and get out of
there. Commander William Thomas Riker not considered salvageable. Your
man is on your tail and he's not happy. We're keeping tabs on him.
Return to base immediately. Greigson will have your hide but will clean
up the mess. Many apologies. Project Command Officer Lana Helden.”

Thomas’ jaw clenched and unclenched for few moments before he
summoned up enough courage to face the one person he now feared for.
Will Riker stood off to the left of Picard, arms crossed over his chest
and an angry sea of wrath painted on his face.

“Not salvageable,” Will spat.



“Not salvageable,” Will spat.

“Just give me a minute Will, I'm not ready to toss you into the sea
just yet, regardless of orders,” he replied back.

“Sure! Like you've been truthful since you got here,” Will laughed
madly. “Let's face realities here Thomas. You were sent here to kill me
off!” he boomed until Picard's hand grabbed his arm and pulled his full
attention away from Thomas, to his commanding officer.

“They may be orders Will. But we won't be following them. I can
assure you of that,” Picard said, turning to the other Riker and
waiting for him to nod in agreement.

“No Riker's on my list of ‘things to do’,” he smiled, trying to lift
his brother's spirits.

“Great. Just great. I get beat up by a furious Betazoid who decides
to turn my brain into play dough, then straightens it out again, just
so I can have someone shooting at me!”

Will paced the room looking for something to throw. To make matters
worse, his head was starting to throb again, in steady rhythm to the
pounding he'd like to have given Thomas.

“So what happens now? Do I hide or do we go after Tolson or Fazon,
whatever his real name is?” Will threw his comments into the pond and
waited for someone to make an attempt of fishing him out.

“How do you feel first? Are you steady enough to take this on?”
Picard asked.

“Have I seen my quack lately? Yeah but I don't know her answer,” Will
answered looking to Deanna.

She pursed her lips, almost biting the bottom lip as she surmised the
man before her.

“We have no choice, but realistically I would like Will to at least
have a few days to recover from everything that's happened over the
last two weeks. I'm sure Beverly would agree. But as mentioned, we have
no choice but to rush headlong into this,” the counsellor announced.

“Our cards are dealt and our future is unknown,” Thomas Riker added.

Deanna smiled in agreement and looked back to Will, who was still
looking a little shell shocked.

“How are you feeling?”

“A little confused, shocked and down right annoyed,” Will said
tiredly, his energy levels dropping as the anger flushed through his

“Will, I'll track down this Fazon bastard,” Thomas sincerely
announced, moving forward to clasp his brother on the shoulder. “He’s
not getting away with this, I can tell you.”

Will flashed a thankful smile briefly before wallowing back into
misery. Whatever the end result, Will knew he was still going to be
wiped, especially if the Head of Starfleet Security demanded it.

“Captain Picard, Deanna, I’m sorry to ask this of you, but I need you
two to keep Will out of the firing line. It’s not going to be easy, but
you’re the only people left that I trust right now. Deal?” Thomas
suggested, waiting for the reply he knew they’d make.

“A deal Mr Riker, just make sure it’s a favourable ending though,”
Picard said tugging down on his uniform tunic. “I want my first officer
back, without any more trauma,” he smiled warmly.

“Then let's get to it. I'll find Geordi and get him to prep my ship.
Then I'll see you guys on the flip side,” he winked, itching with

This was something he was more accustomed to, the chase, not the
command. Before another comment or question could be heard, he
retreated from the room, sure that Will was in great hands.

“And I’ll get you down to sickbay for a check-up. I can already hear
Beverly's incessant finger-taping, waiting for our arrival,” Deanna
said gripping him by the arm and leading him up from his chair, the one
he'd only just plonked himself into earlier.

“Can we get something to eat first? I think I've missed a couple of
meals somewhere.”

Will's memory of one slice of toast wasn't fooling his digestive

“Sure. Ten Forward or my quarters?” she asked, glad he was focussing
on other things right now.

“Your quarters, I don't think I can face half the crew at the
moment,” he openly admitted, with an apologetic grimace.

“You soon will Commander. It won’t be long until this is all sorted,”
the captain supplied with a smile, one that Will finally mirrored
before Deanna pulled him away.

“I hope so sir,” he replied and followed his guardian angel out the



The Enterprisesped through space, the light of millions of
civilisations, oblivious to its passing. But one person was keeping a
close eye on it, and that was Thomas, as he powered along a few parsecs
ahead. He’d ordered the Enterpriseon a warp 7 course, to allow him to
arrive and clear the decks before Will was brought in. He needed the
time before his charge entered sector 001, and who knew what he’d find
when he got back. Well there was one person who’d know. He smiled as he
readied to meet his superior, coding in his signature, and awaiting her
returning subspace hail. Her face flashed up on screen in a matter of
seconds, as she saw Riker’s call.

“’Bout time you called in,” she admonished.

“Sorry.” He gave a small lopsided smile, the kind a love sick puppy
would make to its owner. “My cargo was a bit pricklier than I thought.
I didn't want to worry you guys into thinking I couldn't handle it.”

Thomas moved a hand over the flickering display, punching in a few
course adjustments, giving him an excuse to take his eyes off the view

“I don't see Mr Prickly behind you Tom, what'd you do? Miniaturize

Her face was churning with anger the more she suspected that Thomas
may have taken his brother's side in all of this.

“Hey. Don't worry. He's on the Enterprise, a few warps back.” He felt
his stomach tighten as he rephrased what he had to say in his mind.
“But there is one small leak. In aid of returning my brother to the
Enterprise, I had to inform a few of the senior staff of various
details, but only a limited amount,” he dropped in before she could
shoot his head off.

“All the lame brain ways Tom,” she angrily whispered to herself.

“What was that? All the great ideas?” he smiled hoping to break her
icy features.

“Yeah, yeah. Just bring 'em in. Greigson's getting nudged with this
one. ” She turned away as if to check behind her back before moving
closer to the screen. “Not to mention some guy is keeping tabs on your
movements like a Seti Three Lyonkat. Careful Tom. I don't think this is
a usual grab and diffuse situation.” She straightened back into her
chair and increased her volume. “Now, if you’re all finished with the
dating circle out there, give me your estimated time of arrival,” a
small glint of amusement in her own eyes this time.

Flicking a few more buttons and checking a screen or two, Riker
turned back and flicked on the baby blues to full intensity.

“I'll be back for supper say...1600 tomorrow? And my package will
join us for breakfast,” he wiggled his eyebrows in a satanically sexy

“In your dreams Tom. No way would I do a three way let alone a two
way with the master of one night stands. Just get him here. Lana out.”

Wiping a chunk of hair out of her eyes in exasperation, she thumbed
the off button, and the symbol of all things bad, Section 31, replaced
her image. With communications closed, the computer refreshed the
screen into navigation and shield levels.

“Like I'd really share you with my brother,” Thomas muttered and he
encoded his next message via a small hand held communicator.

Something the wise and handy Geordi Laforge had manufactured.

“Enterprise. This is Commander Thomas Riker reporting on a secured
link. Please confirm your end,” he called out, his words bounding
around the black on black cockpit.

Thomas smiled as he wondered how an engineer would know if he’d
dropped a ratchet in this gloomy black hole of an interior. A deep
gravely voice soon broke over the speakers.

“Enterpriseto BowhawkIII.Secured line engaged. Captain Picard is
awaiting your request.”

Thomas let the corner of his mouth turn up in a half concealed grin.
He could tell by the gruffness of the Klingon's voice, that he still
didn’t trust him.

“Engage communications,” he replied, waiting a while before calling
out. “Captain?”

“We’re still here Commander. Is there something new askew that I
should worry about?” Picard asked.

Thomas smiled to himself.

“No doubt my delay in communicating with you earlier added some
nervous tension there. Let alone the security encoding,” his words
laced with good humour.

A light chuckle was soon heard, something Thomas was sure only a few
had ever heard from the great Captain Picard before.

“That it did. Now Commander, is there a problem?”

“Well a 6 foot 4 problem, just to start with. Something's happening
at my base. Greigson's being pushed by someone for quick results. A
sinister shadow, by the sounds of it. I don't believe trust is a word I
would use with my unit right about now, except for one or two
personnel,” Thomas sighed.

“You think his life is in danger?” Picard queried.

“Most definitely, but certainly not quick and clean. I have an idea
of how to solve a few problems without bothering to place Will's head
on the block. These guys fight dirty, and considering Will's recently
acquired knowledge, he may just give a few things away,” Thomas
grumbled. “They still believe him to be crazy as a loon. Something I
want them to keep thinking. I didn’t bother updating his med records
before I left to ensure this,” he paused, waiting for Picard to jump

“I take it you have something of a plan Mr Riker?”

Picard knew Will well enough to know the tone of voice he’d been
using. Something of a smugness, laced its edges.

“A master plan for sure. I'll transmit two files in a few moments.
Please have Will and yourself check them out and get back to me. If it
works, it'll be a doozey of a prank to play,” Thomas' face split into a
large grin as he dreamt of the reactions he'd get.

“Consider it done Commander. Picard out.”

Watching the small light fade from the communicator, he knew he was
now alone.

“Consider it done? Nah. Not that easy, but it will be once we've
danced a little Riker Tango,” he smiled to himself before giving a
large laugh. “Talking to yourself again Tom.” He shook his head in
annoyance. “People will start to think you've gone crazier than
normal,” he murmured before he sent the two chip's worth of data to the

Within moments, a red flash indicated a safe send, relieving the
tension from his shoulders. Leaning forward in his flight chair, Thomas
rested his elbows on the arms and steepled his fingers to play with his
short beard. The sound of the engines on full throttle roared behind
the bulk head as he contemplated his scheme.

“If they won't come clean in front of me, perhaps they'll gloat to
Will instead.” He took a deep breath and grinned. “I hope you do you
bastards,” the final word feeling good to his sorry soul.



The base of the temporary head of operations for Thomas' sectional
squad was not in the least bit small. Although part of the base was for
day to day Starfleet security operations, the majority of the internal
level below ground was for invitation only. The high vaulted ceilings
and bland walls were repellent of shadow. Every corridor and room open
to reveal any hidden intruders. And the transporter bay was no
different, as the keening sound of materialisation rang around the
voluminous room, growing into blazing columns of blue light, soon to be
replaced by four Starfleet officers.

As his molecules settled, Thomas strode off the padd and saluted a
middle aged 5 foot balding man, with the build of a wrestler.

“Commander Greigson. May I introduce my travelling companions,
Captain Jean Luc Picard, Commander William T. Riker and Counsellor
Deanna Troi of the USS Enterprise.” Thomas gave a look to the three
Enterpriseofficers behind him, issuing them a nervous little wink.

“Welcome aboard Captain.” Greigson moved forward and shook hands,
similarly greeting Troi. But with Will Riker he just gave a slow
appraising look at the dishevelled man.

Although in uniform, Will Riker reflected his shattered soul in both
his appearance and general well being. His uniform seemed one size too
big, like he'd lost a lot of weight suddenly, and his hair was messy to
match his erratic wild-eyed stare.

“Lieutenant Commander Davison here, will take your first officer into
care for a few checks, if you don't mind. He seems a little under the
weather. And we’d hate him to catch anything down here,” he ordered,
the wiry doctor advancing to stand by his superior officer.

But as Greigson's officer took another step towards Will, ready to
grab his arm and lead him away Will shrieked out a “No!” and pulled
back to the wall of the transporter padd. Balancing on the balls of his
feet like a cornered animal.

“Commander Greigson?” Deanna moved into action. “If you'll let me
talk to him first then perhaps we can get him to follow your officer.”

Greigson nodded and indicated for Davison to step aside for the
moment, allowing the diminutive Betazoid to weave her magic lasso. She
circled in from his left side, leaving him room to view the other
occupants, showing that she had nothing to hide behind her, and that no
ambushes would follow in her path. As she reached his side, Deanna
whispered a few words of comfort, before gently running her hands up
and down Will's tightly crossed arms to comfort him.

Picard moved forward at this moment to Greigson's side, taking a
moment to enquire about his officer.

“So when do you think we can take Commander Riker back onboard

“Back?” Greigson gave a short chuckle. “I don't think so Captain.
Maybe a few months down the track once we've righted a couple of
damning holes within our operative.” The man gave an angry glance to
Thomas as if to say he'd stuffed this mission up real good.

“A few months?” Deanna questioned, leading a calmer Riker to the
awaiting doctor.

Greigson nodded as he watched Davison leading the lost officer out
through the transporter room doors. The tall man was still cowering
under the shadow of his hunched shoulders, but a more obedient version
had just left through the doors, then when he had first arrived.

“It’s a shame Miss Troi, but your mother really screwed things up. We
need to re-set those objectives into motion once more. And that takes
time. Something we really don't like wasting on missions gone bad.”
Giving an evil smile he added, “Consider yourselves lucky that we
didn’t just terminate the project, rather than go with it.”

No longer waiting for a reply or reaction from the counsellor before
him, Greigson turned back to the Captain and waved a hand in front.

“Now, if you'll follow me Captain, we need to have a little talk.” He
waited until the two officers moved into motion at his prompting.



Greigson had ignored Thomas ever since the eye of the disruption, his
brother, had arrived. And right now he stood almost alone within the
transporter bay. Thomas hung back and waited till the doors had sealed
from the transporter chief, before putting his grin on exhibit to the
young fuming goddess before him.

“So, mad at me for something?” he asked waiting for the furious fires
to charr him.

“You know Tom, sometimes I don't think you give a rat's arse to what
may become of you or your soul.” She gave him a frown then,
unexpectantly, threw herself into a big hug burrowing her head deep
into his broad chest. “God I stress over you.” Lana pulled back and
gave him a gentle punch to his chest. Without another word, she was
soon dragging him forward out of the room.

Stationary conversations within rooms were always easier to listening
ears, but moving targets were that much harder to follow, Thomas
thought silently.

“So did you figure out who's Greigson's mystery shadow is yet,” he
whispered as they marched down the obsidian lined walls.

“No. But he's been asking via code about your arrival up-dates. Seems
curious about not only your brother’s location, but yours too. So what
did you do? Sleep with his daughter?” Her usual response for every time
he got kicked in the butt by Command. Which was often.

“I think I've run out of daughters, guess I'll have to start with
wives next,” he joked earning him a playful slap for his ribald

Lana rolled her eyes, and sighed.

“I just hope your brother's sexual appetite was deleted when he was
created. Hate to litter the world with little bastard Riker's,” she
threw back at him, pausing for a moment, her mirth dissipating as she
noticed the hurt it caused.

“Sorry. Did I hit a nerve?” she sincerely asked.

Thomas shook his head, brushing off her concern.

“Just worried about Will,” he said, flicking his long plait off his
shoulder, to ride his spine.

“You know, you've gone soft since you met up with him again. He'll be
fine Tom. Just a little screw tightening and a gentle wipe for the
Enterprise's senior crew, and the head of Section 31 will be able to
sleep again in his polka-dot pj’s,” she assured before starting to walk
down the corridor again. “But don’t get me wrong, I like this soft
side,” she smiled.

“Yeah, you’re right as usual. Though I'd like to keep an eye on Will
just the same. Make sure he's coping. The realisation knocked him for
sixty more than six.” He ran a hand through his short beard, tracing
the shape to release some anxiety.

Turning to face the tall Alaskan man, Lana read his features and

“How about we head for home? Have a little drink. Then get down to
the nitty-gritty of the mission debriefing?” she suggested, noticing a
definite change in the Tom Riker she’d kissed farewell to a few weeks
ago on another mission, in the privacy of her quarters.

Thomas shook his head, hoping to apologise to this gorgeous woman
before him.

“Sorry. Maybe a few ales would be good for my bad-ass soul,” he
grinned, Lana soon complimenting it identically.

The base comprised of some of the heaviest of security measures, and
so far Lana had disengaged all the door locks as they’d passed through
the lengthy corridor and turbo lift systems. But finally they halted at
the door of his quarters. Lana waiting patiently for Thomas to place
his palm print on the door scanner.

“You know, you should program it to open on your close proximity,”
Lana suggested, as Thomas removed one of his leather gloves, pressing
it into the scanner.

“And allow any other ‘secret’ clones out there a chance of drinking
my favourite hidden supply of scotch without me?” he jibed.

Lana shook her head and waited as the lock announced, “Access granted
Commander Riker.”

And the doors swooshed open.

The light that beamed out of the room was impressive, as the view of
San Francisco Bay greeted him, glowing through the wide windows that
fell from ceiling to floor. Thomas walked into his room, relishing the
cushy interior. Lost in another world as he took it all in. Time must
have skipped a beat as Lana soon handed him a tall glass of ale,
clinking it with hers in a toast.

“To lost brothers,” she saluted.

“And may they fair well,” Thomas added before sculling the load.


“So? How's things?” Thomas asked Deanna who was watching Will through
the one way plexiglass of the science lab.

He’d just spent the last few hours going over his reports, Lana’s
grillings and the latest information on his stalking shadow. One thing
they had missed so far was who truly knew about Will’s past, and
required a memory block. Thomas had effectively only brought the two
officers, Picard and Troi with him to keep things simple. The less
people on the list, the smaller the amount of people he had to keep
tabs on in case of treachery. And Lana hadn’t asked if anyone else was
in need of a little mind trickery. The doctor, he had passed off as
being told nothing, except for a cover story that blanketed all the
right medical angles effectively enough, with the ship’s counsellor
having handled the majority of mental requirements, once Will had been
retrieved. The Captain was the only major player in need of tampering.

Deanna looked up and smiled at Thomas’ far and away look, giving a
small smile before answering his question.

“Fine, and very restrictive. They'll perform a wipe for all of us
‘interferers’ the day after tomorrow. In the meantime they're just
assessing him for now. They’re saying that he’ll need to under go weeks
of mental recalibration,” she shrugged her shoulders despondently,
wanting to lean back into Thomas' chest.

Placing a comforting hand to her shoulder, he squeezed lightly in

“I’m hoping it won’t come to that.” His urge to wrap her up in his
arms and kiss her then and there was hard to push away. He couldn’t
afford to show compassion when so much was at stake. Moving away, out
of the tempting reach of her warm body, Thomas sighed heavily. “By the
way, I've got another debriefing in ten minutes. Greigson wants a more
in-depth view than my last report.”

Deanna turned, facing his blue gaze.

“Be careful.”

“I will. I'll talk to you later, and hopefully Will in there too.”
Giving her a wistful smile, he soon departed, making off in search of

Deanna shook her head, her heart warmer from his smile, turning back
to Will, beyond the plexiglass window.

“Of all the men I could’ve met, I had to find one so interesting and
yet so inviting of danger.”



Riker, an undoubtedly shaken clone, lay awake on the cold bench in
his ‘cell’. The room wasn't a brig but it was small enough and chock
full of hidden surveillance equipment to make it one, the walls closing
in on him by micros on each breath. Making him wish he’d never agreed
to this plan. Alone and abandoned behind the solid duranium panels, his
claustrophobia gnawed at the edges of his patience. For years he’d put
it behind him, covered the tracks well. But the counsellor knew that he
was never comfortable, even deep within the Enterprise’s access
corridors, a place he only dwelt at the most dire of moments, or in the
companionship with one of the crew. But for once that fear was useful.
Drawing on its clinging ability to frighten the dickens out of the
hardest of warriors, it cloaked him in a shroud of fear. Believable
enough to hopefully fool the specialists peering through their
surveillance cameras, right now. Right above.

So far he'd been poked, prodded and analysed from every angle, but no
mind scans, just a brain scan. Laying there watching the entrance, its
solid doors humming with protection from prying fingers, he could
almost feel the shielded doors from the two metres to his bedside. The
cell’s subdued lighting and locked doors, helping once more with his
act, his edgy behaviour. It’d been hours since they’d hypo’d his dinner
into him, leaving nothing behind but a refilled jug of water on the
floor, pressed into the corner’s alcove. But no visitor had arrived, so
far. He mulled the plan over in his head once more, keeping up his
cover and waiting for the person he assumed would walk right into the
centre of the Riker mystery. Someone he hoped would finalise his meagre
theories, and add to others.

Not having to wait long, the faint echo of “access granted” soon
floated in from outside the door, just before the wall melted into an
exit, and a shadow emerged, sliding into the room; the blinding bright
lights from outside hiding the face in darkness. Riker slid his legs
slowly to the ground, sitting hunched before his visitor.

“Well, well, well. Commander William Riker. Seems my toy has been
misbehaving,” the voice ground out.

Something tickled in the back of Riker's mind; he'd met this person
before. In fact he knew this voice so well it was haunting him, but he
couldn't place it. ‘Damn the drugs,’ he thought, his body humming with
mild calmatives.

“I’m not sure if you really are worth saving, but I have an offer for
you. Interested?”

The figure moved from the doorway, the access clanging shut just as
he sat down opposite Riker, dressed in full combat gear. The half-light
soon revealing why the man's face was so hard to identify. Tough black
mesh masked his recent room mate, the helmet hiding the grin he surely
wore. Riker struggled to straighten up, lifting his shoulders, and
shaking his head lightly to clear the cobwebs. He nodded in agreement,
trying to look more doped than he was. Ready to listen to the demands
to be made.

“Many years ago I created your ass. A simple scientific switch of
programming with a transport padd and some reflective gases in an
atmosphere, and that was all it took. But since then, you've become
less than the model officer we programmed. You failed to keep your past
hidden by letting a Betazoid enter your mind, which we'd ordered you to
evade, wasting the time we took to teach you advanced blocking. But no,
that wasn't all. You then became the longest first officer in history,
by your complacency to advance, missing out on being the youngest
determined captain ever. We wanted an officer, under our control, in
the best possible position to change the sway of any political
minefield. A captain,” he snapped. “Not a useless first officer!”

The man shifted and moved closer to Riker grabbing his bearded chin
between his gloved fingers.

“The time has come to reprogram you into what you should be. The
soldier of the future. One who jumps to the tune of adventure and
possible death. Not this worthless slag of emotion. Betazoid love be
damned,” he spat before getting up and turning his back on Riker.

Riker dropped his head, rounding his shoulders like a good little
disciplined boy, and quietly waited, his emotions firing with anger.
But all the while trying to gauge the voice, one he was sure he knew
before the accident, before the whole Nervala IV incident by the sounds
of it.

“But I don’t want to be reprogrammed,” Riker spoke to the man's back,
adding a mild stutter to his softly spoken words.

“What makes you think you have a choice? Consider yourself a new
person tomorrow commander, no buts.”

With that, the man spun round and exited the room. The doors sealing
shut at such a speed that Riker wondered if the conversation had really
happened. Lying back against the wall he gently scratched at a patch of
red skin on his hand, to the casual observer it would look like a
nervous ailment, but to Deanna Troi it signified trouble.



“I think Lana is starting to suspect something,” Riker paced.

“Do we need to worry?” Picard asked, one eyebrow rising like a
crescent moon. “Perhaps warn our mutual friend?”

Riker turned back with a smug smile.

“No. Deanna's already with him. Seems he had a little visitor, just
like we expected. He signalled her a few moments ago,” he said,
continuing to pace the room, more out of a need to do something rather
than distress.

Picard rested on the grey sofa in Thomas’ quarters, watching the
shuttle's fly past the Federation's Ambassadorial building a few blocks
down. The bright sunny day and blue sky belayed the frightening
deception that was hiding within the stagnant mortar of the
Federation's security sector. Musing over the conversation they’d been
enjoying earlier, Picard was jolted from his thoughts by the gentle
squeak of leather, and a change in direct lighting from the window.
Positioning himself in the chair before the captain, Riker sighed
gratefully, settling himself further into the comfy arrangement.

Looking to his guest, he noticed the light smile Picard gave at
Riker's grimace. Riker shook his head and reflected a small smile back.

“Don't you start.”

“Surely there are less restrictive things to wear off duty,

During the day, Picard had seen Riker adjust himself more than
thrice, for the sake of circulation in the lower region. And quite
frankly, the Captain was starting to wonder if the Section uniform
should be deemed as a work hazard. Riker grinned and lay back gently
into the chair and closed his eyes.

“Not so much as a colour other than black nor a material that doesn't
reflect sex appeal,” he replied with sarcasm.

“Ah,” Picard replied with a hint of mirth in his voice before sipping
the exotic tea he'd found listed in the replicator. “This is a terribly
intriguing blend.”

“Sorry Captain. That was the closest to Earl Grey tea, I could find,”
Riker apologised.

“It's fine. In fact more than fine. I must get the data loop for this
strange concoction,” he mused, taking another sip of the beverage.

Riker was about to reply when the door beeped for entry. A visitor
had arrived. The question though was, if it were Troi or someone else.
And the ‘else’ was not what they preferred right now.

“Enter!” Riker called, pulling himself to a standing position, and
throwing his long plait back from his shoulder to wack across his back,
his erect shoulders dropping in relief once Deanna stepped across the

Riker didn't have to ask to realise something was up. He moved
forward and hugged Deanna.

“How is he?” standing back but still holding both her hands in his.

“Fine. In fact they've treated him fairly well, but he has been
sedated, nothing terribly invasive though as of yet.”

Relief splashed across his face, as Deanna tenderly placed a hand to
his cheek, smothering the longing to rest her weary self against his

“The signal? He’s had contact?” Picard asked moving to her side,
drawing Deanna’s attention away from Riker, helping to break the pull
of his comforting emotions. His enchanting spell, she liked to call it.

“Someone visited. He doesn't know ‘who’, as they were dressed in
battle gear complete with a shielded visor. But he does know that in
the next few hours...”

The door beeped cutting her short. Riker gave a quick glance to both
his visitors, waiting until they were seated comfortably, and the
captain had regained a pose of relaxation.

“Computer, access enquiry,” Riker called, waiting for the computer to
identify their impending visitor, keeping his eyes to the ceiling’s
communications array, ready to make further demands of it, if required.

“Access requested by Lieutenant Commander Lana,” the male voice of
the computer announced.

“Enter,” Riker called, giving a quick glance to Deanna before
advancing to the doorway, wondering what the counsellor was sensing
before the door unsealed.

The bold and blonde Lana entered, and immediately closed her mouth
upon speaking as she viewed the present officers.

“Sorry Tom. I didn't realise you had company.”

She stiffened her pose and nodded a greeting to both the captain and
counsellor. Deanna could sense the fear and desperation she held in the
information she needed to tell her colleague.

“It's alright Lana. They're clear. What is it you wanted to tell me?”
he prompted, directing her into a chair before moving back to the
replicator, to order her a drink.

“I'm not sure Commander. It is rather restricted, even classified
information that I have for you” she indicated with a little body
language that screamed how uncomfortable she was.

Although Thomas had just said how safe they were, she still didn't
know which side Picard and Troi truly were on. A lasting effect from
working with Section 31 for too long, she surmised.

“Just tell me Lana, before I transform into an old, grey bachelor,”
he passed over the neat scotch to her and placed himself up against the
glass windows, resting casually against their coolness.

She cleared her throat first then gave a nervous smile, her eyes
analysing the two eavesdroppers.

“I dug up some information on Greigson's shadow,” she paused.

“Go on,” Riker prompted, leaning forward from the window.

“He's definitely controlling the strings from high up the command
chain, but he's also someone you know. Remember a Lieutenant Commander
Fazon?” she asked watching his features carefully.

Nodding slowly, he took his time answering.

“Someone I've been suspecting from the start. But I brought up his
bio in the database. He was killed three years ago on a routine
mission,” Riker supplied.

“What about Agnelli?” she asked, again eyeing him carefully, waiting
for the light to go on.

“Bad ass admiral who liked to eat ensigns for lunch. Rose through the
ranks at one of Starfleet's top science and medical facilities. Majored
in something that got him shifted into isolation for a while.” Riker
shifted to a straighter posture, Lana’s careful questioning raising the
hair on the back of his neck. “So what about them? Bosom buddies were

Lana scoped the room, taking in all their questering brows, dragging
a sigh of frustration from her.

“Geez Tom you can be so thick sometimes. Think back. I'm sure you
know both their faces, build, and even a touch of what they sounded

She slugged the rest of the scotch down and watched as Tom's eyes
widened with realisation.



“Shit!” he swore, dragging a heavy hand across his forehead, ignoring
Deanna’s silent query.

Sure he had a headache beating like a drum, but this information was
way more important than a short kip, something she was sure to order
him to do if he admitted it.

“The bastard,” he ground out, pacing the room again.

“Well that's what I'd like to call him, for scrambling your handsome
molecules,” she sheepishly smiled as Thomas swung back a surprised
look. “Well you are cute, regardless of the god’s gift to women
attitude you carry around.”

Lana blushed then, realising that she wasn't alone, and in fact, was
in the presence of Thomas' ex girlfriend.

Deanna gave her a soft smile, feeling the warmth of her embarrassment.

“I agree. Now what about Will?”

“He's the reason I'm swearing,” Riker replied.

“Tom, if I'm right Will's going to be wiped, and I'm not talking
minds here, I'm talking the end of a very illustrious life,” Lana

“Damn it to hell,” he shouted angrily, thumping the side table, and
wobbling the few small trinkets that lay along its surface.

“Not to mention against orders. I checked Command's signed and sealed
orders through some of Greigson's logs. William Riker is wanted back
onboard the Enterpriseregardless of the mess, before the command
structure outside of Section 31 learns of what's happened. Our man
doesn't want that at all. In fact, he's not supposed to be here,” Lana
continued on Riker’s raised eyebrow. “He transferred himself to
Greigson's backside under fake orders. Greigson doesn't know. I had to
un-cover some major dirt just to link it all together.”

“How? Surely Section 31 has one of the tightest security screenings
in the Federation,” Picard queried.

“Seems some admiral connected closely with our section owes Agnelli a
lot of favours. Probably some kind of blackmail left over from the
Nickless years. It's his chance to wipe his past clear of this before
the connection is found out by the proper authorities,” Lana explained.

“Starfleet Command’s humanitarian branch would love to catch Fazon
for the breach of cloning all those years ago. They did just that with
Nickless. Although it did earn him a medal before he was shuffled off
to a penal colony.”

Deanna frowned at Lana use of words.

“But I thought Starfleet were interested in keeping this all a

“This ‘experiment’ was sanctioned through subtler channels,” Picard
surmised with great distaste.

“And kept quiet. Mainly to allow Fazon the chance to attempt his
experiment in the first place without interference, but secondly to
keep the knowledge from the Federation's adversaries. Information such
as this, would spell disaster, especially in the case of the Romulan's
currently depleted forces. Without the fire power they had before the
Dominion War. The Romulan’s are now forced to agree to peace, but with
a disposable army at their finger tips, they could fight without fear
of loss. They could continue to fight regardless of the blood shed on
both sides, calm in the theory that they are only clones dying, not
they’re own flesh and blood being consumed in space,” Lana supplied.

The room lay silent, its inhabitants mulling over the shocking news.
Information that only a decade or two ago, the Captain had been
fighting for on behalf of Data. A disposable army had been brought up
in that conversation too. Would an army of clones be any more
digestible than an army of Data’s? All four people stood and regarded
each other, understanding clear in their minds.

“So it's agreed that we need to stop Agnelli from killing the trail?”
Riker spoke, his voice slightly shaken from the recent topic, Deanna
rising, her hand steadying his clenched fist from its shaking.

“We need information, substantial enough to feed Agnelli to Starfleet
high security,” Lana announced. “And your brother may be able to aid us
in this venture.”

Riker nodded.

“I agree. A little direct knowledge from the horse’s mouth would be
perfect to catch our master of evil. And boy have we got a plan already
in motion,” he grinned.


Deep in the bowels of Section 31, a shadow slid over the inmate’s
name plate. Its whispering fingers encoding the door locks to
disengage, and slipping between to advance to its victim. It stood
there for a moment, regarding the curled up man, dwarfing the cell’s
bed shelf.

The deep voice it bode soon woke William Riker, its familiar tone
drawing him from his slumber.

“I want you to come with me,” it repeated.

Opening tired eyes, Riker finally pieced together the facts, slapping
the final piece, the voice, into place. The puzzle he'd worked on all
last night was solved.

“Fazon,” he spat.

“Well in a way,” he smiled before brandishing a phaser in Riker's
general direction. “You seem a little better than upon arrival. Could
it be a strange case of blind man's mental bluff yesterday? Trying to
trick us into believing you were as harmless as a mewling baby?” he

He sat up, leaning his back to the wall and gave a killing glare in
Fazon's direction.

“Thought you were supposed to be dead?”

“It's amazing what technology can do. You of all people should know
that,” he indicated with a twitch of his phaser for Riker to stand,
soon directing him to move out of the cell. “Get up. I need you to come
for a little walk. I believe we have a future to discuss.”

Riker stood and gave him an even stare as he passed by. The heavily
shadowed face of his aggressor, grinned nefariously.

“People know,” Riker replied, scratching the back of his hand once

The embedded transponder, alerting his saviours, and giving him hope
that it was enough to get him out of the situation he was currently in.

“I know. And we’re going to fix that,” Fazon brazenly bragged. “And
you’re going to help,” he added with an evil smile as he took the last
step outside of Riker’s recent cell, and prodded his creation forward.



“His transponder chip just flashed. He's on the move,” said Deanna as
she accessed the tricorder, its alert mere seconds ago breaking their
discussion, forcing her heart to pause mid-beat. “I’m locating him now,
entering….Section four by the looks of it,” she said just before the
computer chimed in.

“Commander Riker. Please report to section four, bay nine. Your
assistance is required.”

“Guess that's my curtain call,” he sighed deeply.

“Agnelli didn't waste his time,” Lana mused.

“But he will waste my brother. Wish me luck,” Riker said, loosening
the holster strap on his phaser and spurring himself to the door.

<Careful Imzadi, I want you back,> Deanna sent.

Pausing in the doorway, he gave a mirthless smile, before stepping
back and letting the doors close behind him. Taking a deep breath,
setting his mind straight, he set off sprinting down the corridor in
search of the nearest turbolift.

Picard turned to Lana, a frown starting to form.

“What's to stop this man from wiping both Riker brothers out?” he

“Nothing. But it depends on what they know,” she mused. “Tom has
always backed Greigson and shown a forced hatred towards his brother,
but Agnelli on the other hand may have already worked out that they're
not all that bad together. But he may have another use for Tom,” Lana

Realisation filled Deanna's eyes.

“It's a trap. If he kills Will, he could always say that it was
Thomas who did it. Agnelli is an Admiral, an Admiral as you said with a
lot of misused power. Who wouldn’t believe him?” Deanna moved her hand
straight for her communicator to warn Riker, but Picard halted it,
rising from the couch.

“No. Follow him instead, the accessed communicator embedded in
Thomas' hand should record the conversation, and if I'm correct in all
this, I believe our man will gloat first.”

Picard paused for a few moments to think. Before closing his eyes,
and realising his mistake. This one worse than calling Barclay Mr

“Thomas?” Lana queried, retreating from her chair to advance on the
Enterprise’s Captain.

Ignoring Lana’s overbearing stance, Picard gave his orders.

“Deanna, give me the tricorder, but follow Will. Take a phaser. Lana
come with me, we need to get hold of some backup, without alerting your
superiors,” he commanded as Deanna sped off in the same direction as

“Commander Lana. If you would so graciously walk with me back to my
ship, I believe I can answer some of those questions,” Picard held out
a hand, indicating for her to follow Deanna's retreating form out the


Section four, Bay nine, comprised of a rather large hanger,
completely empty of course. And that was just how Fazon liked it.

“So I guess you’re going to kill me now,” Will's voice held nothing
but contempt for this man, but he had to keep him talking long enough
for the cavalry to arrive.

“Of course, though for now we’ll just sit back and wait for your
brother to arrive. I can’t wait to relieve him of your burdening
shadow. But in the meantime,” he adjusted his phaser “let's have a
little sport shall we? Say…..some target practise,” he grinned
maniacally, and aimed directly at Will's chest, pausing his finger over
the trigger.

“Ever heard of fair game?” Riker ground out, preparing himself for
the shot he knew would come.


Leaving him no chance to take evasive action, Fazon fired on a low
setting, knocking the wits out of the commander as he skidded across
the floor from the impact.

“So how did that feel?” Fazon asked, firing another shot on the half
seated commander, before he could reply. “Damn clone.”

A deep grunt emerged from Will as he struggled with his
consciousness, its slippery surface pulling away with every trapped
breath. Fighting for a hardened purchase, he lay there gasping for air,
and listening. Listening to every word Fazon spouted. From his greatest
plan ever, to the way in which he’d managed to infiltrate the high
security organization, Section 31, just to keep a closer eye on his
toys. But soon the clang of the hanger doors prompted Fazon to twirl
around to face his new visitor.

“Ah Tom, just in time to witness the end of your annoying
reflection,” he grinned, phaser still aimed at Will, regardless of the
man’s ability to draw a deep breath without wheezing.

“Agnelli,” he stated civilly. “Or should that be Fazon?” he spat,
keeping the attention away from Will.

“Ha! About time you solved the riddle. I was beginning to wonder if
the twinning process had halved your intelligence,” he called
sarcastically. “Now be a good officer and stand quietly by the door. I
have work to finish,” Fazon said as he aimed the phaser again on the
officer desperately struggling to get up and out of the way.

“Are you sure you've got the right one?” Thomas said casually,
leaning against the duranium wall, arms curled behind his back.

Fazon spun back to Thomas.

“What did you say?” he said slowly, suspicion creeping into his voice.

Thomas pushed away from the wall and wandered closer to Fazon, still
presenting an uninterested facade about his suffering twin, before
lifting a phaser of his own.

“Well I was just wondering if you really checked the facts before you
terminated the wrong one. You know, it’d be a terrible waste to destroy
the original. Wouldn't it Thomas?” the leather clad man said,
addressing the phaser charred Riker on the floor.

“What!” Fazon cried starring at the twin on the floor, before facing
the man in black leather before him.

“Hi. I'm Will Riker. I'll be your personal guide to hell!” He fired,
the phaser blast knocked Fazon hard across the floor, his body stopping
as it ran up against the far wall.

“Took your time,” the real Thomas grumbled, gasping for breath, and
trying to pluck free the melted uniform clinging to his chest.

But Will Riker was ignoring Thomas’ grumbles. His prey was still wide
awake and moving. Advancing on Fazon, setting his phaser on a higher
mark, Will paused in his actions.

“Just a clone huh? Nothing but a waste of flesh and bone? So what
does that make you Fazon? The creator of nothing?”

Fazon sat facing the business end of Will Riker’s phaser, but he
wasn’t afraid. He too had heard the small plea, one he was sure had
also been sent telepathically, filling Riker’s head with disarming
thoughts. Waiting, he turned slightly to see the hangar doors admit
one. Deanna. Deanna Troi. The question was. Was she here to save him or
her boyfriends?



If the scene wasn't so serious it would’ve been laughable to the
casual observer. Will Riker, dressed in full leather, much like his
brother had previously, complete with hair extensions to reach the
length of Thomas' now non-existent plait. Both Thomas and Will had
changed places, thanks to Beverly's ministrations before arriving
planetside. Thomas’ initial theory that Will wouldn’t be up to the
intensive exams they would perform soon convinced his brother to let
him play the victim. Backgrounds, people, even differing habits grown
over time had been rehearsed till they believed their cover sound. Just
to get Fazon into the open, to fess up at some point. And to blow the
operation wide open. But right now Will was wild, and Thomas wasn’t
sure if he was following their plan anymore.

“Don't shoot Will!” Deanna cried out as she moved further into the
bay, immediately scoping the scene before her.

She had felt the trio’s anger rising, all the way to the hangar, and
now it was scratching at the fragile blocks she had hastily built
against it all. Fazon grinned evilly, adding a small chuckle before
opening his arms wide.

“My sentiments exactly Counsellor. Don't shoot William. I created
you. You wouldn’t kill your daddy would you?” his smug grin eating away
at Will’s fragile edge of sanity, as his hand clenched and unclenched
around the base of the phaser grip.

‘Decisions to be made, Decisions to be unmade,’ his mind ranted.
Every particle of his body urging him to shoot the bastard, right there
and then. The guy who'd turned their lives upside down, damning both
brothers to a life of lies. ‘I AM William Thomas Riker!’ his breathing
rapid. ‘First one then two.’ his mind continued to cry.

Sensing how unglued Will was becoming, Deanna stepped forward hoping
to gain his trust.

“We need him alive Imzadi,” she paused, watching him close his eyes
briefly. “We need to take him down together, but by Federation law. If
we don’t follow the proper guidelines then Fazon and all the others
behind this nefarious scheme will get away with it,” Deanna calmly
stressed to him.

The only sounds bounding around the bay were of Thomas’ soft grunts
of pain and Will’s panicky breath. That was until Fazon applauded

“That's it my Betazoid friend, calm him down and then we can discuss
our future plans,” Fazon leered.

“What plans?” Will demanded, a forearm swiping at the small beads of
perspiration, many already drawing rivulets down his clean shaven

“Didn't you know? Oh Will please! You've figured out everything this
far by yourself, what happened to that mighty brain! You think she,” he
pointed at Deanna “was on the Enterpriseby coincidence.” He chuckled
deeply. “She was there to spy on you Will, to make sure you ticked to
the right beat, worked like clockwork. That's all. Ever wondered why
the Enterprisewas the first ship to contain a ship's counsellor? One
who was allowed onto the bridge? Why she never continued the
relationship once you both boarded many years ago?” Fazon took a step
forward. “She knew you were the clone.”

Deanna watched Will’s blue eyes widen. The agony on Will's pale face
made her heart drop, he was starting to believe Fazon's drivel.

“A product of science,” Will muttered to himself. “Let's see what the
science of weaponry can do for me,” he yelled.

His fingers clenched tighter on the phaser, and this time took Deanna
into the firing range. His voice echoed around the void of the bay, but
as he thought about it, it wasn’t his at all.

“Will listen to me, Deanna didn't know. Fazon’s playing with your
head, you idiot!” Thomas still lay on the floor gasping for breath, his
phaser burned chest still keeping him low with the pain. But he wasn’t
out for the count yet.

“Thomas needs your help Will. If you don't let me take that phaser
now, he could die,” Deanna pleaded.

She could feel his emotions bubbling with anger and distrust. He was
delirious with the untruths Fazon was throwing at him, no longer able
to keep the vast eruption of anxiety at bay.

“Stop! Stop it all of you,” Will screamed, his body quaking with
indecision and fear.

The phaser now wavered erratically between Fazon and Deanna, keeping
them trained within his sight, fingers stiffening with cramp. They
waited, frozen, poised for his next move. Their imminent freedom
suddenly realised as a piercing mournful cry broke the silence. Will,
dropping heavily to his knees and letting the phaser slide from his
fingers, let the world fade from his vision. No longer caring. Deanna
flew to his side, holding him tightly within her grasp, as he sobbed
painfully. Tears like wild streams poured down his cheeks, neither
realising the danger about to unfold. The next few moments spun in slow
motion as Fazon threw himself forward, reaching for the dropped phaser
in one fell swoop, spinning Deanna into action to stop him. She knew
that if Fazon got his hands on the phaser they'd all be dead in
minutes, and no one would be around to clear Will's name. Fazon's
fingers wrapped around the hand grip just as Deanna kicked the phaser
out of his grasp, but not before a blast shot out. Fazon had fired, but
now the phaser spun away from the pair as they struggled for
dominance. Deanna managing to swipe it further away with one long lunge
of her leg, knocking it closer to Thomas.

He’d seen the whole scene flow in one quick move, from Will dropping
the phaser, to it changing hands to Fazon and then spinning across the
slippery bay floor, just to lie a few centimetres away. Struggling
upright, he aimed with vengeance, firing on Fazon full blast, as he
flung Deanna off him. The struggle ending with Fazon’s dying breath.
The silence broken only by the echo of painful groans.

Deanna staggered upward, a bleeding nose and a few bruises the worst,
and surveyed the scene before her. Fazon was dead. His unseeing eyes
starring at the ceiling, as if hoping for a last chance, a transporter
aided retreat. Something Will never had. ‘Will!’ a sudden reminder that
others had taken a hit too. Sliding to Thomas, she found him still
clutching his melted chest in pain. Hands, white knuckled in pain.

“I'm fine,” he ground out holding back her fussing hands. “You'd
better see to Will. He copped a blast from that phaser too,” Thomas
indicated with his chin to where Will had collapsed into a ball on the

“Oh no,” she murmured, shocked that she hadn’t felt it.

Perhaps Thomas had blocked it out. Deanna gasped and ran to his side
hitting her communicator, hoping for a signal to the Enterprise, only
to be disappointed by the sound of harsh static. The curl of his back
was acute. Harshly tortured into an angle that reflected the agony she
felt pounding into her. It knocked the breath out of her at first,
dropping her blocks brick by brick until the pain curled around her
stomach, urging her to scream. Biting back her own cry, Deanna turned
him onto his back, and bore the sight well, as Will's distress escaped
his lips in a long drawn out groan. The smell of burning flesh made her
gag before she moved back, a majority of his shoulder missing. Melted
like plastein. Shrugging out of her uniform top, she patted it together
adjusting it under his head, trying to find the most comfortable
position for him. What looked like a humorously large bite was now in
place, where normally bone and muscle lie. Swallowing hard and ignoring
Thomas’ queries, his demands to know of Will’s plight. Deanna gazed
while she waited for the help she’d called for. The wound was still
oozing slightly, but the phaser had cauterised the hole, saving him
from bleeding to death. But shock would replace that soon, and all she
could do was wait.



Gentle hands drew her aside, and a flurry of Section and Starfleet
bodies encompassed her charge. All she could see and hear were the two
large booted feet and muffled groans, the rest of her view was blocked
by the medical teams, led by Beverly Crusher, her orange hair flashing
in and out of the throng. Realising that to save Will she needed to
keep back, she looked for Thomas, hoping she could be a help there.
Beyond the dead body of Fazon, a silver blanket now drawn across his
fallen form lay Thomas against the wall, his hands trying to force the
medics’ attention away from the worst of his wound.

“It’s alright, just help my brother,” he whined.

Smiling, she approached and squatted down to eye level with him.

“You can’t use that as an excuse Thomas. They know Will is already in
the best of hands, and that you have a history with evading doctors.”

Thomas smiled, his large blue eyes attempting an innocence all on
their own.

“Surely not all of them know about that,” he grinned until the medic
touched a sensitive spot. “Ahh,” he sucked in a deep breath, whistling
through his clenched teeth as he let it go.

“All, Thomas. Now just sit still and let the lieutenant here do the
best he can for now.”

Her hand was clamped down on his shoulder, holding him down, not that
he had the energy to move from where he lay anyway. Propped up, he
surveyed the room and gazed in Will’s direction.

“Bad?” He didn’t have to ask for an answer as Deanna evaded his eyes
and blanched slightly. “He’ll pull through Imzadi, he always does.”

Her nod was all she could do, the words of thanks caught in her
throat as Thomas passed a light finger over her split lip.

“You need attention too Deanna, don’t forget that. I will be checking
on you.”

Deanna laughed, regretting the burning feeling in her lip as it

“Oh don’t worry Commander, I’ve healed enough of Will’s split lips in
the past to take care of it personally,” she sighed thinking of her
Imzadi, still stretched out on the floor. But a buzz of activity soon
had him shifted to a hover stretcher.

Thomas gazed over to the shrouded body of Fazon and snarled.

“I really wanted him to face a court marshall or something. Anything
to see justice done,” shaking his head at their missed chance of

“Or it could have been worse. To have reached Admiral so quickly and
covered his identity for so many years, his contacts would have been
called upon for sure, ending with Fazon slipping away from this easily
enough,” she mused, watching as the security teams talked and pointed,
securing the bay for evidential scanning later, already making their

“Bastard,” Thomas spat, Deanna turning to see him grimace in pain.
“Not him,” he indicated to Fazon’s body. “Him,” skewering the young
medic with and angry glare. “Ever heard of patient care?”

“That’ll be enough Mr Riker,” Beverly stated advancing to the small
group, now that Will was being hovered out to the emergency transporter
padd. “Thank you Lieutenant Andrews, I’ll take over now,” she smiled
her thanks and enjoyed issuing the hypo to Thomas’ neck, seeing him

“I see you train them well in the art of torture,” Thomas jibed,
ignoring Deanna’s light slap to his wrist.

“And I see you carry the hostile gene for angry disposition, a large
part of the Riker genome,” she fought back. “Just sit still and wait,
they’re bringing the hover stretcher back for you soon, once Will has
been sent onward to Starfleet medical.”

“Medical? Not the Enterprise?” Deanna asked.

Beverly nodded, instantly passing the tricorder’s sensors over her
friends’ wilting body.

“You’ll be fine. Just some exhaustion and a few bumps and bruises. I
still want to see you though,” she ordered.

“I told you,” Thomas cheekily whined.

Beverly smiled.

“You’ll be heading to Starfleet medical, where I will be presiding
over you all,” she stressed. “Starfleet have deemed that you be treated
here until they can track down all leads and guarantee your safety,”
she replied, talking to the damaged duo. “Ah here we go,” she added as
the hover stretcher arrived, sliding up beside Thomas.

A team of medical staff and some of the security crew helped him lie
down flat, regardless of his flushed cheeks. To him, leaving a fight on
your back was the worst way to end it. But at least he was alive, and
the slime bag a few metres away wasn’t.

“Will?” he asked, still awaiting someone’s opinion upon his brother’s

“He’ll survive,” was all Beverly could say.

The damage was terrifying, and how Will had remained conscious from
it was astounding, but the diagnosis before they’d moved him was good.
Ordering her staff to their stations, Beverly followed Thomas’ ride out
of there, with Deanna drawn in beside her. Wrapping a caring arm around
her shoulders, they both helped each other out of the phaser charged
room, the shaken Betazoid lost as they exited the bay. Will’s injury a
gruesome sight for anyone let alone the partner of an Imzadi bonded

“Please come back to me Imzadi,” she sent silently.



Deanna entered the main reception area of Starfleet's high security
medical division. Guards, cameras, identity palm prints and retina scan
entry devices everywhere, not to mention how hard it had been just to
get past the door guards in the first place. She knew that Will was
only being kept here for his own safety, and not for the loss of the
rogue Admiral. For the better half of a day, they’d all been before a
panel. A deciding factor on whether the Riker men were to be charged or
compensated. How the latter could be accomplished, in giving back their
unique individualism and trust in Starfleet, she dearly doubted. But
the end result was one where the truth had finally been represented
with fact. And that her men were finally safe.

“Rank and visiting section?” asked the receptionists as she accessed
Deanna's ID.

“Commander Deanna Troi, USS Enterprise. Ship's Counsellor. I believe
it's section 94DeltaNine. Dr Crusher is the head physician in charge of
the patient I wish to see.”

“Reason? Employment or personal?” the blonde headed girl inquired

“Personal. Engagee,” Deanna answered.

True, they were in a sense already as one with the Imzadi bond, but
neither of them had truly agreed on their status. But with the upcoming
weeks and months of counselling, she was sure that they would be soon.
Her fear of no earthly ships bringing him home again, on hold, for now.

“Access granted counsellor. If you would proceed through those doors
to your left and continue to the lifts, Officer Langster will direct
you to your man,” on confirmation of her business, the young girl had
given Deanna a soft smile.

“Thank you,” Deanna smiled back, retrieving her various passes and
belongings, soon proceeding through the glass doors to meet the young
security officer. Dodging the various staff and patients, she crossed
over to the tall Mendosian, admiring the fiery red ridges riding the
tops of his ears.

“If you’ll follow me Counsellor,” he hissed, his voice silky with its
accent and unique tone. Holding open the doors with his webbed hand
print, she proceeded through and awaited his presence beside her.

Even if the debriefings were to continue, the scheme where Fazon had
controlled Thomas via the means of Nickless and Greigson was finished.
He was dead. Or to put it truthfully Agnelli was dead. She had seen
Greigson waiting silently outside the hall, the board of enquiries soon
calling for his head. How Agnelli had managed to fool the Section
Commander was unknown, but soon to be revealed. For now it was believed
that it was Fazon, a master of covering his tracks as Commander Iva
Tolson, that had caused the two Riker's to be, all those years ago. Not
Nickless. Nickless had only been there to pass on his orders, securing
the young Lieutenant Riker into place for the fiend’s experiment. But
who had passed on the knowledge, and prompted Fazon into attempting the
duplication at such a risky time during an evacuation, was never to be
known, the secret having died with its owner. Buried.

The trip took a few moments and even more security measures before
she finally entered another large room. The bustling sounds from
outside still bleeding in. Its bright and clinical interior, drenched
in the smells of medicinal care, merely guarded by a lone nurse. One
lost in her diagnosis of a padd or two. While waiting for her to
notice, Deanna glanced around, noticing only a series of couches and
reading terminals, and no others. The nurse, so dedicated in her work
was still oblivious to her entry, urging Deanna to gently clear her
throat. The young nurse’s head soon spinning up in fright.

“Oh my. I’m sorry Commander,” she apologised, before she accessed
Deanna’s pass and nodded kindly for her to enter. “Dr Crusher is
already in there waiting for you. She said to go right in,” blushing

Collecting her pass once more, Deanna nodded in appreciation for the
access and entered through the final set of doors, sealing off the
clatter from the corridor beyond. The room deathly still except for the
beep of machinery and the quiet rustle of Beverly's uniform, as she
bent to tend to her patient.

“I see you managed to get through Security,” Beverly slyly remarked.

“Please don't let me leave until Will's well enough to accompany me.
I don't think I could cope with going through that everyday,” Deanna
sank tiredly into a chair beside Will, relaxing from the tension she'd
just swum through.

“Well it’s not like you’re the only one. I’m a Doctor with some
notoriety, and I still have to pass their muster every day. The attempt
on the Riker boys has put Starfleet on a pretty sharp edge. Hence their
present location. This was their idea, not mine. I would’ve been happy
to have them strapped down in my own sickbay,” Beverly crowed as she
moved to Deanna's slumped side and gave her a well overdue hug.

“How is he?” Deanna asked turning to the object of her recent trauma.

“Doing well. Thomas left this morning. He's all healed up and well.
But Will here had to battle severe exhaustion as well as the phaser
wound. I've left him sleeping for the whole day just to help him
recuperate,” her fingers gently smoothing away Will's rebellious lock
of hair, forcing it out of his eyes, before picking up his chart,
making a note here and there on current readings.

Deanna smiled at his peaceful face. The pain and suffering of the
last few weeks were still settled in the creased frown lines and black
smudges ringing his eyes, but they were softer today. Not as harsh as
his body had proclaimed just a day or so ago. His hair so long and
luxurious, framing his face like some young man from the renaissance
period. He still sported the long hair from his Tom disguise, someone
having undone his plait and splayed it across the pillow like a halo.
Beverly leaving the task of trimming and cutting it back to his
preferred style, once he was up and about. The short bearded chin and
long hair suited him, not that Will would agree. Will believed in short
respectable hair where a uniform was concerned. The carefree dress code
of his brother Thomas, was one he didn't approve of; when Commanding a
starship. Although she suspected that if he was in Thomas’ shoes, he
too would try to impress the ladies encased in body hugging leather.
Even she had felt a slight blush reach her cheeks, as she remembered
Thomas' arrival on board. A magnificent sight, all toned and muscled in
the right places to impress any woman. Thinking back she remembered all
the times Will had had to don garb becoming of him, for simple away
missions, dressed to the local’s equivalent. It was shame he wore the
black and red so often she mused. The sight of Will dressing to Thomas’
tastes had been exceptionally pleasant to one’s eye. She smiled quietly
to herself in reflection.



“Something funny?” Beverly asked noticing the quiet nature of
Deanna's presence, and her primrose flared cheeks.

“No just thinking of the varying choices I have. Two men, both the
same, yet both different in ways that draw me into pieces.”

She reached forward and snagged Will's hand, rubbing its soft warm
countenance, tracing the life lines on his palm, and glancing up to the
other shoulder encased in humming machinery.

“But which one would you trust by your side? Or with your heart,”
Beverly asked, knowing her answer.

“Will,” She smiled. “I think Thomas has been in the wild too long,”
she laughed kindly.

“Hmm, so you think he’ll be wearing fur next time we meet?” Beverly

“Not that wild Beverly,” Deanna laughed back. “Just a little too in
love with the ladies, after the neglect I've given him,” her smile
turned a little sad at the thought.

“I think he's survived Deanna. And I’m sure it’s hard enough training
one, let alone two Riker’s to evade the pleasure of women,” she smiled,
suddenly clapping her hands quietly together. “Oh before I forget. He
came in here earlier and asked me to ‘order Will to look after you’. Or
he'd come back and sort him out,” she said comforting her friend,
grinning slightly.

“I guess I’m lucky Thomas didn’t unplug Will’s biobed then,” she
replied. “Those two have fought too often for my hand,” a hint of
movement, drawing her back to the object of their conversation. “He's
so angelic when he sleeps,” Deanna said as she caressed a bare cheek,
small sprouts of stubble growing back along his usual beard line.

“And he's such a good patient when he sleeps too. You do know that
he's going to have to stay here a few more days to fully regenerate
that shoulder?” she asked waiting for a solemn nod, before sitting in
the chair next to her best friend. “The skin and muscle component
wasn’t the only thing vaporized by the phaser beam. His right clavicle
and collarbone were also partially disintegrated. But from our recent
deep tissue scans, he’s regenerating back to normal at a good rate.
He'll just moan a bit about being bed ridden until we can risk moving
his upper body,” she smiled.

Deanna nodded, remembering the sight once she'd turned Will over in
the aftermath. His shoulder had looked like melted plastein, a huge
curve missing and the unmistaken smell of burnt flesh. Her nose
wrinkling from the smell that was inhabiting her memories.

“Can I help with anything?” Deanna offered, fearing to be put out of
the building.

“No. But you can stay. I've organised it with Lynda outside to assist
you with anything you may need, and of course to let you be.”

The doctor watched her friend’s face beam with relief. Beverly knew
how her friend couldn't bare to leave Will alone. Especially now that
they’d just found each other again. He would need her comfort and
support as soon as he woke. Issues prior to his current accident, and
the recent realisations, over the last few days. In a way she wished
Deanna would go and get some sleep, for the strength she was going to
need once he did return to the living. But she knew that Deanna’s
presence, even without him aware of it, was beyond helpful in aiding
him to a faster recovery.

“Oh and Narrissa will be in shortly. It's nearly time for Will's bath
and nutritional supplements, but she won’t be long. In the meantime,
I'll go get something to eat while you’re here. I guess I can trust you
to keep him level if he does wake up early?” She gave her sternest
mock-look to ensure the counsellor’s cooperation.

“I promise. Go. How unsafe could he be in a medical facility anyway?”
Deanna humorously intoned as she watched her giggle, unable to contain
her laughter.

“Like a bull in a china shop?” Beverly threw back before exiting the
room, the doors soon closing behind her blue coated back.



A warm feeling of floating, enveloped him, as the lightened glow
became pinker and brighter with each breath. At the same time, his
weight increased in small increments per breath, until his body felt
like lead. A tonne of flesh pressing down upon his skeleton. Laying
there, trying to remember what had happened, the clean smell of soap
pervaded his nostrils, as if he'd just washed recently.

As time progressed, images appeared and dissolved into others.
Anxiety threatening to pull him under, as vibrant visions blurred and
screamed, of delusional thoughts and bizarre motions. Unable to bear
the strange reality he began to fight what was once a protective calm,
to break through into the realm of consciousness, no matter what it
held. At first he could here a cacophony of alarms and voices blaring,
as he struggled valiantly against the drugs. His eyes demanding of
sight, with great force snapped open, only to flicker back to darkness
as bright light sizzled his corneas. Perhaps a hand to shield the light
would be best. But as his mind clumsily processed the action, found it
numb and immobilised. Switching arms, he swung it up and over his head,
soon dulling the light with his own body until he could see the vague
components that made up his surroundings. A collection of blurred
objects spun in circles, nauseating his vision.

A voice, familiar but distant, was calling, but all he could really
hear was his own ragged breath as the numbness of his shoulder began to
turn into raw pain. Gasping from the wounded area, he soon felt the
deliciously warm hands of Deanna, holding him down, wiping his brow
coolly with a moist cloth. Closing his eyes and dropping his shielding
arm, he sunk heavily into the bed and waited til the pain lessened.

Breathing heavily, he glanced over to the dark haired beauty.
Allowing the sense of calm she pervaded, sink into his body, drawing
him away from the agony he’d just been experiencing. As he turned his
face fully towards her, her lips moved in slow motion, her words
muffled and distant. Unable to understand he blinked a few times until
she turned away, to behind her and said something else. Deanna swung
back around to face him, as the young girl rushed up beside her,
dressed in medical blue. Sound and motion slurred and blurred, until it
all came crushing back to real time.

“He's in pain,” he heard her divulge to the young nurse. Nurse? Yes a
nurse, he thought. Grunting as another stab of pain skewered his

The young nurse, who had admitted Deanna earlier, calmly read his
display charts, sourcing the problem at hand, before slapping her

“Doctor Crusher, please report to your patient immediately,” the
nurse was calm but her voice rose to an elevated tone, one insured for
emergency situations.

“Mmhnn hhermmmmuiiii,” he mumbled through deadened vocal cords.

“Relax Will. Beverly's on her way. You’re safe now,” Deanna spoke
surely and slowly to him, watching until he gave a slight nod to calm
her own beating heart.

He closed his eyes briefly, resting his head against the regenerator,
only to open them with curiosity, seeking that which had caused him
pain before. Metal and plastic hummed beside him, covering the top
portion of his shoulder from view. His cheek rested lightly against the
device until he realised what it was. A regenerator, and not a small
one either. But before he could ask why, sounds whooshed and a blur of
orange sailed into view, alerting him to a new visitor wearing the same
concerned look that Deanna now was.

“Welcome back stranger,” Beverly greeted him as she tested his
forehead and cheeks with the back of her hand, retrieving the data padd
from the nurse before issuing a small hypo to the crook of his arm.
“Nothing to worry about, just a little elevated blood pressure and some
residual pain,” she said to whoever wanted to listen. “I see you’re
still capable of bringing people at a full tilt to your bedside,” she
joked adjusting his pillows to lever his head higher without moving his
upper body.

“Wheeair um I,” Will repeated.

Deanna frowned and Beverly smiled, knowing the famous slurred words,
from previous bed stays in sickbay.

“Where you usually end up after an adventure Will. You’re in sickbay.
Starfleet medical to be exact,” watching as Will slowly nodded in

“Whiy?” he swallowed hard, fighting back the nausea.

“We've got you hold up in intensive care for the moment, due to your
badly injured shoulder. Something that will heal beautifully if you
don’t move it for now,” she explained before handing over a couple of
instructions to the nurse, and gently ruffling the top his long hair.
“Though as you may have noticed, Deanna is here to stay with you, and
to keep you up-to-date on the latest news.”

“Thank you,” he mumbled, sleep slowly creeping in to claim another

“You’re welcome Will. You’re always welcome. But for now, just lay
back and relax. Now if you don't mind I'm going back to my boring cold
lunch,” she explained, soon heading out the door after hugging her
teary eyed friend.

Deanna was joyous of Will’s recent awareness, the stress of the past
few days leaking out in gulpfuls of happiness. Wiping them away with
her shaking fingers, Deanna soon grasped his own warm digits, watching
as he stared up at the ceiling. His slow blinking confirming the
contents he’d just been hypo’d.

“Can you remember what happened?” her voice floated into his ears.

He thought about it for a moment.

“Tom?” he asked with gravel in his throat.

“He's fine. He left for a departmental meeting with his superiors a
few hours ago,” she said watching each and every facial movement he
made, watching for signs of distress she knew would surface, as time

“He OK?” Will repeated, Deanna wondering if he hadn't heard her the
first time.

“Yes Will. Thomas is OK,” she said again relief brushing her features
as he nodded gently.


Deanna waited for him to continue until she realised he was asking
about her own status.

“No injuries, not like yourself,” she smiled, sending a small dose of
love across the bond, watching as his troubled face relaxed into one of
bliss. “It seems like you Riker’s are always getting into trouble,” she
jibed, kissing each finger within her grasp.

His frown returned shortly.

“Fazon?” he asked.

“Didn't make it Imzadi,” glad that his memories were still intact.
“We were more worried about you and Thomas,” gently tracing the lines
around his eyes.

He smiled and closed his eyes, their sluggish reopening taxing his
system as exhaustion pulled at his body, dragging him slowly into the
quicksand of sleep.

“Sleep well. We'll talk again tomorrow,” Deanna murmured, placing a
kiss over each eyelid as his breathing deepened. “Goodnight Imzadi,”
she whispered once more before retreating to her own bed.


= FORTY-TWO = ‘The meaning of life, the universe and everything’

“Welcome back Commander,” Picard greeted, as Will Riker tall and
strong stepped off the transporter padd with Deanna in tow.

“Great to be back Captain,” he smiled.

After weeks of rigorous physio and counselling sessions, he was
finally glad to be back in the one place that he truly knew like the
back of his hand. And somewhere that didn’t smell of medical.

Leaning forward he clasped hands with the one man he trusted with his
life, moving away briefly from the other that he trusted to his heart;
his Imzadi.

“Thank you for all you've done Captain,” Will started, before handing
over a small bottle of Tarkallian whiskey. “I appreciate the efforts
you went to. The board of enquiries, the media, and for ensuring that I
came back to the Enterprise,” he smiled, aware of how much of Picard’s
‘friendship’ it had taken to keep him in his duty placement.

“Nothing you didn't deserve Commander,” accepting the bottle with an
appraising eye. “I trust this won’t appear on your rap sheet
Commander?” he joked, aware of Will Riker’s mysterious abilities to
suddenly place his hands on rare and costly items, and without a trail.

“Let’s just say it’s a present from both Thomas and I,” Will
answered, ignoring the shaking of Deanna’s head. Knowing full well that
Thomas had probably stolen it from somewhere for his brother.

“Well, seeing as we have a senior meeting in half an hour. I believe
we should let you head for your quarters first,” Picard suggested.

“Sure. Deanna?” he asked of the Betazoid draped casually on his arm.

“I agree. Let's get you settled and rested before you return to
duty,” she agreed only to realise the stiffening in Picard’s spine and
the softening of his smile.

“Actually Deanna, Will won't be returning to duty just yet, Doctor’s
orders. But I thought you might like to sit in and catch up on ships’
business,” he supplied to her curious frown.

“Blocked by the doctor again,” Will mumbled as they filed out into
the corridor. His uniform crisp, boots shiny, hair short, and the newly
grown beard trimmed back to its old style.

“She's only looking out for you Will,” Deanna offered, impressed by
the lack of expletives she knew he wanted to express.

“I know. How long this time?” he asked Picard as they entered a lift.

“Deck Nine,” Picard called out. “Another few days. Then we can get
you back into the nitty gritty of crew evaluations,” he smiled evilly,
listening to Will’s groan.

“Is this a set-up or what? Are you trying to get rid of me? Because
it won't work,” Will grinned.

“Rid of you? Never Number One.” Picard stood by the now open
turbolift doors, indicating that they go first. “I believe that with
the holiday you've recently spent with Starfleet medical, you might
prefer something a little more challenging than chasing peas around
your plate,” he added with a smile.

“Damn peas,” Will grumbled before giving a small chuckle, Deanna
merrily nudging him onward as he stopped to shake his head.

It wasn’t long until they came across the Commander’s cabin, the
Captain soon dismissing himself, and leaving the duo to settle back in.
His last comment, reminding them of their upcoming staff meeting. Will
gave a small smile to the retreating back of his Captain, turning to
see Deanna watching him.

“Strange feeling to be home,” he said before hitting the coded door
panel and stepping into his half lit quarters.

“But good I hope?” she queried, her sensors on full alert, softening
as she connected with the warmth of his emotions, relaxing with their
ebb and flow.

Since he had awakened, and with nothing to do but heal, they’d had
enough time to work through their emotions for each other, and to
decide on some of those future goals. A goal that included her.

“Yeah. Really good,” he replied throwing his bag onto the floor, and
giving a small rub to his newly healed shoulder.

“Shoulder?” she asked.

He only smiled before moving forward to lean against the window
brace, admiring the view of earth rotating below. Turning he watched as
Deanna floated up beside him.

“I think I need a hug,” he smiled, drawing her in under his arm so
she rested her face to his beating chest. His long arms drawing across
her back, pulling her in so he could plant his face into her mass of
curls. “Thanks,” he said before drawing her chin up with the tip of his
index finger, kissing her fully on the lips, filled with a passion for
love. And a passion for living.

Locking her lips against his own Deanna whispered her thanks to the
deities. Standing there, basked in the earth’s glow, bodies locked
together as one. ‘…to love you Imzadi, it is a goal I have always
wanted to obtain,’ his earlier proposal floating on the ethereal
whispers of her mind ‘to love you as one, forever and more.’

“I too Imzadi, I too.”


The duplicitous end ;-D 19/6/04