RATING: PG, maybe PG-13
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns the Star Trek characters, and the ship. No infringement is intended, no profit made.
Enter the Labyrinth
Counselor's Personal Log
Will has invited me to join him the holodeck tomorrow for 'an evening of fun' as he put it. I'm looking forward to it, but at the same time, I dread it. I can tell his feelings are changing, and we have been seeing each other a bit more lately, but only as friends. Honestly, that's where I want to keep it. I just can't take him back . . . yet. End log.
"Yeah, that should do it!" Will Riker smiled, pleased with himself. The final commands of his new holodeck program were entered into the computer. He had been working on this project for several weeks, tweaking it here and there, trying to get it just right. Of course, he would look it over once before sharing it with Deanna, just to make sure everything was perfect.
Riker entered the holodeck, and commanded, "Computer, run program, Riker 17."
The black and yellow grid dissolved into a meadow on the side of a mountain. The sun was shining, and a cool wind blew all around him. Looks good, so far, he thought. Will glanced up the mountainside, to see that the peak was concealed by low clouds.
He called out, "Computer, remove the cloud surrounding the top of the mountain." With the next gust of wind, the cloud blew away to reveal a castle. Smiling again, he took a deep breath. She's gonna like this! Riker hiked up the short path that led to the towering building, and walked through the giant wooden doors. Everything was just as he'd imagined, from the candlelit dining table in the dining hall to the tapestries hanging on the walls. He left the building, feeling satisfied with his work.
"Computer, save and end program." Will said to the computer. That said, the doorway appeared, and he exited the holodeck. The doors closed behind him, and he continued on to his quarters. There was still some things he needed to get ready for the next day's activities.
When the doors were closed completely, however, the program didn't immediately end. A person appeared, and looked at the scenery that surrounded him. "Hmmm . . . Not very exciting, Riker." He approached the arch, and scrolled through the programming, and laughed. "How painfully dull and excruciatingly boring. It needs a bit more of something, but what? Let me think . . . Aha! Riker could never come up with something like this in that Cro-Magnon brain of his! This will be much more romantic, not to mention fun! I just know he'll thank me in the end!" He made the changes to the program, and, with a flash, disappeared.
Deanna looked up at her chronometer. This is ridiculous, she thought, Will is going to be here in fifteen minutes, and I can't decide what to wear! She held up another dress up and looked it over. As she placed it back in her closet, the chime rang. Deanna rolled her eyes, of course he'd be early.
"Come," she said.
The doors opened, and Will entered. He was clad in brown leather pants and boots, and his shirt was a beige wrap which made a deep V neckline. "Hi," he smiled, and handed Deanna a large white box. "I thought I'd bring you something to wear."
She viewed him from head to toe, and giggled. "You didn't say anything about going in costume!"
"You didn't ask! Besides, I would've missed the look you gave me when I walked in!" Will pointed to the box, "Go ahead, open it!"
Deanna sighed and took the lid off the box and found a suit made similar to Will's, along with a dark green cloak. She lifted the cloak out, "What is this for?"
"It's going to be a bit cool where we're going, so I thought you may need something to cover with."
Her eyes widened. "It's not snowing there, is it?"
"No," he smiled at her, "you know I wouldn't do that to you! Come on," he picked up the clothes, "Would you like some help?"
"No, thank you. I think I can manage." Deanna took the costume and went into her bedroom, closing the door behind.
Will waited, after a few minutes, Deanna came out. "How do I look?"
He gazed at her, the outfit looked more appealing on her than what he'd imagined. Everything fit her just right. He tried to shake off some of the wild thoughts that flooded into his mind. "Beautiful." Will said, and offered his arm. "Shall we go?"
Deanna took Will's arm, and the couple left the counselor's quarters, getting quite a few amused glances from the crew members they passed along the way.
Will stopped outside Holodeck 3, and turned to Deanna. "Are you ready?"
"Are you kidding? I didn't put on this garb to just stand in the corridor!"
Riker smiled, "Computer, run holodeck program Riker 17."
After a moment, the computer voice answered, <Program complete. You may enter when ready.>
They entered the holodeck, and Deanna looked around, amazed. She felt the cool wind gently blow through her hair, as it carried the fragrance of wildflowers and evergreens. "This is beautiful!" she said, and pulled the cloak around her.
Will replied, "It's a little something from my home in Alaska, with a few enhancements." He waggled his eyebrows, and pointed. "Look up there."
Deanna turned her gaze upward to see the tall towers of the castle. "It's like the fairy tales my father told me when I was a child!" This may be fun after all! She smiled at Will, "Let's go up and have a look!"
"Alright," he said, "follow me." Will led Deanna up the path to the castle. "By the way, I hope you don't mind, but we'll be having dinner there in a few hours. After we have a chance to explore the castle, of course!"
Deanna smiled up at him, "That would be great!"
The two approached the tall wooden doors, and Will knocked. Slowly, the massive doors swung open. It was bright on the other side, unlike what Will had seen before. His eyes narrowed, and he walked in.
Deanna could sense some surprise at what lay before him, and followed. Maybe he forgot something in the programming, she thought. She was a few meters behind him, and could see that the door didn't open into a castle. In fact, they were standing on top of a hill, looking down at what appeared to be a maze surrounding tower-like building.
She stepped up beside him and asked, "Will what's - WILL!!"
At that moment, a swirling wave of white light came from the sky and enveloped Will. "What the - ?" He turned to Deanna, and reached for her. "Deanna! Ge . . ." The energy wave disappeared as fast as it had appeared, and took Will with it.
All Deanna could do was stand and watch as everything happened. Then, it all sunk in. "Computer, end program!" she ordered. Nothing happened. "Troi to Bridge!" Nothing.
"I'm sorry, Deanna, but that won't help at all. You see, the computer has been locked out."
That voice was one she knew all to well. "Q! What have you done with Commander Riker?"
"Oh, nothing, really. He's perfectly fine." Q dusted some imaginary dirt off of his sleeve. "You know, I really should have reprogrammed this with less dust."
"I'm not here to play another of your silly games, Q!" She said, trying to keep her temper in check. "Why can't you find someone else to torment?"
"This isn't another silly game, Counselor." He stepped closer to Deanna, "This one is quite serious, I'm afraid. As for tormenting, well, the two of you are experts at that."
"What do you mean?" Deanna asked.
"Oh, please, Deanna. Now you're the one who's playing games!" His smile was full of arrogance. "Now, to my point. You have thirteen hours to find Riker, or for him to find you. If you don't, something that's very precious to the two of you, albeit annoying to everyone else in the cosmos, will be taken away." With a flash of light, Q transported Deanna inside the entrance of the labyrinth. "Have fun!" He laughed, and vanished.
"What the - ?" Will saw the ribbons of energy coming toward him. He turned to Deanna, knowing something was horribly wrong. "Deanna! Get out of here!" He yelled, but knew it was already to late. The light force wrapped around him, and everything went black.
Will opened his eyes to a bright flash of white light. He thought, Oh, please don't be Q. Please-don't be Q.
Unfortunately, an all too familiar voice said, "Rise and shine!"
He groaned, and picked himself up off the ground. "What do you want this time, Q?"
"Oh, come now, Riker, where are your manners? I'm here to do a small favor for you."
Will's eyes narrowed, and he looked down at Q. "I don't need anything from you!"
"I believe you do," he answered. "Honestly, I've grown weary of the cat-and-mouse game you and Deanna continue to play. So, I've decided to put an end to it!"
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about, but if you've harmed her . . ."
Q became very amused, "Listen to you!" He smiled, almost taunting, "I think you do know what I'm talking about, Riker, and this little program of ours will end it one way or another."
"OUR PROGRAM?! You sorry son of a . . . !" Riker swung a fist at Q.
Q easily caught his arm in mid-swing. "Temper, temper! And I thought you'd finally come above such primal instincts!" He smirked, "Your precious counselor hasn't been harmed in any way. She is on the other side, however." He pointed to the maze in front of them. Will noticed there was a structure built in the center. "As I told Deanna, you have thirteen hours to find one another in this little labyrinth of mine. If you fail, you'll both lose something very special!" Q leaned toward Will, "I do hope you learn something from this escapade!"
He snapped his fingers, and Riker was placed somewhere inside the structure.
viewed her new surroundings. Q had landed her somewhere inside the
vine-covered walls of the labyrinth. She observed the top of a tall
building over the walls, and decided to make that her destination. After
only a few steps, however, Deanna heard a bell ring. Then, Q's voice,
"There will be a bell to mark the ending of each hour. Your time
begins now!" She smirked, and since there wasn't really a choice,
Deanna walked ahead, delving deeper into the labyrinth.
When she had wandered around for over an hour, Deanna decided to stop for a moment. She took a glimpse of the tower ahead, and thought that it might look a bit closer. Sighing, she started again. After turning a few corners and finding her third dead end, Deanna was more than a little frustrated.
Looking to the sky, she yelled. "Q!! How in the world am I supposed to get through this place, if you keep putting dead ends in front of me?"
I hope Will is making better progress! Leaning against one of the leaf covered walls, Deanna closed her eyes. Taking several deep breaths, she tried to calm down before continuing through this insane place. She began to think back to the events of the past few days, and wondered if she may have somehow sensed that Q was lurking about. Maybe that was the reason she wasn't really looking forward to this excursion.
When she opened her eyes, the passage had changed. Where the dead end was seconds ago, there now stood a marble statue of a sphinx. Awestruck by the beauty of the object, Deanna slowly approached it. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that its eyes were inlaid with some kind of golden yellow stone.
It looks so real, she thought, as she reached to touch the statue.
Her fingers barely grazed the sphinx when it's head turned toward her. "Hello, Deanna Troi." It rumbled.
Surprised, Deanna jumped back, her hand flying over her mouth.
"Forgive me, child, I did not mean to frighten you." The sphinx smiled, and stretched his wings and feline body. "It has been many years since I have been summoned," he opened his mouth in a huge yawn.
She watched the display, and was amazed at the power the creature seemed to contain. Catching her breath, she said, "I don't get to see statues come to life everyday. I guess I should've thought about that, considering where I am."
"Yes, there are many things you'll want to consider in this labyrinth. For example, I can help you get closer to the center."
"You can?" She asked. "How?"
The sphinx sat on his haunches, and spread his wings slightly. "Answer a riddle."
She turned to see that the dead end was now behind her. "Okay," Deanna replied, "What is the riddle?"
The creature's yellow eyes stared into Deanna's, and his voice rumbled. "This is what you must solve:"
If you break me,
I do not stop working.
If you touch me,
I may be snared.
If you lose me,
Nothing will matter.
Deanna gazed back into the sphinx's eyes, losing all sense of everything, except for a slight feeling of falling backwards.
Will appeared in a thick forest. He looked around, trying to get his bearings, and through the tree branches, he recognized the building he had noticed earlier. That looks like a good place to head for, he thought, and took the first steps toward the tower.
He had only walked a short way, when he heard a bell ring. Then, Q's voice answered his unasked question. "There will be a bell to mark the ending of each hour. Your time begins now!" Riker rolled his eyes. He started again through the woods, trying to make the shortest route to his destination.
A few hours passed, and Will didn't seem to be making any progress. There were no passages through the trees, so he had to make his own way. Still, he hadn't made it to the actual maze yet. The forest was very thick, and it felt like he was going uphill the whole way. So, he slumped against a tree to rest.
After relaxing for a few minutes, Riker realized that he was beginning to get drowsy. This is crazy, he thought, I know I'm in better shape than this! He shook his head, trying to shake the cobwebs that were forming. Will finally managed to stand, and took a few steps. Now everything around him had a dreamlike haze.
No . . . this is Q's doing . . . and he collapsed onto the thick foliage.
Deanna opened her eyes to the familiar surroundings of the Troi mansion. She walked up the stairs, and into the hallway outside her room. A low voice could be heard through the closed door.
"Daddy?" she whispered, and reached for the door knob. Slowly, she turned it, and entered. Deanna watched as the events unfolded in front of her.
Ian Troi was seated on the side of his daughter's bed. "I won't be gone long, Little One," he said as he caressed her cheek. "Only a few weeks. I'll be back before you know it!"
Deanna gasped. This was the last time she saw her father.
"I'll miss you, Daddy," the little girl answered. "Will you sing to me before you go?"
"Of course, Dee." He gave her a warm smile. "What song would you like to hear?"
"You know what song, silly!" She giggled, and rubbed her eyes. "Down in the Valley!"
"Okay," he took a deep breath and began singing to the little girl.
Deanna listened and watched her younger self close sleepy eyes to the soothing sound of her father's voice.
The song ended, and Ian bent over to kiss little Deanna's forehead. "I love you with all my heart, Little One," he said as he tucked her in.
Tears were forming in her eyes as the older Deanna whispered, "I love you, too, Daddy." The room became dark, and the sensation of falling over took her again.
The darkness faded away, and Deanna found that she was about to witness another event. She was still on Betazed, only years later. Not too far from where she appeared, were a couple standing outside of a shuttle. As she approached, she could hear their conversation. One she remembered very well . . .
The two were in a tight embrace, then Will pulled back. He ran his fingers through her hair, "I miss you already, Imzadi."
Deanna looked up at him. "I know," she said.
Will smiled and kissed her, and when he squeezed her close, whispered. "I'm already running late. I love you, Dee. See you on Risa!" As he slowly pulled back, he grinned, and touched her cheek. "Until then?"
"Until then." Deanna tried to smile. "I wish you a safe voyage, Imzadi." She waved as he boarded the shuttle, and her gaze followed the vehicle as it flew off into the atmosphere.
Deanna approached her younger self. "You know, he's not going to meet you on Risa. In fact, you won't see him again for years."
To her surprise, her counterpart answered. "How do you know?" Her now tear-filled eyes turned to Deanna.
"I know, because this is a part of my past. He's a Starfleet officer, and that's most important to him. It always has been."
"You sound just like Mother! In six weeks, Will and I are getting married on Risa! Nothing matters more to either of us!"
Deanna watched as the other ran off toward the city. I was so naive, and so in love.
Everything around Deanna faded away, and she was suddenly back in the labyrinth. Stumbling, she found one of the walls to regain her balance. All the emotions that she experienced and felt from the people and times she'd just witnessed caused her to hold a hand over the tightness in her chest.
The sphinx was still in front of her. "Well, Deanna, what is the solution?"
She thought for a moment about those events, and how they related to the riddle. When the realization hit her, she looked back into the creature's eyes. "My heart," she replied.
The sphinx laughed joyfully, saying, "Yes, child! It is! Come, I will hold to my end of the bargain. Climb upon my back, and I will take you deeper into the labyrinth."
Deanna complied, and with a mighty leap, the two took off over the maze walls.
Riker woke up to the sensation of cool water flowing around him. Still a bit lethargic from his nap, he slowly opened his eyes.
"Hello," said a scantily clad blonde as she wiped a wet cloth over his face. "My name is Dari." His eyes widened, and he realized that both of them were sitting in a narrow stream inside a cave. That, and his clothes had been removed.
"Uh, hi," he responded, half smiling. "How did I get here?"
"We found you in the forest, lover," a brunette answered as she slinked in beside him. "I'm Kit."
"Yes," Dari added, "You were unconscious. So, we thought we'd try to help."
He laughed nervously. "Well, I do appreciate this, but I think that I should go." Will cleared his throat, "Where, um, are my clothes?"
"Oh," said Kit, "you don't need those." She ran a hand up and down his torso and chest.
The other was playing with the hair at the back of his neck, "What's the rush, handsome? You can stay here with us."
Yeah, what is the rush? Riker laid back against the wall for a second. I could stay here . . . NO! He straightened, "No," he tried to push the two off of him, "really, I need to leave." Before something happens!
Dari caught his mouth with hers, and he moaned as he gave in. All the while Kit's hand wandered further south. For some time, he was oblivious to who's hands were going where and to which woman his attentions were going to.
Suddenly, Will jerked up, this time shoving his way out of the trap that was closing in on him. "Listen! I don't have time for this! Get off me, and give me my clothes, NOW!"
"I said, you don't need them, love," the brunette pushed him back roughly, knocking his head on the rock behind him. "And, you have plenty of time!"
The world spun around Will, as another assault from his captors commenced. He did the only thing that made sense at the moment, and went limp.
"Oh, look what you've done!" he heard Dari say. "You've knocked him unconscious!"
Their argument went on, and when he figured that the two were completely preoccupied, Will slipped under the water and swam upstream. Once he was out of their line of sight, he noticed a small fire and a pile of clothes laying close to it. As quiet as possible, Will got out of the water and to the pile. He searched it, and found all that was his. He used one of the other shirts in the stack to quickly dry off before trying to put on the leather outfit. With that chore finished, he found his way out of the cave, and fortunately, a lot closer to the tower.
After striding into a series of passages, Will heard the chimes marking the passage of the fifth hour. Damn! I'm never going to get there at this rate!
flying over halfway to the tower, the sphinx descended and deposited Deanna
back into the labyrinth. "Here, Deanna. This is where I take
"Thank you," she said as she slipped off his back. Before she had time to say good-bye, he had already flown off. Oh well, she thought, at least I made some progress!
Deanna got her bearings on the tower once more, and continued the journey through the seemingly endless passages of the labyrinth. When she had walked for what seemed like hours, she stopped and leaned against one of the walls to rest.
Then, a faint sound interrupted her thoughts. Deanna held her breath, and listened. There it was again. Someone was calling her name. She pushed off of the wall, and tried to go in the direction of the voice.
To the best of her ability, she stayed on the trail of that voice. After following it for a while, the call began to sound familiar -- it was Will's!
Without thinking, Deanna answered, "Will! I'm over here!"
She felt some surprise from him. "Deanna? Is that you?"
"Yes! Will, stay where you are! I think I can sense my way to you!"
Deanna reached out with her mind, and resumed her search for Will. In only a few minutes, she knew he was very close, and she asked, "Will? Can you hear me?"
"Yeah. I think I'm on the other side of this wall from you. It doesn't look like there's an opening for a ways."
She scanned the wall, "You're right. Do you think you can climb over?"
"Sure. Give me a minute." Deanna could hear him rustling the vines on his side as he scaled the wall. A few seconds passed, and she could see Will's flushed face come over the top.
"Good job," she replied, smiling, "It's nice to see you're still in such good shape!"
He managed to get on top of the barrier, and sat for a moment. Huffing, he smiled back. "I'm glad you approve! I haven't done this in a while."
There's something not right about him. "Haven't done this in a while?" Deanna said, "I thought you went mountain climbing on the holodeck last week!"
"Oh! Oh, yeah. I forgot." Will slid off of the wall, landing next to Deanna.
Just a bit confused, Deanna gazed into his eyes. "You're lying. Tom."
Will quickened his pace, and came upon a dead end. Angry and frustrated with all the recent events, he hit the barrier. "Dammit!" he yelled, then watched as words came into existence on the stone wall. Amazed, all he could do for a time was stare at the phrase.
You can have me, but not hold me.
Gain me quickly, and lose me.
If treated with care, I can be great.
And if betrayed, I will break.
He turned to go back the way he came, only to find that the passage behind him was now gone. "Damn!" He said, "I hate riddles!"
Riker flopped down onto the ground, and sat for a while, staring at the walls that surrounded him. No roof! Riker, you idiot! He got to his feet, and scaled the wall he'd been leaning against earlier.
When he landed on the other side, the halls seemed to be clear, so he resumed the search for Deanna. It wasn't too long before he came back to the same situation. Another blockade with the riddle carved into its side. Riker huffed at this discovery, and turned to leave. Once again, he had been blocked in. So, again, he climbed the wall. This time, he didn't go completely over. He stopped at the top of the wall, and carefully stood up. For as far as he could see, Will was surrounded by cells, all with the same riddle carved into one wall.
"How did you know?" Tom raised a hand, "Nevermind, it really doesn't matter. I'm here to help you out. Some guy that calls himself Q told me that you were in danger."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm hardly in any danger. Besides, with Q involved, how do I know you're real?"
"You know how real I am." Tom kissed her hand, "There's a way to get out of here, and I can show you."
Deanna looked at him again, sensing that most of what he was saying was the truth. "Okay, but we need to find Will first."
"Of course," he said, "We won't leave without him." Tom knew that she could sense that he wasn't happy with that, not that he really cared. "Then we need to get moving!" he replied. "Can you sense Will like you did me?"
"No, he's probably on the other side of the maze. I could only sense you because you were so close." She answered.
"Oh. Well, how were you expecting to find him?"
She pointed, "Do you see that tower over there?"
"That's where I'm going. I figured Will would go toward it, also."
Tom fumed for a moment. "Yes, he would," he stated. "Are you sure you want to find him? I mean, I can get us out of here! There's a place I passed before I found you, and, well . . . it's so beautiful . . ."
"Tom," Deanna stopped him. "Don't do this. We're wasting time. I have less than nine hours to
find Will and get out of this place."
"Alright, alright. Let's go." He glanced back to the tower. "I suppose we should try going this way," then stomped off, with Deanna trailing close behind.
The two traveled through the corridors of the maze for over an hour in silence. Deanna watched him. He's so much like Will, and yet, so different. She remembered the 'first' time she had met him as the Enterprise orbited Nervala IV. How he was almost completely the same brash lieutenant she'd met on Betazed all those years ago.
Her thoughts continued to stray, so she never detected when Tom had changed course.
Deanna was still following Tom, when he stopped. "We're almost there!" He waved his arm, showing the sight to her. She viewed the new surroundings. The passageway opened to what appeared to be a dense jungle.
"Okay . . ." Deanna gave Tom a questioning look.
"Just trust me." He said, "I know where I'm going."
She let Tom guide her into the jungle. As they hiked through the thick foliage, the sound of rushing water could be heard, and Deanna was beginning to get suspicious.
Eventually, Tom turned to her and gently took her hands. "Here we are!" He grinned. For some reason, it sent shivers down Deanna's spine. She looked beyond him to see a waterfall.
"Isn't it beautiful? It's almost exactly like the Janaran Falls!" He pulled her close, and gave her a searing kiss.
Deanna resisted at first, but as the kiss became more and more heated, every logical thought about how wrong this was all but disappeared. She wrapped her arms around him, and after a moment, pushed away. "Tom . . . "
"Shhh . . . " he placed his index finger on her lips, and whispered into her ear. "Let me love you." Then, he started a trail down her neck of nibbles and kisses.
How can I argue with that? She closed her eyes, and melted in his arms. She was barely aware of Tom carefully laying her down on the soft grass.
Will gave up, and jumped down in his most recent room, and reread the riddle. He sat and thought long and hard about what it said, and how it had anything to do with this insane mission that Q had put him and Deanna on.
He thought it might help if he read it out loud, so he recited the phrase. "You can have me, but not hold me. Gain me quickly, and lose me. If treated with care, I can be great. And if betrayed, I will break." He laughed, and added, "What am I?"
That last line stuck in his head. If betrayed, I will break. His thoughts turned to Deanna. He remembered when they were reunited on the Enterprise years ago. She didn't want anything to do with him, at first. Slowly, they did fall into a friendship, but that was almost two years after they had been serving together. Will kept turning those thoughts over in his head, and finally came to an answer that made sense. She didn't trust me! Deanna thought that if we got back together, I'd leave again!
Will stood up, and stepped up to the engraved wall. "Trust." At the sound of that one word, the barrier in front of him wavered, and disappeared, leaving an open corridor in front of him. He exhaled, and proceeded into the maze.
"Mmm . . ." Deanna sighed as Tom continued his attentions to her. He was beginning to unfasten her blouse, when she heard Q's amused voice in her ear, "Where is Commander Riker?" He laughed, "My, my, look at the time!" The bells sounded again. Eight hours had passed! Her eyes grew wide, and all she could do was stare at Tom.
He felt her stiffen. "Dee? Are you okay?"
"You've taken me out of the labyrinth, haven't you?!" She started to get up, but Tom held on to her, and pulled her into a passionate kiss.
"No, I haven't." He said, taking a breath. "Not yet."
She broke away, buttoning her shirt. "I can't believe I did this!" Deanna got up and walked away from him.
"Wait! I thought . . ." he began.
"Yeah, I know what you thought!" She glared at him, for only a moment. Her gaze softened, and she looked away. "Because I was thinking the same."
"I can't," she said, stepping further from him. "This," she gestured to their surroundings, "is something from our past. I can't try to relive memories, no matter how precious they are . . ."
Deanna stood there for a moment, thinking about what she'd just said. Something very precious . . . The bond! That's what Q was talking about!
When Tom heard her gasp, he approached her, and put his hands on her shoulders. "Deanna? What's wrong?"
She looked up at Tom, and into his crystal blue eyes. "It's Q! If I don't find Will in the time left, he's going to break our bond!"
"Can he do that?"
"Yes! Yes, he can! I have to leave!"
Tom turned away. "Leave, then, and go find Will." He told her over his shoulder, "Deanna, you have to realize -- I had to try one last time."
She walked up and hugged him from behind. "I know, Tom. Believe me, I know." Deanna felt Tom turn and they held each other.
"If he ever hurts you again . . ."
"He won't. I'm not going to let him!"
Tom drew back, and smiled at Deanna. "That's my girl! Now, go, find Will. God knows he needs help!"
Laughing, Deanna ran off into the jungle.
making several more twists and turns, Will looked up to the structure in order
to get his bearings. He felt drawn to the tower, thinking, maybe
Deanna is being lead here, too. The bells had sounded earlier,
signaling the end of the ninth hour. Time was running out for whatever Q
had intended for them.
It wasn't long before Riker heard something ahead of him. He followed the sound a little ways, to an archway. Quietly, Will poked his head around the corner to see what was making all the commotion. The doorway opened into a large courtyard that surrounded the building he sought. However, there was one thing that would hinder any attempt to enter the tower. Damn! I knew this was going to happen! He glanced back to the beast. It hadn't seen him, yet. Will rolled his eyes, no labyrinth would be complete without a minotaur!
Still trying to be as quiet as possible, Will backtracked a ways, trying to find anything to use as a weapon. A few rocks and branches were all he could find, none of them big or strong enough to help him in any way. Riker walked back to the archway, and viewed what was to become the battlefield, along with his foe. The courtyard was mostly open space, with a few small trees here and there, and a few benches were scattered in the shady areas. However, he did noticed that the minotaur was nearly twice his size. He ran his hands through his hair and took a deep breath. I guess I'm going in with my bare hands, and hope that I'm faster than that bastard! He looked up to the clouds, Deanna, I hope you know what I'm willing to do for you! Will bounced on the balls of his feet a few times, and waited. When the beast turned its back, Riker sprinted toward his adversary.
Deanna made the short trip back into the corridors of the maze, and was on her way to the center. She hadn't run into any dead ends this time, and thought she was making good time, considering the setback with Tom.
After coming around another corner, Deanna stopped to catch her breath. She could feel her calves trying to tighten, so she faced one of the walls and pushed against it to stretch the complaining muscles. With a final shove, she straightened up to continue the task of finding Will.
The tower loomed over, and Deanna knew it wouldn't be long before she would make the journey there. She started to walk again, when a wave of anticipation mixed with anger and fear overcame her. Will? It really was Will this time! She hadn't felt him with such intensity in a very long time, so she reached out with her mind to hopefully locate him. What she didn't expect was to hear his voice in her head. Deanna, I hope you know what I'm willing to do for you! And she felt him go in for the attack.
"Imzadi!" She cried, and stumbled back to the opposite wall, thinking at first that the intense emotions had cause her to lose her balance, but the ground shaking under her feet told her otherwise. Deanna leaned against the wall, and screamed when it gave way, falling into a crevasse formed by the quaking earth.
Only a few moment had passed when Deanna regained consciousness. Blinking, she viewed her new surroundings. She looked up to see that she had fallen about twelve feet underground, into a cave of sorts. Holding her aching head in her hands, she thought, How could this get any worse?!
Her unspoken question was answered.
"So, we meet again, Deanna Troi."
Deanna froze. The voice that just filled the cavern was one she hadn't heard in years, and then, only in nightmares. She tried to calm her racing heart, and slowly, lifted her head. Standing barely ten meters from her was the one being that she knew shouldn't even be alive - Maror.
Riker ran and took a flying leap onto the minotaur's back. He was barely able to wrap his arms around the beast's thick neck, and squeezed as hard as he could to cut off the circulation to its head. With such a weak grip, he was easily thrown from it's back when the monster bucked at the surprise attack.
Will hit the ground with such a force, it knocked the wind out of him. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to think about that. The minotaur was almost on him, and he managed to roll out of the way. Finally taking a breath, he heard it coming for him again. Riker focused on his opponent, and dodged it once more. Good, he thought, it is slow. I just hope I can make it through this fight in one piece!
By now, the lumbering creature was angry, to say the least. It pawed at the ground, and studied Riker for a minute. This gave Will a moment to move over enough where he had a tree at his back. Then, screaming in fury, it came full charge at him. He watched as it closed in on him, and at the last possible second, Will moved, causing the animal to crash hard into the trunk. Wood splinters flew in all directions, and the small tree collapsed. The minotaur fell over, dazed.
While it was on the ground, Will quickly ran over to the other side of the fallen tree, hoping to find a branch that had broken off at the impact. He could hear the huffing sound of the minotaur's breathing and knew that time was running out. Looking down, he saw a branch that would work. He swiftly tore the leaves and smaller pieces off, and went back to the beast. It was still on the grass, but it had begun to get up.
Before it could get on its feet, Riker stepped up behind it, and swung the makeshift club at the creature's head with all the strength he possessed. It fell back to the ground, then turned to face him. Damn! Now I've really pissed him off! He swung again, only this time, the branch was caught in one massive paw. Riker's eyes widened as creature faced him completely, only leaving a few inches between them. In an instant, Will was backhanded, the force of the hit knocked him several meters away.
Realization hit Will as he landed. This thing is going to kill me! He vaguely saw the bull-headed monster slowly closing in on him. A shot of pain coursed from his left shoulder as he tried to pick himself up off of the ground. Will fell back, clutching his injured shoulder. In that instant, his thoughts left the fight, and the image of Deanna came into his mind. The scene was from the Jalara Jungle, the first time she had called him Imzadi. With a renewed strength, he opened his eyes, and stood up to his opponent.
The minotaur saw the sudden change in Will's demeanor, and paused momentarily. Will saw the hesitation, and taunted as he approached, "Had enough already? I hope not, 'cause I'm just gettin' started!" He didn't know if the beast could understand him, but he was pretty sure his point got across when he connected a headbutt to the monster's nose. It roared and stumbled back, clutching at it's face.
Will also stumbled backward, as the world began to spin around him. He knew he'd only succeeded it making the minotaur more angry, but he had come to the decision that the it was going to get its part before it took him out. Between the pain in his shoulder and his throbbing head, Will figured this fight wasn't going to last much longer. This battle had already gone past just trying to get to the tower. With the sense he had about that building, there was no doubt in his mind that Deanna would come here. This was now about protecting her from that animal, or die trying.
"You aren't real!" Deanna's voice shook slightly at the declaration. "I saw you die in the jungle!"
"How can you be so sure?" Maror sneered. "You saw me sink into the mud pit. Then, you and that Starfleet man left me for dead. How do you know I didn't escape after you were out of sight?"
He's right, I don't know! The thought sent a wave of intense fear that clinched her heart. What do I do now?
"My intention here is to finish what I was about to do before I was so rudely interrupted by your savior." He pulled a wicked looking knife from his boot. "And I'm going to enjoy every -- single -- moment."
Deanna scrambled frantically to her feet. Glancing around to hopefully find something to defend herself with. Of course, there were only the broken rocks of the fallen wall that surrounded her. Rocks! Even in those dreams, that's all I ever get to fight him with!
She stepped back until a wall of earth stopped her. Deanna's breathing was becoming ragged with fear, as Maror closed in. Desperately, she felt along the wall pressing into her back, and found something that might just give her the distraction she needed. Her hand closed over a pile of what felt like loose sand.
Maror was now less than two meters away. Close enough that Deanna could see the scar she'd made across his forehead all those years ago. She summoned all her courage, and flung the dirt she'd been holding into the Sindareen's eyes.
He yelled, and stumbled back, rubbing his now irritated eyes. Deanna took the temporary advantage, and slammed into him. Being already off-balance, Maror fell to the ground, as his blade clattered into the darkness.
Quickly, Deanna rolled away from him, and started in the direction of the weapon. She felt a hand wrap around her ankle. "Don't think you'll get away so easy, bitch!" He snarled.
She made her escape by kicking the nictating membrane's on Maror's neck. He sputtered, and tried to regain his breath. With him temporarily occupied, Deanna managed to find the lost knife, and ran into the blackness of the underground tunnel.
Within moments, the darkness was so that nothing could be seen. Deanna found one of the walls, and searched with her hands, eventually finding a crack that she could fit in to. She slipped in, and waited, reaching out with her empathy to trace her would-be attacker.
Maror was still coughing and sputtering from her earlier assault, making it a little easier to track his movements. "I know you're here, Deanna." He taunted, walking deeper into the tunnel. "I also know that your lover is somewhere in this maze. I'm eager to see the look on his face when I show him your lifeless corpse -- right before I kill him!"
Deanna tried her best to remain silent. This was one of her worst nightmares coming to life right in front of her, but at his careless mention of Will, a great deal of her fear disappeared. That would be his last mistake. She turned the blade in her hand, and using both the sound of his continued slurs and her sense of him, she quietly crept up behind Maror.
Her hushed breathing was still a little ragged at the thought of what she was about to do. Deanna knew she was right behind the Sindareen, and raised the knife. She screamed as her arms brought the blade down, and into the monster's back.
A bright flash of light temporarily blinded Deanna, and she sobbed as her exhausted body fell to the ground. After a moment, she opened her eyes to see she'd been transported back to the surface of the labyrinth.
"Q?" She asked.
"You know, Counselor," He answered, "you never cease to amaze me."
"I'm not sure I know how to take that from you."
Q chuckled, "With my deepest sincerity, of course!"
"Now, now!" He said, "Let's no get carried away, here! There's one last part of this little adventure for the two of you, and you will need your energy!" Q snapped his fingers.
Feeling somewhat refreshed, Deanna got to her feet and approached Q. In a very deadly voice, she said, "I'm leaving to find Will, and if you stand in my way for another second -- you'll be the one who's sorry!"
Q gave an amused smile, "I see," he said, and watched her as she entered a hedge maze. "Has Riker ever seen this side of you?" When she didn't answer, he muttered, "If not, he should be warned!" With another snap, Q was gone.
straightened himself once more, ready to dish out more or take whatever was
coming. His concentration focused on the beast a few meters away, when a
flash of white light blinded him. Almost instantaneously, all the pain
that he was feeling left, and there was something different about the way his
clothing felt. Blinking, Will glanced down to see he was in a matador's
outfit, and armed with a sword. I'm glad no one's here to see this!
He rolled his eyes. I really hate Q's sense of humor!
His thoughts were cut short by the sound of the minotaur charging him again. Riker dodged it easily, and thrust the sword deep into the beast's chest as it rushed past. There was another flash of light, and the monster disappeared.
Blinking, Will opened his eyes to see Q smiling and clapping his hands halfheartedly. "Very good, Commander! I really didn't think you had it in you! But, no matter, I'm sure you are wanting to finish the task before you."
"That's true," he admitted, "but I first want you to replace this costume you've put me in!"
"I will," Q's smile became smug. "Just give me a moment of your time. What do you think about my labyrinth?"
"It's nothing I can't handle."
"Oh, really? Well, the next part will truly test the strength of your precious bond."
"That's what this whole thing is about?" Will stepped up to Q, his eyes narrowed. "Why?" he demanded.
"I can't believe you're asking me that!" he laughed. "I've been watching you and the counselor for some time, and to put it mildly, it's almost nauseating. The two of you are driving each other crazy, not to mention everyone else in the quadrant! I just thought you both needed a little push to put things in their rightful place!" Q paused dramatically, and clasped his hands in front of his left shoulder. "Isn't that romantic?"
"Of course it is." Will deadpanned. "Now let me finish what I was doing."
"Well, if you're going to put it that way," Q snapped his fingers. "There. Is that better?"
"Yes. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other things I need to attend to." Seeing that he was back in the clothes he was wearing earlier, Will turned toward the tower ahead.
"What is it, Q?" he answered sharply.
"Don't let time run out before you realize where your feelings lay."
Will didn't need to hear that, especially from Q. He already knew where his feelings were. Never slowing, he yelled back, "Stuff it, Q!"
Deanna wandered through the aisles of bushes, still trying to get to the tall building ahead. The earlier brush with Will's mind told her that he was very near, but the link was cut as quick as it connected. She stopped for a few minutes to calm down. There was still an abundance of adrenaline pumping through her, and it was really starting to affect her judgment.
She took several deep breaths, and could already feel the first tendrils of peace course around her. There was a faint sound she could hear. Deanna slowed her breathing and listened. It was the most beautiful song she'd ever heard. Almost unconscious of the effort, she let the music guide her through the passages.
Eventually, the hedges opened to a wide courtyard that surrounded the tower she'd spent so much time trying to find. Deanna normally would have looked around at the many flowers and trees that were there, however, the tune still played, and that's all that mattered. She never noticed that one tree was splintered and laid in pieces almost on top of the path she walked on. Nothing else mattered except her desire to enter the building.
The doors opened to a huge room, and the music was playing a little louder now. All of her memories were fading quickly, and soon, she didn't remember how or why she was there. She continued to let the tune be her guide through the hallways and corridors of the tower. At some point, her trek ended in front of a set of glasslike double doors.
Deanna followed the enchanting music through the crystalline doors. As she entered, she noticed that the room was full of people dressed in masquerade costumes. It only seemed natural that her clothing had changed into a snug-fitting emerald green dress that blended into silver at the hem and sleeves.
She began to observe the other people milling about when a woman approached. "M'lady, I believe you dropped this." She said, and handed her a silver mask with tiny green stones outlining the eyes.
"Yes," Deanna replied, somewhat unsure, "I think I did." She took the green silk ribbons and tied the piece on.
The music continued to play, and there were a few couples dancing to its hypnotic melody. I feel like I should be looking for something, or someone, she thought. That quickly passed as a man walked up and asked her to dance. She nodded, and he led her out to the dance floor.
As they began to sway to the music, Deanna saw the large doors open again. She tried to see who was entering the room, but her partner swung her around, and all she saw of that person was a glimpse of black and a lighter color, maybe white. Excusing herself, Deanna broke away from her dance partner, and began looking for the person who entered.
Deanna's head was still in a fog. There's something that's just not right about this, she thought, still thinking that there was something that she needed to find. Something tingled in the back of her mind. It felt familiar, but at the same time, completely new. That feeling seemed to insist that she needed to find it's source. Somewhere deep inside, Deanna knew that the cause had something to do with that person in black.
As he entered the tall building, Will could barely hear the notes of a song floating on the air. It sounded familiar, somehow, he just couldn't remember. He began to follow, thinking how it was starting to sound like the music that Deanna tried to introduce him to on Betazed. Maybe this song will lead me to her, he thought. The notes were already having a hypnotic effect on him. Almost blindly, Will let the tune guide him.
Before long, all memory of what had happened, and who he was, had been erased from his mind. All that Riker knew was that he was supposed to be there, for whatever reason. For what seemed like hours, he followed the twists and turns inside the tower, allowing the music to penetrate and overcome him. Will never knew that some things had changed once more.
He stopped in front of a set of double doors made of crystal. Riker reached for the door to see something in his hand. Oh, I almost forgot this! He pulled the dark green mask over his eyes, and tied it behind his head. With that done, Will glanced at his reflection in one of the smooth surfaces of the door, and smiled. He adjusted the silver and green sash over his black silk pants and shirt. Satisfied, he entered the ballroom.
Almost instantly, Will found a dance partner and guided her to the floor. After they had waltzed for a few minutes, Riker saw a flash of green from the corner of his eye. He turned to see what it came from, but with the crowd of people in the room, he only caught the fleeting edge of a dress. However, he started to have a funny feeling in his head. This isn't right. I'm supposed to be looking for someone. He tried to remember more, but it was of no use. Something just told him that he needed to find that woman in green. Will stopped dancing and excused himself, so he could find some answers.
Deanna tried to make her way through the multitude of bodies. It seemed that as the evening passed, the room continued to get more and more crowded. She managed another glimpse of what she had determined was a man in black. If I could only make eye contact with him, I know he'd come to me. That was the problem. Deanna would get a glance of him, in time for him to disappear once more.
She scanned the room, and saw nothing. So, Deanna picked a direction, and once again, began pushing her way through the throng of people. A hand lightly touched her shoulder, and she heard a deep voice, "May I have this dance?"
Will had a slight advantage, being a bit taller than most of the people in the ball room. He could see farther, but there were still a large number of people, and there seemed to be several people wearing green. That was the problem, trying to figure out which one to track. Riker finally laid eyes on a dark-haired beauty wearing a dark green dress that faded into silver. He realized that the sash he wore was complementary to her dress. She must be the one, he thought, and set out to find her.
Being as small as she was, Will had a hard time keeping up with this lady. She seemed to keep two or three steps ahead of him, then, he'd lose her. Only to see her once again, from across the room. Will did observe that she appeared to be looking for someone, or perhaps she was lost. He finally managed to get within arms reach of her, tapped her shoulder, and asked, "May I have this dance?"
Riker felt her stiffen beneath his hand as she turned to face him. The eyes that met his were the darkest he'd ever seen, and he was at a loss for words. She took his hand, and both felt the air become charged. They stepped onto the dance floor, and began to rock back and forth to the captivating music.
Deanna gazed into the tall man's blue eyes. They seemed so familiar, but she couldn't put a finger on it. The longer they remained in contact, the more intense the tingling in her mind became. She finally broke their silence.
"Who are you?" she asked. "I feel like I should know you."
The sound of her voice caused Will to feel that bizarre sensation in his head again. A single word came to him, one that he couldn't recognize right now, but maybe he knew it in another time, another life. "Imzadi," he said.
The hypnotic effect of the music ceased as he said that word. "Imzadi?" Deanna repeated, and the fog in her mind faded.
Both turned to view their surroundings. The ball room had disappeared, and they were back on the mountain side where their adventure started. The only thing that hadn't changed was the fact that they were still holding one another as they did on the dance floor.
Will lifted Deanna's chin and kissed her. "I'm so glad that we found each other," he said.
She smiled, "Me, too. I just wish it hadn't taken this long." Deanna hugged him closer.
"Oh, how touching." Q made his appearance known. "I just knew that the two of you needed a little push in the right direction! It could bring a tear to one's eye." He wiped away an imaginary tear.
Deanna pulled away from Will. "Q, we were already going in the right direction. Will and I would've come together even without your help. We didn't need any interference from you, nor do we require it now. Just disappear back to the Continuum, or go annoy someone else. You, of all beings, should know that you're not welcome here."
By the time she'd finished, Deanna was face-to-face with Q. "Well," he said, and turned to Riker, "How can you stand there and let her talk to me like that?"
This amused Will, "Deanna doesn't need my help. Besides, I think she put you in your place."
"Very funny, Riker," Q retorted, "but you have to admit, this little adventure was a bit more romantic than that drabby little castle you came up with."
"I can't admit to anything that I haven't experienced, Q," he said, and stepped beside Deanna. "I think it's time for you to leave."
"Oh, I will," he said, "but this won't be the last time you'll see me. Give Jean-Luc a big hug for me!" With a flash of bright light, Q disappeared.
Deanna exhaled, "Thank the gods he's gone!" She faced Will, "I believe I've had my fill of the holodeck. Why don't we go back to my quarters for dinner?"
"I think you read my mind. Computer, arch!" Will placed his arm across her shoulders, and the two walked toward the doors. As they exited, he commanded "Oh, and Computer, delete program Riker 17."
The computer voice answered, <Program deleted.>
"Well, I feel better now." He replied, "Shall we go?"
Deanna nodded, and the couple left the holodeck, and their adventures, far behind them.