AUTHOR:  PAMELA (nightowl230@yahoo.com)
CODES:  Novel, R, T, crew
FEEDBACK:  please be kind
ARCHIVE:  ASC, yes - Other upon request
DISCLAIMER:  All things belong to Paramount except the plot/storyline
SUMMARY:  Troi receives an empathic distress call that brings the crew of the Enterprise to a planet filled with political and social turmoil.   During the ensuing rescue mission, events take place that bring to life the long repressed feelings between Will and Deanna.   But will the consequences of the planet's developments allow them a new beginning or tear their lives apart?


Chapter One

The woman watched as her tormentor approached. She knew his mind set, and tried to prepare herself physically for the onslaught. He stood so close he should have repelled her, had her mind not been otherwise occupied. He brought her attention back to her situation by slapping her forcefully across the face. Her legs buckled. On her slide down the wall, for one brief moment, she came to have eye contact with her keeper before landing hard on the concrete floor. She was no longer afraid. Fear had long ago been replaced by despair.

He called for the guards to move the prisoner back to her "bed," a stone shelf along the wall. She lay there as they again locked her hands into the restraints, with her eyes closed she wondered if there was anyone left to help her. Her mind screamed "Enough!". Yet she would fight him, never would she allow him that victory over her.

"Give in now. You could go about a normal life. Live just as your people do. We would provide you with a cozy little cottage in the mountains. You would have no cares. The more you fight me, the more I can assure you that your life will be very long and quite miserable. He stroked her cheek. His voice softened to almost a whisper. "You look so tired. Sign the paper and I promise you all the sleep and rest you want."

She watched his lying face as he talked the beady eyes under their one massive eyebrow. What an ugly little toad, and yet here he appeared to literally hold her life in the balance, she closed her eyes, trying to concentrate not to give into the hysterical laughter that was already bubbling in her throat at the picture of him as a one-eyebrowed beady eyed toad.

"No my princess, there will be no sleeping until we agree. Let’s begin again. You had your sister poisoned out of jealousy. Admit it. You killed your sister. You, alone are responsible for her death."

She calmly answered him, "No, you are lying."  The woman closed her mouth and her eyes. It looked as though she was shutting down, turning off all the once vibrant senses of life.

The toad-like man signaled to the guards, "Let her have a short rest. Let her begin to relax, then we will finish. We'll make an end of it this day. I'll inform the regent of our progress." He turned to waddle off and out the door.

She heard the footsteps following and the door finally close, leaving her in the quiet of the darkened room. Enough of her senses were retained to have heard and understood what was to happen. She concentrated, hoping to reach one of her few trusted friends. She remembered he had told her they had all been killed, there was no one left. Her mind screamed for release from this hideous cruelty.

Just as her conscious mind began to relinquish its hold on sanity, she felt another's calmer, more peaceful presence. Somehow she felt no longer alone, she felt a compassionate, kind mind, and a listener was near. She continually sought it out, leaned on it, as one would lean on a strong foundation.

The compassionate one listened. The tormented woman could sense the concern and outrage at her predicament. This one did not speak, gave no clue as to its identity, but she knew this one would not forsake her. Here would be her rescuer. The imprisoned woman finally fell into a deep slumber.

Chapter 2

The senior officer's weekly poker game was in progress, with most of the winnings sitting in front of Commander Riker’s place.  A new hand had been dealt and the bidding had gone around the table. "Deanna are you in?"  There was no answer. The counselor looked distracted. Riker looked closer, "Deanna, what is it?"

The empath didn't answer, but continued staring into space with a pained expression on her face. Dr. Crusher pulled her tricorder from her jacket pocket to run the instrument over the ship's counselor. She looked at Will Riker across the table. "Her synaptic activity is increasing, heartbeat and blood pressure are rising. My guess is there is telepathic activity occurring." Beverly looked around the table at the other players, "But with whom?"

Will reached to touch the hand holding the cards. The cards fell to the floor, her freed hand clutched Riker's. It was the only sign that a part of her remained at the card table with them. Riker looked at the other players around the table, “Is there anyone aboard ship that could affect her like this?"

"No one that I'm aware of Will." Beverly looked at Data who nodded his agreement. "Will, I think we should notify the Captain, there may be some ramifications here we have yet to understand. I'll stay with her."

Commander Riker looked reluctant to leave, when he tried to ease his hand from the counselor's grip it tightened, her nails digging into his flesh. "Deanna, it's all right, I'm here." He caught Beverly's eye trying to convey his concern without voicing it.

"Commander, I will report the situation to Captain Picard." Data, tilted his head, "I will verify whether there are any known empathic or telepathic races in this sector."

"Good, thank you Data." Will continued to watched Deanna as a tear slid down her cheek. He knew whatever she was in contact with was going to be bad news.

The other card players now stood to leave. "While Data is with the Captain, I'll check out the sector Commander," Geordi paused looking at the counselor, "If there is anything else I can do Commander, you know where to reach me." He paused just long enough to pat Riker’s shoulder.

When the last two had left, Beverly tried again to get an answer from the empath, "Deanna, what's happening? Can you feel who it is? Are they on this ship?"

At first, there was no answer, Deanna Troi continued to hold on to Will Riker's hand as though it was the tether that kept her with them. He put his other hand on her shoulder, turning her toward him. "Take a deep breath and try to tell us what is happening so we can help too."  He waited; knowing it would take time for her to gain control over whatever it was that held her senses captive.

As the empathic images became clearer, the counselor began to try to vocalize the mental picture. "It's a young woman, not on this ship. On a planet, somewhere....in a prison. She's been mistreated and awaiting death.....almost preferring it," the last part was whispered.  " She is alone, there is no one to help her, all her friends are dead, murdered by those holding her."  Troi closed her eyes. "We have to help her. They can't be allowed to do these things to her."  She opened her eyes to look at Commander Riker, "Will, we have to help her, we can't let her there to die."

He gulped in air at beautiful eyes filled with tears and someone else’s pain. "Let her where to die, Deanna? We need to know more to be able to help. Who is this woman and who is mistreating her? Do you know why any of this is happening?" Will watched the dark eyes close again, as the empath focused on the woman. Will looked from Deanna to Beverly. Beverly looked as uncomfortable as he felt with these developments. They both watched as Deanna was struggled to maintain her identity-to hold on to her reality while absorbing the emotional trauma of this other being.

Captain Picard entered the quarters and placed himself at Commander Riker's side.  "How long has she been like this?" He asked softly.

"A little over two hours. She has been able to tell us something. The communication seems to be originating from a woman on a planet."  Beverly reported as she again scanned the empath, "I don't like the way her brain activity has increased again. She is not accustomed to this type of communication. Captain, how close are we to an inhabited planet?"

"We are several light years away from the only class M planet, in this system with humanoid inhabitants. By a strange coincidence they have applied for membership in the Federation only a month ago. We will be making a stop there to investigate the planet for future membership. Data has sent a probe to orbit the planet. We should have some idea of what lies ahead by the information we can decipher from the probe." Picard continued speaking as though afraid to wake the counselor from her sleep, he spoke to Crusher and Riker but his eyes rested Troi, "But in the mean time I want someone with her."

"Captain, my concern right now is the affect this long term communication may have on Deanna. She isn't by nature a telepath. One problem with these lengthy strong empathic impressions is they may submerge the empath's own personality. This is a combination of both telepathic and empathic communication, from the descriptions she has been able to share with us. I've been working on a synthetic neuro-block that would surpress the chemicals in the brain that aid in translating the telepathic impressions into communications within the brain. With Deanna's help I think we should be prepared to use it, I'd like to find a way of dimming the impressions. I’m hoping it would allow Deanna to control the experience more so she would not be swallowed up by this other party."

Will Riker looked surprised. "Exactly how harmful can this be to her, Beverly?”

"Perhaps more than any of us know. That's the reason I want to be prepared. Think of it Will. Someone from quite a distance away reached out and virtually painted a picture complete with narrative in Deanna's mind. What will happen to her as we move closer to this planet. Look at her now! Can we take that chance?" Beverly watched Will blink and turn again toward the empath. Beverly saw his hand tighten on Deanna's shoulder, as he realized he would be as helpless as the rest of them if someone else controlled her mind.

Picard broke the silence that followed. "Doctor I applaud your farsightedness. Perhaps it would be wise to take the counselor to sickbay with you and begin as soon as possible."

Deanna appeared to come out of her trance, looking startled to find the other's attention on her. Will dropped the hand from her shoulder covering her hand that still held his. "Deanna?" She smiled weakly at him.

 "Counselor, I want you to spend some time with Doctor Crusher. She is going to need your assistance in her lab at sickbay. We will then meet in the observation lounge for a senior staff meeting. Are you up to it?" She nodded. "Good. At that time I want to begin reviewing all that you have learned. Data may have some information from the probe. Number One I'd like you to co-ordinate the efforts from both the medical aspects as well as the gathering of data from the planet. Use all resources necessary to solve this mystery. I expect to be kept informed." He looked at the doctor and held her eyes, making known his meaning.The captain gently touched the counselor’s shoulder as he passed her.

When Will began to withdraw his hand to follow the captain, Deanna squeezed it and looked thankfully into his eyes. He smiled back, understanding the thought she conveyed in those dark eyes. "I'll see you shortly."  When all eh wanted was stay with her, protect her from the things that may haunt her.

 She nodded and answered, “I know”. She watched as he followed the captain into the corridor, a curious look etched on her face.

"What is it, Deanna?"  The doctor’s scientific mind was intrigued the scene she had witnessed between the two officers. It was common knowledge the two had once shared a relationship and continue to share a strong bond now on the Enterprise.

“I just had the strangest... I think I just read Will's thoughts."

"Well that's not so strange, you know each other very well. Even I know he's concerned about you."

"No it's more than that, Beverly. I know I scare people with my abilities and even now it frightens you, yes, part of that is your concern and feeling of helplessness, but this is more. I know it. I knew exactly what he was thinking when he was thinking it. Don't ask me how. This is different from anything I've experienced before."

Beverly stood with her lips parted as though about to say something when the words were stolen from her mouth. She again ran the tricorder over the empath's form. "Deanna, there is something happening. Let's go to sickbay. I'd like to run a diagnostic brain scan before we begin on the neuro-block."

Jean Luc Picard sat in his ready room reviewing information on Prakal. He gave permission to enter when the chime sounded; he expected his first in command, but was taken back to see the face in front of him. He smiled, “Guinan, what brings you here? It must be important to drag you away from the new lounge; I’ve seen the requisitions you have requested. I fear the new lounge will resemble a palace by the time you’ve finished.” Then upon seeing the serious demeanor, “What can I do for you?”

“Jean Luc, I understand that the counselor is in contact with someone from Prakal. That is quite unusual for Troi, quite a distance for empaths-unless the other person is also a skilled empath or telepath.” Guinan looked as though she had the answers and knew the implications.

“Guinan, if you know something, I’d like you to explain. Please sit down, would you like tea?”

Once in sickbay the doctor had no explanation for her findings, only that Deanna's brain was producing elevated amounts of the chemicals found in telepathic species, and the activity of the brain had jumped yet another notch since her last tricorder readings. Now it became imperative that they find a way of controlling any outside influence that may threaten the counselor.

The two women had been at work for two hours when Beverly noticed Deanna with the same expression she had had back at the card game. Her eyes pinched shut. "No! They can't do that. They can't touch her like that. They're trying to frighten her into  some kind of confession. She's not well.. It’s too much. She may go over the edge! I'm afraid she'll lose her sanity. Beverly we have to do something."  Her worried eyes sought the doctor, "We have to help her. She has no one else." She pleaded, “She ha no one else.”

Beverly was moved to embrace her friend, then she pulled back to look into the tear soaked face.
"Deanna, how are you be getting these impressions?" Beverly watched her closely, ready to use the hyprospray if it could buy time to keep the empath sane. “Deanna can you shut this off yourself, you have to try to gain control over these communications.”

Deanna whispered, “I know, but I can’t pull away from her. She needs me.” Beverly pulled her back into her arms as though trying to keep her consciousness with her on the Enterprise and off the planet. Deanna was as close as a sister to her, and Beverly was going to move heaven or hell if need be to keep her friend safe.

 Beverly felt Deanna’s posture change, she pulled back to look at the again blank trance like eyes. This time Deanna began talking in a monotone as though reciting. The doctor could see the strain it took for the empath to try to communicate what was being communicated to her."She must have elevated abilities of her own for me to get such a clear sense of her. She has a strong sense of identity, from that I would believe her to be of a ruling class. It may explain why she's in this prison by an act of betrayal. The ones that holding her have such a grip on her, she feels no one can help and everyone will suffer."

Deanna was so focused she never felt the captain's presence. He watched the woman in front of him struggle with the emotional battle worlds away. "Counselor can you block this from your mind? If you are unable I want the doctor to begin using the hyprospray until you can control the flood of information. Deanna?"  The captain waited when nothing changed; he nodded for the doctor to use the block. He watched as Beverly placed the hypo spray up to her neck, listened to the almost silent swish as the medication entered the empath's body.  He saw the counselor blink and take a deep breath, "Counselor, can you still sense the other woman?"

"Yes Captain, but it's much fainter-more distant." She looked at the doctor, "The neuroblock?" Beverly nodded, relieved that they had some defense to fall back on.

The captain's comm badge sounded, it was Commander Riker asking if there was a problem. The rest of the senior officers were assembled in the assigned meeting place awaiting them. Picard assured him they were on the way and would cover any developments upon their arrival.

When the captain and the two women entered the lounge all eyes turned to them.  Picard quickly got the meeting started by asking Data to share the probe's finding with them. They learned that the planet had undergone many recent changes in the political realm. Prakal had abundant natural resources among them the natural beauty of the planet. The pollution and blatant disregard for life though, had taken its toll on the planet resulting in dead rivers, slum areas with disease and death surrounding the cities.

 One of the surprises of the meeting was Guinan; the hostess from ten-forward had actually been on the planet "many years ago". She had related to the crew her impressions of Prakal and it's life. The changes she could see from the probe's surveillance and her visit Guinan had no natural explanation. The woman looked very serious when she told them she was quite sure that there was an outside force involved because the planet she had been to was quite benign, which certainly did not agree with the probe's findings.

“Prakal was a beautiful planet, populated by a humanoid race, much like yourselves. The planet has four large continents, each has their own government; Two ruled by dictators and two by monarchs, of course there is no trust between them. If a monarch dies, the replacement or succession is kept within bloodlines. However, rebellions were common. The economy was somewhat based on a feudal system. I did not meet many of the inhabitants of the planet. There is one fraction of the population with limited empathic skills. How this happened is a mystery, whether it is a genetic inconsistency, or the rest of the people have skills that lie dormant, or another possibility is that it is a skill too little used and dying, no one seems to know.”

Guinan paused to look at Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi before adding, “There is one more thing you need to be aware of before you go down there. They are a male oriented people, at least the part I visited was.  Females are either owned or bought. Marriage is an outward form of ownership. Do not be caught there alone ladies. You may find yourselves as slaves or wives… in this case, they may be the same.”

The crew was told that there would be an away team sent to the planet on a diplomatic mission and the captain intended to lead this mission. He asked the counselor to explain all that she had experienced with the woman from Prakal.  When she had relayed the information he asked, "Counselor, are you still sensing anything from her? Do you think it may be possible for you to communicate something to her?"

Troi answered slowly, "Captain, I do still have a sense of her, she's in great jeopardy. She needs our help. What would you have me communicate? I have been careful not to give her our identification. Before I try to do this I have to know how you want our presence described to her."

“That does appear to be the problem with this situation- how do we approach this? What reason do we have for interfering with the course of events unfolding before us? Counselor, do nothing in the way of communicating any information to the planet. Not until we can better grasp this situation for what it is.”

Doctor Crusher intervened, "Captain, we don't know the effect this communication may have on Deanna. This person's emotional health is hanging in the balance. Look at the affect it has had on her already!  The power of her emotions is almost overwhelming to Deanna now, as we get closer to the planet I expect to increase the strength of the block. I'm not sure I want this to continue much longer. Deanna, if this woman loses her sanity how will that affect you?"

"There's no way to know." Troi looked uncomfortable; "Hopefully we'll never have to know."

“Doctor, do you feel the situation to be well enough in hand for you and the counselor to attend another meeting in three hours?”

“I hope so.”  Beverly Crusher did not sound as confidant as the captain would have preferred but he allowed that to pass for the moment.

“Good. I ‘ll. see you both then. If anything else materializes I want to be informed immediately.” He waited for their acknowledgment before dismissing them. He watched them leave and thought of his crew, actually they had become his family, each with a special talent or skill. Anyone of them would, without a thought for their own life, do what ever was asked of them. His thoughts lingered on the counselor, Deanna Troi, as an empath was constantly swimming in a sea of emotions. He saw first hand how profoundly those emotions could weigh on her. He remembered a time in the past when a crewmember died. Not only had she seen it, as the rest of them had, she also experienced the agony of their death. He wondered how that must have felt - to feel another’s death. As much as he appreciated and depended upon her skills, he wouldn’t want them. Now she was feeling the torment of a total stranger, but it wouldn’t be a total stranger if you could feel their torment would it? The captain shook his head as though trying to clear the dismal taste those thoughts had left in his mind.

Chapter 3

On Prakal II life continued with little surface change. Gringbald was deviously carrying out many subtle changes. Gringbald, a notorious despot, had seized rulership by seizing the heir apparent. The reputation of regicide he wore as flamboyantly as he wore his weapon. This was not his only tryst with politics. Prakal had become his playground, once home to four governments, it was through Gringbald’s political manipulations - his usurping and subsequent sequestering of the ruling factions that had landed him the lofty position as the planet’s ruler (he preferred the title of regent). The common ingredient was the greed of the planet inhabitants. The catalyst was the unsuspicious Federation. Gringbald had waved the riches and power of the Federation as a summons to greatness to an impoverished society.

When, in time, it became common knowledge only a few would prosper according to Gringbald’s plan, the deed was done. Gringbald never had any intention of joining the Federation, or any other alliance.  It was purely by accident that the Federation was ever notified. An over-eager, young deluded devotee, trying to climb quickly up the ladder of Gringbald’s favorites, contacted the Federation. He acted in good faith, assuming the despot’s promises to be authentic. He died knowing Gringbald’s treachery.

This government of Prakal’s largest body of people would have been Abeathdor’s to govern, had nature taken its course. Abeathdor would have been coronated as queen at her older sister, Yarmie’s death. Gringbald’s secretary, Zylon had so convinced Yarmie of Abeathdor’s corrupt and abased life style, during her remaining years Yarmie feared her life to be threatened by her sister.

The atmosphere the two sisters lived and grew up in contributed to the state of mind that would allow Yarmie to be easy prey to this propaganda. Each sister was born of a different mother. Each mother had died early through political machinations by the king, their father. Each sister was made aware of the other’s birthright by the continual vacillations of the king. Each being declared bastard or princess in turn.

Yarmie was raised with a narrow education, abundant suspicion and superstitions. In contrast, the younger Abeathdor had the skills of an education mind. Those entrusted in her care had sought out and attained the educational services of some of the best academics in, not only their land, but also those of surrounding areas and the many refugees fleeing the lands Gringbald was appropriating.

At the time of Yarmie’s illness, Zylon had pointed to Abeathdor’s surrogate mother as the would be assassin, the weapon…poison. Yarmie was torn between rage and the joy of martyrdom. She could see escape from her miserable life as a captive ruler over an unhappy, equally miserable people. When Abeathdor was taken to prison in the tower, she begged for an audience with her sister to plead her innocence and that of the woman who raised her. In answer Yarmie had the suspected assassin beheaded. Abeathdor never had the opportunity to present her case. Yarmie died while the princess sat imprisoned in a cold damp room a top the tower, known as “traitor’s keep”. Abeathdor was the last heir in the direct line of the king. Yarmie was only the latest in the family to die. There had been two young kings before the queen. Both kings had come to a mysterious end. Now, with no claim to the throne except that of the traitorous princess, it would seem Gringbald had Prakal in the palm of his hand.

 That was until the ENTERPRISE showed up. Gringbald was trying his best to but on the airs of a man about to be crowned by popular demand over the line of succession, the end of which was the demented criminal, Princess Abeathdor.

Before the arrival of the Enterprise, everything was going according to Gringbald’s plan. Abeathdor was close to breaking. Her untimely death would leave Gringbald a clear and uncontested path to the throne. Then, suddenly, Zylon reported Abeathdor had calmed and appeared once more the queen. She had regained enough of her confidence and poise that her future no longer appeared so clearly to be in Gringbald’s control. That can change. Gringbald was going to have it changed. When the delegation from the starship arrived, Gringbald had every intention of being in total control of everything, his future included. He would show this Federation contingent a royal case of murder brought about by a rare case of paranoid schizophrenia. He needed to continue pushing the line in Abeathdor’s mind. Last night Zylon had reported the princess to be on the verge of collapse. They would push again, Zylon had orders to begin again tonight, and the work would go on all night if needed. Gringbald preferred the cover of darkness for this type of work. It always seemed the victims were more cooperative after a night’s work. It was almost twilight now, in a short time Gringbald felt his future would once again be in his own hands. The Federation representative would arrive sometime the next day, just days away from the announcement of his coronation.

Chapter 4

They had been working with the neuroblockers for some time when Beverly noticed Deanna looking grim. “Do you still sense her, is she communicating with you now?”

“I’m getting a sense of her panic, her struggle to remain herself. Sometimes it’s very faint, then suddenly it hits like a missile, except that it doesn’t last, it goes and comes in great waves. Beverly, I need to center myself, would you mind coming with me to the hollow deck? I have a program designed to help. “

“No, in fact it would do us both good to walk away from this for awhile.”

The holodeck program was a sunset on a beach, with waves crashing against a sea wall. The sunset was a faded crimson with colors you would only find on a planet that had twin suns at a parallel distance setting in unison. On a holodeck a sunset could last forever. Beverly heard Deanna whisper a few lines of poetry.

 “We are the music makers
 And we are the dreamers of dreams
 Wandering by lone sea-breakers
 And sitting by desolate streams
 World losers and World forsakes
 On whom the pale moon gleams
 Yet we are the movers and shakers
 Of the world, forever it seems.”

Deanna looked up at her friend, “I don’t know why, but the poem has stayed with me since the first time I read it.  The title is “Ode”; it was written by Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote it in the late 1800’s. This holodeck scene always reinforces it. Today, in particular, it seems to be in the back of my mind.”  She was sitting on the beach with her knees drawn up, her chin resting on arms crossed over the tops of the knees.

Beverly couldn’t help thinking of a small-lost child at the sight of Deanna on the beach. She sat next to her, resting a hand on Deanna’s arm. “That is quite poignant, but it sounds lonely. We humans sometimes stand off a bit from others who have different talents or skills. We’re not always sure how to approach them on their level. Even though every cell in our body may want to say or do something, or even just to be physically close to them, we allow the stupid part of our brain to dominate and we do nothing. Deanna, we may not be able to feel what you do or to totally understand these empathic encounters, but we are very concerned for you. As long as you are on this ship with this crew, your friends, you are never alone. Really when you think of it we are as close as a family.”

“I know Beverly, I guess I’m a little off balance right now. You have been as close as a sister to me. I want you to know how much that means to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you and Will.”

“Maybe you should let Will know how much you need him.” Deanna shot her a quick look. “It wouldn’t hurt to get your feelings out in the open, it may surprise you to learn that his feelings are just as strong."

 The last scheduled briefing before the first away team was to beam down was taking place. This first trip to the planet was to pretty straightforward information gathering. The away team was much more aware of the existing conditions there than the host on the planet could possibly know.

 Commander Riker repeated his objections to the captain’s presence on the away team, but was held off by Picard. “I know Commander, this visit is entirely diplomatic in nature, and it is crucial that it is accepted as such. For the initial visit I will take Counselor Troi, Data and yes, Mister Worf, you will come.”  Worf had made a visit back to the Enterprise, on the way to the Klingon home world to meet with Alexander, his son. Picard turned his attention back to Riker, “You see Commander, I will take security.”

“Captain, I think I should come.” The doctor was incredulous that he hadn’t intended to take her, that he would allow Deanna to go with no one to aid her in countering the affects of close contact with a race of such potent telepaths.

“Doctor, you will brief Data and myself on the symptoms and procedures of administering the needed medications to the counselor, should they become necessary. I cannot compromise this mission if we are to succeed. We’ll have Mr. LaForge standing by for emergency beam-up. Did I cover everything? There will be no need for costumes. We are going down as representative of the Federation in uniform. The dress may change for the next visit. Primarily, this will be “first contact” procedure. I suggest you review and freshen up on protocol. We’ll meet in transporter room three after orbit has been achieved. Dismissed.”

The captain stood at the head of the table and watched as the participants began leaving. When Troi and Crusher were about to pass he touched Troi on the elbow, “Counselor, you may communicate to our friend your presence and our desire to help her. That may help her emotional state. Keep me appraised of the results. Oh…and Deanna we will not leave you stranded without Doctor Crusher.” He looked at Crusher knowing she had stayed and heard the request. She merely raised an eyebrow. Troi looked at the two of them, smiled slightly and thanked the captain. When everyone had departed the room, Picard sat and looked down the length of the now empty table and sighed, “It will be good to get this one over.”

Data caught up to Troi and Crusher as they were making their way to sickbay. “Counselor, may I ask you a question?” She nodded. “How is it possible on a planet where women are treated as possessions, that women may rule as queens?”

“Well, Data, in the past on ancient Earth ruling families were thought to be in an exalted position. It was thought to be through divine providence, that they were a chosen few born to rule. Sometimes families had prearranged marriages thinking the chosen husband to be equal to the role as consort. That would make them king through that marriage. You see that would also make any heir valuable, regardless of sex, in a society where all other females may have one purpose - producing children. It was also a way of building an alliance with another government or foreign land, contracting a marriage between the children of those lands. That may also be true in this case, although we have yet to understand exactly what is happening here.”

The three entered Beverly’s office. The doctor collected a PADD and tricorder, “I’ll be close if you need me. Data if anything unusual happens or if the counselor seems in distress, please notify me immediately.”

The android looked at Troi and asked, “Counselor, will I know if you are in distress?”

“Yes, Data, I believe you will. There’s nothing to be concerned about; I don’t expect any problem from this communication. If anything it should render a little relief for the woman with whom I’ve been in contact.”

“I am not concerned, merely curious.”  Data stated a fact not an attitude, something most of the other officers adjusted to long ago.

The empath closed her eyes and concentrated on what it was she would attempt to communicate. After coming to a decision she opened her barriers, removing all obstacles that the neuroblock would allow, then reached out with her mind into the emptiness of space, trying to touch the mind that had left such an imprint on hers.

Over two hours had passed when Beverly Crusher reentered her office to find Data intently observing the counselor, while Troi seemed in a trance. “Data, how long has this been going on?”

“Exactly two hours seventeen minutes and thirty-eight seconds, Doctor.”

Beverly sat facing Deanna; slowly she began moving a tricorder across the entranced empath.

The captain’s voice came across the office comm, “Doctor Crusher, do you have any results from the counselor’s attempt at communication yet?”

“Captain, she apparently isn’t finished communicating. This has been going on now for more than two hours.”

“Have there been any ill effects to the counselor?”

Beverly shook her head, “None that I can find.”

“I expect a report as soon as you have anything. I know you’ll keep an eye on things for me doctor.”

The doctor and android kept watch over the empath until the communication tie seemed to end. “Deanna?” Beverly waited for her friend to look at her. “How did it go?”

“I was able to let her know we where near and going to try to help her. She seemed surprised that I was someone not on the planet. I felt a release of great anguish from her. I think it helped.”

“Good. Since I am to remain with you let’s go to your quarters where you can get some rest.”

In the lighting of the turbolift, Deanna noticed Beverly also looked a little worn down from the day’s events. It was well past the night phase of Enterprise time. “It appears we could both use some rest.” She smiled when Beverly looked at her with one eyebrow cocked.

“Very tactful Counselor. I’m planning on using that comfortable sofa in your quarters. I have orders to stay with you. Don’t argue.”

“Aye aye, sir.”  The counselor turned to hide her smile.

Sometime later Commander Riker lightly tapped the chime at Counselor Troi’s door. There was no answer. He repeated the gesture, this time he heard a soft “Come”.  As he entered the quarters, he glanced around checking for a reason that would have delayed the greeting response. He saw Beverly Crusher sitting on the sofa with her head in her hands.

She looked up at him, “Has anything new come up, or are you checking in for the same possibility?” Her voice was low, as though she had not yet fully awakened from her nap.

“The captain mentioned Deanna had been successful in her attempt to communicate to the planet, and you’ve had to increase the dosage of the nueroblocking agent. I wanted to see how things were going.” He looked around the quarters, noticed the darkened sleeping chamber, “You’ve got her to sleep?” His voice was incredulous, he knew when Deanna was on call as ship’s counselor, she was somewhat like a dog with a bone, and she rarely gave up for rest or anything else.

“Sit down Will, we can talk for a while. I gave her another hypospray after she fell asleep. It seems that the other party on the planet must have lost consciousness. We are using this time to catch up a little before the beam down. I used the hypospray just to ensure some uninterrupted rest. You look like you could use some rest yourself, Will.” She looked back at the sleeping chamber before continuing, “Will, I know you have to be objective when working with the crew under your command, but there are times when you..”

He didn’t allow her to finish, “Doctor, we’ll all rest better once we know what we’re dealing with here. There are many questions that must be answered and unfortunately, our empath is the key to the answers. She may also be the one most harmed finding those answers. The frustrating part is no one knows how to help her, let alone protect her. Did you ever consider that right now the difficulty might lie in how can I stand by while she is put into a position of such intangibles that could endanger her?  How long has she been asleep?”

“Not long, Will, how long have you been here?”  He turned to see the counselor standing in the doorway to the sleeping chamber. She stood leaning against the wall, looking as though she may have been there for a while.

He looked carefully at her, noticing the disheveled hair, the tired and still sleep clouded eyes, and she wore the robe he had gotten for her years ago while he was on leave. She touched his heart as none other could. He tried to disown the concern that continually threatens to choke him over this situation.

“Deanna, I just stopped in to see how things were going. The captain said you were able to contact the woman on the planet. I wanted to see how you were.”

“I’m fine now. It felt good to let her know we were attempting to help her.” Deanna raised her eyebrows sensing more. “If you give me ten minutes I’ll freshen up a bit, then I can go over it with you.” She didn’t wait for a reply she disappeared back through the doorway and out of Will’s sight.

When the Counselor had returned her hair brushed and looking as though her short rest had erased the earlier events, Beverly decided to give the two some time. She hoped that they would finally realize what everyone else knew, that their feelings for each other were more than that of just close friends. She knew Will had to see for himself that Deanna was going to go through with her assignment. “Will, if you are going to be here for a while I’m going to check on sickbay. I need to pack the medkit and go over some items with the captain.”  He assured the doctor he would be there until she returned.

Deanna filled Will in on the communication with Abeathdor. She turned to look at him, sitting beside her on the sofa. She softly asked, “What is it, Imzadi, what is bothering you?”

He put his arm around her; “Can’t you tell?”

“I can sense that you are troubled, concerned about this mission.” She looked into his eyes awaiting an explanation.

He sighed before answering, “I feel powerless stuck here on the ship with you down on the planet under these conditions.”

She smiled up at him, “Now you know how I feel watching you on the transporter pads, going into the great unknown. You have no idea how many times…” She stopped herself, having said more than she had intended.

He looked surprised, “I didn’t know. Is it always like this?”  She shrugged her shoulders not wanting to commit to more than she had already. Will concentrated on her body language, the way she wouldn’t meet his eyes, the way she crossed her arms and stared at her foot. “Deanna that’s different I’m trained for those visits. It’s part of my job.”

She turned to him now, a spark of determination replacing the subdued posture, as she shrugged away from his arm. “And I am now doing my job, my assigned place on this ship is as counselor, I am a trained empath. I am capable of doing my job.” She stood and walked to the furthest wall putting the greatest amount of distance away from him and continue to be in the same cabin.

He moved quickly covering the distance. “Deanna, that is not what I mean. I know you to be well qualified to do your job.” He put his hands on her shoulders, “This assignment has so many unknowns, all of which may be threatening to you in particular. Dangers that are unknown to us, and may be unsuspected even by you.”

She looked up at him, sensing his remorse at the turn the conversation had taken. “Since when have you been afraid of the unknown, Will Riker?”

“Since it involves you.” He pulled her into his embrace. “Just do me a favor, be careful. Let the captain know immediately of any changes you sense? Please.”

She moved out of his arms to stand back and look into his face. “Do you think I am not capable of fulfilling my place on this mission? Exactly where do you think I fit in on this ship, Commander?”

“Wait a minute Deanna. Why are you jumping to these conclusions? That is not at all what I mean. You said you worry about my away missions, does that mean that you do not trust me to be competent to handle myself or the responsibility of leading an away team?” He put his hands on her shoulders to hold her in place knowing she would move from him when she felt confronted. “Listen to me”, he softened his voice to a whisper, “I am concerned, and maybe a little fearful of losing you to something we-I should have been able to prevent. I would feel better if I were going with you down there. It’s hard to know I’m here, so far out of reach. Does that sound so terrible.”

‘Will, I am sorry. I guess I am a little unsettled by the atrocities this woman is undergoing. And the neuroblock that Beverly is using will mute my empathic abilities a bit, until I can get used to it.  Imzadi, nothing is going to happen. We’ll be back before you know it. This is only an information-gathering visit. Purely diplomatic.” She allowed him to gather her into his arms for a long moment.

He hadn’t thought about her abilities being muted, it made sense, but it also increased the risk to her, he thought of it blindsiding her. He knew how much she depended upon those insights. Commander Riker also knew better than bringing any of that up right now, at least not to her.

to be continued

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