by Pamela

Paramount owns Star Trek and its' universe.

Suffer the Weeds  chapter 1

The captain understood the reactions. He had had the same feelings when the
Starfleet admiral notified him of the assignment. Risa needed their help.
Risa, a planet known for it's resorts, leisure and recreation, asked for the
Federation's aid.  He caught the quick look from Counselor Troi to Riker.
Deanna Troi's look clearly showed she did not share his view of the planet.
She also sensed the captain's feelings about this summons to one of the
entertainment capitals of the universe. He gave them a moment before
announcing the expected senior staff meeting in fifteen minutes to go over
the details and assignments.

The chairs at the long conference table were filling. The captain had waited
until the last chair was occupied before he began. "People, I am not sure
what it is we are going to find on Risa, suffice it to say it will be a
unique mission. We are going because we are the closest Federation ship to
the planet with the personnel aboard capable of handling various situations.
The government on Risa was very vague with the details they submitted. What
we know is that an unauthorized craft made a landing. The craft was located.
It is not known who may have sent it. There appear to be survivors, they
have not responded to any rescue attempts, and appear not to want rescued."
The captain watched the effect his news had on his crew.

"Captain, do we have any idea how many survivors there may be?"  The
counselor looked concerned, already sensing her part in the mission.

"No, the ship is unlike any the Risaian government or the Federation has
dealt with before. That brings us to the away team. I want the counselor and
Data on the initial team.  Do you concur, Number One?"

"I do sir." Will Riker couldn't keep the corners of his mouth from turning up.
Picard looked at him, waited a moment then added, "Number One, you will lead
the away team, unless of course you would prefer to sit this one out?"

"Sir?" Will had stopped grinning and looked at the captain with genuine
surprise. Now it was the counselor's turn to hide a smile as she sensed the
captain's game with his first officer.

The away team was greeted on the planet with the well-known hospitality and
graciousness that had brought so many there over the years. They were shown
to the rooms that would be their quarters while they were on the planet.
Commander Riker thanked his hostess and asked that they be taken to the site
of the alien craft to begin work.

"Commander, we thought you would like to rest first. It is some distance
from the city, and somewhat remote. We had hoped to make you comfortable for
your first night, in appreciation for your presence."  The beautiful blonde
woman had been looking at Will. She added with a smile, "We would look after
your needs too, Counselor." Although she spoke to Troi her eyes never left
the commander.

"Thank you, but as the Commander has already stated we do need to get to the
site. ..."

"What the counselor means is perhaps appreciation would be better shown
after the mission has been successfully accomplished."  Riker smiled at his
teammate, knowing she was not concerned with the generous offer of
hospitality before or after the mission."
The hostess agreed, "You are correct of course, we would certainly have more
to celebrate. It would give me pleasure to personally thank you then."

Troi muttered under her breath, "I bet it would."

The woman left to retrieve the guide who would lead them to the crash site.
Will turned his attention to the counselor, "We don't want to seem
ungrateful to our host do we? We need to keep friendly relations with this
planet."  He was grinning at her discomfort, and although she could sense he
was enjoying himself, she couldn't quite get into the game. Something was
beginning to bother her about the way they were received.

"Will doesn't it strike you as a little strange that the Federation had been
summoned for help, and now we've arrived all they want to do is play games.
Something is not as it seems.  I get a feeling of deception."  She watched
his grin disappear and a look of concentration take its place.

"What do you think it is, are they hiding something?"  He turned to the
android, "Data have you noticed anything unusual?"

"Sir, from what I have learned of the practices of Risa, I have seen only
what you may expect to see from a society that lives for pleasure and
instant gratification. Is that why you enjoy coming here Commander?"

"Thank you Data." The commander cut him off then exchanged a smile with the
counselor. "Okay, you may have a point Counselor. Let's find this craft and
figure out what we need to do about getting the survivors out."
He had no sooner spoken than the visitor alert sounded from the entrance to
the quarters.  Riker went to stand at the entrance. "Come."

A tall middle aged man stood waiting. "Commander, I am Tolgar your guide. I
have been told you are ready to be shown the site of the crash."

"Tolgar we would like to be prepared to stay at the site. Where can we find
the needed supplies?" Will watched the confidence fade from the man's face.

"Commander, the area is a bit wild. How long are you planning on staying there?"
"I don't know, I guess it depends on what we find. Let's be prepared for a
day or two." He looked at the other two who nodded their agreement. The
guide looked from one to the other before moving out of the entranceway.

Will stood back a bit to whisper, "Deanna what do your senses tell you about

"Just what was visible, he is not happy about staying for any length of
time. Will, we could easily get the Enterprise to beam down whatever
supplies we need. Why this?"

"I wanted to get a reaction. It would be comforting to go in with the
feeling the host that asked you here, actually wanted your presence." They
followed the guide out of the hotel into the street where a land vehicle had
been parked.

The vehicle made two stops at warehouse facilities, where Tolgar picked up
several cases of supplies. The guide had not smiled again, but continued to
look grim. When they were finished loading the supplies, Tolgar did finally
smile at Troi and asked her to sit in the seat beside him. She caught Will's
look and the raised eyebrows as she took her place, leaving Will and Data to
sit in the seats behind them. The empath used this time to try to get more
of a sense of the guide's intentions. Her senses told her that something was
being hidden and their guide was feeling very unsettled and anxious about it.

They began moving into a remote area. The resorts and bungalows that had
surrounded them dissipated. Now tropical forest was gradually replacing the
humanoid habitation. The vehicle had a form of climate control that allowed
them to travel in comfort without feeling the change in humidity and heat
that was radiating off the road they traveled. Troi could sense a world full
of life all around them, but they heard none of it.  Finally after two hours
of straining their eyes looking through trees for anything that may have
been a clue as to their location and destination the vehicle began to slow
down, then rolled to a stop.

"This is as far as we can go in comfort. Now we must walk." Tolgar began to
unload the supplies, giving each a back pack and water receptacle. He gave
much attention to helping the counselor load her pack and put it on. They
began walking through the tropical rain forest. At first the birds, insects
and other life sounds were almost deafening, perhaps, being startled from
their routine by the newcomers. As they moved away from the security of the
vehicle and into the forest the sounds became dimmer. The hike took another
two hours and the crew was soaked from the humidity and heat when they came
to a small clearing where a craft slightly larger than their shuttle crafts
perched precariously on it's side, a hole gaping on the upturned side.

Their guide stood off from them watching their reaction to the sight. Will
asked, "Deanna?"

"Not from inside, I sense an intelligence but it is coming from almost
beneath us."
Data scanned the area with his tricorder. "There is a thick layer of rock
beneath us. No life signs are detectable through it."

Will had already begun moving closer to the craft looking at the damage on
the exterior. Deanna could sense his desire to get a look at the interior.
She too wondered about the life she sensed below them.  When she reached
Will's side he asked, "Deanna, what do you sense about these beings?"

"Right now, very little. I sense fear.  There is more, but it's vague. The
good part is that this is a being with an intelligence, that much I do sense."
Will nodded absently, still looking intently at the vessel. "Data what is
this material? It seems a bit odd. Do a thorough scan, I'd like a look
inside before we meet our nomads, maybe get an idea of what we're about to

As the two men worked on finding a way to stabilize the craft to allow them
to enter it, Deanna walked around the area hoping to get a sense of the
exact location of the missing occupants. She moved toward the base of a
large vertical incline. The first six feet of the slope were covered in
rock. It looked as though there had been a landslide, except the area above
the rocks was green with vegetation. The appearance of the rocks was sudden
and out of place.  She reached to touch the rocks and felt a jarring pull on
her emotions, fear, agitation and resignation. Quickly she turned to see
what became of Talgor. He stood where he had been since they unloaded the
gear from their backs, near the craft. His attention clearly focused on her.
She knew the agitation and resignation to be his. The fear was coming from
behind and below the ground she stood near. The empath continued watching
the guide. He looked nervous and could not keep eye contact with her. To
mask his uneasiness he went to the craft, watching and listening as the
commander contacted his captain to report the findings of the craft and it's
description. She waited until Will had finished before she called him over
to her.

"Will, I believe the way to them is behind these rocks. Does this look like
a natural rock slide to you?"

Data, who had joined them, scanned the area. "These rocks were brought here.
They are not geologically indigenous to this area. Commander, there is an
opening about four meters behind them. It appears to be an underground cave."

Will looked back at their guide, "Were these rocks here when you first
located the craft Talgor?"

"They were here the first time I saw the wreck. We have many odd but natural
phenomena on Risa. You have been here enough to know that Commander."

Will smiled, "Yes, I've met some of them. I am wondering if these beings may
have tried to hide themselves here. Counselor, what do you think?" He could
tell by her look she believed this to have been a deliberate act of
suppression. Will saw the way she had been observing the guide. He knew her
well enough to know she had a deep distrust of the man. He also knew her
well enough to trust those insights.

She looked up at him, "I think we may have more of a problem then we were
originally led to believe. Is there a way we can remove the rock? This is
the way to find the survivors. I'm certain of it."

The commander communicated the new information to the captain, requesting a
team of engineers and Doctor Crusher to be beamed down to their coordinates.
The engineers were divided into two groups, one to work on removing the
landslide. The remaining group quickly aided in stabilizing the craft to
allow a thorough investigation into the interior.

Will and Data had been inside the craft for sometime when the entrance to
the cave had been cleared. Deanna called to him to let him know the task had
been accomplished. He emerged long enough to look at the results, then,
knowing her eagerness to get to the occupants of the craft he asked,
"Deanna, Beverly, come in here a moment. You may get a better perception of
who these people are."
Both women cautiously followed him, "Will, is there any lighting in here?"
They were peering into the dimly lit nucleus of the craft.

"There is very little artificial illumination in this vessel, Counselor. It
would appear that the occupants needed little light to accomplish the task
of space travel."  Data stood at a control panel moving his fingers quickly
over the area that powered and then eliminated the sparse lighting.

Will showed them an area that resembled a nursery. "Something else, we found
evidence that the ship has been here for a while. The power system is nearly
depleted and the organic substances have decayed. My guess is these people
have been stranded here for months."  Will and Deanna turned to see where
the guide was, he never entered the craft. "That is interesting. Wouldn't
you think curiosity alone would have driven him in here?"

"He has become very nervous, Will. I don't think we want him in the cave
with us. I don't trust him."

"How do you suggest we keep him out, he's supposed to be our guide?" Will
watched her expression. "Data and I will keep a close eye on him. If we have
an opportunity to send him for supplies or anything else, we'll use it. In
the mean time we all stay together and keep our eyes open."

Beverly and Data had joined them, "Well it looks like we will be finding
their offspring, if any survived down there. I'm going to have more medical
supplies beamed down. I want to be prepared for anything."

The added supplies were distributed among them as the four crewmembers and
their guide entered the cave. The high powered hand held lights did a lot to
make even the darkest corners visible. They hadn't gone far before the
counselor had enough of an empathic sense of the beings to take the lead in
the search for them. The trail went farther and farther into the depths of
the cave. Data began marking their pathway by scorching the stone walls with
his phaser.

"I sense a presence very near to us. It is not threatening, however I
suggest a slow approach. He is very afraid of us and may react out of that
fear." Deanna whispered to those gathered around her.

When the five of them had to make a ninety-degree turn to travel into a new
underground channel, the counselor stopped short. "He is here. Let me go
first, the group of us may frighten him more." Will and Data followed the
counselor a few steps, watching warily. Deanna approached a small huddled
figure. Until her approach the others had not seen the figure. The small
body was so tightly molded to the wall of the cavern. She knelt down and
reached out her hand. The others listened but could not make out her softly
spoken words. Will turned his light up to it's highest mark and moved the
beam toward the two.

"No! Will, stop! He cannot tolerate the brightness."  Deanna's voice echoed
through the tunnels. She moved quickly to shield the small head with her
body blocking the searching beam. Will instantly turned the light off, to
watch and wait in the darkness. She moved slowly away from the being and
returned to them. "There are many farther in the cavern. I believe them to
be mostly children.  Will, can I see you for a moment?" She pulled him off
to the side. "I don't want to take Tolgar to them. I'm getting a sense of
anger from him, I think he's dangerous."

"Okay, I'll keep him here. The doctor and Data will go with you." He paused,
"You've been able to communicate with him then?"

"No, not orally, just empathically. I get a sense of him and his feelings
about what I'm feeling...He's empathic."

"Deanna be careful they may not intend harm but they may not know what is
harmful to us either."

"Imzadi, you have more reason to be careful. Tolgar does intend harm. He
doesn't care who is harmed."  She took his hand to squeeze it. "Please be
careful, don't take any chances with him."

When they returned to the others, the commander explained their next move.
The counselor, doctor and Data were needed to look after the injured and
sick. Tolgar and he would follow when the beings became more comfortable
with their presence.
Commander Riker and Tolgar watched as the small group left them. Will tried
to observe the features of the small figure that lead them. Without using
their lights he strained to see their movements in the darkness. Tolgar
spoke for the first time since entering the cave. "You are taking a great
chance allowing the women to go with it. You care for that one, yet you
allow her to go with such a creature?"

Will scowled, "I thought Risaians were open minded, you claim you know
nothing of these beings, yet you exhibit great distrust for them."

"Sometimes seeing is enough, it slithers, it can't stand light- what living
creature would you want around that only wants darkness." Tolgar watched in
the darkness in the direction the others had disappeared.

chapter 2

The small group had not gone far when they turned, entering yet another
cavern. The small creature had held the counselor's hand, pulling her along
she could no longer see what lie ahead in the darkness. She could feel four
long thin fingers, not of human flesh, but of a more rubbery smoother
texture. Earlier when she had shielded it from the glare of light she felt
the hairless head and what she imagined may have been antenna. The small
being had relaxed a bit, no longer fearful of them. The empath's senses told
her that he was relieved at their arrival. The new cavern was small. They
could hear an underground stream somewhere near them. Deanna could sense
many of these beings near them, most of them sleeping. Their escort moved
cautiously among them until they reached a larger form. A few moments had
passed in the quiet cavern; the only sounds to be heard were those of the
rhythmic breathing of the sleepers and sporadic high pitch chirping. A dim
light was struck. A small stone pile had been lit. It now burned with an
intense heat. The cave's inhabitants moved in unison closer to the warmth.
The three crewmembers remained standing as they were, watching the strange
scene around them. Deanna's escort still held her hand. She could feel one
of the fingers moving over hers as though curious about the feel of her skin.

Data was listening to what the other two could not hear.  He confided to the
two women, "I believe they are discussing our trustworthiness. I am unable
to understand the precise wording. However the general conversation seems to
center around the comparisons between us and the inhabitants of Risa."

"I didn't hear anything. Data, can you communicate anything to them?"
Beverly Crusher had covertly managed to have a tricorder in her hand trying
to get a reading on the small being.

"I can only get the general idea of the topic they are discussing. The
language is very complex and of such a variety of pitches that it would be
impossible to replicate without furthers study. Counselor, what do your
senses tell you?"

She was standing close to the smaller of the two beings, looking down at the
larger one, who remained in an odd sitting position on the ground, leaning
against a wall of the cavern. She answered, moving only her mouth, "There
are several here that are in need of medical attention. I believe this is
the mother of our small friend here. There is a strong emotional tie between
them. They may not be able to communicate with us but they are empathic.
They know how you feel about them. Beverly, now may be a good time to go to
her and check her physical condition."

"Deanna, how will I know what I'm looking at. I have nothing to base any
readings on. For all we know none of them may be healthy."  As she spoke the
doctor was kneeling on the ground near the larger 'mother' and moving the
tricorder over her. When she had finished, she reached to touch the thin leg
trying to extend comfort to the being. Beverly straightened, she looked at
the counselor's face, Deanna already knew. "The older one is dying. She was
wounded and is malnourished. Her system is depleted. I don't know what to do
to help. I can try to get the minerals into her that seems to be missing
from comparing the two readings. I may actually be doing more harm, how can
I know if we can't communicate anything to them?"

 It was then that they heard scuffling and several loud sounds coming from
Will and Tolgar's location. Deanna tried to follow the doctor and Data, but
the small hand that still held hers held it now with strength she would have
thought impossible. The counselor looked at the creature beside her. It
seemed reluctant for her to leave but relinquished its hold. She hesitated,
then ran to catch up to Data and Beverly. When she found them, they were
already beside Will. The commander sat rubbing the back of his head. He
looked at Deanna and smiled painfully at her. "I know. I shouldn't have
turned my back on him."

"Let me see." Beverly moved his hand to look at the injury. She scanned him
with her tricorder. "You'll live but you should go back to the Enterprise
and have it cleaned and checked for any infection."

The commander ignored the edict, "Data go after him, be careful, he has my
phaser. Deanna, Beverly, I want you to go back and stay with the creatures.
Do what you can for them." He hit his comm badge, "Riker to Enterprise."
There was no answer from their ship. "It's probably these caves. We couldn't
get a reading through them from the surface, apparently we can't communicate
from them either."
The ground beneath them trembled violently. "Move into the deeper caverns,
that came from near the entrance. I'm going to find Data." Riker left in the
direction the android had disappeared.

Will Riker hadn't gone far when Data met him, "Commander, I strongly suggest
we quickly move to the farthest point away from the entrance. Tolgar is
using the phaser to seal the entrance by creating a landslide. I had
detected an abundance of fresh air and water back in the cavern with the
They returned to the others. Turning their portable lights down to a dim
beam, the two went to the group surrounding the glowing rocks. Both the
counselor and the doctor were kneeling beside one of the creatures. The
scene they had walked into was sober and subdued. Will looked at the
counselor hoping she would explain what was happening, but she was too
absorbed in the event to notice their attendance.
Data leaned over to the commander, "I believe we are witnessing the death of
the 'old mother'"

Will looked surprised at Data's choice of words and his perception of the
scene. "Old mother, Data?"

"The counselor believed this one to be the eldest among the group and the
mother of the smaller being we met in the outer cavern. Doctor Crusher
concluded from her examination the creature was dying."

Will noticed then there were differences between the beings, shadings of
their basic coloring differed enough it would become easy to tell one from
the other. The moment of death must have arrived. The doctor looked at the
counselor with defeat mirrored in her eyes. Beverly then noticed Will and
Data had returned and went to them, to explain the circumstances. Deanna
joined them after a few moments.

Will relayed the situation with Tolgar adding, "Data believes there is
another exit out of these caverns. We need to find the source of the water
and fresh air. I think you two are needed here. Data and I are going to do a
little spelunking. The sooner we get out of here, the sooner we can assist
our friends. Deanna, see what you can learn about them, that would explain
Tolgar's reactions." They climbed down a slope to the stream below to follow
it, out of what may have become a sealed tomb.

Deanna and Beverly watched them climbing over rocks and dodging stalagmites
until they were out of sight, before returning to the group.  They remained
a short distance away to observe the alien's reactions as a means to
understanding this new species better.

The ground beneath them quaked violently. Deanna spoke softly to Beverly, "I
think we should consider evacuating everyone from this cavern."

"Agreed. Let's evaluate how many are healthy enough to travel." The doctor
pulled from her medical supplies a tricorder for the counselor. Both women
wasted little time compiling the information. The results of the completion
at the task did little for their confidence. Most of the young were too weak
to make a journey without assistance. They counted out of the fifteen only
nine could travel unassisted. "I think we should prepare to begin moving out

The commander and Data had followed the stream for three hundred meters when
the stream channel began to widen. Will could detect a steady breeze of warm
tropical air on his face. An opening to the outside world was now visible.
It could only be accessed by means of the stream. The channel banks would
not allow passage any other way. The water had been analyzed and the two had
carefully waded into the cold water, walking carefully on the smooth
slippery streambed. They made their way out into the center where the water
now reached their waist.  Data's curiosity was aroused at Will's inability
to keep his teeth from chattering.  The coldness that took his breath away
also caused his teeth to chatter limiting Will's ability to answer Data

They were almost to the opening when a new quaking shook the ground knocking
them both to their knees and under the surface of the water. When Will
surfaced the entrance was now only barely visible. He saw Data scrambling
toward it, his strength and agility allowing him to climb the wet stone to
the opening. Will shouted to him to get out and get to the Enterprise for help.

"You may need this sir." The android perfectly threw his phaser to the
commander, then squeezed through the opening into the sun and warmth of the
outside, leaving Will to return to the cold dark cavern.

Beverly and Deanna were trying to communicate to those circled around them,
the necessity of moving on. It would mean leaving behind the "old one" that
had comforted them and cared for them. A few of the adolescents gathered
close to the doctor or counselor and shed their inhibitions enough to touch
their hair or venture a long finger to feel the texture of their uniforms.

 The group had been divided into two. Each group would have two moderately
mobile adolescents to help with the weaker, younger ones. The doctor was
trying to get her group to begin moving. She would get the two older ones on
their feet by holding on to their hands. It never lasted long, they would
ultimately revert to their shyness and sit again in the same odd position,
feet flat on the ground, knees up toward their chins and arms wrapped around
their middles. They resembled, in a rather abstract way, grasshoppers ready
to spring and accelerate toward some unknown destination. Beverly and Deanna
exchanged looks, and then Deanna sat between two of the adolescents
mimicking the position and emotion she perceived from them. One reached over
to run the long thin finger down her arm to tap her elbow several times
trying to convey comfort. Beverly shrugged and followed suit. At least this
was progress.

The captain sat facing the android, "Data, you're telling me this was a
deliberate act? This guide -- Tolgar has sealed our people and these others
in a cave? For what reason?"

"Counselor Troi had sensed he had developed an insurmountable dislike for
the beings and should not have been trusted. This was not unique to the
guide. There were others exhibiting the same feeling."

"Mmm, I'll openly pursue the diplomatic route with the government on Risa. I
want you and Mr. LaForge to find a way of getting everyone out of there,

A soggy and frozen Will Riker stood before the group. His body trembling and
teeth chattering, he attempted to convey the urgency of the situation. His
crewmates, after one look at him, flew to his aide. Deanna steered him to a
place close to the warming softly glowing rocks. The counselor after seating
him began to peel off the sodden uniform. He caught her hands, "Deanna, the
ssstream is rising fffast. I think they dammed it. We have to move these
people."  He stopped long enough to drink the elixir Doctor Crusher handed
him, before continuing, answering their questions.
Now that his uniform had dried and he had warmed under one of the blankets
the doctor had brought, Commander Riker found his crew anticipating his
orders to get under way. He had been briefed on the physical problems of
moving the young aliens. He knelt beside one of the youngest, trying to
explain how and why he wanted him on his back. Deanna and Beverly had to
demonstrate by gently moving the long thin arms around the commander's neck.
Will felt the long fingers moving, tracing his beard. He looked at his two
teammates and raised his eyebrows in amusement. The beings were intrigued by
the human's hair, there wasn't a hair that could be seen on their body. The
coarse material that swaddled the small being rubbed irritatingly into
Riker's neck. They tore the blanket into strips to fashion a strap around
the rump area to help secure the being. The doctor and counselor followed
his example, each finding one whom they could help. With both hands freed,
each of the humans was able to hold on to two others.

The pace was slow and steady. They were headed the same way Will and Data
had previously gone. The water had begun to rise. They were walking in water
up to their ankles. There was a high pitched twitter among their companions
as the water continued to rise.  Riker looked back at the others, "Is
everyone okay? I know it's uncomfortable but it's the only way out. Deanna
how are our friends doing?"

"They're doing fine. Actually, I think they like the water." Some of the
beings were slapping their flat bare feet in the water, splashing as they
went. The fun stopped soon enough. The water rose to the knees of the
younger ones. It was tiring on both the humans and their small companions to
try to keep even the slow pace.

The captain stood in front of the view screen, his impatience about to break
through his diplomatic facade as he tried again to convince the prime
minister of the critical situation his people were facing.  He changed
tactics, going on the offensive, tired of the mewing official and his claim
of innocence. "I feel your ignorance of this action taken by those appointed
by you for this quasi-rescue attempt is beyond contempt and I'll see that
the Federation will certainly hear of it. It would be a shame to list your
planet as undesirable and inhospitable, especially when you could have
prevented it." He turned his back on the screen and signaled the link to be
terminated.  Moments later the prime minister was asking to speak with the

"Minister, do we have something to talk about?"

"Captain Picard, this group you speak of, is a small group of insignificant
proportion and views. They do not reflect the attitude of generosity and
respect for all life that is true of the majority of our people."

"It would seem sir, that the actions of those in even governmental positions
belie that statement. Do not make little of this. There is a genuine feeling
of bigotry among a population of your people." He watched as the minister
again waived it off. " Sir, 'Now tis the spring, and weeds are
shallow-rooted. Suffer them now, and they'll o'ergrow the garden.' That is a
quotation from an ancient earth playwright. Your planet is a haven for those
longing to get away from life's problems a 'garden of Eden' in its tropical
beauty. Yet, this poison will destroy it and it's reputation among others if
you allow it. Will you help us or not?"

"I will help. Tell me what you need."

They stood on the narrow bank looking up at the small aperture listening to
the commander explain what he expected of them. "Will, I'm not comfortable
with this. Are you sure this is the only way?"

"Beverly, it is. We don't have the time to wait. We have to move now if we
are going to get everyone out. Are you ready?"  The doctor nodded. She
gathered a few pieces of medical equipment wrapped them in the watertight
plastic, then shoved them into her uniform shirt. She and Will began to
descend into the rising stream. The currents pulled them to the opening
where an unattached rope dangled loosely. He dove under the water coming up
beneath the doctor to boost her higher. She grasped at the loose rocks,
knocking several into the water. It took several lunges before she was able
to find something steadfast enough to give her the support to climb to the
opening and through it. She went to work securing the loose end of rope Will
had earlier managed to throw there.

Riker allowed himself a quick glint of satisfaction before swimming against
the current to the others. The small beings sat watching. Deanna aided him
getting out. He could see the concern in her eyes. "We'll start with the
weakest, and the strongest. That way there will be someone to help Beverly
with the others as we get them across."

Deanna held the littlest one's arms around her neck as Will helped secure it
with a band of blanket. The counselor did the same with the largest as Will
held on to it. The empath could feel their anxiety, yet neither creature did
anything to obstruct their efforts. She felt the little one's chin on her
shoulder and it's fingers lock around her, as it braced for the cold water.

Will climbed down into the water, then helped Deanna, guiding her feet into
the footholds he had found in the bank. She slowly entered the shoulder high
water, catching her breath as the frigid liquid saturated her body. Will
watched her closely as she turned to face him. "The current will do the
work. Allow it to take you to the rocks below the entrance. Grab on to the
larger rocks there." He pointed to where some of the rocks stood out from
the rest. "We'll send one up at a time to Beverly." They could see the
doctor outlined even in the darkened night sky. Will attached his light to
his forehead with a band from the blanket.  Deanna patted the little arms
around her.

They pushed off the bank, Deanna felt the current pull her and Will's hand
on her elbow as they tried to tread water when their feet were swept out
from under them. The closer they came to their destination the current
changed, swirling around them, as though it too were searching for an exit.
It pulled at her from several directions at once, but they managed to find
the rocks Will had chosen. Deanna couldn't control her jaw from clicking as
her teeth chattered. The small one on her back didn't seem to notice the
cold. Her senses told her, the little female rather enjoyed it.

They watched the larger one work his way up the rocks to Beverly. He climbed
well, pulling himself up more than Beverly had to pull him. The little one
was next. They had to make a sling to get her to the doctor. Will put an arm
around Deanna's waist to pull her closer to him. "Are you ready to go back?
This is going to be harder, we'll be swimming against the current." She
nodded her answer. He smiled knowing she'd do what ever was necessary. They
reached the other side with the creatures waiting for them. Will climbed out
first, then helped Deanna. She was unable to contain the body's reaction to
the cold. She was visibly trembling. Will pulled her to him and vigorously
rubbed her arms and back trying to help the circulation. "I promise you when
we get back, I have a special evening planned that will make you forget all
about ever being cold." He continued his ministrations, noticing her lips
were blue. He bent to warm them without thinking, he could feel her sigh
against him beforing moving back.

"I'm okay. Let's keep moving, or I may not be able to start again. And I am
holding you to that evening, Commander, so don't do anything heroic just to
get out of it."

They were on their last trip. Will looked across at Deanna. She hadn't said
a word for the past hour. He could see the fatigue and cold were taking
their toll on her. He had been getting muscle cramps in his legs and arms
from the cold. "This is it. If we can get the last two across, we can get
out of here. Can you make it?" She nodded, and began to help him with the
last fellow on his back. Her last passenger was the young male they first
found. Will helped him up and secured him.  Deanna stumbled twice before
getting into the water. This time she didn't notice the cold. The water was
up to the level of the bank. They had only to carefully step off to be in
it. Will pushed off and started toward the opening. He turned to see Deanna
treading water behind him. She was struggling to keep above the water line.
He tried to reach behind to get a hold on her, but he was being pulled away
by the swirling currents. He decided to make a quick deposit with his charge
and go back for her. He had reached the rope and sent his passenger up when
he heard Beverly shouting for Deanna. He turned and could not find her in
the water behind him. He dove back pushing against the current, he surfaced
took a deep breath and was about to dive under again when he saw the
hairless head of her companion bobbing up and down trying to get his
attention.  Will got to them to find the creature had managed to free
himself and was holding on to the back of the Deanna. Will grasped her and
the being climbed on to his shoulders as they made their way back to the
rope.  When Will looked up to signal Beverly to begin to pull the little guy
up as he held on to Deanna. He was relieved to find Data and the captain
waiting in front of a much enlarged opening, Data wasted no time in sliding
down the rope to aid the two drenched and frozen officers up to join the rest.

 When Will reached the outside  he took comfort in seeing Deanna sputtering
but conscious and in the doctor's care. He quickly moved to her side to hear
her ask, "Beverly, did we get everyone?"

The doctor smiled at Will then back down to her friend, "Yes, everyone is
out, safe and sound." She patted the counselor's arm, then moved away to
join the captain leaving them alone, glancing back over her shoulder to see
them embracing.

 It seemed absurd to be sitting around a fire wrapped in a blanket in the
middle of a tropical rainforest, but Deanna Troi and Will Riker didn't care
what it looked like. They were warm for the first time in what seemed ages.
"I knew I'd have you under the blankets before we left Risa."

 She turned to look into his smiling face, "Then it seems you've
accomplished all of your goals Commander."

 His arm across her shoulders tightened, he pulled her closer, to rub her
arms under the blanket with his free hand, as he whispered, "No, not all of
my goals."

The captain, doctor and Data were with their new friends, had been working
with the universal translator for sometime before appearing to make
progress. Now the couple near the fire looked up to see the entire
assemblage making their way over to the fire and the two officers still
content in warming themselves.  Several of the creatures moved near Will and
Deanna.  "Since you two are determined to fight the doctor's wishes and stay
down here, I want your input in this. We have learned these people call
themselves 'night-wanderers'; they came to this planet because theirs was
dying. The elders plotted the course and devised their transportation, but
most of them died before the voyage could begin."

The government official sat quietly, looking only at the humans, avoiding
any contact with the creatures. Deanna sensed his discomfort was not at what
had been done to the alien visitors. "Sir, once you knew of these visitors
why didn't you try to help them? I believe that our help was enlisted not to
aid them, but to remove them for you. Why?"

"I'm sorry young woman, I don't know what you're talking about." He looked
at her; his face held such a look of disbelief, that had Deanna not been
empathic she may have questioned herself.

The young male they had first met began to speak, through the use of the
translator they were able to understand him. "Our history began here, on
this planet many years ago. Even then the people of light did not accept us.
We were only able to live in caves, where we would not been seen."

"Really! Captain you certainly don't believe any of this!" The minister was
on his feet looking offended.

"Doctor would a DNA test answer this?"

"I can find if their DNA matches the structure of life on the rest of the

"When will you know."

"A few hours. Captain may I suggest we all return to the Enterprise, where I
can give some needed medical attention to some of these people."

"Doctor perhaps you and Data can work out appropriate quarters for our
guests to stay in comfort. Counselor, Commander, I believe you may return to
the ship, clean up and get some rest." When the counselor began to protest,
she was reassured they would be notified when they were needed.

The dimly lit conference room provided an eerie setting for the meeting, but
it met the needs of the aliens. The senior staff, two of the Risaian
officials and the 'night-wanderers' were all present, all awaiting the
captain's presence. When Picard entered the room he noted the atmosphere to
be more relaxed then before on the planet. "I've just talked to Starfleet,
the information we have learned from the tests the doctor ran is not
one-hundred percent conclusive. They do tend to back the 'night-wanderers'
claim. This planet does contain the basic DNA structure of that of the
beings; however, we have found similar structures on other planets. Do to
the nature of the problems presented, Starfleet has asked the
'night-wanderers' to consider habitation on one of these planets that has
the properties that would sustain them and would welcome them. We would
provide them transportation."

There was a high pitched chatter among the beings. One large male stepped
forward as representative. Using the translator he agreed to allow the
transportation on the Enterprise, and thanked the crew for their efforts in
rescuing them in the cave and in aiding their future existence.

The captain looked at the Risaian officials, "That is not to say that what
was done here has been overlooked. It has been noted. Our hope for you is
that you weed out the notion of superiority and desire to have back what was
once part of your ecosystem."
  The official didn't attempt to hide his disgust.
The conference room had emptied, except for the original away team and the
captain. "The Risaian government would like to stay on good terms with the
Federation. They have offered shore leave with all their traditional
benefits for you four, should you wish to stay on the planet."

They looked at one another, then all looked at Will Riker; the commander
spoke for all of them. "No thank you sir. I think we all have had enough of
Risa for a while."

The counselor stood outside the doors to Commander Rikers quarters awaiting
his acknowledgement. The doors parted to reveal his form clothed in a light
gray sweater and darker gray slacks. He smiled,  "I was beginning to think
you were going to back out of our dinner. You look beautiful."  The blue
eyes drifted over her, taking in the hairstyle, the bared shoulders and
elegant flow of the dress. He took her hand to walk with her to the sofa.
She noticed the candles and set table, with champagne chilling, as he began
to tell her of his evening for them. "I had thought of programming a bit of
Risa in the holodeck, but I knew you would not particularly enjoy that."

" Your back up plan then is to..." She watched his face loving the way he
would flash the famous Riker grin.

"Just what I promised you, an evening to make you forget past experiences on

"Mine or yours?" His grin disappeared, at her words.

"Deanna, this was suppose to be a romantic evening. I hoped you would get a
little more into the spirit of the evening." He casually wrapped his arm
around her, waiting for her to stiffen or rebuke him, when instead she moved
into his embrace, he smiled. "That is more of what I was hoping for."

"Ah, but when do I get what I was hoping for Commander." She quipped.

"That just depends, Counselor, on where those hopes lie." He grinned again
at what he hoped to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as his lips brushed
against hers several times before she claimed them with her own.