An Explosive Mixture (by Rona)

Synopsis:

Category:  Star Trek, The Next Generation
Genre:  SciFi
Rating:  T
Word Count:  12,860

 

Commander William T. Riker of the Federation Starship Enterprise sat at his usual table in Ten-Forward, nursing a glass of Synthohol. He was alone, which was unusual, and his gaze was fixed absently on the young man seated across the room from him. The said young man, who happened to be the nephew of Admiral Satie, was surrounded by several of the younger officers.

A hand touched Riker’s shoulder and a quiet voice said “Jealous, Commander?”

Riker sat up straighter, and grinned at Guinan, Ten-Forward’s hostess, as she picked up his empty glass and replaced it with another drink. “Jealous? Of him?” Riker seemed to find the idea genuinely amusing. “No. But I must admit, I can’t figure out what his attraction is. The guy sets my teeth on edge.”

Guinan gave him a sideways look and sat down. “That isn’t like you,” she commented, slowly. “You like nearly everybody you meet.”

Riker shrugged. “I don’t know what it is, but Tony Satie makes me uncomfortable.” He glanced at Guinan. “So far, I’m in a minority of one. There’s no point in saying anything to Captain Picard, because he’s only here until we reach Starbase 84, though I can’t imagine what he’s going to do at that back water.”

Guinan agreed. “But I can see what the girls find so attractive about him. After all, he is very good looking.”

“Granted, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that doesn’t explain what the guys are finding so great.”

“Touché.” Guinan stood up. “Just so long as you aren’t jealous.”

“Good night, Guinan,” Riker said, grinning. She moved on, the perfect hostess. Riker watched her working the room, then finished his drink. He got to his feet, and walked towards the exit. He had early duty shift in the morning. As he passed Satie’s table, he was hailed. “Commander!”

With forced politeness, Riker turned to the young guest and smiled. “Yes?”

“Leaving so early? Don’t be a party pooper. Have a drink!” Satie patted him drunkenly on the shoulder, and Riker had to work hard to stop himself pulling away.

“No, thank you, Mr. Satie. I’m on early shift on the bridge. Another time, perhaps?” Riker inclined his head slightly and began to turn away, aware of the young female ensigns comparing him with Satie.

They could not have been more different. Riker was tall, dark, handsome. Satie was equally tall, perhaps fractionally taller, but was as fair as a summer’s morn. He had wavy blond hair, cornflower blue eyes and fair skin. He was clean-shaven, whereas Riker sported a neatly trimmed full beard. They were like day and night. Riker kept on walking, heaving a sigh of relief when the doors of Ten-Forward hissed shut behind him.

*****

Captain’s Log Stardate 56347.8. We are enroute for Starbase 84, transporting Tony Satie, the nephew of Admiral Satie. This is putting us out of our way, as we are supposed to be mapping the new asteroid field caused by a recent supernova of an unnamed star, but given what happened with his aunt, we felt obliged to help. Young Mr. Satie seems to be very interested in the Enterprise, and is certainly popular among the younger members of the crew. Counselor Troi has given him a guided tour of the ship, accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Data. I have not seen much of him, except briefly when he arrived, and I plan to have dinner with him on his last night aboard.

Picard glanced up as the door chime sounded. “Come,” he called, flicking off his desktop computer, where he had been surveying recently gathered data. The door to his ready room opened, and Commander Riker walked in. Picard gestured to the chair, and watched with concealed amusement as Riker swung the chair around and straddled it. It was an engagingly boyish, completely natural, gesture.

“Geordi reports that the warp power couplings have been serviced and replaced, and full warp capacity is yours whenever you want it,” Riker reported. Geordi La Forge was the chief engineer. “Everything is humming sweetly,” he concluded.

“Excellent, Number One, “ Picard responded. “Well, in that case, let move up to warp 6, shall we? I’m sure Mr. Satie will be delighted that his journey time will be shortened.”

“I’m sure,” Riker agreed, getting to his feet. But something in his tone must have alerted Picard, for he frowned at his executive officer and said, “Is there a problem, Commander?”

“No, Sir,” Riker responded, standing straighter, alerted by Picard’s use of ‘commander’.

“But..?” Picard added.

“No but, Sir.” Riker hesitated, but his innate honesty won out. “But – I don’t like him.” He shrugged. “I’ll be glad when he’s gone. But it isn’t a problem.”

“Glad to hear it, Number One,” Picard answered. Riker was relieved at Picard’s reversion to Number One. Commander had been meant as a reminder, but Picard understood that Riker was saying that Satie would never know of Riker’s dislike for him. “What don’t you like about our guest?”

Riker hesitated. “I don’t know,” he finally admitted, thoughtfully. “Guinan wondered if I was jealous of him, getting so much attention, but that isn’t it. “ He paused, seeking a way to make Picard understand. He finally shrugged. “Its just a gut feeling, I guess.”

“I see,” Picard said, because he did indeed understand that his normally articulate first officer was struggling to put across something which had no logical foundation. “Have you spoken to Counselor Troi about this?”

“No, Sir. I thought it was too trivial to mention. I certainly would never show Mr. Satie that I dislike him. I seldom see the guy anyway.”

Picard nodded. “Fair enough, Number One. But if it does become a problem, let me know.”

“At once, Sir,” Riker said, and left the ready room.

Alone, Picard frowned as he got a cup of tea from the replicator. It was unlike Riker to have such unsubstantiated feelings. Picard had been put on alert by them, and would watch Tony Satie more carefully after this.

*****

“Commander,” Data said “I am receiving anomalous readings from the right warp nacelle.”

Riker sat forward in the command chair. “What kind of readings?” he asked.

Data’s hands flew over his ops panel. “There would appear to be a malfunction in the warp couplings,” he answered. He swung round in his chair to look at Riker. “Under the circumstances, it would be unwise to go to warp.”

“Agreed,” Riker said, frowning. “Bridge to Engineering, Geordi, what is going on? I thought you said the warp couplings were finished?” He was unconsciously on his feet, pacing. He stopped as Geordi spoke.

“They are finished, Commander,” Geordie’s voice replied. “They all check out. Hold on.” There was a momentary silence. “I don’t understand this, Commander. There shouldn’t be a problem in that nacelle. I finished there less than an hour ago. I’d better go and check it out.”

“Acknowledged. Data, go and help him. Captain to the bridge.” Riker resumed his pacing as Picard emerged from the ready room.

“What is it, Number One?” he asked, looking at Data, who was just leaving the bridge. Another officer had taken his place at Ops. Riker swiftly up-dated the Captain, who frowned. “Better join them, Number One. I relieve you.”

Riker nodded, and strode to the turbolift. Picard seated himself in the command chair. Trouble was just what they did not need.

*****

Geordi and Data were peering into the warp coupling recess when Riker joined them. “What is it?” he asked, peering in, too.

Geordi shook his head slightly. “Right now, I just don’t know, Commander. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for the malfunction. Everything is connected correctly; there is power. I don’t understand it.”

Riker straightened up, thinking furiously. If Geordi and Data couldn’t find the problem, it had to be something really serious. The others both had their heads inside the access point, Geordi talking, but Riker was unable to hear him. He glanced up as footsteps sounded from the corridor. Tony Satie rounded the corner, and smiled broadly at Riker. “Well met, Commander!” he exclaimed. “Alone and palely loitering?”

“Not exactly,” Riker replied. He said no more, as it wasn’t ship’s policy to tell guests about potential problems. Data, hearing the voices, withdrew from the chamber and rose to his feet. Satie’s eyes widened as he got his first good look at the android. Data’s golden skin and eyes were commonplace to Riker, but were always a shock at first sighting.

“Well, I can see you’re busy,” Satie said. “I’ll let you get on.” He turned and walked swiftly away.

Riker watched him go, then turned back to Data, who had his head cocked to one side, as though listening. “Did you hear a click, Commander?” he asked. “It was just as Mr. Satie left.”

Riker shook his head. “No, Data. What do you think it was?”

“Unknown,” Data replied. His eyes flickered slightly as he ran through all the various possibilities. But Riker’s mind worked on different lines from Data’s, and he had a sudden nasty thought. “Some kind of trigger?” he gasped. “Geordi!”

Riker moved towards the chief engineer, who wouldn’t be able to hear his warning. But Data reacted more swiftly. He grabbed Geordi by the legs, dragging him forcibly out of the conduit. With the other hand, he slammed the hatch shut, and then propelled both Riker and Geordi round the nearest corner.

It was not a moment too soon. There was a loud explosion. The whole deck rocked and the three officers were hurled to the floor. Smoke, dense and black, poured out of the hatchway. Red Alert began sounding. Automatic fire extinguishers were dealing with the resultant blaze, but the toxic smoke was eddying along the corridor, and Data realised that the two humans would be overcome by the smoke in a matter of moments. He had to get them to safety before the bulkheads came down, sealing off the damaged area until the atmosphere had been cleared.

Riker and Geordi were both coughing helplessly. Dazed, their ears ringing, eyes streaming, they were barely aware of Data pulling them along the corridor. Both tried to help, but the smoke kept pace with them, and they were fast sinking into unconsciousness. Data saw the bulkhead lowering, and doubled his speed, dragging Riker and Geordi, and hurling them through the shrinking space. He barely managed to get clear himself when the bulkhead sealed the area.

*****

On the bridge, Picard was calling frantically to his officers, knowing only that there had been an explosion. After several harrowing moments, Data responded. “Data here, Captain. Medical emergency. There has been an explosion, Captain. The right warp nacelle is badly damaged. Commander Riker and Commander LaForge are both unconscious. We believe there was an explosive device planted in the nacelle access point.”

“Understood, Mr. Data. I’ll meet you in sickbay.” Picard turned to Worf. “Mr. Worf, I want you to start an investigation as soon as the bulkheads are cleared. Ensign Ro, you have the bridge.”

Worf allowed his captain to precede him onto the turbolift and stood in his customary Klingon silence, as Picard pondered his next move. Picard left the turbolift at deck 12, barely nodding to his chief security officer. Worf was not offended. He continued on his way, his thoughts grim.

Picard strode quickly into sickbay. Data stood to one side, covered in soot. Riker and LaForge were also black with soot. Both were unconscious, and Beverly Crusher and another doctor hovered over them. Picard crossed to Riker’s side as his first officer gave a groan, and started to move.

Beverly restrained him gently. “Its all right, Will. Don’t move yet.”

Riker groaned again, opening his eyes and gazing blearily at the faces looking down at him. “Oh my head,” he mumbled. More coherence returned to his eyes, and he half sat up. “Geordi!”

Again, Beverly restrained him. “Geordi is fine,” she said, speaking distinctly and slowly. Picard shot her a questioning glance. Beverly ignored him. “Can you hear me at all, Will?”

“Just,” Riker mumbled again. “The ringing is awful.” Riker was slurring his words, and Picard suddenly realized that Riker could barely hear himself talking, never mind Beverly.

“Don’t try to get up yet,” Beverly warned. “I’ve given you something to help your ears, but until it takes effect, your balance will be disturbed.” She turned to Picard and led him a little away from the officers. Data joined them. “They’ll both be fine in about an hour. Thank goodness you were with them, Data, or they could both have been killed. As it is, they inhaled a lot of smoke, and the blast hurt their ears, but that’s it.”

“Good,” Picard responded. “What happened, Mr. Data?”

Data gave Picard a full account of everything that had happened. Picard listened without comment until the end. “All right. Find Mr. Satie, and ask him if he heard anything. I want security tightened up ship wide until we get to the bottom of this. Mr. Data, I want you to help Lt. Worf with his investigation.”

“Aye, Sir,” Data responded, and when no more instructions were forthcoming, exited sickbay.

Picard exchanged glances with Beverly. “Do we have a problem?” Beverly asked, quietly.

“I’m afraid so, doctor,” Picard replied. “Rather a large one.”

*****

The senior staff were gathered in the observation lounge. To Picard’s critical eye, both Riker and LaForge looked wan and tired, but he said nothing, appreciating their willingness to carry on after such a close brush with death. Deanna Troi, the ship’s counselor, was looking at both men with some concern, her empathic sense telling her that they were exhausted. Deanna was half- Betazoid, half-human. She was stunningly beautiful, and she and Riker had an old allegiance to one another.

“Report, Mr. Worf?” Picard said.

“We found the remains of an explosive device in the warp nacelle. It was definitely triggered by some kind of remote device, presumably the click Commander Data heard. I questioned Mr. Satie, but he had heard nothing, and didn’t realize that the area was near the warp nacelle.” Worf paused to gather his thoughts. “The nacelle is badly damaged. I have stationed guards at other vital access points around the ship, as you requested, Captain.”

“Have you checked for explosives in the other vital areas, Worf?” Riker asked. His voice was still hoarse from the smoke he’d inhaled, and despite Beverly’s hypospray, his head still ached and his ears rang faintly.

“Yes, Commander,” Worf rumbled. “We found explosive devices in the ship’s phasers, shields and computer system.”

There was a collective gasp of horror from everyone. Data looked at their faces and added, unnecessarily, “They have all been dismantled.”

“Yes, thank you, Data,” Picard said. “Well, it appears we have a saboteur on board. Would the sensors be able to trace the explosive if there was any left on board?”

Data nodded. “Yes, Sir. I could reconfigure the internal sensors to sweep the ship for it.”

“Do it,” Picard ordered. “Mr. LaForge, can you repair the damage to the warp nacelle?”

Geordi cleared his throat. “I’m afraid not, Captain,” he croaked. “We need a Starbase’s facilities. My engineers have removed all the damaged pieces, and patched up what we could, but I went to have a look, and we can’t do it out here.”

Picard sighed, frowning. “Very well, we will have to return to Starbase 24 for repairs. Mr. Worf, please alert them that we are on the way. We shall be on yellow alert until we apprehend the saboteur.” He rose to his feet, indicating that the meeting was over. “Mr. LaForge, Commander Riker, a moment please.”

Riker and Geordi resumed their seats with a weariness that worried Picard. When the others had gone, he smiled at them. “I want to thank you both for remaining on duty after the explosion. But its now time for you to rest. I will need your input during this journey back, and to help us find this saboteur. Dismissed until your next scheduled duty.”

Riker and Geordi stuttered their thanks, and went wearily out of the observation lounge. Picard watched them go, frowning. He would have little rest himself until his ship was safe.

*****

An insistent chiming drew Riker out of a deep sleep. Groggily, he said “Come,” sitting up in bed and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He yawned, then squinted at the person who had entered his quarters. He blinked in surprise. It wasn’t Deanna or Beverly, as he had expected. It was Tony Satie! Riker opened his mouth to speak, but Satie spoke first. “Commander, you must help me!”

Riker reached for his uniform and began to dress. Satie allowed him no time to speak. “Its that Klingon, Worf! He claims I tried to blow up the Enterprise! I didn’t, honest! What should I do?”

“Slow down,” Riker said, his head still clogged with sleep. “Worf says you tried to blow up the ship? What makes him think that you did?” Riker crossed to the basin and ran his hands under the tap, and splashed his face with water. He felt better almost at once. “Start from the beginning.” He straightened up, and saw Satie’s reflection in the vanity mirror. The look on his face gave Riker pause. He suddenly no longer doubted Worf’s accusations, and swung round to face his uninvited guest. “Tell me about it,” he said.

Satie did not bother to hide the hatred on his face. “Oh, I’ll tell you about it all right,” he snarled. “We aren’t going back to Starbase 24, Riker. Oh no, we’re going on to Starbase 84, where I’m meeting my escort for the rest of my journey. And you are going to persuade Captain Picard to change course.”

Riker stepped back warily, and tapped his communicator. “Security to Commander Riker’s quarters immediately.” He took another step back. “I’m not going to get you anything, Satie. I’m not going to be your pawn.”

Satie practically growled as he rushed at Riker. Riker coolly stepped aside at the last moment, smashing a hand back in a vicious swipe to the kidneys. But Satie reacted almost as quickly as Riker had, and rolled clear of the blow. He regained his feet instantly, and faced up to Riker, hands outstretched and ready.

As fights went, it was very close. Both men were of a similar size and weight, and the outcome was still anyone’s guess when Worf and security raced into Riker’s quarters. At that point, the two men were rolling about on the floor, first one on top, then the other. Worf took this in at a glance, and set his phaser to light stun and fired at them both. The ploy worked. Both men collapsed, and Worf was able to restrain Satie before either he or Riker regained consciousness.

Riker groaned and rolled over, then sat up. He looked up at Worf, who extended a hand to help Riker to his feet. “My apologies, Commander,” Worf said. “But since Satie had his hands around your neck, I thought stunning you both was the easiest way to release you.”

“No apologies necessary, Worf,” Riker said, tugging his uniform back into position, and rubbing his neck. “Thank you for the rescue.” He turned to the security team, who held Satie firmly. “Take him to the brig.”

“I’ll get you for this, Riker!” Satie warned, as he was dragged out.

Riker sat down wearily on the bed. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“I was wondering the same thing, Commander,” Worf commented. “Why were you fighting with Satie?”

Riker rolled his head around his shoulders to ease the tension. “He came to me and said you had accused him of trying to blow up the ship, but that it was all a mistake. Then, I saw his face in the mirror, and realized that he was lying. He wants to go to Starbase 84, and was going to use me as a hostage. That was when I called you.”

“Picard to Worf. Is everything all right?”

Worf tapped his communicator. “Worf here. Yes, Sir. Commander Riker is uninjured.”

“I’m just coming to the bridge, Captain,” Riker said, raising his voice so that Worf’s badge would pick him up. Picard acknowledged and Riker stood up. A swift glance in the mirror told him he was neat enough, and together, he and Worf headed for the bridge.

*****

Picard rose and began to pace his ready room angrily. Riker, Worf and Data watched him silently. There was really nothing to say. “I don’t understand why,” Picard said, at last.

“Likewise,” Riker agreed. “He overplayed his hand, allowing me to waken fully. If he’d attacked immediately after wakening me, or even before, then I wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

“Then I would not have thought to scan his quarters so soon,” Data added, “and we would not have found the remains of the explosive as quickly as we have. The ship wide scan would not have been complete until we were ten minutes away from Starbase 24.”

“What I’d like to know,” Riker continued thoughtfully, “is who Satie was planning to meet at Starbase 84? Its at the back of beyond, even for space.”

“Good point, Number One,” Picard said. “Mr. Worf, contact Starbase 84 and find out who was to meet Satie. Tell them only that we will be delayed. Number One, I want you to take Counselor Troi and question Satie. Perhaps Deanna can sense something of his real intentions.”

“Aye, Sir,” Riker said, getting to his feet. He flexed his shoulders, realizing that he’d been sitting in one position too long.

“Are you all right?” Picard asked, sharply. He could see that Riker was still tired, but was suddenly worried that Satie had done some previously unnoticed damage.

“I’m fine, thank you. Just a little stiff,” Riker smiled, and Picard nodded. Worf and Data rose also, and they left the ready room together.

*****

Deanna walked silently by Riker’s side towards the brig. Riker, too, was unusually quiet. Deanna finally looked up at him. “What’s troubling you, Will?” she asked.

“This whole thing,” Riker replied. “I can’t for the life of me figure out what Satie was doing. He couldn’t hope to take over the Enterprise alone. We were taking him to Starbase 84 anyway, and blowing up the warp nacelle wouldn’t get us there any quicker. It makes no sense. Yet he doesn’t strike me as a stupid man.”

“No, nor me,” Deanna responded. She stopped, and Riker turned to her questioningly. “Perhaps he panicked,” she said, finally. “Finding you looking in the nacelle access conduit only an hour after he’d doctored it must have come as a shock. Maybe he thought that if he killed you, Geordi and Data, things would be so confused that he would be able to seize control, and take the Enterprise … somewhere.”

Riker nodded thoughtfully. “If he wants the Enterprise….” His gaze met Deanna’s. “That could be it. He wants to take the Enterprise to.. someone.. probably to trade. Who would want to get their hands on the ship?”

“The Romulans?” Deanna said, doubtfully. “But we’re so far from the border. The Ferengi? Surely not.”

“The Cardassians – who knows? But I think we’re on the right track. It gives us a starting point to work from.” Riker started walking again. Deanna took several quick steps to catch up with him, and found herself almost running to keep up with his much longer stride.

Satie was lying supine on the bed in the brig. He didn’t even turn his head when they walked in. Riker nodded to the guard, who lowered the forcefield. “Get up, Satie,” Riker said, roughly.

Slowly, deliberately defying Riker, Satie got up. He could barely keep a smirk off his face.

“Pretty pleased with yourself,” Deanna commented. “Why? You’re in here until we get back to Starbase 24, then you’ll be sent to some kind of penal reform.”

Satie gave Deanna a leer in response. Riker sensed that Deanna wanted him to stay quiet, so stood back looking as forbidding as he knew how. Deanna looked closely at Satie. “Did you know that I’m Betazoid?” she asked, evenly.

The leer disappeared to be replaced with an insolent look. “Yes,” he answered.

Deanna nodded. “Why are you lying to me?” she asked, sounding as though she really cared. “Don’t you know that its foolish to lie to my people?”

Heaving a sigh, Satie answered insolently, “You’re half-human, too. Give me some credit.”

Riker had had enough. “We know that you were to meet someone at Starbase 84. Where was your final destination? Romulus?”

Satie’s expression didn’t falter one bit, but Deanna sensed a thread of dismay enter his mind. She nodded silently, and Riker knew he was on track. “I’m sure that your aunt will be delighted to hear that her nephew is trading secrets to our enemies. Think what it will do to her reputation.”

“I don’t give a stuff about her reputation,” Satie growled.

“That’s not true,” Deanna inserted.

“Well, that’s interesting,” Riker commented. “I think you’d better get your story straight for the authorities on Starbase 24. They’re going to be really interested in you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were interrogated by a full Betazoid, who can pick thoughts out of your head.” He smiled, a very unpleasant smile. “Let’s go, Counselor.”

They walked swiftly from the room, and stopped. “What do you think?” Riker asked, his voice soft.

“I don’t know. There’s something he plans to do, but he refused to think about it while we were there. He’s very cool. He bears watching.”

“I agree,” Riker said.

*****

It took them several days to limp back to Starbase 24 under impulse power only. Deanna and Riker had questioned Satie several more times, but had got nothing further from him. Picard had contacted Starfleet, who in turn had told Admiral Satie about her nephew. She was reportedly distraught, but also angry with the crew of the Enterprise. She had had a bad experience on board the ship previously, and had yet to forgive Picard for the humiliation she had suffered, although she had caused it in the first place.

When they arrived back at Starbase 24, Picard ordered shore leave for most of the crew, as they would be in spacedock for several days, if not longer. Federation security guards came on board and prepared to take Satie into custody. Worf formally handed him over, and he was escorted from the ship.

Standing in Picard’s ready room, Riker shook his head. “I wish I’d been able to crack him. Who knows what he was really up to? I’d hate to think of Romulans waiting within reach of Starbase 84.”

“Agreed,” Picard said. “However, if the Romulans do decide to strike there, we won’t be able to go to help anyway.” Picard looked tired. Riker knew he had not been sleeping well, wondering what – if anything – he would say to Admiral Satie.

“Why don’t you go ashore, Sir?” Riker suggested. “I’ll mind the store.”

Picard smiled. “Thank you, Will. I think I’ll just go to my quarters and catch up on my sleep. Data can take bridge watch.”

Riker smiled. “I don’t mind. I’d like to take the watch.”

“As you wish.” Picard rose, tugged down his uniform top, and nodded. “The bridge is yours, Number One.”

*****

The ship was quiet, sleeping, Picard thought, smiling. A lot of the crew were ashore. Stellar Cartography, astral physics and the like had little to do in a Starbase. It gave some of the families a chance to be together. Engineering still had most of its personnel aboard, working to repair the warp nacelle. Worf was still on board, doing a full security sweep. Beverly Crusher was running some obscure experiment in sickbay and had declined shoreleave. Deanna had not made a decision, and Picard wondered if she was waiting for Riker to decide. Diverted by thoughts of their tangled relationship, Picard walked on, not realizing that he was passing transporter room 2. The door hissed open, and somebody came hurtling out.

Picard recoiled instinctively. He realized that the person was not a crewmember, but had time for no further thought, as the man threw himself on Picard. The captain went down, but managed to throw his attacker over his head, giving himself a momentary breathing space. Scrambling to his feet, he tapped his comm. badge. “Picard to security..” he began, then broke off to dodge another rush.

It was Satie, Picard realized, not surprised by the revelation. Who else would it be? Picard was a trained Starfleet officer, but Satie was nearly 30 years his junior, and several inches taller. That advantage began to work against Picard. He was thrown heavily against the bulkhead, and was winded. Satie bore down on him, throwing punches like a madman. Picard resisted, but too many blows were getting through his guard. Satie hit him full in the face, and Picard could feel blood running from his nose and mouth. Another punch broke through, and Picard went down. A boot kicked him hard in the stomach; once, then again and again. Picard blacked out.

*****

Worf pounded through the corridors, heading for Picard’s location. A phaser was in his hand, and he looked incredibly dangerous. Wheeling around the last turn, he skidded to a halt at the sight of his unconscious captain. Kneeling by Picard’s side, he checked his pulse, and was relieved to find it.

The door to the transporter room opened, and Worf swung his phaser up, prepared to fire. Chief O’Brien stood there, pale, holding his head. “Lieutenant! What’s happened? Where did..” he broke off as he saw Picard.

Worf rose to his feet. “Who did this?” he demanded, harshly.

O’Brien shook his head. “There was a call from the surface. An engineer coming across to help. It was really Satie!” O’Brien rubbed his head again. “He hit me, and when I fell, I hit my head on the console. Its been damaged.”

Worf gave O’Brien a look that made the chief shudder. “Take care of Captain Picard. I will find Satie.” With that he turned and raced back down the corridor.

*****

“Worf to Bridge.” Worf didn’t expect an answer, and therefore wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get one. “Computer, the location of Commander Riker.”

“Commander Riker is on the bridge,” the computer answered.

“Is he alone?” Worf panted. The turbolift was in front of him, and he dived in. “Bridge,” he ordered.

“Mr. Satie is with him,” the computer said, sending Worf’s anxiety spiraling.

*****

Beverly Crusher looked up in surprise as the door opened and O’Brien staggered in, supporting a semi-conscious Picard. Rushing over, Beverly laid Picard on a biobed and began examining him. “What happened?” she asked. O’Brien explained.

“Beverly,” Picard said, weakly. He tried to sit up, but was too weak. “The ship – is it moving?”

Beverly looked startled. She moved swiftly to look out of her office window, and saw that Picard had guessed correctly. “Yes, it is.” Picard was gasping. “You must rest, Jean-Luc. “

“No,” Picard whispered. “I must..” The effort was too much for him, and he sagged back, unconscious once more. Perplexed, Beverly exchanged glances with O’Brien. Neither knew what he was trying to say.

*****

Riker had been wandering about the bridge when the turbolift door had hissed open. Surprised, he turned, saw Satie and opened his mouth to speak. Satie raised the phaser he was carrying, and fired. Riker went down instantly. He awakened a few minutes later to find the phaser resting on the bridge of his nose. Sorting out his vision, Riker realized that the phaser was set to kill. Whatever Satie’s intentions were, he was deadly serious about them.

“You don’t say one word, Riker,” Satie warned. “Nothing at all. Now get to your feet and get this ship moving.” He backed off, but the phaser remained centered on Riker the whole time.

Riker slowly gathered himself together and rose. Satie obviously knew about the command code lockout, and Riker couldn’t figure out how to activate it without speaking. There was no other way. He walked over and sat at helm. His gaze was cold and hard, as he released the docking clamps and eased the ship forward on one-quarter impulse power. Instantly, the communications panel at ops began to chirp in protest. Satie ignored it. He stood behind Riker, about 2 feet away, near enough to counter any moves, but not so near that Riker had a chance to take him on. Riker’s face showed nothing, but inwardly, he seethed with frustration.

Free of the Starbase, Satie spoke again. “Set course for Starbase 173,” he ordered. He moved around to see Riker’s face, but was disappointed to see nothing register. As he glanced up, the turbolift door opened, and Worf stood there, phaser drawn.

Riker glanced round. “Worf! Look out!” he yelled, and Worf dodged back as deadly phaser fire shot into the lift. The doors hissed shut, and Riker realized that he didn’t know if Worf was alive or not. He had no further time to worry about it. Satie was thumbing his phaser control, and a beam of fire spat across Riker’s arm where it lay over the controls. The burn that followed it was agonizing. Dimly, Riker realized that Satie had reduced the setting to level four, thermal damage. As the pain radiated up his arm, Riker hoped that he had saved Worf’s life. If not, he had paid a high price for his warning.

Satie was laughing now, a sound that scraped along Riker’s nerves. “Well, Mr. Riker, did you really think I would kill you, when you are the only person around who can fly this ship? No such luck. “ He stopped laughing, dangerous again, and leaned in close. “Take heed,” he warned softly. “I won’t hesitate to fire again. And the next setting does more damage. Not another word from you.”

The pain was receding slightly. Riker’s arm lay useless in his lap. He would indeed take heed of Satie’s warning. Madmen had to be treated with respect when they were holding a phaser.

*****

Worf stumbled from the turbolift, and headed back to sickbay. If Riker hadn’t shouted, Worf would have been killed. It would not have been the glorious death that his Klingon soul desired, and Worf was grateful to Riker. He entered sickbay and Beverly looked up, surprised and concerned. “Worf! What happened?”

Worf told her hastily. “Worf to all senior staff on board,” he said, tapping his communicator. “Report to sickbay at once.”

A few moments later, Deanna Troi appeared, and was closely followed by Geordi and Data. They all looked perplexed. “What’s going on?” Geordi demanded. “Why have we left the Starbase?”

Worf began explaining again. Beverly, having heard it all, drifted back to Picard, who was stirring. He had broken several ribs, and was bruised, but everything was healing well. He sat up as Beverly approached. “Are we moving?” he asked.

Beverly nodded. Picard propped himself on one elbow. “Computer, stop the ship and lock out all command functions. Authority Picard Delta Three Two.”

“Command functions locked out,” the computer responded. “The ship is halted. Authority Picard Delta Three Two.”

Picard was panting. The senior staff were watching him now. “Computer, suspend all command privileges of Commander Riker.”

“Command privileges suspended.”

Picard looked at his staff. “I assume Commander Riker is either dead or a hostage.” It wasn’t quite a question.

Worf nodded. “Tony Satie has Commander Riker a hostage on the bridge. I made an attempt to rescue him, but failed.” The failure rankled in his voice.

Ignoring Beverly’s attempts to make him lie down, Picard sat up and swung his feet off the bed. “Counselor, can you sense anything from the bridge?”

Deanna lifted her head, her gaze seeming to turn inward. “They are both angry,” she reported. “But its too far away.”

Picard closed his eyes briefly for a moment, gathering his returning strength. “Mr. Worf, seal off the bridge. Chief, make sure none of the transporters can be used. Mr. LaForge, Mr. Data, close up the shuttlebays. Satie must not get off this ship!” The officers nodded, and headed out of sickbay to complete their tasks. Beverly was scanning Picard and frowning. Picard turned to her. “Beverly, give me something to help me through this. I don’t have time to lie here.”

Beverly saw that it was no use arguing with him, and simply nodded. She crossed the room and began to prepare a hypospray. Picard looked at Deanna. “You stay here with Dr. Crusher,” he ordered. “We will see that Will comes to no harm.”

Deanna’s beautiful eyes turned distant. “He’s already hurt,” she whispered. In the turmoil of her mind she sent out a silent call; imzadi. A reply came back, faint, but there. She was reassured. “But he is alive,” she finished, aloud.

Picard grasped her shoulder. “I mean to see that he stays that way.”

*****

Riker was relieved when the ship came to a halt, and all the consoles went dead. He hoped that it meant Picard was alive, although Data could also lockout the command functions. Satie was furious. “Get us going again!” he ordered.

Riker shrugged. Elaborately, he pressed the non-responsive pads in front of him, then shrugged again. He deliberately did not look at Satie. He felt Deanna’s mind touch his, and sent his thoughts winging towards her briefly, but he knew his attention had to be on Satie.

“Damn you, answer me! Why isn’t the ship moving?”

“The command functions are locked out,” Riker replied, with a calmness he didn’t feel.

“You have command rights,” Satie snarled. “Exercise them and get us moving again!”

“Computer, restore command functions, authority Riker Omega Four.”

“Request denied,” the computer responded. “All command privileges are suspended.”

Satie swore, his gaze bent on Riker. Riker tensed and held his breath. Looking like that, Satie might kill him any moment. But the boiling rage cooled slightly. “Well,” he said, almost to himself. “I may not be able to give them the Enterprise, but I can give them its first officer, and they can pick the schematics out of your brain.” He gestured with the phaser. “Get up, Riker. We’re going to need a shuttle with warp capabilities. And you are going to fly it for me.”

Riker rose warily to his feet, cradling his injured arm. Every move hurt. “Fly it yourself,” he retorted. “I’m not helping you out anymore.”

The answering phaser fire missed Riker’s leg by not more than a few inches. He felt the heat. “I’m not a pilot,” Satie admitted, and the admission cost him something. Riker didn’t know what, but it was in his face. “So unless you want to fly a shuttle with an injured leg as well, I suggest you do what I say.”

He herded Riker towards the turbolift. “The shuttlecraft will be out of action, too,” Riker said, unable to stop himself. “Captain Picard won’t leave anything to chance.”

Satie’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know Picard is alive?”

“Who do you think revoked my command privileges?” Riker asked, sarcastically. “Commander Data doesn’t have sufficient rank, and there’s no-one else who could do it.”

“Well,” Satie said, softly. They had reached the turbolift doors, but Satie didn’t seem to realize that they had failed to open on their approach. Riker kept silent. The bridge had been sealed. Satie suddenly woke up to reality. “What’s going on?” he gasped. “Why isn’t the door opening?” He grabbed Riker’s shoulder and swung him around, thrusting the phaser into his face. “Answer me, dammit!”

“The bridge has been sealed,” Riker replied. Satie, furious once more, gave Riker a vicious shove. Riker reeled back against the bulkhead, too late to catch himself. Pain from his arm flared up. He was barely able to prevent himself from falling.

Satie allowed him no time to recover. “I need to speak to your captain. How do I do that?”

Riker swallowed. “My comm badge.” He tapped the badge and nodded. He hoped Satie would draw nearer, but he didn’t. He simply raised his voice.

“Captain Picard? You’d better talk to me.”

“This is Picard.” The captain’s voice was as calm as ever. Riker, who didn’t know Picard had been injured, was relieved. Satie, who had a fair idea, looked disappointed. Beverly’s treatment was working perfectly. “What do you want?”

“I want off this bridge, that’s what I want. And if I don’t get it, you won’t have a first officer.”

“How do I know Commander Riker is alive?” Picard asked, his tone almost conversational.

Satie gestured with his phaser and Riker spoke. “Riker here, Sir.” Satie allowed him to say no more, over-riding whatever Riker had intended to say next. “He’s still in one piece, but I’m going to start carving off pieces of him if you don’t get the turbolift doors open. He knows I mean it, so hurry up!”

There was definite menace in that last statement, and Riker repressed a shudder. However, Picard had heard the threat, too, and said “Are you injured, Commander? Does Mr. Satie mean what he says?”

As unemotionally as he could, Riker said “Yes, Sir. He does mean it. He has already used his phaser on me.”

“Very well,” Picard said. “I’ll release the turbolift.” A moment later, the lift doors hissed open. Satie pushed Riker inside.

*****

Picard looked at his senior staff. “He must want a shuttlecraft,” he announced. “But we don’t want them to be able to leave the ship. Options?”

Geordi lifted his head. “We could rig a shuttle so that it only flies a short distance before the engines fail. Then we could use the tractor beam to get it back. Satie would have to give up Commander Riker, first though.”

“Mm.” Picard thought it through. “Assuming that he is willing to release Riker, that is a possibility. But realistically, I think it unlikely that he’ll be willing to do that. I have the feeling that Satie doesn’t know how to control either a starship or a shuttle.”

“Then we will have to rescue Commander Riker,” Worf stated. “If we follow Satie to the shuttlebay, we could stun Commander Riker, and force Satie to leave him behind.”

“Satie may not be willing to abandon Commander Riker, even if he is unconscious,” Data pointed out. “Especially if he is truly unable to pilot a shuttlecraft. He could simply decide to wait us out.”

“True,” Worf admitted. They looked at Picard.

“I think Mr. Worf is right,” Picard said. “If we stun Commander Riker heavily enough, then Satie may find that he is unable to get to a shuttle, or else, that he is trapped in the shuttle itself. The biggest danger, whatever we do, is that Satie will become so angry that he murders Commander Riker. Set your phasers on heavy stun, and be prepared.” He checked his own phaser. “Let’s go.”

*****

Satie prodded Riker along the corridor, obviously sure of where he was going. Riker offered nothing in the way of help when his captor hesitated. The phaser was digging into his ribs, and Satie had his finger on the trigger. If Riker tried to break away, Satie could easily fire a fatal burst before Riker could accomplish anything.

There were forcefields up in some of the corridors. Satie was increasingly frustrated as he was forced to take a roundabout route to the shuttlebays. Riker wondered what kind of plan the others had come up with.

He soon found out. O’Brien appeared round the corner and fired his phaser. It missed by a mile, but Satie sent an answering burst of fire back along the corridor. O’Brien dodged back just in time. Now Riker had an inkling of what was going on. There was going to be a running battle to the shuttlebay, and either he or Satie – or both – would be stunned. That was the hope, anyway. Riker suspected that O’Brien was simply a diversion, as he was not renown for being the best shot on board.

Satie was cursing, meanwhile. He released his grip on Riker long enough to tap his comm badge. “Picard!” There was no answer. “Picard, I know you can hear me! Any more stunts like that, and I’ll kill the next person I see.” There was no response. With a savage curse, Satie pushed Riker forward. “You’d better hope that none of your friends is stupid enough to try that again!” he warned.

*****

Picard waited patiently for Satie to come nearer the shuttlebay. The forcefields had slowed him down, allowing Picard and Worf to get there before him. Now all they had to do was wait. He had not responded to Satie in the hope that he would get rattled. Geordi and Data were waiting in the control room of the shuttlebay, and O’Brien was now releasing the transporter lockout, and standing by to retrieve Commander Riker. They judged it had to be done once the shuttle was moving, when Satie had relaxed slightly. Before that, Riker could end up dead.

Picard felt his muscles shaking, and hoped that the stimulant wouldn’t wear off too soon. Adrenaline would help, when the action started, he supposed. Worf glanced across at Picard, his dark gaze steady and reassuring. Worf’s personal loyalty to Picard and Riker was a comfort in a tight spot. Picard nodded slightly, telling Worf that he was ready, and all right. They stood, maintaining silence, straining their ears for sounds of approach.

Worf heard it first. His stance became more alert, and he glanced at Picard, then gestured with his phaser. From his hiding place, Picard saw Satie and Riker coming towards them. Satie was sweating, his eyes glittering. Riker was pale, still cradling his injured arm. The sight of the injury caused Picard to catch his breath. It looked terrible. He hastily glanced down at his phaser and adjusted it to light stun. Riker would not have the stamina to deal with anything heavier. Worf watched, then followed suit.

Satie grew wary as he neared the shuttlebay doors. He put his back to the wall, and swung Riker in front of him as a shield. Picard ground his teeth in frustration. He shot a glance at Worf, and the Klingon nodded.

With a blood-curdling yell, the Klingon leapt from his hiding place, firing a blast at the men before falling to the floor and rolling away. Satie fired back, but the Klingon was too quick. Worf fired again, at exactly the same moment that Picard dodged out and fired as well. Riker was caught in the crossfire, and sagged unconscious.

Satie let out a yell of frustration, firing wildly all around, while trying to support Riker’s weight. He succeeded in forcing Picard and Worf into cover, and that allowed him to time drag Riker the remaining few yards to the door, and get inside. Then, he fired at the door controls, and fused them.

Up in the control room, Data and Geordi watched cautiously. Data moved fractionally closer to Geordi and whispered “The shuttle is primed to fail two minutes after take off. Until then, there is nothing we can do.”

Geordi nodded, careful to keep down so that the light would not reflect off his VISOR. He glanced at the sensor scans for the area, and frowned. “Data,” he whispered. “Look!”

Data glanced over, and his golden eyes opened wider. Gingerly, he touched his comm badge. “Data to Captain Picard. Please do not respond, sir, but the sensors are detecting the presence of a Romulan ship entering this sector. It is not cloaked, and it has the shields up.”

In the corridor, where Worf was trying to over-ride the damaged controls, Picard looked startled. “Mr. Worf, get to the bridge. Get the shields up. Counselor Troi, report to the bridge immediately.”

Worf was already running towards the turbolift. Deanna Troi was a bridge officer, and between them, they should be able to hold off the Romulans. Picard had to stay here and co-ordinate Riker’s rescue, at least for now. He swiftly unlocked the control functions, and began working on the door himself.

*****

Satie dragged Riker into the shuttle, and the doors closed behind him. Breathing heavily, Satie leaned on the wall until he caught his breath, then looked down on his unconscious prisoner. Another wave of anger swept him, and he kicked Riker heavily. Riker didn’t even twitch. Satie looked at the controls, then shook his head. He had entered Starfleet Academy, having gained entry solely because of his aunt. But his academic studies were poor, and after he almost killed another student in a quarrel, he was invited to leave. It was a humiliation for him, as he was the only Satie not to enter the Academy on his own merits, and the only one to be thrown out. Then had come that dreadful episode with his aunt, on board this very ship. That was when Satie had conceived the plan to hand the Enterprise over to the Romulans. He had not been working alone. A young ensign, newly transferred to Enterprise’s engineering section, had planted the explosives. Calloway had been a friend of Satie’s at the Academy. Calloway had not been caught.

Bending over Riker, Satie grabbed the front of his uniform and pulled him off the deck. Holstering his phaser, he slapped Riker’s face, back and forth, until the Commander began to stir. Riker groaned a few times, his eyes still shut. What Satie did not realize was that Riker had come round a few moments before, and had lain still, waiting for an opportunity like this. With unexpected speed, he threw a punch at Satie, which caught him full in the face.

It was a vicious struggle. Riker was already hurt, and was hampered by it. Satie was mad enough to kill. Riker had to prevent Satie reaching his phaser. For several long minutes, they fought back and forth, but Riker’s weakness began to tell. Satie thrust him back across the shuttle, and drew the phaser. Riker dived desperately to one side, but the phaser caught his leg and left a dreadful burn. It also set fire to one of the command chairs.

Automatic fire extinguishers were triggered, but their noise startled Satie, and he fired at them. This time, he hit the shuttle’s controls, which exploded in a shower of deadly sparks. The inside of the shuttle was suddenly ablaze.

Riker was barely conscious. He tapped his comm badge. “Get me out of here, quick,” he yelled.

*****

The bridge was strangely quiet without its full complement of officers. Deanna sat in the command chair, and Worf took up his post at tactical. The controls were free, and he swiftly put up the shields. He looked down on Deanna. “We need somebody in engineering to divert power, if it should become necessary,” he suggested.

“Agreed,” Deanna said, and listened while Worf spoke with Ensign Calloway, who agreed to go to engineering and stand by. “Open hailing frequencies,” Deanna ordered, quietly.

There was a musical sound, and Worf said, “Frequencies open.”

Deanna took a deep breath and rose to her feet. “Romulan vessel, this is the USS Enterprise. Please state your reasons for being so far from Romulan territory.”

There was no answer. Deanna exchanged looks with Worf. She drew herself up to her full height. “Romulan vessel, please respond, or we shall take it that you are hostile, and deal with you in that manner.” She waited, and again there was silence. Wondering what else she could say, Deanna opened her mouth. She was forestalled.

The view screen flashed on, and the inside of a Romulan ship was visible. The Commander gave her an obsequious smile. “I am Commander Marlock. How may I help you?”

Deanna forced herself to stay calm. “I am Commander Troi,” she replied. “What are you doing in Federation space, with your shields up? That could be considered an act of war.”

“Oh, come, Commander. We are not that far from the neutral zone. We must have got lost.” Marlock gave her another false smile.

“Commander,” Deanna said, “You should know that I am a Betazed. I can sense that you are lying. If I don’t hear the truth from you in a very few moments, then I will assume that you are here to cause trouble, and will deal with you accordingly. Mr. Worf, ready your phasers.”

“Phasers ready, Commander,” Worf replied. He could barely keep from snarling at the screen. His hatred for Romulans was legendary, following the death of his parents at Khitomer. The feeling was entirely mutual, he knew. Romulans thought of Klingons as dogs, fit only to be destroyed. It made for an uneasy mix.

But Marlock, inexplicably, ignored Worf’s presence. “Commander, I am not here to cause war,” he said, sounding more sincere. “I am here simply to collect a visitor who wishes to visit Romulus.”

“A Federation visitor?” Deanna inquired. “Surely you know that its illegal for Federation citizens to visit Romulus?”

Marlock smiled, and Deanna felt that it was a growl barely converted. “I did not say what kind of visitor,” Marlock countered.

Deanna had had enough of the games playing. “I’m afraid that Mr. Satie is not going to be traveling with you,” she reported. “He is somewhat busy talking to the authorities on Starbase 24. He could be there for quite a long time. And then he’ll be living somewhere very secure.”

Marlock’s face didn’t betray anything, but Deanna sensed that he was shaken by her use of Satie’s name. How she wished Picard was here to take on this man. Her palms were sweating, but, with iron discipline, she did not wipe them on her uniform. “Is there any further way I can help you?” Deanna inquired. “Perhaps an escort back to the border of the Neutral Zone?”

“No, thank you.” The connection was broken. Deanna sat down, and wiped her hands. She glanced up at Worf. “What do you think?”

“I think I will keep the phasers on line, until we are sure that they have gone,” Worf answered. “You handled that very well, Counselor.”

“Thank you, Mr. Worf.” Deanna replied, and leaned back weakly.

*****

The shimmer of the transporter surrounded both Riker and Satie, and they rematerialised in the transporter room. O’Brien was ready with his phaser, and stunned Satie before he could move. “Mission accomplished, Sir,” he reported. “I have them both. Medical emergency, transferring Commander Riker directly to sickbay.” He dragged Satie off the platform, transported Riker, then got Satie back on the platform and transported him straight to the brig. That done, he heaved a long sigh. It was over.

Picard thought so, too, as he made his way wearily back towards sickbay. He walked straight over to a biobed and lay down on it, before Beverly had to tell him to do so. “I could sleep for a month,” he commented. Beverly gave him a grin, and he found himself smiling back. “All right,” he conceded. “Perhaps not a month.”

He sat up as Data and Geordi entered. Data began talking immediately. “The interior of the shuttlecraft was badly damaged, but is salvageable. Chief O’Brien successfully transported Satie to the brig. Counselor Troi and Lieutenant Worf are standing by in case the Romulan Warbird returns.”

Picard nodded. “Thank you Mr. Data. Please go to the bridge and assume command of the ship until further notice.” The android nodded and left. Geordi looked at Picard. “Well, I’ll head back to engineering, and relieve Ensign Calloway.”

“Once we have made sure that the Romulans are gone, we’ll be heading back to Starbase 24,” Picard informed him.

“Aye, Sir,” Geordi said, and exited.

Picard looked across to where Beverly was working on Riker. His first officer was lying deathly still, with his eyes shut. His arm and leg were both burnt, and Beverly was working on them both. She also had out her ‘bone-knitter’, and was directing its use on Riker’s side and arm. “How is he, Doctor?” Picard asked.

“He’ll be fine, given a little time. His arm is burned and fractured. His leg isn’t quite as bad as his arm, but not much better. He also has a broken rib, and severe bruising in that area. I suspect that Satie used his boot. But like I say, given time, he’ll be fine.” She looked at him. “You really do look as though you need to sleep. Your ribs haven’t had that much time to heal.”

Picard rubbed his eyes wearily, and got to his feet. “I know, Beverly, but there are still things I need to do. Once we’re back at Starbase 24, I’ll sleep, I promise.” He gave her a small smile, and left sickbay. Beverly watched him go and shook her head ruefully. She turned her attention back to Commander Riker.

*****

Geordi walked into engineering and automatically glanced at the readouts surrounding him. Everything seemed fine. “Calloway?” Geordi called.

Calloway’s curly hair emerged from a side room and he grinned at Geordi. “Everything back to normal, Commander?” he asked

“Looks that way,” Geordi responded. “How was everything down here? Any problems?”

“No, everything checks out, except warp drive, of course.”

Geordi frowned. Calloway’s body language was totally relaxed, as it should be, but Geordi’s VISOR was showing him more than simply body language. It showed him temperature and heart rate, and Calloway’s were way above normal. Calloway was lying about something, but what? Geordi could hear alarm bells ringing, but rather than let Calloway realize that, he moved to look at a readout. “Well, I’m glad to hear that,” he said, casually. “Well done.” He tapped at a pad, and a new set of figures came up.

Calloway acted with frightening speed. The wrench he had in his hand lifted and crashed down on Geordi’s head. The chief engineer crashed to the floor, his VISOR spinning off to end up a few feet away. Geordi was still. Calloway looked down at his boss, and grinned. Geordi had been about to read the figures that would have shown him that the impulse engines were about to go off-line. That would have really given the game away.

Leaving Geordi lying, bleeding, Calloway crossed to another terminal and began sending out a code. It was very short, only lasting a couple of seconds. It was all the Romulans would need to return and claim the Enterprise.

*****

Picard entered the bridge, pleasantly surprised to find both helm and ops manned. Data immediately relinquished the command chair, and took his place at ops. Worf was at tactical, and Deanna was in her usual place at Picard’s left hand. “Status, Mr. Data?”

“The Romulans have cloaked their ship, and consequently, we can no longer track them,” Data said. “The last known heading of the Warbird was the Neutral Zone. They would have arrived there two minutes and three seconds ago.”

Picard grunted. “Assuming that they continued on their previous heading,” he commented. “Keep on this heading for another half an hour, and then we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and go home.”

“Aye, Sir,” Data acknowledged. He turned to his panel.

“Mr. Worf?” Picard questioned.

“Satie is in the brig under close guard,” Worf reported. “If you wish, I will go there myself, but until the situation here was clear, I thought it prudent to stay at my post.”

“Quite right,” Picard approved. He turned to Deanna, knowing she would be anxious. “Commander Riker will be fine,” he reported. “His injuries are not too serious, and not nearly as bad as we had feared.”

Deanna smiled at him. Data spoke before she could, however. “Captain, I am getting a signal pattern repeating every twenty seconds, lasting three seconds.”

“Origin?” Picard asked, getting to his feet.

“Somewhere within this ship,” Data reported. “I am unable to pinpoint it exactly.”

Picard frowned. He resisted the urge to look over Data’s shoulder. “Shields up,” he said. “Let’s not be caught on the hop.” He crossed back to his chair and sat, consciously trying not to sigh.

“Shields are up,” Worf confirmed. “Phasers armed and ready.”

There was an insistent peeping from ops. Data frowned, and pressed a few pads. “Captain, the impulse engines have gone offline.”

“Bridge to engineering. What’s going on, Mr. LaForge?”

Silence. Picard tried again. Still nothing. “Computer, locate Commander LaForge.”

“Commander LaForge is in engineering,” the computer said, calmly.

Data had turned from ops. “I shall go, Captain,” he offered, knowing that Picard would want Worf at tactical if there was trouble.

“Very well.” Data nodded, and left the bridge.

*****

Calloway crouched tensely behind the warp core and hoped that Data didn’t spot him. His comm badge lay on the floor a few feet away from LaForge. Without it, the computer couldn’t trace him through the ship.

Data entered, saw Geordi and hurried to his side. At first glance, he’d feared his friend was dead, but then saw his breathing, which was shallow and quick. Data immediately saw what needed to be done. He laid Geordi’s VIOSR on top of his body. “Medical emergency, transport Commander LaForge direct to sickbay.” There was an answering shimmer, and the only thing left was a large pool of blood on the deck.

Data went to the panels and began scanning the readouts at high speed. His hands began moving rapidly over the pads, entering commands, and crossing output to different channels, in the hope of getting the ship moving. He was so busy, he failed to notice Calloway slipping out of engineering.

Several minutes later, the impulse engines were back on line, but with their power down to nearly 60%. It was only then that he spotted the comm badge, and picked it up. He first thought it was Geordi’s, but then remembered that Ensign Calloway had been on duty in engineering during the crisis. “Computer, locate Ensign Calloway.”

“Ensign Calloway is in Engineering.”

Concerned that the young man might be lying injured, Data did a swift search. When he did not come to light, Data realized that Calloway was in on this. “Data to bridge,” he began.

*****

Riker drifted slowly back to consciousness. He was warm and comfortable, and he could vaguely hear voices. That reassured him, and he drifted in and out of sleep for several minutes before he remembered what had happened. Still lying with his eyes shut, more asleep than awake, Riker realized that it was Beverly’s voice he was hearing, and it sounded stressed. With a lot of effort, he opened his eyes.

The light seemed incredibly bright, and it took time to sort out his focus. The edges of his vision were fuzzy, and his brain seemed to be stuck in second gear. Gradually, he realized that it was probably an after effect of the double stun from the phaser fire. He had been too busy fighting for his life in the shuttle to notice it. Propping himself up on one elbow, he squinted across the room.

Geordi was on the examination table, and Beverly was operating on his head. Riker blinked, sure that this was all a figment of his concussion. But the scene was still there after he’d shaken his head, and Riker felt his stomach drop away in horror.

Beverly glanced up and saw Riker. She nodded at her nurse, who crossed to Riker’s side and tried to make him lie down. She was small and slight, and Riker barely noticed her. “Stasis field!” Beverly snapped, and Riker suddenly found himself flat on his back, unable to get up. A moment later, a hypospray was pressed to his neck, and he was drifting off, helplessly.

When he came round again a little while later, Beverly was at his side. “Will, listen to me, before you try to move.” He nodded, swallowing against the dryness in his mouth. “You are quite badly hurt. Your arm is broken, and both it and your leg are burned. The burns are healing, but I can’t mend your arm until the burn is gone. Do you understand?” She saw comprehension in his eyes. “Your system is weakened, and you’ve got to take things slowly. Now, I’ll take down the stasis field if you promise me you’ll be still.”

“Okay,” Riker croaked, and Beverly pressed the necessary pads to release him. He gingerly eased his muscles, and gasped at the stabs of pain. Beverly pressed a hypo against his arm, and the pain began to subside. “What’s happened to Geordi?” he asked, craning his neck to see his friend.

“Its not as bad as it looks,” Beverly said. “A fractured skull, and a bad head wound, but he’ll be fine.” Beverly put up her hand to forestall any more questions. “If you want to sit up, let me put your arm in a sling first, but don’t move about too much.” With her usual quiet efficiency, Beverly bound his arm across his chest, and tied the sling at the back of his neck. Giving him a smile, she headed towards her office.

Riker sat quietly, letting everything settle. His brain began to clear, and several thoughts occurred to him. Geordi had not been injured in the course of normal duty, even though Beverly had not said that. Therefore, there was a traitor aboard. This person presumably had contact with the Romulans. If Captain Picard didn’t know about this, the ship could be in danger. Riker looked around for his comm badge, but couldn’t see it. His uniform was gone, and he wore standard issue sickbay pajamas. Riker did not know who the traitor was, but he knew that he had to warn Picard.

He got carefully to his feet, and walked quietly over to Geordi’s side and looked down on his friend. Beverly appeared and watched for a moment. “Back to bed, Will,” she said.

He turned obediently, and began to limp across the room. Beverly vanished back to her office. Without missing a beat, Riker changed direction and left sickbay by the other door. He had no illusions about what would happen if – when – Beverly caught him. But in the meantime, he had to help.

Going first to his quarters, he struggled into a uniform, leaving his empty sleeve hanging, his arm still securely supported inside the sling, and armed himself. He felt terrible. Sweat beaded his upper lip and trickled into his beard. Had Riker been thinking clearly, he would have stayed in sickbay. But the after effects of the double stun were clouding his judgment.

The corridors were quiet. Red Alert silently flashed. As Riker headed for the bridge, the ship suddenly lurched. Riker barely managed to catch himself. They were under attack! It had to be from the Romulans. Riker tried to increase his pace, but the pain in his leg kept coming in waves, and in truth, he was limping very slowly.

There was furtive movement from further along the corridor. Riker squinted, wiping the sweat from his eyes with a shaking hand. A door hissed shut, and Riker instinctively followed the sound. It was a cargo hold. Riker puzzled over this for several moments before remembering that this cargo hold had a transporter pad. Drawing his phaser, Riker entered.

*****

Beverly finished her reports and leaned back. She was exhausted, but couldn’t leave sickbay. There was no other doctor on board, and Picard had warned her that there might well be fighting, if the Romulans decided to try treachery. The ship gave a sudden lurch, and Beverly guessed that the Romulans were indeed back. She rose to her feet and went quietly into sickbay to reassure Riker that he wasn’t needed on the bridge. For several moments she gazed at his empty biobed, unable to believe her eyes. She glanced over at Geordi, who still slept after his recent surgery, then ran back to her office.

“Computer, locate Commander Riker.”

“Commander Riker is in sickbay,” the computer responded. Beverly cursed. Riker’s comm badge had been lying beside him, but could have been knocked to the floor. He obviously wasn’t wearing it now. Beverly ran her hand through her hair. She could hardly bother Picard at a moment like this. “Damn the man,” She cursed. She would have to go and look for him herself. It was her own fault for not leaving him in stasis. As she entered sickbay, Geordi stirred. Beverly went straight to him. Riker would have to take his chances for a few minutes.

*****

Picard hung on to the arms of his chair as the Romulan ship swept in for another attack. The attack had come without warning, and Picard was glad that his shields had already been up. Data had stayed in engineering to deal with any crisis that arose. Worf was at tactical, and security teams were on the hunt for Calloway. With half the ship’s complement stuck on Starbase 24, things were going to be pretty hairy. “Shields are down to 70%, “ Worf said.

“Mr. Data, more power to the shields,” Picard ordered.

“I shall try, Captain,” Data responded. “Ensign Calloway appears to have been busy, and shield power is being diverted along several time wasting circuits.”

“Do your best. Picard out.” It never failed to amaze Picard that Data could still use twenty words when one would suffice. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ seemed to be beyond him.

There was another enormous blast from the Romulans. “Forward shields are down,” Worf reported. “They are coming back on line slowly.” There was a chime from his panel. “Captain, we have been boarded!”

Picard came to his feet. “Computer lockout command functions. Authorize Picard Omega Two Delta.” All the screens went dark. “Picard to sickbay. Seal your doors, we have been boarded.”

“Aye, Captain. Commander Riker has disappeared, too.”

Picard heard Deanna gasp. “Well, there isn’t much I can do right now, Doctor,” Picard answered. “Picard out.” He looked at Deanna. “I hope he hasn’t done anything stupid.”

*****

Riker fired the moment he saw Calloway’s back. He had no idea which crewman it was, but they had no right to be working the transporter at a time like this. Calloway went down, and Riker turned his attention to the developing shimmer on the pad. He was becoming groggier with every passing minute, but realized that there was no time to reverse the transport. His eye fell on the containment pad, and he hit it. Nothing happened.

The Romulans were already beginning to move off the pad, looking at Riker with amazement in their eyes. They all had their disrupters drawn, but none were raised. Riker’s arm hung below the level of the console, and he grinned quickly, as though in welcome, while desperately thumbing his phaser.

The Romulan commander narrowed his eyes. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m your welcome,” Riker responded, and whipped up his phaser. He had set it to heavy stun, wide angle, but knew he was unlikely to get all the Romulans in one shot. Three of the six went down, and Riker barely managed to dive to safety before the others opened fire.

The firing was enough to tell the Captain and the rest of the crew where the enemy had boarded. Security teams began pouring into the cargo bay within moments. Riker lay helplessly on the floor, pinned down, in dire danger of being struck by friendly fire, as well as enemy disrupters.

The Romulans were not unaware of his plight, either. They tried to edge nearer, aiming shots at his meager cover. Riker drew himself into a ball. The disrupters were set to kill, but even another blast from a phaser would do him no favors.

Calloway began to groan, and Riker suddenly realized that Calloway was a threat to his safety, too. He raised himself up and fired his phaser again. Calloway subsided. A disrupter blast hit the console beside Riker’s head, and a fragment flew off. It struck Riker a glancing blow, but in his weakened condition, it was enough. Riker fell back, unconscious.

*****

Worf barreled into the cargo hold and took in the scene with a glance. He dived to one side as a stream of fire was aimed at him. He rose to his knees and shot back. By now, the superiority of numbers of Starfleet officers was telling. A few minutes later, the last Romulan was stretched out on the floor.

Picard came into the hold. One security guard had been killed. Several more had minor injuries. Calloway was out cold, and so was Riker. “Picard to sickbay. Medical team to cargo bay 2.” He crossed to the console, and released the command functions. “Romulan vessel, this is the Enterprise. We have your boarding party, power down your weapons and return to Romulan space. Any further acts of aggression will result in war with the Federation.”

There was no immediate response, then the young ensign at the helm reported that the Warbird was retreating. Satisfied, Picard turned his attention to clearing up the mess in the hold. Worf’s security teams were scraping the Romulans off the floor, and Worf himself was dealing with Calloway. Riker lay unconscious, still, and Picard could see his head was bleeding. Kneeling by his side, Picard felt for his pulse. It was slow, but steady.

Beverly entered, bringing with her an anti-grav stretcher. She crossed to Riker, and with help from her nurses, loaded him onto it, and left again. The other injuries trailed after her. “Bridge to Captain Picard,”

“Picard here. Go ahead, Counselor.”

“The USS Yorktown has just come within hailing distance. They were sent after us, and are going on after the Romulans.”

“Very good, Counselor. Set course back to Starbase 24, as fast as we can go.”

*****

The Yorktown caught up with the Enterprise before it reached Starbase 24. It reported that there had been no sighting of the Romulan ship, but a debris field they had come across matched the materials of a Warbird. The guessed that they had self-destructed rather than go back to Romulus. The Yorktown beamed across several members of its medical team to help Beverly, and followed the Enterprise in.

Beverly was overworked before the Yorktown contingent arrived. Riker had gone into shock, and then began to run a high fever. Nothing Beverly did would reduce his fever, and she watched helplessly as he tossed and turned in his delirium. Other casualties had to take their turn when a relief arrived, as Beverly was afraid to leave Riker. On their arrival at Starbase 24, Beverly refused to let Riker be transported across to their medical facility, as she was afraid that he wouldn’t survive. Normally a strong, healthy man, Riker’s system had simply been overloaded. The burn on his arm had become infected, and the infection was sapping his already dwindling strength. Both Picard and Deanna were summoned when Beverly thought she could do no more for him, and he seemed likely to die. But his fever broke shortly after they arrived at his bedside, and that proved to be the turning point. Although very weak, Riker was on the road to recovery. Beverly at last gave in to her staff’s request, and fell into bed, exhausted.

When Beverly next saw Riker, he was sitting up, grinning weakly, looking like his own ghost, but definitely on the road to recovery. Geordi was discharged from sickbay, and warned not to work too hard. Riker would be there for several more days at least. His escapade with the Romulans had aggravated his injuries, and he was confined to bed.

The crew of the Enterprise was back on board, and repairs to the warp nacelle were getting under way again. Picard had slept for a straight 24 hours and at last felt as though he were human again. He went to visit Riker, and found several of the senior staff there as well.

Riker was obviously feeling better, as he was ending a highly dramatized account of his fight with the Romulans, mostly for Deanna’s benefit, Picard suspected. Worf was looking as uncomfortable as he normally did when on a social visit, but it was a testament to his friendship with Riker that he was there at all. Geordi was there, allowing Beverly to check him over, to be sure he was following doctor’s orders.

Picard smiled as a general greeting. “Glad to see you looking better, Number One. You had us worried there for a while.” Picard said no more of that. “I believe that Starfleet are going to give you a commendation for your actions.”

Riker pulled a face. “I didn’t know Starfleet handed out commendations for stupidity,” he commented, wryly.

“Nor did I,” Picard responded. “I’m glad that you have already been told. Its so embarrassing, otherwise.”

Having achieved the last word so easily, Picard turned on his heel and left. The others stared after him, then glanced at Riker. He was grinning widely, and they all burst out laughing.

*****End*****

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