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Time Times Three

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“Careful of where you are putting your feet Geordi, the crash landing rendered this particular area of the building inherently unsafe,” Lt Commander Data said picking his way carefully through the rubble strewn floor of what looked to have been a warehouse of some sort, long since abandoned.

“Relax Data, I’m being super careful,” Geordi replied, from the other side of the hallway, using his visor to scan the area around him.  “I’m detecting a couple of faint heat sources 150 metres south, south west of my current position.  One much fainter than the other - could be a body.”

Data obligingly swung his tricorder to the right of him, triangulating his search from Geordi’s given position.  “I am picking up faint life signs,” he agreed.

“Life signs?  Are you sure?”  Commander Riker, the third member of the away team asked.  He had entered the building from the rear, after a falling timber blocked the entrance Data and Geordi used.

“Yes Commander, I am sure,” Data confirmed.

“I’m definitely seeing something too,” Geordi added.  “Although from the steep trajectory of the life pod as it entered the atmosphere I would have thought it was impossible.”

Unseen Commander William Riker nodded.  He had privately thought this mission a waste of time after seeing the escape pod glow white hot to the point where the nose cone seemed to melt as it knifed through the atmosphere.

“I wonder where they came from?”  Geordi mused, still walking forward.

Before Riker or Data could reply, a shudder raced through the building.  The away team instinctively ducking at the sound of creaking timbers and cracking concrete, a heavy scatter of debris and other rubble rained down, filling the air with thick particles of dust.

“I suggest we leave speculation until we’re back on board,” Riker suggested, hastily backing away from a hole, which had appeared near his feet.  “This whole building could collapse at any moment.”

Resuming his search, Data strong-armed a beam, which had fallen directly in front of him and ducked beneath another.  Metres away from the Lt Commander, Geordi climbed a newly formed pile of rubble that offered no real foothold, using his hands to stabilise his decent.

“I see it.  I can see the escape pod,” Geordi cried a moment later, sliding down a pile of bricks surrounding the vehicle.  “Most of the aft section appears to be completely buried by the building.  From what I can see of it, I don’t recognise the design.  It appears triangular and… wow, it’s still warm to the touch.  No sign of radiation or particle emissions.  As you would expect there’s lots of damage, much of the building has collapsed on it.  I can’t do much from here; I’ll need to make my way round to the other side.”

“Can you see the occupant?”  Riker demanded.  “I can’t get through to you from this side; I’m going to try another avenue.  Another shower of stones, dust, and rubble greeted his statement.  “We can’t stay here much longer.”

“No I’m afraid not Commander, as I said the damage is too extensive.”

Data pushed through another crawl space, and caught sight of the silver pod for the first time.  “Geordi, from my current position I can see you and one of the occupants,” he stated.  “There is no movement, but there is faint life signs.  I cannot get to you just yet however, my way is blocked by a steel girder of some sort, I am attempting to force my way through.”

“Careful Data,” Geordi commented, climbing and slipping round to the other side of the escape pod.  “I can see him too.  Hang on.”

Reaching the prone victim Geordi searched for a pulse.  “He’s male, Human or humanoid.  Alive, but unconscious, breathing rapid but shallow, one of his legs and one arm are at a funny angle, definitely broken,” he said surveying the slim dark haired man in front of him, half in half out of the escape pod.  It looked as if the occupant had pushed the escape hatch open, and then collapsed.  “No uniform or any insignia.”

“Is there anyone else?”  Riker suggested, still trying to find a way through the rubble.

“Not that I can see Commander.  “It’s definitely an escape pod, designed for a single occupant, the only other thing I can inside see is a metal storage box.  A couple of feet long, a fraction less wide, and half that high, with a carrying handle.”

The building creaked again, causing more rubble and dust to fall just as Data reached the crashed craft.  “We do not have long,” he warned, sweeping his tricorder over the unconscious victim.  “The survivor looks to have a few internal injuries too; we need leave as soon as possible.”

Activating his combadge Riker spoke to the Enterprise.  “Riker to bridge.  We have found one occupant of the escape pod.  Male, unconscious but alive, in need of urgent medical attention; the only thing he has with him is a metal box.”

“Any indication where he came from?”  Picard queried, answering the call.  “We have scanned the area, but other than the temporal anomaly we detected earlier there are no signs of any space craft.”

“No Captain.  He’s not in any kind of uniform and there is no insignia.”  Geordi added.

Lifting the storage box out of the way by its handle, Data peered into the cockpit.  “Limited controls, simple vector and speed indicators.  Friction breaks, a homing signal beacon, which is no longer active.  No indication of...”

The warehouse gave an ominous rumble, metal groaning loudly.

“Finish your report on-board Lt Commander.”  Picard advised.  “Transporter room stand by.  Sick bay, Dr Crusher your services will be needed.”

“Riker to Enterprise four to beam up.”

“Acknowledged Commander.”

Bending down beside the survivor Geordi felt the tingle of the transport beam take him, just as a deafening cracking sound came from above, as what was left of the warehouse ceiling started to tumble down around them.  Ducking to protect the survivor, Geordi drew a breath, coughing as the transporter beam released him back on the ship.  “Boy, that was close”, he said straightening.

Data stepped down from the transporter pad carrying the storage box, just as the transporter doors whooshed open to admit Beverly Crusher and an orderly with a gurney.  “The Captain said I had a patient?”

“Yes, over here doctor,” Geordi confirmed, “Commander I had a thought about pinpointing the origin of the escape bod by reversing the trajectory, what do you think?” he asked turning to Riker, however, the First Officer was not standing beside him, as he should have been.  “Where’s Commander Riker?”

All activity in the transporter room stopped for a split second.

“Has anyone seen Commander Riker since we beamed aboard?”  Data asked, taking command immediately.

“You know I haven’t,” Geordi acknowledged.

“Neither have I,” Data confirmed, crossing the room quickly.  Putting the case he’d been carrying down, he addressed the transporter operator.  “Lieutenant, please confirm that you transported four individuals aboard.”

“I had a lock on you all,” the duty officer said quickly checking through the settings on his console.

“That is not what I asked.”

Geordi joined Data at the transporter console, the man they’d rescued forgotten as he walked across the room.  “Is the Commander in the pattern buffer?”

“I can try again sir,” the duty officer said activating the controls once more.

Nothing happened.

“Power fluctuations?”

“No sir, green lights across the board.”

“There were no energy readings from the life capsule, I checked myself before I approached,” Geordi told Data.

Data nodded briskly and tapped his combadge.  “Data to bridge.  Commander Riker has not beamed aboard with the rest of the party, are you able to raise him from the bridge?”

 

Struck on the head by a glancing blow, the First Officer had acted on pure instinct, diving through the broken window to his left as the building completely collapsed above him, dust, debris and glass raining over a wide area as the warehouse fell with a concussive boom.

Riker half rolled, have stumbled to a stop behind a stack of disused cates, and various flora, his ears ringing from the force of the blow to his head, feeling dizzy and disorientated with a monumental headache.  Moments later an arrow landed close to his right foot, burying itself in the dirt.  “What the hell?” he exclaimed, shaking his head to clear his vision as he reached for his combadge.  “Riker to Enterprise,” he said in a fierce whisper.  “I’m not sure what happened, but I could really do with that teleport right now.”

There was no reply, just a dead-toned chirp of the combadge.

Undaunted Riker tried again as he reached across his right hip for his phaser, which wasn’t there, his fingers brushing up against an empty holster.  “Riker to Enterprise, come in Enterprise,” the Commander tried again, fighting the urge to do more than just stare incredulously as a second arrow missed his nose by a few centimetres and a third hit his makeshift hideout with a thud.  “If you can hear this, I’m under fire, lost my weapon and I’m pinned down some 300 metres behind the building the life capsule demolished.  I need immediate beam out.”

Another arrow dug into the dirt by Riker’s right foot, followed by a rock.

There came a war cry from somewhere just beyond the ruined warehouse as several figures immerged dressed in some kind of leather and metal armour, bows already nocked with arrows, spears being held high as they charged his position.

An arrow launched in their direction from behind Riker, followed in quick succession by two more, both hitting and dropping their targets with dull thuds and flurry of dust.

“Quickly now, follow me if you want to live,” a female voice said from just behind his right ear as a slight dark skinned young woman with short hair, impossibly wearing a white toga suggested popping up beside him.

Riker drew a breath, “Not that I’m not grateful or anything, and I am, but who are you and where on earth did you come from?” he asked turning towards her.

The young woman regarded him with lively curiosity.  “You’ve hit your head, probably have concussion,” she announced.  “There’ll be time enough for questions later.  Come now.”  With that, she ducked round a pile of crates and rubble and started running directly towards another derelict building a couple of hundred metres away.

A further rock and now a spear embedding itself in the makeshift barrier behind which Riker was hiding decided the First Officer.  Head pounding Riker had no choice but to scramble to his feet and run after his would-be rescuer.  He’d been unable to reach the Enterprise and while he knew it was likely that the Captain would send down a search party to rescue him; he just needed to stay alive until then.

The young woman was as fast as a hare, already running lightly through the building she’d just entered, and out the other side into a courtyard area, paved with flagstones and overgrown vegetation.  Riker’s boots slapped hard on the ground, echoing round them as he followed her.

“You make too much noise!  Quickly now,” the young woman urged, making straight for the far corner of the enclosed space.  She knelt down to lift, what at first glance, appeared to be a manhole cover, but was actually an air lock hatch.

Panting Riker skidded to a stop.  “The sewers?” he questioned.

The sound of many running footsteps and furious war cries, just behind him answered his question, and gave him little choice but to follow directions.  Climbing quickly into the hole at his feet, Riker was surprised to find well-used stone steps leading down.

“Hurry, and watch your head and footing, you’re too tall and the floor is slippery in places, it gets quite damp after the rains.”

“Has it rained recently?”

“Yes, about five days ago, what is it about you that you don’t understand the word hurry; they’re almost upon us now!”

Moving cautiously down a few steps, spurred by the urgency in the young woman’s voice, Riker turned just in time to see her step in behind him and pull the hatch closed behind her.  She activated some kind of locking mechanism with a twist of something followed by an electronic bleep.  Walking down a few steps around and in front of the Commander, she turned to scrutinise him further.

“Well, are you coming or not?  Or do you intend to stand there all day?”

Hesitating Riker looked back at the hatch.  “Won’t they try to follow us?” he asked concerned, neither the lock nor the hatch had looked particularly thick or strong.

“Oh yes, they’ll try, most probably anyway.  But they’ve never managed to breakthrough a dead lock seal as yet; I don’t see why today should be any different.”

Feeling a wave of dizziness wash over him, Riker stayed where he was, until the young woman reached up to lay a light hand on his arm.  “Come on, this way,” she said her tone more gentle than before.

With a sigh and slight nod, Riker agreed; following her down several more carved stone steps wondering what kind of rabbit hole he’d fallen into.

A few metres later the steps and hole in the ground opened out into a stone clad vault.  The walls appeared damp in places, but everything was neat and tidy.  There were a couple of chairs, a cot, a wooden table, couple of shelves and a console full of electrical equipment, and not a speck of dust anywhere.

Walking across the room the young woman activated one of the consoles and stared critically at the monitor.  There had to be a hidden camera somewhere Riker realised, as he saw the image of the entrance they’d just passed through surrounded on all sides by four burly men, trying to use rocks and their spears to smash their way into the vault.

Grinning to herself, the young woman flipped a switch and a jolt of pure blue energy sent those closest to the hatchway flying backwards, one hit his head and lay still.  The young woman nodded in apparent satisfaction.  “Good, that will hold them,” she said turning towards Riker.  “Hungry?  Running around a bit is quite exhilarating don’t you find, but I’m always famished afterwards,” she said conversationally.

Still assessing his new situation, and wondering if the girl were a threat to him as well, Riker shook his head.  “I’m good thanks.”

“Suit yourself,” the woman replied with a shrug walking towards a bowl of fruit on one of the shelves Riker had just noticed.  She picked up something resembling an orange pear and bit into it enthusiastically.  Pink juice dribbled down her chin.  “Perhaps something to drink instead?  I’m a poor host not to offer you something.  I’m Dayna by the way.”

“Danya,” Riker repeated, still standing nearly in the middle of the room watching her wearily.

“Yes that’s right, and you are?”

“Riker, Will Riker.”

“Well Riker, Will Riker, why don’t you take yourself a seat before you fall?  Head injuries usually bleed a lot, but look generally worse than they are.  Here drink this and let me take a look.”

“There’s no need,” Riker suggested, taking the metal cup of water he was offered and sitting down in a chair anyway.  He watched as Danya took another bite of her fruit before setting it aside.  Opening a cupboard door in front of her Danya reached inside for a cloth, which she splashed some water and approached him.  “Your people are hunting you?”  Riker asked.

Dayna laughed, then made a scoffing noise, reaching out to dab the cloth against Riker’s head.  “My people?  Don’t be silly!  Do I even look like them?” she asked.  “They’re Sorrens.”

“Sorrens?” Riker said wincing as the cloth touched his head.  He pulled away slightly, but Dayna followed, dabbing at the wound once more.

“Yes, the natives of this planet.  I’m from Earth by the way.  I live here with my father.  He brought me here when I was just a baby.  Hold still.”

Mentally gritting his teeth Riker did as he was told.  “There’s just the two of you?” he asked looking around him again.

“Yes, and Iesha, she’s a native of this planet, but had live with us since she was just a baby.”

“So there are three of you?”

“Yes.  I don’t think the wound is too bad; you probably have a large headache though.  Hold this against it for a little while until the bleeding stops,” Dayna said producing a dry cloth, holding it against Riker’s head, and then putting his right hand up in an effort to get him to do as she’d directed.

Riker took the cloth, looked at the fresh blood now on it, refolded it into a tighter pad than did as he’d been told, resting his aching head partially against his hand.  “So the three of you?” he tried.

“Yes, just we three.  You are curious aren’t you?”

“It’s not every day you get hit on the head, have a building nearly fall on top of you and get chased by a group of men with bows and arrows,” Riker responded.

Dayna laughed at him.  “You’re not from round here then.  It’s just another boring day for me – until you and the other escape pods arrived.”

“Others?”  Riker was on his feet immediately.

“Relax,” Dayna moved back towards him, holding out his mug of water.  “I didn’t get to them in time, they didn’t make it.  I’m sorry.  Were they close friends of yours?”

Riker shook his head.  “No.” he answered truthfully.  The temporal anomaly, which had first caught the Enterprise’s attention, had not shown the presence of any large vessels.  They had come within 150 km and held steady, watching the fascinating light display while Data, Geordi and the whole science division had collected as much data and information as possible.  They science division had been gathering information and making their  observations for around twenty minutes when they had seen a single escape pod streak past them, spinning wildly and attempt to make a crash landing on the planet he was now on.  “There’s been some kind of space battle?” he tried, looking for information.

Dayna shrugged.  “They may well have been.  But not from here.  The natives are not technologically advanced enough; you saw how they reacted to a simple electrical charge.”

Riker gestured around him.  “There must be others on…  Sarren, did you call this planet?”

“Sorren,” Dayna corrected immediately.  “Yes I suppose there must,” she agreed, showing little interest.

“The people who build this?”  Riker pressed.

“Our hidey hole?”  Danya laughed.  “No, this place has been here forever, there are dozens just like it scattered about.  Iesha and I used to play in them as kids.”

“You don’t live here?”

“Here, no, of course not, it’s rather primitive, and as I’ve said before prone to being damp, not much use for storage.  But useful to watch the natives.”

On screen, the Sorrens had once again regrouped and were bashing at the lock.  Danya sent Riker a mischievous grin and activated the electricity field once more.  “There, that should be enough to dissuade them, give them half an hour or so and they’ll creep away like they usually do.  We’ll be able to leave safely then.”

Riker instinctively touched his combadge.

Dayna looked at him thoughtfully.  “Your communication device won’t work down here, even if the dust didn’t short its components.  These rocks contain a natural em-dampening field.  Useful as it increases the strength of the mag lock at the entrance tenfold, but rubbish at communicating through.  Another half hour and we should be clear, you can try again once we reach the surface, or you can come home with me.”

 

Night was falling fast as Vila stumbled through the trees.  Earlier on, he had tried to follow one of the planets two suns in the hope of finding someone, but both were quickly setting now, dipping in and out of sight beyond the level of the forest canopy, creating long shadows and dark places.  Vila’s wandering was becoming quickly aimless.  He was tired, thirsty and in a fair amount of pain, all down his left side.  Hugging his left arm tightly to his chest, his wrist was at a bit of an odd angle, Vila sighed as the recess he’d been walking in widened out into a kind of basin, muddy, rock filled grassy banks surrounding him on almost every side.

With a sigh, and a decided lack of enthusiasm Vila picked what he thought looked to be the easiest bank to climb and made his way up slowly, choosing his footholds with care.  His head peaking over the ridge, Vila suddenly brightened, feeling better almost instantly.  A way off in the distance the horizon was much brighter than before, and as he looked, he could swear he could see a hover car taking off from the roof of a building.  Civilisation, finally, all he needed to do now was get there.

Both suns had more or less set, by the time Vila had made it to the outskirts of the small town.  Dark shadows all around him, Vila ran across several fields to reach his goal.  There was reassurance in the nondescript building, starting to dot the landscape around him.  Buildings meant people.  People meant rescue, if he were clever.  Most people were easy to read, especially for a talented thief.  Moreover, where there were people there were usually bars or taverns, certainly many opportunities to score some money and have a little fun, and get his wrist sorted too.

Slipping silently between the space between two buildings Vila surreptitiously touched the teleport bracelet around his wrist, hidden away beneath his jacket.  He had tried half a dozen times to reach the Liberator but had received no reply.  He told himself he wasn’t that worried, yet.  Zen had said the damage to the ship had been extensive and would need 72 hours to repair the damage to his hull and systems.  The oxygen had been running thin, Zen counting down to zero before the life support was shut down – just about the same time Vila had jettisoned his life pod.

72 hours.  He’d spent most of the day wondering round lost in the woods, so say 60 hours left.  60 hours to have a little fun and get some R & R.  With neither Blake nor Avon none the wiser.  The thought cheered Vila up as he skirted round a couple of rubbish bins, slipping further into the town.

Maybe he could find a casino if he were lucky.

Rounding another corner Vila ducked into another alleyway.  Windows were starting to appear on the sides of the buildings now.  Most were unlit, but there was a warm and inviting glow coming from behind the blue door of one of them, set inside a small porch.  Vila didn’t find it odd that there were no other porches sticking out from the sides of the buildings down the dimly lit alleys.  The light from the porch was warm and inviting.

Reaching the door, Vila tried the handle, to his surprise it opened at his touch.

Vila went in.

 

“So what do you think then?”  Donna asked twirling herself around in front of the Doctor.

“Very nice,” the Doctor agreed, not looking up from the gizmo he was adjusting with various bits and pieces and his sonic screwdriver.

Donna stopped hands on hips.  “Doctor!”

“Yes, as I said, very nice.”

Scowling, Donna moved to stand behind the Time Lord and put her hands over his eyes.

“Oi!” he complained.

“What colour is it?”  Donna said patiently, amusement evident in her tone.

Caught up in putting together his clever little thingamy, the Doctor was completely baffled.  “What colour is what?” he asked.

“My dress, you idiot!”

“Yes.”

“I said it was nice.”  The Doctor squirmed slightly.

“You did, so, what was the colour of it?”

“Donna,” the Doctor complained.

“Doctor” Donna replied mimicking the Doctors tone.

Recognising the fact that Donna wasn’t going to give in, the Time Lord sighed.  “All right, it’s a very nice blue dress,” he tried.  Many of Donna’s outfits were in fact blue, one of her favourite colours; it was a safe bet that she was wearing that colour now.

“Ha!”

Damn it.  Not the colour she was wearing this time.  “It’s yellow,” the Doctor offered.  “A lovely colour yellow, sunny, bright, vibrant the colour of… ow!  What was that for?” he complained as Donna flicked a finger against the side of his head.

“That was not an ‘ow’,” Donna said laughing, moving to kick the Doctor not too hard on one shin.

“Ow!  Again!  What was that for that time?”

“Yellow?”

“Yellow?  Yellow’s a nice colour.  Did you know the entire ruling family of Targathian only ever wear yellow, they consider it good luck.”

“Good for them.  I bet they’re not redheads though.  Redheads do…  NOT… wear yellow!”

“Green then,”

“Now you’re reaching.”

“Orange, purple, brown, mauve, pink… no wait, forget I said pink, you would never, ever wear pink!”

Openly laughing at the Doctor’s whinging tone, Donna removed her hands.  “You chump!”

“Lemon, tangerine….”  The Doctor continued without opening his eyes.

Donna punched him on one arm.  “Open your eyes you idiot” she said affectionally.

The Doctor did so and grinned at her – before his eyes widened.  “Oh Blimy!”

“What?  You said you were taking me to dinner, so I thought I’d wear something nice for a change,” Donna said smoothing down the front of her black and white polka dot dress.  It clung to her curves in all the right places.  She started to grin at him.

“Yes, right, so I did,” the Doctor agreed, then stopped.  “Did we set a where?” he finished cautiously seeing Donna’s face didn’t seem to change or seem that excited.  Feverishly he wracked his brains to try to remember.

“Yes, Dragus 9,” Donna offered, continuing to look at a spot past the Doctor’s shoulder, her expression still frozen in the half grin.

The Time Lord frowned.  Donna should be sounding so much more excited.  Dragus 9 was a particularly difficult place to reach, and then you needed an invitation to enter their planetary orbit, before you even thought of asking for permission to book a table.  Reservations took years and it had taken the Doctor calling in several favours to reserve them a dinner.  “You don’t want to go?”

“No, yes of course, I want that but…”

Footsteps on the grating behind him caused the Doctor to stop mid-sentence.

Footsteps coming up the stairs towards the main console area.

Impossible; the Tardis was currently floating in space just outside the realms of the third quadrant.

The Doctor turned, automatically putting himself in between Donna and the intruder.

“Er excuse me, nice place you have here, not sure what kind of place exactly, but nice nonetheless.  You wouldn’t happen to have a drink would you?  I’m quite thirsty see; I’ve been walking for hours.”

Chapter Text

Picard finished listening to Data’s report.  “Thank you Mr Data.  Mr Worf, Commander Riker did not board the Enterprise with the rest of the landing party.  Hail him; see if you regain contact so we can beam him aboard.”

Sitting forward in his chair in the centre of the bridge Picard turned so he could catch the security Chief’s eye, nodding once, not wanting to voice out loud the seriousness of losing unexpected contact with a member of a landing party coupled with their a seeming inability to bring him back to the ship.

“Yes Sir.”  Worf agreed, returning the curt nod, already busy with his console.

Satisfied for the moment, Picard sat back and looked sourly at the view of the planet below as offered by the main view screen.  The blue green world of RK2579 seemed unremarkable.  Although boasting an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere able to support carbon life, it had never been explored or settled by the Federation and was still classed as a Db3 planet, which meant it that any inhabitants were not yet likely to have developed space travel.

“Ensign, confirm that we are holding a geostationary orbit with the planet below.” Picard told the crewman seated at Conn.

Making a few minor adjustments, the Ensign nodded.  “Our orbit remains unchanged Captain.  We are holding at 38,000 km out from the planet’s surface sir.”

“Thank you Mr Hobbs.  Lt Wright, have there been any significant changes in the anomaly that first attracted our attention?”  Picard asked the officer staffing Opps in Data’s absence.

“No Captain.  It’s remaining steady at 9 million parsecs.”

Picard drew a breath, nothing appeared to be wrong, but intuition was making him feel less than happy with the answers.  He was unable to put his finger on it, but couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something.  With a sigh, he turned to Troi, knowing that the ships Councillor would have sensed his unease anyway.

“Deanna?”  Picard asked softly, she was sitting next to him on his left hand side as usual.  Her insight and empathic abilities were always a valuable asset in any unexpected situation.

Picard’s unease mirrored her own.  Seated beside the Captain, the Betazoid shook her head.  “I have nothing to offer you Captain.  Like you, I feel… ill at ease…  However I don’t have any direct sense that Commander Riker has been harmed, but I am able to sense anything from the planet at all.  Not much use I know, but that’s all I have, at this moment in time,” she said softly.

“As you say Councillor, not much help, but thank you for trying.”

A tense silence reigned on the bridge for several minutes, before the Chief of Security chose to break it.  “Captain I am unable to reach Commander Riker,” Worf announced formally after trying to reach the First Officer for several minutes.  “Nor can I pinpoint either his whereabouts or that of his combadge.  The combadge appears to have stopped transmitting.  That being the case, I took the liberty to run a sensor sweep of the immediate area to no avail.  I specifically searched for trace elements of the composite alloys the device, such as one would expect to find if it had been destroyed.  There were none.

“However there are several heat signatures of bipedal humanoids in the area.  My initial long range scan show that they share common DNA traits that are a 98.2% match to Earth Humans, although their body temperature is somewhat cooler than normal and they appear to be much less technically advanced.”

“Thank you Lt Commander,” Picard said with a nod.  “You’re sure certain there is no sign of the Commander or his combadge?”

“Yes Captain I am quite certain.  I ran the scan three times just to make sure.  Given my findings there is no indications that Commander Riker is on the planet.”

“So the Commander is gone, but we are now picking up signs of humanoids?”  Picard said turning back to Opps.  “Correct me if I am wrong, Mr Wright but there was no life signs in the area when the life capsule crashed?”

The Lieutenant quickly scrolled through the information available to him from his station, since he hadn’t been the officer on duty at the time.  “You are correct Captain; there are no records of any life signs.”

“Yet they are there now,” Worf added.  “And the life pod did crash into one of their buildings.  Despite the fact that initial scans indicated the building was empty at the time, the inhabitants could have perceived it’s destruction as a hostile act and have taken Commander Riker hostage as a result?”

“Yes indeed.  Thank you Mr Worf.”  Picard looked thoughtfully staring at the main view screen for several moments acknowledging the likelihood, turning over events in his mind, before he stood and pulled down his tunic.  “Something doesn’t feel right here, the natives, and anomaly notwithstanding.  The Away Team made no mention of seeing anyone other the occupant of the life pod.”

“Sir, scans of the area are now showing two groups of natives.  The largest concentration of six or seven individuals are gathered around the crash site, with a smaller group some 500 metres to the west of that position.  Judging from their heat signatures, maybe two or three individuals.”

“Their leaders?”  Picard hazarded, and then huffed to himself.  “No, this is useless, speculation will get us nowhere.”  Tapping his combadge, the Captain drew a breath.  “Picard to Data, meet me in my Ready Room at your convenience.  Lt Commander La Forge please join us too.  Mr Worf you’re with me, Lt Capstone you have the conn.”  Picard said walking briskly towards his office just off the main bridge, not waiting to hear acknowledgments or seeing his instructions carried out.

Gathering himself up a cup of tea, using the time it gave him to ponder still further, Jean-Luc Picard sat down behind his desk, Worf coming to attention beside him.  Data and Geordi arrived a moment later.

“Gentlemen, for the moment Commander Riker’s whereabouts remain unknown,” the Captain said succinctly.  “Mr Data how is the science division getting on in their examination of the anomaly?”

“I have not yet received a full update Captain, but I believe much of the information has changed little from when I left as part of the initial Landing Party.  We have now determined that the anomaly is of unknown origin; formed of particles and matter not of a type we have encountered before.  Its waveform and electrical resonance pattern are not behaving in a correct manner as describe by Newton’s Law 68th Edition.  The magnetic quality of the boson particles are decidedly off vector and are also not of a pattern that we have thus far seen.  Additionally the Delta, Blue, and Black light properties are microns off their expected core spectrums.  I estimate that the science team will have a preliminary report ready for you in two point 76 hours.”

“Under the present circumstances Mr Data, you need to make it sooner,” Picard said firmly.  “I need their preliminary report on my desk within the hour.”

Data opened his mouth to suggest that the task was impossible, but the look Picard gave him changed his mind.  He nodded briefly.  “As you wish Captain,” he agreed.

With a nod, Picard turned to Geordi.  “Mr La Forge, I realise that, like Commander Data you have only just returned to the ship, but I presume you have already begun to run a diagnostic on Transporter Room One?”

“Yes Captain.  As you are aware, a full level one diagnostic will take an Engineering team several hours to complete, and take Transporter Room One effectively off line, while it’s completely stripped down and put back together again.  We were fortunate that Lt Marksham was on duty when we returned, as she was quick to understand what had happened and was just completing a standard system check when I left the transporter room.  There was nothing to indicate a serious malfunction.”

“I see.  You didn’t feel or experience anything different when you beamed back up?  Either of you?”

“No Captain.”

“No Sir.”

“There was no sense of displacement, of something being a little off or not quite right?”

“Not at all Captain,” Data responded firmly.

Picard breathed out heavily, weighing his words with care.  “Good, because I need to be absolutely certain that any rescue team I send down won’t end up in the same situation as Commander Riker.  Mr Worf has completed a sensor sweep of the entire area and has reported that no trace of the Commander is to be found.  I don’t want to take the chance of the same thing happening to a second landing party.  If we send down a further team, I want a transport lock on them at all times.”

“May I suggest that we take Transporter Room One off line and use Transporter Room Three until Engineering is able to complete a Level One diagnostic?”  Data suggested.

“I concur,” Wolf agreed.  “A sensible precaution.”

“It would certainly make sense,” Geordi said nodding.

“Indeed, make it so Mr La Forge.”

“I also picked up several heat signatures in and around the area.  Sensors indicate the presence of several beings native to the planet.  They are split into two groups, the larger of the two around the crash site of the life pod, the smaller approximately 500 metres away.”  Worf continued.

“Did you see anyone when you were down there?”  Picard asked Geordi and Data.

“No Captain,” Geordi said immediately.

“The building which the life pod crashed into was obviously not in use.”  Data said, recalling the incidence with near perfect clarity.  “Prior to impact, I do not believe it had been used for quite a while.”

“But there had obviously been a group of people living there at some point, for it to have been built in the first place.  We didn’t get much of a chance to look around Captain, but there were several other structures in the area.” Geordi stated.

Cocking his head to one side Data nodded.  “You are correct Geordi,” he agreed.  “However my visual record of all the buildings in the area showed them to be in various states of decay.  I do not believe there has been anyone dwelling in them at the moment.”

Picard looked thoughtful.  “But the fact remains there was a civilisation living there at some point.  At present we need to determine the whereabouts and secure the safety of Commander Riker; however we may need to find a way to communicate with these beings, if they have anything to do with the Commanders disappearance.”

“Sir, I request that you allow me to lead an Away Team to the surface in order to locate Commander Riker's whereabouts,” Worf said firmly.

Picard nodded.  “Yes Mr Worf, I intend to ask you to do just that.  You and a security detail.  I just want to be as sure as possible, that you don’t encounter any other surprises along the way.”

“Yes sir, thank you,” Worf replied, already itching to be on his way.

“Lt Commander do not forget that RK2579 now comes under the jurisprudence of the Prime Directive now we have identified the very real possibility of existing native inhabitants.”  Data added.  “You and your team must make every effort not to be seen or interact with the natives until it has been unequivocally established that they are Commander Riker.”

“Commander Data is correct,” Picard agreed.  “We cannot risk any further contamination of their belief system at this stage. Or further disturbance of their way of life.”

“I will be careful,” Worf agreed.

“One last thing,” Picard suggested leaning forward slightly to open a Comm channel to Sickbay.  “Dr Crusher, may I have a moment of your time please?”

Dr Crushers face appeared on screen a moment later.  “Yes Captain, how can I help you?” she said indicating an instrument selection to someone off screen.  “Yes, that one, the size 02.”

“Your patient doctor?”

“Yes Captain that is who I am working on at the moment.  I’m doing my best to stabiles him and fully assess his injuries.  Speaking of which, I really need to get back to him, I’ll let you know when I have anything further to report.”

“I need that report now doctor,”

“I don’t have much more to give you than that, I’m afraid.”

“Commander Riker is missing doctor,” Picard said firmly.

Beverly blinked.  “Missing?” she enquired.

“Yes, he failed to transport aboard with the remainder of the Away Team.”

“Transporter malfunction?”

“That we are still trying to determine, it seems unlikely though.”

“Then how can I help?”

“Has our guest regained consciousness at all?”

“No Captain and he’s not likely to for some time.”  Beverly said looking down at the data padd in her hands.  “Ok, as far as a preliminary report goes.  My initial scans show massive internal bruising and blood pooling in his thoracic cavity, decreasing his ability to breathe amongst other things.  Bruising and lacerations to the left side of his temple and occipital bone at the back of his head indicates that he will likely suffer some degree of concussion, which may or may not indicate memory loss.  I already know that four of his ribs have broken bilaterally across his chest in a diagonal pattern, the likely hood that the straps on an internal harness failed.  Additionally there are compound fractures to his right femur, left pelvis, left Glenohumeral joint, that’s the ball and socket articulation between the head of the humerus and the glenoid cavity of the scapula as well as complete breaks to his left ulna, and radius.  He should make a full recovery, but it will take a day or so before he’ll be able to give you any useful information.”

“Understood Doctor, however he may or may not hold the key to finding Will, so please do your best to stabilise him, I’ll be down shortly.”

“You will be going against medical advice, even if it is possible for me to bring him round.”

“Noted Doctor, Picard out.”  The Captain said terminating the call.  He looked round at his assembled Officers, “Gentlemen, you have your orders,” he said dismissing him.  “Mr Data, a moment if you please.”

“Of course Captain.”

 

+ Truly a most fascinating place + Orac hummed to itself, still in the purpose-built metal carrying case Avon had constructed many months ago in order to make the super computer more portable.  The case had yet to be opened, however Avon had slid Orac’s activation key into its connection port shortly before blacking out in the escape pod, leaving Orac with rare control over his own abilities.  Having ridden down to the surface of the planet in with Avon, and been taken up to the Enterprise by Data, a helpful tech had then taken Orac’s case down to Main Engineering soon after, on the mistaken assumption that the box contained some of the Chief Engineers personal tools.

Orac hadn’t minded in the slightest.  The dematerialism effect of the Enterprise’s transporters was a new experience for the self-aware supercomputer; the forces at play completely different from the technology found on the Liberator.    If a computer could be described as happy, Orac felt in its element.  It was inside a truly alien machine.  Fascinating!  First on the list was to learn to communicate properly.  Orac had reached out eagerly to study everything it could about its new surroundings, only to learn that he could not connect with the Enterprise D as easily as it normally could with other computers, as there was not a Tarriel cell in sight. 

Orac had only just begun to scratch the surface of understanding how the Enterprise had been constructed and powered when it found itself interrupted by Zen.           

+ Information.  Repairs to Liberators systems continue apace.  We are not yet fully functional, however a nitrogen/oxygen mix able to support life human life has been restored +   Zen told Orac via a subspace channel.  As per Orac’s instructions, Zen gave Orac hourly updates on the status of the ship.

+ Very well.  What is your estimated repair time?  +

+ Systems indicate another eight hours and 23 minutes before full power is restored.  Energy banks three through to seven remain drained of power.  Transporter function will be available in 2 hours and 57 minutes.  Computers are responding to search, locate and recovery   +

+ You heard from the crew?  +

+ Affirmative.  A voice transmission from Blake stated that he is safe and well on the planet Epheron.  It is a planet of the system Lauritol with several primitive life forms.  Jenna reports superficial injuries in a life capsule malfunction.  She is aboard a neutral cargo carrier in transit to the planet Morphenniel and advises that her situation requires no priority treatment.  There has been no communication from Vila, Cally or Avon +

+ Avon has been found by the humans aboard this ship.  He was badly injured, and is currently undergoing emergency treatment.  We have not heard from Vila or Cally +   Orac said, preparing to continue with the more pressing task of learning everything about the Enterprise.  + Report again in one hour +

There was silence for several moments before Zen surprised Orac by interrupting his studies once more.

+ Information +

+ Yes?  What is it now?  +

+ A space vehicle is registering on the detectors.  Visual scans indicate that it is approaching the Liberator.  Statistical analysis suggest it will attempt docking with the side port entrance +

+ Can you identify the craft?  +

+ Negative +

+ Is there any voice contact with the space vehicle?  + Orac asked, its internal lights blinking faster as it processed the unforeseen data.

+ Negative +

+ Is it continuing to approach?  +

+ Confirmed.  Full function has been restored to Liberator weapon systems, the vehicle could be destroyed +

+ You will do no such thing!  It is most likely to be one of the crew returning.  Do not bother me with such trivialities + Orac said dismissively.  + I am in the midst of some fascinating discoveries +

“Information.  The space vehicle is now outside safe strike range and continuing forward motion +

Orac’s diverted a small amount of its vast energies towards the problem Zen was announcing, even though it regarded the conversation as an irritant, taking it away from the fascinating exploration of Enterprise.  + Yes, of course, why didn’t I think of this before?  Zen let me see this ship for myself.  + Orac demanded, linking with the Liberators sensors so get a glimpse of the oncoming spacecraft.  + 

The space vehicle about to dock with Liberator resembled an angular horseshoe in shape; it was bright red and battle damaged.  Orac recognised the design as Callipson, a neutral planet, several million parsecs distinct.  Using Liberators systems Orac tried to initiate contact itself, but received no response.

+ I am unable to communicate with the space vehicle either + Orac told Zen + Initiate a gamma level quarantine and lock inner hatch doors +

+ Con...  Zen ceased transmitting abruptly; all communication lost.

Orac sat and thought about the probabilities of Zen losing all power, blowing up, or more likely being boarded by unknown and potentially hostile entities.  He set a small part of his cells aside to ponder the problem, and continued to probe the Enterprises’ systems.

 

 

The Doctor stared hard at Vila.  It was impossible for anyone to simply arrive unannounced in the Tardis.  After the incidence with Donna and the excitable Huon particles inside her, he had tightened the shielding around the time machine enormously.  “Wait, what?  Walking for hours?  That’s impossible. “What are you, some kind of hologram?”

“No … I’ve told you, my name is Vila, and I’ve been walking for hours”, Vila tried to explain.  “I got lost, in the forest out there…”

“Right, yes of course,” the Doctor said calmly in a tone of utter disbelief, surreptitiously putting down the gadget he’d been fiddling with prior to Vila’s arrival, while turning his sonic screwdriver to scan for life signs and pointing it in his direction.  “What are you, some kind of hologram?”

The sonic beeped.  The Doctor frowned, shaking it a couple of times.  “Really…  Really?” he asked it, tapping it against one of his hands.  Pushing his glasses up his nose, the Doctor squinted at the screwdriver.  Reading the sonic was an art form at the best of times.  Right at that moment, its readings refused to make sense.  “Hmmm, it seems you’re corporeal enough.”

“I’m what?”

“Present.  It seems you’re really here,” the Doctor said quite rudely.  “So the question is; how did you get in?  Some kind of matter transporter?”

“I walked.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes.  “You can’t have done,” he said flatly.  “You’re obviously here for some reason?  Am I supposed to guess what that is?  Who are you…?”

“I’m Vila, that’s all, just Vila.”  Vila said rather bemused by the stranger’s reaction to him; his exhilaration at finding ‘civilisation’ drained away completely, leaving him feeling unexpectedly tired.  Unnoticed by anyone apart from Donna, Vila wavered slightly on his feet.

Frowning the Doctor continued to wave his sonic about, before deciding to tap it firmly against the Tardis control panel several times with a loud metallic twang, causing both Donna and Vila to jump.  “Ok, let’s try this now shall we.  No really, this is rubbish… right well as you’re physically here, so the fact remains - what are you?  Some kind of shape shifter then?  Where is your home planet then?”

Vila looked at the Doctor in bemusement.  All he’d wanted was a drink or two, a chance to sit down, rest a bit, and get his wrist sorted.  Nothing the Doctor was saying to him made any kind of sense.  “Eh?  What’s that?  It’s Earth, of course,” he said caught off guard and answering truthfully.  Realising his error, he tried to deflect.  “That is, I mean to say.  I’ve been walking for a long time; really all I need is a drink, and maybe the chance to sort my wrist out a bit.”

Still looking at his readings on the screwdriver, the Doctor shook it a couple of times.  “Well you’re not a shape shifter,” he agreed.  “You could be a plasmavor I suppose, which…  Earth you said… mmm, well you’re apparently human, well human enough anyway, with a few extra bits I don’t quite understand yet.  What’s wrong with this thing?”

Looking quite alarmed Vila stepped backwards down a step, clutching hold of the handrail with his good hand as his worldview wobbled a bit.  “What?  I’m human, of course, I’m human.  I don’t have any extra bits; well at least I don’t think I have.  What extra bits are you talking about?”

“Doctor,” Donna said quietly, though her voice contained a hint of warning.  She’d watched the stranger slowly seem to deflate in energy as he’d entered the Tardis, and now he looked rather unsteady on his feet.

The Doctor gave Donna a questioning glance.  He had learned the hard way not to ignore that tone.  Donna looked pointedly at Vila and mimed holding her arm, her left eyebrow raised in what was clearly a question.

Tired, Vila watched the byplay between the Doctor and Donna and took another step down.  “Perhaps I’ve come at the wrong time, and should just leave?” he suggested.

“You need to be nice,” Donna warned; her voice low enough for only the Doctor to hear.

With a look of exasperation and fondness in equal measure, the Doctor turned back to regard Vila with keen interest, once more, and noticing that he’d moved away, quickly closed the gap between them.  “No, no-no, why would you want to do that, you’ve just got here after all?  Don’t you want to see everything now you’re here?”

“I don’t want to be here,” agreed Vila, deciding that the man in front of him was seriously unwell and as changeable as Avon could be, which probably made him just as dangerous too.  “I’ve changed my mind and…”

“Then why not change it back again?  I change my mind all the time, well most of it at any rate,” the Doctor said deliberately prattling as he took several more scans of Vila, waving his sonic around again, trying to track down the odd readings he was getting.

Vila found his eyes following the motion unwittingly.  He began to look more anxious by the moment.

“Hmm, nothing remarkable, just a little odd; how did you say you got here again?”

“I walked.  From the forest.”  Vila tried patiently.

Still waving his sonic, the Doctor sucked in a breath.  “Oooo…”

“Oooo?” repeated Vila.  “What’s an Oooo?”

“Ha!  I knew I’d get it.  Your quantum signature is off…”

“Eh?”

“Oh, not by much, 0.04492% - but that’s a huge amount on the Lutan scale, not that anyone really uses the Lutan scale any more, except of course the Lutan’s, and well the Tegarns and their small conglomerate of miners, and the Zoorons, mustn’t forget them… and…”

“Doctor; stop it.”  Donna said firmly.

The Doctor looked at his assistant and scowled.

Donna copied the motion.

Seeing the funny side of things, the Doctor grinned and turned back to Vila, who regarded the now smiling Time Lord with even more distrust.

“I’m sorry; I really don’t feel at all good.  Perhaps I should just leave,” Vila, said carefully taking another step backwards, then clutching at the railings as he stumbled a bit.

Donna took a step towards Vila in sympathy.  She knew she was rubbish at reading people, but there was something about him that she couldn’t just help feeling sorry for.

“Donna, stay where you are,” the Doctor warned, before turning on Vila again.  “You can’t leave, not now.  Just tell me how you really got here.” 

“I’ve already told you, hundreds of times.  I.  Walked.  Here.”  Vila said slowly as if talking to an idiot.  “My life pod crashed.  I got out, walked all day, until I found your village, and well here I am.”

“So you are,” the Doctor agreed.  “And that’s why we have a problem, because it’s impossible and do you know why it’s impossible…?”

Motioning to Donna to keep back, as she’d crept forward despite his words, still not sure what kind of threat Vila possessed, if any at all, but determined to get to the bottom of the mystery he presented, the Doctor scooted quickly round their unexpected visitor and walked up to the Tardis doors which he flung open with a flourish.  “Because of this!  Would you like to try again, as you can see, we’re in space!”

Donna stared through the open door.  “Er Doctor, I don’t think…”

“The alleyway, just like I was trying to explain to you,” Vila said, looking at the crates and odd bits of rubbish he’d seen moments ago.  “I really should go, I won’t tell anyone anything, I promise…”

The Doctor looked from Donna to Vila and then through the doors of the Tardis.  They did indeed appear to show a narrow alleyway.  “What?  But that’s impossible!” he stammered.

They were in space, drifting along just inside the time vortex, and had been for a few days, while they’d caught their breath after their adventures on Bendenium.  The Doctor had spent his time tinkering on a few pet projects, while Donna had lazed away a few days reading and topping up on her sleep.

“It looks like an alley to me Doctor,” Donna said agreeing with Vila.

“But it can’t be.”

Tired, Vila sat down on the steps leading up to the main platform.  “It’s an ally, of course it’s an alley, what else could it be?” he said despondently thinking the Doctor was quite, quite mad.

“A projection?”  Donna hazarded.

The Doctor waved his sonic screwdriver at the doorway; it buzzed and whirred then fell silent.  The Doctor looked at his instrument, then cautiously reached out to touch his hand to the doorway.  When in space a forcefield allowed the Tardis doors to open without loss of atmosphere.  The field should have glowed blue to the touch.

There was nothing to impede the Doctors hand as it passed the threshold of the doorway and was ‘outside’.  Experimentally the Doctor wiggled his fingers about, then cautiously stuck his head outside, and drew in a lungful of air.

“Well?”  Donna asked from her position, keeping an eye both on Vila and the Doctor.  “Oh no… don’t you dare…” she said suddenly as she saw the Doctor attempt to put a foot outside.  “What happens if the doors close, we’re really in space, and I’m left her with… with… with him?”

“I’m Vila you know,” Vila said to no one in particular.

The Doctor put his foot outside the Tardis, nothing happened.  Grinning he prepared to step forward.

Donna growled.  “Do not do it,” she warned.

“I’m holding on, see, holding on…”  The Doctor made a show of holding onto the doorway as he stepped outside.

Nothing happened.

The Doctor looked round.  “Well that was a bit…. A bit anticlimactic actually.”

Keeping an eye on the Doctor, feeling a little bit sorry for their guest, Donna moved to sit on the steps next to Vila.  “I would ask how you are doing, but I can see you’ve hurt your arm,” she tried sympathetically.

“I think it’s broken,” Vila said miserably.  “I could really do with a drink.  My head hurts as well as my arm.”

“A drink, that’s maybe something I can help with.”  Donna suggested.  “What can I get you?”

“I don’t suppose you have any Soma?  It would help with my arm see?” Vila tried hopefully.

Donna shook her head.  “I don’t know what that is, I’m sorry.  I could get you a tea maybe, or some water?  Don’t worry about the Doctor… whatever is wrong; he’ll help… just talk to him.”

 

 

Will Riker stared at the screen in frustration.  Despite several rounds of shocks, the natives didn’t seem that they were likely to give up any time soon.  “Your plan doesn’t seem to be working,” he told Danya.

“Yes, they do seem to be unusually stubborn today don’t they,” the young woman responded also looking at the screen.

“Do you have any other bright ideas?”

“Yes, actually, I do.”  Danya smiled.

“Good, then I’d like to hear it.”

“We wait,” Danya said simply.  “And have a proper meal, not just a piece of fruit.  Whatever happens, they won’t stay out after dark.”

“Do I want to know why?”

 “They’re a superstitious lot; they think nasty things walk the earth at night.”

“What kind of nasty things?”

Danya shrugged.  “Do you know, I’ve never found out?  Isn’t that strange?”

“So for all you know, it could be true?”

“Oh come on.  Surely someone like you can’t believe in monsters under the bed?”

Riker chucked humorlessly.  “Believe me, I’ve met plenty of monsters, and most had nothing to do with bed sheets.”

“Oh do tell, I love a good story.”  Danya said opening several cupboards and pulling out a varied assortment of ingredients.”

“Some other time maybe, not now.  We really can’t afford to stay here much longer.”

“I can, I often spend several nights up here.  Will your friends come looking for you?”

“They will,” Will Riker, agreed attempting to activate his combadge once more, scowling when nothing appeared to happen, the communication device not even acknowledging an open channel.

“Then you have nothing to worry about.  In a couple of hours the Sorrens will have got bored, we can leave and look for your friends.   I see the cut on your head has stopped bleeding now, come and help me prepare a meal.”

 

 

“Now, remember the Prime Directive remains in force on this planet.  We do not show ourselves or allow ourselves to be seen by the indigenous people.  This is a recon mission only.  Our objectives are to locate Commander Riker.  If an opportunity arises where we can extract him unseen, then we will do so.  Otherwise we will report back to the ship in one hour and discuss his rescue further.” Worf said firmly.  

It had taken engineering nearly half an hour to finish a standard diagnostic on Transporter Room 3 – just to be on the safe side, as Geordi had said.  In the meantime, Worf had chosen his security team carefully.  They were all seasoned security team members, that were unlikely to be trigger happy, or misinterpret any difficult situations.

Data had come to see Worf off; handing the Chief of Security a tricorder he’d programmed with the exact coordinates of Riker’s last recorded whereabouts.

“Do not take any chances,” he told the Klingon.  “The initial findings of the anomaly are intriguing but inherently unstable.  Now would not be a good time to take unnecessary risks, Commander Riker’s whereabouts, and safety notwithstanding.”

“Understood.”

Data turned to the transporter operator as Worf and his team climbed onto the transporter platform.  “Ensign keep a lock on the Away Team at all times.  Be ready to beam them back at a moment’s notice.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then energise.”

Chapter Text

Captain Jean-Luc Picard strode into sickbay with Deanna Troi close by his side, though she hardly needed her empathic skills to read the Captain’s emotional state.  First Will had gone missing; and now Lt Commander Worf had vanished too, along with the rest of his security team, and in the last half an hour odd glitches seemed to be manifesting in the ships computers and electrical systems.

Moreover, there was possibly only one person who could explain it all; the man they had rescued from the life pod.

Through the clear plexiglass walls of an enclosed area of Sickbay, Picard and Troi could see Dr Crusher operating on an individual laying on a sterile field table.  The Captain and Councillor stood quietly, if somewhat impatiently on the Captain’s part, until the doctor indicated with a nod of her head to one of her assistants that she had finished, and the sterile blue field surrounding her patient faded away.

Beverly Crusher pulled off her surgical gown and turned to see Picard and Troi waiting for her.  Placing the soiled garment into a bin as she passed, she walked towards them.  “What can I do for you Captain?”

“How is your patient doing Doctor?”  Picard said with a nod towards the person being tended to on the biobed.

“Ensign Wang will be up and about again in a few days.  It was touch and go for a bit, but her ankle will be as good as new with no lasting damage; it was a nasty fall in Engineering, a hatchway wasn’t properly secured I believe?”

Picard frowned.  “You were not operating on our guest?”

Crusher gave Picard a look.  “I’ll be sure to pass on your best wishes for a speedy recovery to Leonora,” she said dryly.

“What?  Oh yes, yes of course,” Picard agreed, momentarily wrong footed.  “I am always interested in the health of my crew.  However I came here to discuss a different patient with you doctor as you are fully aware.”

“I told you I would call the minute his condition changed; it hasn’t.  He remains resting comfortably; his vital signs are within tolerances for the type of injuries he sustained, and he has yet to regain consciousness.”

“Prognosis?”

“Long term, pretty good, broken bones are straightforward to fix for the most part, and as long as the damage is not too extensive, internal injuries can be healed.  It is his head injury, which is the greatest course for concern.  With any blunt force trauma there is always a degree of uncertainty you understand.  A certain amount of memory loss is to be expected.”  Crusher said carefully.

Picard drew a breath.  “So what are you trying to say doctor?  You are not expecting a full recovery?”

“I’m saying it’s too soon to tell.  However, this is where it gets interesting.  I ran a full biological workup of our guest, as you would expect,” Crusher continued and paused carefully.

“Agreed and?”  Picard asked expectantly.

“Our sensors say he’s not 100% Human,” Crusher said her face alight with discovery.

Captain Picard levelled his Chief Medical Officer with a look.   At the last count there were at least 300 differing sentient species that the Federation either encompassed or had encountered.  A being who looked wholly human, but wasn’t was not news.  “And?”

“He’s not, not fully human either.”  Beverly finished.

“Doctor, you’re talking in riddles.”

“I know.  Intriguing isn’t it?  His DNA identifies as human, but human not from this time, or perhaps more properly Universe.”

“The Anomaly?  He came through it?”  Picard hazarded.

“Well, I don’t know for certain.  But it’s certainly possible.”  Beverly conceded.  “However it is pure hypothesis at this point.”

“Speak with Data; his science team has yet to finish their analysis of the anomaly, but this may aid them in understanding its properties.  Has he regained consciousness yet?”

“No, not yet.”

“Inform me as soon as he does.”

 

Lt Commander Worf materialised and drew a breath preparing to order his security team to fan out among the buildings, and see if their tricorders could find any sign of Commander Riker.  Only he was not in the middle of the clearing they’d identified as closest, to where the shuttle had landed, where they could see and not be seen; but inside some kind of building.  No, that was not right; the subtle yet distinctive vibrations that he could feel in the soles of his feet told Worf that they were not inside a building but aboard a space faring vessel of some sort.

Instinctively Worf drew his phaser even as he tapped his combadge.  “Worf to Enterprise,” he said in a low voice, motioning for his men to stay still and keep quiet, even as they also drew their weapons.  “Worf to Enterprise,” he tried again.  “Enterprise, are you receiving me?”

Worf’s combadge made an off-tone dull buzz.

“It seems we’ve lost contact with the ship sir,” one of the Lieutenants suggested looking around them. 

“Yes, that would appear to be the case,” Worf agreed and tried his combadge again.  “Enterprise, if you can hear me, we are not on the planet’s surface but some kind of unknown alien vessel.  We have not encountered anyone but will commence a ship wide search for lifeforms.”

As before, there was no reply from the communication device.

Worf look about him.  He and his three-man team were standing in some kind of alcove.  To the left and right of them were rows of square silver nodules, stacked against and on top of each other, almost floor to ceiling height, resembling an arrangement of mini deflector arrays, while behind them there was what looked like some kind of venting system.  The floor was matt black in colour, and bordered by a glowing white line of light along the front that was obviously an active power source.  Overhead there were three large rectangular light panels.

“This looks like some form of teleportation area,” Lieutenant Towson suggested.

Very much on the alert Worf nodded.  Looking down at his feet, he deliberately took a step forward across the electrical barrier.  “Indeed.  I suggest we step clear,” Worf told his men.

The three security guards moved forward as Worf had instructed, instinctively fanning out to cover the entrance/exits as they moved into the centre of the room, phasers at the ready.

The teleport room was approximately six square metres, more or less in a hexagonal pattern.  The walls were dark grey with several inset geometrical shaped panels of various colours.  Two hexagonal entrances/exits took up position on opposite sides of the room; one up a short series of three steps.  Directly in front of the Away Team there was a low console of some sort filled with switches, lights and leavers, and behind that, some cream coloured built in benches.  A row of bracelets stood to the right on a rack.  Hexagonal shaped light panels decorated the walls, while rectangular light panels were features of the walls leading off through the exits, and situated behind the console.

“I don’t recognise the design of the ship,” Lieutenant D’Son offered drawing close to the console in front of them, noting the sliders and rocker switches and illuminated graphic rangefinder.  The rangefinder was showing several blinking dots arranged against an unfamiliar grid pattern.  No distances or references defined or given.  “Sir…  I’m not sure what this means?” he said calling Worf over.

Stepping forward Worf looked at the panel.  As Chief of Security on the Enterprise, he was familiar with the working of many of the ships systems.  The design of the console was unclear however.  “They are not using any recognised measurement system.  These could be representative of anything, positions of the ships crew, or other vehicles in the area.” Worf agreed.

Together they watched as a couple of the dots moved position, the lights showing their position blinking evenly.

“Sir, they are definitely tracking something.  Could one of these dots be the Enterprise?

“Since we are unable to reach our ship, and until we find anyone aboard or a communications relay we have no way of knowing.”  Worf, said with evident frustration.  “We will split up into two pairs and search this ship.  We do not know how long our presence will go undetected, phasers on stun.  There is no way of knowing what kind of adversary we face.  Lieutenant Portman, you and Lieutenant D’Son go to the aft of the ship, see if you can find engineering, or better still their weapons room.  Towson and I will try and locate the bridge or the communication station.”

“Yes sir,” Portman and D’Son said with a couple of nods.  Studying their tricorders intently, they moved off down the right hand corridor, as Worf and Towson mounted the steps leading away from the teleport area, using their equipment in much the same fashion.

 

“And I tell you I saw something on that screen, just for a moment,” Section Leader Klegg said belligerently staring at the main view screen on the Liberator.  “A big ugly thing it was, more of them filthy alien scum I wager.”

Captain Del Tarrant looked at Zen’s blank viewscreen.  “Well it’s not there now,” he said firmly.

“And I’m telling you it was!”

Tarrant raised an eyebrow.

“And I’m telling you it was, sir!”  Klegg intoned pointedly.

“Did I say I disbelieved you?”  Tarrant stated, moving to Vila’s station and haphazardly playing with a few switches.  “This ship was badly damaged in the battle, no doubt the reason her crew abandoned her; she’s still barely functioning now.”

“All the same, sir.”

“All right, let’s have it, what would you have me do about it?  We’re not in control, we’ve no weapons to fire – if you want to leave, be my guest, feel free,” Tarrant grinned.  “I won’t stop you.”

“And leave you to claim the prize money for capturing the Liberator, not likely, sir.”

Tarrant smiled again, though his eyes were quite cold.  “As you wish, Section Leader.”

A burst of static abruptly hissed through the ship’s speakers.

Tarrant and Worf both held up their hands to stop their subordinates from talking over the top of it.

“Zen this is Cally… injured… burns to my… face.  My homing…. Coordinates….pick up…” the disembodied voice of a woman broke through the static in patches.  The message didn’t repeat and fell silent.

Zen obediently changed course towards her.

 

“Another survivor?”  Towson asked Worf; they’d stopped to list just after they exited a room full of a huge variety of clothing, hinting at a very large crew, to listen to the message.

“A likely scenario,” the Klingon agreed.  “However, I believe this ship has just changed course to intercept.”

“One of this ship’s crew then?”

“We have no way of knowing, until, or unless they arrive… but it does seem likely.”

 

“What oh!”  Klegg turned to Tarrant in glee, momentarily forgetting he was with a superior officer.  “Now we’ve got them.  That’s one of the crew all right.  Rebel scum, but worth it for the price on their heads.  If they board, it’s going to be via the teleport, we should get back there immediately.”

“For once I agree with you Section Leader.  Station two of your men here on the bridge, just in case, and we will go and enact a little surprise for our soon to be guest.”

 

Portman and D’Son exchanged a glance as Cally’s voice came over the loud speakers.   They had been walking down a very long corridor, with many doors opening into various storerooms and obvious sleeping quarters, but had only found signs of occupation in five of them, and had been speculating ever since.

“And I’m telling you she’s on her way to a repair yard; that would necessitate only a skeleton crew aboard.  Look how long it took to open that last door,” Portman said firmly.

“She looks as if she’s been in a battle of some-sort, so you may be right,” D’Son agreed.  “Do you think if that woman was crew she’d come in from the transporter or a shuttle bay?”

“We haven’t found a shuttle bay, or the engine room, or weapons locker,” Portman pointed out. “So my guess is that transporter room.” 

“Should we head back to the transporter room, just in case?”  D’Son suggested.  “All we’ve managed to find so far is the galley, a couple of rec rooms, their sickbay and cabins.” 

“Better not, Lt Commander Worf gave us our orders, I’m sure he can handle a single female.”

 

Worf and Towson reached the transporter room first.  Nothing had changed appreciably since their arrival.  Worf set Towson to cover one of the exits while he kept an eye on the other and moved to look at the rangefinder on the console.  Worf counted six blinking lights, but they remained mostly in the same pattern as before.  “No change here,” he reported.

 

“Wait, did you hear something,” Klegg said turning to Tarrant and his man Harmon.

“You’re getting a little jumpy aren’t you Section Leader?  I thought you said your men had made a thorough sweep of this ship?”

“So they did sir,” Klegg replied undaunted, gesturing with his pistol that the enlisted man should go first.

With a silent nod, Harmon moved off.

 

Harmon came across Worf first.  The Klingon was still attempting to decipher the transporter controls and had his back half toward the doorway.   Harmon aimed his gun, and was promptly shot by Towson; his phaser set on stun.  Harmon crumpled completely hitting his head against one of the sharp angles of the wall, falling with an audible thud.

 

“I heard that,” Tarrant said raising his own weapon and moving away from the centre of the corridor to creep quietly closer against the walls.  “I thought you said your men had searched the ship Section Leader?” he whispered fiercely

“They had.”

“Then perhaps they should do it again; and properly next time!”

 

“I think he’s dead,” Towson told Worf, bending down to check on the status of the prisoner.  There was an enormous dent in the back of his head, which was matted with a good degree of blood.

“Unfortunate,” Worf rumbled, looking at the body.  “Some kind of military personnel; I am not familiar with the insignia.  Help me move him out of sight; it’s doubtful he’s alone.  There was an empty room just a few metres back; we’ll put him in there.”  Worf said, careful to pick you the gun the other man had been carrying to remove any traces of his presence.

Tarrant and Klegg entered the transporter room moments after Worf and Towson had left dragging Harmon.

“There’s no one here Section Leader,” Captain Tarrant said loudly to Klegg, who was about to respond with an audible grumble when Tarrant put a finger to his lips; his eagle eye had spotted a slight bloodstain on the edge where Harmon had hit his head.

Klegg nodded.  “Yes, the room looks empty,” he said aloud.

“I suspect they’ll return Section Leader, I suggest we hide,” Tarrant whispered softly.

“They killed one of my men; I’ll do the same to them,” Klegg responded firmly, planting his feet next to the teleport console.

“Suit yourself,” Tarrant said, moving to duck out of sight just back from the doorway.

 

Lt Commander Worf and Lieutenant Towson moved quietly back towards the transporter room.  The guard who had hit his head, wasn’t dead, but was out cold, so he had been restrained, and the room locked behind them by dint of phasering the lock closed.  Towson quietly raising his phasor as he caught sight of Section Leader Klegg standing next to the console, he had a clean shot, so he took it.  Klegg dropped bonelessly to the floor unconscious.  Towson took a step forward.

 

“Easy, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Tarrant suggested moving away from the doorway and covering the Lieutenant with his weapon.  “Who are you and what are you doing aboard my ship?”

Towson raised his hands slowly.  “Your ship?” he queried, looking at the young curly haired man in an all black jump suited uniform.

“Yes, my ship.  So what are you doing aboard her?  You don’t look like an alien.”

“And just what does an ‘alien’ look like?”  Worf suggested coming up quietly behind Tarrant.  “Keep your hands where I can see them.”

Tarrant turned, holding out his weapon, his eyes widening at the sight of the Klingon. 

Worf offered him a feral smile.

Del Tarrant recovered quickly.  “Summery execution is the usual punishment for boarding a Federation ship without authority.  Just who are you people?”

Both Worf and Towson exchanged a brief glance.  Worf stared at Tarrant; something was obviously very wrong.  “I am Lieutenant Commander Worf of the USS Enterprise, of the United Federation of Planets.”

Tarrant looked steadily at Worf, seemingly ignoring the fact that he was being held by gunpoint.  “The united federation of planets; I’ve never heard of it,” he said dismissively.  “What is it, some gathering of a couple of backwards planets no one has every heard of?”

“There are over 150 member worlds spanning eight thousand light years,” Worf said firmly.  “The United Federation of Planets was founded in 2161 by the United Earth, Vulcan, Andorian Empire, Tellar systems.  We peacefully co-exist in the Alpha and Beta Quadrant and Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Our Capital is San Francisco, on Earth.”

Tarrant smiled thinly.  “Now I know you’re making it all up.  I trained as a Federation Space Captain, on Earth, and I can assure you I’ve never seen the type of uniforms you’re wearing nor have I ever heard of any place called San Fran whatever…  So I repeat who are you really?  Are you part of the resistance, and please will you stop pointing that gun of yours at me.”

“It’s called a phaser, and it’s you that is mistaken.  I was at Star Fleet Headquarters just last month, to receive a commendation award.”  Worf contradicted.

“My congratulations.  But I repeat.  I’ve never heard of you.  And I come from Earth.”

Worf looked at Tarrant.  “Obviously we both can’t be right,” he said drawing a breath.

“Now that’s the first thing you’ve said I can agree with.  So where do we go from here?”

Worf looked at his prisoner, just as Klegg started to groan.  “We will secure you and your friend somewhere safe,” he said firmly.

“Secure Section Leader Klegg if you must, but he’s no friend of mine.”

“You are his superior officer.”  Worf said firmly.

“I wear the uniform of a superior officer,” Tarrant corrected.

“So they are not under your command?”  Towson asked, moving to crouch down beside Klegg and fasten his wrists behind his back with a set of Starfleet issue restraints.

“Hardly…  I was a,” Tarrant hesitated only briefly, “…a freedom fighter, and pitched in to help the battle against the… aliens…  I barely survived the first round, and was picked up by a Federation ship… appropriated this uniform… and ended up here after the ship I was on was also attacked.”

“So you are a deserter and a liar?”  Worf suggested.

Seething inside by the blunt dismissal of his explanation, Tarrant did his best not to let it show.  “That’s a little harsh; I’ve already said I was a Freedom fighter.”

“Freedom from what?”  Towson asked curiously.

Tarrant looked a trifle sheepish.  “The Federation.  Look where I’m from, the Federation are a bunch of egotistical, brutal despots and maniacs.”

“Yet you trained to become a Captain?”  Worf questioned.

“I was a lot younger then.”

“How many of them are on board?”  Towson asked, apparently taking Tarrant’s statement at face value.

Tarrant took a couple of steps backwards and put down his hands.  Moving towards the downed guard, he began to pat him down expertly.  “They are called Troopers.  This one’s name is Mally.  The weapon you confiscated is a paragun; it fires plasma.  Besides Section Leader Klegg and myself, there are four others.  Is the one you encountered earlier dead as the blood on the doorway suggests?”  Tarrant said producing a Federation radio from the troopers pocket and handing it over to Worf with a grin.

Wolf took the offered radio sceptically.  “No, he is stunned only.”

“Mores the pity.  How many are there of you?”

 

Kerr Avon opened his eyes, and then rather wished he hadn’t as the light around him was altogether too bright.

“Lower lights, one third,” an unfamiliar voice said unseen.

The lights dimmed immediately to a more bearable level, and a shape to go with the voice came into view.

“Hello, my name is Beverley, you were in an escape pod, but it’s all right, you’re safe now.  You had some fairly serious injuries, which will take you a little while to recover from.  Do you have a name?”

The voice speaking to him sounded firm and deceptively kind.  Avon still had a ringing in his ears from the force of entry; a headache straight from the mouth of hell and his vision was completely blurred.  Avon stared up at Beverly Crusher and blinked several times in an effort to clear his vision while he tried to make sense of her garbled words.

Avon tried to make sense of it; knowing that he needed to ascertain his whereabouts as soon as possible, but he felt his mind slipping away into darkness and saw no real reason to fight against it.

 

“I’ve not heard anything in sometime and the view screen is clear.  I think it would be safe to leave this place now,” Will Riker told his hostess, and made a point of standing and not grabbing for the nearest piece of furniture as the room spun lazily for a few moments before finally settling and coming to a standstill.

Dayna watched him with a touch of concern.  “We could always stay here for tonight,” she suggested.  “We’ve plenty of room and food and water enough to last.”

Riker smiled; the young woman had been surprisingly good company, informing the Commander that though she lived mostly in isolation that it hadn’t meant she didn’t have her studies and had been well versed in the classics as well as science and computer technology. 

“Thank you, but I really do need to contact my ship and get back to her.  I will be neglecting my duties if I stay away much longer,” Riker said carefully.

Dayna nodded, that she could readily understand and accept.  “Very well,” she agreed.  “Once we’re clear of our hidey hole, your… combadge… should work, that is, if it was just the EM field that was blocking reception.”

Riker nodded back in agreement.  “Thank you again for your hospitality.”

“It’s been my pleasure,” Dayna smiled, “Come, let us reunite you with your friends.”

The many steps up to the airlock, took only minutes, but seemed twice as long to Riker whose headache was returning with a vengeance, leaving a queasy feeling in his stomach.  He felt decidedly ropey by the time Dayna had the hatch open, and it was all he could do not to push past her and gulp down lungful’s of fresh, faintly salty smelling sea air.

Dayna poked her head out of the hatchway first, closely followed by a knife and arrow, one in each hand.  “It’s all clear,” she called down over her shoulder a moment later.  “I can’t see anyone.”

Moving with caution Commander Riker exited Dayna’s hidey-hole and looked around him.  The courtyard looked and felt completely deserted.

“They’ve probably lost interest and gone home,” Dayna said answering his unspoken question.

Although there was no sign of the natives, Riker was reluctant to take any chances and moved to stand in the deepening shadows against a wall.  Moving slowly he brought his right hand up to tap his combadge.  “Riker to Enterprise, come in Enterprise.”

Nothing happened other than the dull buzzy sound of a failed connection.

Undeterred Riker tried again.  “This is William T Riker to USS Enterprise, are you receiving me?  In case you are, I’ currently located approximately…”  Riker struggled with his headache to do the math, “… sixty, sixty-five meters south west of the shuttle craft.  I’m in a small courtyard, of a building with a yellow front.”

Dayna stirred beside him.  “We daren’t stay here for long, it’ll be dark soon, and some of the indigenous wildlife can be a… challenge.”

“I thought you said earlier that the ‘things’ were not real?”

“Oh the things the natives believe are not, but the wildlife is.”

“Great.  How long will it be safe to stay here?”

“How long will it take your people to find you?”

“If my combadge were working, no time at all.  Without it…  I’m surprised they haven’t sent a landing party down by now… maybe we should return to the crash site and see if anyone has?”

Dayna looked doubtfully at Riker.  “We can go and look, but best be prepared,” she said offering him her knife.

Moving carefully, taking their time to check each open doorway and window, being careful not to tread on loose twigs or rubble, Dayna and Riker made their way back to the site of the crash landing.  They could hear the noise of the Sorrens talking and laughing loudly long before they saw them however.

Carefully peering through a broken window in the building opposite the warehouse, Riker and Dayna were able to make out a large campfire, broken bits of building and large stones used to frame the fire above which some kind of animal was being slowly roasted.  Raucous laughter was met with equally boisterous hand gestures, singing, and a lot of drinking either from mugs of some sort or animal skin bags.

“It looks like they’ve made camp for the night?”  Riker said softly.  “Is there a way round, out of here?”

“What about your people?”

“We have… kind of a code of non interference; they won’t come near this place, as long as they are here.  If my combadge is still transmitting, they’ll find me anyway.”

“And if not?”

“I’ll come back in the morning and try and make contact some how.”

“Or maybe we could use the subspace transmitter we have at home,” Dayna suggested softly.

Riker stared at the young woman open mouthed.  “You’ve had access to a transmitter all this time and didn’t say anything?” he said furiously, his voice raising.

“Shush, keep your voice down, or they’ll hear us.  I thought it might be fun, that’s all.  No harm was meant by it.”

“You knew my people would be looking for me.”

“Yes, but they couldn’t have gotten that close to you while the natives were out side, you’ve just said so yourself.  See, no harm done.  We’ll just call up those friends of yours and get you home in no time now.”

“I sincerely hope so,” Riker said grimly.

“I didn’t think my company was that bad?”  Dayna said huffily moving away from the window and walking quickly towards the back of the building.

Riker watched her warily, keeping an eye both on her, and the Sorrens.

Dayna reached the back door.  “Well, are you coming or not?” she challenged.

Riker and Dayna quickly left the built up area of the fallen society behind them and soon found themselves walking in long grass, which eventually started to give way to sand dunes between pockets of green.   It wasn’t until they crested the top of a modest cliff that the daylight started to show signs of giving way to night, with a spectacular pink, purple, orange, and green sun’s set streaking across the ocean before them.

“How much further now?  I can’t see any kind of structure,” Riker said hands on hips, trying not to show just how giddy he was felling.  Looking down from a height didn’t help much either.

“We’re almost there.”  Dayna said with bad grace.

“Where?”

“The sea, we live in it.”

“In it?”

“Yes, don’t worry; you won’t even get your feet wet.  Careful now, the rocks down here are prone to shifting.”

Dayna was amazingly sure footed and skipped quickly from one rock to the other making her way down the cliff side; Riker followed a good deal slower, testing each footfall as loose stones and shingle continued to scatter in his wake.   It wasn’t until he saw a second flash of white that he stopped.

“Dayna, over hear,” the Commander called back to his companion, taking a slower route down to the base of the cliff.

“What is it?”

“Another survivor,” Riker replied, moving quickly now, headache momentarily forgotten.

“I didn’t see any signs of a space capsule.”

“Nor did I but…”  Kneeling down in the pebbles, Riker reached out to lay a couple of fingers against the survivor’s neck.  He could feel a definite pulse.  “She’s alive, but she’s been injured,” he told Dayna.

“She?”

“Yes, it must be my day for finding and rescuing beautiful young women.” 

Dayna looked at the unconscious newcomer.  “She’s not that young,” she said dismissively, “And I found you, not the other way round.”

Riker smiled to himself.  The woman was impossibly wearing a full-length white evening gown that fit the contours of her body perfectly.  She had jet-black hair, full lips, and impossibly long dark eyelashes.  She also had a blooded bandage wrapped round one slim leg, one of her sleeves were missing, so she had presumably attempted to use it as a bandage.  The jarring sight of bright red blood denoted the fact that she had indeed been injured in some manner.  “We’ll have to take her back with us,” Riker said firmly, preparing to move the unconscious woman into a position where he could pick her up more readily.

“Will we?”  Dayna queried put out by the appearance of the stranger.

“You know we do.  You rescued me, so now you can rescue the both of us,” Riker said picking up the insensible Servalan and holding her in his arms.  “Consider this a special offer; two for the price of one.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Roj Blake, by all the stars, I didn’t think you were going to make it,” Docholli said rising to his feet to greet the bigger man warmly.

“I almost didn’t,” Blake responded.  “I’m glad to see you survived too.”

“Like you it was touch and go more times than I care to think of.  But sit down, Alyssa get something strong for this man, I’ll have another too, while you’re there.”

The chosen rendezvous was a small tavern just outside Epheron’s second largest city of Lenca.  The Angel Falls was a well-known smugglers haunt, if you knew how to get into the back room of the public house that is.  Entrance was by an electronic token and 7-digit passcode.

Sitting down on a bar stool across the table from Docholli and another man Blake didn’t automatically recognise, Blake tucked his token back into his shirt out of sight.  It never paid to be too careful.

“You’ve heard of Deva of course?”  Docholli said introducing the other man,   He was clean cut and middle aged with an intense gaze that now rested thoughtfully on Blake.

“I’ve not had the pleasure until now,” Blake said with a nod.  “So what’s the news?”

“You’ve not heard?”

Blake indicated his left arm, which was still bound in a sling.  “I’ve been a little busy,” he offered with a shrug.

“Haven’t we all, in the battle?”  Docholli queried.

Alyssa arrived with a tray of drinks and sat down on the vacant stool beside Blake.

“This is Alyssa, she is considered one of the Federations top communications experts, and one of our best undercover agents,” Docholli said nodding in her direction.

Blake took a sip of his drink.  “I mean no offence but…”

“We understand.  I can vouch for them both, and have with my life, several times over.  There is not a coded message sent that Alyssa can’t decipher, and when it comes to the logistics of moving people, supplies and ships around, you can’t ask better than Diva.”

Blake nodded.  “Then that’s good enough for me.”

“So, tell me about your arm, in the battle?”

Blake laughed shortly.  “No, would you believe Travis shot me... twice… and still couldn’t aim straight!”

Docholli, Deva, and Alyssa all laughed.

“And Travis?”  Deva asked.  “I always thought he was more than a little unhinged after his courts marshal.”

“A little?”  Blake queried, and took another sip of his drink, turning sober.  “Travis is dead,” he said with a finality that left no doubt in its wake.

“You?”

Blake indicated his arm.  “No, that was Avon.  Shot him in the chest, dead centre, causing Travis to nose dive into StarOne’s reactor.”

“That would do it all right.”  Docholli agreed.

“Speaking of which, have you heard anything of my crew or ship?   I don’t remember much, but I was put into a life pod, so the Liberator must have been badly damaged.”

Deva shook his head.

Blake looked towards Alyssa.  “Anything?”

“No, nothing, sorry; but I can tell you, that you're not alone in losing or misplacing your ship.  There are many abandoned, displaced, or lost crews and ships out there.  I’ll keep an ear out, but I’ve not heard anything about Liberator specifically, but the losses on both sides have been tremendous.”

“Did we win?”

“If by we, you mean mankind, then yes, there's not much doubt the aliens were virtually wiped out, there have been a few pockets of resistance of course, where they’ve gone to ground in a couple of smaller outlying colonies.”

“They’ll be routed soon enough; the price we paid was too high to give them a chance to regroup,” Deva remarked dourly, “We lost a lot of good people, on both sides in the battle and by that I mean the Rebellion and Federation alike, and it’s not over yet...”’

“What's left of the Federation fleet, which isn't much, is scattered halfway across the galaxy.”  Alyssa nodded.

“I'd say the Federation's in a lot of trouble.”  Docholli agreed.

“I’ll drink to that,” Blake said raising his glass in a toast.  “That’s why I’m here of course.  As Avon would say “it's difficult to sustain a military dictatorship when you've lost most of the military”.”

Everyone at the table laughed again.

Deva produced several pieces of paper and plastics from the satchel sitting on the table by his side.   “Our group is scheduled to meet up with Avalon’s in two days time.  You’ll come with us of course.  As Alyssa has said, the Federation is on its knees.  It’s new President has gone missing, and…”

“A new President?”  Blake queried.  “Where has that come from?  What happened to the last one?”

“What always happens when someone gets too ambitious?”

“Surely we can use that to our advantage?”

“Yes, that’s what Avalon is counting on.  Chaos reigns nearly everywhere.”

“There’s a lot of infighting too between various factions.”  Deva agreed.

“So the time to strike is now,” Docholli said firmly.

“Agreed.  But with the casualties from the battle, how many ships and personal will we have?”

Deva sorted through a couple of the plastics in front of him and slid one of them across to Blake who gave a low whistle. “Right then, we’d best get a move on hadn’t we?

 

“Are you feeling any better now?”  Donna asked Vila sitting down beside him, and handing him a mug of tea.

“A little,” Vila agreed cautiously.  “I really could do with a little something extra added to this though, if you know what I mean?” he said holding out the mug of tea he’d just been given.

Donna smiled, and reached out to put a careful arm around Vila, being cautious of his arm now in a sling.  A scan ran in the medical section on the Tardis had shown a simple break of the thief’s left ulnar.  The Doctor had, not unsympathetically rotated it back into position, causing Vila to faint and while Vila he had been out of it, the Doctor had sprayed some instant foam over and around his arm, causing a rock hard cast in seconds.

Vila had come round pretty quickly and not wanting to be left alone, was sitting on the metal steps of the Tardis watching the Doctor tinker with something to the left and somewhat below him.

Donna smiled at Vila.  “Yes I do know what you mean,” she agreed.  “And it’s because I know, that I’m not going to do it.”

“Eh?”

“The Doctor has given me a couple of tablets for you to take with a drink,” Donna explained carefully, “Hold out your hand….”

Vila did so.

Donna tipped two purple pills the size of a garden pea onto his palm.  “Take them with this,” she instructed pointing to the tea once more.

“Muffph… mhay… mook... moo, mall… to do any good,” Vila complained taking the pills then a sip of tea and swallowing.

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you that good things come in little packages?” Donna queried.

“Eh… no, at least I don’t think so.”

“Well, they do.  The Doctor says they’re rather powerful, so you should expect to feel rather sleepy soon.  We can make you up a spare bed.”

“I can stay then?”  Vila said, not sure if he should be glad about that or not.

“For now,” The Doctor said poking his head out from underneath one of the panels on the Tardis.  “Just until we can determine just whatever caused this and allowed you to enter the Tardis when we were in the middle of the Time Vortex… and no longer.  Donna, don’t get too attached, he’s not some kind of puppy!”  The Time Lord finished before sliding back underneath the Tardis console once more.

“Don’t worry, he’s always like this,” Donna confided.

“Oi!  I can hear you perfectly well you know,” the Doctor stated.

“Then you shouldn’t have such big ears!”  Donna retorted.

Already beginning to feel the effects of the medication he’d been given, Vila moved to peer down at the Doctor to see if his ears were really big.

“What are you doing?”  Donna asked confused by Vila’s attempts to turn his head upside-down.

 “They look the normal size to me,” he said to Donna in all seriousness. “They’re not big or… or green or pointy or anything…”

It took Donna a few moments to place the comment, and then she laughed.  “Spaceman, Vila’s just checking to see if your ears are green and pointy like Spocks…”

The Doctors head appeared from below once more.  “I do not look like Spock,” he said firmly.  “How many of those pills did you give him Donna?”

“Only two, just like you said.”

The Doctor sighed.  “I said one pill, and if he was still in pain two hours later, then give him the other, not both of them at once!”

“Well Vila said he was in a lot of pain,” Donna explained.

“And now he’s going to be as high as a kite for hours and hours.”

Donna sighed.  “Are they dangerous or anything?”

Vila started to sign happily to himself, a song about a green-eared alien with big ears who went flying without permission.

The Doctor rolled his eyes.  “No.  Those pills have a half life of twelve hours, so it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Vila’s voice rose in octave, out of tune and off key.

“Is there nothing you can do?”  Donna said putting her hands over her own ears.  “No timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly stuff?”

The Doctor sighed.  “Nope!  I can’t go back in time and tell you not to give him the pills.  We’re stuck with him until the medication wears off.  If you want to help, you could hand me the No 16 spanner over there.  I haven’t found anything in the automatic defence mechanism, the ADM that points to a malfunction.  Something as serious as dropping out of the time vortex, landing on an unknown planet and letting in a complete stranger is… is more than impossible, and yet it happened.  The Banshee circuits are working correctly, the safety precaution selector is also functioning normally, yet the Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS) did not kick in, nor did the Early warning system, our defensive shields, or the Tardis Telepathic Circuits.

“In other words, the moment we dropped out of the time vortex, the Cloister Bells should have wrong and the Temporal Grace Circuits should have worked to to 'paralyse' or 'freeze' any intruder whose bio-rhythms don't correspond to a pre-programmed list of 'friends.'

“He,” the Doctor said pointing towards Vila “should be trapped in a spare dimensional stasis field, which can only be deactivated from the Control Console, by me.  It’s simply not possible to by pass every lock on this ship, open the doors, whilst she’s travelling between dimensions and ask for help.”

“But isn’t helping what you do Doctor?”  Donna asked carefully, trying to calm an obviously frustrated Doctor.  “You help people.”

“Yes, but… but….  Gah!”  The Doctor said exasperated.

Vila paused in his rendition of the Ballard of Green Ear.  “I’m good with locks,” he said with a friendly grin.  “I can open anything as I always tell Avon, not that he listens to me of course.  Would you like to hear of the time I rescued us all from certain death at the System’s hand with nothing more than a bobby pin I’d borrowed from Jenna?”

The Doctor and Donna shared a look.

Donna picked up the tea Vila had put down.  “Try some more tea, Vila it’ll make you feel better.”

“But I feel better already.”

“Then the tea will work really well won’t it?”

“It might,” Vila conceded, searching in his tunic pocket for something.  He brought out a crumpled paper bag and offered it to Donna.  “Go on, try one.  I’m not sure what they are, but they’re yummy,” he explained.

Gingerly putting her hand in the bag Donna exchanged another look with the Doctor as she pulled out one his jelly babies.

“What?”  The Doctor spluttered.

 

“Come,” Picard, said in answer to the chiming of the doors to his Ready Room.  He’d reached a natural break in the reports he’d been reading, so had just decided to fetch himself a drink from the replicator, and had just finished ordering his usual hot Earl Grey tea when Data stepped into the room, or at least tried to.  The doors whooshed open, only to close again a second later, open once more, then try to close before seizing up completely, half open.

Giving the door a perplexed look, Data shuffled in sideways.  “The glitches in the Enterprises electrical systems appear to be getting worse,” he offered.

Next to Picard, the replicator in the wall offered a coughing splutter and spat out a dark blue sludge into the bottom of the Captain’s usual clear glass cup.

“I wonder what gave it away!”  Picard said dryly, putting both the cup and its contents into the recycling bin.  “Let’s try that again shall we?  Is Mr La Forge any closer to fixing these glitches?” 

“I do not believe so Captain,” Data said calmly.  “Although I know he has several teams of engineers working on the problems as they arise.  Just a moment ago the automatic watering system in hydroponic bay four decided that it was monsoon season and caused a fair amount of damage to the substrate the plants need in order to grow; additionally the over abundance of water in that area have caused several small leaks to appear in the storage facility below.”

“I trust the clean up crews are already on site?”

“Yes sir.”

“Could the anomaly be the cause of these faults?  How soon before the preliminary report from sciences will be ready?”

“I estimate another 26 minutes, 43 seconds sir, but I do not believe the energy output from the phenomenon is the cause of our ship wide computer malfunctions.  Whist it is true that we are still in the process of an external and internal system-wide sensor sweep and diagnostic scan, in order to locate the true cause, early indications suggest that the fault lies internally although from an external source.”

Picard frowned.  “An internal external source?  You do realise Mr Data that you have just appeared to contradict yourself?”

“Yes sir.  It is a puzzle that we are still working on.”

“Very well, I expect a report in due course…  Merde!  What has this damn machine given me now?”  Picard said looking at the milky brown liquid in a new glass cup.

Data took a step forward and sniffed the air carefully.  “I do believe it is coffee sir.  Black Ivory, with milk.  Some purists say that coffee should be drunk unadulterated without milk and any added sweetener such as honey, sugar, or fructose.  They also believe that for a truly exceptional cup, one should roast and grind your own beans for the ultimate in freshness and flavour.  For rarity value there is an animal native to Earth called the Palm Civet or Civet Cat.  These animals ingest the coffee beans themselves but most of the bean survives intact through the creature’s digestive system.  It is then collected and turned into coffee called Kopi Luwak.  The Tellarites have a similar collection method with one their aquatic mammals the largely nocturnal…”

“Thank you Mr Data, that’s quite enough on coffee,” Picard said eyeing his beverage with disfavour.  He decided to take a cautious sip.  “Hmm, not tea obviously,” he said with evident distaste.

“No sir.  As your replicator is malfunctioning, you could always send down to Ten Forward for your tea.”

“And have Guinan lecture me on drinking too much of the stuff?  Thank you Data, I suppose this will have to do.  It’s better than the blue stuff at any rate.”

“Yes sir,” Data agreed.  “Although are you aware that if you do imbed too much tea that the caffeine it contains can lead to both mild or to serious side effects.  These include, but are not limited to headaches, nervousness, sleep dysfunctions’, vomiting, diarrhoea, irritability, irregular heart…”

“Transporter Room Three to Captain Picard.”

“Picard here,” the Captain said tapping his combadge to open the channel and cutting across the start of Data’s lecture on tea.

“Ensign Peterson sir, I don’t quite know how to say this but we’ve just lost contact with Lt Commander Worf and his security detail.”

Picard exchanged a look with Data.  “What do you mean we’ve lost contact?” he asked. 

“Ensign you were supposed to keep a transporter lock on the Away Tea at all times.  Do you mean to say you’ve lost that too?  Data added.

“Yes Commander and I can’t seem to raise them at all Captain.  I’ve tried and tried, and double, triple checked my settings and the controls.  I have no explanation, but they were there one moment and gone the next…”

Picard drew a breath.  “Stay right were you are Ensign, do not touch anything further, we’ll be with you in a moment.”  The Captain said then tapped his combadge to close the channel.  “Glitches aside, two transporter malfunctions depriving this ship of both her First Officer and Security Chief, in the presence of an as yet undetermined anomaly is too much of a coincidence for my taste.

“We need to get to the bottom of this quickly.  Mr Data, you’re with me,” he instructed putting down his drink and exiting his Ready Room by squeezing sideways through the door as Data had done.  “Mr Walker,” he said addressing the junior Lieutenant operating Worf’s customary station at tactical.  “Kindly see if you can raise Commander Worf and/or his on the planet below please.”

“Yes sir.”

Picard forced himself to stand still, his eyes dawn to the purple/blue/white spinning haze that was the anomaly, just visible on the bottom left of the viewscreen, whilst the main view which half filled it, was of the planet below.  Both seemed quiet and innocuous.

Data moved to confer briefly with the officer currently filling in for him at his ops station.  The atmosphere on the bridge was tense but professional, while everyone waited to hear if Walker could raise Worf.  Picard sent Troi a silent look, which she replied with a quick shake of her head.  She couldn’t sense anything unusual.

A full minute passed while the Lieutenant jg attempted to raise the Enterprise’s Chief of Security or anyone on the Away Team and failed. 

“I can’t seem to manage it sir,” the junior officer finally admitted.

Picard nodded, keeping his worry hidden.  “Thank you Mr Walker, as you were.  Commander Lenko, you have the Comm, Mr Data, if you’d be so good as to come with me?” the captain said gesturing for Data to walk ahead of him to the turbolift at the back of the bridge.  “I’ll be back in a short while, but in the meantime can someone get my blasted door fixed, oh and see to the replicator too.  I do not drink coffee!”

Picard waited until he and Data were in the turbolift before he said anything.  “Deck 6,” the Captain ordered curtly before turning to his Second Officer.  “Thoughts Mr Data?  I was hoping that the little test on the bridge should rule out the same electrical malfunction that’s currently playing havoc in Transporter Room Three,” he confided.  “Or indeed, if that is the case.”

Data tilted his head fractionally to one side processing the Captains words at lightning speed.  “An interesting hypothesis sir,” he concluded.  “However if the glitch in the system has lead to a ship wide communication failure then we would not be any the wiser; both instances would produce identical results, just as we’ve now seen.”

The Captain frowned  “You’re saying this goes further than just a couple of isolated incidents?  You think this is all connected somehow?  To what?  The anomaly or something more we haven’t seen as yet?”

“I do not know Sir, that is what the engineering and science departments are trying to ascertain,” Data said softly. “An anomaly is, by its very definition, unknown.”

 Picard frowned.  “You’re quite right of course,” he agreed and tapped his combadge.  “Commander La Forge, how is the diagnostic on Transporter One progressing.”

“La Forge here, slowly Captain.  Commander Data was going to brief you on the additional system wide disturbances we’ve been experiencing.”

“I am here with the Captain Geordi,” Data confirmed.  “I believe he’s been well versed in some of the malfunctions, to whit the door to his Ready Room and the room’s replicator system.”

“When I can spare a team, I’ll send them up, but there is not much more I am able to tell you Captain, other than the fact that we have yet to find any cause for either in these new glitches or the cause of the original transporter malfunction.”

“Understood Mr La Forge, at your convenience perhaps you’d care to meet the Mr Data and myself in room 2054.”

“Transporter Room Three?”  La Forge queried.

“Yes Geordi, the malfunctions have spread further than we anticipated.  We seem to have… misplaced more crew…”

 

Cally was nearly insensate by the time her escape pod finally came to rest, bouncing across the dry dessert sand, flipping upwards every now and then when it hit a small rock or bolder.   The escape pods booster rocket had started to fail several hours ago, causing the escape pod to limp along at ½ the speed of light as well limiting the supply of oxygen in the capsule.

With a final couple of bounces, the life pod came to a juddering halt.

All was quiet except for the hiss of metal as it started to cool.

Minutes passed under the blazing hot sun of the planet.  The hissing stopped to be replaced first by a soft drip; drip, dripping and then a softer swoosh.  Moments later the first wispy tendrils of smoke appeared.

It was the smoke that dragged Cally closer towards consciousness.  The Auron forced her eyes open and coughed in the tainted air.   It felt unbearably hot in the escape pod, Cally shivered aware she was going into shock.  Using the last of her strength, she struggled to push open the escape hatch, and half fell outside.

 

With Towson sent back the way he’d come to meet up with Portman and D’Son and advise them of the situation,  Worf spent a few minutes fastening and then testing the restraints around Kleggs wrists.  The Klingon making doubly sure the Section Leader was secured to an integral part of the ships structure, rather than a chair or desk, ensuring he wouldn’t be able to free himself.  Straightening he stumbled slightly as the deck appeared to move beneath him.  “Did you feel that?” he asked Tarrant who was still tying up the second trooper.

“Indeed,” Tarrant agreed, fastening the last handcuff in place.  “I would imagine we have probably changed course or more likely increased speed again.  The Liberator has been doing that off and on for several hours.”

“Collecting more rebel scum no doubt,” Klegg said spitting on the floor.

Both Worf and Tarrant ignored him.  “The…  Liberator is presumably using fixed points as navigational aids,” Worf suggested.

“Yes, that was my first thought as well,” Tarrant agreed.  “Are you a pilot?”

“No, I am Chief of Security aboard the Enterprise.  However all Command Officers are required to have basic flight training and navigation skills.  Compared to a true pilot I have rudimentary knowledge at best.”  A thought struck Worf.  “Are you aware of our current location?  For example the Enterprise was on a course of 009 mark 672 holding a high orbit round planet RK2579.  The planet had an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere able to support carbon life.  RK2579 is classified as a Db3 planet, which means it that any inhabitants are unlikely to have developed space travel.”

“An interesting and concise hypothesis,” Tarrant said approvingly.  “However I’ve not heard of RK2579, so can’t comment on its classification.”

“Thank you, but not entirely unexpected,” Worf acknowledged as both he and Tarrant exited the room where they’d detained Klegg and two of his troopers.  They watched the door slide shut behind them. 

“I wish we could properly secure the room,” Tarrant said staring at the unfamiliar keypad of the door release mechanism.

Worf aimed his phaser at the lock and fired a short burst at it, melting, and fusing the circuitry.

Tarrant grinned.  “Simple, yet effective,” he approved.

“I would have preferred to secure them in the Brig,” Worf grumbled.

“Ah, I have yet to find that particular section as yet,” Tarrant, admitted.  “However to get back to your question, I have to admit I don’t know precisely where we are either.  I was caught up in fighting what I know as the intergalactic war, with the inhabitants of the Andromedian Galaxy, the closest tours.  They seem to be a rather hostile and hellishly blood thirsty bunch.  They don’t tend to have any use for prisoners, rather adopt a shoot first, second and third before going in with their knives and laser pistol things type of people.  I was several clicks away from Altern V, a Federation stronghold and a fall back position for us to regroup when my ship the Talisman went down.”

“They sound like men who know little of Honour,” Wolf stated with disgust.  “However I do not know of an Altern V, or have a frame of reference for your Andromedian Galaxy.”

“Not entirely unexpected now, but a bit of a blow nonetheless.  I foresee it could be somewhat tricky to find a common frame of reference, if you don’t recognise either Altern V or Andromeda, and I don’t recognise RH2579.  Still it’ll keep us on our toes that’s for sure.  In the mean time, we still have two of Kleggs men to find, and we need to establish where the Liberator is heading, and if anything on its screen looks familiar to either of us.”

“You are not able to access this ships navigation system?”

“No, not at all, ever since Klegg and his men, and then I boarded her, we’re just been along for the ride.  It appears to be acting on a predetermined set of instructions, presumably to locate this ships original crew and recover them.”

Worf nodded.  “That would be logical,” he agreed.  “However perhaps my tricorder might serve as an interface and give us access to some of the ships functions.”

“A tricorder?  I’ve never heard of one of those,” Tarrant admitted curious.  “What is it and what does it do?”

Worf unclipped the pouch containing his tricorder and showed it to Tarrant, though he didn’t offer to let him touch it, and carefully returned it to its carrier.  “It is a handheld device which combines sensors, atmospheric analysis, proximity checks, communications, and a universal translator.  This is a model TR-580 mark 7.  I am hoping it will be of some assistance to us now.  Let us get to the bridge and establish a base of operations before we decide how to proceed.”

“Yes of course, I was thinking the flight deck might be a good place to start, unless you’d rather stay in the teleport facility?  If the ship is about to pick up any of its crew, I think that’s where they’ll appear, rather than docking with the ship now she’s in flight mode.”

Worf thought about it.  “Yes I agree.  I can get a couple of my men to cover the transporter area.  You and I will head to the bridge,” he said firmly.

“As you wish,” Tarrant agreed.

Worf was silent for several minutes as they made their way through the oddly shaped hexagonal corridors lit on four sides and the ceiling by elongated light panels.   “The centre of the Federation is Sol III or Terra in Sector 001 of the Alpha quadrant,” he offered finally.

“Ah, for us Terran is one of the main languages of Earth,” Tarrant, ”and is in the 9th Sector, our mapping system radiates out from Earth, the founding planet of the Federation, we don’t work on quadrants.”

“I believe Earth is another name for Sol III.”  Worf agreed.  “Though our intergalactic travel contains four sectors in the United Federation of Planets, then we have the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, the Cardassian Union, The Tholian Assembly, the Naberrite Alliance and at least two or three dozen other minor systems or unallied planets.”

Tarrant whistled.  “Well, I hate to say it, but you’re bigger than us, especially after the routing we’ve just had with the Andromedans.  When we have the time, we’ll have to sit down and have a proper show and tell, but right now I think we may have a few more pressing problems,” he said having spotted the silhouette of one of Kleggs troopers apparently holding two of Worf’s security guards.

Ducking back down the corridor, Tarrant pulled Worf with him, or at least he tried to, surprised by the body mass of his new friend.  “We need to come up with a plan,” he hastily whispered to Worf, finally getting the Klingon to move back out of sight with him.  “Give me your gun, I’ll walk you up to Marv at supposed gunpoint, and while he’s distracted you can bop him one.”

“Agreed,” Worf said with a nod, through narrowed eyes.  It was a good plan, as long as Tarrant didn’t play him false.  However, Tarrant had already helped him take out two of the troopers and Klegg himself, and this other man had captured two of his men, which gave them a 4:2 ratio.  Therefore, the odds were on Worf’s side regardless of Tarrant’s intentions.   

“I found this one hanging around the teleport bay,” Tarrant said strolling onto the flight deck with his gun planted visibly in Worf’s side.  “I see you’ve managed to capture another two of our guests as well.  Well done Yarrow.”

“Thank you sir, Phillips said he wanted to finish checking the ships storage facilities in cargo bay one, then he’ll be right up.”

“Excellent, you have done well,” Tarrant said warmly, deliberately indicating with his gun that Worf should cross in front of Yarrow to join the rest of his security team.

Yarrow, still basking in Tarrant’s praise and unconsciously relaxing due to Tarrant’s own calm attitude, lowered his own weapon to let Worf pass between them, and didn’t have time to react before Worf struck with lightning efficiency and dealt him a knock-out blow to his chin, felling him instantly.

Portman and D’Son were surprised, unable to comprehend what had just happened until Worf barked at D’Son to hand him his cuffs.

“I’m sorry sir, he just seemed to come at us out of nowhere,” D’Son apologised handing over the restraints.

“I will hear your full report at a later date,” Worf said firmly.

Tarrant stepped in.  “To be fair, the troopers have been on this ship for three days already, they had to search it thoroughly from the start in order to claim it her prize money.”

Worf gave Tarrant a look.  “Officers are not supposed to be captured so easily.  They will be dealt with a later time.  For now however, we need to remove this individual from the bridge and prepare a plan to capture the remaining trooper before he discovers what has happened.”

“Yarrow said Phillips is in cargo bay one, I will simply walk up to him and ask him if he’s seen the others, he won’t suspect a thing.  I’ll even take one of your men with me if you like?”

 

Jean-Luc Picard strode into Sickbay, irritated and worried in equal measure.  He walked straight into Crushers office.  “Doctor, it is now imperative that I speak with your patient,” he said firmly.

“I’m sorry Captain, he did regain consciousness, albeit briefly, but the trauma he sustained was too much for him and he lost it very soon afterwards.”

“Did you get a chance to ask him anything?”

“Only his name.”

“And?”

Beverley shook her head.

“Then you need to wake him again Doctor.”

“He needs to rest.”

“And I need to speak with him.  We have lost four more of this ship’s crew.  We are in uncharted space, with some kind of anomaly breathing down our necks and odd malfunctions popping up in various areas.  If he has any idea how any of this has happened…”

“You surely can’t hold him responsible for the disappearance of the crew? 

“No, I am not suggesting that, however the fact remains that Commander Riker, Will, went down to rescue him, and Worf and his men vanished while he was here in sickbay.”  Picard said firmly.  “Ergo I need to speak with him.”

Beverly Crusher looked at Picard.  She understood and shared his concern for their missing crewmembers; however, her adherence to the Hippocratic Oath remained strong.  Reluctantly she stood.  “Very well, two minutes Captain, no more, it won’t do to overtire him.”

Avon was situated in ITU, and had the suite to himself.

Raising the level of the light by 20%, Dr Crusher crossed the room to stare thoughtfully at the biofunction screen above Avon for several moments before picking up a hypospray and giving him a small shot of stimulant.

It worked almost immediately.

Avon drew a breath, doing his best not to wince at the immediate stabbing pain his chest.  Groaning slightly as he came round he realised pretty quickly that he had one hell of a headache; in fact, he ached all over, feeling as if he’d gone several rounds with Travis and almost didn’t win.

Another breath, which he wished he hadn’t taken.

“Hello, I’m hoping you’re back with us again.  I’m not sure how much you remember.  We found you in your life pod on the planet below.”  Beverly Crusher said carefully, watching Avon’s vital signs closely.

Drawing a shallower breath, one that didn’t hurt so much, Avon opened his eyes.  Despite the continued headache, his vision was clear this time, enabling him to see the unfamiliar tiled ceiling of the Enterprise’s surgical unit.

“Hello again,” Crusher tried as Avon’s dark eyes fixed unblinkingly upon her.  His expression was completely blank, giving nothing away as he struggled to make sense his surroundings.

“My name is Beverly Crusher.  You were injured.  We brought you back to our ship to treat your injuries.  You’re safe now,” Beverly continued.  “You had a few fairly serious injuries and at least a couple of bumps on your head; you may have concussion, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t remember.  But do you know what caused you to abandon your ship?”

Avon said nothing, taking shallow breaths, as he attempted to piece together what had happened.

Crusher frowned, noticing Avon’s obvious breathing difficulties.  “I can give you something that will help with that,” she suggested, dialling a strong analgesic into the hypospray and injecting Avon with it.

Avon had held perfectly still, and continued to look at the doctor as his pain eased.

Crusher turned to Picard.  “I really don’t think he’s going to be able to help us at the moment,” she said firmly.  “I’ve just had to give him 5cc’s Terakine and Hydrocortilene to ease his pain.”

 “Noted doctor,” Picard said with a nod stepping round Beverly to take her place besides Avon’s bedside.  “I don’t intend to keep you for long, I’m aware that you’ve been in a shuttle accident,” Picard told Avon carefully.  The Captain had moderated his tone somewhat to take account of the fact that Avon was obviously unwell.

Avon looked at Picard.  His mind felt distinctly woolly, and as the redhead had suggested there were gaps in his memory.  He had no recollection of leaving the Liberator, crash-landing on any planet, or any rescue afterwards.  The clothing the man and woman were wearing were unfamiliar to him, as was what little design of the ship he could see.

Frustrated Picard looked at Crusher, who returned his gaze with an ‘I told you so’ one of her own.  Nevertheless, the Captain tried again.  “My name is Jean-Luc Picard, I’m the Captain of the USS Enterprise, we’re a Federation star ship, and we consider you our guest aboard this ship.  Now, is there anything you can tell us?  Anything you can remember about how you came to be in your life pod?  What happened to your ship?  Did it have something to do with the anomaly?”

Avon wasn’t really thinking clearly, but he heard the word “Federation” with startling clarity.  The bald headed man talking to him wasn’t wearing the standard Federation uniform and the ships design was unfamiliar to him; which lead him to come to the logical conclusion that he was aboard an experimental vessel.  Was this how they’d defeated the aliens?  

Avon stopped appalled as a new thought took hold.  If he were aboard a Federation ship, he would be in enough trouble.  He knew all too well how the Federation treated their guests.  Now he was awake, it wouldn’t be long before he was thrown into a cell. 

However what if they hadn’t defeated the aliens?  Or at least some of them had survived?  Despite the pounding in his head, and gaps in his memory, Avon remembered how the aliens he’d seen on Star One had appeared human until he’d shot a couple of them.  Had they lost the battle then and he was aboard an Alien ship?  Was this some kind of elaborate trap?

 

“We don’t have much by way of a first aid kit, just the usual disinfectant,  dressings, bandages, wipes, clips, scissors, lint and some quick set foam, left over from when Iesha broke her arm once, some energy tablets and some plasters, I think.”  Dayna said, still sounding a bit miffed as she escorted Riker down the spiral steps to her underground home, helping him carry the strange woman they’d found with great reluctance.

There had been no one on the beach when they’d finally made it down to the shoreline, whereupon Will had been more than a little surprised when Dayna stopped after they’d only walked a dozen or so metres before dropping to the sand, and starting to dig.  He was even more surprised to see the glint of a polished metal surface reflect back in the dying suns rays after a couple of moments.

“Your family really like trap doors don’t you,” he’d said watching Dayna in amazement.  “I know you said you lived in the sea, but I thought you meant you had an entrance way near a tidal cave or something.”

“Oh we do, there’s another entrance to our home about 600 metres off in that direction, but this is closer and I didn’t want to take the chance of being seen.  I told you, you wouldn’t get your feet wet remember?”  Dayna had said using a magnetic passkey to unlock the airlock.  Now she looked at Riker with wary reluctance as they reached the bottom of the staircase.

The staircase opened up the last few feet to give a view of the open planned interior of the big main room.  The walls, ceiling and floor were all some kind of silvered metal, and while their were several cream coloured couches and other homely touches about the place, the cylindrical support struts and venting systems; interface panels and hatches for service ducts gave away the nature of Dayna’s home immediately.

“We’re inside a space ship,” Riker said looking round him in amazement.

“A fixed orbit station, but to be fair you were close,” Dayna said, thawing slightly.  “My father flew her here and then beached her just over twenty years ago.”

“Some feet of engineering, to get her down intact.  How did he do it I wonder?  The heat of re-entry alone would have put an enormous strain on her outer hull.”

“You can ask him about that in a minute when you meet him.  In the meantime we need to decide what to do about her.”

“She needs medical attention.”

“Well yes, as I’ve said before we only have very limited supplies, so we don’t have much.   There’s a spare bed in my room, I suppose we aught to put her there, this way.”

Once more carrying Servalan by himself, Riker obediently followed Dayna down a corridor off to his right from the staircase. “What do you do if you get sick?”

“Me, I never get sick.  I don’t believe in it, and I’ve always been in the best of health.   As I said before Iesha broke her arm once, and we had to send for some first aid bits with our regular supply run.”

“I thought you said you and your family lived alone?”

“We do, but we’re not primitives.  We design and build security systems and have a small but loyal client bass.  Once every month we have supplies we could not attain otherwise brought here.”

“So you have a way off this planet?”

“Yes and no.  This is my room, you can put her down here, she can have this bed,” Dayna directed Riker.  “We don’t have a ship ourselves, but our supplies are brought in by a Mark 58 planet hopper.  The next one is scheduled in 29 days, as it last came 2 days ago.”

“Well, I can’t wait that long in any case.  I really need to contact my ship as soon as possible.  If you’re able to arrange for the shipment of supplies you must have a communication system.”

“We do.  I’ll ask my father to take you there.  But first, we need to deal with her.  See if you can wake her while I fetch my father and let him know we have guests.”

Riker watched Dayna leave the room, taking with her several unanswered questions, before he forced himself to push them aside for the time being and concentrate on the problem at hand.

The unconscious woman felt cold to the touch, her skin quite clammy.  Being very circumspect about her body, Riker quickly removed the damp sandy, formally white evening dress she’d been wearing and slipped her between the sheets of the bed, just leaving her injured leg above the covers.

Unsure of what he would find, Riker padded the ruined dress up under the leg to act as a towel and protection for the bed before he untied the cloth about Servalan’s leg.  He had been right to do so, as the wound was deep, a piece of metal deeply imbedded in the thigh just above the knee.  It immediately began bleeding profusely once the pressure of the bandage was removed.

Dayna hadn’t yet supplied Riker with the first aid kit that she’d spoken of, so there was little Riker could do for the moment other than retie the cloth Servalan had used as a temporary bandage anyway.  He felt her wince as he did so.

“Sorry, I was just taking a look to see how bad it is,” he explained, eventually looking up.

Deep green eyes regarded him narrowly.  “And?”

“There’s a foreign object which appears to be imbedded in your thigh which needs to be removed.”

“Yes, I thought as much myself.  Are you a doctor?”

“No, a Starfleet Officer, but I’ve had medical training.”  Riker said carefully, greatly surprised that the unknown woman seemed completely composed and quite lucid.  She had to be in a lot of pain, yet it didn’t show from her demeanour.

“How fortunate for me.”

Riker offered his patient a smile.  “Someone has gone to fetch a medical kit,” Riker continued. 

“Again I am most grateful.”  Servalan said carefully.  She was in a fair amount of discomfort, but quite determined not to let it show, or demonstrate any kind of weakness until she had worked out exactly where she was.  She didn’t recognise Rikers uniform and had certainly never heard of Starfleet.  “So, who do I thank for my timely rescue?  You must have a name?” she said offering Riker a smile of her own.

Riker grinned in response.  “It’s Will,” he offered.  “Do you have a name as well?”

Servalan drew a breath.  “You can call me Sleer,” she suggested.

Chapter Text

Parts of the Tardis surrounded the Doctor where he had been methodically stripping it down in order to find out just how Vila had managed to get past all the security systems and pluck the Tardis from the time vortex.  It shouldn’t have been possible, yet there was no denying it had happened.  Vila sound asleep and snoring loudly on the grating by the coral shaped console was proof of that. 

“Donna, hand me that thingummy,” The Doctor asked his assistant.  They’d both decided to leave Vila quietly alone, as he had an enormously loud singing voice, and not in a particularly tuneful one.

Donna looked at the various tools and paraphernalia the Time Lord had been using to dismantle various parts of the Tardis with, and sighed.  She’d offered to help, and as a Temp, she had long since learned the art of fixing various bits around the office, but she had to admit that mostly everything on the Tardis and how it functioned was beyond her.  “Which particular thingummy would that be; the red one, blue one, darker blue one, the bent one, or the one with umpteen twiddly bits on it?”

“There should be a silver one with a size two sprue socket on one end and a 36mm ring spanner on the other,” the Doctor said helpfully.

“Sprocket and ring, silver,” Donna muttered to herself finally selecting a tool that was the right colour, had a hexagonal hole in one end and something that looked like a multi pronged cog in the other.  She handed it to the Doctor, who took it without looking until he tried to use it.

“Donna I said sprue socket, you’ve handed me a sprocket,” the Doctor said handing it back, then waving is hand in the air waiting for the correct instrument to be found.

“This one?”  Donna asked, picking another one more or less at random.  “It’s all very well taking the Tardis apart like this, but how long is it going to take to put her back?”

“I can’t do that until I know what’s wrong with her.”

“You’ve been at it for hours all ready, and you haven’t found anything have you?”

“Nope, but that doesn’t mean nothing is wrong, just that I’m not looking in the right place yet.  Ah, this is more like it,” the Doctor said eagerly, twisting something free, and then wriggling backwards out from under the grating beneath the console.  “Do you know what this is?”

Donna looked at the object.

“Well?” the Doctor said getting to his feet.  “I need to test it,”

“It’s a light bulb,” Donna said slowly.

“Yes it is.  But not just any light bulb.  Do you know what’s special about it?

Donna looked at the lightbulb.  “It’s red?” she said doubtfully.

“Yes it is, now where did I put my sonic?”

“In your trouser pocket away from Vila,” Donna said automatically.

The Doctor felt in his pock and retrieved his sonic screwdriver then spent several minutes, trying to juggle the lightbulb while changing the settings on his screwdriver.

Donna watched him.  “Would you like me to hold that for you?” she offered patiently.

“Thanks,” the Doctor said offering her his sonic.

Donna gave him a look.  “What am I supposed to do with this Dumbo?  I meant the other way round?”

“Oh right, yes of course.  Just be very careful of it.”

“Why, it’s a light bulb, sorry a red light bulb.”  Donna said taking the glass object.  “I don’t see what’s so special about it?”

“When the Tardis is in danger, the cloister bell should sound, and the light should come on in warning,” The Doctor replied simply.

Donna looked at where the cloister bell sat on the floor, a cascade of wires still attached to the Tardis for the most part, piled around it.  The Doctor had prodded and poked it for a good hour or so, to no avail, unable to find any faults.  “That one there?  What can a simple light bulb tell you, which that whole heap of… wires and stuff couldn’t?” she asked sceptically.

Having finished fine-tuning his sonic the Doctor took back his bulb and touched the connective points of it to the end of the screwdriver.  It lit up immediately.

“No that not it then.”  The Doctor said handing the bulb back to Donna.

“There may be another explanation,” Donna said holding the bulb as if it were a particularly nasty object.

“Yes?”

“The Tardis isn’t in any danger,”

“Then how do you explain him?” the Doctor said with a nod towards Vila.

 

“Are you sure he’s not faking it?” the Captain said in frustration looking at Beverly.  He had been unable to get a word out of their guest.

“As I explained to you Jean-Luc, he’s still rather poorly, concussion and memory loss is a very real probability, he’s in pain, and shock.  I don’t blame him for not wanting to talk.”  Crusher said reasonably.  “Give him a little more time, an hour, or two...”

“And in the meantime members of my crew are still missing, and this ship is still experiencing unexplained malfunctions.”

“Yes, I understand that, but as I’ve also said before, you can’t surely blame him for their disappearances or the malfunctions?”

Picard looked at Beverly then continued to pace once more, thinking.  “What if,” he said slowly.

“Yes?”

“You said he has a brain injury,”

“Concussion and bruising to the left side of his frontal lobe yes,” Beverly agreed cautiously.

“And you said he’s not quite human?”

“There are slight differences to his DNA.  Our sensors say he’s both human and not fully human, or not from this time – although with the system malfunctions that have been reported, that could just be an error that’s gone undetected.”

“You’ve had other problems in sick bay?”

“No, not now I come to think of it.”

“So… what if, our out of time, not human, human, who has concussion, is somehow causing these malfunctions in his unconscious state?”  Captain Picard queried.

Crusher looked at Picard.  “I think that’s unlikely,” she said after a brief pause.  “But it’s easy enough to check.  I’m still keeping a close eye on his vital signs, so any anomalies would show up on his biofunction monitor.”  Typing in a few commands on the screen at her desk, Crusher quickly called up Avon’s stats.  “I’m not seeing anything out of the ordinary,” she admitted.  “See, look here and here,” perfectly normal for someone with a brain injury who is experiencing some degree of concussion and discomfort.

Picard drew a breath.  “Whilst I’m not saying I don’t believe you.  I think I may call Councillor Troi and ask her to pay our patient a visit, if you have no objection?”

“Other than the fact I’ve told you he needs to rest.  You’re the captain, Captain.”

“Yes I am,” Picard agreed.  “And in this instance, I think I’m going to follow my instinct.  Picard to Councillor Troi, can you meet me in the Chief Medical Officers office immediately please?”

“Yes sir, I’m on my way,” Deanna agreed responding to Picard’s hail.

 

The Tardis suddenly rocked, catching both the Doctor and Donna off guard.

“What the hell has just happened?”  The Doctor asked, looking worried and alarmed, reaching immediately for the keyboard on the console, moving the monitor screen closer to him, while he manipulated another lever with one foot, so he could see what was going on outside.  Had something bumped into the Tardis?  It had been growing dark by the time Vila had stumbled upon them in the unexplained alleyway, but that was what should be outside now.

The jolt had caused Donna to drop the light bulb she had been holding.  Fortunately, it didn’t break, but bounced on Vila and then rolled off down the steps of the main console.  Donna stepped round Vila to chase after it.

Vila stirred woken by the motion of the Tardis, and then the sound of Donna’s feet running past him.

“Have I missed something?  I was having a lovely dream,” he yawned bewildered.

Distracted by Vila, the Doctor didn’t notice Donna reach for the Tardis doors to steady herself as she bent to pick up the light bulb, just at the same time Deanna Troi entered turbolift One from the bridge.

The two women briefly caught sight of each other as they passed, then the Tardis doors shut as did the turbolift’s leaving Deanna in the Tardis, to the sound of a loud bonging noise, and Donna on the bridge of the Enterprise holding a glowing red light bulb.

 

“It’s glowing red Doctor,” Donna said with mix of excitement and dismay, looking down at the lightbulb in her hands.  She had just enough time to see the look of incomprehension and horror on the Doctors face before the turbolift doors closed between them. “What?  Oh no you don’t,” Donna said hitting the doors with the palm of one hand.  “Open this door right now you idiot, it can’t be as bad as all that?” she continued, not noticing that she was hitting the grey turbolift doors and not the blue ones of the Tardis.

Counsellor Troi had been discussing the recent calisthenics programme Worf had modified for Human use with Commander Lenko, the Duty Officer on the Bridge, when Picard had asked her to join him in Sick Bay. 

Lenko was the first to see Donna Noble therefore, and his reaction was as instinctive as swift.  “Intruder on the Bridge, Red Alert,” he said swiftly, standing up to face Donna.  “Security to the bridge; stay were you are, don’t move.”

It was only when the lighting on the bridge dimmed red and a claxon started to sound that Donna realised that something was dreadfully wrong.  Not only was she no longer on the Tardis, what should have been the alleyway outside the Tardis, was no longer there either.  It was only when she turned round slowly, that she saw the extent of her predicament however, for she was in on the bridge of a very hostile looking spaceship and very clearly in space one more.

Everyone was looking at her, and now pointing weapons at her as well she realised a moment later as the doors opposite and behind her opened to admit four armed security guards in black and gold uniforms all pointing their weapons at her.

“Wait, please I can explain,” she said hastily, “I’m not really an intruder or anything, I shouldn’t really be here, I just stepped out of the Tardis by mistake, trying to catch this, the Doctor’s lightbulb and…”  Donna stopped looking down at the lightbulb in her hands; impossibly it was still brilliantly lit up – without any sign of a power source.  Not only was that a puzzle in itself, but she quickly realised how silly her story sounded.  “I don’t suppose you’re going to believe me are you?” she finished.

 

Deanna Troi had been enjoying a quite conversation with Lenko.  He had joined the Enterprise eight months ago from the USS Destroyer and had been an exemplary Officer, polite, easy going, hard working, and good company when he was off duty.  He had quickly joined Crusher, Troi and a few others in their daily workout sessions, and had jumped at the chance of trying Worf’s Human grade calisthenics programme, proving very adapt at rock climbing and rope jumping.

The conversation had also been Deanna’s way of keeping her mind off Will and Worf.   She wasn’t able to get a sense of either of them, in a truly empathic way, as she could when they were aboard the ship, but she didn’t have the feeling that either one were in any danger either. What she could feel was something akin to having a veil drawn up between them.  A situation she didn’t like and wasn’t used to.  For the past couple of hours now, she had been straining her ½ Betazoid senses to the limit, trying to catch the faintest impression of the missing crew, to no avail.  Deanna was tired and on edge therefore, and didn’t notice where she was walking until it was too late.

Deanna was also aware the Picard was troubled, not only by the loss of his officers, but by his inability to converse with the man they had rescued on the planet below; a man who, if they had not stopped to help, would not have caused the Enterprise to be without her First Officer and Security Chief.

Deanna was already deep in thought as she walked up the slope of the bridge to the rear turbolift entrance and pressed the button for the lift to open, and stepped inside a moment later.  Catching a brief glimpse of Donna as they passed each other, Troi didn’t register she was in the wrong place until she was hit by an immense wall of noise and sensation.  The Tardis’ cloister bell was loud; vibrating the very air with its doleful sound as a wave of telepathic welcome/acceptance washed through her like a static charge leaving her gasping.

Taking a step back in order to distance herself from the feeling to prevent herself being overwhelmed, it was only when she trod on something and heard it crunch that Troi, looking down, realised there was a metal deck beneath her feet, not carpet, covered with parts of a disassembled something.  Her back hit the closed door of the Tardis as she picked up on another range of emotion …shock/disbelief and anger.

 

A shimmery blue/green mist hung in the air about half a metre off the ground, swirling with unseen and unfelt eddies as half a dozen figures slipped between the shadows to make their way to a small vessel in Lenka’s spaceport, skirting the yellow/white lights beaming skyward on the landing bays.

A soft chattering sound reached the small party, and they stopped, holding their breaths as a small cluster of Epheron’s indigenous natives passed close to them and came to a halt.  Dark eyed, with bioluminescent fur and webbed feet, the Wombatesque creatures known colloquially as a TootToot, due to the high-pitched call they made when disturbed or anxious returned the regard of the shadow men thoughtfully.  Mildly telepathic, with rudimentary language skills, Blake could feel them brushing an enquiry up against his mind.  He tried to return the feeling in kind, firmly thinking of the word ‘friend’.

The lead TootToot stepped forward and placed a paw on Blake’s right foot while he sniffed him cautiously. Blake had a fleeting impression of ‘acceptance’, and then the group of TootToot’s took off, running quickly across the spaceport on their own business once more.

“That was close,” Deva whispered, letting out a foggy breath he’d been holding.  “They’re known to give the alarm if they come across anything suspicious or they’re startled.”

“We must be doing something that seems logical to them then,” Blake responded.  “How much further before we reach the Winterbourne?”

“You can see her from here, just over there, left of the starcruiser,” Docholli responded softly, “No more talking, let’s get out of here.”

They reached the Winterbourne without further discovery, Blake ducking his head as he entered her.  Winterbourne was a small Class 6 personal runabout, capable of transporting four people and a respectable amount of cargo, or seven sitting close with just hand luggage.

There were already a couple of people in the runabout as Blake sat down in one of the rear seats, facing Diva including a pilot with a shock of pink hair.  Allyssa was not accompanying them, her sympathies with the Rebels still unknown by the Federation in this sector, made her more useful in her current position.  She would do her part by giving them flight clearance and then making them disappear from any of the spaceports logs.

“Blake, this is Martin, Moss, and Payton,” Docholli said making the introductions quietly.  “We’ll talk more once we’re clear of the spaceport, I’m sure you understand?  Our pilot is Octavia.”

“Of course.”

“Welcome aboard gentlemen, fasten your restraints please, this could get rather bumpy,” Octavia told her passengers, electronically sealing the runabout’s clamshell hatch and running though a quick prelaunch check list.  There was a tense moment when she contacted Flight Control to request clearance to leave; after the slightest of pauses, a voice recognisable to Blake; that of Allyssa, gave permission for the Winterbourne to clear the spaceport, and moments after that, the runabout’s main booster rockets fired and she was air-born.

Blake along with everyone else was pressed back in his seat by the velocity.

“Sorry about that,” Octavia said over the roar of the engines, “My old girl has seen better days I’m afraid.”

“No apologies necessary,” Deva returned, practically yelling to make himself heard, “we’re just glad you were able to pick us up.”

Due to the roar of the booster rockets, there was no chatter in the Winterbourne as Octavia expertly guided her craft through Epheron’s atmosphere, followed by the planetary defences that consisted of a hastily thrown together minefield, and out of range for the radarscope.

Clear of any possible observation, Octavia switched from the booster rockets to the runabouts hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells, and changed course.  “You can unbuckle yourselves now, though you may find we’re a little light on gravity.  Avalon is running on a tight schedule, so we need to cut a few corners in order to meet our rendezvous on time, and use most of our power on speed.”

Unbuckling himself Blake stretched slightly.  “Where are we going?”

“Morphenniel,” Octavia replied, reaching above her head to open a small compartment and taking out a datawafer.  “Docholli, Avalon told me to give this to you,” she said leaning back to give the green chip to the surgeon.

Docholli took the chip with a nod, and carefully maneuvered his reader from the satchel he’d brought on board containing the groups papers.  He scanned the data with narrowed eyes.  “Our next target,” he announced.

“Which is?”  Payton responded, he was a computer tech by trade, but had a sideline in the resistance, blowing up things as loudly and expansively as possible.

“An attack on Dragus Three; we’re going in heavy handed to destroy the facility, it’s the only Mutoid factory the Federation still has in operation.  To take that out would be quite a coup.  There is also a communications hub near by which she intends to target.  A third team will be tasked with the disruption of the blood serum supply line for the remaining Mutoids.  The supply line is controlled from Dragus’ second satellite.  The plan is not to destroy the facility, but to implant a virus Avalon’s team have been working on which will taint the serum, rendering the Mutoids inactive in a matter of days.”

“Ambitious,” Blake said approvingly.

 

Having left Portman and D’Son on the flight deck of the Liberator to monitor any further communications or course changes and to keep Towson there should he turn up, Worf and Tarrant had taken their new prisoner Yarrow to a different unused room, tied him up and phasered the door lock, fusing it shut.

“A good job Klegg had less than ½ a dozen men with him, or we’d eventually run out of rooms to lock them in,” Tarrant joked.

“No, it would just have given us more incentive to find the brig,” Worf corrected.

Tarrant grinned.  “There is that,” he agreed.

“By my count we have now captured all but one of Kleggs men,” Worf suggested.  “That individual is proving to be most… illusive.”

“Now we’re on the case, it won’t take long.”

“I admire your confidence.”

“It’s not so much confidence, as stating a fact.  He cannot hide forever; especially when he doesn’t realise he needs to!”

Tarrant and Worf walked in silence for a few minutes concentrating on following the directions D’Son and Portman had given them.  Federation Troopers usually worked in pairs, so Phillips would not have been far away when Yarrow had taken the Starfleet security team by surprise.

It was difficult to navigate around the Liberator, every corridor contained the same hexagonal shaped walls lined by oblong light panels, and each junction they reached had either three or six possible directions too and from it.  However as they were about to turn left down another unmarked corridor, which would eventually lead this time to the main cargo bay, Wolf fleeting caught sight of a reflection in a panel from the junction up ahead.

The reflection had been dressed entirely in black, with no colour showing, meaning it had to be the lone Trooper Phillips, rather than Towson whose tunic was gold denoting Starfleet Security.

Quietly he motioned to Tarrant that they had found the Trooper.

“Righto, leave this one to me,” Tarrant grinned and stepped into the middle of the corridor.  “Phillips, Klegg has been looking for you Yarrow found two more intruders and wants you to help him interrogate them.  You’re to come with me and be quick smart about it, it’s easy to get lost in this ship.”

“Yes sir,” Phillips agreed easily enough, not having the slightest bit of suspicion about Captain Tarrant until he’d been hit on the head by the back of Tarrant’s gun and knocked unconscious.

“It’s a pity, more difficult to manoeuvre them this way, but it does save unnecessary chatter,” Tarrant suggested.

Worf nodded in agreement, pressing open the nearest door to see what the room contained.  “This should do.  Some kind of storage facility,” he suggested, looking round at the crates and barrels stacked neatly towards the right hand side of the room.  “As long as we secure him far enough away from anything he might find to aid any escape attempt, it should be fine.”

“I agree with that.”  Tarrant said with a nod, helping to move Philips until he was sitting up against a vertical metal conduit that spanned the full height of the room, running in from the floor and disappearing into the ceiling.  Painted bright red, it was nearly a metre wide, with a dozen or so welded rivets on each of its joints.  “This should do.”

“I concur.”  Worf agreed.  “We should get back to the bridge, when we’ve finished here.”

“You don’t want to explore further and find the ships lock-up room?”

“Not at this time, I believe we have been effective enough already.”

Securing the still unconscious man to the metal pipework didn’t take Worf and Tarrant very long at all.  In a matter of minutes, they had left the room, welded the lock, and were making their way back to the flight deck, when they both felt the Liberator quickly decelerate.

 

The orangey yellow fish shaped spacecraft, that resembled a rather weathered and beaten metallic goldfish had landed on the planet’s surface some twenty minutes ago, having picked up the life pods distress beacon.  However, a sand storm blowing across the open plain of wilderness had kept the crew from venturing out to aid the life pod’s occupant, almost certainly saving their life.  For the ship was registered to the Chenga Medic Corps, and rather like the now extinct Earth bird the vulture they were scavengers; preying on victims of both natural and unnatural disasters.  They would come to the aid and rescue of the injured, dying and those in distress, long enough to transport home to their planet, where they would be sedated, euthanized, then dismembered with their body parts, tissue and organs sold to the highest bidder.

Cally had managed to find the strength and energy to crawl away from her burning craft, and lay slumped and unconscious in the shadow of an odd shaped rock.  The rock had offered her some protection from the sun, but it wasn’t much good in a sand storm.  The sand chaffed her already blistered skin as it swirled around her until she lay half-buried in the silica quartz.

“The captain says the sand storm should dissipate in another couple of minutes, so prepare to collect the survivor,” the ships co-pilot instructed the team of medics.  “He says this is the last one, we can now return to base.”

“Can’t say I’m not glad, mind you we’ve picked up 63 this time around, a fine haul, enough to buy me some R & R at any rate.”

 

Tarrant and Worf had retraced their steps quickly, only getting lost a couple of times, not making it to the Liberator’s flight deck, but having reached the ship’s transporter room in time for them to see Zen operate the teleport controls remotely.  Zen beamed Cally up from the planet below, just as the Chenga medical team reached her and had started to dig her free.

Cally arrived unconscious and in a heap of sand, spilling out over the floor.

Both Tarrant and Worf rushed to her side.

“I could be wrong, but I think she needs a doctor,” Tarrant said, crouching down by the Auron’s side.  “I only have basic first aid training, what about you?”

“Standard first aid training is a requirement of all Officers,” Worf said seriously.  “I do not believe I have encountered this ships medical facility on my journeys aboard this ship.  Have you?”

“No, but surely their must be one.  It’s possible one of your security team may have found it though.”

“Good thinking, I will go and ask them.”

Good, but hurry.”

 

Beverly Crusher stood just outside ICU, out of site from the room’s sole occupant, silently watching him; observing his behaviour.

The not Human, Human had been awake and fully conscious for the past thirty-two minutes.  He was largely stable medically speaking, though his ox-sats were down, a lot lower than the doctor was really happy with, meaning he still has some lingering breathing issues.  It was also clear he was in pain, if the bio-stat monitors were anything to go by.  It was curious he hadn’t called out for help; but he’d not made a sound, other than a couple of rather soft grunts.

Beverly regarded her guest curiously, watching as appeared to silently explore and examine every inch of the room around him, without leaving his bed, or doing more than attempt to sit up slightly higher for a clearer view.  His change of position had happened only after he’d made a consolidated effort to move each of his arms and legs in turn, slowly and with obvious discomfort.  It had been equally obvious that he was expecting to find himself restrained.

Surprise has been fleetingly written across his gaunt features, and displayed through the bio-stat above him, when he found that it wasn’t the case.  It had led him cautiously to examine the couple of IV’s attached to his right arm and then the monitors above him.  Beverly had seem him quickly understand the correlation between what he was feeling and the display.

Lastly, she had watched him hungrily gaze about him, surprisingly paying little attention to the obvious exits in favour of the medical equipment, display panels, and computer interfaces in view, before she decided to make an entrance, walking towards Avon’s side carrying a small tray containing water, soup and a datapadd.

Kerr Avon regarded Dr Crusher thoughtfully as she approached him.  His headache persisted, as did the various other aches and pains he’d woken up with, but he had chosen to ignore them.  Instead, he had used the time he was given since he’d awoken quite suddenly, to gather as much information as he could about where he was being held.

He had quickly disregarded being held by the same alien creatures as he’d seen on Star One.  At Star One the aliens had needed to assume human form both to pass undetected by the members of the crew not yet killed and replaced, and because they needed a bipedal form to be about to work the computers and instruments at the top secret base.

Here he was in the ‘alien’s natural habitat.  There would have been no need for them to camouflage themselves since it was obvious he was in no fit state to attempt to escape.  Further all the aliens he’d seen in the battle with the Andromedans, had largely not even looked remotely human yet the computer equipment and monitors he could see were seemingly designed for a natural bipedal form, or a humanoid, to operate.  However, most damningly of all, the controls were written in slightly old Federation Standard English.

That was where a slight oxymoron had occurred however.  The ship he was on and the tech he could see around him was incredibly advanced; it far surpassed anything he’d seen before, even taking into account the Liberator.  Yet the language was something at his grandparents parents might have used.

“Hello again,” Beverly said to Avon, offering him a cautious smile.  “You’re sitting up, that’s a good sign.  How are you feeling now?”

“You tell me.  I am surprised the monitors above me have not already given you an accurate diagnosis?”  Avon responded cautiously.  It was always a risk letting someone know you knew more than they thought you did, but he was willing to pay what he was sure would be the price for now.   He needed a greater insight on where he was and who had rescued him.

Crushers smile grew far more genuine and amused.  “Well certainly the monitors give me an insight to your homeostasis," she agreed.  “But they don’t tell me how you are actually feeling.”

Avon smiled wolfishly.  “Ah, such a pity,” he suggested, with a slight shrug which he stopped half way when it pulled on his shoulder injury.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, you’ve broken and dislocated your scapula, it’s going to take a week or so to fully heal, though in a day, or so you’ll get most of the function back.  Now I do understand if you don’t want to tell me how you’re feeling,” Crusher continued.  “But as your Doctor, the more I know about your injuries the better I can help you.  In the meantime, why don’t we talk about something else?  You must be hungry and thirsty by now, so I’ve brought you some water and clear soup.  If you’re ok with them, we can try you on something a bit more solid a little later, and give you something stronger by way of pain relief.”

Avon looked at the soup and back at Beverley.

“Are you going to tell me you don’t want it either, and you’re not hungry?” Crusher asked curiously.

Avon had been about to do just that.  He had never made a good patient, preferring to disregard any injuries or illnesses and simply plough through them.   Instead, he picked up the plastic spoon from the tray, and after a minute’s hesitation, tapped it against the datapadd.

“This?”  Crusher asked picking up the handheld.

Avon simply gave Crusher a look, his dark eyes burning.

“It’s called a data padd.  A type of handheld computer; depending on the make, model, and function it can perform a variety of tasks.  This one can access the ships library, news and entertainment facilities.  Since you’re going to be laid up for a few days, I thought you might be bored.”

Trying not to show just how interested he was in the device, Avon reached for it.

“You need to eat first,” Crusher said firmly.

Giving Beverly one of his best insolent looks that so infuriated Blake, Avon took a mouthful of soup then held out his hand.

“I want to see you’ve finished it when I come back.”  Crusher said, handing over the data padd regardless.

Avon’s world narrowed immediately to focus on the new piece of tech in his hands.  Anything else Crusher might have said to him lost.

Chapter Text

Who are you?”  Lieutenant D’Son heard the question inside his head, as he watched the woman he’d been treating slowly wake up then open her eyes.

“My name is Lieutenant D’Son.  I’m a trained field medic.  I’ve been looking after you,” he said aloud in response to the question, noting the woman hadn’t asked where she was.

Cally looked up at the unfamiliar face in the Liberator’s sickbay and realised she hadn’t a clue how she’d got there.  The last thing she could clearly remember was smoke everywhere from the crash landing of the escape pod.  “Who’s in charge?” she thought to the Lieutenant again.

“Of me?  Or this ship?  Can you talk out loud?”  D’Son said calmly, not in the slightest phased by having a telepath talking inside his head.  Whilst not exactly common in the Federation, they were not uncommon either; just another different type of being that made up the universe.  The Federation embraced all life forms, and as a child of Starfleet parents D’Son had grown up with many differing types of playmates as his parents duties had taken them far and wide.  Cally was just a patient in need of help to him.

The man standing beside her bed surprised Cally by his apparent acceptance of her nature.  She knew she made some of her Liberator shipmates uneasy at times, but she sensed none of that apprehension in D’Son.  “Are they not one and the same?” she queried aloud, attempting to sit up; the room swam unsteadily around her.

D’Son reached out to steady her.  “No, I don’t think so,” he said without explaining further.  “You however, need to take it easy.  I’m a field medic, not a full doctor, and I’ve only had limited supplies to treat you with as I don’t recognise much of the equipment in here.  You’re going to be all right, but it may take a few weeks for you to heal completely.  Nothing was broken thankfully; I’ve treated the burns to your hands and face with synthetic skin, which won’t leave any scarring, but they may be sore for a while.  You are also in shock and quite badly dehydrated so you need to increase your fluid uptake and rest for a while ok?”

Cally looked at D’Son and nodded, and the Lieutenant took his arm away from her to see if she could remain sitting upright by herself.

“I am fine,” Cally said carefully, though she didn’t quite feel it.

D’Son gave Cally a doubtful look and took the sensor out of his medical tricorder to run it over Cally once more in order to double check his original diagnosis.

“What is that?”  Cally asked watching.

“This?  It’s a portable medical monitor, which gives an overall diagnosis and status update on the person it’s directed towards."

“I’ve already told you, I’m fine.  I was a touch dizzy at first that is all.  I can not stay here, I have things I must do.”

“And they will have to wait.  At least for a little while.  You’ve survived a pretty rough crash landing on a planet’s surface by the looks of things.  You need to rest and recover,” D’Son said patiently.  “If you like, I can give you a mild sedative and a warm drink which will take the edge of things and let you sleep for a bit?”

“I do not need to sleep thank you?”

“But you do need to rest,” D’Son said firmly.

Cally regarded the Lieutenant with a mulish expression.  She could sense no duplicity in him, he didn’t mean her any harm, but truly believed that he knew what was best for her, and had a duty to see it through, making sure that she did not harm herself through further action.  The only way for her to get what she wanted, was for her to make him think that she would comply with his request and rest.  Therefore, she changed tack completely.  “Perhaps you are right?” she said laying down deliberately.  “I can’t imagine what I was thinking.  I’m really quite tired all of a sudden.”

D’Son smiled sympathetically.  “I thought you would be; you’ve no doubt been running on adrenaline for far too long, I’ll get you that hot drink.”

“Thank you.”  Cally said, deliberately making her voice sound tired, though she watched the Lieutenant closely as he ordered something from the Liberators drinks dispenser and shook out a tablet from a small bottle near what was obviously a medical kit, and brought them over to her.

“There you go, a hot chocolate, and something to help you sleep,” he said holding first the pill then the drink out.

“Thank you,” Cally said carefully palming the tablet before she took hold of the drink and took a sip.  It was hot chocolate.  She wasn’t over keen on the beverage herself, it was kept in stock mainly for Avon, though Jenna would have the odd cup on occasion.

Knowing she would get nowhere until she feigned sleep however, Cally took a couple of small sips of the drink then started yawning.  More tiny sips followed; really, the chocolate was too dry for her taste.  More yawns, louder than before followed and she watched with half closed eyes as D’Son started to tidy up sickbay.  She caught sight of a bundle of her green leathers in a pile on top of a table, burnt, cut and torn quite badly and realised for the first time she had to be wearing a medical smock.

Cally was not body shy, so the fact that she had been undressed caused no more than a moments thought as she deliberately continued to yawn, then turned to put the chocolate on the small table beside her and before moving to lay on her side with her back deliberately towards the door.  Five long minutes later, during which she could hear faint sounds of D’Son moving around, before she heard the unmistakable hiss of the medical bays doors opening then closing a moment later.

Eyes now open in the dim light of the medical unit, Cally waited another five minutes to make sure she was really alone and sat up, putting the pill she’d palmed down next to the mostly undrunk chocolate.  The room spun for a few minutes when she sat up and dangled her legs off the end of the bed.  It took a little while for everything to stop spinning, before she risked attempting to stand.

She was a little unsteady on her feet, but growing stronger by the second as she moved to pick up the dressing gown, which had been left across the back of one chair.  Tying the belt tightly around her waist, Cally moved to examine her clothing, noting that her small knife was still in place in her secret pocket of the jacket.  She transferred it to one of the pockets in the dressing gown and made her way to the door.

Standing to one side of the door, Cally pressed the release mechanism and tensed.

The door opened but nothing else happened, no one attempted to come in.

Cautiously she poked her head out of the door.  The hallway beyond was quite clear.  Cally slipped from the medical bay, closing the door behind her.  Her first priority was to get to Zen and find out the whereabouts of the rest of the crew.  Had they made it aboard safely, only to be held as she had been?  Or was she the first?  And just who had boarded the Liberator in their absence?  Cally hadn’t recognise D’Sons uniform, but she could sense he was human in origin so not one of the Andorian invaders.

Her telepathic abilities on full alert, Cally walked silently through the decks of the Liberator, her bare feet making no sound, pausing at each junction, listening hard both mentally and aloud.  She felt the presence of several other beings close by, but was unable to get an accurate fix on their exact location or number, their mental presence not matching the unique signatures of her crewmates.  She heard nothing, Klegg and his men having fallen silent some time ago.

Some ten minutes later, after listening intently outside one of the entrances to the flight deck and hearing nothing, Cally slipped silently into the room.

“Zen, status repot,” she whispered softly, feeling relief wash through her when lights started to play across the huge computer interface that Zen used as a focal point.

+ I have receive direct voice communication from all of the crew except Avon. + Zen said immediately.  + 12.7 hours ago, Blake reported that he was safe and well and en route for the planet Epheron.  14.82 hours ago, Jenna stated that she had suffered superficial injuries but was aboard a neutral cargo carrier in transit to the planet Morphenniel.  15.31 hours ago, Vila had said he was down on an unknown planet and lost in a wooded area.  The distress beacon on your craft had been activated and having received no confirmation from you, your recovery was given maximum priority. +

“Thank you, everyone is safe then, which is a minor miracle in itself.  But nothing from Avon?”

+ There has been no direct voice contact from Avon.  + Zen repeated.

Cally thought about the answer.  “No direct voice contact?  Are you saying you know his whereabouts?”

+ Kerr Avon’s whereabouts are unknown.  However, contact was made briefly with Orac who stated that he was badly injured but had been rescued by humans aboard an unknown spaceship.  Transmission was lost when this ship was boarded.  +

“By whom?”

+ Unknown.  +

“Do you know how many?”

“I think I can possibly give you that information,” a voice said from behind Cally.  “Wouldn’t you agree Mr. Worf?”

“Indeed.  It is good to see you up and about,” Worf said standing beside Tarrant.

Cally span on her heal, hand already reaching for her knife.  “Come no closer, I will kill you both,” she stated firmly.

Tarrant held up his hands.  “Take it easy.  We mean you no harm.”

“It was one of my men, Lieutenant D’Son who treated your injuries.” Worf said slowly.

“Who are you?”

“Ah, that might take some explaining…”

 

Servalan was finally alone; which had proved to be surprisingly difficult.  If Dayna or her sister Iesha, were not hanging around asking if she needed anything, then Will Riker kept popping in to check up on her.  Servalan didn’t suffer fools at the best of times, and the near constant solicitousness she was experiencing was severely trying her patience, as the discomfort of the injury to her leg was proving difficult to ignore.  She was trying to be nice, but it was a façade which was slowly slipping.

She had feigned sleep the last couple of times anyone had come to check up on her however and it was now late in the evening.  Moving carefully, deploring the need to hold onto several objects to keep her balance, Servalan left the comfort of her room moving quietly down the first corridor she came to.

She had been unconscious when she arrived, so had been given no opportunity to explore her surroundings.  She was aware that she was inside a fixed orbit station which had been grounded on the seabed a number of years ago however, as she had made a couple of banal comments about the décor of the bedroom and had been told the tale of the grounded space station.  And that being the case, Servalan was banking on the fact that there would be a control room somewhere with a communications station.  She needed to get word to the Federation that she needed rescuing.

The control room wasn’t that difficult to find, though part of it seemed to have been converted to a shooting range.  Behind the sectioned off screens, were still functional and operating, life support and communication stations.  Servalan sank gratefully into a worn plastic chair.

The communication console was old and primitive by current Federation standards; a mark 4b Standard issue com unit.  Most of the lettering on and beneath the toggle switches had been rubbed away with use, but the area was still powered up and still functioning.

Servalan wasted no time, putting on the headset, she picked up the mic and flipped a couple of relay switch’s.  “Open transmission for immediate relay to Federation fleet command. Message begins.  Escort group nine destroyed en route to main battle zone.  President Servalan forced down on planet Sarran.  Rescue is now your first priority. Repeat: rescue takes precedence over everything.  Message ends.  Acknowledge transmission,” she said toggling the main relay switch to hear a reply.

A loud hissing sound filled her headphones with white noise, causing her to wince and snatch them off her head.

“I repeat.  This is President Servalan.  Escort nine is destroyed.  I am on Sarran and need an immediate pick up…”

The same hissing reached her from the headphones now on the desk.

“… Answer me, damn you, answer me!”

 

“I always say you can’t do better than a cup of tea,” The Doctor suggested, holding his mug of tea, sitting on one of the steps leading up to the main console area, his feet dangling over the edge, parts of the disabled Tardis all around him on the floor below.

Vila also holding his second cup of tea in a row, also sitting on one of the steps, opened his mouth to say that Soma or any alcohol was better in his opinion, but then thought better of it.  Despite Donna giving him a couple of pain killing pills which had left him reeling from the side-effects, he’d woken up after being jumped over by Donna, just before Troi entered the Tardis, none the worse for wear.  His head was regrettably clear, the pain in his arm mostly gone, but Vila was feeling quite morose.  He was no closer to going home, and no closer to finding out why he was where he was, wherever that was anyway.

Deana sitting beside the Doctor smiled and gestured toward her own drink.  “You can’t go far wrong,” she agreed, “soothing, familiar, and calming.”

It had taken the three of them some time to reach that spot.  The loss of Donna and the appearance of Troi had shaken the Doctor badly.   The Tardis was shielded from all sorts of things, and should be virtually impossible to detect or scan for most of the time, especially when she was in flight.  She was heavily shielded and had all sorts of force walls and anti intruder devices to prevent the sequence of events the Doctor was now experiencing from happening.

The Tardis had been drifting through the Time Vortex in null space while the Doctor and Donna had treated themselves to a rare forty-eight hours down time, after their adventures on Triaxe.  They’d also needed to dry out thoroughly since Triaxe oceans covered nearly 82% of the planet surface, and they’d spent what seemed like eternity wading, sloshing, or swimming through, in and under it.  Donna had washed her hair umpteen times to get rid of the salt in it, which is why the Doctor had offered to take her to dinner, as a way to pacify her somewhat.

Vila’s appearance had therefore been impossible – the Tardis didn’t usually leave the Time Vortex, fly herself to an unknown planet, park herself, and then let in a complete stranger.  Not normally at any rate and certainly not without the occupants being aware of the journey or knowing something was wrong.  For her to then dematerialise from that planet only to rematerialise somewhere else and let in another unauthorised person, whilst simultaneously loosing one of her regular crew was unheard of.

The Doctor had been shocked and angry at the loss of Donna and the appearance of Troi.  He had simply stared at her for several minutes before shouting “No,” many times over, throwing many switches and trying to cajole the Tardis into returning to wherever it was she’d been before Troi had arrived.

It wasn’t until he’d caught sight of Troi staggering back and holding onto one of the Coral struts for support, with a concerned Vila at her side, shooting him a half scared, half-hostile look, that he’d pulled himself together, and realised that Deana Troi was a powerful empath, and he was projecting his mental distress loudly and too freely.  It had been a long time since he’d encountered someone as sensitive to telepathy as she was; and it pulled him up short.

Drawing a long drawn out breath, the Doctor brought up his mental shields and closed down his thoughts.  “I’m sorry, so sorry,” he admitted quietly.  “I can be such a dunderhead sometimes.  Where are my manners?  Quite a lot of things have happened today that are unexpected.  The unexpected usually happens to me quite a lot, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now but well… not to today it seams… no doubt that’s why it’s called the unexpected in the first place of course.  First Vila here turns up, then you and now my assistant has gone missing … but really I should know better and... “

With both Troi and Vila staring at him as if he’d suddenly grown a second head, the Doctor had stopped talking and shut his mouth with an audible snap.  “Er right, sorry.  Come in, please, just mind the mess…  I’m having something of an off day…,” he said at a more normal rate of speech, as he walked down the couple of steps towards the coral strut where Troi and Vila were still standing.

“Hello, I’m the Doctor,” he said offering Troi a hand, while he discreetly palmed his sonic with his other.

Troi looked at the Doctor and then at the thing he was waving carefully around him.  “Councillor Deanna Troi,” she offered holding his hand only briefly, before letting it go quite quickly.  “You’re a telepath,” she said immediately.

The Doctor nodded.  “Yes,”

Vila looked alarmed.  “A telepath?  You mean you can read minds?”

“Only when I want to,” The Doctor admitted truthfully.

“And do you want to?  Now I mean?”

The Doctor turned to look at Vila.  “Why, is there something you think I should know?” he queried.

Vila turned pale.  “No, why would you think that?”

Deanna looked from the Doctor to Vila, and relaxed a bit.  She could feel that the Doctor was only teasing the other man.  “You can relax Vila was it?  I think you’re being teased.”

Vila looked from the Doctor to Deanna.  “I am?  How can you be sure?”

Even with his mental shields raised, the Doctor could feel Troi’s amusement.  “Because otherwise I’d ask you to empty your pockets and return the things you’ve been quietly collecting since you’ve been here; including my jelly babies.  Besides which the Councillor is an empath remember, she’ll be able to feel you doing wrong!”

Vila looked horror struck.  “I need a drink!” he muttered.

The Doctor grinned.  “Now, that’s an idea.  Then we can try to work out why we’re all here, and what has brought us together.”

Vila had cheered up at the thought; until the Doctor had led them into a homely kitchen area not far from the main console room and put the kettle on.  “Can’t go far wrong with a lovely cuppa,” he announced fetching three mugs from a cupboard, one covered with a pattern of dancing girls’ legs, which he quickly put back in favour of a plain one.  “Sorry about that one of Captain Jacks.”

 

“So, let me get this straight.  You’re a civilian who just happens to travel with this… super-being, this Timelord who can somehow travel in both time and space, yet you have absolutely no idea how you come to be on the Enterprise, on my ship?”  Picard said slowly to Donna.

Donna had not been taken to the brig; rather she had been escorted down to sickbay, to be interviewed by the Captain whose patience was wearing somewhat thin.  Donna was currently sitting on a biobed next to the Beverley’s office, trying to ignore Crusher who was waving a scanner around her.

“Do you have to do that?” Donna said to the doctor.  “You’re as bad as him, always waving gadgets around all over the place, gabbling on about timey-wimy, wibbly wobbly stuff!”

“Sorry, I’m almost done.” Beverly tried to soothe.

“Timy-wimy what?” Picard frowned.

“Honestly, I haven’t got a clue, sometimes the things he comes up with don’t even make sense when you know what he’s talking about.”

“Well, what about the gadgets he makes then?” Picard asked. “What do they do?”

“I dunno, all sorts of stuff.  He once built a reticular vector gauge thingy, it had glass in it and ran on clockwork, like them toy mouse things.  Then there was the etheric beam locator, good for locating, well etheric beams, oh and I think ions too.  Of course he mainly just uses his sonic screwdriver,” Donna said impatiently. “That seems to work on most things, it pick locks, detects radiation, amplifies soundwaves, act as a GPS signal, disarms robots and unsurprisingly can even undo and do up screws.”

Captain Picard wasn’t sure if he was being had or not.  A lot of what Donna was saying didn’t seem to make much sense, never mind it being one of The Doctor’s faults. “Yet you claim he’s not dangerous?” he pressed feeling somewhat at a disadvantage.

“Since when did tightening screws become dangerous?  The Doctor is a Timelord, not some kind of warlord that you’re making him out to be.”

“Is he not?  You’ve been kind enough to describe some of your… adventures with this being.  Do they seem the actions of someone who has no kind of agenda to you?

“Five of this ships crew are missing, including my First officer and my Chief of Security.  We don’t know where they are, or why they’ve gone, or where they’ve been taken.  I have an unknown guest in ITU who appears to have amnesia, this ship is suffering from a variety of electrical malfunctions, and then you appear. 

“Out of no where you apparently walk onto the bridge of my ship from a turbolift.  Civilians and NCO’s do not have access to the bridge without special permission from the ships caption, and aboard this ship, that means me., so forgive me if I appear somewhat sceptical.”

Crusher finished her examination and put the scanner back in it’s holder.  “Same as before, with a few interesting differences, Captain.” She reported.

Picard frowned.

Donna sighed.  “I get it,” she said carefully.

“Get what?”

“Ok then, I can understand where you are coming from, but I promise you, I’m not a threat or anything.  One moment I was talking to the Doctor, then the Tardis sort of shuddered and I dropped the lightbulb I was holding so I ran after it, then leant against the Tardis doors when I went to pick the damn thing up, the door opened outwards instead of inwards and I ended up here.  I just want to go home.”

“Which is where?”

“Earth, Chiswick, number 47 on the corner of Mallard Street, just down a bit off Rydale Street, London.”

“I’ve heard of none of those, and I know London fairly well, having been stationed in the Marble Arch field office as a 3rd year cadet on assignment to personnel.”

“Ms Noble is not from this Universe either,” Crusher said pointedly.

“Come again?” Donna interjected.

Beverly looked at Picard before she continued, and having received a small nod went on.  “The man we rescued from a escape pod reads as human to our ships scanners, but possibly as a human from a different universe.  He’s quantum signature, which should be a constant through every piece of matter, living or inert in any universe is off by just a fraction 0.57795 to be exact; which means he can not possibly originate from here.

“You are showing the same at a quantum level.  You don’t match this universe, yet you don’t match his either,” Beverly said carefully.

“They’re the same, but from different universes.  Both of them?” Picard was astonished.

“Yes it appears so.” Beverly confirmed.

“So, am I sick or something?  Am I going to die, just by being here?” Donna demanded.

“I can’t be absolutely certain of course, but I can find no effects of cell degeneration, so it’s likely that you will probably fine, in the short term at least.”

“So you don’t know,” Donna translated.

“Not exactly, no.” Beverly agreed.

“Well, isn’t that just peachy.  I don’t suppose you’ll let me meet this other chap will you?”

“It wouldn’t be my first idea,” Picard agreed.

“Why, what are we going to do?  Hatch a conspiracy theory across two different universes?  How is that even going to work?  What do we do pick up a telephone and dial an international galaxy number?”

“I have no idea what any of those things are, or what you’re talking about,” Picard admitted.

“Quelle surprise!”

Picard, Donna and Crusher looked at each other.  Donna thinking hard.  “I have a question,” she said finally.

“Go ahead,” Picard replied cautiously.

“You claim I appeared out of no where yes?”

“That is indeed what happened, your point being?”

“This man, the one you rescued, did you see where his escape pod came from?  Was there an accident in space or something?  Did he and you bump ships causing him to bail out?  Or did he appear…”

“…out of no where,” Picard finished for Donna.  “Yes, you’re right.  We’d been tracking an anomaly for a few hours, and then we caught sight of his escape pod.   Thank you Ms Noble for your excellent observation.  You stay here with Dr Crusher.  Picard to Commander Data, meet me in my Ready Room, at your convenience please…”

 

“Ahhhh nothing beats a good cuppa, you can go a long way on one,” The Doctor said reflectively.  “Although why it’s relaxing I’ve never quite fathomed since caffeine is a stimulant,” The Doctor stated taking a mouthful of his drink.

“Tea is a stimulant?”  Vila queried, taking a huge slurp of his own drink.  “I never knew that.  Not that many people where I come drink tea; it’s prohibitively expensive, and only for the Alphas unless you manage to er… appropriate some in due course... if you know what I mean?”

“Vila!”  Deanna said with a slight smile pretending to be shocked.  The more time she spent with him, the more she liked him.  “Really?”

Vila rubbed the back of his neck, he didn’t want to lie outright to Deana and the Doctor, but he wasn’t used to being around decent people who weren’t also pickpockets, tricksters, rebels, and mercenaries.   “I er, that is I mean to say…  I’m not quite sure what it was now… it could have been tea… or cola, or minar… or just plain mu...”

“Relax Vila; I was only teasing you.”

“Were you?  Oh good!” Vila said doubtfully.

“That’s quite enough on the subject of tea.  We have more problems to cope with, and a number of highly interesting questions.  The first of which is why are we here?  Why us?  What have the three of us got in common, why and what are supposed to do with it?”  The Doctor suggested thoughtfully staring into his mug. 

“How do you mean?” asked Vila.

“What the Doctor is trying to say,” Deanna added.  “Is something or someone seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to bring you and I here together with the Doctor.  There has to be a design to it somewhere, some purpose.”

“Like a plot you mean.”

“Exactly,” the Doctor grinned.  “So what have we got; one human, one half human, half Betazoid and one Time lord.  There is no common ground there.  We’re each from a different time and apparently different universe, although for me, I’m not quite so limited to the when and where as the two of you.

“The only thing we seem to have in common is the knowledge of the planetary system around Earth or Sol 3” Troi offered slowly.

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed.  “However there doesn’t seem to be anything else in common.  One of you has just finished fighting a war with …”

“A hoard of hairy aliens,” Vila interrupted.  “Though some of them were green and slimy too…”

“What were they called?”

“Eh?”

“Do you have a name for them?  The aliens, you never know it might be important.”

“Besides hairy aliens?  No, it’s difficult to have a chat with someone when they’re trying to blow their head’s off.” Vila retorted

The Doctor and Troi thought for a couple of minutes.

Troi spoke first.  “Well if you got a good look at them that could have helped.  I only know of one or two races which match some of the parameters of your description.

“The Orions are green, and do have hair, but they are humanoid.  In their natural form the Kelvans are also green and at least twice the size of full grown Klingon like Lt Commander Worf, so a couple of metres tall, which would be large, but they’re not hairy…they appear to be mostly made up of dozens of tentacle type limbs, which they can move independently although…”

Vila shivered and took another sip of tea to cover his nerves.

“…when around humans, they do have the ability to take on human form.  Does that sound like them?”

“Nope, not at all.  These were green and scaly, hairy and sort of pulsated a bit.  ”

“Then we have the Mizarians, they’re green and humanoid, but they’re not very hairy and are extreme pacifists.”

Vila shook his head.  “No, these were a blood thirsty lot, I can promise you that.”

“Ok, well the Selay are green, they’re carnivorous humanoids and not hairy, but have been peacefully settle on their planet for many years now.  Which only really leaves the Xindi Reptilians and Insectoids of Xindi are six different species who are all extremely aggressive, they’re green and some have antenna and scales.  They don’t like humans very much, and come from what we know as the Delphic Expanse an not Andromeda, but they’re not hairy.”

“Hairy,” Vila squeaked, knowing he would be having nightmares for years about different kinds of green aliens.

“Well Doctor, what about you?”  Deanna suggested at a lost.

“I’ve met hundreds, thousands of different life forms in my time,” the Doctor said scratching the back of his head.  “And half of them could be called ‘hairy.’  So what could they be?  The Aggedors from Peladon are both green and hairy… well furry and have many legs.  They can also be pregnant for half a century, and can be quite tetchy around mating season.  There is also the Racnoss, spider like creatures that are hairy with many legs, however they’re red and are now thankfully extinct, unless you can time travel, so I suppose they could should be discounted…  Then there’s the Wirrn, green with lots of legs but no fur.  The Salostopus are humanoid, they’re a bit blobby and jelly-like so they do pulsate a bit I suppose…  Or the Gholos from Golos.  They’re a gestalt, but also shapeshifters and mostly gaseous, the Linitan of Vysp and the Harmony and Redemption, also fit into the amorphous category.  Planktus look like scaly bears…  Are you sure you didn’t get a really good look at them?”

“Doctor, I don’t think you’re helping much,” Deanna pointed out for Vila was looking paler than ever and now green about the gills himself.

The Doctor looked at Vila and raised an eyebrow.  “Right then, green hairy aliens are off the list.. no help there then, moving swiftly on.  One of you was in a war, and the other had just rescued an unknown man in an escape pod about to crash land on a planet after encountering an anomaly in space…”

“Avon?”

“Sorry what?”

“The escape pod, I put him in it.”

Deanna and the Doctor exchanged a look.

“The Liberator, our ship was damaged and needed time to repair himself, so we all had to evacuate in life pods.  Avon was hit on the head by a bit of the ceiling falling on him, so I put him in an escape pod and set him free.  Was his escape pod long and silver?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t on the Bridge when we first encountered the capsule,” Deanna replied.  “He’s just regained consciousness when I ended up here.  I was on my way to visit him.  He was awake, but not saying very much.”

“Yep, sounds like Avon,” Vila agreed.  “Was Orac with him?”

“What’s Orac?”

“A snarky computer.”

“Not to my knowledge, no.”

“So no help there either.  What can you tell us about the anomaly?”

 

Orac was irritated.  There was no other polite word for it.  It was frustrated and annoyed/ irked beyond belief that it had been unable to gain either control of or full access to the Enterprise.  Orac was able to communicate, interface, draw information and control any computer or electrical device containing a Tarriel Cell.

Much to Orac’s chagrin the Enterprise’s computers did not run on even a single Tarriel Cell.  Nor was there a single computer core which it could link to.  The Enterprise had 3 separate and distinct computer cores each linked by a system of triple redundancy high tensile optical data network cables (ODN’s).  These computers were then accessible through the optical data net service to hundreds of different portals, desktop terminals, and data padds – the fibre optic cables many, many kilometres long, like the veins in a humanoid body.

Orac had been searching for a way to communicate, with the Enterprise’s systems almost from the moment it had teleported aboard the Galaxy class Starship and could feel the hum of high frequency electrical power all around it.  It have found it’s weakest link so far was the small amount of energy discharge present through the subspace communication network.

The communication side of the network was still largely dark to Orac, at least at subspace speeds, however local traffic and mundane routine requests for the basic ships operation were becoming easier to run an interference on, hence all the electrical glitches the ship were currently suffering from.  It could also hear the more local intraship communications, and had started to reach out use the carrier frequency on data padds within an hour or so.

It was in that manner that Orac was able to access the Enterprises huge online library and learn about the universe the ship had come from along with the tenants and belief system of their Federation.

 

The Winterbourne had landed on Dragus Three, under helpful cloud cover in the lea of a quarry some two and a half km from their target area.  The rebels slipped through the night carefully, making little sound, using infrared goggles to negate the use of their portable lights.

There rebels were planning four separate simultaneous incursions on the Federation base.  Avalon was co-ordinating Team 1, Docholli Team 2, Zeta Team 3 and Fargus Team 4.  The base guards changed shifts at  22.15, the rebels planned to hit roughly ten minutes before hand, when the outgoing guards were at their most lax, and their replacements would not be quite ready.

Chapter Text

At  much slower rate than Orac, Avon was also learning a great deal about the Enterprise and the Federation which had built it.  Although Avon lacked Orac’s speed, and usual ability to connect to and effortlessly interface with, other computers, he had one singular advantage over Orac, he could physically touch and manipulate the electronics he was interested in, repairing, sabotaging or even modifying them.  Such as now, with the padd he’d been given.  Of course he was hampered somewhat by his injured left shoulder which was in a sling, and the fact that his only tool was a plastic spoon.

Avon was adaptable however, and so while he had kept the padd’s user interface panel in working order, quite a lot of its components and isolinear chips lay scattered in and around the covers of his bed.  Avon’s sole objective at that moment in time was to regain communication with either Orac or Zen.  He needed to know the whereabouts and status of the Liberator and the ships crew.

What he had discovered so far, both from the Enterprises library and physical examination of the padd, was that the primary form of electromagnetic communication the padd used was subspace, at a far higher, tighter and cleaner bandwidth than he had ever seen before.  In Avon’s Federation only the newest communication stations and ships had started to use subspace to transmit data rather than using normal SOL equipment, as subspace communication permitted the sending of data across interstellar distances far faster than the speed of light. 

Subspace communication had just started to be rolled out in the newest and fastest Pursuit Ships when Star One had been destroyed.  However the bandwidth on which they operated, as the captured cipher machine taken from Centero had shown been much lower at n4sid, rather than the 2D PML oscillating boundaries Avon suspected he was seeing now.

The isolinear chips, intricacies of the solid state unknown nano crystals and Doppler effect of the unrecognised sarium krellide power cells, had quickly shown Avon that he was looking at something which was lightyears ahead of its time; which considering he was used to working on Zen was truly either frightening or exhilarating dependant on ones view point.

Anyone watching Avon, would have thought that his apparent haphazard hacking of the padd were the result of a disturbed mind, however the computer tech was working steadily and systematically with his one goal fixed firmly in mind.  He knew the frequencies on which Orac and Zen transmitted; he just needed to find a way to extrapolate and build them from the equipment he had at hand.

“Well, I must say, you don’t look much like an alien,” a voice said from his doorway.

Avon barely glanced in the direction of the voice, giving no sign that he had heard it.

“They say we have a different quantum signature to this part of the galaxy,” the same voice tried again.

At that, Avon did look up.  A different quantum signature would make a difference to the calculations he was working on.  What he saw was a woman in a mid length flared black and white polka dot dress.  “You don’t look much like a doctor,” he challenged.

Donna laughed.  “I’m not.  But you don’t look much like an alien, but then to be fair, neither does the Doctor,” Donna Noble said strolling into the room.

“The Doctor?  She looked rather ordinary to me.”

“Oh, not her silly, my friend the Doctor.”

Avon’s interest in Donna faded completely, and he reminded himself that he was in a hospital after all, so the woman was probably mad.  “As you can see, I am rather busy,” Avon said shortly, bending his head over the padd once more, to prise free a small bit of electrical circuit.

Not put off in the slightest by Avon’s manner, Donna walked over to his bedside and peered at the mess Avon had made of the padd.  “You’ve done all that with a plastic spoon?” she asked, noting the tool he was using.

“Your point?”

“How well could you work if you had say… one of these?” Donna said innocently holding out a small flatbed screwdriver.

Having been left alone by Beverly after she was called to see to an emergency in cargo bay 12 where the power had failed on an antigrav unit; the containers it had been carrying spilling onto the unsuspecting crewman, Donna had sat where she’d been sitting for a couple of minutes, then getting bored, decided to look round the room.  She had taken in the biobeds, and opened draws containing lots of medical stuff which she had no names for,  given no more than a cursory glance to the computers that were either darkened down, on standby, or else displaying information that she was unfamiliar with. 

She could feel the hum of the spaceships vast power beneath her feet, and knew she would have treated the whole experience as another adventure if the Doctor had been with her.  He would have looked at everything and understood what it was for and could have explained it all to her.  By herself it was boring.  Metaphorically kicking her heels, Donna had wondered round the part of sickbay she were in, idly picking up a couple of small hand held instruments, tweezers, explorer tools and a couple of electronic scalpels, here and there, justifying her actions by the knowledge that just because she didn’t know if they would become useful or not down the line, didn’t mean she shouldn’t borrow them now.

Dr Crusher had yet to return when Donna decided to go for a nose about further afield and see if she could find the other ‘alien’ the ships rather stern captain kept referring to.

It hadn’t been difficult to locate him, since he was the only one in isolation.

Sweetly, she held out the instrument she took as a flatbed screwdriver to Avon.  “Does this interest you at all?”

Avon looked at Donna, making no move to take the tool.  “What is it you expect in return?”

“Oh, now, I don’t know.  Let me see, I have a friend I was travelling with; we’ve been separated and I need to get a message to him to let him know I’m here so he can come and rescue me.”

Avon looked at Donner suspiciously.  Communication with his ship and crew were his goals too. “Why should I believe you?”

Donna huffed, and pointed down at her dress complete with high heals, which had hampered her attempt to catch the Doctor’s red lightbulb of doom, or something along those lines.  “Do I look as if I work here?  Really, dressed like this?”

Avon looked at Donna’s dress once more.  “You have a point,” he conceded.  “For the moment at least.   It might be quicker if we work together.”

Donna held out her hand.

Avon looked at it perplexed.

“I’m Donna, Donna Noble,” she said firmly.  “You’re supposed to shake on it.”

“It’s better you don’t know who I am,” Avon said not taking the hand, just looking at it.

Donna frowned.  “Ok then Mr Nobody, how are we going to make this work?  What do you need me to do?  Only lets be quick about it, I’m nor sure how much time I’ll have before someone comes looking for me.”

“What is the quantum signature variance you mentioned?” Avon said immediately.

“O.57795.”

“Are you sure?”

“Super temp here,” Donna quipped.

Avon just continued to stare at her his dark eyes unblinking, Donna’s words had meant nothing to him.

Donna sighed.  “Honestly, you men.  You’re so uptight in this universe.  Yes I’m sure, Mr Nobody, let’s get on shall we?”

 

Breath fogging in the dampening evening air as a mist and light rain moved in, Roj Blake resisted the temptation to wipe at his infrared goggles, where they were misting up from the warm air of his breath.  He was carefully following Deva’s shadow as they moved between dense undergrowth and uneven boggy terrain as their team progressed away from the quarry site; steadily towards their target.  

The plan was simple.  All four of the teams put together by Avalon, were to converge on the mutoid factory and raise as much of it as they could to the ground as quickly as possible.  Team’s one and two would then move on to the communications hub nearby and destroy that as well, while Team three would move on to the blood bank and plant the virus.  Team four would be leaving Dragus Three quite quickly after the initial assult and heading onto Racston, Avalon’s base of command in the hills of Zintar.

Team one, lead by Avalon were due to strike at the south east side guard tower, showing on the bottom left of the map they’d all been given.  That part of the factory compound held the bionic reconstruction facilities, wards for the newly converted mutoids, and the medical offices.  The mutoid base was laid out like a figure of eight, with the two secure inner courtyards used as exercise yards – one where the prisoners and those who have ‘volunteered’ for the programme exercised while they waited to be converted, the other also housing the radio antenna, was used as a drill yard for the newly converted mutoids. 

Team twos targets led by Docholli was the north west gate guard house, which stood adjoined to the main electrical and mechanical storage facility.  They were then to progress to take out the centre of the centre, where there were operating suites.  Team three, led by Zeta were due to take out the north east side of the compound and it’s guard tower, then move on to the imagining facilities as well as the workshops where the components needed to turn a human into a mutoid were built and stored.   Which left team four lea by Fargus to take out the south west side, where the prisoners were held.  Their instructions were different to the rest of the teams, for while the building was to be destroyed as much as possible along with it’s facilities, it was Avalon’s intention to rescue as many as the prisoners and ‘volunteers’ as she could and get them safely off planet, that was team fours mission.

Each team leader called in softly once they within sight of their target, Docholli, Blake an Deva lining up three abreast under a scant bush some 60 odd metres away from the electrified chain link surrounding the facility.

Zeta’s team had been tasked with sending a pulsed phase EMP to disrupt the power supply to the fence.  It had to be timed just right, too soon, and the loss of electrical current might be noticed; too late, and some of the rebels could get seriously injured or die. 

Blake could feel water seeping through the fabric of his jacket as he lay on the earth waiting to get underway.  Teams one, two and three had already reported in, with team four lagging a bit behind.  But that could be forgiven just a tiny bit since team fours designated landing spot had been chosen with great care, and needed a first class pilot to bring the larger 450 ton Jaeger 7 space bus in under the radar and land just half a click away from the facility.

Suddenly Blake’s team were blinded by a bright white light as a space vehicle came into view, stirring up the leaves and other debris around them.  Docholli swore softly as it flew past them a few moments later and disappeared over the other side of the factory.

“Damn pilot, what on earth do they think they were doing?

“Do you think they saw us?

“Team two, this is team one leader, quiet down.”

Laying hidden beneath a collection of old service vehicles and a couple of single person flyers, team three watched the unknown spaceship land; straight down, vertically, almost on top of them.  Wispy plums of air and escaping gas hissed softly creating a semi fog of steam as the spaceships flight systems were shut down.

No more than 25 metres away from the spaceship, half blinded and deafened by its approach and landing, team three watched as a square hatchway opened and a black clad figure emerged.

At first glance the figure looked like an unhelmeted Federation trooper; but then they turned their head and the resemblance stopped as a green laser sight had been implanted right next to a sophisticated ocular implant where the figures right eye should have been.  The laser swept the ground in front of team three, stopping just short of their hiding place as the figures right arm, which had been extended and grafted onto a heavy disrupter, was lifted and followed the same line of sight.    The laser found the North East guard tower in the next instance and with a low whine the disruptor blew it to pieces, lighting up the night sky with a burst of orange flame.  

“Team three to team leader, they’re definitely not Federation.  The tech they’re using is far in advance of anything I’ve ever seen, but they don’t look like them aliens either.  They’re humanoid and their space ship… it’s shaped just like a cube.  In fact I…”

The comm went dead as Zeta’s hiding place, along with the rest of team three was blown to pieces, the black clad figure having zeroed in on Zeta’s voice.  Seconds later the whole pile of metal which had been service vehicles and flyers went up with a whump as the remnants of fuel ignited, casting a second eerie glow around the whole area.

There was a shocked silence among the rebels.  Everyone knew the risks they were taking.  Every mission risked their lives; but somehow no one ever expected it to happen on their watch.

Blake swore and thumped the earth in frustration, just as the shrill sound of the factories alarms cut through the night and the remaining guard towers switched on their perimeter and search lights.

Blinding blue/white light mixed with orange from the fire illuminated  the area around them.  The mutoid factory, built from composite steel and uniform concrete blocks, looked eerily sinister, the placement of support columns and angular windows starkly utilitarian and strangely devoid of colour, shadows chasing each other across the ground and across walls as the lights wavered and dipped searching out the enemy.

Avalon’s voice came over the com.  “It’s tough, I know, but we’ve lost good people before, and tonight is not over yet.  Everyone get ready.  As the factory is already under attack, we can use the diversion to plant our bombs and do what we came here to do.  Our objectives are the same, however if we get a chance to take out a few of the bastards as well, I won’t be too unhappy.  Be ready to move on my command… “

Before Avalon had finished speaking however, a second space ship flew over the factory, twin energy beams streaking out, followed by a third explosion, which shook the earth.  However the invaders had not targeted either the factory or one of the two remaining control towers, but the area on the south west of the factory, where the Jaeger 7 had been due to land.

There was a stunned silence among the rebels, as third guard tower was blasted into pieces.  Beyond the wire perimeter of the factory, the rebels could see squads of soldiers running across the open ground to repel the invaders, who were marching through the torn and twisted wire into the factory.

The staccato sound of multiple energy bolt weapons being fired, was equalled by the snap of the invaders lasers.

The comm unit cracked to life once more moments later, the voice on the other end sounding out of breath, breathing heavily.  “This is Fargus, the pilot and I made it out ok, but the rest… our ship has been destroyed.”

“Understood,” Avalon said quietly.  “We’ll need to find another way to get the prisoners to safety then…, regroup with team two when you can.  Let’s get in there, and see if we can’t help liven things up a bit.”

 

A scene of carnage greeted Blake, Docholli, Deva, Payton and Moss as they made it inside.  They’d lost Martin to a crazed Federation trooper, one side of his helmet half hanging off along with that side of his face, shooting at anything he saw.   The bodies of dead and dying Federation troopers and guards lay everywhere.  Even in the few short minutes of the attack, they had been clearly out gunned.    There was nothing left of the storage facility Docholli’s team had been due to take out, so they planted their devices in any room which had been left more or less intact, working their way quickly through the factory.

The sounds of energy weapons being discharged just up ahead caused Blake, Docholli an Moss to pause.  They’d come to a corridor that branched both left and right a few moments ago, Deva and Payton going in one direction, and the three of them in the other.

“I think we’re close to the control room,” Moss suggested.

“That makes sense, the administrators probably decided to hold out there, it was probably shielded.” Docholli agreed.

“I’ll see if I can get closer, and see what’s going on,” Blake whispered back.

The other two men nodded.

Cautiously Blake crept forward, the sounds of weapons more sporadic now, then came the sound of voices.

“… are you…?”

“We are the Borg, resistance is futile, you will be assimilated and your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to your own,” a flat voice responded.

“And what if we don’t agree?”

“Resistance is futile…”

“Hey you,… don’t do that… don’t… you can’t….”

The glass in the window just ahead of Blake was shattered as a body was thrown though it to impact the corridor wall and land with a thud on the floor. 

The logical thing for Blake to do, would have been to retreat, instead he crept forward cautiously and worked his way up towards the broken window, so he could peer through it, just above the cill.

He saw one of the black clad humanoid invaders Zeta had identified, physically connect the extension of his arm to the main Federation database on the facility, and begin an obvious download/search through the computer system as several monitors immediately came to life, information flicking across their screens with ever increasing speed.  In the far corner of the room Blake could make out two techs cowering for their lives.

Blake realised they had seen him a moment later, and quickly mime to get down and cover themselves as much as they could, as he primed one of the bombs he had with him and threw it through the window, then ran as fast as he could back to Docholli an Moss.

The explosion caught him just as he reached them, the three thrown to the floor as plaster and debris rained down upon them.

 

Avalon and her team were making good time through the factory.  They were in position to take out the bionic reconstruction facilities, the wards holding the new mutoids, and the main offices.   There had been no one in the offices; it being fairly late at night and just before shift change, none of the daytime staff had been on duty.   Avalon’s team had quickly rifled through the computers and paperwork for any intel they could find, before setting their timed charges and moving on.  

The bionic reconstruction facilities had also been shut at the time the invaders had struck; but that area had been thoroughly ransacked although there was no one to be seen, and it was empty now.  Not one to miss an opportunity, more charges were primed and strategically placed.

Avalon and her team had expected that in the wards containing the new mutoids, their luck would run out and they would meet with heavy resistance.  Even a new mutoid was fully capable of fighting the moment they were activated following surgery to integrate their implants.  And a couple of wards of mutoids would surely be able to hold back a small army of invaders.

No one and nothing was in sight however.

After planting yet more bombs, Avalon made the fateful decision to try and see if they could rescue any of the prisoners on the other side of the factory.   The quickest way to get to that area, was to cross the mutoid drill square housing the radio transmitter.

Team one were in the thick of the fighting, almost before they were aware of it, with Avalon loosing three of her team within moments as a single shot from one of the invaders drilled through all three without pause, exploding the wall behind them as well, such was its power.  Avalon and her remaining rebel, Ignatius, were both seasoned fighters, but even they were shocked by the speed at which the attack had happened.  Ignatius managed to return fire and down the invader almost immediately, but another black clad individual was in his place almost immediately and a shot in his direction was met by a force shield.

“What are they?”  he hissed at Avalon.

“They’ll be dead in a minute what ever they are,” Avalon responded grimly priming the last of their devises and standing up just long enough to throw it into the yard.

The explosion was deafening; with their ears ringing from the force of the concussion neither Avalon or Ignatius heard the creaking of twisted metal as the radio tower fell.

 

Fargus and his pilot made it to the outer wall of the building safely and, pressing closely against it, made their way along the wall until they came to a door.   It was already open.  Fargus moved closer, his firearm at the ready.

“Be careful, we don’t know what we will find,” his pilot warned.

Fargus nodded.  Unlike the rest of the rebel’s Fargus was not an inherent fighter, he had been a professor of agriculture, until the Federation had seized control of his home planet, turning green fields and ripening crops into desolate wasteland and open pits which they mined for minerals.   He was one of a handful of elders who had chosen to fight, who had then been chosen by Avalon in turn,  to rescue the prisoners as he had a way about him, usually from the first meeting.  Fargus knew how to read people, and how to get the best out of them.

His pilot was different.  They  were a quick and able fighter, and a superb pilot, and one Avalon knew she could trust completely, even though they’d only just arrived a few hours before they had been due to leave for this mission.

“Halt, who goes there?” a voice in the dark challenged almost immediately.

“Are you Federation?” Fargus whispered back.

“You’re reinforcements?”

“Of a sort,” Fargus replied, fairly certain he was dealing with someone ill equipped to be fighting any more than he was.  The voice sounded young and scared.  “We can get you to safety, but you need to come out,”

“Why can’t you come in?”

Another explosion which shook the building cut off the end of the question.

“It’s too dangerous, the building is going to collapse at any moment,” Fargus responded when the dust had settled.

“All… all right then, if you promise not to shoot…” the voice said softly, and a young girl of about 16 stepped through the door.

“Where are the rest of you?”

“There are only about a dozen of us left; the rest of us… have been turned.   They took the oldest first, as they were more likely to cause trouble.   Can you help?”

“We’ll certainly try.   See that line of trees over there.  Follow my pilot Jen, and she’ll keep you safe.”

 

“I generally find that if one wants their whereabouts to remain undetected, then conversing with a computer which have a very loud voice is not particularly helpful,” Tarrant said with a slight smirk in his voice.

“What have you done with Blake and the rest of the crew?” Cally challenged.

“We have not seen them.” Worf said firmly.  “You are the first person to arrive… since our own arrival.”

“And you have just helpfully confirmed that you’re part of the ships crew.  Which one are you I wonder, Jenna or Cally?” Tarrant added.

“I will tell you nothing,” Cally said defiantly.

“Now that’s a pity, don’t you think so Mr Worf as…”

“…Oh and why is that?”   Cally interrupted, cutting across Tarrant  If you plan is to torture me, you’ll be sadly…”

Cally herself was interrupted by Worf.  “We are not intending to torture you,” he said firmly.  “We are seeking information.  My security detail and I were beamed aboard this ship against our will…”

“And you?” Cally said turning on Tarrant.

Tarrant’s smile widened.  “Me?  Oh I arrived by more conventional means, mostly.  My shuttle is docked in one of your bays, she’s not particularly flight worthy any more, but her presence should serve to verify my story at least.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“No  doubt your computer will be able to verify our accounts; it should have a data log that can be viewed.” Worf suggested.

“That and the fact that we have successfully captured your sitting tenants in the form of Section Leader Klegg and the rest of his death squad, should back up our story.  They are tied up and locked up in various rooms.  You’re welcome by the way!”

“Zen is this true?” Cally said not taking her eyes off Worf or Tarrant.

+ Confirmed +

“Which bit of it?”

+  All information given during this confirmation +

“See, now you can relax a bit and put away that knife,” Tarrant said pleasantly.

“We need to work together, in order to understand what has happened to us,” Worf added.

 

“There you go, that’s got to be the right channel for your friend.”  Donna said pointing.

“It is a computer, not a friend,” Avon corrected Donna automatically.

Donna took no notice.  “Well your computer then.  Go on try it.   You won’t know until you do, will you Mr Nobody?”

With a look at Donna, irritated at her choice of words, though her logic was sound. Avon connected to the online presence which had been showing up in several of the Enterprises subroutines; the carrier wave matched Orac’s.  “Orac this is Avon can you hear me?”

Silence.

Donna nudged Avon causing him to wince.  “Try again, go on?”

Gritting his teeth, Avon tried again, very familiar with the super computers history of not answering a question if it didn’t want to, or deemed it unnecessary.  “Orac?”

“What is it now, I’m terribly busy.”

“Orac, this is Avon…”

“Well of course you are.  I must say this is a very inconvenient time, I’m terribly busy right now.”

“Yes, I can see that.”  Avon said dryly, he and Donna had been tracking Orac’s attempts to infiltrate the computer system of the ship they were on for several minutes now, until Avon was reasonably certain the ‘footprints’ he was following were indeed Orac and not a member of the Enterprises’ crew.  It had taken a surprisingly short time for Avon, using Donna’s tools to complete a rudimentary system designed to find either Orac or Zen’s unique signatures.  However Avon was becoming acutely aware of the passage of time, and didn’t think they’d have much longer before Donna’s absence was discovered.  It made him even more impatient.

“Well?”

“Go on, ask him…”  Donna prompted, fascinated by the oscillating wave signal that jumped and spiked in time with the irritable voice she could hear, coming out of the twin speakers no bigger than ten pence pieces on Avon’s lap.

“It,” Avon corrected automatically.

Another nudge.

“Orac do you know where you are?” Avon asked carefully, ignoring Donna, though he was quickly finding that ignoring her was harder than ignoring Vila.  Vila at least knew when to stop; apparently Donna had no off switch.

“Well of course not.  Not precisely at least,” Orac said tersely.  “I’m still shut inside my carrying case.  Although I can tell you I believe myself to be aboard a space vehicle. I am aware of vibrations consistent with being in a powered vessel operating inside a vacuum,”

Donna and Avon traded a glance.

“Do you know the name of this vessel?” Donna asked.

“Who’s this?”

“Forget about that, just answer the question Orac.”

“Very well, I am aboard the Starship Enterprise.”

Avon and Donna exchanged a significant glance.

 

Will Riker considered himself to be a patient man; he was intelligent, smart and a logical thinker.  He had taken to command training like a duck to water, and had excelled in battlefield techniques, personnel deployment and assessment, in combat training, martial arts and weaponry, he had taken first aid classes and learnt the basics of  the sciences and engineering, he could fly many types of space vehicles and was good at astro navigation; he was a hands on type of commander who had made Captain Jean-Luc Picard a brilliant, strong and steady Second in Command.

 He excelled at poker and the physical sport of Parrises squares, he enjoyed fishing, mysteries and chess.  He was a good at cooking and music, playing several instruments.  But what he was not good at, surprisingly was anything to do with small fiddly stuff with his hands - apparently.

As Hal Mellanby had said, Dayna was very good at building weapons, and had produced an intriguing array of them from those with a programmable memory which could be locked onto a target that would then self track until the trigger was pulled ensuring a hit 9.9 times out of 10, to those that would simply shock the target in a hope of dissuading a type of unwanted behaviour, to just about everything in between.   She had her own workshop in what had been part of the engineering section of their home, and it was here that she and Riker tried to fix his combadge, leading Riker to his less than happy conclusion that he was bad a small fiddly electronics.

Either that or the combadge had been completely broken to start with.

Or possibly both.

Aware of the composition of Star Fleet’s standard communication device, Riker had carefully taken his combadge apart with Dayna’s help, carefully cleaning each component before putting it back together and trying it.  It didn’t work.  The combadge was made up of a crystalline composite of gold, microfilament, silicone, beryllium and carbon-70.  Dayna’s suggestion that dust could have effected the semiconductor on the solid state components had seemed to be true, since there was a fair proportion of debris within the combadge.  It was only when it was being taken apart for the second time, that a small hairline crack was noticed in the outside casing, casting a doubt in the integrity of the case and the purity of the crystalline signal.

More careful cleaning was carried out, the crack didn’t seem to be that deep, and a decision was made to try to run a small an electrical current across the device while it was still open to see if the problem had been  resolved.   However the ampere they used had been too high, causing a break in one of the microfilaments.  The break had been seen clearly by a slight puff of smoke emitting from the badge, but it had taken an hour to find the break under a microscope, and then another couple of hours and the stripping one of Dayna’s latest weapons to find a replacement microfilament that was thin enough.

After fitting the replacement, and lowering the output of the electrical current Riker and Dayna tried again.   This time the combadge lasted a little longer, until the microfilament burned out again.   A third try produced much the same results, before a fourth attempt to fit the last of the filament Dayna had, saw a battery used to charge the device.

There was a sharp cracking sound after thirty seconds however that warned Riker that they were still not going to be successful.  The microfilament had held that time, but the uneven power from the battery had seen beryllium crystal, possibly already weakened from previous attempts, crack through the centre.

The combadge was officially dead.

“I’m so sorry,” Dayna said sympathetically as she started to pack away her tools.

Riker shrugged. “It’s just one of those things I guess.  But it does leave me with a problem of how to contact my ship.”

“Will they not send out a search team for you?”

“They will, but it’s doubtful that they will think to look under the sea for me.”

“They will if they scan the area surely?”

“Agreed, but that’s going to take time,” Riker said with a frown.

Dayna smiled at him.  She had grown to like him enormously.  “Then we shall just have to keep you entertained until that happens.  Come, it’s my turn to cook dinner tonight, you can help me out if you like?   After our meal we can set a beacon so your friends can find you, the Sarrans will have become bored by then and the entrance will probably be clear.”

Knowing that he couldn’t afford to upset his hostess Riker nodded, realising that there was little else he could do at that point.

Sleer was still sleeping Riker saw some time later, when Dayna and her sister Iesha started to lay the table. 

The two Mellanby sisters had decided that they were going to use the good crockery tonight in honour of their unexpected guest.  Dayna had enjoyed her afternoon with the Commander, despite the setbacks he’d had in contacting his ship.  As they’d worked in the small galley kitchen she’d taught him how to roast the local fish after first marinating it in vinegar, pepper and the wine Hal made himself.

Dinner was a pleasant meal, Riker a polite guest, telling a few tales of his exploits, while Hal spoke of his latest aquaponics designs which he hoped to patent for future new settlements on planets with a higher ratio of water to land than usual.

Until at last the topic turned back to Riker, and the reason for his continued presence on Sarran.

“Were you able to fix your communication device?  Dayna is so clever with electronic wizardry.”  Hal said warmly.

“I’m afraid not no.  We came close a couple of time, but in the end the beryllium crystal cracked, so that put an end to things.”  Riker said pleasantly.  “Dayna suggested that we could set a homing beacon on the beach after dinner so the inevitable search party will be able to find me.”

“A good idea,”  Hal agreed.  “Although perhaps trying our radio transmitter might be easier?”

Riker put down his fork.  “You have a radio transmitter?” he said giving Dayna a hard look.

“Why yes of course, I’m surprised Dayna hasn’t told you.”

“Frankly, so am I,” Riker agreed.  “Why is that Dayna?”

Dayna met Rikers stare head on, only a little bit embarrassed.  “I didn’t think it suitable,” she said firmly.

“Oh how so?” Riker asked

“Yes, just why is that?” Hal added.

“Because our signal modulation is too slow for your system.  You use FTL signals as standard, while our own transmitter is SOL.  I didn’t see there was much point in getting your hopes up.”

Riker could understand Dayna’s explanation, if it were true, however he was annoyed that he had been kept in the dark over a potential solution to his problem.  “It still would have been better if you had told me about it.  There might be a way to modulate the signal to…”

“There is not,” Dayna said quickly.  “I discounted that while you were attempting to reinsert the microfilament for the second time.  “The ampage is also too strong to try and connect the two together…”

“It wouldn’t work now the beryllium is cracked now in any case.”

“There you are then.”

“I would still have liked to know.”

“Then Dayna will take you to our control room after our meal and you can see if there is anything there which will help you contact your friends.” Hal said firmly, turning his head in Dayna’s direction in what was a clear warning, despite the fact he couldn’t see.

They finished the rest of their meal rather quicker than they had started.  Riker rising to his feet and dabbing his mouth with a napkin after a brief pause.  “Thank you for your hospitality, it’s really appreciated, but I really do need to see if I can contact my ship and let them know where I am.  If the transporter is still malfunctioning, they should be able to rescue me, or if not, then they can send a shuttle down to collect me.”

A slightly sulky Dayna and Will Riker missed seeing Servalan sneak out of the room by a couple of moments.  The radio had been switched off, and everything looked the same as it had been when Dayna had last been there.  She sat down in the same warn plastic chair as Servalan, not noticing that the seat had not been cold, as she switched the radio off, and handed the microphone to Riker.

Looking at the antiquated system, Will Riker was not that hopeful that his SOS was going to reach the Enterprise as they did not routinely scan for SOL frequencies.  However there was a chance, that with him being MIA, that the Captain would have widened the usual search parameters, and someone aboard the ship would hear him.

Someone, or rather something did.

Orac.

Orac heard the second SOS from the planet’s surface, just as it had caught Servalan’s earlier transmission.  Orac had blocked Servalan’s broadcast knowing her to be an enemy.  He now blocked Riker’s as he had yet to gain any appreciable control of the Enterprise, and his continuing efforts would likely to be ten times more difficult if the ship were to move away from the planet and actively engage more of it’s systems.

In exchange for a promise to try and reach Zen, Avon’s rudimentary knowledge of the Tarriel cell’s construction and composition had been insightful.  Orac was still having difficulties in controlling more than the rudimentary systems of the Enterprise, but now he might just have another plan.

Chapter Text

“So you are saying that each of you should be wearing one of these transporter homing beacons and communicators?”  The Doctor said thoughtfully.

“The bracelets, yes,” Vila agreed helpfully, handing the Doctor a 12” box ended wrench, which the Doctor passed onto Deanna so she could hold the nut he was trying to tighten steady.  The three of them were on a mission – to put the Tardis back together again as quickly as possible.

In this Vila was a better at assisting than Donna as he had worked as Avon’s assistant when he had been tinkering with the Liberator for so long that he had a better grasp of the tools the Doctor might need.  And right at that moment, the Doctor needed to rebuild the directional and dimensional controls along with the monitor and coordinate modifier.

The Doctor was rebuilding the Tardis at speed; the tea had worked well as an ice breaker for the unlikely trio, but especially for the Doctor, for during the discussion that followed, he had an idea.  If not exactly how to fix the problem that he was facing – to get his guests home and find and retrieve Donna; then at lease where he should start to look, and once he knew that, then it should be possible for him to neutralise the worst effects of what was happening and stop the events from multiplying or expanding or indeed from ever happening again.

Not that the Doctor minded meeting new people, it was one of the reasons he travelled after all; he’d just rather meet them on his own terms, which didn’t include them colliding temporally with the Tardis.

The Doctor found Deanna a delight.  She was funny and warm, her empathic abilities were like a light comforting blanket.  However Troi’s verbal description of the anomaly that she had seen hadn’t helped the Doctor that much.  She hadn’t taken that much notice of it, being rather focused on other things.  However she had seen a glimpse of it, and had been able to give him a more mental image than just a brief description when the Doctor had briefly touched her mind – watched on by a half scared/have enthralled Vila.

The  doctor had seen and witnessed much in his 900+ years, and had forgotten more than most people ever knew or remembered.  No two anomalies were ever the same, but they did tend to fall into several different categories, if an anomaly could, by it’s very definition and nature, be categorised.

By using Troi’s mental image, the Doctor had very quickly ruled out, black holes, giant voids empty of space, dark matter that looked like blotchy fog or the over exposure of lights on an old fashioned photographic plate, dark energy which were multi-coloured dancing lights, a great attractor – curious fixed points in space that drew matter towards them getting brighter and brighter until they imploded in on themselves and went super nova, super nova’s themselves. Dyson swarms, mega structures that harvested all nearby energy output – since the Enterprise hadn’t been drawn towards it or drained of power, that was ruled out.  Runaway stars, moving too fast and shedding matter in their wake, bursts of gamma rays, that looked like blue/white/purple starbursts, super nova reversals, that turned into zombie stars that should die, but didn’t.  White holes, black dwarfs, quark stars forming from a collapsing sun, chthonian planets that continually bled their oxygen/carbon into space creating spectacular halos, Preon stars, where their matter was compressed tightly into a blue white moonlet, ghost galaxies that appeared as mists in space, cosmic strings, solar vortexes, binary and trinary star systems and time vortexes.

Troi’s mind picture of orange and green swirls of colour, twinkling pin points of light which seemed to move independently contained in a misty pulsing reddish glow, didn’t remind the Doctor of anything; so he hoped he now knew what the anomaly wasn’t. 

It was a bit of a puzzle, truth to be told, but the Doctor thrived on a challenge.  He’d ruled out a straight forward time vortex reluctantly as they were usually on the blue/white/lilac/purple/green spectrum and typically swirled out from a central point either bendy or straight or falling up or down.  However there had to be a time element within what was happening/had happened to them for Vila and Troi to be in the Tardis, there also had to be Timelines crossing since the only recognisable constant in both descriptions of their vastly different Federations was the Sol system.

What he needed the Doctor decided was to see this anomaly for himself, only in order to do that, he had to get Deanna home.

Troi didn’t know the name of the planet round which the Enterprise had been orbiting, nor did Vila know the name of the planet on which he’d landed.  Troi didn’t know the coordinates of the planet the Enterprise had been in orbit around either, any more than Vila was aware of which sector the planet he’d landed on, followed by the Tardis had been in- and of course the Doctor hadn’t had the time to or thought to check the coordinates either – he’d been too busy being shocked by Vila’s abrupt appearance.

However it now seamed fairly certain that Vila’s friend Avon had been rescued by Troi’s ship, and while Troi didn’t even have a telepathic link or inkling of where to look for her crew – Vila was wearing a homing beacon to the Liberator, which had, at some point, been close to the planet that the Enterprise was orbiting for Avon to have ended up there- so if they could trace the teleport bracelet to the Liberator, or there was every chance everyone would get home and enable the Doctor to get a fix on the anomaly, see it for himself, and work out how best to deal with it.

Well, that was their working theory at any rate.

So what the Doctor was building now, well, adding into the Tardis as she was put back together was a kind of directional pathfinder for tracking the signal given off by Vila’s teleport bracelet.  Once Vila had admitted what it was, and the fact that all the Liberators crew wore them when away from the ship, the rest had been child’s play for the Doctor

By dint of twisting the Fast Return Switch half a cm to the right and then bashing it a couple of times with his trusty mallet, the coupling the Doctor had been working on, clicked into place and he wiggled out from beneath that particular control panel.

“Right then Vila, lets be having that bracelet of yours and see if we can’t track down your ship for you Deanna,” the Doctor said with a grin, already excited to begin a new adventure.

 

Cally turned to look at Tarrant as Zen finished his report.  “Well at least there is some truth to your story, you are at least on the Federations wanted list,” she said relieved.

“Yes well, I had hoped to be somewhat higher up it than in the mid range,” Tarrant pouted, sounding most put out, that he wasn’t near the top.

“You were at no 87,” Worf corrected.  “That hardly counts as mid range.”

“All right, no need to rub it in.”

“I do not understand, I thought you would be pleased to be considered not that particularly effective as a criminal.” the Klingon said puzzled.

“Yes well, ‘our’ Federation are not particularly nice, they’re bullies and thugs for the most part,” Tarrant explained. “To be considered a criminal by them, would mean I was doing something right!”

“Your Federation?” Cally asked confused.  “What do you mean by that?  There is only one Federation surely.”

“Ah!” said Tarrant helpfully.  “Now this is where it’s going to get a little weird.”

“I am a Federation Starfleet Officer,” Worf said firmly.

Cally frowned at both Worf and Tarrant.  “I know of no “Star Fleet” what is that?”

“As we are trying to explain, Worf is not from around here,” Tarrant said carefully.

“My men and I were transported aboard this ship when we tried to beam down to the planet designated as RK2579, as we had managed to loose track of our First Officer when he and a landing party went to the aid of a life capsule in distress on that planet.”

“I have never heard of planet RH2579,” Cally retorted.

“That’s what we’re trying to tell you, you won’t have.  Worf is from somewhere else, quite literally.”

“Or he is an alien trying to trick us.” Cally suggested.

Worf snorted.  “I am a Klingon,” he said firmly.

“Yes, and you’re an Auron and I’m a Human so we’re all aliens to each other aren’t we,” Tarrant said calmly.

Cally nodded.  “That does sound reasonable,” she concluded.  “However there is one way to check your story.  “Zen what do you know of planet RH 2579?” she queried out loud.

+  There is no known planet with that designation. +

“Zen what can you tell me of the Klingon race or people?”

+  There is no information on the Klingon race or people. +

“Are you telling me that you have heard of them though?”

+  The information you requested is unknown. +

“There, satisfied?” Tarrant asked.

+ Zen, are you able to scan Mr Worf and determine his planet of origin?” Cally asked ignoring Tarrant to frown at Worf, who was now looking singularly less than impressed.

+  Place a sample of the material you wish to be scanned on my sensor for analysis.  +

“If you would be so kind?”  Cally directed, brandishing the knife she was still holding towards Worf and gesturing towards Zen’s domed sensor by the front of his vocal point. “Put your hand on Zen’s sensor plate, there…”

Worf exchanged a glance with Tarrant.  He was pretty sure he could take Cally down in a couple of seconds; she posed no serious threat to him.  However it would be better to continue aboard the ship with the co-operation of at least some of the crew.  It was with bad grace and a positive glower that Worf allowed himself to be directed towards Zen’s sensor where he placed his hand where directed.  “What must I do now?” he grumbled.

+  This species is of unknown origin. + Zen reported almost immediately.

Even though he had been expecting it Tarrant looked as shocked as Cally.

“Zen, confirm analysis?” she directed.

+  This species is not recognised.  +

“Did he originate from the Andromeda galaxy?” Cally asked, wondering if Worf was an alien after all.

+  No match is found from any record of that galaxy.  +

“What’s that supposed to mean?  Zen please clarify your report.”

+ No further information can be given.  +

“I do not originate from your Andromedan galaxy,” Worf said firmly, taking his hand away.

“There must be a logical explanation, there has to be a malfunction of some kind.  Zen has not finished repairing this ship and is not fully operational.”

“Zen what is your operational status?”  Tarrant asked.

Zen remained silent.

“Zen will only respond to a member of this ship's true crew, unless I direct him otherwise.”

“Then ask him the question yourself?” Tarrant challenged.

“First, you place your hand on the sensor.”

Exchanging a glance with Worf, Tarrant shrugged.  “Oh very well, this is getting rather tedious now.  We have no reason to lie to you.”

“Is not the Liberator reason enough?”

“You’ve said it yourself, and as it has ably demonstrated, it only responds to a member of this ships crew, we’re just passengers, and it’s probably still malfunctioning after the battle.”

“Place your hand on the sensor, I won’t ask you again.”

“Like this you mean?”

“Zen?”

+  This individual is known as Del Tarrant, human,  graduate of  the Federation Space Academy, rank Space Captain.  Currently listed as MIA in Outer Planetary System by Major Leighton, of Squadron 179.  +  Zen reported without inflection.

Tarrant hastily snatched his hand back.  “Yes, well, it seems to be working a little too well in my opinion.”

Cally looked from Tarrant to Worf and back again.  “It seems for the moment, that I have no reason to distrust you,” she said reluctantly, lowering the knife she was carrying to put it back in her pocket.  “I will however be watching you closely.”

“I would not expect anything less,” Worf agreed.  “However if we intend to continue this discussion and work out what we intend to do next, perhaps you would feel more comfortable more appropriately clothed.

Cally regarded her dressing gown and smiled ruefully.  “You might be right on that count.  However there will be no discussion on what we are going to do next.   When the Liberator was damaged in the intergalactic battle we all had to abandon ship in life pods in order to survive.  Now the ship is functional again, we must pick up the remainder of our crew.”

Tarrant opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again.  He had no place he needed to be, and would be happy to stay on the Liberator for the foreseeable future at least.

“Good, then it is decided.” Cally continued.

“While we are searching for your crew, perhaps we could also find some time to search for my ship as well,” Worf suggested.  “It would be a reasonable assumption that the life capsule we were tracking could have been from this ship.  My men and I would be grateful for any assistance in this area.”

“Then you shall have it, provided we do not loose any time in searching for my crew.  Zen do you have a signal lock on Blake, Jenna, Vila, Avon and Orac?”

+  I have co-ordinates for Blake.  +  Zen replied.

“No one else?”

+  Sensor analysis suggests that they are either out of range or else not wearing their teleport bracelets. +

“Very well, set a course for Blake’s location.”

“Confirmed.”

 

Vila watched anxiously as the Doctor buzzed his screw driver at his teleport bracelet, keeping up a stream of babbling nonsense while he did so, frequently changing the settings which consequently bathed the bracelet in multi coloured lights.  “What ever it is you’re doing, is not going to harm it is it?  Only that’s my only way of getting home see?”

“I am confident that the Doctor knows what he is doing Vila,” Troi said soothingly.

“Good.  I’m glad you are, because I’m not, not really…  I don’t like beepy things?”

“Aquitar?”  the Doctor said frowning, looking at the mechanism of the bracelet in surprise.  He had carefully prised the back off so he could get a closer look at the controls, in order to understand its full function and properties.  That way he could programme the Tardis search range for it properly.  “Who uses Aquitar now a days?  It’s been banned for…. Oh, I don’t know several centuries, if I remember correctly.”

“Banned, why was it banned?” Vila asked in mounting panic.

“Ohhhh, I don’t know…. Something about, no, that’s not it,… wasn’t it…   Wait…  something possibly to do with how it was mined?”

“How was it mined?” Vila swallowed.

The Doctor looked over the top of his brainy specs as Donna called his glasses.  “Yes that was it.  The prospectors who first found it understood it’s properties quite quickly and so set about strip mining the mineral, and they didn’t care who or what they hurt in the process.  They gave absolutely no thought to the lifeforms, the various indigenous species inhabiting the planet, or what it’s removal would mean to them.”

“Doctor, you know what this means?”  Troi said looking excited.

“It’s poisonous?” Vila hazarded.

“Poisonous?”  The Doctor scoffed. “How do you go from practically committing genocide of the native peoples, to poisonous?”

 Vila looked put out.  “It could be… I mean I always feel a little unsettled whenever I use that thing anyway?”

“Yes well, that would be because the teleport works on molecular level.  Your body is broken down into incredibly small partials, literally taken apart at a molecular level, beamed through space and then reassembled at the other end,” the Doctor said helpfully.  “It’s easy!”

“I feel sick…”

“Doctor!” Troy said more firmly.  “Please a moment of your time...”

The Doctor obligingly looked in Deanna’s direction.

“You recognised the Aquitar.” Troi said firmly, a statement, rather than a question..

“I have, but that’s not really surprising, once the conglomerates had finished strip mining the planet it came from, and almost destroying it in the process, it became fairly common place, then became obsolete in the flash of an eye when Beridiam was found – cheaper, harder wearing, a better conductor and easy to make so long as you have a very big advanced chemistry set.  Aquitar then became almost as worthless as yesterday’s news.”

“No, you’re missing the point.  I’ve never heard of it, and I’ve been travelling through the galaxy for years.  The Aquitar you’ve found is in Vila’s bracelet, which comes from Vila’s world, but you’ve heard of it in your world too.  Up until know, all we’ve had in common has been the planets of the Sol system.  No other system of things has matched.”

The Doctor looked at Troi for several moments, processing her statement, before hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand.  “Sometimes I can be a thick as a thickety thing is thick!  Of course!  You’re right Deanna, you’re very, very right…  now all I just need… is one of …. These…” the Doctor said delving into his tool box to bring out a weird looking contraption that looked a bit like a steam punk version of a magnifying glass crossed with a spectrometer.”

“Eh.. What are you doing?” Vila asked.

“I have no idea,” the Doctor admitted cheerfully, busily adjusting his gadget and installing it.  “However once I’ve finished with my sonic I’ll programme the Tardis to search from the source of the signal on your braceletty thingamabob, then we can get underway…”.

 

Riker coughed, spitting out plaster, dust and bits of ceiling insulation.  The explosion had been a lot bigger than he’d thought.   He, Docholli and Moss had been hit several times by plasterboard, falling masonry, ceiling tiles and tons of plaster and cement debris.    Blake and Docholli had been uninjured, but Moss had been unlucky enough to catch a bit of steel girder through his shin.

“We need to turn back,” Docholli suggested as he wrapped a piece of sleeve torn from Moss shirt round his leg to act as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

“I want to see how much damage we’ve done first.  To make sure I killed that thing, whatever it is,” Blake said firmly.  “There were two techs in the lab, if they’ve survived we should get them to safety too.”

Docholli nodded curtly.  “Do what you must, but be quick about it,” he suggested.  “We need to get Moss to a place of safety, before we set the rest of the charges.”

“Don’t worry about me.  I’m fine.  Just fix my leg up…  I can make it,” Moss himself suggested.

Blake gave both the other men a look, squeezed Moss’ shoulder in a show of support, before moving carefully around the rubble, trying to make as little noise as possible.   Blake made it to the end of the corridor and peered around the corner just in time to see a couple of the black invaders walk down the corridor, stepping round the fallen bits of building effortlessly.

Keeping out of sight so they didn’t see him, Blake watched as they entered what was left of the lab.  Part of the ceiling was down, lights, sparking wires, exposed beams and tiles clinging in vein to what was left.  The computer had been severely damaged and was clearly past fixing, fit for nothing but the scrap heap.  Blake couldn’t see the two lab assistants but the body of the black invader was visible and was clearly dead.  Blake watched as one of the other invaders stepped over to his fallen colleague and started to remove the obvious bits of specialised tech from the body, the eye piece and laser sight, part of the weaponry and something from the invaders chest.  Within in moments of the last piece of tech being removed, the body seemed to silently loose molecular cohesion and turn to dust, leaving nothing but a slight shadow shaped stain where it had been.

Blake turned away in disgust.

 

Avalon sat up slowly, coughing from the dust and debris that had found its way into her lungs.  A couple of feet away the body of Ignatius lay in among a pile of rubble, his neck at an odd angle and clearly broken; he was quite dead.  Carefully rising into a crouched position, Avalon looked round her cautiously.  There was nothing to see but rubble and the flickering of flames through a fractured window.  Nothing and no one was moving.  Avalon took off at a sprint across the courtyard to disappear back into the building and head towards the prison block, intending to reach Fargus team and regroup.

 

Fargus quickly ushered the last of the children through the entrance of the factory pointing the young boy in the direction of the treeline where over a dozen children had already escaped too.  It was just at that moment that a Federation guard chose to round the corner of the building.

“Halt, you there, what are you doing?”

“Removing the last of the prisoners to safety.  We didn’t want the threat of the invaders taking everyone.”  Fargus replied truthfully.

“On whose authority, where’s your identity?” the guard asked, suspicious, but knowing that the factory had just had an intake of fresh staff as well as prisoners.

Fargus patted his pockets, pretending to have a pass on him.  “Just a minute, I have it somewhere along with my instructions.  I got dressed hastily in the attack you know,” he suggested.

Sounds of gunfire and laser weapons firing broke the silence, the Borg pressing their advantage home around the corner the guard had just come from.

The guard looked back over his shoulder.  “Don’t worry about it now, but report to Captain Ansell in the morning,” he ordered, lifting his rifle and preparing to re-enter the affray.  “Well go on then, get them new recruits to safety; we’re going to need to make more mutoids then ever once this lot are gone.”

Realising he had just had a very lucky escape, Fargus nodded, and turning his back walked away, feeling the eyes of the guard watch him with every step, willing himself to walk slowly and not do anything that might look suspicious in the other mans eyes.  When he could stand the suspense no longer, he turned to look over his shoulder at his unknown rescuer to find that he had gone.  With a quick flash of relief, Fargus did start to run then, clearing the fence and making straight for the treeline where the children had gone.

 

Data put the glowing red lightbulb from the Tardis on the centre of the table in the Enterprise’s observation room.

“A curious object Mr Data,” Picard observed, “but we are here to discuss more pressing matters.  Both of our unexpected guests are throwing up more questions then they seem to be able to answer.”

“Indeed Captain,” Data agreed.  “However the reason I found this object interesting, in fact I might even go so far as to say fascinating, is the apparent lack of an visible power source.  It is illuminated when it should not be.  It was being held by one of our guests, Ms Donna Noble, upon her arrival.”

“I see, is it connected to her in some manner then?” Picard said looking at the lightbulb with more interest.

“That is what I have been attempting to ascertain Captain,” Data replied.

With Riker, Troi and Worf missing, the usual Command crew were rather thin on the ground, Geordi was present, though he was attempting to keep track of the continuing malfunctions to the Enterprise, but Beverly was absent, now operating on the crewman who’d been injured in cargo bay 12.

Realising that there might be something more than the usual everyday happenings going on, Picard had also asked Guinan to join them too, hoping she might have some insight into the situation.

“In order to ascertain the power source of the object in question, I have run a complete spectral analysis on the light bulb.  As you are aware, the normal wavelength of red light is  650 nanometres.  However in this instance although the colour emitted is red, the wavelength of that is registering is  380 nanometres…”

“The equivalent of ultraviolet light,” La Forge finished.

“Yes, Geordi,” Data agreed.

“And what is the significance of this?” Picard asked.

“That, I have yet to ascertain.  I can find no visible or invisible connections or outside influences surrounding the light bulb, so would be very surprised if Ms Noble is able to effect its appearance or energy output.  Or if she is able to do so, how that is able to come about.”

“Have you asked her about it?”

“Not yet Captain.  I plan to do so, as soon as we have concluded here.  There are some additional tests that I also intend to run on the light bulb.  Including subjecting it to a stasis filed and limited vacuum to see if that will cause any changes to either its output or composition.”

“Very good Commander.  Mr La Forge, what have you to report?  Have you found the source of the electronic malfunctions aboard the Enterprise?  And has Lt Marksham been able to ascertain what went wrong with our transporters?”

“So far the transporters continue to check out clear.  There are no signs of any malfunctions, when that’s clearly the case.  Nor have we had any luck in tracking down the electronic malfunctions, for the most part, there appears to be no rhyme nor reason to the areas so far affected.”

“For the most part,” Picard repeated zeroing in on the qualifier Geordi had used.

“Yes sir.  Leaving the malfunction of the transporter aside, the rest of the effected systems are automated subroutines – automatic sprinklers, temperature control, food processors, doors opening and closing, lights flickering, the loss of a couple of antigrav fields – I believe one of those is the reason Dr Crusher is absent.  Nothing major, just niggles, but when taken together more than can be explained by random breakdown, even for a ship of this size which undergoes regular maintenance checks.  We are just lucky that the glitches are to the subroutines…”

“Or else we could be looking at a potentially lethal set of circumstances if, for instance the matter containment fields on the warp core falls victim and suffers a failure,” Picard finished.

“Yes, that’s exactly it Captain.  I have teams currently working round the clock to ensure our triple redundancies are functioning, as well as working on isolating their power source from the main feeds.”

“Very good see if you can…”

An unexpected call from the bridge cut off the rest of Picard’s sentence.  “Captain, this is Lt Lenko.  An unidentified ship bearing 117 mark 45 has just appeared from the dark size of RK2579.  No, make that three ships sir, on an intercept course with the Enterprise.  They are travelling at… at warp 2 sir.”

An image of the unidentified ships appeared on the back wall view screen as the ships sensors picked them up.  They were completely circular and appeared to be spinning round their central axis; their appearance exactly like an old Earth depiction of a flying saucer complete with a domed area on the top, three on the bottom and lights around the leading edge of the saucer.

“Shields up, go to red alert and take evasive action, I’ll be right there,” Picard said already rising to his feet.   “Mr La Forge I believe your talents will be best served from Engineering, we daren’t have a loss of power at the moment.  Mr Data, you’re with me.  Guinan, before we go, do you have any insight on the vessels?  Have you seen anything like them before?” Picard asked.

“No, I have not,” Guinan replied.  “But they do not appear to be very friendly.”

“That much seems certain,” Picard said dryly as he prepared to leave the observation room to stride confidently onto the bridge a moment later, Data at his side. 

“Open a hailing frequency,” he told the Lieutenant at tactical.

“Yes sir, hailing frequencies open.”

“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.  We are currently on a rescue mission.  Under article 78 of the Galactic code of non-interference we request you leave us to peacefully conclude our business here.” Picard said standing in the centre of the bridge as Data slipped into his usual position at Opps.

“Sir, they have raised their shields,” the Lieutenant at tactical reported.

“Mr Data?”

“Scanning sir.  Initial sensor sweep shows that their technology is completely unknown.  Their force shield is at least comparable to ours.  Fascinating, their weaponry seems to consist of partial beam emissions.  A particle-beam weapon is a type of directed-energy weapon which uses a beam of atomic or subatomic particles to damage the target by disrupting its atomic and/or molecular structure by directing energy to focus on a point using particles with minuscule mass.”

“Thank you Mr Data.  I am aware of the theory.  Are you able to adjust our shields to compensate in some way. Some kind of oscillation or refraction?”

“I do not know,” Data admitted.

“Sir, we are being fired upon,” tactical confirmed.

“Evasive maneuvers Ensign Yergon.”

The Enterprise moved out of the way of the just in time, but was still rocked from the inertia caused by the force of energy beam passed close by.

“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.  Cease fire.  I repeat we are currently on a rescue mission, recovering our personnel from the planet below.  Identify yourselves.” 

“Daleks do not take orders from humans.  Daleks are the Supreme Beings.  You will surrender immediately or you will be exterminated.”  A voice responded as the viewscreen image changed to show an open planned room bathed in gold and red light.  There was not much to see in the room except several upside-down dustbins with rounded ends.  They had raised round bumps covering the lower half of their ‘bodies’  The circular dome bit at the end could clearly move and was fitted with a metal rod, attached to what looked like a ball joint at one end, and a socket at the other in the centre of which glowed an electric blue light.  Each of the dustbins also had two protrusions half way down their ‘bodies’; one which looked like a rod with a suction cup on the other, the other an old fashioned type of laser weapon.

The dustbins, or Daleks,  also starkly resembled old fashioned pepper pots on Earth, were mostly gold in colouring, the light shining off their obviously metal casing, although the lead Dalek was matt black, an absence of colour which seemed to suck in the light around it.

 “You are aware of our species?” Picard said fascinated by his first look at the Daleks.

“Daleks do not answer human questions.  Humans are an infection that needs to be exterminated.” The black pepper pot announced in his mechanical voice, as the rod with the blue light in it moved up and down.

“Our mission here is a peaceful one.”

“Humans do not know the meaning of the word peace.  Humans must be made to obey or they will be exterminated.  This planet is now under Dalek control.  You are prisoners of the Daleks, you will obey or you will be exterminated.”

“We were not aware that the planet below us was under your control.  We came to the aid of a life capsule which landed on the planet’s surface and in doing so have lost contact with one of our landing party.  I respectfully ask that we be allowed to recover our personnel and then we will leave this planet.”

“You are now the prisoners of the Daleks.  You will provide coordinates for the life capsule then prepare to transport down to the planet where you will join our workforce.”

Picard made a cutting motion with his left hand out of sight of the view screen and turned so his back was toward it.  “Mr Data, can the Enterprise withstand a sustained attack from their particle beam weapons?  Would adjusting our field harmonics to disrupt their focal point be of any use?”

Data turned towards the Captain.  “There has been insufficient time for me to complete my computations and run the necessary simulations to be sure of my facts to a degree of accuracy that I would recommend.  However early indications thus far have suggested we would be evenly matched ship for ship.”

“That’s good to know, except there are three of them…”

“Yes sir.”

“Any suggestions on altering those odds in our favour?”

“I am attempting to scan their ships for signs of inherent weakness.   From the schematics I have been able to gather so far, a precise hit on the disc rotor situated just below the main dome, would likely result in the lost of their vertical thrust drive.  The rotation of their ships about a central axis, implies that they use the momentum to generate an artificial gravitational force, which in turn stabilises their ship.  A direct hit would likely cause the loss of this gyroscopic effect causing them to veer out of control.”

“Just how precise a hit are we talking?”

“We would need to be accurate to 97%, and that is if our phasers can penetrate their shielding.”

“So a long shot at best?”

“A difficult target, but not impossible.” Data corrected.

Picard drew a breath frustrated “Damn it, we can not, I will not, leave Commander Riker on the planet below,” he said firmly.

“Sir, if I might suggest.  Perhaps our recent guests may have had some dealings with the Daleks, and could offer us some valuable insight.

Picard nodded.  “Yes Mr data, you may well have something there.  Very well, in essence what we need is time…  so I had better try and buy us some.  Lieutenant you may open hailing frequencies once more,” Picard said turning.  “I apologise we have a little difficulty with our communications.  My name is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, to whom am I speaking?”

Light glinted off the black studs as the Dalek moved closer to its viewscreen, the eye stalk with it’s unblinking blue light moved upwards.  “My name is Dalek Caan.  You will surrender our ship or be exterminated.”

“Yes, so you keep saying.”

“You doubt my word?”

“No, not at all, I just question whether this is necessary?  We are only interested in recovering our missing crew members.  We have no claim or interest in the planet below.”

“Your interests are of no concern.  We are the Superior beings.  You will obey us or you will be exterminated.”

“Captain, they appear to be powering up their energy weapon.”

Not entirely play acting, Picard held up his hands.  “All right, all right, there’s no need for this.  We will transport down to the planets surface, but we will need time to do so.”

“You have 6,000 rels,” Caan announced before the screen went dead.

“What the hell is a rel?” Picard asked turning to Data once more.

 

Picard strode into sickbay a scant three minutes later with Data once more beside him having left the bridge to Lieutenant Lenko once more.  With no precise translation of rels to standard time, but knowing that 600 seconds would be the equivalent of two standard hours,  they were working on the assumption that they might have an hour, or two at the most to come up with a workable plan.

Picard and Data were still expecting Dr Crusher to be operating as they entered the main medical area, so it was with surprise that they saw her just leaving the main operating suite as they walked in.

“Can I help you Captain?” Crusher asked, removing the gloves and headpiece she had been wearing.

Picard remembering his mistake of a day or so ago and another member of his crew answered accordingly.  “How is your patient doing doctor?” he said with a nod towards the operating room.

“Very well thank you, he’ll be up and about in no time, but I doubt you came all this way just to ask about an antigrav malfunction injury?”

“Every member of my crew is important to me doctor,” Picard said truthfully.

“Good, I’m glad to hear it, though I never doubted it for one minute.  So what really brings you here?  Does it have anything to do with the small amount of turbulence we experienced a short while ago?  I’m just glad I wasn’t in the middle of a delicate procedure at the time.”

“The crew man, is he?”

“You can relax Captain, he’s fine.”

“In that case I need to speak with our guests, and really it is a matter of some urgency.”

“I thought that might be the case.  Ms Noble should be though here, where we left her, just next to my office.” Crusher said leading the way.  Of course Donna was no longer sitting on the biobed where she’d been left nearly an hour or so ago.  “Now where on Earth is she?”

“I think I might know the answer to that question.” Picard suggested dryly.  “You said our other guest was now conscious?”

“Yes, but also in some discomfort.”

“Apparently he doesn’t mind having visitors.”

“There is another possibility Captain, Ms Noble, may have decided to explore this ship,” Data suggested.

“You could be right Mr Data, but my gut feeling is the two of them will be together, somewhere,” Picard said firmly.

“But it couldn’t have been planned.  They’re from different galaxies,” Crusher pointed out.

“You are right doctor, however the fact that they are both here, is a testament that there is something afoot, to coin a phrase.”  Data added.

“And really, we must get on.” Picard added.

 

Donna Noble and Kerr Avon were not getting along famously, but they were getting along.  Both were on the same quest: to get home, and find their companion/s, so in that they had a common ground.  From Avon’s point of view, Donna was a lot smarter than she seemed, but he was growing tired of her insistent questions, never wanting to take his word for anything.  She was assisting him, willingly, but her positive nature was something of an irritant.   They were in a dire situation, which to Avon’s mind she refused to grasp properly.

From Donna’s point of view, Avon was in the possession of a keen, almost brilliant mind; it paled into insignificance besides the Doctor’s of course, but then no mere human could hold the wealth of a Time Lord, and travelling with the Doctor had kind of spoiled Donna in that way.  When he wasn’t busy scowling at her, Donna found Avon interesting however.  Despite Avon’s assessment of her nature, Donna was keenly aware of their situation and desperate to get back to the Tardis.  She found that she staved off her fear, by asking questions, it kept her busy, which suited her best.

Orac had been unable to gain access to the Enterprises security system and cameras, so he continued to have no precise fix on its location, though they did have a few ideas.  However all three recognised that they were working on supposition and conjecture at best.  Orac believed itself to still be in his container, but that was the extent of its local knowledge.  The case could have been kept with Avon in Sickbay next to  him, it wasn’t Donna checked, and had a quick nose round most of the medical centre, or engineering, which was too far away for Donna to check.  The case could equally be in a transporter room, though Donna had managed to check several empty rooms on the same deck, equally Orac could be in someone’s quarters or even locked in a cupboard somewhere.  The ship was just too big to search, and as long as they could communicate, its location wasn’t the most pressing concern.

Finding someone from either Universe was.  Zen and the Liberator was an easy choice for Avon, since he knew the frequency that the Liberator’s supercomputer transmitted on.  Donna didn’t know the Tardis’ frequency, or even if it operated on one, but she did know that both she and the Tardis contained Huon particles, and wondered aloud if Avon were clever enough to find and then be able to track them.

Donna had made a couple of forays round and about and then outside sickbay, and had quickly noticed the looks she was getting until she happened upon a set of red surgical scrubs and a spare white coat in a storage area.  Rather pleased with herself, Donna had started to venture further as Avon’s requests became ever more specific as he attempted to increase the range on his datapadd device.

“You want what?” Donna gave Avon a searching look.

“Another couple of power cells, bigger ones than before,” Avon said firmly, not bothering to look up.

“What happened to the last ones I got you?”

“Used them?”

“What? Already?”

“Yes, already.  The receiver I’m constructing needs to have a very tight beam and focus and that takes power.  Power equals energy, and lots of it.”

“Where am I supposed to get them from? It’s not as if I can just pop down to the local supermarket or go online and order them from Amazon is it?”

Avon looked up at that.   He had no idea what Dona was talking about, but wasn’t about to let on.  Nor did he see it as ‘his’ problem.  “How should I know?  Where did you get the last ones from?”

“I borrowed them from some medical equipment,” Donna admitted.

“Well then, the solution is obvious, borrow some more…  just bigger ones…”

“I couldn’t find any bigger ones,”

“Then look again.”

“Fine!”

“Good.”

“It’s not as if I’m going to get caught wandering round this big ship, poking my nose into places and nicking stuff  am I?”

“I have a suggestion.”

“Yes?”

“Don’t get caught.”  

Chapter Text

“I do hope we’re not keeping you from something important Ms Noble?” Picard said mildly, opening the door to the ITU where Avon had been staying and only just narrowly stopping himself from bumping into Donna.  He took in her altered appearance but said nothing for the moment.

Donna took a step backwards to prevent herself from colliding with the Captain, and did her best to cover both her confusion and immediate feelings of guilt and unease.  “Yes well, a girl’s gotta keep in shape you know, time and tide wait for no one as they say, can’t be sitting around all day.”

“Indeed not, but you can’t seriously expect me to believe you were taking exercise?  A short jog around the ship perhaps?”

“As a matter of interest, you would need to jog round this deck 2.532 times to equal one kilometre,” Data offered, standing just behind the Captain.

“Thank you Mr Data.” Picard said firmly.

“You are welcome sir,” Data replied, only realising at the last that the Captain was being sarcastic.

Donna had listened to the brief exchange eagerly while deliberately jogging up and down to prove her point.

Picard noticed her actions, but refused to comment on them.  “Nevertheless,” he said quietly, though his voice was firm, “perhaps you will be good enough to give us a few moments of your time, your required exercise not withstanding, as you can imagine, there are things we need to discuss.”

Donna looked at the seriousness of the Captain’s expression and knew she couldn’t possibly win this particular battle.  “Of course,” she agreed.  “Although I don’t know what more I can tell you, other than what I’ve told you already.”

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” Picard agreed, and gestured for Donna to proceed him back into Avon’s room.

Donna rolled her eyes at Avon as she walked in, gesturing with a flick of her head towards the others who followed her.

All eyes turned to Avon, but for a variety of reasons.  Beverly Crusher was interested in his medical condition.  Picard was determined that now their guest was clearly awake he would get some answers out of him, Data was most intrigued with the device Avon had been assembling from the datapadd.

“Intriguing, I believe you are attempting to build a transceiver from the LCARS interface, and appear to have added several modifications to adjust the radiofrequency bandwidth.” Data said curiously.  “May I?”  he continued, moving to pick up the device.

“No you may not,” Avon said snatching it out of reach of Data’s hands, then wincing at the pain the movement caused, glowering at the Lieutenant Commander.

“I did not mean to cause any offence,” Data apologised.

“Exactly whom were you trying to contact?”  Picard said firmly.  “Your friends, out there who have just issued us with an ultimatum?”

Avon looked at Picard with his usual arrogance.  “I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about,” he said dismissively.

“We rescued you from a life pod on the planet below.” Picard continued.  “Now, as a Starship Captain, I am aware that there are not that many instances that call for, or necessitate, a crew abandoning ship.   Unless you were jettisoned for some reason?”

“If that’s what you’d like to think?”

“I don’t,” Picard said shortly.  “I think you were in some kind of space battle and your ship was damaged.”

“Yes that’s what Vila said,” Donna agreed eagerly.

Avon shot Donna a look.  “Vila’s an idiot!” he said facetiously.

“Ah so you do know him?” Picard said triumphantly.

“Was there ever any doubt?” Avon replied, determined not to admit he’d made a mistake in his off the cuff remark to Donna.

“What can you tell me about this space battle?” Picard asked Donna.

“Nothing.  I wasn’t there.   Like I told you before, the Doctor and I were about to go out for Dinna when his mate Vila walked in on us.”

“Yes, and?”

“And ?”  Donna asked.

Picard gestured for Donna to continue.

Avon looked positively mutinous, especially when Beverly took out her medical tricorder and started to scan him with it while tapping commands into the monitors above his bed.

“I believe the Captain is asking you to continue with your tale.” Data added helpfully.

“There isn’t anything else.  Vila came in, the Doctor couldn’t understand how he got onto the Tardis through it’s shields and apparently endless array of anti intruder devices, which apparently caused us to drop out of the time vortex.”

Avon smiled faintly to himself, when Vila set his mind to it, he could open any lock.

“…the Doctor started to take his ship apart in order to find a bit that was malfunctioning in some way, and found the red lightbulb thingy that’s supposed to warn if the Tardis is in trouble.  What have you done with it by the way, he’s going to want to get that back.”

“Forget the lightbulb, did you say Vila’s appearance was causing your ship to malfunction?” Picard asked carefully.

“Well he got in, didn’t he?”

“The same way that you appear to be causing the Enterprise to malfunction too sir,” Picard said turning to Avon.

Avon crossed his good arm against his other.  “You’re a fool,” he told the Captain.  “I’ve been mostly unconscious since you rescued me, how can I possibly…”

“Oh would that be  Or….” Donna started, but at the immediate look she got from Avon, she stopped and shut her mouth.

Picard was not amused nor happy.  “Now you two, I don’t know what is going on, what you think you have to gain by this charade you are obviously playing but I will not stand for it, do you here me.  You sir will return my ship to normal, then as soon as it’s practically possible you will be escorted to the brig.   And you madam, had better start talking, right now, right this instance.”

Avon was thoroughly unimpressed with Picard.  As far as he could determine, he was behaving just as childishly and high handily as Blake.  “Since you’ve obviously made up your mind about me, there is little point in us continuing this conversation, and I am beginning to feel rather fatigued.”

Picard held his temper with difficulty.  “What have the Daleks promised you?  This ship?  Your freedom?  A small fortune or something else in return for our capture?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about…” Avon said firmly.

Donna looked surprised.  “I’ve heard the Doctor talk about them,” she said slowly.

All eyes turned towards her.  Donna did a double take.  “What?  Has my top think suddenly come undone or something?”

“What do you know about the Daleks?” Picard asked carefully.

“Nothing, the Doctor only mentioned them once in passing.  Said they were all dead or something I believe.”

“Well they’re certainly not dead, they’ve three large ships and are threatening my ship and the safety of my crew.  My First Officer is still down on the planet’s surface, where he has been stuck, ever since he went in to rescue you sir,” Picard said sounding annoyed.  “And quite frankly my patience and my willingness to believe any more cockamamie stories about interrupted dinners, time vortexes and glowing light bulb is at an end.  Now I want some answers and I want them now.”

“I’m afraid that may have to wait Captain,” Beverly interrupted.  “My patients blood pressure is through the roof and his ox sat is too low – if he doesn’t get some rest soon, he may do himself some lasting and potentially serious damage.”

“Doctor, whilst I understand that your first concern must be your patient, my first concern however is everyone aboard this ship up to and including your patient.  I am seriously concerned that if we don’t start getting some answers to some questions very soon, then there may not be a potential future left for any of us.” Picard said heatedly.

“The Captain is quite correct,” Data added.  “There have been many strange electrical disturbances aboard this ship ever since your patient was brought on board.  And whilst it is true that he was unconscious at the time of the first occurrence, his unconsciousness may very well be the cause of our problems, we cannot simply overlook the matter.  If he is as fatigued as you say, then he could very well be a danger to this ship and everyone aboard it.

“Which is why he could have been jettisoned into space in the first place,” Picard suggested.

“An interesting hypothesis, and one we really do not wish to test at this moment in time; unless we are given no choice.  To date, the faults have remained confined to the Enterprises secondary or sub systems, however with the level of aggression and intractability that the Daleks have shown upon our first meeting, we are all in grave danger.” Data concluded.

Avon had listened to Picard’s speech with cool disdain.  He was well aware that he was not the course of the ships malfunctions, that was down to Orac, and he had no intention of telling anyone, not even with the new threat of the Daleks, until the question of his own survival appeared to be at stake – and Donna gave him a very large poke in the ribs, which hurt more than it should.

Just as Picard and Data had spoken to Crusher as if Avon were not in the room, Donna now spoke to Avon in much the same manner.

“You’ve got to tell them what you told me, what he told me,” she whispered loudly drawing close to Avon.

“It,” Avon corrected irritably.  “It’s an it not a he.”

“Well I don’t care what or who it is, we need to say something.  We haven’t done anything wrong.” Donna said firmly. 

“I don’t see why…”

“Then you’re a bigger dumbo than I thought.  The Doctor is all about people working together and helping each other out, and that’s what we’ve got to do now.  We shouldn’t be scrapping with each other but working to solve what’s going on, and how we can get home; you do want to go home don’t you?  Cos I most certainly do sunshine, I can tell you that!”

Picard and Data had stopped talking to listen to Donna berating Avon.  It was obvious that they did know more than they were telling.

“Do please go on,” Picard said mildly into the silence when Donna finished speaking.

Donna nudged Avon again.

“Well now, all you needed to do was ask nicely,” Avon said and smiled, which was disconcerting.  “What is it that you wish to know?”

“How do you get in touch with your friends out there?” Picard said immediately.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, unless the Liberator has returned.”

“That’s what she’s called, the Liberator?  And Dalek Caan is what, your First Officer, your Captain?”

“I haven’t a clue who this Dalek Caan person is as I have stated already.  The Liberator is captained by Roj Blake.”

“Then who is Dalek Caan?”

“Captain, perhaps I can help,” Data suggested.  “Data to Bridge, please can you relay the image from the main view screen down to Isolation Room 1.”

All eyes turned toward the screen across the room from Avon, which switched from showing several medical charts to the image of the Dalek saucers a short distance away from and surrounding the Enterprise.

“Well now, That’s certainly not the Liberator,” Avon said immediately.

“You’re quite certain?”

Avon fixed Picard with a look.  “I think I’m doing well enough to know my own ship, whatever your Doctor may say about my condition.”

“And you?” Picard said looking at Donna.

Who shook her head.  “No me neither… that’s not the Tardis, or should I say, they’re not.  I’ve not seen something like that before, and I’ve seen some things in my time with the Doctor let me tell you.”

“I don’t doubt,” Picard said dryly.  “Well, if you’re both telling the truth, then we’ve got bigger problems then the two of you to contend with.  Thank you for your time.  I’ll leave you to your patients Doctor,” Picard said turning on his heal ready and left the room.

Data turned to look at Avon.  “You have built the transceiver to contact your ship, the Liberator,” he said carefully.

Avon nodded.  “That much is evident yes.”

“It would also seem fair to say that you have been unable to do so.”

“Again, as you say.”

Data opened his mouth to say something, then thought about it some more and shut it again, before continuing to think at lighting speed, so his hesitation lasted only a few moments.  “Once this crisis has past, the Enterprise has a infinitely more powerful subspace communication assembly than the one you are attempting to construct.  If you are aware of the bandwidth on which your ship transmits, I would be happy to assist you.”

“That’s very kind of you, thank you Mr….” Donna said warmly.

“Data,” Data supplied with a slight inclination of his head.

“As in a Data chip,” Donna suggested, somewhat amused by the name.  “I suppose you’re good with computers then… so what is your name really?”

“It really is Data, and if I’m understanding your inference correctly, then yes, I am “good with computers” as you put it.  I am sorry, but I really must be getting on now.”  Data replied politely, having heard similar statements many times over.

“Thank you anyway,” Donna smiled.

“It’s time for you to leave too,” Crusher told Donna.  “My patient really does need to rest.  I’ll see about getting a guest quarters assigned to you so you don’t have to hang around here all day as well.”

“Bridge to Sickbay, do you have the Captain?” Lt Marksham asked in measured tones, only a faint hint of stress in his voice.

“No, the Captain left sick bay just a moment ago,” Data responded immediately. “He should have answered his hail.”

“Well he hasn’t.  What should we do?”

“One moment please, stand by.  Commander Data to Captain Picard,” Data said tapping his combadge.  “Captain Picard respond please.”

Donna and Avon looked at each other.  Both were wondering the same thing.

“Data to Captain Picard, if you are able to hear me, please respond by going to the nearest communication station.” Data tried.

“Commander, I’m sorry to interrupt you again,” Lt Marksham stated, “But I really could do with some assistance here.”

“How may I help you Lieutenant,” Data suggested.  “Have the Dalek ships decided to …”

“No sir, it’s nothing like that.   It’s that anomaly sir, the one we’ve been studying…. It’s just trebled in size.”

 

Riker had slept poorly, tossing and turning throughout the night, thinking of, and then discarding one plan after another.  He was also growing more worried than he cared to admit.  Even if there had been a problem with the main transporter, the Enterprise had several others to choose from.  The thought that all the transporters had chosen to malfunction at the same time was unconscionable.  It pointed to huge system failures, in fact nothing short of catastrophic.  Had the anomaly had anything to do with it?  Had the man they’d rescued?  He’d appeared to be badly injured, but Riker knew all too well how quickly things could change aboard a ship.  Had he just been faking his injuries and now had somehow taken the Enterprise hostage?

Which ever way he looked at it, Riker should only have been left kicking his heels for a couple of hours on the planets surface, until either the transporter were fixed or until a shuttle came down to pick him.  For neither of those methods of transportation to happen, for him to have spent the night on the planet and out of contact with his ship, something must be badly wrong.

Riker was tense but focussed, he knew needed to find some way to get back to his ship, if not contact her somehow.  Finally in the early hours of the morning, he decided that his best bet might be to go topside once it was daylight, and see if he could salvage something of the ship Sleer had landed in, perhaps she’d have a working FTL radio.  Or perhaps there were other escape pod survivors, scattered not too far distance, and one of those could help.

If he had but known it, Servalan’s thoughts were running in much the same direction.

She had slept far better than she’d expected; her leg still hurt, but she was determined to ignore it, treating it as a mere inconvenience than anything else.  She’d risen early, taken a surprisingly refreshing shower, changed into another set of borrowed clothing from Dayna, this time a dark blue jump suit with a silver belt, padded shoulders and puff sleeves caught at the wrist.

Servalan was already in the small family dining room when Riker appeared.  She had been sitting down, but rose to her feet as soon as he appeared, to take the breakfast bowls from a surprised Iesha so she could help her lay the table and look busy and engaged.

“Thank you,” the young girl smiled gratefully, not guessing Servalan’s motive.

Riker took the bowls from Servalan as she limped past him, determined to act normally and be chivalrous, to the ‘damsel in destress’, which was how he thought of Servalan.  “Good morning, I hope you slept well.  But you need to sit down and stay off that leg of yours, and rest it while you can,” he said with mock severity.

Servalan smiled prettily at him.  “Thankyou for being so gallant,” she said putting one of her now free hands over his arm and squeezing it slightly.  “It’s such a pleasure to meet a proper gentleman.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Riker said feeling a touch embarrassed at the woman’s obvious gratitude.

Dayna chose that moment to enter the room, and noticing the supposed intimacy, frowned.  “I thought it would be a good idea if we go topside after breakfast and see if we can’t find a way to contact both your ships.  You both must be very anxious to get home?” she said with forced cheerfulness, but determination to keep the two of them separated if she could.  She didn’t know why, but she wasn’t terribly struck by Servalan.

“I am,” Riker said simply. “I’ve been out of contact for longer than I wanted to be.”

“Oh now surely not, you must be allowed some shore leave?” Servalan said pouting prettily.

“Scheduled shore leave yes, unscheduled shore leave, does nothing for me.”

“You don’t play a little truant now and then?” Servalan said smiling.

Riker grinned in response, understanding perfectly well what Sleer was suggesting.  

“Ah, then you have someone glamourous waiting for you?”

Riker smiled.  “As a matter of fact I do,” he agreed thinking of the Enterprise, “She’s quite a lady.”

“Then she’s very lucky.”

“Orange juice?” Dayna said physically coming between Riker and Servalan so she could put the jug on the table, a deliberate ploy, since she could easily have walked round them to put it down.

“Yes of course, thank you so much for providing a further meal for us, you’re really very kind,” Servalan said sweetly.

Dayna scowled.  There was something about the older woman that she really didn’t like.   “Sit down, I’ll bring you your meal,” she said a touch sulkily, turning to leave.

Dayna had barely left the room however, when there came the muffled sound of a massive explosion, large enough to cause the sunken space station to vibrate softly on the ocean floor.

“What the hell was that!” Riker said, immediately forgetting the slight flirtation he’d been having with Servalan.

“It sounded like an explosion,” Servalan replied also no longer interested in banter.  “Is there any way we can find out?”

“Hal has several view screens, we were watching the natives unsuccessfully attempt to enter one of this places air locks yesterday.”

“How fortunate.”

Riker looked at Sleer.

“That they didn’t get in,” Servalan said rolling her eyes.  “I was unconscious remember, which way?”

With a curt nod Riker walked past Servalan but stopped in the doorway to ensure that she would follow.

A second explosion, had them both forgetting that curtesy however as the space station shifted a small amount on the sandy bottom of the seabed.

The small control room had several working screens.  Three of them showed nothing out of the ordinary, but the fourth showed huge flames on the top of the cliffs where the Away Team had rescued Avon yesterday.   As Riker and Servalan joined the Melanby family to stare at the screens in disbelief, the sickly green light from a particle beam weapon sliced through the air as a couple of small circular space craft came into view, skimming the tops of the cliff face to rain fire above, cutting down Sarran riders and horses alike, as well as destroying several buildings, clearing a space big enough to act as a landing zone where they could establish a base and then start quelling and rounding up the natives.

“Who the devil are they?” Riker asked outload, wondering if the Enterprise were caught up in the same surprise attack.  “I thought you said the natives not advanced much above the bronze age.”

“They’re not,” Hal said, pressing a few buttons and changing the view to show another pair of Dalek saucers firing along the beach at the fleeing people.  “I’ve never seen them before.”

“They’re not another group from elsewhere on this planet?”

“No, I’ve told you, I don’t know who they are.”

“Raiders from another planet?”

“They could be… but we haven’t ever been attacked before.”

“What never?”

“Not by them, the natives yes, a few times as you’ve seen.”

Riker turned to look at Sleer, but she looked as shocked as he was.  “Have you?”

“No.  As you know the Federation has recently had a few… shall we say troubles… with our nearest neighbours, a territorial dispute, nothing major.”

Taking Servalan’s words at face value Riker nodded, until Hal turned briefly to look at his guests.  “Our nearest neighbours nearly wiped us out,” he said directly.  “It took nearly three quarters of Federation Fleet to wipe out the Andromedans – we nearly didn’t make it, I’d hardly call that nothing major.”

“But we won, didn’t we?”

“We did, but at what cost, the lives…”

“The lives being lost here too…” Riker interrupted.  “You’re sure they’re not your Andromedan ‘friends’ ?”

“I’m quite sure thank you,” Servalan said glaring at Hal.

“Then the question remains who the hell are they?   And… how can we get hold of one of their ships?”

 

 

+ I am picking up a distress call. +  Zen intoned unexpectedly.

“Course and heading?” Tarrant asked immediately.

Zen ignored the question.

“Let us hear it,” Cally instructed.

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!  Can anyone hear me?  My ship is loosing power.  I’m down to 15% oxygen and have only enough hour for one, maybe two more hours…. Please can anyone help me…?”

“Before you answer that, perhaps you would be kind enough to ask on what course and heading?” Tarrant said sounding annoyed.   The Liberator’s computer was only following Cally’s commands, and as yet, Cally hadn’t seen fit to instruct Zen to listen to and obey either Worf or Tarrant.   It was beginning to grate on Del’s nerves.

“Zen, what course and heading?”

+ Bearing 140 Mark 340° +

“If we move to intercept, we will almost be turning back on ourselves,” Worf said firmly.

“But we cannot ignore a ship in trouble,” Cally responded.

“No, I suppose not,” Worf agreed reluctantly.

“We should at least get a visual on them, make sure it isn’t an Andromedian trap of some kind?”  Tarrant suggested.

“Yes, that is a good idea,” Worf agreed.

Cally nodded.  “Zen can you give me a visual on the ship.  Do they have viewscreen capabilities?”

+ Confirmed. +

The image on the front view screen changed from the moving star field to show a small copper coloured ship with streaks of green rust and or corrosion streaking down the craft’s side.  Then the view changed again to show the cramped interior of the craft, smoke wafting heavily around the cabin.  Pale blonde hair atop a soot and grime streaked face blinked back at them.

“Thank goodness, can you help me. My engines are dying, my oxygen is really low…”  the young man said obviously trying to control his panic.

“How may we be of assistance?  Where is the rest of your crew?”

“There’s only me.”

“I take it you came across the Andromedans, and came off worse for it?”  Tarrant asked.

“What?  Oh yes, yes of course, please help.”

“We shall,” Cally said firmly.   “Stand by, we’ll use our tractor beam to…”

“You’ll likely crush his ship if you try to bring him in on automatics,”  Tarrant said quickly.

“I concur,” Worf agreed.  “His ship needs gentle handling.”

Cally looked at them both, while the man on the screen just stared at them all with pleading eyes.  Abruptly Cally made up her mind.  “Very well.  Zen release manual control to Tarrant so he may bring the ship aboard.”

+ Confirmed. +

“Oh thank you, you won’t regret it….” The young man said gratefully.

“I will send a couple of my men down to the hangar deck for security,” Worf said firmly.

Cally nodded.  “Thank you, that would be helpful,” she agreed, before turning to the young man once more.  She was able to sense nothing from him other than fear and panic. “Do you have a name?”

“I do, Alexander Aloysius Fenton Mudd, at your service ma’am.”

“I rather thought you were at ours,” Tarrant said dryly taking the helm controls to bring the ship in.

Chapter Text

Deva and Payton had ducked into the first room available as the initial explosion rumbled through the building, Payton every bit as good as opening locked doors as was Vila with the right set of circumstances. The room they’d chosen to hide in would have been large, if not for the masses of computer banks.  The duo smiled grimly at their luck as they’d inadvertently managed to find the main control room, and it was completely deserted, so they set to work.

Another explosion shook the floor and racks the computers were standing on, plaster rained down from the ceiling as one of Avalon’s charges went off prematurely, jolted by Blake’s attempt to take out a Borg soldier in the laboratory they’d come to.

“Quick, set the timers then let us get out of here,” Deva advised Paton. “It’s obvious things are not going to plan, but we still need to level as much of this place as we can.”

“Agreed,” Payton said taking out an explosive and setting the timer. “Five minutes enough do you think?”

“As long as we don’t get caught by anyone.  Better give us a couple more.”

Quickly and efficiently Deva and Payton set their charges, then quickly left the room, moving onto the next one. Ducking their head inside they saw it was a rec room of some sort. Chairs and tables pushed back in a disorderly fashion, food, drinks, and games abandoned as the Borg attack came out of the blue.

“Just one in here, that should level the room nicely,” Deva commented ducking inside. “You open up the next one.”

Payton nodded, moving quickly to the door on the opposite side of the corridor just as it was blasted from the inside by a paragun.  Payton didn’t stand a chance, as the Federation trooper defending the room, came out with a roar of rage, shooting blindly, having already seen what the Borg were capable of, and mistaking the rebels for another Borg soldier.

Deva, hidden from immediate sight, swallowed and grit his teeth, setting the explosive charge grimly, before flatting himself against the wall.  Advancing towards the doorway, his weapon drawn in anticipation, Deva counted to three then rushed the doorway quickly.  Just as the trooper had downed Payton with a single shot, Deva returned the favour and caught the trooper unawares.  Without so much as a glance at the dead trooper, Deva bent down briefly to touch Payton in a silent goodbye.  The two had been friends for many years, and had survived many campaigns together.

At Deva’s touch, Payton opened his eyes and groaned.

Deva did a double-take. “I thought you were dead.”

Payton drew a breath he didn’t want to take and swallowed. “Not quite yet…  My side…” he whispered hoarsely.  The troupers shot had indeed been wild.  He’d hit Payton, just above his left hip, rather than a full-body shot which would have killed him immediately.

Deva looked at the wound, it had been more of a glancing shot, slanting diagonally across Payton, rather than through him. It was bleeding profusely, however, which was more of a problem than anything else.  Quickly reaching in the bag he’d been carrying, Deva reached for the sparse medical supplies one member of each team had been carrying, Deva taking team three’s supply when he and Payton had split from Blake, Docholli and Moss.   The medical equipment consisting of a can of spray-on plaster, that hardened almost immediately. 

“This might sting a bit,” he suggested giving Payton no further warning and ignoring the swearing which followed. “We need to give that a few moments to set, then get you out of here.  Meet up with Fargus, while I set the rest of the charges.”

“No need, I’ll be fine, no argument,” Payton suggested, struggling to sit upright and swearing as molten fire cut through his middle, he paused on his elbows.  “Though it might take a little time...” The sound of marching boots coming towards them, decided him, however, gritting his teeth and sweating, though no longer swearing out loud, with Deva’s help they both managed to struggle through the doorway to the room where the trooper had been as a group of six Borg strode past, a cluster of newly made mutoids in their middle being herded along like sheep.

“I thought you said something about time,” Deva whispered.

“It’s amazing what a little motivation will do,” Payton deadpanned back.  “Where are they taking them I wonder?” he continued out loud, curious, but also thinking of anything to distract himself from the growing discomfort.

“As long as we don’t end up there too, I don’t care.  Back to their ship, perhaps?” Deva suggested. “And I think we should make our way back out of here too.  We can set our remaining charges as we go in any room we find.  Avalon’s instructions were to meet back at our ship if anything went wrong.”

“What about Docholli, Blake and Moss?”

“They’ll either be there, or they wont…. Come on, we need to leave now….”

 

Avalon threw the last of her charges, timer already set, through the doorway to the building she’d just run through and made a dash across the tarmac towards a gap in the perimeter fence.  There were many gaps in the fence now, the mutoid factory being completely overrun by the Borg, mostly dead Federation troopers laying scattered around where they’d failed to repel the invaders.

A group of six Borg, escorting a tight formation of new mutoids past her close by. The mutoids all turned to look in her direction, but the Borg seemed to ignore her since she was no longer carrying any weapons and running away from the building which they now controlled.  Just for a split second, Avalon swore she saw the look of fear on one of the mutoids faces, and new their conditioning had yet to be complete. For a split second Avalon considered a certain suicide run towards the Borg, but realised there was nothing she could do against six of them, other than die needlessly.

 

Fargus looked round the scared faces of the dozen or so children that he had rescued.  Most were young teens or younger. A couple of the younger ones were sitting close to his pilot who was looking decidedly uncomfortable to be the de facto mother figure.

“I don’t see how we’re going to get them out of here,” Jen whispered to Fargus. “We’ve not got our transporter any longer and there are too many of them to fit into the rest of our ships.”

Beside her, one of the young girls began to cry.

“We’ll think of something,” Fargus said firmly. “We are not leaving them here.”

“I wasn’t suggesting that,” Jen said patting the young girl awkwardly, “But we do need to think of something and fast. By now Avalon and the rest of them should have finished setting the charges.   The factory is going to go up in a little while, goodness knows what those creatures will do then.”

Fargus shrugged. “Something will turn up, it always does,” he said, not willing to admit how scared he was feeling too. “Avalon will find a way out of here, she always does.”

“Avalon’s not invincible you know,” Jen replied with a sigh. “She’s been captured before…”

“And escaped..”

“She was rescued, she didn’t escape.”

“So you say…”

“So I know…”

 

Moss was finding walking more difficult than he wanted to admit. With no medical kit, just a rough tourniquet around his leg, he continued to lose blood; the clothing on his leg now soaked in it, leaving a red smeary trail across the floor as he was helped along by Docholli and Blake.

As a surgeon, Docholli was growing ever concerned. He’d let Deva carry the medical kit since it was an odd shape to carry, but was bitterly regretting the decision now. The average person only had about 5 litres of blood in their body; if Moss didn’t rest soon, he would go into cardiac arrest as he was losing too much.

“How much further…?” Moss mumbled as he was rested up against the wall as they came to an intersection and Blake decided to scout ahead.

“Not much, we’re back in the corridor by the storage facility,” Blake reported returning just in time.

“Didn’t we set a couple of charges in there?” Docholli frowned.

“We did, which is why we need to move...”

 

Avalon reached the treeline, throwing herself flat against the ground as a whump of the last of her explosives went up, raining debris and dirt all around her. Fresh alarms flared into life against the backdrop of the now-familiar flames.   Avalon sat up cautiously after a few moments, turning to look at the destruction she had caused. There was now a huge chunk taken out of the side of the building, and as she watched, Avalon could see the first stirrings of the Borg as they moved to investigate the new site.  She needed to get out of there fast.

Avalon practically crawled towards the trees, never taking her eyes off the factory before her. A voice whispering in her left ear came as a shock, therefore.

“Are you one of us?”

Avalon stared mutely at the trees until a skinny boy of about 12 slowly appeared.

“Fargus set me to keep watch,” the boy suggested.

Avalon nodded, breathing in relief. “I’m a friend,” she said slowly. “Can you take me to him?”

“I’m supposed to remain on watch… but if you go that way,” he said pointing to his left and behind him, “you should find them pretty quickly.

“Have you found anyone else?”

“Not yet… them things…. They’re everywhere. One of them killed our guards… except they didn’t do it properly, one of the guards got off a shot and killed them back.  One of your people found us and took us into the woods. It’s safe enough here, at least no one has come looking for us yet…”

“Let’s hope they don’t,” Avalon said grimly.  “Thank you, stay here and keep watch, there may be others… I’ll come back for you when we’re due to leave.”

“Sure…”

 

Limping out of the building, Payton and Deva were thrown hard against each other as Avalon’s huge explosion ripped through the building with a concussive force of 10 pounds per square inch (69 kPa).  Fortunately they were not that close to the blast, and had several reinforced walls between them.  Payton had already been leaning against a wall so could go no further as the shock wave passed through and over them.  Rubble and dust rained down around them, as a Federation troopers hat came to land at their feet.

“One of us needs to go on a diet,” Payton offered through the dust and pain of a couple of cracked ribs.

Pushing away from his friend with a groan, Deva patted himself down cautiously; the blast had been enormous and he felt bruised all over.  “One of us should be thankful he didn’t… extra padding you know.”

Payton gave a short bark of laughter that could have been a groan.

“Come, on, let's get out of here, while we still can.”

 

Leaving Lieutenant’s Towson and Portman on the bridge of the Liberator under the watchful eye of Zen, Cally, champing at the bit to get going and find Blake, accompanied by Tarrant, Worf and D’Son, entered the main hangar bay.   Nestled almost dead centre in a transfer cradle was the still lightly steaming copper vessel Zen had transferred internally once Tarrant had brought it on board.

“Well even if I do say so myself, that was a good piece of flying there,” Tarrant said grinning and flexing his fingers.

“Yes, you performed your task admirably,” Worf agreed, his tricorder already out and scanning the rescued ship that looked little more than a short range planet hopper.   “I am reading…. Several life signs…” he said, immediately reaching for his weapon.   “One is human… the other/s … I can not determine.”

D’Son and Tarrant had drawn their weapons at the same time as Worf, only Cally remained unarmed.

“Stand back,” Worf advised her.  “We do not yet know if they are hostile…”

Cally, who had been listening mentally to the stranger since the first minute he’d been announced by Zen shook her head.  “No, I do not think so,”

“How can you be so sure?” Worf questioned.

Cally looked at the big Klingon and tiled her head fractionally.  “This is how.” she projected.

“You’re a telepath,” Worf said surprised.

Without breaking her eye contact with Worf, Cally thought towards D’Son.  “You didn’t tell him?”

D’Son’s brief smile acknowledged the thought.  “I saw no need!”

“You are a very unusual human!”

D’Son smiled faintly.

Worf cleared his throat, which seemed to echo pointedly through the hangar deck.  “Lieutenant, when you are ready, you may open the outer hatch, and see if our guest needs any assistance,” he said firmly.

Giving Worf a look which acknowledged the reprimand, D’Son walked forward and up the short flight of steps to the cradle’s platform, positioned for easy access to the space hopper, where he used the butt of his gun to tap firmly on the hull.  The hatch lock turned almost immediately, opening inwards.

“Hello, hello, I can’t thank you enough for coming to my rescue when you did,” Alexander Mudd said quickly exiting from his ship and shutting the door behind him.  “I really thought my chips were up then, you can only go so far before your luck runs out, isn’t that what they say?”

“Yeah, I guess,” D’Son ventured, quite taken aback by the man’s chatty nature.  Mudd was very tall, very thin, very blond with very pale blue eyes, and the Lieutenant thought that ‘very’ was probably a good way to describe the young man.  “Are you injured at all?”

“No, no, not at all.  I can’t say the same thing about my ship of course.  But still, I’ve been rescued so that’s alright.  Say this is a very big ship isn’t it?” 

“It is,” D’Son agreed, gesturing for Mudd to precede him down the stairs.

“Wow look I’m honoured that you’ve all come out to meet me, but you really shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”

“You sent a mayday distress call and your ship is in poor shape, we didn’t know if the same was to be said for you.” Cally said evenly, somewhat put out by the cavalier attitude.

“Well, jut thank you, you know.  Seriously, how can I ever repay you, I am in your debt lovely maiden.”

Worf stepped round Cally, his demeanour far more down to earth. “Our tricorder is picking up several life forms emanating from your ship,” he said directly.  “Do you have any other passengers with you?  The life signs are not human.”

“Oh, it’s nothing, forget about that,” Alex said dismissively.

Worf glowered. “What is nothing?

“Really it’s……”

“Lieutenant Towson, to Worf.”

“Go ahead.”

“The Zen computer has just issued a warning.  We are being attacked by two craft which it identifies as Andromedan, one of which is on an direct intercept course with us.”

While Towson was speaking however, the ship rocked as a Andromedan energy beam just about managed to graze one of Zen’s power banks.

“I say, your man is a little late with his warning,” Mudd complained, as Tarrant prevented him from falling into Cally.

Cally ignored Mudd as well, drawing closer to Worf, so his combadge would pick up her voice.  “Zen this is Cally, evasive manoeuvres immediately.”

+ Confirmed. +

The Liberator rocked far harder a second time as the other Andromedan ship fired its own weapon, just grazing the Liberator, causing the crew to tumble aboutPushing off from various barrels and railings, and other bits of equipment now scattered around the loading bay, Cally, Tarrant, Worf, D’Son and Mudd set off at a run for the bridge.

“We’re in no fit state to withstand a pounding,” Tarrant said as they sped through several corridors.  “I’m, the best damn pilot I know.  Cally release the Liberators flight control to me, or we might not survive a third hit.”

Cally nodded as they raced round a corner and up the short flight of steps leading to the flight deck.  “Yes, all right,” she agreed.  “Worf will you be able to assist Tarrant?”

“I am the Chief of Security for the Enterprise, I am confident I can handle this ships weapons to your satisfaction.” Worf said firmly.

“And your people?”

“Ready and able to assist ma’am.”

“I’m no ma’am, my name is Cally, but I appreciate your help.” Cally said with a smile.  “Zen, you will recognise the people on the bridge during this battle and take commands with them as you would from Liberator crew.”

+  Confirmed  +

“Right.” Tarrant said taking up stance in the pilots seat. “Let’s see what this ship really can do. Zen I want you to execute a parabolic orbit around the second invader on my mark, when they are no closer than 12 cubic spatial’s.  Worf you need to prepare a spread of weapons as we hit the zenith.  Who ever is on the shields raise the force walls now for goodness sake, but prepare to take them down when I give the order to fire.”

“Zen what is the energy levels in the power banks?”

+ Banks 1 and 2 are showing full charge, bank 3 is three-quarters, bank 4 is depleted. +

“In other words, we need to make a stand and kill them off quickly.  Mark Zen, execute now…”

As graceful as swan, the Liberator surged forward in a graceful arch around the second ship, seemingly ignoring the more immanent threat of the first.

“Lower our energy shields…”

“Shields lowered.”

+  Incoming plasma bolt launched.  +

“Fire photon torpedoes now Mr Worf.”

“Firing now.  Missiles away…”

“Raise forcewall, maximum deflection,” Tarrant said firmly.

“Shields up,” Towson called out.

A massive explosion caused the Liberator’s view screen to flare bright glaring white as the ship rocked in the aftershock of a massive shock wave, until Zen corrected both of the events and the screen went back to normal, while Tarrant and the Liberator sailed through the remnants of the alien craft.

“180° about turn,” Tarrant called out.  “We’re going to use the blind spot created by the debris to accelerate past them, break hard, role and come up under them,” he said matching his course and speed corrections to his words.  “Mr Worf, engage full spread of photons, prepare to launch on my mark.  Zen as soon as Worf has launched the weapons I want you to take us straight up 90° speed maximum setting.  Get ready to drop the forcewall…  now… Mr Worf if you’d be so kind…..  Zen get us out of here….”

Seconds before the Liberator would have collided with the first alien craft, the ship exploded and the Liberator sailed clear. 

“Come about all stop.”  Tarrant said with a grin.  “And that’s how you do it folks, don’t all rush to thank me at once!”

Worf scowled.  “Is it just me, or did that appear a little too easy?” he said suspiciously.

“What do you mean?” Cally asked.  “The Liberator was clearly a superior vessel.”

“Yes, and yet.  From what you have told me, you both barely escaped with your lives last time.”

“That is true,” Cally agreed.

“Yes but they didn’t have me flying her last time,” Tarrant said confidently. “With a ship like the Liberator we would have won easily.”

“I can assure you that the Liberator did fight in the last battle, we did not sit idly by.  And Jenna was a really good pilot.”

“But she wasn’t me.”

“No, she wasn’t.  She didn’t brag as much either.  Those two ships were just stragglers, that is all.” Cally said clearly irritated.

“As you say…” Tarrant agreed trying to be consolatory, feeling he had made his point.

“And yet,” Worf said slowly.  “Did you happen to notice, that for stragglers, the vessels we encountered did not appear to have any battle damage.  Nor did they appear to move very quickly.  It’s almost as if they were being controlled…”

“Piloted, yes,” Tarrant suggested.

“No, it is not that.”

Cally drew a breath.  “Let’s settle this one way or another shall we, then perhaps we can go and find Blake.  Zen are there any other ships in the area?”  She asked, looking at the viewscreen.  To the left was the plant they’d been passing by when the two alien ships had struck, but to the front and right there was nothing other than a clear star field.

+  Background radiation from the planetary body we are passing makes detection difficult. +

It was now Cally’s turn to frown.

“I think we should raise the force wall just to be on the safe side maybe?” she said sounding a little unsure.

Tarrant wiped his hands together.  “Do you really think that’s necessary?  What do you think Mudd?  Were they friends of your?  You were part of a little ruse maybe?  A trap for some unsuspecting traveller?”

Mudd, who had kept very quiet on the sofa during the brief skirmish, stood and turned to face Tarrant.  “No of course not.  I had no idea they were out there, you saw the condition of my ship, I wouldn’t have lasted more than an hour at most…”

“Plenty long enough for your trap to be sprung, or for your friends to rescue you perhaps?”

“No, I swear, they were nothing to do with me.  If you had not rescued me, then I would surely be dead by now if they were out there.”

Tarrant looked thoughtfully at the man.  “Zen, are you able to run a parallax scan the plant we are passing?”

Zen remained silent.

“Cally?”

Drawing a breath, Cally looked at both Tarrant and Worf, so far they had proved themselves allies and useful.

“Zen.  You will recognise commands from both Tarrant and Worf as you would do any other Liberator crew member from this point on,” she said slowly.

“Thank you.  Zen answer the question please?”

“I believe I already have the answer,” Worf said slowly, a hint of satisfaction in his voice.  “My scans are showing upwards of two dozen alien craft just past the event horizon of the plant.”

“What?”

“I do not believe they have seen us yet.”

“You think?  We’d be dead if they had, they’re obviously waiting for us to draw closer,” Tarrant said walking over to look at Worf’s radar scan.  “Zen put the information up on the main view screen.  Suggestions anyone?”

 

“Where is the water coming from?” Servalan said looking at the rising  water in annoyance.

“Father you have to look at this,” Dayna said cutting across the Supreme Commander, in fact completely ignoring her, as she walked into the control room holding aloft an electronic notepad.

Hal took the notepad from his daughter an switched on a remote access to allow his seeing eye device to link to the equipment so he could read the screen.

Riker watching both Hal and the carnage still going on outside, saw the older man frown.  “What is it sir?” he asked  quietly

“The explosions have caused the seal in the outer hatch to rupture.”

“But we can fix it father, it’s not too bad,” Dayna said firmly.

“So we’re sinking?” Servalan said with a look of horror.  Just like Avon, as most space travellers, she didn’t like water that much, feeling it was unnatural.  “We need to leave immediately.”

“We’re already sitting on the seabed, so we’re not going to sink,” Dayna dismissed.

“But we can flood,”  Riker countered.  “How can I be of assistance?  Do you have the equipment to seal the rupture?” 

“Yes, in the store room, Dayna can show you,” Hal said gratefully.

“Well I’m not going to sit here and wait to drown.” Servalan said firmly.

“Good, then you can help as well,” Riker said decisively.  “The sooner we get the rupture repaired the better.  Dayna show me what we need.  This way…”

“No, I meant we need to leave here immediately?”

“Leave?”

“As in?”

Servalan pointed towards the ceiling.

Dayna snorted.  “We are not going to abandon my home on your say so.  We can stop the leak.  And in case it’s escaped your notice, there are hostile invaders out there.”

“Then we will have to go round them?”

“And how do you propose that exactly?”

Dayna and Servalan squared off against each other.

Riker, already halfway out of the door towards the store room, stepped back inside.  “Ladies please.  We will all help to repair the hatchway and then we will all look to see how we can go about stealing or hitching a ride up to the Enterprise in one of those spacecraft.  Am I clear?”

“Good luck with that!” Servalan snorted.

“Does that mean you’re not going to help Sleer?”

“Steal a ship, yes I suppose, but as for making repairs, no, my leg is injured remember… the water may infect it...”

“Then you can stay and assist me here my dear,” Hal offered.  “We’ll be their eyes and ears…”

Servalan started to speak, when another explosion, this one far too close to the Mellanby home, causing the ship to shift sideways violently with a rendering groan of warped metal.  Servalan and Hal both lost their footing, while Dayna was thrown against Riker.

Moments later Ilesha’s scream echoed throughout the room.

Ilesha had gone with everyone else to the control room just in time to see the Dalek invaders blowing up the old warehouses at the top of the cliffs; but the images had scared her so she had gone back to the family dining room to finish eating her breakfast, pretending desperately that nothing was wrong.

The first explosion had caused her to hide under the table, where she had been sitting with her eyes tightly closed ever since, the raised step of the bulkhead door at the entrance of the room protecting her from the initial flood water that Servalan and the others had experienced.  However in this latest blast from the Dalek weapons, the free standing shelf unit next to the table, which held books, a few knickknacks, china and a few supplies in the form of general condiments and the sort of bread they baked themselves, detached from the wall as the space station shuddered and came crashing down and partially through the dining room table, at the same time as a torrent of water gushed in from a crack in one of the outer walls.

Untangling themselves Dayna and Riker immediately rushed to Ilesha’s aid.  The dining room was in complete chaos.  “Ilesha where are you?  Can you hear me?  Are you hurt at all?” Dayna cried frantically.

Ilesha pushed at the chair in her way and waved her hand.  “I’m over here.  What happened?  Are they firing on us too?”

“No, it was a near miss,” Riker said firmly.  “If they’d hit us, we wouldn’t be around to talk about… ow, what was that for?”

“Sorry I didn’t realise you were there,” Dayna said glaring at Picard’s First Officer, and mouthing at him not to frighten her sister.  “Stay where you are, we can see you and are coming get you out of there.”

“Are you trapped at all?”

“No, but I am wet, where is all this water coming from?  I don’t like it.”

“We’ll get the pumps going soon, and fix things.”

“How?”

“We just will ok?”

“But you best be prepared to leave here for a while,” Riker said carefully.  “Just while we make this place habitable again.

Ilesha thought about that, falling silent as Riker and Dayna worked their way quickly towards her, Riker eventually removing a chair and pulling her free.  “There you are, not too bad was it?  Are you hurt at all?”

“My arm hurts, but that’s all.  If we have to leave, what about my studies?  My books and everything… can I take them with me?”

Riker smiled.  “It’s always good to see someone enjoying their studies, but I’m afraid in this case, no, it’s not going to be possible.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite su…”

Another explosion, this one deep inside the ship, not coming from the surface, caused all three to lose their footing.  Helping Ilesha to her feet, all three of them now soaked, Riker and Dayna exchanged a glance.   “We’re going to need to leave sooner rather than later.   Given the er…situation outside, your father said you were good at inventing things?” he said referring to Dayna's love of building weapons.

Dayna understood the inference immediately.  “I am, they’re kept not far from here, come on…” she said backing into the main corridor, hearing Riker and her sister slosh after her.

“And is there another way out of here?”

“There certainly is,” Hal called out from behind Riker.  “If we leave through the starboard emergency exit that will take us to the base of the cliffs.”

“Will that be safe?” Servalan asked from behind him.

“I don’t think we’re going to have much choice,” Riker commented over the sound of more creaking metal.  Looking down he winked at Ilesha.  “Don’t worry, stay close to me, we’ll make sure we get out of here,” he promised.

“We need to take a left here,” Hal said moving into the corridor unerringly only to be stopped by a floating crate.

Riker pushed it out of his way, and took Ilesha’s hand, the young teenager not protesting.  “Should we wait for Dayna?” he queried, looking back towards the junction of the corridor as Hal moved ahead once more.

“Don’t worry, she’ll catch us up.  Dayna’s sensible,” Hal suggested.

“Oh for goodness sake,” Servalan pushed past Riker and Ilesha.

Riker caught hold of one of her arms and offered her a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes.  “Good, keep moving forward and make sure you remove obstacles from our hosts way, he is the only one who knows how to get out of here,” he said firmly.

Servalan scowled until she remembered she was supposed to be playing nice, then smiled sweetly.  “Of course, in the moment I was becoming quite panicky.” She offered.

“Which is understandable.   Go now, we’ll be right behind you.”

Riker and Ilesha stood listening to the sound of Hal and Servalan’s splashes getting further and further away from them, the lights were now beginning to flicker and the water was now up to Ilesha’s knees and still rising.  Mentally Riker counted down from 300, unwilling to remain where they stood for more than five minutes. 

“I wonder what’s holding up your sister?” he said conversationally to Ilesha.

“Do you think she’s all right?”

“Yes, but perhaps we should go and see if she needs a hand don’t you think?”

“The waters deeper that way.”

“Good point,” Riker said cheerfully, wondering if it would be safe to leave the girl where she was and look for her sister or not.  “Maybe we should wait a little longer then?”

“But what if she needs help?”

“I’m sure sue doesn’t, but perhaps I should go and…”

“No, don’t leave me.”

The space station shuddered again, and one of the lights in the corridor went out.

Riker was contemplating his next move, when a light appeared from the corridor behind him.

“Sorry I took so long, I wanted to make sure I had everything,” Dayna said panting a bit, pushing a floating crate filled with tech in front of her, several weapons slung by their straps about her slim body.

“Yes, well, you were maybe cutting it a bit fine.”

“I know.   Where’s father?”

“He’s gone ahead with Sleer,”

“What?”

“It was either that or we risked loosing you.”

Chapter Text

Captain Jean-Luc Picard strode onto the bridge of the Enterprise, completely unaware that there had been a call put out for him.  The red alert beacons were flashing bright red and the alarm was sounding loudly.

“Will someone shut off that infernal noise.  Report Lieutenant,” he said striding down to his command chair.

“Sir we tried hailing you,” Marksham reported immediately, unable to hide his relief that the captain was now present.

“Well obviously, it didn’t get through, more of those infernal glitches no doubt.  I said turn the alarm off,” Picard said repeating himself loudly, “It’s impossible to think round here…” the last said after the alarm had finally been silenced.  Picard tugged on his tunic.  “Thank you.   So please continue your report Mr Marksham, and will someone see how badly our communications are affected.  Send a runner if you have to.”

“As you know, the science team has been monitoring the anomaly that first drew us to this sector.  Lt Wright has been monitoring it through our recent troubles, and reports that is has just expanded rapidly by nearly a third.”

“What?  Lt Wright how rapid was this expansion?” Picard said walking over to Opps.

“Within the space of a few minutes, it just kind of expanded outwards as if it had been held in stasis before, and someone had turned the stasis field off.  I don’t know how else to explain it.”

“In what direction did it expand?”

“All directions sir, more towards the planet than anywhere else, but it went both up down and out in every other direction too.”

“Is the planet in any danger?”

“I’m uncertain sir,”

“Is it continuing to expand?”

“No sir, it’s stopped again.  It’s energy output has trebled too.”

“Are we in any danger where we are?  Do we need to move into a higher orbit?”

“I don’t know sir.”

“Captain,” Marksham interrupted.  “I’m sorry sir, but a Dalek shuttle has just launched from their main ship and is on an intercept course with the anomaly.”

“Ah, so they’re curious too.”

“What should we do sir?”

“Are we in any additional danger?”

“No sir, they don’t appear to be giving us any thought at all.”

“In which case we’ll watch and wait,” Picard said with some satisfaction.  “Keep the Dalek ship on the main view screen Ensign Trent.”

“Yes sir.”

All eyes watched as the small circular Dalek scout craft drew closer to the golden, pinkish, shimmery misty light that was the anomaly, the scout craft was completely dwarfed by the anomaly, as it entered the first of the visible swirling eddies.  The ship seemed to waver for a minute, then simply vanished.  One minute it was there, and in the next it was gone.

“Sir,” Marksham started to say.

Picard held up a hand, studying the screen intently.  “Wait,” he said softly.

Everyone stared a the screen, watching and waiting….  

“Captain,” Lt Wright said breaking the silence.  “There’s been an explosion just within the boundaries of the anomaly, on a 91.2° axis from the point of entry.  Our sensors indicate, it is the remains of the Dalek shuttle.”

“Curiouser and Curiouser,” Picard mused and tapped his combadge.  “Picard to Data.”

Silence met his request.

“Picard to Sickbay,”

“Sickbay, Crusher speaking.  I’m glad they managed to find you captain,” Beverly said with evident relief.

“Thank you doctor, but I was not lost, it seems our comms are now subject to the same electrical failures that are plaguing the rest of the ship.  Do you still have Mr Data with you?”

“No, he left a moment ago, heading for the bridge.  Do you mean he’s not arrived.”

“No doubt he will shortly.   I’m calling for an update on our guests, how are they doing?”

“I had one of my nurses take Miss Noble to a guest room, Avon is resting as comfortably as possible.”

“Good.  I need Miss Noble brought to the bridge, and Avon stabilised so he can leave the confines of sickbay too.”

“I don’t…”

“Understood, your objections are noted, but I need you to get it done.  Picard out.”

 

“What?!  Why are we stopping?  No… no… no, no, no, this can’t be happening…  Come on… ol’ girl, don’t do this to me, not again!”  The Doctor cried slapping the control panel in frustration as the Tardis started to wobble and then lurch before dropping out of the time vortex.

“I thought you said you’d fixed it?” Vila complained, he’d been grabbing hold of the railings around the time rota for dear life as the Tardis had started to fly through space, not feeling the exhilaration felt by Troi and the Doctor.

“Her,” The Doctor corrected automatically.  “I had.   The Tardis should be tracking the Aquitar signal from your ship or that friend of yours…”

“But we’re just as obviously not doing that,” Trio said sensibly.  “Something must still be wrong.”

The Doctor ran a hand through his hair, “What though?   Think, come on, thinkity think… What am I missing?”  The Doctor said looking off into the middle distance, going over his rebuild of the Tardis in his head to see if he’d left out any crucial link or connection.  There had been no spare parts left over, which was always a good sign, but there was always a possibility that he could have missed one of the connections which the Tardis organically grew sometimes.

“I don’t know.   But it might help if we knew where we are now,” Troi suggested.

“Yes, before we have another unannounced visitor,” Vila said dolefully.

“Do you have a way that you can see what’s going on outside?......  Doctor?”

Still deep in thought, with a start the Doctor realised he was being spoken to.  “Sorry, what?”

“Do you have way we can see outside?  A viewscreen perhaps?”  Troy repeated carefully.

“Yes of course.   Right here,” The Doctor said suiting his actions to his words and pulling round what looked like an ordinary computer screen to face him.  “A couple of flips of this, a twist of that and…  “

The image which appeared on the screen showed the Tardis hanging stationary in space, neatly parked in a geostationary orbit above a planet, to either side was a clear star field…

.. but straight ahead was a large cube shaped ship.

Deanna Troi drew a horrified breath.  “No, it can’t be,” she whispered, taking a physical step back from the  monitor.

“Eh, you know them then?” Vila asked.

“They’re call themselves the Borg, they almost destroyed the Federation, took Captain Picard hostage and are responsible for the deaths of millions.  They assimilate any civilisation they come across.  They have a hive mind,” Troi said, trying to sound dispassionate, but the quiver in her voice gave away her feelings, even if they hadn’t battered against the Doctors mind despite his mental shields.  “Please we’ve got to help those poor people down there, Doctor please.”

The Doctor’s eyes gleamed.  “Helping people, that’s me!  That’s what I do best, whenever there’s people to help, I’m there, first in the que with my sonic screwdriver and my wits,” he said with a grin, trying to lighten the mood, which failed completely.  One look at Troi’s horrified face and Vila’s incomprehensive expression, told him that his humour had fallen far short of the mark.  The Doctor sighed.  “Ok, first we need to find out if the planet has anyone living on it.  We’re currently orbiting the dark side and I don’t see any visible lights on the planet's surface to see if there’s anyone who needs rescuing.”

Unseen Vila crossed his fingers behind his back that there wouldn’t be.   He still had a rotten headache, and arm ache and he really didn’t want to get tangled up in someone else’s fight, not if he could help it, and only then if Blake and/or Avon really twisted his arm, after he’d had a solid nights sleep.  “Let’s hope there’s no one down there then,” he offered.  “Do these particular set of aliens like planets without people?  Or perhaps the people have all managed to escape somehow…  or they all blew themselves up… we encountered a planet where that actually happened you know – nothing left but ruins.”

Troi looked at Vila.   The Tardis was hampering her abilities to read anyone outside it, but standing right next to Vila she could feel the waves of unhappiness and apprehension roiling around him, growing exponentially bigger with each moment.

“I would like to tell you to relax,” she told him, reaching out to lay a hand on his good shoulder, “but I can not.  The Borg are powerful and virtually unstoppable.  They are interested in not just people, but technology too – anything that can enhance their collective as they call themselves.  If there are no people, but technology on the planet below, they will take what they need and destroy the rest.”

Vila swallowed.  “I don’t think I like your bedside manner very much,” he complained.

“I find it is better to be truthful,” Troi responded.

While Deanna had been talking to Vila the Doctor had been busy scanning the planet’s surface for signs of life and/or civilization.  The Tardis was easily able to penetrate through the atmosphere to the give a view of the world below.   Most of it was undeveloped and fairly inhospitable looking.  Oceans frozen over, and either dry dessert or else bitterly cold icy mountains in between.  However the image soon changed from the views of the poles to the more temperate zones as the Tardis zeroed in on the mutoid factory.

The picture on the monitor screen was one of carnage and self evident destruction.  The factory compound was on fire, flames and dense thick smoke belching and billowing from the half ruined buildings, black clad bodies lay scattered everywhere.  It was obvious that they were too late to stop the massacre.

As the Doctor, Troi and Vila watched with mounting horror and dismay, a group of what looked like heavily augmented humanoids came into view, the weapons on their arms clearly visible as they shepherded a group of people out of the building towards a small cube ship.

“The Borg,” whispered Trio.

“Mutoids, that’s them other ones,” Vila added.

“We’ve got to help them,” Troi said firmly.

“You can’t help the Mutoids, they’re soulless, half dead already, closest thing to vampires now a days, they belong to the Federation.”

“There must be something that can be done,” Troi said desperately.  “Not everyone down there can be mutoids… what about…”

“The Federation guards you mean, just as bad really…” Vila said dowerly.

“But who’s that…?” The Doctor asked pointing to a figure running across the screen.   The person who had caught the Doctor’s attention wasn’t dressed in black or tones of dark grey like the Borg or mutoids, but in muted browns and greens, and they were clearly running away from the factory.  “There’s other people down there,”

“Can you get a clearer picture?”  Troi said drawing closer to the monitor once more.

Fiddling with a few of the Tardis’ toggle like switches, the Doctor did so, putting his glasses on and squinting at the screen as if that would help him.   He managed to take a picture of a face, and the three of them stared at it in disbelief.

“There are children down there?” Vila said horrified.

“Can you scan for human lifeforms?” Troi asked.

“As opposed to? …  Let me see… switching to infra red, we should be able to see heat signatures, does that help…?”

“Yes look,” Vila said excited, completely forgetting himself for a moment.

“The Borg and mutoids are cool, almost blue,” Troi offered in satisfaction.  “Yes look at the difference, the young one is reddy orange.  Can you sc…”

“Already doing it…” The Doctor agreed.  “Yes, see, over there about ½ km from the buildings to the north west in the tree line… and a few more just below that.”

“We’re going to rescue them, yes?”

“Of course we are, as I said before, that’s what I do,” the Doctor grinned.  And this time Troi smiled back.  “Come on Vila, lets see some cheer from you too.”

“I would only… say, how do you land this thing…?”

“You hold on tight… I pull this, switch these, pump that – oh never mind, you’ll get the idea… here we go…”

With a grating, whirring noise like a broken violin, the Tardis dropped out of orbit and through the planet's atmosphere like a stone, to land with a bump and slight bounce and slight angle in clearing on the forest floor.

“Right then allons y,” the Doctor grinned, taking his coat from the railing behind him.  “Let’s go.”

“But we’re unarmed, aren’t we going to get guns and things?” Vila asked hastily.

The Doctor turned on his heal to face Vila.  “I don’t carry guns, nasty things, and while you’re with me, you won’t either.  Besides, we’re not unarmed, I have my trusty screwdriver.”

 

It was the young children who were sitting round Jen who heard the strange noise first; loud enough to be heard over the cracking of flames and the falling of windows, door frames, the shattering of glass and the sound of energy beam fire.

The young girl still sitting with Jen pulled impatiently on her arm.  “What’s that?”

Jen frowned at her.  She was deep in the middle of a conversation with Avalon and Fargus, trying to come up with a plan to save both themselves and the children; and failing miserably.  The Borg forces had overrun the mutoid factory and were even now mopping up the surviving Federation guards, doctor and lab techs and marching them off to their ship to be assimilated, whatever that was meant to mean.

“Not now, I’m busy,” Jen reacted firmly.

“No, you have to listen… what is it?” the girl persisted, still holding onto the pilot.

 “I can’t hear anything.  I’m busy, these are important discussions.”

“I can hear it,” the boy sitting next to the girl said loudly, he was an older boy of about 14 and his voice had just started to break.

Fargus frowned.  “What does it sound like?”

“Something mechanical gone wrong,” the boy responded.

Frowning Avalon rose to her feet, drawing her weapon.  “I hear it too, about 15 metres to the left of here at about 9 o’clock.

Fargus slowly got to his feet, as did Jen, both drawing their guns.

“You stay here with the kids,” Avalon told the pilot.  “If anything should happen…”

“What’s going to happen?” the young girl asked.

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” Fargus said with a whisper indicating he would go to his right, Avalon to the left.  Moving as quietly as possible they stalked off into the trees.

 

“Orac was it you?”  Donna asked, pressing the talky bit she’d seen Avon use.  He’d palmed her the connection when it was clear that Dr Crusher was taking no chances with him and insisting he get some rest.  Decisively taking to take the gadgets he’d made out of his reach.

Donna had allowed herself to be taken to a guest suite; all the while listening out for any bit of any information, no matter how trivial, which might help her get back to the Doctor, or further Avon’s call so he could assist her. The rooms she’d been given were spacious, clean and well lit.  And came with a fabulous view of space and the planet below, which would have ordinarily fascinated Donna no end.

At that moment in time however, she had other things on her mind.

She had never met anyone like Avon.  He was breathtakingly rude, infuriatingly arrogant, and would have been hailed as a genius by Donna, if she hadn’t met the Doctor first.  He was, she allowed however, rather good with gadgets and a bit of a technical wiz.  If he hadn’t been so busy being such an arse, she might even have quite fancied his brooding good looks.

As it was however, he was her partner in crime.  In the few seconds they’d managed to get alone, he’d shared his theory that Orac was probably behind the electronic malfunctions happening all over the ship.  Most didn’t concern Avon, but if the internal communications went down when they needed to stop the invading Dalek space ship, then no one would live long enough to tell the tale.

“Orac are you there?   Damn it, have I even switched this thing on properly?” Donna swore to herself.  “Perhaps I need to talk louder,  ORAC, CAN YOU HEAR ME….?”

“Of course I can hear you, I’m not deaf you know.  But I am extremely busy.”

“Busy doing what?”

“That is none of your business, now if you would be so good as to let me get back to…”

“Hold up a minute sunshine.   It’s what you’re about to get back to that has us worried,” Donna said firmly.

“Us?”

“Me and Avon.”

“What I am doing, is none of his business either.  Now if you both would refrain from disturbing…”

“Avon’s not here,”

“Then I can’t see we have any further business, good day to you….”  Orac said and made a strange whirring ping as if shutting down,

“Orac?

Silence greeted Donna’s last utterance.   Donna sighed, and paced her suite a few times.  “Why me?” she asked rhetorically, “Why is it always me?  Very well….”  Drawing a deep breath Donna bellowed Orac’s name at the top of her voice; only belatedly wondering if the room was soundproofed.

“What is it now?  Will you please be quiet.  You are well aware, as am I that Avon does not wish my discovery to be known.  If you insist on making that dreadful caterwauling then I would not be surprised if the whole ship were not aware of my presence.”

“Then you need to listen to me.  I have a message from Avon?”

“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

Donna sighed.  “I give up.”

“A defeatist attitude will get you no where.  Hurry up now, what is the message, I have things I need to get back to…”

“Do they involve tampering with the ships internal communications relays?”

“I thought them rather effective.  I had to make several deters around the bio-coupling junctions and…”

“I take it, that’s a yes then,” Donna sighed sitting down.

“You may take it as an affirmative,” Orac agreed.

“Avon says you need to stop.”

“Stop?  Why on earth should I want to do that?”

“He says, and I quote.  If you don’t get that infernal machine to restore communications to this ship, then any  response to the Daleks attack, when it happens, may well be delayed; fatally,”

“I am not an….”

The door chime to Donna’s suite sounded.

“One minute,” Donna called, looking panic stricken at the device she was holding.  “I have to go, just do it ok?” she told Orac, switching off the communicator and stashing it in the pocket of her surgical coat.  “Come in…”

“I’m sorry to disturb you Miss Noble, but the Captain requires your presence on the bridge.  If you would come this way please ma’am?”

 

With the Doctor in the lead, Troi and Vila exited the Tardis, the Doctor carefully moving to stop the Tardis doors from shutting with a snap, so they did not announce their presence any further; an effort that was completely ruined by Vila taking a couple of steps forward and snapping twigs with each step.

“Have you never learned how to walk quietly?” the Doctor turned, giving Vila a frustrated look.  “You can stay behind if you want to you know.”

“It’s not my fault I grew up in a Dome.  I can’t stay in there alone, what if it flies off again without you, with just me in there…?”

The Doctor was about to give Vila a scathing reply, when he realised that with the way the Tardis was behaving the last couple of days, anything was possible.  “Yes well, just do the best you can then.  Tiptoe or something.”

“I don’t think it’s going to make any difference,” Troi said softly.

“Oh, and why is that?  Oh, yes!” the Doctor agreed as both Fargus and Avalon came out from behind the trees from opposite sides of the clearing at the same time.

“Stay where you are, and stay very still.  I warn you, we will not hesitate to shoot you,” Avalon said firmly.

Vila, who had been looking down at the ground looked up immediately at the sound of a familiar voice.  “Wait no!  Avalon, what are you doing here?  It’s me Vila… remember me?” he said excitedly moving to stand in front of Troi and the Doctor.

“Vila, can you prove it’s really you?” Avalon said suspiciously.

“How would you like me to do that?  We came here to rescue you and…”

“The Liberator is in orbit?”

“Well no, but…”

Avalon’s gun, which had started to waver, was suddenly pointed at the dead centre of Vila’s chest.

The Doctor took a step forward, putting himself between Vila and the gun.  “I’m the Doctor.  I’m here to help.   We saw the destruction of the buildings from orbit and came here looking for survivors.”

“I don’t know you.  How do I know you’re not Federation?”

Vila stepped to one side round the Doctor.  “Avalon, does he look like the Federation, really?  He’s telling the truth too, he rescued me after I had to eject from the Liberator in a life capsule after she was damaged in the battle with them aliens, surely you must of heard of it?”

Avalon drew a breath and lowered her gun.  Everyone in the Federation was slowly becoming aware of the alien battle.  “Yes, ok, I believe them,” she said to Fargus, indicating he should lower his as well.  She’d heard the same story of needing to evacuate the Liberator from Blake.

“How big is your ship, we rescued a dozen or so kids from the factory before they’d been turned into mutoids, and some of my teams have survived.  Can you send another shuttle down to pick them all up?”

“Oh this is my ship,” the Doctor grinned.  “But yes, I can take you all.”

Avalon looked at it rather suspiciously, it's rather small isn't it?"

The Doctor grinned.  "Oh you'll be surprised.  Just you wait."

“Is there anyone that needs medical attention.  I’m a ships counsellor but I have had some medical training,” Troi offered carefully.  She was finding it hard to get a precise fix on Avalon’s emotions, they were jumping about all over the place, a classic symptom of fatigue/shock.

“And you are?  I don’t know you.”

“You can call me Deanna.  What ages are the children you’ve rescued?”

“They range from about eight or nine, right up to thirteen or fourteen,” Fargus answered.  “They’re with my pilot at the moment, not too far from here,” he said starting to walk towards the group they’d just left behind.

“I have a few of my best people still in the building, still trying to get out,” Avalon added, falling into step the other side of the Doctor.

“What were you doing there?  Trying to blow it up I expect,” Vila said chattily, then turned to the Doctor.  “Avalon’s one of the key leaders of the rebels.   The Federation have an enormous price on her head.”

“Shut up Vila,” Avalon said firmly.

“Oh, don’t worry about the Doctor and Deanna, they’re not from around here, so they’ll not say anything to anyone.”

“Do be quiet Vila,” the Doctor said with a frown, ever since they’d landed he’d been getting a strong sensation of time being out of kilter, and various realities buffering against each other.  He’d agreed to help without thinking about it, but something about this place was making him feel itchy and on edge.

“Well I like that…” Vila grumbled as they stepped from between the trees to another small clearing.  “Some things never change do they?”

Fargus’ pilot turned away from the child she’d been talking to immediately, disbelief on her face.

“Jenna,” Vila said in astonishment.  “What are you doing here?”

“What are you?  I never thought to see you in the thick of fighting?”

“Would you believe it, I’m here to rescue you, part of the rescue party see?”

Jenna Stannis laughed.  “All right, so where is Avon?  I can’t imagine he’s too pleased about coming to our rescue?  Do you have enough bracelets with you?”

Vila’s face fell.  “I haven’t seen Avon, and I’ve not come with the Liberator.  I was rescued by the Doctor…  His ship is big enough to take you all…  Come on now, we’ve got to hurry.”

Jenna looked at Avalon.  “He doesn’t know?”

Avalon shook her head.  “I haven’t had the chance.”

“Blake’s inside.”

Vila did a double take.  “Blake?”

“Yes, he’s inside, and half the buildings just collapsed.  We can’t go just yet…”

“We saw it from space, nothing could have survived that.”

“I’m hoping you’re wrong, but we can’t go, until we know for certain.  You do see that, don’t you?” Jenna asked turning toward the Doctor.

The Doctor met her concerned green eyed stare with sympathy.  “We can probably afford to wait for a minute or too, while everyone comes aboard.  Who is Blake, by the way?” he asked.

Jenna shot Vila a reproachful look.  “You haven’t told him?”

“I’m the Doctor by the way,” the Doctor said holding out his hand.

Jenna shook it briefly. “Look, thanks’ for the rescue, you arrived in the nick of time,” she offered, before turning back to Vila.  “Well?”

“There hasn’t been the time, honestly, and it’s not something you can drop into a casual conversation is it?”

“Blake is or Leader, more specifically the Leader of the Liberator, our captain one might say.” Jenna told the Doctor firmly.

“I wouldn’t, neither would Avon,” Vila disagreed.  “But he’s in there?”

“Yes, unfortunately.  And his comm has been silent for too long.  Just after half the building collapsed.”

 

Riker, Ilesha and Dayna caught up with Hal and Servalan by the emergency airlock hatchway which would lead them out of the space station.

“The doorway is stuck, the locking mechanism has disengaged but I fear we are going to need brute strength in order to get it open,” Hal said breathlessly.  From the state of his clothes, he was just as soaked as Riker, Dayna and Ilesha it was evident he had been trying to get the door open himself, where Servalan, dry, apart from the water up around her knees had just as obviously stood by and watched.

 “Let me give you a hand sir,” Riker offered immediately, giving Servalan a hard look sloshing forward, while Dayna practically growled at the lack of help her father had received.

“Me too,” she added immediately. “I don’t know what you were thinking trying to open it all by yourself.”

It took the three of them a while to find the best place to gain purchase on the oval door, and then a good deal of physical exertion, mainly from Riker and Hal to prise the door even part way open.  Immediately a gush of sandy coloured water flowed through, the force of it spraying the three of them from head to toe, drenching them once more.

Servalan had taken a couple of steps back and out of the way of the tidal flow, and spoke with a look of distaste on her face.  “How vile!  Is the tunnel flooded beyond the doorway do you think?” she queried.

Riker pushed his hair out of his eyes, he’d been standing closet to the gushing water, which had now slowed to a trickle, evening out even as he watched, and took a breath before he replied.  “No, because it’s levelling off already.  I think the bit that did get in was just where the space station has moved about a bit.  I do think we need to get going quickly though, as she’s still obviously settling, going by the noise she’s still making.”

“Yes, I think so too,” Hal agreed.  “Unless we’re hit again, the pressure will continue to build until it’s equalised.   With the enormous amount of stress the hull is now under I fear that will not happen until she floods completely.  I hope not, but with no way of making any repairs, I feel our home will be underwater in every meaning of the word quite quickly now.  All my research is of course lost, not that it can be helped now, of course.  At least if we go now, and survive, we’ll can at least come back later and see what can be salvaged when we’re no longer under any threat.”

Riker swallowed, feeling uncomfortable for the family’s loss. “Agreed.  If we’re going, we need to leave now.  There’s no knowing if the weapon fire from the invaders damaged the cliffs enough to cause the surface layers to become unstable.  There may be a rock slide at any moment, closing the passage way off, if they discharged their weapons too close to the cliff edge.”

Servalan drew a breath, she hadn’t considered that possibility.  “Do you think so?  Maybe we shouldn’t try and get out this way after all?”

Despite their predicament, Dayna sniggered.  “Well, you’re certainly welcome to try your luck and get out the way you came in,” she suggested, gesturing back down the corridor behind them which was now half full of water.  “Oh, but wait, you don’t know the way do you, you were unconscious when we rescued you and brought you here, what a mistake that turned out to be!”

“Dayna, that’s enough,” Hal reprimanded.

Servalan gave Dayna a venomous look. 

Smiling sweetly, Dayna gestured towards the weapons she was carrying.  She’d given the box with the recovered tech in to Ilesha.  “Try it,” she suggested, seeing Servalan looking in that direction.

“Look, I get why everyone is a little tense right now, but fighting amongst ourselves isn’t going to help any, is it?” Riker said pointedly.  “Going through the hatchway is the only way out of here, so I suggest we get on.”

“In case it’s escaped anyone’s attention, the water is still rising,” Hal added, “And we’ve still got work to do.”

“Of course, you’re right father.  Ilesha’s shivering, we need to get her somewhere warm and dry,” Dayna agreed, feeling somewhat ashamed of herself.  “I’m sorry Sleer,” she said to Servalan.  “I don’t know what’s come over me.”

Servalan’s smile was just as false.  “That’s quite all right my dear, I shall try to overlook it just this once.”

“Good, since we’re now all friends, perhaps someone would help me finish opening the door,” Riker added.

With a loud creaking groan and a booming pop of one of the overstressed joints, the once airtight door finally opened enough to allow a reasonable sized person to squeeze through.  It was pitch black beyond the flicking lights of the corridor.

“That’s going to make life interesting,” Servalan commented.

Dayna half waded towards her sister.  The water was nearly up to the young girls chest now, and she was using the box she’d been given as a floating aid.   Smiling at her sister, Dayna rummaged in the box and came up with a handful of handheld lights.   “I don’t know how long the charge will last, and until we reach daylight we have no way of recharging them, so be careful,” she warned handing them out to everyone, grudgingly even giving one to Servalan.

Immediately stepping through the airlock hatchway, the flooring gave way to sand and bigger lumps of rock and other rubble making the terrain treacherous under foot, and impossible to see under the still flowing water.  It was hard going for the first ten metres or so, before the tunnel floor started to gradually slope upwards, the water receding and their footholds became more reliable until they were on dry land, Hal leading the way, as he didn’t need light to see followed by Servalan, who despite earlier reticence to leave had been the second through the airlock.  Dayna and Riker had ushered Ilesha through next, then Dayna had gone through once more carrying her box, leaving Riker to make up the rear.

“I don’t see any sign of further damage to the tunnel,” Servalan called back several minutes later as they continued on the upwards slope.

“What we saw may just have been caused by the shifting of the space station,” Riker acknowledged, he’d been using his torch to examine the walls and ceiling around them for signs of any displacement and had found none.  “Can you see any further ahead?”

“Nothing beyond my torchlight, does it widen out at any point?”  Servalan responded.

The small party was quite for some moments, the tunnel fairly steep and rough underfoot.

“I could do with a rest,” Servalan said short while later.

“There is a small internal cave not far now,” Hal offered.  “I’ve not thought of it for many years, nor visited it of course, but there should be a couple of crates for people to sit down on.  It was one of the first things I did when we first arrived, just in case of this possibility.”

“Thank goodness for small mercies!”

“Good forward planning sir,” Riker agreed.  “How much further on after that do we need to go?”

“I’m not sure, perhaps half a kilometre, maybe two.  The tunnel is mostly natural, so it winds round a bit, and joins some other dead ends later on.  Eventually though it will lead out to the surface just a short distance from what we call the keepers hut.”

“The keepers hut?  What’s that?”

“I know it, it’s an outcropping of rock near the top of the cliff that looks as if it goes right into the centre of the earth.  I found it years ago, and was forbidden to go near it once I told father.”

“And like a good little girl you did as you were told.” Servalan sniped.

“You…”

“Dayna no,” Hal said warningly.  “Now is not the time.”

“Yes father, but it will, you can be sure of that Sleer…” Dayna said firmly.

“We need to save our breath for walking,” Riker interjected.  “Now, when we get to the stop off point, Sleer you can rest there for a while with Hal and Ilesha, make a list of what we’ll need to survive here for a while if we can’t get hold of one of those ships.  Dayna and I will scout ahead.”

“Oh no, I’m not staying here and doing that.”

“You will.  With your leg, you’ll slow us down.”

“I haven’t so far.”

“No, but you’re the first one to complain of being tired, and who can blame you after the couple of days you’ve had.  A rest may restore your good mood too.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, let the girl stay with her father and sister.”

“I do have a name you know,” Dayna muttered loudly.

“She can’t,” Riker countered.  “Dayna is the only one with knowledge of this planet.  I’m sorry sir, but you and Ilesha are likely to need help away from your home, and as you’ve said yourself Sleer, your leg isn’t too bad, so you should be adequate protection for them.”

Servalan growled.  “Fine, then you leave us armed at least, if I’m to be a glorified babysitter!”

“My father is an excellent shot,” Dayna smiled.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“But it’s all you’ll get.”

Walking away from the designated rest spot fifteen minutes later, both herself and Riker carrying several weapons and a couple of extra bits, Dayna flashed the First Officer a grin.  “So tell me, have you got a plan, or are we making this up as we go along.  Exactly how do you plan on capturing a spacecraft?”

 

Kerr Avon gasped or breath as he struggled to sit upright and swing his legs over the edge of his bed.  Dr Crusher had dimmed the lights in ITU, leaving the computer tech alone and frustrated in the dark.  Avon wasn’t sleepy despite the medication he’d been given, being far too impatient to finish building his transceiver, and keep an eye on Orac, knowing it well enough to know that it was probably up to something beyond it’s admitted disruptions.  He had little faith that Donna would be able to keep it in check.

Dr Crusher was an exceptional surgeon, and the Enterprises medical facilities, second to none.  Avon had no idea therefore that his crash had caused compound fractures to his right femur and left pelvis – and though they had been repaired, the breaks regenerated using nano technology, that the bones would not completely finish healing and be structurally sound for another 48 hours or so, where his injures had been so extensive.

Exactly what Avon’s plan was, other than getting up and possibly reaching Donna, he wasn’t sure, his mind affected by the medication he’d been given, even if it hadn’t made him sleep.   In his semi delusional state, anything he could accomplish or achieve, was better than laying there and doing nothing.  All he needed was a time and some space to think clearly and find a way to get hold of the Liberator.

Chapter Text

“Damn it!” Tarrant hit the control panel in front of him in frustration, fortunately missing the controls.  “We can’t outrun them, can’t fight them, there’s too many of them for us to stand our ground, if we tried that we’d be slaughtered, there’s no way of getting out of this that I can see.”

Cally looked as glum as Tarrant.   “Zen, how long are we able to hold station above the planet for?  Perhaps we can outlast them?”

+ Energy banks 3 and 4 are depleted.  There is 30° remaining in bank 2 and 47° in bank 1.  We can maintain our current position, relative to the planet below for another 3 hours, 6 minutes and 15 seconds. +

“And then we’re sitting ducks.”

“Do not be overly fanciful, none of those things is going to happen,” Worf said from his position at tactical, which was Vila’s usual station.  He had spent the last few minutes reviewing the Liberators systems, or as much of them as he understood.

“Oh really, and why is that.  Do you have any practical suggestions?”  Tarrant said, his voice tetchy.  He wasn’t used to no win scenarios, and so far his entire day seemed to have consisted of lurching from one impossible situation to the next.

Worf took no offence at Del’s tone or demeanour.  “If you would cease your chattering, I will certainly try to explain,” he agreed.  “Cally do you keep diffractive high resolution gratings, monofilament coated glass-wire, isolinear LCars sub nodes, twin dimorphic amplifiers…..”

Tarrant interrupted Worf’s long list.  “Hold on a minute, I don’t understand half of what you just said,” he complained.

With a sigh Worf moved away from his station and approached Cally, handing her his tricorder on which was displayed a list of items he had been reading from.

“I recognise only a few of these, why is it important?”

“I believe if I had the materials I could build a rudimentary cloaking device,” Worf said firmly.

“A what?”

“A cloaking device, bends light and other forms of energy to make a ship completely invisible to the electromagnetic spectrum and most sensors.”

“But that’s not possible surely?”

“Klingons have had this technology for several hundred years.”

“And you know how to build one of these things, this cloaking device.”

“Yes, if this ship is carrying the necessary components.”

“How long will it take?” Cally asked.

“Approximately three hours.”

“Then best we get started.  Cally, where would we go to find these parts?”

“The aft storeroom, just past the third junction.   Would you like me to show you?”

Worf, Tarrant and Cally drew up outside a familiar looking door.  “Isn’t this where we stashed a couple of the troupers?” Tarrant asked looking at Worf.

“Yes I believe so,” Worf agreed drawing his phaser.

Cally looked at her companions.  “I believe they are asleep, I’m getting only the vaguest impressions from them.”

Tarrant drew his gun too.  “One can never be too sure,” he said with a grin, gesturing for Worf to proceed him.

“We’ll go in on my mark,” Cally said firmly, interrupting them both.  “The light switch is right next to the door plate to the right, do either of you remember if you left it on or off?”

“Off,” said Worf immediately.

“Funny, I felt sure we left it on,” Tarrant said a split second later.

Cally looked at them both.  “It doesn’t matter that much I suppose, only if they have somehow broken free then it would have been helpful to have the element of surprise on our side.”

“They’ll be surprised all right if we get ourselves blown up,” Tarrant griped.  “I just hope this cloak thing of yours works,” he said to Worf.

“It’s called a cloaking device, but as I said on the bridge, it will only be a rudimentary device, a refractive electromagnetic mirror with a variable wave resonance.”

“If it works.”

Worf nodded.   “Indeed.  Shall we proceed?”

“We go on three,” Tarrant suggested.

Cally was though the door first.  The lights had been off; she switched them on quickly and with unerring accuracy.  The store room looked as neat and tidy as ever.  Several isles of shelving holding various parts of electronics, machinery and other bits of tech or tools, some of which were recognisable the others completely and conceptually alien, like the ship.

“They should be round here,” Tarrant suggested, moving to the left and walking down the aisle.

Marv and Yarrow appeared to be exactly where they’d been left.  Each tied to an integral support strut or column, far enough away from each other that they couldn’t touch or exchange any tools they might have hidden; which had been missed on the quick pat down Tarrant had given each one of them.

Yarrow looked as if he were still unconscious from the blow to his head when he’d been tackled by Worf.   Cally quickly checked his breathing and airways as well as his bonds.

They had apparently woken Marv up, he blinked groggily at the trio, and tried to wiggle free from his restraints once more.  Tarrant checked them out thoroughly, making sure they were still holding.  While Worf started looking at his list to find his parts.

“Eh, what’s going on?   Have you come to your senses yet?” Marv asked pulling away from Tarrant.

“Yes, quite some time ago thank you,” Tarrant said pleasantly.

“Well, aren’t you going to untie me then?”

“I said I’d come to my senses, not taken leave of them,” Tarrant grinned.

Marv spat at him. 

Tarrant, simply moved away, standing and wiping his sleeve off with distaste.  “How you getting on with your list?” he asked Worf.

“I am unable to locate any fluorite which I need for the refractive prism.”

“I saw some minerals in the shelving over that way.  Cally, can you help?”

“Cally is looking to see if she has some form of thermodynamic coupler size 7 or 8.”

“7 or 8?  Look are you sure you know how to build this thing?”

Marv looked from Worf to Tarrant, as they continued to walk away from him still talking  “Ere,” he called.  “You really don’t intend to leave me here do you?  I’m getting rather hungry and thirsty you know…”

Tarrant walked back towards him.  “Well, a tiny morsel of information for you.   If my friend and I don’t get this right, you won’t need to worry about such trivial matters.”

“Why’s that then.”

“We’ll all be dead.”

 

Avon fell with a thud to the floor, unable to stop a grunt of pain as he landed, rather audibly onto the carpeted floor.   That he’d fallen was as much a surprise to him as anything else.  His body was stiff and sore, his chest tight and breathing had been difficult, but he wasn’t expecting his legs to give way immediately without any warning.    The fall also set off the alarm on the medical monitors above his bed; some he was attached to, and some which were still monitoring him remotely.

Dr Crusher and a couple of her staff arrived within moments, along with a security guard from the bridge.  Beverly had been in the process of firmly telling him that she was not going to wake Avon up regardless of the Captain's orders.

“What happened?” she asked reaching Avon’s side, firmly placing a hand on the centre of his chest when he tried to sit up.  “Lay still, let me check you out and make sure you haven’t broken anything else.”

Avon glowered at Crusher.  “I can assure you I’m perfectly fine.”

“Suppose you let me be the judge of that umm.  If you were perfectly fine, then you wouldn’t have landed on the floor now would you.  I suspect it’s just where you’re bones are still healing and are not up to full strength as yet,” Crusher said matter-of-factly taking out her tricorder and running the scanner over Avon’s prone form.  “Are you feeling dizzy at all?”  Beverly paused, waiting for Avon’s answer.  “Well?” she prompted when none was forth coming.

Avon’s expression darkened still further.  “That is none of your business,” he snapped, unwilling to confess that he did feel a touch dizzy and somewhat nauseated too.

“As I am your doctor, I would say that it does make it my business, you had a fair degree of bruising to your occipital bone, which you’ve just smacked on the floor once more, so you’re going to feel woozy to say the least.”

“I don’t remember,” Avon admitted.

“What hitting your head just now?” Beverly said moving to take Avon’s head in her hand and gently start to manipulate his neck to check for further trauma. “Or during your original accident.”

Avon moved to push Crushers hands away.  “I’m fine,” he said firmly.

“No you are not.  However since the Captain has already requested your presence on the bridge, and since you are obviously not sleeping as I told the Lieutenant here, then if you are feeling ok, I see no reason that you can’t go.  Let me just get you an antigrav unit.”

“I will not be…”

“You’re not able to walk, besides I want you where I can keep an eye on you.” Crusher said firmly.  “Now, lets see about getting you up, and giving you something more suitable to wear.”

 

Peering cautiously over the top of a couple of very battered crates and ubiquitous oil drums Riker and Dayna watched a group of three bronze Dalek’s glide down the ramp up to their circular ship and immediately consult with another group of Dalek’s who were overseeing some of the Sarrans they had captured clear the rubble away from one of the bombed buildings.   Next to the original three Daleks, there was a lectern type of stand supporting what was clearly some kind of Dalek plans or itinerary as the Dalek’s seemed to confer to it.

“What are they doing do you think?” Dayna hissed.

Riker was struck by an overwhelming sense of deja vu.  “I think this is where I came in,” he whispered back.

“I’m sorry?”

“Isn’t this how we met?” the First Officer queried.

Ducking back down behind their makeshift cover as a newly captured group of Sarrans were marched through the clearing by another trio of Daleks, the chains around the native’s ankles clanking obviously, Dayna offered Riker a brief smile.  “I do believe you’re right,” she agreed.  “So what’s the plan?”

“We’re too far away to hear anything useful,” Riker mused, moving round to peer over their cover once more.  “Their ship is quite near to a couple of buildings, but they seem to have guards posted around the edges, and those three in the middle never seem to move away from the entrance.”

Dayna looked too.  “Well not very far at any rate.  I don’t like the way their heads seem to swivel all the way round their bodies either,  it doesn’t leave much wiggle room to sneak up from behind.”

“No it doesn’t, you’re right there.   So an ambush is out of the question.  What about a distraction?”

“What kind of…” Dayna started, only to put a hand over her mouth to silence her gasp, as she saw how the Dalek’s dealt with a prisoner who tried to escape.  One of the workers suddenly decided to make a bolt for the other side of the clearing  - and lit up in a blue flash from the outside in, his whole skeleton outlined briefly in blinding white light as a scream rent the air, before he abruptly disintegrated.

“Nice!” Riker commented disgusted.  “Effective though.   So, make a note, not to get too close to them.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I wasn’t actually planning to,” Dayna admitted.

“So we need a distraction…”

“From a distance,” Dayna added.

Riker nodded.  “What do you have in that bag of tricks of yours?”

“I have a few charges that can be set on a delayed timer, nothing fancy, but effective.”

“What kind of delay?”

“Anything downwards of five minutes, as long as they haven’t gotten too wet.”

“Anything else?”

“A rocket launcher, that can be programmed to a specific target.  You can launch up to four projectiles with it at a time, but I’m not sure it would penetrate their bodies or casings.  Do you think they’re robots, or is there something alive in there?”

“If they’re robots, do you have anything which would put out an electrical charge?”

“I have something which might disrupt them.”

“Do you have any binoculars or field glasses, you know the kind of things which make far away objects look closer than they really are?”

Dayna laughed softly.  “I know what binoculars are silly, and yes I have a pair… here you are.  What are you thinking?”

“Do you have any rope in that bag of yours too?”

“I may have, so you do have a plan, what is it?”

Moving cautiously Riker pointed.  “A quick shimmy from that vantage point should do it…”

“It would.” Dayna agreed.  “But we’ve got to get in there first... duck…”

Another group of prisoners were ushered into the clearing from another direction.  This group was bigger than before, consisting of about twenty of the natives.  Two of the bronze Daleks that had come down from the ship went to consult with their Dalek guard, and for the first time Riker and Dayna saw a Sarran who was obviously of higher status than the rest walk away from the group and join the conference of Daleks.

“Do you recognise him?” Riker asked curious.

“Should I?”  Dayna queried.

“I wondered if he were some kind of tribal leader?   They’re obviously going to need someone to be able to follow the prisoners closely, the Dalek’s are too big to get into some of the areas where they are using the workers.”

Dayna pointed towards the binoculars she’d just given to Riker and trained them on the group.  “I don’t recognise him, but he is wearing an overlords costume.  I can’t quite make out what’s on the plan on that stand though…  it looks like some kind of building… care to try?”

Riker took the glasses back and trained them on the lectern.  “They look like plans for something, you’re right there,” he agreed.  “But I can’t see them clearly either.   What the hell is that…?”

With a large groan, and ominous rumble, half the building the prisoners had been clearing gave way, crushing some of them beneath it, while others started to run away in all directions.   The Daleks, immediately shot runners closest to them, while the rest of the prisoners huddled closer, but that still left roughly a dozen Sarrans free and getting away.

Immediately four of the Daleks glided after them, seemingly untroubled by the rubble and uneven ground.

One of the remaining two Daleks swivelled round to address the guard furthest to Riker and Dayna, obviously instructing it to join in the hunt for the escapees.  It then turned to address the Dalek guarding the saucer closest to them.

“The prisoners are escaping.   You will assist in their recapture or extermination.” It instructed.

“I obey.”

Riker and Dayna held their breaths as the Dalek immediately moved forward, it’s head swivelling from side to side.  “Switching to heat scanning mode,” it intoned.

Knowing it was now or never, Riker and Dayna waited until the last moment then broke cover, melting back into the shadows behind them, before running in a zigzagged diagonal towards the building closest to the Dalek saucer.  As Riker had spotted, there was a manual overhead pulley system which jutted out of the front of the building, evidently used for lifting large objects like sacks of produce into the barn it was attached to.

Panting, Dayna slid down behind Riker.   “I thought about setting a delayed timer where we were,” she whispered out of breath.

“You didn’t, I hope,” Riker replied softly.

Dayna shook her head.  “I didn’t have enough time.”

“Good.”

At Dayna’s puzzled expression, Riker grinned faintly.  “If you had, it would have given our presence away, as well as the fact that your toys are clearly the most advanced tech on this planet.  Quiet now, lets see if we can get up to the top.”

“Won’t they have look outs?”

“I hope not.  Who attempts to enter a spaceship from the top anyway?”

“Evidently we do…. Come on…” Dayna agreed.

 

Everyone was busy talking at once.  Everyone was busy telling the Doctor what he had to do next.  The Doctor tuned out the conversation and looked around him, taking in the clearing in which they were all standing.  To call the trees a forest would have been overstating the fact.   To call the trees a wood, would still have been on the generous side.  They were in the clearing of a copse of trees, with other clumps of trees scattered around a dense scrubland.  A dozen or so children, the Doctor counted fourteen of them, primarily female, sat around the perimeter, their faces mostly in shadow, but lit up by the fire of the factory to their behind them somewhere to the right.  Troi had reached the opposite side of the clearing, and the Doctor could see a couple of the little ones had drawn close to her.

Smoke could be seen billowing over the top of the tree line.  The hazing flash of energy discharged weapons an occasional tinge of blue.  The noise of the fire could also be heard, along with muted cries of the combatants.

The children were silent however, most of them dressed in a utilitarian darkish grey.

The Doctor noticed the children’s silence, and he also noticed one other important thing… no one had so far come through the woods apparently searching for them.   The combatants from both sides apparently either not noticing they’d left, or else far too interested in the mutual destruction of each other to care.

“Hello,” the Doctor said, moving away from the talking adults to crouch down next to the closet child.  “My name’s the Doctor.  Do you have a name?”

“I used to be Raith,” the young girl said slowly after a bit when it was clear the Doctor was waiting for her to say something.

“But you’re not called that any more?”

“Not once I’ve been modified no.  Then I’ll have a number.”

The Doctor frowned, and looked towards the orange light in the sky.  “I don’t think that’s going to happen now,” he said carefully.  “Maybe we should take you home?”

“You can’t, my home… and my family… were destroyed by the Federation…”

The Doctor drew a breath appalled, and stared round at the other faces.  “And this has happened to you too?” he asked of the nearest children.  A couple nodded, one or two said that they’d been taken as to punish their families, those members still alive, five of the children had been sold, and the rest seemed to either come from orphanages or were street kids, picked up by guards on their various planets.

The Doctor’s face grew grim.   “They’ve just made a very big mistake,” he told the children, “Because they’ve just made me very angry, and when I’m angry, there’s no telling what I will do.  I promise you, I will fix this somehow.”

“I’m very glad to hear it,” a new voice coming from behind the Doctor said firmly.

The Doctor stood, turning immediately.  “And you might be?”

“You can relax, you’re among friends.  I’m Deva, this is my friend Payton, we only barely managed to make it out in time…  I’m glad to hear you’re on our side.”

“I don’t take sides,” the Doctor said warningly.

“But you do fight for freedom, and you do want to help the children?” Deva said handing Payton over to Avalon who had stopped talking when she saw her Lieutenant had arrived.

“I’m here to help,” the Doctor agreed.

“Good man.” Deva said turning to Avalon. “Where’s Blake?”

“He’s not with you?”

“No ,we split up.  We lost Martin early on, Payton and I went left when we reached the main storage facility,y Blake, Docholli and Moss right, toward the experimental labs.  You mean they’re still in there?”

“That’s exactly what I mean, we were just telling the Doctor that he has to help us mount a rescue party,” Avalon said firmly.

“We need to make sure Blake is either dead, or free,” Jenna added.

Deanna, who, like the Doctor had been spending time with the children, looked across the gathering and met the Doctors stormy eyes; she didn’t need to be an empath to sense the anger and frustration that were rippling over and through him like waves.   Aware that the Doctor was close to his tipping point, she gracefully stood and entered the adult group.  “I’m aware that you don’t know me.  I’m a counsellor by trade, so I think it’s only fair to let you know that you should definitely not be treating the Doctor as an asset.  Neither he or I were aware of you until a short while ago, we’re not here to take sides.  We will help you where we can, for as long as we can, but if you want our help you need to show some respect. 

“The Doctor rescued both myself and Vila from extremely hazardous situations, he’s also prepared to take you somewhere safe now.  So my advice, for what it’s worth, would be to ask him to assist you in finding your people, if he will, bearing in in mind we have a fairly large group of children here, whose safety is surely paramount importance.  Without the Doctor it seems to me that we’ve no way of getting off this planet.”

 

Donna stood still as the turbolift doors to the Enterprise’ bridge whooshed open silently, once more struck by the openness of the space before her, dominated as it was by the large viewscreen at the ‘front’ of the area.   It was currently showing the image of a blue green world below, dominated on the right and side by a huge glittering golden-bronze flying saucer.

When she didn’t immediately move forward, the security guard who had been sent to fetch her, touched her back and when she turned, gestured that she should step onto the bridge properly.

Data, having returned to the bridge and caught up with Captain Picard, was still on his feet when Donna arrived.

“Welcome to the bridge Miss Noble,” he said carefully.  “The security guard beside you is for your own safety.”

Up until that moment, Donna hadn’t realised her escort had followed her, she smiled nervously.  “What am I, under arrest or something?”

Data said nothing in response.

Quick on the uptake Donna paled somewhat then squared her shoulders.  “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to have done, but if that’s the way you want to play it, bring it on sunshine!” she said with far more confidence and a sense of bravado than she was feeling.

“I’m not sure what daylight has to do with any…”

Picard rose from his seat.  “It’s an old earth colloquialism Mr Data,” he explained hastily.

“Ah, and idiom, such as ‘a bird in the hand is worth…”

“Yes Mr Data.  Perhaps you’d like to go and inform Mr La Forge of our plan?” Picard said firmly, gesturing to the aft science station.

Data closed his mouth at once and nodded.  “As you wish captain,” he agreed.

Picard looked at Donna, his expression not particularly friendly.  “I am not sure what you and Avon hope to gain by continuing your little charade, but I’m going to tell you that I will not let it go on any longer,” he told her.

Donna felt something snap inside her.  Her temper which she’d largely retained up till now, was abruptly let loose.  “Which particular charade are you referring to?” she asked crossing her arms.  “The one where I get kidnapped and end up on a ship full or hostile people from the future?  Or perhaps the one where I’m accused of working with someone I’ve never heard of before?  Or wait, let me guess, the one where I’m a supposed spy for a f**** enormous spaceship that is singularly the most terrifying object I’ve seen so far?  Or would that be where I’m accused of being something I’m not by a short bald man with a god complex?”

Picard stared at Donna, clearly riled by her words.  He tugged firmly on the hem of his tunic.  “Your temper tantrum will hold little sway with me,” he warned her.

“No, I’ve noticed that you don’t listen to anything than your other over inflated opinion,” Donna shot back.  “Your chief medical officer has clearly told you that me and that man in sick bay are from different universes, yet you persist in your belief that we’re working together.  I do not know him, any more than I know you, or that sodding spaceship out there. I want to get back to my own time, and my own universe and the Doctor.”

“Crusher?

“No you idiot.  My Doctor.  He’s called the Doctor, like you’re called, whatever it is you’re called..” Donna spluttered.  “I’m just a temp from Chiswick and want to go home.”

Donna’s genuine distress finally seemed to get through to Picard.  “You don’t know what those things in that spacecraft are after?”

“No, how could I…”

“Ensign run the recording we made of the Dalek space ship entering the anomaly,” Picard instructed the junior at Opps.

Donna watched the screen intently showing a recording of the Dalek ship entering the swirling coloured cloud in one position and then explosion appearing roughly 90°s to the right several moments later.

“What do you make of that?” Picard asked Donna curiously.

“Some kind of trick?  Or navigation problem?” Donna suggested.

“Ensign,” Picard instructed once again.

Several more short clips of the Dalek saucers spinning into the cloud and explosions appearing in different places but always at a 90° angle from their starting point, followed quickly on from each other.

“And now?”

“Well, the navigation system can’t be wrong in all of them.”

“That’s what we thought,” Picard agreed.

“It could be something that is affecting their engines…”

“Data seems to think not,” Picard said carefully.

“So that leaves…” Donna said, frowning at the screen, she knew she was missing something; seeing something that she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

“That leaves a possible temporal disturbance in space time,” a new voice said from behind Donna, as Avon was led onto the bridge in a grav sledge.

Data turned to look at Avon in surprise.  “The science team hadn’t long ago finished their preliminary findings and had reached the same conclusion.  How did you know?”

Sounding bored Avon pointed towards the viewscreen.  “Even at this distance it is clear that the apex curve on the leading edge of the perimeter is suggestive of the fact.”

Data looked back at the viewscreen.  “You are correct,” he agreed.

“I usually am.” Avon said dismissively.

“Well, that’s all very well, but it still seems a little too convenient to me,” Picard insisted.  “How can we be sure that you had nothing to do with it?”

Avon raised an eyebrow.  “Ah now, miracles take a little longer,” he with a lopsided smile.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Let me be crystal clear.  I have absolutely no memory of anything after I passed out on my ship. One of the crew must have put me in a life support capsule.   I came too aboard this ship, that is the sum of my knowledge.”

Picard pursed his lips and gestured towards the Dalek spaceship.  “Did you see these in your space battle?”

“No.”

“Do you know what they are?”

“I presume they were the Daleks you mentioned when you visited my sick bed.”

“And you are not working in collusion with Miss Nobel?”

“As I said previously, I had not met Miss Nobel until I awoke aboard your ship.”

“You didn’t answer my question?”

Avon raised an eyebrow.  “Ah now, you’ll have to forgive me, I’m still recovering.  In fact I believe I am here against my doctors advice.”

“You are here to assist me, to stop that damn ship…” Picard stopped and collected himself.  “You are here, you are both here, in order to help us all find a way to stop that ship from blowing us to kingdom come.   We are severely outgunned, my First Officer is missing, currently believed to be on that planet below, and my Chief of Security vanished from our transporters, along with one of his teams when they tried to rescue him.  Our Ships Councillor was somehow magiced from this very bridge at the same time that Miss Nobel appeared, and this ship has been suffering a series of escalating electrical faults.

“Now I may not be the most learned of men, but all of these events all started since we decided to rescue you.  Taken together, even if you are a completely innocent party as you claim, you must surely admit that these events have to be connected somehow?  Too much has happened for it all to be put down to a simple coincidence.  Now can you help me or not?  Are you some sort of telepath or empath?  Has your accident triggered something that would cause these things either intentionally or unintentionally?  Can you shed any light on the matters and help us fix any of them?

Deanna shared a not so subtle glance in Avon’s direction.

“So you do know something?” Picard said catching the look.

Donna said nothing and looked away, but patted the pocket of her surgical tunic.

Avon understood immediately.  Donna had the communicator he had built to get in touch with Orac, and was silent as he weighed up the possibilities of telling the Captain about Orac’s presence on the ship.  On the one hand, telling Picard about the recalcitrant machine, may bring further suspicion down on Avon for not telling anyone about Orac’s existence in the first place, though it could be argued that Avon himself hadn’t brought the machine aboard, nor did he in fact know where Orac was.  Knowing that Orac was on the Enterprise would not stop Orac from being able to hack into the ships computer as far as Avon knew, but he did dislike giving away any advantage.

On the other hand if he was unable to extract a promise from Orac not to shut down a crucial bit of programming at the wrong time, then the question might be mute as the ship would be blown up by the enemy in any case.

It was a measure of the fact that Avon was still feeling the effects of his injuries and the medication that Crusher had given him that he took so long to make up his mind.  And his decision, once made, was one that he wasn’t entirely sure about anyway.

“Well now, all you had to do was ask,” Avon said in direct answer to Picard’s question.  “I am not telepathic or empathic, but when you bought me aboard your ship, you also brought aboard something which also belongs to me.  It’s called Orac, and is an incredibly advanced computer.”

Picard sucked in a breath, surprised and shocked.  “Why didn’t you tell us this sooner?”

“I’ve been unconscious for most of my time aboard your ship.”

Picard huffed, that much was true at least.  “But when you woke up?”

Avon blinked his surprise.  “You’d hardly expect me to trust complete strangers would you?  In fact I’m not so sure I trust you now.”

“Then why are you telling us.”

“Let’s just say your speech convinced me.  That and the large ship out there.  It’s possible that Orac is responsible for some of your glitches.  I’d rather not see us blown to smithereens if I can help it.”

“You are suggesting that your computer can interface with the Enterprise without a physical connection?”  Data asked intrigued.  “That is something even I am unable to do.”

Avon looked sharply at Data.  “You’re an android?”

“Yes,” Data said simply.  “And I would very much like to meet your computer Orac.  Can I fetch it for you?”

“You could, if I knew where it was,” Avon agreed, very much interested in Data and approving of the designation ‘it’ rather than ‘he’ which the Liberator crew insisted on bestowing on Orac.