p class="MsoNormal"Disclaimer: I don't own any recognized characters from Picard, Star Trek: Voyager or Star Trek:TNG. All are property of their respective creators. I do own Mitchell Riker. strongSpoilers for: "Absolute Candor; Stardust City Rag; Nepenthe"/strong/p
p class="MsoNormal"Chp. 1/p
p class="MsoNormal"emPlanet Vergessen, Hypatia System/em/p
p class="MsoNormal"emThe Seven Domes, 13 years earlier/em/p
p class="MsoNormal"She could smell the blood, among other things. Her stomach was doing flips, as it always did during these encounters. Even after two years of doing this, she couldn't get used to it. But Annika could not allow herself to stop. Especially now./p
p class="MsoNormal""You sure he's here?" a male voice whispered on her left./p
p class="MsoNormal"A muffled scream answered the question before she had to. Hearing Icheb's exclamation of pain, Annika pulled her weapon and started forward in one motion. Only to be stopped by a powerful hand gripping her left arm. She turned and stared daggers at the man who was so many things to her. "Let me go, Mitchell."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Me first, you know that." He said, moving quickly and placing an explosive on the door lock. As the electronic device powered up, Mitch and Annika turned away quickly before the device blew out the lock's guts. Moving with practiced speed, Mitch moved and pushed the door open, his phaser raised. He fired twice in rapid succession, making short work of two men dressed in white lab gear just inside the door. Then he heard a drill stop somewhere deeper in the open room, and a woman's voice, questioning./p
p class="MsoNormal""Bjayzl?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Despite the situation, or maybe because of it, Mitch couldn't resist. "Guess again," He growled before squeezing the trigger on his phaser. Another body piled on the ever-growing heap of lifeforms he was glad to have ended. Then the boy on the table spoke./p
p class="MsoNormal""Se-seven?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch covered the entrance as Annika/Seven went to him. He could already tell where this was going to end up but kept his mouth shut./p
p class="MsoNormal"Annika's voice took on a soothing, almost maternal quality. But Mitch could hear the fear in her voice as well. "It's alright. You'll be alright."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch steeled his gaze. He would not intrude on this moment between mother and son, because that's what Icheb and Annika were. And he would vaporize anyone who said different./p
p class="MsoNormal"He heard Icheb's weak voice telling Seven to go. Then the pain and frustration as she told him she wouldn't go without him. Then he heard…/p
p class="MsoNormal""Th…Then I'll stay with you."/p
p class="MsoNormal"He assumed that was met in the negative because he heard Icheb say. "Now…Seven. Please."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch heard the whisper of leather and cloth and turned, because no one had come through the door in several minutes and that had been plenty of time. He heard Annika's pained voice./p
p class="MsoNormal""I'm so sorry…my child."/p
p class="MsoNormal"And Mitchell knew what he had to do. He grabbed her hand as Annika placed her phaser to Icheb's chest. She looked up and Mitch shook he head. "Hold him," he whispered./p
p class="MsoNormal"Annika re-holstered her phaser and gently took Icheb into her embrace. "S-Seven…"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Shh, it's alright, sweetheart."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Swallowing the lump that was growing in his own throat, in one motion, Mitch raised the phaser, placed it to Icheb's chest and fired. The boy's body convulsed once, then went still in Annika's arms. She didn't move. Rather she buried her head in the boy's shoulder and sobbed. Then she raised her head and a plaintive wail escaped her./p
p class="MsoNormal"And former Starfleet Medical Officer Mitchell Riker added this moment to a growing list of things he wished he could forget./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;" align="center"000/p
p class="MsoNormal"Annika's eyes snapped open. Reaching down, she felt the sheets. She heard music faintly and that brought her back. Her ship and her home. One and the same. Despite the dream, Annika had to smile when she recognized the music coming faintly from the corridor. It meant her boyfriend was up and about./p
p class="MsoNormal"Former Starfleet Lieutenant Mitchell Riker. Mitch left Starfleet, and the federation, after his brother's death. They had met after he joined the Fenris Rangers and had worked together for the past fourteen years. Their relationship had grown and been tested over the years. Mitch had remarked once that they were both damaged and damage attracts damage, so it had to work. Throwing the sheets aside, she got up and made her way to the bridge. Just as she entered the bridge, the music's volume turned down./p
p class="MsoNormal""Morning." She said./p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch yawned and took a sip of what Seven knew to be coffee. "Morning, how'd you sleep?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Ok," she answered, coming up and putting an arm around his shoulders. "You?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Dreams again."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Seven winced. "Sorry."/p
p class="MsoNormal""You too?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"She nodded. "Yeah,"/p
p class="MsoNormal""I'm sorry, too."/p
p class="MsoNormal""It's ok."/p
p class="MsoNormal""You want some?" he said, offering the cup and trying to change the subject, however lame his attempt was./p
p class="MsoNormal"She gave a half smile in appreciation at his attempt. "You know I don't drink replicator mud."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Ouch. That's cold, Annie." He started calling her that sometime when their relationship had progressed to 'more than friends,' and it had stuck for nearly thirteen years. She sat the co-pilots chair and drew her legs up./p
p class="MsoNormal""Do you ever think about it?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""What's that?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Home."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch rolled his eyes. "Mine or yours?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Nepenthe."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch scoffed. "I grew up on Starfleet ships. This ship is home."/p
p class="MsoNormal""So you're just fine with bouncing around out here?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""If I ever go to that crap hole, it means I'm dead."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Annika looked away and bit her tongue. She knew she shouldn't bring it up, but Mitch mentioning that he'd had the dreams had given Annika the opening she thought she could use to help the man she loved./p
p class="MsoNormal""So, um…where to today?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch was just about the answer when an alarm sounded. "Strap in! Hold on!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;" align="center"000/p
p class="MsoNormal""That's a Klingon Bird of Prey, Mitchell!"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Thank you, I can see that." He said, in the irritatingly calm tone he used in combat situations. "I think I can get behind him." Then preceded to turn, while preparing his weapons. Seven did the same on the opposite side. "Prepare to fight on my mark." Two laser blast passed close to their ship. Fortunately, the Bird of Prey was distracted by its original target, another ship that neither Mitch or Seven style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span/p
p class="MsoNormal""Mitch…"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Hold…Hold…Fire!" They both fired, giving the Bird of Prey something else to worry about. Mitch attempted to pull up as they were dangerously close to a planetary defense net, but not fast enough. He heard Seven yell his name in desperation as their ship struck the planetary defense net. Mitch didn't care if he died, but he did care about Annika. Thinking quickly, he hailed the other ship and managed to get through. Just as his and Seven's ship started to break up, they were beamed out./p
p class="MsoNormal"As they materialized on the other ship, Mitch glanced at Annika to make sure she was ok. She'd hit her head and he started toward her but it was clear she was intent on someone or something else. But what she said next, stopped Mitch cold, em"You owe me a ship, Picard." /emBefore she fainted to the deck. Then he heard Picard say, em"Seven of Nine." /em/p
p class="MsoNormal"Two desires warred inside him in that moment, and to his shame, Mitch gave into the baser of the two. He pulled a phaser from his belt and moved between Annika and the others./p
p class="MsoNormal""We save your lives, and you pull a phaser on us?" a man with a Spanish asked./p
p class="MsoNormal""His fight is not with you," Picard said./p
p class="MsoNormal""The geezer's right," Mitch said, "My fights with him."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Mitchell Riker?" a woman asked. Distracted, Mitch turned. And we hit upside the head hard enough to knock him out./p
p class="MsoNormal""Elnore!" Picard snapped./p
p class="MsoNormal"The boy looked sheepish, but also defiant. "What? This man wishes you harm."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Raffi glared at the young man. "I didn't mean for you to do that." She said pointedly and stepped over to Mitch first, then Seven. Seven was coming around but Mitch was still out./p
p class="MsoNormal""Why does he want you dead?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Not your business." Picard said testily./p
p class="MsoNormal""Tha-thank you for saving us." Seven said, getting her baring's but also aware enough to know it fell to her to prevent herself and Mitch getting thrown out the airlock./p
p class="MsoNormal""Seven of Nine? Are you an xB?" the Spanish man asked./p
p class="MsoNormal"Before she could answer, Mitch groaned and started to sit up. "Which one of you jerks hit me?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""That one." Raffi said, jerking her head in Elnore's direction./p
p class="MsoNormal""Raffi Musiker? How'd you get roped into this?" Mitch asked./p
p class="MsoNormal"Raffi shrugged. "I'm a sucker for lost causes."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Why is he not dead?" Mitch asked in an angry tone pointing at Picard./p
p class="MsoNormal""Hey, the only one who gets to make people dead on my ship is me! And I just saved your life, empendejo, /emso how 'bout a little gratitude?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Mitch turned from Picard. "And you are?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Captain Cristobol Rias."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Whose she?" Mitch asked, gesturing to the other blond./p
p class="MsoNormal"" 'she' can answer for herself, thank you. Dr. Agnes Jurati. You know him?" she asked Raffi./p
p class="MsoNormal""From Starfleet. I served with his father."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Ever occur to you I don't want my business spread all over this ship?" Mitch said angrily./p
p class="MsoNormal""Ever occur to you I don't want your girlfriend bleeding all over emmy/em ship?" Rios asked. Mitch turned to Seven, who'd been quiet for the last few minutes./p
p class="MsoNormal""You good? Can you walk at least?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""Yeah, with a little help."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Which way is sickbay?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Rios pointed to a set of stairs and Mitch gently helped Seven up. He led her away without another word. Years of searching and the man Mitchell Riker wanted dead had just rescued him and the woman he loved. Life was weird out here. Weird indeed./p