Based upon Star Trek: The Next Generation
Timeframe: Between "Insurrection" and "Nemesis."
- - - - -
It was his fault.
It was his fault that Geordi was dead and Data was inactive. He should have seen it coming. He should have protected them. He was their commanding officer. How could he have let them down? How could he have let them get killed?
Whatever happened, it was his fault, and he was determined to survive.
Whatever killed them was after him and he was going to survive. He was going to survive if it killed him.
William T. Riker was going to survive so he could be court-martialed for the death of two Starfleet officers.
- - -
Captain Jean-Luc Picard rushed through the doors of Sickbay on the Enterprise-E with Counselor Deanna Troi hot on his heels. He quickly took stock of the situation. Commanders Laforge and Data were on bio beds, unconscious; though he still was not quite sure if the term "unconscious" applied to androids.
"Where's Will?" he asked Doctor Beverly Crusher, who turned around when she heard his entrance.
"On that planet, somewhere," she replied, obviously stressed. She set an instrument no the tray, retrieving a small object. "This is all we got from the transport." She held the item up, it was a standard issue COMM badge.
"Picard to Bridge," Jean-Luc tapped his own communicator.
"Ve-Gorhaven here, Sir," replied the Efrosian covering the OPS station in Data's stead.
"Mister Ve-Gorhaven, continue a search for Commander Riker. Start from the beam out coordinates and work out from there. He no longer has his COMM badge."
"Picard out." He returned his attention to the Doctor before him, fully aware of the concerned Counselor at his side. "What happened?"
"As far as we can tell, there was a massive electrical discharge; which is not at all surprising considering the super ionized atmosphere and the high concentrations of heavy metals in the soil. Something in Data acted as a lightning rod, drawing the charge to his body, leaving his circuits all but fried.
"Geordi must have been close enough to Data to receive some of the residual discharge. He had burns covering most of his exposed skin and his implants have been overexposed, I'll have to replace them. I can fix all of that, but his brain chemistry is . . . off."
Jean-Luc's eyebrow vaulted. "Would you care to elaborate, Doctor?"
Beverly nodded. "At first, I thought it might have been because of the electrical discharge, but the characteristics don't match. I'd say there is some compound in the atmosphere that is acting as a hallucinogen. I think that's what's affecting him."
"I don't know yet. I'll need to study the compound in more detail."
"And Mister Data?" Jean-Luc asked, motioning to the android.
"He'll be fine, but Geordi needs to repair him. I simply don't know enough about his internal circuitry, but Geordi does. I called up a few engineers, but they all say that Commander Laforge should be the one tinkering around inside of Data."
Jean-Luc nodded. "Use whatever resources you need to get Mister Laforge on his feet."
"I might need a sample of the compound that's affecting him."
Jean-Luc glanced at Deanna, then at the two unconscious officers and then back to Beverly. "Alright, but be careful, I don't need that compound floating around all over my ship."
"Beverly," Deanna spoke up, her eyes on Geordi. "How might his compound be affecting Will?"
Beverly blinked. "I don't know. He could be experiencing anything a euphoric dream state to paranoid skitzophrenia. It's hard to tell at this stage, but I will know more in a few hours."
Deanna kept her eyes on Geordi, receiving faint emotions from the unconscious engineer, as well as from Will on the planet below. "Something tells me it's not a euphoric high."
- - -
It was definitely out there. He could hear it. Well, he couldn't actually hear it over the storm, but he knew it was there.
Every hair on his body was standing on end. He was crouched next to a large tree, peering through the underbrush into the darkness. It was out there. He knew it.
Every impulse in his body told him to run, but his sense told him to stay put, at least for the time being. He knew he couldn't run forever. He had to take a breath and try to see whatever was out there, chasing him.
He had wanted to contact the ship, but he had lost his COMM badge somewhere, probably when running in the storm.
The winds had died down and the rain had stopped, but the sky was still dark.
In the darkness, he could feel eyes upon him. Finally, his impulses overtook his senses and he ran into the darkness.
- - -
"Report," Jean-Luc ordered as he entered the Bridge from his Read-Room. Lieutenant Ve-Gorhaven had requested his presence. It had been three hours since the search for Commander Riker had resumed.
"I haven't located his exact position, but I've narrowed the area down considerably. The fluctuating ionization in the atmosphere is scattering our sensors. However," he pointed to a display on his console, "I am sure that Commander Riker is somewhere in this eight kilometer radius. I've used a few different algorithms and am reasonable sure that he is in this four kilometer radius."
"Reasonable sure?" Jean-Luc repeated.
"Yes, Sir. I've been monitoring the pattern of the storm. Certain signals are reflected certain ways when they reach a specific ionization density. In addition, I figured that in three hours, Commander Riker could have only moved so far—on foot, and in the darkness—from the beam out location.
"Of course, I could narrow the region further if we placed buoys here," he pointed, "here and here."
"What type of buoys?"
"Shuttlecraft, Sir. Shuttlecraft would be the most effective because they are large enough for an exact lock, and have both communications and sensor systems and are mobile. We could send them down immediately with negligible risks that they would be affected by whatever pathogen or hallucinogen which is affecting Commanders Riker and Laforge."
"Make it so. Consult with Commander Taurik in Engineering and Lieutenant Lovelle. This is your project." Jean-Luc turned back to his Ready-Room. He had his own idea on how to find Will in that four kilometer radius area. "Counselor Troi to my Ready-Room."
- - -
Will was still running. The rain had picked up again and he couldn't even hear his own ragged breathing over the howling winds. But he could hear whatever was out there.
He kept thinking of Geordi and Data.
Surely Geordi would have been able to see something, were he still alive. Of course, Data would have been able to identify whatever was out there or . . . or something—anything.
But neither of them could do anything now, because they were dead and whatever killed them was after Will to finish the hob.
So he ran. He just ran.
- - -
"I'm not asking if it can be done. I'm asking if you can do it."
Deanna broke her gaze with Captain Picard. She had been thinking about trying to find Will with their bond. It had grown considerably since they started seeing each other again after their encounter with the Ba'ku.
But now that his life was in the balance, she doubted herself.
The Captain must have seen her doubts. "Deanna, there are other ways of finding him. We have a crew of nearly a thousand, we have the man power. We can organize a search party to cover seventy-five square kilometers. That's not a problem. But if you can do this, I would like to give you the chance."
He was right, and she knew it. This didn't rest of her unless she wanted it to. She thought about Will down on that planet. She knew she could find him. She nodded, "I can do it."
"Alright. Once Doctor Crusher finds a way to get people down on that planet without being affected by the atmospheric compound, we'll send you down. In the meantime, get some rest. I'll make sure a team is ready to beam down with you when the time comes."
Deanna nodded and glanced down before meeting Jean-Luc's gaze once again. "Thank you, Captain."
He smiled. "You can do this, Deanna. Dismissed."
- - -
Geordi couldn't see. At first he thought it was because he wasn't wearing his VISOR, but then he remembered that he no longer had to wear his VISOR because of his implants.
He sat up and listened around. I it was generally quiet, but for the gentle hum of starship operations, some beeps from equipment and a few hushed voices.
If he were in the engine room, he would have been able to tell was kind of ship (from general fleet recognition to specific class in most cases) from that characteristic hum, but he was simply too far from the engine to tell. He wasn't strapped down, so he presumed he was on the Enterprise, but he had learned from experience never to assume anything when simply relying on sound.
"Commander Laforge!" a familiar, and surprised, voice exclaimed. "You're awake!" He could tell the voice was coming closer. "How do you feel?"
Ah! He was on the Enterprise, it was Nurse Ogawa. He faced the direction which her voice had come. "I feel . . ." he took stock of his body, "sore."
Alyssa chuckled. "I would feel sore to if I had nearly gotten struck by lightning."
"Is that why I can't see?"
He sensed Alyssa was nodding. "Yes. Your implants were overloaded." He heard a tool begin to work; from the sound he knew it was an Ocular Implant Modulator. "Doctor Crusher replaced them earlier, it seems that we just need to make a few adjustments."
"How long have I been out?"
"About twenty-eight hours."
"What about Data and Commander Riker?"
"Commander Data is still out of commission, it appears that he was actually struck, and most of his relays rare fried. Doctor Crusher was hoping that you would be able to fix him when you were fit for duty."
"What about Commander Riker?"
Geordi heard hesitation in Alyssa's voice. "Commander Riker is missing on the surface, but the scuttlebutt is that the Captain is sending a special team down for him once Doctor Crusher figures out how to neutralize the compound in the atmosphere."
"Compound in the atmosphere? Is he alright?"
"Well, there is some kind of hallucinogen in the atmosphere. You weren't exposed very long, but it did a number on your cerebral cortex. Doctor Crusher took a sample from your brain and is analyzing it now."
"What kind of hallucinogen?"
In a split second, he could see. Alyssa smiled. "There it is. Oh, the hallucinogen: we don't know. We're not sure what he'll be like when we find him. He might be relaxed, or completely panicked. That's one of the things we need to know in order to neutralize it." She set down the OIM. "You're done. Would you like to get started on Commander Data?"
Geordi turned and glanced behind him before standing up. "I'd better."
- - -
Deanna paced nervously in the transporter room. She was reminded how much she missed Chief O'Brien, he always had a very calming demeanor.
There were two stoic security personnel standing in the corner. They both held solid expressions. In her anxious state, she couldn't read them clearly. She could tell that one of them was calm and ready, but the other was worried about Will.
She shared his sentiment.
He'd been exposed to that hallucinogen for nearly thirty hours, and there was no way of telling what he'd be like when they found him.
She abruptly turned towards the door, sensing Beverly's arrival. Deanna thought it strange that her senses were super aware, but she had trouble sorting out the inputs she was receiving. Seconds later, the CMO entered the room. She had a hypospray in hand.
"This will prevent the hallucinogen from affecting your system for four hours. FOUR HOURS. No longer. Do you understand? Come back in four hours and we can re-inoculate you after thirty minutes of your system being clear. Those are the rules. Do you understand?"
"Remember, this isn't our last option, Deanna. If you don't find him in four hours, that doesn't mean that he won't be found."
"We'll be back. I can find him. Ve-Gorhaven has limited the area to four square kilometers, and some shuttles are being launched to decrease the search area. I will find him, but I know failure is an option."
Beverly shook her head. "I don't know if you do."
Deanna met her gaze with cold certainly. "I do."
Beverly kept her gaze for a few minutes before looking at the security men. "Commander Riker is going to be paranoid and terrified. Almost anything you do will almost certainly make it worse. So, be careful."
Deanna nodded before stepping onto the transporter pad, with the security personnel on her tail. She prayed to the four deities that her Imzadi was still enough to be reached. "Energize."
The transporter effect sparkled around them and they materialized on the planet. It was dark and storming, the winds were so loud she could barely hear the crewman behind her shouting her name.
"Ma'am!" he shouted. "Are you ready to start?"
She looked around. She could feel Will, or at least what used to be Will. She nodded and turned to the security officers, "let's go."
- - -
Data's eyes opened, but Geordi knew it could just be another false alarm (like the incoherent speech, arm spasms, and spontaneous walking).
"Data?" Geordi asked, skeptically.
The eyes blinked twice, but did not look around. His mouth opened, but shut, almost immediately.
"Hold on, Data, I've almost got it."
He tweaked another few things, and Data's eyes looked around systematically. "Geordi?" he asked, his brow furrowing.
Geordi nodded. "Yeah, how do you feel?"
He paused for a second; Geordi knew he was running a diagnostic. "I feel fine," he replied with certainty.
"Good, because Ve-Gorhaven is going for your job," he joked.
"Lieutenant Ve-Gorhaven? What has happened?"
- - -
He was scared. Terrified. Other than that, she could sense little to nothing from him. Just fear and some primal instinct to survive. However, what little she did find from him, she could tell where he was.
Between her own senses and the telemetry being relayed from the buoy stations, they found him.
It was a bit of surprise, for both of them, it seemed. He stood, somewhat hunched over and suspicious, but fascinated by her.
His face was familiar, but other than that . . . His mind was completely foreign to her. The beacon of strength which always preserved her was gone.
Well, maybe not gone completely. She was relatively sure that there was something of him still in there.
His expression did not change, nor did his thoughts, or lack there of.
She took a slight step forward, from which he retreated immediately.
"Will?" she tried again.
He still did not respond.
She closed her eyes and reached out to his mind. "Imzadi," she said both aloud and directly to his mind.
That caught his attention.
The fear in his mind vanished, but she couldn't quite identify what replaced it. Whatever it was, it was her Imzadi.
Without a warning, he rushed at her and threw his arms around her. He clung to her, almost her dear life. She combed her fingers through his hair, and held him to her. She nodded to one of the guards.
"Ramirez to Transporter Room Three, four to beam up. Energize when ready."
Will's grip tightened on her slightly as the transporter effect took hold of them, but she spoke to him in their minds. He was found and something told her that everything was going to be okay.
- - - - - Fin - - - - -