It's been a while since I've tackled an original TNG story, and I've always wanted to write a story about this particular subject. In this story, set sometime after the episode "Chain of Command," the Enterprise picks up a distress signal from a nearby planet - only to discover that it was sent by a seven-year-old girl who has been abused by her father. Troi rescues her and fights against the child's father to make sure nothing ever happens to her again. Enjoy!

This story is dedicated to all who are or have been victims of child abuse. Please don't look away when you see a child in distress - you may be their only hope.

Captain's log, Stardate 46814.2. The Enterprise is in orbit around Gamma Tauri V, where we have intercepted a distress signal emanating from the planet. Who could possibly be in distress on this peaceful planet, we cannot say.

That last thought remained in Captain Jean-Luc Picard's mind as he trained his eyes on the viewer. The planet they now beheld was a beautiful blend of blue and green, not unlike Earth in its splendor. Gamma Tauri V had long been reputed as one of the most successful and peaceful colonies in the Federation, largely due to the teamwork of its inhabitants. So to suddenly have a distress signal come from the planet was like Vulcan deciding to secede from the Federation.

"Captain, sensors indicate the distress signal is emanating from a village near the primary Federation outpost. I will need to perform a more thorough scan of the village, and then I will be able to give you the exact coordinates."

The calm voice of his second officer snapped Picard out of his reverie and to attention. Data's golden eyes were fixed upon him, awaiting orders. "Make it so, Mr. Data," he commanded; Data nodded once and turned back to his computer console. Picard, still mystified by the situation, mused some of his thoughts aloud. "This is quite a surprise. For years, Gamma Tauri V has been a quiet colony. What could possibly be disastrous enough to warrant a distress call?"

From his seat at the captain's right hand, William Riker shook his head. "I don't have the first clue, sir." He smiled. "But whatever it is, I'm sure it's nothing we can't handle."

Picard had to smile at his first officer's confidence. "Do you sense anything, Counselor?" he asked, turning to his ship's counselor.

"Not from here, no," Deanna Troi said. "Nothing overwhelming or powerful, which means we can rule out Q."

"There's a blessing already," said Picard, who remembered all too clearly the crew's many interesting and irritating encounters with the incorrigible Q.

"I won't know anything for certain until we beam down to the planet's surface," Troi said. "Then I might be able to tell you what's going on here."

Picard was about to ask Troi what her theories were regarding the signal when Data piped up again. "Sir, I have the coordinates of the signal's location."

"Excellent, Data." Picard faced Riker. "Number One, prepare your away team. Find out who is sending that signal and why."

"Aye, sir." Riker rose from his chair and called out three senior officers. "Data, Deanna, Worf, you're all with me." The three of them were with him in a heartbeat; the four of them in the turbolift bound for Transporter Room 3.

Troi shivered slightly as she and the three men took form on the planet's surface. Even though she had been using transporters nearly all of her life, the incorporeal feeling never failed to leave a tingling sensation in her body.

Or maybe it was a tingle of fear brought on by the sudden pulse of emotion that slammed into her mind. Although she could hear no thoughts, the wave of terror that crashed upon her was a cry for help. Someone, somewhere, was scared – and in pain, for Troi's hand flew to her heart and she let out an audible gasp.

Riker's head snapped around in her direction. "Deanna? Are you all right?" he asked, worry bleeding though the intense concentration on his face.

Troi inhaled deeply, trying to compose herself. "Yes… but I'm sensing great fear… and pain. Someone here is hurt, Will. We have to find them."

Upon hearing the urgency in Troi's voice, Riker looked over at Data, who had his tricorder out and open. "Can you tell where the signal is coming from, Data?"

The android raised his head, his keen eyes roving over the landscape. Miles O'Brien had set them down right at the edge of the village's main street, which gave Data a clear view of the houses lined up on either side. "Directly ahead, sir," he said, pointing with his free hand. "The house at the end of the street."

Worf immediately checked the phaser at his side. "Phasers on stun. We cannot be too careful."

"Agreed." Riker set his phaser on stun, as did Data. "Let's go."

They set off down the street for the house at the end. As they approached, the pulses of fear grew even stronger within Troi's mind, like a heart racing. By the time they reached the door and rang the chime, Troi could also sense another emotion: anger.

The door opened to reveal a dark-haired man, early thirties at best, standing on the threshold. At first, he blinked in surprise at the sight of the four Starfleet officers, but then smiled as if recognizing an old friend. "Hello; this is quite an unexpected pleasure," he said, his voice guarded. "If you don't mind me asking, who are the four of you?"

Riker made the necessary introductions. "I'm Commander William Riker of the U.S.S. Enterprise. This is Counselor Deanna Troi, Lieutenant Worf, and Lieutenant Commander Data."

"The Enterprise? This is an honor indeed. I'm Nathan DeVore. Please, come in," he said, inviting them in with a sweep of his hand. "To what do I owe this pleasant surprise?"

"We've picked up a distress signal coming from this planet," Riker stated, his sharp blue eyes trained on DeVore. "And we traced it right here, to your house."

Troi squeezed her eyes shut tight as a fresh wave of fear assaulted her mind; Data spoke up at the same time. "Commander, the signal has been terminated at this very instant."

DeVore suddenly laughed and shook his head, but Troi saw rage flicker across his face. He's hiding something. "Oh, good Lord. That must've been my daughter; she's always messing with the equipment." He turned his head to a back hallway. "Penny," he called. "Come out here."

A door opened and shut in the back of the house and little footsteps were heard approaching. The next minute, a little girl, no older than seven, had entered the room. Troi studied her intently. Her strawberry-blond hair was falling into her face, and her eyes, wide-set and green, were downcast. Her arms were wrapped around herself, as if she were trying to shield her tiny body from harm. Troi took note of this, as well as the slight tremble of the child's lower lip, and realized that the fear she sensed was the little girl's. But why?

"Penny." DeVore stood over his daughter, giving off an air of menace that Troi did not like in the slightest. "Did you send out that signal?"

Penny said nothing. In the silence, she looked up at Troi with an expression that seemed to say, Help me. Please. Troi's heart went out to her, especially when her father spoke to her again.

"Answer me, Penny." There was an infuriated edge to DeVore's voice now, despite his trying to keep it level. "Did you send out the signal?"

The child's fear was coming in shockwaves now. "Yes," she whispered; her voice trembled when she spoke.

DeVore laughed and patted Penny's head with a little more force than necessary. "You see?" he said to the four officers. "She does this kind of thing all the time. It's all a misunderstanding; no harm done. Right?"

Riker narrowed his eyes; clearly, he didn't trust the man. "Right. If that's all it was, then we're done here." He shook hands with DeVore, if reluctantly. "Goodbye."

After DeVore bid them all farewell, the foursome exited the house and stood in the middle of the square. "There's something about that man I don't like," Riker said, his frown still in place.

"Understandable," said Troi, folding her arms over her chest. "I felt great anger within him, and he was trying very hard to disguise it."

"Mmm. What about the little girl?"

Troi looked up at Riker, her dark eyes filled with concern. "That's where I'm worried. Will, the poor child was terrified about something, and I'm beginning to think it's her father."

Now Riker was the one who looked concerned. "Deanna, if you think it's that serious, go back there and find out. If you're right, you just might be saving that little girl's life."

Troi didn't need telling twice. She nodded to Riker in thanks and ran back to the house – but the very second she reached the door, terror and anger barreled into her mind with such force that she clutched at her heart and gasped in pain. From inside the house, she could hear cursing and angry shouts – DeVore – and screams of terror and pleading – Penny, which confirmed her worst fears. The door was still unlocked, thank goodness, so Troi opened it and sprinted inside, all the way to Penny's bedroom…

Only to behold DeVore beating Penny with his bare fists; the terrified child was flailing in fear and begging her father to stop, tears streaming down her face. As soon as Penny saw Troi, she cried, "Help me, please! Help me!"

Rage filled Troi and she lunged at DeVore. "Stop it! Let her go!" she yelled, tearing him away from Penny.

DeVore threw her a murderous glare. "Don't tell me what to do!" He shoved Troi aside and went for Penny again.

Why didn't I bring a phaser? Troi thought, cursing herself. I can fight fire with fire, though. Recalling the self-defense classes she had taken, Troi clasped her palms together, swung her arms back, and sent a two-hander flying into DeVore's left temple. The force of the blow was so great, it sent DeVore reeling to the floor, momentarily stunned. Acting quickly, Troi gathered the child into her arms and pressed her combadge. "Enterprise, two to beam up now!" she cried, holding on to Penny for dear life.

DeVore stood up, still massaging his temple, and sprang at Troi and Penny – just as they were enveloped in a soft blue, shimmering light.

"No!" he yelled, watching the two of them vanish from sight. He cursed and glared heavenward. Somehow, some way, that meddling Betazoid was going to pay for taking his child.

Troi's rescued Penny, but Penny's father isn't going to give up. Stay tuned for more; until then, please review!