Chapter VII

As she entered sickbay, Deanna took a moment to reflect on her earlier discussion with Worf. It had been obvious to her that the Klingon was still trying to remain honorable in his dealings with those onboard, not wishing to reveal the true emotions which he was probably experiencing.

When she had taken the opportunity to speak with him, Deanna recalled how he felt uncomfortable and also seemed to want others to realize that the time for grieving was long past. Perhaps it would be better to abide by his wishes, she thought. Honor and duty had always been central in her friend's life, which was why most on the Enterprise respected Worf and valued him. It was obvious that he didn't want his position to become distorted by what had happened.

Yet at the same time, Troi understood how difficult it probably was for the Klingon to bottle his feelings. Worf had been raised by humans, but all his life he'd been trying to gain more insight into his Klingon heritage. She suspected that was probably another reason behind his decision to take the position of Ambassador representing Qo'noS in the first place.

Turning her thoughts to the present, she glanced over the medical stations; noting that they were all mostly empty for now. Apparently, not many of the crew had been adversely affected by any of the strange occurrences yet. Perhaps some are confused, even hesitant to discuss it since they don't know all the facts? she wondered. Deanna guessed things would likely change once the Captain had gotten a chance to inform the crew of the situation that they were experiencing.

Hopefully, the doctor would be ready to have a room full of patients when that happened. Beverly paused in her work and smiled at her as she entered and then frowned slightly when she discerned who was behind the Counselor.

Troi turned to Lincoln, who continued to show a lack of concern for what was going on about her and glared at them for a moment before saying, "I still don't see the point of this." "It's standard procedure to take a physical before any important assignment on unfriendly soil. This will prevent any unexpected diseases from being passed along," Crusher explained and then smiled at the pet that the diplomat was holding. "What a very sweet looking cat. What's his name again?" she asked.

"Ramses and I do believe that you've met before," Lincoln commented, turning to Deanna and stating, "Once again, I'm sorry for his earlier behavior. Sometimes he can get a bit frustrated when I'm not the one giving him all the attention; isn't that right, boy?"

Troi smiled, trying to avoid the feline's gaze as Lincoln sat down on one of the examination tables and then offered the cat to her. This time, the animal did not object as she took it and paused for a moment to stroke its fur.

Maybe she'd been wrong about the Ambassador after all? As Beverly proceeded to start checking out her patient, Troi took a moment to try once again and probe the cat's emotions; but to no avail. The feline glared at her as if it knew what she was doing and then hissed loudly; sinking its claws into her shoulder to break her grip and leaping from her arms.

Troi gasped slightly as Ramses rushed towards the far side of sickbay. Lincoln and the doctor were both occupied, so she took a chance and started to look for the animal. Glancing around the chamber, she caught no sign of the feline and only hoped that the cat hadn't slipped into the hallway or something. Just then, a tall man wearing a sparkling white jumpsuit appeared and she said, "Excuse me, did you see a cat run by?"

"I'm afraid not. I have to report to my station," he said and then abruptly left. Deanna paused, feeling cold as the sickbay doors closed and then heard a cry of alarm as Lincoln called out, "Ramses?!"

The Ambassador rose and pointed an accusing finger at her before stating, "I'm warning you, Counselor! Find that cat or I'll have you fired and sent back home so fast that your head will spin."

Troi nodded, watching the envoy leave and then realized something. The Ambassador had not displayed any real concern over the cat in her tirade, almost as if she had actually wanted the animal to escape. "What was that all about?" Beverly commented. "I wish that I knew. What did you find out?" Deanna replied. "Well, it looks like you were right; she's definitely not a telepath," Crusher answered. If that was the case, then the feline she's been carrying is definitely more than it appears, she thought.

"Beverly, have you had any patients in here today?" she asked. "No, I didn't check any in," the physician replied. "I thought not," Troi commented. "Why?" the doctor asked.

"When I searched for Lincoln's cat, I encountered someone I've never met before and I tried to get his help… but he said that he was heading for his post. I'm pretty familiar with the crew… and I didn't realize it until now, but I couldn't feel his emotions," she stated. "Just like the Ambassador's pet?" Beverly guessed. Deanna nodded and then said, "I'd best tell the Captain about this."

She left the sickbay in a rush, entering the closest turbolift and stated, "Bridge." As the transport began to move, she felt unsteady for a moment and suspected that another anomaly had occurred. Stepping onto the bridge, she tried gathering her thoughts together and then paused; seeing Will look at her in concern. "Another temporal disturbance?" he guessed. "Yes, but this time it was stronger… where is Captain Picard?" she asked. "He's having a discussion with Lincoln… and guess what it's about," Riker began.

As her friend was about to speak, she felt a stronger pain in her head and then Will grabbed her; calling for medical assistance. The next thing Deanna remembered, she was in sickbay once again. Beverly finished scanning her and then commented, "Everything reads fine now. You must've been too close to the anomaly." Troi nodded, glancing around to see that several patients were now in the room and then said, "Is it getting worse?"

"Every now and then, but it seems like it's increasing now that we're almost at Cardassia Prime. The Captain only hopes that we can solve this problem in as little time as possible," Crusher answered.

She nodded and said, "I'm sorry, I'd better return to the bridge." Entering the turbolift once more; she sped to the top of the ship and stepped into the Captain's ready room. He looked up, seeming surprised at the sight of her even as she realized what had happened. "Counselor, I tried to contact you after your departure but I got no response. I wished to find out what it was which prevented you from being present," Picard stated as she arrived and then added, "The discussion I had with Ambassador Lincoln just now was also the one that you could not sit in on, since Will reported your collapse; then you came in to speak with me as if nothing had happened."

"The anomalies interfered and I wasn't able to get here, sir," she said and then asked, "How did she act?" "Lincoln was mostly venting her anger about how you lost her pet. I say good riddance to the animal. I was actually wanted you to sit in, but it seems that time has played out as predicted," Picard lamented.

"Was there something else you were discussing? Will sounded a bit perturbed when I spoke to him earlier," Troi said.

"Q has once again come upon us and is apparently aware of the source of these disturbances. He also warned us against proceeding to Cardassia Prime, just as our captive has," the Captain explained. She nodded, recalling their most recent encounter with Q. "And how did Ambassador Lincoln respond to this?" Deanna asked.

"She seemed concerned about Q, but insisted that since this mission was of vital importance so we must press on. I am inclined to agree with her, despite the fact the Daniel shares Q's opinion and claims to be from the future," the Captain stated. "There's something that I wanted to tell you as well about the anomalies themselves," Troi said sitting down and then explained, "This may sound strange, but I felt like there was some sort of force pushing me down on the bridge. I didn't notice this when I experienced the disturbances earlier. Then I sensed real anger and it wasn't coming from anyone onboard. It's hard to explain."

Picard nodded and said, "Do you suppose that one of Q's old foes is after him?"

"I find that unlikely, seeing as they haven't troubled us for some time. And I've never been able to truly detect the emotions of Q or any being like him. This was rather intense," she answered as he rose and they stepped back onto the bridge with Picard following her.

"Ah, Jean-Luc; there you are. I was just enjoying the show," Q said from the Captain's chair. Will was already standing, glaring at their intruder and then stated, "What are you talking about, Q?"

Troi stood beside the Captain as Q rose and walked towards the viewport before explaining, "Oh that's right, sorry. I'm a little early." Without another word, the being vanished again.

Deanna could guess that this meant more trouble for them. "In light of these developments, I think it would be prudent to go to yellow alert," Picard decided and Will nodded in agreement. The amber lights began to flash as the computerized warning sounded throughout the vessel and abruptly a piece of the puzzle snapped into place.

"Sir, I'm not certain; but I have reason to believe that Ambassador Lincoln may have a collaborator onboard," Deanna told the Captain quietly. "What leads you to this conclusion, Counselor?" he asked. "When I was in sickbay and her cat got loose, I met a stranger who claimed to be heading for his post. But Beverly says she hasn't had any visitors and the time wasn't right for him to be going there otherwise," Troi informed him. "What you're implying… is that her pet may be one of the Founders?" Picard asked.

"It seems to fit the facts and might be the reason for Daniels insistence that we turn around. If the Dominion is trying to derail these talks, we could be looking at a great deal of trouble," she warned. "It doesn't make sense. When they were hiding in the Federation, the Founders found ways to overcome even telepathic scans. There has to be another explanation," Will argued.

"That may be true, but until then we shall alert all security officers to be on the lookout for a man answering to the description Counselor Troi will provide or the cat. One way or another, we'll get to the bottom of this," the Captain promised and Deanna felt somewhat relieved of her anxiety.