The air crackled in blue sunlit
chill off the gleaming hull of
the Batai. Three sienna parkas milled around just outside her exit
hatch. Geordi grinned, blowing out a steamy breath in sheer
pleasure. ::This winter world is
comparatively mild.:: he thought
, checking his scanning tricorder held in one thickly gloved hand.
::Only minus three degrees C. Not even cold enough for envirosuits.::
The erstwhile navigator gave
an affectionate pat to the little ship's
side, "And I thought I couldn't do it. It's not every day
I get to
pilot a shuttle fully blind."
Dr. Crusher, too, was studying her tricorder for
readings in the immediate area. She was
sardonic, "We're here." then, under her breath,
paint." Louder she encouraged both Geordi and the new captain with
the rendevous ship will come looking for us." She
shifted her line of sight and aimed her scanner
position, "How's the signal now?" she asked.
"Gone at the moment. It's been quiet
ever since we landed." He read
an indicator, "No signs of higher life other than isolated pockets
of greenery for three kilometers around."
Captain Janeway leaned on the shuttle, testing the depth
snow about her feet. It felt deliciously familiar.:: It's like,...Indiana
Then she thought for a moment, surprised,
"Photosynthesizing plants? Here? I thought Endicor III
sub alpine all year round."
"It is." Geordi crouched over an ice dome full of delicate
fronds. "But they're here now." He sighed, and stood once more,
"Invitation sent. Invitation
answered." His comment sounded
small in the surrounding stillness. "Now, only if
we knew where
the party was."
"We'll wait." decided Janeway. "I have a feeling we aren't alone
out a hail over the universal translator." Kathryn
studied the horizon and the frozen waist high fossils
jutting from the glacial ice, "Maybe we'll ring the doorbell."
Dr. Crusher spoke from
the ground, "Captain." she said
thoughtfully, "I'd like to get a plant sample for analysis." She
pointed to Geordi's entombed snow ferns, "These weren't here
during the last topological surveys.
Further analysis might
reveal some clues we aren't aware of yet."
"Do it." Janeway nodded,
"I'll get the doctor to help you." Kathryn
pulled out the augmented datapad from her field pack and
its main switch. The holographic EMH shimmered into view with one
hand grasping empty air
like the phaser it once held,"...shut me
down like a...Captain! You're better!...At least, I hope
He cleared his throat. But that failed to hide the anger in his
voice, "These two hooligans
tried to hold me prisoner behind a
"I'm well aware of what transpired,
doctor. Thank you. But let me
get you up to date. We're back in the Alpha Quadrant. That's
now. But the ship is...." her face twisted in painful
memory, "missing... " She took a breath, "These
two hooligans, as
you so call them, went through a lot of trouble to save my life and
and then she smiled.
The hologram waxed sheepish. He put down the hand that no longer
a fully charged weapon, "Oh. In that case." He turned
to the wary two watching him, "Thank you for
rescuing myself and
Captain Janeway. Its seems to me that your treatment of the
appear to have been adequate."
Beverly snorted, "Adequate? ADEQUATE?! After fifteen years of
medical practice..Captain, " she waved a hand at Janeway, "I
mean no disrespect, but do we really
have to listen to this
this...this--" She pointed at the doctor.
"Tactless, overbearing overstimulated
pile of isolinear chips?
I'm afraid so." interceded Kathryn. "His lab skills are beyond
Don't worry. He'll grow on you." She chuckled.
"Doctor, see what you can do to help Dr. Crusher here
get a few
samples of those icebound plants over there. They seem to have
made a miraculous appearance
since the last planetary sweep of
The hologram sputtered for a few seconds then
when Geordi began studying his holomatrix with his visored
vision, "Amazing.. So
he's an Alpha One series, huh.. and
still in medicinal practice."
Geordi paced away planning
their search route.
The EMH leaned into Janeway, "Wh..what did he mean by that?"
shrugged, and pointed downward with a finger over
the tricorder she was using to measure the primary's
light intensity scale.
He bent to work, rolling his eyes.
Kathryn nodded her approval
of him, "Sorry doctor, but I
am just as much in the dark here as you are about all of
LaForge and the doctor are too, apparently. Try
to be patient for a little while, huh? Some answers
bound to materialize very soon. They always do."
She set a glove on the doctor's shoulder and
gave it a
squeeze. The EMH returned a half smile.
Then Janeway turned to Geordi, "Mr. LaForge."
"Yes, maam." he answered crisply.
His reply was a shock to Kathryn. That acknowledgement had
sounded just like Tom Paris's. His presence whispered in her
mind. She suddenly felt the loss of her
Kathryn missed Chakotay's quiet strength and Tuvok's calm
guidance. The new
urge she had felt growing inside of her
to see Earth and the people she knew there, was sullied of
any joy. ::They could all be dead right now.::she
reasoned, ::And here I am still very much alive..
irony, a ship's captain, sole survivor.::
She swallowed the tight knot in her throat.
::Before I know
any rest or comfort. I will know the final fate of my ship's
family..I owe them
that answer at the very least.::
Straightening, she shook off her melancholy, "Run a complete
surface scan of the area on shuttle's sensors. Even if we
can't find that distress signal itself,
the equipment it
was generated from might be detectable now. It's not as if the
a mecca for metal ores." She sealed her
tricorder and pocketed it.
"I'll get right on it."
The engineer disappeared inside
Four cups of coffee later, elbow deep in lab apparatus, Janeway
and the two doctors had made some
progress. Several of the
Endicoriian plants were lined up in test tubes to thaw. The
critical eye was magnified through on tube's solute
as he peered closely at the bits of green showing
the ice, "It's cellulitic DNA shows signs of bilitrium
strained free a memory, "Similar to those
tropical plants on Argyle Major, I assume."
raised his eyebrows, "Excellent recall, Captain.
That's exactly right. Although how an Amazonian species
is viable on this world remains a mystery. Now, all that
remains is spectral bioanalysis."
Dr. Crusher looked up from her computer screen, "We'll have
those results in a few minutes."
Janeway crossed her arms together. She was pleased, "Good
work, doctors. Now if only--"
A triumphant hoot kissed their ears from the sensor station.
Janeway and Crusher were amused as
they joined Geordi at
his side. His shout had confused the hologram, "Are you
all right, lieutenant
commander?" he asked.
Geordi spun around in his chair, "Never better, doc!" he
"I got something!"
Dr. Crusher leaned in closer, studying his data, "You've
found the signal's
"Not..exactly." the engineer answered, "I've been tracking
areas of land showing significant
Look here." He pointed to a bright red cluster
on the softer blues and
purples of the LCARS display.
"New pockets of botanical life seem to be forming in
a linear pattern
half a kilometer from here." he concluded.
Janeway wanted to know more but she didn't want to
the young man's enthusiasm one bit. He was much like Harry
Kim in that respect, "Huh. No
chance of thermal vents
freeing them with volcanic activity?"
"None. Volcanic activity is nonexistent
on Endicor. No
riparian hot springs to speak of." Geordi replied.
"The fact that there are lower
plant forms here now
Kathryn considered the possibilities,"Geologic
warmed by the sun or mechanized heat signatures?"
"Neither." noted Dr. Crusher suddenly, she let
breath she was holding. "These are footprints. I'm sure
of it. I've seen these kinds of
traces before on a polar
rescue mission. We tracked survivors through their body
heat trails left
behind in the snow."
Captain Janeway wanted conformation of that theory, fast.
coordinates. Life signs?" She suppressed an
irrational hope that they had somehow found surviving
Voyager crew members out there.
"I can't tell anything. Look." Geordi pointed to a new
on the monitor, "These are new changes. Ambient
ground temperature just rose fifty degrees C."
The hologram doctor scoffed, "That's impossible! It would
take weeks for that to happen. And only
then, in a growing
season. Which, I might add, has never occurred on this
planet before. Well,
except for the few seasons which
grew this dead forest."
Captain Janeway held up a hand, "Doctor,
your insightful commentary but debating the issue here
isn't the answer. We have to
just find another way to
find out the truth and we're going to work at it until
we get it, is
"Very." the doc replied.
"But..." Janeway held up an index finger, "If you
any theories regarding this phenomena.."
The hologram drew up tall, "I have none for the
But, captain, I assure you that I cannot fail to have
this crew's best interests at heart.
Even if I have to
stew vegetables with the best of them." He held up a
tube of heated samples
with a pair of thongs.
Janeway bit her lip, trying to keep a straight face.
"Fine.. so... we
have to get over there somehow,
discreetly. I don't want much of a disturbance
until we see just
what we're dealing with. There just
may be an alien race that cannot be picked up on our bio
And there's no definite machinery signatures...so
that leaves a possible prewarp civilization. Taking
shuttle's out." She rubbed her face, "Other options?"
Geordi shrugged, "I can rig the site
to site transporters
to trace where the newest heat sources are forming.. We
can beam under cover
to that spot by using portable
pattern enhancers. The computer could coordinate..."
Janeway had already found her phaser and her
parka, "Let's go everyone."
The hologram made
for the transporter pad but Janeway
stopped him, "I'm sorry doctor. Only room enough for
I'd like you to stay here and finish the
The doctor rolled his eyes, "Of course."
"Leave all the dirty work for the hologram. He won't
mind. He's not real." he stabbed
a computer control
oblivious to Crusher's wincing at his very real appearing
simulation of hurt
feelings, "I'm picking up a low
grade anti-lepton field emanating from the bedrock
at the beam
in site. It might further interfere with
your tricorder scans."
Geordi angled his head, "All
the better we get in
closer for a look see." He said, tapping his visor
with emphasis. He began
handing out the metallic arm
bands necessary for the coming transport, "Doc." he
"Hmm?" the EMH replied.
Geordi pointed ceilingward, "Try to get along with
the computer, huh?
I'm putting it on surveillance
mode. Computer, full alert status."
Captain Janeway completed
her prechecks of their pack
Dr. Crusher hugged her medkit, "Ready..."
She just wanted
to get on with things. Not knowing a situation didn't sit
well with her at all.
Geordi noticed a questioning glance from Janeway, "We'll
be back in twenty five minutes. I've
rigged the computer
to pull us home automatically." he volunteered.
Janeway nodded in satisfaction,
"Energize." she ordered.
The three officers sparkled into golden pillars of light
out of the tiny shuttle's cabin.
Alone, the hologram doctor eyed the room nervously,
he addressed it. It warbled in reply
and he stated, "This is the emergency medical
program speaking." He swallowed, "Let's
set a few ground rules, shall we? Never, I repeat,
activate a containment field so close around
my holomatrix again. I don't think my hairline
ever be the same again." He put a hand to his
head, measuring, "It feels like it's receded by a full
The computer emitted a single dry bleep at him without
saying a word.
The woods by the frozen plain were stark.
But they echoed
a pure energy song. Three spots of burnt orange resolved
themselves from the air
and began to move.
"Bingo! Footprints!" Geordi visor saw them clearly outlined
in the blue
star's sapphire daylight, "And they're headed
off that way!" He pointed into the thicker trees.
"Let's follow them." Janeway gestured.
Dr. Crusher was halted by an insistent bioflag on her
"Captain! Geordi! Over here." She was crouched
over smatterings of red on a knee high rock face. The
substance appeared to have been recently frozen. "I'm
reading alien DNA. This is blood. It's
oxygenated for a few minutes."
Geordi and Janeway drew their phasers. They all
stood, in a protective circle, searching the woods
with their eyes. Dr. Crusher intently passed her
tricorder round them completely, checking the
landscape thoroughly, "Nothing. Absolutely nothing.."
Geordi was frank, " I wish I had some
clues here. Is
this an innocent accident or was someone wounded in an
attack?" he said, gesturing
to the blood on the stone.
His frustration was apparent.
"Easy Mr.LaForge." Janeway cautioned
him, "Sooner or
later, we'll find out. Let's just plan on a course of
action and go from there."
She turned and headed for
the footprints, "Forget about these," she said,
brandishing her phaser,
"If we are being watched, I
don't want to appear hostile. Enable the universal
your combadges. We'll try to reach
someone that way." Kathryn tapped hers twice while
"Whoever it is who's bleeding can't be
far away. There's a lot of it on that rockface."
Crusher called out once her insignia was set to
passive translate like Janeway's. She called out,
"Is anybody here? We know you're hurt. We came to
But there was no reply from
They kept moving along the broken, irregular
line of steps in the snow, shouting
as they went.
Janeway joined in with Crusher, "We need to find
where you are. Shout if you
can hear us!"
Her echo died away in the chill brightness. But
the shuttle group was no longer
alone; the lavender
eyes of the special child regarded the away team in
fear. Ariel was hiding
under a thick clump of
trees. ::Oh no! The strangers have found the
Guardian's trail.:: She knew
she had to get
around them undetected in order to give her teacher
the energy she had found to
make him well again.
She carefully prevented the sunlight from glinting
off the pyramid she clutched
even tighter at
the sight of the humans. She sank lower into the
snow. Her fanning hair made her
against the frost.
The searchers stopped only a few meters away from
niche. The tiny unicorn girl was amazed she
could understand the speakings coming from their
"Is the universal translator working?" Dr. Crusher
frowned to Geordi.
He tapped his tricorder
and then his badge, "Clear as
a bell." Then he checked the chronometer on his wrist.
twenty minutes left this sweep before the
autobeam back." Then he let out an exasperated sigh,
still no detectable life sign readings."
Janeway didn't look up from the path they were
"We're just going to have to reset the
transporter pad timer and come back when time runs
that's all." she said moving on.
Ariel froze stock still when the captain's foot nearly
on her. But her mind and body blending was
firm. She was not detected. She watched the three
away at a near run, pointing their devices
along the scarlet line of the Guardian's heart
dotting along the way.
Click Data for a music change. :)
Music takes a few minutes to download.
The away team had gone nearly to the bottom
of the valley
when Geordi doubled over, clutching his head. Steam was rising
into the cold from
his sweaty features and he groaned, "Ugh!
Damn!" He nearly fell. Reflexively, Crusher and the captain
Beverly asked, "The visor signal again?" She held him
steady while he shook his
head to clear it. She saw that
he wasn't as near to fainting as he had been the first
Geordi straightened up, getting a handle on the mental and
in his mind. "Yeah. Only this time it feels
like somebody's drilling home with a subsonic transmitter."
Dr. Crusher was worried. Geordi's brain signature was
levelling off into abnormal stress
"Let's get you back to the shuttle."
"Nah, I'm all right. We'll get pulled back
enough anyway. I think I got a handle on it already, I
am beginning to learn how to
tone it down."
Janeway gave him a doubtful look, "Lieutenant Commander.."
"Listen, " Geordi insisted, "We've got to find this guy
and stop this signalling. Knocking me out
isn't going to
solve my problem. I can still help search. Might even
be better to have me here
to point the way." he gestured
over a rise, "It's louder that way.." And he broke out
grip, stumbling a little on the trail.
Captain Janeway turned to Dr. Crusher, "Is he at risk if
we stay out here longer?"
"I don't think so. His vitals are stable." she replied.
let's wait until recall." She gestured to proceed
It was only a minute later when the bundled engineer halted
in his tracks and the two women almost
bumped into him,
"Wait a minute. The footprints. They're gone!"
Crusher and Janeway were stunned.
The way ahead was only
unbroken snow. Kathryn's patience was greatly shortened,
"I don't understand
this. There's no other way out of the
Crusher pushed back her hood, "He must've doubled
Geordi disagreed, "He couldn't have. Our tricorders
would've picked up the higher infrared
trace and alerted
Dr. Crusher looked up into the trees, "Unless he had a
fly away. We don't know what his species is
capable of doing yet."
Captain Janeway was listening
to the two Enterprise
officers' discussion only halfway. She broadened their
line of thinking inside
her own thoughts. ::This signal
of Geordi's seems to defy all of our standard equipment
The only accepting device is the engineer's
personal visor. Hmm. Perhaps we can try a more sophisticated
She tapped her combadge causing LaForge and Crusher to fall
silent in curiosity,
=^=Janeway to the Batai. Doctor, do you
In the shuttle's cabin, the hologram
straightened from his
work, "Yes, captain. Loud and clear. Is there a medical
to disappoint you. But I do require your services
in another manner. Do me a favor. Beam yourself
coordinates but remember to bring your program housing
datapadd along too. An inconvenience,
I know but..=^=
"I understand the reason for bringing it along.
My holoemitter wasn't needed
with us on Voyager's holodeck
before we ended up here in the Alpha Quadrant, so naturally,
have it now. We'll just have to muddle through with
my holo testing padd. I'll be there in seventeen
the EMH finished for her.
=^=We'll be expecting you.=^=
The doctor thought
for a moment before he stepped up onto
the transporter disk behind the lab tables he had set up.
He snatched up a medkit for the lieutenant commander from
the wall clip, "Computer. One to beam to
the away team's
He shimmered into light beams.
appeared in moments at Captain Janeway's side.
She greeted him warmly, "Glad you could join us. I
positive how far a Type VI shuttle could project your
holomatrix through that pad."
Geordi piped up, "Three thousand kilometers, captain."
She looked at the young man with amusement.
"Uh.. I've been doing equations to drown out the visor
pulses and that equation just happened
to be one of
them." he said.
Janeway smiled and nodded, "Thanks."
She crouched down into
the snow over a footprint that
hadn't been stepped in by one of the away team. She
it, "Doctor, what do you see?"
The EMH looked toward the ground to where she
looked up almost right away, "I'm
afraid I don't understand."
Dr. Crusher and Geordi watched
this exchange with
Janeway shrugged, "Feel free to interpret. In any way
like." Kathryn invited.
The hologram scratched his unreal head and spoke, "I
snow in the shape of a humanoid footprint."
"Captain, what are y--" Geordi began.
mildly for him to wait a moment.
The hologram twitched, "....and traces of charged tachyon
Kathryn's heart leaped, "The same experimental energy that
we were testing on Voyager's
holodeck with the EMH before
the ship..." She couldn't finish her words.
Geordi spoke to
give her a moment to handle her emotions.
"But why didn't my visor detect that?" He stood up, looking
back the way they had come.
"Ah.." the holodoc elucidated, "You're forgetting the anti-
field I found emanating from the rocks in this region.
Such a field would reduce your visor's effectiveness
mask certain biosignature frequencies." He smile was smug.
"No wonder I hardly detected
the DNA in those blood stains."
"And why we probably aren't reading any alien
go along with them." Geordi added. "But the doc's input
matrice is uneffected. That
was good thinking , captain.
We can track our man now through the tachyon particles
lead even though the wind covered up the
gasped. ::These people are closer to finding us because
of this new man made of light. I have to stop
She closed her lilac eyes.
Down in the valley,
Geordi craned his head, looking up,
"What's that noise?"
Janeway and the others moved by his
side. There was only
the quiet sound of the wind through the icy treetops.
"I don't hear anything."
She glanced at the EMH, "Doctor?"
The holodoctor shook his head in the negative.
began sweating and he moaned as the cacophony rose
into a teeth wrenching whine inside his head. Then
what it was. "Freeze! Everyone! That humming. I know that
we don't h--" Dr. Crusher began.
LaForge looked down by their feet. "Bombs! In clear
They're all around us!"
His companions whirled in place in alarm without moving their
Seeing nothing odd was visible, Janeway readjusted her
tricorder scans. Her proximity scan continued
to show normal.
"Mr. LaForge. Explain. I don't see anything wr--"
Dr. Crusher tossed her head
slightly to the EMH and then
again at Geordi. Together, they stepped towards him. "Geordi.
The engineer yelled in panic, "Don't move! Either one of you.
There's one by your
feet and it's set to blow!" ::What is
the matter here? I can see the heat surging off of these things.
There's four of them. Why can't anyone else see them?::
Dr. Crusher glanced again at her boots.
::Only snow. What th-?::
The EMH was also baffled, "I also see nothing wrong here. " He
addressing Beverly, "Doctor. He is clearly hallucinating.
The Batai will lock onto us in two minutes,
seven seconds. I
Just then, the holodoc winked out. Janeway barely caught
doctor's program padd he had been carrying before it hit the
ground, "nghhh!" she said, lurching
Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw Geordi was in desperate
her. She heard his urgent shout. "It's gonna
Suddenly, Janeway was pushed, hard by
him, off the path.
Rolling downhill, she fought for her feet in the slippery snow.
Geordi had also tackled Dr. Crusher away
from the narrow trail, "Run!!" he shouted at them,
going to go any sec--!!"
Janeway's world was suddenly gone. It was if a great gush of
warmth had lifted her up and took the
weight from her body. She
was ...floating. Kathryn opened her eyes and saw only a strange
mist surrounding her, coaxing and sweet. She hugged the
only solid thing she could feel, the doctor's
data padd close to
her chest and just breathed. Her mind was completely free. The
joy she felt flooded into every nook and cranny
of her being. It was only slightly tinged with fear
when she realized that
she was no longer on the planet. She was somewhere else entirely.
images nursed her spirit. She had closed her eyes
once more when her heartbeat unexpectedly began
The Voyager captain winked out.
Geordi saw that Captain Janeway had vanished
into thin air. ::
It's that gold flash of light again. The one Dr. Crusher and I
saw just before
we beamed the captain on board.:: He struggled
to his feet, going to the last place he had seen her.
Beverly!!" He found one of the bombs where the Voyager captain
had been, "This isn't
happening. Captain! Where are you?!"
The bomb exploded in his face.
Captain Janeway came to little by little. She was on her
back and totally warm. Blearily,
she could just make out a
pair of tiny lavender eyes above her own. ::What a beautiful
thought. ::They are almost ...speaking...to me.::
Kathryn felt a tug and something she was holding
out of her hands. ::Those....eyes... They're the eyes of
a child,..aren't they?::
Sighing, Janeway felt herself slip back into darkness.
The land was silent in the valley. The blue sun had fled behind
green clouds and the frigid
air was heavy. But the eternal
snow field was no longer completely unbroken. The still forms
Geordi and Dr. Crusher lay in a small patch of steaming, living
earth, devoid of ice. New alien plants
slowly, filling the air with a spicy fog. They awoke, their
parka sleeves rustling
in the vivid green grass.
Dr. Crusher coughed, lifting her head. She didn't sweep away the hair
that was in her eyes. Her voice was slurred, "Whaa?" She was dimly
aware that she was on her stomach.
And the air was beginning to strangle
her subtly. She was completely numb, not knowing where she was
Spasming with pins and needles, her hand struck a soft downy
knew who the prone form next to her was. "Geord-??"
LaForge stirred to consciousness as well,
face up. The buzzing sky
made him wince behind his visor. "Is that you, Be-Bev?" He
remember her whole first name. Nor the fact that they
were missing a third member to the group.
"I'm O.-- hey.." He started to look around, "Something's.........wrong."
He started to gag in
deep nausea, but couldn't find the strength to
roll over to clear his mouth.
too, choking slightly, "Bad ai--. Got to get.."
She pulled Geordi by the back of his parka collar
until they were
both well out over the snowpack once more. She managed to get
him onto his side
just before she herself vomited. She watched as
he was ill, too, resting her face on the cool ice
in relief, not
caring when her skin adhered to it.
The clenching numbness receded but the fog
in her mind remained,
eating at her memory. She concentrated on her breathing,
to Geordi's labored gasps as well with some trained
part of her but then she began to drift in and
Geordi stirred again a minute later. He was still slightly
sick and a strange
confusion held his thinking in a vise's grip.
He rested, focusing his visor's sight on a fossilized
tree branch above him.
Soon his head made a little sense, "Wh--What happened?" He sat up,
almost flopping back down again. His arms were weak as water.
"Beverl--" he said looking to the woman
he knew near him.
She was still on her stomach, her head down but she spoke, "What?
did-- How did we?"
Geordi squinted his pounding eyes and groaned, "I'm ...I'm not sure.
us to...move away from..."
He pointed over to the eerily rainbow fogging clearing a short
away.."over there.. You dragged....me." The ferns there
waved in a breeze. A curl of sweetened fog
reached him from the
growing place and his breath was stolen from him.
Geordi pulled himself
further away from the area quickly until the
artic cold burned his throat once more. Breaths came
Dr. Crusher followed suit but more slowly. Rising off
she felt something bite visciously into her left side when she slipped
on the ice
beneath her. She grabbed at it and held up a wet phaser,
backwards, with its muzzle pointed at her
Blinking and coughing, Geordi croaked, "Where did you get th--?"
Crusher looked at the curving object of silver and black
without comprehension. Then she remembered
who they were
searching for out in the snow. "I fell on it. Geordi...
Maybe it's his..." she gasped.
She tossed the thing to
His coordination was off and he missed his catch. He had
use both trembling hands to pick up the phaser again.
He looked down, noticing the same object
in his belt. "No, this
this...thing is ours. I'm wearing one." ::His? OH. The one
we have to
find. My god.. Where?::
Dr. Crusher moaned, "He's hurt." She hugged her medkit closer
"We haven't much time...at all. This snow could
kill him out there if we can't fi--"
Geordi said in weary resignation. He studied the
phaser in his hands. The image of it fuzzed in his
and what it was fled him. He guessed. "Maybe this is his
transmitter. We could call him,
T-tell him we're coming.."
He unknowingly held the muzzle towards his face, "If I could
out how to turn it on.." His finger started to
depress the firing mechanism, "by this button...thing."
Another of the crystalline bombs materialized a foot away from
Beverly's foot. Geordi shouted
and dropped the phaser, "Not
another one! We've got to get OUT of here!!"
Together, muzzy doctor
and engineer staggered to their feet,
lurching horribly. But their coordination was as bad as their
memory. They fell to the ground again. Geordi raged in
his helplessness, "Go!! G--"
stared at him, "I don't understand. There's
A cataclysmic explosion ripped the
Geordi flung Beverly away from it as far as he could but they
both found themselves
tumbling into a new patch of misting
ivys. Blackness laughed at them.
Time felt like
taffy when Geordi stirred out of his
choking stupor. He struggled to his knees to an incessant
that was familar. It was coming from a device he knew!
It was an open tricorder on lifescan. All the
were red. And it lay right next to a silent Dr. Crusher.
Geordi understood the readings
like a jolt of lightning.
He had rolled her onto her back and had both hands
the medkit when a transporter effect took hold. Geordi,
Dr. Crusher, and the medkit disappeared...
but in his
haste, one of the signal enhancer armbands, was
knocked off and left behind in the torn
The firm grip of materialization
and his burden on the shuttle's floor.
##Auto transport complete.##
engineer was flat on his back, groaning.
The tricorder on the carpeting was still
shrill warning. Muzzy, Geordi struggled
to turn off his back, "Bever--Breathe!"
She lay near
The computer bleeped, ##Detecting high stress voice
pattern. Do you require
Geordi remembered, "Compu-- Biob--!"
The computer, still in its
preset surveillance mode,
slid into a self analysis, ##Two occupants. Human.
initiated.... Biobed activated.##
A light over a long bench at the back of the shuttle
turned on. A panel recessed into the wall activated
and began to glow.
Geordi heard its ready
tone. He breathed great gulps of
air, still struggling to turn over, feeling himself half
::Think. Move! Or she's gonna die!!::
He heaved to one side and his legs hit the lab specimen
table the EMH had set out. The plant filled test tubes
fell to the floor and shattered, their thawed
splashing onto the carpeting, releasing their strange
A new wave of dizziness
The computer chimed once again, ##Occupant life signs
critical. Life support
standing by. Transport immediately.##
Then the answer dawned on Geordi's foggy mind, "Tr--Transporter!"
He glanced Dr. Crusher's left arm for the reassuring pattern
enhancer, "Execut--" He stopped in horror.
was missing. "Belay tha-- order!!"
Geordi began to fight a growing weight
in his awareness, "Come
on. Reach!" he told himself. Straining, he flopped one hand
to his upper
arm and ripped off his own arm band. He
tossed it into the air and it landed on Dr. Crusher's
"Computer! Priority med-transport. One to life
support biobed. Immediate. Energize!!"
rolled out of range as the sparkles of transport took
her. Dr. Crusher materialized onto the medical
dragged himself hand over hand to her side and lowered the life
support unit down
over her torso.
The computer, after a long string of electronic notes,
spoke ##Life support
initiated. Vital signs.....stabilized.##
Beverly began to breathe.
Exhausted beyond consciousness,
Geordi emitted a huge sigh
and passed out.
Ariel had found her Guardian again soon after the strangers had
been silenced. His heart's
fluid no longer oozed from his arm
wound. She helped him to the bluish fire as best as she could
night fell over the wood.
Her small hot offering of food much revived him but he spoke
Until he saw the strange woman lying at the edge of
the of the firelight, "Ariel. Who is that?"
The unicorn child flinched and her button horn's light dimmed,
she was suddenly shy, "She's not one
of THEM, Guardian. I
checked. They're still in their...Continuum." she said with
this one has a man of light who knows things
The Guardian cradled his slowly healing
arm wound. He was glad
the strange female wasn't awake. He could see her silver
where he was sitting still on her belt. He
was too tired to run any more. "Show me this man of light.."
he whispered to his charge, nestling his lips into her
The small child scrambled
over to a cache in the rocks and
she unburied a small flat, metal object. "He is in here."
sniffed, brushing away the milky hair from her face.
"I saw the leading woman do this to get him
She pushed a control gently, without activating it, "I used
distance touch on it to put him
He put Ariel on his lap, keeping Captain Janeway within his
line of sight, "Clever thinking.
Now.....why is this woman
over there not awake? Hmm?" ::I have to be careful. This
is rapidly becoming more dangerous before her
"I brought her to Paradise." she said,
feeding a stick
to the flames.
A cold shock gripped the Guardian. ::Ariel has gotten
the dimensional barriers already?.::
The girl was oblivious to her teacher's reaction. "She
happy there. But she couldn't stay. Her light got all
wrong and almost left her." She stretched and
he felt her
press a squarish silver box into his hands. "I found this
with the false man."
Inside, the Guardian found devices the same color as
the unconscious woman's armaments. He set it
cautiously. Seconds later, he trembled as another abnormal
spasm gripped him. Something beyond
the Change was
happening to him that he didn't understand. It was tied
to Ariel's doing somehow.
But exactly how eluded him as
easily as smoke on the wind.
He decided to find out about the
newly arrived strangers.
"Ariel.." he whispered into her ear as she melted an icicle
with the power
of her mind. "Don't be frightened. I am
freeing the man made of light."
Ariel stiffened, and
her tiny hands covered his lips, "No
no..no..not yet." Her lilac eyes filled with tears. "I--I
something.." she said eagerly, "Something you need."
She drew the small thing she had found from the
her robe. "I-I want to give you..this."
Even before it was in his hands, the Guardian
gift's presence like a healing balm. He held the pyramid
against his cheek, reveling
in its delicacy.
It was a sliver of...home itself. The merest shred of
Paradise but enough
to sate his very soul. This time,
he could not question her. For this time, it was HIS deliverance.
Something that was grossly wrong seemed, touched,...by
the object. The long borne ache in his
arm and soul
began to recede.
The Guardian did not feel Ariel reach over and call the
made of light.
"...get him sedated and...Hello?" The hologram EMH noticed
man and the child lost in their hug immediately.
Then he saw his main priority, "Captain!" He
Janeway's lack of response to his shout one bit. "Excuse
me." he said politely, extricating
his medkit from the
ground next to the Guardian's hand.
The doctor made his way over to
Kathryn as quickly as he
could in the straightest line he could travel and the
camp fire did little
to stop him.
"Captain.." he called out, feeling for the pulse at
her throat and the movement
of air between her lips.
Two seconds later, his bioprobe gave results.
She was in a protective
state. ::Deeply unconscious.
Her neural tissues are still showing signs of temporal
And her vitals are near coma levels
from the cold. I wonder what happened to her parka?::
EMH spoke up, "I'd appreciate it if you'd refrain from
sending unknown humanoids like us out of this
dimension. It does more harm than good. We're not Q you
The old man whirled
at the name of his pursuers. He placed
Ariel protectively behind him forcefully. His voice held
strength behind it now, "What do you know about THEM?!"
The doctor didn't miss a beat and
brought out a neural
stimulator and began passing its beams over Captain
Janeway's head. He smiled
when he glanced at his tricorder.
::The worst of the displacement symptoms are being
The odd energy signature in her body cells
is rapidly dispersing. A little triox should get good
circulation back now.:: He injected the hypospray
at her inner wrist and the EMH began to warm Janeway
by rubbing her arms and legs to encourage blood flow. He
addressed his alien companions with a
frown, "I only
know what my captain has chosen to share with me. Once,
for example, Q tried to
seduce her into having offspring
by him to end some.....silly little war with his people."
EMH leaned over and snatched the Guardian's abandoned
cloak up and covered Janeway snugly.
why anyone would think such a baby would have that
ability at such a tender age is beyond me."
Ariel's posture and stance changed and she scrambled
over to the captain's side. Her tiny face was
empathy and caring. The little girl timidly touched
Janeway's cheek, "She has been
like me then.." The little
child met the doctor's eyes in sympathy, "Helpless before
The doctor chortled, "Well I wouldn't say it in exactly that
way. The captain is rarely ....helpless
before anyone." The
EMH sat Kathryn up, cradling her in his arms and carried her
nearer to the
fire. Once there, he set her down and resumed
his warming treatment until her skin was pink and warm
the touch. ::Good. She's out of her hypothermia.::
The holodoc placed his last hypo
down into the kit. Accidently,
his eye fell on the phaser in Janeway's belt.
The Guardian saw
the movement. In a flash, he held the doctor's
augmented datapadd over the flames, "Tell me something,
made of light. Could your essence survive without this
device to govern it?" His features hardened,
no one to harm the child.."
Wisely, the doctor moved his hands away from his patient.
you I am here only to protect my crewmate. My advance on the phaser
was unintentional. But
as yet, I have no assurances that she is out
of danger.... from you two." he said significantly.
"Guardian." Ariel said with solemn maturity, "Too many people have
been harmed today and I am at fault
for all of it." She took the
holopadd from his hands and gave it to the EMH. In a blink,
the phaser into the doctor's palm and oriented
it so that it pointed to her own head. "Here." she
"I am not afraid if you use this on me after what I did to
your captain." And she bowed her
The doctor's response was curt but kind, "Young lady, I am
not accustomed to
taking lives for vengeance. I am
programmed to save them." And he tossed the phaser away into
darkness, "As for your concern over the captain's health..."
he looked down.
were just opening. Ariel gave a joyful cry and
knelt by her head, peering into her face.
Janeway's first awareness came quickly. ::Those eyes are here
again. Those wonderful lilac eyes
I saw in limbo. I feel....
like ...anything is possible inside them.:: Then she blinked,
her gaze to the doctor's face. Full consciousness
returned,"You found the alien.." she said to the
slightly in relief.
The hologram sighed, "I wish I could take the credit for it.
actually.....you did...carrying me." He said hefting
up his datapadd. "Ariel here was curious
about my holographic
nature but didn't quite understand it. So I assume she had
to bring us both
here by the means she and the Guardian usually
travel to their campsite until she figured out where
holomatrix was situated." the doctor grinned.
Kathryn sat up, feeling completely whole
for the first time
in a long while. She regarded the child with wonder, brushing
a strand of hair
away from Ariel's horn. "Are you all right?"
she asked softly, smiling as a mother would. "We've been
trying to find you. Your call for help was seen by one of
my crewma--" She broke off casting her
eyes around the campsite.
"Doctor, have you seen any of the away team?"
Moments after Captain
Janeway asked the question, she felt Ariel
shrinking away from her touch ; curling in on herself
The EMH answered, "Not since we were discussing Mr. LaForge's
Again Janeway saw the unicorn child wince at the answer.
::What is wrong here?:: she wondered.
The holodoc was oblivious, "Bombs indeed...Of all the things
to hallucinate about.." he went
Janeway spoke quickly, "Doctor those devices were real, even
though we couldn't see them.
I saw one detonate just before
I was....somehow...carried here. I remember floating.. I think."
Ariel whimpered. The Guardian drew up on her arm sharply, "Child!
You haven't been summoning the
still point, have you?"
The little girl looked very lost under his angry scowl.
Janeway blanched, "Still point? Was that where I was?"
The doctor spoke, "Captain?" He wanted
clarification of her
experience to add to his knowledge of her current condition.
"It was a
kind of.....juxtaposition between places...It was warm
and peaceful...like summer... And the air was....spicy.."
paused, a dread filling her, "Those heat pockets we saw forming
vegetation on the shuttle's
sensors.." She turned to the
Guardian,.."They're intrusions of this still point into our space?"
"Correct captain." The Guardian turned away from her, distraught.
"Oh, Ariel." he said squatting
down in front of her, "What have
you done? Paradise must not be here. Ever. In this region, the
point is chaotic and harms all that is living." He turned to the
two Starfleet officers, "I'm sorry
about your unexpected
transference there, captain. It could have killed you easily..I..
the still point will be my home...but.."
Ariel withdrew and hid in the Guardian's robes.
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