Full-length, Pre-Nemesis/Post-Dominion War novel.
Next Generation Characters:
Ensemble Cast - TNG
Adult Situations, Violence
02 Feb 2009 Updated:
16 Feb 2009
Chapter Eight - Part One by Terilynn
USS Jaguar – NCC-90262
Admiral Jellico paced the office with gritted teeth. It was the first time Nate Hunter realized how annoying watching someone pace could be. Tensions were high enough and all he wanted to do was punch someone or something in the gut – just to let off a little steam. Unfortunately, if Jellico didn’t stop pacing he would become Hunter’s unwitting target. “Admiral,” he grunted.
Jellico stopped in his tracks, peered around him and realized that he had been walking and mumbling across the small room. He looked down to Commander Claussen. Her serious stare belied her short stature. “Are you absolutely sure Commander?”
She cleared her throat, “Quite sure Admiral.”
Hunter growled. “Admiral, I don’t believe for an instant that Steele would…”
“Nate,” Jellico warned in his voice. “As much as I hate to say it, you have to keep an open mind when it comes to the power Cardassians can wield.”
Hunter shook his head, “Sorry, I refuse to believe it and it’s ridiculous to even think it!” He spun to Claussen, “What about Malek Commander, you’ve known him for how long?”
Claussen paled significantly. “Twenty years sir. I feel about him the same way you feel about Captain Steele. He could never betray the Federation.”
“But one of them did just that.” Jellico sneered.
Hunter tried to hold onto his fury and he tightened his hands into fists on his desk. “I still don’t believe it. It must be someone else.”
Jellico was seething, “Then why hasn’t she tried to contact us? Surely she must know about the messages being emitted by her own ship!”
“Not necessarily Admiral,” stated Claussen coolly. “If she hasn’t been informed of it…”
Jellico shook her off. “That would take a ship-wide conspiracy, don’t you think? Engineering had to see it! Malek might be able to withhold the information for a little while, but surely her COE would bring it to her attention directly.” His face paled even more, “And if she does know, why isn’t she trying to contact us or the Enterprise trying to explain the messages?!”
Hunter stood with agitation from his desk, his thoughts reeling. Why would Steele not call them? If she or Malek were not the ones sending the messages what would keep her from just contacting them and admitting there was an unknown traitor on her ship? Hunter’s stomach twisted into knots as the solution bit him in the face. “Because the transmissions didn’t originate from her ship, Admiral.”
“What?!” barked Jellico and Claussen’s face fell with comprehension.
“Think about it! If I were her and I just found out that messages to the enemy were being sent from my ship what’s the first thing I would do?! I’d try to find their source and catch the person who was sending them! But what if they weren’t coming from my ship…what if the messages were being piggy-backed? Who then would I trust? Who could I trust?!”
“Piggy-backed…” Claussen sighed.
“Sure, why not – we do it all the time! Locating the source of the piggy-back signal is the hard part…for all we know they could be originating from the Enterprise.”
“Or even us.” Claussen offered and connected her gaze back to Hunter.
Hunter stood from his chair and nodded slightly. “You’re right.”
Jellico growled. “Can you verify the source Claussen?”
She looked defeated, “We can try sir, but only if the there’s another transmission over the Panther’s deflection array.”
“I suspect that those transmissions may have ceased.” Jellico grunted. “We may never know where they originated.”
“So what do we do? Say nothing? Do nothing?”
Jellico though pensively. “I trust Picard.”
“The same way I trust Steele.” said Hunter.
“And Malek.” Claussen chimed in.
Hunter watched his Admiral’s face and scowled. “You don’t trust Riker.”
Jellico sighed. “Never have.”
“You really think he’d deal with the Cardassians to turn over his duplicate?”
Jellico stared Nate directly in the eyes. “How would you feel to have another one of you running around?”
Hunter shook his head. “I know I wouldn’t adore the idea, but I’m not so sure I’d lay down with the devil to kill him.” Hunter shivered, “That’d be…just…I dunno – weird, like killing myself in a way.”
Jellico shook his head. “Well, Riker’s actually done it before. He and Pulaski killed clones of themselves. So I know damn well he’s not fond of the idea of having two of him running around. I also know he’d have no compunction in killing one.”
Claussen grimaced. “He did what?”
Jellico pursed his lips, “Years ago, The Mariposan colonists stole genetic material from Riker and Pulaski which was used to make their clones. They located the developing life-forms and killed them.”
Claussen pulled her head back. “Can’t say I blame them. It was a pure violation of their personal rights.”
“I can.” said Jellico. “It was murder. Plain and simple.” he sighed, “Although Starfleet disagreed.”
Claussen also wanted to disagree with the Admiral, and her expression had made it clear. Hunter saw the look in her eye and jumped in before she could spout her retort, “And you think he’s doing the same thing now?”
Jellico shrugged. “I have no evidence on which to base such an opinion. Only that he has a motive and the knowledge and the means. If we discover that the transmissions originated from the Enterprise, then I’ll have something.”
“Sounds like you hope it is him.” Hunter growled. “He really did get under your skin Ed. I’ve never seen you like this.”
“When it comes to Riker, Nate? I’ll never be able to rest my faith in him. He’s let me down before and I never have liked his attitude.” He turned to Claussen. “Please continue to seek the source of the transmissions Commander and not a word to anyone.”
Claussen nodded. “Aye sir.”
She could barely see the repair line in the canvas now. The art restorer on Lya Station Alpha had done a phenomenal job considering the hellacious tear the comm unit had made in the painting so long ago.
She reached out her trembling hand to touch the scarred area. The thickly placed stroke of paint felt almost sharp under her sensitive finger tips. She couldn’t even smell the paint anymore. For years she took comfort the scent the painting exuded from its breadth, like somehow the paint was still young, still wet…that Paul was still somehow…close.
The scent was gone now, but even just a reminder of the scent brought back the memory…
“What do you mean it’s too small?” A bright white grin erupted from Paul Rice’s dark-toned skin. “If I paint it any larger, it will never fit in your quarters on the Stravinsky!”
Antoinette approached him from behind and ran her hands through his thick, dark, wavy hair and nuzzled the crevice of his neck. “But the New Mexico skies are so much bigger!” She joked, “No canvas is big enough!”
Rice lowered his paint brush from the sizeable canvas, smiling as he soaked in the kisses from his wife with pleasure. “I’ll never finish your painting it if I keep getting interrupted.”
She nibbled his ear-lobe and his eyes rolled back in his head, he groaned uncontrollably. She whispered softly, “That’s what you get for marrying…”
“…a partial Deltan…I know.” He set the paintbrush and his board down and turned his attentions towards her, bringing her into his embrace and onto his lap. He stroked her dark hair and gazed into her lovely green eyes. “Trust me, I am not complaining.” He kissed her tenderly and when he pulled back he was surprised to feel a cold, slimy substance being pulled across his cheek. He knew instantly that it was a large streak of oil paint.
He closed his eyes and didn’t even look back as his hand reached behind him to find the paint board he had just rested to his side. He took as much paint onto his hand as he could scrounge away from the board, opened his eyes to meet the same mischievous look she was giving him then pressed his hand directly over her face – covering it with thick globs of green and brown paint. She howled in laughter and disgust. “So you wanna fight, do you?!” He challenged.
He grabbed her hard, threw her to the ground and reached for an open tube of paint. She screamed in laughter. “NO!” she retorted.
“Too late,” he replied. “This is what you get for marrying a full-blooded human.”
Steele’s hands trembled even more as she retracted her finger from the dried paint on the canvas. Her door bell chirped. “Come,” she said absentmindedly, still focused on the dark green splotches of paint that filled out the impressionistic juniper trees.
Malek entered the room. “Captain,” he said, “You wanted to be notified when we were approaching the division coordinates.”
Steele turned slowly and lifted her vacant and exhausted eyes to her First Officer. His antennae shot bolt upright and he took two steps forward. “Captain…” he whispered. “You’re not well.”
Steele didn’t have the strength to disagree with him. “Malek...” she whimpered faintly, “I’m not sure…”
He rushed forward and before her body collapsed to the ground, Malek lifted her into his arms and he carried her out of the ready room and directly to Sickbay.
Data was sure he had seen the look on his face before, but his programming made him acutely aware that the same look on Thomas Riker’s face may not mean the same thing as it did on William Riker’s face. Granted, they were technically the same man until several years prior, but it would be reasonable to calculate that the stark differences each had experienced since the transporter accident on Nervala IV would cause personality changes in one that may not have occurred in the other.
He thought it was fascinating. He watched Thomas Riker at rest on his biobed, reading a PADD. He was humming. Most curiously, he was humming an ancient 20th Century jazz tune…Fly Me to the Moon. He had heard Commander Riker hum that same tune numerous times over the life of their shared careers.
The voice was identical. The pitch and intonation of the humming was precisely what William Riker had sounded like when he had heard him hum the same tune in Ten Forward or on the bridge.
Thomas Riker sighed.
The sigh was exactly the same way that William Riker sighed when exhibiting boredom or frustration…or anxiety.
Data began to watch Thomas with fascination. He seriously thought about initiating his emotion chip. The pros and cons of doing just that jetted through his positronic net and he decided to hold off for now. Emotions had a way with interfering with his duties. If he had enough time to spare after the preparation of the preliminary hearing briefs, he would reward himself with a few moments to watch Thomas with the emotion chip turned on, just to see if it altered his perceptions of his observations.
For now he chose to make a comparison about Thomas and William – that they were even more different that Data and his “brother” Lore. Lore was the “black sheep” of his “family.” Dr. Soong was unable to repair the unstable emotion chip provided to Lore and due to that he had Lore disassembled, never believing Lore would ever be reassembled to wreak havoc on anyone or anything.
Yet, he was still Data’s brother. They looked alike. They sounded alike. They were the same dimensions…just like Thomas and William; except Thomas and William were the same person. They were not brothers. They were not twins. They were both truly the same man – just duplicated – copied – doppelgangers.
This was a man literally split into two selves. The most riveting and complex study of human nature he had ever known. If he ever wanted to know how William Riker would have reacted to eight years of forced solitude, all he had to do was study Thomas. If he ever wanted to see what William Riker was capable of if he ever turned his back on the Federation, all he had to do was study Thomas. If he ever wanted to know what William Riker would do to survive…anything…all he had to do was study Thomas.
And the reverse held true. William became a study of a man who made different choices and where his life had led him differed wildly from that of his other “self.”
Comparing himself to Lore would never produce such starkly pure summations. For he and Lore were different androids, and always had been. The starting off point would always be different; therefore the results would always be tainted in a way. But the Riker men…they were the quintessential double-blind study in human reactions to different stimuli. He looked forward to turning on the chip in order to feel his reactions to his observations, and he resolved that if he was ever given the opportunity, he might actually ask what event in Riker’s life caused him to hum Fly Me to the Moon on such frequent occasions; because Data now knew that event occurred before the then singular William Thomas Riker ever set foot on Nervala IV.
Thomas stopped humming and Data lifted his eyes from the legal work at hand. Dr. Kaest had entered the room. Data stood out of respect.
Dr. Kaest smiled professionally and walked just past the two guards at the door. “We’re approaching the division coordinates Commander. I have been asked to remain here with Thomas until we know we are not being followed by any Cardassian vessel and alter our course to Earth.”
Data nodded and sat back down. “Understood Doctor. Do you know how long before we reach the coordinates?”
“I believe just under a half hour sir.”
“Very well. I believe that I should awaken Counselor Troi so she can…” Data began to reach for his combadge but stopped when Kaest seemed to jump in place.
“That won’t be necessary Commander!” Kaest’s earring jiggled wildly with his head shake and slight jump forward.
Data noticed most curiously that Kaest’s eyes widened slightly and had made several short bursts of eye-contact with Thomas who was slowly rising from his supine position on the bed. Data surmised that all was not as it seemed. Counselor Troi was correct. Kaest was not being entirely truthful. “No. I believe it is necessary…”
Once again Data reached for his combadge but before he could touch it, Kaest barked out loud. “Thomas!”
In a whir, Kaest turned, removing both hands from his lab-coat pockets to brandish two hyposprays. He turned and before either guard could move into take Kaest into their control he pressed heavy doses of a drug into both of them.
Data moved with impressive speed but before he was able to come close to Kaest, he felt an odd vibration in his central core, and then even more oddly, his emotion chip kicked on. He stopped his forward momentum and before he fell over with a loud, percussive thump, he was overtaken by a horrible wave of fear. Everything went dark.
Without looking at Thomas, Kaest made a beeline for a replicator near the back of the room. His hands flew over the console.
Thomas looked to the small cylindrical device in his hand that had taken Data off-line. “This was effective.”
Kaest turned from the replicator and rushed back holding a black-tinted bundle and boots in his hands. “But temporary. Hurry…put this on. We only have a few minutes.” He said, “We must hurry.”
Thomas looked down at the bundle and realized that it was a Starfleet uniform.
He swallowed. “That’s how I got into this mess to begin with.” He said starkly. “Isn’t there any other way?”
“It’s not to help you get off the ship Thomas. I’m hoping it will provide a diversion long enough to keep Nekrit from killing you the moment she sees you.”
Thomas immediately understood the logic, nodded his head and stripped off the gown and put on the uniform.
“What about the beard?” He asked.
"Commander Riker shaved his beard. You look just like him now.”
Thomas didn’t know why he found this so odd, but he did. He shook it off and followed Kaest out to the corridor. It was deserted.
Kaest had planned everything, every move, every turn, every re-programmed door and every use of a Jefferies tube until they reached the shuttle bay doors without being seen. The moment before they entered the room, Kaest pulled out a hypospray once more and dropped his voice. “There should be no more than two people in this bay at this time. I need you to focus on making sure no one alerts the bridge.”
Thomas nodded. “Let’s do this.”
Kaest pressed his lips together and opened the shuttle bay doors. They walked in as nonchalantly as possible. Kaest was approached by the shuttle bay Chief. “Doctor! What can we do for you?” He smiled then looked quizzically at him when he saw Thomas. “And I didn’t know Commander Riker was visiting! Welco…”
Kaest wasted no time in using the hypospray. Thomas leaped and tackled the Ensign who had begun to approach him happily as well. Kaest flew in to assist and quickly rendered the second man unconscious. Thomas stood immediately to see if there were any others that may have been alerted, but there were none.
“This way!” Kaest hoarsely whispered. “This one!” he pointed to a large warp-capable shuttle resting in the middle of the bay. Thomas jumped in directly behind Kaest and the two men prepared for their journey away from the Jaguar.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.