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Stardate 55729.1
USS Enterprise – NCC-1701-E

The heat is gone.
I’m back! I’m back in Cardassia!
There are five lights. No, wait! There are only four lights! There are always only four lights. Remember. Only four. Only four. Only four.
Remember. Never forget. There are always only four. Only four.

You beat them the last time. They sold you to Tholia. Hell house. Heat. Cube. Sweat box. Burning bug claws. They paid for me so I could sit in a hot box. At least there were no lights. No talking. Just heat, burns and scalding damn claws…but not one single, damned light.

Now I’m back in Cardassia.

So tired...

You can beat them again. Just remember…four. There are always four.
Red hair?
Pretty blue eyes.
One light.
NO! There are always four! Always!
Pretty blue eyes again. Smiling eyes. Familiar face?
One light.
No! There are always…

There really is only one!

Small lamp.
Medical facility.
Starfleet uniform!?
Human female body in red-collared Starfleet uniform.
Black hair.
Straight, dark, black hair.
Pretty, no…beautiful. Beautiful woman.
Long, black hair. Green eyes.
It’s her?
Woman standing.
Beautiful woman standing in blue-collared Starfleet uniform.
Long, thick, wavy dark hair.
Black eyes!
It’s her?
Torture dream.
Nice try Gul Nekrit!

Hell house. Sweat box. Burning bugs.
Never forget. Four lights! There are always only four. Only four. Only four.

Something touched me! On my arm!

No pain.

Beautiful woman on biobed.
Green. Bright green. Amazing green eyes.
Torture dream. Nekrit messing with my head.


“Can you hear me?”

Oh! Velvet voice! Why Nekrit? This is new. This is horrible. First you murder my future – now you find my past?

There will always be four. There will always be four lights Nekrit!

“Can you see me?”

Sounds so real! Her velvet voice. Those damn green eyes.

“Toni…he’s very confused right now. He doesn’t understand where he is.”

Her voice too?! What the hell?! Nekrit! Go ahead! Screw with my head all you want! There will always be four. ALWAYS!

“You need to lie back down Captain. You’re not even able to walk yet.”

“Okay Deanna. Sorry. I just thought I saw his eyes open.”

I hate you Nekrit. I hate you. I will kill you. I hate you for taking her. I hate you for make me swim through these memories. I hate you for killing them.

“He’s going to be very confused. Can you imagine? Both of us? He’ll be horribly confused.”

“I suppose you’re right Deanna. He hasn’t seen me since my wedding.”

“Exactly. He hasn’t seen me for years. Now lie back down Captain. You’re still in horrible pain. There, that’s better.”

Damn Nekrit! Gotta hand it to you. They sound more real than anything you’ve ever done before!

One light.
Female on biobed.
Black hair.
Green. Green, green eyes. Understanding green eyes.
She was screaming earlier.
I heard her screaming.
I was screaming.
They were all screaming.
Screaming in the cavern. Death. Death everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of screaming people. I was screaming. She was there. She refused to scream. Nekrit made me watch…watch as they murdered them all. Made me watch as they murdered her. Threw her on the heap of others.


I hate you Nekrit. I will kill you. I will. I will beat you in this game and I will kill you. Make you pay for taking her. I promised her I would beat you and I will. Because I know…

There will always be four.


There will always be four lights.


“How many lights? This is your last chance!” Gul Madred’s voice asked in the same lilting tone but with urgency that frightened Picard. He wanted to rip the face clean off the skull of his Cardassian tormentor but he was too weak. He was hungry. He was so…so tired.

His eyes drifted up once more…just to see...

Five! There were five lights! There really were! Had they been there all along? Did he just add one?
No! There can’t be…!

“Don’t be a stubborn fool! How many?” urged Madred.

He felt hands grab his arms. Someone spoke to Gul Madred.
What? Taking me home!? Ah ha! I’m going home!

He gathered up every iota of defiance he could muster, broke free from those holding his arms and thrust himself in front of his torturer, his face filled with all the rage and hate he had grown for him…

…and he lied straight to his face…


Picard’s eyes shot open. Cold sweat forced his pajamas to cling to his body. His breathing was rapid and his eyes bounced around as he tried to center himself. Yes. The Enterprise-E. I’m home.

It was the same damned nightmare. The same damned memory. He inhaled deeply and rubbed his eyes hard.

He was so tired. Tired of the nightmare and tired of the memory.

Thomas’ return brought this up, surely. Still…I promised Troi. He reached for the comm and opened a channel. “Captain to Counselor Troi.”

“Troi here sir.”

“Counselor, would you mind stopping by my quarters?”

“Not at all sir. On my way. Troi out.”

Picard stretched and shook off the last, hanging remnants of the nightmare that drifted off of him.

His thoughts once again drifted to Thomas.

His dread and his sadness weighed upon him. He stood and dressed himself in his uniform. Sleep would evade him for the rest of the night. He knew it. Sleep never came after he dreamt about the torture.

It would hang onto him for awhile.

He feared it would be hanging on for a long time.

He feared it would get worse.

Slowly, he walked to the food replicator. “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” He gratefully took a sip of the beverage after it appeared in the device. He strolled back to the settee and sat when the door bell chimed. “Come.”

The door slid open and Troi walked in. Seeing that he already had tea, she walked over to the replicator and ordered hot cocoa. Picard appreciated the fact that Deanna already knew what he needed. They had been through this too many times before for her not to know.

She sat across from him, sipped her cocoa and set it on the table. “Frankly sir, I’m not surprised,” she stated.

Picard frowned. “Nor I, Counselor,” he admitted, “except this time…this time…”

“It’s frightening,” she answered for him.

She always knew. Always understood. He nodded. “Yes. Thomas Riker’s appearance is making me wonder.”

“Wonder what sir?”

“If I won’t be more a hindrance than help.” He leaned back, looking to the blackness of Troi’s eyes then drew his hands over his own and his mind allowed the imaginings of Thomas’ captivity and torture. “He’s been through…years…”

“Captain…” She sat forward. “…tell me what you dreamt then tell me what went through your mind immediately after you woke up. The same way we always start.”

Picard let a small smile escape and nodded. “All right…”

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